Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Story - The Facebook Version

A few weeks back, one of my friends called me up and said, “Hey, the Vodafone guys have made an ad about you.” Staying in a house without television, I had lost touch with ads and had absolutely no idea about what he was talking about. Understanding my forced detachment from the world, my friend told that he was talking about Vodafone’s latest ad with the theme “He’s always on Facebook.”  I realized what he  exactly meant. I defended myself, but I knew my defence was weak. I, like millions of others across the globe, do spend a lot of time on Facebook updating status, writing on others walls, adding photos etc. We, the Facebookworms update about anything and everything, from our likes or dislikes, to whats happening in the world, to vacation pics, to whats for dinner, to our favourite team's score, to the slightest  cold or fever.........  Many of the major events also get captured through our FB status -  be it a lunar eclipse or the anti-corruption drive or the first F1 race in India or Sehwag’s double century – almost everything. Have you ever thought how the FB updates would have looked for events which happened before FB came into existence? I recently came across a video which showed how Christmas would have been capture on FB. Have a look at it:

Christmas story has so many people in it : Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, kings, Herod..... The one personality among them who touches me the most is Joseph. A Jewish carpenter who was about to get married to a beautiful girl named Mary. Everything in his life was going good. It was picture perfect, when suddenly strange events turned his life upside down. The girl he was about to get married became pregnant and according to her, she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The explanation given was too weird to believe. Nothing like that had ever happened before – a virgin being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He would have been shocked to know that. It was such a shameful incident. He was hurt, humiliated, confused, shattered. His perfect life seemed ruined. His friends left him, neighbours mocked him, he was left alone. He wanted to break the engagement, but one day an angel appeared to him in his dream and told him that Mary had indeed conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Leaving all his concerns and worries behind and without caring about what others would think about him, he believed in God’s plan.  From that moment on he was always by the side of Mary, every single day, through all that she did, through all the journeys she had to take including the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was heavily pregnant, silently taking care of her and the baby inside her who would be the Saviour of the world. He did all this selflessly never thinking about himself even if that meant at times silently suffering for their sake. All his suffering was worth it when he saw the beautiful baby boy being born in a manger in Bethlehem. God’s plan materialized in his life that Christmas night.

Christmas is about joy, about celebration, about families coming together, about carols, about cakes and gifts and decorations. Joseph shows us that Christmas is also about listening to God, its about having faith in Him even when everything in our lives is going wrong, its about knowing that God is with us through our greatest suffering, its about realizing that no matter what happens we are safe in God’s hand, its about trusting in God’s plan for us and co-operating with Him to ensure that His plan materializes in our lives.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas this year. May your family be like The family in Nazareth which lived two thousand years ago, which listened to God, trusted in His ways, obeyed Him and saw His plan materialize in their lives and through them in the lives of many others.

God Bless!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Word Made Flesh

Books, Books, Books!!! If I had my way I would make all the books in the whole world disappear. I know it’s blasphemous for those who love reading, but I know I can never make it into their tribe. I still admire and look in awe and disbelief at people who can gobble up a big thick book in a matter of hours.  But sorry guys I can’t do it. My mother tried her best.  When I was in 8th Standard, she gifted me a not-so-thick book – “The Count of Monte Cristo”.  How was it? I don’t know, coz I never made it beyond 8 pages. Till now!! The same was the case with every other book.

In our house there was one important book – The Holy Bible.  My experience with it was very limited. Well, to be frank, almost zero. The first reason being that it was in Malayalam – my mother tongue or, as I would often say, my mother’s tongue. I could hardly understand it, let alone speak or read it. I never could pick up the long alphabets which went round and round and whose beginning and end I couldn’t make out. The second reason being that the Book was considered very holy. So holy that it was kept wrapped in a cloth, up in our showcase all year long. I remember it being taken out only once a year on Good Friday, when my mother would read the Passion of Christ. And after that it was back in its resting place.

