This free gift doesn’t give me the cheap creeps

Salation Mountain 2

They love to say that the Gospel is free. Well, it is free. Like the free public clinic sitting at the corner of the street. Do they just mean the water?

It is free; and the man handing out gospel tracts know it.

It is free, but we don’t like free things too much.

Buy a macdonald kids meal and you’ll receive a ratty free gift that our kids are better off without. You would venture into trying that “free facial” but don’t these things come with a price at the end?

When you say “it’s free!”, we immediately conjure up a catch somewhere, and get the impression that the giver simply can’t wait to get rid of the freebies.

We’ve grown cautious and free is a dirty word.

So… in our minds a free public clinic is somewhat false advertising; and even if it was free… it’s for those who can’t afford it. And those tracts? Probably sandwiched with subscriptions that will never see the light of day.

I am wary of freebies. But this freebie, this one of gospel, grace and God… it gives me none of those cheap creeps.

In fact, there has never been another story in history that offers the most valuable thing in the world to its inhabitants so graciously, without any strings attached.

Unless there’s such a thing as a free massage chair, there isn’t another free gift that can change your life forever.

The gospel is free but it cost a certain someone everything. Angels and demons don’t even qualify for this offer. I have trouble believing I’ve won free truffle fries and now I’m supposed to believe God has paid my debt and I’m on my way to heaven? What atrocity is it that this grand gift doesn’t come with a price tag!

That free clinic over there? It cost a doctor’s money and passion. The tract distributor? His time and energy.

The free gospel? A set of three heavy rusted nails driven into fragility, precious blood to flow, and death; it cost the life of God.

“I won’t charge you by the number of times that you think you need to come for church services. Nor do I swipe from your spiritual credits when you sing worship songs half-heartedly. I don’t exact or demand for your suffering to then bless you. But there’s something I want, and that is for you to pay me…

Pay me the attention that I desire from My creation. That’s you. It’s your attention I want. Your smile, your thoughts on Me, songs of thanksgiving. I promise you that this journey doesn’t have to be free in the way the world sees it- its cheapened meaning. There’s nothing cheap about my love for you, nothing boring. It’s the richest journey you’ll ever take.”

It is the most expensive free gift of all.

What kind of a Giver would love like that?

The free gospel is unquantifiable grace; a million times over.

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I am Hole-ly but He loves me Wholly

My existence on earth has got plenty of holes (Sometimes black but mostly colourful).

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And everyday, the Lord takes time to fill in these empty crevices with His grace.

It can be in the form of an undiscovered verse in the bible suddenly illuminating me, a song with lyrics that break my saddened spirit, or a miraculous encounter which could not have been without the assistance of angels. A kind and warm word from a seemingly knowing stranger.

I am not altogether myself daily; I am not an automated being that can forever rest on the laurels of what worked yesterday. I am a human; and that indicates an ever changing nature of thoughts and feelings, irrelevant or relevant, damaging or not, good or bad.

I get assaulted by rude words and hurtful experiences, and sometimes I define myself by them.

These are the holes in my existence, and the Lord fills them in unfailingly day after day. Not all at once, but according to His highest willingness.

Everyday, I am confronted with many different graces, but at the heart of them all, is this: “I gave up my Son for you, will I not give up everything else that aligns to my dreams for you?

You are everchanging, my love is unchanging. You are weak, I am strong. You are care-full, I will bear those cares if you would cast them on me. I am the great Mountain, and I echo unending graces for My mountain sheep. I let you lie down in the best pastures, you just need to listen and rest in my promises. Nothing can separate us, and knowing this will make you bold in Me.”

And thus the cement is poured into another empty space; He is so sweet a perfector, so tender a Father and so kind a Saviour.

Have a lovely Sunday, friends :-)

Chance might just be a Creator

“Whether you explore the mysteries of the mineral kingdom, the vegetable or the animal, from the lowest to the highest, the marks of a well thought-out design confront you everywhere. Nothing has been left to Chance.” – E.W Kenyon

Have you ever wondered if the universe was created by mere chance?

