Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prayer - Loving from a distance

(the usual drill - credits for the pix here)

There will be times when others hurt us so badly that we're left reeling in shock,
flailing about and struggling to come to terms with what happened.
And the commandment to love seems nothing more than an impossible mockery,
something beyond our capabilities. We scream out for justice. Vengeance.
Or sit in a stunned silence, unable to respond, numb to everything.
It is in those times that I've found, prayer is loving such people from a distance.
In time, through this prayer, although the distance remains, we find forgiveness and peace.

We find that loving is not an impossible task, simply that we need to draw upon God to open our hearts
and His infinite source and supply of love. He supplies the grace, it is for us to yield to Him.
The painful feelings and memories. will be there, but they are never the end of the matter.
What is forgiveness then but another facet of love?
And forgiveness, I have found, is not just my matter,
but His, all in all.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Reflection 2011

*picture credits here*

It has been a very busy Advent for me, the kind that sets off and starts out with hustle and much more bustle :-
1. on the work front - changes in my job scope and a fresh set of challenges;
2. CG, wrapping up for 2011 and preparing for 2012, and sending off one of our dear brothers in Christ, George;
3. tidying up the house here in KD and preparing for homecoming as my aunt, uncle and cousins come back for a Christmas visit.

and preparing to meet the Christ child, somehow, at the back of my heart and mind, underneath all this running around and chaos. Year after year, I know it:-
the angel appears, Mary says Yes, Jesus is born, the angels sing, the shepherds come and worship, then the 3 wise men and then Christ is presented to Simeon ... I can recite these events in quick succession.
But what does it all mean? I've spent very little time thinking about this, and even less praying about this. Instead, I've accepted this sequence of events - one leading to another - to finally end on the Cross and the Resurrection 3 days after.

And so I wait, as I have been told, Advent is the season to wait for Christ's birth and His coming as a child. In darker moments, I wonder what exactly I am waiting for, sorely tempted to bury myself in the restless rush of presents, parties, food, festive fun. Or work, in a more sadistic frame of mind.

Until one fine day, when dried and drained out by all the giving giving giving that everyone has demanded so far, I just sit in silence, all by myself before the Blessed Sacrament. Nursing the remnants of the flu, there's only my sniffling slightly and the quiet of the place. So much louder and more eloquent than any words anyone could say. I hear nothing else, but I leave with a sense of peace and a comforted heart. No answers, but just that.

I was thinking : let me be content with that then. Then, 2 days later, circling a parking lot in vain for a space, deep within me, a sense of God's love suffusing within my heart. The words of Isaiah 43 echo - that He regards me as precious, and has given people in exchange for me, and nations in return for my life. Suddenly, His love overwhelmed me and I realised how little I understood its depth and breadth. Over mountains, into seas of flames, He would pursue me, calling out my name over and over till He was hoarse and in the end, die for me.

In this discovery of love did I enter into the scene at the manger. Tentatively, shyly (here I was year in, year out, calling myself a believing, practising Catholic and yet not appreciating this miracle), I came forward.
The Blessed Virgin smiled at me warmly. She beckoned me to come closer and invited me, "Here, touch his cheeks". So I gently placed my hands on the Christchild's cheeks, this newborn. Divine. And yet in that moment, so vulnerable. I felt my breath lost in the beauty of the moment, the sheer hopefulness. New life began here - at this very point and both Mother Mary and Christ invited me in.
I could read the Christmas story over and over again, but until I myself came in and saw Him there, it was always something outside of me, the wrapping on a present I paid scarce attention to. But now I know, the birth of Christ is the gift itself.

Wishing all of you a truly blessed Christmas and that may you experience His love more and more in the coming year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcoming the Christ child

O Come O come Emmanuel - welcoming the Christ child.

When I consider the state of my heart and mind, and my relations with others, I cannot help but compare and see the distinct similarities with a manger filled with animals mooing and bleating and the smell of dung and heat. And yet, of all places He could be born in, the Christ child was born there - giving me hope that despite all this, He is there waiting to come into this world, into my messy world.

December's always been the time of year when I take stock of my life and see where I've gone before and where I have yet to go. I enjoy the spiritual spring-cleaning that the Advent pentitential service helps me to do. In so many ways, sin has become less about not doing wrong than recognising patterns in my life which do not meet the mark of Christ and of asking for His mercy in areas where I struggle greatly in. He's not keeping score, but like the best parents any of us could ever ask for, He is encouraging me to take those baby steps into becoming more like Him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All that we have

"Sometimes the road may be lonesome,
Often we may lose our way,
But take courage and always remember,
Love isn't just for a day"

The first Yes we owe to would be to God, and it is to this Yes that i return to when things are rough, and i don't understand or seem able to cope with whatever's swirling about me and i feel all alone.
Comforted by His love and assurances, i come to realise that much as i trust Him more than i trust myself, He is inviting me to learn to trust myself as a beloved of His, gifted, empowered, enabled. It doesn't mean i won't make mistakes along the way, but it does mean, that no matter the mistake or wrong turns i make, with Him in me and by my side, i can pick myself up and go back on the path and learn from Him.

