inspirational, motivational, peace, relationship, Uncategorized

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!

Image result for relationship tape

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”.

 

inspirational, motivational, relationship, religious, spiritual Journey, Uncategorized

Building Blocks

 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”                                                                                     1 Corinthians 3:10

 

Sunday lunch plate:

Sunday Lunch courtesy Trinichow.com

A traditional Sunday lunch in Trinidad and Tobago consists of rice, beans, stewed chicken or beef, callaloo, macaroni pie, ground provisions and a fresh green salad. This is usually accompanied by a large jug of juice. Having such a wide array of dishes, there is generally enough left over for the next day.

Callaloo is a well-blended hodge podge of ingredients. To the unfamiliar eye it may appear unappealing – a thick, green mush. Once you get past the appearance, it is absolutely delicious and very nutritious. But what really is a callaloo? What does it consist of?

Image found here

The main ingredient is the dasheen bush leaf. The leaves are obtained from the taro plant (Colocasia esculenta) and are best for cooking when young and tender. Some people use the “rolled” leaves :younger leaves which have not yet matured to unfurl in all their glory and splendor. Others use the more mature, open leaves. The leaves may be folded or shredded and the stems are sliced.

To the bush, tender, sliced okra pods are added. The okra produces mucilage when sliced and cooked. This helps to improve the viscosity of the final callaloo. To obtain a thicker product, a greater proportion of okra may be used.

Image found here

Good crab is another staple for a great callaloo. Some cooks use salted meat as an alternative to crab. This is particularly useful to cater for persons with seafood allergies. The best type of crab for callaloo is the “blue crab”, although any type may be used depending on availability and budget.

Image found here

To these three basic ingredients, the flavourings are now added. Chipped pumpkin adds flavor and nutritional value. The taste of the callaloo depends on the right blend of chives, parsley, celery, fine thyme, garlic, onions, hot pepper, pimento peppers, salt and black pepper. There are also some “secret ingredients’ added by various cooks; these are indeed “secret” and personal and are best revealed by individual chefs.

The pot is “set” as we say, by placing the crabs or meat into the pot first, then adding all the seasonings, the pumpkin, okra, a green hot pepper and lastly the dasheen bush stems and leaves. These are covered with water and coconut milk before placing the pot on the lighted stove.

The coconut milk is traditionally obtained by grating dried coconuts and washing the grated flesh with water. The liquid which results after squeezing out the flesh and straining is called the coconut milk. Today, the coconut milk may be added as a powder obtained from the supermarket.

When the mixture has boiled and been allowed to steep for at least thirty minutes, all the flavors become infused and the leaves become soft. At this time it is ready for blending or “swizzling”. Traditionally a swizzle stick was used but now an electric hand held immersion blender could be used for this step. This ensures that the mixture is homogeneous and smooth in appearance and texture.

Image found here

The final result is rich, thick, green and flavorful soup. It is strengthening. It is delicious. Those who are adventurous enough to try this green ‘goo’, in spite of its daunting appearance, are pleasantly surprised by its effect on the senses and tastebuds.

Even though all who make this dish using the same, basic ingredients and follow the general procedure outlined previously, the final sensory outcome may differ. As was mentioned each cook has their personal adjustment to create the best callaloo. Some use crab, others use salted meat and still others make it a vegetarian delight. The blending process may be longer or shorter depending on the cook’s preference for texture. These variations to the method underscore the different tastes of callaloo from different kitchens.

In Corinthians 3:10 we are told: “I have laid the foundation… but let each one take heed how he builds on it.” The basic recipe is set but the alterations made determine the outcome. It is our privilege to have a blueprint for life given to us by Christ. It is our duty to cautiously construct our lives using that blueprint and adding to it, not our personal interpretation but the building blocks made available through God’s Word.

Let us carefully review the foundation upon which we must build our lives and then identify the blocks which are to be placed on that foundation. After the Mosaic Law, came the gospel through Jesus Christ. In the gospel we are told that the two main commands which we must follow are: to love the Lord your God; and to love your neighbor as yourself. These two form the foundation upon which we are to build our lives.

