In The Making

An interesting wall that I came across last week:
Coffee-in-progress.
It’s a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s untiring effort in working within us.
We are a work-in-progress, if we are willing, until we are ready to be offered as an aromatic cup of morning coffee for the Lord.       By Ben

Coffee_in_Progress

Therefore beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not when I am near to you only, but now when I am far from you, all the more, with awe and with trembling, do the service of your life. For God is carefully working in you both to desire and to do that thing which you desire.    Phil 2:12-13

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Coffee, tea or …

Chrysanthemum Tea 174113

My cup of tea. Chrysanthemum and wolfberry tea steeped in hot water, in a cup with a seive-like cover that was given by my children for Mother’s day. This has become somewhat of a routine for me.

Formerly a tea drinker, i had switched to drinking coffee with Ben, who simply couldn’t go without his strong morning coffee brew. Several years ago, i started experiencing heart palpitations and restlessness whenever i drank coffee, even when it was just one cup, so i gradually give it up and switched to drinking tea, with milk or sugar.

My mum, who passed away in Jan this year, was a diabetic. After consistently cutting down on her sugars, her diabetic readings improved so much that she was eventually weaned off her diabetic medication. Her eyesight also improved! She could rattle off the numbers of other patients’ cardiac monitors across the room without any difficulty.

Since i was having eye problems in recent months, I figured that perhaps God was prompting me to cut down on my sugars too.

Prior to this, the only days i had totally abstained from caffeine, with much side-effects, was on Good Fridays. It has been more than a month since i started cutting down on caffeine and sugars. And if giving up coffee was bad enough, giving up my tea (which was my daily cup of caffeine fix) has been the equivalent of going cold turkey. For some time after, I suffered from constant headaches, drowsiness and crankiness.

Ironically, what had started off as as a mere attempt to save and protect my eyesight has evolved into a form of fasting, abstinence and purification for my body, but more importantly, for my soul!

We will never know how addicted we are until we are compelled to forgo something.

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  1 John 3:3  (NASB)

By Renee

The Milk Can

This is no ordinary milk can – it was used to hold the coffee or tea we ordered for take away from our local coffee shops, before it was replaced with the use of plastic bags or cups. Nothing beats the nostalgia and taste of drinking piping hot tea or coffee from it. They were innovative and knew how to reuse things then.

Growing up in a kampong (village), i had experienced the very rapid progress around me in my teenage years. 

Water had to be drawn from the wells before we had free flowing piped water.

Kerosene lamps were used to light the night before the supply of electricity meant we no longer had fixed bedtimes.

Radios were the norm until we were thrilled to see black and white images on television, which evolved into coloured digitized images.

Then came the refrigerator, which meant that my mum no longer had to walk to the market to buy fresh produce on a daily basis.

Our toilets were ‘mobile’, as fresh pits had to be dug elsewhere whenever it is filled. How i dreaded going to the toilets, some distance away outside the home, in the dark of the night using only a flashlight.

There was no instant or fast food, everything had to be freshly made or cooked by yourself. The ‘fastest’ food we had when in the pangs of hunger was to grab a plain biscuit, no bread.

It is precisely what we didn’t have during those difficult and poverty-stricken times that made us more grateful and appreciative for what we have now. Sometimes i like to reminisce about the past to remind me of God’s goodness.       By R

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers,…to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.     Deut 6:10-12  (NIV)

Minus the coffee

This is a traditional kopi (coffee) cup and saucer. Without the coffee inside. Because my husband has decided to forgo his cups of coffee during these 40 days of Lent, drinking tea instead. It is not an easy penance for someone who loves coffee so much that he will faithfully make his own coffee the traditional way every morning (see Here’s how). He once even harboured thoughts of opening his own small coffee-shop! 

As for me, i prefer drinking our local tea with milk, as the high caffeine content in coffee can cause heart palpitations and restlessness in me. For Lent, i had chosen to drink just one cup of plain light tea a day.

Even though the sacrifices may be little but abstaining from something we love is a surefire way of knowing how dependent we are on it, especially when we suffer from withdrawal symptoms from it. It is funny how we will never suffer from withdrawal symptoms from God; maybe we were never that ‘addicted’ to Him in the first place.         By R

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.   Matt 6:17-18   (NIV)

Missing little Pete

Yes i know, another bird again! But then this was my special little pet bird. And Jesus always mentioned birds too. God dropped them down from heaven, so we adopted them 1,2,3…8,9? We lost count…

In 2005, we picked up Pete (our 2nd yellow-vented bulbul and 5th bird) who had fallen from the same sealing-wax palm tree as our 2nd bird. Probably from the same careless parents too!

