Tag Archives: trust in God

19 Aug, Monday – Trusting In Him is the Treasure

19 Aug 2019

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Judges 2:11-19

The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord, and served the Baals. They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them. They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte. Then the Lord’s anger flamed out against Israel. He handed them over to pillagers who plundered them; he delivered them to the enemies surrounding them, and they were not able to resist them. In every warlike venture, the hand of the Lord was there to foil them, as the Lord had warned, as the Lord had sworn to them. Thus he reduced them to dire distress.

Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers. But they would not listen to their judges. They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these. Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example. When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.

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Matthew 19:16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

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And you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.

Today’s readings are on the common theme of trust. They remind us that the trust is in the WHO, not the what. We see how the Israelites turn from God, again, and we are dumbfounded at their choice. God used Moses to free them, and with their own eyes they saw His miracles for them, the plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Sea. And then they did the unthinkable — they put their trust in something else. And we do the same.

In today’s gospel, we meet the young, rich man who is ‘good’ and follows all the commandments — he wants to follow Christ. Jesus invites him, but first he must sell all his possessions. The young man walks away, grieving. He chose not to trust God, instead he put his trust in the treasures of this world.

We trust God…mostly. We trust God…most of the time. We trust God…when we don’t have a choice. We trust God with this issue, but not so much with THIS issue. After all, it is the 21st century. We trust God with direction for this relationship, but not with this one.  After all, everyone is doing it. We trust God with our future, but not with the size of our family. After all, I don’t make enough money to put X number of kids through college. And the trusting and the ‘after alls’ go on and on and on.

Our treasure is in the WHO we put our full trust in. And in the winds and tides of life on this earth. What solace, peace, contentment, tranquility, joy and eternal hope we have when we are in full knowing of the assuredness that our trust is secure; our trust will not be in vain; our trust will withstand even the gates of hell, because our trust is in THE God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen. That is a treasure.  Correction, that isn’t a treasure that is, THE treasure. Trusting without fear, no matter the darkness of the skies, the depth and volatility of the oceans and the enemy who is prowling the earth is the treasure.  And we would do well to remind ourselves of that every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

On Facebook last week, while I was reading the following, I assumed I knew how this little anecdote would go, ‘I have money because I value money…’ and I almost didn’t finish reading it. You see, I thought this little story was about the treasure of financial wealth. I am so glad I read it till the end.

Arlene and her husband were invited to dinner with her husband’s very wealthy boss. She was thrilled with the exclusive restaurant choice, one she and her husband would never frequent. As they were approaching the restaurant, the boss suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long silent moment, reached down and picked up a penny. He smiled and put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. HOW ABSURD!  What need did this man have a single penny? A dirty penny? Why would a man of his wealth and stature even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner the scene nagged at her. Finally she could stand it no longer and casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached in his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.  She had seen many pennies before…what was the point of this?

‘Look at it.” He said, ‘Read what it says.’ 

She read the words – ‘United States of America’.

‘No, not that; read further.’

‘One cent….?’

‘No, keep reading.’

‘In God We Trust…?’ ‘YES!’

‘And…?’

‘And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin, I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it? God drops a message right in front of me telling me, trust Him! Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I DO trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!’

When I was out yesterday I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, ‘in God We Trust’, and I had to laugh to myself. Yes God, I get the message.

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful? And, God is patient…

(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer:  Father God how we praise your name, the name that we trust, the only name that we can trust in any and all circumstances.  We lift our voices and sing praises to Your name and we trust in You, our treasure, for all things.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Father, for the ‘pennies’ that you put in our path daily.   Thank you for revealing to us that You are he only treasure we will ever need. We pray that we will always look to You as we journey on this earth, and we thank you for your patience for us every day.

21 July, Sunday – Trust, and don’t worry!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we welcome to the team Brenda Khoo, who is currently studying at a local university.

Born a Catholic, she has always loved writing since young, and can write across a diverse range of different genres. She came to Oxygen recently, after wondering how she could contribute her writing talents to the church. She had been inspired by many contributors in the daily gospel reflections series compiled by the Daughters of St Paul, as well as in numerous church bulletins, notably by the Church of Christ the King and Novena Church.

