I lived for some years near an airforce training place and would often come across the recruits on the road on their days of leave. You could readily identify them by what they wore and how they looked – their own special civvies, their cropped hair, fit bodies and lean, tanned faces. People would generally move to the side and give them space, in respect knowing they were being trained to guard the nation and perhaps, one day, lay down their lives.
My father was a police officer and I would watch the way he wore his uniform, with pride and dignity. He was always conscious of being part of the domestic protection force of the nation, and never did anything that would taint his uniform.
My husband and daughter are both law graduates and postgraduates, practicing advocates in our city’s courts. I have seen them use their black robes as the mark of their profession in the discharge of their duties within the court premises.
The Bible talks about God’s people being clothed with a particular and peculiar dress: Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful (Col 3:12-13, 15 NLT).
Israel, as God’s chosen people, were given a dress code that identified and set them apart as the nation belonging to Yahweh (Refer Deuteronomy). For that matter, every nation has its own ethnic attire which they flaunt in sports meets and other cultural events. Corporate companies and colleges have ethic outfit days or special days for such wear.
They do it only once in a while, but Christ’s disciples and followers are enjoined to wear their special wear, every minute and every hour ofevery day of every year.
In the city of Antioch so long go, something distinct happened when the good news of Christ reached the city.
According to the Relevant Magazine (link below), Antioch was referred to as “all the world in one city,” where you could see all the world’s richness and diversity in one place.
The Church came to Antioch and began breaking down the dividing barriers in a way that upset the society’s existing categories. People from all parts of the city – Jews and Gentiles alike – were suddenly coming together. This group of people was redefining community in a radical and unprecedented way, so much so, that a new word was needed to categorise what in the world was happening.The early church was called “Christians” by the powers-that-be for the first time in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It wasn’t a name Jesus’ disciples gave themselves—it was a name given to them by the society in Antioch.
Technically, the ending “-ian” means “belonging to the party of,” so the term “Christians” meant those of Jesus’ party.
It is often assumed that the name “Christian” was given somewhat flippantly or even derogatively by these powers-that-be—a sort of dismissive wave of the hand to those “little Christs.” The emphasis, however, inherent in the original Greek, is on the fact that people from outside the faith recognised Christians as a distinct group.
Just as the dress code and dress culture of the uniformed forces, the judiciary, the office-bearers of the legislative, those serving in the hospitality industry and others, bear testimony to the nature of their call and work, Christians are meant to be identified by a natural code of nature. By their very demeanor and their behavior as well as attitude, they are to be spotted and singled out as followers of Christ.
A dress code is defined as a set of rules, often written, with regard to what clothing groups of people must wear. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions. When you are participating in certain functions, entering some fancy restaurants, recognised as one of a team (sports), part of a club, etc., a dress code is insisted upon for recognition and identification.
That God expects us to adopt a certain convention is evident in the Bible, as signifying that we belong to Him and bear His Name as His family.
The question is whether you are evident to all by the very manner you deal with people, circumstance, possessions, etc.
As the song by Peter Scholtes declares: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love!
Are you clothed as God expects you to be that makes you significant in society as His adherent?
Or are you found to be unclothed, so to speak, even though you call yourself His!
When our family conducted our daughter’s wedding, I realised that while Marriages are made in heaven, weddings are done on earth!
The amount of planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, as well as the number of people involved in making it happen, is mind boggling. After our daughter’s wedding, my husband and I had a chance to go somewhere alone, and boy, did I really need it to recover, both physically and emotionally!
Much effort and work is always needed to pull off a wedding. Apart from finding and fixing a venue, meeting with and arranging caterers, printing and distributing cards, inviting and involving people, purchasing dress and ornaments, ordering return gifts and cake, taking care of hospitality and transport, choosing and ensuring decorations, a thousand and one duties need to be taken care of.
When weddings are scheduled, some have an year to get ready, while others may have just a month or even less to get it done. Whatever the time period available and the trappings arranged for a wedding, the grooming regime of the couple, especially the bride, is given utmost priority. Most women take time to plan and execute the care of their face and appearance, often undergoing beauty treatments, both au natural at home and those done in parlours.
The bride-to-be often goes for a full-body makeover, pampering herself over a month or more. A bridal package these days includes free trial of makeup and hairdo, besides threading, bleaching, waxing, polishing, styling, spas, therapy, etc. Smart brides do take care to go on a diet and exercise routine to have a well-toned and well-nourished body, in readiness for their big day.
Getting a bride ready, fitting her to look her best on a day when she will be the cynosure of all eyes is a huge task and process which the beauty industry has turned it into a lucrative business. Vendors and beauticians have grabbed hold of the trend. They have capitalised on the occasion and cashed in on the focus, making sure that the bride is indeed the showpiece of the whole thing!
In the Bible, we see that when King Xerxes, the ruler of Persia and Media, sovereign over one hundred and twenty provinces, wanted to replace his Queen because she offended him, he was advised by his counselors: Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (Esther 2:2-4).
Being a monarch of high order, these young women underwent a time of rigorous preparation and prolonged training since one of them would eventually be the next Queen. According to Scriptures, Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). They were not just prepared physically, but also drilled in deportment, etiquette, manners, protocols, customs, court bearing etc as well as taught the history of the country. They learnt the art of pleasing the king, and endowed with every training to bring joy and pleasure to the king. They had to be flawless in looks, intelligent in conversation, sober in conduct, and impeccable in character. They had to keep themselves fit and ready, not have wandering eyes or attention, focused on him and fixed on only one thing – be ready to please him and serve him when summoned. They were being groomed for one purpose and for one goal only – be acceptable to him. What a picture of all is involved in being and becoming the bride of a king!
