Shine On, Beautiful Soul

It’s been awhile I haven’t penned down anything on the blog.

I realized our life can be so eventful that sometimes you could only reflect upon your heart inklings at end of a chapter of your life.

And this is what I have gathered tonight: The LORD has been letting me learn from the Giants those months. Also, He smile on me, encouraging me to shine on. He has also appointed me in a position that I could lead other to adore His mighty beauty.

And I happened to come across these exact titles at the bookstore… Such providential care for my soul! These two books are going to be my reading of the month.

My LORD, thank You. I love You. I also love Your gift of life.

Help me to benefit from those giants of the Bible land.

Help me to shine on.

Accept my worship from my feeble soul even now, my Beautiful Savior.

Posted in Christian Living | Leave a comment

Family

If doctors are friends for those battling illness; Jpeg

Teachers, the mentors who show others the way of learning;

Pastors, soul-care agents ordained by God;

Then family members are guardian angels whom you would be thankful to have.

Or, is it so?

I’m thankful for being blessed with my family, which grows closer with love and time. But I live in a broken world in which many do not have great families to embrace.

My prayers go to a friend of mine whose “annoying siblings” treated her as an “outcast.”

My heart aches for a family of which the members cannot see eye to eye with each other.

Some relationships do not seem to be reconcilable on this side of heaven. While one party may have the tenderness to seek for improvements and breakthroughs, the other might avoid in resentment, stubbornness or arrogance. When one’s ego is at stake, or when money matters are involved, the entangled issues might become impossible to resolve. Questions of fairness, appalling reality of wickedness, painful realization of one’s kindness being violated, and so on and so forth… When one does not see one’s family members as the dearest buddies, relationships become conditional upon conditions. Family members become strangers or enemies.

Our all knowing God sees our broken hearts over family issues. He listens to our cries. He fully understands.

Tonight I surrender the emotional burdens of my friends to Him. He allows trials within the families in our earthly lives. He will carry us through.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” — Hebrews 4:15-16

Posted in Christian Living | 2 Comments

Broken Guitar

JpegA broken guitar

Lying at the storage

The lady of the house said, “What a rubbish!”

A broken guitar

Lying at the dumpster

Many passed by and sighed, “What a broken guitar!”

A broken guitar

Lying at the dumpster

A youngster passed by and acclaimed, “I see art in this one!”

A broken guitar

Posing proudly at a gallery

Many passed by and commented, “What an art piece!”

Posted in Christian Faith&Arts | Leave a comment

Glow

JpegGlow.

Glow in the darkness.

Glow where the Lord has strategically placed you.

You might feel totally displaced, uncomfortable, unfit, wrestling with all kinds of unresolved issues … yet, you cannot hide your glow.

That’s you. It has been so. Just let it be, for God has ordained it.

He will be your cover in case you get disorientated.

He will show up when you are getting insufficient.

He is the Light. You a reflector of that light.

Glow, for that’s who you are.

“… For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”                – Philippians 1:13

Posted in Christian Living | Leave a comment

Inside Out

inside out

Larry Crabb’s Inside Out was a book that I did not feel that I would ever finish reading it. The subject matter in the book was not difficult to understand, but it would take more than human effort to get to what the author was suggesting, for it refuted the health and wealth gospel, and reinstated the reality of walking with God: life on earth would not be a bed of roses just because we were children of God. Instead of insisting that God was obliged to change our circumstances, our focus should be to identify our compulsive sins, battle against our demandingness, abandon our ill attitudes, continually thrive towards positive changes in view of healthy Christian growth.

The book, as its author had implied, was not written for those who “sailed through their trials with an evenness and stability that others could only envy,” not recognizing their need to change inside out (page 33). On the contrary, it was written for those who were willing to take a sincere look within themselves, reckoning that their sanctification would never complete in this side of the heaven. It was also speaking to those who would come in terms with the reality that God’s peace might not necessarily eliminate the difficult challenges of one’s earthly life due to the problem of sin.

