Making Prayer Count

Prayer is mankind’s primary artery of connection with its Creator. Those who aspire to faithfulness would do well to remember this. Many things may be said about a prayer well done, but I would like to reflect only on a few of them.

First of all, central to any meaningful prayer are sincerity and devotion. While sincerity is connected to the intention behind engaging in any form of supplication, devotion is connected to the focus in that process.

Secondly, prayer is not just for asking to meet worldly needs, it is also a device for thanking, and asking for forgiveness. In fact, in its totality, prayer acts as a means of communicating with the Creator for the purpose of charging up spiritually.

Third, drawing upon the research on modern parenting, the debate on how much time should be spent on being with a child appears to have been settled thus: quantity opens to quality moments. It is not practical to expect that every time a parent is with a child, the time spent will be filled with quality – fun time, creativity, teachable moments, caring interaction, etc. On any occasion, the child may be sick, tired, irritable, distracted, or rambunctious. In fact, the parent may be out of sorts, also. In those instances, the parent’s time is spent on either simply managing the situation or hanging in there, and nothing else. Hence, only with stretches of interaction with a child, there will likely emerge pattern, attachment, love, respect, obedience, discipline, curiosity, skill, etc. Likewise for prayer. We need to have more praying moments in any period of time to capture a moment that is meaningful, satisfying, or heartfelt, or simply put – smoking.

Now, how does one add more time to praying? Well, just like modern athletes, we need to take baby steps – stretching a little at the boundary of tolerance and repeating it until the stretch becomes natural and integrated with the old. Then we stretch again and repeat. As our repertoire increases so also does our spiritual muscle build. So, the formula is to increase a little at a time and be at it on a regular basis. But prayer may be built along two dimensions: number of times reserved for praying in any period of time and duration of time spent on praying on each such occasion. These two elements should seamlessly fit into one’s daily life. Otherwise, it will not be sustainable and one is then liable to declare that praying is not one’s thing. BTW, praying multiple times in a day, for example, creates interference against forces of disquiet, indiscipline and self-centeredness that would otherwise take a life of their own. It’s like taking a timeout to regroup.

Incidentally, as in military, business, medicine, teaching, research, etc., prayer is subject to SOP or standard operating procedure. Best leaders among us have rituals that allow for rhythm or cadence. So, for a heartfelt moment with our Creator, we need to create a repeatable pattern that will feel organic. So, deciding on how many times, when and how long to pray allows one to gain a clockwork pattern.

Finally, two more related elements must be mentioned. i. The act of formal praying itself should have a structure or ritual that needs to be identified and followed every time one is hitting a prescheduled prayer. It could involve ensuring personal cleanliness, appropriate spot selection with appropriate ambience, adopting a particular direction, physical posture, incantation, etc. Prayer deserves this type of dignity once we realize Who we are communicating with. This way, too, time is not wasted in figuring out what to do next whenever engaged in ritual prayer. Having a ritual also allows a community to grow that shares those elements. ii. Ritual or formality should not rob prayer of its basic elements – sincerity and focus. Neither should it result in the absence of moments of spontaneous prayer resulting from a sense of awe, happiness, disgust, fear, or sorrow, or from a desire to receive forgiveness and blessing. The point is that, for prayer to count, life should be built around the formal, scheduled, ritual prayer, and not the other way around. Otherwise, prayer would be an afterthought, a burden and an obligation, delivered hurriedly without the heart and the mind guiding it. Consequently, it would be barren of desired productivity. Lacking dignity, prayer would be just another  sloppy, spur of the moment lottery entry seeking a phenomenal rushed delivery.

Prayer allows one to communicate on all channels, at all times and in any circumstance with one’s Lord,  the Ever-receptive Lord of the Worlds. Obsequiousness is always very much in order!

