Category Archives: Christian Faith

Outside Looking In


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My blogging friend, Debra – She Who Seeks, just put up a post entitled “Blue Christmas”.  Apparently, it is a tradition at her church to hold a “special service of meditation, quiet reflections and readings which acknowledge and honour the fact that Christmas is not always a happy time for everyone.”

How strange,….. I was just thinking about posting about that very thing (or what another blogger described as serendipitous convergence); that Christmas can be especially cold, sad and lonely for many who do not have the support of family or friends around them  or are going through difficult times.

None of the churches that I have attended had a ‘Blue Christmas’ service.  However, for most of my life, until recently, I have always preferred to avoid all the festivities like going carol singing or attending loud joyous celebrations and parties.  There was a time that apart from attending church, I would prefer to just have a quiet night and sleep early.  I didn’t do any of the exchange of cards or presents either.

It took me a long time to understand that this shunning of festivities at Christmas was rooted in my own hangups ………specifically, that I felt that I did not deserve to be happy.   As a foreign student in the UK many years ago, I was on occasion invited to people’s homes for Christmas lunch or dinner with their families.  I always felt uncomfortable and was mentally squirming the whole time I was there.  Only years later, I understood that I felt uncomfortable because I believed that I had no business being there in their happy family gathering.  I felt like an undeserving interloper.

Regular readers will know that I went through a period of depression at one point of my life and this kind of thinking comes from that dark well.  Today, instead, Christmas reminds me that God loves me and that is all I need to chase the dark clouds away.

But all this is my way of saying that I know how it can feel to be the disenfranchised, the lonely, the foreigner, the migrant, the hurt, the grieving.  It is being outside and looking in.  Out in the cold with an empty stomach and looking through a window at a feast inside.  Seeing others celebrate but being left out.

So, I believe that the way to celebrate Christmas is to do our part to show God’s love to those around us.  Celebrate by serving, just as Jesus ‘did not come to be served, but to serve’ (Matthew 20: 28) and gave of himself.  Sure, it’s okay to have fun and celebrate at parties and dinners – I do so nowadays too but do more……..serve others too.

This year, I will be joining others to go caroling to those who are ill with cancer as well as to residents at a nursing home – to come alongside them, share their problems, pray for them and share joy.  At my church, we will also be opening our church on Christmas Eve for people to come in off the street for some food and drink.  We are making the church available to some of the foreign workers near us so that they can invite their friends to come in and join the festivities.

At Christ’s birth, the angels declared about peace and joy.  Perhaps, we should continue to pray for peace and help spread joy in this flawed world.  Blessed Christmas folks.

Being a Watchman


Things are bad in my country these days.  When I remember the country from the time of my youth and consider it now, the thought that comes to mind is “how far we have fallen”.  Corruption, racial disharmony, falling education standards, injustice and religious intolerance all seem to be on the march. Sure the country could be worse but it was certainly once a lot better.

For a number of years now, Christian leaders have been urging Christians to come together and pray and to take part in a 40 day fast for the nation; to cry out for God’s mercy and transformative power to restore the country.  In the past, my involvement in this had been rather patchy but this year, I am committed to take this seriously, to be a watchman for the nation as described in the bible (Ezekiel 3).  A watchman keeps watch and warns of danger.

Now, I am a novice at fasting.  Before this, I have only fasted a couple of times.  So, trying to fast for 40 days is a big deal.  I mention this not because I am seeking praise or recognition but to encourage all Christians to take on the role of watchmen and to pray for their countries with serious commitment.

How does one fast? Some I know refrain from eating for 24-48 hours at a time while others understand fasting as giving up something for that period like meat or chocolates or these days, even internet.  There is nothing magical about the act itself or the form that it takes.  My understanding of fasting is to refrain from eating and to give that time over to seek God, to wait on Him, to read His word, to pray and to listen.  The key is time in prayer with God.

For me, I try to give up one meal or sometimes two meals a day and spend 1-2 hours in prayer.  Currently, I have fasted 6 days out of the first 8 days.  Last Sunday, I attended a wedding and dinner and did not fast ……….and last Friday, I gave in to the weakness of my flesh.  Ahem.

But what I really want to share with you here is that despite the hunger pangs, it has been a wonderful experience.  Whenever we set apart time to be with God, He meets us and even as we pray for transformation and restoration for the country, He transforms and restores us.

