Blog

Being not doing

Have you ever really thought about how you measure people? I imagine I can hear an uncomfortable hum as readers become slightly defensive. But the fact is that there are a whole slew of ways we might measure people: by their intellect; by their wealth; by their religious beliefs; by their ability to command (power or respect); by their hard work. All of these are actually measures of ability that pervade so much of our thinking when meeting and getting to know people. It has become quite normal to judge a person by their abilities or what they can do.

Maybe you measure people by their colour or race or beauty, youthful vigour or elegance; well dressed is more acceptable than poorly dressed for example. These are measures based on physical appearance.

Thomas E. Reynolds in his book Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality calls this the ‘cult of normalcy’. Many of these views are centuries old but they are being promoted all the time because we live in a world which needs all of us to be producers and consumers. So advertisements for everything from cars to baby soap show perfect, well-off looking people, capable of hard work and play. These are economic ways of thinking and most definitely not loving or Christ-like and they are brutally unkind to people with disabilities who may not be able to produce and consume like most people and may look quite different from the normal.

Few of us are really selfless so we expect something in exchange for friendship and love.  If you go out with a friend it is because you want to share news, have fun, catch up, it is a two way thing, you want something out of that meeting whether you mean to give something back or not.  Nothing wrong with that you might think, and on the surface it seems perfectly reasonable.  The important thing is to realise that in our relationships we expect more than some people can give.

It might be good to pause for a few minutes in Isaiah 53 at the prophesy about Christ  –

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”53:2

“Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” 53:3

This then was the Son of God sent for our salvation. There was nothing good looking or powerful about him. There is every indication that he was in fact powerless, a silent lamb to the slaughter and therefore could not be classified along with our current measure of hard working, bright and well off. From this account he was also not at all attractive and nothing at all like the people in the adverts.

Yet that is what God chose to send to save his people.

Geeta Mondal writing about the blessings she has received as a result of being the mother of a child with autism writes:

“Another thing my child has taught me is that we live in a world where ‘doing’ is more important than ‘being’. We as Christians are people who have received salvation, not because of what we do, but on the basis of the gift of God, Jesus, who dies for us. It is a gift, free. We cannot do anything to earn it. However, so many times in our lives, even within our churches, we judge on the basis of action, and the person in the maximum need of grace is perhaps given the maximum condemnation.”

Perhaps we begin to hang our heads in shame as we realise that she is right and we have a way to go in shaping our thinking to be more Christ-like and more loving in our attitudes.

Geeta continues:

“My child is the way he is. I have to love him the way he is just as Christ loves me the way I am. ……. Same as the way God relates to me. I am His child, and nothing can change that. ……. We need to accept the fact that more important in the sight of God is not what we do, but who we are – ‘His children and heirs.’”

If we can fully grasp what Geeta has discovered then two things can happen:

  1. We shall begin to change the way we measure people and will move from the world view to the Christ view and in so doing people will know we are Christians.
  2. We shall want to reach out to people with disabilities with the news of the gospel because it will be a perfect balance to the brutal world view. Remember we are to be salt and light in the world.

Geeta and RaajMondol’s son Samarpan found going to church a horrible experience, in part because even the light touch of a dupatta hurts on his skin and as a child people would touch him or pat him which he found painful. If Samarpan was not going to be in church then it would be difficult for Geeta and Raaj to be there too which became a source of sadness to them.  Geeta tells us that the pastor of their church realised their difficulties and agreed that one of the church cell groups would operate from their home. In that atmosphere and sitting at a safe distance, Samarpan was able to join in and the family felt the joy of the fellowship of other Christians.

If we are salt and light then you can be sure choosing to have a cell group so that Samarpan could hear the gospel is a very fine example of being salt.

Read more

Running with Jesus

Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D.
In 2009 I won a medal for finishing the “Surf City” marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I ran 26.2 miles in under 4 hours. It was actually the 5th marathon that I’ve completed and it was my slowest one, but it might be the one I’m the most proud of because I did it at 46 years old. The other four I did in the physical prime of my life, between ages 17 and 21.
You’re probably thinking to yourself: “I couldn’t run 26.2 miles!” Or maybe, “I wouldn’t want to run 26.2 miles!” Well, most of you, if you wanted to run a marathon you could do it – if you trained for it.

