A Child’s Prayer

   For food and clothes , I thank you

and all the things I can do,

for arms and legs to run and play, 

to share whatever comes my way.

Amen

This child’s prayer is simple; and yet the words express so much. This prayer is one of gratitude for the things, as adults, that we often forget to be thankful for.

Personally I am thankful that my husband and I have the means, not only to feed and clothe our family, but also to pay the rent that ensures we have a roof over our heads. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that we do this ourselves: we are the ones working and earning the money, therefore we are the ones providing. Instead we should be grateful that we have the work to earn the money – work which, in our economic climate, may suddenly be taken away from us.

I am grateful, too, for my health; and the fact that I am still able to walk, to do the physical things I need to do each day with ease. I am thankful as well for the physical health of my family. My heart goes out to those who struggle each day to do the basic things we take for granted: bathe, prepare ourselves a meal, walk quickly to the corner store . And when I see a child unable to run and play in the park with other children, I know that I am doubly blessed to have children that do not spend their days with doctors and caregivers who help them to move around.

And yes, I am grateful that I am able to share. Not only material things but also my experience, my talent and my time. I give thanks that I am one of those people who are able to give of themselves. In this way, it is easier for me to reach a state of happiness: for in giving of myself to others, I know that I am following one of the tenants that I believe in. It is in helping others, and in sharing with them, that I find satisfaction and fulfilment.

What thoughts does this child’s prayer bring to your mind?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Stairway to Heaven

A stairway in Lisbon, Portugal, near the Palac...
A stairway in Lisbon, Portugal, near the Palace of São Bento (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We walk up and down stairways daily (though some avoid them by taking the escalator or elevators!). We walk up short flights of stairs that are simple; and we sometimes have the opportunity to walk up grand and ostentatious ones. We experience curved ones; and ones that seem to go on forever. During certain periods of our lives, walking up a staircase is a simple act that we do without thinking. At other times we find we need to pause to catch our breath; and that a simple flight of stairs takes much effort and pain.

A spiral staircase inside one of the Vatican M...
A spiral staircase inside one of the Vatican Museums (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Staircases can be compared to our life experiences: some are simple, some are extravagant, and some are difficult to go though. Like a curved staircase, we often have to experience twists and turns in our lives that seem to go round in circles as we are experiencing them. When we look back on the experience, however, we can see that all those turns led to an end point that was our goal. How wonderful it is to look back and see that we have finally achieved what we had set out to achieve.

A straight flight of stairs, at Porta Garibald...
A straight flight of stairs, at Porta Garibaldi sotterranea station, Milan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think of the dream Jacob had as described in Genesis 28: 10-22. We read that Jacob dreams of a ladder, and that this ladder (or stairway) is the connection between heaven and earth. He sees God standing on the top, and angels ascending and descending into heaven. In the vision God makes a promise to Jacob that He will continue to support him. I like to think of the stairway symbolising that connection between us and God – and that it is our choice whether we want to climb it or not.

There are some who believe that they can buy their way to heaven with money and gold. This reminds me of Led Zeppelin’s song Staircase to Heaven in which the woman believes that “all that glitters is gold” and that she will be able to buy “the stairway to heaven”.

As a Christian, however, I believe that one is unable to buy one’s way into heaven: the stairway to heaven cannot be bought with money but with the belief that Jesus Christ is the way to God. But how you climb that stairway is also important. I tend to agree with James when he wrote that one’s faith in Jesus being the stairway to God should lead to good works and charitable acts (James 2: 14-26). As we climb the stairway of life, experiencing all those twists and turns that we all do, we should live our lives as God would want us to. We should help others in our community, and treat them with respect. In this way we would be mirroring the person whom we see as our role model: Jesus Christ.

I am climbing my stairway to heaven. There are times when it is simple and straight; and there are times when the stairs go round in circles. There have been times when I have had to stop and take a breather; or lean on someone to help me continue climbing. But I continue looking and moving upward, secure in the knowledge that I will eventually reach my goal.

What stairway are you currently climbing in your life?

(Join Jake every week for a theme for creative inspiration. This week’s prompt is stairway)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Jesus, the Light

I take part in the Five Minute Friday Challenge hosted by The Gypsy Mama. For this challenge, participants write for 5 minutes with no editing, no over thinking, and no backtracking. This week’s prompt is: Light

Jesus, the Light

As Christians we are told that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the light”.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thinking on today, a day on which we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, it is difficult to see Him as representing the light. When we think of the crucifixion we think of pain, sorrow, disappointment and the snuffing of a light in the life of Jesus the man. We think of betrayal in the form of Judas; and of a mother’s grief in the tears of Mary. We think of the mockery of a belief in the taunts of the soldiers; and of those who wash their hands of the problems of others.

