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Announcing My New Course “Learn the Guitar in 3 Weeks (LG3W)”

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on this new course of mine called “Learn the Guitar in 3 Weeks” or “LG3W” in short and now I can finally say it is done!

To tell you a bit about LG3W, it’s an interactive video tutorial that teaches people who really have no clue whatsoever about the guitar all the basics they need to know to be able to play a song in just 3 weeks and also continue on their own to play pretty much any song they want.

The thing that separates LG3W from all the other guitar courses I have encountered in my years of teaching the guitar (other than the fact that it’s done by me, of course) is that not only is it short, concise and straight to the point, but it also teaches you how to think, musically speaking.

I’ve never been a fan of memorising things just for the sake of memorising, without understanding what’s being memorised. When it comes to scales, chords and positions, things can get confusing sometimes, especially to people who feel they are not naturally well positioned at it. But what most people don’t know is that with a little explanation of how things work in music and on the guitar in particular, you can have even the least musically adept wowing at just how simple it is.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the program alone will do wonders for you if you don’t plan on putting a little effort and commitment to follow the 3-week curriculum. I wish there was a magical button to press or some genie lamp to rub to just wake up knowing how to play the guitar, but alas there isn’t (to the best of my knowledge) and if there is such a thing I’m calling dibs to learn the drums… and horseback riding!

To give you more details about this course without making a lengthy post, I’ve dedicated a whole page on the blog just for this purpose, which you can find here.

Be sure to visit the page and most importantly to spread the word, especially to your circle of teenagers. A recent study has shown that playing the guitar can be a great tool to pick up that girl you have a crush on! Did I just make that up? Of course. But you can still try. And for my female audience, this goes both ways. Guys love a girl who can play and sing ;)

You can also follow the Facebook page for LG3W on this link. Do it.

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Why I Deleted My Whole Music Library

I live in a country where anything goes. Pretty much anything. And as much as we Lebanese people have made it a habit to complain about the ever-increasing corruption infesting our country, we also can’t deny that we capitalise on its benefits. Let’s be honest here, as much as we claim to hate the absence of any system, having no system has become a system of itself and we’ve made it our own Lebanese system.

Among many of the benefits we get to enjoy, piracy is the one I will be addressing today.

The first time I was exposed to piracy was probably 13 years ago when Napster was shut down. I remember it really bugged me because I couldn’t download any more free music and had to look for other alternatives. Before that I didn’t even know what piracy meant and to be honest I didn’t know there was anything called copyrights. When I got my first computer at the age of 12 and my friends got me computer games, I didn’t even know there was a thing called the “original copy” and another called the “cracked version”. I thought all games were like the ones I had and it wasn’t until a couple of years down the line that I saw my first original game on display in a computer store for some $80 and I remember thinking to myself: “I can’t believe how expensive this shop is, I can get this game for $2!!”. It’s downright laughable I know, but I’m telling you that’s how much I had no clue about piracy. To show you even more, when I first found out around the age of 20 that my copy of Windows was a counterfeit, I got pissed off thinking I got robbed by the computer guy. Little did I know that every copy of Windows I had ever owned for the past 8 years was a counterfeit and if I had to own the original copy it would’ve cost me about $300. Not only that, but the whole country was running on counterfeit versions of Windows.

It had never occurred to me before that it was wrong and all this time I thought this was how the system worked. In hindsight I can’t believe I never saw it, but again when you grow up to a certain system from a young age, you don’t often stop to ask if it’s right or wrong, you just think this is how things work. And I bet you if you ask any teenager now why he needs to jailbreak his Xbox, he would tell you right away so that he wouldn’t have to pay for the games, without even stopping to think whether it’s right or wrong.

It wasn’t until I made my first $200 while I was still in university out of a music composition project, that my conscience was stricken with the bitter realisation that I had just robbed the company that made the software I was using to compose music. It hit me like a lightning bolt and I couldn’t take the thought out of my head if I tried. I had just made money using a software I didn’t pay for and the company whose software I had just benefited from didn’t get anything in return. This was the beginning of a long series of wrestling matches with the truth that what I was doing was wrong.

I started justifying myself and why I was doing what I was doing. At first I hid behind the fact that I couldn’t afford the original software. But I knew stealing was wrong, so I couldn’t make peace with the excuse that I could pirate the software because I was poor — it was still stealing. Then I tried numbing my conscience with the fact that the whole country operated like that and authorities seldom pursued anyone for piracy or breaking copyrights and even if they did, it was only temporary until a bribe came into the story. Heck, people here don’t even know what a synchronisation license means and I can guarantee you that the soundtracks of Gladiator and Requiem For A Dream have been used maybe more than any other musical piece in history in the background of reports aired on our own TV stations. But even then I couldn’t make peace with the fact that it was still wrong. I couldn’t justify doing something wrong by putting it on the system because it would’ve been synonymous with me saying “I know prostitution is wrong but I benefit from it because our government condones it”.

