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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Wailing Wall

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Usually when I pray alone, I like to write my prayer thoughts on paper rather than praying out loud; I find that this method of praying is freeing and helps me express my inner emotions more easily.

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When I visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem years ago, I could hear the gigantic cream colored wall crying out loud: I noticed that many people were leaning against the wall praying in solitude, while others reciting scriptures and meditating on the Words of God.

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It was moving to see individuals creating a sacred space for themselves and pouring their hearts out to God in the midst of the huge crowd.

Paper and pens were available for people to write down their wishes to God and place them into the wall.

Since it is a popular practice to place prayer notes between the crevices of the wall, I joined the company and did just that.

As the years went by, I often wondered if the prayer that I put on the ancient wall was still there…

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This year I had the chance to revisit the religious site and I learned that the note I placed years ago was long gone. It had been collected and buried among the millions of prayer wishes at the nearby Mount of Olives.

Apparently the notes are being cleared at least twice a year: once in the Spring (before the Passover) and again in the Autumn (before the Jewish new year of Rosh Hassanah).

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One of the reasons for this is that thousands of pilgrims come during these Jewish High Holiday seasons to pray, so the Rabbi in charge of the site and his cleaning crews clear the wall to make space for new prayers and wishes, including mine!

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I know that whether or not I leave my prayer wishes in the cracks of the Wailing Wall, or wherever I may be, my prayers are heard by God from on high, and I await His comfort and guidance.

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You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30:11,12 (NIV)

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Where She Goes, I Go…

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Hello, my name is “Uke Blue”.

I was amazed to get Janiecross into ukulele playing. She had never learned how to play a musical instrument before, but it was love at first strung!

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She would bring me to the beach– to practice her melodic pieces.

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I think I must have brought her so much excitement that she even took me on vacation half way across the globe.

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We serenaded to each other by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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We jammed with King David on his harp in Israel.

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We worshiped God early in the morning as the radiant sunrise smoldered across the golden city.

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I am not sure if she is lucky to find me or was I lucky to have found her…

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these days, where she goes, I go… on outdoor adventures from the mountains high to the valleys low, and through crystal clear waters;

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Regardless of the different adventures, we are always enjoying, seeing, and experiencing God’s big beautiful world!

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I enjoy singing hymns because the lyrics are often descriptive and full of images of God and His wonderful working.

Take for example, a line from one such hymn is “Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace“:a strong image of God’s peace.

I have experienced God’s peace in my Christian journey but sometimes it’s hard to express the feeling I was experiencing.

I am thankful to song writers who were attuned to God, and were able to attach vivid words to express their sentiment with God.

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While on a river cruise recently, I experienced the metaphor of a river representing the peace of God that the song speaks of (主所赐的平安…仿佛江河流).

Our team was on a tour to scout the proboscis monkeys (long-nosed monkey) in the wild. This trip was like a safari to see wild creatures of the jungle; instead of travelling on a Land Rover, we were on a river cruise.

There was no guarantee that we would see the monkeys. For if the weather is too hot, the monkeys will be in the hiding; and if the day is cooling, they will play by the water.

As we traveled along the water, we were all excited to spot some monkeys dangling on the branches and swinging from trees to trees in family units. Its like watching a circuit show outdoor.

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Since we were in the open jungle, we could only watch the playful monkeys in the distance, not up close and personal, like at the zoo.

Drifting along the swampy river in the open raft, and marveling at the scenery of local villages on both banks was restful and pleasant.

After a while, I found myself more interested in the crystal clear water in front of me than the acrobatic monkeys up on the faraway woods.

While taking in the soothing and breezy cool air on my skin, my eyes continued to mesmerize by the calming flowing water, and it was glorious — just like what the hymn writer, Frances R. Havergal, penned:

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
*Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

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As it was near sunset, many of the river boats started to head back to the docks.

Our awesome tour guide however motioned our boat guy to cruise further down the stream to the mouth of the river… where the river meets the open sea.

He stated that since it was such a great sunny evening, he didn’t want us to miss the rare opportunity of experiencing a fantastic sunset by the swelling South China Sea!

