The gift of the present

American Cartoonist, Bil Keane, once said:

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift.  That is why it is called the present.”

My friend, be mindful of the gift of every present moment in our life.  Open your hands to receive this gift.  Open your heart to live in every “this moment”.

choosing the way to wake up every morning

In her book, “Small Bites: Mindfulness for Everyday Use”, Annabelle Zinser wrote,

“How did you wake up this morning?  And how did you handle those moments of awakening?  Did you say, ‘How wonderful, it’s the beginning of a new day; I wonder what the day has in store for me.  Can I embrace myself and all other beings who cross my path today with understanding, friendliness, and compassion’?  Or did you say, ‘Oh no, yet another new day.  When I start thinking about the upcoming day, it feels like way too much’?”

In addition to giving thanks to God for the morning, waking up and embracing each morning (and day) with wonder & compassion is the way of awakening.

Just for today, building instead of destroying

When I am reading “Just for today” (one of the textbooks for the Narcotics Anonymous group) this morning, I am reminded that “Though I may be feeling low, I don’t need to tear someone down to build myself up…The way to build our self-esteem is not to tear others down but to build them up through love and positive concern.  To help us with this, we can ask ourselves if we are contributing to the problem or to the solution.  Today, we can choose to build instead of destroy”.

Today, I choose to build.  What/how about you?  What/how about tomorrow?

the power of your love and the problems of this world

Debasish Mridha once said ” Let the power of your love change the world, but never let the problems of this world change the beauty of your love”.  This is a good reminder that the power of our love is greater than the problem of this world.  The problem of this world, hatred, violence, anti-intellectual, exclusiveness, bias, fear…need to be solved and healed by our love.  My friends, together, we have the power to change the world.  The question is if you believe and you are willing to exercise this power, LOVE.

Is there any dust in your heart?

The Chinese Zen Master Huineng once said, “Bodhi really has no tree; nor is clear mirror the stand; nothing’s there initially; so where can the dust motes land?”

The mirror does not really exist.  Although the dust motes keep failing, there is nothing for them land on or cling to, and there is nothing to wipe clean.

If you have peace in your heart, you have no dust that needs to be wipe clean in you no matter how dusty outside of you is.

the power of love and the love of power

Do you know the difference between “the power of love” and “the love of power”?  Do you know the consequence of these two?   William Ewart Gladstone once said, “When the power of love will replace the love of power, then will our world know the blessings of peace”.    Looking at the world today (March 2022), you may know why some parts of the world is not at peace now and how we can have peace.  My friends, choose “LOVE”, “PEACE” will come.

my shelter in times of trouble

My friend is a group leader in NA (Narcotics Anonymous).  He gave me one of their books called “Just for Today”.  I found that this book offers many insightful messages for everyone.

I like to share one of the messages: “I know that faith in my Higher Power will not calm the storms of life, but it will calm my heart.  I will let my faith shelter me in times of trouble”,

Do you have any shelter in times of trouble?  What is it?   For me, my shelter is God.  “God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not be afraid…”

Listening with the ear of our heart

I took my car to the auto shop for regular maintenance.    While I was waiting for the service, I opened the book “a life of being, having, and doing enough” by Wayne Muller.  His writing on “listening with the ear of our heart” touched my heart instantly:

“When our attention is bombarded daily, overwhelmed and saturated with the relentless clanging of so much speaking, announcing, sharing, selling, convincing, offering, presenting, discussing, declaring, and demanding – how can ever find sufficient quiet to listen deeply to anything?  When can we fully attend those still, small voices of inner wisdom that reveal to us what is good, necessary, or nourishing?…..prayers of invocation …asking God to “come here, be with us and bless us”…Who are we…to assume God is not here and everywhere already – and worse, that we must call him as we would a family pet, to come?  The more humble, honorable – and accurate – prayer would recognize it is not God who is missing; rather, it is we who need to show up, to open our closed and fearful hearts, to listen with an ear bent toward the divine”.

When I followed the prayer he offered, I prayed with tear.  For a while, I have not been being mindful of God’s presence and I have not been being attentive to God’s voice.  If you are willing, join me to do and experience the following prayer:

“God, I beg you to cleanse our distracted hearts, that we may center ourselves in you, feel you here, guiding us, so we may listen and attend to your wisdom and guidance for us”.

Definition of Church Planting

I have been discerning and preparing new church initiatives, I got Aubrey Malphurs’ book, “The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church”. In this book, Aubrey Malphurs writes: “I define church planting as an exhausting but exciting venture of faith, the planned process of starting and growing local churches based on Jesus’s promise to build his church and in obedience to his Great Commission”.

Why do we need to plant a new church? We are going to plant and grow a church in obedience to his Great Commission. Since this is an exhausting venture, I need fellow pilgrims. Your prayers and partnership (in many different ways) are invited and appreciated. For the sake of His Kingdom Ministry, let’s follow His way together.

The most precious valuable gift you can offer

In his book “a life of being have doing enough”, Wayne Muller wrote:

“Perhaps the greatest wealth you possess, the most precious valuable gift you can ever hope to offer any human being, is this one, simple, true things: You. Your Presence. Showing up. Being in the company of another, undistracted, unhurried, with an open heart, gentle hands, and a patient soul. Willing and able to listen, do something or do nothing, willing to be surprised by whatever emerges in the soil of sharing your present, loving company with another human being”.

