Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gospel Verse Birthday Meme

Found this on another blog. Quite interesting actually.
Find the verses in the 4 Gospels that correspond to your birthday.
Using your the Month for the Chapter and the Day for the Verse.

So for example mine is Aug 23rd thus Chapter 8 Verse 23 of the four gospels

He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. (Mt 8:23)

and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A squall blew over the lake, and they were taking in water and were in danger. (Lk 8:23)

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, "Do you see anything?" (Mk 8:23)

He said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. (Jn 8:23)

Go and try it. And drop me a comment if you do. Would be interesting to see what other's have for their verses.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Technical Support

Most of us would have come across some hilarious anecdotes of the wierd questions tech support guys have to answer, where the problem lies between the keyboard and the chair(PLBKAC). I never expected it to happen to me.

Episode 1: Customer calls saying "My computer hung and is in safe mode. I need it desperately to do my assignment." So ok, I go down to the house. And I find the computer still in safe mode, and hung. Then it dawns on me, that she never even tried to reboot the system. So I power down, and turn it back on, and the system works fine. But not nice to charge her the service call fee, just to switch off and on the computer. So I helped her clean up the spyware in the comp which might have been the cause of the system hanging.

Episode 2: Customer calls saying
"Hi, I bought a computer from your company a year ago. Could you help me with this. My monitor has turned dark."
So I ask, "dark as in just a black screen?",
"No I can still see the display, just that its very dark."
"Have you tried adjusting the brightness?"
"Yah, I pressed the brightness button, and I see 0 to 100%, its now 13%, but i can't increase it, I press the other buttons but it doesn't change"
"Is there a dial that you can turn."
Sounds of delight "Oh yes, thank you."

Not sure why I'm putting this in my "Sprirtual Journal", I probably could use the second story to illustrate some Gospel message on blindness or needing the help of others. But other than that, it's just for entertainment value.

Oh yah, maybe its also to remember the time when I asked the stupid question. "Catholics go to church on sunday because that's the only day that everybody doesn't work right?"

"Guan Xi"

"Guan Xi", a Chinese word that literally means relations. But as most of us know that in the business sense, it goes way deeper than that. Especially with the chinese (from china). But it also happens here in singapore. An incident happened recently that made me think about it, thus this post.

In a pure sense, "Guan Xi" is about a personal relationship that is attached to a business deal. It is one based on trust, mutuality and even protection of each others interests. Benefits are that once "Guan Xi" is established, u enjoy better deals, the other party is willing to assist u when u have difficulty, they might even give u the deal despite someone else offering them more money.

But then "Guan Xi" can also be abused, leading to things like favouritism, nepotism and blindness to new opportunities. Ok, maybe I should explain what happened to me. I've taken over this IT job from another guy. And he used to get computers assembled by a certain store in sim lim. So when I took over I just assumed that we could still get from the same supplier. But yesterday when I tried to place an order for another comp, the guy said, "I'm sorry, we can't supply you the comp." And when I asked why, he just said, "Something happened which I can't say." Which was a nice way of saying "Take your business somewhere else".

My conclusion is that they had a "deal" with my ex-colleague, and now that he's gone, the "Guan Xi" isn't there anymore. So here I am, stuck... price quoted to customer already, so means still have to get a comp. Just that dun have the luxury of placing the order by phone and just collecting from sim lim. Now have to go there in person, choose the parts, pay the money and wait 1 hr to collect the comp.

So back to my reflection... Is this "Guan Xi" the right way to work? And does it happen in the church? It's so natural to rely on people we can trust, and also to be wary to others who haven't gained our trust just to protect ourselves. And sometimes we are prejudiced against someone even before we get the chance to know the person, just based on their looks, their behaviour, or worst from the words of others. Hmm...maybe I'm a victim of racism...Think i'll go and buy from one of the shops owned by indians.

