One Year Ago…

By Bindu Adai Mathew

One year ago, I was dreading the new year. My heart was full of stress as I sat on pins and needles as I worried whether my job would be affected by a merger my company underwent a few months before. My manager had already left, along with two other co-workers.

And then one month later, I got the dreaded news. As I feared, I was part of the “synergy” (a fancy word for layoff) that was a direct result of larger international company buying our already substantial national company. My role was deemed redundant, the VP informed me, and while he hated to let me go, he had little choice.

I began the dreaded job search with a heavy heart. As much as I tried to be positive, it wasn’t an easy time. But I had hope…because I had God’s promise that He could turn any situation around, even one that initially looked negative, to thrust me forward. I recall telling a co-worker that something good, even better was going to come out of this situation. While I truly believed that, I honestly didn’t always feel that in the weeks to come. Some days were hard and discouraging while other days, I just stood on God’s promise that He could bless me with an even better job.

And sure enough, that is exactly what He did. Just as my other job was coming to an end, I was offered a position with a much better company…one nationally ranked by Forbes magazine as “One of the Best Companies to Work For.” That meant an increase in salary as well as 100% of my insurance covered. Yep, even now, months later, I am amazed. Only God could have done that because I know those were doors I myself could never have pushed open. But that is the God we serve, my friends. A faithful, merciful, loving God. So whatever you’re facing today, remember that God can change your situation around, no matter how impossible or negative the situation appears to be. And one hour, one week, one month, or even one year from now, you may be looking back at your own life, in awe of where God has brought you.

This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. Psalms 118:23

Go Big or Go Home

By JMathis

In the past, my resolutions centered around developing the skill and discipline to embark upon BIG things. Baby steps, right? Get a gym membership, get in shape, and THEN sign up for a half marathon. Once I get in shape, I will endeavor to become graceful and dainty, so THEN I will be able to sign up for ice skating lessons.

On Saturday, I signed up for ice skating lessons. On Sunday, I signed up for a half marathon.

Hooray for me! All of that skill and discipline have finally paid off and I am the person I have always wanted to be!!

Except that I’m not.

I’m nowhere near the shape I want to be in to conquer even the first mile of a half marathon, and I nearly sliced my head off this weekend after getting onto the rink for the first time in 10 years.

Some may call it Conquering Your Fears, some may call it Setting Goals.

I call it Madness. The Year of Wild Faith. The year of living like I already possess the characteristics I need to take on the world. The year of stepping out in faith, and just being that person I have always wanted to be.

Some may characterize it as Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying, or Go Big or Go Home.

I prefer to view it as the year of radically and unconditionally trusting God, and knowing that He continues to keep me securely in the palm of His hand. Despite my failures. Despite my mistakes. Despite myself.

I look back and find that much of my life is living in hesitation. Living in waiting. Living in a constant state of preparation. Living in fear that I’m not capable of doing certain things. Living in the gray.

Constantly putting out fleeces and waiting for signs that I’m ready for battle.

I have to be reminded that the battle is His, not mine. He has already won, and the enemy has been defeated. He didn’t die for me so that I can be riddled with self-doubt and the fear of failure.

So, what are we waiting for?

It’s the year of BIG things. The year of climbing your Mount Everest.

You’re probably not ready. You’re probably not prepared, and you’re probably so terrified, you may want to consider investing in adult diapers.

But it’s time for you and me to stop thinking. No more over-analyzing and weighing the costs.  We’re not going to talk ourselves right back to second best.

After all, God didn’t wait to love us after we cleaned up our act. He loved us while we were sinners. While we continued hurting Him. While we continued to destroy ourselves. He radically and unconditionally loves us, even if the outcome is that we reject Him and turn our backs against Him.

He is all about Go Big or Go Home,

Now, it’s our turn.

A New Year’s Resolution Resolved!

By Bindu Adai Mathew

So one of my previous New Year’s resolutions (I just won’t admit to which year that was!) has been to publish. Well, truthfully, it goes beyond just being a yearly resolution but something I’ve always “dreamed” of doing.

