Thursday, 25 September 2014

Smiling at the Storm

I asked Jesus to hold my heart in His hands, to wrap His hands around it. 
To protect, to shield, to preserve,... through the stormy sea... 
He not only held my heart there in His hands. He went further, as He always does, to let His love, peace and even joy flow out of His hands into my heart. 
Smiling at the storm is truly possible but only with Jesus. 
Praise Him now and forever!!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

IDENTITY - by Kalhil KJ Adames

A very real and interesting short film.

Notice how she first put on her mask. Why did she put on that mask? Maybe because everyone else had already done so. Peer pressure perhaps? But she was definitely one of the last to put it on.

She tried to wear a mask but how different hers looked. No one else had the same mask as her. She tried to fit in by wearing a mask like everyone else but yet, somewhere within her, there seemed to be a uniqueness she wanted to portray. And because of this uniqueness, she was alone, unblended... She did not belong to any cliques. 

Notice too how each clique had its own mask design. What was most striking was how another lady portrayed removed her top mask to reveal another mask when she moved to another clique. And if these masks represent our identities, how she had to change her identity to fit into a different group.

And all through this period with her mask on, her small, inhibited gestures signalled insecurities, uncertainties, reservations. She appeared so closed in on herself, intimidated by what she saw around her. Perhaps, worried about how others saw and thought of her, concerned if she was doing the "right" thing according to the norms.

Everyone in the classroom had a mask. Everyone except the teacher. 
She was flipping her sketchbook, which showed a little girl standing with her mother while the father was leaving. And the teacher's voice went, "All their lives, from their childhood, they've been chained up in a way that they cannot move their bodies. And all they can see in front of them is a dark wall. Because they have never been outside of this cave, all they know about life is this dark wall." Among all the students in class, she was the only one who appeared to be listening to the teacher, taking in what was being said, maybe even moved inside by what she heard. 

How apt that he was teaching about Plato's allegory of the cave, of how people only know what they have been exposed to... until they step out of the cave and see what else is out there, until they see how else life can be. 

On the wall along a school corridor hung a banner that ran, "This is what beautiful looks like", accompanied by a model wearing a yellow mask. Right in front of this banner, a group of girls had gathered, each with a similar yellow mask, flipping their hair, looking up at the model as if to check that they have followed the advertisement's description of beautiful.

In another classroom lesson, the teacher was teaching about the game of chess, of how people in power use those powerless "pawns" to their advantage. 

Later, she found herself running to the washroom, had a fall, and broke her mask. After a brief moment of panic, she composed herself and took the step to remove her mask. A smile appeared on her face as she looked into the mirror. As she looked and recognised who she really was. And she said, "Today, the truth found me." In contrast with what she said on the day she put on her mask, "Today, I found the truth." She threw down the mask and walked out, and along the way, everyone paused and stared at her. Some gestured their anger and disbelief at how she could be out without her mask. However, she walked and she walked with confidence and certainty, no longer afraid of the stares, the opinions, the rejections. She was who she was and she was confident of that. 

How liberating it is to remove that mask!!

I find this film very thought-provoking. There are so many questions to reflect on.

Do you wear a mask? Maybe even masks?

What masks do we wear?

Why do we wear masks? 
What are we trying to mask? 
What was in that childhood that chained us in the cave, preventing our bodies from moving to seek? To dare to move, to seek, to find? 
What are our emotional baggages that hold us rooted in our caves?

How differently do we behave when we are with different people? 
Perhaps, we may even find ourselves speaking with a different accent when conversing with different people? 
Perhaps, we are extra polite when speaking with some kind of people?

What image are we trying to portray? 
Whose image are we trying to live out? 
Who defines our schemas? 
Who defines what is beautiful for instance?
Who are those "kings" and "queens" controlling us as pawns? 
Perhaps, for their own profit-making and ego-inflation? 

Have we really found the truth in life? 
Have we allowed the truth to find us, to convince us, that we have been living in our caves and not seeing what lies beyond, how else life can be, that we need not follow all these norms and trends?

Fundamentally, who are you? Have you found yourself?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

I Am Who I Am

A child grabbed her test paper and ran excitedly to her dad who had just returned home that evening. Without even checking the look on her dad's face, she happily exclaimed, "See, dad, I scored full marks for my Math test!!" And waited eagerly for a praise, an affirmation. But all her father did was to take the paper, place it on one side of the dining table and said, "Sharon, I'm very tired from work. Don't bother me now, please. I'll sign the paper later. We have given you so much tuition. Of course you would have gotten full marks. I'll be really mad if you did not!" Needless to say, the girl went away with tears in her eyes, disappointed. Her spirit was crushed. 

It is easy to empathise with this little girl who had truly put in effort to perfect her Math but perhaps, because of her dad's mood at that time, because he had a bad day, her excellent performance was so conveniently watered-down. 

In my most recent retreat, I came to notice how I praise God according to my moods too. When I feel good and encouraged, I have not much problems thanking God for the wonders He has done for me. But in down moments, at least when I don't "feel like it", I cannot seem to praise and thank God in the same manner. And I found this upsetting. After all, like how this father's mood has no relation to the reality of his child's good performance, God's goodness and greatness is not dependent on my mood. 

He is God whether or not we doubt that. He is good and great without conditions. And I believe it is important and necessary to separate our emotions from realities. Realities are realities, no matter how we feel about it. They are objective. This girl in the story has done well, whether or not she received any acknowledgment for her achievements, whether or not she was helped tremendously by her tutor, regardless of any and every other factor. 

And so it is too when we approach God. Can we see Him for who He is and not through the tainted lenses of our life circumstances? Or do we take ourselves so seriously that we see only ourselves and no one else? Like this father who could only see his own tiredness. Sure, he is truly tired, he had a bad day at work. But is that all there is in the whole world at that time that there is nothing else he can see? How about the excitement in his daughter's eyes, the hunger for his affirmation and approval? If he could be more aware of what is happening beyond himself.

And so I began with this awareness and made a choice in each song of praise that God IS good and great despite how I am feeling and what I am experiencing in that moment. I shifted my focus away from myself and unto the reality of God's goodness and greatness. Because I was by the sea in many occasions during that retreat, I seemingly "gathered" the goodness and majesty in the mesmerising nature before my eyes and lifted up everything, including myself, to God in a song of praise, acknowledging that He is good, whether or not we are. It was truly a moment of grace to come to this realisation and change.

Do you thank and praise God according to your moods and life experiences?

How is God good even amidst the down moments of your life? And how can you forget yourself more to praise God for who He is?