Meditating on the Commands of Christ (77): Finding Rest in the Yoke

In India, I learned some striking lessons about being under the yoke! “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Although I’d memorized those verses years ago, I must have stopped at the “and I will give you rest” without paying attention to the rest of what Jesus directs us to do. This isn’t just an offer for a life of ease!!

Riding on an ox cart in Lumbini, India

Jesus does offer us rest, but he’s not promising us a life of rest per se (i.e.—freedom from labor). He is challenging us to find rest for our souls while laboring with Him (rather than without Him). A yoke is not a pillow! It’s a wooden bar laid over the neck of beasts of burden so that they can pull together and share the load.

Most all of us labor “and are heavy laden,” although if we try to carry all our burdens alone, it can be unbearably grueling at times.

Sometimes, we are tempted to make our burdens lighter by teaming up with those who do not share our faith, but we are warned against this: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The offer Jesus gives us is to partner with Him! He is the Light of the world, and when we walk with Him, we will always know where to go! “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). I’ve found that Jesus often carries me altogether, but even during the hardest times when I feel like I can hardly keep going, I know He is with me, also bearing my load and walking beside me.

Although we may find it initially hard to surrender to being “under the yoke” with Jesus (and indeed—a yoke is a sign of surrender to someone else’s authority), the best news is that by partnering with Christ, we have a new master! We’re no longer bond slaves to sin, but rather we become spiritually free! God becomes our Father— the one to whom we are ultimately surrendered . . . and who provides lovingly for us!

In India, the ox cart driver guides his team by putting pressure on their tails. This makes me think of our sweet Holy Spirit, who also puts pressure on us. We may resist at times, but ultimately his promptings help us know which way to go, and because we know He loves us, we can trust his counsel.

Once we surrender to Him, he sets us to work caring for others and bearing one another’s burdens: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We might be tempted to fuss and fume—or rebel altogether and run away, but the beauty of living with Jesus is that we eventually begin to love others supernaturally, so helping them becomes a burden we want to bear: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). In fact, we discover that it actually makes us happy to help others! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Haven’t you noticed that?

I think if we can only keep practicing these verses—learning to come to Jesus and find our rest in Him—then we will discover what it means to want to partner with him . . . to become “meek and lowly in heart”. . . to find rest for our souls . . . to share His yoke . . . to accept the burdens He gives us and experience them as “light” because He is pulling with us.

Text for this meditation: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). However, to understand the context more fully, here is the entire passage: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:20-30).

Two Brahman Bulls Yoked Together

(*A special thank you to Yongsung Kim for permission to use these two wonderful portraits of Jesus. http://Havenlight.com )

One Hindu Who Now Worships Just One God

Psalm 40:2 – “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

I have a dear friend from India who was baptized just a few weeks ago at our church. She has changed from heartbroken to radiant and full of joy . . . that remarkable difference that only Jesus can make in us as we surrender our lives to his love and care! I asked if I could share her story with you, and she has kindly given me permission. Thank you, Neha! I know God will continue his work of amazing grace in your life!!

“I was born in India as a Hindu and studied in Catholic School. Being a girl, I was not worthy of my parent’s love and felt rejected. My younger brother used to beat me. Throughout my life, I always felt like a “burden” or “shame” for my parents. My Grand Father was the only person who loved me and showed me how to have relationship with God. When I was 15, I met a boy and I thought I met my Prince Charming. I fell in love and married him at age 25.  But my dreams were crushed during the wedding itself. I was a slave for him and my in-laws. It was a very abusive marriage, and I was not worthy of his love or faithfulness. Over the course of time, we moved to America and God gifted me with two beautiful daughters. However, in fall of 2017, I was rejected again, when he announced our divorce. Since I didn’t have citizenship, this would likely lead me to being forced back to India without my daughters.  I was in a very dark place.

“Through my work, I reached out for help and found a Care Partner, Jay, who provided me with wisdom in my situation. When I met him, I felt, I met the Lord. He gave me the first Bible. He also connected me to a female care partner.  Jesus started his work in me, by first showing light of truth.

