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Posts Tagged ‘God’

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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I hate having to wake up early in the morning in order to travel. More often than not it ruins the rest of my day, with my body & mind both disoriented and rebellious. This morning began no different. It was just a little after 6:00 AM when we set out, and the sun had just begun to rise over the mountains. But a few minutes into the drive down hill, and I was overwhelmed by God’s greatness. The road we were driving down had massive landslides from the recent rains left, right & centre. It saddened me to see the loss of property & the “ugliness” of the destruction and state of affairs, if you will. The poor locals headed to work in the tea estates had to travel by bus to one point, walk a distance over badly damaged road, and catch another bus at the other end.

However, as I looked beyond & over the steamy valleys below, a beautiful sight beheld my eyes. (Too bad I didn’t have the time to stop & take pictures, but I know those images will be forever engraved in my mind’s eye.) As I gazed at the stunning hues splayed across the early morning sky, I could not help but feel a glimmer of hope and thanks well up inside of me. I had to gulp down that familiar lump in my throat and hold back tears, even as I looked back on the year that has passed.

Just like my path this morning, my life’s path had been forcibly altered and it hadn’t been easy. I had known the new path ahead would be long and winding, but little had I expected it to have as many pitfalls of it’s own. This past year, of all my years so far, would have been the most convenient for me to simply look at my circumstances and get discouraged, angry at God, and grow increasingly fearful of what the future would hold. But all it took was for me to take the focus off of myself and my immediate path, to look beyond into the awesome beauty that God had surrounded me with, and to know that He had promised beauty for ashes, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. The God who displayed His power, majesty and glory over the loss, sadness and fear around me this morning is the same God who has carried me through my hardest times and been my strength in my weakness, particularly this last year. All I can say in return, is “Thank you, Lord!” as I lay down my life once more for Him to take, use, mould, form… transform into a masterpiece for His glory.

(These simple lines came to me as we rode down, and they express my thoughts this Thanksgiving:)
As the sun rises o’er the mountains,
The mist akin to a sea
A melody wells up in my soul,
A song of thanks to Thee.
For memories and times gone by,
For the future yet to be,
For all You’ve giv’n and done thus far,
And what’s in store for me.
Take my life and use me Lord,
I come on bended knee;
A vessel fit and for His fame,
This is my only plea.

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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 was supposed to just be a short post on a couple of things God taught me during this week, but as it turns out, is not. 😉

1. Faith:

I finally learned what it means that Jesus is the author and “finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It’s a term my Dad used a lot in his prayers and sermons, but I don’t think I ever quite understood it too well until this week. I’ve been learning a lot about faith lately, and I clearly understand that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. I also understand that God has made it easy for us to have that faith because He Himself is the “author” of our faith. He Himself puts faith in us when we accept Him into our lives, which itself is a step of faith.

The Bible talks about us having faith as tiny as a mustard seed, and even that little faith being enough to move mountains. So I went with that thought. I imagined a tall transparent glass with just one tiny mustard seed in it – pitifully tiny, insignificant and incapable of anything big in that large glass. That’s how my faith is more often than not. However, this is what I learned… that no matter how small, insignificant or incapable of anything our faith is, God completes it for us, in other words, he is the “finisher” of our faith. It’s as if He fills that tall glass with Himself and thereby makes all things possible. I imagine the glass being filled up with water (symbolic of the Holy Spirit). Try it practically and see what happens… you will see that the mustard seed no longer remains at the bottom of the glass, but rises up bit by bit to the very top and floats there. So it is with our faith… no matter how small, when we realize that Jesus Himself completes it, our faith rises to meet the challenge. We are emboldened with courage just knowing that He completes our faith and we are not in the struggle alone… and suddenly ALL things become possible for us.

2. It’s not about us and our capabilities; it’s about Him and His infinite abilities:

This sort of goes hand in hand with what I learned on faith, and I’ve seen this happening through this last week as I’ve ministered to people with various needs, most of them beyond me and my own understanding. I’ve seen God use me despite my inability in certain situations, and give me the right words at the right time for people that He brought my way in His perfect time. I know that none of those were co-incidences or mistakes, but divine appointments. In one particular situation I didn’t feel very “knowledgeable” regarding the situation, but God gave me His wisdom to deal with it. All it took was for me to say, “Here I am, Lord. I’m available. Use me. If you can use anything, Lord, you can use me!”