But when we remember the day of the crucifixion, we know that soon we will remember the resurrection of Jesus, of the light that He represents. The resurrection shows us that our belief in God, our belief in Jesus, can shine forth from us – just as the light shone forth from Jesus with the resurrection. Our belief in the light of Jesus can guide us through the darkness of the uncertainty in our lives, and our ignorance of God.

So let us think today not only on the darkness of the crucifixion, but also on the knowledge and belief that Jesus is our guiding light in the lives that we are living.

In what way is Jesus your light?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

This Little Light

Each week Jakesprinters suggests a theme for creative inspiration. You can post your response to the theme on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next theme is announced. Your response can be either a photo, a video, music or a piece of writing. Remember to post your link in the comments section of the weekly challenge.

This week’s prompt is: Light

This Little Light

When I think back on the Christian songs I sang when a child, This Little Light of Mine is  one which springs to mind. I remember singing it with enthusiasm without really understanding what I was singing.

Later I learned that the little light was not only the love of Jesus and God shining through me, but also my inner self: my inner self that had been permeated with God’s love. I was singing that I was going to keep my love for God shining through – that I was not going to hide what I believed in. I was also going to show the love of God in my actions towards others, and in my love for them.

The message of this children’s song has been remade as a message for today’s generation by LZ7. The message is clear: help others and accept them as you have been accepted by God: A God who accepts all no matter who they are. The video shows a few examples of how we can let God’s love shine through to others.

Thinking on the message of this song – both the version sung by the Cedermont Kids and LZ7 – I realise that the message is relevant to us no matter how old we are. Let God’s love for us shine through to others; let our actions, words, and demeanour show that we are Children of God filled with His love.

Do you let your light shine?

Biblical Grace

“Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable sinning is not Biblical grace. God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin, on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin and yes to truth.” (Randy Alcorn)

Biblical Grace is what has been given to us by God with an expectation of nothing in return. In addition, this grace is awarded to us even though we are do not deserve it. We receive it when we believe in God and that He has favoured us with his grace. Divine grace is an underserved blessing, a gift that God gives us to show His loving mercy towards all of Mankind.

Christians believe that God’s Grace is complete with the coming of Jesus Christ. In accepting that Jesus is the gift of salvation, Christians are accepting the gift of God’s grace; they are accepting that all the wrong they have done before their acceptance has been voided and that they have been rendered clean. God’s grace has provided this salvation to sinners because of His mercy and loving-kindness.

However, Randy Alcorn suggests that once sinners have accepted Biblical Grace, they should not seek out sin. Accepting God’s grace does not give the believer, whose slate has been wiped clean, the liberty of continuing the way s/he lived before accepting salvation. One needs to strive to live in a manner that is as sin-free as possible; one needs to work on being as godlike as one can be living in the modern world.

Living with God’s grace, we are able to learn what it is to be godlike (we learn this by reading the Bible and listening to others that have studied the Word). When we learn what God expects of us, we learn to know what is sinful and what is not; we learn what behaviours we should avoid and what behaviours we should encourage in ourselves. The stronger we become as Christians and believers of God’s grace, the more we are able to say ‘no’ to actions that are far removed from God’s Grace.

What exactly is sin? It is a transgression against the way in which God expects us to live our lives. For some it may be small (such as telling untruths); while for others it may be large (such as murder). Therefore, once we have accepted God’s grace, we should try to avoid those actions which would drive us away from Him. If we feel comfortable in any small transgression against God, then we have not really understood the nature of Biblical Grace and what it means to strive towards a godly life.

What is your understanding of Biblical Grace?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Reading God’s Word

“I want people to fill their minds with passages of Scripture while they are well and strong, that they may have sure help in the day of need. I want them to be diligent in studying their Bibles, and becoming familiar with their contents, in order that the grand old Book may stand by them and talk with them when all earthly friends fail. From the bottom of my heart, I pity that person who never reads their Bible. I wonder how they expect to draw their consolation in their time of need.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Reading God’s Word

Ryle suggests that when we are strong spiritually, we should read God’s Word. While reading we not only become familiar with what is expected of us as God’s children, but we come to realise as well what strategies were used by those depicted in the Bible to resist temptation; or what they did to overcome the obstacles they experienced while trying to live a godly life. In reading what others experience, we can come to know the rewards of our Faith; and to celebrate the strength of God’s Spirit in those who believe in Him.

For it is in knowing these stories, and in knowing the strategies that others have successfully used to overcome personal obstacles, that we can overcome the obstacles in our own lives. When we are tempted, we can know that we are not the only Christians who have experienced this. We can know too that God’s Spirit is within us and that He can give us the strength to remain true to our Faith and belief. Reading the Scriptures during times of spiritual strength not only gives us the time to learn of these stories, but also allows us to learn of pages that we can turn to for comfort in our time of need. The more we know the content of our Bible, the more we know which part to turn to when we need to read words of comfort and guidance.

I would like to compare our spiritual health to our physical health. We are told that in order to maintain healthy bodies, we need to eat the right foods and exercise. We cannot expect to experience physical well-being if we sit on the couch all day (or at our desks at work) eating fast foods and processed foods. We have come to understand that feeding our bodies with fresh fruit and vegetables is one way to achieve optimum health; and that moving our bodies is an important factor in physical health.

English: Christian Bible, rosary, and crucifix.
An opened Bible, rosary and crucifix. Image via Wikipedia

In order to maintain our spiritual health, we need to feed our spiritual souls. One way in which to do this is to read the Bible. Reading passages in the Scriptures is one way in which to feed our Faith, our belief in God. We read of the miracles He has performed, and the ways in which He affected the lives of people who have lived in the past. Reading God’s Word guides us on how to increase our spiritual strength and faith. In addition, the more we know what exactly our faith is made up of, the more firmly we are to believe in it.

Reading the Sciptures need not be done in isolation. Guidance from Bible study groups, led by someone who has a vast knowledge of the Bible, can be helpful to help increase our knowledge and understanding of the printed pages. Discussion with others can also help to cement our understanding of certain passages as we grapple with issues of modern living.

Just as we work on our physical health, let us work on our spiritual well-being.

When do you read God’s Word?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

An Unexpected Song Title

Jordin Sparks (album)
The album cover of Jordin Sparks' first album. Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, while cooking dinner, I decided to listen to an album I hadn’t listened to for a long time: Jordin Sparks. From the first time I heard it, one particular song on Jordin Sparks’ album has always touched me: “God Loves Ugly”. This is not the sort of song you would expect to find on the album of a pop singer!

The song descibes the feeling of a woman (I can assume this as it is sung by a woman) who feels ugly inside; a woman who tries to look beautiful on the outside but is unable to believe that she is truely beautiful. She feels ugly inside and accepts that her inner self translates into her outward appearance. How often do we feel like this? We compare our physical appearance with the unrealistic images that are found in the media. Added to which our low self-esteem makes us believe we are not good enough, not intelligent enough, not skilled enough, not beautiful enough.

But …

The chorus of the song says it all:

“But God loves ugly

He doesn’t see the way I see

Oh God takes ugly

And turns it into something that is beautiful.

Apparently I’m so beautiful

‘Cause you love me.”

God does not gaze at us and see what other people perceive – or even what we see in ourselves. He looks deep down into us and sees our true, inner beauty. And if we do have some ugliness in us (whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual), He is able to transform it into a thing of beauty. God transcends all ugliness; He transforms it. If we can accept and believe in this truth, then we are transformed and can then accept the love that is given to us by others.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And when God looks at us, what He sees is both our inner and outer beauty.

Unfortunately Jordin Sparks never made a video of this song with its inspiring message. What I found was an evocative video created by a fan to showcase its message:

What are your thoughts on “God loves ugly”?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

God is my Strength

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

What is this quote saying to me? I am no vintner, and no grower of orchards. Olives and grapes are not a part of my life, unless I am to eat them as a snack or as a part of my meal. I have no land on which to raise cattle, and no fields which I need to harvest. At first glance the words in this verse seem irrelevant to me.

But on reflection I realise that they can refer to the life I live everyday. My husband and I toil daily at our places of work to earn a living to pay the rent and feed our family. My fingers are blotched with the colour of ink, and he stoops for hours over the keyboard of a computer. The fruit of our labour is seen, not in the yields of our harvest or the grapes on the vines, but in an amount that is deposited electronically into our bank account every 2 weeks.

And yet there have been times when this has not always been true. There have been months when both of us have been unemployed. There have been ocassions when the few hours a week that one of us had managed to find work, resulted in a meagre wage that was stretched to feed our family. Yet through all these times, we kept our faith in God and knew that we are believers in God, that He is the keeper of our hearts.

I believe that God will find a way to look after our needs. I believe that He is the One who gives us strength to carry on, to believe, and to know that we will survive the obstacles we encounter in our everyday lives. God gives us the strength to achieve the best that we can, to attain the heights that He has promised to us.

All it takes is belief. And joy in God as our Saviour.

Has God given you the strength to achieve the best you can in your life?