Monday, May 27, 2013


Each morning I wake up in my little home, the first thing upon which my eyes alight is this quilt.

Mum made this quilt for my birthday in 2007. There are 36 picture squares which give a concise reminder of significant moments and people in my life. The top row has pictures of both sets of my grandparents, for example. As I progress through the pictures I see how I have been raised and protected, challenged and invested in by my parents and family.

I see how I have been loved through the first five decades of my life.

Framing the picture area are three borders, sewn meticulously and with such great care, holding my life together. Mum knew her eldest girl, knew how important symmetry and balance and structure are to the daughter whose life has been haphazard and seemingly unscripted in many ways. And she fashioned a quilt accordingly. It took her untold hours to find and choose the pictures, get them scanned, find the five complementary fabrics, sew everything together, carefully press the finished masterpiece.

It's a work of art. 

Something else that was a work of art was revealed to BA, Deb and me this trip to India. We were driving up to the College campus in Coimbatore one afternoon when Mohan, the college's loyal employee who was driving us that day, pulled over just before we entered the campus gates. "I want to show you something," he said.

We entered a small bungalow and - where you would expect to see the living room - were greeted by a long, complicated machine. "Sari weaving," Mohan explained succinctly.

A husband and wife team weaves saris on a loom, plucking at threads - it would appear at random - and creating 9 beautiful metres of shimmering colour. The husband was the master weaver that day. Even with the unexpected guests, with all the chatter and laughter around him, he never broke his concentration. His feet paddled away in the cutout of the floor, his hands flew over the loom and he muttered his count to himself so that the pattern would be pure.

After expressing our appreciation for their artistry, we walked across the road to a tiny, unprepossessing shack.

Inside we were greeted by a lady who was operating a spinning wheel, drawing forth and spooling a particularly rich gold thread. "We weave wedding saris," she elaborated.

Spooling the gold thread

Skein of golden thread

Completed wedding sari

The purchasers of these exquisite saris never see the work of these master craftspeople. They do not know the hours and care that go into weaving each one, the long stretches of intense concentration required to bring such a garment into being. They don't observe the unerring eye of the artist that can detect what colours and textures will work to create an original, unique piece.

Each morning when I look at my quilt I am also reminded of the card my Dad gave me for my 50th birthday. It resonated with me so deeply that I asked him to find me the same card again for this birthday. And he did!

Each year as I get older I find these words from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 and verse 10, increasingly remarkable:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.

The word workmanship, Dad explained, is the translation of the Greek word poeima. Yet in this context, Dad observed, it goes much deeper than simply the spoken word; it carries with it the thought of a poem being woven into the warp and woof of tapestry, a permanent record of the unique life that God has designed for each one of us. No two patterns are the same.

I think of my own life recently: dropped threads, adjusted expectations, unexpected roadblocks. This last trip to India was very hard for me somehow, revealing how some of the fibers of my life began to unravel back around the time I was in university, how each subsequent decade exposes its own tale of knotted strands, botched patterns, unfinished fragments.  

On the flip side, the conferences this year contained some of the most significant preaching and teaching I have ever been privileged to hear. The richness and depth are also weaving their stories into the tapestry for this decade as I come to terms with what is past and look ahead to  the future.

Still, I think to myself, God didn't "prepare" this template for my life! 

But as I take the time to examine the tapestry itself more closely, to recall the stories behind the messy motifs and the sometimes awkward arrangements of colour and texture, I realize that while a lot of the jarring patches are a result of uninformed or badly calculated choices on my part and not what God would have chosen for me at all, God's hand can be seen in the overall work. He doesn't abandon His handiwork just because it is flawed. He works with the damaged and frayed cords, incorporating the uneven areas into the tapestry, repairing and blending until - taken as a whole - they become an integral part of the beauty en bloc.

Because throughout my life can be seen glimpses of a golden thread so rich and pure that it makes the one we saw in Coimbatore seem dull and faded in comparison. God's golden thread through my life is Grace. I can trace its course from my birth up until today. God promises me that His grace is sufficient for me, that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. As long as I can see the beautiful glint of gold in the tapestry, I know that He is in control and that all will be well. Even during the pieces where I have sewn haphazardly over the golden thread, blocking it from view, I discover that if I turn the fabric over to the "working side" it is still there, its stitches strong and undeterred.

