Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A treadling mom ..


This is my sewing machine..it has an electric motor. During my growing up years I had  used my mother's treadling Singer sewing machine, that was powered by the foot pedal.

I have been shaped by my mother. Her knees are calloused  with hours spent on her knees praying. She is a praying mom. She sewed all our clothes. And her life was and  is still spent within the portals of the Good Shepherd Church,  visiting villages and sharing the word using local communication media such as the "villu pattu" which is a proven media in villages. As part of the Global Indian Diaspora family, born in Malaysia and having grown up with many blessings, she is a blessing to me. Below is the picture of a figurine that I made for her,  each sheep to represent my parents, me and my 3 siblings. She loves  it. The one with the flowers on the shoulder is my mom! The other holding his head is my dad. I am  atop the staff, and my brother at the other end of the staff and on the other two sides are my two sisters. I made the  coat of the Good Shepherd  in fluorescent clay that glows in the dark. My mom loves the Good Shepherd metaphor and so do I. This piece took me several months to sculpt it. 

I wrote this poem for her  ...

A Treadling Mom 

(tadak tadak tadak is the sound of the treadle on a sewing machine)
"Quietly turns a silvery wheel.
Held within a weathered heel,
The treadle of my heart it moves:
Tadak tadak tadak...
Feet firm and poised;
Forward and behind,
Rhythm, they pressing find,
Tadak tadak tadak...
Seamless love it makes,
Nay the thread may break,
Never a backward motion takes:
Tadak tadak tadak....
Well oiled pieces,
Treadle in harmony,
Music to my ears,
Tadak tadak tadak....
Polished decals in gold
Her nurture care untold,
Pops me from ordinary:
Tadak tadak tadak...
Specially knit, in her womb
Sound of silence breaks
Soothing, rocking me to sleep,
Tadak tadak tadak....
In your heart's treadle
I solace meet
Heart beats of my God I find
Tadak tadak tadak....

This  poem was penned down by me for her  77th birthday on March 6th. This poem reflects my moments as a child, sitting on the floor, by her feet, watching her relentless feet go up and down, to and fro, on her treadle Singer machine foot pedal, while the rest of the household was snug  and well taken care of for the day, and when she found the time to piece together my clothes, bringing meaning to colorful threads of fabric in love.

 She wrapped me with clothes of honor and spiritual values. In clothing me I experienced the Christ in her, clothing me in love. (When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you?" Mathew 25:28.   "I was a stranger and you did not invite me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." Mathew 25:43) In clothing another  we entertain Christ.
Her treadling feet gave me meaning and purpose. ("He makes my feet like the feet of a deer: he enables me to stand on the heights." Psalm 18:33)
She soothed my soul with the movement of her sole. She filled and taught me the harmonious rhythm of perseverance, with her whole orchestrated being in Christ, hands that set the wheel in motion, feet that sustained the pulse, and fingers that never ceased to push the fabric through, and keen wakeful sleepless eyes, that one minded focus on the tiniest needle point details. (akin to the way she paid attention to the details in my life).  She is a Proverbs 31 woman, a woman after God's own heart. She taught me what a  persistent sole can do with an iron footing and once put the foot forward and yoked to never go backwards. She taught me what it took to start and finish and move on to the next challenge. Her life and actions have shaped and informed me into what I am today and who I am today are all contained within contextual scriptural metaphors through her language of actions and love. As I celebrate my mom  I owe it to her in whose womb God chose me to be planted and knit by His Hands. "For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13
I am blessed to call you "mom".  I am blessed to be her first born and called out and set apart for the Lord's work. I am blessed to have been in her womb vessel, fashioned by the Potter's Hands ("Yet O Lord you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand," Isaiah 64:8)
Today and always, I thank God for  my precious mom, at whose feet God poured all His lessons into me, to treadle on in His vineyard. I thank God for all the precious moms's in the world. I pray that God bless them and keep them and fill them with peace.

