Monday, September 26, 2011

Unending Love, Amazing Grace

My chains are gone. I’ve been set free,
my God, my Saviour has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy reigns,
Unending love, Amazing grace.
From the song “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
By J. Newton, J. Rees, E. Excell, C. Tomlin, and L. Giglio
On Wednesday last week, I spent a good chunk of the day just being quiet. I also spent some time praying. By the time I was writing on my journal what I sensed the Lord was telling me, I knew that I was feeling inadequate in all areas of my life. I just felt like I was not doing anything well. By then I had my iPhone on and had it on shuffle (a feature that randomly chooses the songs it plays from a collection of songs selected). The playlist (or collection of songs) I picked then had 622 songs. I calculated that if each song played for three and a half minutes each, it’d take me 36 hours, or a day and a half to finish listening to all the songs once. I explained that because what happened truly BAFFLES me. I am convinced that my phone is possessed by the Holy Spirit! I should point out that my first phone was a gift but I lost it in the airport in South Korea. A friend in Korea then gave me this phone I’m using, as a Christmas gift last year. These events were narrated in "Lost and Found", "I'd Rather Have You" and "Living Right" (1-15 December 2010 postings). It arrived on Valentine’s Day and was hand delivered to me by my friend Grace ("Grace Came", February 15, 2011 posting). All to say that having this phone in the first place is only because of God’s grace. Maybe it’s why the Lord keeps using it to speak to me; this way I won't ever forget.

As I began writing, the song “Amazing Grace” played. It is impossible but it played three times! I investigated and found that I actually listened for a total of 37 minutes. The first time it played, I didn't think much of it. Different songs were playing “randomly”. In my mind, I just thought, “YES, (grace) that’s exactly what I need”. Minutes later though, I heard the “Amazing Grace” song by Chris Tomlin and others, not once, but TWO MORE TIMES! Because it played a third time, I knew it played for a reason. It was obvious that the Lord was telling me that His grace was sufficient for me. I was deeply touched and crying. How DOES He do it? I checked to see – in case I was dazed for some reason – by looking at all the songs that played. There it was, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” listed twice, only separated by another song labelled “Track 03”. Three, is our Lord’s number to me ("March 3rd", March 9, 2011 posting). Just in case I wasn’t getting it with the repetitive song playing (I could be truly slow =D), Papa God signed it.

I should explain that there are some songs duplicated on my playlist. Chris Tomlin's song is one of those songs. I also have an older version of "Amazing Grace" sung by another group. So yes, I do have 3 copies of the song but the fact that all three played on the same 37-minute session is NOT probable. Today, I drove Eric to Kingston (almost six hours of driving) and I listened for at least two hours (same playlist on shuffle) but I didn't hear the song play even once. On shuffle, I may will a song to play, but it won't. It's obviously not a problem for God, though. He's TOO GOOD. Nothing is impossible for Him!

Thank you, Lord, your unending love and grace is unfathomable and incomprehensible. It truly boggles the mind. As I’ve been pondering what happened since Wednesday, I sat at the church service this morning and what do you know, there it was again! Even as I thanked the Lord for who He is and what He does, the same song above was sung. Such grace, such love, how can I not LOVE Him back?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our New Normal

It’ll change some more in the future but for now, we are at our “new normal”. Evan and Eric are at their respective universities while Eli and Ethan are the only ones living at home with us.

We are now settled at this house in Markham, Ontario. It has four bedrooms but we can only use three as one bedroom is used by the owner of the house to store their things in. It is a spacious home with two living and two dining rooms, a finished basement, and a porch deck. We are thrilled to be living in this house, truly a wonderful provision from God!

Eric, Ethan, and Evan were belting out a song that was playing on the radio when this picture was taken. We were on our way to Evan's college to bring him to his townhouse shared with six flat mates. We took off one of the middle seats so our van could accommodate more of Evan’s things. Among many of the things he brought along were a bicycle and a rice cooker.

Eric is now renting a room in a pastor’s home in Kingston where he is attending university. The house is conveniently located less than two kilometers away from his school. He is able to use the pastor’s bicycle to get around. His bedroom window overlooks the church that he goes to. Along with the new digs, school, and course load, he is fixing his own meals. We’d be glad to see him when he visits this week-end.

Eli is happily attending Grade 10 at a public high school. He recently found out that he made it to the school’s soccer team. Ethan and Eli also joined the community’s soccer club that will play at a covered dome. They’ll start in October and can keep playing until April 2012. On Saturday, they’ll start a job delivering flyers to homes in the neighbourhood to help with their expenses. As seen on this picture, he rides the bicycle to school, usually with a helmet!

Ethan wasn’t too thrilled when he found out he had to tuck his shirt in as part of his uniform at his new school. Here he is wearing his cardigan and looking very dapper on Day One. He was so eager to get started. He’d been off school since late May and only started last week. Having had over 14 weeks of summer break, he was so ready for school. =) He started 5th grade.

