Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14

Each one of us is unique and different, from our appearance to our personality. We have different values, talents, and life experiences. Our skins might shagged, yet our finger prints remained the same. What am I trying to say? God has created each one of us unique and there is no need to compare oneself to others. After all, who said orange is better than apple? Tall and skinny is not consider beautiful in the Tang Dynasty!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. -The Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

There is a Chinese saying, you can be full by drinking water if you have love. See the almost empty water bottle behind this couple?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Distorted

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – The Bible (I Corinthians 13:12)

Everything is distorted in this photo; I don’t even remember what is real and what is not. In a way, we are living in a distorted world and sooner or later we will get used to the distorted worldview then it becomes normal.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. – the Bible (Psalm 62:5) When I got this week’s challenge, I was a little shock since I posted a photo that can apply to this week’s theme. My first thought was posting it again, but as I looked up from my desk… inspiration came and I snapped this shot which depicts where hope lies and how to see it— with our eyes closed!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple

We know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5

A simple four- letter word painted on the ground of a Christian campsite inspired me to think of a not so simple message. If everyone have hope, there will be no depression. It is a simple truth, but not so simple to those that are in a dark pit.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peaceful

I am leaving you with a gift– peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.the Bible (John 14:27)

Once in a while, I will go to a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city to be peaceful. There at a tranquil garden, I saw a whole roll of turtles lying peacefully taking an afternoon nap. I took a bunch of photos of them, but decided on this threesome.

I Know… I Don’t Know…

by Judi Chow

I can’t stand it when people think they have all the answers, particularly when I know that person doesn’t know anything regarding to the subject matter. Did you catch me? I just became that presumptuous person when I wrote, I know that person…! The revelation came during seminary graduation with a little panic, now I know I don’t know much about God, theology, the Bible, and myself for that matter! It was years later that I am thankful I have this awareness- that I don’t know. The next question is, do I really want to know, how much or how deep do I really want to know about God, life, and the future?

An old hymn came to mind– “I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day… Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.” I have to admit there are many things I don’t understand and have no answers to. I won’t pretend a philosophical answer to “Why does God allow suffering?” will ease the pain of those sobbing or shouting, “Where is God when the building’s crashing down on my parents? Why didn’t God save my wife? How can I go on living while my only son is dead?”

Suffering is painful and separation is difficult no matter how you look at it. How can anyone endure the unbearable and have the strength to face tomorrow? I believe only love can dry the tears and restore hope. Don’t you remember John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Because of love, God endured separation from His only son. Because of love, Jesus endured suffering for our sake. Because of love, we have hope of restoration. Buildings might crumble, lives would change, but the spirit is not crushed because I know who holds my hand.

Take time to contemplate the meaning of Psalm 119:71 “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” I will never have the answers to many life questions until when I meet Jesus face to face. Meanwhile, get to know God more and more, than I might be able to understand His decrees a little better. I don’t know about you, but I know 1 Corinthians 13:13 “Three things will last forever…” I particularly like the Message translation: “…Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” Let love be our motivating force to face each new day and to accept the unknown reasons behind the suffering we witness.

Seed and Water

by Judi Chow

I like to play games. I like to use games in training missionaries. Word association is a game I often use for experiential learning to bring about self-awareness. You start with a list of words and write out the first word that comes to mind associating it. The following is an example of what some missionaries came up with:

God – love, Jesus – cross, Missionary – obedience, Single – lonely,  Culture – language, Home – belong, Ministry – evangelism, Joy – baby, Peace – dove, Sin – murder, Rainbow – Noah, Peter – rock

From a list of associating words, you can find out something about a person’s thinking, past experiences, and value system. Association can be straightforward or creative; it reflects one’s worldview.

Recently, I associated “seed” with “water” from looking at the tiny seeds in a plastic container I got after a Sunday sermon. It was given to us as a reminder that if we have faith as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Many months past by, all the seeds remain intact on the corner of my desk. As I was looking at it, this verse came to mind, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Somehow in my mind’s eye, I see these tiny seeds as missionaries… willing to die, to give up ones’ lives in exchange for an opportunity to win the lost. To bear fruit for the Lord!

Well, a seed remains as a seed until it… no, not only dies, but it needs soil, sunshine, and water before it can sprout and bear fruit. When I see those tiny seeds as missionaries and associating it with water, you might be curious and ask: what or whom does water represent? Some said, water– definitely refers to the living water, God himself! That’s whom missionaries needed in order to bear fruit! Well, there is no right or wrong answer to association, but another verse came to mind, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42) What if I see water as people God has called to encourage and care for missionaries? Imagine it hasn’t rained for months, the soil is dry, even though the sun is still shining the plant will eventually wither due to lack of water.

“…unless a cup of water pours into the soil and empties, it remains in the cup; but if it empties, the seeds will sprout and bear much fruit.” Both water and seed require sacrificial giving up of self in order to fulfill one’s destiny. It is not possible to give without love from the Lord and for others. Water cannot be a seed, but seeds need water! God created both for a purpose, which one do you think you are?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Entrance

This narrow entrance is located in Tao Fong Shan, a Christian retreat center in Hong Kong. The top two character, indiscriminate love was written by Sun Yat-Sen, the first president of the Republic of China. The writing on both sides is from Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”

For those who have chosen to walk the narrow path, this photo is dedicated to you! Can you guess how narrow is this entrance? Approximately 16-18 inches!

To Yoke or Not to Yoke – The Partnership Dilemma

by Judi Chow

In my more than 30 years of vocational service to the Lord, I have seen a lot of splits – in churches, in organizations, in teams on the mission field, and in Christian marriages. With each split, come the unavoidable pain and, at times, bitterness. Friends and colleagues suddenly became enemies and adversaries. I have yet to see a split that is done in a Godly manner. Some people even cite the Biblical example of Barnabas and Paul’s split in Acts 15, not necessary as a model to follow but as a permission to do so.

I am committed in team building as a preventive measure to do conflict resolution. I love to see people work together; therefore I have always been an advocate of partnership. In my thinking, two is always better than one! A few years back, the news from an email shocked me in disbelief, and then an overwhelming sadness hung over me. Two organizations I grew up with, ACMC [Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment] and Caleb Project joined partnership to form Initiative360 in July 1, 2006 then closed its doors on Feb 15, 2007. ACMC and Caleb Project which have thirty years of successful ministry separately serving churches and individuals in missions outreach did not survive more than seven months after the two became one!

A lot of people including David Mays, an ACMC associate, asked what went wrong? As a missionary facilitator, trainer, and counselor with such a passion for partnership, I ask what is God trying to teach me through this sad news? Two is not necessarily better than one? Good intentions and common goals are not enough to make the partnership successful? How much of it is human error and how much of it is satanic attack? I wonder… What if… I have many questions but few answers. I’ve also experienced a minor unsuccessful partnership endeavor awhile back and am still dealing with its ripple effect.

No, the seemingly unsuccessful partnership instances do not deter me from future attempts of forming new partnerships, but I will do so carefully, prayerfully, and slowly. Do not take anything for granted, both to men and to God communicate, communicate, and keep on communicating throughout the forming and establishing stages of the partnership process. To split is painful, to yoke is not necessary gain?!