She is on facebook and likes all my art work posts too!! Mom is always a special person and I pray all God's blessings on her.

To my mom ....I love you.

Written by Shanti.
Picture courtesy: My sewing machine and my clay handmade figurine of the Good Shepherd.

Monday, August 12, 2013

In the midst of greying......

In Wordsworth's words  'an old age serene and bright" we find something of cheer for old age, and it is good to know the promises God has given for such a time, and embrace the promise, before it is too late.  It is good to also  have an understanding of old age as how the Bible describes, and also do certain things that we are called to do while we still can.... Read on...

Firstly keep this  promise of God in your heart... "EVEN TO YOUR OLD AGE I AM HE, AND EVEN TO HOAR (white hairs) HAIRS WILL I CARRY YOU."..Isiah 46:4 ..He is a loving God who never leaves nor forsakes you and carries you in even during your grey hair days...

If you have a bible you may refer, else I have keyed  them for you here. Turn with me to Ecclesiastes Chapter 12: verses 1-7
1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; 5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Here ends the reading.

It is a great experience to come into every season of life  without wasting any time and being aware of what each season brings and not worry. I have experienced happy and cheerful aged people as well as those in distress.

"The years draw high, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."  Dwelling in these verses give us a  peek into old age.... As we get old there are different kinds of failure of vital organs and the body becomes feeble for service and sometimes the mind also gets clouded to appreciate God. It is therefore better to appreciate him now and in the present.

"the keepers of the house shall tremble"  Our body is the house and the keepers are our hands who at one time are our strong providers and source of defense.  We need our hands for so many things.  As we get old the hand start trembling and our hands are not as strong as before, ridden with decrease in nervous power and so on and until in fact our hands become so fragile and weak like that of an infant. I do a lot of crochet and work at the computer and also play the piano sew and quilt etc and I praise with my hands as much as I can while I still can. Some who work extensively with their hands develop carpal tunnel pain etc.... The Word does explain this so beautifully. You can see some of my work here with my hands, in my art journal....click HERE 

"The strong  men shall bow themselves--"
Our legs are the strong men and as we age they bend, and the  24 vertebrae akin the strongmen also get shriveled  with loss of elasticity in them and we bend forward and our shoulders droop too.

"The grinders cease" because we loose teeth and there are few or none left the actual grinding activity cease. The double teeth are the ones that that chew, and in their absence the gums act as chewing mechanisms. The molars ..a name that has come from the term "mola" refers to the grinding in a mill with the ridges and depressions akin in a corn mill...with the passing of time the teeth are all worn and smooth..and lose their ability to grind.

"Those that  look out of the windows be darkened"  The eyes out of the sockets akin windows are deep set and darkened too.

"The doors shall be shut in the street "
Our lips maintain their shape as they are  actually supported by our teeth. When the teeth are not there, to support the lips the lips bend inwards locking, and not bend outwards. This is nature's way of locking in the food so that the food does not fall out while the old without teeth are processing the food inside the mouth. Instead of the grinding sound it is a different kind of sound produced which is actually the sound of the gums. The doors are thus said to be shut.

"He shall rise up at the noise of the bird"  Sleep patterns  becomes different now,  being light sleepers now the little noise of the bird also awakens them.

"The daughters of music shall be brought low.."
Our ear and voice organs can be said to be the main daughters of music. One produces beautiful music while the other can  appreciate the sounds. With advancing age even the most famous musicians have to bid a painful adieu  to their once famous  talents, and thus is said to be brought low. Music appreciation and singing etc reaches  an all time low.

"They shall be afraid of that which is high"    As we get older we are afraid of climbing up a ladder or steep heights.  (it is so nice..I can relate to all this in varying degrees!!!!)

"Fear shall be in the way" Because of fear of tripping or falling and so on the eyes are bent forward and cautious and fear certainly takes its place before every step.

