Flowing Tears

Sara Groves has a line in her song Going Home that says, “I’m confined by my senses.” That’s how I’m feeling these days. Tears don’t seem adequate, I don’t see the bigger picture, I can’t. I’m struggling to hear from God about a variety of things. My body is failing me in a few ways. I can’t imagine God as big enough to hold all the current heartache in my life let alone in Houston and Louisiana, not to mention the world. As my senses confine me I have to do that children of Israel thing and “remember.” Ugh! I’m tired of remembering the faithfulness of God and trying to hang on to it for another season. Actually, I think I’m just tired.

I suppose I’m looking for more than comfort in the moment. I’m also looking for words of comfort that aren’t trite to say to those around me who are suffering much more than I am. As my mom takes action to move my Father into a home my heart breaks for her. After 62 years of marriage, of living under the same roof, the care giving has taken a toll on her and it’s no longer safe for my dad to remain in their home. What can I say to salve that? And my friend from high school that just informed everyone that her cancer is back and it is aggressive and the chemo regimen given was intolerable and so she has chosen quality of life and is on hospice. I sent a card. Seemed pointless. So did the check my husband Mike and I sent to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Harvey relief. Drop in the bucket things. What do my words, my little actions, my flowing tears for my friend and my mom and dad even mean in the larger scheme of things?

I guess it’s like what I told one of my spiritual direction clients this week. It’s not really about anything we do, though those things matter in ways we won’t ever likely know. It’s about being with God and learning the meaning of presence through that practice. Actual physical presence, presence through a card, through a monetary gift. Lots of ways we can be present. And sometimes in that presence, tears flowing is the most comforting thing we can say.

I guess the knot in my stomach, the salty tears on my cheeks also speaks to the deep longing for home that will never fully be realized here and now. Sara Groves, in the same song I mentioned earlier, has a line that says, “Going home I’ll meet you at the table.” I picture this long table, like those church basement potluck dinner tables, that never ends. I picture sitting down next to people I’ve been missing for years. My grandparents that left for that table so long ago I need photos to bring back deeper recollections. I picture sitting next to a healed version of my dad who can currently only speak a couple of words depending on the day. He used to preach every Sunday back in his prime. And I see my high school friend at that table, too, laughing and telling old boarding school stories.

I continue to find comfort in Romans 8:26(NIV) “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words.” Hallelujah for the great translator when all I can do is shed tears.F

The Grace of Grief

Chicago has a beautiful roadway called Lake Shore Drive. It is nearly 65 miles in length with a significant portion carrying you through the central portion of the city along the lakefront. I’ve enjoyed that drive at two pivotal points in my life. For approximately 2 years I would take my lunch break once a week and drive north on Lake Shore Drive to see a counselor. My marriage was falling apart and that one hour a week was helping me navigate the waters of grief as I went through a divorce.

Several years later I found myself driving south on Lake Shore Drive once a week to see a marvelous spiritual director near the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. This time my faith life was falling apart, or so I thought. What was really happening? My view of God was expanding and I was going through a faith crisis of sorts. I cried buckets of tears believing that if my view of God shifted and changed and expanded, my family would no longer accept me? My Christian workplace would no longer sync up with me theologically. I was experiencing a different kind of grief. My fears were unfounded, at least at that point in time.

Today, as I once again give in to grief, I’m learning that it can become a grace in my life. It’s only a grace, though, if I move toward what it requires of me. Grief elicits a response. We can choose what kind of response it will be. We can select tears and sadness only, experiencing a release of sorts. But that kind of external expression is somewhat exhausting, or we can prefer the deeper work that moves us toward a specific outcome.  When I started to lean in to the struggle of grief, to be honest, I didn’t know what outcome I was moving toward.