I guess my conclusion is that "Guan Xi" in the way that the Mainland Chinese work is wrong, because it has taken relationships and perverted it to one where has to bootlick/buy their way into favour. Or at least it's not the way Christians should work. Does it happen in the church? Well least in the local church since we all have some of this typical chinese traits. Me not so much since 3/4 only...but something to be aware of. To treasure relationships built on trust, but to also be open to new opportunities, to not have prejudicial assumptions of others and also most importantly to be open to dialog....Not sure where the last one came from in this thought process, but yah tat's really important to clear up misunderstandings and to build better working relationships.

And just after I finished typing the above, and walked out of the room, I saw this scene...One of the youths talking to a senior leader of the parish, about the use of the PA system in the hall. (The following words are not exact, but the meaning somewhere there) "You all know how to use the system?", "Yes uncle, we had 3 of our members trained LAST NIGHT." And I couldn't believe the reply. "Trained doesn't mean know how to use". Brilliant right.

Ironically, I've never had any official training, but yet they trust me with it. Classic "Guan Xi" in action. Must understand their position... probably had some bad experience with the sound equipment before. But the youths think it's because they are youths...So told them they have to start earning the trust of the adults...but aiyah.... this is exactly what I'm talking about.....shouldn't be this way.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Recognising the Opportunity

Today's Gospel is one that is rarely read. It only appears in Luke's Gospel, and only read on the Thursday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time.

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, "If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you - and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!"

I remembered the last line and was reflecting on it during and after mass. Lo and behold, I went for PPC Ex-Co meeting, and as usual they started of with sharing on this Sunday's Gospel, which is on the Last Judgement.

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' "

So the one sentence from today's Gospel really summed up this passage. Jesus was saying the same thing, at the last judgement. To those on the left "all because you did not recognise me in your brothers, you did not recognise the opportunity." This is something that I've been trying to learn on my journey. To recognise God, and the opportunities He gives me to experience Him in my life. In "Reaching For The Invisible God", there is an earlier chapter on Spiritual Amnesia. We all know how easily we forget God, and there it tells of the remedy. Conscious Remembering.

Philip Yancy refers to a Brother Lawrence, a simple Carmelite brother, who wrote the devotional classic "The Practice of the Presence of God". Which I actually have, thanks to Pearl, who gave it to me when I left Gigatt. You can actually download the whole book from this website. It's quite a short book, consisting of a collection of his letters and conversations. Brother Lawrence talks about how amidst outward affairs and daily occupations, it is possible to cultivate a life of contemplation.

While we think that it's probably easier for a Carmelite, who's in a monastery in those ages to do it, but not us. Yancy illustrates that if we can check our sms and emails ever so often, habits that we are not born with. We can also practice checking God's presence in our lives. I shall just end with this quote

The depth of spirituality does not depend on changing things you do but rather in doing for God what you ordinarily do for yourself.
Brother Lawrence

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Freedom and Wealth Part II

In my rush to finish and get to sleep, I left out a part of my reflection.

One of the reasons why this topic was so striking, is because of the readings this week. The first readings are taken from the book of Maccabees, and it tells of how the Israelites were invaded and taken over by pagans, and how the king forced the Israelites to abandon their faith and practices. And yet there were people who were willing to give up their lives, willing to disobey the king then to disobey God. They were willing to give up the "freedom" that the king was offering them.

In tuesday's first reading, Eleazar, an old man, was given an option to live, but chose to die then to deny God and lead others astray. And as he walked to his instrument of torture, said

“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.”

Eleazar made a gift of his freedom back to the Lord. And then in wednesday's first reading, it was 7 young men who were put to death in front of their mother. And despite the king offering them life, freedom and wealth, the mother offered these words of encouragement.

“Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

Sounds so much like Jesus saying "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." Which was actually in last Friday's Gospel. In the light of my reflection, it has really brought a new meaning to this sentence. In fact this sentence is so important, that it is featured in all four Gospels, twice in Luke. And of course it is always preceded by "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

So big challenge for me, to invest my freedom rightly, to pick up my cross daily. How far would I go to sacrifice my comfort, my freedom, my material possessions? Pray for me, and if you want me to pray for you, drop me a comment ;Þ Oh yah, I've been getting comment spam, so now if you want to leave a comment just have to enter the code displayed.

