Untouched by Human Hands

This is going to be a short one – a liberating insight I had this morning while meditating on scripture. This one from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Specifically, Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

When any world-class, state-of the-art manufacturing process claims that its operations are ‘untouched by human hands’ it stands as a guarantee for quality and purity. The awe- inspiring truth is that God makes the same claim about His work in us! We are His workmanship –entirely His and no ‘human hand’ has touched that process. It reminds me of what John wrote in his testimony about Jesus – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. In short, human intervention has not been allowed to ‘contaminate’/interfere with God’s workmanship. Paul goes as far as to say that we’ve been saved by grace through faith – and even that (faith) is not something we coughed up on our own but is a gift from God. Why such stringent ‘quality -control’ standards? Paul gives us the short answer – “lest anyone should boast”. God will not share the ‘credit’ with anybody. Why not? Is it because He wants to hog the limelight? Unlikely : ) One reason that comes to mind is that ‘pride’ is poison to our souls – therefore all pretensions to human achievement have been summarily dismissed! Another is the idiocy of the ‘created’ boasting against the Creator. To quote the prophet Isaiah here, ” But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”

The more I chew on this truth, the more joy it gives me. The new nature that I received when I put my faith in Jesus is God-like in its purity – it is something that has been wholly put in place by Him without any help from my end…it is, to use that word again ‘ uncontaminated’ by me. My part then, my ‘work’ in all of this, is to simply accept this marvellous truth. And the more I soak it in, the more it will inform my identity and in turn my actions. He does not need me to ‘prop up’ His work, or embellish it or ‘help it along’ in anyway. My new nature is His workmanship – and that sets my being profoundly at rest. Woah!!!

If this is news to you and you are stirred to know more or curious about this ‘new nature’, do feel free to write in..

Hide and Seek

Can you see the seed ?


Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”.

Jesus’ words are categorical – unless a seed dies, it cannot multiply. This statement becomes even more pungent when you consider that they were spoken a short while before his own death, a death that He intentionally and willingly died for the life of countless others.

————————————————————————————————–

Now this is so very different from how we imagine our lives will impact the world! The ‘seed’ multiplies by completely disappearing from the scene! Our own models of increase, have us very much at the centre of the stage. We don’t plan for or even desire to perform a ‘disappearing act’. in fact what we want is the very opposite. Our multiplication model would look something like this (see figure)

Here we are at the centre with arrows flowing outward from us; each arrow representing a person or an endeavor whose ‘success’ we believe we’ve contributed to. The more ‘arrows’ we can count ( trace back to ourselves), the greater the impact we’d say we have. So in this scheme of things, ‘acknowledgement’ becomes essential – for how else are we to count the ‘arrows’?

Recently, my husband was reading up on the history of missions in India and he came across a name – Anthony Groves. Have you heard of him? I certainly hadn’t until that point. But you might have heard of his more famous brother -in-law, George Muller? Did you know, it was Anthony Groves’ ideas that impacted George Muller and these in turn impacted the choices of a man called Hudson Taylor? The excerpt I was reading said, ” A number of Groves’s closest friends became leading figures in circles soon to be known as Brethren, or Plymouth Brethren. After leaving Britain in 1829, his ongoing influence in this movement was mediated largely through his brother-in-law George Muller, and is reflected in the principles adopted by the latter in his church leadership and in his support of missionaries for more than half a century. One of those influenced by Muller was the young Hudson Taylor, whose financial support during his early years came almost entirely from Groves’s personal friends among the Brethren

So this multiplication model looks like….

