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Archive for the ‘Earth Feast’ Category

Yesterday's Buds

Today's Blossoms

Tomorrow's Fruit

The same is true of both blessings and disasters. That’s why, when it comes to the latter, they say, “Nip it in the bud.”

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Once there was television… And then there was Jack Bauer. Simply described, badass – the biggest, baddest and best television has ever seen.

Stubbornly pursed lips bent on serving out justice, grim eyes that defiantly stare death in its face, brazen boldness both in stride and word coupled with unequalled brilliance of scheme, weapons in skilled hands that miss no mark no fraction of a second too late – the irrepressible federal agent controlled only by self-will and determination, know for his unmatched courage, resilience and resolve despite losing everything to gain nothing for self – so surreal, yet very real even if only on reel is Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland).

For me, and I believe many more across the world, Bauer and “24” have redefined television forever. Never has a character or TV series been so compelling or convincing, thanks to the ingenious concept, script, direction, performances and cut that went into its making. We, the captive audience, couldn’t help but join Bauer in the longest days of his life by spending the longest days of our lives watching every episode of every series back-to-back if we could help it. What was it that mesmerized us so and still holds us in its grip? The heart-thumping action, no doubt… and like it or not, the dissatisfaction – of never getting enough of Jack Bauer. I, for one, can honestly say that 24 was my “twelve” and I struggle with withdrawal symptoms, now that the series has concluded. Seth Godin was right when he said that great brands (and I say, great TV series/characters) are built on dissatisfaction. You have a prime example of that in 24!

What drew me most to Bauer and what I will no doubt remember him most for, though, is his motto to “do whatever it takes to save them and I mean, whatever it takes.” (Dialogue between Jack Bauer and Renee Walker in my favourite season, Season 7) Sure, there has been a lot of controversy about the torture and violence implied and portrayed throughout the series as a means to the end. However, my fascination is with regards to Bauer’s commitment to protect his country and people no matter what the cost. As a federal agent forced to turn fugitive whose wife was killed, daughter estranged, and his own health seriously jeopardized on more than one occasion, he owed his country nothing, least of all after they abandoned him as prisoner to the Chinese and then decided to sacrifice him in order to meet terrorist demands – all of that despite the great service he had rendered his country. Wouldn’t some recognition be in order? A medal of honour, perhaps? Or a bravery award? At least, a chance at a decent life? But, no!

I find it hard to fathom such unquestioned allegiance and dedication to a cause, harder still to implement it in my own life. Season 7 forced me to think hard and question my own commitment to mission accomplishment. Was I willing to do whatever it took? Or would I turn chicken when the going got tough? Worse still, would I turn into a Tony Almeida, agent turned traitor, disillusioned, distraught? Would my losses, failures, fears and regrets rule me or I would I overrule them?

I learned that the name Jack Bauer is believed to allude to the highest card in the game of Euchre, the “bower” being the jack of the trump suit and the most powerful card in any particular round (via Wikipedia). I sincerely pray that in my mission and commission I will come out the “Jack Bauer” in every trial, know that I have been given a spirit of power, believe that I am more than a conqueror with greater strength in me than is in the world. So help me, God!

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Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center

This should have been posted many Sundays ago, but I was waiting to get the in-flight videos & pictures from my hang gliding experience and still haven’t (if you ever go hang gliding at Eastern Shore I recommend you carry your own pen drive to copy the files onto). Anyway, I felt prompted to post it today, so I guess it’s better late than never. Please note that the hang gliding description below doesn’t quite do justice to the actual experience, but I hope will suffice for purposes of this post. I also recommend you play the audio track while reading.

So… 27 June 2010 was the day I first went hang gliding at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center. Amazing experience, to say the least! If you know me well enough, you will know that right from my early years I have talked about flying, becoming a pilot, dreamt of flying without wings, and claim to have actually done so as well. (Yes, I still do.) So hang gliding, for me, was like a fulfilment of those dreams and desires. And really, the season I have been in has been all about fulfilment, completion and restoration of many things right from my childhood that I desired, lost or totally missed out on (see Glee for more details). It has all been very exciting, with many surprises, both good and bad.

Anyways… that Sunday evening when we got back home, we spent time together as a family just worshipping, praying, listening to what God was saying and sharing it… For a long while I just sat there with nothing running through my head except the excitement of the day. Then, as happens many a time, my eyes were opened to look beyond the experience into the life values it taught me and it brought me to tears. So that’s what I want to share, but in order to understand where I’m going with this, I will have to explain the hang gliding experience itself first.