One thing I learned is that helping others grieve comes with the territory. We rarely experience these personal difficulties in a vacuum. Whether it’s a job loss, as in my case, or a cancer diagnosis, or the death of a spouse, the person most directly affected isn’t the only one in distress. In my world, friends, family, and listeners are also struggling. Carrying the burden of helping others can actually delay our own healing. When a mom, with children still in the home, is suddenly widowed, she has to attend to those children and their grief before she can ever attend more deeply to her own. Shock is often an aid in helping her function and make it through the initial difficult days. In reality, helping others in their struggle puts yours on the back burner. Eventually we must choose to move it front and center for real growth to occur. It’s easy for me to bury my feelings but I felt God gently nudging me, at just the right time, to deal with my pain.

I’m a verbal processor. Whether I’m talking non stop when I’m with my spiritual director, or writing a virtual novel via text conversation, I usually learn things about myself by talking the story of my life out-loud. Because of those processing conversations, my husband and close friends saw that my faith life was shifting. However, admitting that to myself was a risky proposition. It meant I might have to act on what I’d admitted. If inner values don’t line up with external output, you’ll live in frustration. I was living in frustration.

I hold personal integrity as a high value, therefore my inner life needs to match my outer life. As my faith was shifting, I found I didn’t line up with the same theology I did 30 years ago, but I needed to uphold the theology of my employer, or simply avoid conversations on the air that directly contradicted my shifting personal beliefs. I knew I couldn’t continue to work in an environment where my beliefs had to be muted.

Today I get to live into my values. One important one for me is the belief that women can be in leadership in the church, including pastor and elder roles. Read Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight for more on the subject.  I had also shifted to a more missional theology instead of dispensational theology. Did these two shifts take me outside the realm of orthodoxy? No, but it made it impossible for me to live with integrity in my work place.

I began to pray for God to move me on to something new. Some of you already know that story. (read the fuller story here) God answered, just not how I’d imagined.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who said “God answered my prayer exactly how I’d imagined.”

What I didn’t anticipate was the breadth of my grief. It was larger than just my job loss. It was a layered grief, and maybe that’s always the case when we are willing to lean in and go deeper. I experienced sadness over leaving parts of a theology I’d grown up with. As my belief system was shifting, I needed to move out of the world I’d been a part of that was addicted to certainty. I grew up in fundamentalism and when you choose to shift away from that, it’s a scary deal that can get you tossed out on your ear. Just ask Kathy Escobar or check out her book Faith ShiftEscobar’s book is insightful and has helped me tremendously this past year. My view of God was expanding, and while that’s an amazing and holy thing, those in the certainty camp don’t like to see it happen. Until I was let go from my job, I was tied to a theology via an umbilical cord that was supposed to feed me and keep me alive, but I found myself horribly malnourished. I was moving toward death, until that cord was cut. That’s where grace entered.

I always hated it when someone talked about difficult things in terms of God’s grace to us. To me, it felt cliche or overly spiritualized. But sometimes it’s just plain true. I can now think freely, question freely, doubt freely, explore and dialog freely. All because of a difficulty that has been a catalyst in my life. I recently began reading Janet Davis’s book on grief, Sacred Healing, and her words preached. I’m experiencing the book’s title. Janet writes in short chapters with poignant questions at the end of each essay. She told me that people in the throes of grief can’t read anything long. Bingo! These chapters are just the right length, at least for me.

Let me come back to the whole doubting, faith shifting thing.  I see some of you squirming. Some of you are scared that Anita might not be stable in her faith. Some of you are wondering if I’m still a Christian? Let me say, “Yes!”  But let me also add that I believe there is a more generous orthodoxy out there that we can adhere to. Some might be asking, “What’s happening in evangelicalism today?”  I think a lot of healthy things are happening.  I think a lot of unhealthy and downright scary things are also taking place. I am seeing thoughtful people questioning long held beliefs in a wise and measured way.  Unfortunately, I’m also seeing the word evangelical highjacked to mean something I’m not sure I can use as a label these days.

I’ve received countless emails, private Facebook messages, and letters from people in the past 6 months sharing about their own deep sadness over my former radio program being cancelled.  You know what else many have said? I’ll try to synthesize their communiqes into one basic message. “You were the one place I could come where it was O.K. to doubt and to say it out-loud. You were a safe place to discuss the deeper issues I had with my faith. Now where can I go with my questions, where will I find this kind of community?”

