Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcoming the New Year – 2014

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Isaiah 43:18-19

Between the holidays, we were able to
              go camping at Doi Inthanon. The falls above
           was a find during one of my walks.
Today, we spent some time praying and thanking God for the first six months of 2013. Only Eli and Ethan were here to pray with us (Eng and I). This year, Evan and Eric didn’t come back to Chiang Mai to celebrate the holidays with us as they intend to be here when Eli graduates in May. We gravely missed them! Tomorrow, we hope to finish praying through the remaining six months. Earlier in the day, Eng also shared about the verses above. As we talked, we pondered on what the “new thing” may be for all of us. We speculated awhile and then prayed that the Lord would prepare our hearts for what He has in store for us. We also prayed about the possibility that we may live back in Canada in two years when our term is over. We don’t really know what our future holds. We can only trust that the Lord will lead and guide us as He’d always done.
               Up until April this year, I was happily teaching ESL classes. Then, the Lord prompted me to apply for the Student and Family Life Ministries Coordinator position at school. I even protested because I didn’t think I could do it! In the end, the Lord’s will prevailed and I got the job. There really is no point in arguing with Him! However, the Lord didn’t abandon me. Instead, He helped me and provided what I needed to do the job well. Looking back at the semester, I can honestly say I enjoyed doing the new work more than my old ESL job! Papa God obviously knew what He was doing! =)
The temperature at Doi Inthanon
               went down to as low as 2 degrees
             at night. I succumbed and made
              a heater with tea light candles, two
         clay pots, and a bread pan.
            It worked! Thanks to FB!!!
Even Eng started managing our friend’s restaurant while they were away for eight months. He hadn’t done restaurant management in the past but just like to me, the Lord proved faithful and reliable in helping him do his financial management work and the management of the restaurant. He had now done both jobs concurrently for the last six months and with the Lord’s grace, he is managing well. Best of all, I know Eng would also say he is enjoying the restaurant management even more than his management job.
Which leads me to the point I’d like to make: the Lord desires to bless us with new experiences. The newness of the experiences is difficult as we gauge for the first time, the adjustments we need to make. BUT, the Lord is, and will always be there to help, encourage, and provide for us. Most of all, as we begin to take on new roles, we actually discover the joy found in doing them. If we don’t ever step out to obey God in the new tasks He gives us, how else will we discover the enjoyment of doing those tasks? It’s a remarkable process!
As 2014 starts, we’ll do well to allow God to lead and guide us and have us just follow Him. No matter how scary the journey looks, the ride will be worth it. Our Lord knows us best and He’s always right. May we completely trust Him with our lives. I know no one will regret it.

Our family picture without Evan and Eric.
             Ethan's at left, Eli, on right

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

     Evan and Eric weren't here for Christmas as they chose instead to save their trip so they could attend Eli's graduation in May. Currently, because there was an ice storm in Toronto which affected the power to 300,000 homes, we haven't heard from them. Please pray that their Christmas celebrations will be meaningful anyway, and full of Papa God's loving orchestrations and presence. The Lord is able to bless them more than us and we trust in His unfailing love for them.
     Already on Sunday, Eric posted the following: "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." I had been wanting a guitar for a while to replace my really old classical guitar, but was wondering how I would pay for one. Today, I received one completely free and not just any guitar, an EPIPHONE. God is indescribably good. Early Christmas! https://www.facebook.com/eric.j.yeong?fref=ts
     When we finally connect with them, there would certainly be more stories of God's goodness.
     Thank you, Lord, for your grand plan and amazing love in sending Jesus. In doing so, we found a way to be saved and learned how to love. We praise you and bless you! Happy birthday! =)
   
12 year old Ethan, Eng, Linda, and 17 year old Eli

      From our home to yours, we wish you all a blessed Christmas and a New Year with eyes opened to the goodness and love of Papa God. May Jesus be the source of all our hope, joy, strength, and peace. And may we constantly seek the Holy Spirit's guide and help throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

God's Love

This is the banner used as backdrop for the stage. I've
been told that some Thais who attended the CITP event
heard of the Christmas story for the first time in their lives.
 For this week, I thought to post the video that I helped get recorded for "Christmas in the Park" last Saturday. "Christmas in the Park" is the school's annual community Christmas celebration. It is held outside, on the grounds of the school, hence the name. The Thai neighbors in the area where the school is in, had always been invited. This year, together with the students and families of those who studied at our school, there were about 1200 people who attended. The place was packed with people who came as early as 5:45 p.m. even though we advertised that the gate only opened at 6:15 p.m. Apart from using that event to share our faith to the Thai people, it had been used to provide a venue where we could hang out as believers, sing Christmas carols, eat baked goods and drink hot chocolate, and fellowship with one another. There really aren't very many places in Chiang Mai where we could do all that. There are less than 1% Christians (although the numbers are increasing) in Thailand
Branson Reagan and Mary Brannon perfectly played 
Joseph and Mary during the program. To make it
interactive, they played their roles even before the program
and asked guests if they knew of a place for them to stay.

 so typically, Christmas is just another day. There would hardly be any decorations indicative of the day, it would be a regular working day, and no Christmas carols are sung. So, "Christmas in the Park" or CITP had been the answer to counter the loneliness of sometimes being the only odd ones in the neighborhood wanting to celebrate Christmas. During the event, it actually rained twice - quite heavily. Although a handful left, most of the people stayed and took shelter under the mats they were sitting on, or their plastic chairs which they upturned over their heads! When the rain abated, the mats were turned upside down so that the dry parts were the ones sat on. Later, I found out from friends that we were all praying that the rain would stop so that no one would get electrocuted! We all survived without anyone getting fried and enjoyed the evening tremendously. Apparently, the unusual heavy rain was due to a passing storm in a neighboring country. Based on the downpour almost the whole afternoon of the next day, we were actually blessed that it only rained twice for short periods. Thank you, Lord, for answered prayers!

