Monthly Archives: September 2013

“I will never forget their evil deeds!”

Listen to this, you that trample on the needy and try to destroy the poor of the country. You say to yourselves, “We can hardly wait for the holy days to be over so that we can sell our grain. When will the Sabbath end, so that we can start selling grain? Then we can overcharge, use false measures, and fix the scales to cheat our customers. We can sell worthless wheat at a high price. We’ll find a poor man who can’t pay his debts, not even the price of a pair of sandals, and we’ll buy him as a slave.”

The Lord, the God of Israel, has sworn, “I will never forget their evil deeds.” (Amos 8: 4-7).

In the society we live today, the needy are trampled on by the powerful; those who are in high authority, and the massively wealthy. A needy person sues a wealthy person, say because they were forcefully evicted from their home…but somehow at the end of the day, they’re not given justice, simply because money exchanged hands behind the scenes. Justice seems to favour those in power.

A needy person rushes their loved one to hospital, urgently in need of medical attention, but they watch painfully as their loved one breathes their last, simply because the doctors couldn’t attend to them because they couldn’t pay for their services in advance. It sounds despicable when I think about it, but that’s the world we live in today. The needy survive only at the mercy of the rich; those in power.

Retailers and wholesalers hoard goods, waiting for prices to go up, so they can sell them at exorbitant prices, so those who can’t afford it go to bed hungry. An aggrieved woman goes to report a crime at the police precinct; the same officer she expects to protect her takes advantage of her. Who will she turn to? College Professors fail their students, because they refuse to trade in ‘favours’… Who will protect these students?

The law of the land seems to favour the wealthy, making the needy spend sleepless nights, trying to comprehend how life could be so cruel. Who will defend them, if those who’ve been put in place to protect them are the same ones making their lives impossible? God says He will. He has vowed not to forget the evil deeds of their oppressors.

God defends the weak

One thing I’ve learned over time is that, not all wealthy people/those in power are evil, and not all poor/needy people are good. For instance, I was reading this blog post about a popular media personality who died a few days ago in a terrorist attack, and someone had commented, ‘the rich also cry.’ I found it inhumane. How could someone say something so vindictive, when people were grieving? I’ve met needy people, who resent the wealthy for no apparent reason; needy people who are extremely spiteful, and I’ve also met people in power who are kind; people who don’t hesitate to share their wealth with the poor.

God says He will defend those who are wrongfully hurt; those who cry because they have no one to defend them. God will avenge them.

Sweeping issues under the carpet

A few days ago I watched my two sisters arguing. My big sister, who’s an aspiring fashion designer, makes clothes for me and my little sister when she’s not too busy with school; currently we’re her muses. We had a cultural event in our church and one of the requirements was to go dressed in some cultural outfit. They only announced it a week to the actual day so we only had a few days to find suitable outfits.

I already knew what I wanted; we bought the fabric and in four days mine was complete. My baby sister however, couldn’t decide what she wanted. It was difficult trying to choose a design that would be ready in only two days. While sampling a few designs, it just so happened that she and my big sister couldn’t agree on one.

That little, seemingly minute conversation spiraled out of control and before long, one was hurt, the other one was furious. I was caught in the middle, trying to help them come to a consensus. By the time we went to bed that night they were not talking to each other.

That argument reminded me of previous fights between mom and dad. That’s how it’s always been between them; going to bed with matters unresolved. When they wake up the next day they try to ‘ignore’ what happened-depending on the magnitude of their fight. The small issues are deftly swept under the carpet. They just go about with their lives like nothing happened, until the same issue springs up later in another argument, seeming much more intense than before.

When we were small, my big siz took on the role of chief mediator. When mom and dad weren’t talking because they just couldn’t see things from the same perspective, she would ask us to jointly intervene. I didn’t have the patience for it but since she had requested, I would agree to it. We would sit both of them down at different times, trying to understand why they had fought.

On most occasions we would talk to dad when he was sober, so it wasn’t that bad; it actually felt like a breakthrough because sometimes he helped us understand why he had lashed out at mom. Apparently he wasn’t always the guilty one.

After getting dad’s side of the story, we would wait for mom to come home from work then we would get her side of it. We would then help them see it from the other’s perspective; when all was said and done, they would be hugging and kissing, happy to be on speaking terms again.

