Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal

Volume 1 No. 30 September 16, 2011

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Cross Icicle from Chicago, USA
Table of Contents
Editor's Note
After several weeks of "special feasts and festivals" starting with the transfiguration in early August to Assumption of St. Mary, to Birth of St. Mary and then the Feast of Sleebo on September 14th, the church will enter into a new year in November. This week's gospel reading is about the end of the world as Mark sees it in Mark 13: 30-37.

These days we are often bombarded with messages of the end of the world. We remember Harold Camping predicting the end of the world a few months ago. Many people thought that the world will end as we crossed into the new millennium in 2000. In the Gospel reading specified by the Holy Church this Sunday, Jesus makes it clear that no one knows the exact time He is coming; not the angels, not the saints, no one except the father. We are told to wait.

I love an article written by Fr. Gerry Pierse, a noted author, on this topic: "...we tend to complicate our lives and our prayer by looking for the extraordinary, when the Lord is to be found most often in the simple and in the ordinary." Lord may not be coming in a spectacular fashion. He may come in a whisper, unnoticed by many! Read an excerpt from Fr. Pierce in our inspiration section today.

Another author I found extremely interesting in this regard is Darrik Acre. In an article titled "Hope in the Shadows" he wrote in Preacher's Magazine:

  • "When we are traveling over life’s troubled seas, we have hope because there is one who has come, is coming even now, and will come again, one who can speak over the troubled waters and bring peace and calmness.
  • When we are struggling and feel captive to things we can’t escape, we have hope because we understand there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again, one who sets the prisoners free.
  • When we feel like we are dominated by disease and sickness, we have hope because we know there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again; one who is the divine healer who makes us whole; one who calls himself the resurrection and the life.
  • When we are torn and broken by sin, can’t escape our guilt, and feel the sting of shame, when the past dominates us, we have hope because there is one who has come, is coming, and will come again; one who forgives us, redeems us, and offers us salvation; one who rescues us from whatever we need to be rescued.

Jesus wants us to understand this truth as a truth that applies to the end time and to all of time: the Son of Man will come. In the midst of everything going wrong, the Son of Man has come, is coming, and will come again."

So, what are we supposed to do? Live as if end is near or do the normal life, taking it in stride but be ready whenever that happens? Mary Anderson, answers it this way:

"As the leaves fall from the trees and the earth goes brown and bare, the church contemplates the end as well -- the end of our lives in death and the end of the world with Christ’s coming. The very idea that there will be an end is threatening to those of us who have pretty good lives and good plans for the future. For those of us who experience life as a roller coaster of ups and downs, on the other hand, or those who experience life as mostly downs, the Idea of "an end to it all" maybe comforting....

Jesus calls us to live with the intensity of last days while living our regular lives. He reminds us that we are not ultimately invested in this world, and he liberates us to work with courage, with hope. End times call for tall towers of hope. They call for a lightning-speed reordering of priorities. End times call for alertness, sharpness. They tingle with expectation. They are times of uncertainty and fear only for those whose faith is thin."

We have several commentaries and sermons discussing different aspects of the "waiting for the end of the world." You can read , contemplate and meditate on them  (including a classical gem by St. Augustine) at:

We have a great article by Rev. Fr. Paul Thotakat on Trinity. Trinity is a very difficult concept to grasp for most of us. Fr. Paul has made it easy with his sun analogy (we usually hear about the water analogy - ice-water-steam; the sun analogy is new to me.) My thanks to Fr. Paul for this gem.

With this issue, we pick up on excerpting from Andrew Murray's book 'With Christ In the School of Prayer' from where we left of a few weeks ago. This week's lesson is about secret prayer or what we call "Rahasya Prarthana".

Jesus promised us an eternal peace. Does peace means tranquility in life? The short article, 'The real meaning of peace' may give you an idea what peace is all about.

Our family special is on relationships. "Blaming" is something we often see in dealing with the spouse. Our marriage expert tells us that this is a relationship killer. Enjoy the other articles too.