Her decision to join the team of contributors at OXYGEN is her first step to serving God and His church. Brenda hopes to inspire many readers, especially from her age group (she is in her early 20s), to take up their cross and grow in their journey of faith to Christ in life.

21 July 2019

Jesus Our Friend

The mystery of today’s celebration is Christ among us as our friend. We welcome him as Abraham welcomed the Lord at Mamre, and Martha and Mary welcomed Christ at Bethany. 

– The Sunday Missal

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Genesis 18:1-10

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.
‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’

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Colossians 1:24-28

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her

Finding a job right after getting an undergraduate degree is a daunting task for many, including me. Being disabled makes it even more challenging. Needless to say, I have spent countless hours losing sleep and worrying about whether I will be able to get a career which matches my education skills. Amidst the uncertainties that lie in the future, I realise that setting aside a part of my day to pray the rosary helps a lot. I enjoy praying the rosary and gazing at the lovely icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Just as a frightened and anxious Jesus runs to His Mother’s open hands for protection, Mary is our Mother too and opens her hands to us. I always get a sense of peace when I simply gaze at Mary, knowing that I can trust in her that she will intercede to Jesus for anything that I pray for. Jesus may not tell me during prayer which job I should apply to, but listening to what He says in my heart about what I need to do in my life to make myself a better person is certainly more important. And I have also learnt to put my trust in Him, that He’ll eventually guide me to the correct employment.

Brothers and sisters, there are many challenges that we face in life: finances, health, relationships, employment, school, even wars and disasters… the list goes on and on. However, Jesus is always calling us to spend some time to listen to Him. Just simply spending a few minutes of our precious time with Him. Whether it be through prayer, mass and various forms of worship, Jesus will always give us His guidance and protection to lead us to where He wants us to serve Him and bring glory to God. And Mary is always by our side, interceding for us to Jesus no matter how much difficulties and worries we are facing in life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Please help us to listen to You, even when we are worried by so many things in our life. Help us to place our trust in You that You will guide and protect us in life. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for always being by our side, and for Your Mother to be with us too. Thank you for spending time with us to help us with all the challenges and worries that we face in life. Amen.

8 July, Monday – God of the Impossible

8 July 2019

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Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he had reached a certain place he passed the night there, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones to be found at that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was. He had a dream: a ladder was there, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and there were angels of God going up it and coming down. And the Lord was there, standing over him, saying, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants shall be like the specks of dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south, and all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.

Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.’ Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Truly, the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than a house of God; this is the gate of heaven!’ Rising early in the morning, Jacob took the stone he had used for his pillow, and set it up as a monument, pouring oil over the top of it. He named the place Bethel, but before that the town was called Luz.

Jacob made this vow, ‘If God goes with me and keeps me safe on this journey I am making, if he gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return home safely to my father, then the Lord shall be my God. This stone I have set up as a monument shall be a house of God.’

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Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

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My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and I was complaining that I feel that God is making me go through an Abraham moment – that is, being finally given something that shows the fulfilment of God’s promise to him, and then being asked to offer up it up. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of all nations and that it would happen through his own son, with his lawful wife. Then Isaac came. But then, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If I were Abraham, I would be doubting God and his intention. Why would he want me to sacrifice the son who was supposed to be the fulfilment of his promise to me?

My friend then told me that Abraham believed that God could raise people from the dead. Abraham believed that nothing is impossible with God, so he was able to offer Isaac.

Of course, my situation is not a matter of life and death, but having my friend tell me that made me reflect on how gripped with fear I was that the light of my faith is being covered with the darkness of my fears.

Today’s reading reminded me once again that God can raise people from the dead. God can do what I would deem impossible. God can reverse any situation, God can heal whatever is broken, God can restore relationships, God can do anything. And if God is not doing it, it is because He is doing something greater than we can imagine.

I’m not sure when it was no longer instinctive of me to feel that nothing is impossible with God. And I am deeply humbled when people chastise me for complaining more than I am praying. Perhaps, it is because I’ve forgotten that anything is possible with our God, so long as it is for the best thing that could ever happen to us.

