Profoundly Grateful

Just stopping to think about something to be grateful for today, I cannot help but to realize how lucky I am to be alive in this period of time, era, millennium – whatever you call it.

By just talking about talented people who have graced this century and to see their beginning, witness their successes, and finally their end of lives or careers, is quite awe inspiring.

I am glad to have lived through the era with the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Roxette, ABBA, Wilson Philips, Paula Abdul, Luther Vandross, Take That, Boyzone, NKOTB, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Blackstreet, Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony, 98 Degrees and many more. I grew up with and still enjoy the tunes of the past and present of Boyz][Men, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Billy Joel and the list goes on.

By just being still this morning and listening to the music that came on air over the radio, I continue to be glad and grateful for the voices of Adele, Sam Smith, John Legend, Adam Levine, and etc.

And to my joy, the Compact Disc (CD) is still relevant today. It is probably the only technology that has outlived many artistes of our times.

Though on the surface it may seemed trivial, I feel it is something quite profound. Who would have thought that I will be here, right now at this very moment and having the privilege to even hear the beautiful sound we call music? The perfect collision of each frequency so timely intertwined to produce a great piece of intangible art. One that speaks volume and have a way with the heart and mind. To strip it apart and to even know its existence is quite intriguing, don’t you think?

Now, if you would just hold on to that thought for a moment and apply it to the many aspects of your life, you may gain greater appreciation for the many technologies that we are able to utilize and simplify our lives, the amount of information at our fingertips, the ease of communication, and most of all, to have all these wonderful people we share our lives with.

Often times, we take for granted the trivial things while cultivating our minds to keep on desiring for more. We seldom revisit what we have obtained in the past both tangible and intangible especially those we have easily gained. We seemed to be telling ourselves “been there, done that, what’s next?” so often that we forget to slow down, reminisce, and just to appreciate how far in life we have come. Though sometimes, I do miss the past a little for old times’ sake but taking time to look back helps me to appreciate the opportunities and people more. By just being able to recall the past, it reminds that indeed I am very much alive and there are more experiences awaiting for me in this life. Yes, we do write wonderful stories and every chapter gets better through time.

I guess this is what it means to be blessed by grace.

ProfoundlyGrateful

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Authentic Religion

A few days ago, my cousin was complaining about why restaurants should stop using the word authentic to describe their cuisines. Most of the time, not only they miss the mark, the food taste horrible. Thus, the word authentic do not usually represent the quality it tries to define. There is a mismatch in terms of impression and expectation with what it actually should be.

Followers of the many religions in this world has been struggling with the same situation as well when it comes to expanding their “memberships”. Each trying to outdo the other in being the holiest, purest, most original, and authentic. But all these discourses, debates, and arguments are meaningless, useless, and make no sense when the religion professed is reflected poorly by the people representing it.

The reflection this week is rather confusing for me because as much as we want to celebrate and appreciate diversity, there is just so much in what we do that screams compliance in unison – the rituals and generic prayers we recite on a regular basis. At the same time while we are not “modernizing”, it seemed that we’re changing the means to the end. We are actually revolutionizing the methods but not the underlying principles.

In the end, I ask if anything and everything that we do are in accordance to God’s will. Perhaps we should stop making God or anyone else a scapegoat of our own ideals, (mis)interpretations, expectations, bad decisions and actions.

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. ~ Luke 23:3

Perhaps, nothing has ever been said about how and what we should do. Could it all be derived from what we perceived and interpreted? Faith can be so versatile and dynamic to the extent of being interpreted to fit our every justification. Are we like Pilate, always reading between the lines and coming into our own conclusions?

Does it matter that whoever is purest, holiest, most original, and authentic?

Just this week, someone said to me, “This life is what counts, let the next life worry for itself”. This statement does hit hard and holds a lot of weight. We are often too engrossed with what’s not here (yet) and it takes our focus away from what matters most at the present. I sometimes wonder why are we working so hard adhering to a set of rules set by people both past and present. People react and find solutions to problems the best they know how given the knowledge, exposure, and circumstances at a particular point of time in their lives. I do not think that there are hard and fast rules living life and life cannot be lived going by the books. It is just not that rigid or is it?

One of my children was upset with her sibling the other day. I told her that no one else have control over her emotions except herself. It is totally up to her to stay being upset and ruin her entire day or she can turn that around and have a great time. A few minutes later, she was back to her usual happy self.

