Month: April 2013

Thinking out-loud about my relationship with Jesus within the context of His finished work.

I thought I would do fine without all the commercialized, over-done Christian atmosphere after we moved to Delhi because I “knew” I didn’t need any of it to bear fruit for the Lord. I “knew” I already had the Holy Spirit living inside of me, so it didn’t matter how dark a place was, once I showed up, I had the Light of the World shining through me.

But I haven’t been nearly so confident in my walk since we’ve lived here. And I’m not blaming how spiritually “dark” it is or chalking it up to demonic garbage. Regardless whether you live in suburban America or in a Hindu village somewhere in India, it’s completely up to you to own your own faith and be responsible for what your relationship with Jesus looks like. And true to that statement, I blame my own lack of intentionality and incorrect assumptions for the distance I’ve put between myself and The Lord.

But before I launch into some more of those thoughts, I want to explain that for a long time leading up to this Michael and I had been listening to a lot of teachings about the finished work of the cross. Here’s a loose summary of “New Covenant” or “Finished Work” teachings for those of you who are unfamiliar with it:

Jesus’ work on the cross was complete, absolute and universal. The wrath of God wad satisfied on the cross and there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus. We are no longer bound under the Old Covenant (Old Testament) laws or judgements, but living inside the New Covenant that was secured in the blood of Jesus. Salvation is more than a “get-out-of-hell-free” card — it is the total death and resurrection of your physical, emotional and spiritual person in Christ. You have everything you need in Christ, and there is no greater anointing than the anointing of Christ. You have already been given your “calling” and it’s called “The Great Commission”, so you don’t need to wait for the audible voice of God or a “tingle” to heal the sick, cleanse the leper, and cast out demons. And I believe all this to be true because the Spirit and Word testify to it.

In other words… the basic message is that you don’t need to cry out after God day and night for revival. You are revival because He lives in you and has already filled you with His Spirit. You lack nothing because He is your everything.

I can tell you hearing that for the first time is liberating. But I don’t want to say and do all the right things, and live independently of Jesus and His Body only to get to heaven and for Him to tell me, “Ashley, It’s true you did a lot in my name, but I never knew you.”

Without meaning to, I distanced myself from Christ and from His Body after I discovered that I didn’t need to manipulate God with fasting or goto a church every Sunday to bring the Kingdom to the earth.

So I’ve started to ask how can I maintain a relationship with Jesus and His Body if I think I already know what His will is in all things at all times and I think that I don’t need anything else from Him? And how can I live in harmony with my brothers and sisters and be open to instruction if I believe that they have nothing to offer me because I’ve already been given everything I need in Christ?

Can you imagine marrying someone and assuming that you knew everything about them from just one encounter? Or can you imagine not spending time with your spouse because you figured since you’re already married you don’t need to work on your relationship with them? No, of course not. It takes time, self-sacrifice and remembering your covenant with this person to make a marriage work. You don’t always “feel” in love, but you intentionally make the choice to love them. You go out on dates, write letters, give hugs and do all sorts of other things to remain a solid unit.

It’s the same way with Jesus and His Body. Yes, it’s still true that two thousand years ago, Jesus already told us His will and gave us His authority to carry it out. And it’s also true that He is, as Watchman Nee puts it, the sum of all spiritual things, so there is nothing you can add to Him or the things He has already done.  You don’t need to meet any standards, fast, pray or read your bible to heal someone in His name. But He is a living, breathing Person who desires an intimate relationship with us. And His Body is designed to work together as a whole, not separate parts who have no need of each other: “And now there are [certainly] many limbs and organs, but a single body. And the eye is not able to say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But instead, there is [absolute] necessity for the parts of the body that are considered the more weak.” (1 Cor 12:20-22)

So I’ll just confess it: I’m really good at doing religion, but I’m not so good at carrying on a relationship with the Lord or with my brothers and sisters. I’m inclined to do works in the name of Jesus without spending any time with Jesus. I can carry on a conversation about the Lord, read a book about the Holy Spirit, talk about the bible, give food to the poor, drop some “Christianese” here and there — but when it comes to knowing and experiencing Jesus first hand, I find my heart often asking: “Who are you Lord?

