There is not a person in our family who would not be able to recount our first Christmas in the Muslim country where we served. It was a very conservative nation, and we knew before we ever went there that the context would not lend itself to traditional celebrating. We determined early on to do all we could to make it wonderful for the family and meaningful to our Muslim neighbors.
I found myself at her house late in the afternoon. My new Muslim friend *Muna had invited me over to learn how to make a traditional dessert from her home country. After settling down in her living room with cups of tea and light conversation, we moved into the kitchen where Muna walked me through the recipe step by step.
Easter is a time for reflecting. Gratefully we remember Christ’s cross, His very temporary grave, and the truth of His glorious resurrection.
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!
She leaned across the table and pierced my eyes and my heart with her words: “I am sitting here with my hijab. You are there with your blonde hair. And yet we can talk like this.”
Recently my family and I rode the metro train from the center of town to our neighborhood, about 45 minutes away. As usual, both our boys fell asleep. My husband was standing, holding our 4-year-old, and I was sitting trying to keep our younger son as comfortable as possible. Normally not a problem, but at the time I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, trying to hold a very large 2-year-old in a catatonic state.