The first sentence in the celebrated book of M. Scott Peck, ‘The Road Less Travelled’ is this : Life is difficult.
Forgiveness is an experience of the heart. It is a conscious decision that we take in a relationship. To forgive is to forget the unpleasant and create a new beginning. But there are more difficult issues in this whole business of forgiveness.
One secret of forgiveness is that forgiveness always comes with a bundle of questions. Will he cheat us again? Will he hurt us again? Will he trouble us again? Will he speak ill of us again? . The ‘again questions’ reverberate in our heart after an act of forgiveness. Hence, granting forgiveness without true remorse looks futile. Our fear of the forgiven arises when we see the same person behaving in the old manner in new situations. Then it becomes more difficult for us to get on with the business of forgiveness.
But does Jesus calls us to forgive the same person, over the same mistakes he makes, again and again and again? I think that is a difficult act. If we were to repeatedly forgive the same person over the same offences, our family and friends will call us crazy, useless and a lame duck.
I have spoken with people and have found the subject of forgiveness a very complex issue. This is especially in the matters of sexual morality, financial integrity and social ethics. In these areas, forgiveness does not come cheap. In the world of sexual morality, finance and social ethics, often a ‘third eye’ is kept open on the forgiven subject even in our sleep! Revenge, vengeance, retribution, reprisal, setting of scores.... and this list of emotions goes on popping up in a hurt heart.
So, forgiving others is thorny and hard. Seeking forgiveness is much easy... isn’t it? The fun is, both of these come as a package... together. We cannot dissect one from the other. At least Jesus’ disciples cannot do so. I believe this is the most difficult and strange aspect of this whole business of reconciliation. To forgive and to be forgiven always comes together!
In the commencement of every Christian Eucharistic meal (The Holy Eucharist), this conundrum surfaces. We just cannot walk to a communion table if we haven’t settled the many issues with the world around. Those who have written the liturgy of the worship have cleverly put this in place. What a trick they have played! What a trick God has played!!
LORD...as an adult I still play the “Hide and Seek”. As a child, I have done it so often. That was my favourite past time with friends at home. Remember the excitement in hiding from other... the excitement in finding our own secret places... the joy of seeing my friend miss my secret location by a breath of moment. And, what a joy it is to discover the one we are searching for! We scream and yell when the person we are looking for is found.
Ironically LORD, you never leave our life there. The little acts of my childhood moulded me for the real life acts. The apprenticeships in my childhood leave me with memories of shadows that speak to me every day. And, as an adult LORD, I still play the “Hide and Seek”.
It was many years ago that I read a book written by a physiotherapist titled “Games people play”. I do not remember if “Hide and Seek” is mentioned there. But today, I know that life offer its own version of “Hide and Seek” to me. In that life-game, some of things that I have deliberately hid have been lost by me.
LORD, in this Lent season, give me the grace to find out the ‘hid and the lost’... to find out what was tossed away and ignored. Yes, LORD... What do I cherish with my life? What is it that I hid from?
LORD, make this Lent a time when I can rediscover the things... things I have lost ... things I have deliberately hid and run away from. May I welcome your gospel of repentance and the offer of life in abundance. May I walk these six weeks of Lent, searching for the missing... and coming to know the One who continually searches me.
Just days before Lent is the time when I break into the little joys of sweet and meat. I have found that it is indeed a good springboard to the conscious acceptance of a control that I am about to impose on myself.
The Church in earlier times introduced a small feast just before Lent. It was called Mardi Gras party... a time when Christians exhausted all the home stock of sugar and yeast, smoked fish and meat. They cleaned out their kitchen cabinets from all these, so that the Lent can be started on a fresh note of new culinary.
Mardi Gras party is being more than a gourmand on the eve of Ash Wednesday,.... it is enjoying the entry into a specially loved season. It is removing all the ‘yeast’ from our homes that may take away the joy of the lent that the family is celebrating.
Today, Lent or not, i’ll have my Mardi Gras... tomorrow too a Mardi Gras!... then the Lent!!
