Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Footprints in the Sand

February 24, 2011
footprints in the sand

footprints in the sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

— Mary Stevenson, 1936

‘Footprints in the Sand’ has been seen in print by people the world over since the late 1940s. All that time no author has been credited with this immortal work, only ‘Author Anonymous’ has appeared at the bottom.

For many years handwritten copies were distributed by Mary to those who needed something to give them comfort at a low point in their lives. It was sometime after this that friends of Mary saw it in print and wondered why she wasn’t given credit for writing it. An attorney at that time told her that it would be very hard to prove her the author since it had been used by many publishers of religious materials and greeting cards. Mary wrote ‘Footprints’ in 1936 when she was very young and knew nothing of copyrighting. Discouraged she didn’t pursue it any further.

In 1984 while cleaning out the garage to prepare to move from her house, in a small suitcase, among her other poems, she rediscovered a very old handwritten copy that she thought was lost. It was one of the copies Mary had made and dated 1939, just three years after she wrote the original. Later that year the U.S. copyright office awarded her a copyright for ‘Footprints in the Sand’ 48 years after it was written. It was another 11 years before her handwritten copy was authenticated by a forensic specialist as to its age. Margaret Fishback-Powers and many others have tried to falsely claim authorship, but none can show significant proof such as this.

Many people misunderstand ‘Footprints in the Sand’. They think when the see only one set of footprints in the sand, God has abandoned them during their time of suffering, whereas God is carrying them during their hour of need.

The One Big Question
What’s So Amazing About Grace
The Alchemist
By the River Piedra I sat Down
I have no idea where I am going

The Sin of Pride

February 20, 2011

Plaza de Iglesia

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall — Proverbs 16:18

I was sitting in the Plaza de Iglesia en Puerto de la Cruz when a crazy person, probably high on drugs and drink, came up to me and thumped me hard in the face. No apparent reason for this unprovoked attack.

The side of my face red and swollen. A trip to two police stations to report the assault. It could have have been worse. There were two of them, with at least two more waiting in the wings. I could have been beaten to a pulp, they could have used knifes, they could have seriously injured me, I could have been killed.

Suffering is part of the human condition. It how we handle it that determines us as human beings.

An hour earlier, I had been sat in the same square on the same seat. It is a pleasant place to sit and relax outside the church under the palm trees.

A girl came and joined me. She was living on the streets. She told me she has not eaten for three days. I gave her what I had, the remains of my lunch.

I then went and had a delicious zuma de naranja in nearby El Limon.

I had done my good deed of the day, I felt pleased with myself.

The Sin of Pride?

Later I sat by the sea reflecting upon what had taken place.

One act of kindness, especially by a total stranger who owes us nothing, restores our faith in humanity. One foul deed, and we distrust all humanity.

I had two books with me:

The Alchemist graphic edition – Paulo Coelho
The One Big Question – Bishop Michael Baughen

Both had passages relevant to what had happened.

Santiago sits in the plaza, tries to read a book but is distracted by the Old Man who wishes to talk to him. I was distracted twice, once by the starving girl, second by an elderly German lady who sat next to me.

Bishop Michael Baughen writes of suffering. The passage I read whilst sat in El Limon was of one act of kindness restoring our faith in humanity.

Sadly, when people say, of some act of kindness, “it has restored my faith in human nature”, you know that restoration will not last! Human nature can rise to astonishing heights of good, but also sink to abhorrent depths.

Whilst I sat by the sea, the passage I read in The Alchemist was of Santiago being robbed of his gold, but he decides not to let it destroy his faith in humanity, to distrust those who approach him.

When I had my sheep I was happy, and I made those around me happy, people saw me coming and welcomed me.

But now I am sad and alone. I´m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me.

Santiago learns to overcome what happened to him. He wanted adventure and this is the start of a new adventure.

It is the human condition to suffer. It is to test us. It is what we make of it that determines what we become. It is what both Paulo Coelho and Bishop Michael Baughen in their different ways show us.

Things happen for a reason.

The One Big Question
What’s So Amazing About Grace


February 17, 2011

The One Big Question - Bishop Michael Baughen

The One Big Question - Bishop Michael Baughen

Suffering is part of the human condition. — Bishop Michael Baughen

Why do we suffer? Why is there suffering in the world?

In The Alchemist, Santigo learns that people suffer when they do not follow their dream, they listen to people around them rather than listen to what their heart tells them. [see The Alchemist]

People who fail to follow their dreams eventually learn to accept their lot, eventually they even forget their dreams, forget they ever had dreams, but their lives is the worse because of it.

In The Zahir, Paulo Coelho puts into words how you feel when the one you love, who you thought loved you, leaves. Having felt that pain, his words describe what I could not.

Why are there people starving in the world whilst others have obscene amounts of wealth? Why did the thug security in Bahrain fire on unarmed protesters? Why twenty years ago on St Valentine’s Day did the Americans bomb a shelter in Baghdad? Why is it that the decent people seem to suffer whilst the evil ones prosper?

If there is a just God, why does he allow these things to happen?

It was to address these issues, maybe the most difficult issue for people who want believe in a just and loving God, that Bishop Michael Baughen (former Bishop of Chester and Rector of All Souls Langham Place) gave a talk at St Peter’s Church.

Suffering is the BIG question. It is the killer question. Why? Why? Why?

Suffering is the great divider. It either drives us into the hands of God or makes us hate God. There is no sitting on the fence.

Why did my brother die before me, die a very painful death?

We pray to God, please God, make it a nice sunny day, I am having a picnic. Please let me pass my exams. Please get me a sexy girlfriend.

God is not a kindly old man, handing out the sweets.

Why did God not intervene when something bad was going to happen?

God is not a control freak. But let us assume God did intevene. What then? Something worse may then happen, we have set in motion a different path, the law of unintended connsequences.

In The Valkyries, Paulo Colho describes a different path being set in motion. We should pause and reflect, it happened for a reason.

The trenches in the First World War, is that not a good reason not to believe in God?

No, it is a reason not to believe in Man. It was Man in the form of Generals and Politicians who sent men in their hundreds of thousands to their deaths.

God gave us free will. Or would we rather be robots or automatons?

In My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk the devil says he is bored. There is little for him to do, as Man can do evil without his intervention.

Many people died in Haiti. That was due to an earthquake yes, but is was also due to bad housing. People were killed by houses collapsing, not by the earthquake.

A ship is safe when it remains in a port, but that is not why we build ships.

Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates. Without the movement of these tectonic plates and various other Gaian control mechanisms there would be no life on Earth.

Why am I being punished? What have I done wrong?

Why am I not being healed? Is that not the power of prayer?

Man sets up God in his own image, then uses that image to deny the existence of God as God does not fullfil his expectations.

To suffer is part of the Human Condition. It is what we do, how we handle suffering, that determines the depth of our faith.

A sword is tempered by going through fire.

The One Big Question
– ‘I Thirst’
The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations
What’s So Amazing About Grace

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