Those days were such happy days for us; it’s every kid’s dream to see their parents happy; we were no exception. That’s how I got to understand that communication is key. People could fight over the most trivial of issues because somehow a point went misunderstood, then got blown out of proportion. In an attempt to reconcile, sometimes we choose to sweep the issues under the carpet, but I realized that is hardly a solution because eventually the same issue will graduate into something dreadful, which could have been avoided in the first place.

communication is key

About our outfits, I had a talk with each one of my sisters separately, and just like we used to do with mom and dad, I helped them understand what the other meant. My big sister tried to make a dress similar to the one our baby siz wanted, but tried to simplify the complicated parts so she could finish making it on time. When Sunday came, we went to church happy in our beautiful custom made outfits.

 

 

When tragedy strikes

Lord, when tragedy strikes, people ask, “Why me?” “Why us?”  It’s hard for them to comprehend how something so unfathomable could happen. Grief prevents us from seeing things clearly; everything revolves around the pain. The pain of losing a loved one feels unbearable; the psychological trauma one suffers makes the ensuing days feel hellish; it makes the future feel bleak.

Lord, in your loving arms I lay everyone who is going through a trying moment; anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by whatever tragedy, man-made/natural. I pray that Lord, you may open their eyes and hearts to faith; so that they may understand that all that happens, happens only because You will it that way; that they may understand, nothing happens without Your consent, that even though we may be greatly weighed down by life’s sorrows, we may understand, that it all happens for a reason.

It’s only by looking at things through the eyes of faith that we can reconcile ourselves to all that happens around us. Cushion the hearts of those who are suffering from the crippling pain Lord. Console them. You didn’t promise that life would be perfect; that there would be no pain; that there would be no death. But you did promise to always be there; to guide us through it all.

Have mercy on Your people Lord, in Your Holy name I pray, Amen.

Please take a listen to the song-The Promise, by the Martins- below; I find it uplifting when I’m going through some difficult moment. May Our Heavenly Father heal all those who are hurting.

 

 

Walk with me

Walk with me

Walk with me my Lord; it’s the only way I know my steps won’t falter.

Walk with me my Lord; it’s the only way I know I’ll make the right choices.

Walk with me my Lord; it’s the only way I know I’ll get to my destination safe.

Walk with me my Lord; it’s the only way I know I’ll finally get to spend forever by your side.

Anxiety could be exhausting; it is actually exhausting. I wake up one morning, I’m doing something I feel is right, then the next day I’m not sure it’s right. Currently I’m in a phase where I feel the choices I make now will impact my future greatly; I’m at a crossroads, trying to decide what I should give first priority between my career that I’ve always dreamed about, and my hobby that I’m seriously in love with. I’ve been in this phase for a while now.

I realize it’s possible for me to actually do both eventually but for the moment I need to do one at a time. It’s difficult trying to choose between two things I love; plus there’s the other concern, if what I want to do is aligned with God’s will. It doesn’t feel like a good place to be at; the uncertainty is just overwhelming.

When I was saying my morning prayers today, the prayer (in italics) came to mind, and as I said it, I felt a calming wave engulf me. I share it with you because I know there are so many sailing in the same boat as I; it could be frustrating trying to make choices, but I do believe if we let God guide us, if He walks with us, leading us by the hand, we will make it through.

The truth will set you free

the truth will set you free

‘The truth will set you free.’ How many times have I heard this statement? Too many times I lost count. This statement could be viewed from many perspectives, but I want to look at it from the blackmail point of view. When someone is being blackmailed, I feel like they’re in a prison with invisible bars. You see one walking on the streets, but deep inside they know they’re caged.

People err, that’s human nature; but sometimes one feels they’ve done something that’s so wrong so they choose to keep it to themselves. Unfortunately someone else finds out accidentally. They hold it over their head, using it to hold them prisoners. One ends up becoming a prisoner of their own sins.

A priest in my church told a story about a young boy; he lived with his grandmother and sister. His grandmother had a cat she loved so much, but one day while playing with it, he accidentally killed it. He freaked out, so he told his sister about it, asking her to keep it a secret. His sister was reluctant; she wanted to tell on him, but after he pleaded with her not to tell their grandmother, she agreed, but on one condition: he would have to do all her house chores.

The boy agreed gladly. If the sister had some chore to do, she would ask him to do it. The boy did it all stoically; it was better than their grandmother finding out what he had done; he was afraid she would be so furious with him; that she would punish him. If their grandmother asked his sister to do anything, she would call him and ask him to do it. He’d become his sister’s prisoner. After a while the young boy realized he couldn’t put up with his sister’s blackmail, so he decided to come clean.

