two girls hug in forgiveness

How to Forgive | Spiritual Meditations

The Apostle Paul wrote “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” Once again, Biblical wisdom is supported by modern health and mental health professionals. Our anger usually hurts us more than the person we are angry with and it is healthy for us to forgive.

Avoiding the Need for Forgiveness

We may be able to avoid the need for forgiveness if we take a close look at ourselves first.

Am I Too Sensitive?

If you find yourself being hurt on a regular basis by a number of different people, consider the possibility that you may be too sensitive.   Asking yourself this question may alleviate some of your discomfort.  You may also ask yourself if it really matters what the other person thinks about the subject.

It Is Just Part of Their Personality

Occasionally you’ll come across someone who rubs you the wrong way.  But maybe the way they act is part of their personality and isn’t meant to show disrespect or offend you. I know someone who never says ‘good bye’ at the end of a phone conversation…just hangs up. The first time I experienced it, I thought he was mad about something but later realized that, no, that’s just him.  Now it doesn’t bother me.

Am I Too Proud?

Excessive pride in yourself or your ‘stuff’ can also lead to anger in response to what you may consider a ‘rude’ comment. Try not to take yourself too seriously. Let it go and move on.  Don’t let someone else ruin your day.  (But you might want to work on being a little more humble.  Take a look at the phrases for meditation regarding humility)

Life Can Be Hard

In another scenario, the offender may be having a bad day or have problems that weigh them down or make them irritable. It may have nothing to do with you. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I worked with a woman who was always rude and unhelpful. After I’d ignored the offense several times, I finally confronted her regarding her attitude toward me. (Note that I was taking it personally.) She said that she was aware that she was ornery and explained that she was always in pain. From that day onward she was more pleasant and I was more understanding.

Stay Away

If  someone is consistently offensive or repeatedly hurts you, try to keep them at arms length. You don’t want to  put yourself in a position to be hurt any more than necessary. The two of you may not be compatible.  But, at least, you can still be civil.  Don’t let them set the tone.

Address It Now

And lastly, don’t let one offence be the beginning of long term tension or resentment. When a conflict has been going on for a long time, it can be difficult to sort out because you may not remember how it first started. Paul says ‘don’t let the sun set on your anger” in Ephesians 4.  We may not be able to resolve our conflicts in one day, but the sooner the better.

Sometimes the words and actions of others cannot be overlooked or so easily handled. Forgiveness involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.

What forgiveness Isn’t

To learn how to forgive, you must first learn what forgiveness is not. Dr. Andrea Brandt tells us that most of us hold at least some misconceptions about forgiveness. Here are some things that forgiving someone doesn’t mean:

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to tell the person that he or she is forgiven.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any more feelings about the situation.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean there is nothing further to work out in the relationship or that everything is okay now.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should forget the incident ever happened.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to continue to include the person in your life.

• …. and forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person.

Andrea Brandt Ph.D. M.F.T.  has 35 years of clinical experience with an emphasis in anger management and conflict resolution.  She has authored several book on these topics.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

According to the Mayo Clinic, letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?

Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. The staff at Mayo Clinic staff tell us that if you dwell on hurtful events or situations or hold grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

Andrea Brandt adds “There are several reasons [forgiving is hard}:

  • You’re filled with thoughts of retribution or revenge;
  • you enjoy feeling superior;
  • you don’t know how to resolve the situation;
  • you’re addicted to the adrenaline that anger provides;
  • you self-identify as a “victim”; or
  • you’re afraid that by forgiving you have to re-connect—or lose your connection—with the other person.

These reasons not to forgive can be resolved by becoming more familiar with yourself, with your thoughts and feelings, and with your boundaries and needs.”

Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you are one to hold a grudge, nearly everyone can learn to be more forgiving.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:

• Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
• Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
• Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
• Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, then work to release them
• Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

Mayo clinic

“By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it.”  Dr. Brandt says “This can be a gradual process—and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the person who wronged you; it’s something you do for you.”

What happens if I can’t forgive someone?

Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong. If you find yourself stuck:

• Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.

• Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.

• Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.

• Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.

• Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.

Do You Want to Forgive?

Forgiveness requires feeling willing to forgive. Sometimes you won’t, because the hurt went too deep, or because the person was too abusive, or expressed no regret. Do not attempt to forgive someone before you have identified, fully felt, expressed, and released your anger and pain.

If you decide you are willing to forgive, Dr. Brandt suggests you find a good place and time to be alone with your thoughts. Then, try following these four steps to forgive even when it feels impossible:

1. Think about the incident that angered you. Accept that it happened. Accept how you felt about it and how it made you react. In order to forgive, you need to acknowledge the reality of what occurred and how you were affected.

2. Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened. What did it make you learn about yourself, or about your needs and boundaries? Not only did you survive the incident, perhaps you grew from it.

3. Now think about the other person. He or she is flawed because all human beings are flawed. He or she acted from limited beliefs and a skewed frame of reference because sometimes we all act from our limited beliefs and skewed frames of reference. When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met. What do you think this need was and why did the person go about it in such a hurtful way?

4. Finally, decide whether or not you want to tell the other person that you have forgiven him or her. If you decide not to express forgiveness directly, then do it on your own. Say the words, “I forgive you,” aloud and then add as much explanation as you feel is merited.

Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?

If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however.  Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.

What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words, isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?

The staff at Mayo Clinic indicate that the first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly.

If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.

Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

Conclusion

Forgiveness puts the final seal on the event or events that hurt you. You will still remember, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future. Forgiving the other person is a good way to honor yourself.  You are declaring “I  deserve to be happy”.

More posts regarding Your Spiritual Life are here.

Relevant Scripture

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
Mat 18:21-22

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36

foggy cross suspended aboe water

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself? |Spiritual Meditations

According to Google, there are over 246,000 searches each month asking:

what does God look like.

The movie industry facetiously gives God the face of George Burns in Oh God. Even the Bible gives God anthropomorphic characteristics.  God is formless yet takes many forms.

God Appeared

In the Biblical old testament we are told that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others. But these appearances are vague and have a variety of manifestations.

Some Forms God Takes

Jacob wrestled with a man, but did not recognize the man as God until God revealed Himself by saying

“Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And He blessed him there” (Genesis 32:28,29).

The important thing to observe here is that when God appeared to Jacob, His appearance was as a man. No mention is made of glowing white garments or brilliant light. Jacob did not and we would not have known it was God by mere appearance.

Another biblical example is the form God used to guide His people in the famous Exodus account.  As Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13:21)

Vague Descriptions of God

Isaiah also saw God:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)

Then Isaiah goes on the describe the angels, but no further description of God. The angels did not proclaim what God looked like.  They proclaimed the character of God. They spoke of His holiness and of His glory.

God appeared to Solomon in a dream, but he makes no attempt to describe God’s appearance. 1 Kings 3:5

There are many more Biblical examples, some of which are referred to the excerpt below by Bob Deffinbaugh

To See God’s Face is Fatal

Bible scripture repeatedly says that to see God’s face would be fatal.  In the following Biblical examples, although people were said to have seen God, descriptions are vague or nonexistent.

In those instances where men are said to have seen God, surprise is expressed that they lived to tell about it.

Jacob marveled that his life had been preserved (Genesis 32:30).

Moses noted that God “did not stretch out His hand” against the 74 men who are said to have seen the God of Israel (Exodus 24:10-11).

God informed Moses that he could not see Him and live (Exodus 33:20).

When Gideon realized he had seen the “angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges 6:22), he was encouraged with the assurance that he would not die (verse 23).

Manoah and his wife, soon to become the parents of Samson, were amazed they did not die for having seen God as the “angel of the Lord” (Judges 13:21-23).