Miracles happen. And I pray all of us will have that child-like instinct to strust God, and His love for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please write it in my heart that you are a God of miracles. That nothing is impossible with you. And that you love me beyond all measure and that everything that happens is for my good, even if I do not know it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for daily miracles, even if I don’t notice them.

28 June, Friday – He will bring the lost sheep home

28 June 2019 – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Heart of the Shepherd

We celebrate the love of Christ the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep.

  • The Sunday Missal

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

The Lord God says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I shall bring them out of the countries where they are; I shall gather them together from foreign countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing ground; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

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Romans 5:5-11

The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

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Luke 15:3-7

Jesus spoke this parable to the scribes and Pharisees:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.’

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I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness

As parents these days, we find ourselves in constant tug of war with the influence of social media, what deem as norms in society today, prevalence of LGBTQ, the pro-choice movement, redefinition of what constitutes a family etc. How do we continue to instill our faith and beliefs with the insurgence of societal norms that goes against the core of Christianity? What is more heartbreaking is when our teenagers make choices in life that goes against the very grain of Christian values? How do we respond? As parents, we cling onto Jesus’ teachings that the greatest of all commandments is Love. We strive to love as Jesus did, tenderly and unconditionally but we stumble time and again due to our fallen nature. At times blaming ourselves for the choices our children make. At times, blaming them or the external influences, none of which solves the problem and we are left disheartened and broken.

Reflecting on today’s readings gives comfort and reminds  us of the mercy and love of our Abba Father. The reassurance that He watches over us and will never abandon us, no matter how far we stray, He will rescue us from darkness and despair! As long as, He is keeping watch; not a single one of us will be lost. The passage from Ezekiel paints such a vivid picture of how our Heavenly Father not only keeps watch but gives us the best and takes such good care of us like a good Shepherd does. Only the best will be given to His flock.

So today, we entrust ourselves and our children to our good good Shepherd, trusting in His ways and even though what may seem lost in our eyes, our Father in Heaven will bring the lost sheep home!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer Heavenly Father, continue to strengthen the bonds of marriage and family, for the evil one is attacking the foundation of our home. This tug of war is so real and at times, we are at a lost of what to do. Arm us with your Holy Spirit to love, inspire, and transform, with our words and deeds, so that more may return to your fold.

ThanksgivingThank you Father for giving us Jesus so that we may be reconciled with you in His dying and be saved in His resurrection.

13 May, Monday – Trust in God

13 May – Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

This feast commemorates the visions of Our Lady seen near Fátima in Portugal in 1917 by three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The visions occurred on the 13th day of each month from May to October, and by October huge crowds were gathering at the site of the visions and reporting visions and miraculous occurrences themselves.

Pope John Paul II was devoted to Our Lady of Fátima and attributed his survival of an assassin’s bullet on 13 May 1981 to her intervention. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died in the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919-20, were beatified on 13 May 2000.
– Universalis
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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full

I have seen how pet owners take good care of their pets. This is especially so when they are very young and the owner has seen the pet grow up. The pet trusts in the owner’s decisions and willingly obeys whatever the pet asks. In the same way, God our creator, calls us to a plan which we are unaware of in our lives. This plan requires us to trust in God in faith and love.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd will listen to the voice of the Lord. This is sometimes difficult for us to do especially since we do not know what is the plan which God has for us. The world we live in demands that we live in certainty. This comes in the form of endless confirmations, reducing risk and uncertainty and sometimes even doubt of what God has called us to do.

The mystery of the Christian Faith asks that we trust in God’s plan for us and that we allow Him to act in our lives. We may not know what to expect but we can trust in God that He has the best plans for us. In the world we live in, it is difficult for us to surrender our will to the Father because what He wants from us is different from what we want. Let us take it to the Lord in prayer today to see what God calls us to do and then let us be courageous to accept this call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to accept your will.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show us how to live our life as Christian

7 May, Tuesday – Fountains

7 May 2019

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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…he who believes in me will never thirst.

