Friday, February 24, 2012

God Stories – A Test of Admission 3!

 A Test of Admission - Part 3

Over the past few weeks I have felt prompted to write stories from my history and walk with God. I don’t think I need to pen them in chronological order but  rather as I feel led to write. These are my stories of challenges, steps and leaps of faith. I hope you are blessed and encouraged to trust this eternal, faithful  God, Jesus. Here goes....

  Once again we fast forward several years where Andrew is now a teenager  and on the brink  of college admissions.
Our son has been working away at different sums in Accounts. The temptation is to do just a few  sums in each topic and hurry on. His father was explaining to him that the reason there are 20 sums in each topic is not to make your life miserable but to help you gain mastery over it from every angle as each sum has a different twist teaching you a different principle related to that topic. One often thinks that when you go through one of life’s test and come out of it  you may never have to revisit it again. 

But I am learning that that it not necessarily true. God takes us through similar situations but each has its unique shape and testing.

Fast forwarding to 2011. Our son is now a grown young man of 16years, standing 6.3feet tall. He has had many amazing stories of God’s testing and faithfulness in his own life that he could well start his own blog. ( maybe one day!).   With Andrew having just finished his last year of school the thought foremost in our  minds like most parents  with children in that stage of life is, college admissions. Its a mad rat race here where competition is thick and stiff. People don’t share information willingly thinking you may rob them of their opportunities. Little do they know that our lives are safe in the hands of a sovereign God who orchestrates our lives and gives us the BEST over ruling the “powers ofhell and the schemes of man”.

The results were declared while we were on holiday in Goa. We were thrilled with the results but nervous about not being there to fill in the Admission forms. Mad scrambles to the place that had wi-fi followed, so we could look things up the net. We were relieved to find the there were a few days before admissions would open up and forms would be collected at the colleges of our choice. We had narrowed down our choice to two very good colleges but both offering very different subjects and both of which seemed good . The time came to submit the forms, get all our documents in order and attested. I must admit I was nervous. I had to consciously fight faithless thoughts. I chided myself for being anxious and spoke to myself about resting and being still.

Having given in the forms and admission tests done we awaited the results. College A  called us for an interview which went very well and  it seemed like Andrew had got through. We got a call for an interview from College B as well. The results of College A  were supposed to announced within a couple of days, and that of College B a  few days after. Frankly we were all torn between the two though our leanings were more toward college B as the choice of subjects were more the kind Andrew was inclined toward. We  were also told  that college B  was tougher to get into and had only 30 seats in Andrew’s choice of subject. We prayed that the Lord would open just one door.

The day came when College A‘s list ought to have been out. That day we got an email and sms from college B saying that they have preponed the results and that the list would be up the next day and we were given only two days to secure the admission!! This was looking to be a nail biting finish – would we be left with the burden of choice?

We prayed. Colin went to college A to check the results and there was no list up. They insisted the list was up on the website and we should check there. However no such list appeared. Both situations were highly irregular – the list not appearing and the College B bringing the date forward.

In a couple of Days College B’s list would be out and we had not seen college A’s list yet even though they insisted it was out.  In a couple of days we got an email from college B congratulating him on securing admission and requesting us to pay the fees within two days. It seemed like we were being nudged toward this door. We held  out for a day wanting to be absolutely sure this was the right choice to make.

The day finally came when we had to take the plunge . We went ahead and paid the fees at College B sensing this was God’s leading. Fees paid, admissions secured we rested easy, though curious about College A.

The next day Colin went to college A out of curiosity to see if there was any list put up. Lo and behold! a list of students securing admission was up on the notice board and Andrew’s name was amongst them. We could only smile and say when He acknowledge Him, He does make our path straight and makes the choice clear. God held out the result of College A from us to relieve us of the burden of choice and nudge us in the way He wanted for Andrew. He also wanted us to know that Andrew had done well enough to secure admission in both.

God is interested – very interested, in every detail of our lives and our children. God is faithful , He never leaves us  confused, nor do we ever walk alone!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Like frogs in the pot?

