Posted in Personal Musings, Quotes, Stories Around the World

Rekindle the Dying Embers

One of the prerequisites of camping in the woods (or even large backyards) or during nature nights is to start and maintain the fire. Once started, the flames keep the light coming and conversation going, as long as the flames are fed alongside. As the flames of the fire die down, unless the dying embers are stoked back the fire won’t serve it’s purpose.

Since the beginning of time, man has been fascinated by fire and its’ effects. What sometimes we fail to realize, is that we all have a fire in ourselves too. Like the dying embers, we need to be stoked once in a while. The spark within us often fights to stay alive especially during personal tragedy or when the situations get beyond our control. Unless the sparks stays to restart the fire, the fight goes out from within. Some days, the struggling sparks are ours, other times they belong to the sparks of others who are going through a difficult patch. Those times, we need to set the spark with words of encouragement and courage as tinder and kindling to relight the flame again.

Like how Paige Hunter had rekindled the flame of many with her “notes of hope” attached to the Wearmouth Bridge in Sunderland, England, the latter which is notorious for its suicides; we can bring back someones spark by kind words and gentle understanding. One doesn’t have to go far to look to do something, when it things are happening around them right under their nose. It might not take much effort from our part, but will make a huge difference for someone else. For even one dying spark, when revived will bring back the light and spread warmth in this cold world.

Posted in Christian, Life, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Leaving The Sandbox

A five year old girl was playing in the sandbox. Filled with a child’s unpretentious happiness, she found the simple play interesting and fun. Suddenly her mother runs up and pulls the girl out of her childhood idyll and with haste, carried her home away from the sandbox, her source of joy. Without explaining anything, the little girl was taken away from the sun warmed box of her freedom, changing the simple but happy hours of joy. Crying and not understanding what was happening, the little girl turned away from her mother screaming to go back into the sandbox. Why did the mother do it ? For from a distance, her mother had seen a huge dog broken free from its’ chains and rushing towards the sandbox. The mother knew of the imminent danger that her child was in from the hungry, ferocious and uncontrollable beast and ran to bring her child to safety.

While the child didn’t realize what has just happened, she trusts her mother to take care of. Likewise with her mother’s love and attention; she will slowly forget the bad moments, treasuring only the happy memories in the days and years to come. Deep inside her, she knows that her mother will keep a watch over her and step in wherever and whenever possible to save her from the other potential precarious situations.

Isn’t this situation similar when we find something snatched from our hands just as we were enjoying it ? Do we ever know why from time to time God takes you something that is so dear to us?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Like the caring mother God takes away from us what we take to be our sandbox like our favorite work, strong relationships, savings. Whether it is getting fired, losing a friend or suffering material loss, He takes away from us the feeling of comfort which we are so eager to hold onto. Although we may never know what is happening at that moment, in hindsight we come to realize that our life has changed for the better. For God does not always explain the essence of what is happening and its benefits for us. Yet we realize much later that the change was for our own good. Like the girl who was taken away from the sandbox for her safety, we have our whole lives ahead of us which may be unpredictable but happy if we keep our Faith steadfast in His Mighty Works.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8


Posted in Christian, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Reaching the Crossbar

Grace is one of the concepts of Christianity which is quite hard to comprehend in real life. In Western Christian theology, grace has often been defined, not as a substance of any kind which is created, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”. In other words Grace is described as favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. It is understood to be a spontaneous gift from God to people “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved” that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life. In Eastern Christianity, the working of God completely, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity is what Grace is all about.

Although across the different denominations of Christianity, the definition varies the essential concept that it is not created but bestowed on. On reading the Bible we realize that although man has sinned, it is by His Love and His Mercy that we have been given a second chance. More importantly it is by His Grace that despite our lapses and our adherence to the shortcuts of living the right way, we are given another try.

While teaching the concepts of Christian principles to younger children, it is quite difficult to say in terms of definitions. So here is a story that I had seen through my social pages, (though it is translated into English) that gives us an idea about the concept of His Grace.

