Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

A message every adult should read because children are watching us and doing as we do, not as we say...

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I learned that the little things
can be the special things in life...

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I knew that there is a God I could always talk to,
and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend
who was sick, and I learned that
we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you give of your time and money
to help people who had nothing,
and I learned that those who have something
should give to those who don't.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it,
and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw how you handled your responsibilities,
even when you didn't feel good,
and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it's alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know
to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I looked at you and wanted to say,
'Thanks for all the things I saw
when you thought I wasn't looking.'

Little eyes see a lot. Each of us (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, friend) influence the life of a child.

How will you touch the life of someone today? Let's share this. We will probably make each other, at least, think about our influence on others.

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

And leave the rest to God.

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Judas Asparagus

A friend just forwarded this to me. If you need a laugh today, then this should do it! A child was asked to write a book report on the entire Bible. This is amazing and brought tears of laughter to my eyes. I wonder how often we take for granted that children understand what we are teaching? :D

The Children's Bible in a Nutshell
(Through the eyes of a child...)

The Old Testament

In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, 'The Lord thy God is one, but I think He must be a lot older than that.

Anyway, God said, 'Give me a light!' and someone did.

Then God made the world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet.

Disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden.....Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn't have cars.

Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel.

Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.

After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh's people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don't lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff.

Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

One of Moses' best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town.

After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn't sound very wise to me.

After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore.

There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don't have to worry about them.

The New Testament

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, 'Close the door! Were you born in a barn?' It would be nice to say, 'As a matter of fact, I was.')

During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Democrats.

Jesus also had twelve opossums.

The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.

Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount.

But the Democrats and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn't stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.

Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Daily Digest #256

Be doers of the Word. —James 1:22

Listening can be a difficult thing to do for many of us. We usually believe what we already know, or that we know better, and we block anything that may affect our stance. But the thing is, it's not always about us. Why do we try to prove ourselves all the time, that our choices are better? Others who want to be heard express themselves, just as how we want to express ourselves. We may be sometimes stronger at this aspect, but it doesn't make us the official talkers :D We need to listen sometimes. There are so many things to learn, and we may just hear them from those we thought were weak or flawed or very much different from ourselves. It is when we truly listen that God speaks to us -- through prayer, circumstance or other people.

For this, let us pray. May we humble ourselves and learn to listen. May we accept that we do not know everything, and admit that a Higher Power does. May we choose love and kindness over righteousness. May we listen to understand, then speak with love. Enjoy the rest of the week! Pray always.

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Daily Digest #255

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. —Colossians 3:17

I can't help but remember the book "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom. It tells a tale about a man, Eddie, who is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his meaningless life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: Why was I here? A moving and profound contemporary fable, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is an important reminder of the interconnectedness of us all. (review from Google Book Search)

I would like to share some of the memorable quotes in the book. But before you read below, let us pray. May we always remember that we are who we are, and where we are, for a purpose. May we give glory to God in everything that we do -- counting our blessings, and doing our utmost for the time given to us. Pray always.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Memorable Quotes

No story sits by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river. (p. 10)

People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solice is meaningless. (p. 35)

This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for. (p. 35)

The human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesn’t just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed. (p. 48)

Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know. (p. 49)

No life is a waste. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone. (p. 50)

Young men go to war. Sometimes because they have to, sometimes because they want to. Always, they feel they are supposed to. This comes from the sad, layered stories of life, which over the centuries have seen courage confused with picking up arms, and cowardice confused with laying them down. (p. 57)

Time is not what you think. Dying? Not the end of everything. We think it is. But what happens on earth is only the beginning. (p. 91)

Sacrifice, you made one. I made one. We all make them. But you are angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost… You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something you regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to care of her sick father. (p. 93)

Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else. (p. 94)

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhood completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair. (p. 104)

You have peace when you make it with yourself. (p. 113)

Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move away. The moments that used to define them—a mother’s approval, a father’s nod—are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives. (p. 126)

Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves. (p. 141)

People say they “find” love, as if it were an object hidden by a rock. But love takes many forms, and it is never the same for any man and woman. What people find then is a certain love. (p. 155)

Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive. (p. 165)

Life has to end. Love doesn’t. (p. 173)

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Daily Digest #254

Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. —Matthew 28:20

While some people dread crowds or planes, I dread exercises. But I do remember, one time, during my jogging days *cough*, I imagined Jesus running beside me -- dressed in a white jogging outfit, and encouraging me to keep going until I completed ten laps. The idea may sound childish, or even ridiculous, but it certainly got me through the month-long strife. I was confident that Someone was with me, watching every step and fall, like a parent watching a child learn to walk. Looking at it now, I can't believe I really did it back then.

I'm glad to have remembered this one. Many times, I find myself doubtful and alone, but this experience serves as a reminder that He is truly here, and will help me endure whatever difficulty it is at hand, and get through it victoriously. For this, join me in prayer... Lord, fill our hearts with hope and strength to face the day. May we not be discouraged by threats, taunts or fear, but learn to focus on you instead. May we truly believe that You are here with us... ALWAYS.

Allow me to share this link once again: The Interview with God. Have a great day! Pray always.

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Daily Digest #253

Behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. —Luke 2:9

What I got from the phrase "God speaks to those who are quiet before Him" is this: it is a worry-free mind and a humble heart that hears God's calls. I couldn't help but find what Oswald Chambers wrote, as stated above. Here it is:

You also be ready . . . —Luke 12:40

A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him. Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle -- we must be spiritually real. If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are "looking unto Jesus" ( Hebrews 12:2 ), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.

For this, let us pray. May we be ready to respond to Jesus' calls any day, any time. May we develop a habit of praying. Our spiritual growth is between Jesus and ourselves alone -- may we build and strengthen this relationship above all else. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #252

Samuel took a stone . . . and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” —1 Samuel 7:12

Everyday is an opportunity to testify about God's grace in our lives. Everyday, we get answered prayers -- ours and others'. Things may not go as we planned or prayed for, but the bigger picture implies how God responds to everybody's prayers and needs.

Personally, I was enlightened upon reading the passage because I woke up with less enthusiasm. It felt like waking up on the same boring day where everything's a routine. But God reminded me how the heart works, and how the mind responds. He stressed how I needed to make the decision to turn this day into something extraordinary. I figured how a bad mindset at the beginning of the day can spoil the rest of the day, if and only I allow it to. It reflects a distrustful heart, and I already know that when I don't trust Him enough, my whole day is ruined. This led me to realize again how each moment is a blessing, and a chance to make a difference. And so, I'm making a choice.... I am going to be happy today :D

For this, join me in prayer. May we grow a grateful heart. May we not hesitate to share God's grace and love in our lives, testifying to those who are willing to listen. May we always count our blessings. Pray always.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Daily Digest #251

Is anything too hard for the Lord? —Genesis 18:14

Haaay age. It's funny how we deny our real age from the time we reach 30 :D I, on the other hand, had debated about my age numerous times before (I was often thought older than my age heheh, and I took it like some sort of dreadful disease). Anyway, this made me realize how we can be so conscious of our age, myself included. I notice how I usually ask for a person's age (directly or indirectly), maybe out of habit or mere curiosity. The question is, does it really matter when it comes to serving and loving God? Is it alright to assume that someone is being self-righteous for the slightest talk about God? We often tend to make assumptions or judgments on people's character/choices, or praise the person instead of God, when all we need to do is focus on the message, ponder on it, and make the choice to apply it in our lives or not.

Truly, age does not matter when it comes to loving and serving God. It is in our willingness to be used as His instrument. For this let us pray. May we age with grace and wisdom. May we build a close relationship with the Lord so we are guided in everything that we do. May we allow Him to work within us, and through us -- irregardless of age, and/or status. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #250

Let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:3-4

Many times I almost gave up caring for others. I am a giver by nature, and it truly makes me happy helping or making time for people. But due to circumstances I cannot control, my "begging" days came to a halt. I realized how I've grown to expect something in return, which made me compare between what I was giving out and taking in. It came to a point when I felt loving was exhausting. I needed people who didn't need me. In terms of unrequited love, I may just be one of the experts hehe :D

But God opened my eyes to tell me that I was loved. Through His words, He told me how I mattered to Him, how each person matters, and how He knows what my heart was saying. He healed my pain from numerous rejections. He made me realize how each person has a journey of his/her own, and that we can learn from each encounter. Lucky are we to find relationships that last. And He made me see this through my family, who has always been there for me, though separated by distance (thanks to the internet, we get to keep in touch as often as possible); and loyal friends, tested by time and circumstances, who have always offered a lending ear and a helping hand. I finally knew what "a friend in need is a friend indeed" meant (i honestly didn't understand this before): that a real friend is a person who trusts you enough to lean on you, and who unknowingly gives you the benefit of doing something selfless and good.

I am still healing, but I am looking forward to the day when I am able to love without expecting anything in return. For this, let us pray. May we ask God to give us the strength and courage to love. May we make time to help and to care. May we ask Him to bless our existing relationships and draw us closer to Him. May we focus on pleasing Him than ourselves. May we learn to value people who give their unconditional love. May we learn from people who reflect Jesus' face and truly apply the lessons in our lives. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #249

Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. —Ephesians 4:1

The reflection above made me look up for the meaning of my name! Hehe. Joanne = God is gracious. And indeed, He has, from the moment I wake up, until I lay down to sleep. I wasn't a morning person before, but now I am able to greet everyone "good morning" with a smile. And rarely do I feel sick in the morning nowadays. Before, I had to make excuses just so I wouldn't get out of bed. But God has taught me that every day offers a brand new opportunity to change, to do good, to love, and be happy. And when the night falls, He makes me realize the things I have gone through for the past hours I've been awake, and gives me a chance to repent for my shortcomings and thank Him for the lessons I have learned.

Just yesterday, I was reminded how unfair the world is sometimes. Society teaches us to deal with our own problems, to be strong enough to stand on our own. But I can't deny the fact that I have this hunger for fellowship and friendship with other people. It does hurt when I make myself available to people who are just too busy with other matters. I asked God what would Jesus do, and He reminded me of how I should be more patient and kind despite of how I others are to me. He made me understand that I cannot make people love or like me -- only love them the best I can and hope that I will be loved back. And He assured me that when I long for love in my life, I can always depend on Him. After that, I felt much better. I guess I just needed a different perspective.

I had to look for the "When I Say I'm A Christian" poem again by Maya Angelou (read below). May it serve as a reminder to us. May we grow a heart like Jesus Christ. Pray always.

When I Say I'm A Christian

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean living'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"
I don't think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
Asking humbly to be taught.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I'm loved.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!

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Daily Digest #248

Love the Lord your God, . . . obey His voice, and . . . cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days. —Deuteronomy 30:20

The Scripture says that "to love God is to obey His commandments".... Just recently, I was reminded how loving God starts with a commitment -- a decision to love. And along with this love comes the goal to glorify and please Him, through the act of worship. We may have different notions on the word "worship", often limiting it to singing songs at the top of our voice, waving our hands high, with tears coming down our face while shouting "halleluiah!" or "praise God!" or "amen!!!" :D We often debate about religious practices that we ignore or forget what they really stand for. But God's words clarify this by reiterating how he looks at the condition of our hearts rather than our actions. And when our hearts are made clean and pure, our obedience reflects in the way we live.

A friend told me that we have different ways of expressing our love for God, and oftentimes we show or give love the way we wish to accept it in our lives. When we have this strong thirst to love and be loved, I think that's the time when God is actually knocking on our hearts. The choice is ours: will we let Him in?

For this, let us pray. May we ask for courage and strength to learn to accept our need for love, to know the nature of God's unconditional love for us, and to believe and receive His love and mercy in our lives. May we trust that it is after these initial steps that our faith eventually grows, and we learn to obey God in the most natural way. May we make the decision today -- to love. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #247

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” —John 20:28

We often struggle with faith when faced with uncertainty, usually aided by impatience, or failure, or some scientific notion that does not adhere to God's miracles. Let us ask ourselves: do I believe in miracles? God's truth teaches us that every moment is a miracle. It's not just those times when we witness something extraordinary -- like seeing a lame person walk, or a blind man see, or finding a cancer patient without a trace of the disease -- but in every waking moment when there are many possibilities that we might not see another day again. Most of the people who realize this truth are either old or sick. Do we really need to reach a certain age or catch a certain ailment to see the blessing of time given to us?
We are surrounded by God's miracles -- the sky, water, the air around us, and technology which is simply a product of the knowledge that has been entrusted to us. May we open our eyes and see how fortunate we are to spend another day to enjoy God's grace and love. May we count our blessings instead of our misfortunes. Enjoy the rest of the day. Pray always.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Daily Digest #246

We were burdened beyond measure, . . . so that we despaired even of life. —2 Corinthians 1:8

Allow me to share to you several articles from the Purpose Driven Life online (read below). May we be enlightened, as we reflect on all our trials and experiences, and the lessons that come along with them. May we learn to divert our attention to the good side of things and trust that everything works out for the best.

For this, let us pray... May we learn to surrender ourselves completely to His will and time. May we seek comfort and strength from Him, and trust that we are being molded. May we grow an intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Pray always.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans … to give you a future and a hope … You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.” Jeremiah 29:11, 13 (LB)

*** *** *** ***

No matter what the pollsters, pundits, and prognosticators claim, no one can accurately predict all that is going to happen in the next year, let alone the next few days or weeks. Our best forecasts are just educated guesses.

Change is not only increasing in speed and intensity, but also in unpredictability. How can anyone succeed when the future is so uncertain?

The Bible suggests three timeless principles for facing an uncertain future:

1. Set goals according to God’s direction.
It’s foolish to make plans without first consulting God. He’s the only one who does know the future – and he’s eager to guide you through it.

The Bible says, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” (Proverbs 16:1 GNT). In other words, planning without praying is presumption. Start by praying, “God, what do you want me to do in 2009?”

2. Live one day at a time.
While you can plan for tomorrow, you can’t live it until it arrives. Most people spend so much time regretting the past and worrying about the future, they have no time to enjoy today!

John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Decide to make the most of each moment this year. Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time” (Matthew 6:34 LB).

3. Don’t procrastinate.
Do it now! “Don’t boast about what you’re going to do tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).

Procrastinating is a subtle trap. It wastes today by postponing things until tomorrow. You promise yourself that you’ll do it “one of these days.” But “one of these days” is usually “none of these days.”

What did you plan to get done last year that you didn’t do? When do you intend to start working on it?


[The boy’s father said,] “... If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!” Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!” Mark 9:22-24 (MSG)

*** *** *** ***

Is it possible to be filled with faith and doubt at the same time? Yes!

You can have faith that God wants you to do something and still be scared to death. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is going ahead and doing what you’re called to do in spite of your fear.

You have to begin with the faith you already have: it may be just a little, but you start there. A beautiful example of this is the story of the man who brought his sick son to Jesus in Mark 9. Jesus looked at the man and said, “I can heal your son. If you will believe, I will heal him.”

The father then makes a classic statement: “Lord, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

Have you ever felt like that? “Lord, I have some faith. But I also have some doubts.” This man was filled with faith and doubt, yet despite his honest doubts, he went ahead and asked Jesus for a miracle. And he got his miracle – Jesus healed his son.

Mustard seed faith moves mountains.
No matter how weak or how frail you think your faith is, it’s enough to get you through what you’re facing because your “little faith” is in a big God.

Matthew 17:20 says, “If you have faith as small as the mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you.” That’s not a lot of faith; in fact, it’s just a little faith. But what else does that verse teach? “If you have faith as the mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, ‘Move’ and it will be moved.”

Mustard seed faith moves mountains. Don’t get this reversed; we tend to read this verse backward; we want it to say, “If you have faith like a mountain, you can move a mustard seed” – as if it takes enormous faith to do a very little task.

Everybody has faith. You had faith this morning when you ate your cereal – faith that your spouse didn’t put poison in your granola!

You had faith when you sat down in your computer chair – faith that it wouldn’t collapse.

Everybody has faith; the difference is what you put your faith in.

Sometimes people will tell me they don’t want to surrender to Jesus until all their questions are answered; they don’t want to make a commitment until every thing is understand.

God wants you start with the faith you have; and based on the example of the mustard seed, you don’t need a whole lot of faith to do great things for God. You just need a little.

So here’s a trustworthy equation:

Little Faith + Big God = Huge Results!

· You take your little faith; “Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief!”

· And you place your faith in our big God,

· And then he’ll show you how he works out huge results.

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. Proverbs 4:23 (TEV)

*** *** *** ***

To change your life, you must change the way you think. Behind everything you do is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude.

God revealed this thousands of years before psychologists understood it: "Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts" (Proverbs 4:23 TEV).

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse course and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat's direction.

One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction from where the autopilot is programmed to go. By sheer willpower, you could overcome the autopilot, but you'd feel constant resistance. Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you'd let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed.

This is what happens when you try to change you life with willpower; you say, "I'll force myself to eat less ... stop smoking ... quit being disorganized and late."

And, yes, willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven't dealt with the root cause. The change doesn't feel natural. Eventually you give up and go off the diet.

There is a better and easier way: Change your autopilot; in other words, the way you think. "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Change always starts first in the mind. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act, which means "there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes" (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

To be like Christ you must develop the mind of Christ. The New Testament calls this mental shift "repentance," which in Greek literally means "to change your mind."

To repent means to change the way you think - about God, yourself, sin, other people, life, your future, and everything else, and you adopt Christ's outlook and perspective on life.

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Daily Digest #245

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:6

Because of impatience, I have set goals that ended up unmet. I have lost many opportunities to serve, to love and be happy. I have made wrong choices and ended up unsatisfied with the results. I have lost time. Which brings me to a conclusion that patience is truly a virtue. I have yet to remind myself over and over that life is a waiting line. That everywhere we go, we have to wait: for a ride to work, for the traffic lights to turn green, for our turn to be served at the grocery counter, for our moment to speak and to listen, for the right man or woman to come along, for the pain to go away, or for our prayers to be answered. Just thinking about all the waiting makes me cringe. That's how impatient I am sometimes, haha.

I am thankful for today's Bible verse and reflection above. It's like hearing the words "Be still and know that I am God" as I read between the lines. It makes me hope and believe more that one day my transformation will be complete.

For this, let us pray. May we grow a patient heart. May we make good use of what He has given to us at the moment, and wait as He reveals more of His surprises. May we instill in our hearts and minds what we have learned along the way, and make better choices should the opportunity arise. May we be thankful for all the people we encounter, for they bear a lesson for us to learn. See? Life is not just a waiting line, but a journey of learning, too. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #244

I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. —Psalm 6:6

I remember the time when I got my heart broken :D For me, it is in the risk of loving where pain strikes the hardest. Anyway, it came to a point when I almost broke down. I had to ask a few of my closest friends to keep on talking, just about anything, to divert my mind. I cried until there were no tears left. I sulked into depression for a few days, while I kept repeating over and over in my head where it went wrong. Then one day, God gave me His answer from the book of Ecclesiastes: "There's a time for everything". And He added, "Trust in Me and you will never go wrong. The best is yet to come." I was so overwhelmed that I actually posted it as a note on my mobile. These short, yet powerful, words have helped me regain my sense of self and trust in the Lord.

Now, looking back, I realize I have completely forgotten the pain. I can only feel God's comfort, and the peace He instilled in my mind and in my heart. He has mustered my strength, courage and faith back again. It still scares me whenever I think about it, but His words give me a nudge every time, saying that I need not worry and that He's right here with me. From then on, I learned to appreciate and cherish every step, stop and turn in my journey with God.

For this, let us pray. May we never lose hope in the Lord. May we lean on Him in times of trouble and defeat. May we remember that He knows everything, and has laid all the best plans for each of us. May we trust His ways and time. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #243

You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor’s. —Exodus 20:17

I was just reading The Heart of Contentment (pdf file from RBC Ministries) last night before I went to bed. I was having these feelings of uncertainty and impatience again that I resorted to reading this material. And it truly helped. It states what covetousness means and its dangers. It also serves as an awakening on how we should treat money and all other material things. It closes with Hebrews 13:5-6: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Let us pray. May we grow a heart of contentment. May we trust that God will provide all our needs. May we realize and value what is enough, what has been entrusted to us at the moment. Pray always.

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Daily Digest #242

“Lord, what do You want me to do?” —Acts 9:6

Ahh, the blame game :D I've been playing this game for the longest time. Whenever I was in a bad mood, I'd blame it on the slightest source of nuisance. I could easily find a reason to be annoyed at somebody. My sister had the worst lashing experience from me (love you, chi). Until now, I'm working on my mood swings. It always helps to check physical conditions before arriving at any conclusion. It is advisable to have words of wisdom handy, or at least loyal friends who would hold accountable.

Sins, which are calls of the flesh, only get stronger when we allow them to. I have used God's words several times to guide me and get me through my worst dilemmas and confusions. It always helps to pray, to speak to God in all honesty, and listen to Him.

For this, let us pray. May we stay focused on the eternal. May we have a thirst for Wisdom and Truth and truly utilize them in our daily lives. Pray always.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Return to Sangkhla

Day 1 - March 1, 2008

I woke up 30 minutes after the alarm went off! I set 2 alarms already to keep me from going back to bed, but this has proven to be ineffective. I took a quick shower, grabbed my bags, turned off the main power switch, left my plant to the caretaker and headed to Mochit 2. I was a bit confused with the schedule of departure. I couldn't remember if the morning trip was at 5.30, 6.00 or 6.30am. When I arrived at exactly 5.25am, I rushed to the ticket booth and got my ticket. It was for 6am! Yey! *whew*

The trip took almost 8hrs, instead of 6. The driver was really moody, and it seemed like he was driving so slowly on purpose. We arrived Sangkhlaburi at 1.40pm. I wanted to go biking right away but I was so tired that I just checked in, dropped my bags, set up my computer, took a quick shower and slept. It's sooo hot in Sangkhla. Good thing it rained in the middle of the night, so it got a little cooler.

Day 2 - March 2, 2008

Since I got more than 12hrs of sleep already, I got up at 5am. It was still dark so I didn't go out just yet. I opened my notebook and started writing my "Random 27". I was having so much fun reminiscing about the past that I finished at 8am! I had a quick breakfast and headed for my rented bike.

Man, I really lack exercise! I was struggling to make it all the way uphill! I had to stop halfway to catch my breath. Good thing I had my water bottle ready, it saved me from near-collapse. I took it one pedal at a time, and finally made it downtown. I did some grocery shopping first (more water, noodles, tissue and disposable utensils), then headed for the wooden bridge.

It was almost mid-day when I crossed the bridge. There weren't a lot of villagers crossing or out on the streets, unlike last time. It felt like I had the bridge and the road all to myself.

I walked half of the time because the roads were going uphill. But all the muscle pains vanished when the roads went downhill. I love the feeling of the wind against my face. Anyway, I was able to reach the golden pagoda that we missed last time. The pagoda appeared very distant from across the lake, but it was actually just a few meters away from the intersection we had once been! The scorching heat was torture, I doubted if the loads of sunblock I put could still achieve the much-needed effect. Anyway, I climbed up the golden pagoda to find out how the monks set the candles/gas lamps around, which we could see glowing from across the lake at the guesthouse. But lo, they were nothing but light bulbs! So I took pictures and left.

I was exhausted from the heat and the uphill pedaling that I stopped at the next salon. I went in and had my hair cut really short. Bye bye, long hair! Hello, summer look :D

I went back to the guesthouse to grab a quick lunch, showered and took a nap. By 4pm, I went out again. I rode my bike and headed downtown. I was all sweaty by the time I got there. I went straight to the grocery store and bought a popsicle. I withdrew some cash afterwards, assuming that I would be spending more than I had planned, then headed for the opposite road parallel to my usual route. Damn, it went on and on and on! I even passed by a major highway, I thought i was already lost! I asked a lady in a motorbike if the road led to the guesthouse, and she said "yes, just turn right" in Thai. I had no idea that the right turn she was referring to was soooooooo far away. I met stray dogs, which fortunately didn't attack me or run after my bike. When I finally arrived at the right turn, it was uphill again so I had to drag my bike up. Upon seeing fast vehicles ahead, I assumed it was the main road. When I got there, I realized I was only halfway through! Which meant the little adventure I had was 3 times the length of my usual route! Lesson learned? Stop whining and enjoy the experience. Hehehe.

I went in and showered once again, then headed for the front deck. I enjoyed watching the sunset. It was so peaceful around. The wind started blowing, and I could see gentle ripples travel across the lake. The sky had a mixture of pink, blue, white and gray. And the sun was huge and red-orange.

I thought it was nice to have dinner at sunset so I climbed the steps to the guesthouse restaurant. And there I met a nice 62-year old lady from Aussie named Helen. She was reading Paulo Coelho's 'The Devil and Miss Prym'. Right after we said our hello's, I asked her if it was any good. I told her I was supposed to bring the same book but decided to bring another, also by Paulo. She told me she was a volunteer at an orphanage nearby, and has been to Thailand twice already. She's already retired so she has done a lot of traveling, until the recession. We shared some insights on volunteer work, and Sangkhlaburi, and Burma, and the Philippines, and the different religions in Australia. We had a lovely chat. After an hour, she finally excused herself to get ready for bed. Like me, she had quite a long day. Hopefully, we can exchange books when we're both finished. Which reminds me, I should be reading by now :D

Day 3 - March 3, 2009

I woke up at 6.30 today. I made an early stroll around the guesthouse. Most guests were still asleep, but the cleaners were already at work. I loved the sound of fallen leaves being swept on the ground. It reminded me of my childhood days at my grandparents' house in Naga City.

The morning breeze was wonderful so I headed for the bike and pedaled all the way downtown. I had to stop twice, at the 2nd and 3rd roads going uphill (there were 3). Yesterday, I couldn't even make it uphill, I was easily exhausted. That's why I had to drag my bike on foot half of the time. I went to a shop to buy some supplies but unfortunately it was still closed. My stomach screamed 'food' already so I went to the nearest Thai cafeteria in sight. I was planning to have cereal and soymilk for breakfast, but they were only found in the closed shop. Right after I finished eating, the shop opened. Oh well. I bought my supplies and left.

I literally went "weeeeeeeeeeeeeee" on the way downhill. I didn't care if the kids on their way to school or the traffic officer looked as I passed by. I was having a grand time. When I got back in my room, I made some tea and set up a comfy chair at my own patio. I grabbed my book ('The Pilgrimage' by Paulo Coelho) and spent the rest of the morning reading. I took quick naps in between. If it weren't for my background music, I would've gone back to bed after every page. It can be too quiet here sometimes.

In the afternoon, it was extremely hot. I looked for a good spot with cool breeze so I could continue reading my book. I went down the lake and settled beside the overturned canoes. It was perfect. Light breeze was blowing from the lake, and I didn't feel the heat because the roof had wooden layers underneath. I stayed there from 3 to 5pm.

When it was almost sunset, I took the bike downtown again to buy dinner. The guesthouse menu didn't appeal to me then. I drove all the way to the market, non-stop! :D It was my accomplishment for the day.

Back at the guesthouse, the sunset looked extremely marvelous! Still drenched in sweat, I rushed back to my room and grabbed my camera. The sun was bigger and redder this time. The other guests started taking pictures as well. After a few seconds, the sun was completely out of sight. I love sunsets!

I can't wait for tomorrow's surprises :D

Day 4 - March 4, 2009

I woke up at 7.30 today. I was in the mood to have breakfast at the guesthouse resto. While enjoying a hearty meal, I browsed through several pages of a travel magazine. Featured in the magazine were some of the places that I've been to before. I usually prefer places that are quite unpopular, so it gave me a sense of pride to have been there before they got commercialized. For me, it's more special that way.

I went biking after a few minutes and took several unfamiliar routes. It reminded me of my childhood days when I used to take my bike in every unknown street and see where it led to. It thrilled me to discover something unique or special along the way or at the end of the road. I liked discovering shortcuts, too. My first stop this morning was just like that. The slope was very steep but I rode my bike, clasping the brakes one meter at a time. There, at the end of the road, was a little village of Burmese people in floating houses.

I remember asking one of the guesthouse guys how close the Burmese border was (about 20mins, according to them), thinking I might be crossing borders without knowing! I learned yesterday from Helen that there are many Burmese refugees residing in this part of Thailand. It's a sad story, really. Most of these refugees fled from Burma because they have been deprived of their land and other properties. They're like people without a country. And those who have found refuge here remain, living a simple yet threatened life, and never to be allowed to go anywhere beyond Sangkhlaburi. Most of the cleaners in this guesthouse are Burmese, and they are bound to keep a very low profile. Now I understand why there are 3 checkpoints upon entering/leaving Kanchanaburi province. So it's advisable to bring your passport always.

Anyway, I took another route parallel to the main road. I was glad that the stray dogs didn't mind me passing by at all. It always scares me when dogs start barking and following me, with their ears and tails upright. Perhaps they're used to bikes or strangers passing by all the time. One time, when I was about 9yrs old, I went biking with a friend and we were chased by a pack of dogs. I was able to pedal fast and got far enough. But my friend, because of panic and fear, jumped off her bike and left it lying there while she ran for her life hahaha. For some reason, the dogs kept barking at the bike and didn't run after my friend.

I was back at the main road. I noticed the sign 'Burmese Inn' on the opposite road. It was a long way downhill. I really enjoyed going down that road. I found myself back at the wooden bridge, but since I spent half of my 2nd day there already, I went the other way. It led me to a viewing deck. It was really hot there, but it didn't stop me from taking pictures. Fortunately, there wasn't anybody watching me do my wacky poses.

When I finished, I went back to my bike and froze. I remembered how steep the slope was going up. I wanted to faint upon seeing the 45-60-degree slope. I dragged my bike up anyway, and went back to the guesthouse.

I stayed in most of the afternoon. I had to wait till sunset before I could drive the bike again, I just couldn't stand the heat. At 4.30pm, I went down the road to Burmese Inn again to check the place out. I was hoping to have dinner there as well. Anyway, I can only tell you this: never ever stay there if you plan on getting drunk! The pathway leading to the cottages were way too steep! And there wasn't any safety fence right before the cliff. I checked one room and it was filthy and gloomy inside. I left shortly after that.

At 5.30pm, I went down to the lake to watch the sunset again. Just as I was having my camera ready, a pair of British ladies (Tessa and Jenny) resurfaced from the water. They were very friendly. We had a quick chat about how glorious this place is. When they left, I resumed making adjustments with my camera. Then an old Brit guy came out of the water and started making conversation. He happened to be here with his girl friend, who seemed as old as he. How cute is that? He told me stories about his trips within southeast Asia, and that he was retired. It lasted for several minutes, until he felt he was cold. By then, the sun had completely set.

I settled on a marble bench up on the hill. It felt calm and peaceful. I imagined taking my parents here someday. I think they will really enjoy it here. It's really a good place for family. I couldn't help but feel really fortunate to have come to this place again.

Day 5 - March 5, 2009

I woke up at 6.30, thinking it's just 5. It's still dark outside. When I went out, the whole place was covered with fog. I went down to the dock to enjoy the early morning breeze, which was cooler than usual.

I remember the book that I just finished last night. I have written "it is not the blessing itself that is given to you that matters, but what you do with it" several times in my posts/blog before, and the book I read was just about that. It made me re-think about the things that I have yearned, and continue to yearn for -- if I knew what to do with them before I even asked. I realized how many times I've wanted something but had no idea what to do with it that it didn't last long, or ended up wasted or taken for granted. I usually got what I wanted but they came almost naturally that I took them as an ordinary occurrence. Like the author, Paulo Coelho, I was just too eager to get the prize. Last night, I was reminded yet again that the journey mattered more than the destination; that the destination is just a mark to end a transition, or to begin a new one -- nothing more, nothing less.

I think it's very timely that I have read that book. The Daily Bread booklet I brought also focused on rebirth and having a brand new start, from March 1 to today. They made me realize why I came here in the first place. Why did it have to be here in this solitary and faraway place, surrounded by nature's beauty, where I can do 3 of the things I'm passionate about everyday: read, write and bike. I figured just now how God had planned to surprise me, answering my questions one moment at a time. They all occurred while I pedaled, read and wrote. Through biking, He re-introduced me to the child I once was -- full of adventure, unafraid of taking risks, focused on the goal and not about to give up so easily. Through reading, He humbled me and made me realize that I am simply one of His subjects, that I am here to be taught, and be of use to Him every single day. And through writing, like what I am doing now, He re-confirms the knowledge I got by etching them into my mind and into my heart, hoping that one day they would turn to wisdom. According to the author, wisdom is knowledge applied. And not applying it every chance I get makes it completely useless. Upon realizing this, a funny yet exciting thought came to me: THIS may have just been my own pilgrimage.

Here's the prayer that the author wrote in the book, upon seeing a white frightened lamb on the foot of the cross (excerpts from The Pilgrimage, pp256-260). Oh by the way, if you're planning to read the book, I advice that you skip the following paragraphs in red, they're a bit of a spoiler heheh. You have been warned :D

"My Lord, I am not nailed to this cross, nor do I see you there. The cross is empty, and that is how it should stay forever; the time of death is already past, and a god is now reborn within me. This cross is the symbol of the infinite power that each of us has. Now this power is reborn, the world is saved, and I am able to perform your miracles, because I trod the Road of the common people and, in mingling with them, found your secret. You came among us to teach us all that we are capable of becoming, and we did not want to accept this. You showed us that the power and the glory were within every person's reach, and this sudden vision of our capacity was too much for us. We crucified you, not because we were ungrateful to the Son of God, but because we were fearful of accepting our own capacity. We crucified you fearing that we might be transformed into gods. With time and tradition, you came to be just a distant divinity, and we returned to our destiny as human beings."

"It is not a sin to be happy. Half a dozen exercises and an attentive ear are enough to allow us to realize our most impossible dreams. Because of my pride in wisdom, you made me walk the Road that every person can walk, and discover what everyone else already knows if they have paid the slightest attention to life. You made me see that the search for happiness is a personal search and not a model we can pass on to others. Before finding my sword, I had to discover its secret -- and the secret was simple: it was to know what to do with it. With it and with the happiness that it would represent to me."

"I have walked so many miles to discover things I already knew, things that all of us know but that are so hard to accept. Is there anything harder for us, my Lord, than discovering that we can achieve the power? This pain that I feel now in my breast, that makes me sob and that frightens the poor lamb, has been felt since human beings first existed. Few can accept the burden of their own victory: most give up their dreams when they see that they can be realized. They refuse to fight the good fight because they do not know what to do with their own happiness; they are imprisoned by the things of the world. Just as I have been, who wanted to find my sword without knowing what to do with it."

"Lord, I am not worthy to enter Thy house. But the lamb looked at me and spoke to me through his eyes. He said that I should forget forever my unworthiness because the power had been reborn in me, in the same way that it could be reborn in all people who devoted their lives to the good fight. One day would come -- said the lamb's eyes -- when people would once again take pride in themselves, and then all of nature would praise the awakening of the God that had been sleeping within them."

And to end the whole book, Paulo Coelho closed it with these words of hope and encouragement: "...I guess it is true that people always arrive at the right moment at the place where someone awaits them."

This book has definitely earned a spot in my top 10 reads.

Day 6 - March 6, 2009

Today is my last night... I shall do my utmost.

I woke up at 7, changed into my biking clothes and went to the parking lot. But the bike I've been using for 5 days wasn't there. Oh well. I tried other bikes but they were either too rusty, too squeaky, or too short for my legs. I miss my blue mountain bike with the basket....

I went to the guesthouse resto to enjoy another hearty breakfast. I was planning to buy cereal and soymilk at the grocery store earlier, the reason why I wanted to go biking in the first place. Anyway, this morning had been the coldest since I got here.

Not only did I get to enjoy the cool breeze, but the beautiful scenery as well, while eating my eggs and toasts and reading steamy articles in Cosmopolitan's December issue (hehe). It was still foggy when I came out. The only visible view was within 100meters. Little by little, the fog lifted. I could see several patches of fog dancing away like fairies on the surface of the lake. The scene was just so surreal.

I spent most of my time at the restaurant patio, overlooking the mountains and the lake, in front of my notebook: writing my thoughts, uploading pictures, replying/sending/reading emails and checking recent updates on Facebook. I was happy to have had wifi access, free of charge. Last time I was here, they only had a computer for file transfer and CD-writing. Good thing I only discovered the wifi after my 5th day, otherwise my retreat would have been a total failure (I'd probably be on the internet most of the time, or at least tempted, which would have distracted me from time to time).

At around 4pm, I checked if the blue bike was back so I could take it for a quick spin, and it was. I headed downtown straight away. I was aware that it was the last time I'd be biking around that area so I turned at every street corner, like an act of farewell. Then I remembered I had not stopped by at another guesthouse I've been to before. I had trouble getting there because of all the stray dogs on that street. But luckily today, no dogs were in sight, and I was able to pedal straight to it. There was really nothing much to see or do there, but I just felt my stay would be incomplete if I didn't drop by. I stayed for a few minutes, checked if they had something new in the menu (which turned out to be the same as what they had at my guesthouse so I didn't bother ordering) and left.

Upon my arrival at the guesthouse, the dock wasn't crowded so I picked up 'Catcher In The Rye' and headed down there. It felt nice to welcome the sunset with a book in hand. When the sun had completely set, I prepared for dinner. I wanted to be at the resto early because I knew the orders would pile up soon. The place was indeed pretty packed tonight, so my instinct was right. I craved for fish so I ordered tom ga plaa (sour fish soup with coconut milk) and fried fish with garlic and pepper. Shortly, I was joined by 2 nice ladies, Helen and Tessa. We talked for almost 3 hours.

Just when I thought I had gotten everything I needed and learned yesterday, I was surprised by my final night's turnout. Talking to Helen (62-year old lady from Australia) was like reading "Tuesdays With Morrie", except that Morrie was a healthier and younger woman. She's had quite a colorful life, based on a few stories she had shared. Like Morrie, she had experienced and enjoyed every stage of her life, which has enabled her to relate to younger people well. And Tessa (40-year old lady from UK) seemed to enjoy taking risks, clinging to her passion in helping others and living life as it comes. (She also mentioned that a foreigner had been bitten by a stray dog while biking the other day. How blessed have I been these past few days?!) Anyway, both women are volunteers at the Mon villages, educating children and giving as much help as needed. It felt wonderful having met them, hearing some of their life's stories and their views on the world today. And the best of all? I just made new friends :D

Day 7 - March 7, 2009

Off to Bangkok.... :D

And now, I end the week with a prayer. Lord, thank You for the safe trip and fruitful getaway. Thank You for what You have made me realize over the past 7 days. May I turn this knowledge into wisdom, and be of better use to You upon my return to Bangkok. May I not forget to call upon You every waking day, and be grateful for all Your blessings. I ask for Your guidance, that You lead my every thought, word and action. Amen.

Note: I just reviewed my journal from Day 1 to today, and guess what. I never had cereal and soymilk for breakfast. It may have just been a bait so I would stay enthusiastic on every biking day :D Kinda reminded me of Kung Fu Panda haha!

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