Be honest, but not too honest.

I used to think personal narratives, stories born out of your own journey, or testimonies if you will, were free to be shared because they were mine and I’m ready to do so.

But, some have made it known that it is not wise, or because i’m ill informed about my own stories, or because others feel offended (which I don’t know why.). Just be vague, be indirect, beat around the bush, so the story is a safe one.

My own intention is to give encouragement so people who walk a similar path can also see that they are not in it alone because there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe I sound like I want people to know i’m a hero. Or maybe i share out of pride. Or maybe when i say (for example), i did not eat today the implication is because you who are listening did not feed me. Or maybe i’m just an immature 40 year old who can’t make head or tails about what is share and not.

Maybe.

I hear others sharing their journey. They are ok. They applaud. They rave.

Maybe it’s because others are more financially stable. Or because they have good jobs and a good career built as a foundation of their story. I assume this is the case.

I’m someone who values raw and real life stories. Because I want to know what you struggle with, not the victories and successes. I want to know your failures, not how you aced the test. The bruises, wounds, rage, emotions; the things that make me know you’re human. And how through your humanness, you survived and managed to climb upward. I want to hear real stories, not fairytales. Leave that to story books and movies and Netflix.

I don’t actually speak or write a lot about my journeys. Maybe because of that, when I do mention and make know, people assume all I talk about is myself.

I have stories of my journey I want to share, but I can’t because my testimonies are cringeworthy (to some people).

Be honest, they say, but not too honest.

paint back…

We all want things to work out
Things to be going right
For light to slay night
I want all of that
What i would long to have…
But I struggle to give
Give even a smile
Breathing to live
There is no point at all
To be happy when all else falls.
For all the meaningless
Of why soil seems to be stuck under my feet
Of why should I give a damn to feel
But…I have no reason to why
You can help
Paint back a long forgotten
Reason to smile.

Give me

SPECT nuclear imaging of the heart, short axis...
Image via Wikipedia

Give me a heart made of stone
so I cannot feel, be pricked or pierced
So i don’t have to feel pain
pleading in the rain

Give me a heart like towering mountains
When i get hit I stand firm
and unmoved by words
because I could echo them back with the same kind of vengeance

Give me a heart that doesn’t pant
So i can run and not grow tired
and not stop for air because i have to
To outrun the maze this crazy life is into
and scoff at it catching up behind me

Give me a heart that’s unresponsive
in an explosion filled with truckloads of explosives
detonated to annihilate all sense of being
I come unscratched and unfazed
Alive but with a conscious sense of numbness

Give me all that, and i cease to be human
I cease to know a sense of injustice
like something is wrong
Give me all that, and I become less of a person
a walking zombie if you may
a lifeless plague of a being

Give me less pain i say,
I don’t understand it
why boomerang questions unanswered
Sturdy foundations seems like uneven surfaces
hope eludes and feels like no more than pretty fairy tales
A ‘happy ever after’ dilutes reality
like a mirage
it plays with the mind consumed with thirst

So give me…give me
give me less of a person
less of contemplated reason

but then again do i want this?

my emotions telling my brain

All day today, I struggled with an emotion that I did not truly understand. I wrote a poem this morning which conveyed this voice that kept saying “speak another way.” It was an unmistakable ringing that kept going on and on until later it somehow subsided.

I didn’t really pay much attention to it after that. But I think after that and towards around 5-6pm I felt this dark mood penetrating deep in me. I read a post on how poetry was supposed to be written and went to look back at my old stuff I wrote. I wasn’t too happy with how I approached the way I wrote. I somehow lacked the vocabulary and a mind that really knew how to play with imagery or by that metaphors. My style was simple. And it seemed that what it looked like, the stuff I wrote were more like prose, not poetry.

