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The month of August easily wins the title of the month with most birthdays. This last week of the month I am one of those blessed to have appeared on the world stage in August, well over half a century ago. Growing up in a village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro our birthdays were different from what I am observing this week. In those days, birthdays were baptism anniversaries grounded in church observations and celebration. Many years later, I still remember with nostalgia that first birthday when I switched from a church-oriented observance to today’s more temporal indulgencies.
It is not my golden birthday. That too was many years ago. Neither am I particularly ready to exit the world stage on my birthday even though that would put me in that special group with William Shakespeare. But there are four things I am looking forward to that will shape my worldview on my birthday and moving forward.

1. Women’s Equality Day

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I regard it a privilege that my birthday is on Women’s Equality Day. It’s been 98 years since the adoption of Women’s Suffrage. 98 years is a long time and women’s equality appears to me as elusive as it was between 1840-1920. My prayer on this day – my birthday – is for change of mindset that will help speed up the time when women, half the human population, assume their rightful position in society. In this part of the world, I am inspired on this birthday, by all the women who have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate that they are no longer accepting being relegated to subordinate (and sometimes subservient) status.
But, this is humankind’s aspiration. I look forward to join in solidarity with all who are committed to the aspiration. A luta continua.

2. National Safe at Home Week

For my birthday, I am connecting in a more practical way with the spirit of the National Safe at Home Week {August 22 – 26). It’s easy to be negligent or even languid in the belief that home is the safest place – and it is. As special caution, beginning this week, I am resolved to practice daily the recommendations set out in various guides for the National Safe at Home Week. One caution in particular, according to the National Safety Council, falling, mostly at home, is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths among all age groups, but it is the number one cause of death for people 65 years and older.
During the past six months, a friend from bible study has become an even closer friend because of moments of visitation while she recuperated at a rehab facility after she fell at home. Research shows that aging itself does not cause falls. Furthermore, it is not seniors alone who are prone to injuries and fatal risks at home. Accidental poisoning and drowning in the home swimming pool are among the major risks for children. And it is good to remember everyone faces the risks of house fires and the banana peel.
This is not to say that I’m adopting an attitude of premonition. On the contrary. Seniors who live in fear of falling simultaneously reduce their quality of life. But awareness should not translate into fear. I’m looking forward to encouraging living courageously and in awareness. In particular, the experience with my bible study friend shows that something positive can come out of difficult and even painful experiences. It is a lesson I’ll share with anyone challenged by experiences like my friends, whether they are victims of accidents or family members and friends who will step up to be available for various needs.

3. National Humankind Week (August 25-31)

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So, the week of my birthday challenges me – and I hope, you too- to be kind to humankind. Yes, be kind to humankind, not only family members (even though more so with family) but I’m striving to see all humanity as family. Beginning with being, kindness is also active. If I can project kindness to another human being, who knows, it may cause a ripple effect that spreads to all of humankind. It will be terrific if on this occasion, I fully embrace Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to be the change I wish to see in the world.
I need not be apologetic admitting that, as human beings, we are becoming more and more fragmented. Maybe we belong to groups of people who think like us and share similar ideologies. May be the people we pray with are exactly like us. Yet that is not representative of humanity.
As I observe my birthday I am resolving to adopt a more inclusive worldview that celebrates diversity of humanity. That is possibly the only perspective that embodies kindness to humankind.

4. National Cherry Popsicle Day {August 26}

Now, that is sweet, is it not. Cherry popsicle happens to be my favorite summer treat. I salute the wonderful popsicle lovers who conceived the idea to designate my birthday a special day for the treat. More than that, the cherry popsicle, accidentally invented by an 11 year old, serves to remind me of the many sweet surprises of life. That every day is a potential for something new, something truly amazing, something great and not pre-planned.
Furthermore, we are coming to the end of summer. If you are not running already, you’ll probably be joining the rat race soon. Bu that is no reason not to have fun and be cheerful. Enjoy a popsicle on this special day and keep the summer memories fresh.
What if you are not an August 26er? No problem. You don’t have to be, but the season will change and change of seasons triggers mood changes, including a kind of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I am at risk for depression even without change of seasons. I’m going to face the change of seasons prepared and motivated by a mindset of the four influences.
Regardless, nobody wants the experience of depression in the fall. Not with all the demands awaiting. We need energy and adequate sleep. We don’t want depression to steal that away. We want to be active and being who we are made to be. Enjoy a cherry popsicle for the journey ahead.

