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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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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
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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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  THOUGHT  
     
 
   
Dreams
  By Joni Eareckson Tada  
  I DON'T know much about interpreting dreams, but I do know that the Lord used a few weird and wonderful dreams in days gone by to reveal his plans for the future.

Take the prophet Isaiah. He lay down one night and had a very strange dream. He found himself in the middle of a desert with nothing but sand stretching to the horizon. He felt depressed in the dream, just like the bleak landscape. He felt hungry and thirsty and very unsatisfied.

Just then, the dream took an exciting turn. Out of the sand pushed one small flower and then another. Soon grass sprouted and then trees loaded with fruit. Immediately upon awakening, Isaiah hurried to write down a fantastic description of the abundant paradise blooming and budding all around him.

You can read about this strange and exciting dream in Isaiah 35. It's a marvelous chapter for anyone with a fearful, faint heart because it talks about going from gloom to glory, from depression to ecstasy. The good news is that Isaiah forecasts this for all of God's people! So...

Is your spirit dried up like a parched desert? Has the joy and singing gone out of your life? Then ask God to replace the endless stretch of your dry days with the living water. Soon, out of the sand in your life, will push the beautiful rose of Sharon.
 
   
   
Sinking times
  By C.H. Spurgeon  
  SINKING times are praying times with the Lord's servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink, his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry, though late, was not too late.

In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox hies to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety.

Heaven's great harbour of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.

Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition that Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose ("Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord, save me" -- Matthew 14:30). Not length but strength is desirable.

A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.

Our extremities are the Lord's opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with Him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger.

At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but His swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest assured that He will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can do all things; let us enlist His powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.
 
   
   
Quest for Truth
  By Catherine DeVries  
  RADIO and television talk shows are becoming information sources for many of us. But as we listen, how many times have we wondered, "Is this really true? Am I hearing correct information?"

The quest for truth is getting more and more difficult. We live in an era that inundates us with information. How tempting it is to become exasperated and exclaim, "Information overload! Enough is enough!"

Or, perhaps, it is tempting to stereotype, or take another person's analysis as our own. But in shutting out or simplifying issues, we run the risk of speaking "abusively against whatever (we) do not understand". We need to learn to think critically in order to glean the truth and leave the rest. But how?

The book of Jude -- written for a time not unlike today, where truth is hidden and false teachers abound -- encourages us to ground ourselves in faith and prayer. For it is God who guides us into truth (Psalm 25:5) and who reveals his truth in his son Jesus (John 1:17) and in his Word, which is truth (John 17:17).
 
   
   
Rest for nature
  By Gien Karssen  
  THE land, like humans and animals, needs to regain its strength. God, therefore, appointed stewardship of the land to humankind, who also was to enjoy its fruit. God said, "In the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest" (Leviticus 25:4).

God's people acted upon that command with indifference. They gave the land no pause to recover. The results of that disobedience were bitter, not only for the soil, but for the people as well.

The Israelites were driven from their country. They were dispersed for many years until the land received its needed years of rest.

God watches over his Word and his creation. Even today, He keeps track of what people do with both.
 
   
   
My heritage
  By Kathryn Hillen  
  I GREW up with five lively brothers who often excluded me from their plans. At times my feeling of rejection brought tears.

When that happened, my father, his dark brown eyes twinkling, would call me to his side and whisper some future plan or a comforting thought, calling it our "secret".

Sometimes the secret was riding along with him on an errand or helping him with some task for which I was eminently unqualified.

The secret was never particularly exciting, but I was happy to be doing something with my father. When he wanted to be with me, I knew that he cared about me.

In retrospect, I realise how fortunate I was to have a father who gave me a good example of the care and concern of the heavenly Father.

My father was not wealthy, but his gift to me is priceless, for it helps me to trust God with assurance that he will never leave or forsake me.
 
   
   
Growing old gracefully
  By Evamma George  
  OLD AGE is a reality when one turns 65 and there is no escape from it. Nowadays a majority of those who reach 65 can expect to live into their eighties. Such long lives were an exception earlier.

