Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ultimate forgiveness

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7:1-6

This time I want to talk about ultimate forgiveness by which I mean forgiving yourself and forgiving others. If you're hurt especially deeply forgiving him or her may take some time - from few months until few years. How do I know when I have forgiven? When I simply have stopped giving any thought for the incident. Forgiving others is essential to be completely able to live on the present and see the blessings that God has granted to you in this life. It's also crucial so that you would be forgiven in the Judgment Day because your heavenly Father won't forgive you unless you've first forgiven those who have trespassed against you. But we do receive some mercy and forgiveness from God in the Holy Communion each Sunday through bread ("body of Christ") and wine ("blood of Christ"). As Christians we know that Jesus sacrificed himself so that our sins would be forgiven. 

I like to deal with things by writing. Once I've written them down I've released them. Once I've clicked "Publish" on Blogger I've let go and let God. That's my intention today because my life has changed so completely and positively that I see no reason looking back anymore. I want to concentrate on the present and future. I wake up to peace every morning, I'm right where I want to be in life. We got an apartment on September 2013 and I've given birth to my second son. My Theology and Pedagogy studies went alright in the Evangelical Institute. There's spiritual and financial abundance. I'm so grateful. I will start preparing for my second try to university on December 2014 though it will be a challenge as I am now a mother of two boys that depend on me all the time. Last time I practically passed the Finnish Language and Comparative Literature exam but my score just wasn't high enough to be admitted straight to the degree. This time I will be more prepared for I have committed myself for praying and fasting starting from the very first day that I will receive my Theology, Finnish Language and Literature study books and this will make six months. When it comes to my spiritual practice during the past few months I haven't been an active churcher but I have still prayed mornings and nights, listened to lots of Gospel music, written spiritual and Gospel poems, read spiritual books and discovered Wreath Of Christ. 

Returning to today's topic forgiveness I'm here to open my wounds and share them with you so that you can possibly relate and cure your own wounds with me. I recently read "Forgiveness: How to Forgive Everything for Everyone in 21 Days" by Iyanla Vanzant and next time I will continue the forgiveness theme by writing a review of the book and opening The Library Of Spiritual Growing. People that I find most difficult to forgive are my friends turned enemies, my ex, my mother and social and health care professionals. 

Why? Because I have been deceived by my friends and my ex. Because my mother is so possessive over my life that because of her I had to give up one of my greatest dreams and almost ever since my first son was born she has loved him like her own son which is of course good but she has taken it too far: My first son is a son of my ex and currently 3-years-old and mum forced me to let him live with my parents for 2 years because of the careless and abusive nature of my ex. In my opinion her should have never done this because first of all my ex has always shown affection towards his son swearing that his son should be hurt only over his dead body and I ended up being the only one who truly suffered in his presence. He never attacked his son, only me. Also now due to spending 2 years of his life with my parents my son imagines that his home is with them and prefers my parents in everything over myself, his legal guardian even now that after our break-up he has moved back home with me and my new Christian man. This has caused tension and jealousy between me and my mum and unfortunately jealousy and bitterness between me and my first son. Because of the attitudes of my parents and my first son I feel that I'm constantly punished because of the past with my ex. How can I get over when my parents don't get over? Even at the beginning of my relationship with my new Christian man my parents continued to have doubts and negativity and I had to scold them about living in the now and finally they let it go about my man but they continue to be possessive over my son. 
And finally I'm currently unforgiving and prejudiced over social and health care because they continue to be concerned over my children though they know that I'm with the most secure man that feeds us so much love that my life has turned to abundance of many sorts; I'm only still lacking something symbolic like status as a career woman and wife for I haven't completed my education yet and for we're planning marriage on December 2014 or summer 2015. To sum up, reading "Forgiveness" by Iyanla Vanzant brought me some peace of mind and I managed to forgive for the most people that have hurt me during my yet short life by writing her Forgiveness Journal but some issues such as the ones with my mum and social and health care are still fresh and so deep within my soul that I will be needing more listening to her Forgiveness CD of prayers and meditations to be healed for good. As prayer turned my life completely around in 2007 I highly believe in its healing power as well as meditation's. I will also do Iyanla Vanzant's forgiveness EFT or Tapping practice which is familiar to me already by Rhonda Jones's Christian meditation practice and I've found it helpful as well. My goal is to complete the 21 Days of Forgiveness until December 2014 because I feel that I'm only ready to get married and have a new name to symbolize this new life of mine when I have forgiven all the past hurt.     

