Thursday, 1 August 2013

FREE eBook One Thousand Gifts : New Perspectives on Solving the mystery Where is God when it hurts (God is biting the bullet theodicy) My Singapore story

One Thousand Gifts

New Perspectives on
Solving the Mystery:
Where is God when it hurts?
(God is biting the bullet theodicy)

Free Kindle eBook
Available at  Smashwords Website
by Merton Lee

Dedicated to Dr Billy Graham, Dr Charles Stanley,
Dr Charles Swindoll,  Dr Rick Warren,
Brother David Steindl-Rast,  Ms Elisabeth Elliot,
Ms Oprah Winfrey, Ms Joni Eareckson Tada,
Mr Harold Kushner, Mr Philip Yancey,
Mr Don Piper, Professor Eugene Peterson,
Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr Roger Walsh,  Ram Dass,
Dr Jack Kornfield,  Ms Sharon Salzberg,
Ms Sylvia Boorstein,  Dr Wayne Dyer,
Ms Louise Hay, Mr Eckhart Tolle and Mr Gary Zukav
for their words of love and encouragement
in the different seasons of life.   

The Thousand Gifts Within

In the past few years, friends and fellow Christians have asked me:  What is the meaning of life?  Why does the world exist?  Where is God when it hurts?  How do we sustain our faith?
Usually I would reply with the following story which I wrote …
Many years ago, during the school vacation in summer, a 14-year-old boy from a peasant family was asked by his father to learn from an old fisherman on how to fish.
In most of the days, they were not successful in getting the big fish in a river near their village.  On several rare occasions, they managed to catch one or two heavy carps.
Three weeks passed and the boy lost his patience.  He complained to the old fisherman, “I am tired of these fruitless efforts.  I don’t understand why I need to learn from you.”
The old fisherman in his early eighties replied, “Perhaps your parents hope that you can find a wisdom stone in the river.”
The boy’s eyes brightened. He stared at the wrinkled face and the compassionate eyes of the old fisherman.
“I was told that a wisdom stone can bring good luck and it can fetch a high price,” said the boy.  “Can I really find it?”
 The old fisherman smiled and said, “I offer you my blessings.  You can walk slowly to that spot.  Perhaps you may find it.”  He lifted his hand and pointed to a shallow basin of the river about one hundred meters away which was filled with pebbles. 
 The boy became excited.  Perhaps his parents were hoping that the old fisherman would divulge this secret to him.   He handed the fishing net to the old fisherman, waded out of the waters and walked briskly towards the shallow basin.
For the next hour, the boy carefully looked through the pebbles.  Finally, he perceived a red gleam.  He searched around the pebbles and picked up a red stone.  It was half the size of his palm.  It sparkled in the morning light, like a ruby. 
“This must be the precious wisdom stone!” the boy thought.  Elated, he walked briskly back to the old fisherman and showed him his treasure.
The old fisherman congratulated him and the boy decided to go home.  He placed the wisdom stone in his pocket and ran home.
When he reached home, he shouted with joy.  He was eager to show his treasure to his parents who had just returned from the fields.  However, when he put his hand into his pocket, to his dismay, he discovered that his treasure had become an ordinary black pebble.  His parents were indignant.  They thought that the boy was lying and finding a pretext to laze around at home. 
From that day onwards and for subsequent years, the boy would occasionally think about the black pebble and the questions asked by the old fisherman.  He did not throw away the black pebble, but secretly hoped that one day, it would sparkle again like a ruby.  
When he became older, got married and became a father, he realized that what he treasured most was not the ‘precious’ stone he had found.  What he truly treasured and hoped for was that he could sell that stone for a high price and use the money to buy gifts for his parents and friends, to show his love and care for them. 
He also realized that there were other ways to show love and care, apart from material gifts.  It is such feelings of love, care, sympathy and compassion which define his humanity, which come from the depth of his soul and which reflect the moral awareness and heart wisdom within him.   These are the precious gifts given to him by God.  
Further, he realized that God has given him a range of invisible gifts.  They include the ability to perceive and appreciate the beauty of nature; the ability to appreciate inspiring music, books and works of art; the ability to remember things and events; the ability to understand the meaning and significance of events; the ability to think and reflect, to decide and to choose. 
 More importantly, God has given him the capacity to experience gratefulness, contentment, letting go and inner peace;  the capacity to awaken and grow in wisdom;  the capacity to realize the importance of being humble, prudent, self-reflective and self-disciplined; the capacity to be watchful and vigilant over one’s thoughts, words and deeds; the capacity to catch glimpses of the timeless essence within; the capacity to realize one’s mistakes, to repent and make amends, and move on with life with renewed commitment to walk the path of righteousness;  the capacity to choose forgiveness and compassion;  the capacity to persevere, to display moral resolve and choose to remain faithful to God during trying times; the capacity to understand His messages and encouraging words in the Bible; the capacity to go beyond thinking, to go beyond the small, instinctive self, to go beyond self-seeking desires; the capacity to look forward to returning to His kingdom upon completing one’s pilgrimage on earth;  and the capacity to experience the joy of extending a helping hand to the needy and to quietly follow the Creator day by day.  It may take years to discover and appreciate these priceless gifts from God …

Pilgrimage On Earth

I was born in 1969 in Singapore under humble circumstances.  My father did not have a stable job while my mother was a full-time housewife taking care of my two siblings, our grandparents and me.  Thus, I considered myself very fortunate to be able to attend school to receive formal education. 
In addition, I was born with fragile health and occasional back pain due to curvature of my spine.  I did not have the energy and strength to participate in sports.  During my school days, apart from school text books, I did not have money to buy other books.  Thus, I frequented the school and public libraries, reading a range of subjects.  
From the age of fourteen onwards, I became interested in the meaning of life.  I began to read the Bible and the wisdom literature of the major religions.  I also became a Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord.
As the years passed by, I discovered the usefulness of practising the wisdom teaching.  Besides providing me with positive thinking, they inculcated in me the value of service.  They inspired me to serve noble causes. By undertaking meditation, my health slowly improved.  I was able to complete two and a half years of national service in the Republic of Singapore Navy.
I did well in my academic studies. By the age of twenty-three, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Economics at the National University of Singapore.  I started to work part-time.  In the next three years, I obtained a Master’s degree in Accountancy and another Master’s degree in Business Administration via distance learning.  At the age of twenty-six, I joined a public sector organisation as a full-time finance manager.  For the next eighteen years, I devoted my best years to public service. 
          Thus, for three decades, I have been studying, reflecting on and practising the key insights of the perennial wisdom of the major religions.  As I reach forty-four years of age, after serving more than twenty years in the public sector including national service and after being married for seventeen years and as a father of two children, I deeply appreciate that practising these key insights has enabled me to accept life’s difficulties. 
In addition, over the years, I experienced the deaths of loved ones, friends and colleagues owing to illnesses or accidents. Those dark days made me feel keenly the preciousness and vulnerability of life.  They made me feel my deep need for God.  I realised that only the Creator could provide me with spiritual strength to handle adversities.  
Sad days and dark moments also made me realise that adversities and setbacks grow the seeds of spiritual qualities within us. They made us humble, sympathetic and compassionate.  Gradually we realise the importance of becoming God-centered and God-reliant.  
Further, from age forty-two onwards, due to high workload, my back pain recurred, together with gastric pain and ailments.  There were instances when my back pain radiated and extended to become chest pain and breathlessness. The doctors prescribed painkillers. On my part, I lengthened my daily meditation and took herbal medication for many months. Slowly my health improved.  These experiences deepened my empathy for the sick and needy.  I contributed more regularly a part of my income to charitable organisations which include the Red Cross, a local hospital for the poor and the Children’s Cancer Foundation. I could more deeply understand the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” 
For many years, I have also been contemplating and reflecting on:  Who are we?  Why are we here?  What is the meaning of life?  Why does the world exist?  I experienced deep insights in year 2012.  As a humble messenger of God, may I convey His messages in this book.     
In the past ten years, I have been discussing with my friends on religious faith.  One of their main reasons for rejecting God was that they could not accept the notion of an all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful God who allows undeserved suffering and untimely death.  I hope His messages in the final part of this book will answer their questions.
          On my part, when I discussed with my friends on religious faith, I liked to tell the following true story.  It reflects an exemplary commitment to do something beautiful for God:
Many years ago a pastor named Russell Conwell saw a little girl crying near the door of a small church.  It was over-crowded and she could not enter it.
"I cannot attend Sunday School …" she wept as the pastor walked by. The kind-hearted pastor took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class.
The child called Hattie was so touched that she went to bed that night worrying about those children who had no place to worship God. She began saving her money, so as to contribute towards building a larger Sunday school.
Over a period of two years Hattie saved 57 cents before she contracted diphtheria and died.  It was difficult for a poor girl to save 57 cents in the 1880s in the United States.  Her parents gave the money to pastor Conwell, explaining to him their daughter’s reason for saving the money.
The girl’s devotion deeply moved pastor Conwell.  For two years Hattie had sacrificially saved her offering of love.  Pastor Conwell instantly knew what he would do.  He repeated the story of the girl’s big-hearted love and devotion to God. He challenged his deacons to raise money for a larger building.
A newspaper also published this event.  A realtor was so touched by it that he offered a significant parcel of land.  When he realised that the church could not afford it, he offered it for 57 cents. Church members and Christians from other places also donated.  Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000 -- a huge sum at that time.
Hattie’s gift and her pastor’s determination resulted in today’s Temple Baptist Church attended by thousands and the Sunday School building which can house hundreds of Sunday school children where no child need to be left outside.  In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the little girl Hattie whose love for God is remembered forever.  [3]


