Preparing Pilgrims for the Camino Ignaciano

Preparing people for the Camino Ignaciano 2022 has been a joyful experience for me. The word camino in Latin means path or way or road. The famous camino is the Camino de Santiago, which is an ancient pilgrimage network of paths and roads that pilgrims travel on foot to reach the destination of the Cathedral de Compostela. The Camino Ignaciano (“Ignatian Way”) is another pilgrim route of 640km taken by St Ignatius from Loyola to Manresa. You can read more about this HERE. The difference between this pilgrimage and the “original” is that this has an added silent retreat component of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius enclosed within the camino. This contemplative component makes it unique.

My role in the Ignatian Journey team together with Matthew Chen, is to prepare people for a more fruitful experience of this walk. Obviously, physical conditioning is part of this process, so the team has organised a series of monthly walks beginning with easier walks to more challenging ones, as the pilgrims approach the date of their departure in September and October. Learning to walk with the Ignatian dictum of finding God in all things is the other thing we hold space for them to cultivate during these organised walks. 

Thus far, we have had four practice walks and I have begun to meet wonderful people who love the Lord and hope to experience Him through this camino. They are all of different levels of physical fitness, with a few apprehensive if they would be able to keep up. I am confident they will be able if they keep having regular lengthy walks outside of the organized walks. While doing this, they can continue to learn to be more fully aware of God’s presence all around them and to enjoy God’s many bountiful gifts of His creation and man’s.

I am enjoying it because my years of hiking and prayer experience is both being used by the Lord to help prepare these people for their camino. I enjoy getting to know a few of them and to hear some of their stories. I like it when I see these friends bathed in perspiration, or relishing the fresh forest air and birdsong. In addition, I can feel the sense of achievement and anticipation building up among them with each practice walk. It is a joy to see them greet and share stories with each other, months before they walk together in the cool but sunny weather of Spain in September.

Share this:

Read More →

“Inviting the Mystic, Supporting the Prophet”: book reflection

Initially I was intrigued by the title. It stoked my curiosity. As I read the foreword and introduction, I felt drawn to the authors’ thesis as it was something I wholeheartedly agreed with: the tests of authentic prayer are in the fruit of the praying life or community. I was interested in the relationship between prayer and service, the mystic and prophet. 

I was not disappointed as the authors describe the symbiotic relationship between the mystic and the prophet in the believer’s life. “The starting point is not as important as that the circle be complete: prayer leading to life, and life leading to prayer. Real prayer lead to involvement; real involvement leads to prayer. Deeper spirituality impels to action; action impels to deeper spirituality, and the circle continues and deepens. The mystic becomes prophet, the prophet becomes mystic” (Dykman & Carrol, 80).  For me it has been deeper prayer leading me to more involvement in life and service, and I must concede that deeper involvement in service had driven me often to God in helplessness and hope. It drew me more into prayer.

Spiritual Direction

I liked the authors’ description of spiritual direction. It was not narrowly confined to the guided development of the directees’ prayer life, but a journey with them in their faith development, which includes conversion, struggle, integration, awareness of reality, and a call to radical love.  The call to radical love would include immersion in works of service, justice and compassion. “All these holy people are holy not just because they pray or write eloquently about that prayer, but because their prayer leads them to respond to Christ in the given historical cultural moment. All of them respond in a unique way to unique situations in which they find the Lord calling to his people. But all respond outside themselves in service. Each mystic becomes a prophet”(Dykman & Carrol, 82). This reminded me how this emphasis on mission and service is so similar to Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises led people into an experience of forgiveness of sins, and commitment to Christ, and a life of service and praise to the Creator and Redeemer.

Dark Night or Desert Experience

I found the chapter on PRAYING THROUGH THE DESERT is particularly enlightening. The authors gave two descriptions of the desert experience in prayer: one from St John of the Cross, the 16th Century mystic and poet, and another through Thomas Merton a 20th Century mystic and poet. St John of the Cross described three signs in prayer that indicated that God was inviting a person to deeper levels of prayer. First, one experiences the frustration and lack of satisfaction from discursive meditation which majored on study, analysis, and abstractions. Words, thoughts, concepts, principles does not quench the spiritual thirst. Second, one finds it challenging to focus or a particular subject or fix the imagination. The logical is dead, the intuition is alive. Third, despite difficulties in prayer, one still had the desire to be with the Lord, to have solitude and prayer. Even though God seems far away. The wise counsel of St John of the Cross is for the spiritual director to help direct to look at his or her larger context and entire life, to see how God had been active and working in and around him or her. “We cannot judge our prayer, whether it be consoling or desolate, by how we feel when we pray, but rather by how we are loving when we live” (62). A person’s prayer life may be desert-like but an examen of his life may reveal God’s loving activities and presence in many areas of his life of service. This helps him see that God’s love is as strong as ever and that the desert may be God’s way of moving on the purification of his faith in and love for God and not the result of his sin.

Thomas Merton demystified the term. Merton sees in what he prefers to describe as a “desert experience”, a call to be faithful to a life of prayer despite spiritual dryness and blandness. It required a faith that was unsupported by a sense of God’s presence, a faith that blindly, faithfully, persistently continues its quest of intimacy despite dryness, feeling of hopelessness, meaninglessness and even discouragement and anguish. Often the person in the desert will blame himself for “moving away from God” through his sin, idols or failures. He or she needs a director to discern God’s loving and quiet action in the larger perspective of a whole life, not just the current period of desert experience.

I enjoyed this book and found myself underlining many sentences and paragraphs. These definitely deserve further study, reflection and meditation. 

Share this:

Read More →

When Doing Nothing Does Wonders

I was dipping into a book titled “Soul Keeping” that Pastor Thomas gave me. John Ortberg is a gifted writer, and I must add a gifted preacher too for I had heard him live a few times. In the chapter on “The Soul Needs Rest” he writes about entering soul rest and how we can experience four cycles of grace: 1) Acceptance – to know that you are loved apart from deserving or earning it; 2) Sustenance – the need to develop habits and practices that replenish us spiritually, 3)Significance – a cycle where grace we have received flows out from us to others. This is about who we are before it is about what we do. 4) Resting in Achievement – bearing spiritual fruit by God’s grace and then resting in it. Ortberg then talked about the important practices of solitude and “doing nothing”(rest). Here is where it got me into an experiment.

“The capacity of doing nothing is actually evidence of a lot of spiritual growth. The French writer Blaise Pascal wrote centuries ago: “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.” In solitude we liberate ourselves from the pressure of the world. You don’t do that by going into solitude with a list of things you want to work on. You don’t even approach solitude with the expectation that you will come away with some deep spiritual insight. It’s not about what you’re going to do; it’s about what you’re not going to do. In solitude you rest” .


“Whether with an entire day, or periods of time set aside every day, your soul needs rest. Not a change of scenery or a spiritual retreat – those are fine and may contribute to rest. But to remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise. If someone asks you what you did in your “time apart’, the correct response should be, “Nothing.” Doing nothing does wonders for the soul.” 


A Little Experiment

I was reflecting on this and asked myself, Can I idle? Do nothing. Not touch the phone. Not reach for a book or a screen. Not do anything productive, useful, helpful, purposeful. Can I let my mind idle; let my hands be free of holding anything? Can I cease fidgeting and be still? Breathe. Do nothing. I actually set a timer to one hour and tried this. I saw an empty space on the wall and almost got up to nail and hang a frame. I saw the dust on the window pane and thought of getting the Windex and a cloth from the yard to clean it. It was too quiet and I wanted to play some instrumental music. I saw my phone and wanted to look through the WhatsApp messages. It was not easy to sit in my chair and look out into the distance at the swathe of green that was once the Jurong Country Club. After a while I got fidgety and looked at the timer. The minutes moved too slowly.

