Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE CLEAN PLATYPUS

Some days seem magical—things go well, I try some new ideas, I have something to show for the hours I’ve spent at various tasks. Then there are other times when I get to the end of the day struggling to find something of note that I accomplished. Sure, the kids were fed and dressed, they did their home-learning activities, they played in the park … but I still feel I want more. I want to be able to check off several things from my long to-do list. I want to be able to say I made leaps of progress. But rather than that, I feel like I’m falling further behind in so many areas of life.
At the end of a long day a few months back, I was trying to push off the weight of despondency from having so much to take care of, with problems piling up faster than I could keep up with. Then I walked into the bathroom and found Patrick (two years old) had taken his soft, fuzzy, stuffed platypus, filled up the sink, given it a good wash, and now had poured baking soda (which I use for cleaning the sink) all over it.
I didn’t need more messes to clean up. But it did look kinda cute, so I chuckled to myself, thinking, Even though I can’t seem to get around to any of my other goals, at least the platypus is clean!
Later, as I looked at the children, happy, cozy in bed, waiting for their bedtime story, I decided to change my criteria for “accomplishment” and a “good day.”
Now I go down a new list and see how many “checks” I can put.
• Did I help my children smile today?
• Was I patient when things didn’t go smoothly?
• Did I show each son that I loved him personally?
• Was I available to help, listen, and encourage, even at the cost of not “getting something done”?
• Did I pray for someone today?
• Did I laugh and choose to take things in stride when I felt like I was being pushed over the edge?
Tomorrow’s another day. Eventually the to-do list will work out. Plod. Breathe. Smile. Plod. Breathe. Smile. We’ll get there, eventually, wherever “there” is actually meant to be.
Matthew 6:33 ESV / But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Romans 12:2 ESV / Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Luke 12:34 ESV / For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MUD AND PALACES

As much as we would like it, life is not always as wonderful as we’d wish, and we sometimes find ourselves having to brave the tumult of experiences that are hard to bear. Sometimes, when our patience and faith are tried, when all our attempts to do the right thing end up caked in the mud of problems and troubles, it seems impossible to find a sense of value in what we’re doing.
It’s easy under these circumstances to feel like our days are as hard to wade through as a mud pit, but we can draw encouragement and motivation from the fact that we’re not alone. God’s power and love have to be demonstrated in the worst of times as well as the best. They have to work in the mud, not just the palace.
Consider the apostle Paul. Here is a man whom many Christians look to as an example of unshakable faith in the face of ongoing persecution and difficulties. However, even though he usually remained positive in the face of his struggles, he had his share of “mud” times.
Immediately after his encounter with Jesus and subsequent conversion in Damascus, Paul threw himself into the life of a disciple. He gave it his all, only to find that his change of heart had so enraged his former Jewish colleagues that they had assassins planning to kill him before he could leave the city. Neither was he trusted by his new brethren in Christ—his prior persecution of Christians even caused many of them to doubt the sincerity of his conversion.
When he was abandoned and shipped off to his hometown of Tarsus, it must have been very difficult for Paul to avoid feeling that he’d failed. But he didn’t give up, and in time God sent Barnabas with the vision to spread the gospel in Asia Minor and eventually throughout the Roman Empire.
It’s true that many great men of faith had moments when they were “flying high,” like Joseph with Pharaoh, or Elijah calling down fire from heaven, or Daniel in the lions’ den, but most of the time they were down there in the mud with everyone else, because that’s where their faith could be clearly demonstrated and strengthened.
One moment, Joseph was on top of the world; the next, he was being sold into slavery in a foreign land. Then he worked his way up until eventually he was running the household of one of Egypt’s most prominent figures. But again, his success was short-lived, as he found himself the victim of this man’s vengeful wife, who landed him in a prison cell for standing up for his convictions.
He must have felt like a total washout, but he used what little he had to carry on, even interpreting dreams for some other unlucky souls down in the “mud” of the prison. It was two years before he was released and catapulted into the position God had prepared for him as second in command in Egypt.
And then there’s Moses. God had allowed Moses to be raised in Pharaoh’s court; yet young, strong, and confident Moses was not ready to become the instrument God would use to free His people. God had to put him down in the mud of Midian, struggling for 40 years in the wilderness as an exile until he was ready for God to fulfill His plan through him.
And what about Jesus? He certainly had “mud” time! He even said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
If you’ve ever felt like things in your life have gone so wrong that God could no longer rescue you, just remember what King David said. He’d done some terrible things, yet he knew that he’d never be abandoned by the divine love that held on to him through everything.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
Jesus works in each of our lives in a tailor-made way because no two people or lives are exactly the same. God’s examples of those He calls great all had one thing in common: they were determined to stay faithful through times when they couldn’t see God’s plan for them. Whatever the present and future hold for you, remember that He’s promised He will walk through it all by your side, whether in the palace or the mud.
Acts 7:29-30 (NIV) When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.
Matthew 8:20 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Acts 2:38 (NIV) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 18, 2017

