Christmas Confessions of a Third-Culture-Kid

Christmas wont be homeChristmas is painful sometimes.

A significant part of the problem is being unable to identify what “home” really is.

Home is where the heart is, people say. But what if my heart is in many different places? Does that mean I have multiple homes? If so, then is there a place out of all these homes to really call “home?”

I am what they call a Third-Culture Kid (TCK). In short, this means that during my 25-year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth.

Due to the high mobility shared by fellow TCK’s across the globe, home is characterized by a state of intermittence – it is fluid and in a constant state of flux.

I am a case in point.

For the first 12 years of my life, home was the verdant city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Then till I was 19, the metropolis of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman was home. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his provisional invite called the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States.

Over the span of the last 6 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, to Muscat, to Sri Lanka, and then back to Michigan, and will eventually head out to California.

“Where is home for you?”

If you are born and raised in your country of birth, the answer to that question would be pointedly singular and specific. But if you were to ask me that question, I’d state verbatim the previous paragraph supplemented by a geography lesson outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India and an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tiger terrorists from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts.

Home, therefore, is not where my heart is.

It is where my foot is.

Home is where I make it to be.

Home is everywhere. And home is nowhere.

Christmas, unlike any other season, unabashedly and unapologetically reminds me of home. This morning, however, as I was reflecting on the Christmas story detailed in the Bible, I was refreshed to find that my sentiments regarding home found clarity and purpose in the birth of the ultimate TCK – Jesus Christ.

God became flesh. Divinity was enshrouded in humanity. The One who knew no time was born in it. If there was anyone in history who knew the pains of being away from home it was Jesus.

While families across the globe are reunited with their loved ones during this joyous season, the Reason for the season was separated from his family, not just during his birth but for the rest of his life.

But this separation was not a complete separation. Jesus, through his life, exemplified the life of a human being who was in constant communion to his Heavenly Father. Even though there was a physical separation, Jesus felt the closeness of his heavenly home emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

As I write this, I’m in California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my significant other. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and a place to call home.

The warmth and sense of belonging I have received in these places have undeniably alleviated the pain of distance. They have taught me that while I may be physically away from those places I call ‘home’, I am and forever will be connected to them in my heart.

This Christmas I’m thankful for the many homes the Lord has provided for me during the course of my life. I truly have pieces of my heart in each of those places.

I’m also thankful that even though I may be seas away from my family, I am but a prayer away from God.

But above all, I thank God for the promise of a permanent home.

A home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away.
A home where I no longer need to validate my identity.
A home where I don’t have to live off of my suitcase.
A home of perpetual joy, light, and happiness.
A home that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time.
A home whose builder and maker is God.

I won’t be home for Christmas.

For now.

Are you a Third-Culture Kid? If so How do you deal with this concept of home especially during holidays? Leave a comment below!

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3 Things Candy Crush Taught Me About Life.

candycrush

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/

How to Abuse Your Relationship With God.

girl-hair-meadow-403I have to admit.

Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.

I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.

In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.

Hopefully you don’t resonate.

1) Talk to him only when you need something.

Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:

“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”

He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.

This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler.
It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A.  But prayer is still optional communication. I need it when I need God.

Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us to come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (SC, 93).

God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?

I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.

2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.

When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.

Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.

The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.

Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross.
We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Have mercy.

Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?

Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?

3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.

The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.

The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”

In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.

But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not.  However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.

The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.

Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.

These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below!

5 Life Lessons I Learnt From Being a Wedding Emcee.

Destination_weddingFebruary 22nd , 2015 was a big day.

My friends Russell and Chloe Lewis said “bye” to bachelorhood while Kevin Wilson almost said “bye” to his sanity.

It was my first stint as a wedding emcee.  And I was terrified.

But after some reflection (and repentance), I realized that not all was lost. It actually turned out to be a fun evening! At any rate, here are some life lessons I learnt from being a wedding emcee. Hopefully you can resonate with them as well.

