Monday, January 31, 2011

Help, God. It Hurts.

"The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy." (Proverbs 14:10)

    It's been a week since my last post, after searching for the reassurance of God's presence and comfort in "Is He There? Does He Care?". In the midst of significant changes in my own life, I learned some personal information about my friend Yeswanth's death that shook me. It profoundly altered my perspective on the grief of someone he has left behind, who is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is gone. It also brought my writing on this blog to a standstill as I tried to digest the implications of what I had heard and reflected on the crushing weight of this person's sorrow. I cannot even begin to comprehend what this individual has been feeling. It's been one of those bittersweet weeks where the words of Proverbs 14:13 became very much a reality: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief."

    There is something about the devastation of hopes and dreams that hits the heart unlike any other. That crushing sense of shock, tightness in the chest and accompanying dizziness in the head that feels as if everything is spinning. Or that sickening sensation in the stomach that feels like being in an elevator in free fall. Gone. Over. No Hope. Irreparable. Incurable. Terminal. Destroyed. Shattered. Finished. None of us want to face words like that when it comes to the deep desires and dreams that reside in our hearts - love, relationships, marriage, children, career, education, family, finances, projects, even ministry.

    Unrequited love. A relationship ended. A child that must be buried. A spouse betrayed and marriage devastated. Love's labour lost. Or perhaps a promising career or venture brought to a sudden end. The feeling always seems to be the same - something missing or permanently lost. A vacuum or hole in the heart and mind, and the accompanying grief in realizing that it is gone. Perhaps even regret at all the effort that went into the dream that is now reduced to ruins, being signed away on divorce papers, lying on a hospital bed, being lowered into a grave or burned on a funeral pyre. It all comes with very tangible sense of despair and inability to hope in the light of all that is happening at the moment. At times when that which we have loved and desired is being burned to the ground, it's not just that we can't grope for some measure of hope; it seems as if we don't even want to. As inevitable defeat seems to stare us in the face, the instinct is to crawl under the covers, lie down and die.

    As much as we like to think and pretend otherwise, the truth of the matter is that the human heart is extremely fragile and sensitive.

    Like those who hurt over his passing, I find myself deluged with questions on the matter. Why did this happen, God? I know that You have a purpose in everything You do, but situations like this are so hard to explain. Why did his time come when circumstances in his life were so promising? How will his family find hope? How will the person who longs for him pick up the pieces and keep moving on with life? Can You do something about their pain, God? Help, God. It hurts. Please heal their broken hearts. Please console and comfort them. Please save them. Please.

       It is in the midst of all these questions that I find my own heart turning to the Word of the only wise and true God, Who has carried me through my own moments of personal hurt and sorrow. I was reminded of chapter 25 in the book of Isaiah, titled "God Will Swallow Up Death Forever." Verses 6 to 9 read as follows:

    "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, 'Behold this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'" (Isaiah 25:6-8, ESV)

    This prophesied defeat of the curse of death that hangs as a covering and veil over all people and nations was fulfilled 740-odd years after the life of Isaiah, in the crucified body of the Son of God that hung on His blood-drenched cross, and His resurrection three days later. In the final book of the Bible known as 'Revelation', John the Apostle is given a vision of the resurrected Christ such as He has never seen - hair white like wool or snow, eyes burning like fire, feet gleaming like polished bronze, a voice with a roar louder than an angry ocean, and a face "like the sun shining in full strength." (Revelation 1:13-16, ESV). Yet of all the opening lines that this terrifying persona could have chosen, I find it deeply moving that Christ speaks words of comfort to His beloved Apostle, of life on the other side of death: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."

    Time and again throughout the Bible, God promises an appointed time to come when death will be no more, when this fallen and dying world will pass away and the creation of a "new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1). I find it interesting that in the entire Bible, there are only two places where life is recorded to be perfect. The opening two chapters of Genesis, the first book, record the beginning of time with creation and life with God before mankind sins through disobedience and is separated from Him; the final two chapters of Revelation, the last book, record the end of time with the 're-creation' of a new heaven and earth, and the words of God Himself in His promise of new life:

    "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, no pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:3-5, ESV).

