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Save the Soul of India – A Mental Health Priority

Dr. Samson Gandhi

Where there is no counsel, the people fall;

but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

Covid 19 Pandemic has taken the world by surprise. It has exposed the inadequacies of a modern world. In the face of an onslaught by an invisible virus, humanity finds itself helpless, hopeless and worthless. No known drug is effective. The highly trained medical fraternity is reduced to care-giving to assist the bodies to heal on their own.  They watch helplessly those that do not recover and die. Vaccine is far away. There is no hope today. All success and achievement seems meaningless when one cannot prevent sickness and dying especially during a pandemic. More people are asking existential questions – what is the meaning and purpose of life? Unable to find meaningful answers, they want to go back to doing what they did – to eat, travel and work, even if it means running the risk of getting infected. Naturally, the problem of mental health gets compounded.

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Anxiety of the future, fear of loss, disease and death are setting people on the edge. As a result slightest provocation is pushing them over the precipice. The media is calling attention for relief and recourse.

Globalisation and urbanization has uprooted people from their comfortable social settings and planted them in urban jungles leading to loss of identity. Under pressure to create an identity and facing an acute lack of proper support system, people are facing extreme stress and are experiencing severe loss of mental health. The current pandemic has exacerbated the problem and the country in not in a position to address the mental health tsunami.

In India, mental health is a luxury. More than 22 percent of our population lives below the poverty line which is a hand to mouth existence. Their mind is preoccupied with finding the next meal. Emotional, psychological and social well-being are alien to their existence. They exist on the fringes where neither the government nor the non-government agencies make a difference. Lower middle, middle and upper middle class constitute over 60 percent of our population. They have time and space to reflect if they are happy or not and make an effort to find a semblance of well-being. Many agencies operate here but are woefully inadequate. They are a significant drop in an ocean of need.

Although more than 150 million people need therapy, only 30 million seek help. The main reason is because of scarce resources and lack of accessibility. We have about nine thousand psychiatrists in India. It roughly translates to 0.75 psychiatrists per lakh. While the desirable figure is three per lakh. There is a deficit of 75 percent. We need about twenty thousand clinical psychologists but have only a thousand. There is an acute shortage of mental health professionals. Even if the government increases seats they are in no position to address the growing need in the short run.

There is an urgent need to train Community Counsellors (CC). These are para-mental health professionals who are trained to assess the level of need and interventions. Those that need psychiatric treatment, would be referred to psychiatrist and those that need intensive therapy to clinical psychologists and for specialized therapy to appropriate psychologists. The CCs will take on cases where the services of none of the above specialists are needed. This raises the question of their training.

CCs would need training in communication and counselling skills of relating, attending, listening, empathizing and confronting.  They should be encouraged to develop client friendly attitudes of respect, genuineness and concreteness. They could be trained in client-centred approach of counselling, emotion focussed counselling, solution focussed counselling and CBT to a certain degree. They must have a basic understanding of human personality. At this stage they can pick electives and specialize. Marriage & Family, Parenting, Debt, Emotional Wellbeing (depression, self-harm, suicide), Abuse and Domestic Violence, Grief, Crisis are a few of them.

Trained CCs can then be put into a practicum program under counselling psychologist. On satisfactory completion of the same they must be certified as Community counsellors who are para-counselling professionals. Like any other professional practice they must be committed to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and remain under professional supervision of senior CCs or Counselling Psychologists.

 Once they are certified, based on their interest and specialization, they can be attached to or placed at the Primary Health Centres (PHC), District hospitals, Mandal Revenue Offices, National Disaster Response Force, District Collectorates, and all state and central government departments. Wherever people are likely to experience distress, a trained Community Counsellor must be made available. Educational institutions, universities, sports complexes and all coaching centres must have a certified CC.

The government and the local community must create a positive eco system to seek counselling. There is a lot of stigma attached to receiving counselling. Counselling must be made a positive, constructive part of the social welfare programme of the nation. A narrative must be built, influencers roped in and all elderly must be encouraged to become catalysts of  nation-building.

Development of infrastructure is good for commerce. People prosper. Government makes a massive investment in economic development for material improvement. Some investment is made into health sector. But the time has come for the government to look at mental health in a whole new light. It is important for government – central and state – to consider making a policy decision to create a mental health vertical for the emotional well-being of its people. It calls for investments to match the scale and proportion of the need.

India is a very religious country. It carries a massive spiritual capital accumulated over millennia.  It must not be forfeited; it must not be sacrificed on the altar of economic development. India can be a shining example to the whole world if it can set right priorities. India has placed a smart phone in many hands. It has come in handy for commerce, entertainment and education. But they do not know how to harness it for the well-being of their souls. Pornography on phones is corrupting millions of souls. More than 275 million people were lifted out of poverty in the past decade. But today India must listen to the cry of the soul of more than 300 million troubles souls. They need a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear to pour their heart out, and some light of hope in their despairing soul. An army of certified and caring Community Counsellors is the need of the hour. If we don’t address the millions will lose their soul. If people lose their soul, India will lose her soul!

Jesus said, “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” It still begs for an answer.

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Safe Forms Of Meditations For Christians

Introduction

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, said John Keats. There is a beauty of the body and a beauty of the soul. Both capture our attention and we must work to preserve them. Just as physical exercise promotes health of the body, meditation can nurture a soul. When we perceive our body “as the temple of the Holy Spirit” and seek to slake the thirsts of our soul with the “living waters” of God then we enter into a spiritual realm. It implies that we are surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ and He sustains our spirit, soul and body. Practicing meditation in such an eco-system of God is safe.

The stresses of digital-world living, small and big crises and the effects of a pandemic have forced us to relook at how we cope with them. Eating well, good exercise and positive thinking have been traditional suggestions. But in recent times, meditation has captured our imagination. Today, the market offers many forms of meditations. So many that people are confused, doubtful and even fearful whether any of them expose a practitioner to spiritual forces. This pamphlet does not deal with such forms of meditation but offers safe Christian forms of meditation.

All medieval forms of meditation have religious roots with a primary objective of drawing closer to God and realising more of Him in one’s life. Desert fathers and mothers during this period have dedicated their lives for practicing Christian meditation. Hesychasm and Jesus prayer are two such practices. They are expanded later in this pamphlet. But contemporary forms of meditations have sought to make them physical and psychological, and delinked them from religious roots.

Description: Popular mediation forms for christians, Lecto Divina, Clare of Assisi Four-step approach to meditation and Hesychasm.

Popular mediation forms for christians

Among the many forms of meditation, the popular ones are:

 – Origins in Buddhism, focus on thoughts, here and now,

 – Religious origins, focus on scripture, object, God-connection

– Focus on breathing, prayer beads, listen to gongs, candle light

 – Yoga, walking, gardening, other gentle forms of motion

 – Repeating scripture, like Om, Kalma, Rosary, etc.

