Friday, February 29, 2008

God is our refuge and strength

Thank God that this evening I was able to attend the Prayer Meeting in my church. It's been a long time since I last attended our Prayer Meeting due to my poor health condition and other reasons. Thank God for a kind sister-in-Christ who fetched me there and send me home.

I was greatly encouraged by my Pastor's sharing on Psalm 46. This is one of my favourite psalms in the Bible.

Pastor JJ exhorted us that in the troubles and trials of our lives, there are 3 lessons we can learn from this Psalm.

1) We are not to fear. Psalm 46 begins with these verses

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
In the worst calamities that can befall us or the severest trials we may go through in this life, we need not fear because God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (v1). Verses 2 and 3 described the worst that can happen on this earth - the earth be removed, the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, the water thereof roar (probably a tsunami) and the mountains shake. Even if these should happen, we can find our refuge in God. Underneath us is His everlasting arms. (Deut 33:27)

2) We are not to be shakened or moved. Psalm 46:4-7 reads

4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

In the trials of our life, we are not to be shaken or moved because God is with us (v7) and in us (v5) through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us to comfort and strength us. God promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

3) We are not to fret or be anxious. Psalm 46:8-11 reads :

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

In time of anguish and sufferings, we may find our refuge in God who can quiet all the noise within and without us because He is God (v10). He is sovereign over all situations in our life. Nothing can happen to us without His foreknowledge. We can cast all our cares and anxieties upon Him and know that He is working all things for His glory and our good.

Thank God for such a comfort and encouragement through His Words. In this life, we may face many different trials, difficulties and sufferings. But we can find our refuge and strength in God. We can find our peace in Him in the midst of whatever turmoil we may experience. We can be still and know that He is God. In Him alone we can experience peace in the midst of turmoil and troubles. Thank God that He is with us always and will never leave us nor forsake us.

I took this picture at East Coast Beach Park, Singapore

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, and that right early.

My brother, Arthur, who is in New Zealand, took this photo at Muriwai Beach, West Auckland, New Zealand.

Be still, and know that I am God - Psalm 46:10

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comforting others with God's comfort

Marja shared on her latest post "Enlarging your soul through grief and loss", on how in her own trials, she is drawing most of her comfort from being there for friends who are in trouble. Coming alongside others somehow brings some healings.

It has been my own experiences too that whenever the Lord enables me to reach out to others who are in need, He brings joy and comfort to me in my own afflictions. Comforting others with the same comfort which God is comforting me, reinforces God's truth, His love and sovereignty in my own life.

Many years ago, I read a very encouraging and inspiring account of the life of CH Spurgeon's wife, Susannah Thompson. I have posted Susannah's story on my Believers' Encouragement blog under "Mrs Spurgeon".

Throughout much of her married life Mrs. Spurgeon was a semi-invalid. For long periods of time she was confined to her home and was not well enough even to attend church. But she bore up nobly under those conditions. She encouraged her husband under his frequent sufferings and did not complain about her own.

Nevertheless, she longed to be busy for the Lord. Every sentence from her pen that has come down to us and every mention of her that has been left by others reveals a very gracious and spiritually minded woman.

In 1875 a door of rich usefulness was opened for her. Her husband's Lectures to My Students had recently been published, and the Lord set upon her heart the desire to send a copy to some needy ministers in England. From what she could save from her housekeeping expenditures, she had just enough to purchase 100 copies of the Lectures. Soon she sent a copy to each of one hundred needy ministers. She thought that was the end of the matter, but although she did not allow her husband to mention what she had done, news of her action spread, and friends began sending her money so she could send out more books. Several of the pastors who had been given the copies sent letters that expressed their thanks and made it evident that books were sorely needed.

Moved by a strong recognition of the need and feeling God wanted her to continue the endeavor, she ordered a number of sets of The Treasury of David. (Spurgeon had written four volumes of that work at that time.) Those also went to needy pastors, and again there came the letters of thanks and further evidence of need. Many men were trying to maintain homes and bring up families on meager incomes.

Although there was still no public mention of what Mrs. Spurgeon had done, money continued to arrive and with it urgent requests that she continue the good work. For instance, one man sent £50, asking that she send a copy of the Lectures to the nearly 500 pastors of the Calvinistic Methodist Churches of North Wales. Then another £50 came to help defray the costs of that undertaking. That was followed by £100 to send the book to the ministers of the same denomination in South Wales.

News of the gifts spread still further, and ministers of various denominations wrote, stating that a copy of the Lectures, the Treasury; or Spurgeon's other writings would be of great help, but that they were too poor to purchase them. And as those letters reached Mrs. Spurgeon, more money arrived. She could see she had a lasting work to do, an undertaking given by God.......There were times she performed her duties in weakness and pain, and other times she was so ill that her labors were entirely prevented.

