Livin’ life

I walked past our supplies store the other day , to hear our otherwise mostly annoyed ( which I’ve come to realise is an occupational hazard) store manager laugh out loud. Curious as to what had elicited such joy, I went in to see her laughing over a whatsapp forward that read, ” The dumbest thing I purchased this year(2020) was a year planner.” She read that out to me and started laughing again. I couldn’t help but share in her enthusiasm, nor could I help thinking about it.

“You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”( Luke 12:20)

This is a very strong warning God gives to a man who made many plans about his life in a story Jesus tells his disciples. Just pause and mull over that statement.

Been feeling a bit foolish lately? You bet I have! We had plans! We had timelines, deadlines. We had academic rosters to complete by so and so month, we had interviews to attend, weddings to plan, places to be, friends to meet, reunions, exams to give…..we could go on. Add on your plans to that list. And then, while we were busy planning and deciding and fretting about, the Great Pause happened. Like literally, we had to stand back and watch as our house of cards came tumbling down.

And for once in all of humanity’s timeline, we do not know what to really do next. We simply cannot plan anymore.

Things have changed, and they’re still changing.

It seems like God decided to press the ‘hibernate’ button on us and our lives simply so we could refocus. People we love and know are dying, some of our very own are refused even a decent burial, others are putting their lives on the line and sweating it out, the rest stay put at home- in all of these cases, we’re seeing a ‘new normal’ that might be a long term thing.

Somehow this Easter Sunday didn’t seem like a regular Easter- there was no gathering in a church for service, there was no celebatory breakfast with extended family in our homes, no sound of everyone singing together, no hugging and wishing each other, no shaking hands- different. The Saturday before Easter somehow seems more silent than usual.

But somehow, this Easter’s message was more powerful than ever. Somehow through all this darkness and confusion, we are realising what’s more important in our lives. We’re learning to declutter and focus on what really matters.

It’s okay if we didn’t have chicken for Easter, it’s okay if we didn’t have the entire family jingbang over for the holiday, it’s okay if the churches were empty- We still have the empty tomb. The fulfilled promise of resurrection. The Risen Lord. We still have a life to be lived in all the glory the Maker intended it to be.

This silence the world has gone into is actually the voice of the Lord screaming across the mess our world is in today, across the wards teeming with patients, across the homes filled with stories of loss and unemployment, across disease, across countries and failed leaderships, over our half- lived lives, over death- LIVE. He says LIVE.

He’s willing to breathe into those dry bones of yours and bring them to life- the wasted years, the hatred, the unforgiveness, the anger, the pursuit of greatness, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life- if only you can take it to the the Cross and leave it there.

Hey, how do I live a full life when I cannot rush into my office early morning, when I cannot scream at someone in traffic and get an adrenaline rush out of it or when I cannot see the kind of patients in the hospital I was trained to see? When i can’t take my family out to the park or the mall? Or we can’t hang out at the beach or the movies?

Yes, I hear you. I’m not living in LaLa land either. I’m very much in the middle of all that’s happening. But I shall leave that much to you to figure out. I’m guessing you’re already realising a lot of it, just as I have .

As D.L Moody once said ,’The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated ( also read that as – surrendered ) to him.”

This rap from a song sums it up in a way I like( yeah, I said rap)

Maybe I ain’t really know what living is
Is it love? if it was am I living it?
Do I live in it? So astounding

Whether or never I ever understand
I’m a man in the hands of great plans
I stand with faith in a life I never known or touched
It’s still outside my clutch but
I’m like what’s to dream of and what’s to hope in
What’s to die for and live to no end
This is living
The life I’ve been given’s a gift
If I’m gonna live it I’m gonna live it to death! Yeah!

This is living life. (Lecrae, Hillsong, young and free)

Fear……is a liar

” I lift up mine eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.( Ps 121:1)”

She stood on the terrace, lifting up her hands to the hills with tears flowing down her face and the early southwest winds blowing through her hair, the cries from her heart louder than the rustling of the dry leaves of the trees worn down by the summer — Lord, when will this end? Will you turn and have mercy?

The dark clouds started gathering around and the sound of distant thunder echoed in the air, and she opened her eyes to a very bright sun going down slowly, letting the dark clouds take over. Ravens flying about their usual business. And as the first drop of rain fell on her face, something moved within her- she knew her Help would come. In fact He already had it planned out. She knew that even though the sun wasn’t shining anymore, the promise of rain still stood. When the rain has come and gone, and the thunderstorm has raged and is over, the sun will shine again, but this time with a brightness she never knew she could appreciate before. With a rainbow shining through.

