Friday, October 13, 2017

Living the mandate...

I had some leave in hand after working a hot month where I was doing twelve hour stretch duties night and day.I looked at the holiday brochure and nothing appealed.I decided to google christian retreat centre and that is how I came across Stanton House.I kept my options open but wrote to them.The letter I received was so hands on and had an air of familiarity.Ruth had written back saying they would book a room for me for the days I had asked for if I wanted.It was in a village in Oxford.
Stanton house is run by two couples who felt a call from God to run this retreat centre,and it apparently runs full all the year round.We were ministered to by one couple.Ruth is practical,matter of fact and is very efficient and John ,the other half has a sensitivity of a deeply caring man of God.Ruth fed us with wonderful home-cooked meals and John with kindly concern and the word of God in devotions every evening after supper.There were seven of us from different walks of life,I was deeply touched to see the impact of a ministry like theirs were making to different people who walked through their door.There is a baptist vicar who had a calling from God to visit this place every wednesday.He spends time in the prayer room and is available to counsel.There is a prayer room and a community kitchen stocked with and breakfast material.The rooms are comfortable with settings strategically decorated to keep the creative and reflective juices flowing ,each room has this writing desk which beckons you every now and then to write something.One is very clear that money should not be a factor keeping one out of Stanton house.
My welcome verse was one on worship.One can hear the birds,the nature,the bells from the distant church ring.One has access to the green grounds which actually extends all the way to the sheep farm.International church volunteers help Ruth and John with the management.One feels direly tempted to pitch in because one feels so much at home.
What impressed me more than anything was John and Ruth's willingness to share their lives with everyone that walks in through the door.I often found them at my door calling me for supper incase I had missed hearing the bell.It was humbling to see them like a family member running up the three stories and standing outside our door.The meals were the time the hosts would expertly draw every member in,asking questions and just expressing interest in each of our lives.
The evening devotion is called the thought for the day and it was never over the top.We looked at the different aspects of the charecter of God apart from being a father.We also looked at the mount of transfiguration and the God's affirmation of His son.The last evening, it was a simple message on how straight after the Mount of transfiguration ,Jesus comes down to face disciples who bring before him a dumb boy,they cannot heal.The message was simple.Jesus is with us when we have our mountain top experiences and He is with us when we go down to the valley to do the mundane.Visitors like me are there around the year except for a fortnight in December.
I am more than convinced that pulpits and conferences have their moments,often few and far between but it is in the mundane of serving ,like Ruth behind the apron in the kitchen or John filling in the gaps,I often chanced upon him washing,stocking up the community kitchen,clearing the table..behind the scenes,...and yet was always available for us,one feels the presence of the Lord .....for a christian, home is where the Lord Jesus is honoured ....and I felt at home in Stanton House.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

When Peace Like A River (hymn with words and music) - Horatio G. Spafford

My God,My God......

1.Whenever I want some meat I attend the baptist church,they stick to the scripture and also gives us cues to further reading.
Today we started a study on the book of Ruth.I was attending church after two weeks of missing it because of night and day weekend duties.I had forgotten how beautiful it is.
We concentrated on the 1st chapter.
The first chapter outlines the life of an israellite family of Ebimelech and his wife Ruth and their two sons who leave Bethleham their homeplace and migrate to a pagan land of Moab because there is famine in Bethleham.
While in Moab Ebimelech dies.Their two sons marry girls from the foreign land but soon even the two sons die.So the three widows are left to fend for themselves.Naomi hears news about Bethleham being blessed by the Lord again so decides to go back home
and she finally does with one of the daughter in law who refuses to leave her and comes back to her land.

The learnings on it and the reflections were-
God was interested in the situation of a single man.
The anecdote happens in Bethleham .
Bethleham actually means ,'a house of bread'.
There is famine in the house of bread,it does not tell us how but as a consequence of people of God turning away from Him.
The famine may have been caused by invaders,by internal disease and malaise in the society,failure of crops..but one thing is clear God had turned His face away from that region for a time,as a result of disobedience ,that is how Naomi interprets it.
Ebimelech decides to take his family away to Moab,which is fifty kilometres away beyond the dead sea.
Why did he choose Moab ? Moab was a place which harboured a contempt for God and was a pagan land.Was Ebimelech in God's will or was he suffering from a malady that often troubles God's people of disobedience and discontentment that made him to choose 'death' in certain sense.
Ebimelech had run away from death in the land but it pursued him to Moab.
2.The second charecter we come across here is of Naomi,who in own words ,when she comes back to Bethleham says,'I had gone away full but have come back empty handed.'She lost her husband,two young sons and a daughter-in-law.But beyond the loss and the bitterness or 'mara' as she calls it she has the underlying trust in the Ellshadai.
One often finds that christians find it hard to grieve and we put on a brave face in public for ....As John Ortberg puts it'hiding away in the cave with our pain'-but our omnipotent ,omnipresent God finds us even in that cave and does His work in us.When we lose our loved ones ,there is an empty space and our lives do change forever ,never to be the same again.
Expressing pain and discomfort is legitimate and healthy and necessary.What more legitimacy do we want then the picture of our savior shedding great drops of blood while He prayed ,'if you will Lord let this cup pass from me ,and yet not my will but yours be done' or the Christ Himself crying out on the cross,'My God,My GOd,why have you forsaken me?'-the pain was real,whether physical,mental or spiritual and our Lord when He expresses the pain also stands with us in the dark,difficult and painful areas of our lives reassuring us that he has been there and knows what it is like to be there,and it is allright to feel the pain and express the distress.
In our hardship and grieving we will experience the comfort of Elshaddai.He will be our mountain of shelter and strength.
We concluded the service with the story behind that beautiful hymn,'when peace like a river attendeth my way...when sorrow like sweet billows roll...'
This was a hymn written by Horatio G Spafford.

'Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family — a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.

On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”

Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.

According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,

It is well, it is well with my soul.


It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul

Anna gave birth to three more children, one of which died at age four with dreaded pneumonia. In August 1881, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem. Mr. Spafford died and is buried in that city.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rediscovering my love for tea,onions and....

I had heard of many things becoming clearer as we go along in life but age teaches one a lot of things one just used to bustle through and not really give a second thought to in life.
I recently discovered my preference of a good tea over coffee when I have gobbled down both all my life.I am not talking about a dhaba tea or the indian chai but a good quality tea leaf brewed well with milk,with or without sugar.It has always been served in my house and yet I never gave it a thought.
At home one really is never hard on choices because one is not stretched or challenged to the limit,I firmly believe the joy of something comes through when one has earned it.Life is very different at home.
The other thing that has surprised me is the taste of fried onions.I was out for lunch where I had ordered fish and chips and there were multiple choices in an add-on side dish,one of them was fried onions.Now who in India eats fried onions as a side dish?Anyways for the want of a better alternative I went for it..and it was fried onion in a batter like our good old onion pakoras but the quality of oil used was better I think,so it tasted pretty good and I did not get a headache after that.
Every week when I go grocery shopping I pick out a multiple pack fries because it is so much more easier to eat it when one is quite short of energy whether at home or at work.Needless to say that the flavour I have zeroed down on are cheese and onions.However,last week I made it a point not to pick the fries and I have lasted a week without them.I am into a bit of experiment.
However onions have become a regular part of my grocery shopping.
I saw a young iranian kid,barely twenty six,newly married, happened to come into the acute care with relentless diarrhoea and vomiting.Apparently had been to Germany where he had a pain in the abdomen was treated for it,did not get better so he had come back to his home of residence .He was pretty scared that he would die and kept asking ,'Am I dying?because I have recently got married.'I felt such compassion in my heart for the kid.
Then there was this lady doctor in a burkha who would keep flashing a very friendly smile to me ,one fine day she walked up to me and asked me,'Are you from Ladakh or Sikkim?'.I was stunned ,I would have thought she was somewhere from the middle east.She was actually from Kashmir.I felt a sense of joy to know that she was from India,but also a niggling sense of deep pain at the situation in the valley,an open wound festering on India's arm that seems to bleed forever and continues to hurt everyone who loves India.
I have a lot of breaks coming up in the next few days before I get into my regular slot.I have been skimming through the holiday brochures to see where I could spend some time,eventually I have zeroed down to spending a short time in Stanton house retreat in Oxford with the Word.
Also got the news that my friend Sheba lost her mother.I have had the joy of meeting her twice in my life and have enjoyed her hospitality.I have always been struck by her quiet,smiling presence.I cannot even begin to fathom what a great loss it must be for the family,though for a short time, for in a blink of an eye our earthly lives are over but we continue our journey onwards in eternity.
My prayer is 'Father please keep us safe by your side till we meet on the other shore'-In Christ's name we ask.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

To truly see.

Sisters are such a precious gift from God.I am tripple blessed,I have three.Today is aie Mimi's birthday.Aie Mimie is two years older than me and we have been buddies since the time I remember.I was the younger and so have always had my way with her.She would let me win every race,take precedence in all the games we played as a kid,This day I celebrate her innocence,her prayerful dependance on God as she stewards two little children from difficult backgrounds in a christian upbringing,as she wrestles with the sheer schedule of everyday living teaching her college kids and yet holds all the certificates to her name.She is faithful and comitted in the way she looks after mom and dad,ever mindful of their desires as she takes all the effort to fulfill it in what way she can.I am grateful to God for her.
She was the tomboy of the family.Always included in all the adventures my brothers planned out,whether it was hiking,going to the cardomom fields for the yearly survey,running after wild horses,or wrestling with the boys.She was an athelete in school winning shotput,javelin and the disc throwing events,she was also good in marathon.An average kid in school she excelled from her 11th standard and went on to pick up the maximum number of certificates in the family.She always remains a child at heart it seems grappling more with life than the rest of us.
Last week Nabeel Quereshi died.I have never set my eyes on him as a person but he was mere 34 years when he passed away to glory.I was deeply touched by his life and his testimony and his passing away had a deep impact on me.A pakistani immigrant in America,had such an impact in his short life on so many people around the world.God's infinate grace helped him see.He was a chosen vessel of God,meant for His glory.
I realise how finite our lives are and how we spend the major portion of it chasing after things which have no eternal value.We live trying to live to other people's expectations and it is when we face death that we have to come face to face with our fears and most importantly the God we know.
How well do we know our God?Is it a borrowed faith that we have built our lives on ,do we truly know our God?It is only by God's grace that we come to junctures like his when we truly have to face ourselves through unsmoked mirrors.
As Elizabeth Browning famously said,

