Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Volume 7 No. 3xx January z, 2017

V. General Weekly Features

Recipe: Grilled Open-Faced Mediterranean Sandwich


1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon prepared pesto
Dash of crushed red pepper
1 7 ounce can chunk light tuna in water or solid white tuna in water, drained
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
4 slices sourdough bread
1 cup jarred roasted bell peppers, drained
1 1/3 cups 1/2-inch sliced eggplant, grilled
1 1/3 cups 1/2-inch sliced zucchini, grilled
1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini, drained
1 cup shredded 3-cheese Italian blend
4 small sprigs fresh basil, for garnish


Preheat the broiler.
In a resealable container, combine mayonnaise, pesto and red pepper.
In a bowl, gently mix tuna with vinaigrette.

For each sandwich, place a slice of bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread pesto mayonnaise on the bread. Layer each sandwich with 1/4 cup roasted bell peppers, about 5 slices each eggplant and zucchini, about 1/3 cup tuna mixture, pepperoncini (about 4-5 rings) and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Garnish with basil sprigs and serve immediately.

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

Note: This can also be served as an appetizer on French bread; just reduce the toppings accordingly.

Family Special: Longing to Comfort

by Naomi Zacharias McNeil

My little girl was just sixteen months old when her younger brother arrived. I rocked her to sleep every night before he came. She was not one who slept through the night, and I had wakened with every cry, holding her again at various hours and countless times in a night. As each week fell into the next she began to show her growing displeasure—her annoyance, even—at my protruding baby belly as she tried to find a place on my shoulder where it didn't get in her way. I saw this as a kind of symbolism for the impending change to her small world and tried to use those days where I had enough arms to hold each child as an opportunity to affirm her invaluable place against me.

I researched how to prepare siblings for the arrival of a new little one. I placed her tiny hands on my belly as the baby kicked and explained that he was talking to her. I took her to appointments to see his black and white sketch on the screen of the doctor's office where she lay nestled in the crook of my arm as I pointed to toes and elbows of “her baby.” After many months, an appointment to my doctor's office resulted in the instruction to drive straight to the hospital, for labor had begun early. Instead, we first drove back to the house to tell our two little ones where we were going, to have one last moment as the family of four familiar to us all to navigate before receiving the tremendous gift to be five; to give them a hug and kiss before sleeping away from them for a few days; before introducing them to their baby brother whose arrival would change their world as they knew it.

I had been concerned she would resent him. But she didn't. She welcomed him, she kissed him, she longed to care for him from the moment she saw him. She didn't hold it against him seemingly at all. It was me. I had not read that, I had not prepared for the fact that it was me she could feel abandoned her or betrayed her. While always close to her daddy, she suddenly attached to him with an adhesive that forbid another to come close. As hours and days melted into weeks and then months of eternity for me, she resisted all of my attempts to hold her, to be close to her, or to care for her even when she was sick. Each morning as my husband left for work, he had to peel her off of the safe zone of his shoulder and she would crumple to the floor in a pool of sobs that would break your heart and crushed mine. Her beautiful round, light brown eyes were flooded with an ocean of hurt, full lips trembling through the sobs. I tried so hard and so gently to get close, bending down and holding my arms out to comfort her. But she refused and angrily pushed me away, choosing to ache entirely alone. I felt deeply rejected, but even more, it literally pained me to see her hurting so much and opting to endure it alone rather than allow me to provide comfort. So I stood at the distance she demanded, tears streaming down my own face as I watched her struggle day after day. “All I want to do is to love you, to help you, and you won't let me even comfort you,” I felt and audibly whispered.

And a parallel was not lost on me, with an awareness never considered before. For how many times have I refused to allow God to come close in comfort and instead in my anger and lostness, forced Him to a distance in favor of my lonely puddle of fear, confusion, and grief?

As I thought about it, I realized that I don't think I have ever gone to God purely for comfort—not really, not sincerely. I cry before Jesus when I am asking for an answer to a prayer for him to prevent, save, or restore. But when what was lost was not resurrected in the way I hoped, I have opted to withdraw alone into my grief, with feelings of abandonment or even anger rather than know what it means to let him sit with me in the sadness of the “it will not be so.”

