The Sacrifice of the Lamb

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One day, a man visited our home in Pakistan and he brought along the sweetest thing I had ever seen in my life. We were not allowed to have our own pets. We had a guard dog, but the guard (sometimes chauffeur) used to feed, pet, keep the dog. We played with him sometimes, but it was greatly frowned upon by my nanny who insisted on scrubbing us down if we had even touched the dog, for dogs are considered dirty in Islam.

The man brought something even more special than a dog… he had a rope and at the end of that rope was a little lamb. It had a sweet face and just stared at us, chewing on whatever it was in his mouth. My parents took the lamb from him and thanked him. My older sister immediately fell in love with it and said that she would only feed it flowers, for it was too precious to eat just plain straw and grass that the man had brought along with him. She took the lamb’s leash and ran off to the heavily flowered garden in front of our home where she stayed true to her promise.

Each day, we played with the lamb until we got used to its presence. It would roam around our home and three gardens (one at the front, in the middle between our house and annex and then one at the back of the annex). I remember just sitting outside, watching it roam around and eat a few nibbles from my hand. Never did we question where this gift came from or why my parents decided to get us a lamb as a pet. We simply enjoyed it.

Early one morning, I awoke to a very loud noise of someone crying… no, it was almost like a child’s scream. I jumped out of bed, scared to death and the screaming/crying noise would not go away. I ran out of the house, still in my pajamas, and followed the horrific sounds as they were coming from the back garden. As I approached, I knew something was terribly wrong. There were men with beards standing around the back faucet, where we had a small concrete basin for washing off yard dirt or larger, messy chores.

One of the men saw me staring with eyes as large as saucers at the scene. He screamed at our cook “Get her out of here!” as I started to scream and cry. When the man had turned around to see me, I saw what had been making the noise. It was our beloved lamb. There was blood all over the place – the wash basin, the ground and on the two men who had done the sacrifice. In the middle was our lamb with it’s neck sliced open. Blood had covered a part of its body as well. I realized then that it was a lamb my parents had bought for Eid Al-Adha (Eid of the Sacrifice) which all Muslims celebrate with a sacrifice of a lamb 70 days after the end of Ramadan (annual season of fasting) and after sighting of a new moon according to a Lunar Calendar. Never had I given it any thought of the lamb that was to be sacrificed for our party meal.

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This is something still practiced all around the world by Muslims. Eid Al-Adha is the festival to remember Abraham’s obedience to God to sacrifice his son (we won’t argue which son it is right now…). It is a celebration that allows families to come together and give thanks to Allah. My parents still pay for a lamb to be sacrificed in Pakistan and the meat to be distributed to charity.

In the book of Revelation 5:6, there is a passage that says that “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” As we discussed what it must have looked like to have a lamb slain, I thought back to the bloody scene I witnessed.

We don’t like to think of the blood or the guts. We like things to be sanitary. We get our meat nicely packaged at the grocery store. Our streets are clean, our news is clean, our water comes out of the faucet clear, our clothes are clean and we have hand sanitizers in every location. It’s not considered polite to discuss the gory details of any event, especially dealing with blood.

I think that’s one of the things I have noticed most about living in the United States. While we lived in a nice home in Pakistan, we weren’t always guaranteed clean water out of the faucet. I remember being quite upset several times when I turned on the faucet for my bath and the water ran brown.

Our treatment of Jesus’s sacrifice should not be sanitized. We need to accept the fact that it was a bloody mess. That he suffered and he felt every bit of the pain on the Cross. As we look at Good Friday as the day that commemorates Jesus on the Cross, we need to remember that He was the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8 and 1 Peter 1:20). Our Lord gave up every drop of blood for us. The least we can do is to acknowledge His sacrifice for us in the way it happened… not as a sanitized version of the cross, but a Cross full of God’s glory and His willingness to provide for us a spotless, sinless lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Amen.

 

 

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Forgotten Art of Storytelling

f52160e9d05b76e7b8e7ec21206f46bdLet me tell you a story~ A handsome Rajah had a beautiful garden in which he planted fruit trees of all kinds. He hired gardeners to take care of each section and in a land that suffered from droughts, the Rajah’s garden was like a lush tropical paradise. There were benches where one could sit in the cool shade of the fig tree and many tree branches that bent down due to their heavy burden of fruit.