Mankind’s continual thirst for knowledge and power has led us down a path which many feel will lead to our own destruction. From the world wars to financial crises which have led to the demise of many, we seem to have this in-built ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ button that keeps being pressed once every few decades. And while technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds, we seem to be sorely lacking in understanding the consequences of the many decisions that continue to harm nature and our earth.

I used to be ambitious in my early working years but lately, I have adopted a more modest approach to work, preferring to focus some energy on my pursuits outside of work. Some might say that I am not truly fulfilling my potential or contributing 100% to my organisation, but I prefer to look at it as not putting all my eggs in the same basket; that I will be able to draw inspiration and strength, not just from what I accomplish at work, but also from my efforts in ministry.

Those of you who serve in ministry may already be shaking your head or ‘tsk tsk-ing’ away. However, I continue to draw from that well and do what I can during my spare time to contribute as much as I can, in spite of the challenges and very different mindsets involved. In other words, I continue to believe that He has put me in this ministry for a reason and that I am not supposed to shortchange Him, as long as there is something I can do that adds value to others, I should not shun it.

So in this season of my life, I am not thirsting. On the contrary, I have become a well for others to tap on occasionally. How long this is going to last, I do not know. What I do know is that on my own, I will eventually dry up. I have seen others around me shrivel and wither away for varying reasons, and I am mindful of the many hurdles ahead in my journey. But there is no other way except to obey him and to believe that in the end, it is God who provides for me; and for all of us. He will ensure that we are sufficiently nourished for the road ahead, as long as we know how to draw from Him – through daily prayer, celebration of the Eucharist and, most importantly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Brothers and sisters, all of us are meant to inspire and nourish someone else, or even many others. We have not been created for nothing. How are we then to go about our mission while we are walking this journey on earth? We must first seek knowledge and wisdom from our heavenly Father and from Jesus Christ, who himself uttered the words “I thirst” just before he gave up his life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we ask for your constant protection and guidance as we minister to our loved ones. We ask that you always nourish us with your living Word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us all that we need to be faithful servants in your vineyard.

4 April, Thursday – Know where the source comes from

4 Apr – Memorial for St. Isidore, bishop & doctor

Isidore (560-636) was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the brother of Sts. Fulgentius, Florentina, and Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father’s death. Initially, he was a poor student, but after giving the problem over to God, he became one of the most learned men of his time. After he was ordained a priest, he helped his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. He was a hermit.

He became Archbishop of Seville in 601, succeeding his brother to the position. He was a teacher and was called ‘Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages’. He was a founder and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer whose works include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at the Second Council of Seville, and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

 

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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Yet you refuse to come to me to have life

I read ‘news’ with a degree of scepticism nowadays with the proliferation of fake news. Recently, I forwarded a WhatsApp message from a friend, who got it from her friend. This message was seeking kind-hearted people who would adopt 2 dogs as she was no longer able to keep them because she was moving to a flat.

The dogs looked so cute. I shared the message on a chat group and one of my friends called the number listed to find out more about the adoption. Turns out that this was all a hoax played on this poor lady, purportedly the person giving up the dogs. She doesn’t even have dogs.

It’s important to know where the source of your news comes from.

In today’s gospel reading, we read about Jesus’ credentials. It pains me to put myself in Jesus’ situation. Why is it that he has to ‘sell’ himself, and convince people of his credentials? After all he is the Son of God. All he wanted was to carry out the will of his Father, to do good, to save us, all in the name of love. And all that at his own expense of pain, persecution and death. Although Jesus clearly comes in the name of his Father, he is not accepted nor believed. People stood in amazement, shock and some were indignant. It must have been so exasperating for Jesus – when individuals come in his own name and people accept him. And people will keep looking at their own traditions and ways, rather than look to one who comes from God.

It’s like parents who deal with their teenagers. They try to advice and navigate their tweens and teens amidst the minefields of growing up, having experienced it themselves. We want the very best for our kids and some of us try to even prevent them from experiencing the pitfalls of growing up. But kids will be kids, they never take advice from their parents. However, if the advice comes from outsiders, friends and peers – they sit up and take notice.

And how much of this applies to us? Where do we put our faith? How often do we fall into despair when things we pray for don’t go our way — when the perfect job we have in mind goes to someone else, when that promotion doesn’t happen, when we don’t have the car or house we dream about. Or when betrayal happens, broken relationships, and when someone we love dies.

