July 17th, 2014

Revelation of the day: Everyone is on their own journey and living their own lives. And yes, that thought can be depressing at times. The way the world works can be depressing at times.

But… so am I. I have my own journey to walk. I have my own life to live.

And you know what? It can be pretty amazing if I just stop comparing myself with what everyone else is doing, and walk on my own path.

And a reminder from my dear, dear friend, on the amazing poem that encapsulates today’s thought:

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

- “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr Seuss

July 10th, 2014

the good heart

"I’ve made up my mind to hurt them, not help them.
My Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, touches the earth, a mere touch, and it trembles.
The whole world goes into mourning.
Earth swells like the Nile of the flood stage;
Then the water subsides, like the great Nile of Egypt.”

"Oh yes, God brings grain from the land, wine to make people happy,
their faces glowing with health,
a people well-fed and hearty.” (Amos 9:4-5; Psalm 104:14-15)

There seems to be two kinds of God presented in these chapters. One is a God of chastisement and great anger. One who can cause earthquakes and floods, who punished the shrines of sin, who seems bent on laying down the consequences of disobedience. A God who destroys.

The other is the God who creates. He is one who lavishes goodness, blessing, ensures those who inhabit his Earth are blessed and fed and whole, whose people rejoice in him. A God who provides.

How do I hold these two sides of God together? How do I balance this vision of God, who both curses and blesses, who hates and loves, who touches the earth for obliteration and renewal?

On one hand, I can. Because a father also has two sides; one who loves dearly, passionately, tenderly, and one who disciplines, who gets frustrated over the actions of his child. It doesn’t make him unpredictable. However, the big question is: can you trust that the heart of the father is ultimately good?

This is the question for me at this point of my life. For the last month, I’ve descended into a whirlpool of shame, blame and strife. Shame over the iniquities, over my failure and not being able to see any worth or godliness in myself. Blame for the people around me who are living their own lives in this 21st century, individualistic economy that forces us to build our own kingdoms at the expense of community. Strife, because there is no peace, there is no contentment. Only deep, desperate loneliness, and a fight within that is destroying me, one small, unwinnable battle at a time.

In the middle of all this is God. And cries of ‘God, do more!’ ‘God, heal me.’ ‘God, are you even real and true?’. And the silence gnaws at the sad, vexed heart even further.

But this hard, hard question still remains: can I trust that the heart of the God I profess to follow is ultimately, essentially, in any circumstance - fruitful or dire - good?

Can I? Even now, in the earthquake and drought, when I can no longer find love for myself, when I am lashing out like a wounded lion at those I actually love the most - can I still trust the heart of God?

I don’t even know how to answer this, Father. My heart yearns to say ‘I can’, but honestly, I don’t know.

But this is the crux of it, this journey, isn’t it? If we cannot trust that God is ultimately a good God, we cannot pretend to walk a journey with Him. Because He is a God who both crushes and creates. He is the God who collapses and rebuilds. He is the God who shows tenderness like no other, and who breaks us to the core as well.

Can I trust your heart, even if the proof isn’t there at first glance? In this moment of loss, of feeling alone and scared and uncertain and empty, is there goodness to hold onto?

Father. I am two-faced. I want to say I do. But I don’t have the faith. I can’t find the hope. I don’t know what love is.

But yet, I know it will make the difference. I know that faith, that kind of hope, that freedom to love, knowing that in plenty or lack, you are so, so good, makes all the difference. Even with no evidence to say “God is still ultimately good”, it can be the most transformative words my life will ever know.

I want that. But I can’t say it or trust it at the moment. Help me find it. Oh God, whether you bring blessing or curses, let me know your heart.

Amen.

June 30th, 2014

believing lies

"Well, come home with me and have a meal."

"Sorry, I can’t do that," the holy man said. "I can neither go back with you nor eat with you in this country. I’m under strict orders from God: ‘Don’t eat a crumb, don’t drink a drop, and don’t come back the way you came."

But he said, “I am also a prophet, just like you. And an angel came to me with a message from God: ‘Bring him home with you, and give him a good meal!’ But the man was lying. So the holy man went home with him and they had a meal together…

"God’s word to you: You disobeyed God’s command… For that you’re going to die far from here and not be buried in your ancestral tomb." (1 Kings 13:15-22)

A holy man did the work commissioned by God. His instructions were not to partake of food from others. Yet, a lie from a passing stranger - convincing, sensible - turned him towards the table. And he suffered greatly for it.

