No more teenagers!

Starting today, my wife and I will no longer have a “teenager” in the family since my son moves from “nineteen” to “twenty”. About a couple of years ago, we went from two to one (teenagers that is!) when our daughter became twenty, and today’s event completes another phase in our life after which we can no longer say “I have a teenager at home” – a watershed event in many a family!

My wife and I have been blessed to have our two children – Sam and Jerry. And while every child is special, and every type of parent-child relationship is special, there is something unique about the relationship between a father and a son (just as the relationship between a mother and daughter is unique – there are just some things only a female identifies with another and so on). My wife and I are blessed to have these kinds of relationships with our children, and it has been a privilege that we have enjoyed. With this event, we can officially move into having a real “adult” type relationship with both our children J

Talking of parent-child relationships, I am reminded that one of the very first recorded interactions between a father and his son as shown below:

Gen 22: 6-8 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

 This is a simple, yet poignant interaction that belies the underlying tension of the moment. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son – a miracle child who was born after a long, long wait – on a distant mountain. The father knows what is coming next: his only son is going to be killed, and that by his very own hand, and the child is now asking a very valid question that demanded an answer solely based on faith. Abraham, for all his wisdom and experience with God, did not know how God would provide a sacrificial lamb on a remote place such as this mountain. All he knew was that God would somehow provide, and went ahead, even up to the point of tying up his only beloved child, placing him on the altar and raising his knife to kill.

And this little interaction has a lot of lessons for you and me (I list just three below):

  • Abraham trusted in God implicitly, just as we are asked to. My wife and I don’t know what the future holds, both for us, and for our family – We do, however, know who holds the future. We know that God has plans for us: good plans, plans to prosper and not harm us (Jer 29:11), with a prosperity that is both internal and external (3 John 1:2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is prospering [getting along well])
  • Just as Abraham believed that God would provide, we know that our only source is God, and that He will provide for us through his enabling: of opportunity, strength and skills that He has given us (Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze)
  • And in the context of this post, we know that we have to set an example for our children to follow, both in word and deed, just as Abraham did. Abraham must have raised his son right – the lad obeyed implicitly, even when he was being bound and placed on the altar

Coming back to the point: My son is officially done being a teen, starting today – a day when he launches into his “twenties”. We will help getting him started on this new phase in his life with our blessing and support.  And pray that we have set a good example for him to follow, just like Abraham.

So, with the same blessing we gave Sam, here’s to you Jerry:

Number 6:24-26 “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Have a happy 20th. With many blessings and all our love!

John and Sharmila (Dad and Mom)

December 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm 1 comment

Renew your youth! (and your mind)

I will begin this post with this set of verses (reason follows!)

Ps 103: 1-5 Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I hit a significant milestone today, and as I was mulling over this event on my way to work, I was reminded of this very appropriate assurance: that my youth is renewed, again and again every time I claim this promise. Note that it doesn’t say that I will become younger, but that my youthfulness will be renewed. In other words, I can grow older without getting older! This is also an excellent reminder to give praise, with all my inmost being, to the Lord God. Further, I was also reminded that the blessings of God that starts with the forgiveness and redemption for my soul extends into the physical realm with the blessings of health and all other attendant benefits.

While God renews our youth, we, in turn, are asked to renew our mind (no one way traffic there!) Paul urges us to be transformed through a renewal of or mind thus:

Rom 12: 1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

While God works in us for his part, we are also to do our part – check this post for more on this topic. So if you feel older today, or bemoan the fact that you are “aging”, be encouraged by this promise of renewal.

As well, this “physical” renewal comes with some responsibility: that of taking care of what has been given to you (in this case your body). And what better way to take care of your body than through eating right and exercising. (Exercise is a life long commitment by the way – it doesn’t work in jerky starts and stops)

So enjoy His renewal today, and every day! Get out there and move: At least have a walk around the block, clear and renew your mind, filling it with praise for our wonderful God.

