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Friday, December 18, 2015

Looking back and looking forward

We are inching closer to the end of another eventful year with some of us still wondering, “What! So fast! It seemed just like yesterday that we began the New Year.” As 2015 rushes past us and as we are ushered in to another new year with no idea of what is in store for us, there are things that have happened this year that has shaken us, tugged at our hearts and few things that have  encouraged us but most of it has been shocking, disturbing and painful.

Unimaginable violence, bloodshed and destruction to the scale that has not been witnessed since the last world war has passed before our eyes as if in a silver screen. Hatred, intolerance and fanaticism is alarmingly rising in societies that has lived in harmony and togetherness for decades. Millions of people have been killed in wars, terrorism and violence mainly related to religion and fundamentalism last year. Thousands have been uprooted and displaced from their countries and their homes to become refugees fleeing to unknown countries with their lives and with whatever little they could lay their hands on.  Thousands of innocent children who are caught in the cross fire have been orphaned, injured and maimed for no fault of theirs. The over exploitation and rampant destruction that we have done to the environment in the name of development has only increased the number of natural disasters and calamities striking back with a vengeance one after other in different parts of the world.

Yet through all this there have been events that have shown us glimpses of grace and kindness, rays of hope and love. In different corners of the world we have seen humanity rise up when faced with an adversity to reach out with amazing solidarity and love for their fellow human beings irrespective of all the man made division and  barriers of religion, class, caste or language.  Be it in countries opening up their borders and reaching out to the influx of refugees and welcoming them or where fellow sufferers affected by a flood or earthquake rising up voluntarily and mobilizing rescue and relief and helping the affected people, we see glimpses of it around us.

As we look forward to the New Year there are apprehension’s and fears of what is in store for us. Will this be a better one than last year, will there be peace and stability around us, and will the New Year bring prosperity and joy? These are anxious questions that are running around in our minds. Well, with everything around us changing and being in a constant flux we can predict or guarantee nothing.

But what give us immense courage, hope and confidence despite the ominous dark clouds and the gathering storm around us is that there are few things that are constant and unchanging. We can look forward to the New Year with bright hope and great expectation because of these three constants:

The Word of God – The eternal and unchanging word of God says, in the Gospel of Mathew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” Whatever may happen around us, be it the greatest disaster or deluge or even if the very foundation of the earth may shake, one thing that we can hold on in the new year with all our confidence is the word of God. That never changes come what may.

The Rock of Ages - Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8) who is our rock of ages, our eternal and immutable God is with us forever. He has promised that whatever happens around us be it the greatest disaster or the worst storm that will ever hit us, Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut 31:6) and “Surely I will be with you even to the very end of age”. (Mat 28:20). What more assurance do we need!

The Promises of God – That is one secure place that we can stand on as we look forward to the New Year. Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen.” He is a promise keeping God and we can confidently approach His throne of grace based on what Christ has done for us on the cross and appropriate all His promises for our lives.

As we prepare our hearts during this season of Christmas remembering the event that happened 2000 years back, when the God of this universe stepped out of eternity, into space and time and chose to become one like His creation so that we could become like Him, His sons and daughter’s let us also look forward to the new year holding on to this three unchanging elements.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Humanity where art thou!

Humanity where is thy heart, seeing you don't see, hearing yet don't hear,
The cries of men dying in hundreds, tortured, slit and murdered, 
Wailing women raped, enslaved, degraded beyond animals,
Children maimed and killed, eyes filled with fear and dread, far away from home and security, 
Blood flowing in streams, innocent blood of people who wished  a simple life and small dreams, 
Yet torn apart and destroyed for no fault of theirs, humanity where art thou, don't you see! 

Murderers with blood dripping from their hands, roaming like wild hordes of hyenas,
Eyes blood shot with cries of Gods who needs to be defended and satiated by the blood of innocent humans, 
What kind of a God is he who needs a defence from mortal humans,
What kind of a God is he who offers paradise in return for a fellow creatures life,
Does God delight in the blood of His own creation, does he delight in forced submission? 

Humanity where art thou, don't you see, don't you hear, why do you just stand and stare?
Listen to your heart, a little tug in the corner, a tug of love, a tug of care, for those dying and suffering, 
Uprooted and thrown asunder from their hearth and their kin, not knowing where to run or where to hide, 
Clinging on to their little ones covering in fear, not knowing will they see each other again.