Well, this is the year! My memoir “38 Candles” has been published to Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/38-Candles-ebook/dp/B00AOY0RNC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357043233&sr=8-1&keywords=38+Candles

And I’d like to share the first chapter with you…

Chapter 1:  The Birthday Candles

The flames of 38 candles dance in front of me, flickering and twisting. The happy, smiling faces of my husband and Ava, my one-year old daughter, look on as they eagerly wait for me to make my wish and blow out the candles. I stare mindlessly at the candles, each a marker of a year in my life. So many candles! Are there really 38 candles on that cake? Is it even possible that I have celebrated that many birthdays?

I close my eyes momentarily, silently making my not-so-secret wish, and then breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with air. I manage to blow out all the candles (except a few) as my husband claps. Ava, sensing the excitement, quickly joins in, her tiny hands clapping enthusiastically…and my husband and I both momentarily pause, sharing a look and a smile, as we both marvel at how together we have created such a beautiful, perfect being.

After gorging on the vanilla cake with too much buttercream icing, my husband puts Ava to bed for her afternoon nap while I clean up. As I put the dishes away and wipe down the counter, I gaze at the cake, again troubled by the sheer number of candles on it. It truly seems unfathomable. In a feeble attempt to reassure myself that I have truly celebrated 38 birthdays, as I remove each candle, I quickly attempt to recall what I did for each birthday. Some birthdays 1…2…3…4 are probably forever lost in my childhood subconscious…5 was my first birthday in America, having emigrated from India just a few months earlier. I remember it vividly, probably due to all the pictures taken by my parents. Birthdays 6…7…8…9…10…11 are all a blur, and 12 was my first and only real birthday party with all my friends from school. It was also the year my mom told me that it would be my last birthday celebration. She patted her burgeoning stomach, reminding me that at twelve years old, I was about to be a big sister and far too old now to be having birthday parties…13…14…15…16…17…18 were probably all small family celebrations with a simple homemade birthday cake after dinner…19 was when my college suitemates surprised me with cake and a song at the end of the night after I was convinced they had all forgotten…20 was uneventful as well with nothing more than good wishes from all my friends. My 21st birthday was when my roommate and I watched The Age of Innocence starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis. At that time, it was much more appealing than celebrating it at a bar or a club. I ushered in my 22nd with friends having dinner and planning our life milestones (Meet my future husband at 24, get married by 25, and have kids by 27—I had it all planned!). My 23rd birthday was another evening spent hanging out with friends, followed by a lecture the next day from my dad about the fact that I was getting older and should consider going to India to look for a husband since I wasn’t finding one in the U.S. Birthday number 24 was spent with friends, discussing why Mr. Right still hadn’t shown up in any of our lives and how even my trip to India a few months earlier, which I dubbed as Husband Search #1, had been unsuccessful…25 was spent tweaking my life timeline (Okay, meet my future husband by age 24 26, get married by 25 27, have kids by 27 29.). It was also my first birthday in grad school and I spent it alone…26 was when my grad school friends threw me my first real surprise party…27 was spent with friends again, followed by another talking-to the next day from my dad on how time was running out and I needed to get married ASAP and should consider going to India again….28 was spent with friends, moping about still being single. After another unsuccessful trip to India a few months earlier (Husband Search #2), which almost resulted in marriage (another long story), I came back alone, this time vowing never to go back to India just to look for a husband…29 was spent recovering from another disappointing setup, followed by a cathartic shredding of the paper that detailed the dates I would be married, have kids, etc.,…30 was my amazing trip to Italy as I celebrated the “fabulousness” of my single life. It was my “I don’t need a man” trip…31 was spent busily planning my wedding (I met my husband just four months after my “I don’t need a man” trip to Italy)…32 was my first birthday after marriage where I had a surprise full course breakfast in bed…33 was lunch at Chili’s with hubby…34 was lunch again with just my hubby at Islamorada…35 was my second real surprise party, thrown by my hubby, followed by a weekend trip to Naples, Florida, in an ocean-front suite at the Ritz Carlton…36 was spent in a cozy hotel room overlooking Niagara Falls with subzero temperatures outside…37 was spent recouping at home with my mom and enjoying the birth of Ava just the week before…and now, I was 38!