John

November 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

John 3:16 Day

We record dates a little differently here in the US, but that little fact plays into this post. Let me explain:

While the Rest of the World would normally use the DD/MM/YY format, here in the US, we use the MM/DD/YY format. So today (March 16th) would be “3/16/11″, and I heard  a little comment on my favorite radio station – Klove - about how today can be named the “John 3:16″ day, because it starts with 3/16…. So here’s “John 3:16 Day” to you.

Number play aside, John 3:16 is by far the most well known of all Bible verses, and it goes thus: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jesus himself said these words in response to a question from Nicodemus, a learned man and a religious leader in the Jewish ruling council. In one simple, yet powerful sentence, Jesus summarized God’s love for Mankind and the promise of eternal life for whoever believes in the Son and his work.

This is the first step in turning away from the world and turning to God, and this can lead you, if you follow through, to a full life here in this world, and eternal life with God afterward. This is like starting up the stove before cooking up your recipe for life.

This fact is much too precious to keep to myself, so I want it to share it with you – the reader. If you would like to know more about this topic, let me know!

John

PS: I know I am coming back after a very, very long hiatus of more than a year. I hope to post more often – today is the day to restart!

March 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

A Father’s heart

One of the greatest privileges I have in Life is being a father to my two children. (I share the related privilege of being a parent with my wife of 21+ years, and while I write this little piece from a father’s perspective, in no way does it detract from my wife’s perspective as a mother. Hopefully, she will also share her views on this subject via this medium!) Among the many things that always immediately and unconditionally lifts my spirit is thinking about my children, remembering all the shared moments right from their birth until the present, and looking forward to the good things that God is going to bring their way. As a father, I have the privilege and responsibility to provide for and protect them, and so far, with God’s Grace and ever present help in every step of the way, and in spite of my many failings, I believe I have done relatively well.

Just as I delight in my children, I believe that God our Father who considers us His children also delights in us the same way. In Zechariah 2:8, the prophet refers to Israel (God’s people – ultimately you and me) as the apple of God’s eye. Just as compassion stirs in my heart for my children, so it does in God the Father towards us (Psalms 103:13). In various verses in the Good Book, God has modeled Fatherhood for us. He not only protects and provides for us His children (Mt 6:7,8, Mt 7:9-11), He also disciplines those He loves, just as a father would discipline his son or daughter (Prov 3:11,12). This discipline is not punishment, but the gentle correction and guidance that a father needs to provide to his children, since we are prone to wander!

My children have grown up, moving up into and past their teenage years, with my son entering his undergrad freshman year and my daughter getting ready to move into her undergrad senior year. While they no longer need (and in fact avoid!) the same, constant attention required when they were babies or toddlers, they do have their needs and my responsibility is no lesser. While our hope (and a requirement for their “growin’ up”) is that, in time, they will stand independently on their own, I know my wife and I will be ready in a flash to come to their aid whenever and with whatever they need.

In the very same way, God is sensitive to our position in Him, knows where we are in our walk, and provides and intervenes appropriately. A good example is the way in which the Lord deals with Peter: Matthew 14 records how Peter’s simple faith results in this brash disciple stepping out of the boat and walking on water just because Jesus said “come”. In verse 31, we see how Jesus “immediately reached out his hand and caught him” when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and seeing the wind, became scared and began to sink. And in John 21, Jesus gently reinstated Peter when he asked him thrice whether he loves Jesus, thrice to erase Peter’s three prior betrayals. However, later in the same chapter, Jesus shows how Peter would die for the Cause in the future, revealing how Peter fits into God’s purpose for Mankind.

