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Destination Timor-Leste ~ The Real Thing!

Let me start by apologising for the glitch that caused a blank post to be sent out with just the title “Destination Timor-Leste”. I really appreciate each of you who took the time to check it out and I’m so sorry that you probably went, “Huh?!”

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It happened during the early morning hours when the otherwise effective WiFi in my Timor-Leste hotel room acted up. After checking and re-checking my laptop’s internet settings, I turned to the WordPress App on my cellphone to try to share photographs that I’d snapped. As they couldn’t load properly, I ditched the post but it somehow went public with only the heading intact!

The mysterious part of it all is that the complimentary wireless connection on my mobile phone remained intact! It wasn’t until my host arranged for the staff to give me the password to their office WiFi the next morning that I could access the internet on my laptop. But by then, our driver had arrived so it was time to leave the hotel.

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Why was I in Timor-Leste?

In Asia’s youngest country, half the population is illiterate and close to 40 percent of the people live below the international poverty line. I went as a Singapore Press Club volunteer invited to train local journalists to help build up the fledging nation’s media capabilities. The workshops that I conducted were on scripting for television, newsgathering and interview skills while the other trainers focused on areas like commentary writing, social media, crowd-sourcing news and revenue streams.

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A CT Angiogram at the six-month mark following my Pulmonary Embolism showed “nearly complete resolution of the previous PE with minimal residual emboli (blood clots)”. As I’d been cautioned that it could take up to a year for life to get back to normal, I praise God that it’s only taken half the time for me to recover to the extent that I could comfortably resume regular workouts, assume a new round of counselling responsibilities and even travel abroad. 

When my cardiothoracic doctor Lim See Lim (well-liked by patients at the National Heart Centre, I’m told, because of his excellent care) gave his stamp of approval for a trip to Timor-Leste, the good news took a while to sink in! Once it did, the sense of freedom was so palpable that I immediately wrote back to the organisers of the training sessions to say “Yes, I’ll go” and they confirmed my flight a day later! Committing to a meaningful activity was my way of marking the momentous occasion. 🙂

My heart swelled with a round of HALLELUJAHs to my good and gracious LORD.
Hallelujah or Alleluia has Hebrew roots and is a spontaneous expression of joy, thanksgiving and praise towards God. Do check out the uplifting version of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the end of this post.

I learnt that a number of fellow Christians hadn’t stopped praying for God to heal me since I was first rushed into A&E in February. I’ve been truly touched by the love shown to me by so many and would like to say a big THANK YOU to each and every person who’s played a role, seen or unseen by me, known or unknown to me, in my journey to recovery. The Lord sees what I miss and I’m so glad that He records and rewards. May He bless you and all your loved ones!

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A Pictorial Record

Now for a photo essay on my stay in Timor-Leste. All the pictures were taken using my Samsung SII handphone—Android above Apple for me! I used to carry a still camera and a video camera on trips but stopped when I realised that I was spending far more time looking at the world through lenses trying to frame and capture people and scenes “just so” rather than simply enjoying the fresh experiences! It’s a job hazard that the cameramen I work with fully understand.

From Singapore, it takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to fly to Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. Sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, the country occupies eastern Timor island and was once a colony of Portugal. Till today, Portuguese remains an official language along with Tetum. Bahasa Indonesia is also widely understood as neighbouring West Timor is under Indonesian rule.

Cheerful Cumulus Clouds—I snap a fresh batch whenever I get a window seat!
(An interest retained from Secondary School geography)

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Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport

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Enroute to Hotel
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Room Security—a simple press-down door knob. Bellhops-Guards watch the entrance/exit at night.

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Breakfast @ Bagan Beach Café yielded one of the tastiest stir-fried noodle dishes I’ve ever eaten.
I was glad I tried some one morning instead of just having juice and fruit. 

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View of Areia Branca Beach from the hotel balcony led me to take a Lovely Sunset Walk.
Amazingly, the WiFi was strong enough for me to use WhatsApp several metres across the road!

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Tentative Smiles captured for posterity with permission from their Dad.

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Most Timorese are Melanesian and the majority of the 800,000 citizens are Roman Catholic—a colonial legacy. This accounts for the giant 27-metre high Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King of Dili) statue of Jesus that’s inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Training @ Palácio Do Governo
The Government Palace is the official residence of the Timorese President but he lives at his private home so the sprawling structure is used by various government bodies. The thatched models are mini replicas of traditional houses.

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Training was conducted with the help of an interpreter. Videos had to be downloaded beforehand as internet access was restricted to the offices in the Government Palace. The projector in the main conference room wasn’t hooked up to an audio system but a resourceful Timorese taught me to bend the conference microphone to amplify sound from my laptop speaker—a useful tip!

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Streets of Dili with a Timorese journalist as guide. I met many friendly and helpful locals.

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A Spot of Shopping @ US$4-US$6 dollars each. The local woven fabric is called Tai.

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As Timor-Leste supplies organic coffee to major chains worldwide, I was told it’d make a great gift, so I bought boxes of Arabica and Robusta as recommended by a frequent visitor. Little did I know that the intended recipients needed a percolator to brew the drink! I’d thought ground coffee was like soybean powder that could simply be stirred into water. The reason for my knowledge gap is that I prefer iced water and cold juices so I rarely drink coffee, and if I have to choose between java and tea, I’d go for the lighter drink—preferably the ice-blended version!

Air Timor
For its Singapore-Dili flights, the national carrier charters an A319 aircraft from SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines. A business traveller who flies in every month told me that his fare fluctuates between US$650 and US$850 depending on demand. I learnt from a fellow journalist that the number of passengers on each flight is capped as the airport runway is short and a full plane wouldn’t be able to land or take off. While I wasn’t able to personally verify that, having an entire row to myself on the way home does lend weight to the information.

