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Sunday, December 31, 2017

THE JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, OXFORD JOURNALS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, UK.

Reviewer: Miriam Jacob,

The Journal of Theological Studies, 

Oxford Journals,

Oxford University Press, UK.

04/01/2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

GODSMILES - OCEANS APART - by Angela Dugi



by Angela Dugi



Oceans Apart

I have a remarkable story to tell. It has shown me once again that I serve a God who arranges the impossible, surprises with the unexpected, and still performs the miraculous.

In July 2013, I received an odd friend request on Facebook. I really thought nothing of it and accepted the request only because she had two beautiful Bible names. I had no idea God was about to bless me with a precious gift from His gracious hand and blow the socks right off my flat feet.

Her name is Miriam Jacob, and she lives halfway around the world, which makes this story extraordinary. The Father had a divine and wonderful plan to introduce two of His daughters during a tumultuous time in my life when everything was turned upside down. I desperately needed encouragement. My family was in the middle of a big move to another city. My husband had already transferred, leaving me to pack the house, with three kids and two dogs in the middle of a scorching Texas summer.

Miriam is a proper-speaking, lovely lady who has traveled the world. I am a plain, ordinary Texas girl who says “y'all” far too often. God does have a sense of humor. She is an author, poet, and editor who does ministry work on the internet. Miriam said she had searched for months until she finally found me. She was extremely excited while I, on the other hand, was quite mystified by who this person was.

Bewildered, I asked her at least half a dozen rapid-fire questions. “Who are you?”, “Why do you want to meet me?” and "How on earth did you find me?" In her gentle way she answered each one. Little did I know, Miriam found me while watching a short video on YouTube.

During one of our first online conversations she wrote that the Holy Spirit revealed to her that I needed encouragement. This resonated with me because I love to encourage others as well. Nevertheless, I thought to myself, Really? A stranger from across the seas wants to encourage me? But yes, that was indeed her mission. Miriam was a genuine sister in Christ. Of course I was uncertain at first, but it didn't take long for the Lord to ease my mind.

I'm very grateful that she listened to the voice of God because I needed her and soon found that she needed me. Her words of encouragement were like a glass of cold water to this weary traveler. She also gave me the courage to finish this book.

Our friendship has grown now as we chat online. We laugh, cry, and encourage each other through simple, type-written words. Often it feels like we are not oceans apart at all, because our hearts are bound together through the love of Christ. My friend has suffered incredible pain and loss in her life. Despite her suffering, she has a sweet and gentle spirit that reflects God's love in a powerful way.

Miriam has deeply enriched my life and I have found her to be sincere and loving. She is a beacon of hope and a beautiful picture of true humility filled with the Holy Spirit. Her spiritual walk challenges me to draw closer to Him. She is also a true intercessor, praying for me and for my family. Through Miriam, God reminds me in a profound way that I am not alone and that our family is not forgotten. I love my Father's ways and how He meets needs and sends His best gifts right on time.

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14)

© Angela Dugi

WestBow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.

'Oceans Apart' is the first story in Part 1: Stories From The Heart in "GodSmiles" by Angela Dugi, 
published by WestBow Press.

Angie lives in Texas with her husband and their three teenage children. She has suffered for almost two decades with lupus, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. But she refuses to let disease define her. Besides writing, she loves to cook and grow anything that blooms. Angie is also the author of What I Learned Lying Down—Hope for the Chronically Ill.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dr. Duane Alexander Miller


Dr. Duane Alexander Miller

Researcher and Lecturer in Muslim-Christian relations,
The Christian Institute of Islamic Studies,
San Antonio, Texas, USA.

BA in Philosophy (honors) from University of Texas at San Antonio,
MA in Theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio (honors),
Diploma in Arabic from the Kelsey Language Institute in Jordan.

PhD in Divinity (focus on World Christianity), University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Doctoral research on the contextual theologies proposed by Christian converts from Islam –
what do they claim to know about God, and what attracted them to the Christian faith?
Thesis published as: "Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians" (Pickwick, 2016).



After studying Arabic, the Millers moved to Nazareth of Galilee,
a Muslim-majority, Arab city in Israel.

Dr Miller became the founding academic dean of
Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS).

He also served as lecturer in church history and theology for the seminary.
(In 2015 NETS and a local bible college merged to form Nazareth Evangelical College.)

