JoL: Stronger with God

Catching up with my ‘Journey of Life’ series after a long gap, I am happy to introduce you to CR. She and I met at our local church. She is a new mom and actively involved in church. Here is her story of growing together with God.  

It is hard for me to remember how I was thinking and what my dreams were.

When I was 16 I was very shy and scared to pursue things on my own.  Many of my achievements at the time were through my parents, always asking their permission never daring to do anything they would disapprove of.  This included my faith in God as well.  I wanted the typical things- to get married, to live in a house, have children, and be a stay home mom.

Between the ages of 17 to 19 I went to Cegep to study Special Care Counseling because I decided I wanted to work with children with Special needs.  In Cegep I found the people around me much more independent and exercising much more freedom than I was.  I think one of the reasons I continued to be so sheltered was because since I was shy, it made me more comfortable hiding under my parent’s wings.  During that time, my brother rebelled against my parents.  I remember feeling a little bit like a nerd in the eyes of my younger siblings and how they almost seemed to admire my brother more than me.

When I started University, I finally had my first boyfriend.  I was so proud to have one finally and decided that I too wouldn’t be so nerdy and have more fun.  Well, this was probably the worst year of my life!  Because of my low self-esteem, I let him hurt me and tolerated things I should have never tolerated if I had any more respect for myself.  Although it was a year of mistakes and pain God used it for good.  He showed me that He would never leave me even if I disobeyed him and he also showed me that there is tremendous blessing when we obey him.

I don’t really know why, but after that trial I became much more confident in myself and started to make many friends.  I also made a personal decision to follow Christ rather than living through my parents.  I became much more content in what God has given me and chose to wait to see what He will bless me with when He chooses to.

God still had more to teach me.  During my early 20’s I was now chasing after boys.  I often organized events or outings in hopes to get a boyfriend.  Oddly enough, the boys that ended up liking me were always those that I was not interested in.

The night I met my husband, was a night that I was not looking.  I was surrounded by my girlfriends and only focused on them.  We were at a New Years party and he noticed me when I first entered the house.  He tells me that he did so many things to get my attention but I was too enthralled with the friends I was already with.  It was only a few hours after midnight that I finally noticed him and had my first chat with him and God did the rest.  I like thinking back at this story because it shows me that I don’t need to obsess about my plans, God has the perfect plan and when He chooses the time is right things happen.

I did get married to my soul mate and cannot imagine being with anyone else.  I became a mother and we do have the financial means for me to be a stay home mom.  Wow, God has blessed me so much and I don’t really understand why He gave me such wonderful things.

Before I became a mother, I had a miscarriage.  This also taught me a valuable life lesson.  Life does not always go exactly the way we planned, it’s really God who chooses what we have and we must realize that whatever achievements and things we hold dear are not from our own efforts but are because God permitted us to have them.  I understand this now when I hold my son and see him as a gift that God gave me.

God still has a lot to teach me.  He has used the all circumstances in my life, the good and the bad, as life lessons.  I am so glad that He holds my life in His hands.

Thanks CR for sharing your story with us.

Phir Milenge!

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Isn’t forgiveness an option too ?

At a recent event on Women’s day actor Rahul Bose made the following statement and he received sharp criticism for it.

“…We have to ask ourselves, of the five or six of the rapists of the December 16 (gang-rape), is there anyone who wants to change, who wants to reform … Nobody is saying about commuting any sentence, the sentence stands as it is, but while it stands, can we create a gender warrior among them? If anybody is open to reaffirmation, do we have it in us to subvert our patriarchal mindset and tell them that we are ready to confer even the right to reform to you, even if there is such a massive public upsurge against you?… If we have to… evolve as a civilization further beyond the boundaries of India, then we have to look at forgiveness,”

This was his statement the next day when he reacted to the responses he had received on various social media platforms.

“Don’t know whether my statement on reformative justice for ALL criminals was misquoted-(haven’t read it), but am tweeting it in a series. All criminals should be sentenced according to the law, but while serving time I believe if any of them show deep, genuine remorse they should be given a chance to reform in jail. Rapists included. But if the perpetrator shows no remorse, then neither should we. And for all those asking how I would feel if a person dear to me was raped, the answer is : very sad, even angry. But if, over time, the perpetrator showed, deep, genuine remorse while in jail, I would find it in my heart to forgive him. As a civilization, that’s the only way to evolve to a better, more peaceful place. Hate begets hate. Love, forgiveness even, stops that cycle. My timeline is full of hate. I understand, but will never apologise for my beliefs. Thanks for (if you have) reading. My beliefs never stem from a knee jerk reaction. They stem from reading, seeking counsel from those wiser than me, feeling, analysing looking at history, at context and into my mind and heart.”

