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Just felt this is something I should share.
- This is me two months ago, commenting in someone’s blog.
March 23, 2010
“it’s very disheartening reading some of the comments here. honestly i am beyond tired. if these are comments from christians, i lagi more tired! i don’t want to be pretentious so i will admit that the devil has succeeded in getting people to avoid the church. at least he succeeded with me. i guess that makes me a loser. to hear the constant bashing, especially in recent years, of the church that has been my lifeline in so many ways, is very discouraging and hurtful. when i first got saved, there was this pure and innocent joy to share the good news. i remember inviting a friend of mine to church. she was deeply moved and over the next few years, one after another of her family members came to christ and found new meaning in life. a few years ago she sent me a christmas card with only these words…thank you, thank you, thank you (for bringing me to chruch and introducing me to christ). even now as i am writing this, it brings tears to my eyes. this is what makes life meaningful, to be an agent of change in people’s life. all that was before blogs existed, before i started reading comments and forums and the media. a lot has changed since then. it’s difficult not to be affected by all the criticism and judgment and the spirit behind them. yet it is difficult to avoid them if one doesn’t wish to be a christian living only in her own world. i love to read. i have gained a more balanced view of my faith through reading viewpoints and experiences of other believers. but it has also costs me. fortunately i receive a lot of positive feeding from my church every week. my faith journey might not have lasted this long if not for them. but all the poison has finally caught up with me. my relationship with christ and NCC has become a very private thing. i have no desire to invite anyone to church or mention anything about NCC, church …. or even Jesus. in the eyes of non-believers, they are all the same. with believers, i don’t mention NCC because it makes them run before i have the opportunity to speak. the prejudice is just too great. so i keep silent. i don’t need more people bashing my chruch or my faith. i am done for now. i need time to recover.
many of you ask, how has NCC changed my life? i can’t tell you without telling you how Jesus changed my life because the focus on Christ is central to NCC. yes there are flaws but Jesus is always central. you asked, how has NCC help my faith journey. it is difficult to prove to you in a tangible way. what i can say simply is that the Jesus presented by NCC is the reason why hope is alive even in my bleakest hour. there is an inner buoyancy that sustains my soul when my circumstances are an utter shipwreck. that Jesus is what motivates me to pick myself up and start again when i fail to live up to the christian ideal. when i thought i have completely lost my innocence because i have lost faith in humanity, when there is no one i can trust anymore, that Jesus encourages me to seek beauty in the midst of ugliness. i don’t know if i have personally impacted anyone by these but they sure do keep me from giving up on life.”
but right now, i am really tired. i need to withdraw into my church and behold the Jesus that I know again.
- This is me having doubts about my calling and loosing passion and direction, writing in an email to M.
April 24, 2010
“….regarding your question about interest and passion, well…I’m afraid I don’t have a definite answer right now. You see, that was the reason why I contacted Seth in the first place – because I feel like my life has lost passion and direction. I thought doing something different and following various impulses might help me see God’s leading clearer. I used to be passionate about seeing people come to see their need for Christ, accept His Grace and be transformed by His love and seeing a new purpose for life. I enjoyed reading up on comparative religion and christian apologetics and enjoyed comparing different worldviews. But all that has faded much. Perhaps I was discouraged by a lack of tangible results and a general attitude of nonchalance among the people here. Eventually I tell myself, why cast precious pearls to people who don’t care.”
coming up next…..my recovery.
I’ve read many responses on the catastrophe in Haiti. This one from Seth Barnes tops them all (emphasis mine). I have been frustrated with things at home lately and struggled with unanswered prayers. None of them could be labelled tragedy, yet one of the first thing that came of my mouth in my rant to God was, why. It is a natural human response. It shows our humanity. But God calls us to something better, to set our vision higher.
Too often we Americans let our rational minds spin with speculative and convoluted proof-texting. And I want to say, “Can we just stop having to explain this God of ours in ways that bring our tiny minds a shabby and evanescent peace? Can we just let his response be the one that he took four chapters to give Job* starting with, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”
God help us when we go through our similar tragedy one day, be it through cancer or a car accident. We will have a choice, to bow at the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and ask “Why?” Or, to bow at the tree of Life and worship. Let’s choose the latter, knowing that our God weeps for his children in Haiti. – from How God Feels about Haiti
Last week I received with deep sadness, the terrible news of the tragedy that had fallen on Steven Curtis Chapman’s family. Chapman has been one of my favorite Christian artist ever since I got hold of his album, Declaration, many years. His songs have lifted me up when I was down, brought me hope when the journey got rough, inspired worship within me when I felt dry and most of all, they have always brought God near. Much of You, Carry You to Jesus, Magnificent Obsession are just some that has ministered to me. So it was a very sad day when I heard that his 5-year old daughter, Maria Sue was hit in the driveway of her home by the SUV driven by her teenage brother. The older boy did not see her as he was reversing the vehicle. I can’t even begin to imagine the psychological impact the accident must have had on the brother. Maria Sue is the youngest of the Chapman’s 6 children, of which 3 were adopted from China. Maria was one of them. It just crushes my heart to know that this adorable and lively little girl is now gone.
