Who will move the stone?

It all began with a simple desire to sit amidst some green on a quiet lock-down morning. Having the desire but not finding any place to park his posterior, the man moved a stone near the overgrown grass and sat down there to contemplate what was within and without.

Pretty soon he thought, “why not gather a couple more stones and make a bench?” So he looked around and there not far from his chosen spot stones of the required size were found. One ‘bench’ quickly became two, then three!

The sight of the lone man lugging heavy rocks stirred the compassion of his neighbours. So now there were three men on the green dragging stones and building crude benches. As they worked together, they became better friends.

The next steps were obvious to the man. He’d long wanted his kids to get involved in some sport. Since summer promises of swimming and football lessons had had to be shelved, here was the perfect opportunity to make it up to them. Permission to mow the grass was quickly sought and obtained from the Society President. The reluctant watchman was summoned and the seldom used lawnmower was swung into action! Holes were dug, bamboo poles erected, a net donated, measurements taken – all by the three good Samaritans -and soon enough a badminton court materialized on the now usable green.

As badminton matches became the new norm on lock-down evenings, grandparents wandered cautiously outside and perched themselves on the new rock benches to watch the ‘games’. Mommies with toddlers emerged wearing lipstick and ‘outside clothes’ to make the most of an evening ‘out’. As ‘Grown ups’ participated in the matches, the children’s joy doubled. Family times took on new vitality and non- sporty onlookers (like me) began to gather around to cheer the sport on! Like an oasis in a parched land, the humble badminton court began to draw those thirsty for a break from their own homes and predictable routines.

The children fought less. The grown-ups talked more. And the benches found their higher calling.. and became the best kind of social platform ever! People who’d never made eye-contact in pre-Covid times now greeted each other and discovered new details about each others’ lives. Kids who rarely emerged outdoors joined the playing teams. Married couples started taking more regular evening walks, waving at the players from appropriate social distances

Slowly, but surely on and off the court a community was forming…

This is a true story, one I’ve seen unfold before my very eyes. The badminton court which has now morphed into a cricket pitch and football field has become a place where we migrate to on most evenings just to have some fun and face contact. Conversations on the bench with some have deepened..and we’ve opened up a bit on our closed-door struggles

I can’t stop marvelling at it all. Eight weeks ago this was just a patch of overgrown grass and now it has become a harbour for God’s kingdom on earth. I’ve learned and am learning something valuable through all of this. I’m going to put it down here in a few points. Here goes: –

It does not take money or talent to start a community

It does not take money, talent or a very complex plan to usher in change

All it takes is for someone to step up and move the first stone.

The world awaits a leader. Could you be one?

Sometimes it may seem that the weight of the stone you’re trying to/or envisaging to lift is too heavy for you to carry alone. And it is…at first. But in good time, if you don’t give up, others will come alongside to give you a hand and you’ll see a community form and winds of change blow around you.

This is for all the Lonely People

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

This is for all the single people
Thinking that love has left them dry
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
You never know until you try

Well, I’m on my way
Yes, I’m back to stay
Well, I’m on my way back home
“Hit it, Jerry”

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
She’ll never take you down or never give you up
You’ll never know until you try”

-America.

I hope this post encourages somebody today. Even if it were to light up the horizon for just one person, I should consider it to have accomplished its purpose..

This one then is for the lonely people – yes for those who’ve been thinking that life has passed them by..

Perhaps one of the most poignant words ever uttered are the words “too late”. In them meet many turbulent currents of emotion – regret, bitterness, guilt, sadness, hopelessness, brokenness, frustration, anger, despair- it’s all in there. .

It reminds me of a day long ago when I stood gawking at the rear- end of a train I was supposed to be on. I’d joined my husband for a short stint in Norway and we’d paid through our pockets for a weekend getaway with friends in Sweden. It’d snowed heavily that day and despite skidding and sliding our way to the train station (never..never wear sneakers when you’re trying to run on ice!!), we missed the train. It was a very, very expensive miss…

That’s the thing about missed opportunities… they’re often costly. But yet that’s not the only reason they fill our hearts with this aching loneliness. The hardest thing about ‘missing the bus’ is to be reminded (daily) of those who didn’t, those who unlike you arrived at all of life’s milestones at the predictable and socially appropriate timelines! ‘Too lates’ have a way of making you feel like the clumsy outsider, the social neanderthal you were not prepared to be..And that is probably the most painful part of the deal.

