Tag Archives: desmond soon

11 November, Monday – Faith Debt

11 November 2019

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Wisdom 1:1-7

Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek him in simplicity of heart;
since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test,
he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
No, Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul
nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin;
the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit,
it stands aloof from reckless purposes,
is taken aback when iniquity appears.

Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man,
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart,
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’

The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”

I have been facing a crisis of faith in myself over the recent weeks due to a few missteps at work. Apart from questioning my own leadership of my team, I wondered if I was becoming too complacent and starting to take my role at work for granted. Thankfully, I will be spending 5 days (starting today in fact) at a leadership training course which most of my other colleagues have already attended over the years. Many of them have attested to its effectiveness, especially since each was assigned a mentor/coach, depending on the areas of weakness that were identified during the course.

My own chat with my boss (this was something that had to be done prior to the course starting) revealed a trust that he has in me and how he felt that the 5 days would be beneficial, especially in the area of learning how to appreciate other divisions needs and then harnessing support from others, as well as my own team, to help focus on a common goal, even if it did not agree fully with my aims. This was an area he felt I needed to beef up on. Obviously, there has been feedback that I can be pretty ‘hard-nosed’ and that I do not consult enough before I make certain decisions.

I am pretty sure Jesus never went through a crisis of faith in his own leadership, simply because he was led by God the Father. The apostles could disagree and bicker among themselves but Jesus never bowed to their various idiosyncracies nor compromised and let them have their way. I think that is where I have been falling short – not staying my own course and allowing my staff to get away with many things. As a consequence, I have begun to tighten the fist again and even issued a ‘code of conduct’ (after consulting with HR). I felt that it was time to take back control and to let the team know I was not going to stand idly by while standards started to slip.

You could say that my lack of faith in my own leadership precipitated a reaction where I went into ‘crisis mode’. I myself am hoping that over the next few weeks and months, I can restore some pride and reset standards to where they once were. Not that they have gone totally downhill, just that we are on a slippery slope and traction has to be restored. Thankfully, I know that our God is with me on this journey and He is going to be more than just a bystander. I look back on the past two months and realise that He has been my cheerleader all this while, willing me to lean on him even more as I started to question my own abilities as a leader.

Brothers and sisters, when was the last time you faced a crisis of confidence and had to turn within yourself, knowing that only you could make things better? I want to encourage everyone of us today who is facing a tough situation that God is always with us – we just need to open our hearts and invite Him into our situations so that He can fill us with a faith and determination that no one else can give.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, be our guide and our healer as we journey through the rough waters around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Father, for your faithfulness and your loving hand in our lives.

10 November, Sunday – Persevering in Faith

10 Nov 2019 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
  With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’
  After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
  When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’
 

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2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.
  Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

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Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
  Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

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But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one

It has been a challenging two months where work has booged me down both from a physical as well as an emotional manner. There have been mistakes made which I let affect the credibility of my division and my work, thereby rendering me (in my own mind) useless and ineffective in the eyes of my bosses. A crisis led to an error of judgement where some sensitive information was sent out to a group of industry partners and that triggered a string of events which led to me having to send out close to one hundred email apologies in one night.

It happened on the evening where I was supposed to lead practice with the worship team and I was truly ‘tempted’ to call for help and ask another worship leader to cover for me while I fixed the mess at work. However, I told myself that I had to run the practice since I had already chosen the songs and taking the 3 hours (including travel) out of the office may actually help. So in faith, I told my staff involved to prepare the list of addressees while I stepped out.

Thankfully, the damage was contained and I believe that in owning up to my error, I showed all those around me (and above) that I was responsible enough to take the blame. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the Lord had waved His loving hands over the whole situation and that by surrendering it all to Him, I had allowed him to take over. That practice session was wonderfully smooth and I went back to the office with a sense of overwhelming peace and a deep assurance that everything would be OK.

The whole episode led me to question if I had started to become ‘soft’ after almost 10 years in this job. I had one or two conversations with my deputy as well as another colleague if I had become too nice a leader and if my standards were slipping (a remark made out of concern by another HOD). I guess as the most ‘senior’ HOD around, I am expected to set some sort of example and others look up to me as some sort of benchmark for how things are done at work.

