26 April 2011

Did you really buy that?


I’m sure you haven’t thought of this one... How can I be so sure? Well if you did, I suppose you wouldn’t be doing a lot of things that you are doing now or have done before. Or perhaps you did think of it... If you did then there is another think coming.

I’ve been wondering about why we buy what we buy... Is it the advertisements we watch on TV? Some hot star masquerades with the ‘thing’ and we think ‘Wow!’ and go to the stores asking for it? Or is it because some Tom, Dick and Harry or Sharon, Jane and Mary have it? Is it just some whim or fancy we have when we see it at the shopping mall? Is it because my best friend uses ‘it’ or my favourite uncle loves it...? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Yet many people do just that.

A few moments of luring, teasing and flattery and we are down on our knees proposing to making that ‘thing’ a part of our lives! When I see the long list of ‘must haves’ that are dangled on television, the image that comes to my mind is that of the serpent lying to Eve and telling her the fruit is good to eat and it would make her a god or just like one!!! And guess what happened after that... it was Paradise lost and more losses through misery, pain and eventual death. Things were different before that you know!!!

Would you buy cancer? Would you buy death by some disease? Would you ever choose to shorten your life or live with a disability? Would you prefer to eat something that is poisoned or known to cause slow poisoning? Would you knowingly break all the relationships you have with your loved ones – your family and friends? Would you like to make a statement to the world that you care only for you and nothing else, and that you don’t give a damn about anything in the world?

Perhaps you wouldn’t.

Yet many of the products we get enticed enough to buy and make a part of our lives do just that. If you don’t believe me, just check the statistics for a disease like cancer, check out its various forms and see what causes it and you will find the culprit is some product, some lifestyle that is promoted to others as though it is the best thing in the world! So think twice before you take that cigarette, gutka, liquor or alcoholic drink... Think twice before you get bewitched by speed demons because most of our roads have lower speed limits and speeding off like they do in the ads only cause death to someone on the road or your own.

You want to ape your favourite star... there is nothing wrong with it if they are supporting some sensible cause. But if they are jumping some crazy cliff without any safety measures, you could be courting death! Now do you really believe that you can become a star by doing something those stars don’t do in their daily lives? Ah! How silly!!! I feel sad to think about little kids who met with terrible accidents and even death after aping stars who do such mindless stunts.

I think we need to give credit where it is really due... Like for instance I baulk at the ads which show these beautiful stars with flawless skin saying that they had acne and it all cleared up using some silly cream! Lies!!! They have to thank God for making them that way... their genes don’t have the acne stuff in it... and they have a list of ‘don’t dos’ so that their skin stays that way. After all it is their face, skin and body that made them ‘stars’. (My apologies to those who got there by talent and hard work.) Well if the beauty queens had to rough it out as ordinary people do how do you think they would look? 

Have you realized that these ads tend to make you feel miserable about yourself? While they glorify some star or model they are actually pointing a finger at you and niggling away saying, ‘I know you are not like that!!!’ and then seconds later, they pretend to be your best friend and say, ‘I’ll tell you a secret, use this and you can be like that!’

Did you really get conned by that ad? I feel so sorry for the huge number of people who believe that they can actually become ‘fair’! It is known that many people use products to make their skin fairer... but just the thought sickens me. Why can’t we learn to be happy with our own skin colour??? I cannot imagine a world where only fair people exist! I love the variations in colour that God gave people of different ethnic origins... so if you have coloured skin, don’t worry, you are beautiful/ handsome anyway! Don’t let those silly people make you think otherwise...

I like ads that are genuinely informative and promote good values and principles in life. I prefer those ads that have good role models who practice what they preach even in their own lives. I like ads that are uplifting to the common man and doesn’t beat down their self esteem simply to make their product look good. After all, we know that life is tough and we all have problems, why should ads take pot shots at poor and simple people?

I guess the challenge before the ad-makers is to state the truth about their product while also contributing in terms of goodness or value to people from all strata of life. Some ads glorify the rich and demean the poor, I find them to be of very poor taste. It is better that ads show the truth because no ad-campaign can successfully sell any product if it is not good. Once a person buys it, if it turns out to be bad, we can be sure that he will never buy it again. Not only that he will talk about his disappointment to others and thereby lower the products value and saleability for others too.