"The almond tree shall flourish"  The almond tree flowers are pure white in color. The head of a old person is now fully white with grey and silver white hair. Hair that has lost its natural color has actually therefore decayed in in  turning color from what it was. To me it is almost akin the fall leaves in autumn that change color and drops before and has in reality decayed.  Soak an almond in water and see how the almond is smooth and white..many grow as bald and smooth or white as this metaphor. Refer back to the promise that God has given for such a time as this.

"The grasshopper shall be a burden"  The sound of the grasshopper which is quite negligible in normal times irritates and becomes a burden to the ear. Even the sound and behavior of this  small insect can now turn into a burden.

"Desire shall fail"  Certainly the desires now are not as they were before. Everything changes. The entire landscape and attitude and perspective changes.

The mourners go about the streets" The person finally leaves the world, and dies, and mourners mourn their absence. The manner in which they leave may be gradual as explained or abrupt and sudden with no indication of approaching departure, even to the extent of producing distress to the departed.

"Silver cords loosed,  Golden bowl broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain"  Departure can be so sudden as an abrupt cessation of life, akin the breaking of a golden and useful and prized silver cord and a pitcher of great present utilitarian value broken, descries untimely death, that comes before the gradual cessation of life.

In view of this we are encouraged to, as early as we can and now is the time to remember the creator in our youth and while we still can.

Hold on to God's promise, and may the peace that passeth all understanding fill you and keep you!
God Bless you.
In Christ

Kneeling on the mission road..

The comfort in  the smell of the sea and the feel of the sand under my feet, the cool water washing over my feet,  the sight of birds and sound of the crashing waves embracing the shore, was sheer delight. These are pictures of  the Hermosa Beach. You can read more about the beach  HERE.

It reminded me and embraced me with the  comfort of provisions, peace, protection and love and warmth of  my hometown, where within the safety and protection of the home it was mere comfort and I knew nothing else. The Marina beach (you can read more about it HERE) was just a mile away from the house where I grew up in. We would visit the beach very frequently and the smell of the sea surrounded our family chats,  fellowship and child like play.  The school where I went to was just along the beach too. Read more about my school HERE  The St George's Cathedral, (Read more about the church HERE) was walking distance,  and the Good Shepherd church was just behind my home. (Read more about the church HERE).  We worshiped in both these churches that had services in English and the  regional language.

When all comforts flee I will still love my Savior, as I love Him for whom He is and not for the comfort that His love provides. On the mission road, comforts take a new definition and new normal. I cleave to the Rock of ages, and hide myself in Him. Although the smell of the sea was teaching me about the existence of, and my recognition of comfort I have arrived at a place where  I can say with Job, "If he slay me, yet would I trust in Him". With or without  the comfort Hi love provides, I love Him.  On the mission road at this altitude of spiritual growth there are new tests that inform and shape and challenge me.

I drew and left  my signature on the shore on the sands of time....

The waves had judiciously moistened the sand for me. A lovely bird had left a feather for me too. I had used the feather  as a quill to write and  hoisted the feather atop the castle I made. It was childlike glee.
Kids when very young are teachable. Christ points to little children as the model to which the members of his kingdom must be with focus on the  humility  and simplicity of a child that are  contrary to being self seeking and worldly.  Christ said "Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the kingdom of Heaven..Mathew 5:3.

I waited for the waves to wash my sand castles away.

There was this lone bird watching the setting sun and looking to see if he could take a dive for a fish.

It was fun to play in the waves and walk out ...my black knees blackened and hardened with kneeling, remind me of the times I spend on my knees and my conversations on the mission road. My great grandmother had trained us to kneel direct on the rough  floor for hours. Those were the days when we sat on the rugged floor of the church that had no pews. Over the years I have seen churches have comfortable warm cushions for sitting as well as kneeling.
Now again over the years I see churches with no kneeling pads at all. Kneeling  is becoming slowly a thing of the past.

