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.

rainbow-over-hawaii

What Time Does

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The clock on the wall bears a weight Pattie does not quite like. She cannot stand the gentle peeling on its edges, its ugly numericals and stiff mechanical clucks.

She doesn’t throw it away, however, for she has respect for things that work just fine.

Today is different, the clock seems to say to her. It’s George’s disappearance anniversary: It’s been 20 years since he vanished.

“They always say time will tell,” Pattie tells the old clock sadly. Her cheeks are hollow, paved with the running of many old tears. They still burn the corners of her brown eyes.

But Time did try to tell her before. Pattie would fret about and busy herself, choosing to press through life ignorant of herself – she keeps saying that she is the sum of her memories, and so she lives on borrowed recollections, and time.

But today is different. 20 years stand staring back at her, mercilessly, from the old clock on the wall, and Pattie finally hears its faint voice. It has grown tired, too.

“I have tried to tell you;

but who am I?” Time whispers, softly and humbly. “We don’t help you erase or ease pain. We don’t retain memories, or life.”

“We don’t do anything… but obey the heart.”

A Hard Heart

A thick head does as much damage as a hard heart – Harold W. Dodds

When you get used to the hardness of the world, you naturally mirror it.

You mirror what you are often exposed to. A painful comment becomes less painful for you to spit out. Rolling your eyes becomes an easier physiology.

Pause; because your heart has found comfort in hardness.

So what’s so bad about a hardened heart? Nothing, except that like the way a towel gets wrung dry, your heart will slowly lose its potential for wonders, love, fragility, beauty, patience and kindness. You start becoming defensive, grumpy, ridiculously rude and all those other painful things that should normally occur on monday mornings.

I need a soft hard. When my heart hardens, I become like a tortoise with a rocky shell that doesn’t bother to truly listen, who stone-walls the world and avoids giving anything much.

Walking home one night the words, “heart softener” jumped into my head. I liken it to be how you would soften clothes that are too starchy or unbendable.

Whenever your heart is hardened, soak yourself in what makes you human; love and emotions.

Memories. Slowed time. Holding back on negative reactions. Smiling more (cheesy but true) Smiling at strangers (thats a heart melter alright). Someone who doesn’t have it altogether but don’t need to hide that truth.

Of course, whenever you soak in that softnener bath to re-heat your insides again, be sure the water in that tub gets changed once in a while, too.

If the heart becomes hardened, the eye becomes dry – Ibm Qayyim

“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.”

A Brief Breakup with Samsung Notes

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Dear Samsung S Notes,

I feel like murdering you for a little bit. I feel betrayed by you, and I am upset at myself that I ever thought I understood you.

My brain is filled with the images of what we shared. Notes, thoughts, letters. We used to have so much together.

I lost all my S Note memories today, even after I backed them up via the Samsung Cloud app.

It’s like a part of me has been ripped out like paper and torn out of my life – you can’t just take 120 memos and then walk out of my life. I am going mad. Everything we’ve had since the start of 2013 has vanished, save for a silly document called “Scraps and scribbles”, something I’d written in that nature and had totally left to fester because it was used for “testing”. It had four words. This must be some kind of a cruel joke.


Could you have found a better way to get back at me? I don’t think so.

If one day the virtual planet short circuits because of power overdrive, and you had to leave me for good, I wouldn’t blame you. You were aloof from the start, anyway, and mostly invisible.

We ought to cool off from each other and reflect about how we can do things better next time – and for me, that means buying a real note book that won’t just run off in the night, especially when I need him the most.

In scraps and scribbles,
Grace


Afterword:

It’s not easy when your files and memories get deleted – especially when you did back them up.

To help me cope better with this recent trauma, I installed some of these apps that will hopefully help bridge any future feuds. I hope they’ll help ease tensions between you and your Samsung notes too. All the best.

