For 30 Years – Gratitude!

For 30 years of life…
I thank my Lord,
The Creator of All!
The Harbinger of Beauty!!
The King of kings!!!

For 30 years of being blessed with
A Wise, Industrious and Loving Mom
A Gentle, Principled and Hardworking Dad
An Affectionate, Faithful and Encouraging Sister
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of being
Redeemed and made
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of
Serving and enjoying
His Loving-kindness
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of  relishing
History and
The Arts
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of being with
Music and
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of
Great Friends
Being Loved and
Loving in return
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of
Wealth and
I thank the Lord!

For 30 years of life…
I thank my Lord,
The Creator of All!
The Harbinger of Beauty!!
The King of kings!!!

Black Hawk Down – A Lesson on Love

The movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a non WWII war film that is riveting in its realism of depicting the workings of a modern war fought in the urban cities. In spite of the incessant violence in the role of ‘Hoot’ played by Eric Bana I found a poignant lesson of love.

Hoot rugged looking handsome and brave insurgent that works behind enemy lines. While every soldier is supportive, helpful and anxious, Hoot appears standoffish, unloving and almost incapable of compassion. In the battlefield he is decisive, brave and appears to love war that you might want to label him a jingoist. One might want to say that Hoot is either a sadist who loves violence or he is a man who has been hardened by years of living life the hard way at the edge of mortal danger.

The Delta force that Hoot is a part of raids a rebel stronghold. They massively underestimate the enemy firepower and get badly beaten. Not knowing what hit them, large numbers of troops are trapped behind enemy lines. As the trapped soldiers make their way out into the safe zone they get butchered as they fight their way through. After hours of battle, being chased and shot down as though they were dogs, a group of soldiers make it through and Hoot is among them.

While the soldiers that made it through rest feeling safe and blessed to have made it to the safe zone, Hoot retools to go back behind the enemy lines. Sgt. Eversmann is flabbergasted that Hoot wants to go back behind the Enemy lines after having been through hell and back. He asks…

Sgt. Eversmann: You going back in?

Hoot, the seemingly unfeeling in-compassionate machine of a man gives a impassioned poignant reply explaining his rationale for taking this crazy risk…

Hoot: There’s still men out there. Goddam. When I go home people ask me, they say “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? Why??? You some kind of war junkie? I won’t say a goddam word… Why??? They won’t understand… They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand, it’s about the men next to you. And that’s it. That’s all it is. 

There is a deep Christian principle in what Hoot is saying here. If you truly loved your Neighbor as you should, you will do what needs be done. If need be, you will go behind Enemy lines to save souls. When I think of this tall, sharp nosed, handsome Hoot, I am reminded of an ugly, short, (supposedly) large nosed man who lived a couple of millenia ago and loved going behind Enemy lines to save souls, St. Paul.

To Paul, going to Rome was to go behind the Enemy lines. To be right under the nose of the Great Caesar and preach that Caesar isn’t God but Christ is, is asking to get killed. But Paul is eager to do it, Why? Because he feels an ‘obligation’ to the ‘neighbor’ both Jew and Gentile.

Romans 1:
13. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul is no crazy adventure junkie. He has a reason why He eagerly risks going behind enemy lines. He explains… that it is because the Gospel he preaches is ‘powerful’ enough to change ‘people groups’.

Romans 1:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

If you know anything about History, you’ll know that the Gospel is the Power of God that transforms people groups. It may not happen overnight. It usually takes centuries. Since Paul got behind enemy lines it took about three centuries before Rome turned from being the seat of a Pagan power to a well spring of Christianity.

The famed Historian Will Durant when describing this age of Early Christianity succinctly says, “Christ and Caesar met in the arena and Christ won” (BTW, Will Durant was no Christian. He was just a good historian.)

That there were men out there that needed to be saved was preeminent on Hoot’s mind. It defined who Hoot was. That men needed to hear the Gospel, that it was his ‘obligation’ was preeminent on Paul’s mind. It defined who St. Paul was. The question that 21st Century Christians might want to ask ourselves is what thought take such preeminence in our minds that it defines us. 

Not every Christian has to have a St. Paul like ministry, but all of us have preeminent thoughts in our minds that define us to such an extent that we appear crazy to other people. Crazy people are attractive. It is the normal run of the mill folks that are vapid. As Christians aren’t called to be run off the mill people. We are called to be crazily in love with our neighbor that others will see that and be attracted to Christ.