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If so, Chance has a lot of explaining to do.

When the big bang happened, how and why did it shoot out a planet so unlike others? Little blue is different on all points from the rest of the planets. How did the potential for life end up upon one speck in the stardust-cranked universe? Earth would freeze and dissipate if the sun was a little further away. The magic of galaxies’ effect on earth would amaze us if we had the time to read about how they influence our seasons and atmospheric changes.

Or let’s go closer to home. The probability of water atoms coming together to form pure liquid water or for the atoms of a cat to come together to make it go meow instead of woof is so low that every time it happens it would be a miracle.

Our hair, body and everything inside us: are they so smart to know how to function at its optimum, to work so well with each other, attacking what doesn’t seem “of/from them”? How absurd is it that the brainless amoeba has the closest thing to immortality with its “divide me up” defense mechanism? God must’ve had some good laughs: “Immortality can be reduced to this – squirmy, translucent being – whatever immortality that man hankers after for is mirrored in this strange creature, one of the unlikeliest in all My creation.”

Chance, chance, chance. If anything, chance must’ve been more smart than stupid, for it to carry an entire universe that rely on each other interdependently and to create and care for 6 billion human beings and gazillions of creatures and vegetation with such micro-intricacy and skill.

Chance isn’t chance when it becomes this calculated. Did chance put the incalculable power of math, emotion, influence, intellect or musical skill into us, all of which are unheard of in animals and plants? Or stringed together the genes of ellen, robin and richard with their propensity to make people double over with laughter with facial expressions and some cleverly arranged words? Moreover, humans are all the same yet different in subtler ways – and isn’t that a tricky combination for chance?

I know there’s a lot more to explain in-depth, and still much to be discussed about science birthing the worlds, but I’m still for the notion that an Intelligent, Creative Creator lives. Common sense tells me that not everything can be explained away with science. There are just so many unmapped variables, unexplored miracles and spiritual encounters that science cannot reckon with.

Chance might just be a Creator…

and I’m not going to leave that to chance.

“I don’t have enough faith”

Doubt is something almost every person experiences at some point. – Philip Yancey, Faith and Doubt

When I jumped off a 8-story cliff and tumbled into the choppy waters below, my faith, in that naked suspension of time, was entirely non-existent.

How I managed to survive that rag-doll fall, I have no idea. I had no faith, nor was even thinking about it; just the fear of breaking my neck or drowning, or both.

And then also; I would hear about how a loved one escaped death – and suddenly I have all the faith in the world.

Faith doesn’t seem like something you can grab and take full control of all the time – it’s like a car on an unknown and alien road, subject to external circumstances: the sudden swerves and the sharp bends. We reprimand ourselves into having “more faith”, but after 20 years of this, one realises how much of a tiresome thing this can be.

So, I thought to myself, “If faith is so easy to gain as it is to lose, then it doesn’t seem to me so precious, after all.”

“… Living without fear is certainly not easy. After all, how do we naturally choose to be unafraid of what we in fact fear? Is this power within our conscious control? Only by a miracle are we set free from fear… indeed, true faith working within the heart is one of the greatest miracles of God.” – John J. Parsons, Faith and Fear

If faith is a miracle, then it logically follows it has to be from God. Any reliance on my brand of faith would be a tragic affair, because I don’t have it all the time. I’m bound to emergency brakes and steering off course occasionally.

The hebrew word for faith is “emunah”, which has its roots from the word “aman”. Aman was used in the bible for when Moses had Aaron and Hur lift his hands until the sun set (Exodus 17:12). “…Therefore his hands were steadied.” The word Aman is used here. It’s to trust, to put your hope in, to lean on.

What better comfort to know that when you’re 10,000 ft up in the air and there’s violent turbulence, that you’re steadying on Jesus and his promise of “Surely I am with you always”?