My first honest reaction when I read the statement for the first time was that it was a radical thought but the words were weighed and thoughtfully put together. I value forgiveness but as it is human nature when our emotions are riding high on anger and grief, forgiveness isn’t the first option which comes to mind. Reading through the comments on the newspaper articles that reported Mr’s Bose’s two statements, I realised that forgiveness may be a difficult option for many.

Total forgiveness is two fold in my opinion. First part is to forgive the act that was done but the second part, one I have often found very difficult, is to not judge a person based on their past actions whether forgiven or not. It is difficult to understand the nature of forgiveness itself. The christian faith implores us to look at another dimension for forgiveness. We forgive others because we have been forgiven.

Mat 6:12 (TEB) “Forgive us the wrongs that we have done, as we forgive the wrongs others have done us.”

Luke 6:37 (NIV) “…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Mat 6:14-15 (NIV) “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

A lot has been said and written on christian idea of forgiveness and a a simple google search would lead you to those articles. The point of this discussion is whether it is possible for someone to be remorseful and have a change of heart even while serving the sentence for their crimes. I agree  it is difficult to measure someone’s remorse, to understand if it is real and if a change/ transformation has occurred , yet I feel a part of forgiveness begins with our own selves. Sometimes we forgive someone because of how we feel for them and at other times we do it for our selves. In forgiving others we can find our own depth (and vice versa too, if we are unforgiving in the face true repentance does it not show some hardness of our own heart?). In receiving forgiveness we also receive hope for tomorrow, a hope of redemption, salvation and a reconciliation with the divine. For someone living out a death sentence, that hope would be enough to make the days liveable and the death tolerable.

Even though it is a difficult option, Forgiveness is the stepping stone to change. We owe it to humanity to offer a chance of change and a hope of redemption to our fellow human beings. Although it is hard in times of tragedy, we have to peel ourselves away from our emotions and let peace prevail.

Phir MIlenge!!

Shortly before I published this piece, the news emerged that Ram Singh, the 35-year-old main accused in Nirbhaya’s brutal gang rape, was found dead in his Jail cell. It has been termed as a suicide so far. The reaction to the death has been varied – from some people rejoicing for one less criminal to some lamenting yet another failure of the justice system. Some controversy theories of whether it was really a suicide have also begun doing the rounds. Was  Ram singh  so deprived of the hope that he could repent and be forgiven? Was taking his life the only way for him to show true remorse? Did he know he wouldn’t be ever forgiven and offered a chance to transform? The questions are all daunting.

It’s the Reason!

This is the first time I am observing the Lent. I mean I have observed other people observing the lent season but I have never done it for myself. My Roman Catholic friends often gave up small luxuries like chocolates or sugar or even meat and vices like smoking for the Lent season, some also took to fasting. After my new years resolution to eat healthy failed miserably did not pan out (thats one post still hanging around in the drafts folder), I was looking for another serious motivation to get back to healthy eating and obviously I thought what great way to combine it with faith during lent. However it is much more than that. In  a recent edition of Slice of Infinity, Margaret Manning writes

” For Christians, the journey through Lent offers a visible and living reminder of the fact that life entails death; it cannot be circumnavigated or avoided. Those who follow the path of Lent are presented with a similar decision: will the giving up of aspects we believe essential to our vision of a wonderful life lead us to bitterness or to hope? The discipline of Lent often reveals hands grasped tightly and tenaciously around ideals that must give way to new realities. Author M. Craig Barnes suggests that the journey away from our own sense of what makes for a wonderful life is actually the process of conversion. “It is impossible to follow Jesus and not be led away from something. That journey away from the former places and toward the new place is what converts us. Conversion is not simply the acceptance of a theological formula for eternal salvation. Of course it is that, but it is so much more. It is the discovery of God’s painful, beautiful, ongoing creativity along the way in our lives.”* ”

I was a late comer to Christ plus the fact that Lent as a period of fasting or giving up luxuries is not really observed in many protestant denominations meant I never actually followed the so called church traditions (except for the Lord’s Table). This year however I have a deep longing to develop spiritual disciplines and I am considering this lent season as my launch-pad into the year ahead. I have committed to cut down on my sugar intake and also to reading the word and meditating. It’s a measurable period of time and I felt it would be easy to remain accountable.

Many-a-car-bumper-stickers proclaim the crucifixion and resurrection as the reason behind the season  (of christmas). So as we draw close to the reason I created a lent countdown calendar for myself and thought of sharing it here for those of you who may be participating. I am bit late in posting this but I crossed of some days for you ! Please feel free to download the image for your personal use.

lent 2013

Phir Milenge!!

