Guests writers

 

Once in a while

a writer obviously (not a member pops by)

and while I would like to invite the  person to join  us

it seems like the time is not right

space is limited and soon we will have to start a  new blog

so what do we do?

I am not going to  worry about the future at all!

 

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QTS Chiangmai 2017 (Part 3)

 

I had set up a routine after day one. My alarm was set at 5.30 am and by 6.00am I would usually reach the reservoir for my morning brief walking and exercises. At 7am I would be back in time for breakfast, followed by the session with the SD. The scripture prayers time would be from 9.30am for 2 hours in the chapel. After 2 hours break was for lunch, spider hunting, laundry or buying of grocery, then, in the afternoon, another 2 hours of praying, reflecting and journaling till 4 pm. My afternoon quiet corner was a balcony on the first floor overlooking the big garden. It has the size of a bed room, a new quiet corner with 4 settees and a coffee table, buffered by a kitchenette. Before bedtime at 10pm, I had the company of the 2 borrowed books which supplemented and catalysed my meditations of each day’s thoughts. It was easy to discipline myself when one is wholly alone without distractions in the veil of silence.

The flow was smooth, easing into the fourth day and I felt like coming out from a layer of darkness into another. The Protestants like to describe themselves as God-fearing people.  Catholics are more prone into calling themselves as sinners and fearful to go for confession.

God sowed the humble seed in my heart. When I was asleep the evil spirit came, sowed obstacles of pride and self-righteousness and made off. The evil spirits seemed to piggyback on the Good Spirits. Wherever the latter go the evil ones are present to cause havoc. This is the reality that the evil ones would lay obstacles to the freedom to respond to God’s love.

The love of God, the soul and sins can be an abstract if one does not believe in God, so it is possible for believers too, without experiencing God. Since my heart had opened up a little, I was keen to search for the Love of God in my heart. Maybe I would find my love for God. Somehow at that moment God’s love appeared so abstract to me. But there was a sense of frustration coupled with a feeling of guilt. I resorted to think that God gave me blessings every day and I was not grateful to visit him every day or thank him or love him by loving his people. Somehow, I was enlightened that love is a verb. As a noun love does not exist by itself, it is always represented by an act, a gift and a feeling. Love is a verb for it is giving voluntarily without any condition attached or expecting a returned favour.

God loves because God only gives. I use the word Charity to replace the word Love. The effect was because I saw that God has everything and is unlimited to give. He doesn’t need anything from us. Everything is created by Him and belongs to Him. The love of God is expressed in creation. We have nothing of our own to give to God except the choices we make. The expression of God’s love is to give and give without any condition. He gave His only Son, Jesus. Through Jesus, who continues to give. He gave us the way to become children of God, the powers to heal, to restore hearing and sight, to walk and to work miracles. Finally, Jesus gave his life to die on the Cross and his Body and Blood as our spiritual food. From the Charity of God, we have Goodness, Gifts, Blessings and Graces. These are free gifts given to us to use them to bear fruits. On our part God wishes that we use these gifts to offer back to Him through the free gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity.

The understanding of sins must orientate to God and the enemies, the evil ones. Sin too does not exist as a noun but represented by the acts of our intention and motive. Sins are offensive actions. God is our Creator, our Master, our Father. We are nothing without him. But we try to do things on our own. God gives and we receive without gratitude and use the gifts to build our own kingdom, to control our own lives. We listen to the evil ones and allow them to influence us. We are not protected without the prayers asking the Holy Spirit to help. What are the motivation behind the effort put in prayers and obedience to God? It is to save our souls from damnation. The evil one recognised Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus did the right thing and did it well to evade the 3 temptations in the desert. The evil one got to leave. As the thoughts flowed on, I saw the words ‘sin’ being replaced with ‘pride’, ‘self-centredness’, ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-righteousness’. I created a vision with my imagination. I saw my heart as the dark cave and I was moving around the edge of that dark hole. The vision continues to flow like a dream without logical details. A long ladder was lowered into the hole and I climbed down. When I reached the bottom I saw a few stacks of my summonses. There were pink ones among the piles. The pink ones are the reminders. The 4 big piles were summons for my offences of pride, self-centredness, selfishness and self-righteousness. At the corner of the bench was a written note, ‘All redeemed’, that Jesus wrote.