 – Use of mantras with magical and spiritual powers

 – To reduce tension in the body by relaxing muscles

 – Receiving and giving love to all people and living beings

 – Achieving calm by visualizing positive scenes and images

Meditation is a discipline. As a practice, “an individual uses a technique of focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness – and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.” Christian meditation – In Latin, meditari Form of prayer: Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. It focusses on specific thoughts (such as Bible passages), and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. Meditation is for obedience: The Bible mentions the words meditate or meditation 23 times. 19 times in the Book of Psalms itself. Meditation is often found alongside obedience indicating the purpose of meditation to be obedience (Joshua 1:8). Meditate on the Life of Jesus: Christian meditation is looking back on Jesus’ life and thanksgiving adoration of God for his action in sending Jesus for human salvation. Such a looking back is based on the word of God. It has three distinctive features:
  1. Christian meditation is grounded in the Bible. God revealed himself personally in the scripture and our engagement with him is based on it
  2. It responds to the love of God as in 1 John 4:19: “We love, for he first loved us.”
  3. The above two lead to the worship of God: making Christian meditation an exercise in praise.
Holy Spirit aids us: The role of the Holy Spirit is to help the meditator to understand the deeper meanings of the Word of God. One 12th century monk believed that when earnest meditation begins, the Holy Spirit enters the soul of the mediator, “turns water into wine” and shows the way towards contemplation and better understanding of God.  Charles Spurgeon affirmed it by saying that when we meditate on the word of God, the Holy Spirit will help us to ponder his message rather prepare it. The Spirit searches all things, even the deeper things of God (1 Cor. 2:10). Three types of meditation: Vocal prayers are basic forms of communication in a relationship with the Triune God. A deeper form of prayer is meditation. The third and even deeper characterization of prayer is contemplation. During the Middle Ages (5th to late 15th century), Christianity moved beyond vocal prayers to Christian meditation. Progressively they resulted in two distinct and different practices: Lecto Divina in the West and hesychasm in the East. Three Forms of Meditation
  1. Lecto Divina
Lecto Divina refers to the “divine reading” or “spiritual reading” of the scriptures. It is not like we read a newspaper – reading only headlines and the news of preference. Not like a novel jumping to the climax as and when you want. ““But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”” (Romans 10: 8-10). The recitation of the biblical text that provides the rationale for Lecto Divina. ‘Pray and work’ was the motto of Benedictine monastery. Their day consisted of liturgical (corporate) prayers, manual labour and Lecto Divina – a quiet prayerful reading of the Bible. While following these four steps Holy Spirit must be our guide. The one who inspired the Word must now guide our meditation.

Guigo’s book The Ladder of the Monks offers four stages of methodical prayer.

  1. Lectioread the word of God
  2. Meditatiomeditate (think) on the significance of the text
  3. Oratio – then respond in prayer which leads to
  4. Contemplatio – to contemplate (the gift of quiet stillness in the presence of God)

Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation — the four stages of Lectio Divina as taught by John of the Cross (16th Century).

Lectio Divina has been likened to “feasting on the Word”: first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savouring its essence (oratio) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplation). In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased (experiential) knowledge of Christ. Lecto Divina uses different Scripture passages at different times. Scripture passages may be repeated a few times but it is not repetitive in nature.

Lectio (“reading”)

“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:9-10).”

Prior to reading of the word of God. Practice quiet stillness. “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” Sit quietly and in silence pray. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide the reading of the Scripture. Then as you read, open your mind to finding Christ in the passage being read. Read the chosen passage slowly and gradually, several times. Usually, a passage is read four times, each time with a different focus. If the passage is from gospels then Jesus could be primary focus. Then the disciples. Then the teaching. Then the place. Read by getting into the character of disciples of the person interacting with Jesus. Attentive reading can help achieve higher level of understanding.

Meditatio (“meditation”)

Here we meditate or ponder upon the text. The text is not approached as something to be studied but reverentially as the Living Word. We don’t look so much for the meaning of the passage as we desire the Holy Spirit to illuminate the inner or underlying message of it.

An example passage may be the statement by Jesus during the Last Supper in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.” A ‘study’ approach would see the context of the last supper to interpret it. One may study to see at what price this peace was wrought. But while meditating such approaches are avoided but one seeks to “enter that peace” and shares the peace of Christ. So, peace is experienced not so much by the study and analysis of it but closer communion with God. Similar other passages for meditation are: “Abide in my love.” “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Oratio (“prayer”)

Prayer is understood as dialogue with God, as a loving conversation with God who has invited us into an embrace. We speak to Him when we pray and we hear Him when we read the divine saying. Listening is as important as speaking to God. Listening to God prepares us better to utter the words to God. The more we listen to Him in reading of his word, the more we will encounter the Word, and our words to Him will be acceptable.

Contemplatio (“contemplation”)

Contemplation takes place in terms of silent prayer that expresses love for God. Contemplative prayer is silence. Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us in incarnate Word. In this silence, the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus. “Holy Spirit is like a kiss of the Father to one who contemplates.”

  1. Clare of Assisi Four-step approach to meditation

Saint Clare’s method is more visual compared to Guigo II Lecto Divina which is more intellectual. Her approach has four steps:

Intueri (“Gaze on the cross”)

Words like ‘behold’, ‘look upon’ and ‘focus’ would give us more understanding as to what we could do as a step to draw ourselves from all that is around and start getting ‘centered’ or composed. Crucifix is a great focus. It must not be misunderstood as idol worship. It can be an aid to transport us to Calvary. Knowledge of related scripture can help us in finding ourselves at the foot of the cross and gaze upon Him along with John and Mary the mother of our Lord. Get into a receptive mode and ‘hear’ what Christ might say to you. Read Numbers 21:9; John 12:32; John 19:37

Considerare (“Consider”)

Jesus the Son of God come to the world as the Son of Man. How He emptied Himself. How He taught, healed and suffered for us. How He was rejected, mocked and crucified. He is interceding for us before the Father. He is preparing a place for us. He is soon coming to receive us. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! Read Philippians 2: 5-11; John 18, 19; 1 John 3:1(a).

Contemplari (“Contemplate”)

What does all that mean to me? What is expected of me? How do I receive His commission? How can I be His ambassador? How can I expend my life for Him? What change is God asking me to make? Read 2 Cor. 5:20

Imitare (“Imitate”)

Hear the words, “Go and do likewise.” Be the salt and light He wants you to be. ‘Wash the feet’ of (serve) fellow believers. Preach, proclaim and promote the gospel. Carry the cross. Read Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15-17; Luke 19:23; Matthew 16:24-26.

  1. Hesychasm (practice of silence)

Hesychasm is based on Jesus’ saying (Matt. 6:6): “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” It answers the question, “How do I pray unceasingly?” Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God. (One who practices hesychasm is called as a hesychastic.) We are able to move from a prayer of and in the mind to prayer of and in the heart.

Hesychasm involves the repetition of Jesus Prayer also known as The Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This prayer is believed to be a method of cleaning and opening up the mind (the Noetic Prayer) and after this the heart (the kardia Prayer). The prayer of the heart is considered to be the unceasing prayer that the Apostle Paul advocates in (1 Thess. 5:17). Also in Song of Solomon 5:2: “I sleep, but my heart is awake.” It reflects consciousness of God presence at all times.

The Jesus Prayer combines three Bible verses:

Christological hymn: Philippians 2:6-11 (verse 11: “Jesus Christ is Lord”),

Annunciation found in: Luke 1:31-35 (verse 35: “Son God”), and

Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican: Luke 18:9-14 (verse 13: “God be merciful to me a sinner”).

Jesus Prayer is not only for attaining humility, love, or purification of sinful thoughts, but rather it is becoming holy and seeking communion with God. It demands setting the mind apart from rational activities and ignoring the physical senses for the experiential knowledge of God. It is not a substitute for prayer, charity (loving generosity), repentance and fasting. Therefore:

  • The Jesus Prayer is, first of all, a prayer addressed to God. It’s not a means of self-deifying or self-deliverance, but a counterexample to Adam’s pride repairing the breach it produced between man and God.
  • The aim is not to be dissolved or absorbed into nothingness or into God, or reach another state of mind, but to (re)unite with God (which by itself is a process) while remaining a distinct person.
  • It is an invocation of Jesus’ name, because Christian anthropology (study of human as it relates to God)and soteriology (study of religious doctrines of salvation) are strongly linked to Christology (the study of Christ) in Orthodox monasticism.
  • In a modern context the continuing repetition is regarded by some as a form of meditation, the prayer functioning as a kind of mantra. However, Orthodox users of the Jesus Prayer emphasize the invocationof the name of Jesus Christ which would be contemplation on the Triune God rather than simply emptying the mind.
  • Acknowledging “a sinner” is to lead firstly to a state of humbleness and repentance, recognizing one’s own sinfulness.
  • Practicing the Jesus Prayer is strongly linked to mastering passions of both soul and body, e.g., by fasting. For the Eastern Orthodox it is not the body that is wicked, but “the bodily way of thinking”; therefore salvationalso regards the body.
  • Unlike “seed syllables” in particular traditions of chanting mantras, the Jesus Prayer may be translated into whatever language the pray-er customarily uses. The emphasis is on the meaning, not on the mere utterance of certain sounds. For example: Pronouncing Jesus in English or Yesu in Telugu would be equally valid.
  • There is no emphasis on the psychosomatic techniques, which are merely seen as helpers for uniting the mind with the heart, not as prerequisites.

