Celebration

Celebration is an integral part of life and a lifestyle that I am living by. Whenever we talk about celebration, the first thought a Malaysian would typically have is MAKAN (food). We take our food seriously and to mark any celebration, the food plays a very important role. More important than the food is the reason of the celebration.

We celebrate to mark an important milestone, an important event, successes or progresses we made in life. In my coaching training, my coach taught me to apply celebration as part of the principle of a coaching session. I found it really essential as part of a healthy and connected lifestyle. Last night I was privileged to be reminded of the importance of celebration based on St. Paul’s love poetry (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8) and that has left me thinking about my own lifestyle of celebration. Have I been celebrating God’s goodness as He deserves?

When I put celebration in the right perspective, I found that it is way to grow in humility. This is how it made sense to me. Through my countless conversation with people I encountered (or I coached), it is common to hear this from me; “Have you celebrated your progress?” or “How are you going to celebrate this?”. It is also common for me to encounter a startled look, especially if the person has just started to talk to me or just started their journey with me. Those priceless responses were my opportunity to share what I believe celebration is all about.

For some of us, celebration can only happen if a big goal has been achieved and yes that is totally justified and necessary. Here I am talking about celebrating progresses along the way, even the smallest progress. I believe celebration is the fuel that propel us towards our goal. Very often I see people getting discouraged because they did not celebrate their progress. For them some progress is just way too insignificant. Think about this; without those seemingly insignificant progresses, can we actually make it to our goal? It is precisely those small steps that brought us to our goal.

You may wonder now, how can celebration be a way to grow in humility? So, this has been my story. The right perspective of celebration for me lies in the WHO. Who am I actually celebrating? Every progress we made is by God’s grace. From my experience, being able to acknowledge that God is the One who made it possible for me to progress in my journey brought me to a place of celebration. Celebrating the One who made it possible for me. When my focus is celebrating God, I am humbled because the focus of celebration is not me, rather it is Him who made me.

Through my journey of having coaching conversations, I also get these question often; “What do you mean by celebration? How do I do that? Must I eat all the time to celebrate? I encouraged people to celebrate their progresses by doing something they enjoy. For example; if you enjoy reading a book by the beach; then set aside some time to do that as a form of celebration. If you like eating, it would be so easy to celebrate though eating is not the best celebration if you are celebrating your progress in weight loss. If you like watching a movie; that would be a great form of celebration. And if you are a people person like me, celebrating with people who cares would be such an occasion of joy. To mark milestones, I would encourage we do something really significant like skydiving to mark your 30th birthday. Or something crazier like leaving your secular job to serve God full time (ONLY recommended if that is what God wants of you). Hence, it is also important to choose your form of celebration wisely.

I am indeed very blessed to be influenced by people who live a lifestyle of celebration from the beginning of my faith journey. These saints-in-the-making taught me the value of living life to the fullest – a life in humility that always acknowledge God as the provider of everything in my life, including the seemingly insignificant progresses I made in my life.

Dear friends, let us celebrate the goodness of the Lord in our lives. He is our reason of celebration and He is certainly worth celebrating as you are worth celebrating. I pray that celebration becomes the fuel for your progress in life and know that your being are worth celebrating.

With lots of love,

Irene

 

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Let COMPASSION be your DEFAULT

I almost fell off the chair hearing that piece of simple, wise, profound and extremely hard to live by advice. It is indeed very simple and the more I journey in life, the more I realize the simplest things takes the most practice and effort. Precisely because the simplest thing is not necessarily the easiest thing to do.

The easier thing to do in circumstances that drive me nuts is to blame the other and judge them. That has been a default I operated in and I have also been given the grace to see how much I need to grow out of that. Once I tried walking a mile in the other’s shoes, I can begin to glimpse how hard it must have been to him/her. Only a glimpse can soften my heart a little to be more compassionate towards the other person. That glimpse would not be possible if my first reaction to the situation is to lash on the person. That glimpse is only possible when I begin to take a pit stop from the whole situation.

Pit stop is practically time I give to myself to be present to myself. I name my emotions and I give the situation a just look. When justice means the fault of the other; that is where I exercise my compassion. Yes, even if the other person holds the weightier fault, how do I respond lovingly in this situation? What is the shape of compassion in this situation? If I hold the weightier fault, can I have the humility to apologize? Can I allow myself to receive the compassion I need?