Brothers and sisters, we sometimes get too caught up with the goings-on in our career, in our everyday lives that we forget to allow God in to remind us how ultimately, we are His children and His precious sons and daughters. We let others tell us how we should behave, we let others affect our emotions too much. I have learnt, over many years, that when the storms come, there is no point getting sucked up in the vortex of noise, uncertainty and chaos. It is precisely in those periods when we need to trust in God and lean into His loving arms in faith. Because only then can we begin to discern His hand in our lives and realise that no matter how much we try, when the chips are down, it is only through surrendering in faith that He will answer our prayers and help us out of situations that we create.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Abba Father, you look after all of us with a faith that demonstrates to us how precious we are in your eyes as your sons and daughters. Help us to see your hand in all that we do and are going through in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Father, for always being there for us.

1 October, Tuesday – Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat At Your Table

Oct 1 – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

  • Patron Saint Index

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Zechariah 8:20-23

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.’

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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We want to go with you

 I have been pondering lately over the question of succession – both at work and within my ministry. In each instance, I am at different ends of the scale. At work, I am struggling to find someone who is capable of delivering to a level that I am accustomed to, only because the person I had planned to groom left a month back. So I am back to my sometimes non-existent, not-as-highly visible deputy who, while capable, is not assertive enough.

In ministry, while I have had the opportunity to step up on a few occasions, I feel that while I am doing well at fixing some operational and logistics issues that have lingered for a while, I am yet to level up in terms of my worship leading. So while I am taking vocal classes to improve my technique, I fall short when it comes to the spiritual aspects.

I have tried to look at both situations from various perspectives and can only surmise that these two trials that I am going through will lead to a larger realisation of where He is taking me on my leadership journeys. Interestingly, I have also been approached by an old friend to consider a move to something more ‘exciting’, in an environment which I am more accustomed to – where everyone brings their ‘A-game’ each and every day.

I told him that his timing was rather uncanny. I have been growing increasingly frustrated with some of my colleagues and I shared that among my team of 14, I would only bring 2 along should I ever make the move. I am pretty sure that even if the others asked me to take them, I would say ‘No’. What then does that say of me as a leader? Am I prepared to walk away from a team who have stuck with me through thick and thin since 2012?

And if I were to be thrust into a leadership role in ministry, I wonder how many will confidently say, “We’ll stand by you”? After all, I am merely a newbie, undergoing some training and trying to impart my knowledge and skills to others. And while there are those who encourage and affirm, I know there are others who doubt and question. To be fair, I would too, if I were in their shoes.

Brothers and sisters, some of us are called to lead and, in many instances, we find ourselves questioning our abilities. Remember that Jesus never called priests, nor those who were learned. He gathered fishermen and turned them into fishers of men. Let us not allow the devil to plant seeds of doubt in our minds and resolutely follow our shining star and guiding light – Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always guiding us gently along in our spiritual journey.

30 September, Monday – For or Against?

Sep 30 – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

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Zechariah 8:1-8

The word of the Lord of Hosts was addressed to me as follows:

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am coming back to Zion and shall dwell in the middle of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem will be called Faithful City and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. Old men and old women will again sit down in the squares of Jerusalem; every one of them staff in hand because of their great age.

And the squares of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in the squares.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. If this seems a miracle to the remnant of this people (in those days), will it seem one to me?

It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this.

Now I am going to save my people from the countries of the East and from the countries of the West. I will bring them back to live inside Jerusalem.

They shall be my people and I will be their God in faithfulness and integrity.’

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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Anyone who is not against you is for you

I have just gone through probably the most significant event in my university’s short history – the groundbreaking for our future campus in the north-east of Singapore. While the event went off well by all accounts, there were more than a few significant glitches during the planning which left much to be desired. And while I tried hard to hint and goad my core team of 3 towards finding viable options/solutions each time they faced a hurdle, I found myself shaking my head many times, having to come up with the solution each time.

During the rehearsal on the day before the event, I finally blew up and let out my frustrations at the emcee (a former student whom we had employed). Naturally, I felt that I had let myself down and apologised the next day to everyone present, emphasising how I was used to working with professionals who always brought perfection to the table. I had inevitably forgotten that half the team consisted of students who had actually volunteered their time to make the event a success.

As a result, I have begun to question if, in my desire to achieve perfection in my work, I have placed unnaturally high expectations on those around me. After all, none of them have come from the cutthroat commercial world I used to inhabit. This was echoed by a senior staff who left us after the event (he had tendered his resignation two months prior) who cautioned that many in my division may not be able to take my intensity at work, especially so when things go wrong. But I took comfort from the fact that he said everyone was behind me in terms of what I was trying to achieve.

