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Is It Naughty When It's Just Insane? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 31 October 2007 09:06
Let's skip Halloween and go directly to Christmas. From way back in December of 2004, comes this gem from Barbara Nicolosi which cracked me up then and alas, so fits me today.

I forwarded it on to a friend in a similar situation with this note:

In the 15 minute window of leisure allotted me between hand-signing 300 Christmas cards, discussing foundation funding options with our business manager, and packing for that 6:30 am flight to San Antonio tomorrow morning, I had to send you this true spirit-of-Christmas item from the great Barb Nicolosi's blog.

I don't know why it tickles me so much but it is *SO* my life - just change the names and details to protect the guilty.

Except for one thing: Barb's past life as a sister has obviously left her with excessive scruples. She's worried about being a mere 5 *weeks* late on a major writing project. Good grief, I've got a half dozen projects that I'm at least a year behind on. Once you're past the year mark, you pass beyond mere guilt into an alternate time-and-space universe where guilt becomes transcendent: a kind of all encompassing faith that gives meaning to your life.


My favorite line: Is it naughty when its just insane?


BARB'S BRAIN MAKIN' A LIST, CHECKIN' IT TWICE...

1. Am now officially eight days past my deadline to submit my National Catholic Register column. No hope of getting it done until Saturday. - NAUGHTY

...Am ducking their request for a special article about the Pope on Cinema because I really want to do it, but can't see how or when - NAUGHTY

2. Was supposed to turn in the first draft of the screenplay Nov. 25. Am now shooting for Christmas....We'll see how much I get done on Saturday. - NAUGHTY

3. Am five weeks late submitting my chapter for the Act One book. They would certainly cut me out of the project if it wasn't for the fact that the book editor works for me. Saturday looks good to wrap that up. -- DEFINITELY NAUGHTY

4. Have written but not typed up a preface to a new book on the theology of The Passion of the Christ. They made the mistake of saying, "Whenever you can get to it." I think I can get it done Saturday before I really start writing. - NAUGHTY

5. Managed to do all the final negotiations for the new Act One offices. We sign the lease Friday. - NICE

6. Am ducking a new friend who runs a cool ministry that I really love. She asked me two months ago to give notes on the marketing plan they will be rolling out this year. - SLIMEY NAUGHTY

7. Am spending the next two dfays participating in a consortium on theology and cinema. I actually read the four books they sent in advance of our discussions - NICE!

...But, then, they sent me a pile of papers to read based on the books, and I only managed to print those out. Sigh. - NAUGHTY

8. In anticipation of the Act One Board of Directors meeting tonight, we managed to get out an agenda and all the budget stuff and other info to the members three whole days ago. - NICE

...Me taking credit for the fact that my staff did the lion share of work getting all the Board meeting stuff together - PROBABLY NAUGHTY

9. Managed to coordinate several meetings this week between our Hollywood Christians, and a delegation of Christians from Capital Hill. The meetings have been very well-attended and interesting. - NICE

...Thinking of the follow-up blog or messages I should write about our discussions. Maybe can squeeze it in on Saturday... - NAUGHTY

10. Still have to find that 12" GI Joe tank for nephew John Thomas somewhere out there in Internet shopping land. Have been spending too much time surfing around looking for it. - MORALLY UNCLEAR. CONSULT FAGOTHEY.

11. Have so many cool things to blog. Been saving thoughts since the film festival back in October. What if I die suddenly without getting to post my ideas of how The Wizard of Oz fails thematically by having subverted itself as a musical in terms of its methodology? Thinking I can get up early on Saturday. - IS IT NAUGHTY WHEN IT'S JUST INSANE?

12. Everyone is asking me to comment on movies. Haven't seen anything for months. Need to see everything. - NAUGHTY

13. Missing the office Christmas party tomorrow to be at the theology thing. - NAUGHTY

...Saving money by not getting presents for anyone at the office and thinking no one will notice because I am missing the party - DEEP IN THE NAUGHTINESS ENDZONE* (*credit to Karen Hall for coining the usage)

14. While running between events yesterday, I turned on the radio and heard a song about Christmas. It made me think of Jesus and my heart swelled with love. Still got it, even now. - VERY VERY NICE

And now - must run to a staff meeting . ..
 