Talking about presence and future I'm of course expecting to get married, have a job related to writing somehow, travel, graduate to a degree, publish and sell poetry books and... dreaming of becoming successful enough to afford or more likely deserve clothes on Vogue's pages :). I'm also dreaming of attending the concerts of my three biggest favorite artists and role models: Lauryn Hill (whose song "Forgive Them Father" is attached to this post) India.Arie and Jill Scott. By God's grace I already saw one big favorite of mine and a role model Alicia Keys with my Christian man making it the most touching and beautiful concert yet of my life in summer 2013 :).                         

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 

Lauryn Hill: Forgive Them Father 

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
That trespass against us
Although them again we will
Never, never, never trust

Dem noh know weh dem do
Dig out yuh yei while dem sticking like glue
Fling, skin, grin while dem plotting fah you
True, ah who?

Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Beware the false motives of others
Be careful of those who pretend to be brothers
And you never suppose it's those who are closest to you, to you

They say all the right things to gain their position
Then use your kindness as their ammunition
To shoot you down in the name of ambition, they do, oh

Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Forgive them father for
They know not what they do

Why every Indian wanna be the chief?
Feed a man 'til he's full and he still want beef
Give me grief, try to thief off my piece
Why for you to the increase, I must decrease?

If I treat you kindly does it mean that I'm weak?
You hear me speak and think I won't take it to the streets
I know enough cats that don't turn the other cheek
But I try to keep it civilized like Menelik

And other African czars observing stars with war scars
Get yours in this capitalistic system
So many caught or got bought you can't list them
How you gonna idolize the missin'?

To survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition
Even when they comin' gunnin' I stand position
L's known the mission since conception
Let's free the people from deception
If you lookin' for the answers then you gotta ask the questions

And when I let go, my voice echoes through the ghetto
Sick of men trying to pull strings like Geppetto
Why black people always be the ones to settle
March through these streets like Soweto
Like Cain and Abel, Caesar and Brutus
Jesus and Judas, back stabbers do this

Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Forgive them father for
They know not what they do

It took me a little while to discover
Wolves in sheep coats who pretend to be lovers
Men who lack conscience will even lie to themselves, to themselves

A friend once said and I found to be true
That, "Everyday people, they lie to God too
So what makes you think that they won't lie to you"

Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Forgive them father for
They know not what they do
Forgive them, forgive them
Gwan like dem love while dem rip yuh to shreds
Trample pon yuh heart and lef yuh fi dead
Dem a yuh fren who yuh depen pon from way back when
But if yuh gi dem yuh back den yuh mus meet yuh end
Dem noh know wey dem do, dem noh know wey dem do
Dem no know, dem no know, dem no know
Dem no know, dem no know wey dem do


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Christians and science of dreams

Dear Christian brothers and sisters all over the world. I've been talking much about daydreaming under my label "dreams" but now I'm going to widen the horizon and talk about the nightly ones adding the scientific and biblical ankles to my contemplation. My central point of this post is dream interpretation and how Christians should deal with it. I used to own a Freudian dream dictionary for dream interpretation but I gave it out in 2007 after my conversion because I thought by that time that it has too much to do with New Age and I stopped reading the horoscopes at the same time. I thought these things had little to do with Christianity so I gave them up but from the other hand some of my Christian friends are reading the horoscopes anyway and by the time of Antique when the Bible was written people believed that God was talking to them in their dreams. Some philosophers of Antique even defined dreams as God's talk. I can also give various Scripture examples of this and of such prophets as Joseph, Daniel and Jeremiah interpreting dreams for kings so this has made me re-think if dream interpretation isn't a taboo for Christians after all! Now we're living in the 21st century though without having the prophets around to help us interpret our dreams. Now in the 21st century we have dream dictionaries and Sigmund Freud's (6 May 1856- 23 September 1939) psychoanalysis as our dream guides.