I’ve had to do some deep, deep soul-searching. Do I want to continue eating from the the Tree of Knowledge and leaning on my own understanding as I have been, or do I want to eat from the Tree of Life? Do I want to continue being dependent on my own religious works to try and please a Holy God, or do I want to enter into the single most satisfying pleasure of knowing who my Lord is?

While Jesus was on earth he could have done anything he wanted and gone His own way because he was fully God and fully man. He already knew the entire will of the Father, but he chose to know and do nothing apart from what He saw the Father doing. As a Pharisee, Paul could have run circles around anyone in an argument, but he claimed to “know nothing but Christ and Him crucified”. They each had the freedom of knowledge, but they choose to be dependent on the Father’s abundant life.

Going back to the example of a marriage, Michael and I are each independent people capable of making our own decisions, but sometimes we choose to consult one another because being in harmony is a priority to us. Other times, one of us will make a decision on the other’s behalf because we know enough about one another to make an informed choice. I think that it’s the same way with Jesus. There are times when harmony with Him is the only thing needed. Then there are other times when action is needed and He has already given you the permission to make a decision on His behalf.

I appreciate those who have travelled the country and the world to teach about the finished work of Jesus. It’s something the Body needs to hear and will probably always need to hear. But in my case, I think I let the pendulum swing too far to one side. It might sound strange, but it’s like I exchanged my freedom in Christ for a freedom without Christ – which is really no freedom at all. I knew it didn’t matter whether I met with the Lord to heal someone, so I just stopped seeking Him out altogether.

It reminds me of the prodigal son who demanded his portion of his father’s inheritance but went off and squandered it. I feel like I have done the same thing with the truths and riches the Father has given me. I’ve handled them poorly and now I wonder why I ever thought I could do it on my own. Wouldn’t it have been better to stay in His house, enjoying Him than to leave on my own with his riches? (And by staying in His house, I mean keeping my heart in constant state of worship towards Jesus, not as in staying inside a physical building and singing songs and ignoring suffering outside).

I know as an ambassador of Christ, I carry all the authority of Christ with me wherever I go. But I don’t want acting on the authority and freedom of Christ to become a substitute for abiding in Christ and being in fellowship with His Body, the Church.

So I’m kind of writing this because I wanted to process some of my thoughts out-loud and also to hold me accountable. If living in India has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I’m weak, frail and lost without Him. But I also know that I will eventually come out from the wilderness, leaning on my Beloved.

How living in Delhi has made the Kingdom real for me: House Help and Servants, Part II

(This is the second part in a series of posts that share how living in Delhi has helped me understand different principles in the Kingdom of God. You can read the first post here: How living in Delhi has made the Kingdom real for me: House Help and Servants, Part I.)

In my other post, I talked mostly about our boundaries (laws) with our staff and it’s relationship to Kingdom truths Jesus talked about in the New Testament. Here are some other ways having domestic help has made the Word and Kingdom come to life for me.

1. Being financially generous with your staff.
During the Diwali it’s customary to give your staff a bonus that’s the equivalent of a month’s salary. But you can give more or less depending on your situation or your staff’s performance. When Michael and I were thinking about how much to give, we decided that for most of our staff we would double their salaries for both Diwali and Christmas.

But when it came to our trash lady, I felt like giving her more than just double her regular month’s salary. She only gets paid a hundred rupees a month (that’s two US dollars every month to come upstairs everyday and haul away our garbage). I felt like it wouldn’t exactly be hurting our pocket books to give her more than just a doubled salary bonus.

But Michael brought up the point that if our driver or chowkidars (guards) found out that we gave the trash lady an amount that was proportionally more than theirs, they might get offended (which was a legitimate concern because they probably would found out about it one way or another). So we had to consider if it was ok to still give our trash lady a little more, even if that meant offending our higher-paid staff.

In the end we agreed that it was worth the risk, and in the process realized we were walking out a real-life version of an example Jesus gives in Matthew:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of an estate who went out in the morning along with the dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard.

After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour (nine o’clock), he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; And he said to them, You go also into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will pay you. And they went. He went out again about the sixth hour (noon), and the ninth hour (three o’clock) he did the same. And about the eleventh hour (five o’clock) he went out and found still others standing around, and said to them, Why do you stand here idle all day? They answered him, Because nobody has hired us. He told them, You go out into the vineyard also and you will get whatever is just and fair.