Far away yes we are, insulated, satisfied and well fed, running behind things of merry and living a life carefree, 
Saddened by the gruesome pictures and breaking news, echoing voice of sympathy and declaring solidarity, 
We are truly shocked to see the lifeless limb of a little angel washed ashore,
Yet not willing to lift a finger in the cause of humanity, we talk, we analyse, we discuss animatedly,
All the while gleefully  looking at the TRP' rating climbing higher and the money falling in the coffers, 
Humanity where art thou, don't you really see, don't you really hear? 

Be still ! shut out the noise and the clamouring, listen deeply with in, listen to that little tug, 
love will come overflowing, we are created for that, to love, to care and to give, 
to wipe away a tear and console, to hug and to cheer, life is too short to be lived away for oneself, 
make it count, make it long, live for others too. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

" Perfect"

Wow! This is a word that we women (guess some men too) are sometimes so caught up with. Trying to be the perfect girl, teenager, lady, wife, daughter-in law, mother and what not, has always been the dream of many . And if you are any thing like me then its just another impossible dream like many others. I have read umpteen number of books on 'How to' but all that it sounded in my ears while reading them was "BORING". My! it does ring quite loud too. Sorry, maybe it just too much information for me to handle. You know, as a person I just like to see the books not that neatly aligned,love to wear that crumpled shirt or build a tent under the dining table for my kids to play with.I  just love to live life just as it comes. But alas the world doesn't go that way. You need to be in time for meetings,you are expected to be prim and proper and not climb trees when you are forty, sent kids to school on time, take care of meals, keep a good house, fulfill all your family social responsibilities.

 What can I do when I know my weakness just much as I know my many strengths. Guess that's that the time I take out my secret weapon one that many self help books don't share about. Its nothing but a small prayer that I just shoot up to the ONE above. When things seem overwhelming I hold on to "Trust in the Lord at all times and lean not unto your own understanding", " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". somewhere I came across these words that say "I am imperfect but I am loved by a Perfect GOD" His love and strength helps me to overcome my weakness. Each day  I get up knowing that He is going to help me plough through the day doing things as best as I can and He will surely take care of the rest!!!" Perfect"??? not yet, but with His power I am getting there!.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Conversion and Gharwapsi – A Closer Look

The recent hue and cry over conversion has managed to garner national attention. Conversion has become a contentious issue with re-conversions and a sudden suspicious call being given by some parties for a national debate on it and passing an anti-conversion bill all across India. Why is it such an emotive and contentious issue? Why is there so much insecurity and fear when the word conversion is mentioned?

Freedom of religion is enshrined as a fundamental right in our constitution, the right to practice, profess and propagate any religion of our choice is a fundamental right of every citizen in this country. There are specific laws in the Indian penal code against any misuse or fraudulent means or forceful conversion. Over and above this to bring a blanket ban on conversion is infringing on the individuals fundamental rights and it goes against the secular and democratic credentials of this nation. To paint all conversions happening in this country as induced and fraudulent is doing injustice to the sensibilities of the common man and dehumanizing them as without any ethics or sense to make a simple choice. Freedom of choice to eat what they want, to dress as they like and to believe in what they want to, is very basic to every civil society.

Conversion is not just limited to the externals as many think and view it, conversion is primarily an inward transformation which no human being on the earth can stop, if a person wants to believe in something and follow that truth then it is impossible for someone else to evaluate it and stop it simply because it is an inward invisible change. There might be some external elements accompanying a person’s conversion, like some rituals or practices or even a simple thing like change in their attitude or habits etc. Most of the time it is these external elements that people see and then say that a person is converted. Another fact about conversion is that no human being can make another person to convert in the actual sense of the term; if conversion is a result of human action alone then it as a false conversion. God alone can bring a genuine transformation of the heart. If a person has so called converted for benefits or for upward mobility or through force or inducement then it is not a genuine conversion.

Another important aspect is the objectivity of truth and its exclusive nature. I think you would agree with me that there cannot be differing statements on the same topic that can be true at the same time. For example; the law of gravity is true everywhere on earth and in any place at any time. It is an absolute truth. No one can say that we have the law of gravity different in Delhi than in Mumbai, we will call that ridiculous or foolish. But when it come to matters of faith many tend to become subjective and inclusive, they would start defining truth in any way they want and even claim that there are no absolute truth with regard to God, well interestingly for that statement to hold water  it has to be an absolute truth by itself otherwise it is self contradictory. When people are confronted with the truth and when they are convinced of it, they believe it and voluntarily choose to follow it, this actually is an inward change or transformation which many call as conversion.

