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You Say I Am Orphan; I Say I Am Loved!

By Greg Pai
Inspired By Andrea Mani
Photo Credit: Andrea Mani

This is a time of the year where many feel lonely or empty.  Especially those who have no family to speak of. Our hearts have to place orphans at the top of that list. What we learn from this story inspired by Andrea Mani, is that we are all orphans if we don’t connect with and depend on God.

IMG_7211__© 2015 Andrea ManiOrphans have seemingly perfected that connection and dependence as a means of survival. In fact, they do not see themselves as orphans; They see themselves as God’s blessed children. Experiencing His abundant, unconditional love as no earthly parent could ever offer.

“You say I am an orphan,” the hearts of the unwanted cried out. “But, I say I am loved. Loved by He who made me.” Andrea Mani fell in love just moments after she arrived for what was six months of service. At a little known ministry in Jocotepec, Mexico, orphan children are changing everyone who comes in contact with them – One soul at a time.

IMG_7246__© 2015 Andrea Mani

IMG_7979__© 2015 Andrea ManiThe orphanage cares for twenty-one girls and one boy. “One boy!” you say. Well, eight-year old Chuy (pronounced “chewy”) is one of three siblings and when the orphanage converted over to an all girls institution a few years back, they didn’t have the heart to separate Chuy from his two sisters, one named Milagro (meaning Miracle in English). A victim of physical and emotional abuse, it was only by a miracle that 8-year old Chuy survived those earlier abusive years. Cigarette burns on his body and later, months of being mute, unable to speak. Inevitably, Andrea would take a special interest in Chuy as he faced the journey of healing ahead of him.

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The other children learned not to depend on “man.” God was the provider of everything in their lives and that suited them just fine. It wasn’t long before the children challenged Andrea. “You won’t last two months,” they said. These children were used to people revolving in and out of their lives, often under duress or anxiety.  Andrea not only endured, but also learned why others did not. When a person signs up for this kind of work, they do so assuming they are the “strength” coming to the aid of the “weak.” To the contrary, they quickly learn that the children become inspirational and essential to their own personal journey. Radically changing their heart and perspective. Maybe even feeling inadequate and unnecessary in the ways they expected to make an impact. This is when the process flips on its head and starts to become more of a self-examination of our own lives; a sometimes difficult awakening. However, necessary.

IMG_0828__© 2015 Andrea Mani

Most of these children came from situations too difficult to write about. Even called “rats” by those the heartless of the community. Some had mothers who were prostitutes while exploiting their children sexually for favor. Absolutely tragic. However, how would you know any of this by just looking at them? They are beautiful in every way.  Inside and out, their hearts and smiles radiate.  Yet, they have nothing.  Or do they? Andrea expected overwhelming sensations of abandonment on her arrival. She did not expect what God was about to show her.

IMG_7836__© 2015 Andrea ManiThe children had a life about them that projected pure joy. Amazing as it may seem, the children had a ritual of occasionally going into town and donating their clothing to any one of four impoverished villages in the immediate area. Yes – you read that right. Even though their very limited wardrobes were precious to them, they believed that whatever they gave up would be replenished by God’s own hand.  And guess what?  They were never without. Somehow, newly donated clothes always found a way to their personal shelf (that’s a single shelf). Such faith. I suppose when we have nothing to lose and expect no earthly gain, we are capable of giving and doing our most selfless work in this life. These children are living proof. They see their glass not as a quarter full or three-quarters empty, but overflowing.

We have convinced ourselves that we are somehow more equipped or better off than they are. Hence, we neglect to ever seek or find the orphan in us.

What is orphan about these children. The dictionary says the noun form is defined as a child who has lost both parents. That is innocent enough. Interestingly, the adjective form is used to describe one who is abandoned. Quite a difference. Unfortunately, we have adopted the more negative connotation as the global definition. We have convinced ourselves that we are somehow more equipped or better off than they are. Hence, we neglect to ever seek or find the orphan in us. There is that “difficult awakening” thing again!

At some point, Andrea observed a young girl’s mother (a recovering prostitute) visit the orphanage expecting to take her little girl back home. However, with the best of intentions, the woman realized that her daughter was better off staying because she was unable to offer her the same stability and nurturing.

IMG_7163__© 2015 Andrea Mani

However, I believe that God speaks to us through His beloved orphans. I now see the love of God when I see an orphan. Not an abandoned soul; But a soul that’s whole!

As I documented this story, I struggled with internal conflict and confusion. I love God and He fills my life, but am I abandoned enough to really feel the fullness of His love? Many of us have family and good friends around us who bring us a great deal of joy and companionship. But what is it like to have no one but God? Please don’t get me wrong. Family is a blessed gift from God. A special treasure from above. However, I believe that God speaks to us through His beloved orphans. I now see the love of God when I see an orphan. Not an abandoned soul; But a soul that’s whole!

When Does An “Ad” Subtract? When It Divides Instead Of Multiplies Of Course…

I cannot remember a time when the culture of advertising was truly inclusive (or the media for that matter). You would think that advertisers selling a product or service would want to appeal to the largest possible audience of potential customers. “Not just the perfect ones.” If I am selling soap, why would I only want to sell it to people who looked or acted like me?