The journey to making compassion as my default is sure an interesting journey. If we want to learn patience, God would put us in situation where we are stretched and we grow in patience. If we want to expand our hearts to love, we will find ourselves in situation where we may find it hard to love with our natural ability. So it is with compassion – to grow in compassion, we need to experience compassion ourselves and to be in situations where we cry out for help. Only when we been through the fire of experience does our practice of compassion is made perfect.

The good news about our desire to grow and the price involved in it is that GRACE is always available for us;

“but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong”

– 2 Corinthians 12: 9 -10 –

Dear friends, if you are praying for an increase of compassion in your heart and found yourself in a sticky situation, take heart for GRACE is sufficient for you. Keep going, keep practicing for in our deliberate decision to make compassion our default, we will get closer to our goal. Even at times we falter, look up and smile for Compassion is reaching out His hands towards you to pick you up.

Have an amazing journey in growth!

With lots of love,

Irene

God Saw That It Was GOOD

God Saw That It Was Good

When He created the world,
God saw that it was good.

He created human being,
In His image and likeness He created them,
God saw that it was good.

When man sinned against Him,
Though it hurt Him so,
In His love He planned to save them,
God saw that it was good.

Man turned his back on his Creator
He tirelessly draws us back
Prophets He raised in His Theo-drama,
God saw that it was good

The time was right for His promise to be fulfilled,
His only begotten Son was born of a virgin,
With His foster father to raise Him,
God saw that it was good.

Jesus did His Father’s will,
Good news He preached,
The sick He healed,
God saw that it was good.

The time was right for redemption of mankind,
Christ suffered His passion,
On the Holy Cross He died,
God saw that it was good.

The veil was torn,
Silence was deafening,
Death was thought to have the final say,
God saw that it was good.

On the third day silence He broke,
In joyful triumph Christ He raised,
Death is beaten with victory resounding,
God saw that it was good

The Lord is risen indeed,
Easter joy and hope is ours to live
Alleluia is our triumphant song
God saw that it was good

How does the Story of my life sounds like through the eyes of God’s goodness?

When He created me,
God saw that it was good.

He saw me grew,
In love and wounds,
God saw that it was good.

I choose my life to live,
And I did not know Him,
In His mercy He planned my salvation,
God saw that it was good

When the time was right,
He put good people in my path,
Who led me to Christ,
God saw that it was good

I once was blind,
But now I see,
I want my life to turn Christ-ward,
God saw that it was good.

A year of RCIA,
Both exciting and challenging,
Prepared my heart to new life,
God saw that it was good

Initiated into the faith,
In fullness of God rejoicing,
He called me Beloved Daughter,
God saw that it was good.

I journey on,
Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter,
All the while praising Him,
God saw that it was good.

The time was ripe for me to grow deeper,
My Cross was heavy
And I was wearied,
God saw that it was good

In His love and mercy
He raised me from my pit
Alleluia is again my song,
God saw that it was good

My Mother – My Hero

It has been three years since dad left us. Three years ago today, our lives were forever changed. As I remember this important event in my life, my heart swell with gratitude for my mother who has been heroic at that time. The memory of that day and the days preceding my father’s death is still fresh in my mind. I remember the fateful Sunday, 23 Feb 2014 when dad had a hypertensive bleed in his brain that caused his death, mom was pretty calm when she told us that things were not looking very good.

The bleed has been deep seated and the medical team was not too keen to try as the chances of survival was really slim. But we, the children could not let go and mom was the hero at that time. She was in her role as our mother at that precise moment when it would be so easy for her to be weak. After all, she was losing her husband, she has all the right to be weak and needy. After spending some time in prayer, we decided to give dad a chance by releasing the blood in his brain through surgery. I knew mom was not very keen as she knew what chance my dad stand through her experience working as a nurse. She was however respectful of our decision when she told us; “if all of you want to give dad a chance, I will sign the consent for surgery”.