Several years ago a good friend drew my attention to her grandmother's favorite verse, words written by David in Psalm 56:8: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” I loved this affirmation that David saw, that God recorded the wounded parts of my story. It revealed that someone—not just someone, but God Himself—bore witness that provided a kind of validation of those tears and their birthplace. Some months later, I was in the country of Turkey and on a mission to find an old glass tear bottle. I had learned that families used to use these to bottle their tears and bury them with dear ones lost as a testament to the fact that they were loved. So at my request to find this hidden treasure, a friend took me to an old market in Istanbul. She was not certain we would find them, but there in the midst of the maze of stalls filled with jewelry and scarves was a shelf with a handful of vintage tear bottles of various shapes and colors. They were one of my greatest finds and served as a reminder that my Creator, my Comforter, keeps count of even my tears and the experience behind them.

But I still missed it, for God's comfort carries potential far greater than just keeping a journal of account; I missed that He longs to step inside.

I didn't recognize what I now see as a longing to comfort, or my role in relegating God to the sideline. Perhaps I have tended to see God as this distant presence, reminding me from lofty places of the verses that tell me to trust Him, to pray that his will be done, to desire the greater good. And while all of those desires may be right, the picture carries the image of someone you choose to avoid in your angst because while they may have the answers, they don't engage in the raw grief part of the process where words don't really find a place to sink in. Because if we are honest, true and even kind reminders of perspective can often serve to make us feel only more alone and communicate a greater sense of a failure when we are engaged—and losing—a momentary struggle to peel ourselves off of the floor of defeat, devastation, and sheer grief.

But I missed it. I did not see God as one who wants to enter into my very grief itself, the messy part before any acceptance and answer can be embraced.

It was when I stood helpless beside my little girl, feeling her sadness and desperately longing to simply be in it beside her that I caught a glimpse of how God, too, has perhaps stood on the sidelines of my grief when He longed to participate. In the thick of her sadness and limited understanding she saw me at best as one who exacerbated her pain, perhaps at worst the one who caused it. And oh, how my memory instantly put me on that familiar floor and pool of tears where, like a frightened animal, I would not let Him enter in.

This image of Jesus is one that causes me to feel like a little girl again, to easily fold into tears and want to allow him near my broken spirit and dreams. What if I could allow him to come into that unkempt and broken space with me, not for answers or reversals, but to experience God as Comforter?

With fondness I remember a Western woman I met in a Middle Eastern country several years ago. There was an immediate ease to our conversation, even a mutual affection. She shared a story from years past when she was preparing for the mission field and learned she was pregnant with her first child. And then she told how she lost her infant son when he was only weeks old. I well remember her describing the moment of her indescribable loss; how as her husband, with tears streaming down his face, said a prayer of acknowledgement that their son returned to his maker. Instead, she cried out in protest, for she was not ready for him to go. Brokenhearted, she could not bear to think of the mission field, a journey she had imagined with the son part of that vision. And it was twenty years before she ultimately found the healing needed to go. Where do you think God was with her in those twenty years? I do not think He was angry or impatient. I think He was sitting on the floor of her sadness and grieving with her.

The Gospel of John tells the story of the death of Lazarus. When Lazarus got sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha, immediately sent word to Jesus. But Jesus did not come for three days, and in the meantime, Lazarus passed away. When finally the women heard that Jesus was coming, Martha ran out to meet him, but Mary stayed inside. I wonder if she felt betrayed or forgotten when he did not come in time for the miracle she hoped for. John tells us that when Martha returned inside, she told Mary that Jesus was calling for her, and instantly she stood and ran outside to him. I picture this wounded woman who had felt abandoned by the one person she put her faith in. And so even when she hears he is near, she doesn't go to him. But then, she hears he called her by name, and she runs. Maybe it was that demonstration that he had not forgotten her. Maybe it was because he was the only one who could really comfort her. And so she allows him to enter in to her disappointment and questions and grief.

She goes to Jesus and falls at his feet and weeps. She weeps that Jesus did not come and that her brother is gone. And what did he do? He wept. He cried with her even though he knew that the life mourned was about to be resurrected and her pain relieved. First, he stopped to grieve with her for the loss she endured—the experience of losing her brother and perhaps the many other disappointments in that story he knew she felt.

It requires a dying to the self and an awakening of heart and mind to see God as Creator and Savior, but we are invited to a particular vulnerability to also know Him as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3, emphasis added).