Dr. Miller has taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio,
the University of Edinburgh,
and from January, 2014 through May, 2016
at St Mary’s University.

Dr. Miller published several articles and chapters on the topics of Christian converts from Islam,
the history of Protestant missions in Ottoman Palestine,
and contemporary evangelicalism in the Middle East.

He is author of "Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity" (Whitchurch Publishing, 2016),
which seeks to understand the two faiths not as alternative religions,
but as accounts of the entirety of history, from Creation to the final judgment.

Dr. Miller travels widely to provide training and carry out research.
He and his wife, Sharon, married in 2003, have three children.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? - AMEENA BEGUM - by Dr. Alex Mathew


Afzalbhai breezes in into the office and rather largely introduces himself; “Dr., I am an MDP; you see. My wife wants me to have a talk with you”. I thought Afzalbhai wanted to me to get an impression that he is an MBA from XLRI. He was almost brimming with pride in introducing himself as an MDP.
Ameena Begum standing coyly behind the man ventures a smile and takes up the indicated seat. Afzalbhai is already comfortable in the armed chair with elaborately crossed legs and an amused smirk on his face. Afzal is a huge man, flabby body with ruddy cheeks and disproportionately small mongoloid eyes. Ameena wants to say something but holds herself back and waits for her husband to start the ball rolling. 
Bhaisaheb is in no mood to kick start a conversation, but is more interested in the lacework of the table cloth. There is no sound for a couple of minutes and suddenly Afzalbhai tilts up his absent neck and offers me an elaborate smile and; “Yes doctor, Ameena has a problem, she thinks she has depression. With me having MDP, her condition is not getting any better for the--- the, better, let us say,,, for,,,, almost,,,, for the last twelve years.” Then he stopped for a snort of tobacco snuff into his huge nostrils, big enough to belong to a bovine hulk..

Ameena Begum is a frail young woman, appearing to be closer to sixty, with wrinkles, sunburn and a set expression of hopelessness. Her large eyes are sunken, darkly unfathomable, which have not smiled for decades, it appears. But her eyes tell her story. She had the bearing of a hardy, famished work horse. “Behanji, (honorable Sister) what brings you here from so far away? How can I help you”? They both have traveled something like 150 kilometers, auto-rickshaw, bus, train and auto-rickshaw again. Despite her frail body she did not appear to be tired. She made a start and held herself back. After 20 minutes she suggested she would like to talk to me privately. I escorted Afzalbhai to another room and settled her in a comfortable chair to tell me her pain. Tenderly and hardly audible, she said without any preamble “Doctorsaheb, Afzaljan is not sick, he does not have MDP. He does not want to do any work. I am not in depression. Yes, I am depressed. Anyone would be; in my situation. Tell me how can I cope up with what I get day after day, keep getting hour after hour, 7 X 24?” I didn’t say a thing, didn’t have to say, the story unfolded. Afzal is around forty, has worked in the Arabian gulf for three years. Had to leave the country under some unexplained circumstances about which Ameena has no idea. She has never asked for details. Soon after his return from Gulf they got married. She was given to understand that Afzal would be going back to Gulf to take up a new assignment. That never happened. Instead he started ‘Agriculture - Chemicals’ retail shop. His family had many acres of agricultural land and the trade he liked most was something connected with agriculture. The strong smell of the chemicals started irritating him; to overcome that he started sniffing tobacco snuff, which became an unbearably offensive habit. Without personal attention the business packed up pretty soon and then he began to sell of pieces of land to live in the comfort he was used to. Much of the remaining land, where our house stands, which is about an acre and a half, - a gift from my father- is his next focus. He wants to sell part of it to pay off his debts and I am refusing. I will not compromise on it. The way he is living, he is likely to finish off every saleable article we have. I do not know where all the gold Vappa gave me have gone. He never pledges gold, knowing he can’t redeem it and so conveniently sells off whatever ornaments he gets hold of when I go to school.” “Oh, you are a teacher? Nice to hear that Ameena” “Yes I am a PGT (post-graduate Trained) Physics teacher. I teach 11th and 12th. Apart from teaching and all the associated work, I do all the house-work too as I am not very comfortable with engaging housemaids. I do not trust Afzal wholly in these matters. So I end up doing everything including shopping on my way back from school. I sleep for less than four hours” Ameena talked for over an hour describing their circumstances, the slight she had from his family as they have no children, the fault for which too she is bearing. The truth is not worth mentioning to you. Allow me to keep my dignity. One thing she loathes is her moral problem with suicide, though that is decidedly a better option than the life she leads now. Ameena is rock steady as she describes her plight in harrowing details. She has no tears to spare. “I am brought here for you to convince me to be party to selling off pieces of the Tharavadu (ancestral) land. I didn’t want to create a fuss which I never do. But I am not going to agree to the sale of the only remaining asset we have. If you can please convince him that he is not right in how he is going about this; I will be grateful. I have nothing more to say. Thank you for your valuable time” I escorted Afzalbhai back into the counseling room. He shot out a smart query, “Doctor have you fixed her?” “Yes, we can discuss that soon. But Bhaijan, (dear brother) how do you believe you have MDP? “Ha, that, the doctor we saw in ……….. Hospital told me that I behave like an MDP. “Right, did you take any medication for that?” “Oh, no, the doctor told me there is no need for any medication. My condition will not improve with medication. He asked us to go to a counselor and also told us that Ameena needed help”. “And did you go to any counselor” “Doctor that is the problem, she says there is nothing wrong with her. Yesterday for some reason she said she is ready to see anyone because she has no desire to live. I am worried about her. She might even do something stupid, you see what I mean? That is why I insist on your fixing her, you see? She is so quiet now before you. She can be a tigress at times, you see? I hope you have fixed and corrected her.” “Have I?” Who needs fixing? Is it moral trying to ‘fix’ people in counseling? Where do we make a beginning in their situation? Think. 

