Good Luck or God

I have heard of Talisman before but couldn’t remember what it was until I searched its meaning on the Internet.  It is an object which people believe holds magical properties that bring good luck to the possessor, or that protect the possessor from evil or harm.  It can be wore around the neck or wrist.

Jewish amulets were made up of texts, using either letters or graphic symbols which were inscribed various types of materials such as plant matter or precious stones. The amulet was used to ease childbirth, facilitate recovery from illness and improve one’s livelihood.  It was also used to protect a mother and her newborn child from the dangers of Lilith, a female demon who was believed to pursue and kill mother and infant.   An example of the text found on a amulet used for this purpose is:

I command you, holy and pure angels Sanoi, Sansanoi, Semanglaf, Semanglon, to keep all spirits and demons and all evil misfortunes and all Liline and all Liltine away from this newly delivered mother and from this newborn babe; and from the day on which this amulet, on which are inscribed your names, will be placed in this house in which is to be found the newborn, from this day forward remove Lilith and all her followers and all her servants from this newborn and from this house to the farthest reaches. Let her and all the demons with her flee, that she and her followers may never be able to harm this child for ever and ever. 

And the amulet for childbirth would sometimes simply say, “Adam, Eve; Lilith out.”

Amulet to protect a woman and her newborn son, with invocations of Adam and Eve, Lilith, and several angels; Podolia or Ukraine, late nineteenth or early twentieth century. (The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Russia)

The belief that amulets have hidden powers was widespread among both Jews and non-Jews in Eastern Europe and across all levels of society.  However, there were some Jews who opposed the use of amulets and prominent among them was Maimonides who wrote vehemently against them. The maskilim in Eastern Europe openly mocked the use of amulets and considered them to be profane and harmful.  The fact of the Jews believing in amulets may be a result of the apostasy of the Israelites when they adopted many of the beliefs and practices of the pagan nations around them such as worshipping foreign gods and child sacrifice.

Talismans were not only worn by the common people but by kings as well.  Charlemagne, the former king of the Franks wore one.

 

This is the Talisman of Charlemagne which is said to have been found on his body when his tomb was opened

Charlemagne’s wife had sorcerers from the Court of Haroun el Raschid, Emperor of the East, make his talisman for him.   It had two large cabochon sapphires, one was oval and the other was square.  They were set into a remnant of the wood from the Holy Cross (the Cross of Jesus) and a small piece of the Virgin’s hair. It was to make their love constant.  One would assume that it worked since he never stopped loving her. This was the talisman which was buried with him at Aix-la-Chapelle, in 814 and re-discovered when the tomb was opened by Otto III in 1000.  The talisman was  preserved in the treasury of the Cathedral until it was given, by the canons, to Empress Josephine in 1804, to wear at her coronation.

Wearing a talisman created by sorcerers seems at odds with the Charlemagne who “submitted to no one but God”.

I was surprised to learn that there are Christian Talismans.  Ancient Coptic Talismans like this one came from the Oromo people of Ethiopia and were traditionally worn to protect the wearer from evil spirits and bring good luck.  They contain scrolls usually made of vellum and were inscribed with prayers and stories from Coptic Christian bibles or manuscripts by priests, religious scribes or unordained clerics known as ‘dabtaras’ and then sewn inside their leather pouch.  The writing on the scroll was done with special black and red ink and written in Ge’ez, a currently unspoken language used for religious purposes.  These Coptic talismans, like the Coptic crosses, were made a long time ago and it is  hard to determine their age.  Some were made as early as the late 19th century but these talismans have been made, worn and worshipped for over 1600 years.

Coptic Christian amulet/talisman from the Oromo people of Ethiopia

Should Christians be wearing talismans?  There are two types which are used as symbols of the Christian faith–the Cross and the fish.  The first symbolizes Jesus and what He did for mankind and the second symbolizes those His followers who are to be “fishers of men”.

The cross
The cross of Christianity was a symbol of the faith. It was previously considered a pagan symbol, with several early church fathers objecting to its use. The cross represents Christ’s victory over death and sin, since it is believed that through His death he conquered death itself.

Fish
The fish’s first known use as a Christian religious symbol was sometime within the first three centuries AD.  Christians began using the Greek word for “fish” as an acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior”. Followers of Christianity were called Pisciculi; the root of this Latin word is “fish”. 

When I did a search on the Fish symbol, I discovered that there are three–the one of the fish only, the one with Jesus’ name in the middle and the one of the cross in the middle.

Christians wear crucifixes or have them hanging in their homes or  dangling from the rear view mirror of their automobiles.   I have seen stickers of the fish symbol on the back of some cars.  Should Christians be part of what has become popular today?  Well, many don’t think they should.  And they use the following Bible verses to defend their stance:

“They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans” (Isaiah 2:6, NIV). 

“In that day, the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes [and] amulets” (Isaiah 3:18-20, NAS).

“Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spirits and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book” (2 Kings 23:24, NAS).  The teraphim was the name used for idols or images reverenced by the ancient Hebrews and kindred peoples, apparently as household gods.

There is the argument that instead of putting on talismans for protection for evil and demonic powers, put on the whole armor of God “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

“There are concerns that people allow objects such as crosses, crucifixes, figurines, rosaries, bumper stickers, etc., to take the place of the true change that should take place in our hearts. The things we wear, carry, or put on our cars are not what make us Christians. God is not concerned with what we wear as long as we do not dress in a way that would cause anyone to stumble in his or her walk with God (Romans 14:20) and we are not absorbed with our looks or our possessions.

On the other hand, “Many Christians wear crosses as a proud expression of their love, respect, and service to Christ, along with a remembrance of what He did for us.”

Choosing to wear Christian Talismans or not, is up to the individual.  I personally don’t wear religious jewelry or jewelry of any kind but that was me following my own conscience and what I believed was what God wanted for me.  If people feel safer on their person, in their vehicles or in their homes, then, they have to do what their consciences dictate, as long as these things never take the place of God Himself who is our one, true Source of protection against the evil one.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Yivo Encyclopedia; Above Top SecretEtsy; Bible Info; Got Questions; Unusual Historicals;

Advertisements

Women Beggars in India

The Bible has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  In fact, Jesus said that one day He will say to those who helped those in need, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

It is hard to go to a place like India and see a woman on the streets, begging with a child in tow and not do something about it.   She is dressed shabbily, perhaps bare feet, her face dirty and in her arms is a sleeping infant or a toddler with a dirty face, runny nose and big eyes looking at you as his mother holds out a thin, dirty hand for money.  Your heart melts and you reach into your handbag or your money belt to take out some money to give her.  It’s impossible for you not to help this mother and her child.  You give her the money and she takes it and goes way.  Your heart feels light.  You have done a great thing.

 

It’s a common sight in India to see a dirty looking woman carrying a child in her arms.  If you are driving, you see them at the traffic light and when you stop, they come to your car and bang on the window. Sometimes it’s a little boy with a runny nose.   You will find them in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist attractions, in temples and in areas where there are crowds.  People who see them are moved to give them money.  Sometimes they shoo them away.

 

It is perfectly normal for people to beg in a country where there is so much poverty.  In fact, begging has become one of the most serious social issues in India in spite of rapid economic growth.  This has led to the growth of beggars in the country.  Most of them come from Bangladesh and some are from India. The problem is that not all of the beggars are legitimate.  The few who are real are those who are handicapped because they are unable to work, they are old or blind or they need money for basic needs.  Many live far below the poverty line and have been forced to beg in order to survive.

 

There are entire families who are begging on the streets and in temples because their income is not enough.  The children are unable to go to school.  Poverty is very real in India and begging is the only way the people can earn their livelihood.  Unfortunately, begging has become a big scam in India. Travel India Smart warns people who plan to visit India that if they are approached by a women carrying a baby and begging for money not to give her any money.  These women make the babies look pathetic to appeal to the public’s sympathy.

 

In an article, Travel India Smart says that when one woman takes a rest, she hands the baby over to other women who continue to walk the streets in the hot sun, carrying the baby.  Babies are rented out from beggar to beggar.  As a mother, I can’t imagine how a mother could allow her baby to be used like this.  Maps of India says that sometimes the babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.

 

These beggars want money.  One beggar said that the baby she was carrying had just been fed and she would prefer money.  In Mumbai, a child or a woman beggar approaches a visitor, wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby.  The woman would take the visitor to a nearby stall or shop which happens to sell tins or boxes of the milk.  The milk is pricey and if the tourist hands over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar split the proceeds between them.  The beggars rent babies from their mothers to make them look credible and they carry these sedated babies who are draped limply in their arms and claim that they don’t have any money to feed them.

 

When confronted by a woman beggar and a child, what do we do?  In an article written in Go India, Sharell Cook, suggests that it is best to ignore the beggars.  It may sound harsh but by not giving them what they want, you are taking the necessary step toward abolishing beggary.  It is something that has become a menace to society.  It is exploiting the compassion of those who want to help those in need.  It is making it difficult for the real beggars.  Babies and children are being exploited.  And gangs are profitting from begging.  Some beggars have gone as far as deliberately maiming and disfiguring themselves just to get more money.

 

Something has to be done to stop this epidemic.  One suggestion is that charitable organizations use their clout with governments to ban beggars from using babies.  Another suggestion is that the Indian government continues with its measures to alleviate poverty.  For our part, people can help to stop this problem by not giving money to these beggars.  Instead, they are encouraged to visit a temple and give alms to the beggars there.

 

Tips for giving to Beggars are:

  • If you really want to give to beggars, give only 10-20 rupees at a time and give them when leaving a place not when you arrive or you will be mobbed.
    • Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who dance or sing
    • Give to those who are elderly or crippled.

 

God wants us to show compassion to those who are in need but He doesn’t expect us to help those who would take advantage of our charity and exploit others for their greedy gains.

 

Avoid giving to women with babies because the babies are usually not theirs.  The best thing you can do is to not give anything to the beggars.  If everyone were to stop giving, then these gangs and all those who are profitting from begging will be put out of business.  They will have no choice to work and earn an honest living.  And visitors can enjoy a hassle free vacation.