38.

3838…38…The numbers echo in my head like the rhythmic chiming of a grandfather clock.

38.

Just twelve years from 50. I cringe inwardly as I also realize that I am now officially closer to 50 than to 25.

The irony of it is that to twenty-somethings and teens, I am “old,” an almost forty-something in their eyes. But to the forty-somethings and older people, I am still relatively young, a summer chicken (as opposed to a spring chicken) with her whole life still in front of her.

As for me, I still look at myself and life through a twenty-something’s eye.

But it’s not the number that haunts me…well, at least not just the number, for it is a reminder—not only of what I’ve done each year of my 38 years – but more important, it is a reminder of what I’ve not done.

I think of the career woman I am not. The career ladder I never quite climbed. The six-figure income that I’m still shy of…and worst of all, that deep sinking feeling that at 38 years old, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I think of the one argument my husband and I have had over and over again about his desire for me to go back to college to get a different master’s degree, something that I have been determined to put off until I figure out what I am meant to do with my life.

Most of all, I think of the 400-plus-page manuscript stored on my computer hard drive, the one that I finally completed after 10 years of just talking about how I wanted to write a novel. After years of procrastination, a lack of discipline, and countless distractions, I knew the time had come to just do it. So finally, using every spare moment on weekends and evenings, I finally made time to write the novel I had always known I was meant to write, certain I was destined to be on the New York Times bestseller list. I completed it just before Ava was born. But now that same novel, post rejection by several agents, remains untouched on my computer hard drive, on the brink of being shelved and forgotten somewhere in cyberspace.

38.

For the rest of the day and into the night, the number hangs over me like a black cloud. It rings in my head over and over again, like a death knell, reminding me that time is running out.

Hearing God’s Voice

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Have you ever heard God’s voice? What does He sound like to you? Is it distinct or do you sometimes worry that it is your own conscience or inner voice speaking to you that you mistake for God?

As a child, I imagined if I ever heard God’s voice, it would sound something like James Earl Jones (aka the voice of Darth Vader, minus the heavy mechanical breathing, of course)…you know, a deep, rich, resounding,  low baritone.  Or maybe even like Charlton Heston.

But as I got older, I can’t recall audibly hearing God’s voice.  Often I  “heard” God speak through other people…a pastor whose sermon either convicted me or gave me food for thought or a friend whose advice was not only Biblical but also very practical. Even more often, I would read a scripture verse that I felt was directly speaking to me or even go through a situation where God would close all doors except the one that He wanted for me to walk through. While all those are legitimate examples of how God can speak to us, I wanted more…I wanted to audibly hear God. I wanted to hear his voice like I would hear my own husband’s voice. I wanted to hear His voice like Joyce Meyers or pastors often describe distinctly hearing God’s voice.

It wasn’t until recently when a friend told me about a  Bible study she was going through that was helping her discern God’s voice. Curious, I asked her to tell me about it because I knew this was something she, too, had struggled with.  One of the practical exercises that she shared was directly asking God what He wanted her to do.  Okay, I thought to myself, that is something I’ve definitely prayed for. So I wasn’t too far off then.  But then she added, “But after you ask God that, don’t say anything else. Just be quiet and wait for Him to answer.”

Whoa! I stared dumbfounded at my friend as that simple statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Ask God a question and then wait for Him to answer?! It sounded like something we’d do with anyone else, but when it comes to God, how often do we really give Him the chance to speak?

If I had to reflect on my prayers, I would have to admit how one-sided they always are. While I’m a good listener with friends, when I pray, I have diarrhea of the mouth.  I pray for my family, my friends, myself, and whatever world events are on my heart. I give God my prayers and petitions list which often read out like a “honey do” list. God fix this…help me with that…please do this…  As quickly as I let God know what’s on my heart, I say a quick Amen and go about my business. I never wait to hear what’s on God’s heart. How ironic that I, who had wanted to hear God’s voice, had never given God the chance to speak! Perhaps, if I were even more honest with myself, I would have realized that while I wanted to hear Him, I didn’t believe I really could or that He would even speak to me in a way distinct, audible voice.

So let me challenge you as I challenge myself…starting this week, as you pray, ask God to speak to you. And then be quiet and listen…you never know how God will choose to answer!

 Jeremiah 29:13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

In the Cocoon

By JMathis

Lately, I have been feeling stuck. Not stuck in a rut, but definitely stuck in a holding pattern. It’s as if I have purchased my plane ticket to the lush forests of Costa Rica, packed my belongings, boarded the plane, but now am just sitting on the runway waiting to takeoff.

Mind you, a few years ago, I hadn’t even purchased a “plane ticket”.

Now that was a rut in every sense of the word.

I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t even know if I was meant to go some place. I just knew that I was sitting in my Flintstones-era car, trying to foot-pedal as fast as I could, to somewhere, to anywhere, but was stuck in a pile of pre-historic mud.

That was me, manufacturing the terms of my relationship with the Lord. Trying to kick-start things in my own way, but failing miserably. All because I was too busy to hear Him. Too restless to find Him.

Now, God and I are cool. Really cool. I really do weep now every time I think about Him and all that He means to me. Literally, weep.

This may sound super-spiritual, but in real life, it’s actually quite embarrassing and strange. I’ll be in the middle of grocery shopping, or out with friends, and puddles of tears and snot just start streaming down my face. My heart may be bursting with excitement at the thought that He is near, but meanwhile, I actually look like some hound dog frothing at the mouth.

So, yes, it is embarrassing and strange, but hey, I’m totally digging this place where my Creator has led me.

He even spoke to me in April and told me to be a writer. Yes! I have direction in my life for the first time ever!! Woohoo! I was finally going places! I was elated. There I was, sitting in this serious state of prayer and meditation, and I felt every fiber within me being re-born to write volumes, pages and books about His goodness.

And, then, as clearly as I heard Him, I stopped writing.

Not due to lack of desire, not due to a lack of time. But, I was simply struck speechless. There I was, without a single word left in me.

This chick, who always had something to say, who often could never shut up, was being rendered mute from a writing perspective.

It’s as if the Lord clearly manifested Himself to me and told me to be a writer, and then proceeded to take my pen away upon that very same revelation.

I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this.” Psalms 39:9

So, here I sit stuck. Stuck with inexpressible emotions of joy and gratitude. Stuck in an ocean of grace and purpose. Stuck with plane tickets to a glorious destination.

Stuck without words.

Call it writer’s block, call it a rut. But, deep down, I know it’s neither.

It’s as if I’m a vending machine, being filled up daily with all sorts of goodies, but unable to dispense a single piece of candy.

More precisely, I’m in the cocoon.

I’m not the caterpillar I was, but I’m also not yet the butterfly I am called to be. I’m something unrecognizable to me, but nonetheless, still brimming with endless hope and potential.

I am learning how to be mute, how not to be me, so that His words alone can speak. So that His words can burst through my cocoon and pour out words of healing, help and restoration.

Volumes, pages and books. All unsaid in the cocoon, just waiting to be spoken.

See you on the other side.

The Fire

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

The fire is the situation or circumstance in your life that promises to overtake you, consuming you in its flames. We’ve all been through the fire in our personal lives in various situations. You know, when the stress of your situation seems so overwhelming that you can’t sleep at night. Your stomach is in constant knots, and your heart rate palpitates erratically at any given time.

The fire is stressfully uncomfortable. The fire is hot and pressure-filled and going through it can feel like a slow, never-ending torture. Our natural inclination is to avoid the fire at all costs.  We often think that when we go through the fire, we did something wrong.  And sometimes that is the case. Sometimes the situation we’re in is nothing less than the consequence for a poor decision we made. But sometimes, like Job, the fire sneaks up on us like a lion about the devour its prey. It stealthily envelops us despite our innocence.

In either case, fire can be refining. Like pouring alcohol into an open wound, the fire, too, refines and purifies. It takes our spirit to the place where we seek God and experience the peace that only He can provide.

But the Bible promises us 2 things when we are in the midst of the fire:  1. He is with us.  2. He will bring us through.

The Book of Daniel talks about 3 men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who also went through the fire—literally! King Nebuchadnezzar had built a gold idol ninety feet high and commanded everyone to bow before it any time they hear music. Three Jews— Meshach, and Abednego—refused to worship the idol and as punishment, were thrown into a fiery furnace.

19Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, O king.”

25He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

26Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

If He wanted, God could have easily prevented them from being thrown in the fire. But rather than preventing it, He allowed them to go through it. My favorite part is that He not only sustained them, but He was with them. And I love how when they were released from the furnance, not only were their bodies and clothes unharmed but they didn’t even smell of smoke.

Wow. Only our God could do that. Now the question is do you believe He can do that for your life? Do you believe you, too, can come out of your “fire” unscathed, even to the point where the circumstance does not even linger on your life in the smallest way?

Miracles always begin with faith and obedience. Before they were thrown into the furnace, look at the attitude of the three men:

14and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

They believed that God could rescue them, but they also acknowledged that even if He, in His Divine Will, chose not to help them, that He was still the one and true God.

Although God is infinitely able, He may not rescue you the way you’d prefer. I’ve also been disappointed that God has allowed me to go through certain circumstances in my life. But if it weren’t for those circumstances, neither would I have seen His Hand working in my life. I wouldn’t have seen His Hand of Providence providing for my every need at the right time…His time, not mine…

Challenge yourself to see the “fires” of your life differently. View them, not as punishment, but as refinement…as purification. Because that is what He does with all of us…remaking us into His own image.

Growth and Change

By JMathis

Life is about the continuous handoff between growth and change. Growth begets change. Change begets growth.

It is easy to see this handoff in children, as their daily, weekly and yearly milestones contribute to their transformation from infancy into adulthood. We, as adults, even contribute to this handoff in our children through daily encouragement, support and the minimization or removal of any obstacles which are hurled in their direction.

It is less easy to see this handoff in adults. We often get lost in the weeds, focusing more on our failures rather than our blessings. Our pride brings us into isolation, causing us to steer away from a helping hand. While external obstacles to our growth and change seem to surmount over time, so too, do the obstacles which are created and maintained by our own doing—by the daily limitations we beset upon ourselves.

The Story of Redemption demands and dictates that we are a people who are meant to grow and change.

The Story of Redemption is itself a story of growth and change.

What was meant for the Jews alone, became readily available through grace to the Gentiles.

Growth for the Jews is to see Jesus as the Messiah. Change for the Gentiles is to accept the God of the Jews as the only way to salvation.

The inability of both the Jew and the Gentile to grow and change, tramples the magnanimity of the divine, leaving us all in the morass of sin and shame.

Growth and change. Change and growth. The handoff that allows humanity to experience the life-changing transformation of the Almighty.

Growth and change are even choked within many of us, both Jew and Gentile, who openly acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.

While many of us may call Him the Savior, we don’t search Him out in the day-to-day. Instead of embracing Him as our source for daily growth and change, we seek self-transformation and affirmation through the faulty perceptions of others and the false images perpetuated by the media.

His miraculous saving power remains untapped and hidden within us, because we don’t call upon Him for daily encouragement and support. Because we don’t wait upon Him for the removal of any obstacles which are hurled in our direction.

Our pride beckons us to resolve life’s disasters on our own. Our isolation deepens the chasm between God Almighty and His creation.

Growth and change are strangled, and the handoff is incomplete.

We alienate ourselves from the Helping Hand of the Father, when we focus on our failures rather than our blessings; when we embark upon self-reliance rather than self-sacrifice and dependence upon Him.

We remain in fear, sickness and doubt—obstacles that were lovingly, compassionately and supernaturally removed by our Heavenly Father through the Story of Redemption.

The Story of Redemption demands and dictates growth and change.

Spend time with the Father by reading His Word. Cry out to the Son by calling upon His name. Listen for the whispers of the Holy Spirit and wait to hear His Voice.

The Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation are here, present and alive within you. For your sustenance. For your strength. For your every need.

They are here for your journey towards Growth and Change. Change and Growth.

The Story of Redemption has only one requirement: fear not; only believe.

Let the handoff be complete.