The past couple of months especially the last few weeks haven’t been easy on any of us. After the initial relief of being able to sit at home on paid leave has worn off, the reality has started to sink in. A prolonged lockdown, poverty magnified, unemployment, nations threatening each other over essential equipments and medicines, the possibility of most of the population contracting the virus, the constant question of running out of supplies, losing loved ones and not being able to bid them a proper farewell and most importantly, the billion dollar question of will things ever be the same again? A certain emotion has slowly started to creep into our beings even without us being aware of it- a four letter word- F-E-A-R.

As we see even the most developed nations in the world succumbing in large numbers to this disease, and as we follow the statistics of the mortality of this disease from minute to minute like we’re following some cricket match score ( thanks to the bombarding of information from social media and a lot of free time on our hands),we can’t help but give in to this emotion of fear- will I be next? What happens to my family? Will I still have a job at the end of all this?

And you know what ? Even though these are valid concerns and very relevant questions, these are matters that are way beyond are control. We cannot with our finite human minds even begin to navigate the eternal depth of all of this or be able to predict what happens a few days or few months down the line. Of course we can keep making calculated guesses!

Giving in to fear is by far worse than having contracted the virus itself, simply because it eats you from deep within. Fear tells you that you have to be able to do something desperate to get a hold of your future, fear tells you you might not make it, fear throttles the joy out of you, it questions your faith, it makes you panic, it disturbs your sleep and it destroys your peace, it shrouds over your soul like a dark cloud- fear lies. Truth is , Fear is a liar.

The girl on the terrace will tell you that- that when her soul was most burdened, when she couldn’t take it anymore and was overwhelmed- she was led to do only this one thing- to throw her hands up in the air, and surrender her fears to the Maker of Heaven and Earth, ‘cos there’s only one Person who tells us this over and over again- something her years of intense training or her loved ones or Netflix couldn’t help her with- when the storms blow harder and the clouds grow darker and the uncertainties loom like large shadows in our paths, the still Voice that says ” Do not fear, For I am with You, Do not be dismayed for I am your God…I will uphold you with my Righteous Right Hand.”( Isaiah 41:10).

Now I know that you have no business sitting and reading the musings of a random doctor who’s seemingly overly hopeful- no, you have absolutely no reason to be wasting time on this space. But, while you’re here, allow me to exhort you to this- Hold on to Jesus. He’s got this. Let’s get the liar out of our lives and trod on knowing that no matter how bad this gets , God’s got this.

And as we wait for the storms to calm, we continue at what He has called us to do, continuing to love, serve, teach, train and worship.

“He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.” ( Psalm 121:3,4)

Kum ba yah

Extraordinary times. Extraordinary circumstances.

Shutting down of economies, of countries, of offices, of railways and roadways, of homes and doors and gates. The highlight of the same being the indefinite nature of it. All because we hope to overcome a certain power that causes disease, that is invisible to the naked eye. Oh yes, we’re definitely in times that are historically super significant- one that the future generations ( if we survive to that, that is) will read about in history books and one that we will talk about to old age and grey hair.

Empty parks, empty beaches, silent campuses, empty corridors. Empty malls and shelves within the malls. The song of the birds louder than ever. The seas bluer than before. The skies clearer than ever. The haunting absence of the ever punctual train horn. Extraordinary.

A whole generation that is used to running around – the digital era, the supersonic, the we-don’t-have-time-for-delays generation- being forced to slow down, actually stop, to sit at home and start digging out old forgotten puzzles and share time with family they were too busy to notice before, to ‘rediscover’ cooking , ‘cos no one’s delivering at the doorstep anymore and most importantly just WAIT. For how long? No one knows! Yes, extraordinary.

Let’s just call it the Times of the Great Pause. The Great Timeout.

When God put a semicolon in the middle of our stories; ( mind you, it’s not a full stop). He decided we need to halt, pause and take our hands off everything( like literally) and just look up and then look around and therefore look within.

Could He be any more dramatic? you could ask me. Well, I’m guessing He desperately needed to catch our attention. He can be quite the drama person at times ( like our parents can be when they desperately need our focus).

As the virus keeps spreading and as more and more lives are on the line, the inevitable questions that loom large are- how long? Why now? What’s the end point? Will there even be one? what becomes of us?

And as part of medical training we’re always taught to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Well in this case what we’re doing currently is preparing for the worst and expecting the worst. The times have come to that. So everyday there are meetings and endless discussions on how to get more personal protective equipment, how do we keep ourselves and others safe, how much of social distancing, what happens if…?What if…? What if…?

