Blessings – from happiness to greater happiness

I was driving from my house to a factory to pick up some printed matter. It was a 20-minute drive to the end of one of the main roads in Sibu called Lanang Road.

My 9-year old son was with me. We enjoyed the drive.

(Conversation 1)

“Mummy, I know how to make the teeth sparkle, shine and whitish.”

“Oh, how?”

“You mix a little Colgate with a little of Darlie and use it to brush your teeth. Then it is clean, shinny and sparklingly white like mine. See?”

“Really, that’s very smart of you.”

“I am going to invent one type of tooth past called Coda.”

Coda, why?”

Co as in Colgate. Da as in Darlie.”

(Conversation 2)

“Mummy, with you, it is like heaven.”

“Thank you, dear.”

“The song by Guang Liang said so. He must be referring to his girl friend. But, I think with mummy, it is like heaven.”

(Scene/Conversation 3)

In front, a truck blows a tire and careens across two lanes of traffic. One car is headed toward the truck. It looks like a terrible clash is not avoidable. But the car comes to a stop just in time.

Two hearts pounding while witnessing the scene.

“What a luck!”

“What a blessing, mummy.”

Thoughts:
Yes, what a blessing. A blessing brings happiness, and greater happiness if you know the meaning.

“To feel lucky” is to say “In good and bad feelings, I have been getting more than my share of good feelings.”

“To feel blessed” is to wonder “How is this God-sent happiness going to lead me and those around me to greater happiness?”

Put it this way, when you say “grace” before a meal, first, you acknowledge that the food comes from God. You thank God for the blessing. Second, you ask God’s purposes for the food – your nourishment, your enjoyment to be fulfilled. The essence of the grace is – “Take this food that you have given me, and use it to do your work.” Ultimately, it is your good and God’s glory. It’s blessings in your life and overflow into the lives of those around you.

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Have a good sleep first

Lately, I am in a low valley, deep deep down. Today’s posting is pick up from Desiderata’s Let it be. (http://desiderata2000.blogspot.com)

Yes, there are many songs and music that comfort our soul in the low period –

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom let it be
Let it be..

Let it be …. That really gives openings to our hurts. And certainly, wise.

When I was younger, a group of friends used to say this – It does not matter whether there is one person more or one person less in this world. Life still goes on. Nobody is really that important. I begged to differ from them. I thought if there is no Battles, life still goes on, but something is missing. At least we would not have someone saying to us when we are down in a song – Let it be! Many people are actually angels sent by God to tell us – Let it be! Remember the Bible says this –

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it – Hebrews 13:2 NIV

I have a friend who went through many trials and tests in life, she loves “Let it Be” very much. I think it’s cool when she said –

Let it be, have a good sleep first….

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A superb teacher, preacher, wonderful story teller

Many years ago, I talked to Dr David Lowes Watson. In an interview with him, I have used these words –

Dr David Lowes Watson – A Wesley Scholar, superb teacher, preacher, devoted disciple and wonderful story teller …

When I was small, I was always fascinated by teachers who could tell stories. It’s Teachers’ Day today, join me to have a very pleasant walk this superb teacher and wonderful story teller … from jogging, driving, playing football, computer, small group program to cooking breakfast…

It’s all about Covenant Discipleship… Be amazed by how Dr Watson answered each of my questions by telling a story.

What is Covenant Discipleship?

Story No. 1 – Running

When I was studying in Oxford University, I resolved to keep physically fit, and decided to run each morning before breakfast. The first week I ran every morning. The second week I missed a couple mornings. The third week, I missed all but one morning. The fourth week I missed altogether. The following year I took a precautionary measure. I asked the person next door if he would like to go running with me. On the days I was late, my friend would bang on the door with a cheery word, “Time to be going!” We made it through the year, every morning.

Watson said, “Some things are done better by two people than by one …. Anything which is subject to human limitation or error requires the collegial presence of another person to ensure reliability.”

Covenant Discipleship is a way and a wish Christians be accountable to do what they can do. There are certain things which are difficult to do on your own, so you have to do with someone. It is where the members tell each other what kind of journey they have to take as disciples. They give an account of what has been to be a Christian over the week, thus helping each other in the Christian journey. They do this by means of a covenant which they themselves have written. By making this agreement they give some shape to the two great commandments of Jesus to love God and to love the neighbors.

Why is it important for the Church?

Story No. 2 – Driving

When you get into the car, you have to be flexible to traffic. However, there should be some form of structure and direction which each driver should follow. The law says you have to drive on the left side of the road, if you drive on the right side of the road, you will end up in accident. So, there is the structure and direction there to follow.

