Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Storing Expressed Breast Milk

Not all mothers produce enough breast milk for their babies. There are many reasons for this and these mothers should not feel guilty about not producing enough milk. However there are those who produce an abundance of milk. The question then arises on how to store the extra milk.

Make sure you wash your hand and clean your breast before expressing your milk.

·       What type of containers should you use?

The best containers are clean, capped glass or screw capped hard plastic, BPA-free containers. You can also use special plastic bags designed for milk collection and storage. If you use the plastic bags, be careful as they may tear. It will be better to keep these plastic bags in hard plastic containers such as those used for food storage. Try to use smaller containers (like 3-4 oz) so that each container  contain enough milk for one-feed by your baby.
Each container should be labelled with the date and time. It is best to store them at the back of the fridge to protect from fluctuations in temperature when the fridge doors are opened frequently. Use the one who was stored the longest first.

·       How long can expressed breast milk be stored?

The general principle is that expressed breast milk should not be used if it is at room temperature for more than 4 hours. This is especially so in the hot humid climate of Malaysia and Singapore.

Expressed breast milk stored at the lower compartment of the fridge may be kept more than 72 hours but less if the fridge doors are frequently opened.

Expressed breast milk stored in freezer compartment of the fridge may be kept up to 2 weeks.

However if the freezer of the fridge has a separate door, it may be kept up to 3 months.

Those in deep freezer may be kept for up to 12 months. However it is best if used by 6 months as the Vitamin C in the breast milk deteriorate with time.

·       How to thaw stored expressed breast milk?

Stored expressed milk should be thawed to room temperature slowly by immersion in a bowl of warm water. Stored expressed milk should never be thawed by boiling or using the microwave. Boiling and microwave destroy the proteins and other goodies in the breast milk.

·       How to add fresh expressed milk to stored frozen milk?

The best way to add fresh expressed milk is by cooling the milk first, either under running water or with ice packs. Then when it is cold, it may be added to the frozen milk. This is because we do not want the outer frozen milk to thaw as rethawed milk are not healthy.

·       Why are the thawed milk of a different colour?

Thawed expressed breast milk may have a different colour and odour as compared to fresh breast milk. That is normal. Some studies have showed that breast milk may have antibiotic properties. Contaminated milk will smell rancid and taste bitter.

By creating your personal ‘milk bank’ for your baby, you ensure your baby will have a constant supply of your milk even when you are busy or away for some time. Your breast milk is best for your baby because your body has tailored-made it to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. 


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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Busy and Hurried Soul

I have often be queried why I titled my book Spiritual Formation on the Run. It was suggested that it should include ‘…run away from the busy life’ or ‘...run to silence and solitude’. It puzzled me for a long time until it dawned on me that to many people, spiritual formation or spiritual growth is incompatible with being on the run or movement. To many, spiritual formation will only occurs when we are still and silent, like on a retreat in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. I do not know where this idea comes from but it seems to me that too many of us are exposed to Chinese kungfu movies where the grandmaster or sifu only attain enlightenment (usually implied a higher level of martial skills) by meditation while sealed in a cave on top of some misty mountain. I often wonder how he (usually it is a he) handle his toilet needs. I guess this is reinforced by the Christian division of hyperactive Martha who was busy being hospitable to her guests, and her quiet contemplative sister Mary who was sitting and listening to Jesus.

Luke 10:38–42 (NASB95)
38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Interestingly, this account was only found in Luke and happened immediately after Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). The parable highlighted doing good to all people irrespective of caste, religious afflictions and stations in life. Martha is associated with the active life while Mary with the contemplative one. Jesus seems to praise Mary’s choice as the correct one. If this is the only lesson from the passage, then Martha should come and sit at Jesus’ feet and everyone will go hungry without supper!

The houses in New Testament times are rather small so even when preparing food, both the ladies will be able to hear Jesus. The passage seems to imply that initially both Mary and Martha were involved in the food preparation. Then suddenly Mary left the preparation to sit at Jesus’ feet to focus fully on what Jesus was saying. Martha’s ire was that her sister was not helping her in the food preparation. Martha was busy and in a hurry. Maybe she wanted to produce an exception meal for her special guest. In her hurriedness, she was distracted and was not listening to Jesus. Jesus was speaking to everyone in the house, not just Mary. Jesus’ rebuke to Martha may be because she was not listening to him. This was because she was so distracted by her busyness. Martha should be preparing the food and listening to him at the same time as women are wonderful at multi-tasking. I am sure Jesus wanted to eat too. Jesus did not say, “Martha, stop what you are doing, sit down and listen to me!”