Ironic as it may seem, over the past couple of weeks and months, one of the prayers of my heart towards my future was- Lord please move this mountain.( This was before the Great Time-out). Imagine my dismay when not just the mountain, but everything, literally everything just stopped moving. Not just the mountain darling, nothing is moving now- except time and the virus of course!

I live in a small town near the base of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu which is pretty much surrounded by a railway track that runs all around, Ever since I’ve come here, the trains crossing the tracks at regular intervals have been one of the most beautiful sights to see, and one of those sounds we get used to, so much so that when they didn’t run for a single journey the other day, and for the days after that, it felt almost apocalypsal. ( I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it wasn’t before, it is from now on. End of discussion.). That’s one of those days when the reality of what’s hit us hit home.

It’s humbling how when God decided to call a time-out, He spared no one. No, Not a single soul. We’re looking ahead towards times of great distress, of endless waiting, some of us at home, others at work at the hospitals, times of physical and mental stress, and when we’ve passed that, times of economic breakdown and lots of unemployment. Not heartening times at all. Nothing to be all ‘chilled out’ about. No, I do not intend to scare you. I’m just stating the obvious.

But here’s what we can hold on to- ( as usual,I had a Q & A session with the Man Upstairs)- That as children of the Maker of Heaven and Earth, despite the Time of the Great Pause , no matter where you are in life as you read this or what place you’ve been quarantined in, He has you where He wants you– in life, in the quarantine and in the storms of life. Exactly where He wants you. Ever thought about that?

You might’ve gotten stuck in another state or country unable to return home, or you might be stuck with the most unpleasant of people, the last ones on earth you would’ve thought of being locked down with, but that’s just where you’re wanted my friend. He couldn’t have you anywhere else.

So as we wait endlessly for things to turn around, let’s get our prayer mats rolling and our knees on the floor and our voices piercing through the silence, to ask Him of what His will for our lives is. Why does He so desperately need our attention?What’s He trying to tell us? If it isn’t enough that He got everything around us to pause, He’s also silenced the whole wide world.

And yes, wouldn’t you want to be ready with the answers to the next step you need to take in life when finally the tide turns, and the gates open and people flock to parks and beaches and are hugging again and holding hands( without having to sanitise them every now and then) and the sounds of laughter, of fellowship, of hustling and bustling return? Wouldn’t we want our skies of darkness to give way to clearer horizons and our stormy seas to deep blue waters?

While we’re at it, I’m reminded of this African- American folk song we learnt as little children:

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya; Hear me singing, my Lord, kum bay ya; Now I need you, Lord, come by here; Come by here, my Lord, come by here,

For one second on this world you made,
For the love that will never fade,
For a heart beating with joy,
For all that’s real, for all we feel.

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) (NIV)

Anxious for nothing

I sat at the railway station , waiting for the already delayed train that was running by the IST( Indian Stretchable Time, as most of us know it). The regular buzz of activity at the station- relatives, not-so-related-ives, vendors, porters, children, mothers, fathers , and the rest of a tiny bit of India’s booming population continued. The familiar stench of urine mixed with the smell of vada and chai drifting along with the evening breeze( for what is an Indian railway station without that smell!) reaching everyone on that platform, affecting none. As I continued staring out onto the empty platform across the railway tracks, a gush of wind blew in and this girl , maybe around six years of age, came into the frame riding her pink and white bicycle, laughing hysterically as the wind blew through her long curly hair with her younger brother chasing her on foot. Such a sight! How happy and carefree, I thought. Her laughter penetrated through the noise on the opposite platform. Oh to be able to be that carefree, I wished. To just feel the wind in my hair and face. And laugh, loud and uninhibited- the kind that started from the heart and reached the eyes!

I continued to look and smile till the shrill whistle of the train I was supposed to get on pierced the air, and the people around me started getting busy again.

I was taking a break from work and going home- for almost 2 weeks. Yes, you heard me right- I said I took a break- a good long one- yes, the workaholic me, the person who feels more exhausted with a holiday than if she was working. And no, I wasn’t in any sort of crisis. Also no, I wasn’t going home to get married in secret. I’d just reached the end of my battery, I needed a recharge. I needed to zoom out of the microscopic picture that is just me and work and the mountains and hurdles I see before me that have not moved much, to see the bigger picture that is the rest of my life, family and what God requires of me.