Catholic Fortunes in Japan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 31 October 2007 08:23
Sandro Magister has a moving article this morning about the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945 and its impact on the Catholic community of Japan. I had not realized that
"among the victims of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, two thirds of the small but vibrant Japanese Catholic community disappeared in a single day. It was a community that was nearly wiped out twice in three centuries."

In 1945, this was done through an act of war that was mysteriously focused on this city. Three centuries before, it was by a terrible persecution very similar to that of the Roman empire against the first Christians, with Nagasaki and its "hill of martyrs" again the epicenter.

And yet, the Japanese Catholic community was able to recover from both of these tragedies. After the persecution in the seventeenth century, Christians kept their faith alive by passing it on from parents to children for two centuries, in the absence of bishops, priests, and sacraments. It is recounted that on Good Friday of 1865, ten thousand of these "kakure kirisitan," hidden Christians, streamed from the villages and presented themselves in Nagasaki to the stunned missionaries who had just recently regained access to Japan.

And again after the second slaughter in Nagasaki, in 1945, the Catholic Church was reborn in Japan. The most recent official data, from 2004, estimate that there are a little more than half a million Japanese Catholics. They are few in relation to a population of 126 million. But they are respected and influential, thanks in part to their solid network of schools and universities.

Moreover, if to the native Japanese are added the immigrants from other Asian countries, the number of Catholics doubles. A 2005 report from the commission for migrants of the bishops' conference calculates that the total number of Catholics recently passed one million, for the first time in the history of Japan.

 
Astronomical Terrorism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 31 October 2007 07:11
A reader of ID writes about the current beliefs of a grieving widower with whom he has been sharing his faith: "the cosmos is soooo enormous that he can't believe we humans have any significance."

To which I can not do better in a hurry than to quote from the "funniest, wisest, and most unorthodox cookbook ever written" (or so thought Craig Clairborne of the New York Times in the late 60's)

"Unfortunately, we live in an age which is too little impressed by the small and too easily intimidated by the great. It is the stock in trade of atheists and other knockers of the wonder of being to insist that the magnitude of the universe makes all men's musings insignificant. How, they ask, can we seriously think we are of much account in a universe where light travels at 185,000 miles per second, and it takes a hundred light years to go from one galaxy to the next?

Looking into my saucepan as the stock thickens, I find a counterfoil to such astronomical terrorism. Creation is vast in every direction. It is as hugely small as it is large. The number of water-filled insterstices in my three tablespoons of flour runs the interstellar distances a fair second, the appeal to size is a self-canceling argument. Plying my whisk, I know that what goes on here is neither less mysterious nor less marvelous than what happen there. We may not have settled the question of whether i am mad to think that I matter, but we have definitely eliminated the numbers game as a method of proof. I will listen to any man who wants to argue me down, but saucepan in hand, I refused to be snowed."

The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon
 
Random Delights PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 30 October 2007 10:06
Oh frabjous day!

More random quote generators than you can shake a stick at:

The wonderful Gerard Manley Hopkins poem generator:

Summa

THE best ideal is the true
And other truth is none.
All glory be ascribèd to
The holy Three in One.


-- Gerard Manley Hopkins. Poems (1918).

The glorious G. K. Chesterton day by day quotes

JUNE 22nd

THOSE thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.

G.K. Chesterton, 'Tremendous Trifles.'

The profound Desert Fathers quote generator:

Of the infirmity of forgetfulness, and how we ought not to despond because of it.