So while no one is ‘against’ me in terms of my vision, I have been wondering if my staff may not be ‘for’ how I strive for perfection every time. Indeed, I have heard that there is a sub-culture of ‘just doing the bare minimum’ which is getting more pervasive —  something totally against my own belief system when it comes to work. I recall my late father saying, “If you want to embark on something, do it to the very best of your ability. Otherwise don’t bother wasting other people’s time.” I have always taken this to heart and applied it to my work situations. I reckon that whatever the outcome, as long as others around you see you doing your utmost to deliver on something, they will always be ‘for’ you because you have done your best.

Jesus, on the other hand, had it tough. Because those who were ‘for’ Him turned ‘against’ Him at the end in varying ways – they denied Him, some abandoned Him, many others condemned Him to death. Yet, in His most anguished state, He asked His heavenly Father to forgive them. This was His ultimate expression of love for us and till today, I struggle to reconcile how I can tolerate (let alone forgive or accept) those around me who are ‘against’ me in subscribing to a different work ethic from me. At times, I tell myself, “This is not my company, so just go with the flow.” But, brothers and sisters, I think you would agree that compromising on our own standards is akin to not living out one’s calling. And once you start on that slippery slope, it is extremely difficult to come back up.

It is only through God’s merciful love that anyone who has fallen from grace can make it back to His table. I pray, brothers and sisters, that He can help me find the grace to accept others as they are, and to recognise that the phrase ‘doing my best’ means different things to different people.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Jesus, we pray for all those who are in difficulty and yet strive each day to fulfil their responsibilities as parents, grandparents, bosses, managers, executives, caregivers, counsellors, lay people and professionals. Give them a spirit of excellence that allows them to give of their very best each and every day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your ever-loving, merciful blessings and graces upon those who struggle to provide for their families.

29 September, Sunday – Proof of Life

29 September 2019

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Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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They will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead

My journey in ministry has taken an interesting turn of late, and I am curious as to what the Lord has planned for me. As I navigate new waters and start to be called upon by our spiritual director, who has been making his presence felt in many ways, let’s just say that his methods may be a tad ‘unconventional’ for those around who have been serving for a long time. I must say, though, that he has brought about much-needed change at the centre.

And while some of the changes appear to be merely cosmetic, I can appreciate why they had to be implemented. Sometimes, change needs to be seen in order to be felt. And when visitors see these changes and comment on them, the ripple effects can be quite beneficial. “Wah, so clear!”; “Finally there are new screens. Can see the words better.”  (both referring to the new monitors that have been installed); “Like a breath of fresh air.” (referring to our new logo). Of course, the more cynical among us may ‘pooh pooh’ the changes but there is no denying the positive vibes radiating among those who welcome change.

In this day of instant gratification, it has taken us literally close to 2 years to effect these much-needed changes. Some may be puzzled and ask, “What took you so long?” I, for one, have experienced the inertia that is present when things start to get a wee bit too comfortable and familiar. It is human nature after all, to be content with the tried and tested, to stick only to what we know and not try new things, new ways in order to improve. Countless meetings debating the merits and pitfalls of processes and procedures come to naught when the mindset is ‘if it ain’t broke, just let it be.’ Just yesterday, a ministry brother and myself finally identified a whole wall of decommissioned, discarded equipment to dispose of. What a carthartic experience it was, as we finally shed years of ‘baggage’ and legacy (for me at least).

So how do we convince those who continue to stick to their old mindsets and ways of thinking that in order to move forward, one needs to change from the inside? Even after Jesus rose from the dead, there are many who doubt, many who continue to live in sin, many who question if He actually is present in our lives. We just have to look around in our parishes to gauge whether people actually believe Jesus is present during mass. Because it appears that unless there is clear evidence, many of us just don’t accept the fact that He is truly with us and continues to walk among us.

Brothers and sisters, how long are we going to continue living in denial? How long are we going to carry on thinking that we are right all the time, and that others around us don’t know what they are talking about? How long are we going to continue to preach to others without listening closely to fresh perspectives? How long are we going to say, “I have been around longer than you, therefore I know better”?

Jesus died and rose from the dead. In doing so, He changed the lives of those who saw, those who heard and those who believed. Let us continue to believe that He is changing lives even today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Jesus, you continue to light our paths and carry us through all the seasons of our lives. May you always continue to be the guiding light as we navigate through the rough seas.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for never giving up on us.

