Sunday, 23 July 2017
London, United Kingdom
“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.”
am I holding my life up against the light of Christ? is His light the incident ray, as well as the refracted ray which unto others shine?
“For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light we see light.”
Saturday, 22 July 2017
London, United Kingdom
to the Christian struggling with a chasm of questions that seem to have no satisfactory answers yet: hold on to the glory you have already been shown 😊✨
The Greek goddess Aphrodite is worshipped for her beauty, but I think it would be quite a shame if I had to worship a god who is found and remembered across history for her naked, cowering posture of shame.
But it is the still the exhibit at the British Museum that I am most fond of, because of its idea: “Tantalising, none is fully revealing”.
That’s the thing with seeing only a part of the whole fabric, no matter how hard you try and look. When the complete picture is withheld, it leaves behind a sense of wonder and fascination, coupled with a certain unattainability that finds its expression in reverence and worship. I think we can think about our God in the same way: perhaps the reasons why we think we should reject Him are the very reasons why we should accept Him. I think about the Pharisees and the blind man whom Jesus healed in John 8 and 9, and their conversation in John 9:28-33…
“You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
Man who Regained Sight:
“Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.“
The very reason why the Pharisees could not accept Jesus was that they did not know under whose authority He had come from – or perhaps they just refused to accept that Jesus was truly from God. Yet to the man who regained His sight, not knowing where Jesus had come from made His act of healing even more amazing, and this strengthened his faith in Him. There is wonder. There is fascination. There is the human limitation that makes miracles unattainable. And when we realise the presence of such power in our midst despite our limitations, I think it really humbles and moves us to respond as the once-blind man did: in reverence, praise, and worship.
Mankind seems to have a tendency to reject things that they do not completely know. As seen from the example of the Pharisees, this tendency really isn’t new, which is why I found it intriguing that something “not fully revealing” like the sculpted Aphrodite could be received with such wonder and fascination instead. This Greek idea is even thought of as a beautiful one – and I think it is too, especially if we use it to help us think about our God. Why do we always need to have a perfect understanding?
If we are to believe that there is Someone greater out there – Someone everlasting in love and wisdom – how can we expect our finite human minds to be able to fathom the ways of that infinite Someone? The Christian does not, and will not have the answers to everything. Some questions are meant to be answered only in heaven, and we need to accept the boundaries of time and knowledge that God has set for us to keep within. We have to trust that the boundary lines are placed in perfect love, wisdom and protection. But even with these in place, God has revealed enough of His glory for us to trust that He exists (think creation, think the Bible, think everyday blessings, think unnoticed miracles). If we have truly caught that mere glimpse of glory, I think it ought to be tantalising enough for us to want to learn more, explore more, and come to love more of the God from whom all glory emanates from.
Ahhh okay I don’t mean to be over-spiritualising a mere sculpture, or even appear to be comparing Aphrodite with our God, because He really has no equal. Our God is infinitely good and wise from all angles, and even if you do not see the full picture, perhaps all you need to do is glance away from scrutiny and think: has what He has already revealed given you enough reason to keep believing in Him?
May we each act in accordance with our individual answers as we pursue the Way, the Truth and the Life, amidst the lives that we have 😊✨
He who came up with the idea of symmetry had a beautiful mind. Not patterns of three, nor four, nor five… but two hands, two feet, two ears, two eyes; all is order. The human body, fashioned across a carefully traced line; all is beauty, all is honour.
But He who came up with the idea of symmetry also had a beautiful plan.
Across the invisible line that separates high heaven from the earth, may my life in the body be the intended symmetrical half of things on the heavenly side;
a glimpse into the Kingdom, a reflection of the King.
