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Small, small blessings

Today morning I was searching for a thick thread to tie the ends of my car cover so that it would not be blown away by the wind. As I could not find any in our house, I blurted out a small prayer saying, “Lord, you provided a goat for Abraham to sacrifice in the place of Issac, kindly take care of this need”. Then all was forgotten.

I took the car to the parking place. I covered the car with the cover. Tied the front end with the thread which was already attached to the cover and came to the back to hook the rear side of the cover to some sharp point in the car.

Lo and behold! Exactly under my foot there was a thread, lying as if it was waiting for me to pick it up. While unconsciously tying it in the cover and fastening it to the car, I remembered the small prayer I uttered.

God answers even the small prayers.

I was also shocked to see how easily I overlooked the answered prayer and thought it was a normal event.

I praised God and asked him  to make me more sensitive to His acts in my life.

What have you given up for this lent?

What to give up for lent
What to give up for lent

I am very traditional about lent. I have not touched meat or other non-veg during these 46 days from my childhood. It is the way I was brought up and this is the way I am going to be till I rest in the grave. This year for a change, along with meat I gave up tea – one of my favourite addiction.

Many have asked me why should Christians give up any thing for lent. Had not Jesus liberated us from all the bondage and regulations? Does not Paul himself says in Colossians 2: 16 that ‘do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink’? By abstaining from meat or any other thing, will we be able to please God or get his favour?

The answer is a clear NO.

Then why do we do it? or Why I do it?

Lent season gives me a special opportunity to reflect on my life. When I choose to abstain from certain things which are very vital part of my life – non-veg or tea, I consciously choose to give up something which unconsciously became important. This very act shows me what hinders me from loving God more in my life. When I am tormented by temptation to eat meat during lent, it bares my inner gluttonous nature which was well fed all along. My only recourse during this time would be to seek God’s help to overcome this temptation.

This abstinence helps me to discover my deep-seated habits – the seemingly harmless habits which are deeply ingrained in my life. This helps me to discipline myself with regards to how I indulge myself.

This year, as I abstain from tea, I realise that I have a craving for sweets. In order to hide the temptation for tea or some hot drinks in the evening, I eat chocolates more. Though it is an insignificant discovery, it is vital flaw in me which I need to correct.

There is also a practical reason for these abstinences. I would not have an opportunity to control what I eat on other occasions – I love good tea and hearty meal filled with fat. But lent gives me a reason to be moderate and it is the most healthy option.

So, to those who don’t care about lent – I congratulate you on your sense of freedom from rules and regulations. But think about the benefits you reap if you follow some rules on your own. You can definitely opt for this without regretting it.

Marriage

Mrs and Mr. John William
Mrs and Mr. John William

The year 2016 started with rush of activities – finishing off the work at Mumbai, travelling to Tamil Nadu, preparations for the wedding of my sister Bersiya. Now finally it is over. Looking back at the flurry of activities and amount of energy, time, coordination, money and prayers went into a successful marriage, I am amazed. The whole process is mind-blowing. It is an unique experience demanding immense physical and mental energy.

With the wedding on 18th January, we welcomed another John in to the family – John William. It was such a joy to see many relatives, friends and well-wishers who came to bless the wedding. After meticulous planning and lots of anxiety we finally let a sigh of relief. But the process of marriage is so complicated that still we are busy trying to settle the newly weds in Chennai and winding things up.

Praise God for all the support and prayers we received.

This trip also provided me with unique opportunity to re-live the childhood memories – visiting old friends, walking in the streets which are trodden by my little feet several years ago, eating some stuffs like honey-mittai (Thean mittai) and many more. May be when time permits I will write about them one by one.

 

Glorious death

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A death in the family turns everything – plans, aspirations, hopes – upside down. Death of my father had our world shattered in an unexpected way. As we pick up the pieces and get into the routine, I reflect on the very death of my father. In spite of all the unpleasantness and shock it had, I am compelled to describe his death as a GLORIOUS DEATH – a death everyone would hope to have.