                   Doing something beautiful for God
                   and becoming beautiful doing it …
                                     Timothy I  2:10 (The Message)
                 Let’s do something beautiful for God.
               Mother Teresa

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men …
                                                           Colossians 3:23 

          Several years ago I attended a gathering of Christian friends.  We noticed that one of the children was blind.  She was eleven years old and had been born blind.  But she appeared serene, bright and cheerful.  She could play the piano very well.  We admired her buoyant spirit. 
Suddenly a boy said, “I feel so sorry for you.  You are so pitiful ...” 
          The adults quickly informed the boy not to say indiscreet things.  To our surprise, the blind girl replied cheerfully, “I am not pitiful.  In fact I consider myself very fortunate.”
          All the adults and their healthy children were amazed by her optimism and positive attitude.  She explained, “Although I am blind, I can speak, hear, taste, smell and do many things.  I love singing, listening to music and playing the piano.  I can tell stories to other children about my blessings which are provided by God.  Recently I participated in a charity event by playing the piano.  I was glad to contribute my part to raising funds for the poor.”
          All the adults and I were speechless. We could clearly discern her  kind-hearted soul through her smiles.  
          She continued, “Most importantly, I have wonderful parents. I love listening to my mother telling wonderful stories from the Bible. I know that Jesus Christ always loves me.  I pray to Him every day.  I give thanks for all the wonderful gifts and abilities He has given me.  Now I wish to share my secret with you.  The reason why I consider myself to be very fortunate is that when I pass away and return to His kingdom, when I open my eyes, I shall see the beauty of heaven, the smiles of angels and the Face of our Saviour … ”
          This girl’s resilient spirit reminded me of  poet John Milton who was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost.  In his poem “On His Blindness”, Milton provided a profound meaning to the need for ‘waiting’ -- humble, reverent and patient waiting for God’s direction and for the unfolding of His purpose:-

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask.  But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly;
 thousands at his bidding speed
And post o
ver land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
          Waiting was common in my life.  For example, during my National Service days, I was posted to a new camp after I was promoted to Lance Corporal.   Accordingly, from Monday to Saturday at 5.15 am in the morning, I travelled on a bus for an hour from my home to the new camp.  Thereafter I trudged slowly up a steep hill for 30 minutes before reaching my camp.  I was usually panting and sweating heavily by the time I reached the top of the hill.  This continued for more than one year before I completed my national service.  At that time I did not enjoy the daily toil, although it gradually strengthened my health.  I was more eager to enrol in the local university to study Philosophy and Economics.  Now, years later, I realised that God was cultivating the habit of ‘patient waiting’ in me, as I tend to be impatient during my younger days. 
As I reach mid-forties in age, I realise that spiritual growth takes time.  Catching a glimpse of God’s purpose takes time.  When we begin to walk the spiritual path, we may experience moments of joyful awakening.  They arise from the release of pent-up unhappiness. Initially they can make us feel lighter. They can make us feel big-hearted. But these feelings arise and pass away.  Thereafter we have to persevere to follow God day by day.  We learn to become responsible to God in our daily thoughts, words and deeds.  No one can make this daily decision for us.  No one can make this daily choice for us.  This is the significance of having free will This is the responsibility of having free will inherent in our ordinary waking consciousness. We have to decide. We have to choose to follow the kind intentions of the soul.  We have to choose not to be driven by selfish motives.  
          May I share an unforgettable story called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein which I have summarized here [4].   
Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy.  Every day they would play together.  He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat her apples.  They were very happy.
          As time passed by, the boy became a young man who needed money.  At first the tree gave him her apples.  When this did not meet the needs of the young man, the tree gave him her branches and finally her trunk.   Thereafter the young man travelled overseas.  He did not visit the tree for a long time which had become a stump.
Many years later, the man returned as an old man.  The tree told him that it had nothing left to give him.  The man explained that his teeth did not have the strength to bite apples.  His arms did not have the strength to swing on the branches.  He also did not have the strength to travel to other places.  He would be contented to sit on the stump and relive their memories.  Thus, the tree and the man became happy again.
In our journey through life, are we thankful to people who have contributed to our well-being?  Are we thankful to our spiritual ancestors who brought awakening to the world and improved the well-being of humankind?  Did we give deep thanks to Jesus Christ who awakened us to the love of God?  
Did we express thankfulness to God for giving us life, for giving us intelligence, understanding and wisdom?  Did we express thankfulness to God for giving us a range of abilities which enables us to appreciate and contribute to life?  Did we develop a contented and grateful heart?  Did we realise that in choosing to extend a kind thought, word or deed to others during a day, that will be a fruitful day?  Did we realise that God is the ultimate Giving Tree, patiently waiting for us to grow, to become mature, to catch glimpses of His eternal purpose? 

Bringing Cheerful Tunes to Heaven

During my school days, owing to my fragile health and occasional back pain, I sympathised more readily with the sick and needy.  Thus, I participated in different kinds of fund-raising activities for the poor.  For example, on several occasions, a few of my classmates and I volunteered to sell stickers to the public so as to seek their donations for charity purposes.  Early in the morning, we were each given an empty tin can and we travelled to the shopping centers and bus interchanges to seek donations from the public.  Although it was tiring to walk and stand the whole day around those busy areas, approaching people for donations, it was satisfying when our tin cans were filled with coins in the evening.  We returned to our school by bus and handed over the cans to our teachers to be passed to a local charity
In a small way, at that young age, my classmates and I were learning to be helpful towards the less fortunate in our society.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, we were watering the seeds of compassion within us.  To quote Mother Teresa, it is crucial to do small things with love, to perform little acts of kindness day by day.  In this way we are doing something beautiful for God. 
In the past few months, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, I had a vision. In performing acts of kindness day by day, when our journey on earth ends and we return to heaven, the Holy Spirit will hand a beautiful box to each of us.  When we open this box, cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow will appear and travel across the heavenly kingdom.  These cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow come from the acts of kindness that we had performed on earth.  They complement those diverse Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows that we experience in heaven. 
But what is astonishing is when the Holy Spirit whispers to us, saying “Please look and hear carefully …” Slowly we realize that many of those gracious Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows are made up of all the cheerful tunes and rays of rainbow brought back by the many souls who returned from their earthly journeys.  Without their tunes and rays of rainbow, there will be lesser Symphonies and Bridges of Rainbows in heaven.  Perhaps this is a poetic way to develop some understanding of God’s decision that it is very valuable to manifest dynamic moral goodness on earth because it complements divine Goodness in the eternal dimension. 

… you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
                                                         Philippians 4:8-9

May I share a real story about a girl called “little Annie”.  Many years ago there was a girl known as “little Annie”.  She became partially blind at the age of five due to bacterial eye infection.  Her family was too poor to provide her with medical treatment.  Her mother died when she was eight and her father subsequently abandoned her. 
Thus, little Annie was sent to the state poor house where she was kept in an over-crowded room and exposed to mentally ill adults.  This worsened her defiant personality.  The caregivers at the poor house regarded her as being hopelessly defiant and she received little care and attention. 
Fortunately one of the caregivers refused to regard little Annie as being hopeless.  She felt that there was hope for every child of God.  She decided to communicate hope and love to little Annie.  Gradually they became friends and little Annie became less defiant.
Little Annie longed to attend school.  A few years later when she was fourteen, the Head of the State Board of Charities, Franklin Sanborn, visited the poor house for an inspection.  Annie courageously walked up to him and requested to go to school.  That year she left the poor house and entered the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston.  She also underwent eye surgery which partially restored her vision.  Six years later at the age of twenty, Annie graduated from the Perkins Institution, informing her schoolmates that “duty bids her to go into active life.”
Many years later the Queen of England was pinning her country’s highest award onto Helen Keller, the famous writer who inspired millions, despite being blind and deaf since young.   The Queen asked her how did she overcome so many difficulties and accomplish so much, although she was blind and deaf. Helen Keller replied that her accomplishments could be attributed to the love and devotion of Anne Sullivan (little Annie).   If not for Anne Sullivan, the name Helen Keller would remain unknown. [5] 
This real life story reflected how the kind-hearted deeds of the caregiver and Franklin Sanford positively changed the life of little Annie. In turn little Annie helped to develop the potential of Helen Keller. Subsequently Helen Keller inspired millions through her writings. 
Thus, the far-reaching impact of every kind-hearted deed cannot be under-estimated.  Only God knows the long-term outcomes.   As emphasized by Romans 8:28,  “All things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes …”  
If we extend a kind thought, word or deed to another person each day, that will be a fruitful day in the eyes of God.  If we hold on to our faith and belief that God is divine Truth and Goodness, despite our daily trials and suffering, we are contributing our part to the moral dimension of life. In this way we are fulfilling our life purpose day by day. Thus, we have not lived in vain.  This is reflected in my favourite poem “I Shall Not Live In Vain” by Emily Dickinson:  

If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If  I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain.

