3 Things Candy Crush Taught Me About Life.

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It consumes you.

For those of you with the app ominously hanging on your phone screen, Candy Crush has been the cause of your procrastination and the lord of your unaccounted time among other things.

Nevertheless, this game was my constant companion during my recent flight to California. The colorful combinations of candies coupled with the soothing snore of my neighbor, drifted me into a mode of reflection from whence cometh these thoughts.

What did Candy Crush teach me about life? Here are three lessons:

1) Do not underestimate the power of choice.

The objective of the game is to advance each level by revealing the allotted number of hidden objects present in each “candy-scape.” This is done by aligning similar candies alongside each other using single uni-directional strokes (left, right, top, bottom). In a way much similar to Tetris, each stroke has the power to break three candy formations or more depending on resulting alignments. I have a limited number of choices I can make in the game and one stroke can be the difference between a win or a loss.

Every stroke is a choice. I can choose what to move and where to move it. And just like in life, each choice I make – whether for the good or for the bad – has its consequences. Every choice I make in this life can either move me closer to a win or take me farther from it.

The greatest power in the universe is the power of choice. Even God doesn’t mess with it. 

It is so powerful that it even affects the lives of those outside my circle of influence. The game helpfully illustrates this as each stroke could blast candies that are even beyond a three-candy radius resulting in a sweet win or a not-so-sweet loss.

Make your choices carefully. For your choices will make you.

2) The toughest vices are usually the tastiest.

Desserts are the worst.

They are annoying impediments in the map which prevent candies from breaking. More often than not, a certain number of these desserts need to be broken to advance to the next map. The game starts you off with just innocent, scrumptious cupcakes. But as the levels advance in difficulty, the deserts get tastier, and harder to break.

The toughest desserts to break are the tastiest.

Coincidentally, sometimes the things we struggle with most in life are those that are the most appealing to our senses. We tend to struggle with them precisely because they are appealing – grabbing our attention and energies while distracting us from the best possible existence. Someone once mentioned that the things that keep us from living to our fullest potential are not the bad things, but the good things that are not good enough. While desserts are good, they are simply not good enough. The more they capture our senses, the harder it is to part with them.

What are your “desserts?” What are those things that keep you from achieving the best?

3) Success comes rarely to the swift, but surely to the steady.

Candies can be destroyed in more than one way. One way is to align triads of similar candies and break them repeatedly. Another is to resist the temptation of breaking a triad, waiting to align four or more candies to create candy bombs. When strategically partnered with certain candies with a single stroke, these candy bombs can rival the impact of Nagasaki, sending thousands of candies to their sugary graves.  Success is ensured by waiting to create the right explosive.

I wonder how many times I’ve sacrificed long term success to bask in short-term wins.

Impatience, I’ve learned, can be a deadly friend in the pursuit of lasting success. Consistency and grit, on the other hand, can be excellent ones.

What if true success is less about how quickly you reach a milestone and more about how steadily you go from one milestone to the next? This way, the pressure of reaching a larger milestone is relieved by the pleasure of achieving smaller ones, which may eventually lead you to the larger milestone in due time.

Just a few thoughts.

Now excuse me while I get to finishing this level.


 

photocredit: http://media.gamerevolution.com/

The Single Most Important Choice You Can Make RIGHT NOW to Grow in Your Relationship with God.

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What’s the most important choice you can make right now to grow spiritually?

If I were to tell you, you probably wouldn’t even believe it.

It is so simple, so unsophisticated, so candid that you might even kick yourself for not realizing it.

At least that’s what I did when I first realized it.

If you’re reading this, you are probably one of those people who have vowed to spend more time with God in 2015. Maybe you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of your relationship with Him. Maybe it worries you that your relationship with God has been relegated to a prayer meeting, one worship service, and one church service per week.

If you are not, that’s ok. I’m going to let you know this anyway.

Here it is:

The single most important choice you make RIGHT NOW to grow in your relationship with God this year is to be aware.

Did you catch that?

The one thing needed to start, improve, or deepen your relationship with God this year is awareness.

The sound of those wheels and cogs turning in your head is almost deafening, so allow me to unpack this concept.

If there is a resounding refrain God has been trying to sing toward mankind throughout history, it would be the following stanza:

“I am with you.”

The story of God as mentioned in the Bible starts with God “in the beginning” with the first humans at the Garden of Eden. It ends with God promising that He will be with them in the earth made new. The story of Jesus in the New Testament starts with God declaring that He is now physically and spiritually with man. The last thing Jesus mentioned before ascending to heaven was a promise to always be with his disciples, even to the every end of the age. Time and time again, God has revealed Himself in various ways to various people and has reminded them that He is and will be with them.

It’s also evident that whenever God is with people, they change.

God revealed Himself to Moses through a burning bush and Moses was never the same. God displayed himself through the elements of nature to Elijah and he was never the same. God interrupted Saul’s trip to Damascus and when he regained back his sight, he was never the same. The disciples of Jesus, when they experienced God through the Holy Spirit, were never the same. These are some of the many exemplars throughout the story of God where people are changed and transformed because of the presence of God.

But here’s a question:

As disciples of Christ, if God’s presence is with us all the time, why aren’t we experiencing change? Why don’t we seem to be growing in our relationship with Him? Why are we not experiencing spiritual growth as much as we hoped we would?

Here’s the answer: it’s because we are not aware of His presence most of the time.

