Donny's Ramblings


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Ali. Part II.

This is a follow up on an encounter I had with a man who had just recently lost his wife to cancer.

Two days shy of a month ago I wrote about Ali the Muslim (you may remember that article, because a sentence I used in it began a bit of debate, prompting me to follow up with a post about God and Allah as well as another post a few days later). Today I spoke with Ali again.

I’m the type who likes to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before my flight departs. I prefer 3 hours but that’s not always feasible. After a great week at the Londen Institute’s Residency in Louisville, Kentucky, today I spoke with Craig Gross at First Christian Church in Huntington Beach, California, where we had a really fantastic Porn and Pancakes event. Craig dropped me off at Orange county’s John Wayne Airport 3 hours ahead of scheduled departure time. With that much time to spare I decided to check up on Ali. I hoped he was still working at the Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge near terminal 8, because I wanted to see how he was doing. He crosses my mind quite a bit. The day he told me the story of his wife dying of cancer really moved me.

As I walked up the ramp leading to the dining area I saw him. I called out his name from 20 feet away.

“Hey, Ali!” I said with a smile.

“Well hello sir! How are you doing?” he responded. Half a second later his face lit up as he recalled who I was. He repeated his “how are you” question again, this time meaning it.

As I sat down in his section, I was able to ask him how HE was doing.

“Not so good” was his reply. I asked if things were getting any easier for him and he let me know that they are not. In fact, life seems to be getting harder.

We spoke for bits and pieces of time, in between his waiter duties with other customers. Once in awhile he was able to speak with me for 3 to 4 minutes.

He gave me an “in memory” card of his wife, Shahin Madjd-Sadjadi.

He let me know that his daughter Runak is really having a difficult time.

I told Ali that I wanted to share something with him. I told him that I’d asked several people to pray for him, and he thanked me, letting me know that he definitely believes in prayer. I am asking all of you now to pray with me yet again for peace for Ali and his daughter. I know God can bring comfort to their minds.

As I sat awaiting my check, I pulled one of XXXChurch’s “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles from my back pocket. No, not to share any passages with Ali, but because I wanted God to talk to ME.

I breathed a short prayer. “God, I don’t know where to look. I just want to open this up and find a message for you awaiting inside. I need to hear from you right now.”

I kid you not!  James 5:13 is where my eyes landed. The JLPS Bible happens to be “The Message” version.

Here’s what I read:

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven-healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Do you see what I see? Can God get any more explicit in his answer?

Are you hurting? Pray.

That, my friends, is exactly what I promised Ali I’d have all of you do for him. So please, help me keep that promise. I’m confident God can bring comfort to my friend, and I need you to help me invite God to make that happen.

I’m asking that as you finish reading this blog article you simply take a moment to ask God to bring peace to Ali and Runak, his daughter.


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Ali, The Muslim

Awaiting my return flight to Sacramento at Orange County Airport in Southern California, I decided to eat at the Oasis Grill and Sky Lounge. My waiter was a man named Ali. I sat longer than normal, and as I prepared to leave Ali and I began to communicate.

“I have 3 hours until my flight departs,” I told him.

“I’m sure that passes the time,” he replied. As he made a hand gesture toward my laptop.

He asked where I was headed and where I was from, then let me know he is also a Northern California native. At one time he owned an Italian Restaurant, which he’d sold at his wife’s urging in order to move closer to their daughter who is a college student.

Then his eyes began to tear up as he told me that he’d lost his wife to cancer barely a week ago. I was surprised he was working, serving food to me as I awaited my flight.

“I have to keep my mind occupied. I want to stay away from home as much as I can. The house now has no soul,” he explained in his thick accent.

A few moments later and we were discussing God. Ali and his late wife are of Muslim faith. Muslim’s serve the God of Abraham , which happens to be the same God those of Christian faith serve as well, even though Muslim’s call him “Allah” (edit to add: read the comments to this article, as this sentence has prompted a bit of discussion). During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.

“Can I share something with you?” I asked.

When he agreed I passed along some very simple, yet profound information I’d received from Wendy when I was in extreme emotional pain.

“Don’t be afraid of the grief, Ali. It is a beautiful part of human healing. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel about the loss of someone you loved so deeply. Let the pain last as long as it needs to last, but don’t be afraid of it. Simply thinking of the fact that emotional pain is nothing to fear… well that really changed my perspective when I was hurting. I hope it does the same for you. Pain like this is beautifully human. You loved her.”

A visible change occurred in Ali’s face. He smiled a warm, genuine smile and took my hand in a firm-grip handshake. My eyes were now glistening with moisture just as his were. I have never lost a spouse to cancer, but I felt like I really loved this man who recently had.

And so does the God I serve.

“Thank you for those beautiful words, my friend,” he told me. And his eyes followed me until I disappeared around the corner, leaving the restaurant. I know, because I looked back at him as well.

There was no need to tell Ali that I’d be praying for him. I’m just going to do so. I spoke with him for a brief instant, but the human emotions he is experiencing are something each of us feel at times, and I felt a very strong empathy and love for that hurting soul.

My God, please comfort my new friend.