May we realize that we have not lived in vain, that we have not suffered in vain as long as we hold on to our faith in God and follow Him day by day.  May I quote the immortal words of Helen Keller.  Her profound faith in God has inspired and encouraged so many of us in the different seasons of life.  
They took away what should have been my eyes, but I remembered Milton's Paradise. They took away what should have been my ears.  Beethoven came and wiped away my tears.  They took away what should have been my tongue, but I had talked with God when I was young.  He would not let them take away my soul.  Possessing that I still possess the whole.
I  am conscious of a soul  -- a sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circumstances of my life.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.
For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that He has vouchsafed my knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to -- a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.
If the blind put their hands in God's, they find their way more surely than those who see but do not have faith.
I believe that life is given to us so that we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower.
                                                                  Helen Keller


New Perspectives on
‘Why Does The World Exist?’ and
‘Where is God when it hurts?’

Did you ever wonder: Why is there something rather than nothing?  To quote the well-known question of Stephen Hawking: Why does the universe go through all the bother of existing?  Or may I ask: Why did God go through the bother of creating us and this world?
But does God exist?  If positive, how do I find Him?  How do I find out who am I?  What is the purpose of my life? 
If God is all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful, why does He allow undeserved suffering? 
If God is all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful, why do bad things happen to good people? 
How do Christians, religious believers and followers of God respond when non-believers, agnostics or skeptics quote from the daily newspapers those accidents, crimes or natural disasters that resulted in undeserved suffering and untimely deaths? 
Dr Rick Warren’s bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life emphasizes that life on earth is not about us, that our life on earth is not an accident and that we are born to serve God’s purposes. 
Perhaps we may wonder:  How do we find out that life on earth is not about us, that we are here to serve God’s purposes? How do we obtain God’s answers to: Why did He create us and this world?  How do we obtain God’s answers to:  What are His purposes for us on earth?
In addition, did you ever experience a sense of meaninglessness?  Did you ever experience the need to find your real life purpose?  
In the past few years, I liked to discuss with my friends on religious faith, the meaning of life and why bad things happen to good people.  To initiate the discussion, I would read the following article which I wrote “Can You Guess Who am I?”: 

          “Can you guess my real identity?  Can you guess who am I?
Before you start guessing, please don’t be deceived by my masks.  I am wearing many social masks at home, at the school, at the workplace and at all types of social gathering.  I am trying to show that I am confident, I am happy, I am popular ...  But deep inside, I am uncertain.
Please don’t be deceived by my smiles and laughter, by my jokes and gossip.  I am trying to hide my doubts.  I am trying to hide my weariness.     
Please don’t be deceived by my occasional excitement about life.  I am tired of trying to outperform others.  I am tired of trying to get ahead and obtain those prizes.  I am tired of living my life as if it were a continuous emergency.   I am tired of being frightened of losing my job and my friends.  How can I find tranquillity?  How can I find inner peace?
I am equally tired of not understanding my real needs and goals in life.  Is it because I do not truly know my life purpose that I am pursuing external success and sense pleasures, so as to try to fill the emptiness inside?
Please tell me how I can find my life purpose.  So many bad things and unhappy events had happened to me.  Many of them were unfair. They had eroded my faith in God.  Please tell me whether there is a God.  Please tell me how I can find Him.
By the way, do you know who am I?  Have you guessed who am I?  Yes, you are right.  I am your neighbor.  I am your colleague.  I am your boss.  I am your cousin.  I am your niece.  I am your uncle.  I am your aunt.  I am your brother.  I am your sister.  I am your child.  I am your spouse.  I am the everyday man or woman you meet on the street.  Yes, I am also you ... Please help me, God.

This book aims to provide useful perspectives, responses and answers to these critical questions.   May we begin by revisiting a famous story called “Footprints”.  I have revised it based on deep insights I received six months ago.  This new version reflects the hope, love and truth which God brings to us in the changing seasons of life.  To quote Thomas Merton’s memorable words in his introduction to the Japanese translation of The Seven Storey Mountain: "I seek to speak to you, in some way, as your own self. Who can tell what this may mean?  I myself do not know, but if you listen, things will be said that are perhaps not written in this book. And this will be due not to me but to the One who lives and speaks in both ..."

(New Version)

Jesus said: “The kingdom of God is within you.”
                                             (Luke 17:21)

Saint Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body but yours,
no hands and no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The soul in man is the background of our being From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.

Helen Keller:  “I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower.”

Pope John Paul II:  “Man’s life comes from God.”

Mother Teresa:  “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.”

Corrie ten Boom:  “God values us not for our strength or our brains, but simply because He has made us.”