We cannot say that we have faith and approach our heavenly Father in prayer, if we do not have love for our neighbours. Even our enemies deserve our love; our non-judgmental love. We cannot truly love God if we harbor animosity for anyone. The challenge we face in this foundational structure is to be able to love those who are unlovable or difficult for us to love.

So if someone does something to hurt you, you need to love God so much that there is no place in your heart to harbor the effect of that hurt. In other words, in obeying the first command you shield yourself from missives that are designed to make you susceptible to breaking the second command.

Image found here

So our foundation from Christ is love: God’s great love for us which commands us to love Him and to love our neighbours. This love we display must be pure; it is not a fickle love; it is not an intimate love. Rather this love is a mature, inveterate, deep-rooted love for humanity which mirrors God’s love for us, even though its value can never approach the value of God’s love.

What then are our building blocks? According to Phillipians 2:3-4, upon the foundation of love we need to lay humility. This humility must manifest itself in service to others, valuing others above yourself. This must not be advertised or done in a flashy manner. No, it must be done humbly, letting the receiver of your service feel valued and honored.

Service could mean lending a helping hand to someone who is unable to help themselves. For instance an elderly person may be unable to do simple household chores. This ought to be a wonderful opportunity for you to render service with humility; a chance for you to roll up your sleeves. Without fanfare, you can delve into such tasks as clearing a yard, mending a fence, tending to plants, doing groceries, or cooking. It does not matter what task you select; it should not be for personal glory; as long as it helps someone, you undertake that task, clothed in humility.

James 2: 14 -17 provides us with another building block: charity or generosity. Whatever resources you may have, however limited they may seem, take from them and give generously and graciously to those who may be more in need than you. Do this along with the first building block of humility.

Again charity does not need to be announced. There is no need for a megaphone or Facebook post. Give so that your right hand does not even know what your left hand is doing. This block requires some measure of detachment. When you disconnect from the tangible, from material possessions, then giving becomes second nature. It becomes easy to give and deny yourself without being sanctimonious.

Finally Romans 12:14-21 provides the cement to bind the building blocks together. Humility and charity come together in love. A loving response to an unloving gesture can soothe the savage beast. Have you ever noticed how quickly an arrogant and hubristic manner can be undermined by a soft and gentle response?

Image found here

In my lion years, as described in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, A Spiritual Journey, I was the arrogant one who would be tamed by a loving word or deed. This is one lesson I learnt well and increasingly practice. Perhaps one day I will master this lesson! We are usually unaware of the type of turmoil, mental, spiritual, emotional, or some combination of these, which manifests as a physical misdemeanor. This is why it is critical to respond compassionately especially when wronged.

These foundational blocks laid by Christ may seem foreboding. So too our Callaloo appears unappealing. However, just like the dish, the building blocks of humility, charity and love prove to be sensory delights bringing joy and satisfaction to the famished soul.

 

When things of this world no longer have a hold on you;

When neither king nor beggar you shun

When you can give and live and love in peace,

Then you build on God’s foundation.

inspirational, motivational, religious

Blueprint For Life

 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Corinthians 3:10

Trini Callaloo

A traditional Sunday lunch in Trinidad and Tobago consists of rice, beans, stewed chicken or beef, callaloo, macaroni pie, ground provisions and a fresh green salad. This is usually accompanied by a large jug of juice. Having such a wide array of dishes, there is generally enough left over for the next day.

      Callaloo is a well-blended hodge podge of ingredients. To the unfamiliar eye it may appear unappealing – a thick, green mush. Once you get past the appearance, it is absolutely delicious and very nutritious. But what really is a callaloo? Of what does it consist?