Then I started taking it out on the system of copyrights. I resolved that software owners were greedy people who only cared about making money and completely disregarded poor students who could never afford their software (bear in mind that I live in a country where student discounts on softwares almost don’t exist because no one would even think about owning the original softwares). So I decided to go Open Source.

I found out about the wonderful world of Open Source which was offered at my favourite price — absolutely FREE. So I replaced Windows with Linux and got a free replacement for pretty much every one of the softwares I needed for my work. It was great.

But anyone who has ever dabbled long enough with Open Source will tell you that even though you’re getting something really amazing for the price you’re paying — nothing — it still doesn’t beat the paid software. And the reason was simple: In one case you had people working for free to develop free replicas of the paid software you wanted, one that could only hope to mimic all of its wonderful features and in another case you had piles of money being thrown into the making of a great software that involved a huge team of (to say the least) researchers, engineers, designers and developers, all of whom were getting the revenue for all their hard labor.

It doesn’t take a genius to say that the paid version will always be better. But at the time it was all I could afford, so I was more than happy for the time being.

But when I was starting up my first recording studio a couple of years ago with actual money dedicated for this purpose, I was set on buying original softwares no matter how much it was going to cost me, even though most people (even shop owners) would give me weird looks when I told them I wanted to buy original copies. I figured I was to use this studio to make money out of it and I was in no way going to rob these software companies from their right to see the fruit of their labor. You will say but these software companies are making millions upon millions and my contribution or the lack thereof will not affect them in any way and you’re right. My contribution is but a drop in their ocean but it’s not about that, it’s about the principle. Stealing is stealing whether it’s an egg or an ox and I’m keen on doing the right thing no matter how unpopular it can be.

My fight with the truth however was far from being over, because even though I had solved one part of the issue, there was still the problem of figuring out what to do with the huge library of music and film I had acquired illegally over the years.

I can honestly say that in my entire life I haven’t bought more than ten original albums and even that is borderline overstatement because I had to spend a number of minutes trying to stretch it to ten even counting in the albums I got as gifts for other people. But the overwhelming majority of the music in my library was music I had amassed over the years either through peers I personally knew or anonymous peers on the internet through torrent softwares.

I had a big library of music that I loved and I was in no way going to give that up. But no matter how hard I wrestled inwardly with the idea and presented my arguments, I just couldn’t win the case that it was still sugar-coated stealing. I tried hiding behind the fact that if it weren’t for piracy, these artists wouldn’t have even dreamed of getting the kind of exposure they had here in Lebanon and if it weren’t for piracy I wouldn’t have found out about them to begin with; so in fact these artists should be thankful for piracy because either way I would’ve never gone out and bought their expensive albums — bear in mind that the minimum wage here is far less than in the US, so $13 here for a music album is considered a commodity one can go without, especially if it can be offered for free.

But fact was that their music was intended to be sold and if they wanted their music to be distributed for free they would’ve done so themselves like some artists do. So no matter how I turned it, I just couldn’t get away from the fact that I was stealing. I had in my hands music that I didn’t pay for and it was against the consent of its proprietors. The same was with the film library that I had.

So faced with the harsh and undeniable reality that what I was doing was wrong, I found myself at a crossroads. It was either I continued what I was doing and tried further numbing my conscience by either putting it on the system or revolting against the greed of copyright owners or claiming I’m living under grace not law or I stopped doing what I was doing because I actually wanted the system to change.

Hence I made the very unorthodox step a few days ago of deleting my whole iTunes library along with my film library and every software that came illegally preloaded on my iMac when I bought it two years ago.

Was it easy? Heck no! I had to delete the music I grew up listening to and the music that has become part of me throughout the years. To name a few: Bon Jovi, Creed, Alter Bridge, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Misty Edwards, Third Day… And we’re talking about full discographies here, not just sporadic songs or even a few albums.

Am I an idiot for doing that? Probably. By Lebanese standards I am considered an idiot for shooting myself in the foot like that, especially that of the many softwares I deleted was the Adobe Master Collection which I absolutely loved and which if I were to buy would’ve cost me a hefty $5000.

But I want to see change in Lebanon. We can’t go on complaining about corruption while getting high on its sweet spots. Corruption has to be fought as a whole and we can’t go picking and choosing what we want to keep and what we want to go.

For change to happen it has to start with ourselves.

I want to see student discounts on softwares, not only that but I want to see a big reduction in software prices as a whole — a reduction that is scaled according to our minimum wage and living costs. But in order to see that happen, we have to stop using illegal software.

