An extract from Our Daily Bread, 04-01-05:
"Let not the floodwater overflow me, nor let the deep swallow me up." -- Psalm 69:15
"The builders of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) like to show us their products in mind-boggling situations. High on a mountain crag, where no truck could seemingly go. Or in a swamp so impassable you'd need a hovercraft to negotiate it. We're supposed to think that SUVs are invincible.
"That's why I found unintended humor in the disclaimer in a recent ad for a four-wheel-drive SUV. A photo showed the vehicle up to its headlights in water as it forged across a foreboding river. The ad said: "Traversing deep water can cause damage, which voids the vehicle warranty."
"Deep water is a problem not only for cars but also for us. As we travel the roadways of life, we often find ourselves surrounded with oceans of grief or crashing waves of broken relationships. We need help.
"The writers of the Psalms told of that needed assistance. They said God is "a refuge in times of trouble" (9:9), and that "in the time of trouble He shall . . . set me high upon a rock" (27:5). No disclaimers here. Traversing deep water won't affect our spiritual warranty. God will always be there to guarantee His support."
WHEN I WOKE UP in the early morning of 23rd December, a sad tune from the stations of the cross played in my head. Washed up, readied my bags and went down to catch my 6.45am taxi to meet M. at the airport. Time for a holiday in Chiangmai, Thailand -- three nights in a Lanna Thai-styled hotel and eight nights in the Seven Fountains retreat centre. Another tune came to mind. Jingle Bells. How weird can things get? It's like my mind has got its 'radio frequency' all jumbled up. Then i remembered a reading the night before -- "Wise men today worship not only the Child of Bethlehem, but also the Man of Calvary." (Our Daily Bread, 23-12-04)
Three days three nights on our own sped past quickly amidst sightseeing, feasting, shopping and massages. Attended mass on Christmas morning at Seven Fountains. Many Caucasians among the small congregation of around 100. Sang many carols. Near the end, the choir master sang a Spanish aria. Beautiful.
On 26th December morning, we packed our bags to move to the centre. A woman at our hotel lift lobby asked M. whether we had felt some tremors. No, we didn't, but the woman did. Her room was on one of the higher floors while ours was on the fourth. At the retreat centre, met S. who also said she felt her building shake in early morning. M. dismissed them all, saying others had told her that tremors are common in Chiangmai, but the place is safe.
Oddly though, on that day, M. said that words from Ecclesiastes ("Vanity of vanities.... For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven....") kept going over and over in her mind so persistently that she referred to the bible to read the whole book. Something unusual for someone who does not enjoy reading much. As for me, from that day onwards, for three days or so, a persistent melody kept sounding softly in my head, "Loving and Forgiving are You, O Lord".
On 27th evening, after a Thai mass, was quite shocked to hear another retreatant, A. say that there was a huge earthquake, richter scale 9, near Thailand on Dec 26 morning. So there was an earthquake! Over 40,000 had died, he said, from a 10-metre tall tsunami caused by the earthquake. Five countries affected: Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia.
Read the Bangkok Post and The Nation on 28th morning. About 20,000 feared dead. Still a huge number. Many from the Phang Nga bay area of Thailand and many from Sri Lanka. Why? But who is to ask the Lord why? Could only pray and pray for the victims of the disaster. If there were followers of Christ among the dead, they may seem dead, but they are still alive in God's kingdom. But for the rest, could only pray and pray for them for God's mercy.
Surely, loving and forgiving are You, O Lord?
(Subsequently, we prayed again and again for the victims and survivors of the tsunami on our own, at daily masses and at a three-hour vigil on New Year's eve. As of today, the toll has gone beyond 150,000. Massive rescue and rebuilding work had begun in earnest on an international scale.
See also Neither Death Nor Life and Fr Aloysius' thoughts in The Bitter and the Sweet II.)
Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey, 23rd December 2004:
"Jesus is the vulnerable child, the humble preacher, the despised, rejected, and crucified Christ. But Jesus also is "the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, ... [who] exists before all things and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15,17). Jesus is the King, ridiculed on the cross and reigning from his throne in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is the Lord riding into the city on a donkey, and the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is cursed by the world but blessed by God.
"Let's always look at Jesus, because in his crucified and glorified heart we will see ourselves called to share in his suffering as well as in his glory."
Loving and Forgiving (Psalm 103)
by Scott Soper
Loving and forgiving are you, O Lord;
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
loving and forgiving are you.
All my being, bless the Lord,
bless the holy name of God,
All my being, bless the Lord,
rememb'ring the goodness of God.
God forgives us all our sins,
healing those who live in pain,
saving us from final death.
God fills us with goodness and love.
Good and gracious is the Lord,
slow to anger, rich in love.
God remembers not our sins;
forgiving and loving is God.
As heaven soars above the earth,
so great the love of God for us.
As far as east is from the west,
the Lord takes our sins from us.