إن شاء الله InShaAllah

 

God willing, the hungry will be fed.

God willing, the stranger will be welcomed home.

God willing, we will see peace in our lifetime.

God willing, all will be loved.

The thing is, I think God is willing.

I think it is us who aren’t willing.

We are afraid of the world we would create if we stopped waiting for God’s hand to descend and ended wars and fed the hungry with our own hands.

So maybe our prayer should be:

God willing, our fear abates.

God willing, we stop waiting.

God willing, we start acting like God already willed it.

إن شاء الله

إن شاء الله

إن شاء الله

Amen.

 

Advertisements

A Prayer for Overwhelming Times

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

IMG_20161006_111045-2.jpg

You may have noticed we haven’t written much as of late. The recent results of the US American election have produced increased violence, hatred, and fear in US America and around the world. Many of us have been at a loss for words, and I personally, have been at a loss for prayers in this difficult time. I have felt obligated to pray for justice, for hope, for revolution, for strength, for the oppressed, but these prayers wouldn’t come, at least not yet. So here is the prayer that feels most true for me right now–a prayer that honors the overwhelming weight of the struggles that lie ahead. 

Dear God,

I have searched high and low,
for a prayer to help me
during these overwhelming times.

I have looked to holy words and blessed scripture,
I have searched the prayers of the saints and sages,
I have read the divine words of kings and crones.

I have failed to find the strength I seek;
failed to find words that will help me overcome my shock and fear.

Instead, I have found a wishful prayer.
A prayer that speaks to the overwhelmed voice inside me,
that needs a moment to be honored before being overcome.
So I will take a moment to pray this wishful, and perhaps cowardly prayer,
and I will take comfort in knowing even Jesus,
in all his revolutionary glory, needed this prayer too.

Dear God, oh dear, dear, God,

Let this cup pass from me.
Let this cup pass from me.
Let this cup pass from me.

Amen.

A Prayer for Rock ‘n’ Roll

rocknroll

So here’s to your survival and swimming up the stream, crossing over one dam after another, until we get to Rock and Roll Heaven’s gate.– Indigo Girls

I went to my first rock concert when I was 16. I spent a lot of my late teens and early 20’s in rock venues, practice spaces, and recording studios. Sometimes the music was good, sometimes the music was bad, but it was always freeing, and often holy. I know there are people out there who disagree with me, but when I hear that perfect guitar rift, I’m pretty sure I’m hearing the voice of God just as clearly as when I hear a perfect rendition of Ave Maria. So here’s a prayer for rock ‘n’ roll, for those who make it happen, regardless of their beliefs, and for the ways it brings people together, makes people free, and gives us all something to sing about.

To the Universe that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Neil Peart, and Debbie Harry,

Forgive us for those who railed against music in God’s name.
Hatred has never been holy, and creation almost always is.

I pray today, for a world with louder music and quieter bigots;
a world with more guitars and fewer guns;
with more cowbell and less hate.

Did you hear that world? I’ll say it again,
more cowbell, less hate.

Dear God let that be our refrain.

Because lyrics never murdered,
cymbals never orphaned,
and bass drums have never lynched anyone.

God, give us a world with more songs that let us glimpse heaven even while they scream about highways to hell.

Because “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” better represents my faith than “I will build a great, great wall”.

Because there is justice in a drum fill,
and hope in a guitar wail.

So, God bless the punks, the grunge rockers, the metal-heads, and the classic rock junkies.
Bless the musicians who play too loud and the fans who dance too hard.
Which is to say,
God bless rock ‘n’ roll and God bless me.

Amen.

A Prayer for Spacious Places

When hard pressed, I cried to God;  they brought me into a spacious place.–Psalm 118:5

IMG_20130721_230300
This is a prayer for those spacious places where we find peace, love, and freedom. These places are both physical and metaphysical. They are urban, suburbia, rural; they are the homes of our friends, the tents of our lovers, the blankets of stars.

Oh universe of all things great and small,

I have seen the wonders of this world, and my heart.

I have been split open by the view from the tallest mountain, by the stars shining from the tallest building, by climbing the tallest tree.

These places have broken the broken parts of me,
where grief and pain have made me small and petty.

I have seen so many places where anger has made everything small,
where tiny pebbles of hate burn without fire.

