He Is (at 32:45)

Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Boxing Day

Phew! Feeling relieved having survived all that shopping, cooking, sending off presents, partying and eating days of left-overs of rich food? Well, take a deep breath, honey, you will start the cycle all over again tomorrow!

How did you spend your Boxing Day? If you’re in  England, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you were probably busy at the shops picking up the best deals of the year! I remember when we were in New Zealand, Boxing Day made me feel like I shouldn’t be doing any shopping all year except for that day! That’s THE Day when best deals are truly best! It’s probably the equivalent to Black Friday shopping here in America, but minus the stampede and the overnight queues.

Well, as for me, I went to the post office first thing, after all I did my basic chores for that day. With the Christmas rush over you would think the streets would be quieter and the mall parking less stressful but no, there were still many people. Well, probably buying post-Christmas item sales for next year’s trimmings, gift wraps, cards, Santa hats and suits? Or returning purchases or presents with receipts for the right color, size, style, model, edition, etc, or refund? Boxing Day or Returns Day?

I had bought a reference book but realized I bought the wrong edition year I wanted for that book just hours after I placed the order on Amazon. So, I went online again to cancel it. They didn’t reply although the status didn’t show anything like it was already being prepared for shipping. I sent 4 emails in total, still no reply. There is no number to contact, by the way. (Later, my credit card company gave me a number to contact Amazon but it turned out to be a fax number.) When the status started showing that it was already being prepared for shipping I emailed for the 5th time and only then did they reply saying it cannot be cancelled anymore and that I can always return it but they won’t refund me for the shipping charges I would incur. So I disputed the transaction saying I had cancelled it early enough but they insisted on shipping it. I thought even if I would incur some money for shipping back I don’t care, I really don’t want that book. They probably are hoping I would get discouraged by losing money on the return shipping and I would just keep the unwanted merchandise. But our house is already bursting at the seams with old books I don’t even want anymore. The USPS (US post office) has this “flat rate” boxes that are relatively reasonably-priced. Anything that fits in those boxes, no matter the weight, would ship at that flat rate. So, I thought I will try just see how much it costs to send back the item as it is first and then compare its price if re-packed and sent in a flat-rate box. So, that’s what I did. And voile! The post office clerk said since I didn’t open the item she can treat it as “refused” and she can send it back as it is, WITHOUT any fee on my part! Hurray! I’m glad I was so mad about the way they treated my cancellation that I was actually mulling sending it back as it is, even if the price of shipping would cost me a bit more than sending it back on a flat-rate box. (The book is big and heavy.) I’m glad I decided not to even touch the thing!! So, she gave me a tracking number and I called my credit card company again to continue with my dispute. Yesss, that should be the end of it! I was blessed by God through that clerk on Boxing Day, and for all time for that info on “refused” deliveries!
Took photos of the "refused" merchandise to make sure I have a record that I sent it back unopened and in excellent condition.

Meanwhile, I just read this feature article by Alex Shephard saying that Amazon business did so well this past year and his conclusion is that, “Amazon’s influence on the American economy is greater than ever been before, and it will almost certainly be even greater next year. There are some reasons to feel good about this—no company is more committed to making it easier for consumers to buy things—and a lot of reasons to be troubled.” I can’t agree more on that. They make shopping so easy but "returning" wrongly-bought items seemingly difficult; well, in fact, it actually is not only difficult but impossible. (Read the Epilogue all the way below.)

Actually, this was the second time this happened to me - buying the “wrong” thing. Last time I also bought a reference book from Amazon and I got two confirmation emails from them for that transaction. I thought it was just a duplicate email. Horrors! It was actually two distinct purchases for the same item. They said their system got two purchase orders from me and it looks like I clicked on the “buy” button twice!? Their solution? “Just return the merchandise but we can’t pay for the shipping charge you incur.” Of course that deterred me at once as the book was heavy and that time I did not even know about flat-rate boxes in the USPS (not sure even if they already had that option then). So, I kept the merchandise and decided to give it as a present to a friend instead. But now that I discovered about this “refused” option at the USPS, phew!  that’s a relief! Online shopping may not actually be suicide, just close.

