“Rainy days should be spent at
home with a cup of tea and a good book.”
~~Bill Watterson, Calvin and
I'm feeling a bit under the weather today... probably just
worn out from a dramatic couple of weeks. So I'm sending
the start of a story. Maybe if I get this out there,
I'll feel more inclined to finish it!
An excerpt from "The Messiah" (working title):
Monday, April 22nd, 2019
In a warm, brightly decorated office near a mosque in Manhattan,
Fr. Mike and Rabbi Yakov were presiding over a meeting of their
ecumenical group's planning committee. Newly christened
Symponia, the group's health and wellness fair would be an
opportunity to spread their message of love, compassion, and
understanding... and garner some goodwill for their hosts.
"All right... So we have at least five dentists on
board. And three dermatologists?" Fr. Mike checked.
"And does Liyana still think she can bring in a fourth,
Imam Ibrahim Azizi displayed his cell phone.
"Yes. This is Dr. Hura Khalid, Liyana's cousin.
She's a dermatologist. We thought some of our ladies, and
perhaps others, would feel better being screened by a woman."
"Good idea. I know I feel more comfortable with female
physicians. No offense but..." Her face clouded.
Yakov squeezed the young woman's hand, lending her his support.
"None taken, Sister." The imam smiled gently then turned
to JenniAnn. "And the self defense instructors?"
"My cousin hooked us up with three. They said they could
probably have around 30 people per class, one class every hour
so... hopefully we can meet demand."
"If not... I propose we schedule another health and wellness
fair... perhaps right before school starts?" Rabbi Yakov
"That's a wonderful idea," Isra applauded. "Maybe for that
one, we could also have some people who can screen for... I
forget the English. When the letters don't appear in
"Dyslexia?" the imam suggested.
"Yes!" Isra confirmed. "And maybe other learning
"Maybe a couple of optometrists, too?"
"Good idea, Kyle." Fr. Mike scribbled notes into his
planner. "We can ask Diana and Shane if they know any
screeners who would help us out."
"They're friends of ours who are teachers," JenniAnn explained
"Ah! Good! As for this fair... I want to thank
you all again for allowing us to host. It means a lot to
our community. This may be the first time some... maybe
even most... of our visitors will have been in a mosque.
It's a great... very welcome... opportunity to share with our
neighbors who we really are," the imam effused.
Yakov clasped his shoulder.
"It's our honor, Ibrahim. And thank you and your wife for
joining Symponia and giving us this opportunity. I truly
think we'll change minds and hearts... and hopefully health
outcomes while we're at it."
"I'm so excited!" JenniAnn enthused. "But I do
wonder..." She delicately fingered the scarf on her
head. "I'm very grateful to Liyana for the beautiful
hijab. But not all women coming will have one."
"Nor would we expect them to," Ibrahim stressed. "And we
certainly don't want anyone failing to come only because of
that. And there'd be no need of wearing one during the
fair. I mean... Many of the Muslim women helping out
will be wearing them, of course. But we wouldn't expect
you or the visitors to don them in the community rooms. My
wife only wanted to be sure you had one in cause you wanted a
tour of the mosque proper."
"And I'm so glad I took the tour. But since we have a
secondary purpose of educating folks... maybe optional tours
would be a nice touch?" JenniAnn suggested. "Do you have
any guidelines on what material could be used to make the
The imam shook his head.
"No. We don't. Many women simply use a scarf that
any of you ladies might buy at your local store."
"Well, then... We always end up with so many fabric
remnants at St. G's. I could talk to Emma and Peter, the
theatre owners. Maybe we could fashion those into scarves
and have them on hand for any lady wanting a tour to use and
keep." JenniAnn again caressed the hijab that Ibrahim's
wife had given her at a previous Symponia meeting. "They
won't be nearly so nice as this one, I'm afraid. But they
wouldn't be shabby, either. We'd see to that."
"I think it's a wonderful idea," Tiva encouraged. "We
always keep some yamulkes on hand for when we have visitors to
"And we have some hijabs on hand... but likely not enough to
provide for such an influx of visitors. So if some could
"I'd be happy to help make them. I've had plenty of
practice!" Isra affectionately patted the veil that Salma
was wearing, one of her own making.
