Your Problem, My Problem, No Problem

Those in the helping profession commonly fail to realize their own struggles.  They go through life with many unresolved issues.  No one knows except God and maybe their own family members.  They just don’t realize that they are struggling.

There are several reasons for such a situation: 1) Some are intensely focused on their task and that focus keeps them from looking within their own lives.  Their eyes are fixed on resolving the problems of people.  2) Others have a false assumption that in order to help others, they themselves must be problem free.  Thus they develop an inaccurate view of their own struggles.  3) Then there are others who don’t see their own problem as a problem.  They fail to recognize their own brokenness.  Sometimes they see the problem but they don’t think of it as a hinderance to their ministry.  

I am reminded of the words of Larry Crabb: “So its okay to hurt.  More than that its necessary to hurt.  Hurt is evidence of life, at least as long as we live in a fallen world.”  This is the understanding we all must adopt.  Problems are a part of life.  We must embrace them and deal with them appropriately.

But those who continue in such a state eventually end up in a very difficult situation.  Some become bitter after carrying their struggles and the resulting brokenness for such a long time.  They wonder why there was no one to help them, much less God.  Does he not care as well?  Others become withdrawn and isolate themselves from people.  They become quiet and “composed.”  Some even interpret this to be a sign of spiritual maturity.

All along they had the tools and skills to solve their own issues, but they just could not recognize them.  These undetected issues have impacted their ministry and their personal growth.  Jesus himself suffered much during his life here on earth (Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV).  Unfortunately they have directed many people to Jesus, but they themselves could not get there.

Why do you think people fail to recognize their own struggles?

Leave your comments here.

A Sick Heart and Unfulfilled Desires

So the question remains: What is life? It’s all a dream. A different kind of dream. It’s a dream of significance, where you want to make a difference. You are looking for the place where your life and work will effect a positive change. This may be in your family, at work, or in the society. So life becomes a quest to live out that dream.

But when that dream doesn’t materialize, the reactions can be numerous. Some become biter and angry. Others become cynical. Yet others go into depression and withdraw themselves from everyone and everything. The common denominator in each of these is that they simply give up on their dream. They quit trying to live out that dream. A wise man once said “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV).

It’s the “sick heart” and the giving up attitude that brings a person down. This is where our emotions respond to the “failure” that we feel due to our unfulfilled desires. But this doesn’t have to be the outcome. There was a man who lost everything he had including his health. He actually did loose hope in life. Frankly his life was full of hopelessness. But he was a man who focused his hope on God alone. He said: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him. (Job 13:15a ESV).

Have you lost hope in life? Here are three things to remember:
  1. Continue to dream big
  2. Focus your hopes on God
  3. Never give up
Do you struggle to keep your hopes up? Where is your greatest struggle when things don’t go your way?

Leave your comments here.

What is Gripping Your Life?

What is the greatest hindrance in your life? What or who is keeping you from moving forward and fulfilling your dreams? For some, the answer comes quickly and for others, they need to give it more thought.
These are the things gripping your life and your future, restricting your every move. You want to be free from this virtual slavery. You want the freedom to live your life. This thing, this thought has a hold on you, a strong grip.
When you let go of the things that are holding you, then you are really free. The longer you hold on, the longer it has a hold on you. Then all you think about is its hold on you. You dream of its hold on you. You talk to others about its hold on you. You complain about its hold on you. You get angry about its hold on you. You know it has a hold on you. You feel its grip and its getting tighter. If it gets any tighter, you cannot live. In fact, you realize you can’t go on living like this…on the verge of death.
This is not the life you dreamed of; living in the “grip” of others. You are thinking “how did my life get this way?” You want to be free. That’s what you’ve always wanted – to be free. Free like a bird…but that grip! It feels like you are about to die from it. In fact you are practically dead.
But that grip is really you – your grip. The more you hold on to the offenses of others, the stronger its hold on you. Now its time. Time to let it go. Let go of that thing, that person, that offense. Then you will be free.
The key is to release your grip and give it to God. Give to him those things that are holding you. He will take it and you will be free.
Do you experience a “grip” on you life? What is the greatest hindrance that keeps you from letting go? You can express that in the comments.

