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
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.
“It certainly didn’t take you very long to lose your focus on Me, did it?”
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!
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.
Finally I got myself a parallel Bible – The New King James Version and The Message.
Reading the preface to The Message, I was surprised to learn that Eugene Peterson was a former Bible-teacher-turned-pastor. In his own words, “The Message grew from the soil of forty years of pastoral work”. Why? “I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today. I had always assumed they were the same world. But these people didn’t see it that way. So out of necessity I became a ‘translator’, daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and save us…into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.”
“The Bible is not only written about us but to us. In these pages we become insiders to a conversation in which God uses words to form and bless us, to teach and guide us, to forgive us and save us.
“We aren’t used to this. We are used to reading books that explain things, or tell us what to do, or inspire or entertain us. But this is different. This is a world of revelation: God revealing to people just like us…Revelation means that we are reading something we couldn’t have guessed or figured out on our own. Revelation is what makes the Bible unique.”
So I will be putting aside my New Living Translation Bible which I had for a while now and start reading the Bible in these 2 versions side by side from tomorrow. And my prayer will be: ‘O Lord, give me revelation as I read through Your written words to me.’
A recent exchange of emails with a girlfriend prompted this entry. With her permission, I am sharing this on my blog.
She’d found out recently that a Christian she’d looked up to is now a single mother of a baby – a result of her 10-year relationship with a married man. And the relationship is still going on with her hoping that someday, marriage will happen.
According to my girlfriend, “she still has faith in God and reads her Bible everyday but just doesn’t have the courage to attend a church because of the stigma. Her previous church would never accept her. So, I invited her to xx (my church) and my cell-group. At least my cell-group has two single moms among us so she wouldn’t feel so judged. I told her that church ought to be a place for people who don’t have their life together. On the one hand, this is adultery but on the other hand, she is in need of acceptance. I guess my limited life experience and world view really could not prepare me for this. A person I admired so much as a faith giant has chosen to compromise after so many years of singlehood. She’s a mature adult and I have to trust that she knows what she is doing.
The consequence of this is that she now looks after her son fulltime and is dependent on the man’s limited provision. Her dire living condition forces me to think about visiting and doing something for her once every couple of months.”
“…I guess that is the best you can do for her at the moment – being supportive. As I grow older in life, I am beginning to realize that life is not all black and white. In fact, I wonder if God’s ever intended it to be that way. Perhaps, it is us who like life in black and white so it’s easier for us to respond accordingly. But life is not meant to be easy.
For instance, I shared a link on FB lately about ‘The Online Citizen’ (TOC- an alternative political platform on SG politics) and received a message from a friend afterward who visited that website and asked if I realized that they are supportive of gays cos they had a gay group banners on their website? I was like “so what?” Does that make them any less human? Or for that matter, does that make TOC a less credible source? To me, those are 2 separate issues here. But I guess that response could be typical of many Christians out there – “they are gays or associated with gays so let’s not hear them out at all”. To me, when I shared that link on FB, raising political awareness was what I wanted to do. It didn’t matter to me that they had a gay group banner on their website (yes, I was aware of that before my friend pointed that out). Yet interestingly, that was what my friend chose to focus on. And that is why the church will always find it difficult to handle the gay issue. How to when we put up our fists or cringe whenever we encounter them?
I think you did the right thing, xx. Jesus didn’t lecture the Samaritan woman (she with her ‘promiscuous’ history) at the well (John 4) – he’d simply pointed out to her who he was. And she drew her own conclusion. We were never told what happened to her in the end. Did she make right her existing relationship with the man who wasn’t even her husband then? Perhaps the ending wasn’t as important as the lesson Jesus wanted us to learn here. I will be saying a prayer for her tonight. Continue the great ministry you have with her.”
Isaiah 26 (The Message Bible):
“People with their minds set on you,
you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”
This roadtrip/weekend getaway will always be special to us because besides doing all the fun stuff, we had intentionally taken time out each morning to spend with God. In fact, CS was impressed that I ended up waking up earlier than I would on a normal working day! It was all worth it, I reckon. As we stand on the threshold of leading the young adult ministry, prayer has to be the foundation upon which we stand.
And God certainly spoke to us in those times with Him and impressed upon us the anchor Bible chapters – Hebrews 11-13. We are excited yet humbled by this privilege. If you like to know how you can be praying for us specifically, drop us an email.
Here’s my favourite photo of the trip – the wild lilies in the field. It brings home to me the oft-quoted Bible verse from Matthew 6: 27-33 (The Message Bible):
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
It has been 10 days since my last blog post so here are 10 random updates:
- We had shepherd pie which I made for dinner last night. It was delicious although CS preferred the usual mashed potato topping instead of the sweet potato version.
- We caught up with friends over coffee yesterday afternoon. One of them had started seeing someone recently and now wondered if the affection was mutual. It was hilarious to hear all the different interpretations that came through because of our diverse cultural background – French, Italian-Bosnian, European, American and Singaporean. Yet it was also interesting to see how dating norms and relationship rules differs.
- I am still baking – my latest creation was a a mango pineapple and coconut cake which I baked last Saturday.
- We had a great time of drinks with the neighbours last Friday. We met in honor of jR the neighbour’s cat who had to be put down last Wednesday because of leukemia. To a large extent, jR was the one who brought all of us closer together when he started hanging out at our house. We were happy to have him over and the neighbours were happy that jR found a second home especially since they had 2 dogs, 3 puppies and 2 amazing fish tanks to take care of as well…
- I started a weekly aqua-aerobics class with a girlfriend 3 weeks ago and has been enjoying it. (Despite a Swedish co-worker’s initial comment: oh aqua-aerobics; that’s what the old ladies do for exercise back home… And that made me realize that was also true in my class too. But who cares as long as I get my hour of workout that doesn’t leave me feeling all sore and achy afterward!)
- For the last 2 Sundays, we have been attending a Chinese service in a different church that we are hoping mum-in-law would settle down in. Thankfully, the initial signs are promising.
- What I am reading currently: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert and September Songs by Maggie Scarf. Interestingly, both books were about marriage especially in its later years. I guess it’s because we’ve entered ten years of marriage and I don’t want to take things for granted.
- I am starting to like my new car that CS bought me at an auction. Compared to my last car, this is like a luxury to me. Curious? Will post a picture here soon, I promise.
- My herb garden is flourishing so we have been eating home-grown parsley and coriander. I bought rosemary at the farmer’s market yesterday and hope it will grow as well too. I also bought mum-in-law some strawberry seedlings because this is the season to grow them, so hopefully that turns out well too.
- I am learning to trust God to work in His time, not mine. When nothing seems to be happening, it doesn’t mean nothing is moving. Makes sense? I guess this is when faith is called into action. Hebrews 11: 1: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (New Living Translation)
(Photos taken while we were out at the park with little L & K yesterday.)
“At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” [Matthew 18: 1 – 5, The Message Bible]