Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Weakest in the Center

The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That's the mystery of the Church. 

As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us - the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick - who form the real center. Paul says, "It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity" (1 Corinthians 12:23).

The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ.

Henri Nouwen

Friday, October 29, 2010

One Body with Many Parts

Henri Nouwen is a unique writer. Even though he is a Catholic priest, his writing is well read by believers of all denominations. In this simple short passage, Nouwen addresses a pertinent topic: the Body of Christ is one Body. And each one of us are gathered by the Lord to become different parts of the Body. Nouwen writes:

By Henri Nouwen
The Church is one body. Paul writes, "We were baptised into one body in a single Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). But this one body has many parts. As Paul says, "If they were all the same part, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one" (1 Corinthians 12:19). 

Not everyone can be everything. Often we expect one member of the body to fulfill a task that belongs to others. But the hand cannot be asked to see nor the eye to hear.

Together we are Christ's body, each of us with a part to play in the whole (see 1 Corinthians 12:27). Let's be grateful for our limited but real part in the body.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Slap My Dogs And Live To Regret It!

I slapped my dogs and I was shocked. I thought after being a Christian for 38 years and a pastor for the last 26 years, I should have gotten my temper under control. However, how wrong I was.

It was a Friday's night and we were leaving for Cell meeting. Grace opened the gates and Danny the black dog, our newest addition, seized the opportunity and ran out of the front yard. Goodness and Mercy saw the escape and went frantic. They wanted to join their brother in the escapade and became very excited. They refused to obey the command to get inside the house. The two dogs were barking, jumping, running back and forth, and rushing at the gates.

The commotion was horrible. Apart from the dogs going crazy, Grace and I were screaming at them and each other. My voice was the loudest! I was frantically shouting, "No! Stay! Get inside!" All these commands were of no avail.

Goodness and Mercy at the gates
Mercy charged the gates and caused the gates to open a small gap. Her body was almost out of the gates when I managed to grab her. After pushing her back, she charged another time. That was when the tempest clouds of dark rage overwhelmed me and I whacked her right over the top of the head. It must be really painful because my palm literally stung for a while. Mercy retreated and Goodness stayed far away. I was fuming mad and after Grace had carried Danny back into the house, I gave the escapee a whack over his butt.

While in the car, my heart was really upset. I was angry that I had lost control of my temper. I could have killed Mercy with that whack over her head. I kept asking myself, "what happened to me?" How could this temper return so suddenly that I had resorted to violence. I had kept it under the control of the Lord for long long time. I may be angry but I had never lost control of my action. This reaction of anger was an eye opener for me - I still need the Lord to help in getting rid of my nasty temper.

Before I became a Christian, I had no qualm in resorting to violence to appease my anger. With some years of training in Chinese Kung Fu and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I had adopted a very mercurial temperament. My philosophy at that time was to prevent anyone from second-guessing what I would do next.

One of my fellow students in my secondary school found that out in a very painful way. He had called me obscene names and I wanted him to stop. This student was laughing and enjoying his little antic so much that he did not see the punch coming. I connected my right fist really hard on his forehead. He fell to the floor and I could see the result of my rage - a red swelling grew fast on his forehead. Of course, our friendship ended immediately and I was not even perturbed by that. My pride and immaturity declared, "Nobody messes with Albert and gets away with it!"

Another incident happened in a training class at the Tae Kwon Do club that I was attending. A student of a lower belt rank was challenging me in a sparring session. He was very good with his long legs. With every kick, he messed up my hairs.Apart from having a terrible hair do, I was losing face in front of other martial arts students. This guy was showing no respect and kept on kicking and kicking. My hair became messier and messier. Then without warning, a sudden rage seized me and I went in for the kill.

I blocked his next kick and with my most vicious Kung Fu punch, I hit him in the celiac plexus, also known as the solar plexus. (This is the area that is just below the rib cage and above the abdomen. It is also where an intricate network of nerves is located. In Tae Kwon Do or any other martial arts, this area is a no-punch zone.)

I gave his celiac plexus my hardest punch and the result was a wriggling figure on the floor. As I stood over him, I said, "Don't mess my hairs!"

I received a verbal lashing from my instructor but the damage had been done. Later, I did give to this poor chap a bottle of my precious Kung Fu rubbing oil but from that time, he stayed far away from me and of course, refused to spar with me.
After accepting Christ as my Savior, this terrible temper did not go away immediately. However, every time, before an impending blind rage was to take over, the Holy Spirit was there to restore me to my senses. Yes, even as a pastor, there were many occasions where I was boiling mad but at least not boiled over to the extent of hurting others with physical violence.

The recent experience with the dogs only tells me to keep surrendering this area of my life to the Lord. After I returned home from the cell meeting, I spent a few moments in apologizing to Mercy. I then hugged all the dogs and cats... thanking the Lord for blessing us with all these lovely pets.

The temper test came again on Sunday. This time, I was the one who opened the gates and two dogs escaped from the front yard. It was a wrong time to lose these dogs because it was Sunday morning. It was time to go to church and we were still not able to lure the dogs back to the house. It was really a bad time to lose my temper because I had to preach that morning. No one can preach well with a foul spirit!

Finally after a lot of whistling and calling, we managed to lure Danny and Goodness back to the house. I was, of course, extremely angry with these misbehaving dogs. Did I spank them... no! I thought of doing that but did not. After all, I had promised God that I would be a 'good boy' and I had to keep my promise.That morning, my conscience was clear and I believe I did preach pretty well.