I have always heard of people visiting the beaches at sunsets. They talk about the beautiful sunset they see. I too do that. Why? The beauty that a sunset offer creates in me a spiritual yearning that goes beyond the sunsets I witness. They tell me about the infinite nature of the Creator and the colours He has used. In the foreground of a black sea, as the sun pulls herself down after a blazing schedule, the colures that she spreads on the sky canvas is like the last and final act of a grand drama. The nostalgia and the longing that any sunset create in me has always had a spiritual link . Sunsets burst out God’s presence in the Universe and my infinitesimal place on earth.
When making the above photo in the beaches on the Kanyakumari at South India (Cape Comorin) , I saw people worship the sun (I believe they had been doing it since ages). That is where the creation misses the Creator. Every sunset is an opportunity to see God’s majesty. I quote Simone Weil who said, “We see the dust on the window or the view beyond the window, but never the window itself.” Seeing the sunsets and the beauty in it and missing the deep presence of God in the world near us and in us is like missing the window and seeing only the dust on it!
Everything in Jacob’s life was providential. The Holy Bible speaks of Jacob who has proved to be more than a cunning person. Jacob outwitted his own family. And Jacob is best known as the very few in the Holy Bible who challenged El-Shaddai and got away with it.
Many times I deeply think of Jacob. What is so special about him? Jacob was determined, demanding and dreamful. I will call it a 3D phenomena! It is this three character that propelled a change in his life.
Most of us have had at least one tough day with dead-lock problems.... a day we wish to forget but we cannot... a day when we walked away from trouble... a day we thought we would never make it through. The special nature of such a day is that, end of it all, we stand all alone. May be in a hospital, may be in a police station, and may be crying all alone in our very own bedroom. But then, the problem fades away and we live on. For Jacob too there was that day. He walked away from trouble and walked into the wilderness.... a futureless and lonely wilderness. As the hours of darkness crept Jacob slept...slept with a pillow and waited for his dream.
For Jacob, it was a stone for a pillow and emptiness was the sky. First came the slumber. Then came the angles. God Almighty guided Jacob through every stage. Strange as it is, he wrestles with the very Strength that had led him. End of it all, trampled with a wrenched hip Jacob cried, “Bless me or I’ll not let you go!”
We see in Jacob a pro-active believer. He fights for his blessing. Jacob bridges the earth and the heaven with the presence of God in his life.
Hai wait! What can I grasp in my dreams? For a moment I saw the desire in me for that comforting ladder of Jacob. From a spiralling chaos of daily ladders to a delightful ladder beaconing God’s presence in daily events; from the crowded and the loquacious ladder of community leadership to the serene garden of a family... a ladder for my dreams to paint days with bright colours ... colours of joy and gladness.
Jacob had a dream. I must have one!
“So God, give me my share of dreams and a ladder! And I too want to wake-up from my Bethel of dreams!!”
For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in wall that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the transitional character of all things, in the strength, which, through the lapse of seasons and times, and the changing of the face of the earth and of limits of seas, maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time insuperable, connects forgotten and following ages with each other... it is in that golden strain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture....”(The Lamp of Memory - John Ruskin)
Lent is going to be here soon! Come February 25th .... and it is Lent.
The season calls to simplify most of my life: food, drink, thoughts, words and acts. For me, Lent is the most loved season with YOU. It is a season of deeper reading, writing, telling YOU many things, hearing YOU speak silence. Lent calls me to less of shoppings, less of dips into the contemporary news of the day, less of eateries and formal gatherings. Ya... the drama of life takes a different turn in Lent. I am so exited about all that....!!
So Lord,.....Let the Lent come soon ... Please, let the Lent come soon....
I have been always attracted to ancient buildings with historical and cultural connections. In my home town, my parish Church is one of them. The other day, I noticed an old building from colonial times, standing by the seaside. Built with brick and mortar, this building seems to tell me of the British and their Raj.
Inscribing a grace on the building is an old art. The Swiss and the Germans often acknowledge the grace of God’s permission to build and possess a quiet resting-place, in simple sweet words. John Ruskin (1819-1900) has quoted a grace in his famous writings - The Lamp Of Memory :
With heartfelt trust Have Johannes Mooter and Maria Rubi Had this house built. The dear God will shield us From all misfortune and danger And let it stand in blessedness On this journey, through this time of sorrow To the heavenly Paradise Where all good people dwell There will God reward them With the Crown of Peace To all eternity.
