A candid sensitivity

What kind of friend do u find most likeable on FB? Mine… a friend comes into mind for her candour.. 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.

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And so I want to talk about candour. 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 candour 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.

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

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

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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. Candour with tact – speak in truth with a sense of touch.

We all need friends with whom we can speak of our deepest concerns, and who do not fear to speak the truth in love to us

What good is the bad?

Why me? Why is life so hard? Why do I have to suffer? What good is there to suffer? God must be punishing me. These are some valid and logical questions to ask when one is facing difficult situations in life.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm. It is a psalm about the value of God’s word, his laws and his promises. Who wrote this psalm? It is unknown but most scholars agree that it is David, Ezra or Daniel. Why? Each of the 3 suffered much in life. Many verses in the psalm describe plots, slanders and taunts against him (23, 42, 51, 150 ), persecutions and afflictions he faced. (verses 61, 86, 95, 110, 121, 134, 157, 161; 67, 71, 143, 153) https://www.gotquestions.org/Psalm-119.html

From vv. 1-88, 4 verses mention suffering/affliction (患 難,受苦). These verses teach us the right perspectives of a person who faces difficulties in life.

What good is there in suffering?
1) Comfort of God v. 50
You comfort me in my suffering,
because your promise gives me new life. (ERV – Easy to Read Version)
這 話 將 我 救 活 了 ; 我 在 患 難 中 , 因 此 得 安 慰 。(CUV – Chinese Union Version)

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It is in my cancer that i experienced God’s embrace the most. It is when my parents were dying that God’s promises sustain me. Job sought God’s comfort in his sufferings. David found refuge in God when enemies sought his life.

2) Knowledge of God v. 67,71,75. I have witnessed many times how people turn to God when they are in the pit. My brother-in-law read the Bible everyday when he had cancer. He came to know God as he went through the valley of the shadow of death.

Arthur Pink in his piece The Afflictions of the Godly describes 3 kinds of heart in these 3 verses in Psalm 119. https://www.gracegems.org/Pink/afflictions_of_the_godly.htm

2.1. An honest heart v. 67
Before I suffered, I did many wrong things.
But now I carefully obey everything you say. (ERV)
我 未 受 苦 以 先 走 迷 了 路 , 現 在 卻 遵 守 你 的 話. (CUV)
This verse is a confession of an honest repentant sinner. Sufferings brought sinners to turn from their waywardness to obedience to God.

2.2. A grateful heart v.71
Suffering was good for me; I learned your laws. (ERV)
我 受 苦 是 與 我 有 益 , 為 要 使 我 學 習 你 的 律 例 。(CUV)

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How do I see suffering? Only a thankful heart sees it is good for me to suffer. A grateful person realises God’s laws are good. I learn so many lessons in life when I was in the deepest pit and the darkest valley. I experience God’s peace beyond human understanding in my radiation treatments. I experience God’s timely provisions when I was bed-ridden and nothing else to do but pray. I would not exchange these lessons for an easier path.

2.3. A discerning heart v.75
耶 和 華 啊 , 我 知 道 你 的 判 語 是 公 義 的 ; 你 使 我 受 苦 是 以 誠 實 待 我 。(CUV)

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An honest heart knows oneself. He knows his sinful ways. A discerning heart knows God. He knows God’s ways are righteous and just. A wise heart admits that God is right when he punishes with affliction. While it is true that not all sufferings are God’s punishments for disobedience, it is real that sins have their consequences. God disciplines us when we do wrong. He is faithful to his character – one of righteousness an justice. God allows afflictions in our life to teach us valuable lessons – to call us back to him and turn from our wrong choices in life.

So what good is there in suffering? I get to experience God’s comfort. I get to know myself and I get to know God more.

The Fad or the Odd?

 

To blend in or to stand out? Peer pressure is an issue not just for adolescents, adults have it too.

In the Bible, in 1 Samuel 8:5, the Israelites said to Samuel: “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

For years since their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites had always have God as the leader. God spoke to them through Moses. When Moses died, Joshua led them through the conquests until they fully possessed the Promised Land. After Joshua, God raised many judges to lead the Israelites. God used prophets to speak to the people and guide them on what to do. They had no king. God was their king. During the final years of Samuel, the people asked for a king.

