15 Apr 2015

Because you are making a difference, your way

A confession.

There are days I wonder what on earth I am doing. This post for example, what is . its . point? Why sit on a cushy chair and write when there are starving children, traumatized human slaves, lonely women, marriages falling apart and systemic evils?

You have them too don't you?

Such days call for remembering old lessons and seeking new ones. 

credit: PaoloTy

Old lessons:

1. There is only so much a brain and heart can handle.
I just heard they have been studying Einstein's brain for 60 years; this doctor kept it in a large cookie jar for a long time...and we found: thinking about complex Mathematical matters gives you not a larger brain; but a different brain. Or it was the brain that came first... Still Einstein's brain was preoccupied with higher cognition issues and as such he didn't garden, bake or write songs.
What do we want our brain to handle?

Endless questioning robs us of precious energy and brain space which can be well used persevering with what we already do; and learning to do it better. (this post will see re-drafts and editing).

2. The happy heart serves up the best meals
If we go to whatever it is we do with misgivings, disgruntlement, jealousy over others' lot and other such toxins; neither the work we do or the outcomes will be pretty. I consistently noticed that people who do amazing work - from crocheting to selling ideas - totally throw their heart into what they do.
It just matters to them. Others may laugh, criticize, mock or reduce...but they solider on, happily absorbed in what they are on to.

3. There is a God above and the results are not out yet
We are way too used to the exam script. Hustle, sweat and wait for the result slip. Sorry, but where your life is being poured out - listening, praying, going to work each day, noticing your colleagues, interceding for world needs, taking your kids to school, nursing that sick parent... there is no result slip that can tell you how well you have done.
The only indicator is the one within your bosom: do it with great love, advised dear Mother Teresa.

New lessons?

Actually, so far for me, it just seems to be a layering of the old ones. When I get restless and angst; and want to invent some great good to achieve, I leaf through these old lessons and let them strap me back onto my seat. Then I breathe deep...and I feel them more keenly, see more deeply.... I settle back into my chair; and get on with the day before me.

Sometimes, an old memory returns - a mercy of course. This morning two came to me.

I think of the surprise I felt when a young lady ran up to me and thanked me for helping her turn a corner. I don't quite recall what I said or did! Then as I sat lifting up needs and just naming them... I recalled the impression I received at my mother's passing: that I need no longer be the spiritual gatekeeper for my large family. That impression surprised me too. It wasn't a role I had thought up or defined. I clumsily loved and inconsistently prayed...and at that word I felt a huge burden roll off my shoulder.

Sometimes we just don't know what we are doing and the difference we are making. 

I have found we are happiest when we don't worry our little heads about that!

Go have a great day doing what needs to be done, what comes your way, and sit deep in your chair!

walking on at King's Park with Charisse Neo

8 Apr 2015

How you and I can live Easter/Kingdom

Why do we love Easter?

When I was young, the church gave us red eggs. It was a treat! There was also so much more smiling, an air of happiness and celebration. Jesus rose from the dead! He is alive!

Then Jesus' resurrection moved from eggs to inquiry: did he really rise from the dead? Where is the evidence?

Then it moved on some more. Easter was not to vindicate that I chose a better faith - one that was sound, true, and powerful - but it was God about doing something; and giving me a chance to be a part of it.

This final understanding continues to unfold for me.

It began as some rather vague connection about defeating death and so guaranteeing eternal life, proving heaven is real, facing down death.. and then moved on to: overcoming, healing, freedom ..
Indeed, one can attach a host of true as well as romantic notions to the  Easter event. I have even read that Jesus' first appearance to women was a woman's right triumph! All shades of the religious spectrum interpret and use the Easter event to great effect {minus the bunnies and chocolates}.

But to get to what Easter is about; we have to get Jesus. It was his triumph to begin with. It was he who embraced the death, reckoned with the powers, entered the abyss, and then rose!

To make sense of Easter then, we would have to trace what he has been saying and how he has been living. We would have to observe what mattered to him - what he would have been willing to die for.

Jesus' message is the Kingdom of God.
"repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand"
It is a message continuous with the story God revealed and preserved in the Torah. In fact, Jesus used the Torah on several occasions to connect who he is, and what he did with God's great act of deliverance and with God Himself. Jesus did not hide his divinity or the Divine Agenda he was about.
“If I, with the finger of God, cast out demons among you, then the Kingdom of God has come near to you” {reference to Moses}

Followers of Jesus need to know this. Seekers of truth need to ponder this. Pursuers of passion need to grapple with this.

Jesus lived the Kingdom in his words and his ways. It was pretty scandalous in his day -

Welcoming children.
Talking with women and even granting them status as disciples, and accepting support from them
Befriending the dubious and doubtful
Leading a team of not-quite-theres
Both observing religious obligations and breaking them 

Wait --- it looks like it would still be pretty scandalous today!

Children - we can talk a lot about them; but in Singapore, they are still the fringe. From school hours to performance expectations; we don't consider their needs but demand they fit our economic framework. I was appalled to hear that school buses ply as early as 5.45am because they want to leave on time to ferry factory workers. Don't we have enough to nationalise/subsidise transport for our children if we want to? We can make the buses go round robin in estates to send all children to schools in an area? All those minibuses that serve condominiums can be tapped on?

