Archive for June, 2009

There are many occasions in the gospel where Jesus affirmed the need for faith and praised those who have faith even in the unseen.  I personally want to see and touch and feel. And this call for faith is certainly a very difficult invitation. How long must one hang on to faith when we can’t see things happening? How long should we hold on to faith when nothing seems to take place, when the land is barren and the fruits do not seem to yield?  Yet in the book of Hebrew faith is that element of things not seen. 


How long will you continue to push and support and give and help and hope when that which you work for seem to bear no fruits?  How long will you continue to offer and advise and pray and beg and love and encourage when the nothing seems to change?  Will there be a time when you just feel so exhausted and discouraged, when you experience doubt, when you find it difficult to hang on to hope and move on?  Faith seems to suggest believing that something is happening and that which happened may be invisible to the eyes.  Faith seems to suggest that God is working and supporting and helping even when we witness no apparent changes.  Faith is just hard.  It almost requires that we give and continue to give only in faith holding so deeply to hope in that which cannot be seen.  Faith asks us to act and continue to act when the visible seems unchanged but to believe that things happen beyond what we can witness.  It is that calling to be that witness to the unseen that is happening and do not give up.  Hold on.  Faith is hard. In Bhagavat Gita Krishna gave similar advise to Arjuna.  We can only hold on to dharma through our action.  Let’s leave the fruits to the tree.

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I just returned from Society for Pastoral Theology annual meeting.  The last night of the meeting I had dinner with three very good friends discussing spirituality and health.  As theologians we all felt that often the discussion regarding spirituality and health have been dominated by social scientists (although great, there’s often something lacking).  The discourse is often, good faith brings about good health.  One of my colleagues mentioned that she was going through unexplicable pain and it went on and on and on.  After much prayer and meditation she came to the conclusion that she needed faith to move on with her life even in the experience of pain itself.  I became very excited listening to her because not long before I have had an interesting revelation about myself and my life.  I have struggled with low grade depression all my life.  And at some level there’s this sense that there will always be a level of emptiness and loneliness as a part of me.  No matter what I do and how fulfill life can be, that emptiness will always remain.  I came to the realization through my prayer that perhaps it is all about realizing that life sucks and yet one has to move on. Life sucks and will always be, atleast for me.  Not that there’s nothing fulfilling and good and wonderful.  There are but a sense of emptiness is often present.  It is like Kierkegaard and his awareness that melancholia was his calling that finally liberated him from major depression.  It is time to move on and live with the level of emptiness.  It is time to do something more beneficial and accommodate the fact that life is never apart from tribulation.  By moving on to a greater level of spirituality I am thinking about the Holy Grail.  For those of us who love Da Vinci Code, this grail represents the feminine.  Perhaps that longing the feminine through the touch of compassion, those words of encouragement, “the look of love.”  All these qualities are that which give us strength to move on.  In the conclusion to the book “He” by Robert Johnson where the author reflected on the mythological figure of the Fisher King.  The knight upon entering the castle and locating the Holy Grail has only one question that has to be answered.  And the question is, to whom does the Grail serve?  And the answer is, the king himself.  Johnson concluded that in life the one thing that really matters, that defines meaning in life is to ultimately serve God.  Reflecting on this story helps me realize that perhaps it is time to ask myself, to whom does the Grail serve?  There will always be issues and deep introspection in my life but one must finally realize that life is bigger than my life.  That one’s calling is ultimately moving beyond one’s deep introspection and engaging in tasks that serve communities, the people with whom God resides when God said, when I was weak, when I was naked, when I was imprisoned, when I was hungry…you came to me.  

This version of spirituality is rooted deeply in 2000 years of theological reflections beyond the world of social sciences.

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I was in a house back in Bangkok. The first house we were staying in.  We had two sons. Around 4-5 and 10-12.  I walked to the opened garage and heard a sound.  I turned and saw a rattlesnake.  There was a long wooden stick.  I grabbed the stick and started beating the snake until it was dead and returned to the house.  But then again in a bed room which was rather dark with gray wall I noticed that there was another rattlesnake in the room itself.  Again there was a long wooden stick. I grabbed the stick and started beating the snake until this second snake died in the bedroom.  I left thinking that I should clear the bedroom. 


At this time my wife and I had to go out for an appointment. We were planning to leave our two sons at home.  But I had the feeling that there was still another snake in the bedroom, a rattlesnake which I kind of noticed its shadow through my peripheral vision.  I was very hesitant to go out leaving my two sons at home knowing that there might be another snake.  My elder son kind of nodded in agreement that he too noticed another snake in the house.  I walked toward the back of a house and saw my son in a semi-garage with broken-down car. He was sitting on top of the roof of the car while pouring engine oil over his body.  I asked why he did what he did and his response had something to do with coping with the snake.  He then informed that perhaps the snake was at the back of the house.  There was a very small backyard right after the kitchen.  Behind the yard was a white cement wall and an empty field behind the wall.  My son pointed the snake to me which was crawling near the kitchen door.  I look for a stick but there was just a small and short wooden stick. I tried to hit the snake but kept missing.  The snake escaped but came right back.  My son said that the snake was hidding behind  the wall.  As I walked toward the wall, he jumped off from behind the wall aiming at me but missed.  He again went to the neighbour’s yard and from their jumped toward me.  All I had was this small little stick and I was really scared.  I was scared because he was very aggressive and intended on attacking me.  The fear was so strong that I woke up with emotional intensity.  I could feel the fear in my entire body. 



This warrant a much longer interpretation and related historical context.  But I will just state the conclusion after attempting to process this dream.  There is some strong archetype meaning in this dream as if the dream is voicing its concern for things that I need to learn to intergrate into my life and my being.  When I woke up the intensed fear was related directly to the word aggression.  There’s something in my past growing up with my grandfather who was very nice and yet very aggressive.  Somehow in his presence I felt helpless.  In the context of this dream, I was trying to protect my ‘home’ or my soul and my family from any form of aggression or perceived aggression.  To me any exhibit of anger or aggression makes it impossible for a home to be safe.  And so I killed the snakes.  Two of them.  But anger and aggression are not something that I can get rid of.  They are a part of us.  And protection does not imply the lack of aggression or anger.  It is about managing it.  So the third snake appeared symbolizing both the impossibility of killing the snakes (anger)and in some ways represents archetypal function where number three speaks of development, a necessary movement.  When I started coming out of my dream I was aware at the point that the most important thing for me to do was to not run away or try to kill the snake but to face the snake.  But the fear was overwhelming and even with some awareness that this was a dream,  I was not certain if I could just remain there.  The meaning slowly unfold to me and it seems to suggest the need for me to integrate aggression/anger into my system of being.  That life will not fall apart in the presence of anger and that while anger exists, it is possible to live on meaningfully without having to kill it, without having to rid life of it in order to maintain one’s sanity and joy.

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