Jesus is the only one who claimed to be God – He said, “I am the way truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) He is the only one who rose from the dead- the empty grave is the proof and He appeared to many after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) He claimed to have the power to forgive sins and He is the only one who died for the sins of the world- no one else has ever done so, “God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and He is offering eternal and abundant life to anyone who believes in Him (John 3:16 & 10:10). If the claims that Jesus made were false and He knew it then that would make Him a blatant Liar; and if His claims were false and He didn't know it, he was sincerely deluded then that would make Him a Lunatic or a mad man. Well all of us would agree that Jesus was neither a Liar nor a Lunatic; that leaves us with only one option, what He said was true, in which case He is God Himself and one can either accept Him or reject Him as their Lord and savior. Jesus never said that He came to establish a religion or a sect. He called people to come to Him and Know Him and follow Him. His call is for an “everlasting relationship” not to a “religious conversion”. 

If someone chooses to believe this truth and is willing to follow Jesus what do you call that?  Forced conversion! Induced conversion!  Whatever you call that the truth is that thousands are coming to Him and knowing Him and finding purpose and meaning for their lives, not just in the illiterate, rural and poor tribal belts as some claim but right in the hearts of our metros- educated, high profile, elite are also making this choice to follow Him. Well as some people claim, if people have converted from other faiths through inducements, or for benefits through fraudulent means then it is good that those people as well return to the original fold ( home coming) through the same means that is now being publicized and offered by those groups. But for those who have had this genuine encounter with Jesus and have come to know Him and have experienced His unconditional love and the life transforming power, nothing can make them go back, even mighty force leave alone petty inducements, they would rather gladly lay down their lives for their master, millions of people have done so in the past and even now thousands are doing it every day in different parts of the world; history is a witness to this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas – The Joy of Giving

One of the earliest memories of Christmas deeply etched in my memory is the Christmas celebration at my ancestral home. My grandfather would organize a big celebration on the Christmas day, starting off the day with an early church service followed by the festivities culminating in a big meal. Many of my relatives would be invited, the house would be filled with uncles, aunts and cousins running around. But the most memorable aspect of the day was that he would not forget to invite all the workers and helpers who had been involved with him in some way or the other over the years. Most of them were from the lower strata of the society, they would come as whole families, they were given gifts and new dress and were treated to a sumptuous meal. He would oversee all this with a large heart and at the end of the day he would slump into his reclining chair with a look of satisfaction and fulfillment written all over his face

Very early in my life this was ingrained in my psyche that Christmas is all about giving - God giving his only son Jesus as a gift to the whole world and the Son giving His life as a ransom for mankind’s sins. God is the greatest giver of all no one can beat that but this is the time of the year that we as mortal humans can emulate this to a certain extent and  give and be generous to people in need around us. In a world caught up in the throes of ‘getting’ and ‘receiving’, with the catch word being ‘give me more’ or ‘Yeh dil mange more’ (my heart needs more) it is difficult to be cheerful givers. Probably the first thought that comes to our mind will be, what about “my” Christmas celebration, what about my family, the new dress, the cakes and gifts for the kids etc that we are planning. No doubt, that is important and we need to enjoy the time with our families and dear ones but if the celebration is limited to only them that’s when Christmas loses its real meaning.

We are living in an “i” generation with everything coming out designed for the individual, be it iPad or iPhone or a i20 car. It is when we can elevate and liberate our thoughts from the self-centric individualistic level to being other-centric, to those who are suffering, downtrodden and underprivileged around us and be willing to reach out and meet their needs then the Joy of Christmas becomes real, it is a shared joy, the Joy of giving. Remember the good news of the birth of Jesus, the King of Kings was not first proclaimed to the rulers or in a palace to the rich but to the lowly downtrodden shepherds sleeping out in the field.  Jesus himself said in Luke 4:18, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”.

What are your plans for this Christmas? Would you take a moment to think of someone who is in need or marginalized in the society around you?  Would you share this joy of Christmas with them? Try it out! There is no greater joy or fulfillment than the one found in generously giving and sharing what God has bountifully blessed us with, however little that might be. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Father Job

