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.

The Firstborn


Reuben Paul - FamilyReuben, our firstborn turned 10 on January 20, 2016 and we penned a poem (actually prayer) for him.
Our prayer for you and your loved ones is this as well. Read and be blessed.

Reuben Paul, our firstborn, today, you turn ten
and while we have over a myriad things to pen
we’d like you to know that for the first time, when
we held you in our arms, we knew, you were a special gift for us from heaven

As our firstborn, we can most assuredly say, ‘We couldn’t ask for more.’
‘A loving son & a wonderful brother that you are!’, we see as your core
‘An example of loving God, to whom, you desire all men to restore.’
‘Be ye always steadfast looking on God’s firstborn’, we implore.

You remind us each day that, to us, you are the Father’s gift
and in every public address, his Name and his Son you lift
so in the years to come, we pray, God’ Spiritual armor, ye fit
fighting the good fight, keeping the faith and to God’s will, ye submit.

God sent his Firstborn to save all mankind
for this generation was, and is, perverse and ignorantly blind
‘Beware of the pleasures of this world’, our son, ‘that would subtly you entwine’
and run to the Lord and only to him, bind.

Reuben Paul, our firstborn, today you turn ten
and while we have over a myriad things to pen
we’d like you to know that for the first time, when
we held you in our arms, we knew, your were God’s gift for us and to all from heaven.

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;

2nd degree Black Belt – Spiritual Wu Xia


Family with the Grandmaster

Family with the Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé

On August 27th, 2015, our beloved 9 year old son, Reuben, and I, tested in front of the Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé at the North Austin school and earned the 2nd degree Black Belt in Shaolin Do Kung Fu. Together with my wife, Sangeetha and second son, Ittai, as a family, we thank God for making it possible for us to test together and be honored in receiving the double white diamond patches that would go on our black belt.

Wu Xia Patch

Wu Xia Patch

While the test was a mental and physical feat in and of itself, we had to train for a little over 2 years, since August 22nd, 2013 (when we earned our first black belt) before being given the patch as Sin Kwang’s Wu Xia (meaning Warrior).

Shaolin Do Kung Fu Weapons

Shaolin Do Kung Fu Weapons

With the support of my wife (who made sure we were always hydrated and pushing us to practice) and Ittai (who was our cheerleader), Reuben and I put hours into practicing the various long and short forms (Tiger, Crane, Bird, …), self-defense techniques, fighting techniques and weapons (Bo staff, Short stick, Nunchuks, Broadsword, Sai, Kwando, Spears, …) and that training paid off when we passed the test.

Now as I pondered upon what to write for meditation today, I realized I personally do not put in significant amount of time to become a spiritual Wu Xia, training in the defensive techniques of using the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) or the offensive techniques of using the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God – Ephesians 6:17). This needs to change, if I am to earn the patch of being God’s Spiritual Warrior and earn the praise from God himself, which is “You have fought the good fight (of faith) and kept the faith”.

Points to ponder:
I plan and pray that I will be Jesus’, my Savior’s, Spiritual Wu Xia. What about you?

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (KJV)
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

P.S: For those interested, video links of clips from our 2nd degree Black belt are given below:
Tiger Forms Clips – https://youtu.be/PfqSXcfrd0w
Spear Forms Clips –  https://youtu.be/2PPjCoeGmik

Our life you touch


Reuben Abishai PaulAmerica celebrates the third Monday of January, each year, as Martin Luther King, Jr. day, to remember the man who fought for the equality of all men, irrespective of race, touching the lives of many. And today, besides celebrating the birth of this great man, we celebrate the birth of another … our firstborn child, Reuben Abishai Paul, who turned eight. Words failed me as I intended to express my gratitude to God for such a child as this, by whom we (Sangeetha and I and Ittai) are so very blessed  … all I could pen were a few words, as follows …

We love you lots and wish you much
You are so special for all the lives you touch

Today marks a special day;
and for God’s choicest blessings, we pray
on you, our beloved firstborn
who like a beacon of hope arrived, when we were forlorn

The moment we held you in our arms,
we were reinforced of a Great God, full of charms.
An angel from God, to us, you came as a gift
and only Christ’s Name alone, we pray, you lift.

