Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Childhood Discovery

I had commandeered a log from the log pile for the fireplace and sat on it in our living room. It was time to play. The front room had a row of windows that looked out onto the street.

After a while of playing, I eventually stayed still. I looked out the tops of the windows to the blue and white sky. I sat and noticed: The clouds were moving along steadily, enough to be detected.

What? Clouds move? I thought to myself.

I watched long enough to make sure they were moving. I kept my eyes fixed on one cloud segment until it moved from the top right corner of the small window to the bottom left corner. Once it was confirmed, I shouted to my mother, "Mom! Come here!" When she came in, slight alarm hung on her face, and she waited for an explanation.

"Look! The clouds are moving!"

"Yeah, that happens." As if to say, What? You haven't noticed that before? It's a fact of life. Clouds move.

She didn't dwell on my new discovery and soon went back to her activity.

But I stayed, transfixed at the sky, watching the unhurried and silent migration of the clouds.

A prayer with an answer

I thank Thee for what Thou hast given me.
I thank Thee from my heart,
but what am I supposed to do now?
Where am I to start?

So many choices I have,
so many different ways to go.
If I choose and choose amiss,
how am I to know?

What if I make a mistake?
What if I slip and fall?
- Don't you know, my child?
That's the planning of it all.

You were made to make wrong choices,
Heaven knows it well.
You can't expect to be perfect.
That's what I've been trying to tell you.

You have at least one failing,
it's plain to see.
You don't trust the God who made you.
Where's your faith in Me?

I made the mountains and the rivers,
and I even made you, too.
Don't you think that all is in my hands,
and I will do the best for you?

I know your situation;
Every little detail
of your life is right before me.
I won't let you fail.

Use what I have given you,
make your talents shine,
for I will be there with you:
I'll give you Help Divine.

So trust, and hope, and do your best
(there's no penalty for that),
and just remember, I am here
for when you will fall flat

for it's really not a failure,
just a little test
to learn to lean on Me completely,

and then, I'll help you be better than your best.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mosque Discovery

I went to a mosque yesterday.

I was going to a familiar place in a not-so-familiar city. I took a different way than the one I usually go. I see a huge sign "Mosque of ----." "What? We have a mosque in this city? I have to go and see it." I immediately pulled off the road and crossed the street.

The architecture was amazing. The light green succulents outside the gate were inviting. The inner courtyard was cozy, and I could picture many followers chatting together. Underneath benches in the courtyard were beautiful green tiles. And then there was the front of the building. There were stairs leading up to a massive glass door, and the stairs were flanked by two water fountains. There were decorative metal stencil panels wrapping most of the building that cast amazing shadows on the walls.

Though the building was locked, a man pulled up at the time I was just leaving, and he let me in. As I walked into the foyer, I wanted to take everything in. I looked at the bulletin board to see what kinds of things are displayed in a mosque: a clock with six faces, denoting the daily prayer times; a notice of a house for rent; and a nice letter from a Jewish convert, praising the openness of the mosque during a recent open house that he attended. The man reminded me to take off my shoes to go on the carpet. I did, and I followed him into the main room. On the floor were strips of a repeated pattern: it was the pattern of each person having their own prayer rug, but on one continuous band. The bands were aligned to Mecca, and faced a niche on the side wall of the room.

The man I talked to was a convert who had previously been a less-active Christian. He had some insights for me and gave me about six pamphlets on important or hot topics that the Muslim community wants the community at large to know about. But what I want to talk about is this: as I was talking with the man, a woman came in. The man had told me about her, that she was devout, and that I should give him my email address to give to her to help me stay in contact.

When she came in, I thought she was beautiful. She wore a striped maxi skirt, a long sleeved shirt, and a dusty rose-colored hijab (head covering). As she acknowledged me and we introduced each other, I wanted to blurt out, “I love your hijab,” but I stopped myself. Would she take offence? Would she think I’m stereotyping? After the fact, I thought it could possibly be compared to when my sister told me she was mortified upon hearing about an incident in which a white person was captivated by a black person’s curly hair and asked to touch it.

I told the man after the woman had left to go pray in another room that one of the things that makes me interested in Islam is a movie where two women—a Muslim and an orthodox Jew—become friends. Did I sound way too shallow to compare an entire religion and centuries of history to one bit of media? After watching that movie, I wanted to wear a hijab. If I lived in a community in which it was the norm to wear one, I would, just for culture sake. But this is not just a culture; it’s a religion, and is it disrespectful to want to wear the hijab when I am not Muslim?

I guess these are the questions to ask myself, but also ask an open and trusting follower of that faith. I should find out from her or him what the general community would think, along with their personal opinion. Is it right to compliment about a head scarf? Are they meant to be noticed or are they supposed to be simple and not distracting so that you focus on the commitment and not the article of clothing itself?

I am glad I am fearless sometimes and just latch on to learning a new thing. I am thankful I got to visit the mosque and become familiar with it. I want to learn more because it fascinates me, and I think Islam has much to do with my religion (Mormonism) that I don’t know about.

Is anyone Muslim or know about Islam who can answer my questions a little more?