 

They had valid reasons for the request. Samuel was already old. His sons were not like him – they were corrupt and not walking in the ways of the Lord.

But their more important reason was “such as all the other nations have.” When God told Samuel to warn them about the disadvantages of having a king (vv. 9-18), they refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” vv. 19-20

What lessons can we learn from the story?

Samuel was upset about the request. God encouraged Samuel that it is not him they were rejecting but God Himself. Let me remember that God’s work is God’s – let me not be discouraged when people or things seem to be against me… because it’s not about me, it’s all about God.

To be like all other nations… is that a good thing? Seems like it… All other nations had a king, why not us? All other people are doing this, why not me? In life, we often feel more comfortable and safer to be with the majority. Majority rules. But not so in God’s kingdom. Children of God are called to be ‘in’ the world and yet not ‘of’ the world. To be ‘in’ the world is to live in the realities of the world – not detached or out of touch, but be involved and aware of the things happening in the world. To be ‘not of’ the world is to stand different from the world – stand for what is right and good in God’s eyes. It takes courage to go against status quo and stand alone knowing that it is what pleases God.

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The more mature a Christian is, the more he will discern and be courageous to stand alone for what is right and good in God’s eyes. When I was young, I felt most at ease and comfortable when I was with my family, with my friends, going along with the majority. It is awkward to be alone. I was afraid to be different and have people ridicule me or criticise me. As I grow older, I seek to be different – to be more independent of people’s opinion and more dependent of God’s perspective. Not that I am perfect, I still crave for affirmation and approval of people, but God taught me lessons on this – to be courageous to be different and make a stand for the right. Many times people might not appreciate what I do. The important thing is am I doing what pleases God?

It’s not about me but all about God.

Father, what do you give your son?

The legacy of a dad…of nails and timber, wisdom and courage

Many parents work hard to provide for their children. We plan, we strive, we do our best so that our kids will have a good, successful life and a bright future.

King David left a lasting legacy to his son, Solomon – the wise king of Israel – having none like him before or after him. What did David do? How did he prepare Solomon to be king, successor to his throne? David made material preparations – gold, silver, bronze, timber and even nails. (vv.2-4,14) He provided human resources to help his son build the temple. (vv.15-19) More than these tangible resources, David left a more important legacy.

The Vision vv. 6-10
David told Solomon of his desire to build a house for God. He also explained why God did not allow him to do so: because of the bloodshed he had in his lifetime as a soldier and king. (vv.7-8) David told his son God’s plan for him to build His house. He shared God’s promise for Solomon. First, God gave him peace and quiet (peaceful rest- v.9). Unlike David, Solomon had a prosperous and peaceful reign – enjoying the favor of many nations around him. Secondly, God promised the he will be Solomon’s father and Solomon will be his son (worthy relationship- v.10a). Third, God said he will be with Solomon forever – to establish his kingdom (lasting reign – v. 10b).

The prayer vv.11-13
David prayed that the Lord be with his son so that he may be successful to build God’s house. v.11 David prayed for wisdom for his son so that he may obey God. v.12-13a
David encouraged his son to be strong and courageous – not to be afraid. v.13b

How do we follow David’s example in parenting our children today? We need to communicate God’s vision for our lives: both ours and our children’s! A godly vision guides a purposefully worthy life.

Equally important is equipping our children to fulfil God’s vision and mission for our life and in our daily living. How? We pray for them. For what?
We pray for God’s presence in their lives – that they experience God being with them in whatever they do. We teach them to experience God’s presence by reading God’s word and being attentive to the Holy Spirit.

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We ask for God’s wisdom in their lives – that they obey God in whatever they do.
When I know that God is with me and that He gives me wisdom to know what to do, I can be brave, I can be strong. Certainly, God’s vision in my life will be fulfilled.

Is this not the lasting worthy legacy for a parent to give to his son?

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In search of blissful contentment…

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

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King David wrote Psalm 131.  What did he say?

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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. (https://www.gotquestions.org/weaning-child-bible.html)

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.

Application:
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.

Getting up from the mud…

What do you do when things do not go the way you want them to? How do you react when people are rude and inconsiderate? How do you feel when your actions were misunderstood, criticised and taken negatively in spite of the good intentions you have?

