Sabbatical reflection

It has been a month since my sabbatical began. I feel better rested physically and psychologically. Longer hours of sleep, exercise, and disengagement from pastoral duties does wonders. Being overseas helped too because you became unavailable physically.

I also feel thankful for the many blessings of God. Never thought of touring Spain, never was interested. But in pursuing the kingdom, in seeking rest and restoration, I ended up in Spain, beginning in San Sebastian and ending in Barcelona, staying at many towns and cities along the way, in Basque and Catalonia regions, often walking in the streets and countryside. I love silent retreats, silence and solitude. I love hiking. And I was blessed by Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and spirituality. All these three elements that nourishes me were present in this sabbatical program. What a blessed trinity!

This was followed by a vacation and catch up time with Mike and Amy in Bolton. They were very gracious and availed themselves to us for five days. We had significant time catching up usually over meals – restaurant, home-cooked and takeaways. It was around 7 to 18 degree centigrade with gloomy clouds and rain on quite a few days. This restricted our plans but it meant more rest, early to bed and late to rise. It was a contrast to the Camino Ignaciano– late to bed, early to rise.

Now I am glad to be back home. I feel relieved. Spanish and English food and weather are good – for a while, usually tolerable for two weeks or so, in my experience. I like Singapore. I like the smells, tastes, sights of home.

I don’t like the haze though. This morning, I saw the haze and told my wife, “Thank God that in the last three weeks, we were away overseas breathing fresh mountain and countryside air”.

I had an inspired thought this morning as I reflected on how to use the rest of my sabbatical wisely: treat each day as you would a sabbath day with an eye on REMEMBRANCE (spiritual nourishment), REST (physical and emotional self-care), RELISH (life-giving engagement and activities).

“Lord, help me do this and experience more of your love.”

 

Monday sabbath

I do not keep the sabbath as a law, but I live by the wisdom of sabbath. Christ is my sabbath. In Christ I have entered a spiritual rest from all works and labouring to earn salvation. However there is wisdom to be drawn from God’s idea of rest, remembering, and relishing one day a week.

One day in the week, usually Monday my day off, I choose to slow down to rest and avoid the kind of work which I usually do. I take time to meditate and pray. I try to delight in everything throughout the day. I rest.

The noise without and the noise within is stilled with quiet waiting before God

This Monday morning, I cycled to the Japanese Garden and found a bench facing the disused golf course of the now defunct Jurong Country Club. The government seized it for its vaunted development of the rapid rail station and peripheral mixed development.

Slowing down takes time. I was sitting there still and silent for 40 minutes. My thoughts were everywhere. So I sought to focus on my physical senses especially the sense of sound and touch. It helped. I shut my eyes, felt the cool breeze, and listened. Immediately, I heard the distant and faded pounding of a piledriver– thud, thud, thud. I heard something that sounded like a motor boat in the distance. There was the sound of excavators at work. There was the chirping of small birds and sometimes the squak of the heron. A golf cart rolls by behind me and I can hear that too. Must be the park management staff. Even the crickets whistle incessantly. A lot of construction work is going on at the fringe of the Jurong Lake and some even in the Chinese Garden.

Slowly my wandering thoughts which were like distracting monkeys jumping all over the branches of my mind, calmed down and quietened, as though asleep. Finally I did come to a place of restfulness and I meditated on the stages of prayer and the life of prayer that Jesus lived. Some lovely thoughts and took some notes of the insights.

Parents coaxing their child to smile in a child photography session in open air

I rounded off my time with the Lord cycling around the Chinese Garden and saw this couple having a photo shoot of their infant child. It was the first time I have seen a child photography session in the Chinese Garden.

 

Good sabbath

I was cycling to my favourite pavilion at the Chinese Garden. Then it rained. So I went instead to a nearby Indian food stall. It was new.  I ordered two roti prata kosong. So there they were: my bike, the roti prata, a vacuum flask full of Chinese tea, and my journal. Took a photo of what I thought was an interesting combination of things. Ate the prata, reflected on my week and wrote my journal. Rest, relish, and remember: the three key words to having a good sabbath. After the rain stopped, I went to the pavilion. And then it rained again. I stayed there an hour, enjoying meditation and the cool weather. Precious times, precious morning.