Monday, December 30, 2013

Summary of My Israel Trip: Experiences, Pictures, and Devotionals

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life.



Lessons From the Desert Summary

This page will be updated daily as we go in the series.

1. Walk Not Only With Our Eyes, But With Our Feet

2. Obedience

3. Tamarisk Tree Living

4. Use the Talents God Gives Us

5. The Weight of Sin

6. Shepherding

7. Living Water

8. God's Protection (City Gate)

9. Bedouin (Desert) Hospitality

10. God is Faithful and He Provides

11. God is My Rock and Fortress

12. Intentional Living

13. God is Gracious and Merciful

14. To Have Feet Like A Deer

15. To Be Keepers of the Word

16. Discipleship and the Importance of Community

17. Action Speaks Louder Than Words

18. The Language of Culture

19. The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

20. To Be Zealous For God

21. Worldly Gain Versus Eternal Life Perspective

22. Don't Rush Through Life

23. Building For God Versus Ourselves

24. Appreciation For Life

25. Giving Our All Because God Gives Good Exchange Rates!

So, What Now? 

As I've already shared here, there are more to our lives than just our physical beings. We can live as healthily as we can, work as hard as we can, earn money as much as we want, master all languages and skills as fast as we can, and attain all fame and power as much as we want, but at the end of the day, when we are all set and done, when we lie in bed waiting to leave this earth, what meaning do they hold? Sure, maybe you will be known as the greatest artist or businessman or builder, just like Herod the Great, but the Bible says if we don't learn to love, we are like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. We may be happy, but we have no joy. We may be full, but never satisfied. We may be rich, but no contentment. We may be surrounded by many people, but still feel lonely. 

The Sadducees and the Pharisees asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the Law and Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. We are instructed to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. Building a legacy, sharing God's blessings with other people, being hospitable, loving others, living purposefully, appreciating life - those were some lessons I want to remember doing. This is a question that is in my mind: when all is set and done and if God were to call our lives today, can we say that we have made use of this life purposefully, for His glory, and finished this race well? 

"Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?" - Francis Chan

What spoke to you the most in this series?


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Difference Between the Gift Wrap and Its Content


Many of us write our new year's resolutions as we begin a new year. We hope to exercise, eat healthier, read more books, learn a new skill, not miss church, pray and learn the Word regularly, maybe buy a nice house or a car, etc. I am no exception. I dream of many things. But what is more important? 

"A beautiful house" is just the gift wrap; "a happy family" is the content.

"A wedding celebration" is just the gift wrap; "love, understanding, and responsibility" are the contents.

"A luxurious bed" is just the gift wrap; "a peaceful, sound sleep" is the content.

"Wealth" is just the gift wrap; "a joyful heart" is the content.

"Delicious food" is just the gift wrap; "nutrition, energy, and health" are the contents.

"Beauty" is just the gift wrap; "our heart" is the content.

"A book" is just the gift wrap; "knowledge" is the content.

"Position" is just the gift wrap; "loyalty and service" are the contents.

"Going to church" is just the gift wrap; "doing what is taught" is the content.

"Charisma" is just the gift wrap; "character" is the content.

Let us learn to prioritize the "contents of the gift", while we also do not forget to take care the "gift wrap."

What about our hearts? What is it in our hearts that we would like to present to God?


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Giving Our All because God Gives Good Exchange Rates!


As we wrap up our "Lessons From the Desert" series, I'd like to close with some thoughts this Christmas day and as we are nearing the end the year of 2013. We know of Christmas as the day that Jesus was born and we celebrate by giving gifts to our loved ones. The wise men gave gifts to Jesus, not to anyone else, and Jesus became the ultimate Gift from God to all of us. In John 12:1-8, Mary anointed Jesus' feet with a very expensive oil that was worth a year's wages and she gave it all, not because of anything Jesus had done for her, but because she loved Jesus just the way He was.

Our forefather Abraham, our "father of faith," was described as a jar of perfume with a closed lid (so its fragrance will not go out), but as soon as God asked him to leave his father's household and walk his way into a land which "God will show," its sweet fragrance began to spread and people could smell and trace their existence for generations. Abraham's complete surrender and trust in God allows the love and goodness to be spread to other people and people could trace his presence wherever he went.

There is a story of a beggar who's been begging for rice all day long and found himself only with five grains of rice. Then he saw a prince coming his way and was so happy that perhaps the prince will give him some more rice. Instead, when the prince arrived, he asked the beggar to give him some rice and the beggar couldn't believe his ears. He finally gave the prince two out of the five grains of rice he has while still in a state of shock. Then he realized, after the prince left, that for each grain of rice he gave, the prince gave him a bag of gold. He wished that he'd given it all.

