He Is Risen!

“A man who was completely innocent offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” -Mahatma Gandhi

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“Here is the amazing thing about Easter; the Resurrection Sunday for Christians is this: that Christ in the dying moments on the cross gives us the greatest illustration of forgiveness possible.” – T.D. Jakes

To those who believe and revere the day: Have a blessed and joyous Resurrection/Easter Day!

A Bit of Christmas Every Day

Yes, another ‘Christmas’ post! Why? You might ask. The day has come and gone.

Not for me. The so-called “Holiday Season” carries on for me through to New year, as calendar days go. I love this time of the year and loathe letting it go. So…

I wish I could bottle the spirit of Christmas in jars. Yes, and open each jar every month for a dose of ‘spirit’!

Actually, I do. I do store a bit of Christmas in my heart. Little pockets of the cheer, the joy, the hope and the love; the promise. Life for me is a celebration of all these things that culminate every year, in Christmas…a date; a day on the calendar, when everyone who believes joins in a common celebration and in gratitude for God’s love towards mankind.

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Unless you have carried Christmas in your heart, throughout the year, you’re not going to find it under a tree! Sure, there’ll be gifts, the kind you can buy off, of shelves in a store. The gifts of true value, however, cannot be bought but they can be received because they were paid for a long time ago. All you have to do is open your heart to get them. And the best part is…they’re available throughout the year! You don’t have to stand in long queues, wait for sales, scout for them in a hundred shops…you just have to ask and receive.

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The babe whose birth we welcome and worship, on Christmas, came to give us those gifts of love and salvation. He paid a high price. Now… It’s yours for the asking.

Just believe.

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A Glorious Mess!

No matter how hard I try to keep things neat – a place for everything and everything in its place – it is near impossible on Christmas day. I’m constantly picking up things that shouldn’t be where they’re lying, pushing furniture that has, supernaturally, turned around or shifted from their original places…and so on and so forth! But, on this one day, the mess speaks of so much more than disorderliness, neglect or lack of aesthetic sense.

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It speaks of a higher number of visitors; of close friends, of relatives…of family, of children…in other words, of the company that you love. People who don’t or can’t get together at one place throughout the year. It’s the telltale evidence of much fun, much bonhomie, a lot of laughing, joking, gormandising…in general, a lot of a whale of a time!

It’s not the everyday mess. It’ll happen again after twelve long months. And considering the vagaries of life, who knows when ‘you’ll be all together again’ so I think of it as a “glorious” mess. One that stands testament to being together; eating together, laughing, playing, singing, dancing…even praying and bonding in a spiritual way perhaps. It’s that one time in the year when we’re all in one place and sharing everything…apart from the tangible the intangible as well – material gifts and the gift of love. After all, it is love, the greatest kind ever, that we’re celebrating on this day…for God so loved us that He sent us His son, Jesus!

You don’t have to go bonkers over a messy living room, at least for this one day. Let it be for a while, if you can. The next day or the day after, you’ll have all the time in the world to get things shipshape. Allow yourself to enjoy this glorious mess!

(It’s not easy…but if you sit still and just remember the moments you’ve spent, then, provided you were with the company you love, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy a cup of tea in this ‘glorious’ mess!)

Keeping ‘CHRIST’ in Christmas

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” -Steve Maraboli

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From the start of December, my prayer breakfasts got a touch of the holiday season! The mugs became cheery!

 Christmas, perhaps, is one of the most commercialized festivals, anywhere in the world. I may be wrong. I’m speaking from my own experience in my country. When we say “everyone celebrates Christmas,” what we’re saying is, actually everyone has fun and ‘celebrates’ Santa Claus! Jesus is not mentioned, not prominent anywhere; in any store, or mall, in the decorations in hotels and restaurants…all one sees is Santas in all shapes and sizes, adorning show windows, stairways, everywhere…and even on cards! To bring the point home, I’d like to relate an incident that took place one Christmas, long ago, at my sister’s place.

She had this huge Santa Claus, and when I say huge, I mean life size…a tall Santa. He was prominently displayed, by the entrance, inside the house – not that he’d be unnoticed, placed anywhere else in the room! Anyway, to get back to my anecdote, there were many people invited to the Christmas party that my sis was hosting at her place. Among them were a large number of close family and relations as well as friends, both, Christian and non-Christian. Everyone, or well, almost everyone walked in, admired the huge guy in his red suit, some laughed, some cracked a joke and a few clicked a pic with him and walked on. However, one or perhaps two or three of my niece’s non-Christian friends made a short stop to admire him and pay obeisance. They folded their hands, bowed and said, “Jai Santa Baba!” And one even removed her shoes before she approached and touched the rotund guy’s feet! These people did feel silly, later, when it became the joke of the night.