My own story is a saga of ‘too lates’. I didn’t get married at the right time or get to be a mom at the right time or come upon purpose at the right time..And now it would seem that it’s taken several hard knocks to wake me up to some fundamental truths about myself and life that I wish I’d known decades earlier. And I ask myself whether it’s too little… too late?

In several respects at age fifty I feel like I’m starting over. What keeps my shoulders from sagging is the memory of a man whose life never fails to renew my hope in the restorative power of God.

My favourite pic of my Dad

Dad started his life in his mid fifties. He was academically brilliant – Gold Medallist from the then Madras University and one of the few at the time who was offered a full paid scholarship to MIT. With a start like that, the world could’ve been his oyster, but like me, he had some deeply wired fatal flaws. Destructive patterns of behaviour wrecked his choices time and time again and at the end of what many would call the most productive years of his life, he found himself without money, without opportunity, without honour, reputation or security ..and almost without family.

How Dad’s life turned around is nothing short of a bonafide miracle and that’s a story to be told at another time! What I do want to emphasize here is that it did! My Dad (and this is what I loved most about him) had an almost childlike optimism. In his mid fifties, he picked up the broken pieces of his life and began to dream again – not from a place of boldness or courage but from a certain crazy innocence that somehow remained untainted by all he’d been through. Dad was a ‘late bloomer’ if ever there was one – and bloom he did : ) He died a week short of his eightieth birthday – a content man who’d found a reason to live.

So if today finds you as one of them lonely people who thinks that life has passed you by, all I want to say to you is…don’t give up…”until you drink from the silver cup and light that highway in the sky…” You see, there’s a positive side to a day being like a thousand years in the sight of God. On the one hand it means that the wait can seem long. But on the other hand it also implies that with God a thousand years can be made up in a day! And for those of us caught on the wrong foot by time, that should give us tremendous, tremendous hope!

God’s restoration cares little for socially acceptable timelines! Sarah and Abraham became parents at an age when they should’ve been grandparents twice over, Moses spent forty years in no-man’s land before his purpose found him and our own Lord Jesus was called home by his Father at age thirty-three – at the very prime of His life! We’re in good company : )

I don’t know if you’re reading this at the start or the end of your day but would you allow me to sing you this song to cheer you on today..and spur you onto tomorrow?

The Gift of Uncertainty

I’ve been thinking some about how our present ‘strange’ reality is looking more like the reality of those who lived in Biblical times. When we read about David drenching his pillow with tears, pouring out his heart to his Creator in desperate, clinging prayer on our reclining armchairs, we tend to miss the terrible uncertainty of his times.

David’s sweat-soaked prayers were birthed in an era of human history where life was far from secure. Enemies at your borders, intrigues within your palace, friends and family who could in a trice stick a knife into your back, disease, famine, war upon war …there were uncountable ‘gaps’ in ‘the wall’ that invited chaos in.

We the urban citizens of 2020 have lived thus far in greatly more predictable times ( true at least for those of us who’ve not encountered war, starvation or oppression in our own lifetimes) Truth is, we’ve worked hard to make our lives more predictable. Real estate purchases, investments, saving accounts, insurance plans, ten year plans, post-retirement plans, proactive health and medical check-ups…the list goes on. Perhaps the quest for ‘predictability’ has tended off-late to narrow down the goals of our lives, consuming the best of our efforts and time. And then a little virus comes along and blows our fortified walls apart..

Is desiring predictability inherently wrong? I don’t think so….God is a God of order and not chaos and it cannot be that the systems and safeguards that we put in place to ensure that our lives progress in peaceful streams are ‘evil’ UNLESS our dependence has shifted entirely to those systems and safeguards and they have in essence become our ‘bulwarks’ against uncertainty. The present crisis brings to mind the wisdom of the Psalmist,

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labour in vain;
unless the LORD protects the city,
its watchmen stand guard in vain
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for bread to eat—
for He gives sleep to His beloved

-Psalm 127:1

So I say to myself, not with heroic boldness but rather in a faint whisper that “uncertainty’ is a gift .. that it is good when things are not within the clenched grasp of my control..for it brings me back to vulnerable dependence on God.

Uncertainty is an invitation to finally enter the place where striving ceases and the knowledge of God begins! (“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted over the earth.” Psalm 46:10) And this gift is unwrapped in the assurance that our Creator, our Father, is not a Control freak, One who enjoys chaining His subjects that He may impose His will upon them! On the contrary dependence on God leads to the fiercest Independence I have known. It offers freedom from that one great virus that wrecks our souls – fear!

