And then I thought of Job …


May 9-13, 2018, as a family we were in Oklahoma City, OK as our beloved 12 year old Reuben was competing at the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic USA Gymnastics Nationals Championship competition. Reuben did not do as well as he wanted to and missed qualifying to the final round of competition. While the result was heart breaking for him and hard for us as a family, the outcome from this experience far outweighs any medal he could have earned.

Given below is the writeup by Reuben, who penned down his thoughts, after he felt heart broken. It is a a little long, but take the time to read and be blessed.
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Reuben Paul on his knees before GodOn Friday, May 11th, I competed in the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic Gymnastics USA Nationals competition in the Level 8, age 12 category in Oklahoma City, OK. I was hoping to qualify for the final round on Sunday, May 13th. I had trained very hard for this event – more than 20 hours a week and I really wanted to qualify and win. My coaches, Greg Dolittle and Lee Ho, had put so much time into training me. Also many friends from church like Suja aunty & Josh uncle were praying for me. Santhosh uncle from India wished me well and was praying for me. Even on the morning of the competition, Suresh uncle prayed over me. I personally went on my knees and pleaded for God to give me success, and I went trusting that God would show up to help me do well.

PB routine as Coach Lee Ho watches

During the practice and training sessions, I ‘hit’ every routine. A hit in gymnastics means – no fall during the routine. But at the preliminary qualifying competition, I fell on my first event and then there were more falls. I came 68th in place and felt a little disappointed. However I thought that I had qualified to the final round on Sunday. I was happy at one moment, thinking that I had a chance to do better in the finals, but then the next moment, when my coach informed me that because of a change that the USA gymnastics organization had made, he was sorry, I did not make it, I felt crushed. According to the USA Gymnastics published information, the top 72 in my age and level category would qualify for the finals but they changed it to take only the top 60 to the final round. I missed qualifying to the final round, because of this change.
Joel Montgomery with Reuben and Ittai

It was heart breaking. Emotionally, it was very very hard. I cried. I cried and felt like my dreams were shattered and my heart was broken. Coach Greg felt so sorry and bad for me. My teammate, Joel (Level 10, 16 year old gymnast), tried to console me and said it was okay. My dad said he was helpless watching me crumble and weep bitterly. I think this was the first time, I had cried so much. My mom hugged me tight and said that she was proud of me. Even my sweet little 6 year old brother, Ittai, who was sad for me, wanted me to feel good and said “Maybe the judges did not see me all the time and gave me bad scores.” (I think the judges were fair though).

Olympic Medalist Raj Bhavsar with Reuben - a mentor and friendI know they all meant well but I just wanted to get away from there and go back to the hotel room and hide. We were walking back to the hotel room, when Olympic medalist, Raj Bhavsar, who had some of his own team’s gymnasts competing in the next event, texted my dad, asking if we were still in the area. He said he was in the back gym. I reluctantly walked back to meet him. He encouraged me saying that, he once did not qualify and that it was hard, but to get to the top sometimes you have to hit the bottom. He said I was a brilliant kid. Thinking back now, I am very grateful to Raj for taking the time for meeting with me (even when he had his own gymnasts who were getting ready to compete) and his encouraging words.

We got back to the hotel and my mind was raising with many emotions and questions. I cried more, holding on to mama and dada. My parents let me weep. Ittai, tried to help – he said that “if God wanted me to qualify, he would have made it happen.”

The next day, we drove home. During the 6 hours drive, my dada was internally sad and wrestling with God with many questions. He was questioning God as to “Why he would not raise his child up, who is shameless and bold to share about his faith, be it as a cybersecurity conference or at a gymnastics competition?”, “How could God be so mean?”, “Does not the unbeliever mock God, when God does not show up to the aid of his own children?”

I had many questions of my own – questions about the event, the training, and even my faith. Questions like “What if I had not fallen?”, “Why did I not get better scores?”, “Was my training not enough?”,  “How can this be?”, “Why did they change the cut off level?” and most importantly, “How can God do this to me?”, “Why did God not show up?”, “Why, Why, Why …” We reached home and went to bed.The next morning on the way to church, my dada shared with us, that he was angry with God and questioned Him. Then he realized that maybe God was trying to teach us something. He said “Diamonds are rough and not good to look at when they are in the ground, they are formed under intense pressure and heat and with the careful chiseling of a gem-smith, they are shaped into beautiful items – items fit to go into the crown of a king.” He said, “Heartbreaks make your heart grow stronger, but what is important is that your heart is one that seeks after God’s own heart”. “God may be trying to teach us something”, he said. I replied, “Dada, I had my questions too… I felt God did not show up and was not with me, even though I wanted to give him the glory… and then I thought of Job”

See, the Bible teaches us that Job was a good man, an upright man, a blameless man and yet he lost everything — his property, his health to the point of death, and even his children. When compared to what Job had to grow through, me missing the final round was nothing. My dada reminded me that even more than Job, Jesus had to suffer pain and anguish on the Cross to death. See, there is no crown without the cross.