“I had to leave my job, I struggled for basic survival, and I had to fight to be with my girls. I was so scared that one morning I woke up and could not get out of my bed. I called so many friends, but no one responded, other than the female care partner. She came to my house and wanted me to start coming to church. I replied, “Yes, I should start going to temple.” It took her three times, and then finally she said, “You cannot find Jesus in the temple, you can find him only in Church.” That Sunday, I went to Calvary Church and was deeply touched with preaching of Pastor Samra. It was then I realized that he is Lisa’ husband, the lady who brought me to Church.  Since that day, I never went back to the Hindu temple and I started coming to Calvary Church on regular basis. For nine months, I sat with Samras. In the beginning, the Bible was difficult to understand. Lisa would even open the page in the Bible and would spend time in explaining the basics. 

“Jesus surrounded me with his army of angels through His Churches and people. Ada Bible Church connected me to Debbie Jo and Henry, who are my spiritual parents now.  Several other families embraced me and my girls with unconditional love and acceptance. My counselor, the divorce care group and Safe Haven Ministries helped me to heal. Calvary Church provided us with food and financially supported us. After three months, Jesus provided me with a perfect job, which sponsored my visa so that I could stay in the country.  Around 100 Christians from various churches came to help us. I even found an Indian Christian group in Grand Rapids.

“In spite of wonderful things Jesus did in my life, I was still holding on to Hindu idols until one day when I went to the prayer room and prayed with one of my friends, Bonnie Jean. That day, I finally gave up all the Hindus idols.

“Jesus continued his work, and gifted us with a beautiful house and sent his people at Calvary to help me move. I could hear the call for baptism.  However, I asked Jesus for one more miracle – to let my girls come to church. Jesus listened to our prayers and He finally made ways that my girls can come to church through my attorney, who is a Christian, and now my girls LOVE Jesus too. So here I am fulfilling my promise to share my story and be baptized in response to Jesus’ love and faithfulness to me.

“Jesus is the truth, He is faithful, and He loves us all unconditionally.”  

Celebrating Baḍādaśãi बडादशैँ घटस्थापना Dashain: The Blood of Bulls and Goats

I debated whether or not to write on this experience while visiting “Incredible India and Nepal,” and whether or not to illustrate it with actual photos, but we happened to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durban Square (in Kathmandu, Nepal) when they were celebrating their most important festival in the Nepal Sambat (lunar calendar).

Crowded streets of Kathmandu, Nepal

As a holiday, it felt a bit like Christmas for Christians, in that people had come home from all around the world to be with friends and family during this time. However, instead of celebrating the birth of Christ (as Christians do), Dashain is a time of celebrating the victory of the goddess Parvati over the evil demon Mahishasura, who was terrorizing Devaloka (the world of the gods) but was finally killed by Durga, who is a manifestation of Parvati as the goddess of war . . . if I understand correctly. I am clearly not an expert on Hinduism!

During the fifteen days that Dashain is celebrated, there are various holy days with special events, but the most holy was the day we happened to be there while they were sacrificing bulls and goats in the temple. I believe our tour guide said they sacrificed 89 bulls, one for each of the most prominent manifestations of the gods.

Depiction of one of Hindu gods in Durbar Square, Kathmadu, India

Hinduism is a very complicated religion, and just like many religions, different people have different ways of explaining what they believe their religion teaches. Our guide explained that there are 339 million gods, and that new gods are named continuously as people discover more about the universe. I’ve read sources that say all the gods are just manifestations of the “ultimate reality” known as Brahma, and I’ve read other sources that say the supreme being is Krishna, and all the others are demi-gods helping him run the universe.

Celebrating Dashain at Hindu Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hinduism is also an ancient religion that has developed into significantly different branches in the various countries where it is practiced, most evidently in India and Nepal, so what our guide believes might be quite different from what other Hindus believe.

Sacrificial bulls and goats being removed from Hindu Temple

Nevertheless, I believe I’m correct in understanding that the priests had sacrificed 89 bulls and goats in order to appease the 89 gods the people were worshiping. We just happened to be walking by as they were dragging the beheaded animals out of the temple, and we all stood in stunned silence.

Some looked sick and turned away, while others were very curious and took lots of photos. I kept thinking of the passage that starts in Hebrews 9: 11 and reads through Hebrews 10:1-25. It’s a long passage, and is somewhat hard to understand, but the point is that Jesus Christ came as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins because the blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Only Christ, as the perfect, sinless Lamb of God could become the perfect, eternally efficacious sacrifice for our sins.