A very handsome looking wild rabbit hops around in our backyard periodically. We enjoy watching it nibble at the grass and weeds in the garden. Our sons talked about catching it, eating it, or taking it to make it their pet but as soon as any of us go out to the back porch, it quickly hops away out of sight. Smart rabbit!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our Strength

He who sits in the heavens laughs...
Psalm 2:4

This past week was a little harder on the heart than usual. I won't go into details with the other reasons but we drove Eric to Kingston (three hours away) and got him settled in his room. He didn’t get in the university’s dorm but the Lord graciously provided him a room to live in through a pastor that we knew. The house is located less than two kilometres from his university (where he’s going) and he has access to bus transit (free for students) should he decide not to walk. Eric's just starting university so it’s the first time for him to live apart from us for an extended period. It will take some time for us to get used to him not being around. Thankfully, he plans to come home some week-ends and definitely during breaks. =) We’ll be glad for visits from both him and Evan. The house seems strangely quieter since they left. Evan is finishing his last year of college in western New York.

The other news we received was from Eng’s 2nd brother from Malaysia. We just found out that he had Stage 4 cancer in his colon. They operated on him and later found out that the cancer had spread to his lungs. We are praying that during this difficult time, he will be spiritually healed and be more open to the gospel. In the past, he’d never been interested in hearing anything about God. May this time be a turning point in his life.

Eli started tenth grade and adjusted well in his first week. He now has a friend who lives just the next street over that he goes to school with and hangs out with. He’d also been trying out for the school’s soccer team. We’ll find out this week if he makes it.

The Lord continues to provide for Ethan through our friend Joy. She was also the same friend who talked to us about the school that Ethan is going to (in the August 14th posting of "Grace Extended"). Joy gave Ethan enough uniforms (PE included) in time for school which starts for him tomorrow.

I am surrounded by high school classmates in this photo. It was so good to reconnect. We laughed a LOT!

It occurred to me that I needed to be purposeful in understanding situations that gave me joy. Papa God laughs and so should we. Our happiness is circumstancial but joy is a fruit of the Spirit and goes much deeper. It is a knowing and resting on the reassurance that God has everything under control. Whatever we’re going through, we can trust that the Lord, because of His goodness, will make it work out for our good. As we delight in Him, regardless of our situations, His joy permeates our being and we are strengthened. The joy of the Lord truly is our strength!

Sometimes, there is a purposeful, conscious work involved in being intentional to acknowledge (or to tell ourselves) what gives us joy and what warms our hearts. It's necessary though so that our hearts swell with gratefulness and we begin to exude our laughing God. May we grow joyful each day and rejoice in Him always!

In this posting are pictures of joyful moments this week. Thanks, Papa God!

A lack of joy in our lives is the working of unbelief. When we have faith that Jesus will help us, guide us, and provide for us, the only thing left is to praise God and laugh in the face of adversity.
By Ivan Roman

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Life's Too Good

Life counts – all of it.
John Ortberg

This morning, I went to Unionville and took a walk. I’d wanted to return there since my birthday so it’s good that I finally had a chance to do it today. I enjoyed seeing the pond and the bigger birds in it: Canadian Geese, Mallard ducks, and even a Great Blue Heron. I also heard a loon but didn’t see it. I walked around the pond and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and foliage. I crossed several bridges; one had several fallen trees on the water while another had Cattails on both sides of it. I don’t know why they’re named after cats’ tails. They look more like sausages on reeds. =)

After awhile I saw a sign indicating that the pond is called Toogood Pond. Understanding the obvious, I chuckled that they chose “too good” to be its name. I suppose it’s better than calling it “Gorgeous Pond” since it is post card perfect.

Finally, I sat on a bench that was facing several weeping willow trees, a favorite. I reflected on my life here and being back in Canada and knew that I’ve been feeling like I was in the desert. I still haven’t found a caregiver for my parents, I’ve felt the pressure to care for them beyond the time that my family is willing to share me, I’m missing Evan and know I’ll miss Eric as well when he leaves on Tuesday. Relationally, there have been some disagreements and they all weighed heavily in my heart. Yet, as I sat there by Toogood Pond, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the obvious. It was like a magnet. Life is in fact too good. Yes, everything I pointed above is still true but even as I deal with what’s difficult, the Lord is using it to change me. My pleasant and unpleasant circumstances are opportunities for Him to work in my heart and not just on how I see things but more importantly, on how I respond to those around me. Difficult situations are actually there to help me mature as I deal with them. Life is not too hard, it’s too good. The fact that I believe Him makes my life too good!

As John Ortberg points out in his book, "The Life You’ve Always Wanted",

Our season of life – whatever it is – is no barrier to having Christ formed in us. Not in the least.

The Lord will use whatever we’re going through to mold and shape us and change us from glory to glory. Alleluia. Nothing is ever wasted. Thank you, Lord, You are brilliant!