The Bible

"Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with these two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men - the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison - had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why do you look so sad today?" "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand." "This is what it means," Joseph said to him "The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head." "This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh."
Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand - but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him."
Genesis 40:1-23   

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”
Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds Your Majesty, you are that tree!You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
“Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’  “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king:You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenchedwith the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.The command to leave the stump of the tree with its rootsmeans that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.
Daniel 4:19-27 

Also examples from the New Testament show how God is talking to us and guiding us in our dreams. 

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 

I personally see also The Revelation as series of dreams so the Bible offers us lots of material to read about dreams and interpreting them:

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit,and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis,Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
The Revelation 1:9-20

Dream psychology 

Sigmund Freud developed a theory that the content of dreams is driven by unconscious wish fulfillment. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious." He theorized that the content of dreams reflects the dreamer's unconscious mind and specifically that dream content is shaped by unconscious wish fulfillment. He argued that important unconscious desires often relate to early childhood memories and experiences. Freud's theory describes dreams as having both manifest and latent content. Latent content relates to deep unconscious wishes or fantasies while manifest content is superficial and meaningless. Manifest content often masks or obscures latent content.
Freud's early work argued that the vast majority of latent dream content is sexual in nature, but he later shied away from this categorical position. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle he considered how trauma or aggression could influence dream content. He also discussed supernatural origins in Dreams and Occultism, a lecture published in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.
I personally find Freud's views reasonable. I wake up over and over again realizing that some old memories won't leave me alone because I constantly see some of my old school friends in my dreams and deceased people. I even see the ones that have hurt me somehow so Freud's idea behind traumas' impact on dreams must be truthful. I've also met many of my idols or role models in my dreams or attended their concerts. I see also lots of animals, especially bears and wolves lately but I've seen also a cheetah, frogs and snakes. 

Carl Jung rejected many of Freud's theories. Jung expanded on Freud's idea that dream content relates to the dreamer's unconscious desires. He described dreams as messages to the dreamer and argued that dreamers should pay attention for their own good. He came to believe that dreams present the dreamer with revelations that can uncover and help to resolve emotional or religious problems and fears.
Jung wrote that recurring dreams show up repeatedly to demand attention, suggesting that the dreamer is neglecting an issue related to the dream. He believed that many of the symbols or images from these dreams return with each dream. Jung believed that memories formed throughout the day also play a role in dreaming. These memories leave impressions for the unconscious to deal with when the ego is at rest. The unconscious mind re-enacts these glimpses of the past in the form of a dream. Jung called this a day residue. Jung also argued that dreaming is not a purely individual concern, that all dreams are part of "one great web of psychological factors."
I also agree with Carl Jung because his view on dreams matches to the ones in the Bible as both Jung and the Bible seem to argue that we should see our dreams as sort of warnings guiding our daily lives. Jung's view is very Christian. I also want to take the chance and argue right now why Christians shouldn't believe in 'the Bible versus science' but why it's OK to follow both of them. I can frankly tell you that I believe both in the Creation and Evolution. Why? Because I interpret some stories in the Bible symbolically and the rest literally. There is reason why I'm telling both scientific and biblical views on dream interpretation because I believe that God created also science as God created human. BUT starting right from Genesis until this day on the 21st century we see every day various examples how people are misusing God's blessings. Science definitely is a blessing because it broadens our knowledge and worldview and the development of  medicine is the best example how science can turn into a blessing. But of course some people are misusing science for bombs, terrorism and warfare and instead of using nuclear power we should prefer more natural options such as solar and wind power to protect our globe from proceeding global warming which is also one example how development of science is harmful from the other hand.  
Fritz Perls presented his theory of dreams as part of the holistic nature of Gestalt therapy. Dreams are seen as projections of parts of the self that have been ignored, rejected, or suppressed. Jung argued that one could consider every person in the dream to represent an aspect of the dreamer, which he called the subjective approach to dreams. Perls expanded this point of view to say that even inanimate objects in the dream may represent aspects of the dreamer. The dreamer may, therefore, be asked to imagine being an object in the dream and to describe it, in order to bring into awareness the characteristics of the object that correspond with the dreamer's personality. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

