Monday, 21 May 2012

Re(peatedly)filling the Tank

I recall my primary school days. It was a common practice at primary 6, before graduation, to buy a pretty autograph book and pass it around the class for our classmates and teachers to write their contact details and a message for the friendship. It was always nice to accumulate as many entries as possible because somehow, that made us, or at least, me, feel accepted. It was a sign that assured me that I was well-loved, giving my self-esteem some boost. But that 'love' never lasted and after all the "frenz 4eva" that were written throughout the book, not many of those friendships stood the test of time. Friends even turned on one another in secondary school even though they had been good friends in primary. That love wasn't real. Yet, for that moment it was received, it did give the security we all longed for as creatures searching for love. 

In our modern times, as mature adults... maybe not so mature after all... our autograph books have evolved into Facebooks. Some keep blogs to express their emotions, their pains and struggles. The most wonderful thing about Facebook, in my opinion, is that it allows for interaction. I post something and people can 'like' what I say and add a comment. People respond. Thankfully, there isn't a 'dislike' option because that would make Facebook so much less secure a space. 

But notice how for many, these online spaces have become a testing ground for our 'like-ability'. How many friends actually bother to read my updates? Who agrees with me? Whose support do I have? Who has read my blog posts and left a comment? Who is comforting me after reading about my sadness? Who is sharing my joy and happy moments? Definitely, such online spaces like Facebook can be used for many good purposes too, including evangelical ones. Blogger now has the function of tracking the number of views each blog posts has, and YouTube has the most concise breakdown of views in various graphs and chats, tracking even to the detail of which country those views were recorded in!! Map provided!!

Some times, most subtly, such spaces have become for us a burden because we begin to depend heavily and most unsuspectingly on them for affirmation, love, acceptance, etc... quelling our insecurities momentarily. And what if our posts do not receive the responses we had hoped for? Disappointment, self-doubt, loneliness, melancholy.

But is that all the love we can get? Is this all the love we deserve? Does such love satisfy? If it does, why then do we always have to keep refilling the tank of our hearts that seem rather easily emptied out after the effects of the affirmations through all these means have worn out?

True love, once given, needs no refilling or replenishing. And such a love has only one Source - God. The fullness of God in our hearts satisfies and fills us completely. With God's love, we know that all other sources are inferior. Nothing can match up to the love of God. Yet, this can only be an abstract knowledge if one has not experienced this love. Such an abstract knowledge cannot possibly be convincing at all. 

God's love is not easily found although it is given to all. It is not easily found because our hearts are cluttered with too many distractions. Once these are cleared, we can be more disposed to receive the love of God that has always been there, knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting for our attention amidst so many other loves. We must first desire for God's love.

But do we want God's love?
How dearly do we want this love of God? 
If we truly want God's love, then all other sources, all other forms of 'love' must exit from our hearts and lives, and be kept this way. 
The problem and the challenge is... Are we willing to let go of the temporary securities, experience a period of complete uncertainty and insecurity, before gaining the perpetual security of dwelling for the rest of our lives and beyond in the love of God? 
Do we dare to take this turn?

21 May 2012, Monday

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Silence on World Communications Sunday

In this weekend when we celebrate World Communications Day, isn't it most appropriate to reflect a little deeper on the lack of silence that bombards our modern lifestyle?

What are the noises we hear everyday? There are two types that I have experienced - the audible and inaudible. It is rather easy to identify the audible noises around us. Sit in the middle of a school canteen during recess and you will know what noise at a very high level can do to your peace within. Going to the clubs and having music blasting through the speakers, you will realise the temporary deafness it causes you upon your exit. Needless to say, with all that hype, the senses are taken as deep as the superficial levels. 

But there seems to be an increasing number of inaudible noises. Noises that the human ears cannot pick up. We know well how to shut out those audible ones but these well-disguised inaudible noises are more deafening to the human heart than the audible ones are to the human ear. They cloud the heart, distract it from God, hide God and create a distorted illusion of God so much so that what was once familiar about God becomes unfamiliar and uncertain. Love for God takes a back seat while these loud inaudible noises grow larger and closer in the forefront. They become louder each time while silence diminishes exponentially, overtaken, overthrown. 

So... just what are these inaudible noises? Here's a suggestion of some possible ones.
(*Differs according to the individual)

- Online chats and friends' status updates
- Blogging 
- Mobile phones e.g. incoming messages about work after office hours, etc
- Emotions e.g. insecurities and the anxieties they create, disappointments and discouragements that create a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, fears, anger, frustrations, doubts, etc
- Over-obsession with one's external appearances, status, wealth, etc

The inaudible noises seem to encompass those attachments we have to things that are not of God but are of this world. Things that are not life-giving but subtly life-zapping. Things that add burdens and chains to our shoulders and our limbs most unsuspectingly. 