But all this was set to change. It was during my Engineering college days that I started getting to know the Book. Through a youth prayer group and later a youth retreat and later through the daily prayer meetings in one of our hostel rooms, I started hearing it attentively. Soon, I started reading it myself. However, initially, I couldn’t understand a thing. The English was so difficult and archaic. Plus, I didn’t have any idea who was Matthew or Paul or Jeremiah or the Colosians......  or what Old and New Testament, the Gospels meant. Couldn’t make head or tail out of it. Still, somehow I felt that I should go on, even if I didn’t understand a word I should continue reading. And I did. And I’m glad I did.  Soon I realized that those were not just black and white alphabets printed on white paper, or words spoken by someone long time ago. I realized that those words were alive and active, those words still carried their meaning, still applied in my life, still spoke to me. I realized that it was not just any Holy book, it was the Word Of God! The Word of God which lives on forever. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8)

Over the years the Word of God has been my companion. It guided me at times of confusion, corrected me when I was wrong, helped me when I needed it so badly, strengthened me, inspired me, taught me. Let me tell you about an experience which changed the course of my life.  It’s regarding one of the most important and difficult decisions I had to take at that point of time. Towards the end of my engineering course I had to decide what next. I had two options: either to join a software company which had already offered me a job or to go for higher studies. There was a third option of going for a volunteership for a spiritual youth group for a year, but that meant a gap of at least an year in my resumé which could have disastrous consequences. As time went by the Word of God started speaking to me. One Bible verse kept on ringing in my head: “Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added unto you.”  I didn’t even know where it was in the Bible, but still it kept on speaking to me. Some days later, a Priest told me the exact same verse (Matthew 6:33). By that time I was convinced what I had to do, but I had to convince my mother. In a matter of few months, the Word of God spoke to my mother as well. She had started reading the Bible daily and one day she called me and told that she read a verse which said “Does a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his soul?”(Mark8:36).  She told that I can go ahead with my one year volunteer plans. I went ahead with the same. And even today I’m so grateful that I took that decision. It was the best year of life. I still cherish each and every day of that year. That one year shaped my life. I took the right decision and it was because of the Word of God, which was alive and which spoke to me, which spoke through my mother, which spoke through the priest.

The Bible at my home has been replaced by a new one. Still in Malayalam, still considered Holy, still wrapped up, but opened and read every day. I have one for myself now, an English one, wrapped in a black leather cover, lying right next to my pillow, a little torn, a lot underlined, referred daily, still considered Holy. The Word of God is Holy, but not too Holy to stay away from us, from our daily lives. Even God who was all Holy, all powerful , all mighty, didn’t choose to stay away, didn’t choose to look at his people from up above but decided to come down to earth, to live with us, to be born among us, to become flesh and body.  “The Word became flesh and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.” (John 1:14)

As we await to celebrate the day Christ was born, the day when God became man, the day when Word became flesh, let’s spend time with the Word, let’s spend time reading the Word of God and putting it in practice, let’s get to know the power of the living Word and let’s give the Word a chance to become flesh in us.

“My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” - Jesus (Luke 8:21)

God Bless!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thats my King!

While in school, one subject that I dreaded the most was History!!! Long lessons, boring lectures, too much to study about things I thought were not relevant anymore; dates, events and names which were too many to fit into my small brain! But the one thing that interested me was kings, their stories and their royal lifestyle.  Lately I found the interest being renewed.

Spending more than a year in Hyderabad gave me an opportunity to see and experience the royal lifestyle of the yesteryears. From Golconda Fort to Salarjung Museum to Chowmohalla Palace, each one of them showed the luxurious lifestyle the earlier Nawabs had. The icing on the cake was the visit to Falaknuma Palace, where an entire part of the palace has been renovated and restored to how it was hundreds of years ago. From the Nawab’s office which had his books, his pictures, his royal seal and papers, the quill pen with which he used to put his  royal signature, to the banquet hall adorned with crystal chandeliers, to the dining room which had gold plated cutlery, the longest dining table I have ever seen etc etc etc. I was just dumfounded as the guide took us from one room to another!!! The grandeur in which they lived just took my breath away!