Through the longest 72 hours of our lives – from the drama of the hypertensive bleed in the brain to the surgery to the 50 minutes of reviving my dad due to a cardiac arrest to the moment we let go of him; mom has been MOTHER. She was the one who provided us with comfort and consolation. I was the one who could not let go and she was there to listen to me. Never once had I experience an inversion of role through the death of my father. Having had some knowledge of inner healing principle, I know how damaging parental inversion could be and it is really likely to happen in times like this. Although as an adult, I would probably be less affected should it happen. Looking back, it was kind of funny that we were trying to be strong for our mother but it turned out the strong one was her. Strength found in her vulnerability.

At the time of mourning, she learnt to pray the rosary for the first time and she is open to share with us how much she misses dad. Mom have to relearn and readjust to life without her life partner. I can imagine how hard it was! She has been dependent on dad especially in terms of transport and after 30 years of not driving a car, my mother started driving again. How amazing is that! She went on to grow in her faith and she was baptized into the Catholic Church on Easter of 2015.

I have the privilege to witness her growth in her faith thanks to technology. I would love to be with her physically but I would never trade it for anything. God knows me enough to know that if I were there with mom physically through these 3 years, she may not have the opportunity to experience what she had experienced. I would be way too happy to be her driver and my physical presence may have prevented her from driving again. She gets to make new friends in the circle of faith and if I were around, that may be a different outcome.

Siblings
Re-enactment of our childhood photo

Today my relationship with my mother has grown so much closer; partially thanks to technology but most importantly thanks to the grace God has showered on us. I am grateful for my siblings who are taking care of my mother. Without you; Simon, Olivia, Martha and Bartholomew; who would I be? Thank you for your relentless care towards mom. Mommy, thank you for being our MOTHER!

With lots of love,

Irene

Place of Honour

Who does not like to take the place of honour? Honestly for me, I like the place of honour. I like to be treated with honour and dignity; which in all its essence is a normal human desire. Interestingly this word stood out prominently when I reflected on the passage for the gospel of Luke on humility and hospitality (Luke 14: 7 – 14)

In the Kingdom of God, the place of honour may not look like the place of honour we see here on earth. To be at the place of honour in the Kingdom of God would probably mean being like the saints. They were people who lived ordinary lives like we do today with the grace of washing the feet of the others, the courage to take up their cross and follow Christ, the endurance to run the race for Christ and the perseverance to always choose to enter through the narrow gate.

I would imagine that the place of honour is quite comfortable and it is a nice place to be. Looking at my own responses in life, I realised I often respond to an invitation with this phrase;

“What an honour!”

And then when I brought those invitations and responses to prayer, often time I felt really humbled by the invitation. Of all people, the person who invites chose to invite me. My response is call of responsibility and I am well aware of it. Through those beautiful encounters, God taught me that the place of honour is the same time a place of humility. I do not merit anything on my own but He chose me, continue to choose me purposefully. What better response than “THANK YOU”? May we be encouraged to be like the saints; choosing to wash the feet of the others, carrying our cross with great hope, running the race for Christ and living life to the fullest in the measure that God has for us. With that, let us be hopeful that we will be granted that place of honour.

With lots of love,

Irene

Spontaneous Humour

I was fully concentrating at mass when the gospel from Mark 2: 13 – 17 (the call of Levi) was proclaimed and what caught me was the question posted by the scribes and Pharisees;

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Precisely at that moment, the answer I got was;

“Because their food are tastier”

I was immediately entertained by this spontaneous humour which I believed was a gift from God to lift me up and break me away from mundane seriousness. When I ran a survey by asking people around me this question; 90% of them gave me a serious answer and the one who knew what was in my head was prepared for a laugh. I was touched by the gesture of having a serious answer that Jesus came to save sinners and by the those who were also up for some jokes. I see how people are touched by Jesus’ purpose of coming this earth (Luke 19:10) and how some of them would also be interested by another perspective.

Through that survey, I get to know people better and I also get to bless them with a little laughter. It is always true that good food do attract people, hence good cooks has lots of friends. And that for me is an opportunity to love people through food. Food for some reason has the power to build friendship and bring people together. This is so true for my root culture – the Malaysian Hospitality that always involve food.

