Monday, May 18, 2020

What's In A Name... A Study In Our Biblical Namesakes

Shakespeare had written "What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". But apparently I don't think it is such a simple thing- one's name. It is not just one's identity, often our names shapes our identities if we let it. Sometime back I was reading the book of Acts of the Apostles and realized there is more to, not just my name but also Mr. Fernandes's name. Quite co-incidentally or how we like to see it by Divine intervention we both are named after two Biblical characters from the same book- Acts of the Apostles. And the references to the character appear in back-to-back chapters (Ch 16 and 17)- Lydia of Thyatira and Jason, apostle Paul's host in Thessalonica. The initial joy of this fact led me to a detail study of these two characters and this post is a result of the study.

Looking into this character called Lydia, there a few things that I found out about her background. She was from the city of Thyatira- an ancient Greek city. Thyatira was conspicuous for its many guilds which were united by common pursuits and religious rites. One of these guilds was that of dyers. The water of the area was so well-adapted for dyeing, that no other place could produce the scarlet cloth out of which fezzes were so brilliantly and so permanently dyed. This unique purple dye brought the city universal renown. Lydia was a well-known seller of this product (Acts 16:14), and typifies a successful business woman in a prosperous city. Ability, enthusiasm, singleness of purpose and mental acumen were hers, and she prospered greatly in an honorable and extensive calling of “selling purple". Though there is no specific mention of her marital status we do know she had a household and that she greatly influenced it. The fact that she was found by the river side on the sabbath clearly signifies her hunger for deeper spiritual experience and perhaps Paul was sent there as an answer to her prayers. Though there isn't much description about this woman but the most important facet of Lydia's character was her mind to serve those who serve the Lord... hospitality was the most brightest feature of her nature. Many Christian theologians are of the belief that she was really well to do financially. And her willingness to serve the Lord with all that she had and opening her home for Paul and Silas and in other words for the Lord (Acts 16: 15, 40) is something that left a deep impact on my mind.

Moving on to Jason, he's another character about whom we are informed very little by Luke. But even that little information is enough to look into this man's heart for the Lord. Jason suddenly appears in the story in Acts 17 as Paul’s host in Thessalonica. Since he hosts Paul, Silas, and Timothy in his home, commentaries often assume he was prosperous. Jason was able to post bond not only for himself but also for Paul and Silas (17:9). In the oft-quoted opinion of A. N. Sherwin White, “What is happening to Jason is clear enough: he is giving security for the good behaviour of his guests, and hence hastens to dispatch Paul and Silas out of the way to Beroea, where the jurisdiction of the magistrates of Thessalonica was not valid”. Although we have no clue how much was required, that he could make any sort of payment is an indication he had some wealth.

Apart from the obvious similarities of both Mr. Fernandes and my name being Greek and from the same book in the Bible (back-to-back), this discovery of a new similarity has set me thinking. This similarity being both of them opening their homes for the Lord and His servants. Luke may be drawing a parallel between Lydia in Philippi and Jason in Thessalonica. Both respond to the Gospel and host Paul’s ministry team in their homes. Luke often uses pairs of similar stories, one featuring a female and the other featuring a male. For example, in Acts 9:32-43 Peter heals Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead. Perhaps Luke gives us two examples of relatively wealthy patrons who host Paul in their homes and continue to host the church after Paul leaves the city.

We have been discussing about these things often now after this enlightenment from the word of God. It is true He speaks to us from His word. But what is important is that are we willing to listen, to understand and to act. Mr. Fernandes had once pointed it out that J and L are the mirror images of each other. And now this scriptural discovery makes me think that these two characters from the Bible are also very much mirror images of each other. As a couple, in the flashy 21st century, a lot many things compete for our attention... a lot many so-called couple goals. But first and foremost, we are His children and so our couple goals should reflect the greatness of our Lord. And no, I do not agree with Shakespeare on the fact that a name is just a name... sometimes a name is one's calling in life.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Birthday In Quarantine

Sitting in Bangalore, India on the 53rd day of lockdown it isn't exactly a very exciting time here or anywhere in the world for that matter. Corona virus has brought about a pandemic across the globe. Then again these are prophecies getting fulfilled. But that can be the subject matter for another post perhaps. For now I have to stay true to the title of this post. It's about how I spent a unique yet memorable birthday.

I have never been a birthday celebrating kind of person... from the very young age of 5 actually!! But things change when a special someone comes into life. And truth be told Mr. Fernandes has always been the one to be too excited about the 6th of May. He says he is and always will be excited about this day, because God finished working on his lost rib this day (a very high level Biblical joke!)

