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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Anticipating…

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I read that the mantra of advent is “Come Lord Jesus” coined by Richard Rohr, a franciscan priest.

During Advent season, our Children’s Sunday School always anticipate the lighting of the candles.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Advent Service.  The speaker shared that Advent is a time of spiritual waiting and an active waiting… where we anticipate the second coming of Christ, the Bridegroom coming for His Bride, the church.

He used the illustration of a bride-to-be who excitedly waiting for her wedding day to approach and be united with her bridegroom.  He said normally the bride-to-be does not just sit there and wait for her wedding day to come, instead she anticipates her big day by being active and busy preparing for all the details of her wedding celebration!

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After the sharing that evening, we were given some quiet time to reflect through journaling, drawing, using modeling clay, or meditating on scripture passage.

I opted to play with the modeling clay… kneaded, squished, scrunched, folded and pounded on the clay and the end product was pretty impressive.

Some said it could be an image of heaven and earth;
a green glassy field;
a cross connecting heaven and earth;
or it could simply be the Chinese character “王” meaning “king”…
yes, advent is anticipating for the coming King
~ Christ the King ~
who has prepared a place for us in His heavenly dwelling!

For those who like to exercise spiritual waiting during advent season, Denison Forum has a great daily advent devotional guide until Christmas.

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The observation of Advent and the Parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 also brings to mind the following painting which was done by an anointed and visionary painter who does great prophetic paintings.

A friend introduced me to this artist last year and I can’t wait to share with you her descriptive words of inspiration on her painting… but let me hear from you, my reader, your piece of mind and feeling on this delightful painting first 🙂

Virgin

Remember… I am eagerly anticipating your respond!

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When the Vessel Speaks!

I have to submit an assignment on biblical narrative.

I’m not allowed to write popular stories such as Noah’s ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, what else, five loaves and 2 fishes…

tough, Tough, TOUGH,

I surely need a  miracle!

Anyway…

~~

I used to sulk because I hated what I was doing. See, all day long I just stood there in the courtyard with my mom and dad and my three siblings waiting to be filled up with water. The water was used to wash the dusty feet of guests before they entered the house of my master, Ilan. Master Ilan was a very generous person. He always made sure that we were completely filled so that when unexpected guests come, there would always be water to wash their tired feet.

I used to admire the sandals of the guests and wished that I could travel from place to place like them. But mom and dad always reminded me to be grateful for who I am, and to be a useful vessel for our master. They explained that the cleansing water in the courtyard was a sign of respect to visitors and to make them feel welcome. Understanding my purpose and responsibility, I began to appreciate my role and to enjoy what I was doing – a simple yet important task!

These past few days, my master’s house has been filled with people. Many, many guests and their children, babies, toddlers, teenagers all have come to celebrate the wedding of Jonathan, Master Ilan’s one and only son.

I watched the happy servants bringing in platter after platter of food, placing them onto the oversized dining table for the guests to eat; and jugs and jugs of wine for the guests to drink. Mom told us that this wedding celebration would be going on for seven days.   Wow! Today is only the third day!

One of Master Ilan’s relatives, Jesus, also came with his new friends, to celebrate Jonathan’s wedding. I was glad to provide water to clean their dusty sandals and feet. According to what I heard, this Jesus is a God-fearing man who tells people about God and heaven wherever he goes.

While everyone was feasting and drinking gleefully at the banquet hall, and children playing joyfully with one another at the courtyard, I noticed a group of worried servants anxiously whispering to one another outside the banquet hall. I overheard them talking about the empty wine barrels. It looked like they are running out of wine.

I knew Master Ilan was a wealthy and generous person who always has a lot of food and drink to serve his guests.  So I told myself, “Don’t worry, be happy, everything will be just fine”.

But my dad said if the guests found out there was no more wine, it would be very embarrassing, even disgraceful, for Master Ilan. After hearing that, my heart sank, for there was indeed no more wine for the guests!

Suddenly, I had an idea! I blurted out, “Why don’t the servants just serve water to the guests since it is such a hot day?” But daddy told me that wine symbolizes joy and happiness – and it is a must to have at a wedding celebration!  Oh no…, what could we do? I know my master is rich and is capable of providing but this time he is helpless! “Lord, please help!” I prayed.