Nevertheless, over and above the value of the books and the goods to the various recipients, the enterprise was especially valuable to Mrs. Spurgeon herself. It gave her reason to feel that despite her condition she was able to serve. Spurgeon spoke of the endeavour as divinely ordered, and he reported the change it had made in Susannah, saying:

I gratefully adore the goodness of our Heavenly Father, in directing my beloved wife to a work which has been to her fruitful in unutterable happiness. That it has cost her more pain than it would be fitting to reveal, is most true; but that it has brought her boundless joy is equally certain. Our gracious Lord ministered to His suffering child in the most effectual manner, when He graciously led her to minister to the necessities of His service.

By this means He called her away from her personal grief, gave tone and concentration to her life, led her to continual dealings with Himself, and raised her nearer the centre of that region where other than earthly joys and sorrows reigned supreme. Let every believer accept this as the inference of experience, that for most human maladies the best relief and antidote will be found in self-sacrificing work for the Lord Jesus.

And Mrs. Spurgeon testified: "I am personally indebted to the dear friends who have furnished me with the means of making others happy. For me there has been a double blessing. I have been both recipient and donor... My days have been made indescribably bright and happy by the delightful duties connected with the work and its little arrangements.... That I seem to be living in an atmosphere of blessing and love, and can truly say with the Psalmist, "My cup runneth over." Read more.....

What is the meaning of Life?

Whenever I am severely depressed, this question will surface over and over again. During an episode of severe depression that is clinical and last between 3 to 6 months or sometimes longer, to have to face this question every day is a tremendous challenge. Due to some chemical imbalance in my brain in such an episode, I couldn't think clearly nor feel rightly. Depression has a way of numbing my brain so that I am either not able to concentrate to read or think, or my thoughts will be all negative and condemning myself. I seemed incapable of doing anything or deriving any joy in anything I used to enjoy. I could not feel aright, my feelings are either flat most of the time or down most of the time. For some people, during severe depression they will break down in tears and sometimes cry for no particular reasons. For me it was the opposite. In the face of such tremendous pain and struggles, I wanted very much to cry as I felt that may help to release the pain and frustration I am going through during such an episode, but often there are no tears.

During such a episode, I dread to wake up each morning as I couldn't bring myself to face each day. Every morning, when I wake up, I found myself asking over and over again, What is the meaning of life? What is the point of going on like this day after day? I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. There is no way out of this depths. I have no energy to fight on. So many times I prayed that God will take me home. Living on without the ability to enjoy His love, His Words, public worship, personal devotions, family, friends, work, hobbies, etc is so meaningless. During severe depression, nothing seems to help. Day in day out, night in night out, is the same thing and it goes on for days, weeks, months. Others said they have been depressed before and they just prayed, look to God and they are better. But in severe clinical depression, nothing helps. So no one will understand. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here to go through this suffering over and over again as I have been through it some 12 times by now?

I thank God for leading me to seek help at Counselling and Care Centre in Singapore in January 2007. In my first 2 sessions with my counsellor, Sarah, I recounted to her my past relapses of severe clinical depression in the last 20 years. Sarah noted at the end of my second session with her that there is a phrase I keep repeating and that is during every depressive episodes I will wonder "What is the meaning of Life?". Sarah felt that there is a necessity for me to explore this question and to see how I can get a more realistic and biblical view on this question as that will have an impact in my recovery.

When I first saw Sarah in end January 2007, I had just sought medical help and was on anti-depressant (20mg Fluoxetine or common brand name Prozac). Thank God that I am very sensitive to medication and 1 week after taking Fluoxetine, I was feeling better and more functional. The anti-depressant did not cure me totally but it lifted me up to a more functional level so that I can pray and read the Bible once again and find comfort in God and His Words. I was able to wake up without dreading to face each day and therefore able to cope better with work and life in general. The anti-depressant helped to lift up to a level where my thoughts and feelings are more normal, and I can think more rationally. It was then that I can benefit from counsellings/psychotherapy.

So I was more rational and able to think more clearly when I saw Sarah. After hearing my accounts, Sarah asked me what I think is the meaning of life? Sarah wants me to go home and think about this question and to discuss with her in our next counselling session the following week.

At that time, I was seeing Sarah once a week for about an hour each session. Thank God for my employer and colleauges who allowed me to take time off during working hours to see Sarah. Sarah works in a team with several other counsellors, and our sessions are video taped with my permission. In the room where Sarah counselled me, I only get to see her. Her other colleagues in her team were in the next room, watching the video of our taped session. Towards the end of the session, Sarah will go for a short break of 10 mins to discuss with her team members. She will then come back and conclude the session with me by highlighting some discoveries we made during our sessions and to post some question for me to take home and think and pray about. This was how she helped me to explore my thoughts as I do have some faulty or unhelpful thinking patterns which are so ingrafted in me that I am not conscious of them. But they have tremendous negative effects on my life and learning to identify them will help me to challenge them and turn them to more realistic and biblical thoughts and actions. This is the gift of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling/talk therapy/psychotherapy. I will share more about CBT in future posts.

So on my second session with Sarah, I took the question "What is the meaning of Life?" home with me to pray and explore it further.

To be continued......

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

God our dwelling place

Yesterday, I wrote to several precious friends in my life, as I reflected on God's goodness in causing our paths to cross in many wonderful ways, and how their friendships have been such a blessing to me.