Well when it comes to me, I take every ad with not just a pinch but a whole lot of salt... I strip them down to analyze every image and message, let it zip through my mind to see if it is worthy of approval and then dump them if they are not. So I live without a lot of things that ‘they’ say I should because I know what my needs are and am happy to live within them.

No! I am not going to buy anything that will mess me up physically, mentally or emotionally through addictions and the like. I have a checklist of the values and principles I follow in life and if those ads don’t measure up, I don’t follow their unsolicited advice.

Believe me this way of thinking works wonders... I have peace of mind, I am happy with myself the way I am and I can live the way I want without having to bother about flimsy trends or materialistic people who size me up according to what I ‘possess’ or ‘use’. I decide what I want and when... I choose them by weighing the pros and cons because it is going to affect my life!

So let me ask you... what are you buying? Are you sure it is good for you?

25 April 2011

Rethink...


Every once in a while we need to rethink about things in our lives. Things we took for granted, thoughts we blindly accepted from others whom we thought were trustworthy at some point of time in our lives. Things we dreamed about but never could make any progress with. Things that changed our lives even though we didn’t want them to...

Then again there are the growing up things... things we believed when we were kids, teens or just stepping into the adult world. Things we were taught in school, college or at home which turned out to be wrong! Things we should have learned when adversity hit us hard.

Then again there are things we wished someone would have taught us... Like the tomboy would wish her mother taught her about the ‘womanly’ things because she wants to impress her special guy or the angry young man would wish he could control his anger because its driving the one he loves far away from him. Then there is the rich spoilt boy who lost all his money because nobody taught him how to value what he had and also to value the people in his life! Or the playboy who only wanted to have fun would realize that all the fun messed up his life because he is now HIV positive and has a lonely and painful old age ahead!

Ah! If only we stop to rethink... in time!!! Many of us would not have made that grave mistake of marrying the wrong person! What a lifesaver that rethink would have been!! Or the time when you realize that allowing your friends to fuel your passion for speed was wrong because it landed you in a hospital bed for months and caused a limb to get amputated. Painful but true, when you realize that the decision to get plastic surgery done to make your nose look thinner was mindless and cost you the moon afterwards!

How many sleepless nights fretting over things that went wrong would have been avoided by just one rethink! How many flimsy frivolous relationships people enter into for all the wrong reasons would have been avoided if there was one serious rethink. How many adulterous men and women would have corrected themselves? How many hearts wouldn’t be broken? How many children wouldn’t have to live in broken families? How many lives would have meaning and purpose?

Then just think about the loved ones who suffer and have to pay a price because someone close to them has bad habits, attitudes, and made bad choices and didn’t learn lessons from them. Like the alcoholic or drug addict who breaks and destroys things in a jiffy, bashes up people and abuses the loving relationships that sustains them. If they had to stop in time and take stock of where they were going, wouldn’t it save them and their entire family from so much loss, pain and trouble?

Let us not forget the corrupt people who cheat people of their well earned money, take bribes or take credit for what they didn’t do... If every one of them would stop and think about the wealth they amassed and realize how it is a curse and not a blessing, would they still do what they do? Do you know of anyone who was able to take the wealth he made with him once he is dead? Who takes money, property or luxuries out of this world? What is the use of duping people, killing people, doing the worst just to gain some money which will do you no good anyway but only get you curses and losses because justice finally catches up with you in the end?

Whether in personal or public life there are some things we can learn about and change if we take time to rethink. I think this world would change totally if everyone just did their part in rethinking instead of following mindless philosophies and decisions thrown on them by others. Why do you do what you do? Are you doing what you were taught, are you aping your friends or following their advice because you blindly trust them... What if you wake up one day to find they were all wrong? Rethink... listen to the voice of your conscience, get yourself right within yourself and then decide what your life should be like. Go one step further and make the necessary changes. I am sure you will never regret that!

If we rethink, our lives would certainly become better and the world would become a better place if we rethink - one person at a time. I think a rethink is long overdue for many of us... I’ve decided that I’m taking time off to do my own rethink. What about you?   