I guess some could be categorized as poetry. Some might fall into the category of prose. I think my style of writing has some sort of philosophical musings infused in them. Well, not that I know anything about philosophy but I love the subject. Anyway, the books I read are theological textbooks. I tried to read novels but I just couldn’t. I think the problem with me when I read novels is, I tend to imagine my own stories after that. Or I try to reflect ideas embedded in the few pages that I read. I think that’s why I read mostly textbooks. I know, I’m sort of a nerd because of that. But I’m trying to start reading poets and books from other accomplished poets.

Anyway somehow I diverted from what I’m supposed to say going the route of what books I read.

So I read through my old poems and other stuff I wrote and got very dissatisfied with how I wrote. I got pretty depressed, so I went out for a walk and grabbed some food for dinner. All the while nursing the depressive state that I was in. I’m glad that there were no cliffs for me to climb and plunge myself to death. Well, not exactly to that point really. My sanity is still very much in tact, thank goodness! I wouldn’t want the headlines in the paper to read, “Wanna be poet (chuckles) plunges to his death.” Now that will not speak anything good about me.

When I got back from my walk and check my blog, R, who blogs at Red Lake Write, wrote a comment that enlightened me to what “speak another way” somewhat meant. I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s like my emotions were way ahead of my brain. And when my brain finally caught up, and just like that, I just understood what it meant.

It’s funny really, my emotions communicating to me feelings that I did not understand at that time. In some mystical way, my brain just caught up only when I read the comment from R. Then everything came full circle. I think I’m somehow gonna try to “speak/write another way” if I can really do that, or was it really telling me to just be myself?

In a world where being original is always the hardest thing to do, or just being yourself for that matter, where do we really draw the line of finding our own voice and constantly improving on how we write?

cope

this traveler within me
makes for navigation
an amusing feat,

losing sight of destination,
there’s nothing new to that,
getting right back on track,
will take an amazing few steps back.

in frustration i let out a sigh,
my heart running wild as it pumps blood through my veins,
i’m done with this obsession of racing for a high,
it only reeks my emotions low when i’m met with only pain.

in this journey,
i drink from both rivers,
one that quenches my thirst in hope,
another that forces wells of sorrow,
but for this need to live,
we have to learn to cope.

my opponent

my opponent is like the wind

i try to make my punches count

but to no avail

he will always win the bout

even without throwing me a punch

my constant barging

that’s what knocks me out!

Frustration marks my day today. I try to calm my nerves to be able to keep my mind to write a paper that I’m supposed to hand today but because of a sudden flash flood that occurred it just make me raging mad. My books, the ones i keep beside my bed are all soaking wet now. Thick ones, thin ones, some of them from my favorite scholars (two to be exact), all of them wet. Well not all that is but the ones I recently bought which cost me 200 bucks (Malaysian currency that is). I was asleep when it happened, I don’t have a bed but a mattress on the floor (wannabe writers are always poor), and at the point of waking up I suddenly felt a chill, not from the wind but a sort of wetness. And I was thinking to myself, it can’t possibly be me cause I’m all grown up and don’t wet the bed anymore. So then I thought it must be something worse. I woke up to see my room covered with brown water! And my books which were placed beside my mattress were now submerged in that awful brown wet substance! Dammit! To think about it more now at this time when I’m supposed to be sleeping (it’s 1:30 am now) makes me even madder. I’ll try to keep calm and probably ask for an extension for my paper. I’m borrowing a friend’s laptop now to try and get something done. I guess tomorrow morning I’ll have to put those books under the sun to dry them, to salvage whatever I can that is. I hope your day is better than mine. 

Speaking and Dreaming about the Beach

Right about now I’m feeling nauseous. I’ll be speaking in public tomorrow, in other words preaching. But no, it’s not because of that. It’s because I’m tired of hearing myself speak about the same thing over and over again.

Not that preparation is  unimportant, it’s because the only other voice that I hear is my own voice. It’s the same voice I hear in my thoughts. Sometimes this isolation is something that drives me crazy.

