When You Can’t Find Anything New About New Year!

It was just two weeks back that we all were waiting with much excitement to welcome 2019. Most of us were at church for a watch night service praying for new blessings, beginnings and breakthroughs to be seen in the New Year. The feelings at 11:55 pm on 31st December 2018 were something like as if we would be landing on some new planet within a few minutes where everything would be new, fresh, thrilling, beautiful and different than the past year. The sound of firecrackers, the wishes that we sent and received on Facebook and WhatsApp and the phone calls from our friends & family gave more reassurance to those feelings. We were all set to welcome the New Year only to find out later that there isn’t anything new about it.

As the days pass by, we find ourselves in the same day to day routine, with the same jobs & chores and dealing with the same challenges we had the past year. It even looks like we are losing the grip and the enthusiasm for the resolutions we made in the beginning. Our diet plans, Bible readings, developing new skills, family schedules, family time, acquiring good habits, work goals and all sorts of resolutions seem unsuccessful.

In fact, the resolution isn’t new in itself.  Most of us have the same plans and resolutions we had a year back or a couple of years back or maybe three years back:). We all have great dreams and high expectations in our lives but we find ourselves moved towards them just an inch. When we don’t see any momentum or change happening in our lives, we tend to give up on our efforts hoping that next year things will be better with better planning and clear goals.  

Can you relate?

But here’s a beautiful truth we often miss in our efforts to hold everything together by our understanding, capacity and strength. 

God has an appointed time for things and no matter how much we plan, set goals and have strategies for our lives, He works in our lives in His perfect time by his perfect plans and in ways we can’t envision.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Even though our resolutions seem to fail, our resilience shouldn’t.

Even though our plans seem unsuccessful, God’s plan for our lives doesn’t.

Even though we tend to give up on our lives, He doesn’t.

Where we see death, God sees life.

Where we see end, God sees beginning.

Where we see insufficiency, God sees abundance

Where we see impossibilities, God see opportunities.

So even if you don’t find anything new about the New Year, open your eyes to His mercies, which are new every morning. By Him on your side, you can always have a fresh start and a new beginning. So don’t settle where you are. Keep moving, Keep trusting His wonderful plans for your lives, keep the resilience, keep doing your best and see God do impossible things in and through your life in His time.

“I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.” Psalm 57:2

The Picture Of My Life Where God Reacts!

I felt surprised at the likes my recent profile picture earned on Facebook. My eyebrows rose when I saw I got 300+ likes on my picture (which is the first time in history). And I thought to myself….Wow! That’s something cool, this many people liked my picture? Hmm…I must be someone important…and I was loving the comments I received from my FB friends that my picture with my kids was cute, beautiful, lovely etc. and here I found myself celebrating, getting happy, feeling a sense of achievement and even a little bit puffed up with pride over the social media applause!

But the picture which I posted wasn’t the only picture I took on Christmas. It was one among 5 similar pictures. This one I chose thinking that it had all the features fit to be my profile picture; all smiling faces, Asher posing well, Jennie isn’t jerking but is a bit calm and awake on my lap and I am looking a perfect & happy mum to them:)

The social media has become more of a performing platform. It has certain criteria to be accepted and applauded. All of us wants to post the best pictures, the best moments, the showing off events, the filtered and edited selfies of ourselves because the more filtered and attractive the picture, the more likes, reactions and acceptance it gets. It has become competitive between friends, spouses, family members and co-workers to see who gets more likes & comments for their pics. Many times impressive pics are uploaded just to make others feel covetous. In fact, not everyone who reacts to your pictures with likes and hearts necessarily mean it. They might even want to frown inside seeing your pictures of parties, promotions or holidays fun!! Do you agree?

We might feel happy to see the growing numbers of thumbs up & heart signs on our pics. But often, however, the reality is covered up with the “put togetherness” of a contrived picture. There is more about our life which is concealed under our perfect pictures on social media.

I wonder if God was to use a FB account, which picture of my life would He actually like or react to?

The picture where I am caring for my kids without complaining, or feeling frustrated about the parenting challenges I have or the picture where I am trying to show I am a perfect & happy mum of two well-cared for kids but just for a minute for that one perfect click?

The picture where my husband & I are posing to show how content and loving  couple we are or the picture where we are actually well-bounded in our hearts and love each other despite our flaws & egos?

The picture where we eat dinner at a grand hotel at the beachside or the picture where we also share a meal with a hungry kid at the roadside?