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What’s your impression of Timor-Leste, I’ve been asked. A serene and rustic environment balanced against the people’s strong desire to develop and prosper. The Timorese currency is only available in values below US$1 so American dollars are used in most transactions including cab rides. Locals say the cost of living rose because United Nations peacekeepers and their families freely paid more for daily items during the 13 years that they were on the island.

Most East Timorese voted for an end to Indonesian rule in a 1999 UN-sponsored referendum. However, anti-independence militias backed by Indonesia’s military responded with a scorched-earth campaign until an International Force ended the violence. I’d been heavily involved in my TV network’s extensive coverage of the tense conflict so it was particularly meaningful for me to be in Timor-Leste a year after the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers. The young state shares large deposits of oil and natural gas under the Timor Sea with its neighbours Australia and Indonesia. May it experience strong growths and stability in the years ahead.

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Hallelujah Chorus – Andre Rieu (Conductor) with Harlem Gospel Choir, Sopranos and Tenors
Lyrics/Music: Charles Jennens, George Frideric Handel
Hallelujah Chorus is the climax of Messiah by Handel. It’s said that he composed the piece in 24 days while modern musicians can barely even copy it within that timeframe! At the end of his manuscript, the composer wrote “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria which means “To God Alone The Glory”. With this inscription and his speed of composition, it’s believed that he wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration during which he “saw all heaven before him”!

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ. And He shall reign for ever and ever
King of Kings and Lord of Lords for ever and ever
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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Revelation Song – 11 International Worship Leaders
Lyrics/Music: Jennie Lee Riddle

The Perfect Balance

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“It’s not fair!” is a cry that you’ll hear even from the tiniest tots.
Equally instinctive is the motion of little arms held up expectantly for a hug.

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The need for love and justice appears to be a fundamental human reflex.
And to me, the balance between the two is such a critical one.

When I was first told about the God who loves me and is ever ready to forgive all my sins if I repented of them, something deep in my human spirit responded to the conviction of His Holy Spirit. But as I fell in the category of what’s generally regarded as a “good girl”, I didn’t really comprehend the great divide between a holy God and sinful Man—sin being defined as the transgression of Creator God’s law and absolute moral standards whether in deed or thought.

Nonetheless, the concept of God as Love and a focus on the New Testament (the second part of the Bible that starts with the life of Jesus Christ) sustained my faith from my secondary school days right through to my early working years as a TV reporter. But that didn’t give me a complete picture of God Almighty, of whom Proverbs 15:33 advises, “The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord brings instruction in Wisdom.” So once faced with the demands of balancing a high-adrenalin newsroom career with being a wife and raising two young hyperactive sons, partial truth reduced me to becoming what’s known as a “backslidden” or nominal Christian. There’s a warning by Jesus to this group in Revelation, the last book of the Holy Scriptures.

“I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! For you say, I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing; and you do not realise and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” – Rev 3: 15-17

Fast-forward my 30s which I shared about in “Hope Springs Eternal”. In my 40s, I devoured the Old Testament (its first book Genesis explains the creation of our universe and the first man and woman) and found that so much of it made sense to me in this phase of my life. The Psalms expressed every emotion that I could ever feel and echoed every cry that I could ever utter!

The holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, mercy and goodness of Father God reverberated through the pages of the front part of His inspired Word. And when I combined all that with His love, grace and compassion epitomised by His Son Jesus in the New Testament, a richness and wholeness came through that had escaped me previously.

I don’t know who first said this, but “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”

If I believe only that my God is Love, I would not have the assurance that He’ll be fair, for love alone—at least as far as we humans know it—can lead to biased, illogical or plain bad decisions. On the other hand, if I know my God only as being Holy or Righteous, I wouldn’t be at all certain that He can truly understand or have compassion on Mankind, a race riddled with inconsistencies and frailties.

But when the two are combined in a perfect balance, therein lies my security and equanimity.
(Friviolous aside: I’ve known the word “equanimity” for ages but this is the first time I’m using it in a sentence! It means mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain.)

To be certain of justice from the Impartial One whose standards are perfect and yet whose love is great and mercy is rich—I can safely put my trust in a God like this. No wonder we are told that, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” –Genesis 18:25b. That’s one of my favourite Bible verses found on my introductory page “Me In A Nutshell” . Another is Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and loving-kindness and truth go before Your face.”

In a court case, witnesses are asked to precede their sworn testimony with words similar to these, “I promise that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” In John 8:31-32, Jesus told all those who believed that He’s the Son of the Living God, “If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” That is why my email signature looks like this:

Showers of Blessings!
🙂
Carol 珍
http://www.carolfoo.com

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Seek the Truth, Love the Truth, Live the Truth!

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David Ravenhill, a Christian minister and author taught my church recently that when we pray, we need to believe three things about God—His “Presence, Passion and Power”. David’s illustration goes like this (non-verbatim)—”If I’m walking alone on the streets and a huge muscleman wants to attack me, a friend who’s equally well-developed (Power) and loves me (Passion) but isn’t there at that time (No Presence) wouldn’t be of any help to me. If another friend suddenly turns up (Presence) and is more than willing to rush over to assist me (Passion) but he’s much smaller than my would-be attacker (hence No Power), both of us could end up getting hurt despite his kind intentions!”

A God who is forever the ideal combination of Presence, Passion and Power provides the perfect balance that any of us could ever want or need.