Walked towards  my shoes, I have miles to go before I sleep.

The birds were lazily walking around with tummy full of fish..

As I left foot prints on the sand I was reminded of the story where a man was constantly comforted seeing two sets of footprints..one was his and the other was God's footprints always walking alongside of him. At one point in the journey when it had been the  most hard,  he noticed that there were only one set of footprints. He had asked God as to where He had been as there was just one set of footprints, and God had replied that He had been  carrying him at those hardest times, which account for just one set of foot prints!! This story is written in wall hangings and so on, and it is so true, that when I am weakest then I am strong as the Lord IS my strength. Footprints forever remind me of this little meaningful narrative. This has given solace to many a soul ...

As we travel on the mission road wherever it may be, may God's peace fill you and may the Grace of God keep you.
Please do pray for the needs of all those who are on the road now. Isiah 52:7: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Until we meet again
Lots of love
In Christ

Friday, August 2, 2013

The artisan, the wooden Cross, and the pastor.

Hello my dear ones,
The  Cross that you see here in this picture, was made by a graduate carpenter in Kerala,  India, on the plantations on the Western Ghats in Southern India. The plantations are at an altitude of over 4000 feet above sea level. Kerala is a state in Southern India that has the highest literacy rate. Read  more HERE. This state also has a higher rate of Christians as well as life expectancy. My passion is in palliative care, and I have to mention that this state is the only state that has made progress, in this area,  read more HERE.  Kerala  is known also for its  matriarchal society.  The western ghats  mark many a memory for me on   the mission road.
The western ghats (read more HERE) are draped by  awesome tea, cardamom and coffee  plantations that are a source of  pure culinary delight.  The cardamom is also known as the 'green gold'.  The  plantations,  are  set in the idukki district, near the periyar tiger reserve and the kumily hills. (read more here). It was during the early years of my married life, and my baby was a toddler at that time.  While on the plantations I came across great talent every now and then among the local artisans.  I noticed a talented carpenter and I happened to ask him if he could make a wooden cross for me and he said "yes" and in no time he fashioned this for me. My daughter was a baby then, and over the years, this  cross has been her most loved one, that she takes it wherever she goes. The hills where this cross was crafted, also mark the footsteps of a dear pastor whose mission heart shaped me in the ministry.
He  was a widower and with no children. The church members were akin  his children. The plantations in kerala followed very many administrative  systems as established by the British administrative practices, and left behind by them, when they left India after India's  independence.   The houses  were palatial and each bungalow had numerous workers. As we belonged to the managerial staff who were held as the authority in everything, we were bestowed with all the same privileges that the British enjoyed while they ruled over India and managed these plantations. Spices were a  focal point of trade that drew many  to India, and that explains the focus on the plantations.  Each worker was assigned to do one kind of work...such as  cooking,   gardening, keeping watch over the bungalow as watchmen, and one to polish the wooden floors, chauffeurs  and so on..

The pastor however did not have any such  privileges as they were support staff, and not managerial staff,  and his only means of transport was to walk. He  used to walk up and down the hills sharing the gospel, and bringing the Word of Christ, praying for the needs of those whom he met etc. This was in the  1980s.  He came from a  town named Nazareth, in Southern India, one of the earliest Christian colonies, that happened to be the place where my great grandmother had lived too. (Read more about Nazareth by clicking HERE) As a child I have spent each Christmas with my great grandmother in the Nazareth church that used to have awesome firework display after the service. Although I have seen many a firework display around the world I still have not seen anything as great as the fireworks in this church. I love this church as it is where my faith was developed as a child see more of the church HERE  Click HERE to see a video of some of today's celebrations in Nazareth. A history of the Nazareth church HERE. His zeal was contagious, in sharing Christ.
My ministry has been informed and shaped by his simple life and the great testimony that he lived.
I recount one event of the many, that happened while we were there, and on my mission road.