This year's theme was "Love Came Down" so a 2+ minutes video was made of people answering the question of how God's love impacted or changed their lives. The video was shown during the event, specifically, after the birth of Jesus was re-enacted by actors while singers sang what was happening. It was particularly heart-warming when "Angels We Have Heard on High" was sung while angel actors in unison lifted their hands in worship. That is exactly what we should all do. If you wish to view the video, please click on this Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WqEpxVplHI&feature=youtu.be

God's love transformed me and filled my life with joy. What about you? How has His love changed you?




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Humility Pills

Because two weeks ago was very uniquely hard and because the volume of work at school had been overwhelmingly high, I was so grateful to get away for a day last week. It was extremely fulfilling and satisfying to do the familiar and just hang out with Papa God. In the end, I came home refreshed and ready to take on the work I left. I also began to understand a bit more about prayer and its power as I read a bit about Frank Laubach. He's one of the notable contemplative figures of his time. His life made me even more aware of who I am not and the ways I could do better with my prayer life. In the end, I experimented as he did, and prayed to see how the Lord answered my prayers. I got surprising results. His example of answered prayers was for his arm to be in the Lord's control during a tennis game, and then he won. After that, when he prayed for his opponent's arm to be in the Lord's control, the player did better. I thought it was worth a try to see how the Lord answered my prayers said in a similar vein.

Eli 's varsity team had their own tournament.
They placed third (like Ethan's team). Eli
played extremely well to end his soccer
season. The picture above was taken just
after Eng went over to congratulate him.
During Ethan's soccer tournament last Friday, my prayer was for the Lord to bless his legs and for the goalie to be blessed, also. When the games were done, Ethan's conclusion was that he "sucked" as a player. He missed a goal when he managed to get passed the other team's goalie. He was the only one there and it was an empty goal but instead of kicking the ball in, he kicked the ball over the goal post. Ethan is a pretty good player and that would have typically been an easy winner for him. Yet, he failed. Then, as the game ended with a tie in spite two overtime plays, they did a shootout. Each team sent players to kick the ball in the goal with the goalie there to stop it from going in. Ethan was one of those chosen. In the tension and excitement, his kick was blocked by the goalie, to his chagrin and dismay. They lost their game because of that and also because their goalie failed to stop the goals kicked his way during the shootout. On the ride home, Ethan wouldn't even let me buy him a smoothie - usually a sure way of brightening up his day! So to my initial confusion, I wondered how the Lord answered my prayer. How could that have been a blessing? Seriously? Was it? I specifically prayed for both players to be blessed and they both "messed up"? I didn't get it.

In my asking God what that was about, I was reminded of the tournament before when Ethan scored the winning goal and played extremely well. At that time, their goalie was flawless, also. Another teammate won the MVP award but one parent commented that Ethan should have gotten it. He probably could have. He's only twelve years old but was already playing for the U16 school team. But, the point I'm making is that Ethan and the goalie already had their "high" moments. What could another one just like that do for their character development? Surely, they had more to gain in being humbled?

I began to see that it was good for Ethan to learn how it felt to fail and not do well. I realized that he would automatically feel compassion for those who'd possibly miss their shootout kicks. Knowing what it feels like to fail, he'd know exactly how to encourage others. In this respect, wasn't it more of a blessing to lose? As for their goalie, my husband pointed out that in the past, he bordered on being "cocky" so the humbling was a good pill to take as well. The reality is, we could all use a bit of humility.

Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom in allowing us to have experiences where we are sometimes forced to take "humility pills". You know exactly what we need so we can become better people. I praise you for your wisdom, love, and compassion.




Monday, December 2, 2013

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
John Newton (1725-1807)

It took about 4 hours to get all those decorations up!
Last Saturday, the song above was played beautifully by a cellist and a violinist during a Talent Show. Although they were high school students at the school, they played it so well that by the time they got to the last chord, some people had tears in their eyes. For me, the music made me remember the happenings of the day. In the morning, I had volunteers come to the school to decorate it for “Christmas in the Park” (CITP). CITP is an outreach to the Thai neighbours in our community so that they’ll know about the God we celebrate. It’s also the event to bless all of us who celebrate Christmas. A very small fraction of Thais know what Christmas is about so they don’t do anything to celebrate it. CITP is a community event where the true meaning of Christmas is looked at. The place is decked up for the season, carols are played, baked goods are shared, hot cocoa drank, and folks come because the Christmas spirit is there. I can still remember our first Christmas, here. The neighborhood looked dismal and there was no sign of Christmas anywhere. When the first CITP was held seven years ago, I was so thrilled! We attended it and sang and heard carols publicly for the first time!

These girls had way too much fun!
This year, as part of my new job, I’m coordinating the event so I’m learning about the amount of hard work involved in putting it together. With it just less than two weeks away, there are still LOTS of work to do! Decorating the building is a major part of the work. I didn’t know how we could pull it off but we did! I credit God for it. He’s so amazingly GOOD!

For starters, the day was overcast so we were able to work without wilting in the sun. Then, an unusual yellow and blue colored butterfly hovered and flitted about while we worked. It almost looked like God was checking out the progress of our decorating efforts and giving encouraging thumbs up to each of us.

As the volunteers arrived, I assigned them in teams and each one just took to the task at hand. I asked for a painter to touch up the paint of the Nativity figures and one person actually volunteered and did her work for four straight hours! She only stopped for a short break and was immediately back to work. She even beamed in the end about how much she enjoyed her time! It was amazing! Best of all, she did a great job! I was going to order a replacement for two figures that were torn in half but she taped them up, painted over the tape, and it looked really good when she got done!

When we finished, the rays of sun came down. =)
Eng, Eli, and Ethan, all helped, as well, and they did fabulously. They were my only men so they did the wiring, carrying, hammering, installing, etc. Afterwards, Eng said he enjoyed the work he did. They attached the words “Merry Christmas” on top of the building and it can now be seen by the whole neighborhood. The whole morning was such a testament to the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. =) He is so amazing.
By past noon, the decoration job was completed just as the very hot sun came out. More importantly, I still have energy for two more weeks of hard work to get the event to happen. Judging from the way the Lord’s been blessing us, it’ll be a glorious time. I am looking forward to it. =)

The shepherd with a staff broke in half but you
could hardly tell after it was painted 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Franklin Graham Festival and Others

It’s been a very unusual week. Butterflies hovered around me at two different places and times and one was even while I was browsing at Chiang Mai Plastics. I mentioned the name because true to it, the store sold plastic ware and other dry goods. Nowhere in sight were potted flowers which were the ones that would typically attract butterflies. I don’t know why they appeared and from nowhere but I surely noticed them!

