Struggles

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Past couple of weeks have been quite a struggle for me to keep up with the demands of life – it was just too much to bear. Once again, I am at the juncture of seeking clarity. I guess partly the problem lies in the expectations I have on others as well as on myself. The frustrating part is that this ineffable feeling of sadness seemed to return to haunt me very so often.

Stumbled across a few articles online I thought was worth sharing:

1. 8 Reasons Why People Feel Lost in Their Lives

2. Hunter S. Thompson’s Monumental Letter on How to Find Meaning and Purpose in Life

3. 10 Quotes To Help You Live an Authentic Life

Nonetheless, I wish and hope you’re having a good weekend, my friends…

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Travel Mercies

Last October, I was very “fortunate” to board a plane from San Francisco to Houston. It was a night flight and just before we depart, the pilot made an announcement. I was too tired to focus on his announcement and the only sentence I heard was “…we all know what’s going on in Texas, don’t we?”. I was totally oblivious with what was happening in Texas and did not think much about it after being in transit for many hours.

No matter how much my pilot friends tried to convince me that flying is the safest mode of transportation, I am always jittery when planes go through bad weather and turbulence. With the many incidents throughout 2015, they added up to the anxiety each time I board a plane. However one dies, death is never depicted as a pleasant experience.

About an hour before landing at Houston airport, I saw the air stewardess frantically taking her seat after hanging up the receiver.

Almost immediately, what seemed to be the end of my life happened. The nearest and best way I can describe the situation is through the scenes of a Vietnam war movie when military transport planes go through war zone in the storm.

It wasn’t any regular turbulence that I have experienced for the past years. It wasn’t the regular “bounce” but a full fledged roller coaster in motion while you are consciously aware that there were no tracks beneath.

For those of us who knows what gravity is while maintaining the thought of being in mid air can be more than a terrifying experience. It was no longer butterflies in my stomach. The butterflies have turned into a huge T-Rex trying to rip my stomach apart in an attempt to escape. I was beyond terrified, I had cramps!

There and then, I thought to myself that it was all up to the pilot, the plane, or God. Either one giving up on us, I will cease to exist…

I have not been praying much as of late but at that point, I can remember all the prayers I have learned during my faith formation years. I recited my prayers so fast that it almost sounded like I was going into tongues! I kept on telling myself that if I can get through that storm, I will no longer fear flying (not true).

After 30 minutes of terror, as soon as the storm started, it vanished and we started descending. Later did I know from the news at Houston airport, it was called Hurricane Patricia.

I guess it is quite natural for us believers in any religion to call on the Almighty when faced with difficult situations that are out of our control.

Before traveling, I have a habit of finding out locations of churches nearby my destinations. How can you not give thanks and praise to God for being alive after a long haul flight? It must be His grace that kept us all safe and alive.

I enjoy going to the nearby church early before service starts and have some quiet time recharging my soul. Here are some of the places of worship my soul was blessed to find solace and peace…

