The people hiking through the MacRitchie trails for recreation often bring their problems with them. What an irony. Chatting loudly as they walk past, one can’t help but overhear their worries about their job, their colleague, their boss, etc. One man used his mobile to talk business in Mandarin to his colleague in China!
Others walk alone, but with grim faces, determined to complete their 10,000 steps or whatever goal they’ve set for themselves.
Except for a few pockets here and there, there is little joy in the groups I’ve come across. And fewer still pause to admire the beauty in the forest.
I prefer to walk to a different drummer, and let the forest speak, recording my experience in photographs if possible. Here are a few shots I’ve taken:
May we pause long enough to hear what the forest is saying.
So one of my readers asked, “What is the draw of the silence?
The silent gaze of the One who loves you conveys tenderness, understanding, compassion and so much more.
It’s pretty tangible, just as if He is standing or sitting beside you, enjoying your company, even as you enjoy His.
This cannot be imagined. It can only be experienced.
Sometimes, He speaks; and whatever He says will come to pass.
Most times, I am content just to know He is there.
Many are uncomfortable with silence and that is a pity, for God is often found in quietness. His Spirit calls to our spirit; His Deep calls to our deep.
And when we respond, He rewards us with His unwavering attention.
Each silence has its own innate quality; some silences have the essence of peace; some convey strength; others, understanding. Each silence is different. But Love is embedded in every aspect of the silences of God. That is how we know the silences are of Him.
And my reader asks, “What is the purpose?”
I have no purpose except to enjoy being with the One who loves me.
The deeper one dives in the spirit, the quieter the inner waters become; I am alone, and yet not alone for His presence is always with me. The deeper we dive, the more silent it becomes — the more silent we become.
The world and its demands fade away as I sink immeasurably down into the depths, allowing the silence to draw me like gravity. But I do not live in a vacuum. Occasionally, the cacophony outside insists on my attention and with a sigh I cut loose, surface and deal with it; and then I turn and dive again, into the deep, deep waters of the Spirit who dwells in silence.
His silence is intimate, yet non-intrusive. He is present, calm and assuring. He gives me a sense of the eternity where He lives, where time has no beginning or end. In fact, He is Eternity.
So I dive deeper down into the depths of silence where it’s quiet, not even a ripple, but teems with life.
The Prunus Trail is a shady boardwalk along MacRitchie Reservoir. The majority start the one-hour trek here, walking clockwise to the Petai Trail, then turning right, down a hardened clay and stone path through the cool forest into dazzling sunshine.
One day, I decided to walk anti-clockwise, climbing up the well-trodden clay path and then turning left at the Petai Trail.
“Perception is everything,” a former boss used to say frequently and quite fervently. I knew something was on his mind, but I didn’t ask. Then I noticed it playing out in my life.
The meaning of this quote, for those of you who are a little behind here, is that what people perceive to be their reality is, in fact, their own reality.
What people perceive is actually their own reality. The issue is, they play out their “reality “on me, which has resulted in hurts and drama. Then, I had to adjust my own perception — the people whom I thought were mature and objective were not. They were acting out their presuppositions on me.
What they thought was me, wasn’t me. But they thought it was. And what could have been a rational conversation to sort out an issue became… Well, you can let your imagination run riot here…
Time and time again, it happened.
It became clear that no matter what others thought, I had to practice being precise about what I was thinking and believing, and to articulate it to them.
This is what Jesus wants. He wants us to clarify wrong perceptions. When we find out someone is offended over a perceived slight, we could take a moment to talk it out with them; conversely, when we are aggravated by what we think is a slight from another, we can initiate the conversation with a view to reconciliation.
These conversations can hopefully, result in an alignment of perception and we can move forward.
And what if these conversations don’t resolve anything?
Well, what I’ve found is that God isn’t in unreality.
Living in unreality results in a lot of hurt and drama.
I prefer to be where God is.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Phil 4:8
Addendum: A reader asked me, “What if there isn’t trust?” My answer is, ask God to prepare all parties’ hearts and minds, to arrange a time and a place for the mutual conversation to take place. And then, let it go, forget it, stop chewing on it. It has become His responsibility; let Him handle the details.
Go on with the rest of your life.
When the time is right, you will meet and the conviction of the Spirit will be there.
There are good friends, and there are God-friends. We hang out with good friends as there are mutual interests, mutual support, we have fun and we look forward to meeting again.
And, there are God-friends. They are there for a season, perhaps for life, but a few things make them stand out.
They “get” you. You don’t have to explain yourself — they already believe in you. They’re in your corner.
They’re like you, yet very unlike you. They’ve been through stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy and they’ve come out with a spiritual stature that people recognize and flock to. And when they see you, there’s a connection. They know, they understand — instinctively they know you; they’re on your side and they’ll fight for you. And you don’t even have to ask.
Those are God-friends.
