Sunday Post 165: A Second Chance to Live

I was at a conference last week in San Antonio. It was for YMCA staff and volunteers who raise money as part of their job. We do a lot of that – most Y’s use the support to help kids in need attend Y camp and tutor programs.

This year, we had a keynote speaker who really made me do some thinking. Her name is Amanda Lindhout, and she if the Founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation. Unfortunately, she landed in a position of remarkable philanthropy not because of something good. No, she was actually kidnapped when in Somalia to photograph a refugee camp. She was held by teenage terrorists for over 400 days in horrible conditions while enduring significant torture.

Her Canadian parents worked for a year to raise the $1.5 M ransom to free their daughter. She finally returned home – but not as the person who had left 14 months prior.

I suppose in this situation, most people would have holed up, filled with anger and fear. Amanda didn’t do that. Instead, she realized she could be bitter and resentful or, she could look at life another way. She spent countless hours thinking about her captors. She came to the conclusion that their actions were driven out of desperation – out of a lack of hope and opportunity in a country that is bombarded with war.

Her response was to start anew. So, she started a foundation that would support the people of Somalia, bringing them food, education, and hope. Instead of hatred, she found hope and love.

On my trip I also heard of another woman who had lost her husband many years ago. Her children are grown. She has nothing left. She is alone.  She is still struggling with sadness and questions.

What gives some the strength to move forward while others are unable to put their life back together after trauma?

It’s Easter. Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins or whether you don’t, there has to be a lesson in the story shared throughout the New Testament. Jesus was hung on a cross and killed, and his sacrifice, his horrific death, brought about peace and hope for people for centuries.

Whether the Son of God or the victim of violence – whether suffering extreme personal loss or the fear of death, we ultimately all have two ways to respond. We can crawl under a rock and quit. Or, we can get help and work toward a new beginning – one that perhaps does more good than our first one.

Sunday Post 128: My New Muslim Friends

Tonight several elders from my church were invited to spend the evening with a Turkish Muslim community.  WOW!

I’m so ignorant of other religions.  I’m so unexposed to others who are different from me.

This particular faith community strives to invite outsiders into their family to talk.  They share their beliefs, they share their struggles and, they share their food!

I think what struck me the most about this group was their explanation of Ramadan.  Before tonight, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Ramadan and the Ramada Inn.  I assumed it was about fasting, but it is so much more than that.  Fasting from sun up to sun down is representative of so many things:

  • It builds an appreciation for all that we take for granted – our food and clean water for starters
  • The 30 day period is a time to work to cleanse yourself, not only fasting but working on fixing the other things in life that you participate in that you shouldn’t – like gossiping or using foul language
  • It is also a time of service.  This Muslim community uses Ramadan to do for others… Beautiful!

If I were walking around with a grumbling belly, it’s doubtful I’d be thinking about what I could do for someone else.  I’d be concentrating on what time the sun was going down.

This community stops five times a day to pray.  Now, often I pray throughout the day when it strikes me.  But I can’t imagine the discipline it must take to stop what you’re doing, get down on your knees and go through a conscious process to put God first FIVE times a day.  And by the way, they also have personal conversations with God in between the five officials.

I don’t necessarily believe everything I heard tonight, but there seemed to be many more commonalities than differences in what we believe.

What if we took more time to invite folks of other faiths into our own churches?  Not to change their mind, but to foster understanding.  What if we spent less time criticising other religions and more time learning about them?  What if one of my best friends, one that I ate dinner with on a regular basis, was Muslim?  Think that might help with world peace?

Less judging, more understanding.

One of the guys said that they didn’t believe in working to change other people’s minds about their beliefs.  Instead, he said that they worked to show their faith through their actions.  Their hope is that others will see God through them.  No preaching necessary.

I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day.

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