This grace was found written in front of a cottage built among the green pastures in the small village of Grindelwald. John Ruskin overturned the Victorian society’s ideas about art and architecture. He argues in The Lamp Of Memory that ancient building must be conserved for their deep mystical links with the past and that creative design is essential – not for financial gain, but to communicate eternal human truths.
One of the interesting and popular parables of Lord Jesus is that of the Laborers in the Vineyard. These laborers were called for work from the market place. Laborers were very much like those of today: they would be called for work. Else, they will not be doing anything for the day. In this parable, our Lord speaks about the wages which were offered and which were given. The story says that what was offered was given.
I became so much aware of the Laborers in the Vineyard only last Christmas. The Pastorate Committee gathered and we casually decided to distribute the cash-gifts for the Christmas season for the Laborers in the Vineyard, the Church. This is rather mundane. Come every Christmas, we get these cash-gifts ready for distribution. However, this time, unlike any other, there were voices of discontent. The highest authority who was to receive the gift was the first to complain. Then of course, even the casual worker complained. The most interesting thing I noted was that they weren’t complaining of their gifts but were complaining of what the other person had received. “I must get more because the other person who deserves less has been awarded more!” That was the clear message we got. We reworked the gift-pack to distribute them. The noises stopped.
In prayer life, too we can hit the same problem. I may be tempted to say, “ I read the Bible, fast and pray so often. But still, you haven’t blessed me so much. Look my neighbor, who doesn’t even know you name. You have given him more. That isn’t fair Lord!”
The biggest point that we often forget about the laborers in the Vineyard is the point of Grace. After all, it was Grace that called them and pressed them into service. Not merit. Not wisdom. Not power or recommendations. But was Grace alone that called them. When they grumbled, they forgot all about it.
There is one last thought that is left in me about the laborers in the Vineyard: even after 2000 years, their story remains the same, literally and otherwise!!
One of the most demanding aspects of today’s life is the pressure to act and live like the neighbour next door. I do agree that everyone has the right to copy a lifestyle. But, can I be what I am? In a Valentine’s Day, when the world keeps pointing to the Lady Love, I keep telling myself that I dress my lifestyle, read my lifestyle, eat, and live my lifestyle. I do not like the world to tell me which motel I stay or what books I’ll read.
Years ago, I remember getting an English New Testament in school. It was distributed by some Christian organization. For me it was great to have a small, cute, green pocket-bible in my hands... Not so much to read but for keeps. I used to carry that Bible in my trouser pockets even during college days. For me, to open those thin white pages and feel the book was great. I wouldn’t read it but smell it! Ya...the scent of the pages attracted me most. But all these made me a point of jeer.... “Hai! Have you brought your Bible today?” college friends used to ask.
Gone are those days... but the fact remains: In all of us, there is a tenacity to be what we are. The other day, I carried a book on medetation to a hotel. Friend of mine who was sharing the evening with me took it and strolled through the pages. “Abby, have you brought this book for reading here and now?” he asked. Frankly I never would like to read, that too a serious book, in a crowded hotel or in the company of friends. “No,” I told him, “I just wanted to keep it close to me and get a feel of it.”
The simple list of my favourites goes on: T-shirts and indigo jeans, occasional down town eateries and road side tea hawkers, St. John of the Cross and Henri Nouwen, lots of sea wind and sands, solitude and sound of the waves and.... most of all, a pack of books and a heart for God.
I understand Omar Khayyam when he sang: “HERE with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness— and Wilderness is Paradise enow”
“Lord... Let it be ... Let it be, I am what I am... what you wish I am and together both of us hold hands and hearts evermore....Amen ”
Dear Lord, The day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform them with laughter and kind faces, let cheerfulness abound with industry.
Give us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our beds weary and content and undishonored, and
Many times, I wish I could start life all over again: life from its infancy... to this day. It’s only a fleeting thought. Frankly, will I let go all the dear things that are mine? Will I part all the precious little treasures that I have collected across years? No. I don’t want to wipe everything from the slate of life—only the bad days, the sadness, the anger, all the mistakes and all that made me poorer.