    It is no gamble to put my trust in the only God who promises life and light on the other side of darkness. If you are sorrowing today, may you experience His powerful and comforting presence and put your faith in His promise of new life for you. See you in the next post.
- The Wisdom Seeker

    "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:40, ESV)

    "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25. ESV)

    "Because I live, you also will live." (John 14:19, ESV)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is He There? Does He Care?

    There hasn't been a day that's gone by since I wrote "He's Dead. What Does That Mean?" that I don't think about my friend and what has become of him. I have thought about his family and the emotional devastation that follows when one's hopes and dreams die in fiery flames and one is powerless to intervene. I remembered the funeral of a little boy I had attended in India 6 years ago, and the sight of his mother sobbing her heart out in uncontained grief. And as I write this, I feel the twinge in my own heart as well.

    I had ended the last post contemplating the thread that ran through all the expressions of condolence, grief and sorrow - the implicit cry to God for answers, hope and comfort in all that people say and feel at such times. That's who I've turned to in the pages of my Bible, believing that He will answer. And it's been strange how events have come together over the last few days to help me write this post.

    I've thought a lot about Jesus during this time. The more I learn about this shattering personality that emerges from the pages of the Bible, of the God that walked among us clothed in humanity, the more I realize how little I have really known Him. One of the most frequent phrases used of Jesus is that of His compassion on the shattered lives that come pleading for help. Time and again, stories are recorded of Jesus' encounter with the blind, lame, deaf, mute, lonely, opressed, diseased and even the dead. And each time, there is a phrase along the lines "Jesus had compassion" (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2, Luke 7:13). In the English translation of the Bible, the word 'compassion' originates from the Latin stem 'compati', meaning 'to suffer with, to feel pity'. In the sense in which it is used of Jesus, it  means so much more than just supercharged sympathy that accompanies the tearful melodrama of tragedy, or maudlin emotion. It refers to a pity born of deep love that compels one to do something about the situation. In essence, the compassion of the Christ is the kind that says: "This is not right. And I'm going to do something about it." And there is one potent story that I turned to at this time. 

    In the book of John is recorded the story of Lazarus,  a friend whom Jesus raises from the dead (John 11:1-44). Listening to a sermon on this incident titled "Befriended" and delivered at my church in 2005, I was struck by the fact that Lazarus was dead by the time Jesus set out to go to him, that it was a four day walk (~150 km) for Jesus to get there. I reflected on the God that never gives up, who waits till the seemingly irreversible has happened, and then set out on the long, dusty walk through the Judean wilderness toward the one He loved and called 'friend'. The God who created the known universe by the words of his mouth (Psalm 33:6), but patiently endured the limitations of the human frame as He put one tired foot in front of the other for four days, even as the dust seeped through His sandals. The God who "spoke and it came to be", but showed the depths of His compassion in enduring the frustrations of walking speed, even as the friend He loved disintegrated in his tomb. The God in whose presence angels fall down and worship, and demons shiver, yet who "...was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled" as He witnessed the grief and sorrow of inconsolable friends and family. The uncreated, self-sufficient God who needs nothing from anyone, yet of whom it is written "Jesus wept", as He who is infinite in power and multiplied in capacity was moved with emotion. The God who undertook this long journey to confront Death and shout at the top of His lungs: "Lazarus, come out!". And it is recorded that the undefeated terror that stalks all of humanity bowed in the presence of its Master, and gave Him back His friend.

    While roomates on campus in our second year of undergrad, Yeswanth and I had many conversations about God, karma, fate, destiny and many more. Somehow, as things went, we never got around to the topic of Jesus. I believe the Christ I follow is present in the midst of the sorrow and grief of those who are trying to come to terms with his passing.

Yes, I believe that He is there. And that He cares.

    I'm going to talk about why I believe that Christ offers hope that none else can in the next post. I have so much to write, but I'm going to stop here. To those who read this and weep because of the searing anguish in the heart that forces the tears out at the thought of a loved one that is gone: may you feel the presence of the God of all comfort. He does not need to undertake a four-day journey through wilderness to reach you. He is already there. He cares. See you soon.
- The Wisdom Seeker

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

He's Dead. What Does That Mean?