I was moved by a dialogue towards the end of the film, Prince Caspian (yes, I am a HUGE Narnia fan, in case you don’t already know that). After the war is won, when Aslan meets with the children, he tells Prince Caspian that the time has come for him to be King and rule over the land. Prince Caspian is overwhelmed and says something like, “But I don’t think I am ready yet”, to which Aslan’s reply is, “It is for that very reason I think you are.”

God is not looking for people who think they have it all together and are content in their self-sufficiency. God is looking for people who know they are not capable in and of themselves, but He is able. We need to always remind ourselves that it is never about us and our capabilities, but about Him and His infinite abilities! And be available for Him to use.

3. Obedience:

1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice”. Along with faith, knowing that it’s all about God and being available for Him to use, goes obedience. We have often heard people say, “Delayed obedience is disobedience”. So true! I have been learning that too this week. It is better to obey God no matter how crazy it might seem.

Last night I heard God tell me something that sounded like He was out of His mind. I was like, “What??? No, no, no… there’s nothing I can do about it. Thank you for telling me, but I don’t see how I can help with that.” But I couldn’t bring myself to ignore God’s voice and eventually found myself doing the outlandish thing He told me to. Now, this involved another person too, and even if I had done my part in obedience, the buck stopped with her if she thought I was out of my mind. To my surprise, she not only took me seriously, but was also obedient to what she said was the Holy Spirit telling her not to just brush it aside as some nonsense like she would have normally done, but to act on it. What our obedience achieved, I am yet to find out, and I sincerely hope it saved a life. However, the point is not what we achieved, but that we were both obedient to God and his voice. John 10: 27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” What is God saying to you today? Are you one of His sheep? Are you following Him?

4. Look Inside Yourself!

The fourth thing I learned this week is something very personal, but I want to share it all the same, knowing that many struggle with this question. We often wonder why God doesn’t “show” Himself to us and reveal Himself visibly. Why is it that God shows Himself to some stranger who has never even heard of Him, ever, but won’t show Himself to me??? I remember reading once that God, more often than not, needs to show Himself to those that don’t believe and those who would find it hard to believe if He didn’t. However, for those of us that have a strong faith and believe in Him even without having seen him, it is not necessary for us to see Him. I made myself content for a while thinking, “Oh, I must have great faith that God doesn’t need to show Himself for me. Cool!” And that was cool… but there came a time not too long ago, when I asked the Lord to show Himself to me and He did in a very strange way, so much so that it freaked me out for a bit, wondering what the strange Presence in my room was. His Presence remained in my room several days, and I would see it every night. But after a while I stopped seeing it. Then the other night I asked the Lord to show Himself to me again, and this is what He answered, “Why are you looking here for me? Look inside yourself!” Whoa! That was pretty amazing to me, and a necessary reminder that He is inside of me, working in and through me. When others see me, I sincerely hope they see Jesus inside of me.

Now, I’d like to make it clear that God is very capable of showing Himself to anyone, and in different ways to different people. For me at this point in time, this is what He chose specifically for me. The only reason I am sharing it is because I know many people have the same question on their minds, and I hope to encourage you not to stop seeking after Him, but to wait patiently, spend time in His presence, and in His time, He will reveal Himself in His own way.

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Warning: This post might challenge your thoughts, commitment and decisions. Read at your own RISK.

A couple of days ago I posted this to my Facebook status:

“Will I ever have to jump off a cliff? …will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?” – Missy, The Shack. What if God asked you to jump off a cliff? Would you? Good questions to ask. Difficult ones to answer. Of course, “jumping off a cliff” might translate into different things to different people, depending on their circumstances.

I have begun to read The Shack, apparently a book that has evoked many a debate. Seeing that people had much to say about it’s controversial content, I decided to read it with an open mind and slowly plough through it, taking time to chew the cud on every thought rather than just read it cover to cover. The quote above was the first of many interesting thoughts that I paused to ponder over.

