Friday, September 14, 2007

La Fantome de L'Opera

Gaston Leroux...

how is it that this French man wrote a such a simple story that inspired a timeless musical?

I have never been a big fan of musicals but it was the novel that compelled me to the theatre. How surprising it is that, this man's imagination captivates a large potion of my life and emotions. Or rather is it that my love for this story that injected such sentiments that I relate to each character so well?

I imagine myself as the phantom and feel the intensity of his lonliness, as Christine and share in her helplessness, as Raul and appreciates his confusing selflessness. I would rather have had Christine ended up with the phantom personally. That would have been a happy ending.

I slipped my thoughts to my old friend momentarily today. It was then that I realized how hard I tried to stop thinking about her, fearing myself to fall into an emotional fit as I usually do. It has been many years since we parted yet, as the song from phantom goes, I still think of her fondly after we've said good bye.

Lord how do You view this past I had gone through? What do You will to teach me through the sustained memories? Forgive me Lord, for I have demonized this relationship out of my own convenience, for even beyond my sins of lust and possessiveness, there had been moments of I thank You for letting me experience; the times I shared love with her genuinely, the pains we endured for one another and how you allowed me to finally truly love her when the relationship was long over. It is my prayer, O Lord, that You bless and keep her close to You.

My Lord I thirst for love, for it was this thirst that ignited the relationship of two years, yet Lord I did not know how to love for I had yet to open my eyes and heart to receive Your mercy. It saddened me Lord that I failed the relationship but the remorse was due to a plight of evil bourne out of a possessive desire. It saddens me now, Lord, that I failed to to reflect Your love for her then, that my sinful attitude towards her had failed to revive the relationship. Lord my soul had been restless without Your love, and I praise You for revealing to me Your glory.

I still thirst Lord, for love. Thirst for more of Your love and for the love of Your church. How little I have to offer to You my God, and how plenty the greed that I wish to keep Your grace for myself and not for Your greater glory. Yet my heart thirsts to serve You to build Your church. I fear rejection Lord, from my brothers and sisters, from those I love but I fear most of all rejection from You. Do not hide Your face from me, for to not see and hear You is hell in itself.

Where do You want me Lord? Where can I find the peace this world cannot give? Sometimes I just want to rest in Your love, my God as Mary so fondly did. How I long to see Your face unveiled from the sacraments and hear Your voice unchanneled through scripture. How I long to see Your children love one another as You love us. How I long for the courage and conviction to give myself to You and Your children.

When I was lonely and unloved, You loved me. When I was trapped in prison, You saved me. When I recklessly searched for love, You allowed me to stand in Your presence. How great You are, my God... only now do I understand that I longed for her love because I longed for You and I longed to love her for I was made in Your image. I pray Lord that Your grace will be my strength against the temptations of sins in all my relationships in present as well as the brothers and sisters You have prepared for me ahead.

Will You heal me my God, from my inequities and give me the courage to carry my cross and follow You?

Will You grant me Your love and spirit that I shall never thirst again?

Will You open my heart to know that You already have done them all for me?

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

FELLOWship

You won't find any youth group that doesn't have promises of fellowship in their publicity these days. While the intention is usually a good one, I find it largely disturbing at how the term "fellowship" is notoriously abused in our minds.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an anti-social that preaches hermithood. A ministry without a community is practically a dead ministry, and fellowship is vital if not critical part of community life. What I do however strongly stand for is the preservation of the Christian spirit of fellowship. Ask any random person in the church, what a fellowship is and he'll most likely answer, "Oh it's a time for socializing and having fun.". I'll argue to you that's not it.

We live in a world of black and white, 1 and 0, spiritual and secular, prayer time and fun. Last Friday a speaker at amplify advocated the marriage of Christian spirituality into our everyday lives which I truly commend him for sharing. So if we follow the mathematical formula in trying to define what fellowship means, it'll probably look something like this:

fun + friends = fellowship

The pitfall of such a mentality is that we limit ourselves to stop there. If you truly ponder over the role of fellowship as potrayed in scripture, it has never been merely an avenue for Christians to eat drink and be merry. In fact Paul never failed to persistantly warn the early churches against an excess of leisure.

Am I then saying that anything fun is bad?

No rather I'm saying that being overly fond of the fun factor has a dangerous tendency to blind us from the true objective of why we gathered to celebrate life (which definitely need its fair share of entertainment!). This is where I challenge you to examine your conscious;

Does I go to church just to make friends?

Do I treat my ministry as though it is an outlet to socialize?

Do I truly make an effort to grow in love with my community during fellowships or do they just happened to be there?

Do I sincerely enjoy my fellow brothers and sisters for who they are or do I have an agenda in befriending them?

Do I treat people outside my ministry with the same kind of love I treat my fellow members?


Having said that, and establishing that fellowship is not suppertime at kopitiam, let's discuss what fellowship is then. When Jesus sends out his 72 disciples, He sent them in pairs. He didn't not will that a man go forth alone and carry out his ministry but that he will always have a partner to encourage him when the going gets tough. He knew that a man is weak on his own and the most dreaded foe is usually is the wickedness of his own heart. How often we wonder in our ministries questions like "Why can't things go this way?", "Where is God while I'm doing His work!?", "I knew I wasn't worthy enough for this task." and ultimately "I give up!".