"I am not nearly as talented as Isra. But I could help,
too. I at least know how to finish an edge."
"It's a wonderful idea!" a beaming Ibrahim praised. "I'll
speak to Liyana. Maybe she could arrange a sewing group to
"That sounds like fun! I'm afraid I'm all thumbs but my
fiancee, Ana-Maria, sewed her own prom dress. I think
she'd love to be included," Kyle suggested.
The imam's phone dinged and he checked it, his face lighting up.
"Perhaps we can get something on the schedule yet today.
Liyana's on her way back from her mother's. Hura... the
dermatologist I mentioned... is with her, too. And our
handyman." Ibrahim chuckled. "Random, I know.
Liyana's mother, Fatima, took quite a shine to him. So the
ladies thought a visit from him might lift her spirits and take
her mind off her broken hip. Yakov and Tiva... maybe you
know him. He's Jewish. Joshua..."
"Davidson?!" the others nearly shouted.
Ibrahim burst out laughing.
"I surmise you all know him?"
The group all babbled at once causing the imam's mirth to
"Well, I can't say I understood any of that," he teased.
"But I gather that our Joshua is much loved?"
Yakov chuckled, realizing how goofy they must all seem.
"Mike, since you've known Joshua the longest, perhaps you could
speak for us?" he suggested.
The priest beamed.
"Of course. Ibrahim, Joshua's a very dear friend of
ours. As he may have mentioned, he travels quite a
lot. We never quite know when he'll find himself back in
New York so... as you saw... we all get very excited when he
"And how did you all meet him?"
"Well, I met him at my old church. It was shortly after
some news of... of abuse committed by one of my predecessors
broke. Joshua was an immense comfort to me."
"And the rabbi, Tiva, and I all met Joshua via St. G's. He
helped repair the stage but he ended up playing Jesus," JenniAnn
related. "And so well..."
Ibrahim cocked his head.
"Joshua played Isa? Strange that he never mentioned
that. As a rule, Muslims don't believe in physically
representing the prophets... but I certainly don't begrudge
anyone their right to expression of either their faith or
creativity. I imagine he was very good. He does have
a way about him..."
"He's so modest." Tiva sighed, happily imagining the
"So I've gathered. Isra, Salma... how did you meet
"My husband, children, and I met Joshua through our friendship
with the others. And Salma..." Isra squeezed her
Salma looked the imam squarely in the eyes.
"You know of my life before?" she asked.
The man's gaze softened and he nodded.
"Joshua was among my rescuers. I had so much support from
my sister and her family... from everyone here. But
Joshua... he restored my life to me."
Kyle's eyes filled.
"I know the feeling very well. Joshua was... is... the
reason I retained my faith even after what happened to me."
Ibrahim bowed his head. During a previous meeting of the
ecumenical group, he had heard Kyle speak about the abuse he'd
suffered. He had marveled at the young man's strength.
"I suspected that Joshua was a remarkable man. But I had
no idea... I'm so glad that you'll be able to see him
"Does he know you're meeting with us?" Fr. Mike asked.
The imam shook his head.
"He knew I had a meeting... hence not being able to visit Fatima
today. But he didn't know what sort of meeting." He
grinned. "Perhaps we could surprise him?"
The priest returned his smile.
"Just what I was thinking..."
Fifteen minutes later, Liyana knocked on the door of her
"Ibrahim, we're back. Are you still..."
The imam opened the door and embraced his wife.
"Welcome back. How's your mother?"
"Amazingly well! With some coaxing from Joshua, she even
got up and walked around a bit!"
"I told you. I think your mother has a crush on our
Liyana smiled back.
"I think you're right. And if it keeps her in a good
mood... I don't object!"
"He did come back with you, I hope?"
"He's in the living room. We ran into Raheem leaving the
mosque so they're chatting. Hura, too." Liyana
rolled her eyes. "Do you know that she offered to remove
his birthmark? I was mortified. And I thought Mom
was going to slap her upside the head."
Ibrahim laughed, imagining his enraged mother-in-law.
"I'm sure she meant well and Joshua knows that, too."