What I am really trying to say is that, religion is really something very personal to every individual. You cannot make or force someone else embrace your religion and have them experience the same “miracles” in life as yours. Others may be drawn through curiosity how your desirable action resonates the goodness that is in you.

Instead of looking for the purest, holiest, most original, and authentic, I tend to believe that where we find goodness, there God dwells…

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True Love

A few days ago, a friend of mine was a little down. He was having some problems with his long distance relationship. His girlfriend have suddenly changed into a gold digger and it is getting rather obvious. I actually told him that it was a blessing that all these behaviors are surfacing now before he “sign” his life away. I even encouraged him to pull the plug and dump her.

In all seriousness, I cannot tolerate such nonsense. I told him that love goes both ways and he should always find someone that will complement him. A wife or husband should always bring out the best in his or her spouse. Together they should be a very strong team to face life’s challenges together.

Since I was very young, I have somehow developed a passion for beautiful love stories. I am always captivated by how loving people are and I like seeing good people falling in love.

Probably because of growing up in an environment that does not allow a boy to cry or show weakness, hugs and kisses usually and probably stopped at age 4 (I don’t remember when exactly). Perhaps for that reason, I grew up yearning for affection.

Then, puberty hits and it was cool to date. I was generous in sharing my heart and often times, things didn’t quite work out. And it hit me at one point of my dating days what I should look for in a serious relationship – I was 17.

The question was so clear – “WHO WILL I TRUST MY LIFE WITH?”

You see, sometimes a relationship can hang on a very fine thread. In today’s materialistic world, it is all about “WHAT CAN I GAIN?” and then there is the ego side of things – I wouldn’t want a cheapskate for a husband.

Generally speaking, it is even harder for those from a “face preservation” culture. Many things can bring shame to the family and anything shameful equates to “losing” one’s face so to speak. People tend to compare each other’s fortune and misfortune. A little less in dowry is seen as being shortchanged by the bridegroom. There are many small talks among fellow villagers and relatives that eventually pressure the bride and her family to “buck up”.

“You will only marry off your daughter once, so make sure you get as much return on investment for the years raising her” is not uncommon among the conservative community. I really do not see marriage as symbiosis in nature because if it is, one will suck the other dry and leave him/her eventually.

Don’t get me wrong and I must emphasize that I am very lucky because I was not born into an environment like the one I stated above. My parents may not show their affection physically through hugs and kisses but they are quite liberal in other areas. They were so proud of me on my wedding day.

My wife?

The most amazing person on earth and I can say with conviction, I CAN TRUST HER WITH MY LIFE.

We have been through a lot together and each challenge in our life together, made us even stronger. She is the best team mate I can ever ask for.

I met her when I was 14…

Right after asking myself “WHO WILL I TRUST MY LIFE WITH?” at 17, I decided to ask her to be my love…

I married her at 25…

We couldn’t afford many things back then.

There were no “professional” photographers. Our friends were helping us take regular photos. Some of them ended up being professional photographers themselves – talking about discovering one’s passion by accident. We couldn’t afford fancy invitation cards either so we designed and printed them ourselves. We couldn’t afford fancy wedding reception. We had a beautiful wedding mass in church and a simple luncheon.

I must say that our best moments were made through journeying together as husband and wife. We did not have that wedding hangover with debt haunting us. We did not have shortcuts – it was sheer hard work building our lives together as one unit.

Uncertainties are still aplenty but we trust that “God will provide” and we will survive whatever challenges that lies ahead of us – TOGETHER.

I can only count my blessings and thank God for a decade of blissful marriage.

I guess that to me is True Love?

Wedding

Paradigm Shift

With the leadership of Pope Francis, the church seemed to be evolving towards a much more positive direction as we see mercy and compassion being the common theme lately.

Growing up through to 80s and 90s, I get to observe and experience many paradigm shifts. From the shifts in computer languages to methods of parenting, so it is with the evolution of the church.

The sermon by the priest this morning confirms what I have written on my previous blog entry. He encouraged us to move away from a religion of sadness into one of joy and love. The gospel today was about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Indeed, it was a miracle of turning sadness into joy. The wine was seen here as the symbol of joy and love.

I believe most of us Asians who grew up through the 80s and 90s would agree that it was truly a school of hard knocks – literally. It was a punishment model rather than one that is of reward.

The belt, rattan cane, and feather duster are common themes in many households with children. I have had my fair share of skin split apart from caning – the struggle was real I tell ya!

