Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hope and Human Suffering

November 3, 2009
mother teresa

Mother Teresa

This past week, our family had the wonderful opportunity to visit Mother House, the home of Mother Teresa in Kolkata. You can see the small, austere bedroom where she stayed. Her tomb is there, and there is a small museum documenting the life and work of Mother Teresa.

I am humbled when I think about how this woman gave her life to serve the poor and needy. And Kolkata is full of poor and needy people. They slept on the sidewalk just outside the gate of the compound where we stayed. They came up to us on the street, begging for money or food.

Dirty children walked up to us, touched our arms and called, “Aunty, please…. Please, Aunty.” Wrinkled old women, who probably looked much older than they were because of their harsh circumstances, looked hollow-eyed, searching for some relief. And, most heartbreaking of all, mothers with babies too small for their age would approach, holding out their baby’s empty bottle, a graphic picture of their need. Suffering was everywhere.

It was into the midst of such human suffering that Jesus came and walked. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and touched lives. Mother Teresa also lived and walked among the suffering souls of Kolkata. She touched lives by nursing and comforting the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving the unlovable.

Where is God in the midst of human suffering? When faced with those who suffer, we become God incarnate. We become the hands and feet of Jesus. How? We packed up leftover food from a meal and gave it to a child on the street on our way back to our rooms. We discreetly tucked a few rupees into the hands of mothers with babies or old women. We stopped and paid a street vendor to feed a hungry child who was following us.

But we’re just one family, and there are untold thousands of poor, hungry, homeless people struggling to fill their empty bellies and stave off the hunger pangs. In the face of so much suffering, what difference did we make? Well, we made a difference to that mother with her baby. That baby got to eat for one more day. That mother didn’t have to listen to her baby cry with hunger that day. We made a difference to the little boy who got to eat when we paid the street vendor to feed him. He waved happily over his shoulder, already gobbling his food, as we walked away. And we made a difference to the ones who ate our leftovers. They went to sleep with satisfied stomachs that night.

Each of us has the chance to make a difference for one or two or three every day. We can become Jesus to the people around us, extending His love and compassion to those we come into contact with wherever we might be. We can shine a little light into the dark corners we discover. We can give hope for one more day. And, yes, we can make a difference in someone’s life, as we share Jesus’ love in practical ways with those who are less fortunate that we are.

–Debbie Ong

Advertisements

Step into the Water

September 8, 2009

“The priests will be carrying the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth.  When their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will pile up there in one heap.”  (Joshua 3:13, NLT)

 

OceanIsrael was finally moving into the Promised Land.  After over 400 years of slavery, and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God’s promises to Israel were finally coming to their fulfillment!

And yet, the testing time wasn’t over yet.  They still had to get across the Jordan River.  Unlike Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, where Moses simply held his staff out over the water, and God parted the waters, this time God did not stop the flow of the Jordan River until the priests actually got their feet wet and stepped into the water.  What faith it must have taken to step into that water!  What a spirit of boldness!  Mrs. Cowman, in Streams in the Desert, calls this “holy audacity”.  I like that!  Am I audacious in my faith?

It is easy to trust standing safely on the shore.  It is easy to trust when the way is clear before you.  It gets tougher when the way ahead isn’t clear, when it’s dark and you can’t see where you’re going, when the path ahead leads straight into the deep.

William Carey, the father of modern missions, and missionary to India said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”  It takes audacious faith to do this. What step of faith do you need to take today?  Are you ready to step out into the water, and watch the hand of Almighty God roll back the waters for you so you can cross on dry ground?

–Debbie Ong

Father Knows Best

June 25, 2009

father-knows-bestEver watched the old 1950s sitcom? In 30 short minutes, Betty, Bud and Kathy’s little world could be turned upside down and, almost with the snap of a finger, restored to perfect order…just like that.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that simple. Some of our problems don’t have such easy solutions.

Life has a way of handing us disappointments just when we thought things were smooth sailing. Just last week, my own family faced such a disappointment. With one simple email, a life dream was put on hold…indefinitely.

Our faith in God’s goodness could crash. Our hope and joy and peace could collapse under the weight of our sudden and dramatic change in circumstances.

BUT… if God truly loves me with absolute, perfect and unconditional love, and He does; and if He wants only the very best for me, which He does, then I can trust Him to have something better in store for our family—even better than the simple dreams we have for ourselves.

