When tears fall at Christmas

When the joy and laughter around you, makes you sad and brings you to tears;  When the Christmas carols only serve to still the voice inside you to mourning;  when the merry making and visits of friends make you feel a deep vacuum inside and all around you because something, someone is not in the picture,  What do you do then,  when the tears flow at Christmas? 

The tree is decorated, the adornments are up but the most important, precious adornments of the house are not.  The loss of your loved ones and pets is a physical pain. 

Last year, we ‘survived’ Christmas because the externals were scaled down due to Covid so there were less ‘reminders’ of family time.  This year, “Christmas” has returned, Covid or no Covid, and the traditions and the ‘joys’ of Christmas are back in almost full measure.  But the joy in your heart has been replaced by grief in almost full measure. So, what do you do when tears flow at Christmas?

There is a spiritual dilemma here, for being a Catholic, I know I should be rejoicing at the birth of the Saviour, finding joy in the traditions that have come to epitomize Christmas, and even more than that, experiencing joy in the fundamental message of Christmas – Rejoice and be glad for this day is born to you the Saviour of the World. 

It just seems so very hard to rejoice and be glad … and that has been troubling me. Where is my faith? Where is my hope? Where is my belief in the Good News?

That last question made me think.  What is the Good News?

The good news is not just Christmas trees and gifts, mistletoe and wine, logs on the fire as carolers sing.  The good news is not the stockings that Santa fills with a ‘Ho Ho Ho’ to cheer you .   Nor is it the table laden with good foods that fill you up.  All these are good and fine, but not really the “Good News” of Christmas.

The “Good News” of Christmas was the first words the Babe in the manger uttered as a grown man as he opened the temple scroll :

“  …I have come to bring the good news to the poor,

to heal the brokenhearted,

to preach deliverance to the captives,

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty them that are bruised…” Luke 4.18.

I had read this verse so many times before. I love the image of Jesus picking up the scroll in the temple in his first public appearance – but I was never broken-hearted before and the good news passed over my head. 

Today the words took on a new meaning, reminding me also of the many I know who are grieving this Christmas. A friend in the UK who held his wife in his arms struggling to give her oral resuscitation as the breath quietly left her body.  A classmate whose husband had an unexpected fatal heart attack. A friend in Australia who still grieves for the brother, husband and parents who left many years ago leaving a void she has not been able to fill.  Young parents who’s little one joined the angels in heaven a week ago after more than a year of hope and prayers that he would survive an accident.  The community grieves with them and thousands of others whose loved ones left this year – or in recent times – victims to Covid, accidents, violence, bomb blasts or just the natural cycle of life.  

Death where is thy stingDeep in my heart, I reply.  But a deeper voice inside me convicts me.  The sting of death is deep only in a heart without hope and without faith.  And without gratitude for what you had.     

So I remind myself that the pain may be there but hope and faith – and Love – will see me through. The “Good News” is that I don’t have to force myself to fill the vacuum. I can feel broken-hearted and empty. I can grieve and be bruised in my grief … knowing that there is a promise – many promises – and that I can lean on Him, the Christ Child.  I can go direct to Him whose words ring true for all time – for this is the reason he came.

Come to me all those who are weary and heavy burdened

Come to me … I will give you the answer, I will give you rest.  I will give you peace; I will set you free from all the troubles that oppress you.    

Yet you refuse to come to me to have life John 5.40

And thus this Christmas I invite all who are sad, whose tears are flowing to strive to remember that the Lord is coming.  Go out to meet Him.  He is the Prince of peace and we can find peace through our pain only if we lean on Him and let Him fill the empty void in our hearts.  

A blessed and holy Christmas to you all.