On conquering the devil

Dear Christian brothers and sisters all over the world. Now I'm introducing to you a whole new subject that I haven't talked about but that I've started hearing weekly about in those African prayer evenings: conquering the devil. Last night I lay awake getting inspired on the subject pondering it from each side so now I'd like to share you what I found :). This subject makes me wonder and question because I've learned some whole new kind of prayers contrary to the ones at my church: praying against your enemies instead of praying for them. At my church the most common types of prayers are forgiveness of sin, The Lord's Prayer and healing prayers to help the needy and fragile and to increase world peace. We never pray for anyone's destruction but mainly to help others. Now let me share you some related Scripture to begin with:

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written:' Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said "throw yourself down. For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Jesus answered him, "It is also written:' Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written:' Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him." 
Matthew 4:1-11 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
Matthew 5:38-48 

So even Jesus himself teaches in the Bible to do good for your enemies and that's why I've preferred praying for God to open the hearts of my enemies and lead them to salvation and repentance instead of destruction. This is because I believe that it isn't a business of man to revenge his enemies in this life because I trust that God will for sure punish them after life because He knows and sees everything knowing who's loyal to Him and who isn't. Let go and let God. These my beliefs also explain why I so persistently was keeping my ex instead of all those bad things he did to me (read 1 Peter 3:8-22 below). Paul writes also somewhere in his letters that the spouse who doesn't believe in God or obey Him will be blessed by his or her devout Christian partner. From the beginning it was my wish to bless my ex but he answered to my goodness with evil. But as 1 Peter 3:8-22 argues it was better for me to suffer with him doing good and fulfilling all his wishes until the bitter end because God will reward me in the end of times. But then finally it was time to let go and as I'm arguing in my previous post abundance has started coming my way since :).
They preach every time in these prayer evenings how drinking, smoking, lying, cheating etc. are bad things and how a person doing all this is possessed by a devil and I have to say that I get deeply touched every time because I was with someone who did all those things. They wanted us to pray against friends turned foes (which I've experienced a couple of times) and against that person or force (= devil) that's stopping us from succeeding in what we want to do and who's wishing our failure. Also these subjects of prayer are current with me because for now I've failed getting the education that I wanted for this autumn and I've also failed having an apartment for my growing family. There are some people who either predicted my failure in these subjects or didn't want me to succeed: 1) a study advisor/a career psychology told me that I wouldn't make it to university 2) my own mum at first didn't want me to move in quickly with my new fiancé (but now she has met him and changed her mind) 3) A social worker told us that it isn't possible for us to live together or find an apartment in this town 4) until now landlords haven't granted us anything because of their racist/prejudiced attitudes. What else can I do but keep trying and praying for God to open up their hearts?

Suffering for Doing good
"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits - to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand - with angels, authorities, and powers in submission to him."
1 Peter 3:8-22 

I also have a personal confession to make regarding this subject: As I already pointed out in my last post I told that few months ago I was at the lowest point of my life and I mean by this that I was on the verge of suicide. Yes, as I learned in the last prayer evening this means that even I got possessed by a devil because of the influence of my ex who was also possessed in his own ways that hurt me so much to the point that I lost my dignity for a while. I have to say that I'm living a very enlightening point of my life right now and all this my contemplation in this post is leading me little by little into an a-ha moment. I haven't talked about devil itself in my blog yet until now but I believe that few months ago I was working on a subject in my post Déja Vu Of Spiritual Awakening which is closely related to being possessed with a devil: listening to Your Everyday Self (= the EGO) instead of Your True Self. So let's have a small recap on what I said about the ego in that post: The ego is insecure, doubtful and afraid and likes to depend on others too much thinking that it will give me security. You know Paul writes in his letters about that power that is making us to do what we wouldn't like to do instead of what we'd like to do and I strongly believe that he's talking about our Everyday Self = the fearful ego = the devil. So on the contrary our True Self must have the meaning of Holy Ghost which will provide us anything we desire as long as we are righteous and believe in it.
So here comes the a-ha: Why did I fall on the verge of suicide with my ex? Because I listened to my insecure, doubtful ego, the devil which made me believe in all those negative things that he told me and did to me! And why am I not yet in university but was only close to an admission? Because I listened to those negative people encouraged by a devil who made me believe that I'm too stupid for that! And why have we not been granted an apartment yet? Because at times I feel like quitting the search because of ungodly prejudiced people who almost make me believe that I'm stupid to listen to my True Self (= The Holy Spirit) which brought me in this town to follow my dreams.