My prayer is that over the course of years I was on the air that we’ve offered resources and helped develop critical thinking skills, especially for women. Often in more conservative corners of the evangelical church, this is not overtly taught. I pray women are  stronger today than when they started listening to my now defunct program and that they can stand on their own with feet firmly planted, feeding themselves, and receiving the same grace of grief that I’ve received.

If you are looking for further nourishment, I recommend my podcast Faith Conversations and Lori Neff’s podcast Everyday Prayer. Also, like the Friends of Midday Facebook page or the Anita Lustrea Facebook page where you can often read thoughtful and helpful postings.


Grief, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

I intended to start a series on my transition from my job of 31 years to my new life and new job. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, then couldn’t continue. Mostly because grief hit me hard. You know those commercials where the person is walking under a window and a piano falls out and smashes them flat? Yeah, it hit me like that.

I wasn’t sure what to do, not even sure what was happening. Truthfully, I thought I’d escaped it. I really did. The news of being let go was delivered by my boss in May, I was asked to stay on until the end of August, which got pushed to the end of September, which got pushed to January……only I said no, I couldn’t continue. Off and on I had my small bouts of tears. Then my time was done on September 30.

I was at home with nothing to do. Actually, a dream come true. I’ve always wanted a sabbatical or an extended staycation to clean and do all those things you can’t do because you are either working or on vacation, or recovering from work or vacation! After 3 or 4 days of doing nothing, I dove in. I cleaned and de-cluttered. Marcia Ramsland would have been proud. It took me a full 6 weeks to do this. And I wanted about 2 more weeks. I still have remnants that didn’t get sorted sitting in boxes in my basement.

But vacation rolled around and immediately upon return from vacation I headed to a new job. How great is that, right? A new place of employment, no long job search, not too long between no paycheck to having a paycheck? Or so I thought. Actually, I didn’t want to leave on vacation. First. Time. Ever. I wanted to keep cleaning and decluttering. I guess that whole nesting instinct kicked in. But, we had places to go, people to stay with, and a conference to attend at the end of our vacation.

After we got underway I began to enjoy myself. But more than ever I wanted to come home to no job. You might call me ungrateful, but I desperately needed a sabbatical, and 6 weeks was not long enough. In the work that occupied my life for the past 16 years, I was a teacher, a pastor, a mentor, a spiritual director, a speaker, a content provider, a broadcaster, a producer, a copy writer, a researcher, and a leader. No wonder I was exhausted.

I think I am learning, though, that the grief might not have started for me during the sabbatical time because I needed that time to be a refreshing and recharging time. And grief is anything but refreshing and recharging emotionally, though it can be cathartic. So I started my job and after a month grief took center stage. My co-workers who were also let go, ok, let me name them, Melinda Schmidt and Lori Neff, had experienced the gift of grief much sooner. It’s fascinating how different personalities and circumstances play into all this.

What began to happen at my new place of employment, Northern Seminary, is that I would run into Midday listeners daily and unexpectedly. Melinda, Lori and I have all been thrust into helping others deal with their grief(first through a Facebook firestorm, then through individual private Facebook messages and emails and letters) all while also dealing with our own. Didn’t see that coming.  Also didn’t see that hearing wonderful comments from Midday friends would cause the flow of tears to start. I thought I would just feel grateful. Just last week, a listener found me at my new place of employment and wrote me a letter there. I opened it, started reading, and the tears streamed down my face.  How could I continue working? Well, I couldn’t for about 20 minutes.  I picked up the phone and called Melinda and was deeply grateful that she answered. When she said hello she heard my distress and, of course, the tears flowed even more freely. What a gift to have someone to walk this road with. My heart goes out to all those who have to handle grief alone. Community is critical during a time of grief.

I also realized that grief isn’t just a friend to those who lost the job, or were diagnosed with cancer, or who’s spouse passed away, or whatever the loss, you fill in the blank with your specific grief. I’ve mentioned listeners already, but there are our spouses and our children and our friends. This is all they’ve known us to do and to be. Though employment doesn’t fully define us, some types of employment probably do a bit more than others. Radio Talk Show Host might be one of those.

