Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When raising awareness for all the enslaved girls is not optional

Tomorrow my baby brother Pedro turns 33 years old. As a gift to him, I write this post.

Pedro was four years old when he became my brother. Through adoption, he was welcomed into my family, finally leaving behind all the suffering, abuse and neglect he had been enduring. (His adoption story can be read here).

And this week, the hard truth hits me for the first time in my life: You see, my brother is the son of a prostitute. That far away foreign world from where he came from, the one I did not grew up inside, the deeply chained one by poverty, marginalization, sex trade, child abuse, human trafficking and drug business. This week it hit me that this distant world is also part of me, because it impacted and still impacts my life too, deeper than I had ever realized before.

The reason my brother cannot see, walk, speak and did not develop like other people, is heavily influenced by the fact that he was born on the wrong side of the tracks. The one where darkness is the norm; and light, the exception. And it hurts.

It hurts to know that someone so dear to my heart had to go through all that he did because he was conceived inside the wrong womb. The womb of a girl whose body did not belong to herself anymore. The girl that could have succeeded given the right circumstances. The girl that did not got to know love. The one not for sale.

My son is four years old. The boy that was born in the right womb. The boy that was born on the right side of the tracks. The boy that spent his first four years playing and laughing, instead of hurting, lacking and crying. My son did nothing to deserve being born in the right home as much as my brother did nothing to deserve being born in the wrong shack. But he was, and because that shack only knew darkness, he can only see darkness.

There is a light that is brighter than the darkest chains. What if I could go back in time and gently pull that girl out of the darkness? Share with her the good news that God loves her more than she ever knew? That there is true freedom, awaiting to break any chains?

What if I could go back even further in time? Make sure that such girl was loved, cared for and raised with dignity? Make sure she had enough food to eat, a good education and a safe roof over her head, so that she did not have to sell herself and bear boys headed for suffering?

What if it is not yet too late for all the other girls? For all the other Pedros? What if the cycle of slavery can be broken for girls, before it hurts even more? Before it takes the sight out of the children, the hope out of the future, and the beauty out of the story.

I am not proud to know that my country, Brazil, has more than 250.000 girls enslaved in the sex trade. Girls under 18 years old. Children being sold. And while I may be tempted to look the other way, I know deep inside that they are all part of me, there is no us and them. The chains affects us all.

My gift to my brother this birthday is to raise awareness to girls like his birth mother. So that no more boys inherit darkness the way he did.

Friday, April 3, 2015

When Easter is all about cracked eggs

You never hear enough about the cracked eggs. The ones that did not make it to the store, the ones that did not become cute little beings, the ones not chosen to be decorated on Easter activities.

Cracked eggs just don't look right. Out of the dozen, the cracked ones stand out as outliers. They usually rot pretty fast, start smelling bad, and are the first ones to be discarded. They are not pretty.

You never hear enough about the cracked people. The ones that did not make it in life, the ones that did not become someone dignified, the ones that were not chosen to be on display.

Cracked people just don't look right. Out of a crowd, the cracked ones stand out as outliers. They usually have rotten lives, sometimes they smell, and are the first ones to be discarded. They are not pretty in our eyes.

And yet, Easter is all about cracked eggs. Cracked people. Easter is about undecorated eggs, falling apart eggs and abandoned eggs. Made whole. Invited into a family. 

The tomb is empty, death overcome, salvation brought unto the world; and where is Jesus? He is sharing the biggest news of the entire Universe with a cracked woman. An outlier.

He was probably around there when John outrun Peter to reach the tomb. He was aware when Peter went inside the tomb and saw the linen cloths. However, he waited. He waited for the rush to be gone. He waited until the only ones left were Mary and her tears. 

He steps closer because blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Mary knew about cracked eggs. She also knew about the One that brings cracked people back together.

He calls her. The first words of a resurrected redeemer are: "Woman, why are you weeping?" Weren't there any more important matters in the world, for the Son of God to deal with, after everything He had gone through? A crying woman, an outlier? 

When was the last time I reached for a cracked person and said: "Come, be part of my family." The drug addict, the prostitute, the robber, the homeless, the one out there. "Come, you are welcome to be part of my family".

That is what He says. "I am ascending to My Father and your Father", Mary. We are family now. You, the cracked woman that nobody cared about, and me, the most important being, the Creator of all things. We are family.

Where is God this Easter? He is still reaching for cracked people. One by one, bringing them into His family. And He also uses cracked people to do the job. He choses Mary to go and tell everybody else about the good news.