When advertisers choose certain “types” of people to represent their product and intentionally exclude others, they have somehow managed to convince those that are excluded, that they should be more like the ones that are included, and not themselves.

However, advertisers have taken control of this problem with some slight-of-hand psychological magic. When advertisers choose certain “types” of people to represent their product and intentionally exclude others, they have somehow managed to convince those that are excluded, that they should be more like the ones that are included, and not themselves. The “included” are superior and the excluded need to be like them tapping into our deepest, darkest insecurities. The media drives this identity crisis. Advertisers find benefit in homogenizing the globe into a one size, figure, color, type, culture, etc. fits all. This is not how we were created and abandons the richness of our diversity.

I don’t really believe that people should be called “disabled.” My preference is to acknowledge them as people who are able in ways that others are not.

People who have disabilities are among the excluded and have possibly suffered the most because they have to deal with both their affliction as well as trying to fit in. First, I don’t really believe that people should be called “disabled.” My preference is to acknowledge them as people who are able in ways that others are not. This is an important truth because the physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional coping mechanisms of people who may not function exactly like the masses are nothing short of extraordinary. Their resourcefulness to compensate and develop nearly supernatural abilities is evidence that they are God’s special children. To witness their daily perseverance is like watching the entire Star Wars Trilogy wrapped up in one human being. There is little on this earth that can motivate, inspire and give us hope like these individual miracles. I don’t understand why they aren’t dominating the content of all our media!

We should not underestimate the significance of growing up in a media-driven world that pretends you don’t exist. We should be able to grow up in a world where our environment not only accepts us, but promotes all of us as a community of one people without leaving anyone behind.

ADORABLE! Ga. baby changing perceptions of beauty in advertising – 11alive.com

A local mom’s push for more inclusive advertising is going viral after she called out a company so that they would use children with disabilities. Kaitlyn Ross, WXIA 10:49 PM. EDT October 22, 2016. ADORABLE! Ga. baby changing perceptions of beauty in advertising – 11alive.com

thumbnail courtesy of 11alive.com

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The World According To The World. A Frightening Look.

Whatever belief system you subscribe to, I think most of us can agree that civilization is becoming increasingly self-destructive. I suppose we may have been more barbaric in the distant past (and that may be debatable). Yet, has man’s creation of increasingly complex systems including government, finance & economics, health & medicine, organized religion, education, agriculture, commerce, technology, science, communications, media, and transportation, promoted progress for the human race? Is progress leaving anyone behind? Are we eradicating sickness and poverty; improving the quality, beauty, and integrity of life; preserving our environment and resources, or increasing peace, tolerance, respect, love, compassion, service, and faith around the world? These are all very important questions to ask ourselves. Right here and now.

l1020691-editImbalances Often Signal Something Is Not Quite Right

Who has benefited and at what cost? This is the first question. The resource-rich United States is split in half politically with each side believing their respective needs and wants are not being met. The result is that no one seems to be content and the frustration and hate index is going through the roof.

We should ask, “Are the systems to blame? Do they consider the totality of the population or just a chosen few? Are they creating catastrophic imbalances that grow division?” Another example, the US is the greatest consumer of the world’s resources. It represents 18% of the world’s energy consumption* and only 4.5% of the world’s population. How can we think for a moment that such imbalances will not have intentional and unintentional side effects. Just to be clear, the United States is not the only producer of “imbalances.” Imbalances exist throughout the entire developed and underdeveloped world unfortunately. It’s a simple problem of cause and effect.

Manmade Systems Are Just That, Manmade; Not God-Made

We are not advancing as a civilization. Progress has not only stalled. It is going in the opposite direction. We need to look deeply and honestly into the design and consequences of the systems we are designing and managing.

In education, for example, we do not teach our children how to learn. Educational institutions have replaced those more natural abilities with tools and techniques that encourage memorization of facts and accumulation of information; Not knowledge. Furthermore, children are classified instead of individually nurtured due to the demands placed on these institutions to produce “results.” Progress is rewarded at the sacrifice of process. Moreover, test results and grades define potential instead of passion and conviction. Unfortunately, no training to seek or discern the truth. Rather, programming in nearly every course that teach our children to debate and promote a perspective or point. What some of us would call “lawyering.”

The more we learn, the more we may earn, and the less we will grow, because the less we will ever want to know.

The subject of manmade systems is is a fairly complex discussion and will invite much debate. However, it is central to how we live together in this world while seeking purpose, peace and passion. It will be a theme that will certainly present itself often on this platform because it is both a catalyst and disruptor to the different definitions of progress. Progress as humans. But more importantly, progress as a creation. An amazing creation with amazing potential to attain true joy on this earth.

