Friday, July 28, 2006

Making sense out of giving.

Many times, my conversations with people about callings, vocations and missions end in a very confusing note. We probably would be very agreeable to being a witness for Christ in general. But, most Christians would probably run for cover the moment specific callings are being raised. Perhaps, we have been too comfortable with generic terms. Corporate calling has been played down so much that it has seemed to us a choice that we can choose to take or reject, not a commission to be upheld with great stride.

But, God above all, is not a God ‘in general’. I believe He has called us corporately to be His witnesses. And at the same time, He also calls us individually by giving us unique means to be His witnesses effectively. Perhaps this is why God is not only addressed as the God of Israel but also specifically, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I admit that the journey to knowing our callings individually is anything but a stroll by the beach. Sometimes, it is upon seeing a painful scenario of poverty, hunger and sickness. Sometimes, it is about dealing with ‘mismatched’ gifts and passion and meeting with more urgent needs. Sometimes, it is about experiencing little self-deaths through the loss of loved ones. But whatever dynamic experiences we would have to go through to discern our specific callings, it is almost certain that all of us would have to struggle with it first.

Having struggled with possibilities after possibilities does not however, necessarily make us professionals at discerning God’s will for us. The necessary turning point for us is to be able to pray God’s will for us- a prayer that aligns with the exact calling He has for us. And it will never be a prayer after God’s will if we do not die to ourselves and the worldly desires that grip us and at the same time, we are gripping at.

To make things more difficult, it is more than just letting go that Porsche and home in Tropicana. It may even be about letting go that beat-up Kancil in place of a rusty bike, that room in the city for a shack along the Mekong delta or even someone whom you would very much want to be your future spouse. Whatever it is that grips our hearts most, it is only upon releasing it that we can be released to be truly servants and witnesses of God.

Grappling with the fears of uncertainties is both tiresome and terrifying. It may even lead us to making hasty and unwise decisions sometimes. All the more, it is a course of humility and pride- being humble enough to surrender and proud enough to offer and know it is wholly accepted by God. It is the story of the woman who gave little in the eyes of others but gave much in the eyes of our Lord simply because she gave her all.

So, it is that simple. And at the same time, most difficult.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

True spirituality

“THE THREE GREAT CHALLENGES TO RELIGION AND SOCIETY - A PROPOSAL FOR TRUE SPIRITUALITY”

by Dr Ravi Zacharias
Visiting Professor at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University

Date : 17 August 2006 (Thursday)
Time : 3.00 p.m.
Venue : Auditorium, Asia Europe Institute, University of Malaya

Please reply: 14th August 2006
Tel: 03-7967 5697 / 7967 5468 Fax: 03- 7967 5692
dialog@um.edu.my

Abstract-

"Culture is the effort to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront all human beings in the passage of their lives," suggests sociologist Daniel Bell. Yet one of the symptoms of a society that has lost its ability to think critically is that it deals with life-defining realities such as who we are as human beings in a simplistic manner. Furthermore, a culture that loses its shame, its power of reason, and its sense of meaning has little to hope for in the future. What has brought this demise about? Many scholars have attributed it to the eroding processes of secularization, pluralization and privatization. This lecture examines these 3 challenges and proposes a deeper and hopeful understanding of who we are and who we are meant to be.

Lovely.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Detached.


I believe that Man is made with a sense of purpose. Whether we believe in a purposeful God or not does not diminish our hunger to know what we are here for. Yet, living with a purpose can be merely as superficial as living for promotions and material wealth. But, I cannot say the same about another when he claims that he lives for the person whom he loves dearly.

There is nothing superficial about living and laying down lives for loved ones. Buddhism abhors emotional attachment to anything of this world, including human relationships. But, what of it? Man are made to be relational beings.

The noun “I’ is only made meaningful with references to “You” or “He”, “She” and “It”. All of us are someone else’s daughter, son, cousin, mother, father, sister or brother. Relationships are what make us humans. Religion- even in its plurality is more sociological than it is philosophical. That is why; there is no religion in this world that is embraced alone. No mosque is built for one person and no temple has only one kneeling mat.

Yet, living for a person is not the highest pursuit that Man ought to find fulfilling. A purpose that stops short at loving the created would be idolatry in nature. A purpose that demands one to love another in order for that very same person to gain meritorious acknowledgement negates true love in any sense. And the biggest flaw in meritorious acknowledgement is the attachment that the doer has for it, which is abhorred upon in the first place.

What we need rather, is a deeper understanding of purposeful loving. Loving the person is meaningless if we do not know why we ought to love the person at all. Charity is even more meaningless for it would have meant that we ought to love someone whom others have considered not worth loving at all.

However, when we begin to understand that loving our neighbours as ourselves is actually a deeper reflection of love towards God, our Creator; our disposition at loving others begins to fall into the right places. Our love, therefore; is no longer bestowed upon others so that we need something better, but because we have nothing better - a perfect template of Love Himself; when He bore excruciating pain and sufferings on the cross to redeem us from being slaves to Sin and slaves in Hell.

We therefore no longer love for value’s sake, but for Love’s sake. We no longer live merely for someone else but for God. This is what I call a true detachment from the world.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

90 minutes.

I was watching a football match, (perhaps one in every 4 years) and rooting for Germany (surely, the first time in 2 decades) to win the match. It was most ironic, for Germany was once a most despised country not too long ago and its players were perhaps the grandsons of those who running the Auschwitz. But today, it is a sovereign country, technologically propelling and made most popular and populous by other nations that flock into their stadiums for the World Cup season. Surely, it was beyond the world’s imagination 60 years ago.

And to think, only 60 years have passed since Israel as a nation wondered where God was. Only 60 years since many of them threw their faith away as they were thrown into gas chambers and pits they themselves had dug. By historical means, the Holocaust is very much contemporary. Is 90 minutes of this night ever enough for the forgiveness of those who still have numbers tattooed to their arms? Is 90 minutes a worthy time for Germans to be cheered on, both as host to World Cup and as respectable footballers?

I sure hope it is. But, it is a very timid hope- a hope that would perhaps, find its way to the core of dispute among people. But the basis of my hope is merely upon reading this-

“Let us try to imagine what goes on in the child’s mind as his eyes watch rings of black smoke unfurl in the sky, smoke that emanates from the furnaces into which his little sister and his mother had been thrown after thousands of other victims. For him, Nietzsche’s cry articulated an almost physical reality: God is dead, the God of love, of gentleness and consolation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had, under the watchful gaze of this child, vanished forever into the smoke of the human holocaust demanded by the Race, the voracious of all idols.

“For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where-hanging here from this gallows.” And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child?

What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world? Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine?

And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which faith of his childhood was lost? We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace, If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him. That is what I should have said to the Jewish child.

But all I could do was embrace him and weep”. – Francois Mauriac, on the foreword of Night; a memoir of those perished in the Holocaust.

And what of the rest of the German nation? Each one, tainted by the blood of the Jews that his neighbour, colleague or friend has caused to shed. Each man scarred because of dumb pride. I can hardly speak for both nations. But, what I see words failed, football seemed to have made it all happened. It made people from all around the world put up with all other differences and tolerate with only one- which team you are supporting. It made squabbling nations sit next to each other and cheer when conferences drive them into building long-range missiles against one another. It made language becomes a secondary barrier to cultural understanding. It made a nation, no longer embarrassed by its national pride. Healthy pride, that is.

If only people paid this much attention to football in 1941.