       Since my initial response to my friend Yeswanth's death in my last post "Death Came Calling...And Took My Friend", I've been thinking about the fact that he's gone. It was moving to read the expression of sorrow and loss from so many people on his Facebook wall, as I waded through my own thoughts on the matter. I suppose it was the sentiment expressed on Facebook that made me want to write about the implications of the feelings that hit us in the aftermath of death, on these occasions where we are suddenly confronted with the fragility of our bodies and the fleeting nature of our existence.

    There is a sense of incompleteness, a sudden void that seems to appear both in our sense of the little social bubble that we construct for ourselves and our hearts when someone we know is no longer there. It's especially felt when that person is someone we were very close to, as if a hole has been made in the wall or roof of a cozy "house" that we live in, and we suddenly feel the discomfort of not being sheltered from the uncertainties of the outside world. And I think that's why we experience the feeling of missing someone when they die - because they're the part of our carefully constructed "house" that's been damaged or taken away, and it's no longer a secure house anymore. I've never really thought of it like this before, but the sense came through so clearly as I read post after post on Yeswanth's wall that read along the lines of "I am at a loss for words and will miss you so badly...". I think there is a legitimate reason behind this feeling that hits us. I am convinced that it is God's gentle reminder to us that this world and life are transient and fleeting; as much as we crave constancy and security, we will never be able to construct a secure and lasting enough bubble for ourselves, as hard as we try.

    But there are also so many, many implications that follow once this realization sinks in, and I saw that expressed on his wall too. There is the sense of fear as the gap in our house reminds us of our own mortality, that we may at any minute encounter the event that stops our heartbeat, the breath in our lungs and hurl us into pitch darkness from which we will never return. There is the sense of finality, as we watch the body of the person taken to the crematorium or the burial ground. But even in the midst of this, we long for true peace and a place that we can truly call 'home', where there is real security. Why else do we write things like "RIP", "I'll see you on the other side", "Hope you're seeing this from Heaven", "You have reached your destination", etc? Once again, this reminds me of the post "Where Is Home?" that I wrote in 2009.

    Isn't it strange how the idea of a Godless, random world that arose by pure chance and completely explained by science doesn't seem all that appealing at times like this? I find no consolation in explanations of how Yeswanth will be broken down and recycled into the planet's cycles for organic matter. Or comfort in mourning the loss of his DNA from the gene pool of humanity, and the resulting impact on the variety and survivability of the human species. Atheism has no consolation to offer; for all our indulgence of Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', The Selfish Gene' and the like, their explanations as to where Yeswanth is now, why friends miss him and his family is devastated are hollow and unsatisfying.

    What do I see in the words on his Facebook wall? That we recognize and value the individuality and intrinsic worth of the person called Yeswanth. That there must be something more to a human being than Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen - a spirit, a soul. In the process, we implicitly admit that this was given to him by a source greater than ourselves and our world where change is the only constant. That's the only reason why people write about their prayers for him and his family. Ultimately in moments like this when the rubber meets the road, as much as we may sincerely mean words of condolence, it eventually boils down to only one word that offers any possible answer. The one word that offers consolation and hope of real security, the only word that keeps emerging from the background of everything that everyone is trying to say in all their shock and sorrow:


    I believe that is who my friend is standing in front of and looking at now. But can God offer hope? What response can He give to all that we say and feel? I'm going to stop here for now and think about that for the next post. May you find your comfort in Him. God bless you.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Monday, January 17, 2011

Death Came Calling...And Took My Friend

    Since the New Year began, people close to me have experienced death in the passing on of their loved ones or are experiencing it now, as a loved one teeters on the brink between life and death. Barely a few hours after publishing my last post reflecting on the LOTR and our choice of what to do with our time here, I received an e-mail with a link to an online news article [1], bearing the news that death had come calling closer to home last week - and taken a friend.