To finish my last marathon I trained for months. Every Saturday morning I did a long run. I started with a four-mile run that goes alongside the two lakes near my home. Each week I went a little farther, building up to a 20 mile-long run in the hills. I also did shorter runs or rode my bike each week. And I worked out with weights and the stair master three times a week.
My preparation enabled me to enjoy the race – until I hit “the wall” at mile 20! My overall experience of the race was that it was wonderfully inspiring to run on paths lined with people cheering me on as I made my way through parks and along the ocean. And then what a thrill it was to cross the finish line in under four hours with thousands of people – including my wife and three kids – cheering for me!

Running with Jesus, my Coach, is what I enjoyed most about my race and all the jogging I do. We read in the Gospels that Jesus went up into the hills to pray. So I run out the door of my house to follow Jesus into the hills near my home! I love to be alone with Jesus in the quiet and beauty of nature, meditating on Scripture and conversing with him about life in his kingdom.
Jesus is my Champion of Psalm 19:5 who is rejoicing to run his course in the kingdom heavens all around us. So as I run my life race I fix my eyes on Jesus. I listen to him. I keep in step with him. He is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

The Apostle Paul taught us that the only way to run a good life race is to go into training with Jesus. “Train yourself to be godly,” he urged Timothy and us too (1 Timothy 4:7). Spiritually, we need to get in shape! Paul challenges us:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Going into training with Jesus is the only way you can succeed at being his disciple. You can’t do algebra until you learn decimals. You can’t minister healing love to people until you learn to pray as Jesus prayed. And you can’t do all you do in your daily life as Jesus’ disciple without using disciplines to prepare yourself.

There are many spiritual disciplines that we can use as “means of grace” to help us to run a good life race with Jesus. In my Soul Shepherding ministry I teach people how to train with Jesus for their spiritual growth. For instance, you can learn to…

• Meditate deeply on God’s Word to renew your mind (Romans 12:1-2)
• Fast from food (or some food) for awhile in order to feast on the bread of angels (Psalm 78:24-25)
• Meet alone with Jesus in quiet to “Be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10)
• Learn to serve others as Christ has served you (Matthew 20:26-28)

Read more

The Path to Freedom is Surrender

Have you ever sensed you have built a wall around your heart? If we are honest, most of us recognize that we have done so at one time or another. This is simply one of many fallouts from living in a sin-cursed world. Some of us may use bricks of callous emotions; for others, the bricks may be power and position, but for the rich young ruler in chapter 10 of Mark’s gospel, the wall was built from bricks of money and possessions.

The man comes to visit Jesus, at first appearing to humbly seek the way of eternal life. However, it quickly becomes apparent that his real aim is to use this encounter to self-proclaim his righteous standing before God as a result of his faithfulness to God’s commandments. But Jesus knew something was holding the man back from experiencing true freedom and a real encounter with God. Verse 21 says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (NIV) Jesus knew what stood in the way and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (NIV)

The man came to Jesus expecting affirmation of his goodness, which he sought in order to justify himself and return to the life he already enjoyed. Instead, he was confronted with the truth and invited to walk into a glorious new life with God through Christ. However, even while standing face-to-face with the Son of God Himself, the young man decided in his heart that what Jesus had to offer could not possibly be more valuable than what he already possessed. As a result, instead of finding freedom in Christ, the man chose to remain a slave to his possessions, clinging to his false hopes and false security. (See Mark 10:17-31)

How about you? Are you clinging to something that might be preventing you from following Jesus with your whole heart? If so, what is holding you back? Take a few moments and ask God to reveal to you what might be holding you back. What (or who) have you become a slave to? What are you afraid to let go of? Fill in the blank space that follows with what God has shown you must do:

“Go, [tear down your brick wall] then come, follow me.”

The moment we surrender that which is holding us back, He invites us to move forward to follow Him. Praise God that the moment we embrace the freedom Christ offers, we are no longer imprisoned by walls of fears and false security built by our own hands!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

“I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)

Read more

Forgiveness is the Key to Unlocking God’s Miracle Power


The Importance of Forgiveness
Lack of forgiveness blocks access to the kingdom and to miracle power.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt” (Matthew 18:21-25).

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25).

Forgive Yourself
The first person you probably have not forgiven is yourself. More people have a lack of forgiveness toward themselves than toward anybody else. They are unwilling to forgive themselves and to recognize that God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). If you are a believer, He has already cleansed your conscience from dead works so that you might serve the living God. God cleanses us for service in order to not leave us with the guilt of past sin. That should be dead, buried, and forgotten.