 

Focus

‘Mind your own business’ is a familiar admonition to busybodies who find excitement prying into other people’s concerns and manage to make those concerns their own. But if you have something that keeps you busy, in a positive way, that is what you should mind; right?

It’s been a while since I resolved to write full-time. You probably think of writing as another way of saying unemployment. And that is fine if unemployment means not being employed by another person or entity. I have heard of, and seen the misery many people experience when it is time to go to work. I still remember the words of the preacher who, one Sunday morning, after a sermon about the Hebrews’ bondage in Egypt, closed the service with words of consolation for “those who have to go to Egypt tomorrow morning” .

Experts (psychologists, entrepreneurs) and gurus of different stripes urge us, with all the conviction they can muster, to find that occupation that gives us satisfaction. They reassure us that until that happens, until we incorporate that satisfying quest in life, we will perpetually be in the grip of the Egyptian bondage.

Going to Egypt on Monday morning, and every day until Friday (and for some on Saturdays and Sundays) is also having contacts with a boss and managers. One volunteer manager I worked with a few years ago, did not like the title of volunteer manager. Now, that was at a non-profit spiritual organization. In a regular place of employment, there will be managers, may be two or three or more, managing you. For some in the workplace, right there, is the source of pain. It would be for me too. I wouldn’t enjoy managing others and I don’t like being managed.

That too was reason enough for me to opt out. The motivating factor was the desire to do what is fulfilling then not having a boss and a manager was an added incentive.
So, I made the declaration, first to myself, then to friends. I took steps too, in the right direction, From now on, my priority was going to be writing my blog and completing a book (a spiritual guide to Paul’s epistle to the Romans) that I started writing a few years ago. In the meantime, I published, on Amazon.com, a brief account of my spiritual journey during the past couple of years. Then the impostor phenomenon set in and I embarked on a revised edition which I am still working on.

Jason Hewett wrote the following in Freedom With Writing: “I was 25 years old working full-time and very dissatisfied with an entry level marketing job in New York”. It is obvious that what follows is his path to fulfillment. If you count you’ll most likely read similar statements four or five times a day.

I’m not 25 years old. That was a long time back. But the feeling is the same regardless of age. So is the second sentiment, which brings to mind Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. I decided to take an inventory of myself, as they say in Step Four of AA (Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves). I want freedom, no bosses, no managers breathing down my neck. I also want my occupation to be my passion, similar to a vocation.

In a HuffPost blog 5 Reasons to Become Unemployable Sonia Thompson lists factors like politics, not fit for the “in group” and goes on to advocate ‘become unemployable’ and ‘become an entrepreneur’. In most cases all that is needed is what you already have, and the desire to learn and improve on it.

My passion is writing. From very early on, I have been fascinated by the written word. Don’t ask me why. My guess is I am of the right brain dominance, slightly more than left brain. In secondary school I delighted in reading Charles Dickens and even memorized many portions of his novels. I still remember Miss Havisham and Pip and Joe Gargery. I studied English literature and History in exchange for Physics and Chemistry. Over the years, no matter what occupation I was in, writing deep rooted in my soul. Don’t forget that I am introvertive too, like many writers.

A couple of years ago I resolved that to be my path forward. Like every beginner I created a blog. Then I wrote for various online publications. I still write blogs as well as post content to a couple of digital publications. I wanted to stay focused on that path.
But, as with all charted pathways, distractions lie ahead. Something promising utility of some kind always crops up somewhere along the journey. Most of the distractions are quite enticing too.

My most recent lure came from far away in the UK. I still have a resume on Indeed.com. One day I got an email about a remote writing gig with a fast-paced tight schedule and, after some analysis, sounded like tightly structured. No creativity, it looked like. And the managers are all over, locally and in corporate offices in the UK. A recruiter came upon my resume and the tango began.

There was a financial incentive too promising to be ignored. For a freelancer who may, from time to time, face real fear of starvation, a promise of a generous pay can be alluring. I forgot about bossy managers and tight schedules. What about the rigidity in the execution of tasks? As a matter of fact, that was the term they used: a well-executed summary.

It took ten days of back and forth exchanges of emails and documents, online conferences and interviews in between. Gradually I realized I was drifting away from my goals. Don’t get me wrong. Everything was about writing. But all writing is not the same.