Why? Why was he judged so severely for a mere innocuous mistake? Why did God not grant mercy on this holy man, this man set apart by God, who just carried out his God-ordained mission, and instead condemn one of his own to a horrible death?

Because he believed in a lie. He gave himself over to the power and movement of a lie. And he abandoned the truth given to him by his Creator.

Father… I have believed in lies too. For the last few days, I am dangerously close to depression. I have given myself over to the lies of who I am. That I am horrible, a monster. That I am a nobody, a cast away in front of people whose love I have cast away. That somehow, maybe, you’ve made a mistake in creating me, in letting me see this world through my eyes and my heart. That I’m not a child of God. That I’m not a child of anything. That I am alone.

Why God? Why do I let these lies take over my life and crater my soul? Why?

It’s because I am hungry. The consequences of believing lies are great. All made more urgent because you, Father, have truth flowing in your veins. You keep telling me, I am your child. I am forgiven. I am loved.

But you are not here, God. You don’t speak clearly. You leave me alone to my own devices and I’ll listen to any lie served up by strange men on donkeys. I am not like the men in the Bible, Father. I am weak.

Father, speak truth back into my life. I’m broken, heal. If I feel unloved, love. Lead all my being - my emotions untethered, my thoughts ungrounded, my heart unstable - back into your truth. Because, Father, I keep believing lies. I wish I didn’t. I am only hungry for a word.

Help me God. Speak truth.

Amen.

April 25th, 2014

Therein concludes My Week with Dengue. Much like My Week with Marilyn, but with less nudity and more sweating.

April 6th, 2014

A shoot in a bar today. I mean, people died here, but that’s not ‘cos of the shooting, that’s the… hey look, parquet!

March 21st, 2014

INTERVIEWER
Can a writer learn style?

CAPOTE
No, I don’t think that style is consciously arrived at, any more than one arrives at the color of one’s eyes. After all, your style is you. At the end the personality of a writer has so much to do with the work. The personality has to be humanly there. Personality is a debased word, I know, but it’s what I mean. The writer’s individual humanity, his word or gesture toward the world, has to appear almost like a character that makes contact with the reader. If the personality is vague or confused or merely literary, ça ne va pas.

March 10th, 2014

It’s like I’ve stumbled upon the Greenwich Village of Singapore.

March 10th, 2014

As we try to make sense of flight MH370 and our response to it, one word seems to be bandied around quite a bit right now. That word is ‘empathy’. As in, we need empathy during this trying time. Quite literally, the word in its original Greek form means ‘to feel within’. It’s very similar to the word ‘emotion’, which literally means ‘to have motion within’.

We do need empathy during this time. To let someone, or a situation, touch us in our inner core so much that it moves us to feel something inside. The reason some don’t appear to have ‘empathy’ isn’t because they have no emotions. It’s because we live in a world that doesn’t allow us to empathise freely. Emotion is disruptive. So to allow our emotions to well up from within during this time is a great thing, if for no other reason than because we often condemn it instead of letting it move freely in our inner world.

But there’s another word that’s just as important, if not more, during this time. That word is ‘sympathy’. It literally means ‘to feel together’. And if empathy is rare, sympathy would be like spotting a rainbow after the rain. It’s horribly rare and, we all know, it’s horribly difficult. How often do we come together and be so vulnerable to each other as human beings, as a community, that we actually feel something as a collective whole, and not condemn it? Not often. Not with all our differences, all our opinions, all our grasping of the sands as we try to make sense of things that often make so little sense at all.

That is why prayer is useful during this time. Prayer isn’t some fairy dust we are sprinkling to make magic out of an end result. Prayer is us as humans taking what’s inside - our fears, grief, confusion, anger - and learning to hold it out in hope, together. And God knows we need more things that bring us together as Malaysians, not tear us apart.

So, with no specific answer to give, I can only offer this prayer: that we would learn to have sympathy. That we, as humans, as friends and strangers, just come together and learn how to… feel. It’s not a pretty sight. We all have different empathies, and it’s not something we’re used to. But if we can learn to feel, together? That could be the most powerful thing we can do, collectively, as a human race.

#prayformh370

March 6th, 2014

Had a great opportunity to attend The Human Library, where you meet new ‘human books’ and their side of life. Today included a former death row prisoner. All our paths are so unique, so imperfect, so ordained.

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