Do I really trust my Heavenly Father to do what is best for me? Can I really be sure that He has my best at heart? Can the foundations of our relationship stand up under the strain of pain and disappointment? Does Father God really know best?

God Himself answers the question for us. Listen to what He says:

“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

So, how about it? Are you prepared to trust, to just sit back and rest in the promises that Father truly does know best?

 – Debbie Ong

 photo copyright: estates of Young and producer Eugene Rodney

Teaching Thankfulness To Our Children

June 18, 2009

girlSaying ‘thank you’ isn’t just a matter of good manners. It’s also creating and establishing an attitude and lifestyle. You can help your child to learn gratitude through your example and also through a few simple activities you can try at home.

First, there can never be enough said about teaching by example. Lead the way by saying please and thank you regularly in your conversations. You may be surprised to find your children imitating you and sprinkling their conversations with please and thank you, and it actually took very little conscious effort on your part!

Another simple activity you can do to teach your children gratitude is to give thanks before meals. This teaches your children to be grateful for every day things we often take for granted, like food.

Find times in your daily routine to express your thankfulness to God. At bedtime, play a game taking turns to list all the things you’re thankful for. See who can name the most without repeating any.

Begin a family project and keep a notebook, journal, or scrapbook to record special memories, people and events for which you are thankful. This may be as simple as you want it: simply a list of blessings, or it may be as elaborate as a scrapbook, complete with photos, stickers, souvenirs and mementos.

Help children to appreciate their blessings by exposing them to others less fortunate than you are. Get involved in a community service project, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, visit a children’s hospital or a nursing home, or even take them on a missions trip. Let them see the blessings they take for granted in a fresh new way by recognizing that there are those who do not have what they enjoy every day.

Let your family enter the ‘secret service’. Have each family member write his or her name on a slip of paper. Put the slips into a hat, and let each person draw a person’s name to shower with secret acts of kindness over the course of a week. At the end of the week, have family members reveal whose name they had, and express their appreciation for the nice things they experienced during the week.

Make a family keepsake to remind your family to be thankful. You may want to purchase a solid-colored tablecloth or bedsheet, and use fabric paints to write your blessings all over the cloth. Use the cloth for special occasions, and add the date and event to your special thanksgiving tablecloth. Another keepsake project might be a blessing tree. Mount a tree branch in a plant pot. Cut leaf shapes from colored paper. Have family members write their blessings, or prayers of thankfulness onto the leaves, and tie them with colorful ribbon all over the branches. Your family can add or change the leaves regularly. The ideas are only as limited as your imagination!

An attitude of gratitude can be both taught and caught. Your children will follow your lead. It’s never too late to give thanks, so get started today and begin to cultivate a family culture of thankfulness.  

–  Debbie Ong

My Source of Strength

June 11, 2009

j0438625Last year and early this year I felt so much like Job in the Bible.  Everything suddenly went downhill for me: my marriage, my career, my business, my finances and my child’s health.  It was like being pushed to the corner and receiving one hard blow after another.  I literally spent my days crying and feeling so miserable.  I just could not understand how things suddenly all spiralled out of control.  Life was one miserable existence. The Enemy was having a fiesta seeing me down on the pits  and wallowing in mud.  Where was God and why was I going through all these? I am a good christian girl ( or at least I think I am), and I read the bible and do my devotions everyday.  I even flew all over the region and did missions work. Then why was I punished? What have I done to deserve this?

In the midst of my trials and tribulations, one thing that I found rather intriguing was people and friends were suddenly appearing from nowhere offering help and support.  Someone would appear at my doorstep or in my life at the right moment when I felt so low and dispirited. Then I realised it was when I saw their love and concern that I saw God in action.  I saw God’s concern for me.  I felt Him lifting me up with His pair of steady hands and carried me through the fire of wretchedness. 

I had been through so many dramas in my life, and every single drama that occurred, I felt that God was always there for me and giving me strength to carry on.  It was no accident during one trying period that every morning when I flipped through the Bible the first verse that would always speak to my heart was God telling me not to fear. He had His reasons why I had to go through the tough times.  I didn’t understand why but all I had to do was trust Him. Trust Him when my human emotions were all crying in pain. However, succeeding events later did prove how true was His word of assurance – that there was nothing to fear at all, after all! God never wastes a hurt.

