Archive | June 2014

Patience: A Divine Virtue

Throughout my life, I have encountered numerous moments when I was forced to wait for something. The four months I had to wait to receive college acceptance letters felt like four years at the time. I was not worried so much about what would happen because I know God will never fail to take care of me. But, I was impatient and I wanted to know things right away. Amidst my constant planning and waiting, attending a weekly holy congregation taught me the virtue of patience. This is what I have learned:

Each of us is destined for something, a purpose that is often unclear to us even when it is clear to God. We yearn to know the purpose of our existence and to be rest assured that we are not in this world by accident; that there is something for us to do, some difference to make, some goals to attain. Essentially, we are asked to be patient during such restless moments when our questions are left unanswered. Waiting is a process that is constantly occurring throughout man’s life. Do you remember when you could not wait to grow up, to drive your first car, to get your first job, to get married, to buy your first home. . ?

At times, even very spiritual beings can become plagued with anxieties when waiting becomes an unfeasible and intolerable task. After all, being patient in life is easier said than done. While we are waiting, we may be tempted to give in to our desires just as Eve did when she took a bite out of the forbidden apple. Her action only resulted in momentary pleasure but it cost her eternal happiness. Someone wise once said that life is the journey and not the destination. Because we spend more time waiting than receiving, it is important for saints to be good at waiting and not to fall for something that might be short of God’s plan. Patience is a divine virtue, which cannot be stressed enough as it is diminishing in a world that revolves around instant gratification and quick fixes (instant text messages, instant food, etc.).

Patience can act to help eradicate our anxieties about the future. This divine virtue grows only under trial. One cannot claim to have the virtue of patience if they have never waited for anything. Patience is not just an ability to wait; it is how one acts while they are waiting. Our attitude is something that we have the power to choose. For example, are we complaining while we wait for the fruits of our labor or are we singing? So much of our frustrations are over things that we cannot control. During such disturbing moments it is key to remember that things that are impossible with man, are possible with God. Why not turn to Him when things do not make sense? However, to receive God’s blessings requires knowing Him and spending time with Him. We will not know how to hear Him if we never speak to Him.

Patience must be allowed time to do its work because there is a season and right time for everything. Pride often makes us believe we deserve things before we are ready for them. Remember, God determines the timing in our life so we should not rush Him. Many of us try to figure things out while we are waiting and we inevitably come up with “backup plans.” But once we put our trust in God, we do not need a backup plan anymore. Do we really want God to do only what we can think of or do we want Him to work beyond our imaginations? A satisfied person is content where they are at because they know it is not where they will end up. Similarly, God never loses His joy because He has written the end of the book.

Often times, we want what God has not given to us. This is when ‘In God We Trust’, the words on American currency, becomes very important. It is important not to misplace our faith. If our faith demands miracles then we are not putting our faith in God – we are putting faith in our own faith. Patience is what we need when we are waiting for God’s timing, not our own. It requires steadfast endurance and a trust in God that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. But still, when things do not go our way and when we begin to doubt God’s plans for us, it is important to remember:

Jo bhi hota hai, teek hota hai, [firbhi maan kyoun udas hota hai]
Whatever happens, happens for the best, [still why does the heart get sad?]
Teri har bath mein, datar chupa, kuch na kuch raaz kaas hota hai.
In everything you do, O Lord, there is always a purpose, even though it may be hidden

“Even God’s smallest plan for us is bigger than any plan we can have for ourselves.” When we wait for things in life, we should wait with confidence, an expectant attitude because we receive our gifts from an omnipotent and great God who knows all our needs. As long as we place God on top of our list of priorities or ambitions, there is no way we will walk away dissatisfied. As many prophets have said: “We do not have to chase blessings. Blessings will chase us, if we chase God.”

Fixations

It seems every so often we have a desire or challenge that comes into our life and our prayers start revolving around that one thing.  We repeatedly pray for deliverance from that one particular stress or we pray for that one specific miracle to come true.  Sometimes we even pray the same thing over and over, almost as if we think God didn’t hear us the first time

In this way, we become fixated on one goal, one desire – whether it be a project at work, a child we pray God to guide, or the restoration of a relationship…..

