Wednesday, October 31, 2007
After leaving the Baha'i temple, we drove to a very large mosque. It was full of people, and the traffic around it was terrible due to the fact that we approached it during the transition time between two prayer services. We disembarked and were gawked at. The people were primarily Pakistani, and many looked at us. No one said a thing.
One man did talk to us, recognizing our confusion. He was Caucasian, as were the majority of us. Pity. He guided us to leave our shoes in a small room full of shelves, and we sat in the back of a large chairless room as people streamed in continuously throughout the entire service, even up to the final seconds of the final prayer.
The Muslims seemed. . .normal. Despite being sadly racially aloof, it was odd seeing men I could have gone to high school with walking in with an unhurried, long-step stride, one hand in pocket and the other flipping shut the cell phone they had just silenced. They went through the prayer rituals as a group, which was lovely. Then we all sat through a "sermon" that could have been presented in any church I've ever been to, save for the mentions of Muhammad and Arabic words used for specific theological terms. It all felt so. . .not strange.
We filed out and got back on the road, but only after a man with a very nice car and with very poor driving skills ran into our van when stubbornly refusing to back out and get a better angle coming into the adjacent parking spot.
Perhaps there's a metaphor for life in that last episode, but I don't see it yet.
Tonight at a Bible study, a guy asked who at the group was a child of missionaries. No hands went up. Preachers, next. One and a half hands went up (she was not dismembered, just indecisive). Elders, a few. Deacons, a WHOLE bunch.
First off, I hope that the order that he used does not betray a hierarchy that many people seem to hold in the importance of those roles. Secondly, I was taken aback for a moment at how many of these very dear and good-hearted people were raised in a house where Jesus was clearly a priority. One guy, Mark, even mentioned how his father was his own biggest encourager, as well as an inspiration to live up to.
My father is not a Christian. He is a wonderful man with such a big heart, but he has never seen the import of "religion," besides being grateful for "what it has done" for other family members.
As soon as I got baptized, I remember how I got to work! I just about wore out my knees asking God to "soften Dad's heart," to "open his eyes/heart/etc.," to "work in him." And I asked Dad to come to church one morning when I was going to read a poem I wrote.
He came, and I daydreamed of his tearful admission that he wanted to be baptized, that he wanted to put his faith in Jesus. And later that night, I couldn't wait and asked him if he wanted to come again the next Sunday.
He told me, with more than a little sadness in his eyes, that it wasn't for him.
But I kept praying.
Now I don't even know if such a prayer is worth the words. I don't think that is how God works, springing into someone's heart and doing all the tidying up and changing without cooperation or even the volition of the man, like Calvinists think.
But I want to pray these words. Because I want God to save my Dad. Because I want him to be in heaven. Because he deserves it more than I could, and yet God would stoop to embrace a mess like me. And, because I am afraid to talk to him and want God to do all the work himself.
Because how could a mess like me show the glory of God?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I miss home.
I am nervous, because the program usually works in concert with graduates of VERY prestigious universities, like Harvard and Yale. I chose a lady from the University of Louisville to write my questions to, not the people listed from Yale. Although I am confident that my grammar and mechanics were impressively pristine, I worried that they would look down on me for going to school in Arkansas. Heck, I do.
I did not say "heck" in my email.
What I want: to be accepted in the program, to go home, to teach, and to serve. Oh, I can't think of anything I want to do with my life more. I can't think of a better use of this life I've been given.
I can't think of much that frightens me more than this not working out.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The first place we went to was a Baha'i temple, the only one in the United States of America. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, planted in the middle of a subdivision. As you walk up to it, the walls are adorned with symbols from several different faiths, representing Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and others (including Zoroastrianism, which surprises me in a way that betrays my subtle bigotry).
We went inside and were warned not to say a word. We sat as two women and a man took turns at the microphone, reading or singing short psalm/hymns. One of them was from the Old Testament Psalms. The service was suddenly over after about ten minutes, and we were herded to a Q&A session.
Our hosts, Jeremy and Samar were pleasant, personable, and cogent. They discussed that their faith is a mixture of the teachings of nine great men, some of them founders of past religions. Baha'i does not replace these old faiths, but rather is the culmination of them.
The strong emphasis on tolerance makes clear why this faith would be considered delivered from God as "THE religion for today." I cannot think of another possible faith that would better match our culture.
Jeremy, our guide, had been a Christian in the past. He said that he found some philosophical questions on the character of God for which he could find no "Christian educators" to answer. So he began to seek elsewhere.
How convicting this is. I am convinced all the more that I must work toward 1 Peter 3:15, being ready to give an answer to those that ask. If I am not ready, others will look until they DO get an answer, even if it isn't the right one.
Oh, to be pluralistic. How much simpler life would be!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
"October 22, 2007
Mr. Lucas Emery Matthews:
You are approved to receive a BA in Youth & Family Ministry and a BA in Spanish on May 10, 2008 provided you satisfy all requirements by that date."
I got this email today, telling me that I am on-track to graduate in a few months. In May. In seven months.
I don't know how I feel about this.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I told her I feel like Lazarus.
My youth minister and I are friends again.
MJ and I are friends again.
Meghan and I are friends again.
Kacey is my best friend again.
I am surrounded by resurrection.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
My current paper is on Jewish views on free will and determinism. I was going to include Muslim and Hindu views as well but I am running out of room, which is a first in my paper-writing career.
I was going to write about the paper, but I have had enough of that. Instead, I will write of something happy. My youth minister and I are talking again. Again. That is to say, we've had some bumps in our friendship the past few years. But something has changed in me this past year, and I don't want to be bitter toward anyone. A bitter heart is one of the ugliest things I've seen. And one just yelled at me for quite some time last night. I don't want to be like that.
This blog is boring me. I used to be funny. Really, I did.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I have had a xanga for five? six? years now, and my university has decided to block that site for some reason ("Dating/Personals," which they certainly haven't had a problem with in the past, much less on campus).
I still like to write, and it is nice to have something to look at even when I don't have my notebooks with me.
And this will be good for me. By the slow end of my xanga, all I wrote about was the big thing on my mind: death. My grandfather's death, the death of my relationship with my last girlfriend, and the death of who I thought I was.
There is a sincere hope in my heart that this Blog will host less navel-gazing and self-pity.
So, let's see how it goes, shall we?