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, Call the workmen and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first. And those who had been hired at the eleventh hour (five o’clock) came and received a denarius each. Now when the first came, they supposed they would get more, but each of them also received a denarius. And when they received it, they grumbled at the owner of the estate, Saying, These [men] who came last worked no more than an hour, and yet you have made them rank with us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.

But he answered one of them, Friend, I am doing you no injustice. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this man hired last the same as I give to you. Am I not permitted to do what I choose with what is mine? [Or do you begrudge my being generous?] Is your eye evil because I am good? So those who [now] are last will be first [then], and those who [now] are first will be last [then]. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Mt. 20:1-16)

In many ways our driver would be considered first in our lives for all the long hours he works for us. He’s there first thing in the morning and works into the evening until we’re finally done for the day.
Meanwhile, we hardly ever interact with our trash lady and the amount of labor she does for us is very little. She comes by in the morning, picks up the trash and goes. But in many ways she’s worthy of a greater paycheck when you consider what she’s doing for a living and how unsanitary it could be if she never collected the garbage.

“And those [parts] of the body which we consider rather ignoble are [the very parts] which we invest with additional honor, and our unseemly parts and those unsuitable for exposure are treated with seemliness (modesty and decorum) which our more presentable parts do not require.” (1 Cor. 12:23-24)

2. Working only by way of eye-service.

“Servants (slaves), be obedient to those who are your physical masters, having respect for them and eager concern to please them, in singleness of motive and with all your heart, as [service] to Christ [Himself]— Not in the way of eye-service [as if they were watching you] and only to please men, but as servants (slaves) of Christ, doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul; Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men, Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free.” (Eph 6:5-8)

Most of the time when we come home late, we find our chowkidar inside his booth, legs propped up, head laid back on a pillow and snoring. Technically we could have him fired for sleeping on the job, but there isn’t a night-watch in the city who doesn’t fall asleep as soon as he knows his employer won’t be there to catch him.

By contrast, my maid is an incredibly hard worker — regardless if I’m there supervising her or not. Before I hired her, I asked our cultural trainer how many hours a maid usually works. She said a maid should work around eight hours a day, six days a week. When I asked her if she really thought it would take her eight hours everyday to clean our apartment, her response was, “She will find ways to fill the time.” Meaning, she’ll clean a little here and there but mostly piddle around as long as I’m not giving her things to do.

So when I finally hired my maid, I didn’t set specific hours. I simply told her what I expected her to do, and if it took four hours, well then it’s four hours of honest labor and not an eight hour day with four hours of wasting time. She doesn’t just “fill the time.” In fact, much of the time, she goes above and beyond what I ask her to do.

Recently I decided to cut back on how many days she was coming out because it really wasn’t necessary to have her out everyday. I still wanted to pay her the same amount, so when I talked to her about keeping her salary the same even though she would be working less, she started to cry. It reminded me of Paul describing a good servant as one who has an “eager concern to please [their master], in singleness of motive and with all [their] heart.”

For my maid, it’s not just about fooling me into thinking she’s a hard worker. She takes pride in her work and works hard because that is the right thing to do, not just just when I’m looking to impress me.

I wonder though… how often do I maintain the same posture of working earnestly and out of love for Lord, rather than only when I think someone’s watching?

3. Wicked Servants and Forgiveness.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants. When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made.So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.

But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe! So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all! But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.

Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you. And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed. So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.” (Mt. 18:23-35)

DSC_0012
Creeping on our chowkidar and driver as they hash out their differences.

We had a situation with some of our staff once that required our involvement. One morning the chowkidar, U.D., came up and rang the doorbell. I speak very little Hindi and he speaks even less English, so in order for us to communicate I needed my maid to translate. But even with her there, there was still a lot that was either confused or lost in translation.

At the time, this is what I understood: Basically U.D. was concerned that a new driver driver downstairs was going to have him fired for not loaning him money to go buy liquor. He told me that this driver was known for getting other people fired and would try to lie about U.D. to us or the neighbors.

I assumed he was talking about some new driver of our neighbor’s, so I was pretty angry when I heard that that he was not only drinking on the job, but that he was a threatening one of our guards over beer money. Another reason it made me so angry was because, without contacting us or our permission, those same neighbors fired one of our other guards 6 months earlier because he wouldn’t carry their luggage for them upstairs. So I was already not happy with them about that, but the fact that their new driver was harassing another one of our guards set me over the edge.

