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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Strong Willed for God’s Work and War


IttaiToday (March 20, 2016) our second born son, Ittai Aidan Paul, turned four years old and we penned a poem for him that we’d like to share. Our prayer is that you read this and be blessed and edified.

Ittai, our beloved second born, today you turned four;
a testament of God’s goodness and the blessings He does pour
as we traverse through life’s journey on this side of the shore
seeing in you, God’s inexplicable love, which leads us to Him adore.

A strong willed child, like the patriarch Jacob, you are
refusing to let go until you are blessed, staying in the fight to spar
Our prayer is that you will channelize that obstinacy to be God’s star
submitting your self to His will, and for God go far.

A loving brother and a wonderful son in you, we see
not readily accepting things but questioning all things curiously;
such quest for rationale, we pray you will use to search the Scripture (Bible) daily
and see God’s Son, Jesus, revealed in his word, is our earnest plea.

Your prayers are simple, yet profound in its content
asking God to care for the orphan and those in lament;
seeking His face, we hear your plea fervent
and ask God to make you his worker, his warrior, his servant.

Ittai, our beloved second born, today you turned four
and we pray that like Jesus grew, you also do, more
growing in wisdom, in stature, and in God and man’s favor
You are much loved for the blessing you are – we just can’t ask for more!

Psalm 127:3 (KJV)
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

 

 

 

The firstborn – ours and His


A decade ago, on this day, the 20th of January, 2006, we were blessed with our firstborn son, Reuben Abishai Paul. Sangeetha and I are grateful to God for Reuben – a wonderful gift of a son to us and a loving brother to Ittai. Reuben means “behold, a son” and Abishai means “gift of God the Father” and true to that name, as I reminisce on these past 10 years, I am filled with a deep sense of thankfulness to God our Father for his gift to us – our firstborn. But as I pondered more on how wonderful, our life has been since the addition of Reuben in our lives, I realized that, I should not only be thankful for our firstborn, but with an even greater sense gratefulness and worship, I must be thankful to God the Father, for giving us the gift of his firstborn – his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is The firstborn, meaning not, that he was created for he is the Creator and by and through and for him were all things created (Colossians 1:15-18), but that he is the first – the preeminent one.

Our prayer for Reuben, our firstborn, as he turns ten years old today, is that he will always remember as a firstborn, that The firstborn is not him, but Jesus Christ – God’s firstborn and give unto Jesus, the preeminence and priority that is rightfully due him.

Points to ponder:
Is Jesus Christ preeminent (The Firstborn) in your life?

Colossians 1:12-23 (KJV)
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Desperately Searching for and Seeking God


The morning of August 23rd, 2015 (Sunday), my wife, Sangeetha, and I were in the washroom upstairs, getting ready for the day and had the door shut, so that it would not disturb our 3 and a half year old son, Ittai who was sleeping in the adjoining bedroom. Ittai was not aware that we were in the washroom and when he woke up, he went downstairs looking for us. Unaware that we were upstairs, he starting calling for his mom, me and his brother, Reuben, who had stayed overnight at the Gymnastic team camp. Not finding any of us, he started to cry (possibly out of fear and worry). Hearing his cry, my wife and I ran downstairs and found him vehemently weeping. Sangeetha immediately reached out to him and gave him a hug and it took both us quite an effort to console and comfort Ittai, who kept weeping in our arms. We assured him that we will never leave him alone and even if something was to happen to us, Jesus will never ever leave him alone. After much talk he finally stop crying and was comforted.

Come to think of that incident, later in the day, during our family prayer time, Sangeetha shared with Reuben, how thankful we need to be to God, for family, as there are many children in the world (in war zones, etc.) who have lost their parents and orphaned, with no one to console them when they are crying. This is what came to her mind when she saw Ittai crying. On the other hand, as I pondered over the incident, I realized that we ought to be like Ittai, when it came to our heavenly Father God. We must desperately search for him and seek him while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6). We can also be assured that, Jesus, promised that he will be with us even unto to ends of the age, never leaving us nor forsaking us, no matter how fearful and worrisome the situation is.

Points to ponder:
Until one finds Father God, they must desperately search for him and seek him. The good news is that God the Father is eagerly waiting and looking for all the prodigal sons and daughters to return to him. God would never leave us alone. We will never be orphans in God’s family. Seek and ye shall find (God). In him, you will find true consolation and comfort. Are you desperately searching and seeking God?

Isaiah 55:6 (KJV)
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Proverbs 8:17 (JKV)
17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early (diligently) shall find me.

Easter Eggstra Special


This past, Thursday, when our 3 year old beloved son, Ittai, came home from school, he had with him a beautifully painted egg and I asked him what it was. He said it was an Easter egg. So I asked him, do you know the meaning of Easter? His response was “Eggs and Baskets.” Well, I tried explaining to Ittai, what Easter truly meant – that it was a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death and how he rose from the grave – but I felt extremely inadequate in explaining resurrection to a three year old. I was also a little disappointed and mad at the world system that tries to take out the true meaning of a celebration, replacing it with something that is politically correct (case in point, Happy holidays for Merry Christmas, XMas for Christmas and Easter eggs/bunnies for the Resurrection).