The picture where all the family members are smiling hard just to pose for the perfect family picture of the year or the picture where everyone remains together by choosing forgiveness and love over their misunderstandings and hurts?

The picture which I take with the guests that come to my home, or the picture where I am offering good hospitality to them without feeling upset or burdened over their unexpected arrival?

The picture where I am showing the large amount of work I do daily or the picture where I am doing the work faithfully even when no one watches, notices or appreciates me?

The picture where I stand with a bunch of my friends and have a hash tag #Friends forever# moment or the picture where I am the first one to reach with help when one of them is in need or crisis?

In a world which approves appearance, we often shift our focus from “being” to “appearing”. But God doesn’t see the appearance, He see our hearts, our motives and our inner longings for acceptance. He is pleased with our inside out performance.

As we are nearing the New Year, a new beginning and yet another New Year’s Resolution and plans for our lives, shall we make a resolution to have more pictures of our lives which will be liked by God? In the midst of growing craze of social media gratification, shall we have pictures which aren’t just for gaining applause on social media but genuine pictures & moments of our lives which will gain the approval from God? Pictures where God reacts with a heart emoji and comments

God: Hey! That’s a lovely picture!!

Wishing you a very meaningful & God-centered New Year – 2019

Hope Is Born For Us!

Christmas brings many memories to me with its arrival and the special ones are the childhood memories off course. As a little girl, Christmas was the most awaited time of the year for me and I am sure for all the kids it’s exciting. It’s all because of the carols, new dress ( matching clips & bangles:) ), Christmas tree & decorations, church functions, dance, games, prizes, helping mom to make special dishes, snacks & sweets to distribute and it was all fun almost for an entire month of December. Even though we didn’t have any rich or grand celebration but my parents made sure that all their kids are happy during the festival within the limited resources which they could provide.

So for me Christmas was all about excitement and a lots of fun as a little girl and even as I was growing up I had the same concept for Christmas, like it’s a Christian festival and I never went on to search for a true or deeper meaning of Christmas until one Christmas night I had no happiness or any kind of celebration around me but only my extremely sick one year old daughter in my hands who was having continuous seizures attacks. Alone in my room, I wondered why I had to go through such trial while the world out there celebrates the birth of Jesus and has all kinds of parties & fun going on. Why would I have this pain of seeing my child suffer, and I don’t even get to have any celebration or any family gathering or any enjoyment? And all I could do was cry and feel sorry for myself….

But as I was deeply thinking about my feelings, I realized that Christmas wasn’t all about festivity and fun but it was all about celebrating Jesus who was born for me this day to bring me hope, comfort and peace right in the midst of my sufferings, who was born to trade my sorrows with His joy. HE HAS COME and it should be the biggest reason for me to celebrate.

Life is all about good times and difficult ones.  Sometimes, we may find ourselves in a challenging season unexpectedly. But the good news is even if the seasons of our lives change, God doesn’t. He continuously provides His abundant grace upon our lives in the good seasons and the difficult ones.

What’s most important is that we must have the joy of Christmas inside of us knowing that our savior was born for us, to take away our burdens, to wipe our tears, to accept us and to love us unconditionally. The joy which isn’t centered on all the festive glitters & shines but is based on knowing that the best gift for you and me is sent to us this day.

I don’t know which hard season you are facing right now. Maybe you are feeling disheartened, broken and miserable. Maybe your loved ones aren’t with you, or you have lost someone close to you, or you are dealing with a scary diagnosis, or someone you love is battling for life in the hospital or you can name it.

But don’t let the absence of “celebration” rob you of celebrating the true reason of celebration and its Jesus.

You can joyfully celebrate His birth, His promise, His hope and His grace in your life. Let Christmas be the beautiful reminder to you and me that we can be more than a conqueror in Him who has conquered the darkness with His light. Jesus is born to give us HOPE in the midst of life’s uncertainties and storms, He came to sacrifice His life on the Cross, He was forsaken and He went through agony so we will have life and have it in abundance!

Let’s celebrate Jesus “our Hope” which is born for us this day!

I wish you a joyous and blessed Christmas!

When Your Gift Seems Small!

I tried to make a video message for Christmas and had multiple attempts to make it the best that I could but all I could say to myself was –it’s not going to work… I may not make it…the words aren’t flowing. I even wondered if my Christmas message would be significant enough in the midst of hundreds of great messages streaming through social media at Christmas? I did not feel skilled enough to try something new and creative.

As I was ready to quit my plan of making a video message for Christmas, a story from the Bible which I had read a few days back during my devotion time caught hold of my thoughts and served as a great encouragement to my heart.

