Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Waiting patiently for my ‘Lamborghini’…

It takes one tonnes and tonnes of strength for their faith, and willpower not to be swayed easily by difficult situations… and I’m speaking from experience. I think on average, the state of affairs in my life is one that is almost-always depressing. It has become a habit for me to talk myself out of stressful thoughts that by now would have had me falling into an abyss of clinical depression.

Occasionally, on days when I’m just trying to be honest with myself (my faith in God aside), I’ll internally admit that this life is hard; really, really hard. However, since my mom and two sisters are more pessimistic than they are optimistic, I try to remain positive for their sake at least, so that when worry sets in, we won’t all drown in it.

Comfortingly, even with all our seemingly incessant problems, God has showed me that He really listens when I call; so I’ve learned not to rush Him. He does take His time sometimes but when He ‘arrives’, He does it in style; so the wait is always worth it. That thought is what keeps me motivated. I kinda equate this feeling to when a teenager requests his parents to buy him a car on his 16th birthday. He waits anxiously, only to be disappointed when he receives some relatively cheap gift instead.

His 17th birthday comes and goes, and there’s no car still. So he gets very desperate and reminds his parents that all he wanted was ‘just a car’. Something he can drive to college in… He gets more frustrated because he’s wondering how come his parents haven’t noticed all the kids his age already own cars…

When he realizes the car might not be coming from his parents ever, he even stops asking for it; and it even gets more exasperating when his parents fail to offer any explanations for not granting the request. On his 18th birthday however, something totally amazing happens…

Naturally, because of the crashed expectations over the months, he’s not even eager to get out of bed because he already realized the car he really wanted would be purchased with his own hard-earned cash in the future; furthermore, his friends and neighbours already teased him for not being able to afford a car, and the ‘joke’ got so old that they found something else to laugh about.

When he finally gets out of bed sulking and generally unexcited about turning a year older, he makes his way to the dining to have breakfast with the rest of the family. At that point, he’s feeling so lethargic that nothing, in his imagination, would be grand enough to wipe the gloom away.

Surprisingly, when he’s pulling up a seat, something odd occurs to him. It’s already bad enough that he never got his car, which from his own estimation, his parents could have afforded if they willed it; now on his 18th birthday, no one even seems to remember it’s his special day. At the table, everyone’s demeanour bespeaks of another humdrum day in the family’s life.

Even the younger siblings who are always regarding him with so much adoration barely recognise his presence. Things just got worse in a span of two years, he thinks; from relatively cheap gifts to no gifts at all. Suddenly the gift voucher given to him a few birthdays ago feels like an awesome gift.

However, when they are about to pray for breakfast, the mother announces that she was unable to have breakfast ready on time and she has a meeting so everyone will have to fix their own breakfast. At that point, the teenager wants to punch something… even getting breakfast on his birthday is now a problem. Infuriated, he pushes his seat back and when he’s about to exit the room, his dad calls out, “Hey, you forgot something”.

Internally, he feels like a volcano that’s just about to erupt. Nonetheless, looking over his back, he asks calmly, “What?” He masks his disappointment behind a half smile.

His dad only holds out the key in his hand, and the teenager kinda looks confused momentarily. He can see that is definitely a car key, but he’s wondering if that’s a hint for him to rush to the store to get a few ingredients for breakfast. Then to his surprise, the entire family says cheerfully, “Happy Birthday!” And suddenly, as realization dawns on him, he walks towards the dad and takes the car key.

“You didn’t think we forgot your birthday, did you?” The mom asks, smiling because she already noticed her son had thought they did. When he rushes outside, he can hardly believe his eyes. He only asked for ‘just a car’, but parked outside, is a sleek Lamborghini, and it’s all his. He even feels guilty for getting mad at his parents for not buying him a car.

“We didn’t want to get you just a car,” the dad says. “You are our son and we love you so much, so we wanted to get you a quality car. And we knew this is what you’ve always wanted, even though you never asked for it expressly.”

“I thought you didn’t think I was ready to have my own car”, he confesses, awash with guilt.

