Saturday, November 27, 2010

Simply Drifting?

I asked myself 3 questions today. After answering myself – a little tentatively – I’m sorely dismayed.

What do you and I stand for?

What do we live for?

What does our society value?

All around the world, the human state of affairs is in shambles. It doesn’t matter whether the country is rich, poor or in-between. Third-world nations like Afghanistan and Burma are still fighting for human rights. Nations living in extreme poverty, surviving amidst famine, war and natural disaster are nowhere near peace. Then there are the wealthy, developed nations, already rich and comfortable; they have gotten past fighting for human rights.

Unfortunately now, they’re taking human rights overboard and confusing right & wrong. They demand rights to marry homosexuals, for gays to adopt children, the rights to remove Christian studies from schools because it “offends” them, for minors (under age of 16) to have abortions without the consent of parents, etc, etc. Does that alarm you?

I recently read about the Australian Sex Party and their wayward policies. This is their “mission statement”:

The Australian Sex Party is a political response to the sexual needs of Australia in the 21st century. It is an attempt to restore the balance between sexual privacy and sexual publicity that has been severely distorted by morals campaigners and prudish politicians.

Ha-ha-ha. I laugh, but it is a grim one. This is the society I live in.

Where is GOD in the picture?
When researchers at National Study of Youth & Religion in US took a close look at religious beliefs held by American teens, they found that the faith described by most came down to something the researchers called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."
What? Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. "A god exists who created & ordered the world, and watches over human life on earth." 2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible & by most world religions." 3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself." 4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when needed to resolve a problem." 5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."
After more than 3,000 interviews with American teens, researchers reported that most responded with a shrug or “whatever” when asked about their religion & faith. "For most teens, nobody has to do anything in life, including anything to do with religion. ‘Whatever' is just fine, if that's what a person wants," researchers said.
So THIS is what we’ve come down to. Whatever, I’ll live my life. I don’t have to care what happens to the rest of the world. I don’t have to be accountable. God is totally out of the picture. And I’m totally cool with that.

I admit I’ve been complacent. When things get too comfy you forget what matters, what you live for, what you stand for. Living in good conditions is perhaps a much more “precarious” position compared to poverty & danger. Why? It may be a worse thing to be where everything SEEMS all good – we tend to become selfish & faithless. God barely needs to be in the picture, except when we’re out of options.  


So here’s the biggest, sneakiest, underlying deception – we’re deceived to THINK that we’re OK; we don’t have to do anything purposeful about our lives & talents. We can live & let live. We’ll enjoy ourselves, make money & live “successfully” – if that is how you define success.

Roderick Meredith, editor in chief of Tomorrow’s World says,
“People who call themselves Christians are, more and more, becoming like the world, instead of becoming lights to the world!”


There are people who stand for something and fight for it,
There are others who perhaps, stand for something, but do nothing about it,
And finally, there are those who don’t even know what they stand for!

Those who have no clue what they believe in, what they’d fight for & cling on to despite opposition are content with flowing downstream like everyone else.

I’ve been in that state before – SIMPLY DRIFTING… neither anchoring myself, nor swimming against the current, nor the least “treading water” to save myself from rapidly drifting downstream. Oh the tragedy! But I did wake from that lull, the horrible state of spiritual depravity and aimlessness.

Yet I was still living life!  I wasn’t sitting in my room depressed or anything. Life was good like everyone else. And that was the problem. I was drifting along with everyone! It’s so easy to slip under the deception that everything’s OK – maybe on the outside. But God helped me realize the sorry state of affairs of my inner being. The smog lifted, and the light shone through.

I realize the only thing that can save me from being deceived by this world that eat, sleeps and parties is the Truth. Go back to God’s word – even if it doesn’t make sense at first, just keep reading the Bible. Ask God, and it will come to you. The Truth will sift your mind of everything and chuck out the crap, lies & misconceptions.