A certain brother said to one of the elders, "Lo, my father, I frequently consult the elders, and they give me advice for the salvation of my soul, yet of all that they say to me I can remember nothing." Now it happened that there were two vessels standing empty beside the old man to whom he spoke. He therefore said to the brother, "Go, take one of the vessels. Put water in it. Wash it, and pour the water out of it again. Then put it back, clean, into its place." The brother did so. Then said the old man, "Bring both vessels here. Look at them carefully, and tell me which is the cleaner." "Surely," said the brother, "that is the cleaner which I washed with the water." Then said the old man to him again, "Even so it is, my son, with the soul which frequently hears the words of God. Even although the memory retain none of them, yet is that soul purer than his who never seeks for spiritual counsel."


Random Music - quotes from Jacques Maritain

Paradise consists, as St. Augustine says, in the joy of the Truth. Contemplation is paradise on earth, a crucified paradise.

-- Jacques Maritain, in Scholasticism and Politics, 1940.

All via the generosity of the Jacques Maritain center of Notre Dame.

Add that to the P. G. Wodehouse random quote generator and what more could you ask for?

If I had had to choose between him and a cockroach as a companion for a walking-tour, the cockroach would have had it by a short head.

Very Good, Jeeves (1930) ``The Spot of Art'

Any other great quote generators that you recommend?
 
The Social Agenda PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 30 October 2007 09:48
A very useful tool:

The Social Agenda - an online summary in six languages of Catholic social teaching put together by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace which was then headed by late, lamented François-Xavier Nguyên Cardinal Van Thuân.

The Social Agenda is made up of passages from Church teaching assembled by topic. A good place to begin your survey of Catholic Social Teaching - although I would never stop at a survey.

I find that those cd collections of Church teaching up to and including Vatican II are a fabulous way to gather a comprehensive collection of statements on a particular subject. It only takes 60 seconds to find the quotes and a week to read em all!
 
If God is With Us . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 30 October 2007 06:54
Both Fr. Mike and I are still swamped. I will try to get back to blogging later today. In the meantime, enjoy this two wonderful videos of Michael Card (and friends like Steve Green and Phil Keaggy) jamming on

The Poem of Your Life



and singing the exquisite Immanuel



A sign shall be given
A virgin will conceive
A human baby bearing
Undiminished deity
The glory of the nations
A light for all to see
Hope for all who will embrace
His warm reality

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

For all those who live in the shadow of death
A glorious light has dawned
For all those who stumble in the darkness
Behold your light has come

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

So what will be your answer?
Will you hear the call?
Of Him who did not spare His son
But gave him for us all
On earth there is no power
There is no depth or height
That could ever separate us
From the love of God in Christ

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

Music that nourishes hope!
 
This Week PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 29 October 2007 06:37
We're still blogging but things have gotten busy.

A number of remarkable opportunities have come the Institute's way in the past week. Several large dioceses have approached us about wide-scale implementation of the Called & Gifted discernment process, I've been approached to speak at a important national gathering, I have also been asked to consider teaching (part-part-part-part time - I'm not leaving the Institute!)at a seminary, and we have received another international invitation and there are other possibilities that I can't even talk about in vague terms.

And then I'm gone for 8 days. We leave CS Saturday for Maryland and Making Disciples (with Fr. Mike, Keith Strohm and Barbara Elliott.) And then I am doing a Day of Discernment in Washington, DC. And hope to get to meet and spend a little time with Gashwin Gomes of Maior autem his est caritas while I'm there.

So we are scrambling a bit to pray, prioritize, and respond. We could use your prayers as we try to discern where God is calling us.

But I will also be blogging as I can this week (and have some good stuff to blog!) so stay tuned.
 
"Wholehearted" Discipleship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Saturday, 27 October 2007 05:11
At the end of the Cursillo weekend I attended a couple of weeks ago, there was a prayer service in which the candidates are invited to commit themselves to apostolic works. It ends with a simple question each individual asks of God,

"Lord, what do you want from me?"

As we came to that question, I was prepared to examine the activities I'm involved in, and reflect on how I might be more Christlike in them, or how I might be more open about my Christian faith. I was hoping I might have some direction as to what new project I might be involved in, or what to do next in the Institute.

