Celebrating 50 Years of Grace!

It’s just near midnight at the end of my fiftieth birthday and the house is quiet. The big 50! It was a day of great rejoicing for me – not because of huge birthday celebrations and parties, nor because of outlandishly expensive gifts, and definitely not because we got to get away on a vacation to celebrate this special day! None of that happened, yet, it was out of this world amazing to me!

I am extremely grateful to my loving Heavenly Father who has poured His love on me over the past five decades of my life. These verses summarize why I am overwhelmed!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:3-14

I started the day with an extra special treat – going to the Jon Ric spa to get a facial and massage with all three of my beautiful daughters. This is extremely unusual for me as I almost never go to a spa – I’ve probably gone twice in my entire life and only in Bangalore, not once in the US! It was a surprise gift to me from the “No Way” Refresh Conference fairies and it arrived right around my birthday! It touched my heart because the lovely folks at this newly opened spa had donated their time and effort to encourage foster and adoptive moms like me. My daughters were obviously thrilled and sharing this experience with them was such fun! I left feeling so refreshed! Just grateful!

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Soon after that, I got to go and join other friends in helping a dear family setup their home for their son’s First Holy Communion celebration! This group of friends from our Grow Group have become treasured brothers and sisters over the past 2 1/2 years. Each one bends over backwards to help and care for the others. We saw them pour out their love on us at our son’s wedding and today we all got a chance to do the same for this family. The place was transformed into a beautiful party house. The planning, the chatter, the prayers, the laughter, the fun, and the joy of being with these servants of God brought much gratitude to my heart. We are praying much for their son who steps into this important step of faith tomorrow and we rejoice with them!

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And then, the clincher of my day was a surprise family birthday party executed with so much joy and enthusiasm by my precious children and parents. It was amazing to see the joy and excitement on all their faces as they told my husband me how they had planned and prepped for the event all week, yet managed to keep it a secret! They are all gifted in a different ways and we could see that each one wanted to out do the other in good works for the benefit of all. Birthdays have always been extremely painful for our family as I had mentioned in this post. I am so humbled by the love of both generations we are sandwiched by. They worked in such unity of spirit as they shopped and decorated, cooked and cleaned, bought gifts and got beautiful cards – all this to celebrate my husband’s and my life (his birthday is four days before mine – but he is older and wiser!). They truly made it a memorable day for me and for us all! Each one shared how they were grateful and wanted to give back in love! My heart was so touched by their sacrifices and love! It’s a rare gift in an adoptive family! Their loving acts of service brought overflowing gratitude to God in my heart for without Him, this would not be possible!

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Seeing my parents enjoy their grandchildren brought many smiles to my heart. All four children here in WA, love their grandparents and willingly serve them. Thatha and Pattima will do anything for the grand kids. There were smiles all around as we prayed and played a quiz they had made up on my life! It brought back memories of the joys of yester years with my own beloved grandparents. I know what a gift of grace it is to be able to celebrate with three generations together. Such gratitude in my heart!

I am also so very grateful to every person who sent me wishes, encouraging notes, prayers, and calls from around the world. It is so overwhelming to see the world connected this way. Most of them didn’t have to but they chose to, out of love – a good gift from a loving Father! He has allowed me to live in an age of such global connectivity – mind blowing but amazing!

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As I sit on my bed tonight, tears of gratitude pour down as my heart overflows with praise at the awesomeness of God! We have had so many years of brokenness, pain, sorrow and suffering – days when I have cried out unable to even articulate the pain and loneliness of the journey, days when I have felt abandoned by everyone, even God. Yet today, God gifted me a day of thanksgiving and joy! Thank you Lord for doing Your work of grace in my life and in the lives of my family and friends around me. May You alone be praised! I give You thanks, I give You glory!

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:1-5

Lord, bless each person who has made a difference in my life over the past 50 years. Please, give them the greatest blessing of all – knowing You and becoming Your very own Son or Daughter just as You have blessed me!

Golden Calf Anyone?

John 3:16 states: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Who is this person who died for us? I am going to do a quick survey of the Bible to see.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). He is the Creator, the Word who became a human being – He laid aside His glory, humbled Himself and stepped down into this disgusting, abhorrent, sin filled earth just to die for us so we can have the hope of heaven.

In Isaiah 6, we are taken into the heavenly throne room of this God sitting in majesty surrounded by Seraphs who cried out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. Isaiah’s only response was: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! His holiness and purity compared to man’s sinfulness is clearly depicted here.

When Moses asked to see God, this is how God responded: Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship (Exodus 34:6-8).…

Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light……. behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified (John 17:2, 5-6).

John , one of the closest disciples of Jesus, describes his encounter with the risen Lord: behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald … the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:2-4, 9-11).

Revelation 5: 9-10, 13-14: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,and they shall reign on the earth.”…….And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever”…….And (they) fell down and worshiped him!

This is the picture the Bible consistently paints of this awesome, amazing God. A God who wants us to worship Him with ALL our hearts, minds, soul and strength.

