Dancing Day!

...or so they say.

I love to dance. Not everyone who knows me knows this, but yes, I do. Maybe this has to do with being introduced to dance music since young, and having memories of dancing with my dad for as long as I can remember.

The idea of dancing is so...stimulating. One thinks of movement, emotions, rhythm, hearts beating, beauty, harmony, oneness of the dancers. And then there's confusion, disunity, chaos, disjointed movements, forced smiles, sore feet and aching muscles. Surely the most beautiful choreographies are those of infinite possibilities and innovative postures. Choreography cannot be conceived simply in the mind. It must be lived. It must involve one's all - heart, soul, strength. Can dance be beautiful without these 'alls' ? But most of us can hardly imagine walking through life without weariness, much less waltz our way into the future!

(Photo taken from www.laballet.com)

It's saddening to hear news of church/temple attacks, and earthquakes, and rise in homelessness. As I pondered these past few days, what I think of when I dwell on the word 'perichoresis' (a term used to describe unity of the Godhead in Trinitarian theology) was this: Dancing can depict deep sorrow. It also can demonstrate deep joy.

And my favourite choreography would be one that infuses both sorrow and joy in its bittersweet motions that leaves me speechless at the complexity, creativity and altogether-impressive conclusion. In the rhythm of life, rarely is there a constant beat, a dull moment, a predictable year. "What of the Haitian victims' suffering?" we ask. With this new year ahead, how many of us feel prepared to face the countless challenges that lie before us, with our poor visibility in the fog of uncertainty? Is there truly dancing after the mourning?
(Photo taken from www.news.cnet.com)

Sometimes it feels as though we live in a time of endless mourning. But we are told in Holy Scripture that a time of joy will come. Though the sorrow may last for the night, his joy comes in the morning! It is with poor visibility that we should fix our eyes on what is unseen - because that is what lasts. Our troubles for this time are "achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Even now, we get glimpses of this joy through those we love and cherish, i.e. our sorrow is not without a pinch of joy. A classic hymn known as "Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day" does remind us that THE Dancing Day has not arrived. There shall be such a day - pure joy. Meanwhile, we are still not done with THE final choreography. Remember: The conclusion of your dance means nothing without every movement that precedes it. In that we hope.

For you who read this, I pray that you will move with the flow of God in your dance this year:
  1. May you know divine guidance in your steps, and the continuity of your past, present and future as movements that build towards a beautiful conclusion.
  2. May you discover creativity amidst complexity in life through wisdom from above.
  3. May you move forward with assurance that the one who created you is your ultimate choreography partner - he is the one in whom you live and move and have your being.
As for me, I am asking God for renewed faith in his provision and power, and divine wisdom as I complete my 2-year program. The years ahead are not without challenges, but there is so much to look forward to! In the following 5+ months, I want to deepen my sense of purpose and destiny to live (dance!) for him as I consider my next step post-Fuller, and find significance directly from the Source of my origin, the One to whom I shall one day return for my Dancing Day.



It's not how broken we are. It's how we are broken.

Each one of us are broken, there are no two ways about it. This reality is far from being a reality that we can deny or dismiss, without also denying or dismissing our own humanity. We are simply broken in unique ways. To look at a person's brokenness is to discover who that person is. In it, we discover the essence of his/her being. Nouwen writes, "...our brokenness reveals something about who we are."

That no one is exempt from a state of brokenness is humanity's shared reality. But that's where it stops. For if you can recognize that each individual's suffering and pain is indeed unique, in that it both defines and is defined by who that individual is, then we cannot say this shared reality is truly shared. How much can you truly understand of another's pain, in spite of hundreds of similarities you can find, as though you are that person going through that pain at that moment?

I've always found it hard to bring myself to say in response to a friend sharing a struggle, "I know exactly how you feel." The truth is, if a friend were to say that to me when I am going through a hard time, I doubt I would believe it, much less feel consoled in a significant way. Perhaps there is value is attempting to match someone's suffering to our own, in the hope of bridging emotional distance or what not. But to say I can know how a person feels exactly, that seems too presumptious - doesn't it?

