A mom’s prayer


As my mom prayed for me everyday of her life, I pray for my children each time I hear them leave in the morning – for work, for school, for duty at the hospital… prayers help. I cannot be with them 24/7 but I know God is with them where I cannot.


My prayers are not a list of demands for God to do this and that. I know God already knows everything even before I ask. He knows their needs better than I can ever know. He knows what, how, and when to provide more than how I can ever imagine to ask for.

What is my prayer about then? Prayer for me is a union of thoughts – thoughts of God and of my children… meeting of minds – that God knows and God provides… that my children know and experience God as the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in ways beyond human understanding. These thoughts are my prayers… each time I wake in the morning to the sound of door closing or footsteps going down the stairs as they leave the house to go about what they need to do, where they need to be… I pray that God will be pleased and honoured as people get to know God more through my children… and that they will get to experience what a great God we have. Amen.



The Strong and the Brave

The strong and the brave… these words are often associated with super heroes; amazing powers over villains; supernatural strength and unbelievable courage… Each time we watch movies like Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, and recently the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft… we are filled with a sense of power and optimism – we know that there is nothing they can’t do and there is nothing they need to be afraid and ultimately we know they are not going to die. Invincible!

Yet, we know that all these superheroes are just fiction. In life, strength and courage are virtues – realistically attainable even though not as simplistic as the fictitious. Strength and courage… are they synonymous? Which is first… is it easier to be brave when one is strong? Or is it also about being strong because there is no fear? Or is it having both at the same time?

Be strong and courageous is a favourite verse that Christians like to give to each other – to en-COURAGE one another to face problems, challenges, and trials in life. Be brave – we say to our friends who are facing financial troubles, those who are sick and hurting, or who just lost a loved one, people who face uncertain future in terms of relationships. Be strong – we say to those who are terminally ill, to those who are left behind by their spouses or betrayed by their loved ones.

What exactly is being strong and courageous about? These two words which are mentioned 4 times in the first chapter of Joshua..what do they mean?


The Basis of strength and courage: God’s Character

1) God spoke these words 3x to Joshua. First, who was Joshua? Joshua was Moses’ aide (assistant, right-hand man) He was no super hero like his predecessor – Moses.

2) God said ‘I am about to give..’ (v.2) ‘I will give..’ (v.3) ‘I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (v.5) ‘The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (v.9) These words are the basis of strength and courage. It is all about God.

To be strong and brave is to stand in God’s presence, who He is and what He does. We can be strong and courageous because God is with us.

The Guide to strength and courage: God’s Word

1) More than just head knowledge of who God is, what He said He will do, Joshua was called to act on it. He was to obey God’s law – not to turn to the left or to the right – but to keep a straight path – it’s like the horse with both its eyes covered to keep it focused in one direction – stick to the path ahead. (v.7)

2) How does one obey unless one knows what to obey? And how does one know what unless one study it, remember it, think about it? We are to keep God’s word – say it, meditate on it – act on it – day in day out. (v.8) And there’s a promise that comes with it – prosperity and success. Now hold on, this is not a simplistic solution of being good and have a great life. Being prosperous and successful in life is about being strong and brave amidst difficulties, sufferings and adversities of life.

To be strong and courageous is to stand on God’s Word, His promises, His commands. We can be strong and brave because God speaks to us. He promises to be with us wherever we go… not to leave us or give up on us.

Strength and courage are paradoxical virtues. Strength is manifested through weakness. Courage is attained through fear. To be strong is to be weak in total dependence on the true source of strength. To be brave is to overcome fear in utmost reliance on the true source of courage. Courage comes from the root word ‘couer’ which is French for heart. The heart pumps blood to all the parts of the body – when the heart is strong, the whole body gets its source of strength and energy.

Do you know the source of strength and courage? Know the Lord, read His word, meditate on it day and night, obey it and persevere at it. Be assured that the Lord our God is with us – he will never leave us nor forsake us.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.” What Blessed Assurance! This is what it means to live life with ‘No Fear’ – to go out and ‘Just Do It’ with courage and strength.

Joshua 1

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Of Mountains and valleys

Ups and downs of life

Adrenaline rush… burnout… martyr complex…

These are some of the stages of life. It happens that we go from task to task, challenges to challenges with such purpose, strength and fulfilment then we get tired and exhausted from all the pressures of life. Then self-pity sets in – poor me… nobody appreciates… nobody understands… nobody cares!