Practice

Anyone may practice Jesus Prayer. It is not limited to Priests and Clergy. Laypeople, men, women and children can practice it. It would help to have spiritual guide. He/she may be certified or a “practical theologican’ (a person well versed in theology but without official credentials).

Stages in Hesychasm

  • Katharsis or purification – Pay attention and focus to the consciousness of the inner world and words of Jesus Prayer to reject tempting thoughts. The tempting thoughts are seen as thieves come to steal your cluster of grapes. Passionately pray unceasingly 24/7 to maintain sobriety (free of tempting thoughts) and overcome temptation of laziness. Particular attention may be paid to the eight passions: gluttony, fornication, avarice (love of money), anger, sadness, acedia (anxiety of the heart), vainglory and pride.
  • Theoria or illumination – The goal at this stage is a practice of the Jesus Prayer with the mind in the heart. He prays with meaning, with intent, for real. It is not mouthing of the words with the associated syllables and sounds but an invocation and an introspection. This stage is called the guard of the mind. His mind has a certain stillness and emptiness that is punctuated only by the eternal repetition of the Jesus Prayer.
  • Theosis or deification (union with God) – From the ‘guard of the mind’ one is raised to contemplation by the grace of God. Contemplation of God is experienced as light, the “uncreated light”. The “uncreated light” is identified with the Holy Spirit. Such a state is described as theosis or deification. It is not a state to be achieved or be in but an experience to be received whenever offered by God in His mercy and grace. One must return to catharsis and theoria.

Conclusion

Our meditation must be a loving response to the knock of God on the door of heart for a time of abiding fellowship. When Jesus the Light comes in the darkness in our heart is dispelled. In meditation, He will come in and sup (feast) with us. He will slake our thirsts so that the world will lose its hold on us. Living waters will flow from our hearts and our cup would overflow into the lives of our community. A ‘Safe Meditation’ format is given below.

 

APPENDIX - 1

A SAFE MEDITATION FORMAT - 1

Setting: Your personal and private space

Place: Study room, bedroom, living room, terrace, etc. (wherever there is no external disturbance). If in a room, door may be closed to avoid any disturbance.

Ambience: Well-lit, ventilated and not cluttered. The room must not have any strong odors to distract your attention.

Seating: Ideally, seated cross-legged on the floor on a comfortable mat, durrie, carpet or mattress. Sofa is also good. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Second option: Seated, legs stretched out on the floor on a comfortable mat/dhurie/carpet/mattress. You may like to lean your back against a wall, or any other supportive surface. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Third option: Seated on a comfortable chair/sofa. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Time duration: 60 minutes

PREPARATION (3 minutes): Bring yourself to stillness. The idea is to bring your mind, body and spirit into quiet calm. Importantly, know that you are retreating from a busy world into God’s presence. You quieten yourself before you invoke the presence of God. The setting is not that God is waiting for you and you rush into his presence breathless and mind all cluttered. Helpful to recall: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You may like to listen to a soft instrumental rendering of the song: “Be still and know” by Hillsong. Songs are advised only if necessary.

INVOCATION (2 MINUTES): When you are still, invite God, call upon Him to receive you into His presence. To grant the favour of His presence. To give you the gift of His fellowship and communion to you. Like, you have set the place to receive the most important guest and have a great conversation and ‘meal’ with Him. (Only that He is not a Guest but the Lord of your life who desires to have an intimate relationship with you.)  Ask for Holy Spirit to guide you (Luke 11:33).

MEDITATIVE PRAYER (15 minutes): Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) slowly deliberately and intentionally. At least two times. Four times is not uncommon. Normally, it takes 25-30 seconds to say the Lord’s Prayer in English. The second time slow it down to say it in 60 seconds. You can do this by pausing after each phrase. Like, “Our Father in heaven . . . pause . . . hallowed be your name . . . pause . . . your kingdom come . . . pause . . .” The third time if you want to increase it to 90-120 seconds, pause between each word.

The purpose of slowing down is to reflect on the meaning of the words of the prayer. Once you have slowed down to saying it word by word, you are ready to ‘meditate’ on the meaning and significance of the word. For example:

“Our”: Meaning: God is the Father of my spouse, my children and me. Significance: It is a corporate prayer, includes others, my relationships with Him is personal but not without others.

“Father”: Meaning: God wants me to address His as my Father. Significance: I am His child. I can be open and free with Him.

“in heaven”: Meaning: Heavenly Father, not earthly. Significance: Heavenly Father is loving, holy and faithful (many times earthly fathers do not measure up and are stumbling blocks for prayer).

Variations: Other suggested passages for this slot are:

A Prayer of Repentance: Psalm 51

The Song of Mary: Luke 1:46-55; It may take more than 15 minutes

The Song of Moses: Exodus 15: 1-17; You may like to divide it into parts: Exodus 15:1-5; 15:6-13; 15:14-17 and do one part each day.

MEDITATING ON BIBLE PASSAGE (20 minutes): Listen to what God is saying, conveying, feeling . . .

Here you can read the passage slowly and absorb the love, goodness and greatness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is not a cognitive study of the scripture but receiving the love, mercy and grace of God. It is more about knowing (experiencing) God than knowing (knowledge) about God. Therefore, it is not a suspension of our mind but transformation of the same in the whole experience.

The passages are read slowly, reflectively and measuredly as illustrated with the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord the Shepherd of His People: Psalm 23

David’s Praise to God: 1 Chronicles 29:10-15

Blessing and Suffering of the Godly: Psalm 41

Desiring God in the Midst of Trouble: Psalm 42

PRAYER: Respond to God based on what you have ‘heard’, felt and ‘received’ in meditation (10 minutes): You may like to kneel, stand or sit with your head bowed down.

Allow the Holy Spirit to prompt you to respond to what you have heard, felt and received from God. Utter – saying spontaneously, say it from the heart – your feelings and thoughts. Need not necessarily be a rush of words. They can be “groanings” (Romans 8:26). There could be just silences and pauses but they are with the Lord. The withness is important.

HYSECHASTIC PRAYER OR JESUS PRAYER OR THE PRAYER (5 minutes): “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.”

Say this prayer repetitively, slowly, intentionally and meaningfully. As you say it mean every word of it and let the promptings of the Holy Spirit bring meaning and substance out of it. Slowly, let the prayer sink from the mind to the heart. Let it become your heart beat. Then it can become your “unceasing prayer” through the day and night and even sleep.

Say the hesychastic prayer sitting. A variation could be four postures:

When you say, “Lord Jesus Christ”: Look up, lift your hands to heaven in an adoration mode

When you say, “Son of God”: Bow your head, bring your hands down to shoulder level, with your palms facing ground in a worship mode or hands together in a ‘namasthe’ posture.

When you say, “Have mercy on me”: Bow from your waist with folded hands.

CLOSING MOMENTS (5 minutes): Make it a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving, praise, petitions and intercession.

A SAFE MEDITATION FORMAT - 2

Setting: Your personal and private space

Place: Study room, bedroom, living room, terrace, etc. (wherever there is no external disturbance). If in a room, door may be closed to avoid any disturbance.

Ambience: Well-lit, ventilated and not cluttered. The room must not have any strong odors to distract your attention.

Seating: Ideally, seated cross-legged on the floor on a comfortable mat, durrie, carpet or mattress. Sofa is also good. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Second option: Seated, legs stretched out on the floor on a comfortable mat/dhurie/carpet/mattress. You may like to lean your back against a wall, or any other supportive surface. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Third option: Seated on a comfortable chair/sofa. Back in a comfortable position and hands rested on your legs.

Time duration: 40 – 60 minutes

PREPARATION (3 minutes): Bring yourself to stillness. The idea is to bring your mind, body and spirit into quiet calm. Importantly, know that you are retreating from a busy world into God’s presence. You quieten yourself before you invoke the presence of God. The setting is not that God is waiting for you and you rush into his presence breathless and mind all cluttered. Helpful to recall: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You may like to listen to a soft instrumental rendering of the song: “Be still and know” by Hillsong. If you are able to bring yourself to stillness quickly, you may stop using music.

