A jug fills drop by drop

Do you ever feel frustrated by unachieved dreams?

Sometimes I feel I am there. Staring at your dream which is still in the sky and wondering how to get there, despite having everything within your power to achieve them.

 

That’s when I came across a tiny magazine called Inspirational Quote which displayed on its cover the title of this post :

A jug fills drop by drop. 

It points towards the need for consistency and sustained effort towards your dreams. We are living in a world that glorifies 19-year-olds like Kylian Mbappe. The boy is only 19 and look, he’s playing superbly in the world cup for France! What are you doing?

I have been advised before that it does not work to ask yourself that question in comparison. My life is meant for a different dream and has a different trajectory.  I am not Mbappe and at the most what we have in common is that our names begin with M.

However, I can’t be left off the hook.  I am accountable to what God has entrusted me with. I am called to make use and bring returns, just as the parable of talents reveal to us.

 

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Kylian Mbappe . [PC: FIFA.com https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/players/player/389867/]

 

 

LIFE EDITING.

What we need is life-editing. Sitting down and taking stock of where I am going and how fast. If I am slow, then I need to check whether that is the optimal speed to travel. Each terrain requires us to manoeuver our vehicle in a way that would ensure safety and stability. That probably is the same with life.

Yet, you could keep moving.  Or move as soon as you can. Going back to the analogy of the drop,  we can say, as long as the drop is falling into the jug, that’s enough. But if you take the jug away and set it aside, you will not be able to fill it.

So make sure the drop falls in the jug and over time it will be filled.

One step towards your dream each day. That’s all it takes.

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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.

To learn more, visit CAC.org

 

Covalent bonds | Hebrews 13:1-6

Craig S. Keener, New Testament scholar, says chapter 13 is in the form of a Parenesis, an ancient rhetorical and literary style in which moral exhortations loosely joined together with other literary elements. The closing words of the author gives specific instructions to the community of faith. Let us read these exhortations in the light of thetheme, the sanctity of the marital relationship. 

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Continue reading “Covalent bonds | Hebrews 13:1-6”

Bae

If you find yourself bowing down to pressure

I used to think bae was the short for babe. My wife enlightened me, like a sage : Babe, it stands for Before Anyone Else. And I felt like a babe (a child!). Feigning ignorance, I asked: “Does that make me your bae?” She didn’t find that funny!

Besides the fact that it prevents the elders from figuring out that the person next you in the photo hash-tagged #bae is actually more than a friend, I feel it is a privilege it is to be someone’s bae!

Continue reading “Bae”

Verses for the new year

Happy new year!

Are you happy enough?

Now I needed strength to enter the new year because of the feeling that I hadn’t enough strength to sustain the youth ministry I am in. Looks like I may be here in this city for one more year, ensuring a transition in the ministry from one Youth Chaplain to the next.

Encouragement came through the Word of God – the Word that creates and sustains. I hope this encourages you too!

Three verses came to my rescue at a time the feeling of inadequacy to lead a youth ministry gripped me, at the end of 2017 :

2 Samuel 23:10

but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

This appeared as I was reading Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson, a book that has found its way into my heart, family life, ministry, sessions and sermons! The verse emphasized the perseverance of Eleazar at a time his troops seemed to be losing the battle. He fought on…

… till his hands froze to the sword …

Hang on in there, Mathews, the verse seemed to say to me.

Isaiah 11:1

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

A verse read at every Christmas carol service, yet overlooked, as most don’t listen to the lesson readings in between the melodious carols.

A stump is what is left after a tree is chopped down. It bears no hope for fruit bearing or growth. It’s a sign of destruction and hopelessness. Yet Isaiah, driven my the prophetic vision conveys the imagination of the God he serves :

There is hope even for a stump.

God will enable life to emerge even from that which is dead and hopeless.

That’s enough for me and the ministry I am given. It’s not me who is leading it, but the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of life. Not only will a shoot come out of the stump, but also will the root bear fruit!

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

This passage lit up again while I went through a sermon I had prepared in October. It reinforced the above two verses. Together with these, I entered the new year with great hope and I wish you do too.

I was wondering how to sustain the momentum and growth of this ministry I am in. Sure it’s what I have always wanted to do! Now it needs further growth, more impact and expansion. And I don’t exactly know how, although I have made plans for the year. You could say, I am blind and can’t see the way forward.

But this verse, yet again from Isaiah, reminded me to hold the hand of the one I serve and just walk along, to places that I never knew. That’s super exciting. And he will shed light amidst darkness and make rough places smooth.

That’s enough. All I need for a new year is here. Now all that we might need is coming back and reading these verses every day.

I hope these verses encourage you. Let it brighten up your heart and fill your limbs and joints with strength. May the Word of God spur your will to be the blessing to this world you are meant to be.

An Indian Christian perspective on ‘sexy’

An Indian Christian perspective on ‘sexy’

A well meaning forward is doing the rounds on WhatsApp. It is about a Christian grandmother teaching her grandchild the meaning of sexy, as she dresses to go to Church. Allow me to add a few of my thoughts on it below, after quoting the said forward.

LOOKING SEXY AND DRESSED TO KILL FOR CHURCH SERVICE

The following conversation took place between a grandmother n her granddaughter. “Grandma: Akosua, where are you going?

Akosua: Grandma, I am going to Church.

Grandma: Really? Please come n sit down n let’s talk for a minute before you go. I think we still have ample time before the Church Service begins? Don’t we?

Akosua: About an hour, Yes.

Grandma: The way you are dressed, in fact, you look very sexy.

Akosua: (Smiling) Thank you very much grandma. Grandma: Hmmm, Akosua, I can see you love that compliment. Please tell me, do you need someone to have sex with you?

Akosua: Ooh noo.. Grandma. Why this question?

Grandma: If you do not need someone to have sex with you, then, why do you dress ‘sexy’?

Akosua: There’s nothing to worry about, Grannie. I just want to…

Grandma: (cuts in) …dressed to kill, as usual! Akosua, a Godly girl should never feel proud or swollen-headed when someone tells her that she looks ‘sexy’. In fact it’s a very bad and insulting compliment. The intention of dressing sexy is to arouse men, That’s all. That’s the reason why prostitutes dress this way. They dress this way because they want someone to have sex with them n pay them. They do everything possible to ‘look sexy’ n attractive – not to just one person, but to the entire men in town! They expose, they wear things that will reveal all their endowed curves – just to ‘look sexy’ and attractive to men, for money. Please, Akosua, are you also trying to look that way so that you will be attractive to men for sex?

Akosua looked down, and was speechless.

Grandma: You are young, fit and attractive, although you are a Christian, yet you always look so worldly. When you dress like this to Church, the probability of bringing even the pastor down is very high. But remember that *’woe betide the one by whom a righteous man is made to fall…’* I know you can remember this scripture very well. Well, my beloved grand-daughter, I am done. You can now go.

Akosua : Thank you very much, Grandma. I have never looked at it like this before. From today onwards, I promise never to dress again ‘to look sexy’ . I will rather dress to look beautiful and glorify GOD with my dressing. Thank you very much Grandma.

Grandma: You are welcome, my dear. (Seeing that Akosua started going towards her room, she said) But, are you not going to church anymore?

Akosua: I will go Grannie. I just want to change my dress, first.

Grandma: May God bless you for doing that.” Please share this story with your friends, most ‘sexy looking girls’ do not have someone to tell them the truth.

Sisters, don’t just read it, please react to it- just as Akosua did because we are addressed the way we dress. Let us dress right to reflect the Godliness in our lives!

SExy

Here is what I think about that message above from a Christian perspective :

The human body and beauty

The human body is created by God. God wanted to and He did. (Genesis 1.26-27).
He created all things and found it good. After creating humans, he found creation very good. So, beauty is God’s gift.

Enter, Shame

Shame came after sinning (Genesis 3).
Nakedness or no clothes was not sinful in creation. Until they sinned humans didn’t feel the need to be covered in cloth.

The problem of sin

But sin has entered the world, as a consequence of our actions. It caused  a feeling of inadequacy, a sense of “not good enough”. Lust comes under one of those. Note Jesus’ words to those who have lust towards a woman, even a fully clothed woman (like in his times): But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  (Matthew 5:28). Adultery in the Old Testament is punished by death. The grandma in the story seems to have forgotten that verse.
If one can’t stand feeling lustful with a woman who is wearing a dress of her choice, the problem lies with the beholder. It shows a lack of the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in them, one of which is self-control. Such people, ought to ask for grace and more of the Spirit.

If sexiness is about sex, then…

Sex within a God ordained relationship ( as seen in Adam and Eve) is sacred, beautiful and part of God’s plan (Genesis 1.28). Sex outside marriage is not part of its purpose, and is neither fulfilling nor sacred. It creates unwanted complications in relationships and much trouble and dissatisfaction within the soul. Any leading towards sex outside a marriage relationship, is to lead towards sin, be it man or a woman. Any such sexiness that is meant to evoke sexual feelings ought to be towards one’s spouse. In a Christian understanding, it is God who blesses and seals a marriage. That’s where that kind of sexiness becomes meaningful.

Too sexy for your shoes? Varied meanings of sexy.

Linguistics tell us that words have denotative meaning (what it actually meant) and connotative meaning (layers of meaning, that add on over time). Sexy originally means something that evokes sexuality (denotative).

However, over time and due to over use, the word has become part of casual conversation to describe anything that is attractive. Sexy phone, sexy shot (cricket), sexy interiors (houses), sexy beats (music), in addition to  the word in its actual sense. This causes confusion. The way she uses it may not be how I use it or how they use it. It doesn’t, these days, always imply “I want sex.” It has, however, become more of a substitute for attractive, no matter how unfit  you may think the term is. That’s a lot of connotative meanings or additional layers.

Dressing sense is common sense

A sense of dressing is important for any occasion. I’m sure that not many interview candidates who wore shorts to an interview for a Corporate ever got the job. Why? Isn’t the candidate free to wear what s/he wants? Obviously, the candidate uses the gift of common sense and determines that something more formal would suit the occasion.

It’s the same when it comes to worship, youth group and camps. Since the focus is on God, his beauty and Majesty, wouldn’t it be robbery to steal the limelight by wearing a flashy outfit- be it boys, girls or even clergy? 😉 I think so. May God be the centre.

God admires beauty because He is its creator. He has also given the gift of common sense.

The Indian situation

When it comes to the Indian situation, most of us ( I’m addressing Indian christian youth) worship in an intergenerational setting. Elders, youngsters, kids, couples, etc. all of whom find theirselves at different stages of their life. The various people grew up in varied points of history with distinct social etiquette. Their sensitivities vary.
What might be shocking to the other could be normal to another. However, as Paul suggests, Christians must be sensitive to the setting and then make their decisions. Will what I wear cause a disturbance in the community when it comes to worship?  Will I hog the focus, even though its not my fault? Then sensitivity is paramount.

What is ultimate : Seeking the salvation of all.

The above doesn’t mean I live in fear and self-doubt. We ought to ask ourselves : which are the places where my beauty and attractiveness will glorify God? Be in all your splendour there! That’s the conclusion the grandma comes to which is indeed Biblical. However, responsibility on the part of the male is missing from the forward.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10.31-33