Expectant Hope and Effusing Energy

 

My sharing with my friends for 2016

Give a little more time to your family and friends

Give a little more focus on prayer and reflection time

Give a little more love to those who annoy you

Give a little less attention to how people judge or talk about you

Give a little less concern on material needs.

Give a little less energy to pursuing new hobbies or interests

A journey of a thousand steps does begin with a single step; however, one needs to navigate with discernment at junctions and crossroads. 

I strongly felt an inflexion point either physically or psychologically was crossed in 2015 and my direction has been guided relentlessly towards my destiny, with God’s grace and mercy,  to use all my talents and gifts to glorify Him ! 

I am humbled yet excited with this New Year. I look forward to all the wonderful things that our Almighty Creator will definitely lavish on me and my loved ones and community.  I am leaping towards this year 2016 with  expectant hope and effusing energy.

 

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Lord you invite me to……….

Lord you invite me to

Lord you invite me to be STRONG.  You have asked me to lean  on you so that any insurmountable challenges that may come my way will be taken care of by you.  Everything is possible for you. You parted the Red Sea and you raised Lazarus from the tomb and turned water into wine.

Lord you invite me to be SCORCHED. You have asked me to bear some of the crosses of my life as only I can bear them. In 1 Cor 10:13 you have promised us that you will not give us more than we can bear. But we need to be tested in fire like gold and silver so that we will truly be worthy of the gifts you have given us. To be scorched and burnt away our sins and sorrows.

Lord you invite me to be STILL.  You have asked me to be reflective.  Since I have started this journey of journaling, it has been a fruitful one. I have never looked back and continue to relish in the joys of being connected to you ; being conscious of your presence and being carried by you in your bosom here and forever. Amen

 

Onion

Onions

A raw and pure creation of God. Looks rough and blemished on the outside; smells and tells a story always. Of utter beauty covered by layers and layers of external clothing

Am I an onion?  Trapped within these layers? God is peeling me, pruning me, pushing me, pulling me, probing me and prodding me so that I can break free

Am I an onion? Tried in a stew of soup? Exuding my fragrance , exchanging my essence so that I can be an offering and service to others?

Am I an onion? Teemed with goodness?  Onions are supposed to be nature’s miracle food. A cure all for illnesses and diseases. Does it cure and eradicate my sins? Or is it just a faint reflection of the sins manifested externally for all to see?

Am I an onion?  Tempted to be something else? May be a garlic? May be a shallot? May be a potato? Or am I truly who I am supposed to be ?

God is indeed a God of wonders and surprises.  Even a small object as compact as an onion could provide a storehouse of gifts, goods and glory.

So what did I learn today at the workshop? I will use the acronym  O.N.I.O.N to summarise

O– Only one in the world. I am the only one in the world

N– Nice package covered by layers. I am a nice package like the white centre core of the onion

I– Inside is what is important

O– Offering to serve others like the onion is what we have been created for

N– Need someone else to help me to peel off my external layers in order to discover my true self. so it is with Life that we need mentors, guides, directors and companions and friends and spouses to help us to find our true self, as sometimes we might be lost and covered by the external layers like the onion

God let me continue to be a useful vegetable in your garden so that I can be useful to you and to others. Amen !

 

We are publishing

We are publishing? Really? Oh is this for sure? Why are we publishing? Why are we doing this? Am I living out my own dream or is this the will of God? How do I know if it is your Will , Lord?

Yesterday at a gathering at our home, one of my close family friends said that God created us with a specific intent and purpose even as we struggle to discern and discover it in the process. God does not create junk. God knows we are searching for Him and to reveal His purpose which we were created for. God will reveal this to us as we pursue and hunt for it so that when we finally discover this purpose our lives will be lived to the full.

One way or rather hint is know our gifts and when we use these gifts we are happy, and we are enraptured.  We are singing the song that God has written in our hearts; before we were born, before we could read, before we could write, before we could say Abba Father. 

So when we publish these stories, we are publishing God’s gifts , we are bringing the magic of His gifts and creation to paper so that His Glory may be revealed and our purposes fulfilled and our identity as sons and daughters of the Most High are animated, affirmed and acclaimed.

 

Speak Lord your servant is listening

Speak Lord your servant is listening.  You are an amazing God ; sometimes you are silent, sometimes you are full of surprises but I know Lord you guard and guide every step of our lives. You make sure that our human scars become your divine stars. You give us tests so that we can give you our testimony.

Recently, I had an accident. I was running  as usual but tripped and fell heavily in the trails in MACRITCHIE. I was sent to the hospital . It was a special day for me because before that I was heavily focussed on training for my sun down marathon, running and going to the gym. I was at the peak of my physical health for my age group. I was beginning to feel a great sense of invincibility and pride, so the fall was a gentle reminder of our mortality and that God is still in control of all things. He was mindful of my increasing pride and arrogance and allowed this test so that I would be able to give a testimony of this outcome.

