bits + pieces

extraordinary week, so far

Sharing stories – On Sunday, we had Pastor Charlie and his wife over for dinner for the first time. He was the reason we kept returning to the church when we first visited. His friendliness and down to earth nature was so evident even in our first encounter with him. Dinner lasted three hours and it would have gone on longer if not for the fact that the next day was Monday. It is always refreshing to interact with the pastors outside their main “domain”, the church, and see the humanity that lies beneath.

Ministry at work – On Monday, I took a staff out for coffee when I sensed she wasn’t herself that morning. For an hour, in between sobs she shared her anger and pain from a relationship. I just held her hand and listened. I wished I was brave enough to pray with her there and then so she knew there is a God who cares…

Dinner with the boys – That night, we invited two young adults over for a roasted dinner. Good meals are always a great start! We chatted and caught up with one another. One is getting married in a year’s time; the other is still in uni. We shared about how we were travelling in life and some God-stuff. And I hoped the boys also got to know us better.

Church Connect group – On Wednesday, we had our fortnightly meeting again. The topic that night was the grace of God. And everyone shared about how their faith journey began. There were ten of us. I looked around the room and saw the most diverse bunch of people before me. Just in terms of age, we were ranging from 18 to 41 years old. Unsurprisingly, everyone was at different life stage – married couple, mother-to-be, students, working adults. Yet most of us have been meeting fortnightly for two years now since CS and I started the group. I felt blessed to be part of a group that God had brought together – a bunch of people who under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be hanging out together; yet here we are, fellow travel companions on a faith journey.

Heart-to-heart – On Thursday, I received an email from a young adult who shared openly about her disappointment and hurt from a friendship. I deliberated over what to write, stayed back after work and replied to her email. The same night, I chatted with another young adult about his struggle on how to handle a situation he was in. We disagreed at some point but there was no love lost. And I ended our hour-long chat by praying with him. In both instances, I made it a point to share from my own personal experiences. It is so easy to talk in cliches but what if it is me who is in the situation? Would I do likewise? I am learning to be authentic.

Is it any ‘coincidence’ that all these encounters happened at the time I’ve been thinking about relationships and community in our 21st century from one of the books I’ve been reading ‘Above the Line’ ? And attending Edmund Chan’s discipleship conference two weeks ago was a reiteration of what has been on my heart lately. Discipleship – the philosophy and its practical outworking in my life; I think I am slowly getting a glimpse of that…

“biblical Christianity assumes disciples of Jesus are being transformed by life changing encounters with God, a transformation that results in qualities such as gentleness, meekness, and humility being expressed deeply and regularly in the way Christians relate to one another.” Peter McHugh

arrgh…there’s a tear in my skirt!

Yesterday I woke up earlier than I usually do on Sundays to spend some time reading God’s word. I was also the emcee for church worship service later and had wanted to prepare myself for that.

I had what I thought was a good time with God. Lately, I think I am learning to read God’s word simply for what it’s worth. Not trying to “apply” it to any situation I am facing. Not trying to “read” into the Bible what it could be saying to me. Just simply reading His word for its own sake. No hidden agenda of asking God to show me direction, grant me revelation or give me signs. Not that any of these is wrong, of course. But I think I am learning to simply enjoy God for who He is as revealed in His word.

And that was what I did yesterday morning; had a great time and thought I was ready to worship God in church later. I was about to leave the house, took one last look in the mirror and that’s when I noticed a small tear at the hem of my skirt.

Arrgh…I sighed or rather, growled. “I am going on stage later and the whole church is going to notice the tear!” I debated whether I should change but time was running out, so I wore the skirt.

But honestly, I was still fretting when I got into the car. And then a prompting:

“It certainly didn’t take you very long to lose your focus on Me, did it?”

Then I realized it was just minutes ago that I thought I had a great time with God and was ready to worship Him in church later. And now I am fretting over a slight tear at the hem of my skirt.
“Don’t major on the minor” was the next thing I heard. And I had to repeat that to myself a few times while on the way to church because frankly, I didn’t ‘feel’ great.

But by the time we arrived in church, I was over it. So I decided to share that little episode with the church to encourage them to leave aside whatever may be on their mind that morning, and focus on worshipping God. Yes, I showed everyone the little tear at the hem of my skirt on stage!

God really has a sense of humour because he turned what would otherwise be a humdrum incident into a teachable moment for me.

Dear Pastor George…

As a young graduate, my first job was working as a secretary to one of the lead pastors in my home church which I grew up in. And so for three and a half years, I was blessed to work closely under a man who is not only a great boss but who has become for me, an inspiring role model. And after 15 years of working life, a huge part of my work ethos is influenced by him. So I decided to email him today:

Dear Pastor George

This is a long overdue letter from me but I thought ‘hey,it’s better late than never’!

It’s been four years since Chin Seng and I moved to Perth. I am now working in a local university. As I entered into my third year working here, I found myself reflecting where I’d come from in my working life journey. That’s when I realized a huge part of my work ethos has been influenced by you. And I’d never told you but I’ve always considered you to be a mentor during those years we worked together. In my current role, I have a fair share of management and leadership responsibility. So I have been reminded of you on occasions. I really wanted to appreciate you for teaching me, and more importantly, modeling for me, these lessons:
1. ‘Expect what you inspect’ – if something is worth doing, it is worth investing my time to make sure it is doing well
2. ‘Spirit of excellence’ – it can never be perfect but at least we have given our best
3. ‘Contingency, contingency, contingency’ – it’s not good enough to have a contingency plan, we need to have contingency plan for the contingency plan!
4. ‘I’ll back you up’ – supporting staff in their decisions not just in my words but through my actions
5. ‘You can do it’ – empowering staff to go beyond their own perceived limitation
6. ‘The importance of follow-up’ – never forget to follow up with a phone call or email or both!
7. ‘Sense of purpose and destiny’ – it is never about how much money one makes but the difference one makes in the lives of others

So really, this is a thank-you note.