People must forgive all who need forgiveness. If the first person to forgive is yourself, you need to say, “God, before You, I forgive myself. Whatever I have done, I accept Your forgiveness, and I forgive me.” That’s a very simple but profound statement, because as long as we feel that we are under condemnation, we will never have faith to see miracles.

“If our heart does not condemn us,” the Bible says, “we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21). Obviously, we cannot have continuing sin in our lives and expect forgiveness. We have to be free from ongoing conscious sin and rebellion against God. But if we are walking in the light, and walking in forgiveness, then the blood of Jesus Christ is continuously cleansing us from all sin (see 1 John 1:7).

Are You Blaming God?
The second person we have to “forgive,” if we have bitterness, is God Himself. There are people who blame God because a child died, because a husband ran away, because they have been sick, because they have not had enough money. Consciously or unconsciously they think all of these things are God’s fault. There is deep-seated resentment; yet you cannot be resentful toward God and experience miracles. You have to rid yourself of any bitterness toward God. That may take some soul-searching. You must ask yourself, Am I blaming God for my situation?

Forgive Those Closest to You
The third person you may have to forgive is a member of your family. I spoke to one woman in an Asian country, and I asked, “Do you have any resentment against anybody?” She said, “No.” I said, “What about your husband?” She said, “Oh, well, I resent him, but I don’t think he counts.”

You have to get rid of resentment, especially toward those closest to you. The husbands, the wives, the children, and the parents – all must be forgiven when slights and resentments have built up in family situations. Many people say, “Well, I didn’t think that counted. I thought that was just a family matter.” All lack of forgiveness has to be eliminated, especially toward every family member.

Forgive Anyone Who Hurt You
Finally, there has to be forgiveness for anybody else who has ever done anything against you. It may be that your resentment is justified. The person may have done a very evil, terrible thing to you. You may have every legal and intellectual right to hold a grudge and to hate that person. But if you want to see miracles in your life, it is absolutely imperative that you forgive.

Forgiveness Cleanses You
Forgive them to the point where you actually feel yourself cleansed of resentment and bitterness and are actually praying for them. If you do not, the lack of forgiveness will make it impossible for God to forgive you. Every miracle depends 100 percent on your relationship to God the Father. That relationship is built strictly on the strength of His forgiveness of your sin.

Forgiveness is the key. Other sins can be present, and if your heart condemns you for something else, then of course, you do not have confidence before God. But it is lack of forgiveness that most often comes between people and God.

Read more

Sorry What Did You Say?


Sunita tried to get an extra hour in bed on Sundays and do everything a bit more leisurely than usual. When she pulled her phone towards her she was amazed to see it was already 8.30. She could not believe that the sounds of the morning in her Delhi flat had not woken her already, she must have been much more tired than she thought. She rolled over onto her back and suddenly noticed that the fan was going at high speed but she could barely hear it. With a sense of foreboding she sat up and realised she could hardly hear anything. The sound of water running into the sink as she brushed her teeth was odd, as if only some of the sound was reaching her ears.

Sunita had been deaf in one ear for many years but it hardly bothered her, now something was wrong in the other ear. As she reached for some cotton buds hoping to clear out the blockage her cousin popped her head around the door and said something, Sunita could see Asha’s mouth moving but she couldn’t hear a word. A feeling of complete panic engulfed her and wildly she prodded just below her ear. A fraction of hearing returned and logic told her that it must be a local blockage and she should not be afraid.

No specialist was available until Monday so Sunita decided to go to the chemist for some wax softening drops in the hope that they would help. The medical shop was just along the street from where she lived but it involved crossing one little lane and manoeuvring around the cars, bikes and veg stalls lining the narrow road. But she was as uncomfortable as if she was crossing a busy railway junction unsure where all the noises were coming from and which direction she should watch first to avoid being hit by a bike or car. She was feeling very fragile by the time she reached the medical shop. It was busy so she had a moment or two to collect herself but when she spoke she couldn’t tell how loud she was or what she sounded like and she was relieved to find she had been understood. The next hurdle was paying the bill. She concentrated hard and looked at the mouth of the shop keeper before she could understand how much she had to pay him.

