L-O-V-E-D

I was walking down the hospital corridors the other day when it suddenly dawned on me that it is already December. As I saw the decorations fill the corridors and wards and the rice bulbs light up the streets in different colours , I realised with a damp feeling in my heart that it’s the ‘Christmas season’ as they call it and I wasn’t really feeling all that Christmasy , if you know what I mean!

The thing about these last couple of months of the year is that whether you like it or not, the lights come up, carols are heard all over the place, the wards are decorated, the streets are lit up and you’re part of many dinner parties and what not. It’s like you’re supposed to be happy and in full on celebration mode, and you’re not allowed to sulk regardless of whether the constitution of your country states that you have the freedom/right to feel whatever way you want or not. Its almost like the season forces itself on you, and all that joy ultimately rubs off.

So when a few of my friends decided to play this game of ‘Secret Santa'( trust me, we’re actually fully grown adults), wherein we secretly pass on small gifts on random days to the person you’ve picked by lot and finally one big gift on the day of  revelation, it got me thinking. Thinking in terms of what is all this hullabaloo about? What are we really supposed to be giving in this so called season of ‘giving and forgiving’? And these thoughts took me all the way to that tiny meagre stable where baby Jesus was born. Basically an amazing occurrence when God decided to forgo all that Majesty and glory and become a tiny baby, born in the dirtiest and lowliest of all circumstances,to grow up like a normal human being with all the difficulties thereof attached and ultimately die a cruel gory death on a cross- for what? For the love of you and me! Now that’s downright crazy, isn’t it?

Say what? you ask me- yeah! That’s exactly what I said. He did all that because He loved you and me too much to let us rot in our helplessness and our sins. So He became the sacrifice, the Lamb that was slain.

How amazing is that love! Can you imagine someone laying down their life for you? So that you will  have eternal life?

Well yeah, that’s what the story is all about and this season is a celebration of that Love- not because we know the exact date or month that Jesus was born , nor do we know whether it was cold or hot at the time, but we know He came, for you, for me. And that’s how much you’re loved, that’s how much I am loved- like L-O-V-E-D ( all in capital letters)!

So in the midst of this crazy schedule of mine , following duty rosters, and skipping meals, working odd hours and sleeping off on top of my laptop trying to complete work against deadlines, God nudged me gently the other day as I looked around ( almost apeing Scrooge saying- Bah, humbug!) saying- Remember how much you’re loved, child. And that’s what I get to give to others as well- love- crazy, unconditional, unfailing and unending- exactly as the Father loves me.

And even as you unwrap your surprise gifts and run around hanging up lights and confetti  these days, or you’re still carrying bleeps and attending calls and saving lives even on Christmas day, take that one moment to pause and remember that you are               L-O-V-E-D- by your Maker, in ways more than one and so much that you cannot even imagine or fathom it. And that’s exactly what you get to pass on.

Merry Christmas!!

John 3:16  (NIV)
16 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.

Run wild

I couldn’t sleep last night- for the last couple of nights actually….tossed and turned, tossed and turned again till I knew that I had to get to my knees to listen to the One who gives sleep, ‘cos he evidently had something to say.

Growing up in a culture of rich traditions and extremely conventional ways, we are usually expected , as we grow up, to conform to a particular way of being-  if we’re growing up in a particular locality, we  go to a particular school, we usually end up following the very same footsteps of other older ‘daddy’s friend’s kids’, we may attend the same college for undergrad, we mostly even play the same kind of sports most other campus kids play and learn the same musical instruments as well and so on and so forth- so if your parents are teachers, it’s only right that you become a teacher, if your parents are doctors, even if you faint at the sight of blood, you’re still becoming a doctor and things like that. The same can be applied on a broader spectrum to cultures and customs that we are taught to follow, whether we agree to them or not.  “All girls should be married off by 26 years of age”;  “you shouldn’t be waiting so long to get into a PG”; Settle down baba, that is what we expect of you”…. and so on and so forth.( I’m sure you’ve already quoted your own personal favourites in your head as you read this).

And any deviation from the norm, and you’re deemed a wild child- why does he/she want to do anything different? What’s wrong with her? He wants to work in rural places! Is he mad? She’s pursuing singing! Is music even a career?!

So, wild child reading this, when was the last time you burned to do something different, make an unconventional choice , and then held yourself back and decided to forget it altogether because society might not agree?

Those were pretty much the lines along which I was thinking as I lay awake.  From the day I chose to follow Jesus, my journey has been unconventional, a roller coaster ride. But somewhere down the line, I had started ‘maturing’- in terms of weighing the will of God against what would the society (that includes my parents, friends, colleagues and the random aunty who walks into your house to give an opinion about how you should live your life) think and were hesitating to pick up that cross and follow.

And that night..I was led to look through the Bible- and what I saw was a whole bunch of ‘losers’ that God used for His glory- unconventional people who made crazy crazy choices, simply because He asked them to. You’ll see it as well- all the way from an old man who decided to build a huge ark even when he’d never seen rain in his entire lifetime, to another madman who left his entire lifetime of savings and his hometown behind to go to a land he’d never seen, known or heard of before, from the shepherd boy who thought he could bring down a giant with a pebble, to the well educated respected Jewish dude who decided to leave all that behind to preach the good news to a people whom his society would’ve considered outcasts , its there all through the Bible- every single one of them- did absolutely mind boggling crazy things, they were wild, but they loved strong and they lived a full life.

