Selah

The thing about being a medico is that more often than not, your timeline revolves around some exam or the other. You’re either preparing for one or you’re awaiting the results of one you’ve just given. I’m writing from a place of waiting on what verdict the national board is going to pass on the rest of what the next few years might look like for me based on a number of multiple choice questions I may or may not have done right. So this waiting is like the queue outside a public toilet I’m told- when you’re outside you really want to get in, but when you’re inside you desperately want to finish and get out!

That’s one kind of waiting. Then there’s the other kind- the kind where you’re waiting with baited breath for your doctor to tell you whether chemo has worked or not, or for the neonatologist to examine your baby and tell you whether things might turn out okay after all or not, or for the police to call back saying they found your missing person- the kind where after you’ve waited a couple minutes you start thinking, ‘know what? Maybe it’s maybe better I don’t know about it’ cos you’re afraid of the answer that’s going to come.

I don’t know what place you’re finding yourself in today- whether you’re waiting to get a particular outcome or you’re considering whether the outcome of all the wait might actually be worse than the wait itself, whether you’re glad that there’s some rest while you wait or you find yourself in a vacuum all of a sudden, like a noisy silence, and you wish there was some sort of breakthrough somewhere…but let me take you to an interesting word you find nearly 74 times in the Bible that caught my attention recently- Selah.

It’s a word that comes with no strings attached – it never comes as part of a sentence.

But it’s kind of always interestingly positioned. Smack right in the middle of a song or after a heartfelt lament or a poem of overwhelming praise. Some of us find ourselves in a selah position sometimes right? Like you woke up at 5 am to be in time for an appointment and then you ran all through the day to just make it happen and you end up being stuck in traffic so that you reach within a few milliseconds of the time you were given, and check yourself in, high on adrenaline, only to find yourself in the waiting room. “The doctor will see you in a few minutes”… a semicolon in the middle of your day.

You made a timetable for your life and tried to perfect it to the T- made it to the topmost college, passed out with honours, met the love of your life and probably you’re the youngest graduate around, but then the callback from the interview you gave hasn’t come. You may have to look for another job. It might take months maybe a year or so…a pause.

Who ever thought that when you got married to the love of your life and had plans and dreams and then maybe you may have problems conceiving? Who ever thought that despite having planned your delivery to perfection, you might have to wait for a few minutes for your baby to cry after being born?

These places of waiting come in unexpected and most times we’re hardly prepared for them. They have us wondering, ‘Did I do something wrong?’

So I looked up what this word really means- and most of the time it’s used as an interlude in a psalm. Though an accurate description is hard to find, the consensus is that it is a break, encouraging the reader/listener to pause and look back, some say to pause and praise- to catch a breath and consider how far you’ve come.

Find yourself wondering how on earth did you end up here? Or why’s nothing happening? The calls that never came, the unexpected outcomes, the sudden failure, the dreary diagnosis, the friend that never turned up, the stagnant family life?

Let me encourage you dear friend to do what this ‘Selah‘ phase is maybe all about. Look up to your Creator, look how far you’ve come, catch a breath, lift up your hands, and praise. He is just as good as He’s always been. The miracles we’ve read about? They aren’t just stories. They happened. And the God who made them happen? Thankfully for us, He is still the same.

You are just as good
You are just as kind
You are just as glorious
Just as divine As You’ve always been
You’re not changing
If the skies turn grey
And the lights grow dim
It doesn’t mean Your faithfulness
Is wearing thin It’s not wavering
You’re not changing
Anytime soon
(Not just stories, Maryanne J George)