I have a year to train harder and try again next year. Next time, I am down and feel like questioning God, or feel that he did not show up, I hope I remind myself, to think of Job (and Jesus). Coach Greg Dolittle making sure Reuben is all set

 

P.S: I want thank my coaches, Coach Greg and Coach Lee, for their time and effort in training me. I am very thankful to mentor and friend Raj Bhavsar for his encouraging words. I want to thank Josh uncle, Suja aunty, Santhosh uncle and Suresh uncle, for their prayers. I love my mama and dada and my brother Ittai very much and thank God for them in my life. To God alone be the glory… not my will, but his be done in my life. Let me always think of Job.

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Seeing God in life’s situations, for God sees you


Genesis 31:4-13 gives account of what Jacob told his wives, Rachel and Leah, after God asked him to leave his uncle and father-in-law, Laban’s house and return to the land of his family to his relatives.

He called Rachel and Leah to the field where he was looking after the flock and told them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me.”

He then told them, how hard he had worked for their father, and yet Laban had cheated him by changing his wages, not once but ten times, but God had not allowed Laban to do him any harm. He said, that God had taken what was their fathers and had given it to Jacob, because whatever was agreed upon between Jacob and Laban is what God made to happen, in Jacob’s favor. If the speckled animals of Laban was to be Jacob’s wages, then the whole flock began to produce speckled young and if Laban changed his mind and said, the striped animals will be your wages, the the whole flock produce striped young.

This he said was revealed to Jacob, in a dream, by the angel of God, who called to Jacob and when Jacob responded, “Yes, here I am.”, the angel of God told him to “Look up, and see that the male goats were mating with only the females that were streaked, speckled and spotted”, the produce of which were streaked, speckled or spotted, hence belonging to Jacob and not Laban. Why?, because God had seen how Laban had unfairly treated Jacob.

The angel of God is a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ, for the angel of God identifies himself as the God who appeared to Jacob in Bethel (meaning House of God), the place where Jacob anointed the pillar of stone and made a vow to him. Jacob then told his wives, that God had told him to get ready right away and leave the country that they were in and return to the land of his birth. 

Lessons we can learn from Jacob’s conversation with Rachel and Leah are:
1. God was with him.
2. God did not allow any harm to come to him.
3. God took what was justly his and gave it to him by divinely intervening.
4. God saw his mistreatment.
5. God called him by name and waited for him to respond.
6. God asked him to “Look up and see”

Points to ponder:
God is with his people and will not allow any harm to come to them. God is Just and will restore unto those who have been unfairly treated, for God watches over the affairs of man. God calls his people by name and wants us to respond to him. God wants us to “Look up” and focus on his miracles and provisions, even when life situations may make us downcast. When God calls you, will you respond as Jacob did – “Yes, Here am I.”?

Genesis 31:4-13 (KJV)
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

Man’s attitudes, God’s advice and assurance


When Jacob increased exceedingly, amassing cattle, servants (men and women), and livestocks, in the house of Laban, because the Lord God was with him, Laban’s sons started to grumble against him and accused him of robbing their father of everything. They said that Jacob had gained all his wealth at their father’s expense, when in fact, the contrary was true, for God had blessed the house of Laban because of Jacob. Jacob was perceptive and notice the change in Laban’s attitude towards him.

Interesting to note is that when Jacob learns of his cousin’s grumbling and Laban’s unfavorable attitude towards him, the Bible records that the Lord advised Jacob to return to the land of Isaac (his father) and Abraham (his grandfather) and to his relatives there. Esau, the brother that Jacob had wronged was still alive and it is likely that the Lord’s command for Jacob could return could have caused some fear in Jacob, but the Lord  beautifully assures that “God will be with him.”

