The Spirit’s Fruit of Peace

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

The common mantra is peace is found within us. Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Peace is a state of being word, but is it something we can actualize within ourselves through meditation, positive thinking, philanthropy, or any other self- produced action or thought we may engage in? What is the source of the fruit of peace and how do we develop it?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5: 22-23

What is Peace?

Peace, we all want it.

There is no peace in some homes. A wife, subject to domestic violence, longs for peace in her home, peace where her husband doesn’t beat her anymore. A child aches for peace where mother and father don’t fight. A mother wishes her toddlers would give her some peace and quiet. Could she just have the house to herself for a day, or go out with girlfriends for coffee? All of us want peace.

Humankind clamours for world peace. We yearn for “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.” The UN is our biggest global peace agency. Organizations and committees are formed to develop peace talks and strategies so hopefully, someday we will have peace. Recently, world leaders brokered a peaceful economic normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but is that peace?

Peace begins at home, in the heart. The Hebrew word “Shalom” means peace. Derivatives of “Shalom” are “Salaam”, used by Christians in East Asia and “As salaam u-alaikum” used by Muslims throughout the world. Paul started his letters with words of “Grace and Peace”. What did Paul’s greetings of peace mean?

Reconciliation between man and God is the ultimate peace we can have. Without reconciliation with God, there can be no peace. We might have a peaceful world, a peaceful family, a peaceful life, but whether we have peace, or no peace, is determined by the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.

Where Does Peace Come From?

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) So, not only is Jesus the real Joy-giver, he is also our Peace-giver. Without the Prince of Peace, there is no peace.  Jesus made peace for us between God and mankind through his blood. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20)

First, we need to be reconciled to God, then we will have inner peace. That folks is the beginning place for peace.

What Peace Isn’t

Some of us try to work out our salvation through good deeds. We bypass Jesus and believe our good works are going to get us to heaven. I live in a country where this belief is dominate in the religion. And all I see is strife. When we strive for a foot into heaven, we open the door to competitiveness, comparison, to jealousy, to strife, contention, and religious self-righteousness. Better that we simply rest in the finished work of Christ. It puts all men on equal ground, therefore, there is no striving because he completed it for us. In Christ we don’t have to fight anymore because we rest in him for our salvation.

What Does Peace Look Like?

At Peace with Troubles: People who have inner peace because of the finished work of Christ, are not troubled or afraid. That doesn’t mean we don’t have troubles, or we don’t ever worry or are afraid. We are human, but the general direction of our heart is at peace because we trust God for his protection and provisions for now and all eternity. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the word. (John 16:23)

All Are Respected and Equal: There is no enmity since Jesus “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” So we don’t have to divide ourselves into male vs. female, blacks vs. whites, Catholics vs. Protestants, etc. We are all equal in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t say we don’t recognize difference, but those differences do not divide us. We are united in Christ.

Live Peacefully With All Men: Because we have inner peace, we “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us” (Luke 6: 27-28). We stand as peacemakers, seeking justice for those who are oppressed, downtrodden and rejected in society.

Inner peace doesn’t say that wars will end, in fact they will increase as we near the end of the age. But we can remain calm amid the storm. That is the peace that passes all understanding, a peace that the world doesn’t have.

What does peace look to you?

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The Fruit of Joy

“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

What is joy? One definition says it is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”, and that may be true, but perhaps this definition more closely defines happiness. Happiness and joy are both feelings and are often confused for each other. But they are two quite different feelings. To define joy and happiness, it is best to look at what causes them. Happiness is the result of externals, circumstances, events, people, places, and things. These things make us happy. But what causes joy? The source of joy is also external, but it resides deep within us. When we have joy, it springs from the core of our being, our soul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

What is the Source of Joy?

Theopedia states joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment and confidence and hope.” This sounds more like a spiritual quality rather than something we acquire from external entities or situations. It also sounds like it is long-lasting if not eternal. It is not a happy marriage, the birth of a child, a good job – those things make us happy, not necessarily joyful. There are people who have all these things and have no joy.

