Tag Archives: Prayer

Flipping the humanity switch off

humanity-switch

I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but lately I feel like I could switch my ‘humanity switch’ off; if I could. That sounds weird I know; but I’m thinking of the instances in the Vampire Diaries, where a vamp, say Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev), Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) or Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), who are the three most popular actors of the show flip their humanity off.

In the show however, what usually happens is that when one of the immortal creatures runs into one of life’s inevitable painful moments, and it becomes unbearable, they just do one of the things their superhuman nature affords them, namely, flipping their humanity switch off.

Basically, what this feature helps them with is that they stop feeling. Emotional pain becomes just another trivial feeling, that’s barely discernible to them. Knowing how bad it feels to hurt, I would say that’s a pretty awesome thing; I mean, who wants to feel pain, right?

We lose loved ones; businesses we’ve worked tirelessly to build come crashing down like washed up sand castles at the beach; people we love to bits cheat on us without the slightest care in the world… truth of the matter is, we live in a callous world, and it would help tonnes if it were possible to flip some switch off, so we can stop ourselves from feeling some of this annihilating pain.

As it is though, we wouldn’t value life so much were it not for these painful moments we go through which make us human. I bet that’s why TVD’s scriptwriters called it the ‘humanity switch’. One thing I know is that the pain we feel keeps us connected to our humanity; it makes us refrain from doing things that would cause pain and untold suffering to the rest of the populace.

For instance in the show, Stefan Salvatore is usually a laid back vampire, whose determination to do good prevents him from feeding on human blood, even though he’s an actual vampire, whose main prescribed dish is warm/fresh human blood, straight from the vein; even blood bags are frowned upon by the rest of the vampires. To keep his craving for human blood to a minimum, he avoids the temptation all together by feeding on animal blood.

Sometimes however, he also bumps into issues which force him to turn his humanity switch off. Like this one time, a stronger vampire (an original), Nick Klaus compelled him to turn it off and once he did, what we (viewers) were treated to were gory scenes of beheaded humans, courtesy of Stefan. When he flips that switch off, he’s referred to as ‘the ripper’ because he decapitates people in a heartbeat and actually revels in it. That’s when one realizes how it’s important for one to feel, because feeling makes us human.

rainbow-without-a-little-rainbow

Lately though, I find myself confronted with situations which have me wishing I could flip some switch off, even if it’s for a day, just so I don’t feel the pain. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I slept soundly without a care in the world. Even my waking moments are marred by conflicting thoughts, which threaten my sanity. I feel everything around me is pushing me towards the edge of the precipice.

I’ve even started questioning my faith; maybe I’m not praying enough; or maybe God turned His back on me. That’s the thought that crossed my mind as I walked the short distance to church this past Sunday. Then in the midst of all that anguish, I remembered that God never gives up on His people. He never abandons those who call on Him.

As it is, I feel my life’s a mess right now and the thought of a new day makes me tense up. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I’m hopeful it will all be well, because God lives. So as I desperately wish I could flip my humanity off so I don’t feel pain, I also appreciate the fact that pain plays an integral part in our lives. That pain makes us human; mindful of other human beings and creatures. So we just can’t wish it away, much as it makes life miserable.

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What will people think about me?

Saint Joseph

Whom to please, God or man?

How many times have you found yourself conflicted about whom to please? To please God, or to do all you can to please fellow men. Many times most of us find ourselves at odds, especially when it’s something we feel we need to do so we can look cool; so we don’t lose credibility in our friends’ eyes, yet doing that precise thing would make us fall from God’s grace.

During this period, as we count down minutes to the birth of Christ, we get to learn from the story of a man, who is not celebrated a lot- he fades into the background once the star of the season (Jesus) comes to the scene; and not to mention His Blessed mother- a virgin, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to focus on the story of Joseph, Jesus’ father, because from him there’s so much to learn. As most of us are aware of, Joseph and Mary were Jews, and at the time Mary conceived, she and Joseph were not married. They were only engaged and had therefore not consummated their relationship.

Actually, at the time, so much would have gone wrong if God-forbid they had engaged in coitus before being married. For starters, Mary would probably have been stoned to death for engaging in sexual immorality. Now that brings me to Joseph. When Mary had that Immaculate Conception, he obviously knew the baby wasn’t his and he could have done what the men of this generation do without a tinge of remorse.