A pair of parrots happened to fly past this oasis and decided to perch upon the garden’s thick stone wall. As they talked to one another about the beautiful garden, the husband parrot’s mouth was watering as he looked at the beautiful mangoes on the trees. His wife, seeing him eye the fruit sang a song of warning to him “totaya, munmotaya tu rajah bagh na ja. Rajah bagh asah he, dainda payan la [parrot, parrot, don’t go to the Rajah’s garden. Rajah’s garden is like this, they will hang you].” They thought about the risk and flew away, however, desire got the best of them. The very next morning, driven by hunger and the aroma of the many fruit trees in the garden, they decided to approach again. They were quiet this time, but went closer to the trees. He looks at his wife who sings the warning to him again and this time, he sings back “totayee, munmotayee, main rajah bagh main jaoonga or aam laykay ahoon ga” [my sweet girl (parrot), I will go to the Rajah’s garden and will bring you back some mangoes]. He immediately flew and collected the ripest fruits. Later that afternoon, as they were sitting on the wall, enjoying their bounty, the servants came to collect the fruit. The Rajah desired to have the choicest mangoes. The servants panicked when they only saw green mangoes. As they looked from tree to tree, they spotted the parrots eating the fruit. They ran to tell the Rajah what happened.

The Rahah was outraged! He told the servants to immediately place a net and catch the offender. He was so angry that he said he would eat the bird alive. They caught the parrot quickly for he was still sitting there blissfully, enjoying his stolen fruit. They put the parrot into a dish and served it to the Rajah. The Rajah laughed as he ate the squawking parrot! The Rajah immediately has indigestion and the parrot seems to be flying in his stomach, still alive. The Rajah is indignant! He tells his servants that he wants the bird dead now and he asks them to wait with guns and daggers until the parrot comes out the other end.

The parrot was moving so much, that he came out quickly and as he emerged from the Rajah’s behind, the servants shot the Rajah in the rear. The parrot flew away. The Rajah sees that maybe the parrot was too clever for all of them and so he decides to punish his servants for not taking better care of the garden and of the outcome. The Rajah yells out to the flying parrot “Magical and clever parrot. Come and be in my court for you are wise and should counsel me in my kingdom.” The parrot, his wife, and their children come and live at the court where the parrot serves as the Rajah’s Vizier for years and years.

[old tale told by my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, to me and now, to our children – originates from Bannu, Tribal area of west Pakistan]

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

 

It’s not unusual to find my father at a party or gathering with a story ready to go. He is a wonderful storyteller and knows how to weave a fantastic story together. The most forgettable events can turn into a beautiful story in his hands. When my sisters and I were little, he used to tell us stories to charm us into eating, sleeping or even tidying up the house. He still has a story at hand for his grandchildren and even as teenagers, they find them as fascinating as I did.

I get my love for talking and telling stories from my dad. However, I do not know poetry from heart and I also mess up the details or endings. I watched an “I Love Lucy” episode once where Lucy messed up a humorous story’s punchline – I feel like that sometimes. Still, I think there is a value in telling a story.

In the United States, we find that we are given facts, statistics, and even small infomercials at times about all aspects of our lives – from work to family, from personal hygiene to what to eat. With the advent of Ted Talks on YouTube, 15-18 minutes seems to be all you need to get a message across to someone. Someone sitting down to tell a story doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence.

Sharing information through a story is an ancient way to communicate. Walls and barriers seem to be relaxed when someone says “Let me tell you a story…” We seem to visibly relax and ease into a conversation. It hearkens back  to settling into our comfortable pillow and blankets for a bedtime story. It puts us at ease.

It was no surprise to me when I read that Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus used the most parables. Since Matthew wrote the book for the Jewish audience, he knew the heritage and history of sharing the word of God through a story. They were used to telling stories and passing them down through the generations. The same feeling of sitting down, relaxing and settling into a story was what Jesus was doing to the large crowds that gathered to listen to him. This is still a wonderful way to not just learn the Gospels but also to communicate and share them with people from other cultures. There is always a point to the story, key players (usually a good and evil) and also a desired behavior or outcome. The stories are interwoven beautifully and they capture our imagination.

A good story is one that draws the receiver in, makes them listen, allows them to learn and think or reflect on the teaching. Stories are softened lectures. They make a point that the reader has to think about and they may not even understand what the story was about right away. There are many layers to the story that allows us to ponder and unfold at a later time.

One of the most important thing we can do is to share our own personal story with others. You can simply start with how you were as a child, or how you met your spouse or how your parents met. Those are wonderful things to pass on to the future generations and shared with elaborate details. We have done this with our children and even drove them to the place where my husband and I met. We have shown them the place where we got married and had our first home. It’s important to set down your traditions, roots and stories so that the next generation has something to hold on to.

