Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Maru Veedu

It was the Maru-Veedu of Mony &  Dany.

Its a custom among Tamil folk, on the day after the wedding, symbolizing the migration of the bride from her father's house to the groom's house. Mr Roberts gave a marvelous insight into this truth. He spoke eloquently saying that unlike other Indian customs of "Beti ki bidai" which sometimes ends with weeping, the maru-veedu is attended with pomp, celebration and the joyous festivity of families and friends.  Courtship, he said, starts as irru-veedu (two houses), followed by a wedding which births the maru-veedu (migration) but the Christian ideal is the movement to oru-veedu (one home) -- oneness in the home.

As a close family friend to Cecil & Hannah, I could not escape the ceremonies. I was among the first to arrive for this ceremony at Ambassador Hotel in Chennai. So I sat with Hannah and Cecil. We went yakkity-yak, with Cecil in his mono-syllabic answers and occasional bursts of laughter while Hannah gave a staccato of her pragmatic, grass-root, observations. Familiar faces started trickling in non-stop until my smiling charm got frozen into a myoclonic lock-jaw.

The program was animated by Beth's buoyancy, games and excellent verbal skills. While all this was going on my kidneys went onto hyper-drive pumping volume, more than the storage could handle. And since I was in a new place, I was absolutely loo-less and clueless! Finally I took Cecil's permission to ferret my destination. Gosh, I have never seen anyone gladder than the person who relieved their bladder! When I returned I discovered all the men were wound up in an activity. Not wanting to intrude and disturb the program, I slipped in quietly when it was over. But that was my pathological error. And the Principal's apoplectic instincts came alive in Beth as she pin-pointed the student who had gone AWOL. I was like a bacteria, stained under the fluorescent strobe of an ultra-microscope. I thought it was the firing squad, but I was summoned to the front to perform the same activity, solo, for the entire audience. Fortunately, a lady with a generous form and generous heart gave me company. So I sent my catatonic limbs into epileptic spasms and gyrations in beat with the music. For all of this I might as well been a Moroccan dervish.

This was the first time in my life, I discovered, that a simple nature's call could actually catapult me into the glaring limelight. That's when I remembered the prophetic words, "What you have done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops." However, nothing goes awry in God's plan for soon after that the groom approached me with the same biological predicament. He knew that everyone knew, that I knew, where to find relief. So I pointed him to the comfort zone.

This just means that no matter how awkward a circumstance -- God uses it to help others. A humbling lesson, but worthwhile truth. But this free ambience also displays what a real maru-veedu is. Friends and families in celebration, merriment, laughter and infective fun. This is the legacy, to mark the newly married couple to take life forward, always, with a pinch of salt.

Friday, August 9, 2019


When many longings
Root, rage and wrap your mind
In a mesh of strangling embracement,
Like the tentacles of an astrocytoma 
Angry, red and ugly;

When in silence beneath all of that
A single pure thought glows
Clinging precariously
Delicate and fragile,
Like a tendril, singular,
Lambent, green and beautiful
Lighting a display
Of life against death;

When indeed life throbs over death
And it holds fast and strong
Burning and cauterizing
Every metastases away
Then life begins and hope,
And hope never disappoints
For a longing fulfilled
Is sweet to the soul;
A tree of life.
 Luke 8:14; Rom 5:5; Prov 13:19; Prov 13:12
Astrocytoma: A brain cancer that is star shaped and roots itself deep making surgical removal difficult
Metastases: When a cancer becomes virulent and starts multiplying everywhere across the body.

This wild-verse is an exercise in harsh contrasts -- Red vs green, ugly vs beautiful, strangling vs clinging, rage vs silence etc. I begin with longings (plural) and end with longing (singular). I start with roots but end with a tree.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Parable of the Faithful Sower

There was a traveler who had no home. His home was what he did with his hands, where he went with his feet  and what he prayed in his heart.
    One day he came across a ravaged land. It looked like a land that held promise, but, it was wild with briars, thorns and thistles. There were even rocks, pebbles and stones strewn across. It looked as if some enemy had deliberately compromised the land so that it wouldn’t produce anything. The traveler was, however, a man who loved the soil. All his agrarian instincts came alive. He checked under the surface of the rock-strewn land and he was right. There was rich top-soil under a small portion of land. This could produce something fruitful. No, something abundantly fruitful. There was incredible potential!
    Yet, he was a traveler. He was in a dilemma. He had many miles to go before he slept! Could he jeopardize his carefully made travel plan? Was it worth the time and effort to reclaim this small portion of land? Should he ask someone else to handle it? Would someone else give that dedication, commitment and love to make this place a land of blessing? His love for the land, finally overcame all his other priorities and concern. His Master, he remembered, left the 99 sheep in the pen to seek the single one that was lost. Yes, in his heart it was clear – small things matter. So, he decided to labor. Alone. Spend time. Take the risk.
    So, he labored patiently. Kindly. Gently. Lovingly, from moments of exhilaration and expectation to moments of pain and bewilderment. First, removing all the briars, the thistles and the thorns. Then, painstakingly on his knees he removed each and every pebble and stone. Those huge rocks he could not budge but, he heaved them inch by inch until they were out of the land. Then he tilled the soil and made it soft so that it could nurture any kind of good seed.
    His back was aching from the hours of labor. His hands were bruised. His knees were bleeding. His feet pierced with thorns. He knew that it was all nothing, that his Savior had done far more. And above all his heart was expectant. But now, he was in another dilemma. What seed or seeds must he plant? After long deliberation he decided to plant a fig seed. This could grow into a mighty tree. Provide rest to every weary traveler, even to him if he would pass again. Provide fruit to eat. Provide shade for coolness. Provide nests for beautiful birds to sing their sweet, sweet songs.
    So, he planted the seed. He tended it, until it began to sprout. The rains were also coming. He could get the fresh, musty, smell of rain on thirsty soil somewhere nearby. He knew that, now, the rain would take care of the rest. Certainly, God would watch over it.
    He packed his meager belongings and went back to his faraway land. He didn’t mind that his travel plans were all disrupted.
    One season had gone away and another had come. There in that faraway land he heard about the cyclonic floods that devastated that land – about trees uprooted, about an overflow of toxic silt, about the dead and the dying. He feared for the land he labored. He suffered for the fig sapling he had tended. He did not know that though the plant had survived the flood, it was now dying. Weeds and brambles multiplied in that decay like an epidemic. They were now choking the sapling of all nourishment.
    Then, there was a severe drought. The brambles and weeds perished in that scorching heat. Eventually, one day the locals collected them for fire. The sapling, however, clung tenaciously to life. That life was, now, slowly ebbing away. Meanwhile, in that faraway land the traveler did the only thing he could. He prayed. He groaned in the spirit. Deep communicating to deep. Pain tearing at the heavens. And God heard.
    One day a big fat noisy cloud brought some sudden thunder showers. These lasted a season. The wilted sapling burst forth, sprouting new shoots. It grew to the size of a modest shrub. It did not forget the big flat cloud that gave it healing, and was ever grateful for that.
    The traveler journeyed back. Pain searing his heart, without any news, he wondered what he would find. Even, afraid of what he would find. Yet, soaking all his pain with prayer.
    He was pleasantly surprised to find it lush with fruit. His heart was overjoyed. But the land did not remember him nor did the tree. They remembered, certainly, that big fat cloud. After so many seasons who would remember who planted the seed or who tilled the land,... Anyway. Whatever. At least the fig tree had blossomed. It was strong enough to sustain on its own. That mattered. Now no flood or drought could harm it – its roots had gone deep.
    Then, after seeing that all was well, he resumed his pilgrim journeys to faraway lands. Lands full of danger. The dangers didn’t matter. What really mattered was that his labor was not in vain. He knew in his heart that Christian Ministry is always like planting trees under which we know full well we will neither sit nor eat, the fruit of our labors.
    The traveler continued his sojourn with calm in his heart, steel in his mind and peace in his soul. For, he sought for a city whose foundation and builder was God.