So where does joy come from? Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The source of joy is rooted in the vine. Joy is abiding in the vine. When we are rooted to the vine, we are confident that life will be fine regardless of circumstances. We can even have joy amid struggles and troubles because we know that God is in control, everything about our lives is derived from the vine. Jesus is the “the real joy-giver”.

How Do I Get Joy?

How do we get to know someone? We spend time with them, talk to them. Communication is so important in building relationships, getting to know the other person. So, if joy comes from knowing Jesus who is the joy-giver, then we need to spend time getting to know him. That means reading the Bible, pouring over the Gospels. It means praying to the Father and it means meditating, spending quiet times with God.

Joy comes from a right relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. It is Jesus that gives us the right to be called children of God. Joy comes from believing that Jesus came to this earth to live and die and rise again for the forgiveness of sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us and that is what makes for a close relationship with the Father and living in joy.

What Does the Fruit of Joy Look Like?

Love is an action word. I can say I love you, but I can’t say I joy you. Joy is a state of being. It is something we have or don’t have. But joy has its expression in how we live our lives before God and before men.

Rick Warren described joy thus, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in ever situation.”

Have you ever met one of these joyful people? This is that someone who can look into the face of adversity and say, “I know God is in control and whatever happens, he cares for me.” That’s what joy looks like.

The joyful person isn’t always happy, they might even have moments of despair and depression. David certainly had his moments, but he often rebounded from the depths with an “I praise God” ending to his Psalm.

Joy finds its expression in love – to live for others rather than self. Joy says, “I will do my best under ever circumstance.” Joy gives occasion for generosity.

Joy can look like thankfulness, confidence, assurance, generosity, love for others and doing the best we know how.

How does the Fruit of Joy look to you?

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The Fruit of Love by Helen Khan

man and woman pose on a cross monument

The love I want to talk about today isn’t the 1955 film Love is a Many Splendored Thing kind, although it is needed in every relationship. And pure love is certainly multi-splendored. Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit. But to pull this analogy further, a tree can only produce a certain kind of fruit. The fruit doesn’t determine the tree, but the tree determines the fruit it bears.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

If that be true, the tree determines the fruit, what tree produces love?

Love is From God

We cannot love outside of God’s realm. We can only love because he first loved us. If he hadn’t shown us his love, we would be incapable of love. So for those outside of Christ, true agape love is impossible. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

There we have it folks, unless we are rooted in Christ, we cannot bear fruit. We can’t bear the fruit of love. If you are fruitless, then maybe you want to anchor your branches in the vine who is Christ Jesus.

Now, none of us are perfect and we do have our bad days when not much fruit is falling from our branches. And bearing fruit takes time. A small tree (even one anchored in Christ) takes time to mature, blossom and produce fruit. Weak, immature branches cannot bear the weight of heavy fruit. It is the desire to bear fruit for God that is important. I am not saying because I don’t see love in your life today, you are not in Christ. I leave this for your self-examination.

Love, especially agape love is indeed a many splendored thing. There are so many facets to love that flows from God and channels through us. So what does the fruit of love look like?

Love for God

I heard a lady on a Christian program say that the fruit of love was what we directed towards other people. Somehow she missed saying that this fruit is also directed to God, maybe foremostly directed towards him. I believe that you can’t love without loving God first.

To love God is to know him. Without knowing him, how can you love him? To love God is to put him first. He is top priority above all else. We are commanded to love him with all our soul, mind and strength. Of course our love for him is seen in how we love others, but he is first. To love God is to praise him, thank him, fall down and worship him. And to love him is to desire him as the “deer pants for the waters, so our soul pants after him, our souls thirst for Him”, to paraphrase the Psalmist. We will spend time with him in prayer, reading His Word, communing with him. And we will obey him.

Love for Self

Proverbs 19: 8 tells us those who acquire wisdom love themselves. Where does wisdom come from? From God. The Psalmist in Psalm 139: 14 calls us to give thanks to God because we are wonderfully made, and for those who know God’s love, who love God have learned from him that we are beautiful, and our soul is aware of it. There is a love for self that is humble and rooted in God and that love is needed for a believer to bear much fruit.

