Sunday, December 04, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Four

Have you ever sat on a balcony, at night, in Hawaii? When the wind is calm and the air is warm like a soothing bath? If you hold your breath, there is no sound except for perhaps the ocean waves crashing to the shore (if you are close enough to the beach). Everything is tranquil and comforting. That was my experience in the temples in Singapore. Silence, warmth, stillness.

Some of these holy places were in busy areas. Other, smaller ones, were in secluded spots. One in particular was on a hiking trail surrounded by lush, green plants and trees. Everything seemed motionless. As I approached, candles burned like tiny, dancing lights. But there was not a person in sight. Sometimes there was a stone Buddha standing by, watching over the moderately sized places of worship. A pleasant expression, unyielding, upon his face. Though not familiar with his teachings I believe them to be about harmony, maybe enlightenment, and to respect all forms of life big and small. Possibly reincarnation is mixed in there too. (In 2009, my younger children and I briefly studied the history of Buddhism…along with Islam and Hinduism.)

I stepped closer to the establishment although not wishing to stay long just incase I was not properly dressed…I did not want to offend anyone. I picked up what looked to be a stick or piece of incense. I held it to a flame until it caught fire, smoldered, and offered up thin plums of scented smoke. I did not meditate while there. My God is not Buddha. He is Jehovah and He has a Son, Jesus (John 3:16). When I wish to commune with Him, I simply go before His throne of grace.

Growing up in the church I learned about all the most popular events in the bible. You know, the ones that have been turned into children’s stories. I sat in the pew every week we attended, half listening and partly daydreaming, following along in the hymnal as we sang---(which I have to say I much prefer hymns to the contemporary songs that are used in services now days).

The best part is, God’s word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). So though I was not paying attention 100% of the time I was still receiving the message which was going straight to my heart.

Because of the nature of my job in Singapore and the popularity of the company for which I worked, it was not unusual for me (and my associates) to get stopped while in public for pictures and the occasional autograph…though I could not really understand why. Would they not look back on the photo years from when it was taken and ask, “Who is that and why did I want a picture with her?” I am just me…a young adult exploring the intoxicating city-state of Singapore…no different from an individual who backpacks through various countries and stays at hostels.

This particular day (while I was wandering and discovering houses of prayer) was no different. A small group of people approached me at the beginning of the footpath. “Excuse me,” said a soft, gentle voice. I turned to find an agreeable young lady. “May we get a picture?” she continued. “Oh course,” I answered as I stood amongst them and smiled. They humbly thanked me as their eyes sparkled and faces showed with excitement. They went about their way and I started my trek.

In Alaska, one can begin at the foot of a great, thick glacier (accented with deep blues) and make their way along a winding path to the glacier head. The calving ice announces its separation and departure with a roaring proclamation we called, “White Thunder”. Free from the mass, the ice crashes into the body of water peacefully at rest below. The walkway coils through dense, scenic forest. Butterflies flit about among the foliage as the breeze makes her presence known. She whirls about delicately, careful not to step on anyone’s toes. Her hair whips about her face and there is tranquility.

In Singapore, the finish line of the course is not only marked by a breathtaking view at the top of a steep, inclined plain, (perhaps it was the highest hill in Singapore) it is also marked by what was like a flag pole encircled by medium sized, black, glossy rocks with rounded edges (which stood on end) that massaged the soles of the feet as one stepped upon them.

“In quietness and in trust shall be your strength,” (Isaiah 30:15) flows through my thoughts. There is nothing like the cool patience of serenity as sunshine warms the depths of the heart and soul as it touches the skin. I was not only a traveler on this unfamiliar island, I am also a pilgrim in this world searching for peace and love.

7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7. ESV.)

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Four
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