Instead, no sooner had the question been posed, when I had a response,

"Give me your heart."

It was one of those moments that I've had once in a while, in which the words that come to mind seem to come from deep within me yet somehow not from me. It's hard to explain. In these cases, the words have always been something of a surprise, like these words. Yet, of course, they made all the sense in the world.

And at the same time, they cut like a two-edged sword, because, of course, they imply that I have not given my heart completely to my Lord - and thus he's not entirely "Lord."

In fact my heart - my loves and desires - are very divided. I get wrapped up in the passing things of this world (like Duck football, for example!) and my heart rises and sinks with each win and loss. The same rising and sinking of emotions happens in relationships that we cling to because the other has become a means to our own happiness, rather than someone for whom we're laying down our life, or when we're trying to manipulate the emotions of another through pleasing, for example. The same churning of emotions happens when we've given our heart to work; each success merely momentarily staves off the ever-present fear of failure.

So why is it so hard to give my heart to one who loves me enough to suffer and die for me? Why am I so convinced that living my life my way will be better than Jesus' way? I will have to think and pray about these questions.

But in the meanwhile, it seems I have some ideas of where my heart is divided, and where there is need of true mortification - a "dying" to passing things. I am in need of detachment, not so that I can be free, but so that I can be attached to him "who loved me, and gave his life for me." (Gal 2:20)
 
Christian life in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 26 October 2007 08:22
Consider visiting Tabula Gaza, an English language blog from a resident of the Gaza Strip. This morning they carry this report from French 24 about the death of Rami Ayyad, manager of the Gaza Strip's only Christian bookstore.

Rami was a man of great courage and faith.

"Palestinian Christians number around 75,000 but there are only 2,500 -- most of them Greek Orthodox -- living in the Gaza Strip among nearly 1.5 million Muslims, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics." (Note: there are only about 200 Catholics in the Gaza Strip)

"Gaza has no history of tensions between the two communities and Christians say they are bound to their Muslim neighbours by shared suffering.

But fears peaked on October 6 when Ayyad was kidnapped, tortured and shot dead, his body dumped in a field outside Gaza City. No one has claimed responsibility for the murder.

Ayyad ran a bookshop affiliated with the United Bible Societies, a worldwide organisation that tries to help people "receive the Word of God and see the true light in Jesus Christ", according to its website.

The shop -- the only Christian bookstore in Gaza -- was firebombed in April, and Ayyad's family members said he was threatened several times.

"Three months before Rami was killed a man came into the office," Ayyad's mother told AFP. "He said to Rami, 'What do think about converting to Islam?'"

"Rami said, 'If you convert to Christianity, I'll become a Muslim.' Then the man said, 'I know how to make you a Muslim'. It was a threat."

The Hamas-run government has vowed to find and punish Ayyad's killers, and senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar and former prime minister Ismail Haniya attended his wake, along with several of the family's Muslim neighbours.

But many Christians, frightened of the new extremist groups and desperate to escape the worsening economic situation in the Gaza Strip, are seeking to emigrate, sparking fears for the future of the community."


Tabula Gaza also has a link to this amazing interactive map of the West Bank. Here you can see the extremely complicated reality: the many barriers, restricted roads, Israeli settlements, areas controlled by Palestinians and by Israelis. Imagine trying to live life there.

Even when I was there 20 years ago, the landscape was beginning to change in a way that was unrecognizable to those who had lived there for decades. I learned quickly within my first 24 hours on the West Bank.

I was being driven by a Anglican sister from Ramallah to an Arab village a few miles away that she had know well for many years. But as she neared where the road to the village should have been, she couldn't find it. A road constructed for an Isreali settlement blotted out the familiar landmarks. Somehow we ended up on the Isreali road heading to the Jewish settlement and I begin to hear her say strange things under her breath as she tried to turn around within sight of the settlement. It went like this:

"Don't shoot. We are just turning around. Don't shoot. We are just turning around."