As if waking up from a nightmare, I embarked on a task to distinguish between what is important and what is urgent and from which we get four perspectives.

Important and Urgent                                                        Important but not Urgent
(Manage: Short-term Crises and Problems)                   (Focus: Long-term Strategic Goals)

Urgent but not Important                                                   Not Important and not Urgent
(Avoid: Distractions and Interruptions)                          (Limit: Time-wasting Activities)

I relegated the UK business to the bottom two. I need to focus on the important even though financial considerations may be urgent. And if I can stay focused, I will be managing my own business.

Weeping Virgin Mary

A couple of years ago, at a spiritual retreat, a friend recounted, with extraordinary emotions, how he witnessed a much-publicized sighting of the Virgin Mary, at a prior appointed sight in Northern Kentucky. Those of us at the retreat remembered very well the expectations and accompanying skepticism in the weeks when word spread of the Virgin’s intention to appear at the appointed place and time.

I didn’t go to the appearances, neither did the other retreatants. My reason for not troubling myself even as may be hundreds of people flocked to the place of miracle, was skepticism. I suspect it was the reason for others too. But our friend’s testimony and the tears that flowed down his cheeks as he recounted the sightings, left us wondering about these Virgin Mary appearances.

I grew up in a village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro where the population was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. My family was Protestant and a minority in that particular village. There were many occasions when, as we walked to and from school, the Catholic kids pointed at apparitions of the Virgin Mary on the summit of Kilimanjaro. I don’t recall seeing a vision of the Blessed Virgin; we, Protestants, dismissed the claims off hand. That was our upbringing – visions of the Virgin Mary were a Catholic fantasy.
Here at the retreat, we were all Episcopalians, with some degree of veneration of the Virgin Mary, of course, but my Lutheran background made it hard for me to see eye to eye with our friend who wept his heart out with the joy and awe of what he saw one evening in northern Kentucky.

Now there are reports of a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary weeping in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hobbs, NM. Tears on the statue were first spotted on Pentecost Sunday, May 20. According to church officials there, they have collected and tested samples of the tears and confirm to be made of olive oil scented with the same perfume for chrism used in baptism, confirmations and ordination.

According to Deacon Jim Winder, the vice chancellor of the Roman Catholic diocese of Las Cruses, something supernatural has been happening. He says, “We do try to take a healthy skepticism to things like this. The church is presented with all kinds of ‘miracles’, so we don’t accept it at face value. We will investigate to rule out any chances of man-made causes or natural causes. We don’t want to jump to any conclusions”.

Their investigation so far has ruled out human causes for the tears. And as far as Bishop Oscar Cantu of the diocese of Las Cruces is concerned, if something supernatural is happening in that church, the decision is to determine whether the source is good or evil. God or Satan, in other words.

The second point, according to Deacon Winder, is that the church need not be too concerned about the fact as to the response of the community. What is significant with the miracle is that may be people have been drawn closer to God. Visitors have flocked to Hobbs, NW from as far as Italy. For many of the believers, there is no need for a church declaration of a miracle. It reminds me of my growing up around the sightings of the Virgin Mary on the summit of Kilimanjaro. As it is said, for those who believe no explanation is necessary, and for those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible.

Often times the church may not intervene and explanations may not be forthcoming. Other times too, miraculous occurrences turn out to be hoaxes. Often too, after some years, miracles may be explained scientifically.

A couple of sentences from Donald Trump’s interview with the British tabloid paper Sun, on 12 July, explain the phenomenon that has come to be known as Trumpism and its fervor among the 62.9 million Americans who voted for him in 2016. (His opponent, by the way, received 65.8 million votes and this anomaly is also rooted in the dominant mindset). He asserted during the interview, that “allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very very sad. I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago”. Later, in a press conference with PM Teresa May he speculated that he won the election because of his campaign’s immigration stand.

This is a cry for the past – 10 or 15 years ago is actually language for centuries and centuries of a particular mindset or world view. But before we come to that, the clock ticks forward. That is the universal law, it is how the universe runs. No one can turn back, as to rewind the movement of the dynamics of the universe. It is like wishing to stop the sun (we are told in the bible that Joshua did if you want to be literal) or undo aging. It is inevitable that body joints clink, pop, snap, sizzle and crack in the course of aging.

What is happening is painful resistance to the inevitable.