“He’s not mine!” Joseph would have denied vehemently, and unlike the guilty men who just bail on women they had been involved intimately with when they say they are pregnant, his denial would have been warranted. We, who have been enlightened about the story of Jesus of Nazareth, know Mary was a virgin when she conceived.

Joseph, however, did anything but. I’m thinking, if he was from this era we live in, he would have called Mary all those unholy names after making it clear that the baby she was expecting was not his. And maybe, just maybe, he would have called the authorities on her, given that they lived in a time when all these sexual shenanigans people from this era partake of so indiscreetly, would have cost them their lives.

But contrary to what would have been expected of a guy in his position, he accepted Mary. He didn’t care that maybe all those who knew the baby wasn’t his would have had him ostracized. The thing about most of us, is that we’re inherently afraid of being shunned by society, so whenever we feel like our actions might get us rejected by the larger society, we cower and do what will keep our relationships intact, caring less about what God will think of us.

Basically, if Joseph did what most us would have expected him to do, he wouldn’t have accepted Jesus because deep down he knew that was not his son. He would even have accused Mary of lying. I mean, just think, how often do women get pregnant by Immaculate Conception? It was just that one time; and Joseph believed it. He didn’t go all berserk, accusing her of whoring. God forbid!

Obviously, as the story goes, God intervened: Joseph contemplated breaking up with Mary but as he didn’t want to humiliate her in public, he planned on doing it in private; however, when he was asleep an angel of god appeared to him, asking him not to break the engagement as she had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child would save mankind from sin. (Matthew 1:18-24)

But then again, how many times does the Holy Spirit speak to us and we blatantly ignore? I would say, severally. Joseph, however, listened to the voice of God, and accepted that Mary had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, and he unquestioningly, agreed to become the father of Jesus.

Joseph didn’t do what he thought would save him from people’s derision; he chose to follow the will of God. Now, years later, we talk about him, awed by his submission to the will of God. Chances are if he had acted in fear-fear of being rejected by society-he would have disobeyed God and by so doing, he would have earned God’s wrath, instead of blessings.

Prayer to St. Joseph

We have so much to learn from that. Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, where we’re not sure whether to follow God’s will and be shunned by society or do good in people’s eyes but displease God in the process, we should take comfort in Joseph’s story. Following the will of God will always earn us blessings.

Knowing how much pressure people find themselves subjected to whenever they have to make some very conflicting choices, it’s not hard to understand why, or even how people end up making choices that make them fall from God’s grace. We shouldn’t get discouraged though. These problems we face are not unique to us. They happened before and as it is, Joseph’s story should encourage us all.

The question to ask is not, “What will people think about me?” but rather, “What will God think about me?”

It’s better to be at war with all of society and be at peace with God, than be loved by all of humanity but lose favour in the eyes of God.

And because tomorrow is Christmas, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. May the new Christ child be born in our hearts.

Christmas

 

Lord, help me know your ways

Because the Lord is righteous and good, He teaches sinners the path they should follow.

He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them His will.

With faithfulness and love He leads all who keep His covenant and obey His commandments. (Psalms 25: 8-10)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent (the period preceding Christmas). I just can’t believe how the time has flown. This would be that part where I just stare into space and ask, “Where did all the time go?”

Christmas is practically right around the corner. That still sounds hard to believe. People have actually started putting up Christmas decorations because in less than a month we’ll be celebrating the birth of Christ. Would you believe that?

Many people around the world –Christians and non-Christians alike- are waiting excitedly for that festive season. To the former it is because the birth of Christ signifies so much; new beginnings and all, whereas to the latter it’s about the festivities; fun trips, parties, gifts…merrymaking and all.

In my opinion, Christmas also shows that the year is coming to end. We’re counting days now, before we cross over to Year 2016. That means this is that time of the year when we start evaluating whether we achieved the resolutions we set when the New Year was starting.

The verse above (in italics) was our responsorial psalm in church today, and it had me thinking about a few things.