Paul seems to be saying that men cannot see God and live when he declares that God dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Getting close to God is like drawing near to a blast furnace. It is dangerous to one’s health (see also Exodus 33:2-5).

Bob Deffinbaugh write in his article Invisibility of God

Speaking to God Face-to-Face

The expression, “face to face” is a figure of speech. Consider the example of Moses, where, in the early portion of Exodus 33, Moses is said to have spoken to God “face to face:”

“And it came about, whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

God spoke with Moses. Moses could hear His voice but could not see Him in the cloud. Just as people today can hear God’s voice, but do not see Him.

The Nature of God is Not Visible

The Bible tells us God’s nature, but none of His qualities are physical qualities that we can see.   A few examples:

God is Infinite

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” – Psalm 147:5

God is Immutable

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6

God is Omnipotent

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” – Psalm 33:6

God is Omnipresent

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Psalm 139:7-10

God is Wise

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Romans 11:33

God is Faithful

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” – Deut 7:9

God is Good

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8

God is Gracious and Merciful

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.” – Psalm 145:8

God is Loving

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

God does show Himself, but not so we can see Him. We may hear Him or feel His presence, but we will not see Him. We may see His angels, and people have seen His son, but we will not see Him. We can understand His qualities, but they are attributes, not physical characteristics.

Other posts on this site describe spiritual experiences when God has shown Himself through words or activities, but still, God is not seen.  God is far too big and all-encompassing to be seen.  Some say God is a spirit, but even this word, as we understand it, is too narrow.

God’s Touch and a Soul Ascended –  in which God touched Tim’s hand to reassure him

God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life-in which God restored my income through a chance meeting on an airplane.

A Miraculous Intervention by Accident-in which God saved the lives of Tim and Lisa

God is Within Us

Jesus summed it up when he said;

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:18-21). [italics are mine]

Nowhere does Jesus say we will physically see God while on earth, but we will be aware of God if we love Him. And we will recognize God’s disclosure to us through regular prayer and meditation as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.

For a more in-depth understanding of how to become aware of God’s activities in your life refer to Joel Goldsmith lecture on the Inner Kingdom and The Art of Meditation.

Conclusion

God does not have physical qualities and, therefore,  cannot be described regarding appearance.  However, God does show Himself through His many ‘personality’ qualities that are evidenced by experiences and interactions people have had with God.  Each individual can become more aware of God’s activities in their lives through meditation / prayer as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.

 

 

woman anxious caused by advertising created fears

Advertising Creates Fear – How Do You and Your Kids React? | Spiritual Meditations

“Fear can be uncomfortable and crippling”, says neuropsychologist Dr Theo Tsaousides. “But eliminating it would be the equivalent of taking down your home alarm system because it sometimes makes loud and irritating sounds.”

A Little About Human Fear

“Chronic stress, the low-intensity variety of fear expressed as free-floating anxiety, constant worry, and daily insecurity, can quietly but seriously harm your physical and mental health over time”, Tsaousides says.

Some neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds.

“Fear is partly imagined….our brains are so efficient, we begin to fear a range of stimuli that are not scary (conditioned fear) or not even present (anticipatory anxiety). We get scared because of what we imagine could happen” says Tsaousides in Psychology Today.

There is little that is more motivating than fear. Enter Advertisers.

Product and Political Advertising

There is a lot of advertising that tells us to change the way we think and act, or else.

High-fear appeals alert people to the dangers of drunk driving or depletion of natural resources. These ads can be effective because the advertisers message is congruent with the public good.

On the other end of the spectrum, we are constantly bombarded with low-fear advertising that, although less anxiety provoking, still creates anxiety in us, that can accumulate.

We are also more motivated by the fear of losing something than the good of gaining something. Consider these two examples:

Pioneers in Fear Based Advertising

The origins of low-fear appeals in consumer product advertising can be attributed to Listerine’s 1920s advertising campaign in which a market for mouthwash was essentially created from nothing. At the time of airing, the average person bathed once a week, never put on deodorant and body odors were accepted as part of life. The makers of Listerine did not make a mouthwash so much as they made halitosis. And the results were staggering; within seven years of the original campaign launch, Listerine’s revenues rose from $115,000 to $8 million.

Another example of the growth is the cleaning product industry. In the 1980s, your typical household cleaner advert centered around cleanliness and showed a relaxed approach to keeping ourselves and our homes clean.

But fast-forward 30 years and we are told that we are constantly at risk of infection. Fear appeals bombard consumers with messages that germs are the evil to be purged at all costs, using buzzwords such as “antibacterial”.

Tom Oakley, The Growth of Fear Appeals in Advertising

How do You React to Product and Political Advertising?

According to the theory, appeal to fear will only be effective if there is a strong perceived threat and a belief that the product or promise will effectively remove the threat. Let’s look at your possible responses to an appeal-to-fear message.

  • No response – You either don’t think the danger will happen or it won’t be that bad if it does happen.
  • Fear-control response – In this situation you may believe that you are susceptible to a threat and believe that it will have severe consequences, but you don’t believe that the recommended product or political promise will be effective in preventing the harm, or you don’t believe you have the ability to take effective action against the threat. You may decide to just ignore the threat or convince yourself the threat is not real.
  • Danger-control response – If you believe
    • the perceived threat is high
    • the recommended action will be effective
    • and you can effectively engage in the action

advertising will be successful in getting you to do what it wants you to do.

Fear Appeal in Advertising: Theory & Examples

And this is the advertisers’ goal. With many years of study in human behavior, they know how to make you believe what they are selling. Many advertisers are selling a remedy for the fear or fear of loss they have created in your mind.

Advertising scare tactics are not going to go away. As long as they drive customers, votes, orders and visits to the doctor, they will continue.

Your defense against unnecessary fear is to consider the true merit of advertising using your little gray cells. As you watch a commercial you can easily identify if it is a fear-based ad. For example, every prescription drug ad I saw this week was fear-based. Label it as such in your mind. Once you have done this, the advertiser can’t manipulate you. You are on to them.

Or if you feel you are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, fast forward through those commercials. Delayed streaming will reduce the total commercial minutes per hour and the result of increased streaming use has forced the networks to reduce their commercial minutes per hour. YEAH!!

Accept the Fact that You are Just as Good as Anyone Else and You Don’t Have to Keep Up with the Joneses

Another predicament that advertisers create for you and your children, is consumerism. The movie-inspired toy, the greatest new car, the latest fashion trend – last year’s is no longer interesting, is it?.

You may be able to resist…until friends start raving about their new acquisitions. Then the desire to ‘Keep up with the Jones’ strikes you or your kids with feelings of inferiority or the fear of being seen as inferior.

So you buy. Are you stretching your budget to do so? If you are, you are setting yourself up for the anxiety of unpaid or late bill payment and accumulating credit card interest.

If you are realistic enough to avoid the lure of the latest and greatest stuff, you may still feel awkward or anxious when hanging out with friends who have more money to spend than you do.

Ruth Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples says “The key is to develop a firm sense of who you are, and then to use a few simple rules to socialize sometimes with them [wealthier friends] in ways that don’t hurt you financially.”

Here, Hayden suggests some strategies for doing that.

