Growing in Gratitude


Those who go hungry appreciate most the feeling of being full. Those who have been thirsty realize the value of water.

In the aftermath of Yolanda (Haiyan – the super typhoon that hit the Philippines in November, 2013 taking thousands of lives), I remember a high school student, who went days without taking a bath, sharing how he savored each drop of water in his bath after the disaster.

So in my journey with cancer and a broken ankle, I learned to be thankful for my oncologists, surgeon and caregivers, who knew my needs and looked after me over the years. I learned to be grateful that even though my medications caused side effects, my oncologist was able to recommend helpful remedies.

When I remember the love and care I received during these dark times, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Of the people God sent to help lighten my load and brighten the way, I am especially touched by our family helpers.

When I fell and could not walk, my drivers helped to carry me in the wheelchair down and up two flights of stairs each time I need to consult the doctor. I remember each meal prepared, each item of clothing washed and ironed, every plate, spoon, fork, and cup washed, every room of the house cleaned. I recall each bath and ride in the wheelchair.

I think further of the hands and feet that did all those things. And I reflect with thankfulness the hearts and minds that move these hands and feet.

Sufferings are lenses through which we see life and living in a different perspective. These lenses magnify and enhance the trivial and unseen things, things I previously took for granted. Remembering to put on these lenses helps me to open my hands.

Jesus had these lenses on when he saw the poor widow put two small copper coins into the treasury. “Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43–44). Jesus commended the widow because she gave everything.

Similarly, Paul commended the churches in Macedonia because “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:2–3).

When I hesitate about giving an extra tip to a porter or a waiter, I think about how insignificant this amount is in my bank balance—and yet how it might help the waiter put food on his family’s table, or how it might enable a street kid who watched my car to buy medicine for his sick mom.

Being generous is a gift from God, who does not withhold any good gift from his children. For he gave us the gift of Jesus, who “was rich, yet for [our] sake. . .became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). No matter how much I give, I will never outgive God.

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself to me. Thank you for giving up the glory of heaven to be like us. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for my sins. Help me to give generously in joy and gratitude for the goodness you have bestowed in my life. Amen.


Stress free and happy

Philippians 4:4-9
Hey, do u want to be happy? Do u want to be worry-free? Do u wish for a stress-free life? Let me tell u share with u the formula Paul taught the Philippians. He told them to rejoice ‘always’ – always means good times or bad! Huh? How?
1) In the LORD! Not in success, not in security, not in money, not in fame nor popularity… But in the Lord. 4:4
2) Know that the Lord is near. v.5 He is coming soon. Let us rejoice in hope of this wonderful day.
3) v.6 tells us To worry for nothing, but in everything to pray. How? with a thankful heart, tell God all your requests. Then what? There is a promise from this exercise of worry-free, heart full of gratitude praying to God. Surely, the peace of God which gives us joy will be with us. We will experience His peace which is beyond human comprehension. People will be amazed at how this peace will keep our hearts and our minds steady in joy; steadfast unwavering in our gladness as we abide in Jesus Christ.
4) Another formula to joyful heart is found in v. 8. We are to think good things. The mind that is focused on the true, the honourable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the good repute, the excellent and all that is worthy of praise, surely when my mind is filled with these good things, my heart is filled with joy.
5) Finally, out of the heart, the mouth speaks, the hands acts and the life lives! When I intentionally practice to live a joyful life, the God of peace is mine to enjoy and experience!

Philippians 4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

For richer… for poorer

Ecclesiastes is a book in the Old Testament belonging to the genre – Wisdom Literature. It is believed to be written by King Solomon in his old age. At first glance, this book seems to take a pessimistic-fatalistic perspective on life and living. In Eccl. 1, it says:

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?

Meaningless or vanity… the quality of being worthless, useless, pointless. Why so? Everything is for nothing? The ultimate question asked is what do I gain at the end of life for all the toil I do.

After reading it many times, I have come to realise that the author is wise in his observations about the realities of life. It is an account of the lessons he learned as he lived through the experiences of life – as a king with wealth and power.

Perhaps this book came from the inner convictions of the author as a rich man while looking around him to the people who are not rich. For me, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes teaches us about life and living through the dual lens of both the rich and the poor, the wise and the fool.

The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes lists down truths about life from his observations living life – a common sense that is not common because we do not pause to think and reflect about it.  Here are some of his observations:

Ecclesiastes 5

Vanity no. 1 – It is never enough.

10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.

Greed is the heart of all human search for wealth. The human heart is a bottomless pit. The grass is often greener on the other side of the fence. It is vanity – useless and pointless to accumulate wealth and yet never find satisfaction in riches because it is never enough.

11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?

A simple point for comparison to illustrate v.11: Buffet meals!  At ‘Heat”, a restaurant in Shangrila hotel, there’s ‘Lobster Madness’ on Fridays and ‘Mad for Wagyu’ on Saturdays. Even as the food on the buffet table increases, so do the people who flock to these places to indulge. At the end of it all, when one has reached the brimming point, when he feels like vomiting, what else is there to do except to feast his eyes on them? At some point, even the sight of food can be revolting!  Isn’t this vanity?