I’ve begun to realize that a big part of sin, which is not only what we ought not to do, but also not doing what we ought, is rooted in fear. Uncertainty then, releases me to find life in the fullest as I fully engage with and actively trust the One who says, “He is the life” and Whose purpose in coming was to gift us life in all its abundance!

My heart’s prayer is that I would rise up to the occasion, that I would throw wide open the panic-sealed doors of my heart and wrestle free from the fear-filled grip of self-protection. It’s not that I desire to be foolhardy and throw ‘caution to the wind’ but at the same time, I don’t want ‘staying safe’ to become the new God I worship. In so doing I know I will change both the way I live….and pray! : )

The New Year dawns. And yet for some of us, the hope it holds out is not vibrant enough to erase that gnawing sense of emptiness within. “What do I need more of?”, we wonder.. more exercise? more love? more drive? more purpose? more discipline? more of God? More breaks? Or perhaps we’d rather word it as what we need less of..less fights, less stress, less debt, less commuting, less drama…?

I think of Jesus approaching the woman at the well, offering her ‘water’ that will leave her permanently satisfied. His exact words – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” ( The Bible, John 4:13-14). My soul has often salivated at those words of Jesus, particularly in seasons or days when life feels ‘dry’. What I would give to never thirst!

What’s still missing? Why does dryness persist even for those of us who’ve encountered the Fountain of Living Water? Why isn’t the Good News gladdening our hearts the way it’s supposed to? I believe that one big reason could be that we’ve engaged with only one half of the ‘good news’.

I was struck by these verses in the Gospel of Mark -“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God”.(The Bible, Mark 1:14) Ever wondered about the Gospel that Jesus preached? What was its content? (That’s a question worth asking in a time where we’re exposed to so much preaching and teaching on the Gospel. )
Well, Mark in his characteristically crisp style answers that question in the very next sentence. He quotes Jesus’ message of the good news to be – “ the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel”.(The Bible, Mark 1:15) The Good news according to Jesus? – God’s rule on the Earth is immanent! In short, God was finally going to have His way with His Creation. The old order of darkness and death was going to give way to the new order of the Kingdom of light and life! The rules of the game were about to permanently change! And an invitation was being made to change ours too!

In Biblical scripture we see that this is indeed the hope of the ages..that God would finally take His place on the throne. Now, the people of Jesus’ time;the Jewish priests and scholars believed that this reality was to be fulfilled in the Person of a Political leader/a Messiah who would free the Jews from the yoke of Roman oppression but Jesus’ disciples came to understand that this rule would begin in quite an unexpected place -not in the corridors of political power as was assumed but rather in God’s dominion over the human heart, for He had taught them, “the Kingdom of God is within you! “ (The Bible, Luke 17:21). It therefore makes perfect sense for repentance to be an intrinsic part of Jesus’ teaching -a new rule was about to be established and we were to wholeheartedly amend our ways to welcome it!

Through his death Jesus paved the way for this rule to begin. He took upon Himself the sin of the world -the corruption and decadence of our hearts, so that God’s spirit might dwell within us and make us alive again to Him! But here’s the truth I want to underline -this indescribably precious gift of new life does not get ‘activated’ without repentance. Could it be possible that this is the ‘missing ingredient’ in our lives? For if there’s no repentance, there’s no life. Or to put it in the words of James (the brother of Jesus) – “faith without works is dead”. (The Bible, James 2:26) Faith not expressed in acts of repentance is dead and cannot bring life. In other words it could be that what we need is not more of this or that, nor more of God ..nor even more of answered prayer but rather it is God having more of us that is the pressing need of the hour.

To be honest, I’ve been troubled by teaching and preaching that’s focused entirely on receiving the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of humanity. True, the gift is free. No amount of moral and spiritual scrubbing will cleanse our sin-stained hearts but indeed if a new Kingdom has come, and Jesus is the King and Ruler of that Kingdom, the gift must be met with the offering of a humbled, repentant life!