Like some in our group, you may find yourself repulsed by the thought of a bloody sacrifice being made to remediate for sins.

Crucifixion by Michelangelo, 1540

But, I hope you are drawn to the mysterious beauty of Christ—out of infinite love—sacrificing his life for yours and mine, so that we can have all our sins forgiven and be made right before God. Isn’t this sublime? “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour o flife unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Goat sacrificed to the Hindu gods in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hebrews 9:11-Hebrews 10: 1-25 (bold print added by me): “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. [starting Hebrews 12] “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Temple in Durbar Square. Kathmandu, Nepal

Irresistible Garlic Naan (Indian Bread)

Learning how to make Indian naan in New Delhi

Perhaps my favorite treat in India was the plentiful, hot naan. It’s sort of the staff of life on the Indian subcontinent . . . a flatbread made with yeast and a staple of every meal we ate.

New Delhi Street Vendors selling (among other things) stacks of Naan

Of all the naans, my ultimate favorite was seasoned heavily with garlic butter. Since coming home, I’ve developed an adaptation that isn’t really authentic, but it’s easy to make and tastes great (at least to Americans)!

Instead of cooking the bread in an intensely hot tandoor oven, I use a hot griddle, but if you really like the charred, bubbly look and taste, use a cast iron pan super heated for about five minutes, and then cook each piece of bread separately for about 1-2 minutes per side until the bubbles start to char.

Garlic Naan (Bread)
(Serves 3-6+, depending on how much you love it! 🙂 )

Either make a one-pound loaf of naan bread dough (using a little sugar and yogurt to enhance a regular loaf of white bread dough) or defrost a one-pound loaf of frozen bread dough until puffy. I “cheated” when I made this batch and defrosted a loaf of frozen bread dough, but if you have the time, home made is “the real deal.” I’m sure my Indian friends will be aghast at this shortcut!

Divide into 3-6 rounds and roll or press out into thin circles. (Six would be closer to the size they’re served in India, although 3 worked better with my pans and skillets so I could fry them all at once. They tear apart easily, so suit yourself as to size.)

Add in a small dish:
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon garlic (fresh, crushed from garlic cloves is best)

Mix well and brush half of the mixture onto the tops of the bread rounds.

Sprinkle to taste with crushed rock salt (“Himalayan Pink Salt” is an added treat if you have some . . . makes it seem a little more authentic, at least for Americans! 🙂 ). Let the bread rest for at least a half an hour (and up to an hour).

Turn buttered side down and fry in a hot cast iron skillet or on a pre-heated griddle (350°F.). Use the rest of the garlic butter to coat the upturned side and salt lightly again.

Fry the naan bread for about 1-2 minutes, or until starting to brown nicely, then flip them over and fry them on the other side for another minute or two.

Serve immediately. Naan bread is great by itself, or it can be served with plain yogurt (or sour cream).

Chicken Curry with Rice (notice all the curry sauce!)

It’s at its best when used to sop up copious amounts of curry sauce with Indian dishes. The rounds can also be torn into pieces and shared amongst how many ever people you’re serving!

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Break Thou the Bread of Life
—Mary A. Lathbury, 1877 (Public Domain)

“Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!

“Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
And I shall find my peace, my all in all.

“Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.

“Oh, send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.”

Chand Baori and the Stepwells of India

Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)

Plaque Explaining Some Details of the Chand Baori Stepwell

Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!

Chand Baori Stepwell Surrounding and Protecting a Pond

However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.

Dozens of recessed rooms provide shade from the intense summer heat
at Chand Baori Stepwell

The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.

Harshat Mata Temple Adjacent to Chand Baori Stepwell

Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.

Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!

Tour guide explaining the significance of various pieces of artwork at Chand Baori

Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!

Closeup of the pond at the bottom of the Chand Baori Stepwell

It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.

I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”

But, I was mistaken!

Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!

Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.

The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?

I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Tourists and Worshipers Visiting Harshat Mata Temple,
dedicated to the goddess of Joy and Happiness

He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Chand Baori Stepwell in Abanderi, India

Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God,
and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

Roof Tops of the World

As a short woman living in flat state, I can’t even see the dust on top of my refrigerator, so don’t ask me what’s on my neighbor’s roof . . . or even what it’s made of!

