People You Can’t Stand

People you can’t stand. The mutual friends that annoy you, the coworkers that are mean, the guy on the bus that gives you attitude because you sat next to him, and the people that shove you around in the crowded subways. Sometimes they are irritating blips on your life screen; other times you get caught up in a cycle of anger and resentment.

You pray and ask God to help you love them. Maybe you have to say that prayer repeatedly, in each moment that your heart rebels against the command to love them. It’s not easy to have the grace that God has. 

Just take a moment to soak that in. It gives new insight to the oft-repeated but rarely-considered line in the Lord’s prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who have trespassed against us.” How easily we ask for God’s forgiveness yet we rarely think of the well of patience our Lord has for us.

There is a mind-blowing (if you really let your heart mull over it) lesson to learn from these interactions – how amazingly endless is the DEPTH AND BREADTH OF GOD’S LOVE & GRACE?!

*Image taken from:http://www.pktfuel.com/neighbourly-love/

A Beautiful Soul

To be a reflection of Jesus’ love is to reflect true beauty and that’s what shines through to others. They notice it, they feel it, they want to know where it comes from. I love the verse she closes off with.

God’s One-of-a-Kind Love

Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc – http://www.reverendfun.com

“Is there a such thing as good and bad people?”

Silence. Awkward silence.

I couldn’t tell if my class was stumped or disinterested by the question. I tried to do the whole uncomfortable silence thing in hopes that one of them would respond but that didn’t last very long (Did I mention, I love to talk?).

“Ok, well, let me ask you this: Think about something you’ve done wrong and felt guilty about. Do you guys have something in mind? …Ok, now, let’s say someone somehow knew about what you had done and proceeded to classify you as a bad person. What do you think about that?”

Every time we listen to a sound byte on the latest celebrity scandal, there’s usually a label thrown into the mix. Drug addict, alcoholic, rich kid, or just plain messed up. We like to categorize based on the things we know. But do we ever take a moment to step back and consider the injustice of seeing a person as the sum of their mistakes rather than taking the time consider the beautiful person God created them to be? How would we feel if we were on the receiving end?

People could think of me as smart or professional or quiet. Or they could label me as boring, overly emotional, religious, or stubborn. Yet by doing so, they lose the essence of who I am – the goofy girl who loves to laugh, sing, read, and write. The girl who spends her mornings getting ready with Hindi music in the background and dances in the bathroom while she combs her hair. The girl that God lovingly observes when she’s really in her element.

I had an aha moment during my first foray into job searching post-undergrad. It had been a frustration of fruitless efforts for several months. After years of knowing exactly where I was going (for the most part), I was lost in the whirl of figuring out what to do with the rest of my life, doubting my decision to major in a liberal arts field, and questioning my competency. As I sat and worked through all these things in my head, one thing became crystal clear to me. God loves me regardless!

If I fail, if I succeed, if I take a wrong turn; he loves me! His love is not conditional. Even when I sin, he loves me. Granted, he hates the sin, but he LOVES me! To God, who I am has nothing to do with what I’ve achieved, where I’ve been, or where I’m going. He’s the one who created me in the first place. He loved every aspect of what he was putting together when he made me. And he sent his son to make sure that my sins wouldn’t ever separate me from his love.

No one else can love me that way. No one.

13 When you were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self, God made you alive with Christ, and he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross.

from Colossians 2

[New Century Version (NCV)]

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.

“Your Content Reads More Than Your Cover!”

Word For Life Says . . .

“The LORD is with you mighty man of valor!” Judge 6:12, NKJV

We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  It simply tells us that what we see on the outside doesn’t always accurately represent what’s on the inside.  Books usually contain a lot of content within their pages and when one looks at the cover it is supposed to give an idea of that content.  Sometimes covers can disappoint you.  What they show can appear to be an exciting and promising read but when you get into the story it’s simply not so.  And vice versa.  Covers can inaccurately represent some great stuff on the inside while the outside seems to be dull and dreary.

Down through the years this phrase has been applied to people, and rightly so.  As we treat book covers and their content is often how we view other people.  We…

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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.

Mental Illness & Faith

Mental health is a topic that is never discussed as much as it should be and in the Christian “realm”, even less. It’s important to acknowledge that Christians struggle with mental illness as well and also take a look what it’s like to involve your Father in the healing process.

Take a look at this article – I Was a Suicidal Christian.

Still Single? Find encouragement.

As for almost every other single person out there, it’s often frustrating on many levels to have to deal with the longing for a romantic relationship. However, to have never been in a relationship adds a layer of insecurity that no amount of logical thinking can rationalize away – at least that’s the case for me. I’m in my late twenties and I’ve never been on a date. In fact, I’ve only ever been asked out twice in my life; once when I was 16 and then when I was 21. After so many years of being single, it’s hard not to drop into the negative spiral of doubts about my own attractiveness (both inside and out).  It’s hard not to sink into self-pity and wonder what’s wrong with me, especially as an introvert who doesn’t “dazzle” the way my head tells me the more outgoing people in my life do.

That’s why it’s so helpful to be reminded of the truth that (1) we are beautifully and wonderfully made and (2) God knows best and he has good plans for us. Take a look at these articles/posts, I think you’ll appreciate them.

Ben Morgan’s perspective – How Introversion Saved Me From Heartbreak

Another great read – He Witholds No Good Thing from Us

Dear Jennifer

For those of us who’ve ever felt anything less than beautiful, take a look….sometimes it helps just to know others feel the same and it’s also a blessing to be reminded that you’ve been made purposefully and you are beautiful – truly.

Dear Jennifer