Like everyone out there, I am taking a moment (maybe more than a moment) to sum up and take stock of a year that has gone by very quickly, as we leap into the new year. I want to give a toast with my favorite cocktail, Lychee Martini, to my year Twenty-Fifteen.
Ingredients for a glass of Lychee Martini
*Canned lychees in syrup
*A splash of white vermouth
Lychee is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, and now cultivated in many parts of the world.
I felt like a lychee, being a sole member of a nuclear family related to a larger community in the context of a church community. It felt like I was running solo in a longest marathon ever. No support, no encouragement and no cheering on when the going got tough and tougher. No reminders or nudging during days that the sun just refused to chill or the wind refused to blow or I just wanted to heck the run. I was admin, route marshal, water-boy and medic, for my own marathon. Maybe I did not trust anyone to know better or maybe no one really know how to care. The biggest problem is, however, me. I was clueless and helpless but arrogant and bitter.
Everything that can go wrong went wrong. Everything that was supposed to be made right went wrong too. Rejection and distrust filled the air that I was inhaling as I entered into the year. No one else but me, felt alone and suffocated. No friends, no family, no church. As I ran along, I felt like a sudden lack of blood flow to my limbs, due to lack of oxygen, causing acute limbs ischemia. Every attempt to stride was a possibility of hitting a raw nerve. Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free, said “It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” Yes, it was poison. I was poisoned by my own arrogance and bitterness. I wanted a way out. It was too painful. It was an undesirable wrestle with God.
The fresh fruit has a “delicate, whitish pulp” with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor, best eaten fresh but when they are canned, this perfume-like flavor is lost in the process.
It was supposed to be a year of dwelling in and enjoying the Lord’s floral, sweet, fragrant presence. A year of new hopes with clarity of my calling, after yet another year of roller coaster rides before, exhausted but believed that God was with me, He was my refuge and strength. I was all charged and girded up, all ready to front the battle, a challenge begun. Before I even knew, everything fell apart. He called and spoke and I was overwhelmed. It was difficult to be at a place so clear that it was between my will or His will. I did what I thought was necessary, fought hard for my will but relent because I wanted to obey God. But I was too arrogant. I thought I had it all. I thought I got it, it was obedience that He wanted!
With lots of unnecessary wrestle with God, I finally came to terms, in an attempt to “obey” God, for a sabbatical plan, almost half way through the chaotic year. I definitely did not have what it takes to be obedient to God but I thought I had. Along with me as I started my journey of Rest in the Lord was only a clarity of my calling that calls for more clarity. What I had was only canned goodness of God. I had boxed what God should be in my own ways. I suppose, we tend to create our own ideas of how God can be like to suit our needs and wants. Limiting God by canning His goodness will only limit our experiences He has so-given us with Him.
Water, frozen into a solid state.
John 7:38-39 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This living water I was given was frozen in my heart. I was consumed by the lies and deceit out of my disbelief. My heart was cold and hardened. It was painfully undesirable. It was so evident that God was present but I continued to whine and behaved like a Jacob for last two decades of my walk with God. Countless times, God picked me up when I fell, held me close as Father when I was lost, granted me favor as King when I needed miracles and provisions and forgiven my iniquities as Lord and Savior when I fail Him time after time. I was an ungrateful spoiled brat. I continued to let lies and deceit blind me and turned a deaf ear to our Father’s gentle voice. I had forgotten how He had held my hand and walked with me in His garden, so close, I could hear the steadfastness in His footsteps. I had forgotten His embrace that gave me assurance and love.
The sabbatical seemed like someone pressed the “reset” button on me, my life, my situations. Everything was out of my control. Secrets and hidden pains buried deep down and under for decades were dug out and put up in the open for scrutiny. All those times I thought I was hurt but had forgiven and moved on, I did not. This reset made me questioned my being and existence. I mean, really, why am I still alive and do I really believe in the God I claimed to be my Lord and Savior? Thankfully, it was also space for realignment with God.
The supposed Rest in the Lord out of obedience became a time of disaster and chaos. I experienced spiritual cleansing but responded with the spirit of doubtful Thomas. Roles and responsibilities were put away but my heart and mind were not at rest at all. It was a wake up call-I was too arrogant. God had to be the One to bring me to a place of rest, physically and spiritually, to remind me of the garden, the walk with Him and His assuring footsteps. God allowed a reunion for me with my dad to re-establish the Father-child relationship I have with Him, restore my identity in Christ, as a child of God.
The time set aside allowed connection with new people and re-connection of old relationships. I had always thought I loved these people because they are the church and I would do all I could for the church, for God. Truth is, I did not know what is love, I did not know how to love. His living water was given but frozen in my heart.
A distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol, sometimes with traces of impurities and flavorings. Ethanol, also commonly called ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol is the principal type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts. It is a neurotoxic psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs used by humans. It can cause alcohol intoxication when consumed in sufficient quantity.
I am not a big fan of vodka because it gives me a bad headache almost every time I consume it. I still drink it because there will be some content of vodka in every other good cocktail. I actually like the taste of most alcohol and spirits and the jovial state that consumption of alcohol can bring. It does bring some kind of pleasures when the effects of consuming alcohol kicks in. When the functions of the frontal lobes in our brain which control our inhibitions, self-control, willpower, ability to judge and concentration, is being suppressed, we have fewer inhibitions, self-confidence is boosted, become more jovial and daring and we talk more and louder. All of this explains why alcohol is considered an excellent social lubricant. Just like all alluring matters and objects in this world, we may or may not know of the consequences like I do with vodka, we allow ourselves to be tempted and to indulge in short-term pleasures. I put myself on the fringe and tested God over and again. I knew the grief vodka can cause to me and I allowed it to test my limits, to test God’s limits. I allowed the pain inflicted on me and expected God to save me and when He was silent, I turned bitter. Bitter against people, undesirable circumstances, life, myself and ultimately, God. I had forgotten how to be thankful. I had forgotten His gentle-kindness, loving grace and mercy. I had forgotten He is the Father, King and Friend.
To add on to the weight of turmoil I was experiencing, there was also a vocational calling that I was trying to seek clarity on for the last few years. I was so broken, completely wasted. I had to pull up my socks to re-calibrate myself, my work-life. For God so spirit-led me, I managed to craft out a mini-timeline on work over the last decade, identifying my strengths and weaknesses. As much as I loved to prove my worth through my diligence and capabilities, I saw so much favor, grace and mercy given to me. I worked hard spinning the wheels, just making sure I was not out of league. I was an insecure rat everywhere I was and for everything I was doing. All because I did not trust God. Work is like consuming vodka to me. It was confidence-booster for me and I was always in control because I was good at it. I should have known how bad it would be but I indulged myself to get the thrill and recognition to satisfy the cravings I had for acceptance.
An aromatized wine, a type of fortified wine flavored with various botanicals. The modern versions of the beverage were first produced in the mid to late 18th century in Turin, Italy. Vermouth is used as an ingredient in many different cocktails, as people found it ideal for lowering the alcohol content of cocktails with strong spirits as their base, for providing a pleasant herbal flavor and aroma, and for accentuating the flavors in the base liquor. Vermouth alone, can be consumed as apéritifs and digestifs but we need only a splash of it in the mixing of Lychee Martini to bring out the refreshing flavor of this cocktail.
Like a rainbow after the rain, there is always a good thing after the pain. Just as I thought the chaos was over and everything that went wrong will come to an end to be made right again. The Word from the Lord, Habakkuk 3:17–18 spoke to me,”Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” I was disheartened. Life has been so tough for me no matter how hard I have tried-thriving to live life alive in Jesus, learning to find river of joy even in the midst of drought, all in the hope to arrive at the rainbow, the promise of God (Genesis 9).
El Shaddai- The God that is more than enough (Exodus 6:1-9)
In this time of mulling, I was awoken to a Holy Ambition. I made it my first order call. It is not about how good or bad my circumstances and situations were and are, it is about how I respond to God in my good days and in my bad days. It is about this Giver, not about what is given. A splash of vermouth is more than enough to give a full refreshing fragrance and taste to make a good Lychee Martini. This sweet presence of God dwelling in us is more than enough to part the Red Sea, to call out Light out of darkness, to bring Hope out of hopelessness, to bring Joy out of sufferings. It sounds crazy but this faith we have is not just about logic to start with. I am not alone, we are all called to rejoice even in the midst of sufferings.
Holy Ambition-My first order call
Adopted and personalized from Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, to which indeed I was called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in me richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in my heart to God. And whatever I do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Standing in awe with the revelation, claiming a Holy Ambition to “BE”, I can see how I can “DO” what God has called me to-greet you with a Holy Kiss. Not by my will but His, not by my might but by His empowerment to be who He has created me to be and do what He has called me to do. This living water of His will flow like a river out of my heart, because He is more than enough.
Holy Kiss-My second order call
Adopted and personalized from 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 “Finally, I rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with me. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet me.” And all these with a “… unity of mind, sympathy, sisterly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (extracted from 1 Peter 3:8)
A toast with a Lychee Martini to my year Twenty-Fifteen. I am grateful to God for the fertility out of chaos. I can only be singing praises to and of God, here and now, because He is El Shaddai.
His beautiful & relentless love makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.