Celebrate 2017: Way, Truth and Life

Creatures of habit, craving pattern and crafting stories, we try year after year to form relationships of correlation and graphs of linearity with the happenings of the year. As with the passing of each year, the countdown to the next deserves immense celebration – in an age of extreme poverty in many parts of the world where children barely live past the age of five, in the midst of the refugee crisis that reshuffles the geographical placement of people all over forced from their homes by circumstances, and in a time of amplified busyness that suffocates our minds and souls; we truly have to count our blessings in making it to yet another year. For years, I have ended the year with a piece that celebrates the year (see for 201420152016); this year I am convicted to depart from the compilation of achievements and memories that will fade away in a matter of time. I have been assured of their brevity, realizing how little these trophies and titles amount to who I am.

Shifting the focus unto the lessons of the current that I am learning in this season, my prayer is that this piece will inspire you to consider: What are the lessons that you can be learning in this time? How are the happenings in this season impacting your character that will last over time? Let’s fix our gaze on the things that will remain valuable and even more so with the passing of time, as we step forth into the new year. It is with immense privilege of sharing my story from this season that I write this piece. I overflow with gratitude towards the infinite grace that I am a blessed recipient of, coming with a heart of lightness and rest: I celebrate 2017.

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I am learning that the way is not always easy. Difficult roads lead to beautiful places – unexpected twists and turns sometimes lead us on a vertical drop to rock bottom, but it is in the valleys that we uncover our solid foundation and revisit the very basis of who we are, of what we believe. Departing from home was an emotional challenge, the safe harbor and its beauty too close in sight that I was reluctant to let go of the comfort. Who I was and what I believed had become so strongly associated with this place I called ‘home’ that a single step beyond its boundaries evoked fear and hesitation. The truth is, who we are is an exploration of a place so deep that it is independent of our geographical placement: the accent, the pace of footsteps, the humidity and the food all too unsubstantial to fill the crux of our identities. They are only the wrapping paper of a beautiful gift; to keep it wrapped is as silly as to receive a wonderfully wrapped present only to leave it unwrapped for years and years because we are content with the sparkle and glitter of the paper. Or because we find the task of tearing apart the tape and paper too much of a hassle. In all this time, the wondrous gift beneath awaits. Unwrap the present – just as the work of unwrapping the paper is necessary for the unveiling of the gift, so it is with the uncovering of our innermost selves. It is in the confrontation of difficult situations that the unwrapping of our captivating souls begin.

In 2017, coming to Sydney for my university studies was one of the most difficult decisions to make but it saw, too, the birth of countless miraculous beginnings that remain the best decisions of my life. The bravest decisions take faith: we don’t have to completely understand or see all of what lies ahead fully (this is impossible for most decisions we make daily anyway). We have to take the step and trust the way. The first step of faith has taken me to unimaginable adventures of wonder and I am walking on the way still.

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I am learning that the truth is to be seeked. We all have an inkling of truth: when we think to ourselves a “got to be” statement (“there has got to be more to this”, “what she’s doing has got to be wrong”), we are preaching our convictions of truth. The promise is that the truth will set us free and as we long for freedom in our lives, we are all called on a journey of seeking truth. The oblivion that blinds us is the greatest enemy to our freedom: it threatens our full and abundant lives because it evokes indifference. When we are oblivious, we are unaware of the broader perspectives that lie beyond our mobile phones, beyond our daily conversations with friends who are like us and way beyond our homes or families. In that oblivion, our understanding and knowledge end at the borders of our devices and an illusion of vastness is created by the endless scrolling of our feeds. What we feed grows and when we feed this oblivion, we are growing a sense of indifference – it is where we don’t know, and on top of that, we don’t care. Indifference nips our search for truth at its very roots because we have no concern about what is true.

In 2017, I was inspired to search for truth. If truth is truth, it is absolutely true. Truth remains true regardless of people’s sentiments and thoughts, it remains true in spite of popularity and not because of it. The truth that stands firmly with certainty is a safe place to put my trust and confidence. I am learning that to take ownership of my story is to take on the responsibility of living one in truth. This determination does not end at its declaration; it only begins. As we decide upon the end of oblivion and indifference, we have to declare the beginning of our search. It is wholehearted devotion that says, “I’m all in.” I wake up these days declaring, I don’t know what lies ahead today and this day is filled with uncertainty but I will be thankful for every breath and actively seek out what is true in every moment so I might live fully in truth.

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I am learning that the life of fullness is worthwhile. Our lives are these and our lives are now. They are what they are at present; all at the same time, they encompass what has past and hold hopes for the future. There is a story of a man named Nehemiah who lead workers in rebuilding the fallen walls of Jerusalem a long time ago. As he assigned people to work on the different parts of the wall, he called each of them to work on the part of the wall that was closest to their homes. Perhaps, if we consider experiencing fullness in life as the grand project of building a wall, where we have to start is right where we are. We have mastered the ‘ideation’ part of concocting the masterplan – we have some idea of what we want our walls to look like – we almost meditate on it with longing every single day. We are meditating on them as we look with yearning at the Instagram posts of others’ or as we make “if only” statements that point at our future. What we have overlooked all too often, though, is that act of building that wall. The grandness of the project all too daunting, we settle for imagining.