Grackles and leaves on my roof!

In fact, half the time I don’t even know what’s on top of my own roof! 🙂

Flying through the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal

However, a couple of years ago in the fall, Alan and I traveled through Nepal, a country which calls itself “The Roof Top of the World” because it’s home to 8 out of 10 of our world’s highest peaks. (Although technically it is second to Bhutan in average elevation [at 10,715 feet, versus 10,760 in Bhutan].)

Bundles of sticks and tin roofing secured b y stones in Nepal

While riding high up in a big bus traveling through the mountains of Nepal, I was often able to look down on homes and was fascinated by all the materials and methods these inventive people use to protect their homes from the elements.

Clay Tiles on Roof of Home in Nepal

To be sure, some of the homes were beautiful, new, and in excellent repair,

Shingles on farms in the mountains

but those homes were more exceptional than standard.

Thatched Roof in Mountains of Nepal

By comparison, this home seemed like a pretty prosperous farm.

Home sheltered by bamboo poles, grasses, and sheets of material

But, the roofs on some of the homes
seemed really inadequate to shelter those who lived within. 😦

Tin roofing on shops along the Privthivi Highway in Nepal

The average “prosperous” shops along the highway we traveled had tin roofing.

Tin and shingle roofing on new construction

Some of the more upscale building projects included tin and shingles, which I bet was a pretty effective combination.

Concrete rooftop on apartment building

Many of the multi-storied apartment buildings had concrete roofs and balconies, which seemed like a very secure method for protecting the occupants!

Grass growing atop the apartment building on the left

Before our trip was over, I’d seen just about every type of roofing material imaginable!

Beautiful thatched roof and tin on farm
Canvas Roof over Restaurant
Plastic Sheeting over small business
Roof made from sticks reinforced with plastic
Grass, and garden vegetable vines growing over boards on rooftop!

Beyond the problem of what materials to use was the issue of how to keep the roof on!

Rows of bricks keeping tin roof in place

I suppose there are many high winds living in the mountains, so most of the roofs were reinforced with heavy materials such as these rows of bricks.

Heavy rocks reinforce tin roofs

The other issue is that destructive earthquakes are very common.

Rock-lined tin roof on commercial buildings in Nepal

I’m not sure what happens when an earthquake shakes the ground of places like this, edged with heavy boulders . . .

A tray of hot peppers drying in the sun on top of this roof! 🙂

Over the course of our trip, I saw all sorts of unusual things on rooftops!

A bird resting on the head of a serpent hanging over a man on a tower . . .

My personal favorite were the monkeys, although we were warned that they are cunning thieves with bites worse than their barks, so we were told to beware!

Surveying all the rooftops on my journey made me think about my own “house” and what I use as “roofing material” (if you will) to protect it.

Homes from sticks and boards with thatched roofs in country village
Cascades of bougainvillea and vines hanging from rooftop
of Nepal’s Temple Tree Resort

The Bible says that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God wants me to make my body “home” a place of beauty that will glorify God, and I suspect He wants me to have a secure “roof” protecting my life as well.

Tin roof secured with old tires

Physically, I believe that means to be healthy, clean, well-groomed,
and modestly (but attractively) dressed . . . in good repair! Spiritually, that probably includes having my head—my mind—pure and protected too!

Not all of us can be rich and have well-protected roofs materially, but we can all be rich and well protected spiritually if we want to be!

What does that look like, and how can I protect the roof top of my spirit?
We don’t have to be left wondering what to do,
because God has made us an offer too good to pass up!
Roof top of Samode Palace in Jaipur, India

God invites us to let Him be our rock, our fortress, our high tower, our refuge, and our “roof top” if you will! He can provide for us in ways that we could never provide for ourselves—physically and spiritually!

All you have to do is ask!

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.” (Psalm 61:1-4).

Pass It On
(—Kurt Kaiser, 1969)

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

“What a wonderous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experienced it.
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

“I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain tops
I want the world to know
The Lord of Love has come to me
I want to pass it on.”

