Posted in Christian, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Fickle Nature of Man

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” ( 1 Timothy 2:3,4)

One of the many stories of the Bible which is widely known is the tale of Jonah and how he was swallowed by the big fish. For those of us who haven’t heard of the story from the Bible, it says about Jonah (or Jonas) is a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC. He is called upon by God to travel to Nineveh and warn its residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath. Instead, Jonah boards a ship to Tarshish where the boat was caught in a raging storm. He then orders the ship’s crew to cast him overboard (to end the storm), whereupon he is swallowed by a giant fish. Three days later, after Jonah agrees to go to Nineveh, the fish vomits him out onto the shore. Jonah successfully convinces the entire city of that generation to repent which was sufficient for God to spare the city at that time.

Although the feat of Jonah getting swallowed by the fish, surviving and being vomited out is remarkable; the chapters of the book stress on the fickleness of humans and the nature of God who keeps a watch over us.

The biblical principle underlined in the chapters was God’s willingness to grant repentance to whom He will. As Apostle Paul had written, “The Lord is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to all, the rich and the poor, the believers and the atheists, the young and the old as the writings of the brutal Ninevites as well as prophets have shown. While it is true that the choice is ours to accept His Salvation and His Love, the patience of the Lord is never wavering. For some, there may be trials and tribulations, while others will enjoy their relative comfort. Yet the joy and gift of His Love is known to only those chose His Way and can’t be explained but only felt when one allows Him in their lives.

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Posted in Christian, Life, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Leaving The Sandbox

A five year old girl was playing in the sandbox. Filled with a child’s unpretentious happiness, she found the simple play interesting and fun. Suddenly her mother runs up and pulls the girl out of her childhood idyll and with haste, carried her home away from the sandbox, her source of joy. Without explaining anything, the little girl was taken away from the sun warmed box of her freedom, changing the simple but happy hours of joy. Crying and not understanding what was happening, the little girl turned away from her mother screaming to go back into the sandbox. Why did the mother do it ? For from a distance, her mother had seen a huge dog broken free from its’ chains and rushing towards the sandbox. The mother knew of the imminent danger that her child was in from the hungry, ferocious and uncontrollable beast and ran to bring her child to safety.

While the child didn’t realize what has just happened, she trusts her mother to take care of. Likewise with her mother’s love and attention; she will slowly forget the bad moments, treasuring only the happy memories in the days and years to come. Deep inside her, she knows that her mother will keep a watch over her and step in wherever and whenever possible to save her from the other potential precarious situations.

Isn’t this situation similar when we find something snatched from our hands just as we were enjoying it ? Do we ever know why from time to time God takes you something that is so dear to us?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Like the caring mother God takes away from us what we take to be our sandbox like our favorite work, strong relationships, savings. Whether it is getting fired, losing a friend or suffering material loss, He takes away from us the feeling of comfort which we are so eager to hold onto. Although we may never know what is happening at that moment, in hindsight we come to realize that our life has changed for the better. For God does not always explain the essence of what is happening and its benefits for us. Yet we realize much later that the change was for our own good. Like the girl who was taken away from the sandbox for her safety, we have our whole lives ahead of us which may be unpredictable but happy if we keep our Faith steadfast in His Mighty Works.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

Posted in Christian, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Reaching the Crossbar

Grace is one of the concepts of Christianity which is quite hard to comprehend in real life. In Western Christian theology, grace has often been defined, not as a substance of any kind which is created, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”. In other words Grace is described as favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. It is understood to be a spontaneous gift from God to people “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved” that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life. In Eastern Christianity, the working of God completely, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity is what Grace is all about.

Although across the different denominations of Christianity, the definition varies the essential concept that it is not created but bestowed on. On reading the Bible we realize that although man has sinned, it is by His Love and His Mercy that we have been given a second chance. More importantly it is by His Grace that despite our lapses and our adherence to the shortcuts of living the right way, we are given another try.

While teaching the concepts of Christian principles to younger children, it is quite difficult to say in terms of definitions. So here is a story that I had seen through my social pages, (though it is translated into English) that gives us an idea about the concept of His Grace.

“Once after the second liturgy, I was drinking tea with a bun. Suddenly, a father came up to the table with a son of about five years old. The boy’s face didn’t seem bright to me. It seemed to be one of those children who are interested only in MARS and SNICKERS and how to get them from their parents. But suddenly the boy looked anxiously at his parent and asked: “Dad, tell me what grace is.”
Hearing this with surprise, I almost choked on tea, urgently stopped chewing and froze, so as not to miss a word. Let me explain why. First, I myself was not clear what grace is. Second, I was wondering how to explain this to another. And third, it was completely incomprehensible to me how to explain this to a five-year-old child. That’s why I froze waiting for to see what reply the dad will say. He twisted his eyes in a funny manner and said to his son: “I better not tell you, but I will show you what grace is.” And they went to our sports ground. And I followed them. “Jump to the high crossbar,” said the dad. It became clear to me that the boy would not jump to reach it in any way. And for sure as he jumped and he was convinced of this. “And now you jump, and I will add grace,” said the parent. The boy jumped, his father’s hands caught him and in a moment he … WAS STANDING on the crossbar. The boy squealed with delight and told the father that he did not agree to live without grace anymore. And me too. Thank God! – Yuri Klyagin”

Posted in Christian, Daily, Personal Musings, Reflections

Rescued From the Cycle

Choices. Temptations. Decisions. Consequences. Guilt. Regrets. Self-Condemnation. Again choices.