God keeps count of all our tossings, bears witness to all that happened, and remembers. Jesus will sit in the lonely room where we grieve. He will come and weep even when there is a miracle to come, and how much more when there is a loss to endure. He asked Mary, “Where have you put him?” And she led him to a tomb. Does he ask us, too, where we have laid our loss, and when the answer is the tomb of our heart, does he also ask to enter in and weep alongside us? I believe he does—sometimes for the moment, sometimes when it takes twenty years, and for a lifetime when that is how long it is endured. Yes, we all want the miracle. But while on this temporal earth that holds both beauty to know and mortality to hold, loss is a part of our experience in living. How comforting to know that he who dwells in the heavenly heights is able—and chooses—to descend to the floor of our sorrow. Can we let him come close?

For the God of Righteousness, the Lord our Sanctifier, the Everlasting God, is also the God of all comfort today.

About The Author:

Naomi Zacharias McNeil is director of Wellspring International at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2016 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Family Special: Getting Ready for College

by Dr. James Emery White

According to recent studies, almost half of all American college students will abandon their Christian faith during their undergraduate years.


The reason why?

It would seem to be far more than simple rebellion against an upbringing, or honest intellectual exploration.

It would seem the school environment itself is the culprit.

The Fuller Youth Institute found that almost a third of college students say their institute of higher learning is not helpful in keeping or growing their faith. Most universities would say that examining one's faith in an intellectually stimulating environment such as a college or university should lead to a deeper understanding of the theological moorings of a childhood faith.

But that's not what is happening.

According to the research of political scientists Robert P. Putnam and David E. Campbell, "Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historical rate (30 - 40% have no religion today, verses 5 – 10% a generation ago)."

Another study found with each year of education, there is a 15% increase that the student will believe that there's "truth in more than one religion" and believe in a "higher power" rather than a personal God.

In 'A Mind for God', I wrote about my oldest daughter's experience as a freshman at one of the leading universities in the United States. In her first history course, her professor took it upon himself to announce that the entire historical record upon which Christianity is based is untrue: Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah; none of his followers saw him as divine until centuries after his death; none of the gospels were first-hand accounts; Jesus was not a religious figure as much as he was a political one; there was never an intent to form any kind of "church"; there were dozens of "gospels," all of which were thought to be sacred by followers of the Jesus movement; and the four gospels in the Bible today are riddled with discrepancies and errors.

In order to pass her first exam, she had to write that Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem; deny Pauline authorship of I Timothy; and maintain that the four canonical gospels are in complete disagreement on the major facts surrounding the death of Jesus – including when he was crucified, whether it was after the Passover or before, and whether Judas committed suicide.

In many ways, this was tame. A study of faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities found that 67% of faculty members either "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that homosexuality is as acceptable as heterosexuality; 84% support abortion rights, and 75% support extramarital cohabitation. Fewer than a third described themselves as regular churchgoers. When the Kansas Board of Education approved new science standards for teachers in public schools that questioned Charles Darwin's teachings on evolution (merely allowing the idea of "intelligent design" to be discussed), the director of the National Center for Science Education responded, "Those kids are in for a big shock when they go to college, because they're going to learn that what they had been taught by their teachers in high schools is a lot of rubbish."

Little wonder that cultural observers from Christian perspectives, such as Charles Colson, offer the following concern: "With the ever-increasing number of college professors who use their classrooms to indoctrinate students, rather than educate them, the views expressed and the lack of viewpoint diversity is deeply disturbing."

I will never forget my daughter calling me, immediately after emerging from her first class, almost in tears over the statements made by the professor about her faith. Even with a firm worldview, coupled with years of reading and instruction that enabled her to know how spurious the professor's claims were, she was emotionally shaken that her most deeply held values and convictions had been defamed and assaulted so vigorously. Even more, her heart was breaking over the 300 other students in the class who sat passively, taking notes, accepting the professor's statements uncritically as fact.

So this August, as you pack up your minivan or SUV to take your son or daughter off to college, give them one last word of advice. Not about binge drinking or safe sex, money management or proper nutrition. All well and good, to be sure.

Give them a word about their souls, and the importance of a grounded faith.

And then pray for them.


James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

"Study: Education liberalizes religious views," USA Today, August 3, 2011. Read online.

"College students need help to keep their faith," Marybeth Hicks, The Washington Times, Tuesday, August 2, 2011. Read online.

Robert P. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace.

"Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty," Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte, The Forum (Manuscript 1067), 2005. Read online.

"Kansas schools can teach 'intelligent design'," by Greg Toppo, USA Today, Wednesday, November 9, 2005, p. 7D.

Charles Colson, "BreakPoint: Money Talks," October 12, 2005.

About the Author

James Emery White is the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, 'The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated', is available on Amazon.

Source: Church And Culture

Christian Life: How to Live Like a Daughter of God

by Shauna Niequist


It seems to me that Christians, even more than anyone else, ought to be deeply grounded, living a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service, and work. That rhythm is biblical, and it's one that Jesus himself modeled. It seems to me that Christians ought to be free in meaningful and radical ways to bow out of the culture's insistence on proving and competing. Again, like Jesus. It seems to me that Christians ought to care more deeply about their souls than their bank accounts and pants sizes. But I am a Christian, and I am guilty of all these.

My faith has not failed me, but I think maybe I have failed it. Our beautiful historic faith tradition is built on feasts and holidays, Sabbath and evening prayers - a rhythmic, beautiful life with God. And many of us, myself certainly included, have stomped on the accelerator of our own lives and obliterated all evidence of that lovely path laid out for us. But the pattern remains if you squint - if you're willing to be creative, if you're fed up enough with the noise and speed of the alternative.

I believe that certain strains of our faith have led us to this spot - they shouldn't have, of course, but this is what humans do sometimes. Christians have made too much out of work in the same way that Americans have begun engaging in yoga competitions - twisted-up versions of a purer thing. Christians want to make a difference. So we do, and we do, and we do, and then we find ourselves exhausted.

In more fundamentalist strains of the faith, there's great value on happiness, constant kindness, selflessness above all else. These are wonderful things . . . that, over time, make it really hard to say things like, "I need help." Or, "I can't do this anymore." Many Christians, women especially, were raised to be obedient and easy, to swallow feelings, to choke down tears. This has not served us well. This has made it far too easy to injure our bodies and our souls in the name of good causes - there are enough good causes to go around.

Christians ought to be decidedly anti-frantic, relentlessly present to each moment, profoundly grounded and grateful. Why, then, am I so tired? So parched? So speed-addicted? Again, the fault lies not with the tradition but with the perversion of it, and with the Christian herself - in this case, of course, me.

These days, I'm not looking for more to crusade against or for, but trying to reimagine my faith as a soft place, the antidote to my addiction, not the enabler.

I'm trying to relearn a set of patterns from the inside out: centering prayer, lectio divina, the prayer of examen. I don't practice these things instead of Bible study, corporate worship, or service, but alongside them, to build an inner core of silence and substance, unshakable in the business of life. I listen more; I picture God's heart, red and beautiful; I breathe deeply and try to imagine my faith as protection from this frantic, soulless way of living, instead of one of its motivators.

Many of us who have found ourselves to be useful in Christian service have found ourselves unable, if we're honest, to connect with God any other way. We do for him, instead of being with him. We become soldiers, instead of brothers and sisters and daughters and sons. This is dangerous, damaging territory, and I've spent too much time there.

These days, I'm relearning daughter-ness, and I find it most through silence and nature. Nature, of course, connects us back to that innate sense of having been created - of order and beauty and humility. We have been made. We are fragile. We live in connection to water and air and plants and sunshine, and when we acknowledge those things, we acknowledge our Creator. Far too often, in the winter especially, the natural world is simply something that disrupts our plans - flights delayed, schools closed.

One snowy morning recently, I felt at loose ends, disconnected from myself, from God. I'd been sick, and my mind had been anxious. I practiced lectio divina, selecting a passage from Psalm 8:

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"

As those words began to take root in me, as I read and reread them, as I prayed and listened, I felt my tangled spirit begin to untangle. I felt my breath slow and deepen. I felt a part of the natural world, governed by a good God, created with care and attentiveness. I felt my daughter-ness, my place in the family of God. And I exhaled.

Taken from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.
Copyright ©2016 by Shauna Niequist. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


Personal Improvement: Using the 5/25 Rule to Learn to Say 'No'

By James Altucher

When I was 12 I was obsessed with a book on my parents' shelf. "Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No". A pop psychology book from the 70's all about sex.

I would pretend to be sick. Stay home from school. Read the book over and over again, fascinated by the stories.

