I summarize this year with 2 words: Prepared and Stranger
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8, NIV)It has become a cliché every year: “It has been an eventful year.” People in business often say to each other, “We’ve been really busy.” Many others continue their non-stop engagement with bread and butter matters, from work expectations to family situations. For this last devotional of the year, let me take some time to briefly reflect over the major events and also to summarize some personal thoughts .
Some of the major news events of 2009 includes:
- January 20th – Barack Obama becomes the 1st black President of the USA
- February 7th – Bushfires hit Australia in one of the worst droughts there (Brisbane Times)
- March – Financial markets hit a new low; Remember AIG?
- April – North Korea continues to show aggressiveness as they test launch missiles
- May – Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers surrender to government forces;
- June – H1N1 fears start to rise on a global scale; Michael Jackson dies;
- July – Rioting in XinJiang China
- August – Two American journalists freed from China after former President Bill Clinton intervenes; Corazon Aquino and Edward Kennedy dies;
- September – Typhoon in Philippines;
- October 22nd – Launch of Microsoft Windows 7 operating system
- November - Economic Turmoil in Dubai
- December – Failed bombing attempt on a NorthWest Airlines flight
I ponder upon the question: Are these events really that new? Should we really be surprised when sensational events that appear unexpectedly should become a drama by itself? Perhaps, it is not the event itself, but our 'perception' of the timing of the event. In other words, the more *unprepared* we are, the more likely we will be spooked by bad news and be caught off-guard in surprise and bewilderment. Jesus said to us that we 'see to it that you are not alarmed.' Let us take heed. My first point is, how deeply shocked we are, sometimes reflects not the events per se, but the state of UNPREPAREDNESS in our hearts.
For instance, before Michael Jackson's death, tabloids were splashing all kinds of scandals and drug problems encountered by the star. Once his death was announced, people throng music stores and sales of his records skyrocket. Even a lavish memorial service is held in his name. Why are people so shocked? People will die anyway. It is only a matter of time. Indeed, it is because we do not expect the king of pop to die so young, that causes us to be 'shocked.'
Sometimes, the shock becomes more acute the closer it is to us. While many of these events hit the news headlines, many hardly go beyond the mental level, until it hits home. When that happens, we will complain that the world do not really care, forgetting that we were once the 'world' that we are now pointing a finger at. Just think of the H1N1 scare. It is one thing to read about it on the papers. When one of our children gets it, our perception of it changes dramatically. I experienced it as well, as one of my neighbours' children got H1N1 one after the other.
In North America, it would seem like the year began with much promise and anticipation of change, with the election of a new American President. Yet, it ends with a tragic terrorist attempt to explode an American airplane out of the sky. The faces of leaders may be new, but the issues they have to tackle are old. Headlines wow the eyes, but seldom move the hearts and hands to do more beyond watching the TV, unless it hits closer to home. Let me suggest that in prayer, we learn to care for matters beyond our homes. In prayer, we will learn to do more besides watching and reading about them. In prayer, God reveals the actions that we can take. Prayer is a necessary step toward a prepared heart. Pray for the world. Pray for loved ones.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)Reflections Closer to the Heart
I have close friends who have experienced loss of loved ones this year. One lost a child. Another lost a spouse. Others continue to struggle with health issues. Through the years, I have seen friends struggling with remembrance of loved ones on their death anniversaries. As I watch these people, frequently, the best I can do is to sit next to them to offer a loving hug and empathetic look. Sometimes, I offer to pray for them. I would meditate on God’s Word to ask for peace to be with them.
Personally, my life this year has been largely quiet. I like it that way. It is something I cherish, even though sometimes I wish that I was a little more famous, so that people will not ignore me. At the end of it all, I am simply a small petal in an ordinary flower, or an insignificant drop of water in the world wide ocean. I am not as compelling as I would like to think. I have learned lots this year, updating myself with technological developments, constantly adjusting my attitudes toward the social networking phenomena spearheaded by Facebook and Twitter, and blessed by the people in my ministry. My book reviews have received both bouquets of compliments as well as brickbats that includes abuses. I am learning what it means to depend more on God and to see his grace flowing through both my lack as well as my plenty. I continue to marvel at how my children have grown, in physical size as well as mental prowess. The greatest joy of a parent is to see one’s children learning to make sensible and responsible decisions without prompting. Gratefully, I can see my children learn to cope with any financial insecurity, by learning to trust that we, their parents trust God to provide for all their needs. Building emotional confidence is best done within an environment of faith, hope and love.
Reflections Summarized by Two Words
Preparation is the first key word for me this year 2009. News events around the world may be tumultuous. Local news such as tax increases, reduction in social benefits and changes to laws may affect our pockets, but we must not allow these things to decrease our hope. Jesus has already told us not to be surprised. In October this year, I have written about being prepared, so I will not elaborate much on this word, ‘prepared.’ My second word for the year is *STRANGER*.
I cannot help but suspect that one reason why many of us do not grow in our spiritual walk with God, is because He is a ‘stranger’ to us. The less time we spend with God, the more ‘strange’ he becomes to us. Perhaps, for the new year, as far as your relationship with God is concerned, move from ‘stranger’ to ‘friend’ and watch how God becomes more real in your life. My second point is: We pay less attention to people we call strangers. We tend to focus more on people we love, like family and friends. Thus, if we learn to see people as ‘neighbours’ rather than ‘strangers,’ this world will be much better off.
My Prayer for You
Many of my readers know me personally, either through personal emails or contact over the years. It is usually through this method of matching the face to the name, and the name to the essay that causes one to read a little more graciously, and a little more carefully. Those who do not know me as well, may not pay as much attention to me or my writings. That is simply being human. Put it another way, we tend to pay less attention to ‘strangers.’ Just like Christmas cards. The first thing we usually read is not the card but WHO sent the card.
For some of you on my subscription list, even though I have not personally met you, I would like you to know that you are no ‘stranger’ to me, for I pray for you. I may not know you personally, but I count it a privilege to remember you in my prayer. Out of this attitude flows a desire to treasure you in my heart, wherever you are. Even though I may not change the world dramatically, I can still do my share in my own small way. Sabbath Walk is one tiny way. Thank you for walking with me, and do let me pray for you.
“Our God in Heaven, we come before you helpless in many ways. From politics to economics, from weather calamities to human follies, you are constantly watching over all. Every word we speak. Every letter we type. Every thought we think. Every memory we cherish. You know them all. I pray for each name on my subscription list that you will help them maintain a state of preparedness to await your Second Coming of your glorious Son, Jesus. Keep them watchful. Keep them hopeful. Above all, allow them to love You like never before, for the coming year 2010 and beyond. Enable them to channel their heartfelt desires into fruitful works. Keep them aware that their love for You be translated into love for one another. I pray for all of us, especially my readers, that we learn to see people all over us, not as strangers to shun, but neighbours to embrace. In our own strength, it will be an impossible task. Thus we ask that YOU, empower us to do the seemingly impossible: Love God and neighbour. Begin with all their loved ones, that their love for spouse, children, siblings, parents, colleagues, and all. May the New Year be one that is filled with hope and strength to overcome. Help us all to remember, that with each pain & suffering we encounter, there are also triumphs over them. We long to see your ultimate triumph soon.
Help us to be PREPARED at all times. Help us to learn to see people not as strangers but neighbours. May we all make a step away from the road of strangers, toward the path of friends. All these we ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”May your New Year 2010 be filled with hope in your hearts, and a constant state of preparedness to spring into action a love for God and neighbour. If our world each day can be one stranger less, and one neighbour more, this world will indeed be changed.
Written by conrade yap
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