We start off with frustration, then anger,unworthiness and ends at abandonment. The devil achieves this by exploiting a number of our weeknesses like pride, laziness, lust etc. It's at these times of "spiritual lows" that we need our brothers and sisters to encourage us to keep running the good race and correct us if we're going down the wrong path(like being a self-righteous stubborn donkey). As God the Father, right in the beginning said "It is not good for men to be alone", and resounded by the vocation Barnabas (no not the criminal, the guy that lost the lot to Matthias as the 12th apostle), as the greatest encourager of the Church!

For this to happen, it requires a number of ingrediants. For starters we need a commnity, but not in the sense that it's merely a group of people clustered together. Here is where I point you to the relationship of the Holy Trinity. Absolute trust, respect, humility, obediance and love. In a secular sense people gather together all the time! From multinational companies, political parites and support groups to dance clubs, terrorism and orgies. If in our fellowship our objective is to live the moment and enjoy ourselves, then truly we're not very different from the rest of the world now are we?

A Christian fellowship calls for love, the kind of love that the Lord loved us with. The kind of love that demands humility to wash one another's feet and strip ourselves in Calvary.The kind of love that shares our very being and lives with our brothers and sisters, for the Lord didn't not hold back even His blood to find us a way to the Father. It's the way of the cross, and the Lord walked it, so we too must share our lives and grow in service with one another. Our experiences, our comforts, our talents, our tears, our joys and everything that the Lord has blessed us with, so that we too may be a blessing to others. Christian fellowship calls for Christ at our centre. Only then when the storm comes our way, will we have the courage to forgive, accept and nourish one another, as we boldly proclaim that the bond between each member in the fellowship is not an agenda, a common interest and not even a church ministry but Christ Jesus who loves us to His death on the cross.

So next time you go for a fellowship, I urge you brothers and sisters to keep in mind that the carousals and entertainment is not the fellowship but merely a means to attain and celebrate that your fellowship, which has been purchased for us all with His most precious blood. Pray to the Lord for blessings on your meals and gatherings that He will guide every participant to grow in love and trust for one another in His Holy Spirit. That when tentions arise, you be protected from pride to grant you the courage to be humble to love your brother or sister all the same. Always seek to love one another, for it is by this fellowship of love, that all men shall know that you are the Lord's disciple.

Amen.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Tale of Neil's Story- Part One, Prologue

My name at birth was Nyi Nyi Htut.

Eventually evolved to Neil Htut.

Ultimately to Dominic Neil Nyi Nyi Htut.

Many know my name but not my story. Some remember my story but not my name. I find no need to recount a narration, for facts of my journey hold as little meaning today as a fool's musing. It is the gaps in my story that I wish to find, finer details only one person could possibily know.

Lord I turn to you to illuminate my mind and direct my thoughts. Come to my aid to relive my short life and help me to seek You in amongst my past. I come to You, my Lord and God, my past, present and future. May You grant me the wisdom to thank You for each blessing, contrition for each sin, and moral courage to learn from every mistake.

This is not a story of my life, but a tale of the story of my life. The deeper essence of my call and God's saving hand that ought to be remembered as I discern over the paths I have chosen to in the past, the choices I have in the present and the call of God to which I should commit my future. Come Holy Spirit, fill my mind with Your sanctifying powers and bless this journey I will be taking, not for my glory but for Yours. Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Part 1- A child's playground
Prologue: Abraham's covenant


It is the most unlikely of couples, for the daughter of a well respected doctor to wed an orphan struggling to make a living. Little do I know of my parents but enough conclude their lives have not been an easy one. Yet despite all their struggles, the Lord blessed them with many gifts, which they in turn blessed me with. What covenent did He make with them, that they raised themselves up to stand out in their love? Amidst the daily difficulties faced in Burma, never did they have to worry about having enough to live a day. Were it not for their love for their children, luxury and riches will lay waste at their feet. Yet they freely chose to be poor in material to entrust every penny to my education. What desire did You implant in their hearts Lord, that despite having never met You, they still have such capacity to love this ungrateful son? I praise You for Your blessings and beg for Your forgiveness for neglecting these beautiful people You have gifted me with. For it was through them that You nourished me, body and spirit, through them that I first encounted Your love.

Before I was in my mother's womb, the Lord had called me to His church. My parents studied in catholic schools, St John's and St Anthony's. A few years before my birth, they were stationed in Rome for a good while. It was through these experiences that they developed a fond attraction for the Italian culture (especially the food!). Thus they shared with me these memories during my growing years sparking curiousity followed by a boy's day dream; of cathedrals and rites, nuns and monks, devils and angels. It was not until I was about twelve years old that my mother shared her own experience with the Blessed Mother, whose intercessions saved my brother's life. Was it then Lord, that You revealed to them Your glory? It was my mother's confident endorsement in Our Lady's intercession that later saved a wretch like me.

However, they never left their roots of Buddhism, a religion they imparted unto me. Even in this sphere of faith outside His church, the Lord never failed to build up my parents. The pride they took in their faith, and their abundant respect for tradition blossomed integrity amidst corruption and generosity untainted by famine. Alas, God's grace does not fully flow in their faith, for our family was plagued with jealousy, lust and pride. Thus God prepared for me the ground on which I was to train my conscious and trails that challenge me to this very day with the hopes of making me grow.

Such was Your will for me O Lord, that I be born into a place with sheer resemblence of the Jerusalem You walked on. You breath my being into a family a little less than luxury but much more than poverty in material, rich in spirit yet poor in wisdom, a piller of strength with weak foundation. It was then my Lord, that my soul began searching for You to make me whole.

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