Many people believe that they have enough self-control to not be give in to social pressures, or other pressures. Some believe that an innocent bet at the sports tab, a lottery ticket, or $20 at the slot machines, can be done without getting addicted to them. May be, they can, I’m not sure.
I always believed that it is easier for people to control themselves when it comes to violence or drugs. Yet, the power of having something extra that they desire is much more intriguing and welcoming. Maybe we think that we deserve it. Certainly, we can believe that we slave the day away, we have the right to indulge ourselves and “get what we deserve”. It seems justified. It doesn’t seem wrong in any way. Many who “set up camp” in the casinos will often say, the casino has so much money, they should give us some of it. People believe that they are entitled to these money.
Certainly, some of us believe that we are not getting addicted to gambling of any kind even though they spend regular amounts of time and money on the matter. Some believe that it is just a hobby, that they are not doing it for the money, but enjoy the game itself more. Some say that they can quit anytime they want but they won’t because they are having too much fun. That to me is a load of bull. What is more worrying is that these people won’t stop especially if they are winning at the game.
Maybe they are right. Gambling is not addictive. It is just entertainment. It is not destructive at all. I cannot express my frustration at the gaming industry. The casinos claim to have a “responsible gaming” team. What I don’t get is, how can gaming ever be responsible. Once you fall into their grasp, it is difficult to pull out. It is like an itch that unless you scratch it, it feels really uncomfortable. But here is the catch, once you do scratch it, it bleeds and leaves a scar on you.
While at first, you think it is fun, especially if you are winning, what happens when it consumes you to a point where you care nothing other than the greed? What happens when you can’t control it and you end up losing more than you earn? What happens when you start to go into debt and the relationships you have are now distant because you have borrowed so much money that you can’t repay anymore? Do not tell me it can’t happen because I have seen it firsthand. It is like a drug, a poison that will slowly eat you up, not physically but emotionally and spiritually.
Someone had once said, there is nothing good about gambling. With other productive things, we give back to the community, to the world, we serve others. But with gambling, we serve no one else but ourselves. There is no moral achievement in gambling, only greed and selfishness.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
If we end up gambling, we are not only gambling our finances, but also our souls away. We become unwilling servants of money, and money is harsh and unfair master. Serving money only will bring unhappiness in the end, no matter how much money you end up with.
To some, life can be darkness.
Maybe it is because they can’t see the colours that swirl around us everyday or they refuse to see the light of life. To some people, they look for another escape because the life they are living now is not working out for them, or because the pain is so unbearable that it is hard to breath.
We can laugh about this all we want, but who really knows the inside story behind each and every one of those faces. Some put on a happy smile as a facade because they are afraid that if they don’t, the world of darkness will envelope them completely. Some shut off because the pain they face is too real and too close to forgive and forget. We may think about how crazy are the people who tried to find another way to deal with pain. But do we really understand them? Not about the why, but just about what they are feeling.
Sometimes, I don’t blame them. The pain that they feel in their souls are so painful that in order to forget about them for one second, they want to divert that emotional and spiritual pain into a kind of pain they can manage, physical pain. Sometimes, maybe they want to prove that they are still alive and they can still feel pain, as well as all the other emotions that we have. They may not know how to face the situation, so they make do with what they have and what they can.
Sometimes, we want to be better. To learn how to live life and continuing to grow. Sometimes, we try hard to suppress those urges that may lead us down the track which we may regard later. Sometimes, we understand that what we are doing is not the best solution, and we learn to take it one step at a time. Learning to how to deal with the pain… Yet, at times, it doesn’t go away and we drift into a state of mind that we submit to it. What do we do then?
While I don’t think that depression, self-harm and ultimately attempting suicide is the solution to any problem, it is hard not to think about that path sometimes. I found that there is one solution. Hope. It is the hope that the next second which we live is better than the second that just past. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next second, but if we don’t live to see it, how do we know that it couldn’t have been better?
Miracles do happen. Pain will ease. It may not get erased but pain can be forgiven and let go. Hope provides the opportunity for miracles. They may not be big miracles like water turn into wine, nor be done spontaneously. Yet, miracles happen everyday. They may take baby steps but somewhere down the path, if you believe in them, miracles will eventually come to pass.
So don’t ever give up hope. Situations may be tough, and the pain can be unbearable, but having hope means that the world around us will have a light at the end of it. And life will not be completely dark.
So, I am very disappointed that I did not find out about this back in 2012 when the Australian production of “Love Never Dies” came to Sydney. I missed the chance to see it live, but do hope that in the near future, it would somehow come back here.