The society you & I live in has gone haywire. What’s true, they call false or old-fashioned. What’s a lie, they prefer to believe as true. They try to sound smart & question the truth. In class the other day, after some discussion, a guy said in a cocky tone, “Why should we believe in God? There is no God. Didn’t you read of the priests & whoever who raped kids and stuff?”

Precisely my point – people find excuses to not believe! Do you look at man’s failure and sin, and use it as an excuse to refute God’s gift of salvation? They are two separate things! Precisely because man has fallen short, God sent Jesus Christ to make right, to die for us no matter how undeserving we are, so that all man can be saved. If only you RECEIVE the gift of God. That simple.

But people prefer to walk away or discard God’s gift. And for some of us who’ve already received, we leave it to collect dust somewhere in the attic of our hearts. We avoid the truth because it stings with the notion of repentance & turning away from selfish living. But we forget what comes after. Jesus said He came to give all those who believe an abundant life, with new hope, something to stand for, strength to withstand the current of the norm and soar above it all!

The time will come when each of us will have to decide whose side we’re on. Why not search & make the decision now? It’s hard to “stand” if you haven’t an anchor to hold your ground, a hope to cling on to & fall back on! The answer is right where you are. Christian or not, you can call out to Jesus. “We need to take time to decide what we really believe in, what we are willing to fight for, and if need be, die for,” as Roderick Meredith said.

You’re either black or white. You can’t be neither. You can’t be sitting on the fence; it’ll hurt in the long run… So don’t waste away your years drifting aimlessly! Don’t arrive at the end & only begin to wake up. Some people don’t even have the luxury to “arrive” – it is simply THE END in a blink of an eye. And that’s the terrifying reality for a lot of people out there...

Don’t be one of them.

Solem Deum Timidus | Only Fear God,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sleepover at Emily Sheppard’s =)

Last weekend, I went for a small sleepover hang out at Emily Sheppard’s place. There were five of us all Year 11 girls from VCASS: me, Emily Sheppard, Emily Lanham (“renowned” for her awesome baking skills and making the “healthy” sugarless choc-cake for the night :P), Tatjana Reuter and Justine Ayers. It was a fun “celebration” since we’ve all finally finished our music exams and everything else for 2010! There was no more worry and stress, and we could just enjoy ourselves thoroughly. =)

For the first time in the past few weeks, I finally enjoyed myself without a care in the world. These girls that I’ve met at VCASS this year have been great, great company!!!

Here are the wonderful photos we took that night. =)

                                Movie at Chadstone =) Justine, Kathy, Tatjana, Emily, Sariah and me

                                                           Lunch at Pancake Parlour! :D

                                         Sleepover =) I love, love, love this shot of 5 of us! :D

                                                 How cute, right. Except me and Justine :P

                                                                              Rawr :P

                            Having Emily Lanham's "healthy" sugarless, chocolate cake :D :D :D
                              Hahaha, she's always the one baking cakes for us at gatherings. =)

                                                       Emily our Masterchef in the house =)

 Such a sweeeeet photo of Emily L. with her yummy cake =)

 Me and Justine ready to devour Emily's cake!!!

 Justine and Tatjana

Emily Sheppard, Tatjana and I having pasta dinner in the backyard =)

You girls were awesome company!!!! We're so having another sleepover soooooon :D :D :D

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Boy Who didn’t Just Believe

In Search of Rain

After four years of drought in the little village, the parish priest gathered everybody to make a pilgrimage to the mountain; there they would join in prayer to ask for rain.

In the middle of the group the priest noticed a boy all wrapped up in warm clothes and covered by a raincoat.

“Are you crazy?” he asked. “It hasn’t rained in this region for five years and you’ll die of the heat climbing the mountain!”
“I’ve got a cold, father. If w
e are going to pray to God for rain, can you imagine the climb back down? The downpour is going to be so heavy that it’s better to be prepared.”

And only after these words a loud roar was heard in the sky and the first drops began to fall. The faith of a boy was enough to work a miracle that thousands of men were praying for.

This is a short story by Paulo Coelho, renowned author of the inspirational and thought-provoking novel, “The Alchemist”. =)

The child-like faith of the boy was what captured the heart of God! Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me for the kingdom of God belongs to them. Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

The boy in the story did not just believe that God will send rain. He also did his seemingly little part to prepare for it.

Faith is useless without deeds. You may believe in God, but listen, even the devil believes just as much or even more than you do! So what differentiates us? It is our actions in accordance with our faith in God.

Having faith does not mean sitting back, relaxing and doing nothing.
Real faith will trigger real action and speech that demonstrates your faith.

As my dad tells me, “For prayer to work, you need 100% God AND 100% man!”

Without you doing your part, God’s gift of faith to you is useless and unharnessed for His glory. I’m sure if God thought it best for us, he would do our part too. But if that were so, life would be unbearably boring and purposeless!

The boy in Coelho’s story believed that GOD WOULD ACT. But he also did his part – by his action of wearing the raincoat and words to the priest – to reflect that faith he had, without even doing it on purpose or having a false sense of piety like most grown-ups do.

“Faith and actions must work hand-in-hand
So your faith is made complete by what you do.”
James 2:22

The challenge for us all is to maintain child-likeness and simple faith without doubt or self-consciousness of what others think, say and do. Child-like faith and confidence is the defining nature of those who will not succumb to the futile worries, burdens and false “reality” the world heaps on everyone else.

“Vision without action is a daydream;
Action without vision is a nightmare!”

Solum Christum cognoscere | To know Christ alone,
Janielle =)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Present

It marvels me that day after day passes and each of us live our lives as if it is our own.
Life becomes a meaningless sequence of events when we limit it to our own selfish plans and desires. In the end of my life, am I going to worry about what I have accomplished or acquired?

Tell me, what DOES matter in the end?

Remember, the crucial point in life is the present. We worry about the future; we dwell on the mistakes or triumphs of the past. But often than not, we forget to live NOW. I have to keep reminding myself to enjoy the present and live in the moment. But how can we do that unless we let go of our fears and worries about yesterday and tomorrow?

Jesus said, ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’

Do your best today and don’t let the worries of tomorrow distract you from completing and excelling in today’s work. If you just focus all your heart, mind and strength in doing what you have to do today, tomorrow would not worry you because by then, you would be ready to take the next step.

Indeed, the worries and cares of man are meaningless and useless. Instead, I must learn to face every challenge depending on God. That means I have to do my part just as much as God works his divine intervention to work all things for the good of those who love him.

But, do not make the mistake of thinking that worrying about the future and planning for the future is synonymous!

We would be heading nowhere if we did not plan and anticipate for the coming days. Only do that while being “anxious for nothing”. But how can we not be worried unless God gives us His peace that “surpasses all understanding”? And how can God give it to us unless we ask of him? I realize it is pride – no matter how subtle – that stops me from calling out to God. But when I do come to realize that nothing else in this world can save me, God has never failed to show up.

We often wish we can foresee the result of our efforts, but if we could orchestrate our world, life would be very pathetic indeed. And, we would not rely on our Creator.

In a bittersweet sense, it can be a blessing to face challenges, to have to work hard to achieve something. If we were perfect beings, with all the talents we wished to have, there would be no sense of accomplishment and individuality. There would be no triumph, no purpose to life.

As Brecht, a German playwright said, “Those who struggle often fail, but those who do not struggle have failed already.”

So take heart that whatever hurdles lie ahead, if you would remember your Creator and call out to Him, I know 100% that He will show up. Have no doubt, and He will give you the peace and guidance to take the next step.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and you say 'I find no pleasure in them.'” Ecclesiastes 12:1

Carpe diem,
Janielle =)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Always Remember

Wow, I think I need to blow the dust off this page! It sure seems that I’ve stopped writing, but I’d like to let you know that I actually have been writing all these months! I don’t know what will happen to me if I didn’t write. Really, I don’t think my mind would survive if I didn’t take the time to ‘pause’ my life and reflect on things!

But I totally regret that I haven’t had the extra time to edit my writings and post them here. It’s been an unbelievably busy year, and the demands of going to an arts + academics school has been taxing as much as it has been rewarding. A dancer in my Psychology class once humorously said, “Well, what do you expect? We all go to an Arts school. Everyone’s a freak.” Very funny. But quite true, I have thanked God countless times for the opportunity to work among such amazing people! It’s pure AMAZING. VCASS has an environment unlike any other normal school. Next year, my last year in high school, there will only be 17 of us Year 12 musicians!

I’ve met kids who are much, much more talented than I am. Seriously, they are the real freaks! Haha, in a great way. They can compose music for orchestra and play a few instruments at the same level; they can perform a piece from memory without any mistakes, they play crazy concertos when I haven’t even attempted one; they can not practice as much as I do and still memorize a piece quicker. Quite unbelievable as much as it is daunting for me, a total newcomer to this musical madness!

But I thank God for getting me through this year. I couldn’t have done it except by the grace of God. The times I relied on myself, I never succeeded. But when I recognized that my abilities were not my own, but God-given, I realized I mustn’t just limit myself to “becoming as good as the next talented kid”. Sometimes I wonder why God made some kids born with musicality inbuilt and they don’t have to clock in the years of practice, while others who are not so prodigious have to work their tail off and probably never “succeed” by the world’s standards.

But I think God is fair to everyone. Those who are given much, much more will be required of them. You just trust God with what you have and do what you can where you are. I’m beginning to understand that it’s a gift to have to do it the hard way and learn the lessons God wants to teach me along this challenging journey. If God did not allow life to be challenging with unexpected turns, it would be reduced to an uneventful, sequenced series of meaningless events!

So this year has been an incredible milestone for me in music. I thank God so much that for the whole year, I have managed to complete everything in school and not do any “homework” at home! In the beginning of the year, I prayed to God for help and wisdom to manage my time well this hectic year and enable me to complete all my work in school so I can relax when I get home and use the time only to practice music. And God answered me! Of course, I remember my dad once telling me, “For prayer to work, it must be 100% man and 100% God. So yes, I had to do my part and work my tail off, but it all paid off because God gave me the discipline and strength. So I was always free in the weekends to enjoy life and just do music. It’s really been the best school year I’ve had!

Also, a great leap I made this year in music was completing the Australian piano diploma exam. I was so relieved that I had received the award! It has been a tough year because I’ve been juggling the VCASS performances, performance seminars, music group exam (I was in a piano duet) and the diploma program. I remember with a sheepish smile my first VCASS performance in February. I could barely play one minute of a piece without having a memory lapse! It was quite terrifying to be unable to continue in front of an audience.

But 9 months down the road, by God’s grace I’ve managed to get quite used to performing. I’m learning to accept my nervousness and move on. I’m beginning to love performing and feel the thrill of playing by memory. I was so relieved that God gave me the peace to play the diploma program smoothly and play about 20 minutes of music without a memory slip! I’m so thankful God has answered my prayer 3 years ago for the opportunity to perform more and practice on a grand piano! Haha.

By the way, November 3rd marked our family’s 2nd year in Melbourne. All this year I haven’t had the time to reminisce or think about how we’ve advanced every step of the way. I forget so soon the answered prayers and guidance God has given us. I need to always remember that we’re here not simply for a “better life”. I must admit that sometimes the appallingly good life in Australia has made me quite complacent and selfish. Really, I must not become too comfortable.

Sometimes I think, will I stay in Australia for the rest of my life? It’s really an awesome place to live. Everyone’s so comfortable and laid-back. But I think again, that can be a bad thing – getting too comfortable. You tend to forget the more important things. I must always remember, as Daddy said, that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

'Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and you say 'I find no pleasure in them.' – Ecclesiastes 12:1

The Visitors