Peace in Turbulent Times

How do we move past the deep wounds of our turbulent times?

How does one deal with sometimes multiple hurts and misfortunes, that accentuate the unfairness of life and circumstances?

How does a mother or father, a sister or brother, a son or daughter find it somewhere in the heart, the mind, the soul, to get to a point of peace after one or more grievances?

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When you have been dealt with the murder of a loved one, or the ravaging of your personal belongings or person by attackers and if at the same time, you lose your job or have other financial or health challenges, it becomes difficult to believe in the concept of peace and hope.

I have had to deal with multiple losses after a difficult time in my own life. My challenges were not greater or lesser than anybody else’s. They were my unique combination of trials, designed to shape or re-shape my thinking, my approach to life and my destiny.

It can be easy to lose your way and to stay forever lost. To miss out on the blessings and joys that are further along in your journey because you become stuck in the mire of hurt, pain and a lack of forgiveness.

The truth is that for a while remaining in that dark, messy and confusing place filled with anger and frustration is sometimes the best thing to do…providing that doing so supplies the fuel that is needed to create the driving force to pull yourself out of the downward force of negativity.

If you can come to the point of becoming an alchemist of sorts, turning the negative into shining positivity, then you would have found a peace and hope that becomes a beacon for others who have yet to meet their customised difficulties.

Of course bear in mind that good and bad circumstances in life are juxtaposed for greater appreciation of one over the other. This simply means always be alert that life can bring unexpected good or bad.

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So currently in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago, there seems to be a negative cloud of darkness overtaking our people. It seems that there can be no hope. It seems that at every turn there is violence, hatred, racialism, killing and destruction. Peace, love and forgiveness have become difficult concepts to grasp.

How can you tell a mother whose only son is brutally murdered that peace will come? How does she relate to forgiving the beasts in human form that committed that criminal act, forever changing the landscape of her life?

You don’t. At least not now. Not right away. She needs time to process. Time to digest and time to come to some form of understanding. The rest of us need to give her the gift of time to come to terms with what has happened. That time can only be determined by her but we will know when she is ready. She will let us know.

In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to become like the very beasts we wish had never existed. What in their own lives must have molded them into the creatures of destruction that have manifested?

Martin Luther King Jr. and others have postulated that violence breeds violence. True words that are easy to overlook when faced with the harsh realities of murder, rape, kidnapping and other criminal acts.

But we are embarking on an even darker journey if we give in to our base desires for revenge. Violence by “peaceful” men only sends the wrong message to impressionable minds. We must find a peace through doing good not through destroying others, good or bad.

I am not suggesting that you forget the bad but that a way is found to propagate good in the face of evil. Will you stop planting roses or peas because the field is currently overgrown with weeds?

Or will you try to plant the roses or peas in an effort to replace the weeds with the crop?

Maybe not the best comparison but the idea is that peace and goodwill must not be abandoned in the face of seemingly unending negativity.

This morning let us reaffirm our faith in a greater good. Let us pray for a spirit of peace to overcome us all in spite of all the darkness surrounding us.

As we do this, reach out to others in peace and love.

Five ways that we can maintain equilibrium in devastating circumstances:

  1. Allow yourself to experience any feeling to its fullest. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way, at your own time.
  2. Live by the moment. Experience each moment for what it is or what it brings.
  3. Grow into acceptance of what has happened. Not an easy task but a realistic one.
  4. Slowly in your time, reset goals and action plans, short term initially until you get to the point of being able to think in longer time frames.
  5. Get enough rest, nutrition, exercise and hydration. Do not neglect your physical needs. You need to be strong physically so that your body does not collapse inwardly under stress.

Focusing on these five objectives helps to deflect thoughts onto positive pathways, bringing peace where there was only strife, frustration and hurt previously.

Let me know how you dealt with your particular situation or share with me the pain you may be undergoing that seems insurmountable. Someone else may be able to throw the lifeline you need to stay afloat until you can devote and self promote once again.

Yours in faith, peace and education, my friend.

Relationship Tape

What a wonderful metaphor I encountered innocently last week!

One of my students claims that she is very clumsy. This I learnt as I observed that her 12 inch (30cm) ruler was broken and repaired with…scotch tape and her spectacles handles were taped to the frame as they had broken off sometime ago.

As we joked about her clumsiness, a thought hit me. Many things can be broken and repaired simply by applying tape or glue. I myself had broken my cell phone once and repaired it with tape. Many torn pages were held precariously together with tape or staples.

If only it were so simple to mend broken relationships!

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However relationships are formed between living, breathing, emotional beings. We grow into relationships, daily doing things to earn trust, to build rapport, to show support and to demonstrate our love for another human being or for that matter an animal, a pet.