It took a few moments for the reality of our situation to dawn upon my pampered American brain. What on earth was she talking about? Who gets shot at for making a simple three point turn about on a road with no traffic on it?

Unless, of course, you are in a car with a tell-tell Palestinian license plate 400 yards from the entrance to the Jewish settlement. It was, shall we say, a wake-up call.

Ramallah was a 20 minute drive, via a jammed Arab taxi complete with beaded hangings and Arabic music, from the old city of Jerusalem. That drive is not possible today.
 
Caroline Chisholm - Australian Saint? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 October 2007 22:13
Clara, co-Director of our Australian office, sent me this article from the Sydney Morning Herald about Catholic lay woman and heroine, Caroline Chisholm. Caroline's cause is being opened on this bi-centennial of her birth.

We tell Caroline's story at every Called & Gifted workshop since she is such a brilliant example of the charism of wisdom. Caroline basically invented the employment agency. She found jobs and set wages and working conditions for 11,000 single emigrant women whose passage to Australia was paid by the British government which failed to make provision for them when they arrived on the dock in Sydney.



Clara is an authority on Caroline Chisholm and has been championing her cause for years. For more information, check out this BBC report on Caroline's remarkable life.
 
The Fingerpuppet Guide to Life on the Road and Graduate Theological Education PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 October 2007 22:06
It was a wonderfully rich and blessed trip to Detroit although fraught with all sorts of unexpected snafus and roadblocks.

Things started out with a bang when I turned on my laptop in the CS airport at 5:45 am and all I got was the blue screen of death. My presentation at Sacred Heart was on Powerpoint slides which I had put some real work into and I had no other notes or hand-outs with me. Eeecckk!

But it was too late to leave the airport or even have another laptop delivered to me. My plane was about to board. Fortunately, I had a copy of my presentation on a memory stick so all I had to do was find another laptop with Powerpoint in Detroit and I would be ready to roll.

My host, Renewal Ministries, hunted for another laptop but no one on staff used Powerpoint. So I nabbed a yellow legal pad in case I needed to rough out some notes by which to do my presentation on Wednesday. But miraculously that afternoon at the hotel, my computer seemed to work fine!

I had dinner with Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck in Ann Arbor and it was fascinating to see how our work had been parallel to each other although we had never met. There were lots of connections made and it was a lot of fun. It as especially fun to talk about the global missionary scene since I so seldom know Catholics who are knowledgable about missions. Renewal Ministries currently works in 27 countries.

Wednesday morning, I was off to be filmed for a TV show for the first time. Ralph has been doing these shows for 35 years so he is very relaxed and it was completely painless. I understand that this show will broadcast on EWTN next summer on "The Choices We Face".

Then we left immediately for Detroit and Sacred Heart seminary seminary where Ralph Martin heads up the STL/MA program in the New Evangelization. I got to have lunch with old friend from St. Dominic's in San Francisco (and fellow denizen of St. Blog's) Tim Ferguson who is both a canon lawyer and judge (his classmates would tease him "here come de judge" as they walked by) and a student in the STL program in the New Evangelization. Tim introduced me to Ed Peters, yet another blogger, who teaches canon law at Sacred Heart (Ed and Tim were talking shop)

Ralph sent out an all points bulletin to the students and faculty to come hear my talk so we had a number of visitors in the class (Evangelization Methodologies) including Janet Smith who also teaches at Sacred Heart, whom I was delighted to meet and Matthew Hill, who had attended Making Disciples in Colorado last August. (Scroll down and take a look at this fun interview that Ralph did with Janet Smith last year)

All seemed to be ready to go - computer was working and all was right with the world when . . .the power went out 10 minutes before class began! So I got to teach in the darkened classroom using my computer for prompts until the batteries died and then I just ad libbed. (In a jam, I recommend finger puppets and a bit of drama to help substitute for those cool Powerpoint slides I had prepared) But I had really worked on preparing so the words came and, despite everything, the students seemed most appreciative.

