Focus

One of the topics of photography is composition. Like an artwork, composition is how you tell a story with your photo. In other words, what is the focal point, leading character or object that you would like your audience to pay attention to.

I for one can never understand all the technicalities of photography and that is the reason why digital photography has since saved me a lot of money. I just click away because I do not have to worry about developing the photos just to look at the results like back in the old film days.

I have taken a lot of photos for the past 10 years. Most of them are cluttered and at first glance, no one will know what I am actually trying to focus on. Have you ever wondered how life could be if you can turn off the colors to things that are unimportant to you?

I asked myself that question today and here might be some examples of what my eyes and mind will see if I can choose what I would like to focus visually.

The Lifesaving Canoe. One that helps you stay afloat.
One that is good for your soul.
The Symbol of Love.
For the air we need to live and the inspiration that lifts up our spirit.
Life among the concrete.
Keeping afloat in the rat race.
Color -the beauty we often miss and take for granted.
It is hard saying goodbye to the last leaf.
Gives life amidst the dead.
Keeping food dry when it rains.
Storing the food that sustains us.
Food for the hungry.
Providing you with the air that keeps you alive.

Editing these photos in such a way helped me put into perspective what I emphasize and focus in life. There is a common theme in all of them and that is looking at what is life bearing and sustaining.

Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Not only to survive but to thrive.

May all that you do gives life and grow…

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Darkness

It is the 4th week of Lent and the gospel reading today is about Jesus restoring sight of a blind man. The sermon reflects on this miracle in terms of spiritual darkness rather than a physical one. The blindness causes darkness to those inflicted.

As a summary, darkness is not caused by our past sins but instead, holds a meaning for the future. In other words, we do not look to our past in order to seek the reason for our current predicament. The current predicament holds the reason that makes us stronger in facing the future.

I was a little distracted at mass today and the only image that came to mind was an image of Padre Pio. I have no idea why but looking at the beautiful stained glass in the church inspired me to design a stained glass of my favorite saint.

Perhaps it is a sign that I should seek the intercession of this great saint to heal and deliver me from any form of spiritual blindness that I might be facing.

After a couple of hours, here’s the result of my digital artwork:

Unconditional

Another mundane weekend or so I thought.

There has been a time when I was so fired up in love with my religion that I was almost a fanatic. The logic can sometimes be incomprehensible to anyone except for myself. It was to a point of what the new generation would label me as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Through the years, writing has been my way of escape and expression. Like a journal, it can be somewhat therapeutic. I wanted to write all about it. I wanted to write about it but not in the way of “hallelujah” or “praise the Lord” in every sentence. I want to write about it the human way. How do I live in reflective of the Gospel – no holds barred. I want to tell it as it is. The joys, and the struggles in all the reflections.

It must have been all the past experiences combined that I sometimes walk around being too conscious of my every move. I try to swiftly get myself settled down at a particular pew in church every weekend and it was no exception yesterday. There seemed to be a mold to conform to.

Mid way mass, I remembered someone once telling me that the evil one have no place in a holy place such as the church. But yet, a statement came to mind.

“I must either be an ungrateful b*stard or God’s love is conditional”

This is in reference to all the obligations required for one to be considered a practicing faithful.

I am not sure if it is me or some of you out there may also experience the same feeling. This guilt of skipping a week in attending church. Is it because all the blessings and graces God have so generously bestowed upon us that we feel obligated to at least be in His presence on a weekly basis?

Perhaps it is the church’s “modus operandi” to keep everyone locked in? It treats you so well that you have no other choice but to “return the favor”?

Is this the case?

I was pondering this fact and then, the Gospel seemed to answer my inner thoughts.

The Samaritan woman at the well…

The priest pointed out that Jesus was not judgmental in his approach with the Samaritan woman. Though Jews and Samaritans have a long standing hatred, Jesus offered the woman “living water”. He did not care if she was a sinner (in human standard), a divorcee, a lesbian, a murderer, or anything of that sort. Jesus engaged and interacted with her anyway. Jesus loved her anyway.