When newspapers send out reporters to find out the secret of a person's longevity, the religiously inclined have one answer. They view old age as a sign of God's favour as the book of Proverbs says, "Grey hair is a crown of splendour, it is attained by a righteous life".

Some of the changes that have created this new situation of longevity are the vast advances in the medical field and new medicines.

Tim Stafford in his book 'As Our Years Increase' says that the years between 65 and 90 are probably the most dynamic period of life.

The Bible considers old age as a blessing or a gift of God. Old Testament laws command everyone to "rise up" in the presence of the aged as a sign of respect. The command in the book of Exodus -- "honour your parents" -- is a command to "honour your elders".

Most of the heroes in the Old Testament stories like Isaac, Eli, Elijah and David had one or other ailment in their old age. But they grew into their old age gracefully. They considered it as one of the prime benefits of Godly living.

They loved life, even the hard part of life as a gift. They had the confidence that God would sustain them and they could, therefore, face severe difficulties.
As Paul says, "If God is with us who can be against us?' There is no prayer in the Bible for eternal youth. Pslam 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread".

Gerontology breaks old age into three parts: 65-74 which is called "young old"; 75-84 which is called "frail elderly" and 85 onwards which is called "old-old".

How can we obtain a view of old age that is positive, honourable and hopeful? It is possible if we look at the fact that God loves old people and he has created them with inherent integrity. Never enter into retirement or old age with a negative, pessimistic view of ageing, i.e., complete dependence, loneliness, feeling of uselessness, fear of death and so on.

Thanks to social security, medical care, and pension plans, some of the elderly people are financially stable. Some have even more disposable income to spend on travel, entertainment and similar other activities. So, why should not they enjoy old age?

To enjoy old age, a great deal of mental preparation and adjustment is required. During this period, people have enough time to do all the things they never had time to do before, like reading, gardening, travel, social and church activities, writing and teaching etc.

Eventually, most people do orient themselves and achieve reasonably happy stability which last until they become ill. Unless we make ourselves busy, we will be leading a melancholic life (life of low spirit).

Those who have no good health can spend their time devoted to television, spiritual reading and meditation. Many senior citizens occupy themselves through churches and social organisations.

Old people who are sick, unable to move and completely dependent require care, a sharing home with children, resident care homes, day-care activity centres etc.

An important principle to achieve a happy, graceful old age is to satisfy their wants. What do the old want? They do not want to be a burden on their children. They want their children to care for them with loving communication, loving touch and loving presence. They want others to encourage them when they do any heroic deeds, instead of passing sarcastic remarks.

They want to take their own decisions. They want their children, friends and visitors to lend them an attentive and sympathetic ear to their stories. A short and frequent visit to the aged gives them a feeling of being wanted.

All aged people have two options. Accept old age as a gift of God, God's grace or curse. Enter into old age with a positive attitude or a negative attitude.

There are many storms and adversities in old age. The way we respond to embarrassing and troubled situations that are suddenly thrust on us is a good test of how much we have grown in grace.

To weather the storms and adversities of old age, we need to be closer to God, who can impart his renewing strength and healing love. There is certainty in the verse, "Those who trust in God in life's storms will never be condemned". (Adapted from an article in 'Darshan')
--------
The writer is a retired teacher.
 
   
   
Lord's trees
  By C.H. Spurgeon  
  WITHOUT sap the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life -- a vital principle infused into us by God the Holy Ghost, or we cannot be trees of the Lord. The mere name of being a Christian is but a dead thing, we must be filled with the spirit of divine life.

This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the sap, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery. Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Ghost entering into man and becoming a man's life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon the flesh and blood of Christ and is thus sustained by divine fruit, but whence it cometh and wither it goeth who shall explain to us?

What a secret thing the sap is! The roots go searching through the soil with their little spongioles, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases, or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark. Our root is Christ Jesus and our life is hid in him; this is the secret of the Lord.

The radix of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself. How permanently active is the sap in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy -- not always in fruit-bearing, but in inward operations. The believers' graces, are not everyone of them in constant motion, but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living upon Him.

As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions, you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life.
 
