Today, I went to a Mosque.
I have been in a church planting workshop all week. It’s a small group of people from all around the United States learning principles and tools on how to plant churches. Funny thing, the workshop was in Texas and the Texans were outnumbered. Many of the church planters there were from large cities that are very culturally diverse. One afternoon, the workshop group took a field trip to a local mosque. A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims. Our instructor had arranged for us, a group of evangelical pastors, to meet with a local leader of the Islamic Association of Fort Worth, in a mosque. As we drove up, two Islamic men met us in the parking lot with smiles, handshakes and even a hug. As we waited for the rest of our group arrived, we talked about our families and the crazy Texas weather. Soon the rest of our group arrived, and we went into the mosque (it was not during a prayer time). After removing our shoes, we were escorted into the prayer area. Where we found a table overflowing with fresh fruits and cookies setup for our eating pleasure. Our Muslim host introduced himself and his friends, and then spent the next 45 minutes calmly explaining Islam tenants, history and their religious traditions. He told us stories of his childhood, playing with kids of different faiths and it never being a big deal. He told us about his journey to Mecca and what it meant to him. Then he told us a more recent story of being in a local McDonalds drinking coffee and being told by one of the other customers how much he hated him and all Muslims. Our host explained these words from the other customer surprised him so much, he didn’t even know how to respond. He has been in the USA for over 20 years and no one had ever personally told him face to face, he was hated for being a Muslim. My heart hurt for my Muslim host. We ended our session with a question and answer session (more later)… I will admit I enjoyed meeting these gentlemen and learning more about the Muslim faith.
Now what? What do I do with this? Obviously, blog about it – haha. How do we as the church engage our culture, start new relationships with people who do not think like us, believe like us and who we have been told frankly don’t like us? If we look at the life of Jesus, He certainly didn’t just make friends with Jews (who didn’t like Him or think like Him), He engaged the Gentiles frequently (thank goodness!). Paul stepped up and loved Jews and Gentiles. So, the pattern appears we are to love others, even when it’s not comfortable and maybe not even socially acceptable. Does my love trump the fear I’m feeling? Does my love for others, regardless of their culture, background or situation overcome my fear of what could happen if I take a step forward? Should I love them only if they start to believe like me, think like me and act like me? Again, the Bible has much to say about loving others. So, as you can see, the day I went to a Mosque has challenged me. I’m not sure what God is going to do with this event in my life, I pray He uses it and myself for His Glory alone!
What three better things to combine... food, fun, and friends.
Community is sooo important to me. Over the course of my 9 months on the Race, I’ve lived community 24/7. I’ve shared a bathroom with 6 other girls. I’ve had no personal space, whatsoever. I’ve had deep conversations in some capacity, pretty much everyday... and some of those conversations have happened around the table.
Conversations with laughter and with tears, conversations of God’s goodness and one of questioning if this Christian life is really what it is cracked up to be. Some of the tables have been wooden, some have been metal, and some have even been sitting on the floor. But what I have learned is that it doesn’t matter what the table looks like, or even where it is located... what matters is the faces around the table.
God designed community to look like this... a life around the table. Because around the table, life is able to happen. Stories have the opportunities to be shared. And you start to love deeply those surrounding you. If we look in the Bible, God connects His people through feasts and parties and wide tables set with bread and wine and honey. Even one of the last things Jesus did before his death was sit down for one last meal with his disciples, his people. Jesus saw the value of life around the table. And I believe it’s because around the table deep conversations happened.
I’ve had more sanctifying chats around the table than I’ve had inside the doors of a church. Now I am not saying that is always the case, because I have been transformed through the grace shown in the church. What I am saying is, the table is a place where people can feel seen. You have the opportunity to see into the depths of people’s souls. We bring the mess of our lives to the table, learning what it looks like to share our burdens. We tell stories and share joys, celebrating even the smallest things.
The tables in my life have become some of my most sacred spaces. The tables of unassuming coffee shops and kitchen counters and beautiful dining rooms... they all have become spaces for encountering each other and more importantly encountering Jesus.
And yes, life around the table is messy. It always is when you get food and sinners involved... but even in the mess, there is so much beauty. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, on and off the Race.
Around the table, my cup runneth over.