And that brings me to another very important point. Repentance is not a ‘moment of confession’. It’s a lifestyle. It is the Christian lifestyle. There’s no life without it. There are two other words that we can substitute for repentance here – obedience or self denial. Repentance/obedience/self-denial – all three words come down to the same thing. To receive Jesus is more than a prayer..to receive means to welcome and to welcome God means to live life on His terms, not ours. It is only when we implement this self-denial/obedience/repentance in the minutiae of our day to day actions and choices, that we will experience the power of the new life He came to give us. It is then that we will drink from the fount of living waters to the satisfaction of our souls. I suspect that what is killing our spiritual vitality is not the absence of more revelation of God, but the absence of more repentance. (In truth the Bible teaches that Repentance leads to Revelation, but that’s for another blog..)

We preach, “Find Jesus, Find Peace”, “Find Jesus, Find Hope”, “Find Jesus, Find Joy”, but truth is, none of these manifest in our experience without the wholehearted turning of our choices towards God…not just our faces..our choices. Why are we as believers still empty? Because sadly, in believing, we’ve forgotten to follow. To use a rather harsh metaphor, we use Him as a towel to wipe up our dirt but have forgotten to gird our towels around our waists and serve others the way He modelled for us. We ‘accept’ Him like a legal loophole to escape the penalty of sin but that’s not the same as repentance and it is repentance He seeks. He seeks the intimacy borne from like-mindedness.

Jesus said, that there was only ONE way to find life, and that was to lose it! (“For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.- The Bible, Luke 9:24) Indeed what we need more of is ‘self-death’ and what we need less of is our chronic self-centredness. The road to life and satisfaction begins when we continue in believing and repenting in thought and action. One without the other leads to death, not life.

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16, The Bible

Ponder. What a lovely word that is! To ponder means to think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. And that’s exactly what these writings from Jeremiah ushered me into. The specific subject of the ‘pondering’ was the phrase “old paths”. When you look it up in the original language (Hebrew), you’ll come upon this : old – ôwlâm, o-lawm’; or עֹלָם ʻôlâm; from alam; properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future).

So the ‘old path’ literally means the path that began ‘time out of mind’ in the past and winds its way ‘time out of mind‘ into the future. In short it’s the path that exists beyond the ‘vanishing point’ of visible earthly reality! What a spectacularly meaningful picture of eternity!

Lets dig a little deeper into this lovely imagery. The dictionary defines the vanishing point as a point of disappearance, cessation, or extinction. Yet we know too well that the road only appears to disappear from view and in fact winds on long past ‘the vanishing point’. It struck me that, that’s so much like what death is like -a point on the horizon where we disappear from ‘sight’ but in reality continue on. In truth, the road (our journey) stretches out on both sides of the vanishing point (much longer on the far side, truth be told!); yet we tend to have eyes only for what is in immediate view! (Ponder..)

Now in these writings of Jeremiah, we engage with a God who is pleading with us to seek out these old paths, that we may find life and rest for our souls. Imagine with me if you will a loooong stretch of road extending from the eternal past to the eternal future with our microscopic lives sandwiched somewhere in between. God’s entreaty to us to seek out this path implies that we cannot assume that the road we’re presently travelling on is the ancient one, the good one that’s existed time out of mind! We are implored to turn our feet towards it from wherever we are!!

This made me see the moral teachings of the Bible in a fresh light. These are not just a set of good principles constrained to our lives in the here and now. Rather they belong to the ancient well-traversed path that existed well before we ever came into being and that will continue on well after our individual ‘vanishing points’. So when we align our lives with them, we bring ourselves back into sync with timeless truth, not time-bound ones. (Ponder again..)

And one final pondering.. In art a vanishing point or point of convergence is a key element that allows one to create drawings, paintings, and photographs that have a three-dimensional look . Without it, every picture would be rather dull and two dimensional. Now that’s a principle that’s as true to art as it is to life! Without the inclusion of ‘the vanishing point’ in my own big picture of life, my existence would cease to have meaning and fullness! I am increasingly finding that it’s only eternity that can satisfy my hungry, easily bored soul! No endeavour on earth however big, important or potentially life-changing can fill this listless soul’s insatiable demand for MORE. It is only the eternal perspective – i.e. the knowledge that some of what I’m putting my heart into will last forever (and conversely that some things are simply not worth the time, energy and gripe I’m expending on it) that gives my life the rich, three-dimensional fullness it was designed to take on!

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The kids have begun to leave


My kids are observant : ) They notice everything! If I’ve added a painting on the wall or taken it down. If I’ve changed the colour of my nails or am wearing lip gloss. If the dust layer on the side-table has been wiped or not!

So yesterday when I rearranged the family photographs, I smiled to myself in anticipation of the loud exclamatory (always exclamatory!) remarks they would make!