The ‘seed’ in this short chain disappears and is forgotten till God resurrects it from its death to give it the praise it deserves. The article, I was reading ends with these words: “Described twenty years ago as a “neglected missiologist”, and largely unknown today, his significance might seem somewhat negligible, but to Groves we can trace back ideas that stimulated the birth of a new generation of missions following what have been called “faith principles”. These included Brethren initiatives in many countries in addition to numerous interdenominational “faith missions” inspired by the example of Hudson Taylor. With some justification, Groves has been called the “father of faith missions”. Nevertheless, his idea of using the New Testament as a practical manual of missionary methods was taken up with greatest effect not by Anglo-American missionaries but by the leaders of some remarkable indigenous movements. Notable among these was his own disciple John Christian Arulappan and, at a later date, Bakht Singh and Watchman Nee, all of whom had direct or indirect links with him . Our research concludes that the primitivist missiology of Anthony Norris Groves exerted a significant radical influence on Protestant mission in the nineteenth century, and indeed to the present day, for his ideas find many points of contact with current missiological thinking. ”

_________________________________________

To return to the thought I started out with, ‘multiplication’ God’s way appears to play out quite differently from the way we think it ought to work. The significance of this for me is not so much that ‘the credit rolls’ may play well after our lifetimes (certainly a thought worth chewing on), but rather the role and the purpose of the seed itself… .which is to ‘disappear’. This means that others may eat off the fruit of ‘our’ tree, and may never even recognize us as the seed that birthed it.. and conversely, only God knows ‘the seeds’ down the ages which have contributed to fruit in our own lives – like Anthony Groves’s life illustrates, there are some we can name, and others we don’t have a clue about. Only eternity will shed light on these things. This of course changes the way I measure ‘how many lives I’ve touched” but more importantly it changes my whole approach to ‘giving’.

If God’s prescribed way (and going by Jesus’ teaching, His only way) to multiplication is through the death of the seed, then giving can no longer be a ‘me-centered, ‘approval -hungry’ exercise. The focus then, to quote John the Baptist’s words is to decrease that someone else may increase. In other words, we pour ourselves into someone’s life and then intentionally bow out that they may receive the applause! Perhaps this is increase Jesus’ way..the ‘kingdom way’. So many of the word-pictures He left us point to that – salt dissolves into food, yeast merges into dough, the seed dies unseen under the earth -giving no man the glory, but God alone.


.

Hide and Seek

Part one

This is for all of us who’re beginning to wonder what on earth we’re doing – for us who once believed that our lives had a grander purpose than present reality would suggest. We were supposed to change the world, not diapers; we were to walk on water, not tread the daily commute; our destiny was to become a fisher of men, not the keeper of one man (or woman). When God first took hold of us, our hearts were warmed by whispered promises of what He’d accomplish through our lives but all of that feels snuffed out now by the drudgery of the daily (read boring) routine of life …and ‘selfless’ service.

So for those of us who are (or were) at that place, here’s a thought.. A greater part of our walk with God plays out in the hidden, often unnoticed and un-applauded choices we make in the back rooms of our lives. What’s that got to do with anything I said in the first paragraph? Everything. If we take a closer look at it, our dreams for our future are preoccupied with two concerns- one is scale, the other is, audience (the onlookers!). Curtsying to God’s ovation echoing off of the walls of an empty auditorium is not quite what we hand in mind..and that for half a line in the entire play??!
Not happening!

And yet didn’t Jesus say -pray in secret, fast in secret, give in secret? In fact, He said that we should give in such a way, that our right hand is unaware of what our left hand in doing! In short, we are to live to God without an audience .. without even the ever present audience of self. But how difficult it is for us to do even the former thing -for us, who are so hopelessly addicted to needing acknowledgement for every single good thing that we do. Think about that time your heart burnt with indignation when they didn’t say thank you or left you out from the praise -list and plain didn’t ‘see’ your hardworking contribution to the cause! Truly, how difficult it is to sign ‘anonymous’ over the ‘great’ works of our lives! But dear friend, these occasions of being overlooked, of feeling that you’re in the darkness, left on the sidelines of the parade is an invitation into that sacred, private world of seeking God and living for his applause and pleasure alone.

