Saturday, 11 February 2017

That thorn in my flesh - a blessing in disguise!

It's been a particularly demanding week, where I was forced to confront one of my weaknesses. I had two presentations lined up. While I don't mind presentations, they require me to do something I enjoy but deeply dread - speak in public! I stutter, and I have been since I was seven. Growing up, it often made me an object of ridicule and left me pleading with God for a miracle that never came. Little Cindy wondered why God wouldn't heal the stutter even though He could - and grown-up Cindy often wonders the same during weeks such as this!

While mulling over the tasks at hand, God led me to read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - where Paul talks about the 'thorn in [his] flesh'. Like me, Paul had prayed multiple times for the 'thorn' to be removed, and like my stutter, his thorn remained. God was powerful enough to remove his, and He is powerful enough to remove mine. The fact that God allowed the thorn to 'torment' Paul, doesn't question His love towards him, but reaffirms it. Paul recognised that God was using the thorn to keep him 'from becoming conceited', and God reassured Paul that even though the 'thorn' remained, '[His] grace was sufficient' to get him through whatever, and that '[His divine] power was made complete in [Paul's] weakness'.


The same can be said about our weaknesses. Our weaknesses humble us, and serve as a constant reminder of our need for God. My stutter forces me to throw myself into the arms of Jesus. It forces me to cling to Him and trust Him with the outcome. It forces me to acknowledge how small I really am and how big God is. It has served as a reminder, time and again, that I serve a God who never fails, a God who never lets His children down, a God who cares for both my physical and spiritual well-being.

Without weaknesses we would look within ourselves for the strength only God can provide; and we would fail to acknowledge God for the role He plays in our lives. His grace is enough to sustain us, and we can be certain that His strength will rescue us. Therefore, next time you are forced to confront your weaknesses, don't let that toxic trio of doubt, dread and dismay creep in. Instead let us turn to these verses and be reminded that our weaknesses are blessings in disguise, designed to safeguard us from the pride of self-sufficiency itching to consume us. Whatever your weakness, it is neither a surprise, nor a challenge for the God who created this universe. Trust Him with the wheel and let Him amaze you by how He leads you through it, and like Paul, we too will be able to 'delight in [our] weaknesses' and 'boast all the more' in them.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Amy Carmichael - A Mother to the Motherless

Amy Carmichael, was a British missionary from the 1900s who dedicated her life to serving children in South India. Dohnavur Fellowship, the orphanage she founded for children who were abandoned or rescued (often from temple prostitution), still stands today, faithfully serving the Lord.


When I first read about her, I instantly fell in love - in addition to being a courageous Christian woman, she served the part of the world I come from, had a heart that broke for the lost and strove sacrificially, to bring justice to the vulnerable. Her life is nothing short of inspiring and here are a few reasons why...

She did not let convention hinder her calling


Carmichael longed to see the lost saved, whatever the cost. Paraphrasing Paul in his first epistle to the church in Corinth... to the Japanese she became like a Japanese, to the Sri Lankans, she became like a Sri Lankan, and to the Indians she became like an Indian. She recognised that the comfort of familiarity was worth little before the weight of the gospel she bore; hence she let God lead her into places where others failed to go, using means that were frowned upon. Her example reminds us that evangelism has no status quo, and encourages us to break free from socio-cultural taboos for the sake of the gospel.

She honoured the authority of scripture


Stephen Neill was an intelligent young man, who had a Cambridge education and was waiting to be ordained by the Church of England. However he doubted the trustworthiness, hence inspiration and authority of scripture on intellectual grounds. Despite this, to many his credentials made him better suited than Carmichael to take over the work at Dohnavur (or at least help lead it alongside her). Carmichael rightly opposed it!
I've seen many profess faith in Christ yet question the authority of scripture, cherry-pick to their whims and fancies, or totally take passages out of context. What good is a great education, or good morals when it comes to understanding God? If we fail to see Him for who He really is, we will never truly see why we, and the world around us, desperately need Him.
Yes we live an age where the harvest is plenty but labourers are few, but it is also an age rife with false gospels. Carmichael's resolve to uphold the authority of scripture reiterates the fact that we are better off with no labourers at all, than having the wrong kind of labourers.