The human ego , the psyche, is extremely fragile. Some more than others. It takes time to forge bonds. They are tested time and time again. And sadly in an instant of volatility, one mistake, one harsh word, one misunderstood emotion or one misstep can cause those carefully crafted to bonds to snap!

Perhaps it is a good thing that this type of breakage is difficult to repair. Had it been easier then less effort and time would be spent on trying to build rather than break down bonds.

What if there was some sort of relationship tape or staple or glue that  could be used to mend a broken relationship or heal a hurting heart?

After we laughed about this direction that our conversation had shifted into, it became clear that there is a way.

Of course nothing worthwhile comes without a lot of hard work. So this “relationship tape” comes through the practices of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

Each one of those is a huge mouthful for anyone. In today’s technologically advanced world, people have become worshipers of the Universe. Alternatively they claim to be atheists or highly open minded so that anything goes. Faith though is integral in any undertaking. We do things not knowing the final outcomes and that in itself is faith.

Spiritual faith gives us a freedom and strength to be able to release perceived or real hurts and helps us to see the good in spite of the bad. It provides for us a foundation of integrity, morals and values that is needed for the development of civility and social consciousness.

Humility, gratitude and forgiveness come with faith. That does not mean it comes easily. We are human and hence imperfect beings. No matter what our religious persuasion or faith may be, practicing these big guns of character definitions is difficult. Difficult not impossible.

By adopting a humble approach, we can see things with new lenses. We can learn to put others before self. Not easy by any standard but with daily practice it becomes more integrated into our behaviours.

Gratitude makes us cast a backward glance and recognize the good that others may have done for us, even the ones who are currently doing something to bring pain. It makes us see the small efforts, not just the large gestures.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult practices. But when we incorporate faith, gratitude and humility into our habits, then forgiveness comes much more easily.

Our “relationship tape” then is formed by the melding together of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

The next time you mend a torn page or stick a broken ornament, remember that relationships can be mended too…with the right “tape”.

 

The Lighthouse

 

Picture this: You are stranded at sea in a boat with a small crew and it is a stormy night. The waves are crashing all around and the night is outstandingly dark. The boat bobs unsteadily along as water sprays and hits you with unbelievable force. Navigation becomes difficult, almost impossible. Then… a brilliant, steady and reassuring light, gradually growing brighter, appears in the distance.

The captain steers in the direction of that lifeline, that glow of safety and comfort. The boat draws closer and closer to the shore. There is a huge crashing wave which almost sweeps the boat under. Almost. The boat is temporarily thrown off course but the captain soon recalculates and gets the boat back on track, a little closer to his destination. This happens over and over until finally he is able to cast anchor. Thank goodness for that beacon guiding him towards the harbor.

Your life’s big dream or goal is like that beacon from the lighthouse. It should remain shining brightly in the distance guiding you closer to its final accomplishment. No matter what life throws your way, no matter what obstacles you have to overcome, you keep your focus on that goal.

Having your life goal clearly defined and written or drawn to concretize it, ensures that it saturates your thoughts. It then directly influences all your actions and decisions. It impacts on your education, your choice of spouse, your house, your children…

The best dreams are infused with passion based on your innate gifts, your talents, your skills, your knowledge and your preferences. My own dream has always been to be a philanthropist. I started taking action many years ago; I started in a small way, working on my own. As time progressed I worked with some enthusiastic persons in a group we formed just for that purpose.

When my life was thrown into turmoil and my circumstances changed, I had to take some time to re- calculate my personal GPS. Having done that, I have readjusted my sight on the guiding light of my dream and am still slowly taking steps to achieve that goal.

All of us need to have a clearly outlined, detailed life plan or big dream as I like to call it. That dream ought to be guided by our unique gifts.  Having such a dream written or drawn so that each day you can look at it, means that even in turbulent times, you will be able to recover and take positive action steps to bring you back onto the course of your dream.

Do you have a tangible life plan or big dream? Are you working toward it consciously or not?

Ode to True Love

My grief and gratitude are best expressed in the following:

Tall, black and beautiful,

Hair resplendent in the sun

Piercing eyes, frisky gait,

I can’t believe that it is now too late.

Once a roaring lion,

Fighting to protect your dominion

Yet with a heart full of love and devotion

I am filled with deepest emotions.

Even in your darkest hours

Moving to ease my insignificant burdens.

Love so unconditional, so true

I wonder how many have had a love like you.

Good bye my dear and trusted friend

You have served and served so well.

As the pain and suffering are put to rest

I rank you among the best.

Love comes not only in human form

But more genuine love comes from a dog.