Coming back to my life: While my Mom taught my brother and I about God, and modeled it via her life, my Dad modeled Fatherhood for the two of us. Always a gentle person, I don’t remember him ever losing his patience with me. I only remember one occasion of him pushing me very gently towards my ultimate choice of a major in Engineering: I wanted to become a mechanical engineer, and he advised me to choose the upcoming “Electronics and Communications” specialization. This timely and crucial advice finally resulted in what I am today. Always a tinkerer, he used to repair all sorts of items both large and small for friends and relatives. He involved us in these “adventures”, and we used to spend hours watching and helping him. It was during these memorable moments that I learnt a lot about how stuff works, what tools and techniques to use to solve a vexing issue, how to take things apart and put them back together, all essential skills in my everyday work as an Database and Application performance troubleshooter. While I don’t have his patience and haven’t had the opportunity to do the same kind of “lepair” (as we used to call it) with my own children, we have enjoyed lots of other adventures together and had wonderful and memorable times. Just as my Dad did for me, I hope that I have been able to assist and guide my children in making important decisions as well, and know that I will do so in the future as well. Although I haven’t been (and never will be) perfect,  I also hope that I have modeled fatherhood to some extent for my son, just as my Dad did for me.

And this brings me to an important point: I don’t know what your relationship is with your children (if you are a parent) or your parents (especially your father). We are all frail humans – me, you, your parents and mine, your children and mine – but our Father in heaven is God is perfect (Matt 5:48). While we are supposed to be perfect like Him, our parents were not perfect, nor will we be as well. The need of the moment is to put past hurts and negative experiences behind us, and consider how we can change for the better, especially in how we interact with our children. We can replace any negative models we have, either of fathers or of ourselves, with the Perfect model from above.

Just like Paul stated in Phil 3:12-14, I cannot (and never will be able to) claim to have obtained maturity or perfection, whether in that delightful journey called fatherhood or in my walk with Christ. However,  one thing I aim to do: forget my past failures and lost opportunities and strain toward what is ahead, and press on toward that goal that God has set for me. Would you also do join with me in resolving to do the same for yourself? If we do so, I believe we can make the world a little better for ourselves and our children, and will create a model for others in our life to follow…..

Finally, for my children, I want to say this: I thought we had an agreement that you would never grow up! Now that you already have grown up, Mom and I will stand by the sidelines and cheer you on as you take wing and fly. Our prayer is that by basing your life on His Word, you will become all that God intended you to become, and enjoy all that He has in store for you. And as you go along in this journey called Life, we will be there as long as we can, to pray, provide, support, assist and love!

In Him,

John

Verses used in this post:

Zec 2:8: For this is what the LORD Almighty says: “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you–for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—

Psalms 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him

Matt 6:7-8 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: ” `Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,….”

Matt 7:9-10 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Prov 3:11,12 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Matt 14:28-31 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.     Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

John 21:17-19 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Matt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

August 20, 2009 at 11:53 pm 2 comments

From two to one

Today our family celebrates an event that takes us from two to one. (No – I am not talking about splitting up!) Exactly twenty years ago, our dearest daughter Samantha was born. That means Sam advances from NineTEEN to Twenty today, moving up in status from a “TEENager” to “Almost an Adult”, thereby reducing the TEEN count in our family from Two to One. (Jerry is still a TEEN at sevenTEEN – see my blog entry about a boy growing up)

Whether this reduction in the family’s TEEN count is going to help us parents or not is questionable, but it is certainly worth pausing to consider this event, marked by a specific time-period called a day. God has in His Infinite Wisdom, has created order in both the Universe and in our World, and part of that is the creation of such distinct time-periods. In fact, right at the very beginning, in Genesis 1:3-5, God created the Day and Night, the basic markers for creating the larger time-periods of Weeks, Months, Years, and so on.

Such distinct markers provides opportunities for us to pause, to think back and remember as well as to look forward and hope. Today, my wife and I take that opportunity to think back to that day not so long ago when Sam, by being born, launched us on this great adventure called “Parenting”. We are filled with thankfulness to God for both the opportunity and the resources He provided to raise this little girl into the almost-adult she has become today. And on this day, as Sam looks forward to stepping into her twentieth year (as well as her final year of Undergrad study), we join her in anticipating the good things that are yet to come. These good things are part of the Good Plan that the Master has in store for her per Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.)

We are reducing our TEEN count from two to one today, and I see that as a good thing. God in His Infinite Wisdom, had factored in even this event in His Plan for us as parents. And just as my wife and I moved up from being just a couple to becoming parents through Sam, so also we hope and look forward to advancing to the next level.