      The main ingredient is the dasheen bush leaf. The leaves are obtained from the taro plant (Colocasia esculenta) and are best for cooking when young and tender. Some people use the “rolled” leaves :younger leaves which have not yet matured to unfurl in all their glory and splendor. Others use the more mature, open leaves. The leaves may be folded or shredded and the stems are sliced.

      To the bush, tender, sliced okra pods are added. The okra produces mucilage when sliced and cooked. This helps to improve the viscosity of the final callaloo. To obtain a thicker product, a greater proportion of okra may be used.

      Good crab is another staple for a great callaloo. Some cooks use salted meat as an alternative to crab. This is particularly useful to cater for persons with seafood allergies. The best type of crab for callaloo is the “blue crab”, although any type may be used depending on availability and budget.

To these three basic ingredients, the flavourings are now added. Chipped pumpkin adds flavor and nutritional value. The taste of the callaloo depends on the right blend of chives, parsley, celery, fine thyme, garlic, onions, hot pepper, pimento peppers, salt and black pepper. There are also some “secret ingredients’ added by various cooks; these are indeed “secret” and personal and are best revealed by individual chefs.

   Setting the Pot  

The pot is “set” as we say, by placing the crabs or meat into the pot first, then adding all the seasonings, the pumpkin, okra, a green hot pepper and lastly the dasheen bush stems and leaves. These are covered with water and coconut milk before placing the pot on the lighted stove.

       The coconut milk is traditionally obtained by grating dried coconuts and washing the grated flesh with water. The liquid which results after squeezing out the flesh and straining is called the coconut milk. Today, the coconut milk may be added as a powder obtained from the supermarket.

       When the mixture has boiled and been allowed to steep for at least thirty minutes, all the flavors become infused and the leaves become soft. At this time it is ready for blending or “swizzling”. Traditionally a swizzle stick was used but now an electric hand held immersion blender could be used for this step. This ensures that the mixture is homogeneous and smooth in appearance and texture.

Customized “Goo”

      The final result is  a rich, thick, green and flavorful soup. It is strengthening. It is delicious. Those who are adventurous enough to try this green ‘goo’, in spite of its daunting appearance, are pleasantly surprised by its effect on the senses and tastebuds.

      Even though all who make this dish using the same, basic ingredients and follow the general procedure outlined previously, the final sensory outcome may differ. As was mentioned each cook has their personal adjustment to create the best callaloo. Some use crab, others use salted meat and still others make it a vegetarian delight. The blending process may be longer or shorter depending on the cook’s preference for texture. These variations to the method underscore the different tastes of callaloo from different kitchens.

God’s Blueprint.

      In Corinthians 3:10 we are told: “I have laid the foundation… but let each one take heed how he builds on it.” The basic recipe is set but the alterations made determine the outcome. It is our privilege to have a blueprint for life given to us by Christ. It is our duty to cautiously construct our lives using that blueprint and adding to it, not our personal interpretation but the building blocks made available through God’s Word.

      Let us carefully review the foundation upon which we must build our lives and then identify the blocks which are to be placed on that foundation. After the Mosaic Law, came the gospel through Jesus Christ. In the gospel we are told that the two main commands which we must follow are: to love the Lord your God; and to love your neighbor as yourself. These two form the foundation upon which we are to build our lives.

      We cannot say that we have faith and approach our heavenly Father in prayer, if we do not have love for our neighbours. Even our enemies deserve our love; our non-judgmental love. We cannot truly love God if we harbor animosity for anyone. The challenge we face in this foundational structure is to be able to love those who are unlovable or difficult for us to love.

     If someone does something to hurt you, you need to love God so much that there is no place in your heart to harbor the effect of that hurt. In other words, in obeying the first command you shield yourself from missives that are designed to make you susceptible to breaking the second command.

   Our foundation from Christ is love: God’s great love for us which commands us to love Him and to love our neighbours. This love we display must be pure; it is not a fickle love; it is not an intimate love. Rather this love is a mature, inveterate, love for humanity which mirrors God’s love for us, even though its value can never approach the value of God’s love.