"Don't worry about it, Yana. Besides, I have a surprise
Liyana noted the mischievous glint in her husband's eyes.
"Turns out he's good friends with the planning committee.
They're still here... hiding in my office. Could you
please ask Joshua to come see me? I'll tell the others
"Can I come with him? I want to see his reaction!"
Giggling, Liyana went to retrieve the carpenter.
Ibrahim returned to his office, shutting the doors behind him.
"He's coming! Liyana just went to get him. Rabbi, I
can see your head."
"Not sure the old knees will let me crouch much lower..."
Ibrahim grabbed some books and piled them on his desk,
obstructing the view of Yakov's head.
"My pleasure." Ibrahim laughed then moved to stand
casually by his window. He picked up the Quran and began
The group didn't have to wait long before there was another
knock at the door.
"Joshua is here, dear."
Joshua smiled at Ibrahim as he entered.
"Hey there. What can I do for you, Ibrahim?"
"Oh, just a small thing. But first... thank you for
visiting with my mother-in-law. Yana tells me that you did
Fatima a world of good. On her feet and everything!"
Joshua blushed slightly as he continued to smile.
"It was my pleasure. She was very kind to me and it did me
good to see her smiling. So what is it you'd like me to
Ibrahim waved to a coat closet.
"That door... It's very squeaky."
"Hmm. Probably needs a little oil. I have some in my
toolbox in the other room. I'll go get..."
Keenly aware of both Yakov's discomfort and the fact that he was
on the verge of bursting into laughter, Ibrahim shook his head.
"No. I really don't think it's that. Maybe if you
could just look at the door first? Now, please."
Joshua shrugged, somewhat confused by the usually patient imam's
Joshua approached the closet and opened the door.
"Girls!" he cried when Isra, Salma, and JenniAnn were revealed.
The three women eagerly embraced him then turned him around so
he could see Tiva and Yakov rising from behind the desk, Fr.
Mike squeezing out from behind a couch, and Kyle sliding out
from beneath a covered end table.
Joshua laughed and kissed each of the women's foreheads before
releasing them so he could greet the others.
"I had no idea!" he exclaimed. "I knew Ibrahim and Liyana
had joined Symponia but I didn't connect that with the meeting
today. Oh... I missed you all."
Ibrahim and Liyana looked on happily as Joshua reunited with his
"Did you know he knew them?" Liyana asked her husband.
Ibrahim shook his head.
"Looking back, I can remember Kyle mentioning his friend,
Joshua, helping him through his ordeal. But it never
occurred to me our Joshua and his Joshua were one and the
"Look... He's crying." Liyana rested her head on
Ibrahim's shoulder. "That's so sweet."
Ibrahim studied his new friend who was, sure enough, teary-eyed
as he rested his cheek against Salma's veil. Something
about the image sent a shudder through the imam.
"Honey... are you all right?"
Ibrahim roused and nodded to his wife.
"Yes, yes. Sorry. Not sure where my mind went just
now. Anyway..." He approached Joshua and rested a
hand on his shoulder. "Joshua, you've done enough for
today. You visited my mother-in-law which definitely puts
you in the above and beyond category. Take the rest of the
day off. Catch up with your friends."
Joshua released Salma and turned to Ibrahim.
"Are you sure? I was hoping to get started on the cracked
pavement by the...."
"I'm sure," the imam interrupted. "It can wait until
tomorrow. Besides, you're still wanting to help with the
health fair, right?"
"Well, Fr. Mike was our note taker today. So he's in the
best position to fill you in."
Joshua smiled and patted the imam's arm.
"Thank you, Ibrahim. I appreciate that. Liyana,
thank you for letting me accompany you and Hura on the visit."
Liyana smiled and shook her head.
"It was our pleasure... and most of all my Mom's.
And..." She cringed. "I'm sorry about Hura offering
to remove your birthmark."
Salma and JenniAnn audibly gasped.
"It was nothing. She was only being kinda."
"Told you," Ibrahim said under his breath.
"Well, thank you..." Liyana offered Joshua her hand and,
when he took it, she clasped it in both of hers. "I pray
you have a good time with your friends."