I wish to live only in places where I can be my biggest self.

Places of risk, possibility, enormity, and freedom.
Places that are so immense they terrify and inspire me.

Yet, out of all the spacious and immense places I have been,
from the tallest tree that I have ever climbed
to the view from a building trying to reach the heights of Babel,
the most spacious place I have ever known is love.

Let me live there always.

Amen.

A Prayer of Remeberance

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

We are honored to share a post from our former intern, Nermine, whose prayer about remembering her mother offers grace and wisdom. Her prayer seeks blessings for those living with loss, just as our prayer for the dead sought blessings for those who have died. 

It’s hard to put in words what we feel about a person who is long gone; a person who is no longer a part of our life and who never got to know what we’ve become, who we are now…They say time heals and that’s true. Our own frail human memory makes loss bearable. But do we really want to forget or is it simply inevitable?

From all that I’ve lost, all the memories I can no longer recall, all the photographs that captured a moment I don’t remember living or even how it felt being there, I know that what hurts even more than the loss is the inability to remember what we once had.

Today my mother would have been 54 years old. I sometimes think what my life would
have been like if she was still alive. I get angry sometimes that I can’t remember much.There’s nothing but emptiness; a void of something that has left without leaving me any traces to hold on to. So, I pray for me and everyone who suffered loss that we can be healed by remembrance.

Dear God,

Today I pray for remembrance of the mother.
I wish I had a little bit more time to know her better.

Help me remember her by being even just a tiny bit like her,
for everyone speaks of her strength, her honesty, her generous and loving heart.

Help me remember her by living up to her memory
and being be the best person I can be.

Help me remember her every time I feel lost or alone
and help me remember that I never really was lost or alone,
for I’ve always had support and found people who love me
even when I thought there’s nothing to love in myself.

Help me remember her by cherishing every living moment,
by keeping every memory solid,
by not taking life for granted, by loving,
by staying true to who I am and what I believe in.

Help me and all those who have lost a loved one.

Help us remember those who are gone,
even when our memories fade and there’s nothing to recall.

Help us remember them in little acts of kindness,
and by showing those who are grieving
that pain can be healed and that nothing is ever lost forever.

Help us remember them in You,
in Your boundless generosity and Your mercy
and how You always give way more than you take.

Help us remember them in Your kindness,
for despite our loss and the pain that seemed at the time intolerable,
You helped us heal.

Love and peace made their way into our hearts again
and now we know that You don’t really put us through what we can’t endure.

Help us remember with patience, with gratitude, and with faith that there’ll be another chance to see those we’ve lost, where we’ll hold on to them for all the time we couldn’t have and all the memories we wished they were a part of, and finally there will be no letting go.

Amen.

A Prayer for the Dead

pere_lachaise_-_vue_de_haut

Dear God,

They say that dead men tell no tales,
but I am not so sure.

I think, perhaps, it is only the dead that can tell us anything at all.

Through their death they show us the mirror of mortality.

They show us the flaws in our own lives.

The deaths of those we cherish tell us each the stories of our own ends,
and give us the power to rewrite them.

I believe it is every person’s last gift, to shed light on living through their dying.

Those who I morn have taught me lessons, have told me their stories, and have given me strength to change my own.

So I ask that the dead be blessed, as they have blessed me by living and dying.

Amen.

Hijabs and Modesty

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

11090958_10153701787980278_1405256105756384901_oI never like to talk about why I wear “Hijab”, even back in my own country, although it was not a big deal as I belonged to the majority. What’s uncommon is not wearing it. But after moving to a Western country, I become the uncommon, the different as I look and dress differently than others. It never bothered me being the “outcast”; on the contrary I feel more comfortable and at ease with myself here than back in my own country. But what does bother me is that I always get asked a lot of questions which always make me feel uncomfortable. Being a very private person, I don’t really like people asking me questions about my personal life or my beliefs, unless we are in a very close relationship to allow for such discussions. I understand that some people simply ask out of curiosity or interest to know more about a different culture and religion.