A little of Picasso, Beethoven, Phelps, and Gretzky,
even Comăneci and Bruce Lee, in you we see;
For as an artist, a musician, a swimmer, a hockey player, 
a gymnast and a Shaolin Do Blackbelt, you are a rising star
But most of all, we cherish you for the 
Theophilus, a loving brother, and beloved son, that you are.

We love you lots and wish you much
You are so very special, for our life you touch.

God bless you Reuben … Have a blessed birthday!
Mama and Dada and Ittai

Points to ponder:
People touch our lives in one way or another, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and our beloved Son, but the most important touch in your life is the touch of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5). Have you been touched by the Lord, the touch that transforms death to life?

2 Thessalonians 3:3-5 (KJV)
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

Patriot Day and the Christian Patriot


Reuben, our beloved 7 year old son, came home from school with some papers that described and spoke about Patriot Day. In the United States of America, Patriot Day, falls annually on September 11, in memory of the nearly 3000 people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But who is a Patriot? The dictionary defines the word ‘Patriot’ as ‘a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

A Patriot is therefore someone who loves, supports and defends (fights) for his or her country and its interests, not lackadaisically but with fervor and devotion.

It is certainly Biblical and commendable that the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, pray for the authority that God has instituted over us (1 Timothy 2:1-3) and the love we have for our country is expressed in its defense against any threat, domestic or foreign.

In like manner, it is also essential to be a Christian Patriot. A Christian Patriot is one who loves God and loves his neighbor (Matthew 22:37,39), supports those who are weak (Acts 20:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and defends his citizenship which is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and its interests, with devotion by earnestly contending (fighting) for the faith that was given to the saints upon salvation (Jude 1:3).

Points to ponder:
When we need to give an account to the Lord God, could it be said of us that we loved God totally and we loved our neighbor as ourselves; we supported those who could not support themselves and fought earnestly to keep the faith? Could it be said of us, that we were Christian Patriots? Are you/Am I a Christian Patriot?

Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Acts 20:35 (KJV)
35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Philippians 3:20 (NLT)
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

Jude 1:3 (KJV)
3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Black Belt Christianity


Reuben and Mano with Grandmaster Sin Kwang TheOur beloved 7 year old son, Reuben, and I were honored to receive the Shaolin Do Kung Fu Black Belt, after testing in front of the Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé at the North Austin Shaolin Do Kung Fu school on August 22, 2013. This makes Reuben to be the youngest person (till date) to receive the Black Belt in not just Austin, but in all of the United States of America and my beloved wife, Sangeetha, his brother Ittai and I could not be any less proud.

Reuben started training since he was three and a half years old and it has been nearly four years since we began this journey together. Once in his school, when Reuben was asked, What is your dream? Reuben wrote, “I have a dream. My dream is to be a red belt in Kung Fu (like the Grandmaster). I can help my dream come true by: praying and hard work.” To become a red belt would take atleast a little over forty years; pretty much his lifetime. Reuben - Red Belt Dream

At the end of the Black Belt test, the Grandmaster encouraged the newly granted Black Belts by saying that “Don’t think of the Black Belt as an end point but consider it to be only the beginning of a journey.” and he is absolutely right. While we are so honored at this blessing and honor that God has made possible for Reuben and I, we realize that it is only the beginning.

This not only applies to us in our physical art form, but also in our spiritual art form. Becoming a Christian is only the beginning; continuing to being a Christian takes a lifetime; actually until we see Jesus face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and are like him (1 John 3:2). We must grow daily in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), after the knowledge of Salvation (Hebrews 10:26), always prepared with weapons of warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18), so that at the end of life’s journey, we could be given the highest accolade, one could receive, which is”Well done my good and faithful servant – You have fought a good fight and kept the faith (like a Black Belt would). (Matthew 25:21; 2 Timothy 4:7)”. This would be given by Jesus, who wore a Red Belt of his own blood, as a crown of thorns was placed to pierce him on his head (John 19:2).