Going home, to a traditional South Indian, more specifically, a malayalee home, when you’re in your late twenties and you’re still single and you have different aspirations with your life other than just procreating or making money or satisfying the whims and fancies of every single soul around you, and when you have competitive cousins and relatives you don’t relate to, is like walking into a preheated oven- you either come out baked or burnt- depending on how you handle the heat. So that was my state of affairs. But I held on. It wasn’t easy, not at all. The questions weren’t simple, the worry was genuine, the nights weren’t peaceful, the tears were real, the storm raged on…

Somehow we feel the need to perform- or rather outperform, the need to fall in line with the rest of the ‘society’ and the ‘culture’ and whatever looks good to the uncle next door. But here’s what my learning has been. When you’ve taken a step forward into following Christ, you’ll have to leave behind everything you thought was your security. Everything. Even the uncle next door who thinks he’s got it right. Peter had to leave his net and boat behind to become a fisher of men. Matthew had to leave his tax collector’s pen and pad and office behind to collect and save souls from hellfire. Saul had to leave his learning, his culture and all the values he held so dear behind to become Paul. You’ll have to empty yourself so He can fill you to overflowing to be used by Him. It’s crystal clear. He cares nothing about the timelines and the boundaries and the price tags society has put for you. He cares nothing about your degrees or your achievements or how well you can boast about either.

He cares for your surrender.

So one of those sleepless nights at home, I sat on the terrace, staring at the starlit night sky, questioning myself as to whether I’ve done the right thing in letting go of every ‘security’ I could have had by worldly standards, and taking hold of the Hand that was pierced for me into this world of medical missions , or should I have just stayed back at home within my comfort zone in the first place and spared everyone all this heartache and spared myself these sleepless nights wondering when the door in this dark hallway will open shining light on the next step forward.

And in the silence of the night, interrupted only by the sound of the questions in my head and the chirping of the cricket who somehow has found a place for itself in our house, the answer was clear- there was no mistake. The picture of that little girl riding her cycle with her hair blowing out and the wind in her face and her laughter ringing of sheer delight came back to me. And the Voice of the One who has knit me together in my mother’s womb spoke- ” Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” (1Peter 5:6 MSG)

The questions are still not simple, the tears are still real, the nights may be as long as the day, the storms might still be lashing on- but may the song in your heart never cease. The song of praise. Praise in the storm.

If the world from you withholds of its silver and its gold,
And you have to get along with meager fare,
Just remember, in His Word, how He feeds the little bird;
Take your burden to the Lord, leave it there.
Leave it there, leave it there,
Just take your burden to the Lord oh and leave it there.
If you trust him through your doubt, He will surely bring you out.
Take your burden to the Lord, leave it there.
” ( Leave it there- Charles A. Tindley)

Can we live carefree before God knowing He’s most careful about us? Can we surrender all?

Auld Lang Syne

The falling apart of what was once a great secular nation. The demise of a beloved Sultan. A world lingering on the brink of another world war. The breakdown of many economies. Raging forest fires. Darkness. Violence. Insecurity. And the dawn of another decade.

These events have heralded in the new year and the beginning of another decade. And the excitement and anticipation regarding days to come isn’t a positive one. It’s more like a feeling of impending doom. What times have we come to?

I’m sure each one of you reading this at the moment have wondered atleast once in the last couple of weeks as to whether its only going to go downhill from here. What happened to those days gone by? How did we get here ? ( If you haven’t been thinking along those lines, please put down this blog and pick up the newspaper).

Strangely so , this has also been the situation at a personal level- questions, uncertainty and a feeling of impending doom. Not knowing what decision to make, not knowing how this will all turn out. No, we do not have all the answers. And yes, it may go downhill from here- we do not know. Maybe the cloud of darkness is here to stay for a while. It’s not ours to say. So what do we do? We, who are tossed to and fro by the waves of change around us? What do our days hold in store for us?

As I sat down the week gone by, wondering as to what next, my phone rings, a weak but excited voice on the other end, ” Akka I’m better now, I’m out of the ICU and I’ll come and see you soon”. I smiled for long time after that conversation. Nisha, was a fifteen year old girl I’d seen in OPD who had a heart condition and we’d sent her to the experts for further care. She had crashed on Christmas day morning and underwent a miraculous recovery to say the least (‘cos I want to spare you the technical jargon) over the next one week. For the next couple of days I spent my entire thought- life obsessing over why she’d suddenly become so sick. I could still hear her voice in my head early morning on Christmas day saying she’s not able to breathe properly. And the next thing I knew was that she was intubated and being rushed for emergency surgery. One of the notions we acquire very early on as young doctors, and one that wears off ( the sooner the better for one’s own good) with advancing age and experience is that we can solve anything , any problem- a God complex. So as I taxed my brains and all sorts of literature available to figure out what I could’ve done better for her, that still Voice of the Master called out from deep within my heart as the emotional fatigue weighed in- Hey, look up! This battle is not yours. But there is one thing to do for her- fight it out for her on your knees. And that’s when I surrendered that battle to the Lord and just lifted my hands up to heaven for her in prayer. It wasn’t my fight.

