Sunday, December 30, 2012

One cold morning at Pfutsero

Woke up to a very cold morning today
Careful!!

Neighbour's car

Frozen stream

Frozen pond. Site of ice throwing competition

The youngest competitor takes his turn as his dad looks on

This guy wants to go for the big ones

The judge and cameramen at the other end



...wanted to go for the biggest one, it broke and bled his foot

1st Runner up

The winner proudly displaying his trophy

Time to skate

This is how you do it!!

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, skating is on

Pfutsero, 30th December, 2012



Saturday, December 29, 2012

A loving brother

It took time for me to appreciate what a boy went through, working for days to build a toy for his younger brother. That's what a brother is for.
(click on the photo to enlarge)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Always winter, but...'

'Always winter but never Christmas'
Christmas for the year 2012 is gone. There will never be a Christmas 2012 in all eternity, said the speaker on Christmas morning. Was it worth the wait? Or is the real excitement of Christmas in the waiting? You waited and waited for Christmas and it came and it is gone. Is December 25 just a date? When you look back, what was special about it this year? 

'Always winter but never Christmas', said Lewis. For you, is it, ‘Christmas comes and goes, and everything remains the same’?

December 25 is gone. But Christmas is still here. It still waits for those who will search for it and find it for themselves. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Making Christmas Come Alive: The Message in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus


Guest Post (By Samuel S. Vaiphei)

Unfortunately we present-day Christians have contented ourselves with such a narrow understanding of the Gospel, often solely defined in terms of Going to Heaven or Christ Dying on the Cross for our Sins, that the real message or the bigger story narrated in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark , Luke and John is missed! Just like every year, I am afraid that this year too we will once more gloss over or ignore altogether the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-20. Undue emphasis is then placed on Matthew 1:21 where the angels announced to Joseph that he should name the child Jesus because he will rescue his people from their sins. This is often linked to Genesis 3:15.

The apostle Matthew wouldn’t be pleased with us for not paying close attention to all that he had been trying to say in the preceding 20 verses (of Ch 1), and without which one is bound to get a defective understanding of verse 21. Moreover it is open knowledge that Matthew’s Gospel has in mind a Jewish audience as his original hearers. Thus, it is no surprise that present-day readers missed Matthew’s intended message. I hope this article will recover and enable us to see the significance of the genealogy of Jesus, without which the birth of Jesus or Christmas is not much of a Good News.
To begin with, we must keep in mind that genealogy is very important for the Jews. Where from a person/the family trace its root tells a lot about one’s social standing. But when Matthew traced the genealogy of Jesus, his intention was far more than to simply tell us that Jesus has important royal lineage or comes from a good family etc. Sadly, the way Jesus’ Jewish genealogy gets ignored in our Christmas sermons falsely seems to indicate that it’d have been perfectly okay if Jesus was born a Punjabi or a Korean! To succumb to this kind of illogic is to miss the heart of the Gospel from the very first pages itself.

Thus when Matthew begins his Gospel with the line “a record of the genealogy of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, something really profound is being conveyed. Let’s unpack them one by one.

Jesus, the son of Abraham
To understand this cryptic phrase we have to take a brief tour of Genesis 1-11.  Read as a story (God’s story, mind you), Genesis 1-2 tells us about a good creation brought forth by God with Man and Woman in God’s image as the epitome of God’s creative activity. Sadly, the original primeval couple succumbed to temptation (Gen 3) and by their actions, unleashed a force of darkness over God’s good creation. Genesis 4-6 tells us in gripping prose the sordid tale of the human person and human society getting dysfunctional – murder and mayhem. Man’s quests to create the perfect society always end in violence and failure. By the 6th chapter (of Genesis) we are told that God was grieved that he had created man. But the God of the Bible is not one who was about to give up. As we read on, the dismal story of human pride in the construction of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11) gave way to fresh rays of hope encapsulated in the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12.

In Genesis 12, God called out Abraham (then Abram) from where he lived, directed him to a new land with the promise that through him the whole world will be blessed. If this is read in the backdrop of what took place at the Tower of Babel and the whole of Genesis 1-11, it becomes obvious that Gen 12 then is God’s promise to Abraham that creation/cosmos would be set right! That, what humans could not accomplish by their own efforts viz. rid the human heart of evil (Gen 3-4) and create the ideal society (Gen 4-6, 10-11), God will do for them. The plot thickens when in Genesis 22:18, God promised Abraham a SEED through whom all the nations of the Earth will be blessed. So when Matthew proclaims Jesus to be the son of Abraham, what he is telling us in effect is that Jesus is God’s promise to Abraham come true! Halleluja! The apostle Paul echoes this in Galatians 3:16.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.