Here is something interesting I recently heard:

“I do not think we are ready to have a thing,

Until we can be happy without it.”

This statement is something to think about.  It made me examine my heart and ask myself, Is there something in my life that has become TOO important to me?

Sometimes God delays blessing us with that thing we are asking for because He wants us to get to the point in life where we are not clinging to the thing, but we are clinging to HIM.  He wants to remind us that we can find completion in Him (the creator) and not in His creations.

And when we get fixated on certain desires or goals, then we also become selfish.  I know there was one thing I was really praying God for in my life, and then I realized that I was unhappy when I was fixated on my own desire. Instead when I started to look around and asked God how I could be a blessing to others – that is when I found happiness.  One of my mentors once said: you will be so much happier when you stop thinking about your problems, your worries, your desires, etc.  The less you think about yourself, the happier you will be.

God is awesome. We can go to Him with anything. But it is important that we do not turn him into a Santa Claus.  Yes, He has the power to do anything in our lives, to bless us beyond our imaginations, but if that is the only reason we turn to him, then we might have a shallow relationship with God

The danger of being fixated on one desire or one prayer is that we forget to Thank God for everything He has given us.  And sometimes we forget our other responsibilities.  I recently asked my dad how he was doing and he replied, ‘I just have this one major stress, this is the only thing I’m focusing on.’  While daddy was being so consumed by the stress of his one big project, he and I both noticed that he forgot the more important things in his life.  When we become fixated on one thing, then we begin to forget everything else, sometimes even God.

We don’t have to wait for God to deliver us from our problems to be happy. We can be happy even when we go through stressful times – because we know He is in charge.  When we become fixated on certain desires, we have a tendency to want to attain things our way and in our timing. We forget even God’s smallest plans are bigger and better than any dream we could ever hope for.

God’s Silence

About two years ago I went through a challenging situation where I desperately wanted to hear from God. I wanted to know what His will for me was. I wanted to know why something had happened and what I was supposed to do next. I prayed deeply, day and night for guidance, and I felt God was being very quiet. Mediation made me stronger –it got me through- but I felt like God was being silent in multiple areas of my life and it was very frustrating for me at the time.

Here is an illustration that I feel might apply to anyone going through a similar situation:

* When you go to school, you attend classes where your teacher gives lectures and instructions. But when the day comes for the teacher to hand out a test, during that test-taking period, your teacher is “silent.” *

There are many take-aways here:

1) First and foremost, just like the teacher stays silent as students take their exams, sometimes God is silent during the times He is growing in us. It is
NATURAL.

2) Before the teacher gives a test, he or she prepares you for it. Similarly God is always preparing us for what is to come. He gives us what we need in order to do what He wants us to do.

3) While taking the test – the teacher does not leave the room. She is always there – watching students very closely. Similarly, God never leaves you alone with a problem. He is ALWAYS there, always listening to your prayers, even if He may be silent.

4) Your teacher will never test you in an area you are not ready to be tested. For example, a teacher of a 3rd grade class will never give her students a 6th grade-level test. Similarly, God will never give you more than you can handle.

5) The test taking period does not last forever. Only for an allotted amount of time, though that time depends on the length of the test. You can find comfort in the fact God will never leave you in a trying situation forever.

The illustration above is very assuring to me. It reminds me that I should not be offended by God’s silence. That He is always there and will never give His children a tougher situation than they can handle. The time we are going through a trial is the time to trust Him that He will get us through – just like students trust that a teacher has given them the knowledge they need to pass a course. A trying time is the time to trust in God most and to put our faith in action.

Back to my situation: I may not have gotten the answers I searched for but I was connected with the one who knows all. God grew patience and faith in me and I got to the point where I didn’t want to know anymore – I trust God and know his answers to my prayers will come in their own time and He will provide me with the wisdom I need, when I need it.

Desire vs. God

It is inevitable, no matter how much faith one has, there comes a moment in our lives when we want something so badly and we may even believe it is God’s will for us, that we cannot understand why God won’t fulfill our desire.

