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One year since we left Reno

July 28, 2011

It’s been exactly one year since we left Reno. I finished my master’s degree at the University of Nevada, Reno and we were moving back to our home state of New York after 2 years in Nevada. We left on July 28, 2010 last year and I remember the day clearly. It was a picturesque sunny day in Reno like one of the many bright sunny days they get year round. We said goodbye to the Koshy Family who was so kind and generous to give us a place to stay for 3 nights while we were cleaning and vacating our apartment. It was hard to say goodbye to the first Indian (malayalee) people we met in Reno and because of the close Christian friendship we developed. It was hard to say goodbye to so many of our friends.

We then went back to UNR to say goodbye to the university one last time. The pictures below are the last shots on campus – our home for the last two years. I remember pausing here and just knowing that the journey was about to begin.

We were really sad to leave Reno that day. Yes, there was the excitement of the road trip back to New York but we both came to love this quirky little city and the natural desert beauty it was surrounded by.

Looking back, I know God had called us to Reno and He is the one that directed every step of our lives there. When we were going there in 2008, I had no idea how it would turn out but I remember praying to God to provide for and protect me and Ann in a city where we did not know anybody. God came through in countless ways and answered many prayers that I know have changed me and Ann for the better.  So looking back, I know Reno was part of God’s grand design for our lives from even before we were born.

My brother-in-law told me recently that he used to tell people who wondered why Ann and I moved so far away when there were good colleges on the east coast. He used to tell them “God called them there.” That would have sounded funny to me too if I heard it early on while we were living in Reno, but in hindsight, that was exactly the truth.

God called my wife and I to Reno. He opened our eyes and understanding to a lot of things. He showed us great and majestic things we did not even know about. We visited and drove through every single western and mountain state. He changed and refined our character in so many ways. He brought such precious people into our lives.

If ever I was sure of one thing in my life, it is that God called us to Reno and was with us every step of the way.


A Fear of Flying

January 6, 2011

I’m writing this post on the one year anniversary of our trip to Hawaii. We were living in Reno, NV at the time. This was a memorable trip for many reasons, such as the breathtaking natural beauty of Hawaii, but also for an event in my life that strengthened my belief in the Almighty God. For some reason, many months before this trip, I got this severe fear of flying. I’m pretty sure it is, as my wife tells me, because of the countless number of hours spent online on youtube watching air crash investigation documentaries such as “Seconds from Disaster” and “Mayday.” I encountered some strong turbulence on a trans-atlantic flight coming back home to NY from India in 2008 and that caused me to do a lot of research online into air crashes and start watching these documentaries on YouTube. What it also did to me was make me realize how many things can go wrong that are out of my control that instilled in me a strong fear of flying.

My wife was looking forward to the trip since we both got bit by the travel bug in the beautiful western states and this was a state that both of us wanted to see. I kept my new-found fear of flying pretty low-key from her and only told her after my fall semester ended at UNR around December 15. We were set to travel from Jan.  6 to 12 and I had to book the tickets soon. I procrastinated in buying the tickets as long as I could. One day after Christmas I just told her about my fear of flying. She was surprised and a little sad at first but then she told me, in her usual humble way, that if I wanted to cancel the trip she would be ok with it. I was sad because I knew she really wanted to go and this was a good opportunity for us since we were living on the west coast and closer to Hawaii and because we could get away from the cold winter in Reno. I decided that I had to do something about it.

I used Google and found that many people shared this same fear and there were many seminars and lectures and cd’s/dvd’s that you could buy to help you “get over” this fear. One promising one that I really thought about seriously was the SOAR program created by a former United Airlines pilot. What was weird was that, here I am, a born-again Christian and I am looking for help in every other place except by going to the God I’ve come to know. When that realization struck, I remember searching online for various audio or video recordings of sermons that addressed the topic of fear. I searched and came across a sermon called Overcoming the Voices of Fear by a man named Carter Conlon. I downloaded the sermon to my computer and must have listed to it 4 or 5 times before the trip.