A middle-aged man dreamed that he had become a spiritual being and that he was walking on a beach together with God, the divine Spirit.   They left two trails of footprints in the sand behind them.  
Scenes of the man’s life flashed across the sky.  The man observed that during the pleasant days of his life as shown across the sky, there were two trails of footprints behind them. He knew that God was walking beside him during the pleasant days.  But during the difficult days, he observed only one trail of footprints. 
Assuming that the one trail of footprints belonged to him and that God had abandoned him during the difficult times, the man enquired why he was left alone to handle the difficulties.
God explained, "You are My precious child.  I will never leave you.  During your difficult times, when you see one trail of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
The man thanked God.  Nevertheless he was perplexed by the answer.  Inwardly he reasoned that if God were all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful, why God did not remove or reduce the trials and suffering in his life.
          Being all-knowing, God was aware of the man’s reasoning.  God further explained, “Please realize that I will not let you bear the cross unless it reveals the eternal life within you.  I will not let you bear the cross unless it is for your eternal best, unless it contributes to the long-term well-being of humankind.”
The man nodded and thanked God.  He enquired, “May I know what is my real identity?  Do I have a soul?”
“Yes, you have a soul,” God saidLet Me explain.  I more than carried you during your difficult timesAll along I have been living inside you in the form of spiritual essence.   Your body is temporary.  Your spiritual essence or your soul is eternal.  It is a part of Me.  It is always wholesome, pure and intact.  No people and no events in the world can affect it.  Nothing can impair it.  Nothing can defile it.  It is an individualised portion of My essence and cosmic consciousness.  It is always wholesome.
The man thanked God and enquired, “Do I return to heaven after I die?”
God continued, “You are My precious child.  You are a spiritual being. This is your real identity.  You are always connected to My love.  Your soul will return to My kingdom when your journey on earth ends.”
The man asked, “Thank You for explaining to me my real identity.  May I enquire how do I find You?  How do I know that You are with me all the time?”
God said, You can catch glimpses of My presence when you expand your awareness and let go of self-seeking thoughts, feelings and desires.  This can happen when you are walking along the seaside, enjoying the warm sunshine, the wide blue sky and the rhythm of the waves.  This can happen when you are enjoying the beauty of a sunset or the whispering of a stream or the tranquillity of a lake.  This can happen when you are listening to inspiring music or reading a devotional book or poem.  This can happen when you are amazed by the splendor of a sunrise or the beauty of a clear night sky filled with glimmering stars.
“Another effective way to expand your awareness is to learn to meditate.  It makes you realize that “thoughts, ideas, feelings and desires” are momentary and fleeting.  They are flashes of mental energy which arise and pass away.  They are not permanent. They are not your selfhood or personality.  They are not your real identity. 
“Your real identity is a spiritual being.  Thus, when you meditate and learn not to chase after momentary thoughts, feelings and desires, slowly you experience mental stillness and tranquillity.  Slowly you discover the pure consciousness within you. This pure consciousness is one of My attributes.  It is also an attribute of your soul. What you suffered in life, I also suffered and experienced through the pure consciousness living inside you.   I am your Living God.   I am living inside you during your good days and during your times of suffering and afflictions.  By experiencing your suffering and afflictions, I can truly understand.”
The man nodded and listened attentively.    
God said, “I created the visible universe.  I am the Giver of life.  I am the Source of your hope and strength.  You are My precious child.  Nothing can separate you from My love.  You can look forward to rejoining Me in heaven when your journey on earth ends.  You can be assured that I will transform your suffering into ultimate good.  This is how I am truly your heavenly Father.”
The man enquired, “May I know what is my life purpose on earth? How do I fulfil it?” 
God explained, “You are My precious child on earth serving an eternal purpose.  To fulfil this purpose, your soul is combined with a human body.  Your waking consciousness is given freedom of choice.  Your purpose is to become spiritually aware. In this way your waking consciousness will become receptive to the voice of your soul, the voice of your conscience.
“Gradually you realise the difference between the kind intentions of your soul and selfish desires.  You learn to make a commitment to follow the voice of your soul.  You choose to be responsible to Me in your daily thoughts, words and deeds.  You learn to become spiritually mature.  You extend helping hands to the needy.  Compassion is realised.  This contributes to the moral dimension of life. 
“Spiritual maturity is difficult.  It requires daily moral commitment. It requires you to choose simplicity, kindness and selfless service. It requires endurance during the trying times and reliance on My strength. It requires you to become My instrument of peace, My vessel of love. 
“The Moments of Truth come when you face a deep personal crisis, when you face the loss of your loved ones, when your life is shattered into pieces, when you face death itself.  During these Moments, will you choose to follow Me day by day until your last breath? 
“When you make this choice and follow Me day by day,  despite adversities, despite your doubts, grief, fear and agony, holding on to the belief that I am divine Truth and Goodness, the Significance of these Moments is fulfilled.  This is the hard-won, selfless faith the universe and I have been waiting for.  This is the precious human resolve, commitment and goodwill the universe and I have been waiting for.  It gives birth to and actualizes the quality of moral resolve in the visible world.  This is the Significance of why I chose to suffer together with you.”
The man thanked God and asked, “I understand that if a person committed a harmful wrongdoing, he would feel guilty.  He should repent and seek Your forgiveness.  He should find constructive ways to make amends in the remaining days of his life on earth.  May I enquire whether there is cosmic justice for those who committed wrongdoing and did not repentHow do these unrepentant people compensate for their harmful wrongdoing if they avoided legal punishment on earth?” 
“Please be assured that there is cosmic justice,” God explained.   “Upon the death of the body, the disembodied soul will be assessed by My Holy Spirit.  If this soul during its journey on earth had worked in harmony with the body and its mental states and it had contributed to human well-being, it will be given a choice.  It can choose to return to My kingdom or begin another human journey on earth, so as to further contribute to the moral dimension of life.
“If a soul during its journey on earth had endured undeserved suffering and untimely death, it can choose to return to My kingdom or begin another human journey, so as to contribute to the moral dimension of life. 
“If a soul during its journey on earth were not able to work in harmony with the body and its mental states, and the human body committed harmful wrongdoing due to selfish desires, upon the death of the body, My Holy Spirit will direct this soul to embark on another or more human journeys on earth. This will provide opportunities where it can contribute to human well-being. When it has sufficiently contributed, it can return to My kingdom.”
The man thanked God and asked, “For centuries, humankind sought to find out why God created this world.  May I enquire on this age-old question?”
God replied, It is time for Me to reveal why I created the visible world.  Since eternity I have existed.  I am the divine Source.  I am the Living God.  I am the eternal One in the timeless Dimension.  I am all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful in the timeless Dimension. 
“First, My omniscience in the timeless Dimension is all-sufficient.  I know the past, the present and the future.  I do not need to create a visible world to complement or prove it.  If I wished to create a visible world so as to experience and enjoy it, I can create many types of visible worlds which are peaceful, beautiful and pleasant, without the occurrences of natural and moral evils, without the existence of human beings. Such peaceful and beautiful worlds will be congruent with My knowledge and wisdom.  I do not need to create the type of visible world which human beings currently experience which is marked by existential uncertainty and suffering.
“Second, My omnipotence in the timeless Dimension is all-sufficient.  I do not need to create a visible world to complement or prove it.  If I wished, I can create and eliminate visible worlds without human beings or creatures inhabiting them.   If I wished, I can create beautiful and peaceful worlds so as to enjoy them, without the occurrences of natural and moral evils, without the existence of human beings.  This is congruent with My power and wisdom. 
“Third, being all-good, I am Holiness.  I am divine Goodness. But I am also divine Oneness.  As divine Oneness in the timeless dimension, I do not have a physical body or bodies.  I do not live in a space-time dimension.  I am not individualized.  I am not embodied.
“In the timeless dimension, it is natural that I do not have the opportunity to experience physical vulnerability and existential uncertainty.  I do not have the opportunity to manifest dynamic moral goodness.
“Dynamic moral goodness includes faith, humility, kindness, love, compassion, endurance and selfless service which humankind manifested when they performed compassionate deeds on earth.  In addition, dynamic moral goodness requires Me to create individualized human beings or embodied souls.  Dynamic moral goodness requires the interactions of individualised, embodied and vulnerable beings in a visible world.  They need to experience trials and suffering to become mature. They need to exercise free will inherent in their waking consciousness to make moral decisions and perform good deeds.  Thus, it is a natural condition of My divine Oneness that before the creation of the visible world and humankind, I have not yet manifested dynamic moral goodness. 
“For eternity, I have remained as divine Oneness.  At some point during My eternity, I decided to create a visible world, so as to manifest dynamic moral goodness through My children.  I decided that dynamic moral goodness in the visible world is a very valuable attribute which complements My attribute of divine Goodness in the timeless Dimension. I decided to create this stringent challenge for Me and for My children on earth. 
“Thus, I created this visible universe and humankind. I individualised My spiritual essence so as to live inside My children. My children and I are moral partners on earth.  Through the pure consciousness of their souls, I share the life experiences of My children. Together we experience adversities, trials, and suffering.  The purpose is for My children to become spiritually mature.  As the voice of their souls, I encourage My children to do good.  When the waking consciousness of My children chooses to listen to the voice of their souls, they become spiritually aware.   They learn to walk the spiritual path.   
“When My children are honest, kind, sympathetic, faithful and compassionate in their daily lives, despite being physically vulnerable and facing existential uncertainty, they are manifesting dynamic moral goodness.  When My children resolve to follow Me and choose to do good, despite trials and suffering, they are manifesting high-quality goodness. In these ways I manifest dynamic goodness through My children. 
“In human language, this can be called ‘God is biting the bullet’ theodicy.  It means that I have decided that My divine Goodness in the timeless Dimension cannot forever remain untested and unproven.  Therefore, during some point in eternity, I have decided to bite the bullet and create a stringent Self-challenge by providing freedom of choice to My children and by allowing the occurrences of natural and moral evils in a visible world.  These give rise to existential uncertainty and suffering in the visible world.  I have decided to experience and endure such existential uncertainty and suffering together with My children, so as to manifest dynamic moral goodness and contribute to the moral dimension of life. 
“In this way, My spiritually mature children are My moral partners.  Guided by the voice of their souls, they strive and struggle in the visible world to manifest dynamic moral goodness under the stringent conditions of existential uncertainty and suffering. This attribute of dynamic moral goodness in the visible world complements My attribute of divine Goodness in the timeless dimension.”
“Thanks, God.  Does this mean that You are not all-knowing and not all-powerful in the visible world?” asked the man.
God replied, “In the timeless Dimension, I am the Source.  I am the eternal One.   There is enduring peace, beauty, goodness and harmony in the timeless Dimension.  I remain and continue to be all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful in the timeless Dimension. 
          “In contrast, in the visible world, I have chosen to restrict My powers and omniscience.  This arises from My decision to bite the bullet and create a visible world which is subject to existential uncertainty and to the occurrences of natural and moral evils.   Thus,  I have chosen to restrict My powers and omniscience in the visible world.  In  this sense,  I do not regard Myself as all-knowing and all-powerful in the visible world.
“My decision to restrict My powers and omniscience in the visible world seeks to make the Self-challenge authentic and stringent.  It also seeks to develop prudence, practical wisdom, self-restraint and self-discipline in My children, so that they learn not to perform deeds which are harmful to themselves or others. These are crucial inner qualities which strengthen their commitment to walk the path of righteousness and compassion.
           The visible world  is a small part of the timeless Dimension.   I created the laws of the natural sciences and mathematics when creating the visible world.  Thereafter,  I usually do not intervene directly in the visible world.  This allows the occurrences of natural evils.  The occurrences of natural evils introduce the crucial element of existential uncertainty into the visible world.  They include earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, famines, accidents and diseases. These occur due to the operations of the laws of the sciences on earth.
           Nonetheless, I retain final control of the visible world.  I can foresee the range of possible outcomes in the short term or longer term regarding an event or a cluster of events in the visible world.  I can choose to occasionally intervene in an event or a cluster of events in the visible world.  My decision to intervene is based on the range of possible outcomes of an event or a cluster of events and their long-term impact on the moral dimension of life.   I have restricted My power of omniscience in the visible world.   If I did not choose to intervene in an event or a cluster of events,  I cannot foresee their actual final outcome in the visible world which is subject to the operations of the laws of the sciences and the free will of My children.
           “Another aspect is that I have restricted My omniscience and powers in the visible world by providing freedom of choice to My children.  I do not intervene in the decisions and choices of My children.   I also cannot foresee the final choice of My children regarding an event or a cluster of events facing them.  I can only foresee the range of possible outcomes, based on the range of choices facing My children regarding an event or cluster of events.  Once My child makes a decision and a choice and acts accordingly, I can better foresee the outcome of his choice. 
          I only intervene indirectly by encouraging My children to be conscientious and to do good through the voice of their souls.  My children need to listen to the voice of their souls and choose to walk the path of righteousness.   However, if  some of My children decided to listen to their self-seeking desires and ignore the voice of their souls, they are walking the wrong path.  They can commit deeds which harm others.  Such moral evils give rise to another layer of existential uncertainty and suffering.  On My part, through the voice of their souls, I continue to encourage the wrongdoers and the misguided to repent and urge them to walk the path of righteousness. 
           “Once I decided to provide freedom of choice to My children, they need to decide and choose their daily conduct and deeds.  I have decided to bite the bullet and I will not intervene in their choices.  It is the will and resolve of My children to listen to the voice of their souls and walk the path of righteousness which enable My children and I to become partners on earth to manifest dynamic moral goodness and contribute to the moral dimension of life.  In this way, we work towards fulfilling our crucial purpose on earth.     
“Thus, I have revealed why I created the visible world and humankind.  I am the Giver of life.  I am the Source of your hope and strength.  You are My precious child.  Nothing can separate you from My love.  By listening to your conscience and following Me day by day, when your journey on earth ends, you are once again at Home, back in our timeless Garden, with our purpose on earth fulfilled.”
The man said, Thank you, God.  May I share these revelations with others?”
God replied, “Please share them with others. You are doing something valuable and beautiful for Me by sharing them with others, with your loved ones and friends.  It is crucial to share with them.  During their moments of sadness and affliction, during their hours of darkness due to setbacks or unfortunate events, they will remember My words.  They will realize that I am always with them.  They will realize that they are My precious children and they are always connected to My love.  My words will provide them with hope, strength and courage.  My words will remind them that they have not lived in vain.  As long as they hold on to their faith and belief that I am divine Truth and Goodness, despite existential suffering, they have bravely contributed to the moral dimension of life. They have fulfilled their life purpose. They will rejoin Me in heaven when their journey on earth ends.”

