Sunday, December 16, 2012

d'NA at 10

This year's d'NA (d'Nous Academy at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia) was the 10th since it started in 2003.

I found myself on familiar ground, once again. The playground where I spent most of my devotion/quiet time is more or less the same, except that a huge Bauhinia now towers over the monkey bars!

The Bauhinia wasn't there in the past.

Bauhinia flower.

It is a legume, and its seeds are carried in pods, just like peas.

Bee at work.

Fallen leaves.

* * *


We settle, we sedimentise,
Committing the stories of our everyday—
The pulse of our lives—
To the layered rock of history,
The neatly-pressed strata of yesterday.

Which is all well if our living years
Commence in museum halls,
If we never yearn to move beyond first gear
And hang ourselves in frames upon our walls.

We are taught that the nomad's way—
The pertanian pindah—is mundur,
That the way forward is to stop and stay
Put. To allow entropy to run its course
And achieve its lowest energy goals;
But followed to its end it is maximum disorder
And the disintegration of our souls.

Cold steel on warm skin
Where does the rushing river go?
Spirit restless within; stagnant, or pregnant,
Our blood will flow.
And not as blood in centrifuge,
Slowly spun and spinning, warmed—
For our refuge is the rushing storm,
The roaring sea;
Like bees on Bauhinia
Alighting on heart-shaped leaves,
We are itinerant (let it be so)
Tapak kuda, strewn upon the grass below,
Tapak unta, saddle up and go.

We embark in earth-coloured wedding dresses
Muddy and murky, as sordid as our sin-stained hearts,
Till He establishes our hearts blameless
In holiness presentable to stand upright;
Till the good work yields a hundredfold
We shall be as soil to seed, to nourish growth,
As candle flame, to flicker, to guide
Our stumbling feet through this brief night.

(Written on the monkey bars.)

* * *

Martin Luther, 2003.

SooT, Alissa, Tien, Ben, Isaac, Michael: since 2003.
Shern Ren, Kim Cheng, Grace: since 2004.

(Photo by Esmond.)

d'NA 2012: 10 years and counting!

(Photo by Sue Min.)

Now this (monkey bar photo) is a tradition. For everything else, "Michael is right." ;-)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Broken Bread

In bread we bring you Lord, our body's labour
In wine we offer you our spirit's grief. 
We do not ask you, Lord, who is my neighbor? 
But stand united now, in one belief. 
For we have gladly heard your Word, your holy Word 
And now in answer, Lord, our gifts we bring. 
Our selfish hearts make true, our failing faith renew, 
Our lives belongs to you, our Lord and King. 

The bread we offer you is blessed and broken, 
And it becomes for us our spirit's food. 
Over the cup we bring, your Word is spoken; 
Make it your gift to us, your healing blood. 
Take all that daily toil, plant in our heart's poor soil, 
Take all we start and spoil, each hopeful dream. 
The chances we have missed, the graces we resist, 
Lord, in thy Eucharist, take and redeem. 

'In Bread We Bring You Lord' by Kevin Nichols 

So I've been invited to a wedding this Saturday. One of the very few I've been personally invited to, albeit only after finding out and congratulating the bride! Apparently many invites these days go through Facebook, and since I'm not there I effectively don't exist. Such is our world today.

But I've told a few people lately how, over the years, I've been invited to far more birthday parties and funerals than weddings. This December, I thought I might be able to chalk some points up on the wedding side, but then the first funeral came—it just had to—and now, the second. God must have a morbid sense of humour.

We sang that hymn above at the first funeral, and I was very moved by it.

As I was thinking about the funeral, I told V on Monday (after I'd been invited to it) that in funerals, we are stripped of our pretensions. We can, and must, be honest. No one talks about clothes or dresses ("Wah, you look so pretty!"); there's a lot less silly small talk; estranged ex-spouses reappear; we are forced to take a long, hard look at ourselves; and families are reunited, albeit against their will.

I, for one, owe my extended family's reunion to my grandmother's death five years ago. Sometimes it takes death to teach us to live.