But what is the nucleus of the predominant mindset? I am convinced the nexus of the worldview Trumpism represents is white male domination. The white male has dominated every aspect of society over the centuries. Rebecca Traister pointed out in an article titled Summer of Rage in New York Magazine (6/29/18) that “white men are the minority in the United States – no wonder they get uncomfortable when their power is challenged”. On illustration she uses is the fact that in the 242 year history of the U.S there have been 92 presidents and vice presidents, 100% of them males and more than 99% white males. The one black male elected president became the rallying grievance for Trumpism.

All the major social and political struggles in the U.S have been attempts to challenge the ruling minority. Whether it is Women’s Suffrage, Reproductive Rights, Civil Rights, Planned Parenthood and so on, the white male has exerted coercion, intimidation and any rhetoric in between, in a quest to continue to dominate society. The reality of not only a black man, but a woman, becoming president, sent shock waves into the worldview of the dominant culture.

But change is inevitable. In the popular British TV drama series, Downton Abbey, Robert Crawley, the patriarch of the clan, worries about the future because of the changes in the society. He laments, “Sometimes I feel like a creature in the wilds whose natural habitat is gradually being destroyed”.  This is after Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson (played by Shirley MacLane) makes this comment:  “You know the way to deal with the world today is not to ignore it. If you do, you’ll just get yourself hurt”. As to the feelings of the creature in the wilds, Martha recommends that “some animals adapt to new surroundings. It seems a better choice than extinction”.

Certainly Trumpism is not in any sense an attempt to ignore the changing world. It is not adaptation to the new world either, otherwise there would not be wishes for the past 10 or 15 years. What we are seeing is a fight for what is fast slipping away and the fight is choking everyone in society. But there is only one outcome, fight or refuse to adapt: the clock will never tick backwards, it is not how the universe runs.

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There has been a lot of talk about Oprah Winfrey’s interview in the August issue of Vogue magazine. I was particularly impressed by her comment that she made a fortune being herself. She reiterated in effect that she does not have a persona that is different from the person she is. She is authentic, in other words, and her authentic story has rewarded her well.

I am suggesting, or paraphrasing, that Oprah found a way to share her life story and people responded positively. There is a story in the Gospel of Mark chapter 6 where Jesus went to his hometown and into the local synagogue. The townspeople marveled at his wisdom initially but soon scoffed at the whole idea – because well, “he is nothing special, just one like his brothers and sisters and any of the kids around here”. In perhaps another version of this story in Luke 4, the townspeople drag Jesus out of the synagogue and would have tossed him down a cliff had he not somehow escaped.

The point is that this is Jesus’ story and it does not appear to have a happy ending. I suspect many of us would like happy endings to every episode in our life story. I am also suggesting that often we embellish our stories or choose not to share them because of those not-so-happy chapters.

Indeed, everyone has a story. Life is a continuous story with ups and downs, corners and detours, mistakes and even foolishness in some places. The temptation is to seek to paint a rosy picture of the journey, as if rosy means soft only. We know, though, that even roses blossom from stems with thorns. And talking of thorns, the apostle Paul mentions in his second letter to the Corinthians that he had “a thorn in the flesh” that was most unwelcome in his life. Yet, that did not deter him from the journey and sharing his story.

That is exactly what Jesus did after that discouraging episode in Nazareth. He did not give up or go into a depression. (I do that a lot of times – I mean, go into a depression).

When we accept and embrace vulnerability our life stories are authentic, stripped of the facades designed to project success, achievement, importance or significance and prestige. The world in turn responds, not because of a rosy outcome but because of the grace of accepting and embracing the whole journey as it continues to unfold. That is possible in a spirit of gratitude and humility.

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In a reflection piece published in Yale Divinity School’s Spring 2018 Reflections, and titled, The Future Depends on Our Image of God, Nancy Jo Kemper observes that ”Christianity has become a cult selling false certitude as a balm for modern anxieties rather than a faith movement following the way of Jesus”.   I’d like to point out from the  outset, that this may not be the picture of all of Christianity but only a part, albeit a good part of Christianity. Jesus’ way was of course,  the way of the cross, Via Dolorosa, which, some either don’t quite grasp it’s meaning, or, like the disciples at first, are still saying, “Heaven forbid Lord! This will never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22)

I like to hear people of faith give testimony of how God has acted in life. At the same time I am also conflicted by what seems, to me, to be denial of the way of the cross, or misleading theology of equating faith with prosperity.

Three years ago, a friend who worked side by side with me in outreach ministry was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer and after undergoing treatment the cancer was in complete remission, which, of course, was cause for celebration. During her illness she had remained strong in faith and of course we prayed a lot for cure and sure enough, our prayers were answered.

Less than a year after she got the news of remission, the cancer came back and more aggressively. She travelled to a prominent university hospital where an innovative procedure for treating that kind of cancer was being experimented. Unfortunately it turned out that she was not the right candidate for that procedure.

Complicated treatment procedures continued at her hometown medical center for a long time. As time went by she got weaker and weaker and a pitiable figure to look at – reminiscent of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Still, no treatment could match the cancer’s aggressiveness. One day her doctors summoned the family to announce that they would terminate the treatment because at that stage she was only wearing down and suffering pain.

She died the next day.

I remember her messages during that long ordeal. “My God is larger than the cancer”. She taught us a lot about faith – and that did not include certitude. That did not mean being cured only. She taught us that even in death we do not walk alone. That is how Paul could say, “whether we live or die we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8) and also, “neither death nor life…can separate us from the love of God” (Rom. 8:38-39).

So when I hear testimonies of thanksgiving that God woke us up in the morning, that some did not wake up, I have to remind myself that, yes, I need to live a life of gratitude, even for the seemingly ordinary like waking up in the morning  but also remember that God did not forget nor favor less, those who do not wake up.

 

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Psychologists tell us that it is a lot more emotional to part with possessions than to acquire them. that’s why we hoard. But this is not about hoarding but, well…emotions and awakening.

I woke up in the morning and as I descended the stairway I gazed through the tall stairway windows as I have done every morning for the past five days. This morning I did not see what I have seen first thing in the morning and what I expected to see. I rubbed my eyes and squinted, gazing across the street to the spot of my focus.

No, my eyes were not missing anything, nor was I not fully awake. But something was missing alright, what I expected to see and my dose of anticipated energy every morning for the past week. My heart was beginning to race, I could feel – and actually hear – my heightening heartbeat.

Dear Lord, let me not be mad, I prayed silently. What use will it do anyway, I thought. My mind was still trying to convince me that there was a mistake somewhere. I might have used a different spot last evening, and I was actually praying that God would make it so, because, after all I had used another spot during the day.

It was my treasured newly acquired bicycle I was not seeing, and the more I squinted my eyes in disbelief the more it was sinking in that it was stolen overnight.

Yes, I had owned it for only five days but it had become attached to me and I to it. It had given me a new perspective and even healed me – literally; but first things first.

For a little over six months now, it has been a blessing to begin every new week, in a very inspirational tone. Along with other volunteers, we begin every Monday morning at 5:30 making breakfast for our homeless neighbors at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. We pray every morning that the joy of the experience will continue with us and our guests for the rest of the week. And it does.

We do have a lot of fun. The other day Jane, our chef, complimented me for my newly acquired expertise in making potatoes – she taught me, actually. “Now you have job security”, she said and we all laughed. Not long after, as I was opening the oven doors I accidentally burned my forearms. I showed her the red bruises. “That has happened to me sometimes”, she confessed. Then in a serious note she added, “Don’t let it happen again, you’ll be fired”.

Then this added and unexpected blessing happened. Rob, one of the volunteer coordinators, informed me that there were a couple of donated bicycles and I could have one of them if I wanted.

Cycling has been a game changer for me. I am diabetic which means exercise is a life saver. Cycling has given me tangible health benefits that make my doctor proud – and me certainly.

The offer was exciting. One of those bicycles was a 21 speed mountain bike, I was excited about it but unfortunately it was too big for me and presented challenges mounting, and especially dismounting. I also had become accustomed to knee braces because of osteoarthritis. I had even believed that I was crippled without braces.

The excitement of the bicycle prompted me to exercise stretching my knees and hips and discovered that I actually did not need the knee braces at all. What a relief it was to discover that I was not after all immobile without braces. I was able to stretch one leg over the seat to get on and off the big bike.

Just for reassurance of the fact that blessings often come in multiples, another smaller bicycle was donated and it was a perfect much for me. It too was a 21 speed but a light weight. I could go up hills and inclines I could not scale before. I started making plans to get around, savor the landscape far and beyond the city and take pictures.

I have to confess that when I first read the owner’s manual online – 44 pages that include 62 warnings and caution alerts – I was intimidated. Will I be able to operate this thing? I thought. How about all these warnings not to get on the road before thoroughly practicing on deserted stretches to get a feel for it?

Guess what! No practice in a park or on empty streets. Once I got on it, it felt like I had had it for all my life.  Smooth, comfortable and easy to operate. I was having the time of my life and looking forward to extended rides. I delighted in the thought of continuing to be doctors’ envy.

It is now five days since I picked it up my precious gift from the church, and somebody stole it overnight. I had it chained securely to the rack as I had done every night. Now I am still processing. Should I be mad? Mad for what? For the cheap chain, or my decision to keep the bicycle at the same spot every night? Or, may be with the thief?

There is more to come.

Meek and weak are opposites

 

In a tweet to announce US isolation from the G7 communique, Trump referred to Canadian  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as being meek and weak. The implication in Trump’s claim is that the two – meek and weakness – are complimentary or even the same. Nothing can be further from truth.

Actually the opposite of meek is brash which describes Mr. Trump, and not Prime Minister Trudeau.

Brashness is a sign of weakness. During a press conference before departing from the G7 Summit, Mr. Trump asserted that all the summit leaders “smiled” at him. Smiling is a sign of cordiality not necessarily rapport. Being cordial or “friendly” in diplomatic parlance is not weakness.

And then it is said a picture is worth a thousand words. So we got a picture worth a psychology text book about body language. Psychologists have much to say about that, you may like Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on the subject.

Body Language

 

 

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Back in 1965 the Rolling Stones released a song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. And the reason for no satisfaction is …”Cause I try and I try and I try and I try and I try…” Essentially what the Rolling Stones are saying is indeed a universal reality. Satisfaction, happiness, peace of mind don’t come from effort or performance. We can all agree that Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, even at the time the song was released would more than qualify for what we call success. And yet (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

Then in 2003 Andre Crouch released an equally popular song for some audiences, me included, titled, Through It All. The lyrics include “I’ve been to lots of places, seen lots of faces. I’ve had many fears and sorrows” but “Through It All I’ve learned to trust Jesus, I’ve learned to trust God”. Implied in these lyrics is the message that satisfaction and peace of mind, happiness and joy come from a source bigger  than self.

Going way back in history, we have a letter in the New Testament written by Paul at a time when he was under house arrest in Rome, about 61 A.D. One need not be a Christian to appreciate the sheer joy that fills this letter to the Philippians. Again and again Paul urges his audience to be joyful. There is no exhortation to try and try or to pursue through hard work and  success to attain satisfaction. It is evident that satisfaction is already present; it does not need pursuing.

So the letter says, “Do not be anxious about anything”. Nothing renders joy and satisfaction more fleeting than anxiety. Anxiety for success and achievement, anxiety for power and prestige, anxiety for fame and recognition or even just anxiety because of uncertainty.

The remedy for anxiety and the assurance of peace and joy is trust in the power that is higher than self.

How do I know God?

 

We are told (in the bible – Exodus 3) that almost 4000 years ago Moses asked to know God’s name. Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what shall I tell them?” Moses pleaded with God.

The quest to know God is a perpetual human struggle. It is not any easier today than it was for Moses. God’s response to Moses was, “I am who I am…Tell them, I am”. Today we have various doctrines and creeds in attempts to know God. None of these are any easier than “I am who I am”. The Christian doctrine of Trinity and affirmations like the Nicene Creed are as mind-boggling as I am who I am.

Even the idea of God as a Father has come to be seen by many as an archaic patriarchal mindset so flawed that it does not come close to revealing God. Many of us can recall Sunday School mental images of God and of Jesus and the two could not be more different. Then you have the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost (in some Anglican traditions) and the puzzle is complete.

I grew up in a village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. I remember, as a child, my parents and their generation prayed, often facing the mountain or their eyes looking up into the sky. They knew God but they never attempted to define linguistically who God was. There were no doctrines and no creeds; these came with Christianity and the Church. In the eyes of this new way, the old folks’ expression became superstition to be fought against. As I and my generation grew up, we knew God as defined in the Catechism and the books of the Church.

It seems to me that God is a mystery. God cannot be defined with a universal language because there is no universal language. All attempts in that direction have raised more questions than answers. And when I think about it, my ancestors experienced God as strongly as anybody can. For them it was experience that was important not knowledge.