So, I urge all Malaysian Christians to make the commitment to join the 40 day prayer and fast; it is our responsibility but it will also be our joy.  Most of us find it easy to criticise and to snipe at our leaders and to complain about conditions in our country and yet treat it like it is someone else’s problem and we don’t need to lift a finger.  That is wrong.  The country’s problems are our problems.  We are the country.  So instead of criticism and sniping, let us pray for our leaders and our country, for wisdom, integrity, grace and justice for all.  (click here to get the NECF booklet that guides our fasting, prayer and reflections for the 40 days)

2017ePDF-PrayerBooklet-Eng-Adul

For readers from other corners of the world, pray too for your own countries and light up the darkness.

For other adventures of a fasting squirrel (some voluntary and some forced), read “Adventures in the Fast Lane“.

I look but what do I see


old or young
This famous drawing asks us what we see – the young woman or the old hag?

Last week, I attended a funeral with some friends.  It was for an eighty year old lady who had been sickly for awhile and had finally succumbed.  I did not know her at all.  She was a distant relative of one of my friends.

She had traveled half way round the world to my neck of the woods to visit her son and then poor health intervened and prevented her from leaving.  She spent the last 3 years of her life unable to return home. Apart from close family, few people here knew her.  Those that did, only knew her as a sickly, bedridden woman who was totally dependent on others for her care.

But if some of us who attended the small service had been inclined to feel pity for her, we would be chastised.  When we learned more about her, we realised that she had lived a long, love-filled and inspirational life.  She had raised five children of which three were adopted and of different race and cultural backgrounds.  She also was foster parent to scores of other children  over the years.  She was also active in her church and as an advocate for children welfare.  I shamefully admit that I would never had guessed.

Her ashes are being returned home where there will be another memorial service – one that I believe will be attended by many, many people; lives that she had touched, helped and nurtured by her love.

Yesterday, I ran into an elderly gentleman whom I hadn’t seen for a few years.  He was quietly having a meal at a cafe with a friend.  He is a small man with a nondescript walking cane and a hearing aid.  Soft spoken and not one who naturally draws attention, he would easily have gone unnoticed.  Quite invisible to most of the younger patrons of the cafe, I think.

I went over to shake his hand and to greet him.  He was happy to spend a few minutes exchanging news and pleasantries.  To me and those who know this humble man, he is a giant.

He was responsible for setting up a major government department and ministry when Malaysia was nation building after independence.  His achievements garnered international recognition and he was asked to help set up similar ministries and departments in other newly independent nations within the British Commonwealth.  He serve the country for decades with great distinction.

He was also active in Christian charity and church work and he continues to do so till today at the age of 101.   A giant of a man.

Why am I sharing these two stories? Well, I have been kind of reminded that we tend to make assumptions of people based on first impressions and too often our assumptions are negative and frequently wrong.

I grew up in Asia and am a product of the Confucian philosophy that is part of many Asian societies . We are taught from an early age the importance of respecting our elders and to honor our teachers.   So I was surprised when I went to University and one of my revered professors told us lowly first years during orientation week that while he did not know us from Adam, he would always expect that some of us, if not all, would achieve more in our scientific careers than he had.  He saw that each of us had potential that remained undiscovered.  We were not lowly students but potentially Nobel Prize winners.

(Editor’s note: regular readers will now understand why the Lone Grey Squirrel remains obsessed with the Nobel Prize and why he hasn’t got one yet!)

That professor taught me a valuable lesson about seeing the good and the potential in others.  I have always remembered that and tried to do so in my own life.

Indeed, the bible teaches this very thing;

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philipians 2:3-4)

I am still trying and frequently have to remind myself to see others through my limited mindset but to value them and their potential for greatness, beauty and love. I look but do I really see?  You know what I mean?

 

Hallelujah! Christmas Blessings!


‘Tis the season to remember the gift of God to all mankind.

For unto us a child is born, a son is given….. (Isaiah 9:6)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

May you and your loved ones experience the joy and love of God this Christmas – a love that compelled God to send Jesus from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger, to live faultless amongst ordinary men and women, and finally to lay down his life for our sake on the cross of Calvary.

It is reason indeed to rejoice and praise God. This following video is of Kaylee Rodgers, a 10 year old from Nothern Ireland who has autism and ADHD. She began singing as a way to build her confidence. Together with the Killard House School choir of special needs children, she sings a Christmas worship version of ‘Hallelujah’. Jesus would be pleased.

Lyrics for “Hallelujah Christmas” by Cloverton

I’ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The Answer


It is strange how this post came about.  I had a few competing ideas for a post but decided I wanted to share a song here.  But then, there were a few new songs that I thought were “share-worthy”.  So how to narrow it down and pick one?

