Candor vs Tact

What kind of friend do u find most likeable on FB? Mine… a friend comes into mind for her candor.. I like her posts because she can be candidly funny.

What kind of inspirational speaker do u find most inspiring? Mine.. two friends come to mind: one speaks of all her achievements and how she achieve them; the other shares her success stories and candidly tells of her not-so-successful ones. Of these two, i prefer the latter.

And so I want to talk about candor. What does it mean to be candid? To be candid is to be honest, frank and speaking the truth without a facade. For me, the word seems to carry a sense of happiness and brightness. I searched for its origin. In latin, it is whiteness. Words associated with candor are integrity, sincerity, fairness, guilelessness and naiveté.

To be guileless and naive is to be childlike – without deceit. How does a child do that? At times, to the point of being rude, right? But we know that behind his truthfulness, he did not mean to hurt. Let me illustrate an example: I was embarrassed when my young daughter candidly told a friend that her gift was too small to fit her. She answered in reply to the friend’s asking. She was too young to be tactful about it.

Tact is sensitivity, understanding and thoughtfulness in dealing with difficult situations. Its Latin origin is to touch, or sense of touch.

I appreciate the candor of my adult friends and I observed that my child needs tact in her candor. What is the difference of their candor? The candor of my friends is illustrated when they shared truths about themselves – even their own weaknesses or the not-so-good stuffs in their lives to share lessons they learned. Candor is authenticity. On the other hand, I teach my child that she needs to be tactful even as she is honest.

The Bible sums it up nicely: Speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) Paul taught the Ephesians to grow in Christ. To be mature in Christ is about integrity and about love. How? We need to be honest with each other and we need to be sensitive to one another. Candor with tact – speak the truth in love.

Profile of the Lowly Lord

Servanthood: The Profile of the Humble Teacher

John 13
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples: every one of them, of Judas, who betrayed him, of Peter who denied him, of all the others who abandoned him when he was on the way to the cross. Why? How?

Purpose: v. 1 Jesus knew his hour had come. He knew his purpose for which he was sent into the world. It’s time for him to do his mission and go back to his Father. He loved his disciples and he loved them to the end.

Power: v. 3 Jesus knew his power came from the Father and that he had come from God and he would return to God. Power from God is the means by which Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

Jesus set an example of true humility – the teacher washing the feet of his students. He taught in words and deed. Jesus showed them what they are to do with one another – wash each other’s feet. This is the way to love one another. Jesus loved them to the end. Love motivates each act of humble service.

In those days, only servants wash the feet of all who come to visit. Feet washing is a lowly task. Yet, the Master Teacher washed the feet of his students. How did he do it?

Jesus knew his position: He is Son of God. He would go back to the Father (v. 1a). He had come from God and was returning to God (v.3).
Jesus knew his purpose: He came to love and love them to the end (v. 1b).
Jesus knew his power: The Father had put all things under his power (v. 3).

When a person is secure in his identity, he has the means to do all that he’s called to do. His purpose is rooted in his position just as his position empowers him for his purpose.

Today, I am a child of God as Jesus is the Son of God because I believe and accepted Jesus as my Lord, Saviour and Teacher. I am called to love as Jesus loves. I am empowered to serve as Jesus served – his love compelled him to the way of calvary: from washing feet to dying on the cross and everything in between.

Lord, Make me a servant humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today.

Receiving my in-laws from the Lord

Receiving my in-laws from God

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” – Ruth 1:16-17

Andrew is the only son born to his parents in midlife. His parents were born and raised in China. His only sibling is a sister, thirteen years older than him. In the traditional Chinese culture, a son is important to carry on the family name. A daughter given away in marriage belongs to another family. 传子传媳不传女. One bequeaths family trade secrets to the son and the daughter-in-law but not the daughter. It is important to know the background as you read this chapter of my story.