INVOCATION (2 MINUTES): When you are still, invite God, call upon Him to receive you into His presence. Seek the favour of His presence and the gift of His fellowship and communion to you. Your setting of the place and your attitude is to receive the most important guest and have a great conversation and ‘meal’ with Him. (Only that He is not a guest but the Lord of your life who desires to have an intimate relationship with you.)  Ask for Holy Spirit to guide you (Luke 11:33).

MEDITATIVE/CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER USING ANGLICAN PRAYER BEADS:

Anglican Prayer Beads are a relatively new form of prayer, blending the Orthodox Jesus Prayer Rope and the Roman Catholic Rosary. The thirty-three-bead design was created by the Rev. Lynn Bauman in the mid-1980s, through the prayerful exploration and discovery of a contemplative prayer group.

The use of the rosary or prayer beads helps to bring us into contemplative of meditative prayer—really thinking about and being mindful of praying, of being in the presence of God—by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each successive bead is an aid in keeping our mind from wandering, and the rhythm of the prayers leads us more readily into stillness.

The prayer beads are made up of twenty-eight beads divided into four groups of seven called weeks. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the number seven represents spiritual perfection and completion. Between each week is a single bead, called a cruciform bead as the four beads form a cross. The invitatory bead between the cross and the wheel of beads brings the total to thirty-three, the number of years in Jesus’ earthly life.

Praying with the beads

To begin, hold the Cross and say the prayer you have assigned to it, then move to the Invitatory Bead. Then enter the circle of the prayer with the first Cruciform Bead, moving to the right, go through the first set of seven beads to the next Cruciform bead, continuing around the circle, saying the prayers for each bead.

It is suggested that you pray around the circle of the beads three times (which signifies the Trinity) in an unhurried pace, allowing the repetition to become a sort of lullaby of love and praise that enables your mind to rest and your heart to become quiet and still.

Praying through the beads three times and adding the crucifix at the beginning or the end, brings the total to one hundred, which is the total of the Orthodox Rosary. A period of silence should follow the prayer, for a time of reflection and listening. Listening is an important part of all prayer.

Begin praying the Anglican Prayer Beads by selecting the prayers you wish to use for the cross and each bead. Practice them until it is clear which prayer goes with which bead, and as far as possible commit the prayers to memory.

Find a quiet spot and allow your body and mind to become restful and still. After a time of silence, begin praying the prayer beads at an unhurried, intentional pace. Complete the circle of the beads three times.

When you have completed the round of the prayer beads, you should end with a period of silence. This silence allows you to centre your being in an extended period of silence. It also invites reflection and listening after you have invoked the Name and Presence of God.

Closing your Prayers
The following ending can be used with any of the prayers in this booklet. After three circuits around the prayer beads, you may finish as follows:

Last time through:

Invitatory Bead
The Lord’s Prayer

The Cross
I bless the Lord.

(For step-by-step instructions please visit: http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads/trisagion.htm

APPENDIX - 2

CONTRAST BETWEEN EASTERN AND CHRISTIAN FORMS OF MEDITATION

S. No.EASTERN FORMs OF MEDITATIONCHRISTIAN FORMS OF MEDITATION
1Repeated use of mantrasNo use of mantras, only scripture as prayers
2Impersonal consummation with the BrahmanHeightens the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion
3Focus on self and lead by technique or spiritFocus on Christ guided by the Holy Spirit
4Concentration on the physical aspects “can degenerate into cult of the body” and equating bodily states with mysticism “could lead to psychic disturbance and at times, to moral deviations.”Fasting at times is recommended but not mandatory. Spiritual in emphasis that has positive effect on thoughts and emotions.
5Self-consciousness, stillness and self-emptying or emptying of the mindDialogue of love, a process in which movement is from ‘self’ to the ‘you’ of God
6Achieve thoughtlessness, trance, higher consciousness, bliss, etc.Achieve communion with Christ; listen to the voice of God; realize the love of Christ. Ecstasy is incidental.
7Blurs the distinction between good and evil and creates the mindset that “we cannot condemn anyone and nobody needs forgiveness”Reaches for clearer revelations of Christ the Way the Truth and the Life.
8People are encouraged to follow enlightened masters.Only be led by the Spirit of Christ.
9Characterized by achievementCharacterized by receptivity
10Can lead to practices of the occultWithin safe boundaries of the scripture
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PTP News Bytes – Feb 26 2019 – Stress

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PTP News Bytes – Feb 26 2019 – Stress

You can now learn from anywhere in the world and at anytime you want, through the flexibility of our online courses. Do away with the constraints of time and space by signing up to our E-learning courses. Just find a quiet spot with your laptop, tab or mobile phone and log into the our online program.
Listen to video lectures, browse through accompanying notes, test yourself with quizzes and prepare and take the assignments.
Eligibility for the course is a minimum age of 18 years and proficiency in the language offered.

Online Courses in Christian Counselling from Person to Person

Introduction to Biblical Counselling

The IBC online course includes 12 lessons, delivered to you in four formats of Video Lessons, Reading Notes, Lesson Quizzes and Lesson Assignements. The course is intended to train lay counsellors and will take a novice through topics such as Biblical Basis For Counselling, Self Image & Self Esteem, Basic Skills for Counselling, Counselling model and Case studies.

Click Here To View Full Course


The Accredited Advanced Biblical counselling – Level 1 – Blended Mode training program is delivered in two modules :

An Online Module that includes 14 lessons, delivered to you in four formats of Video Lessons, Reading Notes, Lesson Quizzes and Lesson Assignments. This has to be taken up first.
A Classroom Module where those who have completed the online module have to enroll to and attend the classroom training in Hyderabad for three days.
The course is intended to equip participants for involvement in counselling ministry and for accreditation. 

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PTP News Bytes – Feb 25 2019 – Suicide, Addictions

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PTP News Bytes – Feb 25 2019 – Suicide, Addictions

Dear Friends,

In my spiritual journey, I felt good on many occasions. Going to a youth fellowship, participating in an “I found it” evangelistic campaign, going to a bible study, memorizing scripture, overcoming sinful nature (to some extent) and many other things gave me a great joy. Living a victorious Christian life had become a passion. Sharing some of the victories and finding encouragement in times of failures was comforting. In all this I realised that it was my effort to please the Lord. Occasionally asking God to give me spiritual steroids to achieve the ‘impossible” (Phil. 4:13).

My spiritual journey was a roller coaster ride. Thrilled, when I was gaining heights but scared when I was going down. I realised that I was chasing a perpetual high, an unfailing spiritual victory instead of God and His Presence; I was pursuing power instead of receiving it from the Lord; and I was running after projects instead of pursuing God-given purposes.

Moses asked to know God, know His ways and find grace. God said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Ex. 33:13, 14).  Mary sought Jesus’ Presence over ‘ministry’ of Martha and received His affirmation (Luke 10:38-42). The Ark of the Covenant, the Presence of God gave Israelites their identity and strength (Joshua 3:3, 17).

Jesus said, “You shall receive power . . . (Acts 1:8). We tend to seek power even chase and try to grab it with both hands. But that does not go well with our God. Those that chase and grab power use it to their own ends. But they that receive power from God give it away to empower others. Joseph received tremendous power as the Prime Minister of Egypt. He realised it that it was from God and it was for the saving of many (Gen. 50:20).

Paul was completely on a wrong track when he was persecuting the church. He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul the attacker of the church became the evangelist for the Church (Acts 9:6). He was told what he must do. He was directed to pursue God’s purposes. We may have a misplaced zeal and end up on a wrong planet. In the kingdom of God, it is dangerous to be on a mission without a commission.

Seek His Presence; receive His power; and pursue His purposes.

Blessings,

Dr. Samson Gandhi

To access the complete prayerletter online click the button below –

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Another Historic First For Person to Person

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Another Historic First For Person to Person

Person to Person has had another historic moment this month. It’s not an achievement that we can stake claim to or a milestone that we had hoped to cross, but a tremendous recognition that the ministry received, for the work that it has been doing over the years.