You may not have seen them on the newspaper or the magazine. Most times, when Jesus reaches for cracked people and when Jesus uses cracked people, there are usually few respectable people around to take note. And yet, in an upside down kingdom, Easter starts at the bottom, with the cracked ones.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The only New Year's Resolution you really need

Every new start begs for change. Hopefully change that brings a positive outcome. Even when the new start is just a new number on the calendar, it feels like a new chapter, empty lines ready to be filled with potential successes, conquers and positive experiences. Thus it is the New Year. Time to reset, turn the page and start the chapter anew.

The man Habakkuk made the discovery that it wasn't by raising but by lowering his material future expectations, that true happiness would follow. That even if the next chapter was filled with depressing words scribbled between the lines, such outcomes would not influence his emotions.

He said:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls..."

Well, basically a future without food, money, safety, enjoyment, prestige or success. Basically facing death, starvation, sickness and pain. I suppose his expectations could not go lower than that.

And yet, he concludes, even if all the above happened:

"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation."

Why? How is that even possible?
Maybe it was because he understood that...

"God, the Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.

I stare again at my New Year's Resolution mental list and suddenly the items stated one after the other have lost their importance. What would it matter to tread water at the valley's creek, when I could be up on the mountain! What would it matter if the fig tree blossomed, if the vines had fruit, if the olive tree produced, if the fields gave food, if the flock multiplied, if the herd filled the stalls, but my strength rested on lower places?

A new year means the beginning of another round trip around the Sun. Not around itself. Not around the moon. Around the light. Around the source of life. Around something bigger, stronger and brighter. 

The higher place cannot be climbed with degrees, a fit body or material possessions. The higher place requires different feet, a different walk, that moves up, that faces the light, the source of life, someone bigger, stronger and brighter. 

And He is the only New Year's Resolution I really need.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A time to be born

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... So why the rush? I ask myself. Why to impatiently wait for hours not in existence, moments not yet threaded and events not yet unrolled?

Maybe my daily training in fast feedback is not benefiting my growth of patience. Fast food, fast Internet, fast lights on, fast hot shower, fast mail. Who has the time anymore to plant the seed, watch it grow, respect the seasons, harvest the fruits, prepare the bountifulness?

 Who has the time anymore to light the candle, hold a feather and dip it, flatten the paper dancing the ink into the space, fold it and seal it, walk the dust path to the mail building and drop the message meant to warm somebody's heart across an ocean, hoping there would still be a breath of life when the paper reaches the hands?

A time to be born, and a time to die,
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.

And I read over and over again, as we move along lines during our family reading, "My hour has not yet come, my time has not yet come..." Nothing happens by accident. The time to be born, the time to die... Time is important, relevant. Time must be respected.

Time is not in my hands. The time maker holds time in His hands. I wish I could hold time back and stop the fast growing happening every second inside my kids. Too fast! Those first nine months felt like forever, but as soon as they proclaimed their first cry, the minutes have raced.

And yet where am I rushing for?

If today is the time to live today?

If today is the time to accept today?

If today is the time to be thankful for today?

"My times are in your hands" said David. There was a time to be a shepherd boy, there was a time to fight Goliah, there was a time to run away from enemies, there was a time to be king and there was a time to die.

The hands that hold time don't make mistakes. I make the mistake of rushing, being anxious about tomorrow, sometimes without any palpable reason, maybe only for the fear of losing today.

And that is why He offers the antidote for feeling trapped in time. Eternal life. Today is the day to receive it, He says. Because with eternal life, future extends beyond death. A future taken care of, meticulously prepared, arranged since eternity past.

The hands that make time, were pierced in the appointed time, to embrace me and my finite lifetime into Him and His eternal time. 

Today is a time to embrace,
A time to seek,
A time to keep.

And because He lives I can also face tomorrow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to raise children to be successful in marriage

"No, not until you're satisfied, fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone..." read the poem.

I still remember how much those words impacted me, when I was in my early twenties looking around for my "prince" to make me happily ever after.

The text keept on saying: "with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me; to having an intensely personal relationship with me alone; discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be planned for you."

God. He was letting me know that no matter how perfect is the prince, there is no one on this earth that would fill a hole the size of God in my heart. And to place such a burden upon any one, would be unloving and selfish.

Ten happy years of marriage later, the message is as fresh today as the day I read it first. The secret for a successful marriage lays in becoming first and foremost completely satisfied with God and then from such a place of fullness of love and satisfaction, I can extend my love to my husband next, and then to my children, to my neighbor and to the world. 

True lasting love is not the same as a romantic passing fling. The first kind of love is a daily selfish-less choice, God centered, from an eternal perspective. The second, a transitory selfish feeling, self centered, from a narrow perspective.

The samaritan woman at the well was with her sixth partner and she was still thirsty. Statistics show us that the success of a marriage decreases with every next spouse. Only living water can fill the love tank up. 

In an age of consumerism, marriage has become another product for the sake of happiness seeking. Shop around for the best one, and if it does not work out, run back to the store and start shopping again. The more individualistic a society becomes, the more marriages fall apart. Because after all, it is all about me, right? 

That I may have the wisdom to teach my children that inside an entire universe, and inside an entire timeline that runs back and forth into eternity, they are not the center of either one. So why should they live their daily lives as if they were?

There is a center to the universe and there is a center to the timeline, and there is a center to which we should center our entire hearts around. And when God is at the center of two people lives, everything else falls into place, including their marriage. That is the secret to be successful in marriage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When losses keep overtaking the news

The only way to grow up is to face loss. Loss of baby teeth, loss of baby smells, loss of toddler babbles, loss of toddler cute smiles, loss of childhood beliefs, loss of childhood hide and seeks.

Loss. As the clock tickles, losses abound. Lives, hopes, plans. The daily reminder that losses are happening, at the speed of light. Dead are all the cells that have been replaced. Gone are all the present moments that became only memories.

Mary. She knew about losses, life had been hard but now she had found the hope for all of her losses. Living water overflowing. But as she looks into the empty tomb, the emptiness inside her heart reaches a new level. Where had they placed him, her only hope? Emptiness, loss.

It hurts, deep inside. To stare at the emptiness of the loss, with nothing big enough to fill the void. How to go back to daily life, when every day, reminders will keep the pain awake? Mary's senses were overtaken by sorrow, she became blind to the one approaching, she became deaf to the one speaking.

It may take a while to realize that the same empty tomb is also the source of hope. Can you see the invisible? Can you picture a life beyond death? The presence of resurrection taking over the stage of death? Mary, move your eyes beyond the empty tomb! Mary, He is risen!!

There is hope in Jesus for every loss. The clock may not be feared anymore, the grain is going to die but there will be many fruits. The children are going to grow up, the clock will keep moving, losses will keep overtaking the news. Outside of resurrection, there is no hope. But He is risen! 

I lift up my eyes... my help comes from the Lord!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The best summer camp for your child will always be yourself

The options are endless, summer camps have gone from a few days away on the countryside, playing games, swimming and having fun to advanced courses that can teach your child just about anything. Cooking, riding horses, sports, arts, music, theater, science, robotics, engineering, you name it, there is a summer camp available for every and each child's desire. 

There is nothing wrong with learning new skills or abilities, but a mother's got only a few years to mold a child's heart, and then they are gone like the wind, never to be a child again. A child's heart is a very precious treasure, available to be nurtured, guided, trained and loved for a limited amount of time. To hold a child's heart in your hands is the most important job in the world you will ever have because at the tip of your fingerprints lays an eternal soul, a breathing miracle, comparable to nothing a company, an artist or an industry will ever produce. 

And all this treasure has been entrusted to you, the mother, the most important summer camp your child will ever have. No other skill and ability matters most to a child than to be molded by you. To experience all your love, direction and attention with purpose, discipline, and intent. 

Eve, the first woman, called the "mother of all living" was tempted into wanting to be more than just the "mother of all living", she wanted to be like God. As if "mother of all living" was too little of a title because there is always another step up the ladder, right? Not really. "Mother of all living" was the most important position, title and job she could ever find, and by leaving her position and trying to be like God, she just went down that ladder right to the bottom.

In God's eyes, to be caring for an eternal soul and a breathing miracle is the most important position, title and job a woman can ever find. And all her efforts, her hard work and her disposition to do the best job she can according to the way God intended, are not gone unnoticed. Behind the description of most kings in the Bible, the name of his mother is acknowledged, right before stating if that king did what was right or what was wrong in God's eyes. Of course it does not mean that the mother or the father is solely responsible for the outcome of her children, but it does mean that she has a great influence over their outcome.

I like to think of Abijah, the daughter of Zachariah in 2 Chronicles 29:1. Her father must have been a great influence on her as it is said that he had instructed another king called Uzziah "in the fear of the Lord". So, even though Abijah's husband, Ahaz, did not do what was right in the eyes of God, when he died, their son Hezekiah, did an amazing job as a king, restoring the temple, the passover and conquering enemies. It is said of him that "Every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God in accordance with the law and the commandments seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered" (2 Chro 31:21).

Abijah once had that same heart in her hands. And it seems that she shaped that heart in the right direction, even when her husband was not being a good influence on him. An entire kingdom was lifted up from idolatry, and learned to live "in the fear of the Lord" again, because a woman took her job as a mother very seriously. 

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy one is understanding" (Prov 9:10).

"Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Cor. 1:24-25)

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