There's a hymn I have loved over the years since I heard it in Coonoor - my Mum used to sing snippets of it around the house sometimes - but never more so than in the last few months. It was written by Mrs F.G. Burroughs in 1920, and its title is 


  1. Dear Lord, take up our tangled strands,
    Where we have wrought in vain,
    That by the skill of Thy dear hands
    Some beauty may remain.
    • Refrain:
      Transformed by grace divine,
      The glory shall be Thine;
      To Thy most holy will, O Lord,
      We now our all resign.
  2. Touch Thou the sad, discordant keys
    Of every troubled breast,
    And change to peaceful harmonies
    The sighings of unrest.
  3. Where broken vows in fragments lie—
    The toil of wasted years—
    Do Thou make whole again, we cry,
    And give a song for tears.
  4. Take all the failures, each mistake
    Of our poor human ways,
    Then, Savior, for Thine own dear sake,
    Make them show forth Thy praise.

So I gather myself together, carefully readjusting the loom and checking for the colours and textures of the threads. And as I prepare to press forward into weaving the tale of the next decade, I read the inside of the card, where Dad has added a note: "It is still true - you are a 'poem'!"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

At the Feet of the King

Last Tuesday Dad told us a story. It went something like this:

My upbringing was very difficult. My father was dead, and I had no family to speak of. As a young child I had suffered a dreadful injury, resulting in my becoming lame.

I lived in a desolate, desert area where we had to scrabble each day to make a living. I had nothing - no prospects, no miracle cure, no future.

I shouldn't say I had nothing, though. I had one thing, one constant companion in my life that had joined me in my childhood and refused to leave. It accompanied me on every halting, agonizing step of my life.


I lived in fear, fear of one man who could effectively end my pathetic life, such as it was. If he found me, I was convinced that he would bring me down, would destroy the tiny existence I had cobbled together for myself. 

Time went by. I found a girl who would marry me and we had a child. My fear subsided gradually, to be replaced by a certain emptiness. As days drifted into months morphed into years yawned into apathy, even my dreams dried up like the desert in which I was interred. I had no hope. I had no expectation of anything good coming into or out of my life. I just was.

Until the day the men came to my door. "He knows about you. He's demanding that you come and meet with him."

My nemesis, the cause of my fear, had somehow tracked me down. I don't remember much about that terrifying journey, but I do remember this: I remember hugging my son, wondering if I should leave him behind for his own safety. Then my subconscious reminded me of what it was like to be separated from your father and I decided that, live or die, we would be together.

We traveled under armed escort, finally arriving at the city. I wanted to clean up, to compose myself, but my guards told me the order was that I be taken immediately into his presence.

With rough kindness they supported me part way across the room and then unceremoniously left me to half hobble, half drag my crippled self the last few steps to where he sat, motionless.

My trembling was not due to my infirmity alone. I glanced for one petrified moment at his face. His eyes were burning into me. Dropping my gaze, I fell prostrate at his feet, wordless, the terror pounding in my ears like demon drums.

And then he spoke only one word.

My name.


I must have misheard: the yearning, aching note in those four syllables! No one had spoken to me with that tone since -

I had to respond. "I am your servant," my teeth managed to chatter, while I braced myself for the sword swishing past my ears on the way to my neck or, at the very least, for a swift kick to my kidneys.

"Fear not," his voice replied. "I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father, Jonathan, and I will restore the land that belonged to your grandfather, Saul."

I couldn't believe it. I must not believe it. This was clearly a trap and I dared not fall into it, not with Micah my son also here.

"What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" I asked, my voice barely a whisper.

As I asked my question, I glanced up at him. He had not taken his eyes off me. And as I looked with more courage, now, I realized that even though he was speaking to the steward about arrangements which had already been made for my comfort and Micah's, he saw me.

But it seemed to me that as he gazed at me, he saw more than just me. He was seeing my father, his closest friend, who had been killed by the Philistines in battle along with my grandfather, Saul. My grandfather's death had put him on the throne. 

My grandfather's death had changed my life. It was when he and my father died that my nanny panicked and fled into hiding, carrying me, a 5-year-old, in her arms. But in her haste she dropped me and the bones in my legs were shattered, never to be reset properly.

My nanny had told me stories of David, the shepherd boy who had wormed his way into the lives and hearts of my family, only to turn on them. She told me of how he split the family because my own father, Jonathan, refused to abandon David and actually worked on his side against my grandfather.

Now David was king and he would hunt me down and kill me if he found me. That's what rulers did in those days - they killed off the entire family of the previous ruler to ensure that there would be no insurrection.

Insurrection from a crippled 5-year-old? Ha.

And that is how I came to live in fear my whole life.

I was taken to my new living quarters and - most incredibly of all - was assigned a place at the king's sons' table for my meals.

I was treated like David's own son. And as the servitors gently laid the richly woven covers over each of our legs as we reclined at table, I felt just like all the others. All our legs were covered exactly the same way.

By the way, my name, Mephibosheth? It means "scatters shame." Who would have named me that? It could not have been my father, who had loved me deeply. It was the echo of his voice I heard when King David spoke my name ...

It must have been my grandfather Saul, who had said that my father had brought shame to him and the family by taking on David's cause. 

There are other ways than literally broken legs that a person can be crippled. There are broken spirits and broken hearts. There are shattered dreams. There are crushed expectations. A person can be crippled by disappointment, by fear of failure, by rejection. By shame. 

A person can be crippled by fear itself. The very person I thought would destroy me was - unbeknownst to me - thinking about me, planning for me. Even my lameness was covered by David's provision for me at the table. I had lived in Lodebar, "no pasture," the desert. And completely without my seeking, planning or even hoping, I was brought to a place of plenty.


Dad went on: This restoration of Mephibosheth was not something he was entitled to, sought, worked for, or thought about. It was all of grace, for the sake of someone else. It was all for Jonathan.

Mephibosheth had to change his own attitude to be able to enter into the king's comforts fully. He had viewed himself as a crippled boy and man with no hope of any great advancement; as a "dead dog."

In today's society, Dad mused, we are so much about self-esteem. And of course we shouldn't think poorly of ourselves. But our intrinsic self-confidence should come from our confidence in God, and not be dependent on our own accomplishments.

"Take hope today," Dad urged us. "God can, may, will and does work when we are not conscious of it, when we are not even thinking about it. He has a plan and a purpose. And He will fulfill his plan and purpose for us, for the sake of His Son. "Christ horizons God's grace," he quoted. God's grace is found in Christ, and He wants us to experience it. We may have many limitations, hurts, things that cannot be changed in our life. Early experiences often have marked us for the rest of our lives, just like Mephibosheth. 

"God has good things planned for and in store for us. Let us not measure God's work on our behalf according to our understanding and our thoughts. God is greater than our highest thought of Him. His plans and thoughts are far greater than ours. In the silence, God can and does work," Dad reminded us.

In closing, Dad told the story of my brother Ed Chelli, now the president of the Bible College. As a child, Ed was laid low with meningitis of the brain. He was dying.

A doctor, a Hindu, came by to see Ed in the Chellis' home. After careful examination and evaluation, he told Ed's grief-stricken parents," There's nothing more I can do. But remember, there is God."

That night both Ed's parents got down on their knees beside their inert son's bed, earnestly pleading with God for Ed to make it. Then Ed's mother, Merah, told her husband, "You go to bed now. Edwin will be healed by morning."

Sure enough, the next morning found Ed sitting up, asking for warm milk. God had once again worked in the night ...

As Dad finished speaking, I saw myself right there next to Mephibosheth, prostrate at the feet of my king. I - crippled by past experiences, by fears, by the forced relinquishment of dreams, someone who deserved nothing - was at the feet of the One who loves me, who had actually gone out of his way to search me out.

And now, as I lay there trembling, scared to so much as look up at Him, He said one word.


As I dared to peek up at Him, He was looking steadily back at me with eyes that showed nothing but love. But He was seeing more than me. And it came to me with fresh new impact that His grace that extends to me is none of my own doing. It is because of His Son that I now experience such grace. As He looks at me - helpless, a broken person who sins and can do nothing on my own - He doesn't see any of that. He sees Jesus and He accepts and cares for me because of His son.

And the grace extended toward me also brings to me hope. I will never forget that I am crippled; but I will also be partaking at the king's own table because I accepted His awe-inspiring gift of salvation. I am His.