“O’ our Lord, accept our prayer.”

tptChoice Team

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For to be on the Path of Sobriety and Salvation

P#14:

O’ God, O’ God, O’ God

The One Worthy of Praise, Almighty, the Loving

Let reflecting on Your signs and remembrance of You illuminate me

Allowing, also, for thankfulness to You to pervade my daily life

Let my disappointment and anger and my fury and flare-up subside as I halt making everything about myself

Let my language and actions be overtaken by forethought, transparency and accountability

Let me be forgiving and patient, a kinder, gentler, watchful being

Let me be cleaner as I go about my business, organized and conserving

As I stumble, reset me, wind me up and set me on my way, again

Cause to efface the darkness in my heart, the confusion in my mind

Help me, O’ God, in the name of all those You hold dear and near

O’ Overlooker, O’ Oft-returning-Merciful, my repeated sins ignore

To walk, O’ God,  I wish, the straight and narrow path of the blessed

O’ All-knowing, Knowledgeable of Minutiae, Aware of Events, relent

With Peace and Blessings on all those You hold dear and near.

Amen

tptChoice Team

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When Faith is in Jeopardy: Spoiler Alert

Faith continually goes through ebb and tide. With spiritual maturity, however, it becomes more stable.

Why is this so?

Well, life itself is made up of ebbs and tides. The divine order is for us to be tested through thick and thin. Good times and bad times are all a seemingly bizarre obstacle course to test one’s mettle – one’s understanding and acceptance of the Divine Providence and ability to rise to the occasion through forgiveness and generosity or patience and gentleness as the situation demands. Thus, one may avoid being full of oneself or full of despair. Trust in God deepens gradually, incrementally. To be included in God’s circle is a feat that is earned, not vested. As they say: when the going gets tough the tough get going. How can God enter one into His mercy when one fails to be merciful? So, just as pure gold is extracted by use of fire and heat, so also does faith blossom with trial and tribulation.

When one anchors expectations to individuals, looks for quick fixes, expects rapid reward or a quick turnaround following  prayers, one’s faith will inevitably, over and again, stumble and dive. Why should attainment of genuine faithfulness be any different from other achievements in life like education, research, sports, business, politics, marriage, parenting, creativity, etc? For success, all of them demand patience, practice and perseverance. Thus, along the way, kinks in faithfulness have to be recognized and worked out.

So, belief is not magic. It is a process! Also, it is not established by a mere claim to faithfulness. Such an expression is only a declaration of submission, that is all. God sees and knows what is in our hearts, the abode of total trust in Him.

However, there are two insidious invasive foreign seeds, if they take root in the Faith Garden, then literally all hell will break lose. They must not ever touch the soil of the precious garden, much less receive sunlight and water. These are the seeds of pride and arrogance. The first spoils the heart. The other wrecks the head. The ultimate outcomes are vanity in worship and loss of faith.

So, how does pride ruin faith? Pride is a measure of one’s sense of superiority, of being special, different, chosen, standing out from all others of humankind. Thus, racism and class consciousness are some of its outcome. However, when it truly goes to the head, it even makes faith and worship just another cosmetic means to set one apart from the rest.  Faithfulness is no longer real, it is merely a decoration to draw attention to oneself by  exaggerating and making one socially more flamboyant. Then faith and vanity become symbiotic as well as synonymous. One’s faithfulness is borne out with fanfare, din and clamor, not privately or guardedly but in the glare of public consumption.

Then, how does arrogance poison faith? When one begins to believe in one’s reasoning ability a tad bit too much and turns it around to evaluate faith, then one begins to run aground. While many elements of faith and its prescriptions have a logic to them that is immediately clear, not all of it is amenable to such a dissection. That is not because that part has no logic, but because the mind and its experience are not open and intelligent enough to decipher the hidden codes. The algorithm of God’s meta-logic and minutiae are beyond its capacity to recognize, much less integrate. In fact, contrary to the common deduction  on the saying, “faith is blind”, faith is not above explanation. How can something that is not forced and sold through fear and superstition find acceptance unless it is driven by inherent, pervasive logic untainted by man’s embellishments? Using the five senses, the tools of materialism, we judge spiritualism! Foolishly and full of oneself, one may jab and spar with God’s wisdom and plan. With puny, facile, putative intelligence, a gift by itself, one may brazenly call out the Divine Agenda. If one only knew that in this particular arena, realization and understanding are ceded to only those who enter with humility and not haughtiness.  They are the ones who cultivate with time and nurture with patience the ultimate connectivity that faith facilitates. So, the ambitious, conceited logician, judgmental and in haste, having failed to connect the dots, declares faith as being obsolete and faithfulness arcane.

