What Nabeel taught me

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“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday……” Isaiah 58:10

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

I read this book several years ago and since then I have followed Nabeel Qureshi’s podcasts and speeches via the RZIM website. (On the bottom is the tribute written by Ravi Zacharias who knew Nabeel very well).

I write this today because as many others who followed this young man via social media, I was deeply saddened to learn of his cancer and subsequent death earlier this year. Nabeel taught me something very important, and that is that a part of me needed healing. Through his actions of love toward everyone, including those who intended him harm and even rejoiced in his death, he reminded me of how Jesus wants us to love and that I needed more of that in my heart. Even love for the most radical, the most hateful.

The kind of love Jesus had even as He was being nailed to that ugly cross.

Nabeel taught me that as much as I might want to, I can’t use a wide brush to cover over a certain religion or people group. He loved until it hurt. He always debated eloquently but always answered hate with love. He met people on their terms, where they were. Nabeel allowed me to get past my hate of what Islam stands for and see the person behind the religion. The person as an individual.

There is a big old house that I used to pass by on my way to work. I am sure at one time it was a beautiful building, but now it houses a large group of Muslim men (I never see any women). Every now and then I see them gathered on the front porch. It’s a sad-looking building, neglected.

Usually the windows are closed, shades drawn. I found myself wondering what was being planned, talked about behind those walls. I found myself resenting their presence in our country. I thought of my Grandmother’s family who came here as immigrants with nothing. They asked for no healthcare or handouts, they just wanted to come here and make a positive contribution.

And then the day before I was going to post this, there was another incident. That kook in the truck yelling, “Allahu Akbar” mowing down innocent people on the bike path at the World Trade Center. I refrained from posting this. I couldn’t.

I returned to listening to Nabeel’s messages and then to his beautiful wife Michelle, who is carrying on his legacy since his death. I felt something break free in my mind and heart. I no longer felt the old ugly feelings. It’s no longer my battle who is supporting who. God is fair and just, and He is the one who blesses me so that I can pay my bills.

What Nabeel taught me is that there are hurting and lost among all people groups. What we all need is Jesus. Nabeel believed when it cost him his whole family. He believed and followed when the stakes were highest. And he never wavered.

Nabeel is missed by many people, including his wife and little girl. I don’t understand why such a bright shining star would blink out of this world so young. I don’t think God needed him in Heaven. I hate when people say that. But someday I know the picture will be complete and we will have to answers as to why some people leave this earth so soon. Until then, we can try to learn the lessons others teach us by their legacy of love and forgiveness.

Thank you Nabeel……….until we meet in Heaven.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/september-web-only/ravi-zacharias-nabeel-qureshi-apologist-rzim.html?start=1

******Further resources: I have recently finished another book called “Standing in the Fire: Courageous Christians Living in Frightening Times” by Tom Doyle. I feel it’s a must read for every Christian in America.

A Million Moments

 

Yet, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  James 4:14

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Crowfoot

Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  Psalm 139:1-4

Each of us is a life that God has started, a perfect work of art and beauty and passion and creativity. A million sacred moments, one after another. And each of us is bound up and held together by something that pushes us forward and dares to say yes to the start of the new day.

What is that thing that makes most of us even in the worst circumstances choose to keep going?  It’s the hope that beyond everything we have a sense that what we do matters and that if nature itself can rise again each day then we can too.

I believe that when God breathed His Holy breath into us He breathed hope into us too. Oh how we cling to hope, and we try to keep it going like fanning a flame that has almost gone out. Like it’s something we have to work at. We pedal faster and more furiously when we lose sight of it.

Then we try putting our hope somewhere it doesn’t belong and blame God for taking it away. But Hope in God will never disappoint. Maybe what He is trying to teach us is that we don’t have to work at it, we just have to rest in it.

In Him.

We are all unique creations and expressions of His great hope and love. We are all at different stages in our journey, but ultimately He has hope in us! Maybe what each of us need to do is hold out some of that hope to each other.

Remember that each of us is His precious work of art that started out perfectly good. He sees us that way still. I remember when my Dad used to paint watercolors and my Mom would tell him how good it was. She saw perfection, but he saw the one flaw. The next day there would be a black “X” over it.

