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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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

 

 

Sweetness of Obedience

Obedience is a beautiful command but what does it really mean to be obedient? We were taught to obey our parents and the authorities placed above us but it was really hard for me to live it out as I grew up quite rebellious. Coupled with the blessing of a strong will, my childhood and adolescent years obedience was never out of my free will. So I was determined to rule my own life once I am out of my parents roof. And that was pretty much the story of my life.

When my relationship with Christ grew, I was challenged to live out a life of obedience. Naturally, I was uncomfortable and I get agitated hearing preachers talking about obedience and surrendering to the will of God. How can I obey if I do not know who am I obeying? I do not believe in blind obedience. There has to be a reason for obedience and God in His mercy showed me the reason. The reason is LOVE. He invites me to obey because He loves me and wants the best for me. My journey of falling in love with LOVE has opened up His grace to flow in me that I want to obey Him (though not always easy).

The true test came when God placed a call in my heart – to leave my comfort zone and go where He sent me. When I decided to follow Him and quit my lucrative job, most people thought that I was out of my mind. After spending 5 months going deeper in my faith in 2013, I again made a decision to go where He sent me. It was not a decision welcomed by my near and dear. I hear endless comments like; “Your home church needs you”, “There is plenty of work for God here, why do you need to go that far?”, “Your family needs you”, “You are still young and at your prime, why waste your time?”, “You are such a capable person, why waste your life?”, “How much did you give up for this?” and the litany goes on.

All these comments were valid to a certain extend but I knew deep in my heart the voice of my Shepherd and I knew that what God wants of me is to answer to His call and NOT fulfilling a need. Anyone can fulfill needs but I believe the will of God is unique for each person. Even though I made a decision to go where He sent me, it was not exactly easy to leave the people I love and the country that is very dear to me. Everything was going on really well at home and I really understood the meaning of my call when I chose to leave my glorious past. For others, it is also not easy to comprehend what I am doing now. It can only be experienced and for that reason, I invite people to come and spend some time with my community here. Looking at my journey thus far, I see His promises fulfilled one after another. The biggest one being;

“Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16: 31

This is the first fruit of my obedience to God. I sincerely wanted to do His will and as I gave my unreserved (though flawed) YES to Him, He started to unfold His miracles on my family. Blessings upon blessings were poured upon my life. I took a step towards Him and He ran a mile to meet me – that is our Abba Father who wait on us, eager to see us opening ourselves more for His infinite and unconditional love to fill our soul.

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Having tasted the goodness of the Lord, I know how sweet are fruits of obedience. However, being an imperfect person who is perfectly loved by God; I still struggle to obey. And it is amazing that our gracious God is both loving and patient. He invites me to be in His will and He respects my decision. Retrospectively looking, I can see the initial struggle to obey and act on God’s invitation. I am blessed that at those time, God sent me angels like this wise man who once shared a prayer with me when it comes to responding to God’s invitation, it goes;

“Lord, I sensed that You are inviting me to go in this direction. I ask for Your grace and blessing as I run in this direction. If I am going on the wrong direction, break my leg and bring me back”

Dear friends, that prayer has blessed me tremendously and I hope it bless you as well. If you are at a time in your life that you are called to take a radical step towards God, I would like to encourage you to run with it. It may be scary but what I can assure you is that it is going to be worth it. Do remember that God call us to His specific will in order to save us. It is always for our good that He place a call in our heart. You can only know if you are going on the right direction if you take the step to walk into it. As a closing note, I would like to share this beautiful prayer written by Thomas Merton;

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

May you be blessed!

With lots of love,

Irene

Hi ME, it’s me.

Sometime ago, a friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook with the question;

“Would you like you, if you meet you?”

That question strikes a deep chord in me. And I saw that at a down moment in my life. A time that I doubted my own goodness. I have been blessed with strength in character and a series of capabilities that make up the Irene that you know. It took me a long while to acknowledge and embrace the person I am. Through a constant journey of healing and transformation, I started to appreciate all that is given me and all that I am about to discover as well.

My strengths, however, are perfect tools to survive in the world. But I believe I am made to LIVE (John 10: 10) not merely surviving. Hence, there were always this tension in within me when I was working in the corporate world. The tension between living a life of integrity and conforming to the industry norms which are on contrary to my principles. But the money was really good. Hence, letting go of my lucrative former job for a life dedicated to God’s mission was not entirely easy for me. Afterall, my best talent is making money. At the same time I was also very good in spending it away.

