Showing posts with label God's Word. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God's Word. Show all posts

Monday, August 14, 2017

The fabulous life of... a believer!

Recently another reader sent me a furious email asking why I promote Christianity in all my blog posts. As a Hindu, she was upset she was being forced to read through my references to Christianity in my Manna for your Soul posts. 

Well, I could have told her not to read my posts if she doesn't like it but I didn't. 

As a writer, my readers mean a lot to me. Whether they love it or hate it, they are my fans!

But I felt she had half a point there. 

My Manna for your Soul series has plenty of references to the Bible, and I am unapologetic for it. I don't follow any particular school of church thought and personally, I hate religions. 

That said, I think religions are the biggest scams in human history. 

It is one of those things that we have used to divide large populations of people into more manageable slices of followers that would listen to every command and instruction our religious leaders set.

Take any sacred scripture for instance. 

  • They all address us as friends. All of them ask us to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against our soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
  • Nearly every Scripture teach you to worship your God zealously, not resting day or night. 
  • No matter how much you've sinned, God can turn things around and make you as beautiful as light through a stained glass window.
  • Walk worthy of the purpose you were made for.  Bearing with each other with patience and love. It is said 'perfect love drives out fear and paranoia'.
  • Don't partake with those who are unfair and cruel. And speak up against injustice. But if you have been a victim, take heart. God is more than capable of avenging you.
  • In nearly every scripture, from Islam to Buddhism, Hindus to Pagans their god(s) have a 1000 names.
  • We are all rushing after peace. We all crave for peace that surpasses all understanding. Yet, we all struggle with disappointment, anxiety, fear, and hatred.
  • We love our parents even when they aren't perfect or all powerful, yet we doubt if God will listen or even answer our prayers. Even so, there are many among us who have the faith that can move mountains.
  • We are all taught/encouraged/coaxed/indoctrinated to be the ambassadors of our faiths. We are also told to respect diversity and other faiths in almost the same breath.
  • We don't mind it if our elders choose the rod but when an unexplained circumstance/tragedy strikes, we lose faith and question the divine. We doubt if our God took a nap while on the job.
  • We all have a wonder-filled account of godly men and women who have walked this earth. 
I could go on forever, but what I am really trying to say is - It doesn't matter what the name of your God is. It doesn't matter which religion your parents followed.

What matters is this -

  • Even when you feel an all encompassing darkness within you, can you say a kind and uplifting word to someone who is down as well?
  • Even when you are starving, are you willing to share your meal with someone needy?
  • Even when you winning, are you humble enough to look around you and encourage those who aren't?
  • Even when it seems like you have everything, are you invested in the lives of those who don't.
Our lives were a joint venture by billions of gods. Our lives are purpose-filled.
Our experiences weren't an accident. Each of them was planned to the last second. 
So are our destinies.
Our lives are a living testament to how the same divine energy that created endless space limitless universes can still create and sustain something as puny yet incredibly unique as you and me.

Being a believer is more important to me than being a Christian or a Hindu.

Being a believer is not all fluffy carpet and aromatic scents. 
Being a believer involves battling through depression and insecurity. 
Being a believer doesn't mean you'll live a fabulous life. 

On the contrary, being a believer means you'll go through all the pitfalls and agonies of a normal life and still understand it's just one day closer to being forever with your heavenly parent. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

'Why can't he just nod?' | Manna for your Soul

I am a hypocrite. 
One of the things that annoy me as a driver is when I am nice enough to give way to another driver and he/she doesn't even give me a nod or a thank you wave. I used to mutter 'How rude!' but then I remember the number of times I don't always acknowledge another driver's act of niceness everytime.

Now I'm a very polite person because I mind my P's and Q's and I value other people's time and life and whether it is a person who waits tables or the janitor, I always remember to say my P's and Q's. 

But it wasn't always like this. 
Back when I worked odd jobs for survival, I've been unceremonilously thrown out of homes and jobs. Some of my best life lessons have come from the most demeaning places I have worked in. Then I got into Customer Service and I realised the importance of being polite and not expecting anything in return.

Then I worked under a ruthless person. She was insecure and inexperienced in managing people and would bully me at work, mocking me and making me feel inadequate and worthless in front of everyone else. I'd lost all hope of working with integrity and honesty when I was being mistreated. 
That was when a colleague said something that stuck with me since - 'Work, not as if you are working for earthly masters, but as if you are working for the Almighty. Work with reverence knowing that your Father in Heaven sees your toil and anguish and He will reward you later.'
I took that advice and although I didn't stay in that company long, I forgave her for what she did. 

If you've ever felt thankless, then remember you aren't alone. 
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed 10 lepers. Only one returned to praise and thank Jesus. Not that Jesus needed to be thanked, but because he wanted to show his disciples the flipside of being Jesus. The part of a ministry where people don't always stick around to learn more when their work is done. Sounds familiar, right?

Many people start their days with a lot of expectations. We wake up fully expecting to be alive and content until bedtime. We expect complete strangers to be subserviant and eternally grateful to our presence. We expect our spouses to babysit us. We expect our friends to provide us emotional succour. We expect our colleagues and work-masters to acknowledge, praise and reward us for our work. We expect God to be the 'go ahead of me and fix all the potholes' kind of a guy and by the time we rest our heads on our pillows, we probably have been like the 9 lepers who got healed that day but didn't return to thank Jesus. 
So while we expect a lot of kind favors from everyone else, we rarely reciprocate. 