Though she was discouraged and worried she decided to go to church anyway. She felt safe once she was in the auto but church was altogether different. Usually she loved the songs and hymns but the distorted hearing made the music sound horrible and she dared not sing because she could not hear what she sounded like. She was able to follow very little of the sermon and was hopelessly distracted by a miserable feeling of what she would do after church when her friends would greet her and she would not be able to hear them. She suddenly felt an enormous sense of loneliness. Being deaf in one ear had been one thing, this was horrible, so horrible she crept out during the final hymn rather than have to meet everyone.

She spent the day quietly contemplating what life would be like if her hearing could not be restored; music would be out of her life, an unimaginable loss she thought; she guessed that if there was some residual hearing she might be alright to talk one to one as long as she could see the face of the person she was talking to but if there were other noises or conversations going on or if it was too dark to see the mouth of the speaker, she knew she wouldn’t manage and people only have so much patience to repeat things. In the afternoon when her phone lit up she had to ask her cousin to take the call and she realised that if she couldn’t use the phone then she would be useless at work. One by one the difficulties presented themselves in her imagination. By the time she went to bed she was most sincerely praying for a reprieve with the visit to the doctor the next day.

Sunita, had nothing seriously wrong this time. On Monday the specialist syringed her ear and solved the problem. She was left hearing well but deeply touched by the experience.

Mercifully most people do not get to experience any type of disability except perhaps until they grow infirm with old age, although maybe if we did, we would be more sensitive. As a Christian how often do you find yourself thinking about what life is like for others? We should be doing it all the time because that is the stuff of compassion which is a characteristic of our Lord Jesus and also because we are told to do so in Colossians 3:12

“Therefore as God’s chosen people clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

In the story, Sunita experienced just a few of the daily challenges of hearing impaired people –

  1. Vulnerability walking down the street unable to hear the traffic.
  2. Wary of speaking because they have no idea if they are shouting and worried about annoying others.
  3. Exclusion from singing with others in church for the same reason
  4. Inability to hear the sermon
  5. Dread of after-church-fellowship because they cannot hear what their friends are saying
  6. Loneliness
  7. Risk of being unemployed

I am sure there are many more.
We who are church, have the power of the Holy Spirit, our own attempts at compassion will be pathetic compared to what the Spirit can show us. Let us call upon the Lord to open our eyes to the challenges of people with disabilities around us and find ways to make sure that the Gospel and fellowship of other Christians is readily available to them.

Let us call upon the Lord to open our eyes to the challenges of people with disabilities around us and find ways to make sure that the Gospel and fellowship of other Christians is readily available to them.

Read more

I Can Always Ask


If it is true as I mentioned in my last post, that we are all vulnerable, all dependent on others and indeed God, for who we are and how we can live in this world then there is a commonality between all people, those with disabilities and those without. It is at that point of vulnerability that compassion is possible. It is not a superficial attitude that says “there but for the grace of God go I”, rather it is a deep understanding that if I wish for a full place in society, if I long to be loved and need to be accepted then so do others and if I am hurt by rejection or being considered inadequate then others too will equally feel the pain of rejection or exclusion and resent being written off as useless.

George Abraham is a most accomplished man; he is musical, a cricket wizard and experienced CEO who has founded and run organisations and seen that they achieve sustainability before handing them over. He is an events organiser, public speaker and a Christian leader, and has a delightful sense of humour, he also happens to be visually impaired. I have known him for a few years and long since realised he was talented. I met his wife Roopa much later at a lovely lunch they hosted for me in their home. She knew George when they were children in Sunday School, lost touch as parents were posted and then met up with him again as a student in Delhi at which point she decided that he would make a great match. She said what she saw was a handsome, intelligent and accomplished, Christian man and she told her parents that she was fond of him. George’s father, on the other hand, was having to battle George saying he did not wish to be defined by his disability so his parents should not accept proposals from people with disabilities. As an aside it is a great testimony to share that George’s Dad said it would be his prayer that the Father would “send the proposal to his door” which is exactly what happened with a re-routed letter from Roopa’s parents suggesting they should meet up.

The reason that I tell this story here is because although George has a full and fine life he is the first to admit his vulnerability not as a sign of weakness but as a fact. He was as daring as any youngster even riding his bike around the colony where they lived and his love of cricket was based on bodyline bowling…

”I would aim for the haze at the far end of my vision and it was either a wicket or hospital for the batsman!”
But he is the first to admit that the derring-do of youth was matched by the practical application of his Mum collaborating with teachers, opening the house to his childhood friends for shared homework etc. He described himself as outgoing with lots of great friends so he was always surrounded by sighted boys and girls growing up. He used the word collaboration a lot. And it is a great word for that is what we all do through life, collaborate with others to get things done, because we cannot do them alone.

In 1 Cor. 12:21-26 Paul is talking about how the body (the Church) is made up of many parts.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
I was near Delhi University North Campus a few weeks after visiting Roopa and George when I saw four visually impaired students walking together towards the metro and I was reminded of George’s comments about how his achievements are greatly influenced by the good sighted friends he has had along the way. He wished visually impaired students would reach out and make friends with the sighted students for their mutual benefit.

George had recently found himself forced to take an unscheduled long bus journey and had told the conductor he would need help to know when they had reached their destination and how to get from there to the airport. His neighbour on the bus asked why he did not travel with a companion his response was

“I can always ask for help.”
It is obvious isn’t it? I cannot tell you how many times I have felt inadequate to a task and have had to ask for help. How is that alright for me but somehow considered a weakness in a person with a disability?

So, what has any of this got to do with you as an Indian Christian reading this blog?

I hope it has challenged your idea of what it means to be a person with disability

I pray that it will bring you to your knees to thank God for reminding you that you are nothing, nothing at all without His blessing. You are vulnerable and that is the common ground you share with all men and women. We all need each other and God.

I trust that if you are a parent and you know any children with disabilities you will encourage your children to play with them, invite them for birthday parties, and children’s activities at home and church.

I hope that the next time you need to ask for help or directions you will recognise the need as one you share with people with disabilities, the elderly and children ….. and it will make you more sensitive and caring and less quick to judge.

I pray that if you are student you will not shy away from fellow students with disabilities because you are afraid.

Read more

A New Beginning


What is Easter I hear them say?
It’s a holiday, yippee yay!
Like other festivals Easter too is fun,
Celebrate it like the way it’s done.

The Easter bunny is one of a kind,
Comes to hide Easter eggs for children to find.
It’s a time of feasting for some,
When all the family, together they come.

But, why exactly do we have Easter?
The answer I saw displayed on a poster.
‘New beginning’ it said
‘Jesusis alive, no longer dead’.

Crucified by the world he came to save.
On Easter, Christ rose from the grave,
His mission accomplished, he called all to Him,
Bringing light into lives when all looked dim.

When hope is bleak; almost dead,
No strength to move, feet heavy as lead.
When broken lives to him we give,
He gives us strength to victoriously live.

Give him our goals, our dreams, which have been shattered
Our lives facing storms, badly battered.
He promises a calm that defies logic,
A peace so pure, it seems like magic.

Easter comes with a message of a new beginning,
Promising to end our failures and start winning.
Rays of hope come shining through,
A message of victory for me and you.

Sunil Pillai
Survey and Research Consultant.

Read more

Jesus was victorious over death


Jesus faced the cruelty of his crucifixion as a victor. His amazing response to the state and religious leaders who connived together to execute him was his prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”(Luke 24:32). Jesus did not call for revenge. Jesus practiced the values of the kingdom of God which he had preached, calling people to repentance from their wayward values.

Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for the wages of our sins, so that we do not have to reap eternal consequences of our actions. Isn’t this good news? That I do not have to live under fear or stress of the load of my sinful life. Salvation is a gift from God in the form of Christ Jesus. We cannot earn it, nor do we deserve it, but God in His gracious love comes down to our human level to take us by our hand and raise us up to Himself.

The resurrection was the supreme public demonstration of the identity of Jesus. He was indeed God incarnate, the Son of God (Romans 1:3–4). Jesus died for our sins and on the third day he bodily rose again from the dead. Those who believe in him will be raised from the dead as well.

In Christ, the eternal divine life enters the human and finite life, bringing fullness of life (John 10:11). Jesus rose from the dead and in him the risen life overcomes the ultimate suffering of death. Jesus overcame sin, death and Satan. So do we, as we trust in him.

Happy Easter!

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell is Principal of Caleb Institute of Theology and General Secretary of Asia Evangelical Alliance.

Read more

Give the Gift of Attention


Dr. David Hawkins – Marriage 911 Blogger

I sat with a group of friends recently and chatted about life. There was a new individual there I didn’t know. Zach was a 60-year-old man, retired from Boeing and was crafting a new life.

While I was very interested in his new life and what it was like to be retired, Zach preferred to ask about me and my new book coming out soon. He was filled with questions.
“Tell me why you wrote the book,” he asked. “Why did you write a book about emotional abuse? Do you many men who are emotionally abusive?”

He maintained rapt attention for over half an hour while I excitedly told him about the book and my interest in this topic. Later that evening I told my wife about the exchange.

“What were you and Zach talking about?” Christie asked.

“He wanted to know all about the new book,” I said.

“You two were talking for quite a while,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “He kept asking me questions and making comments about emotional abuse.”

“I think he really likes to listen and understand people,” Christie said.

“Absolutely,” I said. “I hardly had a chance to ask about him. But he’s doing some exciting things too. It was nice to talk to him.”

As I reflected upon this evening, I was aware of how rare it is to actually show someone complete attention, actively listening to what they have to say and what they want to share. I was aware of the pleasure I felt at someone caring enough about me to ask depth questions.

Everyone has a story and most want to share it. Everyone has something exciting and interesting happening in their life, as well as something painful occurring, and if you ask, showing genuine attention, they will often share it with you.

When I consider what Zach did with me, and for me, I’m reminded of the life of Christ. He listened to people. Never hurried, he showered others with the gift of attention. He cared when the fishermen were not catching fish and when Mary and Martha had lost their brother. He cared when there were those who were sick.

Scripture is concerned about this topic: “Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” (Philippians 2:4, NCV)

Can you honestly say you are interested in the lives of others? Certainly, you care about them. You love them. But, do you sit and ask depth questions about the real joys of their lives or the real sorrows? This shows true caring.

If you would like to give the gift of attention, consider doing the following:

1. Have an attitude of attentiveness.

An attitude of attentiveness does not naturally occur. Most of us are preoccupied with events and concerns occurring in our own lives. We must clear away enough mental space to make room for new information. We must set aside our preoccupations, agendas and interests to show interests in other. Again, Christ is our model for doing this.

2. Choose who you will attend to.
You cannot give your attention to anyone and everyone. We all have limited time and attention. Select whom you will attend to and then begin the process. Choose who you will attend to, showing genuine interest and energy, caring and compassion.

3. Ask good questions.
Good questions will guide the conversation. If you want to know more about a person and what interests them, ask them. Gentle questions conveys you really care about them, what interests and concerns them and what they might want to talk about.
A good, positive conversation is really a dance—a give and take process whereby we sense where our partner wants to go and what they want to talk about. We are sensitive to areas of excited interest and are cautious when hitting a nerve.

4. Converse about the information you receive.
Good conversation flows. One good question leads to an answer and perhaps another series of questions, like peeling an onion. Learning more and more, you pay keen attention to the flow of the conversation, slowing down when appropriate and bringing the conversation to an end when appropriate.

5. Cultivate attentiveness.
Paying attention may, at first, not come naturally to you. Like any skill, you can become more adept at conversing and attending to others. Again, remember that showing attention, caring and conversing are often the highest forms of love. Show others you care about their lives by practicing these steps with those in your world.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center and has been helping couples in crisis for more than 30 years.

Read more

Giving of yourself

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life – John 3:16

Festive seasons have become too much about perfect gifts haven’t they? Shopping and extravaganza. The joy of the season has been overshadowed by the pulls of budget and need, and a compromise between the two. Stress and then disappointment. All hard realities. The gift might be used or thrown away or (surprise!) make its way back to the original giver. These worries have replaced the spirit of a Christ-like Christmas. Though the poor are far from the world of gifting let us first define the ‘perfect gift’. Something rare, sorely needed, and great if recycled.What else but love? And untiring support. And understanding. And forgiveness. Seeing and listening.Oh, life itself!But is anyone rich enough to offer these?

Now consider God’s gift to man. The very love, support, understanding, seeing eye, listening ear and forgiveness that we crave. Life– eternal and in all its fullness! Perfect. A gift that expects this in return that we take, enjoy and pass it on.Foremost to that poor man or woman who is far from our world of gifting. Lonely, cold, trapped and broken,they’re the ones most starved of love, support and understanding.Know this Christmas that if you could be there for someone who is thinking ‘even death would be better than this’ you’ll have done it right for once. Know also that God’s gift – free and abundant – will keep you going strong.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Jaya Philips
Consultant

Read more