We are so blessed

The latest news says that Meriam Ibrahim is safe at the US Embassy in Kartoum.

If you haven’t heard the story of this 27 year-old woman, let me brief you. This woman was born in Sudan to an Ethiopian Christian mother and Sudanese Muslim father. Her father left her family when she was just six. Her mother raised her in the Christian faith. Meriam became a physician and was also a successful business-owner in Sudan.

She was so successful that people became jealous. They reported her to the new radical, Islamist government that has taken power in Sudan. Her crime was being married to a Christian man. Religious intermarriage is forbidden in Islam and, due to the fact that her father was Muslim and Islam is passed down through the father’s lineage, the government considered her Muslim. It is also not permitted to convert from Islam to another religion – doing so is punishable by death. However, prior to the rise to power of the present radical government, it was almost unheard for the punishment for “intermarriage” to actually be carried out.

Meriam was brought to court and refused to renounce her Christian faith. She was sentenced to 100 lashes (while pregnant) and was given the option of renouncing her faith again. She refused. She was jailed with her two-year old son who was not permitted to be around her husband because her son is considered by the government to be Muslim and a Christian man is not permitted to raise a Muslim son. She recently gave birth in prison in chains. She still refused to renounce her faith. Her death sentence was to be carried out when she weaned her newborn – by two-years of age.

Fortunately, her lawyer, (who is another brave soul – a Muslim who chose to represent her in court despite threats to his own life for doing so), fought hard for her. Governments around the world, including the US government and the Holy See, voiced their disapproval of this religious persecution to the Sudanese government. A few days ago, Meriam was finally acquitted and freed.  Just hours later, she was taken into custody again on the grounds of “false documents” as she and her family were trying to leave on a plane to seek refuge in the US. These visas were, in fact, issued by the U.S. State Department.  (Meriam and her children have been granted refugee status by the US government. Her husband, who came to the US as a refugee as a child, is already a US citizen).

Despite torture and threat of death, this woman refused to renounce her faith in Christ. She believes so much in His message and His promise of  new life that she would have died for it.

As I followed this story, I have asked myself many times, “would I be brave enough to do this? Would I die for Christ – for my Christian faith?” I would like to say that I would, but if I were in her shoes, would I really be brave enough? Brave enough even to leave my children for my faith?

The other day, Pope Francis remarked on how there are more martyrs today than in the early Church.  I believe it. I hear stories of persecution of Christians throughout the world every single day. Just yesterday, I was hearing about the small Christian community in Mosul, Iraq being near to extinction. These people are descendants of the very first Christians. They also refuse to renounce their faith despite the fact that they are marked for death due to it. It is not an easy time to be a Christian in many parts of the world.

Here in the “land of the free,” we sometimes forget just how valuable our freedoms are. I am so grateful to live in a country founded on religious freedom where I don’t have to choose between my faith and my life.

And, I am grateful to live in a country that was founded as “one nation under God.” Christian, Muslim, Jewish – we are all sons and daughters of one God. I am proud to live in a nation that gives refuge to, and welcomes, people of all lands and languages and faiths. I am so glad that we have a government with checks and balances and leaders that ensure that our rights are respected and that peace is preserved.

And, I am so grateful for all those who have died for God and country to maintain these freedoms and this peace.

We truly are so blessed.  Let us not forget it.




“God is in the Details”

So, I have to give credit where credit is due. My friend, Mary Ann, just gave me the title for this post when I told her this story a few minutes ago.

Listen to this. As often happens, I got busy with the end of the school year activities, work, and life in general and again waited until the last minute to plan our summer vacation. I checked the online listings for the area we had originally planned to go and it was all picked over.  There was nothing left at a reasonable price. In desperation, I punched the dates we are free to go on vacation into the computer and did a worldwide search. All of these cool worldwide destinations came up. Hawaii looked nice – the room prices were reasonable, but airfare was out of the question. So, I decided to stick to the East Coast and, just for fun, looked to see if there was anything left on the Cape – my dream beach destination. I fully expected it also to be completely sold out. (Now, if like Mary Ann, you ask “which Cape?,” I will tell you what I told her. What other Cape is there? Cape Cod of course! Sorry, Massachusetts pride is as strong as NY Yankees pride!)

Anyway, I was surprised to see that there were still a lot of cottages listed as being available the week we have off. However, when I e-mailed the owners, most of the cottages were actually already booked.  I spent many hours looking at these listings and even called on friends in Massachusetts to give me advice. Still, it looked like I was going to strike out again.  I wasn’t sure quite what to do and I was acutely aware of time running out.

So, last night, when Mary Ann asked if I wanted to go to Adoration, I decided to take a break from the frustrating cottage search and said “sure, I’ll go.”  It was still on my mind when I got to the church though, so I decided to ask God for help with the vacation planning. When I was in college, the Jesuits taught us to envision Jesus sitting next to us and just have a conversation with him about whatever was on our minds.  So, although I almost hesitated to ask because it seemed kind of ridiculous that God would care about my vacation plans, I decided to tell ask Him for help. Just as I would tell a friend, I told him I didn’t know where to reserve or which house to reserve. I was concerned about many things and many details and I told him every one!

I woke up this morning and found in my e-mailbox an e-mail from the owner of my favorite cottage. She said it was available. And, not only was it available, but it had every single one of the things we wanted in a cottage – and more!

Then I called up my friend from college who has a family cottage on The Cape and told her where and when we could be there.  She said, “No way!” She said that the cottage I had rented is just a few streets away from her family cottage. I thought that this was nice, but I knew that she would be working so I told her it was really too bad I wouldn’t get to see her. She said, “No! Our week at the Cape is always this weekend, but this year my cousins took my weekend and I was really mad!” Her new weekend happens to fall during the same week that we have reserved. We will be a few streets away and I will get to see her!  And, on top of this, one of our other dear college friends, who now lives in Utah, will also be vacationing in the same town on the Cape the same week!

I could not have planned it better if I had tried! God really is “in the details” as my friend Mary Ann said. It still astounds me that He could really care about every little detail in our lives – but He really does. We just have to bring it to Him and ask for help. Every time I do this, I get results that are far better than any I could plan myself.   As the old adage goes, “Let go and let God”…it works every time!