Yeswanth in Sikkim, a province in India bordered by China, Nepal and Bhutan
    Yeswanth was my classmate during my Undergraduate years studying Engineering in India. He was also one of my assigned roomates while living ion campus during our second year. We had met in first year while living in separate rooms around the corner from each other - him in room 228, me in room 245. Tall, gentle and soft-spoken with a quiet smile and great sense of humour, he was very friendly and easy to get along with. I last saw him 6 years ago, after finishing one of the last exams of our Undergraduate degree - his in Electronics and Communication Engineering, mine in Electronics and Instrumentation. We chatted occasionally online over the years, but lost contact over time. The news article said that he had been killed in an automobile accident last Thursday, ten days after joining a division of Hewlett-Packard India in a major city as a Software Engineer. Rear-ended by a cement mixer truck while travelling in an autorickshaw (a motorized three-wheel taxi) on his morning commute to work, the collision crushed the autorickshaw between the  truck and a public transit bus in front of it. Neither Yeswanth or the driver stood a chance; they died instantly. The photo of the wreckage was barely recognizable; only the black and yellow paint with the remaining front tire and the white cement mixer in the background provided a clue of what it had once been.

Over in an instant: This is all that was left
    Yeswanth had just turned 27 years old when he died; his birthday was at the beginning of the year. The taxi driver was only 28 himself. Dead before the age of 30.

    Trying to process the shock of what I had just read, I visited his Facebook page. I don't know why. What I was hoping to find there? A wall post from him saying, "Hey everyone, I'm ok, it's just a joke!"? Instead, a flood of condolence messages posted on his wall from friends and co-workers hammered the finality of the fact home - Yeswanth was gone, and wasn't coming back. Reading some of the messages and dealing with my own feelings in the process, I thought I'd put some of my thoughts down here to help me think through things myself. I hope it'll help those who are aborbing it themselves, or trying to come to grips with it.

    My head seems to process the statement "Yeswanth died in a car accident" reasonably well. Six words, simple conept, not too much trouble, you'd think. But my heart rebels against this simplistic denial with a mental and emotional uproar that refuses to shut up. It can't understand the concept of 'gone'. Yeswanth's gone. Gone? What do you mean, gone? Gone where? Gone, as in permanently?! No, it's not possible! We chatted the other day. I just saw photos of him on Facebook and posts on his wall. How can someone suddenly disappear like that? Don't talk rubbish. Despite the reality of a world where death comes calling every day - in hospitals, homes, offices, automobile accidents, plane crashes, sinking ships, battlefields, warzones, murders, atrocities and all manner of ending human life, we seem to live in an automatic and oblivious denial, as if it could not possibly happen to us or those in our little social bubble. But when it does, we react with a shocked incredulity that would be comical, if the occasion were not so tragic. "OMG, how could he die?", we find ourselves asking, as if it were something unheard of in the universe.

    The denial only escalates knowing that he died so young. Somehow, we all live life with a natural and unconscious assumption that we are meant to die only at a ripe old age, after living a full life and experiencing every step along the way. I guess it's the natural optimism that God creates us with, that every couple who wants children have as they realize they're going to have a baby, and hold their new-born in their arms for the first time. No parent starts out envisioning that their pride and joy will unexpectedly die along the way, before they do. "No parent should have to bury their child", says King Theoden with sorrow in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King, as he watches his son's funeral procession. In that one sentence, he verbalizes our assumptions that there is a right way that life is to be lived. There is an instinctive retaliation against anything to the contrary, as if we have an awareness that this is not the way the world is supposed to be, not the way life is to be lived, not the way we are supposed to die. 

    But days after his passing, and the expression of sorrow by all who have known him that will have to give way to acceptance over time, there is a haunting question that refuses to go away, expressed indirectly on his Facebook wall:

Yeswanth is gone, but where? What happened to him? Where is he?

    As I write this, he is not the only one from my years in Undergrad that I think about. Roughly two years ago, I got a similar e-mail bearing the news that Terrin Jacob had driven home after a party having had too much to drink. He lost control of his car, crashed it into a wall and died on the way to hospital. He was from the class below me, and only 24 when he died.
Terrin Jacob as I remember him

    I think I need to stop here for this post and carefully digest all that's going through my head right now. I'll write more later. See you then.

- The Wisdom Seeker

  [1] Killer truckers Claim 5 Lives: 3 Accidents In 24 Hours


   This post was the first that led to a four-part series on life, death, purpose and realizations about all of them. The full series is listed below:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"I Wish None Of This Had Happened."