Or when you’re lost in another country with the smell of death closing in on you – that you pull out “You’re my refuge and ever-present help in times of trouble” and “Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death… You are with me”?

How many miracles go unheard of, how many tragedies have we allowed into our hearts…? How many times do we not have faith because we don’t have the blueprint, the full picture of the spiritual universe outside our life?

Faith is really all about trusting who Jesus is.

We may not have concrete faith in how circumstances may turn out, but we have concrete faith in the person of Jesus. A historical Jesus who lived, healed, loved, died, then rose again. This truth may not be completely understood or felt while we are still here on earth, subject to pain and death, but it is surety enough.

When I read about Jesus and stories about Him saving people (mostly from themselves), faith, or at least the feeling of it, rises inside me like an ascending roller coaster. It will plunge if I focus on the next tragedy or my soppy feelings, but I know it’s not about me or my faith. It’s about who he is and what he has promised me.

What I have is an invisible faith that desperately clings to Him through the madness that is life with its disappointments and joys. Whatever ascension of faith that I feel now is because of who he is and has always been. We keep on ascending as we think upon his love for us and not our faith towards him.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them with compassion. It’s as if he knew it would be a problem.

“… But if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed

(which is the smallest of all seeds)…

I will hearken unto you.”

Tearing Babel Down: When God Stopped Cultural Homogeneity

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It’s not that hard to see how different everyone is – just attend a meeting in the office. Different accents, diction (choice of words), mindsets and cultural practices. Sometimes the differences are so vast you question if they are even from the same planet. “Closer to the apes maybe,” you think to yourself.

Have you ever wondered why we would all choose to encourage world-wide diversity over homogeneity? Did we even have a choice?

“What will be best,” I think slowly, “… is cultural homogeneity, or international same-ness, isn’t it? That way, we’ll all always understand each other.”

Or so I thought.

I go online and type in “cultural homogenisation” and the Tower of Babel appears a couple of times.

If there is something you must know about the Tower of Babel, it’s that it was a Tower built to unite all men. However, it was never completed. It’s said that God stopped them short in their tracks. The man in charge of this 10,000 B.C building programme was a man named Nimrod, which means “We will Rebel” (such frightening accuracy). He could have been the first dictator of the old world. He was rallying the people to come together in one voice and one mind, but God intervened before they could invent the crane (as I’d like to believe).

Unbeknownst to them (and apparently to most of us too), the [half-built] Tower of Babel changed everything. God, in a strange bid to prevent something (we don’t know what), mixed up all languages so that the people understood each other the way they understood ant language. In fact, they had such bad communication that they had to move away so they wouldn’t get at each other’s throats. Eventually, they scattered all over the earth: No one likes gabblers, but many gabblers are beyond toleration.

When God stopped them midway in their tracks, the tower became an icon of shame and a symbol of failure to unite all men on earth. What seemed like a harmless hope for perfect unity God saw as a threat to humanity. What’s the big deal? The days of babel are long gone, but this question still begs an answer.

I pored over some readings and writings and I came up with these five hopefully sufficient reasons why we should not perpetuate cultural homogeneity i.e. to have only one race, tradition and culture.

1. Who runs the earth? Perils of Dictatorship

  • Think of maniacal Hitler. Multiply that a thousand times over. That could’ve been Nimrod’s reign; a power so vast it can swallow up all four corners of the earth. The Hunger Games is a typical picture of that regime – obey or be obliterated. God doesn’t run the earth anymore, President Snow does. To have a homogeneous society, I’ve learnt, is extremely hard work. It has to be a prescriptive system which finds its balance in shoving orders down everyone’s throats, yet it has to last long enough before everyone commits suicide. If you think Moses’ Ten laws were bad, think about what it might look like if we had another set of laws prepared to govern the entire world. Ten thousand laws should more or less suffice.

