Child’s Play

This picture caught my attention more than others I took that day. Sometimes I intuitively sense that the photo has more than lines, light and shadows. It is more than just an interesting composition. It is worth going back to it, gaze at it in stillness and silence, and let the Spirit blow as he wills. 

I find myself going back to my childhood. I do not remember either of my parents playing with me. I remember playing with my younger sister but not my older brothers. I felt forlorn. Maybe they did play with me but I could not remember. How could I not remember when I remember playing with my sister? Were they too busy? – he with work and her with raising five children. I wonder if this left an unfilled hole in my soul. 


I suddenly realise Christ, the Eternal One, was present to me in my childhood. He loved me even though I did not know him. I find myself comforted, like he was saying to me, “I was there with you, playing, accompanying you, when you were a child. I delighted in you.” The thought of this was so delicious, I felt comforted and blessed, and welcomed his love, there and then in front of the photo on my iPad. “Lord, thank you for being with me all along. I do not need to feel deprived of parental love. You loved me. Thank you, Lord, for this sense of peace and comfort.”

I thank God that by his grace when I became a parent I played with my kids – enjoying their company, the smiles, the cycling, card games, street soccer in void decks and basketball. Now that I think of it, I left them pleasant memories of play. Lord, thank you .

Too many parents have lost the joy of play. They love challenging their children to do better at school and fill their schedules with tuition and enrichment classes. Why not play with your children? Besides sports and outdoor stuff, there are lots of board games. Play is play when there is no utilitarian purpose achieved, besides fun and enjoyment. If there are benefits, they are a bonus. If none at all, play anyway.


A child jumps around the hall and makes monkey noises. There is no purpose at all besides sheer fun. No noble end achieved. It is pure play. We adults have lost that and need to rediscover it with our kids. And for ourselves too. Many people have observed that the pandemic has prodded, even driven adults to rediscover and reclaim play. From gardening to board-games, from cycling to cooking, from hiking to painting and drawing, adults are returning to reclaiming the art of play.

Play is becoming endemic during the pandemic.

Some good is coming out of bad. I am glad this is happening. Satan is not. God is.

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Sacred Reading or “Lectio Divina”

The “lectio divina”(Latin) or “sacred reading” is the bread and butter of my time with the Lord. It is the method I use the most. Maybe it is because of its familiarity. Most Christians who are familiar with the Quiet Time would see its resemblance to the four movements of lectio divina. In the past, I have used the Daily Bread notes of Scripture Union with its similar READ, MEDITATE, APPLY, PRAY.

While READ, MEDITATE, and PRAY seems similar, the lectio divina is to be done in a different spirit. Maybe I did my Quiet Time wrongly, but I used to breeze through the suggested scripture readings, read the writer’s commentary, and pray a bit so I could say to myself that I have done my daily Quiet Time. The aim of lectio divina is not to gain Bible knowledge and information, or to consume spiritual growth vitamins, but to personally meet and commune with God and be loved and formed by Him. 

The pace, attention, and intention are different. We read a passage of scripture slowly, unhurriedly, perhaps aloud, with pauses, and repeat the reading if necessary. We give attention to words, phrases, images that strike or impresses us. We attend to our responses to the scripture: the insights, feelings, memories, and strong reactions that arose. We ponder over what the Lord is stirring or inviting us to. We pray about what he is conveying to us. We pray about how to respond to him. It is more experiential than cerebral. It is more a communion with Christ then an analysis of scripture. At the end of it we feel like we have been with the Lord. 

This practice can be seen as four movements or an intentional progressive process. We usually do all four “steps” in one session but we could also return to the same passage and focus on one of the separate “steps”.


We begin with acknowledging our need of God’s presence with us. Then we read the scripture passage slower than usual, like reading a love letter, gently dancing with the words, noticing what resonates with us, holds our attention, or awakens our needs. We read it over and over. We notice the desert bush that burns, inviting us to draw closer.

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed (Isaiah 50:4b).

For a start, choose one of the gospels to meditate on. Do not bite off more than you can chew. The length should be in proportion to the time we have. In some Bibles, the passages are clearly divided with sub-headings like “The baptism of Jesus” or “The temptation of Jesus”.


We zero in and ruminate over what resonates for us in the passage. We mutter the phrase or words pondering over what they mean for us. What is the Lord teaching or saying? Is he giving us input about what we are facing in life now? We let the Spirit impart his wisdom, love, peace and whatever graces we need. 

We avoid analysing the text. We leave aside puzzling verses and maybe go to them after the meditation. For the purpose of lectio divina, research may lead us away from what we want.

Perhaps we record the verse, insight, direction or comfort we have received. (More about journaling in a future blogpost.)


We converse with the Lord about our response to his word. We share our honest feelings about those matters that arose from our meditation. We wait in silence for his response since prayer is two-way. His response may come through our thoughts, or shifting of our desires and feelings about a matter, or an increase of faith, hope or love.

Sometimes prayer seem so effortless and other times so difficult and dry. We tell God how we feel even if we are feeling empty and faithless. We pray as a friend would converse with a friend.


