Leaking of Life

Well, the trips to the clinic are over for now. Dad is now at home and doing much better.

To fill in a few details, he had deteriorated over the last few weeks, due to both the Delhi heat as well as a relapse of the kidney infection that cycles due to his long standing condition of the last 20 years since his major operation in 1997. This time, he was unable to get up from the bed, had a discrepant blood pressure and a pulse of 113, and was running a rising fever that was touching close to 104 F.

Dr. Babitha Kallimel from the Dayspring Clinic in the Chhatarpur area of New Delhi had grace from God to suggest a line of treatment that has caused a turn around of his condition over this week. With prayer and the injections administered by my pastor’s wife who’s a nurse, his rapid deterioration halted and over the next couple of days of taking him to the clinic for intravenous fluid and antibiotic adminstration, his vitals came back to normal, and he has been continually improving. Administering geriatric treatment is not always easy, especially for a 92 year old man with a chronic kidney condition that should have killed him two decades ago, but although we were ready for any eventuality, against all odds his condition has turned, giving my family the much needed breathing space to end a school year, and me to start the 5 week intensive TESOL certification course as part of my own professional development, the day after tomorrow, with a free mind.

Yesterday, I bathed and shaved him, and it was a great relief to see how nice he looked and how relieved my mom seemed to see him do better, and of course, my dad who used to be particular and conscientious about his personal habits till he got too old to manage himself easily, enjoyed the bath. My mom’s strength and faithfulness through almost 50 years with Dad is another story I’ll write about in due course.

Thatha Pati 19 May 2017

Mom and Dad – Dad looking decent after I bathed and shaved him yesterday!

However, the last two days we had a return of concern with what seemed to be an increasing amount of blood that was being discharged with his urine. Yesterday, the urine was entirely red, and on medical advice, I kept ready the injections to administer in case it did not stop by today. Last night, to confirm a suspicion I had been having,  kept the pomegranate out of the evening blend that my wife Lydia prepared for him. Today there was hardly any blood loss and the colour was what we would have expected. It looks like the pomegranate had aggravated the colour that almost freaked us out, since we had been giving him that in his blend for the last few days!

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about blood, and how concerned we were that it was leaking out. To me it really felt as if my dad’s life were leaking out with the urine. Many cultures look at blood as the carrier of life, and virtually synonymise blood with life. And of course, our concern was because Dad’s life is precious to us, and we didn’t want it leaking out.

But really, ALL life is precious, not just because God created it, but also because of what cost God has redeemed it with.

And there are many things besides sickness, accidents and circumstance that cause it to leak out, oftentimes self inflicted damage, destructive lifestyles and habits; the more so, the more ‘advanced’ we seem to become. It’s an age of lawlessness, confusion and division, with families increasingly breaking down at their core, and more and more people living without vision, direction or an understanding of right and wrong; where so much is being driven by a ‘look good-feel good’ mentality, and the dangerous urban motto of ‘Work hard, party harder.’

LIFE is very, very precious, and will not come back once it’s gone. Let’s keep it, protect it, encourage it, cultivate it, guide it in ways that will cause it to be fruitful and esteem it. Not just ours, but others’ as well, because everyone is given someone who is influenced by them. One blog that resounds with this great story of Hope is Beauty Beyond Bones and it’s very well worth visiting and reading what Caralyn has written.

While there is Life, there is hope for change, as so many including myself will testify, and nothing is impossible for God to redeem.

That’s how much we are loved.

Fragility

Today was the second day I spent at the hospital with my dad, and this time it was a very, very long day, with many mixed feelings and a sense of feeling wiped out.