I want to see legal music streaming services like Spotify and movie streaming services like Netflix becoming available in our country and I want to see items that are not usually available in our iTunes Store or on Amazon and other online stores becoming available for us and at a price that we can afford. But for that to happen we need to stop copying music illegally and start respecting copyrights. (Same goes to movies and books).

I am an artist myself and ideally I wish everyone would buy my music. But this is farfetched because not everyone can do that. Of course I don’t want the right to listen to my music to become an exclusive right for people who can only afford it, but I’d like people to ask me first before they copy my music or use it in their audiovisual works. And as I like to be treated, I need to treat other people.

So let’s talk about these things. I’m sure we can find ways that could please both end parties, ways that would ensure products are becoming affordable for the biggest amount of people and at the same time delivered in ways that would protect copyrights and repay people for their hard work.

This is but a fraction of the things that need to change in Lebanon. But change has to start somewhere and like I said, it has to start with ourselves. While we might not be able to control the corruption that other people are responsible for, we can at least stop contributing to corruption as a whole and do our part in the grand scheme of things. I can tell you it won’t be easy. Change is a process that doesn’t just happen overnight. But the good news is that we can make it.

Are you willing to pay the price with me?

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How I Started Changing My Neighbourhood

Call me crazy but I believe I’m changing my neighbourhood. I say my neighbourhood because I believe it is my neighbourhood. Not because I happen to live there but because I genuinely believe it’s mine. Yes, mine as in I own it and it belongs to me, moi… io.

I didn’t use to think like that up until a while ago.

When I first moved here, almost three years ago, I was really overwhelmed by the beauty of my surrounding. I considered myself truly blessed to be living in a beautiful and quiet spot in the middle of a surprisingly still-unspoiled pine forest amid the locust-like urbanisation that has swept over our cities and devoured every green acre we once felt proud of having.20140326_173028

But as much as I was joyed by the privilege of living here, I was equally annoyed and frustrated at the people who sadly didn’t realise what they had like I did. I got ticked off at people who carelessly tarnished the outskirts of their buildings with their habitual and mindless littering.

One day I got so upset and decided to do something about it instead of letting it get the best of me and grabbed a big garbage bag from my house and started cleaning up at least in front of my building. A few minutes later I had filled the whole bag up to the point of bursting and had to put it inside another one to keep it from tearing apart.

But it was soon apparent to me after a couple more trials in vain that this would eventually turn into an endless cycle of people littering and me cleaning up after them and I saw that there had to be another way of dealing with this issue, a way to deal with the root of the problem rather than the symptoms.

20140326_172742Thing is, people didn’t need anyone to tell them not to litter. In fact, the whole neighbourhood was filled with posts every few dozen meters from the municipality warning people not to litter. (Like that ever helped). It was apparent that the problem was inside people’s minds and no matter how much I lead by example (which I still do), I can’t go around, door-to-door, asking people not to litter and raise awareness in the neighbourhood. It’s too heavy a burden on one set of shoulders, especially when I don’t plan on dedicating my time to doing that. I have other priorities in life.

It was clear that a change of mindsets was necessary, for people to go from total negligence to starting to appreciate what they have and take care of it as their own. And to do that I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed supernatural help.

It is also worth mentioning that it certainly didn’t help, the fact that nowhere in the whole neighbourhood was any garbage bin to be sighted. So as a result, people got accustomed to throwing their daily garbage collections in one particular corner up the road, which in time got absolutely gruesome.

Periodically, Sukleen would grace us with a small garbage van to relieve whatever it can of that whole mess, but only to set it back to square 1 of that never ending loop.

One day when I was walking my dog I ran into the workers and asked the driver why Sukleen doesn’t put garbage bins in our area. I was surprised to find out from him that there were garbage bins in that spot before I moved to the neighbourhood but people complained to the municipality about the noise coming from the garbage truck doing its shift and asked them to remove the bins. I didn’t know which sounded more inconceivable, the fact that people valued personal comfort more than cleanliness or the fact that the municipality would grant them such a wish to begin with and pretend they did their part of the story by planting these futile warning signs along the road.

Frustration grew all the more inside me as I would drive by that garbage pile every day on my way up and down as I would leave and come back home that I decided I was going to pay the municipality a visit sometime during the week. But when I went, I couldn’t find the municipality even though I asked for directions (something that I don’t usually do, as I suppose is the case with most men). Finally I gave up and decided to pray for this instead.

This is where it becomes interesting.

Now I realise this might sound strange to some, especially those who don’t believe in the spiritual, but for about two weeks as I would drive by that pile of garbage, in holy frustration I asked God to do something about it.

And that’s what he did.

By the end of these two weeks as I was leaving home one morning, I got welcomed with the sight of two new dumpsters where the pile of garbage used to be.