22 April 2011

The Power of the Blood - A Song


By the Power of the Blood of Jesus
I’m saved!
By the Power of the Blood of Jesus
I’m made whole
He saved me! He saved me!
And He made me whole
I’ve nothing to worry
Cause He’s in control

Now I know that any power of evil
Won’t hold
And the value of the blood of Jesus
More than gold
Cos He saved me! He saved me
And He gave me life
No Satan can stand up
Before the Author of life!

Even in the face of pain and sorrow
I’ll stand
Even burning in the fiery furnace
He holds my hand
He’ll save me, He’ll save us
I know I can be sure
Cause He faced death just for me
My pain to endure. 
        Written and composed by Henrietta Decruz 
        
You can view this song on YouTube at this link

20 April 2011

Faith


What I pray for
Is invisible
But I can see it
With the eyes of faith.
It is there
Shining and glorious
Giving me joy
Filling me with hope
It is mine
It is done.

Others may wonder
Others may laugh
It doesn't matter
Who may think what.
It was said
And so it is
Like when my friend says
She sent me a letter
And I wait for it
Knowing it would reach soon.

If you don't believe
You don't receive.
If you really want something
Why cry and complain
When all you ever need
Can be yours with a simple prayer
And believing faith?
You won't need money
But you will need power
The power of patient waiting.

I have seen answers
I have braved storms
But the joy of fulfilled waiting
Is beyond that of any calm
Some joys that could be measured
Some cares were blown away;
But some of them are priceless
And can't be mentioned anyway
Words can't measure the joy when
Faith having bid its time is victorious.

The Greatest Sacrifice


Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23: 44 - 49

REFLECTION
He was born of the Holy Spirit. He was a king. Jesus had power and performed many miracles; the blind could see; the deaf could hear; the lame could walk; one word from Him made the dead come back to life... such was the power of Jesus.

Even when He was made to carry the heavy cross, beaten with stripes, crowned with thorns and humiliated, betrayed and mocked by His persecutors, He chose to be humble and obedient. He chose not to use the power that was His because He was the Son of God, instead He chose to obey His Father's will, to accept the suffering and the death that was before Him... because He knew that only through His death could all of mankind be saved, there was no other escape for them who had sinned and deserved to suffer for it.

He could have changed things to make it easier for Him to bear. Everything was possible for Him... He could have chosen not to suffer. He had not sinned at all, He was not guilty. There was no reason for Him to be killed on that cross... Yet, inspite of all this, He accepted to be punished like a condemned criminal.

He knew how frail and weak a human being is... He knew the depth of suffering and pain, He had experienced it too. And He knew that we could not bear to go through even the punishment for our own sins... He also knew that no one could get away without paying the price and facing judgment and the punishment. He knew that sin stood between man and God and that no one could be united with the Father in heaven on their own strength. He knew that without His sacrifice, each of us would not be able to pay that price and would thus be separated from unity with the Heavenly Father for eternity.

Silently, He heard the mockers say all kinds of things about Him. He bore their stares, their abuses, their laughter and their jeers. When He looked at the people who stood and witnessed His suffering He knew that it was for people like them that He suffered so that they may be saved from the fate of eternal death. It was out of love for all humankind that He accepted this fate. He left the throne in heaven to be born as a lowly human being and endured the life of an ordinary carpenter's son.

Now His job was done. He had run the race... it was all over, nothing more remained for Him to accomplish. He had given it his all - His life and nothing more could be given. It was the final moment, He had been obedient and done His Father's will, as He struggled with breathing, He called out to His Father and said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" and then He died.

What is Jesus teaching us today?

Think of the times we encounter a situation such as Jesus did... when we are punished without any fault on our part, when someone wrongs us or cheats us... The first reaction we have is to justify and defend ourselves, make a noise, get angry and take matters into our own hands. We may even think of what we can do to harm those who harmed us. Jesus didn't do any of this, He was always conscious of what His Father wanted Him to do and He trusted His Father to care for Him. His only job in the world was to do the will of the Father and even though it caused Him to go through the ultimate sacrifice He did it. After He had done all He was meant to do in obedience, He silently offered His will, His choices, the whole situation and entrusted it into His Father's hands. He believed that His Father knew what was best for Him.