There is a wedding in the Bible that comes in the culmination of the ages, an event that the whole of the universe is waiting for with eagerness. In Rev 19:6-8, we read thus: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people). The key here is that this bride, as any bride, has made herself ready. Without that preparation, she cannot be joined to her groom.
Who is this bride who has made her self ready for her bridegroom? It is the Body of Christ, the people of God, His Church. set apart for Him and as His Church, we are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ. We read that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for to her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault (Eph 5:26-27 NLT). As disciples and followers of Christ, we have been chosen to be His special people and are being trained to rule with Him, to be seated together with Him on His throne. We are to share in His authority and are the centre of all attention, the cynosure of all eyes and the crux of all His plans (Eph 3:10). Are we aware of the beautifying that we need to have in order to be pleasing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
There is an agenda for us and we are in the process of being made fit for the King. Are we aware of it and are we yielding to it, cooperating with the Holy Spirit Who is the One appointed and entrusted with the task of grooming the bride?
Any bride will tell you how much pain and discomfort she has to endure in order to be fully fit and in form. There is agony when her skin is being scrubbed and polished to shine and glow; there is torment when her brows are being shaped to highlight her eyes; there is exertion when her body is being toned for the best effect; there is patience when the right makeup is being chosen; there is endurance when appropriate garments are being searched for; there is waiting when various alternations are being made; there is care when matching accessories have to be chosen; there is sacrifice and testing when diet is being administered. Besides all this, there is anxiety and anticipation, fear and frustration, besides sorrow of leaving behind certain way of life and excitement for the new things ahead. All in all it is an arduous time and process, but she goes through it all so as to be the best and see her bridegroom’s eyes light up at the sight of her beauty, binding him to her all their life together. She submits to this ordeal to be pleasing to the one she will walk with until the end of her days.
As the chosen one, the Church is in the course of being prepared to be the Bride of Christ and as such, being daily groomed and vigorously prepared to be like Him in every way. Only when she is in His image, perfect and lacking nothing, can He come to claim her. If a human bride prepares herself so intensely for her earthly husband, how much more the church should prepare for her heavenly bridegroom! If a woman is willing to undergo a regime to best present herself to her man, how much more should the Body of Christ endure to be acceptable to Christ!
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11 NIV) declares the Word of God. Only when we yield and not resist the dealings and discipline of the Spirit of God, without resisting or withstanding Him, but willingly submit ourselves to His dictates can we be transformed into the image of Christ and be pleasing to Him.
The Bible declares that, Esther, the Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle Mordecai, chosen as one of the candidates for the king, had such a posture in her preparation. When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her...The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality Esther 2:15-18.
The bride of the Lord Jesus the Lamb is the Church, whom He has purchased with his own blood. He is waiting for her to complete her cleansing so that He can and claim her. The attitude and disposition of the church has to be to submit to the fashioning of the Lord, as the clay yields itself to the potter, willingly allowing herself to be moulded into His image and paying the price in patient trust until that is accomplished.
May we, as Christians and members of the Body of Christ, humble ourselves to accept the discipline and discipling of the Lord until He comes to claim us as His own.
May we with grace accept every dealing of the Lord with the understanding that His plans for us are to prosper us and not harm us.
May we proclaim And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:28-30 NIV)
Let us allow ourselves to be groomed for the King and the wedding ahead!
The Christmas story throws up a slew of events and people, primarily the call of Mary and the acceptance of Joseph, the star and three kings, the angels and shepherds, Herod and the massacre of infants, the warning and the flight to Eygpt at night, etc.
In this milieu, we often forget an important figure, central to the Christmas plot, yet neglected since he is hidden in plain sight. That person is Joseph, a man of piety and faith, carpenter by trade, chosen to be father to the Son of God.
Apart from the Catholic Church conferring sainthood and celebrating a feast each year (Mar 19th) in his honor, the christian world, in general, tends to ignore or sideline Joseph, and forget the part he played in the birth and life of Christ.
This is the season to take a hard look at him and learn from his life. Many a hidden truth comes to light when we consider him.
The cuckoo bird is a species that is best known for brood parasitism – the female visits the nests of smaller birds, selects eggs that match hers in colour, then replaces the eggs of the host with those of her own, laying four or five eggs at 48 hour intervals everyone in a different nest. The techniques used for the survival by the young cuckoo are: egg mimicry (where the cuckoo egg resembles that of the host to reduce rejection by the host); removal of one or more host eggs by the adult cuckoo (to reduce both the competition from host nestlings and the danger of recognition by the host that an egg has been added to the nest) and nest-mate ejection (in which young cuckoo heaves from the nest the host’s eggs and nestlings). The young cuckoo, being bigger than its nest mates, displaces them from the nest and becomes the sole recipient of its foster parents care.
Astounds one, doesn’t it, to realize that a bird could be as intelligent as that; or did God create them as a warning and an example to humans to guard their nest? May be so, for in life also there are many cuckoos that we need to be aware of and beware of!
My husband works as a HR officer in a well-known firm and is in charge of dealing with employee grievances and benefits. One of his duties is to settle the affairs of an employee who dies in harness i.e. see that the pension & other benefits reach the family members. At the juniormost worker level, most often he would be faced with two women presenting themselves to be the wife of the deceased, each vociferously demanding to be the sole recipient of the benefits!
Why? Unknown to many, the employee would have had another marriage, and thereby another wife secreted away. Ninety percent of the time, the second wife would have all the legal documents needed to prove her claims. The real wife or the legal wife would be the one who would not have the right files and documents to prove her position. Reason being that she would trust her husband fully and blindly to provide for her, to do everything right by her and believe him as belonging solely to her, never ever dreaming that he has been cheating her on the side.