Yesterday came and went in a crazy succession of ‘to-do’s’. Morning arrived! I rushed them off to school, made myself a cup of chai and then sat me down to relish the stillness and serenity of the moment. That was when it occurred to me that the kids hadn’t said a thing about the ‘new’ photo-arrangement. They hadn’t noticed..and I now noticed that they hadn’t.

Yep, it’s only been two weeks since they’ve started school and their worlds have already expanded beyond my door. Their minds have raced forward to embrace new sights, new sounds.. new worlds : ) as well they must!

I found myself thinking with renewed urgency about the need for family times..times around meals, times taking walks, times around board (bored) games, times for outings that were primarily about us being a family. Mamma wanting to ‘lasso’ them hatchlings back! : )

You see, the kids have already begun to leave..and I do want them to want to hang out with me when we’re both older…which means that I must choose to hang out with them now, when I don’t always want to, caught up as we all are in the high-speed rough and tumble of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do hard times make you disagreeable?

I’ve been thinking (dreaming) fruits and vegetables!

Small wonder, since my husband and I have started a business to help Indian farmers to market organic farm produce in the city. All this to say that this has caused (and more likely will cause) some of my metaphors to tilt towards the ‘natural’ : )

So…..yesterday my mind was firing in more random directions as usual. Generally when I’m tired this tends to happen, along with getting more clumsy and more angry than usual – anyone identify?! : )

Anyway, while I was in this state, my thoughts drifted to a certain person who has been giving us a bit of a hard time and it caused me then to think about how his behaviour was explained away to me. It was said of him, “Actually he’s a nice man, but because he has fallen on hard times, he’s behaving this way.” As I somewhat irritably processed this justification for his recent actions, I found myself thinking – “One doesn’t become disagreeable because of hard times! The ‘seed’ must have always been there! An orange seed doesn’t produce apples, does it?!! The disagreeable seed just manifested its ‘disagreeability’ given the right ‘stimulus’! ”

Voila!! As soon as I thought that, the ‘curtains’ parted and Truth revealed Himself to me again! This is what Jesus said -“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” As is so often the case God used a moment of outward accusation to teach me something about the state of my own heart!

Trees are the outward representation of the hidden seed! Yes, orange seeds cannot produce apple trees and apple seeds cannot produce oranges, and so also the seed of our old, corrupt, self-driven natures cannot produce the righteous and good life that God desires! BUT…and oh! thank God for this!! – I am a new seed!

I’ve been making that same old mistake for the millionth time over – the mistake of trying to manage the tree ( behaviour) instead of ‘watering’ the seed! There’s no point ‘trimming’ behaviour; sooner or later it’s going to sprout ugly, unwieldly branches in accordance with its seed!

What you and I desperately need is a brand new seed that grows into a brand new tree and that’s exactly what God has given us! For….if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And for the rest of the day, I watered that seed by bringing it to mind every now and again …especially the word ‘CAN NOT”..a bad seed CAN NOT produce good seed and vice versa” My tired efforts need to receive that word – “CAN NOT!”

Remind me of this if I fall away : ) – especially when I’m being disagreeable about someone else’s disagreeability!! heh heh.

On Being Overwhelmed

It’s been a crazy few days with demands on my time multiplying from every direction. I’m sure you’ve been there. Every minute has something to do and even as you finish one task, the next one knocks impatiently at your door! Also, that’s just when your kids decide to have two consecutive mud baths in the playground and on perfect cue the water runs out at home. Then when one more ‘ask’ comes pressing in through the cracks, you feel that silent scream within you gaining momentum to become audible with glass-shattering force.. That’s when you know you’re.. overwhelmed! : )

When I caught up with myself this afternoon, it occurred to me that feeling overwhelmed has two parts to it. For one, it brings in the sobering realization that..well..you are not God ..in that you cannot be everywhere at the same time or indeed be attentive to everyone’s problems at the same time, or work tirelessly without complaining all the time, or be super-super-duper patient or never sleep. So in that sense, ‘overwhelmed’ forces you to engage with your humanity.

But in another sense, (and this is the second part), being overwhelmed also forces one to engage with ‘eternity’ – the piece of it that’s within you. To quote the words of that lovely old hymn:

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

To reach the end of our ‘hoarded resources’ causes us to dip into a Strength that’s greater than our own and to do more than what’s ‘humanly’ possible.

