Joy is the flag flown high
From the castle of my heart
For the King is in residence there
When I was younger, I used to assume that I flew the flag. As pop culture will certainly attest, we have exalted ourselves as the Davids of Israel, the heroes of our imagination, the underdog who saves the day. Recently however, this old Sunday School song has returned to
memory to inform me anew.
Traditionally, the monarch's flag is flown from the
castle to declare that the monarch is "in residence." Through seasons of plenty or prolonged moments of disaster and uncertainty, though the
castle may be under relentless siege from all sides, even when rescue seems
unlikely or even impossible, that the flag continues to fly is testament that the Ruler
remains, that the castle has not been captured by belligerent forces.
This new understanding has brought fresh appreciation of a song previously
sang by rote. Today I understand that Joy flies high regardless of my emotions
and regardless of my circumstances. Happiness may be fleeting (especially if fueled by sugar-heavy chocolate) but Joy is a constant even on days that seem
dull and grey. It flies high and defiant against enemies who threaten to
overtake, sounding truth through trials. Joy entered the moment God the Joy
Giver claimed ownership over my life and it continues to declare the residence
of the King who dwells within.
Often, it is hard to find the distinction between happiness and joy.
Sometimes the two are seemingly intertwined yet at other times, even
are bereft of happiness, there is assurance of joy, if but a glimmer.
The world tells us to "seek happiness" but that's where wisdom leaves
and foolishness takes over. As much as we want to believe it, happiness
is not rooted in securing a home, a high-flying job or an exclusive
romantic relationship. We need only to listen to the woes of the world -
the lifelong mortgage, debilitating anxiety and crushing infidelity -
to realise that the advertised honeymoon (terms & conditions apply)
Our desires reveal the object of our Joy. It is a pet peeve of mine whenever Christians utilise Psalm 37:4 as a preamble guarantee of a soulmate. Good as relationships are, if we are sincere in delighting ourselves in God, His ownership becomes our central delight. A delight and not drudgery. Dynamic, not drone-like. Alive, not artificial. His goodness is our encouragement. Doing His will becomes our motivation and delight. In striving to please Him, our happiness is fulfilled.
Romantic affiliations, though good, only fulfil their goodness within the scope of God's pleasing will. Whilst by nature demanding, requiring our urgent attention, relations will ultimately only decay with time; an investment worth entering into, but only with sufficient and thought-out God-centered reason and purpose.
Admittedly, it is easy to be labelled "sour grapes" but I find it neither a burden nor a prerogative for me to prove otherwise :)
Even though I myself may lose sight of Joy when troubles overwhelm, the flag
continues to fly high, reminding both myself and the world of the sovereignty
and authority of the King who whose banner over me is love.
As it was the year before, the herald of a new year meant it was time for me to face the contents of
my "annual jar." I was terrified to revisit what I thought would be a
reopening of wounds that never healed; reminders of a seared spirit,
failed resolve and crushed ambition.
Instead, what met me in my
fear was grace upon grace. Every sting had been met with unreserved
mercy and every loss with undeserved opportunity. The effects of 2016
still reverberate but I look forward to new mercies in 2017, knowing that my burdens are carried by One whose strength I will continue to depend on and draw from, despite ongoing tensions as I try to grasp the magnitude between striving and yielding, servanthood and inheritance, Creator and created.
The 2016 jar is the photo above is set against the backdrop of an embroidered tus kii.
Found in Kazakh gers, also known as yurts, of western Mongolia, the tapestry design is
purposely left unfinished to signify that life, for all its tragedy and
beauty, continues regardless. May today mark the beginning of renewed focus, of not holding back, for free falling.
...but as for me, and my household, we will serve the Lord.
During an impromptu, unguided hike under a towering canopy, The Pilgrim's
Progress came to mind. I had found myself doubting the faintly-marked,
narrow trail that wound its way across a changing terrain - tree roots the width of my thigh, clay hills, muddy banks and
ancient rocks - wondering if the route was outdated, tempted with each passing minute to search for another way besides the never-ending path we were on whenever alternative
options looked easier or voices were heard through the trees.
Half-tumbling, half-stomping through the uncertain undergrowth, when we finally reached our journey's end it dawned that whether shadows threaten or our hearts embrace nature's beauty, if we pursue the path steadfastly, we will arrive at our destination.
Just as it was on the hike, so it is in life. I was reminded that though the earth's riches may beckon, and worldly wisdom captivates with her allure, though distractions may direct affections and energy elsewhere, and anxiety brings us low, all that is required in this Christian life is that I remain a faithful witness and helper, loving God and His church (what that looks like in practice is another story!).
There is no promise that the path will be free from burrs or creatures that sting and cause harm; there will be times when the path is showered with mercies abundant. Whatever our personal experiences, we walk
humbly in the footprints of giants who have gone before us, knowing that
even as our heart's yearning is for a distant future, the groaning
itself is a gift, as we wait eagerly for redemption at the end of a long
road of perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
To achieve balance, one needs to accept that falling multiple times is simply part of the process as we learn to find our feet on shaky ground. Failure does not characterise the fall.
There is joy yet to come.
Last night I dreamnt that I had to look after an albino baby koala. Whilst cradling it, I stepped into a glass elevator in a shopping mall, which then went up several floors, passing black and white geometric designs along the way.