tptChoice Team

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Freed And Separated

#D12:

I am neither an island unto myself nor a leader to man

Yet my bogus persona touts “leave-me-alone self-sufficient”

My example only ruins me, leading me to absolutely nothing

So, whose fool’s paradise am I treading, who am I kidding

What am I wanting is really the question begging asking

This would be crystal were my head free of ridiculous hubris

And my heart separated from downright tom-foolery!

TPTChoice Team

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Am I In Trouble

D#11:

Man, am I in trouble, knee-deep in trouble, loser-trouble!

When it comes to faith, I can be so abundantly flippant

About goodness, in work or speech, I’ve been unfailingly, like, forget it

Never advocated to anyone to be purposeful and stand up for the Truth

So, never had to suggest practicing patience in this challenging pursuit.

TPTChoice Team

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The Dichotomy Is An Enabler

What is dichotomy? Contrast. Contradiction. Irreconcilable Difference. It’s like something having two completely opposing facades on two sides of a barrier, wall, or separation.

In western way of doing things, now being widely accepted worldwide, a person’s age is often (meaning standard) used as such a cut-off measure to decide on things.

Unfortunately, this rule applies to both mundane and major choices. This has become possible, one might say, because relativism inherent to secularism is now the overlord. Yes, despite all the churches, synagogues and temples everywhere, this is how it is.

As an example of how even some of the faith-based institutions are complicit in this reduction, consider the facilitation of co-educational dorms in their colleges. They have adopted the standard of public universities as the norm. Thus, absolute segregation of living quarters of male and female students has fallen victim to evolving relative standards of an increasingly secularized larger environment.

Now, age is used as a marker for many useful distinctions. At 18 years of age, one can vote, join the military, drive a car by oneself, get married, be able to drink or gamble, etc. At 35 years of age, one may seek to become the President of the US, or at 65 (say) choose to retire.

We also see that at 14 years of age one may start dating, and at 16 years one may have consensual sex with one’s peer, with little or no prohibition or punishment.

This is then the dichotomy with respect to moral matters – one can be one way before 14, 16, 18 or 35 years of age and another way afterwards.

One relatively recently adopted man-made cut-off point that punctured hole in an age-old, nature-contrived dichotomy is the legal age of marriage. There was a time when age of marriage coincided with the age of onset of puberty. No longer is that the case. This modernization was argued ostensibly on the back of two strong, proven claims: improved physical and economic health of women and fewer children. However, what has gone unreported is that it has not been an unmitigated success. The dichotomy of being married or not at an older age, along with permissiveness, has unleashed an endemic downside: teenage youth promiscuity, massive illegitimate pregnancy and abortion, and a general breakdown of marriage for certain segments of world’s population, to name a few.

The problem is with allowance to pursue vices: Drinking, Gambling, and Unmarried Sex. For the long run health of the individual and the society, the sanctioning of these choices using an age marker is an ill-advised institution and promotion of a dichotomy. What is bad and what is wrong is bad and wrong for both genders, for all ages, for all races and ethnicities, for all level of education and wealth, and for all times.

These behavioral choices, playing and preying on human weaknesses, have been endorsed and/or accommodated by those lacking appreciation of the disaster about to unfold.

That’s why life in rich, modern societies can be and mostly is a mixed bag of outcomes. Newer hardships have substituted older hardships in return for which some economic and health rewards have been provided. That is why the move toward modernization has not been an unmitigated success. Incredible material success has extracted massive cost from our souls and our lives.