It was years ago that God took a little chance on me. On that precious day, years of my honeymooning in faith ended. I was on my knees in a lonely monastery. Pushed to a corner, with tear-drenched eyes and with a voice that of a child’s, I told God that I want to wipe clean my life. Nevertheless, I knew that I can’t go back to change one day of my life. Yet, on my knees, in the presence of a loving counsellor, I was willing to start it all over again. Driving back to the Parish Church, I met the Vicar to tell him the newfound joy. Quite confused, he couldn’t appreciate it fully. Even I was a bit perplexed in trying to explain to him. Then I let the joy go...go and find its own place and space in my life.
Renewal I know is not asking others if they are ‘saved’. Renewal is not having God in one pocket and heaven in the other. Renewal is all about establishing a very personal and new relationship that finds time and space for God. Renewal is telling God, “Lord, guide me, use me”. Renewal brings in visible empowerment of God in every area of our life. Nevertheless, I do find it a lot difficult to offer myself wholeheartedly. At the back of my mind, I have so many reservations. If I say, “Lord, take everything I have”, do I really mean everything.... (?)
The basic hallmark of a renewed body of Christ is the yearning that body makes to be Christ-like. It is a daily process, which will reflect the glory of God in us. So, if I am asked, “Are you saved?”...I will always answer, “I am getting to it.”
My Heavenly Father, as I enter this working place, bring your presence with me. I speak your peace, your grace, your mercy and your perfect order into this office. I acknowledge your power over all that will be spoken, thought, decided and done within these walls.
Lord, I thank you for the gifts you have blessed me with. I commit to using them responsibly in your honour. Give me a fresh supply of strength to do my job. Anoint my projects, ideas and energy; so that even my smallest accomplishment may bring you glory.
Lord, when I am confused, guide me. When I am weary, energize me. When I am burned out, infuse me with the light of the Holy Spirit. May the work that I do and the way I do it bring faith, joy and a smile to all that I come in contact with today.
And, Oh Lord, when I leave the place, give me travelling mercy. Bless my family and home to be in order as I left it. Lord, I thank you for everything you have done, everything You are doing and everything you are going to do in my life.
In the name of Jesus, I pray, with much love and thanksgiving… Amen
I have always been afraid to think of two words: cure and healing. With so many Christians speaking of a healing, I have closely watched this and have tried to understand them. Speaking about cure and healing with a close mentor of mine, I shared some simple questions with him... “Why doesn’t God cure everyone when they call on Him? Look friend, Jesus cured everyone who had approached him. So, why isn’t that happening today?”
The other day, in a hospital, I kept looking on to a signboard that read ‘We Cure. He Heals’. There I think stood a small answer to a question I always thought. The fact is that, to cure and to heal are two different parameters of a same problem. I believe that the word ‘heal’ supersede the word ‘cure’ in the context of an answer to my mentor. To heal is to accept... to grow-over and live beyond the dimensions of cure. Healing takes much longer than cure. Healing is both external and internal. Jesus’ ministry was a healing ministry... it went beyond the process of physical freedom to a spiritual freedom. So, can healing take place without a cure? Yes. For Jesus, the infirmities that held his flock were beyond a physical cure....they were social and spiritual. As the medical world work hard for a cure to every ailment, the Spirit of God moves to bring total healing and life in abundance . Without healing, cure is never complete.
As I rambled hours and hours over this subject, I have only understood that many aspects of God’s doings cannot be fathomed. Disappointments with God is one of them...Surprises with God is the other!!
Praise and thanksgiving do not magically change my circumstances. They radically alter my viewpoint.........(Jennifer Kennedy Dean)
Sometimes it takes a good film to drive home a point. The local film club screened a film that kept talking to me. ‘The Doctor’...cast by William Hurt is an arrogant surgeon. When throat cancer takes hold of him, he gets a taste of his own medicine. Then he meets another cancer patient who is critically ill. From pain and arrogance, she teaches him to move to thanksgiving and praise...to forgiveness and longing. From disillusion, the Doctor learns to look at the birds of the air and the grains of the fields..the Doctor learns to look into another world of care and courage. He, together with his fellow cancer patient sings and dances...till all the pain and loss fades away.
