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Monday, September 03, 2012

In Loving Memory of my Auntie Maureen

Sooner or later, you lose someone dear, someone blood-related. I recognise that life here and now is transient, there's no permanence to be found in this life and that's a certainty...and maybe a relief too.
In June, my cousins lost their father. I lost an uncle. We grieved. Two months and a bit, my auntie (my late uncle's elder sister) breathed her last. Another season of mourning. This auntie isn't just a 'regular' auntie. You could say she was size-wise, but she was big-hearted. I recently asked my dad which sibling he was closest to, he said it was auntie Maureen because she was a very giving person, always looking out and caring for others. I am sure my dad has many wonderful memories of his elder sister he could tell you about if you asked him to.

My aunt Maureen (seated in the centre) visiting in Brisbane, Australia
To me, auntie Maureen was the only aunt who was with me at life's three most significant moments till now.

My aunt at my graduation in 1998
Auntie Maureen at Milestones of my Life
- In 1974 before I cared to remember or had the ability to, auntie Maureen has reminded me she was the one who carried me as a newborn in her arms when together with my mother, I was discharged from hospital. I believe she carried me with a sense of pride as if cradling her own child.
- In 1998, she and my uncle Devan attended my convocation in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, to celebrate my graduation. It was lovely to have them there to witness the big day I would wear a gown and a mortar board.
- In 2007, she was there to celebrate my wedding to my dear wife Dorcas.

She was an auntie who was present at the milestone moments of my life. Not just physically present but emotionally engaged. Regardless of which life stage, I don't recall ever a time she'd not enquire if I had eaten or if I'd been eating well. At almost every family gathering, her parting remarks were almost predictable. She'd say to me in Cantonese: "Zou mat yeh kom sao? Lei oi sek tor tee chee tou mou?" (translated to mean:,"Why are you so skinny? You must eat more, you understand?"). I would look back and wonder why she'd say the same thing to me at every Chinese New Year gathering. Even my mum was put on the defensive with the suggestion that she hadn't been feeding me well. Her enquiries came fast and furious while I was serving NS and she would see me every week in church. Back then, I hadn't introduced the term 'ectomorph' into my vocabulary. But that's how my auntie Maureen was - she believed in the basics of well-being and showed her love in that manner. She was ever hospitable. Even when my wife and I visited her in the closing weeks and months of her life, she would in her frail state still enquire if we had eaten and call for the helper to serve us drinks.

As a kid, I'd be most excited about visiting auntie Maureen. Her red packets were the most prized among all that I receive from my relatives on both sides. She was generous, she was giving to her family - to her siblings, her nieces and nephews.

A family meal together
My auntie Maureen has been battling cancer these many years. It went into remission, then it returned. When the doctors exhausted all other forms of medical treatment, she came home to spend her remaining days. She grew weaker by the week. From being independent and mobile, auntie Maureen went from being able to sit up in a chair in the living room to receive guests, to lying in bed in the bedroom and be assisted out to the dining room at meal times, to lying in a specially rented electric bed in the dining room from where she could still enjoy the sea breeze and look out the sliding door to see if it was day or night.

For my auntie now, there is neither day or night.

Thank you Heavenly Father for the gift of auntie Maureen. I give praise to You for auntie Maureen's ever-enquiring concern and love for the family.

Auntie Maureen, we shall meet on that beautiful shore
"In The Sweet By and By"...

There's a land that is fairer than day, 
And by faith we can see it afar; 
For the Father waits over the way 
To prepare us a dwelling place there. 

In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore; 
In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore. 

We shall sing on that beautiful shore 
The melodious songs of the blessed; 
And our spirits shall sorrow no more, 
Not a sigh for the blessing of rest. 

In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore; 
In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore. 

To our bountiful Father above, 
We will offer our tribute of praise 
For the glorious gift of His love 
And the blessings that hallow our days. 

In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore; 
In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore. 