We all live very busy lives. From the moment we are rudely awakened by our alarm clocks to the time we fall asleep, we have to perform many tasks. Our ‘to-do’ list often runs to two or three pages. If being busy means that we have not chosen ‘the good part’ that most of us are in trouble. Not many of us have the opportunity to take time away to be in a retreat, to just sit and listen. There are bills to pay, houses to clean and kids to bring up.

There is a difference between being busy and being hurried. We can be busy without being in a hurry. Busy is an external condition where we have many tasks to complete. Hurry is an inner state where we are distracted because of the external busyness. This inner state of distraction means that our soul is confused, fragmented and disconnected with our minds, hearts and spirits. What is more significant is that the hurried or distracted person cannot hear the voice of God. What Jesus was trying to teach Martha (and us) is that it is not wrong for us to be busy (for which one of us is not busy) but not to be hurried and distracted. This is because when we are hurried and distracted, we cannot hear him.

This means that Christian spiritual formation and transformation may occurs in a busy life. However the process may be difficult in a busy and hurried life. Dallas Willard notes, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Is it possible to live a busy but unhurried life?  Gregory the Great was the first monk to become a pope. He became Pope Gregory 1 from 590 to 604 AD. Gregory was a Doctor of the Church and a Latin Father. He contributed a lot to church services and is known as the father of Christian worship. In his busy schedule, Gregory was able to maintain a powerful devotional life. John Calvin mentioned Gregory in his Institutes and praised his contribution to the church.

How do we become unhurried in our busy life? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Do not be a perfectionism
Martha may not be so distracted if she was not in such a hurry to prepare a gourmet meal for his visitors. Perhaps a simpler meal may allow her to slow down and listen to Jesus as she worked. Our home need not be so clean and tidy to be featured in Ideal Home magazine. We do not need to have that complete set of Minions from McDonald Kiddy Meals. Being less of a perfectionist may remove the strain of being a hurry.

2. Prioritize your to-do list
Not all of the things on our to-do list needs to be completed. The world will not come to an end if we do not complete it. If Christ comes again then we do not need to complete it. Prioritize and do the most essential things first. Be realistic in assigning the amount of time to complete each task. Group similar tasks together. A bit of forward planning can help to eliminate hurry from our schedule.

3. Take ‘minute’ retreats
A ‘minute’ retreat is to take a minute of your time during a busy period, close your eyes and calm your mind, slow your breathing and take deep breaths. Visualize a quiet room within your heart where you can meet with Jesus and say hello. This will break the vicious cycle of stress caused by your business. Stress tend to induce hurry in our inner life. You can close your eyes and do a minute retreat at any time and in any place. Except maybe when you are driving or skydiving.

4. Keep things in perspective
In a particular busy period, ask yourself will what you are doing matters in five years’ time? Will it matters in a year’s time? Next month? Often answering this questions bring things into perspective. Having things in perspective helps to eliminate hurry. One of my favorite quotes from Facebook is a paraphrase of the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can change and wine to accept the things I cannot, and chocolate while I figure out the difference!” Not taking ourselves too seriously and having a sense of humor helps us to slow down and not to hurry.

5. Let go and let God
The need to be in control and a busy life is a guaranteed recipe for a hurried life. Most of us are control freaks. We need to learn to let go and let God take control of our life and of our schedule. Learning to let go means learning to say no. Letting go means focusing on things that has eternal value rather than chasing after things that offer temporary satisfactions. This also helps us to be more patient with events and people.

A hurried life is a distracted life. We can be hurried even when we are not busy. Even during our vacations we are hurried and busy. A distracted life is an unhealthy life. It harms our bodies leading to hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart problems. Our souls are also being harmed. We are restless. We feel disconnected and lost. There is lacking a sense of being anchored or grounded. We became swayed by every events that come our way. We are irritable and short fused. And we cannot hear the voice of God. Listening and hearing to the voice of God is what Jesus said as ‘only one thing [is] necessary’. So, take a deep breath and stop being in a hurry to finish reading this post!