– Weary and wonder when the sun will shine on you?“
“So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.” –Hebrews 10: 23-24

– Feel misunderstood or unappreciated?
“For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7b ~ “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” –Galatians 6:9 ~ “For surely there is a latter end [a future and a reward], and your hope and expectation shall not be cut off.” –Proverbs 23:18

– Treated badly or taken advantage of?
Forgive, as God has so freely forgiven us. For Christians, our role model is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Perfect One who was betrayed, wrongly accused, slandered, rejected and crucified. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” –Luke 23:34

“For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” –Matthew 6:14
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in Heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.” –Mark 11:25

thCALLPG4H Pulpit Commentary – Biblesoft (Useful Link: http://www.biblehub.com)
“The pious writer urges the injured person to commit his cause to the Lord, not in the hope of seeing vengeance taken on his enemy, but in the certainty that God will help him to bear the wrong and deliver him in His own good time and way.” Hillel (the ancient Jewish sage and scholar) enjoins, “Do not thou that to thy neighbour which thou hatest when it is done to thee.” In modern lingo, it means that whatever you find hateful, do not do to your fellow man. As Jesus taught in His famous Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who speak evil about you (those who accuse you falsely, mistreat you, spitefully use you) and persecute you.” –Matthew 5:44

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In The Image Of God
I believe in asking God for His perspective on each person I encounter. He alone knows their entire life journey that has shaped them thus far. Ellel Ministries uses a very enlightening skit to demonstrate this. A friend or colleague may seem to over-react to what many consider a harmless remark. But if we could get a glimpse into what has built up over a long period of time, we would realise that for that person, it’s the “last straw that breaks the camel’s back” causing their cup to “run over” but in a negative way. (In Psalm 23:5, the phrase ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ means “God provides more than enough to meet my needs.”)

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Easy anger or extreme shyness could be a defence mechanism against past multiple hurts and abuse while brash arrogance and workaholism could well mask insecurity and a relentless need to prove oneself acceptable through continuous achievement. That’s not to say that bad behaviour is acceptable but let’s take a little time to look beyond the surface and it’s likely that our response will be the better for it.

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The following may seem fantastical if you don’t believe that the Bible was written through the inspiration of God but I really hope you’ll finish reading this paragraph. God has exposed the strategy of satan the fallen angel turned devil—he was once the high ranking archangel Lucifer who was kicked out of Heaven for rebellion and pride, wanting to be worshipped “like the most High”. No longer able to enjoy his former status and intimacy with the Almighty and with Hell as his ultimate eternal jail, he bitterly resents Father God’s offer of restored relationship with fallen man made possible through Jesus’ freewill sacrifice of Himself for us. Christ revealed that while He came “so (we) can have real and eternal life, more and better life than (we) ever dreamed of”, satan “the thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy”. And therein lies the root cause of many of Mankind’s perpetual problems. Bible references: Isaiah 14:14, Matthew 25:41 and John 10:10.

If you have questions concerning what you’ve just read, here’s a great link that you might like to check out:
+ http://www.cscc.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=96

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He Is – First Assembly of God
Lyrics/Music: Jeoffrey Benward, Jeff Silvey
This is so beautiful! I’ve watched it 5 times in the last 24 hours alone. Would have loved being a part of the orchestra or choir. “He Is” describes Jesus revealed through all the books of the Bible. Amazing!
(Thanks to Rena for introducing me to this)

Jesus Messiah & Hallelujah, Praise The Lamb – First Assembly of God
Lyrics/Music for Jesus Messiah: Daniel Carson, Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
Lyrics/Music for Hallelujah, Praise The Lamb: Bill & Gloria Gaither

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WHAT IF…

…you are molested by a trusted family employee because you’re a cute child and you don’t know how to verbalise the horror so you gorge on food, and everyone in school wonders why you can no longer sweep all the prizes on Sports Day?

…a sister returns home from a night class filled with fear, and undergoes a swift and sudden behavioural transformation, and stops making sense and starts swearing, and later succeeds in taking her own life after several failed attempts?

…a brother is reported as MIA (Missing In Action) and your family frantically follows the most tenuous leads. Then a stranger calls and suggests you check out the mortuary as the body he’d seen at the base of his block of flats resembles the Missing Person ad with your sibling’s photo. But he thinks the person’s in his 30s while your brother’s just 19, so you decide to head to the morgue alone in case he’s mistaken and you don’t want your loved ones to be troubled by a false alarm. After the staff lets you identify the corpse pulled out from a “freezer”, they realise you’re underaged and can’t sign documents to claim the body. So you, the baby of the family, calls your parents to break the devastating news to them

…your elderly father develops senile dementia which progressively worsens, and for more than ten years, you have a dad who’s there physically yet not quite there

…the spouse you’d entrusted your virginity to walks out and disappears, presumably overseas, for close to a decade, and has zero contact with the wife, children and mother he left behind

…your kids react to your single-parenting with a range of responses varying from stretches of appreciation and love to sessions of cynicism and defiance, and from bouts of violence and rage to rounds of withdrawal and anxiety

How will you respond to traumas and tragedies like these?
Do you weep till there are no more tears left?
Rant and rave and hit out to release your anger?
Sink into depression and become suicidal?
Vow never to trust anyone ever again?
Torment yourselves with regrets or pledge revenge?
Turn the sorrow inwards and hurt yourself in some way?

We human beings resort to myriad ways of coping with negative, painful and traumatic situations. The unhealthy effects often culminate in a combination of disorders and dysfunctions. A spectrum can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Latest edition DSM-5). Often, the prescription is long-term medication coupled with training in coping mechanisms.