When we are faced with difficulties and we struggle to handle our problems, the responsibilities we have to shoulder... When the pressure is breaking us, what should we do? Jesus had all the power to take care of everything Himself, yet He Himself gives us His example to surrender our problems, our difficulties, the pressures, the responsibilities and offer them to our Father. He didn't do anything without it being the will of His Father. He trusted in His Father even in the worst of situations. He took the suffering that came and endured through it silently. His attitude was one of total submission to and reliance on God His Father for everything.

He asks each of us today to do the same... when faced with choices and difficult situations. He asks us to give up our will and accept the Father's will. He teaches us total surrender to God when we have reached the end of the rope, when there is no solution, nothing more to do... Many of us may be at the crossroads searching for solutions, looking for answers, let us learn to accept Jesus' words into our hearts and life and say to our heavenly Father, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Through His life, His sacrifice and His love for us, Jesus teaches us that accomplishing any great achievement, winning awards or being the wealthiest is not the best thing that anyone can do in this world, the best thing that each of us can do is to do the will of our Father in heaven. Just as God had a plan for Jesus, God has a plan for each of our lives, each of us are God's children and if we submit to God and do His will, we too will bring glory and honor to Him. We will be able to stand before the throne of God in heaven with joy and know eternal peace.

Jesus asks us today to share in His glory, His victory and honor... the way is quite simple - just follow Jesus' example and live in complete obedience to the Father. Entrust your will, your spirit into the hands of the Father... ask Him to take control of your life and direct you, guide you in the way that you should go. Offer Him yourself and your life today.

Jesus the Great Equalizer


Let me introduce to you Jesus Christ, the greatest revolutionary of all time. What else would you say about someone who inspite of being the most important being in the universe, decides to come and live the life of a commoner? He stood up for the downtrodden, the lowly, the oppressed and raised the people who were looked down upon to a life of dignity and equality with others.

Which of the royal persons of our time would like to give up all their luxuries, their titles and exceptional privileges? Can you imagine the presidents, prime ministers and corporate CEOs living like Jesus brushing shoulders with the blind, the deaf, the lame and the lepers? 

Jesus was despised by those who saw their privileges as a reason for pride. The Pharisees, the Sadducees and people of authority of his time thought him to be mad or even worse. Even today we have the same ills in our society. Even today there are those who look down on people who have no power, prestige or status in society. There are people who ill-treat laborers, workers and servants and don't care about treating them with dignity.

Jesus taught us to do unto others as we want others to do unto us. Looking at his example he was always a source of blessing to others. We always tend to expect others to be good to us, the question is are we good to them in the first place? We feel wronged and hurt when someone lets us down but we don't stop to think, 'Are we letting down someone and have we broken someone else's trust?' If everyone had to really follow what Jesus said all of us would not have to worry about anything since we would all take care of others and others would care about us too. 

Another teaching of Jesus is to love our neighbor as ourselves. When I think about Jesus' own example I realize that he did more than what he taught us. He loved us more than himself and that is why he died for our sins. He didn't care about his own life, his needs, his comforts... He only thought about us, giving us eternal life, freeing us from our sins and making a way so we could enjoy the comforts of heaven with his heavenly Father.

Heaven is far better place than any place we can imagine on earth... it is the bosom of the heavenly Father, a place where we can know the love of the Father and see Jesus face to face. Jesus gave his all so that we can reconnect with the heavenly Father. Because of sin humankind could not stand before a God who is holy and perfect. There was a huge rift that could only be filled with a sacrifice that was pure and perfect. Jesus chose to become that sacrifice for our sakes so we can once again connect with the heavenly Father and be able to enjoy the privileges humans once had of being in the presence of God.

More than two thousand years ago, the first move to equalize human beings was made by Jesus Christ. He set the tone through his life and his death for every revolution that uplifted mankind. Since then many men and women have followed his teachings and example and spent their lives in the upliftment of their brothers and sisters in need.

Many great persons through history learnt from him about giving love and respect to their fellowmen and treating them as equals. We remember the contribution of people like William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King who fought against slavery and for the dignity of the African people. We remember William Carey and many other missionaries, several of them nameless, who traveled to far off continents and nations and gave their all fighting against social ills, spreading the light of education and showing the way to a better future. They all had learnt from Jesus' example, his sacrifice and his love. They tried to emulate his life and the result was a changed society. Their names will always glow in the pages of history.