Barriers To Overcome

Feelings of inadequacy. Not being able to participate in social activities because of financial limitations can shake your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Feelings of deprivation. You may really want to see the football playoffs from a corporate box or eat at the hottest new haute-cuisine restaurant. Bowing out can leave you feeling sorry for yourself, or jealous and resentful of your wealthier friends.
Fear of abandonment. You may fear that if you keep saying no to outings with your better-off friends, you’ll be marginalized and pushed out of the tribe — invited less often or not at all.
Excuse anxiety. It can be stressful to explain why you are continually ducking out of certain social engagements, especially if you find yourself making up false excuses. Keeping track of your fibs can be confusing, shame inducing and exhausting.
Money-taboo discomfort. It’s tough for some people to admit — even to themselves — that they simply don’t have the resources to keep up with their more affluent friends. In this culture, we almost never talk about our fiscal realities or cash flow because of a basic insecurity about how we’ll be perceived by others. Our financial status is closely tied to our sense of self-worth.

Strategies For Success

Build self-acceptance. Establishing authentic relationships with any circle of friends starts with knowing who you are, where you are in life, and being OK with that. Realize that the main thing you bring to any social experience is the gift of your presence.
Choose thoughtfully. As with any expense, you can decide to budget for the pricey outings that really matter to you. Add money to your “entertainment fund” by saving in some other area, and then go to only those high-end events you can afford. And what if, on occasion, a wealthier friend genuinely wants to pick up the tab? If it doesn’t wound your pride or leave you feeling indebted, fine. Only you can know for sure.
Reach out. Proactively suggest options that are more in your price range. That way you build connections without breaking the bank.
Diversify. To fight feelings of isolation, connect with some friends at your own income level or who don’t have such expensive tastes.
Don’t fib. Instead of offering excuses or over-explaining, keep your answers short, straightforward and honest. Simply opt out: “I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to go with you this time.” You don’t have to go any further than that.

Your Kids and the Little Joneses

Kids can be very persistent and will use every manipulative expression and emotion to convince you of their “need” for what they have seen advertised by manufacturers or friends.   Some adults are the same.  Stay strong against the onslaught and consider the following:

Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev. in and article entitled The Beauty in NOT Keeping Up With the Joneses explains how saying ‘no’ may be the best gift we can give our kids

Everyone who has kids or who has ever been a kid knows that there is enormous pressure for young people to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets. Sometimes, depending on whom our kids hang out with, the toys and gadgets can get pretty elaborate—and expensive.

One of the most important things that we can teach our children is gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude, as a concept, is hard to teach, however. It is not something that just talking about makes happen. Rather, it is more about providing a life that inspires a child to appreciate what she receives.

If a child is always getting everything she wants, it is unreasonable to expect her to be genuinely grateful. She may not know any other way is even possible.

Gratitude in children seems to arise from two main things.

First, being exposed to circumstances that are different and less than their own (for example, when my daughter meets orphans from Uganda, whose Christmas wish is for a pencil so that they can go to school).

Secondly, gratitude comes from sometimes NOT getting. The experience of NOT getting cannot be conceptual if it is going to truly teach appreciation. It is very basic: when we have to do without something that we want, we appreciate it more when we actually do get it.

NOT keeping up with the Joneses is also important for developing self-esteem. Getting everything their friends have won’t give them self-esteem, it is really just a recipe for insecurity. Children begin to believe that they will no longer be included in the group if they don’t have the same toys as their friends.

Not getting helps children develop the confidence that their value as a person is based on more than just owning what their friends own, and their friendships about sharing more than just products. Children who sometimes have to do without have to explain why they don’t have the thing that everyone else has, and that explaining builds character.

Finally, NOT keeping up with the Joneses, in the long run, helps children avoid depression. Each time we develop a craving for the next toy, the deep belief behind that craving, conscious or otherwise, is that the next toy will bring us happiness. We chase one thing after another, and each brings a few moments of pleasure.

But soon, each fails us in terms of providing any kind of lasting happiness. With each failure, we shift our craving onto the next item, and with it, our hope for lasting happiness.

Giving our children everything they want encourages the belief that happiness and satisfaction will be found externally—inside the next best thing.

When we have to do without a bit, however, we are forced to develop internal aspects of ourselves, to develop the skills that create a true sense of wellbeing. In so doing, not getting allows us to avoid the despair and emptiness that result from chasing external objects in search of internal wholeness.

Internal and External Needs Realized Through Your Connection with God

The above solid advice of Ruth Hayden will go a long way to alleviating some adult anxiety. Clinical social worker, Rev. Nancy Colier’s advice will ease your conscience when you have to say “no” to the kids while providing a valuable learning experience.  If you find their advice useful, I would like to hear your experience.  Please leave me a comment.

If you choose to follow the spiritual path and become acquainted with God, you will never again be enticed by advertising because you just don’t need what they have to sell.  The fear advertisers attempt to generate will seem ridiculous to you because you trust God to take care of you.  And you will value yourself, as you are and as you are becoming….there will be no need to compare yourself to others….you are the special child of God.

In our Oneness with God we already have all that the Father has. “I and the Father are one and all that the Father has is mine.” If we individually are experiencing a lack, it is not because we actually lack. It is because of our inability to make contact with [the Source of] our supply.

….throughout the Great Depression there was no lack in this country [USA}….there was a greater abundance of crops, of fish in the ocean, birds in the air, lumber in the forests, grains in warehouses, in barns and in fields and in gardens….If any of us suffered from a lack of sufficiency, it was not because there was an actual condition of lack. It was because we were not in tune with the source of supply, we did not have access to the infinite supply.

The world seeks it’s good in the external realm. It seeks to find peace, joy, satisfaction, home, companionship, or supply from the outer world of people and things. When you turn to the spiritual path, you learn that the world’s weapons will not do for us, the world’s manner of protecting itself will not do for us, the world’s way of seeking it’s good will not do for us. When you ponder the statement “The Kingdom of God is within you”, it immediately becomes clear that to go outside to find your good will not work. The place to seek it is within.

Spiritual living is based on the ability to contact God….Not only is there a God, but He is at hand….If we are not having the harmonies, peace and prosperity to which we are entitled as children of God, let us be fair about it and acknowledge that we have not made His acquaintance, we do not know Him aright….Knowing statements of truth about God and knowing God are different things.

You may say “But I do recognize God as the Source”. How often and how consistently do you? It must be more than an occasional thought. It must be a continuous activity, until your consciousness is so imbued with the realization of God as the Source that it becomes automatic and you no longer need to consciously think of it. Then the flow begins.

Supply is spirit and it is within you. It is never visible and it will never become visible. What you behold in the outer world is the forma that supply assumes. Outwardly, supply takes the form of money, food, clothing, housing, transportation, business capital and so forth.

Ideas, inspiration, intelligence, wisdom, service or love bring about the forms of supply, but they themselves are invisible. Only the results are visible.

So it is with all poets, authors, sculptures, painters, composers. Their invisible talents are the substance of what becomes visible as poems, books, paintings, teachings or other forms of art. Their supply is their inner light, their inspiration.

Supply is just as spiritual as such qualities. It too is not something that comes to us, it is embodied within us and we must express it. This we do by casting our “bread” upon the waters, and it comes back to us as our supply. This is the only supply to which we are spiritually entitled. We are not permitted to take someone else’s supply. Prisons are full of people who tried to take the bread that someone else had placed on the waters.

The Master [Jesus] gave us many examples of how we may cast our bread upon the waters: forgiving, praying for our enemies, sharing and tithing.

Joel S Goldsmith, Invisible Supply

A more complete discussion from Joel Goldsmiths on the Kingdom within can be found here.

Conclusion

When we are connected with our Inner Being, God, which provides for all our needs, we will see through the constant sales pitches meant to manipulate us into purchasing false hope, induced by fear and exaggerated promises.

Relevant Scripture

I have never seen a righteous man begging bread. Psalms 37:25

Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine. Luke 15:31

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36

Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. Job 22:21

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24:1

guitarist in front of Christymas tree playing Solitary Angel as Christmas gift

My Christmas Music Gift to You | Spiritual Meditations

Free New Christmas Song

The song pictures the behind-the-scenes activities surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ and the role of a solitary angel. It will touch your heart and remind you of the significance of the holiday.