Then on Easter morning after the service at the Austin Christian Fellowship of India, in which Pastor Samuel Madhavaraj preached about how the tomb of Christ was not only open but empty as well, one of the church members pointed Ittai to an Easter egg that was under his chair. Excitedly Ittai ran and picked up the egg, but when he opened it, it was empty. It was probably the remnant of an Easter egg hunt that may have taken place earlier that weekend. I saw the look of disappointment on Ittai’s face and as a father, I melted. Then it struck me. I took the empty egg, picked Ittai up, sat him on my lap and explained – “Ittai, you know how I asked you what Easter is all about?”. He nodded. “See, Easter is like this empty egg. The candy that was within is not there anymore. It has probably been taken out and eaten by someone who must have tasted and experienced how good it was. They must have enjoyed it. As long as the candy was in the egg, nobody could enjoy it. Now that the egg shell is empty and the candy is out, it can be enjoyed.” I continued, “in the same manner, Easter is like an empty egg. The tomb when Jesus was buried is empty. If he remained in the tomb, no one could have enjoyed his sweetness. The Bible says, O taste and see that the Lord is good. We must take Jesus (like candy) and accept him and take him into our lives so that he comes into us and becomes one with us. We can then truly enjoy his presence as a child would enjoy candy. Infact, Easter eggs that are empty is a poignant picture of the empty tomb. This is what Easter is.” I couldn’t tell if he fully understood what I was trying to say, but atleast, I hope that he recognizes, Easter is not about eggs and basket … but about an empty tomb, because Jesus, who was placed in the tomb, is risen – He is risen indeed. Death could not hold him; the grave could not keep him – He is alive.

Points to ponder:
Have you tasted the sweetness of the grace of God? In other words, have you received and believed in Christ Jesus, taking him into your lives so that you can truly relish and enjoy his presence, or, are you leaving Christ in the tomb as a child would leave candy within and Easter egg.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14 (KJV)
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

On bended knee, your heart guard


Ittai Aidan PaulOur beloved second son, Ittai turned 3 years old today and here is a poem we wrote for him.

Ittai Aidan Paul, today you turn three
and may you this year be, always, on bended knee
before God, your Creator, who loaned you, to us, as a gift
‘As you grow, may Only His Name, we pray, you lift.’

‘Children are a heritage of the LORD’
and our mission is to teach you to perpetually, your heart guard
against the vices and wiles of this world, and its god.
‘May you always, always, always – Love the LORD’

And his creatures, as you would love yourself.
Running to those in need, we pray you compassionately help
and show that Christ Jesus is Lord of your life, as it should be.
‘You are much loved and appreciated, and will always be.’

We love you Ittai (boo). Happy happy birthday.
Mama, Dada and your brother Reuben wish you a blessed birthday and we seek God’s guidance and wisdom in raising you up in the fear of the Lord. Tons of hugs and tons of kisses. 🙂 God bless you richly! You are a heritage of the LORD (his favor to us).

Psalm 127:3-5 (KJV)
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

The Lord is with me (and I with the Lord)


Our beloved second born son, Ittai Aidan Paul, turns two on March 20, 2014 (today) and as I pondered over God’s goodness in our lives, here are a few words that came to mind, which was penned …

Ittai_SuitedUpIttai Aidan, our beloved second born son, turns two
and we praise God, for his  faithfulness and mercies, afresh, anew
Named after the Gittite who epitomized loyalty
We pray that you shall be always be the son of the Almighty Royalty.

As a son and a brother, you are loaned from above,
and we pray for heavenly wisdom to raise you in faith, hope and love.
In Hebrew, your first name means, ‘The Lord is with me’
And ‘you with the Lord’ we pray that you will always be.

Named secondly after the Apostle of the English, a missionary of Lindisfarne
We pray that like a little fire, you will be God’s light, his alarm
And be kept from all evil and all harm,
As you grow in God’s favor and man’s, in wisdom and in charm.

Ittai Aidan, our beloved second born son, you turn two
and for you, a gift from above, we praise God, who is Faithful and True
Be a follower of Christ, always, imputing solely his piety
So that you will not just be known as our son, but as one of the Almighty.

Happy Birthday, Ittai
We love you dearly.

Points to ponder:
Ittai in Hebrew means, “The Lord is with me” and Jeremiah 20:11 states the the Lord is with us as a mighty warrior.
Jesus promised to be with us, even unto the end of the world.
The question that remains then is “Are you with the Lord?” (John 15:4-5)

2 Samuel 15:19-21 (KJV)
19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.
20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.
21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.

Jeremiah 20:11 (NIV)
11 But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.

John 15:4-5 (KJV)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.