The world scenario had started changing around mid March with the rise and spread of the virus. And by April a lot many countries including India and UK were also under a lockdown. And I was quite sure by then that I wouldn't possibly be able to go to a restaurant and have a meal like normal times. Things wouldn't change as soon as the first week of May. But then we've always been faithful believers in the proven fact of God's plans over our own. Mr. Fernandes and I have experienced multiple "graces" in our lives because of the simple fact that we chose to go by His (yet) unrevealed but better plans for us... than we could ever plan for ourselves. And we knew this quarantine period... time of isolation is indeed in a way a time to connect strongly with each other even though we are miles apart... a time of God teaching us to shine brightly for him even in tough times. And the 6th of May, 2020 would definitely be remembered and cherished by us a little more specially than other birthdays or anniversaries.

Now coming back to Mr Fernandes and his grand plans for the day... he sure does have a lot of plans he wanted (wants) to execute but very often fails to my amusement!! But in the end he too comes to the conclusion that I value his heart and love more than whatever those grand gestures be. Flowers dry out, cakes are eaten up, presents are used and worn out... but when all is faded it's love that stays. Yes being together on special days might be a blessing, but staying apart yet connected by the love of God and love for each other is a much richer blessing that only a few learn to really appreciate. Making the most out of any given scenario is a grace that only God can give. And like I already said, this time turned out (still is turning) to be a time of leaning and blessings.

All being said, Mr. Fernandes is not a person who can be put off because there's a nationwide or worldwide lockdown. There were boxes of brownies and jars of dessert waiting at my door, just because I have a sweet tooth! Now that's thoughtfulness, much grander than a lot of grand shows. It isn't without reason that the phrase Blessed Beyond Measure jumped out of my head only after I met Mr. Fernandes... for we are truly the blessed beyond measure... across continents. A birthday in quarantine will always be a story for the kids and grand-kids if the Lord blesses us that long.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Cup of Perfection: a study in the number 12 in a Biblical perspective

Since the time I have been capable enough to think and decide for myself, I have been somewhat of a “perfection freak”. In my own weird mind I have associated even numbers to be somewhat good and perfect while avoiding odd numbers. Now, I am not a believer in things such as numerology, as being that would be contradictory to my faith in the Almighty God.

That being said, quite interestingly the Bible has certain numbers that keep repeating themselves with special significance- the numbers 3, 7, 12, and 40 for instance. Three signifying the holy Trinity. After He created the world and everything in it in six days, on the seventh day God rested. Be it the forty days and forty nights rain in the times of Noah, or the forty days of fasting of Jesus before He began His ministry. Numbers with deep spiritual significance.

In my almost twenty-eight of years of life I must have read the whole Bible at least a dozen times (12 again!) but it wasn't until very recently that I found out that the number 12 is indeed one of those important numbers in the Bible that have so much of significance. This Scriptural enlightenment led me do to some research of my own and this blog-post is a result of the research.

It is an interesting fact (at least to me!) as to why I suddenly hung on to the number 12 and its Biblical significance. 12 happens to be the day that I am to get married to the love of my life, but that wasn't the date that we had initially picked for the wedding!! Situations and events turned out in ways that we were (I would use the word) guided to the date 12th. And couple of Sundays back when I was listening to a sermon, where the speaker highlighted the fact that twelve is a number of great significance in the Bible, I started to think...

The number 12 can be found 187 times in the Bible, Revelation alone has 22 mentions of the number. 12 represents God's authority besides signifying perfection. Few of the most popular references of twelve in the Scripture are:

  • Starting from the patriarchal times, Jacob had 12 sons, leading to the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22, Genesis 49: 28).
  • The breastplate of the high priest had 12 stones (Exodus 28:21)
  • There was to be 12 loaves of bread at the Tabernacle (Leviticus 24:5).
  • Twelve spies were sent to spy out the Promised Land (Numbers 13:3, Deuteronomy 1:23).
  • The memorial that was built to remind how God had dried up Jordan river so that the Ark of Covenant  and the Israelites  could cross over had 12 stones (Joshua 4:20).
  • Elijah built an alter with 12 stones (1 Kings 18:31,32).
  • Elisha was plowing with 12 oxen when Elijah called him ( 1 Kings 19:19).
  • Nehemiah was appointed to be the governor in the land of Judah for 12 years (Nehemiah 5:14).
  • Jesus was 12 years old when the Scripture records that He first speaks (Luke 2:42,46,47).
  • Jesus chose 12 disciples (Luke 6:13).
  • There were 12 baskets of leftover after Jesus fed 5000 men (and additional women and children) with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fishes (Luke 9:17).
  • Twelve thousand from each of the 12 tribes of Israel  will receive salvation  during the end time's Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:4)
  • Revelation 21 has references of 12 gates, 12 angels, names of 12 tribes of Israel written on them, 12 foundations, names of the 12 apostles, 12 gates- each one being a pearl (Revelation 21:12,14,21).
  • The "tree of life" mentioned in Revelation 22:2, which bears 12 fruits, one for each month.

And these are just a few most highlighted references of twelve from the Bible. I could barely touch a few, but it is sufficient to say that God prescribed this number to have meaning and purpose of completeness and perfection in whichever situation or person it was placed on. In most of the references there is also a call to be separated, for everyone around to know and see Whom everyone ought to see.

Quite often, we in our educated and well developed minds try to plan a lot. But these references from the Bible, from the pages of history (and also what is to come) is just a reminder that we would ultimately end up where we are called to be. We might try to be ignorant to His general call of perfection, but if we are chosen are we going to run away like Jonah or are we like the great king David going to come to Him- broken yet completely willing ?!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Overflowing Cup- Blessed Beyond Measure

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life.
Psalm 23: 5,6

In my twenty seven and a three quarter of lifetime, I must have read this verse at least a hundred times. But never before has it become so lively and full of meaning and relevance for me as it has for sometime now. Every single soul on this planet live with their share of happiness and sorrows. But what truly makes life livable is the blessings that we receive in this mortal life.And my forever blessing would be my friend, my beloved.

People often assume that the entrance of one's partner in their lives imply the subtraction of all pain and sorrows. But the real source of  happiness is in understanding one little secret, it is not the subtraction of all negative things but the addition of all happy and mellow things in life that changes the whole scenario- that draws the line between life before him/her and life with him/her. I have been blessed beyond measure to have found my love in a man who not only shares a few of my important interests and view points about life but is rooted in the same faith and dependence on God Almighty that has brought us this far in life.

In this age and time when trust is built solely on seeing and testing something, I or rather we call ourselves truly blessed to have started from the point of no contact. To have the faith that Almighty has a plan that is not just better than or actions (past or present) but also far beyond our scope of imagination. And it is a known fact that building something solid requires solid commitment. And solid commitment means inhuman efforts. So now if one puts inhuman efforts into something they would definitely expect nothing but the best. And the best comes with a price! It all depends on the willingness to pay the price. After all if I'm buying something precious I'll guard it with my life. Even though giving up is easy and holding on is really tough, what matters really is the outcome.

Living miles away, continents apart from the one I love- when tired mind and body whispers to give up, the heart that has been pumped full with the life blood from the Scriptures says "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life". The most common form of expression of one's love is by feelings. But is feelings the right parameter to measure a vast thing as love? Thich Nhat Hanh has said "Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky". Something as fleeting as feelings can't contain love. In this context I find the the words of Leslie Ludy, in her book (along with Eric Ludy) When God Writes Your Love Story,  encouraging:

"When Eric and I promised each other we would stay together for life- no matter if he loses his hair and gets a belly, or if i burn all his meals- we knew we could keep the commitment because it was based not on feelings but on a choice."

Mr Fernandes is my forever choice.

Friday, November 29, 2019

A Plateful Of Thanksgiving

While a large population of the world was busy celebrating Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November, far away from my parents and the man I love, I was contemplating the significance of this day. And the conclusion I came to was this that I have a plateful to thank for all the graces I've received.

We are often thankful for the material blessings that we receive or the immaterial blessings in the form of security and status in life. But what we forget is that it is the simple, small, and often insignificant things in our lives that we must be thankful for. The fact that we could wake up this morning to see a wonderful sunrise, in my opinion, is far more bigger reason to be thankful for, than the fact that one can afford the latest iPhone or a top end car. Happiness is too easily mistaken for financial status. But had that really been the case the richest person in the world would be the happiest one too.

In the humdrum of our so-called busy lives, we forget to stop for a moment to admire a dog leaning against the balcony or smile at a little kid who's hopping on her way to school. We are so busy looking at our screens that we miss so much that we could be thankful for. I've been taking the same road to work for about a year and a half now, but it wasn't until very recently that I had noticed the before mentioned handsome labrador. And now I never miss to look at it. The little girl smiles at me every time I walk by her, and that little smile is worth more than a lot many material things. I had read somewhere that happiness isn't found it is something that you create, and I absolutely agree to it. We ourselves are the creator or destroyer of our peace and happiness. We often tend to pick the wrong options.

Apart from being thankful for the not so right reasons, sometimes we also tend to be not thankful at all. That again is a source of unhappiness. A thankful heart is always a happy heart.

As another year is about to come to an end, I hope to grow more and more thankful for all that I have and not just whine about what I don't. For I have more than I had asked for and blessed beyond measures !!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Proposal

As the title might have already made it clear that this post is all about my status being officially changed from a singleton to “ENGAGED”!!

Even though I never admit it out loud, but I do enjoy watching Hollywood romcoms, especially in the wedding genre. From Bride Wars to 27 Dresses, I believe I can mouth along the dialogues from such movies. Little did I know that one fine morning in August my life would become a part of a romcom- and that too in Goa!!

Well being a big believer in miracles from God Almighty, I'd say it's His gift to me... things that I had never consciously asked for but needed in life. My fiancé being the biggest blessing of my life- as it's always great to find one's partner in their friend, even better in best friend. Not only do they know you inside out but they always walk that extra mile with that extra knowledge to make you happy. And that's what he did on the early morning of 31st August, 2019. Whats's better than a man asking you to marry him with the blessing of both the parents and in their presence... and not to forget, with the perfect ring!

Being raised in a Christian family, all my ideas about a perfect man revolved around the handsome King David or zealous Jeremiah or devout Daniel or the all time favourite husband character- Joseph. But it was only after meeting him did I know that Almighty reserves a special one-of-a-kind perfect man for each woman. And I'm blessed beyond measure that it was Mr. Fernandes.

Now all I have to do is to keep counting down the days till I become Mrs. Fernandes. Until then...
                                                   Take my hand, take my whole life too
                                                   For I can't help falling in love with you...

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Diary of a Mountain Girl

Sometimes all I can do is to thank God for placing me in such a beautiful part of the country, to be able to call it my hometown- the little city of Cooch  Behar. There are many tales and historical facts available on the internet about this little city. But what gives me joy is to write it from my view point, the way I see it and will always see it.

When I moved to this city I was a toddler... I don't remember the exquisite details of the movement from a big city to a small one. But what I do remember that I did settle in well with no fuss even if it was the cold month of November, and it really gets cold in there at that time of the year. To grow up in a place so close to the foothills of Himalayas, close to places like Darjeeling and the beautiful state of Sikkim is my favourite part about little Cooch Behar. To have so many wild life sanctuaries and national parks around ones's hometown might not be every kid's fantasy but I always relished these facts. The innumerable school outings, the long drives on the long silent roads amidst the woods, the memories still give me the chills (in a very positive way)!! Sometimes I feel the reason why I never got around to liking the sea or the beach is because I had already fallen so deep in love with these silent valleys and woods. The steep climb up the Jayanti forest and the clear water of the Jayanti river, the Pokhari hills, the Buxa Tiger Reserve, the Jaldapara National Park... these aren't names of places to me, but bundles of memories with family and friends.

Part of me had always enjoyed exploring new places... Reading about Tuscan sunset or the cathedrals in Florence gave me more joy than any amount of shopping could give to a woman. But I had made up my mind that before I even step out of this country, I would see and know all about the little place I grew in, because it has so much to be seen and explored!!

Historically too the city of Cooch Behar is rich. Quite interestingly, this place was never a part of India until even two years after the Indian independence.  Before 20th August 1949, Cooch Behar was a Princely State ruled by the Kings of Cooch Behar, who had been a feudatory ruler under British Government. By an agreement dated 20th August, 1949 the king of Cooch Behar ceded full and extensive authority, jurisdiction and power of the state to the Dominion Government of India.  Eventually, Cooch Behar was transferred and merged with the province of West Bengal on 19th January, 1950 and from that date Cooch Behar emerged as a new District in the administrative map of West Bengal. In course of time, Cooch Behar has been transformed from a kingdom to a State and from a State to the present status of a district.

The Cooch Behar Rajbari (royal palace) might seem like another dull old palace to many, but to me it is a 3D version of the city's history and culture. The late Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was born as Princess Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar. This city might seem like a sleepy little town, but the gems it had once produced outshine many others in so many beautiful ways.

I might not have grown up in the hustle-bustle of a city or spent my after school hours hanging out in a mall with my friends, but this wonderful city has given me different experiences and taught me so many other valuable facts of life. While I'm living and working in a big city with so  much of activities, I still can go slow most of the times. I know the value of quiet moments and that nature rejuvenates the soul more than comfort or luxury could ever!! I know that it isn't the noise of the traffic that keeps me going, it is the silence of the mountain that makes my heart go on and on.

The Cup of Perfection: a study in the number 12 in a Biblical perspective

Since the time I have been capable enough to think and decide for myself, I have been somewhat of a “perfection freak”. In my own weird min...