One day he  had as usual walked up the labor lines sharing the gospel. The labor lines (homes for the laborers/plantation workers) were built in a separate area far away  from the homes of the managerial staff (where the British had lived and where we now lived). The labor lines resembles  the town homes here.  They had common walls but with independent doors and were all built in a row. They were also referred to as the row houses.

The pastor having returned home after his visit to the row houses of the laborers, was about to have his dinner when a burglar broke in. At knife point he threatened  the pastor to give all that he had. The pastor had nothing  as silver or gold (Acts 3:6),  to give but the name of Jesus that he could share without fear. And so he started sharing Christ and by also telling him the commandments to not steal. The infuriated burglar grew  more angry, when the pastor started reading the Word of God to him from the bible,  and pulled out his knife to stab the pastor. The pastor started telling him about Christ, but the burglar chased him.  He was able to run although he was old. There was a point when he could run no more,  as he had reached the end of the compound  that was fenced in with  sharp iron barbed wire, to keep out the wild elephants and wild boars. There was no way a human could cross the fence or jump over it. At  that moment the pastor related, he felt something lift him over the fence and he was bodily carried across the barbed wire and dropped on the other side, and the thief could not get him. This is a true story on the mission road. God does give us angels to keep charge over us in all our ways. Be encouraged my friend. He who keeps us does not slumber nor sleep and there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Psalm 121:4..Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. and Jeremiah 32:27....I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for me?"

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life".

God Bless each of you.
In Christ

A rider and a horse

Early on the mission track many years ago, while I was still  a child,  I was fed with stories of God's Hand at work. These were expressive  oral narratives, and verbatim of events of what God had done. These were besides the bible stories. These stories, were told to me by my father. And he in turn was fed these stories along with the Word of God, by his grandmother. I have passed this on already to my daughter. And I hope she will pass it on to her children. Stories thus passed down have been very powerful, and gone into the reservoir of  my Lord's goodness and mercy in our lives, that all of you who know are reading this story now can also dip into, and feed off His love and peace.To bring to remembrance His good works is a delight by itself.

A little note about  my paternal great  grandmother .....
I have never seen my great grandmother. But through my dad's narratives I feel as if I have known her. Not only that, our home had few large colorful  trunks with gleaming bright brass embellishments. It took a lot of effort for me as a child to open those heavy lids. So I waited for those moments when my father would open them. Inside that were the most beautiful pure white Irish lace crochet, akin pretty fresh snowflakes,  all woven with thread. I looked at them with awe and wonder as to how she would have woven such magnificent things  with such thin delicate  thread. The crochet hook looked so tiny. Not only that, I would wait for festive occasions when my father's wedding gift was used, such as Christmas. The wedding gift that she had made for him comprised of an awesome curtain, with a table cloth to match. A small coffee table that was the focal point at many an important conversation and visitations, sporting yummy cups of coffee and tea, was draped with this pretty Irish crochet table cloth. Besides there were food covers and more, all made with crochet and thread. Observing  the way my father handled these pieces with so much care, I not only experienced his grandmother but also his reverence for her love  and biblical  teaching. Years later now I am being appreciated by so many around the world and through my work I get to meet so many people. I would like to thank God for the  seeds of crochet that were those sown by my great grandmother through the legacy of Irish crochet pieces that she left behind.   You can see my work by clicking HERE. Crochet  is not therefore just art but a missions story by itself, and I will tell you why.
I believe that my father's grandmother  became an early widow. She had lived in India. She had come to know Christ and was immersed in her bible reading. All large houses as the ones we lived called villas and were large with a front entrance and a rear entrance. Our house was named "Jasmine Villa" as many jasmine trees grew in the compound, that produced sweet smelling jasmine. The houses had  large steps leading to the door. The house was built much higher level, than the level of the road. I believe she would sit on the steps at the rear entrance and sing hymns all the time and crochet. (Crochet was taken into India sometime around 1844 by a Scottish missionary), Isn't that wonderful!!
She would gather all  her grandchildren including my dad and feed them with the Word and also such narratives of events that had happened on the mission road. I am reminded of how Jesus sat down to teach and multitudes that many gathered to hear him. These little tiny tots were her audience that gathered around their grandma!!  The faith practiced by father was thus shaped by God.