We cry out in anguish, “Jesus where are you? Why have you not heard my prayer? Why have you allowed this to happen?” I cry out all the time in frustration, believe me. But all I need to do is silence my heart and mind, look towards scripture and reflect on my own life. How often when things seem to hit the brick wall and I am convinced that that’s the end – Jesus has been there all the time and turned the situation around. The situation may not have turned out the way I wanted it to be, but I am alive and well. ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the bible. I know it’s there and it gives me great comfort when I read it. Yet looking back, knowing in my head but not in my heart have I continued to be overcome by fear over many things. And now years later, when I reflect on those situations, were those days and sleepless nights of worry helpful? Did Jesus not prevail in the end?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, help us to be able to differentiate the truth vs lies. Help us to know that your love prevails and to stand strong in our faith and belief that you are Jesus Christ – our God and Saviour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the love you have for your people.

12 March, Tuesday – Beautiful Beginnings

12 March 2019

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Earlier this year, I made the difficult decision to leave a job I enjoy and a team I love. It was a decision I came to after considerable discernment – I knew that I was called to leave my workplace, but it was not clear to me where I was called to next. Submitting my resignation brought immediate relief to the inner dissonance I had experienced for a while; yet I was overcome with a tidal wave of emotions. I had taken pride in building up a good-quality service for our clients and a cohesive team of mission-driven and capable professionals, people whom I had come to see as family. Did I make the right decision to leave all this behind after two years?

I did my best to ‘finish well’ to distract myself from my impending departure. Even though I took pains to prepare a comprehensive handover, I fretted about not finishing all my work before my last day. The thought of extending my notice period crossed my mind even though it would only prolong the inevitable.

In a bid to hasten my discernment process, I also spoke to several people about my journey, and these conversations opened up many new possibilities. Some of these presented as exciting opportunities, and I was eager to get started on this new chapter of my life. The only problem was that whenever I prayed, I was met with deafening silence from God – He who supposedly called me out to the wilderness. Upon reflecting on the readings, God’s non-response was, in reality, an invitation to embark on an inner journey to encounter Him more intimately, particularly in this season of Lent.

I had been too preoccupied with ‘doing’ when I needed the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to lay bare my inadequacies. While I would like the incoming manager to do well in taking over the team, I had not made space for myself to grieve the loss of my team. By God’s grace, I managed to finish whatever I could, trusting that others would handle any outstanding matters. It also struck me that my relationship with my team members had evolved from a working relationship to one of friendship. I am thankful for what I have gained in terms of perspective — instead of rushing headlong into the next thing on my agenda, God is holding space for me to lie fallow and wait. In this journey of faith, I trust that He will provide a beautiful beginning.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You meet us where we are at and know exactly what we need. Teach us to come to you with a patient and trusting heart, knowing that You will give us what is best for us in Your own time and way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for knowing us more than we know ourselves. Guide us in this Lenten journey, and send us your Graces such that we may continue to walk in faith, especially through uncertainty and uncharted waters.

22 February, Friday – Unqualified yet Called

22 February 2019

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

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1 Peter 5: 1-4

Now I have something to tell you elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you… not simply as a duty but gladly

As we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter today, we remember how St Peter was chosen to be the shepherd of Jesus’ flock. Hailing from humble beginnings, Simon Peter was a simple fisherman when he was called to follow Jesus in His ministry. Peter certainly had his strengths – he loved Jesus and was loyal, enthusiastic and outspoken. At the same time, the gospels also relate many episodes of Peter’s failings and faithlessness.

While most apostles remained largely silent in the gospels, Peter was always ready to jump in to make a statement, regardless of whether the occasion called for it. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He also tried to stop Jesus from talking about his upcoming death, earning a rebuke from Jesus. Peter asked Jesus to command him to walk on water, but Peter’s fear and lack of faith led him to sink and cry for help. Peter proclaimed that he would not desert Jesus even if the others did, only to deny Jesus publicly three times out of fear for his own life. By these accounts, Peter’s behaviour was far from rock-like, not at all dependable as a Christian leader should be. Yet, St Peter is regarded as the model of Christian behaviour. What gives?