The Bible teaches “That is why a man leaves his father and mother …” (Gen. 2:24). “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…” (Matt. 19:5, Mk. 10:7, Eph. 5:31). As I read these verses again, I searched for the reason a man leave his father and mother? Is it about leaving them physically? Is it not against the Chinese culture God has put me in? How come Andrew and I live with them?

Since the day I decided to marry Andrew, I believe that Andrew being the only son has the sole duty and responsibility to take care of his parents. It means his parents live with him wherever he goes. And I being his wife, accept this reality – no choice.

In 30 years of marriage, I went through many tests being a wife, a mother and a daughter-in-law. I failed miserably many times if it were not for God’s grace and mercy, I don’t know what would become of our marriage amidst these challenges.

Perhaps in my mother-in-law’s mind, my most important failure was not giving her a grandson. Whereas Hannah endured the ridicule of Penninah not having children of her own, I often had to ignore ‘expectations’ (uttered or not, subtle or not) to ‘produce’ a son. I gave birth to Michelle, my youngest when I was already forty years old. Even when Mimi was already in grade school, my mother-in-law would still tell her in my hearing: “Jio sioti-ah.” (Bring along a younger brother). This is a very Chinese (Fookienese) phrase: to invite a younger brother – as if calling out for a younger brother – will make the dream come true! It made me sad (and mad) when I hear her praising another lady for having many children even though she also had caesarian sections. It was as if bearing children (many) were the ‘valued’ skill of a daughter-in-law.

When I first got married, my mother-in-law complained to my godmother how I could not cook because I could not even hold the cooking utensils properly. My father-in-law once said to me: “Cooking is the most important task (for a lady of the house).” Before I got married, except for cooking classes in high school, I had never cooked a meal in my life. For many years, I was grateful that my mother-in-law cooked our meals and dinner was ready when I came home from work with Andrew. As the years passed, I learned many dishes from her. While many people believe cooking de-stress them, for me cooking is stressful. Through the years, I learned to appreciate the task of cooking with joy for my family. I learned this from my mother-in-law. It was never too late in the night for her to cook for Andrew. Today, Andrew and I often have our family bonding with the children – cooking hotpot right in our bedroom.

Having in-laws living with us has its ups and downs. Even as there were unavoidable conflicts and differences in opinions, I should always remember how my in-laws helped me take care of my children especially Hannah, my eldest. When she was young, we did not even have a helper at home. I went to work with Andrew in the office. I was quite assured that Hannah was in good hands all through the day. I can recall when Hannah was just a few weeks old, my father-in-law went around the house, singing and rocking her to sleep then gently putting her in the crib. I cannot forget that even in his late 80’s, he picked up Mimi from school. I doubt if there were any other child who had a grandpa bringing them home from school. How blessed Mimi was!

When my mother-in-law was ninety-four, she had vascular dementia. Each day as I saw her eating three meals a day, taking snacks in between, I thanked God for giving her appetite and ability to eat by herself. When she napped on the sofa, or the couch in her bedroom, I thanked God for the privilege of taking care of her in her old age. It is easier said than done. There were difficult times when she was moody and violent. Anger and violent behaviors would come anytime without provocation. We had to seek medical help. God is good. He led us to a psychiatrist who prescribed a medication that helped resolve this symptom of vascular dementia.

It was during these challenging episodes that I relate most to what Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Indeed, for the words she said to me and the things she did to me when she was sick, I had to look beyond the past, past the hurts and wounds, external and internal. I learned to forgive but not forget. I should not forget how God forgave me. I should remember the good things she did for our family. I must not forget how she took care of me and my children. In her own way, she loves me. She loves my children very much even though they are not ‘sons.’

So let me return to my question – for what reason does a man leave his father and his mother? The reason is found in Genesis 2:23 – “The man said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”” A man leaves his parents to be one with his wife – the woman taken out of him. What does it mean to leave his father and his mother? Let me say what it does not mean. Leaving his father and his mother does not mean living away from them. It does not mean that he leaves them to take care of themselves. It does not even mean leaving them with his sister to take care of them. It means that leaving his parents, Andrew becomes united with me. He becomes one flesh with me. I become one flesh with him. Together, we take care of his parents.