My husband wrote and recorded the music linked below. He is the guitarist and vocalist on the recording.

Merry Christmas to you, your family and friends. May God bless you all in the coming year.

Solitary Angel by Bob Blanford

Events Surrounding the Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Luke 2:1-21

listening to God prevents car accident

Your Inner Being Could Save Your Life. Are you Listening? |Spiritual Meditations

Have you ever been in a car accident?  In hindsight, could you have avoided it if you had known just one little piece of information…if someone had whispered in your ear, ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’ and the whole thing never would have happened?  Thousands of car accidents happen everyday…. but some don’t.

God Awareness

Janelle was in the only car at a stop light one night.   As she was waiting for the light to change, she heard a voice that said “back up”.  Nothing more, nothing less, just that.  “Back up”.  The windows were up and the radio wasn’t on.  No ear buds in use.  But Janelle didn’t stop to wonder where the voice came from or what it could mean.  She put the car in reverse and backed up.  Why?  Because she knew where the voice came from.  Seconds later, two cars, coming from opposite directions, collided in the exact spot where she had been.

Janelle has a very clear connection with God, her Inner Being. It is a connection that she has nurtured through years of prayer, meditation, study and trust. She has cultivated a spiritual sense to become receptive to the thoughts that come from within. When God speaks, she recognizes His voice and follows His direction.

My friend, Tim, who has contributed to this blog, was driving alone down a 4 lane road. As he approached an intersection for which he had the right-of-way, he looked down to adjust the radio. At that point he heard a voice say “Watch out”.  He immediately turned his attention back to the road to find a car stopped across the intersection blocking both lanes of traffic. He was able to swerve around the car avoiding a collision. God spoke, Tim heard and did not question for a moment how to respond. He is spiritually conscious.

Spiritual consciousness is attained through the activity of truth in consciousness.

God is, there is a God–never doubt that.  This God is infinite in nature, eternal, universal, impersonal, impartial, and omnipresent.  But how do we avail  ourselves of that which God is?  How do we bring this that we know about God into our individual experience?

To illustrate we can turn to the field of music.  The principle of music is absolute.  If, however, we fail to understand its principle and the sounds produced turn into a jumble of discordant noises, we do not rail against the principle.  We apply ourselves more diligently to practicing the principle until we become proficient in its application.

So it must be in our God-experience.  God is, and God is here and God is now, but God is available only in proportion to our realization and willingness to accept the discipline that is necessary for the attainment of that mind which was also in Christ Jesus.

Spiritual consciousness is attained through the activity of truth in consciousness.  Dwelling on spiritual quotations or statements of truth helps to spiritualize thought.  The more truth that we read and hear, the more active is truth in our consciousness.  Thus we learn to abide in the Word.  This is the first step on the way.

The second and more important step, is to be able to receive truth from within, to be receptive and responsive to the truth that wells up within us.  Then we do not think, read or hear truth with the mind.  We are becoming aware of the impartation of the word of God from within because the inner ear and the inner eye have been developed through our knowing the letter of truth and dwelling on it.     Joel S Goldsmith Practicing the Presence

God Instructs and More Listen

My friend, Mo, “became aware of the impartation of the word of God from within”  one night when she was driving home from Jacksonville Florida on I-75.  Her husband and four children (ages 1, 3, 5 and 10) were all asleep in the car.  She found herself wondering why a van will flip when no other car or obstruction is involved.  It immediately came to her mind that it is typical for a driver to slam on their brakes to avoid an animal and cause the upset.  Moments later an animal darted across the road in front of her.  Because God had cautioned her and she was receptive to it, she did not touch the brake and the animal disappeared into the night.

Realizing that God had just saved her family, Mo burst into tear of gratitude.   “I just couldn’t stop crying and praying thanks”.

The daughter of a friend was driving alone along a curving road when she heard a voice say “slow down”.  She slowed some, but a few moments later, the voice said more insistently “SLOW DOWN”.  She slowed down some more  In fact she slowed down to the point that as she rounded a curve and a child ran in front of her car, she was able to stop without hitting him.  God had intervened and she responded without question.  No rationalization about what she had heard.

These roadway interventions were casually mentioned to me. I have to deduce that there are many more examples. In fact, it’s likely you know someone who has had a similar experience; someone who has developed a connection with God.

These four people, as well as many others, know when God is speaking to them because of their long-term personal relationship with Him and their willingness to listen and be guided by Hm.  They are well acquainted with the truths in scripture and have frequent conversations with God.  They not only allow, but desire, that His Spirit dwell in them.

God is active in the world.  Connect to Him.  Pay attention.  And enjoy the care He provides.

How do we know when the spirit of God dwells in us?

If we are letting go of hate, envy, jealousy, malice, self-seeking, self-glorification, prejudice and bigotry we are making room for the spirit of God, for God cannot dwell in the midst of such qualities.  As long as these qualities are present in our consciousness, we have more work to do abiding in the truth and letting the truth abide in us, until such time that the Christ has come so alive [within us] that such mortal thoughts no longer touch us.  Then the spirit of God dwells in us,  “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory….Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him”.

Anyone with a sufficient desire for a realization of God can achieve that realization–the grace of God will guarantee it.

Joel S Goldsmith  Practicing the Presence

You can listen to talks by Joel S Goldsmith on the subjects of Your Inner Kingdom and Meditation on this site’s Video page.

Relevant Scripture

Love the Lord and hate evil!  God protects His loyal people and rescues them from violence.  If you obey and do right, a light will show you the way and fill you with happiness.  You are the Lord’s people!  So celebrate and praise the only God.       Psalm 97:10-12 (CEV)

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. Psalm 16:1

 

 

 

 

little leaque challenge effort today results in rewaards in future

Effort and Attitude | Spiritual Meditations

A Little League Challenge

At the beginning of this last baseball season, I told my players I was looking for improvements in effort and attitude as the season went along and not results. The results, I promised them, would not be there this season, but would show up in the far distant future if they kept putting in the work and having the right attitude.

Most of the kids accepted this and, with course corrections along the way, really took to heart the challenge of playing in this setting. Most of our players were 8 year olds playing against teams comprised of mostly 10 year olds.

It is the spiritual application of a ‘todays effort = a future reward’ attitude that I want to share with you today.’

A Little League Challenge Applied to Life

This morning I had a conversation with a man who has begun the process of turning his life around. I’ve known him for a few years and we talk every so often (it’s getting more frequent). He has intentionally set himself on a path that will eventually lead to great things – restoration of his lifestyle and independence, the possibility of forming relationships with others, and even potentially a rewarding career one day.

However, none of this has happened yet. In fact, what he wanted to talk to me about today was that he feels like his life has gotten WORSE since he started making an effort. There were more demands on his money (which is severely limited), more demands on his time (which is less free than it used to be), and more demands on his character (which increases the more he goes out into the world).

I assured him that this is all perfectly normal for what he’s going through. We have to work hard and put in the effort for a long period of time before we see the results.

God’s rewards

  • God does something, forms something in us along the way, as we walk closely with Him and others who share Christ’s name.
  • God does something in us as we focus on developing Christ like virtues and values in our lives.
  • God does something in our lives as we put our heart and soul into our work and relationships.

These are all seeds that have been planted, but must be watered and be allowed to see the light of day before they will be able to grow and bear fruit in us.

Delayed Gratification…hmmm

As human beings, we don’t do very well with delayed gratification. We want what we do today to bear results today (or maybe tomorrow at the latest).

