Purpose, Superpowers and Penguins

Welcome back to Fasting Fridays :), figured we should talk about purpose. I’ve been pondering it recently because of the business I’m in. I meet so many people who have walked away from corporate careers to start a business that they believe is their true calling. It’s been making me think about what our purpose is.

Mrs FF has been quoting that age old line, about how much time you spend at work vs how much time you spend at home. They say that you spend a third of your life at work. But actually, it is a lot more than that. You also spend time sleeping, so if you really consider that you spend 8 hours a day working, about an hour or so commuting (could be up to 3 hrs in a big city), you spend anywhere from 4-5 hours at home awake and active. So you spend double or more of your time at your work on a weekday!! Frankly that is an insane proportion of your day doing something that brings you no joy.

Steve Harvey has this video where he talks about purpose.

About as easy as climbing Mount Everest

Finding your purpose in life is hard, in that it takes energy to sit and think about this very hard, very elusive question. Once you believe you have identified your purpose, it takes even more energy to change your circumstances, and to convince your family, to plan. It is no easy thing, living in your purpose.

But the cost of not living in your purpose is too great. When you are miserable waking up in the morning, it affects you, and all those you love (in fact it affects them the most!). You are unlikely to be successful at a thing that you feel unwilling to do every day. And you spend more of your resources trying to be happy in other areas of life, because you don’t feel a sense of fulfillment in your calling.

A penguin shouldn’t fly

We used to go to a church in Buffalo, and the Pastor once did a session speaking to parents. He talked about how as parents, we need to identify our children’s gifts and talents, and encourage them in that. He gave the analogy of a penguin child. If the parents of a penguin look at that penguin, and say, you’re a bird, you should fly well, they will make that child’s life miserable.

They will send that penguin to remedial classes, they will pay for extra flying training, they will spend nights and weekends trying to teach that penguin to fly. Who knows, after all that, the penguin may learn to fly a few yards. But he will NEVER be a great flier. A mediocre and very fat chicken probably could outdo that penguin.

BUT, put that penguin in the water. He will be unrivaled and can beat most fish at swimming and diving. That is what a penguin was made to do!

So parents, stop teaching your penguin to fly. Figure out what they excel at, and encourage them in their skills. Of course we need to build them up in the basics of all other talents also to live in this world, but accept some kids may never be math geniuses, and thats ok. The world also needs artists, movie producers and musicians.

Are you a penguin?

That talk really impacted me, many, many years before I had kids, and it made me also see my own gifts in a new light. My whole life I’d been told I’m the laziest person most people know. And there is truth to that. I was an easygoing and extremely lazy individual. But that laziness translated to a desire to do things more efficiently, so that I spent the least amount of time on a particular task. I’m an incredible problem solver, and I will figure out a better way to do things (typically by automation).

My laziness is in fact, my superpower. My laziness and general distaste for physical activity made me introspective. So I sit and think about a problem, and wont let go until I crack it.

Now one of my kids is the same way. Although I still need her to move fast when the circumstances call for it, I know she will never be very organized or physically capable in activities. But I see her incredible aptitude in problem solving. She will excel in the sciences, because that is her laziness derived superpower.

The other kid has such a natural rythm, such a natural physical dexterity, that it’s honestly amazing (that she is any relation of mine at all). She will excel at the arts and anything that requires skill and concentration. That is her stubborness derived superpower.

In that vein, we each need to figure out our superpower. Whatever negatives that the world has been pronouncing about our own personalities, figure out the positive side of that. If the world calls you stubborn, you may be persistent. If the world calls you lazy, you may be a problem solver. The world only appreciates the end product, it will never encourage you on the journey.

You have a superpower, use it!

I guarantee every one of us has a superpower. That superpower gives us purpose. Some of us are not living out the gifting we have been given, and will need to change course. That takes time and effort. But sitting down and thinking about it, thinking about the person you want to be, is the first step. Not just in terms of purpose, but also in terms of the character we want to exhibit. Think about it, journal it, and then make changes to get you to your end state. A good character, and a happy life, does not happen by magic, it happens by intentional change.

One more thing, our final purpose will be about service. It’s not about making money. We humans, as social beings, derive our purpose from service.

So as you sit and think about purpose, think about it in terms of service to a community. That is where you will find a purpose that lights you up, that makes you get up in the morning and want to do something meaningful in this world. Help your children identify their giftings and their purpose, so that they can have the most impact in their lives.

Finding purpose is a gift that pays exponential dividends. Stay joyful my friends, and see you next week!

Kindness – the greatest impact

Photo by Ditto Bowo on Unsplash

It’s been a couple of weeks, and honestly, I’ve been on a rollercoaster. As some of you may know, I’ve been working on a startup. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the mountain, and some days (weeks even) I feel like I’m getting kicked in the guts by a very annoyed horse. Over and over again. So, its been a few weeks of the latter.

No matter, lunchtimes on Fridays are an opportunity for me to set aside my own worries, and look outside. We need to focus less on ourselves, and more on how we can serve those around us.

In that vein, I’ve been considering kindness. Kindness seems pretty simple, “don’t be a jerk” :). But it has deeper roots than that. I think Kindness is about selflessness. When you think about it, being kind is giving someone more than they deserve.

Kindness & Grace

If we consider a typical scenario where you walk into a restaurant. You are well within your rights to demand a table and a menu. You are well within your rights to expect fast and attentive service. And, you are well within your rights to expect your server to not spill your food, or make a mistake on the bill.

BUT, kindness is showing grace when you have to wait, when the server makes a mistake, takes too long with the menu or spills some food. When you speak gently, in the face of not getting what you “ought”, that is kindess.

I’ve always heard it said that “mercy is not getting what you deserve” and grace is “getting what you don’t deserve”. Kindness, at its core, is the giving of grace.

We are in a world that is constantly, and loudly, demanding its rights. We have a choice whether we walk that same path, demanding, and receiving our rights. And no one in this world would criticize you, for asking for what is your right.

But the way of faith, is a way of counter culturalism. When we give up our rights for the sake of the other, we really are living out our faith. This is how we can impact the world around us. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary! For Christians, this is emulating the life and character of Christ, living out the teaching “turn the other cheek”

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2 : 3-7

As we go through the rest of this weekend, let’s try and practice kindness. When we are annoyed or angry, it’s a perfect moment to breathe, calm down, and actively practice kindness.

See you next week, same time, same channel!

The journey matters – finding joy in doing good

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Yes, the title sounds very social-media-y, but the concept has been percolating with me for a while.

This whole thought process started with a talk I attended, where the speaker was the founder of Farmer’s Fridge. Farmer’s Fridge is a local (Chicago-based) innovative company that provides ready-to-eat salads and healthy food in jars, delivered in vending machines. If that sounds like a shark tank contestant, it turns out that the shark tank contestant was actually someone who was literally copying Farmer’s Fridge’s business model.

The difference, is that the founder had started Farmer’s Fridge as a response to his search for and ultimately inability to find good nutritious food choices. This was true especially in small cities while he was on the road as a traveling salesman. The company has a mission to provide nutritious, healthy, affordable food options in places where there typically are none (think of a hospital after the cafeteria has closed). Contrast this with the shark tank contestant, who appears to be just focused on making money.

I asked him about whether, along his journey, he had been forced to choose between the mission and success. His is that every founder must keep their vision front and center, so the choices are clear. This is the only way to differentiate yourself against copy-cats, because they will never have your passion, your mission. I’ve tried to do the same, writing a vision statement that should serve as our North Star for the business.

This conversation also got me thinking about the mission of this blog. I am aware that it seems like a bit of virtue signaling. It seems like a bit of “look at me, I’m fasting” (which is the exact opposite of the intent behind fasting!). However, the mission was to connect with others who want to make an impact, and together have a greater impact on the world around us. It’s the infamous “network effect”.

As people, we desire to do good, to make an impact. That is admirable, but it is important that we check our hearts in this. Too often, in the midst of the work of doing good, the intent gets lost in the doing. People who don’t remind themselves the why of doing good, will ultimately burn out.

Me and my wife have signed on to do a lot in this season of life. We got close to being overwhelmed and letting things drop, or doing good with a bad attitude. As I tell my children, attitude matters. It is better not to do the work, than to do it with a bad attitude.

A friend of mine re-posted the following story from twitter.


It is worth a read. I hate forwards for the most part, but this story teaches us that every so often, we need to be reminded of why we are living the life that we live. We’ve made choices in career and life in order that we could have an impact. But let’s re-discover that reason, so that we can have joy in the every day, even in the difficult and overwhelming parts of those choices.

People look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b

So my friends, lets check out our motives, lets remind ourselves of why we are doing the things we do, and let’s find joy in doing good.

Rest, to Reenergize, to do good work

Friends, it’s time again for our mid-day reflection on Fridays as we fast. Today, following on from our ruminations of last week about being overwhelmed, I’ve been considering “Rest”. We are so busy doing good work, that in some respects, simply continuing the treadmill makes us even more overwhelmed, and takes meaning away from even the good things we do.

I’ve found it is easy for doing good to become tiring, and painful. How can doing a good thing become hard? Simply by giving of ourselves without refreshing. Every time we care deeply about something, or we “try” at something, it takes energy. Even thoughts can consume energy. And that is the key to understanding why we are exhausted after a day at the office. We are not exhausted from physical work – after all, a great majority of us work at desks, where our most physically demanding activity is to walk to the water cooler. We are exhausted from the emotional and mental toll that our work takes on us.

I personally have witnessed friends who are entrepreneurs, and even those in ministry, giving up their work, because of this emotional and mental exhaustion. I’ve seen friends who had a deep conviction about a cause, after years of incessant work, let the work lapse and move on. This was not a result of physical exhaustion, but emotional and mental exhaustion.

Every person needs refreshing, we need renewal. We need time to recover and renew the energy that we expend weekly. We need short pauses in our weeks, and longer pauses in our year. This is not an option, this is necessary for growth. The classical example is of a farmer, who leaves a field “fallow”, so that it may recover and support crops in the future.

We are also a field, and our farmer is instructing that we lie fallow for a season (weekly and annually) to recover, so that we can produce good fruit. Producing good fruit in season is never easy. It is hard work, it requires plowing, sowing, watering, tending, weeding, pruning.

In that same way, embarking on good work takes sincere, committed effort. In the midst of the effort, we are often forgetting the need to pause, to breathe, to enjoy time with family, to recover the energy we’ve expended. I love this TED talk on the Shabbat.

So tonight, I’m going to switch off my phone. The startup will be fine for a day without me. The “good work” can also take a pause for a day. Because without that rest, I will burn out. I encourage you to look at your own lives, pause, breathe and allow your mind and body to recover. If you feel like you are on a treadmill, step off for a day. Enjoy your children, ask them about what brings them joy.

I was thinking about this topic (following from our conversation last week), when an ex-manager of mine (since retired from banking) posted about his new role with a charity in HK called Bethany ministries. Bethany Ministries is a retreat center, for rest and restoration. There are also similar centers closer to home in the US. Book a retreat, it is well worth it.

Have a look at the Bethany ministries website and please support this work (abroad or at home). Perhaps consider sending your pastors or ministry leaders on a retreat so that they may also rest and recover!


See you next Friday, friends.

It’s Overwhelming

As we approach lunchtime on Friday, I’m feeling a bit.. overwhelmed. It seems like the world is just on a negative path, and we are getting overloaded with deep painful news. Two of the top news articles on my morning news countdown this morning was the situation in Afghanistan and in Haiti.

Just to pick a random starting point, in Haiti, as you know, there has been recent political unrest due to the assassination of the President of Haiti. A week ago, there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the country, killing over 2000 people and leaving an untold number homeless. If that wasn’t enough, there was a tropical storm this week, that hit the island. The need is just indescribable.

“Many accounts that we’re hearing in the Les Cayes area is that almost half of the city is destroyed,” he said. “So we have many homes that are down, many people are, right now, don’t know where their loved ones are. So it’s a state of somewhat chaos and trying just to figure out what to do next.”

Brad Johnson, President, Mission of Hope

On the other side of the world, everyone will have heard about what is going on in Afghanistan. For some time now, thanks to a more secular leadership, Christians and other minority groups (although facing localized persecution) have been tolerated. With the overthrow of the secular government, the Taliban is expected to institute Shariah law.

Under Shariah law, the apostate must be put to death. Apostasy is so loosely defined as to cover anything considered by far right religious leaders as “heresy” or blasphemy, which is pretty much any declaration other than Sunni theology. This means pretty much any religious minority is a target. These blasphemy laws have been used against ethnic minorities to undertake ethnic cleansing as well.

This is an urgent issue in Afghanistan. The Taliban have spoken of tolerance (out of the great grace of their lovely hearts, they will allow girls to go to school!). But uncontrovertible reports make it clear that this is just honeyed words and will not translate to any type of actual tolerance.

How can we remain unmoved by this! We are surrounded by such deep need, it is easy to curl up and just focus inwardly on our comfortable life. But this is the time to be engaging in prayer and action to help those in need. Our lives are meant to be in service to others.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

I sometimes feel overwhelmed and at a loss for what I can do to change the world especially when the need is halfway around the world. We’ve spoken before about financial support to meet the need, and physically volunteering and providing for those needs, but I also wanted to remind us of one thing.

We may not be able to change the situation in Afghanistan, but that situation exists because evil men have influenced others to their cause. There is a parallel though. We each of us, have our own spheres of influence. It is too easy to stop doing anything, because nothing that we do will have global impact.

But we each can have an impact to our own little spheres of influence – at our workplaces, at restaurants and cafes, schools, wherever we interact with others. If we inject kindness into our interactions, even where we deserve something better (think when a server messes up your order), I believe those things will resonate. It resonates through our sphere of influence into those around us.

If there is a critical mass of people doing what is right (and what is right is what is right, regardless of your background!), then we can create a pocket of goodness to counter the evil in this world.

I encourage you to seed the world with kindness today. Check your tongue of harsh words, speak life, encouragement and strength to those around you. Give up what you deserve, and take up the burdens of others today. Before the end of the day do something kind to someone around you. Continue that daily and I truly believe we can make an impact on this cruel world.

Also, here are some links for financial support for these two areas!

AG World Missions Afghanistan (this relief work is not limited to Christians but to all in need!) : https://www.agwm.org/news/article/urgent-intercession-for-afghanistan

Mission of Hope Haiti (check the immediate needs section) : https://missionofhope.com/haiti-earthquake

A Way Forward

Today, for our Fasting Friday reading and meditation, we have a guest blog from the writer of throughdeepwaters.com. Our first collaboration! I hope this meditation is a blessing to you..

Earlier this month I had a chance to take part in the Global Leadership Summit 2021, held in Chicago. I was truly blessed to hear from several incredible leaders and changemakers from around the globe.

In between sessions, the organizers shared the various network of partners they made the Summit available to. In particular, was a group of women who are survivors of human trafficking. One survivor, Rebecca, was transparent and shared her story and her face. For years, she was unable to break free from the soul-destroying control the ring leaders had on her life. One incredible day, the ring was raided and charged with money laundering and tax evasion and she was able to start life over.

As I listened to her be fully transparent in sharing the horrors of this deceptive and evil industry, I couldn’t help but think how often this happens in modern day America. A young girl or woman is lured into thinking there’s safety in the invitation from a stranger. That’s just the start of a string of lies and deception that starts to break down a life, from the inside out. Eventually, it convinces a person that she’s of no value, if she ever tries to leave this lifestyle. Rebecca shared how she began to rebuild her life. After a few years, she found the strength to connect with other survivors to show them healing and restoration is possible. I was so inspired by these women who found strength to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. Despite horrendous circumstances, they were determined to find a path forward.

It made me pause and think that people can view themselves as a victim or a survivor. Both can be true but it’s your perspective that frames your response. This allows you to either move forward or be frozen in your circumstances. I’m reminded of the story of Hagar from the scriptures, who was treated harshly by Sarai, her mistress.

Genesis 16 lays out the story for us and gives us insight into Hagar’s initial response, which was to run away from the problem. She responded as a hurt victim although we don’t know the exact way she was mistreated. Like many of us, she chose to listen to her emotions and respond accordingly. She ran away into a desert setting and there, the angel of the Lord found her and helped her reframe her perspective on the situation. This must have been difficult and I’m sure required her to do some deep soul searching, but moved her from a victim to a survivor mentality.

We can see that because she did, she was able to think with clarity and not with emotions first. Her obedience and trust in God’s provision for her came with a promise that generations would follow after her. Also, the angel acknowledged her current situation. This is so important to point out because many times we react from a place of emotion because we think no one sees our pain and frustration. The passage continues to share that Hagar found comfort in knowing that God sees her circumstances and honors him with her lips. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide our emotions and interactions and trust that God sees us and will provide a way forward.

I’ve included some resources below on Rebecca’s work.

Rebecca’s website : rebeccabender.org

Elevate Academy : https://elevate-academy.org/

You can learn more about how to fight human trafficking with Rebecca’s e-course called Trafficking Truths. You can find it at : https://rebecca-bender.mykajabi.com/trafficking-truths

Compassion – It’s not easy

A day late and a dollar short. I’ve been struggling with trying to get my life together recently. It feels like I’m running faster than my legs will allow and still falling short. But I realize that there will never be a perfect time to spend on the worthwhile things, so we just have to make the time.

It’s now around lunch time on Friday, and as usual, the hunger pangs hit around this time. It’s a good time to think about the world around us. This week (and last week), I’ve been pondering compassion. It seems like it should be easy or a no-brainer but compassion and empathy are hard. I was reminded of this as I saw an SCMP article about slavery in fisheries.


My mind went to : what can I do about it? Which without prompting led my mind to want to file it away and not care about this specifically.

Compassion is hard because there is so much to care about. The Bible talks about the widow and orphan but honestly that is just the tip of the iceberg. The stranger, the poor, the destitute, the homeless, the list of needs are never ending. Faced with a world full of need, it is easy to wall ourselves off, to ignore the alarms and sirens going off in this world, and just focus on our own little patch.

Whats wrong with mowing my lawn?

I live out in the ‘burbs. One of the features of my neighborhood are the manicured lawns and the perfectly proportioned shrubbery. I often feel like the black sheep of the neighborhood. I strive for a nice lawn but mine is forever just less green and lush than my neighbors. So I spend ever more time on my lawn.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting your lawn to be nice, in pursuing excellence even in the care of the things you have been entrusted. But to the extent we use these daily needs and struggles as a way to shut off the pain of the world, it becomes escapism. Burying our heads in the metaphorical sand.

Rearrange deck chairs or try to launch the liferafts?

It’s not easy to launch the liferafts. It seems an impossible task. But when each of the passengers put their hand to the work, it is possible. In an emergency, it is not only the responsibility of the staff to take action. Passengers need to be active. One of us alone, can’t achieve a whole lot (typically!). But a few of us together? We could change the world.

The point is, find a cohort. Start a group, you can use meetup, nextdoor or any raft of different platforms to find folks with an interest to address a need locally. Find a food pantry and volunteer. Each of these are liferafts, and you can put your hand to good work.

We are trying to start a little bible study in our neighborhood, just a way for folks to connect and gather to discuss how we can have an impact on our little corner of the world, and pray for those we can’t directly reach. It’s not much but we look forward to meeting with like minded people.

Exhaustion and Refreshing

In the doing, also dont forget the need for refreshing. One of the things about caring is that it takes energy, it is not free! So don’t run until you are running on empty. The concept of sabbath rest, taking time to refresh yourself is critical. This is especially true for those in service, the volunteers and the leaders.

Empathy is like a battery, it needs recharging. You expend empathy as you do good work. Then you need a time of refreshing, through rest and connection to faith to restore that store of empathy before you can be of use again. We always ask how people like caregivers (e.g. doctors and nurses, parents) who are tasked with the safety of others can turn cruel to the very ones they are tasked with protecting. The answer I think lies in the exhaustion of empathy.

So remember to take a break also, refresh yourself over the weekend, and get ready to go again. Then get out there and make a difference!


Lord, I pray that You refresh us in compassion today. Remind us of Your love for us, and how we ought to love others. Break our heart for what breaks Yours, Lord.

Help us to be a blessing to our neighborhoods, our communities and all those around us. Build us up to build up others, Lord.

The Plight of the Stranger

Another Fasting Friday is upon us, and another opportunity to consider the suffering in the world, and how we can have an impact.

Today, I’d like us to consider the stranger, the migrant, those seeking safety and peace. Immigration (particularly illegal immigration) has become a hot topic, with diverging opinions. There is no value in us wading into that debate. Regardless of political views, we can’t deny the real, human impact. We can’t deny the suffering.

So I ask that we set aside our differences on the topic and focus on empathy. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes today, understanding the motivation of a father or mother escaping danger and crushing poverty, hoping for a better life for their children. Remember the biblical injunction on the topic :

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Matthew 25:35

We forget so easily that we (or our fathers) we once also sojourners. That is why the Statue of liberty has an extract of a sonnet by Emma Lazarus

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus

It’s worth a reading of the Atlantic article to get a sense for the intent behind the words of this sonnet. In any reading, it is clear that America and American values were built on hospitality for the stranger. And indeed, this value is not limited to America. Faith communities have long emphasized the need for hospitality to the stranger, and to the vulnerable.

I grew up in the Middle East before we moved to the US. My grandfather was one of the early Indian nationals to come to Qatar (and that too, on a dhow as I understand it!) And I must be honest, the Middle East has changed from how my grandfather described it. Money and affluence has had a corrosive effect on the society. Once a deeply hospitable culture, where providing for the stranger was a requirement, it has now become a cesspool of arrogance and inhumanity. Money is indeed the root of all evil.

I see the same attitudes taking hold in my adopted home of America, and that saddens me. The same attitudes now are prevalent across the globe. Rising nationalism across the globe, in places like Australia and Europe is powering a wave of rhetoric and violence against immigrants, already a vulnerable group of people.

How should we choose to respond?

With all the rhetoric around immigration (illegal or otherwise), lets take some time to consider the plight of those that leave difficult circumstances in search of a better life. There are numerous videos that document the plight of the refugee, across different migrant routes. There is the European route through the Mediterranean, as well as the American route through the Darien gap. The common thread is both are dangerous, due to the geography as well as the human predators on the way.

Seeing pregnant women and children complete this journey cannot but impact you. While we live in stability and even excess, there are those dreaming of 3 square meals a day, and future for their children.

I’ve highlighted the American immigration route, but many videos document the human tragedy in migration routes in Europe as well.

The never ending journey

The journey of the migrant never ends, not even once they reach the shores of their destination. Often what waits for them is refugee camps or immigration detention centers, where sexual violence, hunger and humiliation await. The dangers here are well documented. Even the NiH has a paper on it (here). A quick google search will demonstrate the extreme prevalence of sexual violence committed by guards. The very people intended to protect the refugee and migrant!

Once the refugee and immigrant make it into the country, they are beset by difficulties in adjusting to life in their new country. Culture shock, economic shock (keep in mind they have no credit in their new countries), language barriers, educational barriers. The life of a migrant is to go from one precarious position to another.

What can we do?

There is no easy answer to the global issues around illegal immigration. Instead of getting mired in the political debate, we can provide for the immigrant. Many cities and communities are looking for host families for newly settled immigrants, you can teach English to those that have recently arrived, you can support charities that work in this space.

So let us take our lunch hour to pray over those right now who are in danger and in pain, seeking safety and refuge. Let us put our hand to good work and consider how we can have an impact to our brothers and sisters (and remember that they are indeed our brothers and sisters).

If you have any connections to organizations who work in this space, please reach out. I’d love to include them in our resource list.

There, but for the grace of God, go I

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash

Friends, thanks for joining me this Friday as we consider our impact on this world. Today, I wanted us to consider our “brotherhood” with those that suffer.

There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford

John Bradford (Sixteenth Century)

This was a quote from John Bradford on seeing a group of prisoners being led to execution. I believe this was spoken out of good intention, paraphrasing Paul’s view of the mercy and grace of God that led to his salvation. This quote has also become quite common in our vernacular.

However, this phrase is now used in a manner completely at odds with the original intent. As with all things, this has become a self-involved statement (both within communities of faith, and without). And that is not to name and shame anyone, it is simply our human failing. To explain what I mean, let me recount a story about my own children.

We pray with our kids before bed, and often I suggest that they pray for those who are less fortunate. I tell them of kids from back home who may not have a roof over their heads or parents to provide. The intent is to instill a value of service, and of wanting to have a real impact in the world around us.

However, one night, my children interpreted this as “Thank you God that we have so much nice stuff, more than the children who have to eat from the trash” (I paraphrase). It really shocked me for a second, and of course I set them straight.

How we lose our way

It is a normal human response to subvert the need to be grateful for our blessings (which ought to motivate us to use those blessings in serving of others), into a Pharasaic view of our own exceptionalism. Part of this is a need for validation, part is a survival instinct. We believe that we can’t really impact the problem so othering the problem is a way to protect ourselves.

But the truth is we are not exceptional. The intent of the quote is quite the opposite! That we could have been those less fortunate (through the gateway of a few bad decision or poverty or a myriad of other factors), and that we ought show compassion.

We subvert that need to show compassion to others into a glorification of ourselves, and we completely misuse the blessings we have been given. But for the circumstances we were born into, the education we have had, we would have also been “unfortunate”.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,”

2 Cor 1 : 3-4

The elderly and vulnerable

In that spirit, I saw this video, and it reminded me of the plight of the elderly and abandoned. In a lot of countries around the world where population growth is in decline, cultural mores are being set on their heads. The concept of filial responsibility is being abandoned. I see it in Asia, and here as well. We will see a greater need in the coming decades to support and care for those who are vulnerable / abandoned.

