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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Refractive Crystals in God’s hands


Murano Island - FamilyMay 12, 2016 – Sangeetha and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and the symbol for the 15th anniversary is a “crystal”.

When visiting the Murano Island near Venice in May 2015, we were mind blown by the exquisite and intricate work and beauty of the glass work which are known around the world as the Murano crystals.

The word crystal is recorded 5 times in the King James Version of the Holy Bible, once in the book of Job where it is likened to be not as value as wisdom and understanding (Job 28:12-18), once in Ezekiel where it is used in the description of the firmament stretched above the heads of the living creatures (Ezekiel 1:22) and three times in Revelation – first as the sea of glass (Revelation 4:6), then as the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:11) and finally as the pure river of water of life proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:1). The Light Crystal

Crystals get their color and beauty in the way they bend (refract) light that is not reflected from its surface. They are usually singly refractive meaning that the light that enters the crystal is not not divided into two rays or they are multi refractive means that light that enters the crystals are divided into two or more rays, often causing a beautiful prism effect.

This is our prayer today, that Sangeetha and I are singly refractive of the pure water of life that has entered into our lives and that we would be multi refractive of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that we hold in these earthly bodies (jars of clay), creating a beautiful prism effect on others, as The Light of the world, Jesus Christ, shines forth from our lives. Our prayer is that we are refractive crystals in God’s hands and we seek that same prayer from you.

Revelation 22:1 (KJV)
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (KJV)
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Image Source: TEDCO

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

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.

Threefold cord – Tied together


May 12, 2015 – Fourteen years since my beloved wife, Sangeetha Johnson, and I took our vows before God to be unified and as we celebrate our anniversary, I thank our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for his grace and guidance in our lives, consistently and constantly. The Bible says that a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and so I know for certain, that despite my lusts after worldly pleasures and selfish desires, it is solely because of Jesus Christ, the third cord, who binds us together, that we can celebrate fourteen years of being tied together. Sangeetha, emulates the love of Christ not merely by words, but by action.

So as the singer Cliff Richards aptly put it, we remind ourselves this day and pray the following:
You and me and Jesus, Jesus me and you,
On our own, we’d break, with Him, we will make it through
Jesus, take us make us, what you want us both to be
I give myself to her, She gives herself to me.

Points to ponder:
A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Is Jesus intertwined in your life so that you and your relationships are not quickly broken?

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (KJV)
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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.

Far above rubies


SangeethaIt is my beloved wife, Sangeetha’s birthday and as I was searching the Scripture on what it had to say about wives, when I came across Proverbs 31:10. Proverbs 31:10 reads Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” The question of “who” can find a virtuous (noble) woman is not answered in this verse, but a “value” of a virtuous woman is mentioned.

The phrase “her price is far above rubies” made me research on what could be the worth of rubies and to my surprise I found out that rubies are extremely valuable and can command the highest prices of any colored gemstone, according to the Gemological Institute of America, Inc. reports. In the Poetical Works of Thomas Moore, Mr. Moore rhythmically pens the following words, As if that jewel, large and rare, The ruby, for which Kublai-Khan
Offer’d a city’s wealth, was blushing eluding to the writings of Marco Polo, the Italian merchant of the account of the Mongolian ruler, Kublai Khan, offering to the the king of Zeilan the value of a city for a very fine ruby that the king had. The king answered to Kublai Khan that he would not give it for the treasures of the world. If man, can put such worth, to a gemstone, how much more God puts worth in a woman of virtue, far more than rubies.

This too me a personal reminder that the best birthday gift that I can give Sangeetha, my beloved virtuous wife, is that I treat and view her, as God does her – far above rubies.

Points to ponder:
And all those who are of the elect, who have believed in the Lord Jesus – we the wife of the bridegroom Jesus – we have been bought by the blood of Jesus (the color of high quality ruby is often referred to as blood red) and our price is far above rubies for that is how God sees us.

Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.