Even on Mondays

Losing a loved one or being betrayed is never good. Bad things happen, and they’re not blessings in disguise. Only God’s love can help us.

It’s been two months since I last wrote, and much as I’d like to say it’s because I’m on my honeymoon, that wouldn’t be entirely true. I’ve been unwell for two months now. I had five visits to the hospital last month! No, I’m not pregnant (I know you were wondering). And, I won’t get into details to stick to my word limit, but it was rough. I speak for myself when I say that always feeling sick is the easiest way to feel down.

In the midst of it all, I was reminded that God is good. I know some of us cringe at that thought. Of course, I don’t know what you’ve been through. Of course, I wouldn’t understand. Trust me, I get that. But we can’t correlate His goodness with the state of our lives. I’m not suggesting that all things that happen to us are good. Losing a loved one is never good. Being betrayed by someone isn’t good either. Bad things do happen to us, and often, they’re not blessings in disguise. But, unlike social media, Jesus doesn’t ask us to pretend like pain isn’t real.

What I am saying, is that His love does more than feel sorry for us. God’s goodness helps us, and His love heals us from our pain. God is constant, and He is constantly good. Whether we agree or not, He is good. Irrespective of our opinions and situations, He is good. And especially when life is rough, I’m so grateful that He is.

“So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.” -Psalm 23:6

I’m encouraged by David’s confidence when he says that. Another translation reads, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”. I love how he makes it sound silly to doubt it. Of course, God’s goodness is going to hunt me down and pursue me all the days of my life. Even on Mondays! Would you believe that?

On rough days, I choose to trust that the Creator knows what He is doing, and then, rest in the assurance that His goodness and love is pursuing me. Some days I’ll be able to see it even with my eyes shut and on other days I may need to look a little closer; but it’s right there, every day of my life. His goodness is pursuing us every moment and there is nothing that can stop Him. And on the days that I don’t believe it, His reckless love will pursue me anyway!

“So, we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives.” -Romans 8:28

Photo Credit: Unsplash

This post was first published here on the author’s blog.

Life Lessons from Laundry

“My washing machine has given up on me.”, my mother texted me. Another few texts came flooding in, “I just put in a load and it’s just refusing to wash.” Immediately, I shared the mighty words of wisdom that our generation lives by and insisted, “Try restarting it!”. That’s always the solution, isn’t it? Well, apparently not. “I’ve already tried that several times but it’s just not working”, she sent back.

We tried everything but all the washing machine did was beep. Just when I suggested she call the company technicians to come and have a look at it my phone buzzed with another text that read, “I fixed it!”

Now, we all know how tech-savvy parents are becoming so you’re probably not alarmed to hear that she googled it. Clever as she is, she figured out what the problem was and fixed it.

The washing machine, that deceivingly looks brand new is, in fact, 17 years old. Unfortunately, age is catching up and a magnet broke off it. Mama found the magnet, fixed it into its right place and secured it with scotch tape. And Voila, it’s good as new again.

The magnet is this itsy-bitsy thing that you’d barely believe served a purpose at all. A diameter of barely an inch and covered in rust, yet it was indispensable. That’s when we realized that God always does that.

We tend to throw broken things away, but Father specializes in exalting the insignificant. He picks those the world calls unworthy and transforms them to being worthy. Of course, He doesn’t need us, yet He delights in using the broken to bring to nothing things which are mighty.

‘Jesus didn’t call the equipped, He equipped the called.’ We’ve heard it one too many times but are we really listening? In God, we find our significance and purpose.

And so, despite our long list of limitations and even our grumpy outbursts Father delights in using us to bring down giants. So, trust me on this, you are worthy. You are worthy of a purpose that goes far beyond your estimated ability. You may be rusty but you’ve still got in you.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

More Than a Fairytale

There once was a ballerina who lived in a home that I was volunteering with. Only thirteen, she was beautiful with brown skin and curly hair. Of all that we did, we most enjoyed singing together, ‘Price tag’ by Jessie J was our jam.