STEP BY STEP

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)
Winners have the ability to step back from the canvas of their lives like an artist gaining perspective. They make their lives a work of art—an individual masterpiece.
—Denis Waitley (b. 1933)
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
—David Lloyd George (1863–1945)
The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.
—Mark Caine
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
—Lao Tzu (c. 604–531 BC)
Life is a series of steps. Things are done gradually. Once in a while there is a giant step, but most of the time we are taking small, seemingly insignificant steps on the stairway of life.
—Ralph Ransom (1874–1908)
Focused, hard work is the real key to success. Keep your eyes on the goal and just keep taking the next step towards completing it.
—John Carmack (b. 1970)
The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
—Author unknown
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.
—Author unknown
Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.
—Napoleon Hill (1883–1970)
The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs.
—Vance Havner (1901–1986)
Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.
—Dag Hammarskjold (1905–1961)
May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet,
Trials to keep you strong, sorrow to keep you human,
Hope to keep you happy, failure to keep you humble,
Success to keep you eager, friends to give you comfort,
Wealth to meet your needs, enthusiasm to look forward,
Faith to banish depression,
And determination enough to make each day better than yesterday.
—Author unknown
Psalm 37:23 (NIV)
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
James 1:12 (NIV) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Announcements

Penang Open Day 
Date: 30 Sept (Sat)
Time: 9am - 1pm
Venue: TSA Penang Children's Home
Reminder: Please return and settle your coupons by 24 Sept (Sun)

Senior Citizen Fellowship
Date: 23 Sept (Sat)
Time: 8am
Venue: Dim Sum @Abu Siti Lane

Visit by Colonel Lyndon and Bronwyn Buckingham
(Territorial Commander & Territorial President for Women's Ministries)
Date: 23-24 Sept (Sat-Sun)
Details: Working visit and will bring forth the word of God on Sunday, 24 Sept.

Birthday Celebration
Date: 24 Sept (Sun)
Venue: After sunday holiness service.