My four legged beauty, my Girlie oh

I bid you now the final adieu!

girlie

Relying On God

 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Chronicles 16:9

 

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When I first read this piece of scripture, my heart leapt. To my mind, this is a most beautiful passage of scripture that speaks powerfully about the Lord’s commitment to us and reveals the depth of commitment we ought to have to Him.

Today many popular television programmes are talent shows, usually involving singing or dancing. In the seventies in our beloved country, a televised production of a talent show called “Scouting for Talent” was aired. Mr. Holly Betaudier, an esteemed son of our soil and cultural icon was the host of that show.

Mr. Betaudier, fondly referred to as Holly B, developed a hunger for local culture as a child. The springboard for his involvement in media and entertainment came as early as the 1940’s when he began working with the U.S. Armed Forces radio service network, WVDI.

In 1962, our local state media Trinidad and Tobago Television, TTT, was inaugurated. Holly B began his cultural and entertainment odyssey when he joined TTT at that time. During that time the soon to be popular show, “Scouting For Talent” emerged.

Mr. Betaudier was relentless in his quest for local talent. He encouraged singing including originals and  local songs as well as remakes. He welcomed all types of dance and instruments, reflective of our multicultural background. He even accommodated comedians and monologues.

The show was the only avenue for public exposure at that time for our local artistes. In fact many of our local entertainers made debut performances on that show. Holly B sought after excellence. He sought out those who had confidence, talent and commitment. He supported those who were willing to put their talent to the test on his programme.

Incentives abounded for participants, including many giveaways. Actual prizes were given out of course, but there was  the thrill of being televised to a national audience. In those days programming was limited to our only television station at the time, TTT. This translated into the national population having to view that programme during prime time on a Tuesday night. Scouting for Talent was sometimes done in the studio but many times Holly B would take to the road. He did indeed “scout” for talent, searching the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago for worthy talent, eager to reward them for their commitment to excellence and local culture.

The passage in 2 Chronicles evoked images of Holly B to me. Here was a man who searched all over our twin island, seeking people who were also seeking him. He wanted to showcase talent; they wanted to have their talent showcased. What a win-win situation!

We too can be in a win-win situation. The passage tells us of God’s search for people who are believers so that he can give them due support and strength to maintain their faith. Let us look at the passage in greater detail. What was the historical context of the passage?  Who was being addressed? What came after those words? How can we make our hearts perfect to him? What is the promise if we keep perfect to him?

The books of Chronicles were written as narrative histories and genealogies. Both books are supposedly written by the same author, the prophet Ezra. 1 Chronicles deals mainly with Kings David and Solomon but it also traces the background of David’s monarchy from the time of Adam to the reign of King Solomon.

2 Chronicles continues with the history as told from the perspective of Ezra. The first sections of this book deal with King Solomon’s reign and the building of the temple. A history of the kings of Judah follows and the book ends as the temple of Solomon is destroyed.

It is proposed that these chronicles were documented in part to emphasise to the people that destruction is pre-destined for those who disobey but those who maintain their promises and commitments to God will be blessed. This is shown repeatedly by the prospering of the good kings and the suffering of those who fall into sin.

Thus the Chronicles are written to document the religious history of Israel. This was addressed to the Israelites in general so that they could study the practices of the past leaders and recognize what was required for a successful reign. It has been suggested that these two books were written to highlight key elements to the Jews after their exile; these elements were inclusive of giving due glory to God, gratitude for God’s covenant to David and the need to be completely devoted to God in order to remain in his favour.

It has also been postulated that even though it was written for the people at that time, it may be extrapolated to our individual lives and communities today. By careful study of the historical content of the Chronicles it is possible to discern under which kings there was prosperity or defeat. The Chronicles also lend themselves as modules of valuable leadership skills, qualities and actions necessary for the flourishing of a monarchy or people…and naturally, to the elimination of certain behaviours which could prove detrimental.

The chapters preceding 2 Chronicles16 focus attention on King Solomon and the building of the temple along with other duties.  In other preceding chapters we read of the fall of Judah, the splitting of the Kingdoms, North and South divisions, the reign of the Southern Kings, Rehoboam and Abijah. Then we read of the reign of Asa.

Asa’s reign represented a time of prosperity for the people. He was observant of the will of God and of the covenant made to them. He instituted religious reforms and proved worthy of the grace and favour of God. However even he fell from grace.

In his thirty sixth year of reign, his kingdom was under attack. Instead of relying on God for victory, Asa undertook to negotiate on his own behalf. He sent silver and gold from the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple to King Ben-hadad of Aram to break a treaty with King Baasha of Israel, who was attacking Asa’s Kingdom.