New life
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, then lead diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written:' It is mine to avenge; I will repay", says the Lord. On the contrary:" If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Romans 12:1-21

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jesus turned my life around

Dear Christian sisters and brothers all over the world. Once again it has taken a few months that you haven't heard from me. This spring I was at the lowest point of my life and I realized that in order to be able to fulfill my mission in life and help others once again I should help myself first. In the end of April something happened that shook me awake. My unfaithful ex had promised me for months to leave his "secret" lover for me and our son and this should have happened before my son's 2nd birthday. The birthday was drawing close and an evening or two before that my voice within told me:" Tomorrow your life's going to change... whatever that means." To be completely honest with you now that I've seen what has followed since that evening I believe that the voice talking within me was GOD Himself! I'm reasoning this starting from the events of the next day: Me and my ex had our last heated fight about why he's treating me like that etc., why is he still staying in our apartment if he doesn't love me etc. etc. and the fight resulted finally in something that made me so shocked that I couldn't move for long time. From that moment on the house wasn't a home anymore and though our arguments had been serious for the past year now for the first time I seriously felt that I had to get out of there. At that very moment I didn't know what else to do than dial the Church Supporting number. I told this Christian elderly woman sincerely what had happened between us on that day and during the past year and she begged me to promise her that I would call police straight after we hung up. She also prayed something so beautiful for me and my son that touched me into tears and I dialed the number. So on that same day I ended up talking with a social worker as well and visiting a doctor that told me:" I think there are loyal men in this world as well." I went there for some sleeping pills but I after all never used them because only a week after that some miracles started happening :). I was staying at my parents when I started thinking whether I should start searching for company or not... To me this was a question of life and death because to me life is meaningless without love. Would my destiny be to die young and alone? Or would I finally find a man worth me?

The answer to the last question is YES. I have finally found my one true soul mate for life: the one who shares my faith, similar values and principles and life style and the one who knows and fulfills my needs and desires without me having to tell them aloud :). These are the most significant qualities of a soul mate but beside them we have also similar taste of music. He fulfills the most important qualities of the man of my dreams and his values, principles and life style match to those of mine and my parents. I also love his moral values of sharing and giving which match to mine. He proposed to me on June 1st so we've been now engaged for two and half months but we chatted all May so that makes 3 months of togetherness. I have finally found someone with who I can be true to myself. Our firstborn is due March 6th which will be my another fulfilled dream because I've wanted a minimum of two children. I have prayed since 2007 for something real and lasting and now I've found someone with whom to pray together and stay together. 

For the past two years my faith was sized of a mustard seed and for most of the days I was so depressed and stressed that I had no strength for my usual long prayers but I could just sigh and cross or simply ask:" God help me." But you see I received my miracle anyway :).  

  We prayed together with the pastor a lasting relationship for us and they sang a welcome song for me in the Anglican Church. It feels like destiny that we were both born on the 5th day of some month and that he belongs to Anglican Church because I've considered joining it whenever possible for a few years. Also it brings the taste of destiny into our lives that I used to nickname myself Annuli in 2004 and that I found almost the same name from the list of Igbo names: Anuli means "joy" and differs to my old nickname only by one letter. So God has given me a new name and a new life. For few years I've been complaining here in my blog lack of love and lack of money but now I'm richer emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially than I've been for ages. I still have little but I must be closer to abundance than ever before :). I feel blessed surrounded by my new Christian love, friends and family. I also enjoy learning this new African culture and language. Now only one thing is missing to make our abundance perfect: We must receive an apartment for our growing family by God's grace! 
I also didn't pass to university yet for Development Studies or Finnish Language & Literature but to my consolation I almost did pass the Finnish Language & Literature (yeah you heard me: I indeed didn't fail it but I was close to admission). But I'm not here to give up because I'm going to study for an academic year of Theology in Evangelical Institute which will help me to prepare for next year's Theology entrance exams or they make it possible that by studying this course I may have a straight admission to university without taking the exams first :). So my plan is to apply next year again for Development Studies, Finnish Language & Literature and Theology. It's wonderful about my upcoming Theology year that I'll be learning Greek, I'll have a chance to rehearse working in some non-profit and that I'll be attending divine services at school. To close my post I want to note the Nigerian gospel music that I uploaded for you to enjoy from Youtube :). 