It’s the story of a widow who offers her two very small copper coins to the temple treasury. It’s a very familiar story for all of us.

Mark 12: 41-44

41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I am sure, before putting her two small copper coins into the temple treasury, this widow might have felt hesitant as all the people around her were giving big amounts. Perhaps, she wished that no one would notice her small offering. But this small offering which she gave, was heard in heaven. Even if no one took notice of her small gift, Jesus did – because she had given out of her poverty; all she had to live on. She had given out of her devotion to God.

Have you ever felt you have very little to offer to God? Whether it’s your talents, your assets, your time, your skills or anything – you name it!

You may be wondering if your gift is going to make any difference. You may be thinking that others might undermine your offering.

Many times, our small attempts, our small beginnings can serve a big purpose in the kingdom of God. Like this poor widow’s story which became a great example to follow by many generations. We may feel what we do for God is insignificant compared to what others do for Him. But what seems small for us is noticed by God. He sees our heart and not the size of our gift. He doesn’t measure our giving like the world does. He simply delights in the gifts we offer out our love and devotion to Him.

As you prepare your heart for the Christmas season, what gift will you offer to the Baby born in the manger?

Dear Father! Thank you for delighting in the gift which I offer to you out of my love & devotion. Thank you for seeing my heart and not the size of my gift. Help me not to belittle my small offering but see it the way you do. I pray, it will be used for your glory. In Jesus name, amen!

Bridge

My daughter Jennie has turned 5 yesterday. Even though these 5 years of her life weren’t easy for her, I thank God for His faithfulness, His love, His grace and for molding my heart to feel the pain of others through my life experience. I met Jesus again during those lonely moments of my life, I realized His presence while caring for my sick child at home and I found the solace only being at His feet.

Here’s a video about her! Bridge is about the struggles she has been through, the emotional upheaval we faced time to time, the hope we clung to, the joy we chose over heartaches and the pain we understood well, caring for a special child.

 

 

Which Goal Will You Choose?

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These days I am engaged in an online course on effective teaching methods for kids. It includes child development, child psychology, teaching methods, modern techniques in education etc…etc. and there is lots to understand and learn about a child’s world. It’s one of my efforts to teach my highly active 1st grader in the easiest way possible and also understand his unique learning stages and needs.

In one of the modules related to elementary learning, I came across an interesting fact about the motives and goals students have for their academic achievement. It uses the examples of three students who have different achievement goals.

The first student finds the subject interesting and is passionate about learning and excelling in it. This goal is called the mastery goal.

The second student however, is concerned less about the subject than about getting top marks on the exams and in the course. Here’s a performance-oriented goal because he is focused primarily on looking successful. Learning about the subject is merely a medium for performing well in the eyes of peers and teachers.

And the third student is primarily concerned about avoiding poor or failing marks. Here’s a failure-avoidance goal because he is not really as concerned about learning the subject, as the first student is, or about competitive success, he is simply planning to avoid failure.

As I moved on to read and understand about these goals and their outcomes further, a thought stuck me…..

At some point in our lives we often choose these goals in relation to our call.

The moment we dedicate our lives for God’s service and decide to live for Him and share His love with the world, we are so passionate and genuinely zealous to know Him more. We simply want to pursue Him out of our love and enthusiasm. We are like the first student who is willing to learn the subject out of interest and passion.

But as years go by and we don’t see our lives bearing as much fruits as we wished when we answered the alter call, we become more like the performance–oriented student, who isn’t concern more about the subject but getting a higher score to look successful in the eyes of peers and teachers. We want to keep up with others, maintain the work updates on social media and want to serve God not out of passion or love for Him but out mere performance.

By doing so, eventually we lose sight of our passion, our purpose and the very meaning of our existence in the midst of comparing our success with others which further results in the failure–avoidance goal; like the third student who is only concern about avoiding poor or failing marks. We begin to do the mission God called us for, out of the failure–avoidance goal. We don’t feel the passion anymore, we can’t measure up with others and we don’t want to look like a failure in the eyes of others. So we begin to live with a vacuum in our heart not knowing which way to go.

Can you relate?

Here’s the question!

But, what kind of achievement goal or success does God want us to have when we work for His kingdom?

God is more concern about what we become in Him than what we do for Him. He defines success by our obedience to His purpose for our lives and our willingness to do His work in His way. Success doesn’t mean how much you have achieved compared to others, but it simply means how much you have achieved compared to what you are called to achieve.