Cry for Justice

I penned the reflection SRI  LANKA I CRY FOR YOU on this blog in April 2019 just after the Easter carnage in my land.  Six bombs went off simultaneously at 6 different locations at 8.35 am on Easter Sunday 2019  – 2 in national Catholic Shrines,  1 in Zion Church, 2 in leading five star hotels and one in a guest house. 
In fact, the cry I referred to in my reflection penned in the first few days, turned to weeping when we found out that the government had received prior notice of the impending attacks,  and for reasons best known to them and for  political expediency, failed to protect our people.
The then President in fact, ‘conveniently’ left the country on ‘holiday’ two days before the attack.  Two days after the attack, the present President staked his claim to lead the country and contested the next elections. They both belong to the same political party. 
Questions abound … why did not the Government and the forces respond with appropriate action on the intelligence received from the Indian and US Intelligence services, which even named Zahran (who died in the attack) as the leader of the suicide mission?   
Despite report after report of Presidential committees and commissions interviewing hundreds of persons and ‘naming names’  of those whose negligence – wilful, intended or otherwise – resulted in the murder of 259 persons and injury to over 500,   NO JUSTICE HAS AS YET BEEN SERVED. 
POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY!  Divide and rule politics? Fear mongering politics?    
On this day when we commemorate the second anniversary of the Easter carnage in our land,   coincidentally a significant day for the cause of justice with the landmark ruling in George Floyd’s murder when JUSTICE WAS FINALLY SERVED IN THE USA  – Thank you Lord  –   may the cries of the dead, the wounded, the living bereaved, of the Easter Carnage in Sri Lanka be heard by the Risen Christ, and justice be served without delay on those who orchestrated this murder. 
 Sri Lanka I cry for you  =  A reflection on the Easter Bombings

Betrayed by more than a kiss


Betrayed   … shouts out from the roofs, the hill tops and the vales today.

Betrayed with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver.  Open, upfront  pre-meditated,  caving into confusion.  Misled into believing it was justified. .  Then despair.  30 pieces betrayal price and then burial price. Hakeldama – field of blood.

Betrayed – let’s not stick around to see what happens to our friend, Master.  Let’s flee even naked. Then in guilt and shame they meet again . Strength in numbers and strengthened in Spirit they go out. Followers of the Way … no more afraid even of their own crucifixion.

Betrayed – One stayed close but the coals were too hot:  ‘I know not the man’.  Fear confusion … an unplanned fall.  Then weeping, remorse and gathering of resolve.  Never again to fall. A solid rock.

Betrayed – self righteous arrogance, fearing a change in status quo points to a ‘blasphemer’.  Then smug satisfaction at having ‘saved’ the nation.  In reality having saved their positions.

Betrayed – a conscience niggles, this man is innocent.  Courage fails.  expediency prevails.  Washing of hands.  I won’t do it – do it yourself.  A good man surrenders to public opinion.  Silent.  He could have stopped it.

Betrayed – miracles, healing, words of wisdom and saving grace – yet no one springs to his defence,  gives witness to the truth. . Did they repent,  return to Him?  The Books are silent.

But  I have the benefit of HIS STORY –  of a Resurrection,  a Pentecost and a 2000+year old faith.   Despite this …. it continues ….

Betrayal  .day in day out, day in day out … by the choices I make.    Judas, Apostles, Peter, Priests, Pilate, Rabble Rousers, and ingratiate recipients of grace …  bits of all of them reflected in me. ..

(INot sure how this post reappeared in my drafts box when it was posted in 2018 – reposting it.)

Image Credit: http://truthbook.com/urantia-book/paper-183-the-betrayal-and-arrest-of-jesus

Lord, in the years that are left to me ….

I recently came across this reflective poem by “Unknown Author”  Curious, I googled and found it is attributed to Martha Snell Nicholson. who has written many beautiful poems on Christ and salvation.   Sharing this one which is my prayer too. 

 His Plan for Me
When I stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ
And He shows His plan for me,
The plan of my life as it might have been
Had He had His way – and I see
How I blocked Him here, and checked Him there,
And I would not yield my will,
Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes,
Grief though He loves me still?
Would He have me rich and I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing,
Down the paths I cannot retrace.
Lord, of the years that are left to me
I give them to Thy hand
Take me and break me and mould me,
To the pattern that Thou hast planned!
Amen !!