A reminder: If you haven't visited Malankara World Supplement on Sleebo Feast, you can read it here:

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Sept 18)
First Sunday after the Feast of Holy Cross


  • St. Luke 17: 20-37


  • St. Matthew 24: 36-51

Before Holy Qurbana

  • Psalms 34
  • Genesis 42: 1- 28
  • Isaiah 1 : 10 - 20

Holy Qurbana

  • Acts 3: 21 - 26
  • I Corinthians 2: 10-16
  • St. Mark 13: 30 -37

Lectionary of the Syriac Orthodox Church

Sermons for This Sunday (Sept 18)
We have greatly expanded our Sermon Resources. The sermon collection now includes general and classical sermons. This will give a broader appeal to the Gospel Reading for the week. We also added bible commentaries for the bible reading to facilitate study and meditation. Please check it out.
Sermons for the First Sunday After the Feast of Cross (Sleebo Feast)

More Sermons

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
It is sad that so many people will get excited and become agitated by news of visions or threats of destruction and yet they will not follow the core message of Jesus.

The matter of the end for each of us and the end of the world itself is one that is often touched on in the Bible. In our Christian understanding the "end of time" has been anticipated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus our salvation has already been achieved but we are not yet fully enjoying it. (I heard one professor explain the idea of being saved 'already' but 'not yet' by describing how he had got the smell of dried fish coming from the kitchen before breakfast. He knew already that it was there while he was not yet enjoying it. So, too, with the reign of God!)

Jesus talked about the coming reign of God. It is clear in the Gospel today that St. Mark expected a catastrophic kind of ending within the lifetime of his audience. It can be seen, however, not as trying to strike fear into people but rather to inspire them with hope. "Take the fig tree as a parable; as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things: know that he is near, at the very gates… heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away."

The message of Jesus is one of hope to be found in the world as it is. It is a message that tells us that God is journeying with us in the trials and difficulties of life and that his word is ever present to shine the light of hope on our paths. This word is challenging and disconcerting; "What good is it to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?"
"Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you."
"The greatest amongst you is the one who serves."
"There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents."
"Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither will I condemn you."
"Seek first the kingdom of God and all the things that you fret about will be given to you."

These words are challenging because they turn our usual values upside-down. But they also inspire us, guide us and give us hope and comfort. Once heard, we cannot forget them. For though heaven and earth shall pass away these words will not pass away.

Excerpted from 'Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life'
by Fr. Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

Featured This Week: The Holy Trinity
Invited Paper

by Rev. Fr. Paul Thotakat, Dallas, TX

Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, the One God in three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.), in perfect communion. They are distinct but not separate.

The sun can be likened to a trinity also, with the Father as being analogous to the sun, the Son proceeding from the sun (Father) as the light that we see, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the sun and as the heat that we feel. As long as Sun exists there will be heat and light. There again, we have a trio of the sun (the star), light, and heat, with each being distinct from the others but not separate. Therefore the term "Trinity" does not imply three gods. God reveals himself to human beings in terms of Trinity.

God is far beyond the ability of human intelligence and comprehension. What we know about God are through the knowledge he revealed to us. God the Father is the invisible origin of Christ. Son (the light) is begotten from Father (the sun). The light declares the existence of Sun. Jesus Christ said to Philip, "Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:3) And as light proceeds forth from that ball in space, so Jesus proceeds forth from the Father. "I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." (John 8:42)

You cannot get to God unless you follow the light, as Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Jesus in His words, parables and actions revealed Him also as the Father of Mercy, Forgiveness, Love, Generosity, Compassion and unending good qualities.

And what of the Holy Spirit? For there is an apparent distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is like the heat that comes from the sun. You cannot see heat, but you can see the effects of it. So even in darkness, for those who don't have the light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is yet at work. Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the power from God. And as heat also proceeds from sun so the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Father. "... the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father ..." (John 15:26)

Christians worship one God - "the Lord our God is one" (Mark 12:28). He is the one God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Act 3:13). St. Paul declares "God is one" (Gal 3:20). St. James proclaims, "You believe that there is one God..." (James 2:19). St. John said, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one" (1John 5:7). It is evident that the Christians follow monotheism as per these teachings.

[Editor's Note: Rev. Fr. Paul Thotakat is the Vicar of St. Mary's Syriac Orthodox Church, Dallas, TX. He is also the Joint Secretary of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America.]