Meekly, he walked to his grandmother and told him what he had done. The grandmother just smiled and told him, “I already knew my cat died. I was watching you play with it when it did, but I already forgave you. I was only waiting for you to find the courage to come to me.”

“So you’re not mad at me grandma?” The boy asked, surprised and excited at the same time.

“No, I’m not,” his grandmother smiled.

The next time his sister asked him to do her laundry, he refused. “I’ll tell on you,” she threatened.

Courageously, he just told her, “Go ahead.” His sister was shocked; she hadn’t seen that coming. In life we find ourselves in such situations. One does something, but because they are afraid of the consequences they let people blackmail them; and the thing with blackmail is that once a person falls into that hole, it starts to feel like an abyss; falling deeper and deeper into it, without feeling like there could be a possible way out.

Depending on the magnitude of what they did, some people feel like sinners; slowly they pull away from God, because they feel they are unworthy. They become prisoners of their sins. Like the boy’s grandmother, God sees the things we do, and forgives us long before we go to Him. So while one is slowly drifting away from God, afraid of His retribution, He already forgave them.

In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), when the son who had strayed found his way back to his father, his father had a banquet set for him. He didn’t reprimand him; the thought that his son had repented was enough for him.

God is so willing to take us back even when we feel we’ve committed the worst of crimes; He doesn’t hold grudges. He only wants us to realize our mistakes and repent, because it’s only by being penitent that we can rid our conscience off the heavy load. Once we confess we cease to be prisoners. If one was being blackmailed they find the courage to face their blackmailers.

Freedom is an integral thing in life; without it life feels miserable. When one tries to conceal something they did, even if no one blackmails them, they become tormented by their own conscience; that is bondage, and penance is the way out; it liberates us.

Personally I believe in Heaven, purgatory, even hell; all these are the afterlife destinations, which I know not many people like discussing because firstly it’s scary and two, not everyone is a Christian. From what I’ve gathered though, one doesn’t automatically go to hell because they did something everyone considers wrong. One could spend they’re whole life killing, and still end up in heaven; because it’s not the nature or the magnitude of the sin that matters, but if one repented it.

Take Paul for instance, formally known as Saul (Acts 9:1-19); he was a persecutor of Christians, but that didn’t stop God from forgiving him. What does that say about God? His love and mercy knows no bounds.

Love changes people

love changes

The term ‘Christian’ is so common. Basically it refers to someone who is a follower of Christ; someone who is Christ-like; but it so happens that many call themselves Christians, yet they hardly act like it. Personally I’m a Christian and I feel that sometimes we are so quick to condemn others; we judge them, take them to hell before they’re even dead. We shun people who we deem sinners; we refuse to mingle with them:

“She’s a prostitute,” one says. “I can’t be associated with her.”

“He’s gay,” another one says. “I can’t let people see us together.”

“She goes partying in clubs,” another one says, “That’s a sin.” These are some of the conversations I’ve heard. Once there’s this friend who posted on his fb page how he had felt extremely shaken when a guy he’d been hanging out with confessed he was gay. He was seeking public opinion via his page, if he should continue his association with the said gay guy. Out of curiosity, I read the comments, and I must say the things people said were awful. In my head I was like, “Christianity preaches against gayism, but this ain’t right.”

Then in another instance, which was more personal, I was chatting with a guy. The conversation got to a point where he asked if I ‘drink’. I didn’t think there was anything to lie about so I told him, “Yeah, sometimes I do.” Before I knew it he was calling me a sinner; saying how much I was shaming the church…by the time I decided to end that conversation he had told me some pretty nasty stuff. I felt offended that he would presume to judge me, but I laughed so hard, he got offended.

He thought I was mocking him, but I explained to him why I found his criticism hilarious: to start with, I rarely drink, and when I do, I keep it to a maximum of two glasses of wine (except for this one time I took more, but I only got tipsy; by the time my friends and I left the club, after lots of dancing and taking plenty of water, my head was clear). So I wouldn’t be lying if I said I’ve never been drunk my entire life… with that in mind, I found it hilarious when he called me a sinner…and not to mention that I know very many Christians who take alcohol and are wonderful people.