You can imagine (or maybe you can’t yet) how overjoyed I was on that day to see the fruit of my ongoing prayers.

I wish garbage was the only issue that was getting me worked up in my neighbourhood, but sadly it is but one of the problems that I wanted to see solved.

The hill up to my house was notorious for its slippery road especially the first part which was steeper than the rest. I even had a near-death-experience on it last year when I crashed on my way down into a six wheeler in the opposite direction because I couldn’t make the turn on wet ground.

More so, the road all the way up was filled with potholes making it really hard for drivers to dodge them and at the same avoid hitting the cars coming in the other direction.

Now get ready to be blown away.

A few months ago I was coming back home afresh with the revelation that the neighbourhood was mine because my Father owned the whole world. I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of it before and what it would entail, but if everything belonged to God, then naturally as his son it would belong to me too. It sounds simple when I put it that way, almost too simple, but maybe it was so simple that I had missed it all along. And I guess that’s what makes revelation what it is — something that was hidden from your eyes and suddenly got revealed to you.

Once you believe something like that, it’s not too long before you will want to test it out. Imagine you got the revelation of having super powers, the least you would do is test them out to see if they work — kinda like Spiderman when he found out he had superpowers because of that radioactive spider bite.

This is where it starts becoming freaky.

Well my Father spoke things into existence. He said “let there be light” and there was light. And that’s just one of the things listed in the book of Genesis that came into existence by his word. So naturally, if he could do it and if his Son Jesus could do it throughout the gospels, then I could do it because Jesus said we would do even greater works than he did (John 14:12).

So that’s what I did. I spoke things into existence.

As I was driving up the hill having the fresh revelation that I had spiritual authority over the neighbourhood, I said, “let this part of the road be drilled with small holes to prevent cars from slipping on the way down”. Going further up to where the potholes were I said, “let all the potholes here be closed up” and I started pointing at each one with my finger.

About a week later (maybe two), the potholes were closed up. All of them. A week after that, the steep hill was drilled with holes where it was slippery. I think at this point you can start to imagine how thrilled I was to see that.

Are you ready for the grand finale?

Going back home some time after that, I drove past the two garbage bins and found them to be overflowing with garbage falling on the road. I said, “If two isn’t enough, let us add a third one”.

Take a look at this.

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Well, the skeptic among you will say it’s all a coincidence, the two garbage bins, the potholes, the drilling of small holes in the road and the third garbage bin. But couldn’t this also be said of of the miracles that Jesus performed? Couldn’t it be said that Jesus happened to calm the storm at the exact moment when it was already about to calm? And if we were to take it a step further, couldn’t it be said that the people who got healed were under some placebo effect and the people who were dead and rose again weren’t really dead?

Of course we can try to punch holes as much as we want and quite frankly I don’t mind that. Jesus was never offended by skepticism and had no problem giving proof to Thomas who wanted to touch his wounds to believe.

Believing in the supernatural isn’t key to start changing your neighbourhood. All it takes is for you to believe it’s your own, because (I would hope) you take care of the things that are your own. I just like to do things differently and believe in the supernatural as well as the natural just as Jesus used boats most of the time to travel across lakes even though he could perfectly walk on water had he felt like it.

Well, I did start this post with “call me crazy”, didn’t I?

This morning when I was walking my dog I was surprised to find a man from the neighbourhood, in a suit, picking up garbage from the road into the trunk of his car while it was warming up.

I guess the change of mindsets I was talking about earlier isn’t that far after all.

People Who Use Double Spacing Annoy Me

(This is just a writing exercise, not to be compared with what I usually I write about.)

I had never heard of double spacing before until I noticed it for the first time, it was a few months ago. Unintentional typographical errors were something I was very familiar with in the digital world, but this was no typographical error and it definitely wasn’t unintentional. The perpetrator knew exactly what they were doing. The double spaces were occurring frequently and regularly that I couldn’t dismiss them as innocent mistakes. It was organized crime.

That’s when I decided to look it up. What I found was shocking. Not only did double spacing exist, but it was also more common than I suspected.

For those of you who don’t know what double spacing is, allow me to illustrate.  This is double spacing.  Notice how I stroke the spacebar twice in-between sentences?  That, my friend is called double spacing.  See how annoying it is?  I’ve already done it five times in case you haven’t noticed and I loathe myself for partaking in this heinous crime.

According to Wikipedia (which is my trusty source of information, I don’t care what you say), until the 20th century, publishing houses and printers in many countries used additional space between sentences. Let’s pause here. Rewind please… Okay play… “Until the 20th century”… Stop! Hear that? Until the 20th century! That means double spacing is 114 years outdated!

