Middle East Monday: Shiites Indians assist Iraqis

http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20147110924262541

In an interesting example of aid from outside Iraq, Shiite Indians are offering to aid Shiite Iraqis in resistance against ISIS. Read about it here.

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Middle East Monday: Eric Metaxas interviews the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White. – YouTube

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Me, Andrew, and Lina in Baghdad in 2011

 

Andrew White is a dear friend of mine. He is the person who invited me to go to Baghdad with him in 2011, and we went! We share a deep love for Iraq, the Middle East, hope for the nations, peacemaking, absurdity, and revolutionary risk-taking (otherwise known as “faith”).

If you would like to see him speak in person, you can sign up for the newsletter here.

 

Eric Metaxas interviews the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White. – YouTube.

Middle East Monday: “Our gift to the Middle East.”

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There comes a point when the media’s approach to reporting is slander.

The dictionary defines “slander” as “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.”

I would add “or a nation’s reputation.”

When giving information turns negative, pessimistic, condemning, unkind, insensitive, and fatalistic – when it broadcasts a sense of hopelessness about a people or nation, it is often slander. No one and no nation is without hope. Moreover, fueling vacuous theories, objectifying people on the altar of “news,” and staring heartlessly at the suffering of others, strips life and truth from the borders of souls. It wears on you, and on the listener, and greater than all that, IT WEARS ON THE SOUL OF THE NATION AND ITS PEOPLE.

This is unjust, unkind, and unacceptable. We assert our own priorities of knowing statistics above the day-to-day wellbeing and even LIFE of humans around the world. We could easily invest our efforts elsewhere. We could think together about solutions, real solutions. We could speak well of those people, highlight their strengths, celebrate their successes. We could look with love.

How would you feel if it seemed like the entire world had condemned your nation to a future of war, death, and misery? How would you feel if every night on the news there was another report about one of your personal failings?

~~ Today, Sam really blew it on his latest deal at the office. This creates a 7/10 failure likelihood for Sam. Will he ever get it together? (More at 10pm) ~~

Imagine you are Sam.

Well, we do that very thing about people and nations continuously! For example, we speak about Iraq cloistered in dire straits and endless factions of fighting. We broadcast these images. We drag the name of this nation through the mud. We don’t look harder for the successes. We don’t even bother to really look at the underlying issues (cycles of fear etc). This is not okay. It’s not loving. It’s not helpful. It’s not humane.

Yet, we can change this cultural trend. It starts with you. Learn some positive facts about places mentioned on the news. Share those with others. Don’t spread fear and hopelessness. Look for the pocket of light. Share that.

The article, “Religion Builds Bridges in Ethnically Split Cyprus” has a marvelous example of modeling possibility for the Middle East.

“We have to give a good example to the Middle East,” Atalay told The Associated Press. “This is our gift to the Middle East.”

What is YOUR gift to the Middle East?

It can be as simple as learning a positive fact and sharing it, or turning off the news when it begins to pour out negative reports, or asking a Middle Eastern friend about his/her experience, or praying for the leaders in the Middle East, or giving toward an organization that is directly loving the Middle East, or joining a group like Hope Iraq that purposefully shares good stories. Whatever it is, your choice toward kindness matters.

We can bring healing to the world. Much of that begins with how we talk about it.

Instead of bad reports, share the goodness of a place!

Turn slander into grandeur.

 

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BOOK EXCERPT: days in a conservative neighborhood in Istanbul

Restraint and Indulgence

The book I am writing is coming along. I’m on page 173. Here’s an excerpt shorn from a trip to Turkey in 2003. Enjoy it and give me feedback in the comments section, please. : )

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I actually snapped a shot of the women shopping, but felt badly later for perhaps making them feel exploited (one woman turned her head as I was covertly taking the picture). The last thing I wanted to do was to make the covered women feel objectified, as they already are in their culture, and often around the world – faceless, placeless, shadows and representations of the oppressive ways of Islam. That’s part of the deep, and evil, irony too. Women in Islam are often forced to cover themselves for the sake of “decency” and family honor so that they don’t cause men to lust after them, but this kind of “de-sexualization” often just makes the culture even more hyper-sexualized. It’s like if you had a zebra in your city and it was a really rare, priceless zebra and in order to keep people from staring at it or thinking about it, you build a strange cage around it, and then another, and then another, until your city was actually oriented around this enclosure to “protect” the zebra from onlookers. Pretty soon everyone is thinking about the zebra, imagining the zebra, trying to sneakily get a glimpse of the zebra, and “zebra” becomes the most googled word in the whole city. Everyone has ZEBRA on their minds. Making something “illegal” or “unseeable” never addresses the real issues, the heart issues.