Sitting in a room for the most part of the whole week has been unbearable at times. But I’m glad that tomorrow is coming soon and I’ll be out of this room and just being around people is something of a refuge. Hearing people chatter, speak and laugh, it has become something beautiful. I guess I’m tired of all the silence that comes with being alone in a room.

But in all that, I’m kinda missing the sound and feel just being at the beach. Back home, the beach is much closer. I would usually walk for like 25 minutes or if I’m lazy, I’d just drive. Over here there is no beach. It’s something different being alone in a room compared to being alone at the beach. The sound of the waves washing up on the shore, the smell of the ocean, the scenery and all that is really something.

It will be another week and a day before I make my way back home. A week of bliss and some time for me to enjoy the beach. And maybe some conversations with people that’s for sure.

Books, Not Available and Too Pricey

Yesterday I made my way to KLCC and browsed through Kinokuniya bookstore. I was thinking of whether to get Miroslav Volf‘s book “Allah: A Christian Response,” which according to the Kinokuniya’s website was available. But upon browsing and looking through the bookshelves, I couldn’t find the book. Fearing that someone had bought it before me, I checked at the machine where it gave out a print out of the book’s availability. It read, “In stock” and to ask for assistance from the information counter to find it.

So I happily walked towards the nearest information counter to ask about where I could find the book in the store. To my dismay, the lady at the counter told me, “Sorry, this book has been sent back to the publisher due to the subject matter of the book.” I guess it was too good to be true that a book like this would make it to the shores of Malaysia. And it does spell that the Allah issue is still a hot button in Malaysia.

I also asked whether the bookstore was able to order Kevin Vanhoozer‘s “Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion and Authorship.” And again to my dismay, although being able to order the book the price was way off my budget! The estimate price they gave me was RM 772.48!

Well, these are some of the realities of being in Malaysia.

Empty Calling

I have to admit that being in seminary raises the complexity of determining calling. I say this because the initial logic for people who intend to do theological studies is that they are preparing for ministry. Or to put it more bluntly, the pastoral ministry.

Personally, weighing all the resources of my own capabilities, I don’t think I fit as a pastor. I have no conviction that it is my call, in terms of vocation. But that somehow disrupts the initial plan that I’m in seminary. It does disrupt the logical passage.

So, whenever I do convey this to people and say that I think I fit more in the context of teaching and I hope that is in the context of seminary, I’ll probably get a few laughs directed at me. Maybe for some that is a pious aspiration or prideful wish but should it be? (although people might argue that the designation in Ephesians 4:11 about the office of teacher and pastor go hand in hand, I would assume that Paul had no vision of that to explain our context now of theological education.)

I hear people complaining about the reading work load, the struggle with writing, and all that is boring about seminary setting but these are stuff that resonates with me. I don’t complain that much about all these things though.

But putting that aside, I was having a conversation with someone about something to do with my calling and I said I probably fit more in the context of teaching. My conversation partner replied that the logical route of that calling is the pastoral ministry and is accorded as a good fit for teaching, especially in a seminary setting. He continued that, one needs to be rooted in pastoral ministry to be a good fit for teaching. But, I think this poses problems, although I do agree in some way that the argument given is true.

To me it raises the question asking, “What is the purpose of pursuing theological studies?” and another one might be, “Is theological education only for the reason of ‘making’ pastors?”

I guess if one answers these two questions as the purpose of theological training is solely for the training of pastors and that being the only reason, the seminary has a somewhat reductionistic  vision. Although it is true that there is a strong case for training pastors, it must not be the sole vision. What about people who seek theological training who work in the vicinity of the market place, or for house wives who are interested in doing the courses? Do we neglect the role of theological education for the masses and the implication of what it can do for the lives of those who do not intend to get directly involved in church ministry?

And if that is the case, are we not again digressing our understanding of ministry and reduce it to the church context only? Are we not in that manner creating again the chasm between sacred and secular?

