Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holiness in Time

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

more quotations may be found here on Kairos Spiritual Formation Quotes page


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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Attitude Toward Leisure

"February 25,1956... The greatest change between now and seventy years ago is in the attitude toward leisure. Now there is no such thing... In my experience you can have ability without leisure, but ability only, and not creativeness, Real ideas come to me while relaxed, and brooding, meditative, passive. Then the unexpected happens. An illumination, a combination of words, a revelation for which I made no conscious preparation. And seventy years ago one had time for everything, for[open-hearted] reading, for equally [openhearted] discussion, for activities whose only result was to strengthen, refine, and clarify our own selves as works of art, and not as now to be considered only when producing material results."

Sunset and Twilight by Bernard Berenson


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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Play Needs No Purpose

Play needs no purpose. That is why play can go on and on as long as players find it meaningful. After all, we do not dance in order to get somewhere. We dance around and around. A piece of music doesn't come to an end when its purpose is accomplished. It has no purpose, strictly speaking. It is the playful unfolding of a meaning that is there in each of its movements, in every theme, every passage: celebration of meaning. Pachelbel's Canon is one of the magnificent superfluities of life. Every time I listen to it, I realize anew that some of the most superfluous things are the most important for us because they give meaning to our human life. We need this kind of experience to correct our worldview. Too easily are we inclined to imagine that God created this world for a purpose. We are so caught up in purpose that we would feel more comfortable if God shared our preoccupation with work. But God plays. The birds in a single tree are sufficient proof that God did not set out with a divine no-nonsense attitude to make a creature that would perfectly achieve the purpose of a bird. The purpose of a bird. What could that purpose be I wonder? There are titmice, juncos, and chickadees; woodpeckers, gold finches, starlings and crows. The only bird never created is the no-nonsense bird. As we open our eyes and hearts to God's creation, we quickly perceive that God is playful, a God of leisure.

Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast

more quotations may be found here on Kairos Spiritual Formation Quotes page


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Monday, October 26, 2015

Reservoir and Canal

Image Credit: Communio - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself… 

Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.

Bernard of Clairvaux, Commentary on the Song of Songs, Sermon 18.3

more quotations may be found here on Kairos Spiritual Formation Quotes 

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Trust in the slow work of God

The need to keep in step with the Spirit is beautifully expressed by the French writer Teilhard de Chardin in this letter to his cousin, Marguerite:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end without delay,
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made
by passing through some stages of instability...
...and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually;
let them grow, let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on, as though you could today
what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own goodwill) will make tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of your believing
that His hand is leading you, and of your accepting
the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense
and incomplete.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest 1914-1919 (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 57.

more quotations may be found here on Kairos Spiritual Formation Quotes page


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Monday, October 19, 2015

Reflection on the Academy for Spiritual Formation (Singapore) 2015

The first Academy for Spiritual Formation (Singapore) which is associated with Upper Room Ministries in the United States was held in Majodi Centre in Johor Bahru, Malaysia from 12-15 October 2015. This is the first time it is held outside the US. About 20 academies are organised in the States annually and I have always wanted to attend one. It is a wish fulfilled when I (a Malaysian) was invited by the Singaporean organisers to attend this inaugural academy. So it was with great anticipation that I went to the academy and when I checked into the centre and take note of the decorations and the programme, I felt I have ‘come home’! I have been interested in spiritual formation for more than thirty years and to come into a community of liked minded people is such a blessing.

The program of the academy was designed to follow the rhythm of worship and life. Every day, it starts with morning prayer, food (breakfast), lecture/talk, silence and solitude/personal quiet reflection, group sharing, food (lunch), some free time, lecture/talk, silence and solitude/personal reflection time, Eucharist, food (dinner), covenant (small group) sharing, night prayer, and then the great silence/no talking until the next morning at morning prayer. This is a good rhythm but it took me almost three days before I can enter it. I struggled at Morning Prayer because I am used to have my coffee the first thing after I wake up. It was really a struggle in my decaffeinated state to worship! I must confess that I spent most of the reflection and free time sleeping for the first two days. I was so exhausted and I believe many of the participants were too. While this is a good rhythm for the academy which is in an artificial organised set up, I do not think it is workable in our daily lives. Most of us live lives of organized chaos; mine is anyway. Mainly I wake up and pray that the day will be good and collapse at night, thanking God that I survived the day. It does not approximate the medieval monastic rule of life this rhythm is patterned after.