George Wong, my brother-in-Christ in Brunei, replied with an encouraging note and he shared that the book of prayer of Moses on Psalms 90 is also very helpful to him as he attended the funeral service of a loving brother who went home to be with the Lord recently. Psalms 90:1 began by speaking of the Lord being our dwelling place in all generations.

This morning, as part of my personal devotion, I read the encouraging writings of CH Spurgeon in his Morning and Evening on Psalm 91:9 and he also mentioned something about Psalms 90:1! Spurgeon also wrote about God who is our refuge being our dwelling place and habitation. Though we live in an ever changing world, there is no change with regards to God and His love for His people. He is our strong habitation whereunto we can continually resort. We are a pilgrim in the world, but at home in our God. In the earth we wander, but in God we dwell in a quiet habitation.

“Thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.” - Psalm 91:9

The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen, the trumpet sounded, the ark was in motion, and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain, up the hill side, or along the arid waste of the wilderness. They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place. Even wells and palm trees could not detain them. Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.” The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich to-day and poor to-morrow; he may be sickly to-day and well to-morrow; he may be in happiness to-day, to-morrow he may be distressed-but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God. If he loved me yesterday, he loves me to-day. My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is “my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort.” I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.
(CH Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, February 27, Morning)

My brother, Arthur, who is in New Zealand, took this photo at Muriwai Beach, West Auckland, New Zealand.

Psalms 90
1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterda
y when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years
wherein we have seen evil.
16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Some other lovely photos my brother, Arthur, took at Muriwai Beach, West Auckland, New Zealand.

The Love of God and His Amazing Grace

Yesterday, I shared of how God brought to my remembrance the many precious friendships He has placed in my life. I love my friends not only for what they are, but also for what I am when I am with them.

I think true friends have a sanctifying influence on one another. Instead of seeing through one another, they see one another through all the changing scenes of life. True friends are those who knows all about me, my strength and weaknesses and still love and accept me despite the difference in my personality with them or how they may not see eye to eye with me in some things. True friends pray for one another and desire to see each other grow in the love of God and walk more closely with God, and serve Him more fervently. I think true friends are those who are able to admonish and correct one another whenever necessary though that can be painful at times. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6) True friends deal kindly and gently with one another instead of speaking harshly or with condemnations. True friends desire the good of one another, and his/her happiness and well being is more important to me.

True friends hope against hope that their friends will change for the better and God can do a deeper work in their souls. True friends do not give up on one another. I read somewhere that "True friends are those who come in when the whole world goes out." True friends do not forsake us even when the world and everybody else forsake us. And such a true Friend we have in Jesus !

.... he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

True friendships in Christ caused others to see rather clearly that we are the children of God, and we sincerely love our brethren like the way God loves us.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35

In true Christian friendships of brotherly love, we are willing to lay down our lives for our brethren or friends, if need be. Most of us will not be called to literally lay down our life for our Lord or our brethren. But daily we are called to take up our cross and follow the Lord. We are called to deny ourselves and esteem others better than ourselves. When we take up our cross and walk in the ways of self-denial, the road can be rough and difficult, sometimes painful too, but we will find the Lord walking with us and blessing us in our walk and friendship with others. In His love alone can we find the courage and grace to do what is right for us and for others. Such unconditional love is what the Lord Himself has set before us in His denying His own comfort and suffered and bled for us on the cross that we might be reconciled to God. In His love alone we are enabled to love our brethren as ourselves which is what God desires us to do.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

If friends are constantly putting one another down, constantly hurting one another or constantly drawing one another away from God and lead one another to undesirable thoughts and actions, these are friendships that will not last forever nor do the friendships benefit each other and others around them.

How hard it is to develop a friendship that really honours God and benefit our friends' souls and ours! We are fallen creatures filled with sins and remaining corruptions. We failed the Lord and one another in so many ways. Though I tried my best to love my friends with the same love that God has loved me, and I pray daily for grace to do so, I am sadly conscious of my many sins and failures towards God and my friends. I thank God that with Him there is forgiveness of sins and I thank God for friends who accept me, forgive me of my faults, accepts me and receive me readily into their fellowship. I know that this is possible because of God's love for us and the love He has placed in our heart for one another. I pray that God may shine forth His love to others through me. I know I am but an instrument in the hands of a mighty, sovereign, just and yet loving God Who loves His people and sends His Son to die for the sins of His redeemed ones.

In all the relationships in my life, God is the One who fills my heart with His love to love Him, His people, my family and others He places along the various paths of my life. The reminder of our Lord Jesus Christ’s great love for us by laying down His life for us is always a great encouragement to me. It never cease to amaze me of God’s love for sinners like us.

I am reminded once again of a hymn/poem I like very much, “The Love of God”. I like the way the love of God is being described as greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above, would drain the oceon dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky! How true! The immeasurable depths and heights of God’s love! It has to be experienced to know what it means and even then we cannot fathom the whole of it.

It is interesting to note that this 3rd stan­za, which I like very much, had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity (quoted from Cyber Hymnal website).