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, 
should say, ‘we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ 
Luke 17: 10

Monday, June 11, 2018

Talk to my hand

I have five fingers in each of my hands. Therefore, I am a sexist.

Each finger is different from the others. But all join "hands" to dislodge the tidbit wedged between the molars using the toothpick. They also perform all other tasks together. Always together.

Among all the fingers, the pinkie is the smallest but it can do the most delicately indelicate tasks. It reaches places the other fingers can't. It can clean my ears, when it itches (hoping nobody watches). In the left hand it can hold the 6th, 7th and diminished notes on the guitar. In the piano it stretches like a rubber band to hit the keys normally not reached by other fingers. Or in a school-bus when a child shows the pinkie, it signals that her bladder is full especially when she has no clue about where is the loo, and you have to go when you have to go!

Next to it is the ring finger. It is a finger of relationships. When men first propose to the girl of their dreams they push a circular metal studded with some shiny stone to announce their private intentions in a public place! Why they choose only this finger I don't know, but its very sexist to ignore the other fingers and treat them of lesser value. And why women prefer only this finger for the ring I don't know but its very sexist, though romantic. The woman is enamored, but in the end its very sexist. Why this finger alone is isolated for this ornamental role I have not been able to find out. Nobody wears a ring on the thumb, but on the ring finger it is treated with great value especially during those times when the ring gets stuck and can't come out. Of course, in India they wear rings on other fingers too. However this is not for relationships, its for superstition (health, life, protection from enemies etc depending on the stones used). As a result Indians are not sexist.*

Next comes the middle finger, and it can easily boast over all the others because its the tallest. It doesn't have any specific function of its own. But recently non-sexist and politically correct people have delegated it for an exclusive use in non-verbal conversations. In such dialogues they stick the middle-finger out. When used this way it has a meaning that is functionally similar to that of rectal endoscopy.

Then comes the pointer-finger. Generally, this is used to show direction. At other times teachers and preachers use it as a baton, as if they are going to cane someone with that finger if they dont heed the warnings. These functions are found only among the Homo sapiens. You don't observe it in any of the other species among the vertebrates. If you point the moon to a cat, it wont look up. If you show the finger baton to a street mongrel it might chew it off. Therefore, the pointer-finger points out that humans are different from animals. However, among the Homo sapiens a sub-species called the Homo sapiens cannibalis use it for another extended purpose. They use finger-pointing to cannibalize the character of others. A typical example of such character assassination is, "You are a sexist", or "that is a sexist remark". And in the guise of political correctness, ethical snobbery and spiritual progressiveness the orthodoxy-oriented counter-trend thinkers are dumped on the bleachers. Ostracized. Marginalized. Lobotomized. There is no room for a rational Socratic dialogue -- "Please dont confuse my mind with facts, my mind is already made up."

Finally, there is the thumb. It is almost as small as the pinkie, but its stout. Really stout. In some way this digit is more important than the others. When pointed upward you can get a ride on a road, or indicate that something is excellent. When pointed downward it means things are going bad. Then the thumbprint can be used in place of a signature for the illiterates. And in the scientific world we have the Fleming's left hand thumb rule (to comprehend Faraday's law of electromagnetic induction). Most functions are impossible without the cooperation of the thumb. In the Indian epic, Mahabharatha, Drona asks Ekklavya's thumb as gurudakshina (teacher's fee) to eliminate Ekklavya's superiority over Arjuna in archery. The thumb is important, but its of no value if the other finger aren't there. Imagine, that in an accident you lost all your fingers, excepting the thumb. What would you do with it? You couldn't even pick your nose! Again if all the fingers were identical, the hand would lose its flexibility, control and efficiency. 

This means that -- there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (I Corinthians 12: 25-26). This is how the home, the church and the society should be built. All the fingers belong to the same hand. And though they are not equal in function yet all are needed for the hand. And the hand is needed for the body. The ring finger doesn't think that it is a sexist remark just because someone points out that the pinkie is different. In the same way to recognize that woman is different from man is not sexist. Endocrinology and anatomy display, without remorse, that women and men are intrinsically different from each other. The hormones that course through their blood are different. And these hormones even shape they way their social & mental processes differ. Neurologically the way the left and right halves of their brains are wired, are also different. But all this is not for the function of one-up-manship or the argumentum ad hominem of male-bashing and misogyny. Man and woman were created equal (Genesis 1: 26-27). They complement each other in their limitations and enhance each other in their skills. So in the guise of political correctness let us not undermine the value each has by squeezing everyone into bland xeroxes of conformity, uniformity and eventual deformity. At some point we must understand the meaning of unity in diversity. God made each of us different, not just man and woman. And each person is uniquely imbued with value and purpose. This value should not be narrowly confined to the bloated grandstand of gender harmony, but should include race, caste, language, tribe, education, age and status. For, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor master, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 28).

I have five fingers in my hand. Therefore, I am a sexist.