Now while every single book I’ve read so far (which is mildly decent compared to the average millennial) uses single spacing and while I could take it with a grain of salt had I been reading something written by someone the age of my granpappy who was born in the 1920s, I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of seeing double spacing in articles written by Generation Y children. I mean, what’s up with that? Is the hipster culture also invading our literature?

Now other than the fact that double spacing is a discouraged practice by experts (refer to the screenshot below), if you happen to have a hawk-eye for detail like me, you would find double spacing to be extremely disturbing. Personally, I hate that I have to stop my reading flow because of an unusual spacing and ask myself, “Is that double spacing?” and then select the gap with my mouse to make sure it is in fact that dreaded double spacing.

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Double spacing is annoying because it’s unjustified – uncalled for. It actually hinders reading more than facilitating it as I suppose double spacers would claim to justify their actions.

Double spacing adds unnecessary spaces in your articles making them look longer, thus discouraging potential readers like myself — who before reading, scroll down to the end to know beforehand what they’re signing up for — from reading your carefully crafted gems. More importantly, double spacing perpetuates the unnecessary and not to mention easily avoidable waste of time (which we all know is money) by creating ditches along the road for people who notice them.

Finally, double spacing is selfish because it doesn’t take into consideration dyslexic readers behind the screens. According to an article I came across while researching reasons to end this abomination, double spacing is considered one of the 6 Surprising Bad Practices That Hurt Dyslexic Users because it “can create “rivers” within text that make it difficult for users to find the end of sentences. On the web, single spacing wins.”

Need I say more?

I’ve dated two double spacers in my life. It goes without saying that things didn’t work out between us.

Join me in the fight against double spacing. If you know people who use double spacing, encourage them gently to follow up with the rest of the world. If this doesn’t work, refer them to this blog post. If this still doesn’t convince them, choose to boycott their writings to take a firm stance against double spacing.

If you happen to be a double spacer, kindly knock it off. Hit that space bar once. It will take some time to adjust, but know that you’ll be helping many readers like myself enjoy a stopless reading of what you have to say.

One less space for double spacers, one comfortable cyberspace for OCD people and dyslexic readers everywhere.

Jesus Was a Rich Kid

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Yes, that’s right, he was a rich kid. You will say, but he was born in a manger, was the son of a carpenter, had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20) and his parents couldn’t afford the regular purification offering after childbirth (Luke 2:24, Leviticus 12:8) and you would be right. But I still say Jesus was a rich kid.

Thing is, there was something about Jesus that had nothing to do with how much money he had or what type of clothes he wore or what type of people he hung out with or what kind of places he frequented, something that separated him from other people of his social class.

It doesn’t take too much observation for one to realize that rich kids are not all about their money, but often about the worldview they have as a result of having lived on the other side of town.

Rich kids don’t face life the way poor kids do. This is a fact. When put in the same situation and under the same conditions, rich kids will act much differently than poor kids and this generally stems from the character they’ve harvested over years of fighting battles differently.

I say battles because rich kids have battles to fight too. Make no mistake. It somehow slips our minds that they have challenges to face because they have it easy and everything goes their way. But the reason things seem to be going in their favor is that they don’t have to face these battles alone.

Take a rich kid and strip him of all his money, what do you think he’ll do? He’ll get some more. Why? Because his dad is rich. As long as he has his dad, he’ll always be rich because his dad is the source of his wealth.

Rich kids tend to live in the shadow of their dads. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of letting insecurity and identity crises get the most of them, they can benefit from the advantages of having a rich dad to ease their way into life. They make use of their dads’ connections, resources and power to greatly bolster confidence and make things happen for them.

Not to say at all that poor kids can’t make it through life and can’t break out of the circumstances they find themselves entrapped in. Potential, talent and determination play a big role of course and poor kids have a tendency to be more resilient than rich kids because they had to face the harsher aspect of life and they mostly had to face it alone.

This is where, in my opinion, the problem lies - having to face these battles alone. Poor kids don’t have rich dads they can fall back on. They don’t have rich dads whose connections they can use to get out of tight spots or resources they could take hold of to go places.

In our society we champion a self-made man, someone who made it in this cruel world all by himself with the help of no one. We all want to be self-made men and women deep down.

But I don’t find this at all in the character of Jesus. Instead, I see someone who was so dependent on his father that he had no shame in admitting: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19 ESV). I see someone who knew exactly his identity as a beloved son of an infinitely loving and generous father, someone who knew that everything that belonged to his father belonged to him also (John 17:10).

Jesus demonstrated perfectly the true heart of a son and he wanted everyone around him to share in the sonship that he had. Jesus knew that he was the son of the king of the universe and he wanted everyone to have that same identity as him. He didn’t let his financial status define his identity because he knew that even though he was the son of a carpenter, his true identity was found in his heavenly father and somehow he wanted everyone to know that fully well.