I am glad that I chose to work for as long as I did believing that I was not working for a malicious bully, but for Jesus. I survived the experience because I wanted to glorify Him through all that I went through. The experience of working under a person who mistreated me the way she did hardened my resolve to be kinder to total strangers. 

Today, as I give way to another motorist, I don't wait for their acknowledgement or a Thank You, but I smile back. Because I don't know the story of their lives, and I don't know why they are bitter, but I know when I smile back, they are going to pause and wonder why I smiled at them first. Maybe my smile will brighten their day a little and probably inspire them to 'pay it forward' one smile at a time. 

You don't have to be a Christian to be kind. If you are reading this post, you already have everything you need to practice random acts of kindness everyday. 

I dream of that day when we can step out of our homes and see people smile and not scowl at eachother. 
I am praying for that day when we make it our habit to be kind first. Because that day will be the most beautiful day ever!

God Bless You All!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The demise of a heart | Manna for your Soul

This is the month of love!

What happens when people fall in love?
Colors are brighter, smells are stronger, fragrances are arousing, mountains become molehills, you get the drift right..

But here's a question most people don't want to ask themselves - What happens when a relationship breaks?
Suddenly you feel a vacuum in your life. Your phone don't feel the same anymore. Its almost like you've died inside. 
You fall back onto habits that comforted you, but realise that nothing is the same again. 
Every bone in your body feels disjointed. Every muscle like a over-stretched rubber-band. 
You want to curl up in the darkest corner of the dankest room in your house and stay there.
You cry out to God asking for peace. Sometimes you just cry.
You want to be alone yet with company just so that you can hear voices other than your own. 
You have chores to do but any effort is simply futile.
You desperately cling onto fading memories of a dead relationship... hoping it would come alive again.
You dissect and analyse every minute of what happened and wish you could undo it. Even if you know that only means sacrificing the reason why you did it in the first place.

You want to cure that throbbing pain somewhere in the nether regions of your heart and intestines. 
Some people would want to drown their pain but like corpses that float back up, memories buoy. 
Most believe time will heal your pain and maybe it will. But what can heal your pain right now?
Prayer can. But like everything else, God cannot be rushed.

Why do relationships break?
People are attracted to each other because of things they share.
In the rare chance that you actually find that someone who fits you like that carefully-knit customized glove, don't let go. If you have found a person so alike you, you'd even have the same tattoo and the same temperaments, pawn away your ego and stay.  
The perspectives are varied, and the journey to the now was different. The dreams could be the same, but the paper to those blueprints are different. 
Your expectations out of each other grow. You expect the other person to be reasonable, patient, forgiving and loving. We want our love to be like in Corinthians 13: 4-8. We earnestly want a love that is perfect. 
Yet how many of us are really patient and hopeful? 
How many of us can claim to not be angered, boastful and trusting?

But the truth is - Human relationships are imperfect. Very few people can claim to be everything we are told to be in Corinthians 13. The only perfect relationship you can ever have is one with God. 
The fact that you are alive and reading this is proof that God loves you more than he/she loved you. 

Pray, even if all you can ask is for yourself. Because He knows you are hurting. 
Pray, even if you are angry at God for what happened. Because He isn't going to be mad at you for being pissed off at Him.
Pray, even if sobs intersperse your sentences. Because He knows the hurt behind those tears.
Pray, for him/her. Ask that they find happiness and peace in their souls. Because no matter why the relationship failed, they are going through every painful ache that you are going through as well. Because they need healing too. Because if you were with them, you wouldn't bear to see their tears, how could you let them grieve when you are not with them? 
Pray for both of yourselves. Because you both need the peace that surpasses all understanding. Because you need to heal.
Pray, because you can't be vengeful. Because it's much more satisfying when you let the person you loved the most go.

Personally, I've always believed in - 'If you love a person, let them go. If they come back, they were yours. If they don't. They never were.' 
My pastor would add - 'Sometimes, you just have to keep the doors to your heart open for a little while longer. And if they don't come back, atleast you know you tried and didn't give up so easily.' 

You could hold yourself back to shield the pain of a future heartbreak, but when the relationship breaks, you will be shattered. 
You may not want to feel exposed, but the truth is - when you are in love, you have already made yourself vulnerable. Because when you are in love, you are letting that person choose to love you as much as they can hurt you. 

My advice: Don't break up. Better still, don't fall in love. 
Romantic relationships are not for people who can feel pain, articulate it and write about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Precious like that | Manna for your soul

How do you feel when you lose something really precious to you?
Terrible, right?
How do you feel when you lose something really precious that you didn't pay for? Something you got as a gift, something someone else paid for and you get to use it for free. I know lots of people who cherish gifts they get from their loved ones. Nothing else could be more precious to them than that gift from that special person. I'm sure many of you reading this will identify with this and if you've lost it, you'll realize the pain of losing this precious gift.

The Holy Bible is His user's manual for the free gift of Life and Redemption His Son purchased for us. 
And like all any other helpful literature we have, this is yet another manual we just don't want to read. We are all self-confessed experts in the art of living. Until we screw ourselves up. Until we are afflicted with cancer. Until we lose that loved one. Until that marriage breaks up. Until our death beds.

Almost every Christian has atleast 2 bibles in their mantle-place. Maybe more if you love showing the ones you got from your uncles and aunts. 
None by their bedside. 
Almost every Christian has heard the good news. Every Sunday. We are all really pepped up by preachers who dissect the Bible in their own unique ways. 

