Out of convenience

I was listening to Malachi randomly, at a timely time, on the drive that I sort of wish I didn't go on.

God's people (the Israelites) in Malachi's time failed to give tithe and offerings as required. They saw it as a burden. They knew the requirements of the law but saw nothing wrong with offering blind and lame animals to God, though they had acceptable animals in their flocks. They gave, but out of their convenience. Those animals couldn't have profited them much anyway. Or in Jesus' time, those who were giving out of their wealth - perhaps they were happy to drop in a sum each week, as long as it didn't hurt their lifestyles.

Do we obey God out of convenience?

I have been (am) struggling with how love comes at a cost. Perhaps it costs time when you could use for study, or petrol on a week where fuel prices are high, or significant damage to your personal belongings. Perhaps the cost is less tangible, but very real nevertheless. Less hours of sleep, maybe even insomnia. Not being appreciated, or the sort of friendship where you are only contacted out of the other person's convenience. How about when the person you are helping, in the same breath that they express their gratitude, shock you with how self centred they are. Maybe with something that is not even socially acceptable, akin to refusing a small favour such as, can you please pass the water from across the table.

Sometimes I think, maybe I'm nice you know, I do love my neighbours - thinking about how I can encourage this person, spend time with that person, help with someone else's needs, buy something good to share with another person. I love a little, while it's convenient. Until it costs me something that hurts. Then it turns to hate or pondering whether it is worthwhile to serve God. If this person is like that, why should I ever do anything for them. I wish I never noticed. I should have stayed home, then this would have never happened. God this is not fair, why did this happen when I am trying to be good to others?!

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?" - Malachi 3:13-14

I guess, when you read the whole story of Israel and how patiently God had loved and blessed the people with everything they had, it's ridiculous that the people would say that. But somehow, it sounds more reasonable coming from my own heart... but it's not.

So no, reality is that I'm selective, and give up easily, and don't love that selfless love much at all. A humbling reminder it is, of how none of us can be righteous before God by our own efforts, and how deeply we need to grasp God's love to continue loving. What a high calling Jesus gave and demonstrated, to love your enemies; and if your enemies, then surely your friends also!

(By the way, I always thought loving enemies was an oxymoronic statement, but perhaps what he was saying was, those who despise you as an enemy rather than those whom you despise as enemies.)

What is on your mind?

Philippians 4:8
Think about such things.

Shaping our thoughts by what is unseen and eternal, and a love for God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. - Matthew 22:37

Writing about writing

"I don't understand, how can anyone write so much?"

I love writing.
Making sense of life. Sorting, shaping thoughts, feelings, views.
Stopping them from crazily and endlessly spinning in my head.
But you have to be careful with what you share with the world.
Careful not to write about people you know, offending them.
Careful not to name people, not to say too much about yourself.
Careful, so you think you are safe but maybe you are not.
Even in a convoluted way, there is depth in sharing who you are.
Never thinking, how abstract words, could surprise you.
Colliding with a mirror of your inner world, painfully. In tangible reality.
Writing to touch others, never imagining how profoundly it would touch you.
Writing about what was learnt; not seeing the start of a new lesson.
How could questions and uncertainties be so intertwined with writing.
Not knowing what to think, say. Not wanting to say anything at all.
Food was scrumptious. Blissful. Cannot hurt, or turn insane.
For a time. But sickening after a terrible evening. Hate it.
For a time, wanting to never, ever, write about it again.
So here I am again, resuming drafts on what I really love to write about.

From the other side

The ambulance call

"Can you have a look at her?"

That morning I was awoken by distressed cries and loud bangs on the door. Her tongue was swollen, in pain, and she couldn't speak or eat properly. The ambulance was called.

Sleepily I sat on the couch beside her. Ironically, we had just revised the ALS protocols the previous day. Airway, breathing, circulation. Tongue was mildly swollen but nothing else to suggest anaphylaxis. No respiratory distress. Er, what else would cause this? I sat in silence, watching her cry and struggle in agitation, unsure of what to say or do, not knowing whether it was appropriate for me to examine her further or to try to calm her down. Sorry, I wish I could have been more helpful. Fortunately the paramedics arrived, and I watched in marvel at how they turned chaos into peace; just simple measures of putting on a saturation probe and listening to the lungs, or speaking to her in a calm but authoritative tone.