“Once after the second liturgy, I was drinking tea with a bun. Suddenly, a father came up to the table with a son of about five years old. The boy’s face didn’t seem bright to me. It seemed to be one of those children who are interested only in MARS and SNICKERS and how to get them from their parents. But suddenly the boy looked anxiously at his parent and asked: “Dad, tell me what grace is.”
Hearing this with surprise, I almost choked on tea, urgently stopped chewing and froze, so as not to miss a word. Let me explain why. First, I myself was not clear what grace is. Second, I was wondering how to explain this to another. And third, it was completely incomprehensible to me how to explain this to a five-year-old child. That’s why I froze waiting for to see what reply the dad will say. He twisted his eyes in a funny manner and said to his son: “I better not tell you, but I will show you what grace is.” And they went to our sports ground. And I followed them. “Jump to the high crossbar,” said the dad. It became clear to me that the boy would not jump to reach it in any way. And for sure as he jumped and he was convinced of this. “And now you jump, and I will add grace,” said the parent. The boy jumped, his father’s hands caught him and in a moment he … WAS STANDING on the crossbar. The boy squealed with delight and told the father that he did not agree to live without grace anymore. And me too. Thank God! – Yuri Klyagin”

Posted in Daily, Life, Personal Musings, Photography Art

Actions mirror Thoughts

“Mirror mirror on the wall”

This line had first made its appearance in the “Snow White”, a 19th-century German fairy tale first published by The Brothers Grimm published in the first edition of their collection of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. After being translated to English, it has found its’ way into various works of art, entertainment and literature.

While in the story we deal with a magic mirror who gives answers, in reality mirrors reflect what is there. There is no addition or subtraction involved unless if the mirrors are concave or convex where they become distorted or multiple mirrors which cause way too many images. Likewise our actions and feelings mirror our thoughts. It is like a two way street. If we think good, we feel good and do good. Then the question arises of how do we get rid of the bad or unwanted thoughts lurking in our mind. The cluster of bad or depressing feelings we encounter in our interactions with others can’t be easily suppressed by flipping a switch. By sweeping these emotions under the carpet, we gather them as dust which finally will accumulate to a point when it will cause a drastic slip when we least expect it. These are triggers of what will lead to even worse situations down the time frame.

The only way out is to address them. Just as our thoughts and feelings mirror our actions, eventually we will succumb to the former unless we resolve to tackle them. Sometimes to find a solution is difficult, then we reach an acceptance and search for alternatives for a way out so that those emotions are dealt with or faced. While some of us may take the physical form of de-stressing our thoughts, others will turn to creative art or faith to seek answers or simply express. Whatever may it be, find a way out before we get locked in the trap of mirroring our thoughts positive and negative into actions which may later lead to regret. Time and again, the old adage “what goes around, comes around” has been proved, so instead of refuting it with mirrors of our negative emotions, find something to vent the latter and turn the mood to optimism coated with realism.

Posted in Christian, Daily, Personal Musings, Reflections

Rescued From the Cycle

Choices. Temptations. Decisions. Consequences. Guilt. Regrets. Self-Condemnation. Again choices.

This vicious cycle we often find ourselves in is one of the greatest fallacies of man. While some of us may have a different order of events with more or less components, many of us have gone through either of these phases or emotions at innumerable number of places across varied time frames in our life. As a result, we frequently keep on changing our minds, to the point that sometimes we actually fail to understand what we really want or wish for.

How many times have prayed for something to happen and when it actually does, the timing is drastically wrong ? How many times have we lost sight of our focus we had when we had started off on the journey? How many times have we regretted the consequences of the actions made by our choices ? Unfortunately this is what man has to endure through his time on earth.

Even the scriptures say that we can neither avoid the consequences of our choices nor we may be able to live up to the standards and expectations that we set for ourselves. There will be times when we will have frequent change of heart and when we would try to make ourselves right with God but fail. There is always a constant ongoing tussle between the Spirit within and the temptations of the flesh. This perpetual fracas between the right and the wrong choices, as well as the good and the bad decisions has been going ever since the beginning of time. Yet man is never helpless and lost as long as he keeps His Faith.

We always need something to fall back on, someone to lift our spirits and give us hope. For God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient; though we may not be able to speak to Him in person, inside our hearts and mind we know that He is there although at times we refuse to acknowledge this. Through the voice in our mind and heart, our gut instincts or the sixth sense and through our friends and family, His Spirit will speak to us and give us innumerable chances as long as we believe in His Love for man. As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This knowledge not only pulls us through troubled waters but also makes the voyage less dreary and more hopeful to endure so that we can finally reach the next shore.

To quote the verses from Romans 8:37-39, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Posted in Family and Society, Personal Musings, Photography Art, Stories Around the World

Being Humane

Empathy not simply sympathy. Insight not being obtuse. Warmth not just words.

