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Who we say we are

tea

What do you think of when looking at this picture?

(Besides it being “a shouting teabag”, as an observant friend pointed out.)

 

It’s one of those feel good photos, isn’t it!

 

Appearances can be so very deceiving.

 

You want to know the truth behind this shot? An hour or so earlier, I was striding out of the house in a fury of despair. Despite my Englishness, I had no thought of getting a cup of tea at that moment. I just needed to exit before exploding.

 

It was a curious sensation pressing “post” to share the picture on my Facebook wall. I was intentionally crossing a line, acutely aware of conscious deception: a deliberate choice to present an illusion, an implied reality. I had put on my mask.

 

My fake subliminal message: I am a cool person who totally knows how to make the most out of life.

 

My excuse? I tell myself that folks will see through any self-promoting propaganda. After all, they must know I’m just a fellow human being!

 

Indeed, perhaps the biggest problem with all this feel good photography, is not deceiving others, but rather deluding ourselves.

 

Who we say we are, is often who we wish we were.

 

Lord, help us to know when

and how

to take off our masks.

Faith Hope Love (I): Faith

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There’s the awesome three-some-ness, that ‘holy trinity’ of

Faith

Hope

Love

As sides of a triangle, as legs of a stool, they belong together.

Faith

Hope

Love

 

Yet each is magnificently unique; in that sense, of course, the comparison with sides of a triangle and legs of a stool do them utter injustice.

Let’s sneak a peek into faith first…

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”

  • The Message; Hebrews 11:1

Faith is foundational. A solid bedrock on which to build our lives. Designed to withstand shaking. And giving the value of eternity to all life resting on it.

Faith helps us make some sense of life. Like a pair of glasses, it brings into focus what would otherwise be a disconcerting blur.

“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.”

  • The Message; Hebrews 11: 6

Faith, our faith, also in a sense, helps God. Even when it’s a tiny smidgen of a thing, it gives him access to us. And us access to him.

Faith is a doorway.

Indeed, faith has very little to do with quantity, and everything to do with quality.

That sentence in Hebrews 11:6 contains the universe-exploding, life-changing “and that he cares”! The significance of the faith we’re talking about here is that it’s not only a matter of believing the Ultimate Divine Being exists, but also of having an inkling who he is, what he is like.

Faith assures:

Here is God

Who loves you.

 

 

Real Food

coconut

Have you noticed how focusing on the wrong things means we get sidetracked, as in led down the wrong path in our life’s journey? Worst case scenario we lose our way, at best we waste time. Either way, harm is involved…

 

In the context of weight and nutrition, we are now coming to the realization that it’s far better – and more enjoyable – to drop our obsession about losing or gaining weight, and focus instead on healthy eating. The calorie fixation swallowed our attention whole, and oversimplified, if not totally misled, our understanding of the human body. Nutrition was sacrificed on the calorie counting altar as we desperately sought the holy grail of the perfect body weight. Now science and common sense are coming to the rescue as we turn our backs on our processed fake food dependency, and embrace the goodness and tastes of Real Food.

 

By the way, a certain Dr Hyman, has a lot of good stuff to say about this. For example: http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/05/15/want-to-burn-fat-then-eat-more-not-less-food/

 

And what might all of this be hinting at in terms of our souls, our spirits, our inner lives?

 

Just as in the rush of fast food consumption I was inadvertently neglecting my physical health, am I careering through my life in fifth gear without a moment of good ol’ honest reflection?

 

Or is the root problem not speed, but distraction? I fill my waking hours with the junk food of activities and entertainment; so preoccupied, I come nowhere near asking a single candid question…

 

It just might be that I have been running away from facing the truth of my utter need.

 

The good news is that it takes recognizing the bad news of our internal poverty to see the good news of Help right there for us.

 

“You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.”

  • The Message; Luke 6: 20, 21

 

 

Loss

Hunger

Tears

 

Their reality demands Real Food.

Called to Care

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Hanging around with friends after a church service recently, and I was having a good ol’ rant about current societal evils. Boy oh boy, it felt good to vent.

 

But there was a hollow ring to that satisfaction. And it didn’t take much reflection to figure out why. I felt like one of those sqibs, a piddly little firework that goes, hiss, then a pathetic pop. Followed by… an anticlimactic nothing. Nada. Niets.

 

In my younger days, we joined Amnesty International and wrote letters to the offending government. These days we fume our outrage via social media.

 

But then what? Hiss. Pop. Nothing.

 

Maybe before I do right, I need to be right. I mean, do I actually CARE?

 

Because, if I truly cared, wouldn’t I DO something?

 

Jesus was saying to the crowd who came to listen, who came for answers:

“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”

Luke 6:43-45 

 

Then it’s not what I write either – in this blog, on my Facebook wall – that makes me who I am?

 

It’s so easy to have a platform where we express ourselves, but I suspect we have totally swallowed the ‘alternative truth’: what I say I am, I am.

In the meantime, what has happened to the true me? Gone out to lunch while the PR and Marketing guys are working overtime? So impressed by the sales pitch, that I’ve inadvertently taken it on as my ‘true identity’?

I need to get this sorted, if only because I don’t want to be spouting emptiness, hypocrisy.

 

Again: Do I really care?

 

Dear God, give me Your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Apple blossom in Mum’s garden, May 2017

When a foreigner shows me up

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“Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: ‘I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.’”
Luke 7: 9-10

The Roman captain was a friend to the Jewish community, and he had a far more solid trust in God than their own leaders did.

Maybe it’s the one who we see as the outsider, who is actually God’s insider. May such people make us jealous, so that we turn back to God and become as children again.

 

 

Photo: Manila sunset August 15, 2017

 

Unwrapping a surprise

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Have you had that experience when you’re reading and suddenly a line seems to jump out at you and stop you in your tracks?

That happened to me recently with the novel ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy.
Here’s the line:

“He’d been ready to die and now he wasn’t going to and he had to think about that.”

Both engaging and startling in its simplicity. But also somehow epic in meaning.

There was no way I could read any further, and pressed the proverbial pause button to recalibrate.

“He’d been ready to die and now he wasn’t going to and he had to think about that.”

An absolutely perfect sentence for the main character’s situation. (No spoilers here – you just HAVE to read the book!) But there was more to it than that. All kinds of ‘significance alert’ alarm bells were going off. Hinting at something just beyond the horizon, just beyond my mental reach.

Now, a few months later, I’d like to take a bit of time to start unwrapping it if I can. May be we won’t get further than the first layer. Let’s just see…

Utterly unexpected second chances can indeed take the wind out of our sails. We prepare for disappointment and decay, then suddenly we’re faced with the new reality of life. We thought we were going to disappear from the scene, but, no, we’re going to stick around for awhile yet.
This could have to do with the death of a relationship, which turns out not to be dying at all.
Or the apparent death of a talent or gifting, which suddenly emerges instead alive and kicking from the mess of a painful rebirth.

“He’d been ready to die and now he wasn’t going to and he had to think about that.”

If I trace the lines, squinting against the glare of a setting sun, determined to unwrap and see where this may lead, the ultimate meaning lies perhaps in the flip side of our reality, where we step into death and suddenly find ourselves in a garden, with life and possibilities beyond human measure.

… think about that.

 

 

 

 

 

photo: a balcony view

While the roof burns

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During a recent English tutorial with college students, we had an interesting discussion following the reading of an article on how fake news was involved in the US elections in November 2016.

 

We were asking ourselves: Where are we now, almost a year later? What happens when there’s a lot of fake news around?

 

Confusion, lack of trust, apathy – were some of the answers.

 

We looked at the journey from naivety to cynicism, from believing too much to believing too little, having had our fill of so-called fake news, to the point of indigestion.

 

Much like Aesop’s Cry Wolf fable, where the mischievous boy doesn’t get the help he desperately needs because he has turned his people into a village of cynics, of non-believers, so too can fake news eventually lead to disaster.

 

Early on this past year there was a shift, using the term ‘Fake News’ to label and deflect any disagreeable opinions or, dare-I-say-it, facts. Certain political leaders have turned this manoeuver practically into an art form.

 

But this can also eventually lead to disastrous consequences. Imagine a doctor who came along and told you that you were very sick and needed medical care. Then later you found out it wasn’t true and the man wasn’t a doctor at all. Of course, though relieved at being healthy, you’d be angry that someone had tried to fool you. But supposing a while later a real doctor comes along and tells you that you’re sick and need help. Because you don’t like what he says, you ignore him, choosing to believe that because one doctor was fake, all doctors are.

 

Risky stuff!

 

Also with the news. Not all news is fake just because some is. There is news that needs to be listened to and acted upon, even when the facts are uncomfortable!

 

The important thing is NOT one political side against another. Or one power versus another. Or he-says-she-says. That is polarization. The danger here is that it pits two groups of people against each other. And everyone loses, especially, ESPECIALLY the most vulnerable.

Colleague Vina reminded us of the Korean proverb: “When whales fight the shrimp’s back is broken.”

When we have two sides so busy arguing and trying to score points off each other, we don’t know when to stop, be reminded of what we have in common, and together figure out the real problems so we can figure out the real solutions.

 

It’s actually very human. Have you noticed when people are having a big argument, what we get really passionate about is winning, not figuring out the truth. But it’s only reality that sets us free. Not winning an argument, not gaining more supporters.

 

Imagine a basketball match, the finals of a national tournament, excitement at fever-pitch. Reds versus Blues, players, coaches, spectators alike caught up in beating the other side.

But a fire breaks out in the roof of the arena.

Now suddenly it’s not about winning. It’s about what’s happening.

How crazy would it be if Red and Blues just continue battling it out, ignoring the smoke, the flames, the screams.

 

Let’s stop what we’re doing, for everyone’s sakes, including our own. Let’s call off the match and vacate the building before anyone gets hurt.

 

 

 

 

Photo: Manila sunset August 14, 2017