Which brings me to a very important situation in our times - The importance of being earnest and honest with His Word. 
Over the last couple of weeks and months, I've been to dozens of churches where preachers and speakers use the Bible to defend one side of an issue, while others use the Bible to attack that same issue. Now, according to themselves, they are right because they are both using the Scripture to support their radical views. But surely both can't be right. 

The Bible is His written instructions to us and if we can't use His Word in the exact way He intended, then we aren't any better than the rest. If people who are supposed to lead us in His Word lead us astray, then surely, surely, they have sinned in a serious way.
And if you have heard His Word but can't live it until Friday, then you have sinned as well. 
When our spiritual leaders misrepresent and mishandle the Word, they distort God for the rest of us. 

So after decades of being deceived, our perception of God is the following:
  • God is the Ironman, Superman, Hulk, Goddess Kali, Santa Claus, and a dozen other superheroes rolled into one.
  • God, the super-villain, will punish you as soon as you have sinned. Infact the 'more pious' among us think it is more important to confess to priests and pay penance when you have sinned, else you are doomed. 
  • God is slow to grace and quick to anger. Infact He won't forgive you unless you feel utterly shitty about yourself.  
  • God wants you to pay up. Cough up those dollars for some salvation. 
  • God is your personal concierge and genie with no limits or fine print.
  • God is your PR and agent. He is that guy who can get things done in your favor.
  • God is the kind of guy you visit every Sunday in your finest casuals.
But the truth cannot be further from the truth. The Scriptures tell us 'When He gets up from His throne, the heavens will tremble and withdraw' (paraphrased ofcourse), but I want you to hold this thought for a moment. He is so mighty that He cloaks Himself in light and glory. 
Yet, He loves us so much that when Jesus was being crucified on that cross, your name was one of the trillions of names that He thought of. 

Yes, He died for Navin Samuel Mathew.

I can only imagine the pain of Our Father when Jesus chose to die for me. I can barely imagine the countless angels who would have been ready to save The Son.
I cannot imagine the anguish of Our Father as He saw every labored breath of His Son escape His Son's earthly body. 
When we watch news and movies of epic battles and the sheer volumes and military might of our superpowers and their foes, I can imagine how much more powerful His army of angels are. Maybe God was ready to let to destroy the human creation to save His Son. Ofcourse He did it once when he flooded the earth and nearly got rid of every one because we all disobeyed Him. This time He actually should have, because we put His only begotten Son through the worst form of death
But He didn't. Jesus saw the greater good in sinners like me. To Him, I was more precious than Himself. Probably as precious as His Father was to Him. And the best part is, Jesus did it with so much love and compassion!

This new year, make a pact to yourself.
Don't be just a ceremonial and ritual worshiper of Christ, but a doer of the Word. 
Live the Word - One hour at a time. 
Decide to build a foundation based on His Word, unadulterated and pure. Because when you do this, you have the key to weather all the storms that life will serve. The best news is - No matter how old you are, no matter how much you have sinned, it's never late.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Ze List v4.0 | Manna for your soul

Yes, it's that time of the year when billions of people around the world, will transcend language, religious faith and borders, to celebrate the end of one year and celebrate the beginning of the next. 

And its time for Ze List.
The world has been changing and so has Ze List. This year, I look at all the ways we survived amidst all the chaos and I hope this serves as a mirror to ourselves and hopefully a way to correct our course for the year ahead.

Our Father..
We clutched at straws of faith for some peace and grace from our heavenly Father.
Since the dawn of time, we have been fighting. 
In the beginning, it was for sustenance and to survive. Today, we fight over perceived hurt and imagined supremacy. 
We fought, killed, plundered. All in His name. Its always a wonderful when we say we are fighting for God, because if someone dares question the supremacy of my God, that qualifies me to eliminate him. After all, nearly all of our religious texts allow us to take an eye for an eye. Do we need a better reason to kill?

Who art in Heaven
We reached out to the heavens, to planets nearby. Our space missions made mammoth strides and we sat back and marveled. It is said traveling, like astronomy, is a humbling activity. It broadens our perspective and makes us realize how puny and futile our thoughts and aspirations are. 
We don't have to search far and wide, because the Heaven of our Father isn't in outer space. It is within you, within each of us. 

Hallowed by Thy name.
Which brings me to why we wanted to kill.
Back in the Middle Ages, Christian armies of the West plundered and decimated populations that didn't share their faith. Ofcourse, they were just doing what was right.
Today, radical Muslims think their brand of Islam should prevail and everyone should be a Muslim. ISIS isn't doing anything that the West hasn't already done in the past. Yet we find this atrocious and alarming. Suddenly, everyone wants to brand Islam evil. Every Muslim is a terrorist and every Christian, the defender of humanity. When did it become evil to be ambitious. 

Thy Kingdom come..
False prophets and doctrines have always tried to predict the apocalypse. The prophets don't want you to read the portion of the Bible that tells us that He will return at a time of His choosing, and at a time when we are most distracted. Major TV networks like God TV have been prophesying the End Times since the last many years. Gullible viewers have been coerced to donate millions because we need to prepare Israel, God's chosen land, for His coming again. I don't have anything against Israel but what about the millions who live in squalid conditions right in our backyards? There are millions who go to bed hungry every single night. There are millions who will die a death that we can prevent within the next 365 days. 