The great prophet Elijah went through all these feelings..

The 3 stages of Elijah’s journey:

On Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-46) He single-handedly went against 450 prophets in the greatest battle ever: God vs Baal – a battle without weapon, no bloodshed except what the enemy prophets did to themselves.

The single weapon Elijah used to claim victory… prayer: “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”

How did God respond? 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

After this Elijah had all the 450 prophets killed. From Mt Carmel to Jezreel, he also outran King Ahab who was on his chariot. v. 46

Lesson 1: God equips.

Elijah was really brave! How did he do such a daring act? God prepared him. God sent ravens to minister to him. God allowed a helpless widow to provide for him. When God sends His children on a mission, He always equips and prepares them with His mighty acts of providence. Read 1 Kings 17. Elijah experienced how God provided for his needs in ways man would not think of – through the seemingly impossible and the unlikely improbable path. God showed Elijah the kind of God He is through these experiences. He is the God of the impossible.

In the wilderness (1 Kings 19:1-8)

Then what? Elijah had all the 450 prophets of Baal killed. Ahab complained to his queen, Jezebel. The enraged queen threatened and promised to have Elijah killed. The bold Elijah who fearlessly faced 450 men ran for his life at the word of a woman!

Elijah ran to the wilderness to hide and asked to die. “Enough, Lord. I quit. Let me die like my fathers before me.” Burnout! He slept in sheer exhaustion.

God’s response? He sent an angel to touch him, wake him, feed with bread baked on hot stone and a jar of water. Not once but twice. The second time: there’s an affirmation:“Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” God said: Yes, I hear you. It is too much for you. Come and eat!

Lesson 2: God continues to provide.

Elijah was really tired. God levelled up His provision. He sent an angel to strengthen Elijah. What a great provision… how? v. 8 tells us Elijah arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. Two meals to last 40 days and 40 nights to go from the wilderness to the mountain.

Servants of God, ministers of God’s kingdom are human beings. They are not superman. They experience burnout. Important truth: God continues to equip, provide and strengthen. His replenishment continues – enough for the next journey.

On Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:9-18)

God certainly knows how the psych of man works… He gave Elijah an opportunity to rant… After physical food, God provided psychological and emotional healing. He asked the ultimate question: What are you doing here, Elijah? Huh? Did God not know? Of course, He did. He wanted Elijah to pour out what’s in his mind and heart. So Elijah enumerated all the great things he did for the Lord.

“I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Do we not also do that sometimes? Lord, look – here’s what I did.. I lead bible study, I sang in the choir, I teach Sunday School, I cook for my family. I tutor my children, I am the coordinator for camp. Me alone… and no one noticed… so unappreciated… no one cares.. I’ve had enough… let me disappear and see if they will notice! Aha… I’m sometimes like that… the great martyr. 😦

Lesson 3: Where is God in all these? In the strong wind? In the earthquake? In the fire? vv. 11-13 ‘In a sound of gentle blowing’, Elijah heard the sound of God asking him again: What are you doing, Elijah? Same answer!   A list of his great deeds and sacrifices for the Lord. God replied Elijah. Read vv. 15-18

1) He gave Elijah his next assignment. Vv. 15-16

2) He gave Elijah his successor – Elisha. vv. 16-17

3) He gave Elijah assurance: you are not alone. there are 7000 other prophets like you. v. 18

God said: What are you doing here, Marlene?

Listen.. here’s my answer. You are not alone. I am here – not in the strong wind.. not in the earthquake… not in the fire.. these are the usual places of big flashy showy easily noticed events of life.. hectic schedules, heavy loads of work, stressful strivings.. you can’t hear me in all these noise and clamour. Listen, Marlene, listen to the gentle blowing of my tender touch, my soft voice calling to you… Come all you who are heavily burdened, I will give you rest. You are not alone!


Of Memories and Legacies…

Of last will and testament..

Have you ever wondered how your life is going to end? How? Where? When? Or would you rather not think about it? I guess many of us Christians know the certainty of death; we even assure ourselves we are not afraid of death. I know I am not afraid of death, I just dread that it might be too painful to bear. I wonder how my final days will be.

Do u know that there was one man in the Bible who was told when he would die, what to do before he died and even had God prepare for him where he would die, and how he would die?

Deut 30-34 are 5 short chapters which recorded all that Moses did in his final days. We might call them his last will and testament.