Well all thats exactly what comes to my mind when I think about Kings - palaces, forts, wealth, gold, silver, luxurious lifestyle, armies....... But all that fades away before my King! He is a king who had none of it, who didn’t have a place to be born and when He grew up He had no place to stay, who was a nomad wandering from one town to another, who never had the luxury of hosting banquets, who never had any wealth or Gold , who didn’t have a mighty army, but instead whose followers were a bunch of illiterates, outcasts. In spite of this, He is a King whoHHHhhjj is more powerful than any other king, whose kingdom spreads farther than any others, whose reign is everlasting, who has touched and transformed more lives than any other, who is and will forever be called the King of Kings. That my King! Do you know Him?

Watch the video below.

He’s a king who said,  “The greatest  love a person can have for his friend is to give his life for them . And you are my friend. I do not call you servants. I call you friends... This, then, is what I command you: love one another.” (John15:13-17)

God Bless!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One in 7 Billion?

I love travelling and when I joined work I never thought it would give me an opportunity to do the same. But these days my job day takes me places. One day here, another day somewhere else, from the biggest towns to the smallest villages and I meet my colleagues from different places, different backgrounds, with different achievements, different concerns, different experiences, different stories to tell. I meet at least ten new individuals each day and may be close to a 50 in a week, but out of all of them at the end I remember only a few. Blame it on my amazing memory power, but that’s how it is. I remember those few because of their extraordinary achievement or experiences. I guess that’s the same with all of us. When we come across lots of people/things/events we remember only the extraordinary and forget the ordinary. According to Miller, the magical number is seven i.e. we can remember seven things, seven names, seven digits at a time easily. That seems to be a workable number. But imagine if you have to remember 7 Billion names, faces!

This week the world population crossed 7 Billion. We are now 7 Billion strong, each one with his/her own story. Just the other day I was thinking, “Who am I?”  I’m a part of the family to some, friend to some, acquaintance to some, colleague to some, but at the end I’m one in 7,000,000,000. I’m just another ordinary guy, just another face in the crowd, just another name among billions. But I know there is someone who knows me through and through, who has been with me every second of my life, who knows my every thought, listens to my every word, answers my every prayer, for whom I'm not just a face in the crowd, who actually made my face in His own image and likeness, who knows my name and keeps it so close to Him. He is God Almighty, my Father in Heaven - the God who created us all, not just us humans but every creature in the whole universe.  And He does so for each one of us! 

I haven’t done anything extraordinary, I don’t have any special talent or achievement, but still He knows me, He knows me by name. I spent years, months, days in ignorance, in denial but He never ignored me, He knows everything that is going on in my life. Even now I go away from Him, hurt Him but He still comes closer to me. I live my life without even thinking about Him, but He takes care of me always and says “even the hair on your head is counted.” (Mt 10:30) I have done nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve His love, but still He loves me unconditionally, so much so that He being God, became man, came down to earth, took birth in an abandoned manger, lived like mere mortal, went through the most humiliating trial, suffered the most excruciating torture, died the most shameful death. All for me.

Deep down inside I know, when He hung on that wooden cross two thousand years ago, in front of hundreds who mocked Him, humiliated Him, tortured Him, through all the pain and agony, He said, “I do this for you. I call you by name. You are mine.(Isaiah 43:1)

Who am I? I may be one in 7 Billion, but  Father,  I know,  I’m yours!

God Bless!

Friday, April 22, 2011

All for Love!!

All for love, He created us in His image and likeness
All for love, He carved our names on the palm of His right hand
All for love, He knit our body parts together in our mother’s womb
All for love, He called us even before we were born
All for love, He gave us the freedom to choose
All for love, He let us do what we want
All for love, He wept seeing us go away
All for love, He tried to bring us back to Him, tried over and over again
All for love, the farther we went, the closer He came
All for love, He said, “Even if your mother forgets you, I shall not forget you.”
All for love, He said, “The mountains may depart and the Hills be removed but my love shall not depart from you.”
All for love, He came to find us, who were lost
All for love, He became man
All for love, He was born in a dirty, cold manger amongst the least important
All for love, the creator lived with the created, the poor and unwanted
All for love, He who makes all the laws of the universe, grew up obeying humans
All for love, He fasted for forty days and nights
All for love, He preached repentance, forgiveness and love
All for love, He chose twelve ordinary men to be his disciples
All for love, He walked with sinners, ate with outcasts, touched the untouchables
All for love, He cured the sick, the dumb, the lame, the blind
All for love, He raised the dead
All for love, He wept for our sins and our unfaithfulness
All for love, He gave us His Body and Blood
All for love, He who is Almighty, washed the dirty feet of his disciples
All for love, He prayed for all of us
All for love, He sweat blood
All for love, He was betrayed by His closest friends
All for love, He took the insults, the allegations, the humiliation without saying a word
All for love, He was chained and put through the shame of public trial
All for love, He was chastised and whipped so that we could be healed
All for love, He was mocked and hurt, He was spat at and punched
All for love, He carried the heavy cross on His shoulders
All for love, He was stripped, lashed, pierced, crucified amongst sinners
All for love, He hung on the cross, abandoned by everyone
All for love, He prayed for the forgiveness for each one of us
All for love, He who had no sins took the sin of the whole world upon Himself
All for love, He bled every drop of blood, He died the most painful death
All for love, He lay in somebody else’s tomb