Thy Will be done..
In the many lessons I've learned in the last decade or so, I've realized one truth - We must be obedient to His will, and patient to His purpose.
As sure as we are about the year that just passed, we can be sure that we will all have moments in the year ahead when our obedience and patience will be tested. 
We will have situations that will tempt us to do what we want instead of what He wants. We will have times when we question His purpose and refuse to wait on Him. Today, resolve yourself to be more obedient and patience than the year that just passed.

On earth as it is in heaven.
As creatures that come with an 'Use by' date, we must realize that we will all die a certain death. Not one of us will have immortal lives. Yet, there are people who have walked this earth, whose lives continue to inspire us. People whose lives changed the course of humanity, not by force but by pure inspiration.
So the question here is - What are you doing today that will guarantee you an immortal life? 

Give us this day our daily bread
Many of us are capable of meeting our primary needs of food, clothing and shelter. Yet, as we make our weekend trips to our places of worship, we will drive by people who are less fortunate than us. I find it strange that we are patient enough to sit through a 45 minute discourse on being charitable, compassionate and forgiving yet we can't seem to practice it in our lives everyday. You and I don't pray for our daily bread, but there are people who have been praying for theirs. Are we ready to answer their prayers?

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
'To err is human, to forgive is divine' is a phrase that gave birth to a more popular modern mutant - 'To err is human, to forgive is not mine'. 
We might chuckle at the humor of this, but there is more truth to this than we'd like to admit. 
Our species has turned in to one large village where we are just itching to fight with someone, anyone who dare bump into us in the wrong way. Many Western countries (and Russia) have been waging multi-billion dollar wars that sprouted out of nothingness and their perceived sense of hurt. 
The Americans and their allies have been fighting wars since the last decade and half and I'm amazed how futile all their technology has been in getting the job done. The Russians haven't seemed to learned any lessons here.
Is this a good time to remind them that we must learn to forgive more eagerly and earnestly today than to sign a truce to end a needless conflict tomorrow?

Lead us not into temptation
Billions got hooked to consumerism. We are tempted to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't care with money that we could have used for better causes. 
My parents come from a major city in the southern Indian State of Kerala, where until about a few years ago, people lived simple lives. Honest and laid-back lives. People didn't worry about credit cards and loans were something that only the under-privileged and the over-ambitious took. 
Today, people worry about not having that SUV if their neighbor already has a sedan. Families flock to over-sized glitzy malls to gawk at designer brands and gobble on food like they haven't eaten in ages. 
Back in Europe and the West, people and their governments have been slipping deeper into a debt that threatens to pull in anyone else who will lend an helping hand. 

But deliver us from evil
ISIS isn't the only evil of our times. ISIS is just the collective expression of millions of people who have suffered from oppressive Western governments. Governments that have discriminated and persecuted Muslims for years, because it was the easiest thing to do. 
Today, Western citizens depend on their governments to protect and deliver them from evil. If results are anything to go by, this is but a false sense of security. 
As Indians in India, we don't need to look beyond our shores to understand what discrimination is. Nearly every person living in India would have faced some form of discrimination in their lives and this is true no matter which country you are in. 
We prefer to be cloaked in a false sense of security, rather than in prayer.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory
In the last decade or so, millions of people have lost their homes and the livelihood and loved ones, because of wars, man-made conflicts, human disasters and natural calamities. Recent statistics show that there has been a 100% increase in the numbers of refugees, in the year 2015 alone. Governments refused to open their homes and their borders to this exodus of humanity. Countries that were built on immigrants didn't want anything to do with this human crisis. 
These are the same countries who will talk eloquently about compassion and charity. 

For ever and ever..
I don't know about the 'forever' part of my life. I don't know when I will be taken off the shelf because I reached my expiry date. Millions of people who will party to welcome the new year will not survive to party by the end of 2016. Our earth, on the other hand, will outlive and outlast every single one of us. How we treat our earth will reveal our true inner-self. 
Because we can't depend on governments to do our hard work. 
Because unlike us, our politicians won't have to live through the consequences of their decisions. 
Because earth is the only place we can survive on, let's make our stand here and now.

I hope you've all had a wonderful learning experience in the year that just passed and I pray that we all survive to read my post next year. 
Personally, and as always, I have a lot to thank God for this year. 
'Hold the Thought, Get the Point' successfully transitioned into a blog where I write posts on spirituality as opposed to social and political satire. 
While rankings slipped, I am finally glad that I am touching atleast some of you through my interpretation of words in the Bible and I hope to inspire you to touch someone else's life too - in your own unique way.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Never forsaken, Never forgotten | Manna for your soul

What does Mogadishu, Baghdad, Karachi, Damascus, Kathmandu, Kabul and Chennai have in common with Paris and the United States?

In each of these places, people live with the paralyzing fear of being forsaken by their God. Ofcourse we all know how that feels, don't we? Each time we failed, each time we didn't get that job we wanted, everytime a cherished relationship broke, every moment of hurt. We would ask ourselves and God why He abandoned us. 

Many of us don't live in war-torn countries, and conflict-zones. Yet for my readers from Somalia, Iraq and Libya and other places, I pray continually that you find peace in your lives amidst the trauma and the pain. We may not know what you are going through, but our God - your Creator knows exactly what you are going through and He has complete control of your situations and everything that is happening in your lives and He has something huge in your lives.