Which was great because I had to quit 45 min early, pack up and Tim drove me to the airport in a hurry where I caught my plane and made it home by 11:18pm.

Ralph and Renewal Ministries are really interested in doing further collaboration with the Institute in a variety of interesting areas which should be both fun and fruitful. So all in all, it was blessed trip.

In my small way, I try to emulate the practice of St. Frances Cabrini when in a jam.

St. Frances, who worked one of her canonization miracles on a hill just above my old apartment in Seattle, was a world class traveling missionary and had developed a wonderful perspective on the inevitable snafus involved. She always said that when things got really difficult, God was about to do something especially wonderful.

There is one hair-raising story about her that I have little hope of emulating. She was riding on a train in the wild west when her train was held up by robbers. One robber fired a pistol at her pointblank through the window but the bullet dropped harmlessly to the floor beside her. Frances was unfazed and unsurprised.

After all, she noted calmly, hadn't she commended herself to the protection of the Sacred Heart?
 
An Interview with Cardinal Arinze PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 October 2007 12:08
Our local diocesan paper interviewed the Cardinal while he was in town last month and Catholic is running the whole interview here. Cardinal Arinze, is currently serving as Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Be sure and read the whole thing but are a few excerpts:

CCH: What should be the primary focus for Catholics: evangelization, the culture of life vs. the culture of death, the sanctity of marriage?

CARDINAL ARINZE: All of these you have mentioned are serious concerns for the church worldwide. If you would allow me to put it in one word, it is evangelization; to carry out the mission Christ gave the church through his apostles. He said to them, "As my father sent me, I also send you." He also said to them, "All power is given to me on heaven and earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them. Teach them to observe whatever I have said to you." So, that's the mission of the church. It is always urgent.

One particular aspect may need more attention at a particular time. For if you ask me what would be most urgent, I would say the prayer life in the Church is very important. That has no substitute, so that remains a priority. But also, of course, the areas you mentioned remain very important.

Snip.

Our faith is not based on theories or opinions. Our faith is based on a solid rock of God’s revelation: the holy Scripture, the tradition of the church, the teaching of the church which is alive in every age.

The church does not live in the museum. The church is alive today. Be with that church.<
 
Feast of the Forty English Martyrs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 October 2007 11:15
October 25 is the Feast of the 40 English Martyrs who died for the faith between 1535 and 1679.

This group does not include St. Thomas More (go here for the first post in our Thomas More and his family extravaganza. And then here )here, here, here, here, here, here,here, and here.

and does includes relatively well-known martyrs like Edmund Campion and Margaret Clitheroe whose story is here.

but also lesser known but remarkable people like Nicholas Owen, the ingenious designer/builder of priest hiding places in the great houses of England.


Here is a link to a long but fascinating article on the priest holes of England with many illustrations.

Owen gave himself up to distract attention from priests hiding nearby and although he was exempt from torture under English law because he was maimed, was, in fact, tortured to death. Father Gerard wrote of him: "I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. . . . He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular."

Someday I would love to leave a pilgrimage to Britain, focusing entirely upon the remarkable lay contribution to the Catholic underground of the 16th and 17th centuries when English prisons became amazing houses of formation for many lay people suffering for their faith. Margaret Clitheroe was taught to read by a priest in prison and given one of her greatest treasures: a copy of the newly minted English language Douai Bible there. Her Bible still survives and can be seen at the Bar Convent museum in York.
 
Muslim Conversions to Christianity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 25 October 2007 06:57
An interesting article appeared in Christianity Today online yesterday on the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. J. Dudley Woodberry is professor of Islamic studies at the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, and served in the Muslim world for many years.