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
London, United Kingdom
Don’t know how else to tell this story properly so… I hope this less refined text message version does the job! But I guess what I do want to say, is that we have a good God who very, very physically walks with us and leads us all the way 👣✨
Friday, 14 July 2017
tripped over several pebbles and almost sprained my ankle on several occasions, but successfully and safely scaled Arthur’s Seat – guided by the promises of Psalm 121 😌✨I lift up my eyes to the mountains —
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip —
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you —
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm —
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
stone; streets that grow upward with
streets built on the spine of
through the laneways,
the wynds and the closes;
past buildings the colour of
burnt, faded roses,
buildings the colour of
muted sand and stone.
brown buildings, further browned
by the brush of time stone after
stone; with round-the-bend
discoveries and fingertip ones,
we learn to learn and
learn to be taught by His world,
step by step 🐾
little lessons from Ecclesiastes 3, on boundaries for different seasons of life; Psalm 104, on the wisdom and greatness of the LORD who is in control of all seasons; and Proverbs 8 on not just the blessings of wisdom, but also the blessings and wisdom in His boundaries 😊👍🏻
with a finger You traced out
for the sea so great, so wide;
for the people who splash along
boundaries, for those
You love the most.
with wisdom You outlined my
feeble frame –
for me, not so great,
for me, not so wise;
boundaries, from foreknowing what
only Time should say;
boundaries, from having my own
with turbulent tides and raging storms,
the waters move at Your command,
but the waves of faith know to recede,
when beyond the boundaries You have drawn;
and with the ebb and flow of life,
I move at Your command – I know Your
boundaries are circumscribed with love,
with reason and reason beyond.
so help me to obey, to trust and obey,
these boundaries You have in protection set;
beyond all reason and all reason beyond,
lines where love and wisdom have met.
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
The Kingdom of Cambodia
ysanne, beatrice and jereme prayed for a rainbow on the tuktuk but God gave three! 😊a promise to the Hebrew patriarch,
a tinted reminder unto me:
beyond the arcs across the sky,
Eternal Love, He lovest me 💖
seven-hued reminders that He remembers🌈:”I have set My rainbow in the clouds… whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures of every kind.” Genesis 9:13-15
Monday, 19 June 2017
The Kingdom of Cambodia
It didn’t look like much – at first glance, at least. The school bus dropped us off at a tiny hut raised on stilts, and we crouched beneath its wooden frame where the workshop sat. In the workshop then sat a young woman on an old, sandy wheel that had a fresh lump of clay at its centre. Her pair of eyes glanced up at us with a look that said “Hold your breath!” before her lips curved to a shy smile, and she began.
Our eyes circled in awe as we tracked the movement of the wheel, which turned round after round at the command of the potteress, who was swiftly stepping at a connected pedal. It soon turned too quickly for our eyes to chase, so our attention shifted to the lump of clay on the wheel, on which the potteress now placed her hands while continuing to step on the pedal. Even though the clay was two shades lighter than her pair of tanned hands, it seemed as though they were one: she delicately held the clay, exerted a gradual upward pressure on it as the wheel turned and, like magic, a discernible shape slowly emerged from her hands – a neat, thin-necked jar.
It was beautiful in the most elegant of ways; its smooth, evenly-shaped rim, its symmetry, its curvature. She was done, and with a thin string, she subtly sliced her little masterpiece from the original lump of clay. She beamed with a humble sort of pride at this work, even though her workshop already had so many other jars of clay that were equally beautiful. Every jar mattered 😊
“Now you try,” she told us in Khmer, gesturing for us to take the wheel. You have no idea how excited that made me because ah, it was a chance to create something beautiful! And how effortless, how easy it had looked in the potteress’ hands. I sat in front of the wheel and placed my foot steadily on the pedal, while she sat a lump of clay in front of me. I reached out to hold it, and my hands learnt that it was very cool and very soft; how delightful. I stepped at the pedal while my happy hands held the clay without moving. All was good when I didn’t move.
The trouble came, however, when she told me to start moving my hands and use my thumb. I pressed the lump of clay down its centre to mould the mouth of a jar, and it immediately snapped out of shape. Oops. Wasn’t that easy after all. 😕
The more I tried to salvage the jar, the more hideous it became. You see, moulding a lump of clay using a wheel requires 1. a pair of skilful hands, and 2. a steadily, consistently turning wheel, and this depends on the work at the pedal. I don’t quite know the physics behind it, but I do know by experience: When the speed of the wheel abruptly slowed down, the pliable, soft clay started contacting my hands at awkward angles and with non-uniform forces, affecting its shape. I am a horrible multitasker, so when I tried to salvage the jar with my hands, I ended up neglecting the pedalworks that were equally important, and this made the jar lose the symmetry it originally had. Its opening was also gone. It was not functional, and definitely not suitable for sale.