   
   
Holy awe
  By Bernie Sheahan  
  IF you have never read the book, then maybe you've seen Cecil B. DeMille's epic movie 'The Ten Commandments'. Do you remember the scene when Moses went to the top of the mountain to meet with God?

Moses met the Almighty in the form of a burning bush, and he was informed by the voice of God that where he was standing was holy ground. His response was that of reverence, awe and holy fear; he took off his shoes.

The Japanese know about reverence and respect; they take off their shoes when they enter a house. (Many in India too do that - Editor). It's not something Americans do out of any particular courtesy. If they do it at all, it's to be comfortable
or because their feet hurt.

I love what Browning says in her poem. All around us is God's creation, "Earth's crammed with heaven". Do we really respect it, revere it and hold it in awe? Or, do we simply take it for granted?

We live in a time of great awareness of the earth's frailty. Some say that if we don't do something radical, we won't be able to pass on all its beauty to our descendants. Most of us do more than ever to make adjustments to help the earth -- recycling, buying eco-friendly products and generally "thinking green".

Some take concern for the environment to the extreme by worshiping nature. As a Christian, I can't buy that. But to revere the earth and its beauty as the wondrous work of God, to honour its loveliness with awe -- that's something I can take my shoes off for.
 
   
   
Welcome, child
  By Karen Burton Mains  
  RECENTLY the Lord has convinced me that my largest lack in hospitality is toward my own children's friends.

It was hard to open my cleaned rooms to my toy-oriented hands and feet. My own children knew they were expected to pick up after themselves, but this standard was a little harder to impose on the neighbour's kids.

Coming downstairs one day, arms loaded with soiled sheets and blankets, I nudged my way around two little forms huddled in conference on the treads.

Why do children love stairs so much? Excusing myself, we shifted positions a bit, and I balanced my load on its way to the washer in the basement.

I had not gone too far when I heard a little voice pipe, "I love to come to your house. Your mother doesn't yell all the time the way my mother does".

It gave me pause, and I suddenly realised this little girl had been around frequently. I did not know her mother so I hadn't any way to judge the comment about yelling, but I did sense she had found shelter, a quiet space in a noisy world. You are welcome, child, to my stairway any time.

This is scuh a Christlike quality, this hospitality toward children. It is not simply a matter of being open toward our own, difficult as that often is, but it requires that we accept, encourage and want those born of someone else, whether we are married or not, whether we have children of our own or not.

The story of Christ blessing the children is not only for the nursery but for adult Sunday School as well.

If he could welcome the interruption of his ministry by wiggling, wonderstruck, bouncing, impertinent humanity, can we dare do less? ...

We really have no choice -- we who know the one who is the living water, this same one who creates new songs in our hearts -- we have no choice but to open our homes and our lives to those who may leave their telltale marks.
 
   
   
Janet's mission
  By Carol kent  
  JANET changed my life. My best friend lived in a modest house on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Her father was an alcoholic who was totally absent from her life -- except for the handful of times he showed up on the doorstep looking for a handout.

He offered Janet, her mother, and two sisters no financial or emotional support. They were on their own! Janet's mom worked in a local factory to put food on the table.

Both of Janet's sisters dropped out of high school and married at a young age. But not Janet.

There was spontaneity, enthusiasm and energy about her that could turn the lights on in a dark room. Wherever she went there was laughter -- combined with deep discussions about life and God and the future. When I was with Janet, I felt full of hope.

Janet became the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She was the first to get a university degree and the only one to get a master's degree.

Janet majored in elementary education because she wanted to give hope to kids who came from single-parent backgrounds like hers. She would look a struggling child in the eyes and say, "I didn't have a dad either. It sure is hard. But you can make it. I know you can."

Janet has a God-given gift for building self-esteem in children like no one I have met before or since.

This is Janet's story. But it's far more than the story of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who had an alcoholic father and many seemingly impossible challenges in her life.

It's the story of one woman who said, "I will not let the fear of getting trapped in life paralyze me. I will not live with the ghost of lost opportunity leering over my shoulder.

"I will believe there is a constructive resolution to fear. I believe my focus can be on God and my future with him in a better place, rather than on myself and my personal misery. I know God can change the future generations in my family".
 