So here’s to you Sam:

Number 6:24-26 “The LORD bless you  and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Have a happy 20th. With many blessings and all our love!

John and Sharmila (Dad and Mom)

June 17, 2009 at 8:53 am 4 comments

2 birds with 1 stone: Password strength and remembering the Word

Anyone who uses computers, whether for personal or professional reasons has dealt with passwords. Whether it is to access your email or unlock your account on the office PC, you have had to deal with at least a few passwords.

Since I work in IT and have to deal with many different computer accounts, I have to remember more than a fair share of passwords. And since these office accounts have elevated privileges, these passwords need to be secure in the sense that they shouldn’t be easy to guess. As a means of ensuring secure passwords, IT security policies or rules mandate that passwords contain a combination of numbers, alphabets, and special symbols and be of adequate length. Such rules ensure “password strength” and prevent hackers from using brute force “dictionary” attacks in which hacking programs repeatedly try using a combination of known names and phrases in the hopes that users would have used such “insecure” passwords. (You will be amazed by the number of passwords which are simply just the words “secure” and “password”!!!)

The flip side of enforcing password strength is that since the passwords created to abide by strict policies are difficult to remember, many users literally write them down on post-it notes stuck on their screens, thus defeating the whole purpose of using such strong passwords in the first place!

However….. On an entirely unrelated topic, we have very clear instructions from God about how to handle His Word the very first time He wanted this Word to be written down. In Deuteronomy 5:1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them”.

Later on in the very next chapter, God, speaking via Moses had very specific instructions about how to learn his Law and even gave us tips on how to remember them easily. In Deuteronomy 6:6 -8, He said “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates….” In other words, God wants us to incorporate His Word into our daily activities so that it will remain with us. After all, the Word is your only spiritual weapon that we need to wield as His soldiers!

Did I say “unrelated topic” just a few sentences ago? This is how I related both these requirements: Why not take an inspiring or encouraging verse that I want to remember and transform it into a password? This way, every time I use the password, my memory of the Word is refreshed. As well, I find it is easier to remember the plethora of passwords because it is based on His Word which is (and should be!) always close to me.

Let me explain this with an example. (Before the Security people crack down on me, this is just an example of a password that I have never used or plan to use!). Consider the verse “Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart”. Use the first letters from each word, and arrange them thus: “Pr3:5T1tLwayh”. I now have a combination of numbers, upper and lower case alphabets and even a special symbol (“:”). Notice that I converted the lower case “i” into a “1″ after the “T”. This is a favorite approach to further obfuscating passwords by converting letters to numbers. For example, the letter “e” converts to “3″ and the letter “o” converts to “0″. Even if you want to use a phrase in a password, you can trip up simple hacking programs by replacing letters with numbers.

My point is this: You can always find innovative ways of keeping God’s Word close to you while dealing with everyday mundane tasks. Whether it is listening to Christian music while exercising or driving to work, or in this particular case, using a :”worldly” requirement to strengthen your remembrance of a verse, we have ample opportunity to come closer to Him everyday. If you know of or use any such methods, let me know!

Many Blessings,
John Kanagaraj

PS: No birds were harmed while creating the subject line of this blog :)

January 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm 3 comments

From my brother: “For God’s sake, mind the Shift key. And the # key”

Hi all,

This is from my brother Peter Asivatham. Enjoy!