* The Times of India newspaper (26th July 2018) reported, in a statistical list of nations, that India is most dangerous country for women

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Last Testament of Faith

    How do you celebrate at all, when the hole in your heart is wider than any sink-hole known to man and deeper than the deepest of hell? How do you rejoice, when the only memories you have are the beautiful ones, all warped and misshapen with pain? When you are accused, misunderstood, rejected, cheated, betrayed, lobotomized and abandoned can celebration ever enter a bleeding heart? How can the guitar sing when all its strings are broken? Sona anti beca holo, sona hi hoi (If the gold ornament is bent out of shape, it is still gold - Bengali Proverb).  Rejoice, because no matter how broken, badly bruised, crushed beyond recognition or marginalized God still values you.
    There was this man who loved God deeply. He wasn't much to look at, his companions looked better. All he ever wanted to do was to share what God did for him. At a town he succeeded in bringing a leading business woman to faith. She got herself baptized along with all those connected to her. It was a remarkable turnaround in this boom-town. She opened her home for hospitality and service to these ragged band of itinerant evangelists and their leader. Things couldn't have been more comfortable for these traveling preachers, to stay in that city and bring more to the faith of their convictions. Things skidded sideways when they did a miracle that was bad for the finances of some folk in the town. So, they were dragged up before the authorities on trumped-up charges without any fair trial. Then stripped in public as the crowd beat them mercilessly with rods. Then whip-lashed until their backs bled in shreds and were thrown into a prison to fester on their wounds.
    The story is true in the numerous places across India sweeping like an epidemic, swallowing the true servants of God, in a rage of severe right-wing idealism. But the story I am referring to is found in Acts 16: 11-23. The man is Paul and the city is Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony and a leading city in the district of Macedonia. This shameful, humiliating and painful experience Paul recounts, to teach forbearance, in 1 Thessalonians 2: 2.
    In the very last phases of his ministry Paul is again in prison. But he writes to the Philippians, from the Mamertine prison, built under the city of Rome. During the rains the filth of the city would dredge into these centuries old dungeon. It was a place where important state prisoners were lowered into, often prior to their execution. Consisting of two underground cells, it once held a room under the city sewers in the lower chamber. Historical sources have described it as dank and foreboding and inmates rarely stayed here for long periods of time. In that prison he writes with anguish, "Demas, because he loved the world, has deserted me" (1 Thess 4: 10); "Alexander the metal-worker did me a great deal of harm" (1 Thess 4:14); "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me" (1 Thess 4: 16). But it was in this very dungeon, full of refuse (Phil 3: 8), against all hope that Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice" (Phil 4: 4). In just four chapters of Philippians "joy" is mentioned 16 times. In that dark, dirty dungeon, with no physical comfort Paul could rejoice. That was his last and lasting testament of faith: he knew that his creator valued him, even if everyone devalued him. What is your testament of faith?
    Christmas is here and New Year round the corner and social media is overloaded with wishes for the season. How much of it is true? Do these wishes help the lonely, the broken and the lost? Have our words and actions brought a smile to those in our ambit? How do we celebrate beyond the brokenness within? How do we celebrate in a fashion that heals the broken? What is your testament of faith?

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
Isaiah 42: 1-3

Friday, December 30, 2016

Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a phrase, that crystallizes the renaissance period into a microcosm. Literally, it means the "Presence of God" but what it implies is to implement the perfection of God's character into all activity and inactivity. It means living in the presence of God, under the authority of God and to the Glory of God. But how does this shape up for a Christian bombarded with political correctness, deluged by a flood of lust in media, driven by the greed of the prosperity gospel, addicted to the unlimited online freedom and battling the cannibalism in the work environment?

In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet is suddenly thrown into the presence of God. And reflecting on that passage, these are the spin-offs that jolted my mind:
  1. If we want God's presence in the place we live then that place should be devoid of any defilement. Cleanliness is not merely next to Godliness, it invites God's presence. There should be no physical uncleanliness and no unhygenic trash. And do not blame your indiscipline on lack of time or that you cant help it because its in your nature. Make sure your shoes and socks dont smell. There should be no moral, mental, environmental, domestic or spiritual contamination especially when it is in your power to stay and keep clean. Reflect through Leviticus 16 to understand the implications of cleanliness.
  2. If we want the presence of God, then everything we do, make, write, create etc should carry that mark of quality that epitomizes the character of God.
  3. If we want the presence of God, then our mind, heart, motivations and intentions must be kept unpolluted by everyday (even every moment) retrospection, washing in the Spirit and surrender to God.
  4. If we want the presence of God, then we must ferociously discipline our online behaviour in the frequency, duration and intensity at social media and questionable sites.
  5. If we want the presence of God, then we must be prepared for the terror of being confronted with absolutes of all absolutes (Isa 6), and without this we may never comprehend what it means to be in his presence or what it cost God to make this possible.
New Year, is just around the corner. If we want our time on earth to be fruitful, then we must practice Coram Deo in its fullest implications. Happy New Year to you all. May 2017 be a blessing from God, a blessing to you and a blessing to others.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Take the whole populace and decimate to a dozen
The Elect are the snobs whom God has chosen;
The rest are groomed
To a destiny that is doomed,
Where many are cold and a few are frozen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Greed Breed Phylogenetics

Tormentors, are more common than mentors. They are the products of an evolutionary jump. These X-men are classified taxonomically as Homo cannibalis. They are stratospheric by ego, and statuspheric in language. Those who hold apex positions have been separately classified into two vigorous species called the Chairmanosaurus rex and the Velociraptor treasurorus. These are essentially septuagenarian and superannuated and cannot leave their chairs they hold. They have a covenant commitment with the chairs they hold called -- "Till-death-do-us-part."
     The males have the Saul-syndrome dominant allele found in the X Chromosome. And in women, who usurp the administrative control of their husbands, this allele produces the Jezebelase enzyme. This was first detected in the DNA analysis of the archaeological remains of an ancient breed of Saluki dogs. It was great puzzle to many of the scientists at that time as to how human DNA could have been found in the intestinal villi of these dogs. But collateral research in the Ancient Near East showed it to be the smashed remains of the wife of Ahab (2 Kings 9: 30 - 37). However, the gene that produces the Jezebelase enzyme is now more prolifically found in the urban zones today. The enzyme gives them superior skills in the science of shift-and-lift and swipe-and-hype (1 Kings 21).
     Now at the end of a dog's day, when you are dog tired it might be easy to say that the world has gone to dogs. But, its refreshing to know that are still processes and counter-currents that aim to make a healing difference. There is the Christian Business Mentor's Connection who work to mentor and bring healthy Biblical values into the marketplace. And then there is also the Mentor-link an organization that aims to provide a mentoring process of accountablity and spiritual growth among christian leaders.
     When they succeed in creating a new generation of leaders then there is sure to be hope. One thing is sure however, you cant teach an old dog new tricks.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Visiting an asylum can be a penetrating experience. To listen to the different stories that pushed these people to an unrelenting wall. The prolific Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, made this remark “to love, without knowing how to love, wounds the person we love.” And this asylum reeked of the wounds left behind because of love.