Eugene Cho who wrote a little more extensively about this tragedy in his blog, Beauty and Depravity, received what in my view was a very insensitive and incompassionate comment from a reader.
Isn’t it hypocritical for you and the Christian community to highlight the death of one child – however tragic – when so many die tragically around the world?
Cho gave a very good response. Yes, there are thousands of tragic deaths everyday all over the world but we will NEVER apologize for grieving over someone who is, in a way, close to our heart through the ministry of her father. Like Cho said, “there are stories behind numbers” and there is nothing shameful about mourning especially for those whose story has one way or another, crossed our path. There are other theological questions being tossed about by readers, such as the age old one about how God can be good as the Christians claims Him to be and where is the hope in such tragedy? These are some of the questions Cho addressed, so please do find time to read it if you’re interested.
Cho, by the way, is the pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and I have been following his blog for over a year now. He is Korean by birth. Here is someone I can respect. He is willing and able to listen with understanding and an open mind to the voice of a changing generation and culture while staying faithful to his own convictions.
Here is the link to Cho’s post on the tragedy, Part I. There is a link from there to Parts II and III at the top of the post.
As we grieve for the Chapman family, I would like to share this music video form his recent album, This Moment. The song Cinderella is a poignant ballad that spotlights a father’s relationship with his daughter in a novel way. Please pause to allow it some time to load.
It’s depressing reading the papers these days. The news seem to be getting bleaker and bleaker. We’re only into our fifth month and there are already more than we can handle. Worsening economy, political unrest, shortage of food, diseases, natural disasters and the continuing terrorist threats. I am reminded again of how blessed I am to still have a job, two healthy children, family and friends and living in a relatively safe nation. Even then, I know I must not put my trust in earthly things, especially now that “the shaking” is going on. “Put your trust in God; the only thing (Person) that is unshakable!”, pastor urged us earlier this year. Really, there is nowhere safe anymore. You think Singapore is safe? For how much longer and from what? earthquakes? tsunamis? cyclones? terrorist threats? what about diseases? But we do not need to fear the shaking. C.S.Lewis likens pain to God’s megaphone. It’s gets our attention! Philip Yancey, having worked with Dr Paul Brand who works with leprosy patients, discovered the “gift of pain”. It calls our attention to the problem. Leprosy attacks the body’s pain sensors so that you cannot feel pain. Lepers slowly loose their limbs, most times without even knowing it!
So fear not the shaking, fellow pilgrims. We share the same earthly home, bearing it’s joy and sorrows. Your triumph is our celebration and our tears, your sorrows. Whatever destiny awaits us, we shall pass through the fire and testings with courage and hope knowing “that what can be shaken will be removed so that what cannot be shaken will remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22)
Before I sign off, I just want to share with you this lovely hymn by Chris Rice.
I just want to say that I am shocked and saddened by Heath Ledger’s sudden death, although I am not a fan and have not watched that many of his films (I did watch Brokeback Mountain). He has always kept a low profile which makes the news even more shocking. He died at such a young age; at his prime and I believe the future holds so much more for him as an actor. It’s even more heartbreaking to know that he has left behind his daughter whom he adores. I read about his depression after his split with his fiance and how he longs to see more of his daughter. It’s just depressing news. He was such a fine actor. I was moved by his potrayal of Ennis in Brokeback. Which is why I was outraged and disgusted when I read that a certain fundamentalist christian group is planning to stage a protest at his memorial and funeral. All because he took on a gay role in the film. This must be one of the most hateful thing to do to anyone. A funeral is not a place for you to push your agenda. I don’t care if a person is gay or played gay, everyone deserves a dignified funeral.
As I reflect on the past week, only one thing comes to my mind – LOSS.
Just yesterday, a co-worker called up the office to ask for prayer support from a few of us. Her father was in critical condition. I heard from her today that he had lapsed into a coma and even if he pulls through, the chances of him coming out of the coma is very narrow. Doctors told her the same thing they told my friend who just lost her mother a day earlier- prepare for the worst.
And then there are those Lebanese children – blown to pieces for no fault of their own. We can’t begin to imagine the anguish of their parents. And all those other people who lost their spouses, friends, home, even their faith.