Finally and interestingly, with regard to juvenile delinquency, such dichotomy will continue to exacerbate  it, an illness that has for generations stumped social service agencies. How does that happen? Well, teenagers acting up beyond their age by putting themselves and others in harm’s way has several underlying causes – inadequate parenting, socialization (accelerated adult life style exposure), being preyed upon by adults, media access, etc. Such children in contact with other older children (siblings, cousins, neighbors, etc.), who are on the other side of the dichotomy cut-off, become avid audience to tell-all stories. They can begin to live vicariously. For some, this becomes the spark that got the engine started, prematurely.

So, in employing the tptChoice, and in making it an inter-generational achievement, one has to decide for oneself and one’s family to confront and remove the damaging dichotomies that may have taken over one’s lives. Wrong and bad choices will forever be wrong and bad for anyone regardless of what the social norm is! While social norm is an easy standard, it is neither wise nor beneficial. [BTW, the delayed age of marriage may not be one of the dichotomies demanding rectification. However, it could be selectively relaxed as it is sometimes.]

Regarding gambling  and drinking, some people know and accept: “There is great harm in both, although there is some benefit for men, but their sin (i.e., the consequence of ignoring warning about their downside – a moral failure; a crime in God’s language) is greater than their benefit.”

By extension, the same could be said about lately vigorous players in the world of vice: drugs, pornography, voyeurism, etc.

Why modern western societies have adopted a dichotomous framework in allowing access to such vices may be explained in several ways: i. There is a lack of seriousness in actually labelling a vice as a vice. ii. Protection of the income of vendors of vice goods. iii. Disbelief that any one, any community, society or nation could possibly, in a sustained and comprehensive manner, pull off being separated from such vices. iv. Distance from faith resulting in a loss of authoritative language, as well as a loss of willingness to listen to it when it is there. v. People in authority are themselves attached to one or other type of vice, frozen – unable and unwilling to think outside the box.

Where do you see yourself in a morally dichotomous world as you forge a future afresh? Isn’t it a dilemma man has contrived himself?

TPTChoice Team

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Hope From Virtues Three

D#10:

Among the countless virtues of my Lord, there are three

Speaking volumes to me in my odd situation, setting me free

When I turn to Him in contrition, I know that He will be

Instantly and always forgiving, and of the following believe you me

Forgiving of the most heinous choice, altogether effacing jeopardy!

TPTChoice Team

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Protect Your Heart

More than three decades ago, in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, when the powerful, entranced Thuggi Priest was about to claw out Indiana Jones’ heart with his bare hand, the young sidekick, Short Round, shouted across the cavernous, blazing fire-pit, “Protect your heart, Dr. Jones! Protect your heart!!’

But the heart is not just a pump, an arbiter of mortality. It is much more. It is the executive organ. The ears and eyes are mere funnels for collecting data. The mind organizes and processes these data converting them into information. Then it sorts and ranks them by various criteria. Pros and cons follow from that. The heart takes in all of this, and just as a CEO does, makes an executive decision about what to do – Wait, Go Ahead or Dismiss. Preferences, feelings, responsibility, courage, sincerity, honesty, trust, consistency, meaningfulness, and other subjective criteria team together in the heart for successfully achieving this end.

So, what or who are the enemies of the heart which will render it into a mere fluid pump? What should concern us when defending such a priceless asset? The heart needs to be able to decide in favor of right over wrong, kindness over cruelty, beauty over ugliness, quality over quantity, etc. This type of responsibility of the heart cannot be compromised by limiting its capacity. The unprotected heart will prove incapable of pulling off its true role, that of making a dignified, godly life possible. We need to stand vigilantly at the entryway to the heart to shoo away all the forces that may be throwing interferences its way.

Thus, the protection of the heart is not only about physical survival, it is also about surviving as a person with genuine humanity, versatile functionality and superior effectiveness in a multi-faceted, often-times conflicted, existence.

