Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Matthew 6:33 Filter

Whatever we do must go through what I call the 'Matthew 6:33 filter'.

'Seek first the kingdom of God & His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.' Matthew 6:33
Every day, every step of the way, every plan and decision, should be seen and done through the filter of God's word. Especially Matthew 6:33, where Jesus reminds us that we should let aside all our petty worries & do first things first: seek God.

However, we often go the other way round. We stick to our plans first and only when things don't work out, we seek God's help. Well its never too late, but precious time & opportunity would've been lost.

And even when we do seek God, we usually have some sort of 'back-up plan' forming at the back of our minds...

'The main thing is to keep the main thing the MAIN THING.'
What is the center of your existence? What do you value and love and enjoy doing?

All I'm saying is that whatever we have, whatever we hold dear, whatever skills we possess, should be GIVEN BACK to the One who bestowed us with these good gifts.

'A man can receive nothing, unless it is given to him from heaven.' John 3:27
Many times I wonder what I should do with my life in the future. I have these skills and opportunities. But how should I use them?

Again, if I put all these questions and plans through the Matthew 6:33 filter, I can easily return to the MAIN THING.

Before I even attempt to answer my questions or finalize any of my own plans, I need to seek God first. But how? Its easy to say, but what if there is no clear answer or direction?

Perhaps we're not listening. Maybe we're afraid to. Things may not go as WE plan it to be. Or whatever God's direction is may require a touch of foolhardiness, or at least it may seem so in OUR human eyes.

Nevertheless, no matter how difficult it is to submit to the direction of Someone we cannot see, feel tangibly or hear audibly, we must make it our life's aim and stick to it. Why? Because there IS no other better way. I know that. I believe that. I trust that because God has proved Himself faithful and true countless times over.

When I have no 'back-up plans', when I have nothing, no one else, it is the best situation I can be in. It may not be entirely pleasant, because we humans like to have control over our lives; but it is in these kinda situations that God can show Himself strong THROUGH our weakness.

I will try to keep this note in mind through 2011 - last year of highschool & time to CHOOSE!!!

Carpe diem,
Janielle =)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have you got the feeling that Christmas doesn't FEEL like Christmas anymore?
It used to be so exciting.
Christmas dinners with family.
It used to be so fun.
Opening presents!
It used to be more eventful.
Everyone's jolly and into it.
It used to be more meaningful.
Less of all these extra, excessive 'embellishments'.

Yeah, that's kind of why... But I've got another reason why I think Christmas no longer feels like Christmas.

We're in a part of the world blessed enough to be celebrating Christmas fairly extravagantly! Still I can't help but wonder, what is it like for those who cannot afford food and expensive presents like most of you guys spend on?

Is it LESS of a Christmas for them, then?

For my family, we've actually stopped buying presents the past 2 years. I mean, yes, we buy something small and simple for each other for fun since its 'Christmas'. But there are a lot of things we don't really really need. I'm just thankful and glad we can already celebrate Christmas as a family with homecooked food and stuff.

Perhaps we all need to strip away a lot of the excessive stuff that turns Christmas simply into another festivity to splurge & put on 10 pounds in a weekend! Perhaps it would do us good to keep things simple and embrace the HEART of Christmas.

Yes, we give and share, but its quite evident that this key part of Christmas has become a very shallow 'tradition' sort of thing that masks the true REASON for us to give & share and love & care!

The reason for Christmas is JESUS. Yea yea yea, we all KNOW that. They say that every year.

Once a year, perhaps?

Well Christmas or not, the reason for our lives is that JESUS CAME FOR US!

Without this hope, we can count ourselves living dead. Jesus Christ wasn't even born on December 25. There was no Christmas tree or Santa Claus or elves or reindeer prancing about. All this came from some pagan-influenced traditions. Its no big sin, but let us just not FORGET why we celebrate Christmas. It is to REMEMBER that Jesus came, lived, died and ROSE AGAIN.