This story is like our relationship with God. God always gives us good exchange rates. As a loving Father that He is, He longs to love us just as our parents love us unconditionally. If we don't give our all, we may not experience the sweet blessings that God has in store for us, but when we give our all and are passionate about walking with Him, we will experience the fullness of His love in our lives.

Like Mary, let us give our all to God. Like Abraham, let our lives be like perfume too... diffusing scents of God's love to other people and leaving a trace of our presence wherever we go so that God's name may be glorified. 

"Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?" - Francis Chan

Do we love God because what He had done for us or do we love God just the way He is? Mary chose to give it all to Jesus even before Jesus died on the cross for her sins.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: Appreciation for Life

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 24

On our last day in Israel, we visited the Holocaust museum, where it showcased the painful tragedy and mass killing of the Jews. Six million people were brutally killed, including two million children. It was so hard to learn about them but I learned to appreciate life. I learned to remember what many people had to go through during wars and prosecution, and the pain and sufferings many children of God have to go through as they follow Him. I learned to not take children for granted. I learned to love everyone just as Jesus loves them. I hope I will not forget everything I learned in the desert. I thank God that He brought us out of the desert, but we pray that He doesn't take the "desert" out of us. Because the desert is when we experience God's faithfulness, grace, and mercy. It is when we are closest to Him as we learn to depend, follow, surrender, and trust in Him completely. It is where we learn to give thanks to God because He is good and because it is good to give thanks. He is worthy of our praise and His love endures forever.


In my life I try to search for "green pasture" in the desert. But I've come to realize that the desert is the green pasture. The whole desert experience is God's gift. It is where we experience God's presence, undying love, and an intimate relationship with Him in ways we can never experience anywhere else. It brings smile to my face every time I remember Israel. Though the trip has ended, my journey has not. It is just the beginning.


"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' - Matthew 22:36-39


Monday, December 23, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: Building For God versus Ourselves

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 23

We saw a few of Herod the Great’s mighty palaces and fortresses and he built for himself, including Herodium and the ones in Masada and Caesarea.

Remnants of Herodium


Herod's palace at Caesarea had a freshwater pool built in the middle of the mediterranean sea (how ridiculously mind blowing is that?). When Jesus was born, Herodium was one of the largest palaces in the world, including baths, a gigantic pool, gardens, and a colonnade over 1000 feet long. It's his fortress-palace and also his burial place. Towards the end of his life, he destroyed this palace (Herodium) by filling them with sands so that only his tomb stood out and no one could use the place. Sure, he was considered the greatest builder of his time, but he built everything for his selfish self. Compare Herod to Abraham who planted tamarisk trees for the benefit for other people. Jesus "built" everything for God. So who is it that we're "building" our lives for? It is for ourselves or for God?

Remnants of the fresh water pool at Herod's palace in Caesarea

Herod's palace by the Mediterranean sea



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: Don’t Rush Through Life

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 22

View of Jerusalem

We visited the Temple Mount (Second Temple) in Jerusalem. We walked around the temple and witnessed just how grand it must have been during Jesus' time. We weren't able to go inside but we were able to see what it looked like in the reconstruction model shown in the Israel museum. The thing that caught my eye were the steps to the temple. They were big, deep steps, and their width vary with every step. It was purposefully made that way so that people could take the time to see the beauty of what's in front of them instead of rushing and dashing up to the top. With each step, you need to stop for a second and automatically looks up because it was not easy to rush through your way up. There is something we can learn from this too. Our modern lifestyle is all about being efficient, quick, and easy. We often rush through life because we think we are going to miss everything if we don't hurry up - just because there are way too many things that we need to check off our list and there is never enough time. We tell our children to hurry up as they are admiring the flowers and noticing interesting bugs on the street because we are going to be late. We tell our children that we don't have time for this and that because we need to do something else. We are essentially saying "I don't have time for you to enjoy your life because I am too busy and what you are doing is not important." I'm guilty of this and I am learning to take time and enjoy the sweet simplicity of life, giving my daughter her time and space instead of hurrying her through life. Just like when we eat a plate of something delicious, we don't just gulp down everything quickly, instead, we take the time to savor the taste a bite at a time and we learn to appreciate the difference between good quality food versus the not-so-good ones.

Things become more beautiful and love comes easier when we don't rush.