We live in a world of distractions; a world that is vying for our attention while sapping our attention spans. According to the results of a survey, if this blogpost didn’t get your attention within the first 3 seconds of you clicking it, you probably wouldn’t be reading this sentence. Ads, posts, and tweets have gotten shorter yet flashier to accommodate to our ever changing media interests. Our attention is their currency.

If attention is currency, God is broke.

God is not getting all the attention He deserves from His professed people, and if you’re anything like me, you may still be struggling with paying attention to God. But the sooner we realize it, the better off you and I would be. Giving God attention is being aware of His presence and that makes all the difference to our spiritual lives.

Moses was aware of God’s presence and he was changed.

Elijah was aware that it was God who was speaking and he was changed.

Saul was aware that God was with him and he was changed.

The disciples were aware of God’s presence and they were changed.

One of my professors summed it up this way.

The presence of God + awareness = growth

The disciple of Christ, Paul, towards the end of his life wrote that it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.
God is with us and in us working. All the time. But spiritual growth is cooperative act! God does the growing when we are aware of Him and is work in our lives. It’s only when we are aware of His presence, through prayer, reflection, study of His word, or in service to others, that we take the most crucial step in growing towards a deeper relationship with Him.

More awareness, more growth. Less awareness, less growth.

Do you want to grow deeper in your relationship with God?

Leave this page, close your eyes, and be aware.

 What about you? What are you going to do this year to become more aware of God’s presence in your life? Leave a comment below!

What I Learnt from Having My Dad For The Past Three Weeks ( and why you should connect with your family NOW)

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Dada left.

We’d spend almost a month together and yesterday, he caught a flight back to Michigan from where we are in California.

It’s been surreal having him around. There has to be a word that’s more memorable than “memorable” to describe the experiences I’ve had with him during the past few weeks. My pastor once made a profound statement about recording events and memories. He said that “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” What you’re about to read, then, is my “scribbling” on “scratch paper” for my sake and, hopefully, for your sake as well.

I’ve taken my family for granted.

In theory, my family is priority. In reality, they have been tolerable at best. My itinerant living and independence have only aggravated this. Every time I get to spend time with them, however, a wave of guilt rushes over reminding me of the times I haven’t put the effort to make that phone call or send that Facebook message.

You tend to realize the value of something when you don’t have it. And that’s exactly how I felt when I came back from the airport and saw dada’s shorts lying around in the room.

I need to be more intentional about communicating with my family. No excuses.

Love is giving.

Last night I was watching the second sequel of Star Trek with my girlfriend. Khan’s riveting question to Captain Kirk after his capture got me thinking:

My crew is my family. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family, Captain?

My family may not be my crew. But I can’t begin to describe how much my family has sacrificed for me to have what I have. When we were on our way to Chicago, my dad and I got into a minor squabble about showing love. I argued that while I knew he was doing a lot for me and Khayali, he should affirm me verbally by saying nice and encouraging things. My dad sighed. Then he went on to vividly recount all the sacrifices amma and he had made so that Khayali l and I could have an education overseas.

By the time he finished, the waterworks began from my eyes. When I tried to give him a lesson on “words of affirmation” from Chapman’s infamous “5 love languages,” dada shut me up by giving me a dissertation on sacrificial love.

I was reminded that evening that love is giving. It gives continuously and sacrificially. I thought I knew it. My parents had lived it.

Be yourself.

My dad is as Sri Lankan as one gets.

You can get the man out of Sri Lanka. But you cannot get Sri Lanka out of the man.

As I type, I am wearing the sarama he wore while he was here in California. From where I am sitting, I can also see the strainer he used to make his morning tea. In addition to that, I also remember the big hugs, the quintessential Sri Lankan head bob, and the “aiyo’s” he would appropriately employ at a given location. But wherever he went, people felt a genuine sense of kindness, respect, and hospitality emanating from his distinct personality.

In the past few weeks, Dada reminded me that I don’t have to respond to the pressure of conforming to the culture around me to have influence. Dada showed that I can be my Sri-Lankan, “fresh-off-the-boat” self and still make a difference in the lives of those I interact with.

God is love.

Dada being here was a miracle.

Few weeks before my graduation, dada, amma, and khayali showed up at the U.S embassy in Oman for their visa interviews. To our shock and dismay, all three of them were denied visas fearing that they will not come back to Oman after being seduced by the “greener pastures” of the country.  (-___- )

My dad then reapplied for the visa alone hoping for a miracle. And that’s what happened. My mom and sister decided to spend the vacation in Sri Lanka whereas Dada flew over to the States to be with me.

God has showed His love these past few weeks in very tangible ways.

Out of His love, He brought my dad to witness the ceremony of the first college grad of his family.
Out of His love, He allowed my dad to meet the man who changed his life indefinitely.
Out of His love, He gave opportunity for my dad to see friends he hadn’t seen in decades.
Out of His love, He helped me get closer to my father.
Out of His love, He reignited my love of my family.
Out of His love, He drew our family closer to each other and to Him.

I believe none of this happened by chance or luck.  I wholeheartedly attribute me being here and my dad coming here to the goodness and the grace of a personal, Almighty God who cares about you and me.

—–

I miss my father. But I know I will see him again. It’s been refreshing and wonderful having him around.

My prayer for you, dear friend and reader, is that you’ll take some time to connect with your family. Truth is that as much as you and I hate to think about it, they’re not always going to be around.

“I have no time” is not a reason. It’s an excuse. You make time for what you want to make time for.

So get off the chair. Close the laptop. Close your browser.

Make that phone call. They’ll love you for it.