How do I know He has control of all that happens in our lives? Well, there is plenty of proof that He does and little of that He doesn't have dominion over. In the book of Job, we see satan asking God's permission to test Job. I'll give you a moment to let that sentence sink in.
Our heavenly Father is so almighty that even satan had to ask Him for permission to even test Job. 
Our heavenly Father's word is so powerful that even satan will not disobey Him. 
Our heavenly Father is so delighted when we honor Him that He gushes with righteous pride and tells satan about happy He is with us. 
Our heavenly Father trusts us so much that He knows we won't stray. 
Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He blesses us in everyway that is important to us. If it is wealth, you will be wealthy. If it's family, the love and devotion of family members. If it's career, success. If it's material possessions, then everything you need will be yours. 

Now how do we know He has something epic in your lives? From Genesis to Revelation, we have many many examples of people who led ordinary lives like yours and mine. We have examples of people who heard the Word of God, strayed and then returned to the Shepherd and was completely forgiven and cleansed. Examples of people who chose to be the least of the disciples but became chosen vessels in His hands. 
I've written about the transformation in my life a couple of times before and for people who know me personally know about my journey so I know I have experienced the very powerful way my Lord and Savior Jesus has worked in my life.
Wrapping a long story short, at a time when I was spinning my wheels in my personal and professional life, Jesus caused a former partner in my life to walk out of my life. While it was painful, what she did pushed me closer to God. I did slip and falter, but God always picked me up, dusted me and set me back onto the right path. 
Prayer is my spiritual steroid and I now know that no matter what happens in my life, I'll always have the tools I need to handle it. 
And the truth is - You can have it too! 
You don't need to buy fancy equipment to talk to Him. You are already the best instrument God has created. 
You don't need phony healers and televangelists perform a 'miracle' on you to feel God's presence in you.
Just speak to Him. 

You may not know all the verses or the books of the Bible by rote. But He loves it when you converse with Him. He trusts you to trust Him. 

Satan is real and he will tempt you. The biggest lie he has ever propagated in humanity is the feeling of being forsaken by God. Would you like to know the truth? Read the Bible. Read the book of Job. What Job went through is something most of us will identify with. He had everything, lost everything, everyone. He went through moments of despair and unspeakable grief. He could have cursed God but he didn't. Just like us.
If there is a lesson we need to learn, this is it  - God has said 'Never will I forsake you, never will I leave you' Hebrews 13:5.

God ain't leaving you. Not now. Not ever. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Don't leave me and go | Manna for your soul

When we leave our families, when our loved ones leave us, separation is painful.

This past week, I lost my son. Well, not a human son, but Snoopy was a son in every other way. He came into my life 2 years ago as a month old pup. Fist-sized, he was love at first sight. The little bundle of fur filled a vacuum in my life. 
He taught me invaluable lessons of love, forgiveness and patience.
He would pine for me, when I was away and shower me with love when I was back. As a pup, he would go through separation anxiety when I was away even for a few hours. Through days of conditional training and incentives, I gradually made him feel secure and less anxious when I was not at home. 

But when I lost him a week ago, I went through excruciating separation anxiety. I shuttered myself from the world. Totally disconnected. I simply couldn't grieve enough. I was consumed with guilt and questions of 'What if..'. I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. 
Many felt the pain I was feeling and then a good friend and fellow blogger said something that rang a bell in me - 'Snoopy came into your life for a reason. What was it?' 
Snoopy came into my life when I was reeling with a failed relationship. People who knew me well, understood how Snoopy filled my emotional needs as a father. 

He was my furry son and for the short time that he was in my life, he changed me in a way that sculpted me forever. 

I realized my shortcomings and my strengths and now as he is no longer with me, I remember the way he would look for me when we would play Hide & Seek, wait for me to wake up so that he could lick me again, wait for me to bathe him so that he could run all through the house and mess himself up, wait to be walked so that he could do his business and then walk me through the neighborhood. 
I still suffer from separation anxiety but I finally understand what the disciples went through when Jesus would tell them about His time to leave. In John 14:15-21, Jesus comforts His disciples by promising to send them the Holy Spirit.

God hasn't forsaken us. We have the Holy Spirit, just the way He promised us. He advocates and champions our cause. He waits for us, when we stray and rejoices when we return to Him. 
We have to trust Him just the way Snoopy would trust me when I would walk him through dark and unknown streets. 

Thankfully, we don't have to feel anxious about our unseen God. The Bible reassures us that no matter what, God is never too far from us. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Wounded Heart. A Pastor's Story | Book Review

Having known Dr Benny as my personal saint, counselor and pastor, I am honored that I was asked to write my first book review for his latest book My Wounded Heart. A Pastor's Story.

This book is recommended reading for anyone who has been hurt. Ever
If you have gone through times in your life where you doubted God's plan for you, then you need to read what Pastor Benny has to say. 

The first thing that you'll notice when you start reading the book is the Dr Benny's spiritual foundations. Partly autobiographical, reading this book makes you realise how God allows His children, even the ones He chooses to do His work, to go through a process of spiritual refinement. 

By the time I was mid-way through the book, I was welling up with tears and having gone through something similar in my workplace many years ago, I could understand his hurt. And this is exactly what I needed to read to heal. 