Points to ponder:
Man’s attitude toward us may change with the times, for reasons that are baseless and completely incorrect, and while it is is important for us to be perceptive of people’s attitudes towards us, it is even more important for us to hear and heed the Lord’s advice for us and be strengthened by the fact that where he leads, he will guide and be with us. Are you and I listening to God’s advice for us? Are you assured that God is with you? 

Genesis 31:1-3 (KJV)
And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all this glory.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

God Selection (not Natural Selection)


Genesis 30:31-43 gives a fascinating account of an agreement, a deception, and God’s sovereignty, and intervention in ensuring that justice was met, even when it may have seemed implausible.

The agreement was between Jacob and his uncle Laban. When Laban asked Jacob as to what he could give Jacob as wages for his service of tending to Laban’s cattle for over a decade, Jacob responded that Laban did not give him anything. Instead, he struck a deal with Laban that any speckled and spotted cattle, and any brown sheep, and spotted and speckled goats should be his wages (Genesis 30:33). Laban agreed to this (Genesis 30:34)

But the shrewd and cunning Laban, that very day, went out and removed all the male goats that were speckled and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches and all black sheep and gave them to his sons, who took them away, as far as a three day journey from where Jacob was.  This was Laban’s deception, but the Bible records that Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock (Genesis 30:35,36).

Jacob then took some fresh branches from the green poplar, hazel (almond) and chestnut (plane) trees, peeling off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. He then placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink and mate. When the flocks mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young one that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them, but he did not do the same for he weaker ones and the stronger ones belonged to Jacob while the weaker ones belonged to Laban. Consequently, Jacob became exceedingly wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants and many camels and donkeys. 

Laban tried to deceive Jacob, for in his mind, without streaked, speckled, and spotted – male and female goats, and – male and female sheep, the likelihood of progeny that is speckled or spotted or streaked would be impossible, failing to recognize that not only was his scientifically incorrect, but spiritually a deceiver (Genesis 31:7). From our current understanding of Genetics, we now know that scientifically, Laban was incorrect since the recessive genes are passed on to progeny even if the physical traits are not observed. In this case, the recessive genes that control the streaked, speckled, and spotted, color of goats and sheeps would have been present in the white, non-streaked, non-speckled, and non-spotted animals – a design that our Almighty God has so beautiful created – so that all of creation has the chance to continue and it is not only the dominant that are selected for the continuation of life, debunking Darwinian Natural Selection theory.

But what is more important to recognize is that while our current knowledge of Genetics (dominant and recessive traits), can be leveraged to explain how some of the progeny of parent goats and sheep that were not streaked, speckled or spotted were themselves streaked, speckled or spotted, we see from Jacob’s account that God intervened and protected Jacob from suffering on account of his deceiving uncle. Jacob tells his wife, that the angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream and revealed to him that he would receive his rightful share of cattle, because of what Laban tried to deceive and cheat him (Genesis 31:11; 5-13).

Now what does the  peeling of the bark of these tree to make them appear streaked, has to do in this account. Though it may seem as superstition, there has been scientific studies that demonstrate that some of children’s traits hinge upon what the parents eat. A study published in Molecular and Cellular Biology by Dr. Waterland and Duke’s Randy Jirtle showed that in a particular strain of mice, fortifying the pregnant and nursing mother’s diet with four nutrients shifted babies’ coat color from yellow to brown, and made the mice less obese. This was reported in the Dallas Morning news in 2003.  Some Biblical scholars speculate that that the tree branches were to restrict and facilitate selective breeding of only the strong cattle to produce speckled and spotted progeny.

Points to ponder:
Leaving all conjectures and speculations aside, through eyes of faith, we can see that God is sovereign and just and he prevails even when, what we with our limited understanding may find implausible and impossible. God’s master design is such that it is non-contradictory. When we are faithful in our service to God and people, despite man’s attempt to deceive, God will be on our side for he is just. It is God who gives the increase and not man. It is God’s selection and not natural selection, that prevails ultimately and that is the truth, no kid-ding.

Genesis 30:31-43 (KJV)
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.

Are you a blessing (to others)?


Genesis 30:28-30 records the conversation that transpired between Laban and Jacob and it goes as follows:
Laban: Tell me what your wages are and I will give it to you.
Jacob: You know how I have served you, and how I have taken care of your cattle. The little you had, before I came, has become a multitude, because the Lord has blessed you, since my coming. Now, when can I provide for my own house also?

What is interesting to note is that Jacob could have calculated, what his wages should be and responded to Laban with a sense of entitlement, but instead he responds by recognizing first that he was there to serve and had taken care of Laban’s flock. Secondly, he recognized that Laban’s increase from little to a multitude was not because of his work, but because of the Lord, who had blessed them. Finally, Jacob thinks about providing for his own family also.

Points to ponder:
Often we feel entitled to reap the results of our labor, be it in the secular or spiritual field. Yet, from this account we can learn that we must first recognize that we are temporarily placed in God’s world to serve him and serve others, just like Jacob did. Jesus himself taught that we must become a servant (Matthew 10:43-45) and take care of God’s flock (John 21:15-17) that he has entrusted in our care. We must also recognize that it is not our work but the presence of the Lord with us, by which others around us can be blessed. And in our pursuit of serving the Lord and his people (flock), we must not neglect our own family. So the question that must be answered is: “Are you a blessing to others? and to your family? Are you / Am I?

Genesis 30:28-30 (KJV)
28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?

Carpe Diem, Carpe Noctem, Carpe Vitam, O excelsis Deo


Loving Father, Gracious Son, Convicting Holy Ghost
Invite ye, this new year, not as a guest, but The Host
Carpe Diem, Carpe Noctem, Carpe Vitam, O God Most High
Trusting, Waiting, Knowing, Learning, solely on, of, thee, we draw nigh

To lean not on my own understanding, but to TRUST in you, my Lord
Acknowledging you in all my ways, with my heart, soul, mind, strength, in one accord
Fetter me with your Love, lest my feet wander astray
And direct me Lord, for you are The Truth, The Life, The Way

On wings as eagles, my beloved shall mount you assured
Help her WAIT upon you, which this frenetic world will find absurd
Renew her strength as she labors sacrificially in love
Hold her Lord, help her Lord and make her soar above

To our firstborn love, you commanded to be still and KNOW you, the Great I AM
For to know you is eternal life, O God, O Agnus Dei, God’s Lamb
Let him be still but not silent, in action, as your Love and Grace declare
On bended knee, may he unceasingly seek you first, is our earnest prayer

Lead our beloved secondborn, in your truth, so he may LEARN
To wait upon you and to trod in your path, may he yearn
For broad are the worldly paths, that lead to destruction
Be thou to him, O God, his Salvation

Be thou our Guide Lord, and the satisfier of our soul in drought
May we be rooted in you, so our lives, your Spirit fruit sprout
Loving not just you, our Savior but also our neighbor
Heartily as to you, O Lord and not men, be our incombustible labor.

Abba Father, Saving Son, Quickening Holy Ghost
invite ye, into our life, not as a guest but The Host
Carpe Diem, Carpe Noctem, Carpe Vitam, O excelsis Deo
Trusting, Waiting, Knowing, Learning, we draw nigh to thee, The Godhead trio.

From the Author’s/Poet’s Desk:
As we arrived at the beginning of a new year, thinking about the year gone past and looking forward to the year ahead, this poem is an expressions of our hearts, that in the coming year, my family (Sangeetha, Reuben, Ittai and me), allow the Lord God Most High (excelsis Deo) to seize our day (carpe diem), our night (carpe noctem) and our life (carpe vitam).

During the watchnight service on December 31st, at the Austin Christian Fellowship of India (ACFI), we picked promise cards for each one in the family. The poem is written by compiling the verses from our promise cards, as a personal reminder to us, but we pray that you personalize this for yourself by replaced the pronouns and words like “our” with “me” or “my” and any personal pronoun with your name or “I”.

The promise  cards picked for 2018.
For Reuben (our firstborn): 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
For Ittai (our secondborn): Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5)
For Sangeetha (my beloved): 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
For Mano: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Transitive Blessing


The Bible records in the 30th chapter of Genesis a dialog that takes place between Jacob and his uncle Laban. Upon the birth of Jacob’s eleventh son, Joseph through Rachel, Jacob asks his uncle to send him away so he may return to his own place and his country. He asks for his wives and children for whom he had served Laban. Laban responds to Jacob requests to and requests him to tarry and gives his reason for his request. Laban’s reason was that he had experienced how the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob. In other words, Laban was blessed transitively because of Jacob.

Points to ponder:
Are people around us being blessed transitively because of you and me? Do people who are acquainted with us, say that they experience the Lord’s blessings because of God being with us. In God blessing us, let us be a blessing!

Genesis 30:25-27 (KJV)
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.
26 Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.
27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.