“We couldn’t afford it at first so we realised we would have to save up some more for it,” the mom offers. And it all suddenly makes sense to him. When the air has been cleared about delayed gifts, the mom tells them she made a breakfast reservation in a five-star hotel. The day that had seemed so dull takes a 180-degrees turn and everything feels like a scene from a fantasy movie.

That is how I see the relationship we have with God. He might take long to answer but when He does, He ‘arrives in style’. So unlike the impatient teenager, we need to wait patiently… and to trust God.

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Dimming Star

I don’t know about you, but I love watching the sky on a starry night. The beauty of the star-lit night sky is just breath-taking. When I was younger, I used to spend time trying to identify the different constellations. I was so fascinated by them. Even nowadays, when I’m outside alone at night or in some company, I’ll just find myself gazing idly at the sky trying to make out some patterns. Guess some old habits never die.

Though my knowledge in astronomy is very limited, I do know that at some point stars die; beautiful as they are. I won’t go into details of that because even I do not quite comprehend how that happens.

So now that we’ve already established I’m not well versed with matters astronomy, I’ll just use figurative examples of situations we can relate to… in the bible, there’s that story of the Magi (commonly known as the wise men) and how they saw a bright star shining in the east. They followed it and it led them to where the new born Christ child lay in a manger, where they presented him with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Christmas star

In our day-to-day lives, we see stars too; they could be people, or bright opportunities which lead us to greener pastures. However, sometimes those stars also die at some point. My priest in church gave the example of a glass of wine… funny as that may sound, this may be a star that guides many people. Maybe one’s stressed and they just need to calm down so they pour a glass of wine, sip it away and the anxiety disappears.

Nonetheless, due to repeated use, the glass of wine becomes two bottles of beer and before one knows it, they’ve graduated to full-fledged alcoholics, who might even be abusive to those they live with. At that point, it becomes evidently clear that the once beautiful star died, as it stopped playing the role it was initially intended for.

Furthermore, the star could be a special person in our lives. When we’re with them we feel inspired to be our best possible selves. However, that relationship turns toxic and everything starts going downhill… we hurt those around us, constantly hurling invectives at them as a sort of venting mechanism.

We’re encouraged to exercise our better judgement and let those dead stars go once we realise they are turning toxic. Additionally, we should aspire to be stars to other people and resist the urge to be Herods (Biblical villain). Instead of following the star, which guided the Magi, for good reasons, jealousy made the incumbent king at the time want to kill the new born prince of peace. Fear of being dethroned made him ask the wise men to bring him information of the child’s whereabouts once they found Him, so he could have him killed

Now that this New Year is as young as it could get, we need to make an evaluation of what it is we need to let go of while it’s still early, so we don’t have regrets at the end of the year God willing. The Magi followed a star which led to them to Christ, the eternal light of the world. If we are not sure what star to follow, then that’s the one we need to focus our gaze on too; because that’s the one star we’re assured will never dim or die. It will always burn bright and illuminate our lives.

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas! How cool is that? I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s this very beautiful feeling about Christmas that spices up the general aura; everything feels better. I guess this is what is commonly referred to as the Christmas Spirit. To my family and I, This Christmas isn’t like last year in so many ways, and this is one of the primary reasons I’m profoundly telling God thank you.

Unlike last year when we put up the Christmas decorations on a day like today (Christmas Eve) and almost missed Christmas because everyone in the house was held up, this year we put them up relatively early; at the start of the month. It’s been awesome really. Furthermore, some cousins from the countryside visited so we have a full house; and you know what they say, “the more the merrier’.

Even nature conspired to make this Christmas a success; Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, so for those who like attending the Christmas vigil mass, they will attend two masses today: the normal morning mass, which marks the last Sunday of Advent; and the evening mass, which marks the birth of Christ.

Christmas signifies different things to people. Some value it as a religious feast, where the world celebrates the greatest gift of God to mankind; His only begotten child. To others it’s about the gifts and the celebrations; spending the holiday with loved ones… For whatever reason we cherish Christmas, it’s imperative that we spread the Christmas cheer, and we don’t need to reach out to people who are so far from us. It could even be to those around us; whether friends or foes.