St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest
St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest
St. Stephen's Basilica - Altar
St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest – Altar
Canada - St Michael's Catholic Cathedral 1 (Small)
St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto
Canada - St Michael's Catholic Cathedral 2 (Small)
St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto
Canada - St Michael's Catholic Cathedral 3 (Small)
St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto
Canada - St Patrick's Catholic Church 1 (Small)
St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Canada - St Patrick's Catholic Church 2 (Small)
St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Canada - St Patrick's Catholic Church 3 (Small)
St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Toronto – Altar
Canada - St Patrick's Catholic Church 4 (Small)
St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Canada - St. Basil's Catholic Church 1 (Small)
St. Basil’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Canada - St. Basil's Catholic Church 2 (Small)
St. Basil’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Canada - St. Basil's Catholic Church 5 (Small)
St. Basil’s Catholic Church, Toronto
Korea - Yeoksam Catholic Church 1 (Small)
Yeoksam Catholic Church, Gangnam, South Korea
Korea - Yeoksam Catholic Church 2 (Small)
Yeoksam Catholic Church, Gangnam, South Korea
Korea - Yeoksam Catholic Church 3 (Small)
Yeoksam Catholic Church, Gangnam, South Korea
Mexico - Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 1 (Small)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
Mexico - Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 2 (Small)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
Mexico - Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 3 (Small)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico – Altar
Mexico - Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 5 (Small)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
Philippines - St John Bosco Parish - Santa Rosa, Laguna (Small)
St. John Bosco Parish – Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines
USA-FL-St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church 3 (Small)
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Boca Raton, Florida
USA-FL-St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church 1 (Small)
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Boca Raton, Florida
USA-FL-St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church 2 (Small)
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Boca Raton, Florida
USA-IN-St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church 1 (Small)
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Angola, Indiana
USA-IN-St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church 2 (Small)
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Angola, Indiana
USA-LA-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 1 (Small)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles
USA-LA-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 2 (Small)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles
USA-LA-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 4 - Altar (Small)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles – Altar
USA-LA-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 5 - Saints (Small)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles – Saints
USA-LA-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 6 - Pipe Organ (Small)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles – Pipe Organ
USA-LV-Guardian Angel Cathedral 1 (Small)
Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas
USA-LV-Guardian Angel Cathedral 2 (Small)
Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas
USA-LV-Guardian Angel Cathedral 3 (Small)
Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas – Altar
USA-LV-Guardian Angel Cathedral 4 - Side Chapel (Small)
Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas – Side Chapel
USA-NY-St. Patrick's Cathedral 1 - Altar Of St. Jude (Small)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York – Altar Of St. Jude
USA-NY-St. Patrick's Cathedral 2 - Altar Of The Holy Face (Small)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York – Altar Of The Holy Face
USA-NY-St. Patrick's Cathedral 3 - Our Lady Of New York (Small)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York – Our Lady Of New York
USA-NY-St. Patrick's Cathedral 4 (Small)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
Vietnam - Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica 1 (Small)
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, Vietnam
Vietnam - Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica 2 (Small)
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, Vietnam
Vietnam - Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica 3 (Small)
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, Vietnam

Fear Is Curse

“You better listen to me or else…”

“You must obey God or else…”

How often do we find ourselves in such predicament that we utter these words? Especially when we are faced with an intelligent child who explores well beyond our comfortable boundaries we defined as discipline, we tend to instill fear in them. The fear of the unknown or even a guilt trip can be used as temporary measure to keep others at bay and deter them from crossing our comfort zone.

Often times we do not realize that the ideas we put into others to instill fear is indeed some sort of curse. If one does not heed our advice, he or she will be cursed with a negative outcome. The question now becomes, is there no other better alternatives besides the negative outcome?

Perhaps we should pause and think about how we can re-invent ourselves towards the positive axis in life. There is so much truth in Jon Jandai’s presentation (video below). We live in an era that boast of so much advancement but we seemed to be over burdened and unhappy.

Or we should start looking for new methods in spending time on what matters most and will have a positive impact on the future as suggested by Rory Vaden (video below).

I believe we can reverse the curse by simply stopping the accumulation of fear – the fear of not having enough. In order to achieve that, we should start by changing our habits one at a time.

I guess instead of cursing our children with fear, we should first eliminate the fear in ourselves. The fear of not having enough influence over them that is…

Insanity

Almost

Looking back upon my life thus far, I have had many near wins. I am sure many of us have those moments when after giving it our all, we came in 2nd. Sometimes the reason for being 2nd was by our own effort while others may be due to external factors.  Some may call them regrets while others may use them as inspirations to live out the “YOLO” belief. I promised myself not to write a post about regrets but instead, it should be about why I think we should all persevere and stay focus in whatever we set out to do in life.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and that means that the season of Lent is upon us. I have been thinking hard about what Lent meant to me in previous years. A sudden feeling of anger and disappointment came upon me thinking about all the obligations required of me. What I have practiced for so many years has become a little jaded to me. One question stood out among the rest – Why should I be responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross? Why am I made to carry this guilt and require to “crucify” myself all over again every single year?

Year in and year out, each Lent reminded me of how Jesus (graphically) died on the cross in atonement for my sins. But that is the past and have since long gone. Shouldn’t His altruistic actions cover both past, present, and future? If so, why are we re-enacting and reliving the torments over and over again? All these years, it seemed that I have been given a guilt trip and quite frankly, I cannot help but to question if God really desire that upon anyone.

Perhaps, I have slacked/lapsed in my faith or maybe, I have forgotten all that I have been taught. Part of me says that it is an opportunity for me to relearn and refresh my memory and knowledge of the catechism. On one hand, I am sure I am the perfect target practice for the over zealous to cast stones at me while on the other hand, the Atheists may be cheering for another prospective member joining the non-believers.