It started out great, but out of the blue, things drastically changed. In all my years of working with children, she is the only child who made me cry. Each day, she would pretend like she couldn’t hear anything I said and would make wounding comments about me, and often my dark skin; in front of a room filled with people. Each night, I’d tuck her into bed, pray with her and walk back home with tears running down my face. Day after day I’d build up my courage to walk into the house knowing I’d be wounded again. This wasn’t about me though. Ballerina was being bullied in school about her brown skin and I was bearing the brunt of it.

There is much to say about relationships. No one has it all figured out and we probably never will. Whether we like it or not, relationships aren’t going to go away. What I do have figured out, is this.

We expect more than what other people can be or give. Truth is, no one can give us everything we long for in our life. The kindest thing I can do is acknowledge that we are human and are bound to mess up.

We must be merciful when people make mistakes. Why? Because Jesus never gave me what I deserved. And since we are called to be like Him, I don’t have the right to even the score with what they do or don’t deserve.

We must give in the same measure that we receive. God put His love on the line for me by giving up his Son when I was unlovable. To add to that, He is gracious when I am stubborn.

The love of God can blot everything wretched that I have faced in my life, offences included. Let’s get personal. If I choose not to love, it is not my offender’s fault. A person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love (1 John 4:7)

When it came to Ballerina, I exclusively depended on Him for patience and love. Every time I prayed, I forgave, and the one who benefitted the most out of it was me. It takes a lot less to forgive than it does to hold a grudge. Striving to persevere, my stint with the home was finally over and I had one last night of devotion to lead.

For weeks, the story of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet was pressing on my heart; not just to read but to literally do. “How am I to ask our family to wash each other’s feet when no one sees eye to eye?”, I wondered. That night, we gathered in the family room, and courageously, I read from the Bible.

“So, if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious… If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.” John 13: 14-17

As we considered this story the atmosphere in the room changed and the reverence was tangible. I stepped up to go first. I walked up to the Ballerina and asked if I could wash her feet. It was the most humbling thing to do. It felt like I was saying sorry even though I was the ‘victim’. That was the point! A relationship is at stake and someone must try to fix it. Does it matter whose fault it is? Jesus treasured me enough to disregard my fault when he chose to be nailed to the cross instead of me.

I corrected my perspective and washed her feet knowing it was the least I could do. Our family of twelve, who didn’t go a day without a brawl, washed each other’s feet because Jesus said so. We said goodbye a few days later but I believe we learned some solid lessons that night.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.” John 13:34

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Art of Broken Pieces

In Japan, broken pottery is often repaired by filling the cracks with gold. They have several related techniques for repairing broken ceramics that involve other metals—including silver, copper, or bronze.

Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech has gone viral and leaving out the rest I want to skip to the part where she quoted Princess Leia who said, “Take your broken heart and make it art.”

That statement made me plunge into a pool of memories of a time when I had a broken heart. I knew exactly what she meant, in fact I had my own parallel for it. It was during this heartbreak that I had first stumbled upon a technique called, ‘Kintsugi’ or ‘Kintsukuroi’.

In Japan, broken pottery is often repaired by filling the cracks with gold. They have several related techniques for repairing broken ceramics that involve other metals—including silver, copper, or bronze. They even include pieces of other ceramics to fill missing gaps. These techniques create objects that are not just repaired, but rather are now works of art. Instead of disguising the damage, the flaw is a unique piece of its history, which adds to its beauty.

This idea radically changed my perspective and in turn, my life.

I wouldn’t ask God ‘why’, it only felt like a waste of time since it wasn’t going to lessen my pain. Instead, I began to ask Him to fill up the gaps and cracks in my heart with gold. Anything sparkling is always a personal preference, besides, I was so broken that I was certain I’d be glittering with all the gold when He was done.

Pain changes people. It’s just a matter of how we allow it to change us. We can make room for it and end up living together celebrating bitterness. Or, we can wave goodbye as it leaves when we allow ourselves to grieve and then slowly let go.

In retrospect, I thank God for the nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep, if I slept at all. They remind me to be grateful for every other content night.  When the tears dry up you see clearer than before. You begin to see traces of beauty in that brokenness and the God who makes all things new. Like Kintsugi, He uses our brokenness to bring greater beauty in us than would ever be possible without the break.

Consider this when you feel broken.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”- Romans 8:18

Complete Joy

I’m challenged, through this season, to find joy in Jesus Christ. Not from the world I’m living in, with so many troubles and worms in my apples. This world that thrives on, and is ruled by, emotions.
But my Bible says, “The joy of The LORD is our strength.”

“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheep-less and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”

What a wonderful world it would be; one where the cherry trees blossom, the strawberries ripen, the apples stay free from worms and the harvest of wheat be bounteous.

Genesis 1:31 says, “God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!” implying that God created a perfect world for us to live in. Yet we let sin in and now live in a fallen world with worms in our apples.

It seems apt or appropriate for us to strive to reach a perfect place like that where everything goes our way. Follow every “yellow brick road” to get there, and on our arrival surely we would burst out into songs of joyful praise and turn cartwheels of joy to God.

We always seem to wait to get to a particular point in life before we do what we should already be doing. Does it really matter if I can smile only if everything is going the way I’d like it to? Does it count if I sing songs of praise to God because my life is practically perfect in every way? Must I wait to get out of a hard situation before I find joy and can worship God? The way I see it, if I won’t right now, I probably never will.

How precious would a single smile be if it came when I’m having a bad day? How priceless would a love-song to God be when only He knows how my heart is struggling today!

Worship that really tugs on God’s heart is worship that arises irrespective of how the situations we are facing are and rather on who God is. Worship that isn’t based on how happy we feel, but is based on the knowing that whatever comes our way, our God is in control. It says in the passage above, we can take heart and gain strength counting on God’s rule to prevail. It’s a perk of having a sovereign God. He’s in control of every situation we’re in. He is working on it. His shoulders are big enough to carry all our troubles. He knows how it’s all going to play out.

I’m challenged, through this season, to find joy in Jesus Christ. Not from the world I’m living in, with so many troubles and worms in my apples. This world that thrives on, and is ruled by, emotions. But my Bible says, “The joy of The LORD is our strength.”

His joy that He shares with me when I read, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The Creator of the Universe is working everything out, for me! And that’s what makes joy a constant in my life. I could be happy one day and possibly the opposite on another, but I will rest on the assurance He gives me when He says, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

Now, until we get to heaven and all its perfection that God has prepared for us; where there will be no suffering, no crying and no pain, nothing can take His joy from us. Not even the slimy worm in my shiny, red apple!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

References:
Habakkuk 3:17-19 MSG
Nehemiah 8:10 NIV
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Romans 8:18 NIV

The Actual Good News

We do not believe in a cruel and merciless God. We believe in a God who pardons our sin and forgives our transgression. He does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy.

Salvation. I looked it up in the dictionary which defines it as, deliverance from sin and its consequences. Another definition I came across says it is the preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.

More than often I’ve heard views of Christianity that depict an angry God and fearful people trying to escape his wrath and hell. Among other unfortunate reasons, I feel that somewhere down the line we possibly may have represented our faith wrongly, portraying a need for preservation from a God who threatens to send us to hell. Yes, I believe there is a hell. No, I don’t believe Jesus likes anyone ending up there.

We do not believe in a cruel and merciless God. We believe in a God who pardons our sin and forgives our transgression. He does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. That’s what the Bible says.

I am saddened by our human capability to turn even the deepest love song to a hollow battle cry.

Unquestionably, as long as there is sin in our life we ought to work on it. We can’t be free from what we won’t stop doing. A legal declaration might keep us out of hell but it certainly doesn’t make us fit for heaven. However, salvation isn’t about getting us out of hell. It’s about getting sin out of us and our lives. Not because God will get mad at us but because sin robs us of our joy and life.

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. But Jesus, he came so we can have real and eternal life. More and better life than we ever dreamed of.

Now this is what we believe. God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge, but to save the world through him.

He loved. He gave. He saved.

Having said that, I am convinced that there is not a single person in this world who needs to be saved from God. The greatest need of all mankind is to be saved to God. I rest my case.

References:
John 10:10
Micah 7:18
Psalm 103:8
John 3:16-17

Love Notes In the Sky

My problems were big and persistent too,
But not too big for my God to bring me through.
The clouds were still grey and yet so much had changed,
Drowned out by the rainbow and the reminders and reassurance it gave.

Sitting on my bed I let out a sigh,
Pulled down by my worries, and tired, I cried,
How do I get past this, where do I begin?
There’s too much happening, and too little strength within.