Book: 'With Christ In the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray

Lesson 3: Alone with God
[Editor's Note: Here is this week's lesson from the book, 'With Christ in the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray. This book is a very important reference book on intercessional prayer, something Orthodox Church believes in greatly. Murray skillfully describes the role of the Holy Spirit within the church and exhorts Christians to use the blessings God has given us. This book is a guide to living a life as a temple of the Holy Spirit. If you have missed the earlier lessons, please read them in Malankara World.]

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee." -Matthew 6:6

Moses gave neither command nor regulation with regard to prayer: even the prophets say little directly of the duty of prayer; it is Christ who teaches to pray.

After Jesus had called His first disciples, He gave them their first public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He there expounded to them the kingdom of God, its laws and its life. In that kingdom God is not only King, but Father, He not only gives all, but is Himself all. In the knowledge and fellowship of Him alone is its blessedness. Hence it came as a matter of course that the revelation of prayer and the prayer-life was a part of His teaching concerning the New Kingdom He came to set up. Moses gave neither command nor regulation with regard to prayer: even the prophets say little directly of the duty of prayer; it is Christ who teaches to pray.

And the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must have a secret place for prayer; every one must have some solitary spot where he can be alone with his God. Every teacher must have a schoolroom. We have learnt to know and accept Jesus as our only teacher in the school of prayer. He has already taught us at Samaria that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship, spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the whole man must in his whole life be worship in spirit and truth.

...He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He can daily meet him. That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus' schoolroom.

And yet He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He can daily meet him. That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus' schoolroom. That spot may be anywhere; that spot may change from day to day if we have to change our abode; but that secret place there must be, with the quiet time in which the pupil places himself in the Master's presence, to be by Him prepared to worship the Father. There alone, but there most surely, Jesus comes to us to teach us to pray.

A teacher is always anxious that his schoolroom should be bright and attractive, filled with the light and air of heaven, a place where pupils long to come, and love to stay. In His first words on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seeks to set the inner chamber before us in its most attractive light. If we listen carefully, we soon notice what the chief thing is He has to tell us of our tarrying there. Three times He uses the name of Father: 'Pray to thy Father;' 'Thy Father shall recompense thee;' 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of.'

The fresh air from heaven with which Jesus would have it filled, the atmosphere in which I am to breathe and pray, is: God's Father-love, God's infinite Fatherliness.

The first thing in closet-prayer is: I must meet my Father. The light that shines in the closet must be: the light of the Father's countenance. The fresh air from heaven with which Jesus would have it filled, the atmosphere in which I am to breathe and pray, is: God's Father-love, God's infinite Fatherliness. Thus each thought or petition we breathe out will be simple, hearty, childlike trust in the Father. This is how the Master teaches us to pray: He brings us into the Father's living presence. What we pray there must avail. Let us listen carefully to hear what the Lord has to say to us.

First, 'Pray to thy Father which is in secret.' God is a God who hides Himself to the carnal eye. As long as in our worship of God we are chiefly occupied with our own thoughts and exercises, we shall not meet Him who is a Spirit, the unseen One. But to the man who withdraws himself from all that is of the world and man, and prepares to wait upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself. As he forsakes and gives up and shuts out the world, and the life of the world, and surrenders himself to be led of Christ into the secret of God's presence, the light of the Father's love will rise upon him.

...we are taught, at the very outset of our search after the secret of effectual prayer, to remember that it is in the inner chamber, where we are alone with the Father, that we shall learn to pray aright.

The secrecy of the inner chamber and the closed door, the entire separation from all around us, is an image of, and so a help to that inner spiritual sanctuary, the secret of God's tabernacle, within the veil, where our spirit truly comes into contact with the Invisible One. And so we are taught, at the very outset of our search after the secret of effectual prayer, to remember that it is in the inner chamber, where we are alone with the Father, that we shall learn to pray aright. The Father is in secret: in these words Jesus teaches us where He is waiting us, where He is always to be found.

Christians often complain that private prayer is not what it should be. They feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to pray, and in that little no faith or joy. They are discouraged and kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come to the Father as they ought or as they wish. Child of God! listen to your Teacher. He tells you that when you go to private prayer your first thought must be: The Father is in secret, the Father awaits me there. Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into the presence of the loving Father. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth you.