Malachi 3:6
“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

Uncomplicated…

Looks were exchanged between the elders on the stage and the worship team just to the side of the stage. They stopped practicing. As the duo singing the song for the bridal procession got themselves into place and started the music, everybody else in the hall straightened up. The atmosphere was a mix of anticipation, excitement and happiness. The bride and the groom were about to enter. The youngest in the audience for this occasion, who were four and five years old, were strictly advised to attach themselves to their seats atleast for the first ten minutes. And so, after the cameraman, the groom entered with his parents followed by the bride. Just as they reached midway, this four year old cherub, who was also the groom’s niece, got up from her seat, and made a dash for her grandfather, calling out loudly, ‘appacha’ (a term for grandad in malayalam). She didn’t stop with that. She did a small twirl, clapped her hands together at the sheer joy of just seeing him and went and squeezed his hands and hugged his knees. She kept smiling at him till his creased brows and worried looking face gave way to a huge beaming smile that reflected hers and exuded a warmth that was palpable to anyone who observed. And before her parents could reach for her she walked back to her seat, looking extremely satisfied at what she’d just done, totally unaware about the fact that this was all recorded on camera, or that she’d just made her mark on an otherwise solemn occasion.

I watched her face as she walked back to the seat next to mine, and smiled. She’d just celebrated a person she loves a lot, she’d expressed that and she was super delighted at it. It made a lot of sense to her to express what she felt for him, and that was that. She shifted her attention to the next thing. No biggie. It was that simple.
…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these..‘ (Matthew 19:14)

Those words kept coming back to me again and again that morning.

As a paediatrician, an aunt and a sunday school teacher, I’ve had the honour and privilege of spending a lot of time around these little beings, day in and day out. Whether they’re sick, or they’re full of questions or they just want to have fun, they never fail to teach me something new everyday. If you’ve looked into the eyes of a child, you would know that there’s an unbeatable zest for life and love you see in them. Something that makes you yearn for your childhood days all over again. There’s something about the simplicity in their love for you and the trust they place in you, the joyful spirit that they have, that humbles you. That makes you want to understand why Jesus stressed on the importance of becoming like a child to experience the fullness of the joy we have in Him.

When a child starts to draw, one of the first things he/she draws is a house and stick figures of all the family members holding hands. And then when he/she can spell, they write down their names and the names of the ones closest to them. And then they show it to every person they come across. Sounds familiar? They simply can’t get enough of celebrating the love around them.

As the years pass by and we grow older, somehow the simplicity disappears. We just can’t trust God like that anymore. We somehow find it difficult to love Him fully. And gradually we discover we somehow aren’t that joyful anymore, and that translates into the relationships we have around us. We’re yet to discover at what stage of development does one learn to complicate things. When do we start thinking, “What will other people think?” as opposed to ” What does the One who created me, want of me?” How does that question become an essential part of our existence? Why do we stop celebrating God’s love for us by becoming so focussed on the doing than the being?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions myself. And as I placed these questions and doubts and struggles before my Maker, this is what I was moved to pray- “Oh to have the heart of a child before the Lord! To trust Him fully, to love Him more and more with that kind of simplicity, to celebrate Him regardless of what ‘others might think’, to declare His goodness out loud no matter what the situation looks like and to overflow with that zeal for life and love because I know I’m held in the everlasting arms.”

May this be your prayer too, dear reader, as you navigate your days ahead- to hear Him, to walk with Him, to unabashedly love Him, and to experience His constant presence- to be like a child before Him- uncomplicated. Then our eyes would be opened to see the million little miracles unfolding around us daily- in all its brilliant colours.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

The other side…

The pandemic rages on, coming and going in waves…nobody knows for how long or how many more waves we’re yet to see. When you say COVID 19 , among the many things that became a new normal, the prominent image that comes to mind is someone in a PPE suit- goggles and hood and plastic overalls and a tight fitting mask. The people on the frontlines.

“Doctor, I cannot express my gratitude for the risk you guys take on a daily basis to watch out for people like us,” my last patient for the day was saying. I was that someone in the PPE suit, and amidst the sweat and the poor visibility and the suffocation, all I could think of was finishing as fast as possible so I could get out of there and breathe in some fresh air. But Gopi wanted to talk. So I stood for a couple more minutes. He was still having fever, but the one thing that caught my attention was the fear in his eyes. He continued for some more time about his family and how people with the virus were being neglected elsewhere and how he was grateful he got a bed with us so he knew he would be looked after in a time like this. I gave him a half hearted smile which definitely didn’t reach him through all that I had put on, asked him to not worry, and came off trying to shake off that look of fear from his eyes and wondering how long it would be before I was in his place.