  • Yet in most situations, the best we can hope for is a pay check every two weeks showing us some marginal return on our effort.
  • In the best situation, the most we can hope for is a phone call two weekends a month from friends wanting to get together during free time.
  • In the best situation, most of us get new cars every 6.7 years or longer, according to the US census.

These things take time and cultivation.

  • If we stop working today, we get more time, but in three weeks we will really feel it.
  • If we stop cultivating relationships with others, we might not feel lonely for a week or two, but after a month we will notice.
  • We might enjoy spending all of our money today on fun things, but in 8 years, when our car dies on the side of the road, we’ll feel it.

Our Walk with God is the Same.

We might not notice if we stop praying today or reading our scriptures today or worshipping this week, or serving others this month. But in the long run, we will notice.  And it will make a difference in our lives and in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We might be able to get away with not focusing on cultivating the virtues and values of Christ in our lives today.  But several years from now these virtues and values will be like fruit withered on the tree.  When called upon or needed they will be rotten instead of ripe.

And that’s what this season taught our players (most of them), We can get away with not working today, but by the end of next season and in five years, our lack of effort will show up.

Conclusion

We can get away with not focusing on following Christ today.  We might even have more free time if we don’t focus on following Christ.  But in five days, or weeks, or months, or years, where will that path lead us? We won’t see how God will use us, or even bless us, in the future…especially when we are going through trials or hardships today. But we do know that everything we go through today, trains who we are for the future.

May we all choose to follow Christ today.

Written by Rev Nathan W Carlson

Relevant Scripture

2 Peter 1:5      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge

Philippians 2:5      Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus

angel sculpture

Angels in Our Lives…Literally | Spiritual Meditations

Do angels exist?  I’m not talking about your grandmother or the person that let you cut in line at the grocery.  I’m talking about the messengers of God, the beings who give guidance, protection, care and comfort to us lowly humans.  I’m talking about God’s army or angels.

I’ve never encountered an angel…at least not to my knowledge.  Have you?  The Bible is loaded with them, but I’ve never given much thought as to how they relate to my life.  But this week they are becoming a little more real to me.

My friend, Becky, was hesitant, but I encouraged her to tell us about her beach angel experience.  Here’s is what she shared.

Childlike Acceptance

I grew up in a coastal town with a beautiful harbor and a mountain which graced it’s entrance. On the outer side of the harbor, the mountain connected to a 20 mile long surf beach.

I was brought up in the church and, at the age of eight, I gave my heart to the Lord at a large evangelical meeting. I didn’t totally understand what I had done and didn’t follow up on it much.

Witnessing the Spirit at Work…I Want It !

As I grew into a teenager I became rebellious, but I found God again through my older brother. He had accepted Christ into his life and I could see the love of the Holy Spirit shining through and into his life. I desperately wanted this change in my life also.

I started attending the Baptist church that my brother was attending and, at age 18, I decided to be baptized. In the Baptist church, baptism is by full emersion and it was the most incredible feeling. As I came up out of the water, I felt the Holy Spirit fill me. My old life was washed away; I was born again; and I felt God’s power running through me.

But I Have Questions !

My close girlfriend (who was baptized the same day), my brother and I were enthusiastic to learn more about and serve the Lord. But as the months passed, we became disillusioned with our church. We were not getting the growth and mentoring that we needed to deepen and mature our faith.  Our questions were not being answered.

We had to rely on each other and frequently prayed together believing that “where two or three are gathered, there I am also”. And Jesus was there, leading us through some wonderful spiritual experiences, including the gift of tongues.

Ascending the Mountain

One sunny, winter afternoon, the 3 of us, climbed part way up the harbor mountain to a grassy hill overlooking the ocean and the beach. We desperately asked God what we should do about our unsatisfying church experience. We had stopped going and felt that perhaps the Spirit could lead us through life. But were we doing the right thing? beach where angel appeared

An Angel at the Beach

After about an hour, we descended on a path that took us to the beginning of the beach and led into a rocky area close to the base of the mountain. There was a beautiful long white beach in the other direction.

My brother and my girlfriend walked to the local shops and I went down onto the beach near the rocks. I walked towards the water, still silently praying that God would give me some direction.  Should I continue to attend church or should I leave the church that was not fulfilling my needs and be guided solely by the Holy Spirit without any Christian fellowship?

Due to the cooler weather, the beach was deserted. Or so I thought. But as I walked towards the water I noticed a man standing not far from me. He was possibly in his late 40’s or 50’s, with light brown hair slightly balding. He was of average height and build and smiled as I approached him.

I had always been a shy girl and never would normally have started a conversation with a stranger, but somehow when this man spoke to me I felt only calm and comfortable speaking with him. I do not remember the whole conversation but I know that we began speaking about the Lord almost immediately.

I explained to him that my friends and I had been praying on the side of the mountain; that we were dissatisfied with our church; and that we had asked the Lord if we were right to leave our church and be led solely by the Holy Spirit. Right away he answered me, looking deep into my eyes and said; “You are doing the right thing”. I felt like God was speaking to me…it was so profound and touched my very soul. After this we said goodbye and I turned to walk away.

After only a few steps I turned to glance at him, as it had been such a special encounter. I expected to see him still there, or to see his back as he started  to walk in the opposite direction. But there was no one there. The rocks were too far away for him to have reached them in such a short time but I walked to the nearest, largest rock and looked behind it. There was no one anywhere.

I knew than that God had sent an angel to answer my fervent prayers and give me unquestionable direction. I was to live my life, following only the direction of the Holy Spirit.

This was a great faith building experience; knowing that God was listening to me, heard my cries and cared about my path. Ever since then I have trusted that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing in this life, even though it was not a typical Christian life. In hindsight, I look back and know that God was shaping me and molding me for his purpose.

This was a life-altering experience for Becky.  God had sent her a messenger in response to her heart-felt fervent prayer.  The kind of prayer that God responded to for Pastor Tim and his sister, and for me.

A Follow Up Note From Becky:

I did eventually find a close relationship with the Lord and a wonderful church, however, it was many years later. Living life guided only by the Holy Spirit is not right for everyone, but this is how God spoke to me and he did keep me close and was molding and shaping me, unbeknownst to me at the time.

Dad’s After Death Message

Becky’s story stimulated my mind on the subject of angels, which reminded me to take a look at my journal of spiritual experiences and growth.  (I recommend you start one if you haven’t already.)  I found this.

My dad died in 2010.  Although he had always gone to church and read the Bible, especially during his final years on earth, I didn’t know for sure that he had accepted Christ into his life.  Maybe he was a Christian by habit.  It isn’t something we talked about and it is nearly impossible to really know another persons heart.  But 2 weeks after dad died, I was walking down the hall in my home, when I heard tinkling bells and my mind was struck with a line from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life  ‘Every time a bell rings, and angel gets his wings’.  I could find no physical source of bells, inside or outside.  I knew this was my father.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Part of the story in It’s a Wonderful Life was of an Angel 2nd Class who wanted to earn his wings.  To do so he had to prevent the main character, George, from committing suicide, which he was able to thwart.    At the end of the movie, a bell on a Christmas tree rang and George’s small daughter, Zuzu, tells everyone that ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings’.  The implication was that the life-saving angel had been rewarded.

What I found out this week was that the angel in the movie had the same name as my dad…Clarence.  In 2010, I was aware that my father sent me a message addressing my concern about his presence in God’s Kingdom.  But when I realized the connection between his name and the movie angel’s name, I was amazed by how specific he had been about being an angel.

My dad always liked to joke around.  It’s just like him to give me a message based on one of his favorite movies and then wait for me to figure it all out. Thus, I have to believe that we keep at least some of our personality in the next life.

