Saturday, 1 June 2013

Vision of Heaven


          Several years ago I attended a gathering of Christian friends.  We noticed that one of the children was blind.  She was eleven years old and had been born blind.  But she appeared serene, bright and cheerful.  She could play the piano very well.  We admired her buoyant spirit. 
Suddenly a boy said, “I feel so sorry for you.  You are so pitiful ...” 
          The adults quickly informed the boy not to say indiscreet things.  To our surprise, the blind girl replied cheerfully, “I am not pitiful.  In fact I consider myself very fortunate.”
          All the adults and their healthy children were amazed by her optimism and positive attitude.  She explained, “Although I am blind, I can speak, hear, taste, smell and do many things.  I love singing, listening to music and playing the piano.  I can tell stories to other children about my blessings which are provided by God.  Recently I participated in a charity event by playing the piano.  I was glad to contribute my part to raising funds for the poor.”
          All the adults and I were speechless. We could clearly discern her  kind-hearted soul through her smiles.  
          She continued, “Most importantly, I have wonderful parents. I love listening to my mother telling wonderful stories from the Bible. I know that Jesus Christ always loves me.  I pray to Him every day.  I give thanks for all the wonderful gifts and abilities He has given me.  Now I wish to share my secret with you.  The reason why I consider myself to be very fortunate is that when I pass away and return to His kingdom, when I open my eyes, I shall see the beauty of heaven, the smiles of angels and the Face of our Saviour … ”
          This girl’s resilient spirit reminded me of  poet John Milton who was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost.  In his poem “On His Blindness”, Milton provided a profound meaning to the need for ‘waiting’ -- humble, reverent and patient waiting for God’s direction and for the unfolding of His purpose:-

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask.  But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly;
 thousands at his bidding speed
And post o
ver land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
          Waiting was common in my life.  For example, during my National Service days, I was posted to a new camp after I was promoted to Lance Corporal.   Accordingly, from Monday to Saturday at 5.15 am in the morning, I travelled on a bus for an hour from my home to the new camp.  Thereafter I trudged slowly up a steep hill for 30 minutes before reaching my camp.  I was usually panting and sweating heavily by the time I reached the top of the hill.  This continued for more than one year before I completed my national service.  At that time I did not enjoy the daily toil, although it gradually strengthened my health.  I was more eager to enrol in the local university to study Philosophy and Economics.  Now, years later, I realised that God was cultivating the habit of ‘patient waiting’ in me, as I tend to be impatient during my younger days. 
As I reach mid-forties in age, I realise that spiritual growth takes time.  Catching a glimpse of God’s purpose takes time.  When we begin to walk the spiritual path, we may experience moments of joyful awakening.  They arise from the release of pent-up unhappiness. Initially they can make us feel lighter. They can make us feel big-hearted. But these feelings arise and pass away.  Thereafter we have to persevere to follow God day by day.  We learn to become responsible to God in our daily thoughts, words and deeds.  No one can make this daily decision for us.  No one can make this daily choice for us.  This is the significance of having free will This is the responsibility of having free will inherent in our ordinary waking consciousness. We have to decide. We have to choose to follow the kind intentions of the soul.  We have to choose not to be driven by selfish motives.  
          May I share an unforgettable story called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein which I have summarized here [4].   
Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy.  Every day they would play together.  He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat her apples.  They were very happy.
          As time passed by, the boy became a young man who needed money.  At first the tree gave him her apples.  When this did not meet the needs of the young man, the tree gave him her branches and finally her trunk.   Thereafter the young man travelled overseas.  He did not visit the tree for a long time which had become a stump.
Many years later, the man returned as an old man.  The tree told him that it had nothing left to give him.  The man explained that his teeth did not have the strength to bite apples.  His arms did not have the strength to swing on the branches.  He also did not have the strength to travel to other places.  He would be contented to sit on the stump and relive their memories.  Thus, the tree and the man became happy again.
In our journey through life, are we thankful to people who have contributed to our well-being?  Are we thankful to our spiritual ancestors who brought awakening to the world and improved the well-being of humankind?  Did we give deep thanks to Jesus Christ who awakened us to the love of God?  
Did we express thankfulness to God for giving us life, for giving us intelligence, understanding and wisdom?  Did we express thankfulness to God for giving us a range of abilities which enables us to appreciate and contribute to life?  Did we develop a contented and grateful heart?  Did we realise that in choosing to extend a kind thought, word or deed to others during a day, that will be a fruitful day?  Did we realise that God is the ultimate Giving Tree, patiently waiting for us to grow, to become mature, to catch glimpses of His eternal purpose? 

Bringing Cheerful Tunes to Heaven

During my school days, owing to my fragile health and occasional back pain, I sympathised more readily with the sick and needy.  Thus, I participated in different kinds of fund-raising activities for the poor.  For example, on several occasions, a few of my classmates and I volunteered to sell stickers to the public so as to seek their donations for charity purposes.  Early in the morning, we were each given an empty tin can and we travelled to the shopping centers and bus interchanges to seek donations from the public.  Although it was tiring to walk and stand the whole day around those busy areas, approaching people for donations, it was satisfying when our tin cans were filled with coins in the evening.  We returned to our school by bus and handed over the cans to our teachers to be passed to a local charity
In a small way, at that young age, my classmates and I were learning to be helpful towards the less fortunate in our society.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, we were watering the seeds of compassion within us.  To quote Mother Teresa, it is crucial to do small things with love, to perform little acts of kindness day by day.  In this way we are doing something beautiful for God. 
In the past few months, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, I had a vision. In performing acts of kindness day by day, when our journey on earth ends and we return to heaven, the Holy Spirit will hand a beautiful box to each of us.  When we open this box, cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow will appear and travel across the heavenly kingdom.  These cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow come from the acts of kindness that we had performed on earth.  They complement those diverse Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows that we experience in heaven. 
But what is astonishing is when the Holy Spirit whispers to us, saying “Please look and hear carefully …” Slowly we realize that many of those gracious Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows are made up of all the cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow brought back by the many souls who returned from their earthly journeys.  Without their tunes and rays of rainbow, there will be lesser Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows in heaven.  Perhaps this is a poetic way to develop some understanding of God’s decision that it is very valuable to manifest dynamic moral goodness on earth because it complements divine Goodness in the eternal dimension. 

… you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
                                                                     Philippians 4:8-9

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