Can I praise difficult circumstances and thank misfortunes? Oh, that requires real courage! The Holy Bible tells me of scores of men and women who did exactly that. In a real-life contemporary drama, the Doctor too tells me the same.
Today I want to pray a simple prayer....“God, show me people who sing in pain and praise in sorrow. Show me more of that world. I want to grow closer to you in all seasons of life!....Amen”
There is always a time when we look back to see what has taken us here. The parents, the family, the friends and the community stand all around us in that picture. The formative years of anyone are the time when we look up to the world all around us and try to find heroes. I remember a friend of mine whose mother complained my mother that her son has scribbled my name (ABBY) all over there costly exterior house walls. What a strange thing it was for me to hear it!
Scribbling our presence is a human instinct. Those who have studied human behaviour have found something special about it: since long ago we started to fix our name on the world that we formed. Engineers puts it on the roads, bridges and the dams, students does it on their school desks , lovers put it on the park-seats and monuments, politicians do it on the buildings and social programmes they inaugurate, Vicars inscribe their names on the foundation stones they lay...and the list goes on. Though there are slight differences in each of them, the fact remains the same: they are all scribbling their presence.
I was wondering what God has to scribbling in this universe! The Holy Bible says that it was God who created the heavens and the earth, formed humans in His own image and put breath into it. So, if God were to scribble His name on His creation, He would have a tough time with it. The whole of creation stands in witness to God’s scribbling.... and He continues to scribble. We only got to discover that!
AS I was visiting a group of elderly women at a Presbyterian Church in Grapevine, USA, we shared about prayer and prayer-life. They told me how they were closely knit and how they pray for one another as a Christian group. What they shared with me sounded unique and novel. It is indeed a brilliant idea that is worth sharing.
They told me,..“Brother, every fortnight we gather in the Church for a vesper service. All of us bring a new coffee-mug to the worship altar. Each coffee-mug is unique. Each mug carries the owner’s name on it. Our Pastor will number the mug and shuffle the lot. We pray and take the lot to carry home another person’s coffee-mug. The next two weeks we use this coffee mug to serve ourselves the morning coffee and the bed coffee. And every day, as we sip a hot lovingly made coffee in that mug, we can never forget the person who owns it. We spend the coffee time praying for that person! Later, that mug becomes a prayer souvenir in our showcase”.
In all these years of Christian living, I have never heard such a simple and brilliant idea to make me remember another person in my daily prayer.... the coffee brake prayer!......Have you?
AH, Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits---and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire! (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – LXXIII)
I wonder how hopeless and careless I am when it comes to the little things in my life. I am speaking of the little moneys I have lost, the little keys I have lost, the little books that I have lost, the little oppertunites, the little friends and the little of everything that I have lost. Everytime I realise that I have lost something, there is an anguish. If it is the car key, there are ofcourse duplicate keys on the keystand and I reach out to them. But seldom does everything comes that way. I have realised that even the loss of toothpick has troubled me most. And, what does I say when I desperately search to find back what is lost or to get back which is lost? I have realised that I spit every form of desperate words from my mouth in those occations. “Hell with it!” and “Dam with it!” are the most common.
Being a Christian, God is slowely changing me from being anguish on little losses. It is that, God is interested in all the little things that goes around me. So, should I keep asking God where my car keys are when they are momentarily lost? On the other hand, should I whisper “Hell with it!”
Today I am in the process of bringing God into all the little things in my life.... What a joy it is to realise that God is indeed interested in everything around my life! Turing over to God the most mundane losses, I am not so much worried about the size the shape or the colour of what I am telling Him about. This attitude has radically changed my mind-set on prayer: No Subject is too mundane for God! This attitude has also helped me understand God better. So, I keep telling him about all the little things in my life: may be the lack of coins in my purse or the often missing ball-pens. And I keep my ears open to listen to Him in all these circumstances.
“ Lord, teach me not ask You huge requests like peace in the middle-east,
without me asking You to find out where I have left my spectacle box.
Teach me to speak to you all that worries me, BIG or small.
Simply..... , I want to grow closer to you.... Amen ”