Why did I put love for self before other loves? I believe that we can’t love others without loving ourselves first. When we are caught up in low-self-esteem and negative thoughts, turning our thoughts inward to the self, it is difficult to bear the fruit of love.

Love for the Church

A love relationship with the Father means we love our siblings, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not always agree, we might not always like them, but we are to love them. Constantly throughout scriptures, we are admonished to love one another. This is a direct commandment to love those in the church.

Love for Non-believers

Nor are we to neglect love for outsiders. Some believers withhold their friendship and love for non-believers, but in God’s kingdom there is no place for that. I believe a good summary of how we should treat non-believers is found in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

So how are we to treat non-believers? With love, do good to them, lend to them, show kindness and mercy. It is okay to be friends with non-believers, just don’t conform to them – be in the world but not part of the world.

How splendid is this love that God calls us to bear! It is multi-splendored. This is the first fruit that is mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23 and if we bear this fruit, the others will follow. I encourage you to love, first the Father and then yourself and others.

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Featured Character: Mama from Shrouds Over Eden

Mama is an important figure in the lives of some of the ladies in Helen Khan’s book, Shrouds Over Eden. We wanted to talk to Mama firsthand to learn more about her and the lives she impacts.

When we asked her to join us today, she graciously agreed to come and share with us why she is so passionately involved with broken-hearted women. So, without further ado, here is Mama.

Me

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you and where do you live?

Mama

What can I say about myself? You asked my age, well, I’m a grandmother, so old enough. I live in the suburbs just across the street from Baraka Colony. It’s a nice home, services us well, especially since we have so many people coming and going through our doors all the time. Sometimes, people like to stay overnight, especially if they haven’t slept for awhile. Many say it is very peaceful in our home and it helps them sleep better than even in their own homes.

Me

Do you have any siblings? Do you have children?

Mama

I have four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, all younger than me. And we have 11 grandchildren.

Me

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Mama

The most important person in my life is my husband. He is my best friend. I prefer to be with him than apart. You could say he is my hero. I have a lot of respect for him. My mother was my role model, but my husband is my hero.

Me

How do you measure success? Is it money, career, husband, children, happiness? What is it?

Mama

For many people money or possessions define success. And although money is important, after all, we all have bills to pay, it isn’t what makes a person successful. Success for me is having well adjusted children who are happy being who they are and what they do. It is being happily married to the man in my life. Success is making people happy; using what God has blessed me with to bless others. Those are some of the things that define success to me.

Me

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Mama

Sometimes I am not humble enough or kind enough. I catch myself being proud or unkind and I don’t like that.

Me

What is your philosophy of life?

Mama

You can call it philosophy or my motto for living, but it is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. And my neighbour is very inclusive, it pretty much covers everyone regardless of who they are or believe.

Me

What do you think women need most?

Mama

Love, we need to be loved for who we are. And we need to be hugged. I meet so many hurting ladies who have aching backs and shoulders. But if I put my arms around them and hug them, tension goes out of their bodies, they relax, and the aches and pains go away, at least for awhile. Then they need to be hugged again.

Me

I understand, from reading Shrouds Over Eden, you spend a lot of time with women in your area. So, I’m going to assume you know why misogyny is so prominent in Pakistan. Can we blame religion or tradition for how women are treated in Pakistan?

Mama

Religion does play a factor, and perhaps erroneously so because much of what is done for religion is really tradition and no one knows why. For example, if you ask someone why women in Pakistan take the uncomfortable and backbreaking position of riding bikes aside, you may get the answer, “Well it’s Islamic.” The truth is that many women whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Sikh ride side-saddle when they are the passenger. And this happens throughout Asia, not just Pakistan. If we look at the history of riding side-saddle, it became taboo to ride that way around the 14th century when Princess Anne of Bohemia rode off to marry King Richard II. Advisors told her she could not ride astride, she had to ride side-saddle as it was improper for her to do otherwise. Then along came Queen Victoria who entrenched the tradition. India, which included Pakistan, was a British colony. So, we can thank Queen Victoria and colonialism, not Islam, for the danger and discomfort women face when they ride aside (side-saddle). Often traditions are given religious sanction, but that is not necessarily their root.

