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Many years ago I was riding with a friend through Cleveland. As we were passing a cemetery he said, “That’s where James Garfield is buried.” (Garfield was America’s 20th president and was assassinated in 1881 during his first year in office.) I immediately asked, “Can we go in and see it?” He graciously indulged my love of presidential history.

This past Christmas my brother-in-law gave me Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. It is a fascinating book. Last night as I was reading I came across this quote from Garfield, “I have sometimes thought that we cannot know any man thoroughly well while he is in perfect health. As the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man.”

Today we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Of course most of my Muslim friends don’t believe he died (though some do and even see it taught in the Qur’an, but we can get to that another time), but his death and resurrection are central to my faith. Honestly, if there is no death and resurrection of the Messiah, I believe there is no hope that we could ever be forgiven and cleansed from our sins.

Garfield’s quote got me thinking about when the Messiah was crucified. The Injeel says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

While he was suffering terrible pain on the cross he was able to look past his pain and prayed for those who were killing him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

His death matters because 1) he was a perfect sacrifice, a man with a clean heart who was full of love as seen in his dying hours and 2) he didn’t stay dead but was raised by God to show the world that his sacrifice for sinners was sufficient.

Happy Resurrection Day.

 

 

 

Pope Francis

ImageI am thrilled that there is a non-European Pope. The major centers of Christianity are no longer based in Europe (haven’t been for a long time). There are more Catholics in China than there are people in Ireland. What a great day for our brothers and sisters in South America as they see one of their own installed as the head of the Catholic Church. I love it.

It is true that Pope Francis is the first non-European pope of the modern era, but do you know which country has supplied the most non-European popes? My beloved Syria. There have been six popes from Syria.

(It seems that all news somehow leads me back to Syria these days. I pray that Pope Francis will be a genuine peacemaker especially in the Middle East.)

The Hajj and Eid Al-Adha

In Focus has some great pictures of the hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage) while the Big Picture has some great pictures of Muslims preparing for Eid Al-Adha, which follows the Hajj.

Do You Know Any Muslims?

A very good question. Of course, the reverse question is also good. Do you know any Christians? Or how about: Do you know anyone who believes differently than you?

HT: Middle East Experience

In the Morning

But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me  a fortress
and  a refuge in  the day of my distress.
Psalm 59:16 (Zabur)

This morning I was encouraged and inspired by this poem written by Musa Burki. It is a poem about the early morning prayer, fajr (it happens before sunrise). It makes me want to start my day focused on God, full of gratitude and praise. I hope you’re encouraged as well.

As we rise in the morning
Our souls possess a yearning
To fill our hearts with spiritual light
Kneeling as a humble servant in His sight

The dawn rings out a peaceful solitude
Rising from our slumber to show gratitude
Revealed words which emanate from the heart
A beautiful ritual for our day to start

Standing before Him in all His glory
While He encompasses our entire life store
Pleading and begging for a measure of grace
As we wipe the tears from our face

Prostrating and bowing in complete humility
Desiring to feel the mercy and tranquility
Releasing our fears and anxiety
Increasing us in our level of piety

We feel the trembling of our soul as it’s shaken
As the wind and the sun begin to awaken
Completing our spiritual practice at the start of day
Asking for our Lord to light the way

A wonderful contentment rests in our spirit
Obeying the call to prayer as we hear it
Our day can now begin with clarity and peace
Hoping that our love for Him will increase.

Learning from Others

Rick Love had me at the first line. In his book review of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America by Eboo Patel, he writes, “Can a Christian learn anything from a Muslim?” Having just posted on this topic, I thought it would be good to link to his book review both because it comes from an interesting site with Muslim and Christian writers we can all learn from (Middle East Experience) and because it exemplifies what I was communicating in “Can We Learn from Others Different than Ourselves?”

Protestants have a hard time listening to and learning from Catholics. Both are Christians, but we all like to find enough of a difference with others to justify not learning from them. Think of how much more true this is with people from a completely different religion? When was the last time you truly learned something significant in your life from someone of a different religion?

Yasmin Mogahed has written a helpful piece on marriage. We can all learn something from it. What so impressed me though, was that what she shared she had learned from a Christian author. She references Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs. In this book he lays out research that says that men most need respect from their wives while woman most need love from their husbands. The problem, then, is that when a husband isn’t loving to his wife, she often responds with disrespect, which leads to unloving behavior from the husband and on and on. It is a cycle that can only be broken when the husband determines to love his wife whether she is respectful or not. Or when the wife determines to respect her husband whether he shows love or not. This idea about love and respect comes right out of the Bible, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

I love that this Muslim woman is setting such a good example for the rest of us. She knows that she has a lot to learn from Christians. I have seen this first hand in my own life. It was my Syrian Muslim neighbors in Damascus who taught me what it means to be a good neighbor. This was especially good for me to learn since Jesus the Messiah commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). I have always been so grateful for what they taught me about being a good neighbor through hospitality and genuine concern and love for a neighbor.

When was the last time you learned something from someone from a different religion? If you haven’t, why not?

HT: Tia

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