Many thanks to many friends who prayed for the family. Special thanks to my dear friends, Aaron, Namiko and Daniel who stood by us to support the family through their comforting presence, prayerful ways and a most loving act Namiko performed that's been etched deep in my heart:
After sharing some songs and promises from God's Word one August morning, Aaron prayed for auntie. Later on, my aunt tells us she's lost all sensation in her legs. In a heartbeat, Namiko offers to give my aunt a foot rub with lavender essential oils and asked if she would like that. My aunt nods, gamely taking on the offer. Soon, the fragrance filled the room, the massage warmed my aunt's feet, and without doubt, her heart. It may have been the best 20 minutes since she was bedridden, her legs in pain and too weak to support her. Here, my friend, a near stranger, demonstrating love in a very practical and tangible way, feeding the senses and the soul, a loving and humble act stemming from the overflow of a Saviour's love.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Worth more than a Honda!

It feels like 37 years ago that I last posted on my blog...maybe it's because that number means something significant today. So long ago I even had a few gos at figuring out my username and password just to access Blogger again! Infrequent logins and the aging process surely don't go well together. ;oP

So as I mark what's called a 'birthday' (an annual occurence often taken for granted; a celebration when young and despairing when older), I question what birth is. I logged onto and to my surprise, no where do I find 'life' in any of the definitions listed, even though birth has a symbiotic relationship with life.

Life has been largely 'plain sailing' in all manner of expression. Can't say I've hit extremely choppy waters where life and death hung in the balance. Haven't been lowered to the darkest depths of sorrow, the dire straits of poverty nor the loneliness of being despised and isolated.

You could say I've been living well, but what is 'well' and could my life be lived better? By better, can my life be more effectively lived, more impactful, more for beyond-the-now?

For someone in mid-life (althought I still feel 26!), is life about:
- getting a job and slogging it out to keep it secure?
- being drawn into a routine so everything kinda goes auto-pilot?
- needing refreshment and planning the next holiday for a time-out everytime you get exhausted or when a long weekend bumbles down the calendar to be taken advantage of?
- finding pleasures and comforts of life and investing in them like they'd last for eternity?
- moving on from one stage of life (as a natural expectation of human life and relationships) to another?

You'd think you'd have less questions the older you get, but it may well be working in reverse for me.

You see, it wasn't until a week ago at a Christian conference that I was provoked to get some urgent realignment done. Even cars get more regular servicing than I do and I suspect I'm worth more than my Honda! I am convinced that my life needed some sort of a jumpstart, that some parts may require replacement, some areas fixed. In essence, I think my spiritual spark plugs need changing.

After today, I hope to run like a brand new car. You'll still recognise me 'cos I'll still have those small little dents (what some call 'five cents' and 'ten cents' on the outside), but at least I know I'm all good on the inside, and my GPS is functioning perfectly!

Friends, come with me for a ride beyond this journey, because the destination is worth it! If you want a wash-&-polish to a shine, happy to pass you the contact.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My name is George! George Mueller!

I am still making sense of where the last five months have gone. At 10.30pm last Sunday night, it all ended. A 5-month epic journey since October last year that took me to Prussia, Bristol, singlehood through marriage and parenthood, from a dishonourable son to a convicted sinner that finally culminated to becoming a man of great faith who answered God's call to rescue street kids orphaned in Bristol.

Borrowing the adjectives George uttered to Beta after being convicted of his seeking state and wanting position of a Saviour, it was "incredible", it was "overwhelming"! I give God praise at how Mueller: A Walk of Faith was born, how it grew in mass, the mobilisation of hearts and hands and momentum.
I've contemplated writing a testimony for publication in the church bulletin, but it would be impossible to write one that would do justice in serving as a complete and comprehensive account of how this mega project has impacted and touched me. Impossible in the sense that it wouldn't be just a paragraph, a page nor even a chapter, but an entire book, to lay my soul bare, reminisce and marvel how the journey's positively scarred me.

It all comes down to the 'F's when all's said, done and staged and when the audiences, cast and crew return to their individual lives. The project was most evidently about faith. Faith not in something, not in self nor someone else, but in God alone. Truly a man may plan his course but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9), apparent in the life of George Frederick Mueller. With a man whose faith casts a huge shadow over mine, there is much for me to pursue and to aspire to.

My family has been most dear to me, praying for me, encouraging me, enquiring about my welfare in preparation for the show. Oftentimes unseen, unheard and sometimes unnoticed, but always there to support me in the very intense and demanding role of George. It warms my heart to also have an 'instant' family on stage.