Then I noticed my breathing. I noticed the sound of the KDK wall fan in the room. The wandering of my mind slowed down and I was thinking nothing in particular. Just looking into the distance and doing nothing. At the end of the hour, I realized it was not easy to do nothing and rest the soul. However, when I later read and meditated on Scriptures I found myself more alert and present to the words I read, and to the presence of the Lord. Wonderful.

For more ideas on methods of prayer go to RESOURCES

Share this:

Read More →

The Blessings of Journaling

Ladies and gentlemen, start or restart journaling in 2022.

How I Began and Your Perfect Beginning

I began journaling in earnest after attending a Spiritual Renewal Seminar in the late 1970’s when Brian Bailey, a prophet and teacher of the Word, talked about the need to keep a record of what you learned as you meditate on scriptures. He also mentioned how speaking in tongues before you read and meditate on Scriptures would give you more revelation. 

I began in earnest to take notes of spiritual lessons and insights I received as I systematically read, studied and meditated on God’s word. My journaling journey had begun. I did not know that as the years passed it would get deeper and wider to include far more than records of scripture lessons. To him who has much more would be given. As I started acting on what I know and have, God added to it, deepened it, broadened it, enriched it. 

The perfect beginning is not to read about everything about journaling before beginning. God’s idea of a perfect beginning is to start where you are and trust him to bring you where he wants you to be. I know it is already the first week of January of 2022. You may wish you started on 1 January with the perfect journal book – paper or digital – and know exactly how and what you are going to write and how to annotate or store it. Just do it with what you know now and have at hand now. This is the perfect start.

You do not have to write every day, even though this would be good. It could be weekly. It could even be as and when there is something that is memorable or moving or meaningful. At times you could draw or sketch or keep an audio recording if that is what you are more comfortable with rather than writing.

Why Bother About Journaling

Remembering is an important part of our Christian spirituality. The patriarchs erected special altars at places where the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob covenanted with them, or encountered and delivered them in significant ways. Ancient Israel was told to commemorate various rituals at a few annual feasts. The major one is the Passover, so that they remember that it was God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt, and that the event marked their identity as a people of God dedicated to bring his praise to the nations of the earth. We who live after the death of Christ and walk the Calvary road are commanded to remember Christ every time we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table. It marks us as the new covenant people of God, saved by his redeeming blood. This is something God would want us to do today too. Just as we keep images and videos of beautiful memories of things and events and people we love, we should keep visual and audio cues to jog the memory of the greatness, tenderness and workings of God in our life. 

One Journal, Many Blessings

Here is a personal list of the many ways journaling has blessed me. I am sure there are many more that readers have personally experienced and I urge you to share some of your experiences with us by using the comment box. A blessing shared is a blessing doubled!

First on my list is that journaling gave me a record of answers to prayers. I wrote some of the things I prayed for, especially when I was fasting and prayer. I have seen so many of these prayers answered. If I had not recorded them, they would have been forgotten, and I would not have been impacted by the link between my specific prayers and God’s answers. Some prayers were answered quickly, many after months, even years, others not at all. This mixed record built my faith in God and to believe that simple faithful prayers does set into motion the invisible power of God. 

Making Sense and Finding God

When I reviewed parts of my journal or the entries of a whole year, I could see themes and repeated patterns that indicated to me what God seemed to have said to me and done in my life. I would not have been able to receive certain insights into God’s activity if I had no such records in my journal. It was like putting together pieces of jigsaw to make sense and find God in the midst of my life.

I found that journal entries during retreats were particularly detailed and significant. I suppose in a silent retreat, I was free from normal preoccupations, responsibilities and distractions, and was able to spend more time in prayer and reflection. Therefore, I was able to pick up more things that was going on deep within my soul and scriptures came alive in a more impactful way. I could hear more clearly from God and his work in my soul seemed more intense and deeper. Usually, I would make a silent retreat when I was at some crossroad or tension point and this me seek God more intensely and those who seek him will find him.

