Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Golden Autumn—and a scarred leaf

I want to introduce my precious Chinese Christian friend, Pauline. She is the founder and president of a ministry of help to single parents (the widowed and divorced) which reaches not only the hurting in the U.S. but with an overseas arm of compassion to Taiwan. Until recently she flew there frequently to give lectures with the physical assistance of a companion who had been a nurse and missionary herself. The mother of an adult daughter, Pauline has excruciating hurts of her own. I’ll let her tell you about that:

“In early 2007, I found myself unable to walk properly as my right foot seemed to have lost its strength. After ten months of different tests, I was diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The past two years have witnessed me advancing into an array of support equipment simply to help me move around: first an ankle brace on my right foot, then a cane, a walker and an electric wheelchair. Now my arms are becoming weak, and I’m experiencing difficulty speaking or swallowing. The illness has developed so fast! What do I have left in life? Thankfully, I still have a lot to be thankful for despite my present condition.”

Pauline describes an emotional moment. Her testimony will speak for itself:

“It was early November and it had been raining for several days, but now the sun was shining. A friend suggested that we go for an outing, knowing that I would enjoy seeing the change of colors in the fall. We took my little white car and he drove us toward the mountains.

"Tall trees lined up alongside the road. The sun gently shone on the leaves enhancing the different shades of red, yellow and green. Some leaves had fallen; others still flew about in the wind, while some desperately clung to the tree branches.

“Mesmerized by the brilliant colors, I took out my camera in an attempt to capture the beauty of the golden fall. But my hands started to shake. For a moment I had forgotten that my ALS affected not only my legs, but also my upper body including my arms and hands. Watching me struggle to steady the camera with an extended lens, my friend graciously offered to hold the camera while I took pictures. For the rest of the drive, whenever I saw a picturesque scene and wanted to capture it, he would stop the car. By the time I struggled to sit upright in the car and find the right angle to take pictures, he was already out of his driver’s seat standing outside the passenger door, ready to hold my camera while I focused and took the shot.

“So it went, frame after frame, as I recorded the beauty God created. I was so amazed by what I was witnessing in nature that I couldn’t help thinking to myself: Why didn’t I come out more often when I had my health? Why did I wait till I am confined to the car before I thought of hiking? …Why? …WHY? I forced myself to stop engaging in these negative thoughts.

“Why should I waste time dwelling on the regrettable past while letting the precious present slip away? What is important is that right now, in the present moment, I am still able to come out to enjoy nature although strapped in my wheelchair. Isn’t that enough to be grateful for?

“As our car climbed slowly upward on the winding mountain road, my thoughts refocused on all the blessings I have received since I fell ill:

I am grateful that my daughter and son-in-law have been so caring and loving.
I am grateful that I have the best medical team to take care of me.
I am grateful that two churches have organized families to bring me meals.
I am grateful God provided a new one-story house making living easier and safer.
I am grateful that dozens of people helped me pack and move into my new house.
I am grateful that God gives me continuing opportunities to teach and preach.
I am grateful that my ministry, BY STREAMS OF WATER, Inc., has been able to operate as usual, organizing growth conferences for single parents, holding workshops, giving lectures on special topics both here in the States and in Taiwan;
I am grateful that I have been able to give lectures to students both in Taiwan and here in the States through the technology of Skype despite my increasing immobility.
I am grateful that I am still blessed with a good appetite and sweet sleep.
I am grateful that God gives me a positive attitude to cope with daily challenges.
I am grateful that I have so many caring and loving friends who pray for me each and every day and are there for me whenever needed.

“When I reflected on my many blessings from God, I felt incredibly rich and content! The moment of despair gone, I felt my spirits soaring high and my heart dancing along with the golden leaves. I stopped searching for the perfect leaf to record in my camera. Instead, I saw the true beauty even in the leaf whose center had been gnawed by insects, the leaf whose sides had been scarred by the whipping wind and relentless raindrops. To me, the scars tell the world a story of a life struggling for its existence; the imperfection adds that much more character to that scarred leaf as if it were claiming its own rightful place in nature, as if it were saying to me who is suffering from a deadly illness, “I am not defeated and I am not giving up. I am presenting the true beauty of life under the sun.”