While the truth is that yet again God has been faithful in crisis with my dad just having avoided a fairly serious situation by getting treated before sepsis shock set in, and his vitals now back to normal, this is the first time we’ve had to put him in adult diapers and deal with the difficulty of bathing him. If he wasn’t so fearful and mistrusting, and being in his senses if he would be a little more sensibly cooperative, he would still be fairly easy to manage. But he has always been a rather fearful man and coupled with deafness, situations can become quite difficult to handle now. As I found, and was almost overcome by, today

There are few things so intimate as getting hands on and involved in cleaning someone’s mess, especially if it isn’t getting clean, and that is what God has done, with little cooperation from my side, in my own life. Even now, late at night, I’m unable to get the emotions and sensations out of my mind of that ordeal of cleaning my dad, when the wardboy and my well-thought out (to us) plan failed miserably. I felt like I had gone through a physical and emotional mangler. I wonder how God has persisted with me with such love and patience.

Then in the car going home, surreptitiously looking at him now and then, I saw how terribly frail and fragile he is. And because he is so fragile, he needs to be given so much more care, and it costs the caregiver so much more to do so.

Fragility makes things and people precious. One would treat a priceless gem or crystal with the same care as a very old person or a very young child. Giving care to someone also gives that person value and can restore dignity. Old age and sickness really can level people’s delusions of their own strength and rob dignity, and also humble people.

Laburnum 1Gulmohur 2

I still haven’t relaxed, even now, and still feel at breaking point, but at the end of the day, I have no regrets, and am satisfied with what I’m doing. My own words I’ve been writing now come back again and again, Feel the heat, or see the colour. The city is full of blazing orange and yellow blooms. Just because I’ve been forced to step out and away from the car AC, does not mean that those amazing flowers have stopped being beautiful, but it does mean that I may stop seeing them, and/or start to see an ugliness in them that they don’t have. It’s the golden chance for ME to change, and in that process, other things and people will change as well, like ripples on a pond.

I hope and pray I don’t lose the chance.

The Lens of Pain

I’m snatching a few moments to write while I stay at home to monitor my dad’s condition. Dad did badly last night, and while he has been on a slump over the last few weeks, he seems to have had a relapse of the infection that he had last year. He’s a very old man, and while he was particular about his habits when he had strength, he has progressively stopped caring and it has been fairly difficult to get him to eat and more importantly, drink water which is what keeps his system flushed and the infection under control.

However, what is strange is how quickly things fall into focus when pain comes. It’s like a lens that shows us what is valuable and precious, and what needs attention and protection. While I continue to feel the distress of my dad’s condition and chafe under the limitations I face, I have recourse to cry out to God again as I have done before and look to Him in the press of events surrounding me at this time. It’s forcing me to take decisions that I would not normally take, like asking for leave from work knowing that my colleagues will face the brunt of substitution when we are already extremely short-staffed. It’s the pain that gets us to prioritize. And what an enormous blessing when the workplace has brothers, not colleagues.

I was reading a post by a fellow-blogger who is now a friend (check out Caralyn’s excellent post Permission to Let Go) and was struck by the similar thoughts. The last time I did not know whether my dad would live or die, and this time, I don’t again, as his condition is so much worse than the last time. I guess we all expect miracles to last forever and bypass reality (which they sometimes do!), but Lazarus, I’m sure, did die ultimately, and of all the people who experienced Jesus’ healing, how many continued to walk with him? How many of their miracles remained that pointer towards Him, the sign of what was possible, if they would have it? And once those miracles played their purpose, what then? Would they continue to be needed for us to believe and trust?

I guess these are troublesome questions, and I am forced to look at them now that my dad has come full circle and so has my watchman. I am forced back to the bottom-lines. Pain reveals what those bottom-lines are like nothing else.

The bottom-line that God is the best father in the universe, and He is aware and working long before I even become aware and ask him to. He loves me enormously, like the apple of His eye; He cherishes me and is deeply concerned about my well-being (you’ve got to be clear you can use the personal pronoun with conviction rather than the general ‘us’!). He is faithful till the end, and will not let me down, even if I’m occasionally faithless or even unfaithful. He forgives and helps me turn toward Him and is deeply pained by my pain and is filled with compassion and longs to heal, restore and bless. He is quick to hear, and quick to comfort. I can rely on Him in the impossible and the chafing constraints of my own situations. He knows my heart and hears my cries that no one on earth will hear or know. He breaks my heart with His love for me and His friendship.