She sincerely sought to remove anything, in herself or her ministry, that could hinder the salvation of a lost soul


Iain H. Murray, points out in his biography, 'Amy Carmichael - Beauty for Ashes' that Carmichael was so pained upon hearing that many in Dohnavur were yet to know Jesus, that she prayed the following,

'There may be weakness, compromise, lack of determination to keep the winning of souls to the front, the use of unconsecrated means, unsanctified ways of getting money, unconverted workers. There may be an absence of identification with the people for whose sake we are here, an unconscious aloofness not apostolic. Perhaps our love has cooled. Perhaps we know little of the power of the Holy Ghost, and hardly expect to see souls saved here and now, and are not broken down before the Lord because we see so few. God forgive us and make us more in earnest.'

It pains me that I don't seek a revival enough to pray relentlessly. It pains me that I don't care enough about my loved ones to risk rejection to tell them about Jesus. It pains me that I don't bother to rid my life of those 'harmless' sins that I let myself slip into. It pains me that my walk with God is so driven by convenience, that I justify reading a devotional without actually picking up my Bible to meditate on it. Perhaps I ought to make Carmichael's prayer my own! If I really want to see lives saved from an eternity in hell, I ought to strive to live a life that is sold-out for Jesus, in private and in public.

She let God steer the rudder


Amy Carmichael set out to Asia as an evangelist, little did she know that God had something else in store for her. Initially she mothered a number of young girls, but God surprised her with the 'accidental' arrival of a baby boy, and she found herself adapting the work to include little boys. Her life reminds us to hold our dreams and desires loosely but to hold on to God tightly. I have stopped stressing about where I see myself in 5, 10, 15 years time - all I know is that I see myself following God on the path He has set out for me.


These are but few of the many reasons why I find the life of Amy Carmichael inspiring - I would really recommend you delve deeper into her life for yourselves. May we, along with Carmichael and others like her, live a life motivated by love, full of passion for the gospel, and led by the Holy Spirit, completely trusting God.

I would like to end with a little fact I knew nothing about until recently, but it is something that added to my excitement in exploring the life and ministry of this remarkable missionary.
Amy Carmichael travelled with a small group of Tamil Christian women to proclaim the gospel. They called themselves the 'Starry Cluster' based on Daniel 12:3 ~ Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. It just so happens that a great grandmother of mine, Sellamuthu, was one of the women in the Starry Cluster.

One of my great grand mothers, Sellamuthu, with one of the little girls at Dohnavur. She is said to have had just one arm, but was known for her heart for social justice

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

3 eye-openers from the BFG Dream Jar Trail

Growing up I loved Roald Dahl's BFG. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to hear of not just Spielberg's take on it, but the BFG Dream Jar Trail around London for Save the Children. The trail featured a total of 50 jars that depict the dreams of a number of celebrities; 46 placed around the capital and 4 elsewhere. Today marked the final day of the trail, and the day I ticked off all the available jars in London.


It was good fun and a great excuse to explore our gorgeous capital. I discovered so many hidden gems in the city I call my home, and met a lot of interesting people. I've enjoyed reading about the dreams I've been chasing and above all, having my eyes opened to truths I've dismissed - these I hope to share with you in this post.

1. I quit because I'm lazy!


My parents will tell you that I've started many things. They'll also tell you that I've quit most of those things. If you'd like examples of interests that fell into that category, there's stamp collecting, piano, guitar, drums, rowing...I could literally go on forever! In fact whenever I announce that I'm planning to pursue a new hobby, I get a sarcastic, 'Sure...' - and rightly so! I think we all knew the BFG Dream Jar Trail was going to end up on that list. I started it on the 3rd of August and quickly forgot about it when I left on holiday. When I returned however, something changed; I realised the trail closed in two days - that's two days to see 40 jars. I could have given up on it and add it to my list of quits, or proved myself wrong. I'm glad I chose the latter.
I got up early two days in a row, and walked till I could feel my feet no longer, but I surprised myself in ticking all 40 jars off the list.
I have proved to myself that I am no quitter. As shameful as it is to admit, I have proved to myself that I am lazy. I am the same person who started all those things I quit. I didn't quit them because I lost interest, instead I was too lazy to try a little harder when it got tough, too lazy to put that extra bit of effort to get better.
As the saying goes, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going' - for all those times I've quit, I can see I was not too tough, but I feel this trail has shown me that I can be tough.