1. Dropsync: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ttxapps.dropsync&hl=en
2. Google Docs
3. Evernote

QZ8501: When comfort cannot do its job

Yesterday, QZ8501 crashed mercilessly into the ocean, bringing 160 precious lives along with it.

They must’ve received many comforting words and lovely cards… but death, it sits with them. It is all-consuming and inky – it fills up their lungs with black ink. Comfort can only venture to the edges of death – it cannot go in.

I imagine sitting with the families, shrouded in an atmosphere of death; and there are no chubby angels dancing around the prairie with golden lights. No warm letters that can penetrate the cold.

There is no serene music playing, no harpist singing, sadly, in the background.

There are no roses.

It is blackness and endless pain – a need to escape the suffocating loss of a precious life. The ink mounts. There is a dead end on the road, and people softly encourage you to turn and walk back to life, but you cannot move, not now. There is nothing that holds you together, not at this moment. There is no soft wind blowing. There is no beautiful sunset that brings understanding. Or peaceful skies that bring blessing.

There are only tears and endless heartache that will never heal. There are only the thorns of roses, and they cut.


Yet, there is love. It seems disgustingly far away,

but there is love.

Quietly nesting in the crevices of your memories.

Soaking up the veins, in all your heart; a pulsating and dear force.

And

that is enough

for now.


Please know my prayers and thoughts are with you.

Wedding Ring

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It wasn’t anything special, really. No fireworks of epiphany, nor people trumpeting things, loudly in my face.

I was on the way home after work today and I caught sight of an indian man’s wedding ring. It was wedged uncomfortably on his oversized fourth finger – and it looked to me the most ordinary thing on earth. Haven’t I seen enough rings and bands? Then a thought jumps into my mind.

Behind every wedding ring, there’s an extraordinary story. A story so powerful it brought two utterly opposite worlds together, driving all opposition away. A story that survived and fought through time. One that bore the marks of giddy happiness, irrelevant nonsense, inside jokes, cuddles, melancholic flavours…

And as I gazed at his pressed hand against the tampered glass of the MRT seat, I wondered deeply. What was his story like? Was he still very much in love with his wife? How long have they been married? What was his first feelings like? Did he know he was to marry her? Why did he love her? I had so many thoughts.

With no probable answers in sight.

Then the indian man got off a couple of stops later.

His hand left a mark on the glass, and I was still in my dreamy state. I made certain one thing: I knew I’d want a wedding ring with a beautiful story that lasts. Really lasts.

Wedding Ring Poem

Till the sun wears out or Mars burns dry
Till the moon stops shining or the stars fall and die
Till the dreamers stop dreaming
And the oceans part ways
The creatures within stop singing

Till rain is no more
And the skies melt away
Till the clouds dissolve
And the earth give way

I cannot stop loving you.

We’re all the same

allpeopleI’m with Kant on this: to see people not as a means to an end but as an end in themselves. They are, *ahem* not for your use, neither are they bridges that you trudge on to cross your troubled waters.

If that is so, we’re all equal and intrinsically the same. A life is a life, and a beggar is no less than a prince. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect and air-time: whether rich or poor, “worthy” or “unworthy”, or whether he or she is family.

To show even a hint of favoritism or indifference towards another person would mean to echo, through your actions, that you are somehow better than they are.

And so, humility, at the end of the day, is utterly beautiful. I gaze at humility in a person as though staring at the milky way in pictures, or finding polished rubies in mud-murky waters. One cannot tire of it.

Bi(r)d Her Farewell

Said the homeless sparrow to the pigeon:

“My heart is like a little kingdom

And you, a trapped pigeon

If only I could let you out (But I cannot)

And I’ll have my freedom,”

~

The pigeon kept silent.

~

Sparrow continued to sing,

“Your mind is like a little nest

And I, your happy sparrow

If only you would bid me stay

I’d promise never to go my own way.”

~

But the pigeon didn’t answer again –

She ruffled her feathers with a tearful sigh

Threw a last look at dear old sparrow

And flew far away, higher than high.