There were Big decisions made in the past few months, and with no sustained way of finding the peace in them except with a time of extended reflection. Even as I make plans in my heart, He is actively ordering my steps (Prov 16) – and I find that it brings a freedom and a peace that I cannot explain. This future is tied not to making the right decisions, but to trusting the right God.
So I bring to Him the stuff of my heart – its fears and hurts, and its dreams.
To recognise the failures of my little things and the fears of my big things. So that one day I can stop my not-doing-enough and then the doing-too-much; oh for the wisdom to know the difference.
Yet, I anticipate straight paths as I move ahead into the decisions made. May He show Himself merciful and mighty.
…comes cheap in this age, no doubt. I have enjoyed reading some excellent online articles about the Marvel movie Black Panther – originally conceived way back in the 1960s to offer black readers a character to identify with.
But, this is my first time watching a film which centers on black people so purposefully – their agenda, their form of agency, their power. This was not about black pain, black suffering, and black poverty; familiar topics of movies on the black experience.
My question was: can Wakandan leadership be blamed for protecting their isolation? Slavery and colonisation have harmed Africa in permanent ways – the continent has lost fit and abled men to slavery, and Europe provided little investment in its people and infrastructure. Can we agree that the closing scene at the UN represents the best-case scenario, a one-world order that is so akin to the anti-Christ’s role in creating a One World rule?
The pain of the movie lay with the villain, who is part of the African diaspora – a man who “does not know their ways” or culture. In this character lies the entire tension of what it means to be ‘African American’ – a dissonance that draws from the descendants of people who were brought to the country against their will. A man who, for those who have struggled with racial injustice in history and in life, represents their hurt. He increases the conflict in this film to new heights. And his final reference to the African bodies in the ocean called to mind:
At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean there’s a railroad made of human bones.’ (Amiri Baraka)
There were only two other movies that have made me weep – The Green Mile, which features the unjust criminal prosecution of a black man, and 12 years a slave, which broke something very deep in my heart, such that every other fresh reference to black slavery pulls it to mind immediately.
“Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”
After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void, ‘” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.”
Reading her book was liberating – not just to gaining a kind of knowledge of self-compassion and self-confidence, but also a reminder to ask the important questions, like:
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
It was also important for me to recognise that grief doesn’t share its schedule with anyone; we all grieve differently and in our own time. One may never really be done with the “grief thing”.
“But, Lord, in special forgive me my sins of omission”.
Sometimes, when gripped by the futility of days that swim by, I plead for fresh guidance from the Lord concerning the scope and focus of my toilsome labour – a way to know if I am spending my time in a way that would maximise my life for Christ’s glory.
Or, if I am just only scrapping the surface of the abundant life promised.
Not often do I get a response.
So I ask instead that my personal sense of the reality of Christ would be so deep and confident and satisfying that I cannot keep from commending Him to others.
But I recognise my failings every day. And indeed, there is not a Christian who feels content with his effectiveness in personal evangelism. We feel guilt for our timidity and regret for missed opportunities, phony because of our lack of compassion for the lost.
But when understanding fails, may worship and adoration take place.
…having a form of godliness but denying its power. — 2 Timothy 3:5
I was recently struck by a sense of duality in the Christian walk. To borrow the story of Moses and the disobedient Israelites in Egypt under the stubborn Pharoah, we too have been told that we should serve God only (Matthew 4:10).
“The problem with many today is that we think they can serve God in Egypt. We think going to church or saying prayers, reading the Bible, or just believing in God is serving Him and is quite enough religion.”
But the service God required was in Canaan, is a different dimension altogether. He is not interested in our practicing religion, but rather in our finding reality in religion.
In other words, if we haven’t accepted God’s way of escape from Satan through Christ, it doesn’t matter how many times we go to church or do religious things; we cannot please God. I cannot please God.
God had told Pharaoh that His people needed to be free from Pharaoh’s jurisdiction and released to offer acceptable sacrifices in another place altogether (Exodus 3:18). The proposals that Pharaoh offered to the children of Israel are the same proposals Satan offers people today: “Be a nominal believer. By all means, look like a Christian on Sundays, but be yourself when no one’s looking!”
After all, Satan has to think up a proposal that will encourage his slaves to decide to stay in Egypt of their own free will.
“Don’t go overboard with this Christian thing.”“Leave your options open,” Satan suggests. “Stay in sight of the old life.”
Pharaoh too had suggested an idea – “Stay in sight. Don’t get too involved. You can leave, but you don’t have to go very far away.”
I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. — Exodus 8:28
Yet, geographically, this simply isn’t possible. You can’t even see Canaan — the land of freedom and blessing — from Egypt.
So, I guess my question is this:
How many times this week have I turned to look longingly at Egypt?
Yesterday, I was tasked to present my thoughts after a group discussion on the role of universities in Singapore, in front of my Permanent Secretary and deputies, and all my directors, as well as the entire Higher Education Group.
After this shock of the week, captured by random mumbles and a hasty retreat, I’ve since had an hour to think a little more deeply of what it is we should hold our universities accountable to as a Government who provides generous funding.
This is what I should have said.
I should have said that there is no easy public policy response to the complex issue of what a higher education is worth to society. Western liberal arts education would suggest that the notion of personal autonomy should have supreme value; “Know thyself” – as it is. Moreover, in a regime of private markets, these notions of autonomy are set against the duties of culture, history and tradition. According to this model, the mutual consent of individuals becomes the ultimate source of authority, rather than God, religion, history or specially designated virtues.