Needless to say it wasn’t very long before I did end up on the other side. This was another moment where one is reminded again that disease and death are no respecters of persons. As the next couple of weeks passed in quarantine- juggling between managing symptoms and worried family members, I was reminded again and again of the look on Gopi’s face- the fear. His fears were also mine- how far would this virus display its prowess in my body? Would I recover completely? How much longer would these symptoms last? Would it worsen?

‘Everybody just dies’, my sister was saying after a week of COVID ICU duties. There was nothing one could say to cheer her up.

And with news of new variants and newer complications of the disease coming up, what can one hope for? Where do you go with all these fears?

What could one offer to that patient wondering whether he’ll make it through to the other side of this, or to the tired medico who’s been watching helplessly as patients succumb to this disease? What holds you up when you’ve fallen ill while taking care of others and you’re wondering whether it was all worth it?

Hope.

That’s what we are all longing for this season. And there’s only one place I know of that I can point you to today- Jesus Christ. He knows. He sees. And He’s got this. Even when we do not understand it.

Being on the other side of the PPE suit has been an interesting and learning experience. The one thing I know for a fact is that no amount of reading or knowledge helped with the questions and anxieties, but there was an undeniable peace when I surrendered and chose to fall back on the Living Hope and move on in faith.

Amidst all the uncertainties we face today, can we place our hope in this God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End?

Hallelujah, praise the one who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
(Living Hope, Phil Wickham)

Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure… (Hebrews 6:18,19a)

Gooder!

Organic Malgova mangoes.

They’re tricky. Can’t really say when they’ll ripen because nothing much changes in their appearance on the outside. They’re just the same strong green. Unless you touch/ smell them one fine morning and then suddenly realize it’s time.
And then after all the waiting, you cut one. Then there’s that huge seed.

Ever wondered why the mango has to have such a big seed, almost as big as itself? I mean you look at a nice big mango, and imagine a lot of mango pulp only to find that half the space was filled with the seed! Or better still, why can’t pomegranates be seedless? Why do pineapples have such an impossible covering?

It’s funny how sometimes the best of things aren’t always really easy. They’re really good. But there’s also the seed you gotta be mindful of. Some big, some small and annoying.

Waiting for breakthroughs in life- whether it’s a job or a marriage or a child or any door to open up is sometimes like waiting on Malgova mangoes to ripen. ( I won’t blame you for already judging me for that comparison)
You wait, hope and pray. And then one day suddenly things come around. There’s that phone call or that person or that opportunity.
But most times the breakthroughs aren’t all rosy and easy. There’s almost always that big seed. It doesn’t really come in the package you’d expected it to. Yes you got the job, but you had to start over in a new place, or you married the person you’d waited for but it was right in the middle of the pandemic with all the restrictions thereof , you were planning on wearing that beautiful satin dress to your best friend’s wedding that you both had dreamt of for so long, instead you find yourself on ICU duty in a PPE suit while she says her vows some place else, you thought you’d be done with exams and there’d be clarity on what next by now, but now you’ve got more time to prepare but no definite timeline to plan on, you have the holidays, but nowhere to go to ‘cos of the lockdown, you’re finally carrying your precious child in your womb but you’re bogged down with work and can’t take all the rest you need, you got into the course you’d always dreamt of, only to wonder if you’ll ever measure up…. so on.

When the blessing comes with the seed.
When you’re extremely grateful and thankful but there are adjustments to be made, expectations to reset and plans to be remade.

Manna- the food the Israelites were praying for didn’t really come in the manner they imagined. They could only ask , ‘What is this?’ But it was better for them than they’d really hoped for.

