Resistance to Love

The title may sound illogical at the first glance. Yes, I would have said that was totally illogical 10 years back when I was starting my faith journey. How could anyone in their right mind resist love? It did not make sense until I started to go deeper into the heart of God.

My days used to be so filled that I hardly had time to stop and take a good look at my life. Or rather, I hardly desired to make time for it. That changed about 5 years ago when I took a new turn. It was quite a drastic change from what I was used to. From a life of total busyness to a life of total surrender. From a season of self sufficiency to a season to total dependency. 

Time was suddenly in my hand. At that point, I was very uncomfortable with the change. I felt useless, not chosen, sidelined and under appreciated. However, me in my stubborn nature was determined to make full use of that season because I would not know how long that season will be. In all honesty, it was pretty difficult. I was forced to withdraw from my comfort zone – the stage front, a place I know God has for me but for my sake, that was the season He withheld it from me. 

With time in hand, I had the luxury of whining to God in His holy sanctuary every day. Yes, I was a whiner. I complained almost all the time. As I look at my life now, it is clear to me that those time spent with God has been bearing great fruit. I came to see my need of Him, to acknowledge my human-ness and to embrace it fully. I came to term that I am not the superwoman almost everyone thought I was (myself included). That was the time, God taught me more about Him and more about myself. 

Those precious moments has shaped me to be who I am today – imperfect but perfectly LOVED. The time of formation has been a season of deep intimacy with God. It was a season I learnt how to fight properly by knowing who is my real enemy and by being aware that worship is my strongest weapon. 

Just a little over a week ago I had a God encounter through someone who loved me dearly. My complaint of back pain due to bad posture was taken seriously and action was taken immediately to solve that. The action taken to help me came with a sacrifice. I was really touched and at the same time felt bad that someone has to sacrifice for me. On the other side of the story, it was never a question of sacrifice, it was only love. 

When I look at that beautiful experience, I could not help but to draw a parallel (although unequal) to Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. It is hard for us to watch our loved ones suffer and we do all we could to stop that. I wonder what was going on in Mother Mary’s being when her Son, our Lord was going through His passion? It must have hurt her so badly. I bet she was tempted to stop Him but look at what she did instead. She accompanied Him through it and was obedient to God’s will. With Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are made worthy to reconcile with the Father. 

We may at times resist love without us realizing it. As I had when I was tempted to believe I was not as important as my beloved’s work. After we had spent the time solving my back problem, I told him about the temptation that maybe his day should be spent working not taking care of my back. His response to me was; “that is not happening! You are my priority and I want you to be well”. The only appropriate response from me was “thank you!”. I knew deep in, the temptation to “sacrifice” me seemed noble but at the same time it will be unhealthy for our relationship. To really honest, I do want to receive his love, I want to be able to embrace the love he showed me and that was when I realized I still needed grace to receive. 

In a world like ours, the struggle to just receive love is real. We want to be independent, we want to do things our way and we always want to be the giver. To a certain extent, those are good values. However, we do need to be careful not to go overboard. Those time that we are unable to receive are time of abundance grace. From experience, just acknowledging my need to be humble, being truthful that I cannot receive has been of great blessing. 

Truth be told, if no one is receiving, we can have no giver. So, if you are in a position to receive, be encouraged to receive gracefully. At the other side of the story is love and the person who gives is blessed beyond measure. Giving generously and receiving gracefully make a beautiful God-story. Happy giving and receiving!

With lots of love,

Irene 

Closure

What an odd title for the beginning of the year and the first post of the year (after a real long time)! And this is my time to close an important season of my life. Sometimes God has a way to push us out sooner than we want. When I started my lay missionary journey in 2014 with the ICPE Mission, I somehow knew this is a seasonal call. The thing I did not know was when is the closure. It has been an adventurous journey that imprinted an indelible mark in my heart.

Like any journey, it consists of ups and downs. And it is kind of funny how I resisted staying in the community for most of time. The only reason I stayed was because I wanted to remain faithful to God. By the time my resistance to say yes to stay started to cease, God also started to close this season of my life. Looking back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

The lessons that I learnt are so numerous that my heart just burst out with thanks. When I start coming to term that I would have to leave earlier than I wanted it, I started making closure here and there. I noticed how I started celebrating my lasts and at the same time also celebrating my first of many for the journey to come. During my last birthday celebration, I had everyone stood up honouring me. That was something awesome as you rarely see this happening. It was a day of full of surprise for me.

Today was another day of last – my last kitchen cleaning as a community member. It was a day of creativity and fulfillment. I remember wanting to change the condition of one drawer so that the knives can be kept securely for safety reason. The last time I cleaned that drawer was one late night of Oct 2015. I have always wanted something more solid for that particular drawer. For that purpose, I get to try a little bit of carpentry and it was so satisfying to be able to leave a tiny legacy behind. I joked with my brothers and sisters of the community that I will check on the drawer every time I visit the mission centre.