There’s great gain to be had in this hidden seeking – great freedom and great delight! It’s a bit like silently giggling over a private joke that nobody else in the room is aware of…the gleeful knowledge of sharing something that’s wholly between you and Him! For God as we well know is more concerned about the heart than ‘appearance’ or indeed anything else. That’s what makes the whole of the spiritual life ( yeah a 100 percent of it) very, very, private indeed! Once we get this – that the ‘stage’ is in the ‘backroom’ and not in the ‘front courtyard’, it changes the whole game. The spotlight turns within, and small choices with no apparent gain become joy-filled offerings to the Lord. And then other things change too – you do things out of love, not because you want a pat on your back. and then you don’t smart at everyone else’s apparent ‘insensitivity’!
But the biggest change I think is that we begin to realize that while there may be a ‘bigger’ purpose to our lives, it never really gets ‘bigger’ than love – and that purpose has opportunity for expression in every single day and in every single nook of our lives!

Which brings me to this question (one I’ve often thought about) – if God were to run a highlighter over our life-works, which ones do you think He’d pick? Would scrubbing the grime out of our hubby’s shirt- collars out-win preaching at church? Would forgiving a friend outweigh leading hundreds into the forgiveness that God freely offers in Christ? God knows. But this I know, He is looking at me and you right now in this moment and you can change what you are doing, thinking, feeling right in this moment into a grand, praise-filled work for God.

More to come..


I


My Friend, Raju Bhaiya

Meet my friend Raju Bhaiya. But first a little background. I got to know Raju while working with him in teaching a small bunch of dalit kids in rural North India. Presently he’s employed in the same hospital where he was carried in as a patient a couple of years or so ago. While racing to the local market to make some last minute purchases for his wedding that was to happen a few days later, he got into a terrible accident. The consequent spinal cord injury resulted in him losing access to half of his body and as he thought then, his whole future.

Now please take a moment to watch this video.


Amazing right? In the midst of darkness, light! What moves me about this video is possibly the very same thing that moves you -the beauty of God’s restorative love showcased in every defiant dance move – even in the vibrancy of this young man’s torso that refuses to be enslaved by his limp limbs. His story should’ve had a more predictable ending – depression and suicide at its worst ( and it did go there ), resignation and endurance at its best – but dancing with joy!? – that’s not the ending we’d expect of this story..and yet that kind of ‘twist in the tale’ is exactly what we need to see over and over again to restore our broken hope in God.

Which brings me to the thing that I want to share.
The world needs more stories or rather, it needs more “true stories”. To put it another way, what we are hungry for is incarnated truth. And what we are actually weary of (although we may not quite realize it ourselves ) is intellectual truth..truth that stirs our minds but leaves our souls intact. Incarnated truth; the truth our lives and choices display, teaches, encourages, admonishes and transforms in a way that ‘wisdom’ cannot.


Some years ago, I was mentoring a young lady who was part of a church discipleship programme that required regular one to one meetings with me, stretching over several months. At the end of this duration, the ‘mentees’ were required to express their appreciation for their mentors in some way. This young lady wrote me a letter I’ll never forget. I expected to find in there some mention of the many ‘gems of wisdom’ I’d shared with her in our frequent conversations together, some pointer to how these glittering insights had changed the course of her life : ), but to my surprise the one thing she’d highlighted was the one that I wasn’t even aware she was looking at. What had impacted her was the fact that we had these meetings at my home, at a time when I was the primary care giver for both my ailing grandmother and my mum who was going through cancer treatment. That was the first time that my dim eyes were opened to understanding that it is lives that transform lives. And that words while powerful, are only as impactful as the truth they embody in the speaker’s life. Simply put, what we learn from a Bible study or hear on a Sunday morning is often (though not always) forgotten, but what we learn from a person’s life endures forever in our hearts and we often become the imitator of those things in our own lives.

I have sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which is exactly what I teach everywhere in every church.…
– Apostle Paul, The Bible

How We Hate Dependence!

We love God, but we hate dependence. Does that sound contradictory?
It should : ) For the very nature of faith invites, ( and presupposes) a ‘leaning on’ someone with greater strength than our own. For this very reason, there are some who’ve called faith a psychological crutch invented to prop up weak minds. Not going to debate that here, but stating it to point out that even the scoffers recognize that Faith and Dependence are inextricably intertwined!

