Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Gift

Time is precious… enjoy the moment before the sun sets.
Alex Soh
No, the best gift is not an iPhone, although it’s a good one. =) This Christmas, I learned that the best gift is time. As I pondered on this, I realized that even Jesus took the time to be born as a man and do what He did. And my position probably has a lot to do with the fact that quality time is my very first love language (touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and service being the other ones). Like it or not though, we cannot do or deliver any of the other love languages without spending time. It is the one common denominator in all of them. We cannot write or say the words of affirmation, buy the gifts, touch, or serve, without setting aside the time to do it. Time will always be used. We cannot offer anything nor express love without using it.

This is how I got to this realization. First of all, this Christmas was different from all the others. It’s the first that we spent without Evan. We missed him and sleeping beside the Christmas tree was just not the same without him. We are consoled by the fact that he spent Christmas with my parents and siblings in Toronto. Secondly, Eng’s mom and brother (and family) from Malaysia were here (from 19-26 December). Seng is Eng’s only Christian brother (of four) so it was extra special that we were able to celebrate Christmas together. We did the usual touristy activities the week they were here so we were busy. We also took time to go camping (a first!) with the Moores (this was mentioned in our Canadian Thanksgiving post) and other families. And for Christmas day, we decided to invite friends who don’t have families to hang out with us so twenty of us were all gathered at the Moores. It was a lot of fun!

What Eng and I didn’t quite anticipate were the protests we received when we told our sons that we’d have our own Christmas celebration on the 26th after the relatives left. They were so disappointed and frustrated not to open their gifts on the 25th! I was really quite surprised by the drama that played out before me! I didn’t really think a day would make all that difference! However, we heard our sons and we’ve learned not to postpone our celebration without them understanding what we’re doing. In the end, Eric said that it wasn’t about the gifts. He said he just thought this year would be different from last year. He added that we were so busy last year that we didn’t have time to take him to the hospital when he talked to us about his neck. Ouch. Eng’s mom and Evan were both here last year. We also had Eng’s 50th surprise birthday party on the 2nd of January to prepare for. Time sure flew then. That same time was not spent on Eric’s request. Regardless of how we can explain where our time went, the fact is, had his neck been looked at sooner, it might have decreased the amount of treatment (chemo and radiation) he needed for his cancer. We should have taken the time then to get him looked at. Thank you, Lord, for our lesson. I see that Eric’s cancer was healed earlier this year but as we give him our time now (to talk, for driving lessons, his wart removal, playing games, etc.); he’s receiving the healing of anger in his heart. In this case, as they say, time (literally) heals. Let’s use it wisely. If we don’t, we could end up with hurt loved ones. We’ll find, like Evan that loved ones wouldn’t be around to give time to. And as we’ll all someday “set”, we won’t be around to give it.

Incidentally, Eric ate 33 pieces of sushi, a small pizza, and two servings each of Tiramisu and Cream Brulee when we had our Christmas buffet meal. For those praying for his eating, thank you, the Lord is surely answering you!

Eli made us realise that we're God's gifts to one another when as an eleven month old baby (above), he slept under the Christmas tree on Christmas eve. Over the years, we've had our own versions of sleeping by the tree - as this year's picture shows.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Joyous Christmas

May you have a Spirit filled Christmas celebration,
full of God's love, joy, and peace.

With love and blessings from all of us,
Eng & Linda, Eli, Eric, and Ethan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living Right

Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this Godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves…
2 Corinthians 7:9a, 10-11
It’s interesting that we don’t question and scrutinize what we do. It’s far easier to rationalize our actions, especially when their correctness is dubious and it’s more convenient not to do what’s right. So, we park on the wrong side of the street, or do a U-turn in a clearly marked no U-turn street. I’ve done this. I’ve even sped up in our neighborhood. What was I thinking, or why was I not thinking, all those times? This is my other lesson from having lost my phone. I had to cancel the phone plan on it and realized that since the plan wasn’t registered in my name, I couldn’t do it. The plan belonged to our friend who left Thailand in June. Instead of closing the plan, he passed it on to my husband who used it for awhile then passed it on to me. Nice. I began using the plan and didn’t think much of it. I paid the bill on it and no one said anything. It became an issue when I tried to close the plan because I had no authority to do so, just like I had no authority to use the plan in the first place! I would have saved myself the embarrassment of trying to explain the situation to the company had I thought about what I was doing first. Thank you, Papa God, that I lost that phone! I really do feel more honest now.

I also resolved to think more of what I do. I cannot be on “cruise control”. The other day, I rode my motorbike on major roads to get to a nearby restaurant. As I raised my hands to remove my helmet, I ended up touching my head. I had no helmet! I rode all the way there without even realizing I didn’t have one on! Am I the only one like this? Folks, let’s put our thinking caps on and keep them on. Our minds are there to be used at all times. It can’t be good when you’re completely clueless as to what you’re doing! Let’s live right, and think right.