Sometimes we put black X’s on each other. Done……spoiled…..finished……no good. But God sees our beginning and our end.

He has hope in you and me.

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

 

 

Words

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they pour forth knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

There is a time when silence has its own magnificent language, you can’t adequately explain a sunrise, or a full moon rising over the earth. You have to see it, and once you see it you have to answer the question: “Who did this?”

I love words. I love the art of crafting them on paper. I love reading what talented writers write. I use them to try to capture my feelings which are much of the time tangled and twisted inside me.

Writing is my way of making sense of my world and the world around me. They are necessary to use them to have good relationships with people, especially the ones we care about. But sometimes I wish we could just read each other’s hearts and know each other’s pain and struggles without all the words because sometimes words just aren’t adequate.

We could just sit in the silence like you do with a dear friend watching a sunrise. You know that feeling when at the same time you have that sharp little intake of breath when you see it…..”Oh…..” “Wow….” “Will you look at that?”

I could receive your heart and you could receive mine and all would be clear, nothing confused, like a sunrise. And we would say….”Oh….” “Yes…..” I see you clearly now. I understand.

And all would be well.

When we pray, something kind of like that happens. It’s something miraculous. As Christians, we reach out to the Holy Spirit of the God of the universe. We reach out on behalf of each other when we don’t know what else to say because the Holy Spirit knows the canvas written on each of our hearts.

He speaks with groanings too deep for words to the Father about us. He knows we don’t have the right words, but He does. He always does.

Prayer for today:

“Lord, I give you everyone in my circle today. Give us all the peace that passes understanding. Give us new strength for this good day, for they’re all good days because you are here with us. Help us to help each other in the right ways. Get the clutter out of our hearts so that we can see you and each other more clearly. Help us to love one another with Your love. Thank you for words and thank you for sunrises and sunsets and all this beauty around us. Help us never forget to notice it. Tamp out the worry and fear that threatens to overwhelm us at times. And help us always to know the future is in your hands not ours.” In your Son’s matchless name, Amen.

 

 

Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

One thing I’m sure of

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“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” Quotes by Thomas Merton

I thought it fitting to start the New Year with quotes by one of my favorites, Thomas Merton. The second quote echoes what I was feeling as I walked down to prayer this morning. The thought that wouldn’t let itself go was this:

Whatever I do this year or any other, without God it’s a wasted trip.

I was thinking of Merton as I always do when I am close to nature. This morning as I sat down by the little river shack, I thought I heard the owl. I don’t hear it often and when I do I make myself completely still so I can hear it. What it is about nature that makes one lean in and listen? I guess that’s how I stay in touch with the Holiness of God. There is a purity in nature that this artificial world just cannot duplicate.

“Help me to love better this year,” was my prayer as I read over 1 Corinthians 13. It was a deeply humbling experience when my Pastor friend once encouraged me to lead the Bible study on these verses once. I never forgot it. We’ve all read those words so much they’ve become like a nursery rhyme. Just about every Christian wedding we hear it. But when I studied it, I saw how incompletely I really do love.

I see Jesus staggering with the cross up the hill. That is 1 Corinthians 13 personified. I saw Him forgive the mockers. I saw Him return from the dead and ask Peter if He still loved Him. I saw true love. And someday, I will see it radiating from His eyes when He looks at me. How can I not try to love better?

I see this past year and it’s staggering how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through. How I struggled with this move and now we are on the other side. It’s been a year of joys and turmoil. Equal parts fear and faith. Equal parts stress and anxiety, but also resounding love because we know who is on the trail ahead of us. We carry our home with us, in more ways than one. He is our true North. This year, and every other.

So it’s on to 2017 with Jesus. We are heading to the coast to bring in the New Year. I see hope ahead.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

While you were away

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I checked “find friends” on my phone while you were away and it said you were “home.” That wiggled me because in many ways I still think of Arizona as our home. A chunk of your heart stays places. I gazed at the screen that still said home and I retraced all those streets, all those places I knew so well. I think about the things I miss and constantly compare. This was cheaper, this was cleaner, this was nicer. I miss my Mall. I miss my mountain. Of course it wasn’t my mountain at all, any more than this river is mine.