I wonder how often we expect God to ask us to jump off a cliff, to take a risk. Not very often, I must admit. As far as most of us are concerned, we content ourselves with thoughts and songs of assurance of our safety and God’s protection over us – good things, no doubt, and very necessary. Here are a few lyrics I can think of immediately:

“I’m so secure, you’re here with me…

So close I believe, You’re holding me now

In Your hands I belong

You’ll never let me go…”

“Safe am I, safe am I

In the hollow of His hand

Sheltered o’er, sheltered o’er

With His love forever more

No foe can harm me

No fear alarm me

For He keeps both day and night.”

Often times I sing these songs to myself when I need assurance of God’s protection over me. It’s very comforting to know and feel that God has engraved me in the palms of His hands. But then, as I ponder over these thoughts, I also wonder about the practicalities of being in God’s hands and Him never letting go. I mean, doesn’t He have a zillion other things to do with His hands? Like fishing someone out of deep water or miry clay… or reaching out to touch and heal someone with leprosy… or holding his hands out against a storm… or breaking loaves of bread… or getting nailed to a cross??? These are just instances found in the Bible… and man, if I am to be in God’s hands with Him never letting go all the while, I really don’t think I would be as comfortable or “safe and secure” as one would imagine! Think about it! It’s going to get pretty uncomfortable for me… by placing myself in His hands, I am also making myself vulnerable to circumstances and situations that He chooses to use His hands for… and that undoubtedly means many great risks. Is that something I am willing to put myself through? Ha! Who would imagine that “security” in God’s dictionary is more often than not spelled R-I-S-K??? Are you even sure you want to be held so close in His hands right now? 🙂

I think it’s high time anyone who is serious about their commitment to Christ evaluate all that it truly involves and choose for himself/herself the road he/she will take. That is my challenge to anyone who might read this post.

I say this having faced my share of “risk” and having jumped off a cliff not too long ago. For me, it translated into leaving my comfort zone and stepping out into new territory without any idea as to how things would go or what the future held for me. For sure, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, and not everyone understood why I had to do what I had to do. I know that to date, some think I made a big mistake and may even be angry with me or hold ill feelings against me for the choices I made. Others who could see to the heart of the issues knew better and have supported me and prayed for me all along. For a long while I did not want to face the rest of humanity, save a handful of near and dear, for fear of what they would think or say and the questions I would be asked. If anything, my situation seemed to only go from bad to worse. In fact, at one point, every step I had climbed up to that point and every strong pillar in my life began to crumble and fall, so much so that I had no where else to reach out and cling on to for dear life but above.

P1010703

P1010704However, looking back, I can now see that God honoured me for the decision I made to do what He asked me to do unquestioningly. I don’t want to boast about my deeds, but God’s faithfulness to me despite my many mistakes and shortcomings. All it required was my obedience no matter what, and He worked all things (including those mistakes and shortcomings) out for my good although I could not see or know that then.

I can also testify that being in God’s hands has been as thrilling as a roller coaster ride, if not more. You never know what to expect, what God will ask you to do next, where He will send you, and whom or what you will have to encounter. If you’re an adventurous person, I’d say it’s the real deal!

Christine Caine from Hillsong Australia has been doing a series on “Stop Acting Like a Christian & Be One!” at LifeChurch. A lot of challenging thoughts, and this week’s challenge has been to be willing to take that risk, to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to go where God sends you and do what He asks you to do – no matter what it takes. She shared about how many times she herself has merely escaped bomb blasts and terrorist attacks with the kind of work she is involved in. Not quite what any of us think is part of our “calling” – something we prefer to leave to others with that kind of calling to do. “As for me, I’ll just sit here behind this desk… sure, I can pray for those who face such risks… isn’t that the best thing I can do?” Well, I hate to say that if God has truly called you, it is NOT without risk. There is always something we are asked to do that we are not quite comfortable doing… it’s a daily choice we make for ourselves, either to walk in obedience to Him or weave our own ways of folly and miss out on the wonderful things He has in store for us.