Dr Watson said: “Very often we do not give clear direction to the people on how to live Christian life, we allow them to make their own choices and to their own convenience.”

We talk about designers’ jeans, T-Shirts, shoes, dresses. We also start designer discipleship in that we design discipleship to suit ourselves, rather than to the teachings of Jesus. In Matthew 25, it is written that when you reach eternity, you will have to give an account of what you have done or not done. You would have to provide answers to When did you see a stranger and invite him in, when did you cloth the poor, when did you visit the sick and those in prison ….

Dr Watson said, “It does not matter what you believe rather it is what you have done.”

Thus in Covenant Discipleship, loving God is manifested through devotion and worship, while loving neighbor through compassion and justice.

Where does Covenant Discipleship fit in the church?

Story No. 3 – computer

Many years ago, when we first installed our computer system that consisted of 150 terminals, we have to call the consultant on every single problem. It became so frequent that the consultant made it a point that he could only be consulted on two conditions. No. 1, we have read the instruction book. No. 2, we have done what the instruction book tells us what to do and it does not work. At that time, the instruction book consisted of five volumes and nobody really bother to read.

It is like our relationship with Jesus. He has given us the teachings and instructions, if we have not read them, if we have not done what He has asked us to do, please do not call Him.

Dr Watson said, “Covenant Discipleship keeps us focused.”

Not many people are ready for Covenant Discipleship. It is not a program like a Disciple Bible Study which many are ready because it is study of the Bible.

Covenant Discipleship is a weekly check-out. In order that the ministries are centred in Jesus’ teachings, the leaders need to be checked every week.

If compassion, justice, devotion and worship are not kept in balance, disciples are not in obedience to Jesus. We live a life that suits our needs.

Dr Watson said, “We do what we think is right, instead of basing on the teachings of Jesus.”

Covenant Discipleship is on mutual accountability by checking on each other. How do we make sure that it would not get out of hand?

Story No. 4 – In the game

When you play in a football game, if you score, you would be pleased. But, if you are wise, you would not boast about it. Because, next time you may not score. Similarly if you lose in the game, you would not be blamed by others because they may lose next week.

So, if you are actually paying in the game, you understand.

Dr Watson said, “Covenant Discipleship is not checking on each other, rather, it’s helping each other.”

Each group writes its own covenant, it’s not a kind of check-list. The covenant is written based on the Jesus’ teachings and the group tries to live up the teachings.

The objection that Covenant Discipleship is based on checking each other and thus may get out of hand usually comes from those who have not joined a group.

Does Covenant Discipleship remove “disorderly walkers” from the group?

Story No. 5 – Do you always behave like Hitler?

When I was a student of Oxford University, I felt that Jesus has called me to be leader of one of the Oxford groups. I took up the challenge. And I really felt that I have been a good leader and have done a good job.

One day, one of the members came to me and said, “Do you always behave like Hitler?”

It was difficult for me to take it, especially when I thought I have been doing a good job.

Dr Watson said, “Even if you think you have done a good job, you may not be in the eyes of other Christians.”

We need other Christians to help us, to move into more challenges, and obedience to Jesus Christ.

In the Covenant Discipleship group, no body judges, nobody gets negative, when we fail to fulfill some of the covenants; it’s that we are not ready.

On a visit to Newcastle John Wesley gave an illuminating inventory of those “disorderly walkers” in one of his mass expulsions while visiting Newcastle in 1743:

The number of those who were expelled was sixty-four:

Two for cursing and swearing.
Two for habitual Sabbath-breaking.
Seventeen for drunkenness.
Two for retailing spirituous liquors.
Three for quarrelling and brawling.
One for beating his wife.
Three for habitual, wilfull lying.
Four for railing and evil-speaking.
One for idleness and laziness. And,
Nine-and twenty for lightness and carelessness.

Dr Watson said, “We help each other to listen to Jesus more sensitively in the CD group.”

Can you distinguish whether a person has been in or exposed to CD?

Dr Watson said, “Not at first. But when you get to know him, you will see that he is more focused on all the teachings of Jesus.”

What weakness do you see in the CD, if any? How do you deal with follow-up making sure there is a periodic freshness and newness of the group and consistent in their commitments?

Dr Watson has this to say, “When you are meeting in a group, if it gets boring, it is because the group has not learned the skills to give an account in a way which is helpful to others.”

The sharing should help the members to grow. The sharing should be blessings to others. Dr Watson added.