I am still finding my way. Like this little snowflake hurtling from Heaven to earth, isn’t that what we’re all doing? God breathes life into us, incredible beauty and potential right from the start, and even as we are hurled down to earth, we start losing sight of the One who created us. The light of Heaven grows dim and circumstances threaten to melt us.

Our home sold and it feels strange. I close my eyes to sleep and I can still see where everything was in my room. I think of everything piled in storage and I hope it’s okay. I know God says to lay up treasure in Heaven but I admit I have a few things I really like down here. Home is a place we carve out. But more than a physical place, it is the place we started out and the one we are going back to. We are all just about as temporary as this little snowflake. I think that’s why my heart lurches a little when I see it.

What did the Angels talk about when Jesus vacated the throne to fill up a manger? What did they talk about while He was away? I wonder.

This journey we’re on will one day lead us to our final destination. I can’t tell you how glad I am that Jesus made the journey here for us so that we could be together with Him in our forever home. That thought makes the whole thing worthwhile.

That thought led me to say absolutely nothing in prayer this morning. I sat in silence and one quiet thought dropped in, as quietly as a pin.

Seek peace and pursue it. This is the whole verse from Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”

It’s time to drop our weapons folks. It’s the season for love, and forgiveness and an innocent little baby who made Himself nothing so that we might live. It’s time to lay down our verbal assault rifles against each other.

It’s time to seek peace and pursue it. It’s time to look forward to going home and taking as many others with us as we can.

Heart is where the Home is…….

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I flew in last night from spending a wonderful weekend at my cousin and his wife’s beautiful home in Sonoma, the heart of the wine country. The scenery was breathtaking, just as I remembered it when I was there too long ago at their wedding. More than that it was the faces I hadn’t seen, the greetings, the laughter, the joy of surprising everyone by showing up unexpectedly. The look on the faces of my family as they got out of the car and saw me were worth any amount to get there.

As wonderful as it all was, it was tiring. After the planes, shuttles, and rental cars it’s always good to get home. I have always thought being homeless would be the worst, having no place to belong, no place to get out of the storm, no place to call your own.

Scripture has much to say about home. Jesus had no physical dwelling place on this earth. About Himself he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” He knew His true home was Heaven, and so do we, if we belong to Him.

As I was meditating on the whole concept of home this morning at 2:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking that as believers, we carry “Home” around in the form of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us. And since Heaven is our real permanent home, and Jesus continually said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, right here and now, then it logically follows that our “real” home can never be snatched away. It’s here, it’s there it’s everywhere, kind of like the Beatles song of the same name. (Look it up those of you under 50)

As wonderful as it is to have a physical home right here and now, I know that if I lost it today it would be nothing compared to not having that home that never leaves me. there are few promises in Scripture better than the one that says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Our future home in Heaven is more real than you can imagine. It’s not a figurative idea, it is a concrete place where nothing ever dies or rusts or wears out. While we are bound to this earth,  we are severely limited in what we can see and touch and feel. Our hope is in that better place. And yet Jesus said in many different ways, don’t just wander around dreaming of Heaven, but instead store up treasure there by helping those in need here. Look for opportunities to show God’s great love for humanity by being a conduit for His love yourself.

I guess you could say, we are all like the prodigal son who finally came to his senses and went back home. As wonderful as this world was to him at first, sooner or later it chewed him up and spit him out. He knew where he had to go. To His father’s waiting arms.

And while he expected to be treated like a servant, His Father ended up treating him like a prince. Listen to what the Bible says about how our Heavenly Father views us, friends:

“So he got up and went to His Father, “But while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Kind of like the greeting I got from my family as they saw me and gasped and then held out their arms open wide.

That kind of love is our real home. That’s the kind of love the Father’s has for us, and all we have to do is turn to Him and receive Him. That’s our hope. No matter how wonderful this world is, we have a better one coming.

You might feel like you are a long way off from God right now. Maybe it’s been years since you darkened the door of a church. Maybe you never have. But all it involves is one small step toward him, and like the father gazing out the window looking for his son (or daughter) He’s waiting.

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Photos from the home and property of John and Jean Painter………I sincerely hope they don’t mind.