Lately, i've been reflecting on this a lot - Matthew 11 :29 as i m struck by the gentleness and humility of Christ's heart and i sense a calling to imitate those qualities in my work and ministry efforts. Much i have to learn from those around me, but above all, my love is for God and His truth.

'Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'

Monday, October 24, 2011

A cynic is a failed idealist

(taken from here)

A blog post after a long, long time - and inspired by Fr Simon's homily last Sunday :-
A cynic is failed idealist.

Thinking out loud here, as a former idealist (not a failed one, i would hope), it's probably because it's frightening to let go of all those impressions and illusions that one holds dear about people and the things around us. So when things go wrong and people fail to measure up, it's a lot easier to descend into cynicism and say nothing works at all and everything's in a mess and why bother trying anyway because in the end, things will just turn ugly anyhow.

It takes a lot more courage to reach out of that Pollyanna-like state *sunshine roses and all things sweet* to move into realism which is not necessarily something dark, grim but one that accepts and acknowledges the good and the bad in life. That to me is living with grace, to take both, to give thanks in both and to not lose hold on a spirit that wills to make not just my life, but the lives of the people around me that little bit better.

And when you're so bitter and so cynical - as the poster says, chances are good, you want something so bad and you're not getting it and so you give up and sink into this state of being ... just because it's easier.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Family Tree - Matthew West

Except for the Vampire Diaries references, this song is super awesome, and it made me cry the first time I heard it on the radio.

For those who suffer the burdens of sins passed down from the family tree, take heart that God has a plan for all of us and that He loves us. When you first realise it, you will be filled with resentment and yet, beyond that resentment, is a calling to overcome and prevail, and to put the past in its proper place. There will be many tears and recriminations, only our own flesh and blood has such power to destroy for such an extended period of time, with no let up seemingly. Strangers we can brush by, our friends perhaps a little less so. But the wounds our family inflicts stay for the longest time, til they become part of our personhood, woven into our stories, bright eyed indignation to muffled cries at night and an inchoate feeling of dissatisfaction and anger and unsettledness.

Even then, deep down, who has not truly desired leaving a legacy that is meaningful? To bring about new life? That natural instinct springs from deep within us, finding ways to override all that disappointment and failures before. And that instinct can only find its complete fulfilment in Christ, who first leads us to realising that there is a bigger life ahead,a truer, deeper and much more lovely life that begins in forgiveness.

Sometimes i think - those who hurt us, provide the wood for us us to build a bridge to understanding others better. Each time we seek to forgive, we nail the pieces of wood together and make them sturdy, something constructive, not just ugly pieces of driftwood, useless and full of splinters.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Metanoia =A Change of Heart. A Change of Outlook. Recognising the wounds and asking for healing, in all areas of life - be it work or love or family or outmoded ideas which need to be discarded.

And above all, remembering that whatever is true can sometimes sting, but first make the truth your own. Before you can listen to the voices outside, learn to listen to the voice within struggling to make itself heard above the din of expectations, praise, blame, guilt and so on. And when the peace settles in slowly, and you stop thrashing about vainly to stop the pain and frustration, you begin to find clarity of heart and mind, and then slowly - answers.

We turn our faces away from the sun, shielding our eyes, and yet, we are still drawn to the God of light and love. The entire slant, angle of our posture, bodies and souls, facing Him and gazing upon Him in awe, wonder and gratitude. The love which spills into all our actions and thoughts.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Birthday - Life Lessons and Hope

I celebrated my 28th Birthday not too long ago - and one of the discoveries I made on that day was that I'm thankful for the well-wishes given me by my friends and family via sms,email and of course, the ubiquitous fb. So many wishes that I am yet to reply to - thank you for your patience and kindness.

But more importantly was the discovery that hey, my birthday is just another day and that whatever happens, good or bad, the day WILL pass into the next. I used to get so upset when people forgot my significant day or made things difficult for me etc on that day especially but now I accept it. Not with a desolate resignation but simply recognising that the world doesn't revolve around me. Life isn't obliged to be nice to me. Whatever is good I accept graciously, whatever is bad I try and learn from it, and not cling too tightly to it for danger of blinding myself to my present blessings.