The second one would be the smart one, making demands and ensuring that she had the right backups, fully aware that one day she would probably have to fight for her claims to his property and a portion in his inheritance, both for herself and any children she would have borne. The office would have no other go except to consider both parties, mediating and dividing the benefits between the two, since legally, the second one has the right documents to prove and assert her wifehood. A classic example of a cuckoo usurping the host from the nest!
A cuckoo could be person/persons who worm their way into the family or between husband and wife, making themselves of more importance than the husband/wife/family. It could be a job that swallows up your time; it could be money or possessions that become more important than the people in the family; it could even be a position or a reputation that could have more value than a family member or a spouse. Anything can become a cuckoo if that thing becomes of prime importance and takes the place of people especially of the family.
A woman, viz a daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, needs to be always watchful, careful and smart not to allow any cuckoo to usurp the home. This does not mean she needs to be doubtful or doubting her parents, husband, children etc but she needs to be on high alert for signs of danger. The Bible tells us to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves– it never tells us to be naïve or foolish or gullible.
A clue as to how to be wise to prevent cuckoos in your nest is found in proverbs 31 – one aspect of a wife of noble character is that she “watches over the affairs of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness” (TNIV). Another translation says: “She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive”.
The key to guarding your home, your family and your affairs from being invaded by a cuckoo is to be alert and watch over or keep an eye over everyone in your house. At no time can a woman afford to be selfish, self-centred or self-seeking if she wants to be a wise woman and build her home. At no time can you be idle nor can you allow your family to be so! Woman, you are the backbone of the house, the watchman of the family; you must be alert 24/7, irrespective of how young or how old you are! You may ask, why me; because God made you to be so and that’s His role choice for you!
As a young girl or daughter, you must be vigilant to see that your heart is guarded from developing inordinate affection for anyone outside your family, especially of the opposite sex. Women have a weakness to trust anyone who shows them a little affection; teenagers especially need to be careful when you feel that someone outside your family understands you better than your own kith and kin. It’s a dangerous age when you feel you first enemies are your household members and thereby become an easy prey to sharks on the prowl for victims. It is at such times that you could become entangled in drugs, sex and prostitution because you have become entangled in a web of deceit. The best way to guard yourself, teenagers, is to love, respect your family and keep them informed of all your things. They are your safety net; if your family also cannot be trusted, find a trustworthy older woman in church to oversee you. A cardinal rule: NEVER CONFIDE IN SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX!
As a wife, be alert to the needs, moods and upheavals in your husband’s life. Watch over his health, his dreams and aspirations, his growth and take care to be there for him. Learn to be his best friend, the one he turns to when he is upset; do not push him away with your nagging or your quarrels. I still remember a time when I was very puzzled by my husband’s behaviour every morning, just before he would leave for work. Normally an equable person, (a contrast to me!), he would become visibly agitated and tense and quarrelsome every morning. At a loss to this change in him, I took time, late one night, to slowly draw him out to talk and found the reason for his irritability: One of the secretaries in the office, who was assigned to him to type out all the official documents related to his portion of the work, had talked him and other officers to allow her to leave early, as she was pregnant. Being sympathetic of her condition and being considerate of her, they would also see to it that they would all finish their work so that she would be able to type everything out and go home early!
This put a strain on all of them, especially my husband who would cut short his lunch hour to hurry and finish his work. This lack of rest and the hurry burry of having to finish early made him lose his health and thus his irritation. When I knew this, I was rightly indignant and pointed out that for a woman, pregnancy is part of her life and not a disease. It is to be taken in the stride of life and doesn’t need excessive mollycoddling. Sure if she was sick, it was okay to accommodate her for a day or so; but to do so for all her term was not acceptable. She was sponging off on the goodness of the men of the office and had become a cuckoo in our relationship with one another – he was more concerned of hurting her rather than of hurting me! I put my foot down and insisted that he become reconciled to the fact that it is expected of her to remain until closing time – she is paid for it! Thereafter his irritation vanished and everything was right with us! Just a case of being alert to a cuckoo situation!
Remember prevention is better than cure and that it’s better to be careful than to weep later. Many a wife has lost her husband to unscrupulous women and other relationships because she was not aware of nor noticed the changes in her husband. It need not be a woman who may lead a husband astray – a wrong friendship can entangle him in unnecessary financial deals, debts etc.
It goes without saying that a mother has to have eyes all around to watch over her kids – two will not suffice! At every stage in life a mother must be aware of the needs and the silent or unspoken aches of her children, especially in their teenage years. Mother, beware if your teenager or collegegoer talks secretively on the phone, or walks out of the room to speak on the mobile. Be careful if they chose isolation over being part of the family, if they seem dreamy and in a world of their own – it means there is something in the offing. Do not get excited or excessively emotional and tear them apart but just be on the lookout. Go often to their school, college to look to their growth, attend every parent teacher meeting, get involved with their activities, invite their friends over and be a friend to them. You must be the one to teach your child the intricacies of life; be so open that they share their intimate things with you. They should be able to learn from you and not others – in short be their friend and defender.
As a grandmother give love to grandchildren and do not try to be their mother. Never put down their parents before them, but back their parents up when they discipline their children. Be the one your grandkids love to run to when they feel their parents do not understand them; pet them and teach them, especially godly things. I still remember my grandparents for the stories they used to tell and snacks they would surreptitiously give me which my parents would not!
Not only does a woman need to be alert and keep an eye on her household, she needs to keep a watchful eye over herself too! In this age where women work outside the home, we must be extra careful not to get emotionally entangled with anyone. Do not allow the thought or feeling that a particular person in your office understands you more than your husband/parents/family. When you compare another person to your husband, you will feel the other person is better for all your husband’s weaknesses are exposed to you. You have seen the other person only in the office and do not know him intimately and so feel he is better. GUARD YOUR HEART and keep everyone at one arm distance from your heart. No other person should know your heart except your husband; you are a closed book to everyone else. Never share your heart’s secrets with other men; with women it’s okay but be judicious to prevent gossip!