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door. Marla Gibbs

Some of the greatest lessons that we can learn is by observing human interaction. In such a scenario, childhood is where we can be keen witnesses where the innocence, kindness and attitude of children haven’t yet been gate-crashed by the chaos of the world that we as adults have created. Although now in the present world, even their guilelessness has not been spared. Yet there are instances where children have shown us the resilience of the human nature especially when when they meet their own peers who are not to their same level. One real life evidence of this is in “Perfection at the Plate” where “everyone can play” , written by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, a popular lecturer and best-selling author of the ArtScroll Maggid series of short stories. Do read on.


Perfection at the Plate

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school careers, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. There are a few children who attend Chush for most of the week and go to a regular school on Sundays. At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything that Hashem does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is Hashem’s perfection?” The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by his piercing query. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when Hashem brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child.” He then told the following story about his son Shaya.

Shaya attends Chush throughout the week and Yeshivah Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway on Sundays. One Sunday afternoon, Shaya and his father came to Darchei Torah as his classmates were playing baseball. The game was in progress and as Shaya and his father made their way towards the ball field, Shaya said, “Do you think you could get me into the game?”

Shaya’s father knew his son was not at all athletic, and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son was chosen in, it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked, “Do you think my Shaya could get into the game?” The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We are losing by six runs and the game is already in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.” Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field, a position that exists only in softball. There were no protests from the opposing team, which would now be hitting with an extra man in the outfield.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shaya should at least be able to make contact.

The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya. As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman’s reach. Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!” Never in his life had Shaya run to first.

He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head, as everyone yelled, “Shaya, run to second! Shaya, run to second.” Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him towards the direction of third base and shouted “Shaya, run to third!” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!”

Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit the “grand slam” and won the game for his team. “That day,” said the father who now had tears rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of perfection. They showed that it is not only those who are talented that should be recognized, but also those who have less talent. They too are human beings, they too have feelings and emotions, they too are people, they too want to feel important.”

Origins: The story given above is Perfection at the Plate, a work of Rabbi Paysach Krohn. It appeared in his 1999 book, Echoes of the MaggidEchoes is a collection of  “heartwarming stories and parables of wisdom and inspiration.” It is the fifth such tome in the “Maggid” series. Rabbi Krohn says that the story is true and that he was told it by Shaya’s father, who is a friend of his. (The “Chush” school mentioned in the piece is the Jewish Center for Special Education on Kent Street in Brooklyn, a school that caters to Yiddish-speaking children of Orthodox Hasidic Jews. ) Note: In Judaism, HaShem (lit. “the Name”) is used to refer to God, when avoiding God’s more formal title, Adonai (lit. “My Master”).

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Photography Art

Happy by Berries

“ is a corpse, and not man, which needs these six feet. . . . It is not six feet of earth, not a country-estate, that man needs, but the whole globe, the whole of nature, room to display his qualities and the individual characteristics of his soul.” (Ivan Ivanovich)

These were the lines told by the character Ivan Ivanovich in the story “Gooseberries” by Anton Chekhov. One of the most noted Russian playwright and short-story writer who brought early modernism into theatre, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career. Gooseberries was written towards the end of Chekhov’s life and this tale explores the themes of social injustice, the quest for fulfillment and happiness as well as our perceptions of what makes us happy.

In short, Ivan Ivanovich, tells the story of his younger brother Nikolai Ivanovich. The latter is a government official who is possessed by the desire to return to the country where he had spent his early years with happiness and carefree joy. The sign of this cherished dream was owning land with a gooseberry bush. Finally his aspiration came true. Ivan Ivanovich tells of his visit to Nikolai, who has become now idle, stingy, mean and apparently happy living in what he imagined to be his earthly paradise. Ivan Ivanovich then contemplates about the nature of human happiness, which according to him is the result of any man’s views within the walls of the narrow world he’d built for himself.

For me, the beauty of this story lies in the measures by which we define our happiness. Each one has their own concept of being happy. While one labels being happy in the creature comforts and the luxuries confined within the four walls or one’s estate neglecting the outside world, the other feels happy by engaging in social activities and routines with other fellow beings.

The pursuit of happiness does lie in what we want in our lives. Fame, riches, material gains versus being free of spirit, enjoying social works and community, morality or spirituality; we get to decide what we want. One fact that is glaringly obvious is that happiness is a perspective that is temperamental. Happiness can be an illusion or a reality. Either by living a life of a buoyant pragmatic approach realism or by a vacuous bourgeois existence, we get to chose how to be happy. Just as no man is an island, our happiness increases when we share it. The approach for happiness might be different for each one of us, but if the path to one’s happiness lies in the complete destruction of another person, then that view of happiness is not only distorted but is dangerous and disastrous as well.