So do I believe in angels?   Between what Becky has shared and what my father has conveyed from heaven, I have to.

How about you?  Have you had an angel experience?  Please leave a comment.

Relevant Scripture

For the angels are only spirit-messengers of God sent out to help and care for those who are to receive His salvation.  Hebrews 1:14

 

 

Generations of Women Endure Abuse But There is Help | Spiritual Meditations

She has been tending he sick husband for months. His decline had been slow in spite of having no medications to ease the pain and extend his life. He died of AIDS. She dragged herself through the customary death rites and funeral, while taking care of her 5 children and 2 grandchildren. Her daughter and son-in-law died of AIDS the previous year. Now she’s waits to see if her husband’s family will take everything in her house, as is their right by custom, but not by law.

Custom says the possessions are theirs to use to take care of her and her children, but as poor as they are, she isn’t expecting any care to come her way. Although there is a law against property grabbing, she has no money to hire a lawyer. Even if she did, her case would have little chance of being adjudicated quickly by the undersized court system.

She will be lucky if her family has a roof over their heads. She will have nothing…except hungry mouths to feed. The children will work the fields with her, but it won’t be enough. Before her husband became sick, the younger children went to school, but the funds are no longer available to make that possible…they will work the fields as well.

She will fall into extreme poverty and will be challenged to meet very basic needs like food, firewood and shelter.

This is MaMalawi on globelawi

This is a common life in Malawi, a land locked SE African country about the size of Pennsylvania. The population is 18.6 million and it is one of the poorest countries on earth…bottom 10. Depending on the source, some say up to 74% of the people live below the poverty line of about $2 a day with an average per capita income of $310 per year in 2016. The average life expectancy is 47.

A People Ravaged by Disease

About 11.9 percent of Malawians have contracted AIDS…fewer in rural areas and more in the cities. TB and malaria are also prevalent. In a society where men are the bread winners and women tend to the home and children, an ill husband results in a shortage of funds at the same time that medical bills become due. To provide the necessities, belongings are sold, food is cutback and school payments are withdrawn.

The AIDS epidemic has left millions of orphans and widows in its wake. Many widows adding to their own burdens by taking in orphans.  The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 17% of children do not have living parents due to HIV/AIDS.

A People Ravaged by Hunger

Farming is a major source of income in Malawi. Whenever there is drought, crop production drops or may fail altogether. The following years may also result in lower production. Farmers cannot produce enough to sustain their communities and their income plunges.

Between 1990 and 2006, in Malawi there were 33 weather-related disasters (drought and flood), a rise from the 7 that occurred between 1970 and 1989, according to ActionAid.

During the peak of the food crisis, from April to May 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a health assessment in Malawi. It found that between October 2001 and March 2002, there was an average of 1.9 deaths per 10,000 every day. There was a cholera epidemic with 33,150 detected cases and 981 deaths; a fatality rate of 3%.

Yet, the number of people seeking aid at health facilities decreased by 25% in that same period. The study suggested that the health facilities were crippled by shortages of staff and drugs, as well as poor communication and transportation systems. As people began to prioritize food security over all else, health and seeking treatment at poorly maintained facilities fell to the wayside.

Starving people began to eat unsafe roots, maize cobs, sawdust, and boiled fruits and many contracted food poisoning and other stomach illnesses

In 2016, droughts, driven by El Niño, devastated the entire southern region and badly affected other parts of the country. As a result, an alarming 6.5 million people out of a population of 17 million were in need of food assistance. This means more than one in three people faced having little to no food for months on end.window kids rice house

In 2018 there are still 3.3 million people struggling to get food.  Under advisement from countries providing foreign aid and the UN, the Malawi government has developed a National Nutrition Policy aimed at coordinating food security programs and USAID training is increasing the productivity of farmers and has increased access to high-quality health care.

Violence and Exploitation of Women and Children

malawi childrenFor many reasons, including accepted customs, women and children are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, poverty and disease. Two in five females (!) and one in five males aged 18 to 24 believe it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she goes out without telling him, if she neglects the children, if she argues with him, if she refuses to have sex with him, or if she burns the food.

Throughout the last several decades, Malawi has consistently had some of the poorest development indicators, including poverty, food insecurity, and HIV prevalence, in sub-Saharan Africa, circumstances which have the potential to increase the vulnerability of all children and young women.

In addition, there is a large population of children who are orphans, work in agricultural or domestic settings, and/or do not attend school, which constitute an unusually large proportion of children who might be particularly vulnerable to violence.

Although there have been no nationally representative data on violence against children in Malawi to date, available studies have uncovered high rates of physical and sexual violence experienced in childhood, particularly among girls and very young children.

The findings from the survey indicate that violence against children is a serious problem in Malawi:

One out of five females and one out of seven males in Malawi have experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 years.

In addition, almost half of all females and two-thirds of males experienced physical violence prior to 18 years, and approximately one-fourth to one-fifth experienced emotional violence.

Nearly one-fourth of all children experienced multiple forms of violence.

The results of this survey have significant implications for the design and implementation of Malawian- specific prevention and response programs and policies to address abuse and violence against children.

Ending violence against children and young people is especially important because violence against children affects the entire society.

If sexual violence against girls is not addressed, there is very little hope of stamping out the spread of HIV.

If children are not safe from violence in schools, the goals of providing quality education for all will never be attained.

If the violation of Malawian children is allowed, there is little prospect of breaking the intergenerational cycle of violence.

The UNICEF report

Governmental Regulation Alone Will Not Be Enough

Reacting to the UNCEF findings regarding abuse and exploitation, principal secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Esmie Kainja, said in an interview that it is not government’s responsibility alone to stop violence against children and adolescents.

She said: “It is everyone’s responsibility. Parents and caretakers at home, teachers at school, religious and traditional leaders and care givers in different child related institutions; we are all responsible for ending violence against children.” This is the only way this deeply ingrained societal issue can be derailed.

Unicef supports government’s efforts to improve services for children affected by various forms of violence besides developing policies and legislation that protect children through practical programs like community victim support units (CVSUs) and Police victim support units (VSUs), among others.

The Nation – Christopher Nhlane

The Role of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)

There are dozens of worthy NGOs working in Malawi addressing various national needs, but I’m only going to mention 2 because of their impact on the overwhelming amount of violence and exploitation of widows and children…the poorest of the poor.

Ujamaa / UNICEF

As one way of reducing sexual abuse in Malawi, UNICEF, in partnership with Ujamaa, a Kenyan charity, has started a program that teaches schoolgirls self-defense tactics.
malawi schoolgirls

According to reports, the lessons include physical skills such as punches and jabs, running for safety as well practical skills that would distract their assailants.

Over 25,000 schoolgirls have been trained in the program over the past few years. The schoolgirls learn the self-defense lessons for two hours every week over a period of six-weeks.  Currently, the lessons are being conducted in seven districts across the country.

Ujamaa rape incidents dropped by half among schoolgirls in Kenyan schools after the training. With the self-defense training, Ujamaa trainers expect sexual assault incidents to be reduced in Malawi as well.

“In the past, girls were not reporting it but now they are indeed empowered to report abuses. Some are reporting the incidents to us teachers and others to their parents for action,” said a teacher involved in the training program. Their awareness, as well as fear of HIV and availability of services may also be contributing to the increased reporting.

Healthcare workers can provide an effective HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for immediately reported cases.

Ujamaa training also targets boys, teaching them how to intervene if they witness cases of assault.