“I looked up to the blue sky through the trees of golden brown, deep red and dark green; I saw life and living everywhere. I took a deep breath (while I still can) and responded in my heart, “Yes. Thank you, God. Being alive is beautiful!”

P. S. If you are interested in viewing the pictures I took on that autumn day, please go to and click on Fall Leaves and check Start slideshow. The accompanying music is also titled “Autumn Leaves.” Enjoy!
Leona Choy’s comment: Please pray for Pauline as you view and listen.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009



“Grandma, how can it be my anniversary? I thought that was just when people celebrated how many years since they got married?”

Nope! The dictionary says it’s “the yearly recurrence of the date of a past event.” That means any event, like the day you got baptized. It’s been a whole year already, one year since your Christian birthday on April 27, 2008!”

“Then I’m one year old in Christian years but 9 years old in real time? Look at this picture of me with Daddy and Father Matt at Sacred Heart Church last year. I wasn’t even tall enough to put my head over the baptismal font—Daddy had to hold me up!”

“You really have grown a lot this year, Jeffrey. Look at the marks we’ve made on the kitchen door—they are going up and up. I put a date beside each mark so we can keep track of your height.”

“When I’m on your bathroom scale, Grandma, it goes way up to 55 pounds! Daddy says he can’t keep up with buying me new shoes ‘cause I outgrow them before they wear out.”

“We grow both on the outside and on the inside. Our outside grows with nourishing food, exercise, rest—and time. Our minds and spirits grow with information and understanding. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew from a baby to a toddler, then a little boy, a teenager, and then He became a man. It says that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” That’s what you are doing, Jeffrey. You are growing on the inside in your spirit whenever you pray and when you learn more about Jesus and go to Mass and worship God.”

“I like to go to Mass. When I go to the altar with you, I cross my arms over my chest and Father puts his hand on my head and blesses me. But Grandma, when can I have the bread and wine too? There are some other kids in our church who get to receive it. And my friend at school who goes to a different church said that at their church anyone who believes in Jesus can eat the little squares of white bread and drink the tiny glasses full of grape juice. Why don’t we do that in our church? Why do I have to wait?”

“Those kids in our church have gone to classes on Saturdays at our Church and they learned a lot of things about God, sort of like school. They studied from the First Communion Catechism book. The teachers told their parents and our priests when they thought the children understood enough, could answer the questions, and were ready to have First Communion. That is a wonderful and important event, just like your baptism.

“First Communion means the first time you take the bread and the wine, right?”

“Right. You only do your First Communion Sacrament once; just like your Baptism is a Sacrament and you are baptized only once. After that, each time you go to Mass you can take communion.”

“Well, you already gave me that Catechism book with all the lessons before I was baptized. There are questions in every chapter to answer. I guess it doesn’t work for us right now for me to get to those classes on Saturdays, so do you think we could ask Father Krempa if I could study with you and with Daddy and get ready for First Communion?”

“I will ask Father or one of the teachers if that is possible and how we would go about it, ok? You are a good reader already. Some lessons you can study for yourself. If you work hard, by the second anniversary of your baptism next year, you might be ready to have your First Communion at Easter.”

“That would be great! Grandma, you said that in our Church we believe that the bread and wine are REALLY the body and blood of Jesus. Does the bread and the wine taste different than ordinary bread and wine? Like magic, do they really turn into the body and blood of Jesus? How does that all work?”

“We’ll study the chapter in your Catechism book about The Holy Eucharist and that will answer a lot of your questions. The “Eucharist” is the name we use for “Communion,” the time when we receive the bread and the wine. Some churches call it “The Lord’s Supper.” The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” We thank God for loving us so much that He sent His Son Jesus into the world to die for us and open the way for us to go to Heaven. The Eucharist is the most important part of our worship which we call the Mass.”