Even in ministry, be careful not to be close to other men in the ministry. Your prayer partner should be somebody of the same sex and never move closely with anyone, even a pastor! A pastor is also human and so be careful not to imply anything that you don’t want to. Many a minister’s ministry has been shattered because of close counselling of a woman parishioner that led to stepping beyond limits. For counsel, always seek women leaders, elders and pastors or a pastoral couple. Many a woman minister has compared her husband to another minister or co-worker in the ministry with disastrous results. Not only will you hurt yourself and your family, but you will drag God’s name into the mud.
Woman, do not be a cuckoo nor allow a cuckoo to usurp your nest. Be sober, be watchful and be a blessing!
Within a span of 6 months, I had the chance to attend a wedding and a funeral in a rural setting. Two occasions that seem the opposite of one another helped me understand the nuances and importance of such events in the life of a community.
There were certain similarities and differences between the two. Both instances saw a gathering of people (family, friends and family of families the church etc), sharing of food and fellowship, exchange of gifts and presents, besides a time of worship and word.
What was different between both was that, one looked to be a joyous and positive event, while the other a sorrowful and piteous one. One saw an addition to the family, while the other saw the loss of a beloved one. One brought a fullness, expanding the family circle, while the other left a void, shrinking the family. One extended the boundaries and bonds of relationship, while the other narrowed down the reach and extent of influence.
What is astonishing was a factor common to both – the amount of gossip, criticism, bias, judgement and analysis that was generated and articulated in each. Almost everyone, one or another, pointed out what was lacking or amiss in each event and circumstance. Not many were to say what had been done right!
Such exercise is a special feature and unique culture that is part of the social fabric of India, evident more in villages than elsewhere. People in rural areas are given to free speech, often commenting on others affairs, with no qualms whatsoever about articulating their opinions. It is almost as if they have a birthright to do so, a special nature of a citizen of India, more so its womenfolk. This is both a bane and a boon, often to be endured or tolerated, sometimes enjoyed!
Such action is really not a negative indulgence, but an action born of a sense of responsibility towards one another in the community. It is an inborn quality and inherent trait woven into the very fabric of small communities where everyone knows everyone. It is unavoidable and not something one can get rid off from people who move closely with one another. In the city, we hardly care beyond our own and even that is sometimes lacking. So, what is truly a societal process appears to be unwarranted and unnecessary interference!
Small communities, that too rural ones, exist and survive through a pattern of relationships and associations. These are upheld by habits of interchange and primary of these is speech or conversation. Often held while working together in the fields or drawing water from the common source, such talk could border on gossip or tattle. To refrain from talking or discussing about others is a mark of disinterest and detachment, something that will actually exclude and isolate you from the community.
It is true that often such talk could border on jealousy or malice or bitterness etc, but most often it is the thread that binds folks together. It even serves as a sort or mode of entertainment and enlivening activity in areas where there is nothing to do beyond work and sleep!
It is moreover an important form of communication in such towns and villages where people don’t live in clustered and cloistered as in the city. News of good and bad travel fast, covering distances and bridging gaps, a necessity where social media as well as internet does not exist or is patchy. It is the equivalent of the thandora or drum beat or the old time proclamation that existed in ancient times as the method of passing messages to all in the countryside. Also, such bonding is a need in village life where mutual dependence is a given and a must.
In the city, where things can get done without a community process, we do tend to live such isolated and individual lives, because we feel we don’t need each other. Each of us is bent on our own progress, most often at the cost of another. Many do not have any qualms or even a conscience that they are swindling another, often considering it their right to live off another. We live in the city, close to one another in space, but far from each other in reality. Even an death or disease doesn’t move us to reach out to others, but causes us only to draw the walls around us tighter. That is indeed the characteristic of urban areas and sometimes it is rightly so, since often survival and growth depend on such quiet consolidation and separate lives.
Communities thrive and flourish through communication, different though they are in city and diverse in villages.
I believe that churches and leaders should consider and not reject this aspect, but realise its redemptive potential. We need to tap into this skill and transform it into gospel proclamation instead of decrying it.
That’s what Jesus did with the woman at the well at Samaria.
Let’s flow suit and impact communities using ways and means relevant to them, speaking their own language in their own dialect of community talk!
Since 2016, I have been a regular blogger and have progressed to be a writer, something I dreamed of for years. Even during much of pandemic season, I was able to produce a steady stream of articles and projects, even though there were constraints on time. I need quietness and peacefulness to be able to think and articulate on paper or an app page. Though there was a crunch on this type of environment as the whole family was at home, I was still able to do meaningful work.
Of late I noticed that my writing has been tapering off and anyone going through my website would notice that I had posted only 3 articles in 4 months, with none in August, when my average was 1 per week. On the other hand, within the first week of November I have been able to pen and post 2 artefacts! The reason for this change was brought home to me through this Sunday’s sermon on being specially relevant, not just spiritually resurrected!
I generally watch the ebb and flow of life around me, saturate and soak myself in the various events I encounter, weigh the pros and cons of what I read or see and analyze and evaluate all of these inputs. My writing stems from this process of thinking through and drawing wisdom from everything, both positive and negative episodes.
I am a watcher of people, happenings, disturbances and a researcher of life as I experience it. Everything has become a learning process, the good, the bad and the ugly, helping me self-actualize. I receive and assimilate all as data inputs, which in turn become points and pointers for my writing, even the negatives that I meet.
I perceived that the reason my writing had tapered off and even died down for a month was because of a lack of interaction with the real world, being limited by covid to communing and communicating mostly through virtual media and medium. Social interaction had become a minimum, confined to calls (mobile, zoom or social websites), with very little in-person or face-to-face meetings. With no real input, my wellspring of writing had dried up and it was no surprise I had almost stopped writing. No real or factual inspiration!
