The Power of Forgiveness…

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass George Herbert

Zak Ebrahim was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1983 to an American mother and an Egyptian father, El Sayyid Nosair. When Zak was seven, his father assassinated Meir Kahane, the militant ultra-Orthodox, anti-Arab rabbi who founded the Jewish Defense League. While in prison, Nosair was found guilty in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial which killed six people and injured over 1,000 others. He was later convicted as one of the conspirators. Zak’s memoir The Terrorist’s Son charts his own personal journey from hatred to healing.

I remember my early childhood as a happy one although around the age of seven my father exposed me to a side of Islam  that few people  get to see.  In every religion, in every population,  you’ll find a small percentage of people  who hold such fervently beliefs  that they feel they must use any means necessary  to make others live as they do.

A few months prior to his arrest, my father sat me down and explained that  for the past few weekends, he and some friends  had been going to a shooting range on Long Island  for target practice. He told me I’d be going with him the next morning.  We arrived at Calverton Shooting Range,  and when I hit the target my uncle turned to the other men,  and in Arabic said, “Ibn abuh.” [Like father, like son].  Later I realized that they thought they saw in me the same destruction  my father was capable of.  These men were eventually convicted  of placing a van filled with 1,500 pounds of explosives  into the sub-level parking lot of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. These were the men I looked up to, whom I called ammu, which means uncle.

By the time I turned 19  I had already moved 20 times in my life  and that instability meant I found it hard to make friends. I kept my identity a secret  to avoid being targeted,  but even so, being the quiet, chubby new kid in class  was more than enough to get me repeatedly bullied. So for the most part, I spent my time at home.

Growing up around bigotry meant  I’d been raised to judge people  according to their race or religion. One of the first things  that challenged this way of thinking was during the 2000 presidential elections when I was taking part  in the National Youth Convention (a non-partisan organization) in Philadelphia.  Having been the victim of bullying for most of my life I chose to be part of a group that focused on youth violence. The members of our group came from many different walks of life and I soon discovered that one of the kids I’d befriended  was Jewish. I must admit I felt a sense of pride  in having been able to overcome a barrier  that for most of my life I had been led to believe  was insurmountable.

Another major turning point came when I found a summer job in  an amusement park. Most of my life I’d been taught  that homosexuality was a sin and by extension, therefore,  that all gay people were a negative influence.  When I ended up working with some of the gay performers  at a show there,  I soon discovered that many were the kindest,  least judgmental people I had ever met.  Having been bullied as a kid  created an immediate sense of empathy in me  toward the suffering of others.

Then there was, The Daily Show.  On a nightly basis, Jon Stewart forced me  to be intellectually honest with myself about my own bigotry  and helped me to realize that people’s race,  religion or sexual orientation  had nothing to do with the quality of their character.  Inspiration can often come from an unexpected place, and a Jewish comedian did more  to positively influence my worldview  than my own extremist father.

One day, I had a conversation with my mother  about how my worldview was starting to change  and she said something to me that I will hold dear to my heart  for as long as I live.  She looked at me with the weary eyes  of someone who had experienced  enough dogmatism to last a lifetime and said, ”I’m tired of hating people.”  In that instant, I realized how much negative energy  it takes to hold hatred inside of you.

Zak Ebrahim is not my real name.  I changed it when my family decided  to end our connection with my father  and start a new life.  But I speak out in the hope that perhaps someone someday  who is compelled to use violence  may hear my story and realize that there is a better way,  that although I was subjected  to a violent and intolerant ideology, I did not become fanaticized.  No matter how much the levels of violence you have experienced it doesn’t have to define your character because in all of us is the ability to change our paths.

Today’s story was written by Zak Ebrahim and is shared from the following website: http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/zak-ebrahim-usa/

 

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God’s Love and Assistance

God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. - Unknown

Poem that will give you goose bumps…………..

A drunk man in an Oldsmobile
They said had run the light
That caused the six-car pileup
On 109 that night.

When broken bodies lay about
And blood was everywhere,
The sirens screamed out eulogies,
For death was in the air.

A mother, trapped inside her car,
Was heard above the noise;
Her plaintive plea near split the air:
Oh, God, please spare my boys!”

She fought to loose her pinned hands;
She struggled to get free,
But mangled metal held her fast
In grim captivity.

