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The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel

The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel is senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Dubuque, IA. She is a speaker and author of several books including "'Spiritual But Not Religious' Is Not Enough."

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Lillian Daniel: Strange Bedfellows

September 29, 2012

Isaiah 11:6

"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the enchanting debut novel by Helen Simonson, you are invited into a quaint English village to meet 68-year old Major Pettigrew, a retired widower, whose brother has suddenly died. In his grief, the Major comes to look at his life differently, and realizes how lonely he has been.

When he turns to his grown son, Roger, he finds a self-centered materialistic young man whose only interest is his own social advancement. Next, the Major looks at the quaint customs of his village and longs for more than superficial chit chat at the golf club. Suddenly, through eyes made sharp with the knowledge that life is short, he sees anew a woman he has known for years - the Muslim shopkeeper Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a widow from a Pakistani family who runs the convenience store at the center of the village. And he develops a mighty cross-cultural crush.

But like any good love story, it is not without its complications. The Major, an Anglican, wonders about her religion. The intellectual and educated shopkeeper misses none of the insulting assumptions that come her way from her parochial neighbors. His friends want her to remain an anonymous shopkeeper. Her family wants him to stick to his own kind.

At the climax of the courtship, the Major takes Mrs. Ali as his date to the annual costumed themed dance at the village golf club, where frumpy village ladies in ill-fitting saris and their boozed up husbands in British colonial military uniform all re-enact the last days of the British empire in India with disastrous results. But somehow, these star-crossed lovers keep returning to one another, despite their differences.

The prophet Isaiah said that the savior would preside over such unlikely pairings. As these two characters in the novel discovered love late in life and across religious lines, I imagined God laughing along with me as I read about these unlikely bedfellows, in a story of grace, mercy and understanding.

Who are the unlikely people in my life? Who have I been afraid to connect with? What would happen if I did? Bless the unlikely relationships, loving God, and allow them to draw us closer to you. Amen.

Taken with permission from the UCC's StillSpeaking Devotional

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