Points to ponder:
How are you in your journey to be a Black Belt Christian?

2 Peter 3:12-18 (KJV)
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

1 John 3:2 (KJV)
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Computer Christianity


As I was teaching our beloved 7 year old son, Reuben, to write a computer program, he was figuring out that by using the shortcuts such as Command+C to copy and Command+V to paste, he could hasten his development time. He then started asking me about other shortcuts and I told him the importance of Command+S to save his work and Command+X to cut a piece a code and when he made a mistake, he could use Command+Z to undo his mistake.

Suddenly, he experienced an epiphany and gleefully expressed with a twinkle in his eye, “Dada, dada, Command+S is what Jesus does – he saves, while Command+X is what the devil does – he cuts.” and I said “Yes, that is so true.” and then we digressed into thinking as to what Command+C (to copy) and Command+V (to paste) and Command+Z (to undo) could mean and Reuben said, “Jesus is the Copy of God – fully God and each time the devil tries to cut us down, he uses Command+Z to undo the work of the devil and uses Command+V to paste back what the devil tries to take away from us.”

Out of the mouth of babes, God perfects praise (Matthew 21:16).
All of these are Biblically sound and supported.
Command+X: The thief’s (devil’s) purpose is to steal and kill (cut) and destroy. (John 10:10, NLT)
Command+S: For the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10, NLT)
Command+C: Jesus Christ is the visible image (copy) of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15, NLT)
Command+Z: He that doeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. In this thing the Son of God (Jesus) appeared, that he undo the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8, WYC)
Command+V: Restore (paste) to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:12, NLT)

Points to ponder:
Are your under the bondage of the devil who seeks to cut you down and take away the joy of your salvation? Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to seek you and me and save all those who are lost. He is the copy of the invisible God and he came to undo the works of the devil and restore to us the relationship that man once had with God, before he sinned.

Inheriting God’s favor (in a Son)


Reuben, our beloved firstborn son, turned 7 years old yesterday (January 20, 2013) and as we reflect, on this precious gift of God the Father (Abishai) unto us, we are grateful to God for his goodness and grace that we experience in and through Reuben. God has blessed him with many talents and gifts, in faith, academics and in sports. He is gifted with a good sense of memory, memorizes Bible verses speedily, prays with faith, was identified and placed in the gifted an talented program at his School, participates in gymnastics, swimming and is a 2nd degree Brown belt in Shaolin-Do Kung Fu.

The Bible says that “Children are a heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:2) and the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘Heritage’ as ‘property that is descended to an heir.’ As we reflect on these 7 years with Reuben as our Son, we recognize that “Reuben is a heritage of the Lord.”, a loan from above. In other words, he is God’s property given to us as a gift, as we are God’s heirs because of what Jesus Christ victoriously accomplished. Jesus restored the relationship of fallen man, with God, by his death and resurrection, and gives to all who believes in him, his Spirit of adoption, by which we can call God, Abba Father (Romans 8:15), making us co-heirs with him (Romans 8:17), and our prayer is that we will always be cognizant of God’s favor in Reuben whom we have inherited.

Our prayer for him is, as he grows up, he is first is a follower of Jesus Christ and secondly a Godly son to us and a Godly brother to his sibling Ittai; that he grows with wisdom, in stature and in favor of God and man (as Jesus did – Luke 2:52).

Points to ponder:
My beloved wife, Sangeetha and I have personally inherited God’s favor in our son, Reuben. But the whole world is eligible of personally inheriting God’s favor in his Only Begotten heavenly Son, Jesus Christ, if only they believe in Jesus. Have you inherited God’s favor in his Son, Jesus Christ?

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

John 1:12 (KJV)
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Romans 8:15-17 (KJV)
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.