Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'd Rather Be Shot

    The last three days have been really intense after getting to Victoria, with intense 8 AM to 5 PM sessions at the company where I'm doing a work-related training course. It's been really tiring; I haven't had much time to study after getting back to my hotel room, let alone explore the city. Massive amounts of snowfall and sub-zero temperatures in the last 24 hours pretty much reduced the prospect of sight-seeing expeditions to zero. So I thought I'd use this time to post some thoughts over the last few weeks that I tried to organize in my head on the ferry ride to Vancouver Island from Tsawwassen. I thought I'd use this time away from Vancouver to look back, reflect and evaluate.

    With everything that had happened in January, especially the death of my friend Yeswanth (see "Death Came Calling...And Took My Friend") and getting hired after 6 months of hard job-hunting, I've been doing a lot of thinking and planning regarding what I want to do. Life is picking up speed as a lot of things are suddenly coming together, and it's exciting! There have been plans that I've had to change, redefine, abandon, realize weren't what I wanted to do, or just became unfeasible. In the process, there have been new dreams and aspirations that God has introduced or replaced the old ones with. As circumstances come together for take-off, He is now providing the capability to accomplish things that I've had on my heart for the last few years, and I've been so happy as I've been able to get started on some of them.

    God has been incredibly kind and gracious in granting me a job that I love, with people that I like working with, in a company that I like working for, so that I can stay and serve a city that I have come to care deeply for, with a church that I love immensely. As He has done innumerable times before, God has proven once again that the biggest dreams we concoct for ourselves are dwarfed by His smallest dreams for us. And His smallest dreams are immense indeed, next to the paltry and feeble concoctions of men. So I suppose the question I've been trying to work through really boils down to this:

What am I going to do with God's dreams for me?

    I wrote a bit about some of the realizations I had come to earlier last month, in "From the Land of The Dying to the Land of The Living" and "I Wish None Of This Had Happened." Over the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking over something that my friend Sam said one evening. "If my life ever becomes about a big house and driving a Denali," he said, "I want you guys to shoot me." (I should hasten at this point to add that neither of us have anything against people who own big houses or drive Denalis). Although not quite the way I'd express it, that sentence neatly summarizes the posture of my mind and heart. If the main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing, then my main thing must not be forgotten. With all the opportunity for growth and service that is being put into my hands, there is also being provided the capability to carry them out. And I don't want to squander either of them. The movie "Spiderman" eloquently expressed Sam's sentiment in words that have now become famous: "With great power comes great responsibility."

    With all that God has been doing in my life - personally, publicly, on this blog and otherwise, I have a much clearer idea of what I can and want to do, both in Vancouver and elsewhere. I have been increasingly coming to this conclusion over the last couple of months - that I will do everything I can with everything I have for the sake of this city, to the glory of the God of this city and the King of these people; to give Vancouver hope in the midst of darkness, and as beautiful as their surroundings may be, show them the only real source of life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    There are so many things I want to do. And they will all get done because He who empowers me will keep my heart beating until my time is up and I've done what He sent me for. And my time will be up very soon. As I once used to say, everything will have a happy ending :)

    If Sam and I ever end up as one of the "walking dead" with the kind of shallow lives that terrify us, you know where to find us and how to put us out of our misery. I'd prefer to be shot alongside him. It's been a long day, time to get to bed and head out for another day of intense training tomorrow. I'm looking forward to going back to Vancouver. See you in the next post!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Heading Out To Adventure!

     Hello! This is a quick post before I leave home on a solo trip to Victoria in about half an hour. I'll be there for the next week on work, and my bags are packed and ready to go! I'll probably be posting from there sometime in the next few days, on some thoughts that have been circling in my head in connection with all that I wrote last month about life, death and purpose.

     Since it's going to be a 6-hour trip via transit, I'm taking these two books with me to read:

There should be plenty of time to plow through these! (I hope)
      God has been using "Humility: True Greatness" to speak to me in a very powerful way since I first saw it at my friends Sam and Esther's house during Christmas time, when we went caroling with a lot of our friends. I've almost finished it, hopefully I'll be done by the time I get to Victoria, and then I can start on "Knowing God!"

     This is going to be a very interesting trip. I love the job that God has blessed me with! See you from Victoria!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Joining The Body @ Willingdon!

    This post is a week late! The pace of life has really ramped up since I finally found a job at the end of Jan after 6 months of hard job-hunting, so I haven't had time to post as frequently as I used to over the last two weeks. I'm still in the process of settling into the pace and cycle that my work requires of me, but I'm hoping that once I do, I'll get back into the routine of posting as I once did. I definitely want to!

    Last Sunday was really eventful, as one of the family (see the 'Family Matters' post) got baptized, and both she and I became official members of Willingdon Church. Alison and I had ended up in the same 'Discovering Church Family' class that Willingdon offers as a prerequisite to membership, after missing the chance to get into the same class with Tim and Angie. But after finishing the class that began in mid-November, the day that we'd been looking forward to finally came around. Alison delivered her testimony and joined the Willingdon Church family through Baptism, and since I'd already been baptized, joined through Confession of Faith.

Early at Willingdon before Alison's baptism!
   Alison and I showed up early before service to collect our Membership Certificates, flower pins for New Members, and an invitation to a lunch reception with Pastor John at the end of the month that I'm really looking forward to! After that, Alison got baptized during the 10 AM service. The video of Alison's testimony was really touching to watch on the big screen; although I'd proof read it once before when she typed it out during a family hangout, it was really different watching it being spoken. Here's a photo of Alison just before she got baptized:

Alison getting baptized!
     As I watched Alison take the plunge, my mind went back to my own baptism in a river, at the end of a summer vacation in India. God has taken me on such an incredible journey and done so much since then. I can't believe it's been 11 years since that day. I dug through my photo albums and found this photo of a photo that I took while visiting my parents in Toronto last July:

My baptism photo!
     The two people standing with me in the photo below are what God used to draw me to Willingdon almost 3 years ago. They happened to be my next-door neighbours when I first moved to Vancouver in Fall 2006, renting a room in the basement suite of a family living close to SFU. I first met Rick Pearson one afternoon walking home from school, as I passed him mowing his lawn near the sidewalk. While chatting, we discovered that we were both Christians; Rick was fascinated that being Indian, my last name was 'Thomas' - he'd never met an Indian christian of my background before. He was even more excited when I explained the origin of my name in the context of Christianity in Southern India, and my own family history. He introduced me to his wife Barb as she came out to talk to him, and they invited me over for dinner a few weeks later.

Rick and Barb Pearson!
    The more I got to know and interact with Rick and Barb, the more I was struck by what I saw in this couple. Though they loved and welcomed me with a kindness, graciousness and hospitality that was surprising, I was even more intrigued by the way they treated each other. In all the time that have known and watched them, I have never seen them address or behave towards each other in a way that was anything but loving, gentle, polite and respectful. Never a harsh or unkind word or tone out of their mouths towards each other. I'd never seen a married couple like this before, younger or older. I guess it's significant that over the last four years since first meeting them, they have become my "gold standard", the example that I'm inspired by for the kind of relationship and marriage that I hope to have one day, if God wishes that to happen. They also became my 'parents-away-from-home', taking me under their wing and taking the time to listen, advise, encourage, sympathize, pray and comfort as my own parents would. I love them both very, very much. Incidentally, I was so happy that Rick ended up being the person that baptized Alison :)

So intrigued was I by this couple that I decided I had to have a look at the church they went to, as my high school friend Brendan was going there too. I figured there had to be something in the kind of church that they went to that had this trickle effect into the way they loved and cherished each other, and those around them. I first went to Willingdon sometime in 2007, and started going there regularly by early 2008. Since then, it has become more than just church. It has become home and family, where God has built people into my life that have become very, very dear to me.

    I'm so thankful for all that God has been doing through Willingdon over the last four years in laying the groundwork, slowly but surely. Looking back, I see how He's been active even when it seemed as if nothing was happening. Life, work and ministry is getting very exciting, and I'm so looking forward to what He's going to do as things are beginning to come together for lift off!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trustworthy And True

My yellowed and tattered old Bible - the Word of the only true and trustworthy God I know
    While I was writing my last post on the pain of loss, a phrase in one of the verses that I referenced caught my eye: "...these words are trustworthy and true" (Revelation 21:5). They've been in my head for the last three days, even as I've been trying to keep up with change as my life undergoes major transition.

    It has occurred to me that anything that is presented to me in the form of a statement, fact or person, also carries with it an associated appeal to believe in those things or people. In essence, I'm being asked to trust that what is being presented to me is true. Relationships, conversation, family, friendships, advertising, buying/selling, the kind of world in which we live, this happens incessantly in every aspect of life - "Great dollar value! Save up to 50% off!"; "Satisfaction guaranteed!"; "We'll do what's best for you!"; "Trust us to take care of your money!"; "Good job! You're awesome!"; "I'll get the job done";  "You're incredibly beautiful"; "You mean everything to me"; "I love you with all my heart"; and perhaps that most used and abused sentence of appeal for trust in one's trustworthiness:

    "I, so-and-so, take you, so-and-so, to be my my lawfully-wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part."

    With the cacophony of voices that call out to me every day, from every side, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out who to believe, in what they say. I believe that this is the case for the rest of society too. Isn't it interesting that the more we desire trustworthiness and truthfulness in people, the more we find that it becomes nearly impossible to enforce? Our laws become longer and more complex. Giving one's word is useless now, we must sign reams of paper. It isn't enough to state things simply either - the fine print of clauses and conditions at the bottom of agreements grows ever larger. We can't trust anyone to keep their mouth shut, so we create non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. It's not enough to keep doors closed; they have to be locked, bolted and security systems with cameras installed to keep people out. Even the hallowed wedding vows aren't spared, for pre-nuptial agreements must become a necessity in case people decide to jump ship. Evidently, 'until death do us part' doesn't mean much anymore.

    Truth is that which best describes things as they really are. The credibility or truthfulness of anything said to me is only as good as the trustworthiness of the person uttering it. And the trustworthiness of the person is only as good as their fundamental strength of character.

    And that is why I can and will believe in Jesus so much, with all the issues of the heart that I've been writing about on this blog, especially that which I've been thinking about in the last month. What He says is credible because He is trustworthy, and He is trustworthy because He has more than strong character; He is truth itself. That is why John, His beloved Apostle, describes Christ as "...glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14, ESV) in the opening verses of his Gospel. That is also why John, in the book of Revelation, introduces Him as "...Jesus Christ the faithful witness" (Revelation 1:5, ESV). He is faithful because He is trustworthy, and He is trustworthy because He is truth. That is why Christ can say of Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me" (John 14:6, ESV). The evil behind a lie isn't some damage done against some person, society or nation's laws. It is the violation of the person of God, because He is truth and a lie is everything that He is not. Evil is more than an abstract term for hypothetical discussion around tables or fireplaces; it is that which rises up from within the human heart with the desire to be the God of God, and in the process turns a person into everything that God is not.

    The words of John 3:16 say that "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Christ did more than say "I love you." He proved the truthfulness of His Words with action - by dying on His Cross for the curse of my sin and resurrecting from His grave three days later, to break the curse of death that would have been my fate. My dear friend, may you find His forgiveness for your sin, His companionship in your loneliness, His fellowship in your suffering, His joy in your sorrow, His strength in your weakness, His transformation of your character and His promise of new and eternal life by the power of His Word and Spirit.

    I love my Christ because of who He is. Matthew Henry expressed it brilliantly when he said: "The greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am, but God says absolutely....I AM THAT I AM." God bless. See you soon.
- The Wisdom Seeker