1) Moses charged the people to remember God’s word – obey and be blessed, rebel and be cursed. (ch. 30)

2) Moses passed on the baton. He accepted the reality that he would not be going into the promise land. He told the people that Joshua would take his place and lead them into the promise land. He encouraged Joshua. (ch. 31)

3) Moses wrote down the law as God told him to do – he read the written law to the Israelites to warn them to carefully obey God. (ch. 31)

4) Moses wrote a song as God told him (31:19-22). God’s words for the song were just short 2 verses. vv.20-21 expanded into chapter 32 as Moses’ song. What is the song about? The song is their life (32:47). What is the song for? So they will remember what God did for them, who God is, so that they will remember to obey God.

5) Moses’ blessings: he blessed each of the tribes of Israel. (ch. 33)

Here is God’s final words to Moses: (ch. 32)

48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

(No regrets… no further bargaining or plea to enter the promise land from Moses – he already did that in Deut 3:23-28)

Moses’ final moments: (ch. 34)

1) His last journey: He climbed Mount Nebo. v.1

2) His last vision: He saw the whole promise land. v.2-3

3) His last call: He heard God’s final words. v.4 “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”

4) His death: He died in Moab. v.5

5) His burial: God buried him. v. 6

6) His physical condition: at 120, he could see clearly, he was strong – he climbed Mount Nebo to see the whole wide expanse of land God promised to give His people. v. 7

7) His wake: The Israelites mourned 30 days for him. v. 8

8) His successor: Joshua was filled with spirit of wisdom because Moses laid his hands on him. The people listened to Joshua and obeyed what God commanded Moses. v. 9

Moses’ epitaph: vv. 10-12

10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

What a life!

To ponder:

I do not know when my last days will be. When that day comes, what will be said of my life? Will there be a song? Will there be a blessing? Will there be a legacy? Will there be sadness? Will there be a celebration? Will there be a memory of God’s goodness and faithfulness?

I am not Moses nor I need to be. I might not be able to do such great signs and wonders as Moses or show such mighty power or perform awesome deeds as he did. But at the end of the journey, will it be said that I am one whom the Lord knew face to face? Or rather, will I be able to pass on with certainty that I knew the Lord face to face?

Dear Lord, help me to see you and experience you in each little moment of each day. Let it be said of me: The beloved whom the Lord knew face to face… the blessed one who seeks to know the Lord face to face. Amen



The hi and the low… that is how we read the weather report – we take note of the hi’s and the low’s. So in marriage and relationships, we all have our hi’s and low’s.

One hi and low issue I often struggle with in my life is that of pride and shame. What is common to these two is ego – the self. Pride is self-worthiness and shame is self-worthlessness. Both pride and shame come from seeking people’s approval – either found or lost. Both are not the true self – not the authentic person that God created me to be.

In the NT, there are two records of God speaking to Jesus about Jesus. One was when Jesus was baptized. The other was when Jesus was transfigured.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Jesus started his ministry with God’s words of affirmation. He heard it again before going the way of the cross. His ministry on earth was grounded on God’s approval. His journey to the cross was grounded on God’s approval. There was no pride and there was no shame. Because the ultimate truth is that Jesus is God’s Beloved Son, in whom God is well pleased.

God created me in His own Image. I am His beloved. No praise of men should make me proud nor their disapproval shame me. There is nothing I can do to earn His approval. There is nothing about me that He is ashamed of.

The hi and the low… let me remember where I stand. I am God’s beloved.


Embracing pain with joy

I used to complain I could not sleep. I told insomnia to go away. I watched the clock ticking the seconds away willing myself to sleep. I even once put the clock on its face so I would not see the seconds ticking away. I fret about insomnia and this anxiety about insomnia caused me sleepless nights. It’s quite ironic. I went to the psychiatrist for prescription to help me sleep. Look what that got me! I had a bad fall that pretty much awaken me to my problem.

One morning, I opened my eyes and it was 2am. I realized that I no longer fret about it. It’s alright. I will write about it instead.

I embrace insomnia. This means I will accept it and not fret about it. This leads me to another thought. How about grief? I embrace that too.

In the few months after my parents passed away, God taught me to embrace pain… with joy. Job is one character in the Bible most associated with suffering. Yet he was able to say this:

(Job 6:10) Then I would still have this consolation— my joy in unrelenting pain— that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.