Just as I shared the strange tale of the parrots with my children, a story can become a link to the past, to traditions and culture. It is a legacy you give to your children. It is a special gift that can be passed on to their own family and if it is told with passion and emotion, it’s something they will think about as adults. As a Christian, it is a legacy of the way God has weaved your life together and has shown you and your family His blessings. For those who believe, this can be a powerful way to witness to others and to show God’s love to others.

So the next time someone asks about your faith or about what you believe, instead of giving them a lecture or sharing the latest statistics, allow them to relax and settle into a story of something Christ told in His parables or how those parables have related to your own life story. It will become as a memorable event and will also allow you to share your background, upbringing, family, culture or traditions and connect in a deeper way.

Bringing LIFE to Work

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The Coca Cola Company published an article about what “Work/Life Balance” might mean today. There is a shifting trend going on with Millennials (those born between 1982 & 2004). The way work is viewed varies from generation to generation. With the advent of technology, those lines are blurred even more. Just last night, before going to bed, I had a meeting request from someone – there are no real set office hours anymore. People can send meeting requests, texts, e-mails when on vacation, on the weekends or in my case, at night before bed.

This is what gets the younger generation up in arms. If I am working at night on a project, or am logging on to do work-related  stuff, then why can’t I take an extra long lunch or come in a bit later in the morning (after all, I was working on your project)? When the traditionalists see office hours as 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, it’s a valid argument. Work is being done at different times of the day – so why shouldn’t there be flexibility during the 9 to 5 hours?

For those of us who have heard the term “Work/Life Balance” for at least a few decades now, still scratch our heads to see how it actually gets balanced out. For me, personally, it means making sure I am there when I need to be and everything in my personal life takes a back seat. That is NOT the case today. If there is flexibility in the time that you can do your work (and I am talking mainly of a desk job, with a computer that can be accessed from anywhere) then you should be able to do work at 3:00 am if you want to and take off from the office for a 3:00 pm Parent-Teacher conference.

PERCEPTIONS

Why is there such resistance to this flexible time notion? Doesn’t it mean that employees could possibly be working more if they are logging on at all hours of the day? According to the Coca Cola article, it’s about priorities and a seeming lack of respect. “I gotta leave” is the comment and there is no request “Hey, could I schedule an afternoon appointment with my child’s teacher or with my chiropractor or could I take a golf lesson?” Many of the Boomer generation did these things on their own time, especially the exercise or golf lesson part. To even think of doing something like that during the workday is unimaginable.

The bottom line is productivity. If Millennials are focused on the outcome of the project, they don’t care how many hours are spent on it – even if they are working into the night. In fact, many of the Millennials I have spoken to are more productive at night, actually preferring the peace and quiet instead of the morning hours when everyone is showing up to the office. The implication here is to take another look at how we view work.

WORK

We were made to work.In Genesis 2:15, God gave Adam a garden to work – even in a perfect setting, he was given something to do. After the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Adam was still going to work, except that it was going to require the sweat of his brow. WORK is not a dirty, four-letter word (okay, so it IS a four-letter word, but you know what I mean). It is something that gives both men and women a feeling of accomplishment and also for some, it is their identity. It is something that is a blessing on us that we are able to use the gifts to produce or make something.

If we look at work in this manner, it is appropriate to conclude that if the end-result is what’s desired, then the hours you spend upon it shouldn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times at the workplace I have found people chatting it up in the break room, the smoke area outside or by the coffee machine. How many people linger on after meetings for 10-15 minutes, catching up on the weekend or the ball game? There is time being wasted at the office but no one seems to mind, as long as you show up. If someone is accessible and is working from home, then what’s the problem?

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image from Forbes.com – liz ryan

Social media also blurs the lines between work and personal life. Millennials have grown up with social media and are often the first to know details about a new hire. This gives insight to how they wish to work. It is next to impossible to block out your personal life and not bring it to work, especially if there are big things going on that impact your work. The idea to have a workplace that accepts the fact that you have a vibrant life outside of work, that you CAN bring your laptop to the coffee shop and work there as well as the office, to know that when there is an important meeting, you will be present – but when there isn’t a mandate to be at the office, you might go and do some volunteer work… all those might be the new way to see how the office day might be changing.

In addition, work space has also changed. People don’t need large offices, or even desks. Many are choosing to share space where they plug in their computer and get to work. This is a generation that has grown up on the soccer and sports field. They are used to working in teams. They are okay with not having a corner office.

By taking a fresh look at the use of time during the weekday, we can actually invigorate the work day. The re-defined work day can actually go to after hours, into the night and even past midnight. Creativity and productivity don’t have to be limited to the office area and to the desk or cubicle. Instead of separating out our life from work, we can bring new approaches, new ideas and yes, life to work.