He gave His life. God gave us this free GIFT of love and grace. Whoever RECEIVES the Gift receives eternal life through Christ Jesus.

The reason I think Christmas no longer feels like Christmas is because everyone has FORGOTTEN. We've gone on eating, drinking, buying, giving and having fun with friends & family. And for most people, that's ALL it is. Well... Isn't that what Christmas is about?

You tell me.

Blessed Christmas & DON'T FORGET WHY!
Janielle =)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who's Taking Center Stage?

What matters? If you don’t come back to WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO – as my dad always tells me – then you’re a lost cause, and whatever you do is done in vain.

I feel like I’m in the “final act” of my teen years. You people would be telling me to chill and just enjoy the remainder of it! But I have a feeling that if I don’t carefully use and harness this remainder, I’ll blow it. I’ll waste this precious time. It’ll be gone forever. I’d miss the chance to ‘get my act together’ and be ready when the time comes to crossover into the “real world”. 

Yes, enjoy while you are young.  Even the wise King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, ‘Young man, let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth; follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see…’

But here’s the catch, too:
‘Know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.
So remember your Creator in the days of your youth.' 

'Oh time is slipping fast
See the fine-grain'd sands falling
To the bottom half of an hour-glass.

Oh life is flying pass
Like the scorching sun blazing
Over the fields of withering grass.

Alas, alas
The gentle wind blowing
Tis' sweet dandelion to its utter ruin

Yea, it is gone...
And the world remembers it no more.'
- Janielle

I don’t want to forget what matters. I don’t want to live carelessly and stumble into the next phase of life half-blind. I want to see clearly and do what counts for eternity. Well it’s easy to say. But to really follow through? To seek thoroughly and know fully, with a God-given peace in my heart that this is what I have to do? Wow, that’ll no doubt be a tough journey!

But I know it’ll be worth the seeking & searching, the days spent in silence, waiting, praying. I know 100% God will show up. He has before. But should I fail, it will be my fault alone. Because that means I didn’t take time to seek, to sit in silence and listen. That means halfway down the track, I got distracted by what the rest of the world’s got to offer. Yes, along the way, all the high-flying dreams you have, all the idealism and fervor of youth will be watered down. It sounds terribly disappointing…

So what is the key? What matters?

I realize today that we will all fail. And even no matter how successful some people may get, in the end, what matters is if JESUS was at the CENTER of it all. If He wasn’t, or isn’t, then you’ve lost it all.

I must see myself, my life, my plans, my thoughts, in relation to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. But right now, I’m pretty sure Jesus is not really the center of my life. If He was, then a lot more things would be in their rightful places. But now, things are still messed up. I’m still wasting my time on a lot of nonessentials and bickering over things that don’t matter in the end. I’m still getting distracted, tossed to and fro by the whirling ideas and opinions around me.

To stop ourselves from getting swept down the current, we need to ask ourselves: WHO AM I in relation to God? What is my position when viewed in relationship to Jesus Christ?

Just like the earth, moon and stars orbit around the Sun, so must our lives revolve around the Son. Jesus has to be the center. Otherwise, we’re all just acting for ourselves. And believe me, that’s a very precarious position to be in. You’re basically flailing aimlessly in the dark, infinite black hole of the universe – all alone. Yikes, God knows what you’ll crash into next!


Am I just another hapless chimpanzee that’s part of the ever-evolutionary zoo on this God-forsaken planet called earth?

Are you simply a nobody prancing about on the center stage of this short, miserable 70 years called life?

Is that it?

Then I’d agree with Shakespeare that –

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But here’s the heartening news! We are NOT simply hapless monkeys or pitiful, estranged creatures wandering aimlessly or strutting miserably on the stage of life. It does not end here. Our short life now is merely for us to work out where we will stand in ETERNITY. Here’s our time to choose right, to work out our identity and position in Christ!

