Saturday, July 30, 2011

Every so often, we do something that is so outstanding, that even we must take pause to ask, "Now, just where in the hell did THAT come from?"

Susan Werner, May I Suggest
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

One spectacular flash of brilliant, life-changing, love-affirming light

Salam Allaikum.
Greetings my brothers and sisters. Peace be unto you, Peace be among you, and may Peace reign forever within your houses.
I have for too long been absent from the Mosque. But I hereby once again declare and proclaim:
“There is no God except Allah. And I declarer and proclaim: that Muhammed (PBUH) is his messenger.”
From those statements, I have never backed down, These declarations I shall never revoke. And thus, I am a true Muslim – albeit flowed, albeit ignorant of many things, but now aware, having been awakened in one spectacular flash of brilliant, life-changing, love-affirming light, I am ready to return, to fulfill my part of Allah's plan. To return to the mosque, to once again worship with you, oh wise ones, oh compassionate ones, oh kind ones, and to share in that great joy of the knowledge of the love that our Creator has for us.
My path in returning to you has been most crooked, with many twists and turns, many hills (yea, even mountains) to climb and oceans to cross. But in the climbing, and in the crossing, it has been affirmed to me this:
That after illness overtook me, and laid me so low, in the darkest of dark places, that in my darkest of moments and doubt, that Allah, in His wisdom, His benevolence, and His infinite love and mercy, did send two mighty angels to guard me, that I might not slip into and be forever lost to hell; that darkest of places, where Prophet Jesus (PBUH) descended and remained for three days until he was resurrected. 

And what is hell? Hell, is the absence of love. Simply that. The absence of love. The absence of love of self, in the presence of a self-loathing that denies all attempts by your loved ones to enter, to soften your heart, and to give you love. Once we fathom what hell is, then we begin to fully love our neighbor as ourselves (from which we learn that we must love ourselves, so that we might better love our neighbor - some of this has been lost in translation - but the words of Jesus have always held kernels of virtually unfathomable eternal truths; truths that any child, of course, understands; yet truths of which we can but pray to see a glimmering.
This was revealed to me quite recently, on Sunday, October 31, 2010, in Centerville, Iowa, at a Presbyterian Church service of all Saints Sunday. I had attended neither mosque services, nor Protestant worship services since I was last in the mosque in 2007. The Pastor, and the Choir Director of my parents' church made it abundantly clear that I would be welcomed back with loving arms. But they did not understand this: That I am a Muslim, that I will always be a Muslim, and that while I may certainly attend their worship services, I believe in but one faith tradition: Islam, and I subscribe to but one Holy Scripture: the Koran. And these are beliefs and subscriptions that I came to, of my own free will, as my steps were directed by the unseen yet ever present hand of Allah. To return to my parents' church would have meant turning my back on my faith, on my family, on my friends, and this, I will never do. This is THE one thing, that I can never do.
In Centerville, Iowa, on that blessed Sunday morning, near the end of the worship, I suddenly found myself sobbing uncontrollably, for in the moment of grace, I realized what has most been missing from my life these past three years: Sharing in worship and praise of our Creator, Allah, with you, His saints and His apostles.
So, sobbing, I left the Church, to behold the brilliance of the Sun shining, revealing much of Allah's grace unto me. And this was a revelation. And then this: that of the 21 members of my family gathered that weekend to bury the ashes of my mother's older twin sisters at the family cemetery in Livingston, Iowa, there was but one to whom I could possibly explain all that had been there revealed to me; my youngest sister, Marianne. And that was a very lonely moment, that realization, that I could not share my joy. (And in these thoughts, perhaps I was giving too little credit to the rest of my family; but this is what I then believed).
And that was a lonely, but also a joyous moment. And as Allah smiled upon me, He then revealed the most astonishing truth; that truth from which I have run and hidden so successfully, but at no small cost to my spirit and soul. This truth: Brother Mark, of course I forgive, but, there is nothing to forgive. You were sick, and I sent unto you My angels, to protect you, and nourish you back to health. Brother Mark, you never even had to ask My forgiveness, much less beg for it, for what you have so mistakenly believed to be your sins. You are washed clean. You are made whole. It now is time to go and proclaim to the world, that Allah created you (all), that Allah loves you (all), that Allah protects and blesses you (all).
And that when the day of final judgment comes, you will come before Prophet Jesus (PBUH) who loves you (all). For did he not say, “Suffer the little children to come unto me?”
Come and give glory; come and give praise; come with joyful heart; come give thanksgiving; come to worship.
And as the founder of the faith into which you were first born, Martin Luther, wrote in this, his resoundingly affirming hymn, Built on a Rock:
My peace I leave with you. Amen.
In love, and with joy,
Br. Mark

I look forward to greeting you all again this afternoon.