Silence helps us to shift our focus inward. It thereby helps us to gain a deeper consciousness of our inner selves. It is not just about keeping quiet and to shut out the external sounds. It is to rid the heart of its distractions, to soundproof completely this secret room of our hearts with only God dwelling and speaking within, so that only God's voice resounds audibly. It is to consciously keep out all other voices that do not align with and compliment God's but attempt to down Him out instead. 

In this silence is where we can encounter God whose voice and presence can now be heard and felt. 
Silence is so important in our communication with God. And it is only through this communication with God that we can learn how to communicate with the world.

19 May 2012, Saturday

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Because It Is You

I shall know where to go
Because it is You whose hand is leading me
I shall know what to say
Because it is You who will whisper into my ears
I shall know when to go
Because it is You who will nudge me at the right time
I shall know what to do
Because it is You who have given me Your example

I shall be strong
Because it is You I lean upon
I shall trust
Because I lean upon the shoulders that have borne the heavier weight of the world
I shall love
Because it is You whose death keeps open the doorway of my heart
I shall forgive
Because it is You who ask this of me
I shall die to myself
Because it is You who first died for me

I shall remain with You
Because it is You who first beckoned me to Your side
I shall stride on
Because it is You who promised Your perpetual companionship

Because it is You, dear Jesus,
For You,
And with You.

16 May 2012, Wednesday

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Prayer to Love


Help me to love You as You deserve, 
Help me to love You the way You want me to,
Help me to love You with an undivided love. 

If there is no greater love one can have 
Than to lay down his life for his friend. 
Then, my loving Jesus, 
Let me love You with my life. 
And knowing how impossible this is, 
For this sinful, narrow person that I am,
I beg for Your hand to hold onto mine;
That with You as my guide to illumine the way,
I may walk on with certainty,
Inching ever closer to You 
As You make perfect what You have long begun in me. 


10 May 2012, Thursday

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Enter [ Part II ]

Have you ever been to a coffee joint or some cosy hang out place with really nice, comfy couches? You sit yourself down and your entire body simply sinks into it? The air con blows strongly while the sun remains unsparing out there, and you are enjoying your favourite food or beverage in the company of awesome friends? How at home you feel on this lazy afternoon. No stress, no rush, no work. Just chilling. Your tummy is satisfied and you begin to yawn. 

Garfield comes to mind. Just him, the couch, the tv and its remote control, lasagne, and the dog to add some amusement. We can roughly guess where the creator of Garfield got his idea from! And quite typically, if Jon were to ask Garfield to get up from the couch to run an errand, this is probably what he would say...
At times, we find ourselves in situations in which we do not wish to step in because we do not want to step out. A comfort zone that has become so warm and cosy. We feel so at home there. Why would we want to step out of it into something that is strange, uncertain and some times, threatening? Not until Garfield chooses to part from his ultimate comfortable position can he move from that spot to do anything else. Until he decides to willingly and completely give up his comfort, he will never be able to put his heart and soul into anything else. Isn't that why Garfield seems to always be dragging his feet around? He seems only enthusiastic about his food, couch and tv shows. 

Until I pluck my feet up from the spot I stand upon, how can these same feet occupy a new space? How can I enter into something when I cannot bring myself to be uprooted from what I am currently so securely embedded in? And if this continues, how can I ever move myself to be fully immersed in the wholehearted search for God's will in my life? And even if I should know this will of His, will I not face the same struggle as Garfield? I can... but I won't. Hidden under the mask of "I want to... but I can't"?

How can I then enter in when I cannot bear to exit? And even if I should manage to exit, will I not be dragging my feet along and thus, not put my whole being into anything I do, always looking back at what a better option I seemed to have given up, reminiscing the good old times? Will I achieve good results with such half-heartedness? What good, then, would any of my doing be if they were half-hearted? It might have been better to continue being on the couch than to be off it and adversely affect other people around. 

How can I exit so that I can enter wholeheartedly, without looking back? Without feeling that I'm settling for less? 
What am I refusing to exit from to enter into? 
Are there similar conflicts in your life too?

9 May 2012, Wednesday

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Lord in my Darkness

In my darkness, O Lord, 
Be my light,
My strength,
My help and salvation.

When I cry to You, Lord, hear me.
Do not leave me alone in my anguish.
Shed the light of Your truth on my darkness
As I place all my trust in You.

In trials and temptations, help me. 
Shield me from the enemies' assaults.
Do not leave me to my own defences.
But Your grace and Your blessings grant me.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Priest is not His Own

I walked past a row of bookshelves and without stopping to browse, my gaze was unexpectedly and mysteriously fixed onto Fulton Sheen's The Priest Is Not His Own. It left a slight impression. I somewhat understood what this title means. 

Even more unexpectedly, Fr. Philip Heng, SJ was con-celebrating Mass at the Church of St. Joseph for their feast day. It was his first time there and after Mass, a line of parishioners waited to ask for his blessings and prayers. Without hesitating, without a word of complaint, he attended to every one of them and their needs. Having had interrupted sleep the night before, he must have felt exhausted. The heat of the early afternoon probably intensified the fatigue. Yet, not a sign of tiredness was shown.

What would I have done in his shoes? What would you have done? I would have probably preferred to go get my funfair coupons and grab a bite to first tame the growling tummy, and then patronise the game stalls and have some fun playing the games too. I might have just, to escape from the crowd, headed directly, as invited, to the priest's house and have my meal there in peace. 

But a priest is really not his own. His life is no longer his. It is for the service of God. Is it not? And it is the same for all religious men and women. This is probably what it means to be broken and poured out for all. An entire rearranging of priorities so that God becomes the one and only, and thereby, everything done must serve this one priority. A true servant of God, no more of one's own self. Taking the example of Jesus Himself, and walking in His footsteps, imitating Him in all His ways. A total denial of self. An unmeasured love for the people; a love which is not counted or rationed. Constantly receiving from God to constantly give to others. A disposition not of hoarding but of an openness, of pouring out. Of allowing oneself to bleed for the greater glory of God and in so doing, becoming one with the Master who bled for humanity.

A priest is not his own. His life has been surrendered to God, so that it is, henceforth, God who lives in this servant, works in this servant, and labours in our lives through this servant, who truly becomes the visible, tangible and effective hands and feet of God, the presence of God in the world. God comforts us through this servant. And perhaps, not only the religious men and women are such worthy servants of God. Anyone who loves God and imitates Him with sincerity and steadfastness becomes His children and His workers. 

Can I open my heart so fully to God?
Can I die to myself completely? 
With God's graces, I know I can. 
But will I choose to?
Will you?

6 May 2012, Sunday

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Hands and Feet of Who?

An elementary school teacher was tasked to teach Mathematics and Science in a class most teachers would classify as "challenging". A class of a rather large size, made up of students from contrasting family backgrounds and intellectual capacities. The common basic behavioural pattern - children do not complete and submit their homework punctually, and appear to be disinterested in their studies.

Faced with such a class and exhausting all known methods to try to change the behaviour of the students, the teacher reaches a point of questioning how much does one give to these kids. How far does one go to help them while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance? Can these kids be helped? Is there a line to draw in one's giving of oneself to them? What are their parents doing? Why are they not monitoring their own child's work closely? If the parents do not care, why should teachers? After all, the responsibility of educating a child rests primarily and most reasonably on the parents. 

The teacher began having tea with one child in the school tuck shop, holding a conversation in confidence to find out about the child's struggles and family situation. As she listened to the child, probing further, her heart was moved with deep compassion. Before her sat a child who was helpless, clueless about what else he could do to improve in his studies. Frustrated because no matter how he has tried, he did not seem to be getting anywhere. He must have been questioning what was wrong with himself. When he met questions he did not understand, there wasn't anyone he could go to for help. During lessons, he would sit quietly at his desk, copying down the answers given on the board, and then staring out of the window in despair again. 

In that conversation over tea, it was as if God Himself was crying out for help, for love, in that child. God was reaching out His hands to the teacher, seemingly asking, "Please, help me." God was inviting her to love Him in this child. Can the teacher not grab hold of those hands and pull him along? She certainly can. But because of all she has received from the Lord, because of the many times she herself has reached out to Him in utter helplessness and despair and always found Him ready to grab on and give her a tug, she could not bring herself to ignore or turn down the invitation. She could love because she first received the love of God. 

And so, the teacher came up with a plan with the child to help him more specifically outside curriculum time. The child went away with a glimmer of hope on his face. He sat upright during lessons, and was diligently paying attention to what the teacher was teaching. There is light in what was an unending darkness. Someone cares, someone is available, someone will help me. I am not alone. I am not alone. And then, to the second child... 

Although the teacher knows and accepts that she cannot help everyone in her limited time and energy, she finds joy in doing what she can in her capacity to be the hands and feet of the Master she desires to imitate. And even if the child does not improve in his grades, she knows she has spread a little love and cheer to someone in need. She has given Jesus to someone who did not know Him. 

How much have you received from the hands of God?
In your life everyday, who may you give Jesus to? 

04 May 2012, Friday