(This is a picture of my great grandma, the one who shaped my father in missions and the one who was the wife of a pastor)

This story  is all around a horse!! I even made a horse in clay to mark this story. So here is my little horse, and within that lies a lot of meaning.
The story goes like this...
My paternal great great grandfather was riding a horse one day.  The means of communication were horses I believe, in the terrain where he was travelling. Suddenly the horse behaved differently. Have you ever experienced the fury of a frightened horse? The most dangerous accidents happen when horses get out of control soaked in  their fear.

While he was on his  way his  horse suddenly started  bolting out of sheer terror. The flight instinct is usually very sharpened when a horse is frightened and it overrides in their effort to flee and get safer. The panic the horse experiences makes it often throw the rider down. Horses thus are fitted with a shield for their eyes to prevent distraction and restlessness, by seeing too many things. In this case the horse started bolting and was trying to throw my great grandfather down. He got down from the horse and then  noticed that a a  lion  had intercepted their way. 
All that my great grandfather  been taught was to call on the Lord and he had also memorized the Lord's prayer. He closed his eyes and prayed  the Lord's prayer.."Our Father who art in Heaven...".....he went on. When he had finished and opened his eyes, the lion was gone. He who shut the lion's mouth in the den and saved Daniel, is the same yesterday today and forever. And he saved my great grandfather from the lion. 

However small or insignificant this story may seem, it had a profound impact on me and informs my ministry.

Until next time, lots of love and prayers
In Christ

Mathew 6:9-13 for you to pray and call on His name. 
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sweeter than honey..

Years ago on the mission road, whilst consulting   a global organization, alongside,a  giant in the field,   I was with their Corporate team  in Jaipur.  The stillness of the  virgin desert dew,  under  the clear starlit desert night was  broken with the  laughter of the team and conversations, in harmony with the tinkling of the bells worn by the desert camels.

Each one was asked to entertain by singing  a song. There was so much variety with every Bollywood song possible. When it was my turn my voice ascended clear soft and persuasive with joy bubbling in my heart riding into the notes of this song. "He is my everything" ...a song that I used to sing as a child.   There was a rise in applause and each one got so curious as to  who the "He" was. None knew who it was until I got to tell them. 

The opportunities to tell of His works and testify are as numerous and countless as the stars in the sky.
And the metaphor of being sweeter than honey can be best understood when we have really tasted fresh sweet dripping honey from the rock. I have eaten such honey and wow it certainly is so pure and awesome.

Here's the song. I do not know the name of the author.
"He is my everything He is my all 
He is my everything both great and small 
He gave His life for me made everything new 
He is my everything Now how about you 
Like honey in the rock 
Like honey in the rock 
for he tastes like honey in the rock 
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good 
For he tastes like honey in the rock".

With the love of this metaphor, I keep looking for bee hives wherever I travel and found one..but it happened to be a hornet's nest!! Here is the picture..

Towards the end of one  day following some  bees to see where they went in for the night...(picture I took in Virginia of a hornet hive)

I  did discover a hornet hive just near a bed of flowers.
What may seem as  just another bee bringing in honey or a flower waiting for its nectar  to be collected,  was to me a great orchestra ... singing  with me, in harmony this very same song,...."He is my everything"

The Psalmist sings with me in Psalm 119:102-103: "I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me.How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" 
Thank you Lord for Your Words, yes it is indeed sweeter than honey to my mouth.

I will write more on why the focus is on a metaphor that brings in the frame of reference to a "mouth" in another post.

In the meantime, may God bless you abundantly.
In Christ