Listening to that sermon gave me great hope and I decided to go through with the trip putting my faith in God that He will help me somehow get through the flights going there and coming back. I finally booked the tickets only 3 days prior to our departure! Luckily, we still got an OK deal. Well, January 6th came around and we made the drive to Sacramento (that’s where our flight was departing from). We spent the previous night at our cousins’ house in Sacramento and there we found out that the Hawaiian Airlines flight we were scheduled to go on was delayed because of a bird-strike into one of the engines when it was coming in to land from Hawaii the night before. The airline said the delay would only be a few hours and so we headed to the airport to find out more information and wait there. We waited and waited. We found out that the flight was supposed to leave at 7 am was pushed back to 1pm and then to 7pm! Worse, we saw the plane at the gate with it’s engine dismantled and mechanics working on it. I’ve never seen a jet engine opened and being worked on in person before but it is disconcerting thing to see at your departure gate. Especially when you come to the airport with a strong fear of flying!

Our plane being worked on

Our plane being worked on!

Turns out that the jet engine could not be repaired that day and they would reschedule every one for the next day at 7 am. The airlines gave everyone an option of going on a night flight at 1 am by quickly turning around a flight from Hawaii that was set to arrive at Sacramento around 11pm. After much thought and prayer, we decided to take the night flight since it would give us more time to spend in Hawaii without losing an entire day. All in all, we ended up waiting at the airport for over 16 hours! We did get free food vouchers, a $300 voucher per passenger for the inconvenience to be used on a future flight, and we got to spend a few hours in a hotel room to freshen up before our flight. But I was still anxious about the flight and now the anxiety of changing your flight (and some say your destiny) was coming on strong. From the hotel room, we called our parents to let them know our plans. I then called our Pastor in Reno, Pastor Roy Koshy, who is always a comfort when I talk to him. He prayed with us over the phone and assured us that God would be with us and take care of us.

We boarded the plane and I took out my Bible to keep in my lap during the flight. During the 5 hour flight, I listened to Carter Conlon’s one hour sermon about 4 times through the mp3 player on my cell phone. I kept it on till the very last announcement to put away all electronic devices before landing. It was a comfort to me because of the BOLD preaching of Carter Conlon from Psalm 34. He talked about how if you are a believer, you have to believe there is God who is real and is hearing your prayers. He talked about how there are pastors out there today who are not sure of such things and are even more unsure and scared than you when you go to tell them about your fears! He said that a real child of God should not fear anything because they should know there is God who is looking out for them as evidenced by the countless men and women of faith throughout the centuries who relied on Psalm 34. Even David who penned Psalm 34 wrote it from an experience of fear but ends the psalm trusting in God and triumphing over his fears.

Any time I felt turbulence, I clutched my Bible and recited the promises in Psalm 34 in my mind. There was turbulence. I did get scared. But the sermon and the Bible in my hand helped calm my nerves and made all the difference.

We landed safely in Hawaii – albeit 13 hours later than expected – and we had a wonderful week of great weather and breath-taking scenery and events. On the return flight back home, I was more calm than going there. I still clutched my Bible in my lap but I listed to the sermon only once and just dwelt on the words of God in Psalm 34. I was more calm on the flight back even though we had much stronger turbulence (the kind where people even whimpered audibly in fear) on the final approach to land amidst a dark and stormy night at the airport with the most bird-strikes on the west coast. But there I was, calmer than ever! Praise God for such a change! I know it was because there was a power in me that was greater than my fear!

It was a memorable trip by God’s grace. We never had any regrets of not going because I didn’t have to cancel this trip due to my willingness to test my faith. Perhaps God used this trip to test my faith and teach me to rely on Him. What’s amazing is that from this trip, I gave a testimony in our prayer fellowship in Reno in front of everyone of this fear and how I overcame it by trusting in God’s word. God used this trip and created a witness of his power through my experience!  Now that testimony is going out to the whole world through the power of the Internet. Praise God!

I wrote this post for any one else – believer or non-believer – who is experiencing a fear of flying and is looking for a real and lasting solution. I put my trust in a real and living God. Why don’t you trust Him to do the same for you? Listen to the sermon I linked to above if you are in the same situation. Read Psalm 34 or Psalm 91. This worked for me and this is my testimony. I experienced God in real way on this this trip and nobody can take this experience away from me or explain it away because it was my reality.I give all honor and glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has once again proven his existence in my life in a real way and answered my prayers the way the Bible says.

Psalm 34:4

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Postscript: Turns out that unknown preacher I listened to was the Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in New York City. I made a vow that when we return to NY, I am going to see him in person and maybe one day thank him. It turns out that we are now worshiping at Times Square Church about once a month. I’m still holding onto the hope that one day I will thank Carter Conlon in person if God will arrange it.

Sunset in Hawaii

A sunset in Hawaii that we captured

Vidal Junction

April 7, 2010

This is a post that I have wanted to write for a long time. I want to share something that happened to Ann and I in March 2009 on a lonely desert highway that gave us another reason to believe that our faith in the God of the Bible is correctly placed.

We decided to visit Phoenix, Arizona and the Grand Canyon during my spring break in 2009. We were driving on our way from Reno to Arizona on US 95 S and had just left Nevada and entered Needles, CA. I believed that the route through US 95 to I-10 would be a better and shorter way than taking I-40. I did not expect it to be so lonely or so long. It would be another 80 miles or so till we reached the junction to the Interstate. It was so beautiful to see the lonely desert road and distant mountains in the background.

We were talking and enjoying the ride when Ann suddenly felt a sharp pain in her lower abdomen. The pain quickly became unbearable and she was really hurting. I had no idea what it could be and told her to recline her seat all the way back. My thoughts went to gas. After a long time, the pain was still there. I then thought that it may be a kidney stone. There were no cars in front of us or behind us for miles. No towns nearby. Just miles and miles of featureless California desert.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I thought of pulling over and calling 911 for an ambulance. But how long would that take in the middle of nowhere? Would she make it to wait that long? By hearing her I knew that this was serious. I decided to keep going driving fast but surely, until I saw the first inhabited place I could stop at and asking for help there. That is when I started praying. I prayed like I never have in my life. I kept asking God to come down and help us since we have no other option. My mind was racing with prayers and my throat became so dry from the tension.  I drove the next 40 miles in literal white-knuckle driving passing into the oncoming traffic lane to overtake numerous cars and trucks on the one-lane road. We drove a good 40 miles with Ann in intense pain and my mind racing with prayers. I remember specifically praying from the promise that God would be with his righteous in time of trouble and asking Him to make good on that promise because I had no other option at the time. I knew that we had no one else to help us on US 95 that day and asked God to take away the pain from my wife. That is when we came upon Vidal Junction.

Vidal Junction, CA. The cross roads of US 95 and state route 62 with nothing more than a couple of gas stations. It felt so good to see some signs of life! I stopped at the first gas station and wanted to run inside to ask if there was a hospital nearby. My wife said she wanted to go inside and try to use the bathroom. I escorted her inside to the bathroom ($1 charge to use it if no purchase) and told the lady at the counter our predicament and asked if there was a hospital nearby. She said the nearest one was a small hospital about 18 miles away across the border in Parker, AZ. Our intended destination to the junction of I-10 was another 40 miles away in another direction. That junction was in Blythe, CA and it had a much larger hospital but would take us much longer to get there. I did not know if the pain would get worse or what would happen. Going to Parker would be definitely out of our way  throw our schedule out of track. But that did not matter. I just wanted her pain to go away.

So there I was. At the cross roads literally with a decision on which road to take. East or South. When Ann came out of the bathroom, I told her the situation. She told me she felt a little better. We decided to go South and continue on US 95 to Blythe. We prayed at Vidal Junction and started on our road south. The whole time I remember praying that her pain does not get worse and just get us to the junction and Blythe. That’s all that was on my mind the next 40 miles.

We reached the junction to I-10 and I asked her how she was feeling and what we should now do. Should we continue east to Phoenix or head west into Blyte and the hospital. She said she was feeling better and we decided to go on our original route to Phoenix. After driving a few miles on I-10, Ann drifted into sleep. When she woke up about an hour later, she said that the pain was gone. We still took it gingerly and I kept praying till we reached Phoenix that night.

Her pain was completely gone for the rest of the trip and we were on track the next day on our original schedule and got to see Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. It was a memorable trip but the most memorable part for me will always be that 80 miles in the California desert that afternoon with no one to help and everything resting on prayer. It could have gotten much worse, but it never did.

Later that year, we would find out exactly what the problem was when she had a recurrence of the pain (which I’ll write about later). The second time we were at home in Reno and had the comfort of the hospital nearby. But on that afternoon in March on that lonely road in California, we had nobody. Just our faith that God would be there when we prayed just as He had promised to us in His word the Bible.

I can safely say that God answered our prayers that day. While driving, I had asked Him to keep His promise… and He did just that.  I witnessed it and I will always testify of it. I have written down in a secret place all the times that God has come through for me. Not every little minuscule prayer that He has answered, but the most memorable ones are when there was no other option and no one to help us like that day in Vidal Junction.

Psalm 34:15 says the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help. If Christianity is true and you are a true Christian, there must be experiential evidence in your life to the the things that are promised like this in the Bible.  Not subtly, but powerfully and unmistakably. This is one of those times in my short life. The way the events of that day played out are memories stored deep within in my heart. I still ponder the mystery of how God operates in this world but I know that He is trustworthy when everything is on the line and there is nowhere else to turn. From this and many other experiences, I know I can take Him at His Word.

Vidal Junction. Another junction in my life where I chose to trust God and continue on my journey of faith in this life. One more event in my life that helps me know that my faith is well-placed. The pictures below would not have been possible unless God had helped us at Vidal Junction.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Friend of God

April 5, 2010

This morning I read an email newsletter in my inbox from Pastor James MacDonald with this verse

Psalm 25:14 (New Living Translation)

“The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
He teaches them his covenant.”

Reading that verse struck a special chord in me. I wanted to write down my thoughts on how that verse has become alive in my life. I had no place to write it down and it’s the reason I started this blog.

As Pastor James explained, the Hebrew word there for friend refers to the intimate counsel that one would get from a close friend. This intimacy is only reserved for those who fear him.When I look at that verse, I feel so unworthy. That the infinitely powerful and infinitely holy God of the universe would call me a friend. Understanding who God is and what his wrath is capable of (fearing Him) is necessary but this verse also teaches us that once we fear God our relationship with Him changes to that of a friend. That comes from his amazing love that He would grant us that awesome privilege.

I can certainly attest to this. When I became saved, I saw a change in my thoughts and actions. I started to see the world the way the Bible says. When I pray, I pray for much different things now. I feel things that the Bible says God cares about. When I read the Bible, I see the things that God cares about. That is his secret counsel as a friend in my life.

Knowing who I am, and the wretchedness of my life, I am humbled beyond explanation that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and every saint in the Bible is the same God who says that I am His friend as well. I pray that as I live this life I will grow in holiness and become more worthy to be known as a friend of God the same way Abraham and David was known.

I was once an enemy of God but Jesus’ work on the cross made it possible for me to put away the enmity with God and become friends with God. What grace! I don’t have many friends in my life but I am a friend with the One that matters. Thank you Jesus.

Romans 5:10 (New Living Translation)

“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”

Hello world!

April 5, 2010

This is my first post. I wanted to start this blog to chronicle some of the things that I experience knowing the God of the Bible. I have only gotten to have a deep relationship with this God in the past 3 years and his stamp on my life in that time is worth mentioning.

My wife and I will add posts to this blog and will hopefully edify and build up others.

This blog’s address is named “fruitfulness.” I tried a lot of names before trying this name and finding it available. But I think it is a fitting name because as Christians we are told to be fruitful in our lives with the help of God. So I leave you with that teaching from our Lord.

John 15:4-5 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. “