U.D. continued and said that this new driver would get “shouty” and belligerent towards everyone downstairs in the evenings. And this morning, after supposedly having another one of our chowkidars fired, he brought over a friend of his to replace the other chowkidar.

At the end of this conversation, my heart was torn. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure this man did not loose his job. It was so upsetting that even my maid was in tears.

So, you can imagine how I felt when I found out he was lying about 90% of the whole thing.

First of all, he wasn’t talking about the neighbor’s driver. He was talking about OUR driver. Secondly, our driver doesn’t drink on the job. Period. He admitted that he does drink at home, but what do I care about that? He’s off work, he can do whatever he wants. Thirdly, he wasn’t even around when the most recent chowkidar was removed from his post, so how could he have lied about him and had him fired? And lastly, the most recent chowkidar was removed from his post because he didn’t show up to work for a month! He abandoned his job — he wasn’t fired! Heck, I wish I could have fired him!

And to top it all off, this same chowkidar who stopped showing up for work FOR A MONTH, also just so happened to be a distant relative of U.D.. So now it’s not about poor defenseless U.D. trying to protect himself from our belligerent and scheming driver — no, it’s much more petty than that! It’s about U.D. wanting to get revenge because he doesn’t like the fact that his distant relative is being replaced. Are we being waited on by a bunch of teenagers or what? Grow up guys!

I was so mad that by the end of all of it, that I seriously debated whether or not to just go ahead and fire U.D. He unnecessarily put our driver’s livelihood and reputation in danger to protect his own interests. If he had simply come to us in honesty, we would have addressed his concerns and the issue could have been resolved right there on the spot.

I’m not saying I experienced a “righteous anger” towards U.D. when I found out he had lied about our driver, but I can still imagine the ferocious anger of the Lord when He’s forgiven us of all the debt we owed Him and we don’t do the same for our fellow man when the debt we are owed is almost inconsequential by comparison.

So we didn’t end up firing U.D. (or throwing him in jail to be beaten, as the parable goes). We forgave him and kept him in our employment. Which meant that he had to sort things out with our driver – and that eventually brought reconciliation between the two of them. Reconciliation can only happen after there’s forgiveness, but it’s one of the most beautiful things a human heart can experience.

We all report to (S)omeone, and we’re all held accountable to that higher authority. In the end, the offense U.D. made was worthy of the same amount of forgiveness as what God showed me — even when the debt I owed God was beyond what I could ever hope to pay. And more than that, this “wicked servant” was able to experience reconciliation with his fellow man and us.

“But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him]. It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor). So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us.” (2 Cor 5:18-20)

Cock Roaches, Cows And A Whole Lotta’ Color

We’re moving back home in less than three weeks. In less than three weeks… Seems hard to believe.

While we’ve lived in Delhi, we have intentionally avoided travelling very much inside of India. We know there are a lot of people who have a higher tolerance (or call it grace) for this place, and some who even love it. But Michael and I are not those people, so whenever we’ve had an opportunity to get out of the country, we’ve taken it. Of the ten cities we have visited since we moved here, only two of them have been in India. (1. Mussorie (India), 2. Phuket (Thailand), 3. Rome (Italy), 4. Naples (Italy), 5. San Diego (US), 6. Singapore, 7. Chiang Mai (Thailand), 8. Madrid (Spain), 9. Toledo (Spain), 10. Jaipur (India))

But after my last visit to the US and getting back into Delhi, we wanted to visit one more place in India before coming home and so we booked a trip to Goa.

Whenever Michael and I plan to go somewhere we try to think about what kind of trip we want it to be. Do we want to rest? Do we want to do a lot of sight-seeing? Or do we want to do a really awesome mixture of both? But for some reason, whether we were in Mussorie, Agra, or Jaipur, we have always struggled to find a balance between relaxing and enjoying the change in scenery.

I think it has something to do with the constant mesh of positive and negative in India. Any other place we’ve been, the “undesirable” things are hidden. You know that they’re still there, but since you can’t see them, you just forget about them and it’s easy to enjoy your time. But in India it’s all out in the open. You can tower over the city in a 5-star hotel and be looking down at a slum right next door. The good and the bad live side by side together.