The Gospel good news is that God has not abandoned the world and its inhabitants, but has now come in the person of Jesus to sort out the mess in the world. Finally, the LORD God who created the Universe will no longer be far from any of us!

Jesus, the son of David.
In Israel’s history, David was the only person who came close to being the ideal king. A king like David was the desire and prayer of every Jew. In this day and age where Democracy is the norm, it’s hard to conceive a perfect monarchy in our imaginations since in our collective civilizational history, most monarchs have been despots. Not so with the Biblical understanding of kingship. The book of Deuteronomy is very clear that God alone is Israel’s king. The kings of Israel were mere agents reigning in the place of God. But then they were fallible and often strayed. So for the Jewish people, to have God come as king is to finally have perfect Justice and Peace. It is to have SHALOM. This is clearly echoed in Isaiah 9, the famous Emanuel passage about the Prince of Peace carrying the government on his shoulder. The first section of that chapter concluded with the promise that the zeal of the Lord will accomplish this in time.

Also note how the verse in Isaiah 11:1
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse (David’s father)
recounts and re affirms God’s promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13.

12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Every true Israelite during the time of Jesus was therefore expecting God to fulfil his promise about a Messiah who is to come from the line of David. So when Matthew declared Jesus to be the son of David, he is announcing the radical Good News (Gospel) that indeed the Messiah has come to establish God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven!

Jesus as the Jubilee in person and the End of Exile
Sadly, most Christians today have a distorted understanding of the Jubilee. Many communities often collectively fall into debt in vainglorious attempts to outdo each other in jubilee festivities. We have mostly forgotten that Jubilee in its Biblical (Leviticus) essence means release or liberty. There, the observance of jubilee resets socio-economic relations. In the 50th year, all the debts the people owe to each other are forgiven. Everyone gets a fresh start! Everyone gets his/her freedom; no one remains a slave.

Notice now then when Matthew deliberately numbers the generation from Abraham to David as 14, David to the Exile as 14, and the Exile to Jesus as 14, he is pointing to the jubilee. Three fourteens add up to six seven (6x7=14+14+14). In Jesus, we are entering the 7th seven viz. the time for Jubilee has come or better still Jubilee in person has come.

Closely connected to the theme of jubilee is the idea of Exile. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were warned that the fitting punishment for not keeping their part of the Covenant was exile to a foreign land. And that was what we find had happened when we read the closing chapters of Chronicles or Jeremiah. The book of Ezra and Nehemiah chronicles how some of them came back from Babylon under royal decree. Even then the general mood was that they were still in Exile. Physical relocation back to Palestine or Jerusalem was not accompanied by the promise of glorious restoration as foretold in Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah (ie Isaiah 40-55). In fact Nehemiah cried out to God that they were still in exile in their own land because a foreign power lorded over them (Nehemiah 10:36-37). Moreover, the makeshift temple they constructed was bereft of the presence of the glory of God.

Be that as it may, Matthew quoted Isaiah 40:3 and applies it to John the Baptist (Matt 3:3), the one who acts as the royal herald announcing the coming of the king. The allusions are clear. A revolutionary act if you are aware that Isaiah 40 is about God comforting sinful Israel and proclaiming the end of her Exile/punishment. Therein God forgives Israel the sins that took her to Babylon as punishment. This is actually the first and proximate meaning of the angelic herald to Joseph about Jesus saving his people from their sins.

Applying the Lesson: Making Christmas come Alive
The best way to undermine Christmas is to spiritualize it! Sermons abound about introspecting ourselves and this incidentally fits with our mood at the end of the year. This in itself is not bad because Christ definitely has to begin as Lord in our hearts first. Yet we cannot stop and say this is all there is to Christmas. Certainly if we now understand why Matthew felt it was his business to proclaim Jesus as Abraham’s son and David’s son, then there is definitely more to Jesus being the Lord of my life or the saviour of my soul!