How often have you offered this gift to others? How often have you received this gift from others? Do you value this the most precious valuable gift?

Church Marketing

I like the definition Richard Reising offers in his book “ChurchMarketing 101”,

“Church Marketing … is ‘the sum’ of all your church does to connect Christ with your membership and the outside world. It is ‘the sum’ of things that done (including all that defines your product, place, etc.) to engage someone to respond positively to the very thing your are promoting…it is your challenge to reach people where they are to create the atmosphere of love and joy that people hunger for. Your challenge is to relate to people wherever they might be in life and to relevantly connect them to Christ and His kingdom”.

As a rector, his definition is leading me to reflect on what I have been doing and leading and what I need to make response to this new (at least for me) definition of church marketing. May God guide our ministry.

Invisible but essential and beautiful

French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “”it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. Yes, we cannot see God with our eyes, but we can see Him with our heart.

Antoine also wrote, “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with heart”. For me, the most beautiful thing is Love.

“God, Love, God is Love” are the essential and most beautiful things that only can be seen and felt by our heart.

Mark Nepo’s poem “Accepting This”

Yes, it is true. I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs—all of it
rehearsal for the majesty
of being held.

The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you
and life begins
when saying I love you
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.

My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

Ultimately,
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.”

The world aches for our gifts to brought to the table, even though we just play a very small part in a very long story and we will not end hunger, poverty, suffering, or war at the end of the day, or the end of our lives. Just be good and do good anyway.

They need emotional support.

While I was driving, I turned on the radio and I was shocked by the information the host shared – there’s about 6 – 8 people died daily because of illicit-drug overdoses in BC in the past first ten month 2021.

When I was still the rector of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Mississauga three years ago, we welcomed the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) group in our church building. I was allowed to attend their meetings. One time I had conversation with a Canadian born Chinese young man. He told me he’s trying to live clean but it’s difficult with the emotional support of the family. He was kicked out by his parents because they could not accept his son with drug addiction. I could see his tears when he talked about his family. He loved and missed his family very much. I did not know what to say, I just gave him a hug. He cried and said “thank you” to me. Because he moved to another shelter, he had never come to the NA meeting in our church since that evening. I have been keeping him in prayers.

There are many people need others’ emotional support so that they can continue their journey of living clean. In fact, emotion support is one powerful way to prevent people to use drugs to escape from their personal problems and pains. In fact, we all need others’ emotional support.

Our worst enemy

In his book, “Ego is the Enemy”, Ryan Holiday points out the following truths for us:” Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego…It is that petulant child inside every person, the ones that chooses getting his or he way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility – that is ego…but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better…we live inside our own fantasy…what we have is not confidence but delusion…ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it…”

Yes, I realize that my battle with my worst enemy has not yet finished. I believe I am not alone and helpless in this battle. Christmas reminds me that Christ has come to help us to fight and win this battle.

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute (The Priority and Practice of Evangelism – Canadian Church Leader Perspective in 2021), 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

According Thom S. Rainer, the top fifteen reasons our churches are less evangelistic today are:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

In his book, “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”, Mark Dever reminds us that “according to the Bible, all believers have received this commission”. The Commission he talks about is the Jesus Great Commission (Matthews 28:18-20).

Mark points out that “We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church – helping to organize or lead it. We may teach and equip. We may provide hospitality and encouragement. We may pray and serve and show mercy and give. But we also all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both insider and outside of the church…God calls all Christians to share the good news. Our churches need to make sure that we know the good news and to make sure that we can all express it clearly. And we should work to train each other in having the kind of Christian lives and clear understanding that will help us to share the gospel’.

I agree with him that “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explain what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism”.

I think Mark has given us a very concise and precise conclusion on evangelism, “a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive (a desire to obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God) We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God…The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray all Christians say “yes” to the call to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ,

The Anglican Vision

When I was considering to become an Anglican years ago, James E. Griffiss’ “The Anglican Vision” helped me to understand the origin of Anglicanism, Anglican belief and practice.

For someone like me coming from non-liturgical Christian background, his explanation on “the church as sacrament” dispelled my misunderstanding. He wrote, “In our prayer book sacraments are defined as ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace’…The witness of the Bible, the doctrinal tradition of councils and creeds, the discipline of prayer, worship, and action, and our communion with one another and with God – all of these essential components of how the church is the sacrament of God’s presence. They are our heritage in the catholic faith mediated to us and brought to life in the particular historical condition o four church community. By the grace of God, we believe, the Word of Truth will be present with us in the process of our hearing and speaking.”

According to his description, are you and I the sacraments? As a priest, have I been with my “church” experiencing His presence among&in us? May God help us.

Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life”

In this timeless book, Fr. Nouwen again insightfully guides me (I hope it helps you too) on a journey to discover the rich and the depth of the Eucharist through the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. When I partake the Eucharist, I come in my brokenness before God, heard the Word and the profession of faith, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What has impacted me the most is his reminding us of the end of communion, “Communion is not the end. Mission is …We recognized him, but that recognition is not just for us to savor or to keep as a secret…It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference…”

Even though they faced difficulties, challenges and persecutions, the first disciples carried on the mission and lived out their eucharistic lives faithfully. Their witnesses have been inspiring me (I hope you too) to live out the missional life in the midst of pandemic.