When faced with a hungry crowd of five thousand, Jesus so nonchalantly threw the task of feeding them on his disciples saying, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37 ESV) as if expecting by now that they had gotten the picture of how great their father really was. Did he not know he was asking poor men who had no more than five loaves and two fishes to feed a crowd of five thousand? Later on on a different occasion, when the disciples noticed that they had forgotten to bring bread, Jesus rebuked their lack of faith saying, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” (Mark 8:17). It’s as if he wanted them to wrap their minds already around the idea that God was their father and they will lack nothing but they were just not getting the picture.

Jesus rested assured in the fact that the whole world belonged to his father, therefore the whole world belonged to him also. If his father created the wind and the sea, then Jesus could command the wind and the sea to calm. If his father spoke the universe into existence, then he could speak water into wine. If his father gave life to all beings, then he could raise people from the dead. If his father can heal diseases, then he can heal too.

Having grown up on the left side of the spectrum, I personally struggle in implementing this in my daily walk with God. I struggle to make the transition from an initial life in poverty to a life in the richness of God. I find it hard to stay constantly reminded that I am not alone to face the troubles of the world, especially when my mood is greatly affected by the amount of money I have in my pocket or the amount of bills I have left unpaid.

I’ve recently come to realize that even though I have a very rich dad, I still live under the mentality of having a poor one and this sadly dictates the way I view and interact with everything around me. As a result, I feel limited in resources, I worry when I’m short on money, I feel afraid when I don’t know what to do and more so I feel many of God’s blessings over my life being locked and the one holding the key is none other than myself. For too long now I’ve been hitting against this ceiling that just won’t go, blocking me from the fullness of life I have in Christ.

This has to change. There is no such thing as a poor Christian. I am rich because my father is rich. Whether I’m eating sushi every week or squeezing mustard over my cereal because I’m out of milk, I’m rich; not because I have money, not because I can wear designer clothes and not because I can drive a fancy car, but because my dad is rich.

I can have all the money in the world but still think like a poor kid. Many a man are like that, people whose wealth is their money but go through life as poor kids: alone, afraid and limited. This, in my opinion, is the difference between a rich man and a rich kid. A rich man ceases to be rich when he loses his wealth, but a rich kid can never cease to be rich. As long as he has a rich dad, he’ll always be rich; and I have the richest dad there is.

(My dad owns the universe, beat that!).

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Why I Don’t Hate Santa Anymore

I still remember that Catechesis period in school when the sub – an angry old Catholic priest, ranted about a big part of our Christmas traditions and their pagan roots. He dissed it all, the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the Yule log and in the end funneled all his anger on Santa Claus. What was once a virtuous representation of the St. Nicholas figure became a pagan demon set out to turn people away from the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Christ the savior.

I had always wondered about the origins of our Christmas traditions and if they had any Christian significance, but tracing them back to pagan customs was the kind of eye-opener I wish I never had.

Of course I had long stopped believing in Santa and I didn’t doubt he was a fictional character, but the mere realization that the whole magic of the Christmas Spirit that stamped me for good as a kid could have been based on pagan traditions definitely robbed me at that moment of the tinsel I always saw around Christmas.

That’s when it all started – the war on Santa.

I began seeing as if for the first time the hyper-materialization of the holiday season and the consumerist spirit that quickly replaced what little left I had of the Christmas Spirit. I started noticing the widespread secularization of maybe the biggest Christian celebration other than Easter, all in order to mold it or better yet market it into something more politically correct to please everyone. What was originally the celebration of the coming of the savior of all mankind got modified ironically to market better to all of mankind.

I quickly realized that it wasn’t about Jesus anymore. It was about everything except Jesus and this pissed me off… a lot.

I took it upon myself to fight to save Christmas from the claws of secularism and became one of those that you would often hear protesting, “It’s Christmas not X-mas!”, “Jesus is the reason behind the season”, “It’s Merry Christmas not Season’s Greetings”, “Last Christmas is not a Christmas Carol!”.

But what I realized also that in my attempts to keep Christmas about Christ for other people, I was struggling to bring about something in my own efforts and I certainly wasn’t having a good time at it. Christmas wasn’t feeling any more magical for me and the Christmas Spirit was something I resolved only children experience and as they grow up try to hold on to as much they can as it starts slipping slowly but inevitably from their fingertips.

Most importantly, I realized I was setting God on the side-tracks in this whole matter. I was nullifying God’s divine might and instead perpetuating that God needed me to fend for him. As if God found himself in a situation he wasn’t prepared for and had to call upon my and a number of other Christmas Rangers’ powers to get him out of this ditch where people have swerved from celebrating his coming on earth and have gone back to worshiping idols. This time there was a new idol in town and his name was Santa.