Depending on one’s age, one may have celebrated a couple of Christmases so far. Question is, what’s been different with those Christmases? Have you met anyone, or encountered a situation which made a particular Christmas feel exceptionally good? This Christmas we have a chance to make someone else’s holidays good. We’re therefore called to remember those who are needy at this time.

Now that we’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow, the implication is that the year is drawing to a close. 2017 is almost over. It’s that time of the year when we evaluate the New Year resolutions we fulfilled, and the ones we didn’t. It’s also that time of the year when we make new resolutions for the new year.

As we evaluate the progress we’ve made this year, we shouldn’t get discouraged if there were set goals we didn’t achieve. All we need to always remember is that God makes all things possible. Every new day, is another opportunity He presents to us to make good on those plans, so we shouldn’t get discouraged.

Furthermore, we need to remember that though we may have dreams, God has plans for us and those plans will override our own desires. When David wanted to build a temple for God, he didn’t realise that dream because God’s plan was for his son Solomon to do it instead.

In addition to that, when the Virgin Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, she was betrothed to Joseph. They were both afraid of the Immaculate Conception for various reasons: Joseph was reluctant to marry a woman who was pregnant by ‘another man’, and Mary was afraid she would be stoned to death for ‘adultery’, which at the time was like a capital offence.

They were both afraid, and things were not going according to how they had planned but they trusted in God. That’s what we need to do; trust in Him. We need to give Him space to work in our lives; and if Mary’s story is anything to go by, He will make it worth our while. Thousands of years later, we still celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary, because Her Son Jesus Christ is the reason for this season!

So as we do our countdown to the commemoration of the birth of Christ, we need to remember that His birth is a symbol of hope. Therefore, we need to cross over to the New Year with tonnes and tonnes of hope, because God is in control. Bottom line is, whatever you do, keep believing…

May the new born Christ fill your hearts with unending joy… I wish you all the merriest of Christmases, and a Happy and prosperous Year 2018!

Happy holidays!

 

Of birthdays and milestones: Part 2

Where I’m at now, it feels like the sky is not the limit anymore…sad as that may sound… As it is, I’m all grown up so my dreams do not begin with, “When I grow up…” Nowadays, most of them start with, “God willing, when I get money…” In addition to that, even as I dream, I’ve slowly learned that not all dreams are viable; so again, unlike when I was a child, I try to be a bit pragmatic when I’m setting my own goals.

Now as I turn a year older, every birthday becomes a point of reflection, where I analyse the milestones I’ve made so far, and the dreams, which like my childhood sweetheart, have fallen by the way side. Anxiety sets in, when I feel like I’m growing older and I haven’t gotten where I want to be yet.

One interesting thing I’m starting to note about matters age is that where someone has achieved so many things… climbed great heights and all, they’re mostly termed, ‘young’. However, where one hasn’t achieved much, society perceives them as ‘old’. For instance, where one becomes a company’s CEO, say at 26, society views them as very young. On the other hand, where a person of the same age is working but hasn’t moved out of their parents’ house, they’re said to be ‘too old’.

The long and short of this is that, once a person leaves high school, everything they do will in one way or another be weighed on the ‘too old for…’ or ‘too young for…’ scale by society. And that’s just how it is, in my humble opinion.

Some of the very depressing movies I’ve watched in relation to age are ‘Ass Backwards’ and ‘Lifeguard’, starring Kristen Bell. For a young person growing up, these movies remind one that dreams might just be that, dreams! But God-forbid!

Looking back at the far I’ve come, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I could move back the hands of time… and this is not to mean that I have achieved everything I would have wanted so far. It’s just because, most things in my past were shaped by people who at the time wielded authority over me, say my parents… so it wasn’t about me making choices.

However, if I met my younger self, I would tell her not to worry too much because God’s always in control; and when you give Him time and room to work, He’ll take you, right where you need to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a very long time, and this is the one part of me I would wish was different. Nonetheless, I believe God doesn’t err. He made me this way for a reason.