And yet..here’s the strangest thing – all of us who profess to have ‘faith’ would actually hate to find ourselves in a place where we’d actually HAVE to exercise it. Think about it for a moment.  Recall that time when all you could do was pray?! When the bank balance dwindled, when circumstances demanded a response of character we did not possess, when the project at hand asked for talents and skills we couldn’t cough up, when our bodies needed a cure that the doctors couldn’t provide, and we were pushed into that corner where we became fearfully, hopefully, resentfully, despairingly dependent on the Author of life – did we welcome it?  When life ‘forces’ dependence, we don’t generally like it very much.

Personally, this causes me some introspection  – What nature of faith is mine that so despises dependence?  If faith is what I extend to God only when I absolutely have to, then what’s my confidence leaning on the rest of the time?  Is God just an ‘emergency exit?-  a ‘place’ to run to when the building catches fire?

I’ve been learning something precious that I’d like to share with you. I’m learning to not despise dependence but rather to relish the opportunity for it.   Don’t get me wrong. None of us are masochists here. We don’t ( I hope) love pain. Nobody likes the feeling of being up creek without a paddle.  But the ‘out of control circumstance’ gives us a sacred opportunity to affirm the One we call Father!   I’ve made a small shift.. I used to resent circumstances that made me feel vulnerable, uncertain or anxious, but now these periodical hiccups on the road awaken a different response in me…they cause me to gladly and expectantly choose dependence.  There’s a big difference between finding oneself dependent and choosing it.  In the first instance we lean on God because we believe we have no alternative – a bit like climbing up a tree in the face of an oncoming Tsunami. It’s not that we like climbing trees but in view of what’s in front of us, there’s no better option. Choosing dependence looks a bit different – it’s like facing a lone mugger on the street knowing you have the nation’s military defending you.  Again, it’s not that you enjoy the experience of being mugged, but you know that you possess a hidden strength and what you enjoy is the opportunity to acknowledge it!

When the Apostle Paul said that he boasted in his weakness, he was not I think saying he enjoyed being weak.  What he enjoyed was the power of God made perfect in His weakness! His dependence on God was in short, helping Him see and experience more of God!  That’s why he rejoiced in his weaknesses!

Under-girding all of this of course is the gut level knowledge of the Father’s love and goodness towards us. Without this foundation it’s difficult to become a child in His arms when the winds are contrary. Our innate independence dims the diligence of our prayer life and our reading of scripture, so when the storms come we are thrust into an unsure, fearful clinging rather than the warmth of security.  

Truth is, dependence on God should be an intentional way of life for the people of faith, and not an intermittent shout when we find our beds on fire!  Or even a reluctant reliance given to Him when “there’s nothing more that we can do”. Isn’t that why Jesus sent out his twelve disciples on their first independent mission with the command to take no purse, bag or sandals for the journey? He was I believe teaching them the very substance of faith – a life of chosen, wilful dependence on the Father. Which begs the next question – what choices would we make if we lived out our lives  from a place of proactive dependence on God rather than always from the reactive kind? That is, what if we were open to making life choices that invited vulnerability and dependence rather than having ‘twists on the road’ thrust these upon us from time to time?

I do believe that if we were to walk down this road of wilful, joyful dependence on the Father, we’d find ourselves in a place of loving faith more than sight – that is, the secret delight of being certain of what we do not see might actually surpass the momentary exhilaration of beholding the long awaited miracle! In other words we’d grow to love the journey from dependence to dependence…from relationship to ever deepening relationship with our Father in Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valuable

I’ve shifted houses about nine times in this lifetime and the tenth one seems imminent!   Every shift has down-sized my possessions with uncompromising lines drawn between stuff that will move with me and stuff that won’t.   The ‘chosen ones’ that survive these intermittent upheavals are the ‘old faithful’s’ – these include utilitarian items; pots and pans, linen and the like as well as articles treasured for their aesthetic value.  But making it to the pile of ‘movables’ are also things that don’t rightfully belong there – things neither attractive nor useful!  Stuff like a faded t-shirt from high school, a crayon sketch given by the neighbour’s kid (now married with two kids of her own!) and a love note scribbled on a post-it.. These are things that wouldn’t even make it to the second-hand sale shop but they’re the very ones that enjoy an unfairly privileged position in the house. What makes them valuable is not any intrinsic worth they possess, but the simple fact that I value them!

diamond-gem-cubic-zirconia-jewel-68740

Continue reading Valuable

Basically Mature

“To be Mature is to be Basic”

(concluding part of a three part series called, “Firm Foundations”)

How counter-intuitive this is!   Maturity involves a return to basics.
In other words,
the path that grows our souls involves re- engaging with foundational truths over and over and over again!  How confounding this is for us! 