We need food to sustain us and help us grow. Tasty food would definitely make eating a much happier experience. However, the taste of the food is not the purpose of the food. Food is meant to sustain us and praise God if we get to eat tasty food. Having been blessed by Fr. Rob Galea recently, I found a connection between worship and food. When he posed the question, what do you think are in heaven? My immediate answer was; “Good food”. Jokes aside, I came to embrace even more that the purpose of worship is for our holiness and the feel good factor is a good byproduct that we may not get all the time. Is not that the same with food?

In case of Jesus, the tasty food, I would imagine was fueled by His company. Tax collectors and sinners would probably be one of the most real people. People who are well aware of their brokenness and recognized that they are in need of a savior. Sincere people who live ordinary lives and being unaware of their worth would probably break His heart. I would imagine Jesus being really moved by that and that would have propelled Him to spend time with this group of sinners. That is good news! The good news of knowing that my Savior wanted to spend time with me just because I am Irene – Irene in my goodness and my flaws, in my awareness of His presence and in my ignorance of His goodness, in my desire to be holy and in my inability to do what is right.

I am just so grateful that God sees the heart and all that is needed of me is my pursuit of holiness in my life. And I pray that my pursuit of holiness will serve as “tasty food” for the people that God place over my path. But I am aware how human I am and I would not be “tasty food” all the time and for those time, it is my prayer that I am graced with the humility to own my shortcomings and allow Christ to redeem them. I pray that you will also be encouraged to pursue holiness in your humanness.

 

With lots of love,

Irene

Following the Star

The Feast of Epiphany celebrated today is the great feast of revelation of the Word became flesh. It is apt to note that the wise men followed the star to reach to where Jesus was. The star caught my attention today as I ponder upon this great feast. The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ was guided by a star. That brought me back to precious memory some time ago when a trusted friend and brother honoured me. What he mentioned stayed with me and that made me question am I really living that out?

“You are a STAR and you are meant to shine” was the line that stayed with me. If I am star and shining, is my light leading people to Christ? Just as the Star of Bethlehem did to the wise men? The other question that I frequently ask myself is; am I even shining? Sometimes it is hard to see the value of my being through my tainted lens. I wonder if I am living fully as God intended me to be. Being in touch with my humanity – my strength and weakness, my beauty and my not too beautiful side, my joys and my sorrows, my talents and my areas of lack; brought me to a place of humility. This is where I can praise God for making me Irene – the one that does not have it all, the one that is in constant need of her saviour, the one that desires to glorify God through her being. What can I say but thank you.

My recent months journey has taught me a great lesson of total dependance on God. Being a generally hopeful and positive person, it was never exactly easy for me to understand tragedy or failure. I have been quite blessed to not have major failures in my life and I like to see those as opportunity to rise higher instead of looking at it as failure. And through my journey of ups and downs – with downs that made me felt helpless and hopeless; I finally get it. I get how it felt like when there seems to be no hope. I get it now why it was tough for people to get out of the pit once they fall into it. God was training me to be all for all – strong for the strong, weak for the weak, compassion for the grieving and celebrations for the joyful. With my somewhat glorious past, it was never that easy to connect to people who struggle with failures and hopelessness. I am grateful that God has found me worthy of this journey.

Through the rough patch, I also learnt what it meant to give a sacrifice of praise and I know how valuable are those praises and worship. Choosing to smile and to give my best even at times that I do not feel like doing so. I get it now how much Christ love me and how He supply sufficient grace to sustain me. Coming back to my question; am I a shining star? Well, once a wise man told me – when things seems bleak, check the fruit of your being and he quoted Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa been through a period of darkness in her soul but she remained faithful and her ministry flourished. That is the fruit!

It gives me much encouragement that although sometimes I do not feel like I am shining but a star will always remain a star – it shines. And I believe that each one of us is a unique star. We are meant to shine and our ray is the leading light that brings people to Christ. Quoting Mother Teresa again when she was asked if Jesus was like her and her answer was; “No, in fact I want to be like Jesus”. It was her witness that drew people to ask if Jesus was anything like her and the reality was that she aspired to be like Jesus. Who would not be drawn to Jesus by such great witness?

