Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Voice for Justice

“He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth."  Psalm 33:5

An uncomfortable aspect of my ministry has been dealing with justice issues; especially in the areas of marriages and parenting.  Justice works towards fairness and reasonableness and in bringing order to disorder. Some men and women who come from Islamic countries and settle in western nations walk through a long confusing journey of understanding and adjusting to a new government system which allows rights, and promotes and implements equality.  Power struggles often intensify between husbands and wives, parents and children in their new homeland.

Sharifa, against the command of her husband, decided to remove her hijab when she became a citizen. When their fighting turned violent she fled to a women's shelter for protection. After her stay was completed she returned to her husband. They decided to try counseling about whether she was compelled to wear the hijab or not. I babysat for their toddler during those sessions. I tried to speak into the volatile situation. Their relationship ended in divorce.

Maryam, a young mother of six children, was weary from cooking and serving us a delicious meal. I watched in horror as nine year old Ahmed repeatedly kicked his tired mother hard to get her attention. Was there no justice in this home for Maryam? If Ahmed was a daughter kicking her mom she would have been put in her place but a son is not always. Where do I start to voice justice for Maryam?

Nasima was anxious for her ten year old son, Sultan, who broke his leg skateboarding. She requested me to come immediately to the hospital before her husband, Ali, would arrive because she knew he would get angry with Sultan. Why would his dad be angry with him? Sultan did not break his leg doing something wrong. It was simply an accident where concern should be manifested. I watched as Ali contained his anger at the hospital and in the van ride home but once inside the house he lashed out at Sultan who was trying to endure his physical pain. I watched in horror as Sultan took the beating while just coming home from the hospital. Sultan needed a voice for justice.

Habiba knew all about her husband’s cheating and lying and not declaring his income correctly. I also heard about many others in their community doing the same thing. Hearing about wrongs puts us in uncomfortable predicaments.

Speaking about right and wrong or what is just and unjust is an active component of engaging with my friends. I don't enjoy that. It's hard work. We can keep quiet and be uninvolved and justice and righteousness will never be understood or we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to become effective agents in the ministry of declaring God's holiness.  I may not be able to accomplish much but I can be an influential voice and demonstrate by example in my own marriage, family, and lifestyle. In earlier years I didn't speak clearly or boldly enough into what is just and unjust. Wisdom, gentleness, and humility are needed. I don't have to look very far to recall times when I have acted unjustly and done wrong. That's why humility is necessary. Today  I realize that if sin is to be clearly understood it is essential for me to speak about what is just and unjust.

Dear heavenly Father, please give me wisdom, boldness and humility to be a voice and a godly influence in speaking about what is just and unjust.  In Jesus' name,  Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fantasies

“You seem to believe whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach about a different Jesus than the one we preach….” 2 Corinthians 11:4a

Children especially love fantasy. They listen to fairy tales, play the Candy Land game, dress up, watch animal animation movies, and make graham cracker houses of gumdrops and marshmallows. We never seem to outgrow loving fantasy.

Maryamo, newly arrived from a refugee camp, was glued to the soap opera on TV. It surprised me to see her so absorbed in the western love story while she was cloaked in her conservative dress and head covering. The curtains were drawn as usual to retain a sense of seclusion and privacy.  I asked her why she liked the program. She answered, “I want to know what I have to do for my husband to love me like that.” She longed for her husband to speak to her respectfully and treat her tenderly.  Many of my Muslim friends develop romantic fantasies because they feel deprived of romance in real life.

Some of them glorify the golden era of Islam, or, if they are from Iran, wish Zoroastrianism could be their country's dominant faith once again. Everything seemed perfect. That is a big fantasy.

There are Muslims who, when they begin their faith journey with Jesus Christ, have a fantasy of the Christian community. It is very painful when they realize that a perfect Christian community will only be a reality once we arrive in heaven. Sometimes they develop a fantasy faith where there should be an escape from sickness and suffering or believe that every dream,vision or prophetic word is from God.

I hear fantasy regarding Jesus among my Muslim friends. He is exempt from the suffering and humiliation of the cross in the Qur’an. In the Bible we read of Jesus being a mystery, but not fantasy. We have a courageous and strong Savior who willingly walked through suffering and humiliation and broke the power of Satan and of death. Over and over I relay to my friends that the Jesus in the Qur’an and in the Bible are different.

Well, after saying all that, I admit I have nurtured fantasies, too. Some fantasies have stimulated hidden gifting in me to be used. Other fantasies have been sinful and I’ve had to come to my senses and repent. When I was a child at missionary boarding school I used to fantasize mom and dad would suddenly walk into the room and I would be flooded with joy. No more separation! That frequent fantasy comforted me. Deprivation, abandonment, loneliness, war, abuse, and a host of other reasons can cause any of us to nurture fantasies and escape into an unreal world. Perhaps we are all the same around the world. There is a reason why each of us nurtures fantasies. I keep discovering that Jesus, my Savior, is able to meet my needs and longings in the fantasy world I create. It has been helpful to share my own story with my Muslim and believer friends.

Dear heavenly Father, help me to better understand my friends who create a fantasy world as a coping mechanism and for wisdom to share how Jesus can help them in their pain. Amen.