Second temple model at Israel museum

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: Worldly Gain versus Eternal Life Perspective

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 21

Worldly Gain versus Eternal Life Perspective

Passage Reading: Matthew 16:13-26

We went to Caesarea Philippi and learned about the gates of Hades and how people worshipped Pan, the fertility God (Matthew 16:18). Maybe they thought that by worshipping Pan, a (foreign) fertility God, they would bring "life and fertility" to themselves, their herds and crops. They didn't realize that doing this brought forth death, stealing and killing their souls.


"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" - Matthew 16:26


We too often participate in worldly activities or pursuing something that we think will bring us life and realize it brings us nothing but disappointment, distant relationship with God, and hopelessness. It is when we take up our cross and pursue the kingdom of God that we will find real life.


"On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" - Matthew 16:18


Wherever our "gates of Hades" are, they will not stand if we follow, obey, and push forward in pursuit of God's kingdom.


Then we talked about the next few verses from Matthew 16:19, from which I learned a very important lesson that changed my perspectives in how to live our life as we make decisions daily.


"...whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."


Our Pastor gave an excellent analogy to explain "binding and loosing": a rubber band. A rubber band can stretch. You can stretch it gently or you can stretch it wide and there will be a point where it will break. "Binding and loosing" in the Bible means to forbid and to permit. A pastor of a church says no to wine and no to getting drunk. Another pastore may have a different opinion about drinking wine and permit (loosing) the drinking to wine as long as you don't get drunk (forbid/binding). So just like how a rubber band can be stretched as little or as far, there is flexibility in the Bible, but there will be a point where we may go too far and cause us to sin. How far is too far? How much can I get away before I break God's commandments? God gives us brain and soul for a reason and He expects us to use them. He wants us to wrestle with Him as we make decisions, to think about His Words and do better, and bring about good changes to those around us. God is with us as we make decisions within the bounds of Scripture (within the rubber band), but as we become more permissive (loosing) in our choices, there is more room to break the Law (setting ourselves up for temptations or to sin). We are given an authority to "bind and loose" and we need to be responsible for the authority He's given us. So instead of always looking for loopholes and for a way out, why not think of ways to do everything we can to obey God's Word to the fullest so that we can honor God. Instead of asking how far is too far, why not ask how pure is too pure. Instead of asking how much we can get away with before we break God's Word, why not we think of how much we should keep the Law and be obedient. These are some lessons that we have to keep thinking while we go about living our lives.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: To Be Zealous for God

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 20

To Be Zealous for God

Passage Reading: Numbers 25

We visited Gamla, which is considered the "Masada of the north," and our Pastor shared with us the story of the fight between the Romans and the Jews (the Zealots) and the tragic ending of the Zealots. We then read a passage from Numbers 25, which is believed to be the precursor to the Zealot movement (The zealot was a movement formed against the Romans. They were extreme pharisees who knew and followed the Law strictly, but believed that suicide was better than slavery.) It explains how God made atonement for the Israelites because Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was zealous for the honor of his God. We were reminded that we too should be zealous in our walk with God and passionate about learning the Word.

On top of Mount Carmel


Passage Reading: 1 Kings 17-18

We were up on the beautiful Mount Carmel, a land that is fertile and water is abundant, thus the name Mount Carmel, which means "God's vineyard." We learned the story about Elijah from 1 King 17-18, how he passionately followed God, doing things that we may consider "too intense," gave offerings to God something that was in high demand (in this case offering big jars of water in the middle of a drought) - all the things that we may considered "too intense" or "over the top."


We know from the Bible how God was pleased with Elijah's love for Him and he was taken to heaven by a chariot and horses of fire. Then we read how Elisha asked God to give him twice as much passion as Elijah had (2 Kings 2:9) and he received it. This passage is about following God with passion. To give our ALL, not just some. We're to love the Lord our God will ALL our heart, with ALL our soul, with ALL our might. We can have that passion if we want to. Like Elisha, all we have to do is ask God to give us that burning passion, a renewed energy and the "fire of the Lord" will come down upon us.


"Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also liked up the water in the trench." - 1 Kings 18:38


We know by living day to day that we are likely to do good works and be successful if we're passionate about doing it. Likewise, if we are not passionate about what we do, it will show in the fruits of our labor. Following God passionately doesn't mean we will not experience challenges, struggles, or troubles. It is through trials that we will be able to make choices to obey His commands and as a result, our relationship with God grows deeper as we experience His faithfulness in our lives. As we follow Him, maybe there are times when we find ourselves at the back of the line or in the middle of the line. It is when we know that our walk with God is stagnant that we should ask for passion so that we can experience what it is like to be walking at the front line with Jesus. When we give our all and are passionate about walking with Him, we will experience the fullness of His love in our lives. God's fire is bigger than any jars of water and will lick up the water for us. He is bigger than any challenges we face and we will overcome it if we stay faithful in our walk with Him.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 19

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

Boundary marks on the fields

Passage Reading: Matthew 13:3-9

Above is a picture of boundary marks on a field in Israel. Each of us is given talents, time, and resources for which we are responsible for. God gives us a "boundary" of responsibility. But we often compare our lives to other people's. We often think why they have certain things and we don't. We often ask God for "more," but we can't even take care of what we already have. Our job is to be responsible for what He's given us. If this is all that God gives us, we give thanks. If God expands our boundary of responsibility, we also give thanks. The grass is not greener on the other side, but where we water it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: The Language of Culture

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 18

The Language of Culture


Passage Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:20

We drove through the Bet Netofa Valley to Zippori, an incredible archaeological site nearby Nazareth. There we discussed the language of culture and Jesus' ability as a master teacher to reach everyone in His midst, whether they knew the Text or not. While it is fine for us to hang out with people from the same culture and backgrounds (and it is normal because we all like to find a community who understands us), meeting new people from a different country or culture allows us to open up, build new friendships, understand the backgrounds that shape their lives. Understanding the language of culture is important in closing the gaps/barriers that we may have, be it religion, culture, language, or location.

"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law." - 1 Corinthians 9:20

Having people together over meals is one of the most powerful tool to build relationships. Food is a universal language and there is something about mealtimes that allow us to open up to each other. The Bible references Jesus eating with people from all walks of life and good things came out of it. Even mealtimes within our own family is usually the fun time of the day. 

What are your experiences with mealtimes?


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Recipe: Healthy Honey-Banana Muffins with Cinnamon and Ginger

Cinnamon and ginger are just lovely for this holiday season and this healthy version of banana muffins were a hit in the family, including the toddler. You can add your favorite nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, or dried berries in these muffins, but mine was just a plain one.



Yields 15 mini muffins

Ingredients 

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1/8 teaspoon baking soda 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated fresh ginger 
1 egg
1/4 cup honey 
1/4 cup sucanat (a natural sugar alternative)
1/6 cup milk 
1/8 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). 
2. Grease muffin pans with coconut oil. 
3. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir well.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the ginger, egg, honey, sucanat, milk, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Then add the mashed bananas and mix well. 
5. Pour wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Don’t over-mix.
6. Put the batter up to 2/3 of the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes until the top turns golden brown.

Bon app├ętit!


Lessons From the Desert: Action Speaks Louder Than Words

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 17

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Passage Reading: Matthew 25:34-36, 40

If we are leaders and are looking for people to be our disciples, our tendency would be to look for those who are educated, smart, perhaps rich and well-connected to the community. But Jesus chose the fishermen and tax collectors to be His disciples. It tells us that Jesus doesn't require us to be perfect to follow Him, but to have a relationship with Him and be obedient in following Him, allowing Him to continually shape and refine us to the people He wants us to be. He wants a relationship with us. The Bible talks about our relationship with God like the bride and groom relationship. It's covenantal love that requires commitment on both parts to love and be faithful. The Bible says "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your might. And love our neighbors as ourselves." How can we say we love our spouse if our actions don't reflect it? How can we say we love God if we are not obedient? How would the world know that we love God if we don't love our neighbors? We say we need to have more faith, to believe more. What does that really mean? Faith is something that is not always easy to understand, but faithful actions are easily understood by everyone from all walks of life. By building the "kingdom" (loving others, following God’s commands, etc.), they will find the King. Action speaks louder than words and true faith manifests in action.

Shevet Achim

We visited Shevet Achim, "a grace-based international community that brings children with congenital heart defects to the advanced medical centers in Israel. The name Shevet Achim comes from the Hebrew of Psalm 133, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity...For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life forevermore." We believe this promise to hold true for the troubled relationship between the children of Abraham in the Middle East Fundamentally Shevet Achim is an expression of God's grace. What we have to communicate is not the work we do but the animating spirit behind and through it: we are people in need of grace interacting with people in need of grace. This idea in no way belongs to us. And in no way do we keep it in perfection. Grace, beautiful to the soul and efficacious in reality, has a tendency to become old and encrusted. Therefore, at the heart of the interaction in Jerusalem between Muslims, Jews, and Christians, our desire is not to enlist people in our brand of religion but to experience a breakthrough of this truth ourselves. Only then does it become contagious. Grace received becomes grace given. Love received becomes love given. Old cycles are broken, kingdom comes. This is the great hope for us, as individual people and as a community: that our posture will become this divine, viral essence. Our activity consists of locating children with heart defects in cooperation with partner physicians, transporting them to Israel, sharing hospitality with them and their parents while in the country, and building partnerships to fund their surgeries."