I received a Tweety soft toy with a funny and yet poignant note from a couple who are dear friends of mine.  The handwritten note said “Just as Sylvester can never get Tweety, the Enemy will not be able to get you as the LORD is with you.”  Tweety suddenly has a new meaning in my life.

– nkw

Giving Thanks: Having a Pollyanna Mentality

April 23, 2009
pollyanna

Ever seen the Disney movie “Pollyanna”? It’s about a little girl, the daughter of missionaries, who is orphaned and goes to live with a wealthy maiden aunt.

Pollyanna seems to have the knack of seeing the bright side of everything. When her aunt, bitter and jaded by life’s disappointments, asks her why she’s always so glad, Pollyanna explains that her father taught her to make life’s disappointments into a game that she called the Glad Game. Whenever she felt sad or disappointed, Pollyanna would try to find something to be glad about. For example, when her family opened up a missionary barrel full of things sent to them by the church ladies missionary society, instead of a new doll or pretty dresses, Pollyanna found a child-sized pair of crutches. Instead of being disappointed at receiving nothing of any value to her, she decided to be glad that she didn’t need those crutches herself.

As Pollyanna’s lively cheerful spirit touches the lives of those around her, the entire community is transformed by the influence of this one small girl.

Pollyanna had the right idea. The Glad Game wasn’t original to her. The apostle Paul instructs believers in Ephesians 5:20 to be “… always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God wants us to live with a constant attitude of gratitude.

I can always tell when I’ve not been showing enough gratitude. It somehow comes out in the voices of my children. They seem to start whining for things they see and want. I hear the rumbles of discontentment as they bicker and quarrel and find fault with each other. They grumble as they do their chores. And, sometimes, I hear my own ugly ungrateful words spilling out of their little mouths. God seems to use my children to be a reflection to me of my own sinful attitudes and behaviors.

This ‘stinkin’ thinkin’’ of thanklessness is not a new problem. In fact, the Old Testament records time and time again how the people of Israel grumbled and complained against the Lord whenever things got tough. But look at the results! It took them forty years to make what should have been a journey of less than two weeks! An entire generation died out in the wilderness and missed the joys and blessings of the Promised Land.

glass-half-fullHow about you? Do you have a habit of seeing the glass half full or half empty? It’s so easy to become disillusioned with life with its daily challenges, trials and frustrations, and to begin grumbling, whining and complaining. Why don’t you do something today to begin to turn that stinkin’ thinkin’ into an attitude of gratitude?

• Get a notebook and begin to list your blessings, both big and small. Write each blessing on a separate line. Think of blessings from the past, present, and future. Keep the notebook handy, and add to it as often as you can. Use the notebook to remind you to be thankful when you catch yourself falling back into habits of stinkin’ thinkin’. Pray through your notebook to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has given you.

Rent the movie “Pollyanna” and watch it with your children. Teach them to play the Glad Game. Make it a family tradition that whenever you hear each other grumbling or complaining you remind each other to play the Glad Game.

Copy Ephesians 5:20 onto an index card and hang it on your bathroom mirror. Put another copy on the dashboard of your car. Carry another in your wallet. Memorize this verse and recite it aloud whenever you see one of these cards or whenever you need to remind yourself to be thankful.

Find a piece of art that reminds you to be thankful and hang it in a prominent place in your home. It may be a wood carving of Scripture that says ‘Give thanks’, a painting, a Norman Rockwell print, a poster, a photograph, a framed piece of counted cross stitch, or even a child’s drawing—anything! The art and its cost are not what’s important, but the fact that it reminds you to be grateful whenever you see it. Make this a family project so that its significance as a reminder to be thankful extends to every member of the family.

Having a Pollyanna mentality is not being out of touch with reality. Playing the Glad Game is not just looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It is walking in obedience to God’s Word.

An attitude of gratitude is a habit that you can develop, but it takes practice. So, what are you waiting for? When that car cuts you off on the freeway, thank God that you didn’t have an accident. When your children keep you up at night and you lose sleep, thank God for blessing you with precious little ones. Start today to develop your thankful heart muscles. Practice a little bit every day. You’ll be glad you did!   –  Debbie Ong

Photo credit: Pollyanna copyright by Disney