It all sounds crazy. It sounds like a hopeful man’s fairytale. But no, it is not. Life does not magically become a happy-ending story once Jesus takes center stage. But it does take on a new meaning, a new purpose, a new hope. Oh thank GOD we’re not alone or flailing in the darkness after all! If anything, don’t blame God. It is WE who have turned away from the Light and chosen to wander in the shadows of darkness…

Solum Christum cognoscere,
Janielle =)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Celebrating Australian PR Approval After 2 Years!

Finally, after two years of living in Melbourne, our family has been granted our official Australian Permanent Residence. It is nothing short of a miracle that we’ve come this far. From the day we migrated to Australia in November 3rd 2008, and stepped in Melbourne for the first time, knowing that for the next 3 years we won’t be able to go back to M’sia. All 5 of us arrived in Melbourne without a job, car, house or relatives. My sisters and I didn’t know what school we’d be going to.

We almost stepped into a “new dimension”. Life in such a beautiful and wealthy country was totally new. Going to a real high school was totally foreign and intimidating at first. But by God’s grace and providence we all have made it this far. We began this journey trusting God to lead us and open the right doors in a new land. We also arrived at this point, finally getting our PR, trusting that God will allow it to be granted to us in His perfect timing.

The story of how we were granted our Australian PR is nothing short of a miracle too. All glory to our God!

About 3 weeks ago, my dad sent the lengthy documents proving that we’ve all been living, working and studying here the past 2 years without returning to M’sia. People have warned us that it usually takes about 6 months + a medical checkup for the whole family before they grant us the PR. The odds were more so against us since it’s the Christmas season, and if you know Australia, everything stops during Christmas break!

So anyway, my dad prayed that we would get the PR before Christmas. It was almost, nearly, really, quite an impossibility! But my dad projected ahead and had the peace that God would answer. Of course, my mom and all of us prayed too.

But my dad pushed it even further, so that no one can say it is mere coincidence. On December 9, he prayed that the PR would be granted in 3 days time.

And most amazingly, dad received an email on December 11 saying the PR has been approved! More incredulously, we didn’t even have to waste money on taking medical checkups and go back to M’sia to stamp our visa! Most people had to go through these procedures and the long wait before they receive the PR. So very truly, it was nothing short of a miracle! We got it in less than a month!

To celebrate and have family thanksgiving, dad brought us out to a fine dining Modern Fusion Cuisine restaurant for a scrumptious meal. =)

Jirene and her appetiser =)

I love the food decoration! =) Essentially, that's what we're paying for... Hahaha.The novelty of having flowers and leaves and pebbles on your plate in addition to the delicious food. :P

Green tea Cheese cake =)

Red bean Macaroons =)

All glory goes to God for His abundant grace and providence over our lives. As much as it is heartening that we have crossed this hurdle, dad also reminded us that we can never get too comfortable. We mustn’t forget that God has brought us here and given us the faith and ability to make it this far FOR A PURPOSE. =)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Living With Porcupines...?

'During the Ice Age many animals died because of the cold. Seeing this situation, the porcupines decided to group together, so they wrapped up well and protected one another.

But they hurt one another with their thorns, and so then they decided to stay apart from one another.

They started to freeze to death again. So they had to make a choice: either they vanished from the face of the earth or they accepted their neighbor’s thorns.

They wisely decided to stay together again. They learned to live with the small wounds that a very close relationship could cause, because the most important thing was the warmth given by the other.

And in the end they survived.'

A witty short story by Paulo Coelho, South American writer of inspirational, thought-provoking novels.

What a funny illustration! =)

Although we humans poke and jab each other, no matter how irksome we may be to one another, we cannot deny the fact that none of us can survive without each other's company. We'd probably go even crazier than if we were to put up with our irksome friends, family or neighbours!

I cannot describe just how much I am thankful to God for my family. Without dad and mum, their sound advise and heartfelt encouragement, their reminders and corrections... Without my sisters Janna and Jirene, their mere existence in the home, the 'background noise' they make - without which the house would be eerily quiet - and the fun we all share on holidays and on 'normal days'... Without these people, I wouldn't be Janielle.