I was also quite relieved when I managed to invite Khun Ni, a non-believer gardener who works at school, to attend the Franklin Graham Festival. We went with her 12-year old daughter, our two sons, and Eng. It was on the second day of the 3 day festival and because I’d already been praying that many would turn to Jesus last week-end, we got there and I immediately joined the crowd in the anticipation of a great harvest by the end of the meeting. We weren’t disappointed. Like our friends, we all enjoyed the entertainment but nothing was more entertaining than watching the Thai people file to the front of the stage to receive prayer. That night, over 1,300 people of 25,000+ went forward. They were a sight to behold! For those who may not know Franklin Graham, he is the son of Billy Graham, the well-known international evangelist.  Billy is known to have preached live to over 215 million people in over 185 countries. (http://www.biography.com/people/billy-graham-9317669) He is also known for his life changing gospel messages. Having heard Franklin Graham, he is obviously very much following after his father’s footsteps.

The banner advertised the wrong start time.
It was hit by a passing truck and ripped
on the exact spot where the time
was displayed. Simply AMAZING!
Lastly, I had been coordinating an outreach event which had been consuming much of my waking hours in the last few weeks. We are expecting a miniscule 1,000 people compared to the festival we just attended but it is time consuming and requiring a LOT of volunteers. One of the details I needed to sort out was the start time which was wrongly advertised. I quickly corrected the mistake by painting in the new start time on the advertisement banners hung on fences but I didn’t know how I could get to the banner which was hung over the street in the neighbourhood we were targeting. Imagine my surprise this morning when I received a phone call explaining that the banner had to be taken down because it was ripped by a passing truck! They had asked me to just get a new one made. So, I laughingly realized that God had taken the matter out of my hands in figuring out what to do to get to the banner. He did it for me! And I am just absolutely flabbergasted that our God of the universe is concerned about my banner problems and sent a truck to destroy it. Praise Him! If He could be so involved in just the advertising, I’m sure He’ll glorify Himself on the event itself! It would be so exciting to be there to witness it! I’ll share more about it soon as it happens.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ways to Help

I sometimes wonder about the relative that my father and sister visited in Palo, Leyte, in January. His name is Ryan Acebedo. He apparently lived alone and may be the only surviving descendant of my grand-aunt. I only saw my grandmother's (father's mother's) sister in a picture. Because my grandmother moved to the northern part of the Philippines, from Leyte, where she grew up, we never met her side of the family. I've never seen my grand-aunts and grand-uncles, their children (my father's cousins), and definitely missed getting to know any of my second cousins (their children). Ryan is actually a son of one of my father's nephews. Technically, he is a grand-nephew to me if there is such a title. Whoever he is in title, though, I now wonder if he's still alive. Will we even know what happened to him? He lived in Palo, Leyte which was just south of the most hardly hit Tacloban City in last week's vicious Haiyan/Yolanda typhoon.

My oldest brother Joel, Ryan, and my 92-year old father.
When my father, brother, and sister visited him, it was because my father remembered Ryan's relative. She apparently died a long time ago but they met Ryan again. He was in high school when my father was there last with my mother. Ryan remembered taking my parents to the MacArthur site when they came. To the right is a picture of the visit in January.

Unfortunately, no phone numbers were exchanged because Ryan didn't have any. So now, there is no way to contact him. Hopefully, my brother Joel will be able to seek him out when he travels there soon. Joel is visiting my father in Toronto until the end of this month. When he returns to the Philippines, hopefully, he'll be able to eventually make it there. The place will surely look drastically and tragically different.

Please continue to pray for those like Ryan who may have survived the typhoon but is currently picking up the pieces of their lives. How do they begin again when all is lost and loved ones are gone? Where will their hope come from? May our prayer be that they will be strengthened and sustained by our Lord. Most of all, that they will know God through their sorrowful state and turn to Him. May they have new beginnings that are filled with hope in God regardless of who or what they lost.

Above is a newspaper clip to describe the efforts of Lib
as she raises funds for the Philippines. It was on their
community's local paper. In the picture is Ryan, Lib
and my father. It was taken during the same visit there.
If you wish to assist the affected ones in the Philippines, my two sisters in Toronto have sites to donate to. I am so proud of their work to help the marginalized and poor people. OMF also has missionaries working in that part of the country. Here are the sites:

My oldest sister Nora is involved with ADHIKA, a group which connects projects in the Philippines with people in Canada. To donate through them, visit www.adhika.org and click on the Canada Helps icon and specify that you are donating to ADHIKA for the victims of Haiyan.

My sister, Lib, usually raises funds for "Children at Risk" through collecting recycled bottles and cans in Salmon Arm. Because of the current, urgent needs, proceeds from their bottle drive will momentarily go to the Philippine Emergency Disaster Relief Fund of Action in Manila. Donations online can be done at www.actioninternational.org/donate

Lastly, if you wish to donate through OMF, or keep abreast of their work as they help in the Philippines, you can log on to www.omf.ca and click on "Urgent Need in the Philippines".

Thank you for your prayers and practical help. Bless you!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Urgent Plea for the Filipinos

Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything.
Ann Voskamp, "Why the Best Response to Life, the Holidays,
Anything is: Yada, Yada, Yada"

This is a shot of what's left of houses in Palo, Leyte.
The town was where my sister and father visited in
January this year so that he could reconnect with
long lost relatives. We haven't heard from them about
their condition as the communications had been down.
This week started with the disturbing news of the outcome following Haiyan or Yolanda, the most-ferocious-storm-to-ever-make-it-inland to hit the southern part of the Philippines. Before the day was over, the death toll numbering in the thousands started to be reported. News continued to trickle in about lives lost and lives miraculously spared. As in almost all natural calamities, there are no answers to the "why" questions of grief stricken survivors.