All living beings have been created for interactive existence and thrive only with real time and space exchange. Nature is programmed to function in a give-and-take interplay regime, and would become atrophied or extinct without interactivity. Flora and fauna need daily, weekly, monthly, yearly as well as seasonal doses of sunlight, moonlight, rainfall, mist, heat and cold, as well as intermittent purges by fire or water to flourish. Pollination by insects and birds, grazing by herbivores, hunting by carnivores, trampling by omnivores, tidal cycles etc are necessary patterns of ecology and economy for the earth to thrive. Deny any of these and the earth would continue to spin on, albeit emptily, for such is the mutual complexity of lifestyle brought into play and upheld by the Creator!
Humans are no less an integral and important part of the life cycle on this earth, with added blessing of human relationships flavoring and enhancing human being. Without physical meeting together or talking face to face in person or community gatherings, the human race would become robotic and mechanical.
Nothing comforts a bereaved person better than a silent hug, for words do fail or become redundant at such times. No sick person ever lost the need for a loved one’s visit in lieu of some fruits or flowers. No celebration is complete without kith and kin as well as others being present. Physical presence and touch is of great important to all of life, not just children or pets.
The beauty of our world is this symbiotic dependence and corporeal exchange that stimulates and promotes growth as well as fruitfulness.
When pandemic began, we were hard put to stay indoors and be confined to the home.
When pandemic is fading away, we are facing a reluctance to step out to have society and social synergy.
We were made for company and companionship.
Nothing gladdens the heart or enlivens the scene than to see a group children shouting in gleeful play, or to hear the sounds of music and dance at a festival, or witness the chatter and catching up in a marriage, or watch a group of friends slap each other’s back with joyful camaraderie or egg on a group of athletes or a team of players.
Nothing stirs up faith as corporate worship and consentient prayer.
This world was made for community and combined influence.
Interaction soothes and smoothens our existence and our life.
Don’t isolate yourself and die for lack of connect.
Don’t opt for just connectivity and lose out on communion.
Want to know the impact of interaction on me? Two articles in a day!
So, resist the urge for seclusion and come out into the light to thrive. You will be blessed!
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. (Song of Songs 2:11-13, The Bible)
All through my school days I was a champion athlete, participating in various events and winning many laurels. I loved to run and instinctly developed the skills to be a good runner, more than being taught the technique to do so.
One of the important traits on the track to be a champion, especially in 100m, is to fix your eye on the end and never get distracted from it. Runners are taught to pick a point/spot on the rope once lane position has been assigned and take off for it at full speed, exerting to the best, once the gun goes off. Eyes should only be on your track lane to avoid cutting tracks and then on the spot. You have to be blind and deaf to all else, including the reaction of spectators. If your attention wavered even for a second, your speed would reduce and cost you the trophy. The goal and reaching it is the only focus you could allow yourself to have, nothing more and nothing less.
I think this training has naturally spilled over into my life, shaping my personality and work culture! I have always been focused and intent on achieving the target, reaching the point, completing the task and was either ignorant or blind to all else. I didn’t mind the price I paid, the pain I endured, the straining of physical health and the emotional upheavals. It was to be done, it had to be done, irrespective of the cost. I would never go beyond the lines and boundaries, but within the framework would often run roughshod over many things and often, people.
Though such concentration and dedication to reach the goal is to be applauded in a runner, it cannot be fully applied to all of life. Such an outlook can make you insensitive and impervious to all other aspects of people and nuances of living. Even in a job, this will make you a tyrant, autocrat or dictator, one to be feared rather than followed. In the long run, you will develop such an one-dimensional and single color perspective, becoming unaware and unappreciative of the tapestry of life, that makes it monotonous and hence, boring to you as well as to those around you!
Life is not all about winning or reaching or touching the endpoint. Nor is it about forging ahead and forgetting everything else in your bid to achieve or gain a goal. Life is not a sprint that begins and ends in seconds or minutes or even hours, but a passage of time. Life is usually a long distance run, a marathon, or better still, an odyssey.
Life is a trek to be enjoyed, rather than a series of achievement hops. Life is not a string of frog jumps from one goal to another, but a travel that meanders through a myriad of land forms often hoarding and hiding different life forms. Life is an expedition of discovery and exploration, an adventure to be tasted and savored.
Life is all about growing, evolving and transforming into greater and higher dimensions of humanity. Every experience, every sight, every situation, every encounter, every instance plays a role in this shaping and forming of us. Whether we use them positively or negatively, they do impact us daily, consciously, unconsciously and subconsciously.
To all those who are like me, I say, slow down, take stock, look around and enjoy the journey on your way to reaching your goal.
The journey is as much a part of life as is reaching or achieving the target. Being sensitive to and savoring the travel will create joy in the small things and even tiny packets of time. Such joy in the ride will compensate and make it all worth while even when you don’t reach the goal and not allow you be stuck in the doldrums. Not every operation a doctor performs, nor every work a person complete, not every race run ends in a success or a win, inspite of your best efforts. There is no guarantee in life that we would complete or achieve all the time even though we did put in all we had every time.
It is then that we realize the effort and passage itself are reward enough, especially when you done all you can. It is not just about the beginning and the end, but the in-between too!
Let’s understand that peregrination is as important as the end point and take pleasure in everything and everyone we experience and encounter, using them all to learn and mature as we progress through time.
I did not win every race I ran, but I was happy to run, to compete and to complete the race.
That, my friend, is the secret of all of life!
That, my friend is the essence of living!
The journey is as essential and as gratifying as the goal!