2. Be bold enough to start chasing your dream, welcoming enough to let others journey alongside you, and humble enough to call for help


I have many dreams but I am often reluctant to start pursuing them myself. I don't know what it is, perhaps the need for reassurance, or the fear of facing things myself, but I prefer tagging along with someone. This is particularly true for spiritual assignments I feel God nudging me to do - instead of getting to it immediately, I spend hours, or even days trying to find someone who'll join me. The trail helped me see that making the start is always the hardest because I'm blinded by my hyperbolic preconceptions, these soon shatter in light of reality.
Moreover, once I was on the trail, I met a lot of people, young and old, also on the trail. Every person I met was at a different stage - one lady had just a handful of jars remaining, a cute elderly couple were at the same stage as me, and a family just started the trail. It was lovely to see we all shared something in common, no matter how trivial, it united us. There were smiles, knowing nods and even an exchange of tips. Likewise, when we cross paths with fellow believers, no matter where they are on their walk with the Lord, let us seek to build each other up and focus on who unites us, Christ.
There were some jars that were particularly difficult to find, like the three hidden in Harrods. My dad and I spent A LOT of time trying to find them but to no avail. I had to finally give up and ask one of the sales attendants for help. In life, we will face situations where we are truly lost, in those moments let us shed our pride and seek for help.

3. Embrace spontaneity


My dream jar trail didn't go exactly to plan. For starters, I was hoping to complete it before my holiday, and see all 46 jars. I completed it on the last day possible, and missed 3 jars which were removed earlier than expected. In addition to that, I left home with a solid and detailed plan, however en route, I sometimes realised that some jars were further away or there were transport delays and I had to improvise. Spontaneity uplifted my pursuit by pumping excitement into my weary, energy-depleted self. Things won't always go to plan, no matter how meticulous your planning. Instead of despairing over what should've been, embrace the moment and take it from there.

I got a bit carried away watching GBBO and catching up on some other shows, and really want to post this by midnight. I know it is rushed but I hope I made some sense! Bottom line, even though my feet are throbbing right now, I loved the BFG Dream Jar Trail!

I'll leave you with my favourite jar, 'Ship of Dreams' by Sir Ben Ainslie


Friday, 17 June 2016

5 things I've learnt as an undergraduate

Well hello there! It has been a while, a very long while, but it's good to be back!
I've bid farewell to my three years at Queen Mary. From learning about the mysteries of the DNA, and meeting the amazing people I'm blessed to call my friends, to holding naked mole-rats, my time as  an undergraduate here has been exciting, challenging and inspiring. These three years have helped me grow, not just as a scientist, but also as a Christian, and I'm excited to share the top five lessons I've learnt...


Don't be afraid to look stupid

I don't like asking questions, due to the fear of looking stupid or exposing my ignorance. My final year project however involved a bioinformatics software which can only be understood and mastered by a series of trial-and-error cycles. It was an experience that humbled me and pushed me to seek for help, over and over again! It taught me to hold my pride and ego very loosely, and that it is okay to look stupid sometimes.
I am there to learn, and if I don't ask the questions that clarify my doubts, I will never find the answer, which would result in my knowledge being built upon a faulty foundation, which will one day collapse. It's better to look stupid during the learning process, than let it accumulate and result in something disastrous in the future.


A good friendship runs deeper than religion, world views and political beliefs

This lesson was a hard one to learn, because I form attachments easily! Our values are an important part of who we are; God fashioned each one of us with our little quirks and political preferences. It's not a matter of 'I'm right, you're wrong', but a matter of striving towards the same end through varied means.
I am a Christian, hence my world view is shaped by my understanding of God's Word, and this happens to be a weird concoction of conservatism and socialism. As my views often deflect from the consensus, I am very careful about sharing them with anybody and everybody. Therefore I've grown to really value those liberating friendships where we can openly discuss these topics, knowing that no matter how much we differ, our friendship is going to be as strong as it ever was. Bottom line, love the person for who they are, their political views and all!