The other thing we can look at is the dowry system. This is a Hindu tradition that carries over into Muslim and Christian traditions. Although the Bible doesn’t mention what should be given to the bride or the groom. In Islam there is what is called mahr where the groom gives, maybe, a monetary or land amount to his bride. The dowry system is another case where tradition prevails.

Me

From Shrouds Over Eden, I understand that Sonu was a frequent visitor to you home. Can you share one or two things about her?

Mama

Sonu frequently visited our house. She, like many others around lived in a home where abuse took place. Sonu would often come over, just for cookies and lemonade and would sit on the veranda, quietly. She didn’t talk much as a child. She was a lovely child that needed lots of love and validation. Validation I think is the key world here. Many of the girls and women I meet need to be validated. They need to be told they are worthy of love and respect. Then she married and that marriage was full of violence. But God led her into a garden where she met Lamb. It was his unconditional love and treatment of women that she clung to and that is what helped her through difficult times.

Me

Do you think the garden was real?

Mama

There are many who think it was fictional. But I think it was real. Why? Because of what she learned in the garden. Lamb lived upon the earth many years ago and the things that Sonu learned are part of history. Also, after her experiences in the garden, she had an inner strength that helped her live life despite her hard circumstances. You don’t do that based on fiction. It had to be real.

Me

And my last question, is a fun question. What is your favourite colour?

Mama

I like creams, browns, and greens. I think that green, soft, muted greens are my favourite. And I look good in green. Most people here love bright colours, but I like softer colours.

Me

Thank you, Mama, for taking time out of your day to be interviewed. Having that insight into the lives of broken-hearted women has helped me, and I am sure our audience, have a better understanding of what some women go through every day. For our readers who want to read Mama’s story, you can purchase Shrouds Over Eden in various outlets worldwide.

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Is Righteous Hatred an Oxymoron? by Helen Khan

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24

I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?

Protective Love

We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.

The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.

Is it Okay to Hate?

And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.

We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.

So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.

When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?

Fearful Self-Reflection

The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.

The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.

All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.

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I Can’t Even Count That High!

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139: 17-18

Scientists have no concise number of thoughts a person thinks about in a day. Some will say we think about 12,000 thoughts, most of them useless. Other researchers estimate we think up to 80,000 thoughts per day, again, much of that useless thinking too. But even if we go for the lowest number, thousands of thoughts a day is a good number. Depending on what we are thinking, that is. We can have negative or positive thoughts, and then there are precious thoughts.

Negative Thoughts

We all have negative thoughts from time to time. “I didn’t study hard enough, I’m going to fail this exam,” you might say before walking into the examination room. Or “She doesn’t really like me, she just pretends. I’m not her type.” Negative thoughts.

Sometimes these negative thoughts overwhelm us. They come from all around us. For example, when a loved one, be it a parent or spouse condemns us, puts us down or even abuses us, we start seeing ourselves that way. If we are called stupid, then stupid we become! At least in our minds. Maybe what that person said is true? We start to maximise the negative and minimise the positive. Even if we once thought we had wonderful attributes, they now are subdued, pushed underground.

If we are a child or woman subjected to violence, we develop negative thoughts. Sometimes though, life can be good, but our negative thoughts come from within. And they don’t stop. They become like a run-on sentence, a replay that keeps repeating in our mind until the rut is entrenched in our mind. What happened once or twice now happens repeatedly in our minds. Negative thoughts. They don’t go away. Our thoughts become shrouds over reality.

Positive Thoughts

Positive thoughts can belong to the optimist, and the optimistic mind looks for happiness, health, and positive results in every situation. This optimistic person may have become so because of positive reinforcements in his or her life. Perhaps, there was an encouraging person in their life.

Once in awhile, life is difficult, but for the most part, a person with positive thoughts can look at the future with a smile and rejoice about today and tomorrow. They have made a different groove in their brain, grooves of positive thoughts. It isn’t that they don’t have problems, they do, they just handle them differently. Furthermore, they embrace the challenges of life.