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

As I consider my own sins, failures and weaknesses, and how I often failed the Lord despite His consistent love and patience, I am greatly moved to seek more of His grace to walk with Him afresh, and to love Him and His people more and more. I know that I cannot do it of myself. I need the Lord’s grace and strength. I am reminded of another poem/hymn "Amazing Grace" and I thank God for His amazing grace in my life.

"Amazing Grace"

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John New­ton, Ol­ney Hymns (Lon­don: W. Ol­i­ver, 1779)

I thank God that I belong to Him and nothing shall ever separate me from His love. Though in this life, I have my many portions of trials, afflictions and sufferings, God is with me and graciously working all things for His glory and my good. My long and painful episodes of severe depression are God's ways of sanctifying me and drawing me nearer to know His Love and Grace. My manic episodes are periods of grace of God in which God enables me to testify of His Love and Faithfulness, and time He gives me opportunity to know Him and serve Him, to know His people and serve them.

I pray that God may continue to lead and guide me in His ways, and take me home to be with Himself when my duties here are done. Meanwhile, I continue to run the race that He has set before me, looking unto our Lord Jesus Christ who Alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are

This quote "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" is another of my favourite friendship quotes.

Some months back, when I was very manic, I wrote very long emails to share with my friends in church about God's goodness and mercies to me. I also developed my website and put up my emails there for others to read. As I developed my blog, I dedicated one section to the experiences that I had with my counsellor, Sarah, at the Counselling and Care Centre, Singapore. In that section, I shared of my correspondences with Sarah. Sarah was a trainee at the Centre and she helped and counseled me from Jan 2007 to Apr 2007. Sarah was trained to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is a form of therapy that helps us to identify our unhelpful or unrealistic thinking patterns and to change them to more appropriate or realistic ones.

After my last session with Sarah, I was very moved by God's goodness and mercies to me in answering my prayers and provided such a gentle, kind, compassionate and godly counselor in Sarah. The nine sessions I spent with Sarah were life changing experiences for me. Through my time with her, I was led to embark on a new journey. It was a journey of self-discovery, of knowing God, others and myself better.

What I benefitted most from my sessions with Sarah was the way she helps me to understand God's love and that I am precious in His sight. This phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" best describe my short acquaintance with Sarah and the tremendous and blessed effect her friendship and kindness has on my life.

Sarah helps me to realize once again that God loves me despite my failures and weaknesses. She helps me to appreciate the wonderful truth that God is with me through all the changing scenes of life and He is working all things for my good and His glory. When I looked back on my life, many times I felt sad and regretted the many wrong decisions I have made in my life, or the things I wished I had done. My life is filled with regret and I could not appreciate any good that I have done in the past.

But my sessions with Sarah changed my life. I have had some 10 severe depression episodes over the last 20 years, each episode lasting between 3 to 6 months, sometimes more. During some depressive episodes, there were times when some friends told me that I am very emotional, and that I was not putting my faith and trust in God. If I could stop doing so, perhaps I will get well. And I believed them. So I hated myself in the past for being so emotional and for being unable to put my faith and trust in God, and unable to get well. But no matter how hard I tried, I do not get well. It is usually about 3 to 6 months later, or sometimes longer, that I began to get better and more functional.

During one counseling session, Sarah took out a very big piece of paper and markers of different colours. She asked me to chart the major events in my life in a graph. For major event in my life, I was to use a black marker to chart the time/year it happened. For every happy and wonderful event, I was to use a green marker to chart the time/year it happened. I was then to use a red marker to mark out those periods of time when I went through severe depression. As I use these different markers to chart the different event over the last 20 years, there are often some overlappings.

Before I met Sarah, I used to look at my life as a total failure (this is one of the faulty or unhelpful thinking pattern Sarah helped me to recognize and try to change). Sarah helped me to see that in my life there were not just the black timeline, there were the green ones as well though also intertwined with the red ones. And by the mercies of God, I began to see that the green timelines scattered throughout my life, and they were not few. I began to see God's goodness and mercies in my life in a different way! Sarah helps me to see that in life we do experience up and down throughout different periods of time. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we are well, sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we failed. But none of these experiences represent us as a person. They are just events in our life, and everyone go through it. My past and present failures does not make me a failure. I can seek God's forgiveness and help to learn from my mistakes and to do better the next time, by His grace. I can become a better person and grow through each experiences, though they are painful and difficult.

I wrote a tribute to Sarah after my last meeting with her, which expresses my deep heart-felt thankfulness to God for using her to be such a blessing to me. It was through my sessions with her that I am able to embark on a new journey that is changing my life in many wonderful ways, a journey that I am still pressing on now, by God's grace. In my tribute to Sarah, I also expressed my sincere appreciation to Sarah for her kindness, her friendship, her counsels and her willingness to walk that difficult journey with her. She has made such a difference in my life and I wanted her to know it, though I know she may never get to read that tribute as professionally she cannot keep in contact with me after my last session with her.

One of my church friends who read my tribute to Sarah told me that she thinks I am a very emotional person and that I value friendship a lot, and that is why I can be disappointed easily when others let me down or do not reciprocate my friendship.