John Kanagaraj

For God’s sake, mind the Shift key. And the # key.
peter_asirvatham @ yahoo.co.in

Blame it on the mobile phone if you like to, the English language in SMS form is taking a beating in the hands of youngsters these days. Some of these SMS text messages baffle me. Sometimes without a re-read I cannot get the message of the text. Like the time I received one from a niece of mine some months ago. I was reading the Bible one morning when my mobile phone beeped announcing the arrival of a message and I diverted my attention to it from Moses pleading with The LORD for the Israelites. “Pls snd 2days msg i deltd it” read the message. It has been my practice for about three years now to send Bible verses by SMS every morning to family and friends. Apparently my niece had deleted some messages in her Inbox by accident and requested me to resend them. I promptly replied, “Which two days, yesterday’s and today’s?” and returned my attention to Moses. Within a few seconds my niece replied by resending the same message. This time I put Moses away and gave my full attention to the message. After re-reading I replied, “O my God. 2days as in today’s! Sorry, usage of numbers in words had me confused.” Back came the cryptic reply, “S”. Going to my Sent folder, I forwarded the verse of the day to her. There was no return message thanking me for the good deed done interrupted me as I resumed my study of Moses, but that was ok.

Technology is changing the way we communicate with others using the written word. There was a time when the Telegram – a short message sent by Morse code from one post office to the receiving post office, hand delivered to the addressed by a postman, even in the dead of night – was considered the fastest mode of communication. Today the humble SMS has taken that slot delivering similar messages right to the hand of the addressed, within the country or without.

Telephones were a rarity those days and it was the humble hand-written mail which people used to keep in touch with their loved ones. The written word held an important place in our lives those days.
Not that words have lost their importance these days, but they are mutilated and abused in many email and SMS messages. Sentences are constructed grossly, many times with a liberal sprinkling of numbers and character symbols in words. Punctuation and capitalisation, which give meaning and importance to words in sentences, are ignored. To some extent the Internet is to be blamed for this ignorance, for the World Wide Web used to be very case-sensitive. You have to type your email ID and password in lower case only to gain access to your mail box. Thanks to the Internet, the “lower case” has become popular.

The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439 and the Reformation started by Martin Luther in the middle of the 15th century are two events in history that had made the Word of God – The Bible – accessible to the layman.

With The Bible becoming the first book to be printed, other books were printed and soon this technological revolution fostered education like never before. Learning starts for toddlers with the alphabets – A, B, C, and then word associations: A for Apple, B for Ball and so forth. Learning to write follows learning the words. Stringing words together to form sentences that make sense follows learning words and writing. It is here that punctuations and capitalisation of words play the role that they are destined to play – i.e. to make sense. It is not my intention to insult your intelligence by going back to the basics of learning to write, but the whole point of the article is the importance of punctuations and capitalisation. Let me give just an illustration: the words “gods”, “Gods” and “God’s,” though they sound the same, obviously mean three different things.

Some years ago I peeked into Judaism to see what it says about the Divine. One of the first things that struck me was the way the word ‘God’ is written-”G_d”. There are some reasons why devout Jews drop the vowel “O” in the word “God”, but whatever the reasons maybe, there is a deeper meaning in this: when you come across the word it makes you pause and think, at least for a second about the Divine: What an awesome God our Creator is! The opening chapter of The Bible describes the love and affection God has for mankind. He took five days to make and provide a beautiful home for man and then, on the sixth day created man in his own image! Many times we do not accord God the respect that he truly deserves. Many times we take God for granted.

Many teachers and sociologists are worried about the way “SMS lingo” has crept into students’ writings, even in examinations. I’m not, for one moment, concerned about abbreviations of words. We all use quite a few of them in everyday speech and writings. For example: the letters 400 BC stands for 400 years “Before Christ” and AD for “Anno Domini” (The year of Our Lord). I’m concerned about the wholesale slaughter of words and sentences – butchered and truncated. I’ve received emails and SMS text messages from youngsters written with utter disregard for punctuations and capitalisation-with words like, “gods luv” and, “lord jesus christ”.

Does it really matter how we write our text messages and emails? Would God take offense if he is mentioned with a lower case “g” or “l”? How do you react when somebody misspelled or mispronounced your name? Or your parents’ or spouse’s or childrens’ names?

God alone knows how many English Queens and teachers would turn in their graves the way the English language is abused, not out of ignorance but out of convenience.

Blessings!

Peter Asirvatham

If you have any comments, please click on the link below to send them my way!

http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=pQs4SrVw55Be49HaaB28Kew

December 24, 2008 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

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