I can rely on Him through all of this, whatever the end may be, and He will enable me to overcome beyond what I can imagine, and He will do for me far beyond anything I can ever hope to ask. He’s the best dad I’ve ever had!

Here’s a song that I like very much by Lauren Daigle. If you are in that place of pain, my prayer for you is that you will find life in the bottom-lines when you’re forced to them.

Pressure or Precious

I’m squeezing off this post while I still can.

Squeezing off??

Yes. I can’t think of a better word for the action. It’s been incredibly hectic with many things that I love to do or enjoy doing having to be put on the back-burner, often against my will. I’ve thought about things that I had written earlier about pulling back, listening, reflecting and feel strange about how, soon after that, an assault started of urgent needs taking over important things, unpredictable situations cropping up both at work as well as at home, small windows of breaks being lost to school programmes, training and medical needs. I’ve felt out of control, worn thin and stressed, and demotivated at work. The last is an incredible rarity. I thought I was over the hump as a teacher; I thought I knew how to handle loss of passion. I guess this season shows me how far I have yet to go.

Demotivated 2

Feeling somehow out of it.

Many of you have read about my dad; the incredible turn-around in his health last year and his recovery. Well, the summer is in, and those of you who know Delhi will know that this is the killer season. Literally. Every year people die all across India due to the heat. Delhi reaches an average of about 43 degrees Celsius (about 109 F) in the worst months of May and June, and can go up to a horrifying 47 degrees (116 F). AC bills are really high, and I can’t afford them, so we’re forced to limit our use of the AC. Well, both ACs conked out this season, and it’s already reaching 45 degrees (it was a short winter, and the heat has started early this year), and Dad has been wilting. It happens in a dreaded, familiar cycle every year. He slowly stops eating and deteriorates, and will not listen to anyone. This time, he hardly gets out of bed and is very, very feeble. There are many things I want to do for him, but as the familiar saying goes, if wishes were horses, well then, beggars would ride. The truth is that I can’t do the many things I want to do, and the few things I can, to me don’t seem enough.

Bound

Our watchman and his wife now have brought an unexpected twist to their story. You can read about their story in my previous posts, especially about the death of their baby in Red is the Colour of Pain and the last was that we had told them to hold off another child until we have medical advice to guide the pregnancy to maximise the chances of the baby being HIV negative. Well, as is with many people, they’ve had their own thoughts, and we recently found out that the wife is about 5 months pregnant. Some months ago, I had wondered, and had asked my wife to check with her, but she denied it then. We didn’t insist, but then suddenly some days ago they came to meet us asking for help with getting the baby checked. I honestly felt thrown in at the deep end, what with my worry about my dad and the difficult situations at work. There is no doubt that we will walk with them through this, but a sense of weariness has hit me that is hard to shake off, and this time I have many more limitations on my time, and I find myself struggling to know what to do and how to go about it.

The Deep End

One more week and then I start a 5 week professional development training which I’m personally dreading and have low interest in because I’ve seen how it took it out of my wife who did it two years ago. It means that for half my wife and daughter’s school vacation, I will be busy. This has been talked through with everyone concerned and everything has been worked out, but personally, I hate doing things I’m not interested in, and doing this to honour my management’s investment in me is the only incentive, besides the fact that the certification will come in use later. Three years doing what I love at work, and like a teenager I find myself struggling over a measly 5 weeks!

portrait of a sad girl

We’ve had a wave of sickness pass through both home and work, and both my wife and I have been substituting teachers and working extra. In Delhi, sicknesses don’t just come for a day or two. Even a flu feels terrible because the body is already fighting pollution, stress and heat. You can fall sick again and again…and again, and teachers seem really prone to it. Dengue is on the move and so is typhoid. We’re grateful we’ve been spared both so far, although colleagues have fallen to them.

