Thursday, December 29, 2011

Give without holding back

It was an exhilarating run-up to Christmas. I had only three days to prepare after being away for over 2 weeks. I was grateful for the strength I had gained. We sang Christmas carols on Saturday night and enjoyed an uplifting fellowship with friends. Those timeless songs resonated the unchanging message of God’s awesome love that He gave His precious Son to us.
With the same joyful spirit we sang some more on Christmas day. We shared gifts of love, ate turkey and connected with families and friends all over the world. My Pastor in his sermon said, “God is a giving God”—this is the essence of Christmas. He gave His only begotten Son. He gave His best and most precious for us. He gave us the most precious Gift anyone could ever desire to have. He did not hold back Him back—He gave Jesus up for us.
Jesus gave up His glory and took the form of man. He gave His life to give us life. It reminded me of the chorus of the song – “I’m Forgiven” by the Imperials.

I'm forgiven
Now I have a reason for living
Jesus keeps giving and giving
Giving till my heart overflows

Jesus keeps giving and giving till my life overflows. He came to live and die so that we can live with Him in eternity. He gave to everyone who came to Him with a need. He gave without holding back. He gave freely, He gave completely and He gave His all. Truly the atmosphere was charged with the joy of sharing, giving and receiving love.

That was when it dawned on me that despite all the cheerfulness around me, it was possible not to be fully a part of it. When we are nursing a hurt or there is an unresolved issue between us and those we are in relationship with, it is easy to hold back—not give ourselves freely and completely—to love and to share with them. A hurt if not resolved or dealt with can cause us to withdraw and it becomes a barrier that separate us from our loved ones. We keep the appearances and smile on cue yet our hearts could be distant, avoiding contact or deliberately ignoring some. It also makes us to mistrust or question the motivations of others and in so doing we miss the opportunity of partaking in the joy of the moment.
Whenever we have a reason to hold back from each other, our relationship becomes superficial. We deprive ourselves of the joy of sharing a loving and genuine fellowship with one another. But we who have experienced the forgiveness that Jesus gives must be willing to forgive others their shortcomings. The first step is to identify the reason we are holding back—the cause of the hurt—and deal with it. It is only when we release those we are holding in our hurting hearts and when we let go of the hurt  that we can truly give love without holding back.

Christmas has different meaning for different people. But one message is consistent through the years irrespective of the changing times, it is a time of celebrating the greatest act of giving ever known. God gave His best to all of us. Jesus is still giving and giving—without holding back— till our lives overflows.

The godly loves to give. The righteous gives and does not hold back
- Proverbs 21:26

“For God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son …”
- John 3:16

May this precious Gift fill your lives with joy, hope and peace this season and bring you endless possibilities in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Against the Hard Rock

Pressed against the hard rock
Under immerse pressure
In the midst of trials
Often when most discomforted
An idea, brilliant and germane, is conceived
A character, tried and true, is birthed
A gem, beautiful to behold, is produced
In the furnace of affliction
The promises of God shine brightly

Confined 23 hours a day for 16 days within the walls of room 217, one hour away, though to the grueling press passed so quickly. At the beginning, I fidgeted, groaned and even complained—loudly too. Knowing God always has a purpose for every experience He permits me to go through did not offer much comfort at that moment. All I could see were the barriers and how constraining they were. But I have learnt gratitude of necessity must be my attitude even in all that is. Reluctantly, I must admit, I yielded so I do not miss the purpose of this experience or the comfort God has planned for me through it.
Soon I began to take notice of details within room 217. I noticed how brilliant the hues on the drapes were set against the darkness of the night and how the colors seemed to fade when sunlight filtered through them. I noticed every color and details of the pattern on the walls, on the floor and wood of the table—changing with the light of day and night—I know God does not change.
In close proximity and quietness I paid attention to the things I would have missed in the hurried busyness of life. Through the windows I saw sun rays glow against the snow-capped mountains in a kaleidoscope of fiery orange upon the grey clouds scattered in the blue sky. The Lake appeared aquamarine as the setting sun casted a golden beam upon it. The next day, it turned opaque under a heavy cloak of fog and its surroundings draped with a blanket of snow. Reflecting on the beauty of His nature—changing through the season—I know God remains unchanging.
In the long hours of solitude, the voice of God filtered clearly through my often cluttered mind nudging me to give thanks in all things and at all times. At the time when it almost seemed too hard to go on, I heard “I am with you”, He gave me many assurances of His abiding presence and He encouraged my faith.  He sharpened my focus and tuned my ears to listen. I learnt of Him in a new way confined within the wall of room 217.
“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” became my watch word at the press. There is a purpose for this test and a reason for this trial. There is something He is preparing me for and I need to go through this period to be ready. God gives the strength and the grace to overcome and to gain victory.
I am forever grateful for His faithfulness and for His love. Now I can say I am truly grateful for this experience, for all it has birthed in me. Pressed against the hard rock, my muscles toned up and became stronger. Strength and stamina returned with every effort made to endure the extra mile. Against the hard rock, His grace abounded and His promises became sure.
I emerged from room 217 knowing a brand new thread has been woven by God’s mighty hands into the tapestry He is weaving of my life. Another piece has been added to the puzzle of the picture He has in mind of me.

Be assured that in the midst of your trial and testing, God is making a gem beautiful to behold out of you if you hold on.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” – 2Cor 4:8

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I am grateful

Giving thanks when every thing is good and rosy is not difficult at all; the challenge in giving thanks and exhibiting a grateful attitude is when things are not going your way, when things are out of your control and when the things you desire seem to be out of your reach. Giving thanks in all circumstances then becomes something you consciously order your soul to do.

Over the past week, I came to appreciate better what it must have been like for Jesus to be despised. The Son of God hanging on the cross with all the shame of iniquity and many afflictions laid upon Him, separated from His glory just because of me—held guilty and literarily punished for the sin He did not commit.

When you are treated as if guilty of an offense and yet you don’t know what your crime is. When you know you are also a victim but that does not seem to matter. At such moments, it takes more than will power not to shout out—why me? What have I done to deserve this? What have I neglected to do to prevent this? What do you do when the label of your affliction screamed like a bill board and the restraints of isolation felt like it would choke the very life out of you? Imagine for a moment a day in the life of the woman with the issue of blood who suffered many things in the hands of the physicians. When your affliction becomes the label by which people identify and treat you, it hurts and deeply too—every fiber in you seem to cry out—this is not fair!

It was at that low ebb that the song by Tommy Walker filtered into my spirit – “When I don't know what do do, I'll lift my hards, when I don't know what to say, I'll speak Your praise”—it commanded me to be a worshiper. I searched for the song and sang it over and over again. Along with it also came – “Grateful, Lord I am grateful for all You done for me” by Kurt Carr. The two songs became my close companions and source of comfort in that dark valley.

Yes, I am grateful for all You have done for me. Yes, with the deep pain and hurt in my heart, I am grateful God is with me and He comforts me. He lifts up my head and holds it high. I find my worth defined in who He has called me to be. It is so important for us to know who we are in Christ Jesus, and to hinge our worth on Him. No matter how hard the devil tries he can not redefine who we are in Christ Jesus.

Gratitude and joy are intricately woven together. The more grateful I am the more thanks I express, the more my spirit is lifted up and the more joy overflows in my heart. So I chose the path of gratitude—took a look back into this year and began to count the many things I have to be grateful for. I am grateful for the new friends made, new contacts established, divinely engineered connections, many new beginnings … My list became quite long in the process. I considered also the many “what ifs”—the alternate possibilities that God delivered us from. A stretch of imagination alone will cause us to be grateful for the unseen Hands of God working on our behalf and for His faithfulness to His word.

We all have our different stories of the sufferings and difficulties we have to endure—some physical, some emotional. When we endure the heat of the trials, a beautiful and godly character is produced in us as precious metals are refined in fire (1Pet 1:6-7). God will never allow us to be tried beyond what we can bear but with every trial He makes a way for escape (1Cor 10:13). The way of escape for me was to switch my focus from the pain and distress to the many blessings God has poured into my life. With that came the lightening of the burden—it took the sting out of the pain— it prepared me to receive the comfort only God can give.

Whatever struggles you may be faced with, God will always provide a way of escape. One ready way is to have an attitude of gratitude and to give thanks even in that situation. Will you show gratitude to God in a tangible way in the coming weeks? Look beyond your circumstance—seek to touch someone's life for good, lighten someone's burden or go out of your way to be a blessing to somebody in a tangible way.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all others"
- Marcus T Cicero.

"Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count past mercies."
- Charles E. Jefferson


Kurt Carr - Grateful lyrics

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Through the darkest valley
Where death casts its baleful shadow
I dread no evil
I know You are with me
I am not alone

In the burning fiery furnace
My bounds consumed by fire
I am not touched
You walked around with me
I am not alone

Cast into the lions’ den
You prevailed over the fiercest
And rescued me from deadly perils
I know You are with me
I am not alone

Through the raging floods
I am not overwhelmed
I wade through to the other side
Because You are with me
I am not alone

At my darkest hour
Held bound in the dungeons
I heard the earth quake
My shackles fell off
And I know You are with me

Through the storms, I will sing for joy
In the fiery furnace, I will worship You
In the lions’ den, I will rejoice
Through the valley, I will give You thanks
In the prison, I will praise You

Many troubles may come my way
Perils and dangers I may face
Through it all my heart will hold fast
I am not afraid
Lo, You are with me always
I am not alone

Nevertheless I am continually with you: you have held me by my right hand – Ps 73:23 (KJV)

“…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." – Matt. 28:20 (NLT)