6 Aug, Tuesday – In His Time

Aug 6 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ revealed Himself in shining splendour to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets. They testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Tranfiguration.htm

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

I gazed into the visions of the night.

And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

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a way through the dark until the dawn comes

How many times have we sat in adoration with our souls totally dry, wondering if we are going through a futile exercise in spending time with what we want to believe is our ever-knowing, ever-loving, ever-present God, yet harbouring seeds of doubt in our hearts? Especially when it has been __ number of years since we lost our ________ (you can fill in the blank and keep filling it in until you are satisfied).

How many times have we prayed for a miracle, a cure, to win the lottery, for a solution to magically appear in our lives, telling God that He owes us because of what we have been doing for Him, because we pray 1 rosary a day and go for daily mass and give at least 10% of our earnings back to the church?

How long have we endured the uncertainty of a period of grief, of unemployment, of not knowing when a solution to our predicament is coming, albeit, as we deem suitable for our purposes? Brothers and sisters, when are we going to stop making demands of God, who appears to have His sacred hands full because He seems to be helping others, but neglecting us?

Sometimes, it is only in journeying through the darkness that we begin to discern God’s hand in our lives. It is only in experiencing sorrow that we begin to see the joy that our Lord wants us to experience as part of His grand plan for our lives. Because as the one, true architect of our lives, He knows when we need to have His light shine into the darkened areas, where fear, doubt, insecurity and anxiety reside. And many times, just because we think we have done all the preparation, said our rosaries, served at retreats, ministered to the needy and yes, taught the young at our parishes, we think we are entitled to a seat at the table of plenty.

Pastor Earl McLellan, at the recent Hillsong Conference, exhorted that “just because you are ready, doesn’t mean it is your time.” Conversely, when He says it is your time, you better make sure you’re ready. And I believe in my heart that my time has come in another ministry that I spend much of my time on. I believe I have put in the work and that after 18 months, quite a few retreats, and learning how to deal with a leadership that has its quirks, I am ready to seize an opportunity that has presented itself.

Brothers and sisters, when you are able to discern the light at the end of the tunnel, reach out to it in hope and with prayer. The Lord shows himself in ways that we never expect. But when He chooses to show himself, one thing’s for sure…you can never shy away from His glorious presence.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, continue to shine your light into our lives and to illuminate all those areas that we keep hidden so that we can truly be present as your sons and daughters.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always leading the way and guiding us through our darkest hours.

27 July, Saturday – Adversity Is Proportional To Your Destiny

27 July 2019

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Exodus 24:3-8

Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’

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Matthew 13:24-30

Jesus put another parable before the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

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We will obey 

How does one obey when all around them, things are falling apart – a marriage, a sudden death, a business venture gone bust – how does someone who is desperate, ignore the temptations of a quick-fix solution such as ill-gotten cash, or redemption at the expense of innocent people? Many of us have been there before and wherever you are now, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, how do you think you made it through the turbulent times?

For me, it was a case of adversity being proportionate to my destiny. Because during one of the most turbulent times in my life, this writing ministry became my stabilising force. And because I chose to obey the call of the Holy Spirit (which I wasn’t even aware of back then), I am where I am today in my life. This, I believe, has always been God’s plan for me – to use my talents and gifts to help proclaim His word to as many as possible.

At the recent Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Pastor John Gray preached these words, that we can never run away from adversity in our lives. We just need to trust that God has a divine plan for us and that He will reveal what that plan is as long as we trust in Him and let His spirit work within us. Pastor Carl Lentz also exhorted that because we have chosen to be Christians, it is inevitable that the Spirit lives within us. We just need to wake up and work with Him in order to fulfil our promise.

Brothers and sisters, how many of us can truly and actually say that we live in full obedience of His commandments and as true disciples of our Creator? Yup, I thought so. Most of us are ‘shy’ to admit it but the key is not to be afraid to own up to our weaknesses and openly raise our hands in surrender. Because it is in the humbling of ourselves that He can come and fill us. In order for Him to increase in our lives, we must decrease. We must shed our pride, declutter our material wants/needs/pleasures, reach out to our neighbours in need and offer a loving hand, or just simply give way – on the road, in the mall, at the park, in the elevator, or in the coffee queue.