This is part of what makes the gospel so REVOLUTIONARY – particularly in the Muslim World. The gospel is a law of grace.

“For sin shall not be your master,

because you are not under law,

but under grace.”

Romans 6:14

It’s a law of empowering people. It’s not about avoiding the wrong choice, but wanting the RIGHT ONE. It’s not about training people not to steal their neighbors potted plants; it’s about transforming the mind so there is no drive to steal potted plants. It’s about being so full of heaven, so full of LOVE, so full of the freedom Jesus purchased, that cheap thrills have no allure.

One day after carving a gentle stream of life through the masses in Fatih for a couple hours in 98 degrees Fahrenheit air, while wearing long sleeves and an ankle-length skirt, I was weary. I was sweaty. I walked to a park and plunked down on a bench. I said, “God, if you want me to talk to some people, just bring them to me.” Immediately, two women seated across the park from me rose and glided over, plopping down on my bench. “Hi. Do you want a snack?” the woman closest to me asked in accented, but smooth English. I was amazed! “Sure,” I replied, stretching my hand into the bag of chip-like snacks. She was wearing all black, but a headscarf, not a charshaf. And she spoke English! This was astounding! While a fair amount of young women in Istanbul spoke Basic English, it appeared that even the male shopkeepers in Fatih knew nothing beyond, “Hello.”

Her name was Doğannur. She was eighteen and she taught English and the Q’uran to young kids. And she was lovely. Her spirit was doe-eyed. And her eyes were heart-filled. We talked for about 30 minutes, until I had to catch the bus, and made plans to meet later in the week so she could show me around Fatih! Answered Prayer! My own friend and tour guide and IN – INto the culture, the shops, the mosque gardens. It was incredible. I won the lottery! And what spiritual mansions I would invest in with the winnings! Houses in heaven for people from Fatih!

Over the days I spent with Doğannur I learned a lot about Turkey, Muslim culture, and the dynamics of life as a Conservative Muslim woman. One day she took me to the lush gardens of the largest mosque in the neighborhood. The grounds of a neighborhood mosque are often community gathering places in the Muslim world – especially for women and children who typically lack public places to gather socially (restaurants, cafes, etc are usually men-exclusive). As we went to the gated gardens, I observed a certain irony – these women were literally hidden behind the mosque. From the mosque there was no indication of a garden, much less a garden speckled in over a hundred people! It was clandestine. Behind the mosque woman chattered in small groups, families picnicked on blankets, children ran and played. It was a very private public place.

And it was gorgeous. This particular garden overlooked the Bosphorous Strait and therefore a large chunk of the city of Istanbul. It was amazing. As we sat down on a low wall facing the water, I was in awe. I would not have found that place on my own. And it was one of the most beautiful, unique places in all of Istanbul. And there I was, probably the only non-Muslim in the place, but nonetheless on the inside track of the Muslim worldview – garnering wisdom and insight. God got me there.  He got me into the inner courts of the Muslim community in Fatih and His Presence was wafting off of me.

As we sat there, in awe of the view, we chatted about life and the world. I loved talking to Doğannur. Her curiosity was intoxicating. Her openness was exhilarating. Her sensitive heart was inspiring. She reminded me of the little kids that approached Jesus: eyes full of wonder, hearts full of expectation – secretly knowing that He would accept them more than anyone else on earth. At one point, she grew silent, her black sky eyes dull, but then beginning to glimmer with the stars of a bold question: “Um, I need to ask you a question,” she said, not making eye contact and somewhat nervously folding her hands. She looked afraid of my answer. “Okay, go ahead,” I responded. “Do you believe Jesus is God?” Her body braced itself. I looked at her, night eyes waiting, “Yes, Doğannur. I do believe Jesus is God.” “Oh!” she cried out, as if hit in the gut, “But we don’t believe that! That’s shirk, the worst kind of sin!” “I know. I know what the Q’uran says about not giving God an equal,” and then I went on to explain the three-in-one reality of God and that Jesus is the Son of God. She was perplexed, but also very very attentive. I could tell she was suspicious that my words held truth. I could tell that her quiet listening and careful processing was a real moment of wrangling for her. She was looking an intense possibility in the face: Islam could be wrong. The premise of her culture could be erroneous. Love could be fully revealed in Jesus. And Jesus could be both God’s Son and God.