Vanity no. 2 – Money cannot buy everything.

12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.

Money can buy a big bed, comfortable beddings, warm blankets but money cannot buy sleep. Each time I see homeless people sleeping soundly on sidewalks under the hot sun in the noise of the traffic, I am reminded of the ironies of life. I know of wealthy people having trouble sleeping – popping pills to help them sleep, on their computers in the middle of the night looking up stock markets and keeping track of their investments. How ironical that sleep often eludes me when I have time and I feel so sleepy when I need to get up!

Lesson to learn?


Vanity no. 3 – Every one dies – the rich and the poor. In death, everyone is equal.

15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.
16 This too is a grievous evil:

As everyone comes, so they depart,
and what do they gain,
since they toil for the wind?

17 All their days they eat in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction and anger.

But there is good news. The wise teacher has one good observation to share:


19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Being rich is not a bad thing. It is good to enjoy wealth and riches, whatever material possessions that God gives. It is fitting that man reap that fruits of his labor – to enjoy their work, to enjoy the rewards of hard work. Even the ability to enjoy good things comes from God. Children of God are called to receive blessings and gifts from God with gratitude and gladness of heart – to be happy and accept with open hands and an open heart.

The dual lens of living a good life is to know that we take nothing with us when we die and to enjoy with gladness and gratitude the good things God gives us – the rewards of our labor while we live.

When life is hard, take comfort that it ends somewhere. When life is good, be grateful knowing that is it a gift from God, enjoy with gladness of heart.

In search of blissful contentment…

Have you ever watched a baby sleeping quietly in his mother’s arms? Such picture of blissful contentment…


King David wrote Psalm 131.  What did he say?


David does not strike me as a proud man. So I was intrigued when he said: My heart is not proud, Lord. My eyes are not haughty. (Psalm 131:1a). It does not seem like a humble man to say of himself as being not proud, is it?  I used to believe that humility is something one loses when he thinks he has it. But that is not the case here. Why?

He said something more that helps to explain the context – where he’s coming from when he said he’s not proud. He said: I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. (131:1b)

David prayed: “I am not proud, Lord.” That he addressed God as Lord, showed his submission before a greater person. David was not ‘ambitious.’ In simple terms, he did not strive to understand great matters – things that are beyond his understanding… things too wonderful for him to comprehend.

v. 2 gives us further context – that of contentment. Contentment of a weaned child. What does that mean? What is a weaned child? Why did David use that metaphor?

What is the significance of weaning a child in the Bible? Gen. 21:8

Answer: According to Jewish custom, the time when a child is weaned is cause for celebration. A weaned child has survived the fragile stage of infancy and can now eat solid food rather than breastfeed from his or her mother. (

To be weaned like a child is to be off the needs of this world. To be off the need for significance, for affirmation, for self-righteousness and self-reliance. A weaned child is content in his mother’s arms. He knows he will be given solid food instead of his usual milk.

There are four significant themes in the 3 short verses. First is that of pride. David confidently prayed that he is not proud – not in his heart nor in his eyes. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matt. 12:34b) When I read haughty eyes, what comes to mind is looking down on others. Haughty eyes imply that I am better than you are. David was neither proud nor haughty. He was the humble shepherd boy who fought Goliath in the name of his God who helped him fight the lions to protect his sheep. He was the humble servant and musician of King Saul. He spared Saul’s life time and time again even when Saul tried to kill him.. even he was already anointed by Samuel to be king to replace Saul.

Second word is ambition. David does not think important to know all there is to know, to understand things that are beyond him. He neither had ambition to fight a giant nor to become a king. Why?

Contentment: Because he is content like a weaned child. Godliness with contentment is great gain. When has a weaned child ever sought to be wise, all-knowing, powerful and influential? There is calmness and quiet in the soul when there is contentment… no striving, no struggling, no contentious spirit.

Pride is at the heart of man. We are all proud by nature. Even in our good works and ministry in the name of God, even as we know the value of God’s approval, perhaps we seek more the approval of men. We might even think more of ourselves than what God thinks of us. Adam was lured into wanting to be like God. Pride and ambition often get us into a state of dissatisfaction, of anxious striving and chasing after the wind.

Contentment is being at peace like a weaned child – getting satisfaction and peace from knowing that his needs are taken care of. As God’s children, we are called to dependence on God for all our needs and wants. We trust and we rest.

Finally, we declare our hope. We know it is possible to attain such state of complete peace. We call on others to go on the road with us in hope… hope in the Lord who provides us with everything that we need and call us to be everything that we hope to be.

Psalm 131
A song of ascents. Of David.

1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Enough is enough.


Three Chinese proverbs sum up the teachings of Paul to Timothy. First, 知足常楽 is the way to a happy life. 知 is know, 足 is contentment, 常is often, and 楽 is joy. Second, 比上不足比下有餘。Compare with the richer and be found wanting. Compare with the poorer and discover there’s more than enough. Third, 知足常足,終身不辱。 Contentment brings satisfaction and spares one from disgrace. See 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

What stands out in all 3 proverbs is 足. This Chinese word has two meanings. One is foot and the other is enough. The foot meaning is independent of the enough meaning. They are not related to each other. They just happen to be in the same form – having the same character to represent them.足-why-is-foot-also-enough?answertab=oldest#tab-top.