What do you do in the face of all negativity that surrounds you? Do you complain about it? Talk to a friend? Do you retaliate in kind? Give the people who offended you a piece of your mind? Defend yourself? Do you passively ignore them? Do you pray to God to vindicate you? Do you even pray for God to avenge you? So after doing any one of these things, what next?

I have at one time or another experienced one of the scenarios above. At one time or another, I might have responded in similar ways to one of the above. What did I learn from all these negative, unpleasant situations that life brings? I learn resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, to be elastic and stretchable. It is being adaptable and adaptive to circumstances that life brings to us. It is refusal to stay in the mud and mire. It is picking myself up from the mud, washing off the dirt and start walking again.

How do I do that? First, I stop complaining about it. Let me illustrate. When my driver/chauffeur of 10 years resigned suddenly without advanced notice, I was taken by surprise and mad. I was angry at his disrespectful behaviour. I was insulted he sent me a resignation letter delivered by his brother-in-law addressed “To whom it may concern.” I suspect it was written by his new employer. I complained about it to his brother-in-law (who is employed with me) and my friends. Then my husband told me: I guess he’s embarrassed to come personally to us to give his notice of resignation. I realise that putting myself in his shoes helped me to be less angry. It made me stop complaining. I learn to be happy for him – if he is in a better job, then good for him.

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I then turn to the positive aspects of the situation. One driver less is less expense for us. My daughter can drive herself to work, get parking reimbursement from her employer, and we save on gasoline. The driver does not need to take her to work and go back for her after work. She gets to manage her own time. There are 4 of us in the family who can drive. One driver can serve our needs. If necessary, I can drive for my children or my children can drive for me. We get to have more bonding moments in our rides. My driver gets to earn more. We increased his salary for his added load and to encourage him to do better.

What about when I quarrelled with my husband? It is always stressful to argue, to shout and vent our anger on each other. It is not pleasant to keep myself from defending my rights, and not get what I deserve. There is a need to have the last say. It is difficult to shut up and fume inside. It takes lots of energy and self-control to bite my tongue so the argument will stop. What do I do? I rationalise. I think how right I am. I get angry and say to myself – how wrong he was. Or I think how wronged I was. I cry. I sob. I indulge in self-pity. I learn both these responses do me no good. I dry my tears. I get up from the couch of self-pity and anger. I drove myself to watch a movie. It doesn’t matter what the movie is about – a drama, a comedy or a thriller – so long as I like it. One time I watched Phantom of the Opera. It was cathartic to continue crying in the movie – for something not my own sadness. Another time I watched King Arthur – the legend of the sword. The plot and action scenes in the movie made me forget my own angry tales. Then I bought myself my comfort food to bring home to eat. I ignored my husband the rest of the night. I went into the bathroom the next morning and hugged him to say I’m sorry. And he said ‘I’m sorry too.’ That’s the end of sad story… until the next one.

158411-Dolly-Parton-Quote-I-ll-be-wearing-my-high-heels-even-if-I-m-up-to.jpgReality of life is that there will always be difficult circumstances in our life – unavoidable or not, things within our control or not. Our mortal body (diseases, death) – with our sinful nature … in an evil world (war, prostitution, terrorism, oppression, etc.), in the natural world under the forces of nature – famine, typhoon, tsunami, earthquake, etc.; all these are often beyond our solutions to solve, beyond our abilities to handle to avoid or run away from. We have no choice but to face them as they come. But we do have a choice how we face them – how we respond to them with our attitude and perspective.

It is natural to feel sad when hurt, to feel angry when wronged, to feel anxious when sick. Grief is part of the emotions that God created in man – what are tears for? Today I still grieve for my parents. They died within 5 months of each other last year. How do I cope with grief. I think of our happy times. I look at old photos of us together. I remember my childhood days. I treasure the legacies they left behind. I honour their memory when I live out these legacies – the legacy to be diligent and responsible, the legacy to be prayerful, to be positive and encouraging, to be resilient when times are hard.

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Yes, it is easier said than done. Practice makes perfect. Everyday is a choice. If there’s a will, there’s a way. For Christians, we have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, our counsellor and guide. He guides us and enables us to get up from the mire and to continue walking.

Enough is enough.

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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. https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/3852/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.