Women of Grace Widows Organization / PantiPlus

Because the training against violence takes place in the schools, it is essential that the girls attend. A hidden deterrent to attendance is the lack of feminine hygiene products which requires the girls to stay home every month during their menstrual cycle, missing up to 20% of the school year. Even if washable pads are available, underwear is a luxury.

malawi widow sewing

The Women of Grace Widows Organization provides sewing machines and teaches widows in the Mzuzu area (the largest city in Northern Malawi) how to sew PantiPlus kits. Each kit contains 6 washable pads, 2 panties and a purse to carry them to school in. The purse also includes soap, a wash cloth and a plastic bag to hold soiled items.

The widows earn money for each PantiPlus item they make, and the finished products are donated to schoolgirls in rural villages. Each widow can earn as much as $45 USD in a year, which is a large sum for a widow. This steady income is not affected by weather or drought and allows the widow to purchase essential food and medicine, and pay school fees for her children.  With remaining funds, the widows purchase locally sourced materials and make skirts and dresses  for additional income.

malawi girls with pantiplus purses

This well-thought-out project addresses several areas of need. It provides the widows and their children with an income. It allows schoolgirls to stay in school, which, not only improves their education, but allows them to attend self-defense training against sexual abuse. The lower incidence of sexual abuse reduces the cases of HIV/AIDS. With the reduction in HIV/AIDS there are more people working, poverty is reduced and food production goes up.

If you would like to learn more about this project, click on PantiPlus Project to see a slide show and several videos taken in Malawi, which were assembled by Margot McGorman.  Margot has been involved in the Mzuzu sewing project and has traveled to the region multiple times with supplies and guidance.  If you would like to connect with Margot, please leave your contact information in the comments for this article and I will forward it to her.  Your contact information will not be made visible on this website.

How You Can Help

If you would like to stay current on this and other Malawi projects you can find updates at www.holminafrica.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute any amount for sewing machines and start-up sewing materials, donations can be made through PayPal at www.pantiplus.com. There is a donate button at the bottom of the home page.  Just put Mzuzu Sewing Team in the ‘Add a Note’ box, and it will get to this project specifically.

Relevant Scripture

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?    Isaiah 10:1-3

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. (Quran, in surah 4, verse 19)

“Those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year’s maintenance and residence. But if they [the widows] leave (the residence) there is no blame on you for what they justly do with themselves” (Quran 2:240).

miracle spiritual intervention man at cross praying

A Miraculous Intervention by Accident | Spiritual Meditations

We’ve all been there.  Our situation is so desperate, we are in such pain, our heart is breaking, or all of these at once.  We may not believe there is a God, but when we are at the very bottom, we plead with God, just in case He’s there.

The following is just such a story related by Rev. Dr. Tim Ehrlich.

My Sister’s Car Accident

I was my first solo trip into the world.  My junior year of High school had just ended, I had just turned 17, and to celebrate I hitchhiked up to Burlington Vermont from Long Island to visit my twin cousins Kim and Kerry who were attending the University of Vermont. I woke up happy on the morning of the fifth day of my visit. I had breakfast and was laying on the couch in the living room, singing along to the Beatles’ I am the Walrus when the phone began ringing somewhere in the house.

My cousin Kim came rushing to get me.  It was my mom calling for me.  Mom asked me to sit down because she had some terrible news: “Your sister has been in a terrible car accident; she has 14 skull fractures. The doctors say it is a miracle she is still alive but they say she is going to die in the next 2-4 hours. Would you like to try to see her before she dies or wait for the funeral?”

My sister Lisa was my only sibling; she was 13 months younger than I am.

She had been traveling up from Long Island to central Massachusetts with three teenage friends, to join a group of people who were helping the choir director of our church build a summer home.

They were speeding and as they came up over a rise in the road a highway department grass cutting tractor was crossing in front of them blocking both lanes. They swerved to avoid it and the car rolled over several times. The other three passengers had their seat belts on and received only cuts and bruises and one had a broken arm. My sister was not wearing a seat belt. She was thrown out of the car and her head smashed against rocks on the side of the road. Her face and her entire head was shattered.

I am told that when the troopers found her they thought at first she was dead so they tended to the others first. They transported her to a local hospital and notified my parents and my mom called me.

The Worst Crisis of My Life

In an instant my mom’s words took me away from feeling blissful to being consumed by the worst crisis of my life. When you grow up in a dysfunctional home like ours, (my dad was an alcoholic), your siblings become co-survivors and that is a special bond. That was the case for us and the result was that Lisa was to me—my sister, my friend and my co-survivor in a crazy household.

After I hung up with my mom, I told my cousins what happened, and I went outside and sat in the sunshine on the side of the small hill next to the house to absorb this news. I sat and I thought about my sister. My memories of her starting from our earliest childhood, ran through my mind.  As I thought about loosing her forever, I realized that it would truly be very difficult for me to live without her. So I sat on the little hill, with my head down and the sun beating down on my back, and I began to pray. The air was cool and I still remember how wonderful the hot June sun felt on my back.

I am certain now that it was God’s timing because two days before, I had been on the green of the university when a group of students erupted out of a building onto the green. I asked my cousin’s friend who they were, and she told me they were the campus Christian group. As I looked at their obvious joy and unfeigned friendliness towards each other, I said to myself, “whatever they have, I want it!”

Nevertheless, if you had asked me an hour earlier if I believed in God I probably would have said no, or that I did not know what to believe about God. But now that my sister’s only hope was God, suddenly, all my intellectual arguments were gone, all the doubts and questions I held for years were silent, and instinctively I just prayed. I prayed as only a person with a truly broken heart can do. I prayed earnestly, truly, intently and with every bit of my heart.

The Essence of Prayer

As I prayed, I told God how I would feel without my sister, what her loss would mean to me, that it would damage me irreparably, that I wasn’t sure I could live without her. Finally, I begged God to accept my life in service to him in exchange for letting my sister live. I know this sounds like desperation and bargaining, but just because we are desperate and bargaining doesn’t mean we are not earnest or that God won’t respond to us. I was earnest about giving my life to God, and God did respond to me.

At that moment I was at the very bottom emotionally…completely brokenhearted.   I have since come to realize from scripture (“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms. 34:18 ESV) and from experience, that only desperation can produce in us the level of seeking that is required to produce the breakthrough to actually finding God as referred to by Jeremiah: “You will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

All of your heart is a tremendous amount when you consider all we keep in our heart. To truly have an encounter with God we must put everything else in our heart to the rear and God to the front.

God’s Answer to My Desperate Proposal

So as I prayed that day, God gave me three great gifts: first, he miraculously saved my sister; second, he baptized me with the Holy Spirit; and third, he allowed me to join his service, fallen as I was.

As I humbled myself before God with my head bowed, suddenly a comforting warm sensation began sweeping down over me, outside and inside. I lifted my head and it continued to pour out on me and through me. It felt like water but lighter than water, like a large bucket of warm water slowly, gently being poured down on my head.  It was approximately body temperature, as it felt warm on my skin but neutral inside me. It continued to pour down on me for several seconds washing me completely inside and out. This must be why it is called a ‘baptism’ of the Holy Spirit.

I now realize that God’s plan was to cleanse me first before accepting me into his service by pouring the Holy Spirit over me and through me; but at that moment I didn’t even know what the Holy Spirit was. All I knew was that God was pouring something on me that felt warm and comforting inside and out, and I knew that it meant God had accepted my offer and my sister was going to live. Relief flooded my heart and I felt deep joy and peace and calm assurance.

God has also given me the proof of his reality, a question that had tormented me for so long. How good God is to take me all the way from being filled with horror and desperation and anguish to complete peace and joy and assurance in an instant! To this day I know I have gotten the best out of the agreement I made with God that day. God saved my sister and saved me too, He saved me from a wasted life, a life without knowing the greatest Being to exist!

