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Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Circle Of Love

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jesus)
 (John Chapter 15, verse 13)
 When we love and lay down our lives for our friends we are pleasing and glorifying God in the ultimate way. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He loved us so much he was willing to give away his life for his friends.
 Recently, there was a beautiful example of this sacrificial love in the streets of Egypt. As protesters and angry crowds collided with each other in outrage over the dictatorship of Mubarak, a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians peacefully displayed a beautiful circle of love. They joined hands with each other and formed a circle of protection around Muslims so they could perform their Friday prayers. This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Amidst the violence, anger and outrage, a group of Christians were willing to lay down their lives so that their Muslim friends could be protected.
 This is a perfect picture, a beautiful image of what Jesus wants us to do here in America. In my upcoming book, "Tears in a bottle: Seeing through their eyes," Esther travels from Tehran to New York City for a new life of freedom and prosperity. Instead she faces hatred and discrimination during a bitter controversy over the building of a mosque near the site of where the World trade center once stood.
One day while walking in Central Park, Esther meets Ariel, who is busy painting next to the Bethesda fountains. Ariel is a wealthy widow who recently lost her husband in Afghanistan. She is also a Christian who loves life and enjoys being outdoors flying kites and painting. That day, Esther and Ariel become friends and its the beginning of a sacrificial-love relationship. Ariel is there to comfort and protect Esther from an abusive relationship with her husband by providing her with a circle of love and protection.
Like Ariel, are we willing as Christians to stand up for our Muslim friends? Are we willing to stand between them and the angry, hateful people who constantly criticize and ridicule them with the terrorist label?
I am praying that we do exactly like our Egyptian brothers and sisters did in Tahrir Square. They formed a circle of love and protection around their Muslims friends. Will we do the same?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A wise person is one who listens

Proverbs 12:15 instructs us: "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listens to others."
How many times have you and me been so anxious to say something to someone that we don't hear a word that they are saying to us. I've been guilty of that many times. Or, how many times in a conversation do we nod our head to our friend in agreement but yet we really haven't been listening at all?
Proverbs is instructing us here that if we are wise, we will listen. We need to practice listening. That means we need to take an interest in what others are saying if we are to communicate effectively with each other.
There is a powerful scene in my upcoming book, "Tears in a bottle: Seeing through their eyes," in which Esther finds herself in the midst of a heated demonstration near the world trade center memorial in New York City. Hundreds of people carrying signs and shouting thru megaphones are engaging with Muslims, denouncing the recent plan to build a mosque near the site of where the world trade center once stood. After confronting the hatred and discrimination from the protesters, Esther fights her way past the crowd and finds herself all alone near the memorial. Esther spots a woman standing by herself with her head bowed to her chest and crying. You have to picture this like a movie. The chaotic sounds of the protesters fade in the background and all you see is Esther and this woman together by themselves. This woman's name is Amanda. Amanda is a Christian. She stands all alone mourning the death of her husband who was trapped on the 102nd floor of the WTC on September 11 and killed. Here at the site where the world changed forever on September 11, is a Muslim and a Christian, all alone by themselves and standing together.When Amanda looks up she sees Esther. She recognizes she is a Muslim because she is wearing a hijab.Amanda gives Esther a look of hatred and bitterness. "How dare you come here? Your people murdered my husband!"
Esther allows Amanda to speak her mind and tell her story. After Amanda finishes venting her emotions, Esther explains the heartache in her life and how she lost two close friends in recent tragedies.Suddenly, the hatred and bitterness begins to melt away. Esther and Amanda have found a way to connect with each other. They have listened to each other with their hearts and shared the pain and grief in their lives. Then Esther, in tears, looks at Amanda with compassion and love in her eyes.
"Just a few minutes ago, Amanda, there was hatred and tension here. But now there is hope. Where we are both standing on a quiet Tuesday morning the world changed forever. Since then, there has been hatred, war and discrimination. But now today, Amanda, there is hope instead of hatred and peace instead of violence. The crowd over there is shouting and insulting each other. They won't stop and listen to each other. Yet here we are, a Muslim and a Christian, all alone together. We have shared our stories of pain together and listened to each other from the heart. There is hope and healing for us, Amanda. Right here on the site of one of the world's greatest tragedies, there is healing for the scars, because we stopped and took the time to listen to each other."
  Proverbs 12:15 is absolutely right, "The wise listen."  There is healing for the scars between Muslims and Christians when we stop and listen to each other. I cannot wait to write this book. There is hope for healing and it begins with one person and that person is you and me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

God keeps our tears in a bottle

You keep track of all my sorrow
You have collected all my tears in your bottle
You have recorded each one in your book
               (Psalm 56: verse 8)

It has been a very busy week for me! My new Book, "Shining Star: a light in the darkness of Iran, " has just been released and I am preparing for my book signing on February 19. I have also been back and forth to the post office sending the book out to all my Muslim friends around the world. In the midst of it all, I have also been working on the outline for the new book, "Tears in a bottle: seeing through their eyes." It was then that I noticed that it was time to update my blog. But what to write on? Hmmmmm. Then it dawned on me. What not preview the upcoming book?
.The title of the book, "Tears in a bottle" is drawn from a psalm that David wrote. David poured out his heart to God in both praise and tears. So he knew what he was talking about. David teaches us that our hurts, fears, laments and tears really matter to God. He knows about them and doesn't brush them aside or forget about them. He's not too busy running the universe to take time out and recognize our hurts and pains. This little verse says so much about God. It says God keeps track of our sorrows and is intimately concerned about them. In short, God knows when we hurt and doesn't forget about our pain.
 In the upcoming book, A Shite Muslim woman named Esther uproots her family and leaves Tehran bound for New York to begin a brand new life here in America. What she experiences and see with her own eyes is the cause for many tears. It's open season on Muslims because a group wants to erect a mosque near the site of where the world trade center once stood. Esther thought she was coming to America for a new life of freedom and prosperity and instead she encounters hatred, discrimination and a lot of sorrow and tears.Thus the reason for the subtitle of the book: Seeing through their eyes. In my upcoming book, we will begin to see and experience through the eyes of Esther, what it feels like to be hated, stereotyped and discriminated against. God will collect many tears in a bottle for Esther. Enough said, You'll have to wait until November to find out more. In the meantime, think about what I've just wrote and keep in mind this. God really does care about our hurts and sorrows. He is not a distant, faraway God. He's a God of love and compassion and remembrance.