'And thy Father, which seeth in secret, will recompense thee.' Here Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless: its blessing will show itself in our life.

Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring God, but of how much He wants to give you. Just place yourself before, and look up into, His face; think of His love, His wonderful, tender, pitying love. Just tell Him how sinful and cold and dark all is: it is the Father's loving heart will give light and warmth to yours. O do what Jesus says: Just shut the door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret. Is it not wonderful to be able to go alone with God, the infinite God? And then to look up and say: My Father!

'And thy Father, which seeth in secret, will recompense thee.' Here Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless: its blessing will show itself in our life. We have but in secret, alone with God, to entrust our life before men to Him; He will reward us openly; He will see to it that the answer to prayer be made manifest in His blessing upon us.

'He that cometh to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him.'

Our Lord would thus teach us that as infinite Fatherliness and Faithfulness is that with which God meets us in secret, so on our part there should be the childlike simplicity of faith, the confidence that our prayer does bring down a blessing. 'He that cometh to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him.' Not on the strong or the fervent feeling with which I pray does the blessing of the closet depend, but upon the love and the power of the Father to whom I there entrust my needs.

And therefore the Master has but one desire: Remember your Father is, and sees and hears in secret; go there and stay there, and go again from there in the confidence: He will recompense. Trust Him for it; depend upon Him: prayer to the Father cannot be vain; He will reward you openly.

...we do not need, as the heathen, with the multitude and urgency of our words, to compel an unwilling God to listen to us.

Still further to confirm this faith in the Father-love of God, Christ speaks a third word: 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.' At first sight it might appear as if this thought made prayer less needful: God knows far better than we what we need. But as we get a deeper insight into what prayer really is, this truth will help much to strengthen our faith. It will teach us that we do not need, as the heathen, with the multitude and urgency of our words, to compel an unwilling God to listen to us.

It will lead to a holy thoughtfulness and silence in prayer as it suggests the question: Does my Father really know that I need this? It will, when once we have been led by the Spirit to the certainty that our request is indeed something that, according to the Word, we do need for God's glory, give us wonderful confidence to say, My Father knows I need it and must have it. And if there be any delay in the answer, it will teach us in quiet perseverance to hold on: Father! Thou Knowest I need it.

...this be your liberty to bring every need, in the assurance that your God will supply it according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.

O the blessed liberty and simplicity of a child that Christ our Teacher would fain cultivate in us, as we draw near to God: let us look up to the Father until His Spirit works it in us. Let us sometimes in our prayers, when we are in danger of being so occupied with our fervent, urgent petitions, as to forget that the Father knows and hears, let us hold still and just quietly say: My Father sees, my Father hears, my Father knows; it will help our faith to take the answer, and to say: We know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him.

And now, all ye who have anew entered the school of Christ to be taught to pray, take these lessons, practice them, and trust Him to perfect you in them. Dwell much in the inner chamber, with the door shut--shut in from men, shut up with God; it is there the Father awaits you, it is there Jesus will teach you to pray. To be alone in secret with The Father: this be your highest joy. To be assured that The Father will openly reward the secret prayer, so that it cannot remain unblessed: this be your strength day by day. And to know that The Father knows that you need what you ask; this be your liberty to bring every need, in the assurance that your God will supply it according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.

Continue Reading in Malankara World

The Real Meaning Of Peace
There once was a king who offered a, prize to the artist who would paint, the best picture of peace...

Many artists tried.

The king looked at all the pictures.

But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake.

The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful, towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white, clouds.

All who saw this picture thought that, it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumble a foaming, waterfall, This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock.

In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest - in perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The king chose the second picture.

Do you know why?

"Because, " explained the king, "peace does not, mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

How Do You Let God Work in Your Life?

by Sara Goff, Lift the Lid, Inc.

We have the perfect excuse not to let God work in our lives. We’re human. It’s our natural instinct to want to control our environment. If it were otherwise, we wouldn’t be the proud iPod carriers that we are today. But what if we went beyond the horizon of our own understanding and trusted in God to guide us? What more could we achieve? God has a way of raising our level of potential, until we’re shocked by our own accomplishments. And He brings people into our lives who help to make this possible. It’s up to us to follow His lead. But . . . how?