“Oh this is gooder!!’ Four year old J was exclaiming the other day. Quick to correct him, I said “No, the progression is good, better, best.” And he goes, “Yes! And then gooder!” Like it was so obvious. You can never win an argument with a 4 year old and hence I carried that word back with me. Figured the world needs a word beyond ‘best’. So..

The last couple of months have been a time of standing back and watching God work out His ways of being ‘gooder’ to me. Better than the best I’d imagined for myself. There’s the seed though. It didn’t come easy and it isn’t gonna be easy.
But seeds contain the potential to bring forth new life. They challenge us. They enable us to enjoy the goodness of the fruit. And grow. They nourish and hold it together.

As I pen this down, I can testify to the fact that He’s been teaching me to enjoy His providence while I work around the seed. And then sow that seed to bring forth new fruit and keep the cycle of life moving, using the times and experiences I’ve gone through to declare the goodness of the Lord to you.

Answered prayers. Unexpected packaging. A whole new view. But definitely ‘gooder’.

Have you been in a ‘manna’ situation lately? Pandemic and all?

Know that the Lord your God, your Maker, is good. His ways….gooder.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, emphasis added)

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

(Bethel music, Jenn Johnson)

Let Him..

“Fling wide the gates..” She pushed those words to the back of her mind.” Open the ancient doors,…” Nooo, she didn’t want to hear them, “….and let the king of Glory in.” Ahhh. The soft still voice was persistent.

It had been a couple of frustrating days. She was beyond irritated and angry. Her arched eyebrows and furrowed forehead as the hot summer sun beat down on her head would have made anyone hesitate to even ask her what was wrong. A soaked mask and the added irritation thereof. And then there were the tears she was fighting back- tears of frustration, lost battles, and the desire to emerge like the Hulk from her normal work clothes and just stomp over the world. Passionately angry. Because she had passionately loved. And passionately trusted and hoped.

And in all that mess, another passionate voice was calling out from deep within. Pastor had said that verse a number of times in church last Sunday, it was etched somewhere deep within her tired grey cells. “Let me in” the Father was saying. “Fling open your gates” She didn’t want to. She wanted to close herself up in her room and weep for sometime. Cry out the frustration, and spend some time wondering why she still did what she did. Didn’t want to let anybody in for that moment. Wanted to dwell in the darkness as the waves came crashing in.

After yanking the lock of her house open and banging her door shut, she finally gave in, letting Him in on the disappointment and the distress and the helplessness. And as she slept off on her knees from the heat and the exhaustion, the sound of singing filled her heart. The old hostel room. Her senior strumming this chorus on her guitar, ” Can you hear the sound of heaven, like the sound of many waters? Its the sound of worship coming from the throne of God…” As those notes played out, a loud thunderstorm woke her up. She ran up to the terrace and stood right there as the heavy raindrops washed over her. A calm descended and the din of the day died down, she let that river of living water flow right from the throne of God into her heart… some days don’t make sense, they hurt more than others, some battles are harder, some leave scars- but as long as her eyes were on her Maker, it was all worth the pain. She’d rather live out her life passionately being what God had called her to be than live from paycheck to paycheck- loving, laughing, crying, singing,sometimes winning, sometimes losing….living.

Tired, sojourner? The sun might beat down quite furiously, but it always rains . Look around. You’ll hear Him in the trees and the bushes and the birds and the plains and the valleys. Just throw open your gates, and let the King of Glory in. Let Him wash over you. Let Him remind you why you do what you do. Let Him take that burden. Let Him….Let Him…and then go live! In every sense of that word. Look up. It might hurt, but He is enough. More than enough.

Fling wide the gates,
open the ancient doors,
and the great king will come in.
Who is this great king?
He is the Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, victorious in battle. (psalm 24)

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Shine…

Ever noticed that most hospitals have a chapel within the building or somewhere in close proximity? Or even a prayer room? They’re small, simple yet beautiful.