Although it was an imagination of illustration, it brought me to copious tears.

As I felt the acceptance of who I was and what were in my possession that I could not see them before, I thanked God with tears of remorse and also felt the joys of freedom with resoluteness  to see to what is important, central and concrete.

From the search of God’s love in my heart, I found myself to truly experience God’s love. In the veil of silence, I could hear God and listen to my heart. Right from beginning I was not looking for a ‘high’ from the retreat nor did I expect a solidly loaded one. I left the retreat with thankfulness and joy, a sense of wonder and in awe at the greatness of God.

 

Laurence

2-9/12/2017

 

 

QTS Chiangmai 2017 (Part 2)

 

I had the same Spiritual director from my last retreat. I did not raise any issue or desire, although there were a few insights and issues which surfaced before the retreat commenced. I believe that the SDs are chosen and I don’t select my SD although I am free to do so. From my experiences I am convinced that to bear good fruits from a directed retreat, obedience to my assigned SD is being obedient to the Holy Spirit. To listen to the Holy Spirit is to hear, to understand and to try to do as directed by the SD. I knew I had to tuck away the 2 books when the retreat proper began, because my past SDs always discouraged me to read my own books, as it might be a distraction, unless that book was strongly recommended by the SD. Besides, I anticipated that my SD, being a Jesuit, would follow closely the steps of St Ignatius’ spiritual exercises. On my first meeting with the SD, after his directives, he added, to my surprise, that I might also grab a book to read. I felt my retreat already started 2 days ago with the permission to use the 2 books I borrowed. Indeed, the contents from the books were like filling the valley and levelling the mountain.

As a result, I was more interested to follow the books than the materials given by the SD. I was carried away by the next chapter instead of reading and reflecting on the assigned bible texts. It touches on virtues towards others, ‘Justice and Fidelity’ Justice is about treating everyone equally. A virtue of fairness where there is no special treatment or preference. Fidelity is the opposite. The virtue teaches me to treat those to whom I am more closely related – spouse, children, parents, friends, relatives, neighbours, community members with impartial speciality. Justice has no preferences. Fidelity is about preferential treatment. I had embraced the fact that ‘discipline’ is the tool to solve life difficulties; that gave me a turning point in life. I found another tool ‘prudence’ that would help me to figure out the tension between Justice and Fidelity. I saw that prudence would help me to figure out my erroneous way of treating relationships with people who should be in my preferential treatment. Prudence helps to find the reason to act.

Prudence reminded me to do my homework from the SD. Every directed retreat begins with self-knowledge, that is looking back in one aspect of my life, my darkness, my faith, or my  relationship with God, my relationships with neighbours and  this time it appeared that I should be looking into the aspect of my self-esteem pertaining to how I should live with myself and what my internal dialogue was. I was asked to look into my way of life, my wisdom and appreciation of what I had: food, clothing, work, place of residence, companions, knowledge and skills, health and sickness, success and failure. The lists were so ordinary in my everyday living yet upon recollection, it reflected my attachments and detachments, my blessings and gifts, my needs and deprivations, my achievement and failures in life value. The revelation of the detrimental effects from my broken relationship has made me overwhelmingly disappointed with myself. I could feel a stir in my heart with resoluteness but also the equally strong feeling of resistant. But the longing for a soul companion, the needs and deprivation, and when orientated to the Charity of God, to justice, fidelity and self-esteem got the better of me to face the questions squarely. What is important? What is central? What is concrete? What are my sacrifices for greater good and value? What are the treasures of my heart?

