Tag Archives: annette

3 March, Tuesday – Prayer and Forgiveness

3 March

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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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“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed by my troubles and my trespasses that when I muster up the courage to ask God for help, the words fail me. What do I say? How do I say it? Am I even worthy to ask for what I need? For some, the words roll so beautifully off their tongues; for others, we are literally scraping the bottom of our dried-up prayer well. I think Jesus had foreseen this predicament when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer and a comforting reminder that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”. What a relief! And the Lord’s Prayer is simple, straightforward and short, fitting for any believer, whether new to the faith or seasoned from the years. The themes are quite simple: starting with praise and glory to God, obedience to do His will, and as emphasized in today’s Gospel reading, forgiveness.

I am no expert in prayer, least of all the Lord’s Prayer, but I do believe in the spirit of prayer: do we mean what we pray and what is the condition of our heart when we pray it? What I mean is that it is no use saying we must pray for those who have injured us when, deep down, we are wishing them ill-will. When we store up resentment and revenge, we are in effect blocking the grace of God from coming into our hearts and restoring our souls. It can take a long time to forgive someone depending on the severity of the injury meted out against us; I speak from experience. Many a time I have asked myself how can I ask for what I need when I have yet to let go of the past and forgive this person? I found the answer one day when it hit me like a pebble on the head — I asked God to help me forgive when I couldn’t do it on my own.

Forgiveness, though, is a tricky double-edged thing. There is forgiveness to those who have injured you, but there is also forgiveness to yourself. A lot of us hold ourselves back because of something that we did that we cannot forgive ourselves. We feel that we ‘deserve’ not to be heard by God because we were wrong, or we ‘deserve’ to be miserable because of our past actions and deeds. We walk around dragging a lifetime’s worth of emotional baggage and guilt conscience, choosing not to live because we cannot forgive ourselves. My friend, God would not have wanted such a life for us. He has such wonderful plans for us, if only we would put down our baggage and look up from our stoop to see what He has laid out.

I feel that there is a connection between today’s Gospel reading and the first reading. In the first reading, God says that His Word shall not return to Him void, but shall do His will, achieving the end for which He sent it. What if God is waiting for us to ask Him to help us to forgive those who have trespassed against us and to forgive ourselves, so that we can set our spirit free? Free to love, free to praise God, free to do His will? God’s love is not a burden, it is light as a feather and makes our spirits soar on eagle’s wings. It is strong and joyous and uplifting. God is love, He is merciful. There is a lot more room in His heart than we will ever know, and He knows our hearts. Let us let go of our past and let Him in.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the ability to forgive those who have hurt us, those on whom we dwell on in our thoughts. And as we forgive them, help us to forgive ourselves too. Help us to let go of the past and to recognize that it has no place in the future that You have for us, the future that has been redeemed for us through the blood of Christ Jesus. 

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for giving us a prayer that will see us through our troubles, a prayer that reminds us of your mercy, grace and unending love. Thank you for knowing what we need in our hearts, especially when our own words fail us.

2 March, Monday – Charity

2 March

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning.
You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.
‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Today we turn to charity, one of the three pillars of Lent – the other two being prayer and fasting. More often than not, when one speaks of charity, what comes to mind is a donation of cash or kind. There is nothing wrong with that. But what is charity? Merriam-Webster lists one of the definitions of charity as the “love of humanity”. Indeed, in Old English, charity was defined as “Christian love of one’s fellows”.

Our definition of charity should not be limited to that of a monetary or material perspective. Those are indeed helpful, if you have it to spare, but if you don’t, you can still spare your time, abilities, or even spare your heart – words of encouragement, a listening ear, some time to catch up with someone you know who is troubled, even if just to hear them out or bring them a smile (or coffee). God gave us the resources that we have so that we may be able to share it with others who would also need them. An example can be found in Acts 3:6 where Peter heals a lame man who had begged him for some money at the temple. In reply, Peter says to the lame man, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” What we do have, given to us by God, we give to others in need – to help them, to enable them – regardless of how small we think our gifts may be. They do make a difference.

Giving of ourselves gives us a connection to the receiver and indirectly, to God Himself. Do you recall a time when you helped someone and brought joy to that person — did you feel your heart lift as well? Did not that person’s happiness bring you happiness as well? When we can do something for someone, we immerse ourselves into their situation and see for ourselves and understand their need. And if we can transform our giving into joy for them and see that joy for ourselves, we are repaid for our acts of kindness and generosity. When we give, we may not always have the recipient in our physical sight, but if we can imagine giving directly to God, would that not change our perspective on giving? We are all God’s creatures and God cares for each and everyone of us. If we care for each other, we would be caring for God too.

Therefore, give with a happy heart, regardless of what it is that you are giving. Give with love. As it is said in 1 Corinthians 13:3: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God’s love abides in a cheerful giver, one whose heart is open to those in need. It is not enough to profess our faith in God with the words that we speak, but also in the deeds that we do. Faith without works is dead.

This Lenten period, as we contemplate our acts of charity and almsgiving, let us keep in mind the words of Jesus, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. (Acts 20:35).

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for an open heart to recognize those that need a helping hand, our helping hand. May we find ways to be useful and may we give with a cheerful and discerning heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the resources and gifts that we have that we may be able to help those who are in need. May we keep them in our prayers, not just this Lenten period, but always.

