Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Get Out the Radio

My favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers. When you are born in Wisconsin you are born with cheese in your blood, brats on your mind, and a love for all things green and gold.

The Packers play their biggest regular season game in years tomorrow night at Dallas. The game will be televised on the NFL Network. I don't get the NFL Network in my home. Neither do millions of viewers across the country. Packer fans in many areas of Wisconsin and Cowboy fans in most of Texas will not be able to watch the game in their homes.

While I can't say I have heard the voices of too many disgruntled fans. I have read several articles about the war of words going on between the NFL Network and "Big Cable" (the cable companies). The NFL calls Big Cable greedy because put their channel on the cable package that reaches the most customers. Big Cable says they are being hijacked and will not pay the huge amounts of money the NFL demands. Bottom line: I don't get to watch the game.

It's funny... I don't feel all that upset about not being able to see the game. Actually, the whole thing reminds me that the NFL and the Packers are a game and a business. If they won't show me their product I'm not going to buy in. And besides, I have sat through too many miserable Packer games where they tear my heart out and blowing a game they should have easily won. That's the last thing I need to suffer through tomorrow night. (See how optimistic I am.)

Putting things in the proper perspective is a great help to me. It's a gift of my faith. Oh I still may pull out the radio and listen. And I will grumble if three or four interceptions cost them the game. But maybe, just maybe, I won't let all of that prevent me from embracing the blessings of the day.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Pray without Ceasing"

I took my daughter to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's on Monday night. I hung around for the couple hours while she played and ate with her friends. Sitting in a booth, reading my National Geographic, I noticed a man was praying in a corner booth, about 20 feet in front of me. He and his family had been at the restaurant about as long as I had. I assumed they were a Muslim family because the mother was wearing a Hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering. The mother and her two children where no longer at the table, but the man/husband/father was still there, alone, with his eyes closed, his hands in the air, palms facing him, and quietly chanting words in Arabic.

I had seen similar scenes in movies, usually involving terrorists about follow through on some plot. But this was no terrorist and his only plot was praying to Allah (God.) What a shame that my American bias must first think of terrorists when I see a Muslim man living out his faith.

My moment of self examination didn't end there. After confessing my prejudices I found myself needing to confess that I had turned from God. At no point that afternoon had I really thought about God, and certainly not at Chuck E. Cheese. I was more concerned with my "all-you-can-eat" salad with extra pickled beets on the side. I was more concerned with Death Valley and the meaning of memory: articles I had been reading in my magazine. My Muslim brother ahead of me had not forgotten God though. At the appropriate time, he prayed, even though he was surround my childish games, mediocre pizza, kids going crazy, and dozens of parents chasing after their crazy kids. He remembered God's presence in his life and I believe he benefited from that remembrance.

Muslims are called to pray to Allah five times-a-day: Fajr (pre-dawn), Dhuhr (noon), 'Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (after sunset), and 'Isha (evening). No matter where they are they should pray to God at those appointed times. If the sun has just gone down you pray to God, even if you are in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese.

An important mantra in my journey of faith has been Paul's conclusion to 1 Thessalonians: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18)" When we forget about the enduring presence of God in our lives we cut ourselves off from guidance and love that God wants to offer us through Christ. Praying without ceasing means remembering God in all places and in all circumstances. If set times for prayer help Muslims to remember God's presence it's a good thing. I thank God for the witness of that truth God set before me on Monday.