© Alex Mathew


WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? - AMEENA BEGUM

Thursday, October 20, 2016

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? By Dr. Alex Mathew - FOREWORD

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? 
By Dr. Alex Mathew

FOREWORD

Walt Whitman in his famous poem “Leaves of Grass” talks about “Life immense in pulse, passion and power”. The more you go into life, the mystery deepens.  Dr Alex brings before us eloquent vignettes of Life in all its immensity.

 At first look, this extraordinary book of Dr Alex may appear to be a simple treatise on a psychological question: Who is to be blamed? Is it Afzalbhai or Ameena? Is it Shreeni? Is it Beena? Is it? Who is guilty? Is it Johnny? Is it Annie? And so on.

Oh, it is Johnny who took the cookie. So and so is guilty. So and so committed the murder and should be hanged. He is the rapist and should be given the death penalty. These are simple answers and today mankind is guided by this philosophy. Tooth for tooth and eye for eye! This approach only creates more violence and more crime. Does anyone or any law-giver say - let him who has not sinned cast the first stone? 

  Our laws are the commandments that arise from the psychology that proclaims the other guilty, enable the state created by man and controlled by the corrupt and violent and pleasure-seeking beasts to chain him, if possible kill him or stone him or her. In the name of the State, which is often a thousand-headed Rakshasa, or even in the name of God. 

Kahlil Gibran in his PROPHET has this to say of laws and law givers: “What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight but with their backs to the sun? They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws...” 

'Friedrich Nietzche, the German philosopher and mystic has this to say of justice and judges and punishment:`` It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right- especially when one is right. Only one must be rich enough for that. I did not like your cold justice; and out of the eyes of the judges they always look the executioner and his coldsteel. Tell me, where is that justice which is love with open eyes? Would that you might invent for me the love that bears not only all punishment but also all guilt! Would that you might invent for me the justice that acquits everyone, except him that judges”. 

As you read on, you find that the canvas of Dr Alex is as vast as life, as deep as the sky, as mysterious as the whirling constellations speeding, expanding, and being born and dying. Laws are laid down and guilt decided and punishment given on the basis of what the lawgiver and punishing authority sees as truth. 

Dr Alex makes us question; What is truth. Pilate asked Jesus: What is truth? Jesus answered it with Silence. The law-givers and the religious authorities act on the basis of their delusionary belief that they have the truth in their possession. 

I wish they read the profound statement of J. Krishnamurti: “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down; rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountaintop to the valley.” 

  Nietzsche’s words can help us to stop finding who is guilty and be true to the simplicity and profundity of the earth. Let me quote his words: “Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth. Thus I beg and beseech you. Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do – back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning.