Frodo and The Ring of Power (The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring)

     I don't know why circumstances in life keep reminding or bringing me back to my favourite movie. I guess there is so much in The Lord of The Rings that God uses to speak to me in a profound and powerful manner. With the train of thought that I've been developing since the beginning of the year, recalling something relevant from LOTR that spoke to me was inevitable. The brilliant soundtrack composed by Howard Shore that plays as I write this definitely adds fuel to the fire of inspiration!

    Among the many memorable moments in the first part of the trilogy, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, there was one in particular that riveted my attention the very first time I saw it in the theatres. It continues to do so every year at Christmas time, as I watch the trilogy as part of my annual tradition. Mind you, I watch only the Extended Edition!

    The approximate half-way mark finds Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Merry and Pippin trapped underground in the dark of the massive dwarf mine of Moria. Since discovering the true nature of the Ring towards the beginning of the story, Frodo has found himself running from the Shire with his friends, chased by the Ringwraiths first to Bree, and from there, all the way to Rivendell. Along the way, for the first time in his life he is thrust into a wild and unfamilar world fraught with danger, stabbed, endured cold, hunger, fear, sleepless nights and much more. The jouney has become only harder after leaving Rivendell, where he had assumed responsibility for the Ring as the Ringbearer, and begins to increasingly feel its weight on his spirit and the allure of its power. Now, chased into the dark of Moria and trapped in its terrifying gloom and silence with the rest of the Fellowship, Frodo sits next to Gandalf and begins to cry. And in that context comes this very potent scene.

The Fellowship of The Ring: Gandalf in the Dwarf mine of Moria

    "I wish the Ring had never come to me," says Frodo. "I wish that none of this had happened." There is a pause as Gandalf turns to look at him, his eyes filled with compassion and understanding of the burden that he would never have had the little Hobbit carry. "So do all who live to see such times", he says. "But that is not given to them to decide. What we must decide, is what we will do with the time that is given to us."

    That tiny exchange of two sentences is significant; it will return to influence Frodo's decision at a critical and pivotal moment towards the end of The Fellowship of The Ring, when both the quest and the Fellowship are on the verge of collapse. Time and again, as I watch the movie or in moments of reflection, it speaks volumes to me too.

    Like Frodo, I have a long list of "I wish" moments as I look back on my life. And I'm sure we all do - I wish I'd done better in school; I wish I'd studied harder; I wish I'd achieved more; I wish I'd listened to this advice, and hadn't listened to that advice; I wish I'd used my time better; I wish this friend had not hurt me; I wish that person had not abandoned me; I wish that painful moment had not happened; I wish someone loved me; I wish someone wanted me; I wish someone would take notice of all that I do; I wish people would treat me better; I wish I had treated people better; I wish I had been a better son/daughter/husband/wife/father/mother; I wish I had told that person I loved them; I wish I hadn't; I wish I hadn't said those hurtful words to that person; I wish I had trusted this person; I wish I hadn't trusted that person; I wish I wasn't a fool; I wish I had made this choice, or not made that choice; I wish...

    But time and again, in those rueful moments of regret, disappointment, sorrow and a myriad other sentiments, I am reminded of the transforming perspective of my God and Father, who would have me see differently. I am reminded that my life and times are in His hand, where in the words of His Apostle, "..that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV). I am reminded that through all my moments of regret, He works for my good and His glory, transforming me into the image of His Son and my Christ as He weaves the threads together into a brilliant tapestry that will outweigh all the tears and heartbreak that have gone into its making. I am reminded of His constant and abiding companionship through it all, brilliantly expressed by Psalm 139 and the writer of Hebrews: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). I am reminded that He will comfort me in painful moments involving people and circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Psalm 9:9). I am reminded that I will have courage inspite of my doubts, when I look at Him (Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1). I am reminded that He will help me deal with my failures (Psalm 37:23-24, Proverbs 3:5-6) and through disappointments (Phillipians 4:6-7, Galatians 6:9). I am reminded of His consolation in times of heartbreak (1 Peter 5:6-7, Isaiah 43:2). There is not one wistful "I wish.." occasion of this life that is not transformed in perspective as we come to know the great God who bids us call Him "Father."