I lay on my bed and looked out my window,
The skies were grey and the thunder billowed.
I knew God would speak, He definitely had something to say,
Majestic messages can be sent in the most humble ways.

I’ve often learnt from the glorious skies, as the Bible says;
The heavens declare His glory and His might.
So I stared at the gloomy skies and I could relate,
The hideous greys were the hard situations I faced.

I watched all noon as the grey just grew, and then poured down,
Could it mean more troubles coming soon?
It was evident — the allegory in the clouds and my life.
But where was the message I desperately had to find?

I spent all day looking at that particular side, the mighty hills I loved
Were eaten whole by the monstrous grey skies.
Is there nothing but troubles coming my way?
That’s definitely not the message I was hoping for that day.

I walked up to the window as the rain settled down,
And in that moment I turned my head around.
I looked to the other side, just once, and oh my!
Look at what I almost missed this whole while:

I saw the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life.
Here was the message, it had finally arrived!
It was plain and clear, I rest my case;
Keep your eyes on the God you worship, rather than the situations you face.

My problems were big and persistent too,
But not too big for my God to bring me through.

The clouds were still grey and yet so much had changed,
Drowned out by the rainbow and the reminders and reassurance it gave.

Reminding me that God is my refuge and He is my strength,
Reassuring me that He’s ever-present to help.
Troubles and grey skies, they will float by.
But keep your eyes on God and His love notes in the sky.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” -John 16:33

References:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” -Psalm 19:1
“God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble” -Psalm 46:1

Bacon vs. Broccoli

God calls us to unity rather than uniformity. To be able to look at one another and appreciate their way of loving and serving. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other, we’ve got our hands full just taking care of own life before God!

In recent times, our country has had issues with tolerance, or rather- the lack of it. Everyone seems to create a huge fuss every time someone does or says something they don’t agree with. Many times we are caught arguing over issues and condemning people for their decisions, words and actions. We focus on them, their lives, their mistakes, their losses and very soon we find ourselves in a courtroom, where we are the only ones fit to play judge.

I’m not writing to promote an all permissive lifestyle or declaring the guidelines one ought to live by. I write this to promote unity. Unity that comes in diversity, in the beauty of accepting that while holding on to the fundamental truths, our love & relationship with Christ can be expressed in different ways.

The Bible, in Romans 14, lays out this rhetorical situation of a person who may be convinced that he can eat anything on the table while another may believe that he should only be a vegetarian. Both are guests at Christ’s table. Considering that Christ invited them for a meal, this makes them criticizing each other and arguing over what they eat or don’t eat seem ludicrous. The mere thought that someone may be bothered to such an extent, by another’s personal choice and is looked down on, is unfortunate. If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned I’m certain- God can handle that.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-15

God calls us to unity rather than uniformity. To be able to look at one another and appreciate their way of loving and serving. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other, we’ve got our hands full just taking care of our own life before God!

Here’s what we really need to be concerned about: that everything we do is for the glory of God and that we don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.

If you eat meat, you ought to eat it to the glory of God and thank God for the bacon. If you’re a vegetarian, you thank God for your broccoli. Luckily, I love both and choose to toss the bacon together with the broccoli and make a ‘Sherry’s special’ broccoli salad, but that’s beside the point. The point is that none of us are permitted to insist on our own way being the sole way. Its God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between.

So where does that leave us when we brutally criticize each other? I’d say it leaves us looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Our critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve our position there one bit.

Besides, what do we gain if we confuse others by creating a huge issue over what they do? In dealing with anyone we ought to remember that Christ died for them just as he did for you.

The beauty lies in seeing what God does with our lives as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Our task is to single-mindedly and whole- heartedly serve Christ. We need to remember that we, too, were saved not by our merit but by God’s grace and we ought to extend the same grace to others.

I wish we could agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. To build each other up, correct each other in love and not tear down by finding fault.

Of course, we need to be sensitive and courteous to the another’s beliefs and at the same time we also need to teach, train, rebuke and correct, but our highest priority is to cultivate our own relationship with God without imposing it on others. Love each other, including those who don’t see things the way you do. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

On a lighter note, if you would like the recipe for my mother’s special bacon & broccoli salad feel free to ask.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” -John 15:12