If this is something you struggle with, I would really recommend you read, Confessions of a 'leftie' married to a 'rightie' by Becky Miles, it's great little article that offers much food for thought.


Pursuing a dream together, draws people closer

I'm referring here to those big dreams, where one pair of hands are just not enough. My friends and I had one such dream in 2014, to help rough sleepers in London. We decided to act on it together, and managed to set up a community project, Mary Christmas. It was a time that we cherished; it made each of us vulnerable and dependent, exposing our strengths and weaknesses. Of course there were times when tensions rose but we didn't let that divide us. When everything came together in the end, it was worth it. The feeling of accomplishment united us in a very special way, as it was not 'I' but 'We did it', that resonated in and through each one of us.
It is the logic behind those team building exercises in school or at work, they're not just designed to break the ice, but also to allow us to understand a person like we've never done before, and that renews our respect and our relationship.



God is faithful and He will always provide

My entire university experience can be summed up by the above statement. I can give you numerous examples but I'll stick to two...

First up is my naked mole-rat obsession! If we've met, it is inevitable that you've been exposed to my love for naked mole-rats. For my final year project, I had the privilege of working with a scientist whose work I've admired and followed for years, Dr. Chris Faulkes, the naked mole-rat expert! As my project was a molecular one which didn't require meeting these creatures, I constantly put off requesting to see them (also because it involved a variety of health and safety formalities). However when I finally decided to ask, it looked like it was too late and I was shattered! Within a couple of weeks however, Dr. Faulkes kindly allowed me to see and hold them without any of the required occupational health checks, thanks to a sudden naked mole-rat display at our open day! That to me friends, has God written all over it!


Likewise (while Mary Christmas is still fresh in our minds) in 2015, my friends and I decided to collect toys and books for child refugees in the UK in addition to our previous homeless mission. It was something I desperately wanted to see happen; we organised a collection, found the right contacts and committed to sending these gifts to two housing associations in the country. During our collection however, we had a lot of donations for rough sleepers but very few for children. The deadline for shipping soon approached, and we had 12 items to share between two housing associations, I was heart broken. Miraculously that night, my friend who runs a project for refugees in Calais, France (Convoy to Calais), received two massive cartons packed with toys; they had bounced back due to a lack of space in the camps in Calais. She kindly passed these on to me and we were able to send a substantial amount of toys and books to both associations. In addition, my mum's boss generously took care of the shipping charges. This friends, is divine providence!


The above scenarios are just few of the many times I've deeply desired or strived to attain something that looked far fetched. When all hope was lost however, God showed up, time and again, to sort it out in a way that far surpassed anything I imagined - giving me no reason to ever doubt or underestimate Him!


God plans coincidences

Finally, a lesson that excites me, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed learning!
It was by chance that I picked Medical Genetics. It was by chance that I ended up at Queen Mary. In fact, if you have a few minutes to spare, I'd love for you check out my testimony on how I ended up here on Facebook - it's a few years old so please excuse the weird hairdo, craziness and what not!

Looking back, I've had no regrets, instead I've had a lot of amazing experiences, some of which were deep desires I've seldom shared, others have been experiences that took me by surprise but I've thoroughly enjoyed. Yes it is cliché, but I've come to see that everything happens for a reason. Every person that has crossed my path, every situation I have found myself in, I attribute it all to the one who holds my life in His hands. God steers the rudder of my life, hence I am assured that He is taking me wherever He wants me to be, through the route He wants me to take, with the people He wants me to share the journey with, in part or in full!
There really is no such thing as a coincidence - even if life seems puzzling right now, a few years down the line, you will see how the pieces beautifully fit together.

I think this is an apt note to end on.
I hope these reflections have encouraged you.

Friday, 11 September 2015

I'm right at home in the unknown!