Some of my reflections on the book are as follows:

(a) Stay faithful to God even when God is silent regarding our predicament. Larry Crabb stated it aptly, “God’s prescriptions for handling life do not relieve an ache that is not meant to cease this side of heaven; they enable us to be faithful in the midst of it.” (p.79) Human beings are not designed to endure hurts and prolonged discomfort. Therefore, hardships in life often crumble our world immediately. Critical Illness, irreversible brokenness in relationships, financially instability, etc. often caused us to lose faith and trust in God. The way I look at it: If we are willing to stay faithful like Daniel and persevere through those “even if not” situations; if we reckon that we might have to hang on for quite awhile in the land of the “in-betweens;” then we would be suitable candidates to experience God’s transforming “inside out” change in us.

(b) Face our thirst, our crucial and critical longings. One of the central themes in the book is that Christians should not move along in life without dealing with the pains in their souls (p.99). Those pains may include unfulfilled longings, accumulated sorrows, and ultimately, the very thirst for one’s needs to be met. “Honest people touch the inevitable distress of life, sometimes through physical suffering, always through relational disappointment. Changed people taste the goodness of God so deeply that they pursue Him when life offers the legitimate but blander taste of nice homes, good health, and rich relationship – and they pursue Him all the more when those joys are removed.” The author boldly challenged us: Our choice is either to remain indifferent and live comfortably; or dive into the dimensions of knowing God and be willing to be changed by Him. Larry Crabb added, “One choice excludes the other.” That means, if we want to be more Christ-like, if we want to be following God’s way, we are bidding bye-byes to the comfort of status quo. We would desire more of Him, less of ourselves. Even at the expense of great worldly comfort, that trials and adversities leave us with tears after tears, we shall be single-minded about Him. “Tough faith never grows in a comfortable mind. But it can develop nicely when our mind is so troubled by confusion that we either believe God or give up on life. Letting ourselves experience confusion creates a thirst that only faith can satisfy” (p.116). Let’s face it, face our thirst, and let deep faith grow out of it.

(c) Demandingness towards God is a sin. “Frustration is excellent soil for growing a demanding spirit. It is therefore important that we handle difficulty well, allowing them to mature us rather than to push us toward demandingness” (p.148). I have a Christian friend who always shared with me regarding her prayer burdens. One thing that bothered me about her sharing was her declaration, “I will not take anything less than ‘victory.” In other words, she would not take ‘no’ for an answer. While she proclaimed strong faith in God, believing that God would change circumstances in favor of her fervent prayers, I often questioned the intensity of her demandingness. What if it is God’s very will to allow those prolonged sufferings to come upon us? Instead of demanding things to change the way we wanted them to be, what if God cares more about the shaping of our character? Larry Crabb made a very pointed argument about the necessity for Christians to battle against demandingness: “Christian growth requires that we surface the tendency to demand. It must be identified, exposed in all its ugliness, and abandoned. Otherwise, deep change will not occur” (p.159).

(d) Recapture our identity: We are children of light. “Even in the midst of darkness, we know where we’re headed… Spiritual depth frees us to be spontaneous in the midst of sadness. It enables us to press on in our involvement with people even when we stagger from blows of severe disappointment. A mature relationship with Christ is reflected in the capacity to hear whispers of assurance when discouragement is oppressive. And even when we’re mishandling frustration by retreating into an angry pout, mature depth won’t let us escape the convicting awereness that we’re designed to love…” (pp. 221-222) Indeed, as children of light, we should strive to have the 20/20 vision that even Job didn’t have, i.e., in the midst of unfathomable predicaments, we understand God as Father, and we His children in suffering. In the middle of undeniable internal disappointment of life on earth, we know that we need not rest ourselves in “cold orthodoxy and powerless accommodation” (p.225). For only a life with integrity would make sense; only vindication at God’s timing could justify our case. Children of light might also suffer like other human beings, but we know where we’re headed.

Overall, the book started with a stern critique regarding modern Christianity, suggesting that Christian message that promises to relieve the pain of living in a fallen world is “in dramatic reversal of its biblical form” (p.1). The ending chapters, e.g. “What It Takes to Deeply Change” challenged believers to consciously give up self-protective maneuvering to more loving involvement – which Larry Crabb saw it as a redirection of the soul that would require “far more than cosmetic surgery” (p.227). It would require an honest examination of our threatened manhood and womanhood (p.231-232) as well as the unusual courage to face the predicament in life (p.233). The last chapter “The ‘Good Stuff’ Beneath the Bad” encouraged readers to allow the love of Christ to reach into the depths of one’s woundedness. It also urged readers to experience God’s new empowerment by allowing confusion, disappointment and conviction to take their tolls on us. Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and fellow believers would minister to our needs. Eventually, contrary to our insecurity, we would find out that God had ordained more resources than we had ever known to turn our ashes into beauty. We would then witness how our God turn confusion into faith; disappointment into hope; and conviction into love” (p.250).

