Thanksgiving

Before coming to the United States of America (USA), Thanksgiving didn’t mean much to me. While I caught glimpses of this holiday in American sitcoms, my understanding of it remained at that: distant and apathetic. My impression of Thanksgiving was limited to stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, mash potatoes and sweet corn – delicious yet highly superficial. Similar to some of the holidays in Singapore, Thanksgiving was an occasion synonymous with good food and merry-making. Yet, akin to an increasingly commercialized Christmas, there has got to be something deeper and more meaningful to Thanksgiving right?
In 2012 during my year abroad in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I was fortunate to have a friend, Lindsey, invite me over to her home for Thanksgiving. I was lucky to have an “adopted” family for a span of 5 days. And in retrospect, I could not have asked for a better way to spend my first ever Thanksgiving in America; a thanksgiving spent with the Luxon family.
My impression of thanksgiving became very different immediately after we left our university for Lindsey’s home. Her home was approximately three hours away and the majority of the journey was spent on the interstate highway. But our journey took longer than three hours – we were stuck in heavy traffic. Entering the highway, we saw bumper to bumper traffic; different vehicles of all shape and sizes with one common destination: home. (Imagine rush hour traffic on the CTE or PIE – it was something like that, only with much more cars and lesser lanes on the expressways). Yet, the scene of the traffic jam immediately made me perceive Thanksgiving in a deeper light: family and friends were all heading home together. Very much like the reunion dinner for the eve of Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving reunited family and friends. From the onset of the trip, this was turning out to be a very meaningful Thanksgiving for me.
As the car turned into the driveway of Lindsey’s home, I saw Lindsey’s father standing outside in the cold, waiting to welcome us. And that tableau of a father waiting anxiously for the arrival of his daughter back home really moved me. In a typical Singaporean way, I greeted him enthusiastically with a handshake and said “Hello Uncle!” However, my greeting was met with a huge chuckle. In my excitement, I forgot that people in the USA did not usually greet their friends’ parents by “Uncle” or “Aunty”. Nevertheless, I felt happy and proud to bring a bit of my Singaporean manners to the Luxon household. Entering the home, I was greeted with the aroma of delicious home cooked food (oh how I miss thee!), a fully prepared dinner table and the warmth smile of Lindsey’s mother (whom I happily addressed as Aunty).
Dinner was a really enjoyable affair. Apart from the incredibly delicious cuisines, what made dinner even more wonderful was seeing love personified through the conversations of Lindsey and her parents. The conversations were not incredibly profound or extraordinary – far from it actually – it was simple, genuine and heartfelt. “How are things in school?”, “Don’t stay up too late to study!”, “Are you eating well? Here, have more of the mashed potatoes.” These conversations reminded me of my very own family, the simple things that my parents and I talk about during meal times. Isn’t it incredible how love (and the presence of God) becomes so real in the simplest things of Life?
The next few days spent with the Luxon family was an incredible experience. Preparation for thanksgiving was really fun! As I have always enjoyed cooking (perhaps half as much as I enjoy eating), I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Lindsey’s mother to prepare food. I made the turkey stuffing and had a hand in stuffing the turkey thereafter. I was given a quick lesson on the intricate ways of baking a turkey and had a few interesting conversations with “Aunty” (she even shared with me a family secret for preparing coffee!). Thanksgiving became more tangible to me; I was beginning to grasp the crux of its purpose better.
The highlight of my stay was during the family’s thanksgiving lunch. The array of dishes on the dining table was everything that I imagined it to be, and more. That meal was easily the best that I have had in months. But what encapsulated the entire meal and made Thanksgiving all the more memorable was the moment before we actually began eating. With family and friends around the table, “Uncle” began to lead us in a prayer. But unlike previous prayers before meals, he began to give thanks for the many wondrous things that God has given to him in his life: a lovely wife, a loving family and a meaningful career. He also gave thanks to God for my presence with his family on this special holiday.
That prayer best described Thanksgiving for me. Apart from its meaningful historical narrative, Thanksgiving in essence is a holiday for giving thanks to God. Thanksgiving at its core is the awareness of the many graces of God in our lives. And while it is true that we really should not only give thanks to God only during Thanksgiving, this simple yet profound shift in the understanding of Thanksgiving moved me incredibly.
Thanksgiving now means so much more to me. Apart from being a holiday for family reunions, good food and merry-making, it calls us to take a moment to pause, reflect and give thanks to God. Interestingly, Thanksgiving also occurs at a very apt timing – it happens just before Advent, it is the holiday before Christmas. Seen in this light, Thanksgiving becomes a very wonderful occasion: it allows us to be appreciative and receptive to God the Father, before God the son comes to us in the form of baby Jesus during Christmas. Let us then use the remaining time we have in Advent to give thanks to God as we welcome the birth of our savior in our own special and unique thanksgivings.

Updates!!

