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?

Living in the present moment in our daily challenge

In the past hour of waiting for someone coming to the scheduled meeting, I have learned both the difficulty and the benefit of enjoying the present moment. I kept looking around at the beginning, and eventually I told myself, “why bother, just enjoy the time, just be open to whatever it is coming”. Thank God for the time that I really enjoy the coffee and the time to read and reflect.

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.

our difficult choices each day

In his book “a life being having and doing enough”, Wayne Muller wisely points out the reality we have often denied and ignored:

“Living and loving well requires us to make difficult choices each day of our lives.  The heart-opening unconditional love we see requires our heart’s time and attention.  Love, friendship, children, kindness, good and fruitful work – all these things need time, accompanied by our full, unhurried, undistracted attention.  Because the sheer number of hours in a day is limited, we must choose where, when, and with who we will share whatever brief time and attention we have.”

This is the more effective way we are going to be with and to help others.  in this way, what we are to share is the best we can offer.

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”.

Gender, process or fact?

As a Christian and an Anglican priest (not only because of Christian identity and vocation, but also my passion), I love to reach out to the people in the community. One group of people I have never met personally are transgender. Lately, I start to read a book called “Gender: Your Guide – A GENDER-FRIENDLY PRIMER ON What to Know, What to Say, and What do Do in the New Gender Culture” by Lee Airton.

In this book, Lee Airton writes, “transgender people were assigned a sex and corresponding gender category at birth, but this assignment doesn’t reflect who we are”. In the book, Lee explains how gender works from the perspective of gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

For me, I am in a lifelong journey/path to be true manhood. I am still learning and becoming a man I was designed by God to be. From this point of view, I experience & see gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

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?

Beyond the ordinary teachings of forgiveness

I resonate with Derek Lin that “Egoism is something we created for ourselves, so it is something we can dismiss with a simple decision. Without egoism there is nothing bruise, hurt, or wound. Without damages or injuries to the ego, pride, or dignity, there is also nothing to forgive. There is how the sage transcends beyond the ordinary teachings of forgiveness. By recognizing that the true self can never be hurt, and it is only the false projections of the ego that are damaged by criticisms and insults, we bypass the constant striving to forgive others.” (from his book “The Tao of Daily Life”)

In here, Derek Lin is not discussing about right or wrong. Instead, Derek Lin points out to us the ancient way of “protecting” us from hurting by criticisms and insults. “Nothing to forgive” in here means we are not carrying negative feelings with us everywhere. That negativity won’t become a burden to us. This is not about right or wrong and if the person hurt us need to be responsible. What Derek Lin has offered is the ancient way to be free and safe from criticisms, insults and our egoism.

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.

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 Soft Overcomes the Hard

In his book, “The Tao of Daily Life”, Derek Lin points out that “in our conflict-oriented culture, we have a tendency to counter force with force. If someone yells at us, we yell back louder. When we feel disrespected, our first impulse is give that disrespect right back…the conventional approach is all about confrontation and clashing. It is the ‘hard’ path to traverse through life because it focuses on the external manifestations of power. Its method is to pump up the self by diminishing others”. Have you seen and experienced what Lin describes in your life & world? Yes, I have…

Lin offers us the Tao approach that “isn’t about confrontation and clashing. Instead, it is all about redirecting and channeling. It is the ‘soft’ path because it focuses on internal strength. Its goal is to improve oneself so that everyone can win…when you make a gut-level decision to commit yourself to this teaching, to be like water and allow the soft to overcome the hard … that is when your world, your life, and your fate will undergo a startling transformation. When you improve your character and elevate your spiritual understanding by utilizing the Tao approach .. that is when your destiny will never the same again!”

As I am getting older, my internal strength and confidence are getting stronger, I have more power to love, let go and forgive. That is the way of Tao.

Embrace the groundlessness of our situation

In her book, “Living beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”, Pema Chödrön profoundly points out that “As human beings we share a tendency scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for this is freedom…”

To have freedom, we need to leave the “prison” of our mind. We often feel insecure and we think a solid ground is the solution; then consequently we act to put ground (we think it is solid) under our feet. Unfortunately we need to keep find another ground and we feel suffered …until we are awaked spiritually.

Are you still in your journey of finding the solid ground?

Remembrance, In Flanders Fields

Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the official end of the World War I hostilities on November 11, 1918. World War I was a massive conflict was played out over the whole globe, but particularly in Europe, where troops from Canada supported the Allied forces.

World War I resulted in the loss of huge numbers of lives amongst both civilians and military personnel. Many more people were badly injured. The war left great emotional scars in the servicemen, who had experienced it, and in the communities, whose sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and even grandfathers had died. Remembrance Day commemorates those who died in armed conflicts, particularly in and since World War I.

In Canada, November 11 is officially called Remembrance Day, but it is also known as Armistice Day and Poppy Day.

Remembrance Day is symbolized by the artificial poppies that people wear and place at war memorials. The poppies may be worn or placed singly or as wreaths. The use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance comes from a poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in the military. Flanders Fields is a common English name of the World War I battlefields in Belgium and France. The poem is called In Flanders Fields and describes the poppies growing in the Flemish graveyards where soldiers were buried.

Here is John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Poppies grow well in soil that has been disturbed. They also grew in large numbers on battle fields. The red color of their petals reminded people of the blood lost by victims of and casualties in the conflict. Some people choose to wear white poppies to campaign for non-military interventions in conflict situations.

My friends, do you know how many years there have been in history without war? War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Has the world ever been at peace? Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. However, violence and conflict happen everywhere daily.

Let us begin our work for peace with Prayer. Here is the Prayer for the Remembrance – a prayer for world peace (The Church of England):

O God of the nations,
as we look to that day when you will gather people
from north and south, east and west,
into the unity of your peaceable Kingdom,
guide with your just and gentle wisdom all who take counsel
for the nations of the world,
that all your people may spend their days in security, freedom, and peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Freedom in Commitment

In his book, “the subtle are of not giving a fuck”, Mark Manson, who visited fifty-five countries, made dozens of friends, and found himself in the arm of a number of lovers, talk about what he has learned from/after his journey of seeking freedom and adventure. He wrote, “…after the years of excitement, the biggest lesson I took from my adventuring was this: absolute freedom, by itself, means nothing. Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person. To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There is a certain level of joy meaning that you reach in life only when you have spent decades investing in a single relationship….there is freedom and liberation in commitment…Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant…Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goal and achieve degree of success you otherwise would…rejection of what does not align with our most important values…”.

In fact, the learnings Mark Manson has shared with us are applicable to many areas of life. The question is if we know what our important values are and what we want to be in our life. Do you know,,,?

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.

Self awareness, questioning yourself

In his book, “the subtle of art of noting give a fuck”, Mark Manson had one chapter to discuss his version of get to know more about ourselves. At first, he helped us to be humble about our knowing, “As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn”.

Furthermore, he pointed out that “As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out. And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armor of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves”.

Thus, self awareness does not mean that we know yourself in 100%, but we are aware that we are still in the journey of learning about ourselves.