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

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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.

The post of sermons past.

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Found this gem from 10 years ago.

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Magnify the Lord of your life, rather than the problems of your life. 

Gossip the Gospel 

2 Timothy 3:10-17

That was from 10 years ago! I remember noting it down from a sermon I was listening to, but can’t seem to remember who I was listening to and hence cannot give that preacher credit. (Sorry!)

What strikes me is that even after 10 years, I am still learning to focus on God rather than my problems. In fact, just last week I was talking about how I need to focus on the God of solutions than the problems of my circumstances. I’d heard a message 10 years ago that would have saved me a whole lot of trouble over the coming years, if only I remembered it.

But that’s the thing, I forget. I hear something, it helps me in my current situation and then that sermon is gone. Forgotten as circumstances change. Then I go through something similar. And somehow, that lesson has engraved itself on my heart. So I may not know where it came from, but they manifest themselves as words of wisdom. Like I didn’t know where that discussion came from last week, but those words were from a sermon I’d heard a decade ago. And then today, I found this note scribbled in a corner of my book. And I realized that this is where I’d heard it. Isn’t it amazing?

It may seem impossible to remember the hundreds of sermons you’ve heard over the years. But rest assured that the ones you’ve really learned from, will still be engraved on your heart and will be made accessible when you truly need it.

Panic? Or PANIC!!!

Living in Mumbai, I’ve kinda gotten used to the idea of bomb scares and having to endure extra security checks everywhere we go. Sad, but true. A couple of days ago, I experienced it firsthand. A bomb scare.

I was in the train, travelling to my cousin’s pre-wedding ceremony. Of course, I was reading and whiling away my time in the crowded mess we call a local train. Occasionally, I would look dramatically out of the window, to make me feel like I’m some sort of a highly philosophical person thinking about some very intellectual thing (I was actually thinking about what to eat; I was very hungry, you see). Anyway, in one of those moments when I was looking out of the window, I saw a tiny explosion take place a few meters away from the train while we were halted at a station. I couldn’t help but try to figure out what had actually happened. But before I could satisfy my curiosity, everyone on the train had their panic mode activated and there was a mad scramble for the doors.

They say, fire exposes your priorities. But a bomb scare exposes your inner panic.

Every single person on the train was terrified and screaming to get off the train. I was the last one to get off the train, because I couldn’t make any sense of why people were getting of the bloody train. Then I heard it. The different versions of rumors. There is a bomb on the train. Well, if there was wouldn’t it have gone off already? Why would it have a mini explosion to warn you instead? The train is on fire. This one I thought might be true for a minute. But I looked around and there was no smoke nor did it smell like something was burning. One of the boys sitting on top of the trains got electrocuted. Well then the cable lines would be shot and the train wouldn’t be working, which by now we could see that our train was raring to go. There were more rumors, but I stopped listening. I was looking around the people, instead.

Scared, terrified people. All of them having somewhere to go. All of them having their lives flash before their eyes. All of them holding on to someone they know or even just met. All of them desperate to live a little longer. Of course, they didn’t need to worry because it was only a rumor. But they didn’t know that. By the time we got back onto the train, people were making calls to their loved ones narrating their close call with death. All I did was sit there (because no one would listen to the relatively boring theory of what actually happened) and observe and it got me thinking.

Sometimes, the things we think are attacks on us are actually not attacks at all. We might think that they are going to break us, but they won’t. We might think, This is it. But it isn’t. We might think we are cornered and have no way to go, but that isn’t the case. Sometimes, we hear the voices of those around and panic, when there should be no reason to. Maybe it is time to examine what voices we’re actually listening to. The voice of reason? Or the voice of panic?

Through it all

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Every time I watch this scene in The Amazing Spiderman, it cracks me up. Literally everything around him is falling apart and there Stan Lee is, unperturbed. Nodding along to the music he is listening to, oblivious to the battle waging a few feet from him.

Funnily enough, every time I think of the battles in our lives, I think of this scene. The only reason he wasn’t bothered by the devastation the battle had caused was because he wasn’t paying attention. Or more importantly, paying attention to something else.

When everything around you seems falling apart, we have two choices; focus on the world that is falling apart (devastation), or focus on the life-giving God that is working through it all (expectation). When we focus on devastation, we feel lost, confused, weary, abandoned, hopeless, grief. But when we focus on God with expectation, we feel loved, hopeful and peaceful.

Now, devastating situations do come in all forms in our lives, we need to choose what we’d like to be tuned into. Like Stan Lee, we can tune out the devastation and choose to remain peaceful under the circumstances. We need to tune in to God and listen to voice guiding us through the troubling times. We will feel blessed and encouraged and we can be a source of encouragement to others who are going through the devastation.

 

It’s about TIME

Do you ever feel the urge to do something good like read the Bible at odd hours in the day, but end up Netflix-ing instead? Well, the past week for me has been riddled with urges and temptations like this. I would feel the urge to read a book written by a renowned pastor, but I would end up watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix (I’m counting on the Christian in you not to judge me, pretty please?). I would want to wake up early, but would end up sleeping until my stomach growled with hunger. I would want to spend time watching a message on Youtube, but would end up spending hours on end on Tumblr. Now before you say something like “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”, let me tell you, in my case, both spirit and body are weak. I realized that I am incapable of overcoming these small temptations which then end up occupying and wasting my day.

Each day, I would assure myself that I will not give in. And each day, (spoiler alert) I gave in even more. I would wake up every morning charged to spend time with the Lord and by the end of the day, I would have no recollection of the commitment I made earlier that day. Then it hit me. Slowly and silently. But it hit home way too hard for me to not notice. Not by might. Not by power. BUT BY MY SPIRIT, says the Lord. How can I even hope to accomplish control over my desires, when I can’t even manage to get myself out of bed on time? But HIS SPIRIT. Now there’s a solution.

I realized then, that I was trying. Trying too hard to please God. Trying too hard to “do what I knew was right”. When what I should have been doing is letting the Holy Spirit take control of my time and my life. Do you know how easy that is? But then again, it is easier said than done. Giving the Holy Spirit the control doesn’t mean I get to slack around all day saying the Holy Spirit will take care of things. It means that every moment I get to invite the Holy Spirit to take charge of things and to involve Him in every decision. It frees a huge burden off your shoulders and you get to sleep that night knowing your day wasn’t in vain.