On the other hand, I just found this thread online on how to refuse a delivery and it looks like if it is delivered by a private courier, like UPS,  returning goods is not that straight-forward. Apparently, with private couriers, they have their own “culture.” (Well, just as my son had said, I could have known about this earlier if I just Googled it. *emoticon*)
So, there, this has put my guards up on online shopping, at least for now! Meanwhile, I’m cleaning up my house for the year-end “Spring cleaning,” at least before the New Year frenzy starts all over again, and will be boxing away clutter and happily throwing away a lot more! Hopefully, my house will get a clean, streamlined look again,... till new clutter sets in, again. Hmmm, sounds like the humdrum of life, year-in, year-out. Still,

Blessings to You All and All the Best for your New Year Celebrations!
This is a re-blog.
If you wish to cite this blog, citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Dec 29). Boxing Day [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2015/12/boxing-day/ ‎
Thanks for dropping by! See you in my other site for more blogs: www.purejoyland.com
Epilogue of this Incident:
I got a refund of 75% of the book price from this transaction although I returned the item well within the return window of 90 days given by the third party vendor BooKnack. See here for Amazon's Partial Refunds & Restocking Fees. I ordered it on Dec 20 and they received it back in original condition on Dec 29.Well, I'm sure BooKnack have their own returns policy to justify the lesser amount they are refunding me, and it's toolate for me to know what their policy is.  The wrong purchase on my part cost me a total of $13.42, the vendor citing "restocking fee and the return shipping costs that the USPS charged" them. That means the post office clerk telling me that return shipping costs me "nothing" is as good as a lie. I looked at the USPS website online to send them an email to inquire how they can make such an empty claim when the vendor can actually charge me their "free" service but there is no option available in their menus to make that kind of inquiry. I guess I can go back personally to the post office and tell the clerk to stop spreading "misleading info" (euphemism for "lies") to naive customers like me when it comes to Amazon merchandise but that is the best this case can go. No, there is no free lunch on Amazon, honey. You clicked the wrong button, you pay for that and walk, drive, park and line up as well. Let's just say, set aside a pleasant morning for that. The trite thing is, I cancelled this order 6 hours after I realized I placed the wrong order and emailed them four times (they give you no phone number on their site to contact them for cancellations, returns, etc.) and they did not reply. In one of the emails I offered them to please just cancel the order, just charge me 25% of the book price plus the Amazon shipping fee of $3.99, because I did not want to go through the hassle of receiving the item and going to the post office to return it. I even argued that we would be doing the environment a favor if they agreed with my proposal. No reply. Until then Amazon had not posted any status on my order so I knew the book was still with them, the order unprocessed and could have easily been cancelled. When Amazon already posted the status on their site that the item is being "prepared for shipping" I emailed the third-party vendor   BooKnack for the 5th time confirming that I really did not want that order and I still wanted it cancelled. Only then did they reply and all they said was that the order was already processed too far down the line to be cancelled. I have never cancelled an order before on Amazon or anywhere, so, the 25% amount off the item price plus the shipping fee charge I had proposed was just a wild guess on my part. Well, true enough, those are the amounts they lopped off the money I had paid them for this order. So there. Hard lesson learned. Don't be so click-happy with your cursor when ordering online. Just a finger-press on your part and you have to pay 25% of the item cost, plus the shipping fee, plus incur a trip to the post office. The main hard lesson learned for me: Online shopping is not there for the convenience of the customer but rather for the vendor/s and the credit card companies.
Did the credit card company help me by withholding payment just because I argued I made the cancellation request just hours after I made the wrong order? No. They said once you give the vendor authorization over your credit card number they have no authority to stop payment.
Was Amazon able to help me cancel the order? No. The best they can do is give me the $13.42 I lost in the form of a coupon which I can use on my next purchase with them. (Will I still shop with them?)
Did the USPS promise of "free shipping" for "refused" delivery carry through? No. USPS is over-ruled by the vendor's "return policy," of which I usually don't even bother to know before I place any order. Yup, that's head-in-the-sand me.
Did the third-party vendor reply to any of my requests for cancellation just hours after I placed the order? No.
Did the third-party vendor have a phone number on their website that I could easily contact for customer support when I wanted to cancel the order? No. Their system only allowed me to email them.
Does the Amazon website have a number I could easily contact for customer support when I wanted to cancel the order? No. I called my credit card company to stop / hold payment but instead they gave me an Amazon phone number to contact but it turned out to be  a fax phone number. That was before the transaction had "posted" on my online credit stream, which, being "unposted" yet, could not be "disputed" at that point. When it had finally "posted" already and I called them to dispute the transaction as they had promised, then my credit card company gave me another Amazon phone number instead which I could finally contact. By then Amazon could not do anything much to help because the product had already gone through the whole cycle of being delivered and returned to the vendor. The transaction was over and they had all the right to refund me just any percentage-amount they arbitrarily decided to do so. I was at everyone's total mercy. All that by just one wrong flick of my finger.
Well yeah, here's naive me, thinking online shopping was so convenient! Well, not anymore! If I was just shopping at a brick-and-mortar shop, say Macy's or Barnes and Noble, and changed my mind about a purchase, I could come back hours or even a day or so later, return the product with the receipt and they would credit back the full amount to my credit card or membership card. Online shopping does not allow that to happen.
Alex Shephard quoted in his article which I cited above that, "Amazon resists narratives because Amazon has only one narrative: complete commercial domination." That actually sounds just as it does: alarming. The last Barnes and Noble in Queens, NY will close this new year and now, having had this experience with Amazon (and BooKnack) makes me even more sad about B and N closing down. Will I keep my account with Amazon? Maybe I will, but just for the purpose of snooping around. Or I lose a grip on what the real world is like. But hey, "happiness!" This mis-purchase just opened my mind to yet another window of what our real world is like - the reality of the increasing predominance of e-commerce and its powerful sinister curb on our shopping liberties.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Happiness