This vicious cycle we often find ourselves in is one of the greatest fallacies of man. While some of us may have a different order of events with more or less components, many of us have gone through either of these phases or emotions at innumerable number of places across varied time frames in our life. As a result, we frequently keep on changing our minds, to the point that sometimes we actually fail to understand what we really want or wish for.

How many times have prayed for something to happen and when it actually does, the timing is drastically wrong ? How many times have we lost sight of our focus we had when we had started off on the journey? How many times have we regretted the consequences of the actions made by our choices ? Unfortunately this is what man has to endure through his time on earth.

Even the scriptures say that we can neither avoid the consequences of our choices nor we may be able to live up to the standards and expectations that we set for ourselves. There will be times when we will have frequent change of heart and when we would try to make ourselves right with God but fail. There is always a constant ongoing tussle between the Spirit within and the temptations of the flesh. This perpetual fracas between the right and the wrong choices, as well as the good and the bad decisions has been going ever since the beginning of time. Yet man is never helpless and lost as long as he keeps His Faith.

We always need something to fall back on, someone to lift our spirits and give us hope. For God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient; though we may not be able to speak to Him in person, inside our hearts and mind we know that He is there although at times we refuse to acknowledge this. Through the voice in our mind and heart, our gut instincts or the sixth sense and through our friends and family, His Spirit will speak to us and give us innumerable chances as long as we believe in His Love for man. As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This knowledge not only pulls us through troubled waters but also makes the voyage less dreary and more hopeful to endure so that we can finally reach the next shore.

To quote the verses from Romans 8:37-39, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Posted in Christian, Life, Musique, Photography Art

For the Light Awakens

After a late night shift, one longs for a morning of peace and quiet to sleep in. Though it is quite difficult to sleep during the mornings either because of the chaos and our circadian rhythm which goes haywire, so we end up doing chores and other miscellaneous work till we drop off from exhaustion; or because of the sunlight streaming through the windows which prevents the hours of the day turning into night.

Even though our working hours have stretched the normal boundaries of our sleep patterns, the rays of sunshine brightens the day and fosters a sense of calmness, to renew and recharge with a fresh start at another chance in life. Albeit in due course we do succumb to the tiredness and have to catch up on our sleep in order to stay refreshed, still the brightness of the day offers to make the gloomiest scene pretty and live-able. As John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Nevertheless there are some days where even the light can’t dispel the gloomy blackness. In such cases, what we fail to realize that the inner light in us, through the tiny cracks in the shields of darkness will offer a slit for the rays so that there would be a guiding light to find a way out. Should our inner light fail, the rays of light from other true sources will be able to guide us as long as we cast one’s mind to look for them. Remember the stars, even the Pole Star even in the cloudy skies occasionally they show their light. As the lines from the “Sine nomine” go,
“And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.”

Inner or overhead lights, either way unless we use them we will be standing still in the dark. The drawback is if we stay in perpetual darkness we will lose out on the wonders, songs and the joy of living.

Posted in Christian, Life, Photography Art, Quotes

Take the Stand

The prestigious honor of a Nobel prize held annually, is shrouded in so much secrecy and the final selection is done after due care and consideration. This year the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to Nadia Murad, a human rights activist and Denis Mukwege, a Congolese surgeon for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

What does Irena Sendler, Janusz Korczak and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have in common with Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi and Galileo Galilee ? They stood fighting for the firm principles of human rights, justice and truth that they believed in.

Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker and humanitarian who had served in the Polish Underground during World War II was instrumental in smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. And then provided them with false identity documents and shelter with willing Polish families, in orphanages and other care facilities, including Catholic nun convents. Janusz Korczak, the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit was a Polish-Jewish educator and children’s author who had spent many years as director of an orphanage in Warsaw. During the Gross-Aktion Warsaw operation, he had refused sanctuary repeatedly and stayed with his orphans when the entire institution was sent to the extermination camp. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who was consistently outspoken in the criticism of the Nazism in Germany. Instead of fleeing, he preferred to stay in the country of his birth where he was eventually arrested and executed.

Abraham Lincoln who was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery had gone against the tide and stood for the free rights to all, as evidenced by the famous inspiring Gettysburg speech. One of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson had challenged the existing policies on religious tolerance, education and slavery.