The potteress let out a kind, gentle laugh, and offered me her hands for help. Now all I had to do was focus on stepping the pedal well, which was more tiring than I’d expected (and boring, I guess). I was quite bummed out by that initially. “Ah, why can’t she just let me do it myself… it’s okay even if I mess up, just let me do it; I want to do it!” But when I glanced back at the clay that had been miraculously moulded into a now functional bowl by the potteress’ hands, my thoughts shifted: “Thank God she took over, I could never have done that myself.” It was a beautiful bowl with wavy edges and petal details, beyond my own imagination’s idea of beautiful. To my surprise, she then placed it in my hands and even though she’d done most of the work, the people around me all said, “Wow Jud!!! Your bowl looks quite nice!” It was worth leaving it in her good hands 😊
I think the partnership I shared with the potteress was a powerful picture of what God does in all of our lives. We humans were not born with the skill of handling this thing we call “life” – we have to learn it, and that’s why as His children we are taught, disciplined and discipled. Yet, more often than not, we who are not skilled want to be in control. We say things along the lines of what I said when the potteress took over the clay that I held: “I want to do it; let me do it myself!”
But remember the mess I made, when the clay was left to the fumbles of my hands? Contrary to what I had thought, it was not okay for me to mess up with the clay, because it was precious to the potteress. Every lump of clay could be made into a functional jar that could be sold for some money. More importantly, every lump of clay had the capacity for beauty, and she intervened by helping me because she wanted me to have a part in beautifying it too – even if the only work I needed to do was to kick the wheel. But that was important too! If I hadn’t stepped the pedals as she had asked me to or had kicked half-heartedly instead, the result would have been an asymmetrical jar – not because the potteress wasn’t skilful, but because I wasn’t willing.
It is not okay when our lives look messed up either. It isn’t part of God’s plan for us. Every single life matters, and every single life is precious to Him – precious enough for Jesus to give up His own life on the cross in exchange. He did it so that “[we] may have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10) and this abundant life does not begin only when we get to heaven; it begins the moment we let Him into ours. Letting Him in means letting Him take control, and we can wholly trust that He will not make a mess of it because He knows what He is doing. He who values our lives more than we do also knows how to handle and run our own lives better than we do, simply because He gave them to us. This also gives Him the right to put His hand on them and shape them, to make them as beautiful as He had intended for them to be – just as the potteress gave that lump of clay to me, and helped me bring out the beauty in an ordinary, dull lump of clay. 🍶
So, what is the Christian supposed to do? Perhaps we need to stop insisting on our own design, let go of our hands that desire so much to meddle with the clay of our lives, trust what God has in mind and simply step at the pedal. God is our Potter, and He is in the business of making us into functional and beautiful vessels for His work; our job is to move our feet in obedience and diligence by walking in His way ☺️ If our lives don’t look like the functional, beautiful vessels for Christ that we are intended to be, perhaps we need to go back to the pedals and take a hard look: are we slackening, or kicking at it half-heartedly? You see, we have a Potter who is skilful beyond doubt, but He often doesn’t have a willing worker at the pedal.
It is only when we realise and accept the importance of our work at the pedals, that we can leave our design in God’s good hands and become the functional, effective Christian that He intends for us to be. We only need to focus on stepping the pedal as diligently as we can, and watch the beauty of the work unfold; the joy and fulfilment will come. The best Potter in the world has roped me in to step the pedals for Him, and He is moulding me! What an honour and what a delight, to be working with Him while being worked on; it will be worth it when I see the final beauty of the work that emerges from His hands, and as He places it back into mine.
People will look at it and say it is my life – Judith’s life – but I hope that if there be any beauty, it will catch their attention enough for them to listen to my story. I hope to hold it and beam with pride as I tell them that I only stepped at the pedal – the rest was God, with His brilliant, gentle hands. And may they then desire to place their lives in these hands too 🤗
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7