"Thank you. Both of you. I pray you have a good day,
as well. And thank you for the afternoon off."
"Our pleasure. Oh! The sewing session..."
Ibrahim turned to his wife. "The ladies suggested we have
more hijabs on hand for visitors to the health fair who may want
a tour of the mosque. JenniAnn thinks she can get a hold
of some fabric remnants. I thought maybe a sewing circle
was called for?"
"That's a lovely idea!" Liyana cheered. "Let's
see..." She pulled out her phone and referenced her
calendar. "I want to be respectful of everyone's holy
days... I know Wednesdays are often reserved for religious
classes so... Thursday evening, perhaps? 6:00?"
Salma, Isra, and JenniAnn all looked at each other then nodded.
"Let me make sure we can get the remnants together by
then. I'll text you sometime later today to confirm?"
"Sounds good! And the hijab looks lovely on you, by the
"Oh thanks! And thank you for it." JenniAnn embraced
Liyana then the others made their good byes.
Liyana and Ibrahim led their guests back through their house and
to the door. Joshua bid Hura and Raheem farewell then,
once more, smiled back at the Azizis.
"Thank you. I really appreciate this."
"Of course, Joshua. Ma' salaam." Ibrahim squeezed
"Shalom, my friend." Joshua squeezed the imam's hand in
Ibrahim and Liyana watched their friends make their way towards
the nearest subway station then closed the door.
"Do you think one of them is his girlfriend?" Liyana mused.
"Absolutely not. We met Isra's husband, remember?
And I believe JenniAnn is married to that Andrew fellow.
And Salma is a nun."
"Oh... right," Liyana recalled with obvious
disappointment. "It would just be nice to think he had
someone to watch over him. He's such a kind man. You
should have seen him with Mom."
"Maybe bachelorhood suits Joshua. It was good enough for
the real Isa. Maybe it's good enough for fake Isa."
Ibrahim chuckled. "Apparently Joshua played him in Jesus
"Really... Well... now I'm going to have to make him
sing. He has such a nice speaking voice... I can only
imagine how pleasant his singing must be."
"Not sure your mother is the only one with a crush..."
"Ibrahim!" Liyana's face flushed but she smiled and kissed
her husband's forehead. "I have my hands full with you,
thank you very much."
The imam laughed and looped his arm around Liyana's waist,
leading her back to the living room where her cousins remained.
As news of Joshua's return swept through the Friends' grapevine,
lunch was hastily organized at St. Genesius'. One by one,
those who were able to come affectionately greeted Joshua.
Those who were at work eagerly checked their text messages;
relishing the photos of their beloved friend and counting down
the hours until they could be with him.
"So how long have you been in town?" Peter asked as he refilled
Joshua's iced tea.
"Since last Monday. I fully intended to make my presence
known. I was going to show up at Shabbat services
but..." Joshua smiled at those gathered around. "I'm
glad it worked out this way." He picked up Aurora who had
toddled to him. "Very glad."
"So... if you can say... what brought you to the mosque?" Behnam
"Well... They've been having a difficult time... Ibrahim
especially. So I wanted to be there to support them."
"What's going on?" Zeke questioned. "I mean... I
know Islamophobia is a very real, consistent problem but... is
there something in particular happening?"
Joshua nodded. Mindful of the little ones, he chose his
"After what happened in Christchurch, Ibrahim spoke out.
He didn't go looking for the attention but you know how it
is. Something happens and the local press looks for a
relevant talking head. His statements were all very
good... very appropriate. But some people... It drew
the attention of the Islamaphobes, of course. But it also
angered some of the gun rights crowd. And, on top of that,
some of his own flock were upset with him for drawing attention
to the mosque at such a sensitive time. So... your health
fair gave me a good opportunity to come and lend some moral
support to him and Liyana. He wants the mosque to be
perfect when they welcome Symponia's visitors. So I've
been painting, sanding, refinishing, doing a little
"Cheering up an old lady laid up with a bad hip," Isra
"That too. Liyana's mother broke her hip," he explained to
the others. "So I spent some time with her today."
"Did you heal her?" Emma asked as she swayed with baby Sawyer.