Primarily, it’s a prayer, asking for God’s guidance. That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago. We were talking about relationships and he asked me how one knows when they’ve found ‘the one’.

As I’m not a love guru, I answered him based on my Christian belief and a few experiences. For starters, I am of the opinion that relationships don’t last nowadays. And if I was to put in my two cents worth on the matter, I would say it’s because majority of us lost track of what people should be looking for in relationships. If for instance, two people get together for financial reasons, it goes without saying that if God-forbid the money runs out, even the relationship goes, ‘bye-bye’.

There’s this one time my sisters and I paid our paternal grams a visit and she was saying, “Nowadays young people are spending too much money on weddings, even taking loans to fund those extravagant events, yet very few of them are lasting for more than five years”.

So what’s the problem really?

I feel many people have turned away from God. Sex is not sacred anymore, in any case it’s been reduced into a currency that the better of us give in exchange for goods and services; people worship money, such that the penurious are treated like pariahs, who don’t have a place in society; and because of this importance we’ve attached to money, people are doing just about anything to get it. We’re practically ignoring all that’s right because as most ask, “How far will being good get you?”

In my humble opinion, we should go back to God. Seek His guidance in all that we do, and He will never fail us. Regarding the question my friend asked me about knowing when you’ve found the right partner, I told him to pray. That sounds cliché I know, but it’s something I learned from experience.

See there’s this guy I was so into; I even told my mom about him because I was almost sure he was the one I would be spending forever with. He proposed informally and that put me in that place where I knew the decision I would make would be one of the most important ones I’d be making in my life. So I embarked on praying, asking God to help me make the right choice.

It’s been a few years since then and given that I’m still single, it obviously means I said no. In the course of the brief relationship we had, I found out a few things, which if I had found out later, we would have divorced. Point is, praying feels a bit overrated, especially for those who haven’t established that personal connection with God, but it actually works.

However, there’s one thing I believe; for as long as the sun shines and the earth rotates in its axis, we’ll always need God; whether we realize it or not. And like my friend asked me, “How do you know you’re making the right choice?”

My answer was, “God will grant you that discernment, to know what is right or wrong. The conviction will be so strong and everything around you will point towards the right thing/person. You will know it.”

Therefore, as we prepare our hearts to welcome the new-born Christ in our hearts, and as we assess the decisions we’ve been making since the year began, it’s imperative that we seek God’s guidance in all we do, and trust me; God never fails those who rely on Him.

“Teach me your ways, O Lord;

Make them known to me.

Teach me to live according to your truth,

for you are my God, who saves me.

I always trust in you. (Psalms 25: 4-5).

What would you ask for?

ask and you shall receive

If God appeared to you today and told you He would grant you your heart’s desires; whatever you wished for, what would you ask for?

Would you ask Him to punish your foes, or would you ask Him to grant you power and wealth? Would your wish serve only you or others?

The following story from the Bible tells us of a great man, who had an encounter with God and no; he didn’t ask God to grant him some personal desires; he asked for something greater; something that had the Lord so impressed that instead of granting him what he asked for, He rewarded him with more.

“What would you like me to give you?” The Lord asked him.

Solomon answered, “You always showed great love for my father David, your servant, and he was good, loyal and honest in his relations with you. And you have continued to show him your great and constant love by giving him a son, who today rules in his place.

O Lord God, you have let me succeed my father as king, even though I am very young and don’t know how to rule. Here I am among the people you have chosen to be your own, a people who are so many that they cannot be counted.

So give me the wisdom I need to rule your people with justice and to know the difference between good and evil. Otherwise, how would I ever be able to rule this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this, and so He said to him, “Because you asked for the wisdom to rule justly, instead of a long life for yourself or riches or the death of your enemies, I will do what you have asked.

I will give you more wisdom and understanding than anyone has ever had before or will ever have again. I will also give you what you have not asked for; all your life you will have wealth and honour, more than that of any other king.

And if you obey me and keep my laws and commands, as your father David did, I will give you a long life.” (1 kings3:5-14).

King Solomon asked God for wisdom. What would you ask for? When we ask God for something, sometimes He denies us that which we ask for, when He feels our desires are selfish. This story made me reflect on the things I pray for; most of my prayers are about my success; my well-being; and I believe it is so with most of us.