I think my church friend is right. I am someone who feels very deeply. And when I loved, I loved completely. I do not know how to withhold myself. I give of myself whole heartedly. But with such love, I often suffered tremendously. I went through much rejections and pains over the years when friends let me down. Some got married and could never be my close friend anymore as now their spouses are their closest friend on earth, and they have to attend to their family needs which are more important than my friendship.

But why after suffering so much pain and disappointments in human friendship that I still do not learn from my mistakes? Why do I keep loving and keep being hurt, and yet continue to love. I thank God that He sets the best example of love for me and He is the one enabling me to love others with His love. When I was deeply hurt, I found consolation in God's love which is enduring and unchanging. It never fails to amazed me that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us and redeemed us from eternal condemnation, reconciled us to Himself so that we can enjoy eternal life in Him one day. No matter how I failed Him, after I became a Christian, God's love remains unchanging for me. He still showers His goodness and mercies upon me each day. His love far surpasses that of any human love I have ever experienced. In Him, I found that I can cast myself wholely upon, love Him with all my heart and will never be rejected or let down.

It is hard to fathom this love of God, that our Lord Jesus Christ loved me enough to lay down His life for me. Who will lay down his life for a friend? Maybe some might. But what is that compared to the Son of God laying down His life for sinful and ungrateful creatures of dust like us? Yet God demonstrated His love for us through such a sacrifice.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

To be honest, if we have experienced such rich and enduring love of God, it is quite hard to keep this love to ourselves :-) I found my heart overflowing with God's love which I cannot contain in my heart! I have to give it away :-)

So I began once again to love, but this time with God's love. I prayed for my friends and I seek with God's grace to love them like the way He loved me. No doubt, I still experienced rejection and disappointments from time to time, and it still hurts. But I am no longer in bondage to love. The Lord enables me after a period of hurting (it is normal and healthy to go through the healing process), to let go, and move on with my life and to continue to seek out others who can benefit from God's love through me. I thank God for the many wonderful friends He places along the various paths of my life. I thank God for their love and kindness, which are tokens of God's love for me. I thank God too for enabling me to love them with His love which endures forever.

So my dear friends, I may not say this very often, but this phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you", is for you too, for the difference you have made in my life and the way your friendship is helping me to change and grow in many wonderful ways. "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you"

Monday, February 25, 2008

We do not remember days, we remember moments

This is one of my favourite quotes on friendship. I think it does not only apply to the relationship between a man and a woman or a husband and a wife.

I thank God for the many friends He has provided throughout my life.

I am thinking of my good friend, Anushea, since I was in primary school. She has been a very dear friend for many years, loving and accepting me all the time.

I am thinking of my friend, Siew Lee, who was my Manager in a Trustee company. She gave of her substance very sacrificially to support me and my family through my 4 years of Bible College training. Her friendship and kindness has been a tremendous blessing in my life.

I am thinking of my Pastors and my friends in my previous Church and in my current church. Many of them are praying for me, writing to me, talk to me on the Lord's day when I go to church, go to beach with me or other outings. Some gave love gifts anonymously, while others gave omega-3 fish oil and most recently, a dear sister-in-Christ is starting to pay for my renewal of membership with an all ladies gym so that I can resume regular exercise as it is helpful in my management of manic depressive illness or bipolar disorder.

I am thinking of my church friends, sis Grace Yong, bro Arthur and bro Hwee Kwan, who kindly remind me when they think I over-straining myself during a manic episode. I am thankful for Aunty Ruth who prays for me daily whenever I have a relapse of severe depression and who takes me to the beach whenever I am better as she knows I love to go to the beach.

I am thinking of Theresa and Wee Chin whose fellowship and kindness has been a tremendous encouragement to me. I am also thinking of Esther Chew in Canada who writes very encouraging email to encourage me and to share of God's goodness to her in her missionary works and labour for our Lord.

I am thinking of Ming Shu, Louise and Shirley whom I worked with for 4 years. For their friendships, kindness and forebearance. I am also thinking of the kind friendships of Tong and Sue who own a stationery shop near my old office. They are praying for me and encouraging me on various alternative ways to get well. They are also helping to sell some of my bookmarks at their stationery shop :-) so that I can share my passion for photography and handiworks with others. Thank God for them.

I am thinking of George and Siew Geok in Brunei, who send very encouraging emails with very lovely attachments of pictures and powerpoint slides. Thank God for their faithfulness in sending these lovely mails to me.

I am thinking also of bro Johnson See and Pastor Chris Coleborn who is a minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, who shares my passion to help children with special needs. My meeting with Pastor Christ Coleborn together with my good friend, Dr Chin Ming Shu, to pray and deliberate on the possibility of starting a support group for Christian parents of children with special needs, left a very deep impression in my heart even upto now. Though we did not managed to start a support group together here in Singapore, the workshop Pastor Chris Coleborn conducted while he was in Singapore was most encouraging and helpful to many parents of children with special needs, and for me and others who come into contact with these children and their parents. These children will always have a special place in my heart.