Greeting the second ambulance that arrived, I stood sleepily on the front steps, with messy morning hair, in my bright stripy pyjamas. Are you the patient, they asked. Is she your sister? What?! Being used to the assumption that I was part of the medical team (even as a student), I was taken aback by the question. Then, I struggled to give a concise briefing on what was happening, especially not knowing how much of her past history to say or omit with her there in front of me. What did I do all those long case presentations for if I can't give a one minute handover?

I reflected, was it the hospital (or clinic) environment, the medical gadgets there, the doctors and nursing staff surrounding me, that bestowed upon me an ability to think and management problems medically? Void of those, I felt that a layperson could have handle the situation more appropriately. Maybe that's why unlike some of my classmates, I'm not excited about the prospect of finding myself in the middle of an emergency on the streets or on the plane. Surely, had I been dressed for work, wearing the stethoscope around my neck, hospital badge clipped to my shoulder bag, walking down the Emergency Department, the same presentation would have been met with a more active response than simply sitting beside her once I worked out that there was no immediate risks to her life, and that she was far from needing chest compressions. Yet it still makes me doubt whether I can be a doctor at all.

The inpatient

"Doctors! They can't make up their minds," she told me in exasperation, about how her elderly mother with rectal bleeding was managed on the acute wards.

One day they prepare and fast her, the next day they say the procedure is too risky. One they they want to do the colonoscopy, next day they decide to do CT instead. Now they scheduled a PillCam for next week. Angiogram was planned and cancelled. She's working but visiting the hospital every day, feeling frustrated with the decisions that are being changed all the time, not certain of how long this will go for.

So that's what it is like from the other side. Not that patients and relatives don't express similar frustrations during their stays, but I guess it's different when someone confides in you outside your medical role, and when the person is closer to you. A reminder of why good communication between the team, patients and their families is important.


One day, I was driving along a familiar road. Dusk tinted my vision with its greyish-blue shade. The street and city lights appeared dimmer against a sky which had not yet become completely dark.

Suddenly, I realised that every road sign along the way was blurry. I could barely make out road names, or read the number plates of cars in front. The green and red traffic lights smeared beyond neat round circles. I wondered, how many times had I driven home along this road, assuming that I could read speed signs, when what I was doing was actually relying on memorised speed limits? How often did I walked past these restaurants, without being able to read their neon-lit names?

Was my window foggy or dirty? Was it because I was used to driving at broad daylight or in deep darkness, but nothing in between? Is something wrong, did I sleep too little, were my eyes puffy or blurry from tears, did I need new contacts - but how can that be when I just started wearing fresh ones recently? The more worrying question was, how could I have not noticed the extent of blurriness in my vision, for surely it had been a gradual decline! Did I spend too much time looking at what was directly in front of me, was I too absorbed in singing (screeching) along to melodious emo pop songs while I drove, or too often lived within the landscape of my emotions and thoughts rather than in reality, that I had stopped seeing and noticing my surroundings?

One night, I wore the stronger prescription glasses, and turned off the bathroom lights. By chance my head was tilted towards the window panel above (which I completely forgot existed). I felt a flutter of delight and amazement at the stars above - I could not recall when I last had the acuity to clearly pick out those small, silver dots of brightness in the night sky.

What if your blessings come through raindrops?

Blessings - Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if each promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know
You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win, we know
That pain reminds this heart,
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

What if my greatest disappointments,
Or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy.

What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

God, why?

I think it will take me a long time, if ever, to understand. But I see now why I loved this song and thought so often about what it meant, since I first heard it on the radio that frosty morning. What beautiful words of sorrow and hope, truth and clarity.  How did I not see it before - there is no true antidote in anyone, any distractions, anything, but God.

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