Loving Even The Least of These

On the topic of loving our enemies, the new 2019 movie, The Least of These,

is a horrific account of one cataclysmic clash between radical Hindus and Christians in India just twenty years ago, in January of 1999.

Based on the life story of Graham and Gladys Staines, who were missionaries from Australia caring for a leper colony in Odisha, The Least of These traces the life and legacy of the Gaines family, who spent forty years caring for the needs of the least-of-the-least untouchables cast out from society because of their leprosy.

I don’t want to tell the end from the beginning, but it is a heart-rending movie.

Gladys retired in 2004, and the following year, she was awarded the Padma Shree in India in recognition of her work among the lepers.

In 2016, Gladys also received the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.

The movie was shot on location in 2012, although it took many years to produce and was just released in America this year.

If you’re looking for an inspiring example of the love of Christ, you will appreciate this movie. (Because of the content, I do not recommend it for children. I think the PG-13 rating is exactly right.)

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (24): Be Thou Clean!

One of Jesus’ most prominent ministries while he was on earth was his ability and willingness to heal people of all sorts of sicknesses, not only physical ailments, but spiritual problems. Furthermore, he wasn’t just able to heal some of them. He healed all of them: “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40). There was no sickness that Jesus could not heal, and there’s no record of him ever refusing to make anyone well who came to him for help.

In our passage for today, a leper came to Jesus seeking help. Do you know what leprosy is? I’d never heard of leprosy as a child, and it’s very uncommon in America, but it’s a terribly disfiguring, painful, progressive bacterial infection that can result in blindness, loss of limbs, and eventually death.

Arran Reeve, age 24 in 1886, suffering from Leprosy

It’s not just one of those diseases like small pox that has been largely eradicated, either. Hundreds of thousands of people (more than half from India) are still contracting new cases every year. Although it can be cured if treated early (and in the past 20 years, more than  sixteen million people have been cured), two thousand years ago when Christ lived on earth, there was no known cure. During biblical times, because it was contagious, people who had leprosy were ostracized from their families and communities. They were required by law to call out, “Unclean!” if anyone approached them. So, it’s not hard to imagine the distress the disciples might have felt to see a leper coming toward them. I think it’s noteworthy that this particular miracle is recorded by three of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The blind and lame were healed, but probably most people didn’t think they had contagious diseases. To have a leper approach meant possible contamination for all of them.  However, Jesus didn’t shrink away. Instead, he reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus wasn’t afraid of catching infection; he came to deliver us from evil: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). In 1 Peter 2:24, we are reminded that Jesus “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Jesus came to heal, and he did: “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42; See also Matthew 8:1-3 and Luke 5:12-13).

Isn’t this beautiful? From the second Jesus touched him, the leper was a leper no more! He would never have to shout “Unclean!” when someone approached him! He could be clean if he would be clean, and he desperately wanted to be clean! He was cleansed in a moment, and now he could shout, “Clean” whenever he wanted! 🙂

Do you ever suffer from feeling “unclean?” Would you like to be clean? Jesus can heal you if you’ll come to him and ask! I do not know of a single prophet, priest, or king on earth besides Jesus who has been recorded as being able and willing to heal “all” our diseases. Do you? Only God can heal ultimately and completely, and that’s one of the ways in which Jesus revealed that he was and is God. Come to him!

 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4).

He Touched Me
(—William J. and Gloria Gaither, copyright Capitol Christian Music Group)

“Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.”