Christmas! So much happiness and cheer comes with the season of trees, Santa Claus, stockings, sleigh bells, reindeers, carols, parties, presents and church plays! Well, at least for many people. If you are in Southeast Asia and you’re not Christian you most probably are not celebrating Christmas and it probably doesn’t mean much to you, except for the Christmas songs you hear in the malls and the radio, or tv. If you’re in Northeast Asia you may not be a believer of Jesus and His birth but you are most likely having a Christmas party at work or with your friends at the bar. You will have a Christmas tree at home and some trimmings and may even eat a Christmas cake at your Christmas party where you exchange gifts. If you’re in Europe you would have Christmas trees at your mall or town center and trimmings and lights on the roads, even the houses. It would be the same in many other countries where England, Spain and France have ruled once before. As for the rest of the world where Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and other religions are followed, as well as those where communism is the ideology (Russia, North Korea, Myanmar, etc.) there probably would be no vestiges of Christmas in the commercial places at all, probably only in some homes, and in secret. But for us here in America and in the part of  Asia where I come from, Christmas, just like Thanksgiving, is always associated with family reunions, get-togethers, parties, church-going, exchanging gifts, etc. It’s the time of year when people would pay a premium just to purchase a ticket to be home. In the olden times it’s that time of year when we hear from family and friends though we hardly hear from them at any other time of the year. We would send Christmas cards, letters, photographs, even presents, to one another. Nowadays, because of technology and social media we just send our greetings through the airwaves. We get to save many trees and the environmentalists rejoice!

Christmas in our neighborhood.

Sounds really awesome and great but it could be terribly awful and lonely for those who do not have family, or friends, real friends who care. I am thinking about the  homeless, or the elderly parent whose  children are all abroad and can’t come home for the Christmas dinner. Or the single senior parent in a hospice and his / her family are scattered all over the place and they all are too far to come and see him / her. Or the grieving one whose spouse or child had just passed away this year, or had an accident and is in coma, or is terminally ill and in hospital. Or the one who just had a divorce, or had a bitter quarrel with a child and are not in speaking terms with him / her.  I guess Christmas would be more like misery than happy?