When I reached 40, I started having God-friends. In the bible, 40 and multiples thereof are spiritually significant. That was the season God-friends started to come one after another — those He has assigned to walk beside me through tough times because He knew I was totally unprepared for them.
My God-friends guided me when I was in confusion; they outlined a strategy to handle the mess I inherited while they trained me to tackle the person behind it. They ensured my rights were respected when the majority wanted to push the issue under the carpet; when my enemies were speaking crookedly, they spoke up to set the record straight and silenced them. When I was in crisis, they made time for me and used their skills to heal me.
God-friends know my heart, they believe in me and stand up for me.
They are answers to years of prayer.
Perhaps He needs the time to prepare them for me, and me for them. Whatever the reason, they are the God-friends I need, and He sends them to light up the path before me.
God is faithful, and He sends good and faithful friends.
(Picture taken at the MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore)
I have been cutting down from social media activities since the beginning of this month, and it has led to an increasingly greater quietness within. I don’t know how long this season will last — the last time God led me into this, it was for 10 years — but I’m enjoying it. I wonder if this is a little of how the saints of old felt when they retreated into the cells of their monasteries or into their caves to seek Him.
“A little” as I’m not living the ascetic lifestyle they lived, but as I cut down on my activities, I become more aware of how social media saps our soul and distracts us from ourselves. Conversely, as we step away from all the noise, we become aware of the inner stirrings of our heart and so can tend to them; as we tend to them, a greater wholeness and quietness settles within.
Most people I know live in frantic interaction with others and pay scant attention to their own selves, and it’s to their loss. Frankly, I think many people don’t want to look at what’s in their heart. But as we do, as we pay attention and tend to our own heart, the reward is peace and quiet within and a greater awareness of the presence of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)
(Picture was taken at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens).
6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Sam 30: 6)
One of the hazards of being a leader is that you run the risk of being stoned by your own followers for your errors, real or perceived.
In the above passage, David had taken his men to battle, but his enemies took advantage of his absence to raid their stronghold and kidnap their wives and children. His men, enraged by this tactical mistake and embittered by the loss of their loved ones, spoke of killing him.
Talk about being thoroughly demoralised! The very people you had trained and counted on over the years, turn on you in a moment of crisis!
“But David found strength in the Lord his God.” David knew God’s heart for him. He knew God’s opinion of him is always favorable despite what others may say.
No matter what others may think of you now, God’s opinion of you is of much greater importance. His viewpoint and subsequent actions are an expression of His nature.
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. (Psalm 116 NIV)
He knows you’re in process; He’s chipping away at the rough edges; He’s allowing you to be washed in the giant washing machine that is the community of His people — just like the way clothes get washed by the friction in the washer, so are His people, through friction against one another. And the result, hopefully, is a cleaner, brighter you.
A few days ago, I met a new friend who’d agreed to hike around the MacRitchie Reservoir with me. Our mutual friend couldn’t make it, so I met J by myself. As we got to know each other, it was interesting how she directed the conversation. First, she wanted to know how long I usually walked — it was 1.5 hours. Then I told her I’d just done some Pilates classes which helped me get my legs back into good order. Before, they were aching.
When she found out that my legs had just recovered, she suggested a shorter 1-hour walk. She knew where the Prunus trail would lead to, and how to loop back to the car park. She knew which trail was a boardwalk, which was rocky, which was sandy, and which was rubberised. She also knew that walking 1.5km would take approximately half an hour.
Knowing that I enjoyed walking, she suggested I hike the Green Corridor from Hillview to Buona Vista, ending there for a meal at the mall. The total time, including stopping for some pictures, would be 1hr 45 mins. She also said I should start early in the early morning as there are no trees providing shelter from the heat of the day.
I was blown away by her practical Servant mindset — in the first 20 mins of getting acquainted, she found out what I liked, how much walking I could handle and shared with me something she knew I would enjoy.
In return, I took a picture of her standing as the morning sun’s rays shone through the forest.
Today, I will share the story of Joseph, who was pledged to be married to Mary. From the Gospel of Matthew, we know him to be a righteous man, one who followed the law. When he found out she was pregnant, I guess he didn’t accept her explanation that it was all part of God’s plan. Caught between his sense of righteousness and his love for Mary, he decided to take a path that would protect his reputation and protect Mary — he decided to divorce her quietly rather than expose her to public disgrace. It took an angel to convince him that what Mary said was true.
So, here was someone with a good reputation, a good Jew following all the traditions, a kind man as well as a righteous one, shouldering the burden of marrying someone already pregnant. One can imagine the whispers going around; and if he or Mary even tried to explain, one can imagine that the whispers would become a roar!
So my question is, what would you do if your reputation was ruined, like Joseph’s, and it’s for doing the right thing? What would you do when your integrity is being questioned, and — it’s God’s handiwork?