A Season of Quiet

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).

Treasures from the Deep

CREATIVE FRIDAY

Over a thousand years ago, an Arab dhow sailing from China to the Middle East sank in a storm near present-day Sumatra, taking down with it 60,000 pieces of Tang Dynasty ceramic ware and artifacts of gold and silver. There it lay in the sand, mud and debris until 1998, when some Indonesian fishermen found it by chance.

Tang dishes for everyday use

Included in the ceramic ware, made for everyday use, were cups, jugs, bowls and dishes decorated with freehand drawings. Who were those people who created these dishes? And especially, who was the person who made the whimsical drinking cup below? He showed imagination and humor, delighting us even today.

Cup from Tang Dynasty Shipwreck

The majority of us, a thousand years on, will remain anonymous. A minority, like this craftsman, may leave something behind. Most of us will leave imprints on the next generation or two, hopefully for better, not for worse.

The only thing that lasts forever is the Word.

 Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:7c-8)


The Tang Shipwreck is on display in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore.


Pictures taken by Kathlyn Tsang

The Journey to Fulfillment

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

“When will the inner healing process be complete?” I was asked the other day.

My answer was, “It won’t be complete as long as we’re alive.” Because the passion of God is for us to be His bride, without wrinkle or spot. Because His passion is for us to “Be holy, because He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

And because of that, He permits the devil to test us. His Son got tested, His disciples got tested. And we believers will get tested.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and the Lord tests hearts (Proverbs 17:3)

God’s purpose for the test is that we be refined and be a better version of ourselves; the devil’s purpose is that we flounder and stay stuck in a rut.

A friend asked about the conflicts that she faces in community. I said these were opportunities for her to discern if:

  1. It’s an old wound or wrong belief that is being surfaced for her to deal with;
  2. It is the other party’s issue and nothing to do with her at all or,
  3. More commonly, both are somehow at fault and both need to do better.

As we become a better version of ourselves, we become more wholesome, showing more integrity, shining brighter for the Lord. What we say and what we do, matches. And God’s purpose for our lives is made manifest.

Photo by Kathlyn Tsang

Joy after the Rain

CREATION FRIDAY

After a heavy downpour, the skies changed to a mellow hue, the air smelled bright and fresh, and this young tree reaching to the sky caught my eye. It spoke of hope, vitality and new life.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

Whatever stressors you’re going through, it will pass.

Can Christians take Pilates Classes?

Recently I ministered to two people who’d inadvertently gotten spiritually oppressed after taking some Pilates lessons. As a result, the natural question is, is it safe for Christians take these classes?

Photo by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

My answer is first, I am very clear in my mind that every stretching exercise that benefits us is from God. As the enemy has classified some of the stretches as its territory, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that. Every good thing comes from God. Being responsible stewards of our body, we exercise to tone up, get fit, increase endurance. Stretching classes do that. So we have the right to ask God to intervene if the enemy takes advantage of our Pilates classes to oppress us. When we know our spiritual rights we can fight back.

But I wouldn’t learn yoga, which has a long occult history behind it.

So what do we do when we decide to learn Pilates which is a combination of ballet, gymnastics and some stretching exercises that the enemy claims a “copyright”? First, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that — only God has the copyright as He is the designer of our body and by extension, the exercises that would benefit it. He is the originator of all good things, not the enemy.

Second, the instructor is important. We are subconsciously influenced by our leaders. If he or she has clear occult leanings and I don’t feel comfortable, I would switch instructor.

Third, the environment. If it feels unclean spiritually, you may find another fitness centre to go to. But if you’ve already paid for the classes, go into spiritual warfare mode. Before attending the session, pray aloud appropriate bible verses proclaiming God’s righteousness and goodness and that His intention is always to bless us. It will make a difference.

The enemy has falsely claimed some territory, and it’s our right as Christians to dispute that and draw a clear boundary to keep him out. After all, every good thing comes from God and is to be enjoyed as a blessing from Him — including stretching classes.

Eyes to See Love

CREATION FRIDAY

A friend saw Love in the clouds
Another friend saw much Love in the clouds
What do you see?

For me, I didn’t see — I sensed Love coming through the clouds.

Let me back up a bit for those of us who are still new to the things of the Spirit.

We receive from God through seeing, sensing and hearing. Most of us tend to favor one out of the three ways of perceiving God. I usually sense more than I see or hear God. My friends are usually seers. Others perceive God ministering to them mainly through the Word.

If you don’t know how you receive from God, study the scriptures. There are seers, sensers, hearers and dreamers! From these examples, you can place what kind of a receiver you are.

God communicates with us spontaneously, like the wind, whenever He pleases. All we need to do is learn to receive.

When We Can’t Do Good

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

We’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan numerous times. A lawyer wishing to justify himself asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And our Lord launches into a story of this poor guy travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, who gets attacked by robbers and is left for dead. The priest and the Levite see his limp body and pass by, but the good Samaritan stops to help.

And Jesus says to the lawyer who asked the question, “Go and do likewise”. The Samaritan is the model do-gooder. So it seems.