In some ways, it feels like being demoted to kindergarten just when we were getting ready to enrol ourselves in the advanced Shakespeare- club!  We were so sure we were past that hurdle, but now here we are, at the starting line again, when we believed we’d walked a thousand miles forward.

abc-alphabet-blackboard-265076
“To be mature is to be basic” – Colossians 1:28-29 (The Message)

Continue reading Basically Mature

Firm Foundations

Living in Upside-Down Houses

Part two of a three-part series (8 min read)

apartment-architecture-city-415687

A lifetime ago, I was in college : ).. doing a Post- Grad Diploma in Social Communications & Media. Back in ‘those days’ they weren’t many institutions offering Mass Communication Courses and those that did, focussed their energies on teaching their students the how to’s – how to shoot a video, how to take a photograph, how to write a script, how to construct a press release and so on.. But this Course was different.
We worked from an out-dated studio; our cameras were functional but not state -of -the- art and while lectures on the mechanisms of video, film- making, journalism etc were part of the curriculum, they were clearly not central to it. I’ve never forgotten the words of Jeroo Mulla, the Head of the Department – “ You can learn all about the latest communication technologies out there, she said, “ but will you have anything to say?” –
A truth that’s dawned brighter in my understanding ever since I first heard it – foundations must come first; content must necessarily precede form. Messages derive their impact not from the slickness of the presentation but rather from the weight of its material!  Jeroo’s clarity of focus transformed my life.  She taught me that the “what” was foundational and that the “how” though not unimportant built on it. Foundations – how terribly important they are and sadly how often we miss recognizing them. That’s the problem really – we plain don’t ‘see’ what must stand on what! And consequently our lives look like houses that are built upside-down.

Continue reading Firm Foundations

Firm Foundations:

Foundations Don’t Auto-Correct

Part One of a Three-Part Series ( 5 min read)

I’ve been swinging back and forth like a
yo-yo on some decisions I’ve to make for Roshini and Vir (my five and four year old darlings) with respect to their schooling.
At times, I’m tempted to think, “for goodness sake, they’re only four and five!  Does it really matter whether I continue to home-school them or not or which school we put them into Is it such a big deal at this stage of their lives. There’s more than enough catch-up time isn’t there??”  I find myself thinking the same way when I make mistakes in the way I discipline them.  Pacifying thoughts in my head that whisper,
I’ll make it up…later”. I take for granted the sunny smile that follows the cloud-burst and soothe my smarting conscience with words – “see, they’ve forgotten..they won’t remember..they’ve forgiven mama for losing her temper ..again.”

Continue reading Firm Foundations:

So, here we are..!

Well, here I am getting started on a journey that I’d never dreamed I’d undertake! –the beginning of a formal endeavour to make my many random jottings and musings public!

Being a contemplative sort, I tend to from time to time stumble upon (what seems to me), a treasure and when I do I’m gripped by a pressing need to wave the newly discovered ‘gem’ high up in the air for everyone to see!  For the moment at least, this blog serves no grander purpose than that!

And yet my secret hope is that this will not merely be a “see what I see” exercise -for these contemplations center on the One who alone is worthy of eternal contemplation and my desire is that these meditations will fill our hearts with greater affection for Him and give us some ‘juice’ to face the day!

So, do look to this space from time to time, if you feel so inclined : )

” I am the light of the world, and those who embrace me will experience life-giving light, and they will never walk in darkness”     -Jesus ( The Bible, John 8:12)

caffeine-coffee-cup-641038

 

Save