Humility, Charity and Love

      What then are our building blocks? According to Phillipians 2:3-4, upon the foundation of love we need to lay humility. This humility must manifest itself in service to others, valuing others above yourself. This must not be advertised or done in a flashy manner. No, it must be done humbly, letting the receiver of your service feel valued and honored.

      Service could mean lending a helping hand to someone who is unable to help themselves. For instance an elderly person may be unable to do simple household chores. This ought to be a wonderful opportunity for you to render service with humility; a chance for you to roll up your sleeves. Without fanfare, you can delve into such tasks as clearing a yard, mending a fence, tending to plants, doing groceries, or cooking. It does not matter what task you select; it should not be for personal glory; as long as it helps someone, you undertake that task, clothed in humility.

      James 2: 14 -17 provides us with another building block: charity or generosity. Whatever resources you may have, however limited they may seem, take from them and give generously and graciously to those who may be more in need than you. Do this along with the first building block of humility.

      Again charity does not need to be announced. There is no need for a megaphone or Facebook post. Give so that your right hand does not even know what your left hand is doing. This block requires some measure of detachment. When you disconnect from the tangible, from material possessions, then giving becomes second nature. It becomes easy to give and deny yourself without being sanctimonious.

      Finally Romans 12:14-21 provides the cement to bind the building blocks together. Humility and charity come together in love. A loving response to an unloving gesture can soothe the savage beast. Have you ever noticed how quickly an arrogant and hubristic manner can be undermined by a soft and gentle response?

      In my lion years, as described in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, A Spiritual Journey, I was the arrogant one who would be tamed by a loving word or deed. This is one lesson I learnt well and increasingly practise. Perhaps one day I will master this lesson! We are usually unaware of the type of turmoil, be it physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, or some combination of these, responsible for the actions of others; this is why it is critical to respond compassionately especially when wronged.

      These foundational blocks laid by Christ may seem foreboding. So too our Callaloo appears unappealing. However, just like the dish, the building blocks of humility, charity and love prove to be sensory delights bringing joy and satisfaction to the famished soul.

When things of this world no longer have a hold on you;

When neither king nor beggar you shun

When you can give and live and love in peace,

Then you build on God’s foundation.

inspirational, motivational, religious, spiritual Journey

Authority with humility

This evening I attended a service at Susamachar Presbyterian Church in San Fernando, Trinidad. The church has been the venue for the annual Keswick Convention for many years now.

The speaker for this series of services, which are to be held twice a day(11:30 am to 12:30 am and again at 7:00pm) over the next four days, is Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lamb.

Here is one link to find out more about Rev Lamb:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/jonathan.lamb.becomes.ceo.of.keswick.ministries/36332.htm

I saw the banner last week, then I heard him preaching at the First Church of the Open Bible on Sunday. I listened to the streaming version on Sunday.

I was impressed then by the calmness and soothing tone of his voice as well as by the quality of his address.

This evening he summed up what he represents, without meaning to do so: authority with humility.

In his delivery he made five points about Christian Priorities based on scripture taken from

2 Corinthians 4: 1-6:

(i) Know God’s call
(ii) Explain God’s word truthfully
(iii) Proclaim God’s Son
(iv) Serve God’s people
(v) Trust God’s power.

He is simple yet profound. In making point four, he emphasised that we are here to be of service to others and we ought to do this with authority and humility.

He models those words: authority and humility.

Even though the lights went out as he preached, he persevered. The glow from one source provided sufficient light for us to see each other but not to read. He was given someone’s cell phone to use as a light source as he completed the message.

The quaintness of everyone moving closer together, of him having to throw his voice without the aid of a microphone and of the singing without music sealed the deal for me: this was indeed an inspirational evening; one well spent. I will definitely make the effort to attend some, if not all, of the remaining services.

At the end of the service I approached the front of the church where he was located. I stood toward his right side and was prepared to wait as one would normally do with other persons of interest. He turned to me immediately and we were able to converse. As I left he bid me goodbye by my name. Authority with humility!