So to the more adult self - think of St Therese Lisieux at her moment of conversion in her youth, praise be to God. I will pray for strength and wisdom to tide the days ahead.


My grandma is in the hospital after having coughed up blood - reminiscences of the time she was warded in the CCU when I was in 3rd year of law school and when she was so very ill. We are all worried and upset, considering that she just celebrated 60 years of marriage to my grandfather last Thursday. And yet, hope by prayer is what keeps us going.

There are no guarantees in this fragile existence granted us. The important thing is to be of good courage and cheer and to face the troubles head on. Happiness is fleeting, but joy sits in the heart and propels us forward from within even when things are at a loss outwardly.

I am glad I am around at home to help out and to spend time with her in the hospital - such a blessing it is, indeed, to be able to serve and love our family in person even in the middle of difficult moments! Would I have traded all those moments I spent with my grandparents with fun and 'happening' moments elsewhere? Even to running further and further ahead career wise? No, and the certainty of this conviction eases my doubts about my major decision earlier.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Putting my hand to the plough

Putting one's hand to the plough - picture credits here.

Luke 9:62 -Jesus said to him, 'Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'

It is human nature to look back after a decision is made - think of Lot's wife, perhaps she only glanced back when they were fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah and yet, how swiftly she was turned into a pillar of salt! Was her transformation into that self-same pillar the mark of a vengeful and exacting God who demands that we follow His instructions to the letter or simply a natural consequence of her own inner division which made her unable to let go of the life and place she knew before?

Undoubtedly the Lord does place demands on all of us, the life of a Christian disciple is marked by both affirmations (of love) and challenges - and this point is canvassed at greater length here. It follows that obedience is required to live this life out fully. Obedience is one of the ways to overcome the inner division inside all of us, that we are not as different from Lot's wife as we might think we are.

I know I am loved by God, and that He has sent me here, home for a purpose, and in obedience to His good plan for me, I want to learn from the steadfastness that Jesus teaches and not look back. Sometimes I wonder at what I have given up, and memories of a time back in 2004 when I had to decide between Law Soc and Catholic Students Society UM (I chose CSSUM, resulting in the most stressful year of law school I went through but the one which God helped me pull through by His grace and mercy) come up again. The reality of the situation is that He has been preparing me all this while, so much so that even when I dread another difficult decision which has to be made - I learn that He is present in every difficult decision and that by plunging whole heartedly into it, I am entering fully into the moment with Him and learning to be more and more like Him.

Yes, a decision has been made and with it, the knowledge that I need to put my hand to the plough and be brave and not look back. Look ahead bravely. On a less serious note, as my grandma said, if God really wanted us to look back, He would have given us eyes at the back of our head! One slow small step at a time now ...

Friday, June 24, 2011

There's something about journeys

There's something about journeys that make us want to record it, take photos, record the moments, write about it. I was reminded of this when my LLM classmate commented that he couldn't upload the photos of our commencement on fb immediately and we would most likely have to wait for the official photos to come in.

I suppose in my own way, I also record, keep track, measure, look back at what I have gone through. Even if not all comes up as pix on fb, there are notes, my previous blog posts, fragments and pieces of animated and sometimes painful, awkward conversations which keep me going and become faded sepia in the passage of time. In fact, this blog was started specifically for sharing my insights as I journeyed pretty much on my own in Singapore. (altho credit must go to my wonderful mentor and friends and family who have supported me by their kindness, prayers and presence above all)

What about now you ask? I am learning to trust my own experience and to believe that no matter what has happened, I need to take on the Creator's attitude of taking all the scraps I rejected as unsightly and make something beautiful out of them. And having many choices, as Fr Simon Yong told me last year, is not the same as choosing - once chosen, as the verse goes, putting my hand to the plough, I will not look back.

I used to think that if only I knew, if only I could see and think and plan ahead, life would be so much better. Now it's just one crazy mess, and I don't even know if I'm trying hard enough, or I've done or need to do more, or just selling out or caving in. Or maybe I'm all of those.
But keeping still, I press my ear to the heart in the quiet - where I hear desires that I have long suppressed and know where I am happiest, and how much of a leap of faith I will need to take. I do need to choose, and do it in faith, and hope and trust that whatever happened before, whatever brokenness and wounds I've experienced, they do not define me and that God is guiding me towards the right path.