I chose the quote above because I don't have the answers. Still, I choose to thank God for His goodness and faithfulness. I choose to accept that I cannot fathom Him and His ways. He is good and because I know that He is always up to something good, He will turn this situation around for the better. I don't know how He'll do it but that He can and He will.

I also wanted to post something other than this but with all that is going on in the Philippines: the needed relief, looting, stench from the bodies, seeking of shelter, chaos and destruction everywhere, I couldn't help but just use this post to appeal to you on behalf of those Filipinos in need. In the way you are able, please send help (food, clothing, finances). Most importantly, please pray earnestly for God's help and mercy. May those affected see Papa God's hands move and touch their lives. Thank you and Lord, bless you.

For pictures of the devastated areas, please click on the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=620120874692887&set=vb.128375577180563&type=2&theater




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sukhothai Trip

The girls in a traditional way of
greeting in Thailand.
As I said last week, I did chaperone my son's class to Sukhothai, a city just over four hours south of here. It proved to be a very entertaining time for me. It was tiring but full of interesting things to see. For more information on the ancient city, please read last week's post. First, before we got to Sukhothai, we visited a cave which got its name from the huge three headed elephant called "Erawan". The elephant is associated with the Hindu God "Indra" who supposedly rode it. Presently, statues of "Erawan" can easily be seen in Thailand. Even the old Kingdom of Laos had "Erawan" depicted on their flag. (Source: Wikipedia.org) Inside the cave, a huge rock formation looked very much like it had three protruding trunks with the accompanying head bulges. It was dark, cool, and creepy with bats that flew overhead but it was interesting to see the "Erawan" looking rock.

From there, we traveled to Si Satchanalai Historical Park and checked out ancient temple ruins. We had to traverse a very steep road (on our bicycles!) and climb many steps to get to the site which was on top of the hill so I was the last one up. Obviously, I was panting and out of breath by the time I got there! I actually wondered why I volunteered to accompany 7th graders on a sight seeing trip! What was I thinking? But, I managed to play my part well and took LOTS of pictures. We also enjoyed the speedy bike ride downhill! I hadn't done that in years and it SURE was FUN!!! =)

The girls peeking from behind the ancient pillars.
From there, we drove another two hours to get to Hotel Pailyn where we were soon eating supper and later cooling down in their pool. It was a HOT day so it was fitting to end it with a dip in the refreshing water. A short devotion time was given and some active games were played before we all slept well. The welcome rest helped to have energy for more cycling around a bigger historical site in Sukhothai the next day. But although it was interesting to see structures that were still up from the 13th century. It didn't exactly excite me to be looking at ruins of old temples. I found the old trees and their roots far more fascinating. And of course, the girls and their scheming to come up with artistic poses helped to make the going around fun. There we were, looking at structures over 600 years old and they did nary a glance at what was in front of them but were more intent on making their next pose far better than the one before. They did really well!

At one point, we headed to 7-11 (a convenience store) and bought ourselves ice cold drinks. I made us stop to enjoy our drinks and to think about what we were grateful to Thailand for. Because we were in the ancient city where the country was founded, I wanted us to thank God for what we appreciated about Thailand. I also had us pray that a seed of love for God would be planted in that very place and that it would grow to affect the rest of the country. May it be so, that a new kind of faith, the kind that honors Jesus as Lord would begin to arise, just like the religion founded in the ancient city of Sukhothai did. I am grateful that nothing is impossible for God. =)  Let it be so, Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

With Knowledge Comes Responsibility

 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them,
because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

This Thursday and Friday, I will be a chaperone to my son’s class’ field trip. We’ll be going to Sukhothai. It’s an ancient city located in Lower Northern Thailand, over 400 kilometers north of Bangkok. It’s a popular tourist spot because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city with the same name. The old Sukhothai was the Thai capital during the 13th century. Back then, when Thailand was known as Siam, the old Sukhothai was founded by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. He was a monarch highly respected because he created not just the Thai alphabet, but the foundation for Thailand’s politics, religion, and monarchy (Source: Wikitravel.org).
Ancient Buddha figures seen at the park in Sukhothai.
The province's temples and monuments have been restored and it has numerous sites of historical interest. One example of what can be seen there is pictured on the right.
In light of what seventh grade students might do, or not, I was prompted to write today’s post. Sometimes we go through all kinds of seminars, conferences, training, courses, and various sessions without a thought of when we would specifically use what we’ve learned. I believe this field trip is an example of a time when one of those sessions will come in handy. Specifically, I remember a training seminar taught by Neil Anderson, the author of “Victory Over the Darkness”, “Bondage Breaker” plus close to thirty other books. A few years ago, he came and spoke here in Chiang Mai and then representatives from his organization: “Freedom in Christ Ministries” did further training. At the time, I was fascinated that they taught on spiritual oppression and the ways that we can open ourselves up to it. One particular example used was of a group of short term mission workers who did prayer walks in several Buddhist temples. When they finally returned to America, every single person on their team was ill. It wasn’t what they ate, nor was it a virus. When they isolated the incident when they all felt ill, it was after they visited a temple where as they entered, they stooped down to get in a particular low threshold. As they did that, a Buddhist monk was inside the room sitting in a typical lotus-like pose on a higher platform. According to the person who taught the session, that innocent act of entering was considered by the evil spirits to be indicative of submission because they stooped, or bowed (although not intentionally, to the monk). Later on, each person on the team was attacked and oppressed spiritually which resulted in their illness.
The great news was that after discerning the cause of their illness, they only had to pray against the attacks of the enemy and they were all immediately healed. It was simply a matter of how to pray. The verse above rings very true and we can certainly put our trust in who we have inside of us. BUT, even better is to not necessarily do something that will provoke a spiritual attack directed towards us. May the Lord grant us wisdom to determine how those actions can come about. And as I chaperone, may I have the eyes to see in the spiritual to properly steer, lead, and guide those that will be with me. Thank you, Lord, that it is a matter of asking Your help.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

God's Mercy In Noah's Time

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how
corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth
had corrupted their ways.
Genesis 6:11-12

2013 High School Hume Lake Camp at PREM
while playing recreation games
This past week-end, I attended my first ever camping experience. I really didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be fun. No, I wasn't a camper, but, I helped by being a counselor. It was a Christian camp so they had Biblical teachings but they also had high energy recreation activities the other times. We came home today exhausted from the late nights, early mornings, incessant screaming/cheering, and physical activities. Two mornings, I took a walk with a camper, too. It was on one of those walks when we had a long discussion about Noah and the flood in Genesis 6-9. The camper asked why God didn't just talk to those in Noah's time like He did to Paul on the road to Damascus. It was a great question because understanding why everyone in Noah's time had to die in the flood was one I asked when I was young, too. It seemed really cruel. Why did all the children and the rest of the animals have to die, too? I knew it would take more than me to convince her of the Lord's goodness in spite the outcome: the death of everyone except those on the boat.