I did a little ‘digging’ about partaking in alcohol being considered a sin; I asked a priest to shed light on the matter. He told me the mere act of drinking isn’t really a sin; what comes out is what matters; you know people acting crazy and stuff because they’re inebriated…

I found it unbelievable that he would blatantly call me a sinner; last I checked, we’re all sinners, but somehow some people end up feeling like they’re lesser sinners than others. Nowadays I choose not to take alcohol, but for me it’s a personal choice; it has nothing to do with being branded a sinner.

Such instances leave me wondering why someone would want to judge others when they call themselves a Christian. The term is derived from ‘Christ’; those who follow Him. If I was to refer to bible verses where Jesus mingles with ‘sinners’, I would be basically making reference to the larger part of the New Testament.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbours without judging: when people wanted to stone the woman who had been accused of prostitution (John 8:7), He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

In another instance He condemned judging, talking about people seeing specks in other people’s eyes when they had logs in their own eyes (Matthew 7). With respect to this, I know I’ve got huge logs in my eyes, so I prefer to let God be the judge in everything.

Hypothetically, these people we call sinners are indeed sinners; but question is, if we treat them like outcasts, who will change them? Jesus loved everyone; He didn’t look at their occupations, at their sexual orientation…He just loved them. When He visited Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) for instance, He didn’t condemn him because he was a thief. He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” That’s how we as Christians are called to act; without discrimination. He set the precedent; to love others. I don’t recall verses where He shooed someone off because they were sinners; if we call ourselves His followers, why would we judge? Why would we discriminate?

It’s not our place to judge. We should love even those we feel are straying; because it’s only by showing them love that we can pull them back on track. In my opinion, the only time a person should stay away from someone they consider ‘a sinner’ (pardon the choice of word), would be if one is afraid they’re not strong enough; that they could be negatively influenced by the other person into straying, because it makes no sense if one ends up stealing because they were trying to get a thief to ‘see the light’…

Speaking from experience, it’s easier to change a person by showing them love as opposed to criticizing and condemning them. Personally, I feel more inclined to take someone’s advice if they seem compassionate; if they come off as harsh I get all defensive, and I have reason to believe that’s how a vast majority ‘functions’. No one likes to be judged.

‘What would Jesus do?’ That’s a question I use as my reference when faced with a situation where I’m not sure what I should do…and based on the scriptures, the answer would revolve around love; it’s the greatest of all virtues.

love

What are you thankful for?

thanksgiving

There are many things we (myself included) take for granted: One wakes up in the morning; they don’t realize it’s actually a gift, because someone slept and never woke up.

One affords three (or more) meals a day; they don’t realize it’s a gift, because there’s someone who scavenges for leftovers from other people’s garbage; to them eating isn’t a guarantee.

One has a roof over their head (it doesn’t have to be a mansion); they don’t realize it’s a gift, because there’s someone who sleeps in public tunnels, or on sidewalks in the extreme cold.

One gets access to clean water; they don’t realize it’s a gift, because there’s someone who doesn’t know the joy of taking a bath/shower atleast once in a day; they don’t know how it feels to drink a glass of clean water.

One has an abundant supply of pads/tampons every month; they don’t realize it’s actually a gift, because there’s a girl somewhere who lives in constant anxiety, dreading when their ‘aunt flo’ visits because they can’t afford it.

One gets into the shower and gets out in one piece; they don’t realize it’s a gift because someone walked in there and was taken out in a body bag because they slipped and broke their skull…

One leaves their house and gets back in one piece; they don’t realize it’s actually a gift; there’s someone who left but never came back because they were involved in a car crash or got run over by a speeding vehicle when crossing the road.

The air we breathe; it’s free. But sometimes we take it for granted, not realizing it’s actually a gift because there’s someone lying in hospital on life support; there are people walking around in gas masks because the air around them is so contaminated.

I could keep going on…and on…but the point is, there’s so much we ought to be thankful for. Most of us don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it. Each day is a new opportunity to appreciate what God has given us; it may not be as good as we would wish for it to be, but it’s better than nothing. And as it turns out, when we’re thankful for small things, we invite blessings into our lives; like Joel Osteen says, “When praises go up, blessings come down.”

So, what are you thankful for?

 

Happiness: Taming Expectations

Happiness

Happiness is relative; that’s what a friend commented on one of my posts. I agree with him, happiness is indeed relative. I usually find myself sulking because I didn’t accomplish something. Now thing is, expectations change constantly; people evolve, their thinking evolves, goals change…that’s life. Sometimes we have to rely on others to achieve some things, and speaking from experience, it could be devastating when the person(s) you’re relying on bails.

I have learned that to be truly happy, I need to tame my expectations; not to rely too much on others. If I expect less, I’ll only have slim chances of getting disappointed.

Then there’s the other issue of feeling constantly disappointed because things are not just going the way I expect them to. Most people have all their goals set right from the start. When I was in high school for instance, I had envisioned what my life would be like…but has it turned out exactly as I’d expected (so far)? Not quite.

Normally this would be a good excuse for me to get disappointed, but slowly I’m realizing one thing; if I wait to achieve all my goals so I can be happy, I could end up miserable and chronically depressed. When I was young and seemingly naïve, I thought success was the key to happiness; but now I know it’s the other way round. Happiness is the key to success; because personally, I realized I’m much more productive when I’m happy.

If you ask me, happiness is a state of mind; for one to be truly happy, they just need to will it. They just need to want to be happy even when they feel there’s so much they need to accomplish. I have met some really optimistic people; those who seem happy from Sunday to Sunday. Normally when I get less marks than I had anticipated in an exam, I feel like someone zapped the joy out of me, so that all my thoughts revolve around my temporary failure and I get all stressed up…but then, maybe that has something to do with my high proneness to depression.

When I’m feeling a little bit under the weather, I’ll be all blue, feeling like the sun refused to come out from behind the ‘dark clouds’…then I have this friend who will be all happy even when I feel like whatever she’s going through would be enough to sink a ship. It all comes down to one thing, how much one craves happiness; it is elusive, but if one takes things as they are; trying to see past their sorrows, taking one day at a time, they’ll be less anxious and ultimately happy.

Sometimes when I’m down I’ll be like, “Today I’ll be happy no matter what.” It doesn’t always work, but it strengthens my will to be happy when things aren’t working out fine.

Choosing Vocations: What are you called to do?

choosing vocations

A young man went to see a priest, to seek guidance because he wanted to become a lawyer. The priest asked him, “Why do you want to become a lawyer?”

The young man replied, “Because I want to be rich.”

“And after that?” the priest asked.

“Then I’ll marry a beautiful woman and start my own family.”

“After that?” the priest persisted.

“I’ll enjoy my success.”

“After that?”

“I’ll die,” the man answered.

“And after that?”

“I’ll go to heaven and meet Jesus.”

“And after that?”

The man looked at the priest confused; he had given his entire life/after life plan and he still wanted more. He went back home and reorganized his plans (this short story was told by a priest in church).

When choosing a vocation one should address two principal aspects: How does my vocation help others? And how does it relate to God? (Speaking from a Christian’s perspective).

Whatever one wants to do, they must really be so passionate about it, to an extent where they can’t explain fully why they love it. That profound ardor one has for something that they just feel it’s what they want to do; even if it meant doing it for free.

If after evaluating one’s interest they feel it helps others and still honours God, then maybe it’s the right calling. What everyone should bear in mind is that no one was put on this earth just to occupy space. We were all given a purpose to fulfill…now the million dollar question is, ‘what is that purpose?’

Treading into the darkness

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And He replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way!”

So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, tread gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills, and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So, heart, be still; the stretch of years which wind ahead, so dim to our imperfect vision, are clear to God; our fears are premature. In Him all time hath full provision.

I read this piece on a pamphlet I was handed in church; I don’t know who it’s credited to, but I loved it. It touched my soul. Personally, I have been struggling with anxiety all through my life; since I became aware of my existence. It’s something I deal with every day, and I must say I find it difficult.

Walking with Christ

I know we’re asked to take one day at a time, but sometimes it just happens that I find myself worrying about tomorrow, or how Saturday will be… it just happens. I feel really frustrated when I feel anxious about things, even when I will myself not to.

One thing I learned, is that fear and faith can’t exist together; they’re both dominant, so one has to sought of choose between the two; which one they will feed. From experience, I know when I base my trust in God, I don’t feel so anxious (sometimes I don’t even feel anxious at all) because at the back of my mind I know there’s someone greater than me; greater than all my worries, taking care of it all, but then fear /worrying happens without giving one the chance to choose (that’s why I end up feeling frustrated when I worry because I know I shouldn’t).

Reading the insightful words above, I was reminded why I shouldn’t worry about walking into the unknown; treading into the darkness, because God will lead me there.