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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Allah Vs God

When I posted Ali, The Mulim, a sentence in my post began a bit of discussion in the comments area. I feel that discussion merits it’s own article, so I’m writing this one to clarify what that sentence means.

Here is what I wrote:

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”.

What’s your thoughts when you read that? Does it make you angry? Does it move you to “correct” me?

The simple fact is that my statement is very much true when taken for what I actually said, rather than reading more into it than I meant. The sentence immediately preceeded one that stated:

During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.

And that, my friends, is also exactly what I meant. I was acknowledging that there are definite differences in what Christians vs Muslims believe about God (and many other things). In no way was I trying to make any assertions as to the “salvation status” of any groups of people. I was merely stating that our Father and their Father are the same Father. There may be differences in perspective on His attributes, but both Christian and Muslim faith begin with the God of Abraham. Keep reading and I’ll further clarify that statement with an example from my own life. But first…

In comment # 22, Jeff posts the following:

I don’t dispute that both faiths start at the God of Abraham, but as you’ve even said, the attributes given to that God are different for each faith. So let me name off three differences in attributes:

-Followers of Christ say that God has a son who became man (Jesus), where followers of Islam say that Jesus was a prophet but NOT the only begotten son of God.
-Followers of Islam say that Muhammed is Allah’s prophet, where followers of Christ say that the law and prophets that had been passed down in the Hebrew faith are God’s prophets.
-Followers of Christ say that God’s blessed people followed the family line of Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17), where followers of Islam say that God’s blessing followed the family line of Ishmael.

These three statements point out three distinctly different historical attributes given to either God or Allah. They also point to attributes that are 100% at odds with each other. But either side says, “These are attributes of my God, the same God that Abraham believed in.” So even though I agree that each have the same foundation, the foundation alone cannot does not mean that what is built upon it is the same.

— > Yes! Score! Touchdown! Great way to word it, Jeff! <—

Do our differences in beliefs about those issues make one group better than the other? Not at all. Does it mean one group has something confused? Let me answer with that promised example, which I also posted as comment # 24 (in response to the quote I posted from Jeff above).

Here’s what I said:

We’re both speaking the same language now.

This whole thing started because of a sentence I used in my post in which I stated “The Muslims serve the God of Abraham…”

That’s all I meant by that. The sentence after that statement was this one:

“During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.”

The rest of this resulted from comments on that first sentence, and has been a slight bit frustrating because I am of the opinion that so much bickering in the world can be avoided if all of us, Muslim and Christian, remember to just communicate like we would if we were brothers (Christian and Muslim).

Let me elaborate:

Just a few months ago my brother and I were sitting around discussing our childhood. I was completely blown away at some of his perspectives of our parents during our younger years. He seriously believed some of the things that were coming out of his mouth, yet I don’t remember any of the things he claimed happened. It was like he was talking about different people than the parents I knew. I didn’t bother correcting him, because it was evident he was convinced these memories were true.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hated Christians, but I never hated my parents. The negatives I associate with Christianity were the result of actions of people from my parents’ churches. My brother, however, was bitter toward Mom and Dad for many things he attributed to them. I remember it being OTHER people, he remembers it being THEM.

One of us is completely wrong, and if you ask me, it’s HIM. He’d say the same thing about ME, however.

In the case of the Muslims, looking at it from a logical perspective I cannot blame them for the way they feel about God. I have no doubts Ishmael felt like an unwanted outcast when Abraham’s favor followed his younger, “legitimate” siblings. He must have been bitter, don’t you think? Things must have snowballed to the place where all his memories of God were skewed by the hatred and bitterness. To cope with it, who can blame him for beginning to believe that God had actually passed on the “first born” favor to HIM, rather than those hated brothers? He passed his opinions on to his children, who passed it on to their children who… you get the picture.

So now we have a group of people who know no better.

So many Christians fail to realize we have the same “parents”, but like the case with Daniel and I, one of us has our perspectives wrong. At some point I’ll tell my brother about the loving parents I remember, and tell him where the negative feelings I had were rooted. Perhaps he’ll begin remembering things the same way I do, and get rid of some of his bitterness toward Mom and Dad.

Likewise, it would be so much easier to speak with Muslims from the perspective of realization that we both worship the same God, and that we’d like to give them our perspective of His grace and plan. It won’t be enough for most of them, no doubt, but it would sure make it easier if all they have to accept is a “perspective shift”, rather than the acceptance of an entirely different Creator.

Know what I mean?

Does that make a bit more sense? I’m sure hoping so.

In my opinion, Muslims definitely need a “perspective shift” about God. I’d love for all of them to realize that God wants a relationship with ALL of his children, and that he’s made it SO EASY to have that relationship. He sent Jesus to die for all of our sins, and simply accepting that sacrifice, that gift, allows an amazing relationship to begin between them and their Creator.

Unfortunately, discussions like that rarely happen, because humans seem to prefer feeling superior to others, and often use their beliefs on God to somehow back up those feelings. I don’t get it. God loves all of us. We’re all his kids. He doesn’t want us fighting and arguing. He wants us loving each other, and having a great relationship with Him. Some of us have screwed up “memories” of Him, and those memories will never be changed with a spirit of hatred and division.

And when our brothers don’t accept what we have to say or what we believe, let’s never resort to killing them over it, whaddaya say? World history has more than enough bloodshed (be it literal or otherwise) in the name of God, don’t you think?

That’s just my 2 cents…


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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.