Being a good Dad- a legacy worth leaving

A shocking statement that rocked me out of my routine life was not from my boss or from a colleague or friend, but it was from my 9 yr old boy when he came up to me and said, “Papa you are always in meetings or travel or with your computer and even at home you are checking mails and you don’t have time for us”. It was a rude awakening call for me and I decided, “That is it!  I need to do something about it or I will be messing up my kid’s life forever and end-up a horrible father, I never desired to be one”.      
Recently I was playing badminton with my two boys; they were super excited that I was playing with them and spending time with them. In fact I could see the enthusiasm and spring in the younger ones stride when he came and asked me if I could play with them and I said yes and he ran home to get the rackets. I had been telling them that I will join them to play and had not been able to make it up for some time. Well, as most of the times the game ended in dispute and rising tempers due to someone loosing which was as usual patched up almost immediately. But the memorable thing for them was that I was playing with them and they were enjoying the time with their dad. Someone recently told me to make the most of it  while they are still small because once they come to their teens they would not be as excited  to “play” with their dad, they would rather prefer their friends instead. Well I don’t totally buy into that view, I am of the belief that ultimately it will depend on how close you are with your kids when they were young. 

One of the most touching stories that I have come across is of a father who had become old and was staying alone, he was constantly asking his only son who was working in the corporate field to come and visit him and spent time with him. But the son for some reason or the other was always coming up with excuses of being busy and could not make it. One day the father happened to walk into his son’s room where he stayed as a boy and was looking through his belongings and he came across a diary that his son had maintained as a teenager. He casually flipped through the pages and in many of the pages he found that the son had scribbled out on many days, “dad very busy today, no time to talk to me”, “always in meetings and travel, today also he had no time to spend with me,” but as he came to one page which was colored and marked with stars and flowers he paused. He read through what was written and tears streamed down his eyes as he read through. His son had written the date “25 of March Saturday, the greatest day of my life. I and my dad went out for fishing, I got to spend time with my dad for the whole day and we talked and joked and caught a lot of fish, unforgettable!” As he sat down there on his sons bed he only had a vague memory of that day and thoughts came flooding back of those times when he was a big successful manager with not much time for the family, always in meetings or travelling and many a time his son as a small kid had walked into his room to talk or to play with him but he had turned him away or just ignored him fully busy with work. His heart sank down at the realization that his son was doing the same thing that he had done years ago as a dad. 

As the old proverb goes, “time and opportunity lost is lost forever”. As dads how we wish if we could ever rewind and go back in time to rectify the wrongs that we had committed or the neglect that we have done with our kids.  The greatest investment in our kid’s life is “time” well spent with them in their growing up years. It is a small window of time but a crucial window that can break or make our future relationship with them and affect their personality forever. 

Another more important truth is the kind of spiritual impact you can have on your kid, the way they are going to approach and relate with their heavenly father is very much dependent on their view and relationship with their earthly father and this makes it all the more important for us as dads to take this matter seriously and give it all our attention. `                                                                            

Tips to be a good Dad - What I have seen, read, heard and trying my best to do:

1.      Intentionally set apart time in your daily schedule to spend quality time with your kids. This can be playing with them or simply listening to them or telling a story to them. I will never forget that it was my dad who taught me how to cycle, play football and badminton and those moments are etched in my memory forever.

2.      “Listen” to your kids; “actually listen” to them when they are talking to you. Make sure that you are giving them your undivided attention not looking at TV or your computer screen or doing something else and trying to listen to them, how would you like it if someone else does that to you while you are talking to them?  Make sure that while you are listening to them you are looking at them, make eye contact and if your kids are very young sometimes it is good to kneel down to their height so that they don’t have to always speak up to you. 

3.      “Express” your love to them in tangible ways, you know that you love them but how will they know unless they see it. Many of us as the “man in the house” are stingy with our emotions and feelings, we hold it back and regret later. Don’t hesitate to lavish your love on your kids, tell it to them, hug them and buy occasional gifts for them. 

4.      Be open and approachable. Some of us have grown up with dads who are strict and were not easily approachable; we would hesitate to go to him directly but would often go through our moms who will act as a liaison for us. Well we all know that this is not something healthy to perpetuate and as dads we need to be their best friends, this can happen only if we are open and transparent before them. Allow them to watch your life but be sure that you are a good model. 

5.      Once in a while take them out for adventure or fun activities like trekking, fishing, traveling to new places or making things together which create a lot of bonding. They will never forget those times. 

6.      Discipline them not in anger but out of your love for them and don’t forget to explain to them later the reason for the disciplining.                                   

7.      Appreciate them for who they are and also for their strengths and talents. Treat them as individuals with much value; never speak ill of them or put them down before others. Think twice before you compare them with your neighbor’s kids or their class mates. This doesn’t mean that you pamper them and give in to all their whims and fancies and spoil them. 

8.      Pray for them, pray with them and show them how they can communicate to their heavenly father and listen to Him from the word. It is a legacy worth leaving.