Monthly Archives: August 2014

An instrument of peace

Lord make me an instrument of peace

‘These must be the end days talked about by John in the book of Revelations’. This is the thought that comes to mind everytime I hear about some disturbing occurrence in some part of the world: the war between Israel and Gaza, earthquakes and landslides, life threatening diseases…

That thought, which mostly feels like fear is further heightened by the moral decay in the society; most of the things we do today are what led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Surely, we’re not special than those people who lost their lives in previous Biblical ‘Armageddons’. If we do the things they did, then we’re bound to suffer the same fate.

For this reason, when I hear of people dying in masses I just imagine God is just angry. He is slow to anger but I’m thinking, if we don’t make any effort to correct our bad deeds, He gets angry eventually. He loves us unconditionally and equally (doesn’t have favourites), but that does not mean He is permissive.

God’s greatest desire is for us all to love each other and to live in peace. But the defiant human beings we are, we continue to fight, perpetrating war and hatred; everything God hates. Countless lives have been lost because of wars that could have been prevented.

Not all of us have been to, or live in any of the warring nations I keep hearing about on the news everyday, but we have been involved in at least one fight. Heavy artilleries don’t have to be used for it to be termed a war. It could even be something petty; say picking a fight with a neighbour because their dog backs too loud…etc. Point is we have in one way or another been involved in a fight.

Question is, as an individual, what role do/did you play in that fight? Were you a mediator or a perpetrator? Did you help end the fight or you only added coal to the fire?

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there’s hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there’s doubt faith,
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant me that I may not so much seek:
To console, as to be consoled
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.’

The above is a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which embodies his simplicity and poverty. According to Father Kajetan Esser, OFM, the author of the critical edition of St. Francis’ writings, the peace prayer is most certainly not one of the writing of St. Francis.

This prayer, according to Father Schulz, first appeared during the First World War. It was found written on a holy card that had a picture of St. Francis. The prayer bore no name; but because of the card it came to be known as the Peace prayer of St. Francis.

The first time I read this prayer I was around seven years old. But when reading it, in my infantile mind it was just another prayer that had to be recited. At the time, mom was the one who was strictly enforcing our faith, seeing to it that we attended mass and prayed.

At some point, as I grew older, I stopped saying it; I’m not so sure why because I was still saying other prayers. It’s not until two or so years ago that I started saying it again. Unlike the first time I said it, this time I was pondering over every word; taking each word into consideration.

The words did not serve only as a prayer, but as a great piece to meditate on. It made me think about my life; when I’m dealing with other people, do I make them feel happy or do I just make them cry and feel bad about themselves; do I stop a fight or do I only aggravate things? Do I understand people, or I only seek to be understood?

I read each word, examining my conscience, and as I did so, I realized so many faults in my ways. On many occasions I had been selfish. Many are the times I had put my needs before others’; fighting because I only wanted others to understand why I had acted in a particular way; holding grudges because I was reluctant to forgive those who wronged me.

The prayer helps one reflect; what do we inspire in others? Love or hate? Forgiveness or vengeance? Hope or desperation? Sadness or joy? Do we only seek to be loved, rather than love others? Do we forgive, or like the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) we adamantly turn away those who seek our forgiveness? Do we only take without giving back?

Many fights start as small disagreements and eventually they graduate into full-fledged wars, because someone was too unwilling to forgive or understand; because someone was reluctant to love. It’s not too late to do something. We still have a chance to make things better; to prevent more loss of lives. Let’s live in peace.

Should children have a say in who their parents date?

broken family 2

Relationships are really complicated, and even more for those with children, who tend to react negatively towards their parents’ new partners. I was watching this show about a guy whose wife died about three months later he found new love. However, his nine year old daughter, having heard a lot of negative experiences about step mothers from her friend, whose parents had already split up, hated his dad’s new girlfriend before she even met her.

Her friend’s experiences, plus incitement from her aunt-her mom’s cousin, who killed her hoping to get her husband-ruined the relationship between the young girl and her dad’s girlfriend long before it started.