Jesus teaches us to look beyond the ordinary and the temporary and see what is priceless and timeless such as the soul. He causes us to look at the worth of a soul, of all that he and his Father did so that human souls could be saved from eternal damnation. He enlightens us about the right way to live life by following his teachings so that we can reap the benefits of this life through eternity. He reminds us that the riches and power will not save the rich and powerful from eternal death and damnation. His message is love and humility that brings all of us into the same plane and causes us to care enough about lifting others up.

The message of Jesus went beyond national and cultural boundaries uniting all of humankind through love. His love has the power to break out and explode, thereby transforming every life that comes in contact with it. 

Today if we are able to see people of all races to be equal, it is because Jesus taught us to love one another and his followers crossed boundaries to take his love to different races and cultures. No other teachings have blessed the whole of humanity and taught them the way of peace as much as Jesus' teachings have.

Jesus teaches us to look beyond ourselves. His message of love cannot be grasped by those who are narrow-minded or have a petty selfish nature. A mind that is self-centred cannot respect the rights of others and care for their needs. Selfishness lies at the bottom of every sin of humankind which includes lying, stealing, cheating, violence and destruction. Selfishness holds back and divides while love gives and unites. Jesus gave his all and united all of humankind together as one, becoming therefore greatest equalizer of man.



13 April 2011

Life to the Full - a song


Come out and live your life
Make it matter to you now

Chorus
Don’t let the color of your skin
Stop you from being who you are!
Don’t let the world around and in
Stop you from being who you are!
Go out and live your life to the full
Don’t stop for anything at all
Don’t let the things that did you in
Stop you from being who you are!

1.      Life is more than you will ever know
If you hold on to that gate
Life will move on nothing waits for you
Take your step before it’s late!
Don’t wait for anyone to walk with you
Or even understand
Just take a step and let your goal
Find you walking hand in hand!

2.      There are many formulas floating there
To tell you, you could fail
Some will tell you that you’re way too young
And some will say you’re frail
Don’t look at the reasons you could fail
Don’t let them slow you down
Just keep your chin up and march on
When you win you’ll see them frown! 

Written and composed by Henrietta Decruz

07 April 2011

It is just not fair!


It happens all the time! Be it on the roads, be it at work, at home or even at the supermarket...You are following the rules, doing it right and there comes ‘Mr. Now’ who breaks the rules to suit himself, robbing you of your precious time and patience... You mind wants to scream, “It’s not fair!” and you almost do it but one look around and you change your mind about it.

Is it wrong to expect things to be fair? Now that is a good question especially in a society where everything around is done in a way that is unfair. If you think that is an exaggeration then let’s have a look at a few examples...

If you want to get something done in a government office, you will learn to your dismay that there is a going price for it. A set price for a ration card, a birth or death certificate and even at the mortuary if you are waiting for the body of a loved one to be taken for post mortem. Outside the police station, on the train, on the roads, in the courts... one bribe can get your work done ‘faster’. Or let’s be honest about it, it will ‘ensure’ that your job is done, if you don’t go by these rules your work will just be in the ‘In Register’ lying there and gathering dust or worse still the file will disappear and just not be found!

We don’t need to go back into the past to get a better example... The recently concluded Common Wealth Games was so shrouded with controversy that we Indians had to hang our heads with shame for the amount of corruption that took place in its name. The amount of money wiped off in the name of construction work that was just ‘not done’ or worse still ‘shoddily done’ was enormous. To add insult to injury we had to see bridges collapse and star sportspersons from other countries withdraw in the fear that there was some fiasco waiting to happen. It is to the credit of Indian sportsmen and women that India managed to salvage its name and the mood at the games changed.

Welcome to modern India... where things are just not fair. Now since we have got used to this ‘system’ the question to ask is ‘Should we want things to change?’ Is fairness overrated? What good does fairness do? What does it imply for each person concerned and for our society?