As a freshly admitted medical student, I used to think about our hospital chapel as such an oddity – a place meant for worship and prayer built smack in the middle of a noisy hospital corridor cluttered with the sounds of trolleys rushed to and fro, people asking for directions, doctors screaming out orders over the din to each other and so on. Weird! I’ve thought. Who would even notice this place in the midst of this craziness? And besides, who would have the time to come in here anyways?

A few weeks into my training I decided to enter the chapel one day. There was a sudden change of atmosphere from the noisy buzz outside to a calm that gripped my soul. As my eyes adjusted to the lighting within, I saw two hands lifted up just in front of the altar. An elderly woman wailing out loud on her knees. She wasn’t saying too many words but her desperation was palpable. As I sat and watched her for sometime, I started understanding the strategic positioning of this space.

Many years and different hospitals later, I’ve developed a sense of reverence for these places. They are places of solace. Of light. Of hope. Desperate pleas. Honest prayers. Unhindered praises. Freely flowing tears. Unmasked selves. These are some of the emotions that mark these chapels.

People seeking refuge from the only One who can offer one. Where scientific explanations end and miracles begin. Where the search for a highly experienced super specialist ends with the acknowledgement and the desire for a touch from the Creator of the Universe. The Healer. Where there is no pretence.

Broken souls. Melted candlewax. Raw emotions. And just outside, a world that keeps moving.

Whoever thought of the concept of a place of worship smack in the middle of a crazy hospital environment couldn’t have been more genius. Beyond every level of expertise the world of modern medicine can offer, every man’s ultimate need is the need of a Saviour. In need of things only He can give. And that begins with the breaking down of walls we’ve built around our hearts , with taking off the masks we wear (No, not the triple layer/N95 ones). Right in the centre of our workplaces and our maddening lives.

He was a special child. Mentally challenged they say. Exceptionally intelligent I think. He’d seen me before and recognised me from a distance when his mom came to me to get his regular medicines. He kept nudging her to tell me to remove my mask so he would know for sure. I removed my mask for a few seconds for him. I did not expect the reaction I got from this 14 year old boy with developmental issues. A sudden throaty laughter- one of sheer joy, and a high spirited small jump. He was right about me! He came over and gave me a sideways awkward hug in a way he knew how. And then held his mom’s hand and walked away smiling through his teeth. That’s all it took to make his day. Me removing my mask for him. Covid-19 protocols had to go for a lunch break!

“It’s like we came to the chapel. He feels seen,” his mom called out as they walked off.

Hospital chapels, OPD waiting areas, ICU counselling rooms, operation theatres- are some places where all disguises come off. And they remind us of a greater need.

In a world that teaches us to pretend and live up to the expectations that nobody knows who laid out, there is also an aching people. Aching for grace, mercy and love. Aching for the love of Jesus yet not knowing where to find it.

A touch. A hug. A kind word. A nudge on the shoulder. A word of encouragement. A small note of appreciation.

A conversation with no pretence. A space where they don’t have to keep up appearances. Haven’t you longed for some authenticity like that?

This is what the Lord has been challenging me to be over the past couple of weeks and a thought I’m putting out there for you to ponder on.

Oh Child of God, you who have tasted and known of the goodness of this amazing God, what can you do today to reach out to an aching society? To be that space of no pretence to somebody who needs to be seen or heard? To be that conduit that guides them to the Saviour. To be the salt. To be the light. To shine. Beginning from right where you are. Right now.

In need of Grace, In need of love
In need of mercy raining down from higher above
In need of strength, in need of peace
In need of things than only you can give to me

In need of Christ, the perfect Lamb
My refuge strong, the great I am
This is my song, my humble plea
I am your child, I am in need
(Ross King)

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ( Matthew 5:16)

Yellow…

On the drive between Palani and Oddanchatram, two small towns in southwest Tamil Nadu, there’s a particular wonder to behold in a particular season. Vast fields bathed in yellow. Yellow- the unapologetic bright kind. Oh yes, the colour yellow is associated with Palani a lot, especially ‘cos of the robes the pilgrims to the Palani temple wear and walk the roads on. But no, that’s not what I’m talking about.

