Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Star gazing

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"
Birds singing in the sycamore trees
Dream a little dream of me
(from 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me')

I used to love singing this song, especially with a loved one before me.
I also love star-gazing, and in the same light (no pun intended), especially with a loved one beside me.
Ever since I began this journey towards the priesthood, I am usually left singing songs to myself or star-gazing by myself. Yet, I still find considerable joy and delight in them.

5.02am. The sky was still dark as I walked down the covered walkway of the seminary, headed towards the chapel. I glanced to my left and noticed this bright speck of light above the horizon. I stopped in my tracks, amazed to see how unusually clear the sky seemed to be. I considered how I was already slightly late for my usual early morning holy hour with the Lord, but something prompted me to just take a step outside. Following my gut, I stepped out of the covered walkway and looked up. I was stunned. The sky was littered with glittering diamonds that shone so brightly. It was one of the rare times in Singapore that I ever got to see so many stars in such a clear night sky. It was truly a sight to behold.

It's been said that it only takes the smallest flame to light up the darkest room, the tiniest speck of light to lead to the furthest end of the tunnel. It is always amazing to see how the smallest events in life, often lead us to the biggest and most amazing changes of our life. It could be a friend's unexpected encouragement to apply for a scholarship on the last day of application, a girl you just happened to bump into on a mission trip, or a simple out-of-the-blue invitation to attend a retreat. And we can so easily just brush aside these chance encounters of the smallest speck of light above the horizon of our life, and walk on ahead as if nothing really happened. Or we can take notice of it, respond to it, and let that tiny bright star lead you to eventually being granted that scholarship which you initially never thought it possible, to getting attached to the girl of your dreams whom you never thought ever possible to meet, and to discovering your true vocation in your life that you once thought was never meant for you.

As I marveled at the sight above me, and felt the cool breeze brush against me, the song flowed into my head. It seemed like the perfect night. For I knew I was not alone in my stargazing. The Creator was right before me, His Spirit right beside me. I was finally stargazing once again with my One True Love. And as if things couldn't get any better, my One True Love once again exceeded my greatest expectations. While I gazed into the clear night sky admiring His sparkling jewels, a sudden flash of light bolted across the night sky for a split-second. I was literally star-strucked. I blinked my eyes in astonishment, while my mouth was left gaping. I was just blown away at having just witnessed the brightest shooting star I had ever seen in my life!  

As I followed each of my tiny stars in life, and each time getting pleasantly surprised by what God had in store for me, somehow, God would make sure that there was plenty more to come. Even after getting my first scholarship from the firm in which I started my working career in, God showed me that He had something even better planned out for me in terms of a 'career'. Even after meeting the girl of my dreams, one that fulfilled everything I ever wanted in a life partner, God showed me that He had an even better 'spouse' planned out for me. Even now as I enter the early stages of formation for the vocation that God has revealed to me, today, through that shooting star, He assures me that greater things are yet to come. I only need to keep watching out for Him, to keep my eyes fixed on Him, to keep Star-gazing.

"The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does; and he will show him even greater things than these, so that you will be amazed." - John 5:20

As we begin this season of Advent, we also recall how it was also one star that led the three wisemen to the greatest event of their lives - to see the Light of the world Himself. And as we recall our own tiny stars in our life that led us to the biggest changes in our life, we also need to recall the One who has been behind every one of those tiny stars, and reflect if there have been any other tiny stars in our life that we have failed to notice, or simply brushed aside as we walked our own way? Have there been signs that God has been placing in our lives that we are afraid to respond to, afraid to find out where it will lead us, afraid to have to give up what we originally planned to walk towards?

If the wisemen had not followed the star of David, they would not have found Jesus, and they would not have "returned to their home country by another way" (Matthew 2:12b), their lives totally transformed. If I had not followed the stars in my life, I would not have found Jesus, and have my life totally transformed by this new way of life that God has called me to. Be not afraid to follow your star, because you do not want to miss out on the most amazing plan God has for you, the most amazing life God has in store for you.


Advent Project 2011: STAY Awake!
If you'd truly like to follow the star in your life, this Advent Project may be one possible star that can lead you to God and His plan for you. It may seem like a small project, and you may not even see immediate results, but if you faithfully respond to His star, and patiently gaze upon it, you might just find yourself in for a big and pleasant surprise! So to find out more, click on: and happy Star-gazing!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Gonna get married

(in the background)

Goin' to the chapel and we're
Gonna get married
Goin' to the chapel and we're
Gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we're
Gonna get married
Goin' to the chapel of love
(from 'Chapel of Love' by The Dixie Cups)

I used to dream of singing this song with the girl of my dreams one day.
As it turns out, she'll be singing this song with another man, on this very day.
I knew this day would come, sooner or later.
I just didn't know how I'd be like on that fateful day.

Some years back, my call and desire for the priesthood often got tangled up with conflicting emotions of jealousy over couples and resentment over weddings. I'd grimace at the sight of couples, looking at myself as if I got the short end of the stick, and battle with memories and heartaches at weddings, wondering to myself why my life couldn't end up just like the rest of them.

But God took care of that.