* – M. Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts: Finding New Life Through Unwanted Change(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 21

Wott-ee-dhaat?

“Wott-ee-dhaat?” is my daughter’s speak for ‘ what is that?’. In my attempt to teach her about things around her, I started asking her this question every time we saw something on the street, zoo or shop things she had seen in a book or on tv and now she asks this question ALL THE TIME!. Before you say anything let me clarify I allow her 1/2 hour of television after lunch and 1/2 hour after dinner. Now-a-days my daughter says many things in her toddler language which I hope to document some day! My friend Divs did a great job of recording her daughter’s first phrases in her scrapbook. (This is a gentle nudge for you Divs to get back onto blogging!!)

I have said it time and again, I have learnt so many new things ever since I got pregnant with my daughter. She continues to amaze me with her sense of wonder, innocence and curiosity. She sees something and is amazed by it over and over again. Sometimes I wish I could do the same. It would be so easy to be happy then. Some of the things that we often take for granted would become adorable once more. If only we can remind ourselves again what it was that captured our heart in the first place.

One area where this principle can be applied is spiritual disciplines and this is what I am striving to do this year. I remember as a little tween girl when I read the Book of John and the Psalms, I was captivated by the beautiful imagery the words created. At that time I did not fully understand the meaning but the words were music to my ears. As 2012 came to an end , I was once again reminded of the reasons why I my head and heart was drawn to Christ. I am feeling drawn to explore The Word a bit more and recapture the sense of wonder I once had. Kudos to those of you who have a regular scripture reading routine. it’s not easy but it has to be done. It’s much like cooking isn’t it ? You have to do it because your body needs it whether you like it or not but there at least you have an option of going out and eat what someone else cooks. The spiritual nourishment that the scriptures provide has to be consumed on our own – there are NO shortcuts. I am hoping that in my bible reading this year I would be able to ask God, “Wott-ee-dhaat?” again and once again He will let His truth shine !

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Phir Milenge!

post 28: Mustering up words

English Standard Version (©2001)
“My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:” – Psalm 39:3

If Like me, you are from Delhi, India & living in North America then you’d agree that the last month has dealt a double dose of tragedy. First with the Newtown School Shooting  and then the brutal gang rape in Delhi . The details in both cases are shocking to say the least. Even with the high of Christmas and the holiday season I cannot stop thinking about the victims in both the cases.

I felt ashamed for all the times in past I chose to remain silent about being eve-teased as a young girl in Delhi. I felt sorrow for the families going through the loss of their loved ones. The questions that comes to mind again and again is  ‘what has this world come to?’. Even though , I do not have an answer, I firmly believe that there is still some goodness left in the world. Even if the bad seems so strong, eventually  the good will emerge victorious. In trying to articulate what I was feeling , I came up with the following few lines:

Would you believe if I tell you ’cause I know this is true

there is a God in heaven who knows you through and through

He knows all your questions; He knows all your complains

He sees all of your sorrow and he feels all of your pain

 

The lives that were taken on that  dreadful friday morn

are not lost, are not forgotten and surely not alone

a life was violated, out of a moving bus was thrown

he knows that too and with you he does also mourn

 

if he hears our cry for mercy, for justice and solution

why does he not act right now and remove our confusion

why does not he save us now from crime and persecution

reveal himself and take away our spiritual pollution

 

Would you believe if I tell you ’cause I know this is true

God has a plan and in his time he knows just what to do

Though we struggle now in due time we’ll surely understand

how sorrows lead to the fulfillment of, his plan- good and grand

 

With so much pain abound in the world ,you ask , how it can be

that God is good & true, but Have you not heard of the enemy?

We must think, find answers and some action must be taken

but in the midst of all our doubts, God should not be forsaken

 

The battle rages on so strong in the heavenly realm as we speak

Wait my soul, on him do trust, and his wisdom you do seek

There is grief and pain on this earth but there is peace in eternity

And one day we will overcome and rejoice in God’s victory

Over the past few days I have read some articles with facts that have shocked me and words comforted and have resonated with me. I am listing those out for you in the hope that some of these might help you articulate your own questions and feelings on these issues.

A message from Ravi Zacharias on Newtown tragedy

this film maker verbalised the questions we all have about the Delhi Gang rape and what it tells about a nation.

This editorial made me think about safety of women

One poem on the Delhi Rape case 

Another poem on Newtown tragedy

Shocking article on What some Indian policemen think about rape.

Phir Milenge!!