I am not better than Ruth. I could not say to my mother-in-law the things Ruth said to Naomi. Unlike Ruth, people would not say to my mother-in-law that I am better to her than seven sons (Ruth 4:15). She would not believe it. I would not either. I am not Ruth. I am more blessed than Ruth. I have a husband who loves me. I have a husband who loves his parents. I have a husband who loves my children. I have a husband who loves my parents. Andrew loves me. For this reason, he leaves his father and his mother and is united to me and we become one flesh. For this reason, I receive my in-laws with thanksgiving and praise for my God of grace and mercy.

Thank you, Lord for giving Andrew a father and a mother who loved him very much. Thank you for your gift of in-laws in my life. I praise you for their lives and the many lessons I learned as a daughter-in-law. Amen.

When Silence is Gold

When Silence is Gold…

What do you say when people wrongly accuse you? How do you respond? How do you feel? I want to defend myself: let them know I they are wrong. I am not. I feel hurt. I want justice. I have to say something. Yet many times, I know God is teaching me to be like Jesus. How did Jesus respond when he was wrongly accused at the trial that sentenced him to crucifixion?

Mark 14:55-65
The high priest asked Jesus 2 questions. (v.60)
Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?
How come Jesus did not answer these two questions.

Because Jesus didn’t answer, the high priest asked a 3rd question. Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed one? (v.62)

Jesus answered “Yes.” To which he added, you will see me sitting at the right hand of the mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Jesus did not answer the first two questions because there was no need to give answers. Why? He knew they misunderstood what he said about destroying the temple and building it up again in 3 days. He knew their testimonies were in disagreement with each other. He knew they were wrong and he was right where he was supposed to be. Silence is as good an answer.

Jesus answered the 3rd question that He is the Messiah because He is. He is the Son of the Blessed one. He knows He is the Son of God. A simple ‘I am’ to a simple truth – truth so profound that it was deemed a blasphemy by the high priest.

So each time I feel like speaking out to defend myself, I learn discernment to be silent like Jesus. God in his own time vindicates me. This is a difficult lesson to learn – yet God is patient. The sooner I learn the lesson, the sooner I have peace within me and peace with the person I want to defend myself to.

Jesus stood his ground. He was silent in the face of wrong accusations because he knew where he was supposed to be. He knew who He is. There is no need to defend himself.

The Blessings of Friendship

Once upon a time, I experienced the blessing of inter-generational friendship. I was
reminded how elderly people have social needs – perhaps more so than the rest of
us. It made me happy to see a 86 year old chat with, sing to/with, pray for/with,
listen to, hold hands with a 90 year old. I praise God for my friend who is kind
enough to bring his mother to visit my mother-in-law. I am grateful for my friend
who offered this kind act of loving a neighbour.

As I think about this gift of friendship that man as social beings need, crave for:
1) Friendship is like wine – the longer it is, the more precious it becomes.
2) Friendship transcends time and space. My close childhood friends remain my
close adult friends and we pick up where we left off even if we are thousand of miles
across each other; even if we see each other once or twice every few years.
3) Friendship transcends generations. I am happy when I see my children are friends with kids of my friends, or when my father had my friend’s dad visit him. Do you know we have friendship of 3 generations in our family?! Our parents were friends, we are friends and our children are friends. And no, it is not necessarily between two big families… which brings me to the next point…
4) Friendship is not about quantity but quality. A few true friends who stick like a
brother/sister are definitely better than a crowd of acquaintances.
5) Friendship is about authenticity and not about perfection. I can bare myself to my
friend – my inner thoughts and weaknesses – the good side and the bad side – knowing that I will not be judged and will be accepted.
On the other hand, in my imperfection, I can count on my friend to tell me the truth
which brings me to the next point.
6) Friendship is also about critical acceptance. Yes I am accepted for my weaknesses but I am also told the truth for me to improve myself; to do better and be better. A friend is not afraid to criticise me because she knows I will accept her words just as she accepts me.