Women - all we ever talk about is women making it on par with men! That is our measure. Women make wonderful disciples, leaders, evangelists and so on in all seasons of their lives. We are designed to multi-task, to adapt to seasons, to nurture and build community. Interestingly, these obvious traits are now seen as useful in the boardroom {yet again}. In our world that equates worth with economic value; many women are not valued: home-makers, care-givers, wives, grandmothers...Too little imagination is allowed for women to flourish as creatives, community builders, life-shapers unless it comes with a label called 'work' or 'entrepreneur'.

Doubting? Not quite reformed? - Most of them are walking around in the corridors of our church; some are even leading up front. But is there a safe space for them to share their questions; to be helped to grow and overcome? We are impatient for change, growth, commitment. After three years with Jesus, the disciples were still very clueless and unformed in many ways. We need to handle the tension that with the indwelling Holy Spirit in believers today; amazing growth can happen. Yet, some seem to to be given more to doubt and skepticism. But where there is a seed of faith; give it time to germinate.

Dream team? - Not a few of the 12 smelt fishy - they had issues. They weren't sterling model citizens. My bug bear? We gravitate like bugs to a light when it comes to selecting leaders: let's go with the rich, successful, respectable {which can also mean busy, and quite set in their ways}. I have met and worked with many amazing leaders; but this approach can dangerously load huge Egos onto the wagon. Conflict that's in the end all about personality - too many to name.

But I am heartened because we are growing up, people!

I have met individuals who have overhauled their lifestyles, who reach out to children, the fringe, the sick, the elderly. Individuals who care for the earth. Individuals who take their voice all the way up to the Parliament.
There are those who work with passion from the ground up to change mindsets, instil hope, create social spaces and conversations that ignite imagination and free souls.
There are groups that want to foster a richer, deeper connection with God.
There are groups made up of Kingdom ragamuffins who want to help each other along.

Signs of the Kingdom!

What about you? Which aspect of the Kingdom stirs within you? Put your hand to the plough and work at it. Follow Jesus!

Here's an idea for you to find clues to your Kingdom portion:
read the Gospels slowly. Savour the stories and the words. Which one repeatedly jumps up at you? Which one moves you to tears? Which one made you sigh and wished you were present; and what would you be doing there?

5 Apr 2015

Holy Week 5: when we speak before we think - an extrovert's confession

On our tenth time going out or thereabouts, the boyfriend said to me, "you speak before you think". Yes, even before we were married. we ran smack into our deep differences and we did not always handle it kindly!

No one had ever said that to me (I didn't connect it with what my primary school teacher had written in my report book: "...very talkative.."). Growing up in a large family and watching how folks in my poor neighbourhood often jostled for space, rights and voice had perhaps built into me a necessity to know, reach, and speak up - or be forgotten and left behind. I aced my General Knowledge quizzes, I raised my hands to ask questions, I spoke.

So yes, I turned out an extrovert. Even with my love and need for solitude now; this basic personality bent remains. Which is why, Peter the disciple is understandable to me. I suspect some of us get him more than others.

Watch Peter here: the skit guys {click}

My introvert husband always felt a little jealous of us extroverts - our ease in company, our ability to connect quickly and with so many!

Yes Peter not only connected with Jesus fast; he believed deeply that he had a great relationship with His Master. His own estimate of the relationship was so optimistic and ideal that he did not recognise his potential to fail.

Observing Peter over the years has grown me. He is the most fleshed out character among the disciples. See if you chuckle a bit at recognizing yourself or someone you know: 

He is demonstrative

Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

He answers on his feet (literally!), he is observant
Luke 8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
Mark 11:21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
He responds fast
Matthew 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
John 21:7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.
He asks questions
Matthew 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
 Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

He is perceptive
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
He believes he is special
Matthew 16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

He wants to contribute/solve/seek the best
Matthew 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

He gives his all
Matthew 19:27 “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
John 13:37 “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”Matthew 26:35  “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

He reacts in line with his feelings and beliefs

John 13:6-8  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” .....“No, you shall never wash my feet.”.... “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

He denies Jesus
Luke 22:60  “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

He may be ADHD? He certainly influences the others
John 21:3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”

Peter is very instructive for me. I see my own zeal as well as foibles in him.

But most of all, it is the way Jesus believes in him, is patient with him, calls him forth, and restores him that moves me deeply. 

Jesus loved Peter with his personality strengths and weaknesses. Jesus also sees beyond the Cephas to the Petra. Cephas was his name. Petra (rock) was his true substance. But Petra won't happen as he remained Cephas. The rock is forged over time with an assault of the elements of faith, doubt, fear, and healing.

 If who we truly are is to emerge; we must be who we are now, bravely and trust the LORD to take us there.

But it's no harm holding back a bit; learn from our Introvert brethren, and pray this prayer in the meantime:
 Psalm 141:3 ~ Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.