I don’t think I realized I was staying strong for others. Or even staying strong for myself, so I’ve finally acquiesced and given myself permission to cry and grieve. I’ve also realized that even though I felt it was time for me to move on to something else, when you don’t leave on your own terms there are deeper emotions and issues to deal with. I didn’t believe it was time for Midday Connection to end, just time for me to move on. Still don’t. I’m sad for so many people in the equation. Even co-workers who’ve said, “I think of you everyday and miss you and ask why was this decision made.” We’ll probably never really know why. I can sit here and conjecture all day, but in the end it’s pointless.  I just need to grieve. I can’t rush the grief but I must allow it to run it’s course. I have felt God with me and so many others with me as well.  I’ve had daily “God sightings” from surprising and unexpected places.

We talked much on Midday Connection about knowing ourselves, and who God designed us to be. I’m getting that opportunity because of this unexpected turn of events. I don’t always like this grief journey, in fact I don’t like it at all. I often feel physically tired, and certainly emotionally tired. And I’m deeply grateful for my husband who doesn’t push me to “get over it.”

I don’t have any great learns to pass on now other than keep crying and don’t squelch the emotions that bubble up. I know one thing for certain and that is how extremely grateful I am for those walking with me in this season. At the least, by reading my story, I hope you are encouraged to keep putting one foot in front of the other if you are in a season of grief. I guess the word season encourages me. You never actually get through grief. It sticks with you for a lifetime, but there is a season where it is more intense. So I do look ahead to a better, kinder, gentler season. May it be springtime soon.

Mike’s Top 10 For Christmas Week and Beyond

Rumbling Around My Head. Christmas Week 2015.

1. Go tell it on the mountain. Jesus Christ is born. That breaks the game wide open doesn’t it?

2. There’s seems to be a growing movement standing against the tidal wave of hate that threatens to wash over us. Love will win you know. That’s both a hope and the promise.

3. Been reading a lot in regard to the flack with the Wheaton professor. For sure it’s not about the hijab and trying to identify with Muslim women. Reading theologians of all stripes this week. Seems to be both major and subtle disagreements on the primary theological issue on the table. Hats off to Wheaton and the professor for taking the higher road thus far. That’s not surprising actually. The principals in this skirmish take ‘Jesus stuff’ pretty seriously from all I’ve been able to surmise. I pray the talks resume and that a genuine spirit of reconciliation is present. It does get me thinking though. When is a different point of view intolerable and when is it the expected norm in faith based liberal arts institutions? Smart people do need to ‘think out loud’ at times. And at times even people of deep faith wrestle with theological and biblical issues they thought were settled. That’s healthy actually.

4. If there is a theme in 2015 it’s ‘social justice’. What’s God trying to say to us?

5. Poor Steve Harvey. Embarrassing for sure. End of the world it’s not.

6. Hands down best SNL segment of the year has to be Will Ferrell as George W. Bush.

7. Big, big differences in the tone and substance in the two debates last week.

8. Noticing a whole lot of people going through a ‘faith shift’. Some moving towards faith. Others moving away. Some questioning things they’ve never questioned before. Others embracing answers they previously rejected. It makes for interesting discussions. Let’s see what God does with it all.

9. Richard Rohr in ‘Falling Upward’ (great read, by the way) talks about meeting with Desmond Tutu who said, “We are only the light bulbs and our job is to stay screwed in.” That’s where prayer comes in. Lord, teach me to pray.

10. Anyone else thinking that it’s a ‘blessing’ to be living in this particular time and place? The opportunities for making a difference are huge. So, quit worrying. Be the person you want to be. More importantly, who God wants you to be. Live with open hands and a generous spirit. No more forwarding nasty, rumor filled emails. Cancel your subscription to the “Doomsday Preppers Gazette”. Turn off the radio show and the TV channel that turns you into a nervous wreck. Instead read, listen to or watch something that will breathe life into your troubled soul. Have a sweet conversation with someone trustworthy. Draw close to the God of all comfort. Live boldly.

Mike’s Top 10

Rumbling Through My Head
1. At times I think some of the cultural hysteria about just about everything boils down to the fact that down deep people are hugely annoyed by the inconvenience of having their goals blocked. We want it our way all the time. The problem is that there are too many of us vying to have ‘our way’ be the right way. There are things that are worth fighting for and a whole lot of things that aren’t. Knowing the difference between the two is a game changer.
2. It’s debate week. When I watch these things I’m looking for something, anything that comes close to resembling the heart and mind of Christ. Scripture tells us that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” I’m not feeling much of that in this election season. Of course there’s always the possibility God has changed His mind about refugees, immigrants, widows, orphans, wise stewardship, loving enemies, the meaning of greatness, the value of human lives, caring for our neighbors, truth telling,the importance of humility and being quick to listen. I probably just didn’t get the memo.
3. I’ve taken to looking around the room in every gathering I’m in. I picture everyone in the room packing a weapon. You’d think I’d be comforted by the thought that if trouble came through the door all would be well. ‘Au contraire mon ami’. Would anyone be safe?
4. Yes to climate control. It’s a stewardship issue.
5. I refuse to say ‘Merry Christmas’ just to make a silly point about ‘political correctness’. And I’m quite willing to say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Have a good day’ if that’s what’s called for.
6. Advent is a time to go deep into ‘waiting’. Much of the faith walk is spent ‘in the in between time’ trusting God is doing something beyond what the present moment reveals to us. We don’t necessarily like ‘in between times’ but what choice do we really have but to embrace them? In that embrace God does His best work.
7. I apologized to someone for inconveniencing him. He forgave me. There’s power in these kind of simple exchanges.
8. Hate begets hate. We forget that all too often. Perhaps the only people we should ever try to get even with are the people who have done us good.
9. Taking a stand for the things Jesus stands for will disrupt your life. And if your life is never disrupted …???
10. More and more I’m running into people whose faith isn’t adequate for the times we’re living in. There’s a next level they need to go to but don’t know how to get there. Sometimes they don’t even know who to ask or even what to ask.

Pushed out the door by God or man?

On September 30 I left Moody Radio after 31 1/2 years.  I’ve not talked about it much other than to state the fact. I guess saying I left isn’t exactly honest. I was let go along with my colleagues Melinda Schmidt, Lori Neff and Caryn Rivadeneira.  Some reading this already know the story because you’ve followed the blogs or Facebook posts of my friends. Having been at Moody that long, I had the option of choosing retirement, which benefitted me. I am not retired, however. I’m only 55 and still have much to contribute.

It’s interesting how such an experience shakes you. The questions that swirl and float to the surface are related to identity and, as Elisa Morgan calls it, “not-enough-ness.” I’ve started working at another organization since my Moody departure which has caused me to evaluate what has transpired in the emotional landscape of my life since the end of September. I’m one who mulls, ruminates, and ponders before settling on the real deal.  I’ve not landed yet, but I’m ready to start talking about it.

Where is the intersection of God at work and bad things happening? That is certainly one of the questions that surfaces in a hurry when a Christ follower encounters rigamarole they’re not expecting. What is the right response? Another questions I’ve been grappling with. How can one feel so torn over something seemingly senseless? The questions just keep coming. I’m going to try to address them in the context of my own part of this story.  And, I realize that each of us affected by the decision to end Midday Connection have their own part of the story.

As I talk about this over time, more questions will surface and, I believe, my answers will shift over time. I’m hoping that some of the themes that accompany loss will be transcendent as all of us walk through the waters of sadness and sorrow and loss more than once over the course of our lifetime.

The World Has Changed

…..And once again I steal some thoughts from my husband Mike’s Facebook page. He is a provoker and a prophetic voice. Sometimes they are one in the same.

The world has changed. We know it. We sense it. We have some choices. We can hunker down, buy a gun or assemble an arsenal, point some fingers, mistrust anyone who doesn’t look like us and choose to live with fear and anger.

Or we can live with a clear sense of resolve to live fully in the present moment acknowledging, but not giving into, our fears. We can quit pointing fingers. We can choose to live with open hands, hearts and minds. We can choose to build relationships with those who appear to be different and choose to continue to do the next good thing in the right way with the right attitude.

Choosing the latter doesn’t mean we live ignoring the realities of our changing world. Far from it. What it does mean is that choosing to escalate the hate and paranoia is no longer an option for us.


Anita’s Addendum: A couple of days ago, Mike and I went on a nighttime walk through a local Arboretum where we are members. Each Christmas season they put on a special show called Illuminations. They have hundreds, maybe thousands of light displays all throughout the Arboretum. The lights are various colors and kinds, and special effects make it all stunning. One thing is certain. If the electricity goes out during the Illuminations program, we’d all be in the dark. It would be pitch black.  I started thinking of the encroaching darkness in our world. Everywhere we look there is plenty of it. What can we do to push it back? If you are a Christ follower, you are a bearer of the light.  Your very presence, no matter where you are, is a light source. If we do nothing else but be present in our world, to our world, light will shine. And not just any light. The illuminating light of Christ. We’re not as powerless as we sometimes think.

Taking a Walk with a few Friends

Last Friday I did something I’ve never done before. I’ve considered it in the past, but never pulled the trigger. My husband Mike and I decided to drive into the city and join a march for justice and peace. Held on Black Friday, the march brought Michigan Avenue, the well known shopping district, to a stand still.

For those outside of Chicago, the news story occupying the headlines here this past week, is the story of 17 year old Laquan McDonald, a young man shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer. For those assuming that the police officer who shot Laquan McDonald was in imminent danger, that did not appear to be the case after viewing police dash cams. McDonald was running away from the officer when the shooting took place.

There are many issues being elevated with the death of Laquan McDonald. Police brutality, for one, and possible corruption for another.  After a 400 day cover up, ensuring Mayor Emmanuel’s re-election, people are now calling for him, the police chief, and the Cook County State’s Attorney to all step down.

That is all just background, not really the point of what I’m writing about. My decision to join in and march for justice and peace has been a long time coming. I haven’t always felt free to be my own person, to do what I felt was right. The reasons for that are now in my past, but I knew now was the  time to stand in solidarity with my African American brothers and sisters who have experienced decades, even centuries of injustice. It’s scary stepping out and deciding to march for the first time. It was cold and rainy and we could have easily stayed home or started our own Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Somehow Mike and I knew it was time.

We made the slow walk to Michigan Avenue after we’d parked our car. We stayed on the sidewalk for about 10 minutes and then we knew it was time to step into the flow, immerse ourselves fully in the stream. As we stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, my eyes welled up with tears. I worked hard to keep them at bay as we walked along moving closer to the Water tower. I thought of an African American friend from work who mentioned she’d be marching. I knew we’d never find her in the sea of humanity inching along Michigan Avenue.  I kept looking around and hoping, though. Then, four rows up and to my left a woman turned slightly, her profile exposed from under her furred hood. It was Tasha. I grabbed Mike and told him. He said, “Get to her. I’ll watch where you go and move toward you. Just go!” It probably took five minutes to weave my way there. When I’d finally danced my way to her, I touched her back and she turned. As we looked into each other’s eyes, the tears began to stream down our faces and we embraced. I haven’t fully formed my thoughts about what happened, but we were bonded in that moment, in an instant. Important for her, important for me, for different reasons.

I’m grateful I didn’t let my excuses keep me from experiencing this gift from God.



Mike Murphy’s top 10 for Thanksgiving Week

In My Head. Thanksgiving Week. 2015.

1. There’s a time when you just have to do the right thing despite not having total assurance that something about it won’t turn around and bite you.

2. Thankful for those who are standing up to the cultural, religious and political bullies in mature, and thoughtful ways.

3. This is about the third time I’ve said this but what the heck. Why do I still think this election season might become one of the major defining times in the history of our country?

4. I think Christ is and His people should be in the life and cultural transformation business. We do that best when we seek to be ‘kingdom builders’ proclaiming and living out a message of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. That means we have to be present to others even in the places that scare us a bit. So, out of the ‘holy huddles’ and into the world.

5. Quiz. Who said it? President Obama or President George W. Bush? “There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.” And the answer is…..President Bush.

6. Fear comes upon us unwanted and unbidden. Facing fear is a choice we can make. Overcoming fear is the power of God welling up inside of us.

7. Some of the most compassionate people I know are proud Republicans. They are matched in their care and concern by many proud Democrats. Go figure, huh? So, there really is common ground.

8. Sometimes in my zeal to be right I forget how to love. Ugh. Lord have mercy.

9. I’m thankful for this country and the hope and promise embedded in its DNA. That hope and promise isn’t fully realized however. The systems that work so well for me and probably for most of you reading this don’t work so well for a very, very large segment of our society. It’s a problem. A big problem. It’s important to pay attention to such things. Why? Rev. King once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That threat is why you see images of people taking to the streets. They want to be respected, heard and taken seriously. They are weary of being dismissed.

10. Ever wonder how Native Americans deal with all this talk about about immigrants and refugees? Think about it.

Anita and Mike go the mosque

Last Saturday I had an interesting experience. Besides the record setting snowfall in the Chicago area, my husband Mike and I went to our local mosque.  Earlier in the week a postcard arrived with an invitation to “Get to know your Muslim neighbors.” Since the local mosque is less than a half mile from our house, we felt it was a good opportunity to live out the second greatest commandment that Jesus speaks of in Mark 12:31, which is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We knew the event was listed as 12:15 – 2:00pm. Other than that, we weren’t sure of the format. Certainly we were curious. Who are these women walking around the neighborhood wearing head coverings and why do the men wear beanies and beards? Would the word terrorism be mentioned? Would we be able to get out once we’d gone in? Ok, I didn’t really have that fear. I did wonder if Muslim women would be allowed to talk to me. I had a lot of questions floating around in my brain.

If I’m honest, I went in the door of the mosque a little fearful, not feeling at home, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. I came out the door smiling and very glad Mike and I attended.

We walked in to the mosque and encountered an extremely warm welcome with people directing us where we needed to go. We were pointed to the basement where we checked in at the RSVP desk where, again, we were warmly welcomed and lauded for braving the snow and cold. We entered a large room, like a fellowship hall, where tables and chairs were set up and where, in the back of the room, displays with information about Muslim faith and practice were set up. Then the Imam invited us to sit down as he explained the order of events.  First we would witness Muslim prayers, then come back to the fellowship area for an explanation of what we’d seen, then lunch, then a speaker, and then time for Q & A.

Personally, I found it fascinating to see all the different prayer postures. The prayer session didn’t look at all like the TV version I’d seen on my favorite crime drama. Men and Women were in separate spaces, but in the same room where they could see each other. I was in the balcony with the women and Mike on the main floor with the men, but I could see him.

Then the meal! Hummus, pita bread, cucumber and tomato salad with delicious greek yogurt dressing, chicken and rice, and falafel! I ate heartily thinking of my trips to Israel where we ate the exact same menu many times. The desserts were equally good. Some kinds of pistachio and cashew and honey and baklava looking pastries. I wanted to take several home with me for later, but decided stuffing my purse wasn’t appropriate.

Next was a speaker that reminded me of a typical preacher, only muslim.  He went through the basic beliefs of Islam. I remember thinking that these are people just like me, living in my neighborhood, going to work, raising families, they just believe differently. They are equally appalled at the terrorism happening around the globe. I had one Muslim woman say to me, “What the terrorists are doing is sin, that is not true Islam.”

I was surprised how well attended the event was by the neighborhood. We met the local Catholic Priest and one of his Deacons there. Besides my husband, I ran into three others I knew.

All because of a two hour time investment on a snowy Saturday afternoon I’m no longer afraid to engage my Muslim neighbor in conversation, and I won’t be afraid to stop into the mosque to give blood the next time they advertise a blood drive.