Synergy

Praise God.

I am pumped  after a meaningful workshop that the game changer project could organize for young couples and those planning to become one.

The team work with committed youngsters made it, as one of them described, ” a great journey.” Praise God for them.

The highlight was that the young couples felt Christian marriage was a beautiful thing and GOD wanted it to be so.

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Imagining another life

If not a pastor, what other vocation could I imagine myself in? A picture from a news piece in the latest The Week magazine, set off fireworks in the brain centre for imagination.

The picture was of an editor who had been working with HarperCollins India.

I can imagine myself as an editor. Sitting all day with books and manuscripts. Reading through draft after draft in an office/study room by a window. Everyday. Meeting writers with potential as well as well-known ones, discussing their writing.

A room full of books. Reading various works, reflecting upon the world, being thunderstruck by ideas, watching storyteller after storyteller weaving their narratives as they firmly grip the reader by their imagination until they emotionally choke… Just a few things I imagine. Of course, there will be work pressure and deadlines like any other job. Perhaps even travelling to various meetings and conferences – all part of the daily life. Somehow, the office seems to be cozy, with lots of coffee, whenever you need!

I have tried imagining myself as a musician. Somehow, it doesn’t work well for me. I love music, I play it, perform it and more often teach music at Christian youth gatherings. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to do so. But something about the musician life cannot be done full time. I have read biographies and write-ups on musicians and bands most of which convey the busy life of performing and travelling which eventually takes over your creative time and steals away your energy to be saturated in learning and inspiration. One needs to learn and grow spiritually and physically. One has to find time to read and reflect, learn and study discerning the signs of the times and respond.If music performance takes over the input time, then the output will suffer. In my experience it is very difficult to keep up your routine while you travel.

Having said that, I believe there is no greater influencer like music. It is a powerful medium that can express a passionate message in words and tune combined. I know that. Everyone believes it. Just imagine the number of tunes that were perpetually on replay as we grew up. We internalize the messages songs carry.

Every community has its songs and music. From religion to road-shows during electoral campaigns music is everywhere. Human beings are basically rhythmical beings and music, powerpacked with tune can form bonds even change lives, keep faith alive, bestow hope and express emotion. It is a great medium to embed a message. I have an experience to testify to this. 

I was entrusted with the task of leading sessions at the vacation bible school held by the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Sunday School of Sharjah. 1500 children were a number I had never led prior to this. It scared me to bits wondering how on earth I would minister to them, and hold on to their attention. Don Thomas, the VBS leader in the year prior, was very encouraging and constantly assuring me of his prayers. I had recently been worried and down at that time, overwhelmed by the vast area of my ministry and the sheer scope it had. On sharing that with Dr. Mary George, a counsellor and psychologist, who had been actively participating in the youth ministry, she encouraged me to use my talents of cartooning and rapping. I never considered myself as good at them but had fun when I was inspired to explore them. Whatever you are passionate about is in important part of you – and therefore – part of your ministry. That indeed was an eye-opener. Being an introvert I was too shy to use them and hadn’t even considered myself or my material worth using in that way! Sharjah VBS was an opportunity to minister for the Lord Jesus through my rap. The children jumped along and we enjoyed rapping four-line summaries of each day’s teachings and verse, wrapped around a “hook”, or chorus if you like. Nearly everyone in your visual horizon would join in. Pack along actions for the hook and everyone’s praising God with full body involvement. I hope the children remember the hook – Jesus is the king of my life.

But I’m unable to see myself as a full time musician, somehow.

But here as a pastor, working in a fledgling youth ministry, you get to do it  all for the glory of God. 

A few insights from Pokemon Go!


The exhortations in the picture sounded like Jesus. It seemed like the divine, to which nothing is a limitation, was bursting forth through the game screen. It was foolish of me to attempt the game on 2G but that’s what turned my attention to the message on the screen that had the plausible resemblance to a Bible message. Another look at the screen made it seem straightout of the Book of Revelation, which gave me a smile. Pokémon Go was now kindling my imagination.

Alas! Three Bible verses popped up in my head as I stared at the note on the screen: 

Luke 12:46a The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 

1 Peter  5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
The first talks about the return of Christ of which we know nothing of the day and the hour. We are simply asked to be prepared. There simply is no time to mess around and we have no business doing so! Keeping our act together, living according to the guidance of God through the Word, worship and fellowship, was paramount, lest we fall into the clutches of sin and darkness.The  second verse warns us from taking things lightly all the time, making us aware of the dangers we could fall into. We are hearing reports of people who endangered their lives chasing Pokemons and even crossing international borders, gravely violating rules without realizing. 

The third verse that came to me was :

Matthew 26:10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.

How beautiful! Jesus was aware of the deepest longings of the woman who was anointing him. He saw through the daring of a potentially shameless woman who was being despised for being present too near him;  for crossing the Jewish line of etiquette and  socio-spatial gender boundaries. Why would she do that?