 In a hundred ways, thus far, have spirit as well as virtue flown away and made mistakes. Alas, all this delusion and all these mistakes still dwell in our body: they have there become body and will. In a hundred ways, thus far, spirit as well as virtue has tried and erred. Indeed, an experiment was man. Alas, much ignorance and error have become body within us. Not only the reason of millennia, but their madness too, breaks out in us. It is dangerous to be an heir. Still we fight step by step with the giant, accident; and over the whole of humanity there has ruled so far only nonsense- no sense.’ Let us discover that finding guilt or cultivating guilt destroy the beauty of life, kills the God in us who is love. This book of Dr. Alex is luminous writing and should lead us to light, to joy, to God.
 

E. X. Joseph

 © Alex Mathew

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? By Dr. Alex Mathew - PREFACE

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? 
By Dr. Alex Mathew 

PREFACE

Who Stole the cookies is first of a series of four books in the manner of the Nursery Rhyme “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”……. 
“Who me…..?” 
“Oh No, not me”…. 
“Johnny stole the cookies from the cookie jar…….”

 The simple everyday stories of ordinary lives tell us of the human tendency to shift the blame on to someone else. In its advanced form it amounts to firing ones gun from the shoulders of others causing serious damages all around.
There is nothing surprising about this tendency as we all know this keep happening and we generally take it for granted that it is the other person’s fault. From the very beginning of creation this art of living together in blame shifting kept happening.

 This book is to make you think where exactly lays the dice and what exactly does it show. We are generally not bothered. We need to; not to poke our long nose into the affairs of others. But in love we are to be helpers in the constraining love of Christ to be servants and givers.

Look around wherever you are right now. You see many objects; animate and inanimate. Have you made any of them? …. even an atom? The millions of Dollars being spent with the Haddon Collider to make a ‘god particle’ are closer to success reports say. Well, thank you.

Whatever we see, whatever we have; are all givens; given free. If that is so, we have the onus to give. We receive because we belong to the giver and so are all else. Sharing is a basic responsibility. Sharing of the love that we keep receiving, the peace that passeth understanding, the compassion so generously meted out, and so of joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, humility, benevolence, forgiveness, gratitude and all that is good, bad and mixed. All are gifts and we need to be thankful in all situations. We take personal credit for the good and blame others; if not God, for all the bad that happens. It is here we need to know the truth behind the realities we face. All realities are not truth. There is only one truth and that truth sets us free. There is only one Thesis; all else are antithesis of the only thesis; God IS.

The point I am making is we need to train ourselves to encounter the truth in small and big things and if we think through, we will be able to see the truth behind it all. And that paves the way to freedom, freedom to understand and discern. “Who stole the cookies?” is a humble effort to let you think; if not anything else of the frailties of mankind. 

© Alex Mathew


Thursday, October 6, 2016

WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? by Dr. Alex Mathew - Introduction



WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? 
by Dr. Alex Mathew

INTRODUCTION 

Every human situation is unique and yet the thread running across these situations are essentially the same. 59% of people who voluntarily go for counseling are women. About 30% are men who come under compulsions and are generally unprepared for structured counseling. Just about over 10% of children are thrust into professional counseling by eager teachers and parents constrained by the nuisance they are to the schools and homes. It is so sad. Children do not come with problems (except in organic dysfunctions). home, school, peers and society spur on the children to adopt unhealthy ways of coping which make them get labels like ‘abnormal’, ‘Problem child’ , ADHD, Cyclothymiacs, and even Bipolar and so on. Parents want to shift the responsibility to ‘fix’ their children and pass them on to professionals hardly taking time to ‘look and see’ the small problems and pains their children are in. 

Passing the buck is a favorite game of all generations not fully realizing what damages ’labels’ can bring about in the lives of others. Too bad that people do not have the time for others nor the disposition to ‘look and see’ the flow of events even in intra-family situations. In between the stories there are some serious teachings related to human existence and the Abiding principles of getting on in life which would help to people to open their eyes and perceive. Mostly this book is trying to say ‘look and see’ think through and be released from the bondage of facultative myopia; the blindness of convenience. Man wants to carve out a niche for himself. Anything or anyone that is felt as an inconvenience is blamed to derive some satisfaction, not caring for the damage that gets spread in the process.

© Alex Mathew

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