Friday, 23 November 2012


Today our markets are full of cosmetic products for both men and women. Regardless of gender and age, people spend time and effort to look beautiful. Display of beautiful women in advertisements like showpieces convey the wrong message that happiness is guaranteed for beautiful women. As outer beauty is valued, people often identify this with their personality. This association with self-image causes unnecessary problems in many women both young and old.

I suppose concern for beauty was present even among first century women in the churches in certain parts of Asia Minor. Their main be concern was outward beauty and they dealt with it by adorning themselves with braided hair, gold ornaments, and fine clothes (1Pet 3:3). Their concern was on something that is temporal which fades away by age, and other circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with being beautiful. Patriarchs in the Bible had beautiful wives. Job's daughters were beautiful. God has created many beautiful things and even God enjoyed the beauty of his creation. Outward beauty is not a hindrance in being beautiful in our inner self. Sarah is an example of a woman who had both outward and inner beauty.

Yet, when the concern for outer beauty takes priority over inner beauty, many unnecessary problems may arise. The apostle Peter addressed this issue by giving an alternative perspective on beauty. His answer for this problem is the inner beauty, which will not decay by age. This is of great worth in God's sight (1 Pet 3: 4). Gentleness and quiet spirit are the two virtues of our inner self. This was the secret of the inner beauty of holy women of the past. This enabled them to put their hope in God as they did what was right. They were submissive to their husbands. They were not subject to fear. In short this inner beauty enabled them to lead holy lives (1 Pet 3:5-6).

How do we become beautiful inside? The apostle Paul noted that the transforming power of the Spirit works in our inner being (Eph 3:16). I believe that as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our inner being these qualities and other fruit of the Spirit will develop in us. This is the only cosmetic for inner beauty. However, this work of the Spirit in our inner being will be evident also in our behavior patterns. Others will see it in our relationships, our faith, our trust in God, our dealings, our words, and even in our smile. As women, let us care for our inner self or inner being so that we can present our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. May our generation rise up and call us “holy women of the past.”

Friday, 19 October 2012

For Every Hour of Every Day
Things that I learned through our marriage which I pass on to you.

To Hold and to Cherish

1. You have received a precious gift from God on your wedding day.

2. You’re married to the right person.
Allowing the thought that it is the wrong person is detrimental to your relationship. You’re married! It is too late. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” So make the best out of your marriage.

3.Your spouse is not Jesus and not perfect; only Jesus is perfect. Only Jesus can meet your deepest needs as He is the source of your life not any person or things.

4. Remember to strengthen your relationship with God. When it is there, you will have the blessing of having a good relationship with your spouse because God is a God of peace and love.

5. Find time for a “circle of two,” for prayer and Bible reading. Your family is a "miniature church."

6. “Clean hands and a pure heart”- let this be your prayer.

7. Your first year together is only a year of romance. Years of true love are coming. So hang on. If there is no wine left, Jesus can still do miracles. He loves to give to those who ask him. He is always for you and your marriage.

8. Love is a decision, not just feelings. The commitment you make on your wedding day is to your spouse and to God.

9. To honor and love each other in words and deeds is also a decision, a daily decision may be an hourly decision. Seek opportunities to give not just receive.

10. Be determined to strive and work hard for a great marriage. If there is a will there is a way. God will give you the desires of your heart. To have a great marriage, the partners need to be authentic and transparent. So there may be differences in opinion on various issues.

11. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Control your temper and be polite when you argue. 
When you discuss difficult issues, make sure to at least hold each other’s hand. Learn to solve these disagreements constructively to avoid big “blow ups” that devastates the relationships.

12. Forsake the “blame game.” It started in the Garden of Eden. It is not your spouse’s fault.

13. Forget all the hurt from the last argument. Once forgiven, its forgiven. So try to forget or ask God to help you to forget.

14. Say sorry even when you know your spouse has wronged you in the particular incident. You reap the result in great measure.

15. Never compare your spouse with anybody. Comparing is unfair. Your spouse is unique.

16. Do not take your spouse for granted for they have chosen to love you and to make your life brighter each day even by simple acts of kindness. Be thankful. It is also applicable to your family members and your friends.

17. Your spouse is your best friend next to Jesus. See that you value your relationship with your spouse in the midst of the pressures of life.

18. Listen to your mate. Communicate verbally and non-verbally.

19. Encourage each other. Next to God you are your spouse’s best cheer leader.

20. Find time to have fun and laugh. Create opportunities to reminiscence your “good old days.”

21. Let each of your “cup of love” be filled with your spouse’s love. It is a safety measure against temptation. Our efforts to participate in God’s vision will be effective when we are at peace with ourselves.

22. If you know a particular thing is God’s will for your life do not hesitate to accomplish it. It is part of being a mature person. This will only lead to fulfillment in marriage.

23. Difficult times develop pearls and rubies in your marriage. These times help one to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” It also provides fertile ground to grow in love towards each other and to appreciate how others care for us.

24. Taking time to bless your extended family, your church, and those in need is an opportunity to bring a smile in the lives of others.

I wrote the first draft of this piece of writing to give it to my youngest sister when she got married in June 1998. My daughter told told me one day "I do not want daddy to get old any more." I explained to her the joys of getting old. One of the joys of getting old is to see the fruits of our hard work to build great marriage and family.

Friday, 27 April 2012

How to Develop Oneness in Marriage
Is it 50/50 or 100/100?

Developing oneness is worth our effort
While I was pregnant with our first child, my husband took a half-day leave to accompany me to the doctor. As his co-workers knew that he tried his best to be with me during visits to the doctor, one of them counseled him, “Annie can go alone to the clinic, it is 50/50, isn't it? Annie does 50 and you do 50 and then marriage will work out.” But my husband replied, “No, it is 100/100 and this is how it works.”

This happened almost 18 years ago. Our life went through a lot of changes in these years: Another child, returned to India, teaching, pastoring, studying, caring for dying parents, pain and inconveniences that come with a herniated disc, and many other challenges and blessings. But I continue to see that my husband was right; it is 100/100 not 50/50.

Viewing marriage as a 100/100 relationship seems to be an unreasonable math equation. Marriage as a 50/50 partnership makes sense as both spouses put 50% and thus moving towards a 100. One does the cooking and other does the cleaning, one does the washing and the other does the folding. This sounds practical and workable. Those who have been married for sometime know that this is not the way things work in real life.

I believe that marriage is a higher calling. This calling involves God's plan for families to display the nature of God's love for his people—with love Jesus died for us even when we were yet sinners and in his love he continues to sanctify his people to be his own. Such an expectation from two ordinary people may sound unfair. It is not only unfair but also from our experiences we know that it is not that easy. Yet God is giving us a privilege to live towards his greater vision for our life.

Moreover, 100/100 effort is needed to fulfill God's specific purpose for each family. God has a special niche that each family has to carve out. If attaining God's general calling for families is difficult, then think about the goal to attain a special purpose for our families. The path to attain this will bring us unique sorrows and joys one after the other. Yet families that have attained it can testify that at the end will be well.

As God reveals to us the unique purpose of each family, he is inviting each of us to put 100% towards his dream. This demands self-denial and self-affirmation. Self-denial or unselfishness involves putting aside everything from within and without that may hinder God's general and specific vision for the family. This does not mean one is not selfless. Each family is determined to persist to attain the purpose and vision of the family. This is part of self-affirmation.

Imagine you see all the houses in a city or village from a higher altitude. You may see the buildings in the size of something like match box. If each home puts in 100/100 to fulfill God's general and specific purpose, then we can join with Balaam in the Bible and say “How beautiful are your tents....”

The delight in this endeavor is that both spouses are active in doing their 100% in carving out their family's unique niche. In reality, in many families spouses are only willing to put their 50, or only one spouse is determined to give 100, or others have the desire but may not have the needed stamina. In such cases let us hope that they would see the pleasure of 100/100 and persevere to preserve the sanity of marriage and soon would enjoy the oneness that God desires for the husband and his wife.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Present but Absent

In my school days teachers regularly marked attendance by calling out students' names. Those who were present would reply “present sir” and if anyone is absent, some other student will say “absent sir.” However, as classes began some of our minds might have wandered many places thus making us oblivious to the happenings of our classroom. These students were present but absent in their minds.

Our house will be a home for us and many others
Is such absenteeism prevalent in our homes too? This is not about parents who stay away from their homes for employment or children who stay in boarding schools. But there are many homes were physical presence means nothing. Recently one teenager told me “I do not share any of my feelings with my parents.” Family members are physically present in such houses but some of them or all of them are emotionally absent. Then house is reduced to a stop over place. Essential aspects of family like cooking, eating meals together or praying together may be ritualistically practiced. However a mechanistic pattern of doing rituals do not give needed life support to its members. This is when we are present but absent in essence.

Machines have robbed opportunities of family members to share the workload. This has reduced the work for its members but also decreased the time families spend for a common purpose. Each of the family members have their own friends to talk to in the privacy of their own rooms and their own mobile phones. They enjoy their own favorite programs in their own gadgets. With less time spent together and less common space, family members grow distant from each other.

Who suffers the most from such distant relationships in families? I believe that each of the family members become victims of such emotionally absent but physically present life in our houses. When children are young, by nature they extend their physical and emotional touch to others. Yet as they grow older they will soon learn to adopt various distant behavior patterns. Here each of the family members live in their own worlds. They may share their joys together but pain and hurt are safely bottled up in their own lives. This is when houses become in essence lodges.

But houses can be homes where there is openness, love, acceptance, sharing, and forgiveness. It is where our good and bad experiences will find meaning. It is where one feels safe and secure. Even the very remembrance of the place makes one want to live even in the midst of despair. There is such an home in the Bible. The home of the prodigal son was not perfect but it was a home according to the above standards. Even after the son left home for his own personal happiness, his memory of his home was that of safety and abundance even for the servants which gave him the hope to live.

Who has the responsibility of making the house a home? Parents and other adults have a major role in this process. But as children grow older they are to be trained to build their home. As each member places the necessary bricks in the structure, it will become a home not only for its members but also for many others. Let each of us get to work to be always present in our homes. Remember each brick counts!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Family Vision Statement

Rainbow remains us of our hope in God
February 19, 2010 is family Sunday at Lifetime Vineyard, Adoor. It is a time to honour and bless families and to rejoice and mourn together as a faith community. Pray that God will continue to enable you to be godly husbands/wives/parents and to be a blessing to all around you.

Family Vision Statement: Where is your family heading to?

Once I participated in target shooting. The event made me realize that even when I aim at the center, often the arrows fell on different points on the board and sometimes flew outside the board. Then imagine shooting with no aim. This idea led me to introduce this topic—to develop a vision for the family.

Many of us are familiar with company's vision statements. How important is a vision statement for a family? When my husband and I began traveling with the same vision for our life together, we become more productive and our life together became a blessing to us and others. It does not mean that our first few years of life were boring or less colourful. We have enjoyed each other and grew in love with each other ever since we got married with a deep desire to serve God and to raise a godly family. But a common vision gave us a focus to move forward and together cling to God in good and happy times.
Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Instead of simply living our lives together for 40 or 50 years how fulfilling it would be when we have a vision for our families! God's desire for couples is to be one flesh which implies oneness in every aspect of life even though they are two people. A well framed vision statement will help to answer life’s great questions as far as the family is concerned. It is like a compass that guides the course of a ship in the vast ocean or in today's term the GPS that directs us when we are unsure of the way. Imagine how meaningful it will be when everyone in the family knows and lives up to the purpose to which it exits! When followed closely, it can be one of the means to help to move forward with vigor and grace and every decisions will be a step towards your destination.

I guess you got my point. Why wait? Now let us get to work...
As a family (include children if they are old even to understand the discussion) prayerfully ask the following questions which can help you to frame a vision statement.
Why is our family here? Or What is God's purpose for our family? This expresses the purpose of your family.
Where are we going? Or What do you want to achieve? This has to do with the vision of the family.
How will you get to the goal? This deals with means to achieve the vision.
What are your important values? This explains important values of your family.
As you answer these questions you are framing different parts of your family's vision statement. Put all these answers together to one meaningful sentences. This may not be the final one but a start to see God's unique purpose for your family.
You can post your family's vision statement in your bedroom or kitchen and read it at least once a day!
Hope you will have the vision statement ready before I share my thoughts with you next thoughts. Until then may you live in peace with God and others!