Hanani, a seer, visited Asa soon after the attack was withdrawn. He told of God’s displeasure. He recalled that Asa’s successes thus far were due to his faithfulness and submission to God. He told Asa that had he relied on God, God would have given him control of the attacking army, as was done in the past.

This is the point at which the scripture comes into play. Hanani reminds Asa that God seeks to support the faithful and those of integrity. He seeks them out relentlessly, just waiting to grant them overflowing blessings, to grant them victory over their enemies. All God wanted was for Asa to continue in the traditions with which he had started.

Asa would not hear of it and continued to live without repenting. Several years later he contracted a foot disease. He refused to acknowledge the Lord even when thus weakened. He eventually passed away without submitting to God, even though he underwent great suffering.

From this lesson we learn that God wants us to rely completely on him. He wants our intentions and desires to be pure. We are called to live with strength of conviction in his will and to be examples of good character and spirituality for those who will come after us.

If we apply the teachings in these books to future generations of David’s line, we see that the ultimate King in that line is Jesus Christ. All other Kings, regardless of their greatness in their reign, sought to be perfect but only in Christ there is perfection.  That perfection is what our salvation is.

Extension of the principles of Chronicles leads to a comparison between the temple built by Solomon and the Temple of the Spirit. One temple was destroyed after one hundred and fifty years; the other cannot be destroyed for it is the figurative house of those who believe in Christ. The promise for believers is that God is seeking to bring us to him at any cost. He is willing to forgive us and restore us if only we would seek him out fervently and faithfully, with prayer and repentance.

Let us do like those contestants in the Scouting For Talent show; let us seek God as we perfect our actions armed with the knowledge that he too is seeking us out, ready to make us all winners.

Relying on God alone for support

Kneeling every day as I fall short,

Will make me a winner

As God scouts the earth for repentant sinners.

 

God’s words and my actions:

Today I will use every opportunity to be strong in God’s word by:

Relying completely on God and praying and repenting with integrity.

 

Thank you Lord, Amen!

The Choice

“When the clouds have blown away,
The skies, once again, clear and bright,
and the mood around you is light.
You realize you made it through,
Somehow you managed to survive.
Unsure if the darkness is really over,
If soon that too will be a distant memory-
Unsure but certain that now
Out of the red haze,
You are not the same person you were before.
By choice you sink into despair,
By choice you rise: stronger, more determined, better!”

Prayer for Today

Here are the headlines in our three national daily newspapers. This is the stimulus for the prayer today.

    

 

Heavenly Father, the light and life of this world, we rejoice today for this is your day. We give you all praise and thanks for your works in and around us.

Lord we come before you in humility and sorrow. We live like there is no greater tomorrow. Our young people are being killed by the bullet and we seem to have lost all control.

Have mercy upon us O Lord. We know that we have done wrong, are still doing wrong but today dear Father we cast off all attachments to wrongdoing and sin and come before you with repentant hearts.

Help us dear God as a people, to move closer to you. Help our hearts to be filled with love for our fellowman. Help us to find ways to bring this violence and devotion to violence to an end.

Touch the hearts of those who have grown so far from you that they have lost touch with humanity, compassion and respect for life.

Show us a way forward to bring harmony and peace back to our nation and to lead our young people in the way that is right.

These things we ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 

Prayer for Peace

In this post join me in praying for an ease to all the violence, murders, crimes, abuse, hatred and general ill-will making headlines nationally in Trinidad and internationally.

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We come together Dear Lord in your name, as we pray for your Holy Spirit to descend on us. Surround us with your grace, mercy and purity that we may be able to face any situation with equilibrium and calm. We pray that we react to others in love, knowing that love is the antidote for anger, rage and hatred. Let your peace descend upon our nations. Keep us protected as we strive to keep peace in our spheres of influence, through your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ we pray,

Amen.

Add your own prayer , asking specifically for what you need in your community. Please leave us with the blessing of your added request in the comment box below.

Prayer Group

Today I want to start a prayer group. It is a group open to all and for all. I will keep my contributions short and simple. I urge you to join in at anytime, offering prayers for anyone, for any reason. Let us join together to keep faith alive and to offer hope in a time of ever dwindling hope.

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The theme for prayer today is thanks.

Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for the blessing of life. For the smell of fresh air and the sound of the rain as it pours down on the rooftop, I give thanks. For being able to speak, to eat, to see and to hear, dear Lord and for the gift of love to and from others, I praise and thank you Lord.

I am grateful for the gift of family and friends and for all those I do not know. All honour and glory to you Dear Father for your mighty works every minute of every hour of every day, in Jesus Name I pray,

Amen

May the Lord bless and keep you.

You may join and contribute to the prayer group by leaving a comment or your own prayer in the comment box below. Your contribution to the prayer group would be very much appreciated.