The priest then continued pointing out that we are like the Samaritan woman, coming to church with our “buckets”. He hoped that we do not leave the church with an empty bucket but a bucket that fulfills our search. Perhaps peace, acceptance, love, hope, or whatever that we are seeking. The question to ask was, “What is in your bucket when you leave this place today?”

My concern earlier vanished. It does not matter the obligations. It does not matter how others perceive me.

All that matters is if I am recharged spiritually to endure the week ahead.

Did I fill my bucket up with manna that will last?

It then became a case of I am not there because I need to return a favor, but instead I am in need of a recharge. To be still and allow myself an hour in God’s presence just so that I can walk away with a bucket filled with the goodness that I seek.

I wish the same for you my friend. May your bucket be filled with “living water”…

LGBTQ+

This is not my attempt to be political correct. Like anyone else, we are all entitled to our opinions and views. This is my view as a human being living in this world filled with diversity. In fact, the LGBTQ+ does not concern me at all and I believe it should not be of anyone’s concern as well. Not something we should be invasive and imposing on others.

This post is inspired by the ban some countries and states have imposed on the much awaited movie – Beauty & The Beast. It was alleged that Lefou is the culprit.

These are my thoughts on the larger picture.

I believe that most of what we perceive, believe, and judge is learned. Often times, credible and influential people or organizations have a way and the power in controlling what we ought to believe as truth.

We are indeed taught and indoctrinated to shun the LGBT community and believe that they are a group of “diseased” individuals.

But the pertinent question to ask is whether or not we have personally get to know them as individuals – their aspirations and ideals?

I do not like to put a label on people but I do have a few friends who are either L, G, B, T, or Q. I found that when I get to know them personally, they are no different from any us and they are indeed, humans.

If you talk about a crime, it can be committed by anyone be it straight or otherwise. Therefore, we have no evidence and cannot pinpoint or accuse the rise in crime rates related to certain groups of people.

I am also very certain that the first thing that comes to our minds when the topic of LGBTQ+ is mentioned is SEX. Sex seemed to be what LGBTQ+ is all about. But if you take a step back and observe carefully all that are around us, you will eventually trace back to SEX. Look at all the beautiful figures on the magazines – girls want to look pretty and slim while boys want to look buff and muscular. Every beauty magazine is subtly oozing out SEX.

For me, LGBTQ+ goes beyond just sexual orientation. It is what every person is as a human be it emotion, physical, psychological, and etc. We have all disagree and agree on so many things and I do not see why we cannot take sexual orientation as one of it if that is what LGBTQ+ is all about.

Promiscuity and sexual transmitted diseases continue to plague mankind whether or not there are LGBTQ+. The world’s oldest profession – prostitution, continues to be in business whether or not LGBTQ+ exists.

So who are we to pass judgment on another person based on his or her sexual orientation?

But most importantly, how does it affect us?

It will only affect us if we allow ourselves to be affected. If we allow ourselves to be part of someone else’ judgment and hatred through our own ignorance.

You can be offended by anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. And likewise, you can be loved by anyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

But will you love unconditionally regardless of one’s sexual orientation?

Perhaps we should all remember that Love is not Sex…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34

Fast

So I was feeling a little down throughout the last week and I can only conclude that it was partially due to expectations. And to put into perspective, the question that came to mind was “Are we suppose to feel happy all the time?”

There were many noises as well and one of which was a documentary I stumbled upon while going through YouTube. It was a documentary of sexual abuse by clergy in the Philippines. The video of course led to many more news regarding the same heinous crime and abuse of power elsewhere.

It is very difficult to comprehend the feeling of knowing that the entire belief system that I subscribe to more than half my life so far can open up to such rottenness. If the church is what it professes to be, it will never be a place for such acts – regardless of how forgiving and unforgiving it is.