Would you like to give example of how certain thing which you think is difficult to achieve without the help of others in the CD group?

Story No. 6 – Cooking Breakfast

When I was in a CD group, for 18 months, I reported that I have not done the Act of Compassion. The group asked whether they could help, or would I want them to call me during the week.

I said it is not because I have forgotten about it. It is just hat the opportunity has not come.

One day, I committed to cook breakfast for the poor. I have to wake up at 4 am to load food the truck, and drove to a poor neighbourhood. My job is to break 100 dozens eggs. I cooked for 600 poor people for months.

Dr Watson regretted that he had made this commitment. But, the CD group gave him this direction. If not for CD, he would not have done this act of compassion!

In 2000, CD celebrated 25 years of accountable discipleship, why is it that the CD is only introduced here recently?

Story No. 7 – Program

In North America, Churches produce program after program. In 1984, there were 15 small group programs. I told myself that I would not introduce program No. 16.

So, together with my other workers, we sat down and deliberately avoided to campaign CD in a big way. It is slowly and carefully used to make sure that people understand what we are doing.

Dr Watson said, “We are to serve people, not to confuse them.”

The other reason is the rejection, particularly from the clergy. They have been used to work on their own. On accountability, they are just not interested.

We have not tried to market CD, we wait until the Holy Spirit opens the door.

Do you choose members for the CD group?

Dr Watson said, “We have only one criterion – what day, what time are convenient – just that we form the group.”

There is one strict rule – Always finish within one hour.

The reason why the ideal number is 5-7 is because if the number is less than 5, it becomes a sharing group. If it exceeds 7, the group is not able to finish within one hour.

Closing – means of grace

At the close, Dr Watson talked about the means of grace and accountable discipleship. The means of grace offer us grace, power, and direction after we say yes. The means of grace, practiced in accountable discipleship community, keep us in touch with God, the love that leads to life; the One who transforms us and gifts us with the capacity for love of God and neighbor.

A native of England, Watson was educated at Oxford University, Eden Theological Seminary in St Louis, Mo., and Duke University, Durham, N.C. He is a clergy member of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.

Before going to Wesley, one of the denomination’s 13 seminaries, Watson taught at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and was executive secretary for Covenant Discipleship and Christian Formation at the churchwide Board of Discipleship in Nashville.

He has written several books and was founding editor of the Journal of Academy for Evangelism and Covenant Discipleship Quarterly. He has served on the board of directors of the Bicentennial Edition of The Works of John Wesley.

The spider’s web

The preacher for my Sunday Worship Service told this story in her sermon “Look Upon God” this morning –

The story is told of a King and his followers who when fleeing from their pursuers took refuge in a cave.

Just after they entered, a spider spun a web across the opening.

The pursuers coming along glanced toward the cave but, noticing the spider’s web across the opening, decided no one had entered there, so marched on.

After they had passed out of sight the King and his men came out.

When he saw the spider’s web the King said,

With God a spider’s web is an army.
Without God an army is but a spider’s web.

Yan’s thoughts:-

The hope of many people may be hinged upon that little spider’s web. Each one of us may be that little spider’s web upon which rests the destiny of someone’s hope.

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“Whatever is the matter with you?”

A story is told of a speaker who started off his seminar by holding up a $20 note. In the room of 200, he asked: “Who would like this $20 note?”

Hands raised. 200 of them.

He said: “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.”

He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up.

He then asked: “Who still wants it?”

Still the 200 hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he replied, “what if I do this?”

And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.

“Now who still wants it?” Still the 200 hands went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.”

Yan’s thoughts – Many times we are hushed, stifled and suppressed and made to conform to the world around. We feel that we are worthless. We are dropped, grinded, crumpled and dirtied. We are lost, we ran around …

I am in the mood of telling stories today. Here is another one –

Lewis Caroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, has a little story about a padlock with long spiderly legs that ran around. The padlock ran around with a very upset and distracted look about itself.

Someone said to the padlock one day, “Whatever is the matter with you?”

And the little padlock said, “I am looking for someone to unlock me.”

That’s surely the cry of many.

But, the padlock is never unlocked. So, we run around nervous all the time…

Where is the key to the padlock? Or what is the combination number to the padlock?

The key is the “sight of your eyes”, the combination number is “the ways of your heart”. (taken from the book of Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Walk in the ways of your heart and sight of your eyes..)

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Knitting our hearts together

Yesterday evening as I drove back home from airport, I saw this beautiful scene –

A flock of birds flying in a V formation in the sky of Sibu

I did not have a camera with me. Back home, I searched on the net for a picture that shows such beautiful scene. To my disappointment, the google search on images did not give me the same beautiful picture.