As I left that behind, part of me was ashamed of my past. Without realising it, I was also ashamed of my natural strength. I felt that it was a hindrance to be a missionary. I recognised that I am of an unusual mould for mission. I do not seems to have the qualities of the first disciples. Scriptures spoke a lot of weakness in the eyes of the world. And me being unaware of the greatness of my God; interpreted it in a way that said – I would not be chosen because of my natural strength.

Spending time wrestling with God and thanks to my stubbornness that would not settle for less, I am blessed beyond words. Deep in me I knew that still small voice who called me by name. But I could not deny my discomfort living in an environment that does not seems to appreciate my strength. Through these struggles I came to recognise my poverty. Strange enough it is a poverty in strength.

I felt so helpless feeling so weak because of my strengths. But that was where God met me. In my poverty, He showed me my beauty. He affirmed me once again that my strengths are His gift for me. It does not belong to me as I do not merit it but He has chosen me to carry these gifts of strength to bless His kingdom. No matter how I think of myself, I am loved beyond measure. His love is the constant in my life.

So, when I met me, I have the grace to like me. I started with an affirmation of my journey. Thanking myself for being courageous to step into uncharted grounds. I appreciate my desire to go deeper with Christ and I am seeing the beautiful fruits as a direct result of that. I like how I am willing to allow God to bring to death my natural strengths and waited on Him to resurrect it into His redeemed strength. There were lots more that I like about me and meeting me has lifted my spirit. Not only was I lifted, I was also strengthen to continue on my journey. I desire to know me more and to know God more. I desire to allow God to redeem the unredeemed areas of my life. And I am excited for more of Christ in my life.

Dear friends, we all need sustanence in our journey. As much as the journey is beautiful, we still get hungry, thirsty and tired as we move. Hence, it is important to get the right nourishment and rest. Wherever you are in your journey, know that it is always beautiful to look up and I pray that you will nourish yourself well with the Word of God, the sacraments and your rest in God. I pray that you will like you when you meet you.

May you be blessed!

With lots of love,
Irene

You Are Worth It All

Holy Week 2016 was such a great blessing for me. I was privileged to serve at the altar of the Lord for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Altar serving was not an entirely familiar part of my life as a missionary but I was very excited to be learning new things.

The feeling of privilege reached its height when the Blessed Sacrament was processed out to the Chapel of Repose. I was right in front of Jesus. At that moment I was touched by grace and it continued through the time of keeping watch at the “Garden of Gethsemane”. I realised it was Jesus’ darkest hour on earth and I asked Him; why Lord? You are the God of the universe and yet You are willing to endure that darkness. Why? And at that moment, I could almost hear an audible voice answered me; “Because you are worth it all, my dear”.

I was so touched by those words of love that I could not help but cry. His love is not something I can understand, I was meant to accept it and allow Him to love me. Being human as I am fully equipped with my pride and independence; it was never easy to allow God to love me. My brokenness has rendered me “unloveable” by the world’s standard but there He was at the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out those words of love on me. It has taken God a lot of patience to bring me to this stage of accepting His love.

In my acceptance of this awesome love that fateful evening, I once again surrendered my life to Jesus. In all humility I asked Him to bring with Him all my desires (especially the good ones); to Calvary. Let it all die with Christ that I may look forward to a victorious resurrection.

It’s funny how God confirmed my prayer when He allowed something amazing to happen on Good Friday which is too awesome that would probably take another post to fully savour the beauty of the Healer God. It was an experience of healing and restoration.

Coming back to the answer I heard from Jesus; “Because you are worth it all, my dear”, it was kind of apt that my life theme for this year is “I am worth it because Jesus is worth it all”. Jesus chose to affirm me again in the holiest week of the liturgical year. It is the proof of His love that I do not merit and yet in His mercy, He desires that I receive His love.

As I slowly allow God to love me, I start to see grace at work in my life. I become more cooperative with God’s grace and that has been a great blessing. My view shifted God-ward and I grew more sincere in my prayer life. I am more honest with God and more trusting as well.

Dear friends, if today you are finding it hard to receive love; fret not because LOVE is on His way to help you. It is precisely in our brokenness that we find God and He allowed it for His glory. If you are like me who felt “unloveable”, praise God because MERCY is waiting for you. If you just want it, the floodgate of love is going to be opened to you.

You may wonder, what was the shape of glory for my Easter. Well, it has been blessing upon blessing for me. I see God’s beautiful will unfolding before me. It is truly a victorious time and it is all because my Saviour believed that I am worth it. And that I believe is precisely how He thinks of you. May this Easter season be a time of experiencing God’s love in a whole new level. May you open your heart to Him, allow Him to love you and rest in His love.

May you be blessed!!!

With lots of love,
Irene