They were left behind without being allowed to understand what happened and even why. Those who did not care left behind an emotional trauma that marred the psyche of the despondent forever. All they were given in cruel parting was ready-made cliches, glib answers and a leprous distance to justify the exercise of toxicity on the vulnerable. The broken and lost were left with the single choice of only functioning on autopilot. They have not "moved on" but they are forever frozen. In that frozen state only one thing remains like a painting on wall that never changes - "all the bridges have been burnt." And this is the only painting that remains, in a wall that is fully blank and grey. And in a room that has no windows, where no voices can be heard. Ever.

If they live would they have anyone to tell the tale? And when they die, would they ever have lived?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Selfie-tudes, solitudes and the new beatitudes

Social constructs, traditional values and institutional ethics have gone through metamorphic change. Its a get-what-you-can, while-you-can and whenever-you-can world! Essentially its a dog-eat-dog world and the turbid amplification of the chaos theory (assuming that order comes out of disorder).

In this selfie obsessed world, it is not merely about hogging the limelight in your own photos. Its about self-centredness elevated to the status of a moral principle and as an inalienable, fundamental, right! As a result these are the contra-distinctive beatitudes for all the selfie focussed fledglings and dinosaurs:

  1. Blessed are the pushy in spirit, for they shall worm their way into councils and boards until death do them part.
  2. Blessed are those who gloat with laughter, for they seek comfort in profiting by harming others.
  3. Blessed are the arrogant, for they know how to inherit real-estate by encroaching and selling others property.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for crookedness, for they shall fill their bellies with worms that will never die.
  5. Blessed are the vengeful, who create fake-encounters and invent prima facie evidence, for they shall live by the sword and die by the sword.
  6. Blessed are the impure in heart, for they are busy with social network apps and at online social sites.
  7. Blessed are the trouble-makers, for they know how to fatten themselves legally at institutional expense.
  8. Blessed are those who get elected to lofty offices for theirs is the kingdoms of this world.
  9. Blessed are you when people flatter you, laugh at your unlaughable jokes and when they kowtow to you because of your office. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in hell, for in the same way they applauded all the prophets profiteers before you.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Embedded Love

A commitment is a voluntarily embedded resolution, deep into the psyche of the mind. This commitment can be to a person, an ideal or even a nation. It is love in its fullness, and it never erodes easily.

Commitment to a person can mean another human being or God. One of the most beautiful stories of commitment is between David and Jonathan in their trusting and sacrificial friendship. Another painful and wrenching story in the Bible is between Hosea and his wandering wife Gomer. It was theology through experience, and it became a metaphor for rebel Israel.

In Hosea's story, after Gomer deserted him he would never have gone back to redeem her. She was dirty, defiled, compromised,untouchable and unworthy. The bridges had all been burnt beyond repair. The hurt was deep, death was dear and pain inconsolable. Was redemption even thinkable?

And yet when he discovers her abject slavery, her intense punishment and vulnerable brokenness he sets out to redeem her. She had love but he had commitment. Her love evaporated when she found the emotional high of a new relationship and then plunged with vertigo into an emotional low of slavery and dehumanization. But for Hosea even when the love was lost, the commitment never eroded. So he makes the painful and costly journey to restore her back to wholeness.

In truth, all this was only the long journey on cobbled streets to a broken cross and, in the words of the Latin Hymn:
How pale thou art in anguish
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn.

What thou my Lord hast suffered
Was all for sinners gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain!*
It was not the journey of Hosea but of Christ, for all of mankind. And that love and commitment is embodied, embedded and emboldened in that bleeding Cross. And it shows the true meaning of commitment. It shows how to be redeemed and how to be like the redeemer.

*"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is a Christian Passion hymn based on a Latin text written during the Middle Ages. J.W. Alexander's version in 1830, originally, contains 11 stanzas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Lost Pilgrim’s Progress

The lighthouse at night is beautiful to see, but it is absolutely forbidding as a destination. In fact, it is never a destination. It is an odd place for a journey to end, since lighthouses mark those regions of the coast that are most dangerous for ships to come ashore.

However, there are those few who determine to journey towards it as a last desperate bid for land. After tortuous months in doldrums, cold nights of abandonment in an empty ocean with nary a bird to see,  blistering sunlight of the day and water everywhere but nothing to drink… now the glimpse of the bright lighthouse in the dark and the promise of land ahead is a vision for sore eyes.

For the land starved pilgrim the mere glimpse of a light house fills him with brimming hope, in vision and in his heart. It means there would be people to talk to. It means food, water and a future. So, for this desperate pilgrim the lighthouse becomes his destination. It is no more a lighthouse. It becomes the lighthouse, an unforgettable landmark in the journey of his life; a testimony to future generations; a witness of surviving odds; a beacon of resurrection and hope. But this desperate bid to move towards the lighthouse is a one way journey. It is fraught with all kinds of perilous and mortal dangers, of unpredictable rocks, of undercurrent eddies and of currents too strong for feeble hands. The movement is not simple but erratic and zigzag with uncooperative waves, powerful undercurrents and bewildered efforts.

This journey is never easy for the lost pilgrim. Any movement towards the future is swept backward by a groundswell of the black memories. The undercurrents of past failures and the guilt hijack the efforts sideways. Circumstantial events jut like sharp rocks in a swirling sea to break you at any moment. The eddies of injuries and insults tug you downward. How can this lone boat ever make it? Yet if hope is real, then he must move towards it even if death and destruction are imminent. At all costs, he throws his hopes feverishly on God almighty and paddles with enormous strength using his weakened arms. He knows he can’t take it anymore. He cannot survive another maddening day floundering in his lonely boat. So he sets his mind to the singular goal of reaching the lighthouse, with all the energy he can muster. “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4: 16), lights his feverish mind, and the futility of efforts never faze him.. And so he labours to reach the only salvation now available to him. It’s the lighthouse. And it’s his only hope. It is never a destination for anyone else. But it is a destination for him. It’s the lighthouse.

A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. 
Psalm 51: 17

But we have this treasure in jars of clay 
to show that this all surpassing power 
is from God and not from us.
II Corinthians 4: 7 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Layers of History in the Land of Israel (Part II)

Aerial view of Tel Beit She'an looking west towards the Jezreel Valley
Beit She'an is an ideal metaphor to understand, literally, the layers of archaeological history.