St.Thomas SPG Tamil Cathedral, Hyderabad, threw open its doors to Person to Person in a unique and magnanimous way by appointing the Sunday of February 17th as PtP Sunday. They decided to step up their support to this ministry by taking up an offering for Person to Person. This, is a first for Person to Person.

Dr. Samson Gandhi has been ministering to the members of this church for the last 22 years. The church is blessed with a leadership that not only understood the dearth and the need of counselling in their congregation but also had the willingness to open its doors to a ministry that had the vision and the means to train counsellors for their church. The real joy was to see the exemplary shepherd of the church, Bishop Moses Ashirwadam, signing up as a participant to our training programs along with his wife.

With a mature leadership like this, it is perhaps not a stretch of imagination to expect that they would make efforts to strengthen their bonds with PtP, after vetting the ministry over the years. But since the time they told us about their intention to collect a retiring offering from their congregation for Person to Person, it has not ceased to amaze us.

God has done pretty amazing things through this ministry over the years and though there is hardly anything more rewarding than the joy of seeing relationships healed and restored, what the St. Thomas SPG Tamil Cathedral in Hyderabad decided to do for PtP last Sunday, was both humbling and exciting at the same time.

One would rarely expect that a kind thought in the mind of the Bishop, a gracious gesture from the church leadership and a resounding response from the church fellowship could be so overwhelming.

Irrespective of how much the retiring offering might have raised, this simple and sacred act, of the church coming together for a purpose, and reaching out to their fellow workers in the mission field, could speak volumes of the maturity of the faith and love they displayed, as well as send one into silent contemplation about how much the Church of Christ could accomplish together, if only we all stood with one another.

Dr. Samson Gandhi was also invited to share the word on God on the occasion. Mr. Noel Nicholes (Manager – Admin and Finance), shared about the ministry and calling of Person to Person.

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Training of Trainers Program – Event Report

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Training of Trainers Program – Event Report

Person to Person’s Training of Trainers program, also known as the ‘Faculty Enrichment Seminar’ ended on an enthusiastic and upbeat mood, as participants completed their training modules and received their accredited certificates on Sunday, the 10th of February.

The three-day training program is aimed at fine tuning the training skills of those who are involved in training, teaching or preaching, or are planning to take them up on a regular basis. The training program is accredited by the Association of Christian Counsellors – South Asia.

As is the case of most PtP programs, the participant profile for the Training of Trainers program  was also diverse and included those who are involved in full-time ministry as well as those who are engaged in corporate or non-profit sectors; those who have had a prior relationship with the training institute as well as those who have never heard about Person to Person. A total of 19 participants from Hyderabad and other cities signed up for the program; the youngest being 19-years-old and the eldest, 59.

The program focuses on personal preparation, classroom dynamics, learning and teaching styles, learning objectives and lesson plans and communicating audio visually  and packs in practical workshops and micro teaching sessions.

The above collage is of the micro teaching sessions where each participant is asked to teach his peers employing the knowledge and skills he or she has been imparted. These sessions are also evaluated by their peers using an objective scorecard.

Sharing their feedback about the training program, participants testified about the validity of the course in the present day and about the competence of the facilitators in educating them and imparting those skills.

“…It’s always a pleasure to attend PtP programs, I get to learn so much here, and the faculty was excellent..” said Krishna Ayyar, a business consultant from the IT sector . “Also had a great time interacting with participants, which we do not get in a corporate environment; friendly interaction where we learn from participants and not just the faculty”, he added.

Attending her very first PtP training program Esther Sridevi said, “Heard about the PtP ministry and Dr. Samson Gandhi but was only able to put a face to it when I saw the brochure that was forwarded to me on Whatsapp. I have never taught to an audience like this, learnt so many things.. had the opportunity to be the MC for first time in my life… gave me confidence.”  Personally convinced about PtP training programs, Esther added that she is also planning to sign up for the Christian counselling courses and that she would also encourage her friends to sign up for them.

Emphasizing the importance of counselling in Christian ministry and recognizing the dearth of trained Christian counsellors in Indian churches, another participant J Ashirwadam, expressed that more Christians must come forward and get trained as Christian counsellors. Mr. Ashirwadam praised God for giving this vision to Dr. Samson Gandhi. He applauded the “well-seasoned, highly equipped and outstanding faculty of the program,” and appreciated “the coordination, love and affection of the PtP team for creating a professional yet family like atmosphere.”

Training of Trainers is the second accredited training program conducted by Person to Person in Hyderabad this year. For more information on our upcoming training programs refer our Events Calendar on our website.

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Training of Trainers Program Kicks Off in Hyderabad

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Training of Trainers Program Kicks Off in Hyderabad

The much awaited Training of Trainers program kicked off at the Grace Communion Church today in Hyderabad. This accredited training program is catered to participants who have a passion to teach and are looking to sharpen their skills to teach, preach or facilitate. The course is spread over three days and will cover topics such as –
  • Personal preparation
  • Classroom dynamics
  • Learning and teaching styles
  • Learning objectives and lesson plans
  • And communicating audio visually, among others.
As one would expect, it is pragmatic in approach and comes with workshops and micro teaching sessions that participants can readily benefit from. “As always we have a good mix of participants for this PtP program as well. Out of the total 19 participants, 5 are women and 14 are men. Participants are from Christian ministry as well as from secular vocations.” said Noel Nicholas, PtP’s admin manager.

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PtP Launches Its First E-learning Program

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PtP Launches Its First E-learning Program

Person to Person, on Friday launched its first e-learning program – Introduction to Biblical Counselling, in Hyderabad. The team did not choose to have a special event for its launch but rolled it out at the ABC Level 3 training program that is currently underway in Hyderabad.

“We thought it would be meaningful to do it here, during one of their tea breaks, and also give a small demo so the participants can take the news back to their church groups and let their friends know about it”, said Noel Nicholas, the Admin Manager.

The team had been working hard for many months now, to take the Board’s vision of offering some of the training programs through the e-learning mode.

Mr. Philip Dayanidhi, PtP Board member, and his wife Reupah were hands on in developing the video animations for the lessons themselves. They also provided their valuable feedback at every stage and along with few other board members, were part of the pilot project that audited the course before the launch.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Dr. Samson Gandhi, the Executive Director of Person to Person, said “The Introduction to Biblical Counselling course, which is Person to Person’s basic course in Christian counselling is a tried and tested course, that has been offered to over 1200 participants across the nation so far, through the distance education mode”, and added that he is happy to launch it online.

Pastor Daniel Zachariah, the senior pastor of Grace Communion Church, Trimulgheri, prayed and asked for God to continue to enable the ministry and for the participants who undergo their training programs.

Cdr. J.P Moses, PtP’s board member, congratulated the PtP team and launched the online course.

Paul Yesudas, PtP’s IT & Media Manager gave a brief demo of the course and explained the registration process.

The course is now available online for an introductory price of Rs. 1000/-.

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Practice Generosity – Joy and Character Will Come Your Way

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Practice Generosity – Joy and Character Will Come Your Way

Generosity is a spirit of life. It is not just a matter of giving away money and things, although that is a part of it. Our source of understanding generosity is neither Bill Gates nor Warren Buffet, although I have a great regard for them. Our template is God Himself as He is restoring His image in us. Christ in us is the hope of glory. He can empower us to be generous.

God is generous. He creates big, loves us lavishly and treats us like kings. He is building mansions for us; He will come and take us to heaven, personally. As He thinks of the whole world, He thinks of me. Though His mind is filled with mind-boggling concerns of the world, He is mindful of my little needs. God is generous in His details. His outlook is never sketchy.

The forgiveness of God made possible in Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of all generosity.

The forgiveness of God made possible in Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of all generosity. He paid the debt I could never repay. Wiped away the blot I could never erase. He is lifting me to heights I could never attain. None of this at a price but all freely given. Therefore, generosity is His initiative. When we experience such free-flowing grace, we become channels of His generosity. Jesus’ grace is the fountainhead of all human generosity.