"I barely feel anything any more": Hong Kong's homeless people who spend their nights at McDonald's branches have been forced out onto the city's streets.

Posted by South China Morning Post on Monday, 27 July 2020

In this spirit, let’s spend some time meditating on how we can be a blessing to the most vulnerable. Let’s consider the elderly in our own communities and around the world who are being abandoned in their time of need.

I’d like to highlight a work that is being done in South India called Gilgal Ashwasa Bhavan. This is an organization that houses and takes care of those that are elderly, and those that have been abandoned by society because of disability or other needs. Third world societies particularly are affected by this issue. Families don’t have economic cushions to take care of those that are in need of time and care.

My grandfather was involved in the founding of this organization, so I have a close connection to them. Please prayerfully consider learning about and supporting them, or any organization in your community or abroad that provides resources for the destitute.


“There, but for the Grace of God, go I”

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

Good morning, and welcome to another Fasting Friday. If you are in my timezone, you’re probably starting to feel the hunger pangs of the missed breakfast. Hang in there, and let’s take some time to focus on something outside of ourselves.

This week, I wanted to focus on the brotherhood, our shared connections. I’m just as guilty as the next person of thinking of the world in terms of me and mine and they and theirs. It’s what is variously called “othering” or “dehumanizing”. This is insidious, because by doing so, we remove empathy from the equation. If we dehumanize another person, we can justify a lot, and we can ignore their suffering because they are “they” rather than “we”.

In this context, I read about the instability in Haiti. It’s easy for us to read, raise eyebrows, make a comment and browse on. But let’s pause and consider the human realities that this news presents. The president was assassinated. How, where and why, I leave to the news sources. I’m just encouraging us to consider the human impact of this sort of situation. Watch the video below to understand the context of the current political situation in Haiti.

Vice news (includes a short interview with the recently assassinated President Jovenel)

Too many times leadership is not concerned for the pain and suffering felt by the people under their leadership and seem to get away with it. Wicked men propagate wickedness, wicked men crave power and enforce their tyranny on the weak. Whether individual leaders are wicked or not is not for us to discuss.

What is of concern to us is the many that are suffering in Haiti. Haiti has had a long and difficult history. After being one of the only slave led rebellions to achieve freedom and nationhood, Haiti has long been mired in political unrest with one dictator after another, endemic corruption, subject to natural disasters and rife with poverty. It is truly a remarkable contrast when you realize that Haiti is one side of the island and the Dominican Republic on the other side of the island. The economic and political differences could not be more stark. The DR is generally stable and relatively prosperous.

But the people of Haiti suffer. I had the blessing of being part of a mission trip to Haiti (which resulted in me naming my first child Evangeline). It was an incredible experience and I appreciate the philosophy behind the organization I went with. They believed that the “outsider” was not there to “rescue” the Haitians, rather that their role was to empower the Haitian people to effect change on their own. They would have us go out to a village and build buildings, paint houses and run medical and humanitarian clinics, but these were delivered through local leaders, so as to establish the local leaders. The intent was to eliminate Instagram missionaries and to encourage real change.

We had the good fortune to meet an amazing group of Haitians as we volunteered at the orphanage and at the local communities. In spite of their difficulties and circumstances, they remained joyful and musical. In a real way, it helped us to connect to them and realize that at the core, we are all the same. A Haitian child suffering is as painful to the heart of God as an American child suffering. We are all made in His image.

Every time you read of another natural disaster impacting Haiti, remember that this is affecting a brother and a sister. Every time you read another glib or breathless news headline, dig deeper and pray over the people that will be impacted by those news.

In terms of what can we do, allow me to introduce the team that I joined on my trip to Haiti. The organization is called Mission of Hope, Haiti. They are a genuine group of people that are looking to effect change through empowering the people of Haiti rather than just throwing money or resources at the problem (which frankly, in a place like Haiti with endemic corruption would never get to the people in need). They believe in engaging with people with a heart of service around the world to come and serve, not to be seen or to take pictures.

Pray over Haiti and the Haitian people today. May God move your heart to have an impact in this world!

I would also ask you to consider supporting Mission of Hope today. Financial support is always a great way to start making an impact (you can give at https://missionofhope.com/). But also please consider how we can physically “put our hands to good work”, and plan a trip for you and your community to Haiti once things calm down to help build something that will have eternal value.

Thank you, and God Bless!