Taking Off

Most often, hang gliding is done by running off a cliff or a hill with the glider so one has high elevation. However, in my case, we had a tug airplane that the glider was attached to. The pilot and I strapped ourselves into the glider and the tug airplane took off with us in tow. Once we had reached a height of about 2500 feet, we released the line that connected us to the airplane. At that point, the momentum slowed down, but the glider did not drop. It got real quiet up there and we were carried by the wind, the only two creatures up that high in the sky as I learned the basics of how to read the wind, feel it, and make the glider go where I wanted it. I asked the skilled pilot a lot of questions that he patiently answered. I just enjoyed the experience so much and the pilot was one of the best too, so he taught me well.

Airborne

At one point I mentioned that I enjoyed a dip and he thrilled me to bits by doing a series of crazy lifts & drops just for my enjoyment before we landed. The view from up there was just breath-taking, and I felt exactly like a bird. When it was time to say goodbye, I heard the pilot tell my brother that I had been a good pilot and had been fun to fly with, much to my pleasure. Maybe he just said that to everyone, but I knew I did pretty good and sure had not done anything he told me not to do, so I just took it at face value. 🙂

With all of this running through my head that evening, I began to see that in life many times we are led on by something – whether situations or people, sometimes good, other times bad – just like that tug airplane led the hang glider. We find ourselves going to new a whole new level, achieving great things, feeling “on top of the world”, and just having a great time. We think, this is it, it can’t get any better than this! And it’s easy to just get comfortable with where we are, often disregarding the need for progress and improvement.

However, inevitably there comes that time when we are faced with the choice to release, to let go of whatever has brought you where you are. Believe me, that’s a tough choice to make! There’s the fear of what ifs… reluctance… never wanting to let go or spiral down in despair. The truth is, if you don’t make the decision on your terms while you are given the chance, the tug will release you and leave you to face the consequences all the same. But once you do make the choice to let go, you are surprised that you don’t fall. In fact, it’s only then that you actually have the freedom to fly! It’s at that point that the real fun begins! You no longer are merely being tugged along, following something or someone else “in tow”… you literally have “no strings attached”, and you just soar!

Yes, it does get quiet as the tug plane pulls away, but it’s in that quietness that you can hear the pilot’s instructions loud and clear, with no distractions or noise to drown him out. You begin to really listen, observe, experience for the very first time. You pay attention to what the pilot tells you and follow his direction. You’re careful not to make any mistakes and jeopardise both him and yourself. And when you’re up there, you begin to see the bigger picture, the aerial view. You realize from that perspective, things that would otherwise have seemed massive are really tiny and insignificant, mere mites.

Panic might hit you occasionally, but then you realize you don’t have to do this on your own ‘coz whether you like it or not, you have the pilot strapped in right with you! He’s there to tell you what to do, talking to you, answering everything you ask, teaching you… he’s game for even the little things in life, the thrills and chills that make it more exciting and enjoyable. Sure, there is a time to land as well, and with it comes the, “You did awesome! Good job!” that makes you smile in glee, the turmoil of letting go a long forgotten thing of the past.

An old Pepsi jingle that’s running in my head at this moment kind of sums it up for me: “Freedom to be… Azaadi dil ki!” I can tell you it was no coincidence that my brother checked the mailbox that same day, to find his new truck registration in there. It reads: FR3 2 FLY 🙂

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The other day, I got back from Chennai after a wonderful conference. I had done a little shopping, and was mighty pleased with the brand new Samsonite Skywheeler I had gotten at a good discount – that was until I tried opening the number lock and it wouldn’t budge. I had followed instructions and set the code correctly, but for whatever reason, it just would not open. Breaking the “unbreakable” exterior was not an option given how much it cost besides being a virtual impossibility, so my best bet was to try & get the zips out of the lock with minimal damage. It took me quite by surprise when after a few moments of pushing & tugging, one zip came loose without breaking anything, and it wasn’t long before I got the other zip out as well – all with absolutely no damage to the suitcase. Even so, for the record, let me say that I fully intend to use only my TSA baggage locks in future!

The incident made me wonder if Samsonite was really as safe and durable as we imagine it is. When I shared my concerns on Facebook, a friend commented that perhaps I had a special talent, and that took me back to a childhood memory I had of opening a magnetic lock (I solemnly swear that this is true and my sister can verify it if you don’t completely believe it). We used to have a lock that used a particular kind of magnet to open it. Back then it must have been the coolest thing that had taken my Dad’s fancy and it was quite by accident that I discovered I could actually open the lock using my thumb instead of the magnet. Others tried doing the same, but it didn’t quite work. Magic? Yeah, sure! It became a trick I put on for show for everyone and even remember my sister asking me to open the lock once when we wanted to get something out of a meat safe and didn’t have the key. I don’t, however, remember doing that ever again.