We believed he was the answer to our children’s prayers. Pete became such an intimate member of our family. Whenever we prayed, he would perch but also poop on our shoulders. He flew and played hide and seek with the children and invariably won at the game as he could always find them in the rooms, behind doors or toilets. He was always curious about the kitchen. Thank God he didn’t end up getting roasted! He pecked and fought with Ben but whenever he knew he was losing, he would seek refuge between my feet. He perched on my shoulder as i watered the plants, and pecked at our petunias. And he even tried drinking our coffee!

Pete was with us for more than 6 months before he started his unusual wing displays. We thought it must be some form of courtship and that he was ready for a mate. Every day, he would perch on the railing of our front gate, facing the sky and singing so melodiously. It was music to our ears, praising God every day.

One day, while perching as usual, a pile of heavy stuff fell on the floor. It startled Pete so much that he flew off. By the time we unlocked the gate and frantically called “Pete! Pete!” over our corridor, he was nowhere to be seen. In his panic, he must have flown too far out for him to respond and recognise our house as all units in the block looked similar to him.

Months later, on 2 occasions, we saw 2 yellow-vented bulbuls perched on the corridor’s railing outside our door.  We like to think that was our Pete bringing his girlfriend to visit us.

We thank God for blessing us Pete. It has been 10 years. Oh, how i miss Pete.      By R

Challenge me?

Have you tried wearing a watch on your right wrist? It’s awkward. Have you tried unbuttoning your shirt using a different hand? It’s clumsy. Have you tried putting on your pants starting with a different leg? It’s easy to lose your balance.  These are little things we do in our daily lives that we are unconscious of. They will bring us discomfort when we change them. Yet, no matter how small these changes are, they are to me, challenges.Lent-fasting-2015

It applies to spiritual things as well. When Jesus multiplied the loaves to feed the multitude for the first time, it was received with awe and praises. But when the second and third time came along, I believe that His disciples would have skillfully divided the people into groups and picked up the scraps after the meal without being told. What if Jesus had suddenly given a different instruction? Won’t it be a challenge to the disciples? Similarly, in today’s context during the many charismatic prayer meetings, there is a tendency to invoke the Holy Spirit in a mechanical way. Even the working of miracles seem to fall into some kind of “format”. What if the Spirit proposes a different outcome? Won’t it be a challenge too?

The season of Lent is approaching and it is a time for challenges to re-direct our lives towards God. During these forty days, we customarily practise fasting, prayers and alms-giving. I had intended to forgo my daily cup of coffee that kick-start my morning, yet this kind of abstinence may become a temptation to impress people or worse, God. Our desire during this period should be making an effort to grow closer to the Lord. Perhaps, it may be better if I start working on little challenges in my daily life, like wearing my watch on my right wrist, to instill a greater awareness of God Who is Omnipresent.       By B

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23 (NIV)

Your ways are not My ways

 

God was the one who inspired me to take up watercolor painting which, frankly, wasn’t my choice of medium. He also led me to my art mentor. All it took was just one afternoon for me to say “yes” to Him and the watercolor medium, and the moment i saw a photo of an artist doing a painting demonstration, i instinctively knew that God wanted me to learn from him.

What followed was nothing short of Divine Providence.  My art mentor had no structured format, no fixed lessons and best of all, i could paint whatever i wanted! Everything fitted well with my tight family commitments. It suited me fine as i got to paint whatever inspiration i received from the Lord.

The first lesson was no easy task (See Near peaceful waters He leads me). I remembered sitting there after his demo, still not knowing how to paint, afraid to ask and feeling very lost.  Watercolor painting was just too difficult, the brush and the paint just wouldn’t obey me. I bowed my head in prayer desperately praying “Lord, you have to help me get through this!”

What was worse was that my mentor spoke mainly Mandarin, which i was not proficient in.  A purely self-taught painter, he was meticulous and a perfectionist, more of a realistic than an abstract artist. For months, i struggled to see the nuances in colour, tone and expression; as well as details that i hadn’t noticed before, such as light and shadow, shades of a shadow, even the shadows in a crack, the lines in a wrinkle, and the twinkle in an eye. It was as though God had ‘opened’ my eyes, to ‘perceive’ what i was seeing.

What amazed me was that after i had joined his class in August 2011, he held his very first solo art exhibition one month later. After fifty years of painting! In 2012, he held a teacher and students’ art exhibition, which i was very blessed to be a part of, although i was so undeserving as a newbie.

Coincidentally, while i try to paint with God’s inspiration, my mentor on the other hand loves painting with moral teachings. Sadly, his many years of plein air painting had affected his eyesight and his dabble in oil had caused eczema on his hands.

I continue to pray for him and i am so grateful to God for blessing me with my art mentor.        By R

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.   Isaiah 55:8  (NASB)

(Photo taken of a man scrutinizing the Coffee man)