Too bad I didn't learn anything from it.

Yes #1:

I wish I had never started a business, to be honest.

Here's the results of my first business:

My partners (one sister, one brother in law) no longer speak to me.
I lost all the money I made from that business.
I gave up on my dreams of launching a TV show. I was in the middle of pitching two shows to HBO at the time I left to do my own business.
I gave up on dreams of writing a novel.
I stopped sleeping from 1995 to 2010. 15 years of little to no sleep. My brain is now damaged.

I learned fear, hate, anxiety, stress and poverty from that first business. I wish I hadn't said "Yes" to it.

Yes #2:

I wish I never started in the financial industry. I ran a hedge fund for many years. I have nothing really to show for it. I learned a lot about business.

But I also gave up on doing what I was good at. I was good at building websites.

I started my first fund around 2003, after being a solid day trader for the prior two years.

I read 200 books on finance, I wrote software modeling the markets, I started networking with other hedge fund managers, I started writing about finance.

I really became an expert in the entire field of trading and stock markets, etc.

You know what… Wall Street is mostly BS and a scam. I really despise almost everyone in that industry.

Whereas when I finally started building websites for people again, in 2006, I quickly got over a million users a month on the first site I released to the public. And I sold it a few months later.

I wish I had said, "No" four years earlier.

Yes #3:

Then I wanted to be on TV.

Every time CNBC called I would say "yes." I would drop everything and sometimes travel 70 miles so I can go on TV for three minutes.

Here's what would happen.

I'd be sitting next to the anchor. She'd stare at her notes until 5 seconds before we were going live.

She'd say (It was always a "she"), "How do I say your name again?"

I'd look at her and say, "I'll… touch… her. But fast. I'll-touch-her". And the she'd still be laughing when we'd go live.

I went on twice a week for years. Each three-minute visit was about five hours door to door including preparation. So about 1,500-2,000 hours of wasted time because I couldn't say "No."

Here's the only thing I learned about news TV. "All we are trying to do is fill the space between commercials," one major news producer told me.

I said "No" to something this week.

I started taking DJ classes a few weeks ago. I really wanted to learn.

But then I thought of the 5/25 rule that Warren Buffett talks about.

What are the top 25 things you want to do in life?

DJ-ing, believe it or not, is IN my top 25. I love the music.

Warren Buffett then says, "now take the top 5 and separate it from the bottom 20. And never look at the bottom 20 again."

Because you love those 20. But it's BECAUSE you love them that they will always distract from the top 5 that you SUPER love.

I super love Writing. Podcasting. Comedy. My family. And the remaining businesses that I'm still involved in.

My top 5.

That's all I want to say "yes" to. So I said "no" to the classes.

I said "yes" to a girl once when I was much younger. It took me years and scars all over me to finally say "no" to her.

I said "yes" to being on a board of directors once because of greed and money. The business failed and the lawsuit has finally ended after years.

I said "yes" to buying a house. Twice. I lost everything on those.

I said "yes" to 5,000 coffees to just "meet and greet." 4,950 of them I wish I had stayed home and read and written.

I said "yes" to a publisher to writing a book I didn't want to write. I was flattered to be asked so I did it. That book sold 300 copies and took a year out of my life.

"Yes" steals years of your life. You never get them back. "No" adds years.

This moment I have 248,433 unread emails. I've started saying "no" to emails.

I don't read the newspaper. I don't vote. I don't rent (I just Airbnb). I don't pay any bills (since Airbnb is my only bill). I don't spend time with toxic people.

I don't have health insurance (too complicated to figure out). I don't go to weddings. I don't really speak at many conferences.

Over the years I said yes to buying many things. Books, art, games, collectibles, sheets, furniture, on and on. I wasted Yesses.

I finally said no to all the things. I cleaned out. I don't want my children to have to inherit a bad "yes."

I have no regrets. Because everything I said "yes" to turned out to be a lesson about "no."

"No" is how you whittle down and sculpt yourself into a work of art. "Yes" is how you burn up and burn out.

Do I want to hit publish on this post?


What's your 5/25?

About the Author:

James Altucher is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, chess master and prolific writer. He has started and run more than 20 companies and is currently invested in over 30. His writing has appeared in major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer, Tech Crunch, The Financial Times, Yahoo Finance and others.

Source: ETR
2016 © Early to Rise Publishing – All Rights Reserved

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