I haven't forgotten the many friendships that have either formed or strengthened through the hothousing. Friends are precious and they help you fit in, they lift you up when you're down, they've proven to be immediate first-aid when you're dealt a blow. I know the friendships that cut across the demographic groups will last long into the future.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

I of the Tiger

So on the eve of the third cycle of my year - the Year of the Tiger, I sit and reflect, with the reflection of the sun off the neighbouring block and on my face. The glare causes me to squint yet warms my skin. Could this be a reflection and a promise of God's grace and favour come what He's pre-arranged for me in the new lunar year? I chose to believe so for I know His ways and will are perfect as He's reassured in Romans 12:2.

A tune comes to mind and below is an excerpt from three stanzas that fill me with confidence that He's going to be there once I leap into the new lunar year tomorrow, just like He has always been:

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face shine on us
Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand fall on us
Lord, let Your love
Love with no end come over us
That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your light shine on us
How wonderful and what peace to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ as we, to borrow the lyrics of the song 'What is Faith' taken from the upcoming Mueller musical, 'leap forth into the unknown (where) hopes and fears mingle in our souls'.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Walk of Faith

Such a walk can be the hardest thing to claim to be doing when all around, you feel a nudge and a push to throw you off the course of needful dependency on the Lord. These past months have seen me being robbed of time for 'extra curricular' activities like blogging. I love every opportunity to pen my thoughts and share perspectives but time has been a luxury. And to have to wait till today, Boxing Day, to post my next entry is almost unforgiveable! But only forgiving friends find their way to hearing me out via this blog. So thanks!

Why the subject title 'A Walk of Faith'? It's essentially the title of a church musical Dorcas & I are involved in. She's been tasked to oversee the musical elements of the production while I take on a leading role on stage. It's been tough; rehearsals have been thrice weekly. The pressure is on. Friends have enquired how I'm coping, to which I respond that I haven't yet pushed the panic button. I hope never too. The panic button never gets depressed when there is faith!

To understand the character I play better, ie. George Muller, I got under his skin through digesting the book Release The Power of Prayer the last month - a book my father-in-law had recommended. It challenged my faith and inspired me to exercise it (ie. faith) even more in recent weeks. George had in the book testified that he knew of at least 50,000 specific answers to his prayers! From a reckless past, the man turned to Christ and was able to provide for over 10,000 orphans without ever asking anyone but God to supply their needs! An amazing journey for a man full of faith! Imagine the number of lives he made in a difference in and countless more his walk of faith inspired.

Last weekend was the perfect occasion to test my faith. It was to be Agapella's big Christmas gig at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was sprawling picnic grounds in front of the stage, separated by a moat. The Friday before our first of two scheduled performances that weekend, the newspaper reported a very strong likelihood of moderate to heavy rains across the weekend and even warned of possible flooding in low-lying areas. It was a literal dampener on what Agapella hoped would be fair skies and dry conditions. No one would lay out a pinic mat and basket under other circumstances. But I found peace as I slept on Friday night. I was reassured by a voice in my mind telling me that God who'd earmarked that weekend for Agapella's performance would have it come to past, that it wouldn't be a wasted opportunity and that carols would be sung to the gathering of people in the lovely gardens.

On both days, the clouds rolled in and released their cargo. Saturday's clouds gathered around midday. Prayers were uttered by both performers and the many who knew our God and our plans. The clouds were done with their deed by about 4pm but the lawn was soaked. A member in our group was almost resigned to the fact that the performance would be cancelled and that at best, we'd use the opportunity as a warm-up for Sunday. The show however went on despite the cloud cover remainning serving only to treat the audience to a cool evening of carols. I asked the liaison person what he thought of the turnout of a few hundred people. He replied that it was pretty good despite the wet weather we'd experienced. Praise the Lord!