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For Christians involved in the Healing and Deliverance ministry, one vital component of a complete cure is to uncover and address the spiritual roots of conditions afflicting the human spirit, soul and body. This is clearly recognised by practitioners of many other religions as well, hence through the ages, their devotees have turned to witch doctors like mediums, bomohs, shamans and sorcerors.

I used to think that it was a cop-out or shirking of responsibility when adults attribute the problems they face to their childhood experiences. But I’ve since learnt that deeply entrenched blows like rejection and abandonment that’s birthed in a toddler, infant or even a foetus—such as through the mother’s attempted abortion or desertion—can colour a person for years or even a lifetime, unless they are identified and properly dealt with.

Jesus Christ promised His followers, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” If you’re a believer struggling with issues that you need help with, you might want to find out whether your church has a Healing and Deliverance Ministry.

One Christian organisation that offers personal ministry sessions is Ellel Ministries International headquartered in the United Kingdom with centres across the world. This is the website: http://www.ellelministries.org/ ~ All its counsellors undergo thorough theoretical and practical training. In Singapore, most are volunteers like me. Counsellees aren’t charged a fee but those who can afford it support the work through voluntary donations.

Freedom Reigns – Jason Upton
Lyrics/Music: Mike Larson
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
Showers of Mercy and Grace falling on every face
If you’re tired and thirsty, there is freedom, feel the chains fall away
We lift our eyes to Jesus, there is freedom

SNIPPETS FROM MY PAST

The first time I stepped into a church was to attend a holiday camp at the invitation of my primary school Chinese teacher. It was a semi-detached house in Serangoon Gardens just a short walk from my home and I recall sewing a fat pink pig as one of the activities! Cherith Baptist was where I was introduced to the Bible in Mandarin. As Father God has His ways of bringing about divine connections, in case that kind teacher is ever led to my blog, I’d like to say, “谢谢老师! 愿恩惠与平安从父神和主耶稣基督归于您.”

My water baptism took place in East Coast Lagoon. I was then part of a Christian youth group comprising mainly military cum symphonic band members from Cedar Girls’ Secondary and Victoria School. We were Ambassadors For Christ meeting every Saturday in Balestier. On Sundays, most of us attended Bethel Assembly of God which used to be at Palm Grove Avenue in Kovan, near where I now live.

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Purple and pink were my favourite colours for a long time, and at one point I only wrote in purplish ink. I had a hot pink jumpsuit in my teens and I used to pose against gorgeous flowers when taking photos. I’ve retained my liking for purple clothes, but am now mostly leaving pink attire to youngsters while I opt for red accessories as being more befitting of my mature status. However, I do still enjoy a refreshing pink strawberry milkshake!

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MORSELS FROM MY PRESENT

I’m happy feasting on fruits and salads as a meal in themselves (the photo above shows my dinner presented as food art) but I’m mindful of the need for a healthy balanced diet. To me, fresh raw salmon, a juicy steak and a cheesy prawn-spinach pizza are tasty treats indeed!

Being a Hainanese, I have high expectations when it comes to one of Singapore’s favourite foods—Hainanese Chicken Rice. I consider Pow Sing Restaurant in Serangoon Gardens as serving one of the best versions on the island.

As we kick off the 9th month of this year, for all who began 2013 with plans, dreams and resolutions, this would be a good time to take stock. For me, it’s the start of a six-month COUNTDOWN to my fiftieth year of existence on earth. I’m hoping to make my first trip to Israel next year to trace the footsteps of my Lord while He was on earth.

In the Bible, the 50th year is known as the Year of Jubilee. Blow the trumpets and proclaim a Holy Year! Liberty and a Fresh Start! Respecting every human. Renewing our dedication to the Lord Almighty. Recognising the call to Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with our God.

“Every 50 years everybody’s bank balance was levelled up, debts were cancelled and all the property reverted to the family who originally owned it. So the leases would get cheaper the closer you came to the fiftieth year. Slaves were also set free in the Jubilee year. Thus people looked forward to the Jubilee, known also as ‘the acceptable year of the Lord’. It was good news for the poor because they would be rich again, and it was a time when captives would be set at liberty. Jesus proclaimed in Nazareth: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on Me…to preach good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ In other words, Jesus began the real Jubilee to which every one of these people had been looking forward.” –Unlocking The Bible by David Pawson

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Jubilee – Michael Card
Lyrics/Music: Michael Card, Randy Scruggs
Jesus is our Jubilee
At the Lord’s appointed time His deep desire became a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free!
He is the incarnation of the Year of Jubilee
(Thanks to Juliana for sharing this lovely song)

The Year Of Jubilee (Shnat HaYovel) – Paul Wilbur, Batya Segal
Lyrics/Music: Yochanan Ben Yehuda, Bill Cuomo, Ann Hilsden, Ian Jupp

We sing this song to You, it’s a sacrifice of praise
From the fruit of our lips, we come to bless Your holy name
Your mercy endures forever, and You delivered us from sin
Lord please teach us to love our brothers, and forgive as You forgive
In The Year of Jubilee

One Day This Island Will Sink

“You must learn to swim because one day, the waters surrounding Singapore will rise and the island will be completely submerged!” That warning given to me during my childhood came to mind a week ago—the first time it’s surfaced in decades. I believe the memory was triggered by seeing so many Singaporeans donning face masks while going about their day-to-day activities.

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Since the annual haze returned in mid-June, earlier in the year than usual, locals and tourists alike have been avidly monitoring the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). The general sense of alarm reached a height when the index surged to an all-time high of 401 on 21st June. Any reading above 300 is classified as Hazardous by the National Environment Agency. Not surprisingly, its website crashed at one point due to the sheer volume of visitors.