I wonder if a dream interpreter will affirm that it means I'll have a white, Aussie baby during my climb up the corporate elevator in creative design.
What an absentminded lot we are! How short-sighted and myopic! How disgustingly pig-headed and corruptible, selling our souls for measly fifty dollar bills and bags of rice planted with our own hands!
It is no wonder the wrath of Malayan titans settle on Fairland Sarawak, ready to rip her people to shreds, condemning us to an eternity of deserved derision for betraying indignant ignorami, too lofty and important to breathe humble reason, insistent that the blame lies at a door made of zinc, held up by rusting twine and resigned hopes.
It would appear that the rags-to-riches Cinderella story only works before midnight; when promises of bright lights are lapped up by stepchildren in a starry-eyed moment and the shattered dreams of an age ago are quickly forgotten. But as the chimes end and hands turn, dazed mice are left scrambling for pieces of broken pumpkin, after carriage wheels have crushed them into dirt.
Yet there are a precious few who have been willing to ignore the seemingly futile effort of creating a tidal bore and have crossed the road yet travelled, to lead by serving instead of requiring, to pioneer peace into a bruised heartland, to initiate wisdom without withholding, to restore without refrain.
To strangers who become family, this is our tanah tumpah darahku, ibu pertiwiku.
Lofty titans may eventually benefit from the hands of the meek, reaping what they did not sow, eating what they did not plough, but the real reward lies in forged friendships, woven kinship, widened perspective and renewed vision to nurture a nation still on its knees.
Between Johnnie Walker and Bebo Norman, I am feeling anxiety creep up again as an imminent deadline looms nearer. Perhaps it's time to face facts and sign up for therapy instead of mulling in the fermentation of my own addled mind and self-doubt.
On one hand it seems reasonable to doubt, right even, given that life is not about finding myself, or creating myself, despite what Taylor Swift wishes the masses to believe. Deliciously tempting as it is, however much I try to convince myself otherwise, people are not mere shadows in the night, a passing moment in a journey centered on me.
Although on paper, 2015 has been a year of unexpected highs, the year has left me emotionally tired. Drained and stripped bare with flesh tender and raw, from exposed wounds that time only hid but did not heal and suppressed memories, the superficial highs only remind me of locust years, of looking everywhere but where I know I should be looking; doing everything in my power, which adds up to insanity; a headless chicken run-around, getting more and more tangled in the weeds and thorns, the product of my hands.
Despite the choked-up season, the Gardener is still watching; carefully unwinding the weeds that hold branches back and replanting roots that have been dragged down in mire. Panic rises as self-reliance is peeled back every morning yet there is freedom in loosing what should never have taken hold in the first place.
Baking is both a relief and a lesson in self-belief. The time focused on following a recipe that requires figures that end in anything but "00" is time not spent working or worrying about work or pondering on the future.
In baking, it is ok to be flawed. That the baking paper is peeling away more cake than it is leaving behind can be rectified with a generous amount of cream and strategically placed decorations. That the frosting is not symmetrical is excused by artistic license instead of screaming amateur.
Baking engages the mind and brings dimension to learning. The importance of a good fridge that won't dry out the cream, a well-ventilated kitchen, proportionate kitchen islands and air-conditioning are all serious matters to consider when getting my own cinnamon-filled alcove "some day soon."
Above all, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'm still standing even though the baking powder was accidentally left out.
Not to be confused with Dreams, Wishful Thinking floats away in the breeze as another woolly notion takes its place. It drives no passion and generates no drive. It is seen in the smacking of lips for strawberry ice-cream topped with crushed peanuts but making no effort to taste. It is the catch in the eye as a shiny toy glides smoothly by but in the next minute forgotten as the DJ plays Miley's song.
Dreams on the other hand, burrow deep in jars of clay, germinating in hope, wrapping roots of emotion around fistfuls of desire whilst trying not to choke on self-deprecating fallacies. Far from being ever ready carebears of love and light, Dreams inch upwards in dogged perseverance, all the while anticipating failure, struggling to keep composure whilst thoughtless hands threaten to signal out its humble progress as hubris, shredding already tiny filaments of self-belief.
Dreams are no easy ambition to pursue, no easy road to travel, no pleasure cruise. Dreams are found in soiled hands, furrowed brow and a tested spirit, in questioning hearts, desperate conviction and limitless fulfillment.
Once in a while, Dreams may chance upon Wishful Thinking, wondering if life would be easier carefree and easygoing, but retrospective appreciation kicks it up a gear and drives Dreams off in a fluffy Bugatti.
It matters less, the frequency, brevity or length of my internal monologue. A word be too much, more often too little, but if anything be said, since we are all exiles in a strange land from every tribe, nation and tongue, have compassion! This race is won not by individuals; neither the first nor the last for those who are ahead will have to wait awhile until the last person in Christ crosses the finish line and the last would not be last unless someone crossed the line before him.
I exist in a stream of consciousness that exists in a magical land of blue dragons and bottomless cliffs baked in the orange glow of a setting sun. Likes chocolate. And horses. A lot. Confused ENTJ-ENTP-INTP-ENFP. Jesus Freak.