Sunday, October 11, 2009

By Faith

Experience takes us from A point to B where we have been, but it is faith that takes us to C beyond.

We were made for a faith-filled life. We were made to dream outside the box, to uncover hidden truths, to chart unknown territories, to craft and to contrive new ideas and innovations, to dare ourselves to peer into the black box and take the plunge into the unseen realm. 

In truth, we were never made to be confined to mental boxes or social frameworks. We were never meant to just rationalize and helplessly accept the seemingly 'inevitable'. 

We were never meant to just be passive observers of an atomic structure, or mere infants bewildered by the glory of the sun and the stars. We were never made to live oblivious towards the dandelions or the honey bees, or fearful of the mountain heights or the ocean depths.

No, we were made to interact and actively engage with each and every part of creation, unlimited and unbound by the fetters of our rationales or the chains of our fears and doubts, not held back by what our senses dictate, not restrained by what our mind prescribes.

No, we have always had the capacity to manipulate molecules and atoms, controlling the electron spin and density, phasing through lattice structures and covalent bonds, changing and challenging physical laws and properties of matter and mass, in essence, walking through walls, shifting across distances in the blink of an eye, shrinking ourselves down to the size of a pinhead, or stretching our bodies to the heights to towering redwood.

We marvel at the glory at the celestial bodies, yes, but even beyond mere marvel, we were meant to rule and to master them. We have always had the capacity for space travel, zooming past galaxies beyond the speed of light, defying even Einstein's theory of special relativity, viewing our solar system from the Alpha Centauri, planting our feet on the rings of Saturn, introducing a fresh breath of life in the lifeless Milky Way.

We were made to engage fully with all our senses, fully attuned to the rhythm of creation, to savour and indulge every piece and detail, every big picture and minutiae of creation with the fullest complements of all our sense organs and sense cortices. Imagine if, the sight of the flowers, every shade of pink and blue, triggers a rich fusion of tantalising aromas and fragrances. Or the sound of the honeybees in the field, humming their melodies of joy, setting off an appreciation of the intricate visual detail of the anatomy of each joint and sinew, each segment and component of humble creature, or the texture of their surfaces, with their waxy exoskeletons and their furry thoraces. Imagine the whole symphony of creation - the soothing rumble of the wind, the shrill rustles of the savannah grass, the low-pitched croaking of the jumpy marsh frogs, the triumphant bellows of the lofty elephants - an orchestra of multiple layers of sounds, of a complex blend and mixture of tones and voices, all meeting and intertwining to form a glorious proclamation of the beauty and majesty of our Maker.

We were never meant to be afraid of the natural world. The natural world might have been designed to function according to the set laws of physics and chemistry, but we were never meant to be bound and constrained by these set laws. We were meant to be creative in the way we interact with creation, to play with and experiment with nature. What would it look like if we took the step and flew up to the heavens, or if we explored into the deepest sea trenches and still be breathing as though on land, or scaled the highest peaks without fear of death from hypothermia, or reached into the core of the earth without worry of being incinerated?

All of these sound like grandiose fantasies and wild imaginations of a childhood long past. But what if these childhood dreams and 'irrational' reveries are the way we were meant to live in the first place? What if these insane ideas and fanciful 'delusions' are very much part of our destinies and calling as human beings - to be rulers over creation? 

After all, what is stopping us from embracing our calling and destiny? What is stopping us from believing in the impossible? What is limiting us to be content to just submitting to the laws of nature and physics? What is putting the lid on our dreams and visions that yearn to be set free and venture?

Perhaps that is why we are called to live by faith rather than experience. After all, experience can only take you as far as you have been. It is faith that takes you that one step beyond what you have experienced, beyond the mundaneness of our rational thinking, beyond the limitations of our mortal selves. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Dreams of Psychiatry

I enjoy studying the brain and the mind. I am really keen on topics related to neuro- or psych-.

I think of myself becoming a psychiatrist or a neuropsychiatrist one day. I know, interacting with patients with mental disabilities, cognitive impairments, disturbances of their psychological wellbeing may not sound like the most glamorous job around.

In fact, the thought of it scares me and puts me off sometimes. Compared to going out an engaging with patients with mental disabilities, I would feel very much more comfortable in an imaging laboratory or administrative office, dealing with fMRI scans and paperwork rather than coming face to face with real, living people who might not appreciate my efforts to help them.

Yet, I know that at the end of the day, the greatest investment that one can make is in the lives of other human beings. The kind of work that stirs and inspires people for generations to come is the work that is geared towards acts of service to people. The kind of work that is life-changing and moving is the work that is built on a certain kind of hope for human beings in future generations.

I am called to prepare now for the work that is ahead of me. I am called to equip myself with the knowledge and skills necessary to complete and carry out my task skilfully and competently.

But more importantly, I am called to train myself in the kind of faith, hope and love that is necessary to channel all my skills, expertise, knowledge and learning into a kind of service that is based upon genuine love for these people and a faith and hope for something greater in their lives.

I pray that my work will be one where I can learn to pour out the love of the Creator into the lives of the people that I care for.

I pray that my work will be one where I dare to believe in something larger for the lives of my patients even when the world around them has given up on them.

I pray that my work will be one where I can usher in the newness of life and the grace of the Spirit that will cast out all spirits of oppression and demonic bondages in their psyche, and fill it with the fruits of love, joy and peace.