Dreaming is easy, we do it every day. Doing is the challenge and yet without which, living does not even begin. We remain in mere existence. The life of fullness awaits our willingness to start where we are and do what we can. Transform your dreams into actions – extend the dream of a lasting relationship with a commitment to love those who are already around you, extend the dream of attaining a job that “changes lives” with a commitment to influence those already in your circles, extend the dream of becoming that person with a commitment to grow the person that you are at present. Make a promise to do, the dreaming will come to fruition. As we step forth bravely into the new year unsure of what lies ahead, may commitments pave the way to unwrapping the greatest present of this Christmas season: the gift of our lives.

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Christmas Is About Christ

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“It really comes down to that: God loves us. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us. Let him love you – if God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. God has made his case: there is no place he will not go. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love.”
(From Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado)

5 days away: the LED lights are set in place adorning every mall, every corner of every street. The mistletoes are plenty and Christmas trees well set up. The jingles of fa-la-la-la and ra-pa-pum-pum ring in our ears endlessly. Peace swells within our hearts and an unspeakable joy arises at the wonder of the season. It’s Christmas time. For years and years, the Christmas season has created excitement – an unexplainable generosity and tender-hearted kindness characterizes this time and a divine wave of restoration comes upon us, washing away debts and betrayals, emotional assaults and hurts. Renewal and healing reigns. There is just something about Christmas. Every year in this time, a floodgate of questions would be opened – What renders this season of such love? Why is there overwhelming generosity in this time? What are we celebrating anyway? This year is extraordinary for me: I am celebrating Christmas for what it is, truly. Returning to the reason for the season, this Christmas I am going home walking in the truth. Christmas is about Christ.

 Christmas is the celebration of an arrival as we await another – the arrival of a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. The English name ‘Jesus’ traces its origin to the Hebrew word ‘Yeshua’ which means ‘God saves’. The story of Christmas is that of a God who loves His people so so much that He wrote Himself into the story in the form of the human flesh. An author comes to life in the midst of his characters; a playwright comes on stage amongst his cast. The story of Christmas is that of a love so so great that it saw the King of all Kings humble Himself to come into the world in lowest of forms – a little baby wrapped in rags, birthed in a manger. The all-divine, all-powerful, Almighty Prince of Peace comes into the world for His people to do for them what we could never do ourselves – to save.

For a long time, I had immense fear and resistance to God because the mention of Him would bring to mind a fierce disciplinarian waiting upon my failures and mistakes to reprimand and despise me. He was vastly misunderstood in my image of Him that was built on lies; the biggest lie of all was that He comes just to condemn and punish me. The story of Christmas tells the truth. The truth is that God is love and He comes first to save us from the darkness in which we unknowingly live, that which we ourselves have no power to leave. The truth is that God loves you relentlessly and He pursues you still with the wildest promise that He comes to save. God’s power is to be feared, His anger and wrath are real; but what is no less real is that nothing separates us from the love He lavishes upon us unfailingly. He is waiting on your ‘yes’. Yes, the God who created all of heavens and the earth came down beneath the very stars He created to extend the long-standing invitation to be in a relationship with you. (It is beyond imagination and beyond understanding. It is amazing grace.)

Perhaps you are confused, unsure about what you believe about God or Jesus Christ. Then, as you are reading this I pray for the eyes of your heart to see that you are not here reading this piece ‘by chance’, not ‘by the coincidental click on the mouse’ or ‘by the random leading of gut feeling’. This is an invitation from God Himself, He calls out to you and pleads with you to receive the love that is in Him. He brought you here. The truth of Christmas is that the baby in the manger knows your brokenness and understands your sorrows, He knows what is holding you back and the insecurities that trap you. He took on your face in the hope that you would see His. He sees right into the heart of your fears and wants to free you. In the words of Max Lucado, “If the King was willing to enter the world of animals and shepherds and swaddling clothes, don’t you think He’s willing to enter yours?”

There is confusion where we let Christmas be just about the jingling bells and smiling Santa Claus, where we celebrate the ornaments adorning trees and indulge in the endless sales along streets of the homeless. Do you hear the inkling in your heart saying, “there must be something more”? There is more Christmas is about hope that persists in the possibilities that life can and should be better than it currently is; Christmas is about faith that joy, peace and purpose will emerge victorious in our broken world and broken lives; Christmas is about love that remains faithful forever regardless of trials or failures. Christmas seeks the face of the answer to our questions, it seeks a love that each of our hearts long for deeply.

The face you’re seeking exists and the most radical love story is still being told today: they are found in a person that Christmas is all about. His name is Jesus Christ.

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