"The earth is crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
the rest sit around and pick blueberries."

Father,help me to truly see.
In Jesus' name.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A heartbeat away..

Two things happened this week that made me feel vulnerable.I am known to be a tough cookie otherwise.
I have been following the Harvey and the Irma story quite closely and have beem praying with the beleivers since the 1st of September when the Lord put it in my heart.
On thursday mprning I found a small paronochia forming in one of my fingers.It was painful but I pushed it to the back of my mind while I continued to work.The second day ,there was pain but it was busy and so I ignored it again.In the morning one of my colleagues insisted I run down to the minors and see someone there ,but I was caught up with the work so ignored it.Towards mid-morning I noticed a reddish track forming along one side of my finger all the way to the back of my hand(Tracking),so I ran down to the minors and registered myself.The nurse practitioner who looked into it was very kind.She put a nick,squeezed out the pus ,put a water proof bandage and gave me enough Flucloxacillin for the next five days and kept asking me if I was okay for work.I was finishing my duty in another hour or so.I felt comfortably vulnerable and very grateful to the NP in the busy A and E.
It was a friday,two whole days of weekend to rest and enjoy.
It had been a busy week and I start with my hot from next week where I work longer hours and also have a lot of zero days for the next one month.
In the evening I decided to cook some rice and dal and store it for a week.I put them to cook and forgot about it for a cool half and hour.By the time I realised it the rice and the dal had charred to bits and the kitchen was full of smoke,the fire alarm started and went on till the fire officer came and put it off.
It made me realise how vulnerable our human lives were.having heard about a young doctor in Liberia who got charred to death in the accomodation he was living in,it could have been me.
This morning speaking to my near ninety years old father,I felt vulnerable again.I realised while I jaunt around the world doing what I do ,how dependant on his just being there I am.This is a father who can never see a tear in the eyes of any of his children,soft,kind,always there for us.
I spoke to my mother ,she has always been the strong one,the disciplinarian.
I realised anew how dependant on the grace of the almighty God we are everyday.
'What is man that you are mindful of him,son of man that you care for him?'Psalm 8,vs 4.
Whether it is a Harvey,Irma,fire,earthquake,sickness or is just a heart beat away-we live and breathe in Him by His grace alone.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday in London thus far.

I booked myself into the summer accomodation ,Prince's garden of the imperial college,comfortable room in the heart of south Kensington ,along the exhibition raod leading to Prince's consort road ,across the road from the science mueseum and the history museum.Hyde park and the Kensington park are five minutes walk along the same path.Amazing location!Breakfast went with the accomodation.A generous english breakfast.Good way to start the day.Met Dreier,a french data analyst who was on a break in the area as well.
I spent the morning walking through Hyde park,something I have wanted to do since I landed in the UK.I remembered some bits from my visit earlier.I spent the morning with flowers,ducks,a squirrel,the water and the expanse of green, memorials gallore,psalm 25 in company of a statue of a woman aiming an arrow ,held up by four people with water flowing out all around her and below the chalice that held her is a torch made of cement.It made me think a bit.
I walked to my heart's content and then took an underground to tottenham court to attend the hillsong church in the Dominion theatre.
Brian Housten was visiting from Sydney.I reached when the worship had started and the dominion theatre was packed to the hilt.I somehow found a seat in the stall.
Brian's message was short,impactful and the prayer powerful.
He spoke about taking stewardship of the changes in our lives because whether we liked it or not,changes would definately come.
He talked about Peter who after he had betrayed Jesus thrice,comes out and weeps bitterly ,in other words his betrayel of Jesus overwhelms him,but Peter's life is a life of ongoing transformation.
Same with David,when he decides to fight Goliath he talks like his life as a shepherd was already a thing of the past and there are three things that helped him to move towards his God-given destiny.
1.He knew the source of change.He knew God.
2.He had a motivation for the change-Firstly he had a cause-He pertinantly asks ,'Is there not a cause?'secondly he had a reward in mind.The reward the king had placed for anyone who defeated Goliath.
3.He embraced the change.He spoke about his past like as though it was already behind him.
The one liner that stuck out for me was,'Our lives are as powerful as the cause attatched to it.' I was blessed.