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

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