Our Pastor with Mohammed, a little baby
who just had a heart operation.

When our Pastor was volunteering with Shevet Achim, she remembered a time when she had to bring a sick baby to cross from Jordan to Israel while fires and gun attacks were in the air. The baby had oxygen tank attached to him and the Israeli army could not allow the baby to enter Israel because oxygen tanks were used as a tool for explosives and they also did not want to risk the baby’s life by taking the oxygen tank away. They tried to cross again the next day and seeing the severity of his health, the head of the Israeli himself ran out and grabbed the baby with his oxygen tank attached and ran back to the car that would take him to the city, in the midst of gun fires that were shot as he was running to and fro. What an evidence of courage and love for those whom we don't even know. How much more would our Father in heaven fight and protect us?


"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I need clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me." - Matthew 25:34-36, 40

We're already among the fortunate ones if we can choose what food to eat today, because for most people, they don't even know if they have food to eat today. The smallest acts of kindness may make all the difference to a person's life. Let's love and live well so that the whole world may know about our loving Father.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Lessons From the Desert: Discipleship and the Importance of Community

This month at Pasture Living, I'm sharing what I learned during my Israel trip and why I think this series is very relevant to healthy living. I believe being physically healthy is important, but being mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy is also extremely important for a fulfilling and joyful life. If you missed any of this series, click here.

Advent Day 16

Passage Reading: John 13:34-35

Mount Arbel: This high mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee affords one of the most breath-taking view of the sea and the surrounding territory. It is also the site of Herod the Great’s killing of the Galilean zealots hidden in the caves.


Caves in Mount Arbel

Hiking on Mount Arbel, some parts were 90 degree inclination


We were up on Mount Arbel learning about discipleship and the importance of having a community, followed by a hike down the mountain. The hike was hard. It was long and steep and a fatal fall could happen if we didn't follow our leader's instruction, if we didn't help each other, and if we didn't focus. Some of us were afraid of heights, others were less experienced in hiking such steep slopes. But with the help and encouragement of our friends, by working together as a community, and following close to our leader and his instructions, we all made it safely. And even though it was long and steep, it didn't seem that long and steep because we were together. That was when it hit me. If I was just by myself, I don't think I could have done it. I was reminded the importance of following our leader and his instructions closely and having a community of friends to encourage us, comfort us, push us forward, and help us when we need it. Being a disciple of Jesus and following Him involves obeying His commands and it takes efforts and hard work. It's about taking up our cross and oftentimes there is no place to lay down our head. It's like hiking a mountain. We have to start at the valley and hike up. It can be long, steep, hot, and seem impossible. But when we follow close to Him, obey His commands, and with the help and support of our community, we will get there. Together. It is not about the destination, it's all about the journey. It is when we face challenges, trials, and sufferings that we pray more, grow closer to God, and learn to give thanks to God for His faithfulness through it all. It is those times when we can say that we are weak but He is strong.

Imagine being Jesus's disciples and having to follow Jesus everywhere, walking with sandals on rocky, sandy paths, hiking up and down the mountains under the baking sun. It is not easy but large crowds followed Him to listen to His teachings. Imagine the amount of efforts they have to do in order to be with Jesus. It is a rebuke to me that we too should desire to learn the Bible and find time to do and then apply it.

Studying God's Word on site



I have a desire to live as healthily as I can and sometimes it means saying no to junk food, even when I feel like it or I see others do it. And people often ask me what do I eat or cook if I can't use this or that, and the truth is so far I'm happy to use herbs, spices, sea salt, soy sauce, miso, seaweed, and other natural seasonings in my food. I learn new ways to make my food richer and more nutritious naturally (for example, making bone broth). I'm happy I get to learn something new, something better, and something I would not have explored had I not make a choice to live healthily. It's not always easy but I'm thankful for technology because there are tons of healthy recipes online and health blogs I can follow for inspirations and encouragements to keep me on my toes on the reasons why I am doing this. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:34-35