Although I know that this is not normal and religion questions are a red line for many people, yet a friend of mine once told me that by wearing a veil, I explicitly identify myself as a Muslim, which means I am open to discussing my religion and my beliefs. It is a valid argument, yet it completely ignores the other side who certainly would not like being asked these kinds of questions by random strangers or people I have just met or people who have no business prying into my personal life, my wardrobe or what parts of my body I am to cover or uncover.

Yet, I always know how to adapt and go with the flow and apart from the silly questions of whether I sleep or shower in it; mostly people ask me why I wear it. I always try to cut the conversation short and just give the standardized answer without going deep into the subject: It is out of modesty. One other time, my manager suddenly and quite out of the blue while working, came to me and asked me whether those who don’t wear the “Hijab” are considered bad and I am ultimately better than them. I was startled by the question and I told him definitely not and that it is a personal decision and has nothing to do with who’s better and who is not. This is why I decided to write about Hijab and modesty.

I first wore my Hijab when I was really young about 13-14, but not out of religious reasons or anything. I just wanted to look different as it was not that common back then. Being a childish decision, I took it off shortly after for more than a year. I wore it again, but this time was me trying to be more religious. I wore it this time longer for 3 or 4 years and then I started to feel uncomfortable, burdened, shackled. I could not do it anymore. Part of me kept on saying that I would be happier and freer once I take it off. And I did. I took the decision and told my family who was not really happy about it, but did not force me to do anything against my will. It was only for a day and actually no one really knew about it as I wore it again the next day. All I remember is that I felt uncomfortable and did not feel like myself. Now I am pretty much at ease with it. I decided to stick with my decision, to see it as something I am doing to be closer to my faith.

But, looking back at that time when I took off my Hijab for this one day and then decided against it, I know that part of me was afraid and not quite ready to face all the jaw-dropping stares, the whys questions, the go back to God-preaching and the you will go to hell-threats, which any woman who takes it off is subjected to. I know that while I had the freedom to decide for myself, others don’t have this leisure, and are being forced or pressured by society to wear what is seen as a sign of modesty and are being judged and measured by this scale of modesty that only a simple scarf on the head defines.

I decided to wear something that defines my faith and who I am, but faith never means the absence of doubt. As any human being, I have my own doubts. My mind is buzzing every minute of every day with so many questions that I don’t have any answers to and a continuous struggle to reconcile between my worldly views and my spirituality. And I cannot reconcile with how Hijab is seen as a sign of modesty, because all these labels and definitions always tend to single out something as the modest, the right, the good, the worthy and leave the rest behind or implicitly taunt and criticize all that’s different from the prescribed definition or image.  I know that my faith is not and should not be measured by what I wear. I know that what I wear is not by any means the ultimate definition of modesty. I know that a woman should be free to dress as she feels like, and people have no right to ask a woman why she is wearing or not wearing something.

That’s why I’d like to think of modesty (of any kind) as a decision. And there is never a clear-cut formula for a decision. Decisions are personal, a part of who we are and our personal journey. We should have the freedom to make our own decisions. We should have the right to doubt them, to change them without needing to explain or to justify our reasons. And we should never ever be judged or measured by others’ decisions.

Fear and a Hunger for Justice

We received this post too late to put it in last month, but it is too good not to share. It deals with an issue we have seen here more than once, fear, prejudice and being Muslim. Even though it mostly focuses on last month’s topic of fear, there too is a hunger for justice, for equality, for understanding, that underlies this great post from Hafsa Mansoor.

I’m afraid. A lot. I’m afraid that my faith is the defining characteristic- in the most negative way possible- of who I am. Don’t get me wrong; I am proud to be a Muslim, and I am proud to say that. I’m afraid of what people perceive as my religion. I’m afraid that the actions of ISIS and Al-Qaeda will be what people see as Islam. I’m afraid that the cloth I wear on my head will be interpreted as a sign of oppression and not the choice I made of free will. I’m afraid that the Islam FOX News pastes across headlines is the Islam people will think is the actual truth. I’m afraid people won’t bother trying to learn more about Islam because they think they already know what it is… but too many people don’t. I’m afraid that this all-too-popular perception of my faith will bar me from any political position and I will never be able to make institutional change because of it. I’m afraid every time I go somewhere new that I will be assaulted in a hate crime. I’m afraid the horrible things happening across the nations featuring Muslims- or Sikhs mistaken as Muslims- are not isolated incidents but indicators of a growing problem and misconception. I’m afraid.