The low cost slash-and-burn method of land clearance is still practised on Indonesia’s huge Sumatra island, and during the dry season, smoke from raging forest fires drift to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

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The severity of this year’s haze created Singapore’s worst environmental crisis in more than a decade, while in Malaysia, a state of emergency was declared in its worst hit Southern district. There were days when the smell of burnt wood permeated closed windows, not sparing the elderly, young, pregnant and ill who were advised to avoid or minimise outdoor activity. Apart from health risks, the economic damage is extensive—three months of haze in 1997 cost the region billions of dollars from disruptions to air travel, tourism slowdown, higher health expenses and related impact.

When Singapore leaders urged Indonesia to take action, one of their ministers stirred up public anger when he accused the republic of behaving like a child in a tizzy. However, ruffled feathers were soothed when the Indonesian President apologised and promised to come down hard on the culprits.

Oh, For Fresh Air & Blue Skies!

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The N95 mask became a highly coveted commodity and quickly sold out across the island, with long waiting lists at retailers while stocks were being replenished. It’s one of the few respirators proven to be efficient against fine haze particles of 0.1–0.3 microns that can “lodge deeply into the lungs”. The last time the N95 was this sought after was during the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic. As the PSI climbed, sellers of air purifiers also made a killing. Here’s a photo of the masks given to my family by a relative who works at 3M—a manufacturer of the N95. Father God who loves to give good gifts to His children always provides for me!

It’s amusing and perhaps amazing how quickly we humans adapt and adjust. When the haze first started, many people expressed concern when the PSI reached the Moderate and Unhealthy categories. But after the reading had crossed into Hazardous territory, sighs of relief could be heard when it dipped to the Very Unhealthy range, with some even assuring one another that the value was “only” 250!

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Singing In The Rain!
I decided not to pray for a change in wind direction as that would have meant a transference of the problem to our neighbours. So I asked God to send rain to clear the haze and douse the Sumatran forest fires, for He created the elements and commands the weather. When rain fell in the late afternoon of 25th June, I celebrated by filming this 10-second video on my handphone! 😀

In Western Singapore, respite from the haze came from a rare hailstorm that rained marble-sized ice chunks for some ten minutes. I experienced this on our tropical island as a very young child and recall that the phenomenon lasted for barely a couple of minutes then—a blink and you’ll miss it encounter. One explanation offered is that even though we’re near the equator, hail can occur during thunderstorms when super-cooled water droplets in the air freeze upon contact with dust particles.

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Having produced a documentary on the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan that saw buildings swept away like toys, it’s clear to me that earthly possessions and all living things are extremely vulnerable. So whenever there are reports about freak weather and natural disasters, I remember God’s promise in Psalm 46.

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You Are My Hiding Place – Selah
Lyrics/Music – Michael Ledner
Based on Psalm 32:7, Psalm 56:3, Joel 3:10
You are my Hiding Place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance.
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of the Lord.

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No More Metal In My Body!

The procedure to retrieve the IVC filter was successful and I now own the stainless steel device which will serve as a memory stone to remind me of God’s deliverance and kindness. It’s bigger than I’d envisaged. Somehow, I’d imagined it as being half its actual size!

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The minimally invasive surgical procedure was carried out in an Interventional Radiology Suite by Doctor Eloquent who’d implanted it four months ago. Dr Shaun Chan from the Singapore General Hospital patiently and thoroughly described why and what he was going to do and I appreciated that tremendously. A catheter inserted into the neck~the filter retrieved~the catheter with the filter withdrawn~pressure placed on the entry/exit point for ten minutes—and that was it!

If mankind could tap more of the unlimited knowledge and wisdom that our Creator God has, medical science and all other fields for that matter would easily progress by leaps and bounds and be totally transformed!

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The excellent doctors Charming and Witty whom I wrote about in Staring Death In The Face dropped by to explain the results of my Echocardiogram. Their real names are Dr Lim See Lim and Dr Tan Ann Kheng, both from the National Heart Centre. I learnt that while there’s still some heart valve leakage resulting from the Massive Pulmonary Embolism that I survived in February, there’s been improvement over the months, so the assurance was that there’s “nothing to worry about”.

My new Haematologist has just started me on the anticoagulant Rivaroxaban which was developed for human consumption, unlike Warfarin which began as a pesticide. Trivia: Apparently Warfarin is losing its efficacy as rat poison because many rodent populations have developed resistance to it. Now, more potent chemicals are needed to kill the critters!

The switch to Rivaroxaban reduces the need for frequent blood tests, monitoring and consultations. I’m praying that it will also mean an end to the adverse effects of Warfarin which included hair loss and fatigue. One major downside? Each Raivaroxaban pill costs close to S$6 compared to just 10 cents for a Warfarin tablet. Happily, my corporate and individual health insurers are picking up the tab.

2013-06-19 18.28.24 How thoughtful! Take a closer look.
The printed days of the week are a very helpful reminder!

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Here’s one of my favourite dinners that I’m enjoying again after abstaining for several months. As I was taking Warfarin, I was advised to avoid foods high in vitamin K like Soya Bean and Lettuce (a member of the Cabbage family). That’s because Vitamin K aids in clotting—as well as bone health—and a diet rich in it would likely have translated into a higher daily dosage of Warfarin for me.

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Coincidence Or Luck? Not Quite!