Are you intimidated by another ?

“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”  
Leonard Ravenhill

Reminds me of the bible character David  –  a young shepherd boy who went forward to slay the mighty Philistine giant Goliath when everyone else was too afraid to combat him. 

David refused all armour offered by the King and went forward armed with just a sling. 

The rest as they say is history. 

David and Goliath

Source: https://letterpile.com/poetry/David-and-Goliath

  Those who walk in the shadow of the Almighty God need fear no man.

Forcing the Christmas spirit

Christmas – the most joyous time of the year. There has always been an ‘ air and feel’ of Christmas … a sort of an expectancy. Everyone rushing around, occupying themselves mostly with externals … but deep down .. that feeling of waiting, yearning for the 24th night… that most special night in history when God became man; nay – God became a naked little babe in a cattle shed, born ‘illegitimately’ by worldly standards to a young Jewish girl – with her betrothed husband at her side.

With such a beautiful event to celebrate, Christmas has always been very special. Granted, as kids, it was mostly the joy of new clothes and of gifts galore – first from Santa, then our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. We would return home on Christmas night with the car trunk laden with our gifts.

As we grew older, Christmas became more than gifts and Santa. Carol services, decorating, baking, inviting friends over – all became part of the Christmas traditions. As we matured, these were replaced by activities more closely linked to spiritual traditions – advent wreaths, church decorations, Sunday School Nativity plays, charity project church fellowship and of course through all of these family family family!! Family was there in the thick of it – especially my Mum and twin sister .👩‍👧‍👧

And now … Mum is not with us this Christmas. She moved on in June to be in the embrace of her Maker … leaving us with a huge vacuum. A vacuum that I am finding hard to fill, to face, to accept.

It was a bit too much to face, so without discussion, since Queen Bee’s name would not be there, we automatically dropped the Kris Kindle ritual this year. We dropped a lot of other things too including Advent wreath, decorations and carols. Covid too did its part to put, for us at least, a welcome spoke in festivities.

Still, the spirit of Christmas past comes back – like it did to Scrooge – but for me the memories hurt. Fun, laughter that we shared; midnight mass on the same pew, breakfast together, the extra touches Mum put on the table, the family dinner and the joy and mystery of distributing Kris Kindle … somehow everyone seemed to draw an extra name for Nans!! And no one knew how that happened. No, we knew. everyone wanted to give Nans something. After Dad died, she became the sole Elder, the Queen Bee whom all the grand children migrated to with their woes and troubles. She was their confidante, advisor and friend.

And now Christmas is upon us. The night we used to wait for with bated breath is almost here. I really cannot believe it is Wednesday the 23rd!!! Where is my Christmas spirit ?

At the urging of a childhood friend Felicia (who went through a similar grief a few years ago just before Christmas) I forced myself to put up a tree on the 21st when the thought struck me that Mum will be with the heavenly choirs – and with Dad – proclaiming the Birth of our Lord. And she would want us to join in singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo. It is His birth we are celebrating.

So I forced myself to play some carols today. And as I forced myself to listen – and as the tears started .. . I started to pen my thoughts.

I am forcing myself to feel joy externally – to find joy in the traditions that have come to epitomise Christmas, and trying to find joy in the message of Christmas. Rejoice and be glad for this day is born to you the Saviour of the World. I do rejoice and am glad … but I am definitely not merry or joyful. And that was troubling me because I thought I ought to be.

But then I remembered that I do not have to put on a show for myself … to force the Spirit of Christmas for that Babe – for that same Babe came:

…”to bring the good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” Luke 4.18.

