To the Dreamers

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Joseph. You know, the one in the Bible. The boy with his head in the clouds. The one who always thought that he was meant for more than just a provincial life. (cue Beauty and the Beast soundtrack) His family thought he was being ridiculous. His neighbours probably blamed his parents for letting his imagination run wild. His brothers thought he was too prideful. But he just knew that he was meant for something more. That his life had a bigger purpose than the one he was presently pursuing. He probably even felt lonely because no one would believe him when he talked about his dreams. He was made fun of, and ostracized. And then, following a tragic set of events, he gets to be in charge of Potiphar’s household. That’s an important position. Surely, he must have thought, this must be it. This must be what his dreams were all about. He must have felt on top of the world and felt like he was living his dream. A head of the household was an incredibly important job. He was respected and held with high regard. Things he had never experienced all his life. And surely, he must have thought, this is my dream coming true at last.
Then tragedy struck again and he was thrown out of there and into prison. One can only imagine the devastation he must have felt. To be riding the highs of life, only to be thrown off into the pit (again). He must have questioned everything. Even the purpose of his existence. Whether he was just a pawn in God’s hands. Whether his life was a cosmic joke. All the what ifs flooding his mind. What if he had never had those dreams, he would have been content with his life with his family. What if his brothers hadn’t sold him off, he wouldn’t have been at Potiphar’s house. What if he misinterpreted the dreams? What if … Questions probably flooded his mind, yet no answers came. Is this what his life is supposed to look like now? Living in prison, trying to push his dreams to the back of his mind. Focusing on the present and trying to make the best of it. And before he knew it, he was given a good position even in prison. You could say, he was a natural leader. Through all of the things life threw at him, and through all the questions he had, he kept being the person God had moulded him to be. Maybe he kept waiting in hope that his dreams will finally come true. Maybe there was a crazy thought that his time at Potiphar’s house may not have been his dream coming true, but that something far better awaits him.
And then it happened. He was just being himself when he counted on God for the interpretation, except this time it was for the Pharaoh. And just like that, he was made in charge of not just a household, or an estate. A whole frikkin country! Absolutely insane. I can only imagine him sitting in his place of importance and taking a moment to take it all in, as his journey flashes before his eyes and finally all his struggles and pits start to make sense. And he finally understands what his dreams were about.
Imagine if Joseph was appointed as head of Egypt, as soon as he had the dream. Then there would have been just a line about him in the Bible. But his struggle made his story unique (and gave him about 10 chapters in Genesis). I’ve constantly heard that no one meant for great things, has had the easy way. And stories of people like Joseph affirms this statement.
Have you ever felt that you’re meant for more? That something great came along, and then it wasn’t yours anymore? Have you lost your dream in the struggles of life? You are not alone in this. The story of Joseph reminds us to keep going, and to keep being who you have been called to be. And if what you thought was your dream has been taken away, it only means that it was meant to prepare you for something greater. And if there is a voice inside you telling you that you’re meant for more, believe it. Because you are meant for more.

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The Greatest Crown

So I started to watch The Crown on Netflix and may I just say how much I love British drama? Like, seriously, they have such a posh and polished way of snubbing people, its awesome! And so much of it made more sense to me now that I have a little bit of knowledge about Church History, thanks to Matt Lowe’s class last year.

But what I love most about shows like The Crown and Downton Abbey, is the reverence and respect that is expressed toward people of a higher standing and authority. No one has to tell the people to respect the Queen or Mr. Crawley. It is an unsaid understanding. The authority they have seems like an aura around them and everyone else simply bows to it. No questions asked. It has always baffled me. But then, I look around me and see that my Indian culture has pretty much taught me the same thing. Respect your elders and people with authority. This voice in my head tells me that I can never say some things in front of people with authority or take a certain tone with them. It has been drilled into my personality.