It was Monday morning, and I was on the way back from an eventful weekend at home back to the place where I live and work. The driver anna was being his usual chatty self, filling me in on the local political scenes and all that was happening in and around his village and I kept him engaged with an occasional comment here and there and mostly with the vigorous nod that most South Indians have mastered over time. The kind that almost compromises the stability of the atlanto-occipital joint. We kept at it, me encouraging him to go on, while my mind kept busy, pondering over the demands of changing seasons in life. Noise on the inside and noise on the outside.

“Madam look!” He suddenly said, pointing to the sides. And there they were. Golden yellow fields. On both sides of the road. The sun shining on them enhancing their colour. Vast fields of sunflowers. Big ones. We stopped for a couple of minutes to just take in that beauty. As we gazed at those fields for a bit, the driver anna’s friendly voice faded into the background and the noises inside of me died down. There was a peculiar thing though. I was looking at the sunflowers. But the flowerheads were all turned in the opposite direction. Each one of those hundreds of flowers were faced in the same direction, their stalks straight, their heads held high- the direction the sun was shining on them. There was not a single flower that turned the other way round and not one of them drooping down. Not one flower turned the way the people who stopped to admire them were looking at. They just had one focus. And that was the source of their beauty, their nourishment and all that they were about. Named appropriately- Sun-flowers.

“Madam, polaama?” (shall we go?), the driver’s voice interrupted that moment with an urgency. As we resumed our journey forward, there was a strange peace inside of me. I was being reminded with as much clarity as possible- ‘ Why’re you looking around? Look to the Son (Jesus).’

That’s been the image in my head since. That sea of yellow.

No matter what everyone else has to say, or how much you’ve left to do or how impossible you think things look, will you look to the Son- the Author and Perfecter of your faith? Your Rock, your sure foundation.

Can we do that in our day to day lives, casting but a glance at what is around us, fixing our gaze though on Jesus? Unashamed, heads held high, undisturbed in our devotion to Him?

And when we do that, what others will notice about us is the light that falls on us- the glory of the Almighty God dwelling in us, His love brimming out from us. The colour of His love- that’s our ‘yellow’. Whatever season of life we’re in.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen Lemmel)

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…“( Hebrews 12:1, 2a)

Esperanza!

Weariness.
That’s what I saw in the eyes of that grandmother who’s been coming for steroids month after month with her little grandson with Nephrotic syndrome, whom his parents had forsaken, in the tears of the mom who brought her son with chronic kidney disease once in 2 days for dialysis simply so he’d be alive, in the face of the father who brought his daughter with Beta Thalassemia every 21 days for her next blood transfusion- there are many more- all of them with the same question- When will this be over? Or will it ever? And their eyes searched my face… for hope, atleast an inkling.

Funny thing is, I was asked the same question three times over the past one week that I’d been asking myself already- Is there hope? Is there an answer?

As I sat back against the terrace wall and closed my eyes, my thoughts drifted to that one blank page somewhere a little more than halfway through my Bible- the one that separates the Old Testament from the New Testament. That page was symbolic of 400 years of waiting- when so much of recklessness and oppression prevailed, and there was no prophet, no leader, no dreams or visions, no voice from God. A loud silence. Deafening in fact. A prolonged wait for a Saviour. Nobody knew when or how. They were a tired people. Weary.
Sounded like my life, I thought.
And when you turn that page over and as the gospel of Mathew unfolds, you hear a cry, a newborn baby’s shriek, breaking that silence. The wait for a Saviour had come to an end. He had come! And how!

My mind’s been blown away again and again as I read and reread the account of the birth of Jesus as given in the gospels. A young woman, a bewildered carpenter, shame, confusion, a census at an inconvenient time, rejection, a manger of absolutely no significance, a helpless baby- these were some of the circumstances that God chose to display His glory through. They were weary, Oh yes. Tired of what people were talking about them back home, tired of being misunderstood again and again, exhausted from a journey on a donkey’s back and about as comfortable as anyone could get in a stable surrounded by animals- and yet the baby’s cry brought hope- He had come to deliver us from eternal damnation.