*Pics courtesy: Unsplash.com, shutterstock and google images
There is an old Tamil film song that used to touch my heart when I was a young child that goes like this: If Lord Jesus speaks, what will He speak? What will He speak in order to quieten a poor aching heart? These words were very dear to me because it brought God close to me, as One Who speaks to me.
Often we are in a quandary as to whether God speaks and if at all He is speaking, what is He speaking to us, especially in times of trouble.
Job, a man of great wealth and great integrity who lived in times past, also had the same question in a time of extreme suffering, when all that he believed in seemed swept away. His friend Elihu’s answer provides us a clue to this dilemma that seems universal and for all times. You can find it in the 33rd chapter of the book of Job in the Bible.
According to Elihu, God is not silent but does speak, one way or another. God does answer always, in one or two ways, even when people don’t acknowledge His presence. Elihu points out that God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.
God speaks to us ‘in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride. He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.’
God also ‘might get their attention through pain, by throwing them on a bed of suffering, So they can’t stand the sight of food, have no appetite for their favorite treats. They lose weight, wasting away to nothing, reduced to a bag of bones. They hang on the cliff-edge of death, knowing the next breath may be their last.’
In reading this we see that God’s intention is to capture our attention so as to warn us away from evil and keep us from death. God speaks to is in visions and dreams of the night with the intention of terrifying us away from wrongdoing. Since we do not hear or notice Him, He has to reach out by other means to make us listen and take notice when we are finally in bed, resting.
God does not scare us in order to make us tremble before Him, but horrifies us so that we would refrain from felony or crime, since these would lead to death. That’s God’s agenda – to scare the hell out of us so as to keep us out of hell!
We also see that God uses pain to capture our attention and not to torture or destroy us. God’s purpose is never to punish or penalize us in a vindicative or vicious manner, but to prevent us from destroying ourselves.
C.S Lewis writes in his book, The problem of pain, that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world’’. God has His own ways of waking the conscience of us when we are absolutely heedless. Of all His many tools, pain is the loudest, for it makes us take note of His word. The psalmist, King David, declares that before he was afflicted he went astray, but now he keeps His word.
To the question as to why would God deal with us so, we can only bow low and answer that it because we our insensitivity to Him. We are so stupefied and insensible to His voice of love and reason that He has to use other means to capture our attention. We have become so incapacitated by cares, riches and pleasures that we are incapable of deciphering His words. So, God has to resort to other ways of making us hear and heed Him and give Him our attention so that we can inherit life and not destruction.
To go back to our question of whether God speaks, we can safely reply, Yes, God does speak. To the question, if so, what does He speak, we can confidently say that He speaks in order to turn us from death to life. He doesn’t speak to put fear of Himself in us, but fear of doing wrong and going to hell.
The crowning glory of the fact that God speaks is found in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews in the Bible: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;’
If God speaks warnings through dreams, captures our attention through pain, what does He want to convey to us through His only Son, Jesus? What else but that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death of the cross and the way to Him has been made open by the blood of Christ!
God, through His Son, is speaking to us of reconciliation and peace with Him. He is telling us that we have access to Him through Christ. He is inviting the world to a relationship with Him and a communion with one another, made possible by the sacrifice of His Son. He is not just terrifying us to keep us from wrongdoing and hell, but also showing us the ways and means to read h Him and heaven!
Would we heed His call, the gentle still small voice of our Creator through His Son or are we going to force Him to use other means of persuasion?
The choice is ours, as He waits in the sidelines for us to hear and obey, out of our own freewill!
In one of the stories in the Chronicles of Narnia, specifically in Prince Caspian, the four children enter a passage through a tree to leave Narnia and as they walk along the dark passage, behind them they still can look back and see Narnia. Then comes a time in their walk when Narnia is no longer visible and they just have to keep steadily moving forward, even though they see nothing ahead. As they continue walking, they soon see the glimmer of their world at the other end, getting closer and brighter, until they finally they emerge into the light and their world again.
The transition itself is very unsettling, and transiting through it is indeed quite unnerving. Going through or negotiating the passage between seasons and places is often alarming because, for one, you are neither there nor here. For another, you can see what you left behind, but not what is ahead. The time of your past, where you were and what you have been, is still visible, clear and fresh in your memory, but you aren’t yet able to see the future, what you will be or how it will be. You look back with nostalgia at what has been and draw strength from it. You draw inspiration from it and even talk about it a lot, because it acts as a reference point, a solid anchor for your present. You hold on it and try to prevent it from disappearing from your purview, but you soon lose sight of it.
It is similar to journey from one place to another, but in the case of travelling the fact that you get to see places or things passing by through your window and watch where you are going, makes it pleasant and thrilling. Also, with travel, you do know the duration of the journey, even when there is a delay. It is only when the waiting gets prolonged that you become restless, but still not troubled too much since you are in touch with your surroundings and there are people with you who are also in the same predicament.
During the transition, you just have to go on even when you can’t see anything and you feel like you are groping in the dark, like a person with a blindfold. When you begin you do see and know where you are going, but once you enter in, just as in a tunnel, there will come a point and time where there seems to be only darkness all around. You can neither see where you are going nor what you have left behind. You just have to trust the way you know and the vision you have seen do exist on the other side!
This is the most tricky part and point in traversing through transition – reaching the place where you can no longer see what you have left behind nor have the comfort of seeing the promise of something ahead. There is only darkness and dimness all around, nothing concrete visible. There is no datum point to help you fix your bearings or your surrounding or anything to pin your hope on. The only surety you have is that the path you are on will surely lead to where you need to go and the guarantee of the dawn that you’ve already had a glimpse of is just ahead of you. It is time to walk by faith and not by sight, since you have no sight to see at all!
When the world around seems dark and dim and the present is the only all-consuming reality which leaves you in a bind because you feel lost, what should you do? How do you handle such time of uncertainty and the unknown?