We walked everywhere while we were in Goa. To get to the beach from our hotel, we had to walk little ways through town. Every day we passed these guys who sat idly on the wall of a guest house:

Taxi Driver: “Taxiiii?”
Us: “No thanks.”
Taxi Driver: “Want to goto market?”
Us: “Uh… no.”

20130324-DSC06547

Up ahead we’d walk through the smoke of someone’s burning trash or something. Further on we’d pass this woman holding her baby, squatting along the road behind next to a laid out blue tarp with an assortment of fruit:

“Heeellloh, madam, come and have a look. Try my watermelon!”

20130324-DSC06546

When we reached the main road that runs through town, we would again be approached by taxi wallas as we waited for a gap in the traffic of mopeds, bicycles, buses, cars, dogs and cows.

20130324-DSC06563

We’d cross safely and continue walking down another street lined with vendors on either side the rest of the way to the beach. Every minute or so a water truck or two-wheeler came whizzing past and honked so that we would have to quickly move over:

“Yes, what’s your price?”
“This way madame, just come inside my shop.”
“Yes, this way.”
“Looking for nice quality pashminas?”
“Come and have a look my friend!”

Walking the "gauntlet" to the beach.
Walking the “gauntlet” to the beach.

Trailing behind a couple of cows the rest of the way, we see this snake charmer who, after watching him “charm” some unlucky de-fanged cobra, tried taking us for a mere seven hundred rupees (that’s about fourteen US dollars). He’s settled instead for a hundred.

This way to paradise...
This way to paradise…

After all that, we’d make it to Candolim beach.

20130324-DSC06552

Candolim isn’t as busy or popular as Calangute, but it still attracts a decent-sized crowd.

20130324-DSC06555

Wednesday morning, we were making this same walk to the beach, except in addition to the usual routine of shop hawkers and taxi wallas, we were greeted by children armed with bags of colored powders. When they saw the two of us headed in the their direction they all started shouting and coming towards us: “Happy Holi!!! Happy Holi!!” And never missing an opportunity to make a rupee or two they start in with the bribes: “Ten rupees, or color! Ten rupees or you color!”

Awh, what the heck.

20130327-DSC06569-blog

So the we spent the rest of the morning sporting our “beards of many colors” in pink, yellow, purple and green. (And yes, that was a nerdy biblical reference to Joseph’s coat of many colors).

20130327-DSC06574-blog20130327-DSC06580-blog

After a good scrubbing with castor oil and soap later on, we went out to dinner. In the middle of enjoying fried prawns, steak and tandoori chicken, we sat back and watched a cow attempt to come inside the front door of the restaurant. This went on for a while until he had enough of being yelled at and hit with a switch.

It was another moment where Michael and I just looked at each other and said, “Only in India!” I mean really.. How many places can you be enjoying shrimp and steak and get interrupted by waiters shouting to shoo away some garbage-eating cow?

20130329-DSC06617-blog

The second night in Goa, I had a craving for something sweet so we stopped by the hotel buffet downstairs. It was expensive, but we agreed to only do it once and to at least eat enough desserts to make it worth our while. I was going back up for a second helping of tiramisu when out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Scurrying across the table, there he was: a cock roach.

Here we are, staying in a four star hotel and I’m staring down at a cock roach twitching his little antennae around in between the platter of orange sponge cakes and bowl of gulab jamun. I couldn’t decide if I was more disgusted or disappointed. The gulab jamun was so good. Almost worth still going for it and getting another helping. But, I’ve always had a weak stomach when it comes to stuff like that…

I had trouble enjoying the free breakfast buffet the following morning too… Especially after watching a waiter wave one of those tennis racket bug-zappers directly over the food and visualizing the charred remains of fruit flies and gnats pepper the chocolate croissants.

In India, it’s all out there in the open: the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the clean and the disgusting, the honest and the dishonest. There is no compartmentalizing your positive experiences into one neat little box and then putting your negative experiences into another box. Everything gets thrown into the mix and you can’t separate the end result. You just have to take it or leave it for what it is.

20130329-DSC06612-blog

Incredibly, in less than three weeks this stranger than fiction story will come to an end… And as for this last trip to Goa, it seems like a the perfect way to summarize our good and bad, up and down, forwards and backwards time in India!

20130329-DSC06607-blog

%d bloggers like this: