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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Small word, big problem
  By William Grimm  
  PEOPLE who have studied English as a second language tell me that three of the biggest challenges they encount  
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  By Dr John K. John  
  Question: I am a middle class person. I have two children. The elder one is in the 11th standard. He has the bad habit of stealing things. Wherever he goes, he finds something to steal. I noticed this tendency when he was in the primary section. I thought he would give up this habit once he grows up. My wife and I take care to provide everything he wants. Yet, he brings home stolen goods. He steals not because he needs the items. Whenever I confront him, he has hundred and one stories to cover up. I fear that at this rate, he will land in jail. Please advise how to go about it.

THIS is a problem labeled in psychology as Kleptomania. This is a syndrome similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) seen in some people. Both have a compulsive side where the person experiences an overwhelming desire to do things, which defy logic. It would appear from your question that your son has a tendency to steal items he does not need nor will ever use.

Given a safe setting, such people would explain their experience as an inexplicable desire to steal things. They also get a sense of relief and even pleasure when they act on this compulsion. Your son makes up stories because he knows his experience would not make sense, nor would it be acceptable to others. Occasionally we hear of rich celebrities, who can buy anything they wish, getting caught in shoplifting. Without going into more details of this syndrome, let us look at the problem of stealing in general.

All of us suffer from covetousness in some form or the other and sometimes we choose to act upon it and go all the way to steal things belonging to another person and this is not limited to money or small articles like pen or chocolates. We steal other people's time by barging into their busy schedules and just refusing to leave; we steal our employer's time and money by being late and by wasting time in gossip, doing personal work or going for unnecessary breaks during office hours.

People take sick leave on false pretexts and routinely produce inflated or false medical and travel bills. Many people use office stationery for their personal use and even take stuff home. In most people's mind these are not stealing in the conventional sense, as this has become the culture we live in.

In the west, the most common item of theft in Christian bookshops is Bibles! I am inclined to believe that these shoplifters are unbelievers eager to read the Bible. But if they are Christians, the fact that Bible treats covetousness as sin is not proving to be a deterrent for those who have got in to the habit of stealing. We all seem to have developed the habit of repeatedly doing the wrong things! The Bible describes this as sinful or the old nature that rules us.

The root cause behind Kleptomania as well as the other kind of greed we see all around us is covetousness, a love for things of this material world that take control of us. The Bible treats all forms of covetousness as sin and calls for repentance. But in Kleptomania, which your son seems to have, has a compulsive side, and therefore he needs specialized care and counsel from experienced people. Your son deserves all the compassion and help from you and others.

On his part, he needs to accept that his heart, the center of his volition and emotions, is subject to his will. The Bible says, "the human heart is deceitful above all things"(Jer. 17.9). The Sovereign God, the creator of your son's heart is able to help him to choose to say no when he is tempted to steal. A disciple of Christ has the authority to take captive "every thought (of his own heart) to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10.5). If he has chosen to go against the 10th commandment willfully, a willful act of repentance is also called for. For more help please seek regular counsel from your Pastor or a qualified Christian counselor. Consulting a Christian psychiatrist would be advisable as medication also might be of help.
Dr John K. John has been a theologian, administrator and counselor for over three decades. He served in various capacities in Emmanuel Hospital Association and is presently the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Trust of India, New Delhi. He took his Bachelor of Divinity from Serampore University in 1991 and has a doctorate in Christian counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary in the United States. He would be answering questions from our readers on their personal and family problems. Dr John can be contacted at
Meaning of life
  By Roger Cohen  
  WHAT'S life for? That question stirred as I contemplated two rhesus monkeys, Canto, aged 27, and Owen, aged 29, whose photographs appeared last week in The New York Times.

The monkeys are part of a protracted experiment in aging being conducted by a University of Wisconsin team. Canto gets a restricted diet with 30 per cent fewer calories than usual while Owen gets to eat whatever the heck he pleases.

Preliminary conclusions, published in Science two decades after the experiment began, "demonstratethat caloric restriction slows aging in a primate species," the scientists leading the experiment wrote. While just 13 per cent of the dieting group has died in ways judged due to old age, 37 per cent of the feasting monkeys are already dead.

These conclusions have been contested by other scientists for various reasons I won't bore you with -- boredom definitely shortens life spans.

Meanwhile, before everyone holds the French fries, the issue arises of how these primates -- whose average life span in the wild is 27 (with a maximum of 40) -- are feeling and whether these feelings impact their desire to live.

Monkeys' emotions were part of my childhood. My father, a doctor, worked with them all his life. His thesis at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, was on the menstrual cycle of baboons. When he settled in Britain in the 1950s, he had some of his baboons average life span 30) shipped over, ultimately donating a couple to the London Zoo.

Upon visiting the zoo much later, he got a full-throated greeting from the baboons, who rushed to the front of their cage to tell him they'd missed him.
Moral of story: Don't underestimate monkeys' feelings.

Which brings me to low-cal Canto and high-cal Owen: Canto looks drawn, weary, ashen and miserable in his thinness, mouth slightly agape, features pinched, eyes blank, his expression screaming, "Please,no, not another plateful of seeds!"

Well-fed Owen, by contrast, is a happy camper with a wry smile, every inch the laid-back simian, plump, eyes twinkling, full mouth relaxed, skin glowing, exuding wisdom as if he's just read Kierkegaard and concluded that "Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward."

It's the difference between the guy who got the marbleized rib-eye and the guy who got the oh-so-lean filet. Or between the guy who got a Château Grand Pontet St. Emilion with his brie and the guy who got water. As Edgar notes in King Lear, "Ripeness is all." You don't get to ripeness by eating apple peel for breakfast.

Speaking of St. Emilion, scientists, aware that most human beings don't have the discipline to slash their calorie intake by almost a third, have been looking for substances that might mimic the effects of caloric restriction. They have found one candidate, resveratrol, in red wine.

The thing is there's not enough resveratrol in wine to do the trick, so scientists are trying to concentrate it, or produce a chemical like it in order to offer people the gain (in life expectancy) without the pain (of dieting).

I don't buy this gain-without-pain notion. Duality resides, indissoluble, at life's core -- Faust's two souls within his breast, Anna Karenina's shifting essence. Life without death would be miserable. Its beauty is bound to its fragility. Dawn is unimaginable without the dusk.

When life extension supplants life quality as a goal, you get the desolation of Canto the monkey. Living to 120 holds zero appeal for me. Canto looks like he's itching to be put out of his misery.

There's an alternative to resveratrol. Something is secreted in the love-sick that causes rapid loss of appetite -- caloric restriction -- yet scientists have been unable to reproduce this miracle substance, for if they did they would be decoding love. Because love is too close to the divine, life's essence, it seems to defy such breakdown.

My mother died of cancer at 69. Her father lived to 98, her mother to 104. I said my mother died of cancer. But that's not true. She was bipolar and depression devastated her. What took her life was misery.

We don't understand what the mind secretes. The process of aging remains full of enigma. But Id bet on jovial Owen outliving wretched Canto. I suspect those dissenting scientists I didn't bore you with are right.

My 98-year-old grandfather had a party trick, making crisscross incisions into a watermelon, before allowing it to fall open in a giant red blossom. It was as beautiful as a lily opening -- and, still vivid, close to what life is for.

When my father went to pick up his baboons at Heathrow airport, he stopped at a grocery store to buy them a treat. "Two pounds of bananas, please," he said. But there were none. "O.K.," he said, "Then I'll take two pounds of carrots." The shopkeeper gave him a very strange look before hurriedly handing over the carrots.

I can hear my 88-year-old father's laughter as he tells this story. Laughter extends life. There's little of it in the low-cal world and little doubt pudgy Owen will have the last laugh.
Power of prayer
  By Debbie Jansen  
  RON and I built our dreams when bell-bottom pants and disco were the norm. Captain & Tennille sang Muskrat Love as we planned our future. Ron's eyes danced in the lava lamp glow as he dreamed of owning a classic Corvette, with me riding next to him as we drove off into the sunset.

We planned to make our dreams come true. The evidence of success would be a candy apple red Corvette on our second wedding anniversary.