We rest in the quiet of his presence and let him love us. Like a little child, we simply lean and rest upon his shoulders and let him embrace us in silence.  We soak in the healing love, peace and contentment that his presence brings. 

End the time with a simple sincere prayer of thanks, or pray or sing “The Lord’s Prayer”.

(This method can also be used in a group setting, like my home church does in the Board of Elders meeting or in cell meetings. In these settings, the individuals share about what resonated with each of them, and end with prayer for one another or one person will conclude the session in prayer).

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Writing Down and Colouring Verses to Slow Down

Memorising verses was something I did as a spiritual discipline in the early years of my spiritual growth. I was influenced by the Navigators in the late 1970s and 1980s when the Lord raised this ministry to add a solidity to the growth of the Singapore church during that period.


I recall attending Navigator conferences that packed large halls and practical workshops that motivated us and gave us practical instructions that helped us to grow spiritually. One of these workshops was on memorising scriptures. It fuelled me to buy memory packs and make my own personal store of memory verses. I memorised over a hundred verses.

I read somewhere that Jesus often quoted verses in his preaching and teaching ministry. If I recall correctly there are about 150 different verses that Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, and this is only what had been recorded by the writers of the gospels. What if the unrecorded were included. I figured that if the sinless Son of God needed to keep so much of God’s word in his heart I dare not conceive of living with less.

That season lasted for a few years and continued into my National Service days when I met with two other Navigator trained Christians in the NS Christian Fellowship at Mindef. As iron sharpens iron, so we sharpened each other.


Recently, I found the Lord inviting me gently into this spiritual exercise. It started with a difficulty in concentration during my daily scripture reading. The words passed over my mind like birds that swiftly flew by. So I simply began to write down and coloured the verse that caught my attention. I did it deliberately to slow my mind down, to give attention to each word, to allow God to give insights. I found it helpful because it prevented me from merely going through the motion of “having done my quiet time” for the day.

I was going through Psalms after I retired. When I reached Psalm 103 I found that every verse were so meaningful that I decided to slow down and try to memorise and meditate on a verse a day. Then this was followed by Psalms 112. I was surprised at the grace given to me to do this. Prior to this the only psalm I have memorised was Psalms 23. Having done these two psalms, I felt drawn to memorising passages in the epistles that are packed with teaching about Christ’s finished work and new covenant blessings. So now I am “in Christ” and in “heavenly places” in Ephesisan 1.

I do not know how much longer I will continue with this spiritual exercise. As long as it gives me life, I will continue with it. However, the Spirit blows where it wills, and I want to follow where my faithful friend drops markers of nourishment and life.

Maybe reading this stirs in you a prompting or desire to try this. To write down and colour verses to help you slow down when reading scriptures. Or to go further and memorise and meditate and pray scriptures. Whatever you choose to do, let me know in the comment box how it turned out.

The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him.

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November goals

One of my goals in November is to work on physical fitness.

It is no surprise then that I have gone hiking more this month than the whole year (not counting the camino walks) put together. It has been a challenge initially but once you build a momentum you simply carry on in the motivation generated by previous exercises.

Hiking with Kenneth my brother in law

With hiking group after AWOL for many months

This is rainy season so more than once the weather played me out. It said rain; I stayed home, but there was no rain. I have since removed the weather forecast link from the home screen. I will depend on what I see in the sky.

Paid $40 for good Quechua hiking shoes clearance price

When it rained, I either took to the gym or the pool or to cycling the Jurong Lakes.

I am encouraged that pants that were tight before my sabbatical were now fitting. Well, we are now near the end of November and to some extent I am on track to getting healthier.

I refer to this only after first meditating on the passages

I am also enjoying my meditations on the Song of Songs, taking my time to savour, imagine, the love songs-poems. Not rushing but relishing. Not analyzing but allowing the words, phrases and lyrics to be woven into the fabric of my soul. May my love for God deepen as I dwell on His love. Amen.

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Mid year reflection

lights to illuminate your path in the middle of the year
lights to illuminate your path in the middle of the year

The middle of a year is a good time to retreat and reflect. You can have a personal retreat in your bedroom, or in a public park or in a quiet place like a library. Some are able to do it in a café with the help of caffeine in the air.
If you have a journal, it’s a great help. Our memory fails us but a short note triggers fruitful paths of reflection. If you do not journal, just mentally look backwards from the most recent happenings to those at the the beginning of the year. Note down a list of blessings: events, people, experiences, learnings, and gifts you have received. List down all the ways God has used others to bless you, and used you to bless others. How has the joy, love and peace of God and other fruit of the Spirit been displayed in your life these few months?  As you roll back the curtains and count the blessings, some painful moments will surface too and should be noted in the margins.
When the list is done have some secret time with your heavenly Father. Thank him from your heart for each of the blessings one by one.  They reveal how real and active God has been in your life. Then tell him how you feel about those painful moments you have had, and wait in silence for his response. He may give you a word, an advice, an experience of assurance and comfort, or all you may have is silence and a strange peace and strength. Receive them in good faith.
With this done you will face the second half of the year free from unnecessary emotional baggage, and with a sense of assurance that the Lord will go ahead of you and be with you into the next half of the year.

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