But God wasn’t in fact standing aside, arms-folded like I had portrayed him to be. God had never stopped working but I only needed eyes to see what he was up to and it wasn’t until I surrendered it all back to him that I began to see what he was really doing.

When I forfeited the “war on Santa” I began to see how God had impacted people through Christmas without them knowing it was him pulling the strings backstage. I began to see the whole of creation at Christmas-time gravitating towards gift-giving, feeding the poor, caring for the fatherless and the widow and being of good cheer. I began to see people from all beliefs and origins partaking in the joy, peace and love that Christmas brings, the very things that Jesus came on earth to give.

This year I started teaching music in a Christian school for girls located in a rather Muslim area and as a result all my students are Muslim teenage girls. What was very surprising to me though was the holistic acceptance I discovered in the Muslim community for Christmas. Last Friday I was invited to attend a Christmas celebration at the school right before they headed off for the holidays and it was genuinely heartwarming for me to see my students up on stage joyfully singing Christmas carols and acting in skits about the meaning of Christmas – something they had been practicing on for the past couple of months – knowing that not one of them is Christian.

Do they know that the Christmas tree is a pagan invention? No. Do they know that Santa’s story has nothing to do with Christianity? No. Do they know that the worldly Christmas celebration isn’t any more about Jesus than it is about bells, stockings and turkey? No. Do they love Christmas? Yes. Do they enjoy it? You can bet your mince pies they do.

The reason? It’s because they accept Christmas the only way Christmas can be accepted, like a child, just like I did before that blessed Catechesis period.

Harp and Bowl Session

7 Reasons Why You Can Never Understand a Christian

“What’s up with those pesky Christians?”

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question at least once in your lifetime. You must have a handful of them friends on your Facebook News Feed always posting Bible verses and promises from God, sharing songs of their favorite Christian bands and statuses uttered by famous Christian figures. With their Bibles on them at all times, if not in paper then on their phones or tablets, they’re always ready to quote you a verse for every circumstance. You can see them at your favorite coffee shop holding Bible studies or by the sea-side as they try to steal you for a few minutes from your peaceful afternoon walk to tell you about Jesus. You must have spotted them on your way to the pub one evening standing outside, singing praise songs and passing out tracts, preying for lost souls to snatch them from the grips of hell, aka the pub.

If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, go on scientific and social forums and seek out the guy that’s voicing out his anti-evolution, anti-abortion, anti-gay ideas. It’s not very hard to spot him really. He’s usually the “voice in the wilderness” type, trying in vain to argue that the world was created in only 6 days and that humans are not animals while every comment of his gets returned with mockery and ridicule.

But in the spirit of general knowledge, I’d like to take a moment and state 7 reasons why you can never understand a Christian.

1- It’s not organized religion, it’s a relationship

Maybe you’ve heard it all before, every time you accuse a Christian of herd conformity and in their frustration they answer, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus!”

Well, I realize this might be hard to understand, but every Christian has at some point in their life experienced the life-changing love of Christ that has made them a totally different human being that just can’t help but talk about Jesus in everything they do. We are not Christians because we were born in Christian families, we are Christians because we got born again into the family of God.

We weren’t like that before. In fact, in the past we did everything in our powers not to be associated with people like that. So for someone to flip completely from being a cussing sex crazed animal to a lover of Jesus in just one day, then maybe, just maybe he might have something very important to tell you and you might find interest in hearing him out.

2- Sex is not a sin, we just choose to save it for marriage

We’re not afraid of sex, we don’t believe the “original sin” was sex and we don’t believe sex is a forbidden pleasure. In fact we love sex so much and hold it in such high regard that we choose willingly to save it for marriage.

While our society has a low view of virgins and makes a mockery out of them, we know because we have seen it with our own eyes, if not in us then in others, how sex before marriage has ruined people from having healthy relationships, marriages and families.

We have come to understand that sex is marriage – two bodies becoming one flesh – and that our beings were made in such a way to operate wholly with not more than one sexual partner for life. We acknowledge there is such a thing as emotional and sexual baggage that gets loaded unto us from one sexual relation to another and are aware of how detrimental this is to our wholeness.

While our contemporary culture champions sexual promiscuity, we take a firm stand against this and choose sexual health and well-being for ourselves by saving sex for marriage.

3- We are against homosexuality, but we’re not homophobes

This might be very difficult to understand, especially if you are gay, but while we can never agree with homosexuality, we are not homophobes.

Homophobia suggests an irrational fear of homosexuals, which is very far from the truth. We are not afraid of homosexuals and we never reject them from the Body of Christ.

We believe homosexuality is just as sinful as sex before marriage, not just because our Bible states it and definitely not to suggest that homosexual people are bad people, but simply because we submit to God’s perfect original design.

We have come to understand that the world and everything in it functions according to certain rules that are fixed by the creator and cannot be challenged, let alone changed. Just like the sun will always rise from the east and set in the west and earth will always revolve around the sun and water will always evaporate at 100°C and freeze at 0°C and things will always fall when you drop them (unless in space), we know that two men can never become one flesh and neither can two women. If you are alive and reading this post, you’re a living proof of marriage. We don’t believe in a “traditional definition” and a “modern definition” of marriage simply because to us there’s only one possible kind of marriage.

We don’t believe gay people are going to hell because of their homosexuality just as being heterosexual doesn’t get you to heaven either, but knowing Jesus does. This is why we want everyone to meet Jesus and let him deal with the homosexuality part.

We believe homosexual people are worthy of unconditional love and acceptance but that should never mean agreeing with their homosexuality just like loving and accepting a Christian should never mean agreeing with their Christian beliefs. We don’t call you Christophobes, so I think it’s only fair you don’t call us homophobes.

4- We drink but don’t get drunk

Although some Christian denominations forbid drinking, most Christians are cool with it. I myself do enjoy the occasional drink, especially wine in winter. It’s just that the lifestyle of drunkenness just doesn’t appeal to us anymore. We have tasted something far better that makes the biggest party you can ever conceive fade in comparison and believe it or not, on Friday nights we’d rather jump up and down and get drunk on the Holy Spirit in a youth meeting than attend any party this world has to offer only to leave with an empty feeling afterwards.

Warning: Attending a youth meeting can be hazardous to your health. You can get hooked.

5- Although scientists, we don’t believe in Evolution

It seems like the general assumption nowadays is that you have to believe in Evolution if you are a scientist and atheism seems to be murderously associated with science. While that could make perfect sense to you, it just doesn’t to us.

The notion that everything evolved from one single organism and we share a common ancestor with apes goes against everything we see in the world. We just don’t buy it.

It has been scientifically proven that people will believe any statement that starts with “It has been scientifically proven”, including this statement.

Pretty laughable, eh? Yet sadly this is what scientists are using to credit their so called findings. We hear, “scientists have found this and scientists have found that”, but are we actually seeing any proof? Do we have a single proof of animals evolving from one kind to another? Do we have a single proof of the Big Bang? Or is it just cleverly made stipulations?

More so, it strikes as odd to us that we have absolutely no record whatsoever of man evolving from ape and earning his way up to be the dominating species on earth, yet people have no problem believing something scientists claim to have happened millions and millions of years ago but have a problem believing a very well documented account of something that has happened only 2000 years ago.

6- Although people of faith, we are intellectuals

Another trendy general assumption is that faith is for the feeble-minded. It somehow goes beyond people’s understanding that you can have faith and a strong intellect to back it up. Somehow unbelief has become synonymous with reason and open-mindedness to a point where people would dismiss you without a second look back as soon as they find out you’re a Christian.

A few weeks ago, I read a post from a famous local blogger stating that religion is elitist because it holds back information from the public when it judges it inappropriate or contrary to its beliefs. When I commented that secularism does the same thing by teaching evolution in schools as science and holding back creation because it’s “religious”, his reply was that it’s very shameful of me in the year 2013 to say something like that because evolution is a fact.

Well is it really shameful that I don’t adhere to evolution because I just don’t see any scientific evidence of it?

I think what’s really shameful is how science has been hogged by atheists and how God is now associated with backwardness. What I find even more shameful is the systemic dichotomy between science and faith, especially when scientists do the exact thing they condemn religious people for – having faith.

What’s even more funny is that those same people will hurl insults at us and dismiss our opinions on moral issues like sex before marriage, homosexuality, divorce and abortion as coming from religious bigots without even giving our arguments any intellectual consideration. Hmm correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that the very meaning of bigotry?

“Those Christian bigots want to take us back to the Dark Ages! What do they know?” (Every open-minded individual)

7- We pray because we love to

Yes, we pray. Not because we have to, but because we love to! You may see praying as something as crazy as having an imaginary friend, but when your imaginary friend answers your prayers, then you’re in trouble.

We don’t recite prayers we know by heart, we don’t pray to statues, images or icons, we pray to the only true living God who we know is there, hearing our prayers. We talk to him about everything: our anxieties, fears, sorrows, heartaches, problems, sins, failures, joys, desires, dreams, ambitions and guess what? He answers! He makes things turn around and makes things happen for us. He heals, comforts, provides, strengthens, equips, trains, protects, builds, teaches and loves us throughout the different circumstances we find ourselves in. What a great imaginary friend ha!

Finally, of listing reasons there could be no end, but I guess it’s safe to say that it’s quite hard to understand a Christian.

However, it’s not impossible. I’ll let you in on a little secret: get to know Jesus.