Our generosity begins with forgiveness. We have tasted the sweet forgiveness of God given to us generously, freely and with no pre-conditions. Let us be generous in forgiving. When Jesus forgave the sin of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), He did not even use the word forgive. When He said, “Go and sin no more” to her, nobody was there. When Jesus went into the house of Zacchaeus the Tax collector, there is no mention of a sermon on extortion or patriotism. His graceful and generous presence at his house even at the cost of criticism, condemnation and rejection by a section of the community was amazing.

We would be so awful if we were to expose a person before forgiving; if we were to make him/her feel miserable before releasing; if we were to forgive but bring it up again and again. When you forgive, do it generously. The only way we can do it is to see Jesus on the cross dying for our sins. Forgiving in love is the highest form of generosity. When our heart becomes light, our lips become gracious (generous) and hands become big.

Be generous in your appreciation. Offer compliments generously.

Be generous in your appreciation. Offer compliments generously. In Indian culture, appreciating one another and complimenting each other does not come easily. If we grew up without much appreciation, we will find it difficult to appreciate others. However, as we receive from God and begin to appreciate and compliment others, you will be surprised to see that what goes around comes back to you. However, I am not at all suggesting that one must flatter the other. Flattery is a deception. We must train ourselves to look at the bright side of every person and reflect a positive image to them. Make believing statements like, “I know you can do this.” Or “If I had my way, you would be in my team.” Or to someone young, “You rock!”

Let us be generous in small giving. There are so many places we interact with people who serve us. Bearers in restaurants, bell boys at hotels, parking attendants (where parking is not paid for), valet parking attendants, boys who carry groceries from the counters of a supermarket to your scooter/car, security guards at gated communities, auto rickshaw drivers and cab drivers are a few of them.

A cultural approach to this would be to offer a tip as a polite gesture. Leaving a decent tip for a good service is transactional. Verbal appreciation and decent tip would be a humane approach. But what would be a generous approach? If God has blessed you, and you are sensitive that all those that serve you struggle with poverty (at many of these places the employers just give them a meagre, nominal salary and expect them to survive on tips), then with a grateful heart to God can we leave a generous tip or offer a generous gratis to those that serve us? Such generosity does not wipe away their poverty but certainly lights up their heart, momentarily. For some, it is enough to face another tough day.

Most times, we are generous towards rich and stingy towards others.

Most times, we are generous towards rich and stingy towards others. When we are invited to weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other social functions we tend to segregate our hosts and categorize them. To the rich we give expensive gifts and large amounts by way of reciprocation and sometimes to impress them. Probably, we think the rich will recognise us, return the favour in some form or the other and somehow we want to measure up to their status. I believe most rich people don’t care for the gifts but value your presence. If this is true then will a bouquet of flowers be sufficient?

When we are invited by those who are not rich, we are tight-fisted in our giving. We might give or spend just enough to reciprocate or as an obligation. However, when poor people invite us, let us be generous. They will not be able to return the favour and therefore your gifts would be purely out of generosity without any expectation whatsoever. Some people just send their gifts and not attend the function. Although your gifts may be generous, what will dignify your gift would be your presence. Sometimes our giving of gifts is also in the nature of “settling accounts”. We tend to ask, “What did they give us?” and “What should we be giving?” That is a ‘poor’ spirit of giving. It is difficult to be generous without a generous spirit.

For some of us, more than money, our space matters. Armrests in buses, trains and aeroplanes are a testing ground for our generosity. If you are in a middle seat, both the armrests are in question. In an isle or a window seat at least one armrest is yours. You could possibly share the common one but if it is contested be generous. Give up your privilege with a smile. Be generous. Remember it does not happen always.

Interesting things happen in church, too. Some members come early and occupy an aisle seat as they prefer it or more practically under a fan on a hot day. However, quite a few come late and must cross the aisle seat to occupy others. It is bad practice to come late, disturb the service and inconvenience someone who has come early. However, be generous. Slide and give space to the late-comer. Sometimes, the latecomers are more than the seats available in a pew. They expect the early comer to ‘adjust’. Be generous to leave the pew for their comfort and you find your own space. Go the ‘extra mile’.

More than money and space, what becomes more and more precious is your time.

As the Lord prospers you, you will come into money and comforts. More than money and space, what becomes more and more precious is your time. Jesus ceased from ‘ministry’ and spent time with His disciples. He invited himself to a supper at Zacchaeus’ house. He spent time with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. After an amazing resurrection, Jesus had time to have breakfast with his disciples, walk and chat with Cleopas and his companion. Can we be with people instead of doing things for them? Being generous in time with people is better than generous in things for the people. We will become a little bit more like Christ. After all He left heaven and came down to be with us.

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Book Review of ‘THE SHACK’

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Book Review of ‘THE SHACK’

‘The Shack’ is a novel by a Canadian author William Young and has become a ‘USA Today’ bestseller, having sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

The author of ‘The Shack’ weaves a spiritually profound and life-impacting narrative around a life-altering tragedy of a family, who, when they are out holidaying, discover that their youngest daughter Missy, has been suddenly abducted. Their shock soon turns into utter horror, when the search parties find her mutilated and lifeless body in a desolate shack, high up in the mountains. Indications point to a child abuser spotted in the area but it’s too late for the family.

He is unable to understand why a benevolent God could let such a horrible thing happen to his innocent little girl.

Unable to come to terms with this unimaginable tragedy at the shack, the remaining members of the family find themselves being torn up individually and drifting apart as a family. They are barely able to cope with their lives, even as the father Mack (Mackenzie) Philips ends up embittered against God. He is unable to understand why a benevolent God could let such a horrible thing happen to his innocent little girl.

Mack spirals into a deep depression that causes him to question his innermost beliefs and ends up becoming disdainful towards God. His existential pain is however interrupted one day, when he finds a letter in his mail box. The letter invites him back to the shack in order to find answers to his misery. Enraged at this insensitive mockery and unable to find the prankster who put that letter in his mail box, Mack dashes off to the shack with a pistol tucked away in his trousers, to teach the prankster a lesson.

The shack, which so far held our imagination as a symbol of horror and hurt, soon becomes a place of healing and restoration, as God, who, as we learn, did sent Mack the invitation, graciously begins to minister to him… not as a voice or a representation but in human form, not as a vision that he imagines but as a person that he encounters; and not just as one God but through the individual manifestations of the Holy Trinity.

Mack walks into a surreal experience where God The Father, God The Son and God The Holy Spirit make themselves manifest as three individuals.

Perhaps Eugene Peterson’s glowing endorsement of the book best captures the ingenuity of the writer – , “When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of “The Shack.”

Just beyond the shack, Mack encounters the triune God and gets to spend a weekend with the enigmatic trio.  Over that weekend, right there at the Shack, God and Mack wrestle with the problem of pain, of suffering, of free will and judgment and heartache and the very nature of God in a way that is entirely captivating, engaging and deep.

Through this encounter, Mack is able to make peace with his tragedy, but not before his faith is dismantled piece by piece and his notions about God – His nature and character, and of the world and sin and man are challenged and corrected.

Mack not only gets a glimpse of time through the eyes of eternity but is also graciously allowed a peek into eternity.

Mack not only gets a glimpse of time through the eyes of eternity but is also graciously allowed a peek into eternity. Here, he not only sees Missy – happy and blissful, but also gets to make peace with his own father – who had abused him as a child, but having repented and received God’s mercy, is now a new creation in Christ.

The author has given us resources that speak powerfully on many aspects of God.  God is presented most beautifully as a ‘Relationship-in-Love’.  He reveals that God knows when we are hurt, angry and confused and understands us and allows His healing waters to wash over us and cleanse the wounds of our souls.  He records how the demands of the law were put to rest and mercy triumphed over justice in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This learning isn’t easy at all for Mack, who, even after getting a glimpse of the expanse of God’s love and benevolence, struggles to let go of his hurts and struggles even more to forgive his daughter’s murderer. Perhaps this particular episode echoes most with the reader, as it did with me – when the emotions of pain and hurt are so deep and the cry for justice resounds with a desire for vengeful retribution within the heart; but you are expected to trust God and offer love and forgiveness instead. The cross of Christ suddenly becomes so real!

