The pain and gain of loss


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3:7-9
Photo by Hugo Jehanne on Unsplash

I write this with a lot of pain and anxiety that teems inside me when I study these words of Paul.

Pain of loss

Considering or counting one’s gains as a loss – isn’t that painful? We run after gains all our lives. Better deals at supermarkets. Involve in activities that benefit us. We diet to reduce weight. We look forward to the holidays. We delight at a pay raise. We love the things that come free. Gain is everywhere. No pain, no gain, says the old adage, positing gain as something worth taking pains for. If gain takes the pain, what does loss incur?

Gain of loss

Paul is on a different bus. He says when it comes to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, he considers all gains a loss.
Humanly, it is difficult to live with that kind of loss. Once at the airport, I was told that my luggage exceeded the limits by two kilograms. One of my dear friends, who did not want me to lose any of it, took over and made the payment or the extra kilograms. He refused to budge when I insisted on paying. He spent his hard earned money on me so that I would not have to have a loss of money or material. Thankful to him, I flew home.
Paul says all that we have in our baggage automatically gets sorted when you realise you have the only thing you need –  Christ. So if you are at an imaginary airport as part of life’s journey, and they tell you at the check-in that you are allowed to carry just one personal belonging, what would you take with you?

The one thing

Sitting in a prison, Paul says, after all those years of sweating it out for Christ, he realised all he needed was to know Christ, and that everything came secondary. Going back to the imaginary airport, my friend would then not have to pay for me, nor would I have to carry all the items in my bag or pick out the heavy ones and reduce the weight. Jesus, the most valuable possession makes everything else secondary. You could do away with them, says Paul.  Jesus is what is of ultimate value. Everything  else does not even compare, to an extent that Paul actually calls everything else “garbage.”

Showing the door

The word used for counting/considering in verse 7 and 8 is ‘hegeomai’ in its original Greek version. The word interestingly stands for leading the way (going before as a Chief), priority, leading thought in one’s mind, to esteem, provide leadership, etc.
The meaning of that word opens up a whole canvas of understanding to interpret the verse. Paul, in a way, is saying that when the knowledge of Christ increases, he leads out of his life, everything else that he counts valuable. He shows them the door. He personally takes responsibility to send them out of his life, by leading it out.  He does not expect their value to diminish, instead, the things we consider valuable, have to be led out of our life, because the most valuable as come! It is imperative for every Christian.
Here one is required to appreciate the value of Christ and that is by knowing. Knowing takes some kind of an interaction, a transaction that involves a back and forth. In simple words, it means, there needs to be a relationship with Christ, to know his worth.

Making space

So Paul, says he is making space for Christ in his life. To illustrate, the storage in my old phone used to fill up quickly ever since WhatsApp and pictures became the characteristic of a smartphone. But in order to add an app that would really help my day to day work, I needed more space. There was no other way but to delete all the unneeded photos and apps and make space for the app I wanted.  Knowing Christ is of surpassing worth, and everything else, he leads out, says Paul.  He personally unpacks the baggage and lays out everything and picks Christ and continues the journey. And he says, he has everything he needs.
This is a painful process, which can be made joyful if you know the worth of Christ. And that calls for a relationship with Jesus the Christ. How is your relationship?

Richard Rohr Meditation : An excerpt

The following is a meditation from led by Richard Rohr. I loved some of the things said here. What are your thoughts?

PC: The Bible Project, YouTube

God Breaks In
Thursday, May 17, 2018

Today Barbara Holmes continues exploring the contemplative in surprising places:

We are told that Jesus hung out with publicans, tax collectors, and sinners. Perhaps during these sessions of music, laughter, and food fellowship, there were also . . . moments when the love of God and mutual care and concern became the focus of their time together. Contemplation is not confined to designated and institutional sacred spaces. God breaks into nightclubs and Billie Holiday’s sultry torch songs; God tap dances with Bill Robinson and Savion Glover. And when Coltrane blew his horn, the angels paused to consider.

Some sacred spaces bear none of the expected characteristics. The fact that we prefer stained glass windows, pomp and circumstance . . . has nothing to do with the sacred. It may seem as if the mysteries of divine-human reunion erupt in our lives when, in fact, the otherness of spiritual abiding is integral to human interiority. On occasion, we turn our attention to this abiding presence and are startled. But it was always there.

. . . Art can amplify the sacred and challenge the status quo. The arts help us to hear above the cacophony and pause in the midst of our multitasking. The arts engage a sacred frequency that is perforated with pauses. Artists learned . . . that there were things too full for human tongues, too alive for articulation. You can dance and rhyme and sing it, you almost reach it in the high notes, but joy unspeakable is experience and sojourn, it is the ineffable within our reach.

When you least expect it, during the most mundane daily tasks, a shift of focus occurs. This shift bends us toward the universe, a cosmos of soul and spirit, bone and flesh, which constantly reaches toward divinity. Ecclesial organizations want to control access to this milieu but cannot. The only divisions between the sacred and the secular are in the minds of those who believe in and reinforce the split. . . .

