I’m in a South Asian neighborhood in the Bronx, New York, looking out the window of a great city church into the face of a very large mosque, which sits just across the street. At this time of day, it’s mostly elderly-looking men in loosely fitting ethnic attire who enter its gates. A few veiled Muslim women, one or two with kids in strollers, have walked past but not gone in.
“I can’t pray today”—these words still ring in my ears. Our families were walking together in the park as the evening Islamic prayer call sounded. Prakash looked longingly at the nearby mosque when suddenly a large bird appeared and relieved itself on his hand. In a moment of horror, Prakash held up his hand and cried out, “Now, I can’t pray. I can’t pray today! I am not clean. I am not clean enough to pray.” As a devout Muslim, the bird feces had rendered his prayers ineffective. Our excursion in the park was cut short that day; Prakash needed to find a way to make himself clean again.
I never thought much of Ash Wednesday before, since in my denomination the Lenten ritual of having the sign of the cross caressed into one’s forehead with symbolic ash isn’t really practiced. I’ve never thought it was heresy or anything; in fact, aside from casual conversations I may have had with friends who wore their ash crosses home from church on Ash Wednesday, I never really thought of it much at all.
I’ve been thinking about this since it happened-this past February 1. It’s taken me a while to process, because I have lovely Muslim friends I have every reason to respect. But what February 1 was two weeks ago is larger than it was a year ago, and it will be smaller than what next year makes it. Because of this, I’m ready to share my thoughts.
It’s that time of year again. We’ve made our resolutions. Maybe we’re scurrying to the gym or feverishly cleaning out our closets. Perhaps we’re embarking on an exciting Bible reading plan. The start of a new year sparks a change in us all, spurring us on to new habits, a clean slate, a fresh start. But what if this year marked much more? What if this new year actually brought new life? When it comes to Muslim women, there can be no greater thought!
We have lifted our hands in heartfelt surrender as we admired her faith. We have run myriad miles with her, breathing deeply the sigh of relief as we experienced her safe place. Now we raise our voices in song and our hearts in prayer yet again as we study her praise. What an estimable companion Mary has been as we have traversed together through the Christmas season.
We’ve spent the last few weeks delving deeply into the awe-inspiring faith of Mary. We now turn our hearts toward her place, her chosen destination. The Bible explicitly teaches God’s design for life in community. We are not meant to be alone nor to do life on our own. There’s no sense in denying it: we are simply better together!
This week our Advent story finds us right in the middle of Mary’s stunning revelation from the angel: she has found favor with God! What a wondrous thought! Don’t we all long for this?
God loves women. He loves Christian women. He equally loves Muslim women. God loves all women. Women matter to God. In a day and age where not every culture or country celebrates this fact, we need to hear this truth again straight from the Word of God. Never doubt for a moment that women matter to God.
Presentations we offer
This interactive 2-hour workshop will invite Christian women into the wonderful privilege of sharing life in Christ with Muslim women by addressing commonly-held fears and misperceptions that have for centuries kept us apart. We’ll learn how the separate origins of Islam and Muslim women make the women more like us than we think. God’s strategies make us neighbors, so that we can engage. We get to do this!