I find the contradictions in St Peter’s life highly relatable as I reflect on my faith journey – the many times I resolved to follow Christ more closely after a God encounter, only to relapse shortly after. Leaning on our own abilities, we are limited by our human weaknesses. The process of spiritual conversion is not complete after our baptism but rather, an ongoing journey of growth. In spite of the missteps in St Peter’s journey, he stayed true to his calling and eventually grew into a steadfast servant leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church. As we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, let us also remember our calling.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Dear Father, you have called us in spite of our flaws, fears and fallen moments. Grant us the grace to be open to Your calling, and put our gifts to serve You.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for calling us into a personal relationship with You. May we grow closer to You, trusting that You will shape us to be more like You.

28 January, Monday – The War Within

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”

Following on from the theme of new year and new beginnings, we know that a new year brings new resolutions, usually for the improvement of ourselves and our lives. And it comes to no surprise that before the year is up, most of these resolutions have fizzled out faster than a fuse in rainfall. Why is that?

I believe that the clue lies, to some extent, in today’s reading. We are all creatures of habit, both good and bad. Bad habits are the most obvious ones that we want to break or change come the new year. But bad habits are also the hardest ones to break. According to studies, it takes approximately 66 days to turn a habit into automated practice, i.e. if we want to get fit by say, exercise, it would take us 66 days of constantly integrating exercise into our daily routine before our brains accept it as part of our habitual practice. What does this mean? It means that all those early mornings where we fight our alarm clocks and inner longings to snuggle back under the covers, it becomes easier if we keep at it persistently and consistently. After a while, it becomes second nature for us to jump out of bed and into our exercise gear.

But even that might sound like a long time. It takes a lot of discipline and mental strength. It is so very easy to cave in and slip back into the old (and probably bad) routine that we are familiar with; but, guess what, familiarity breeds contempt. In a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, we go back to the old habit, feel bad about ourselves, then feed that sorry self of ours, and feel worse than we did before! We tell ourselves, “Nah, no point doing it”, or “I tried! But it didn’t work”, or “all those diets/books are a whole lot of quack!” We believe what others say about us, that we were crazy to begin with, that we would never stick to it, or that we are destined to remain in a certain way because we are lazy, our genes say so, or because “that’s just life”. The tragedy then is that we will never become the person that God has made us out to be, never live nor reach that potential that He has blessed us with.

God gives each of us a gift, and He gives us life. It is up to us to use that gift in this duration of our life to the best of our ability – that is our responsibility. So how is all this connected to today’s reading? We are divided within ourselves whenever we want to make a change. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Change is never easy, but it gets wonderful at the end. The Devil will never want us to change for the better, it wants to thwart our dreams and efforts. But God always wants us to progress, to be happy, to live a happy and fulfilled life. God wants what is good for us. And so our respective selves are at war with each other, internally. We are torn between doing what is right for us, and easing back into the ‘comfort’ of our lives, no matter how rotten that may be. I guess that explains why some people never leave jobs that they hate, or stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or remain in a social media frenzy. The addiction to what we know as safe is too great to venture out into the unknown, the difficult. All our lives, we have been telling ourselves certain things, that after a while, that self-talk translates into beliefs, regardless how bad they are for us. But my friend, there really IS a better life and career out there, there really is someone out there who will love and respect you for who you are, there are real friendships out there to be made, real experiences to be truly lived, and not via Instagram or the number of ‘likes’ our posts generate. Let the willing spirit guide us there, and our belief that God truly made us special for a reason, and gave us a life to be lived fully, not just to exist. If we are at war within ourselves, we cannot win, we cannot stand, and we most definitely cannot live.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in my quest to be a better person, to live a better life, I know that I will be faced with my greatest challenge — myself. Help me to quieten that part of me, and help me to listen instead to the love, the guidance, and the wisdom that You have set forth for me.

Thanksgiving: I give you thanks Lord, for the gift of life, a life to be truly lived. I pray that with Your help, I can truly live a fulfilled life, one filled with love and service to others.