All things draw from the same wellspring of spiritual energy. This means that the sermonic and religious can be mediated through a saxophone just as effectively as through a pastor. . . . How can this be? . . . [Can] tapping feet and blues guitar strokes . . . evoke the contemplative moment and call the listener to a deeper understanding of inner and outer realities? . . . The need to create impermeable boundaries between the sacred and the secular is . . . a much more recent appropriation of western values. . . .

Historically, most efforts to wall off the doctrinal rightness and wrongness of particular practices failed. Instead, hearers of the gospel inculturated and improvised on the main themes so as to tune the message for their own hearing. Given Christianity’s preferential option for the poor, the cross-pollination of jazz, blues, and tap with church music and practices could be considered the epitome of missional outreach and spiritual creativity.

Perplexed into contemplation – Richard Rohr

The piece below is one of the most beautiful writings I have ever read. It’s part of a series  of reflections on art and faith. It is beautiful, touching and liberative. Do read on!

Perplexed into Contemplation
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The imagination offers revelation. It never blasts us with information or numbs us with description. . . . We find ourselves engaged in its questions and possibilities, and new revelation dawns. . . . The imaginative form of knowing is graced with gradualness. . . . The imagination reveals truth in such a way that we can receive and integrate it. —John O’Donohue [1]

I must confess that I tend to prefer the older forms of art and music to much of what I see and hear in pop culture. Often when I listen to music on the radio today, I often scratch my head and say, “I really don’t get it!” But maybe the point is for us to not get it when we encounter something new or unfamiliar.

One of our CONSPIRE 2018 teachers, Dr. Barbara Holmes, suggests that both art and contemplation have a related goal: shifting paradigms. Art and contemplation lead us to wonder, but first they perplex us. Mature spiritual leaders make room for and welcome the prophetic—the challenging, new, and unexpected—even while holding onto the essentials of our wisdom traditions.

Holmes writes in Joy Unspeakable about how the Gospel is being re-envisioned by young people:

To reconsider your circumstances using the perspectives of a new generation is a difficult and contemplative act. It is contemplative because it requires the recognition that the world as we know it is not of our own making. Another generation has its hands to the plow: they will not engage the world as we did; they are singing a new song. [2]

If Christianity is to survive and stay relevant, we must welcome new songs, new expressions of the sacred through beauty, celebration, lament, defiance, and calls to repentance and action. To do so requires bringing contemplative practice beyond pews and prayer mats to the ways we engage on social media, the streets, and the evening news. Contemplation is not only for so-called sacred spaces; it can touch and change all of life.

Ronald Rolheiser writes:

God cannot be thought, but God can be met. Through awe and wonder we experience God and there, as mystics have always stated, we understand more by not understanding than by understanding. In that posture we let God be God. In such a posture, too, we live in contemplation. [3]

Reverend Holmes continues:

[Art is] contemplative because [it] ignites memories of the awe and wonder that we tend to discard after childhood. . . . When we decide to live in our heads only, we become isolated from the God who is closer than our next breath. To subject everything to rational analysis reduces the awe to ashes. The restoration of wonder is the beginning of the inward journey toward a God who people of faith aver is always waiting in the seeker’s heart. For some, the call to worship comes as joy spurts from jazz riffs, wonder thunders from tappers’ feet, as we ponder Lamar’s prophetic insolence and Beyoncé’s black girl magic. Each artistic moment is just slightly beyond our horizon of understanding. Perhaps we are confounded so that we might always have much to contemplate. [4]

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

[1] John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (HarperCollins: 2004), 147.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, second edition (Fortress Press: 2017), 197.

[3] Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God (New York: Crossroad, 2001), 117.

[4] Holmes, Joy Unspeakable, 198

Image credit: Composition VIII (detail), Wassily Kandinsky, 1923, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York.

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Five One Things in the Bible

It was new to me. “Five ‘One Things’,”  he wrote. Nicky Gumbel introduced me through Bible In On Year to a sermon he had heard in 1974, titled that way.  It is interesting and let me share what I got from searching a bit about it. The phrases are from Chris Goswami’s blog :


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The Watchman | John 1:9-12

“Watchman… O watchman…” We hear that cry everyday. Paid peanuts, these men serve 12 hour shifts. While we have tea and snacks at the comfort of our homes, they’re served deprecative words in bowls of aggressive language. Some are lucky to receive smiles. Yet, very often, they’re a picked on lot.“Look, he’s dozing again.” “Lazy old man.” When he salutes us, we actually begin to think we are their superiors and that we deserve it.

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The Waiting Spouse | Luke 15:10; Isaiah 30:18

It is common in Indian culture for a wife to wait for her husband to return home in order to have her dinner. If you’re an Indian, you may have seen your mother doing so. Sometimes, the commute to work in Mumbai may take one and a half to two hours one-way (I was told that Ullhasnagar parish has their choir practice at 9 pm!). So in the meanwhile, your mother may ask you to have dinner, yet insist that she would eat when her spouse arrives. It is an expression of her love and devotion. It is an act of faith, knowing that her husband would return. When he delays, his number is dialled, more than once, if needed. On arriving she would want to know what had happened. If he’s getting too late, she may stand at the door or go downstairs, as though he would be standing there.

Continue reading “The Waiting Spouse | Luke 15:10; Isaiah 30:18”