The more we try to comprehend the deeper we sink into our valley of darkness, enveloped by our grief andf the injustice of it all.
Father, you promised there will come a time when every tear will be wiped away and there will be great rejoicing and reunion. I know even now you are crying with us….for every child, every parent, every spouse, every friend. Surround and sustain us in this difficult times, Lord. We need you because we can’t do this alone. Help us see the hope you’ve planted in our hearts when all we see around us is great darkness. Thank you for walking alongside us.
Homesick by Mercyme
It has been an erratic week. I have prayed very specifically for 2 things the past week – a ceasefire in Lebanon and healing for my friend’s mother. On Monday morning the headlines read: Ceasefire in Lebanon to take effect today. Yes!!! I punch my fist into the air in victory.
A few hours later I received a text message from my friend. Her mom was to be admitted immediately for surgery. My heart sank. They don’t usually call for immediate surgery unless it’s critical. But there was still a glimmer of hope. I prayed. At 8 the next morning another text came in. – mom in icu after heart op…. cancer last stage…..doc says to prepare for worst. Half of what was left of my “hope” rope snapped. Anguish for my friend…..that’s all I felt. God….she has gone through so much….please don’t let this happen – I pleaded silently. I rushed down to the hospital after work that day. We hugged and I held her for a while as she cried. I wish I could take away her pain and tell her that everything is going to be alright. Helplessness is not a nice feeling. We want to feel in control. But life is designed in such a way that it humbles us. In times like this we can only cast ourselves upon God and stand by each other in love and solidarity. A nurse I spoke with later, told me with grimm face, that the patient was very sick. I know what that means….. but I prayed anyway. She passed away early the next morning.
Prayer…what is it anyway? For whose sake do we pray, and what we hope to gain from our prayers? Are we asking for something from God, or just seeking to unburden ourselves, to place our concerns before God and our community? Is our prayer mostly a message of concern we send to the one we’re praying for, intended to encourage our friend or loved one who knows that we are praying for him or her? Can a prayer for healing “work” if the sick person does not know that we are praying?Why God answers some prayers but not another is a question asked in every generation. It hovers over hospital beds, and kitchen tables, and silent rooms where someone lies awake and alone in the dark. It will not go away.
Despite the questions, we go on praying for the sick. We say or sing or whisper the words, even in tongues – sometimes skeptically and sometimes tenderly and sometimes desperately and sometimes choked by tears. The question of what prayer is and why we pray has many possible answers, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, it does not subscribe itself to a set of clear cut answers. But I particularly like what one rabbi said about the emotional power of such prayer. For him, a prayer offered on behalf of the sick, or by the sick person himself or herself, is an act of connecting directly with the eternal source of comfort and love. Commenting on a verse from Psalm 32, Greenberg says this: “one who trusts in Adonai (God) will be embraced by hesed (lovingkindness)”. The truth is: when you are sinking, when you are totally wrapped up in your own fear and pain, it is still possible to break out. God’s loving presence surrounds you at all times; God shares your pain as only an infinite consciousness can. God feels your hurt, kisses your wound compassionately. The divine steadfast love enfolds you even when the longed-for miracle does not come.”
Rabbi Greenberg’s words are neither naïve nor simpleminded. They are grounded in the belief that a sick person can be lifted out of fear, pain and isolation by offering or hearing words of prayer – ancient, sacred words that link the lone individual to a reality beyond the self. When the medical arts have reached their limit, prayer remains to sustain the soul — to remind us, if we allow ourselves to believe it, that we do not suffer alone. It is possible, even in the midst of illness, to sense that you are cared for, that you are held in the embrace of a God whose love encompasses you forever.
“When my first wife was utterly ridden with cancer cells,” writes Martin Marty, “…..emaciated and all, I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking, ‘Oh God, reverse these cells and give me a healthy-bodied spouse again.’ That was simply out of the range of this mode of conversation. What she and I prayed for was that love would be stronger than death, that nothing would separate us from the love of God, that we would be given strength for the day when it came – and when it came, we had it.”
And perhaps that is ultimately what the prayer for healing is all about, and why no visit to the sick is complete without a prayer. We pray when we have done everything we can and there is nothing else that we know how to do. We pray when our own resources are exhausted and we need another source of strength. We pray as an expression of human love and attention, in the hope that pain and solitude can be eased. We pray in the hour of extremity, so that we can go on to face whatever we will have to face. We offer words of prayer when those are the only words we have left.