And what added blessing we have as children of God because we know ‘What a
friend we have in Jesus!’ – all our sins and griefs to bear…

For Better or For Worse

Do you believe God uses people to help you navigate the challenges of life? I do. How so?

A friend once asked: ‘D ka pa ba sanay sa kanya?’ Are you not used to him yet? This simple rhetorical question opened my eyes to another perspective. Do you not know him enough yet? Indeed after more than 33 years, why am I not yet used to hubby?

Being life partners is life-long journey to know one another, to get used to one another… accepting each other, both our strengths and weaknesses. We grow stronger and wiser as we navigate our differences and our weaknesses together.

One friend pointed out that hubby is faithful to me. He does not do things that make me doubt his loyalty and commitment to our marriage -his promise before God and man. This precious truth reminds me of what is important – his love trumps his weaknesses. I too have my weaknesses.

Another friend said: ‘No one likes to volunteer to answer the hard questions the teacher asks in class.’ Neither would I raise my hands to cancer, depression, death and good-byes in the family. But God works all things (both good and bad) for my good – even though my love for him is not perfect, He calls me for His purpose – to make me more and more like Jesus for His glory. Romans 8:28-30 assures me of that.

This friend also said: It’s putting one foot in front of the other. I agree. It’s just when I started to walk again after ankle surgery. It’s a struggle to walk with crutches. But one foot forward is better than standing still – going nowhere. Eventually the first step leads me to many more steps until finally I could walk again, climb and go down stairs again, hike again, and dance again!

So is life. Each time when life is hard, I need to take courage. Instead of running away, I have to face the problem, embrace the pain, deal with the challenge head on. And always by the grace and mercy of God, I overcome -little by little, one step at a time.

This simple song I learned in summer camps.
Little by little, one step at a time,
He’s changing our hearts and renewing our minds.
Teaching us how to be patient and kind.
Little by little, one step at a time.
Today is another day to live life one step at a time.

Lord, renew my mind and transform my heart – to be patient and kind like you, Jesus. Amen.

Are you a wise judge?

Question: When you see a wrong, how do you respond? Do you say something, do something to right the wrong? Or do you maintain status quo, or mind your own business?

It depends. Whenever I see people not queuing properly, my conscience urged me to point out the wrong. There’s the end of the line.

When friends share with me their struggles or candidly tell of their stories, I sometimes need to control myself from speaking out and remind myself not to judge even when instinctively I think something’s not right. I confess that it can be tricky – when to right a wrong or point out a mistake; when to speak the truth or when to stay silent. It takes both discernment and courage to make the right choice.

To judge or not to judge?

Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 7:1-3
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

The principle behind this teaching is not to measure others by another yardstick with which I use for myself. When I am critical of other people, I need to examine myself whether I am doing the same. This principle applies to the family of faith – fellow Christians – believers and followers of Jesus.

What about the outsiders – those who do not know Jesus? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5 an important principle.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

The background on this teaching was that there was someone sleeping with his father’s wife in the church. Paul rebuked them for condoning immorality in the church. (vv.1-2)
Paul’s response: He condemned the sinner for his adultery. (vv. 3-5)
Paul taught a parable on the leaven and unleavened dough. (vv. 6-8) Leaven is a substance like the yeast that makes the dough rise. As a verb, it is to cause (dough or bread) to ferment and rise by adding leaven. “leavened breads are forbidden during Passover” Paul pointed out the importance not to let sin influence the whole church. Instead, the sinner should be reprimanded and taken out.

Do we associate with immoral people or not? No and yes. Read vv. 9-11.
When Paul said not to associate with immoral people, he did not mean sinful people of the world. Why? Because that is not possible – because to do so, one has to be a hermit. v.10
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. v.11

When we maintain status quo, when we turn a blind eye to sin, when we do not speak the truth and point out the wrong, when we continue to befriend a sinner, we are allowing the person to continue in his sin.