Love knows no fear
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:16-18

I have never been before this brave in my life to call police about someone that I loved and to take him to court. I've never been this brave to leave everything behind and move to another town to follow my dreams. At first I was just extremely afraid with my ex and he was holding me back but then I met my husband-to-be and I wasn't afraid anymore. I learned this spring and summer two important Christian lessons: Having faith sized of a mustard seed is better than no faith at all and you have to have courage to LOVE again and follow your heart and dreams because GOD provides for you and He hears your tiniest, weakest prayer. 

I dedicate this blog post to Stanley, my husband-to-be :).


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Twist of Faith (2013)

Here it is my fellow Christian brothers and sisters! 6  time Grammy Award winning R&B vocalist Toni Braxton in her very first starring role as Nina on Twist of Faith TV movie drama that was aired on February 9 on Lifetime channel in the US. I had a fortune to see this movie online so here is the review that I promised to you if I would. The movie tells a touching love story of a white Orthodox Jewish Cantor, teacher and aspiring songwriter Jacob Fisher (David Hirsh) from Brooklyn, New York, and an African American Christian Nina Jones (Braxton) who's rooted to her church singing in a gospel choir in Alabama, being a single mom and a school teacher. It feels like this role was especially written for Braxton as I heard her telling in interviews how she could relate to her character as a daughter of a preacher, being a single mom in real life and having being pursued education of a teacher in college before her big breakthrough into music industry. Braxton's autistic son Diesel has a supporting role in this movie as her son. I wouldn't believe he's autistic as to me he seemed like a normal, healthy kid and did his minor part very well.

Jacob took off to Alabama after he had witnessed his wife and children being senselessly murdered by a stranger and then he ended up in the backyard of Nina's family hungry and exhausted. Nina first has her doubts on him but the rest of her family takes him with open arms. Little by little they become closer sharing each other their life's wounds and their common love for music. Jacob also saves Nina from the hands of intruders that come to damage the church in the middle of the night. It's a beautiful, vulnerable story about hope, faith and love and crossing the borders of race and religion. This movie seems to be carrying similar message of humanity, peace, faith, love and tolerance as my blog is. The story has depth but at the same time it's really fast paced and predictable. Telling about ordinary life there's little glamour or excitement.

I can't help but compare Toni Braxton's role as Nina to that of Beyoncé's as Lilly in The Fighting Temptations because both Beyoncé and Braxton could relate to their characters in their gospel movies in real life and both of their characters entered a gospel choir competition in the script. I could say that Braxton had her Beyoncé moments in this movie. Neither Beyoncé nor Braxton managed to stun us in these movies by their acting skills both making it better in the singing scenes. Top moments of Twist of Faith are Braxton singing with the gospel choir, especially the songs "I Surrender All" and "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" preparing for Gospel Sunday Choir Competition final. Some of her fans including myself would be pleased if she'd release a gospel album one day but I don't think that's going to happen as she's not interested in recording any new material.  

Grade: 7,5/10. There's no denying that the story had depth but the most of the acting performances were mediocre except David Hirsh's himself who had the deepest role. To my taste the story proceeded too quickly and I was bored in the middle of the film. Add to that the cliché ending I have reason to doubt that Toni Braxton would have needed a better, bigger debut on the big screen instead of a low budget TV film. Braxton's performance came up mediocre but still better than in Kingdom Come. She has a long way to go to reach the same level as an actress that likes of Whitney Houston, Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson have reached. As Braxton is done with recording in my opinion she would have suited better than well as a new American Idol judge. Toni Braxton fans will make the most of this movie but for others it may be too boring.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kingdom Come (2001)