When can I catch a glimpse of such beauty of bearing each other’s burden again? My children said – mummy, you can see that in your relationship, you do not need a picture to remind you of such beauty.

Yes, it’s in my own heart.

Have you every wondered why birds fly in a V formation? It’s their way of bearing one another’s burdens. Each bird faces less wind resistance. With less wind resistance, they will enjoy a smoother flight. Ever running against a strong wind? You will understand better if you do. This is bearing each other’s burden.

However, the lead bird out on the point of the V is doing a lot of work, isn’t it? How could it take the full brunt of the wind resistance while everybody else has it easy? What’s more amazing is, the lead bird will take a rest when it gets tired. It will get back to the formation, and another bird will take the shift as flock leader. That’s shared task.

The lead bird also leads the way for the bird that’s next in line. That’s keeping each other company also.

As we walk through the life’s journey, do we have friends who share our burden like the birds in the V formation? Do we have friends who let us take a rest when we are tired? Do we have friends who lead us when we are in doubt, yet providing warm company?

Well, that just doesn’t happen. My good friend, Sandra always says that we have to be intentional about it. Plan a time of fellowship together. Share a meal together. Share your concerns. Share your joys. Share your hopes. Share your dreams. Enjoy one another. As you do so, the deep meaning of V formation is formed in your heart – and God will knit your hearts together.

C. W. Lewis said this –

True friends don’t spend time gazing into each other’s eyes. They may show great tenderness towards each other, but they face in the same direction – towards common projects, goals – above all, towards a common Lord.

Today’s posting is specially for –

My best friend, Sandra for her inspirations in many things in my life over the past 20 years or so, who has always been intentional about our fellowship together. Thank you for the chatting till 3 am the other night! You really have to be intentional about it!

And also to my new friends, CK, PK and YL for their inspirations in my life in their special ways.

13/5/2005 – a dear friend sent me this picture. Not as beautiful as what I have seen in the sky of Sibu – first love is always the deepest?

The Grandfather

I read bits and pieces of the late Mr Wee Kim Hui’s funeral recently. I was especially touched by the words of his granddaughter, Hui Min. When my father-in-law went to the Lord in October last year, my 9-year old son missed him so much that he would cry to sleep every night. He would cry everytime when he do something that he used to do together with his grandfather.

When the Lord received my own mother back home in 2000, my daugther was also 9 years old. It took her a long, long time to get over it.

To my children, grandparents are their friends, companions, mentors and loving grandparents. And I know many grandparents are more than grandparents to the their grandchildren.

Here are bits and pieces that I pick up from the various news articles of what Mr Wee’s granddaughters had to say about him –

He lived
He was a man who loved life and lived it to the fullest.
A man who put himself up as a shinning example – in life and in death.

The granddaugther’s revelation : My grandpa wasn’t fuddy-duddy. He was fun.

He collected snuff bottles and coins, travelled the world, played sports, planted fruit tress and especially ‘loved the smell and taste’ of hazelnut coffee, ice-cream and chocolates.
How much?

So much that whenever his grandchildren dropped by at his workplace, he would give them a cheeky wink, open his drawer and fish out ‘a secret stash of Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates’.

A secret he kept under lock and key, away from his disapproving but well-intentioned wife.
A sweet man with a sweet tooth.

His favourite ice-cream flavour? Rum and raisin.

The most vivid memory for Hui Min: Evening jaunts to the neighbourhood Baskin-Robbins ice-cream parlour in Japan when Mr Wee was Ambassador there.

She was just 10 and on holiday. But her grandpa indulged her (and himself) every day for a whole two weeks.

He learned
He is convinced that we go on learning till our last breath on this planet.
‘Every day is a new day.’

He loved
His love for humanity dwarfed only by his immeasureable love for his wife of 69 years.
She was ‘the rock of his wife’s life’.

‘His last thoughts were for her. They were holding hands when he finally went to sleep this Monday morning.’

He loved her so much he kept a special list of her favourite songs, lovingly typewritten and kept safely in a folder, ‘ready to be whipped out at any time’.

I thank my grandfather from the bottom of my heart, for showing what it really means to love another person. The stories of his life are to me, all stories about love.

He revered and respected life, even the life of an animal.

If you wish to honour his memory in your life – then live your life to the full, stand by your friends, cherish your family, listen to everyone with an open mind and welcome those who cross your path with an open heart.

What life. What love. What a great grandfather.