As time went by in the seminary and as God continued to affirm me of my calling, healing took place and slowly I was better able to receive wedding invitations with genuine joy, whilst remaining genuinely happy with my own vocation. Still, it's one thing to accept that your friends are getting married, and a totally different thing to accept the marriage of the one you used to dream of walking down the aisle with, and of the man who is to take your place.

But God took care of that.

The Invitation
Firstly, in God's perfect timing, it was only after I received a deep healing experience at the Conversion Experience Retreat early this year which freed me from a lot of repressed hurt and resentment, that I then received her wedding invitation about a month later, which I surprised myself by taking it rather calmly, and found myself able to be happy for her, and to give her my fullest blessing.

The Departure
Secondly, as the day of the wedding was approaching, and while I was in the midst of deliberating whether to attend the wedding or not, for fear of what may happen to me on that very day, it so happened (of cos' I knew God was behind this yet again) that the seminary was to have a Recollection on the same weekend, which kind of 'solved' my dilemma. But what was more amazing was that on the Fri evening of the Recollection, we were shown a Japanese movie aptly entitled 'Departures'.

In the movie, circumstances caused a man to lose his dreams of being a cello player in an orchestra, and re-directed him to the discovery, and eventually a love for the job as an encoffiner (someone who performs the ritual of cleansing over the deceased), a job that is 'taboo' and looked down upon by others. I identified with it in the way God made me give up my dreams of marriage in order to discover a whole new vocation which I have come to love, and found myself so much more fruitful and happier - a vocation that 'nobody also wants'. Yet, in the movie, it pointed out how the role of the encoffiner was so essential and greatly appreciated by many families as it helped them in their grieving process; in the same way, I too have discovered how the priesthood is just as essential and instrumental in ministering to others and being the bridge for them to encounter God. What people go through in a lifetime, encoffiners and priests go through every other day, making that much a difference for the lives of many through their one single life.

Through the movie, it was also said that death is not the end, but a gateway to a new and different kind of life. From this, it assured me that I didn't really need to be there at the wedding for 'closure', cos' this is not the end. This day is but a gateway for her to live the new life God has planned for her in the vocation of marriage, just as it is a gateway for me towards the new life God is planning for me in the vocation of the priesthood. I believe our love for each other hasn't ended; it has only changed in the way we express it, this time by continuing to be spiritually present to each other's vocation in prayer and support.

The Break of Dawn
Thirdly, on the Sat morning of the Recollection, which is today, part of the Recollection was for us seminarians to take a walk towards Punggol End where we spent some time in meditation near the beach. Being a lover of nature, God allowed me to once again encounter the vastness and depth of His love and faithfulness through His creation. It was as if God was enveloping me and embracing me with the entire sight of His creation, giving me much consolation and assurance. What was even more amazing, was that just a few days ago, as I spent time praying for a biblical verse to give to the couple as my humble wedding gift, this was what I received from the Lord:

"Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord,
and whose hope the Lord is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, 
and that spreads out her roots by the river,
and shall not see when heat comes,
but her leaf shall be green;
and shall not be careful in the year of drought,
neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Along with the verse came an image of what appeared to be a sunrise, rising from behind a foliage of trees, casting its reflection over the still, peaceful waters below it, and lightening up the open sky in gradual tranquility. I shared this image with them as well, praying that their day of Holy Matrimony be a sign of new life, new beginning, where as the sun rises to light up the world, so too may the Son rise in their lives and light up their marriage, so that together as one, both may also rise together with Christ, and light up the world around them.

Today, during my morning walk and meditation, I saw the above verse and image come alive before my very eyes - an entire stretch of evergreen trees planted by the sea, its leaves vibrant green, its flowers and fruits abundant. To top it off, I too, saw the sunrise! It was as if the inspired verse and image that I gave as my wedding gift, was also meant for me to keep in my own path of life.

Looking back, I have come a long and difficult way to reach where I am today. And when I ask myself how was it all possible, I have come to realise that all this while, God has been teaching me a new song. A song that is new, not because the lyrics have been changed or that the melody is different. But a song that is now tuned to the mind of God and not of mine, pitched to the will of God and not of mine, and played on His terms and not on mine. And as I gradually and unknowingly began to learn this new song, not only have I learnt to appreciate this new song, I have come to actually embrace it and fall in love with it. For the beauty of the song lies not only in its perfect arrangement, but more so in the Person who sings it to me, and who invites me to sing it with Him. And once I begin singing this new song, I also begin to realise that I no longer desire to sing any other song, even those I once dreamed of singing.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
(Psalm 96)

As I look back even further to the very day I stepped foot in this seminary for my very first vocation retreat, where God distinctively called me to 'sell everything' and follow Him, where the desire to dedicate my life not just to my spouse but to the entire Church was so strong, I begin to remember why I was crying for the entire 3 days. I wasn't crying cos' I couldn't get married anymore. I wasn't crying cos' she may one day get married to another man. I was crying cos' I was in so much pain at the thought of having to disappoint her by having to end our relationship in order to follow my call. I was crying cos' I was in so much pain worrying if she'd ever find someone she could be even happier with.

But today, God took care of that.
As He always does.
Especially when we learn to sing His new song...

... in the chapel of love.


*jump with arms in the air*