Freedom and Wealth

Yes it's been a long time. I guess after the 8-day retreat, I went back to using pen and paper. Also did quite a bit of reading at the retreat, and continued since then. I can finally say that I've finished one book, the one that I keep by the side of my "throne". And in the meanwhile I've started on a few other books. At this moment I have 8 books which I am reading halfway. More on that later.
But the last nearly 2 months has been quite interesting. October was my turn to do sunday sessions, did a session on Remembering. Also had rosary prayers every friday night organised by LOG, and quite a lot from all the groups turned up. So many youths hungering to grow in faith... Praise God!!! Was also busy rushing around to get the testimonials, and Fr Fossion's one was so cute. Probably scan it and post it up someday. Then, sent in the application forms, so do continue to pray for me. Went for the seminary day of prayer for vocations, Jovita led the P&W, think his first time, quite good.
November was Fr Mike's birthday, did a session for IHM's youth charge, can't believe that I gave a talk on Evangelization. But thanks to the Spirit, managed to pull it off, really surprised by it ;Þ Then I also started a new job. It's with a social enterprise, which is a company that is non-profit, all the profits go into its charitable works of running training programs for migrants and ex-offenders. The technical engineer was moving on to another job, and they needed time to find a replacement, and at the same time needed to maintain it's current contracts. So I told them I can help them in the interim... Quite fun actually. Get paid to do the stuff I do at home, maintaining my hardware, installing modems and wireless networks, updating websites.
Yup so that's what I've been doing... So now to the topic of this post. Which is the reason why I'm resuming blogging. Something I read today really struck me, and coupled with this new tool I'm trying out called Qumana, it's a desktop publishing tool, which means I dun need to login to blogger to edit and post. Something which might be useful when I don't use the internet that often. I'm that how to finish by midnite.
One of the books I'm currently reading is, Reaching for the Invisible God, which I blogged about when I started reading it in may, but still haven't finished after 6 months. But luckily this book needs to be read and reflected on. Like how it applies to your life, and so it's not so important to remember what was written in the previous chapters to understand the current one.
And today I was reading the chapters on the mature adult relationship with God (after the childlike relationship). The chapter starts with
"Wise parents nudge their children away from dependence toward freedom, for their goal is to produce independent adults. Lovers, however choose a new kind of voluntary dependence: possessing freedom, they gladly give it away... That adult relationship reveals, I believe, what God has always sought from human beings: not the clinging, helpless love of a child who has no real choice, but the mature, freely given commitment of a lover."
Further on, it talks about spiritual discipline, not out of duty, but out of desire to please and be close to God. And how the world can understand and encourage atheletes to devote their time and effort to train to be the best, but can't understand why a person would go for mass or pray daily. Now this is the part which struck me the most.
"Thomas Merton drew a parallel between freedom and the wealth a rich man enjoys. A rich man if he wants to can light cigarettes with dollar bills, and Merton before his conversion, squandered his freedom in the same way with his partying and drinking. A wiser rich man would invest his money so that he may reap the benefits later on, Merton too chose to invest his freedom by entering a monastery."
For me this concept of freedom being spent/squandered/invested like wealth really intrigued me. I guess I never really saw freedom as something to be used wisely. Talents and gifts, yes, like in sunday's and today's gospel. But freedom, was whether to use the talent or not. We often say offer your gifts back to God, or choose to do His will. That God GAVE us this freedom, has taken on a new meaning for me. Our freedom is a gift, and something which I can offer back to Him. Blows my mind thinking about it.
He goes on to say, how the holy people like St Francis, St Benedict, Mother Teresa, "investing their freedom in discipline, secure a deeper freedom unavailable elsewhere".
Ok it's near 1am, this is the reason why I didn't want to blog earlier. And I think this program isn't going to help either....The font is so small, doesn't seem like writing much. But I think when it's displayed on my blog, with it's smaller width and it's bigger font, would be really long. Hope you made it all the way to the end. Sorry for the long, irrelevant intro ;Þ