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Most of us know this in our heads. Yet, how do we perceive this God from our human perspective on a day to day basis?

The Israelites had just experienced such awesome miracles at the hand of God, yet they decided to worship the golden calf, truly believing in their hearts that they were worshiping God! Aaron received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 32:4-6)! When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” They started believing that the golden calf was the one true God and soon their lifestyle became just like all the surrounding pagan nations.

If you and I were to honestly examine our hearts, we know that though we may say or think we worship Jesus, we most probably worship golden calves! God reminds us that our hearts are desperately wicked and that we naturally love darkness rather than the light.

I have identified three ways that could reveal our hearts’ idolatry:

  1. How do we react when something dear to our hearts is suddenly taken away from us by God?
  2. What would we do if we were called to lay down our lives sacrificially. Is Jesus still the object of our worship?
  3. A question we need to repeatedly ask ourselves is: what has replaced Jesus in our lives? – ourselves, our children, our spouse, our family, our lineage, our DNA, our education, our jobs, our looks, our position, our community, our friendships, our health, our money, our vacations, our properties, our worldly goods, etc. How different is our life from that of those who don’t believe in Jesus  around us? Are we pursuing the same dreams they are pursuing  – jobs, children’s education and activities, sports, entertainment, vacations, homes, things, cars, etc.? Are we building our own empires? Are we compromising on our Biblical values – stepping on the slippery slope of the world’s morality and values for personal gain? Do we pride ourselves like the Pharisees on being “good moral Christians” looking down on those who are not? Do we treat everyone with respect and honor higher than ourselves? Do we sacrificially step out to love and care for the hurting, the broken, the poor, the sinful like Jesus did?

For me personally, one of my idols is my children and their success. Just like most parents I know, particularly Indian parents, I too wanted them to be good, to study well, to look nice, to be smart, talented, etc. I would even justify my frustration and anger  by convincing myself that all this was good for their future or even that if they succeeded, they would be able to glorify God. Yet, when God didn’t grant me my heart’s desire because my son and daughter struggled for years due to their childhood trauma, I was angry that God was not stepping in and making them succeed.  I wouldn’t easily admit it, but I became angry not so much for His honor but for mine, for we live in a society where children’s success or failure directly translates to parenting skills and love.  Obviously, that made us look like failures despite the extra hard parenting work we were putting in. Through this brokenness in our lives, God showed me that I valued success far more than I valued honoring Him. He showed me that the praises of men mattered more to me than His well done! I had forgotten that His success ran against the tide of the world’s success as outlined in my blog post “Success, God’s Way.  My anger and frustration served to show me how desperately I needed the resurrected Savior, and how far I was from total surrender!

We have all fallen so short of God’s glory that we would only have had hell to look forward to, but  Jesus came to face the anger and wrath of God against my sin and your sin, to pave the way for us to be saved. Let us pray that God does whatever it takes to show each of us our idols so that we have a chance to repent on this side of eternity before it’s too late. He is a jealous God and He will not be mocked. His punishments are sure. He wants us to love and honor Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We can do that only in the resurrection power of God! Romans 10:9 says: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. We must fall down before Him in repentance asking Him to forgive us. He promises us a new heart and a new life and a new destiny – eternity lived in His Presence. The promise of joy everlasting! Though this life is filled with many trials and struggles, Jesus died and rose again just so we can have an eternal relationship with the all powerful, holy, awesome Creator God of this universe. Through this relationship, He becomes our Heavenly Father who loves us.

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He wants a relationship with us. In return, we get the privilege of smashing each former idol and learning through His Word to be sanctified and become more like Jesus. We get the privilege of communicating with the God of the universe through prayer – talking and listening to Him as His beloved adopted children! We learn and grow through repentance, through forgiving others, through obedience to His Word, through humbling ourselves and through a life of sacrifice. He wants us to love Him alone with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength – we must live and breathe Jesus! Praise God that the Holy Spirit lives in us when we are born again teaching us, training us, leading and guiding us to become more like Jesus! Easter is truly a celebration – rejoice for we have eternal hope through our Savior!

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever…….Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And (they) fell down and worshiped him (Revelation 5:13-14)!

A beautiful song of worship: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty

Fairytale Dreams

I am a hopeless romantic – I love the Hallmark Channel and romance done right. When and I got engaged in June 1991, almost 25 years ago, I was hoping, no expecting that all those romantic dreams built in my heart and head growing up, were going to be fulfilled – by my husband, no less. Yes, we really loved each other and were excited about our married life together, but life with its unpredictability and brokenness began almost from the very start. And, we failed to recognize that as Christians our marriage was a war zone with Satan doing everything (using situations, extended family, suffering, our own brokenness, etc.) to pull us apart and destroy us. Our life journey has been much harder than we imagined, more so as we stepped out in faith into very hard life tasks God called us to. We still struggle and probably will until the very end – yet, we deeply love each other and still stand firm in this marriage covenant. Anything good in our marriage is just God’s amazing grace!

“Our knight in shining armor should be a carpenter from Bethlehem; and He never disappoints. We think our marriages are meant to suit us and our little earthly desires, but our marriages are really part of a bigger story God is telling through his Son. Our expectations must be shaped by treasuring Christ. Only then will we stop pretending and engage in a wartime mentality toward marriage.” -Liz Wann

This is a lesson I am still struggling to wrap my heart around 24 years into our marriage – I still need to learn to know and love Jesus ahove all else and have all my expectations in Him alone. I still often fail to remember that my husband cannot fulfill all my dreams – that he was not created to fulfill the role that only Jesus can fill.

My children, I pray much that you all will learn these lessons early in life. May Jesus be your all in all so that God willing, each of you can have good marriages in Him.

Reference article by Liz Wann: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-dangerous-fairytale-for-future-wives

Race, Caste and Class

A story is told of a prince who wants to marry a real princess, but is having difficulty because there are many pretenders who are in fact not princesses at all. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince’s castle, claiming to be a princess. So the prince’s mother offers her a bed covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds, with a single pea at the very bottom. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that has bruised her badly. The prince and his family rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through so much bedding! So the two get married.

Here is a children’s fairy tale with the subtle message that no one is worthy of the prince’s hand except those with the “blue blood” of princesses! Unfortunately it reflects a tragic reality that exists even today. An article about Princess Kate talks about the class divide that still plagues Britain: “She may be beautiful, graceful and fabulously rich, but Middleton is still a ‘commoner’.”

Coming even closer to home, I hail from a country where the caste system is ingrained in our culture. India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from god Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Sudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs. Outside of this Hindu caste system are the Dalits or the untouchables. Christians in India are also often associated with castes that depend on the region and the language spoken.

Yet another way we humans distinguish ourselves from each other are by our race and ethnicity. This is sometimes referred to by the color of people’s skin – red, yellow, brown, black and white. The extreme abuse of this was found in Nazi Germany during the second world war. Nazi foreign policy was guided by the racist belief that an enlarged, racially superior German population should establish permanent rule in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and this led to the horrors of the holocaust.

In addition to caste and race, there is also an underlying thinking about class and pedigree. We just looked at the story of “The Princess and the Pea”. However, even in everyday life,. We talk about the “poor”, the “middle-class” and the “rich”. We also talk about “blue-collar” workers and “white-collar workers”, as well as about the “educated” and the “uneducated”. An extreme abuse of this was found in slavery, that used to be practiced until relatively recently. Today the exploitation of human beings still exists in a twisted, evil form now known as “sex slavery”, where typically younger children and girls are forced into prostitution. Even leaving aside these extreme forms of exploitation, considerations about class and pedigree have seeped right into our own homes! For example, often the dignity of labor that is taken for granted in America does not exist in third world countries such as India. Most homes employ maids who are not allowed to eat at the table of the home in which they serve, but sit on the floor with a different plates and glasses that only they should use, and are often treated as working machines rather than people. All of us (the exploited and the exploiters) have been conditioned to believe that they do not have a right  to be treated the same way as we are, in society.

The Christian gospel does not give room to us, for using these kinds of differences for social stratification. There are two premises that our fundamental to our Christian faith.

  1. Every single human being is in the same plight – at odds with our Creator, and on the path of His wrath against our sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:11-12).
  2. God does not accept a person by any considerations based on race, caste or class. He opens his arms to welcome all of us – all who put their trust in Jesus, who died on the cross on our behalf, and bore the punishment for our sins: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). One of the apostle Peter’s early discoveries as a Christian caused him to say: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34, KJV).

Thus the playing field is flat. No one has any intrinsic advantage or disadvantage over anyone else. In fact, often the things that we consider to be advantages may actually work against us the other way! But I digress – more on that in a later post. Flushing this out in detail in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul concludes: He Himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall  … that He might create in Himself one new man …, so making peace, and might reconcile us all to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). And Paul triumphantly states: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This truth should so grip our hearts and minds, that it should spill into all our interactions with others: Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-4,8-9)

This radical way of thinking has caused fundamental changes in society that have reverberated across the annals of history. The US Constitution states: …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And after this there has been a civil war and a civil rights movement to uphold this now “self-evident” equality in the dignity and value of all human beings. Unfortunately, even truths such as this are not sufficient to erase centuries-old habits and biasses.

More unfortunate however, is the sad fact that although we Christians should be leading the way, we still have not fully embraced these profound truths in our personal lives and families. For example, these differences are deeply ingrained in the Indian Christian Community, and are evident in the choice of spouses we make for our children. One of the ripple effects of this is that most families do not even consider the option of adoption except when they have a need, such as in cases of infertility. Stay tuned for other posts, where I unpack the underlying reasons why I make these statements. May God grant us grace to transform our thinking from the inside, so that behavior becomes consistent with the faith that we profess!

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