While I was still pondering my choices, I visited some blogs.  A couple of blogs had posts that made me remember a dark period in my life when I went through a life sapping depression or rather it reminded me of how I was able to escape its chains.

First, Beth posted a short quote by Eugene Kennedy about friendship and somehow it was a powerful trigger for memories of a dear friend whose unquestioning, non-judging, accepting, patient friendship was like a lifesaver that kept me from going under.

Then, I read the post by Caralyn, who has a wonderfully powerful and inspiring blog in which she shares about her journey through the “throes of anorexia”.  In this post, she openly answers the questions that many ask her – “How did I break free? How did I embrace recovery when I was so sick.”  Her answer was “It was God”.  She made the choice to begin her journey of recovery and asked God for His help and found that God gave her all  the strength and help she needed for that journey.  Well, that would be my answer too about how I recovered from shattered self worth and depression.

For these reasons, I would like to share with you this beautiful song “The Answer” by Corrine May.  I only recently heard this song.  Its melody is actually that of “Jupiter”by Gustav Holst from his Planets suite which is probably my all time favorite classical piece.  But the lyrics by Corrine May reflects what I have shared in this post and what I hold true to my own heart. (Incidentally, Corrine is from Singapore which is my part of the world – so go buy her music!)

Hope you enjoy it.

I believe You are the answer to every tear I’ve cried
I believe that You are with me,
My rising and my light. 

Give me strength when I am weary
Give me hope when I can’t see
Through the crosses I must carry
Lord, bind my heart to Thee

That when all my days are over
And all my chores are done,
I may see Your risen Glory
Forever where You are.

Et Tu, Beauty?


LGS: I was thinking about a suitable post for this Easter week and pondering what to share when I came across this post at beautybeyondbones.  Her very personal sharing of what Easter means to her says it all.  The squirrel knows when it is right to step aside and let someone else do the talking…… God bless you this Easter as we remember the pain, the sacrifice, the love and the victory of Jesus our Lord.

See what I did there? Et tu, Brute…Et tu, Beauty? *Air-fives self* 😛 OK, so yeah, the title has to do with Caesar…buuut, I kinda feel like it sets the mood for this piece. Because we&#…

Source: Et Tu, Beauty?

Ipoh – Food Glorious Food, Fellowship and Fun


A couple of weeks ago, I was absent for a short while as I went along to my church annual family camp. It was a great time of hearing God’s word, fellowship and ‘fai lo’ ship (local slang for sharing meals together). This year our venue was the town of Ipoh.

Ipoh is the capitol of the state of Perak in Malaysia.  At one time, it was one of the richest cities in the region with scores of multimillionaires and resplendent with mansions on large grounds.  It had grown rich on the back of tin mining.  The city then fell into the backwaters when the price of tin fell catastrophically in the 1970’s.

Today, it is seeing a resurgence due to tourism.  It is surrounded by beautiful limestone hills and caves including some interesting temples built into the limestone caves.

However, we were there primarily to receive spiritual food; teaching from God’s word.  We had invited a Singaporean preacher who encouraged us not to be just pew warmers but to be true disciples of Christ, we had to be, well, disciples; following his example and obedient to his teachings and commands.  Specifically, we were challenged to a) have compassion for others and be relevant in our community; b) have a real and living relationship with God through prayer and reading the bible; c) have a vibrant relationship with one another, helping and encouraging one another in our Christian walk and finally d) to obey Christ is actively sharing His Good News to those around us.  We also looked into the book of Nehemiah and how different people (and not necessary the best qualified people) were assigned to rebuild different sections of Jerusalem’s fallen wall.  The important thing was being willing and working as part of a whole effort.

But a very good secondary reason for going to Ipoh is to enjoy the food because Ipoh has its own well know cuisine. Some of it is shown in the photos above. Use your mouse to hover over the photo and you can read the associated caption.

Some of the famous Ipoh cuisine are said to be due to the qualities of the spring water there that is used in the cooking process.  Hence, the Ipoh Hor Fun noodles is extremely soft and silky – unmatched anywhere else in Malaysia.  Similarly, the Beansprouts chicken is great not just because of the way the chicken is cooked but because the special spring water has made the beansprouts particularly plump, crunchy and juicy.  In the same way, the dessert – sweetened soyabean curd is silky smooth.

There are many more Ipoh food highlights including seafood, popiah (a type of soft springroll), beef noodles, Ipoh’s own white coffee, the pomelo fruit…….. the list goes on and on but it serves us all little good to keep talking about it here.  Internet technology hasn’t reach the stage where you can enjoy the food remotely.  You’ll just have to take my word for it ……or go there yourselves.  But be warned, Ipoh is hazardous to weight loss diets.