Here are some ways to help transit through transition time:
1. Don’t panic People become very jittery and unsettled when familiar landmarks, practices, events and even people disappear from their sight or life. They keep trying to go back to what they know or do what they did before, but will find these failing to help them or give them the results they desire. Many often go back to what they are used and turn back rather than pursuing the way of the Lord. The disciples went back to fishing after Jesus death and resurrection. He had to come to their work and place of refuge, their fishing boats and fishing, to point them to what He had already chosen them to be and do – fishers of men.
2. Take one day at a time Just live for the day fulfil the duties at hand. Be content to do what you have to do daily and be satisfied with living the day to the fullest. Find joy in the small things of life and what you can accomplish with what you have.
3. Don’t plan too much ahead If you think too much of what might happen or what might be, you will lose your peace and become agitated. This frame of mind will cause you to feel even more depressed and lost. You may tend to make hasty or wrong decisions and so wait for the darkness to lighten. Live with what you know to do and what you have in hand, rather than aimlessly trying to plan for months ahead.
4. Remember the darkness is temporary but necessary Just as a caterpillar goes through a stage of being confined in a dark cocoon, you will have to pass through this time to reach the next level. This period between seasons is temporary and not permanent, something even an insect knows and hence doesn’t struggle to escape it.
5. Keep in mind the goal and vision you have seen Don’t forget what you saw or comprehended before you entered this tunnel of darkness or time of confinement. That is the goal you need to reach and for which you need this time of limitation. The passage had an entry and will surely, therefore, have an exit. God didn’t make you enter this phase without being able to help you out of it. So, encourage yourself with what you know to be true rather than being discouraged by what you see.
6. Be in and at rest rather in agitation Enjoy the season of rest that has been given to you rather wasting it by worrying. A bear hibernate’s in winter to conserve energy and strength, coming out of its cave rejuvenated in spring. Take this time to relax, catch up on things you missed, sleep well and in general recuperate yourself to face the new season.
7. Recognize the times and seasons Develop your senses to know the change that will begin all around you. Quieten yourself to watch for the signs of the season ahead, just as the lightening of the darkness signals the tunnel’s end. Begin to note the signs of dawn that portend the new day.
8. Prepare yourself for the new season Instead of moaning or grumbling or panicking, begin to acquire new skills and new competencies. Have the attitude and demeanour of a student to learn new things. Use the time profitably to develop new habits and hobbies, if possible, new experience. Realign and restore things you have lost or been unable to concentrate on in the previous season. Assess what you may need in the new season and get yourself prepped up to handle it. Don’t waste the transition time, but use it profitably.
9. Confide in a few faithful ones Have a few confidants and confide in them when the darkness becomes overwhelming or uncertainty is pressing you down. Don’t isolate yourself, but seek the help of a small number of faithful people who can and will support you in every way. Don’t try to show yourself strong, but lean on their wisdom and strength for they will be able to encourage you. Be accountable to them so that you don’t slip back or away from doing the right thing in a dark time.
10. Live by faith and not by sight Stop trying to live by what your senses tell you, but each day trust in Him. The Bible says that His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness, great. He Who made the day to appear after the night, making it an eternal ordinance, will cause the light to appear in your darkness and cause you to enter the new day. He will never let you go nor will He abandon you. So, take heart and trust in Him implicitly.
In Jermiah 48, we come across a significant passage in v11: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another— she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.
Being poured from one vessel to another, being moved from one season or place or phase to another is not easy, but if you are not, then you remain the same, without undergoing metamorphosis. There won’t be growth or cleansing or going higher. You won’t lose your impurities and become transformed.
Don’t resist transition, but bear with it and walk through it as being mandatory and necessary for progress.
You may not like it, but don’t retract or retreat from it!
During transition, stay calm and transit through it in quietmess, emerging stronger and better for having gone through it!
A few years ago I had to step back from active work because for one, the Lord impressed upon me to be at rest and to sit at His feet; two, my youngest reached school finals and I needed to be at home; and three, I found myself getting exhausted easily and realized I was worn out by multitasking, balancing home, work and ministry. Knowing I might become sick , I gave in my notice and stepped back into the home, even though I hadn’t yet reached superannuation.
There is a general opinion that it is a good thing to be able to retire early, but let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to to do so, even though I knew I nWhen we reach the season that we have bracketed as time to sit back and enjoy, we feel cheated or depressed if we don\’t attain our set goal. In our hurry to finish and wait for retirement to rest, we miss out or trample over the small things of daily life. When the time comeeded it. I had been running at such speed and working so hard that it took me a year to decelerate, unwind, slow down, quieten, pull back and come to rest. I felt guilty for not working and would often get triggered to do something, again and again. Thankfully I had a few faithful people who held me to my post and saw to it that did the Lord’s bidding, to rest.
Over a period of time I learnt to rest, accept it as God’s gift, relish it and even begin to enjoy the season. I relaxed totally, eating and sleeping well, letting my body get its make over and rejuvenation, using the time to catch up on my reading, deal with submerged hurts, gain emotional freedom and renew my spiritual insight.
I began to grasp that I was being recharged and refurbished for a new season of life. At a time when people of my age were getting ready to wind down, slow down, take it easy, I found myself ready and restored for a new lease of life. I began planning and doing a host of things, setting in motion what I would like to accomplish this phase of my life, before my call home, whenever that is. As I began to evaluate what would be the things my strength and energy would allow me to do, choose wisely what I can do and sustain for next 20 years, I noted something.