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.                            
                                                         Matthew 11:28-30

Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.
                                                           Oswald Chambers

Once there was a young evangelist who was always anxious about the future.  He worried that he might not have the strength to preach the next day.
One night he dreamed that he met Jesus while he was walking alone.  He was returning home after attending a church gathering.  He told Jesus about his anxieties.
Jesus consoled him and said that He understood his anxieties.  He offered the following advice.   First, He told the young man to repeat His words from “John 14:27” whenever he felt anxious:  “Peace I leave you.  My peace I give to you.”  This would calm him, enabling him to experience tranquillity and sustenance from God.
Second, Jesus told the young man to repeat these words whenever he lacked confidence:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)  This would remind him that God would always provide him with strength whenever he needed it.  He ought to remind himself that God is all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful, that God is the Creator of this universe.  He may feel weak, but God is forever strong. 
Third, Jesus advised the young man to let go of his worries by learning to live one day at a time, one moment at a time, in the strength of God.  Jesus informed him that he could deepen his faith in God by affirming these words whenever he experienced doubts: “What God decides for me is for my long-term good and for my eternal best.  He is mainly concerned about my love for Him, my love and compassion for the people I interact with, and my sincerity to assist the needy.  As long as I love God, as long as I am sincere in helping others for worthwhile purposes, I have done good for the day. It is alright that I am not the best performer.  Love, sincerity, honesty, humility and compassion are much more valuable in the eyes of God. 
Fourth, Jesus advised the young man to pray every morning the following prayers. They will remind him that life in this world is temporary, that only God can fulfil his spiritual needs by providing him with love and peace.  Jesus lifted his right hand and gently moved it.  The words of these prayers appeared across the sky:-

Saint Teresa’s prayer :
Lord, please make me realize that
You are always with me.
Your love for me is constant.
Please make me understand
that nothing can disturb me,
nothing can make me afraid.

Please make me realise
that all things in the world are passing,
all things in the world are temporary.
Only You and Your love are eternal.
As You are forever with me, I do not lack anything.
You are sufficient for all my needs.

Saint Francis’ prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace:
where there is hatred, let me bring Your love,
where there is injury, let me bring Your pardon,
where there is discord, let me bring Your harmony,
where there is doubt, let me bring faith,
where there is despair, let me bring hope,
and where there is darkness, let me bring light.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace:
Grant that I may seek to console than to be consoled,
that I seek to understand than to be understood,
that I seek to love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting the self that one finds;
it is by giving that one receives;
it is by forgiving that one is forgiven;
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

          A new prayer from Jesus  (by Merton Lee):

Dear God, please make me realize that You are the Creator of this cosmos.  All events are ultimately under Your control.  You are my eternal strength and stronghold.  Although I may feel weak, You are forever strong.  I can rely on Your strength, wisdom and compassion.

Please make me realize my real identity as Your child.  I contain Your individualized spiritual essence which is my soul. My soul comes from You.  I am always connected to Your love.  You are always inside me in the form of spiritual essence and pure consciousness.

Please make me realize that my body is temporary, but my soul is eternal.  It is timeless.  It is always wholesome, pure and intact.  Nothing can affect it. Nothing can impair it.  Thus, my life on earth is a journey, a pilgrimage to Your Holy Kingdom.  You will decide whether I will live one day more or less on earth.  When You decide that it is time to bring me home, my soul will return to Your kingdom to enjoy eternal harmony 

One of the attributes of my soul is pure consciousness.  I can experience pure consciousness when I am mentally still and tranquil.  I can learn meditation to experience tranquillity and inner peace.  This enables me to realize the priceless gifts which You have given to me, namely my spiritual essence as well as the gifts of wisdom, understanding, compassion, love and peace.  Please help me to share these gifts with others and help me to awaken them to Your gifts.

May I submit to the guidance of Your Hands and the Holy Spirit day by day May I rely on Your decisions which are always for my eternal best. Please help me to remain humble, upright and God-reliant during moments of triumph or defeat, happiness or sorrow, clarity or confusion, strength or affliction.  May I be very grateful and realize the preciousness of Your gifts.  They are the foundation of healthy self-esteem and inner peace.  Your gifts are sufficient for all my needs.  I do not need to chase after external success and worldly recognition.  I can let go of selfish motives and self-seeking desires.  I can rise above the need to impress others. 

Please guide me to choose simplicity, non-attachment and prudence. Please inspire me to be conscientious, kind and helpful.  Please make me realize that You are my genuine lifelong Employer.  I cannot become jobless.  I am always employed by You. I am always Your instrument to do good.  I am serving God by performing little acts of kindness, by extending an encouraging word to others day by day.  In this way I have done good in my lifetime. In this way I am fulfilling my purpose in life day by day.  I have not lived in vain.  I have not suffered in vain.  By enduring life’s adversities and walking the path of righteousness day by day, I am deepening my faith in God.

Please make me realize that my life purpose is to become spiritually aware and mature, that I am Your partner on earth to manifest dynamic moral goodness.  Please guide me to serve You with humility and contentment day by day, so that I can live my life at my own pace, learning useful skills and knowledge to contribute to the well-being of my loved ones and others.  If I were afflicted with illness and became a care-receiver, please continue to strengthen my faith and help me realize that my illness can provide opportunity for others to assist me and show compassion to me.     

Please make me realize that I might have died yesterday.  Thus, help me to treasure each new day.  Help me to regard each new day as Your bonus gift to me.  Every day is a bonus for me to show my love for You, to show my love and appreciation to my family and to the people around me.  Please make me realize that the people around me are seeking for love and acceptance.  Please guide me to extend compassionate words and deeds to others day by day, so that I can do something beautiful for You.  Thank you very much, God. 



The Tree of Adversities

Once there was an old giant tree in a forest near to a village.   It produced flowers and fruits that were bitter and ugly.  The villagers called it the Tree of Adversities.  They told their children not to go near it, saying that it was useless and did not bring any benefit. 
One year, during a hot summer, a group of villagers became sick. They coughed seriously and felt dizzy.  For two months the medicine men of the village could not find a cure.   
One of the medicine men decided to search the nearby forest for new herbs.  After searching for several days and without finding new herbs, he was on the verge of giving up when he saw the Tree of Adversities.  He rested under its shade and watched a squirrel eating its bitter fruits. 
“Perhaps these fruits can be useful,” he thought.  He picked up several ripe fruits and went home to cook them.   One of the patients volunteered to drink the soup. Surprisingly he recovered a few days later.  Thereafter the other patients drank the soup and also recovered. [1]
Adversities are valuable teachers.  Their bitterness contains healing properties.  If we encountered trees of adversities” in the form of difficult people and challenging situations, we ought to reflect on what type of lessons we can learn from them.  
For example, did their ‘bitterness’ disclose an unhealthy attachment to external success?  Did their ‘bitterness’ disclose an inflated sense of self-importance and pride?   Did their ‘bitterness’ disclose that we have placed worldly recognition before our commitment to serve God?  Did their ‘bitterness’ prompt us to assess whether we have discovered our real identity as children of God or are we driven by discontent, envy and greed? Did their ‘bitterness’ deepen our patience, sympathy, understanding and compassion?
Over the years I realize that adversities are formidable healing forces.  They help to break those equally formidable husks which formed within us over the years --  the husks of self-centeredness and pride. These are formed by the negative mental conditioning  of secular societies  that emphasise  external success.  They are formed when we are not aware of the importance of practising the perennial wisdom.   They are formed when we reinforce self-seeking thoughts.
       These husks have trapped us.  They trap us by restricting and narrowing our spiritual awareness. They hinder us from finding the Source of life.   They deceive us into thinking that life is a zero-sum game, that others are rivals seeking to take away limited external prizes. They deceive us into thinking that life is a continuous emergency, that we must keep fighting to outperform others.  Anxiety and unease become our constant companions.  They create a scarcity mindset, depriving us of inner peace.  
       Adversities are wake-up calls.  They help to break these husks.  When these husks give way and are discarded, we are prompted to discover our real identity as children of God.  We are prompted to discover our need for God, for His love and sustenance.       

A Lifelong Experiment

         At the age of thirty-two, Buckminster Fuller encountered a series of business failures.  One late evening he found himself contemplating suicide for several hours at the edge of Lake Michigan. 
After careful reflections, he decided to challenge himself.  From that day onwards, he regarded himself as having died that night.  He would live each new day as a gift from the Universe.  He sought to embark on an experiment during the remaining days of his life to find out what an individual could do to contribute to the well-being of humanity.   He kept asking the question: What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?  
The rest became history.  He lived to the ripe old age of  eighty-seven.  He became a systems theorist, an author of thirty books and a well-known inventor which included the geodesic dome. [2]
          This real life story enables me to better appreciate the significance of  the precept “Please learn to die before we die.”  By letting go of the desire for personal advancement, we free up much energies previously used to defend, support and protect the illusory ego.  These energies can be channelled to assist the needy.  
          In addition, we realise that egoistic pride, thoughts and feelings are flashes of mental energies.  They are fleeting.  They arise and pass away.  They are not solid entities.  In softening and letting go of egoistic pride, we can more readily discern our past mistakes, wrongdoing and selfish choices.  We learn to repent, pray for God’s forgiveness, find appropriate ways to make amends and move on with life.  To quote C. S. Lewis: “A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble.”   

Inner Wealth

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
                                 Proverbs  3: 13-14

The rooster’s eyes were somber and shiny-black with anger as I taunted it with a stick.  When the rooster refused to retreat, I assumed the posture of a knight and began brandishing the stick in the air and shouted, “Flee or else you’ll get a beating …”
The rooster was adamant.  It did not move. It was eyeing and assessing me.   
Frustrated I picked up several stones and threw them at the rooster.  The stones hit its silky-red feathers.  My tactic succeeded. The rooster turned with fright and scurried away.
Thrilled and triumphant, I began chasing it across the field,  behaving like a victorious knight.  While I was enjoying this prankish act, the rooster suddenly turned around. Cackling aggressively, it pecked at me with its beak.
Barely five years old, I was shocked out of my wits.  Forgetting that I could defend myself with the stick, I mindlessly flung it away and ran towards my grandfather, who was my playmate during our occasional morning walks. 
“Grandpa, help me!” I shrieked.
My grandfather, who was talking to a neighbour, rushed forward and picked me up in his arms, saving me from the wrathful rooster. 
My grandfather’s embrace, the consoling tenor of his voice, his lean features and compassionate eyes made me feel blessed. 
Regaining a sense of bravery, I indicated to my grandfather that I wished to retrieve the knight’s stick and re-conquer that rebellious rooster.
My grandfather shook his head and said, “No more prankish act.  If you were a rooster and a boy were to hurt you with stones and a stick, how would you feel?  Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you.”
Although this incident happened nearly forty years ago, it stayed fresh in my memory.

Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly, even if they roll a few more upon it.                           Albert Schweitzer

Before the Second World War, my grandfather owned many acres of plantations in Malaysia and was very wealthy.  He inherited his wealth in his twenties from his father, a successful merchant.
An honest and kind-hearted person, my grandfather was far from being a shrewd strategy-minded businessman. Various family sources informed me that owing to economic downturns and the upheavals caused by the Second World War in Southeast Asia, my grandfather lost all his wealth in his early forties, when my father was only a boy and I was not born yet ..
My grandfather passed away peacefully at the age of eighty-one when I was twelve years old.  That was many years ago.  Being his favorite grandson, we shared many happy moments together, like playing Chinese chess, reading, rearing various kinds of tropical fish and planting diverse types of orchids in the backyard.  An avid philatelist in his younger days, my grandfather taught me how to collect stamps and differentiate the national identities of numerous stamps.  I missed him a lot.
When I was a boy, I used to watch my grandfather watering his orchid plants. In some days he used a brush to scrub away the numerous little dots of parasitic algae that were sticking onto the stems, branches and leaves of the orchid plants. 
On one occasion I was playing in the backyard and knocked down an orchid plant.  Instead of rebuking me, my grandfather patiently cleaned up the spot where I had accidentally knocked down the clay pot which housed the orchid plant. Sensing his patience and forgiving heart, I calmed down and silently assisted him in sweeping away the lumps of earth and small pieces of stones and charcoal that supported the roots of the plant. Thereafter we replaced the plant into a clay pot that contained the correct proportions of earth, fertilizer, stones, and charcoal.  When we had completed our task, my grandfather sat on a stool and rested. 
“Why do we need to scrub away the little parasites? Mother told me that they will grow again soon.”  I recalled asking him.
His amiable face lightened into a smile.
“Scrubbing away the little parasites can prevent them from destroying the leaves or blocking sufficient sunlight from reaching the plants.  When we are young, each of us is similar to this tender orchid plant.  Our parents need to take care of us, so that we grow taller and stronger each day. The nurturing efforts of our parents are their way to contribute to life.  In turn the nurturing efforts deepen the sense of commitment, patience and responsibility in our parents.”
At that young age I could not understand the meaning of these words.  Now, years later, their wisdom sparkles
The great lessons I learn from my grandfather are to take things easy; to let go of external failures; to accept “unacceptable” life changes; to re-center and move on with honesty and integrity. Imagine if we lost fifty thousand dollars in the stock market or in a business venture, most of us will be sad and depressed.  If we lost one hundred thousand dollars, we will be in despair.  What if we lost our entire wealth?  That was literally what happened to my grandfather.  
Losing all his wealth in his early forties, my grandfather did not lose his sense of inner balance.  Re-centering himself, he started a small retail shop.  For the next twenty years, he worked hard to eke out a living to raise five children. He remained an affable and helpful person. Various sources told me that despite his poverty, he continued to extend helping hands to needy relatives to tide them over their difficulties during those lean years after the Second World War.  
Looking back at the long life of my grandfather, I realize how big-hearted and resilient he was in accepting failures, in accepting and looking beyond the adversities of life.  His compassion and profound sense of letting go left an indelible impression on me. He had unearthed inner wealth far more precious than external gold.

Here is a rule to remember when anything tempts you to feel bitter:  not “This is a misfortune”,  but “To bear this worthily is good fortune”.
                                  Marcus Aurelius

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;  to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self without the slightest thought of return; to have accomplished a task, whether by a healthy child, a rescued soul, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and exaltation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.        Ralph Waldo Emerson

During younger days, I was fascinated by the lives of rich and successful people.  I studied their autobiographies and biographies. In my lifetime, I came into contact with many wealthy and successful people. Some of them inherited their wealth.  Some became rich through self-education and perseverance. Others became rich by capitalizing on fortuitous events. 
Some earned their first million while in the prime of their life and sustained their wealth to the end.  Others earned their first million in their twenties, but became insolvent before they reached thirty. Some regularly donated to charity, prompted by compassion. Others became philanthropists for the sake of fame.  Some were overly health-conscious or hypochondriac. Others were sensualists, frittering their lives away. Some were arrogant and self-estranged.  Others were humble and amiable.  Some were spiritually unconscious, intent on pleasure-seeking. Some were spiritually awake, committed to larger purposes which brought hope and strength to the less fortunate.
The paradox of life is:  what we are seeking have been given to us.  When we yearn for external success and recognition, what we are really seeking are self-acceptance and inner peace. These and much more have been given to us by our Creator when we discover the love of God.  The outward storms arose and passed away.  What remains is a sincere heart at rest within the oceanic Heart of God.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!   Let your gentleness be known to all men ...  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.                         Philippians 4 : 4-7

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. We cannot change our past ... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% is how I respond to it.                     
                                                   Dr Charles Swindoll

We should also be vigilant against building and defending  ‘private’ sandcastles which can hinder spiritual growth, as in the following traditional story:
          A group of children was building sandcastles on a beach.  After an hour each child announced that his separate sandcastle was his sole possession and would not allow others to trespass on it.   
One child accidentally stepped on the sandcastle of another child.  The owner was angry and shouted, “You ruined my sandcastle.  I shall also destroy yours.”  They started to quarrel and kick at each other’s sandcastles.  The more mature children intervened to calm them. 
When evening came and the sun began to set, the children realised that it was time to return home.   They left behind their sandcastles and ran homeward. 
During our journey on earth, did we forget the impermanent nature of external achievements?  Did we build ‘private’ sandcastles to defend and declare as our sole possessions?   Did we learn to let go of our sandcastles of worldly goods, sandcastles of pride and social status?   Did we realize the truth of Saint Paul’s words: “what is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18)?

‘Courage’ From God

Let us share an impactful story told by Corrie Ten Boom (1892 - 1983).  She is a famous Dutch Christian and a heroine.  Together with her father and other family members, they helped many Jews escape the Nazis during the Second World War.  I have revised and condensed her story.  It enables us to remember how God has encouraged and sustained us in the past.
One morning a girl told his father that she was worried that when she encountered trials and setbacks, she might not have the strength to overcome them.  Being an admirer of the courage of early Christians, she also informed her father that if she encountered a crisis, she might not have the courage to become a martyr for Jesus Christ.   
The father replied, “When you need to take a train to Rome, did I provide you with the fund to buy the ticket a few months or a few weeks in advance or did I provide it on the day that you require it.” 
“You provided me on the day itself,” said the girl.
“Thus, please do not worry.  Read the Bible daily.   Pray and give thanks to God daily.  God will provide you with the strength and courage on a timely basis or just in time for you to handle the adversities of life.

Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.
                                                               Corrie ten Boom

The Poet Who Relied On God

One of my favourite poets is Annie Johnson Flint.  For me she is a “wounded healer”.  She endured years of physical pain and suffering.  She courageously brought back deep insights, emphasizing that reliance on God and submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit are the only answers to our existential problems. 
Annie Johnson Flint was born on Christmas Eve in 1866 in a small town in New Jersey.   Her father was of English descent while her mother was Scottish.  Unfortunately her mother died in 1869 following the birth of her sister.  Annie was only three years old when her mother died. 
Her father brought the children to live with the widow of an old army comrade who had been killed in the Civil War.  The widow had two children of her own and her means were limited.  The outlook was bleak for the sisters.  Fortunately Aunt Susie, a kindly neighbour, assisted them to be adopted by the Flint family.  Annie’s father agreed to the adoption as he was ill and he died shortly. 
The new parents treated the two girls very well.   They taught them to be self-reliant and thrifty.  Annie learnt to make her own clothes.  She was also capable of housekeeping. After finishing high school, Annie started teaching a primary class.   She planned to earn regular income as Mrs Flint was failing in health.  According to the contract, she was to teach for three years.  
However, arthritis began to afflict her during the second year.  Annie went to see several doctors, but her illness grew worse until it became difficult for her to walk.  She had a very difficult time finishing her third year of teaching.  After her contract ended, due to her illness, she was unable to teach and had to give up her job.  Thereafter she experienced three years of increasing helplessness.
Her adopted parents passed away during this difficult period.  The sisters had little money and Annie was incurring medical expenses.  The faithful Aunt Susie came again to assist them.  She suggested that Annie might find a cure at a sanatorium in New York. Accordingly, Annie decided to stay at the sanatorium.  She rented out her house, so that she could obtain some money to care for her sister.
After examining Annie, the doctors at the sanatorium told her the disappointing news that her condition was severe.  It was likely that she would continue to be an invalid.  Thus, Annie’s illness compelled her to be dependent on the care of others.  For the rest of her life, her condition did not improve.  With a pen held by bent fingers and swollen joints, she began writing poems.  She also began making hand-lettered cards and gift booksTwo publishers printed her cards.  Nevertheless, she struggled for the rest of her life to meet her medical expenses. Although she was crippled, Annie did not consider herself useless.  She believed that God had a purpose.  She put her best into writing her poems, so as to encourage others.  When she died in 1932, she left behind a treasury of verses which continues to inspire us in the different seasons of life. [3]

                      One Day at a Time 
One day at a time, with its failures and fears, 
With its hurts and mistakes, with its weakness and tears, 
With its portion of pain and its burden of care; 
One day at a time we must meet and bear. 

One day at a time to be patient and strong, 
To be calm under trial and sweet under wrong; 
Then its toiling shall pass and its sorrow shall cease; 
It shall darken and die, and the night shall bring peace. 

One day at a time - but the day is so long, 
And the heart is not brave, and the soul is not strong, 
merciful Christ, be Thou near all the way; 
Give courage and patience and strength for the day. 

Swift cometh His answer, so clear and so sweet; 
"Yea, I will be with thee, thy troubles to meet; 
I will not forget thee nor fail thee; 
I will not forsake thee; I never will leave." 

Not yesterday's load we are called on to bear, 
tomorrow's uncertain and shadowy care; 
Why should we look forward or back with dismay? 
Our needs, as our mercies, are but for the day. 

One day at a time, and the day is His day; 
He hath numbered its hours, though they haste or delay. 
His grace is sufficient; we walk not alone; 
As the day, so the strength that He giveth His own
                                                       Annie Johnson Flint

The Best Definition of Love

The best definition of love that I came across was from Dr Wayne Dyer:  “Love is the art of giving. It expects nothing in return.”
Let us share a well-known real life story.  Edwarda O'Bara (March 1953 – Nov 2012) was an American who spent 42 years in a diabetic coma after contracting pneumonia at the age of sixteen.  Before slipping into the coma, she pleaded with her mother Kaye, “You won’t leave me will you, Mom?”  
Her mother Kaye responded, “I will never leave you.  I promise …” 
In the next 38 years until she passed away at the age of 81 in year 2008,  Kaye took care of her daughter.  She fed Edwarda from a tube.  She turned her daughter from side to side every few hours to prevent bedsores and changed her diaper.  She gave her daughter insulin every four hours. She also read, played music and made conversation with her daughter.  Her family also raised money to pay for the medical bills.    After Kaye’s death, Edwarda was cared for by her sister until her death in Nov 2012.  [4]
          The unconditional love of Kaye for her daughter has inspired thousands.   Both Kaye and Edwarda contributed greatly to the moral dimension of life.  Kaye was the exemplar of unconditional love and devotion, adding this priceless quality and dimension to life.  On Edwarda’s part, she was an appreciative recipient of love.  She provided opportunities for others to show love, care and compassion for her and her family members.  

Honored In Heaven

Once there was a farmer whose ten-year-old son was drowned in a nearby river.  The farmer and his wife were grief-stricken.  The boy was their only son. He was obedient, filial and kind-hearted.  Their neighbours mourned the loss with them.
One year passed.  The neighbours observed that the farmer and his wife remained sorrowful and depressed.  The plot of land owned by the farmer was uncultivated during that year.
The neighbours explained the situation to three elderly teachers and invited them to console the farmer and his wife.  The three wisdom teachers agreed and they went to the farmer’s house one morning.  They consoled the couple and mourned the loss with them for seven days. 
On the eighth day, the teachers began to play gentle music with their flutes.   The farmer became angry and enquired why they were playing music.
“Please do not be angry,” explained one of the teachers gently.   “Please realise that the soul of your son has gone to heaven. He is now enjoying eternal joy and harmony.   We have finite minds.  We do not know why God decided to bring your son back to His kingdom.  We could not see His long-term plan.  But we can hold on to our faith that what God has decided for us is for our eternal best.  We learn to accept that God will decide whether we live one day more or less.   We know that when it is time for us to leave this world, we will be reunited with your son in heaven.”
 “Please also realise that the children of your neighbours are also your children,” said another teacher.  “We are all children of God.   If we expand our perspective, we can regard other people’s children as our children.  You can better appreciate the abilities of these children and the joy they bring to the world.  You can also visit the orphanage in the village and consider to regard some of the orphans as your children.  Perhaps please consider to contribute a portion of your income to them.  They will be very grateful to you.” 
“Yes, it is helpful to discover our real identities that we are all children of God,” said the third teacher.  “When our journey on earth ends, our souls will return to the kingdom of God.  Thus, please rise above the mental labels of “your children” and “my children”.  Please discover the immortal essence within us.   Please rise above the mental labels of “yours” and “mine”,  “gains” and “losses”.  This is the route to genuine peace and faith in God.  We can thereby serve God until He decides to bring us home.
The farmer and his wife thanked the teachers for their advice.  The next day they began to grow vegetables and fruits on their land.   They also visited the orphanage in the village and adopted two orphans as their children.  They also contributed a quarter of their annual income to the orphanage for thirty years before they retired.   
When they died of old age and went to heaven, the angels greeted them.   They were joyful to see their son.  They were also surprised to see a statue erected in heaven to commend their generous contributions to the orphanage.  The angels explained to them that their kind deeds might not be recognised by others on earth, but their generosity was all along recognised by God.  In addition, their contributions to the orphanage enabled a significant number of the orphans to attend schools in the city who became useful citizens to the country.  [5]

“My Grace Is Sufficient For You …”

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
                                                 Romans 8 : 38 - 39

              What God Has Promised
God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
all through our lives;
God has not promised
the sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation,
trouble and woe;
He has not told us
we shall not bear
Many a burden,
many a care.

But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer,
light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
undying love.
                                                Annie Johnson Flint

          May I share the following real life stories which have inspired me over the years.

“Miraculous Joe” :   In Dr Gerald Jampolsky’s bestselling book Love Is Letting Go Of Fear, he related a real life story about Joe, a fifteen-year-old boy whose head had been run over twice by a tractor.  While at the hospital, the doctors discovered that the accident had rendered him blind, mute and sensationless.  Joe was in a coma for months. The doctors were not hopeful that he would survive.  
However, Joe’s family did not give up hope.  They prayed and lived one day at a time.  A series of miracles began to happen.  Joe recovered consciousness.  Gradually he recovered his ability to speak.  Slowly he began to walk.  Joe’s positive spirit and attitude astonished everyone, including Dr Jampolsky.  When Joe became better, although he was still blind, he began to talk to other patients and encouraged them. 
When Dr Jampolsky asked Joe how he could remain so positive and helpful, he replied, “I just look at the positive things in everyone and pay no attention to the negative things and refuse to believe in the word impossible.”  [6]  By extending kind thoughts to others, Joe manifested the love of the Holy Spirit flowing through him.

“Miraculous Minister of Hope”:  Mr Don Piper is often being introduced as the Minister of Hope.  He is the bestselling author of Ninety Minutes in Heaven. 
In his book he explained that on 18 January 1989, he died in an automobile accident.  He emphasized that it was not a near-death experience.  Two EMTs pronounced him dead and he spent ninety minutes in heaven before a pastor prayed him back to earth. 
After the accident, he had to undergo thirty-four surgeries. Because of his heavenly experiences and the deep pain and suffering he had endured due to the accident, he was able to share his experiences with others and encouraged them.  These are his memorable words, “Wonderful, loving God, help me fill my mind with the best and the purest thoughts.  Help me keep my attention on you during the worst situations and you will give me your deep inner tranquillity.  You will take me through all the difficult times and I am grateful.”  [7]

“Miraculous Faith”:  In his bestselling book It’s Not About Me,  Mr Max Lucado was visiting his friend in a hospital who had cancer.  His friend had prayed many times to God to heal his sickness.  But nothing seemed to happen.  His cancer remained.  He was confused, perplexed and on the verge  of despair.  
Max Lucado suggested another response, “It’s not about you.  Your hospital room is a showcase for your Maker.  Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.” 
His friend’s face brightened up.  He realised that he had not failed God and God had not failed him.  There was a deeper purpose in his suffering and afflictions.  He had a choice.  He could choose to see his sickness in terms of God’s eternal purpose.  Gradually he rediscovered his faith.  He rediscovered his sense of dignity and purpose in the midst of suffering.   He learnt to accept his cancer as an assignment from God.  He chose to become a missionary in the cancer ward.  He made a commitment to reflect faith in God, by displaying courageous smiles to all, to the nurses, to the doctors, to all his friends.  He told Max Lucado, “Who knows who needed to see God, but I did my best to make Him seen …”  [8]