A conversation I had with three other friends on Christmas Eve was on the issue of pain. One of them said the feelings can be numbed by keeping the mind occupied on anything other than the cause of that pain. "Just don't think about it!" Isn't that what many of us do, when we find our pain too heavy a cross to bear, when life needs to go on and we have no choice but to "move on". I can't quite articulate the sadness I felt in my heart to hear that being said, mostly because I knew how true it is. Sadly. We cover our pain over days, months, years. We ignore it. We bury it. We try to kill it. But we remain broken.

My response to that friend, although not very well-articulated, was that the reason many, many songs are so powerful is that they are expressions of encountering, contemplating and living through pain. Sometimes, deep pain. Was not the human heart created to feel? And is not brokenness the very way our hearts are tenderized? Joy is greater joy, sorrow greater sorrow, when we are broken and do not run away from it. Painkillers don't work on broken hearts. Encountering our unique brokenness - that's what brings true healing. There was a day when I was lying on my back in the Spanish village in Balboa Park (spring break roadtrip with Laura), listening to a guitarist under a tree, asking God questions from my Pandora jar of a brain. Then came one of the most stunning moments I felt God speak to me clearly - "Healing is made complete when you dare to love even when it hurts." God was calling me to wholenes that is found not by avoiding pain but by knowing He is in control amidst pain, and that I can walk through my pain assured I am never alone. Maybe no one can understand, even those who say "Oh! I understand exactly how you feel." And that's okay. 

If our brokenness is telltale of who we are, then my brokenness shouts my darkest fears. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death. Fear of being alone. Fear of people's expectations and demands. Fear of failure. Fear of success. My God! So many fears! I don't run. I don't hide. I meet Him in the secret place...He tells me I'm His Beloved. I belong to Him. I am broken but wholly surrendered...

Jeremy Riddle - Sweetly Broken
From the album Sweetly Broken

To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled


In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

...Interestingly, the Pandora jar we hear of (or the more popular term "Pandora's box") speaks of hope beneath mayhem. Mayhem was released because of Pandora's curiosity, out of a jar she possessed, which were "all of the evils, ills, diseases". But "at the very bottom of her jar, there lay hope." (see Wikipedia, "Pandora's box"). Of course, you may or may not like Greek mythology. But I cannot help but delight at the thought that beneath all the mayhem of life, our hurts and pains, our trivial pursuits, our broken dreams, there lies hope in what is eternal. Hope that is greater hope - because brokenness is not our ultimate enemy. Our not knowing whose we are is what makes brokenness ruin us. So I rejoice in that hope! In all these things, "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom 8:37).

Who we are determines how we are broken. Our becoming the Beloved transforms who we are, which in turn transforms our ashes into beauty...
Mourning into dancing...
Sorrow into joy!

Christmas pause

It's been two days since my last chapter. But it's been a good two days of Christmas. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man. How inconceivable. I shall continue to breathe in the wonderment that surrounds this season - in commemoration and celebration of when the Creator chose to be part of his creation, compelled by an unfathomable kind of love. One final week remains of this year. No, make that five days. I will that these five days be steeped in thankful remembrance and reflective planning.

With that, I shall now lay my head to rest yet another night and return to unhurried ponderance on "Brokenness" in continuation of Nouwen's Beloved.



So the aim was to blog a chapter a day. I usually end up blogging only at the end of my day, right before I sleep, as a reflection exercise. For some reason, the blogspot clock doesn't follow my sleep hours or when I think the day should officially end; my post tonight, for example, should show tonight's date, but blogspot would argue it's already tomorrow. Oh well...

Today I read the section Taken, the first of four parts in the chapter Becoming the Beloved. The part that kicked me (yes, I used the word "kicked") was this: to be chosen as the Beloved of God does not exclude others. Instead, it includes others. That's kinda neat. I've never quite thought of it that way. Which is great! So it was a thought to ponder on.

Do you think persons around you feel included, or out of your radar? Do people know that you know your Belovedness, and that you know theirs, too? Hmm. How does our Belovedness include others? Or rather, how does our Being and Becoming the Beloved cause others to feel accepted and belonged and secure around us? As a matter of fact, do we think it can have that effect?


Instead of making others feel threatened or rejected or unworthy, my walking around just being the Beloved creates an environment for them to experience their own Belovedness while I experience mine. Isn't that awesome??! I simply enjoy the fact that I am deeply cherished and valued (makes you wonder what that looks like, doesn't it?) --- and trust that somehow that rubs off on people, 'cause they become drawn into this environment that breathes life into them so they too can respond to that deep inner voice that calls, "You are the Beloved." It's no fun to be around someone who hates him/herself and is constantly either putting him/herself down OR putting you down to make him/herself feel better. So it's almost like, picture this: you're going around living life, letting yourself be loved and giving generously and just as graciously the love you receive to those whom you encounter.

That is how we understand the word 'chosen', to be set apart and somehow shine in quality and distinctiveness.
Yet not for competition, but for compassion.
Not for exclusion of others, but inclusion.
Not for rejection of anything less than perfection, but acceptance of all that needs perfection.

So ends another night. And by my decree, this post is dated Dec 21, the first day of winter. All is calm...time to sleep.


Paradise Lost

There was a time when I felt like everything could be sussed out. That if I try hard enough, anything could be figured out. I just need to find out and do my research and all that. Of course, that belief was quickly put to rest. Or rather, it was a myth quickly dispelled. Although I don't necessarily think that way anymore, I still however believe that there's a lot we can find out if we care to try.

You see, it goes without saying that what we know more about impacts what we are concerned about. When you learn more about the injustice done to children who born into prostitution, it is hard not to feel a certain level of sadness and horror inside. One cannot help but ask "why?" or at least pause for a moment in quiet sobriety.

In the Life of the Beloved, Nouwen speaks of all human beings having "deep inner memories of paradise lost". That deep inside, we once held something that we all have lost and are now searching for. How would we crave love, if we never tasted it? How could we possibly conceive of the concept of right or wrong, if we never had a sense for it? In essence, perhaps humankind can only look for something that it has experienced before to some degree. I cannot yearn for home if I don't have the slightest idea of what home is. You cannot understand what happiness is if you had no prior contact with the notion or imagery of it. Yes, perhaps this is true.

If so, I wonder, in our empathy for others, the anger against the injustice that we hear of - how much of that is conditioned by our own experiences of how justice should be. It's unavoidable, but it's also a projection based on our perception of reality. I am in no way downplaying the importance of empathy! I am merely seeing from an angle that may show more of how the way we respond to others' troubles and hardships is very much dependent on our own experiences rather than those with whom we empathize. Because we have experienced the 'opposite', it pains us to see others go through it. Because we have known unconditional love, we cannot bear to know of a friend who thinks his or her life is a waste and is dispensable. Because we have seen the amazingness of God's grace in the giving of his Son and the forgiveness of our sins, surely it is too hard to sit and watch a loved one suffer in self-rejection and guilt and shame.

Do we each have a reclaimed slice of paradise once known to humanity that now remains non-existent in so many people's lives? Do each of us carry this slice of paradise lost that can speak to another person's deep inner memories, like a missing piece to the half-completed puzzle? Do I, being the Beloved that I am and in my journey of Becoming this Beloved, get to reclaim more and more of this paradise that we all somehow lost, and as such get to offer to others through my gift of Belovedness? If yes, that's a reason to wake up every morning with a song in my heart and a smile on my face...to think that simply in my receiving and giving love, I am part of reconstructing this paradise. One that we once knew, a very long time ago, the "deep inner memories" of which are betrayed by our inner yearnings for its very taste.

Tomorrow I shall continue with my daily reading and reflection...as Nouwen goes on to talk about Becoming the Beloved, in being TAKEN, BLESSED, BROKEN and GIVEN.