My Wounded Heart. A Pastor's Story gives you a glimpse into the personal and professional trials and tribulations that Pastor Benny went through and is a handy guide for anyone who wants to heal. 
There are many things I liked about the book. I loved the easy imagery that he puts in our minds. As I kept turning the pages, I found myself traveling along with him, through the countryside, the roads and the cowboys, feeling the same hurt that he felt, the betrayal, angst and the depression. 
His style of writing is relatable and easy going. His methods simple and his advice enriching. 

'My Wounded Heart. A Pastor's Story' is born out of years of experience living with and coming to terms with wounds that people can inflict on you, with practical advice on how to come out to the other side stronger than ever.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pastor Benny's book and I am sure you will too. 
In the words of Po, the Kung Fu Panda 'Wounds heal, scars fade away..'
Let the healing begin!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Your friendly Navigator | Manna for your Soul

The Israelites were redeemed from slavery in the most epic way. 
When I read through the Exodus, I am astounded with the way God would soften and harden the hearts and minds of the Pharaoh until the moment they were let go. 
As a young child, I would ask myself why God would harden the heart of the people that He was trying to rescue His children from?
Then as I grew up, I understood why - If there is anything worth having, it is worth fighting for. God wanted His children to fight for their rightful place in His kingdom.

But the fight was not over yet.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years. Even considering the time it took to travel the physical distance between Egypt and the promised land of Israel (about 400 kms), this was an inordinate delay. Why didn't they just ask for directions?

This is exactly how our lives are as well. When I am driving to new destinations, I program my destination on my GPS. Sometimes, I take a wrong/incorrect turn and the navigator lady politely 're-routes' and tell me how to go back to the correct path. When I fail to follow instructions, she simply 'finds a new route' and gives me the route to follow to get to my destination based on the road I am on at the moment. Unlike a real human navigator, she is never rude, she doesn't get frustrated and ask me why I didn't follow her instructions and she won't yell at me for taking a left turn when I was supposed to just go straight. Sometimes, I end up lost. That is when I realize I should have backtracked and followed the route I was supposed to take in the first place. Argh! The aggravation! 
After a couple of cross-country misadventures, I've now laid my trust on the friendly, polite voice from the GPS. Because I have realized the GPS doesn't lose anything if I don't follow instructions. The instructions are for my benefit. 

God is pretty much like this. 

He got us out of the slavery of sin centuries ago. He promised us the land of milk and honey. But we still haven't reached our destination! 

We tend to lose our way among the by-lanes and back-alleys of sin. We ignore the little voice that guides and plans our route to salvation and end up in a tangled web of our own making.

So who do you look to for direction?
Of all the stories, two of the most astounding stories of determination are in Mark 5:21-43.
We see the story of Jairus, a patron ruler of the Galilee synagogue, who is asking Jesus to come with him to heal his daughter who is very ill. Now, Jairus is probably one of the top 10 powerful people in the empire at that time. Someone very powerful and used to having people trip over themselves to serve him. He probably didn't even have to come personally to ask Jesus but could've sent his servants. Let's also remember that Jesus wasn't exactly the darling of the synagogue. But Jairus did the unexpected and came to Jesus himself, and asked him to come and heal his daughter. And this takes humility and tons of faith.
Midway through this story, Mark tells us about a lady with a serious illness. She probably had abnormal vaginal bleeding for many years that made her an outcast in the society. Having heard of the miracles Jesus has been performing, she follows him. 
She knows she is not worthy to have a conversation with Him. All she wants is to just touch any part of Him. 
The moment she touches His robe, she is healed! 
And Jesus realises that someone has touched Him (with faith), stops to recognize and validate her faith.
Later, Mark wraps up the chapter nicely by demonstrating how Jesus raises Jairus's daughter from the dead. Only because Jairus and his family believed.

This is a rare form of faith. Something that we don't seem to possess anymore. 
We are a very visual generation of people. 
We can't seem to focus on God if we don't have an idol or an object in front of us. 
We don't believe in miracles that we don't see. Seeing is believing, they tell us.

One of the remarkable thing about this chapter is how humbling life really is. 
Jairus and the Lady with the gynec problem are people from 2 ends of society. Jairus would have had legions of people at his command. And the lady was shunned by the world. Yet, disease and despair struck them both. By catering to both their needs, Jesus shows us how His Grace is enough and more for all the problems we might have.

He is moved by the Jairus's faith who requests (instead of taunting) Jesus to heal.
He marvels at the faith of the lady, who didn't want anything else, but to touch His garment. 
Having millions of followers thronging by Him, touching His robes would have been something millions of people would have done almost daily. But the Bible talks only about the Lady with the continual flow of blood, because she was the only person who touched Him with her faith. 
I can only imagine how word of this could have spread and how millions would have gathered just to touch His garment and be healed but returned disappointed.

Today, Christians around the world believe touching an idol in a church or dabbing some 'holy' oil is going to heal their sickness and rid their misfortune. Wrong.

Jesus is the ONLY way to redemption. He won't yell at you if you take the wrong turn. He just re-calculates your route so that you can return to Him. 
Now the choice is yours - Do you want to turn back and take the right road to Him or do you want to take the much longer, windier, uncertain route and end up getting lost?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trust me - Trust Him | Manna for your Soul

What are the 3 most important things you cherish in a relationship?
What are the 5 most important traits you look for in a person?
What are the 7 reasons you dislike someone in your life?
Chances are the common trait in your answers to the 3 questions above would have something to do with 'trust'. 