Her frightened eyes then focused
On where the back seat once had been,
But all she saw was broken glass and
Two children’s seats crushed in.

Her twins were nowhere to be seen;
She did not hear them cry,
And then she prayed they’d been thrown free,
Oh, God, don’t let them die!”

Then firemen came and cut her loose,
But when they searched the back,
They found therein no little boys,
But the seat belts were intact.

They thought the woman had gone mad
And was travelling alone,
But when they turned to question her,
They discovered she was gone.

Policemen saw her running wild
And screaming above the noise
In beseeching supplication,
Please help me find my boys!

They’re four years old and wear blue shirts;
Their jeans are blue to match.”
One cop spoke up, “They’re in my car,
And they don’t have a scratch.

They said their daddy put them there
And gave them each a cone,
Then told them both to wait for Mom
To come and take them home.

I’ve searched the area high and low,
But I can’t find their dad.
He must have fled the scene,
I guess, and that is very bad.”

The mother hugged the twins and said,
While wiping at a tear,
He could not flee the scene, you see,
For he’s been dead a year.”

The cop just looked confused and asked,
Now, how can that be true?”
The boys said, “Mommy, Daddy came
And left a kiss for you.”

He told us not to worry
And that you would be all right,
And then he put us in this car with
The pretty, flashing light.

We wanted him to stay with us,
Because we miss him so,
But Mommy, he just hugged us tight
And said he had to go.

He said someday we’d understand
And told us not to fuss,
And he said to tell you, Mommy,
He’s watching over us.”

The mother knew without a doubt.
That what they spoke was true,
For she recalled their dad’s last words,
I will watch over you.”

The firemen’s notes could not explain
The twisted, mangled car,
And how the three of them escaped
Without a single scar.

But on the cop’s report was scribed,
In print so very fine,
An angel walked the beat tonight
on Hwy. 109

 Today’s poem was shared from the following website: https://boardofwisdom.com/togo/?viewid=1005&listname=Faith#.WsKuxmbMxBw

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The Importance of Friendship…

A friend is one that knows You as you are, understands where You have been, accepts what You have become and still gently allows You to grow William Shakespeare
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books, and I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran right up to him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.

Then he looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get a life.”

He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!”

He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class and I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On Graduation Day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one), and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

“Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach… but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met . He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker, so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

“Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

I agree with this. Your one action can really change a person’s life. or motivate someone. And friends are the most important part about your life. A friend does have a major impact on you. Many times i have found myself being depressed and lonely. I don’t know if its hormones or just me. But a message from a friend on whatsapp or facebook instantly makes me forget about my  depression and I’m all happy and cheerful again. 🙂

Like Aristotle said –

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”

We are all social animals. I have never found or met anyone who “does not partake of society”. And now days there are so many social networking websites, I don’t think this generation can ever feel lonely, You can always connect with someone online or just call them up.

So, don’t judge people by their appearances, be kind to all and keep smiling 🙂

Today’s comments and inspiring story were shared from the following website: https://mischievouseyez.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/a-heart-touching-story-of-friendship/

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The Stresses of Life…Best Handled with Faith

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. Lou Holtz

I planned for today’s post to be on stress…because we all have it. I see the effects of stress and its influence on health almost every day as I work with clients and patients.

This morning, I came across this article and a smile immediately lit my face! The minute I read it, I knew I needed to share it! I hope as you read it, it will reach down into your heart and help you understand that God loves us deeply and that the trials and stresses we experience in life are not punishments, they are opportunities for us to get to know our Creator a little better and grow our faith in him!

Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton: Trials are God’s Opportunities for Us

Scott Hamilton recently spoke at the RootsTech, the largest family history and genealogy conference in the world, sponsored in part by FamilySearch.

Scott Hamilton is arguably the most popular figure skater of all times, a best-selling author and Olympic gold medalist, so he must have glided right through life without a hard fall, right?

Not so. In those days when newspapers took personal ads that included a short description of yourself, he joked with a friend that his would look something like this if he were to be 100% honest: “Short, bald, half-neutered, chemoed, surgically-repaired, retired male figure skater of unknown ethnic origin seeks beautiful woman for long walks, laughter and an interest in my hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses.”

“Believe it or not,” he said, “I got a taker.”