It Began Like a Flash of Lightening

Like a flash of lightening the pain shot through my lower back up my spine and down into both my legs.  It was so severe that I could barely move my legs.  This happened in 1995, as I was driving a delivery truck from Ft. Lauderdale to south Miami down Interstate 75 at about 4:30am.   Since I could barely move my legs, I waited for the vehicle to gradually come to a stop on the side of the road.  It took several minutes for the pain to ease a little and I was able to stand up and move around a bit.

In that one moment of pain, many thoughts went through my mind.  Along with church planting, I was working two jobs since I wanted my wife to be home with our son who was one year old at that time.  I really thought that this was the end of my working and earning years.  But so early, I thought.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I began quick calculations in my mind about the future.  I had just reviewed my disability benefits during the previous week, and now I viewed that as a bad omen leading to this tragic event.  Within a few seconds, plans were made to sell our home and move back into an apartment and scale down on many things including the new car we had just purchased.

About doing the ministry?  I had no Idea about that.  At that moment, my only thought was survival.  Will I be able to somehow take care of my family?  Will there be any hope?

The pain was so intense that within seconds, my dreams of achieving my goals and aspirations were shattered.  I resigned myself to simply surviving and waiting for the end.

That experience in Florida was seventeen years ago.  Physical pain has been my constant companion during the waking hours of almost every day.  Now I am discovering that along with the physical, there was lots of internal pain that I never knew about.  It was in 2011 that I began reading a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.  That book opened my mind to the pain that was within me for so many years.  In May 2012, as I read a book by Dr. Joseph Bowles, I learned how this emotional pain within me had a direct impact on my back pain.  I thank God for the healing of my back, but the internal healing continues.

Would you share your experiences of pain and healing? You can share that in the comments below.

Please read the accompanying article. Click here.

What No One Would Believe

I keep on saying it, I keep on repeating it, but it seems like not one believes me.  No, they don’t take me for a liar, but maybe they think I’m just being hopeful with a keen positive outlook.  Several people asked me “are you sure its gone?”

The reality is that my chronic lower back pain is now gone.  The pain stopped in June 2012.  I’ve had this pain periodically since 1995, and five years ago, it became consistent all day and all night long.  In fact its hard for me to remember a time without pain in the last five years.  I think that as I suffered through all those years of pain, it was my wife Annie who took the brunt of the load at home and in every way as my condition worsened consistently.

As it is with milestones in our lives, several important events led to this freedom from pain.  The first of these was a reading of the book by Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.  My friend Kevin Baker gave me that book as we visited a monastery in Buffalo NY.  That book took me on a journey of deep searching within that I have never experienced before.  Numerous times as I read that book, I could not continue as I had to allow my emotions to settle down.  Of course, God’s spirit was doing an awesome work within me.

The second event was in November 2011, as my wife and I were attending a Vineyard Church gathering in Cebu, Philippines.  During one evening, Brian Doerksen was leading worship, and the Spirit of God was all over me.  I sat on the chair since there was no way I could stand.  Lots of emotions and memories surfaced and I began writing (on my phone) in between sobs.  Several people came by and laid their hands on me and prayed for me.  Phil Strout spoke one of those days and touched on the idea that God’s ultimate purpose was to transform us into the image of His Son.  As my back pain began to increase during that conference I missed several sessions while I rested in the room.  Then Sukit Wangtechawat and the team from the Bangkok Vineyard came to our room and prayed for me extensively.  They were helping me to look deeper within, and nothing seemed to make sense.  But their visit to my room was also a significant aspect in opening those things that were closed for so long.

In April and May of 2012, my third event was the reading of a book on back pain by Dr. Joseph Bowles that had a great impact on my thinking regarding the whole issue.  The focus of his book is that chronic lower back pain is caused by stress and unresolved issues of the past.  Wow, what a thought.  And what about all those MRI reports, X-rays, and all the other tests?  Man, I am clueless on all that, but the pain is gone!  Now I continue to read his daily reminders for stress free pain relief.

The fourth and major event that capped it all was while I was taking communion.  I was speaking at a service at the New Life Fellowship in Bangalore in June.  During the communion, I saw a vision of the cross (something like that picture above) and heard an inner voice telling me that on the cross, Jesus not only carried my sins, but every offense against me as well.  This was an answer that I really needed all along.  The issues are so deep and personal that it would be impractical to mention such things on this blog, that that thought really had a powerful impact on me.

Of course I cannot forget the many who have prayed for me and encouraged me on this path toward healing as I had spent weeks and months bed ridden. There were many non-judgmental ones who were an inspiration for me to continue. A special thanks to them as well.

Now I am on a journey.  I keep exploring more “stuff” hidden within me from the past.  As these issues of brokenness resurface, I experience more pain, but as I deal with each one, that pain goes away.  Daily, along with my devotions I take some time out to write in a journal about my previous day, specifically about how I am handling my emotions and stress.  And as i mentioned earlier, Dr. Joseph Bowles’ daily reminders are stored on my phone and my Kindle and I read them several time a day.

Thank you Lord for a new life.

In the comments below, feel free to share your experiences of healing while you are on this journey as well.

Please read the accompanying article as well: Click here.

You Drink What?

After lots of work and many hours of travel by bus and train, we finally ended up in Srinagar, that beautiful city in Jammu & Kashmir. After we accomplished what we set out to do there, we were ready for a well-deserved break. We decided to drive up to the famous, beautiful lake with the house boats, water-side restaurants and shops. As we drove on the road that goes along the perimeter of the lake, I looked out to the mountains that surrounded us, and breathed in the freshness of nature. The feeling was so unlike the tense, hurried nature of city life in Bangalore where we lived at that time. In Bangalore, we’re glad when certain vehicles put out less dangerous smoke than others, but here in Srinagar, it is the freshness of the air that I noticed more than anything else. The mountains that surround us made us feel small and insignificant, and at the same, it gave us a feeling of the vastness of nature.
Finally, we stopped at a lakeside tea shop, and we sat down and waited for tea. From where I was sitting, I could see a pipe protruding form the wall on the side of the road.. Sewer water flowed out from that pipe and flowed over a drainage built on the cement, and finally, the water went into the lake. I did not think much of the sewer water flowing by us until our driver got up from his seat and began drinking from the pipe. Then he began to wash his face and hands with that sewer water. I was amazed! He returned to his seat just as the waiter brought us tea.
As we sat sipping the hot tea, I began to think what kind of a person this must be, who drinks sewer water. We spoke earlier while he drove, and he seemed to be a normal person. But why this sudden change in his behavior when he saw that water? Then I began to wonder if he was so desperate for water, that he could not wait for the tea. But then I thought, “who would go so low to drink sewer water?” While drinking tea, he spoke naturally and intelligently just as before. My mind was drenched with curiosity and wonder.
Then, all of a sudden, he turned to me with a smile on his face and a look on his face that says, “I’ve got a great idea.” At that moment, curiosity was rekindled within me. With a proud look on is face, he asked, “would you like to drink pure, fresh, clean, free mineral water?” Oooh, so that’s what he was drinking. My mind was so confused then, that I declined his offer.
You see, we are so quick to make judgments before we know the entire issue. We think we know enough about so many situations and people, so we do not think or look any further. We jump to conclusions based on the external appearance. The Bible says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Sa 16:7b)

God’s Projects

An awesome perspective by Max Lucado on those who mistreat us.
Some time ago a rottweiler attacked our golden retriever puppy at a Kennel. The wothless animal climbed out of its run and into Molly’s and nearly killed her. He left her with dozens of gashes and a dangling ear. My feelings toward that mutt were less than Davidic. Leave the two of us in a cave, and only one would have exited. I wrote a letter to the dog’s owner, urging him to put the dog to sleep.
But when I showed the letter to the kennel owner, she begged me to reconsider. “What that dog did was horrible, but I’m still training him. I’m not finished with him yet.”
God would say the same about the rottweiler who attacked you. “What he did was unthinkable, unacceptable, inexcusable, but I’m not finished yet.”
Your enemies still figure into God’s plan. Their pulse is proof. God hasn’t given up on them. They may be out of God’s will, but not out of his reach. You honor God when you see them, not as his failures, but as his projects.
From the book Facing Your Giants” by Max Lucado

The Exchange

As I stood there looking at the cross, I could not walk any closer. The sight was too repulsive and it made me sick to my stomach. Blood was flowing down his face from his head, from his torn beard, and so many parts of his body, even from his feet that were nailed to the cross with a spike. Oh, that reminds me of the spikes in his hands from which more blood flowed.
jesus and cross

As he hung on that cross, he would periodically push himself up to somehow get air flowing into his lungs. As he pushed himself up, excruciating pain shot through his entire body, but the instinct for air and survival was greater than the pain that it cost him.

Although this sight was too much for me to watch, I knew that he did it for me. He promised to give me life as a result of his death. But why should it have been such a cruel death? Is this what I deserved? But what could I give him? My life? But is my life really mine? Mine to give? What do I have that was not given to me? Nothing.

Even the life that was given to me has been wrecked due to my sin and rebellion. So, what do I have to give him? Just the brokenness and shame of my life. That’s all. But He took it from me and exchanged it for a new life. What he promised was abundant and eternal life. Wow, what an exchange!

If you are a person who has not experienced this love of Jesus in your life, please go to the page need a change?

Annie’s Graduation

Hooding ceremony at Baccalaureate service

“Congratulations upon completion of your five year adventurous journey. Certainly it is a job well done.  You have ‘fought the good fight.’ You have finished well. May the Lord continue to use you more than ever before for His glory. So glad to share the journey with you!  Looking forward to all that God has for us in the future.”

Annie has been faithfully working away at this degree as we pastored the church, taught at Faith Seminary, and dealt with lots of important family issues.It was during her studies that both my parents became ill.  My mother struggled with cancer for over two years.  Annie stayed by her side and ministered to her till the end when my mother finally passed away.  Soon after, my father had kidney failure and had a long struggle with dialysis and treatments.  Annie spent lots of time at the hospital with him too.  Later he moved in with my brother Charlie when he and his wife took up much of the responsibility of taking care of him.  My father finally passed away and went to be with the Lord.  Also during the last five years, I had severe complications with my lower disks and had several situations where I was bed-ridden up to three months.  During these times, Annie dutifully took up the entire load of the household.  What a load to bear!  Yet she held on and kept up with all her responsibilities including being a good mother to two teenage children.Another important responsibility that she worked on was the children’s ministry of our church, Lifetime Vineyard.  Sunday School, VBS, and all other special events went on smoothly under her direction.  And oh, yes, Inner Healing and Deliverance sessions were not put aside either.  Her passion to see people delivered and live full lives for Christ kept her in that path too.  She has also spent lots of time one on with people personally and over the phone with many of the people of the church.Finally, it was during the same time that I was working on my studies at the University of South Africa.  Although much of my work was done by distance, that meant lots of my time spent with books as well, along with several weeks  in Bangalore and a few months in Kottayam working on my dissertation.  She took on a full load during all these times.  Now, she has completed the Ph.D. with flying colors…3.936 GPA…wow.  I am very proud of you my dear!

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A Promotion for my father

Two years and three months after my mother passed away, my father has joined her. Pappa passed away on 17 June 2009 at 7am. He was moved out of the ICU on the 16th since there was nothing else the doctors could do for him. He had gotten to the point where there was no more response when he is called. After he was moved to the room, we tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Since the neurologist had told me that he may still have his hearing, I called Charlie and asked him to bring some CD’s with old songs that he likes, and the audio Bible in Malayalam. We played that in the room throughout the day, in hopes that he would be able to hear. He had said many times that since his eyesight is poor now, he cannot read the Bible anymore. That was a great loss for him…not to be able to read the Bible. I had always tried to get him to listen to the audio Bible, but he always said, “yes, but its not the same as reading it for yourself.”

During the night, I was in the hospital room with Pappa. Since his breathing was heavy, I followed his breathing throughout the night. I woke up many times and would listen carefully for the sound of his breathing. Finally, in the morning at 7am, he breathed his last, to be with his Lord that he loved so much.

In 1998, when my wife spoke with my mother about the death of both of her parents, Mummy recited this verse: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” Psalm 90:1. It is good to know that our parents served and trusted God and passed on that faith to us. That gives us hope to transfer the same faith on to the next generation.

Thanks to all who prayed for us during this difficult time. I know that it was the prayers of so many that helped us to gain strength in God. Thanks for the many emails, sms, and blog comments that were left (including chat that I did not reply). Thank you.