The "deep cut" on Tell el-Hisn ("castle hill"), in 1933 by archaeologist G.M. FitzGerald, showed that the earliest occupation of the site began as early as 5000 BC. Occupation continued intermittently up to 3200–3000 BC, according to pottery finds. Canaanite graves dating from 2000 to 1600 BC were discovered there in 1926. It was called Scythopolis during Greek occupation and a large cemetery on the northern Mound was in use from the Bronze Age to Byzantine times. Scythopolis is one of the 10 cities (Decapolis) mentioned in the gospels (Mt 4: 25; Mk 5: 20; Mk 7: 31). It is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 17: 11-12 and Judges 1: 27. Traveling through these layers and strata of occupation show, not just, a change in culture and customs but also language. Beit She'an matches the layers of history in the land of Israel. For avid history buffs, visiting Beit She'an would be a visual experience in understanding the layers of history and culture that shaped the entire land of Israel.

For those, who have not yet had this opportunity, here is an outline of the layers of history and culture in the land of Palestine, that I promised in my previous post. The headings marked in red, indicate periods covering the texts of the Bible.

Mesopotamian Migration (2125 to 1700 BC):
The books of Genesis and Job belong to this period. The language is an ancient form of Hebrew, more closely related to Ugaritic. Hebrew is a derivative of Phoenician Ugaritic. Ugarit employed a 29 character cuneiform alphabet. In fact, there are archaic words in Genesis & Job found only once (or twice) in the entire Bible (called technically as Hapax legoumena) and scholars have struggled to translate it. This is the time when Abraham traveled from the land between the rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), planning to settle along the Levantine coast of Canaan.

The migrations from the Tigris and Euphrates region into the land of Canaan are well recorded in the Tel el Amarna letters. These were letters of complaint about the "Hapiru" to the Egyptian Pharoah, Amenhotep III and his son, Amenhotep IV asking for help and intervention. This is also the first reference to the Hebrews (Hapiru) outside the Bible. Of course, the Hapiru, is used in these texts as a much broader term including various Semitic people of the Mesopotamian region.

Cuneiform clay tablets discovered at Mari and Nuzi throw enormous light on passages like Genesis 15: 2 (adoption), Gen 15: 8-18 (Suzerain-Vassal Treaty) and Genesis 31: 17-35 (Laban's costly chase for a small Teraphim), Gen 12: 11-20 & 20: 1-18 (Sisterhood) etc. Even the early chapters in Genesis are better understood when studied in contradistinction with the Atrahasis and the Gilgamesh Epic of the Chaldeans. Many names, including Abram and Benjamin are not Jewish names but originally Mesopotamian names, found on Sumerian clay tablets as Abamram and Banuyamin.

Egyptian Settlement and Slavery (1700-1447 BC):
Jacob and his sons migrate to Egypt because of a famine and settle in the land of Goshen under the patronage of Joseph (Gen 37-50). After Joseph's death the political climate changes and for almost 400 years the Israelites were slaves to Egyptians, Their redemption and national history begins with the arrival of Moses. The Torah or the Pentateuch was initially compiled during his time. And as a result they are called as the books of Moses.

You will notice the Egyptian customs, in the renaming of Joseph (Gen 41: 45) and the funeral rites of Jacob (Gen 50).

Exodus and Settlement in Palestine (1447-722 BC):
God intervenes through Moses delivering the Children of Israel through mighty acts from Egypt and leading them up to the promised land. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were recorded and compiled in this era. Joshua then takes over the Leadership from Moses and leads the nation in a conquest of Canaan. This was followed by Judges, and the Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon (I Samuel, II Samuel). However, Solomon's period also marked the beginning of Apostasy (I Kings 11: 4-8) and it got amplified with the division of the Kingdom (I Kings 12). Various prophets attempted to address the double detriment of apostasy & social injustice (Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, Amos). But the people failed to listen. Finally in 722 BC Samaria fell to the Assyrian Empire. And northern Israel vanished as a people. The Assyrians displaced other people from far away lands and re-settled them in Samaria. They brought with them the baggage of their own religion and syncretized it with Jewish faith (I Kings 17: 24-33). They eventually became known as the Samaritans.

Neo-Assyrian Subjugation (722-609 BC):
At this time the Assyrian Empire destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and annexed the southern kingdom of Judah as a vassal state paying huge tributes. Sennacherib the Assyrian Emperor, threatens Jerusalem with a siege (Isaiah 37), but could not complete it. In 609 BC Babylon defeats Assryria at the battle of Haran and finally Assyria ceases to have anymore significance in history. The book of Nahum describes the barbaric brutality of the Assyrians and pronounces their doom.

Neo-Babylonian Exile (597-539 BC):
The apostasy that took place in the North also affected Judah in the South. Many more prophets did their best to wean them out of heresy. They warned them of judgment through Babylon. Prophets like Habakkuk raised the issues of ethics, of using Babylon as an instrument for this purpose. Jeremiah warns of the impending doom and the hollowness of their "Temple Theology" (Jer 7). In the end judgment comes in three phases. First in 597 BC (Jer 52: 28), then in 587 BC (Jer 52: 29) when Jerusalem is razed into ground zero and finally a last deportation of exiles in 582 BC (Jer 52: 30). During this time the book of Lamentations was penned by Jeremiah. And in exile the books of Ezekiel and Daniel were written. However, Babylon was defeated by Cyrus the Great and the growing Medo-Persian Empire in 539 BC. Nabonidus was the Babylonian emperor at that time. He had settled in the desert oasis of Teima to follow his own pursuits, and is often referred to as the world's first archaeologist. He left his son Belshazzar, as the Regent and proxy ruler in Babylon. This was the time Babylon was defeated and its demise is described in Daniel 5, as the writing on the wall.

Medo-Persian Period (539-330 BC):
Cyrus the Great who founded the empire is also well-known for his Edict of Restoration (Ezra 1) which has been called the first charter on human rights and preserved in the Cyrus Cylinder. He was responsible for the emancipation of the slaves including the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The lives of these Jews in the diaspora is well described in the Murashu Cuneiform texts. The Persians had their capital in Ecbatana and in Susa, at different periods. Cyrus died around December 530 BC and was succeeded by his son Cambyses II, who immediately killed his brother Smerdis (Bardiya). He then went to the eastern front and captured Egypt just before he died in 522 BC. He was succeeded by an imposter, Gaumata, calling himself Smerdis. After only seven months he was killed by Darius the Great, the grandson of Arsames. In 536 - 534, Darius the Mede, although not a King of the empire, received the kingdom of Babylon as viceroy from Cyrus when he was 62 years old (Daniel 5: 31).