No matter how annoyed or angry or frustrated we get, no matter how bad we get on each other's nerves, like the porcupines, we still need to stay together to "keep warm". Well, at least getting poked and pricked is certainly the "lesser of two evils"!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lena's "Old-Clothes Swap" =)

Lena recently had a really cool idea. She invited us girls to her place for an old-clothes swap... Basically, we all had to bring our old or unwanted clothes, show everyone, dump them in a pile, and start swapping! It was so fun and FUNNY!!! :P

We took turns and paraded with the clothes and decided who wanted what most. Haha. It was so funny when someone couldn't fit into an unbelievably small-sized pants or dress! We should so do it again. =)

Here are the pictures we took. And oh, the later pictures were taken on another day when we went for an outing to Brunswick for shopping and eating pizzas, pancakes and chocolate cakes! :D

Hahaha, after the awesome clothes-swapping! Too bad we didn't take pictures while doing it. All too busy trying on stuff and not at all flattering for the camera... :P


 Justine Ayers, Nicole Ng, Emily Lanham and I at PANCAKE PARLOUR for the 3rd TIME!!! =)

Shopping. Coolest designer hats for $94! No, we didn't buy them. :P

 Kathy Chow, Justine Ayers, Nicole Ng and Emily Lanham.

Rich chocolate cake with whipped cream. Scrumptious. =) With Tatjana and Emily Lanham.

Justine, Tatjana, me, Emily and Lena at Pancake Parlour AGAIN!!! Hahaha =)

We promised we'd go out more often next year since it's our last year of highschool + we've all gotten to know each other better the past few months!!! This year at VCASS has been a long, challenging and exciting year for me. It's the best school I've ever been to, and I've had the best company at VCASS. =) Can hardly wait for what's in stored for 2011!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Staying SANE

For most of the time, we think sanity is interchangeable with normality or conforming to common standards of society. “Sane people” behave properly, communicate coherently and possess an understanding of oneself and one’s surroundings.

The dictionary describes sanity in another way too. To be sane means to possess a ‘sound mind’ and a ‘soundness of judgment or reason’. The Latin word sanus means healthy mind.

What is often the state of your mind?

We go on living day after day and seldom ever access the condition of our minds. Our thoughts and our memories, all stored up in that grayish matter we call “brain,” is what makes me specially me and you uniquely you! =) People suffering memory loss may be considered to have lost their identity. And all the experiences that molded them to be one-of-a-kind are lost! I cannot imagine a greater tragedy.

But back to the title, do you consider yourself sane?

Since we’re going from the definition that sanity is soundness of mind, no longer associate sanity with simply being “normal” and not acting weird like a madman would.

Although our mind is a never-ending continuum of thoughts, feelings and emotions, this endless motion is seldom refined into meaningful thought. Yes, occasionally we stop to think a little harder and to make sense of things, but most of the time, our minds are drifting on and on without any purposeful reflection. As a result, many of us end up living a rather deprived existence –we never make full use of and harness the full potential of the brilliant minds God gave us!

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Proverbs 23:7

For me, I like to think and channel my thoughts through writing. Oh what would become of me without the written word? I’d go insane! What would become of me if I didn’t spend time – in the mornings while I’m on the train or walking to school and at night before I sleep – to reflect on myself, my day, the people I’ve encountered, and to ponder both the good and bad things and ask God to help me make sense of them? I’d become deranged!

Every time I travel in the train to and from the city to school, I see people with iPods, iPhones and books to occupy their time. I also see people staring listlessly into space, either thinking hard or thinking little. Sometimes I’m a bit of both. I confess I’m a dreamer! Haha. I don’t have to listen to music, I don’t have to read a book – I just sit and let my thoughts drift. It’s a bad thing though! I hate wasting away my time like this. But perhaps it’s better to empty my mind for a while instead of forever keeping it stuffed with all sorts of external input. As it is, our world is full of noise, full of distractions. Sometime it’s good to be quiet, to recede into your internal world and shut out the noise of this world.