As I pondered those bygone years and events, I began to sense something in my spirit. I asked the question I often ask of God, “What are you trying to teach me through this? What do you want me to learn?” The answer was plain and clear to me. I needed to remember that I was a “lock breaker”. Yes. As much as I may have a “talent” for breaking open locks in the physical, the same is truer in the spiritual. I was both challenged and emboldened when I realized that. After all, isn’t that what many of us are commissioned to:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Isaiah 61:1 NLT; Matt. 18:18 NIV, Emphasis added)

Even as I write this, I believe if you are reading this, it is not by accident. So be reminded and challenged to step out in boldness and faith, and go break some locks!

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Over a month ago when I heard I was entering into a season of “glee”, I think I misinterpreted it to some extent. I had just gotten done watching the entire first season of the television series “Glee” online and my mind could only think of the word as far as joy & happiness – which were not wrong, but as I have discovered, a limited interpretation.

As the month progressed, it saw the resurrection of some of my childhood dreams & aspirations I thought had bitten the dust. You can say I ticked a few things off my personal “bucket list” if you will.

  1. Hang Gliding had to be on the top of my list, particularly since flying is what I have always claimed I have done right from my childhood, and becoming a pilot was one of my first ambitions in life. God knows the pleasure I felt having to put down my name as “pilot” in the personal release documents. I’d do it again for sure, but what takes its place in the list is Bungee Jumping. 🙂
  2. Horse Riding & Living on a Ranch have been my all-time dream, thanks to books & movies that have inspired me. I can tell you that my first horse ride was almost like being in heaven, the tall grasslands extending as far as the eye could see, the sun setting behind, and the bugs biting – ouch! That brought me back to reality, alright. I’m not quite done with the living on the ranch bit yet & need to go back to experience it completely. Whether it’s the Ecker Ranch or elsewhere, you can be sure I will!
  3. Ice-Skating was one of those childhood fantasies. Alright, I didn’t get to ice-skate like you see it on TV, but I got on the ice & at least learned to balance myself & move despite a couple of hard falls. Some day I’ll do better, given the chance.
  4. Lawn-mowing on a John Deere wasn’t in my original list, but I added it because I quite enjoyed it & think I did a pretty good job of it too.
  5. Swimming didn’t quite happen as planned, but at least I got my first swimsuit so that’s a start. Next I need to find a pool, and I believe I know just the right friends with a pool in their apartment complex and an open invitation. They can be sure I will be visiting soon (their parents might need to be out of town when I do, though, else they might be scandalized :D.)
  6. Attending an American Wedding was quite an experience for me, particularly as it was different even for regular Americans. I have to say it was organized extremely well, was simple yet beautiful, and there was just so much peace & joy. It was quite different from any Indian wedding I have ever experienced, and I have my friends who invited me and helped get me there to thank. I have reason to believe it won’t be the last American wedding I attend.
  7. Riding a Bike technically should not be on anyone’s bucket list because it’s something most children can do, but it was on mine. For some reason, I was stuck with a yellow tricycle all my life (still have it) and although I loved riding it, I regretted being unable to ride a bicycle many a time in my teen and college years, especially studying on a 365 acre campus that could best be gotten around by bicycle. It was only at 22 that I actually set my mind on learning to ride with my nephew’s bike on the narrow strip of ground outside our home. So for me to be able to ride around almost every evening, both working off the calories & just having fun, it had to be checked off my list as an achievement.
  8. Tooth Fairy Presents were the most unexpected, but threw light on what God was trying to tell me all along the season. It’s one of those things that I didn’t even remember myself, but apparently others did. It had moved them so much when I had mentioned over a casual conversation about falling teeth and tooth fairies that I had always put my fallen teeth under my pillow as a child but had never gotten a present. I know it’s probably the silliest thing in the world, but the fact that the people that remembered it took me out to lunch & surprised me with presents for every tooth of mine that had ever fallen (and more) were pastors and some of the most prophetically gifted ones I know made it important. They did mention when they handed me my gift bag that there might be prophetic significance, and my response although I was just playing along at the time was, “Thank you so much! I feel so fulfilled!”

