Saturday, October 25, 2014

Halloween Fears

“…God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” I John 1:5b
I gave Nabila a mini ornamental pumpkin for Canadian Thanksgiving. Shuddering, she looked dubiously at it, and groaned, “Oh no… it’s about Halloween.” It obviously didn’t take much to trigger her fear of Halloween.
Not everyone is frightened by Halloween. Ayaan ushered me into her house and said her mother went to the Dollar Store to get Halloween stuff and would be back shortly.  Her mom came home with masks, pitch fork, and black witches’ hats. Ayaan was so excited and got dressed up and jokingly announced, “I’m the devil!” Halloween can be a good time to talk about the masks we wear and pretend before people and God.
I have observed that when Muslims are new to our country they often are bewildered by Halloween customs. They are confronted with witches, skeletons, spider webs, and ghost figures floating around in banks, stores, schools, yards, etc. It is very strange and scary to them. In the beginning Zahra didn’t want to send her children to school where they would hear scary stories. This year her children will be constructing a mini haunted house in their classroom and they can’t wait for the fun. After a few years of settling here, like Ayaan, they usually lose the fear and enter into the Halloween spirit and fun of dressing up and collecting candy. Their mothers, however, don’t always welcome Halloween.
While Westerners, including many Christians, are not very conscious of the world of evil spirits and witches and sorcerers, Muslims, generally speaking, are keenly aware of the invisible world where jinn live and move and can cause harm and be easily provoked. Any reminder of the dark invisible world(or animistic rites) frightens them. Halloween can heighten their fears. I find Halloween to be one of the most productive times for witnessing to my Muslim friends. Instead of dismissing their fears I try to get them to talk about them and then bring in the Good News of how Jesus Christ, our Savior, has the authority and power over Satan and evil spirits. There are many good Bible stories to share about how Jesus has victory over the evil spirits. I also share about my own fears I’ve had and how Jesus has delivered me from those fears. 
Nuri sold her house and lives in an apartment now. She didn’t like a basement. When I inquired why she said, “A basement is scary. You never know if someone is there and they might grab me.” “I have a suggestion for you, Nuri,” I answered. “Before you go into a basement ask God to go there before you and then He will and you will be okay.”  She simply couldn’t comprehend such a suggestion. Even though my Muslim friends declare Allah is great and has all power, in reality, their fears indicate that the power of Satan and evil spirits loom larger to them. It is important to teach them the difference between God and Satan. I have been surprised how often they talk about them and it sounds as if they are the same! The book of Job unfolds the differences well.
Dear heavenly Father, Thank You for the authority You have over Satan. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Insecurities About Beauty

"As he was approaching the borders of Egypt, Abram said to Sarai, “You are a very beautiful woman.”….And sure enough, when they arrived in Egypt everyone spoke of her beauty." Genesis 12: 11&14

“You look like a baboon. You belong in a garbage can.” Thus read the Opinion Sheet that the middle school boys had written about me. I was devastated and became insecure about my changing appearance at thirteen years old. Clearly it was brutally announced that I was not beautiful. When the teachers found out swift action was taken to shut down the Opinion Sheets. Today I am at peace but not when I was thirteen years old. That experience helped me to identify with and be sensitive to the insecurities which Muslim friends can experience. Not being beautiful can cause insecurity for those who hear brutal and cruel remarks. I try to get to the root of their insecurities and to speak words of comfort, truth, freedom, and life.

Ikran told me her friend, Hawa, just cries and cries. She feels rejected. Hawa’s in-laws , who come from another Islamic country, did not want their son married to a dark-skinned woman and put pressure on him to get divorced. Sadly he listened to them. Many work hard trying to achieve white skin by applying bleaching creams. One country believes blue eyes and blonde hair are the most desirable. Another culture believes in the practice of “forced feeding” of young girls to fatten them up to make the best marriage arrangement possible. For others their weight is sometimes monitored by a male figure who insists on a lean look. Plastic surgery to alter the shape or size of nose is undertaken. Well shaped eyebrows are a must for many.

Abdullah and Rahima and I were discussing a woman’s beauty when I shared how Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was famous for her beauty even when she was old. “You know, Abdullah, some women get more beautiful as they age,” I told him. For someone who never lacked words this time found him completely speechless! “Well, she was beautiful as an old woman because she was a Prophet’s wife,” he finally concluded. Being beautiful can also cause insecurity and potential problems for both husband and wife.

Talking about beauty with Muslim friends is an emotionally charged topic which can lead to spiritual opportunities to talk about true inner beauty. While there is animated talk about cosmetics, fashions, and sexuality, behind it all are fears and insecurities. “Every Muslim woman is insecure,” Amal lamented. The chance of a husband taking another wife is all too real for some of them.

“Seema, do you know why God created you?” I asked.  “Actually I asked a few mullahs exactly that question and not one of them could tell me,” she replied.  Some of her physical beauty had lost its radiant glow by lovers who dumped her.  

Some believe God created them to please man, believing they were primarily created as sexual objects.  Some believe that that purpose will continue on in paradise, too. I find it helpful to talk about why God created them. There is the gift of Living Water waiting for them which will produce a mystifying radiant glory – a new kind of unfading beauty.

Dear heavenly Father, bring Your truth and comfort to Muslim women who feel insecure.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.