There, we were allowed to step on the secluded shoreline, dip our feet into the warm water and soak in the orange sunset for a good half hour.

As I stood in front of this alluring sea and listening to the soothing sound of the waves rolling in gleefully from afar, I seem to hear their gentle whisper: The Lord may calm your storm, but more often He’ll calm you(quote taken fr. Our Daily Bread).

Indeed *Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

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Painting by my artist friend Phoebe Wang.

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When strolling along the beaches, many people like to take picture of their footprints in the sand.

Perhaps it’s a way to make a statement like “hey, I was here & here’s the proof”;
or maybe it’s just a sheer joy to take pictures of our footprints by the surging waves!

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Footprints on the beach are definitely a fun sight to stumble upon. These are the footprints of my sister while we were enjoying the dramatic twilight by the South China Sea.

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I delight in this famous poem, “Footprints”, which has brought comfort to many souls.

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One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scene from his life.
He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him he noticed that many times there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it was at the very lowest times in his life.
He questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

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This poem is an oasis to weary souls; It brings to mind the invitation Jesus gives in Matthew 11:28:

“Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Years ago, I had the opportunity to pose with the author of Footprints, Margaret Powers, who happens to be the mom of one of my fellow students at Bible college.

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Here’s the story behind the poem.

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Before this February comes to an end, I would like to say a quick thank you to my fabulous family and fabulous friends for a Fabulous February.

This year, I went back to celebrate Chinese New Years and other special occasions in Asia; I had so much fun and many memorable times with my family and friends, and I felt so much…

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As I gaze at this photograph that I took by the Caribbean Sea in Cartagena; a piece of insightful writing by my spiritual mentor comes to my mind:

“Christmas is here, signalling the end of the year but also heralding the beginning of the new year. Perhaps this is the significance of the Christmas season — that because Christ has come, therefore we can now have an end to our old life and a beginning of our new life.”

What a profound Christmas reflection indeed!

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Traditional Food of Medellin

IMG_1778The above  delicacy is a 6-inch  pizza adorned with  chunky chicharrón (Colombia-style fried pork belly), sausage, beans and guacamole, it is deliciously tasty.  

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Our team had tried many delicious meals in Medellin  and two of my favorite dishes were Sancocho and Bandeja paisa which happened to be the traditional meals of Medellin.

On our last day at the church, one family prepared this hearty traditional soup dish, sancocho, for our lunch.

The steaming clear bowl of savory soup was aromatic and flavorful and it is cooked with some meat stock and vegetable roots.

It consists of a big chunk of beef brisket, plantains, maize, potatoes and yucca, and is eaten with a side dish of rice and avocado.

This delicious soup tastes best when garnished chopped cilantro and lemon juice.

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Another of my favorite is Bandeja Paisa, the national dish of Colombia.

Bandeja means “platter or tray”; and Paisa refers to “the people from the region in northwest Colombia”.

The “platter of paisa”, a sumptuous meal, is served on a plate with rice, chorizo sausage, fried egg, plantain, ground roast beef, corn bread, salad, avocado, and a long stripe of deep fried pork belly called  chicharrón.  The dish also comes with a bowl of mixed beans and potato soup.

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The most appetizing part of this dish is definitely the chicharrón (the long cracking, crispy, chunky strip of 1-inch thick bacon).

Whenever we had this dish, one strip of the thick fried, fatty and oily pork belly was not enough for me, but my team members loved to share their portions with me as they were not into this super fatty deep fried delicacy!

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At the leadership retreat by the country side, I had the first hand experience to observe how this national dish was prepared.

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It was an extremely time consuming dish to prepare for the belly!!

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roast beef ready to be shredded

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silken and creamy avocado

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delicious deep-fried platain

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Let’s dig in!

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Buen provecho!

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Another sweet treat  of Colombia is the crispy oblea and arequipe spread.

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Obleas – are thin slices of circular wafers;
Arequipe – dulce de leche, creamy caramel cooked from condense milk & sugar.
Our host was able to order 20 packets of freshly baked Obleas and packaged Arequipe for me to bring home to share with friends and family, and my Sunday School Children!
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This traditional treat can often be purchased at a street vendor.
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