"I... helped things along a bit. I didn't want to raise
any suspicions. This isn't about me making my true
"Not even as Isa the prophet?" Ivy questioned.
"No. If someone makes the connection... so be it.
I'm just there to offer my support and love."
The others were quiet, contemplating this. It hardly
seemed fair that Joshua would spend so much time away from
Heaven without hope of being recognized and appropriately
Andrew, however, was troubled by another matter.
"The attention that Ibrahim is getting... is it threatening?"
Joshua met the angel of death's eyes.
Andrew rested an arm around JenniAnn's shoulders and snuggled
"Should we be concerned about everyone's safety at the health
Joshua bowed his head.
Renee rose to her feet.
"Kiddos, ya know what I brought?" she asked in a bright, cheery
"Uh uh," Omar replied. "What'd ya bring?"
"Froot Loops and cookies! So how about we go into the
office and decorate some very special cookies for Joshua.
Joshua, you'd like that, right?"
Joshua smiled at Renee and the little ones who were crowding
"I'd love that! Thank you!"
"I'll come help." Emma moved to her feet.
"Me too," Violeta offered.
"Okay! Let's go decorate some cookies!" Renee cheered as
she led the children away.
Once the door to the office was closed, Joshua looked to Owen.
"You have your phone on you?"
"Record this for Emma, Violeta, and Renee and everyone who isn't
"Yeah... Sure thing."
Joshua sighed and began to speak.
"You'll be as safe as you are in any house of worship these
days... Yes, Ibrahim has been threatened. Yes, the
mosque has been threatened. But the Father's given me no
indication that those threats are anything but the rantings of
fearful, angry people. Still... churches are set on
fire... shootings in them... in synagogues... in
mosques... Bombings... even yesterday..."
Seated nearest to him, Ivy and Sy enfolded him in their arms.
After a few moments, Joshua regained control of his
emotions. He embraced the young couple then returned his
attention to the others and Owen's camera.
"We can't let fear... or heartache... or hate... stop us from
doing what's right," he stressed. "And I know you
Joshua smiled as he gazed around the room.
"I haven't given you a spirit of fear... but of power... of
love... of a sound mind. Of symponia... compassion."
Andrew let out a deep breath and nodded. He stood up and
crouched in front of Joshua, clasping his hands.
"Of course..." He looked around to the others who
nodded. "We'll be there, Joshua."
"Definitely," Peter agreed.
The others murmured in assent.
Joshua beamed at them.
"Thank you. I appreciate that very much... as does
Dad. And so will our brothers and sisters at the Manhattan
"I'm looking forward to it," Kylie ventured. "It's always
nice to meet new people."
"And help people!" Ana-Maria added.
"Will we be able to see the mosque itself?" Clay checked.
"I know you mentioned that most of the classes and
demonstrations would be in community rooms but..."
"Yes! And that reminds me..." JenniAnn turned to
Peter. "Everyone is welcome to tour the mosque but, of
course, us ladies will need to cover our heads. They have
hijabs on hand but... probably not enough for this. So I
was wondering if maybe we could use the costume remnants to make
"Of course! That's a great idea. We could really use
the storage space those bags are taking up. It'd be great
to get them out of here."
"Liyana thought maybe we could have a sewing circle on Thursday
night. Would any of you be available then?" Isra
requested. She smiled when several hands shot up.
"You could do it here," Peter offered. "That would
probably be easier than having someone schlep the fabric
"Good idea!" JenniAnn clapped her hands excitedly and
withdrew her phone so she could text the update to Liyana.
Joshua let out a contented sigh, glad that everyone still
intended to help at the fair.
Salma rested a hand on his shoulder.
"You'll be there at the fair... in the flesh, I mean?"
Joshua rested a hand over hers.
"I plan to, Salma... I want to be."
Salma peered into Joshua's eyes, trying to puzzle out something
she saw there. But there would always be aspects of Joshua
that were unknowable... Instead, she smiled and rested her
head on his shoulder, letting out her own sigh of happiness when
he rested his head on hers.
To be continued...
This newsletter is
dedicated to John Dye for all the inspiration and comfort
during hard times that he gave us via Andrew.