A couple of months ago, India or atleast the inflammable and socially-networked part of India erupted in self-righteous angst when a young lady posted a picture of a man who 'outraged her modesty' at a traffic stop. Her facebook post spewed enough venom to sedate a nation. And fall we did. Fast forward a week later, the truth leaked out. Jasleen Kaur did it for 15 minutes of fame. So while she can argue she did achieve her goal, I ask - 'At what cost?'
I doubt if someone will ever believe her again. In a nation where women have been given the rude end of a short stick for decades, an ill-thought stunt like this only spoils the fragrance for the rest of them. 
In doing this, she broke our trust in women, in our belief that women will use the law only in good faith. 

The Bible is replete with teachings of trust. So are most other books of religion.
Whilst some advocate you to 'finish off' a person who betrays your trust, the Bible tells us to be aware of the person who could break your trust and move on. Proverbs 14:5 & 26 tells us 'A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies... A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.'
I'm sure you know of someone who fits the description of a false witness. A deceitful witness. 

Our parents tell us not to lie and we repeat the same when we are parents. Yet, popular culture has somehow made it look like 'white lies' are okay and sometimes necessary. 

Even when most religions admonish dishonesty, we love exaggeration and fluff. 
When was the last time someone betrayed your trust because of their lying tongue? 
How did you feel when you came to realize something about someone that wasn't exactly the truth?

Your little white lies are neither little nor white. Like an inverted pyramid, they grow into monstrosities of factual misrepresentations, gross fabrication and deliberate deception. In the end, you won't even remember what was the first little lie you told. But would it even matter?

Which brings me to what I want to talk about - Can we rebuild trust? 
A few years ago, when my ex broke my trust in her, I was shattered. As the deception unraveled, I realized she wasn't the person I knew. No matter how hard she tried after the revelations, I could never trust her again. 'Is this another lie?' was the thought that stayed in my mind.. 

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding' says Proverbs 3:5.
You must understand that people who lie frequently only do so because of their unbelief - in themselves and in God. 
We live in times when we are on auto-pilot most times. We know our emails will reach on time, we (think) know that we will wake up tomorrow and head to that meeting, do that chore, watch that movie, go to that trek, be on that date, get that job interview, get that hike and generally be the recipient of all things good in our lives. We believe technology and law of averages won't fail us. 
We panic the moment our lives go off the rail. And that is when we clutch to the straws of our religion.

I know a person who has been going through a lean patch in his life for a few years and he has been dabbling with every ritual there is. He has stopped eating meat (because he thinks vegetarianism is what will win the favor of the Gods), has begun wearing 'lucky' stones on his finger-rings, has tied 'raksha' threads/beads on his forearm and has fasted for over 60 consecutive days. This was months ago and he isn't any closer to 'good fortune' than he was 4 years ago. 
Aren't we all like this? We put our lives on cruise-control but the moment we fly off the smooth roads off the cliff in to the deep sea, we desperately look for God in all things. 

The Bible tells us 'It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.' People of little faith are convinced that this is why they must take refuge in rituals during difficult times. But the Lord also tells us to 'Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!' 

So can we learn to trust again? Yes, if we learn to lean on Him and not on our wisdom.

Personally, I've learned more lessons in trust from my pets than I have from humans. 
For anyone who has had a pet dog will vouch, everytime I'd take my pup Snoopy down strange new roads which had a lot of strays, he would trust me to be the alpha dog. He knew I would never let anything bad happen to him. He would walk like he owns the road, because he trusted me. Larger strays would come barreling down him and he wouldn't as much as cower in fear. Because he knew I am bigger than any of the menacing dogs and that I will take care of him. 

We are much more precious to God than any pet can be to us. He walks with us. Most times, He lets us walk without a leash so that we can wander, sniff every scent and explore every sense. But when danger crowds us, we do need to trust that He is bigger than all our problems and their problems put together. 

We are the most precious children of the most powerful God. How can anything be more comforting than this?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The God Of People You Hate | Manna for your Soul

'They will put you out of your places of worship; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.
But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

This is from the Bible, but this could've come from the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita and it would've made sense too. 
Like kids who can pick up quarrels on the most trivial things, grown-up people choose to fight over religion. It's a no-brainer.

While religious persecution isn't new, over the last few years, more people have been killed just because they were Muslims (or Christians) more brutally than every other cause of deaths put together. Most people don't know how bad this is because we aren't living in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, or Somalia. 

A few weeks ago, I watched a radicalized Hindu lady ranting and raving against the Christians in India. She was blaming the 'foreigners' of coming and stealing jobs and opportunities in the land of Hindus. 
The news channel fed fat to the fire by publishing statistics of how the minority communities have been growing since the last decade. Yes, we reproduce too.
Back online, I did a little research on this lady. She was abandoned by her Hindu parents because she was an unnecessary girl child. Was brought up in a Christian orphanage, went to the missionary school and later a Christian college run by the nuns, until she could stand on her own feet. And I had this singular question - Did our backs hurt your knife? 

Many years ago, when Hindu hardliners burned Graham Staines and his 2 young sons to death in their car, his widowed wife forgave Dara Singh and wished he and the mob that killed the rest of her family would repent and be reformed. 

We are all very flammable people. When we rush to lynch a suspect, we need to pause and introspect. 
'So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves..'