As we stand on the threshold of another year, amidst a world that is crumbling around us, Oh yes! There’s so much that needs to change ! But like I was reminded the other day, some battles aren’t ours to fight. We cannot change the whole world. We cannot react to every single thing gone wrong around the world. But yes, we can start with the world within us and around. Let’s stand strong for someone else closeby, let’s make a difference to that one life. Let’s bring some sunshine into the world for that one person, being slow to anger, abounding in love. And let’s start fighting our battles on our knees. Let’s take that cup of kindness and extend it to the neighbour, transforming from selfishness to selflessness.

Let’s carry each other’s hearts and have their backs.

I end with this originally Scottish melody that’s sung widely world over at the dawn of the New Year as a toast to the coming days and the ones gone by:

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for days of auld lang syne.

For days of auld lang syne, my dear,
for days of auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of auld lang syne.

Philippians 4:6-7 The Message (MSG)

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


Universal Flexion

The attitude of a baby in the mother’s womb. Every joint bent and flexed to remain comfortably within the confines of the womb. You would’ve come across the term sometime.( If not, feel free to Google or ask Alexa or Siri or the girl next door).

Anyways, this is not a medical class I promise. Rather, this term has particularly been coming back to me, echoing among the madness of my thought life, in a really interesting way.

‘What on earth am I doing here?’ I was thinking the other day as I trudged back from work. Ever had that thought? Ever felt like you knew what you were doing all along and then suddenly you’ve lost that sense of direction? No, its okay if you have those thoughts before you hit your 40s- call it a mid life crisis or a quarter life crisis or one-tenth of a life crisis- or whatever- it’s still a crisis.

Sometimes, squat in the middle of being or doing what you’ve always believed you were called to do, suddenly you lose focus. Maybe because you were so focussed on what you were doing, that you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Or you’ve been through enough and more( so you think) of life that you feel you can’t think clearly anymore- everything’s a haze. Or maybe you feel life in general has the responsibility of treating you kindly or more gracefully (good luck with that!). It’s like those art and craft classes where you’ve been cross stitching and cross stitching with so much focus that after a while you really need to stop and look at the whole picture to actually remind yourself of what shape you were striving to achieve in the first place.

So, the reason why I was thinking this was not because I have a sad life- but because I didn’t feel particularly fruitful or exhilarated so to say with this season of my life. It’s easy to feel like you’re making sense when you’ve received an award or you’ve published a paper or you’ve made a breakthrough discovery or you managed a procedure that was difficult for everyone else or you’ve cracked an exam that was otherwise impossible. But you know, what happens on the other days- the days when you just see and treat the common colds, when you do the routine, mundane, not so exciting stuff- is your life also making sense then? Are you still part of the picture? Is there still a Plan?

And as with all other things, I sat down with the Maker with these questions hanging over me, and He asked me a few questions in return.

From the day you enter medical school, you also enter this never ending need for always performing, always being the best of what you are and being at the top of what you know- there’s nothing wrong with that per se. Except, it’s a lifetime calling. It doesn’t begin at 8 am and finish at 5 pm- it goes on, you get called in the night, you might have to stay back with a weeping relative, you might have to run in a bit early for a woman who suddenly went into labour, and so on. And so, as this process continues, we sometimes get so focussed on what we do and how we do it and the tight schedules we live, that suddenly we realise, we’ve lost focus- which thread goes where? What was the design I started out to make? We get caught in this web of our own weaving and then we lose sight of the way out.

In times like these , it’s helpful to stop, stand up straight and tall from all the stooping you’ve been doing to get it right and just survey the bigger picture.

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just. So all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord ( Jeremiah 22:15, 16)

That was the question I was asked.

Does that put anything into perspective for you? It did for me!

If you think about it, the way we develop physically is pretty much a reflection of how we should essentially develop mentally and spiritually as well- from that point of universal flexion, the comfort of the womb, to slowly standing up on your own feet and standing tall and on your own, and then when you’ve been able to stand and have found your standing with Jesus as your firm foundation, to be able to really reach out and uplift those who really struggle to find a place with God and with society.