Mother Teresa was simply living out her being as the beloved of Christ and if we allow ourselves to be loved into our being by Christ, we would also be simply living out our intended being. May we all find the courage to allow God to love us more and more and may we allow His love to break our being into His light. And as His light, may our being draw more people to believe in the One who first loved us.

May you have a shining 2017!

With lots of love,

Irene

 

 

Your Holiness

Poetry? Nah, I thought that was not my cup of tea as I drink coffee. However, tasting some good tea expanded my taste bud a little bit. So it was with poetry. Sometime ago I was privilege to go on a 30 Days journey with an amazing woman of God who shared her passion for poetry and had it reignited through that journey. Today I am blessed to witness her passion for poetry blessing people around her and she even encouraged me to write my own. So, here it goes, my first poem.

Your Holiness exposes my sinfulness

Your Holiness showcase my hope

Your Holiness so unreachable yet so near

Your Holiness so divine yet so personal

Your Mercy exposes my human-ness

Your Mercy showcase my hope

Your Mercy so deep yet so touchable

Your Mercy so endless yet so personal

Your Splendour exposes my small-ness

Your Splendour showcase my hope

Your Splendour so majestic yet so humble

Your Splendour so beautiful yet so personal

Father, Your Holiness calls me to Yourself

Your Mercy leads me back to You

Your Splendour fills me with hope of glory

Father, it is You that I desire

 

Hope that you are blessed and wishing you a great adventure ahead.

With lots of love,

Irene

The Colours of God’s Dream

“What is your passion?”

That is my favourite question to ask people I meet. More often than not it stirred something deep in the person. And the stirring manifest differently in different people. I am taking great risks when I put that forth and through some pleasant and some unpleasant responses, I learnt to be more discerning when I ask questions.

Our passion is deeply connected to our dreams and desires. I had numerous encounter with good meaning Christian who told me that I should throw away all my desires, dreams and plan. Personally for me, I tend to disagree with this approach. I believe our desires and dreams are God given. However, due to our sinfulness and our wounds in the past, our desires and dreams became tainted. The saving work of Christ has enabled me to acknowledge the tainting of my desires and dreams. And as a response to His mercy, I believe it is only fair that I go on a quest of allowing Christ to purify those desires and dreams.

I have been privileged to be reminded of a buried dream as a result of my fears and insecurities. That God given dream was buried because I allowed the other voice to overwhelm that still small encouraging voice. As I look at the Cross, I realised that I feared the pain of the process towards achieving that dream. The process towards the achievement of the dream is the purification process. More often than not, purification is a painful process.

God’s dream of salvation for mankind is of no difference. That process towards the attainment of mankind’s salvation involved great pain. And it is called the PASSION of Christ. The pain I am fearing is nothing in comparison to Christ’s. In fact, his PASSION has made it possible for me to dream His dreams.

The field of His dreams for me is the Holy Ground He has invited me to step into. Realising it as a Holy Ground, I fell to my knees feeling so unworthy to step into it. I was not even able to take off my sandals to step on His Holy Ground.

That was the moment of grace that Jesus came in His gentleman manner; inviting me to take a sit, asked me for my permission to allow Him to take off my sandals for me so that He can wash my feet. With my feet washed, He asked me to step in. How would you not be touched by that?

I was totally blown away by His mercy! How is it possible that God Himself would give me an invitation as such? What merit have I to be bestowed such an honour?

It was not until I heard a teaching on Isaiah 61 did I understand the logic behind Jesus’ invitation (see ICCRS 2013 Prophecies). My pair of sandals represents my pride and my fears; hence it made all sense that I was unable to take them off myself. Only Jesus can save me from my sin. Without Him, I simply cannot get rid of my pride and fears.

In His mercy, God has invited me to this journey of intimacy that has given me the grace to accept His love. I used to be that confident girl who thought that she was able to conquer the world. And mind me, my confidence is amazing gift. However, God desires more for me. He wants me to be fully dependent and to recognise who He is in His dreams for me. He wants me to possess His confidence.

If you have in any way felt unworthy to step into His Holy Ground, praise God! Recognising my poverty before God has been really painful and at the same time very freeing. Embracing the fact that I do have a need and my Saviour is ever ready to fulfil that need – is simply liberating. It fills me with hope of glory, that I do not have to have it all to move to higher ground.