足 in these proverbs means enough, satisfied. When is enough, enough? The answer lies in contentment. Paul wisely taught that godliness with contentment is great gain. To be godly and to be content is an asset. It defines one’s perspective in life. You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough ~ William Blake. Lao Tzu said He who is contented is rich.

Paul explains why godliness and contentment is great gain.
1) V. 7 tells us it is because we came into the world with nothing but our birthday suit. When we die, we take nothing with us as well. What is the physical life but only food and clothing? v. 8
2) vv.9-10 teach us that greed (the opposite of contentment) leads to many woes. Indeed the thirst for wealth leads many to destruction and griefs.

Alfred Nobel wisely observed that contentment is the real wealth. Godliness with contentment is being content and grateful for all that God gives me. “Contentment is not the fulfilment of what we want but appreciation of what we have.” ~ unknown.

Through 55 years of my life, I learned lessons of contentment and gratitude. The green-eyed monster takes away joy. Theodore Roosevelt said Comparison is the thief of joy. It is wise to rejoice with those who rejoice. To be happy for other people is a level-up in the lesson of being happy. Even a higher calling to be happy for your enemy.

To be grateful for what I have and not focus on what I do not have is key to joyful living. Being contented with what I have does not mean being complacent and stop being better or achieving more. It just means that I need to have the godly perspective: to know what is enough – not too much and not too little. Not too much is about being not greedy. Not too little is about being not lazy.

When is enough, enough? God gives wisdom through the Holy Spirit. He teaches me and shows the way to true godliness and contentment. Neither greedy nor lazy.



饮水思源 Remembering the Source

饮水思原 is a Chinese proverb, its literal meaning: drink (饮) water (水) think (思) source (原).

I remember hubby used to tell me while driving when we passed by a certain highway, that he used to commute many rides to visit his client along that road. If he should find it necessary to commute again, he would be just as grateful to do so just like he used to.

Today, even as I live in a comfortable house, I want to remember with fondness the small apartment my family lived in when I was in high school. There was just one small bedroom to fit one bed for my parents. Marian and I slept in our foldable beds in the kitchen/dining area. Even so, we were a happy blessed family – we had a school and a church – just a few minutes walk away. We had more than one place to call home.

In the OT, God again and again, reminded that the Israelites were once slaves and foreigners in the land of Egypt. They were redeemed and called to the promise land by the love of God – who chose them as His own people. As such, they were called to remember to treat the needy/poor/marginalized people – orphans/widows/foreigners as God treated them.

The Christian is called to a life of remembering the grace of God. He is to remember His Creator – the source from whom all blessings flow. The journey is not always smooth but there is always assurance that God sees him through.

All my life is about God’s grace from the first day I was born, God saved me from being an orphan when He saved my mom from bleeding to death when she gave birth to me. When i lost my first baby – a boy, it was a painful event for me. God gave me 3 daughters instead. When I got the big C, I experienced God’s presence more than any moment in my life – his warm embrace got me through all the treatment until today. When I went through the dark night of the soul – in my depression, God walked me through. The journey is not yet over – each day is a challenge to stay joyful in spite of many unhappy things that the reality of life brings. How do I cope with these challenges? I remember.. I recall… I recount God’s blessings to me in the past.. how He healed me, how He forgave me.. how He saw me through, how He held my hand… how He embraced me and comforted me.. how He disciplined me.

From past to present, in the days to come, let me not forget – God is good and he will see me through.

Be sad and be glad…


Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Time is a theme i much like to write about. When mama passed away, I wrote about “a time to be born and a time to die” in her eulogy. Few weeks after she died, I attended a wake and a wedding.
3 Sundays ago, papa passed on. 2 Sundays ago, I attended a wedding. Yesterday, I attended a wake. Again, there is a time to be sad and a time to be glad; a time to shed tears and a time to share laughter.

For me, these are times for both – grief and joy; lament and praise. Why?
Because God has made everything beautiful in its time. Its time – we often say in His time. Today I am reminded, it is about ‘ITS’ time – the time to do as time is set for whatever is to be done; a time to be whatever fitting for the time to be.

Because God has also set eternity in my heart… eternity is a sense of timelessness – essence of continuing actions and reactions simultaneously happening in my heart and thoughts.

Indeed, no human mind can understand what God has done since the beginning of time – nor will we ever imagine what God will do till the end of time.

Today is a time to rejoice because God has made it so that man can find nothing better than to be happy and to do good while they are in time. To be happy – to be born, to plant, to laugh, to dance… To do good even when uprooting, to comfort people and seek comfort in grieving and mourning; to do good in rejoicing with those who rejoice and to do good in grieving with those who grieve. This is what God called me to do today… to be happy and to be sad; to laugh and to weep.. because there is a time for everything and everything in its time.

How about you friend? Where are you now in time? Do you know the God who created you… the Creator of time? What are you doing with your time?