1. Thank you for being a godly leader who always seeks to do what is right according to what God has placed upon your heart, no matter what
2. Thank you for being a leader who demonstrates you are a follower first of all
3. Thank you for being a courageous leader who never walks away from a challenging situation
4. Thank you for being a leader who tempers justice with mercy
5. Thank you for being a leader who leads louder through your walk than your talk
6. Thank you for being a leader who is real because you would share candidly about your struggles
7. Thank you for being the best boss one could ever have, especially to a young graduate who just started on her first job!

As I journeyed on in my working life, you will continue to be an inspiration to me. It is my desire that I will, do for others who come along my way, what you’ve done for me.

Yours,
Ervina

savoring anne lamott – part two

page 152: (on finding yourself or someone you know in a ‘bad’ situation) “Sometimes we let them resist finding any meaning or solace in anything that had to do with their daughter’s diagnosis…to stop trying to make things come out better than they were. We let them spew when they needed to; we offered the gift of no comfort when there being no comfort was where they had landed.”

page 163: “I believe that when all is said and done, all you can do is to show up for someone in crisis, which seems so inadequate. But then when you do, it can radically change everything. Your there-ness, your stepping into a sacred parent’s line of vision, can be life-giving, because often everyone else is hiding…so you keep them company when it feels like the whole world is falling apart, and your being there says that just for this moment, this one tiny piece of the world is OK, or is at least better.”

page 167: (on finding God in the ordinary) “…sometimes when you need to feel the all-embracing nature of God, paradoxically you need to hang out in ordinariness, in daily ritual and comfort.”

page 197: (on her battle with bulimia) “Over the years my body has not gotten firmer. Just the opposite in fact. But when I feel fattest and flabbiest and most repulsive, I try to remember that gravity speaks…I do not live in my thighs or in my droopy butt. I live in joy and motion and cover-ups. I live in the nourishment of food and the sun and the warmth of the people who love me.”

page 213: (on forgiveness) “Who was it who said that forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past?”

page 219: (on family) “…my family is like this old sweater – it keeps unraveling, but then someone figures out how to sew it up one more time; it has lumps and then it unravels again, but you can still wear it; and it still keeps away the chill.”

page 219 (on forgiveness and family) “…families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness.”

page 255 (on God’s love) “The mystery of God’s love as I understand it is that God loves the man who was being mean to his dog as much as he loves babies. So of course he loves old ordinary me, even or especially at my most scared and petty and mean and obsessive. Loves me; chooses me.”

I have to say discovering Anne Lamott and her works was one of my literary highlights of the year. I know, I am a nerd. One reason why I’d really enjoyed ‘Traveling Mercies’ was her raw honesty with herself and her readers. Here’s someone who:

  • was an alcoholic and drug addict
  • was bulimic
  • had a child out of wedlock and didn’t seem to get married after all
  • wears dreadlocks in her 40s cos she has had enough of her unruly mess of hair
  • frets about finding the ‘right’ man
  • struggles to love and accept her ageing mother sometimes (gasp, did she really confess to that?!)
  • uses swear words in her book (really, should a Christian even do that!)

You know, Anne probably wouldn’t be ranking very high in the typical Christian circle. Yet how many of us can identify with her struggles and wish we were as honest as she was about it? No pretenses; not trying to appear all-put-together; just speaking from one’s heart to the other.

personal project\two people twelve times\September 2011


September

This is our favourite spot in the house because so many good times have been shared with family and friends over the dining table. Truth be told, I used to bemoan about how we don’t have a separate dining and living area. Yet, almost every first-time visitor to our house often exclaimed how it exudes a ‘cosy and intimate’ feel. And I’ve learned in the grander scheme of things, contentment, is indeed, a great gain.

Thrifted!

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I am a happy girl today. During my lunchbreak, I found this gorgeous glass dome cake/cheese stand in the opshop. And on my way back, I decided to pop into a secondhand bookshop to try my luck to see if I could get hold of Bill Bryson’s “At Home” and I did!

it’s the small stuff…

like having hand-cut heart-shaped strawberries in my breakfast on Saturday…xoxo…

bits + pieces

Photo One: 6.35am – leaving the house for my hourly brisk walk with a co-worker before work

Photo Two: 6.50am – ‘God-time’ in the car while waiting for co-worker to arrive

Photo Three: 7.35am – South Beach, the halfway mark of our brisk walk

Photo Four: 5.35pm – why coming home will always be something I look forward to

Photo Five: the view from our dining table

Photo Six: close-up shot of the native flower arrangement on the coffee table

Photo Seven: what’s in our fruit bowl now

Photo Eight: my current obsessions – fruity ‘Jubes’ from Pascalls

Godspeaks

I woke up yesterday morning in the midst of the howling winds and decided to do a bit of Bible reading before church afterwards. Not my usual practice for a Sunday to be honest.

Our church is doing ‘Reading through the Bible in one year’ and so everyone has a booklet to help with the daily Bible reading. One of  yesterday’s passages was Proverbs 23: 19-21:
“Oh listen, dear child—become wise; point your life in the right direction. Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags.

At first glance, those verses didn’t seem to have anything to do with me.

Then a thought: Am I thinking about food more than I think about God? Do I spend more time baking and reading cook books more than I do on the things of God? Yes, on both counts. I hung my head in shame. Suddenly, the word ‘glutton’ doesn’t seem as irrelevant as before.

It’s interesting how I am perhaps more on my guard against the ‘blatant’ sins but happily oblivious to the ‘subtle’ ones in my life – ‘respectable’ sins, as Jerry Bridges titles it in one of his books.

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