Then I think about Jesus and how, despite his appearance or his clothes or even his background, He has so many followers. You could say He was just a natural leader. But He was more than that. He had an aura of authority around Him and only the people that cared enough to pay close attention felt it and bowed down to it. To a random passerby, He may have seemed like merely a good public speaker. But if they paid attention, His speeches showed authority and commanded respect and reverence. He didn’t have to wear an actual crown or preside over an estate to prove His authority. He was a mere baby, when He was first recognised as the promised Messiah. He was twelve when he baffled religious teachers. So even before the heavens declared He was different, after His baptism, even before His first miracle, people had started to see there was something worth respecting about Him. Even if it wasn’t everyone.

It is this Crown that we are called to worship and revere. A Crown that stoops down to us in love and doesn’t keep us at a distance because of His authority, but that His love outweighs all else, even our faults. A Crown that aims to serve rather than be served. A Crown that gives peace and not fear. A Crown that is personal and life-saving. A Crown that is all-powerful yet ever-gentle. A Crown that is relentless in pursuit of your trust. A Crown that is accessible to all. The greatest Crown of all.

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On Being Vulnerable

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A major part of my life was spent building walls and trying to protect myself. So I am no stranger when it comes to not allowing myself to be vulnerable. However, in the past couple of years, with the help of a few select wonderful people, these walls have come down brick by brick. It was a slow and difficult process but now I am in a state where I can genuinely appreciate the value of being vulnerable and be trusting toward people. All it takes is a bunch of encouraging people who value you and teach you to value yourself. As famously said, no man is an island. Or maybe it is just a Tenth Avenue North song. Either way, no man or woman can survive by themselves. We need people and people need us. To support, encourage, strengthen and to grow individually.

 

I’ve learned that not everyone judges you for what you’re going through and what you have been through. Not everyone forms their opinion of you based on your low moments. Not everyone thinks you’re weak because of what you say in the darkest of times. And not everyone belittles what is going on in your life. Key phrase? Not everyone.

So leave behind the memory of those who hurt you. And look around at what life is offering you today. The people who love you, for you. Give yourself a chance to open up, and take a risk with your heart. Who knows, maybe your vulnerability will inspire someone and you’ll have made a close friend. Maybe, in trusting them, you’ll be able to accept your true self – warts and all. That, in turn, will make it easier for you to accept those around you. And so will continue the spread of the feelings of trust and acceptance. And it all starts with you. Yes. You.

Living the Dream – My Chapter at Hillsong

One of the many reasons for my hiatus from blogging is that I had the privilege to be at Hillsong Church in Sydney as one of the Pastoral Leadership students. To say that it was an incredible experience would be an understatement. I got to be up close and personal with all my real-life, not Bible characters type spiritual heroes and saw how they live their lives. And realized more than ever how inadequate my “spirituality” is.

The best part about being around people that have a longing and heart for God is that you feel comfortable to be vulnerable with them. But what stood out the most to me was the atmosphere of encouragement. I’ve lived a whole life of trying to be good enough and trying to fit in and trying to not be invisible. It was in the presence of this incredibly spiritual group of people that I’ve learned the value of being who I am, without the pressure of trying.

One of the greatest moments for me was during college chapel. Worship was in full swing and I had one of those moments when you pause and look around and take it all in. First of all, I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Me. A not-so-important-nor-talented girl from Mumbai at Hillsong. It was a big deal. And then I looked around and I was amazed at what I saw. I’d spent a few months in class with these people around me. And yet, in that moment, I was amazed to see so many young people with hungry hearts for God. A longing to serve God. Hands outstretched to heaven, reaching out for more of Him. It was in this moment that I began to understand the true value of being there. It wasn’t the opportunity or what I did, that mattered. It was what I learn from these people around me. And I resolved to do just that.

Over the year at HILC, I was given the opportunity to work with and alongside a lot of brilliant, talented men and women of God, in different spheres of church ministry. I got to see how a church runs and functions at a large scale. And it all came down to the people who served with willing hearts. I met church volunteers who had full time jobs and yet would make it to the Thursday Sisterhood sessions. People who planned their life around church timings. It was inspiring to talk to and spend time with them. Their heart to serve was pure and without any expectation of applause. But their leaders never neglected to appreciate them, no matter how big the team.

I was amazed how everything that happened, took so much work and effort from a team working relentlessly behind the scenes. These guys were my true heroes. Showing up at 6am, even before they’ve had their coffee, and being alert and quick with their responsibilities. My OCPD loved their structure haha. But mostly, I loved their enthusiasm even when they weren’t having the best day. This is what I loved the most – their heart for knowing their role in the bigger picture of the kingdom of God.

What does all this have to do with living my dream, you ask? This has always been my dream. To be around people who want to serve God as much as I do. To learn how to serve God despite circumstances. To be in the Holy Spirit atmosphere all through the week. To live at church (which we basically did, haha). Sure, I met a few famous Hillsong people and did a lot of Hillsong things. But this, to serve and to play my part in something of this magnitude, has always been my dream. And someday, I might get to go back there and experience it all over again, but until then, I’ve stepped into a different season. And I’m excited to see what adventure awaits me here. 🙂 2017-05-24-PHOTO-00003857.jpg

How to wait

The other day when I was waiting at the bus stop, a friend of mine saw me and walked up to me for a chat. A few minutes into the conversation, he asks me who I was waiting for. Now it may seem obvious to you lot, about why I was waiting at the bus stop, but I live among friends who take cabs to places and I used to do that too. Until recently, I discovered my spending habits far outweigh what I earn. And the fact that the bus costs me 5 times less than a cab, hit me like a truck and I started taking the bus. So it came as a shock to my friend when I told him I was waiting at the bus stop for a bus, because he is from a generation that waits at bus stops to meet friends (he is over 5 months younger than me, you see). Waiting at the bus stop, in Ross’ words, is like being given the “gift of time”. There is a lot of waiting involved and the buses are more unpredictable than Game of Thrones. I’ve seen a lot of people at bus stops that get restless and start freaking out, sometimes complaining loudly about the bus being late. I soon realized that the key to surviving that, is to be prepared for some waiting. I leave much earlier than I need to, so that I don’t get late to work and wait calmly for the bus to show up. This has helped me maintain my peace through the ride and show up to work, cheerful and focused at the task at hand.

That got me thinking (of course, it did). When God promises us something, be prepared for some waiting. Joseph had to wait for his God-given dreams to come true. David had to wait to be king. All of Israel had to wait to walk into the land flowing with milk and honey. All of Israel had to wait for the Messiah. Abraham had to wait for a son. There are so many instances in the Bible where there was a lot of waiting involved. But the thing to remember is that God fulfilled His promises. It is a great feeling when we receive promises and we’re so excited about what the Lord is going to do in our lives and we start to picture it. Then when we wake up the next day and see that nothing has changed, we get disappointed. Then the day after that, we see the same old life and we get frustrated. And the day after that, we start to lose hope. And the day after that we start to question if it really was from God. Then after that we live our life as we did and forget His promises.

Just today, I was making a work-related call and that person took a while to answer the phone. Meanwhile, my mind was working on some other things I had on my mind. By the time that person answered, I had to take a moment to recollect who I had called and for what reason. Isn’t it like that when we wait? We get bored and start distracting ourselves with other things and eventually forget what we were waiting for in the first place. While we wait, we must not just be prepared but we must train our hearts and minds to focus on His purpose. Once we lose sight of His purpose of those promises, we sentence ourselves to a longer wait.

We’ve been taught since Sunday School that God has a time for everything. He has the perfect time for His promises to come to pass in your life. And if He is making you wait, He is using this time to prepare you for what He has in store for you. Be prepared to wait, and be focused on His purpose.

Wrong side of the bed

I always wondered what it is like to “wake up on the wrong side of the bed”. I’d hear it being said all the time, but never truly understood it till today.

