The Challenge of Belief

How does someone believe in something or someone they cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell? How can we believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God when tragedies happen, genocide occurs, wars erupt, innocent lives are taken, disease runs rampant, famines, plagues, epidemics, and evil thrives?

That is the challenge every person faces and questions I think every soul honestly ponders upon at least once in their lives.

How do we know God exists? How can we be sure there is a heaven or even a hell… let alone a God overseeing every aspect of our lives, trying to guide us, protect us, save us… when it’s so obvious that humanity seems bent on self-destruction and it appears as though God is indifferent or unable or unwilling to intercede?

 

You cannot specifically touch, taste, smell, hear, or see gravity. Yet you can experience its impact upon your body, keeping you firmly planted on this Earth. Gravity is not something you can put in a jar and label or quantify like an assortment of jelly beans or like a typical specimen of organisms. Yet you can observe gravity’s effect on self and others. You know it exists even if you do not fully comprehend how or why it exists or manifests. Gravity on Earth differs from gravity on the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, and Pluto and other planetary bodies in space. Forces like speed, inertia, mass, volume, molecular composition all relate to gravity… but what is it? What is it really? Just the interaction of unseen forces interacting with the physical properties of an animate or inanimate object?

You cannot specifically touch, taste, smell, hear, or see love. Yet you can experience love in how it is expressed from someone to you. You can observe expressions love between a father and son, a mother to daughter, two lovers, between a child and a pet kitten, and so on. You can observe expressions of emotional outpouring and attachment but what precisely is love? How do you quantify or classify it? Love is not something that can be standardized or clearly defined. It is not a substance. Is it only an emotion or is it a manifestation of something generated by an interpretation from our brains to stimuli that interacts with hormones? Is it a chemical thing, a psychological thing?

 

There are forces at work that we clearly cannot see, cannot touch, taste, or smell. But we can be impacted by them and experience them. We can see the byproducts and can observe what happens to our environment around us when these unseen forces interact and affect our world.

 

We know that we exist. We know that so far, ours is the only planet in the Solar System and perhaps Milky Way galaxy that can support carbon-based lifeforms as we know them. How we came to be as we are today was the result of a long process of creation, evolution, development, adaptation, and interaction with forces beyond our full comprehension and understanding. We continue to learn and explore and we strive to make sense of the clues we have been given.

Something greater than ourselves is at work upon us. And who is to say conclusively that there isn’t some great designer behind the designs that dictate the patterns and chaos and phenomena of life?

Suppose I propose that the force that inspires us to love and show compassion and empathy stems from the Holy Spirit? The unseen force that motivates us to react to injustice and hatred and violence comes from the Holy Spirit? Suppose inspiration comes to us not just from our environment and from the people and places that hold our interest– but from some energy that moves us to be open and giving and expressive and creative and passionate. If you wonder where inspiration comes from, suppose you consider it comes from the Holy Spirit.

 

And suppose it was an unseen hand– that or the breath of an unseen Creator– that brought the Holy Spirit into being. Suppose or consider the possibility that there is some eternal energy or central energy source from which all unseen forces are generated and established and originated. Some catalyst that sparked the birth of suns and stars and other astronomical phenomena. Everything had a beginning and point of origin. Where was it, what was it? How did it all come to be? Something occurred to turn void into what we see today. Some chain of events was set into motion– who or what tipped over that first domino in the chain?

We still don’t know for certain. We can only suppose and ponder and investigate and consider. Yet humanity has stories, creation myths, creation narratives… humanity has passed on stories in the oral and written traditions of experiences with these unseen forces and energies working in their lives, impacting their environments. Mankind has experienced things Mankind cannot fully explain or quantify and Mankind has kept records of these experiences… these incredible experiences. So incredible they call them holy or sacred or divine. These stories are kept in the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Vedic literature, the Tao Te Ching, and so on… and so on…. Every culture and every nation and every people on Earth has sacred stories to explain the experiences they’ve had with the unexplainable and unseen and unknowable known.

I believe there is something beyond me at work. I believe free will moves us to explore, hurt as well as heal, love as well as hate, think as well as reject, open as well as close… and so on. I believe something greater than ourselves moves us and inspires us to do what we do…. something drives our passions and inspires us… and I believe that something also powerful but menacing inspires us to hate, murder, kill, destroy, and corrupt. There are forces in conflict all around us… influencing us… forces that fight to influence us. We cannot see, touch, taste, feel, or know them fully… but we know they exist because of the impact we experience when we are in contact with them.

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James 1:12 “Blessed is the One Who Perseveres!”

James 1:12 NIV — “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Reflection:

A lesson in perseverance. Given recent developments in the United States and current events that seem to target the LGBT community negatively and specifically, it becomes disheartening to think things will ever get better or be where they need to be. Between Trump’s “turn-back-the-clock” administration trying to undo all the social and civil rights progress made by former President Barak Obama, and the rise of anti-LGBT bigotry and violence against the transgender community, it becomes so important for the LGBT community to remain strong, visible, and vocal about injustice, discrimination, bigotry, and hate crime. It is important for the community to stick together and to build solidarity and to stay united.