4,000 Days

Last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who converted from Hinduism a few weeks ago. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that if Alan were to die suddenly, it would take me a long time to recover.  She looked at me wide-eyed, and said,”You speak of death so calmly. Hindus are so afraid to die that they don’t even like to use the word. They avoid thinking about it so much that they often won’t even go to the doctor for a diagnosis or treatment if they think they might have a terminal illness like cancer.”   I was surprised! Somehow, I imagined it might be reassuring to think that after you die, you’ll be reincarnated into another being that will live again on this earth, but apparently that’s false, because no matter how hard you try, you don’t know if you’ll come back as a person of similar rank.  You might return instead as someone from a lower caste, or as an animal.  For those of  us who recognize our propensity for failure, the thought of unending cycles of life attempting to attain perfection sounds impossibly difficult, and after visiting the homeland of Hinduism,  I can only imagine the horror one might feel at the thought of becoming an untouchable or an animal in a difficult environment.  In contrast, I believe (as the Bible teaches) that God has given each of us a certain (undisclosed) number of days to live on earth, and then we will depart. For all whose spirits have been “born again” through faith in Christ, their spirits will never die: “Jesus said unto her [Martha], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). In contrast to Hindus, Christians believe that no matter how old or young we are when we die, our spirits will go immediately into the presence of God: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is the great hope of believers and takes away the terror of physical death!  Nevertheless, we all face the prospect of death, and even if we’re not afraid of dying, I’m sure none of us relish the prospect of the pain normally associated with the dying process. At least, I do not! Still, we have to face up to the hard realities of life, the hardest of which is probably that life on earth will end. In that vein, Alan recently remembered that years ago an actuary spun our numbers and came up with the statistically probability of Alan’s dying at age 79. The other day, “for fun,” Alan calculated how many days that would be from the date of his considerations, and it came out to about 4,015 days. That makes today approximately 4,000 days from his  . . . what shall I call it? Expiration date? Due date? Graduation Day!”  Ya, let’s think of it as a day to celebrate our passing from this life into the presence of Jesus! If you’re still quite young, you might not have any known statistical probability for how long you’ll live, but let’s say you’ll live to the same age as your oldest favorite relative. How many days do you have left? For me, that might give me 9,490± days. If you’re 20 today, you might have over 25,000 left! Regardless of how many days each of us actually has left (since I could easily die before Alan despite statistical probabilities), Alan and I have been intentionally trying to make every day very special, and it’s really made us more determined than ever to use each day wisely and well!

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

(All photos taken on our Gate 1 Discovery Tour of “Incredible India and Nepal.”)

 

Over the Rainbow Pan-Fried Trout

We used to live in Marquette, Michigan, on forty acres in the woods, where you could pull a rainbow or brown trout out of our pond for dinner (if you knew what you were doing, which we didn’t, but our friend, George Sokoly, did).  Michigan has 12,000 miles of trout stream along approximately 1,400 trout streams, and 190 of them are open year around, so trout season never ends here! The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon Rivers—all fabled for great trout fishing— are within a few hours of our home even here in Grand Rapids, although we also live on a little spring-fed lake that theoretically has trout. (For the record, we’ve never caught one here either! 😦 ) However, even though we’re terrible fishermen (“God made fishies to live!” was Alan’s wail as a small boy observing fishing near his Upper Peninsula home),  we do love to eat fish, and trout is one of the sweetest-tasting, most delicate and delicious fish you’ll ever eat, so when it’s offered on a menu, we often order it.  Alan said his rainbow trout from the mountain streams of Nepal last fall was his favorite dinner from that entire trip. On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had some excellent trout dishes, including rainbow trout in Reykjavik, Iceland that was so fresh it must have been in school earlier that morning! So, I decided to write about trout today, even though for those of you who are old hands at fishing, I know you’ll say, “I already knew that!”

Simply the Best Rainbow Trout

Are you ready for this? The fact of the matter is that the best fish are the freshest fish, flash-fried in hot butter on a griddle or in cast-iron skillet (or over a fire!).Wash the fillets, brush a light coating of flour on both sides, and fry them skin-side up for 3 minutes in hot butter (browned but not burned). Flip them over (carefully, so they don’t break apart), and cook them for three more minutes, sprinkling them with salt, butter, and seasoning salt to taste. (I use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but whatever you like works). If you’ve not overcooked your trout, it will be tender, flaky, and moist. Serve it up immediately with some fruits and veggies. If you like tartar sauce and lemon, that’s fine, but if your fish is really fresh, it can stand alone on its own fins!

P.S.—Have you noticed that in life (like cooking), many things are complicated, but sometimes the best way is to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? In most of the scriptures, “simple” is equated with “ignorant” and given a negative connotation, but there is one verse that tells us to be “simple,” and in this case, it’s a good thing: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). When it comes to exploring evil, God actually wants us to avoid learning about it. Do friends tease you because you’re so “naive” or inexperienced? I used to get teased a lot. One girl friend alleged that on my honeymoon I’d probably make chocolate fudge because I wouldn’t know what else to do. Keep life pure..and “simple.”