Let’s consult ourselves first. We chase Pokemon for fun, right? Are you sure? What’s in a game that seeks to catch creatures that are not there physically yet exist on the screens and the technology mediated world of virtual reality? Surely, it’s more than fun. There’s a sense of achievement. The Pokemon we caught which others haven’t  enhances our sense of uniqueness.  Everyone wants to feel special – and appreciated. We all want our moment when we are accepted, acknowledged and asked for. 

In gathering together at the gyms and other public places, defending our Pokemon’s, we seek community. We all want to know that we are not alone. If we are too proud to ask the company of others, we can form communities (that may or may not last),” accidentally, through these defensive alliances. Yes, we want relationship. We are a different person,without them. We seek proximity and interaction, we seek protection and care. And we go after Pokemon. We live, move and have our being in a broken world that chases after… Pokémons. 

Jesus is aware of what we seek. He asks us to be aware of what our neighbour seeks. Just as he was. Aware of her  deepest longings, Jesus tells speaks on behalf of her, calling her act, beautiful. Despite her brokenness, the woman knew where to go. Do we know where to go with our brokeness? Which way do we guide the broken people around us, especially the ones who come our way?

So the two injunctions that appear as Pokémon Go loads have deep meaning for anyone who seeks a meaningful life – one that we can truly call LIFE. In short, the Truth – that which is real, which is actual. No floss. 

And there is one who said “I am … the Truth.” Leonard Sweet tells us that in Christian faith the Truth is not a statement, law or method; it is a person.

If Pokémon symbolizes that ultimate thing we are searching for inorder to satisfy us, then, Jesus is the ultimate Pokémon. May our search for Pokémon lead us to the Truth who is none but Jesus.

He is waiting to embrace you when you find him.

Good enough to divine

(I wrote this on my facebook page and thought it should be part of my blog as well.)

The message that we are ‘never good enough’ floods our minds through the media, advertisements as well as work/peer/popular culture. It’s so powerful  that it’s a constant battle within oneself to accept and acknowledge that one is created with perfection, potential and for a special purpose; that one is capable of making one’s own as wells as others’ life meaningful.

Even pastors go through this struggle and find themselves in the presence of God with these thoughts.

We need to resist all the negativity, starting from ourselves. We must strip away the plastered walls of our hearts and minds of external powers  surrounding us as they attempt to
label us, to contain us, to disfigure our conscience, to maim our limbs of agency, to push us, into depression and hopelessness.

We need to place ourselves in a different story than the negative, market- engineered, media hyped, ad-varnished, seemingly permanent ones told to us by the world around us. That’s not our story, as real as it looks.

We are part of a divine, more human story. We matter. We are special. We are capable of helping people realise that they are special. We are rescuers of those whose “specialness” is tarnished by the world around us. We have a purpose. Yes, we make mistakes, but we can turn around correct them and resolve not to repeat. We are not meant to break down, but to hold one another close, in each other’s ups and downs. You are not just good enough, you can be … divine.

Mat,
Feast of Ascension.

My life be like… ooo aaa ooo – Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 ( of course) :

…talking about habits worth emulating!

Part-1 can be found  here.

( Picture courtesy:  http://dumbbellsanddragons.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/whatwerepeatedlydo-@allielefevere.jpg  )

 

Continuing…

2. Prefer phone calls to messages. Reminders can be text messages and email.

3. Advance planning and concretizing.

Rev. Shaji Thomas, whom I worked with for their parish camp,in Bangalore,  shared with me how he goes about his pastoral ministry. He plan many months in advance and brings out a list/brochure/ colourful something. Colourful somethings look great and people want a copy of them. Most important – you have sat down, planned and made the effort to route the way the year should go.

4. Contribute to your relationship through occasional phone calls like Kunjumon Uncle. He calls every Monday morning. Even if you aren’t that regular, call once in a while. For that you need to have a list of people to be in touch with.

5. Email/ phone/ text people at major occasions such as Christmas. It is a meaningful gesture. Especially people who hosted your stay, blessed you by driving you to the railway or bus station/airport, etc. Keep a separate list of such peoples’ phone number/ email address and note it down in Google Keep or Evernote under the title- ‘indebted’. If one has such a crunch of time, one may pre-set customized messages and schedule their sending time.

6. Post- programme ,   the next day or so, give a call to express gratitude and appreciate the way they handled the events. Positive comments on their hospitality means a lot to the organizers. I know, because I have been there.

7. Keep envelopes, stamps and notepads ready to write to people words of gratitude, wish them on special occasions, “ we remember you” notes. People still feel special when they receive a handwritten note. If you are creative, you can add a tad bit of art as well on the page. I can do so since my wife is gifted that way and enjoys that.

8. Write short devotions daily, like Saji Thomas achen and Jijo Varghese achen. Their discipline is worth emulating. Anyday! Prince Varghese achen’s audio devotions are similar disciplined efforts, which requires saying things precise and recording it without a glitch. His ability to speak clearly without ‘hmm’ and ‘uhhh’ and to have a  meaningful illustrations embedded in those precise devotions are really impactful. I hope to be there someday – not to be known for doing them – but just to get myself to be that disciplined. It’s something worth striving for.

So here they are! I am about to start practicing these. Slow and steady. One day at a time.

Do you see things in people that are worth emulating? Then share them here! Thanks.