He wants us to seek Him passionately and know His heart. He wants us to genuinely feel the pain and the burden He feels for the perishing world. He wants us to get our focus and goals in His direction. He wants us to seek Him for what He wants us to be and not what we want to become.

Often times, we shift our focus from His ways of success to the world’s way of success. We strive harder, want to look successful among our friends, family and society and want to achieve the goals of our Calling in our way. Eventually we become less concern about what God wants from us and more concern about how we can measure up with others.

……and as I read about the outcomes of the different achievement goals the students had, the mastery goal resulted in excelling and deep-understanding of the subject, the performance-oriented goal resulted in failure to understand the subject well, and the failure-avoidance goal resulted in failing in the subject due to less interest and inadequate knowledge.

What is your goal of success in His kingdom work?

Do you want to know Him deeply, seek Him passionately and excel in your calling or do you want to work in His kingdom out of performance-oriented and failure-avoidance goals?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the PRIZE.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

When you feel to give up!

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“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here’s a beautiful view of my orchid plant!

Several months back in the summer heat the plant was almost dried up. All its green leaves were withered. It didn’t look like it will survive or bloom again. But I kept watering it every day along with all other plants. One morning, to my surprise a tiny green leaf sprouted. Then another one came along.  In few months’ time, orchid shoots were showing up. And they began to bloom rapidly.

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Now my plant is full of orchids and gives me so much happiness to see and admire it while working in the kitchen. It also conveys a great message for me to ponder on.

In our lives too, there are seasons of dryness. Where it all looks so miserable and disappointing. Our dreams which once we cherished, looks impossible. During those difficult times, we can hardly believe that our efforts will bring any result to our situation. We are tempted to give up assuming that nothing will ever change.

But if we keep on persevering, keep on giving our best, keep trusting in the Lord for His favor, and keep on nurturing our dreams, one day to our surprise, we will see them being fulfilled.

In those season of dryness, when we think nothing is happening, the change will be taking place underneath. It means during this season, God will help us to grow and be matured in our faith and understanding of His promises. In this season He will equip us for the fruits He is about to brings forth through our lives. He will be making us ready for the new and upcoming season of our life. On the outside, we may look unproductive but in the inside, a crucial change will be happening to make us everything we are created to be.

Life Lesson: Seasons of dryness can be discouraging. But don’t give up on your life and your dreams. Keep nurturing them, give your best, have faith in God, and one day a tiny green leaf will show up.

Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5

 

 

 

 

It’s His Love!

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Can I ask you a question?

What brings you a sense of self-worth? Your answer will probably be: your success, your earnings, other’s good opinions about you, your best performance at your workplace or maybe the applauds you receive from your friends, family or your colleagues and leaders.

For me, I had based my self-worth on people’s approval for my performance. And all I wanted was to receive “Good Job” badges.

Every one of us longs to feel worthy, significant and approved. It’s our basic personal need which drives us to do everything to get into the spotlight, to get applauded, to strive harder to be successful, to be recognized and appreciated by others.

We have subscribed to the belief that our self-worth comes from our performance and other’s opinion about us. But there will be times we may fail to live up to the expectations of others, to give our best in our workplace or may not always get applauds as we expect. If we base our self-worth on the constantly changing measuring stick of the world, we will get disappointed. Soon we will feel inadequate for not able to meet the standards of validation required of us. We will fail to recognize the true source of our worth.

 So, where should our self-worth be based on? Only the creator knows the value of his creation. In the same way only our Creator knows our worth. He values us so much that He sacrificed His own son. Jesus laid down His life on the cross not only to free us from the wages of sins but also to give us a life of worth, fulfillment and purpose. His resurrection promises meaning, hope and a new life for us.

 In his book “Search for significance” Robert S. McGee shares a beautiful truth: Our true source of self-worth is not dependent on our ability to earn the acceptance of people, our success, wealth or our performance but rather its true source is the love and acceptance of God.”

It’s His love which makes us worthy! It doesn’t matter what our job title is, how much money we earn, how much successful we are, or what people says about us. What’s important is to know the truth that our heavenly father values us so much. He alone knows our worth because He knows how much it has cost. Let this truth always be a secure foundation for our self-worth.

Prayer: Dear Father! Thank you so much for finding me worthy of your love. Thank you for choosing me to be your daughter. Help me to remain rooted in my identity in you. Help me not to look at others for defining my worth, not to depend on my achievements or good deeds but guide me to take each steps towards the treasure you have for me. Let my true worth be always founded on your unconditional love for me. Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You On A Detour?