You know, that’s the story of Christmas, that’s why the bells and the carols and the candles and all that jazz- it’s not about the big man in a red suit riding reindeer, it’s about a God who became man to save our souls. A God who came to give us that hope- the hope of eternity.
This story is the beginning of all other stories- a story where in the midst of weariness, pain, anxiety, disappointment, unanswered prayers and uncertainty- hope shone through.

Dear friend, I do not know what your Christmas might look like this year, whether there’s a family you’ll be going to or you’ll be in the ward, like me, on duty, whether you’re in a place of weariness and you’re close to giving up on God or you’re filled with thanksgiving, whether you’re drowning in your doubts and uncertainty or you’re hanging on for dear life, whether you’re prepping for an upcoming wedding or you’re wondering when you’ll ever find the one for you or whether you’re wondering like the parents of those children I mentioned earlier, “when will the suffering end?”.

Interruptions, inconveniences, unanswered prayers , doors that refuse to open- whatever this year has handed out to you, may I remind you as I was reminded that God chose to break nearly 400 years of silence with a tiny baby’s cry from a manger in Bethlehem. His magnificence shone through the darkest of times, through the most obscure circumstances, through two very normal people who were going about their usual lives that were suddenly interrupted with a lot of inconvenience.

What child is this
Who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant king to own him
The King of Kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him
(What child is this, William c Dix)

There is hope. As the houses light up and songs are sung and gifts are exchanged, let’s remember- there is hope. Esperanza. Jesus is the hope.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

A Blessing…

He was a big man. Literally. With an ailing three month old baby girl. It was a difficult 2 weeks. While his baby progressed from one complication to the next due the nature of her disease, he ran- ran for blood products, to arrange money as the medicines got costlier and more sophisticated procedures were done, ran to provide for his four year old son back home- and then ran back to be by the bedside of his infant. As her treating doctors we left no stone unturned to try salvage this precious little life. I for one never saw this man so much as sitting in one place for more than 5 minutes. At the end of a week and a half, when all of us knew without many words being said that this child didn’t have much time left. He still looked hopeful. Another 24 hours later, when I gently suggested he be prepared for the worst, he sat down in the hospital corridor and wept out of his wife’s sight- huge giant sobs. I stood there. Just to share that moment with him. There wasn’t anything left to say.

When the day arrived for him to take the lifeless body of his precious daughter home, I saw not a defeated man, but a man who rose up to hold the rest of his family together- he paid for the entire hospital expenses, completed all formalities, headed all the arrangements to be made with a stoic boldness I wish I had. Just before he left, he did one more thing. He walked over to me , held my hand and thanked me through tear filled eyes and asked me to convey his gratefulness to every doctor on our team. Not just that- He uttered a blessing over me before he got into the driver’s seat to drive his family home. A blessing! Yeah! (If I were him, let’s just say it wouldn’t be such a graceful scene!)

I stood there in that same hospital corridor where I’m sure his tears hadn’t yet dried up, not knowing what to think or make of it. This big man had just lost his daughter to a terrible disease, something that he would have never imagined 2 weeks ago, he was exhausted and drained- of everything, but he didn’t forget to stop and say a blessing over me. Despite… Inspite of…

Oh friend! When was the last time you stretched your hand out towards someone else and prayed a blessing over them despite how you felt about your life at that moment? (I’m not talking about how we say ‘Bless you!’ when someone sneezes at the dinner table.) I’m asking about the #real#deep from the heart despite all the hurt# blessing- when was the last time you were prompted to do that?

With a very difficult year coming to a close, if there was ever a time to celebrate the birth of a Saviour, it definitely is now. To be reminded that ,” For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”( John 3:16)

Yahweh- the Almighty God- He loved so much, He gave. He promises us that His face is always towards us. Always. So as children of this amazing promise, can we- you and me, stretch out our hands today, towards the next person and pray a blessing over them in the name of His precious Son- Jesus Christ?