I had read that verse so many times before. I love the image of Jesus picking up the scroll in the temple in his first pubic appearance – but I was never broken-hearted before and that news passed over my head. Today that spoke to me. The Good News is that I don’t have to force myself to fill up the vacuum. I can feel broken-hearted and empty. I can grieve and be bruised in my grief … knowing that there is a promise and an answer. I have to wait in patience with the sure hope that the Christ Child will fill up this vacuum with His Love .. His mercy, and His compassion. He has promised us this.

So many people are broken-hearted this year having lost family to Covid as well as to age, and so many are separated from family at this time of family love.

May the blessings of this holy season fill all of us with His peace and love. … and may health return to the planet and its people. ☮️ 💟🙏

“Now do you have time for me?”

“… In the busy times of the months and the years that have preceded self-isolation and social distancing, many things have been tucked onto the back shelves of my consciousness, some of them neatly in filing boxes, and others less tidily, just kind of jammed into bags and tied shut.
I am finding some of those things are opening in the silence and stillness. Some of them are calling to be attended to now, asking the question:
“Now do you have time for me?”
Many of these things are me-and-Creator projects … they are not things a family member or friend or partner or therapist can help with. They are things that can only be attended to in divine presence. They are only manageable when I open them with an infinite, omniscient, omnipresence alongside me.
Sometimes the call of those back shelves things feels a little bit like madness. Like insanity and over-whelmation knocking at the doors of my consciousness.
But I trust that it is not.
And I trust that when these back shelf things are attended with, social distancing will not equate to emotional or psychological distancing … and perhaps we might all emerge able to be more of our authentic selves than we ever were before 🙂 At a safe distance apart, but more honest, more vulnerable, more self-loving, more self-compassionate than we ever were before.
It is not easy.
The distraction of trying to re-establish pre COVID norms using online means is a strong distraction. Also the distraction of numbing myself with food, Netflix or news binges.
But, at the end of the day, the voices of back shelf things will keep calling out in the night and the day …
“Now do you have time for me?”
I know Creator is ready … and I pray that I be equipped with the courage and honesty to spend some of this precious time with my back shelf things. I pray that you give me what I need to be kind to myself in this time of close proximity with back shelf things.
Amen.  “
Above is an FB  post by Janaki Bandara – the daughter of a friend  which really touched me.
Despite all the time that is now available to me … I am ashamed of how I would have to answer the question my Lord is posing.
Time to pull.into still waters and drop anchor🙏

So Sri Lanka we are in lockdown …

My last post was just prior to the Presidential elections “The Devil is at the gate” I said.

Well, I did not vote for the President whom the masses finally favoured, but truth be told, at this particular point in time, I am beginning to think that there is much to say for autocracy and dictator-style governments.

It is early days yet, but the very qualities and policies that I decried – firm, ruthless military style rule, curtailment of personal freedom, suppression of dissent- seem to be effective weapons in containing the Covid 19 virus.

Measures taken when the first local case was confirmed on 11th March:

  • The Chief of Defence /Commander of the Army is put in charge of Covid 19 Task Force.
  • All flight arrivals stopped except for special flights bringing back citizens from China, South Korea and Italy.
  • Three days public and bank holidays declared in the first week. We used the time to prepare. There was no run on supermarkets, no fights for toiletries or food though some did overstock on essential items.
  • Holidays immediately followed by island wide curfew: 3 days in rural areas and 4 days in Metropolitan and bigger districts.
  • Thereafter 6 hour window was given – for purchasing goods, banking etc
  • Unfortunately, the 6 hour window resulted in massive crowds pouring into stores and market places. BAD MOVE.
  • Infected case count rose.
  • Metropolitan areas where cases were highest declared high risk and put under indefinite curfew.
  • People breaking curfew are arrested and vehicles seized.
  • And finally – any area where an infection is discovered is IMMEDIATELY encircled by military personnel – almost like a high risk military zone. The Military moves in. The police join. The medics arrive and the Public Health Inspectors do house to house testing.