And perhaps, there might even come a time when I shall have to lay down my life for someone that I love and believe in. Who knows, I might get killed in the line of duty. Yet, I consider it a worthwhile investment to be able to stand as a representative of a God who wants to bring psychiatry back into submission to the authority of His rapidly advancing Kingdom.

Monday, September 28, 2009

To Die and Rise Again

Today, I got to witness and celebrate the death and resurrection of a sister. It was an amazing moment to see her choose to let go of her tightrope and allow herself to fall into the great abyss beneath her, and to trust that a faithful God will catch her and lift her up again.

During worship, the words "many witnesses" kept resounding in my mind. Many witnesses - all of God's people, my brothers and sisters in Christ, all of creation - testifying to the faithfulness and holiness of our Creator God. It was later that I realised that my sister was about to undergo her baptism, where she would be plunged into the pool and to rise up again out of the waters. It was then I realised the words were spoken to me. We were all about to bear witness to the death and resurrection of our dear sister.

It was a heartwarming moment, truly, to see her make her choice to follow the Lord Jesus and to serve Him wholeheartedly all the days of her life, to say that she has been crucified with the Lord, that it is no longer she who lives but Christ who lives in her, and that the life that she lives now in the body she lives for the Son of God who loved her and gave himself for her.

I was praying and seeking God for myself later in the evening.

I was seeking wisdom and vision for my relationship. I was seeking guidance for choices of faith that I have to make. I was seeking re-affirmation and re-dedication of all the choices that I have made.

As I was opening up my heart to the Lord, I came to this point where I wanted to just let go and sink into the waters, where I hoped to die in the ocean depths, where I wished to release my grip on my tightrope and fall into the darkness beneath.

In a sense, I wanted the Lord to kill me - to kill my pride, idolatry, anger, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, cynicism. I wanted him to crucify my flesh - my eyes that tell me what is and what is not possible, my stomach with its insatiable appetite, and my mind that thinks it can control everything and pull all the strings together.

So, I let go...

I could hear the loud splash and then it was just silence. I could hear only the hum of the waters and the gentle whispers of the ocean. I chose not to struggle, breathing my last breath, I die...

I sink to the bottom of the ocean. Deeper and deeper. Letting go of all the things that I have been hanging on to. Releasing the chains and fetters, all the idols that have bound me. Choosing to be free from the demons that have whispered to me, in whom I have previously found my security in.

Deeper and deeper...into the darkness beneath...

Gentle waves rolled over the surface of the water. Greyish, wispy clouds hovered above. A mild sea breeze swept across the seas.

The oceans rippled and seemed to quiver. The fluidity of the sea waters was broken and shattered. Bursts of light seemed to emanate from the hidden depths. 

I rose out of the water renewed and refreshed, the grace and fire within me refilled and rekindled. The peace and love now abounding and abiding once more. The faith and hope revived and restored.

Now, this light must go into the world, into the land that the Creator has sworn to all humanity, into the place where His Majesty wants to establish His rule and His reign forever and ever, across the entire plane of existence where His promises are sure and His word is steadfast.

Into the land that He will give to me. Into the land that is my inheritance. Into the land where I shall take, settle in, and build for generations to come...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crying in the Rain

Crying in the rain, under the silent oak trees,
Cool drops from heaven, meeting warm streaks down her face,
Soaking wet, from an afternoon drizzle,
Still, unmoving, in her contemplative posture.

I came upon her, as the shower ceased,
Cheeks flushed, eyes red, an expression betraying her sadness,
She flashed a faint smile, masking her tears,
But still, a look of misery was painted all over her complexion.

"My gosh, dear. What happened to you?"
Her reply was a polite smile and a simple "Nothing..."
I sat next to hear, on the dew-covered bench,
No words came, a lingering silence hovered.

"Do you wanna go somewhere?"
"Sure, where do you wanna go?"
"Let's take a walk around the city."
"Okay, let's..."

A long, slow walk around the city,
Lumbering past the mundane streets, shuffling along the fresh, green grass,
Trudging past children in their playful wonder, past teens in their game of catch,
Shoes scraping the humid soil, pushing against the dry asphalt.

In a warm-cosy room, facing the dull yellow sunset,
The plush, cushioned seats, the large, fluffy pillows,
Reclining to rest, closing my eyes,
Whispering muffled prayers, my mind spacing out.

Awaking to find her staring out through the invisible glass, peering into the tranquil cityscape,
Tearing through my mental veil, chasing away the sleepy haze,
I gazed, too, on the pallid portrait of this peaceful part of Melbourne,
Turning to her, I ventured an observation.

"You know, this is the first time I've seen you cry."
"You saw nothing, okay?"
"Alright, alright, sure...I saw nothing..."

The clock ticked on, amidst the silence once more,
As I pensively looked on at the miniature squares tracing smoothly down the empty streets,
The clock ticked on, I finally broke the stillness,
"It's alright to cry, you know..."
"Life can be really difficult sometimes..."

This time she did not hold back, 
The tears she fought hard to suppress came streaming down her features,
Her face sank into the warm, fluffy pillow,
Her sadness finally free to find expression in the tenderness of the moment.

Holding her gently on her shoulders,
My face pressed against the cold, hard, table in front of me,
My heart whispering softly to her,
"It okay to cry,'s okay to cry..."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Few Simple Words

Today the Spirit dropped a thought in my heart as I was praying for Ivena. She (Spirit) prompted me with this question, "When was the last time you told your dad how much you loved him?"

I decided to follow the leading of the Spirit to convey this message to Ivy. In the process, this spoke to me as well. It made me question, "When was the last time I actually told my mom that I loved her?"

