The people hiking through the MacRitchie trails for recreation often bring their problems with them. What an irony. Chatting loudly as they walk past, one can’t help but overhear their worries about their job, their colleague, their boss, etc. One man used his mobile to talk business in Mandarin to his colleague in China!
Others walk alone, but with grim faces, determined to complete their 10,000 steps or whatever goal they’ve set for themselves.
Except for a few pockets here and there, there is little joy in the groups I’ve come across. And fewer still pause to admire the beauty in the forest.
I prefer to walk to a different drummer, and let the forest speak, recording my experience in photographs if possible. Here are a few shots I’ve taken:
May we pause long enough to hear what the forest is saying.
The Prunus Trail is a shady boardwalk along MacRitchie Reservoir. The majority start the one-hour trek here, walking clockwise to the Petai Trail, then turning right, down a hardened clay and stone path through the cool forest into dazzling sunshine.
One day, I decided to walk anti-clockwise, climbing up the well-trodden clay path and then turning left at the Petai Trail.
I have been cutting down from social media activities since the beginning of this month, and it has led to an increasingly greater quietness within. I don’t know how long this season will last — the last time God led me into this, it was for 10 years — but I’m enjoying it. I wonder if this is a little of how the saints of old felt when they retreated into the cells of their monasteries or into their caves to seek Him.
“A little” as I’m not living the ascetic lifestyle they lived, but as I cut down on my activities, I become more aware of how social media saps our soul and distracts us from ourselves. Conversely, as we step away from all the noise, we become aware of the inner stirrings of our heart and so can tend to them; as we tend to them, a greater wholeness and quietness settles within.
Most people I know live in frantic interaction with others and pay scant attention to their own selves, and it’s to their loss. Frankly, I think many people don’t want to look at what’s in their heart. But as we do, as we pay attention and tend to our own heart, the reward is peace and quiet within and a greater awareness of the presence of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)
(Picture was taken at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens).
A few days ago, I met a new friend who’d agreed to hike around the MacRitchie Reservoir with me. Our mutual friend couldn’t make it, so I met J by myself. As we got to know each other, it was interesting how she directed the conversation. First, she wanted to know how long I usually walked — it was 1.5 hours. Then I told her I’d just done some Pilates classes which helped me get my legs back into good order. Before, they were aching.
When she found out that my legs had just recovered, she suggested a shorter 1-hour walk. She knew where the Prunus trail would lead to, and how to loop back to the car park. She knew which trail was a boardwalk, which was rocky, which was sandy, and which was rubberised. She also knew that walking 1.5km would take approximately half an hour.
Knowing that I enjoyed walking, she suggested I hike the Green Corridor from Hillview to Buona Vista, ending there for a meal at the mall. The total time, including stopping for some pictures, would be 1hr 45 mins. She also said I should start early in the early morning as there are no trees providing shelter from the heat of the day.
I was blown away by her practical Servant mindset — in the first 20 mins of getting acquainted, she found out what I liked, how much walking I could handle and shared with me something she knew I would enjoy.
In return, I took a picture of her standing as the morning sun’s rays shone through the forest.
Over a thousand years ago, an Arab dhow sailing from China to the Middle East sank in a storm near present-day Sumatra, taking down with it 60,000 pieces of Tang Dynasty ceramic ware and artifacts of gold and silver. There it lay in the sand, mud and debris until 1998, when some Indonesian fishermen found it by chance.
Included in the ceramic ware, made for everyday use, were cups, jugs, bowls and dishes decorated with freehand drawings. Who were those people who created these dishes? And especially, who was the person who made the whimsical drinking cup below? He showed imagination and humor, delighting us even today.
The majority of us, a thousand years on, will remain anonymous. A minority, like this craftsman, may leave something behind. Most of us will leave imprints on the next generation or two, hopefully for better, not for worse.
The only thing that lasts forever is the Word.
Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:7c-8)
The Tang Shipwreck is on display in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore.
Recently I ministered to two people who’d inadvertently gotten spiritually oppressed after taking some Pilates lessons. As a result, the natural question is, is it safe for Christians take these classes?
My answer is first, I am very clear in my mind that every stretching exercise that benefits us is from God. As the enemy has classified some of the stretches as its territory, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that. Every good thing comes from God. Being responsible stewards of our body, we exercise to tone up, get fit, increase endurance. Stretching classes do that. So we have the right to ask God to intervene if the enemy takes advantage of our Pilates classes to oppress us. When we know our spiritual rights we can fight back.
But I wouldn’t learn yoga, which has a long occult history behind it.
So what do we do when we decide to learn Pilates which is a combination of ballet, gymnastics and some stretching exercises that the enemy claims a “copyright”? First, I would bring a court case to God and dispute that — only God has the copyright as He is the designer of our body and by extension, the exercises that would benefit it. He is the originator of all good things, not the enemy.
Second, the instructor is important. We are subconsciously influenced by our leaders. If he or she has clear occult leanings and I don’t feel comfortable, I would switch instructor.
Third, the environment. If it feels unclean spiritually, you may find another fitness centre to go to. But if you’ve already paid for the classes, go into spiritual warfare mode. Before attending the session, pray aloud appropriate bible verses proclaiming God’s righteousness and goodness and that His intention is always to bless us. It will make a difference.
The enemy has falsely claimed some territory, and it’s our right as Christians to dispute that and draw a clear boundary to keep him out. After all, every good thing comes from God and is to be enjoyed as a blessing from Him — including stretching classes.
For me, I didn’t see — I sensed Love coming through the clouds.
Let me back up a bit for those of us who are still new to the things of the Spirit.
We receive from God through seeing, sensing and hearing. Most of us tend to favor one out of the three ways of perceiving God. I usually sense more than I see or hear God. My friends are usually seers. Others perceive God ministering to them mainly through the Word.
If you don’t know how you receive from God, study the scriptures. There are seers, sensers, hearers and dreamers! From these examples, you can place what kind of a receiver you are.
God communicates with us spontaneously, like the wind, whenever He pleases. All we need to do is learn to receive.
In the midst of tumultuous times, Lamentations 3 grounds us:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.