The Rattan Cane
The Rattan Cane
The Feather Duster
The Feather Duster

And how many among us are familiar with the statements “Do not make God angry”, “You will go to hell if you…”, and “God is watching!”?

Parents in the old days found it really hard to bring up their children without instilling fear. Perhaps we still do but we have found it much more effective to explain and reason instead of resorting to the belt, cane, or feather duster.

I guess that is how a paradigm shift comes about. We are constantly gaining access to better knowledge and improve our methods in achieving or obtaining results. Through wisdom, we are able to progress in life.

I like to believe that the church is also learning and evolving through the years. Although we still have parishioners who are still accustomed to wearing that veil of old, conventional ways are slowly changing.

In my humble opinion, the moral stand can always remain while the practice can be dynamic. I couldn’t agree more with the priest this morning when he said that we should not allow the religion to be so dead set with legalities, rules, and petty customs/rituals.

Contrary, Jesus brought about a religion of love and joy. Turning water into wine is akin to turning sorrow into joy. Giving him the dull water and to be given wine in return is more than a sign that Jesus only wanted us to be cheerful and happy.

And indeed, after a few glasses of wine, it goes without saying that most of us can be a very happy and joyful…

Be Not Afraid

Happy New Year to you if you are reading this! It has been quite an amazing 2015 and it did end on a high note for me in many ways. I can only look forward to another amazing year and wish the same for you.

Between my last post and today, many incidents have taken place and I find it a little strange to touch on a “heavy” subject for a first post of the new year.

“Be Not Afraid”

These are the words I remember from Pope John Paul II’s tenure as the head of the church and how much strength they gave me during my times of hardship.

I have previously written what I thought about God being the ultimate good and He holds no negative undertone. Some may disagree by quoting how violent and punishing God is but to me written scriptures should not be taken literally as they are a form of expression and subjected to interpretations. I suppose the bible is called the living word of God for this reason.

Based on certain teachings derived from the various interpretations of the same bible, some have learned to believe in a God of love, abundance, and joy while others have developed fear. Depending on our upbringing and culture as well, some tend to take positive approaches while others may be of fear instilling in nature.

While growing up, I had my fair share of experiences of being the receiving end of punishments and the fear instilling methods. I guess not many knew how to take the positive approach to capture my attention and challenge my inquisitive mind. It could have been the culture and made worse by a one system fits all environment.

I recently witnessed the application of the term “God fearing”. While having a dscussion with a residential council member, he referred to himself as “God fearing” in an attempt to justify questions he found it hard to explain.

A few weeks later, the same person asked me the question – “Who are we to say what is right or wrong? Today it might be right but tomorrow it can be wrong”.

I guess this is exactly the problem with most “God fearing” people. Giving themselves excuses to run away from their responsibilities. They are not self sufficient enough to make good decisions – always waiting on God for answers and instructions. And if things go wrong, they will just settle for “its God’s will”. I always wondered how God give them answers or where they go seek for His instructions.

I reckon that it could be from the bible since most Christian can quote you the bible to justify everything but the bible surely do not lay down the rules and steps to manage/run a corporate company or a residential council. The bible I know helps form one’s conscience to differentiate right from wrong. It is full of wisdom and rich in history but never to be taken literally.

I prefer to look at God in a different light. God is actually my team mate. I have formed a reasonable conscience through the lessons taught in the bible. I cannot say that I have the entire bible imprinted on my mind but I do know it reasonably well enough to be blessed with a rational thinking mind. I also have the faith to know that God will always be at the center of all my challenges and decisions. He sees me through anything and everything.

The “new age” likes to talk in terms of the “universe” and “law of attraction”. But actually, the Christians have discovered this a long time ago. It is only now being “packaged” with different terms and definitions.

Essentially, there is a quote in the bible that defines exactly what the gist of “law of attraction” really is. And I quote Matthrew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

What I am really trying to say is that, nothing good comes about when it is derived from fear. I am opined that God is not someone we should fear but instead, He is our best team mate in this game called life.

We really ought to start taking responsibility and ownership of our lives, Be Not Afraid, and have faith knowing that it is perfectly alright to explore, learn, and grow in this life we are so fortunate to be blessed with. We are not here to wait on others. We are here to write a unique and beautiful story belonging exclusively to us as an individual.

The book I believe is called The Book Of life…

Uniquely made for a purpose.
Uniquely made for a purpose.