Several conversations in the recent past have got me thinking about several things. I have lived most of my life a Christ follower. The Bible has been the corner stone of my beliefs, ethos, and world view for as long as I can remember. And there are many others like me. Many of us have grown up in a “Christian environment, Christian home, Christian church that preaches the Word of God in spirit and in truth”. Yet I see disturbing trends among st Christians all around. I see many frog- like Christians

What do I mean? The world around us has a set values, ethos, world view that is powerful and contrary to the Word of God. As we interact and engage with it we are always in danger of taking on its values, ways of thinking and lifestyle. Have we become casual about the standards of God and even look upon them as narrow, irrelevant and outdated? If so,we have become like frogs in a cauldron of water on the boil, and we are slowly getting cooked alive without realizing it.

I ask myself am I in the danger of losing my distinctness, my radical edge, the set apartness. A good question to ask is, “do my friends, neighbours, relatives, colleagues see something different in me?” Or have I been walking on the edge of the kingdom so much that I am walking in darkness’ shadows rather than reflecting the light of the God?

Has the Word ceased to dwell richly in us, challenging us, admonishing, teaching, instructing our hearts in which way we should go? Or do we resort to it as a quick fix paracetamol for the headache, the promotion, the exam?

Here are some questions I have been pondering upon. You could ask these questions and reflect along with me.

1.Education am I pursuing what God wants me to do or am I just blindly doing what everyone else is doing or what we get me the most money even if it takes me away from fellowship and God? 

My story:I remember having had to make this choice – to take up the scholarship to do a Ph. D at Oxford or do what I believe God wanted me to do. God’s ways are not ours – but when we yield to it you find abundant life lies therein. The Word says "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight" Proverbs 3:6. God is not a kill joy - He wants the best for us.

2. Job- am I overly ambitious for promotions, money at the cost of time with my family, health , things of the kingdom .When God instituted the Sabbath he did it for our good so that we would not be worn out, run to the ground and that we would find our sustenance in the house of God. But how many  Christians are guilty of flouting this God given principle and even rationalising their lack of honouring God? Today people almost don’t question the system that demands you work more than 10 hours every day and routinely give up your weekends because of “emergencies” that crop up at work? Have we become modern day slaves of Egypt where we no longer have the time, energy or mind space to worship and meditate and get involved in the things of God? We are slowly getting cooked and our life is being sucked out from us.
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deut. 8:18

 Our Story:I remember when Colin came to India and got a call from two good Computer companies. One offered him a higher salary and a house (the biggest bait you could give in a city like Mumbai) and the other offered a lower salary and no housing. Here was the difference – the company offering the house expected you to work long hours, and weekends if needed. The other company had regular hours and would very rarely call you in on a Saturday but never on a Sunday.  The choice was clear – the later. And have we suffered for it? Far from it. God has given us more than we could ask or imagine.

Here is another one – do I jump at transfers without a thought of what it will do to my family or my spiritual growth. Would I be willing to be radical and forgo the promotion etc, take a cut back in my already heavy pay package for the sake of things of eternal value and trust God to make it up to me. Do I value being in the center of God's will and plan for my life more than anything else? Remember the one who made the sun, moon and stars is no mans debtor.

3. Marriage- here is a big one! When it comes to this do I fall back on traditionalism rather than biblical ways. Do I challenge and stand up to wrong practices in my culture and family setting? I am shocked at how many Christians still follow the “dowry” custom without calling it that yet extracting their pound of flesh. How many girls’ families are in debt to the tune of lakhs of rupees because of the subtle demands and expectations put on them during the “match fixing” meet? When will young men and women stand up for righteousness? How many cultures expect the girl’s family to bear all the wedding expenses and don’t bat an eye lid over it – yes I am talking about Christians the world over!!!

 Our Story: – we cut our coat according to our cloth. We did not have as many guests as everyone in the family would have liked. Yes it made some people unhappy, but where are they today? We chose not to make any gold ornaments except our engagement and wedding rings – this is completely contrary to the Indian custom. We decided that we (Colin and I) would pay for our own wedding expenses and we would split the expenses 50 -50.Radical? Yes – but worth it.  We do not have grudges being held against  inlaws for unfulfilled promises to give certain amounts of money or bear certain expenses and that are still being talked about years after the marriage.   We kept our cost low and started marriage totally debt free – freeing ourselves and our parents of any unnecessary financial burdens. It can be done!! Neither our parents nor us heard “people talking” which is the big fear people live under.