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Thursday, June 18, 2015

You must arrange your days

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The most important thing in your life

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Hurry kills your spiritual life

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Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul

Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul
St. John of the Cross is closely associated with the prayer concept of the dark night of the soul. Living in the 16th century, St. John was a reformer of the Carmelite order of which he was a member. He is regarded as one of the foremost Spanish Christian mystic. His well-known works include the Candicle of Love, the Dark Night of the Soul, Ascend of Mount Carmel and his poem Living Flame of Love. Actually all his works have only one theme and one book was often a commentary on the other. The theme is the contemplative movement of a soul to a unitive experience with God in prayer. The dark night of the soul must be understood in the context of prayer. In the last couple of decades, there has been a revival of usage of phrase ‘the dark night of the soul’ especially by evangelicals. Unfortunately it is often misunderstood as depression, spiritual dryness, or being patience in suffering.
To understand the concept of dark night, we have to aware of the context in which St. John of the Cross wrote. Firstly, he was a practicing mystic and a spiritual director. A mystic just meant a person who have experienced the closeness of God and is aware of the His loving presence. As a spiritual director, he was aware of the pitfalls and dangers of depending on experience alone. He described his works as spiritual theology. His focus was on prayer especially contemplative prayer.
Secondly, he was trained under the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas divided a human soul into two parts: sense and spirit. By sense is meant our attachment to the things of this world which include human relationships. The spirit refers to the cognitive part of the mind which includes the will, memories, and thinking. When St. John refers to the dark night of the sense and of the spirit, he was assigning different meanings to the common modern words we use; sense and spirit.
Finally, St. John comes from the apophatic tradition. Christian spirituality basically may be divided into two categories. The kataphatic tradition, to which most Protestant and evangelicals belong, believe that God may be known and described by language. This tradition utilizes creeds, doctrines and lots of words. The apophatic tradition believe that God is too awesome to be described. No human language has words to describe God. God can only be describe by negatives. The only way to describe God is by what He is not. The apophatic tradition is known as via negativa because of its use of negatives. Examples of apophatic theology include God's appearance to Moses in the Burning Bush; the Name of God which may not be pronounced; and the prophet Elijah's experience, where God reveals Himself in a "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:11–13).
Prayer is human-God communion. Broadly prayer may be divided into linguistic or non-linguistic. Linguistic prayers which include verbal and meditative prayers are prayers that are practiced using our mind and language. Most Christians are familiar to this form of prayer. We ‘talk’ to God using words. The non-linguistic prayers include contemplative and unitive prayers. Here words are seldom used. It utilizes our other faculties to connect with God. St. John focused mainly on contemplative and unitive prayers. He observed that people who have are advancing in contemplative praying will eventually hit a brick wall on their way to unitive praying. Suddenly they will find their prayers dry, arid, or lose their sense of the presence of God. They may even feel that they have been abandoned by God. When these pray-ers have examined themselves and not find any hidden unconfessed sins, St. John described the stage they are in as the dark night of the soul.
St. John described two dark nights of the soul. One is the dark night of the sense and the other is the dark night of the spirit. Each in turn has a passive and active component. St. John suggested that God is teaching us to detach from our attachments to the world, and attach ourselves to Him personally. It is to teach us to let go and let God be God. According to St. John, the dark night of the sense and the dark night of the spirit do not occur sequentially but are both side of the same coin.
In the dark night of the sense, we are taught to detach ourselves from our worldly possessions, our loved ones and even ourselves. Most of the time, it is these worldly possessions that distract us from being fully present to God. In the dark night of the spirit, we are taught to detach ourselves from our pride in our cleverness, our memories (past), and our willfulness. We are also taught to let go of our past experiences of God as these experiences may bind us down. The passive component is letting God work on us and the active component is our willingness to submit and allow God to work. It must be noted that this is different from the Buddhist discipline of emptying of the mind and attaining the non-self. The goal here is not to empty the mind and self but to detach from all that bind us and distract us from God Himself. The aim of these dark nights is unitive prayer where one become fire.
Only when we have lost all our detachments can we stand close to God who is fire or ‘living flame’ as St. John noted. St. John also noted that not all pray-ers will achieve this unity. Many pray-ers perceive that during the dark nights, God has moved away. God has not moved away. Instead He has moved closer to us. So close that we are blinded by His light. Hence the darkness we perceive.
One metaphor which St. John like to use to describe the process of the dark nights was that of a burning log. When a fire was burning a log, first it dehumidified the log. Then it turned the wood black and charred. Finally “the fire brings to light and expels all those ugly and dark accidents which are contrary to fire” [Dark Night, Book II, Chapter 10]. When the fire of the Holy Spirit burns us, the initial effect is alarming and painful. As the damp log dries and become blacken, cracked and dry, in God’s refining fire, our real self is revealed - blackened, cracked and dry. It has always being there but the flame revealed the truth and the truth always set us free.
This progress of contemplative prayer to unitive prayer as illustrated by the dark nights of the sense and spirit is a useful guide for those who seek to deepen their prayer life. In the process, we are transformed. This process was not discovered by St. John. The early church tradition was very aware of God as refining flame and our purpose to be like God. Here is a short story from the Desert Fathers; Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.' If we will, pass through the dark nights, and become all flame.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Taking Spiritual Retreats