I know I’ve also heard my fair share of stories-real and fictional-about wicked step mothers, but the man’s girlfriend was a very nice woman. She lost both of her parents when she was young and because of that she tried to be a kind, loving friend to the young girl, so it wouldn’t seem like she was trying to take her mother’s place.

After close to one year of dating the man told his daughter he was going to marry his girlfriend and that announcement worked the girl up into a frenzy. She tried everything; from faking a kidnapping, which was orchestrated by her malicious aunt, just so her dad would break up with his fiancée citing negligence, to ruining her wedding dress on the eve of her wedding.

In my opinion, I felt the girl had no right to meddle in her dad’s love life, but at the same time I felt the man had fallen in love too soon; he hadn’t given his daughter enough time to grieve her mom’s death. He started dating three months after his wife’s death and that didn’t feel like enough time for the girl to be receptive to a woman, who would be practically taking her mom’s place.

As I watched the once sweet girl pulling all sorts of evil pranks to stop the wedding, I found myself wondering: Do children have a right to say who their parents date? And should parents consider their children’s feeling before/when jumping back into the dating arena?

Some months ago, before mom quit her job, she told my sisters and I how their company’s managing director had his daughter shame him at work. The MD’s daughter, a law student at Harvard, had showed up at mom’s workplace, carrying bundles of papers, which she said were concrete evidence of her father’s shoddy deals.

She further said she would sue her father for embezzling company funds, forging his sister’s-her aunt’s-signature so he and another of their brother could steal money from the company, which belongs to the MD’s sister.

In addition to that, she went on to say how her father-the MD- had been having an affair with a girl her age. When mom told us this, she was saying it, in the opinion that the daughter was wrong for shaming her father like that, and in such a place where he’s held in high esteem.

I looked at the picture from two perspectives: one, the daughter was wrong for airing their dirty laundry in public. On the other hand, she could have done that out of anger, and frustration. I’m thinking that maybe she thought she would hit his dad where it hurt most.

Speaking from my own experiences, I’ve seen dad do some despicable things that left me in utter rage. I’ve contemplated doing unimaginable things just so I could get back at him. So from a daughter’s perspective, I do understand her.

To be fair, I’m also trying to understand her dad’s dilemma. What I can’t bring myself to understand is the fact that aside from embezzling funds, her dad had been cheating on her mom with a girl her age. I tried imagining what I would feel if I found out dad was cheating on mom with a girl my age and in a way I felt her anger was justified.

I shouldn’t judge; that much I know. I’m only trying to comprehend what could drive a daughter to such extents.

In a way I feel she sought of went overboard; no daughter should do that to her father. Sometimes family matters are best left within the confinements of a home. Then again, when I try to walk a mile in her shoes I realize chances are I would have done something worse.

It wouldn’t only be about dad cheating on mom; it would mostly be about the other woman’s age. Someone might say I’m being biased against the man… but here’s the thing; if dad did the same thing to mom, I wouldn’t be able to look at him the same way again. Plenty of the respect I have for him would be lost.

At the moment, I’m neither married nor with kids. So I can’t really speak for parents. From a daughter’s perspective though, I know I wouldn’t be okay with any of my parents cheating on the other. If they were divorced-God forbid-that would be a whole different thing but if it’s about doing it behind the other’s back and pretending to be happily married, then that would be unfair, even to my sisters and me.

Relationships are not the easiest thing in the world, and I’m not sure what feasible solutions can be applied to make all parties involved comfortable. All I know is that one should consider how their new relationship affects their children and partner, if they are already committed to someone else. It’s complicated, but with a little empathy and lots of dialogue we can find some middle ground.

No romance without finance?

no romance without finance

Love doesn’t discriminate; like a weed, it can sprout just about anywhere. That is what I learned as I was growing up. It doesn’t look at how deep pockets are, or one’s skin colour, race, religion etc… and it’s for all- both the haves and the have nots. That is the kind of love I grew up knowing.

Looking at current dating trends though, I’m inclined to believe somewhere down the line things changed. Love changed; or the concept of love at least. They said money can’t buy love, but to some extent I beg to differ. Nowadays people consider one’s payslip before they can say the three words, eight letters: I love you.