There is strength in numbers and strength when we all come together against a common foe– in this case our foe is injustice and discrimination and persecution.

Believe that God stands on the side of equality and justice. Believe that God is a God of love and compassion and mercy. Believe that God wants the best for us and wants to be loved and respected as equals among His creations.

Believe that in the United States, there is hope. There is hope in the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There is also hope in how we respond to these injustices and unfair laws and legislation. We can march upon Washington, we can protest peacefully in the ballot box, we can communicate our concerns to our representatives in Congress.

Behind every protest though, there should be prayer for guidance and a prayer for strength. We can even pray to open hearts and minds towards compassion and empathy.

 

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We Will Reap a Harvest

Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” NIV
Reflection:
In times of tragedy and somber reflection over loss and incredible misfortunes, it can be with God’s strength and courage that we rise up to respond to evil and tragedy and loss with compassion, kindness, goodwill, generosity, and love. I am thinking of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the recent hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria that have devastated the Caribbean and states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida as well as the islands of Barbuda and Puerto Rico and others.
When we are thrown in chaos and tragedy and loss, we are appointed times to mourn of course, but there does come a time when we must act and respond. We must pray and think outwardly and apply ourselves to meeting the needs of those in desperate situations. We must truly love our neighbors and look to helping them achieve their basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and medical provisioning. We must appeal to a sense of shared humanity. We must believe that we are all united under God and that everyone deserves care and compassion.

We must do unto others as we would want done unto us. The Golden Rule. Wouldn’t we want help if we suffered tragic losses and devastation? Are we not all in this world together? Are we so divided by race, culture, language, politics, and geography that we cannot possibly achieve some kind of solidarity in face of something as universal as a natural disaster or evil at the hands of killers and terrorists?

When we can lift each other up, don’t we gain a better sense of community? Don’t we stand stronger as a united people than a divided people? Isn’t there truth to the proverb about there being strength in numbers? When we can help others, don’t we feel a greater sense of brotherhood and a sense of accomplishment and well-being?
While we may feel overwhelmed by the tasks at-hand, if we trust in God to grant us strength and resources, if we gather together and stand up for justice, fairness, equality, and the triumph of the human spirit, won’t we accomplish great things together?
When good people gather together for a good cause, only good things can happen.
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God says, “I Am”

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Nahum 1:7 — A Stronghold in the day of trouble.

Nahum 1:7 

New American Standard Bible
“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

Reflection:

Whenever you face troubles or problems or threats coming at you from seemingly all sides, know that God is with you and on your side. God will be your strength when you are weak. God will be your shield and armor when you feel vulnerable and defenseless. God knows your situation and knows your soul as well as your thoughts and feelings. He is above your problems but there at your side when you call upon Him. There is nothing He cannot restore or rebuke.

God knows why you might seek Him out for help and refuge and He knows the help you require even if you do not. Your prayers will be answered according to His wisdom and knowledge and His plans for you.

Our God is not a God of problem making or struggle or strife. Our God is a God of love and compassion. Ours is a God of problem solving and of relief and rest. Even Jesus said it best when he said, “Come to me all who are weary and I shall give you rest.” Jesus means that! Jesus is a reflection of God’s will and God’s plan for us. Jesus invites us to trust in God and to take refuge with Him.

The shelter God provides is always open and always available. Come as you are and you will be welcomed. Jesus meets you where you are at and leads you to greener pastures, still waters, and peaceful places to rest from your anxieties and stress. God takes note of your ills and struggles and hurts and has an answer for them. Go seek Him in your heart and in you will find peace and serenity.

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Jeremiah 29:11 “I Have Plans For You”

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Reflections:

God is not the maker of confusion or tragedy or misfortune. God does not rise each day thinking up ways to punish and torture us as though we were bugs under a magnifying glass. God did not create us just to kill us all off one by one for His entertainment. God has plans for us that involve restoration, resurrection, redemption, and rejoicing. God created paradise and planted Mankind in that paradise according to Genesis. God intended for us to live forever in peace and harmony with Him.

Satan seduced and provoked and deceived Mankind and led us to understand not just the good in this world but also evil. Satan continues to lead us to believe that what is evil and what is bad is not as bad or as evil as we think. Satan likes to try and convince us that sometimes the wrong thing is the right thing or at least the most attractive and most pleasurable or rewarding thing. Satan loves our short attention spans and desires for instant gratification and short-cuts to success and prosperity. Satan loves to play games with our emotions and passions and desires. Satan’s plans all along have been to separate us from God and divide us up and conquer us. Satan has always been trying to take advantage of us while we are weak, vulnerable, alone, and most desiring.