    Above all else, I am reminded through His Word and moments such as this, that He has given me a unique capacity as a human being - the power of choice. And as a child foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified (Romans 8:29) and guided by His Spirit, to use that choice wisely and differently, to decide what I will do with the time given to me by my Father. The power to choose love in the light of the sinner that I am, and sinful human beings whom I have hurt and hurt me in turn, in a fallen and broken world. The power to choose eternity, knowing my true Home waiting on the other side of death, "...looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10). The power to choose the use of my time to tell the dying world around me that there is life offered to them freely, if only they will accept.

    I have to stop now. It's hard to believe so much came out of a little two-sentence exchange in a massive three-hour movie. It makes me feel like I have to watch it now, but I'll have to control myself until Christmastime comes again in...11 months. I guess the soundtrack will have to do until then. But for those reading, do take time to watch this awesome story. There will never ever be a movie made to equal them, in my opinion! That said, I want to leave you with this thought:

    It is not given to us to choose the difficult "I wish none of this had happened" moments of our lives. What will we do with the time that is given to us?

- The Wisdom Seeker

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Cup Is More Than Full!

"Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of Heaven." (1 Corinthians 15:49, ESV)

    The last week has given me quite a bit to think about in terms of my last two posts on life, death and my true Home. Two days after my last post "Can't Feel At Home Anymore", I was stunned when John Neufeld delivered a powerful and uplifting sermon along similar lines, taken from the passage of 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 and titled "The Believer's Hope". Covering the resurrection of Christ and the implications for those who pur their trust in Him, it was brilliantly thought out and put together.

    In addition, a friend of mine who read "From the Land of The Dying to the Land of The Living" raised the question if the thoughts I'd expressed there weren't another form of seeing the proverbial glass as half-empty. I did respond partially to his very sincere question, but wanted to write more about what it means to me personally, and why I believe in it so wholeheartedly.

    I've come to believe with solid conviction that comprehending the reality and implications of my own mortality - that I'm dying, that this world is not home, and what I want to do with my time here is a totally liberating, not stifling perspective. Why?

  • It redefines my time. From the moment of my birth, the clock may be ticking away, but one must ask the question, "Ticking away to what?". If it really is pitch black on the other side of death and I must jump into darkness and nothingness, then the tyranny of the immediate, of the here-and-now presses in with a ferocious and frightening intensity. It demands that I savour all the pleasure and experience that this life has to offer with a voracious appetite, for in the words of Paul quoting Isaiah, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die". But if the promises of Christ and His resurrection are true, the clock ticks away not to an event of overwhelming sadness and despair, but to an incredible sprint as I cover last few yards to a Home beyond all comprehension, and a Father running to welcome me with open arms as I burst in through Heaven's gates.

  • It redefines my money and possessions. If this life is all there is, wealth gathering and hoarding becomes my sole aim, for without it I cannot savour the pleasures of all that this world may offer. I must also regard everything I see around me as potentially "my property", for if I don't grab it first, someone else will. But convinced of who Christ is and His promises in John 14:1-3, I realize that everything I see around me is His property, not mine, with an invisible sticker labeled "Property of God" on it. This redefines why I make money, and what I do with it. I don't cling on to my aging, fading and disintegrating possessions with a tight fist anymore, for my Father is preparing and keeping unbelievably brilliant stuff for me at Home.

  • It redefines my relationships. Life doesn't become about what others can do for me, or what I can take from them. I am instead driven to pour myself out in love to the last drop for them, and think differently about them too. Has anyone told them who God is, and what He has promised those who accept and know Him? Has anyone shown them the true love of the Father? Do they know what they are spending their lives on? What can I do for them? How can I tell them? How can I show them? How can I love them selflessly? Will they come with me to the Home and Father I'm going to? Or will they be shut out permanently?

  More than anything else, it is redefined by the power of the Word of God that thrills me with the words of Paul the Apostle, who tells me that the cup is not half-empty, or half-full. It's overflowing:

    "So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body...Behold! I tell you a mystery...For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality...Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:42-58, ESV).

  And that is why I can't, and won't live like this:

That's it for now. See you in the next post!

