Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Books and Learning

I love books. I love to hold a new book in my hands. I love the smell of new books and feel the texture of fine binding of leather books. Most of all, I love the sense of anticipation about what the author or authors have written. Is it a new adventure that thrills and set my heart a racing or some new facts to expand my mental horizon? Will it contain some new insight to deepen my spirit or some new thoughts that excite my sense of wonder? Yes, I confess. I am an addict. I am suffering from biblioholism (an addiction to books). When I walk into a bookstore, I look for a basket to put my new books in. I wish they provide supermarket trolleys. I buy my books at the local mamak store, small bookshops, big chain bookstores and online. I am such a good customer that sends me personalized Christmas greetings and presents every year! People who visit my house and see my books always ask, “Have you read all these!” “No”, I will reply, “they are for decorations.” But I do read them.

Recently I was cataloging my books. I felt a deep sense of nostalgia when I key in the name of each book into the database. Holding each book is like meeting an old friend. I remember when I read them, what reactions they evoke and also memories of my life when the book was read. I read this book when I was very homesick in Edinburgh, this book when my daughter left for Australia and this trilogy when I was in Rome.

As I thought more about this, I begin to realize that even though I love books, I love books not for its own sake. I am not a book collector who buys books to keep in its original mint condition. I buy books because I love to read. I read because I love to learn. So I discovered that a love of learning is behind my love of books. Books are to be read.

I read because I have a hunger to know. I have a type of personality that is very curious about the world and wants to know about everything. As a kid I would stay indoor to read the encyclopedia while other kids play football outside. Reading opens to me a world that I would not have known otherwise. Nowadays, Discovery Channel and the Internet help too. Even now, when I am gray-haired, I still have this hunger to know. Except now, I realized that what I am exploring and appreciating is God’s wondrous creation.

I read because I want to understand. I like to connect what new discoveries that I have found with what I already know. It is like finding pieces of a puzzle and fitting them until it all comes together. I find a deep satisfaction when I begin to understand something. I love these ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moments. These illuminating moments show the glorious ecology of God’s creation.

I read because I want to learn. Learning is not just knowing and understanding but also involve a change in our lives. Without assimilating what we have learnt, we are like those whom Paul described as “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Tim.3:7). People ask me why I am studying for a PhD (Permanent head Damage) at my age. I should be playing golf. I am doing it because I want to learn to think critically. Critical and applied learning produces wisdom.

I know where this love of books and learning comes from - my father. Even though he had just a rudimentary education, he taught himself by reading books and by observing and learning from others. I believe his hunger for knowledge and understanding has being passed onto me. We were not well off financially but there were always some books around the house and he studied them often. My father has modeled to me what the Psalmist wrote, “instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still, teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Ps.9:9-10).

I hope I have done the same for my daughters.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Friday, April 14, 2006

"I thirst"

Meditation for Good Friday

Text: John 19: 28,29

28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (NIV)

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth (NKJ)

Scripture- Psalms 69:20,21 (David)
Reproach has broken my heart,
And I am full of heaviness;
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food,
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (NKJ)

John is reminding us of the many prophecies concerning Jesus and that He is indeed the Messiah or Christ.

Hyssop-Exodus 12:21-22
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.

John is calling attention to Jesus being the perfect Passover sacrifice.

“I thirst”

Such a common term. We know what being thirsty is like. Our mouth is dry. Our tongues stick to the roof of our mouth and our lips are dry. And it is such a common term. Man gets thirsty. Animals get thirsty. Does God get thirsty? Jesus who is fully God and fully man does. Jesus said, “I thirst”. His human body was dehydrated after a night of torture and the whole morning on the cross in the hot sun. He is thirsty. Jesus knows what it is like to be human. He knows about our bodily aches and pains. He knows about our worry and fears. He knows what it is to be despised. One day when Jesus sits beside the throne of God and intercedes for us, He will understand us. He will remember what it is like to be fragile human beings. One who once was thirsty will be compassionate.

“I thirst”

The end is coming and Jesus, who is the living water, knows that the river which connects Him to the Father will dry up. He will not longer receive the ‘living water.’ He will no longer receive this living water that gives eternal life and those who drinks from it will never be thirsty again. He is thirsty because the end is near.

“I thirst”

Jesus is thirsty because as a man he was dehydrated. Jesus was thirsty because though He is the Son of God, He knows the time is coming when He is not longer connected to God the Father. The river of life will be cut off from Him.

Let us meditate on the suffering our Lord Jesus is willing to bear for us.

Soli Deo Gloria


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Henri Nouwen on Being Alone with God

Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It's important because it's the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you "my beloved daughter," "my beloved son," "my beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the centre of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.

Henri Nouwen

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