Over the last fortnight, a couple of doctors remarked that I had been “lucky” to survive the Massive Pulmonary Embolism in February, but cautioned that I might not be so “lucky” should it happen again. I replied that it was through a miracle of God that I’d made it safely to a hospital to receive the emergency medical care that I needed. Personally, I don’t believe in the concept of luck because my God who loves me and whom I love is sovereign and He’s always watching out for me. While I might face humps and bumps on the road ahead, I’m confident that all is well with me at the level that really counts—my eternal destiny and victory through my Saviour Jesus Christ.

Two verses that I often pray are, “Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts/anxieties!” (Psalm 139:23) and “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

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MATCHING ACTION TO INTENTION

Intention: Resolve, determination to act in a certain way
Action: Activity, whether physical or mental, that one consciously wills

In modern parlance, it’s called “Walk the Talk”.
In the bible, Jesus warned against blindly following religious leaders who don’t practise what they preach. He taught the people how to identify false prophets who distort God’s Word. “A good (healthy) tree cannot bear bad (worthless) fruit, nor can a bad (diseased) tree bear excellent fruit… Therefore, you will fully know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:18-20

Someone asked me when I’d be completing a new blog post, the one you’re reading now. Here’s the reason for the longer than usual gap. I’ve been reviewing my commitments and actions—the way I allocate my time and resources—to see if they truly match my intentions and goals. At the end of the day, it’s really all about the daily choices that we make, isn’t it?

In this new season of my life, God brought to mind my teenage years when I found myself inexplicably drawn to the prayer room in the church that I was attending. The building was a huge bungalow in Kovan—a 5 minute bus ride from my house in Serangoon Gardens followed by a 10 minute walk. Most afternoons, I didn’t have any prayer list with me. Those were simply times of waiting on the Lord, communing with Him, enjoying His Presence and being with Him, much like the way we feel about people whom we truly love.

And I believe much of the trust and faith that I have in God first took root during those times of quiet communion with Him when I had the prayer room all to myself. When a personal crisis struck some years ago, my prayerful pastor’s wife who didn’t know much about my history looked at me searchingly and said, “I believe your roots are deep enough.” And they were!

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PRESSING IN—UPWARDS & CHRISTWARDS!

To my brethren and fellow followers of Christ, I invite you to hold me accountable. Ask me whenever you see me how my walk with our Lord is going—whether I am walking ever closer with Him, knowing Him more and more, “soaking” in His sweet and awesome Presence, drinking deep from His well of wisdom and revelation, accessing His rivers of living waters so that His life and light will overflow from my innermost being to bless those within my circle of influence.

“Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or to what is false, nor sworn deceitfully.” – Psalm 24:3-4

So I press in to always Seek the Truth, Love the Truth, Live the Truth!
And in so doing I encounter Jesus—the Way, the Truth and the Life

Oh, worship the Lord for He is worthy of our praise!
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No Higher Calling – Maranatha Singers
Music/Lyrics: Lenny LeBlanc, Greg Gulley
Down at Your feet, O Lord, is the most high place. In Your presence, Lord, I seek Your face
There is no higher calling, no greater honour than to bow and kneel before Your throne
I’m amazed at Your glory, embraced by Your mercy. O Lord, I live to worship You!

As The Deer
Music/Lyrics: Martin J. Nystrom
Based on Psalm 42

Blessings of Love, Joy & Peace!

Of Needles & Such

Six self-administered injections later, I’m so thankful that I don’t suffer from Trypanophobia—an extreme fear of needles which causes some sufferers to avoid medical treatment altogether. Apparently this phobia afflicts one in ten Americans, and “sometimes people with this disorder faint when exposed to needles or injection, even when the procedure does not involve them” – allaboutcounseling.com

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I am blessed in never having to struggle with this fear, for these few days, I’ve had to self-inject the anticoagulant Heparin (Low Molecular Weight LMWH – brand name Clexane) twice daily. It was necessary as I’m undergoing a surgical procedure on 11 June to remove the implanted metal IVC filter—Angels in the Operating Theatre! explains why I needed this. As the oral medication Warfarin takes a few days to start and stop working, to prevent the risk of excessive bleeding during the removal procedure, Heparin is an effective bridge as it’s both quick to act and short-lived.

Isn’t it wonderful that so much useful information is now readily available on the internet?
Here are pictures showing:

An IVC filter trapping a clot and preventing it from moving up into the lungs
Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter

The use of a wire hook to close the umbrella-like filter
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A closed filter that can be safely removed
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Happy News!
An ultrasound scan shows that the remaining blood clots in my legs are only “partial” now so my doctors gave the go-ahead for the precautionary filter to be taken out. It’s advisable not to delay this any longer as retrievable filters may get stuck to the wall of the IVC and cannot be removed. The potential risks of having a permanent filter include its penetrating through the vein and piercing a nearby organ, or even breaking loose and travelling to the heart or lungs. A fresh scan of the Pulmonary Embolism area to review the state of the clots that choked my lungs in February will be done in a couple of months.

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I’m so glad the school holidays have started. Here’s a humorous exchange when I was last warded.
Son to Mum in hospital: “Don’t worry, I can iron my own uniform, realised it’s not so difficult.”
Mum: “That’s good. Send it to the Laundry Service if necessary.”
Son to Mum after my hospital stay: “I didn’t iron my uniform, wore it straight from the dryer. Asked around and my classmates said they didn’t notice any difference. I mean, which weirdo stares at people’s clothes anyway?” 😀 …So guess who quickly resumed ironing duties?

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Stuff I Find Funny

Doc Lost

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2635811 Quinn Miller Photo’s creative Wedding Entourage is a huge internet hit!