Honestly, I could not remember ever telling my parents how much I truly loved them.

So, I felt that the words spoke and challenged me as well to do the same for my parents. So, alright, I am gonna call them and tell them how much I loved them.

Of course, I had to kill my arrogant and egoistic self that just wanted to do all it could to stop me saying those words.

So then, 12.30 a.m., I finally called home. Had a good talk with mom. Suddenly, the line went dead because she ran out of credit.

Not wanting to leave the conversation hanging, I decided to dial home, though I knew it would cost heaps. After a few more moments of talking, I could feel things building up to this climactic point, where near the end of the conversation, I quickly grabbed the opportunity to slip in the words "I love you, mom" before my rationalisation and pride kicked in.

It was very liberating for me to have finally spoken these words, words that I thought I'd never say. And I could tell how that touched my mom - she was in tears at the end of it. 

As for me personally, truly, I still can't believe I said it...but I did...and it feels so amazing. A few simple words can be so difficult to utter sometimes, but when you do, it really does set you free, free to love and to believe.

I love you mom and dad, dearly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ironies of Life

I've come to realise that God loves to indulge in ironies sometimes. He likes to take something that humans dislike or despise and work it out for an outcome that shocks and surprises everyone.

As I reflect, I can think of two major instances in my life where God has challenged and confronted my beliefs about the world, where He has taken something that I utterly despised or had no regard for and turned it into something I would have never expected.

The first is this. When I was younger, I was quite the high achiever, the top scorer. So I thought to myself, "Yeah, I'm my own god. I can do anything and go anywhere in life. Who needs religion anyway when I can do everything on my own?" Little do I realise that years later, God would crush and break me to the point where I was so desperate for security that the only one that I could turn to was Him. And so, despite my puffy and arrogant proclamation, God still found a way to turn this stubborn kid into His faithful servant. Back then, I would never have imagined that I would be a Christian. Little did I thought that I would be serving this day the One whom I boldly rejected.

The second one is a tad stranger, yet more interesting at the same time. When I was still in Malaysia, we had to undergo these Patriotism camps, where they immersed and brainwashed you into being more patriotic and loyal towards your country. Now, I have no real major issue with camps like these, though I do think that they are rather a waste of time at times. In these camps, they'd always use the example of Indonesia as the "poor neighbour" and they'd emphasise how Malaysia is far more superior economically and politically to Indonesia. And of course, having heard so many bad reports and sayings about Indonesia, I'd grown up being cynical and disdainful of the "poor neighbour". 

So, here's the twist. Little did I know that years later, I'd end up liking an Indonesian girl. If anything, this has got to be the biggest slap in my face ever. It's like God saying to me, "So, you see nothing but bad things in Indonesia? Well, how about that Indonesian girl that you like so much now, huh? *chuckles*" I guess that's true. In reality, I never thought God would turn the tables on me like that. This has got to be one of life's greatest ironies ever! Yet, I am thankful for it, because this Indonesian girl has helped me see so many of the good things in life, and she's definitely one of the most gracious and loving people I've ever met, contrary to what I've been taught as a kid!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rant on Relationship

Relationships has got to be one of the hardest things, ever! Just when you think you've got it, you discover that you've lost it.

I know that to be true for myself. While I truly do love her, there are just so many things that get in the way of me really expressing that kind of love and grace to her.

One of the things that for me is really annoying is my ego. I sometimes have this pride inside of me that says, "I'm right, you're wrong!" There is this part of me that insists on getting things done my way, and that I have to somehow convince her of what I believe is true. 

I really detest this arrogance, because it seems to imply that I've got her figured out and somehow I can control her and make her behave in a certain way that I want. The trouble with getting things done my way is that I miss out on all the richness and beauty of the things that she has discovered personally in her life. By trying so hard to convince her to take my viewpoint, I have failed to be present to the creativity, freshness and newness that she can possibly bring into my world.

But to really live free from my ego means that I have to kill it, every single day. Each time a tinge of pride starts springing out from my heart, I have to be clear that this will not bring life into the situation (although it does feel good) and I have to make that conscious choice to crucify my pride before it grows and spreads and takes over my entire being.

The second thing that really torments me a lot of the time is the feeling of missing her and just wanting to be with her. It's kind of like taking a drug such as cocaine - you just can't let it go!

Of course, that in itself is not a bad thing. It is definitely a delightful feeling to like somebody, when that warm, fuzzy feeling starts suffuses you with joy, anticipation, romance, and you suddenly see beauty all around you.

Again, trouble comes when I allow my own expectations to rule over me, when I'm in that zone of missing her. I have this expectation that she would show that she cared for me, by calling or at least drop me an SMS!

"Agh! She didn't reply my message! How selfish of her!"

"Why doesn't she call! Doesn't she care about our friendship (which is kind of a funny way to think about things, 'cuz even friends don't call one another every day!)!"

"Agh! Why do I have to keep doing all the calling and SMS-ing! Why can't she initiate, for once!"

I know this might sound stupid or silly, but these are the issues, trivial as they may seem, that I am faced with almost every single day of my life! Sometimes, these seemingly harmless problems can escalate into full-blown jealousy, resentment, etc. and it just consumes me. Sounds horrendous doesn't it?

Working through relationships is definitely a struggle. But there is definitely something wonderful and delightful when, despite knowing the fears, insecurities, expectations, ego that I have, that she still chooses to trust and love me just the way I am. And I am learning each day to embrace her and to love her the way she is, regardless of her imperfections and insecurities.