A military retreat is often considered as losing ground as the soldiers are involved in moving back or withdrawal. However, not everyone sees it as that. General Oliver Prince Smith during the Korean War declared, “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction”! A spiritual retreat is not losing ground. It is taking a step sideways to reflect upon and to consolidate the advances of our spiritual life.

Our lives are very busy. We are swept away by its non-stop demands. The insistent attention-grabbing noise of the mobile phones, television and social media drowns out the voice of God. Our bodies are stressed resulting in hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. Our souls are fragmented and disjointed. Our lives feel disconnected and surreal. We feel as if we are drowning in a strong flowing river, being swept away with no control over our lives. All we can do is to try to keep our heads above the water. And when we do have a moment to take stock, we wonder where the months and years have gone.

It is essential for those who are serious about their spiritual life to take time out for retreats. As mentioned, retreats are when we intentionally step aside to reflect about our life in Christ and to listen to Him who is speaking into our lives. Retreats are opportunities for us to

• assess the state of our spiritual life
• making important decisions
• pray
• listen to God
• rest
• recharge
• recommit
• renew
• reassess our ministries

Retreats are of many different forms. There are the formal guided retreat (usually under a spiritual director), informal group retreat, and personal retreat. Personal retreat may be conducted by a person on his/her own. Frequency of taking a retreat depends on individuals. The length of a retreat may varies. It may be a 3 days retreat, a one week, one month or three months. In silent retreat, speaking is kept to the minimum. There are no fixed place for a retreat. We may have a retreat at a retreat center (which is ideal because they provide accommodation and food), a hotel/resort, a caravan or a tent. Or even in a home. Example of a personal retreat in 2011 here

The focus of a retreat is not in how it is structured but in spending time with ourselves and with the Lord. The keyword is listen.
• We listen to our bodies. Some of us are not very good custodians of our bodies. Often I find that most people sleep a lot during their retreat. This is because many of us are not aware of how tired we really are.
• We listen to our lived experiences. Many of us need time to process our experiences. There are grief processes that need closure. Issues of deep hurt and wounds need to be identified and undergo the process of healing. There are areas of forgiveness that needs to be worked through.
• We listen to the silence in our lives. These silence which is found between words speaks of our deepest needs, and of our innermost demons. Silence allows us to name and face these needs and demons.
• We listen to the sound of our prayers. Our prayers reflect our inner spiritual life. This is especially true of our prayerlessness. Though we give a lot of lip service to prayer, time for prayer is the first to disappear in a busy life.
• We listen to the word of God by reading the bible. Bible reading is an essential component of a retreat. In a retreat, we have time to read the bible slowly and reflectively. In normal days, many of us read the bible either to prepare a sermon or for cell group bible study.
• We listen to the voice of God. This may be an inner strong impression, a strong conviction or even an audible voice. The whole process of a retreat is to slow us down so that we can heard the small still voice of God. As Elijah cannot hear God during the noise of wind, earthquake and fire, we often cannot hear him in the earth shaking and stormy events of our everyday life.