Do you practise authority with humility?

inspirational, motivational

Feeling appreciated.

 

It was undoubtedly uplifting to know that someone has read my book; not once, not twice but three times.

To have touched one life to that extent makes me feel so fulfilled.

All glory and honour has to go to God. This has been his work all along.

I am hoping to meet that reader, Anna, or at the very least, speak with her soon. I understand that she is not well and I wish a speedy recovery for her.

Another person bought the book after hearing of my story from his neigbour, my uncle. His name is Dominic. Dominic started to read the book and felt compelled to buy two more to give as gifts to his daughter and sister-in-law.

I felt that he was just being sweet to buy the books… until he returned the following day to have his picture taken with both of us holding the book!

Dominic also declared that this was the first book he had read to completion in the last fifteen years. What an accomplishment. I am so happy for him and so blessed to have met someone like him.

Truly I was moved to tears.

 

 

The grace and the power of God serves to remind that we are all one body and that each of us has an essential part to play; complimenting each other for the greater good.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the goodness of another person?  Leave a comment and let me know please. I would enjoy hearing your story.

 

Uncategorized

A lesson in… Humility!?

humilitySo… there I was, lying in a feeble state, with my chin covered from left to right with bandages. As if that was not enough, there was an NG (nasogastric) tube hanging precariously from my nostrils and a tracheostomy protruding from my throat. The tracheostomy, as I said in a previous post, was put in to prevent my damaged tongue from slipping into my throat. The NG tube was a feeding tube, placed into my stomach via my nostrils. This tube produced a lot of discomfort. I comforted myself with the thought that there probably would not be much more with which to deal. I was wrong.

It could have been the antibiotic, as the doctors said, or it could have been due to the injury itself. Whatever the reason, there was constant dribbling and oozing from the wounds on my chin. I ran through at least one roll of paper towels during the day. What made it worse was that I could not even feel those fluid invasions on my chin. I just had to constantly wipe or pat to keep looking clean. At this point, the injuries left by the bullets to my jaw, were open wounds which left two gaping holes on both sides of my lower jaw.

One morning a nurse attending to me asked if I had looked at my wounds. To this I replied a definitive no. I was afraid, I think, to see my own reflection. As I walked from the safety of my nest, my hospital bed, to the washroom or the shower, I passed the nurses station. That was not too bad, however I also encountered numerous persons waiting either to be seen by one of the House doctors or waiting to be admitted. What was the lesson here?

I imagined what I must have looked like to these people. There I was, significantly thinner having lost at least ten pounds, dressed in an oversized nightgown and with my latest accessories- the tracheostomy, the NG and huge bandages. I felt I looked like an alien. The stares did not help. I really felt sorry for those people. I was accustomed to people looking at me, mainly because I love to smile. It was a lesson in humility for me to be in front of so many people without my hair properly combed, without my makeup, especially lipstick, and without my smile.

I began to empathize with others who are stared at because they look different. I could not even look at other people directly, except from afar. I was actually happy that words could not exit my mouth. I did not have to explain anything nor answer any questions. My acceptance of this condition surprised even me. I, who would not even go out into my yard without lipstick, I was completely devoid of any enhancements and yet it did not perturb me. What was done, was done and had to be dealt with in all humility for survival.

The truth is that I realized that staring and gaping were inevitable. Fortunately I also recognized that what I looked like now, the defects being observed did not change who I was. I could still use my brain. I could still think and reason and analyze. Being able to communicate by writing and hearing was still possible. I could feel love, anger, hurt, happiness and sadness. I could be prayed for and say my prayers silently. I was still loved and protected by the Almighty.

Knowing these truths about myself shielded me from the futility of vanity, protected me from self pity and kept me humble not belittled. I dwelt on thoughts of our Maker, I focused on “trivial” matters necessary for quotidian existence and my spirit was elevated beyond my greatest expectations.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity