26 March 2005

The End or the Beginning?

I sat in with a few medical students studying Phil 3:1-21 yesterday. Revisiting this passage I was struck by how Paul's perspective is deeply undergirded by the Resurrection. He has his death and what comes after firmly in vision.

To know that there is a new and glorious life beyond the grave should completely change the way we live and die.

Whenever Joan and I go on trips, the anticipation of the day before just kills us. Boarding the plane or train is filled with euphoria. And we just can't wait to be wowed by the exotic-ness of the place we're about to visit. Perhaps that's how death and dying should be - if I were to go with my faculties fully intact, there would be pain in leaving loved ones behind for sure, but there must also be great anticipation and excitement of going to a new and glorious place. All my journeys in life this side of heaven lead up to this ultimate journey.

Philip Yancey, in 'More than Words', comments on John Donne's life and writings: 'for Donne, death was always the Great Enemy to be resisted, not a friend to be welcomed.. the turning point came as he began to view death not as the disease that permanently spoils life, but rather as the only cure to the disease of life. For sin had permanently stained all life, and only through death - Christ's death and our own - can we realise a cured, sinless state.'

Death is not the end, but only the beginning.

My life on earth is dwarfed by the implications of eternity with God. All that I think, do, and experience here is but a prelude to the great symphony to be played out beyond the final horizon.

Tomorrow I will take my parents to a cemetery in PD to tidy up the burial grounds of my grandparents and pay respects. It's a good Chinese tradition to uphold (minus any ancestor worship.) I will look upon the tombstones and contemplate the lineage I have come from, the lives my predecessors have carved out for my existence today.. but more, so much more. Those tombstones will remind me of the final journey that I will also make some day.

Will I resist it or will I, like Paul, 'press on toward the goal.. which God has called me heavenward in Christ', 'to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.'

22 March 2005

Agony and joy

At last! I have finished it!

I've been put to the task of writing an article for the Kairos magazine (Understanding the World Through Christian Eyes). My instruction - 1000 words on the Spirituality of Movies. The WHAT of movies?! You may ask..

My jaw-on-the-floor response exactly.

I didn't know where to begin, what to say, how to say it. Scribbling on my Palm, sweating on the bus, pacing in the mall, trying to mesh together unmeshable threads of thought. It was impossible. So, true to my procrastinating form, I could only get started after the deadline. Today, three weeks late, and hounded by the editor... I managed. Finally.

And I actually enjoyed writing it. I said things I never thought I would say, and I learnt a great deal just thinking through my own words. What can I say? The tough really gets going when the going gets tough. Only in the stress of being late, and the agony of putting one word ahead of the other, did the writing dam finally break.

Now I hope the editor doesn't chuck it back at me. But that would be ok too, because I enjoyed writing it. It was self-justifying for me.

No despair in dying

"There is no despair even in death where Hospis Malaysia is concerned. It’s all about providing dignity and comfort to the dying, and eventually healing to the family members" - Dr Ednin Hamzah

I am so deeply appreciative that there are people like Ednin Hamzah and his wonderful team who will embrace death and reclaim the dignity and importance of our final journey. I am reminded of Nouwen's thoughts on death - dying for others being the final and greatest gift in a life of giving.

It makes we wonder how I will die. What will be my regrets or even my hopes for those I leave behind? Will I look back on my life in satisfaction, or in regret and shame?

05 March 2005

One foot ahead of the other

I'm obsessed. Since I lost enough weight to take the pain off of my knees, I've not stopped. I dread it before I begin. The first 10 minutes is excruciating. But once the rubber hits the road, there's just no stopping. This is one of the simplest and purest pleasures in life - I just can't do without it!

I will run just about anywhere. When I was living in Kubang Krian, the lalang-enfolded kampung trails were my track and field. Since moving to KL, the many parks with lakes and beautiful trees have been a joy to romp round. But my all time favorite run must be the one I did around the Sydney Darling Harbor on vacation there 2 weeks ago. (I have some shots to prove it!)

Starting at Pyrmont Bay, round the light house, across the Welcome Wall, down to Fox Studios, then back up and across the Pyrmont Bridge. And finally around the Cockle Bay Wharf to get back to the Bay again. A fantastic 3 mile-run with a view to boot.

I think I'm ready for some public runs now. Not competition speed yet. But just to get into the mass euphoria of going round the city. The next run coming up is the Hong Leong Charity run on 10th April at Dataran Merdeka. Hope to do that one, and maybe a couple more throughout the year. Training for them will be painful but fun, for sure. It's fantastic to see how one's performance improves with each run.

I think it's the powerful metaphor-for-life that running is that draws me to it so much. The dreaded anticipation, the fear of failure, the painful inertia, the uncertainty around each corner.. Will I make it? Can I finish? But once we get going - O this is too good to stop!

'Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.' - St. Paul

03 March 2005

Drama of hope

Genesis 42-43 is a powerful buildup to the tear jerking reconciliation of brothers and the long orphaned Joseph with his embittered father.

The depth of guilt that haunts the brothers are revealed here. Surfacing, as it were, in the most appropriate time and place!

Jacob's unquenchable sorrow is also provoked here. As though to heighten the immensity of the coming moment.

This is stuff no soap opera can reproduce. A drama of whole generations coming to glorious climax.

Amid the mind-snapping tensions, Joseph flees to weep. To tremble on the vast pain and hope in his life now colliding on the ground of his already ravaged history. Pain on one hand (for his numerous betrayals, and separation from family), and hope on the other (for reunion and to take a step forward to the Promised Nation.)

Joseph, it isn't hard to extrapolate, is a powerful metaphor of Jesus and the Cross. And it isn't a stretch to identify with this man when in many trying episodes of our own lives - we are barely coping with the pain, but by God's grace it yields to hope which emboldens us to take a step forward.