I don't know that I answered her well but I sure prayed real hard to know what to say! I explained that Paul (in Acts 9:1-19) was a man zealous for God and he actually believed he was doing right in persecuting the Christians. He was obviously deceived! He didn't know any better so the Lord revealed to him what he needed to realize so that he could fulfill his calling: to proclaim the Lord's name to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, the people in Noah's time were not even aware that there was a God. And if they did, they certainly didn't listen to Him, take Him seriously, nor believe in Him. "...every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil ALL the time" (Genesis 6:5b, I added the all caps). "God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways." (Genesis 6:13) The earth was FULL of violence (Genesis 6:12). In today's standard, it could mean the people beat one another, stabbed, shot, or hurt one another, none exempted. It was no wonder that the Lord's heart was deeply troubled (Genesis 6:7). It made sense that He wanted to eliminate them. Only Noah found favor in His eyes (Genesis 6:8).

As to why all (including children) had to be eliminated, the Lord reminded me of the time when Eric had cancer. His treatments killed all the cancer cells and even some of the good cells. No chance was left for any cancer cell (new or old) to continue living because their existence meant they would grow and multiply again. All the harmful cells had to be killed in Eric's body in the same way that evil had to be eradicated during Noah's time. Because God was holy, evil could not continue to persist. 

And as God proceeded to get rid of evil, He still wanted the people to turn to Him. He gave them time, all the time (years!) it took Noah to build the ark. The immensity of the ark called attention to it, too. Surely the people talked to Noah, or his sons, about what they were building and why. Noah would have told them the reasons. Unfortunately, no one took Noah (nor God) seriously. The procession of animals (in pairs!) must have been quite an extraordinary sight! God could have just created the animals again but He chose instead to have them do a parade to the ark so that the people would notice and want to be like them, follow Noah into the ark. Instead, those who perished chose to ignore what they saw and what happened around them, at least, until it was too late.

God is a merciful and loving God. Like Noah's Ark, some Biblical stories may require more figuring out than others, but, look for His mercy. It'll always be there.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seeing God in New Ways

My continual Presence with you is an absolute promise. Seek Me in good times;
seek Me in hard times. You will find Me watching over you all the time.
From "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young

Yellow birds from the Night Safari.
 After ten weeks in my new job, I now understand and see that there will always be something to do to keep me occupied. Busy has become a norm for me. There is more than enough to do at work and then some days are followed by soccer games of both Eli and Ethan who are in their school's soccer teams.

In the book of Job (Chapter 1), Job was described as a man who was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. It was his custom to sacrifice a burnt offering for each of his children after a period of their feasting so that they would be purified in case they sinned. Job obviously pleased God because on one of His conversations with Satan, He was the one who proudly brought Job to Satan's attention. God was confident that Job would not do any wrongdoing even with Satan's attack on his life. Job lost everything he owned including his children. The only ones left were his wife and the two servants who told him everything that happened. Yet despite his misery and deplorable state, Job refused to curse God. He was afflicted with painful sores from head to toe but he remained sinless in what he said.

Later in the book, Job defended his integrity and maintained that he didn't do wrong and didn't deserve his plight. God asked him various questions which made him realize that he was in no place to ask the Lord of the universe what He allowed to happen. Job admitted that he spoke of things he didn't understand (Job 42:3). Then, he said in Job 42:5: 

Celebrating Thanksgiving with the Moores
"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." 

And I am realizing that God is coaxing me to see Him in new ways; just like Job, to relate with Him in unfamiliar means. In my "busy" life, how do I see Him? How does He work in my life? He is everywhere but I realize that when I'm busy, I default to some kind of auto-Martha mode and I just keep going until the day is over. Then, I sigh at the end of the day before I go to bed because I would realize that there had been that disconnection between us. How do I always remain connected to Him? How do I see him? It's still a learning process.

But, some answers came. I was watching the choir performance of the high school students when I thought to ask the Lord, "Where are you in this? How do I see you?" Then, the words to the song they were singing, "I Will" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney started to fill the air. "Love you forever and forever, love you with all my heart." And I instantly knew my Lord was singing it to me! =) I could have easily missed that! I'm so glad I asked! Last Saturday, we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends. After supper, we hung around and chatted. Again, I remembered to ask the same questions. Suddenly, the lady next to me turned and said with tears in her eyes, "This is what family is meant to be." And I saw the Lord's goodness in the gift of "family" in the absence of real family. 

The Lord is so good, loving, and relational. Ask Him where He is and how to see Him because He'll show you and answer you. Enjoy His revelations. =) 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blessings in the Giving

The Lord Jesus Himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35

Pu Pah is 59 years old. She's had HIV for 19 years
but AIDS complications in the last few.
I continue to learn about myself as I visit the women dying of AIDs at Agape Home. I must admit that at first, I only felt sorry for them. When I first met Pu Pah, she was sitting on her bed bent over a pillow. She was grimacing in pain because her back ached. She didn't seem to know what to do with herself. I felt so badly for her. It looked like she wanted to lie down but I knew she was sitting up to make the pain bearable. I could tell that sitting up was an effort for her. How horrible it must be to sit and wait for relief from the pain when the pain just wouldn't go away. I could only pray for her and ask God to heal her, or end her suffering by bringing her home.