He was in the hospital to be stabilized from his low sodium and high urea. His day started very early, as usual, at 4.00 am. He brushed his teeth (unlike me, he was very particular that the first thing he does is to brush his teeth). He asked my mom to read Psalms as they had forgotten to bring his big-lettered bible. He recited Psalm 46 by heart. Especially he was very clear in repeating first and last verse.

Together they were praying – dad lying in his bed and mom kneeling down beside him, holding one of his hands. As they were praying suddenly my mother heard a gurgling noise. When she opened her eyes to check what it was, she realised that my dad has collapsed. She rang the bell for the nurse thinking this was the normal drop in the blood sugar but alas, it was a cardiac arrest. Within minutes doctors came and tried to revive him, took him to the ICU, but finally declared him dead.

It is a glorious death because it happened in the prayer and also it was sudden and painless. What a privilege it is to be coherent, pious, reciting the scriptures and passing on the next world without much struggle. I am glad he was neither in pain nor bitter. I too wish this kind of death, a glorious death.

Unimaginable days

Sitting at the Bangalore City Railway Station, I look back at the past ten days. It had been unimaginable and it passed quickly like a nightmare but still could not process it fully and understand the implications.

We thought that my dad’s visit to hospital was normal and routine. We never suspected anything out of ordinary. He had survived the toughest times. He had outlived all our expectations. God had been gracious to him and extended his life two and half years more from the first hospital visit with renal failure.

But when things were going smooth – sudden heart attack, phone calls, flight, journey and the funeral – too much for mind to grapple. It had been fast and like a dream. No time to think of anything. Waiting for a sudden jerk to wake me up from the dream but sadly I realise that it is no dream. Life has changed upside down in a minute.

After the thanksgiving prayer meeting and saying bye-bye to all our relatives and friends, it’s back to the reality – a harsh reality. Typical long and tedious waiting and greasing the palms to get the necessary death certificate. My God! How difficult it is to move the papers from one table to another and to get the final desired result – the piece of paper with the officers’ signature?

My head spins when I think about the other procedures and formalities the banks are asking to get our money stuck in their coffers – paper works, signatures, witnesses, certificates etc. After successfully and patiently kick starting all these procedures, here I am, travelling back to Mumbai to resume the ministry.

God be with us!

Death

As I type these words, I am flying in the aircraft to Chennai wondering how things are going to turn out.

The shocking phone call in the morning from Mom that Dad is serious shattered all our hopeful plans. Subsequent conversation with the doctor, who was taking care of dad for the past two years, regarding his condition and final declaration that they could not revive dad after the cardiac arrest has placed a big question mark about future course in our lives.

Latest picture of dad
Latest picture of dad

A week ago my sister reached Mumbai to prepare herself for the wedding which is scheduled for January. We were with lots of hope that the journey forward would be safe though bumpy. Yesterday Priya and my sister went on for the wedding shopping. But today this news!

We trust God to take the situation in control. Though we don’t have a clue about the next step, we are confident that He will guide us.

At this time of uncertainty and grief, may I ask my friends and well wishers to uphold us in your prayers.

Mrs. Sheetal Sane

She was buried
She was buried

Finally, we laid her to rest. After nearly a month of being in different hospitals in the city, she lost the battle to her failing kidneys.


Mr. Sane is the secretary of the Marathi Methodist Church at Malwani. Our official relationship soon blossomed into a personal one. The one thing which was common between our families was the sickness. Mrs. Sane and my father are suffering from the same illness – failing kidneys.

So the relationship grew as we visited them often to talk about the treatment and her diet. Sharing of the practical experiences of hospitals and treatments helped both of us mutually. We could empathise with the family in their struggles. We too felt the pain with them. We prayed for them and prayed with them.

Last month we visited Mrs. Sane for the last time at her home. We wanted to give her Holy Communion at home (as her pastor was also sick she did not take part in the communion for nearly 6 months). We had a small service at home. We asked her what song she would like all of us to sing. She told “Jerusalem my happy home!”. As the family members sang the song in Marathi I asked Priya whether the song has the same meaning as we have in Tamil and English or only the tune is similar. But Priya assured me that it is the same song with the same meaning.

