Beauty from Ashes

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

I recently read the book Stormie – A Story of Forgiveness and Healing by Stormie Omartian.

In the book Stormie describes her troubled childhood, being brought up by an abusive Mother who would keep her locked in a closet & the cruel taunts, verbal abuse she endured all through her childhood, even into adulthood.

This is the moving account of her battle with depression, the occult, alcohol & drugs that were a part of her life as a young artist in Hollywood, often performing on the Glen Campbell Show. With a miserable first marriage that followed, which made a bad situation infinitely worse, the anxiety attacks & recurring depression…hers was a tragic life to say the least.

Stormie’s mentally ill Mother was later diagnosed with schizophrenia; the book painfully describes a mind that had simply become sick. Amazing is the steadfastness of her Father, who refused to have his wife committed & endured her insults & insane behaviour till the very end.

What comes out so powerfully is God’s deliverance of a life that was hurtling down the cliffs of destruction. It is a story of such amazing power – the incredible intervention of Jesus Christ as He entered the scene of a devastated life, how He delivered her & restored her to fullness…eventually. Jesus built something beautiful out of a life that was in ruins. It’s awesome what the Master Potter can do!

He has made all things beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11)

Powerful & inspiring, this is one book which is a must read.

For more information visit her website.

Persepolis

Persepolis is a brilliant illustrated autobiography by Marjane Satrapi.

Deep in its message yet wonderfully depicted through illustration, this is a must read. The author captures her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in a most endearing style. I am a fan of Marjane Satrapi & would highly recommend this book, which is sheer talent with a story.

Persepolis has also been adapted into a film but nothing like getting hold of the book!

Flavours of India

       

India is a country of incredible diversity, a land where ancient customs, cultures &  religions co-exist.

The strength of the fabric lies in the mutual tolerance woven in with threads of diverse cultures, religions & viewpoints.

These are just some of my favourite flavours of India.

It lies in the simple & ordinary everyday life.

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The shout of the fruit & vegetable vendors hollering from the gate, calling out to the only person they deal with in the house.

Jasmine, marigold garlands & other beautiful flowers heaped in baskets as you pass by market streets or temples.

The haunting strain of MS Subbulakshmi singing  Suprabhatam in the early morning quiet playing from some remote house far away.

The sombre sound of a cock crowing in recognition of a new day. In urban cities it is a rarity to have one in the neighborhood.

The watchman’s transistor radio belting some seedy movie mix in the park.

The cry of the Rangoli seller as she makes her way through the streets with the basket on her head.

The aroma & taste of pure filter coffee which you get in a tumbler when visiting  South Indian families & experience simple hospitality.

The fast disappearing sight of the salt seller as he pulls his cart of rock salt through the streets calling to whoever will hear & respond.

The symbols of so many religions & cultures amongst my fellow Indians as we go through everyday life.

This is so distinctly India.

Love it.

What I learnt about tolerance

I hail from a Kerala – Hindu – Nair family – talk about keeping things simple. I was born & raised a Hindu. Not that I was ever deeply inclined towards religion in the major part of growing up, my own or any one else’s.

In college I did wonder that God was soooo far up there ‘in the sky’ & we were out here.  It was a huge chasm dividing us according to my teenage worldview. The concept of ‘knowing God personally’ was alien to me. I also recall seeing our college motto ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ & thinking… I have absolutely no fear of God in me.

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As a part of the college grind & my musical inclination, I joined the choir. A Catholic all girls institution, we sang our monotonous parts in the choir during the college programs & inter-college choir fests. Students from all religions were a part of the choir – Hindus, Muslims, Christians. We practiced songs like What a difference You made in my life &  Still Small Voice – songs about Jesus…which were frankly dead beat & lackluster to me. It had no special meaning. It was just a part to be sung.

Maybe because I did not know Him whom we were singing about.

The choir was a ritual of sorts especially during the Christmas season – we had fun participating, the songs were just plain boring & to be put up with 🙂 Lots of practice went into it – the altos, bass, sopranos all trying in right earnest to create  holy harmonious sound. Now we are wearing costumes, now we are performing, holding candles, trying to look like a bunch of angels. It was an event to participate in. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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I went through my phases through high school & college where I added Infant Jesus & Sai Baba along the way.

And then came Jesus Christ.

The God of the Christians. Who doesn’t know the story that He was crucified?

But hang on a second.

He died for me. To pay for my sins. Offering me forgiveness. I could get to know Him personally if I accepted Him as my Saviour.

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Jesus had  first touched my two older brothers lives in a deep way & they had accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Then this erring sheep, me…which took much longer work – perhaps a year or so. I resisted going to Church if my brothers even attempted inviting me.

In the meanwhile, I had started reading a  365  day Bible, a portion to be read each day of the year. I guess that did it. No thunder or lightning or super spiritual experience. I just knew I had encountered Truth. There has been no looking back since. It was not me choosing to follow Jesus. It was as Jesus said  “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

I am grateful that He chose me…far from perfect & still no way close. He is my Perfect Saviour.

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For those who move away from the faith they are born into, it usually has some adverse ramifications in the family & community.

I thank God for my Parents who released us to follow our heart. Bold acceptance on their part. The courage to be tolerant & accepting. To face any flak on our behalf  including comments like ‘how could you allow them…no control, no discipline etc etc” I’m pretty sure.

My Mother’s only request of us was that we don’t shove our religion down her throat 🙂

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I’ve known & read of people from similar backgrounds who chose to follow Jesus  & had to face trials in their lives. Being thrown out of home, being discarded or persecuted in various ways. This is pretty much true around the world when people opt to choose another faith from the one they are born into.

I am grateful to my Parents for their tolerance & complete acceptance when three of their four children chose to follow another faith. Becoming  Born Again Christians. Reading the Bible. Going to Church. Getting baptised.

My Parents have chosen to respect our faith & have never made it  uncomfortable when we don’t participate in pujas or Hindu rituals. They have never insisted that we do so. They have shown us grace & allowed us to opt out if we so wished.

My Parents still go about their pujas, one of my brothers is a devout Hindu. Yet…they have given us fullest freedom in our individual journeys with Christ. They respect our faith. No hide & seek religion out here. It’s plain & open for all to see.

To me this is the fabric of freedom of faith & tolerance. It is the true meaning of co-existing with diverse religious view points.  By giving one the freedom to choose & the  space to follow something… which is eventually only good.

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There’s no place for dogmatics. Arguments & debates are generally futile.

Give peace a chance. Give another the support they need to follow the leanings of their heart especially if it is something as good as positive faith. God Himself does not advocate force. Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door, and  knock”…He is too much of a Gentleman to barge through the doors of our lives.

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My Father’s broadmindedness, respect & tolerance of our decision to become followers of Christ is truly so rare. One of the most outstanding memories of this tolerance is –

As an early Christian years ago, there was a small Bible I would read – my brother once put it in his pocket & went on my bike…the Bible fell out of his pocket. I was upset & must have had a long face. When my Father found out I was upset he went & got us this great big Bible, in which he wrote to us three on the front page of the Bible these words which I cherish –

Mine own ignorance is so vast,
My knowledge so miniscule,
I give thanks for the wisdom to be more tolerant and give all the chance to find God within themselves.
For surely the True God is within us.
With all good wishes to improve your Knowledge of the Bible and your quest for the ultimate truth.

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I have learnt that the world does not need more religion.

What the world needs is more tolerance. An abundance of it.

I have learnt that you have to show mutual tolerance & respect for people whose beliefs & faith may be different from yours.

I have learnt that we have to live & let live.

It is the only way to be happy.

When Love sees you – Mac Powell

God says –

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:8,9 –

I happened to stumble upon this song & love it.

This song beautifully depicts the love of Jesus & how He sees us while we may hang on to the negatives, shame & failures.

“I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came.
I came for your story I came for your wounds
To show you what Love sees when I see you”

Simply awesome.