RED NILE

For my ninth birthday, I got an instruction book on watercolor painting. I was thrilled and eagerly flipped through its pages, only to frown in disappointment—the entire first quarter of the book consisted of tonal exercises and descriptions of brush strokes and color mixing. How boring! Sighing, I skimmed the book’s next section: advice on various paintbrushes and grades of paper. I don’t need all this. Where’s the fun part?
I skipped to the middle of the book, where a still-life painting of strawberries caught my eyes. The finished product looked promising, and the step-by-step instructional photos seemed easy to follow. Here was the real action! I dipped my paintbrush into the water and began.
The base wash of lemon yellow for the highlights on my strawberries went smoothly enough, but when I tried to apply the orange paint for the mid-tones, it turned out that my mixture contained far too much water and far too little paint. I had never mixed paint and had no idea how it’s properly done.
The thin, poor-quality paper I was using refused to absorb the deep red for the darkest tones and began to dissolve into soggy shreds, over-saturated by the abundant, watery washes of paint that I hadn’t allowed to dry. My beautiful colors resembled a plague-stricken Nile River!
In a desperate attempt to salvage my efforts, I tried to paint on the strawberries’ green caps, but my oversized paintbrush sent green paint streaking into the red wash, forming a grotesque brownish pool. By the time I managed to clean up my soggy mess, I’d determined to never pick up a paintbrush again.
By morning, however, my devastation had given way to new resolve: I would spend some of my precious pocket money on the correct materials, and I’d take the time to study and practice. Eventually, I had the pleasure of painting those landscape and still-life pieces—yes, even the strawberries—and I saw then how all that “boring stuff” had been the foundation for my later success.
I often long to reach my goals quickly and easily and become dismayed and disheartened when I face obstacles, setbacks, and difficulties along the way. I haven’t discovered a magic pill for success, but the “Red Nile” lesson reminds me to buckle down and persevere through the tedious, unpleasant, or tough times. That’s the only way to get strawberries on a canvas.
Philippians 3:13-14 ESV / Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 6:33 ESV / But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV / Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

PLANNING FOR SUCCESS

Faced with a major project or challenge? You probably have a general idea of where you want to go, but it takes a strategy, a plan of the steps to take in order to reach that objective.
Planning is an investment. To plan wisely and well takes time, effort, patience‚ good research, and counsel—and for those of us who include a spiritual dimension, time in prayer—but a well-formed plan will pay for itself many times over.
There are many ways to create a strategy, but here are a few tried-and-proven principles:
1. Define your long-term objectives.
What exactly do you hope to achieve? Spell out each objective in concrete, concise terms. For the greatest chance of success, narrow your focus to a few primary objectives. You can take on more or diversify later, as resources permit.
2. Set short-term goals.
In order to reach your long-term objectives, stepping stones are needed along the way. These should be smaller goals that get you closer to the final destination. As much as possible, they should be detailed and specific, concrete and measurable.
Reaching large objectives takes time. Having a number of smaller goals will help keep your motivation level high, because you’ll see more tangible progress. And every time you tick off one of your smaller goals, you’ll be that much closer to your long-term objective.
3. Identify any obstacles.
Once you have determined your long-term objectives and your short-term goals, take a look at any obstacles that stand in the way of achieving the results you’re after. If you are alert to potential problems, you can head them off by seeking out potential solutions.
4. Formulate a strategy.
Once you have determined your long-term objectives and the short-term goals, it’s helpful to have a plan that includes specific tasks that will help you reach each of your short-term goals. Your plan should be realistic. A lofty plan may look impressive, but if it’s too complicated or difficult to implement, it will never get off the ground.
If your project involves working with others, assign the specific tasks to those who will be involved. Determine who will be responsible for each step and when they should have it done by. Accountability is vital to success.
5. Ask God for guidance.
Once you’ve taken the preceding steps, ask God to confirm that you’re going in the right direction, that you have chosen the right priorities, that you haven’t overlooked anything crucial, and that your long-term objectives and your short-term goals are realistic. “Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
6. Document the plan.
Having a written plan clearly helps avoid things being forgotten or left undone. Good documentation is vital for follow-through, accountability, and gauging progress. Many people find it helpful to keep a project diary.
7. Execute!
The most common pitfall of planning is failing to implement the plan. People invest in creating a great plan, and they have the best intentions for carrying it out. But things come up, life is busy, and they don’t follow through.
8. Pray it through.
Ask God for His help in bringing your project to fruition. “Ask and it shall be given you.”
9. Monitor your progress.
Set in place a means to monitor progress at regular intervals. Make sure that tasks are getting done when they’re supposed to and that progress is being made toward reaching your short-term goals. If you don’t stop regularly to check your “map” and see where you are, you’re less likely to stay on the road to success.
10. Expect the unexpected.
Be flexible. Things rarely happen exactly as we imagine they will. As you monitor your progress, be prepared for new factors and adapt accordingly. If something comes up that makes it impossible to carry out a task as you had hoped‚ look around for alternatives. If something isn’t working, change it. Generally follow your plan, but don’t set it in stone.
11. Keep it simple.
When you first plan something, it often looks simple enough. But as you go along, the project grows—either because you keep adding new ideas or because things are just more complicated than you thought—and usually some of both. Recognize when your plan is becoming overloaded‚ and determine what is necessary and what is not. Be willing to cut the frills and scale back on aspects that are just too costly in terms of resources.
12. Celebrate your successes.
Don’t wait till you reach your long-term objectives before you celebrate; marking the completion of short-term goals generates satisfaction and excitement.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Matthew 7:7 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
1 John 5:14-15 (NIV) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Friday, September 15, 2017