Yes, you read that right – a bald story of Easter, as in no hair. Let me explain…
For the past couple years, my husband keeps his hair very short, almost bald. We use #1 on the clippers, if that tells you anything. But that pesky hair hasn’t got the point yet that it is unwanted. And it keeps growing out. The funny thing is that my husband has brushed his hair every day for over 40 years. So there is still a brush by his sink. And almost every morning, he reaches for it – even though there is nothing there to brush. Sometimes he actually picks it up and then remembers that he doesn’t have any hair to brush. It’s a habit.
Stay with me, this relates to the story of Resurrection. Paul tells us in Romans 8:11 that the power of God that raised Jesus from the grave lives in those who have become children of God. We are a new creature and the old things have passed away (2 Cor 5:17). In a simple way, this powerful truth relates to my husband’s baldness.
But we do have to keep getting haircuts. We are human and are born with a sin nature. When we see sin growing, we can reach for the clippers, which is God’s Word, and speak truth to any sin, any lie that shows up. Buzz it off! Sometimes we can let it grow pretty long before we realize that we have let some sin, some lie grow in our heart. But it always feels good to shave it off and be clean before God.
We need a spiritual haircut daily. It’s really true: Bald IS beautiful!
Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Parent Vision Trip - through the eyes of my momma:
I never dreamed Rwanda would steal a piece of my heart. I had a lot of anxiety and anticipation of the Parent Vision trip, but God showed up in mighty ways.
I could not believe after 7 months that I got to finally wrap my arms around my daughter’s neck... hold her tight and kiss her sweet cheeks. I could tell right away that God had been working in her life and the lives of the other racers. Caitlin’s spiritual growth and her passion for others were different... something that I was curious to know more about. Why was Caitlin’s heart so open and loving to a group of people with such a lack of resources that we in America are accustomed to?! Poverty and over population of the people and villages were very evident. It broke my heart to see the poverty of Kigali, but God reminded me right away to look at the happiness and love that the people of Rwanda had deep in their hearts. He told me not to focus on our cultural differences and the material things that I was so accustom to.
Our week went by very fast... We stayed on a small compound that was very quaint. The racer’s had a tent city set up on the premises. They were sacrificing so much for us. At night it was so hard for me to lay in my bed with comfort, knowing Caitlin was just outside the doors sleeping in a tent. God kept reminding me that He is calling her to do His work. To be still and and trust in Him, that He is in full control. To trust Him even when I witnessed so much poverty and thousands of people in small villages that had no running water or electricity. Family’s that had zero resources and very little food and water. It was breaking me inside, but God showed me right away the love, joy and happiness the people of Rwanda had in their hearts. He kept telling me to love on them and to allow them to love me back. I felt they needed me but in reality I needed them. I thank Jesus many times for the love that I felt in my heart for them.
I asked myself, how can these people embrace and give so much back when the genocide of 1994 effected the majority of their families? They lost everything. Generation and generations of family members. 100,000 of Tutsis that were killed by the Hutus. You could see the effect of this horrible event. But again their hearts were so humble and they embraced life with gratefulness.
We got the privilege to visit a school in the village and play duck-duck-goose with the kids. To see their smiles and hold their hands and kiss on their cheeks, was heart warming. Singing songs about Jesus and sitting quietly and looking at the differences that God had created. It was such a humbling experience to dig drainage ditches for miles for the community.
Attending church and praising and singing to our Lord Jesus. Worshiping and letting the Holy Spirit move in our lives. We sang and jumped and bowed down to our Lord Jesus. I was so moved by the Spirit, it seemed like hours had gone by worshipping with the 100 of us in a small concrete building with no AC, dirt floors, and plastic chairs. Bowing down on our knees to praise our One and only Jesus. The locals in the nearby villages joined us in singing and praise to our God and we all were moved to tears. God again showed up in a big way.
The culture of Africa is an experience that I will never forget. I am so thankful for this experience. Psalms 28:7 comes to mind when I was preparing my heart to say goodbye: “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me, my heart leaps for joy, and with my heart I praise him.”
Thank you for supporting Caitlin in her journey. Please continue to lift her up in your prayers. My prayer is that everyone will know that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Remember even thousands of miles away, we still serve the same God.
“For yet there is only one God, the father, From whom all things and for whom we exist, And one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things and through him all things exist.” - 1 Corinthians 8:6