The thing is, in times of feeling overwhelmed we often tend to focus on one part and miss the other. In the last twenty four hours, I’ve sometimes found myself saying with a sigh and a huff – “I’m only human” – but that is I think to miss the whole picture. I am human; terribly, wonderfully human…but it’s the very limitations of my humanity that ushers me into a life that’s bigger than the one I’m tempted to settle for. To quote the Apostle Paul here:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed ( 2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

The treasure is priceless, the jar is fragile. And because of these amazing paradoxical twin truths, we are not destroyed.

Why do you look so sad today?

What would you say if I told you I just quoted a verse from the Bible?!

I guess it’s one of those verses that don’t get quoted very often ( has anyone ever preached a sermon on it?), probably due to its lack of weighty spiritual content! : )

Yet, there’s so much to mine here!

Why do you look so sad today?‘ – it’s in Genesis -Chapter 40, Verse 7.
It was spoken by a prisoner to his fellow prisoners! The prisoner’s name was Joseph.
Some of us are familiar with his story – the cynosure of his father’s eyes, hated and envied by his brothers and then betrayed by them, sold as a slave, falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison just when he might’ve hoped things were turning around!

Remarkably the question was not addressed to Joseph ( as this brief synopsis of his life may have led us to assume) but was spoken by him!

A couple of things struck me as I was reading about him today.
Joseph knew he was marked for greatness. He knew it from when he was very young, well before his life took this unpredictable turn. As readers of his history, we see the unfolding events in his narrative from the vantage point of hindsight and miss how it could’ve been like for him. From his point of view it must’ve been a bit like being one of those whiz kids destined for ‘big things’ who suddenly finds himself on skid row on account of some tragically twisted circumstances! – your own family betrays you and throws you out on ‘the streets’ in the most humiliating fashion possible. You are then forced to immigrate to a foreign country where you have zero citizenship rights and then when you finally land a job and make some hard-fought progress, your boss’s wife cries rape and gets you thrown into prison without even so much as a trial!

And yet in the midst of this horribly harsh life-situation Joseph notices faces – notably those of his fellow prisoners and asks them, “why do you look so sad today?Disappointment with life had not turned Joseph’s gaze inward, as it tends to do for the best of us. Through it all Joseph seemed to know that God was with him and holding on to that one truth had kept his heart soft and responsive…towards God and to those suffering around him.

What follows is a deeper conversation. The men Joseph was speaking to had had disturbing dreams. They were vexed by it till Joseph explains the symbolism of their dreams to them – a gesture of empathy opens the door to conversations about spiritual things..Sometimes, the natural precedes the supernatural…that was the other thing that stood out to me today..

Closing thought: Being a light in this world may begin with something as simple as first noticing the faces of people around us (even in the midst of our own ever-present problems and preoccupations) and then quoting a spectacularly profound biblical verse to them – “why do you look so sad today?”

P.S. For those of us who are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, that one question turned around the events of his life. In due course of time, his unique gift paved the way for him to stand before the King of Egypt who was having some troubling dreams of his own. Eventually Joseph became the most influential man of his time.

Defocus Lab: the woman with ‘stomach trouble’

I was winding down from my morning run, when I crossed a woman walking in the opposite direction. She was not at first glance ‘the type’ of person I’d normally connect with. I glanced at her and looked away..and then reminding myself of my recent post ( see https://opendiary.blog/2019/05/25/defocus-me/ ), I glanced her way again, this time purposefully allowing my gaze to linger on her face. I noticed she looked troubled.

I walked on regretting that I hadn’t smiled at her. I made a mental note to myself – “next time, smile!”. I had barely completed that thought when the woman was walking beside me. “Madam” she said, “I have stomach trouble, I need help”. That slightly awkward introduction started a conversation which quickly accelerated from talking about “stomach trouble” ( her way of saying she wanted tighter abs!) to her personal life. I now know her name, how many children she has, what age she got married, some glimpses of her relationship with her husband and her in-laws and where she works! – crazy huh!?

People are lonely. Maybe Jagdamba (that’s her name) genuinely wanted advice. Maybe she just wanted to talk… I don’t know.. but it would seem that this encounter was sparked off by something as effortless as “eye contact”!

I want to encourage us all to give this a shot. Today when you cross those faceless strangers on your way to work, or to the supermarket or wherever, make eye-contact, smile..and if you’re bold enough, just walk over and say ‘hello’ – you never know how God may use these little windows to light up someone’s world!