And fulfilment is what this season of glee has been about – fulfilment of many desires that I had buried, given up on, never had the opportunity to fulfil, or simply forgotten about. That said, my bucket list definitely isn’t all done yet. There’s the driving, rock climbing, shooting, ball dancing, skate boarding, skiing/snow boarding, and many more… I can only imagine that as I grow older, that list will only grow while some are checked off and others replace them, and I have the calm assurance that they will all some day be fulfilled.

What got my attention through all of this is that God cares so much about these little details of my life, enough to take me to a different country and use people (some of whom I barely even know) to fulfil them. I felt ashamed that I have failed in the past to trust this same God with some of the most important things in my life, things that I thought I knew were best and could fulfil all on my own without His help. I had often been afraid that God would end up giving me something I did not like, and had resisted His direction, choosing instead to go my own way. How foolish of me! Would the God who cares about me getting silly tooth fairy presents not care enough to give me the very best in every area of my life and fulfil the deepest desires of my heart?

I rechecked the definition of “glee”, and it said, “great delight”. It struck me then that God’s Word promises, “*Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” That, right there, is the key to my glee!

*Psalm 37: 4; Proverbs 3: 5, 6

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Funny how the topic of marriage has become an increasingly popular and often discussed one among many of my friends, more so in the recent past. I suppose the older we get with our statuses unchanged, the more pressure to be married by hook or by crook, to find that clichéd Mr. Right (or Miss. Right) and live happily ever after. I can understand this well in our Indian culture, with me being in this category myself – well, not exactly, but somewhere there… Anyway, all this talk about wanting to find the love of one’s life got me thinking and I decided to blog some of my thoughts.

To most of you reading this blog post, it is no news that I have been down that road many a time only to be hurt & disappointed (and vice versa to the concerned parties, I’m sure). I am presently at a point in life where I am just content to be single & let Jesus take that place rather than face more hurt & disappointment, although that is easier said than done. However, that does not mean I have been written off the “charts” or am no longer a fish swimming in the deep, wide ocean. The difference is, I’m no longer desperate to “get hooked” or to go find “the one” because I’m pretty confident anyone worth marrying is going to come find me! Moreover, like I quoted an unknown person some time ago, I do believe “A girl’s heart must so be hidden in Christ that a man has to seek Him to find her.” That’s the only kind of man I want to marry after all of my bitter experiences, and nothing short of that will do – a man who first seeks God & the kingdom of Heaven and finds that all the rest falls in line.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What do you girls expect? Jesus?!?” I thought about it, and the truth is, yes! :o) Well, at least for me… I sometimes wonder what a hot dude Jesus must have been while He lived on earth – son of a carpenter and carpenter Himself… I don’t think He ever needed a workout because the natural must have been gazillion times better. 😛 What??? Call it blasphemy, burn me at the stake if you like, but I’m pretty sure Jesus was HOT, in fact way HOTTER than any currently existing piece of male flesh for sure! He totally burned it up, and He still does for me, for real. No, I’m not kidding. I really mean that. I am completely in love with Jesus, and if anyone wants to win my heart, they’re gonna have to beat Him. So there! Ha! 🙂

That said, let’s be practical… marrying Jesus ain’t gonna happen as long as I’m on this earth, so here’s the next best option: a dash of Jeremy Camp, a pinch of Lincoln Brewster, a whole lot of Jesus on the inside, and I’m good to go. Wishful thinking? Maybe… but what am I going to lose by thinking?

So… to tie the knot or not? That is the question… As I pondered this, God showed me a fruit tree with a ripe red fruit hanging on it. I felt like that fruit myself, ready to be plucked. Now, let’s not allow our imaginations wander away & border on disgusting here… but a ripe fruit is good for several things: to be eaten as is, or to be made into a jam or juice or jelly or some other edible product. And with that, a ripe fruit would have served its purpose. But what if… what if… nobody actually plucked that ripe fruit? Would it have failed and not served a purpose? Over time it would fall to the ground, begin to shrivel, rot, and gradually become nothing but dirt. Sad.

I think the analogy is pretty clear, the plucked fruit resonating with the much-desired, fanciful married life while the rotted one represents the unmarried life of misery. But wait… what’s that I see? Several months, maybe even years, down the line I see a shoot springing up from the dirt. Tiny, green, easily mistaken for a weed, but a shoot nevertheless… In a few more months or years, I see that shoot grow into a large tree itself, bearing flowers, fruit & being a home to many a bird… much more than it could ever have achieved, had it been plucked and eaten or made into some other fancy foodstuff. Did the uneaten fruit not serve a purpose? Indeed not! I believe both the eaten & the rotten served their purposes just as had been destined even before the world began.