Jesus called to the fishermen, his future disciples, and “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:20 (NASB) A fisherman leaving behind his net is like a writer leaving behind her laptop, without first backing up its hard drive. Here are some examples of following God’s guidance that might make letting go of our ‘nets’ less scary.

Linda Rohrbough, award-winning author, entrepreneur, and writing-coach, tells a unique story of surrender that gave God the opportunity to bless her life. In 2007, she was invited to a luncheon in Amarillo, Texas, a six-hour drive from where she was living at the time. Her writer friend Jodi Thomas was hosting a best-selling author and distinguished editor, and encouraged Linda to stay the weekend and meet them. Linda arrived late the evening before, and so did Jodi, coming home from a long book tour. When Linda came downstairs the next morning, Jodi was busy preparing food and looked exhausted. Linda worked alongside her, but before everything was ready, they had a houseful of guests.

In the living room, writers gathered around the famous author and editor as if being told the secret password to getting published. Linda faced a dilemma: should she continue helping with the food, or start networking? She had given up the weekend to meet the best-selling author in particular, one of her all-time favorites, Debbie Macomber. Perhaps Debbie might even give her some advice about breaking into the fiction market . . . . Linda turned back into the kitchen and told Jodi to go greet her guests; she’d take care of lunch. Listening to her heart, she surrendered her expectations to God.

What started as helping to get the food served, ended with helping to clear it away, and Linda had barely spoken to either of the luminary guests. Resentment and frustration could have gnawed at her throughout the afternoon. She had not been pro-active in advancing her career. Of course, she felt some disappointment, but since she had surrendered her expectations, she didn’t have as far to fall. In her heart, she was glad to have helped her friend, and in her mind, she was sure God would see to her writing.

After the last business card was exchanged, guests said their good-byes, well-fed and inspired. Linda dried her hands on a damp dishtowel, not looking forward to the long drive home. Jodi thanked her profusely for pulling off a seamless luncheon, and then asked if she wanted to join her and Debbie for a tour of Amarillo. Well, Linda accepted.On their outing, Debbie told about her long-term struggle with weight gain. She felt it was a roadblock in her faith, something that God wanted her to fix, and yet she failed, time and again. With the excitement of a child doing show-and-tell, Linda shared her story of losing more than 140 pounds with the Lap-Band®. She was even working on a book with her surgeon, Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band. Suddenly it seemed that God was connecting the dots.

Debbie wasn’t sure about “the Band,” however. Besides, wincing at the word ‘surgery,’ she believed she needed to defeat the demon of weight gain herself, alone. Eventually, she put her trust in God and surrendered control, asking Linda to become her ‘coach.’ Linda shared the information she was collecting for her book and gave moral support for years, under sworn secrecy. In return, Debbie helped Linda with her writing and endorsed her work. A trusting friendship formed.

Debbie has lost over 80 pounds, and the roadblock in her faith is gone, allowing her to see God at work in her life through other people. She revealed her secret in her 2010 book, God’s Guest List (see Chapter Three), andnow Linda can speak openly about how they met. In the book, Debbie tells the story of that fateful luncheon when Linda sacrificed her expectations, surrendering to God’s will, and He opened a glorious door in both their lives.

Another example of dropping our ‘net’ to follow God comes from Paula Mowery, a writer for, a pastor’s wife, and a home school mom from Morristown, Tennessee. She allowed God to work in her life when she took her vocation outside her church. Paula was plenty busy working within her church, serving a congregation of hundreds. But she felt conflicted about not reaching out to the lost in her community, the ones who don’t know Him. She prayed about it and was heard.

At a town association meeting, the director of a local pregnancy center made an appeal for volunteers to cook meals for their night classes. Paula responded, thinking the women’s ministry at her church could get involved, and then she listened to her heart and asked if she could perhaps lead a Bible study. The director exclaimed, “I can’t believe it! I know God has been working in this. My devotional leader had to step down, and I have been trying to do the devotions myself, but it’s been hard with my other responsibilities.”