Likewise, one of the principle figureheads of the Indian independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi had followed a philosophy of non-violence and peaceful protest. Despite continuous opposition of the society, he had also sought to improve conditions for women and people disenfranchised by the caste system. Galileo Galilee had challenged the orthodoxy of the church through his own scientific discoveries. His commitment to truth and science resulted in personal threats to his well-being.

There are many more legends out there; some known,some whose strengths and contributions are known by select communities and others who had stood by their principles known to only those in their time. Yet come what may, the core strength in all these people lie in the fact that they stood by their inner principles and moral values, without subjugating to the wrongs and terrors of their days. They stood by those guidelines of truth and justice, taking care not to get involve in doctrines that justify in any wrongdoings to any man, woman or child.

“Stand up to hypocrisy. If you don’t, the hypocrites will teach. Stand up to ignorance, because if you don’t, the ignorant will run free to spread ignorance like a disease. Stand up for truth. If you don’t, then there is no truth to your existence. If you don’t stand up for all that is right, then understand that you are part of the reason why there is so much wrong in the world,”  as said by Suzy Kassem.

While taking a firm or courageous stand involve working against injustice or intervening on behalf of someone you know who is vulnerable or victimized, it also involves standing strong when majority might move in the opposite way or another path. Whatever form the conflict may take, we have our courage from God for he has provided us the spiritual and mental armour. As His Word says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.(Ephesians 6:10-12)”

While we may not be able to do as the known legends have done, what we can do in our community and neighbourhood may be a small but sure step in standing firm in our principles, Faith, values and sense of honour, justice and duty. Though absolute care and caution must go along with the reasoning and commitment behind our actions. To quote Criss Jami, “Never rebel for the sake of rebelling, but always rebel for the sake of truth.”

Posted in Christian, Photography Art, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Stranded yet with Faith

Adrift and Unbroken: Path to Redemption besides being recently released, what both these movies have in common are them being true stories of being lost and hopeless, yet they survived.

Adrift (June 2018) tells of a harrowing journey of heartbreak, loss and survival; loosely based on the true story of two experienced sailors, Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Richard Sharp, who embarked on a 6,500 km delivery passage and had sailed directly into Hurricane Raymond. As the full force of its winds struck, their vessel became a wreckage and Mr Sharp was lost at sea. Ms Ashcraft, severely injured, battered and bruised was able to fashion a makeshift sail from the remains of the boat and set a course for Hawaii. She managed to survive for 41 days, powered by peanut butter and sheer willpower, before being picked up off the coast by a research vessel.

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (2018) portrays the life story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II veteran who was an athlete who had made it to the Olympics, joined the military, crashed at sea, survived for 47 days, picked up by the Japanese and put into a prison camp. Yet this famous evangelist began his greatest journey after he arrived home from the war, suffered post traumatic stress symptoms and turned to alcohol — all struggles that unfolded before he accepted the Lord and experienced an incredible life transformation.

Like the above two real life stories, there are many more true stories of those who were stranded at sea and survived the ordeal.

Among the various modes of travel, conveyance by sea is done with a great deal of preparation. The right vessel is chosen, the course is chartered, the engines are double checked, the fuel, supplies and survival kits are stocked in plenty, weather predictors foreseen as well as all emergency measures and other requirements are taken into account. Only then the anchor is lifted and the vessel is set to sail. Yet all the planning can change in a matter of hours or even seconds. For there is nothing more unpredictable as the elements of nature.

Imagine getting caught in a storm at sea, then being adrift in a vast ocean or sea, where one has no control over the waves or how the vessel can be steered. If the vessel in which we were travelling is destroyed or roughened, survival becomes a question. In such a scenario, a quagmire of emotions will flit through our mind and soul. Among them would be fear, terror, anxiety, helplessness and despair of what would happen ahead.

Yet for 19 year old Aldi Novel Adilang, an Indonesian boy who was stranded at sea for seven weeks (July to August 2018) said, he survived by reading his bible and heeding the advice of his parents to pray. He was set adrift in the Pacific Ocean while working as a lamp keeper on a floating fish trap with no paddle or engine, some 80 miles off of the coast of Indonesia. He had not only run out out of supplies after the first few days, he had lost hope and had considered committing suicide by jumping into the ocean. Then he remembered his parent’s advice who had taught him to pray to God at times of distress, he chose to turn to God instead. The teen recounted that the Bible he had on board along with prayer helped him get through this trying experience. Finally, after 49 days, a carrier saw his distress signal and he was picked up. As said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Likewise, Louis Jordan instead of a simple fishing trip, had survived a wretched 66 days of endurance in March 2015. His father had attributed his survival to strong constitution and religious beliefs, which had made up for his inexperience as a sailor. For, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.(Jeremiah 17: 7)”

There are many more real life stories of surviving horrifying ordeals of man and nature, all put down with sheer grit, will power, hope and immense faith. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, then whatever you wish, ask, and it will be you (John 15: 7).”  No man of His Word can be left moored for long for His Faith will be both a compass and anchor, to direct him near the shores and find him a safe place to rest.