Light in the Dark

Reflection and the very act of writing helped to crystalize and clarify my thoughts, feelings and desires. I might begin confused and unclear but as I wrote things seemed less muddy and murky and by the time I have written several pages it seemed that some light had begun to shine through my dark and cloudy heart. This is heightened when I wrote the journal entry in the first person to God, as in a letter to God telling him what was going in and around me.

Sometimes I would also speak in tongues for a while, ask God for interpretation, and then wrote out what came to mind by faith without censorship. Only after the inspiration ceased would I go back and read what words God had for me and make a judgment then. It was surprising how often that encouragement and comfort came from these spontaneous prompts from the Spirit-influenced heart. They often reflected God’s heart.

Ideas, Insights, Emotions

During prayer, ideas and insights about church ministry, decisions, sermons and blogposts would come and having a journal at hand made it convenient to jot these down and later after further judgment and prayer, act on them and develop and deliver them. Some of these ideas came from a creative centre, and I knew I had to give God credit when I was complimented or affirmed for them. The journal at hand and the habit of casting your net in prayer and retrieving and jotting your catch, is a habit that blessed me and my ministry so much.

Writing a journal slowed me down long enough to sit and identify, label and express my deeper emotions, affections and desires. I was poor at this. It took me a long time to learn and even now I feel I am wearing an L plate. What I found was that if I could do it in my journal, it made it somewhat easier for me to express it to my friends and loved ones. It helped me to be vulnerable and authentic in Christ, and to deepen my friendship with God, friends and loved ones. 

Journaling was therapeutic as it gave me an outlet to express my deepest truths, secrets, hopes and frustrations. It was health for my soul and clarification for my mind as I muddle my way through hurts and regrets in the past, perplexities of the present, and anxieties about the future. The best thing is the journal does not talk back or criticize or judge me. It had a gentle and patient touch that healed.

Journaling gave me writing practice. I write well by writing much. Practice does make perfect. The search for the right words. The clarification of ideas, arranging or organizing them the right way to express them meaningfully and clearly. Simply writing regularly in my journal improved my writing.

Comment & Share

Well, this was what I have listed and noted off the cuff. Definitely not exhaustive, or sufficiently deep. If you can help enrich the ideas mentioned and enrich our discussion here, do not hesitate to add your two cents worth to the comment box, and share this content with others if it helped you.

Share this:

Read More →

A Sensory Stroll

What if you are not the type that can sit still and pray? Are alternatives to silencing the heart and resting the mind available? Yes. One is to go for a sensory stroll. A stroll is a short leisurely, slow walk. Not natural for most Singaporeans. According to surveys, we are some of the fastest walkers among urbanites around the world. So this spiritual exercise takes some learning.

Learning to walk at a leisurely pace is challenging but we also want to add to that a heightening of our physical senses in the stroll. It can be done one by one awareness. For example, we could begin with a focus on what we see. As you stroll observe the buildings, people, park bench, trees, leaves, flowers, cars and pavements. Observe colours, textures, shapes and lines. Pause if anything catches your attention. Next, you concentrate on hearing: the hum of traffic, children playing, birds chirping, rustling of leaves, the MRT train rolling by, the footfall of others and yourself. Then, feel. The mild breeze, the hot humid steam, the mask against your face, perspiration on the forehead, the out-of-breath feeling. Be aware of smell too. Occasionally, you smell jasmine, or worse, traffic smog or delicious food, depending on where you take your stroll. Such a walk can be a relaxing exercise as your mind is temporarily focused on the sensory input, and not on your worries and other mental preoccupations. So this is a good spiritual exercise to ready the mind and heart and body for reflection, prayer and Bible reading.

With Singapore’s hot humid climate, the early morning or late evening seems to be the more suitable times for this exercise. Occasionally a hike in the forest, reservoir or parks can be a great extended leisurely walk with an added play and pray dimension.

Why not give this a try and let readers know what it was like? Put your experience in the comment box.

Share this:

Read More →