Precious Thoughts

Precious thoughts don’t come from us originally. They come from a Source outside of us, even outside our realm. If we look at the verse above, it says that God’s thoughts towards us are precious, and more than the sands. How many thoughts are those?

Scientists have done an estimate by calculating the number of grains of sand in a teaspoon and then multiplying it by all the beaches and deserts in the world. The rough estimate is seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains. That is a number I cannot even comprehend. I might have been able to handle 80,000 thoughts but in the quintillions. Forget it! I can’t even count that high!

That is how many precious thoughts your Creator thinks about you. Whether you are a man or woman, boy or girl, you are treasured in his sight. So much so that he thinks about you all the time. Whether you are sleeping or awake, God is with you, watching over you, calling you his cherished child. That is how much you are worth to God Almighty.

Now if the God of the universe thinks about you that much, how does that help you move from negative thoughts to positive thoughts? Maybe what man has said about you is wrong? Could you be precious and worthy of love? Maybe you are a wonderful person after all? After all, God thinks precious thoughts about you.

Moving from Negative to Positive Thoughts

If we know the precious thoughts, is it now possible to move from negative thoughts to positive thoughts? It might be worth the try. You see, God says, we love because he first loved us. So maybe we can’t really love ourselves until we know that God loves us. Is that possible?

God isn’t like man. His love isn’t dependent on what others think of you, or what you think of yourself. He doesn’t ask that we be perfect and flawless when we come to him. He takes us just as we are. Why? Because he looks at our potential. He looks at how he formed us, not at what we have become or what we think of ourselves.

If you are abused and broken, come to him, and let him put his healing hand upon you and heal you. Let him love you so you can love yourself. If you have sinned and lived a miserable life, he can cleanse you and make you whole. After all, that is why Jesus came to earth, to reconcile us back to God. No matter what condition you are in, God’s thoughts towards you are precious. No matter what you think of yourself, negative or positive, God has precious thoughts towards you, quintillions of them.

If we know the love of God, can we learn to love ourselves? Can we look at the future with a smile when he turns ashes into beauty? You are loved and wanted by the Almighty, the One who has precious thoughts towards you.

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Are We Created by Design or by Accident?

You saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came into being. Psalm 139: 16

Our environment tells us we are just here. Parental abandonment tells us that we are unwanted. Some societies value sons over daughters. Perhaps we are made to believe that we are unwanted and unloved. Scientists say we live and die without purpose, maybe we are just a mass of cells and chemistry, nothing more. We exist but without love, without purpose and without happiness. In fact, life is miserable. Gloom fills our days and we are walking in the valley of darkness. We believe we are unloved, unwanted and without hope. Death may even be sweeter, so suicidal thoughts creep into our lives.

But what if all the above is a lie to rob you of your joy and hope of a fulfilled purpose in life?

There Wasn’t an Accident

Over the years you heard the whispers when people thought you weren’t listening. Or perhaps you have been told directly that you were an afterthought, or an unwanted child. Perhaps due to a violent twist of events, your mother was raped, and you were born nine months later. Or due to parental abandonment, you feel your life is a failure, you are to blame for your parent’s marriage problems. Or perhaps your parents are so consumed in their lives, you feel emotionally abandoned. You feel unloved and unwanted. Depression digs deep you wish you hadn’t been born.

But may I tell you another story?

Imagine an architect who designs a home. Mathematics and straight lines and curves, exact measurements are penned to paper so when it comes time to build, what has been conceptualised can be brought into existence at the construction site. A beautiful edifice evolves. I had the privilege to tour architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania. It is indeed a wonderous structure above a waterfall. Just to hear the water cascading downward is reason to live there.

But he didn’t do it without thought. There was a plan, a blueprint and then the construction material was brought to the site. Then the rubble of bricks, wood and stone took shape as the blueprint was followed and a work of art stood where once was barren ground. The structure was not an accident. It was constructed due to intent, for a purpose.

You Were Perfectly Made

God is your architect. He visualised you before you were even conceived. He saw your incomplete substance in his eyes and then he fashioned you in his mind. God perhaps didn’t use pen and paper for his blueprint, but he wrote it on his heart. His knowledge of us is intentional. His knowledge of us comes from sight, not hearsay. We are not an accident. We were planned and creatively designed by the Almighty. You were born just the way He wanted you to be born, the exact shape and size and with purpose. And in everything he does, love defines his actions and his finished masterpiece.

“That’s hard to believe,” you may say to me. “Look at me, I’m too fat or too skinny. I was born blind, without limbs, look at me, I’m a misfit,” you may yell at me.

You have looked in the mirror. Who can know you better than yourself? You have seen the imperfections. You cringe at what you see, and you believe the world joins the chorus. In fact, they are the ones that started it with their taunts and bullying. Our beauty culture demands perfection and we are not perfect. We try diets, exercise, cosmetics but we see the same body every time we look in the mirror. We become dejected and depressed. “If only I looked like a movie celebrity, I would look beautiful,” we lament.

What the world calls imperfect, God calls beautiful. His design, his blueprint comes with beauty and purpose. How can a man born without limbs have beauty? Yet when you hear Nick Vujucic’s story, it is there.

God looks at the heart of a man or woman, he is most interested in our inner being. Yes, he is concerned about our body too, but he has the whole picture of what we are all about, inside and out. He sees where people can’t see. This should bring comfort that we are whole beings who matter to him. He has no limitations to his love.

You Were Born for a Purpose

We were not born just to exist. While it is true that we live to die, we do not live a purposeless life just drifting through until we are buried never to be resurrected. Science may teach us so, but science doesn’t have all the answers. God does.

All of our days have been ordained. Ordained has two meanings: One is that we are appointed, invested, and/or anointed. All these words imply purpose or position behind the one who does it. For example, if we are appointed to a position, it is expected that we carry out certain functions, have a specific role. Human resources call it a job description. In the second instance, ordained means to decree, to order or command. For example, a nation may decree that certain laws must be followed. People are ordered to follow the laws of the land. Again, we see purpose for no law is given without a positive purpose to it.

And so, all our days have been ordered, or appointed. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Your work was cut out for you even before you were born, while it was only visualised in God’s mind.

“But what must I do,” you cry. “I don’t know my purpose in life. What is wanted of me? I don’t have direction.”

Jesus can answer those questions. When you “abide in Christ”, you will find joy, hope, self-worth, and purpose. God loves you and wants you.

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Featured Character of the Month: Guddi from Shrouds Over Eden

This month we are featuring Guddi, whose story appears in Shrouds Over Eden, a book for the broken hearted. Guddi has had to make some difficult decisions in her life. Here she is to share with us more about who she is.

Again, with me, is Alizeh Rasheed who has graciously agreed to act as our interpreter for this interview. And just for the record, the picture you will see in print is a younger Guddi as she says she no longer is as beautiful as she once was. I think she still has a striking personality. She has certainly aged gracefully. Okay, so let’s hear from Guddi.

Me

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you and where do you live? Do you own your own home, or do you rent?

Guddi

I am now close to 50 years old. I live in a village, District Jalandhar. I live with my husband and sister who is also my husband’s wife and three children, two sons and a daughter. The children are my sisters, I am not able to have children.

Me

It isn’t common for people in your country to have more than one wife. Could you please share why your husband is married to your sister?

Guddi

You’re right, it isn’t common. But in cases where a wife is childless and there is no one to inherit the property, then it is permissible for the husband to take a second wife. My husband was afraid that his relatives would steal the land from him if he didn’t have a son. So I suggested that he marry my younger sister. She is the one who has the children. But because I am the first wife, the children call me Mama.

Me

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Guddi

Those two boys that call me Mama. They are very important because it is they that will look after us in our old age.

Me

What is your greatest fear?

Guddi

That someday my husband and sister will no longer give me full respect as the first wife and I will lose our sons.

Me

How do you measure success? Would it be money, career, husband/wife, children, happiness, etc.?

Guddi

My husband has much land, he is a big farmer here and very successful. So, having good crops, land and sons to look after us in our old age is success for me.

Me

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Guddi

Perfect happiness would have been able to carry my own biological son. But fate was not with me. We tried everything to have a child. I visited our holiest temple, the Harmandir Sahib and I even went to Goindwal Sahib. It is a gurdwara that has 84 steps in it. On each step you recite Japji Sahib, that’s the divine word revealed to Guru Nanak. If you do all 84 steps your sins are forgiven, and you don’t have to go through so many reincarnations. But you can also pray for personal things, so I asked Satguru to give me a son. Even though I endured and did all 84 steps, I didn’t get a son. That’s when I decided my husband should marry my sister.

Me

Do you work outside the home? If so, what is your occupation?

Guddi

My sister is a teacher, but I stay home and look after the household and children.

Me

What did you eat for breakfast? Did you make it yourself? Do you wash your own dishes or do you have a maid to do those things for you?

Guddi

I had a paratha with yogurt and achar this morning for breakfast. For those that don’t know what that is, it’s a stuffed flat bread fried in a pan along with the achar which is a kind of spicy pickle. I make the meals, so I made breakfast for everyone. Also, we have a girl that comes in and washes dishes and cleans the floors and does the laundry.

Me

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Guddi

I wish Satguru would take away my barrenness. To be barren is to be cursed by God which means looked down upon in the village. Even though my sister’s boys call me Mama, when I walk in the village, I still feel that people look at me and gossip about me because I can’t have children.

Me

Sonu talks about you in the book Shrouds Over Eden. Where did you meet her?

Guddi

What an angel! She came to our village a few years back. She shared many things about this one she had met, called Lamb and how his compassion strengthened her and gave her courage. She shared about how he valued women. I wish I knew Lamb the way she does because then I would have asked him for a son. If I had a son, then I wouldn’t have asked my sister to marry my husband.

Me

Are you not happy?

Guddi

I am not complaining but sometimes I get depressed. It is not easy being one of two wives, even if I am the first wife.

Me

Well we have run out of time and we don’t have time for another question, except for this last one. It is a fun question. What is your favourite colour?

Guddi

I like bright colours, bright blues and greens.

Thank you Guddi for taking time out of your day to be interviewed. I’m sure it wasn’t easy sharing your story to a large audience. You did an excellent job; I feel I know you so much more. For our readers who want to read Guddi’s story, you can purchase Shrouds Over Eden at various outlets worldwide.

Click here to find out more about Shrouds Over Eden.

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There Are No Mistakes! All Are Wanted

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depth of the earth. Psalm 139: 15

When our friends’ first child was born, everyone knew about it. A baby boy had been born to the household! Joy and happiness abounded; sweets were distributed to relatives and friends far and wide. The news was out! A baby boy was born!

But it was a different story for the next child. We knew the wife was pregnant, but the due date came and went, and no birth announcement was made. We questioned when the due date was. Maybe she didn’t have it yet? Finally, we called to find out. Yes, a child had been born, but this time it was a girl. There was no rejoicing, no sweets distributed. Her birth was covered in shrouds of secrecy.

Perhaps you have seen this happen in your neighbourhood. Perhaps it has happened to you. You were that unwanted girl child. Or maybe you were just unwanted. You were an ‘afterthought’. Or you are the result of an unplanned pregnancy. Your parents hadn’t wanted any more children, or you were an ‘accident’. Maybe you have been abused because of who you are.

You feel unwanted and unloved. Maybe you curse the day you were born. Or you live your life in rebellion striking out violently at injustice served to you. Maybe you weep, hurt by thoughts of being an unwanted child.

Your Are No Accident

But you are no accident, you are wanted, and your birth should have been a celebration. The Psalmist says that you were not hidden from the Creator of the universe. As your Creator, he wove you together. Weaving takes planning, design, careful attention to detail. The ancient art of carpet weaving requires the artisan to dye the woolen yarn in rich colours, then painstakingly weave the carpet, a process that can take months. Some carpets are not dyed, rather the natural colours are made from different coloured wool, depending on the breed of sheep. These carpets take years to collect enough wool to make a small carpet. Weaving a carpet is no simple matter, it is carefully planned and designed, each design unique to a family or clan.

