‘Insha’Allah‘ is a word I heard growing up from the Muslims I interacted with who were either friends of my family, school or college mates and later colleagues.
It’s a lovely word that means ‘if God so wills it’. And yet, it’s not a word that has any fatalistic tones to it. Rather, it’s an affirmation of faith in a God who always work for our good.
Incidentally, that’s the kind of God I believe in. An all-loving God who works in ways we may not always fathom, but who knows what we need. But let me qualify that.
It’s easy to blame the world’s problems on God. A recent post by Danny Brown, one of the most inspiring bloggers I know, quotes a ‘Christian’ who talked about the refugee crisis being one of the unfathomable acts of God! Really? We take and take from the Earth. We plunder and loot her resources. We attack other nations for flimsy reasons. We torture, rape and kill those whose notions of faith and God are different from our own. And yet, we conveniently blame it on God.
No. That just doesn’t sit right with me.
The God I believe in wants us to get off our butt and do something brave with our lives. He challenges us to move out of our comfort zones. He pushes us to reach out to others in kindness.
And when we have done all we can, then we have the right to say, ‘Insha’Allah’.
Let me share this poem from Danusha Lameris
I don’t know when it slipped into my speech
that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”
Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.
The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.
So many plans I’ve laid have unraveled
easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.
Every language must have a word for this.
A word our grandmothers uttered
under their breath as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon, hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes, dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.
Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah. Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah the rice will be enough to last through winter.
How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way a mother would, carefully,
from one day to the next.
Let us act positively and hope actively!
I’m linking in to Write Tribe’s #MondayMusings today.
Pic credit : Deviant Art
The danger of superstition is that we put our minds on hold when we follow it. In the words of the Indian philosopher, Swami Vivekananda, ‘If superstition enters, the brain is gone.’
Vastu shastra is a traditional Hindu system of architecture. ‘Vastu‘ translates to mean ‘dwelling place’ and ‘shastra‘ translates as ‘doctrine, teaching’. As I understand it, ancient Indian manuals of architecture advocated that houses should be built to ensure that the five elements of earth, air, water, space and fire are accommodated in a particular way. The direction in which the whole house and each room within the house faces was specified keeping these elements in mind, much like the Chinese, feng shui.
While there might be some scientific basis to this doctrine, whether it can be actually called a science is debatable.
Somewhere, around 25 years or so ago, vastu shastra was revived with a vengeance. Several ‘experts’ began to earn big money in exchange for their views on how houses and buildings must be made ‘vastu-compliant‘. If that was not bad enough, people who are not doing well financially are told that the reason for their situation is that their homes or offices are not vastu-compliant! You now have people making crazy structural changes to their houses, selling them off for a song, or pulling them down and rebuilding them. Naturally, these ‘experts’ recommend architects and contractors, and get commissions out of them too!
Vastu shastra has now moved into becoming a superstitious practice followed out of fear.
Just recently, my brother got a frantic call from the tenant of the apartment he was renting out on behalf of an uncle. The man had paid the rental deposit and taken the keys to move in. Then his family told him he was bringing terrible bad luck on himself as the entrance door of the apartment does not face east! He told my brother, “I don’t believe in this, but I don’t want to take a chance.”
Two neighbours are fighting in court because one of them extended his apartment in such a way that the shape of the outer walls of the other’s apartment is no longer square and therefore not vastu-compliant!
I know of another family whose business was doing badly. They are very devout Catholics but also part of an evangelical movement. The priest heading this movement, advised them that their new home was not built in a good place. Naturally, the’Lord’ told him that they needed to build a new house (perhaps, he then recommended a contractor too!). The family moved out and built a new house. Soon after, they lost their son in a tragic accident, the mother developed cancer, and recently one son’s marriage broke up. I wonder how the family reconciles this in their mind and what the ‘Lord’ and his priest have to say now.
Are we clinging on to superstition so that we can find a cause for our suffering? Are we looking out for easy answers? Are allowing ourselves to be led by people who prey on our fears for their own gain?
It is not my intention to offend anyone with this post, so my apologies in advance. However, these are my views and I will stand by them.
Linking into the #1Word Challenge hosted by Lisa Witherspoon and Janinie Huldie. Today’s prompts are : Tired / Superstion
Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard
Oh Lord, why don’t we?
The Paul McCartney song plays endlessly in my head as I read reports of the henious crime in Charleston. A crime that is in all probability a racial one. People take various sides in discussions about this. I’m proud of my blogger friends who wrote strong posts against racism.
(I urge you to read Sharon Greenthal’s post ‘What can one white woman do to change the world?’)
Then a few days later, happy news also out of the US. The Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is a right nationwide. Colourful display pictures spread on Facebook to celebrate pride. And then I see questions and judgements flying around. “Does your rainbow DP mean you support gays?” “Obama is leading the US into sin.”
I share a picture from another blogger friend that very effectively says that Jesus never condemned gays (or anyone else). But I see one of her connections reacting to this with: ‘Perhaps Jesus didn’t say it, but His Father did!’ (What??)
I’m happy to read and share a note from the Jesuit priest, Fr Martin James:
The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.” But God wants more. God wants us to love. And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love.
Love means: getting to know LGBT men and women, spending time with them, listening to them, being challenged by them, hoping the best for them, and wanting them to be a part of your lives, every bit as much as straight friends are part of your lives.
Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.
Somewhere down the line, we’ve forgotten that religion was created to take us closer to God. A God who is all about connecting. A God who created us all equal.
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
What will it take for us to remember that we are all connected? Nothing else makes sense!
Today I’m linking into Write or Die Wednesdays hosted by Mia of The Chronicles of Chaos and Vashelle of Shelly’s Cabaret a bi-monthly creative writing prompt.
Lent – a season where it’s common practice for Catholics to ask each other ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ Okay. So I’m half-serious. But that’s the kind of idea of we had of Lent growing up. A time of ‘giving up’.
While I understand the value of fasting and moderation, I’ve never fully agreed with the need to ‘give up something’ for Lent.
A few years back, the Catholic Church in India suggested that rather than abstaining from meat and fasting, people should abstain from other things. For example, abstain from watching television and instead spend more time with family.
Pope Francis, who is already a kind of hero for me, by his outspokeness and ability to talk hard and bring up issues within the Church, has very strong views on what Lent should really be. In his Lenten message to the Church he urges that instead of abstaining from food or drink, we should fast from indifference.
He says: “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Describing what he calls the ‘globalization of indifference’ he writes, “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
A very strong message and one that can apply all year around and to every one of us.
Inspirational Quotes During Lent
“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor – He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”
– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
“The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”
– Pope St. Gregory the Great
“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.”
– Aaron Saul
During these 40 days, let me put away all my pride. Let me change my heart and give up all that is not good within me. Let me love God with all that I am and all that I have.”
– Genesis Grain
“Remember that lent and ash Wednesday is not just about putting away the bad things. It is about creating good things and helping the poor and the needy, being kind to people and much more.”
– Jacob Winters
“It is not just about giving up our favorite food but its about going further and giving up things like hatred and unforgiveness. You need to clean your heart and prepare yourself for purity.”
– Amanda Jobs
“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.”
– St. John of the Cross
“We all suffer for each other, and gain by each other’s suffering; for man never stands alone here, though he will stand alone hereafter; but here is he is a social being, and goes forward to his long home as one of a large company.”
– Cardinal John Henry Newman
More Lenten Quotes from Pope Francis
“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”
“Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.”
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good… Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
“Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.”
“We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way.”
“We all have the duty to do good.”
Do you believe in Lent? What practices do you follow? Does your religion talk of the value of fasting? What do you think about fasting from indifference?
Share your views. I’d love to hear them.
PS: Do read this post from Robyn of Essence of Family – Changing Your Life’s Focus: 40 Day Lenten Challenge
You’re Going to Be Okay: Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days
Published February 4th 2014 by Fleming H. Revell Company
Sometimes it feels like life’s falling apart at the seams. Sometimes you’re completely worn out by stresses that never seem to end. For every woman who has been disappointed, who has watched a dream die, whose life isn’t what she imagined it would be, bestselling author Holley Gerth has a heartfelt message of hope–you really “are” going to be okay. And it “is” possible to live with joy, resilience, and strength in both the good times and the bad. In fact, she says, that’s what God desires for us.
With her trademark positive encouragement and probing questions for self-reflection, Holley encourages women to spend less of their lives regretting and more of their lives truly living. She shows them how to guard their hearts against despair and look to the future with confidence, remembering that they are part of a greater plan and “nothing “can stop God’s purposes for them.
Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like You’re Already Amazing, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She’s also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. Hang out with her at www.holleygerth.com.
THE SECRET TO LIVING WELL
A little over a year ago, my grandpa had a ninetieth birthday party. I had the privilege of being there and serving punch. That put me in a position to do a lot of listening. Over fifty people packed into his house, and each one came with a story.
“I was in your grandpa’s Sunday school class forty years ago.”
“I used to shop in your grandpa’s bookstore, and he always encouraged me.”
“I’m in the Gideons with your grandpa. We’ve been friends for decades!”
“I go to your grandpa’s church, and he hugs me every Sunday.”
“I’m your grandpa’s neighbor, and he makes me laugh whenever I see him.”
On and on the stories went of how my grandpa has spent his life loving well, in little and big ways. I nodded my head in agreement because I’ve experienced the same. For over fifteen years now, my grandpa has taken me out on breakfast dates to ask me how I’m doing and encourage me in my faith.
My grandpa never went to Hollywood. He’s not a CEO of a big corporation or a high-position politician. He’s a regular guy in a small town who simply says yes when God asks to use him.
It turns out that doing so is not only a blessing to those around him; it’s also probably one of the reasons he’s lived so long.
Research has shown that those who have strong relationships and serve others tend to live healthier, more joyful lives.
When we go through stress, it’s easy to hunker down and withdraw from others. I certainly tend to respond that way. If I’m having a hard day, I’m more likely to sit on the corner of the couch with some chocolate for a private pity party than to reach out to those around me. I’m slowly learning that choice isn’t beneficial.