22 April, Saturday – Witnessing

22 April 2017

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Acts 4:13-21

The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer.

So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.’

So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’ The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.

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Mark 16:9-15

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them.

But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him. After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

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It is impossible not to speak about what we have seen and heard

Recently, United Airlines came under fire for the way it had manhandled one of its paying passengers, when the airline tried to bump him off the plane due to their overbooking the flight. Videos taken by the other passengers showed the man, limp and impassive, being dragged down the aisle by enforcement officers, with his clothes disheveled and glasses askew and later on, images surfaced of the same man with a bloodied mouth. The news spread like wildfire on social media, and became a PR nightmare (no less also from the way the airline initially responded).

The appalling treatment of this passenger resonated so strongly with our moral compass that it became hard for us not to speak up about it, to stand in solidarity with what was right and just. It need not be a negative occurrence — we love sharing light-hearted stories too. Remember the BBC interview when the interviewee’s two children video-bombed his interview?

The point is that when something that we have seen and heard interests us, we feel the need to share it. Likewise with Peter and John, who said it was impossible not to share what they had seen and heard. This was, however, something much bigger than just gossip or hearsay. This was about the Messiah, that had been described for so long in scripture, which was now actually happening; in their lifetime! Not to mention all the miracles that Jesus had performed and how he had resurrected from the dead. Why would they not share such a wondrous event?

Peter had also pointed out that we are witnesses. As witnesses, we are called to give testimony on what transpires. We affirm things that have taken place, and our account puts to rest any speculation or rumour since we have seen and heard it ourselves. Peter and the disciples aren’t the only witnesses — we too are witnesses of God’s love and mercy in this day. Our own acceptance of our Saviour and the death of our old self is testimony that God is merciful and gives us a new life in Christ. The very things that God does in our lives, be it in the smallest of ways, are proof that God is present everywhere. We are not called to doubt and question when these events happen; we are called to give testimony of God’s great power so that through us, others may believe. When others believe, God is able to work more through their lives. Not sharing our faith means that we turn off the tap, and God, who is the water of life, is not able to flow and work through us.

When we accept Christ, we are called to be witnesses of Christ. Let us renew our testimony this Easter,  that God may continue to work His miracles through us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for courage to give testimony on the works You have done in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the miracles that You work in our lives, small or big. We appreciate all the little miracles that you bring forth, and we pray for wisdom to recognize them.

19 April, Wednesday – Fire and Fear

19 April 2017

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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They recognised him at the breaking of bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?

I have a little calendar that sits on my desk about God-sized dreams. It is about finding and fulfilling your purpose, the purpose that God put you on this good Earth, no matter what the odds are. I look forward to turning each page, eager to read the phrase of the day. I find that it touches a lot on determining if that dream within us is a God-sized dream — it fills your whole being with a mixture of yearning and fear; yearning to learn and lean towards God for guidance and strength, and fear of not knowing where the road leads but trusting anyway that God will take us by the hand.

When Jesus came into the world to preach, he offered nothing but the Truth. Just as Peter said to the crippled man, “I have neither silver or gold but what I have I give to you”, Jesus is saying to us “I am offering you the Truth”. As humans, our natural instinct is to question if this is ‘the real deal’. How do we know if this is indeed the Truth and not some scam? Do we even believe what Jesus has to say? We think we know everything, and we are so good at being skeptics; indeed, how would we know?

The old adage ‘the truth shall set you free’ rings true. When something is explained to us and we learn of the facts, there is a dawn of realisation that descends upon us. Suddenly, we see things in a different light and we understand; and what we were afraid of before because we didn’t understand, we are now no longer afraid of anymore. The truth releases us from our own shackles of myopia and fear. The disciples going to Emmaus were downcast over the events that had happened, until Jesus came and interpreted the Scriptures to them, showing them that the things that had occured had to occur for God’s glory to come into being.

Understanding the bigger picture and God’s plan, they were released from their sadness. The cripple in the first reading accepted the Truth of Christ and was released from his deformity. How many more examples in the Bible of people accepting Christ and were released from what was holding them back! How about when we accept Christ in our daily lives, be it accepting Him for the first time or just accepting that we should surrender our problems, ailments, sickness, fears and worries to Him wholeheartedly, because He truly wants to save us. God’s glory will come into being if we lift our lives to Him.

Secondly, once we set our lives free, our human fear no longer has control of our hearts. God does, and He fills it with a gush of life, where fear once ruled. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” asked the disciples. It consumes us and makes us want to exclaim out loud! The fire that God sets alight in our hearts not only burns out the old doubts but warms our entire being. This is an everlasting flame, it cannot be extinguished so long as we take care of it through obedience to God. Yes, there is a fear of not knowing, but it is a good fear in that I am trusting God with this purpose that He has put in me, and I am nervous because it is so much bigger than I am. It is not a fear of failure but a fear of God in us, just like Moses was filled with terror at what God wanted him to do. But if we accept this, then God will always be with us. That fire will keep on burning for as long as we love God with all our hearts. That fire is a holy fire, it will fill us like nothing we have ever experienced. It will warm us and guide us, like a flame that will extinguish the darkness in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my heart will never be shackled by my human fear, that I will learn to trust more in Your complete plan for me, even though I may not see or understand it fully.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for setting our hearts on fire with your Word, and for setting us free from fear!