For all the experiences that have caused me so much pain and anguish, I celebrate them. Because as they say, ‘We can’t have a rainbow without a little rain’… So as I turn a year older, I’ll continue to dream, because one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that God answers prayers. Furthermore, when you seek His guidance, He’ll align your will with His, so all dreams will be like great visions of what is to come.

Power of forgiveness

Joel Osteen, in one of his sermons, gave an illustration of how our flawed humanity makes us try to avenge ourselves, though we all desire to be forgiven when we falter. He talked about a woman who had died and gone to heaven. When she got to the golden gates, St. Peter asked her to spell a word so she could get in.

“What word?” She asked.

“Any word you choose”, Peter replied.

“LOVE,” the woman said, before going ahead to spell. “L.O.V.E.”

With that, St. Peter opened the gates and allowed her to get in. Needless to say, she was beside herself with joy. She’d made it to heaven. Moments later, he asked her to stand in for him for only a short while. Dutifully, she agreed.

While the woman was manning the golden gates, her ex approached her. “What happened?” She asked.

“I had a heart attack”. He answered. “So, I’m I in heaven already?”

Begrudgingly, she said, “Not yet. First you have to spell a word.” She went on to give him a very hard word to spell, just so he she could deny him the chance to get to heaven. If we had that chance to condemn people to eternal damnation, how many of our foes would we sentence to hades?

Biblically, that illustration resonates with the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18: 21-35. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times should I forgive him? Seven times?”

Jesus answered him, “No, not seven… but, seventy times seven. Because the kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. He had just began to do so when one of them who owed him millions of dollars was brought in. The servant didn’t have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave with his wife and children, and all that he had in order to pay his debt.

The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay you everything!” The king felt sorry for him and he forgave him all his debt and let him go. The man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me’, he said.

His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back’. But he refused; instead he had him thrown in jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ He said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you’. The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

In reality, most of the time we act like the unforgiving servant; we desire to be forgiven, but are so reluctant to forgive those who wrong us. It is that behaviour that our Lord condemns. When He taught his disciples how to say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), He still emphasised on that ‘thorny’ aspect of forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

Furthermore, in Matthew 6: 14-15 He says, “If you forgive others, the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.

In roughly four weeks, we’ll be celebrating Christmas and a week after that, we’ll be ushering in a new year. November is almost ending and that means this year is pretty much over. Many things have happened; we’ve been wronged by people, and we’ve also wronged others. As this year draws to a close, it is imperative that we start mending fences…

We need to make peace with those who have stepped on our toes, or with those whose toes we’ve stepped on. I doubt anyone would want any differences they might have had with others to spill over to next year. Personally, I don’t… Let’s forgive… Every time I’m watching news I see so many atrocious things happening across the globe.

One party strikes, and the other retaliates in an attempt to avenge itself… the effect of this is loss of innocent lives and the destruction of property. Earlier this year, I was watching the news where President Trump proposed the reintroduction of waterboarding –an outlawed torture tactic of interrogation- as a form of countering terrorism. He said that with respect to terrorism, he would fight fire with fire.

In my very humble opinion, fire can’t put out fire. And you know how that saying goes, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Unfortunately, in most cases, this is the approach we use to deal with those who offend us. We come out guns blazing so at the end of the day we leave things worse than they were.

From my experience, forgiving is very difficult, especially if there was searing pain occasioned by the transgression. However, Jesus is calling on us to forgive… it is not easy, but it is the right thing to do… and right now, what the world needs is tonnes and tonnes of forgiveness, as this will create room for peace, love and unity to thrive. What we need to remember is that love heals… and there can be no love, without forgiveness.

These jars that we are…

Ever been in a situation where you’re travelling, you’re done packing…or at least you think you have, and then you realise there are a few precious items you forgot and there’s no more space left? Normally, the first instinct is to try figure what’s not so important, so that it (they) can be taken out to create space for the more important things.

Essentially, that’s how we human beings are fashioned. We’re like jars; and as is common with jars, they do fill up at some point. So the million dollar question is, what’s your jar filled up with? Are they things which under normal circumstances you would want to get rid of? Personally I know there are so many things I would want to get rid of.