More than seven hundred years ago, an astute scholar listed and explained five factors that interfere with the heart’s capacity to fulfil its sublime, non-physical role.

His prescription was, in its turn, inspired by yet another much older historic observation. Paraphrased, we get, “There is a piece of flesh in the body that if it is sound, then everything else will be sound; and if it is lacking, so will everything else.”

The five points, however, may appear mundane and not at all profound. That is because some of them are generally well known and accepted as  a matter of common sense, even easily anticipated. Yet a couple of them may elicit “say-what” reaction. But, simple as they may appear, they constitute an aspect of eternal truth and wisdom which the foolhardy ignores at his own peril.

  1. Foul company. This is about identity and belonging. Wrong type of friendship does have a corrosive effect on the heart. Desperate to strike a friendship, a person in the wrong company will ignore all reasonable suggestions even those which he admits are good, fair, justified and important. In order to be accepted, he seeks to make his chums happy by matching his mood, thinking, interest, vibe and standard with theirs. Thus, he avoids being mocked or thought of as an inferior or a sell-out. The peer pressure to conform is tremendous. So, as another saying goes, “the religion, i.e., the values, of  a person are those of his friends”. The once autonomous heart is thus subverted to becoming a subservient entity.
  2. Unreal fantasy or day dreaming. This is about frittering away time wastefully in frivolous, unreal, impossible pursuits. Having an imagination is good. It is envied if it leads to creativity. Having a vision about something good, great, path-breaking and lasting are dreams to have and nurture. It is celebrated for its impact. However, when the mind pursues whimsical ends, without follow-up, effort, plan, or objectivity, then it is like burning time and brain cells foolishly. These are hair brained schemes, at best. They may occur frequently and in great numbers that they may appear to stumble over one another. However, they have a sweetness about them. A pervasive sense of elation or self-satisfaction takes over. It lulls the sense of caution, doubt or suspicion. That is what gives day dreaming its staying power, its ráison d’être. Thus, dreams and illusions corrupt the heart. For some, it even validates the use of drugs because drugs produce the same sense of euphoria and feel good moments that the body has become accustomed to and enjoys.
  3. Non-reliance on God. This is about thinking and believing that success will be assured when one is properly connected to and supported by people as well as being properly projected or show-cased. Reliance on people and things other than God for achieving a sense of fulfillment, pride, happiness, validation, dignity, etc. do ruin the heart’s global efficacy. Thus, to such individuals, their looks, pricey possessions, powerful, fashionable, or beautiful circle of friends or well-wishers, etc. carry a weight heavier than that assigned to God in impressing others on their route to material success. However, such things cannot be counted upon to deliver in the long haul. Besides, they matter little when heavy lifting is warranted. Friends and supporters have the tendency to thin out rather quickly. Nobody can really help when there is a tragedy, when health problems crop up, when wealth is lost and income flow dries up.  So, there is then no guidance, no peace of mind, no hope, no chance of restitution and rehabilitation this type of dependency can bring about. Friends and well-wishers can only do so much, and if only that. The sublime qualities born of submission, reflection, and appreciation are all lost to a foolishly guided person with a shallow, inadequate, and ultimately limited support system which in reality neither makes or breaks what happens or will happen. By trading away God, the reliance on impermanent becomes woefully tiringly permanent.
  4. Consumption of food or beverage. One may consume of food and beverages lacking intrinsic value or purity. Even when quality is not in question, the volume of consumption may be excessive. Further, one may resort to unwholesome process in acquiring a food or beverage item. This, too, damages the heart as a decision making organ. So, not all food or drink nourish us equally and some of them harm us. When we crave to consume that which is not good for us, when we consume in excessive volume even those that are safe and when we go out of our way to acquire them, we compromise the heart’s decision making authority. Either we fail to establish boundaries or follow them when they exist. So, the heart becomes accustomed to being careless and caving in. It will be difficult to shake off heart’s lackadaisical bearing thus acquired and prevent it from spreading to other decision making ends.
  5. Sleeping excessively. Just like food and drink, sound sleep is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Sloth, on the other hand, is bad. It not only puts the body into extended rest thereby attenuating muscles and diminishing reflexes, it consigns the heart to the same static status. The heart becomes under-used. After a prolonged period of disuse, the heart not only refuses to stir productively, it even  becomes indifferent toward recognizing and accepting responsibility. Scheduling and punctuality and, therefore, dependability become nuisances in the mind of the supine sloth.