In my limited experience I have come to realize a few things:

God has ways of getting things done that we as mere mortals could never think of. He can do in a single moment with ease what we can struggle with our entire life and still not accomplish.

We bring the burden on ourselves when we try to do what only God can do. When we struggle with something, there can be a few reasons for that:
1) It is out of God’s Will
2) It is out of God’s Timing

If what we desire is God’s will, then His Grace will be there. As saints, we have to learn to discern if God’s will is in something or not. That can only be done by spending time in meditation with Him.

The question arises, How do I know for sure when I’m hearing from God?

I believe we can find the answer to this question by praying about it, keeping our mouth shut, and then waiting to see what God does. I personally believe if it is God, then He will make it happen. If what you desire is truly God’s will for you, have faith He is big enough to take care of it.

Put simply- If He wills it, and you seek His will, it will be done.

Sometimes we want something so badly and we wish it to be God who is putting that desire in our heart, but it isn’t. A good indication is if we encounter struggles.

When we align our desires with Him, things automatically fall into our lap. And even when they don’t, He gives us the strength and direction to follow through. But sometimes we climb outside of God’s will and try to make things happen on our own — but those efforts don’t have God’s grace on them. And when God is not in something, it will not work.

Once in awhile God puts a desire in our heart, but it is not the right time to fulfill that desire. God’s delay is not always His denial. Sometimes He even has us wait for that midnight hour to stretch our faith.

“If God answers our prayer, He is increasing our faith.
If God delays, He is increasing our patience.
If He does not answer, He has something BETTER for us.”

When we realize God and His magical ways, we can let go and enjoy life without trying to figure things out on our own. God knows what needs to be done in my life, He wants to do what needs to be done in my life, and He knows HOW to do what needs to be done in my life. As spiritual beings, we can lean on this understanding.

Prayer is a very powerful tool in life in every situation. When prayers go up, blessings come down. I always tell myself- “I don’t know God’s plan for me, but I know He loves me. Whatever He does will be good and I will be blessed.”

Resisting Temptations

“We are the sum of our decisions.” This statement indicates that a man’s morals and level of integrity are prevalent in his actions because a man does what he decides to do.  At every step in life we make decisions and sometimes we are tempted to act in a manner we know is wrong.  These temptations come in many forms every day and most of the time it comes in the form of peer pressure.  In today’s modern age where drugs, violence, and foul language have become a way of life, it is hard to remain true to one’s morals and even harder to act upon them.

Often times it is difficult to know whether one is making the right decision in matters, but there are many ways one can avoid making the wrong decisions in life.  One such way to resist immoral temptations is to connect with our inner spirit.  What better way to demonstrate our love to God than by obeying Him?

Another way to avoid making immoral decisions is by refusing to see materialistic desires such as wealth, power, and fame as a source of true lasting happiness.  These possessions are phony and temporary and can only be enjoyed with God’s grace.  If we make God our top priority, we will be binding ourselves to a permanent entity who will always be there for us.  Through our prayers we can show God that we have surrendered to Him and learn how to serve Him in our decisions.

Finally, we should not put ourselves in foolish positions and then expect God to perform miracles and bail us out.

In simpler terms, we should not test God.  It is naive for us to think that we are special cases and God will protect us even when we throw ourselves into a roaring fire.  Once we decide to stray away from what we know in our hearts in right, we have no one to blame for our actions other than ourselves.  As it has been seen, man is often the culprit of his own demise.

Even though God will forgive us for our mistakes, the fact does not change that our actions have consequences.  A person who chooses to be dishonest at work should not be surprised if he loses his job, a person who smokes should not fret if he is diagnosed with lung cancer, a person who decides to drown his sorrows in a couple of drinks should not be startled if his drinking results in addiction, and a person who commits adultery should not be shocked if he ends up alone with no one to care for him.  Every cause has an effect and that is why it is important to pray God at every step and ask Him to bless them with the ability to make the right decisions in life.  This is my prayer for myself and for others who want God’s help to resist sinful temptations.