She happily took part in the communion and we encouraged her to visit the hospital as her hands were swollen. She went to JJ hospital and was admitted there for nearly a week. Then came home again.

I received a call one day asking whether I could drive her to hospital for check up. I complied. The preliminary check ups were over and the doctor asked the family to admit her in the hospital for few days till her swelling subsided. After settling in the hospital room, I prayed for her. She just smiled and said ‘thank you’.

That was to be our last meeting…


 

Mr. Sane and his daughter Ms. Parinitha
Mr. Sane and his daughter Ms. Parinita

Then I only saw her in the casket. It was moving and emotional moment for us. We had been emotionally attached with her well being for the past two years. We wanted her to recover. We wanted her to become normal. But God had other plans.

She was ready to die. She died peacefully without any bitterness. She proclaimed a month back itself that “Jerusalem was her happy home”.

Termites!

To our utter horror we found termites in the cartons of books while sorting out the books. Though the damage was minimal to most of the books and confined to couple of cartons, Dr. S. Rhadakrishnan and Zac Poonen were the most affected (covers are eaten up by termites!). Lucky for us we found it soon enough to stop the spreading. I suspect dampness in the balcony during the rains as the culprit.

Books spread on the floor
Books spread on the floor

Now we have checked all the books one by one and spread it in the hall to get rid of dampness. A wonderful spectacle of all the books on the floor!

As for the cartons which termites had eaten, they were burned up. Now we have to do some pest control.

Burned up
Burned up

There is some blessing in disguise. The lack of space in Mumbai allowed me to open only one carton at a time. But today I was able to see all my books together out of cartons.

A Train journey with Marwadis

In the beginning itself I should state that I have had mixed feelings about Marwadis till this incident. I have met only few in my short life and all of them in the context of business. Thus my idea of a Marwadi, as a person who is strict in the matters of money and thus very stingy in spending, is etched in my mind. This belief had been reinforced by several conversations I had with different people about Marwadis on various occasion. I have never had the opportunity to evaluate this belief personally and through proper objective experience in different circumstances until recently in a train journey.

We were on our way to Nagpur on a visit to a mission field. A Marwadi family was also with us in the coupe. They were buoyant and animated in their conversations. But when the meal time arrived they opened big carton boxes and gathered around it. As they prepared to plunge into their meals, the head of the family announced loudly to us that they have different dishes and we can ask whatever we need. We politely refused. As they were having the meal, they kept on pestering us saying that this dish is good and that dish is delicious. Finally we had to yield to their pressure and the fragrance of the dishes.

When the second meal time arrived, we had another gentleman from the defence department in our coupe. They literally forced him to take a pack of meal and shared a considerable amount of all the variety they had on their plates with us. We were having a field day tasting all their numerous Marwadi dishes. On the third meal time, after they ate, they were distributing the remaining packets to the people in the adjoining coupe too.

I should mention that they were not just eating food, but feasting. The men were making calls to caterers, in between the meals, to enquire what is on the menu for the next meal. They have literally planned where to get the next meal during the journey and had the caterers’ contact numbers in that area. The food is getting delivered on two carton boxes at the right time in the platform at different stations. Boxes were filled with mouth-watering fresh panner-mutter, chappatis, ghee rice, thick curd (which they seem to love much and I have learnt that we can eat chappatis only with curd) and so on. Meanwhile, between the meals, the ladies were busy eating, and of course sharing, the home made sweets made in ghee without any hesitations. They were also indulging in lively conversation with us and answered my questions about their culture and food habits. I said “Wow!” they are celebrating life. Their attitude towards life was positive and affirming.

When we got down at Nagpur, an older gentleman in that group held my hand and lovingly asked, “Why you have to get down now, brother?” I was feeling strange. He did not know me till recently but the generosity he and others showed us was inexplicable. Their spirit was unsinkable and soaring. I was forced to change my opinion about Marwadis forever. They might be strict and stingy in business but, may be, they don’t mix business with personal life or perhaps they don’t carry their business mind-set during their vacation.