Again, my random mind is at work tonight and quite frankly, the contents of my post may seemed scattered. You are probably and might be asking why did I start this post with near wins and suddenly shifted to something totally religious. To be absolutely honest, I felt this was another near win post until I found the video I shared at the end of this post which seemed to help complete what I intended to write. At first, I had set this post to be published privately thinking it was a long winded off point post. But then again I thought to myself, I should not hold anything back because that in itself counts as a near win.

Thinking about the many near wins in my life can be very frustrating. From a simple game of sport to the many career choices made, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I felt that I have only missed by just a few more steps or decisions.

So what made me come in 2nd most of the time?

Lack of patience, losing focus due to distractions, no proper follow through, and excuses to name a few.

In most difficult situations, it is akin to holding on to a rope for dear life. It really depends on when we “snap” or reach the “breaking point”. The mind loves playing tricks on us and most of the time, it tells us what should be safe, comfortable, and ideal.

Why am I here when I can be comfortable else where?

Why not stay where you are familiar?

We start off any project with objectives and likewise when we embrace a belief or faith, we start off with a vow. In baptism, we have a list of baptismal promises and in marriage, we have a list of vows as well. These make up our objectives as a practitioner of the faith.

But to me, it is a little different personally. Besides from all the promises and vows professed during the regular sacraments, I often recall the scene at the garden of Gethsemane and the verse that goes…

He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak.’ ~ Matthew 26:40-41

I guess often times, we grow weary and tired due to the many challenges life is throwing at us. And coupled with the many distractions, we are unable to stay focus at the initial objectives we have set out to achieve our goals.

Sometimes, we may also be clouded by the many rituals and obligations we find ourselves performing without truly understanding the meaning and reasons behind them. We tend to get drawn into pressure from people around us who failed to realize that religion is something very personal and each may practice it differently.

Perhaps we should take a step back, and recall the true objectives of our actions and realign the directions we are taking.

And hopefully, we can eliminate the near wins, the “so near yet so far” and almost achieving situations in life.

For everyone observing the Season of Lent, may you find the strength for “just another hour” to persevere in your sacrifices. And like what Sarah Lewis said in her speech, may you find “mastery” in your faith and beliefs.

Update: A good article by the Pope himself regarding fasting – Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent

*P/S: This post is inspired by the movie Ola Bola

The Lion That Fascinates Me

It is the Chinese New Year again and during this wonderful time of celebration, nothing fascinates me more than the amazing acrobatic Lion Dance. I am always awestruck by the coordination of two people maneuvering around on top of poles while bringing lively expressions to the lion outfit.

Truly majestic, magical, and magnificent art form!

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Life’s A Pinball Game

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The above as we all know is the famous quote from the movie Forrest Gump that defines how unpredictable life is. On top of being unpredictable, I also like to look at life as a game of pinball.

If you have played this famous arcade game before, you would understand the objectives of the pinball game are scoring as many points possible and staying in the game for the longest time possible without losing the ball to the drain at the bottom of the play field.

The drain is partially protected by two flippers – flaps that are used to keep the ball in the game and not fall through the drain. In the play field there are many items that can be hit by the ball and if the ball gets caught in certain sections in the play field, bonus points will be awarded. In certain situations, some smaller flippers will be activated to help the player get the ball into special sections in the play field thus, more points awarded.

I see the special sections in the play field as specific phases of our lives. Each one giving us new experiences and adds up on our knowledge, skills, and etc while the flippers act as the many people we meet in our lives.

Throughout our unpredictable lives, I am sure that is exactly how some special people came into our lives and to a certain extent made an impact. They seemed to be like those flippers pushing us forward and helping us avoid that “drain” at the bottom of the play field. The random good Samaritan whom we crossed path with also have a role to play to help us reach new heights in life. That is, if we are able to be still enough to realize and recognize the people and their actions in our own lives.

I guess that is how we are all interconnected and every action of ours ripple through a greater domain even though we do not see the significance of it.

Watching the story of Joseph Kim, I was particularly drawn to his foster father’s act of love. I think this is an example how certain subtle actions can resonate and become something as moving as Joseph’s story.

I am not sure about you but the story of Joseph Kim’s life moved me to tears (watch until the end).

His end note is quite powerful. He is asking us to be kind to everyone else because we might not know the impact of our kindness will have on the receiver. It could be life changing.