The next time I saw her, she was on her wheelchair and slowly shuffling her feet to move forward. She was very gaunt and thin so her arms were very weak.That day, we chatted a bit more and talked about her inability to eat more than two pieces of my favorite fruit (lanzones or longkong) before wanting to throw up. It was no wonder that she was skin and bones! I wonder how long she will suffer. I talked to her about God's love because I knew God loved her. I talked to her about not losing hope because I knew the Lord could heal her (bring her home or physically heal her). Yet, she wonders when she'll go to heaven, when her suffering will end and I don't really have an answer for her. I know I keep going back to see her because I believe in what I tell her. I know the Lord is the answer to her finding joy in her pain. Next time I see her, that is what I intend to pray for her.

I have a LOT to thank Pu Pah. Please pray for her.
In the meantime, instead of feeling like I was giving my time to her, she started to affect me. The day after I saw her, I started to tear up because I could taste food, I could go places, I could sit up without pain, eat until my stomach bulged, converse or read with interest, have the strength to do, and feel joy in my heart. What I used to take for granted, I now felt honestly and tremendously grateful for. I'm so thankful that I met Pu Pah. God had used her and opened my eyes to His goodness. I know she continues to suffer but I also know the Lord is able to be what she needs: a comfort to her soul, peace to her heart, and inevitably, joy in her pain. I don't know how the Lord will do it but I know He will. What a wonderful revelation. In my giving to them of my time, I am blessed even more. It is more blessed to give, than to receive!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Grace Remains

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for He founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2

By the middle of last week, two school-wide prayer meetings were organized so that there could be collective prayer times for Grace International School (GIS). It was unprecedented and well attended. Rising to the call for prayers and making our needs known so that concerned individuals can give, or join us in praying, people didn’t disappoint and neither did God.  By the first prayer meeting, an announcement was made that the stay of execution was granted so the eviction of GIS (which could have happened because it was the verdict when the school lost its court case) did not have to be done. We praise God for this! It could be six months to a year before the Supreme Court informs GIS as to whether they are going to accept its appeal or not. The school is still uncertain of its future but at least it is assured of continued operation in its present premises until at least the end of this school year. We are grateful for God's answer to prayer with the extension received. By the second prayer meeting, there were praises all around for our God who made it happen. Nothing is impossible for Him and we thank Him also that in the meantime, the extended time the school can remain in its present location means more fundraising can happen so that there can be sufficient funds raised to begin building the new school. The Lord is in absolute control and is obviously having His way. May He continue to glorify and magnify His Name because the earth belongs to Him and so GIS is His! Thank you, Lord! GIS, which most of us call Grace, remains, because Your grace remains. Amen!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Critical Time of Need

With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Matthew 19:26

Grace International School in Thailand is facing its most severe test!

It received an eviction notice so EVICTION of 340 students from the secondary school is imminent. It may occur this November as a result of a court's ruling. Unless God, through the court intervenes, the school will implement its contingency plans to be able to continue education of its students. The school owns land for a new facility, but lacks the funds to build on it. 

GIS urgently needs people who will come along side to assist through prayer, donations and active involvement with sharing the needs of the school. 

Will you help? For more information, please log on to http://www.gisthailand.org/advancement/    Thank you!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In the Midst of Hardships

I believe the Holy Spirit is here today strengthening us to hear God's truth that we are greatly LOVED by God. Also, that we may be in the midst of hardships on every side, but His grace is here to strengthen us to stand in the days ahead.
Tiffany Ann Lewis

Our students and their buddy in a braiding session.
Last Friday, I visited Agape Home with several students from the school I worked at. Our students were there for their scheduled visit with their buddies. They were paired up with the children from the home and for over an hour, time was spent with them playing, braiding hair, talking about life, praying, or simply hanging out. I was impressed with how huge the place was! What was even more impressive to witness was the enthusiasm that each student showed while spending time with their buddy. Each child there had either HIV or AIDS. Yet, they were loved and valued just for who they were in spite their illness. For more information on the ministry and how it got started in 1996, please log onto http://www.nikkisplace.org/ for the complete story. The place was founded by Avis Rideout who while volunteering at an orphanage dared to ask if she could bring home an abandoned baby with HIV. She wanted the baby loved and cared for. From there birthed the idea of raising other babies with HIV/AIDS and that grew into what Agape Home is today. Apparently, since the children there are given medicine, they are able to have the energy to play, study, and function as a typical child.
 
This boy was nursed back to
health after he and his mom
were found in the Burmese border.
While the playing continued with the children, I asked to tour the place. I saw the younger babies, the toddlers, and two women who were dying of AIDS. One was suffering from excruciating pain from her back that she couldn't even sit up. She was bent over in agony. Another was blind and Avis told me that she was ready to go to heaven but didn't want to die. My heart broke when I saw their pain and emaciated bodies. They were cared for and loved but their disease was taking its toll and winning. I groped for something to comfort them with, even with words, but I came up short. I ended up praying for them that the Lord would minister His grace and healing.

Later that night, I went to the airport to see my son's friend off. They lived in Chiang Mai for 13 years, but had to leave for good. She was a senior and studied at our school since Kindergarten but with their family situation changed, she wouldn't finish and graduate here. In spite that, she praised God for her friends in Chiang Mai, the life she lived here and this place always being home to her. My son was naturally grieved with the news of her leaving. They had been friends since 3rd grade. In her last few days, they spent as much time as they could together but the pain of parting was hard nonetheless. It will take another lifetime for me to forget the scene when I watched my son looked through the glass, as she walked to her gate. 
 