A part of my heart panged to see the tension in her. I longed with compassion for her to break through from Islam to a red hot romance with Jesus that would beyond doubt set her AND HER PEOPLE free!!!!!

Another part of my heart gave God a standing ovation for getting me into that garden and into that conversation.

The biggest part of my heart shouted, “Doğannur is about to become a Jesus-lover!!!!”

That moment, perched in Istanbul – one of the most historic and picturesque cities representing the bridge between east and west – will always be one of the most lynchpin moments of my life. The simple desire to walk and pray through a neighborhood led to a heart-to-heart with a woman perfectly positioned to set her people ablaze!!!!

After I returned to America, Doğannur and I wrote back and forth for about a year, but then mysteriously my letter came back with some kind of official “wrong address” note scrawled on it. And the email address she gave me didn’t work either.

One day I hope I will see her again – somehow, somewhere. She will be all smiles and in her own way she will say, “I know the Truth and the Truth set me free!” And I will jump and scream and hug her. And my heart will explode with the hope and fulfillment of heaven. We’ll sit and drink tea and she’ll gush about all Jesus has done in and through her life. She’ll tell me stories of whole households of Muslims following Jesus and I will weep for joy. She will tell me about the day her mom, dad, and siblings confessed belief in Jesus. My eyes will grow so wide in joy, my brain will be swallowed and all I will feel or say is praise to God! My voice will jump outside of time and join the multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!” (Revelation 19:6)

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9/11

I remember that day as if it was right now, as if I am still 21, and still in shock from the waves of newscasts, phone calls, questions, and tears. It was a day that shattered the glass between my present and my future. “It happened. It finally happened.” That was the sentence I most heard my internal voice say that bizarre fall day.

I was asleep initially, in the peace of Pacific Standard Time. Then awakened by my friend Sheri pounding on first my front door and next my bedroom door. My roommate had already left for work. Sheri blurted out something like, “A plane hit the World Trade Center! I came to tell you! Get up!” Despite the urgency in her voice, I assumed it was an ordinary plane crash. I thanked her for letting me know and went back to sleep.

It was shortly before 7am.

Within a few minutes my roommate Becky called me from work, “Dawn, terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. They think this is part of a bigger terrorist plot. It’s really severe. You need to turn on the news.”

With this new bit of information, I felt my soul shake. I thanked Becky, said goodbye, and went to the TV. What I saw held an eerie resonance. I had been passionate about the Middle East for five years. I’d spent hours upon hours on my floor weeping and praying for terrorists to be set free from their darkness and to meet Jesus. I knew there was an angry plot beyond anything we’d thought of, hatching somewhere in a group of Muslim extremists. I’d known that for years. And suddenly, in a painful onslaught of hate and deception, those plans struck America: sweet, beautiful, where-I’m-from, America.

The anguish inside me burned. I cried for America and  I cried for the Middle East. The pain of seeing precious Middle Easterners believe lies to such a degree they killed thousands of people, was horrendous. The pain of seeing beloved Americans and non-Americans, fleeing the horror-stricken towers, was excruciating. I felt I was in the middle of a see-saw, between the emotional ups-and-downs of two peoples.

I didn’t know what to do except sit on our black-sheet draped loveseat and watch the same news footage over and over; and pray. When I saw the second tower fall, my heart crumbled with it. It hurt so much to see the awful ramification of wrong belief gone horribly amuck. It hurt to think there were people so captive to lies they were somewhere celebrating all this death and loss. It hurt to think of families in America with gaping holes in them. It hurt to think of the ways that one day would likely add more chaos to America’s relationship with the Middle East. It hurt to hear talk of revenge. It hurt to hear talk of grief already tumbling from broken hearts.

September 11, 2001 was one of the most pivotal days of my life.