While everyone was panicking about the situation, I saw Jesus coming out from the banquet hall. He talked to the servants and directed them to fill us up, all six of us vessels. The servants were a bit apprehensive but they knew that Jesus was a godly and creative man, so they did exactly what He told them to do. They filled us with water, up to the brim.

I was puzzled about what all the water was going to be used for since the guests had already cleaned their feet. While lost in thoughts, I felt someone’s hand on my brim. I looked up and it was the hand of Jesus.  He winked at me gently and then he looked up to the heavens and began to pray.

All of a sudden, I felt something bubbling in me, like a soda… then, I smelled something sweet and fragrant, like grape juice, on my whole body!  What had happened, I gasped!  Then, I heard Jesus telling the servants to ladle the fragrant drink from our vessels and pour them into the golden jugs, so they could start serving the wedding guests again. The servants were startled for they couldn’t believe their eyes. They were amazed to see that Jesus had turned water into wine right before their very eyes!

This Jesus was no ordinary man.  He has done a supernatural thing — He is a miracle maker! He has revealed his glory by changing water into wine.  Those who witnessed what he did that day declared that he was the Son of God.  Many people, including his new friends whom they called disciples, and his cousin, Master Ilan, praised him and put their trust in him.

I was so excited because Jesus had performed a miracle.  He had answered my prayer. He had saved my Master Ilan from disgrace for he had miraculously changed the water into wine.

And… the wedding party continued!

It has been close to 2000 years since Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, and word about his miracles and power to transform lives continue to spread throughout the world.

taken at Cana

Though I can’t be like the dusty sandals, traveling from place to place, I am so grateful to be just where I am — An ordinary water vessel still serving in my master’s family courtyard.   Now my task is to retell the first miracle that Jesus performed, that which I have witnessed, to the hundreds and hundreds of tourists who come by every day from all over the world to visit Cana.  I pray and hope that through listening to me telling about the miraculous power of Jesus, many will continue to praise Him and put their hope in Him.

taken at Cana


According to tradition, below is the kind of stone water container used;  picture taken by a friend who just came back from Israel.

real water jar in Cana

Biblical narrative was taken from John 2:1-11


Wall mural illustrated by our Sunday School teaching team.

 

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Dancing with the Jews!

Today is Day of Purim.  

According to the Bible, thls joyous celebration of Purim was established by Queen Esther.

A day to remember their deliverance from being annihilated by the plot set up by “an adversary and enemy, the vile Haman”. (Esther 7:6)

A day of fasting and lamentation; a day of joy and feasting and to help the needy in their community.

“These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews — nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.” (Esther 9:28)

I’m always fond of ‘Purim’.  One time while studying the book of Esther, the college professor brought in some noisemakers for us to play. 

He wanted us to shake or twirl the noisemakers whenever the word “purim” was being read aloud.

It was a totally fun and loud class for he wanted us to experience the celebrative spirit of the Jews on Purim day.

I love Jewish dance and always wanted to join the dance.

Perhaps today is a good start and so I joined some friends at the Cultural Center to learn this celebrative dance.

Many came to celebrate Purim with fanciful outfits and our dance instructor dresses up as a baker!

The Purim celebration always include the traditional goodies called ‘Hamantaschen’ aka “Haman’s ears”.

The name was said to derive from the old practice of cutting off criminals’ ears before they were executed by hanging.  
In the book of Esther, Haman the villian was impaled on the high pole set up by himself which he intended to use on Mordecai the Jew.

To better appreciate the feast of Purim, one has to read this historical narrative from the book of Esther. It is a captivating and empowering story with the Invisible God acting sovereignly behind the scenes.

Here’s a great animated illustration on Purim.

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Mountain Talk…

Here I was, lamenting about not hiking any significant mountain this past summer, a mountain goat pal from the States came along and chimed, “Oh what a shame that you haven’t even climbed the Grand Rocky Mountain High!”  She even brought up big names like Mt. Elbert and Mt. Sopris which I have no clue where on earth they are.

Talking about mountains, people who know me know that I love hiking.   When I hike, I like to reach to the mountaintop.  As I hike, I enjoy contemplating on life and God. Below are some mountain talks I have had with the Creator of the mountains.  