But, seriously, how can one laugh at them or be surprised at their ignorance? (We laughed too and still do, whenever we recall the incident!) But in all honesty, we really can’t. The joke is on us, not them. The most famous song sung in even Christian schools’ Christmas celebrations, and everywhere else is…’Jingle bells, jingle bells….’ and the most visible character is Santa Claus! Except for the church services and in the homes of those who keep Christ in Christmas, the day has been hijacked by a plump guy in a ridiculous red, fur-lined suit.

I’m not against the idea or concept of Santa Clause. We sing Santa songs, we talk about Santa and the presents he gets for kids, about his reindeer, especially the popular red-nosed Rudolph, to maintain the excitement for our little kids;  We grew up writing letters to Santa, addressed to some place in the North Pole! And we soon outgrew that. But, never ever did we, even remotely, think that he was the reason we celebrated Christmas. Our home was Christ centered. Anyway, in those days, Santa wasn’t a lucrative business proposition.

The commercialization of Christmas is a totally business centered, money centered concept in which Santa Claus sells like hotcakes. He doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable. But for some reason, I can’t comprehend, telling people about Jesus and his birth does. Why, even the usual prayers that we’d say and the carols and hymns that we’d sing before we started the party, has been dispensed with, these days, because we are embarrassed to do so in front of our non-believing guests. Or worried that we might offend them!

So, how can we laugh at someone who believes that Santa Claus is our ‘Babaji’ or god? When we ourselves speak more about him, think more about the social aspects surrounding the festival, and set aside an hour for church – and that too may not be on the agenda – to think about Jesus and what Christmas means to us and what the message of Christmas is. Why, I find that in the USA one says ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of Merry or Happy Christmas!

I’m not judging anyone, just saying what I believe and feel about how we allow people, even in our small world of friends, to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas. It’s not them, it’s us. We don’t keep him in it.

Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy and celebrate the festival. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a Christmas tree, or hang up stockings, or even a Santa or two, or build a snowman. We can do all that and still keep Christ prominent in our thoughts, actions, and celebrations.

Keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas isn’t for just a day or a month, it is a way of life; the Christian life. A guide on how we must conduct ourselves. How we maintain relationships. How we treat people known and unknown. It is our everyday faith and belief in action.

Let Santa ride his sleigh for a night and leave. Let Jesus stay on.

Note: These are my personal thoughts. Again, I’m not criticizing or judging anyone. If you don’t agree, please, don’t read through the whole post and kindly refrain from posting any negative or rude comments. Thanks in advance.

Diwali…the festival of lights

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We celebrated Diwali on Sunday. Diwali, basically, is a Hindu festival, however, it is celebrated by many other people of other faiths as well. The Hindus have a religious connection and perform pujas (religious worship of goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth) while the others, celebrate the universal belief that good, ultimately, triumphs over evil. They celebrate the essence of the festival. It also signifies light…the internal light that dispels darkness (evil) in any form, hatred, avarice, bitterness, ignorance, and brings joy, peace, and prosperity. So, generally, everyone joins in the festivities of bursting crackers, eating special sweets and food made particularly on festivals. It is also holiday time in schools and offices. There are gaily lit and decorated malls, restaurants and other places where various activities are available that kids and family can take part in…fairs, exhibitions, new movie releases, you name it. So, everyone is in a joyful mood and enjoys the festival in different ways.

Traditionally, diyas (earthen lamps) are used to decorate the house. However, the modern way is to use tea lights and electric lights. The cities, especially in the northern and western areas, where it is celebrated most, look beautiful as every house is lit up, the Malls, the markets, and shops are all decorated and illuminated. It’s a bit like New York or any such city in the US, at Christmas time, I suppose.

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Rangolis decorated with flower petals and tea lights.

My daughter-in-law celebrates Diwali and so, we had the entrance of our home illuminated. We also had rangolis. Rangolis, again are a traditional thing. They’re made as wet or dry paintings/designs using a white material like chalk, sand, paint or flour. Even paints, colored rice-water, gypsum powder, colored sand or dry colored powders. Often materials like seeds, grains, spices, leaves or flower petals are also used either as the only element or in combination with other materials. Modern materials like crayons, dyes or dyed fabrics, acrylic paint are also becoming common, allowing for brilliant and vibrant color choices We couldn’t do any such thing here. So, I decided to make re-usable rangolis on hand-made paper sheets (that was last year) and having preserved them well we were able to use them again. The hand-made paper was the color of the floor, off-white, and once the flowers concealed its taped edges…it looked like the real deal! The tea lights added the rest.

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Re-usable rangolis painted on very fine hand-made paper.

She even cooked us a meal which is made customarily in her home at Diwali. Delicious! The traditional sweetmeats were also on the table. A party at a friend’s place, Diwali gifts for the kids…and we notched another Diwali on foreign shores.

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The Diwali centerpiece on the dining table

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Diwali mithai (sweets) Green: Pistachio barfi, Yellow: Besan ladoo (chickpea flour ladoo) and orange: Moti chur ladoo (also made from chickpea flour)