I should have said that if we were to follow Western liberal democracy, of which our universities do take reference from, it is the role of government to protect the personal autonomy of all citizens, to decide which risks should not be left to private bargains / institutions, and to correct the undesirable impacts of an economic system left primarily to the forces of private property and markets.
It is also the role of government, as significant sponsor of higher education, to satisfy higher hurdles than private individuals and organisations because its actions implicate all citizens.
I should have ended with the caveat that one of our great responsibilities in the 21st century is to consider the social repercussions of our rapidly accumulating new knowledge and the appropriate response of public policy. That the quality of our society will be determined by the moral norms that science and technology in the univieresities aspire to reflect.
And then I would have acknowledged that the social role and form of the university and its programmes exist in a state of transition that will depend in part on the shape our society takes. And as government, public policies and priorities have an impact of universities.
Rushing off from work to look at Impressionist paintings at the National Gallery with a friend is not a bad way to spend the Friday evening. Especially when Violet Oon’s National Kitchen whips up lovely banana-caramel desserts and opens up a last-minute table in a restaurant fully booked.
The exhibition featured works of Monet, Cezanne and Renoir from the collection of the Musee d’Orsay.
But it was Berthe Morisot’s The Cradle (Le Berceau, 1872) that caught my attention, not least because Morisot is one of the few women of the impressionist movement. The Cradle shows a mother and her sleeping child, but not in typical Madonna-like bliss. The mother gazes at her child, and the veil around the latter creates that sense of intimacy and protective love. However, what I fail to see is what art critics describe as an ‘endearing and tender’ expression in the mother.
Instead, I see ennui, a sort of brewing impatience, and read a sense of boredom in the posture of the hand supporting her face. The child is not complicit in this reading – she is blissfully asleep, but I can’t see that bliss shared by the mother, who as the subject, commands the piece.
(Edit: this is troubling me – perhaps I am projecting my apprehension of childbirth onto the painting?)
Recently, I have been given to feel a sense of over-extension, yet under-achievement. Being involved in a few performances and public speaking events have concretised in my heart what I believe in and why I choose to do the things that I do. Yet, there is the daily tiredness in the process of it – a sense of stagnancy, of going through the motions.
So today’s passage on running the race well so that I gain crowns to offer at Jesus’s feet resonated with me, particularly Paul’s warning to the Corinthians:
“I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
(1 Cor 9)
I do increasingly feel disqualified, especially as I struggle with frustrations and impatience against people who don’t work at the speed I am trained to work in (a break-neck, irresponsible and overly focused one, perhaps).
I wish instead to be able to say, as David did: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”
But at this moment, I am vacillating haphazardly from impatience, the fear of moving forward, to inertia.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
We have come to the end of another year. The media was filled with commentaries on the year that was consigned to history, and speculative predictions on what lies ahead. For me, the end of the year is always a reflective time; a time for taking stock of what I am doing with the time allotted to me. Human beings have always marked time by significant events. The real question is not whether we will mark time, but how we will do so. What events and what messages are we proclaiming in the calendaring of time? How do we view time?
The Lord who created time, now gives us time as a gift. In Him, time now becomes a field of choice wherein we can grow in holiness, and find real freedom.
Life is a classroom for those who are willing to learn its many lessons – and living faith opens our eyes and shines light on the way.
What brought me real joy this year: there was so many instances of beauty in the year. Unfathomable grace to try again, to begin anew, to learn how to let go fully and completely so that with a loose grasp, I can prepare to receive.
On the last day of 2017, I: couldn’t have felt more at peace enjoying the local community in Yangon, Myanmar. Sharing a local meal with Pastor Mark and his family, and also with the local Burmese pastor, and the village children who are learning English. Who, at the age of 16, do not own a mobile phone, yet possess such quick dexterity when I request for a selfie.
If I could change one thing about this year it would be: to have gratitude. At the end of 2017 I wish that I were more ashamed at how often I was ungrateful and demanding of life and God, and of people. I would more readily be embarrassed by the ways I am so aware of my lack, and careless with my plenty.
I would try to see the world as ‘beautiful’ instead, because I already have all that I could ask for – life in abundance today, as Jesus has promised, and life eternally.
If I could travel back to the beginning of the year, I would: let it go a little faster – let the frustration of work go, let the disappointment of failed relationships go.
Seneca, wrote: “It is not that we have so little time, but that we have wasted so much of it“.
What will stand the test of time? Only what was done for Christ will last.
Time is the opportunity for the Christian to bear fruit that remains.
Jesus reminds me, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (John 15: 16, 17).
As we consider the timeline of God’s unfolding plan, the redemption of the nations, the God who gives and governs time, invites us to re-dedicate ourselves to living differently, in time.
On 31 Dec 2017, we find ourselves exactly where we should be – feeling the pulse and sensing the heartbeat of this nation on the cusp of a social awakening.
To explore the world is a wonderful privilege.
To do so with dear friends a gift for the year end.
So, decide in your heart – to revere Christ as Lord. And come 2018, we will step boldly forward, unafraid in His perfect love. And ready to bear the fruit for His Name alone.
Today, as I reflect on the week that has passed, and the various encounters in the camp, I find it marked by anything but peace.
The peace that can only be found by resting in Him. The second week of December has me feeling frantic, a little behind, and weighed down. Yes, heavy.
Holding on too tightly to something makes it harder to keep it. But this heart can be at peace with possessing only what He provides. The part I play in the peace God gives – letting go.
So I’m looking – for opportunities to encounter Jesus daily. To move away from the distractions of the day, of the Advent season, that will cause me to miss Him and the peace He offers when I trust in Him.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27)
So home to Your safe harbour, take me. Lay my weary heart down, down where Your peace flows in, and Your joy pours out.