Following him was Xerxes, the son of Darius and the husband of the Hebrew queen Esther. He stopped an Egyptian revolt in his first year. Around 484 BC, he also destroyed the Babylonian temples and took the statue of Marduk (Bel) and killed the priest that tried to stop him. He was followed by the reign of Artaxerxes I, the benevolent Emperor, whom we find mentioned in Ezra 7.

As the Jews try to rebuild Jerusalem (Books of Nehemiah and Ezra), they faced stiff opposition especially from the Samaritans. The Elephantine Papyri, discovered in Egypt near Aswan, names Delaiah and Shelemaiah as the sons of Sanballat. Sanballat is described as the governor of Samaria, and who in the book of Nehemiah opposes him at every turn (Neh 2: 10, 19). Relationships between the Samaritans and Jews as a result worsened, and hostility becomes historically entrenched (Neh 2: 20). This hostility spills cruelly into the New Testament period (John 4: 9), and its seen in the reaction of the Jews to Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan.

In the end, the Medo-Persian empire was overtaken by Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army in 333 BC.

Greek Period (333-30 BC):
Xenophon (once a pupil of Socrates) writes in his famous book Anabasis, how the Greeks were hired as mercenaries by a claimant to the Persian throne, to wage war against the recognized king. The story records how the Greeks learned through the mercenary experience that the Persian Empire was internally weak and could be challenged militarily. The story may have inspired Philip of Macedon to believe that a lean and disciplined Hellene army might be relied upon to defeat a Persian army many times its size.

The first great clash between Persia and Greece occurred about 410 B.C., at the Battle of Marathon (the ram and he-goat, predicted in Dan 8). This is where the marathon race originated.

Before the Greeks conquered Persia, Darius III assembled the largest army ever created to try and stop the progress of the Greeks (over 1,000,000 men from 40 different nations). He was still defeated by Alexander, who had no money and only 35,000 men, in the Battle of Arbela. The Greeks, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, defeat Persian armies in Macedonia in 333 BC. This marks the fall of the Medo-Persian Empire and the rise of the Hellenism.

After Alexander's death in 323 BC the empire got divided into four parts under his generals. The Diadochi, as the successors of Alexanders were called, struggled bitterly for power over his domain. Two of those Generals  Seleucus & Ptolemy took over the Levant and Egypt. Daniel 11 refers to these conflicts between the "king of the South" and the "king of the North".

The Seleucids controlled Babylonia, central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and northwest parts of India. They ruled till 63 BC when they were defeated by Rome, that now emerged as a new empire. It is during this period that Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC) sacrificed a sow on the altar in Jerusalem, and is predicted in Daniel as the abomination that causes desolation (Daniel 11: 31). This led to the Maccabean revolt of the Jews and the formation of the Hasmonean dynasty.

The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt until they were overthrown by Rome in 30 BC.  Cleopatra VII, of this dynasty, was known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her apparent suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt. This was the last dynasty to rule Egypt.

This was also the period in between the Testaments, it was a time of political chaos and Hellenistic diffusion. The Sadducees, though from priestly line, were only interested in the consolidation of political power at all costs and paid no attention to the values of Jewish faith. In reaction, the sect of the Pharisees arose who determined to maintain Mishnaic purity. In contradistinction to both, the Essenoi instead retreated to desert places to maintain the purity of scriptures and lead a separated and austere lifetstyle. They devoted themselves to copying  and keeping accurate records of their scripture. They lived in the desert region called Qumran, near the Dead sea and the foot of Masada.

It is important remember that the Greek that Alexander spoke was originally Attic Greek, not Ionian, Doric or Homeric (classical). However, as Hellenism spread, this Greek upon mingling with other parts of the empire, over a period of time became Koine Greek. This Koine Greek is the language in which the New Testament is written.

The Roman Empire / New Testament Period
Rome began its expansion shortly after the Republic was founded in the 6th century BC, though it didn't expand outside Italy until the 3rd century BC. It was thus an "empire" long before it had an Emperors. When it subjugated the Greek empire and annexed all its territories, Palestine too came under its control. In 27 BC the Senate and People of Rome made Octavian princeps ("first citizen") with proconsular imperium, thus beginning the Principate (the first epoch of Roman imperial history, usually dated from 27 BC to AD 284), and gave him the name Augustus ("the venerated"). Though the old constitutional machinery remained in place, Augustus came to predominate it. (In another blog I shall explain the social system that Augustus capitalized on to become the first citizen, and this social system is critically important for understanding the culture during the New Testament).

However, even though Rome defeated Greece it could not over-power the influence of Hellenism. Therefore Koine Greek remained the lingua franca for the whole empire even though Latin was the official language. The influence of Greek philosophy, their sciences still have their impact on modern science. How else would we know about the Archimedes principle or the Pythagoras theorem or Eucildean mathematics? Even about 80% of the technical words in medicine, science, psychology, biology and technology come from the Greek language.

This was the framework of the New Testament, of Jesus and his disciples, and all the epistles and books written at this time.

Rome's unique contribution was the Pax Romana and the Roman roads. Pax Romana ensured stability, security, prosperity and fair justice to all. This led to a vox populi of the deification of Rome, embodied in Roma, the goddess. Eventually, this deification was transmuted into a deification of the emperor. Some emperors tolerated it, others like Caligula revelled in it. Caligula, however, was a megalomaniac who insisted on divine honours. But what can be more dangerous than a madman? It would be a sane emperor insisting on divine honours - and this was Domitian. It was during the period of Domitian, that John was exiled to the island of Patmos where the last book in the New Testament was written.

The whole empire was networked by an efficient system of Roman roads. Therefore, the trident of  Roman roads, the Pax Romana and the Koine Greek played a critical role in the wide dispersal of the Gospel. Eventually after Constantine, Christianity graduated from a persecuted faith to a State religion!

In Israel the Jews, however, resented Roman presence. There were groups such as the Zealots and Sicarii who wanted to overthrow foreign rule on their homeland. These Jewish nationalists captured the fortress of Masada in 66 AD from the Romans (the fortress was originally built by King Herod to protect himself against Cleopatra's invasion from Egypt). In order to stop this uprising revolt, Vespasian, the emperor led an assault on Israel and the Qumran Community was razed in 68 AD. The people of Qumran managed to hide all their precious scrolls, sealed tight in ceremonial jars, in the desert caves (these were accidentally discovered in 1947). In 70 AD, Jerusalem was utterly devastated and the Temple destroyed, by General Titus. And in 73 AD the Jewish stronghold at the fortress of Masada, lay under siege. When Romans overpowered they discovered that they, along with their families, committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Of the 900 people present there only 2 women and 5 children survived. The last of the Jewish resistance, the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 AD), and the sad story at the Cave of Horrors (Nahal Hever), resulted in an extensive depopulation of Judean Jewish communities. Despite easing persecution of Jews following Hadrian's death in 138 AD, the Romans barred Jews from Jerusalem, except for attendance in Tisha B'Av. According to Cassius Dio's Roman History, 580,000 Jewish civilians were massacred, and those who survived were sold into slavery. The Jews were now a displaced people, scattered permanently, away from their own homeland.