Job found joy in unending pain. In fact it was his comfort and encouragement, his joy in suffering, that he did not deny God. Job was loyal to God to the end.


A good friend once observed that in class, no student would raise his/her hand to answer a difficult question from the teacher. In life, nobody, not even a Christian would volunteer to take a difficult test from God. I would not choose for my mom to get sick and die. I would never choose to fall and break my ankle. Neither would I choose for my father to go through so many painful procedures and so much suffering.

But God’s grace is sufficient. He sees us through the long dark tunnel. With each difficult challenge, He enables us to overcome. He nourishes me with His Word – the Bible. As I read His promises, as I trust in His word, and obey Him, I experience that indeed God works out all things for my good, for the good of those who love Him because those who love Him are called to do his good purpose on earth. That purpose is make Him known to all people; that through the people who love God, all other people will see and experience the greatness of our God.

And so I choose to embrace pain. The world is filled with evil – from the work of Satan – through bad people causing violence, calamity and death. Bad things people do are output of man’s sinful nature. All nature is filled with natural disasters like earthquake, tsunami, tornado, drought/famine, floods etc. Children of God are not exempted from these troubles. But they stand out different from the world because they choose to rejoice amidst the sadness. They have faith in the One who holds the world in His hands. They have hope that one day, Jesus Christ will return to conquer evil and death. They look forward with gladness and expectations to spending eternity with their eternal God – forever free from the stronghold of death!


No Fear?

Faith takes practice. So with courage. It is said that courage is not the absence of fear but the conquest of it. As with faith, courage starts small.

conquest of fear

As a young child, I was timid, an introvert who did not like greeting visitors. I wonder if mama gave me a Chinese name 静薇 which means quiet and small because I was not talkative and timid. I remember my first declamation contest in elementary. Whew! It was a nerve-racking experience. I did not win. I remember the grueling process of practicing for it… more than just memory effort but the process to overcome the fear. Stage fright in short.

In high school, there were more opportunities to practice how to be brave. More than just stage fright, I had to overcome the awkward stage of adolescence. I was not a ‘friendly’ person. I find it awkward to greet people not close to me. It was hard for me to ‘give a nod’ or smile at classmates or batch mates in the hallway. It took me a long journey into adulthood for me to learn to smile at strangers.

Fast-forward to being a wife, I often had to practice courage – courage to read what Andrew said to me in his text or email. Why so? I was afraid to read or know because I was afraid I would not like what I read. I was afraid I might not be able to control myself – I would not stay silent so the argument would end. Many times, I just erased his messages without reading. No harm no foul. What I don’t know won’t hurt me. So I practiced – small steps at a time. I read what he sent me. I practiced not replying his text. I practiced to bear the pain – reading what I did not like to hear. I practice accepting criticism even when I thought I was right.


Then came opportunities to speak out for what is right. It is sometimes even as simple as pointing the proper queue to people who did not know how to queue. Then, it also takes practice to speak for people who could not speak for themselves. It is most challenging to speak at the expense of being criticized or incurring the ire of the opponents.

Speaking out for my faith is a practice in courage. I am often in my comfort zone. I shared my faith and give my testimonies with Christian friends, with people of the same beliefs… people who would not raise question or challenge my belief.  Not much courage needed.  

One time I was put in the hot seat for standing firm on my belief. I was surprised that my ‘simple’ statement of truth offended a stranger. In the end, it took me courage to write two words to end the argument. ‘Yes, mam.’ I learned that it is more than courage. It is a lesson in humility… to give up the right to defend myself… to curb the urge to prove that I am right by eloquence… to take the criticism hurled at me without taking offence because I know what I believe. I do not need to strive and argue to the last breath. I learned that it takes humility in courage to let go.

How does God want us to be brave? It is courage that depends on God and not on myself.

God said to Joshua:

joshua 1-9

What does God want us to do? Courage to do what is right. Courage to stand alone to do what is right. Courage to stand alone to speak what is right. What is right? Right is when the poor is helped. Right is when the weak is strengthened. Right is when justice is served to the oppressed. Right is when truth is proclaimed. Right is when God is pleased because man obeys His command.

God said to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7)

Take courage my friend. God promised never to leave us alone. Even when we seem to be standing alone, God promised to stand with us. When we obey him, depending on him for strength and courage, He grants us success wherever we go.