Currently there are so many wrong things happening globally: the war between Israel and Gaza, the Ebola outbreak that has claimed so many lives in some African nations; the Malaysian airlines flight MH370 that is still missing (I hate to imagine what families and loved ones of that plane’s passengers and crew are going through)… The list is endless. One needn’t look far to find something that needs God’s intervention.

How many of us would remember to ask God to intervene in these situations? Sometimes when I pray, especially when I have some really pressing matters, I get this weird feeling that if I prayed for so many people/things, my personal needs might get overshadowed so God might overlook them and answer the others.

That’s a wrong mentality.

If Solomon’s story is anything to go by, God loves it when one can put aside their personal petitions and pray for others. In doing so, one doesn’t just help others, but also wins God’s favour. I’m imagining how happy He would be if one replied, “I would love to know you more Lord; to see things the way you want me to,” or “help me love my enemies.”

How pleased, He would be.

God, as I said in a previous post, doesn’t make dramatic appearances like He used to in the past. That, however, doesn’t mean He doesn’t visit us. He is an omnipresent God, so He is ever present with us. When we pray, let’s remember the homeless; those going through various forms of abuse and haven’t found a way out.

kidnapped nigerian school girls

Let’s also remember the Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by the insurgent group Boko Haram; and for their families, who must be going through hell; and for the two hundred and ninety eight members aboard the Malaysian jetliner MH17 who all perished when the plane was shot down; and those on the Algerian plane who also died. It must be really hard on their families.

There are so many people who need our intercession. Even in the midst of our personal tribulations, we should remember others, and in return, God will bless us abundantly.

Of football and prayers

world cup- USA vs Portugal

It is the season of football. I’m not really a football fanatic, but lately I seem to be lagging behind in my tasks, reason being; the World Cup. I’m still having a hard time believing that I am actually loving the World Cup. A few weeks ago I would have laughed had anyone told me I would be sacrificing things like movies and soaps to watch football. I think I should take a hard look in the mirror and confirm I’m still the same self-proclaimed soap-a-holic.

Before the world cup kicked off, it had been a while since I sat down to watch a match. The last time I watched the Brazil’s national team in action, Ronaldinho was wearing jersey no. 10 and his team mates Kaka and Ronaldo were still the players to look out for. The other day I saw Neymar Jr., the young Brazilian sensation, in Ronaldinho’s old jersey no. Things did change when I was ‘away’.

After watching the match between Portugal and USA, where the match ended in a 2-2 draw, I couldn’t believe Portugal’s luck. They had scored their second goal in the last thirty seconds of extra time. It was a crucial goal for them because if they lost to USA they would have been the next team packing up to catch the next flight out of Brazil, together with Cameroon, England and Spain-the defending champions.

I couldn’t help but notice Cristiano Ronaldo’s unease as the final minutes ticked away, and the score line was still 2-1, after USA scored their second goal about nine minutes to full time. As I watched the seconds quickly passing, with ninety seconds left before the final whistle was blown, I just told mom, “At this point it is only a miracle that can save Cristiano and his team.”

Seconds later, the commentator was shouting, in the invigorated ‘it’s a gooooaaaaaal’ tone. Portugal had just scored their second goal, equalizing the score. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was just unbelievable! In seconds, an incredible cross from Cristiano, the captain of the team, gave them a lifeline, denying the US team a straight victory, which would have seen them go through to the knock out stage; in the last 16.

The two teams as it is, are in a tough group with the other two teams being Germany and Ghana. After the match ended, as I was listening to football analysts, one of them was saying the single point Portugal had gained after the draw wouldn’t help the team. Their next match will be with Ghana, another strong team and that would mean the Portuguese might still end up getting eliminated in the group stage.

“In their next game,” the analyst said, “only their skills will save them. What they do on the field is what will determine if they continue to the next level or not. Not even prayers will save them.”

I couldn’t believe it. Not even prayers will save them? I wondered. In my opinion the last goal had been a miracle. Thankfully, another analyst gave him his two cents worth on the matter. “If my grandma heard you say that, she would totally beg to differ. Prayers would totally help.”