You Have to Go Through a Journey to Get to a Destination

As I grow older, I learn that there is no real gain in life without some sort of work or sacrifice involved. We cannot sit in a chair and expect to walk without effort…we have to get up and will ourselves to put one foot in front of the other.

Those wanting to achieve a physically fit and toned body usually have to take part in major work-out sessions to gain muscle. They usually have to resist eating tempting foods in order to stay low on calories. Ask someone who is just beginning to keep healthy fasts – it isn’t easy, at least not in the beginning.

Those wanting a deep and personal relationship with God must spend regular time in devotion. God-realization is not enough to accomplish this goal – it requires daily prayer and meditation.

We all want great big things for ourselves, but how many of us are willing to do what we are asked to do to achieve it? We want our lives changed but are we willing to change our lifestyle?

These questions were going through my head as I realized one of the things I constantly pray God for is to be blessed with God-like qualities. I always pray for tolerance, patience, love, humility, etc.

What I have learned over the years is that in order for God to bless me with growth in these areas of my life, He has to work on me.

For example, I cannot grow in tolerance until I am put in close proximity with someone I cannot stand. God cannot develop the virtue of patience in me until He has me wait for something. As uncomfortable as those situations can be, God uses them to bear fruit in us.

My parents migrated from India to America before I was born. Upon landing here, they were immediately blessed with more than they had wished for. They got the Rolex watch, the Mercedes, the Dream House, and the happy family. It was Heaven on Earth for them. But things did not stay that way. My parents separated, we sold the dream house, and went through some family challenges.

At that stage in life, because things changed so suddenly and drastically, it felt like we had descended from Heaven into a journey unknown. But God was doing such an amazing work in our lives even though we couldn’t see it right away. Letting go of the house itself was a lesson in humility. It came with the realization that it takes years to build a home, but only a moment to lose it. And the realization that it takes only a single moment for everything to change (except God).

God held our family’s hand through it all. What should have been a difficult time wasn’t that bad. And today our family of four is living joyfully with the understanding that —through God—Heaven or peace can be found in so many different ways.

My point in mentioning these examples is that even when we think we are going through a rough time, God is working wonders for us. Those times when it hurts most usually also take us to a level in life we otherwise cannot get to. My point is not to say being miserable is a good thing. I just want to offer motivation and remind myself and others not to fear the journey. Because only by going through a journey does one reach a destination.

It would be naïve to assume that just because we have God in our life everything will always feel perfect. No, there will be seasons, just like there is rain but also sunshine. Even Lord Ram Ji was sent to 14 years of exile. But the reassuring truth is that God will be with you through every season. And you can cling to Him. You may go through challenges in life that make you want to question God…it’s okay to get upset just like we would get upset with our own fleshly father, etc. But what is important is that we never let go of Him. If we truly want God’s will to be done in our life, we have to trust Him even when things don’t make sense.

It is true one has to go through a journey to get to a destination – but when your destination is God; the journey is always fulfilling.

The World is Too Small for Walls

We can learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp. Some are bright and some are dull. Some have weird names. There are a multitude of different colors, but they all live in the same box.

That’s what our world is like. People are like the crayons – each one unique and different in countless ways. Like the crayons, we all inhabit the same space and live in the same world. And this world is too small for walls.

Walls are built for two reasons: to keep someone or something out; or to keep someone or something in. Either way, the function of the wall is to act as a barrier – a divider. Some walls can be literal like the Great Wall in China that was built to block the nation from intrusions. Other walls can be emotional walls or walls we have created in our minds. These are the most dangerous.

The Bible says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

These are powerful words. The holy scriptures tell us that any kingdom or place that has divisions within will not stand – that means it will be destroyed. The consequences of walls, or divisions of any kind, are destruction and despair.

Historically, we see this scripture play out in times of war. Any time groups of people created divisions amongst themselves and battled each other, the friction resulted in deaths, tears, bloodshed, and a lack of peace.

If a small house divided against itself cannot stand, what does this mean for the world? A world divided against itself cannot stand.

When Jesus was about to die on the cross He took the time to say a prayer like this, “those who believe in me…may become one. May they be brought to complete unity.”