With the final year of my degree lingering around the corner, I've been hit time and again by the million dollar question, 'What next?'
My friend and I were mulling over how our stories would unravel - the careers we'd choose, the places we'd visit, the people we'd meet, the men we'd marry (just to clarify, one man per woman!), most importantly, what would our God-given missions look like? We were so excited for the future that we couldn't wait for it to unfold; we wanted to know every detail of it, NOW!
Where would we live? What would we look like in 10 years? How much would we earn? What would our husbands look like - is he going to be short, tall, bearded, man-buned, dreadlocked, spectacled, tattooed? What would we have accomplished for God? Would we have kids - if so, how many?


As my mind raced wildly through the many possibilities, I realised that where I am at present greatly differed from my dreams five years ago. I wanted to be an Oxford medic pursuing a career in cardiology, but here I am marvelling over the DNA and naked mole rats at Queen Mary with little clue as to what to specialise in, and I honestly love every second of it! If my 15 year old self could foresee the future however, she would've freaked out - she'd consider it a failure and embarrassment. In hindsight, I am grateful that God helped me steer clear of a massive mistake. At 15, I was driven by pride and was not mature enough to choose what was best for me, let alone see God's hand at work in and through me. It took a series of events for God to break me, and change my desires, passions and perspective, and prepare me for what He had in store all along. At 20, I am still not mature enough to handle what God has in store 5, 10 or 15 years down the line.

Hence I've resolved to making a few changes...

I have decided to read my book of life, one page at a time and quit trying to peek into the rest.
As I recently read 'Nineteen Minutes' by Jodi Picoult, I often found myself having to re-read a page because I just could not concentrate; my mind wandered, longing to find out what happened next! I believe the same happens when we pump all our efforts into the future. My friend puts it beautifully in an article he wrote for Open Doors Youth, 'As a young Christian I often place these big expectations on my life, and when the future is uncertain I forget to live for God in the here and now. I get wrapped up in the fine details of my ‘calling’ and miss out on the adventures He has for me every single day. I measure my worth by the things I do, rather than by the One who loves me as I am.'
Right now, there are people all around us, waiting to be fed, clothed, loved and saved - what are we waiting for!
Every grand ending, starts with a humble beginning and many steps of obedience.
What need in the world does your heart break for?
What step is God nudging you to say, 'Yes!' to?

I have decided to embrace the mystery, for it has given me the freedom to dream.
I haven't stopped dreaming; I haven't stopped aspiring - but I do it all at the feet of Jesus. Wise King Solomon said, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the LORD's purpose that prevails" I can rest assured that my future is in the hands of the One who seeks the best for me. If my dreams are for my good and His glory, they'll come to pass, no matter how far-fetched they are; and for those dreams that stem out of my 'selfish ambitions and vain conceit', He'll humble me and give me the grace to rise above them and accept His, 'No'. While God sifts through my dreams, I'll continue to faithfully serve Him wherever I am.
I know that I hinted at being weary about dwelling on the future but PLEASE DREAM; whatever you do, DON'T STOP DREAMING, because 'without vision, people perish'

"I don't know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds my future" ~ someone wise


Ultimately, it all comes down to trusting God in complete surrender. As we step into the unknown, be it a new academic year, career or relationship, we can feel at home, knowing God will meet us there.

To end, here's a little something to reflect on from Francesca Battistelli:

Keeping Me Guessing
 
Coffee cup waking me up
I've got to board a plane
And fly away sometimes
I feel like I'm going the speed of light
Can't relax I'm moving too fast
I want to find the gold but I don't have a map
I wish that I could know what you've got in store for me

I try and try
To read your mind
'Cause I forget that patience is a virtue
You're teaching me to hold on tight

'Cause I don't know how the story ends
But I'll be alright 'cause You wrote it
I don't know where the highway bends
But I'm doing just fine
'Cause You're in control
Even when I don't know
Where my life's gonna go
You're keeping me guessing
 
So slow me down
Show me around
I want to see the world
That I've been without
I am here and now
The future is out of my hands
 
I'm trusting you
And how you move
I won't forget that patience is a virtue
You're teaching me to hold on tight

Seasons come
And seasons go
But you decide
 
You're keeping me guessing