All for love, death couldn’t stop Him, the tomb couldn’t hold Him
All for love, He rose from the dead the third day
All for love, He rose in all His glory and majesty
All for love, He met His disciples, gave them courage and faith which they had lost
All for love, He gave them hope, which was shattered
All for love, He gave them peace, which the world couldn’t give
All for love, He gave them joy which they couldn’t contain
All for love, He gave them a new life
All for love, He promised “I will be with you till the end of the ages.”
All for love, for you and me.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. And you are my friends.” – Jesus (John 15:13)

God Bless!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cup Came Home

2nd April, 2011 – A day which will indelibly be written in the memories of every Indian of this generation, a day when the long wait of 28yrs was finally over, a day when India became world Champions again, a day when the Cup came home!

It’s one of those days when each one of us will remember exactly where we were and what we did for the rest of our lives. As for me, like most Indians, I too was watching the final match with my friends and like most Indians, once India lifted the trophy it was time to hit the road. I was stunned to see traffic jam at 12:30 in the night in Hyderabad. There was celebration all around. People in cars, bikes, cycles, on foot all celebrating and cheering India’s victory. Nobody seemed strangers anymore. Anybody and everybody was congratulating each other, giving high fives and hugging people whom they have never ever met in their lives before. All cares and concerns of the daily lives thrown out of the window!!

Among all this I just noticed one incident. Two guys riding bikes and celebrating happened to hit each other. There was slight damage to the bikes, but to my surprise they just shook hands, congratulated each other for India’s victory, smiled and left. I was shocked!! Had it been any other day it would have surely led to a blame game, an argument and may be a scuffle. But not that day. Everyone was so overwhelmed by the celebration, happiness and joy that they forgot and forgave all mistakes and wrongdoings.

It just reminded me about the parable that Jesus narrated about a son who fought with his father, rebelled against him, took his share of the money and left his family to follow his own ways, spent his father’s money in reckless living and after that had no choice but to work in a pig sty. He was starving, so much so that he was willing to eat what the pigs ate, but no one gave him even that. Then he realized his mistake and decided to go back home. On his way back, when his father saw him coming, he wasn’t angry or disgusted, he didn’t ask for any explanation, he didn’t  say ‘It your fault’ or ‘I told you this would happen’ or ‘I have nothing to do with you now’, he didn’t argue or reprimand. In fact he didn’t even let his son speak. He just ran to him, threw his hands round his stinking, dirty, unkempt, wretched son and kissed him. He was so filled with joy to see his son come back that he forgave all his mistakes and wrongdoing. He ordered a feast to celebrate the day his son came home! (Luke15:11-27)

Thats how God, our Father is! His joy of seeing us come back to Him wipes away all our sins and wrongdoings.  He doesn’t ask us for explanations, doesn’t blame us for anything, doesn’t hold any grudge against us. He just throws his hands around us, hugs us and forgives us. And along with Him the Heavens rejoice over a repentant sinner. (Luke 15:7)

Lets try to put aside whatever takes us away from our Father and come back to Him to experience His forgiveness, His mercy, His love  and the Joy of going back Home!

Lets forgive others, the way our heavenly Father forgives us! Let the joy of forgiving others be more than the gravity of their mistake, be more than our pride.

God Bless!