The other thing that I gathered in my last kitchen cleaning was creativity is abundance when human resource is scarce. We were so short in man power and I was happily scrubbing stains off the floor. I started off with the corners and as satisfying as it was, it was also taking a toll on my back as I was constantly squatting. Not to mention the slight blackout whenever I stood up. I was also at the same time adamant about cleaning the whole kitchen floor. So that was when creativity played a great and satisfying role. I came out with the idea to attach a metal scrub to the base of a mop. That way I can scrub the floor without needing to squat constantly. It was a brilliant idea that worked so well. I was very pleased with it.

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I was so happy!

Every journey has a beginning and an ending. I am so glad I enjoyed my journey through the sweetness of it and also the bitterness of it; through the times of strength and also the times of weakness; through the time of success and times of failure; through thick and thin. Truly for better or worse!

Dear friends, it is my prayer and hope that you enjoy your journey too. Every circumstance in our lives poses an opportunity for us to grow. And I really hope you choose gratitude and celebration as the fuels of your journey. May you be blessed abundantly.

With lots of love,

Irene

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

 

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

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)

Paid in Full

I love shopping and I love to joke whenever we gather in a small group by introducing myself in this manner; “Hi, my name is Irene and I am a shopaholic.” People used to crack up with that but for me that has been a redeemed part of my life. When I was earning a lucrative income, shopping was my regular hobby and a lot of us (myself included) call that retail therapy.

There seems to be a sense of satisfaction when the things we desired becomes official ours once we paid it in full. I used to crave for that feeling and that was the reason I had a house full load of stuffs to give away when I decided to leave my comfort to be where I am now. During the initial part of my missionary journey, giving up impulsive shopping was one of the hardest thing. Thanks to my conscience that kept reminding me that I am now fully dependent on divine providence, hence it is only right to be responsible with the money that I have.

The journey of being fully aware that all I am and have is a direct result of divine providence has been one that I would term as organic growth. It was not the easiest thing considering the high I always felt when I own something I paid in full. Looking back at my journey of financial accountability, I am really grateful at how far I have come. I know very well that I am far from being meticulously careful with the money entrusted to me but I am happy to say that I have grown to be very free with money.

If you seen me with my cardboard testimony, you would have seen my dark history being; “MONEY: MY SECURITY” and my conversion side being “GOD: MY PROVIDER”. That pretty much sums up the highlight of my School of Mission. I have been through real breaking of pride and roller coaster of doubts that finally brought me to an experience of tangible providence from God. Through this journey of building my trust (which is happening at an organic growth rate – if you are or ever been in sales, you will get what I mean), I learnt what it really meant when God said He paid for my life in full.

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I am purchased with a price and paid in full, that price cost my Saviour His life. As I slowly surrender my life to His Lordship and allow Him access to my soul, I start to comprehend the amazing gift of salvation that I have received. Jesus owns me when He paid for me in full amount. I can imagine His excitement when the transaction happened – the very moment I call Him my Lord and my God. He must be so excited to show me His plan for my life as I would be so excited to wear a new dress I bought. I want people to see me in my new dress and celebrate with me. I would imagine Jesus also wanted the whole world to know that I am paid in full, I belong to Him and that He just wanted the world world to celebrate with Him.

Looking on the hindsight, I recognised my brokenness in my pursuit of the feeling of owning. There were tonnes of insecurity in that attitude of mine. The constant need to possess indicated my possessiveness and my control-freak-ness. I am really grateful for the circumstances where God broke me down just to build me up again. In my season of breaking, it was really uncomfortable. I came face to face with my poverty. The situation where I have absolutely nothing and no one to hold on to but God alone. The journey from slavery to being in control of my life to freedom in trusting the plan of God has been one exciting journey.

In this particular area that I have allowed Jesus to be Lord, I experienced the liberation that I would not want to trade for anything else. It is so beautiful to realize that this is possible simple because God first choose as me He said in the scripture;

“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” – John 15: 16

It is so assuring to know that God is the Initiator. In everything, we can be sure to give Him all the credit and glory. But we can only glorify Him when we respond to Him. He invites and initiates; after which is our turn to respond.

What would I choose in times of God’s invitation? Am I generous in my response?

Oftentimes for me, I found myself struggling to respond generously as the element of fear is always present. Through those times of responding to God, I learnt that courage is not the absent of fear. Fear can either be a catalyst or a crippler. Only the perfect love of Christ can cast out fear (1 John 4: 18). That can only be attained by grace and that grace has enabled me to respond positively to Jesus; which eventually opened His floodgate of blessings in my life. In other word, my choice to respond to His invitation to follow Him has helped me to lived out my life that has been paid in full by Jesus.

Dear friends, whatever you are going through now calls for a response from you. God has chosen you in a special way and His continous invitation is His initiative to keep saving you. He loves you infinitely and desires nothing short of the best for you. I pray that you are blessed with grace to respond to Him generously.

May you be blessed!!

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