But that fear empowers me to make change. It forces me to confront the problems I see in society, not just from a “humanitarian” perspective, but also from a sheer need for self-preservation, and don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that. I aim to confront bigotry of any kind whenever I encounter it I am emboldened to take measures I would not otherwise I would have the courage to embrace to stop Islamophobia in its tracks- from starting a blog on what Islam is and writing this post to setting up a series of talks at my university about Islam and joining the Webster Muslim Students Association so we can educate, inspire, and empower people.

One of the things that has helped me the most in my journey to courage has been my faith- especially the hijab. Now I know that strikes a lot of people as counterintuitive because a headscarf is seen as so intrinsically oppressive in today’s society. But it’s not. It’s actually extremely empowering. I have such an immense amount of control over what other people see of me and how they view merely because of this cloth I wear on my head. And suddenly I don’t feel like I have to spend immense amounts of time every morning trying to conform to the beauty standards and new hair and clothing trends. I also don’t have to feel like I need to count my appearance as part of my charm and thereby sexualize or objectify myself;. I feel like because I’m willing to hide parts of my exterior, people get the message that it’s because I respect my interior. And it shows.

People tell me that I’m “intense” because I am so purely me and so comfortable with myself. I respect myself and my opinions and feel like I am worth something, and Islam has helped me to reach an accord with myself. The Qur’an has innumerous verses on women’s equality and promoted respect for women at a time when women were ordained second-class citizens and innately inferior to men; Islam championed women and gave them rights and worth as human beings, establishing them as queens over their households and men as mere providers for them. She can work and gain an education if she so desires, but it is for her betterment, not to earn money for her husband; if she earns any money through her career, it is hers to keep; her husband will still have to pay for all the expenses of the household. This is the power and respect Islam gave women- the self-respect Islam gave women.

So when I see on the news the bigotry and hatred, it is Islam that urges me to fight it and strengthens me to be able to make changes and join the cause to end the injustices committed on both sides of the debate, and it is Islam that helps me to conquer my fears and do what needs to be done in spite of any hesitations or insecurities that could hold me back.

It’s Your Church Too

10304700_10100837314741541_5443715570065754002_nToday’s post is from Patrick Cousins, who works as a campus minister at Saint Louis University. Patrick grew up outside of New Orleans and spent fifteen years in a Catholic religious order, teaching in high schools in Zimbabwe, Louisiana, and Arizona before moving to St. Louis in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His post is a beautiful reflection on what LGBTQ people of faith can face and really relates to Autumn’s post about her own experiences with the church as an LGBTQ person. His post is filled with insight, wisdom and hope for LGBTQ people, and really all people of faith.

I have worked as a campus minister at Saint Louis University (a Jesuit university in St. Louis, MO) for a long time, and over the years I have worked with a number of students who have been in the midst of the coming out process. For many of them, religion has been a source of pain, shame, and confusion: churches claim to speak on behalf of God, and therefore too easily claim absolute and unchanging certitude for themselves. But religious communities and traditions can still be places of affirmation and growth. There is still plenty of misunderstanding out there, but more and more, members of religious communities are coming to understand that using appeals to tradition or church history or doctrine to deny other people the ability to form communities and relationships does not further people’s well-being.

For too long, members of  LGBTQ communities have been faced with terrible options when it came to dealing with their religious lives. These terrible options include:

  1.  Hide in plain sight. Religious communities that impose a culture of silence, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of situation, tell LGBTQ people that they can only be loved and welcomed if they wear a mask or simply don’t share their personal lives in community. That is no way to form healthy relationships or build trust.
  2. Deny your own experiences and self-understandings. As the Jesuit priest Tony DeMello says, “When reality comes in contact with a rigidly held belief, reality is usually the loser.” That is, when someone else gets to tell you what is true about you, your experience can easily be dismissed or chopped up to fit their beliefs.
  3. Leave. For too many people coming out means losing their spiritual homes, the rituals and traditions that have been so formative in their lives, and even feeling that God has told them they have no place in the community.

So, what would I like you to know about religious life as a member of  LGBTQ communities?