I am thinking of my newfound friends through blogging ie. Marja, Michelle, Anne, Merelyme, Dreamwriter, Susan, Amanda and Desiree. Thank God for these friends through whom I am able to learn and share with. I am also starting to get to know Jim who is a Christian and he writes very well. Thank God that through them I am also able to enjoy the benefit of an online support group! This is something I have never thought of :-)

I am thinking of my 3 newfound penpals who emailed me after they read my posts on this blog ie. Juliet, Jackie and Michelle. How encouraging to read their mails and to know of their willingness to write and share with me on a more personal basis. Thank God for them.

Thank God for all the friends He has given to me. I may not remember the days and exact time I spent with them, but I remember some of the special moments we shared.

So this quote "We do not remember days, we remember moments" are for all of you who are my dear friends. Thank God for all of you!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Let each day be your masterpiece

Before I became a Christian, this phrase "Let each day be your masterpiece" has been one of my favourite quotes.

I like the way life is seen as a piece of work or art in which each day is our masterpiece. We strive to do our best for our family, the people around us, the society and for ourselves.

I like to give of my best to each day of my life. I love life with all its mysteries and beauties. I strive to do my best in whatever I do. Not sure whether it is because I am some kind of a perfectionist, or this is a part of my character trait.

After I became a Christian, this phrase takes on a new meaning as I strive to live in God's strength for His glory and the benefit of His people.

I hope to live each day to the best of my ability and present it as a masterpiece to God Who creates me, gives me life and gives me the grace and strength to live for Him.

I seek our Lord Jesus Christ daily to know Him and how best I can serve Him. I try to do my best daily in whatever I am called to do. I do all things joyfully as unto the Lord. In my difficulties and struggles, I cast myself upon our Lord and look to Him for grace to cope.

I try to love God and the people around me to the best ability I can. I know I failed many times but with God's grace, I will keep trying. I am learning to cherish the people around me and reflect God's love in my relationship with them. I pray that others may see God's love and grace in my life, my works, my relationship with them, etc. And they will know a little that God is my Creator and I am one of His masterpieces :-)

I thank God for the pleasant experience in my part-time job assignment recently. On the last day of my work on Tuesday, I made some of these bookmarks for my colleagues with this phrase.

JQ likes them very much. She has never seen this phrase before but she said she is beginning to like it very much.

JQ emailed me 2 days ago. She said one of my bookmarks is already sleeping in one of her books. And she is masterpiecing her days :-)

Glad that this phrase is having an impact in her young life :-)

I thank God that He is my help and strength daily. Though I have many struggles with severe depressive episodes in the past and even now I am still learning to manage this bipolar disorder (manic - depressive illness), I know God is with me daily. He is my help and strength.

Hi, if you are interested to make some of these bookmarks for yourself or your friends, you can download some Free Bookmark Templates from my "Homemade Crafts and Gifts" blog and I shared some free tips there as well on how to make them :-)

Friday, February 22, 2008

My therapeutic Hobbies

Thank God that most people with bipolar are rather creative. So I enjoy writing as I can express my thoughts, feelings and emotions freely through writing.

I also enjoy photography as it allows me to capture the beauties in God's creations and precious moments I spend with loved ones or I see in others. I love to share with others the photos I have taken so that they too can appreciate the beauties of God's creations. You can see more of the photos I have taken on my "Around Singapore" blog.

I do enjoy making bookmarks, cards and calendars too. Sometimes I also do cross-stitch. Usually I made these as gifts for my friends. I like to personalized these gifts for my friends and put my favourite verses or phrases on them. You can see more of my handiworks on my "Homemade Crafts and Gifts" blog.

My brother took some photos of very lovely flowers in New Zealand and I used them to make bookmarks. Recently, I visited the Sentosa Flower exhibition at Sentosa Island in Singapore. I took some lovely pictures of flowers. I also love to take pictures of the beach. Yesterday, I tried using some of these photos to make some bookmarks:

My brother took the pink rose in New Zealand and I took the yellow flowers during a briskwalk session around the neighbourhood of my home.

These flowers are taken at Sentosa Flower exhibition at Sentosa Island, Singapore.

Both these pictures are taken at East Coast Beach, Singapore.

The blue one is taken on a sunny day while the green one is taken on a cloudy and windy day.

Hmm... strange that the beach looks so different on different days. Kind of like us with bipolar - extremely different moods on different days :-)

Hi, if you are interested to make some of these bookmarks for yourself or your friends, you can download some Free Bookmark Templates from my "Homemade Crafts and Gifts" blog and I shared some free tips there as well on how to make them :-)

Free Calendars 2010 and Free Planners 2010 Resources:

Free Bookmarks Resources:

Free Cards Resources:

Free Handicrafts Resources : Free Cross-stitch

Free Sewing Resources : Knitting

Free Origami Resources:

Free Arts and Crafts for Kids Resources:

Nice Piano Instrumental Music Resources:


For the treatment of my bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), currently, I am taking 2 medications ie. mood stabiliser (lamotrigine 100mg, brand name Lamictal) and anti-psychotic (quetiapine 25mg, brand name Seroquel) to be taken every night. Whenever I am down with severe depression, I will need to take an anti-depressant ie. 20mg Fluoxetine (or common brand name Prozac) for 7 to 10 days. The anti-depressant does not cure me but it lifts me up to a more functional level. Then I am able to make use of other helps such as reading the Bible, pray, regular exercise, reduce stress, recreation or breaks (see my coping strategies).