We are made to connect with others.
Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence, says, “Our brain has been preset for kindness.”[i] He goes on to share that we are always impacted by those around us. Through brain “loops” we catch each other’s moods like colds. Watch two friends having an intimate conversation. Their body language almost always synchronizes without them even realizing it. What this ultimately means is that when we bring joy to others, it comes back to us in both spiritual and physical ways.
When we’re stressed, we need to shift our internal state, and serving others can be one of the most effective ways to do so.
Ironically, when we need it most is often when we’re likely to do this least. That can be due to lower energy (and sometimes what we really do need is simply rest). But I think it can also be because of a lie that we believe: “I have to have it all together before I can help someone else.”
Have you ever felt this way? I have. But it’s simply not true. Throughout Scripture God uses messy, broken people right in the middle of their greatest challenges. We don’t need to have it all together. Wherever we are today, we can serve in some way. Even if it’s just offering a smile to the nurse in our hospital room. Or making our toddler giggle when we’re almost at the end of our patience. Or listening to a friend at church on Sunday morning when we’d really like to get home to our house and the couch instead.
What I’ve seen through my grandpa’s life is that true service isn’t about grand gestures; it’s about a series of small choices.
Most of them unseen. Many we won’t know the impact of this side of heaven. All of which add up to a lifetime of resilience and loving well.
Jairam Mohan is somebody who pores over excel spreadsheets and power-point presentations in his day job, but believes his true calling is in boring people to death, hence, he updates his blog Mahabore’s Mumblings quite frequently.
Between his wife and him, they nurture their 2 yr old daughter and the blog with snippets from their experiences with mythology, parenting and occasionally also dabble with some fiction.
SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
While it is reasonably well known that I regularly write about the great Indian epics and mythological tales, one standard assumption that most of my readers might have made about me would have been that I am a deeply religious sort of person. After all, someone who is not very religious will probably not read and write so much about the wonderful old mythological tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, will he.
And so when Corinne asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I immediately thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to put up something about my personal opinion about religion and spirituality in general.
Coming from a fairly conservative South Indian Tamil Brahmin family it was inevitable that I was introduced to religion at a very young age. Starting from the fact that I was taught some Sanskrit shlokas at a very young age and my upanayanam ceremony (a Brahmin initiation ritual which symbolizes the transference of spiritual knowledge to the seeker) was done when I was 11 yrs old, most of my childhood was filled with good-hearted and well-intentioned attempts by my parents to make me a moderately religious spiritual child. However, the fact that I was growing up in a changing India and a cosmopolitan Bangalore meant that I hung out with quite a diverse set of friends ranging from North Indians, Indian Diaspora returned from Kuwait due to the Gulf War, Anglo Indians and the like, and this meant that I somehow never could quite latch on to the idea of organized religion as a concept.
Although I did not rebel against religion and religious practices and become an atheist or anything like that, it was just that I did it just to keep my parents happy and didn’t quite pick it up the way my peer Tam Brahms did in smaller cities like Palakkad, Madras, etc. This meant that although I was part of the larger Tam Brahm community by virtue of my birth, upbringing, etc, I didn’t quite fit in with them as comfortably as I fit in within the cosmopolitan melee of Bangalore.
That being said, the same cosmopolitan melee ensured that I developed a fair appreciation of other religions, other cultures, and ended up going to churches, mosques, gurudwaras, functions from all other faiths to which my friends belonged to and developed a decent understanding of the fact that God, as a concept advocated pretty much the same thing, albeit from different pulpits, altars, temples or mosques. And that, in my opinion has held me in good stead over the years.
In recent times though, as life and its experiences have weathered my sensibilities, I now realize that ‘spirituality’ as a word encompasses so much more than just religion and religious practices. In fact, the same religious practices which I shunned and ignored when I was younger, I now realize are an easier way to become more spiritual. After all, it is next to impossible for all of us to develop the high levels of concentration and motivation required to focus, concentrate and meditate and bring our minds to a state of equanimity, where we treat everybody and everybody as equal in the eyes of the Creator.
And this is precisely where some of our religious practices help us. By virtue of their inflexibility and rigidity, they enable us to become more disciplined with our habits, our thoughts, and coupled with the cosmopolitan world view that I grew up with, these practices help me maintain my sense of spirituality.
When I read the great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, I don’t necessarily see Hindu Gods like Rama, Hanuman and Krishna in them, I see normal human beings being put in unusual situations and learn from how they react to them. Each one of these epics and the thousands of smaller stories within them are all lessons from which all of us can learn from. The insights that these characters and situations give into the human psyche are amazing and it is visible from the quality of comments that some of these posts receive on my blog. And that to me is spiritual lessons being put into practice.
To conclude, am I religious, not really, but am I spiritual, to some extent, but I personally believe I have a long way to go and have only recently started taking the right steps in that direction.
Post Script from Corinne: The theme for the December NaBloPoMo is More/Less and that’s what I’m exploring through December 2013. I will be writing on the subject of my own spiritual journey soon.