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Annie’s Journal by Annie Warner Donnelly

International Correspondent for the North Simcoe Springwater

A tractor arrived today. It’s plowing the field where just last week men, with large machete-like knives, were cutting maize stalks off at ground level. This was step one in harvesting this year’s first crop. It wasn’t an easy step because other plants had grown together with the maize. The tractor is plowing everything under now.

Helena Gambarage, known in her culture as Mama Robert (so named in recognition of her first born-child, a son named Robert) is the matriarch of the family on whose property I live. She is 72 years old as she takes part in the current harvest.

As the men cut down stalk after stalk, they threw them into piles scattered across the field. You get a sense of this in the picture of Mama Robert in the middle of such a pile. Just behind her are the ears of maize she broke off the stalks and husked; she carried them back to her home.

Some stalks were burned in the field. The fires were carefully tended; there isn’t a fire department here.

Some stalks were thrown into the centre gully the rains have created in the road that borders this property. I watched the first cows who discovered this banquet race each other into its midst.

In the second picture you will see the results of a machine that arrived on the back of a motorcycle. It’s amazing what folks carry on the back of motorcycles here!

The maize ears were placed in the machine’s hopper which quickly spit the cobs out in one direction and the kernels out in another. Once the kernels are dried, they will be milled into flour. The flour will be used to make a delicious porridge called uji (oo-gee). A more solid version, similar to polenta, is called ugali (oo-gal-ee). Ugali is considered Tanzania’s national dish. I eat it often here!

The rain came not long after the second picture was taken. Mama Robert, attuned to the changes in weather here, had all the kernels safely stored until the next sunny day when they will be spread out to dry.

The way Mama Robert lives her life is an inspiration to me. She is the first one up in the morning often while it is still dark. One morning I was up that early too and through the crack between my door and its frame, I could see a fire in the yard. Mama Robert was burning the crowd of ants who were determined to gain entry to my home. How she knew that was happening in the dark is a mystery to me!

We still struggle to communicate with words, but we absolutely speak the universal language of love – that’s the third picture. Her husband died in 2021 and all the love she shared with him she now shares with others.  I’m grateful she shares her love with me.

God is love. Let’s remember that His love can change the world if only we will let it. Amen.

 

Rosie’s Devotions by Rosemary Hagedorn

Unsung Heroes

Feb. 11, 2024 – We remember the bad times, the bad news, and the bad people who have affected our lives by what they have done. Every day, television and newspapers scream out tragedies, horrific devastation, and suffering. Our minds are automatically drawn to such events.

But what about the good times, the good news, and the good people who have affected our lives and the lives of others by their good deeds and actions — the unsung heroes whom we don’t hear about — people who changed the world for good?

Let us think, for example, about the fire fighters, the search and rescue personnel, and the police, the heroic men and women who risk and sometimes sacrifice their lives, so that we can live in safety and peace.

After the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, making it illegal to assist black slaves escaping to their freedom, a secret network of black and white abolitionists helped African-Americans escape from enslavement in the American south to free northern states or to Canada. Hundreds of people risked their lives and made tremendous sacrifices as genuine heroes of what became known as the Underground Railroad, the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America, which brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to freedom.

The four-day Battle of Vimy Ridge in the First World War helped to define Canada as an independent country, rather than a British colony. The 97,184 brave soldiers of all four divisions of the Canadian Corps, which fought together for the first time, suffered 10,602 casualties — 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded — but their heroic sacrifice marked a significant Allied advance in the war, hastening its end.

There are many other people who have sacrificed themselves in order to bring about much-needed changes in this world. Their sacrifices, though, are nothing compared to the greatest sacrifice of all time: God the Father sacrificed His Son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the whole world.

For all of us.

For you and me.

To receive the forgiveness that He died to purchase for us, all we have to do is to believe. “But my faith isn’t strong enough,” you say. The Bible says:

Romans 10:9-10 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (NIV 2011)

Let’s make sure that the praises of our risen Hero are sung tomorrow!

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for moving within the hearts of unsung heroes. Continue to move within each and every one of us so that we may give compassion to those who need compassion, bring peace to those who are in turmoil, render aid to those in need, and share the good news of forgiveness and eternal life that You offer as a free gift to all people. Amen.