If you have ever longed to see God, you will certainly appreciate this book. If one has experienced – or is going through a time of ‘Agony in the Garden’ of one’s life, this book may be a very cathartic aid. It’s my belief that this is ‘The Shack’s’ real purpose.

‘The Shack’ has inspired me to return to the Bible and learn more through questioning… and then affirming the truth.

Application:

‘The Shack’ has inspired me to return to the Bible and learn more through questioning… and then affirming the truth.

I was enthralled by Mack’s meeting with God and his subsequent discoveries of God’s character. God’s purpose is always to work life out of death, to bring freedom out of brokenness and turn darkness into light.  I was amazed at the author’s understanding of God’s forgiveness, realizing that once I forgive, I too can discover a miracle in my own heart.

It helped me re-examine my own perceptions, and beyond that, it encouraged me to weigh out the truthfulness of the paradigms that I subscribe to.  I found it helpful to look at how God views tragedies. Just because God works incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean He orchestrates them or causes them to happen to accomplish His purposes.

It helped me re-examine my own perceptions, and beyond that, it encouraged me to weigh out the truthfulness of the paradigms that I subscribe to.

Critique:

Good fiction, especially one that gets us so emotionally involved, comes with the inherent danger of getting the reader to be wary of objective truth; even if it happens at a subconscious level.  I would therefore caution the reader to pace himself and keep his powers of discernment handy.

Some questions worth pondering and screening through the lens of Scripture are:

  • Is Young pointing to new subjective revelation? Or is he giving himself an artistic license?

The Bible is unique and the authoritative Word of God (2 Tim 3:16 – 17)

  • Is the author opening the door to the possibility of salvation outside of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross?

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)

  • Is Young suggesting that hierarchy is the result of sin?

Scripture teaches that authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead (Luke 22:42)

  • God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not speak themselves into human existence; only the Son became human and died on the Cross (John 1:14)
  • Scripture is full of references to God’s impending wrath (Rom 1:18; Col 3:6)
  • Young reveals the God of love as found in Scripture (1 John 4:8); but he ignores the God of utter holiness (Isaiah 6:1- 5); and, ultimately, the final Judge (Rev 20:11 -15)

Yes, there are poignant scenes and emotional moments in the book, even as we get an incredible glimpse at the deep and expansive love of God, but that does not tip the scales against some of the errors that seem to have slipped in. I would therefore caution the reader to enjoy this great read while peppering in some discernment.

Happy reading!

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Weave Prayer Into Your Life; God Has The Best Designs

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Weave Prayer Into Your Life; God Has The Best Designs

Dear Friends,

Person to Person stays in touch with its friends, supporters and partners through a monthly newsletter that updates them with the happenings in the ministry, publishes event reports and notifies upcoming events. We will be delighted to add you to our mailing list. Sign up below.

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Anxiety is Destructive; Try Peace

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Anxiety is Destructive; Try Peace

Dear Friends,

Person to Person stays in touch with its friends, supporters and partners through a monthly newsletter that updates them with the happenings in the ministry, publishes event reports and notifies upcoming events. We will be delighted to add you to our mailing list. Sign up below.

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Family is a Team, Play Your Part

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Family is a Team, Play Your Part

Textiles fascinate me. Before God called me into the field of Christian counselling, He gave me a wonderful exposure to the world of fabrics including woollen and silk carpets and accessories that are handwoven in different parts of India. I can write a little about vegetable dyed, block printed and hand painted Kalamkari fabrics; luxurious cotton sarees with intricately woven silk borders and rich palloos; and Pochampally ikat or Rajasthani tie & dye sarees. But silk carpets captured my heart.

The way woollen and silk carpets are woven in Bhadoi and other parts of Uttar Pradesh is fascinating. These carpets are rhythmically and painstakingly hand-knotted. A row of six to eight children are seated on a bench in front of an upright loom with warp yarn. An elderly man with a life-time of knotting experience has committed the designs to his memory in the form of songs containing all the code. As he sings the song, the children decode it and put the appropriate knot using a woollen yearn of a specific colour on the warp strings.

Their delicate but nimble fingers do the impossible. Looking at the carpet being woven either from the front or the back leaves you totally clueless as to what the final design would be. But once the knotting is over, an expert shearer clips away the extra wool/silk; it is washed and dried and then the intricate design emerges gloriously.

I believe our prayers must be woven, heart-knotted if you like, on the warp threads of our relationships with God and people. We must listen to the heart-song of God, seek the help of the Holy Spirit to decode it and learn to put those prayer knots. If we knot prayers without listening to the Master Weaver, the design of our life can be quite distorted and meaningless.

Prayer is the soul of our relationship with God. Take away prayer and there is no soul in our relationship with Him.

Then our prayers are mere attempts to transact with God. “I will go to church regularly, please give me success in my exams or job,” could be one such transactional prayer. If you want to succeed in exams work hard at your studies. God is not going to write your exams. He is not going to work in your place at your job. So when you pray and ask God to help you in writing your exams well, He will first ask you to work hard and give it priority and burn the midnight oil right from the day one and not just the day before your exams. That’s what He will tell you when you pray.

If you pray and ask Him to give you promotion, He will ask you to work sincerely, honestly and creatively to add value to the company so that the superiors will be able to see the grace of God (your inclination for sincere and hard work) upon you and promote you to add more value to the company.

Prayer does not make you successful

The point I am making is that prayer does not make you successful but prayer can put you in touch with the powerhouse of God; it can align you to His purposes and help you to plan; and motivate you to give your one hundred percent. So weave prayers in every area of your life. Then God will add His grace (Genesis 39:3).

When you work hard like this you would imagine success is guaranteed. You believe you are sincere and righteous and therefore you will succeed; the other fellow is not and he will fail. But read the Psalmist’s lament (Psalm 73) and the ‘aha’ moment when He went to seek God in prayer for understanding (verse 17). He was flabbergasted that the wicked were prospering and the righteous were feeling that it was futile to be righteous.

But when the Psalmist went into the house of God, looked to God for understanding then he was given the insight of the sudden destruction of the wicked but the righteous would flourish under Him. Prayer to me is to set my heart in the direction of God, engage with Him to seek the truth and accept His revelation. Such prayers are woven into life experiences that usher us into higher spheres of faith.

Prayer to me is to set my heart in the direction of God, engage with Him to seek the truth and accept His revelation.

A few years ago, a team of staff from the electricity department had come to install a power cable to a new house. It was running across from the electric pole on one side of the road to the side of the house. It was very interesting. They had a power cable properly clad in all-weather resistant polymer that would bring the power from the pole to the house. But they also started to couple a strong iron cable to the insulated power cable to give it support, prevent it from snapping and ensure smooth uninterrupted power supply.

Likewise, I believe our prayer too is an iron cable that ensures uninterrupted and unbroken power into all that we do to light up this world. Prayer will enable us to fight all sorts of storms in life and give us uninterrupted power to continue living for God. Let us couple or bind prayer to what we do to fulfil his purposes in our lives.

Jesus prayed early in the morning, before he took upon important assignments (appoint the twelve disciples), and spontaneously. Morning prayers, evening prayers and prayers at meal times are habits of prayer.

When we are about to embark on a new project and we pray, they are specific prayers. The spontaneous prayers are those that we shoot up to God, instinctively, naturally and spontaneously. Like breathing. You are on your way to meeting a difficult client and you are feeling anxious. Pause and pray. I don’t mean you stop driving the car, get out and pray but while you are driving pray with your eyes wide open to the traffic around.

You are trying out a new recipe and guests are expected. You are anxious. Pray as you stir the broth. You are giving a bath to your toddler and you wonder why he has not yet learnt to walk confidently. As you massage his legs pray that God would infuse strength into those legs. Weave prayers into your life – into all the Nano steps that life is made of.

Actionable prayers are powerful and world transforming.