If we have friends and loved ones, neighbors, who may be in these situations, this is the best time to reach out to them, as Christmas becomes depressing rather than cheerful for them. It is a reality that holidays are the worst times of the year for them. Let’s remember to pay them a visit or call, send a card, flowers, bring a dish or something. 

Wrapping up the chocolate bundt cake I gave to my friend for a Christmas present.

For those of us who have broken relationships, we can take this time to take a deep breath, re-think once, twice, one more time... Voile! it is the best time to make amends! Send a gift, card or something to indicate that you want to forget whatever bitterness had transpired between you and your loved one, you want to start afresh and of course, that is not so easy to do unless we have had a true renaissance in our hearts. Well, Jesus came at the first Christmas to bring love, hope and forgiveness to all of us. Maybe we can take a moment to reflect on that?

Does it really matter that we are able to attend parties? That we wear the most eye-catching clothes and brightest smiles to see friends and family? Does it really matter that we have a dining table loaded with goodies on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve? Does it really matter if we don’t have a tree, or lights or trimmings on our windows? When we are not in good terms with people we love isn’t it that the only thing that matters would be to be reconciled with them and have peace in our hearts?

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive men their sins your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6

That is the reason why we do not have peace when we have discord with other people, especially our very own family. When there is a  broken relationship and unforgiveness it creates a barrier in our relationship with God. That barrier is the main cause of the unrest in our hearts. We might try to ignore it, sometimes for years, on and on, but it is one of the things that cause illness in our bodies. It is also known as sin. This is one of the most basic concepts on living and it’s found in the Bible, the word of God.

Adam and Eve, the first humans, committed the first sin of mankind which broke man’s relationship with God. In fact, they fell out of the grace of God - they were driven from God’s presence and His heavenly place of dwelling for them - the Garden of Eden.

Romans 3:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. As such, they were meant to be eternal just like Him. But because of sin they became mortal. Our being mortal is another result of that original sin they committed - eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil of which they were forbidden to eat.

Being put away from God’s presence and his heavenly habitation created both an estrangement and a breach between God and man. That condemnation has brought shame, guilt, low self-esteem, self-pity, despair, loneliness and rejection in the heart of man. As such, man became predisposed to broken relationships. Relating with his spouse, children, friends and family became a struggle rather than a natural thing. All these bring unrest in the heart of man. The only solution to that restlessness is the peace of God, being reconciled with God and restored to that place of fellowship and intimate relationship with God. Alas, how do we ever get back to that place of fellowship and trust with God again? Can we ever get Eden back? (Yes, even global warming and all the environmental problems we’re having are results of our sin and sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve!)

Well, God, the only true wise God, came up with the solution. He sent somebody to pay for our sins so our mortality can be reversed and we can be restored to the original state of Adam and Eve before the Fall. That somebody has to be human so he can take the place of humans (he cannot be an angel or an animal like a goat, sheep, cow, etc.). Also, he has to be sinless. He has to be totally pure or he cannot be a fitting sacrifice. If he has sin, even just a single one, when he offers his life in the place of mankind he would be dying only for his own sin, not for anyone else’s. Thus, he has to be totally sinless, perfect beyond reproach. So, Jesus volunteered to do the job. As well, he is the only one who qualifies to be the legitimate sacrifice. Any human being wouldn’t have qualified because all humans have inherited the effects of the sin / iniquity and resulting sinful nature of Adam and Eve after they committed the first sin. When Jesus became human he had to be born of a woman but He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, hence, the virgin birth. Jesus was 100% human but also 100% Divine. It doesn’t make sense? Well, if we can understand everything about God we would be the same level as Him. But as it is, we are not, thus, God remains incomprehensible, at least in areas that He hasn’t chosen to reveal to us. So yes, Jesus was truly human yet truly divine - one who was truly obedient to His Father, the God of the Universe, the One True God. The obedience of One Man paid the price of punishment for the rebellion of the whole human race. (Take note: only humans! Angels, demons nor “aliens” cannot be redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice.)