A couple of days ago I got a chance to listen to one of Joel Osteen’s enlightening sermons. It was edifying, Joel likened human beings to jars. He said that if one’s jar is filled with guilt, self-pity, anger…etc. there will be no room for good things like peace, love, confidence…

Every once in a while when I’m talking to my sisters, I’ll remind them that if one’s worrying too much about something it diminishes one’s faith, because one can’t believe in God and be afraid at the same time. That’s the same thing Joel said; if one’s jar is filled with anxiety, that takes up the space for peace and serenity. If one allows their inner voice to convince them they’re always making the wrong choices, then that takes up the space for confidence.

If we want to receive God’s blessings, then we must create space. So, like that suitcase we need to empty out to make space for a few valuables we left out, we need to empty our jars to make room for the good things God needs to fill us up with.

Empty out the anxiety, the anger; empty out that self-pity, that self-loathing; let go off of the remorse that has been burdening you…for all those things happening in your life that you don’t understand, let go off the thousands of questions which have been tormenting you; and God, who’s got everything in control will fill you with peace that surpasses all understanding.

It’s only by so doing, that we’re going to receive God’s blessings in our lives. Life’s too short to dwell on the negatives, and much as we may all agree unanimously that being happy is an uphill task, emptying out all the negatives will create room for joy and cheer.

Joel Osteen made me think of something I’ve never thought of before. In a hypothetical setting, Mary the mother of Jesus, bumps into another woman in heaven; the mother of Judas Iscariot. If you were Mary, how would you deal with her, taking into consideration the painful and humiliating death her innocent son was subjected to, thanks to Judas’ betrayal?

Most of us usually strive to get over the painful moments we’ve gone through in life. That might be a very high bar that will likely put us under so much pressure. Truth is, we might never get past the pain and the hurt, but we should endeavour to get past it; and gradually we’ll get to a point where that pain doesn’t feel like an earth-shattering experience. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the bad things, so that we can create space for the good things.

Like Joel said, we shouldn’t go through life looking through the rear-view mirror. The voice of the enemy will be there, reminding us incessantly of the failures we’ve had in life; the wrong choices we’ve made…but that’s the past. If we hold on too tightly to it, we won’t have space in our hands to receive the immeasurable blessings God showers upon us.

So when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future; he ain’t got one, because God’s got it all in control.

Forgiving is relatively easy…

Forgive and forget; that’s what we’re usually advised to do when we’ve fallen out with someone, right? Well here’s my unsolicited verdict: forgiving is relatively easy. Forgetting? Not so much. I can remember numerous instances from close to two decades ago where I got into a heated altercation with someone, exchanged a few blows here and there (as a child I had violent tendencies)… Point is, I forgave and forgot, moved on even, but I still remember what went down then.

So that makes me wonder, does it mean I don’t abide by the general rule? To forgive and forget? My priest in church sought to shed some light on the confusing issue. Basically, we forgive but in most cases we don’t forget. As human beings we’re programmed to remember things, unlike fish for instance, which can only remember things for an estimated five months.

What happens is, we don’t forget; at least not that much. What matters is how we relate with people who’ve offended us and who we purport to have forgiven. If we’re unable to talk with them, then that means we haven’t forgiven them yet. If we keep bringing up the same issue every time we disagree on something, then that means we’re still holding a grudge against them.

Simply put, when one has forgiven another for something wrong they did, that particular issue becomes a closed file. If ever it comes up in future discussions, it shouldn’t be an emotive matter that makes the concerned parties seem like ticking time bombs waiting to go off.

From my own understanding, it’s the intention to consider that person forgiven that matters. For instance, a guy cheats on his girlfriend with her best friend. The way I see it, in such situations, it takes utmost strength for the lady to forgive the promiscuous boyfriend (or vice versa) and the perfidious friend. But as we know it, some actually forgive. It’s almost impossible to forget the pain, but as the old adage goes, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.

In reality, it would be impossible for someone who’s been hurt that much to forget the pain they felt. In this case, forgetting would be for one not to act on that pain and the anger. It’s not an easy thing, but that’s the best thing if one wants to have a healthy future; one that’s not marred by grudges.