To conclude, even though Larry Crabb’s Inside Out might not be all encompassing in the diagnosis of human problems, it did point out the subtle areas that had become stumbling blocks for Christian growth. While life on earth will never be easier, I felt encouraged by the book in matters pertaining to dealing with my internal struggles and nursing my inner being. I reckon that an honest look at my heart yearnings would facilitate great opportunities for a powerful “inside out” change. As a citizen of God’s Kingdom, my role is to keep on growing, and never regressing. In this respect, Larry Crabb’s book is a good reader for my pilgrim’s progress.

Posted in Christian Counseling, Christian Living, Experiencing God | Leave a comment

Leading Mr Harrison to Tomorrow

wounded healerHenri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer, is such a gem. The following are my understanding of “leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow” in the book:

First, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is effective intervention for an elderly one who had lost the will to live.

Second, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is demonstrating love as a fellow human being.

Third, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is exercising spiritual leadership by becoming the reason for others to thrive on.

(a)    Effective intervention for an elderly one who had lost the will to live.

To use Henri Nouwen’s wording, Mr. Harrison was in an “impersonal” milieu, afraid to die, yet also afraid to live. Facing a human being as such who has given up on living, the counselor (minister) should not think that basic counseling skills such as paraphrasing, showing empathy, agreeing with what the counselee said, or prompt the counselee for more words would be sufficient to help. In fact, instead of leading the counselee, the counselor (minister) could have mis-led the counselee to a point of despair, a point of no return. Effective intervention is one that leads the counselees out of the pit of confusion, isolation and self-banishment. Effective intervention is one that leads the counselees to cross over the impersonal milieu to a new scenario where one is willing to greet tomorrow with courage and anticipation.

(b)   Demonstrating love as a fellow human being.

Without love, knowledge puffs up. Without love, one would not be able to ward away one’s pride, anger or judgment against what the counselee would have said or how the person might have behaved. Modeling after the love of God for mankind, the counselor (minister) chose to be there for a suffering human being. It’s a love that is akin to the esprit de corps and camaraderie. More than that, that is a love that empowers the counselor (minister) to willingly get out of his/her comfort zone and enter the unknown and fearful territory of a grieving and messed-up world, within which the counselee is trapped.

(c)    Exercising spiritual leadership by becoming the reason for others to thrive on.

I like Henri Nouwen’s unorthodox way of defining a leader. He said, “a Christian leader is not a leader because he announces a new idea and tries to convince others of its worth; he is a leader because he faces the world with eyes full of expectation, with the expertise to take away the veil that covers its hidden potential. Christian leadership is called ministry precisely to express that in the service of others new life can be brought about.” If I were to define leadership, I would word it as such, “a Christian leader is one who is able to influence the spiritually handicapped so as to see HOPE to go on.” By promising “I am waiting for you, (Mr Harrison);” a Christian counselor (minister) avail himself/herself to become the reason for the counselee to thrive on. Ultimately, this reason finds its utmost authentication in its source and prototype – the leadership of God. With God’s gentle leading hand, a Christian counselor may save others by snatching them from the fire (Jude 1:23a). With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the bitter and “hostile” counselee would be able to see light at the end of the tunnel. Because God is waiting, a Christian leader would offer to wait on, and to wait for the other: “I am waiting for you, (Mr Harrison).”

Posted in Christian Counseling, Christian Living | Leave a comment

A prayer

IMG_20140122_144736

Dear Lord, during this Chinese New Year season, some of us managed to seize the opportunity to get refreshed, refocused, and restored. Others, like me, felt that we’ve been pulled towards all directions. 

Help us, O Lord, to find back that focus – Your calling.

At the altar of our life, O Lord, provide that Lamb, that we may be acceptable before You.

Pin our heart unto Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Even today, and forever more. Amen.

Posted in Christian Living, Prayer | 2 Comments