   
   
A love story
  By Meetu Tewari  
  FAIZAL (name changed) works hard in the USA. He juggles two jobs having given up on his dream to study so as to save money.

When I ask him where the money goes, he cheerfully replies it's for his parents and siblings in India, as also for the girl he loves.

The story of Neelofar (name changed) is shocking. Faizal met her in Dubai where she had been living with her parents for many years but had retained her Pakistani nationality.

They became friends, maintaining contact over the Internet when Faizal left Dubai in search of better job opportunities and, soon after, they fell in love.

When he returned to ask her hand in marriage, her parents refused to hear him out and her father threatened to have him killed. On mutual agreement, both of them decided not to pursue the matter for the time being and Faizal returned to his job, which he could not afford to lose.

When he returned to Dubai a year later, he heard Neelofar was in the hospital. He found out that she had been forced into a marriage with her cousin who also lived in Dubai.

Her parents had made her marry her cousin, a cruel and violent man. He often beat her, would starve her for days and because he wanted a child, he would tie her to a bed and rape her. When Faizal saw Neelofar again, she had just given birth to her son, a child she did not care for because she knew how he was conceived.

Today Faizal saves money to pay for an attorney for Neelofar. He realises that as a woman she has no rights; her passport and other documents are kept with her father.

Neelofar is not divorced but she has left her husband. Everyday faces mental trauma at the hands of her parents, who are adamant she must return and stop causing them shame. While Faizal is quietly planning a rescue mission for her, she continues to live a life of drudgery.

What is remarkable is that in today's world there is still place for such barbarity, the perpetrators of which go unpunished. There are many more women like Neelofar who have faced far worse.

This fact can be gauged from the acceptance Faizal accords to her problems. He acknowledges that as a woman she has no rights, she cannot even leave her husband, let alone the country.

The only reason she maintains silence is because her parents have threatened to send her back to Pakistan, a country which they both know is even worse than Dubai for women's rights.

But he remains confident of being able to help her out. "I am not helping her because I want to marry her. It's her choice, when she comes here she will have everything she needs and we can be friends if that is what she wants. If she wants to marry, we will, if she wants to get her child, I will get him for her and if she does not, that is fine as well. I am helping her because she is unhappy and wants to leave," says Faizal simply.

Neelofar is amongst the very few lucky ones who have someone to help them, someone who tries with perseverance and dedication without having any ulterior motives.

Faizal is clear that everything will happen as Neelofar desires, all he is doing is providing her with a safe haven as he would for any friend. Finding such persons is comforting for they give us hope that all is not yet lost.
 
   
   
Realise
  By Catherine Doherty  
  WHAT is our spirituality when all is said and done? I see us silently, in a manner of speaking, doing little ordinary things men and women do everywhere, always with an immense, burning love, knowing that love makes every gesture, step, word and work, redemptive. I see us loving each other, serving each other and all the world, because to our eyes of faith and truth, each is Christ to the other! That is all. The rest he will do through us. We are just lovers witnessing to love, servants reflecting the light of the Master and torchbearers of love and light in our modern darkness, by being lovers and doing ordinary daily tasks for Love's sake and with great love.  
   
   
Admitting wrongs
  By Juanita and Dale Ryan  
  "I always kept everything in", Sue began. "It was like I had two lives. One that everyone saw, and one that only I knew about. Because of the secrets, I was full of shame and confusion. I expected it to be very painful to admit my wrongs. But, when I finally told everything to another human being, it was very different from what I expected. The person I told was not shocked; she did not shame me; she accepted me and told me she respected my courage and honesty. I felt like I would never be the same. Something changed inside".

Admitting our wrongs is a threefold process of confession. First, we admit our wrongs to God, then we admit our wrongs to ourselves, and then we admit our wrongs to another human being. This process can be a powerful, life-changing experience. We al long to be known; to share the secrets that are so toxic to our souls; to experience the grace of being loved and accepted -- sins and all. The spiritual discipline of confession provdes the structure within which we can experience this grace in practical ways.

God invites us to the spiritual discipline of confession. "Confess your sin to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed". Confession is an act of obedience to this Biblical imperative. It is an imperative with a promise of healing.
 