God tested our faith even more on the second day. The rain's came later, the clouds never dispersed and the showers were intermittent all afternoon. We prayed with even more fervour and ferocity and I took God at His Word that he wouldn't let the opportunity be a washout. Right until 6pm when we sang our first song, it was drizzling. Those who had gathered to soak in the carols were also at risk of being soaked to the skin if the showers got heavier. Umbrellas lined the lawn like molehills. But God in His mercy and in answer to our prayer caused the drizzle to cease after our first song and the umbrellas were closed and tucked away. The evening air was cool and blended with the refreshing perfume of the fir trees that had been planted on the lawns. Snow notwithstanding, this was the closest one can get to the feel of a Christmas evening in the northern hemisphere!

A walk of faith isn't just a single step, it isn't a standalone episode, it's a journey that followers of Christ must take. It's a life that we must lead.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Two-Year-Old!

We're proud to announce we've got a two-year old (marital relationship)! It's been anything but plain sailing. All around, people say that the first year or so is the 'honeymoon' year, where all is lovey-dovey wide-eyed wonderment. I've been wide-eyed and in wonderment why it didn't happen to me. I'll have you know that the ride gets worse from when you say "I do" before it gets better. There is hope though.

Time isn't the source of hope, though getting to know each other's idiosyncracies and inner motivations become more familiar. It's really going beyond knowing the likes and dislikes into the 'Who are you really?'. You might find this amusing but while courting my then girlfriend, I never did make it officialese that we were an item. I just thought we were and expected the fairer half to know that. But before we started moving towards formalising plans to wed, she sat me down one evening and asked, "So what is THIS?" She meant the status of our friendship. She wanted an answer. She wanted to know where we were.

Since our vows exactly two years ago, I want to say, "I know where God is". And that's most pivotal, because I can creak, crack and crease but our Heavenly Father who initiated our relationship has been a rock solid anchor Who will not slumber, slip or have a shut-eye. It is this God Whom I must base my relationship on.

My wife gave me a card tonight. In it, she recapped how we'd had to make adjustments over the past two years to be where we are today - interlocked and entwined in marriage. Truly without adjustments, without each of us losing a bit of our former selves to find that groove where we both fit into this wheel called 'marriage', there'd have been major breakdowns. It is our common faith in Christ, our abiding in Him that allows Him to keep this wheel well-oiled and running. I admit I've sometimes go off course and have had to be shaken up, all for the purpose of getting me back on track.

Marriage isn't about the first and last letters, it's about the emphasis and elevation of the other person. Being the self-serving being that I am, I continue to work in abasing myself even as Christ gave Himself for His church.

May the Lord find my wife and I faithful in marriage through to a ripe old 'age'.

And about the subject heading, in His time. :o)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Under Pressure

Call me paranoid, but it's all precautionary really and for peace of mind. Incidentally, peace of mind wasn't quite the outcome after attending today's health screening at workplace.

Why did I go for it? Simple. When you hear of people in the prime of their lives coming down with one disease or dropping dead when they have no previously known medical condition, I thought a health screening would be a good stocktake on how your body's holding out.

It was prompted by my company bringing a service provider into the premises to offer their services at a subsidised rate, and so I signed up for an Executive Package.

The results of the blood and urine tests will be known later on, but on site, I was bewildered by my high blood pressure reading. It was 144/88 when normal healthy readings would be 130/80. Not good. Not good at all! It could have been because I'd rushed down for my 1pm appointment. I also confessed to the young lady manning the station that I'd just come from giving a security personnel a piece of my mind. So maybe my blood was still on the boil and I needed to simmer. I was then instructed to make my way to the other stations before coming back for a second reading. I did. No difference to the first.

I'd always felt fit and have been healthy. I exercise at least once a week, which I thought was sufficient. But apparently not. Was I under stress? Not anymore than would the average person I believe.

Have I been eating foods rich in sodium? Not deliberately. In fact, I think my threshold for salty foods is very low. Nor am I big on dried or preserved food. So what could be the cause?

I did an online search and read that in most cases, it is inexplicable why one has high blood pressure. My mum suspects genes play a part. Now that's something you can't change or alter. You inherit both the good and the bad.

Those with high blood pressure are at risk of suffering a stroke and heart attack among other complications, and I'd surely like to steer clear of these.

What can I do? Make small deliberate decisions to exercise more regularly, be more selective in what I eat, learn to live and let live and pray for His watch over my blood pressure. I feel the pressure and pleasure to pray for His mercy over my health.