I woke up this morning – correction, I dragged myself out of bed this morning – with a numbness throughout my body. And my mood, ugh. It was like all this time all the things that hurt me physically and mentally were on pause and today it was like all of them decided to un-pause themselves. When I voiced out my body’s cry of pain, I had the word “lazy” thrown at me which made me want to scream bloody murder, but that was just the beginning of a very crabby day.

About late afternoon, somewhere in the midst of tears and homicidal intentions, I looked at my phone and there was an alert from YouTube about a new video. Normally, I ignore these alerts because I think I’ll watch it when I feel like it. (That doesn’t stop me from leaving the alerts on, for some reason.) As I was trying to swipe the notification away, I accidentally opened the link and the song that played made my eyes allow those tears to fall freely.

 

It was just what I needed to hear. That all my hurt and pain is being carried away by Him. That no matter how dismissive the world may be toward my pain, there is One who notices it all and bothers to find some way to talk to me even when I am in the crabbiest mood and refusing to listen to anyone. Even when I am so down on myself and feel like I am so alone, He finds the perfect words to show me that I am not and never will be alone. That no matter all the garbage that the world so generously keeps throwing at me, there is still hope for a very hopeless nobody like me.

And the greatest of these…

There has been a lot that is being said by Christian people against homosexuals. It actually hurts me to hear things like these. Being a Christian myself, I know that some lifestyles are not accepted, in the sense that I wouldn’t follow them.

But every time I get frustrated or angry at someone for doing something I think is wrong, I have learned to make a conscious effort to remind myself of what Jesus said. “Let any one of you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.” That puts me in my place and I am humbled, because I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to live a life completely without sin. It is not my sinlessness that guarantees an audience with God, but His mercy despite my sinfulness. It is not my righteousness that makes me a Christian, but the faith that our God is the one true God.

Granted, that there are rights and wrongs and these make us different from the rest of the world. But I think, what this sense of right and wrong is there for is to point me in the right direction and keep me on the right track. Sometimes I get carried away and think people are wrong because they don’t follow the same things I do. Even if I am right, I am wrong to assume I have the authority to judge them in any way. What the Lord has taught me to do lately is to pray for these people and guide them through love and patience. And this is really difficult for me. I mean, if you’ve ever met me in person you’d know that I am probably one of the most impatient people on the planet. Given a free reign, I would walk out of conversations just because people are taking too long to get to the point. But the Lord is working in me. Making me love them enough to wait for them to get where they need to be. It is taking a while, this change in me, because like I said, “most impatient person on the planet”. Loving people doesn’t come naturally to me, either. I have spent most of my life being heartbroken by everyone around me and developed some very serious trust issues. But the Lord is working on that too. He is softening the places in my heart that I’d hardened for fear of getting hurt. He is making me see people differently from being cautious.

So when I say I have no authority to judge people for the way they live, I mean it. 1 Corinthians devotes an entire chapter to love. The first few lines of the chapter literally say that no matter how many good deeds you do and how religious you are, if you don’t do them with love, it has no value. In other words, they’re pointless. If I am to make a difference, I can only do it with love. I mean, would you listen to someone who is constantly judging you and yelling at you to change? I wouldn’t. I’d go right on and do the opposite of what they’re telling me to do. Then comes a very important scripture that I probably need to have framed above my bed to remind me every day. “Love does not demand its own way.” “[Love] endures through every circumstance.” So basically, love doesn’t force its will on people and loves them even though they don’t listen to you.

You’re probably thinking, that never works; that I am an idealistic, pretentious know-it-all who thinks she lives in a utopian world where everything has a simple solution. I have proof, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me to point you in the direction of the man who singlehandedly changed millions of lives through love. JESUS. He lived and breathed love. He welcomed every one and turned away no one, even though He knew what was in their hearts. I repeat, EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW WHAT WAS IN THEIR HEARTS! That has got to be some love! The love that those verses talk about, He was living it. And look at what His love did. Brought salvation to millions of people. There are at least a million Christian people around the world. If all of us choose to love like He did, imagine how many people would find Jesus and thus their salvation. I mean, we’ve tried everything else. Let’s try love.