Money may not buy one love, but it will buy them someone who pretends to love them. Technically I wouldn’t call that love, but that seems to be the new face of love. Relationships-most of them-have been re-defined by the ‘no romance without finance’ concept.

Sometimes I’m left wondering; does it mean only well-heeled people can find life partners? And if that is the case, what will happen to those who earn meagre wages? Will they be condemned to solitude just because they can’t afford romantic dates/getaways in high end resorts?

I particularly empathize with men who don’t earn much because with the way things are going, majority of women want to don designer apparels, live in mansions and drive luxury cars and as it is, in a family setting, the man is considered the main provider; ergo, if a guy can’t afford his woman’s expenses, he stands a high risk of losing her to a moneyed bloke.

Sadly, that- as I said before- is the new face of love; the rich takes it all. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that even if a guy isn’t particularly wealthy but the wife is, there tend to be issues. Low self-esteem on the guy’s part and all.

Recently, I was listening to this debate on radio about a guy who had beef with his wife: He had lost his job so his wife, who was the sole breadwinner, suggested he stay home and look after their daughter. She said it would be easier if he babysat as that would help do away with unnecessary costs. He wasn’t the least bit pleased.

Many guys called in to give their two-cents-worth on the matter and no one seemed okay with the idea of a man staying home while the woman brought the dough, with some citing emasculation. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m thinking it has to do with the male ego, which I totally understand.

The reason I brought that debate up is to show why men still feel the need to be the ones making more money in a relationship. It’s a burden placed on them by the society. That said, I feel it shouldn’t be that way. I understand money is an important thing, but it shouldn’t be the defining factor in matters love.

Some months ago I wrote a post about gold-digging, giving an example of a cousin of mine, who moved to the city in search of a tycoon. Her mom was very happy telling mom on phone how her daughter was bent on finding herself a rich guy, and concerned, mom just told her to ask my cousin not to take anyone’s husband.

About a fortnight ago, mom called my aunt to ask if my cousin could come work in her beauty spa as she specialized in that field. Turns out my cousin couldn’t make it since she recently gave birth. Her mom, voicing her displeasure, said my cousin just had to get herself pregnant. “Now she would have come to work, but she can’t.”

Based on what mom told me, my aunt sounded clearly pissed. When she learned about my cousin’s state she sent her last born daughter to go get her sister, who was still in the city. The news had me gobsmacked; my cousin was back home, without her rich tycoon, jobless and with a baby. Considering her initial motives, project tycoon sounded like a backfired plan.

I felt bad for her, mainly for one reason. At gram’s funeral last October, she was in the company of a cute guy, but apparently she didn’t want him as he wasn’t rich. Love is more than money. If she had stayed with him, chances are right now they would both have well-paying jobs and her baby would have a present dad. They would have made a really cute family.

Money isn’t everything. Sometimes the people with the most money are the unhappiest. And true love is rare. It’s like a comet; comes once in God-knows how many years. If one finds someone who loves them for real, they should stick by them, and curve out a path together-in riches and poverty.

Additionally, money comes and goes. So what happens to a relationship which started as a ‘business’? You know, buy me a Porsche, and I will… (Fill blank space) etc. kinda deals. What happens when all the money runs out? Do the partners start regrouping, finding other mates who are more loaded? That isn’t love.

Some of my cousin’s older siblings were even hoping their sister didn’t catch something in the process. It’s just sad. Sometimes we find love and just blow it because the person doesn’t have money.

The way I see it, becoming a millionaire is hard, but it’s easier than finding true love. If one finds love, they should hold on to it. Money will come when it comes.

To be great you must be servant of the rest

good leadrship

The wife of Zebedee came to Jesus with her two sons, bowed before Him and asked Him for a favour.

“What do you want?” Jesus asked her.

She answered, “Promise me that these two sons of mine will sit at your right and your left when you are king.”

“You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

“You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those whom my father has prepared them.”

When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. So Jesus called them all together and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority.

This however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be your slave-like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.” (Matthew 20: 20-28).

Ninety per cent of the leaders I’ve met or heard of believe leadership entails sitting on the high chair (think throne), barking orders. “Do this, do that…” But Jesus talks of a different kind of leadership. One where the leader doesn’t sit back and watch his subjects work tirelessly, but goes out and does whatever needs to be done himself.

He even gives an example of Himself. He says a leader, like the Son of Man, must be a servant of the rest. One who serves, as opposed to being served. Many people have it all twisted. The modern day leadership is characterized by greed, tyranny, misuse of power, where the underprivileged are brutally oppressed.

In the spirit of fairness, I have seen some leaders who take part in charity works and all, but in most cases there is always a catch. They do it to gain more popularity. This means any humanitarian work they do is driven by personal interests. So I’m always left wondering, if there was nothing to gain from helping people, would this leaders do it in the first place?

It’s good to help, but I believe it is hypocritical to always show up in a place where people are suffering, accompanied by photographers and reporters so they can spread the news. How about helping secretly? There’s really no need telling everyone who one helped if the intentions are pure.

I know not everyone who reads my posts is a Christian, but wouldn’t it be a great thing if we had leaders who didn’t discriminate? Leaders who didn’t trample on the weak? Leaders who served people with one heart, without focusing on personal gains? Imagine if we had leaders who desired to serve than to be served?

Anyone can be that leader, if we let love be our guide; if we stopped discriminating; if we focused on the greater good. Feeding the hungry without expecting anything in return; rehabilitating the homeless…there’s so much leaders could do. But as it turns out, most are blinded by their desire to better their own lives; amassing their personal wealth, living lavish lives…etc.

If everyone who desired to be elected/appointed a leader was guaranteed their lives would be no less difficult than Jesus’, would they take those posts? Leadership isn’t just about personal gains, but about serving one’s subjects. That is the precedent set by Jesus, the king of kings. He taught us to suffer for others, and that is what leadership is about.

Walking on water

Jesus walks on water

After feeding the five thousand men (not counting the men and women) Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake, while he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone; and by this time the boat was far out in the lake, tossed about by the waves, because the waves were blowing against it.

Between three and six o’clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. When they saw him walking on the water they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” They said, and screamed with fear.

Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” He said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”
Then Peter spoke up. “Lord, if it really is you, order me to come to you.”
“Come!” Answered Jesus.
So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” He cried.

At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, “What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?”

They both got into the boat, and the wind died down. Then the disciples in the boat worshipped Jesus. “Truly You are the Son of God!” They exclaimed. (Matthew 14: 22-32).

I believe in God with all that I have in me, but I can’t help wondering; if I was in Peter’s shoes, would I have gotten out of the boat to walk on water? As in water, with no visible bridge; just plain water? With gravity, ever a present factor and all? That was a mighty leap of faith.

For starters, I have a phobia for big water bodies. Flowing rivers especially, make up part of my scariest nightmares. And the thought of finding myself in the middle of a lake, which could be hundreds of feet deep, crawling with God-knows what? I love swimming pools though, but I feel it’s mainly because one can actually see the bottom.

That said, I respect Peter. He trusted Jesus enough to believe he could actually walk on water without sinking. You know what makes the thought even scarier? Knowing there could be live creatures in that water, say fish. That’s just petrifying.

But then again, Peter was a fisherman. He had already gotten used to handling them; nevertheless, that doesn’t make sinking in a ‘fish-infested’ lake okay though. It’s still scary. Peter’s story is one of deep faith, and a very encouraging one at that.

If you were in a boat, in the wee hours of the morning, and saw someone walking on water, how would you react? And if that person went ahead to tell you he was Jesus, would you still have enough courage to get out of the boat?

One thing I love about Peter was that he was just a normal guy who didn’t care to appear perfect in God’s eyes. He just tried to be a better man. He denied Jesus three times, doubted Him, thus sinking in the water, but he ended up being made the rock on whose God’s church would be founded.

Peter was a man full of faith, but like any other normal human being, his faith was put to test and sometimes he failed; nonetheless, Jesus accepted him with all his flaws. His story reminds us not to seek perfection but holiness.

Like Peter, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where our faith is tested and based on the magnitude of whatever difficulty we’re going through, we give up. Personally, what I’ve learned is that faith and worrying/fear don’t blend. Those two fight for superiority and the one that wins takes full charge.

Looking at Peter’s experience, at first he believed he could walk on water, but when the strong wind blew his faith exited, leaving him sinking; luckily Jesus came to his rescue. Looking at it from a real life scenario, the wind could signify an adversity that shakes our faith. But like Peter, if we hold on to Jesus, we will find our balance.

You might be going through something difficult right now. And if you are feeling like your faith is waning, don’t beat yourself up for it. It is normal. Instead, reach out for God’s hand; call out His name and unfailingly He will pull you up, like He did with Peter.

Young and heavily laden

Life ain't always beautiful

This past Sunday after mass, instead of going back home I passed by the salon to get my hair done. I found my hairdresser fixing another lady’s hair so I even had time to go to a fast food restaurant for a quick lunch. By the time she started doing my hair it was already getting late. Mom called to ask where I was and later she came so we could go home together. She showed up with a neighbour’s baby, who is only nine months old.

Minutes later, a lady, who I assumed was the hairdresser’s acquaintance-based on how free they seemed with each other-passed by to wish her a good evening. When she saw the baby, she gleefully said she had twins of the same age.

Mom asked her how old her babies were and she said they were slightly over a year. Mom then told her the little girl was only nine months old. The lady nodded understandingly. “She’s younger than mine,” she said.

“It’s not so hard raising twins especially if one has someone to help,” mom said comfortingly. Again, I believe she said this because the lady seemed so young.

“I don’t have a nanny,” she said, seeming completely unperturbed.

“So who did you leave them with?” Mom asked, sounding a bit surprised.

“One is asleep and their older sister is taking care of the other.” The lady looked so young; it was hard to imagine her with an older kid. I’m assuming it’s because of her physical appearance that mom asked her how old her eldest child was and she said she was seven. The lady went on to say she had gone to buy food and needed to get back home soon. “I didn’t feel like going out today, but I had to because if I didn’t my children would suffer as I’m the sole breadwinner.”

“Don’t feel discouraged, babies are a blessing,” mom told her reassuringly.

“I consider them a blessing. It was hard after their dad got locked up but I still think of them as a blessing.”

“Why was he locked up?”

“He wasn’t even guilty of the offense they accused him off,” she explained nonchalantly. “He was arrested for illegal logging and since he could not afford the bail, he was sentenced to six months behind bars. When I went to see him some officer told me to sleep with him in exchange for his release but I refused. I wasn’t going to compromise my dignity for his freedom.”

“Couldn’t his boss bail him out?” Mom asked.

“The licence is too expensive. Since his boss knew that he just hid, letting him take the fall.”

That’s just so unfair. I thought. His boss let him take the blame when he was perfectly aware he was innocent. “You know, women are so bad,” she continued, a far off look in her eyes, as if in retrospect.

“Why do you say that?” Mom asked.

“They keep asking me how I can go for this long without getting laid… if I don’t miss it. But I tell them I’m too busy fending for my kids to even think about it. When my husband comes out I’ll be here waiting.”

“You are a strong woman,” mom applauded her.

“Life has been so difficult, especially after he got arrested. When I was giving birth I temporarily lost my mind.”

“Did you check into a mental facility?” Mom asked, a concerned look on her face.

“No, by the time I left the hospital with my new-borns I had already recovered.”

I was only looking at her through the mirror, but I could clearly see she didn’t seem bogged down by all the misery she had been through. I even thought she was too calm for someone who had three kids, a partner in prison and struggling financially, and with some mental illness.

“How old are you?” Mom asked smiling. I think talking to that lady and listening to her poignant story had her awed, like I was.

“I’m twenty seven.”

“You’re so young,” mom said, completely taken aback. I was shocked too. “And you’ve gone through so much.” The smile on her face faded away, and in its place was a forlorn look. “But don’t worry, life is like that sometimes. We only need to persist. Problems were not meant to last, right?”

“Yeah, it could be overwhelming. But I have my God with me. So I know things will be ok.”

The lady’s attitude really impressed me. She had gone through so many difficulties, yet she still remained optimistic; managing to laugh, even when I thought life had dealt her tremendous blows.”

Her attitude inspired me. When we go through traumatizing situations we become so negative, but this lady wouldn’t let tough moments drag her down. She was resilient, willing to overcome whatever challenges that sprung up in her life, including a mental illness, which I deduced had been triggered by too much stress.

‘Choir girl’ says “I do”

 

I do

What happens when a devoted choir girl gets pregnant and it’s in the public domain she is very unmarried? First, church folk who consider themselves deeply religious (in the self-righteous way) would be so quick to condemn her, questioning how she let herself partake of the forbidden fruit when it should be enjoyed by married couples.

Secondly, if the girl was brave enough to go back to church after conceiving, with her new-born in her arms, the same church folk would condemn her for blatantly showing up in church after fornicating and getting a child out of wedlock. Yes, people can be nasty sometimes.

See how that scenario plays out? It actually happened to a girl in my church and I wrote about it in a previous post. I didn’t know the girl really well, but deep down I applauded her for her courage. Not many would just go back to church after getting knocked up, when everyone expects people who are strongly involved in church matters to also set an example for the rest of the faithful.

A few weeks after delivering she resumed her position back in the choir and life went on. Some months ago my sisters and I made this friend in church. He had been recently elected as youth chairman. One Sunday afternoon he was with a friend, so when we went to greet our friend, he introduced us to the ‘chairman’ and that’s how we got to know each other.

The next time-almost a month later-the ‘chairman’ came to say hi to my sisters and I, he was alone. That time mom was with us. Since they hadn’t been formally introduced, I told him that was our mom and he refused to believe it.

“She can’t be your mom,” he objected, evidently surprised.

“Why?” My sisters and I asked simultaneously.

“She’s so young.”

We only giggled. He wasn’t the first person to say that so we understood him.

“I know your mom,” he continued adamantly. “I’ll show you who she is the next time I see her.”

We laughed again because that was funny. I didn’t know what woman he was referring to but I imagined he was talking about a woman who sits next to us in church most of the time. While we were saying our goodbyes, we spotted dad and as we started making our way towards him, we told the ‘chairman’ that was our dad.

Again, he refused to believe it. Clearly startled, he walked away, shaking his head in disbelief. Since that day we became good friends, always stopping to say hi whenever we bumped into each other after mass.

About a month ago, he walked up to my small sister and me and gave us invitations to his pre-wedding bash. He is a very young guy, and that took us by surprise. I wouldn’t have guessed, even in a million years that he would be getting hitched. I hadn’t seen him even in the company of any woman so that was quite a shock.

While we were standing there congratulating him because honestly that was such a bold step to take especially for a guy his age, he pointed us to a young lady who was walking out of the church. “That’s my wife.”

Curiously my sister and I looked in the direction he was pointing us to. Shock on us! His fiancée was none other than the ‘choir girl’.

I’d seen her so many times before but I had never had the chance to talk to her. She walked towards us and right after, the guy-her fiancé left us to acquaint ourselves with each other. We didn’t have much to say to each other as we were practically strangers but atleast we got too know her name.

A week after their pre-wedding he found mom at her workplace and gave her two invitation cards to his wedding. One card was addressed to mom and dad and the other one to my sisters and me. We hadn’t thought the wedding would be that soon but we promised him we would attend.

This past Saturday, my sisters and I went to church to witness the very young couple saying “I do.” It was such a beautiful ceremony. I watched as the tearful father of the bride gave his daughter away, and I imagined he was happy to see his daughter formalizing her relationship with her baby daddy.

Forlornly, I wondered if dad would even shed a tear for us if we were the ones getting married. I have a feeling he wouldn’t be moved to tears. In any case I bet he would have the ‘good-riddance- feeling. I know he would be happy to give us away, just so we can finally get off his back.

Anyway, as the wedding ceremony continued, I watched in admiration as the ‘choir girl’ and her ‘chairman’ hubby finally said, “I do, in good times and in bad, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

For a moment there I had thought the bride would start crying as I watched her recite her vows, but when her husband slipped the ring on her finger, a wide smile curved her lips and the tears that had welled up in her eyes disappeared.

The two are just a young couple. Even the priest officiating the wedding said it; that the choir girl and her husband were the two youngest people, whose wedding he had presided over. I couldn’t argue with that. It was precisely why I had been so shocked when I saw the ‘choir girl’ expectant and subsequently giving birth.

I’m so glad they were brave enough to take that bold step at such a young age.

Levels of spiritual growth

Jesus feeds 5000 men

Most of us have read the biblical story, where Jesus fed five thousand men with only two fish and five loaves of bread: A large crowd of people followed Him, because they had seen His miracles of healing the sick. Jesus went up a hill and sat down with his disciples. He looked around and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him, so He asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?

He already knew what He was going to do but He asked that just to test Philip.

Philip answered, “For everyone to have even a little, it would take more than two hundred silver coins to buy enough bread.” (A silver coin was the daily wage of a rural worker).

Another one of His disciples, Andrew, who was Simon Peter’s brother said, “There is a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But they will certainly not be enough for all these people.”

Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and distributed it to the people. He did the same with the fish, and they all had as much as they wanted. When they were all full He asked the disciples to gather all the leftovers. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets. (John 6: 1-14).

The disciples, as seen in the story, were quick to say they didn’t have enough to feed the people; but unlike them, the kid offered the little food he had, knowing it wouldn’t be enough. Most of us are like the disciples; we’re usually too quick to dismiss those who come to us for help, saying we don’t have what they need.

We feel like if we shared the little we had we would be left without; however, from the story above, we see that Jesus multiplies the little we have when we take it to Him. He fed five thousand men with only two fish and five loaves of bread and still managed to have twelve baskets of leftovers.

In life, what we confess with our mouths; what we say becomes, the reality. Say two people are feeling so needy. One miserably says they are poor but the other, refusing to be defeated by the difficult situation says they are only going through a rough patch and will overcome it soon.

After some time, the one who said they’re poor will mostly likely be in the same situation but the one who refused to admit defeat will have managed to find a way out of the difficulty. So while the former is sad, the latter will be feeling joyful and triumphant.

So what determines how we view the situations in our lives; that is, whether we view the proverbial glass as half full or half empty?

We confess the situations in our lives based on the level of spiritual growth, which can be grouped in four stages, according to Scott Peck:

1st stage- Infancy, chaotic, antisocial:
They are governed by their own will and since the will from moment to moment can go this way or that, there is a lack of integrity to their being. They therefore find themselves in constant social difficulties.

2nd stage- Formal, institutional:
People in this stage begin the work of submitting themselves to principle-the law, even though they don’t understand the spirit of the law. Consequently, they are legalistic, parochial, and dogmatic and are threatened by people who think differently from them, as they have the ‘truth’ and so regard it as their responsibility to convert or save the rest of humanity, who are not ‘true believers’.

3rd stage- Individual, sceptic:
This comprises atheists, agnostics, scientists… They’re usually independent thinkers and truth seekers. They are mainly non-believers. People in this stage are generally more spiritually developed than many who are content to remain in stage 2.

4th stage- Mystical:
They are religious, not looking for clear cut, prototype answers, but desiring to enter into the mystery of uncertainty, living in the unknown.

Very few people have reached this stage. Abraham was one of those who managed to attain this level of spiritual growth. When God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac, he acquiesced without any questions asked. His faith made him understand that God had the best intentions for him.

Jesus also had gotten to this level of spiritual growth. He accepted to die on the cross even though He knew it would be so painful, because He understood that was His Father’s will.

The church’s dilemma is to get people to stage 4 without them going through stage 3.

The levels of spiritual growth are not cast in stone. Someone from the fourth stage can slip back to the first stage, for instance after undergoing an awfully traumatizing experience that might leave one very disoriented, making them vulnerable.

Our life experiences affect our spiritual growth and on the other hand, our faith determines how we translate things. It is imperative we keep assessing our spiritual growth. This will help us know what we need to do differently to get to the fourth stage, which is the crest of spiritual growth.

Memoirs of a battered woman

Domestic violence

It was a late Sunday night. All the lights in the nearby houses were off, a clear indication everyone was asleep as the landlady’s dogs growled fiercely, sending chills down the spines of all who heard them. The night was quiet, and the dogs’ barking was the only sound tearing through the silence, and I hated the sound; because I associated it to break-ins.

The neighbourhood we lived in wasn’t the safest, given that our landlady’s son was a young man, who had recently cleared from high school and had joined a gang which used to break into people’s houses. A few recent burglaries made me so afraid of the night as that meant thieves were free to roam.

Unfortunately, in my house we used to sleep late. It had become a tradition. Dad would come home late drunk, and we would be eagerly waiting for him to bring us food, even though most nights the wait would be for naught as we would still go to bed hungry and crying after seeing mom and dad fight. That night however, as we were sitted in the living room we heard a knock on the door.

At first we were all afraid but when the knocking persisted, mom peeped through the window which was adjacent to the door and seeing it was just her friend, she opened up. The woman, who we had visited earlier in the day walked in, dressed in dark clothes and a shawl over her head. She was a bit reluctant to drop the shawl, and when she finally did, I understood why.

Her face was all swollen, with dried blood stains. I could barely recognize her. To this day, I’ve never forgotten how shaken I felt. She looked so different. Luckily for us, mom and dad hadn’t fought that day and dad had gone to bed early, so mom and her friend had all the time to talk. When we managed to get a chance to talk to mom, we curiously asked her what had happened to her friend because she seemed like she had been mugged.

I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but mom told us her friend’s husband had beaten her. I couldn’t believe it. She had been okay earlier when we visited her at her place after church. Worse still, her house was almost an hour away from ours if one walked and apparently, she had come on foot, alone in the dark. Everything about that picture was scary.

I’m not sure if we were on holiday but the next day my mom and I saw her off at the bus stop, where she took a bus to go back to her mom’s. She had left her four children with her husband. When her husband attacked her she had fled out of the house with no money on her; only with the clothes on her back. It was really sad.

I knew her husband, and he didn’t seem like the violent type. Then again, it’s hard telling men who are violent just by looking at them; dad looks like he couldn’t possibly harm a fly; looks can be deceiving.

After that day I don’t remember seeing much of her as I went to boarding school later so I didn’t tag along often everytime mom went to see her as she was her best friend at the time. All I know is she later went back to her husband.

Years later, she went to see mom at work the Thursday before mom quit her job. They don’t see each other a lot because we moved to a different part of the city and the long distance sought of put a barrier in their relationship. They talk on phone rarely but they are still good friends.
When she visited mom at work, she told mom she’s now separated from her husband.

Sombrely, she went on to tell mom the events that led to their separation and I must admit; it was pretty ugly: One night her husband came home, wielding a sword. Her youngest daughter was away in boarding school, while the oldest was in her college hostel.

She was in the house with her third born daughter. Her only son was just nearby at a friend’s house. Scared, the daughter stood between her mom and dad screaming, shouting for help. Eventually her son came home just in time to find her husband about to slash her. Her son tried to hold his dad from behind but he still overpowered him and hit him on the jaw with the handle.

Her daughter intercepted it, holding the blade with her fingers and she suffered severe cuts, with her fingers almost falling off. When neighbours came in to help, the man hid the sword and sneaked his daughter, who was bleeding profusely to a nearby health centre. After that incident mom’s friend moved out, taking her children with her.

When mom told me about the incident, I pitied them an awful lot. She has been through so much. I always hate it when my parents fight but I don’t remember dad inflicting such physical wounds on us. With my family, the wounds are mostly emotional. It’s difficult too, but I’d hate to lose my fingers in a one-man-sword fight.

The husband as it is, wants his wife to go back to him. I hate to come off as unforgiving, but given the nature of that man, I would really discourage mom’s friend from being sweet talked into reconciling with him. If she went back, he might succeed in killing her the next time; God forbid!

Such abusive people just need to be left alone.