So I have seen the Australian DVD version and I have to say, I fell in love with the musical. First of all, let me just get this out of the way. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius. His musical compositions are masterpieces and combined with brilliant storytelling, a musical becomes alive with characters which we can relate to and feel for.
Okay, I will review this in two parts. First, I will give my thoughts on the story itself and the performances from the Australian cast. Then I will talk in depth about some of the songs from the musical.
The story has its perks and flaws. But from a viewpoint of a writer, the perks far outweighs the flaws. So let’s quickly go over what I think of the story. It is believable. I mean, depending on how you are affected by The Phantom of the Opera. I mean, if you are a fan of Raoul, you will probably not like Love Never Dies. But I loved it. I thought the story was beautifully written, everything a writer wanted is there. There is action, drama, romance, tragedy and surprises.
So the story is takes place ten years after the original on Coney Island. Christine and Raoul comes to America and who do they meet but the Phantom. Oh, the romantic tension between Christine and the Phantom is great, but be prepared for a tragic ending.
Now, I do not need to say anything about the cast because seriously, they speak for themselves. First, there is Anna O’Byrne. She has the voice of an angel. Her vocal range is so high, powerful and mature. Her training in opera had really shown through the performance. I see big future for her on the stage and beyond. Then there is Ben Lewis, who is handsome just like that. His voice is deep but strong and gives a firm performance as the dominant yet sensitive Phantom.
The young boy has a voice just like his mother and the cast has great chemistry together. I believe there is a difference between stage acting and film acting. Essentially I believe that in film, because the camera is angled on your face, the emotions that you act is natural. But on stage, people in the back row won’t be able to see your face, so emotions will need to be expressed through body language. Hence, some find it exaggerated. But I found it to be real and raw in some ways. The emotions are just as real as if you were face to face with them.
I originally was going to talk about all of the songs in the musical. But it is 10.34pm and I am tired. I will say a few things though. The titular aria, “Love Never Dies”, was just an amazing number by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The lyrics told of the Phantom’s undying love for Christine. In the scene where Christine first read the music, her reaction to it was just brilliant. She realized not only his love for her after 10 years but also her own feelings towards the masked composer. The other song that spoke to me was “Look With Your Heart”, because it talks about how we need to look beyond what we see and to stop to acknowledge our hearts and feelings.
Anyways, if you haven’t seen it, give it a chance. If you think you won’t like it, still give it a chance. You may be surprised. The musical had reignited my passion for music, for storytelling and for writing. Maybe it will ignite something in you too.
Recently, I went to see the new movie starring Russell Crowe – Noah. I must say that I wasn’t expecting to cry during it, it was actually very surprising.
I have heard many Christians make comments about how inaccurate the movie was to the Bible, and how exaggerated it was. However, I had a very different viewpoint. I knew that it was a Hollywood blockbuster so I wasn’t expecting a Biblical retelling of the flood. Instead, I was deeply affected by the message behind the plot.
Firstly, Tubal-Cain mentioned that since man was created in the image of God, then man should have the power to decide whether he lives or dies. Yet, when the flood came, none is invincible to nature’s (therefore God’s) wrath.
This also brings me to the second point, where originally, Noah thought that God chose him because he could get the job done. But as the revelation for him comes through in the end, Ila tells him at the end of the film, maybe God didn’t choose him because he could get the task done, but because God knew that he had a merciful heart. Through Noah’s viewpoint, we saw the wickedness of men as they cannibalised one of their own in order to survive, but more importantly, we saw the goodness in men as well.
Like a metaphor, God needed to have justice done and punish the wicked, but He more importantly wanted to flourish grace and mercy upon us. Instead of destroying humanity at that point in history, God chose love over judgement and gave humanity a second chance.
I loved the humanity in the film. The possibility of Noah’s humanness and how he was chosen, not because he was holy or fit for the job, but because God saw the goodness in him. Noah’s struggle with what he thought was right in God’s eyes was an echo into our own lives.
Watching this film makes me happy that God’s image is still visible all over the world, not only where the church is, but also engraved in each of us. Noah’s story in the Bible reminds us of God’s incredible love for us, that instead of wiping out humanity, God chose a method of salvation that brings us closer into God’s kingdom.
Originally posted on Finding Grace:
I think I completely missed the point about prayer. Admittedly, I have never been much of a prayer person at all. I think I tend to make excuses that I get caught up with the busyness of life to try to make the effort of setting a daily ritual of prayer. Sometimes, I have this theory that since God is all knowing, there is no real necessity for us to pray because God has everything under control. Sometimes, I even felt that prayer is one of two things. First, it is used by pastors and preachers at the front of the church on a Sunday service, using big words and fancy language to impress the church goers. Secondly, I guess sometimes there is pressure to pray out loud just to conform to the way of Christian living. Occasionally, out of desperate need, I would shout out to God in urgent…
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The Book of Job is by far one of the hardest Old Testament books I have read and it is far beyond my understanding as to why it was written and the significance of the writings in Job. I believe that every word written and recorded has its purpose and meaning, so I thought a more in-depth study into the Book of Job will help me to understand it a little better. What really baffles me is the first 5 verses of chapter one.