So the question that He laid upon my heart that night was- Do you want to be safe, or do you want to follow Me?

Well that struck home- and I was reminded of a verse from the  Chronicles of Narnia

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

And as for me, I choose to follow the King.  As the words of one of my favourite songs go, and  I ask you too:

‘ Don’t you want to
Run wild, live free
Love strong, ‘ (For King and Country)

Home

Screenshot_20180924-210546.jpgAll of us are born with this yearning for ‘home ‘. Sometimes we spend a lifetime trying to figure out where this is.

Recently, as I walked into the isolation room of the paediatric ICU, I met the smiling face of 4 year old Akhil. Akhil had just been diagnosed a few weeks back with a bad form of blood cancer.  Nothing more to be done.  He was just being given palliative care, meaning support him till he succumbs.  Well, he certainly didn’t look it as I walked in to collect his history and get all his details. He first gave me that ‘Can you be trusted?’ look and then when he’d decided I can be taken into his confidence,  he smiled with a twinkle in his eye. Suddenly the chaos of the PICU outside the isolation room didn’t matter anymore.  I sat down beside him,  and asked him the most basic question..Hey,  how are you?
The smile didn’t cease as he replied,’ I’m good. I have cancer. But I’m going  home.’
That statement was a little too much for my sleep deprived mind to process..my mind be like ” wait.. did he just tell me his prognosis as well? Or did he just say he wants a DAMA( discharge against medical advice)?”
So I ask him like I’m the 4 year old and he’s the boss..’ Home is where , da?’ So he places his small hand in mine,  and looks at me like I’ve a long way to go to reach his level of understanding, and says ” see chechi( read elder sister), it’s okay if you can’t treat me, ‘cos I’ll be home in heaven with Jesus. That’s where I actually came from.  Will you pray with me today?”
As I held his hand and prayed with little Akhil in the PICU that night, I realised the truth in what Jesus said,  Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Wisdom doesn’t necessarily belong with the grey haired.

Born in one country, brought up in another and then finding my vocation in a different state among a different culture and people, if you ask me where’s home? I’ll take some time to answer that one. But homesickness does strike quite often , and the yearning to belong as well.
So on one of those homesick days , I decided to go ” home”, as in the place my parents live in. Guess what – ‘homesickness’  didn’t go away. Went and spent some time with my closest friends- no luck there either. Finally, after I’d exhausted the available options, I got down on my knees to spend some time with the Maker. Needless to say, it wasn’t a long time before I felt home.

That day I realised what Akhil told me- home is not in the mountains or by the seaside; it’s not even where family is or where your entire lifetime was spent; it’s not in the arms of your lover or with your closest friends- it’s where your God is. In His presence, there you’re best at home. Home’s heaven. And that’s what our hearts ache for. And  this lifetime is the journey towards.
And that was little Akhil’s hope and joy.
My home is heaven.  I’m just travelling through this world ‘ Billy Graham.

When the oceans rise…

We are human beings  – we empathise, we sympathise and especially those of us who’ve been around in the world long enough, we also know the right words to say when disaster strikes somewhere, when things go wrong with someone or someplace. We are taught to click our tongues at just the right moments, speak passionate words at just the right places and maybe look at the TV screens with just the right expressions- the expression of dismay, of seeming sadness for the loss of someone we’re watching from a distance.

But when the storms hit homeground, then the story changes right? Then we find ourselves reeling in a mixture of emotions and motions we never knew we were capable of before.

When the rains started flooding the state I come from,  I did the appropriate clicking of my tongue, ‘lets pray for the places worst affected’ speech, sympathised and empathised- just appropriately, like we’ve all learnt to do. But when my home got flooded, when I couldn’t contact my parents for a whole day straight, when the waters started rising steadily at home and my folks were forced to move out, then reality struck. I could feel my father’s pain at having to leave the home at the mercy of the angry waters. It was not just the furniture or the documents in the house he was pained to leave behind, it was the home we had, the memories we’d shared there, a lifetime of hard earned comfort, all our old books, albums, pictures- everything that made a home a home, a lifetime that we’d shared and treasured and so preciously kept together. I couldn’t just shake my head at the television screen and exclaim’ How sad!’ anymore. I was just struck by the enormosity of the losses that we would be enduring if the rains continued the way they did.

It was real. It was right there. And it had struck home.

And that’s when I truly captured a very very small part of what those fellow countrymen would be going through, with their very houses washed away, near and dear ones missing, no place to go to, no idea how long this would last and holding on to dear life.

As the rains have started to cease and as the waters recede, I’ve come to  realise that no amount of funds, spare clothes, medicines or relief camps can provide much relief. What they’ve lost is so much more than what any of us can even begin to comprehend. So as we extend our helping hands, lets also ask God to comfort the flood-whelmed brethren because only the God of all comfort can provide that peace that passes all understanding.

I share with you a verse from a song I love dearly that held my heart as  anxiety overwhelmed me:

“When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God”

(Still- Hillsong worship)

Isaiah 43:2 New King James Version (NKJV)
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.

#floodskerala2018