John 13:
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Going behind enemy lines looks different for different people. To Paul it was going to Rome to fulfill his obligation to love his neighbor. To us it might be spending time with a friend to make him/her feel valued or may be lending money to people who need help or just being with people listening to their suffering without venturing to give half-baked prognosis as Job’s friends did or just doing whatever it take to make one realize one is loved.

To love is to risk. To love much is to risk much. If the ‘new commandment’ to crazily love is something that would truly be preeminent in our minds, if this would truly define us as Christians, that would be a place where the Power of God transforming people groups through the Gospel would be easily apparent and would attract people to Christ. Unless Christians understand this transformational lesson on love, we will miss an opportunity to help the pagans understand the language of love that Christ speaks in.

Saving Power of Imagination!

My introduction to Woody Allen movies was through his later film ‘Midnight in Paris‘. I liked Woody Allen’s use of imagination in the movie. ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a story about a couple, Gil and Inez, engaged to be married that go to Paris for vacation to celebrate their engagement. The lady’s personality is that of a ‘philistine’ in that she lives in the ‘material’ world cares pretty much for nothing else other than good food, dressing well and exciting sex. The man on the other hand has a finer tastes for life. Gil is thrilled that he is in Paris the city of dreams for the quintessential artist.

The man and the woman see and experience very different worlds in Paris. Inez goes about the city uninterested, disenchanted and ends up having an affair with the guide. Gil on the other hand, finds his imagination getting fired up. He can’t get enough of the city and goes about exploring it. Inez sees no point in enjoying the night walk in Paris. Gil goes it alone. It is in one such midnight walk that a carriage pulls by and he is asked to hop over into it. He gets transported into the Paris of the 1920s when it was thriving richly with a host of young Bohemian artists. He meets everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein and spends the night in their August company. This happens every night. Gil lives a dream life in his imagination. He is a happy man.

The question here is… What do you make of Gil’s imaginary world? Does it really matter that the guy has such a powerful capacity for imagination? Or may be he needs to see a Psychiatrist? Why make such a big deal of this imaginary world? Should we just dismiss this cinematic depiction of the power of living in an imaginary world as a crazy old Woody Allen’s attempt at making mediocre movies towards the tail end of his career.

I think the answer to this question is implied at the end of the movie in how Paris changes the lives of the couple. Gil is not looking for anything specific in Paris to satisfy him. He surrenders to allow himself to be surprised by his imagination. The more Gil is drawn into this beautiful imaginary world, the happier he is in the real world. That he does not get any sexual satisfaction from his bride to be is immaterial to him when compared with the beautiful imaginary world he is a part of. The woman on the other hand presumably gets ALL she the exciting sex she thinks will make her happy, but ultimately ends up dissatisfied.

When Inez finally confesses that she has been has been having an affair with a mutual friend of theirs and wants to break-up, Gil isn’t the slightest bit perturbed which infuriates her all the more. Gil was living in such a beautiful world of imagination that the pleasures offered in the real world seemed mediocre. His imagination was powerful enough to make life satisfying for him. He did not need a ‘hot wife’ after all. He has his eyes set on a world where ones satisfaction isn’t determined by ones needs but by ones ability to be eternally surprised by imagination.

I think there is a Christian principle here. Just like Gil is satisfied by the hope, joy and love offered by the imaginary world do that he does not care much for the mediocre pleasures of the real world, the Christian is to be satisfied by the hope, joy and love of the Heavenly world so that sometimes when we have to give up some of the pleasures of this world it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

The Bible uses our imagination to enthuse us about the great goodness of the Heavenly world. The Bible talks abstractly about the next world in terms of the length, breadth and height of the treasures God has prepared for those that love Him. Then the Bible also talks concretely about streets of gold, sea of glass, great mansions. This abstract and concrete figures of speech is meant to fire-up our imagination so that in the imagination empowered Hope of the things to come, we would endure the hardships of this world.

If we do not use our imagination to envision, explore and be enthralled by the Hope we have in Christ we, like Inez will see a very ‘reductionistic’ world and will ultimately begin seeking after silly pleasures to satisfy us. Christians like Gil have to be people with fired-up imaginations so that we see that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We should go about exploring the world through the Word of God. The imagination empowered vision of the World painted by the Bible will help us set our priorities right and live a happier and FULLER life in this world and the next. Unless Christians use their imagination to see the BIG world that God created and called us to be in, we would become a bunch of petty people seeking after silly stuff in a reductionistic world. Imagination saves us from this narrow focus by helping us SEE the great things God has in store for those that love Him.