I never felt so heavy of heart in such an early part of my 8-day journey with God before. Each day the scripture prayers were pointed directly deep into my heart, that part of my being, my very soul. I had been working around the heart and avoided touching my soul in the heart.  I realised that it was rather hard for me to read any biography of great Saint who strongly emphasised on sins that harm their souls. I could not recognise that my soul indeed is my treasure. For a start, I should look after my soul, who is also the treasure to God. Contemplating at the edges of my heart on my present stage of life, I saw money and businesses, the loving God, my family, brothers and sisters, those things I loved, people who helped me, the pleasure of joy and peace. With a little courage I ventured further into the heart, I saw those I wanted/ didn’t want and those I liked/didn’t like. I saw ugliness and the taints, the blessings and unfulfilled desires. I saw smiles from my blessings and a few drops of tears for my obstinacy and stubbornness too.

What is important, central and concrete is to normalise my marriage relationship once more. The sacrifices are the preservation of joy and peace as a pleasure, the worldly freedom, the satisfactions and the fulfilling enjoyment of personal independence.  Ideally, giving in to the greater good and value, beginning with a new set of teeth, companionship, a home to greater intimacy with family, friends and relatives. What are my treasures? My soul is my treasure. My work and my family are also my treasures. Undeniably, I am a treasure to the living God. When I am lost and found, God justified a celebration. What does my heart want? I want to love God. I want to share with others the love of God. I want to protect myself from the influences of evil spirits. I want spiritual growth. I want to try another business. I want to travel for mission works, to Holy Sites and for overseas retreats. What I previously wanted and received, precisely are gifts and blessings from God’s Charity. What I received by graces are not for me to hold on to but to return back through His way in serving and loving of His people, my neighbours and my communities

 

Reflection : Quieting the soul (Chiangmai 2017)

I was the first to arrive for an 8-day Quieting the Soul retreat 2017 at the Seven Fountain Catholic Spiritual Centre in Chiangmai, Thailand. There were to be 42 of us, and most were here for a 5-day retreat. I reckoned the cooler weather has been pushed forward to January. I have continued to get the warm weather in Chiangmai since 2013. Fortunately, at the retreat centre, the whole atmosphere is always cooler than outside the perimeter. I was hoping for rain and the temperature would drop a few degrees. The trees and the bamboos are growing taller and taller since I first saw them in 2006 when I came here with the Cenacle Sisters for a silent retreat. The greens have casted a shade over the centre, keeping the place cool.

After checking in, I was in time for lunch, my first meal at the centre. I had booked in 2 days before the retreat begun. I needed some time to quieten down.  Being early meant that I could be ready to experience the silence of heart and mind right from day 1 of the retreat proper. If I rush into the retreat unprepared, it might take a day or two to begin in silence.

I went up to the library in the centre to borrow books. The library has a good range of Catholic religious and faith books from a wide range of writers who are mostly the Jesuits. Every year, I came across new titles of new authors. I am fond of books about Saints and books on morality and spirituality. This year I was guided by the Spirit to spot 2 books, one on ‘Inward stillness’ and the other a new cover on ‘Virtues for ordinary Christian’. The latter was light in content, less than 150 pages and easy to read, ideal for me to read at a nearby shopping centre. With a cup of coffee, soon I was so absorbed into the book which presented from a religious angle in defining the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. I felt the Holy Spirit was preparing me in the wilderness a road for the Lord, to clear the way in the desert for our God, and to fill every valley, and to level every mountain. The hills would become a plain, and the rough country would be made smooth.