1) It’s not always about you.
Probably the most important lesson of the experience. The day is about the newlyweds; not the emcee. I can’t recall the number of times where I thought that I was the main event of a team meeting, a ministry, or a classroom discussion. Heck, I still struggle with that!

It’s both terrifying and liberating to realize that it’s not always about you. Terrifying, because you are not in control. Liberating, because you don’t always have to be.

2) Know your role.
If I had not done some research beforehand, I would have gone to the reception dinner thinking that the emcee’s primarily role was to hype the crowd up. Although that was a small part of the role, it certainly was not the heart of it. The main role of an emcee – I found out – is to effectively lead the wedding participants through the program. As the “Master of the Ceremonies” I had to know the schedule in and out to do this. Not rehearse jokes.

What is your role in your area of influence? Is it entertain or explain? Speak up or shut up? Knowing your role alleviates personal pain and defuses public angst.

3) Simple is best.
An inevitable result of knowing the schedule is the simplicity in which it is communicated. I found this out the hard way when I was unsure about certain details of the programming towards the close of the day. As a result, I felt like I was overcomplicating simple directions. When I was aware and prepared, however, I realized that my communication became simpler.

Albert Einstein once quipped, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you haven’t understood it yourself.”

People like simple. Understand it well to make it simple.

4) Be yourself.
The first thing I said to the audience was a joke. It sounded good in my head, but when it came out of my mouth, I could literally hear groans of dejection echoing across the hallway. No one laughed. It was terrible.
Fortunately, I said this only to the first group of guests who had been waiting to get into the reception hall so the damage to my pride was minimal.

Even though it sounded funny to me, it certainly wasn’t something Kevin Wilson would have said. So I gathered myself from the floor, reintroduced myself to all the guests, and decided to be myself.

I was listening to a podcast and this guy defined authenticity as giving up who you think should be for who you really are.

Floored me. Hope you resonate with that as much as I do.

5) Affirm yourself.
I don’t about you but it’s easy for me to focus on the negatives and get bogged down by the things that did not go well. But since last week I’ve been trying this new thing of verbally affirming myself. On my way home from the reception, I congratulated myself for a job well done and it felt great.

Kevin Wilson needs to hear Kevin Wilson say good things to him more often. I realized that one affirmation from Kevin Wilson in front of the mirror packed more punch than a dozen from others.

As a result of affirming and appreciating who I am irrespective of others’ opinions about me, I have found it increasingly easy to affirm and appreciate others irrespective of my opinions about them!

Those are some of the takeaways from the experience. Which lesson did you resonate with? Leave a comment below!

Why Christians Should Not Focus On Being Like Jesus.

photo-1421809313281-48f03fa45e9fI’ve always wondered what the phrase “be like Jesus” meant.

Does it mean to copy His appearance? If so, does that mean I had to grow a beard, sow my own clothes, and chuck my shoes for some sandals?

Does it mean to imitate His personality? Then does that mean I have to swap my hyena laugh for a sanctified snicker? Sing softer in the shower? Or replace my srilankanamerican accent for a more middle-eastern one?

Or does it mean to mimic his character?  Be more loving? Caring? Inclusive?

However way you look at it, there were people in history who made it their life’s aim to be like Jesus.
One such individual was the apostle Paul who appeals to his readers to “imitate him as he imitates Christ.” In another letter, he encourages some church folk to fix their eyes on Jesus as they run the race of faith.

As a matter of fact, both scripture and history are replete with individuals who proclaimed that the strongest argument for Christianity were Christians who acted like Jesus.

This even resonated with the famous Indian liberationist Mahatma Gandhi, who made the following statement:

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ.”

Ouch.

Here’s the bottom line:  Christ-like behavior is the acid-test of true Christianity.

But here’s the thing..

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus.

“Wait a minute, Kev. How can you be like Jesus without focusing on being like him??”

Buckle up.

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus. The word that needs to be sharpied and spotlighted in that sentence is focus.

I don’t know about you, but I thought that focusing on being like Jesus was the way to do this Christianity thing. I thought I was supposed to focus on walking, talking, and acting like Jesus to display his character.

And I tried. I tried my best to be more loving, be more caring, and be more inclusive.  I tried my utmost to be Jesus-y with others, especially towards my non-Christian friends to be “salt” and “light.” I tried my best to have the right thoughts, the right actions, and the right behaviors.
But instead of becoming more like Jesus, I found myself becoming more disappointed.

Because the more I focused on being like Jesus, the less I focused on Jesus and more on my works.

Check out how Dallas Willard puts it in his book Renovations of the Heart:

“The external manifestation of Christlikeness is not the focus of Christian spiritual formation. When outward forms or behaviors are made the main emphasis, the process will be defeated, falling into deadening legalisms…”

Mercy.

Now let’s just say that my trying to be like Jesus actually made me more like Jesus. If that was true ( and I wish it was sometimes! ) the object of glory will then be my works instead the grace of Christ!

Inevitably, my spirituality will become my savior while my Savior will be used for my spirituality.

Christians should not focus their efforts on being like Jesus. In theological jargon, that’s called “righteousness by works” and that’s not how the game’s played.

“So Kevin, if I am to be like Jesus, and focusing on being like him is not going to get me there, what else am I supposed to do??”

Glad you asked. Here’s my answer and the seminal point of this post:

Christians should not focus on being like Jesus. Christians should focus on being with Jesus.

In John 15, Jesus preaches a sermon where he likens himself to a grape vine and his followers to attached branches. Then he makes a remarkable statement:

“If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Notice. The branches were not asked to focus on producing fruit ( good works) to produce fruit. They were asked to remain with the vine so they can bear fruit.

Christians are not called to produce fruit. They are called to bear fruit.
Christians are not called to focus on producing Christ-like behavior. Christians are called to bear the characteristics of Christ by remaining with Jesus. This is confirmed by Paul when he says that it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.

So when you are with Jesus, spending time alone with him, talking with him, meditating on his love for you, and receiving his grace, He will transform you from the inside out. The more we admit we are powerless to beat sin and inculcate Christ-like behavior by ourselves, the more we open our souls to the work of God to change us into the likeness of Christ.

But isn’t that works? Yes it is. A lot of works.
But the most important work of a Christian is to focus all the efforts in being with Jesus in word, thought, and deed.
This requires you to forgo your need to prove your worth to God so that Jesus guide and transform you.
That’s probably why Oswald Chambers says

“all I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be holy.”

Don’t focus on being like Jesus. Focus on being with Jesus. And He will make you more like Him.

What are your thoughts? What are some ways you can start being with Jesus instead of trying to be like him?
Leave a comment below!

 

What I Learnt When I was Fired From a Summer Camp ( and why I’ll be taking a break from writing )

Last year, I worked as a camp counselor at Pine Springs Ranch Christian Camp (PSR). My experience at the camp was cut short due to a forest fire which significantly affected the camp. Due to considerable damage to the sewage plant and other facilities, the camp was cancelled for the summer.

So I was fired. quite literally.

But during my few weeks there, I jotted down the following “lessons” for the sake of my own memory.

1) There’s nothing more important than calling kids to Jesus Christ.

2) There are very few things that are more valuable than a Christ-like character.

3) Humility opens doors to many good things.

4) People are always watching you. Especially when you think they are not. 

5) You are capable of giving your personal best at all times. Your best will be inevitably different from someone else’s.

6) Take care of your character; your reputation will take care of itself.

7) “There is no limit to where a man can go if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” : President Reagan.

8) “Seek first the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” : Jesus

9) Be thankful for the things that you take for granted; like your own bathroom and the sphincter muscle (look it up).

10) There is so much power when young people are united in Christ.  

It’s been a year since the fire happened. But I’ll be heading up to the same camp tomorrow morning to start my service as camp chaplain for the summer. 🙂

This will be a new experience. I don’t know what to expect.

But I’m going to record as much as I can. Soak in as much as I can. And be inspired as much as I can.

So I will be taking a break from writing till August. I pray that God will use me in any way He sees fit during the next few weeks.

Adios!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6