Salmon swim upstream, I am probably insane to even consider wanting to come back when hordes of people are abandoning the ship, saying it's going to sink. Question is: who's bigger? Or what is? The rotten and crooked System that punishes the capable and rewards the rich, powerful and connected? Or the Lord who knows what fulfills me and strengthens me and gives me happiness? Yes I was looking for confirmation, some sort of affirmation that I am on the right track, that I'm not crazy. I didn't hear anything but a confused jumble of voices advising me to go further, try harder etc etc. The more I listened, the more I felt guilty and irrational for entertaining thoughts of homecoming instead of putting even further out. The notion of a leap of faith comes back to me, life here which is hollow and unsatisfying and yet perhaps capable of growing me and realising those dreams I have for me and my family despite those struggles ... and yet can I make something better out of what lies ahead by choosing to go home and seemingly make do with less - this unambitious girl who has sold herself short? For whatever is, I do have those dreams and desires which perhaps only my Maker knows best that I want to realise. And He alone can provide me the means of doing so.

Yes there's something about journeys - in that besides wanting to record, we also want to know there is a destination in sight. I know that short of Heaven, nothing is perfect. I just want to be where I can be whole and say Goodbye and God bless to that which I leave behind. And be at peace with what I've done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Desolation / Entanglement / Finding my way back to God

Hello all faithful readers of my blog - it has been that long since I last updated! This in part to my finishing up the LLM over at NUS. Commencement is on 5th July, Deo Gratias as He had truly given me the grace to complete the journey, especially during the last few rough weeks.

Looking back in order for me to look ahead, I've chosen the image of a spiral staircase (this photo was taken at the National Museum of Singapore which I visited a week after my last exam paper) to illustrate my journey thus far.

The time in Singapore has been much more of desolation rather than consolation, and I have often felt painfully lonely rather than blissfully solitary, missing all the things and the life I knew before back home and experiencing difficulty fitting into the community here, Catholic or otherwise.
At other times, I just remember working working working as I was wont to do to forget the sorrow as well as being fuelled by a competitive Type A streak which I had thought was long dormant within me. I am not descending into a self-pitying rant here, only chronicling these struggles helps me understand why I made these mistakes and why I did what I did. The answer is always in the pain.

So one thing led to another, and I found myself in an emotional entanglement, placing divine hopes on a very human person. Disappointment ensued from sins of omission, sins of commission. I learned that the only way to forgiveness is to pray for the person(s) involved and I did so, allowing me to let go and even laugh a little at the absurdity of it all.
As the initial flame burst of wounded emotions and a sense of betrayal died down, I stared at the embers and realised that my soul-deep loneliness had led me there, causing me to see what was never there, and to try and create an enclave of happiness to shield myself from the gaping empty hole I felt inside me. But it couldn't work, because I was frantically doing this without listening to God's gentle warnings against it - whether in my heart deep down, or my family or friends.

The embers are fast becoming ashes now, and I am finding my way back to God. Where once I was a shivering soul trying to warm myself by the light of a candle (pretty impossible!), I will now seek the fire of His love to warm my heart, my soul, my mind. It's not disdaining human company, but learning to move from loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, from illusion to prayer (as Henri Nouwen put in his absolutely stirring and lovely book, 'Reaching Out'). He must come first and from Him, all goodness and wholeness flows.

Why then the spiral staircase? Because it's me ascending towards God, as I go higher up the staircase, I am looking down at my life, the same old issues and problems but it all gets so much clearer with this renewed understanding. :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Crossing the New Year - Occidental/Oriental

Happy New Year! (By now it's past both the Occidental and Oriental new years :)

Blowing the dust off this blog, I remember a late night feeling bored and restless, and then getting inspired to create a new space for me to share my thoughts and feelings on the Faith and so many other things in solitary Singapore. Solitary despite being so densely packed, 4 million people and all ... and you find yourself wanting and needing so badly to express yourself that you write. Anything and anywhere except maybe on public walls. The police are everywhere. Or some random STOMPer who will send your pic to be condemned by all and sundry.

Well, I thank everyone who's stopped by and read my blog cos it kept me going the whole of last sem (which I managed to pass, by the grace of God). There were times when I wondered if this whole thing was a colossal mistake, but I saw it through to year's end so I think that counts for something.

In a certain order, I hope to :-

1. Pass my lifesaving test and finish off the LLM as best as I can;
2. Discern and pray as to what is next. If all goes well, I hope to be able to attend a directed retreat before I start on the next milestone;
3. Tidy up my resume and cast my nets - let's see what comes up; and
4. Spend more time with my family and friends;
5. Write more poetry and hopefully maybe, get it published? I'm still thinking about this one though.
6. Develop a greater and more steadfast faith in God; and
7. ... Discovering that certain parts of me were not as dead as I thought them, figure out what's next ...

Do continue to pray for me as I keep all of you in my prayers and know that whatever it is, solitary or in a crowd, you are loved. Like the lil clueless person with the map up there, I will need GPS and not just a map to get around - GOD Positioning System! Hoho. :)