That is the purpose of human life. That is the goal for our world today- to eradicate any walls. To be one, believe in one, and become one.

The secret to achieving this unity is to remember that we are part of the same family. Walls are only hard to break when we walk without the realization that we all come from one Father, one creator. In essence, when we hurt someone, we are actually hurting ourselves.

A father once asked his three sons to break a group of wooden sticks in half. None of the sons could do it. The father then showed them that when the sticks are in a group, they are tougher to break. The only way to break them is when they are divided into smaller piles. The key lesson the father was giving his sons was that it is easy to divide and then conquer but when people stand together it’s hard to bring them down or destroy them. That’s because there is strength in unity.

Sadly the world today has become disjointed. Not so much by outside forces like mother nature but by quarrels from within. People are fighting with each other over issues and barriers they themselves created.

The way to bring unity and peace in the world is to quit building emotional, mental or physical walls around ourselves. The question arises, how can we do that on an individual level?

Here are four practical ways to work on bringing unity in our lives:

Be humble. It’s a great thing if you don’t always have to have the last word. It’s an even greater thing is you don’t let your ego take center stage in your relationships. Humility is the foundational stone for unity. It brings you down to earth so that you walk in awareness that you are not better than anyone; rather you are one and the same as everyone else, equals in God’s eyes.

Avoid gossip. Gossip can destroy relationships and friendships. It also has a tendency to feed on negative thoughts, thereby creating ‘walls’ in your heart.

Don’t label people. Labels are the root cause of so many problems because they demean people. They inadvertently create barriers between people and often blind us to the good in others. Labels emphasize the differences in people and hence they accomplish the opposite of unity.

Don’t hold grudges. Learn to forgive easily. Sometimes we don’t outright create walls between us and others but it happens more unconsciously. Like when we are mad at someone about something but we don’t communicate that with them. Instead we bottle our negative emotions up and internally hold a grudge against that person. This is not only unhealthy but again, it creates barriers in our relationships, households and our world.

Simply remembering that we all come from the same Father, the same Super Soul -that we are actually one and the same- will help us apply these characteristics in our daily lives. But more than that, it will ensure a united world around us and peace and harmony in our hearts.

All of a Sudden

Have you ever noticed how God moves suddenly and unexpectedly in your life? You may go through a season of hurting and waiting and questioning and then POOF! Suddenly, in single moment, God has everything fixed, everything turns around. And to be honest, that’s how you just KNOW it is God – by how effortlessly and perfectly it happens. Beyond your imagination!

The funny thing is that, often times, right before our breakthrough comes, we interpret the silent periods as times when God may not be working in our life. We worry because we don’t see our situation change instantly. And then when our miracle finally comes, we say – “look! God is working in my life.” The truth is – He was working the whole time. The moments of silence are when He’s working most. When you see the finished product is not when God “starts” working, it is when He has “completed” a work in your life.

When you go through a challenging time, it is natural to want it to end quickly. But don’t take silence or the moments when things don’t change as a sign that nothing is happening. It is important to keep faith that God is working. And that He is capable of turning your biggest trouble into your greatest blessing in the future. Don’t be afraid if you have stayed in a season of confusion and challenges for a long time. Who knows? Maybe your miracle-to-come is going to be that much bigger! And you’ll look back and say “Wow! If I had known this is what God had in store for me, I would not have complained.”

Trusting God almost requires a child-like faith. You have to believe BEFORE you receive. I remember once hearing a story where a woman believed God for a new car. So she began moving her stuff around in her garage to make room for it when it came – that’s faith in action! A few years ago, I felt like God planted a dream in my heart to go to Journalism School in Chicago. Although I lived in sunny California at the time, I began buying winter coats and preparing myself for the harsh winters of Chicago- before I received an acceptance letter from the school which only accepted 9 students in the country. Some people thought I was crazy. But I thought, if I am believing for something as a sign from God, then I need to ACT as if I believe it. (those coats came in handy when I ended up making the move months later)

The only thing that might limit God is a lack of faith. God can do in a single moment, with ease, what we can struggle with our entire life and still not accomplish. Trust him. Even in the moments of challenging times, connect with God and know that this is not where you are always going to be. Wait with an expectant attitude and remember that He’s working. And if God wills what you’re seeking, then it is already done.