As I waited, prayed, and talked to God that day – all while watching the news – friends streamed in and out of my apartment. Some pounced in with, “Okay, Dawn, I know I haven’t cared about Muslims before, and maybe I should have, but could you explain Islam to me now?” Others said, “What do you think?” in a manner so loaded, I understood how Muslims in America would very soon be answering this same question. I squinted my answers. Between head knowledge and heart resolve was suddenly a vast expanse of painful separation. The Middle East and America already were at odds, this would drive them both to polarization and aggression.

I wished I was in the Middle East. I prayed for God to lead me or other Christians to Osama Bin Laden to share with him the acceptance and love Father God longed for him to experience. I wondered if I might have had an opportunity, or if another Christian had an opportunity, to really love those hijackers before they were “those hijackers.” I imagined people who knew the hijackers, perhaps noticing their darkened outlook; and I wondered if their own fears kept them from reaching out to those men. I thought about the hijackers’ families, neighborhoods, and friends. I wondered about the power of even a single love-filled hug from a Jesus-oozing person to each of these men.

I also thought about the years to come – as my friends and I prayed together on 9/11/01, over the arched eyebrows and anxious words of news broadcasters, we prayed for newness and for salvation for the Middle East. We prayed in spurts all the way until 11:30 that night. We could not and we can not pretend there is ultimately any other answer than Jesus. He is incarnate hope. He is incarnate peace. We prayed for people to love America to life and for people to love the Middle East to life.

Now, ten years later I have seen the ricochet fulfillment of much of the prayers we prayed in my little family room in my petite one bedroom apartment in Costa Mesa, California. Saddam Hussein’s regime fell. Osama Bin Laden was found. I got to live in the Middle East for three years and witness firsthand Muslims falling in love with Jesus and choosing him above vengeance.

There is a large chunk of progress and hope to be immensely grateful for. And I am.

Yet, over this last week, looking toward today, I’ve found myself crying in deep grief. I am sad with all who were traumatized and/or lost loved ones on 9/11 and in its effects. Today, that is the direction of my heart: prayer and hope for all those who have suffered, to all who are still in healing from the pain of that day.

As we must actively love those in the Middle East needing wholeness, we must also actively love those in America who are needing wholeness. Today, as we ponder life, let’s have our deepest resolve be deeper love.

In the words of Francois du Toit,

‎”If relationships can be rescued, wars will cease.”  

Let’s go forth from this day courageously, with new commitments to peace and love. Ultimately, this will be what victory looks like both personally and nationally. Love will win.

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Interactive Timeline:

http://timeline.national911memorial.org/#/Explore/2

The September 11 Project, one woman blogs for one year until 09/11/11:

http://septembereleventh.wordpress.com/

! رمضان كريم and Happy Ramadan Everyone!

Tomorrow August 1, 2011 is the first day of Ramadan. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which varies from year to year based on the moon so Ramadan is not the same dates every year, but actually gets about 11 days earlier each year. Ramadan is meant to be a month (30 days) of fasting. This fasting is refraining from eating, drinking, and smoking from sun up to sun down. The practice of fasting is adherence to one of the five pillars of Islam – the five primary tenets of Islam.

Two main greetings during Ramadan are “Ramadan Mubarak” which means “Ramadan Blessings” and “Ramadan Kareem” which means “generous” or “rich” Ramadan. When I lived in Palestine I relished the opportunity to say “Ramadan Kareem” during Ramadan because there was a hidden nutritional content to my words. I was blessing people with revelation and depth of encounter with God. My friends usually thought I was referring to God or “Allah” as identified in Islam, but I was referring to the Living God, the Father of Jesus and the Creator of All. I was blessing them to know the Truth and to have the Truth set them free.

On that note,

RAMADAN KAREEM /

رمضان كريم

to all of you!

Blessings of revelation, encounters with Jesus, and the great and glorious engulfing love of God! 

 

 

 

more about Ramadan:

http://www.qul.org.au/islamic-occasions/holy-month-of-ramadan/1079-fasting-in-islam-a-definition-of-fasting-sawm-in-ramadanhttp://www.qul.org.au/islamic-occasions/holy-month-of-ramadan/1079-fasting-in-islam-a-definition-of-fasting-sawm-in-ramadan

http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/articles/2005/09/27/idiots_guide_to_ramadhan_faith_feature.shtml