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You Are Special!
You are unique! You are a special blessing to those you know and you have something to give to the world that no one else can. God created you to be you. As you walk with your Creator and partner with Him, He will unfold a marvellous plan for your life and you will understand to a fuller measure why you are alive on earth in such a place at such a time among such a people.

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My Current Praise & Worship Favourites:

God Is Here – Darlene Zschech
Lyrics/Music: Israel Houghton, Darlene Zschech, Phil Wickham

Let The Rain Of Your Presence – Danny Chambers
Lyrics/Music: Danny Chambers

It’s My Joy To Love – Sarah Edwards
Lyrics/Music: Sarah Edwards

Joy Juxtaposed

You’re a Christian. Shouldn’t you always be happy and chirpy?
Why do you have problems when you’ve made Jesus Christ your Lord?

One of the best answers to questions like these comes from theologian John Piper:
“What the world needs from the Church (Christians) is our indomitable, invincible joy in the midst of suffering and sorrow.”

Not joy alone, for that would be unreal. Not problems alone, for people have enough troubles of their own.
Instead, a combination—a strong core of peace and joy even when surrounded by adverse or undesirable external circumstances.

A Paradox? Actually, no.
Who can deny that in this world, there exists “tribulation and trials and distress and frustration,” as Jesus forewarned His disciples. What makes them all bearable—week after week for some, year after year for others—is the promise that in the midst of storms and upheavals, a peace “which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” An unshakeable faith that this latest challenge too can be overcome and that “joy comes in the morning” as there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

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I’ve tested this over and over again, and from personal experience, I declare that it is true. Life has a way of throwing up unwanted shocks and nasty surprises, and I’ve had a substantial amount of those. When bad things happen, negative emotions try to run riot, but focusing on my ever present source of Hope & Help enables me to keep fear, worry and stress at bay. If they manage to gain a foothold, turning my gaze upwards to God empowers me to shake them off so that they can’t take root.

After winning my recent battle with death, through the saving hand of my Lord, I’m determined to make my days count fully. I like the following extract from Fulfilling Destiny by Peter Horrobin. He’s the founder of Ellel Ministries International (www.ellelministries.org)
Destiny people are people who will keep on moving forward even when there is opposition. They’re aware of the attacks of the enemy but they keep on doing what God’s given them to do. ~ Continue to press on to walk in that which God has made us for. And it is in the doing of that, that we know the joy of the Lord, which will then be our strengthening and our empowering.

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I appear to have adverse reactions to the anticoagulant Warfarin, which thins my blood to prevent further clots from forming, even as my body naturally breaks down existing clots in my legs and lungs. Persistent fatigue plagued me when I first returned to work, and when it finally lifted just over a week ago, I guess I unwisely plunged into more activity than I should have, for my haematologist noted that I looked tired when I last saw her. “Slow down! Don’t rush!” is the refrain that I’m learning to sing for now.

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The International Normalised Ratio or INR measures the clotting tendency of blood. It’s typically close to 1 for most people. For those on anticoagulants like me, the target range is often 2-3, which means if we get a cut, our blood will take longer to clot and the bleeding will be more profuse than for the average person. During recent fortnightly checks, my INR was 4.4 and 3.8—eliciting warnings from the nurses to be extra careful and to head straight to A&E in the event of excessive blood loss or extensive bruising. Someone mentioned that my daily dosage of 6mg is high for an Asian woman, but when it was reduced slightly for a fortnight in March, my INR fell below the desired range, which meant an increased risk of developing a blood clot.

My doctor is arranging to have my implanted IVC filter removed in mid-June. Without that as a gatekeeper to prevent any future clots from travelling upwards, the projection is that I’ll need to take Warfarin for one to two years. I don’t want that, for I’m already experiencing mild hair loss—Alopecia—after just three months on this drug. Long strands falling onto my palm after a shampoo isn’t an enjoyable sensation. Another possible cause of hair loss and tiredness is the Lucrin Depot hormone jab that I was given during my hospitalisation. I’m praying that I can soon be restored to a medicine-free self, and I’m really thankful to everyone who’s continuing to pray for me. I appreciate you and bless you. 🙂

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Faith in Jesus—Delusional or Actuality?

A colleague of mine thinks that fervent Christians are likely to be those who don’t quite have it all together; people who need a crutch because they are plagued by problems. Another cannot reconcile the suffering of the poor and oppressed with the concept of a loving God.

I may not be able to answer every query posed by sceptics or sincere seekers of the truth. But the Bible, which I believe is God’s inspired Word, urges each of us to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” I did, and everything that I testify to concerning my God is based on my actual experiences and encounters with Him. He is real to me, for I have tasted, and I proclaim that He is good.

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Here’s my simple analogy. Imagine a luscious looking apple touted as the tastiest in the world. As long as I only gaze at it, I will not have the confidence to recommend it to others. But if I’ve bitten into it and its flavour and crunchiness prove to be extraordinarily good, I would not just promote it; I’d buy a good number of that particular variety to share with those I care about. And if doubters were to insist or try to persuade me that it isn’t worth my money, I’d stand firm on my belief anchored in experiential evidence.

Author and theologian Frederick Buechner wrote, “It is not the objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence, that is the miracle we are really after.” Brennan Manning penned in The Ragamuffin Gospel, “A living, loving God can and does make His presence felt, can and does speak to us in the silence of our hearts.”

Does God Care About Our Happiness?
This answer by Ravi Zacharias who has spoken at top universities across the globe.
“When I love you and you refuse to love me, I hurt because I have lost something.
When God loves you and your refuse to love God, God hurts too. God hurts because you have lost something. He is concerned. That’s why He sent His Son to die on the Cross.”