And there is something amazing, even a miracle, when two people, with their own problems, issues, hurts, fears and major differences, still learn to love one another and embrace each other as they are, learning to trust and to hold faith for the dreams and visions that are being birthed in each person's heart, learning to uphold each other in his/her struggles and to encourage him/her towards good deeds, learning to join with one another in Spirit to see life and goodness overflow to the people around them.

It is a pain, but a blessing at the same time. Some might say that it's just not worth the trouble. Some might say let's just focus on the good bits and ignore the bad bits.

As for me, I want to treasure each struggle as a battle that I fight because she is just worth that effort. And I want to savour the good times, when I can enjoy each moment with her for who she is, one whom I trust and truly care for.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Still a Kid

Soon, I shall no longer be in my teens. I never thought that this day would come so quickly. I know that I should be wiser, more mature, able to handle the world and its complexities, prepared to take on the challenges of life.

Yet, I know that deep down, I'm still a kid, learning his way around the world, struggling to get up and walk, training to run the race of endurance. I'm still a kid, wanting to see more of the beauty of this world, still desiring to peer into the mystery of existence with the eyes of awe and wonder. I'm still a kid, wanting to just be free to live each day as it comes, not being anxious or worried about the days ahead, what I will eat, or wear, or the people whom I will cross paths with.

But biology and society say that it's time to grow up, to leave behind my childhood games and learn to be part of the 'real' world. Perhaps they're right. Perhaps it is time.

Perhaps it is time to put away my looking glass and my crystal globe. Perhaps it is time to take a walk down the streets into this larger world called 'earth'. Perhaps it is time to get up and run. Perhaps it is time to grow up...

In the Rain

I love walking in the rain. There is this invigorating sense of refreshing and newness of being drenched in the life-giving waters from heaven. It is the source of fresh growth and fruitfulness on the earth, nourishing, rehydrating, rejuvenating the parched, arid, sparse landscape, and turning it into wellsprings of life, luscious greenery and vibrant gardens.

In the rain, I just feel so alive and free. Each time it rains, and I happen to have raindrops falling on my head, the song rings in my head:

Let the rain fall down, and wake my dreams,
Let it wash away, my sanity,
'Cause I wanna feel the thunder, I wanna scream,
Let the rain fall down, I'm coming clean.

Truly, I just feel like screaming my lungs out, singing to my heart's content. I just feel like having my dreams awakened and my sanity, logic, reasoning washed away for that moment, drowned out in the freedom to do whatever I want - to run, to jump, to dance with delight, to twirl around, and just be me!

I just want to be free to dream, to feel the largeness of the infinite skies, to experience the awesomeness of a thunder roll, to feel the wind beating against my face, as I tread, as I run, down the city streets, down the green grass, down the gravel pavements, down the dirt roads.

In the rain. I am alive and free!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fairy Tales

We turned and left without our usual goodbyes. Not even a parting glance, or an endearing smile.

A hasty farewell, an abrupt parting. A sad ending, perhaps, to what was a wonderful fairy tale.

"See you," she said, in a dull, monotonous voice, as she headed for the tram.

"Yea...see you," I reciprocated, in an equally empty and languid tone. A sharp turn to the left on the sidewalk.

And I was on my way back home. No parting glances. No endearing smiles. No turning back.

"I'm really sorry about today...," I said in a text message to her later on, "...but I guess not all stories have happy endings."

"That's OK, I guess it's better that way."

"Yea, perhaps..."

A choice that had to be made. A step that had to be taken.

Perhaps, it was never meant to be in the first place. Perhaps, it would have been better if we had never met. Perhaps, it was time to let go.

Of all things. The sweet laughter, the delightful memories, the florid smiles, the colourful times, the wonderful journey.

That night in the Docklands under the moonlight, facing the magnificent waterfront.

Pounded by the cold, chilly winds. Shivering and writhing out in the open air on a winter night.

Yet, there was something warm and delightful about her presence. We popped the cork and poured some sparkling wine into our glasses. A toast to one year of friendship.

Sipping the wine, savouring its flavour. A delightful tinge in the mouth.

"You know, I really do like you, I really do. But I know that I am not prepared for a relationship. But no matter what, you will always be a really special friend to me."

"Do you like me?"

"Yes, I do."

"Do you think I like you?"

I was taken aback by her question. "Umm...maybe?"

"Yes, I do."

"So, what do you think of our relationship now?"

"What do you think?"

"I really do like you, but I guess I'm not ready for it. And I believe that going for it now would not be the best thing for the both of us."

"Don't get me wrong. I really do enjoy being with you. But right now, I'm more concerned about seeing you grow in your walk with God and I don't want our relationship to be a hindrance to the things that God has called you to do."

"Then I'll wait. Do what you think is best..."


Looking back. Did we really like each other? Does it even matter now?

Were those words lies? Empty syllables from a well rehearsed skit, excerpts from a fantasy story that was never meant to come true.

Perhaps it was all never meant to be.

But surely, it can't end here! There has to be more. I really do care about her. I really do treasure her.

A faint glimmer of light in the distance. A small gentle voice whispering in my heart.

"I know you're annoyed. I'm really sorry for today. I guess these things do happen, and perhaps we shouldn't make too big a deal out of it. I really do treasure our friendship."

Her reply startled me.

"What are you apologising for? By the way, what colour do you like?"

I could not withhold a smile. With laughter in my heart, thinking to myself, "What in the world is this crazy girl thinking?!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Distant Voice

Feeling lost in this space, in this time

The slow creep of languor and fatigue

Seeping insidiously into the heart

Displacing life, dispelling certainty

The deafening drones of endless tirades

Of the same mechanical routines

Churning and spinning round and round

Like the synchrony of clockwork

The unnerving hustles and bustles

Of never-ending work

Formless, empty and dark

Devoid of meaning, deficient in purpose 

The irony of life, the paradox of the self

Gnaws away at the core of the soul

Gently erasing all rhyme and reason

Steadily effacing all traces of sanity

This unwilling union of body and mind

Tugs and pulls, wrestles and contends

The two seeming so distant from each other

Yet, so intricately linked, in an uneasy truce

The mind desires freedom 

In its world unfettered by rules and laws

Yet the body sees reality

Governed by finiteness, ruled by uncertainty

A battle of idealism and reality

Of the boundless against the bound

Fleeting glimpses of love and hope pitted

Against the stone cold gaze of a cynical world

Freshness drained and desiccated

Creativity stifled and stolen

Dreams mangled and macerated

Hopes pilfered and pillaged 

The dullness and dreariness settle in

The chimes of void and emptiness ring

In the monotony, silence sings

Its ceaseless tune of yearning and longing

Lone souls travelling and searching

Longing, hungering for purpose and meaning

Searching in a world

Fumbling for its own sense of direction

Everywhere they look, 

High and low, near and distant,

Everyone wallowing in their self pity and mockery

Constantly judging, always accusing

Individuals so bereft of passion for life

Communities so sapped of identity and belonging

Cities reaching ever farther and taller

Yet somehow drained of its human essence

Humanity climbing higher the stairs of heaven

Revelling in their grand achievements and intellect

Genetic manipulation, at one time, cloning, the next

Artificial intelligence and war machines to add to the lot 

Shoot for the stars as it may

It has neglected its poor and the oppressed

It has sidelined the needy and those at the bottom

It has rejected the core meaning of being human

Should we be surprised, then?

When another revolution is sparked and ignited

When wars erupt and terror reigns

When the social fabric as we know is torn and tattered

What calamity it would be

When mankind deteriorates to its final amnesia

Forgetting ever what it means to love

Never remembering grace, and faith, and hope

Perhaps this is what humanity needs

To awaken it from its deep slumber

When communities lie in desolate shambles

When cities are reduced to ashen rubble

Do we hear the distant voice?

Calling out, longing for our attention

Do we hear the distant voice?

Whispering gently in the chambers of our hearts

The voice calling out in the wilderness

Calling us back to life

To embrace the gift and miracle of every second

To treasure and value each breath we draw

The voice calling from our hearts

Calling us back to love

To extend grace and to receive forgiveness

To always preserve and protect

To love our neighbours, as we do ourselves

To love our enemies, as we do our brothers

To love our communities, as we do our families

To love our cities, as we do our homes

The voice calling from the earth

Calling us back to faith

The substance of things hoped for

And the evidence of things not seen

To believe in our heritage and belonging

To believe in our identity and purpose

To believe in our calling and destiny

To believe in our vision and mission

The voice calling from the heavens

Calling us back to hope

For the greater things that are yet to come

For the good promises that will be done

To hope for His Kingdom upon this earth

To hope that we will enter and dwell in the land

To hope that we will be fruitful and fill the earth

To hope that we will one day call this place home

That voice singing to us for all time

Its eternal melody of clarity and purpose

That voice singing to us one more time

Its enthralling tune of grace and life

That voice which breathes into us

Untainted freshness and boundless creativity

That voice which speaks into us

Unchained visions and unlimited dreams 

That voice calling us out

Out from darkness and into light

Out from emptiness into purpose

Out from formlessness into identity

That voice leading us back

Back to what it means to be human

Back to what it means to be free

Back to what it means to live free

That distant voice calling to us

In the midst of a parched and desiccated land

In the midst of a scorched and macerated earth

In the midst of a dry and pillaged world

That distant voice calling out to us

Yearning to break through to us

Through the unnerving hustles and bustles

Through the deafening drones of endless tirades

That distant voice calling to us

Restoring our souls, retracing our sanity

Stopping the relentless spin of clockwork

Displacing languor, dispelling fatigue

Feeling lost in this space, in this time

As a lone soul travelling and searching

In the silence, that distant voice sings

In the silence, the Creator speaks.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Greater Things

This year's annual dinner was quite an interesting experience for me because I finally had the opportunity to dance before the Lord. 

I believe this opportunity to be from the Lord and not by random chance. It just so happened that I was sharing with Ivena over dinner one day about my desire to dance for the Lord, especially holding the banners for Him. The Sunday that week, Doreen asked me if I wanted to hold the banners for Annual Dinner. I was rather amazed at this timely "coincidence". It was truly an opportunity that the Lord had opened up for me to serve, according to what I had asked of Him.

Now that I have had a chance to perform on stage, I now know the amount of effort and labour that goes into preparing for the performance. Indeed, many hours of practice and correction goes into preparing for a few minutes worth of stage time. 

The practice sessions have taught me a lot about commitment and what it means to work with other people. There were times when I thought of skipping a session or two, because I was lazy and unmotivated to go for them. Yet, I am reminded that God had opened up the door for me to worship Him with banners, and so there is the expectation that I would actually put into the effort and commitment into it. I would usually start off by asking myself why was I doing it, but as the sessions elapsed, I found myself enjoying and learning much from them.

Those sessions have also taught me what it means to work with other people. During practice, there are inevitably different people with different capacities and talents. There are people who learn more slowly than others, and there are people who are not as good as others in picking up the skills and movements. It is these times then that I am challenged: Do I look at them condescendingly because they are weaker, and I am better than them? Do I smile in satisfaction because I've got it, and they haven't? These are definitely some of the temptations that I face personally. It is definitely a challenge, then, for me to learn what it means to believe in another person who's "not as good" as me and to push and encourage them, to build and move them instead of looking down upon them. 

Sometimes, it is truly a test of faith and patience when you are confronted with mess ups and with people who just cannot seem to get the moves right. But this is where the team spirit is of utmost importance. Every member is important and needs to be encouraged. After all, we are only as fast as our slowest person in our team!

Sometimes you wonder - hey, I already get the moves, so why do I even need to be here? Truth is, we are not individuals doing solo performances, but we are a team, one body coming together to worship the Lord. Therefore, the reason that we need to be there is so that the whole body can mobilise together. There may be some parts of the body that are still not performing their functions at their best, but it takes the whole body together in one piece to coordinate the whole dance movements in synchrony rather than having each part do its own thing.

Another challenge that I faced during practice was setting the right focus for it. A lot of the times, the practice sessions become, for me, rather mechanical and repetitive instead of a meaningful time that is set apart for the worship of the Lord. I guess I still have much to learn in this area - to see purpose and opportunities to bring life into each and every practice session. I find that sometimes these sessions become, for me, merely time to get things done and over with instead of times that I get to spend with people, sharing in the journey and learning from their lives. This is definitely a challenge for me to be more attentive to the people around me during practice.

When all the individual parts started coming together such that I could finally see the whole flow of things, it made me fired up and excited about it. It wasn't until we practised along with the dancers and with the music that I could finally see how things would work out, and how the movements would fit in with one another. Seeing things fit together really makes you excited to see the dance being perfected and you start realising the relevance of all the different parts that you've learned in isolation.

I think the biggest thing for me though when we practised with the music was that I was able to catch the spirit and the meaning behind the song, and to allow the joy and excitement that was brewing inside of me to just be expressed through each movement of the banner. When I was immersed in the depth and richness of the words in the song, there was just suddenly this part inside of me that went alive and just wanted to express itself through the swing of the banner. 

And true enough, the song chosen for this year's annual dinner was truly a powerful and meaningful one - God of this City. To believe that the God that we serve is the God of this city. To believe that the Creator whose purposes are true wants to bring His life and goodness into this land that we have planted our feet on. To believe that there are so many greater things to come, and so many amazing things that the Lord wants to usher into this beautiful city called Melbourne. 

When you raise the banner high proclaiming all these things, there is a sense of honour and privilege to be part of the Lord's army, marching into every corner of the city ushering His edict and will into every sphere of life. There is this sense that you are a rallying point of people from all nations, from all four corners of the earth, calling them to arms, calling them follow the leading of the Ark of the Covenant to take possession of the land.

I do realise that sometimes, you might be self-conscious about your performance so as not to make a mistake and end up embarrassing yourself and disrupting the dynamics of the team. Now I truly understand the tension between performing well and worshipping the Lord. There is this sort of balance between doing it right, yet knowing at the end of the day the first and foremost thing that the Lord desires is our worship and our calling people into the adoration of His purposes and goodness. I shall definitely not take lightly the tensions faced by the worship team ever again!

Yet, at the end of the day, it truly is all about the worship and adoration of the Lord, and calling His purposes onto this earth, this land that we stand on, and to bring people to the place where they can be immersed in the faithfulness and truth of His promises for this city.

I believe that although we as a team made several mistakes tonight during our performance, we have done our best and we have committed it to the Lord. I believe that we have gotten the message across to the people, and that they have been able to catch glimpses of the Lord's purposes for this city. 

All in all, I must say that it has been an amazing experience working with the team. It has truly been amazing standing together as a team for the Lord, to have fought this battle together and to have walked the journey of learning and experiencing with one another. 

I praise God from the bottom of my heart for this amazing opportunity to not only explore dancing, but also for the wonderful lessons that He has taught me along the way. I definitely look forward to more of such opportunities in the future. 

And all for His glory. So let it be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Love Means...

Over the past few weeks, I have had time to reflect upon and to struggle with my feelings for her. It's been a hard wrestle between two states of mind - I WANT her, yet I DON'T KNOW if I am prepared to handle the relationship.

Yet, as I have discovered over the weeks, it is really not about pursuing or getting her, but it is more about walking the journey of faith with her, and to care and love her as a dear sister, as someone that I am learning to trust and as someone that I truly want to see grow and mature into all that she was created to be.

And with each moment that we share, there is something about our conversations that surprise me. Just when I thought that I know all there is to know about her, and that I fully understand and comprehend her life journey, she surprises me yet again with new stories and fresh perspectives. It really challenged me and made me think of how little I actually know about her.

So here I am, barely knowing her, yet trusting her with my secrets and personal stories, and believing for her as though I have known her inside out. Relationships are truly complicated and interesting. There is always an element of it that catches you off guard, one part of it that speaks something new to you each day, a part of it that reminds you of what it means to love and to care for another human being.

I think my friendship and journey with her has indeed taught me much about what it means to love and to care for someone. It has challenged me to rethink the ways I engage in my relationships. It has really challenged me what it means to not just pursue her, but to really believe in her life journey, her hopes, her dreams and her life.

There is definitely still much to learn, but I am truly glad that I could be part of her life. I am truly glad that we have had the chance to cross paths and to allow our journeys to intertwine.

I am truly thankful for the opportunity that I have had to meet her during our tutorials together in Semester 2. I am thankful for the times spent together since then, the words, the meals, the conversations, the outings that have brought our friendship to this point.

We spent the day together yesterday before she went back to her home country for holidays. I thought it was a really amazing day, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think as much as I enjoyed the time spent together doing things, I really enjoyed the meaningful conversations that we've had over dinner, and over our walk along the Yarra afterwards.

It was always eye-opening and heart-warming to listen to the stories that she has to tell, and to hear the voice of her heart and to catch snippets of the expressions of the spirit that is within her. I treasure her openness in her sharing, I value her honesty in her words, I cherish her freedom in her expressions. To many people, these conversations and life stories might not mean much at all, but to me, they are captured moments, still frames and engravings etched on the face of time and history that have shaped and moulded me, and have taught me what it means to love, to care and to be thankful for the abundance that I have.

And today, I know just how much I truly care for her. It was during dance rehearsal today for my community's upcoming annual dinner. During the rehearsal, some strange feeling of moodiness just settled upon me and I just could not explain it. I guess I am not a very person to joke around with when I am moody. The members were, as usual, always teasing me - not that I have problems with that, I do enjoy a good laughter - but I guess this just annoyed me and I ended up snapping at one of my brothers. I was shocked at my impulsiveness and apologised afterwards, but I guess now that I've thought about it, I realise just how much I truly care about her and just how much I miss her already.

I know it's silly to be sad, because she'll be back again pretty soon. I know that I should release her in faith and in the blessings of the Lord to accomplish all that she set out to do this holidays. Yet, I suppose that sometimes, there is always the emotional attachment involved.

I know that my feelings for her are true, yet I do know at the same time not to rely solely on my feelings because they can be misleading sometimes. 

As per our friendship now, I believe in the love of Christ that we share with one another, I believe in the bond of the Spirit that unites us, I believe in the good purposes that the Creator has for her life, I believe in the faithfulness of our Lord and His grace that is manifested in her life. Although I must admit that I do not fully share her passions and her visions, I am learning each day lift her up in prayer and to speak courage and faith into her life for the dreams that she has.

People might think that: Oh, you might think that now because you are still in your "romance" period. Just wait till the going gets tough. Let's see if you would still have the same convictions for her then.

Well, I do not pretend to be ignorant of this. I am fully aware that I am still in the relatively 'sweet' period of a friendship and there definitely is much uncertainty that awaits me in the future. I am fully aware that circumstances will change and things will not always be as sweet as they are right now. 

There would most likely be conflicts and frustrations, dissatisfaction and anger. I do not pretend to be oblivious or indifferent to them. At times, the thought of these possibilities really do scare me.

Yet, I also know deep down in my spirit that there is a God who is greater than all these things, that there is a God who plans and guides my path, a God who desires the best for me and a God who will make all things beautiful in their time.

I am well aware, then, that there is a possibility that I would have to let her go so that she can be all that she was made to be, that she would achieve the best possible for her life. I am well aware that to love her means that there is chance that I would have to release her to achieve the dreams that God has placed in her heart and to allow her to walk the path that she has meant to tread. But, truly, if that is what is best for her life, then so let it be. If that is what it takes for the dove to fly, then let her be free to soar.

Issues of relationships are never straightforward and there are no one-size-fits-all kind of answers. Yet, I do believe that at the core of it is the love of the Creator that sets us free, the faith of Christ that anchors us, and the hope of the Spirit that moves us.

There are many things that I am uncertain of, and there are countless possibilities of what the future holds. 

Yet, I know this to be true: that I care for this girl and love her deeply - NOT as someone that I can possess as a "girlfriend" (whatever this term means anyway), BUT as a special friend and a sister who I trust and want to share my life journey with.

So in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I consecrate my friendship with her unto the Lord Almighty. May you, O Lord, lead us together to greater heights, and pour out you grace, love and joy more abundantly into our lives. Teach us what it means to love each other with same kind of love that you have poured out to us. And teach us what it means to care for another as Christ cared for His Church.

So, today I speak these blessings into our lives. May Your grace and your love be present and manifested in our daily lives, in our interactions, in our words, in our thoughts and in our deeds. And, in Your Son's most precious and holy name I pray these things. 


Monday, June 22, 2009

Redefining Relationships

Throughout the past week, I have been wrestling through issues about relationships, consolidating and crystallising my convictions about this complicated issue. The following are my attempts to put into words things that I have yet to fully understand (if I’d ever fully understand them). They represent certainties and convictions that I have reached at this point in time. They are thoughts and ideas that I treasure and discoveries that I would like to share with people who are on the same journey of discovering what it means to be in a life-giving and purposeful relationship.

There are no grand tricks or detailed schemes, and those in search of these things would very well be disappointed. However, to those who seek honest opinions and to those who are open to receive, I pray that these convictions that I have gathered thus far would prove to be of inspiration and encouragement to you.

First of all, I would like to say that being in a relationship is NOT a point where we need to reach, NOR is it a bridge that we need to cross. Rather, it is a continuous journey between two people learning to share their lives with one another, built upon the foundations of trust and respect. Nowadays, we are often fed erroneous ideas that to be in a relationship with someone first requires you to make him/her you boy/girlfriend, as though the person is an item that you can possess and manipulate according to your fancies.