If Jesus is indeed the Davidic Messiah, the Prince of Peace then it is not enough to say I’ve got peace in my heart. We must take, as CHRIST-ians the first step to actualize this peace in the places that we inhabit. A place like Nagaland is most apt a place to celebrate Christmas. We have here various factions and communities at each other’s throat. It is time the real Christians among the Nagas from various tribes/groups, the true descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-8) start thinking of how they can be a channel of blessing to the other. This is what it means for Christians to be called Abrahams’ children. And if we indeed are, it is our vocation not so much to think about actualizing our community’s so called “God given rights” but rather explore how one can be a true blessing to people outside of our immediate family and tribe. Those who only know how to care for themselves and their own community are neither the children of Abraham nor the King’s people (Matt 5:43-47). At a more personal level, another way of celebrating Christmas, authentic style, would be to invite for Christmas dinner those who cannot invite us back?

The kind of turmoil that our State is in indicates the signs of exile are still with us. Rape, Murder, Theft (including big governmental corruption), Extortion, Inequality abound. Like Nehemiah, it will be a good exercise to make Christmas a time of prayer to God to end our exile and restore us. I guess this will inspire in us new directions as to how to go about being agents of transformation in our society, having ourselves being transformed.

The rest I’ll leave to the imagination of the readers... Merry Christmas everyone.
(With gratitude to NT Wright, Simon Gathercole and Vinoth Ramachandra for the reflection)

(Put up for publishing in local dailies in Manipur (Sangai Express) and Nagaland (Morung, Eastern Mirror) with minor changes in context)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quick glance backward

It has been a very, very busy year. I wanted December to be the month of PEACE AND QUIET. But it is turning out to be just the opposite. I woke up at 6:20 AM this morning and straight to work; after having slept at 2:00 AM. This post is a stolen moment.

Looking back, at the work front I think I have been able to do much this year and I'm satisfied. I changed job midyear and dived into the new one right on, getting all busy at once. I was a columnist for Eastern Mirror for some months. Though I don't have much savings, financially I'm able to help family during crucial moments - Siblings college/university admissions, besides their monthly expenses.

I've travelled to all the districts of Nagaland, except Tuensang. Supervision and monitoring plan for all medical directorate officers that I designed I hope will bear fruit. Now, all officers go to the districts every two months and bring back report. Through analysis of reports, I'll be able to understand the health services status of the State better. In 9 months, report from all the health centres of Nagaland will be available.

I've been able to speak in a few occasions and contribute articles in a magazine or two.A bimonthly tribal newsletter was started. The reviews to my writings has been encouraging. Some originality in thought and analysis is starting to take shape. Thank God for that. 

 The year is almost over. There were failures. There were wrongs. But overall, I think it has been a good year. Today, I'm going to get an official vehicle. Yipee. On Christmas evening, I'll be preaching in church. I think that will be the one big thing left for this year; a fruitful, and a fitting end, I hope.

So, you see; when I started typing this post, I had no idea what I wanted to write. I just wanted to update my blog. But this is a case in point that when you take time to count your blessings, you'll be surprised at what the Lord has done. Without taking a little time to do the blessing counting, I might have ended saying, 'it was an ordinary year'.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

'I am the change*': Being Salt and Light

Talk delivered at Annual Youth Day, Chakhesang Baptist Church Dimapur, 8th December, 2012

Introduction

When you get just one chance to speak, the danger is that you want to say so many things at once and confuse your listeners, and so reduce your own chance to be invited again. I face that danger today added to the fact that I can’t speak well at any point of time.

However, it’s a big privilege for me to be here. I thank the youth director for inviting me and all of you for coming. Chakhesangs have made their presence felt in Dimapur. There are our three professors in OTS and not the least: the sidekicks of Wolo Lasuh in this Church who are here today. The church members here at CBCD play a very crucial role to live as a ‘salt and light’; to be witnesses for Christ in this commercial capital which is a ‘city on a hill’ of Nagaland.

When we look at our Naga society today, what do you first see? What catches your attention the most? What is the thing that concerns you the most? Some may say it is the confusing and long winding Naga political issue. Some may say it is corruption in the government offices and illegal taxation by various underground groups. Others will say it is the degradation of moral and spiritual standards which is not only pervasive in the civil society but has also crept into our churches. Some may say it is the growing unemployment problem and lack of opportunities to earn to sustain the livelihood of self and family. Still others may say it is the lack of basic amenities like basic medical care, adequate and clean water supply, regular electricity supply, quality education, good roads and internet connectivity, etc. Some may say it is plain laziness. Nagas simply don’t want to work hard. There is truth in all of these and they are all interlinked and interlocked. That is exactly the reason why piecemeal efforts don’t work. You cannot run a good school with a corrupt administrator in a factional clash-prone village where there is no road and electricity connection. From such a school, you cannot get good education and therefore you will not be able to compete with others for employment exams and interviews and out of frustration, you may think of joining the underground groups to extort money or enter through backdoor appointment and in so doing lose your soul. These are extreme examples, but you see, everything is connected. Therefore, even as we work and engage ourselves in different areas or career paths, our lives are all connected. We are all parts of one body, so to say. 