My husband and I have the luxury of visiting a carpet shop where antique and beautiful carpets are displayed and sold. We sit in wonderment at each unique and carefully designed masterpiece. And along with the display, the shopkeeper shares how each carpet is made, which tribe made which carpet and whether they used natural dyes or not. Each kind of carpet comes with its own creation story. And each carpet has its purpose.

You Have Purpose

Baloch carpets tell the story of wars and rivalry. Some carpets are designed to see if a man and women, if they marry will make a compatible couple. The man is given a piece of canvas as is the girl. Both weave a design into the canvas. At the end, the two pieces are sewn together and if the designs match, then the couple will have a good marriage. I don’t know what happens if each piece is quite different. That might be a different story.

Like the carpet, there is a purpose to your life.

Please consider the One who wove you together in your mother’s womb, that secret hiding place where you were designed and beautifully wrought. You are a creation story. Unique and beautiful in our own right. You were planned by the creator. You are both wanted and loved. He loves you and wants you and he created you with purpose.

Click Here to read Shrouds Over Eden by Helen Khan

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Handcrafted or Production Line Made: Which One Are You?

For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139: 13-14

Everyday thousands of girls are born, unwanted. In some countries like India and Pakistan, boys are the preferred gender. A man might divorce his wife because she bore him a son. Girls receive less or no education because of gender discrimination. The list of abuses against women is exhaustive. Many girls grow up wishing they were born boys for they know they would fare better as males. And it isn’t just in Asia or Africa, gender discrimination against females is a worldwide problem.

Many young people, men and women, grow up hating themselves and their bodies because they either feel unwanted or they do not like who they are. They look in the mirror and see only an ugly face staring back at them. Their image is often shaped by an ill-placed insult or demeaning statement by a friend or relative. Perhaps an aunt many years ago said to her chubby-cheeked niece, “My, aren’t you a chubby one!” Although the aunt had intended no harm, the little girl begins to think there is something wrong with her body. She is too fat. This is especially possible in a world that emphasises thinness. Women are supposed to be shaped a certain way, thinly, that is. Soon, the little girl is eating less and develops anorexia. This may seem extreme, but all very possible.

Or maybe you live in a country where there is a strong “beauty culture”. You compare your body and facial feature to the latest Bollywood or Hollywood beauty or fashion model. You fall short. Low self-worth sets in. You wish you had not been born, or if at least, if you could have been born in a different body, you are sure life would be better. You begin to berate yourself.

Now I am going to take you on a bit of a journey; to a grandmother knitting a sweater for her grandchild. Let’s say it’s her granddaughter. She either uses a pattern, chooses the colour carefully, perhaps in a lovely pastel pink because her little granddaughter loves pink. It’s her favourite colour. Or maybe the grandmother is an accomplished craftswoman and makes her own design, a detailed artwork of cables, purls, and knits. She sits in a comfortable chair and love is wrought with every click of the needles, ever stitch knit, love for her granddaughter. The creation is finally complete, and the grandmother wraps the sweater up and gifts it to her granddaughter. A beautiful creation is born swathed in love.

Let’s now look at how God’s design (that is you) happens. The Psalmist says, he was knit together in his mother’s womb. Take now the imagery above of the grandmother and replace it with God. That is how God makes you. He lovingly knits you together in your mother’s womb. Love and beauty poured into one creation. You.

Then the Psalmist goes on to say that he is fearfully and wonderfully made, God’s works are wonderful. You are wonderfully created by the Creator. And the love that was poured into designing you! Unfathomable!

If you feel unloved, unwanted, imperfect, if you despair at how you look, what your gender is, if you feel unworthy of love and attention, look to your Creator. Look to the love he poured into you. Look at his design. You might not be a fashion model, but you are beautiful, you are wonderful.

Click Here to read Shrouds Over Eden by Helen Khan

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