So here’s my conclusion: to be married some day remains a great desire. However, let not anyone who might not ever get married assume that his or her life is meaningless and has failed its purpose. In fact, God may be able to achieve greater, mightier things in and through your singleness than He could have ever achieved through your marriage. And for the married or marrying, I’m not done yet… eaten fruits must also have their seeds or cores discarded, which at some point reach the dirt too… and we all know what happens after. Therefore, eaten or rotten, you serve a purpose; serve it well! To tie the knot or not, it matters not.

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This is a list of my favourite free social networking applications and recommendations for those who have a Mac and a Blackberry, and primarily use Facebook and Twitter (and possibly Tumblr) for social networking.

For Blackberry:
1. Facebook for Blackberry
facebook-logoFor now you can update status, see your friends’ latest status updates and comment on them right from the app, view latest highlights, receive real time notifications, upload photos directly from your Blackberry, sync your Facebook friends list, their profile pictures and contact info with your Blackberry address book, add friends, post on friends’ walls, send messages to friends, view friends’ profiles and their photo albums right in the app…!!! New features expected soon – can’t wait!

2. UberTwitter
_berTwitter_logoHaving tried Twitter Berry and reviewed several other similar apps, I settled for UberTwitter which totally rocks! Most other Twitter Beta apps for Blackberry take up a lot of space and slow your mobile down. They also take forever to load updates. UberTwitter does none of that. It is clean, easily installed, does not hang, does not slow down your system, has lots of preference settings that make it more user friendly, and you get notified every time you get a reply, direct message or are retweeted. You can also use multiple accounts using the same application.

3. Viigo
75X75_Viigo_LogoViigo is part of the Blackberry World application, but can also be installed separately. I must say that Viigo is rather slow and can take ages to load stuff. However, what I like about it is that you can receive all kinds of News & RSS feeds straight to your Blackberry and tweet them straight out of the Viigo app. Some of the standard services you can receive are News & RSS, Weather, Audio & Podcasts, Social Networks, Flights & Travel. Depending on your needs you can add services like WES 2009, CFL, Sports, Business & Finance, Local Interest, Shopping, Deals, Entertainment, Politics… and a whole lot of individual channels within each of these. For Social Networking, the sites that are supported are Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Laconi.ca.

For Mac:
1. Seesmic Desktop
SeesmicDesktopThis is my personal reccommedation for anyone who needs a desktop app that allows simultaneous posts to both Facebook and Twitter. Any review will suggest TweeDeck and Seesmic to you. Both of these use Adobe Air. I’ve tried TweetDeck and still have it installed, but prefer Seesmic for its simplicity. Besides, TweetDeck can only receive a certain number of updates per hour, while Seesmic doesn’t seem to have any such issues. I also like the single column capability of Seesmic, which receives feed from both Facebook and Twitter. The menu can also be adjusted to a slimmer width using just icons, and that works perfectly for me. Connectivity to both Facebook and Twitter is good, and the adding of accounts simple. It has all the regular features of adding URL and short URL, adding image and shrinking text. The only features Seesmic does not have compared to TweetDeck are probably TweetDeck Recommends, TwitScoop, 12Seconds and StockTwits – none of which I personally require. Seesmic Desktop’s brighter gray colour is also somewhat more appealing to me than TweetDeck’s harsh black.

2. Facebook Notifications
Desktop NotificationsThis new desktop application was rolled out only last week, and is still in its experimental stages, but is still a cool one. The application sits in your Mac toolbar and notifies you of updates using Growl. As of now, you can update your status directly from the application, and all other features open the respective window in your browser for you to proceed. These features include news feed, your profile, compose message, notifications and inbox. Used in tandem with Seesmic, I think it’s the perfect way to keep track of updates on Facebook without actually being online in Facebook.

3. Posty
postyIf you use both Twitter (or Jaiku or FriendFeed) and Tumblr, Posty is a desktop app that allows you to post to both. I haven’t used it much, having discontinued my use of Tumblr, but from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty cool.

4. Tumblenote Dashboard Widget
30415This dashboard widget works way better than Posty or any other desktop app for Tumblr and does not take up space. With it, you can post Text, Quote, Link, Chat, Video and Photo directly to your Tumblelog without having to open a browser window.

Twitterrific and Tweetie are probably the other two desktop applications for Twitter alone that I would recommend. I am aware that there are many, many more applications for different kinds of phones and computers. The best advice I can offer is to read reviews online, try what seems most suitable to you and then choose for yourself. One man’s food could very well be another man’s poison, so these are just my favourites. All the best finding what works for you. I just hope my suggestions have been somewhat helpful in that process.

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