As I type this down, I pray a blessing over each and every one of you who happens to read this. Despite what my life looks right now. In spite of the billion reasons I could give myself to avoid doing it. Because God loved me so much… He gave. And I pass on that candle to to you.

Receive it with an Amen.

Your turn now. Who do you wanna bless today?

With your words and your actions…

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you
In the morning , in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you , He is for you
( The Blessing, Cody Carnes/ Kari Jobe)

#theDrawingDisciple

Bonsai

‘Doesn’t this look like something from the Enid Blyton books?’ My brother asked, after sending us this picture. Oh sure it did, only it was a miniature version of it. It was a bonsai tree and he was looking through a nursery when he came upon this sight and was blown away by how expensive it was!!

I looked at that picture for sometime and smiled wryly. My mind recollecting the excitement I had felt as my younger self read those books, how I’d checked on a few big trees outside the school campus later on to see if there was any magic to them. Almost expecting to see some branch leading to a door that opened to fairies or brownies or animals that talked in them! Like the Magic Faraway Tree.

“there was such a lot of whispering that it sounded like a thousand leaves rustling at once!”
― Enid Blyton, The Enchanted Wood


Isn’t there one particular tree all of us remember or have fond memories of? It might be the one in our backyard that’s older than our grandparents or the one huge tree in our school campuses that looked like it knew every dirty secret from yesteryears? One such tree I remember that well is one from our college campus- right next to the mess hall. We called it the ‘mess tree’ ( not very creative, I know, but a landmark nevertheless) . Oh that one tree knew it all! It stood tall like the whole campus was built around it. It has given shade on many a sunny day to those who preferred the outside air to the lecture halls, has attempted to shelter a few strays in heavy rains, has seen friendships strengthen over relentless rants, has been the meeting place for all kinds of meetings, has tolerated overenthusiastic college kids hang decorations on it for every festival all year round, and has been the one thing that really brightened the entire campus when it lit up with on New Year’s Eve with an explosion of lights. It still stands strong to this day and whether we remember our batchmates or not, every student in that campus had and still has a story with the ‘mess tree’. It left a lasting impression.

The bonsai had the shape and the looks, but it could never ever provide the experience of that enchanted tree we read about as children or the ‘mess tree’. Nope- no one could rest in it’s shade, it would not bear fruit, it’s bark would never have anyone carve their names on to it, it would never have any stories to tell. Because, though it looked like a tree, but it had been robbed of it’s very potential to experience the fullness of its existence when science decided to genetically modify it to fit into our comfort zones. That which was supposed to thrive and live in all its glory in some park or in our yard, now sat in our living rooms or terrace gardens- a poor excuse to what it was actually meant to be.

Do we live bonsai-sized lives? That’s been the question on my mind ever since I saw that picture. Teeny-weeny pretty versions of what we were actually made to be, self designed to fit into our comfort zones, while the Creator himself longs for us to live in the freedom that He offers? To thrive and not just survive? Are we afraid- to make commitments, to take stands, to follow the One who has been calling out to us even before we were born, to live to the fullness of our existences?
Pause for a moment. And think about it.

Bonsai is safe. Very comfortable. Pretty. Yet… way too small… To make a difference.

Or will we respond to the Shepherd’s call- committing our lives to Him and thereby stepping out into the glorious freedom He offers- selflessly loving, fully giving and thereby truly thriving and engaging with the world around us. (John 3:16)
I asked myself this today, “Would I be like that tree that stands tall, bearing marks of a race well run, having stories to tell, having been a shade to many, standing strong in the wind and the rain- unapologetic, because I know and I’ve trusted the One who called me?”

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7,8 (NIV)

What about you? Do you want for your life to amount to more than cosy decisions and safe hideouts?

Bonsai lives or not. You get to choose.