It is very easy to brush it off as “not letting a few rotten apple spoil the entire basket” but if we take a step back and give thought to it, these are unforgivable crimes and must be fixed at all cost.

I then thought to myself if it would be fair that for every crime that happens in the church, I would stop practicing a ritual related to the practice of the church. I believe that is a very fair trade because each wrong doing slowly chips off my trust for the institution. If the institution is serious about what it practices and professes, it will somehow find ways to regain the trust of many and redeem itself.

I am still feeling a little disappointed and jaded at the moment.

What is the point of all this fuss about fasting and abstaining while knowing at the back of my mind someone entrusted with power and authority in the church somewhere is committing a heinous crime against the weak and vulnerable?

Why am I even allowing someone else affect my own experience and relationship with the institution? The key word here is institution – not God. If an institution like the church is responsible for crafting ways/practices to help us get closer to God and if the practices in the institution is attracting criminal conducts, then any person in the right frame of mind should stop subscribing to such practices. Regardless, a relationship with God is not sustained by a third person or institution. God dwells in all of us.

Sure, we are all human and imperfect. So why shall we observe the practices made by imperfect humans?

With a heavy heart, I walked into church the past weekend trying to somehow rekindle the light of my faith in this God who have blessed me immensely. Though at times, I felt that nothing seemed to make me happy anymore, there is still a sense of knowing things could be worse.

“Fast is not necessarily about the meat. Fast is being less judgmental and reduce the need to always be correct”, said the priest.

Perhaps, if I fast from over-thinking and over-analyzing, would it make things better for me?

Or if I fast from knowing about all the abuses in the church lest I pass judgments against the perpetrators, will I be happier?

Is ignorance truly bliss?

Maybe, just maybe it is the Lenten season that opens up our eyes to such sufferings so that we learn from it. We are made aware of such imperfections so that we find in ourselves the room to forgive.

Only time will heal and tell…

God, Please Stop Micromanaging!

Yet another “Why Catholics Fast & Abstain” text message this morning and I almost went berserk!

Yes, I know it is Lent!

Yes, I know about fasting and abstaining!

Yes, I know abstaining from meat is not to save the poor animal’s soul like how and why our Buddhist brethren go vegan.

But my soul screams, “god, please stop micromanaging!”

Don’t get me wrong, this god I am referring to is not the Divine or the omnipotent. But instead, this god that I am referring to is the over invasive and ever loving friends bombarding me with all these repetitive resources and reminders.

Just for kicks and to annoy one of such friends, I told him that I had the best pork stew on Ash Wednesday and he told me that I have committed a grave sin. I then asked him if it was right for a human to judge me to which he was dumbfounded. He suggested that I go tell a priest of what I have said and was curious to know the repercussion. I questioned him further if he is practicing the faith mainly out of fear for a priest or genuinely for love of God. In response to this, he asked me to jump out of the window!

I hope that “mind your own faith” makes it onto the Lenten penance list!

Too much of anything is bad for you“. Having spaghetti once or twice a week is bearable but imagine having it for the entire week! I don’t know about you but it will come to a point when it exceeds a certain limit, there will be resistance.

Leading up to Ash Wednesday, I have been receiving numerous “reminders” of how and what I should do to be considered a person practicing the faith. So much so, it felt as if I was a buffalo among its herd being led to the only destiny I know nothing about.

I am no buffalo

Just how in the world would you like me to quantify and justify fasting? Should I fast until my stomach turns inside out?

If it needs reminding, than there is no point practicing. Practicing one’s faith in my most humble opinion is from within oneself. It is a case of I truly want to practice it and thus, I do.

As a conclusion, allow me to say that if you love me, leave me alone to practice my faith lest I turn Atheist (yes, that is a threat!)…

After all and though rituals are man made, they should help and lead us to the Divine instead of creating a sense of resistance, repulsion, and aversion. Moderation is sufficient.

Let it go and let God take the lead…