Watching on TV you are left in absolutely no doubt that war has been declared. The man who was in charge of Defence when we ended the 30 year civil war and is now in charge of the country is determined to win this war too.  With military precision, ‘Intelligence’  is immediately gathered on all with whom a confirmed case has come into contact and they are sent to one of the many quarantine centers or home quarantined under supervision.

Of course there were a few blips at the beginning. A kind of late start.

Inter-school cricket matches which draw thousands of alumni from all over the world went ahead without cancellation. Nobody dared to stop tradition and nobody wanted to stay home and be safe – ie the men … or should I say “boys” cause this is something I can never understand. They coordinate family events and trips to Sri Lanka around the BIG MATCH – ie the game between two traditional rivals.  One such game has a tradition of 141 years and was played even during World War.  Covid War had not yet started.  The game went on despite a few protests.

And then the inevitable.  One spectator was found to be Covid 19 positive 😱.  The blame game started. The horse had bolted. Could he be reined in?

Search launched to identify and isolate all those in the pavilion the patient had been in. News channels kept requesting all  who would have been exposed to self quarantine. This was just before the curfew.

Another blip.

We arranged special flights to bring back students and citizens from epi-centers South Korea and Italy. Around 1500 from these flights who came in before 15 March went back into their communities un- checked and un-tested and became the main source for the spread.

Again, major search operation and public notices identifying those arrivals and requesting them to report to the nearest police station for quarantine.

All international arrivals up to 15th March requested to notify there location to nearest police station.   All arrivals after that date are taken to one of the many quarantine centres established throughout the country.  2 weeks quarantine in semi luxury  entirely at government expense. 

Credit has to go where credit is due.. Government seems to be in control of the situation –  fingers crossed and prayers winging heavenward🙏🙏 – and Sri Lanka may even end up being the exemplar for the crisis.

I am locked in, but like many others in high risk zones have reason to count blessings of special arrangements made:

  • The nearby Supermarkets are delivering packs of essentials at greatly discounted prices.
  • The truck with coconuts – an essential ingredient in our cuisine -came by and our purchases were rolled into our garden. Social distancing🤗
  • Another truck brought cooking gas refills.
  • The bread van with his all too familiar ring tone alerts us he is on his daily rounds
  • Water dispenser refills delivered as usual..
  • Vegetable vendor came by but he did not have much.  We got a few more onions and potatoes. Others come by under special permission but we restrict contact.
  • Thankfully a friend in the business sent a very generous gift pack of fresh veggies.
  • Mobile banking came to our doorstep though I missed it.

The situation for us is totally well managed.

I realise this is not the situation throughout the country. Solutions have still to be found for distribution in rural and far flung areas.  Until then farmers are suffering heavy losses. The poor and daily paid are unable to purchase rations to stock up for the long haul. The allowances the government has granted will take a few more days to trickle down.  Quite a few more blips to be cleared but for now the curve is rather flat.

And unlike the rest of the world, Sri Lanka already had a dedicated infections diseases hospital  IDH  so all Covid 19 positive patients are sent there.  Of the 150 cases so far 27 have recovered and been sent home.  We have unfortunately had 4 deaths but these were patients with other complications as well.

And so, despite the blips, despite the crisis and despite the concerns we have reason to  be thankful – friends giving vegetables … vendors making home deliveries. Streets quiet. No blaring horns.  Life has truly slowed down.

Mother earth is smiling thankful too. Look at the logic: One delivery truck circulating in the area saves so many hundreds driving to the super to pick up their basics. It’s different from on line deliveries  and Uber eats.  This is ole’ time living.  Less gasoline, less fumes, less pollution, more time.

Maybe when this is all over we should go back to this way of life- but without the military shadow ….

It would be interesting to hear about your own experiences in lock down or social distancing …. what measure would you prefer to keep you safe?

I can’t help but feel glad that the ‘devil at the gate was let in. I have to admit that I doubt anyone else would have contained this with quite the success he has.

So … Kudos to you Mr. President.

Ps  Getting used to the new WordPress format. Will.post some pics when I get used to the change.