Dear friends, let us approach the throne of grace with confidence and reignite our God’s dreams once again. If you are ever tempted to bury those dreams, just remember that Jesus is just a call away. As the image above shown, we are indeed the pencils (with different colours) in God’s hand. As Mother Teresa encouraged us; let us allow God to hold this pencil and draw His beautiful picture – His dreams for our lives.

May you be blessed!!!

With lots of love,
Irene

Note: Photo Credit – Stefan Hensel (Title: The Colour Spectrum)

The Road Less Traveled

Traveling is one of the things that I like a lot. When I was in the corporate setting, I made sure that I make time for holiday every year. One of the most profound journey I made was a six weeks journey to Europe with the main purpose of attending World Youth Day in Madrid, 2011. In preparation to our journey, we spent time researching about the places we wanted to visit. My travel buddies fared so much better when it comes to researching and planning the trip. Somehow, God has given me a lesser portion when it comes to detail orientated stuffs.

Hence, I must say I am truly blessed to be surrounded by people who has eyes for details and that include my travel buddies. Thanks to their meticulous planning, we get to enjoy our trip and build our friendship. Our journey to Europe has widen my perspective about the world significantly and not forgetting the greatest fruit out of that journey was receiving an invitation from God to full time lay mission work. As we traveled, we learnt the reality of being a pilgrim in a foreign place. Pilgrimage is a recurring theme in Christianity and I am slowly learning what it really meant to be on a journey as a pilgrim on earth.

My natural self dislike to linger on things. As much as I love people, I am also a goal driven person. In my natural mode of work, I like to solve things and move on but Jesus has invited me to a road less traveled. A road that requires me to come out of myself; to be more of Christ and less of me. The process has not been really comfortable. In choosing Christ, I  am choosing holiness on a daily basis. Allowing Christ to increase involves forgiving people that I felt does not deserve any forgiveness. The question of forgiveness is something that I believe challenges us as Christian to live a life of witness. That has been the case for me and through my journey in this beautiful yet very rough road, I come to realize my need for God. And the saying; “To err is human and to forgive is divine” rang so true for me.

I simply cannot forgive! Not with my own strength. And in this area I am glad that I can run to the One who is able to enable me. Here I would like share a snippet of the taste of forgiveness. I have experienced the direct effect of communication breakdown that causes me to be very upset with the person involved. I was so upset that I did not know how to handle it. The question of why was the other person so unwilling to just communicate rang out so loudly in my mind. I wonder if it is too much to ask for people to communicate for the sake of the relationship. In my human weakness, I was really helpless. I refused to be the first to reconcile after all, it was the other person who took our relationship for granted by refusing to communicate. But all these thoughts were bringing me nowhere. I was left desolated.

In moment like that I thank God for my Savior, Jesus. Yes, all my arguments were valid to a certain degree and I acknowledged that. However, Jesus asked;

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? – Matthew 7: 3

This question from Jesus challenged me to examine my own fault in the issue. I was being really prideful in believing that I have no wrong in it. The other person may have their burdens that have prevented them to communicate with me. Or I may have been too scary to be approached. The scriptures humbled me to acknowledge that I had been hard on the person as well; greeting everyone else with a great smile but not so with the person. I was acting out of my wound and that wound can only be healed by Christ. Thanks be to God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation where I can confess my poverty and to receive the graces I need to be reconciled to God first and then to my neighbour.

I was enabled by Christ to first forgive with my heart the person who trespass against me (that includes forgiving myself for my wrongdoing) and I pray for the grace to be reconciled in my strained relationship. As I look into the journey of forgiveness, it is indeed a narrow path (Matthew 7: 13 -14). I believe it rang true for most of us. Forgiving the other is not something we can naturally do; it takes supernatural strength to be able to do so. To finally come to a place of rest in God that I can cooperate with grace brought me so much of freedom.

What I shared was just a tiny event of forgiveness but some of us were face with devastating events where we are called to forgive the trespasser(s). If God is inviting you to forgive, know that I am praying for you and please take this journey of forgiveness in love. Know that you are infinitely lovable, precious, honoured and called to live a life to the fullest.

May you be blessed!

With lots of love,

Irene