His friend is the small, distant, person in brown
further up in the picture. He stood there
until she could no longer be seen.
Sometimes, we go through life and we just can't find easy answers. We just have to store our questions in our head. We can ask God for understanding when we get to heaven. Still, the reality is that Papa God loves us deeply in spite what we go through and because of what we go through. His ways are higher than our ways and so are His thoughts but His great love for us is steady and constant. And this explains why there is a deep yearning in me to tell my son constantly that I love him these days. It's also why I also want to go back to Agape Home to tell those ladies that I love them. It's Papa God in me who is doing it. He loves them and as I pray to be His mouthpiece, He wants to do just that. I love them! It's His love for them that I feel in me thereby enabling me to feel love for them also. What a fascinating process! I first saw it in Nick Vujicic because he kept saying to the crowd of 10,000 people a few weeks ago that he loved them. When I got close to take his picture, I saw his eyes and I immediately realized that he meant every word! And now I know! Papa God's love was pouring out from him, that's why he could love! I get it! So in the book of Daniel, this is why verses 9:23, 10:11, and 10:19 all say a similar message, he was greatly loved. May we always remember it. We are greatly loved! No matter what we go through and how we go through it; painfully, oddly, confusingly, whatever-ly. Papa God GREATLY LOVES US! AMEN!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Year Later

But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded
from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
Luke 12:20

Exactly a year ago, my mother fell down the basement stairs of their house after having a stroke. Because of her typical low tolerance to pain, I was glad that she lost consciousness because of that fall. An hour and a half later, she passed away surrounded by my father and all my siblings in Toronto. She lingered just long enough to receive the priest's last rites. As soon as the prayer was finished, she breathed her last.  

My mother loved flowers especially the red ones like this.
I had a half hour to process that she had fallen and was in a serious state before another call came through informing me that she was gone. Shocked at the tragic news, I went about the rest of that morning literally in a daze. I went to our two sons in the school to tell them that my mother died. I didn't want them to find out any other way than from me. Somehow in that unbelievable morning, I called Eng to share the news. The next time he talked to me, he told me that I had a flight to Toronto late that night. I went home to pack and was soon with my father, a mere day and a half after my mother passed away. We rallied together to deal with the wake, visitations, memorial, funeral, and, our collective loss. To read those stories, please look at: “The Departure Date, I Love My Husband, and Being Sustained” which are postings from September 10-24, 2012.

Soon after that, we lived life without her. Understandably, my father was distraught. My heart broke more when I saw his grief than over my mother's dying. I loved my mother but with her having Alzheimer's for over eight years, my grieving over losing her had started long before she physically left us. In the end, she mostly just sat: expressionless, joyless, in her own little world. The only way I could reach her then was when I played her favorite songs on the piano. Her foot tapped to the beat and on a good day, she nodded her head to the music, too. Otherwise, she only looked like my mother but she stopped being truly her so long ago.

As for us siblings, relational differences brought about by various reasons became exacerbated with the distribution of properties that my parents owned. It didn't take long before grievances from years past started to re-surface. Soon, some of us weren't talking to each other. The worst happened when a heated discussion between two of my siblings transpired right in front of my father. He was deeply saddened by the state of our relationships and wisely decided to meet with us.

He expressed his unhappiness over the broken relationships in the family and encouraged all of us to openly share our grievances. He implored on us not to give in to envy. He narrated the "Parable of the Rich Fool "to help us not to focus on what we can't take with us when we die. And finally, he declared that if it mattered to us that he was our father, he wanted us to choose to reconcile no matter how long it took each of us. He reminded us of how when we were kids, our mother would give us a choice of stopping our argument and making up, or getting spanked. We very quickly chose the former with a kiss and a hug. After all, no one wanted to be spanked then! That threat to a spanking disappeared long ago but the meeting ended with kisses and hugs all around. I unfortunately had to go to work and ended our Skype call. I missed the best part, seeing middle aged adults (our youngest sibling just turned 50) kissing and hugging one another. =)

My mother would have been proud. Even a year after her death, what she used to do with us worked to bring harmony back into our family. What a blessing to have her be a part of our lives. Thank you, Papa God, for allowing it. We praise you for her and for
our reconciliation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

His Arms and Legs

Nick Vijucic as he was cheered by the crowd.
Today was the first time I actually couldn’t pray what I normally prayed for someone. Often, I would ask the Lord to use me (or whoever I was praying for) to be His arms and legs, and mouthpiece. When I started to pray that, I realized that Nick Vujicic had no limbs. He couldn’t literally be the Lord’s arms and legs because He is completely limbless. Because that is so, I prayed even harder that the Lord would use Nick as His mouthpiece. I wasn’t disappointed. Tonight, Ethan, his friend, and I, listened as Nick shared his life story to a packed convention center full of 10,000 (mostly Thai) people. By the time we headed home, it was almost 10:00 p.m. but as Ethan said, it unfortunately started late but it was surely worth going to hear him. Nick only spoke for about an hour but he was powerfully used by God.

Born with a rare disorder, Nick grew up without any of his limbs. Yet, overcoming his disability and depression at a young age, he’d grown up full of faith and joy. He’s lived his life doing what normal people did, play sports, go to school, and enjoy life as best he can. He shared that he believed he could do all things because of Christ who strengthened him. At 19, he discovered that his purpose in life was to encourage so he decided to be a motivational speaker. He shamelessly talked about where his hope came from and whom He believed in. He encouraged people to never give up. He pleaded with us not to allow our limitations to stop us from trying. He reasoned with us that just because we fail doesn’t mean we’re failures. He taught us that each failed attempt in selling himself as a speaker taught him to learn how to speak better. He encouraged us to learn from our mistakes.


Nick at different stages of his life.
He never stopped trying.
He shared a whole LOT more but as I listened to him, I knew that what I was witnessing, Nick himself, was God’s miracle. That Nick today is full of joy, peace, and love, in spite what he doesn’t physically have, is a testimony of what our Lord is capable of doing. Papa God had transformed Nick into a contented and joyous man who loves Him and who knows that his purpose in life is to encourage others and to share about our destiny if we believe in Jesus. Nick is now happily married and has a healthy boy. All the more, joy wells up from within him. As he shared about that joy, his love for all of us, and his God who loves, he asked if he could pray for us. Then, he prayed an earnest and heartfelt prayer of blessing for everyone. He implored that we would all know the love and the joy that comes from the Lord. Truly, nothing is impossible for our God. In the absence of arms and legs, the Lord used Nick Vijucic to speak into the hearts of all of us there. Judging from the many teary eyes I saw, many were moved. And I know that a LOT of that movement is towards God. May the Lord be praised for His goodness and love and for His amazing wisdom in using the limbless to bring people to Himself.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hearing in the Noise