I remember vaguely reading this story about a guy who went rock climbing and as night came, lost his grip and fell. He hung on to his rope for many hours in the dark, always fearing the worst and praying God would somehow save him. To his surprise, He heard God audibly tell him to let go of the rope. “What??? You can’t be serious!” was his response, and he continued to hang on to the rope that would likely snap and give way to his weight any moment. And so he hung that way in fear and dread, almost freezing himself to death, not to mention starvation, all night long. When dawn finally broke, he looked around to see if he could find a way to safety, and much to his amazement, he found that he was hanging a mere 3 feet off the ground! If only he had listened to God’s voice and let go of the rope, he would most certainly have foregone the nightlong torture he had put himself through. How foolish he had been to discredit God’s voice and choose his own folly instead!

I’ll wrap up with that thought. I don’t know which person reading this post today might be standing atop a cliff, with God asking you to jump off. Like I mentioned in my Facebook status, it might translate to different people into different things, depending on their circumstances and situations. If you’re that person atop the cliff today, what would you do? Are you willing to take that leap of faith in obedience?

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This is a post that ought to have been written on August 25th, 2009, when these thoughts first came to me, but I didn’t quite get the chance to. The exact same thing happened to me again last Friday, so I figured it was something I simply had to post before I forgot about it or the thoughts became too stale in my mind.

I was riding down from Ooty to the Coimbatore Airport in order to fly to Delhi on work. My regular driver, Wilson, was away on another trip so he sent me another driver with whom I had had a bad experience earlier because of his rash driving. Wilson reassured me that he had cautioned this driver to drive properly, and if that was not enough, my Mom told him to drive “slow” around the curves. He drove “slow” alright – so slow that a few minutes later, and I might have missed my flight! But part of that wasn’t his fault. All the way from hairpin bend #1 to the foothills of Mettupalayam, he had no option but to drive slow. Just ahead of us we had a VIP entourage of 6 vehicles – 5 SUVs and 1 sedan – that apparently belonged to some big-shot MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) of Tamil Nadu. The DMK flags flew atop the hoods of every one of the cars except the police patrol vehicle, and we were forced to follow with absolutely no option of overtaking them. My driver might have been frustrated, but was at least smart enough to take advantage of our white car and his white uniform. We tailed them as if we were part of the convoy, allowing for us to overtake other vehicles that had slowed down or pulled over to allow the entourage to pass. The other vehicles, of course, assumed that we were part of the convoy (I wish I had dressed more formally to add to the effect :p) and allowed us to pass without so much as a raised eyebrow. I did, at times, even draw the curious looks of those that might have assumed I was the MLA’s daughter or something. 🙂

Somehow, riding at the tail of that convoy made me feel very privileged and important, as if it demanded that I hold my head a little higher than usual and carry myself in a more dignified manner. I do not mean to sound arrogant or proud here, but with the look of awe that some people gave me, and the realization that they assumed I was a VIP, I couldn’t help but smile inwardly. Then, as has often been the case lately, I felt that check post drop in front of me yet again.

“I am a VIP!”

“Yeah, right! Posing as one, you mean.”

“Oh, come on… let me enjoy the thrill of it while it lasts!”

“Silly girl! Don’t you realize that you are more of a VIP than you think you are?”

“Huh??? Really?”

“Janie, have you forgotten that you are a daughter of the King of Kings, a Princess?”

So true and yet easily forgotten.

I recollected the first time that realization had dawned on me. I must have been about 15, at my rebellious worst and forced to attend a teens camp held by the church I grew up in but had long since stopped attending, simply because my Dad was one of the speakers and my Mom had volunteered to be one of the leaders for the girls. I was put in a group with girls much younger than me because the older group was full of college girls, and I was the only girl that was in between. As the oldest in my group, I had to take charge and be more responsible, setting a good example.