Fairness and justice go hand in hand. It is a mindset that gives equal importance to oneself and others. It is saying, ‘I am important and so are you!’ Just like Jesus said, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” It is treating people the way you would want them to treat you. It is taking turns, telling the truth and playing by the rules.

It is being responsible for our actions and caring about how what we do will affect others. It means keeping an open mind and listening to others. It also amounts to accepting the responsibility for our own mistakes and not blaming others for it. Fairness requires that we don’t take advantage of other people and also that we don’t practice favouritism.

The bottom line is this - do you want others to be fair to you? Would you like it if you got your turn for the things you need in time? Imagine being in a queue where no one jumps the line or being in an auto where the auto driver doesn’t charge an extra rupee... Imagine not having to pay a single bribe! Imagine the municipal offices, police stations and government offices working just as they should! Imagine matches without match-fixing! Imagine sports minus dope and the drugs to enhance performance?

If you said yes to the above question... then remember it is a matter of give and take. Each needs to do his or her part first... and then slowly the others will fall in line. We need to listen to the voice of our conscience. Stop feeding corruption, don’t encourage corrupt people. Be fair and expect fairness. Let us light a candle and conquer the darkness... one candle at a time. Here’s to a corruption-free and fair India!!!

Words that cut like a knife...



Criticism hurts. Don’t worry if you have felt that way. Anyone in this world cannot say that they like being criticized. There are times when we are in a good mood and let it slip but there are also times when those words cut like a knife. It plagues our minds, we feel angry and agitated about it. If we let that feeling grow it might lead to some very unpleasant consequences for us and everyone concerned.

Feelings aside, the important thing to understand is what does criticism do to you? Do you give criticism the power to destroy you? Can criticism be good for you? How do we handle good and bad criticism? Let’s find answers to these questions...

If criticism paralyses you within, it is a serious problem and you need to deal with it immediately. You probably have a problem handling your temper and have deep seated anger which needs to be expressed but without creating more problems for you or others. Writing and venting out your angry feelings and then destroying it would be a good way of getting it out of your system. Remember this is for your eyes only, letting those angry words reach the person concerned will only aggravate your problems and make things more difficult for you. Some people find an aggressive sport very helpful, others just like to punch their pillow or speak to friend. Either way it is important to get it out of your system and in a way that is not harmful to others.

The positive side of criticism is that it can make you more determined to prove yourself. It channelizes all your energies into getting the desired results. For example, when a coach criticizes and refuses to appreciate an athlete even when he is good it is because he wants him to get better results.

Lack of criticism can lead to arrogance and too much criticism can break a person’s spirit down completely. It is important for us to know how to categorise criticism into good and bad criticism. Good criticism is constructive in nature. There is goodwill behind good criticism; it is about something that you haven’t learnt about yourself or your work that you will need to change. Doing so will make you a better person and improve your performance. Good criticism is a blessing in disguise.


Bad criticism doesn’t care about you at all. It is directed at you because the giver has a grudge against you. When someone criticises your face, your nose or things that you cannot change, it shows that they have a mean streak in them. He or she just simply is plain jealous and cannot stand to see you gain or do well. It may also be because the giver of such criticism wants to be one up on you. You can plainly see here that this person has a problem. He or she is not a balanced person and perhaps is in need of help themselves. When you analyze the criticism and come up with this conclusion it is best to not let that criticism be important at all since doing so will defeat its very purpose. Giving it importance will encourage such a person to criticize you further... and that would mean more trouble!

A monkey on a tree hurled a coconut at the head of a Sufi.
The man picked it up, drank the milk, ate the flesh and made a bowl from the shellThank you for your criticism of me.” 
~ Anthony de Mello from his book ‘Song of the Bird’ 


When you are criticized don’t let it tear you apart. Just like the Sufi in this story, we too can take the criticism, analyse it, look at it from every side, take whatever is good in it for our self-development and then throw away whatever is worthless and degrading.

Looking back you will see your life was made better because you made the most out of all the criticism that was thrown at you. In fact, one could say that if you are not being criticised it is a bad thing... because it either means that you are trying too hard to please everyone; or are mediocre and don’t warrant a comment or that you are not doing anything extra-ordinary at all! Remember the best fruit trees get the most stones! So pull up and brace yourself for the next round of criticism... let it come!!!