Instead, most times, we end up continuing to find warmth in our comfort zones and remain in that attitude of universal flexion- we find it easier to treat malnutrition in our wards than going out into the society and making sure these children have good nutrition in the first place, we find it easier to stand on a podium and talk, than hold somebody’s hand and address what they’re really going through; We find it easier to shake our heads and ‘pray’ for a friend in need than honestly meeting them at their point of need, we would rather go on with the old system when we know that change is the need of the moment. It’s easier to keep quiet, mind your own business and walk off, than speak up for the injustice you see in front of your eyes.

So think about it- What does it mean to the Master if you have a forest full of cedar trees ( replace that with your accolades, your degrees, your riches, or anything else you an think of), when you’ve turned a blind eye to a homeless man? When you can’t stand up for what is right and just?

Like a young lady centuries ago was told ,”Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”( Esther 4:14)

Maybe you are placed where you are for a time such as this.

Head above the waters…

My only memory of even trying to swim was at six years of age, when my dad decided to teach me to swim. So we packed our bags with a full change of clothes and the entire family went off to spend an evening at the seaside and my dad started off with the instructions. Growing up in a middle eastern desert that formed the coast of the Arabian Sea, beaches were where we spent most of our evenings more than parks or malls; the raging beauty of the waves and the salt kissed air constituting a significant part of my childhood.

Now the instructions were simple- ” Walk into the water till your feet are off the ground, keep your head above the waves, and move. Most importantly, do not panic when the water hits your face ‘cos always remember- I’m holding you.” (Now you swimming experts might have varied opinions- you can write to my dad later.)

So I confidently went into the water with him holding me, looked around, saw the waves coming, forgot about the stronger hands beneath me and I freaked out. You can imagine the rest. That was the most salt water I’ve tasted in a long long time. And what was supposed to be a joyful lesson, turned out to be a rescue mission to save his eldest offspring from drowning. And that was also the only attempt on my father’s part to teach me this skill. Yeah that’s true, I can’t swim for peanuts.

Now more than a decade later , as the rain pours heavily outside my small house , the sound of heavy raindrops interspersed with deafening thunder, there’s another storm that’s raging inside of me- one that is almost overwhelming me, so much so that I can feel the water rushing into my nostrils, trying to drown me- the storm of doubts over an uncertain future, the storm that’s reminding me of all the impossibilities that lie ahead, the mountains that are too big to climb, the questions your parents ask that have no answers you can give that will make sense to them, the haunting thought that maybe its all a lost cause, that maybe the sun might never really shine again, that maybe…. I close my eyes, and all I see of myself is my hand stretching out for help above the waves to the Maker – for grace , for relief. Enough Lord! I have cried out. How long will this go on?

And this Voice comes through from a past memory, but this time from the Heavenly Father, “Keep your head above the water, daughter. Remember, I’m holding you.” Its not easy, but that’s all there is to do.

Maybe as you read this, you picture yourself there , being overwhelmed by the storms that rage at you and around you, maybe you’re crying out for help silently, maybe you’re hoping someone will see your outstretched arm before you completely drown, maybe the lack of light for your next step terrifies you, maybe you’re thinking of all the ‘what ifs’ and that keeps you awake at night. Maybe you’ve given up on hope altogether, maybe you’ve lost what little you thought you had. Maybe…

Well you know what your maybe is.

Friend, I write this tonight to remind you as much as I was reminded today- He holds you. If you look at His face and not at the waves crashing in on you, you will walk on this water that threatens to take you with it. Oh its not too difficult for Him. It definitely is not insignificant to Him. This storm will calm, we will see that rainbow over the clouds.

All we need is the grace to keep our head above the waters. Well guess what I discovered for the nth time? That with His promises there’s never a ‘maybe’.

Micah 7:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
Therefore I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
My God will hear me.

The Wait…

“Akka, are the wristbands ready?”, asked one small eager voice, running up to me. I looked at her with a sorry smile, saying ,” No da, I’ll give them soon.” “Okayyy”. she says. ” I wanna give you a really nice one”, I said…that’s why the delay- I explain. She considered it for some time, didn’t seem too convinced, but anyways shrugged her shoulder and calls out to her friends- ‘ We’re getting the bands next week. They’re gonna be really pretty. That’s why the delay.’ And she gives me a hug and runs off. I stood there looking after her, for a long long time.