And just to update on the phone, God is providing me with a new one through my friend in Korea who wants to give me one for Christmas. How appropriate that another friend will spend their Christmas there (in Korea) and can bring me the new phone back. I’ve also had the chance to look at what’s stored in my computer and realized that most of what I thought were lost (songs, pictures, etc.), weren’t! Because I’ve backed up the contents of my phone on my computer, I’ve only really lost a total of 2-3 weeks worth of stuff. Grace is receiving what you don’t deserve. It’s mercy. Papa God, I really do get it. I’m acknowledging this because the name of the friend leaving for Korea in a few days, the one bringing me the gift of a new phone in the new year, is Grace. I get it Lord, I am touched by all this, all that’s happened, and I thank you, and love you. I cannot help but love you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'd Rather Have You

In addition to what’s already been shared in last week’s posting, I’d like to add that at some point during the evening flight from Korea to Chiang Mai, I felt I really needed encouragement. I think it was just after Ju (the Chief Purser) told me that they received a call from the Korean grounds crew at the airport and the phone couldn’t be found. I remember talking to God and saying, “Lord, can you help me even as I’m way up here?” I just finished reading a book that told me to read Psalm 56 aloud, to encourage myself, so I set out to do it. I borrowed a Bible (tiny!) and stood right under the light for my seat and turned to it. The verses below spoke to me so I read it aloud at least three times (Note that I inadvertently turned to Psalm 36 instead of Psalm 56!):

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Psalm 36:5-7
I was amazed that there I was, in a flying plane cruising at thousands of miles above the earth, literally in the skies, and the Lord spoke of His love and faithfulness that reaches to the heavens. What a God, how truly incomprehensible and priceless is His unfailing love! He knew where I was, what I needed, what would speak to me. Had I correctly turned to Psalm 56, it would have told me not to be afraid but to trust Him. Well, I wasn’t feeling fear and I do trust Him so those verses wouldn’t have done much for me. I just know that I had to make that mistake. In the dimness of the lighting in the plane, He turned me to the right verses.

Secondly, because the phone was a wedding anniversary gift (in February) from Eng, I was truly concerned about his reaction. He’s the type that when something gets lost (especially expensive ones!), he gets distressed (and all of us along with him!) and mad. It was one of my prayers that he would take my unfortunate news well. When I told him about it on Monday morning though, all he said was that he was sorry to hear it. Wow(!). Later at school, I cried as I realized the grace, what God had done for me. I chose to be grateful that I had that phone for as long as I did but I was also grieved for all that I lost (pictures, recorded songs and prayers, notes, etc.). I’m glad though that when I did cry, it was because of the Lord's kindness.

The next day, I went to Eng and told him that I was thankful that he wasn’t mad at me for losing the phone. It was then that he said the above, “I’d rather have you (than the phone)." That was the sweetest statement he’d said to me in a long time. =)

Lastly, my friend in Korea offered to buy me an iPhone to replace the one I lost. I don’t know that she actually will but when she wrote that, it really ministered to me. I knew that God was loving me and answering my prayers through her. I don’t deserve her offer, nor any of what’s happened (and all that I've learned as noted in last week's “Lost and Found” posting). For that and more, I’m really glad I lost the phone! That there is a crazy statement but an honestly TRUE one.

Oh, and just to satisfy your curiosity, I found out the next day that I turned to the wrong chapter in Psalms when I wanted to read the passage again. I rightly turned to Psalm 56 and was confused when the verses were missing. Only after investigating did I find out that the verses were in Psalm 36. God is just too good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lost and Found

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Cor 4:17-18
I unbelievably left or dropped my iPhone in the waiting area of Incheon International Airport in Korea. By the time I realized I didn’t have it on me, I asked to get off the plane so I can retrieve it but I was told that it was too late. I waited helplessly as the plane taxied off and flew us back here to Chiang Mai. During the flight, the Chief Purser Ko Bong Ju assisted me in going through all my belongings (in case the iPhone somehow made it). Alas, I was right and it was somewhere in the waiting area of Gate 19. I asked Ju if he could get the folks at the airport to search for the iPhone near the gate. He agreed and soon relayed the request to the grounds crew in Korea. I also asked Ju if he would believe there is a God if the iPhone was found. He said, “Maybe”. Halfway through our flight, he told me that it couldn’t be found. He said it was an expensive phone and someone probably took it. I realize the iPhone is expensive and people do steal but I believe even more that nothing is impossible with God. If He wants to, He can make the iPhone materialize. The only question is whether He wants to.

I learned a lot after being iPhone-less. I relied too much in it! Because it had the Bible on it, I read from 3 different books daily but as I took a real Bible to read from on Monday, I didn’t know what chapters I was in. I had everything bookmarked (and highlighted) and didn’t have to remember anything. I had all my appointments in it too so now, I don’t really remember what’s upcoming (time and details). It had all my notes; my Christmas list, who I want to see, what I want to buy, what I want to ask a friend. Where did my memory go? How and when did I allow it to be barely used? In the 9 months that I’ve had the iPhone, I’ve changed from a person who remembers to someone who can’t remember much! This is scary! How could I have allowed that to happen? Considering that my mother has Alzheimer's, remembering is something I should keep doing. I now picture myself in jail for my faith and without my iPhone, there isn’t much that I could encourage myself with!

In the last three days though, I found myself remembering more. I actually listen to my sons better when we part in the morning. They can no longer call me after school so we “listen” to one another well. I like it.

On Monday, I saw and acknowledged Grace (a teacher) three times. We don’t work near one another so I don’t typically see her. I now understand why I saw her three times then. Losing my iPhone is God’s grace to me. Yes, I had a nifty gadget but it didn’t have to do all my remembering for me. It shouldn’t have taken up so much of my time. In Korea, there was internet access anywhere we went so I was constantly on my email. Worst of all, I was proud of owning and using such a gadget. It’s no wonder that the Lord opposed me. I repent.

Whatever I deserve as outcome for my iPhone I don’t yet know, but I did grasp how I should use one. Yes, I did lose it, but I found answers. If I ever own one again, may the Lord be Lord in how I use it. God is able to restore what we lose but even if He doesn’t, He is still good and praiseworthy.

Lastly, I also receive that “God wants me to be a survivor and a “thriver”, not just to survive my catastrophe, but to thrive because of it.” (By Harold Ivan Smith) Amen.