But I wonder if Jesus was countering the lawyer’s legalism and emphasis on performance with another legalism: “Go and do likewise.” Was it meant to show the lawyer that truth without wisdom and God’s guidance is a trap?

I know of someone who gave two years of her time trying to help her neighbor who was in an abusive relationship. She listened to her neighbor’s story; she met the abusive boyfriend. She heard the daily quarrels, she was there when police were called.  

My dear friend, whose motto is “Do Good,” asked me to come and help. I came, and after 2 hours of listening to her neighbor, I came to the conclusion that she didn’t want help, she didn’t want advice, she didn’t want prayer — although she had said so the day before. She only wanted an additional person to listen to her daily drama.

“One and done,” as my American friend would say. I left.

You cannot help those who don’t want to be helped — even if you see that they desperately need it.   

Here’s another illustration:  

A well-known prophet was the son of missionaries in Brazil, living deep in the jungle, next to the Amazon river. Every so often, his evangelist father would take his motor boat and chug off to preach the gospel to the villagers, tend to new believers, or go down the river a long way off to get fresh supplies. The river was unpredictable. Sometimes, there were storms and the waves would be so rough that ships could be wrecked in the rocks below. 

On one such day, when his father had taken his boat down the river, a storm arose. The wind and the waves were violent, and a ship was wrecked. They heard sailors screaming for help. But there was only his mother and the children. He remembered standing there, watching the sailors struggling in the water and knowing that he didn’t have the strength to swim out, and his mother was standing at the banks, helpless, because she didn’t have the strength either.

After an eternity, they heard the sound of their father’s motorboat in the distance. Father had the boat, father knew where the rocks were, father had the strength and the equipment to help. And his father saved everyone.  

Some of you may be struggling with the fact that you saw someone in need, and you couldn’t help. You were too young, or you didn’t have the strength, or you didn’t have the wisdom. And every time you hear the story of the Good Samaritan, you are reminded of your “failure”, and the devil is tormenting you with that memory. 

God who sees all things, sees your heart. The Lord recognizes your desire to do good. He also knows that you didn’t have the strength, the wisdom and the resources to help.  

Let go of that toxic memory; leave it on the Cross.

// Prayer //

I command the accuser of the brethren to leave; you will no longer condemn those who couldn’t help because they were too young, they didn’t have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom to help someone in need; Lord, will you remove the poison of those accusations, restore their soul and give them peace. Grant them insight and knowledge of Your true heart towards them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bloganuary Day 24

He resembled Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the ideal man, but transformed into a living, chalk white sculpture. I, wearing a dress, was trying hard to swing on a high trapeze. I looked years younger, and I was messing up the trapeze act, trying to get the twisting ropes to swing straight.

Da Vinci’s ideal man came up, tall and strong, and said bluntly, “That is not for you,” and led me away.

Next, I find myself alone in a room with an open door. I am standing barefoot in a scallop-shaped pool filled with fresh water and have a large conch seashell in my hand to use as a scoop.

And then I see a 30-ish man, smartly dressed in collared T-shirt and belted trousers in front of me. He was so eager to get into the pool that he hadn’t taken his shoes off. Looking at me with expectation, he was standing in the clear, clean water, both feet clad in a pair of brown suede boat shoes.

Then the dream ended, and I woke up with a “Hmmm?” in my mind.

This was in the late 80s.

Thirty years later, I am helping people get clean.


10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

1When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:10-17

Bloganuary Day 22

It seems easier to trust Google more than we trust God. Google has all the answers. Type in anything and the answers, true or false, will come up in a millisecond.

Trusting God is a more… esoteric experience. But He challenges us to do exactly that:

It’s a heart matter, a love matter actually; people in love may act in quite irrational ways — at least that’s how pragmatic people will view it.

In my culture, we’re urged to get the 5Cs — cash, credit card, car, condominium, and membership in a country club. That’s a sign of having “arrived”.

In contrast, God tells us to be counter-culture — give up everything, including all the signs of having “arrived”, and follow Him. That is not comfortable. Not at all.

There’s even more. He says:

Jesus, I have found, has a tendency to up the ante.

Years ago, I was faced with that choice — to choose what the culture tells me is the right thing to do, or to choose what Jesus tells me to do. I did the latter.

It has been an excellent decision.

Bloganuary Day 15

Daily reflection has proved to be very beneficial. Over time, I have formed the habit of going over in my mind the day’s events. And I allow the feelings to bubble up.

  • If it’s joy, I re-enter the event in my imagination, and relive it again. I am reinforcing and strengthening my joy.
  • If it’s something negative like hurt or irritation, I would reflect on the cause. Is it my own unfulfilled expectations? Is it the other person’s lack of consideration? How can I do better next time?

For people who like a more deliberate structure and the authority of 400 years of tradition initiated by St Ignatius of Loyola, these five steps are very helpful.

The Pocket Examen is from Loyola University, Maryland

These daily reflections gets me unstuck from today and moves me on to tomorrow.

An unexamined life is not worth living

Socrates