Faith is defined as going to God the way I ready am, without a made up face, a cover up, without a mask or think of what God wants from me. Faith isn’t an utterance, but rather a deep down belief in God. Faith is the act of seeking to meet God face to face in my freedom and vulnerability. Joy is when I actually have something. Hope is when I do not have something. Hope is the willingness not to give up on my faith, precisely, when I draw no consolation from it. If there is no doubt, no uncertainty or fear, no disturbance, then there is not much need for hope. Hope is a virtue of holding on. While tossed about, while adrift, while unsettled, I find hope the anchor that allows me to stay where I am in faith. Hope is not something I can acquire or develop. Hope like Faith and Charity are gifts from God. I think of Charity as an act of donating to appeal or as a virtue that urges me to help the marginalised. My new understanding is Charity is actually the virtue that unites me to God. Charity is not primarily for others. Charity affects my relationship with God at the core of my being. Charity is more concerned for the heart than with deeds. The reading also likened the lighting up of the 4 candles of Advent: Faith, hope, Joy and Charity as Love.

The silence in the retreat granted me the right to ignore others for a conversation and to have a space to be with myself. I was not obliged to say “Hello” to others, yet I could share common places and activities like Mass and adoration hour. In short, I could isolate myself to a space of my own and spend quiet time with the Lord. The book on ‘Inward stillness’ was a good reminder, calling me to go into the retreat with my heart and not just my mind. Indeed, for all the retreats in the pasts I was not able to get into the heart, the core of my being, the very soul of mine.

I had quit smoking 30 years ago. But there were times I dreamed that I was smoking and I was woken up by my conscience in the middle of the dream and felt very guilty. I had made a promise to Mother Mary that I would never smoke again.

Conscience is the voice of God living in us which urges us to love God, ourselves and our neighbour. After many years, it happened again in my dream and I was so guilt ridden. What disturbed me this time was I had another dream on my first night and I woke up by smoking in my dream, but there wasn’t a sense of guilt. I didn’t feel good about it, for through examining our conscience, we are called to judge our past behaviour as right or wrong. I asked why I didn’t feel the sense of wrong anymore.

On the second day, the day before my actual retreat began I continued reading about the other virtues. The opening statement from the author was that every human act is a moral act. We are moral creatures with a soul each. Moral life is concerned with ordinary life. Morality is not primarily the study of grave action; rather it is the study of human living. Being human is as complicated as finding the right moment to quit cigarettes. Ordinary life is complicated and frustrating because the variety of relationships, tasks and personalities that constitute humanity intersect. In order to handle these complexities, we develop ‘practices ‘. Practices form habits in us to act in a particular way. These regular practices make us who we are. Some practices became deeply ingrained in me on a particular dimension of my life that affects profoundly my relationship with people in my family and in communities. My thought also turned to my struggle to fight against procrastination and the ever failures to cultivate the habit of tidiness. In fact, the more I would tolerate my untidiness and procrastination to cultivate the habit of putting extra effort to tidy up. I enforced practising untidiness and procrastination instead.

 

Do keep writing

 

Do keep writing

This is easier said than done

Sometimes I get upset and wonder

If it is all worth while

To wait or to write

To sigh or to persevere

And then I say to myself

Hang on! All is fine!

And indeed things are fine and going well

After all it is not the people who keeps this blog going

But readers as well as myself who gets reminded to put in

A word or two and then all is well

Like now and this  moment in time

Thank God all is well!

 

To write or not to write

Talk about writing and one gets all worked up

simply because writing does seem more a chore

pleasant though it can be

rather than an exciting enterprise

 one that makes all things joyful 

causing one to think, to smile and to ponder. . .

Why is writing a chore

when you have been gifted

To use your many gifts is no chore

If you can try to see it as one of service     

Talk about being vigilant

 

Talk about being vigilant,

I am rather disappointed in some ways.

Why do you say this?

I have been coming to the website hoping to find

a post or two, perhaps an article or more

But it is not to be . . .

We have so many writers

but not everyone writes

and that includes

yours truly

I too am guilty.

This post simply talks about the feelings I have this morning and nothing more

And feelings, people say, are not totally reliable. . .

Still it is good to express myself and thus it gives me a chance to write.