I had promised the fifth to eighth graders I take Sunday School for regularly, that I would make them special wristbands, for faithfully learning their weekly lessons well. However, it’s been 3 weeks since I said that, and every week they come looking eagerly for any signs of the bands. The work is under progress, though I’ve not gotten the time to really finish them off ‘cos on weekdays I’m looking after the sick children. I’ve been slowly perfecting these bands but it’s taking time. But they’ll get them. The wait will end, and they’ll be happy they waited. But they’ll have to wait…for now.

As the little girl ran off into the distance, God was softly speaking to my heart. She loves nevertheless, she waits with joy and trusts nevertheless.

The wait- waiting for a breakthrough, waiting for a direction forward, waiting for healing, waiting on God- is difficult- fruitful at the end they all say, but it’s definitely difficult for now. You know it as well as I do.

Standing at crossroads, and looking around for an opening, while for now all I see is walls closing off every possible path before me, I’ve been crying out to the Author of my story to show me what next, when will this wait for a breakthrough end?Will it end at all? Or will I forever be stuck at this point? Have I missed an opening somewhere? Is even a window going to open?

Sometimes the only company you have as you ask these questions are the shadows of your own doubts… and a painful desperation that echoes back at you.

And time and again, the reassurance that He’s on it, he’s working at it and He’ll come through – at the time He’s ordained, has been holding me up. But on most days than not, I come back to my den asking for more grace to trust the Almighty with the big and the small details of my life. How many times have you felt like that? Stuck. No movement forward at all. When people ask you how you’re doing, you feel like you have the same thing to say as yesterday, last month or even last year, or maybe the last couple of years? Welcome to the club. I’m the President( of that club).

Almost invariably , all the time, the world refuses to let you rest in the peace that God will come through- No. We need immediate answers, we want to see immediate results, we want to wait essentially for as short as a time as possible. More than us and our families, it’s the friendly neighbours who want to know better. If there’s a delay, that means it’s a denial/the end. But funnily enough the Father above has a different timeline altogether. Nothing good has ever come out of hastily made decisions, no big break came through in a second.

Lazarus was dead 4 days before Jesus raised him up from the dead, another woman suffered from a bleeding disorder for 12 years before she got to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and get healed, Abraham had a baby at the age of hundred- and so on and so forth. You may have your own stories of how He might’ve been ‘late’ but He was actually just on time.

So friend, sometimes the wristbands take time, because He’s perfecting that pattern, and He’s moulding you as you wait patiently on Him, but He does come through- He always does. Take it from the girl who’s standing in a dark spot right now, with absolutely no clue as to what next, who’s plagued with questions from all four corners of her world, and crushed with pain when she sees her folks’ hopelessness, and all she can do is look up and cry out- to the Father above, her Friend from her youth, ‘cos no one else will understand that pain.

As I looked on at my little student chasing off into the distance, a still voice was asking me if I could do just the same- to love Him nevertheless, to trust nevertheless, to wait with joy nevertheless. And to know that Love will break-through.

Can you?

 "But You're four days late And all hope is gone
Lord we don't understand why you've waited so long
But His way is God's way Not yours or mine
When He's four days late
He's still on time
" ( Song by Karen Peck and New River)

The Screen -Age

Remember how we’ve listened to the many history classes on the Stone Age, then how fire was discovered and the next couple of decades was about the Fire Age and then the Iron Age, and so on till we listened in wonder to how the many discoveries of man finally brought us to the present era called the Information age or the Digital media Age?

Well, I’m not going to bore you with a history lesson, but I’d like to share a realisation that dawned on me recently.

So, I was sitting in the canteen having tea, and just generally looking around. There were atleast five other colleagues sitting around in the same room who had come for a break as well. And what caught my attention was the fact that pretty much all of them , all of them had their noses buried in their phone screens. I sat and watched. Maybe , they were looking something up I thought and carried on. No one noticed that I came in, no one noticed that I left.

Later that day, as I was walking back from work , down the beautiful, flower petal laden lanes of the hospital campus, the deafening silence bothered me. In a place that once rang with voices of laughter, of people greeting each other and sharing random stories of patients they’d seen that day or a request for prayer or some experience of sorts, what remained was a bunch of people young more than the older ones, walking around with their eyes glued to the screens of their fancy phones. I saw more head-tops than faces, more glazed eyes, than eyes shining with joy, more zoned out people than real human beings.

And in my mind I thought- God, so this is the Screen- Age.