My Doctor said I will probably need to be on Lamictal for lifelong as it will help to stabilise my mood on the long term basis. As bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is a chronic and lifelong condition, mood-stabiliser is crucial in the management of it. Lamictal is less toxic than Lithium salts and it is another option available that helps in treating bipolar. My Doctor said I probably will need Seroquel too as Seroquel will help to prevent relapses of depression. Seroquel is an anti-psychotic and it works by changing the actions of chemicals in the brain. Seroquel is used to treat the symptoms of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

But medications alone is not enough. Medications can only help if used together with other management techniques or helps which I am learning use to manage my condition. I am learning to recognize what can trigger off my episodes and look out for early symptoms so that I can either prevent or shorten the episodes. I discovered that stress and strain over a period of time will bring about a relapse severe depression. Hypomania behaviours will worsen if I have little sleep or rest, or take on more and more projects. After months of hypomania, depression will follow. It is like a cycle. I am learning to arrest these cycles earlier or use various helps to shorten them. By God's mercies, I am making small progress which I am thankful for. Thank God for providing various helps.

I have also been taking large dosage of Omega-3 fish oil supplements through the kindness of 2 church friends for the last 9 months or so. Omega-3 fish oil is said by some writers to help with bipolar disorder in the long run when taken on a regular basis.

I hope that one day, by God's enablement, I can manage my condition so well that I can be on lower dosage of medication or without medication eventually. But I know that at this point of time, I still need to continue with the medication in order to be more functional. Although the medication have their side-effects, at least at this moment they helped me to be more functional. Without the help of medication, I will still be in severe depression and will have to wait for the cycles to run their courses before I can function which is usually after 3 to 6 months or sometimes longer. And the frightening truth is that my condition has worsened over the years. My interval of my relapses were closer and my symptoms were more severe and less bearable. My severe depressive episodes have become more suicidal and these suicidal tendency are harder to fight. Thank God for preserving me. I believe that medication and other helps will help me to get better and cope better. So I am learning prayerfully to use other coping helps.

I hope that with the various helps, my down time will be lesser and lesser and I can contribute more to the Lord's works, my family and the society at large. I thank God that there are various helps available now for bipolar and other mental health condition so that we may be able to continue to live in the society and contribute in small ways. In the past, without these helps, people with mental health conditions are confined to institutions and isolated from the society.

I know that ultimately it is God who preserves and restores me. But it is also my responsibility to take care of myself by using the means and helps God has made available to me. There has to be a balance between God's sovereignty and man's responsibilities. So I make use of these means (see my coping strategies) prayerfully, looking to God to use these for my recovery. I pray daily for God's guidance to me to the right helps and learn to manage my condition so that I can be more functional and able to continue to serve our Lord.

I know that our Lord will preserve and strengthen me for as long as He wants me to serve Him here. When my service are done, He shall call me home to be with Him, to enter into my eternal rest and to enjoy communion with Him forever. So meanwhile, I look to Him daily, for grace and strength to run this race that is set before me, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Finding a Good Doctor

I thank God for providing for me a very good lady doctor early in my endeavour to seek medical help, through the recommendations of my former employer who knows this lady doctor. I was treated by Dr Pauline Sim of LP Clinic in Singapore. Some details on her Clinic are given on my "Who to Contact in Singapore" page.

Dr Sim is a very concerned and kind psychiatrist. She always has a smile on her face. She listens attentively to my description of my symptoms and experiences. She reassures me that with the right medications and other helps, my condition will improve and I can lead a close to normal life and be useful to the society. She is always very positive, hopeful and encouraging. I thank God for using Dr Sim to help me.

For some months after I first got better in April 2007, I did attempt to seek medical help from a hospital where I can get subsidized fees for consultation and medications, due to financial constrain. But somehow I find it difficult to really communicate with this male doctor. He is a very nice doctor and genuinely concern for his patients. He is also very humorous and I always found myself laughing at his jokes when I go for my reviews. He always complained that I should have stayed on with Dr Sim as in the hospital they already have too many subsidized patients to handle ! He said this to me on my every visit for review. Hmm.... I honestly do not know whether he is joking with me or he is seriously unhappy about it :-)

I somehow do prefer a lady doctor and due to other reasons, especially a bad relapse in end of 2007, I saw it as providence and of necessity to make a switch back to Dr Sim when the Lord provided for me financially through the kind love gifts of some church friends. Thank God that my condition has improved tremendously under Dr Sim’s care once again. Dr Sim not only monitor my medications and adjust the dosage accordingly, she also taught me how to recognize early symptoms, how to adjust my medication when necessary, how to arrest a relapse or shorten an episode by using other coping strategies. She is equiping me to handle this illness so that I can be more functional.

I realize that it is important to find a good Doctor as well as a Doctor that I can work together with on a long term basis. My Doctor is my partner in treatment and recovery. It is important for me to find a Doctor that I can speak openly with, who will listen to me and emphatize with me, who will offer helpful suggestions and be invested in my recovery. I also appreciate Dr Sim's honesty and firmness with me. When I am better, I am often hypomanic and sometimes I have unrealistic expectations of myself or will try to undertake projects that are beyond my ability or more than I can handle. Thank God that Dr Sim will help to analyse my thoughts and redirect me back to reality! She said she will help "to bring me back to earth" :-)

This condition is not like other medical conditions where a Doctor just need to know the symptoms and then prescribed the standard medications. Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is a life-threatening and chronic illness that affects different individuals in different ways. It is there necessary to find a Doctor who is willing to understand me, my make up and personality, how this illness is shaping or effecting my life and help to work with me on the medications that will help me to function more stably in the long run. A Doctor who is willing to explore with me the possibilities of my relapses or the causes of worsening symptoms and advise me how best to manage my medications and illness. This I have found to be possible with Dr Sim’s help.

I thank God for His kind provisions of love gifts through various friends in my church who gave of their substance anonymously and very generously. It is with this merciful provisions of God through them that enable me to continue treatments with Dr Sim. I thank God for my part-time job assignment recently that enable me to earn some income and continue with my treatments besides meeting my daily needs. Now I am benefitting from a combinations of different coping means. Thank God for His ever provisions.

Medical Help and Medications

Some people are apprehensive of seeking medical help when they suffer from severe or prolonged depression as they did not want to be put on medications due to the side-effects of medications. Some may not want a diagnosis by the Doctor or Psychiatrist.

For a long time, I didn’t want to seek professional or medical helps. Partly because I didn’t know or didn’t think my condition is a medical illness. Partly also because I believe as a Christian I should weather the episodes by looking to God and waiting on Him alone. I often searched my heart and find many past sins which I may have committed unknowingly. I saw my own pride, self-centredness, selfishness, unbelief and other sins. I prayed and asked for God's forgiveness over and over again. But often no amount of soul searching or repentance bring about deliverance. It is often 3 to 6 months later, or sometimes longer, that I began to get better and more functional. Whenever I am better, I will be very cheerful and happy most of the time, more creative, more energetic and more talkative, and more productive in my work and service for the Lord.

It was during a very severe relapse of clinical depression in Dec 2006, through the encouragement of my former employer (who is my good friend) and my 2 colleagues, that I was led to seek medical help as I was extremely suicidal and could not cope with my work and life. Thank God that by His mercies I reacted well towards the medication. After a week of being on an anti-depressant (fluoxetine or common brand name Prozac), I began to feel better. I was more functional and able to continue with my work. I did experience some side-effects of the medications such as dry mouth, constant waking up in the night, etc but I got over them after sometime.

The anti-depressant didn't cure me. It only lifted me up to a more functional level so that I can make use of other helps to get better. I was able once again to read the Bible and pray, and found comfort in God's Words. These I could not experience when I was going through severe depression as my thoughts and feelings are flat, I have difficulties concentrating in reading and I could hardly absorb what I read. Thank God that medication did lift me up to a level that I can benefit from spiritual means.

From thereon, I went for counselling to manage my thoughts and understand what I was going through and what might help. I also go for regular walk and make use of other coping means.

Through this experience, I began to read and do my own research in order to understand depression. In my experiences thus far, it is most important to find a good doctor/physician/psychiatrist.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Enjoying God's creations in many wonderful ways

Thank God that while recovering from my last relapse of depression end of last year, I was able to do a lot of brisk walkings around the neighbourhood of my home as well as at some beach.

Through regular brisk walkings, it has helped to strengthen my body and mind. Providentially, I also picked up photography. I saw many beautiful flowers and plants while walking in the neighbourhood of my home. Photography allows me to express the creative side of me just as writing allows me to express my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

I also love to go to the beach and watch the sea and waves. Somehow the waves has a soothing effect on me. It reminded me of the majesty of God and His power in creating all things, and His sovereignty in ordering all His creations for His glory. I am reminded of God's unchangeable and unfailing love to His beloved people who are saved by grace through the cleansing of the precious blood of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

What a comfort it is to remember that God who created all things, Who has redeemed me from sins and eternal condemnation, continues to watch over me through all the changing scenes of life. And nothing will ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. How blessed it is to belong to Him!

Taken at Sentosa Flower exhibition at Sentosa Island, Singapore

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14

Taken at Changi Beach, Singapore

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Psalm 8:3-4

Taken at East Coast Beach, Singapore

The sea of God's mercy should swallow up our particular afflictions. - Luther

Taken at East Coast Beach, Singapore

I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalm 37:25

To see more of the photos I have taken, visit my "Around Singapore" blog where I share some photos and some places of interest in Singapore :-)

Free Calendars 2010 and Free Planners 2010 Resources:

Free Bookmarks Resources:

Free Cards Resources:

Free Handicrafts Resources : Free Cross-stitch

Free Sewing Resources : Knitting

Free Origami Resources:

Free Arts and Crafts for Kids Resources:

Nice Piano Instrumental Music Resources: