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.

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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.