Another Century And We Are Still At It


Two ants were sitting on an a mound up on a hill overlooking a battlefield.  From there, they could see men from two armies fighting viciously with guns, tanks and shells.  All over there were dead and dying from both sides.

The first ant said, “This is great!  Let the humans fight their crazy wars and when they have finished killing each other to the last man, then ANTS will rule the world! Bwahahaha!”

“Bwahahaha!” echoed the second ant. “Hooray! Ants will rule the world!”

After a short pause to think, the second ant asked the first ant, “Black ants or Red ants?”

 

And so, this is war.  Don’t know how or when humankind started sacrificing on the altar of war but it doesn’t seem we will stop.

This week in Europe, various ceremonies are being held to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War I.   Some 16 million people perished in 5 long years of fighting.  it was the war that marked the start of the industrialization of killing.  It had been called the “war to end all wars”.  Yet just two decades later, the world plunged into World War II and more than 60 million killed.  We were just getting more effective in killing.

800px-Cemetery_of_World_War_I_in_Auce,_Latvia(Photo by Simka)

And so, far from moving towards enlightenment, understanding, fraternity and peace, conflicts continue to plague us since.

Some (from atheist and humanist circles) claim that religion is the main cause of war and certainly there have been many wars fought that use religion to draw the battle lines.   But I believe that mostly that hides other motivations – usually, political, ideological and/or economic ………. and in some cases, just base pack mentality of “us” and “them”.

Just consider some of these non-religious dictators and the damage they inflicted on mankind (estimated killed);

 

I really believe that the root of it all is the desire “to want what others have and to deny others from getting what we have”.

Did you know that back in the 1930’s USA prepared a series of contingency war plans and the first one they came up with was codenamed, “War Plan Red” – the invasion of Canada?!?!?!

It was part of a plan to address the problem of the British Empire being an economic and global rival to America’s aspirations.

Sigh……………..

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ”

Let us pray for the peacemakers where ever they are and in whichever conflict they are trying to bring to an end.  Let’s not let the ants take over and rule the world.

 

The Clouds are Gathering


I had wanted to have a cheery post for you today but the dark clouds  over the world have been creeping into my little corner of life.  Truly, there seems no end to the troubles this year.

Bloodshed, cruelty and conflict in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Kenya, Somalia and Pakistan.  Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

And what is it with all the plane disasters.   MH370 remains missing and then we had the shock of the loss of MH17 over eastern  Ukraine.  Then, there was the TransAsia ATR 72 crash in Taiwan; the Air Algerie AH 5017 crash in the Sahara and finally a young teenager and his father perish when their plane ditches into the sea on the last leg of their round the world  flight as they raised money for schools in Pakistan.

When we watch all these news on TV or on the internet, we cannot not be affected by the sense of tragedy and suffering.  Generally  though, it is happening to people we don’t know and in a place distant from most of us. Still, there is a degree of separation between us and the event.

However, in the last week, that degree of separation was greatly reduced.

It turns out that the daughter-in-law and grandchild of someone I know perished on flight MH 17.  Another friend’s family was on a different flight but was due to have flown over that same airspace at that time except that it turned back to the terminal after experiencing some technical problems while they were on the runway waiting to take off.  Yet another friend  had been working in the Netherlands and had tried to book a seat on the ill-fated  flight to return to Kuala Lumpur.  He eventually flew the next day on the flight with the same call number.

And then, there was the news from Afghanistan.  Two Finnish aid workers with a Christian charity were killed by gunmen in Herat, Western Afghanistan.  Just last month, we played host to a friend visiting from abroad.  He stayed a few days at our home.  He knew both these women.  They had both served and lived in Afghanistan for a few years.  The organisation has been there since 1966 working to providing eye treatment, mental health treatment, and helping communities.

And so, in this way, some of these recent tragedies became a little more real to me.  My response is to pray for God’s mercy for us all.

There is a Graham Kendrik song that always reminds me the need for such a prayer.  Here are just some of the words of the song;

O Lord, over the nations now
Where is the dove of peace?
Her wings are broken
O Lord, while precious children starve
The tools of war increase, Their bread is stolen

O Lord, dark powers are poised to flood
Our streets with hate and fear
We must awaken!
O Lord, let love reclaim the lives
That sin would sweep away
And let your kingdom come

Have mercy Lord, Forgive us Lord, Restore us Lord, Revive your church again

Let justice flow like rivers and righteousness like a never failing stream.