Answered Prayer: Clean Water!

My very first official race was a 10K that represented something immense, the achievement of a goal I had never even set out to accomplish. I believe that God blesses us and we should share our blessings. And because it was such a momentous symbol of God’s incredible transformation in my life, I wanted to do something productive through the race that would help others.

So, I started a fundraiser for WaterAid, an organization that helps provide clean water and sanitation to communities around the world that are suffering from fatal yet completely preventable diseases. No child should die from diarrheal diseases or parasites when it is possible to bring them clean water.  Anyway, I digress. I started out with a goal of $5,000. .

After a few weeks of very discouraging results, I realized that I had failed to incorporate God into this effort. I was doing it for him, so to speak. But I failed to ask him to bless my efforts. So, I posted a prayer request about my fundraising effort for WaterAid through every avenue available to me, including this blog. And boy did he bless me. The $5,000 goal I began with was adjusted to $2,000 when I ended up being the sole fundraiser. I leveraged every fundraising piece of knowledge I had gained in my career to try and persuade people to support my cause.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to raise even $10. Largely with the support of my church members, especially our priest and church secretary I was able to surpass my goal amount of $2,000. It was difficult and discouraging at times, but I praise God because it led to a sense of awareness in my church community. In fact, a year later, some of the members still ask me about it.

The power of answered prayer.

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What is God’s answer?

There are times when I start to spiral out of control with my desire to know exactly what God’s will is. Even when I’ve gotten an answer, I want to know I heard God right. A friend once asked me what would make God’s will clear to me. What would tell me exactly what His answer was? I had no idea how to respond. I joked about wanting Him to write me a letter, but part of me was hoping something like that would actually happen.

Later in the day, I came across this article (Maybe God Doesn’t Care) and I was reminded that while there is no such thing as too much prayer, there is a danger in relentlessly pursuing a concrete answer. Why? Because it actually stems from a need to control; a desire to know exactly what is in store and when. Yes, we should submit to God and seek to do his will. However, we also need to trust in Him and his ability to direct us. We have to allow him to actually act and give him the reins. We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck in a never-ending cycle of doubt and worry disguised as seeking his will.

Image taken from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6FYom8sr5L4/Ty1zdliEQyI/AAAAAAAAITE/3_vVk0I_VWQ/s1600/proverbs+3+5+6+copy.jpg

Can an Unanswered Prayer be a Prayer Answered?

Have you ever hit a point when you can’t remember the last time you laughed wholeheartedly? When you’ve been so burdened, stressed, and frustrated that you don’t even know what to pray for anymore?

Maybe you know in your head that you’re supposed to wait on God’s plan and that he knows best. You may be aware that there are reasons that things don’t turn out the way you want. But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

My advice: Keep talking to God. Keep trying to get to know him and his will. Persist because it’s what you need to do and God will enable you to keep going. Sometimes he is pulling things together and he needs you to wait. Sometimes you were better off not getting what you asked for. Sometimes you grow and learn as you wait, and your prayer ends up completely changing.

Take a look at this man’s struggle to pray when he loses the ideal job; it’s a great reminder of God’s wisdom and foresight.

Disappointed by God?

What are the expectations we place on God? When things go wrong, do we grow distant from him? Do we question why he’s allowing us to go through so much pain and suffering? Do we get angry with him and rile at him? Do we ask ourselves why we even bothered praying about it when it looks like God doesn’t care?

Some advise us to keep our expectations low in life so we can protect ourselves against getting hurt. Does that apply to God? Perhaps we should be evaluating our expectations against the word of God. We need to look at our source of information on God – the Bible and our own connection with him – and then compare that to the expectations we have of God. Are we expecting his good to be based on our definition or his? When God says he has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), do we take that verse at face value or do we think about in context of the God we know whose wisdom goes far beyond our perspective (Romans 12:2)?

When things are falling down around us and we want to rant and rave at God because he isn’t answering us the way we want him to, we need to take a step back and consider what we know of God.

  1. God is a LOVING God. There’s no one else who loves you more.  But remember that he also loves ALL of us, even those we see as enemies.
  2. God is JUST. But his justice doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does in our minds.
  3. God is WISE. He sees a much bigger picture than we do and he knows what’s coming down the line.
  4. God is JOY and PEACE.
  5. God is PATIENT. His patience ties into his wisdom as well and that’s what we need to remember when we’re feeling impatient with him because his answer may take much longer than we think it should.
  6. God is FAITHFUL. If Jesus can die on the cross for sinners, don’t you think he will do everything in his power to honor his relationship with you?
  7. God is STRONG and ALL-POWERFUL. There is literally nothing that he can’t handle.

In addition to what we know of God’s character, we should also take into account that his plans involve us. He asks us to have the heart of a servant.

This isn’t a one-way relationship. God has a special role for each of us and in our service, people witness the love of of God. Sometimes what happens in our lives is not about us, it’s about the people around us who witness our relationships with God.

So, take a fresh look at your situation and try to see how God’s answer may tie into a greater purpose. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking out for you but it does mean he has a much broader perspective. I believe we shouldn’t lower our expectations of God, but adjust them to align with God’s character and his promises.

Read more in this blog post titled Expectations.

Submissive wife? No way!

This morning as a I checked my email (which I do incessantly), I saw the familiar Single Roots newsletter in my inbox and was thrilled by the subject line – Allowing Myself to Dream.

However, when I opened up the link and began reading, I was disappointed. It’s not that I disagreed with anything that Shahan had to say. In fact, I completely agree that God wants us to live life to the fullest rather than twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the one. But, I was looking for something else. I was hoping for a post that would tell me it’s okay to dream about love and marriage.

I wanted someone to tell me there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the part of me that some might label old fashioned. The part of me that longs to be a wife and a mom.

Why did I crave that affirmation? Why do I need someone else to tell me that being a modern woman doesn’t require that I give up my desire for marriage and family? As I wrote this post, the answer surprisingly brought me back to a truth I needed to be reminded of.

On a college trip to Chile, I somehow ended up in a conversation with one of my classmates about premarital sex. When I revealed that I didn’t believe in sex before marriage, she was astounded to say the least. Her response was something along the lines of the following: “I can’t believe that as an educated woman, you subscribe to such antiquated beliefs.”

I was shocked by her reaction. What did having an education have to do with my religious beliefs?

As Christians (male and female), I know we are constantly experiencing this divide. To express one’s religious beliefs is not “PC”. We may be seen as backward  and judgemental, or automatically grouped in with conservatives, evangelists, or “Bible-thumpers”.

As a woman, I have witnessed this conflict on a very gender-specific level.  In my experience, the modern woman is expected to be career-focused, ambitious, independent, and self-sufficient. She should be comfortable with her sexuality and unconcerned with societal conventions.

When I joined the working world and later re-entered school to get my MPH, I felt the weight of these expectations on a very personal level. I don’t know how to explain exactly how I experienced it except to say that they were subtly woven into the fabric of the community around me. It felt as if expressing a desire for marriage and children was just not done. I hesitated to bring up church life because of the negative association attached to religion. And it was a given that my ambitions in life should center around my career. I felt alienated from my peers.

I remember telling a good friend of mine that I felt inadequate compared to my classmates because I wasn’t sufficiently passionate about public health. Her response struck a chord because as soon as she said it, I was hit with how right and true it felt. She said, “That’s not true. You are passionate. You’re passionate about God, friends, and family. You’re just passionate about something different.”

As an Indian American woman raised in the church, I never quite knew what to think. I would hear relatives tell me in chiding tones that I should learn how to cook if I wanted to get married and that I wouldn’t be able to find a husband who would accept my feminist views. I grew up in a church where elders turned a blind eye when boys left service to hang out in the basement, but made sure girls were not doing so.  The double standard grated on my nerves. I would read Paul’s letters saying women should cover their heads, submit to their husbands, and not be allowed to preach in church, and my temper would rise.

As much as I long for marriage and family, that doesn’t make me a conservative in all of my beliefs. My heart rebelled at the notion of man as the traditional head of the household, making all the decisions, and calling all the shots. I believe in a 50/50 marriage, one in which decisions are discussed and made together.

So what should we seek to emulate as women? The role that modern society now assigns us? The submissive wife of the Bible? For those of us who come from different cultures, do we take on the responsibilities outlined in those cultures as caretaker and cook?

The answer is incredibly simple and yet not easy. We take on the role God asks us to adopt. When I realized a few years ago that God kept bringing my attention to this issue, I recognized my stubborn refusal to allow God to direct me. I was scared he would give me an answer I didn’t like. And that’s when I forced myself to say a prayer I didn’t want to say. I asked God to help me see the role he designed for me as a woman and then, to help me accept and adopt it wholeheartedly.

It was a prayer I had to repeat many times but I’m grateful he asked it of me because now I feel closer to him on an issue that used to separate me from him.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering what that answer is, I ask you to take the these next steps. Pray and submit your will to his. Read every passage you can in the Bible about the role of women, discuss questions with fellow believers, and keep asking God for his perspective and wisdom. If you come to your own God-given answers, you’ll find the role he has for you and you won’t need to fit into anyone else’s definition.

As for me, I believe it all ties in to the often quoted Proverbs 31. It’s an astounding chapter actually if you take into consideration the historical context. Here is a woman who is viewed as capable and wise; she is a provider and a mother and wife who makes her husband proud. She appears to do things not usually part of the female role and is well-respected as is her husband. She is the woman I want to be.

After a lot of prayer and contemplation of God’s word, I finally feel at peace with my role as a woman of God but sometimes I just need a little reminder to not seek affirmation from any other source than him.

Perfect Timing!

There are a lot of times we question God when we’re frustrated with waiting. Whether it’s a job search, passing board exams, figuring out our major in college, or being single; we’ve all encountered the frustration of waiting for something to happen or for God to point us in the right direction. I found this author’s perspective refreshing, especially the reminder that God has been working towards a solution before we even knew of the problem. That certainly puts things into perspective! Take a look at the post below for further insight into God’s timing. (Taken from: http://spiritualinspiration.tumblr.com/post/50295647254/we-dont-always-understand-gods-methods-his-ways)

We don’t always understand God’s methods. His ways don’t always make sense to us, but we have to realize that God sees the big picture. Consider this possibility: You may be ready for what God has for you, but somebody else who is going to be involved is not ready yet. God has to do a work in another person or another situation before your prayer can be answered according to God’s will for your life. All the pieces have to come together for it to be God’s perfect time.

But never fear; God is getting everything lined up in your life. You may not feel it; you may not see it. Your situation may look just like it did for the past ten years, but then one day, in a split second of time, God will bring it all together. When it is God’s timing, all the forces of darkness can’t stop Him. When it’s your due season, God will bring it to pass.

You must learn to trust God’s timing. You can be sure that right now, God is arranging all the pieces to come together to work out His plan for your life. He has been working in your favor long before you encountered the problem. Don’t grow impatient and try to force doors open. Don’t try to make things happen in your own strength. The answer will come, and it will be right on time.

A Request for your Prayer

Clean Water!

Clean water is something we often take for granted but for many people it means more than just a liquid comprised of H2O. It can help kids gain an education, allow women to earn a living, and ensure a steady income for families in dire need. How? It’s simple really. Have you ever been sick and felt completely incapable of functioning? Imagine repeatedly getting sick from infectious diseases because of dirty water. These diseases can stunt growth in children and prevent adults from being able to work for a steady income. Each year millions of children die from entirely preventable causes. Something as simple as clean water can transform entire communities! 

So, I have a very important prayer request for you. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m running my first 10K this June. I also decided to raise money for an organization called WaterAid with an ambitious goal of $5,000. I honestly did not think I’d face such difficulty raising money but the response has been almost nonexistent.

The other day I was thinking about what I could do to turn the tide and I realized I hadn’t asked God to help me – silly me! I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before! So, I prayed this morning asking God to bless my efforts and now I’m asking you to join me in prayer. I don’t want your donations, I just want your prayer. I know God is more than capable of making my measly efforts fruitful beyond imagination.

So please pray that God will bless me in this effort to raise money to save entire communities with a much needed resource – clean water.

Deuteronomy 15:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Answered Prayer: A Surprising Journey to Fitness

NYC Color Run

NYC Color Run (Photo credit: canihazit)

I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and feel disgusted at the excess weight staring right back at you. I know what it’s like to feel so frustrated and hopeless in the face of your own inability to get active and get healthy. That’s why I wanted to share this journey with you – a story of how God transformed an area of my life unexpectedly….here goes!

Gym class and those mandatory fitness tests. I don’t even have words for how I much I despised them.

I hated the mile run we had to do twice a year as part of some state requirement. Running long-distance was such a dreaded experience. Burning lungs, tired limbs, built up pressure in my ankles, it was awful!

To make things worse, we were timed and everyone had to wait until the last person was finished. As with everything in high school, it felt like a competition and if you weren’t in the cool crowd that could run a mile in 6-7 minutes, you felt inferior (or at least I did). Needless to say, one of the things I was really looking forward to when I went to college was not having to do it EVER AGAIN.

In reality, that probably was one of the major losses when leaving high school. When you’re not scheduled to participate in physical activity and when you no longer have dance classes or a tennis team to play for; you have to make a conscious effort to incorporate exercise into your life. During college, I ate terribly (surprising, huh?) and although I exercised at the gym, it was not something I did regularly. My habits got even worse after college when I started working. (Speaking of which, there are cookies in our office that are calling my name right now and I’ve already caved :\).

By the end of my first year of full-time work, I’d reached an all-time low. I was disgusted by my body on a regular basis. I turned into that person that didn’t want to be in pictures because it was too depressing to see myself in them. I’d probably gained about 15-20 pounds since high school.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t struggling with my weight/body image issues and I also can’t remember a time when I wasn’t asking God to help me with it. However, like I said, I’d reached new lows. The summer after my first year of work, I decided to join some coworkers in free outdoor yoga and pilates classes twice a week. As the summer wound down, we learned about a $5 dollar hot yoga class. I decided to try it out.

My first class was a disaster. I stopped about two-thirds of the way through and literally just lay on my mat for the remainder of the class. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe and my head was pounding on my commute home. I thought to myself – “Not doing that again!”

But I ended up giving it another try. We went to a different type of hot yoga class and I fell in love. Ok, that’s obviously an exaggeration but it was an amazing feeling. Yes, it was difficult but I felt so good after the class! That sense of accomplishment and the relaxation of being bone-tired was addictive. That was over four years ago; I’ve been going to that hot yoga class ever since.

It marked a turned corner for me. I started focusing more on making healthier choices and my prayer changed too. Instead of asking God to help me lose weight, I started asking him to help me change my attitude toward food (I love food way too much) and help me build a healthier lifestyle, one that I could model to my future children (yes, I just said that).

Last year, a friend of mine emailed a group of us about the Color Run. This was like a dream come true. I’m Indian and I’ve grown up watching movies where they play Holi (a festival of colors to celebrate spring). Our group of friends have always wanted to play but seeing as how we live in America, you can imagine how limited the opportunities are to do so.

As you now know, I hated running. Coworkers had tried to get me to start running and my response was always “Never! I hate running! I don’t know how you can do that voluntarily!”. So, I emailed my girls back and asked if we could volunteer to throw the colored powder instead of “running/walking” the 5K. Everyone protested and I gave in to peer pressure, a good thing in this case. We signed up for the run and because it was just for fun, I didn’t feel particularly threatened by it.

Months passed during which I was working full-time and also experiencing an incredibly heavy course load in grad school. After a grueling semester, I think I was feeling overly ambitious and optimistic. In those heady post-spring semester days, I decided to actually train for the 5K I had signed up for in August.

As I worked through the logistics in my head, I realized that realistically the only way I was going to have time to do this was to (1) have some sort of schedule and (2) run during my lunch hour.

So, I brought up the idea with my coworkers and was met with a rather unenthusiastic response. I didn’t know how long I would be able to stick to a schedule for exercising on my own during my lunch hour when everyone was talking and enjoying each others’ company. Still, I decided to try.

So, I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app on my iPod and I got started. My first day, I had one coworker join me and I struggled through that series of 1 minute runs and 1.5 minute walks. But I kept going with the schedule and I was surprised to find that we had a regular group of coworkers going out during lunch to train.

Every step was daunting and I literally prayed my way through when I didn’t feel like I was going to make it. Running for 3 minutes straight felt like climbing a mountain! And then 5 minutes would surely be impossible! Week by week, we crossed what we felt were huge hurdles. At the end of 9 weeks, we were running for 30 minutes straight; it was incredible! And now, almost a year later, we’ve kept those lunch-time runs going. I’m training for a 10K in June and this past Saturday I ran 5 miles. 5 miles! Less than 10 years ago, I was struggling through 1 mile and hating every minute of it.

I won’t lie, for me running doesn’t really get easier. I don’t particularly enjoy it while I’m doing it but the feeling of having accomplished a run is worth the difficulty of actually doing it. I can’t believe where I am right now.  As part of my training, I now exercise 5 days a week. I’ve still got quite a few pounds to lose and areas to tone up but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Those days of looking in the mirror and feeling disgusted rarely occur. It’s an amazing sense of freedom that I thank God for giving me.

I know that God’s hand has been in it from the beginning. Those hot yoga classes helped me believe in my ability to do something truly challenging. Then the opportunity to participate in a no-pressure fun 5K with my friends forced me to consider something different. God gave me a group of good friends at work who I felt comfortable training with. They weren’t intimidating pro runners, they were just as anxious about running a full 3 minutes as I was. God also gave me a work environment that allows me to use my lunch hour for exercise. And he was there with me during my runs; there were literally moments when I felt God’s presence.

I think the biggest message here is, literally nothing is impossible with God. Never in a million years would I have thought I would actually choose to run. Look at where God brought me!  

It took quite a long time but not only did he answer my prayer, he transformed me. Running helps me de-stress and calm down. It gives me a break from my day. It helps me manage my emotions when I’m feeling overwrought. I still don’t like the number on the weighing scale but I feel so good about myself that I’ve chosen to ignore it and focus on the incredible feeling of choosing fitness.

Whatever area of life you’re struggling with, invite God in. He’s listening intently and his answer will surprise you.

“Recognizing Jesus”

I felt this post really spoke to the overwhelmed; especially this part: “Dealing with trials is like being in a crowd that’s taller than you and trying to see the main event. The crowd becomes all the things we put up with and the main event, of course, is Jesus. We know He’s there and we know what He can do, but to view Him is hard because of the crowd; because of the trials. We jump up to catch glimpses; we try to push our way through, but the crowd is unyielding, blocking our way.”

Word For Life Says . . .

 

“And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him,” Luke 24:15-16, KJV

Can we even imagine what it must have been like for Christ’s disciples to witness His crucifixion? Many of them were eye-witness to the miraculous feats He did and the miracles He performed. So, how could it all end like this? He was the One, of this they were sure; why did this to happen to Him?

Dumbfounded and flabbergasted – just plain ole, “I can’t believe that just happened,” attitude. All of these emotions must have truly assailed the psyche of those who were closest to Jesus. There was so much hope tied up in who they believed He was, now all seems to be at a loss. “What more can we do?” With…

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Answered Prayer: What a mess!

English: A stack of copy paper.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, I know this analogy is a bit long but I think you’ll appreciate the perspective I gained today so bear with me. 🙂

If you’ve ever worked on a group project; you know how much frustration, mis-communication, and stress is involved. Although I’ve had my share of frustrations with people who didn’t write well or who were not as communicative as I would have liked, I have to say I’ve fared rather well with my group members in grad school.

However, this semester I was in uncharted territory. I was assigned to a group of three with one member (let’s call her R) who literally did not show up for meetings, failed to meet deadlines, and did not contribute to our project in any substantial way. In fact, the work this person did accomplish had to be “re-done” because they did not do it properly. My other group member has been (thankfully) very good about meetings and deadlines etc. While she would get upset with R, I was focused on getting our paper done and felt surprisingly calm about our slacking group mate.

Fast forward to this morning when I sat down to take my first look at our final paper due on Tuesday. As I read through it, I realized it would require a great deal of editing – particularly for the sections written by R. I spent the next hour and a half editing, or should I say re-writing, the paper and I sent it off to my group. After I came back from church, I checked my email only to get involved in a flurry of emails clarifying which document we should be editing. Finally, when that was all sorted out, our not-so-stellar group mate sent us her edits and I found that she had completely ignored my revisions to her sections.

Needless to say, I was angry. It wasn’t just a matter of writing style or even grammar; the content itself was incorrect and I had spent precious time fixing it and adding crucial material. I couldn’t even look at it anymore I was so upset; tears of frustration literally welled up in my eyes. How could I submit this as my final paper for the semester?

In the midst of all this, of course I couldn’t keep my emotions to myself! As I finished venting to my friend, she sent me this message – “I’m sorry! Sounds like a real mess of a situation.” My reply back was – “lol…yeah it is a mess but thanks for hearing me out and thanks for your prayer…God must feel this way abt us huh?”

I said it in a somewhat off-handed manner but then I was struck by the truth of that statement. When God knows better (as I feel I do in this particular situation), how frustrated must he be to see us mess it all up? When we’re running around in circles or being incredibly counterproductive and we refuse to accept his edits and additions to our lives; does he feel those tears of frustration? Not selfishly like I did, but on our behalf.

Can’t you just see him looking at us and saying “If you would just listen and acknowledge what I’m trying to tell you, I know things would work out. I love you and I only want what’s best for you!” (Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 12:11) Unlike me, he says it in complete unconditional love and patience.

In the midst of a whole lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration; I feel like I had a moment of connection with God that I treasure. Isn’t that an interesting spin on answered prayer?