In the midst of this chaos, I’ve been trying to find a reference point, something that will give perspective, direction and hope. Something in which I can find the shadow cast by the substance of hope. I came across some sights while travelling in the city which I photographed, and they came back to mind, as I tried to realign myself over the weekend.

I Hate My Life

I hate my life.

Of all the graffiti I’ve seen, this is the most heart-breaking. I don’t know who wrote it, or what made him or her write it. But it made me realise that I don’t hate my life.

I used to…

But I love my life now because of the hope I have, the friends I have, the things I have the blessing to do and because of the family I have. I love the life God has graciously given me, and given back to me again and again, each time I’ve marred it. I love my life because of the many beautiful things I enjoy, and because each beautiful thing I see reflects the goodness of a Father who deeply loves me and cares for me. I’ve seen this so unmistakably that it’s impossible to escape for long.

Then there are the trees…

Gulmohur 1

Sudden Gulmohur bright…

Laburnum 2

Laburnum ablaze.

The two trees which only flower in summer throwing out a blaze of colour that you can only appreciate when it’s horribly hot – Gulmohurs and Laburnums.

It’s always a choice. Feel the heat, or see the colour.

One small difference in sound in the two words – pressure and precious. Crushed by one, and lifted up by the other.

God is in control of my dad’s life; has always been for 92 years. No one is going to live forever, and how long we live is in God’s hands. It’s in my hands to be faithful, and to take my worries to God and allow Him to lift both my dad and me up. God is more than capable of giving enough wisdom to handle my watchman’s new situation. Who knows what good is hidden in this, which is waiting to be released when I’m willing to be used by God? 5 weeks of training will fly by; it’s in my hands to be faithful, and in God’s to bless it and crown the course with His goodness. Who knows what experience of learning I may miss because of chafing at the bit? Sickness comes to everyone, but not everyone is sympathetic or caring towards sick people, especially if their comfort is touched. Who knows what grace is released by my wife’s and my faithfulness in going the second, third and fourth mile in covering someone’s weakness?

It pained me at church today to see my own pettiness, unfaithfulness and hypocrisy. I hope and pray for my own heart to change in the heat of this summer and the press of circumstances.

It’s the crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but for the human heart…?

Precious, Precious

Today, my wife Lydia and daughter Hannah went to stay overnight at my brother-in-law’s to meet and spend time with one of my wife’s cousins, who had a few hours left before he left Delhi to go back home. Lydia talked a lot about how kind he had been to her when she was a child and how he would always make sure to bring something for her when he was passing through.

Although I don’t know him in the same way as Lydia does, I’ve experienced his kindness when he took and repaired my 22 year old guitar in a way that I’ve never known even a high-end shop to do. And he refused to take money for it either! He’s always been friendly and gracious whenever I’ve met him, and that stands out more than his extraordinary talent with his hands that I’ve both heard about and seen.

He’s a precious man with a long history, but much, much grace of God in his life. My wife recognizes preciousness much better than I do, and I’ve learnt and am learning so much from her. I don’t know what I would do without her. Now, with both my wife and daughter out, my house is like a tomb, and I miss them. Come on get real, it’s only a few hours. Well, I still miss them. They’re precious, very precious to me, and their absence shows me what life could be without them, and what great value they add to my life.

Family Hug

Lydia and Hannah, my precious, precious two!

In my last post Storing up TreasureI was reflecting on what was precious to me, and it seems right to continue dwelling on this theme for a while. I want to share a song that has spoken to me many times, and is one of my favourites. It’s by Crosby, Stills and Nash, and in a simple way, brings out what is precious in relationships. It’s called You are Alive. I hope you enjoy and are blessed by it as much as I’ve always been.

