Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parental Guidance Advised

I am not a parent (yet), but I am becoming more and more depressed and distasteful of the attitude of many parents today, including Christian parents as well. I am fully aware that procreation is the basic responsibility of mankind, but I realize that many parents are not fulfilling the other equally important responsibility that comes along with procreation, that is parenting. Parenting is a sacred yet daunting task that has been given to the parents by God. From the birth of the child, every action that you do and every word that you say will have an implication upon the upbringing of your child.

Parents often think that by fulfilling the physical needs of the children (and theirs, too), they are already fulfilling their responsibilities as parents. Therefore, they slog day (and night) in their workplace, striving to generate as much income as possible to ensure a better living condition for their children (and themselves). Even after fulfilling their children’s physical and educational needs (e.g. good food, comfortable house, tuitions and overseas tertiary education etc.), they are bewildered when their children rebel against them and would eventually feel resentful of their children's unappreciative attitude.

Yet, in order to generate more income for the family, the parents forsake quality time with the children. In spite of fulfilling their physical needs, the children’s emotional, mental and psychological needs are often left unattended. Inevitably, when the unguided children are exposed to the evil of the world, little wonder as to why they are easily led astray. When all hopes seem lost, many parents would turn to the magician, known also as ‘pastor’ by Christians, expecting (sometimes demanding) him to perform miracles of transformation upon the children.

If only parents would set boundaries to their working time and be willing to spend quality time with their children everyday. Yes, less income they might generate, less comfortable living environment they might be in, yet the sacrifice is certainly worthwhile. My dad once told me that he will not exchange anything for the hard times that he had to endure together with his parents. In spite of the hardship, the experience of the struggle together with the parents was priceless.

This happened many years ago, and the times may have changed. But I do strongly believe that if children of the present have to choose between enduring the absence of their parents in a comfortable living environment and enjoying the company of the parents in a less comfortable environment, they would choose the latter.

Parents, your presence in the lives of your children is irreplaceable by anything else in this world.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Letters to the Snr Apprentice (2)

A reply to the letter from senior apprentice:

Beloved Senior Apprentice,

Since the dawn of me, I have always relished racing against time to accomplish the tasks and duties that were allocated to me. I eagerly looked forward to the sense of achievement that awaits me at the finish line each time I outran the deadline. On top of that, I was rewarded with additional time to accomplish the next task at hand. Naturally, productivity and efficiency became the primary goals in my life. I firmly believed that the quality of life was gauged by the quantity of work one might accomplish in life.

Until recently, nothing much has changed. I still rush through my daily routines and tasks, thinking that speed is the key to a fruitful life. Thus, I always take pride in my rate of efficiency. Yet, your advice has helped me to see a whole new perspective of life. In attempting to complete the task at hand, I have forgotten to enjoy the moment, the process itself. You also helped me to realize that the manner in which the task is being accomplished is equally important as the completion of the task. More importantly, your insight has led me to locate the source of my constant restlessness; for in the pursuit of efficiency, I have sacrificed inner peace.

Truly, life is a dance, and I have been careless in guarding the rhythm of my dance. The immediate task before me is to battle against the inner force within me that is driving me to rush. The battle will not be short, for the force has become an integral part of my life. Yet, this is the battle that I must now engage in, to master the force, or else, to be mastered by it.

I cannot allow myself to be mastered by the force any longer, or else I will end up as a busy and rushing minister, traits that are common among pastors today. I will end up rushing through endless duties, abandoning the inner stillness, forsaking the gracefulness of the dance of life. And I wonder, if I do not know how to dance this dance of life gracefully, how am I going to teach my sheep to dance?

Therefore, dance with me, that I may emulate the rhythm of your graceful dance steps.

Yours sincerely,
Junior Apprentice


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dancing in the Mysteries

Uncertainty. In spite of its constancy in our lives, we struggle to co-exist with it, thus we often find ourselves engaging in a battle to remove uncertainty from our lives. We naturally feel uneasy and insecure when we realize that uncertainty veils us from seeing what lies ahead of us. Thus, we ignorantly dedicate our lives to an endless pursuit of material possessions in order to minimize the element of uncertainty in our lives, and safeguard a better tomorrow for our ourselves and our loved ones. Security and control become our main allies, for without them we feel vulnerable. We strive to become masters of our own destiny, gods of our own lives.

Yet, the outcome of the battle is certain even before it begins. We can never remove uncertainty from our lives for our finite minds can never fully comprehend all there is to life, things that we call the mysteries of life. Thus, life is a journey of venturing into the unknown, an adventure of endless findings. No longer do we struggle futilely with uncertainty, but by faith, we recognize and embrace the mysteries of life. We relish uncertainty in our lives, for it makes possible the endless possibilities of life. We welcome the mysteries of life, for it keeps us in anticipation of God’s progressive revelation.

Life is a beautiful art, in fact, a beautiful dance that we dance together with the Holy Trinity in the mysteries of life. The moment we try to unravel the mysteries, we kill the beauty of the dance. Dance, as the Holy Trinity leads us.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Risk of the Radical

In spite of being able to attract countless followers today, he was intolerable to most people during his days. His nonsensical speeches and unpredictable actions were too hard for them to swallow. Inevitably, his radical and revolutionary lifestyle invited people to accuse him of losing sanity and being demon possessed.

Think about his disciples. As they watched their master speak and live in a way that is totally insane and out of this world, would they not be puzzled? When others condemned and criticized their master, would they not feel embarrassed for being seen associated with him? Yet, their eyes were gradually opened as they journey with him, and it was a matter of time that they came to realize that the radical way is the way of the Kingdom. Eventually they too, became radicals of God.

Radical. This word is often used in a negative sense today, being used to describe a person who has deviated from the right path, which is the norm, in his conduct or thinking. When someone is labeled as a radical, it means that he is either weird or abnormal. Yet, Jesus was never comfortable with the norm of his day, should we then be comfortable? Jesus was forever an irritating antithesis to the norm, should we then be a conformist of our day?

Through his exemplary life, Jesus shows us the radical ideal that he wants us to achieve ultimately. Seeing the ideal before us, what then should we do? Should we persevere towards the ideal in spite of the difficulty; or should we give up for we know that it is unattainable in this life? Certainly not! The ideal is our goal. It is our salvation. Without the goal, life becomes meaningless and direction-less.

Therefore, I want to be a radical-incarnate and be radicalized by Jesus day by day. When my friends, including fellow Christians, tell me that my thinking and lifestyle is too radical, I ponder. Yes, being radical is risky, for heretics are radicals too. Yet, rather than taking no risk and live in mediocrity, I will take the risk to learn to live radically, for as much as I may be radically wrong, I may also be radically right too.

I do not want to play safe and merely follow the norm, for Jesus did not come to live a life of safety. To be like Christ is to take risk. To live like Christ is to live radically. Therefore, if someone comes to you and says that you are radical, be glad. Yet, if no one says that to you, beware, for the way of the Kingdom is radical and risky. Perhaps then, you would realize that you are taking a greater risk than me, for you may be treading on a different path after all.

Rather die a radical, than live a mediocre.