5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God.’ “
Hebrews 10

So, there, God became flesh for us on the first Christmas! And such great joy and peace He brought unto men for doing that! If His peace and joy are not real to you, I know what that means. I was once like that, too. Neither did I understand the love of God, especially His love for me (and you) expressed through His only son Jesus. I can tell my story in another blog, maybe next time, or this blog will grow too long. I still remember how it felt like celebrating Christmas the first time after I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So much joy, peace, happiness and meaning came into my life! It was my first time to spend Christmas and New Year away from my family but it was the most meaningful, joyful and peaceful for me. It was like not knowing what you’re searching for yet knowing that you need to search for it and when you find it, you know it answers all the questions you’ll ever have in life! It’s coming to know and have what you have been missing all the while.I felt like I found the meaning of my life and existence.  Looking back, I actually found Life itself! It’s just how wonderful God truly is!

I just recently watched this vid post on youtube and I think this song and singer (Phil Driscoll) say it very well.  When this song was famous my friends and I used to make fun of this song, saying “pitiful” instead of “beautiful.” For really, nobody deserves that kind of cheesy adoration! It’s plain silly! But now that this singer explains that this song was originally composed ( by Billy Preston) with God in mind (not a human love interest), the song suddenly makes sense to me. Well, yes, He is truly BEAUTIFUL!!!

It starts at 2:00 onwards. And yes, Jesus brings so much joy and happiness into our lives! (If you let Him.) Go ahead and watch it!

Well, back to our topic today -  “Christmas Happiness.”

1 John 4:19  says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Until we realize how much God loves us we won’t be able to receive that love into our hearts, and we won’t be able to give away something we don’t have in the first place.

We can’t forgive and be reconciled with the people who irk us if we have not received the forgiveness of God, yet.

Unless we realize how much sin we have committed and how much we have broken God’s heart, we won’t realize we need to know the holiness of God.

Unless we know the holiness of God, we will never know how far we fall short below His standard and we can never realize how truly “ugly” we are, and how badly we need His beauty imparted upon us.

Unless we look at ourselves in a mirror and see ourselves as we are, we will never know how wretched, poor, blind and naked we are, and how badly we need God.

The Bible, the word of God, says:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,  so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Revelation 3

Could this be true about ourselves? Could the word of God be actually a mirror that reflects our true state in God’s eyes?

If it is not true, then Jesus left His glory and majesty as King in Heaven and became a humble human being born in a lowly manger in a home fit only for animals - a stable - for nothing. For Jesus came to lift us up from our dark and sorry plight to a glorious one - full of abundance, favor, light, freedom, comfort, joy, gladness and beauty.

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,’the oil of gladness instead of mourning,’ and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61

Are you intrigued about Jesus yet? His birthday is celebrated by so many! His birth re-set the calendar of human activity, from “BC” to “AD.” “BC”  means “before Christ” and “AD” means “Anno Domini,” Latin for “in the year of our Lord,” referring to the Lord Jesus. Every year after the birth of Jesus is known as “the year of our Lord,” meaning, “after we already have the Lord who came as our Messiah - Savior, Messenger, Prophet.” His birth was so significant that the timeline of the history of human civilization is pegged at His birth, albeit the scholars who did it made a wrong calculation of Jesus’ actual year of birth. You can read more about that here

Well, “Christmas Happiness?” I say you can find it in Jesus. But don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself!

       Merry Christmas and Peace to all!
All Scripture references are from the 1984 New International Version, unless otherwise specified. Emphases in bold letters are mine.
If you wish to cite this blog, citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Dec 24). Christmas Happiness [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2015/12/christmas-happiness/
This is a re-blog. If you wish to read more of my blogs please log on to www.purejoyland.com.


Smile! God loves you and me. ^____^

About Me

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The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D