Byzantine Period (313-638 AD):
After Constantine was converted to Christianity in 313 AD, the edict of Constantine provided protection for the Christian community. It was not just safe to be a Christian, but prospective. Constantine’s mother, Helena, with her personal and official resources at her disposal, identified and constructed, churches at all the important Christian sites. Some of which can be still seen today in the land of Israel.

In 395 AD, the Roman Empire divided into Eastern and Western halves. The Eastern part was ruled from Byzantium (renamed Constantinople, now called Istanbul). Palestine remained a province of this empire for 350 years. In the later years the Jews were persecuted and some were converted.

Islamic Occupation (638- 1098 AD)
If the land of Israel wasn’t convoluted enough with its complex history, a new religion now rises! In 610 AD, Mohammed, in the Arabian city of Mecca receives messages from God. Mohammed’s unique gift was in bringing together the disparate Bedouin tribes into a monolithic force, under the common factor of Islam, which means submission to God. In 638 AD Caliph Omar plus his desert troops get into Jerusalem, capturing it without a single drop of blood being shed. The Temple was declared an Islamic holy site. After the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans it was never rebuilt. The Dome of the Rock was built in its place between 689 – 691 AD. And until 1967 no non-Muslim was allowed to enter. Since 1967, permission to enter the Dome of the Rock is maintained by the Ministry of Awkaf, Amman, Jordan. Non-Muslims are now permitted to enter but they forbidden to pray.

The region remained under Islamic hand for the next 400 years, until acts of cruelty against Christian pilgrims provoked the Roman Catholic Crusades.

Crusader Period (1091-1259 AD):
The Crusades were a series of military campaigns sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. Pope Urban II initiated the First Crusade in 1091 AD with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to the Holy Land leading to an intermittent 200-year struggle. In 1099 AD, the Crusaders (drawn from many European countries) conquered Jerusalem and brutally butchered the Jews and the Muslims living there. Palestine was renamed as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian Church, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt.

Mameluke Period (1260 -1516 AD):
For a brief period from 1260 AD the Mameluke Sultanate of Egypt took control of Palestine. This was as reasonably peaceful period in the history of this land. The Sultan demolished Jerusalem’s few remaining walls and initiated a lot of building work. Jerusalem now became a centre of Islamic learning.

Ottoman Empire (1517-1917 AD):
The Ottoman Empire, also called as the Turkish empire, was founded in 1299 by Oghuz Turks under Osman I in northwestern Anatolia. The Ottoman sultanate was transformed into a transcontinental empire with conquests in the Balkans between 1362 and 1389. They overthrew the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 AD, renaming it as Istanbul. During the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a powerful multinational, multilingual empire controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificient, defeated the Mameluke Sultanate of Egypt in 1517, and Palestine now came under his control. He soon set about major rebuilding projects in Jerusalem. He installed the walls and gates which can still be seen around the Old City.

Over a period of time, the empire got gradually weakened, and Jerusalem became a neglected outpost. Slowly the exiled Jewish people, started to return to Palestine. During this period, in the 1890s the movement of Zionism was born, under the leadership of Theodore Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian Jew. The central aim of Zionism was to restore the lands of the Bible to the Jewish people.

British Mandate (1917-1948):
In 1917 the British General Allenby entered Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate, and the Turkish Empire lost its hold in this region permanently. Under the British Mandate (recognized by the League of Nations) the British acted as a caretaker government between 1917 to 1948.

State of Israel (1948 onwards):
On 15th May 1948, the British withdrew their caretaker government and Israel became an independent state and homeland of the Jewish people. There is still much tension there between Palestinians (Christian & Arab) and Jews due to the complexity of the way in which the British withdrew and the nation was formed. The Palestinians claim that they have dwelt there for 2000 years since the Roman times, while the Jews claim it as their original homeland. It is not comfortable to dwell on the right and wrong of these issues. All that we need to do is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Layers of History in the Land of Israel (Part I)

Hattusas, Capital of the Hittite Empire and the Oldest civilization
The hunt for truth is deep core both to those who believe and to those who are still seeking. At its very heart is the urgency to validate what you believe or disbelieve.

Here, shown on the left is Hattusas, the capital of the Hittite Civilization, the oldest known Empire. Ezekiel's polemic invective underlines the origin of the Jews to these Hittites (Ezekiel 16: 1-3).

Now, tracing the dawn of history that connects with Abraham (Gen 5 & 11), the journeys of the Patriarchs, the formation of the 12 tribes, the spiritual vacillation in the time of Judges, followed by the Monarchy and the subsequent divided kingdoms of Judah & Israel in the Old Testament is to discover that it is pock-marked with the pot-holes of different cultures and history. Negotiating through these cultures, their languages, prevalent customs, taboos and myths play a critical role in understanding how the Bible texts differed or resonated from other texts written during the same periods. Some thick books are entirely devoted to this subject, and vast volumes of technical journals are available. In fact it is impossible to properly understand some sections of the Old Testament, without a parity assessment with extra-Biblical sources and archaeological discoveries.  And all this is irrevocably connected with available documentation in the ancient written records. Technically, it is impossible to escape the fact that the Bible is a historical document.

The most ancient written records were in various forms as inscriptions on clay tablets, pots (ostraca), papyri and parchment. The earliest was Anatolian as seen in the form of logophonetic Luwian Hieroglyphs, discovered at Hattusas (near present day Boghazkoy in Turkey). Actual writing, not hieroglyphs, is seen in the Sumerian texts (Southern Mesopotamia) dating between 3500 – 3000 BC. It arose from long distance communication necessitated by trade. The exception is Enheduanna, the Akkadian poet (2285-2250 BC). She is the world’s first author known by name and was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad (Sargon the Great). Interestingly, the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Wooley found the now-famous Enheduanna calcite disc in his excavations at the Sumerian site of Ur, in 1927, which was also the city of Abraham (Gen 12).  It was Sumerian mathematicians, who devised the sixty-minute hour that still rules our lives. Of course, there is also the well known Hammurabi’s Code of Law and it is dated at 1754 BC.