On Grouse Grind:

“God, I know everything about You. You have revealed Yourself to me. You are super-kind, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and all that.   There is really nothing else I need to know about You, right?”  I rumbled on and on as I looked up to the thick and impenetrable cloud above.

The next time I looked up, the dense cloud on top of me was cracked open and it formed into a deep and tunnel-like hole.  I paused and  peered through the opening and saw a very vast and inviting clear blue sky at the end of the “tunnel”.   

As I was marvelling at the sight,  I heard a voice saying, “No, you don’t know everything about me yet.  What you do know right now is only a glimpse of who I Am.” I was still for a moment and felt so embarassed and naive and for being so prideful in thinking that I knew everything there is to know about the Almighty. 

It was a humbling experience to be awakened. I praised the Great One for this revelation. I know He will continue to manifest His majetic and truth to us and may glory and honor and power be unto Him who sits on the throne above!

On Mt Kinabalu:

The elevation of Kinabalu Mountain is 13,455 ft and required a two-days journey.   The highlight of the trip ought to be taking a picture beside the sign ‘Top-of-the-peak’ at the summit to prove one’s great staminar to conquer the peak. There were hundreds of groups at this overnight hike and our team consisted of 6 people including the mountain guide.  We had to get ready by 3 a.m. to start the second half of the journey upward.  

There were many memorable incidents and vista views but the most impacting one ought to be this one:  

When we were nearing the summit, there were only me and one youth left behind in the wilderness. Due to the sharp steep slope, the piercing mountain wind and the thin air, it was indeed very strenous to continue on with our wobbly feet.  The guide gently prodded us to speed up but to no avail so he decided to abandon us and catch up with the rest of the group.

The youth beside me started looking pale and throwing up and couldn’t continue any further.   I wasn’t in that great shape either, panting and exhausted, yet was determined to face the challenge head on.  I decided to totally ignore the boy. After all, I thought, since the tour guide and the brother didn’t watch over him,  why should I? 

Just as I started to move, I heard an inner voice saying:
“If you could climb to the highest mountain but have no love, you are nothing.”
What a profound statement that was.  I stopped and absorbed what was being said. 

Then I looked at the poor young man who now was having an intense tummy ache and was in much agony, I suddenly felt compassion towards him. Reluctantly, I stayed behind to keep him company until the rest of the team triumphantly returned from conquering the summit.  

I was sad and happy at the same time…sad because I was not able to make it to the peak since it was so near and yet so far away; happy because I had obeyed the silence and strong voice prompted by the Spirit of God to practise compassion in the midst of wilderness.

After tackling down the challenging mountain trails, which took forever, we were relieved and celebrated the success of our adventure with a refreshing bar of chocolate coated ice-cream at the foothill of Kinabalu.

Through  this mountaintop experience, I knew the Lord was testing me and desiring that I live a sacrificial love for Him and for others.

Tough lesson… but I have tried to obey.

Like what Saint. Julean of Norwich said:

On Mt. Sinai

Many years have gone by before I plodded on another mountain, Mt. Sinai, my dream mountain!  This time I reached the top of the mountain.  Everyone gasped with awe and in silence as the glorious sunrise creeping slowly up behind the mountain ranges of Sinai.

As I descended down the trail feeling exhilirated, I suddenly heard a gentle and soft voice whispering to me, “Janice, do you know why you are so happy?”

I answered as a matter-of-factly, “Of course I do! I have conquered the summit of Mt. Sinai!”

Then the Spirit of the Lord spoke again, “Do you remember the incident from 12 years ago on Mt. Kinabalu?”

At first, I was thinking which incident and then I remembered.

The conversation continued, “The Lord remembered. And today He honors you with a special mountaintop to experience!” 

I felt so flattered that my Lord remembered the drama that happened 12 years ago at Kinabalu Mountain.   He knew how grieved I was at that time when I didn’t make it to the summit and He graciously rewarded me with Mt. Sinai. What a climb!

Another 12 years have almost gone by since Mt. Sinai excursion.  I am longing for another significant mountain to venture on and to have another mountain talk with the Creator.   Hmm… maybe I should google out where in the world are these majestic Grand Rocky Mountain High, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Sopris that my mountain goat friend boasted about.

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