The bible says that with our heart we believe and with our mouth we confess (Romans 10:9, 10). This is our faith. But also faith without works is dead. Therefore, it follows that a prayer of faith must motivate our legs to go where He wants us to go and our hands to do what He wants us to do.

We pray for a number of social needs and evils. But what are you doing about it? Have those prayers percolated into your hands and feet to do something about them. You bemoan the poor condition of roads. But have you prayed that God would move the bureaucrats to get the job done. Good if you have prayed. But have you done something about it? Call the Municipal office and register a complaint/request? Have you written to the Municipal Commissioner? Did you write to the Newspapers?

Finally, I know, when none of the above worked a group of senior citizens gathered and started filling up the pot holes themselves. Then the authorities took action. Prayer and works go together. Life would then be less bumpy.

As we grow in prayer, God will give us maturity to pray the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” That is the greatest prayer. We need the wisdom of God to know when to persist like the importunate widow, and surrender and yield like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Weave prayers into your challenges. The immediate outcomes may be grim at times but the ultimate goal will be glorious. Such prayers are birthed in the hearts that are set in eternity. Become the clay the potter can design you into. ‘He set eternity in our hearts.” (Therefore,) “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Colossians 3:2).

Become the clay the potter can design you into.

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Practical Parenting to Raise Confident Children

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Practical Parenting to Raise Confident Children

Parenting does not come naturally. It is to be learnt. Just as we learn how to cook, ride, drive and swim, we must put an effort to master the attitudes and skills necessary for parenting. Unlike cooking and driving, parenting is much more challenging because children have a mind of their own. But it is also more rewarding.

Many parents believe that parenting is all about saving enough money to put a child in the best school possible and put her through every camp available to master every sport, art and hobby. That is not all. Most parents expect their child to top the class, ace the exams and get into the best college in the country. All to land a job with a six figure monthly salary.

Academics are important, nurturing talent is fine and ambition is good but making them life-pursuits for a child is surely setting up a child for a life-time of anxiety, guilt and insecurity.

Parents must work to provide happy childhood, secure adolescence and confident adulthood. Storytelling, pillow fights, picnic at a Zoo, somersaults in a swimming pool, playing Pictionary, an opportunity to look with wonder at the jetting aircrafts in an air show, children on your shoulder to catch a glimpse of a sports star and many, many other things you can do with your children can create a happy childhood.

A teenager will feel secure in a strong identity. What he or she can do, how they are noticed and acknowledged and how they are liked and loved contribute to their identity. When parents shower such attention, acceptance and time-space to discover themselves (with ample margin to make mistakes), they grow secure in an otherwise harsh world. They will then go out be able to accept challenges, take criticism in their stride and build healthy relationships.

As you can see there is no mention of outstanding marks, ranks, prizes and trophies, top schools or colleges and definitely not exorbitant salaries in a healthy parenting plan. Sometimes they happen and that is good. Most of the times, parents focus on these things to satisfy their own ego, overcome their anxiety and showcase their children as a proof of their successful parenting. It is not healthy parenting. In fact, it leads to unending conflicts between parents and children, develops a false sense of identity and misplaced priorities.

Children are not projects to be worked on and completed. They are personalities to be shaped, enjoyed and cherished.

This article is not about helping parents to make their children super successful professionals. Popular literature and social media is replete with it. My sincere appeal to you is to explore some practical aspects that get neglected resulting in parental deficit. And somethings not to be done that could actually be unintended abuse.

Parents, both father and mother must endeavour to practice the following:
  • Talk to infants but listen to children. You can talk all you want to infants and toddlers. It is a valuable psychological pat for a fledgling soul. The child will bask in the attention of the parents. Listen to them when they begin to speak. It is life to the budding soul.
  • Get physical with children. Hold them, hug them, kiss them, pat them, rub them, give them a horsy ride, do a mock arm-wrestling, etc. All these must be done delicately, sensitively and age-appropriately. Moreover, keep your cultural norms in mind. When they grow up appreciate them verbally and occasional hug, pat and touch.
  • Patiently spend time with children in shaping physical habits. Potty training, personal hygiene like brushing teeth properly, washing hands before eating, bathing daily and twice if necessary in summer, eating meals and snacks at proper times, sleeping and getting up at designated times, playing, of use electronic gadgets for designated times, etc., are a few of them. Children develop a sense of personal value in addition to health benefits.
  • Develop spiritual habits like having personal prayer times and family prayer times. Going to Sunday school and church regularly. Make memorizing scripture fun. Start with the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. Help children to invite Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Saviour. Age is no bar. Remember Jesus admonished His disciples when they were preventing children from coming to Him.
  • Teach them to say ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’, ‘Sorry’. These are not just social graces but they are spiritual values. Remember kindness, meekness and gentleness are fruit of the Spirit. Many children refuse to say sorry as they feel their ego is getting hurt. Teach them these graces before the ego grows too big. If you can’t shape them when they are tender, they will break you when they are older. When you are wrong, please apologise. It’s good to set an example.
  • Every child must be made responsible. They must be first taught to be responsible for their own things. Like carrying their own stuff, picking up things and leaving stuff in their designated places. Some parents do everything for their children right up to their teenage and adulthood. Most of the times they are saying, “I will do everything for you. You don’t have to do a thing. Just get me good marks.” Such children become irresponsible adults and terrible life-partners. At the end of the day job and money is not everything. Mutually satisfying relationships are important for satisfaction in life.
  • Children must then be made to participate in household chores. Filling up water bottles, getting groceries and vegetables, booking cooking gas cylinders, paying bills, extending hospitality to visitors, dusting cars and motorcycles, planning gifts for cousins and uncles and aunts, Christmas decorations, etc. When they become team players at home, they know how to carry themselves and participate in social groups.
  • Teach them simplicity. They can’t have special food all the time. It is neither good for body nor soul. Occasionally when you are sick, groceries have run out and the fridge is empty, teach them to eat a simple meal. Let them know what hunger is. Let them sometimes fend for themselves.
  • Teach them contentment. To be satisfied with life that God has given them. Children look at others and demand similar things. Cell phones, bikes, dresses, jewellery, etc. A parent is the best toy a child can have. If you can spare time and play with a child, they don’t need a play room and a room full of toys. If you can remain their friends in growing years and honest with family finances, they will not demand ‘toys’ like expensive cell phones, bikes and accessories.
  • Teach children to respect your personal time. Let them know that if you are happy and healthy you will be able to better relate to them.
Be sure not to ‘abuse’ a child. No parent does it intentionally but many do unwittingly. Beware!
  • Do not compare one child with another. Whether within the family, church or community. It is not healthy. Parents justify it to motivate a child. It is a poor motivator. It actually breeds resentment, jealousy and inferiority.
  • Do not make all your conversations about academic performance. They may develop an aversion to all things academic. Celebrate children not academic performance.
  • Do not use scolding as a means to discipline. It is demeaning, unhelpful and a futile exercise. Have conversations and agree upon mutually agreeable performance standards. Concluding such conversations with prayer for God’s enablement will help.
  • Never use bad words, names of animals or demeaning expressions while talking to children. You will be insulting God. It leaves an indelible scar on their psyche.
  • Never wish death. No matter how frustrated you are never say you want to die. Or that all your problems will come to an end if you die. Some parents even say to a child: “I don’t know why you were born.” The pain would be unbearable to the child. Then they resort to all sorts of drugs and substances for relief.
  • Don’t nag children.
  • Never fight in front of children. It is fine for children to know that you differ on things but not in a disagreeable way.
  • Don’t tolerate disrespect, rebellion and disdainful attitude from children. Be forgiving of all mischievous behaviour, tolerant of their clumsiness and forgetfulness. But do not allow your children to question your authority. Act swiftly and show who is in control.

The Bible says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged; parents are the pride of their children.” Parents are the pride of their children.

Parents must lead an exemplary life to earn the respect of the children that He has demanded of them.

If, what they hear from their parents and what they see in them is one and the same, children will find it easy to behave in the same way. Let us make it easy for them. That way they may not become toppers in their classes but surely they would know Jesus, become confident adults to face challenges and build strong families.

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