To ponder:
When I am critical of fellow Christians, let me check myself… What would I do if I were in the same situation? Would I do the same? Is there perhaps something I am not aware of? What would it be like to be in his/her shoes?

On the other hand, why am I keeping quiet? Is it time to speak the truth? What are the consequences of my silence? Is my indifference and apathy a cause for others to continue in sin? How does it affect fellow believers when I keep quiet?

Lord, help me to be wise – to judge or not to judge, May your Spirit teach and guide me to search inward and look upward so that I can be light and salt in the world.

Of Hand-Washing and Heart-Warming

It is a good habit to wash our hands before eating. But in the days of Jesus, the Pharisees strictly observed their tradition of washing their hands, their utensils etc before the meal. And they questioned and criticised Jesus and his disciples how come they did not observe this tradition. How did Jesus respond?

Matthew 15
3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for outward observance of tradition without really obeying God’s commandment. They gave diligently to tithes to the temple and would use this as an excuse to withhold giving to their parents.

Jesus further said:
And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you?
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”


God is more concerned with the condition of my heart – what I do and what motivates my action is much more important that what I say.

Let me beware of putting too much emphasis on outward appearances – following traditions, the customary way of worship – the form without the essence.

When I sing songs during worship service, do I mean what I sing? When I give tithes, is it from a heart of gratitude and response to God’s goodness? Do I go to church as a matter of habit? Is my ministry out of expectations put on me by friends, pastors, church leaders?

Jesus explained the parable to Peter:

17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

But what comes out of my mouth proceeds from the condition of my heart. Are my thoughts pleasing to God? Is my motive pure? Do I really love God with actions? How do I treat our neighbours? Actions speak louder than words. But even actions ultimately result from the heart. How is my heart? When I honour God with my lips, is my heart near to God? Do I worship God in vain because of shallow observance of tradition?

Let me beware and remember: Things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart. How is my heart?

Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me to sustain me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen

Musings from the Garden

The parable of the sower is a familiar one for many: 4 kinds of soil with 4 results. Only 1 seed = gospel (good news of Jesus) yet there are two categories of the results: the saved and the unsaved.

Matthew 13
18 “Listen then to the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one sown with seed beside the road.

20 The one sown with seed on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately he falls away.

22 And the one sown with seed among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, and the anxiety of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

23 But the one sown with seed on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces, some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times as much.”

I used to wonder a bit about what is the difference between soil 2 & soil 3. One thing is similar: both are affected by the concerns of the world = affliction, persecution (v.21) and anxiety of the world (v.22). The difference is soil 2 falls away. The person received the good news with joy but he turned away from his belief when hardships come. Soil 3 becomes unfruitful. This person is like the plant that grows with the thorns. The cares of the world prevent him from bearing fruit:1) fruit of the Spirit; bearing fruit like 2) sharing the gospel to make disciples of people.

To be like soil no. 3 is to be like a believer of Jesus yet not bearing the semblance of Jesus. To be unfruitful is like having no joy, no patience, no love, no peace, no faithfulness, no gentleness, no goodness or kindness and no self-control. To be an unfruitful Christian is because his focus is on the “anxiety of the world” and the “deceitfulness of wealth” not on the ‘Power of the Word.”

To be fruitful, I need to ‘hear’ (really listen, read and study) the Word, ‘understand’ (really live and apply it to my daily living). To be fruitful is to bless my neighbor as I obey God’s command to love him with all my being. How do I bless my neighbor? I love them like Jesus loves me. I forgive as I am forgiven. I give as Jesus gives. I multiply the gifts and make more givers out of my giving = that is making disciples of all nations. That is the great commission of being a fruitful follower of Jesus. So help me God.

Today is another day to bear fruit and be fruitful, dear friend.