Today, I want to flag some issues that we see in our society to stimulate us to think through. Most of these issues are from the articles that I have written in my blog and Eastern Mirror when I was a columnist. The issues are:

1. The growing rich and poor divide
2. The disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life/ between church worship and office work/between Sunday mornings and other weekdays
3. The invasion of celebrity culture and lack of thoughtful reflection
4. The spreading biblical illiteracy

1. The growing rich and poor divide
Some time not long ago, I heard an officer say in a church service that Nagas are all progressing that it is difficult to make out who is officer and who is a peon or chowkidar, because we all wear similar clothes, drive similar cars and use similar mobile phone handsets. He thinks we are all going along fine. As a counter to that view, I wrote an article called ‘The other Nagas in our midst’ (Click Here for full article). I wrote, ‘Many Nagas do not know that there is another Nagaland which exists right under our nose. The bottom half (the poor). They are simply numbers in our census. We do not know their names. We do not discuss them, and we do not hear their voices or meet them face to face… Many Nagas today, who are born, brought up, or lived long in towns (like Dimapur) and cities are so ignorant of our own fellow Nagas who live in the villages. We think we are all basically from villages and we are more or less the same. But it is not. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The rich-poor gap is widening at an alarming rate. 

There are many Nagas today who struggle to provide two decent meals a day for themselves and for their families. There are many children who have swollen abdomen not because of overeating, but because of malnutrition and worm infestation. Many of them do not go to school or if they do, they do so just in name with no hope of a bright educational career or job opportunity. Many families live at the edge of a cliff and a slight push is enough to have them fall over. I met a Chakhesang guy in Phek district hospital who sold his paddy field to pay for the medical bills of his son. You don’t have to search hard or far to meet the destitute poor in our midst. If you go to your own native village, I bet you’ll find them. But the only reason why we don’t hear of them or discuss them is because the subject is not popular or interesting. 

I talked to some commercial vegetable cultivators of Pfutsero town last year. The price of their vegetables has increased only marginally over the years, whereas the price of essential commodities in the market like sugar and milk powder has increased so much. So, when we take the current money value into consideration, many of these vegetable cultivators have become poorer despite the rise of the price of their produce. 

The poor do not only suffer from lack of material wealth, they suffer discriminations and dehumanizing treatments that rob them of their dignity and respect. Not only are funds and resources meant for them snatched, the poor villagers are considered stupid, ignorant, dirty, uncivilized or backward. So many times, they are being blamed for being poor. We think it is their fault that they are poor.

On the other hand, we have a class of Nagas for who the sky is the limit. Overnight, crorepatis have emerged in our midst. A consumerist middle class has also mushroomed who look nowhere but up and up. Money is the ultimate good and by what means wealth is gained is irrelevant. When a billionaire was asked if how much is enough, the answer was, ‘a little more’. A little more. There is no end to human want. The 500 billion dollar advertisement industry has confused our needs with our wants and we are always in need of that next product. If you’ve got the latest Nokia Lumia phone, Samsung Galaxy notebook, Microsoft Windows 8, or an innova car, you’ll be in need of the next higher end product very soon. We had Hyundai i10. We now have i20. i30 is coming soon. We have Nagas today who can keep up with whatever product the market throws up. 

If you want to see the huge rich poor divide, another place to look for is your church annual tithe report. This is the year end and the annual tithe report will be out soon. Sit with the report and study for yourself. 