 

MENTAL HEALTH

Worrying What Others Think

Feb. 11, 2024 – Caring too much what others think of you is a common experience for many. It is natural, though not always healthy, to desire validation and approval from others. When this concern becomes excessive, it can negatively impact or wellbeing and hinder our personal growth.

We are social beings, but when we prioritize external validation over our own authenticity and wellbeing, it can create a significant emotional burden. One of the main problems with caring excessively is that it can lead to a lack of self-confidence. Our value becomes contingent on the opinions of others. This can create a cycle of anxiety and fears about not meeting other’s expectations.

This kind of worry limits our ability to express our self authentically. We may find ourselves conforming to societal norms or the expectations of others, rather than expressing our true feelings, thoughts, and desires. This can stifle creativity, and the ability to pursue our genuine passions.

Worrying what others think and needing external validation can lead to emotional exhaustion. It can be draining, both mentally and emotionally. It can use up a lot of mental energy and result in a constant state of apprehension about how we are perceived by others.

On a deeper level, excessive concern about others’ opinions can hinder our personal growth and fulfillment. It can prevent us from embracing our individuality, taking risks, or pursuing our goals. This can cause us to miss out on opportunities for self-discovery and meaningful connections.

The way to address this tendency to care to much what others think is to cultivate self-awareness. By tuning in to our own values, aspirations, and strengths we can develop a stronger sense of self-assurance and reduce the influence of external opinions.

Practicing self-compassion is also important. Learning to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding, especially in the face of disapproval and criticism can build more resilience and a more balanced perspective of external judgments.

Another essential strategy is to set healthy boundaries. Recognizing what matters most to us and aligning our actions with our values can reduce the impact of the opinions of others. Seeking out supportive and accepting people can provide a valuable framework leading to a healthier approach to social validation.

Freeing ourselves from the excessive concern about the opinions of others allows us to embrace our individuality, pursue our aspirations with confidence, and develop more genuine and fulfilling relationships. It is realizing that our worth is not determined by the opinions of others, but by our own self-perception and authenticity.

Remember, you are the only one just like you that has ever walked this earth, and there will never be another just like you. Developing your own consciousness is important, as we are all part of the human family. It is more challenging in the age of social media, fake news and conspiracy theories, but also more important than ever.

We each have the ability to grow in wisdom. When you find your own true, wise voice, do not be afraid to use it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. Visit www.gwen.ca.

 

Self-Help Strategies for Depression

Feb. 4, 2024 – Dealing with depression can be very challenging. It is important to seek professional help. A doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medication and a registered psychologist can provide therapy. We know that medication and therapy can work better than either one alone.

Some do not want to take medication. Others have been on many different ones, with no substantial improvement. Yes, we have the doctor and the therapist. There is a third person who can make a tremendous difference. That is the depressed individual.

There are things they can do to manage the depressive symptoms. Engaging in physical activity can have a positive impact on mood. Even a brief walk or light stretching can help. Getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is better than crawling into bed or focusing on how bad you feel.

It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol or drug use can support your overall wellbeing.  Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and improve your mood.

Build a support system. Connecting with friends, family or support groups can be a source of encouragement and understanding. Challenge negative thoughts. Often it is one’s own pattern of negative thinking that contributes to depression.

Educate yourself. Learning about depression and understanding its mechanisms can help you feel more in control and less alone in your struggle. There is a wealth of information on the internet.

Set goals for the suggestions above. Follow through, even if you do not feel like it. If your car will not run and you want to use it, if you do not do the maintenance, it will never run. Think of your body/mind this way. If you do nothing, nothing will improve.

Yes, I know it can be hard to make the effort. I think of depression like hypothermia. You walk through the snow and become exhausted. You just want a rest from all the struggle and would like to just lie down in the snow and sleep. You cannot do this, hoping someone will come along and rescue you. You must keep going.

Self-help strategies are beneficial, but it is crucial to seek the guidance of a mental health professional. Therapy and medication, if necessary, can be important components of treatment. Even if you do both, it is still important to utilize the self-help strategies. If the doctor, the therapist, and you do all you can, there is a better chance of success.

Be patient with yourself while navigating this challenging time. You do not have to go through this alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support. We genuinely care.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

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