Cynical, But Hopeful

In closing (for now), Please do not see me as cynical. I truly apologize if I disturbed the balance of your day at all. However, I am willing to disturb your day if it has the potential to enhance your life. Man has extraordinary talents, gifts, characteristics, and blessings that have been created for good. But… WARNING: When man relies fully and only on himself to pursue good, without God, it seems he too often ends up with not so good and not at all God.

iamnotacyniciamasinner_gregpai*Source: US Energy Information Administration

Sibling Harmony

Too many of us have a lost or strained relationship with one or more of our siblings. These photos should inspire us to rebuild bridges of love with those whom God intentionally enjoined us with to form our family. A sibling is like an arm or a leg. They have a purpose in our lives and we need to have a relationship with them in order to find our what that purpose is. Brothers and sisters are not dispensable. God wastes nothing. There is a reason God blessed you with family. -Greg Pai

In Pictures: Indians Celebrate Brothers and Sisters Day Raksha Bandhan – Wall Street Journal (blog)

In Pictures: Indians Celebrate Brothers and Sisters Day Raksha Bandhan. Indians on Thursday were celebrating Raksha Bandhan, a Hindu festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. In Pictures: Indians Celebrate Brothers and Sisters Day Raksha Bandhan – Wall Street Journal (blog)

thumbnail courtesy of wsj.com

The Problem With Making Plans

When we become too committed to what we think is “right or best” for us, we do not open our hearts to what God may have in store for our lives. I call it the studio apartment syndrome. We do not leave any room for God to live and work in our lives. Letting go of our conviction, for at least a moment, may reveal a better plan to be convicted to. Often, such plans, would never have had an opportunity to enter our imagination or consideration.

If we want God to work in our lives, we have to mentally move into a “McMansion” because God takes up that much room and more!

 

Not So Funny…

Folks… This is not a political issue that can be solved by political solutions. This is a human issue that needs to be solved by getting in closer touch with our humanity and the value of our life. I am reminded of the time (I may be giving away my age here) that we were trained to launch under our desks in the event of a nuclear attack by the enemy; Whoever that really was. Anyhow, we have raised generations of frightened children for some  time now and are probably not even really sure how this manifests in our behavior as we enter into adulthood. I am certain it is not good or healthy. It likely adds to our various phobias (e.g., xenophobia, etc.) and causes us to live a less natural existence.

Imagine this… We, as humans, are not really comfortable walking on a tightrope between two buildings or similar. However, it is very natural for a squirrel and many other four-legged creatures because that is simply what they do. I feel like instilling these fears at such an early age has us walking on a tightrope for the rest of our lives; Never really allowing us to experience true peace even when and if it should exist. Nearly our every moment wrapped up in some form of anxiety.

I do understand the importance of equipping our children for survival. However, we are not living in dangerous times – We have ALWAYS lived in dangerous times and I believe that we are mistakenly instilling so much fear in our children thinking that we, or they, actually have much control over our fate – day in and day out. I prefer to use this same time to teach our children the value of life and how to use and treasure every moment of it and not live it in fear and a false sense of control. -Greg Pai

Mum takes ‘funny’ photo of her daughter – breaks down when she realises chilling truth behind it

Initially it was just an amusing snap to send to her husband, until she learned the heartbreaking reality Mum takes ‘funny’ photo of her daughter – breaks down when she realises chilling truth behind it

thumbnail courtesy of mirror.co.uk

True love never dies : Chris Mininni shares powerful photo of parents last moments together – Yahoo7

I could barely get through this story and the accompanied video. Why are we are so deeply moved, often to tears, when we witness a love this true? There seems to be something very intentional in our design. Is this a clue to who God is to us? I suspect that is the case. A love so powerful that it can pave the way through the noise of this world and bring us a healing strength that can overcome any and all life’s challenges. -Greg Pai

True love never dies

A husband’s dying wish was to hold his wife’s hands while they were both on life support in an incredibly raw photo taken by one of their sons. read more at au.news.yahoo.com

The Power In A Few Minutes Of Your Time

We possess an amazing God-given power to impact someone’s life with just minutes of our time. Just minutes. Sometimes even less. Your time is valuable. It is valuable to you. It is valuable to someone in need. it Is valuable to God.

VIRAL: Coffee Stand Workers Pray with Woman Who Just Lost Husband | Fox News Insider

It started when a woman in tears pulled up to this Vancouver, Washington Dutch Bros. stand. read more at insider.foxnews.com

 

So You Want To Photograph The Universe Do You…

Particularly for those of us living in light polluted cities, the universe is simply not observable in the fullness of its glory. So we must rely on others to combine their ideal locations with the necessary technical skills so we too can enjoy God’s amazing creation as if we were there ourselves. If you are one of those most fortunate, here are some tips enhance your potential.

How to Photograph the Milky Way

“If you live in a remote area with dark skies, you are one of the lucky ones; the lucky ones that get to look up on a clear dark night and see a thick band of glowing light stretch across the sky.” read more at petapixel.com

 

We Don’t Want to Tell People…

God gave us a brilliant mind to think for ourselves and not simply follow a system by default. But that requires time, effort, and most of all, God’s wisdom. Thinking, discovering, and creating are the three worst things to outsource, and doing so is a fatal mistake.