You Are Alive – Crosby, Stills and Nash

When you know there’s someone you can talk to
And she’s waiting by the door when you get home
With her hand she’ll caress away your worries
You are alive
I hope you know
That you’re alive
When you’re waiting for her standing by the doorway
And your heart is laughing as she turns the key
Here it comes again always the same feeling
You are alive
And so is she
Do you know what life would be without her?
Do you know what loneliness can be?
You’ll die by yourself only with someone else, why?

When it’s all a game and there is no pleasure
And you’re just like all the rest cannot see
And you’re feeling like there’s no more point in searching
Are you alive?
How could it be
Are you alive?
I’d like to see
If you’re alive

Storing Up Treasure

Some weeks ago, I was going back home with my family in an Uber and saw this amazing sight that I just had to take a photo of. So I did. And in the next few days, looking at the photo, a thought started to grow in my mind that I thought would be good to share along with the photo.

Truck 2

Cauliflower stack of mathematical beauty!

Well, as you’re looking (gawking?) at it, you’ve got to remember that this is Delhi, a city in which things teeter on the edge of chaos all the time. A city of extremes; violent death, amazing beauty, abrasive hostility and unexpected kindness. A city that throws you off every now and then, a bit like, as it says in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, forgetfully changing from 4th gear to 1st while you’re cruising along at a hundred and twenty.

How could such order appear in the midst of the well-known chaos embodied in the popular Delhi concept of jugaad (roughly paraphrasing to mean get it done anyhow)???

My mind boggled for a bit, following the example of my eyes. Then the questions started, and with the ensuing dialogue, light began to dawn.

What’s the reason for the way they’ve stacked it?

Well, I guess it’s because they want to get as many as possible to the market.

So, why stack it in that particular way?

Umm…someone obviously knew the properties of interlocking shapes and their benefits. Also, they knew the roads were bad, so they ensured that the stack wouldn’t fall by interlocking the cauliflowers.

So, what was their bottomline?

Profit. They made sure they were getting the maximum value for money in the entire enterprise.

Put your treasure where there is no moth, rust or thieves. What are you doing to make sure that the most important things for you are protected from decay, destruction and theft?

wall-1542067_640

That stopped me like a wall! I was taken aback. I’ve been well-known for moaning and groaning. Of being burdened under the stresses of life. But what WAS I doing to protect the most important things for me? What WERE the most important things for me?

One of the things I just love about God is His gentleness when we are willing to listen. He doesn’t seem to load us with a 15 point list of what needs to change. He draws our attention to one or two root things and then works over time with them. Some months before I had felt the need to spend time regaining the habit of reflection and moving away from a lot of doing, and the blog really helped kickstart that. However, in the last couple of months I’ve been feeling the need to pull back and listen to what God is saying about things, instead of being always in practical mode and trying to do something.

Looking at the stack of cauliflowers, I realised that with the regain of a family time of reading and praying together, I needed to prioritize keeping certain days ’empty’ for reflection and just spending time alone with God undisturbed. It was time to invest in those things, whatever they may be, that would cause the kingdom of God to grow in and through me, and to create ‘interlocking’ habits that were feeding this.

Strangely enough, one thing that I’m in the process of working out is the act of going to sleep early. Investing in actually doing that seems to make an enormous, almost disproportionate difference to my day and myself as a person. Protecting our family sleep time successfully over three weeks, gave us the taste of significant difference before we allowed ourselves to slip back. Continuing to invest in and work this out has been coming back to mind, and I’m in the process of biting the bullet and getting back into the discipline. Investing in this seems to have a ramifying effect in my life that creates clarity, the ability to achieve my goals, and prevents loss of time and energy.

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Not quite what I was thinking about!

Over the last few days, I was reading several articles by Sid Savara whom I had quoted in my previous post Either You Run the Day…Or the Day Runs You, and something he wrote in his excellent article The 7 Reasons Good People Still Fail really caught my attention. Here it is down below –  

But this last one, this “bonus” reason is truly a devastating reason people fail
And if you can’t overcome it, you will never get what you want out of life.
Ready?
Here it is….