Even though we are the people of God and call ourselves His disciples who follow Him and live by the precepts of His Word, we have inadvertently adopted the world’s job profile of working till the 60s and then relaxing in what we call our retirement period. We have calibrated ourselves to the mode of such working till 60 and then doing nothing concrete after that age. We have programmed ourselves to concentrate on building up a portfolio of life, health, finances, family, travel etc to live a comfortable ‘retired life’ after working very hard. We have made and set our horizon which we strive to reach and then after attaining it, wander around lost in a mist of uncertainty, not knowing what to do and end up wasting our days.
The years beyond 60 are considered old age when, because we have decided it is time to sit back and lead a sedentary life, we become a burden to ourselves and our families. We seem to lose sight of life itself and view it as a burden, dragging ourselves along till our death. We fear the age beyond 60 and think either too little of it or too much of it. We are so terrified of it that we run ourselves ragged trying to provide for those years. We have set a false target, much before the time allotted, and therefore, end up becoming inflexible and insipid.
In sticking to such a schedule, we have committed the major mistake of trying to run a race that was meant to last 80 years in less time. We try to complete by 60 what was meant to be stretched over a lifetime of 80 years. The result of such an attitude and the aspiration to achieve in our 60s what we can get only at 80, is sad weariness and shortened life span. We end up with health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, partial blindness, hypertension, loss of hearing, and what not. The burden of trying to accomplish in a short time what must be stretched over a long period is so taxing that we tend to miss out on life and its nuances. In our pursuit of an unrealistic focus, we miss out on the process of life itself as well as it’s myriad designs.
When we reach the season that we have bracketed as time to sit back and enjoy, we feel cheated or depressed if we don’t attain our set goal. In our hurry to finish and wait for retirement to rest, we miss out or trample over the small things of daily life. When the time comes to enjoy as planned, we may be too sick to relish what we have worked for. We may end up losing all of life, not just our health, and maybe even relationships and people, because we have been too focused on the endgame rather than relishing every day. We are supposed to sustain our stamina and strength until the end, but lose it out in a bid to finish early. When we reach our end season, we may find ourselves not only alone and lonely, but geriatric and bereaving.
God has neither planned nor envisioned for us such morbid disillusionment and abandonment as our end time. His plan is for us to be well-formed and well-informed individuals, enjoying abundant and best of life just before our departure from earth or when we meet Him. The key to such a life is to realize and recognize that He has ordained and designed for us a rhythm of living, a perfect timeline, a mode of operation that will help us appropriate the abundant life He has promised and kept in store for us.
According to Moses, the architect of Israel’s freedom and nationhood, 70 or 80 years have been ordained for us to live, according to our strength. If this is the length of our days, then we need to conserve our energy until then and not exhaust it 20 years before the appointed time. We need to consider living well until the end of our days, until the last ounce of our strength has gone and we step into the grave. We need to pace and space ourselves so that we can live life to the fullest and accomplish what we have until that day of our death or the day Jesus returns. For He has appointed for us seasons and according our days so shall be your strength (Deut 33:28).
Caleb, the spy who along with Joshua refused to fear the giants in the land, possessed a different spirit. He urged the others to press forward into the land and conquer it because of God. Unfortunately, his fellow spies who brought a contrary reportcaused a setback and he ended up having to wander in the desert for 40 years along with the community. He had to see a delay in his dreams and the promises he had received, not because of his mistake but that of others. Yet when he finally enters the promised land, he still has the same drive and zeal to inherit what he had taken for his own, keeping intact the spirit of enterprising faith. We see him asking, no demanding, of Joshua that he be given the hill country of Hebron where there are giants. Forty years have passed but Caleb declares that he still has the same strength as he had that day and same fervor to possess his inheritance (Josh 14:10-12).
That the years beyond sixty are meant to the best and most fruitful time of life may be moot point, but we have never given thought to it nor realized it nor been taught as such. What is to be the most blessed and best season of our life in which we would be at full self-actualization, we have bracketed as worst time. By then we have gone through life, survived it, learnt from what it throws across our way, been totally immersed in it, saturated with its experiences, have distilled its essence and developed rich content. We are in the right place and position, with time to spare, to be able to train others, offer advice and possess the right language to communicate in the best way possible to those who are behind us in age, because of the passage of our years.
People give very high value to old wine and vintage wine that has been preserved for years is highly priced, with older the wine greater its worth. How is it then human life which by default has greatest value, is suddenly devalued and sidelined with the increase of years? When antiques, things that have existed for years, are estimated highly, why is it that people are counted less valuable with the passage of time? Why is it that highest form of life, humans are rejected as useless and not relevant? It is because we haven’t realized and accepted that old age is the best and most noteworthy season of all times!
Life is not a sprint but a marathon and so strength as well as stamina is needed if we are to complete all our lifework.
We need to sustain our energy and be fruitful till the last, and not end our life in weakness and defeat.
If we are to peak in the last season of our lives, we need to do something very important: We must not set our horizons of returns and rewards at the 60s but at 70s and 80s. We need to continue to influence, impact and even innovate beyond the age of 60.
Reassess your goals and priorities which may have revolved around your kids, but don’t give up as being useless or clueless.
We surely do need to take a breather at 60 and a time to realign to a new way of life because of diminishing physical strength, but let’s not write ourselves off.
Reach back to your dreams which you may have laid down because of your duties and restore them to the forefront of your consciousness and mind.
Renew your hold on life, reinforce your zest for living and restore yourself to live again, afresh all the years that Heaven has blessed you with beyond 60!
The age of 60 maybe the end for your job, but 80 or the end of your days is for your lifework!
To be fruitful and productive you need a lifetime, not just 60 years!
Don’t look for returns and rewards in your 60s and don’t plan for 60s. Plan and live for all the years God gives you life!
Have a new life, make a new beginning, learn a new skill, fulfil your dreams, pick up a hobby, do something you have never done before!
Be a Caleb with another spirit and conquer in ‘old’ age!