This is not a one day experience, but a daily one; not just a single-center experience ( as we call it for thesis sakes), but this is what we see everywhere, ain’t it?? Please tell me if I’m wrong. In buses, trains, at bus stops, in cafeterias, during that wee lil time we get a break from work, even in our homes, while we walk, while we eat and just before we sleep, and every single minute we can squeeze in to accommodate more screen time with this gadget we carry around.

Someone has to Whatsapp you to get your attention or post a status update or ‘like’ a post on any of the social media!

It really got me thinking- So what is the deal with these screens? How come they’ve enslaved us so much so that we have become a generation of introverted, insensitive people? What are we gonna pass on to the next generation? Smarter phones? How smart is that?

We’d rather scroll through random status updates than lift our eyes up and strike a conversation with the person sitting right in front of us. We’d rather look through youtube videos of no eternal consequence than share an experience with a colleague. We’d rather tighten the muscles of our thumbs with constant aimless scrolling than extend a hand to a person in need, or go for a run with a friend, or spend some time with family, or read a good book- Oh wait! How would we know that unless we look around right?

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve only lived almost three decades here on Earth, and I already prefer the sound of singing and talking, to the sound of constant typing, I’d prefer looking at someone’s face than the top of their head, I’d rather hold someone’s hand and walk than be too engrossed in using both my hands to support my expensive gadget called the smartphone to type out something. I’d rather enjoy the sunset or the sunrise or simply the blue sky than all the brightness the phone screen could offer.

So there, I’ve made my point. Let’s make that effort to move out of the bubble that we create around ourselves, look up , reach out and enjoy the reality that God naturally ordained us to enjoy than the virtual reality we’ve created which does our body no good.

Get to know your neighbour’s name, go feed his fish, strike up a conversation with the colleague sitting opposite you, hold someone’s hand and pray with them. Do something, anything other than staring at that screen in front of you.

Look Up, Laugh, Breathe, Live…Embrace the beauty of creation, the glory of God your Creator, and Worship!

"Give me your eyes (Jesus) for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see"
Give me Your eyes- Brandon Heath

Broken and beautiful…

I know you’re probably uprolling your eyes at the title. ‘Oh please’- you must be saying, ‘It’s so cliche.’ Yeah, I agree, but since you’re here, do endure to the end of this.

Let me introduce another term to you – Dysfunctional- a word most of us are familiar with- and probably identify with. Atleast I do- dysfunctional individual, family, relationships, lives. So if you have one or all of the above in your life- does that mean there’s no hope? Or is that your identity? Or is that the excuse?

And beneath most of this ‘dysfunction’ we see brokenness- broken dreams, broken hopes and desires, broken trust , broken homes. And a bunch of people who don’t know where to go with these broken pieces.

So I accidentally broke a glass bottle the other day, gathered the big ugly shards of glass, put them together near the window, thinking I’ll discard them later (irresponsible- I know!). Guess what I wake up to the next morning? The sunrays dancing colours through those broken pieces, and more brilliantly through the sharpest, ugliest parts of the broken pieces- it was a beautiful sight to behold! I stood and stared and smiled – magnificent work of art ( no, not me breaking the bottle- that was plain carelessness). Deep, I thought. Who ever thought that these ugly looking seeemingly useless , dysfunctional glass pieces would be a cause of wonder anymore?!!

It’s this thought that’s been there on my mind in the recent past, probably a result of all the stories I’ve been hearing or what I myself have been going through with the different people and situations I’ve encountered.

All of us in some way or the other, have encountered brokenness- broken hearts, trust that was betrayed , relationships that never stood their stead, families that fell apart, desires that never saw the light of day and dreams that were torn to pieces. We’ve had those moments where we’ve felt so hopeless and so broken that we doubt we can be of any good any more. While I do not have the answers to why these things happen, something God taught me through those glass pieces was this- When you let the Son of God shine through that brokenness, through that dysfunctional state of yours, you’ll see a different kind of beauty arise from those ugly shards of shatteredness ( now this may be an original word)- brilliant colours in what was once dull and grey. All it takes is to surrender the brokenness to the One who makes all things whole.

The funny thing about the God of the Bible is, He specialises in working with broken people, people written off by their own loved ones, people who thought all their dreams and hopes had ended, people from dysfunctional families and basically anyone who has nothing to offer but his/her broken state. So if you and me are at this place in life where we have nothing to offer but our broken, dysfunctional selves- that’s exactly how Jesus wants you. You’re home with Him. Surrender, and then stand back and watch the light shine through.

“All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free..”( Broken vessels/Amazing grace- Hillsong)