2. The disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life
Does God care about what we do from Monday to Saturday? ( Click here and here) Or is he interested only on what we do on Sunday mornings? We can be like Dr. Jekyll on Sunday mornings and Mr. Hyde on the weekdays and make no bones about it. How is this possible? How is it that our spiritual faith cannot influence our behavior outside the four walls of the church? This is a true example: A government officer makes fake bills to sponsor his trip to Jerusalem. He repeats the act to raise money to attend a mission conference abroad. How have we come to this stage where spiritual faith is divorced from obedience? Why do we cry Lord, Lord but do not do what he says? The fault I think to a large extent lies with the teachings of our churches. Our churches preach a faith that is too personal and privatized that it doesn’t have much meaning in the society and the world. The gospel we preach is too inward looking and self centered that we can’t see beyond the interest of ourselves, our own families, or our own people group. Personal salvation is personal and inward looking, but faith without work is as good as death. Such faith is dead. Where is our work to show our faith?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it enough that we go to Church on Sundays, and don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or indulge in immoral activities? Jacque Ellul says that ‘In a society where everyone is a Christian, no one knows what it means to be a Christian’. We call Naga society a Christian society. But we have failed to live as Christians.

What does it mean to be a Christian student? Does it only mean not cheating in exams? Many of us Bible believing Christians fail to connect our spiritual faith with our discipline of study, profession or work. So, we have many workers who draw their salaries month after month, year after year, without doing any work. If you are a student of Science, how do you relate your text books with the Bible? If you are an economics student, in what ways can you use your knowledge for the glory of God? Wherever we may be placed in whatever department or discipline or nature of work; we must try to find WWJD if he were in my place.

3. The invasion of celebrity culture and lack of thoughtful reflection
Everybody wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be loved. In facebook language, everybody wants to be Liked (click here). We want to be poked and we click Like when people Comment on our status updates and link posts. But what if we are a little too fond of ourselves? Now, nobody wants to be normal. Everyone wants to be stars. Everyone wants to rise above the crowd and be celebrated. Popularity is idolized as an object of worship. It doesn’t matter if you have to sell your dignity, self respect, your very own soul for it. 

Online social media like facebook provides a platform for every ordinary person; a kind of podium or a world audience. The stage is all yours. We live as if our lives are reality TV shows and we are the main stars of our own shows. We manage how we present our image to the world with our facebook profile information and status updates. And from such flimsy grounds we derive our self worth, self esteem, our dignity. We are made to believe that we can be the next slumdog millionaire. Our big break is just round the corner and with a little luck; we think we have the charm and what it takes to sweep the world off its feet.

Facebook can play with our sense of worth, meaning of life, and reduce time for genuine human interaction. Is facebook also making us more stupid? How many hours have we spent in facebook since January this year? How many of us know how to balance the time between facebook and studies and work?  If we spend too much time in facebook, we are not going to get too much time to read, sit quietly and think, or go out and see what is real. 

Many of the stuffs in facebook are superficial. Fun is good. But even in serious discussions in such online forums, we get to see so many comments which are emotional outbursts rather than carefully thought-out comments. That way, are we becoming more superficial? Many students don’t read books anymore. Even for assignments, they only go to Google. Google can provide good information, but it cannot do the thinking for us. We lack people who have time for thoughtful reflections. I don’t mean that we all become philosophers with Ph.Ds. But it is only a call to examine how we live our lives. It is said, ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’.

4. The spreading biblical illiteracy
As students, we go on from school to college to university, and with each rise in academic class, our knowledge increases and our thoughts mature. But when it comes to reading the Bible, even after being Christians for several years, our understanding of the Bible still remains at Sunday School level. And it is shocking that many of our kids today do not know the Bible stories that we grew up with. A young relative of mine got confused if it was Daniel, Joseph or David who was thrown into the Lion’s den. Some church leaders seem to think that with the coming of Jesus, Old Testament is of no more use. The angry God of the Old Testament was replaced by the gracious and mild Jesus who died for our sins. It seems some people believe that it is written in the Bible, ‘God helps those who helps themselves’. They think that is in the Bible! We treat the Bible as if it is a magic book. We close our eyes, point to a random verse, and think that God has given us that verse for the moment. I’m not limiting the ways in which God should work. God can work in such a way to speak to people. But as with any other book, when we read a sentence, we need to know what came before it and what came after it. When we are reading a story, we may have to go to the beginning to understand certain things. Sometimes, things may not be clear for a long time until you keep on reading towards the end. Also we know that there are different types of writings. When reading poetry, we don’t interpret it as we would interpret a chemistry equation. But we become too simplistic and fail to use such logic when it comes to reading the Bible.