J.R. Miller wrote In Time of Loneliness and here’s an extract:
“In a certain sense—all of life is lonely. Even with sympathetic companions all about us, there is an inner life which each one of us lives altogether alone. ~ Friendship may be very close and tender—but there is a sanctuary of each life—into which even the holiest friendship may not enter. Blessed are they who in this aloneness can say, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me! God’s is the only friendship that can really meet all our soul’s deep needs and cravings. Human companionship helps us at a few points; but the divine friendship has its blessing for every experience. We never shall be left alone, when we have Christ. ~When other faces fade out of view—His will shine out with gentle love, pouring its light upon us.

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When death beckoned, it was down to God and me. No family member, no friend, no pastor present. It’s a scenario that I’ll face again when my sojourn on earth reaches an end. How will I account to my Creator for the days given to me?

One of my favourite authors, Max Lucado, expresses it beautifully, “After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. ~ Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—to these I commit my day. If I succeed, I’ll give thanks. If I fail, I’ll seek His grace. ” (http://maxlucado.com/read/excerpts/when-god-whispers-your-name/)

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Your Love Never Fails (2 Versions)
Lyrics/Music: Chris McClarney
I know I still make mistakes but You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails. You stay the same through the ages. Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me. Your love never fails

Jesus Culture

Newsboys

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One Thing Remains (2 Versions)
Lyrics/Music: Brian Johnson, Christa Black, Jeremy Riddle
Higher than the mountains that I face. Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change. One thing remains
Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me
In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love

Kristian Stanfill

Jesus Culture

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Morbid Or Plain Pragmatic?

Use This

A fat package sat in my letter box today and it yielded a booklet entitled Understanding HOTA—Human Organ Transplant Act. Produced by Singapore’s Health Ministry, it’s sent to all households where a member is approaching the legal adult age of 21. That’s because HOTA allows the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas of all adult citizens and permanent residents to be used for transplantation after death unless the person is “mentally disordered” or specifically objected while alive.

There’s a form for those wanting to opt out, along with a caution that doing so would mean lower priority if the objector needs an organ in future. Another form gives the choice of donating additional body parts under MTERA—Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act.

And thus a conversation ensued between my older son and me on my preferences upon death.

Just an hour earlier, a kind neighbour Angela who cooked me a delicious lunch had recommended maintaining a fuss-free collection of personal effects so that those we leave behind wouldn’t be burdened with extensive sorting out and clearing up. After all, she reminded me, there’s a saying that goes, “One man’s treasure is another man’s garbage.” So I was challenged afresh to streamline my possessions. I’d written previously about seeking to lead an unfettered life free of joy-draining emotional baggage and clutter. But books, documents and gadgets have a way of sneaking up on you!

A bible verse comes to mind, and here’s The Message version:
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” –Matthew 6:19-21

Then there’s the beautiful promise in Psalm 55:22, “Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—He’ll carry your load, He’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin.” And 1 Peter 5:7 urges us, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” How comforting!

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Back to my list of deathbed preferences—the reason for the title of this post. My sweet boy said, “Mum, please write them down somewhere as I hope it’ll be many decades before I need it, and I might forget by then.” So here it is…

*Life Support & Organ Donation
The HOTA booklet, written in the four official languages of Singapore—English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil—explains the difference between cardiac death and brain death, and between comatose and brain dead. As one who believes in the sovereignty of God, I do not believe in giving up hope because He can perform miracles that defy medical science, as many real life testimonies attest to. When it’s time for my earthly life to end, I know that my Lord will let me breathe my last naturally. And therein lies the controversy surrounding turning off life support at the recommendation of doctors. With my belief that God is ultimately in control, is it better for me to opt out of HOTA while I’m alive, so that my loved ones would have the final say instead of medical professionals? I’m reviewing this issue thoroughly.

After I die, I’d be happy to donate every organ and all tissues that can be harvested to benefit the living. After all, “Then shall the dust [out of which God made man’s body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” -Ecclesiastes 12:7

*Burial
I like the way bible scholar John Piper puts it, “Burying your loved one is a sign that you believe in the resurrection. The body is precious. I know it decomposes; we’re talking symbolic significance. God created it, He’s going to resurrect it, there’s going to be continuity between what you were and what you are so that you can recognise each other. You want to symbolically put it to rest because that’s the language of the bible—you’re sleeping. He will waken those who sleep.” 1 Thessalonians 5:10 states, “Whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life.

*Songs At The Wake & Funeral
I’ve asked my loved ones to refer to my favourite songs in the blog page Carol In A Nutshell. A must-have is “Blessed Be Your Name” which contains the powerful line from Job 1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord!” My good and just God has the perfect perspective and I know His timing is always ideal, never too early or too late.

*My Graduation
Jesus wept”—the shortest verse in the bible. It is God who gave us humans a range of emotions, and it is healthy to properly grieve the loss of someone you love. Every treasured family member and good friend is a gift and blessing from the Lord and we’ll miss their company when they’re no longer around. But underlying and underscoring the sorrow at a Christian’s death is the glorious hope that he or she has “graduated” to eternity.

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“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognising the benefits He has bestowed].”
1 Corinthians 2:9

“Death is not the extinguishing of the Light but the turning down of the lamp because the Dawn has come.”
Author unknown

Last Words of Great Christian Leaders:
The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!
John Wesley (Co-founder of the Methodist movement)
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Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.
John Knox (Leader, Scottish Protestant Reformation)
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Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.
Martin Luther (Initiator, Protestant Reformation)

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