Hello everyone! 🙂 Our one year anniversary is coming up REAL SOON (it’s actually tomorrow!! WOOTZ!! 🎉). So instead of our usual article upload today, we’d like to give you all some new updates that can be expected from us in the upcoming second year of our blog!
New Writers!
We’re very happy to announce that we’ll have some new writers joining us on this Grace-filled journey with us! Over the coming year, we’ll slowly be introducing some of these new brothers (and sisters 🙆‍♂️) so do look out for them and keep them in your prayers as you have been keeping us in your prayers the past year! 🙂
Readers’ Involvement!
In line with our name, we’d like to create more conversations and discussions in our blog! As such, sometime in the year ahead, we will be calling out for new ideas and discussion topics (and maybe even articles, hmm 🤔) from you, our readers! So if you have any thoughts, prayers or edifying experiences you’d like to share with us, please do so!
New articles!
As always, you can look out for new articles every Wednesday! Following the warm reception of our themed months, we will continue to have such themes in the upcoming months. Look out for those! Furthermore, we will also be launching articles in… wait for it… MULTIPLE LANGUAGES!! That’s right!! In order to reach out to more people in a multilingual country (and beyond), we’ve decided to release articles in other languages – so stay tuned!
That’s all, folks! Keep a look out at our YouTube page for a very special video tomorrow to celebrate our first anniversary!

Poem: Dining in the Desert

In this special post, the three of us come together in a collaborative effort to weave our individual searches for Jesus together into a poem.

A/N: Blessed Wednesday everyone! To round off Odes to October month, Chris, Greg and I thought we would try writing a poem together. After giving it some thought, I struck upon the idea of modeling the poem after a Japanese collaborative style of poetry called “renga”. 

You may notice that Greg’s first three lines take the form of the famous “haiku” – the three line, 17-syllable Japanese poem. A renga consists of a series of haikus linked together by a couplet – two lines of 7 syllables each. I thought the structured form of this poem would both impose healthy creative limitations (the challenge was to sum up the state of our current spiritual lives in a haiku), and aid some of us who had grave (and unfounded) doubts about our poetic abilities (*cough*Greg*cough*).

So over a long video call across various time zones, the three of us spent a light-hearted three hours listening to each others journeys and trying to fit our spiritual lives into 17 syllables, as well as finding ways to express where our spiritual lives overlapped, mainly in our combined desire to search for Jesus. Do let us know your thoughts on social media or if you ever wish to try a similar exercise with your community or loved ones. We hope you enjoy the read!

– Garrett

Greg:

I walk the desert 

Relishing in a mirage 

More real than the rain 

Garrett:

Truth reveals reality 

Turning desert to summer; 

Lazy summer’s day 

Seeker puts his satchel down 

To hear the Lord’s words: 

Chris:

“Why search for answers outside? 

Can you find rest in me, child?” 

New yet familiar 

I cook a meal for Jesus 

I am loved; He smiles. 

Greg:

My meal and His Eucharist 

We dine together and live 

© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Gregory Adrian Gunawan
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Garrett Christopher Ng
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok

Poem Dialogue: Dag Hammarskjold

Chris writes a response poem-prayer to Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings.

Dag Hammarskjold, Markings

Give us

A pure heart

That we may see Thee,

A humble heart

That we may hear Thee

A heart of Love

That we may serve Thee,

A heart of faith

That we may live Thee,

 

Thou

Whom I do not know

But Whose I am.

Thou

Whom I do not comprehend

But Who hast dedicated to me

To my fate.

Thou –

 

Christopher Chok, Imprints

Grant us

A still soul

That we may touch You,

A contrite soul

That we may feel You,

A soul of Peace

That we may see You,

A soul of Truth

That we may know You,

 

Jesus

Whom I long to know

And Whose I’m loved.

Jesus

Whom I search all day and night

Yet Who has loved me into being
To this world.

Jesus –

 

The Ebb and Flow of Spirituality

Chris reflects on the wisdom that he has learnt from Richard Rohr’s books and talks about the movements of one’s spiritual journey

“Sooner or later, if you are on any classic ‘spiritual schedule,’ some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it; or to state it in our language here, you will and you must ‘lose’ at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey. I wish I could say this was no true, but it is darn near absolute in the spiritual literature of the world.”
– Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Recently, Richard Rohr has been a blessed companion on my walk with Jesus and my journey onwards towards Emmaus. Most, if not all, of Rohr’s ideas and issues raised in his various books have struck numerous chords in my heart. As of now, I’ve read “Falling Upwards”, “Immortal Diamond” and “Breathing Underwater” and all three books were so enlightening and filled with wisdom.

Continue reading “The Ebb and Flow of Spirituality”

Distance, Detachment and Inner Freedom

Chris reflects on how important it is to hold on to our identity as children of God in the midst of a world of distractions.

Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came’ … (Excerpt from the Gospel of the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Mark 1:29-39)
“Everybody is looking for you.”
Hearing this verse at Mass the other day and pondering about it in prayer has allowed me to better introspect and in turn, gain a deeper awareness and appreciation of the importance of distance, detachment and inner freedom. To me, the implicit notion of this poignant phrase is one of expectation. Expectation not in the anticipatory Advent “Christmasy” manner but rather, other people’s expectations of Jesus.

Continue reading “Distance, Detachment and Inner Freedom”