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. 

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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.

Keep writing

For the first time I received an email by someone who read my blog. It was wonderful to hear that the person had been moved to ask me some questions.

One of the things I learnt last year in ministry is to avoid evaluating oneself with tangible results. One must not chase tangible results, it can be very disappointing.

Moreover you never know whose life you touched. Sometimes you get to know later, most of the time you just don’t. The most important thing is to do faithfully what God has entrusted you with.

Of course, the moment you hear from someone who was blessed by what you shared, spoke, sang, sketched,
rapped, forwarded or wrote, is indeed a sweet one. It encourages you to continue.

But just don’t depend on it. You do what you have got to do. Let God do what He will, and just trust Him.

Thanks for writing in friend!

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Stressed out Christmas

Theoretically,

Christmas shouldn’t be this stressful. Programmes and assignments pile up one atop the other. Deadlines ring alarms in your body that affects your physiology. You are tensed. The Saviour is going to be born, Am I prepared? Travelling. Late night returns. I am enjoying being reflective. But the sequence of getting into the new year without a break is hurting my sense. ISIS and the destruction it sows and the dead bodies it reaps. Islam isn’t what these fundamentalists project. What am I doing in youth ministry? I am going to present my first paper in an International Conference on Counselling and Psychotherapy and my abstract was accepted.  Have I started working on the paper? Don’t I need to go through the latest journals for information? Oh my goodness. Where will I get time to read? Reaching out to the poor and needy around us – practicing what I am preaching. So we are going out to buy stuff. Sheesh, I wanted to to keep that a secret. So many things. Preparation for a camp coming up. What am I going to do? Am I becoming more and more like Christ? But one thing I know  – the saviour’s birth has made a difference in my life. Sharing it with other people. Wait, where are my notes. Peace. Peace? A moveable feast. Pastor as  Minor Poet. Soul Keeping. Vanishing grace. Bible. The joy of game theory. Medium. com.  Mathrubhumi Newspaper. Drinking water. Baby. Trying to stand up. Family. Consoling, encouraging, wonderful wife. Am  I being there for her enough, this Christmas time? Keeping in touch with friends. Sending Christmas wishes. Unintentional leaving out of friends and loved ones. Guilt.

Where is the reason for this season and its impact?

I must rework the approach to this season.

 

Gosh.

 

 

 

 

Cruising – A poem dedicated to the refugees who dare to dream of an elusive freedom

CRUISING.
While I slept comfortably in my soft bed
You were in the boat, before dawn
Cruising the illusive border to freedom
and safety.
 
By the time I woke up,
You had drowned
in salt: your eyes first, then,
All of you.
 
Tears and tide together
swallowed you, your children
and your dreams:
Dreams of safety
dreams of certainty
dreams of ease
dreams of peace.
 
While the ones born privileged
For no merit of their own
in countries rich and peaceful,
protected to be called “home,”
debated whether you are worthy,
migrant or refugee
you clutched on to freedom
which looked as real as the fog
that morning
as you sunk to the bottom
and emerged to the surface
as though you were in a never-ending dream.
 
You could’ve been me
I could’ve been you
You could be me, and
I could be you;
All it takes is violence
For that to be true.
………………………………………………………………………………………
Mathews George,  14 September, 2015
As another boat, carrying escaping Syrian refugees from Turkey, sinks in the Mediterranean Sea, near Greek Islands.
Cruising to freedom
Cruising to freedom. Image  Courtesy: Malayala Manorama

Returning to the barracks

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Yes, it is that time of the night, quite normally Mumbai-ish.

I’ve been visiting houses and praying while the accompanying office bearers write receipts for cheques and cash. It’s the Diocesan week and I have been learning.
I am observing, experiencing the new, the now. Widows giving beyond their means for mission. Retired Gulf-returns posing questions with flexed muscles on the relevance of this work, merely a subtext of their childish grasp on the Gandhi papers, called Money. People living in slum like areas adding the zeroes to the right of their triple digit daily wages.

More than ever it was my free course on ‘Life’. I was learning what frustration means; what desperation does, what giving reveals, what praying makes and what love breaks. I have been learning to pray from the innermost parts of my heart. I have been changing.

And nobody told me to. That’s the best part.

It’s happening and I feel it.

I don’t mind the time. The Creator of all time has given me enough and more.

And I will continue to grow in Him.

getting the youth ministry moving

If you have been following this blog, you would know that I have been in the process of finding out the meaning of my life, by experiencing each day as the Lord brings it.

Small head starts have been made in the youth ministry.

In the Mumbai and Navi Mumbai centres ( clusters) I could involve gracious youth in teaching their younger ones the basics of our faith. The youth took it up wholeheartedly that I thanked God again for the Mar Thoma youth of Mumbai. They are just ready to do anything for the Lord.

And I have been leading a couple of sessions and sharing from the Word of God and have tried to be a friend to all.

The latest is the big attempt to meet our youth with the Word of God where they are most accessible – online.Yes, you may not get them for meetings even if they want to come because of the global market work timings and the rough ride on the Mumbai local train. But they are so definitely online. So am I.

I shouldn’t be saying them, since I am one among… this group.

So what better way to get everyone on to this? The Great Lent which begins on 15th of February culminating with Easter. In the Syrian tradition churches, the lent is 50 days unlike European tradition based churches who hold lent for 40 days.

So we are having an online devotions series in which each church youth group will participate. It’s named:

@Lent

The promo is out on youtube. Do check it out and pray for it. May the Word of God reach deep down and touch hearts so that each one of us will fully become what we are meant to be – the image of God ( Genesis 1:27). The links to the devotions can be found on facebook.com/youthministrymumbai
or if you just search in youtube with the search term : @Lent.
It is amazing to see how God uses weak and sinful people like me to reach out to young lives.

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WordPress tells me I have completed 100 posts on this blog. Wow. Thanks for being with me and thanks to you from worldwide who are following this blog. God bless you.