I just finished watching this Christian drama comedy with remarkable cast. Directed by Doug McHenry and music by Tyler Bates and original songs by renowned Gospel R&B singer Rev. Kirk Franklin this movie will offer a delicious and absorbing watching experience for both Christians and atheists. At first I felt the story line started opening slowly but now I actually feel like it ended too quickly. The movie tells about a family that has lots of issues! When mean and surly Bud Slocumb keels over at breakfast, his family gathers for the wake and funeral; long-suffering widow Raynelle (Whoopi Goldberg), unemployed son Junior whose business went belly-up and who's cheating on his wife Charisse (Jada Pinkett Smith), son Ray Bud (LL Cool J) who holds a job and has a loving wife Lucille (Vivica A. Fox) but struggles with alcoholism and their difficulty having children. There's younger daughter Delightful who constantly eats; religious Aunt Marguerite (Loretta Devine) and her wayward son Royce; and, there's Juanita (Toni Braxton), their wealthy cousin's wife. They all descend on the town of Lula, struggle to say something nice about Bud, and face the challenge of sorting out their relationships with the living.   

The previous three Christian movies that I've reviewed in here were purely music movies but Kingdom Come is a seriously taken acted movie because apart from Kirk Franklin's soundtrack on the background, a short scene with the gospel choir of the church and Jada Pinkett Smith's short singing solo in the closing scene music doesn't play any part in this. In fact the characters don't even come up deeply religious to me and that's why I think that even an atheist would enjoy watching this without the fear of awkwardness of mentioning 'JC' too many times.

Whoopi Goldberg comes up with a dignified performance as a widow but in this movie her character Raynelle is one of her most boring ones she has done on screen. I love Whoopi Goldberg but she doesn't shine her light in this movie as bright as she usually does. But actually Jada Pinkett Smith does my favourite performance in this movie with so much passion, misery and attitude that it's bittersweet; she's Charisse, a mother of three whose husband is cheating on her. I even love the way Charisse and Junior ended up dealing with the cheating but I won't tell how they did it, you have to watch the conclusion they made yourself. Also Loretta Devine does a brilliant performance as energetic and amusing Aunt Marguerite who to me seems to be the only character that comes up as deeply religious. She is one of the best characters in the film. LL Cool J does it charismatically as always only with a little better than mediocre performance but he does beat Toni Braxton as an experienced rapper-turned-actor. Also Vivica A. Fox comes up with a mediocre performance as a charming housewife fulfilling her only task in the movie which is being pretty as a doll. All in all all leading actors and actresses do a great job but entertaining supporting roles such as Juanita and Royce are sugar in the bottom.  

l was also curious to watch this because one of my long time favourite R&B vocalists Toni Braxton (below) has a minor role in this movie coming up once in a while during the last 35 minutes of the movie. She comes up snotty, sassy and attractive with her few lines as Juanita. Braxton of course is eloquent but at this point I can't give her yet too much props as an actress. It seemed easy and effortless but there's nothing challenging about making faces. This might be changing though as she has her first major role in a brand new gospel or Christian movie called Twist of Faith (2013) which seems to have been released only last month. If I'm lucky enough I'll provide a review of it sooner or later in here. In Twist of Faith, the fictional, cross-cultural, music infused love story tells the tale of Jacob Fisher (David Julian Hirsh), an Orthodox Jewish Cantor and amateur songwriter from Brooklyn, New York, who witnesses the senseless murder of his wife and three children.

Grade: 8/10. This is probably the best grade that I've given for a Christian movie yet and for reason. This isn't a music movie at all and so we could expect some seriously taken acting which this movie offered a whole lot thanks to some of its biggest names including Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine and Vivica A. Fox. Even Jada Pinkett Smith shined in this. Everybody's acting performances came up as excellent, entertaining, extremely skillful, charismatic and charming. I enjoyed Kirk Franklin's mellow soundtrack. The jokes weren't the best of the best compared to some other movies that I've seen but after all this movie managed to make me laugh (it was hard but it did). The movie wasn't in any way boring, just opposite thanks to the eloquent and absorbing acting performances.