Try it in your church compound tomorrow and see how it feels. There is no shame in giving way, because Jesus stooped low to wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus, in His ultimate expression of love for us, allowed himself he indignity of death on the cross for you and me.

What can you and I ‘give up’ today as a sign of His presence in our hearts?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Abba Father, you care for us as your sons and daughters because you love us so much. Be with us in our times of need and fill us with your presence when we are weak.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being our Saviour and Redeemer.

26 July, Friday – Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat At Your Table

Jul 26 – Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=22

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Exodus 20:1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

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Matthew 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

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You shall not… 

Today, we celebrate the feast of the parents of our blessed Mother. I have often wondered how obedient she would have been as a child, especially since she was destined to become the mother of our Lord. I’m pretty sure St Joachim and St Anne would have had an easy time raising the young Mary, who epitomises obedience. Not being a parent myself, I look around at my friends who have multiple children and marvel at their energy, stamina and, most of all, their self-sacrificing love for their offspring (no matter how disobedient they become).

I reckon many of my vintage were brought up with quite strict parents – disciplinarians who had low tolerance for anything ‘out of the norm’. I recall many occasions when I was forced to practice my violin late in the night (and miss ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, ‘CHiPS’ or ‘Spencer For Hire’) because I had lied to my parents or decided to ‘play truant’ from my violin practice. I remember even coming up with crazy excuses (being held back in school etc) to skip piano lessons so that I could cycle freely within our huge estate for an hour. Of course, the best-laid plans always get unravelled whenever a well-meaning teacher phones up our parents to ‘check on us’ (imagine if we had mobile phones back then!).

Brothers and sisters, our God loves us too much to be such a disciplinarian. In fact, He lets us do what we choose to do because He already knows how things are going to pan out, good or bad. So even when we sin (yes, WHEN!), He is ever ready to bring us back into the fold, as long as we are sincere in our contrition. The first reading and the parable of the sower paint two different paths to salvation that reflect the spirit of the times. Just as how parents these days have to be tolerant and more understanding of their children and the pressures they face, Jesus came to offer us salvation through Him, knowing that this new generation of believers would close their ears and hearts to words that were not pleasing (such as “you shalt not…”).

Rather, He now tells us not to give the devil a chance to enter into our lives through sin. Someone I know has had to deal with an illness to her young son and has spent the better part of more than a year just refusing to believe and allow that cancer to take hold of her son. Today, he is in remission and is finally able to go out and interact with other children. She can also finally go out and spend time with her friends without having to worry too much. In refusing to allow the negativity and all its consequent feelings to take root, she conquered the illness through faith and prayer.

I recently attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney and one of the enduring phrases was preached by Pastor Louie Giglio at his amazing session. He said, ‘Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table’ — 9 words he says changed his life during a period of turbulence and desolation. And he demonstrated it so vividly by managing to squeeze in between a married couple in the audience just by asking, “Can you just give me a bit of room here”; and then he got to work.

Brothers and sisters, let us NOT allow the enemy in through the cracks and fissures of our lives that are present in the workplace, in family, in ministry, in our emotions, in our dealings with others. Rather, let us allow God to smooth over these areas by praying constantly and going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly so that we can become watertight in our faith. This will enable God to work His miracles in our lives and empower us to conquer anything that life throws at us, even serious illnesses such as leukaemia.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there for us in our times of desolation.

2 July, Tuesday – God, You’re So Good

2 July 2019

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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Lord, we are going down!

Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you know you have made a huge ‘boo boo’ and that within the next few minutes (or even seconds), that scathing email or phone call from a superior or, worse still, your father/mother/in-laws will reach you? At times, in my youthful exuberance, I have been guilty of offending others with my ‘c’est la vie’ attitude towards my own mistakes and wrongdoings. For me, it is a case of having already done the crime, there is no point crying over spilt milk.

I wonder if the disciples felt more than just a sinking feeling on that boat, which was being tossed here and there by the strong, galeforce winds. It seems as if they were saying, “Why have you brought us this far, only to make us to feel frightened under your watch?”

Brothers and sisters, it can be just like that in ministry, isn’t it? For years, we labour in His vineyard and then when we encounter difficulty or, even worse, a very public airing of dirty laundry, who do we start blaming for our predicaments? For the lack of a scapegoat, may I suggest that you take out your rosary or crucifix and gaze at the sorry figure who was nailed to the cross.

Because in front of our very eyes is our ‘scapegoat’ – the one who took it upon himself to be the ultimate sacrifice for all of humankind. He who ‘went down’ for us and then rose again, so that we could live free as His sons and daughters. It is all well and good to praise and worship the Lord in good times, but when we encounter our own storms, how many of us actually look to Him in faith and trust that He will help us sail through? For many of us, we always feel the need to be in control, to be the captains of our own destinies. But put us in charge of a rudderless boat and we waver, we start blaming those around us. Worse still, we start to point the finger at God.

At a recent Corpus Christi celebration in CSC, the Lord demonstrated showed His presence in the lives of many as He performed miracles of healing. My own shoulder, which I had injured a few weeks prior, was healed as I stood by the video camera. How wonderful it felt to have been healed because I had faith that He would pave the way for me, knowing that we had a minimal crew to support the 9-hour session. Indeed, God is good!

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the healing miracles that we witnessed last weekend.

1 Jul, Monday – Here I Am

1 Jul 2019

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Genesis 18:16-33

From Mamre the men set out and arrived within sight of Sodom, with Abraham accompanying them to show them the way. Now the Lord had wondered, ‘Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do, seeing that Abraham will become a great nation with all the nations of the earth blessing themselves by him? For I have singled him out to command his sons and his household after him to maintain the way of the Lord by just and upright living. In this way the Lord will carry out for Abraham what he has promised him.’ Then the Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin! I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them that has come up to me. I am determined to know.’

The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Approaching him he said, ‘Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?’ the Lord replied, ‘If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.’

Abraham replied, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this to my Lord, I who am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty just men lack five: will you destroy the whole city for five?’ ‘No,’ he replied ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there.’ Again Abraham said to him, ‘Perhaps there will only be forty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the forty.’

Abraham said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry, but give me leave to speak: perhaps there will only be thirty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this, but perhaps there will only be twenty there.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the twenty.’ He said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the ten.’

When he had finished talking to Abraham the Lord went away, and Abraham returned home.

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Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw the great crowds all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side. One of the scribes then came up and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, ‘Sir, let me go and bury my father first.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.’

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The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head

This year’s Corpus Christi celebration at our centre saw one of our mission partners, Gloria Patri, run the programme from 9:00pm till 6:00am the next morning. Having just about recovered from a short bout of flu, I was worried if I would be able to withstand the nine hour celebration involving P&W, talks, mass, healing and adoration. It was the first time I would be supporting the sessions with my limited knowledge of AV as I had unknowingly volunteered to coordinate all the AV and on-ground requirements for the night/morning. None of my other brothers in the ministry were available as they had other commitments.

Bearing in mind I had attended a follow-up session for the recently-concluded Youth CER on the previous night (Friday), I was strangely ‘chill’ and not perturbed at all about having to spend yet another weekend at CSC. In fact, I was looking forward to the time with Christ and ended up experiencing a healing for my right shoulder at one of the sessions.

So what would have been a potentially fraught few days leading up to the sessions — our leaders were all away on holiday; and no one seemed to know what the 9-hour programme would consist of as our spiritual director was on leave till Saturday itself – ended up being a healing one for me. Truly, when one is driven by faith, the Lord never fails to provide. As I look back at some of the WhatsApp exchanges between the Gloria Patri coordinator and myself, I realised that he had complete trust that the session would sail on smoothly, despite not having met me before. As a stranger to the venue, he truly was relying on me to provide all the necessary backup, which I could not have accomplished without the able support of my two other leaders, who had come back from their own family holiday just 2 days prior.

Brothers and sisters, when we are called upon to provide a ‘safe haven’ for our Lord in which to be present, when He asks of us what we will be doing to prepare a place for Him, we cannot approach with fear and doubt. Instead, we should walk forward in faith that He will provide and send us the angels we need in order to accomplish our task. And we must always remember, it is not about who has done what. It is all about the heart of service and about taking a step back when someone more competent offers to lend a hand. For many of us in ministry, we tend to feel slighted when someone steps up, feeling as if we have been undermined. I have learnt over the years to look at them as angels who are sent my way, simply because I know not what I am doing.

So the next time someone approaches you to ask for help in the Lord’s vineyard, trust in His providence and just say ‘Yes’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in our own spiritual journeys here in earth, we know you are always with us and gently guiding us along. Keep us sensitive to your promptings to that we learn to decrease, in order for you to increase through others you send our way.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for your providence in our times of need.