Since a reader had posted a query as to why Roman Catholics were not participating in a meeting on evangelization of Muslims, I thought it would be good to print the bulk of this article. It demonstrates the variety of ways in which Muslims are being drawn to Christ. The same means are also true for other non-Christians who seek baptism. The most important reason is the one that most Catholics are comfortable with – the witness of a truly Christian life (now how many Catholics are living exemplary Christian lives that are powerful witness to the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is another topic altogether…). But the other ways in which God has been at work in the lives of Muslim converts to Christianity are startling: answered prayers, miraculous cures, dreams and visions, exorcism, and the power of the Gospel message of God's faithful love. Dissatisfaction with the way they experienced Islam, especially when it was enforced by the state, was another significant reason that Muslims turned away from their faith and embraced Christianity.

"So what attracts Muslims to follow Jesus? Between 1991 and 2007, about 750 Muslims who have decided to follow Christ filled out an extensive questionnaire on that basic question. The respondents—from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups—represent every major region of the Muslim world. (Copies of the questionnaire are available from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .) The participants ranked the relative importance of different influences and whether they occurred before, at the time of, or after their decision to follow Christ. While the survey, prepared at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies, does not claim scientific precision, it provides a glimpse into some of the key means the Spirit of God is using to open Muslim hearts to the gospel.

Seeing a lived faith
First, we can look at the experiences that most influenced Muslims. For example, respondents ranked the lifestyle of Christians as the most important influence in their decision to follow Christ. A North African former Sufi mystic noted with approval that there was no gap between the moral profession and the practice of Christians he saw. An Egyptian contrasted the love of a Christian group at an American university with the unloving treatment of Muslim students and faculty he encountered at a university in Medina. An Omani woman explained that Christians treat women as equals. Others noted loving Christian marriages. Some poor people said the expatriate Christian workers they knew had adopted, contrary to their expectations, a simple lifestyle, wearing local clothes and observing local customs of not eating pork, drinking alcohol, or touching those of the opposite sex. A Moroccan was even welcomed by his former Christian in-laws after he underwent a difficult divorce.

Many Muslims who faced violence at the hands of other Muslims did not see it in the Christians they knew (regrettably, of course, Christians have been guilty of interethnic strife elsewhere). Muslim-on-Muslim violence has led to considerable disillusionment for many Muslims, from those who survived the 1971 war between the Bengalis of East Pakistan and the Pathans, Sindis, and Punjabis of West Pakistan, to Arab and Berber tensions in North Africa, and to Arab herdsmen fighting black African farmers in Darfur.

The next most important influence was the power of God in answered prayers and healing. Like most of the factors that former Muslims list, experiences of God's supernatural intervention often increase after Muslims decide to follow Christ.
In North Africa, Muslim neighbors asked Christians to pray for a very sick daughter who then was healed. In Senegal, a Muslim marabout (spiritual leader) referred a patient to Christians when he was not able to bring healing. In Pakistan, after a pilgrimage to Mecca did not cure a disabled Shiite girl, she was healed following Christian prayer.

Closely related was the finding that some noted deliverance from demonic power as another reason they were attracted to Jesus. After all, he is the healing prophet in the Qur'an and has power over demons in the Gospels. In northern Nigeria, a malam (what some might call a witchdoctor) used sorcery against a man who was considering following Jesus. The seeker became insane, and his extended family left him. But then he prayed that Christ would free him, and he was healed.

It helps to note that a third of the 750-person sample were folk Muslims, with a characteristic concern for power and blessings. It is also worth noting that the Jesus portrayed in the Qur'an is a prophet who heals lepers and the blind and raises the dead. Not surprisingly, many Muslims find him attractive. Of course, power and blessings do not constitute the final word for Muslims. The Bible also offers a theology of suffering, and many Muslims who follow Christ find that their faith is strengthened through trials.

The third biggest influence listed by respondents was dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. They expressed unhappiness with the Qur'an, which they perceive as emphasizing God's punishment more than his love (although the Qur'an says he loves those who love him [3:31]). As for Islam's requirement that liturgical prayer should be in Arabic, a Javanese man asked, "Doesn't an all-knowing God know Indonesian?" Others criticized folk Islam's use of amulets and praying at the graves of dead saints.