- The Wisdom Seeker

Friday, January 7, 2011

Can't Feel At Home Anymore

   Sometimes, a song expresses what needs to be said more than elegant prose ever can. After posting the thoughts of "From the Land of The Dying to the Land of The Living", the words and tune of a song that my parents used to play at home while I was a child came back to me. It had been so many years since I had heard Jim Reeves' deep and comforting  voice that God had blessed him with, singing the words of "This World Is Not My Home." I found a posting on Youtube with wonderful audio quality and thought I'd share it along with the lyrics here:


This world is not my home, I'm just a' passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Oh Lord, You know I have no friend like You
If Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

I have a loving mother just over in Gloryland
And I don't expect to stop until I shake her hand
She's waiting now for me in Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Just over in Gloryland, we'll live eternally
The saints on every hand are shouting "Victory!"
Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven's shore
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

   Listening to this song has only reinforced my decision to run as hard as I possibly can, for the sake of my Christ and His Kingdom with the short time I have left in this world. I'm just passing through on my way Home, and I have no friend like Him. It reminds me of a post I wrote in 2009 titled "Where is Home?", after a UBC C4C event.

I want to hear the songs that they're singing there now. I have to get Home. I must!

   If you're reading this, if you haven't made Heaven the place that you call "Home" and if you don't know Jesus as the Friend unlike any you have ever had, may I encourage you to invite Him into your life? You can't get Home without Him.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

From the Land of The Dying to the Land of The Living

 I thought I'd launch my New Year with a powerful idea that hit me last year. It happened a few days before my Master's thesis defense in late April. Looking at my hand one morning, a thought struck me:

I'm dying.

   The words of 2 Corinthians 4:16 came almost immediately to mind: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." A few days before that realisation, I had listened to a sermon from 2004 by John Neufeld, Senior Pastor at Willingdon Church where I attend. Titled "The Precious Event of A Believer's Death," it covered the death of Abraham's wife Sarah in Genesis 23. Contemplating his sermon, it finally sank in with more than an intellectual understanding - this world really isn't the Land of the Living; it's the Land of the Dying. From the moment of my conception, the clock ticks away and I'm only growing older, not younger, till the time of my death. For all our social, scientific and technological advancement, the reality of our mortality cannot be we smoothed away by any amount of anti-aging cream. Pastor John went on to point out that The Land of the Living is occupied by those believers who have taken the final journey through death, welcomed with rejoicing by God and all who have gone on before.

  Contemplating that, I followed it to its conclusion:

    If this is the Land of The Dying, I'm not going to be around for very long.

   That made a lot of sense. Even if I made it through another 50 or 60 years, that's still insignificant in comparison to eternity that is waiting on the other side. I had read plenty in the Bible about the fleeting nature of this life and heard it preached from the pulpit, but I think the implications still remained somewhat intellectual and vague until I heard that sermon. Having it finally sink in, I was left with a question:

What do I want to do with my time here?

    I thought long and hard about the lat 5 years, and all the grand plans and swelling ambitions that I had constructed for myself after having finished my undergraduate degree. So much had changed along the way after starting out with an almighty roar in hot pursuit of high achievement. God had redirected my obsession with Aerospace Engineering to do a graduate research program that I accepted as a last resort, at a university that was my last choice, in a city that I did not have any plans to move to. Along the way, I have met so many wonderful people, had my perspectives changed, assumptions devastated, grown and changed tremendously, experienced trial and heartbreak...

   So what do I want to do? I know what I don't want to happen. In my final moments before I take the road that exits this life, I don't want to look back and just see a diligent student who did well in school, got a high GPA and academic accomplishments to boot. I don't want my life to become about a great professional who always put the project first. I don't want to just see an hard-working engineer who wrote great code and built impressive systems; no one will remember either of them. I won't want to see my possessions, certificates or accolades that only accumulate ever thicker layers of dust; none of them will give me any comfort at that time. An impressive resume will become meaningless, for no one will ever use it to make a hiring decision ever again. Any money (or lack of it) that I accumulate will have an exchange rate of zero on the other side of this life.