While you cannot control a lot of things out there or in the unforeseeable future, you can control your mind and your thoughts! You can regulate what comes in and goes out. A person who cannot control this vital part of his existence will succumb to insanity, the unsoundness of mind.

“Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 4:23

Be wise about what you see and what you hear. Good things will yield meaningful and positive thoughts, crappy & trashy things will obviously bring about negative and unsound thoughts. Perhaps at the moment it seems okay, but in the long run it’ll make you a very miserable person indeed!  

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7

Carpe diem,
Janielle =)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Our "Feel-Good" Generation

We are part of what I call the ‘feel-good generation’.

To many living in such a time, GOD has become almost irrelevant. In the age of unbelievable technological advancement, instant gratification, worldly knowledge – or the lack of it, powerful media influence and the abundance of mere opinion but lack of substance, all of us have our vision blinded to the truth and to God.  
Also, many of us live and act and make decisions based on mere EMOTION, on “how I feel”. No wonder the world’s a mess. If we’d entrust everything into God’s sovereign hands and not be overly swayed by shifty emotions – often affected by what others think, say or do, and by our fears & anxieties – we would very quickly uncover our purpose & destiny.

Sadly, we rely too much on our feelings, on our own human logic, on what others can offer us, on technology, on everything that’ll make life more convenient. So much so that even God has become a faraway, impersonal Being who exists or does not exist solely on the basis of our volatile emotions or thoughts.
Moreover, we believe what we LIKE to hear. Whatever suits our intentions, our lifestyle. Whatever makes us feel good and important and self-righteous. We plonk the title “Christian” on whatever idea or action that seems sufficiently virtuous or truthful – at least in our human eyes and opinion. But is that what Jesus did, taught and stood for? Being “Christian” is more than religion, tradition, rules and good works.

And among us who are believers in Christ, it seems that we’re just as much plagued by what the rest of the world waddles in.

“Day after day they seek Me out; they seem eager to know My ways… Yet on the day of fasting you do as you please. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?”

Perhaps to grasp the context of these verses you should read Isaiah 58. God was speaking through Isaiah about the Israelites. The people seem like they want to know His ways and live right. Yet when it comes to doing what they say they believe, they end up doing as they please. Is this the kind of faith we’re on about: doing what suits us – only a one-off, one-day thing – to demonstrate a lil’ ‘godliness’?

We are under a subtle but corruptive deception. Lookin’ fine on the outside, but rotting and hollow on the inside. We maintain a ‘form of godliness’ but DENY ITS POWER. You often hear people say, “I feel that this verse is saying…” or “I look at it this way…” Well, all this makes good ol’ coffee-cup talk – or as the Bible calls it, “godless chatter” – but what matters truly, is how GOD sees it.

Everyone has a brilliant, intelligent-sounding opinion, but no one cares to know and listen to what God thinks and says. So ultimately we’re pathetically going round in circles, and yet still thinking that we’re very clever and ‘on track’.

Don’t be fooled. It occurred to me that the moment I so much as think that I am OK and without fault, it is immediately my downfall!

The Apostle Paul warned the Philippian church,  
“For many, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, that they LIVE as enemies of the cross of Christ:
whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things.”
Philippians 3:18-19 (NKJV)
That’s our ultimately downfall. If all we see in this life is our studies, career, family, friends, car, house, money stashed in the bank, food, clothing, technology and what-not – then that’s ALL WE GET. Which, if you see in the bigger perspective God sees, is really nothing worth shouting about. If you don’t SEE BEYOND here and now, you’ve missed it all.
Paul declared, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 3:20 (NKJV)
Having said all that about our feel-good generation, I must conclude that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves and pursuing the best in life! God wants us to enjoy the life He’s given. But only make sure you do so REMEMBERING YOUR CREATOR! Wise Solomon said, after writing many lines on the meaning of life:
12 Of writing many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, FOR THIS IS MAN’S ALL.14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 (NKJV)

Solem Deum Timidus,
Janielle =)

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