The morning, Eucharist, and evening prayers are actually one-hour long worship services. And it is highly liturgical. I was told it was ecumenical. The worship leaders, homilies and liturgies were excellent. I enjoy attending liturgical services in traditional liturgical churches. These churches have long traditions. Attending and participating the liturgies in this academy feels strange to me as I do not sense any church traditions behind it. It is like attending the service of independent churches but with more words. Some of the actions had me mystified, like pouring water out of a jar into a bowl, until it was explained to me (I was told it is like baptism but why at the beginning of the service, I wonder). The introduction of some Asian hymns in an attempt at contextualization was good as many of the hymns in the Upper Room hymnal are new to me. The daily theme of return, rest, renewal and re-engage was meaningful to me as a movement of entering and leaving. The daily decorations of the altars were beautiful and a credit to the creativity of the Singapore team. The addition of a labyrinth, and a prayer room were excellent facilities I make use of frequently after I have rested and moved into the flow of worship and silence.

The small group discussion at the end of a day was wonderful and helpful. I am so glad to make the acquaintance of my covenant group members; to feel their warm acceptance, to share and pray with and for one another. We are now good friends and even have a Whatapps group. May we continue to edify one another.

The academy speaker was Majorie Thompson who took both the morning and afternoon sessions. I understand that in the States, there will be two speakers; one for the morning and the other for the afternoon sessions. I have no reservations about Majorie taking all the sessions. I have been looking forward to meeting her ever since I read her book Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life in 1995. I am so glad she has autographed for me her new 2014 second edition which I bought especially for this purpose. I regret I did not bring and offer to her my books on spiritual formation: Till We are Fully Formed, Spiritual Formation on the Run and Tales from the Monastery. Not too sure she will read them anyway. I find Majorie a gracious lady, soft-spoken and very open about her struggles; a wounded healer. The theme was Sabbath. There was a lot about Sabbath which she shared that I am still processing. New insights came when she shared about her Sabbath from ministry during her time of mourning after the death of her husband, and also about being Sabbath for one another (Sabbath sanctuary). The theologian in me is still trying to come to terms with them. I especially enjoyed her sharing about Henri Nouwen whom she had worked with.

These four days are wonderful days of dwelling in a spiritual safe place to rest and renew. It feeds the scholar and the mystic in me. There are elements here that appeals to these aspects of me. There are some confusion amongst some participants whether this is a conference or a retreat. Some expected more teaching and are mystified by the contemplative aspects. Other expect a retreat and long for more periods of silence of solitude. I find there is a wonderful balance here.

I summarise what I have learnt as that Sabbath is the intentional synchronizing of our natural rhythm in homecoming to stop-rest and renewal in a space-time container with God in our daily life. I am reminded that Sabbath is essential and I need to intentionally make space for it in my busy weekly schedule. What is wonderful is that I have a beautiful encounter with God in the academy. It did not happen at any specific spot like during my walk in the labyrinth or prayer time. It is a general sense of His presence, healing and refreshing me. He affirms and confirms the direction I try to serve Him. And that is exactly all I needed. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

19 October 2015


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The Academy for Spiritual Formation (Singapore) - Re-engage

The final day for the academy was Re-engage. We are to return to our Sabbath. In it we find rest and renewal. However, we are not to remain in the Sabbath no matter how blissful that is. We are to engage the other six days with the resurrection power.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Academy for Spiritual Formation (Singapore) - Renew

The theme on the third day is Renew. Sabbath is a time for renewal. With adequate rest, we are able to renew our souls. Much of our spiritual life is unseen. Because it is unseen, the 'tyranny of the urgent' often crowd out time needed to renew and nurture our spiritual life.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Academy for Spiritual Formation (Singapore) - Rest

The theme for the second day was rest. The participants find it appropriate as many were physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. We all know the value of rest. Unfortunately the demands of our vocation and the needs of others take up much of our time and energy. Sabbath is a reminder that the rhythm of life include rest. Without rest, we are all headed to burn out.

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