TPTChoice Team

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Adult Chauvinism

“I’m an adult, leave me alone” is a sentiment heard once in a while.

“I dislike organized religion because I don’t have the freedom due to me as an adult” is also an oft-expressed refrain among those distant from religion or religiosity.

Occasionally adults are asked to show-up or shape-up. In other words, they are expected to be simply accountable by being punctual, tidy and organized, hygienic, keeper of word, softer in language use, kinder in demeanor, etc. The confronted adult responds by saying something like, “Stop mothering me”! Wow! That is not adult-speak, but adolescent-speak. The tell-tale sign of immaturity has inadvertently slipped past in the heat of expectation. Thus, the physical adult emotionally and psychologically inebriated by extended adolescence is easily riled up when reminded of his long HoneyDoList. This could be the side effect of a mix of affluence, at-ease parenting, confused family and societal norms, etc. When the adolescent is given the “Get out of Jail” card once too many times, this is what happens.

Are adults infallible and religions essentially faulty for their overreach? If neither is true, then we have a clear case of “Adult Chauvinism”.

Adults can make no mistake is patently a false statement, not that anyone is claiming it. However, the way some adults assert themselves and carry on, one could infer that that must be their presupposition.

Hence, the idea that adults should not be restricted, hemmed in, by anything institutional is also false.

Yes, adults are adults in that they are capable of and responsible for their decisions with the expectations that nobody is needed to watch their back or guide them along their way.

Adults have the right to be trusted and let go.

Yet the facts are that adults commit most of the crimes, are involved in most car accidents, perpetuate betrayals, habitually indulge in prevarication or lying, foul mouthing and gossip, and are responsible for all of the divorces, abandonment of family and botched parenting. Assessing and reporting thus do not make for a novel, sensational, tell-all copy.

Adults need all kinds of ID’s and permits for driving, traveling, banking, trading and manufacturing. They are required to pay taxes, obtain visa, observe speed limit, pay for traffic violation, go through background check and sometimes DNA and blood sampling, obtain marriage certificate, produce birth certificate, divulge social security number, etc.

So, adults are subject to the rules of a system. Their claim to “haloed” emancipation is not absolute.

Yet the system is not Orwellian. It cannot possibly prescribe every guideline or monitor every choice. Hence, adults get substantial latitude, especially for the space and time which is their very own. The formal societal system to be of any value to anyone protects adults from other adults in terms of economic loss and loss of life or injury to the body. That is the most it can do.

The family, as the primary, un-legislated system, is typically in gear from the very get go to supply the society with a responsible, productive adult. The family’s system  is an acquired system that is rooted in collective human experience and religion (the latter being a system unto itself that would argue the family as its sub-system). When this supplemental system is weak, we get adults who may be great in public space but are woefully inadequate in private space. In aggravated cases, both spaces are squarely compromised. Some adults land in intractable trouble, their whole life is poised easily, rapidly to descend into a veritable pandemonium.

The tptChoice Way argues that people facing uphill tasks of instituting self-discipline, managing willfulness akin to foolhardiness, and dependencies of various forms should be careful not to take the position of an unapologetic adult chauvinist. It’s a useless, unsupportable, hollow position that robs one of the ability to appreciate difference, listening capacity and analytical sensibility thereby blocking effort at restoration of sanity and dynamic recovery.

The very selfishness, minus the shallowness, that chases adult chauvinism should be turned around and employed to gain a prettier, more wholesome life.

TPTChoice Team

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