I know that deep within you, where I live, My peace is your continual experience.
From “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young

Last week was an extremely busy week for me. Since in my old job as ESL teacher I didn't even have teaching duties until at least the second week of school, coordinating three events (two of them for the whole high school) just three weeks after school started was quite a shock to my system! Add the fact that I'm still learning how to do my job and you get an idea of the state that my mind was in. So many to-dos called for my attention daily. Thankfully, Eng, who manages a finance office, helped me with some of the administrative details. Still, the amount of work was too much, too soon. I was surprised at the beginning of the week when a friend reminded me of our time together. I was completely focused on my tasks that I was just dumbfounded, clueless! I didn't even know we were supposed to meet! Towards the end of the week, I set the electronic alerts in the computer so that I would remember where I needed to be. Imagine my surprise when another person I had a meeting with, called. I was 15 minutes late. Dismayed at myself and unbelieving that I forgot again in the same week, I switched the program I was using on the computer and immediately saw the prompt to go to the meeting. Somehow, the program I was using didn't allow the prompts to display. It explained why I missed the alert that I had a meeting! That was definitely good to know! Eventually, the week-end finally came. I felt relieved, shaken, and exhausted. I'd never had a week like that! How was I going to function when it got even busier? Priding myself on being organised, I saw how easily that slipped away from me.

I know I defaulted to praying more but too much of my work day took so much of my time. How do I focus? I know I didn’t want another week like that to happen again! Thankfully, I was away for my usual 24-hour time of quiet this past week-end. My mind was so tired I couldn't even think of what to pray about! I was just literally still: body, mind, and spirit. I did nothing yet I began to feel literally rejuvenated! The rest I received felt wonderful. Then, it got dark. That was when the loud music of other guests started to play. The windows in my room were shut and the air-conditioning unit was on but I could still hear their music like it was just next to me! I read my journal and turned on my own music so that it could counter the beats of theirs. Somehow, being still with a quick-tempo-blaring-music-playing-non-stop was simply out of the question! The time I cherished was lost. I slept by putting a pillow over my head. When I woke up, it was past 1:00 a.m. The soft, soaking music that was playing on my computer had stopped. My computer exhausted all its battery power. Now what? The beat of their music began to figuratively pound on my head! Was there any hope of salvaging my quiet time? My situation reminded me of my days at work. It was so hard to focus on God in the busyness. Was that the point of it all? Was the Lord showing me that even in that noise I could hear Him? That in the busyness I could still find Him? Was anything impossible with Him? Did I truly believe that? I began to pray, began to amazingly tune out the barrage of sounds, and began to relax. I drifted in and out of sleep but I felt peace. My time there was not about the music, it was about my Papa God. My time at the office was not just about the work, it was about Him. =)  YES!

By 5:30 a.m., their music finally stopped but albeit relieved, it ceased to matter. I learned to listen to God in spite the noise. All sorts of things could go on, people could demand attention and the urgent would insist on being done, BUT, I can still look to you, Lord. You will still be there to lead and guide me. In spite the noise or confusion, you can be found. You help. You are the anchor that protects the boat from being battered and tossed about. You hem me in behind and before. You stop me from being carried away to the open seas, or from crashing on the rocks. Thank you, Lord, you are my anchor, the one who holds me and enables me to be.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grief in Waves

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9, KJV

While on my morning walk, yesterday, I suddenly remembered my mother before she had her Alzheimer’s. It was just after I thought to myself that I didn’t want to be overweight (especially my stomach!). I realized that if I were to be honest with myself, I actually walked early in the morning because I enjoyed the morning air, I liked the sounds of the birds’ chirping, I cherished the time when I talked to God, and I believed that the walk helped me not to gain weight (and that’s not in the order of importance). [As I write that, I just want to state that I love my non-thin friends! Some of my much appreciated friends are not slim. I, personally, just prefer to be my size - less heavier is even better.] Knowing that, I understood for the first time that my mother shared the desire ‘not to be obese’ with me. All of a sudden, I remembered how periodically while standing, she repeatedly twisted her stomach left and right very quickly. Her elbows were tucked to her sides and would move in the opposite direction of her twisting. Occasionally, she also bent over and touched her toes. Not known for being active except when she did those activities, she used to catch my attention! I never asked her why she exercised. I suppose it was obvious to me that she wanted to lose her stomach flab. She had a mound for a belly and I teased her that she looked like she was 3 months pregnant. Actually, my officemate who is now 5 months pregnant has a belly that looked like hers, then. Really! Now that I’m around the same age as my mother, then, I wish I wasn’t so insensitive. I never connected it that what probably motivated her to exercise was partly because of how I teased her. Actually, kids do not often know how to withhold truth when it hurts or when it is embarrassing to hear it. I was obviously that kind of kid. Realizing that reality while I walked, I immediately felt sorrow. I grieved for my mother who related with me and knew me. Because she'd forgotten me in the last 2 years of her life, and was no longer the same years before that, I had to go back in my memories. I also grieved for my sins. I was so sorry for being that critical way.

Then, I remembered the verse above and asked God to forgive me. I also received His forgiveness. At first, I didn’t feel forgiven but I knew that it wasn’t about how I felt. I had to just accept it for what it was; His remarkable gift of grace in the forgiveness. As I continued to mourn my being unkind to my mother, the Lord made me realize that my mother didn’t take my teasing her, against me. She loved me, anyway. Somehow, even when I asked the Lord to please tell her that I was sorry, I knew it wasn’t necessary. I was loved by my mother and there was nothing to forgive. The Lord, also, loved me in spite the way I was.

And most of all, I understood that my remembrance of my mother was the Lord’s way of helping me process her death. (My mother passed away on September 9, 2012. The postings from September 4-28, 2012 were mostly about her.) More importantly, He wanted me to deal with my sins so that it wouldn’t come in between us. He wanted me to remember so I could ask for forgiveness and find resolution in Him. The verse below became very apt and now I know that I need to continually work out my salvation. I am game for that. May the next wave, come.

In repentance and rest is your salvation
Isaiah 30:15