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Last week we were travelling to my husband’s place to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday and spend a few days with her. It wasn’t very good weather but still we decided to move on as we didn’t want her to be alone on her big day. It was the same week when our Kerala state was hit hard by heavy rainfall and flood. Though we were safe, most of the places we were travelling through had water overflowing onto the roads. It was rainy and windy weather which took us much longer than usual to reach home.

The usual time it takes to reach there is only one and half hours. But with the road blocks we needed to take a couple of detours along the way. In the rough weather, these unknown and unplanned detours felt very overwhelming, unending and uncomfortable. We felt lost and confused. The windy weather felt so threatening and all I could do was to pray for God’s protection over us.

The distance we would otherwise cover in a few minutes on the same roads had taken an hour as we had to take roundabout routes instead of the usual roads. A usually smooth journey became very exhausting, bumpy and time-consuming.

But these same detours kept us safe from the possible danger we would otherwise encounter travelling on those flooded roads. Through these detours we were able to get to our destination safe and sound. Without these detours, we might have ended up stopping our journey in the middle.

Detours of life

In our lives too, we sometimes have to face some unexpected & unintended detours. The challenging cicumstances of our lives force us to take a different turn. The journey isn’t always as smooth as we wish it to be. We get exhausted, it feels unending and uncomfortable being on these unknown detours of life. All we wish for is to have smooth and fast travel with no inconvenience or interruptions in-between. But most of the time, the same detours takes us to the right place we’re supposed to reach. These same detours make us resilient, determined to reach our goal and keep us safe from the possible danger of pride, personal glory and self-dependence. These unknown, uncomfortable and exhausting detours help us to focus more on the Lord for guidance, comfort and strength.

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Are you encountering any detours in your life?

It might feel longer, tiring and unending. There might be rough and stormy paths along the way. You may feel lost and confused. But let your focus be on Jesus. He will stand by you and get you through. Trust His heart of love. Though these detours may sound extensive, unknown and rough, they are the assured paths to your destination. They will guide you to go on with your life journey with focus, resilience, watchfulness, resolve and dependence on Him. And trust me these detours are much safer to travel on:)

 

 

 

 

When Your Faith Doesn’t Make Sense!

faith sonu

A couple of weeks back we had an appointment for the assessment of our 6 years old son in relation to his inattention and performance issues in School. The assessment went on for more than two hours including separate counselling and Q/A sessions for both the parents. The assessment was much needed to help us understand his challenges and help him improve and perform well in all activities.

I sat in the glass cabin of the assessor at the assessment centre with my daughter on my lap as my son played in a room filled with toys, books & puzzles outside of the cabin. The assessor brought in a few questionnaires and began asking me questions. She asked about the family history, pregnancy complications, medications, challenges at home, Asher’s performance at home and school, difficulties he is facing, home atmosphere, family support etc. She filled all the needed information in the forms and gave one questionnaire for me to tick my choice of answers.

After completing all the questionnaires, and perhaps getting a glimpse of the depth of my emotional state, she couldn’t stop herself from asking me a very personal question – So how are you coping emotionally with all these challenges? What is the source of your strength?

….I told her that I have a faith in God and I believe He gives me strength to face each day.

I wondered how much my secret of strength made sense to her as all she knew about me was that I was someone who was in a complete mess – “a 4 years old child on my lap who is almost in a vegetative state, another child who is struggling to fit himself into a world which doesn’t function as per his system and I am a wornout mom, sitting in the assessment centre hoping that they track his uniqueness and not just his flaws and give me some handy tips to parent him well.”

….But to my surprise she nodded her head with a smile and tear-filled eyes, agreeing with me as to what I claimed to be my source of strength.

I thought my complicated life might disqualify me from sharing my faith in Jesus. But sharing my faith through my brokenness actually revealed His strength and power in my life. As Paul rightly says, His power is made perfect in our weakness.

“My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8

Often we want to glorify God through our strength and we wait till all things get better in our lives. But God wants to use our brokenness too, for His glory. He wants us to share our faith right in the middle of our trials.

I love the words of Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life”

Your weaknesses are not an accident. God deliberately allowed them in your life for the purpose of demonstrating His power through you. Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”

If you are in the middle of pain and the darkest moments of your life, don’t waste your experiences. Use them to glorify God. Don’t wait till everything gets perfect. Let Him minister to others through your very chaos. Let His strength be shown through your brokenness as you lean on Him for courage. The very thing you feel disqualifies you from sharing your faith is the one thing which will become your biggest testimony. I hope this message encourages you today.