4. Children – Do we send the wife off to her mother’s home or do we uphold the primary relationship between husband and wife? There is no harm in the mother coming over to help with the new born, but to separate man and wife for months on end – is it biblical? I am also told that tradition has it that the expenses connected with the birth of the first child has to be borne by the wife’s parents.  My friends if you are reading this, can you see this for what it is? Do we succumb to superstitious practices related to child bearing etc? ( black marks, shaving off the babies hair etc etc ) We need to be ready to challenge things at every level. Let’s keep the plumb line the word of God.
Do children become a curse of blessing? Ouch!!! What do I mean? I have often seen people hide behind their children as a shield for their laziness toward God and the kingdom. They claim that they cannot make to time to church or serve because they now “have a child” as thought they have caught some deadly disease.

 Our Story:I remember playing my guitar and flute all the 9 months of my pregnancy. I came early to the church meeting to set up as was part of my duty as a worship musician. We continued to do loads of hospitality through my pregnancies and even after the children were born. We attended scores of meetings and taught our children to fit into the family schedule. We are a family together on a mission !
When we moved to Pune, we were the only ones on the serving team initially i.e Colin, 7 year old Andrew and 6 month old Jessica. We would carry all the stuff to church and set up. I would lead worship and then go out and nurse my baby. After the meeting we would knock down and come home and have people over for a meal. This has been our practise and still is. How does one do it? When you ask God for his enabling grace, He gives it to you. That is my story.

So many things in our lives and culture need to be redeemed by the cross. What do I mean? I mean we need to subject every thought pattern, ethos, cultural practise to the Word of God .Our lives need to be radically obedient, and then it will be radically different and fruitful.

These are just a few things – there is soo much more. Take finance – that’s an area that needs deep challenging. I think a lot has been pondered upon here. Lets jump out of the pot and be radical for Jesus!

Navaz D Cruz

Thursday, February 16, 2012

God Stories – A Test of Admission 2!

A test of admission - Part 2
Over the past few weeks I have felt prompted to write stories from my history and walk with God. I don’t think I need to pen them in chronological order but  rather as I feel led to write. These are my stories of challenges, steps and leaps of faith. I hope you are blessed and encouraged to trust this eternal, faithful  God, Jesus. Here goes....

A few years after Andrew’s schooling years began, we felt called to move to Pune to pastor and nurture the beginnings of a new church plant. We were confident and excited about our move. We knew that God had called us here, we started all the preparations to move 180 km away from Mumbai, family, familiar surroundings, and a great home church. Part of the preparation was looking out for schools in this new city. Trips back and forth between cities began, now with a new addition to our family- Jessica.

It was in the hot month of March that we came to Pune on our first trip as a family: Andrew 6 years old and Jessica 3 months old. We took the train journey in the blistering heat. Pune was a city I was familiar with as many  a childhood holiday was spent at my aunt’s place in the cantonment of Khadki.But nothing prepared me for the transformation this sleepy little city had morphed into. There was rapid development taking place with frantic building activity everywhere. There were huge suburbs being added to the city expanding its boundaries everyday into areas one had never seen before.

This trip to Pune was to do with Andrew’s Entrance Test to a school we had no doubt he would get into, as his average performance was over 95%.  Having done the test and met with the people of this fledgling church we returned to Mumbai buoyant and full of faith.

A few days later we were only expecting to hear good news. But when the list was put up Andrew’s name did not feature there. We were shocked and confused.  It defied all logic! There had to be a mistake! We tried in vain to get some information to no avail. Being a Christian School we thought it would be a cake walk on so many counts. But the door seemed tightly shut.

From the last experience I learnt that God is a gracious provider and it is not wise to pry open a door He has shut. I wondered where and how a new door would open. Anxious thoughts would try and get me but I would remind myself of God’s goodness to me in the past. I was also beginning to realize that church planting is not for the faint hearted – there is an enemy who does not like what were are about and wants to make it as difficult for us in every possible way.

 Divine corridor conversations:That evening had taken Andrew to his school grounds ( near our home in Bandra, Mumbai) to play  (it was a daily routine). I was chatting with one of the mums as Jessica dozzed in her stroller. She asked me how the move to Pune was coming along and I mentioned this hurdle of school admissions.  When I mentioned the name of the school she looked at me perplexed and asked  me why I had not considered the sister school of the one Andrew was presently in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a sister school and lost no time in making inquiries.