I remember I overcame my fear of large spiders that year. Yes, I had to work up the courage to kill not one, but two huge spiders (and chase out the third) that were contentedly boarding and lodging in our bathroom. And when I say large, I mean large – they were some 3-4 inches in diameter, no kidding. That’s beside the point though…

Back to the point – I don’t quite remember which of the speakers dealt with the topic of our Identity in Christ. I don’t even remember the rest of the sessions. I only remember the sessions my Dad taught, the topics he taught, his “gospel magic” performances that always awed the audience and got them arguing over dinner as to how the tricks were done, even begging him to teach them his tricks. I have always remembered most of my Dad’s sermons because I idolized him for one, and also because he always taught profound truths so simply and in ways one could easily remember, often using acronyms or words that began with the same letter. I ought not to digress yet again. :p

So… basically what one of the speakers taught us was about how important we are to God, how much He cares for us as individuals, and how unique he has made each one of us. I think that must have been the first time I heard about each of us having thumbprints that are so unique, and that there is not a single person in the world who has the exact same thumbprint as me. I thought that was pretty cool, and it sure did make me feel very special. Although I don’t remember much else, I do remember that on the last day when we were asked to share about anything that had impacted us deeply during the camp, I stood up and shared about how this one topic had touched me and ended my speech in tears! Lol! Ok, but seriously, it did mean a lot to me at the time because I had been going through issues of low self-esteem – something every teen encounters at some point, I suppose.

I suppose? No, I know for sure, thanks to the piles of research done by Metadigm for OneHope. Having sat through several “Strategic Planning” sessions to plan on new products for India based on Metadigm’s research, I know for a fact that the value of an individual is probably the #1 issue that comes up over and over in India. It’s so sad that most of us grow up here in India with little sense of value, more so for a girl child. Interestingly, I even found that there is no accurate way to tell someone, “You are valuable/valued.” in Tamil. (If someone well versed in Tamil knows a way to say that, do kindly let me know.) The common words for “value” in the language usually refer to value more in terms of price (vilai, madhipu). Any wonder why children don’t feel valued at all? Or why a child is more likely to feel like an “object” rather than a “person” who is loved and valued?

The topic is quite deep, and one that I could go on about endlessly, having been there-felt that myself many a time. Not that once we cross our teens such tendencies magically disappear either… certain situations and phases all our lives can get us to the point of feeling worthless. Although I wasn’t going through one of those phases, it was a good reminder to me twice in the last two weeks that I am a VIP in Christ… that as a child of God and His very own creation, I am accepted, loved and valued… that He loved me enough to go to the extent of sacrificing His own son’s life so that I could live my life abundantly and to the fullest… “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” I can’t help but break out into David’s beautiful Psalm at this point.

Psalm 139:1-16

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

These words never fail to assure me of my importance to God; these and His sweet words whispered to me in the stillness, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer.31:3) I have betrothed you to myself…

“I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name. You are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

“You are precious and honoured in my sight… I love you…” (Isaiah 43:4)

More importantly, John 1:12 says, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” That assurance alone is more than enough for me to know no matter how I feel, where I’ve been or what I’ve done, I can hold my head up high and carry myself like a Princess, a child of the Most High God – and I don’t refer to pride, but the confidence that comes from knowing that I am loved and valued – and that I am indeed a VIP!

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kite_runner

I’ve been catching up on all the reading I missed out on the last several years for a variety of reasons (mostly time, resources and other distractions) and just got done with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Having already watched the last quarter of the film I imagined I had spoiled it for myself, but on the contrary I must say I quite enjoyed the latter half of the book. It has been one of the best-written fictions from the East that I have read in a while (that list including The White Tiger, Slumdog Millionaire or Q & A, and Three Mistakes of My Life). I must also add that I appreciate that Hosseini could describe rather dark incidents without the grossness that authors like Aravind Adiga thrive on, a grossness that completely puts me off.

The book to a large extent deals with the father-son relationship and the concept of redemption. Usually books affect my mind and sort of have a cathartic effect on me, particularly because I tend to identify with some character in the book. This time, however, the character I identified the most with was probably Sohrab who makes his entry only in the last few chapters of the book. The reason being, in the past I too have often slept my worries off, or chosen silence over communication… I too have merely resigned myself to my fate, like a lamb lead to the slaughter and felt “tired”, as in sick and tired of life, wishing I could have my old life back. But no, I have never attempted suicide or even considered it an option. I am thankful I no longer feel that way, my life having radically taken a turn for the better. Still, I could understand Sohrab’s character and emotions more than any other.