   
   
Heavenly management
  By Catherine DeVries  
  THE job market was tight after I graduated from college, especially for an English major. I knew I wanted to use my writing and editing skills, so I tried to get into that field. But it took time.

After I had been working for months at an insurance company photocopying microfiche, a temp service offered me a short-term position at a publishing company. There's my chance, I thought.

And it was. I was hired as an executive secretary to the software department at Zondervan Publishing House. Then I was promoted to the position of editorial assistant. I edited electronic Bible texts and worked with freelance software testers.

Then a few years later I transferred to the publicity department as a writer and media coordinator. At last I was editing and writing on a daily basis! And then it was only a year and half later that a posting went up for an associate editor in the Bible department. I got the job!

As I now look at this on paper, my career path appears to be systematic, logical and well planned. But truthfully, I did not have a clue what was coming next.

Sometimes I felt impatient and wanted to take control -- do it my own way. And, with each job change, the stakes seemed to get higher -- I had more to lose, more to risk. Never did I imagine that, throughout the years, God was shaping me, honing my skills, preparing me. He was the one guiding my direction, each step of the way. God, in his perfect timing, was turning a dream into reality.
 
   
   
God's promise
  By Kay Arthur  
  She had stopped at a red light. Before she even realised the car door had opened, a man had a gun stuck in her side. He demanded, "Lady, just drive. Don't do anything dumb!"

She has just heard a message on Psalm 91. This Psalm told her that God was her refuge, that he was her fortress, that he would deliver her from the snare of the fowler, that he covered her with his feathers, that he was her shield and rampart. But, in this instant, with a gun in her side and her mind in a whirl, she could not think of the exact words of the Scripture.

In desperation, all she could come up with an exclaim was, "Feathers! Feathers! Feathers!"

The hijacker panicked. He shouted, "Lady, you are crazy!" And as quickly as he had appeared, he disappeared!

Oh, how precious to know that when we can't think of a promise word for word, or when we don't have time to quote a promise for the situation in which we find ourselves, God knows his promises and he knows our heart.
 
   
   
Unwanted child
  By Carol Kent  
  MY mother-in-law is an amazing woman. She is hard-working, committed to the children, generous with her grandchildren, firm in her convictions and energetic in her determination to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals who are physically or mentally challenged.

At the age of seventeen, she found herself pregnant and unmarried. On the day of that baby's birth, her own mother walked into the room, looked at the infant in her daughter's arms and said, "For the last nine months, I prayed this child would be born dead".

When I heard this story, I felt weak in the knees and faint in my heart. You see, the baby my mother-in-law was holding in her arms that day is my husband today.

If Grandma had gotten her wish then, I would have missed out on marrying an incredible man. I am able to tell the story now since Grandma has passed on.

She was filled with the fear of facing her friends and family with the news of a child conceived out of wedlock. Mom married the father of her child and as time passed, Grandma did grow to love the grandchild that she had rejected earlier.

Thinking about my mother-in-law's situation, I wondered how she was ever able to face her past and get on with her future in such a successful way. In spite of the initial disapproval and condemnation from her own mother, she became confident, energised, focused and determined to look on the positive side of a negative life situation.

What gave Mom the grace to make a faith-filled decision to choose a constructive resolution for the fears that plagued her? I believe she grieved over the injustice of the situation -- and probably over her own questionable choices.

But I believe that sorrow led to brokenness, which brought humility before God that led to surrender of her will. This surrender gave Mom the power to make the faith-filled decision to forgive her mother and forgiveness freed her from the bondage of the past.
 
   
   
Rejoice
  By Susan Lenzkes  
 
Standing alone in the dark solitude of the backyard, sipping hot chocolate and looking at the distant panorama of lights, I listened as the crickets sang with lusty, joyful abandon...

I couldn't help looking at everything and saying as God did, "It is good". Only my voice had a touch of wonder in it, while his had only satisfaction.

So many days are spent chasing obligations in circles and nothing special seems to stand out as worth remembering.

But five such unexpected minutes alone with God, just being still and truly seeing, truly appreciating, are worth a whole lifetime of chasing.

 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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