We applied for admission; Andrew appeared for the entrance test and secured a seat in a very fine school run by the Jesuits, the masters in education. We were over awed and over joyed at God’s leading, guiding and nudging us on the path he has chosen for us. Once again this school cost us a fraction of what it would have been had we secured admission in the first.  I could truly say again that  5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”Psalm 16:5-6.

However our testing on this score doesn't end here. We meet like old acquaintances once again many years later. Read about it in the next blog!

Navaz D cruz
Feb 2012-02-16

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God Stories 1 – A Test of Admission!

Over the past few weeks I have felt prompted to write stories from my history and walk with God. I don’t think I need to pen them in chronological order but  rather as I feel led to write. These are my stories of challenges, steps and leaps of faith. I hope you are blessed and encouraged to trust this eternal, faithful  God, Jesus. Here goes....

Colin and I got married in 1991 a few days before Christmas. We both had successful careers – I lecturing in College and Colin jet setting  around the world training people on proprietary software the Dutch company he worked for  wrote and developed. We enjoyed the “good life” living abroad and travelling to many countries. But this did not really feel like the “good life”. We both sensed God had a call on our lives.
So, in 1993 June we gave up our careers to do a 9 month intensive training with the church and thereafter  join the church staff in full time service. This took us spiralling down financially. What we used to tithe now became our monthly income!! But we were overjoyed to serve and give ourselves to something that would last forever – The Church. We learned to tighten our purse strings, budget, be generous, do hospitality all within that meagre amount. We learned to be content in plenty and in want. Every month we would see 5 loaves and 2 fish multiply in our hands.
Andrew's first day of Pre- School.
 Then in June of 1995 we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy – Andrew. We saw God’s sovereign provision where we lacked no good thing. Fast forwarding a few years – Andrew was 4+ and it was time to send him to pre- school. We had our eye on a fine pre- school that had a super reputation for good education. But to our horror we were confronted with fees that would be nearly 30% of our salary and we had to pay up 6 months fees in advance. I was very disappointed and even angry thinking to myself “Lord, I’ve given up everything for you and now this??” But I quickly repented of that sinful thought and surrendered to a sovereign God who knows what is best for us and our children.  I prayed for God’s miraculous provision if it was His will that we take admission into this school as we did not have that kind of money.
That evening a friend dropped in to visit and we got talking about schools and fees etc. He casually mentioned that they had just got their son into a preschool close to our home which was very good and much cheaper. But he warned us that admissions are over and that people usually queue up at 5 in the morning to get an admission form for this place. “Great!!!” I thought, “Let’s give it a try, we have nothing to lose”.

Fancy Dress
Robin Hood!
The gang at Kids R Us with
teacher Rosemary.
Later that evening another friend along with his wife dropped by to chat and before leaving put an envelope in our hands!!Now this does not usually happen to us (people putting money in our hands). The amount was generous but nowhere near what we needed. I was still seeking God’s guidance and leading. Later that evening, I called the other preschool recommended by our friend  and introduced myself. We realized that the teacher and I had common friends etc. I then broached the subject of admissions to her preschool. She paused and said, “You are very lucky, I have just one seat left because one child has just dropped out of school!” I knew it was not luck. I was beginning to sense  God’s divine orchestration. I then tentatively broached the subject of fees. She gave me the break up of the Admission fees, the first month’s fees and activity fees all of which was a fraction of the cost of the other school. There were no advance fees to be paid but only on a monthly basis. I was also required to buy a couple of book, a Tiffin box and Water Bottle. When I did the calculation for all this it all fit in exactly in the amount that was in the envelope our dear friends earlier that evening had placed in our hands.

I was awe struck at God’s sovereign leading and gracious provision.  Both Colin and I marvelled at His divine guidance which has always been with us. I had asked for divine provision for the school fees and God was not slow to answer, just not in the way I was asking!! Andrew went to a wonderful pre -school and enjoyed his first year of formal education under the very skillful tutelage of a wonderful teacher whom he went to meet (as a 6 foot tall young man) on completing his schooling years.
You would have thought we had learned our lesson.  Well three years later we found ourselves at similar cross roads. What happened and how that story ends  needs to be told in the next Blog post!

Navaz D Cruz
Feb 2012