Therefore I was strangely thankful on hindsight about the entire incident or rather accident. I was out of action for a good ten days and I got to reflect deeply especially on the first three days when I humbled myself to inconvenience others, unable to do some simple things, to be nursed back to health and to be reminded that pride goes before a fall.

I sincerely believe that God continues to guard every of my steps and in all things before me, around me and besides me. I had escaped the incident with some painful bruises and miraculously no internal injuries or broken bones.   Psalm 119 reminds me that God directs my footsteps according to His Word. This aptly tells me that even as I fell down that fateful morning , God was there to allow that to happen, to allow me to pick myself up and to show me that I should not be afraid to falter, to fall  and to fail as long as I did not fall from His Grace. I  thank Him for my fall because I had to fall and die to my sins and myself.

 

Patient 51

 

Yesterday she became patient 51. Her blood count dropped and she contracted a severe headache. She could not sleep because her feet and hands became swollen with rashes. My wife was the latest to contract the dreaded dengue fever in our area in Bishan. Bishan has become the hotspot for this dengue annual tropical infestation during the hot months in Singapore. My wife was patient 51.

According to Wikipedia, “dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally A. aegypti. The virus has five different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications. As there is no commercially available vaccine, prevention is sought by reducing the habitat and the number of mosquitoes and limiting exposure to bites.”

Why was this event significant? There are three reasons when I reflected on this.

First it was the number 51 as it drew me immediately to the Psalm 51 , the famous one on David’s repentance when he sinned against man and God. In one part of it which we sing in church regularly, it goes like this

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me.

Yes we sin and continue to sin daily, and we may not commit outright murder or adultery like David did.  These are very serious sins. We do not kill literally or wield a menacing machete over someone. But we commit the sins of omission, and we deliberately pollute the environment ( we kill the natural resources God has given us) or we kill someone when we pollute their good reputation or name in front of someone else. We may not have committed outright adultery but when we gaze on someone with a lustful look or thought , Jesus said that we have already committed adultery in our  mind. The number  51 reminded me that we need to repent regularly of our sins and it has been a long time since we have gone for confession to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  The hot weather outside has indeed transformed sometimes into hot temper inside the house, and often the victims are my children and even the domestic helper sometimes. I regret sometimes the words and especially the tone of words used against my loved ones.  I killed them with words and adulterated their lives with impure actions and thoughts.  I should be like David to seek God with true repentance and ask God to create a pure heart within me

Second reason for the reflection of the number 51 – it reminds me of Area 51. Area 51 is  a parcel of U.S. military-controlled land in southern Nevada, apparently containing a secret aircraft testing facility. It has been used in many movies to depict possible aliens and UFO conspiracy that the US government is hiding. Many popular movies and TV series have souped up and romanticised this Area 51.  Yes I have a soft spot for this genre of movies and stories. Why? It speaks about knowing secrets and wanting to have some wisdom about the future.  I also want to know the future, especially what God wants of us.  I was praying and pondering about this especially since both my parents have recently passed away and I have transitioned into a new phase of my adult life.

This search aptly coincided with an article I read  from Father Rolheiser on the topic  :” THE DEEPEST SECRET INSIDE WISDOM 1st June 2015″ which was featured in our local Catholic News. In this profound article he spoke about everyone who longs to know something secret , to know something others do not know and this knowledge which will appear to give  you some advantage or power over those outside this ‘circle’ of wisdom.  The article continues to say that the “lure is precisely in the hint that there are secrets that a few elite persons know that contain important, life-altering, information which we, the unenlightened, are ignorant of.” The example he gave included the third secret of Fatima. We are overly concerned about the unknown and the future.  The secret is that there is NO secret in God. God has openly showed us that the secret is in the CROSS ! That is the deep wisdom we need to grasp and I continue to be awed by this as I walk this journey of faith.  The revelation of the unknown, and the future, all lie with the understanding of the CROSS ! All that about  Jesus will make more sense if we understand the CROSS.  All the future unknowns and uncertainty will be rested in Jesus’ CROSS. All our pains, sufferings , struggles will make sense if we trust in his CROSS.

The last reason after reflecting on Psalm 51 and Area 51 was that when I decided to write this reflection on the 51st day after the death of my mum.  It was really God’s timing !  A few days earlier we had celebrated my dad’s one year death anniversary with a neighbourhood rosary and a short PowerPoint montage of his photos.  It just amazed all of us how fast time has gone by and it made me appreciate the deeper meaning from Ecclesiastes 3.  There is a time for everything under God’s plan for us.  Whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor can anything be taken from it.  God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.

We need to confidently seek repentance, we need to consistently allow God to lead us into the future , and we need to continually allow God who governs Time and Space to bring all things into fruition and makes all things beautiful in His own Time.

I conclude by sharing  (NSRV Catholic version of the reading) Ecc 3 :

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

– a time to be born, and a time to die;

– a  time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

– a time to kill, and a time to heal;

– a time to break down, and a time to build up;

– a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

– a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

– a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

– a time to seek, and a time to lose;

– a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

– a time to tear, and a time to sew;

– a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

– a time to love, and a time to hate;

– a time for war, and a time for peace.