Reason #8: They Never Change
Nobody is perfect.
I get that.
We all make mistakes in life.
The question is this –
When you have the opportunity to change your life, will you:
Take that chance to change it?
Or ….
Will you simply carry on making the same mistakes?

The truth is, not changing is the only reason people actually fail.

This really struck me because it was so very simple…and so TRUE! My inability is usually due to my reluctance to change or lack of desire to change, or lack of persistence in changing. It’s not because God is too small, but the fact that I’m too big…for my boots. It’s the creepy, self-justifying, self-seeking, contentiously arguing self-pride.

So, am I feeding what is important for me? What am I doing that will continue to feed the process of change? Will I have stories of change to share, or at the end of this year, will my stories be the same predictable ones? Where and how am I storing up treasure for myself?

My answer is less important than what time and circumstance will show.

The Sting of Shame

I had, for some reason, been thinking a lot over the last few days about some friends of mine from Africa. They kept coming to mind again and again and I sent some Whatsapp messages asking how they were. Then the news channel on my phone began to spring headlines about African students being beaten up in Noida, a city on the outskirts of Delhi, forming part of the National Capital Region, and today, news of indiscriminate violent outbreaks against Africans in Noida, and the warning bells began to go off in my head.

I quickly messaged friends and students, and read up a little on what had happened. Apparently, the violence was a public reaction to the drug-overdose death of an Indian youth in which apparently, some people from a particular African country were booked. The situation apparently escalated due to ignorance and prejudice. This is the second outbreak of violence in a year against Africans, the last being completely unprovoked.

Messages started to come back. Some had fled into Delhi and were safe, others were still in Noida, unable to venture out as some major connecting roads were blockaded and were under vigilance, making it unsafe for Africans to leave without being spotted and thrashed. Attacks happened in malls. Students young enough to be my children are afraid, some are in hospital, and everyone is shaken. Urgent messages from the Home Minister are receiving platitudes from the State Chief Minister, recently elected, although well known for vitriolic, communal hate speeches.

Tears

The face that captures how I feel!

I’ve been burning with anger and distressed with pain and shame. Anger at the ignorance, discrimination and prejudice, pain at the violence, and shame that we brown-skinned people have a long reputation of colour bias, casteism and discrimination of many forms, not the least being gender. I’ve had a long connect with Africa through music and friends, and I love the people. It pains me immensely to see them face harassment and bad behaviour in a country that many of them look to as a place of opportunity and hope.

I’ve started to pray again for Africans in Delhi and the NCR region, and have asked my church to pray as well. If you are in a habit of praying for people, I would encourage you to remember these precious people before God who loves us all. Many Africans that I know are Christian, but the shock and trauma of dealing with this, forgiving offenders, resisting hatred and cynicism and feeling unsafe is going to be a long and difficult journey. I sincerely hope they will find friends who will help who are Indian, and for sure, I need to step up to the plate.

However, as I was reflecting on these events, it came to me that when fanatics and criminals are at the helm, it’s often a wake-up call for everyone concerned. No one is exempt, because thorns planted will reap thorns, and we are all going to be living in the briars. We shouldn’t be surprised at the stabs and scratches. It’s up to every one of us to consider what we are planting and leaving for others, what we are giving to our children. What we are intentionally doing to make a difference to others around us.

The words of Jesus ring again in my head, ‘You are the earth’s salt. But if the salt should become tasteless, what can make it salt again? It is completely useless and can only be thrown out of doors and stamped under foot. You are the world’s light—it is impossible to hide a town built on the top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house. Let your light shine like that in the sight of men. Let them see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven.‘ Matthew 5:13-16

We may not be able to change worldviews and systems, but we can make responses, no matter how small and feeble they may seem. They’ve got to start where we’re at, no matter where that may be.

The song below is one of my favourite Bruce Cockburn classics, and I put it up because it helps us feel how others feel, because it reminds us of how we feel. I hope you will be touched by both the song and the post, and that God will be able to use you to make a difference in the life of someone else who is in need nearby.