With those views stated, I still think there is room for student who have a calling to pursue higher theological education to stay in their field and expand. They should be people who are specialized in their fields, they should pursue it with the utmost passion, without the need to argue again that by pursuing that route, they are only academic and disengaged with the church.

I do find it frustrating if someone argues that the only best model is the teacher who has done extensive pastoral or ministerial training. Sure, they will know how to address pastoral issues well, but does that warrant a good rational for that argument? Are not academics in conversation with pastors? Can’t there be some sort of budding in knowledge that a pastor can gain from an academic or vice versa?

With all of those questions barraging my mind I’m in a frustrated stance at the moment because the situation does not permit this sort of thing to occur. I’m starting to think that, if anyone does pose a question to me on calling, I would be happy to answer, “I have no idea,” because that will then leave me in a calm demeanor rather than make my emotions all welled up again.

Classical Theism vs Open Theism

I was once comfortable taking in the Classical Theism view where God is seen as sovereign, transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient. I was at home with this view and never sort of questioned them. I was, in what it seemed that time, in a comfort zone. God was boxed in those terms, even if they implied a reality much larger than a box.

Not until a tragic accident that involved the passing of a dear youth member and friend that, the Classic theistic view somewhat crumbled. Some people were telling or at least implying that God is the author of life and if that is true, my friend’s death was somewhat authored by God. As I thought about it, far be it that I accepted that frame work for God. If I believed in a God who cared why then would he author a tragic story for my friend like one a novelist would do to his characters.

Enter Open Theism. This is a view which responds to Classic Theism. This view believes that God does not know the future exhaustively, leaving the future open for us to partner with him. Hence this view is a strong argument for the proposal of why prayer is important. Since the future is open and God does not know exhaustively, we partner with God in ways that we somehow can change his mind.

For a period of time, I guess in a subtle manner, my views gravitated towards open theism because it somehow showed a God who can show love to his creation rather than one who has already written about your whole life and somehow you are stuck in that story he wrote whether you like it or not. Somehow classic theism did not really resonate well with a God who is loving. I mean sure you can say that God knows what’s best but there is no room for free will here.

So with all these issues plunging in my mind, it seemed to me that open theism held more sense than a mechanical, detached sovereign God.

But with that, if God is too open how then is he sovereign? If God is unchanging how then why would he thus change his mind? Some things still does not resonate. Somehow open theism seemed a reaction against some form of radical or misguided understanding of God being uncaring and leaving no room for free will. So again, it seems we hit a brick wall at which view can be trustworthy in explaining God.

During the theology class I took last week, listening to the lecture and thinking through classic theism and open theism, both have their grounds of arguments. So where should we strike a balance between them. There are no clear cut answers but I seem to resonate with the notion of combining the two views together looking at it from Jesus’ suffering perspective.

In Jesus’ life, coming to the end of his ministry, in the garden of, he prayed if it was possible to avoid the way of the cross even at the point of telling his disciples beforehand that he was to undergo suffering, death and then resurrection. In that depiction, Jesus could have disbanded the pursuit of going to the cross and be crucified but he knew also the will of God. But the will of God for Jesus, although prophesying that he will suffer and die did not paint graphic pictures of the nature of his death. God is seen as the author but not in the way a novelist does things. God is in control not in the way of a master puppet but in the way that his servant obeys his command and way.

Jesus’ obedience was not something that was forced but something that he willingly undertook in response to the compelling love that the Father has bestowed upon him.

Here in the suffering and death of Jesus depicts both the sovereign act of God as well as the ‘open’ story to be completed. They are not divorced, but meshed. The sovereign God at work in humanity is always the meshing of sovereign and human dimension of viewing God. Somehow to gravitate to an extreme form of classic theism denies the mystery of Jesus’ humanity and to gravitate to the extreme in the open theism camp leaves out the overall plan of God in knowing the future. Again the mystery of the incarnation somehow forms a marrying of the two views in a mysterious way.