Our relations with people are never meant to be discontinuous states of existence, where at one point in time, they are just “friends” and at the next point in time, they become “boy/girlfriends”. Today, we have a tendency to compartmentalise and to categorise our relationships with the people around us into “acquaintance”, “friend” and “boy/girlfriend”. We especially like to draw a line of distinction between “friend” and “boy/girlfriend”, where the former are the people that we kind of like, and the latter is/are the person (or sometimes people) that we really like. We think that these two categories are so different to one another, and that in order to truly care for someone we like, we need to get us to move from just being friends to being couples. In other words, we get the wrong impression that in order to start “loving” someone, we need to get him/her to be our boy/girlfriend. We think that we can only move to a new level of love, care and trust AFTER we have crossed the line.

Well, truth be told, the more we think about it, the more we know that it is not true. We do not learn to love and care for someone only AFTER he/she becomes our guy/girlfriend. The foundations of love and trust need to be built up even before that, because if we do not learn to love someone, we may feel “in love” with him/her because of certain things that we like about him/her but when the magic and the romance is gone, we discover that it is truly hard to care for that person because the necessary foundations have not been built up.

So far, I think I might have gotten ahead of myself and put forth a number of big ideas that need further explanation.

Let me restate my belief as clearly as I can. A relationship is a CONTINUOUS journey walked with another person, built upon the foundations of LOVE and TRUST, as both parties learn what it means to share life with one another, to believe in the things for each other’s lives and to want the best for one another.

Therefore, it is my belief that there is NO such category called “boy/girlfriend”. There is only the degree of trust and love that you have for another person that moves you to want to share your lives together.

The implication of this is that being “in a relationship” is not making the person “yours”, like taking possession of an object and using him/her for your pleasures. Rather, it is a continuous process of journeying and learning with that person what it means to love him/her for the person that he/she is, to believe in his/her dreams, passions and life, to uphold and desire the best for him/her.

Being in a relationship is NOT liking a girl for certain things, then doing your best to get her to be your girlfriend, and then love her and care for her and live happily ever after.

Being in a relationship IS to learn to love and care for that girl, to learn to trust her to a point where the both of you can start believing for things in each other’s lives and seeking the best for one another, and then potentially, making a promise of marriage to her.

We can view relationships as a sort of a continuous scale rather than two discrete states of being.

So then, now that that is made clear, this then changes the way we build our relationships.

A relationship with the boy/girlfriend mentality tends to be based on the things each party likes about the other party, e.g. the looks, the achievements, the personality. It is usually these things that make us feel a certain way towards the other person, and it is these things that drive us to want to make them "ours". Of course there is nothing wrong with enjoying these things because we are created to enjoy these good things about being with another person.

However, the trouble comes when a relationship is built solely upon the likes because there will be times when either the things that you like about a person gradually fade away, e.g. wealth, physical attraction, etc. or there are times when there are circumstances in life that become more imminent than the fantasy world that both parties have constructed together.

So, if a relationship is a journey of learning to love and trust, then obviously it should be founded upon love and trust!

Now, of course, we would need to clarify the word “love” because it is used in overly liberal ways today.

To love someone truly means to be willing to lay down the things that matter to you to see another person grow and succeed. To love someone is NOT a feeling, but it is a choice that is decisively made to care about another person’s life, and of course this can happen even when you are not “feeling like it”.

A loving and life-giving relationship happens when both parties are learning to walk together each day, being present and aware of each other’s life journeys, dreams and visions, struggles and triumphs, peaks and troughs, in essence each other! A life-giving relationship begins when both parties despite their differences, uncertainties, and frustrations learn to trust not their feelings, but that part of their hearts that know that they truly care about the other person and want to see him/her grow. A relationship is about savouring each moment as it comes and discovering something new about one another each day, discovering with each encounter more and more of another person’s life and hopes and passions.

Also, a loving relationship means wanting the best for each other. And potentially, this might mean that you are not the “best” person for him/her. If we operate with the mindset that a relationship is NOT about possessing the guy/girl, then this would mean that there is the chance that we would need to let the person go and release him/her with blessings so that he/she might achieve the best for his/her life, including the best partner in life. This of course does not sit well with us because we WANT him/her! Yet, if we understand love and trust, then we also need to understand that sometimes, to love someone means to let them go so that they can be all that they can be, that they can reach for the best in life.

So, let us summarise then. A relationship involves trusting and caring for another person’s life journey and love and grace to want to push and propel the person to be all that they can be, so that they can achieve the best in life.

Being in a relationship is NOT about making the person yours, but it is about learning to walk in faith, love and trust for another person and to see him/her grow and blossom to be the fullness of the image of what they were created to be.

It can be a painful pill to swallow, yet if we choose to engage in our relationships in this manner, we will discover, I believe, much joy and fruitfulness and grace in our lives and the life of that one person that we have learned to love and care about.

Of course, I say that there is no boy/girlfriend category because the way a lot of society perceives boy/girlfriend is that they “belong” to one another. To be clear, I am not against people calling themselves boy/girlfriends so long as we are clear that relationships is not about the possession or the endpoint, but it is about the journey.

Obviously, there is much more to be said about relationships. These few paragraphs of thoughts barely scratch the surface of the complexities and beauty of relationships. Yet, I shall save them for another day. I believe this is sufficient for now.