When I stood up from prayer I had such profound peace. I knew with complete certainty that as surely as God had just poured something wonderful all over and through me, that my sister would live.

My cousins in Vermont and everyone around me at the hospital were still fearful and horrified, but I was calm. They were all certain she was going to die but I knew my sister was going to live! And of course, miraculously, she did.

As one doctor indelicately described it, her head was “shattered like a hard-boiled egg.” We would soon find out she had not 13 but 22 fractures, and there is no way she should have lived! Her forehead was bashed in, the bones around her right eye were pulverized and there were fractures in the top, sides and back of her head.

When I got to the hospital I was allowed to her bedside in the intensive care unit. Lisa always had the coloration of Snow White: the whitest skin, jet-black hair, and beautiful blue eyes. Now she was unrecognizable, her head was swollen and round almost like a basketball; her skin was entirely black with tinges of purple and blue, her face was so swollen that the only recognizable feature was the end of her nose that was just sticking up above the swelling.

Amazingly she was conscious, she heard me and said, “who is that?” I said “Its me, Timmy.” She said “What are you doing here?” I said, “You have been in a bad car accident so I came to see you.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because I love you!” she said “Oh.” I was so happy as I stood at her bedside because I knew God was saving her life.  At that point she went into a coma which she remained in for most of the next month.

Lisa’s Recovery

After about a month, she was conscious and talking and they discovered that she was nearly blind and could only see out of the bottom half of her left eye. After about a month she was flown by helicopter from Massachusetts to the hospital at Port Jefferson on Long Island. Lisa spent a total of four months in the hospital. She remains legally blind, but fortunately she can read and can navigate independently, although, she can still see only out of the bottom half of her left eye.

After spending several years learning to deal with her new handicaps she got a GED then a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s Degree and is now a social worker in the Veterans Administration, where she helps veterans ever day.  I thank God every day for accepting the offer of my life in service in exchange for hers.  I am so blessed and so lucky that God agreed to my offer. It is the best thing that ever happened to either of us.

Miracles Can Happen to Skeptics

If I look at what happened as an unbiased, detached theologian, the first thing that jumps out at me is how unworthy I was to have received such a miracle, much less to have been accepted into God’s service. I was an agnostic, or a skeptical inquirer, certainly not a believer. Theologically, it is significant that a person should have a profound, miraculous experience under those circumstances.

The stereotype and the expectation most people have is that miracles and spiritual experiences come to saints or at least to the devout and not to agnostics and skeptics living in sin.

I now know that none of us are ever worthy to receive a miracle from God, that his miracles are always given in grace. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter seven about his struggles with sin. He said: “ I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate” (7:15 GNTD). The greatest apostle in history struggled with sin and yet was a part of many miracles.

So I conclude from all this is that God loves and responds to the love and desire for Him that we have in our hearts.  God also knows that, in the world, love and our higher instincts are often overpowered by physical and psychological desires.

For me personally, I was skeptical about the reality of God from an early age. Like doubting Thomas, I was resolved to believe in nothing I could not see or touch or that could not be proven to me. Even though I attended church and Sunday school regularly in all the years between age five and my sister’s car accident, I still didn’t know God, nor had I seen any proof of his existence.

The Seeds of Faith

When Lisa was miraculously saved I discovered that seeds of faith had been planted inside me by all the years of Church and Sunday school. Watered by the prayers of my deepest need in the darkest time for my soul, the seeds of faith burst forth suddenly with amazing life. I have come to realize that unlike physical seeds, which can take weeks to germinate and sprout, spiritual seeds can and do spring to instant growth when watered with the sincere and urgent prayers of a person facing catastrophe such as I was then.

I have also come to realize that this is an illustration of the reality of the words God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (29:13 NRSV).

 

Relevant Scripture

You will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah. 29:13)

I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15 GNTD)

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms. 34:18 ESV)

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NRSV)

John 20:24-29 New International Version (NIV)
Doubting Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

talking to God hand uplifted to heaven

Talking to God | Spiritual Meditations

Who wouldn’t want to talk to someone with credentials that include: Creator, Helper, Strength of His people, Everlasting  Light, God of Peace, Loving and Forgiving God, Comforter, Faithful and True?

In my last post, I encouraged you to talk to God.  It occurred to me that maybe we should delve into this a little further.  There are a number of ways we can talk to God.  I’m going to share my experience with you and I hope you will share yours with me.

Childhood Prayers

When I was a child my family sat around the dinner table and my dad said  a standard prayer each night.  “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food”.  Short and appreciative, but we were recognizing God’s participation in our lives.

The bedtime prayer I was taught was, “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”.  This was then followed by a list of everyone I wanted God to bless, which was much the same every night, but did allowed for some childish variation and was the beginning of really talking to God.  This night time ritual was overseen by one of my parents.   I was brought up to believe there is a God,  a God worth learning about, and a God who knew me.  From my perspective, it was a one-way conversation, but God heard.  The “die before I wake”, part didn’t really bother me, but I have to say, I remember at that age, being concerned about somebody or something coming in my 2nd story bedroom window or hiding under my bed.

What childhood prayers do you remember?  I’d like to hear them.  Please enter them in the comments.

Group Prayers

Today, in churches and gatherings all over the world, Christians recite the Lord’s prayer, in spite of the fact that Jesus specifically told us to pray in solitude.  But in defense of this practice, it IS the only prayer that Jesus spelled out and he said “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”  He also quoted from Isaiah 56:7 “My house will be called a house of prayer”  (Luke 19:46).  So saying a group prayer that he gave us, in his presence, must be OK.

Matthew 6:5-15 New International Version (NIV)

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.   “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Just Me and God Talking

The other notable part of this scripture, is “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”.  So why ask Him for anything?!  My experience indicates that God wants us to communicate with Him, but there is no need to repeat the same request over and over.  What I have found to be more important is being sincere and speaking to God from my very core, from my heart, in honesty and vulnerability…laying it all out there…getting personal.  I have to believe that it is more beneficial for me to recognize the need, the reliance on God, than it is for me to explain to God what I need…since He already knows. Make the request and then trust that He will address it as He sees fit.    When I have heard back from God, it has been in response to this kind of heart-felt plea or expression.

This, of course, is where the ability to recognize God’s response becomes important, which may not be evident if we haven’t trained ourselves to listen.  This is where the work comes in…the study of spiritual truths and meditation.

In 2004 the city where I live was expected to have a direct hurricane hit and my house was in a low area.  I prepared the best I could and then went, with my family, to the home of a friend who lived on higher ground and in a house with all the latest hurricane  protection features.  I had pleaded with God to protect us from the storm.  I remember exactly where I was when He answered me.   As we got out of the car and approached the friend’s front door, I felt suddenly calm.  God told me we would be fine.  It turned out to be a beautiful day, hardly a cloud in the sky.  After a morning visit with our friends, we went home.

Talking All the Time

There’s one more aspect of talking to God that I want to mention.  What does it mean to “pray without ceasing”?  I don’t think God necessarily wants us to excuse ourselves from the world and join a monastery so that we can pray all day.  I think the apostle Paul was telling us  to make God a part of our daily life, like a friend that we talk to every day, wherever we are. Our constant companion and counselor.   No need to text.  Some people talk out loud to God, but He hears your thoughts just as well.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

 Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Any Final Thoughts?

Billions of people talk to God and we don’t all do it the same way.  And, certainly, God communicates with us in many ways.   I would like to hear about the ways you converse with God.  I’d also like to hear about how He talks to you.  What examples stand out in your mind?  Please enter them in the comments.  Thanks.