Random Road Trip with the Khalifa Sisters

About ten years ago, I met one of my best friends.  Yet, at that time, Sept 2001,  it seemed like the odds were against our friendship.  Why, you might ask?  The answer: Sept 11, 2001.  How could a Christian and a Muslim become best friends during such a time, a time marked by fear and hatred of the “other?”  Well, I feel like it is exactly that fear that brought us together as we have, during the last ten years, invested in each other lives.  Instead of fear we have pursued love.  This love has brought us together despite our religious differences.  I am thankful for my friend Farah, as well as her family, for allowing me to be a part of their lives, for asking questions, and for the many ways they have given to me without expecting anything in return : )  Farah, this post is for you : )

I just went on the most random/out of the blue, road trip of my life!  Farah and I decided to travel together last Friday July 29, 2011 to visit her sister Ranim in London, Canada, as well as visit Dearborn, Michigan, the Arab capital of North America : )  In Dearborn, I felt as if I was back in Tunisia.  Most of the shops’ signs were written in Arabic, and every where we turned, someone was speaking in Arabic. Also, it just so happened that this weekend also marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting and seeking God in the Islamic faith.  So, I was honored to be spending time with two amazing women who have taught me so much about their faith.  We crossed the Canadian/American border together, ate Kibee together, bought some amazing Arab pastries at Shatila Bakery, drank coffee, visited the Islamic Center of America, walked along the water in Detroit, solved the world’s probelms, and just plain had fun!  I also learned the art of matching one’s hajib (veil) with one’s clothing, which is not something for the faint of heart ; )  So, again, I am learning what it means to become fully alive by spending time with some amazing women, learning about each other, and sharing our lives with one another!  Thank you Farah and Ranim for sharing your lives with me and Ramadan Kareem!  Who knows what adventures await us!

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Oh, what a joy!

So, here I am, after a wonderful but long day spending my time at the Uncommon Grounds Cafe, and well, I can’t stop giggling!  Why? Well, let me explain…

Today, around 5pm or so, a group of  kids, between the ages of 5 and 8, came into the cafe.  All of them wanted muffins, but only one of the them had the money to buy one.  So, what do we at the cafe when someone wants something but can’t pay?  We put them to work…

 It was such a joy to see the little ones willingly, and without resentment, clean tables and pull weeds in the garden outside.  Their excitement, of course, was such a joy to watch and to experience.   After their work was done, they received their muffins and a glass of water.  Then, one of the little ones suggested that we toast to God with the water glasses, and all I could do was smile : ) “Wow,” I thought, “There is no doubt that Jesus is smiling at us, as he watches these precious children acknowledge him and give him the glory for who he is and their small accomplishment in their effort to consume some muffins!”  After the toast, each of the little ones sat in their chairs with an obvious sense of dignity and accomplishment.  My prayer is that, each of them, along with the children of Aliquippa, will find dignity, their sense of worth and belonging, in the eyes of our Lord, a God who loves them, desires them, and pursues them.  He cares enough even to give them a muffin : ) 

Reflecting back on my time with them, I can’t help but turn to Jesus’ own words regarding children:

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people.  But, Jesus said, “‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'”  And he laid his hand on them and went away.” (Matt. 19.13-15). 

So, why am I giggling?  Well, once again, I have found what it means to have life in the midst of the busyness or the mudane.  What a joy it is to see men, women, and children come to the knowledge, even if they know it or not, of their dignity and self-worth, even if it is for only a brief moment.  May the giggling be contagious… 

i can’t help myself

So, today has been just one of those dreary days, cooped up inside, writing a paper in an old Franciscan convent turned house of prayer that my parent’s moved into about two weeks ago.  In the midst of all the busyness, the following song came to my mind: Can’t Help Myself by Sandra McCracken.  Actually, this song has been on my heart and lips for a while now as it reminds me that I can’t do anything without our Lord.  And I guess it is hard to forget that the Lord has everything in control when you are surrounded by crucifixes, pictures of Jesus, statues of saints, and some really strange but wonderful artwork : )  Oh, and an occasional Brother Son, Sister Moon song enters the soundtrack of my mind! 

On the day when we remember our Lord and friend Jesus as he wiped the feet of his disciples, let us remember how much he loves us and desires us.  Let us remember that he is the servant of all!  I hope that this song will encourage you as much as it encourages me!

http://www.newoldhymns.com/in-feast-or-fallow/cant-help-myself/ 

Here are the lyrics!

 I confess the things I am afraid of: thorns and danger just around the bend
I pray for tongues of fire and bands of angels to come and circle ’round me like a fence
I lift my eyes to the hills, where comes my help?
I lift my hands–empty hands–I can’t help myself
I can’t help myself; no, I can’t help myself

My enemies surround me like an army–within, without, the battle’s raging on
I pray the Spirit will be strong and mighty for courage through the night until the dawn
I lift my eyes to the hills, where comes my help?
I lift my hands–empty hands–I can’t help myself
I can’t help myself; no, I can’t help myself

Oh trust the Lord–my soul and all that is in me–oh trust the light to show your darkest parts
With wounds of truth and love, a friend who has known me; a fool would keep his secrets in his heart
I lift my eyes to the hills; here comes my help
I lift my hands–empty hands–I can’t help myself
I can’t help myself, can’t help myself
Can’t help myself; no, I can’t help myself; I can’t help myself

Being Made Fully Alive

So, I’m new at this whole blogging thing!  But, hey, why not go for it, dive right in, take risks, and share some thoughts with the world? Oh, and hopefully, you will share your thoughts with me : ) 

So, why start now?  Well, I figured that the last few months or so have been filled with “firsts,” taking risks, and pursuing passions and dreams that I never thought were even an option.  I also read a post by one of my favorite music artists, named Robin Pasley, who inspired me to start hand drumming as a young girl. 

Check it out: http://www.robinpasley.com/2011/04/traveling/

 Like Robin, I feel that I want to share my life with others in new ways.  That is why I have titled my first post, “Being Made Fully Alive,” because, well, as St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”    But, what does that really mean in the here and now? 

To put it shortly and plainly, it’s loving and being loved, not only by God, but by the men and women in which he created by sharing in one another’s passions, being willing to listen to a brother or sister, having a brother or sister listen to me, laugh with one another, and even cry with one another.  In other words, it is being willing to look into the eyes of another human being, seeing their value, their worth, and knowing that they see the same in your eyes. 

Lately, I’ve been noticing that nothing that has been put into my life has been wasted.  I’ve been able to pursue my love for African drumming and dance by sharing it with others in a context where my desire to serve the poor, the neglected, and lonely has collided with my love for urban environments and music.  I’m taking risks by exploring other artistic expressions, which can be scary but also a lot of fun!  And what is even better is that I’m not alone in this, because I’m in a community of people who love to share their passions with others and meet people right where they are: Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Aliquippa, PA! 

Check out this community http://www.uncommongroundscafe.org/

So, hopefully, my continued posts will reflect upon these new adventures, the highs as well as the lows, the joys, as well as the frustrations, as I continue to investigate what it means to be made fully alive.