“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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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)
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!
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!
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!