Suggestions:

I would like to present some suggestions in the light of the above four points:

1.      On wealth and greed
The best medicine for greed is giving. When Jesus told the rich young men to go, sell off whatever he has and follow him; Jesus wasn’t meaning,  ‘you can keep the money, simply have a change of heart’. Greed binds us and when we give, we are liberated. That rich young man needed to take his trust away from money but he went away. He said he has been religious but Jesus knew that religiosity cannot cure greed.

Giving is not for a time in the future when I have this, or when I get there. It is for the imperfect here and now. We must realize that when we give, something is taken away from us; or it is not truly giving. We need to give sacrificially. Even if you are a student, you can still give to support another poorer student in your village, Tizu area, or a Burmese student in Kiphire. 

For those of you who are working or will be working soon, we must realize that giving Rs. 10 for church offering is too less. At this time and age, what can we do with Rs. 10 when we go to the bazaar? And our churches also need to be more careful and accountable with the money they receive. A non-Naga church in Kohima is said to have refused to accept a tithe of Rs. 25 lakhs from one person because it isn’t clean money. Our churches have something to learn from that. 

Another way to show our solidarity with the poor is to practice moderation as a habit. God does not patronize poverty. Poverty is not his design. He wants his people to prosper. But God has a preferential love for the poor. God has compassion for them. He stands for them, by them and with them. As Christians, it is not enough that we feel pity for the poor, but we should look for ways in which we can help reduce poverty and stand in solidarity with the poor. One of the many ways to do that is by inculcating moderation as a habit: having a limit, an ‘Enough’ in life. Even if we can live lavishly, we need to be mindful of the people we live in this earth with and the limited resources we all share. Let us learn to love our neighbor. Somewhere we need to draw the line and say, as for me and my house, this will be enough.

2.      On disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life
We need to learn to integrate our faith with our social life and our subject matters in college. Let us do away with the idea of separating the sacred and the secular, and let us make Jesus the Lord of all areas of our lives. If you are a student of history, what is it about history that can enrich your faith and help others in our society? If you are in fine arts, how does your work reflect a creative God that we worship? If you are in medicine, how do you exemplify the compassion of Jesus through your profession? Work is not a curse which resulted from the fall of man. It is a gift given by God to Adam and Eve before they sinned. The Lord’s work doesn’t only mean church ministry. Paul Stevens says, “work that is the ‘Lord’s work’ and has intrinsic value is not determined by its religious character or even the fact that God’s name is being used openly”. Whatever is done in faith, hope, and love will be redeemed and will find its place in the new heaven and new earth. Our work is our ministry.

3.      On celebrity culture and reflective thinking
When the Bible says, ‘look at the birds of the air’; the Bible scholars tell us that it doesn’t only mean, ‘turn your eyes towards the birds of the air’. It also means, ‘think deeply about it and learn from it’. We need to make time to sit quietly and think. Fast food, fast money, T20 Cricket, twitter, SMS, facebook update, etc. mean that we either have no time or have too short attention span. We have a book called ‘Quick sermon notes for busy pastors’. But everybody in this world has 24 hours a day; it is how you make use of it. We need to make time to read, sit quietly, meditate, and plan how we live our lives. Education is not simply swallowing of information to be vomited in the exam hall. We need to chew well so that what we eat nourishes our body.

To overcome the influence of celebrity culture, I’d recommend the quest for a quiet ordinary life (click here). It’s not a sin to become popular/a star. But the mass pursuit for instant stardom calls for a more sober life to enjoy and find fulfillment in the everyday ordinaries of life. For it is said that in the rat race of one-upmanship, there is no reward at the finish line. In stepping over other people to reach the top, there’s nothing when you get there. Let us learn to be content with what the Lord has given. Let us count our blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise us what the Lord has done.

4.      On biblical illiteracy
I for one have not read the Bible completely from Genesis to Revelations. It is time that we do so. Instead of reading piecemeal, let us strive to understand the Bible as a complete whole so that we get the big picture of God’s story and his plan for man and for the world. When we study the Bible piecemeal picking a Bible verse here and there, we have the danger of misinterpreting the Word of God according to our own convenience.
We need to listen to the Word, and we also need to listen to the world in which we live. This concept of Double Listening is stated by John Stott as: 

‘We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the world with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it’.
If we do this: Listen to the Word of God and also listen to the voices of our society; and see how we can apply the Word to the world; we will speak relevantly and meaningfully. That way, we become salt and light to the world.

*'I am the change' is the slogan adopted by United Chakhesangs Forum.