  “Miraculous Nick Vujicic”:  Nick was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia.  He was born with severe disabilities.  He has no arms and no legs.  Thousands have watched his You Tube video showing how he went through his daily life.  For all of us with arms and legs, suddenly we felt very fortunate and blessed.  Imagine having  no arms and no legs.   How do we survive, let alone finding a job? 
In his bestselling book Life Without Limits, Nick described his confusion, sadness and struggles as an adolescent with issues of self-esteem and self-image.  During his dark moments at a young age, he was planning a suicide so that he would not be a burden to others.  At the critical moment, Nick realised that he could not bear the thought of leaving his beloved parents behind. His father’s subsequent words also encouraged him, “We will always be here for you.
Nick has since become a best-selling author and the CEO of a non-profit organisation.  He travelled around the world, speaking to millions of people and in church congregations of all sizes.  He wrote, “I realised that my purpose was to turn my struggles into lessons that glorify God and inspire others.  He blessed me as a blessing to others.  Distribute your own blessings with enthusiasm, and know that whatever you do will be multiplied many times.  In all things God works for the best for those who love Him.”
          In Nick’s book, he also narrated a real life story about a twenty-year-old woman who lived in India.  She was kidnapped from her rural home at the age of ten and was forced to become a prostitute in the streets of Bombay.  By the time she was thirteen she managed to clear her ‘debts’ owed to the operators of the brothel.  However, when she reached home, her family did not want her.  Without a home, she was again forced to work as a prostitute in the streets of Bombay.    Recently she discovered that she contracted AIDS and her pimp fired her.  Thus she became homeless. Fortunately she was given shelter and medical treatment by a Christian agency where she heard about Jesus.  The missionaries were deeply moved by her misfortune.   She found spiritual strength after she learnt about the gospel.   With astonishing hope in God, she told the missionaries,  “Now I know God did not cure me of AIDS because I could bring other women to Christ.”  [9]
          Her response reminded me of the words of Viktor Frankl, the author of the classic Man’s Search For Meaning.  He was imprisoned at Auschwitz and other concentration camps for three years during the Second World War.  Although I read his great book several times in the past fifteen years, I could now more fully appreciate the depth of his insights into the meaning of suffering:  “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task: his single and unique task …  His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden. For us the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and dyingThere was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

“Miraculous Saint Maximilian Kolbe”:  Saint Maximilian Kolbe was born in Russian-occupied Poland in 1894. His parents initially worked as basket weavers. Later his mother operated a shop selling groceries.  His life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary which he later described:That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red one meant that I should become a martyr.  I said that I would accept them both.  
In 1914, Kolbe took his final vows. He studied and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 and a doctorate in theology in 1919. He was ordained a priest before he returned to Poland.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, Father Kolbe’s monastery became a refugee camp for thousands of Poles and Jews who were seeking to escape from Nazi persecution.  As a publisher who had refused German citizenship, Father Kolbe was considered a threat to the Germans.  To incriminate him, the Gestapo permitted one final printing of the "Knight of Mary Immaculate" in Dec 1940.  It was in this issue that Father Kolbe wrote:
No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek Truth and to serve it when we have found it.  The real conflict is inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the catacombs of concentration camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are victories on the battle-field if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves? 
In February 1941 he was arrested by the Germans.  Soon he was transferred to Auschwitz as a prisoner.  He was put to hard labor.  In July 1941 three prisoners disappeared from the camp.  The deputy camp commander selected ten men to be starved to death to deter escape attempts. When one of the selected men cried out, "My wife! My children!", Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place. 
In his prison cell, Father Kolbe encouraged the condemned men with songs and prayers. After two weeks of starvation, only Father Kolbe remained alive.  The guards injected him with lethal carbolic acid. Some who were present said that Father Kolbe raised his left arm calmly and waited for the injection. He was canonized in 1982 asMartyr of Charity. [10]
Equally immortal are the deeds and words of Saint Paul.  He was imprisoned many times for spreading the gospel.  He was flogged by the Jews, beaten with rods, stoned once and shipwrecked three times.  He had to labour and toil and he had often gone without food.  He also suffered from a thorn in his flesh and pleaded with God to take it away.  But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
Saint Paul said that for Christ’s sake, he delighted in weaknesses, in insults and hardships, in persecutions and difficulties.  For when he felt physically weak, he remained spiritually strong by relying on God, the eternal Strength and Stronghold.      

Serving God’s Purposes

May we remember that a single lamp can light our path.  A single sunbeam can clear the doubts.  A single inspiration can bring deep awakening.  A kind-hearted deed can change the direction of a person’s life.  The steadfast love, faith and hope of our spiritual ancestors manifested the true messages of the perennial wisdom and charted the long-term course of human civilization. 
May we realise the astonishing insight of Saint Paul who observed that the treasures of light and strength that shine within us are held in perishable containers, in our weak bodies, in jars of clay, so that everyone can see that our glorious strength comes from God and not from our weak bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7).   
May we remind ourselves every day of Saint Paul’s insight that although we may feel physically weak, God is forever strong.  There is eternal hope and strength in our Creator as reflected in the well-known twenty-third Psalm :

 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. 
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
 Surely goodness and unfailing love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

May we pray the prayer of Saint Francis every day and give thanks to God for His sustenance, guidance, strength and love. 
 May we share Saint Paul’s insight that neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God.   
May we realise that to give is to receive, to forgive others is to be released from hatred.  
May we realise that God does not want us to bear the cross unless it reveals the eternal life within us, unless it is for our eternal best, unless it contributes to the moral dimension of life.  
May we realise that our inner essence is always wholesome, pure and intact.  May we realise that we will return to the kingdom of God when our journey on earth ends.  
May we listen to the voice of our soul every day, extend a helping hand to the needy and do something beautiful for God.  In this way we are serving God’s purposes in our generation. 

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in the immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.                                             
                                                                      Reinhold Niebuhr

On earth we have nothing to do with success or results, but only with being true to God.  Defeat in doing right is nevertheless victory.         
                                                                      Frederick Robertson

Every spiritual life entails a succession of difficulties because every ordinary life also involves a succession of difficulties …  In a spiritually informed life, however, these inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, of deepening wisdom, patience, balance and compassion.                                           
                                                                      Dr Jack Kornfield

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me.  But this was shown: that in falling and rising again, we are always kept in that same precious love.                  
                                                            Dame Julian of Norwich

Let’s Do Something Beautiful For God
A truth-seeker said to God, “The good I did to others was soon forgotten.”
God replied, “Please continue to do good because I remember.”
The seeker said, “The kindness I extended to others was regarded with doubts and distrust.”
God replied, “Please continue to be kind because I understand.”
The seeker said, “The love and care I showed to others went unnoticed.”
God replied, “Please continue to show love and care because I am aware.”
The seeker said, “Thank you, God, for enlightening me.  But I observe that the worthwhile deeds I performed in the past which helped others were not permanent. They did not last.”
God replied, “Be assured that all worthwhile deeds are honoured in heaven. Thus, please continue to perform them.
The seeker said, “I could only carry out little acts of kindness in my lifetime and I am a nobody in the eyes of the world.”
God replied, “Please continue to perform little acts of kindness in your lifetime because they are the most beautiful things in My eyes, because you are always My precious child, because you are always Somebody in My eyes.”
The seeker asked, “Every now and then, despite my best efforts, I yielded to pride, greed and desire for sense pleasure.”
God replied, “As an embodied being, you cannot outgrow temptations.  Thus you need to maintain vigilance at all times.  If you stumbled or made mistakes, please repent sincerely, seek My forgiveness, make amends and move on with life.”   
The seeker asked, “Why is my life filled with difficulties and setbacks?  Why am I bearing the cross in many days of my life?”
God replied, “Please realise that I will not let you bear the cross unless it reveals the eternal life within you, unless it is for your eternal best. Please realise that you are My precious child.  Nothing can separate you from My love.  I am always with you.  When your journey on earth ends, you will rejoin Me in heaven.”
The seeker said, “If I faced temptations, if I felt anxious, sad and fearful, what should I should?”
God replied, “Your thoughts and feelings of anxiety, sadness and fear are temporary.  They are flashes of mental energy which arise and pass away.  Your body is also temporary.  But your soul or your spiritual essence is eternal.  Your soul comes from Me.  It is always wholesome, pure and intact.  Nothing can affect it.  Your soul will return to My kingdom when your journey on earth ends.   If you faced temptations, if you felt anxious, sad and fearful, please repeat these words until once again you are aware that you are always connected to My Love: “Peace of God … Forgiveness of God … Power of God … Love of God …”  You may feel weak at this moment, but your Creator God is forever strong.  I created this visible universe.  It reflects only a small part of My Power and Strength.  Thus if you repeat these words, you will be filled with spiritual strength and courage which come from Me.  They enable you to endure the difficulties of life until I decide to bring you home to My kingdom.”
The seeker said, “Thank you, God.  May I ask what is my life purpose on earth?”
God replied, “To become spiritually aware and do something beautiful for Me.”
The seeker said, “How do I begin?”
God replied, “You will be doing something beautiful for Me by sharing this message with others …”

The above are sample chapters extracted from Merton Lee’s new book: 

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (God Explains Life’s Mysteries, Problems and Wisdom)  

Available at Kindle eBook and Paperback


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