Some respondents decried Islamic militancy and the imposition of Islamic law, which they said is not able to transform hearts and society. This disillusionment is broad in the Muslim world. Many Iranians became interested in the gospel after the Khomeini revolution of 1979 brought in rule by clergy. Pakistanis became more receptive after President Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988) tried to implement Islamic law. And Afghans became more open after Islamist Taliban conquest and rule (1994-2001).

As with Paul and Cornelius in Acts, visions and dreams played a role in the conversion of many. More than one in four respondents, 27 percent, noted dreams and visions before their decision for Christ, 40 percent at the time of conversion, and 45 percent afterward. Many Muslims view dreams as links between the seen and unseen worlds, and pre-conversion visions and dreams often lead Muslims to consult a Christian or the Bible. Frequently a person in the vision, understood to be Jesus, radiates light or wears white (one respondent, though, said Jesus appeared in green, a color sometimes associated with Islamic holy persons). An Algerian woman had a vision that her Muslim grandmother came into her room and said, "Jesus is not dead; he is here." In Israel, an Arab dreamed that his deceased father said, "Follow the pastor. He will show you the right way." Other dreams and visions occurred later and provided encouragement during persecution. A Turkish woman in jail because of her conversion had a vision that she would be released, and she was. A vision of thousands of believers in the streets proclaiming their faith encouraged a young man in North Africa to persevere.

The message is the medium
Next in attraction for Muslims is the spiritual truth in the Bible. The Qur'an attests that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel (commonly understood as the New Testament) are from God. Even though Muslims are generally taught that these writings became corrupted, they often find them compelling reading and discover truth that they conclude must be from God. The Bible helped one Egyptian understand "the true character of God." The Sermon on the Mount helped convince a Lebanese Muslim that he should follow the one who taught and exemplified these values.

Respondents were also attracted by the Bible's teaching about the love of God. In the Qur'an, although God loves those who love him, his love is conditional. He does not love those who reject faith (3:31-32). There is nothing in the Qur'an like, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10), or, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

A West African was surprised by God's love for all people, even enemies. Likewise, although the Qur'an denies that God is a father (37:152), many Muslims find this a comforting concept. Particularly attractive to Muslims is the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The Qur'an already calls him faultless (19:19). Many Muslims are attracted to him by his depiction in the Qur'an and then go to the Gospels to find out more. A Saudi was first drawn to him at a Christmas Eve service in Germany—even before he knew German. Like many, an Iranian Shiite was attracted to Christ before he was attracted to Christianity. A North African Sufi found Jesus' portrayal as the Good Shepherd particularly meaningful. When Christ's love transforms committed Christians into a loving community, many Muslims listed a desire to join such a fellowship as next in importance.

Subconscious influences
For the most part, respondents did not say that political or economic circumstances influenced their decisions. But it's hard not to notice that Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, and Algerians became more responsive after enduring Muslim political turmoil or attempts to impose Islamic law. Christian relief and development agencies try hard to guard against spiritually misusing their position as providers of desperately needed goods and services. But natural disasters in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Sahel region inevitably put Muslims in contact with Christians trying to follow Jesus. It is no surprise that some of these Muslims also choose to follow Christ.

In many places, apostasy [from Islam] is tantamount to rejecting family, religion, culture, ethnicity, and nationality. Thus, many Muslim converts face persecution from family, police, or militants. Two friends were unable to fill out the questionnaire—one because he was apparently poisoned by his own family, the other because the government imprisoned him and later his tongue was cut out by a warlord so that he could no longer say the name of Jesus.

But Muslim converts to Christ know that such persecution can, in a mysterious way, be part of the best of times. Jesus, in fact, said it was a blessing. That's because with or without persecution, Muslims are discovering an experiential truth unknown to them before. As a Zambian Muslim exclaimed, 'God loves me just as I am.'"
 
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