 

indian_beggar_woman

Sources:  Map of IndiaTravel India SmartGo India

Compassion in time of Devastation

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

RT13-07800

Imagine what it would be like to have your home and livelihood destroyed by a natural disaster. This is what happened to the people in the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh when their homes were destroyed by Cyclone Phailin, one of the biggest natural disasters of 2013.

Jyotiranjan and his family were evacuated to a nearby school building where they waited for Cyclone Phailin to sweep through their village in Odisha.  Jyotiranjan recalls, “That night we did not sleep. The whole night we watched and wondered when the cyclone would be over.  When it stopped at 3 a.m., we went back to our house and found that it was destroyed and everything was lost.”

Officials estimated that the cyclone would cause extensive damage to the homes.  More than 800,000 homes were destroyed.  Jibu and his family lost their home and all of their belongings. How devastating it is to lose your home and all of your possessions.  When I watched news on natural disasters, it is heartbreaking to see the people crying because their homes which held so many precious memories were reduced to rubble.  They had lost a big chunk of their lives and they feel helpless and hopeless.

We can only imagine how Jihu must have felt when he lost his home and how thankful he was when he and his family received a home as part of Gospel for Asia’s Phailin Housing Project. He was moved to tears.  “We are a very poor family.  No one was there to help us when we lost everything during Phailin,” he said.  Even our own relatives did not help us.  But I am so happy that GFA helped me.  I am so grateful to the church.”

Gospel for Asia had provided homes for Jyotiranjan and 140 other people.  “We never expected a house to be rebuilt for us,” he said.  “Really, I am very glad, and I want to express my gratitude to God.”

Kalei lost her small cottage after Cyclone Phailin ravaged her village.  Thanks to the help of Compassion Service teams and those who provide relief, she was able to receive food.  She has since been able to rebuild her life in a new home.  “We were not able to rebuild a house (for ourselves, especially one) made of bricks and cement,” she said.  God, through GFA Compassion Services, blessed her with a new home.

Kalei stands in front of her new home with her daughter and grandson.

In addition to rebuilding homes, Gospel for Asia provided some of the survivors with sewing machines, carpentry tools and tin roof sheets so that they could earn a livelihood since their belongings were washed away.   Having new homes and earning a living has helped many of these families to experience firsthand, God’s love and mercy.  They survived Cyclone Phailin and now they were rebuilding their lives with His help.

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works – Psalm 9:1

It is encouraging to see how God’s people shine like lights in the darkest hours.  Through acts of love and compassion, they bring hope and comfort to many.  Through their actions, they reflect the love of Jesus.

gospel-for-asia-RT11-02192

If you would like to help Gospel for Asia in their work to reconstruct homes for those still in need, click here.  Together we can help to rebuild lives.  Together we can make a difference.

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; BBC News

A Sewing Machine

And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11b

I had an aunt who used to sew on the side and a co-worker who sews her own tops and dresses. My mother had a sewing machine but I don’t remember seeing her use it.  Growing up it never occurred to me to learn how to sew.  I was more interested in reading romance novels.  If I were among the poor of Asia, knowing how to sew would come in very handy.

For the poor of Asia, sewing is not just a hobby; it is an opportunity to earn a livelihood for their family.

For one widow, sewing was her lifesaver.  Unable to feed her family, she cried out to God in desperation and He answered her prayer through a sewing machine.  Watch her amazing story.

I was moved by her story.  She turned to God in her greatest need and He came through for her.  As God usually does, what He provided was beyond what she expected.  And in response to His faithfulness, she was faithful in returning a tithe of what she earned.  The sewing machine was not only the source of her income which she used to feed her family but it was her opportunity to share her testimony with others.  As a result her neighbors wanted to know more about the God who had given her the sewing machine which changed her life and the lives of her children.

It’s remarkable how God used something as simple and basic as a sewing machine to answer this widow’s prayers.  And He is using sewing to bring joy to other women.  In South Asia, there are sewing centres where they receive daily devotions, counseling, prayer and fellowship while attending a four-month sewing course which will equip them with the skills they need in order to have a better future.

Imagine the joy of a woman living in poverty in India, who is able to sell the beautiful garment she has created, to feed her family or help put a roof over their heads. Imagine the greater joy she felt upon hearing those beautiful words of Jesus for the first time through the sewing/tailoring ministry established in her village, where she learned to sew and establish her business – Christian Aid Mission

The widow reminded me that it is always best to wait upon the Lord.  She thought of remarrying but decided against it because it would not have been the best thing for her children.  She put their needs before her own.  She turned to God instead.  She followed Solomon’s advice, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding ; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs  3:5, 6).   Even in her moments of despair and desperation, she held on to her faith and leaned on the Rock, trusting in His love and compassion.  And her prayers were answered in the most wonderful and unexpected way.

I pray that we will have the faith of this widow who didn’t cave the temptation to solve her problems by herself.  Too often we try to do things on our own instead of seeking God in prayer and waiting for Him to act on our behalf.  Faith and reason prevailed in this widow’s case.  She didn’t have to depend on a new husband to care for her.  Instead she could depend on Almighty God who would be a Father to her children.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you – Matthew 7:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Christian Aid Mission