Quite a few times in the book I stopped to think about how different my values are compared to some of those related in the book, particular the concept of redemption that runs like a jugular vein through the entire story. The extent to which Amir had to go to redeem himself in the book is rather sad… sure, it makes a good story, and I applaud the fact that he was able to give Sohrab a new lease of life almost at the cost of his own, but Amir’s main motivation being one of self-redemption worries me.

The concept of being redeemed by our deeds is something I have never been able to bring myself to terms with. To me, it completely defies the very existence of God and His work in our lives. At the least, it makes God out to me a mean, unforgiving being who derives sadistic pleasure from our suffering – an image of God I simply cannot and will not accept simply because it is too bizarre to be true. I have always been taught and do firmly believe that Christ Himself redeemed us by shedding His blood for us on the cross, thereby paying the penalty of death for our sins once and for all. There is nothing more we can do to be “redeemed”, other than believing in what Christ did.

I found the following stuff on redemption on www.gotquestions.org:

Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ’s redemption has freed us from guilt, being “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

The benefits of redemption include eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10), forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7), righteousness (Romans 5:17), freedom from the law’s curse (Galatians 3:13), adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:5), deliverance from sin’s bondage (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:14-18), peace with God (Colossians 1:18-20), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). To be redeemed, then, is to be forgiven, holy, justified, free, adopted, and reconciled. See also Psalm 130:7-8; Luke 2:38; and Acts 20:28.

The word redeem means “to buy out.” The term was used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom. The application of this term to Christ’s death on the cross is quite telling. If we are “redeemed,” then our prior condition was one of slavery. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer in bondage to sin or to the Old Testament law. This metaphorical use of “redemption” is the teaching of Galatians 3:13 and 4:5.

Related to the Christian concept of redemption is the word ransom. Jesus paid the price for our release from sin and its consequences (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). His death was in exchange for our life. In fact, Scripture is quite clear that redemption is only possible “through His blood,” that is, by His death (Colossians 1:14).

The streets of heaven will be filled with former captives who, through no merit of their own, find themselves redeemed, forgiven, and free. Slaves to sin have become saints. No wonder we will sing a new song—a song of praise to the Redeemer who was slain (Revelation 5:9). We were slaves to sin, condemned to eternal separation from God. Jesus paid the price to redeem us, resulting in our freedom from slavery to sin and our rescue from the eternal consequences of that sin.

I am fully aware that to many minds, the idea of one NOT having to DO anything in order to be redeemed is practically unthinkable. There has to be SOMETHING I’ve got to do in order to redeem myself from my mistakes and my sins! Well, I’ve got both good news and bad news for those who think that way. The bad news first: there is NOTHING you or any other human can do on your behalf in order for you to be redeemed. The good news: “There is a way to be good again” – because Jesus has already done EVERYTHING that could ever be done to redeem you – it’s simply a matter of accepting that and walking in that faith. Too easy? Well, yes it is… And I thank God, He made it so easy for me to be free of my past, to no longer be bound by my sins, to be forgiven, to be redeemed! Today, no matter where I’ve been, no matter what I’ve done I can hold my head up high and live my life to the fullest, knowing that Christ has already paid the price and has set me free.

That said, I don’t mean to say that had I been in Amir’s position I would not have made the effort to rescue Sohrab and give him a good life. The difference would have been that my intention of doing that would not have been to redeem myself. Rather, I would be doing it simply out of love for another human, the same self-sacrificing love that Christ was an example of, the love that caused Him to lay Himself down so that I could be free, the love that Christ not only commanded to show a fellow-human but also flows through my very being, with Christ Himself as the centre of it.

I know all of this probably sounds strange to some. The other day I was confronted by someone on Facebook who commented on my friend’s status about having had a great talk with Jesus. Her comment was, “You make Jesus sound like a real person!” and my response was, “But He is a real person! He lives… He walks with me and talks with me… you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!” I was on fire that moment, and all I longed for was for the other person to see how true and real Jesus is to my friend and to me… I wanted her to experience it too. And that still is my prayer for the millions across the world who have never had that experience. I pray that people will be able to taste of it themselves and know it is true and real, to find forgiveness, release, acceptance, freedom, redemption, and a “way to be good again” in and through Jesus!

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