   I want to pour my life out to the very last drop for that which will bring life to people's hearts. I want to tell them about the Living One, the Christ without whom there is no Land of The Living. Loving people has become very important to me. I want to love those around me with all the risks that come with it, even if I get hurt in the process; the hurt won't matter anymore on the other side of this life. What good is it being a stingy miser with my words, affection and actions? Who am I saving all my capacity for love, anyway? Am I planning to hoard it carefully and spend it all on those whom I meet when I cross over into the Land of The Living? That's so stupid!

   I have come to the conclusion that as great as it is that we are able to develop innovative technology, building better systems of any kind will not ultimately change the condition of the human heart, out of which all things flow. Neither will the approach of taking power out of the hands of the few and putting it into the hands of the people; it is pointless if the heart doesn't recognize the One who possesses and bestows all power, understand what true power is, and how to wield it. Without bringing people to the knowledge of the Living One, the Giver of Life, I have come to the belief that every other accomplishment in my life is ultimately meaningless.

   I want to shine the light of the Living One in the Land of the Dying, so that those who are dead will see His light and come along with me on my journey with Him to the Land of the Living. If I die in the process, I'll get there all the faster.

  This post is dedicated to my dear friend Julia, who brought her grandmother and grandfather to know and accept Christ, shortly before her grandmother passed on a few days ago.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Run Hard. Full Stop.

   This is my first post for the New Year! Happy New Year, everyone!

   I had a great New Year's Eve, as Angie, Tim, Jacky, Alana, Paulman and I attended Willingdon's New Year's Eve Service. It was a wonderful time of reverent prayer and worship, as we sang songs reflecting the guiding hand and strengthening presence of God - 'Everlasting God', 'Great is Thy Faithfulness', and many others. There was a time of testimony, as people shared about the marvelous ways in which God had touched their lives the last year, many describing how they had accepted Christ for the first time, returned to Him after years of wandering, seen God bring family members to salvation, healing from cancer, and much more. I was so moved listening to these stories, and I'm sure others were too. God spoke with powerful impact to many of us through the simple yet convicting message from Hebrews 12:1-2. 

   From there, it was off to Jamie's for a New Year's Eve potluck, and a wonderful time of food and fellowship, and a hospitality shown to all of us that reminded me so much of my mother's care of any guest that has crossed the threshold of our house. It inspired me to take care of people better when they come over.

   I found myself back home with Paulman, Tim, Angie, Jacky and Alana as the final hour of 2010 began to tick away. And as the last remaining minutes went by, our "family" remaining in Vancouver (with the rest away at Winter Conference in Calgary) came together to do something that I have desired for many years, but never had a close community to do it with. With a deep intimacy that has been born through the saving, redeeming, transforming and healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, we gathered in silence my living room. Paulman prayed, pulled up the lyrics for some wonderful praise and worship music on our wall with the projector and playing his guitar, we sang and worshipped our Faithful God who has seen us through so much in the last year and ushered us together into a new one. It was such a powerful moment of connectedness as our Shepherd who has tended to His family of 9 little sheep was present in our midst, touching our hearts and minds with His presence. Here's a photo or two that I took:

Getting ready to worship as a family, as the final minutes tick away
Woshiping to the lyrics of 'Blessed Be Your Name' in our living room

   As I write this at 3 AM while watching Francis Chan's 'Crazy Love' on DVD, they are still in my living room - Angie sleeping on the couch, Tim sitting in my chair to chat, Paulman playing Starcraft. I look forward to seeing Alison, Tommy and Sam as they arrive back from Winter Conference. I love them all so much.

   The following hymn by Charles Wesley is my prayer for this year, as I run with all my might for my Christ, my Lord, my King, my All.

O Thou, who camest from above,
The pure celestial fire to impart
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart!

There let it for Thy glory burn,
With inextinguishable blaze
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer, and fervent praise

Jesus, confirm my heart's desire,
To work and speak, and think for Thee
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me

Ready for all Thy perfect will,
My acts of faith, and love repeat
Till death Thy endless mercy seal,
And make my sacrifice complete

     I'm going to run hard for the sake of The Name Above Every Other Name with every drop of life I have, even if it kills me. And if it does kill me, I will stand in His presence that much sooner, seeing the face and hearing the voice of the One whom my heart longs to behold. 

Run Hard. Full Stop.

- The Wisdom Seeker