Now Paula was committed to serving outside the security of her church. Not only did she have to make time to prepare lessons and attend classes, she had to face her fear of reaching out to those who might reject her beliefs. The first night arrived and she stood before the young single mothers, feeling anxious. She had a limited time to work with them, some of whom had obviously developed hard hearts from years of abuse and/or drug use. They wore their doubt like a spiked robe. What if she couldn’t reach them? Or what if they retreated even further into darkness? She prayed that God would speak through her, and then she did the only thing she could and opened her heart to the women.

After the first class, the director noted how well everyone paid attention. Paula blushed, admitting that as an interpreter for the deaf, she tended to be animated. The second night, some of the women even talked about their situations, which the director referred to as a “Wow” moment. At the end of the course, Paula offered a challenge to the women: that they read Proverbs every day and see if God speaks to them through any of the verses.

She prays daily for God to work in those young mothers’ lives, and she sees how He is working in hers, as she continues to reach out to the lost in her community. By following the examples Jesus set, serving those floundering in sin, she’s become a role model to her family and congregation. The gifts of understanding and compassion she has gained have not only helped her to be a better pastor’s wife, but a better mother and teacher to her daughter.

In 2005, while living in Manhattan, I prayed about making a difference in other people’s lives. Shortly thereafter, I came across an opportunity at The National Arts Club and applied to volunteer in local high schools as a writing workshop leader. Having attended a small Catholic school in Upstate New York, every muscle in my body went weak the first time I walked into a school the size of a city block, passing through metal detectors and signing in with a security officer. Students greeted me with hard stares and skepticism as I struggled to keep a steady voice. But by the end of my first workshop, after my students had found the courage to express themselves and the fortitude to rewrite, the comments were along the lines of “writing has changed my life.” I felt elated!

I listened to God and took another unexpected journey while handing out lemonade in Dixie cups at Holy Apostles’ Soup Kitchen, a haven in Manhattan that serves over a thousand meals a day. When one of the other volunteers heard about my work in the high schools, he mentioned the Soup Kitchen’s writing workshop, started by author Ian Frazier. I showed up the first day and asked if they needed another workshop leader. Mr. Frazier was hesitant, understandably. There I was, a small-statured, fair-haired woman with an eager smile, not the one to step in if a fight were to break out or a problem were to arise from mental illness or drug abuse. My own family thought I was taking an unnecessary risk, and my grandmother, for the first time in my life, asked me to give up on an idea. But I was determined to serve, and over time, the dedicated group of ten or twelve men and women taught me, one of the leaders, how to write with an open and honest heart.

By building the confidence of others through writing, I became more confident as a writer. Imagine that! I asked God to use me to make a difference, but He needed to make a difference in me, as well. How did I let Him work in my life? It started when I followed Him into the high schools and saw how much hope lies beyond the horizon. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

[Editor's Note: Sara Goff has published in several New York City journals. You can read her short story, "The Smell of Burnt Vegetables," in the July issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Learn more about Sara and Lift the Lid, Inc. at]

Family: Blaming Others for Our Shortcomings

by Gary Smalley

When conflict raises its ugly head in your relationships, where do you place blame? Your spouse? Kids? Boss? Job? Church? Money?

Maybe you’re a blamer. Frustrated with your job, you struggle through all of your relationships. You blame your problems on trivial things. Blaming others make winning almost impossible because arguments and fighting usually result.

I encourage you to resist making “you” statements such as, “You’re the one who needs to change,” “You should have warned me that our marriage was in trouble,” “You’re not the same woman I married,” and “You weren’t submissive enough,” as reasons for your behavior. These “you” statements are devastating, and they seldom improve your situation.

Using a statement such as, “You were just too sensitive,” stirs up more anger. As this happens, the blaming backfires and exposes your resistance to improve or change.

You are not at the mercy of those who push your buttons. They do not have to control how you react. You do not have to give them the power to determine what you think or what you do. You must take control of yourself and your emotions. You must learn that blaming others for our insecurities and fears is a dead end.

When we stop blaming others for our shortcomings, we diffuse anger and resolve conflicts.

Humor: Married For The Fourth Time
The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time.

The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation. "He's a funeral director," she answered.

"Interesting," the newsman thought.

He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living.

She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years.

After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her early 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now in her 80's, a funeral director.

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained, "I married the first one for the money, second for the show, third to get ready, and the fourth to go."

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