2. Not everyone’s gonna like what you say or put into place.

  • There’ll always be an unhappy group that you can’t get rid of, and even if you do, there’ll be a mushrooming of unhappy groups who are unhappy about you killing the first group. It’s almost like a game of “whack-a-mole” in arcades where we used to go as kids. No matter what the government does, people aren’t robots without feelings, and that means the government must put up with the likes of Robbie Conal and his political art messages, or Jules De Balincourt’s more subtle ones.

3. You stop growing at ten. “It hinders growth”

  • Like a newspaper production house churning out the papers and printing the ink, the structure has to remain the same. Have you seen your boss trying to incorporate change to the pantry? How long did that take?
  • Creativity and diversity come with a price, because ideas change the world. Progress and growth stem from innovation and the challenging of ideas. This process of chafing minds and developing ideas will be viewed as defiance to the established and orderly system: “Her entire species has to be eliminated,” says the tired culture-hijacker.

4. A bad game of monopoly

  • Scream, “it’s a monopolization! Capitalism! (which of course won’t be invented)” ‘cause that’s what it’ll be if homogenisation ever takes place. The government will control almost everything. It’s like your rights go out of the window when you were born. The concept of indie-ness will not exist. Nor will films like the Lord of the Rings.

5. For the beauty of it, of course.

  • Beauty is in the unexpected, and the mystery of it is what enthralls us. You grow tired of something only if you see it too often. That’s what will happen in a dictatorship with no democracy (perhaps the only democracy is having rice as staple food) We’ll grow old faster than we can say the word F-R-E-E-D-O-M. The thing about beauty, culture and art is that they demand freedom of expression.
  • Without polarity, the world cease to work. Extremes, differences and variety are what makes our lives colourful. We appreciate and treasure the little we have in common and come to respect and accept the differences.

I’ve thought of one major perk, though. Possible free travel!

It’s better we are alive with our differences than to be united under a restraining order. Of course, we can never have both ways, but a little homogeneity can help too, especially in board meetings.

I guess God was doing us a favour when he interfered with Nimrod’s construction of a grand ladder to a heaven he could never have reached.

Don’t expect to be Treated Fairly in this Life

I remember feeling really terrible one anonymous day.

It was so bad I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt like the whole world was somehow in it. ‘They’ say your loved ones have the greatest access to your heart. I think ‘they’ really knew what they were talking about. One can never get used to hurt – we may get used to the pain – but the sting that follows is so obstinate and irrational, it’s downright irritating (and you know it)

When I experience hurt like this, I know that I become susceptible to funny, alien thinking. These bouts of alien feelings are smart. They trigger my regret-nerve, and they know exactly how to aggravate the hurt. Alien feelings make me feel terrible yet demanding. They make me insist upon all my rights and I want to pen the injustices down. But I stop myself. Why do I want to write about things that make me upset?

I sit quite still. I realise I needed to hear something that doesn’t come from me. I dismiss my thoughts.

I remember sitting cross-legged on my bed, hunched over my favourite book in hand. It’s by Sarah Young. Everything in me wanted to sleep the pain away forever, everything with regards to that one terrible day. But we know that’s not possible. I flip the book open, and there I see it.

If you’re feeling pretty run over yourself, I hope this reading tides you through those alien feelings, too.


Do not expect to be treated fairly in this life.

People will say and do hurtful things to you, things that you don’t deserve. When someone mistreats you, try to view it as an opportunity to grow in grace. See how quickly you can forgive the one who’s wounded you. Don’t be concerned about setting the record straight. Instead of obsessing about people’s opinions of you, keep your focus on Me. Ultimately, it is My view of you that counts.

As you concentrate on relating to Me, remember that I have clothed you in My righteousness and holiness. This is also not fair, it is pure gift. When others treat you unfairly, remember that My ways with you are much better than fair. My ways are peace and love, which I have poured out into your heart by My spirit.