 

  1. There are a lot of straight allies out there, even in faith traditions that do not support LGBTQ equality. A lot of people are struggling with how to stand with their LGBTQ friends. For some of them, that means leaving their religious communities, but for more of them, that means offering a voice of encouragement and welcome. We don’t always do that like we should – we put a foot in our mouths, we don’t understand your experience, our cowardice overcomes our love and we don’t stand with you like we want to – but we want to make our religious communities and our society a place that makes real the love we talk about on Sundays.
  2. The God I believe in does not want you to lie. Having to pretend to be something you are not is no way to wholeness or well-being. If God knows you in your deepest self, then trying to deny who you are is like hoping God won’t know who you really are, and that seems a little silly to me. Trying to lie to yourself about who you are does not seem like an expression of loving kindess for yourself, either. Knowing and acknowledging yourself in your greatness and smallness and beauty and silliness is part and parcel of allowing yourself to know that God knows and loves you that way too.
  3. It’s your church too. Often enough I hear people say something about how if you are a Catholic and you support same-sex relationships, then you aren’t really Catholic (or whatever other denomination). It can feel like “the church” is really the leadership – the Pope, the pastors, the officials, but your voice and your experience matter too. I don’t fault anyone who no longer feels at home in the tradition they grew up in, and for those who stay, it can still be a challenge, but I know a lot of people who have simply refused to allow someone else to dictate to them whether they are “good enough” or not.
  4. The risk is worth it. I can’t tell you that your religious community won’t let you down. Mine lets me down all the time. But the alternative is worse: presuming that religion can only let you down, that religious people can’t change or will only act on their worst impulses, is a lonely way to go.

I could run through all the Bible verses that get used on either side of the aisle, but you probably know them better than I do. I can tell you about church teachings that have changed, advances that this or that denomination has made in its affirmation of the dignity of LGBTQ people and their relationships, but you already know what is going on; progress is happening, sometimes slowly, but there is still a long way to go for a lot of religions.

Instead, I encourage you to do something that is at the heart of the Jesuit tradition, the driving force behind SLU’s mission: reflect on how you see God active in your life. If God is active in our world, then surely God is active in your daily life, not just in headline-worthy news stories and political decisions, but in how you care for your friends, how you go about your job or your studies, and how you share your gifts with people. Think for a few minutes about how you have seen healing, reconciliation, mindfulness, and encouragement in your daily life. Think about the communities that have fostered that kind of well-being. If you can find a community that energizes you, keeps you engaged in being thoughtful and generous, and helps you to see the activity of God in your daily life, that’s a community worth hanging on to.

More Than Just Godliness

Today we are delighted to feature our second post from Alexa. In her first post this month, Alexa talked about the strength she sees in her mother’s face. Today, Alexa looks at how her travels, and her passion for  travel as a means of personal growth and self-fulfillment, have given her wider perspectives on the strength people can derive from faith and religion. Check out more of Alexa’s writing on her blog, Past the Horizon.

IMG_20140507_152858

My First Communion

My mom has always said that if there were a gift that she could impart to me before she dies, it would be her faith in God. It is this faith that gives her strength and has kept her afloat throughout life’s tough moments. She believes that God works in mysterious ways, and though there are challenging moments in life, that pain and suffering isn’t pointless. It’s all for a reason. So perhaps when you are going through a rough moment, what you’ll learn from that experience will help make you a more compassionate person towards others in similar circumstances, or make you a better friend or parent in the future.

All of my life, I have seen and admired my moms’ faith for what it is, but for whatever reason it is something that I have just never felt in my being.
At this moment in my life, I would most aptly describe myself as an agnostic. Despite personally not feeling this faith in a higher power, I do recognize the strength that it can offer individuals when dealing with life’s many knocks.

40327_419479989092_6287380_n

At the Blue Ridge Mountains with Different World Views

I don’t think; however, that this strengthening faith has to necessarily be constricted to the realms of godliness. I think that if you marvel at the mystery of life, nature the cosmos, the world, existence, and how the world works in cycles…you can see that nothing lasts forever, and whatever you are going through, it will change eventually.

I think there is solace in knowing that even with you lying perfectly still the world still revolves and life continues. Everything happens for a reason and faith in God, nature, and even other people’s faith is something that can be comforting and offer you added strength when you have none to spare.