LIFE’S BALANCING ACT

“My business is doing well,” a friend recently told me, “but I’m having more trouble with allergies than ever. It seems like when I stress out, they get worse, and I’m wondering if it’s related.”
Being busy is something we can all relate to, yet Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The word “yoke” in this verse has little meaning for most of us urban city dwellers, but here in Asia, you still often see both men and women carrying huge loads to market. They manage by using a wooden frame across the shoulders with baskets hanging from each end. The secret is in keeping a perfect balance. They’ve developed a rhythmic walk so neither basket swings too far out on either side.
Even though Jesus knew His time on earth was short, He didn’t get frantic and try to cram as much as He could into each working day. Instead, He managed to carry His big loads by keeping a balance, resting when He was tired, and encouraging His disciples to do the same. He also made time to get away, pray and hear from His Father.
We too can carry big loads if we get into the right rhythm, keeping a balance between attending to our responsibilities and taking time away to rest and recharge.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7 NLT
A time for everything: A time to relax and a time to be busy, a time to frolic and a time to labor, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish.—Jonathan Lockwood Huie (b. 1944)
It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.—Author unknown
The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.—Gordon Hinckley (1910–2008)
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.—Thomas Merton (1915–1968)
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV / Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Isaiah 30:15 ESV / For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,
Psalm 37:7 ESV / Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

FRIENDLY WITH GOD

I think most parents would agree that the highest hopes we have for our children are for their health and happiness. Recently, I’ve been wondering if there was something more specific that I could be asking God for on my daughter Audrey’s behalf, and I considered praying for her future success.
It seemed like a good request, when defined as being fulfilled, finding our place in the world and thriving in it. But it’s the other, more materialistic, meanings that left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. You see, I don’t think success can be measured by money, gadgets, or the people we know. That kind of success is usually fleeting and doesn’t guarantee happiness.
Take Mother Teresa (1910–1997), who labored for decades among the poorest of the poor in Kolkata, India. She lived in poverty and often faced immense opposition and difficulties. Yet in my book—and, no doubt, God’s—she was definitely a success, someone whose life was entirely dedicated to Jesus and others, and who fulfilled her destiny.
That’s not to say that success and happiness can only be found in the kind of total devotion and abnegation that Mother Teresa demonstrated, but it illustrates how success and happiness can come in many different ways.
The other day, I came across the following quote by the Scottish evangelist and author Oswald Chambers (1874–1917): “God’s call is for you to be His loyal friend, to accomplish His purposes and goals for your life.” A life that accomplishes God’s goals and purposes—whatever those are in each case—sounds like a successful life, and a person who’s on friendly terms with God sure sounds like a happy person.
In a nutshell, that’s the kind of success I wish for Audrey—and myself, for that matter.
Psalm 37:4 ESV / Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Ecclesiastes 3:12 ESV / I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
Philippians 4:4 ESV / Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.