Friday, March 24, 2017

Oft might be heard an encouraging word?

      Those familiar with the history of Islam will know that the Prophet Mohammed's message was not well-received early-on in Mecca. Indeed, he and his band of followers were ridiculed and persecuted. They finally were forced to flee and found a home 250 miles away, in what became know as Medinah. Many of the surahs revealed during those troubled times recount stories of the biblical figures who met resistance during their times (e.g., Noah and Moses), as well as other, non-biblical messengers who, similarly, faced opposition. The surah "Hud" contains the reason for these repeated story-tellings:  "The histories of the apostles that We [God] reveal to you [Mohammed] are meant to strengthen your heart" (120).* In other words, Mohammed's experience was not unique among those who sought to bring about just change; he should take heart, being in good company.
        Reading that made me wonder: (1) to what stories do WE turn when we need encouragement? and (2) how do we encourage others when they are facing hardship?  With regard to the first question, The Lord of the Rings' author JRR Tolkein seemed too like fairy tales:

“The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairy-tale -- or otherworld -- setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” **

In partial regard to the second question, I think of a wonderful essay/letter by Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "We were made for these times". The whole piece can be found here, but she concludes by writing:

In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

       But I continue to wonder, and I thought I'd turn to "crowd-sourcing" to find some answers. I'll collect the responses and post them in a future newsletter. So, the outcome is up to you, dear readers!
1)  To what stories do YOU turn when you need encouragement?
here, and you can send a message on that subject.


2)  How do YOU encourage others when they are facing challenges or hardship?
here, and you can send a message on that subject.

Thanks, and blessings,


* Ahmed Ali, Al-Qur'an:  A Contemporary Translation (Princeton, 1993), 199.
** Tolkein on  Fairy Stories (

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