The first analyst reminded me of a teacher in high school. He was a Christian, but if he saw someone praying when he was giving out test papers, he would light-heartedly say, “If you haven’t been revising, don’t bother praying.” And I always found fault in that statement.

I always tried to get the logic behind that statement. Faith without action is dead. One can’t fail to read and still expect to pass. Just like Cristiano and his Portuguese compatriots; if they don’t play exceptionally there is no way they are going to win. Still, who is to say the Portuguese hadn’t been practising enough?

prayer can make the impossible possible

They may have lost their first match to Germany, after being thrashed 4-0, still, who is to say prayers won’t help them in their next match against Ghana’s black stars.

There is power in prayer. Prayer changes things. Sometimes I get the feeling God answers the prayers of non-believers faster than He does with believers, in the hope of convincing them that He listens when they call Him.

God listens; whether one believes in Him or not, the minute one chooses to call on Him, He listens. He may take longer to answer, but He does eventually. It is true, that one must back their prayers with actions; still there shouldn’t come a time when one feels prayers won’t help. Prayers always help. It’s not our place to judge if God will listen or not. His thoughts are not ours.

If you’re in need of something, pray for it. Let God decide if He will grant you that desire or not. Don’t limit Him.

Fifteenth station: Jesus is risen from the dead

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

My Jesus, I repent of the sin of hopelessness. I beg Your pardon for many of the times I fell into depression for small setbacks and tragedies in my life. My Jesus, let me never feel rejected or defeated as You are risen and alive. I put my complete trust in You O Most Holy Risen Lord Jesus. I worship You and I bow down before You. All glory be to You O Risen Lord Jesus Christ, forever and ever.

Closing Prayer

My Jesus, I have travelled Your Way of the Cross. It seems so real and I feel so ashamed. I complain of my sufferings and find obedience to The Father’s Will difficult. My mind bogged down by the poverty, sickness, starvation, greed and hatred in the world.

There are many people who suffer so unjustly. There are those born with physical and mental defects. Do we understand that You continue to carry Your Cross in the minds and bodies of each human being?

Help me to see The Father’s Will in every incident of my daily life. This is what You did-You saw The Father’s Will in Your persecutors, Your enemies and Your pain. You saw a beauty in the Cross and embraced it as desired treasure. My worldly mind is dulled by injustice and suffering and I lose sight of the glory that is to come.

Help me to trust The Father and to realize that there is something great behind the most insignificant suffering. There is Someone lifting my cross to fit my shoulders; there is Divine wisdom in all the petty annoyances that irk my soul everyday.

Teach me the lessons contained in my cross, the wisdom of its necessity, the beauty of its variety and the fortitude that accompanies even the smallest cross. Mary my Mother, obtain for me the grace to be Jesus to my neighbour and to see my neighbour in Jesus.

Amen.

 

These Way of the Cross prayers are courtesy of the Vincentian Congregation, whose aims are to preach to the non-Christians so that they may be brought to the Christian faith and to preach to the Christians, to help them grow in faith.

 

Fourteenth station: Jesus is laid in the sepulchre

Fourteenth station-Jesus is laid in the sepulchreReflections

My Jesus, you were laid to rest in a stranger’s tomb. You were born with nothing of this world’s goods and You died detached from everything. When You came into the world, men slept and angels sang and now You leave it, creation is silent and only a few weep.

Both events were clothed in obscurity.

The majority of men live in such a way. Most of us live and die knowing and known only by a few. Were You trying to tell us, dear Jesus, how very important our lives are just because we are accomplishing The Father’s Will?

Will we ever learn the lesson of humility that makes us content with who we are and what we are? Will our faith ever be strong enough to see power in weakness and good in the sufferings of our lives? Will our hope be trusting enough to rely on Your providence even when we have nowhere to lay our head? Will our love ever be strong enough not to take scandal in the Cross?

Prayer

My Jesus, hide my soul in Your heart as You lie in the sepulchre alone. Let my heart be as a fire to keep You warm. Let my desire to know and love you be like a torch to light up the darkness. Let my soul sing softly a hymn of repentant love as the hours pass and Your resurrection is at hand. Let me rejoice, dear Jesus, with all the Angels in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for so great a love, so great a God, so great a day!