Written on June 27th 2015

(51 days after my mum returned to the Lord)

P.S. My patient 51 has recovered from dengue at the time this blog was published  ! Praise God !!! Amen  n Alleluia !

 

A balance life inventory in three Fs

Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What will it take to get me from here to there?

These are three questions from a recent spiritual writing meeting which I was not able to attend. The facilitator Josephine kindly sent me the list via email . I have chosen this set as it is the one that most resonates with me at the moment.

Where am I now? Basically I am now physically in my room typing out this message, but of course this question is asking something deeper than just the physical presence of my being. It is asking where in my life am I in all aspects.  So I would answer it from using three words: Faith, Fitness, Family.

F- Faith. Where am I now ?  I just attended an overnight spiritual retreat with my wife in JB with a group of church friends. The pertinent take away from the retreat is that I learnt that “Eternity begins NOW”.

In the awesomeness and the wonder of God, we do  not need to wait till the end of our life to meet God in His heavenly kingdom. The kingdom of God is close at hand (Mark 1: 15). I shared over the last two days at the retreat how I had managed to spend some precious time with my ailing parents before they passed on.  These moments will forever be etched in my memory for a long time. 

I asked my dad to retell me the stories that he would tell us when we were young. I held on to my mum’s hands for the longest time that I had ever done so . The kingdom of God was right in front of me in the presence of my ailing parents.  

As I gazed on my mum’s broken and  failing body one of those Sunday afternoons before she passed on last month, I was overwhelmed by the fact that this was the body that God had chosen to give birth to me so many years ago. A deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving filled me and moved me to tears.

So in faith, I am now learning to be more thankful and learning to move with God’s time and learning that eternity starts NOW. We have to live daily as it is our last day so that we will not live life with any regrets and not leave any songs unsung or any words unwritten, or any picture unpainted.

So how do I get to this state of mind … It does not require rocket science or deep philosophical understanding or a coveted degree from the Ivy League schools; it only requires our simple Amen.  

It is the awesomeness of this simplicity that really startles me.

The secret of all God’s mystery always lies in the paradox.

It lies in the whisper of the wind and not in the howling typhoon.

It lies in the stillness of the morning light and not in the fiercesome afternoon sun.  

God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, declares Yahweh. For the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”  

God, help me to be still, help me to live in the present, help me to be grateful always, help me to trust in your timing to bring me all the needs and graces that I need for this life. Give me always my daily bread and do not lead me to temptations.

F- Fitness  .  In recent days I have increased my running mileage in preparation for a marathon that is happening in exactly one month from today on 4th July. It is my second sundown marathon. It starts at 1am in the early morning of 5th July and I should complete it before the sunrise. Running has become a regular feature of my life since about 10 years ago when I started serious long distance running.  

Where do I want to go from here? I want to complete ten full marathons for a start .  I am three away from this target. And subsequently I would like to run a marathon overseas before I turn 50.  How does running complement my faith ? Well, I would like to share some insights from a famous movie “Chariots of Fire”.

One of the great movie clips of all time is the scene of Eric Liddle running his 1924 Olympic race in Chariots of Fire. He wins the gold medal, finishing way ahead of everyone else. As he runs he’s clutching a piece of paper with a message from the Bible, looking up into the heavens, and laughing with joy! His whole body is exuberant, arms flailing freely while running, as he exclaims, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure!”  To some extent, although I am not Eric Liddle, I do feel God’s spirit and the sense of being alive while I run. 

Running is praying time and also quiet time with God.  

Running for me is a great gift from God

and in recent days, I have the vision of my dad running in heaven with Jesus

as my dad was a great runner in his younger days.

Lastly F- Family. My young family is growing up quickly. The children are 8,12,16 this year and soon Cedric will receive his first Holy Communion and Charlotte her Sacrament of Confirmation and Chloe her PSLE exams.

My wife Anna is integrating very well into the special needs program in her school and though tiring and stressful at times, I can see that she is deeply fulfilled in her work/career.  I encourage her to write a book someday about her students and in doing so give glory to God as these special needs children are often forgotten and marginalised.  She has given a lot for the family and we sometimes have to look for nuggets of time to spend together.  The children are always seeking our attention and time. Anna and I always prayed  that they will be imbued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and lead God fearing lives. 

Where do I want to move from here to the future?  Someone once said we are only stewards of all of God’s creation ; I believe that includes our children. Some day they will have to lead their own independent lives and that someday is coming sooner than later in the 21st century.  I hope to be able to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive and prosper in this world and make themselves also right with God. We cannot do this alone, not even as a couple together; we need the Power of God. We need the blood of Christ ; Christ’s victorious act in Cavalry and his Love is the only Power we need and we seek to protect our children and ourselves as we journey on in this temporal world.

As I end this reflection, I would like to share this serenity prayer which was shared by my vehicle commander ( the person who sits besides you in the front seat of the car, a term used in the army) during our three hour long jam in the causeway.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.