Oh To Be Like A Dove

With ease the dove nestles in the gap that she calls home. Home is simple, bare yet solid. Sometimes the rain flushes the floor clean. However, life has its headaches. The jarring screech that vibrates the home throughout the day ceases only after midnight, and then restarts at dawn. She gets used to it. Not her ideal home but it will have to do. She feels content with her current life circumstances.

Here she finds rest and safety. 

She enjoys unblocked views of the Chinese Gardens. On Sundays, she loves watching the foreign workers playing a game of cricket in the vast green before her.

Though she lives from beak to stomach there is no lack.

Anytime, she is free to take flight into God’s vast world and feel the joy of fulfilling all that God has designed her to be and to do. She feels close to God when she uses all the gifts that God has given her: feathers and wings, lightness of body, natural navigation system, sight, and sensitivity to airflow and predators.

God has graced her with peace, goodness and abundance. 

Like the dove, I am thankful that God has put me in a place of grace and peace, of freedom and sweetness, of contentment and fulfilment. The Lord is more than enough. The vista ahead is exciting. The simple life is simply life-giving and life-freeing.

“Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm” (Psalm 45:5-8).

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:2,3).


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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

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Sabbatical reflection

It has been a month since my sabbatical began. I feel better rested physically and psychologically. Longer hours of sleep, exercise, and disengagement from pastoral duties does wonders. Being overseas helped too because you became unavailable physically.

I also feel thankful for the many blessings of God. Never thought of touring Spain, never was interested. But in pursuing the kingdom, in seeking rest and restoration, I ended up in Spain, beginning in San Sebastian and ending in Barcelona, staying at many towns and cities along the way, in Basque and Catalonia regions, often walking in the streets and countryside. I love silent retreats, silence and solitude. I love hiking. And I was blessed by Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and spirituality. All these three elements that nourishes me were present in this sabbatical program. What a blessed trinity!

This was followed by a vacation and catch up time with Mike and Amy in Bolton. They were very gracious and availed themselves to us for five days. We had significant time catching up usually over meals – restaurant, home-cooked and takeaways. It was around 7 to 18 degree centigrade with gloomy clouds and rain on quite a few days. This restricted our plans but it meant more rest, early to bed and late to rise. It was a contrast to the Camino Ignaciano– late to bed, early to rise.

Now I am glad to be back home. I feel relieved. Spanish and English food and weather are good – for a while, usually tolerable for two weeks or so, in my experience. I like Singapore. I like the smells, tastes, sights of home.

I don’t like the haze though. This morning, I saw the haze and told my wife, “Thank God that in the last three weeks, we were away overseas breathing fresh mountain and countryside air”.

I had an inspired thought this morning as I reflected on how to use the rest of my sabbatical wisely: treat each day as you would a sabbath day with an eye on REMEMBRANCE (spiritual nourishment), REST (physical and emotional self-care), RELISH (life-giving engagement and activities).

“Lord, help me do this and experience more of your love.”


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OMF Bungalow: praying amidst charming surroundings

OMF from Strawberry Park and Pahang Sultan's bugalow in background

Koh Seng Chor with me

my roomElaine's roomhall

The kindness of the Lord

It has been some years since I last went up to OMF Bungalow in Cameron Highlands. So I was glad to know that the last two rooms available in the bungalow were available for Koh Seng Chor, the pastor of Evangel Christian Church, and myself. My daughter wanted to tag along to have her prayer retreat so she had to share a room with me as there were no other rooms available. That would mean an inconvenience for prayer, but she’s my one and only daughter! It is always better to be able to pray, sleep and read anyway and anytime you want, and sharing a room with another restricts this to some extent. However, the Lord was kind, for as soon as we arrived we were told the good news that all three of us would have individual rooms to ourselves due to some cancellation.

Elaine in garden

Eat, sleep, pray, share

Most of the morning and night  hours were spent alone in the room or outside, meditating and praying through Psalms 55, reading old journal entries, and writing new ones. On occasion Seng Chor and I would take relaxed afternoon walks in the cool Cameron air chatting all Brinchang walkthe way down to Chefu or Brinchang town, sharing our heart and telling grandfather stories, literally. My daughter, well, she wanted her God-space, so she was left alone except during meal times. Meal times were fun as we sat with and got to know some American missionary couples and Malaysian Chinese ladies who were also staying there.

Faded charm of the 60’s and 70’s

The food was warm and nourishing and the Cameron vegetables were fresh and deliciously cooked by Mrs Chye, the caretaker. The beverages and the superb cookies were free and available 24/7. The charm of the ferntips, gourd and fish in Thai sweet sauceplace is its tired and dated look – like going back to a warm and welcoming home in the 60’s and 70’s. This place was once owned by a Chinese businessman and built in 1933 before being bought over by China Inland Mission (now OMF), a missionary organization. While staying there you could fantasize that you were that tycoon, albeit only for a few days, enjoying the striking views outside your large garden and with your helpers cooking and cleaning your home, while you lounge around without a care in the world.

mossy forestTouring around

My daughter and I went for a tour of Mt Brinchang, the mossy forest, and the BOH tea plantation. We also visited Brinchang town and Tanah Rata, and there being no place in the “inn”, we stayed a night at Strawberry Park hotel and had breakfast before we departed for home in the 10am bus to Singapore. We arrived home close to 7 pm on Friday.

Tea at BOH tea plantation

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