We desired knowledge, Satan provided lies and half-truths. We desired to be on equal footing with God, Satan provoked our arrogance and false pride and provided us the means to explore and exploit technology beyond our means to fully comprehend or discipline ourselves. Satan shows us how far our darker selves can go and he finds ways of making us believe we are being rewarded for our ingenuity and ambition. And when our plans fail, Satan has cleverly engineered our thinking to where we blame God for our own misguided endeavors and our own misfortunes we have constructed.

Satan comes to us in the most clever of ways, showing us what we think we need and want. Satan tries and often successfully convinces us that we can somehow solve any problem and face any obstacle with our own means and our own ingenuity and our own abilities. Satan tries to take God out of the equation– and then tries to twist and manipulate and corrupt the gifts God has given us for the purposes of pushing us further away from God. Satan would very much like us to use God against God. He would very much like us to betray God with the very things God has given us.

What has got me thinking like this?

I look at how we have polluted this planet. I look at how we exploit each other and enable others to exploit us. I look at unregulated, unchecked Capitalism run amok. I look at a government being taken over by the few, the powerful, the elite money makers and power brokers. I see rampant poverty. I see more socioeconomic disparity. I see racial divides growing. I see this constant spiraling downward of morals and ethics and civility. We think or thought we had all the answers and that somehow we could manage ourselves and figure this all out. The truth is, we really have no clue what we are doing on this planet and we seem to be following our more baser instincts and gut feelings and passions. We are more about personal prosperity and personal gain than compassion and kindness or generosity. We have lost sight of the bigger picture and we think we can do as we please without any real consequences. We think God is a fairy tale and we somehow know better. We think we are immune. We think we answer only to ourselves and moral relativism dictates.

We have been sucked into living for material things and for instant pleasures and instant gratification. We have been sucked in by commercialism and have been led by the nose to trust people who shouldn’t be trusted. We have been led to buy, sell, and trade in things that do more harm than good– but for the sake of increasing our standards of comfort and improving our standards of living, we neglect to look at the real costs to our environment, our global economy, or our ethical standards. We have compromised so much for the sake of what is comfortable, convenient, trendy, fashionable, accessible, competitive, attractive, and popular.

At the root of the “profits before people” ideology and the “me first” attitude, you know Satan is having a good laugh at our expense. We have been sold dreams that are in reality, only nightmares.

God’s plan is not necessarily popular or trendy or about short-cuts. God is not a game show host offering worldly temporary prizes and luxuries. God doesn’t offer tremendous wealth or false promises. God offers a prosperity that is total and not of this world, but beyond it. God offers spiritual bliss and not here today gone tomorrow prizes. God offers eternal life. God offers redemption and real love and real joy that is eternal and forever– without conditions or stipulations or fine print.

With Satan, there is always a catch or a twist or a fine print condition. With Satan, there are always regrets.

God didn’t expect us to be more clever than our conscience. God did not intend for us to know the attractions of evil. God simply wanted us in a state of pure innocence and bliss with Him, in natural, pristine harmony with Him and Creation. It is one thing to be intelligent and clever… another thing entirely to be wise and moral and ethical.  Satan may have led us to the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we may have learned to tell the difference between the two to some extent… and we may have learned to conjure up our own ideas of what is good and evil… and we may have figured out ways of justifying our actions to ourselves to avoid guilt and shame or judgment and condemnation… but for all that Satan showed us, we lack the clarity of mind to see the world as God sees it and the ability to see ourselves as God sees us. We lack spiritual eyes it would seem.

 

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Blair Imani Opens Up About Being Queer, Black and Muslim

Teen Vogue Article “Blair Imani Opens Up About Being Queer, Black, and Muslim”

I came across this Teen Vogue article that I wanted to share with the LGBT Ministry Community I am slowly but surely trying to build here in my own humble little way.

I wanted to include more voices into this blog that also included a Muslim voice. In this article, I was lucky in that I found a voice that reflects Muslim Queer culture and persons of color as well. I feel that if I am to encourage equality and diversity, I need to work harder to include more voices on this blog ministry and encourage every faith and religion and experience to have their say and to share the “stage” or “pulpit” or space here for as many expressions of LGBT faith as possible.

The internet has become a very powerful tool for raising awareness to our spiritual needs and our cultures and causes. Thus far this blog has reach 6 out of 7 continents and many, many different countries and people across the world.

God speaks to us in so many ways and the Muslim faith is a voice we can listen to as well as any other voice for words of inspiration, compassion, kindness, love, and social justice.

While we struggle to understand our differences and what makes us so unique, we should be able to take comfort in finding the cords and bindings that unite us as humanity. I do believe we all share a connection to the same Creator. I feel we all share the same desires to love and be loved. We all want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all want to make a difference in this world and we all want better for our families and loved ones, right? We all recognize that there is some greater power than ourselves at work, guiding us and leading us to better things.

If we keep to these unifying truths, and use our differences to enrich our lives and experiences rather than using them to tear each other down or rip each other apart, how incredible the world would be then?

 

Posted in Articles, Equality, Faith, Freedom, Hope, Inspiration, Islam, Islamophobia, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Muslim Queer Culture, Truth | Leave a comment