Rabbi Steven Moss, a chaplain at Sloan Kettering Hospital, writes this: “I recall once being asked to pray Psalms for a seven year old boy who was in a coma. As I prayed the ancient words, I knew I was not sure of the reason as to why I was praying. Was I asking for the child to come out of the coma and live a vegetable-like existence? Was I praying that the child would miraculously awaken from the coma and be totally cured of cancer? Or was I petitioning God to mercifully take this child’s life? In truth, I was asking for all three answers, as well as for none at all. For, by this act of prayer, I was not saying to God that I wanted one answer over the others; for each, in human, real-life terms, had its own difficulty. By this act of prayer, I was doing the only thing I knew to do at this desperate moment, which was to place this boy’s existence in God’s presence, through my presence of love and care for this child.”
That basically sums up how I felt when I prayed for my friend’s sick mom, especially towards the final stages. Sometimes, I’d stop midway and give up trying to articulate anything because I was so confused and do not know what exactly to ask. None of them are believers either, so that makes it a little more complex. But reagardless, I always end by placing her and her family in God’s presence.
Portions of this article are taken from Rabbi Marder’s sermon – A Prayer for Healing. In my next post, I will be sharing another article (also from Rabbi Marder) that explores what faith is, especially in times of crisis and desperation. It is one of the best commentary I’ve read on the subject of faith and it came at the right time as I’m seeking to make sense of the past week.
On my own, but mostly the savannah,
Where the tumbleweeds fade away and die,
Before the glassy sun burns a summer of crystals,
The glistering waters of the high seas
A place as far as of where vultures roam.
I looked around but you weren’t anywhere…
I used to think we were immortal,
What we had would never die.
Like rings on an old cedar,
Stronger and wider with age
Time was a friend.
Now the sea is wild with despair,
Deep blue like a prairie of flowers blue.
I saw you at the end,
You and I, as near as the breath upon our faces,
Before death in fancy costume led you away.
Eyes once sparkle with hope now full of tears,
Bitterly falling one after another into a river,
Then the river of life turned red in blood.
I watched in horror.
You disappeared without saying good-bye,
Not a word came out of your mouth.
You became like desolation in its grave.
When once the skies were a realm of stars
And the sun shone brightly in summer skies,
You were there to share the calmness;
But now I stand here in midst of the tall grass
And only the savannah remains.
(Adapted from an original poem by Artur Hawkwing. Picture from PBase Galleries)
I find this song hauntingly close to heart. For a long time I didn’t know I had shut the door to my heart. I toughen myself to the point that I was all self-sufficient. I was proud, proud of myself for being “strong”. I thought part of being strong is not be able to hurt again. Not until recent years did I realize I have been living a crippled life, neither having the ability to love without fear nor knowing how to receive love. I guess when we are dead, we do not know it. It took years for God to peel away layers of self-defense, skepticism and cynicism. Through his love I slowly begin to live. There even came a point where I was subconciously looking for people to love, to pour my heart, to share my life with.
I wish I could say that all is well from then on…. but it’s not. There have been times my heart was trampled on and treated with disregard. The sting of rejection and shame of insignificance intensifies with each careless word, forgotten promises and general attitude of indifference. Each time, I wanted to withdraw and shut myself in. Each time the layers form. It’s an experience all of us can identify with. Love, acceptance, friendship will not be coerced. When we extend our heart and share our life, there is never a guarantee, except of God, that it will not be be spurned. Even Jesus knows rejection. Since the beginning of time God’s love has been trampled on and spat upon by his own creation. When Jesus traded his crown of glory for a crown of thorns, do you think he was received with gratitude? But it does not stop him from coming anyway. Even if there is only one soul in the entire human race who will accept his love, he considers it worth it. I think God is insane!
For all of you whose heart has been broken, here’s a song for you. But I hope, for you as much as for me, we will not let any person or past experience cause our heart to harden. It does not mean hanging on to an abusive relationship. It means not allowing it to cripple us.
Because Of You by Kelly Clarkson
I will not make
The same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself
Cause my heart so much misery
I will not break
The way you did, you fell so hard
I’ve learned the hard way
To never let it get that far
Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt
Because of youI find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you I am afraid
I lose my way
And it’s not too long before you point it out
I cannot cry
Because I know that’s weakness in your eyes
I’m forced to fake
A smile, a laugh, every day of my life
My heart can’t possibly break
When it wasn’t even whole to start with
I watched you die
I heard you cry every night in your sleep
I was so young
You should have known better than to lean on me
You never thought of anyone else
You just saw your pain
And now I cry in the middle of the night
For the same damn thing
Because of you
Because of you
Because of you I am afraid
Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt
Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything
Because of youI don’t know how to let anyone else in
Because of youI’m ashamed of my life because it’s empty
Because of you I am afraid
Because of you