“Let’s read that chapter now. I see a lot of new words I have to learn—chalice, ciborium, tabernacle, monstrance…. On my next baptism anniversary I’ll be ten years old, and I might be as tall as you, Grandma.”

“Weeeell, I’m not so sure about that, but I think there will be a lot of marks on the kitchen door during this coming year to show how tall you will be growing on the outside. And God will measure your spirit to see how much taller you are on the inside!”


Friday, April 10, 2009



“Why do people call today GOOD Friday, Grandma? I’d say it was BAD Friday since people killed Jesus like a criminal on that day when He wasn’t one. Couldn’t God have done a miracle to keep it from happening?”

“Jeffrey, Jesus let Himself be killed on the cross for a special reason; He gave up His life voluntarily so that all of us who accept Him into our hearts and lives wouldn’t have to die for our sins. He died in our place. He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him. His suffering and death was BAD, it was terrible, but it turned out to be GOOD.”

"Yeah, when Jesus came back to life on Easter Sunday,right? He surprised everybody! He didn't stay dead. That was GOOD."

“The word we use to describe what happened is RESURRECTION. That means rising from the dead. And because of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on GOOD Friday, someday all of us who belong to Jesus will have a resurrection too.”

“How does that work, Grandma? You said that when Christians die, their spirits or souls which are invisible go to be with God in Heaven, but the bodies in which their souls lived are buried in the ground. When do the souls and bodies come together again?”

“When Jesus will return to Earth the second time in all His glory. We don’t know when that will be; only God knows the day and time. Then our spirits which were in Heaven come back into our bodies and we become whole again. We are resurrected.”

“But Grandma, our bodies will be all yucked up from lying in the ground for maybe a long, long time, won’t they? Maybe we’ll be just skeletons! Ooooh! Dancing around just in our bones? Spooky!”

“We don’t know exactly how it will happen. God keeps some things secret. But in the Bible, God gives us some idea of what will happen….”

“I guess you mean it’s another ‘mystery,’ right?”

“It may be hard to understand, but since God created us in the first place, He has no problem in re-creating us again to be the persons we were before—yet different.”

“How do you mean ‘different’?”

“The Bible says our body will be like Jesus’ body after His resurrection—it’s called a ‘glorified’ body, an ‘immortal’ body. That means we will never die again. ‘Mortal’ means that we can die. Jesus’ body looked like He did before, but it could go through walls, disappear in one place and then appear in another. At the same time He could be touched and talk and He could eat.”

“Why would we need those kinds of new bodies?”

“God has big plans for the world and all its people and lots of wonderful surprises. He has to prepare us with the kind of bodies we will need to live with Him forever in Heaven. Then we won’t need space-suits to live in that perfect atmosphere ‘cause we’ll have new transformed bodies for our spirits to live in.”

“So Easter should be a really special celebration, I guess. I just wish Easter would last more than one day.”

“Actually it does! In the Catholic Church from as early as the third century, Easter celebration is a 50-day season. It begins on Easter Sunday and extends all the way to Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost commemorates when God gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples. The prefix ‘penta’ means….”

“I know! It means FIVE-something. Like Pentagon the huge five-sided building where the Department of Defense is located in Virginia.”

“You got it! The name Pentecost originated from the Jewish Feast of Weeks which came 50 days after the Jewish Feast of Passover. Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate that feast when the soldiers arrested Him and eventually crucified Him. But I’ll tell you more about Pentecost later. And Passover, too.”

“So we can celebrate Easter for seven weeks? It seems like in our Church we get to stretch out the good stuff to enjoy longer. Like at Christmas. We spend four weeks of Advent to get ready for Christmas. That’s when we light the 4 candles in the Advent wreath each Sunday, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and remember how we ‘stretch out’ Christmas for 12 days too! The 12 days begin on Christmas Day and end at Epiphany, January 6. That’s the time the Wise Men or Magi came to worship and bring gifts to Jesus. In some places people give gifts to each other on Epiphany day and sometimes give Christmas gifts on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.”

“I like that kind of gift-giving idea! And I sure like the “stretching out” celebrations in our Catholic Church!”