“I’ had my darkest years when I was at the top of my good fortune,” he admits, but he came to believe that trials are actually “God’s scheduled opportunities for us,” and he speaks of his life, which has been riddled with challenges, with humor and faith and a good will that is contagious.

Scott was adopted at six weeks of age by “an amazing family.” “You know that’s me,” he jokes, pointing to a newborn photo of himself. “Same hairline.”

His parents wanted a big family, but every time his mother was pregnant, she’d carry the baby to full-term and then have a still-born. “My mom was the center of my universe. She was the best woman I’ve ever known,” he said. “She was the driving force in my family.”

His sister looked at him when his parents brought him home and said, “He’s not very cute. Can you take him back and exchange him for another baby?”

“A lot of people thought I looked like my Mom,” Scott said, “and she would say, you always resemble the ones you love the most.”

“We’d celebrate that I was adopted every day,” Scott said. Later in life when children would tease him about being adopted, he’d say, “Yes, I was adopted. My parents chose me. Your parents got stuck with whatever came out.”

He had a beautiful family situation, he said, with frequent interactions with his grandparents. Yet, the variety of illnesses that would plague him through his life began as a child. He said, “I always joke that the counter that’s in your kitchen that the children run under all the time, and you know that one day they are going to bash their heads because they’ve grown taller, that never happened to me.” He was sick and small and as a man only grew to be 5’4’’.

“I was on this never-ending journey of hospitals,” he said. His parents even went back to his birth parents to see if they could solve the health mystery, but it was a mystery that never was solved. Finally the doctors said, “We have no idea what’s going on. We just think you need to go home and live a normal life,” he said. “My parents were just shattered and exhausted from this four-year adventure” going from hospital to hospital.”

During these many hospital visits, Scott’s Mom slept in the chair in the corner of the room and was under a great deal of stress. Finally, the doctor suggested to them that they needed a morning off and that the university offered classes at a new ice skating rink every Saturday morning. “Put him in those classes and he will be well supervised,” the doctor assured them.

When he got to the rink, he was excited to be with well kids, but was still wearing a nose tube because of the supplement that he wouldn’t drink. No one would have figured him for a future gold medalist.

“As I started to skate my health got better. They couldn’t figure out why,” said Scott. “There was never a chance that I would be anything but a skater. That was going to be my life.

“The problem with that was I wasn’t very good. I failed tests all the time, and I didn’t have any focus. There was this thing called compulsory figures that I just couldn’t stand doing. It was boring and I hated it, so of course I wasn’t very good at it. I plodded along, and plodded along. I would do ok in a competition and then fall and only did all right.

“If you are a female figure skater and you medal, you’re really good. If you are male figure skater and you don’t medal you probably should be doing something else,” Scott said. “I was doing just OK and my parents, who were both school teachers, were doing everything they could to keep me in skating.”

Scott finally got to the point that he needed to go to a place where they had great coaching. It was time to make the quantum leap to the national championships. At the competition, he said wryly, “I rose to the occasion. I fell five times in front of 17,000 people.

“It was humiliating and devastating and I said, ‘I’m never going to do that again.’” He worked really hard that next year and only fell twice and came in next to the last. By the time he was getting to the junior level, he finally beat two guys. He came in seven out of nine.

It was then that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I knew that times were hard,” said Scott. “She had sacrificed everything for her children.” Under this new stress, his parents told him, “we’re broke.” You can keep skating one more year and make it great. When you graduate from high school, you can go on to the university for free, but they could afford no more skating.

That next year, Scott said, “weird things started happening. I decided to actually work.” He made it to the nationals and his Mom came, wearing a wig because the chemotherapy had taken all of her hair, and she had a sling on her left arm because she had a mastectomy. Still, she had a twinkle in her eye for pride for her son.

About a week before the national competition, Scott started landing his first triple spin, but on the night of the nationals, his coach said, “You are in a really good position to have your best finish ever. Don’t warm up the triple before you skate, because we don’t want to know if it is there or not.” Scott said, “I had this history of just wiping out all over the ice at nationals. The coach said, ‘If you feel like doing it, what have you got to lose? It’s your last competition. Do it.’”

Scott landed the first triple ever in competition and won the national title in what was to have been his last competition ever. However, his parents found sponsors for him so that he could continue.

The next year he was 18, sponsored, and in an apartment on his own. He went to the nationals and it was an “epic fail.” He fell hard on his first jump. He said, “I was undertrained. I was unprepared. I was lost. I was this clueless 18-year old kid. It was the worst thing ever, because that is the last time my mother would ever see me skate in competition. She lost her battle to cancer.

He had choices at that time. He could have dissolved into self-pity. Instead, “I decided I wanted to honor my mother in every single thing that I did. I took her on the ice with me every single day.” Scott worked hard and the very next year he went from being 9th in the country to being 11th in the world.

People stepped in to play the role of surrogate mothers and father for him, including his coach Don Laws who was with Scott training him every single day, not just in skating, but in confidence and integrity. “My preparation through him,” said Scott, “was to be ready for any circumstance under the harshest conditions. That ribbon around my neck at the Olympics was the gold medal he allowed me to win by his miraculous training.”

On March 17, 1997, Scott was diagnosed with cancer and then three years later on March 17, 2000, he met the woman who would become his wife—Tracy Hamilton. Every year they celebrate March 17 as the best/worst day. “I had been knocked down enough times and gotten up enough times to be able to recognize that the greatest gift I ever received was her.”

Having survived testicular cancer, Scott wasn’t sure if they could have a family, but then nine months and two days later, they gave birth to a son. He said, “As an adopted child, this was the first time I saw flesh of my own flesh, and I was staring directly into my own eyes and it was a feeling like no other. I’m a father. I’m starting my own family tree.”

As Scott and Tracy were raising this child, more health issues arose for him. This time it was a brain tumor on his pituitary gland. But they wanted another child desperately, so they got to work. They prayed and prayed hard. On the way home from a brain scan he got the text that indicated a baby was on its way. When he saw his second son’s flaming red hair, Scott said, “I must be Irish!” Ethnic origins cleared up.

Both boys were thriving and their lives were full and complete. Yet, as he was preparing for the 2010 Olympics, and an earthquake shattered Port au Prince, Haiti and shattered Tracy’s heart at the same time.

She just felt compelled to go help—and it was the beginning of what would be 27 trips to Haiti to help the people there. On one trip she met two children who would have little chance in life and, Scott said, “We could give them a great one. We knew that God was totally directing our steps and that we needed to do something, We prayed, and we prayed a lot.”

So for Scott, it came full circle. The boy who was adopted and loved his family grew up to be a man who adopted other children. “My goodness, all the mysteries of life,” he said.

He was given the incredible gift of a family and now he can pass that on. “Our past is the foundation for everything that comes of it. Without our past, our present has no meaning and our future is worthless.”

The key for this man who has fought several life-threatening diseases and continues to win is faith.

He said, “Cancer was a wonderful way for the Lord to set me back on the right path. All good things came out of cancer for me. I don’t dread it and I don’t regret it. It required faith on every level—the abundance, the blessing, the times where we get knocked down, where we get course corrected.

“I don’t make any decisions without faith, without praying on it. I don’t give a talk without praying first for permission and support. There’s not a thing I get into, like the Olympics where I am on TV an hour a day where I don’t feel like the wherewithal to pull that off without prayer,” Scott said.

“The answers are all there if we are open to it. I’ve really learned that the Lord has directed my steps and he’s been there every step of the way. There’s never been a time in my life when he hasn’t been there. I recognize that in everything that I do. Try to be light. Try to be salt. Try to share the good news and hopefully when people are in their deepest suffering, they will understand the only way out.”

Today’s article was written by Scot and Maurine Proctor and is shared from the following website: https://ldsmag.com/olympic-gold-medalist-scott-hamilton-trials-are-gods-opportunities-for-us/

 

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Find the David within You…

Goliath shutterstock_125301275There are days in which the very fiber that you are made of seems stretched beyond any reasonable ability to hold it together. Sometimes those days turn into weeks, months and even years. Such were the days for me when I trudged through severe depression. I look back at that experience now and I have no idea how I made it through. The truth is that “I” didn’t make it through – “We” did. God took me by the hand and we made it through my depression together. I would have never guessed, at the time, that there would ever come a day that I would feel that the pain and suffering was worth it. Yet, here I am and it was. I won’t take the time to go into detail but there is a level of understanding, compassion and passion that I never could have obtained without that experience. When you are having those experiences in your life – don’t try to go it alone. God is there to help you. And know that, in the end, you will find the David within you and you will be better for it.

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