Both the Luwian texts and Hittite texts are part of the Indo-European group of languages, based on the evidence in historical linguistics. As a result they are considered as precursors to English, German, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati etc.

James Pritchard’s “Ancient Near Eastern Texts” is an exhaustive, technical and archaeological compendium of all the early texts of this region. Originally printed in 1969, it is now updated and available in its III edition. However, today much of this information is easily verifiable and available on the internet. So here I provide just a brief outline of the slices of Israel's history and also provide some clues to trace further data on extra-biblical sources. Some recent books of great value provide geographical information that is chronologically arranged and updated with archaeological discoveries:
  • William Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas: Historical Geography of the Bible
  • Anson F. Rainey & R. Steven Notley, A Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World
Thus, the whole the history of the Levant can be sliced into the following categories up to the present. These slices outline only periods of occupation and control in Palestine, and not the actual periods of their power globally:
  1. Mesopotamian Migration (2125 to 1700 BC)
  2. Egyptian Settlement and Slavery (1700-1447 BC)
  3. Exodus and Settlement in Palestine (1407-722 BC)
  4. Neo-Assyrian Period (722-609 BC)
  5. Neo-Babylonian Exile (597-539 BC)
  6. Medo-Persian Period (539-330 BC)
  7. Greek Period (333-30 BC)
  8. The Roman Period (30 BC-313 AD)
  9. Byzantine Period (313-638 AD)
  10. Islamic Occupation (638- 1098 AD)
  11. Crusader Period (1091-1259 AD)
  12. Mameluke Period (1260 -1516 AD)
  13. Ottoman Empire (1517-1917 AD)
  14. British Mandate (1917-1948)
  15. Statehood of Independent Israel (Since 1948)

I will continue with more detail in my next blog on each of these sections. The first 8 sections cover the ground in which the texts of the Bible were written.

For more information on the Luwians, Hittites and the ancients scripts of Luwian Hieroglyphics and Cuneiform read these two books:
1. Eberhard Zanger, The Luwian Civilization
2. Marl Wilson, Biblical Turkey

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


An ordinary man will draw a circle around himself, and only look out for himself in all matters: it is essentially a selfie obsessed world. A good man will draw a circle around himself and keep his wife and children secure from any harm. A better man will draw a larger circle, and care for all those who are part of his tribe and language. But men with great destiny will draw a circle so large, that people from all tribes, and castes, and languages are part of his grand design.

So how large is your circle? How keen is your vision? And how great is your destiny?

Remember Jesus stretched out his hands in a circle so large, that he died nailed to a cross. As disciples, lets take up our cross and follow him. Lets also make our circles as large as we can.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Look Before You Cook

This picture was taken sometime back at Ivan and Chandra's place when I made the dinner: Deep fried whole fish (after marination with salt and lemon), layered first with cinnamon powder and then a tablespoon of honey before serving. Pineapple slices browned in a little oil. Potato wedges and shredded cabbage in cheese sauce.

So, here out of my humble culinary experiences of trying to continue to belong to the land of living are a few simple kitchen tips for those in the regular ambit of this zone. But please do not stew over this for too long even if it whets your appetite for more. In the end I don't want to mince any words, when I leave some food for thought and I hope I can let these ideas simmer (even as you forgive my puns):
  1. Unknown to many people is that the vanilla essence can be used for many functional purposes besides flavouring desserts. For example, after you have cleaned the fridge wipe the insides of the fridge with a cloth soaked in vanilla essence. This removes all the bad odours from from the fridge. Also if your room has a bad smell, just put a few drops onto your table lamp bulb, and switch it on. It wipe out all bad odours and fills the room with a pleasant smell of something freshly baked.
  2. Before grating cheese smear a little oil onto the grater. This prevents the cheese from sticking to the grater, and you'll be grateful for it.
  3. If ghee turns rancid, heat ghee in a frying pan and fry some 15-20 pods of garlic till they become brown. Remove the garlic and store the ghee in a container, and let it cool.
  4. To prevent biryani from sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting burnt, spread a layer of bay leaves at the bottom before layering it with rice and meat and spices to cook.
  5. To make karela (bitter gourd) less bitter slice them in half and rub them with wheat flour and salt and set aside for at least half an hour. Wash thoroughly before cooking them.
  6. While bottling jam, soak parchment paper in vinegar, place it inside cap before closing the bottle. This will prevent the formation of mold
  7. To remove oil stain in a non-stick pan (usually after prolonged use of the vessel), boil together three cups of water, one table-spoon bleaching powder, one table-spoon of vinegar and one table-spoon  of salt in the non stick pan for 5 to 8 minutes. Scrub gently and wash with soap as usual.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Denying the Self

I list just a few mechanisms, gained in my own spiritual sojourn through life, failure and obedience. But even when I am obeying God in all areas of my life I have learnt that the capacity for obedience is not there within me. And this is the only thing that continues to keep me humble, human, sensitive and less judgmental of others.

Certainly the act of self-denial, though multiform, varies from individual to individual. And each of us must chart out our own road-map and inspection points along the way to make sure we amplify God, especially during those times when his will comes into conflict with ours.

So, here are a few directly personal observations on how to deny the self. You might either resonate with them, you may differ or you may glean something from them:
  • When you forgive and pay the cost for forgiving and let the offender go unpunished - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to turn stone into bread and refuse the oppurtunity to satisfy your legitimate needs - you deny yourself.
  • When you take all you have, like the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), and give it to meet the need of a servant of God - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to take another person's vulnerable moment and convert it into an advantage for yourself - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to use any political mileage to subdue your enemies - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to feel morally superior and reject the inclination to gossip - you deny yourself.
  • When you live with unanswered prayer and still will not let go of your trust in God - you deny yourself.
  • When you set time apart, no matter how pressing or urgent the need, for God each day - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to let your feelings overcome your sense of scriptural rightness - you deny yourself.
  • When you refuse to let your eyes to wander with unhealthy desires - you deny yourself.
It is paradoxically true that whenever you deny yourself in any form, and at any time, the reward that God gives us is disproportionately greater than our self-denial. In the end you will realize that you have made no sacrifice, but God did. For no one can ever make any sacrifice greater than God. God, is no man's debtor. So, let us cheerfully deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Internal Audit

I have been judged and found guilty of the very things I have judged others of. This is critical. Without this realization I could never understand how much I am a product of grace. Without this intense internal reflection I could never understand what it means to forgive others as God forgives me... Everyone has to die someday. I wish mine were sooner, so that I would be spared from making more mistakes.