So here is a man from the land of Uz who was blameless, upright, feared God and hated evil. What I gather from this passage is that Job was a man from a land that is not of the Israelites. In a sense, he is a Gentile. Yet, he was blameless and upright. It doesn’t mean that he is holy or sinless, but simply is living in a way that honours, respects and fears God. For this man to have a whole book of his own in the Bible is pretty impressive to me and the fact that what happens to him really illustrates the importance that his life plays on a cosmic scale and how dear he is to the heart of God. The name Job itself in Hebrew is similar to a word that means “enemy” or “opponent”. This speaks into some symbolism as to Job being opposed to God for what had happened to him.
Job had seven children, 11,000 livestock and a household of servants. (v2-3) Not only was he rich, considering 11,000 livestock be worth at least AU$2.5 million in today’s market, but he had seven children. Seven, as we know, is the complete number. Job was blessed also with the perfect complement of sons and daughters. It is not easy, in the modern world, to have so much wealth and still be a blameless and upright man. Now days, I think we all get overwhelmed with all the materialism and modernism of our world that we tend to get head over heels with ourselves. Hence, he was known to be the greatest man in the East.
What is interesting is that in verse 4, the Bible talks about their sons holding feasts and inviting their sisters to come and join them. Yet, according to the scripture, Job was not invited, even though I don’t think he would have had gone anyways. After the feast, he would send for them and have them purified. Job was a responsible father who wanted the best for his children, not only financially but also spiritually. He cared for his children, and thus would repent on behalf of them to God. He feared that during their days of feasting, they would have committed sins against God. He also continually offered up his sacrifices. The act of repentance must be renewed because we often repeat our transgressions.
Looking at these five short verses, I continuously wonder the actual purpose for the passage. Is it really just to set the scene that Job was rich and he was righteous? Or this the author trying to say something else? Either way, this passage sets the next scene, where a spiritual wager is played out on earth…
Okay, I suddenly had a minor epiphany.
I am reminded of one of my favourite Psalms. Number 51. It is a very special psalm because it speaks to my heart so much.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (v3)
This is the part that I can’t get rid of. I know that in this life, my blotches and marks are not going to go away. There will always be weakness in me that I need to work on. The thing is, I don’t think that throughout my life, it is just one weakness. Even if I corrected this one, there will always be other weaknesses that I need to improve on. I guess what I need to be aware of what my weaknesses are because those are the first line of attack that the enemy will try to use against us.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (v12)
Someone once said that happiness is a choice that we can make. I think a part of my problem is that I overthink too much. Pretty soon, that overthinking can turn dangerous and I can find all sorts of things wrong with me. People say that I am being too hard on myself. I guess it is because I don’t know any better. I have always tried to set the bar of self-expectation high, even if I know very well I can’t make it. I have an expectation that I must set the standard deliberately high enough so I can feel sorry for myself. It seems like I actually wanted people to feel sorry for me.
But verse 12 does remind me that Christ, through the shedding of His precious blood, has rebuilt the bridge between us and God. It is the salvation that washes away our sins, and the joy of that, no one can take it away from us. If we choose to believe in it, then what peace we can really have in that comfort. Like David, feeling guilty of my sins do make me sad and weak. Every day, I am in need of constant reminder that it is in Christ’s salvation that sin is forgiven, and it is through the Holy Spirit that we find strength to break through our sins.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (v17)
Sometimes, when we believe that we have nothing to offer to God, our brokenness may just be what God wants from us. As we are aware, pride is a dangerous thing as it will steer us away from the path of the Lord. God exalts humility, and I believe that acknowledging our brokenness and offering it to God is the first step to being humble. As my pastor spoke about last Sunday, we need to recognise the beauty of the broken. Because the weaker we get, the stronger we become in Christ. As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
There is also another reason that God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. That is, vulnerability allows God to work in and through us. As I have mentioned before, only when we become vulnerable, both emotionally and spiritually, we can come to the throne of grace empty-handed, and to allow God change us.
Sometimes, I feel like I am quite similar to David. In this psalm, he has committed a sin, and has cried out to God for forgiveness and for a change in him. As James 4:7 puts it, if we submit ourselves, if we surrender all of our lives, the good and the bad, then the enemy will have no chance in attacking us, for we are under the protection and shield of God.