Forgiving The World

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Blue ruffles; light blue just like the sea, dancing up and down so smoothly and so playfully just like the waves. I could still hear her voice; a girl in a ruffled blue skirt I met on a vaporetto in Venice on my way home. She was singing at the top of her lungs, laughing, giggling; covering the noise of the engine, all to blue girl italyherself. I kept on watching her, envying her a bit and I wondered from where all this could  possibly come from; all this unrestrained joy and happiness, this peacefulness, not worrying about a thing, and tuning out the world’s noise and living in your own song.

As I watched her carefree dancing, I found myself thinking about forgiveness. She gave me a reason today to start forgiving. To start forgiving the world I’ve been angry at for a long time now. The restlessness, the closed doors, the circle that gets tighter every day, how I got to be so lost and confused, all the thinking and worrying, all this must stop, must be forgiven and forgotten, because only forgiveness can make us lighter, freer, happier, like blue ruffles!

So it is okay; to have lost people, to have been hurt and disappointed. It is okay not to know who we are or what we want. It is okay to change our minds, to change course, to go back to where we started or to stop all together, take a break and think it all over again, because sometimes all that we need is simply to flow with life’s streams, without worrying where we will end up.

Blue ruffles taught me today that I should start forgiving: forgiving myself for giving up, for not trying harder, for losing hope, but more importantly I should start forgiving the world as it is—regardless of every hardship—finding on my way beautiful things to explore and beautiful people to know. In order to flow, to sing and dance around like blue ruffles, I must forgive.

I followed her after we got dropped off and she was still singing and dancing around while holding her granny’s hand (who was all the time attempting to control her to no avail thankfully) and I could not resist snapping a shot of her as I wanted to keep this memory for when I need a reason to hope, to forgive and to start afresh.

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The Prayer In The Ritual

Our first post on Rituals comes from our long-time reader, and author of The Strategic Learner, John Smith, who is a teacher and facilitator. He writes to us from the Midwest about the power of rituals, and their to God for him and his family. His post offers a beautiful wisdom about the living prayers that can be encompassed in our rituals.

As a child, I was part of a small family living on a farm in the country, so many of our rituals were unique to us. I recognize now that the unique blend of personalities through my father, mother, younger brother, and I shaped many of these customs. We were living the Smith Family version of life.

As I grew out into the larger world, I found other families with other rituals, some of which appeared vaguely familiar, my rituals “with a twist”, and some of which were downright alien to my eyes. I found myself sometimes comforted, especially by the rituals and behaviors of large families, which showed glimpses of a different world. I came to define family differently: No such thing as ex-relatives, in-laws, or step-anything in our family. You are simply part of the family. With seven children, six grandchildren, and a host of other family members, we now create our own rituals.

When our children were small, we created a ritual around sending them out into the world every day by saying to each in turn “Be good, be safe, be smart, be careful, be happy.” The exact order might vary and at some point, as the world became increasingly troubled, we added “ … and be a force for good in the world.”

The ritual was ingrained and practiced on a daily basis, so we sometimes found ourselves saying the words without thinking about them. We might be rushed or thinking too far ahead of where we were in our day. When this happened, things felt a little off-balance, and I sometimes found myself turning around, walking back, or retracing my driving route, because saying those words intentionally was important.

The mantra we used, like other’s little rituals, served two important and related purposes. Firstly, a reminder to our children of what was important in life, both for themselves and for others. Secondly, our ritual functioned as a prayer by us to God on behalf of our children, that they develop the strength and wisdom to live strongly.

A ritual can be your words, actions, or thoughts. Sometimes a simple gesture, such as touching someone’s hair as you greet them, conveys strong emotion and connection. At other times, a more formal acknowledge of connection exists and we do so through such events as weddings, birthday parties, and funerals.

For me, the core of a ritual is not the magnitude of the behavior, but the meaning behind the words and the actions. I am struck by how often my spiritual beliefs guide my rituals. God helps me, and my family, create meaningful repetitive actions, which both teach and comfort. For me, these rituals have provided bonds between the important people in my life, over years, over distances, and over lifespans.

Defining Strong Faith

Today’s guest post comes from David Etim who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria.   David, who wrote in February about Love and Childcare, retired as a career banker in 1998 to strengthen his commitments to God. Today, he shares his journey of finding strength of faith through the Bible and God. Even when we come at spirituality or faith from different paths, there is still wisdom to be gained from  the love David has for his faith and the strength he and others find there. 

“What is faith? It is the confidence assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).

Faith is something I cannot do without. My faith determines what happens to me, and without faith, life seems pointless. My faith may sometimes seem small but it is strong.

” …Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for his blessing even before it happens” (Romans 4:20 TLB).

I think that true faith results in actions. Faith without action is mere theory. Strong faith trusts in God for the results. When I walk daily by faith, I  hope to please God.

In a branch of my bank where I was working in 1995, we were unable to meet the profit target set for the branch. The bank management’s decision was to demote the branch at the end of the financial year, if we could not meet the management’s expectations.

In the light of scriptures I had faith that God would help me. ” If you will only let me help you, if you will only obey, then I will make you rich.” ( Isaiah 1: 19 TLB).

I sought the Lord in prayer, asking: “Lord you promised me that Your Presence shall go before me, and that I shall see prosperity”.  The Lord told me, “Preach My Word on Prosperity”.
During fellowship hour in the morning, because I was the branch’s Christian fellowship assistant coordinator, I told them what the Lord said. To God be the glory, the branch was not demoted, rather, there were mass promotions.

I have also witnessed strong faith in others.  Recently, a young lady offered her January pay to local children’s home. I asked her what the reason behind her decision was.  She told me that she loves children, and that, children are the heritage of the Lord, citing, Psalm 127.  Secondly, she told me she is expecting something from the Lord. I quoted Matthew 9:29 and told her: “…Because of your faith it will happen”.

I believe strong faith is simply obedience in love. Strong faith has to do with sensing the direction you are moving in and knowing that something good is in the making.

Love, The Bible, and Childcare

Today’s post comes from David Etim who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria.   David voluntarily retired as a career banker in 1998 to strengthen his commitments to God and to serve humanity better. His post shows the wisdom he gained about love in the Bible and through caring for someone else’s child.

Steve Maraboli once said “The bank of love is never bankrupt.” I believe this is true.

Life is very interesting and fulfilling when you are connected to someone worth loving forever. Once, a young widow visited me to inform me that she has been gainfully employed but she didn’t have a place to keep her son while she would be on shift from 5.00a.m. – 11.00 p.m. Her efforts to find a place to care for him while she was working were all unsuccessful, and what could she do now? She asked me.
I told her to bring the boy to me. He was one year and six months old when I began to care for him. His mother was very happy and expressed her heartfelt gratitude toward me for helping to care for her son.

God gave me special grace to take good care of the young lad as if he were my biological son. The most exciting aspect of it all is that I do not have a biological child and I have never been married.

I found help in the Scriptures, where God unveils a recipe for love:
“Well, where is he?” their father demanded. “Did you just leave him there? Invite him home for supper.”
…Anyone who takes care of a little child like this is caring for me….. Your care for others is the measure of your greatness” ( Luke 9:48 TLB ).
“There is no one like Timothy for having real interest in you, everyone else seems to be worrying about his own plan and not those of Jesus
Christ” ( Philippians 2: 20 TLB).
“but we have always cared for orphans in our home, treating them as our own children” ( Job 31:18 TLB).

When he was of age, I began taking him to school and after school sessions. His performances from play group to kindergarten have always been excellent and remarkable. We are all very happy.

I believe, when God locates someone whose concern is all about helping others, He will direct His grace towards such person. The good thing in life is that what you make happen for others, God will make happen to you.

Through all my experiences, I have found that people do not really care how much we know, but how much we care.
“… I have told you all my feelings; I love you with all my heart. Any coldness still between us is not because of any lack of love on my part, but because your love is too small and does not reach out to me and draw me in” ( 2 Corinthians 6: 11-12 TLB).

Everyone Loves Hot Chocolate

By: Jenni Taylor

It was my first Christmas away from my family. I was used to White Christmases, or at least cold ones, coating the windows with frost on the south side of Chicago. Now, I was in the depths of the jungle in a tiny city of Peru.

I was visiting my friend, Deysi, for our usual lunch together.

“What are you doing for Christmas?” I asked. Her eyes lit up.

“I’m throwing a Chocolatada,” she said. She went into the other room and came back with an enormous box full of toy airplanes, barbies, and plastic whistles. “I’ve been saving up for it all year.”

She went on to explain that those who had the means would throw a Chocolatada in their neighborhood- a party with toys, bread rolls, and yes, hot chocolate galore. It was made for children who might otherwise not have a Christmas.

When the day came, Deysi was at her best. The pot of hot chocolate was big enough for a bathtub, and had bits of cinnimon sticks poking out of the thick, hot liquid. She placed a sparkly pink sign outside her door reading “Jesus te Ama”, Jesus Loves You, and a Santa Clause pinata. The toys she had shown me were already wrapped and ready, sitting in large piles all over the kitchen table.

The Chocolatada was set for 3pm. Kids began to arrive at noon.

“Tia Deysi, is it ready? Is it ready?” They would ask, smashing their faces through the grate on the door. “Not yet, not yet, have some patience!” She would reply.

It couldn’t come soon enough. When things were finally ready, children and their mothers sat on the few wooden seats placed outside, or stood in the shade out of the hot sun. A small radio with speakers began to blast Christmas carols.

We began to hand out the Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate, bread rolls, and toys. Soon boys were zooming around the dirt road with toy airplanes in hand, and girls were setting up games with their new dolls. The Santa Clause pinata came down in an explosion of glitter and small candies. The children had magic in their eyes.

It was only hot chocolate, really. But it was enough to change the world for these children, even if only for a day. Soon each child had wandered off back home, and the chocolate pot was empty and smelling of cinnamon.

“Worth every penny,” Deysi said. “Here, have the last cup.”Photo by Jenni Taylor

Sophia Sighting: Loss, Death and Birth

Continuing with our theme of loss, new mother Natalie M. Petty shares a photo that represents her experience with the loss of her Grandfather, a few days after the birth of her first child.

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Location: Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

My grandpa passed away at the end of this past July. I can’t even begin to express how much he meant to me and how much he will be missed. I’ll never forget the trips to the beach, the extreme decibel of his snoring or his infectious laugh. I’m so blessed to have had him in my life.  He got  to see me walk down the aisle and he was able to to see pictures of my newborn son. I didn’t spend as much time with him as I would have liked because he lived far away, but he always made me feel like the luckiest granddaughter in the world when I did see him. This isn’t “goodbye” for me, it’s “until we meet again”.

Transitions

By: Jenni Taylor

I skipped out of my last semester of college in order to teach in Peru. I loved my college. We had hookah club and quidditch club, interpretive dancers with ribbons waving their arms in the trees, and you could talk about vagina power over cigarettes and imported beer every weekend if you wanted. Leaving sucked. I took my first grown up job in South America, took out my piercings, and even stopped dying my hair- huge sacrifices for a girl like me. I had to let go of this whole image of myself I had built up and put on a uniform instead.

While it wasn’t easy, I entered this amazing jungle world with cold showers, pit stains, and kids throwing markers at you or hugging your neck alternately. I loved it and hated it in turns probably every day. Sometimes I would just curl up and cry in my big empty bed, and sometimes I would sit in a rocking chair talking Spanish with grandmothers and feel like I never wanted to leave.

I say all that because growth is slow. I always felt a little jipped because of leaving college early, and yet I find myself in a pretty similar environment now. I find myself wanting to get weird piercings and dye my hair all over again, because I don’t know who I am in this kind of world without those things.

Peru was straightforward. Poverty was straight forward. Kids throwing up on you was pretty straightforward, too. I miss the simplicity, the latin bass thumping from down the street and the stars speckled over the mango trees outside my window. Now I’m a city girl, a Shanghai girl, where the taxi lights and the high rises stretch on forever and everyone you see has crazy shoes and looks a little bit lonely. I’m finding my place still, where the jungle part of me can put on heels, be sophisticated, and be real about it. That’s the key, really, to not getting lost. Being real. Being you.

The funny part about that is it only happens when you stop trying. I can stand on a street in a city of 20 odd million people and feel lonely or lost and wonder who the hell I am, or I can look at the people surrounding me and see their place in the world, see their connectedness, their loneliness, their joys, their heartaches. When I stop being me, I can become them. I can see myself reflected in the humanity around me and realize it’s not about me at all, it’s about us, all of us, all of us together.

Then things don’t feel so lonely after all.

Sophia Sighting: London, Ontario

goodtouch

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

Sometimes touch can be bad sometimes it can be good. A lot of times touch is filled with Sophia. This is a photo of my brother and I when he was about one and a half years old. I was talking to him about all the things we saw outside. I was teaching him, but he was also teaching me. In my arms he taught me about the trusting love of a child and showed me the wisdom of curiosity. Sometimes children see so much more of the divine than adults do.