Life doesn't always work out as planned. A recession was our graduation gift and a second anniversary pregnancy replaced the Corvette. Twins sent the Corvette skidding into the future. The dream glimmered if classic cars pulled beside us at stoplights. Ron cracked the window, listened to the growl of the engine, and smiled with each rumble. Another pregnancy and Ken was born. With the hit movie Corvette Summer out in theaters, Ron dreamed of finding a wrecked Corvette to restore. Music lessons, instruments, braces, and doctor bills sent the dream speeding into the future once again.

At holidays the family kept the dream alive by giving Dad a new Corvette book. Everyone suggested that he go for a test drive. Ron refused, claiming, "If I don't drive it, temptation dies." His eyes no longer danced. Ron was lowering the window less and he found excuses to avoid the Corvette lot.

My heart broke every time I saw his dreams get a little dimmer.

"Please God," I prayed, "give Ron a Corvette." I knew it wasn't a holy, save-the-world, and bring us peace kind of prayer. But I also knew that God wants us to bring all our prayers to him. My heart yearned for God to bless Ron because of what a good and faithful husband and father Ron was.

Ron loved his family and always put our needs first. He clapped the loudest at Jamie's plays, took mounds of photos when Amie was modeling, and cried as he watched Ken receive his Masters degree.

Ron gave everything so we could be successful. But what about Ron? We loved him too. It wasn't fair for him to give so much and lose his own dreams in the process. Although Ron tried to hide his disappointment, I knew he was slowly letting go.

One day as we passed a Corvette on the road, I turned in my seat and said, "Why not, Ron? Let's just throw caution to the wind and buy a corvette."

"No." He looked away as if searching for a reason. "The house needs painting and the children have needs."

I pointed my finger at his chest. "Now, you listen to me Mr. Jansen. You keep a tight grip on that dream. It will happen!" I had no idea how; I hoped God did.

Later, our family critiqued the cars at a local car show. Pausing at a Corvette, Ron stared and twisted the toothpick in his mouth.

"You should get one, Dad," one of the kids said.

Ron mumbled something about the joy of family and moved on.

Ron's 30th year with his company was set to arrive without fanfare. No band was hired or banquet scheduled. Just a wonderful man who worked mostly without recognition so his family could succeed.

I reminded God of Ron's faithfulness and begged for help.

While brainstorming with the children about a possible work anniversary gift, I remembered Ron's dancing eyes. "I wish I had the money to buy him a Corvette. I would love to give him his dream."

Jamie and Amie perked up.

"I'll give you the down payment," one said.

"Sure, Mom," the other chimed in. "I'll help too."

The idea was brilliant. If we all chipped in, we could do it! A quick call to our son Ken and it was set.

We met at a car lot across town and found a candy apple red 1977 Corvette. That's the year Ron would have purchased had he reached his original goal. As we told our story to Bob the owner, giggles and moist eyes brought joy into our hearts.

At the bank Brandon explained he couldn't loan small amounts on old cars. Again we shared our story. He slapped his fist on the desk, "I'm going to make this happen!"

On Ron's work anniversary the boys ran into our house in a flurry of excitement. "Dad, come quick," they said. "Something's wrong with your car. Come outside and see."

As Ron walked outside he spotted the Corvette. "Wow that's pretty, whose is it?"

"It's yours," we yelled. "Your dream has come true."

No eye was dry; no mouth was silent. Shouts and tears and laughter and hugs abounded.

As I watched Ron walk around his Corvette, touching it lightly and shaking his head over and over, I realized that God answered my three decade prayer. And I realized that God loves surprises even more than we do! He's often sneaky in the way he answers our prayers. Answers can come in a form that we didn't expect. How satisfying to know that each member of my family played a role in God's gift. I felt the closeness that can come only when a family works together. We all felt joy knowing God was faithful and dreams do come true.

A Scripture verse sprang into my mind: "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalms 37:4).

Ron took off the T-tops and we climbed in for our first ride. As I settled in, I tilted my head to the beautiful blue sky and whispered, "Thank you God. Sneaky or not, I'm glad you made Ron's eyes dance." (Courtesy: Christianity Today)
Debbie Jansen is author of 'Discipline Exposed' (WinePress Publishing).
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