On Sunday, just two days after the Friday morning shooting, the day was so full. It was so full of blessings I knew I needed to write it down, but it was too much to absorb and process at the moment. At ten o’clock at night I finally posted these words: “An intense, long, beautiful, difficult day. Church, Sabika's funeral, Santa Fe Baccalaureate, League City Candlelight Vigil, Pentecost. My head is pounding but I can't count the number of incredible blessings. The love! Santa Fe is loving and being loved!”
First, in church there was Ruqiaya. She came among us just a Sabika had done to represent her Muslim culture and to love on us. Our previous Pastor, Darrell, remembered us and sent her to us. He told her that we would love her, and that she should just go. So she came - though no one expected her. No one knew her. We welcomed her, and she represent the love of Muslims for us. She spoke of Muslims knowing Jesus. She spoke of wanting to understand our love of Jesus so she would be able to pray with us. She offered to help us at Sabika's funeral. And we loved her and she loved us. Then there was Sabika's funeral. We were welcomed into a mosque. We tried to be culturally sensitive and we covered our heads - somewhat clumsily. Many of us from our community were welcome to the portion where women are usually not allowed. We were given space at the inconvenience of others having to make way for us. We were offered chairs to sit in even though that took up much more room than if we had sat on the floor like others. Even though it is Ramadan and all the Muslims were fasting they freely offered us water to drink. Many of us declined and joined in the fast that they were observing. Each step of the funeral was lovingly explained and we were encouraged to be comfortable. Jason and Joleen were allowed to speak about their relationship with Sabika. Our love for them was accepted. We hugged and shared love and grief. We were told that we were loved.
Please don’t think that I am surprised to be loved by Muslims and to be able to love our Muslim family. I know this is what is supposed to happen with all of us and it does happen often. Shared love is what we must seek, what we must increase, celebrate and give thanks for.
Sabika was an ambassador. She built a bridge with her life. Can that bridge bear the weight of our political division? Not if we storm the bridge screaming to be heard. But we can tread lightly on the bridge that Sabika’s life built and it is possible to hear each other and most importantly Sabika showed that it is easy to love one another.
At the Santa Fe baccalaureate I listen to Jack extol our seniors, and all of us, to fight against personal sin so they would have a fearless and powerful walk and testimony to share with the world. I was mindful of how we as a community have had to fight to extinguish racism over many decades. Then we attended the League City candlelight vigil. Many leaders spoke. They spoke of love - no one mentioned the name of the shooter and that was very intentional. We are striving to prevent notoriety for the evil behavior. We condemn the actions and do not excuse the actions with any rationalizing or humanizing or understanding. The leaders spoke, we sang, we lit candles and as we extinguished the candles a great gust of wind suddenly rose up and unfurled and snapped the gigantic flag that had been unmoved on a perfectly still evening up to that minute. It served as a very sudden reminder that it was the day of Pentecost, also known as the feast of weeks. Pentecost is when a flame was lit on the heads of Jesus’ followers and it sounded like a great rushing wind. It was the spirit of God moving. We invite God’s spirit to move in our community and to light a fire in us that fills us with a power to love like God calls us to love. Supernaturally.
We picked up a stick as we left the League city candlelight vigil and we took it home.
Today attempted to share Jack’s Baccalaureate speech by typing it out and we went to a brief memorial for Angelique that was called together at a moments notice by a friend and by her youth pastor. After the service I spoke very briefly about not letting ugly politics take hold of us but about us staying determined to love. About overcoming hate with love and responding to those who would hate us or yell at us by loving them. I mentioned that our community once had a reputation for racism - about 20 years ago when I was born in the 70’s (it was supposed to be funny because I am much older than 20.) but I also meant to note that the racism reputation is not something that can be pinned down in time. But I said that we as a community have worked hard to reject racism and to stand against it by being committed to love. I was so blessed when a black woman whom I do not know said thank you, that was a good word, and hugged me. We have worked hard defeat that hate in Santa Fe and that has made us stronger in our commitment to show love. I believe that is what has made Santa Fe’s response to this evil so different from other communities. We know that it takes love to defeat evil. We are committed to fighting hate. We know that hate exists but it does not have to define us. We condemn it.
And then I received a surprise phone call from a Santa Fe High School classmate from 10 years ago when I went to Santa Fe High School in the 80’s (ha ha). We talked about what memorials would be coming up, when and where, and then we talked about what it means to be family in Christ
Tonight, we used that stick that we picked up from the the memorial along with some oil to light a campfire. And my kids and my father, Jack’s mother and I sat around and talked about Pentecost: What it was 2000 years ago, what it was before that and what it means to us today. Jack was able to get home at 8 o'clock and join us in the end of our celebration - just a few minutes before the sunset and Pentecost ended. But a fire has been lit. A light that won’t be extinguished.