Until a few decades ago, the term Mob Justice used to conjure images of the KKK lynching and dragging bodies of African-Americans. Later CNN fed us new images of ethnic cleansing in Africa. In the last 4 years, Indians have discovered the adrenalin rush of a unhealthy dose of mob justice.
Our journalists are public prosecutors, judge and jury. Instead of being unbiased, they regurgitate semi-digested chunks of verdicts into the eager mouths of arm-chair patriots and moral cops. 

Why should anyone suffer because who they worship or not is not someone/something you worship.
We can't afford to kill and we don't deserve to die. 
Which one among you, if your child is ill, won't rush him/her to the doctor in the middle of the night? 
A parent can't bear to see their child being weak, much less die. 
Why can't we extend the same courtesy and thought to someone else's child too?

The God of that man/woman/child you persecute is also the same God you will answer to. Get your act together. Now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

One God, Much Love | Manna for your Soul

Do you have a lot of things that you are guilty about?
What is your biggest regret so far?
How would you define freedom?
What would make you absolutely happy?

Personally, I haven't exactly been a Christian Jesus would be proud of because there are a lot of things that I am guilty of and I regret. 
Sure, I was born to a Christian family and we did go to Sunday School and followed all the rituals and traditions of Christianity. 
But I never prayed! Infact the only time I remember praying any kind of prayer was 2 days before the final exams. 

Fast forward 20 odd years, I went through my first major relationship crisis. My ex decided to leave me for another man. A much more wealthier man. Our 2 year old relationship and my entire life lay in ruins. That was when I met a Saint and my Pastor. That day, when I walked out of the church, I told myself - 'I am going to let Christ drive from here onwards' and I instantly felt a relief like none other. 
What followed was many painful months of waiting and curing. 
I started praying. On my knees. At first it was difficult. When I would kneel down to pray, and random thoughts would distract my conversation with God. 
Gradually, I realized that it became easier. 

My dad used to pray for pregnant women and expectant mothers, refugees and prisoners and I'd always wondered why we need to pray for everyone else but yourself. It is only when I started praying, that I realized how wonderful it is to pray for a stranger first. He knows what I need, even before and in a much better way I can articulate in. 

Today, I have a fuller understanding of every good and bad thing that has happened to me. Everything that wasn't good was His way of disciplining a child He loved dearly. Everything good - His grace. 
I've been through much more since then, but I know I've been immensely blessed.

Which got me thinking - Why does He love me so much?
Why has He forgiven me for all my sins?
I would read about the events leading up to His crucifixion and I still couldn't understand why he was so upset and 'burdened'. At one point, he cried 'tears of blood'.... How? Why? 
As you go through all the pain and guilt, you begin to realize how much more He went through. We can barely tolerate the pain of one broken relationship, the guilt of disobedience, the burden of sin, the agony of rejection and the shame of our actions. We are quick to ask ourselves 'Why me?' and 'What did I do to deserve this?' fulling knowing the answer in the back of our minds. 

When He asked the same while on the cross, I instantly identified with Him.
Why did Jesus have to die for me? 
Why did He die for you? 
All He had to do was ask His Father to rescue Him and the Heavens would have sent legions of angels to fight for The Son. Wow! That would've have been an epic one-sided victory. 
But Jesus was obedient and allowed this to happen so that you and I can go through crushing pain and still come out smelling like daisies. 

Why did God have to send His only Son to soak up the sins of trillions of lifetimes? 
Because if we as earthly creatures can love our children so much to be ready to live and die for them, how much more our heavenly Father? 
Because Jesus was the only acceptable ransom that could pay for all our sins. 
Because if it wasn't for His sacrifice, no matter what we could do to numb the guilt within, the pain would have lingered. 

How would you define freedom? Today, people around the world are living an increasingly oppressed life. In the US, residents sacrifice their liberties for a life more privileged. And this is not too different from any other country around the world. 
In the Middle East, kings and sheikhs won't encourage dissent. 
In Asian countries like India, Pakistan or China, citizens are only as free as their politicians want them to be. In the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu, citizens live in the shadow of their elected representatives. When Jayalalitha comes into power, buses are painted in the color of her political party's choice. Giant life-sized cutouts will adorn every conceivable street corner, cable TV companies will switch set-top boxes to one that patronizes her party and her government will reverse or undo every scheme of her predecessor. Any citizen suspected of badmouthing the chieftain-in-power will be disposed off swiftly and discreetly.
In 5 years when her government is toppled by the rival DMK, the entire exercise is repeated.

Christians around the world know who their real King is. But there aren't life-size cutouts. He won't give you freebies to follow Him. He won't force you to forget who or how you have been. He won't compel you to redecorate your house or your town. He won't tell you what you can do or cannot. He lets you make your choices and plan your actions. The consequences are yours to own. And no matter what, He will always love you. You don't need an appointment to meet your King.

What would make you happiest?
For some, more money makes them happy, others material luxuries. 
I started my career earning a paltry 80,000 per annum. While I wasn't discontent, I remember thinking how happy I could be if I earned Rs 2,00,000 per annum. But it didn't bring me any more joy than what 80k a year did. I earn several times that now, but I have learned to be content with more and less. 
Happiness is transient. Joy is permanent. 

Today, we have been divided by humans because someone figured out it is easier to rule over people who have been cut down to size than over humanity united. 
What religions have spared, politicians have destroyed. If revolutions like the Arab Spring is any indication, our world is ripe for redemption.

The Bible says 'Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find it. Knock and it will be opened'.
Your turn.

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