Times of Trouble

If I take a picture of you from my disposable camera, you know I took the picture. And I know I took the picture. But we can’t see this picture immediately. We have to wait for it to DEVELOP. And where do pictures develop? In a DARK room.

I’ve discovered my life is similar to that picture. God develops in me and grows in me, but often this growth comes when I face challenges or obstacles in my life. Often times, when it hurts the most, that’s when I am growing spiritually.

When I face a challenge, I like to remember this— Don’t despise times of troubles; they will do more for you than you can possibly imagine. Only when we rise do we encounter opposition. And don’t be offended by times of trouble, because even if you don’t know what God’s doing, God knows what He’s doing.

It is easy to question ‘Why, God, why?’ or ‘When, God, When?’ A person wisely once said- when you go through a tough period, remember this: God wouldn’t have allowed it if Good wasn’t going to come out of it. And what we think is a problem today, could be our greatest blessing.

When God takes something good from us, it means He wants to give us something bigger and better. That is the time to keep faith in Him. God works in mysterious ways. If we are praying for our circumstance to change, if He doesn’t change our circumstance immediately, maybe He will change our heart. And if He doesn’t bless you with the miracle you are hoping for, He might use you as a miracle to someone else. God will prove to you how good and perfect His will is when He has His hands on the steering wheel of your life.

It’s funny, because just as a child often cries to his parent when he wants something, I think sometimes we hope our tears and misery will make God move faster in our life. If anything, I think our state of upset when troubles come only makes us stay in that place longer. Change does not come through negativity, manipulating things to make them happen, depression, crying, etc. If anything, it’ll put off our blessings that much longer because God cannot bless us if we are not ready to receive His blessings.

Religious scriptures say, “Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen in temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I believe a lot of times God has us go through hard times because it is in those hard times that we have a tendency to get really close to Him. When He is all you have, you tend to get closer. God wants to pour His blessings in our life, He only asks this: “When you come into those beautiful blessings…Please, Don’t Forget Me.”

Character: It Determines Your Destiny

It is so easy for water to fall from the fifth floor to the ground floor of a building. But to get that water to rise from the ground to the fifth floor takes effort, it requires the use of water pumps.

A person’s character can be described in a similar way. It takes time and a great deal of effort to gain credibility and trust. It takes a strong will to hold on to one’s integrity. And it doesn’t take much to lose what took so long to build.

If we can imbibe the divine virtues of love, patience, humility, forgiveness and tolerance, then it will be easier to enjoy every-day life. We can adopt these virtues through prayer, faith, and surrender. We will then attain an inner peace so strong that it won’t be shaken even when everything else is being shaken around us.

It is easy to be swayed to do things in life that we know are not what God would want us to do. In school, people might be peer pressured to do things that conflict with what they were taught growing up. There are endless daily temptations to give in to one’s animal instincts.

When confused about what course of action to take in life, it is essential to connect with our inner being and ask ourselves: what would God want me to do?

When we base our actions on what God wants us to do, then not only will we feel good internally but we will be in sync with God’s plan for us. Our spirit is probably never more content than when we operate in God’s will.

It is important to continue building our character because eventually our character determines our future. As the saying goes:

Watch your “Thoughts,” they become your words.
Watch your “Words,” they become your actions.
Watch your “Actions,” they become your habits.
Watch your “Habits,” they become your character.
Watch your “Character,” for it becomes your “Destiny.”

We create our destiny in the process of developing our character. The actions we take now will affect our future.

Our character is not limited to how we behave in public; in fact, our character can be seen in the little things we do such as how we react to the daily trifles.

Environment plays a big role in shaping a person’s character. Surrounding ourselves with positive people and spending time in meditation can help us become aware of our own actions and guide us toward a selfless, purposeful way of living.

At the end of the day, I think having a character strong enough to resist worldly temptations, a character that is able to put into practice all the Golden Rules, a character that keeps doing right even when wrongs are done to him . . . requires our daily efforts and God’s grace.