– N.D, October 2014

Ataraxia

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photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/landscapepix/5506392165/Aurora over Inari, Finland March 2011

Ataraxia (ἀταραξία “tranquility”) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a lucid state of robust tranquility, characterised by ongoing freedom from distress and worry

My bible gives another example: John 14:27, “I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I’m leaving you with a sense of pure peace and bliss, knowing that I am with you always.”

My ataraxia poem
My heart is in its happy state
Don’t ask why or how, it’s how it is
It bubbles and brims over with joy and peace
Even when I’m doing nothing, or having just ate.

People or circumstances can’t shake me, no more
In Him and his grace do I rest and soar
My heart is in its happiest state
Don’t ask why or how, it’s just how it is,
now and forevermore

Curiosity and Heavens

So we’ve spent billions on sending little robots into space – the cute roving robot, Curiosity, was despatched onto Mars in 2011 and it has been our eyes in scouring life on this spicy planet ever since. Which, I bet, hardly exist. At least, not in human form.

Curiosity’s got a big role. That’s to study the climate and geology of Mars, so we can see if it’s possible to support life there. If it were possible, we would’ve been born there. Not a good 54.6 million kilometers away on another planet called Earth.

Come to think of it, the poor robot will probably never find anything to satisfy its curiosity on the molten planet. The essayed report has came in. It’s all a sea of brown and red dust, dirt and rock. So what’s new? Perhaps Curiosity might bump into the discovery of a new sensational mineral or two. But unless this great expedition changes the fate of cancer or cures common tooth decay, I don’t see the irrepressible need to send robots into expensive outer space to search out for suitable conditions for future possible living. Then again, maybe Curiosity will make a useful friend or two on Jupiter or Venus and we all end up as characters in a sequel of the “Planet of the Apes – Beyond Apes”.

But still, my mind wanders back to this comfy thought:

I say we send Curiosity into unexplored parts of the little blue, Earth.

Watch it and let it pick up the tiniest, forbidden, beautiful details of life and living, in hopeful/less, weary, happier counties where hills roll or die… or in the remotest corners of continents where fruits and families thrive. Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of Blue Indians or Pink Chineses, living perfectly happy lives, hunting colourful birds and dancing with friendly bears. Or hear the notes of a mountain hoof song by Ibexes in love. I say we go with exploring Earth first, before we proceed to un-rubiking planets which will always remain far away from us.

Despite my heavy skepticism towards sending space robots out for the cause of exploring other planets, I know that these floating, dusty balls of fire and ice are all part of a larger makeup, in a huge story made up of indescribable universes and an uncontainable love… Made of up of awesome heavens and the precious, bought-with-a-price Earth.

All of which, I believe, were transpired by my God. I consider this, and I shake my head.

Every one of God’s creation and the deep pools of his love in my puny brain is to me what auroras are to an ant. Unexplainable, yet breathtakingly beautiful. Warming.

In spite of myself, I still feel safest gazing up into the heavens and stars.

“When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of him? Human beings, that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

Overdose of Graces

Many say an overdose of grace is dangerous
“It might lead people astray,” they say.

But what i’ve been seeing about grace so far
Is that it frees people to endless liberation
It lights the hearts of people like shining stars

They always mutter: “Too much mercy and compassion kills order,”
But I’ll say there’s always need for grace, no matter.

See the teenager and his late nights
Or the lawyer who might not always know wrong from right
What about the landlady who extorts money
Or the social escorts using words like nettle and honey

See the man in the room with his thoughts
Or the woman gazing at the expensive shoe boxes
Look at the kid with angry eyes
Or the grandma who’s just told a lie

It doesn’t matter what you think or say
You need God’s grace anyway
Big sins or small
We all are under death and sin’s call

It’s God’s grace that will be enough for everything
It’s what saved us from the very beginning

Grace spurs the people to say,
“I’ll stick by you always, good and true,”
Isn’t that beautiful?
Grace, by it we all learn what to know and do.