In a retreat, we step aside to listen to the whisper of a small still voice, to reevaluate our lives, pray and to obey. That is why it is essential for us to make time for retreats. This is especially if our lives are very busy. Allocating time for retreat should be part of our planning and ministry. I recommend that we plan for at least two retreats a year. We must realize that we serve out of our being. There is always the danger that we run on empty. We may get away by serving when we are spiritually empty but it will be a matter of time before we crash and burn. We must realize that when we fall, not only we will be hurt, more importantly many others who depend on us and look up to us will be hurt too. So take time out to step aside in our busy life and listen.


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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Random Glimpses of My Desktop (23) : Batman by Reis

Batman Black and White
DC Collectibles 2015
Designed by Ivan Reis
Sculpted by Mat Brouillard
2225 of 5200

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stone tell Stories

The Gallio Inscription in Delphi

One of the most significant archeological artifact I saw in The Delphi Museum in Greece is the Gallio inscription. Gallio was the proconsul of the province of Achaia when the apostle Paul was brought before him as documented by Luke in Acts 12:17.
Acts 18:12–17 (NIV84)
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”
14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he had them ejected from the court. 17 Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.

With the Gallio inscription, we are now able to narrow down in time, almost the exact year when the apostle Paul was in Corinth during his 18 months stay. Lucius Junius Annaeus Gallio was the elder brother of the Stoic philosopher Seneca who was the personal tutor of Nero and who later took on a more political role when Nero became emperor after the death of Claudius. Gallio was appointed by Emperor Claudius to be proconsul of Achaia around July 51 A.D. He was proconsul for about only a year. The Gallio Inscription which was found in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi was dated to be written in the spring or summer of 51-52 A.D.

Hence we are able to place the apostle Paul time in Corinth during his second missionary journey at between 51-52 A.D. He was probably brought to face Gallio in spring or summer of 51 A.D.  The incident recorded in Acts 18:12–17 probably occurred at the beginning of Gallio’s term, since the Jews would have hoped to get a ruling against Paul from their new proconsul. Not long after that, Paul left Corinth, probably in the summer or autumn of 52. Elwell and Beitzel adds,

According to Acts 18:11 Paul had spent 18 months in Corinth, which means that he probably arrived in the early months of 50 or the end of 49. That arrival date is confirmed by Acts 18:2, which says that Aquila and Priscilla had only recently been exiled from Rome when Paul came to Corinth. A 5th-century historian, Orosius, dated the edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from Rome in A.D. 49. Therefore Paul and Aquila and Priscilla probably arrived close together late in 49 or early in 50. Early in his 18-month stay Paul wrote his first and second letters to the Thessalonians.

             (Elwell, W.A. & Beitzel, B.J., 1988. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, pp.446–447.)

Using this as a fixed point, we are now able to pin point the start of Paul’s missionary journeys and even some events in Acts. Working forward, we are able to date Paul’s other activities until he went to Rome around 60 A.D. Two possible chronology are as follows:



31 or 32

Paul’s conversion
(Acts 9:3–19)

32 or 33

33 or 34

First Jerusalem visit
(Acts 9:26–30)

34 or 35

46 or 47

Famine visit (Acts 11:30)

46 or 47


First missionary journey
(Acts 13:4–14:28)



Jerusalem council
(Acts 15:1–29)


late 49
or early

Paul’s arrival in Corinth on
second missionary journey
(Acts 18:1)

late 49
or early

autumn 51

Paul’s departure from Corinth
(Acts 18:18)


This is significant because this was be one of two events which we may accurately date. The other event was the date of the famine visit in Acts 11:30 which is either 46 or 47 A.D.
Acts 11:27–30 (NIV84) provides the context.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

We can be sure that events recorded by Luke and the other evangelists have a historical basis. This is important because the Bible is a book with historical foundations. The Bible records the incarnation of God in human history.

[1] Elwell, W.A. & Beitzel, B.J., 1988. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, p.447.

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