Easter series: Three truths to peace (my earthquake story)

“Attention please: Due to the earthquake, the train will be stopped temporarily.”

Earthquake? What earthquake? I was dozing off in the underground train to the airport when the train stopped with the sudden announcement.
I looked out the window. Dark. Surrounded by the underground tunnel.

The announcement repeated in loops; reinforcing the fact.

Somehow there’s still internet reception, so I googled “earthquake Taiwan”. Found out there’s a 6.1 magnitude earthquake somewhere.

All the passengers were quiet. Are they “seasoned, earthquake-experienced” Taiwanese? I wondered.

“Lord, help us to be safe,” I prayed in my heart.

I didn’t feel any tremors. But uncertainty hangs in the air. Will we be ok? How bad could this be? Movie scenes of people trapped in rubble flashed through my mind.

“Lord, whatever it is, You’ll be here with us to go through it,” I prayed with assurance, and to assure my heart.

Then came the second announcement: “All trains service suspended. Please alight from the train.”

Droves of people trudged out the train with their luggage. Some went straight up the elevator, while I stood there on the platform with my husband wondering, where do we go now?

The third announcement came: “All passengers, please leave the train and platform for your safety.”

We doubled it outta there. Managed to hail a Uber after no taxi was available due to the sudden surge of passengers (or those who weren’t fleecing victims with hiked-up fees). Thank God, we’ve made it to catch the flight with merely half an hour between reaching the airport, dropping off our two big cycling bags and boarding the plane! Somehow, we miraculously boarded the plane.

“Thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord,” I prayed.

The next day, as I sat quietly back home in my living room, thinking of the incident, I can’t help but proclaim, “I’m glad I have God.”
Because—who do I pray to and go for help?

When we’ve exhausted all human efforts, and our last string is frayed to a point of breaking, where and who do we go to?

For me, knowing who God is—omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent(all-present); gave me the absolute, irreplaceable assurance that when things are beyond my control, God is still in control of everything. Even things I don’t quite understand.

It’s in times of desperation, when all hell breaks loose in our fallen world, I know without an ounce of doubt that He will either bring me out of it or through it. He is the only certainty in this life.

And if that earthquake day is my last day, I know where I’m heading to.

And though far from perfect, I did all I could in my life that hopefully counts in eternity.

These three truths: about the Almighty God, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and living with what really matters in mind, formed a foundation of peace in me which (when I remember to stop striving and fretting!), I fall back on time and again when things in life get crazy…or “earthquake-dy”.

Speaking of crazy, here’s a text conversation about that earthquake incident:
Friend: “Thank God for His covering! These moments feel like a lifetime when your life flashes before you.”
Me: “I didn’t have that moment. Just thinking of how to pee if we r crashed in. 🤣 (Sh*t that goes through my mind when in danger.) 
And that I have God. Period.

You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it. Romans 5:12-14 the Msg

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV

Further reading:

Why Easter in 2 minutes

The first man and woman God created fell for Satan’s deception; sin entered man and the world. 
That’s the start of the separation of an eternal, loving relationship between God and man. 
Satan = death, eternal separation from God and eternal suffering and pain. 
God sent Jesus to the world. 
Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.
Three days after His crucifixion and death on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead (resurrected)
He laid down His life and died for us (a sacrifice) and paid the full penalty for the sin of mankind.
With the resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan and the power of sin and death. For all who believe in Him will restore that eternal loving relationship with God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus. 

If this spoke to you, here’s a prayer to invite Jesus into (or back into) your life. 

Lord Jesus,
I believe You died for my sins
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life
Please forgive me. I am willing to turn from my way & follow Your way.
Thank you that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.
I receive You now as my personal Saviour & Lord & invite You into my life from this moment. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Easter series: The Saturday before Easter Sunday most people ignored

Good Friday is the day where Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent death.
Easter is celebrated by Christians as a remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, where Jesus rose from the dead three days after being crucified on the cross. It’s celebrated on Sunday. That’s why sometimes it’s referred to as Easter Sunday. 

Good Friday is “good” because we know what came on Sunday after the Friday when Jesus was crucified on the cross. We know three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.

We know the final score—victory. 

However, it wasn’t the case back then for the disciples and his friends who mourned for Jesus. Seeing Jesus took His last breath on the cross after being horribly tortured, crucified, humiliated. What happened to the Messiah, the Lord who performed miracles, who loved all, who said He’ll be with them, who’ll save them? He’s dead!  What happened to hope?

Can we imagine what was it like for them on that Saturday? That awful silence of hopelessness. Where’s God?!


 If there’s no resurrection, the entire Christian faith has no unshakable hope to offer anyone. 

But Christians (and even some non-Christians) know. We know the fact that Jesus will come alive three days after He died. And years after years, we have been celebrating and remembering this day we called Easter. If there’s no resurrection, the entire Christian faith has no unshakable hope to offer anyone. I would really then ask, what’s the point of anything?!

We celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But sometimes we may skip that in-between Saturday waiting room of our lives. 

We may become frustrated. Anxious. 
But nothing is as tragic as losing and giving up hope because we’ve forgotten about that Saturday. The in-between. 

I’m no theologian, but I choose to see a life lesson as to why the wait of that Saturday? Why not resurrect earlier? Perhaps it’s one of God’s ways for us in having faith? In identifying with hopelessness? In joining Him in suffering and through that, develop depth and compassion for others who are suffering? In deepening our dependency on Him? In developing patience? 

Without grasping this, we may get disheartened, disappointed, even furious at God, stomping away from Him when we couldn’t receive “the good life” we want. Maybe we have been faithfully following God when things happened in our life that provoked us to interrogate Him—why are You doing this to me?!

But since we know the final score, let’s persist in faith as we sit, wait, do, lament, hope for whatever we are waiting for. And know that even in the silence of the tomb, God’s with us. 

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do. It tests us. It tests our faith, our resilience, our patience. It reveals to us our relationship with God. It reveals to us who we are inside while we are in the waiting room. 

What’s your waiting room?

Further reading if you’d like:

Why Easter in 2 minutes

The first man and woman God created fell for Satan’s deception; sin entered man and the world. That’s the start of the separation of an eternal, loving relationship between God and man. 

Satan = death, eternal separation from God and eternal suffering and pain. God sent Jesus to the world. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.

Three days after His crucifixion and death on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead (resurrected)He laid down His life and died for us (a sacrifice) and paid the full penalty for the sin of mankind.

With the resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan and the power of sin and death. For all who believe in Him will restore that eternal loving relationship with God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus. 

If this spoke to you, here’s a prayer to invite Jesus into (or back into) your life.

Lord Jesus,
I believe You died for my sins
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life
Please forgive me. I am willing to turn from my way & follow Your way.
Thank you that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.
I receive You now as my personal Saviour & Lord & invite You into my life from this moment. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

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Simplifying to a less is more life

My journey of living a less is more life started in 2017 when I sense the increasing murmur of my soul that it-needs-space. I just felt this urge to wanna back off, retreat from the noise of the world: the constant notifications of text messages, 360-degree life demands, the taunting comparison of life and beauty from carefully-curated photos on Instagram, the unending new arrivals from those fast fashion behemoths; even—church. 

All the things that used to command my attention—like moths to light—started to repel me. 

When my world spun out of control two years ago—the noise of our world’s more! bigger! better! faster! added to my chaos, crowding me in. I desperately needed stability, so I ran to God, the One who’s unchanging and certain. The Anchor in this rough sea of life. 

In wanting God; I craved for more solitude and silence. I just felt like pushing the noises away. Instinctively, I started on a decluttering and simplifying mission to purge all that is taking up space in my heart, to reduce the external noises to help increase the internal silence of my heart. And enlarge my space for God. 

Things I’ve decluttered (in no particular order)

Social media (not surprising, yes?) 
I’ve been fidgeting with the purpose of my personal social media accounts for a few years. Finally, I’ve taken action on my conclusion that it’s not doing me or people on my friends and followers list any good. I deactivated both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. One step short from deleting them, zapped. 

Text notifications
I learnt to mute all group notifications as chats can turn quite crazy and distracting. And I try as much as possible to not glue the phone to my hand. This helped to retrain my phone-checking habit. It’s ridiculous how phone notifications have tamed man to be so obedient in instantaneously responding to any dings and beeps. 

Airplane mode
After a few anxious tries (of thinking the world would crash without me), I can now easily put my phone on airplane mode or simply be temporarily unreachable when I don’t have to, with ease. After all, the people who need to contact me in matters of real urgency know who else to call to reach me. Those of us who use our phone app to read the Bible might relate to the distractions from the notifications while reading the Bible and listening to His words. Imagine a real-life date when you are talking to someone and that someone keeps checking their phone. 

Put away the phone
As you can see, all the above are related to smartphone usage. Well, the phone might be smart, but the user behaviour is certainly not. The often neck-tilting, head-bowing (ah, worshipping thy phone, are we?), thumbs tapping and people-excluding habit gotta go.

I tasted the freedom of not having to do anything with my phone when I spent four days at The Nest, Maxwell Hill in Taiping (a gorgeous, secluded bungalow lovingly tended by a couple). I didn’t know there is no internet reception there. But, I was glad. Those four days in 2018 were one of the best days of the year where my attention wasn’t scattered.

I was hooked to having such a peaceful focus so I applied this new practice to my daily life—putting aside the phone while I focus on my work, task, or people in front of me. I get so much more quality work done in a day with less tiredness, that’s what I can tell you. 

Clothes
I’m never a big shopper and wouldn’t call my wardrobe as excessive, compared to the norm, I think. But I know I regularly wear only 20% of what’s in my wardrobe. The rest of the 80% are taking up space, both physical wardrobe space, and mind space. To make a decision on what to wear, I need to always go through 80% of clothes I don’t wear anyway. So, I gave away 80% of my clothes, some of which I hung on because it’s so pretty (but I don’t wear certain styles of clothes anymore). I only kept the 20 % that can I easily mix and match and feel comfortable and confident in. You’ll be amazed the relieve of not having to make these outfit-matching decisions daily. 

Stuff at home
Hubs and I gave away more than 60% of our stuff at home. Stuff we kept for just-in-case situations and keepsakes. The chosen ones (hee hee) were things we know we’d often use. Though we gave away stuff, we also bought new stuff to accommodate our desires of having people coming over our home for meals. So we bought more cutleries, plates, and even a TV to run AlphaPrayer Course or The Marriage Course. Ya, we didn’t have a TV for years. 

Content
Contents about life, growing in my faith, etc. might be good, but may not be the best for me. Too many articles, how-to this, 5 ways that, books, and podcasts. There’s a danger of skipping past what God is trying to tell me, to find quick answers to fix my problems. I wanna get the focus right with God as no one knows me as well as God does. Also, the overloading of content adds to the noise of daily life and takes up time too. So, nowadays, I am more intentional with the content I consume. That’s also one of the reasons I deactivated Facebook. Just too much stuff there. 

Moreism
I want God more in my life. And I often made the mistake of equating it to more Bible reading = more of God in my life. Or boxing God into any spiritual discipline = more of God in my life. I heard of people who went on spiritual retreats thinking because they have extended time (away from their work and chores), surely they will hear God more. But God doesn’t fall into our neat, little boxes. He often just wants us to like a kid, climb onto their father’s lap, and just be with Him. As simple as that.

So, I’m reminding myself to cease striving in this area. Case in point, after one of my Bible reading, I just couldn’t “get” anything to write in my devotion journal. Then, this voice in my head went, it’s ok. And this was my note instead of some deep, reflective thoughts:

Wanting God more in my life is great, but I gotta cease striving for it as if it’s something that I can achieve on my own. 

Church
I’m becoming more aware of the noises that can be in the church. Sometimes it gets so busy that at one point in time, I just felt so jaded of it all. I think what I’m trying to say is, I’m sifting through being a church and busy doing church. Huge difference. 

With all these being decluttered, I’m finding myself to be more at peace and less distracted. Granted, I have loads more to declutter—those inner junk, that hidden grieve, that puffed-up pride. But I’m glad I’ve taken the first step and responded to the distress call of my soul to give her some quiet. And to continue this journey of simplifying to a less is more life with my Lord. 

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Where does our hope come from?

If you’ve been reading my articles, you’d have noticed that though the theme of my website and newsletter is “read articles and find resources to walk towards a joyful life”—I rarely have “ten ways to find hope in life, five secrets to find joy” kind of prescriptive articles. 
Because—life is anything but prescriptive. 
And—what do I know to tell you what to do?

There are also plenty of those articles on the internet and self-help books. I’m certainly not dismissing the value of those content for I too, at times, find some of them useful for moments in my life. 

At the same time though, I also felt swamped with well-meaning advice, tips and tools and what-have-yous. Sometimes, it even diverted me away from my true Counsellor. 

For who can know us ever so intimately than our Maker? Every worm, every sinew, every desire, every wicked thought, every hunger, every fear—He knew it before we did. Therefore our Maker is indeed the best personalised, bespoke, artisan Counsellor we could ever have. The greatest thing is? He will always come to us from a position of love and our best interests even if it’s sometimes, tough love. 

So what I’m saying is, the core of my articles is distilled into the title of my website: Knowing God—Finding Hope. And it’s in that order. 

And maybe my role is: through my writing, to nudge you to know God increasingly more in whatever ways (I’m absolutely sure God has His divine way for each of us), and through that—to find true, unwavering hope in Jesus amidst troubles—and walk towards a joyful life.

*Image: From The Message Bible, by Eugene Peterson.

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I send one article a week exclusively to this mailing list before it’s posted on this site and anywhere else.

There’s no spam. Just honest, useful content to help walk toward a joyful life. Why not join us?

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Bye 2018, hi 2019

Here’s my look back to 2018 and look forward to 2019.

My 2018 theme
Rest through soul harmony

I like having a theme for the year. It keeps me focused on one key leverage which pulls every other thing together. Kinda like having a strategy and then aligning the tactical plans with it. 

With this theme, I was more intentional than before to centre my life on God and cultivating a close relationship with Him. 
That was to become the domino effect that caused a chain reaction to all areas of my life.  

More chilled, less rigid (in my “standard”)
I’m a creative person who likes systems. And that’s how I approach my Bible reading and spending *quiet time with God: systematically. However, there were murmurs from my soul which started in 2017, that it wanted to slow down and rest (in God). So, I took action.

In 2018, I learnt to be more chilled and go-with-the-flow-ish, less goal-driven and achievement-centric, which is not my typical Choleric, Type A behaviour. My quiet time because less structured, less measured and sometimes it can just be a time soaking in God’s presence and worship. Probably explains why I couldn’t complete the one-year Bible reading plan. I supposed God knows what I needed most for the season. In 2018 I learnt to: so be it; let it be. 

*An article from CRU.org explained quiet time as “a point during each day when we remove ourselves from the busyness of schoolwork, dorm life, and the ever-increasing demands of Facebook to spend time praying, reading God’s Word, and quietly listening to what God has to say to us.”

Less is more 
2018 was also big for me in “less is more-ism”. I became increasingly less accepting (ha, increasingly less, that’s an oxymoron!) of the world’s bigger, faster, better.

I think—in losing things, losing people, death to my misaligned dreams, and losing control (of which I never had anyway) did a brilliant job in making me realise what is really important in life. The first and most important is relationships. First with God, with that, everyone else. I think relationships are the only thing that will last after I die. And I want to leave behind memories with people that they are loved and they are important. But more than the flawed love of mine, God loves them whether they messed up or not. 

Turning points and shifts in 2018

Work
I stepped out from my five years of church communications work with no concrete plans of what’s next. Then with no part of mine in planning—joined a non-profit organisation seven months later. My work’s role purpose is to enhance the fundraising team’s ability to generate funds by writing compelling donor proposals and reports, and innovating the proposals and reports’ processes and systems. 

Write
Mid 2018 was the first time I dared to call myself a writer. When a new acquaintance asked me what do I do, I figured out saying, “I’m a writer,” sounds better than “I’m jobless.” It’s also the first time I have the word “writer” on my name card when I took up the fundraising writing role in the non-profit organisation. So now it’s official. “What do you do?” “I’m a writer.” 🙂

Looking ahead to 2019

My 2019 theme
Training (flex bicep emoji) 

The word “training” became clear to me as I looked ahead to what I want to do in 2019. I think after 2018’s “rest through soul harmony”, God knows I’m more ok with knowing what to drop and what to take on, yet with lesser striving. Hence, training is apt as I expand beyond my comfort zone. 

Health; cycling
I want to be able to cycle, travel and tour around with my husband. That means I got to have endurance and strength: strong core, quads, arm strength (to carry the bicycle up and down staircases!) minus the back and knee pain. 
I gotta train: schedule my workout instead of letting five days slipped by without knowing!

Writing; work
I want to consistently produce a weekly article for HopeMail without burning out in the long run. Work-wise, I want to improve my skills—writing compelling proposals and clear reports which our donors would love to read and take action upon.

I also want to have an accelerated learning curve for fundraising and the organisation I’m working with. Perhaps even tinker with Indesign (design software). Did you know that documents look awesome-r with Indesign? 
I gotta train: schedule regular writing time to practice how I deliver my written messages and to learn new skills. 

Bible reading; prayer
I yearn to draw closer to God. What’s great is there’s no limit to how deep and intimate a relationship with God can be. So I read the Bible—as God speaks through His words in the Bible “to inform my mind, inspire my heart, and instruct my behaviour”. (Borrowing a favourite quote from my pastor.) Where else prayer forms the foundation to everything!

These two spiritual disciplines have yet to be on auto-mode for me. Given the chance on certain days, I’d choose to do other things than reading the Bible. As for prayer, yes, I will still forget to pray and rely on my own wit and strength, resulting in stress and time-wasting.  
I gotta train: intentionally build the habit of setting aside a daily time of reading the Bible. And instead of worrying or doing things my own way, to always pray, pray, pray and let God direct my steps. 

By the way, for my workout, quiet time, and daily reflection, I’m using a habit-building app called Strides and it’s helping to keep me on track. 

Another fantastic way of keeping up with regular Bible reading is to use the app, Youversion. It has a feature for you to invite people to read the Bible together using a Bible plan where you can share your thoughts from the Bible passages with the group. My group has three people. We kept it small to reduce noise. This has worked marvellously for me as seeing my friends’ sharing motivates me to follow the Bible-reading plan daily.

To make prayer an ongoing posture and habit, I’ve set the alarm clock to go off twice a day, reminding me to pause and pray, especially throughout my work day. Something as simple as setting the alarm clock worked like magic. I look forward to increasing the frequency until prayer is ingrained in me and I have a greater sense of abiding and communing with God. I learnt this tip from The Prayer Course: a six interactive sessions for small groups based on The Lord’s Prayer, covering topics such as intercession, dealing with disappointment, learning to listen and spiritual warfare.

Hospitality; care
God is working in me and my husband’s hearts, moving us from a more inward-living lifestyle to outward-living, serving others. Having people over for meals and spills; making time and space for others, etc. 
I gotta train: is there a workout to expand our hearts? 😛

That wraps my look back to 2018 and look forward to 2019. Do you have a theme for your 2019? How do you look ahead to this year? I’d be happy to hear from you. 

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There’s no spam. Just honest, useful content to help walk toward a joyful life. Why not join us?

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Great Battles Are Won From Daily Practise And Preparation

I’m not sure if it’s just me, or it’s a common thing for humans to overemphasise “bigness”. 
Big goals, big dreams, big victories, big improvements, big endings. 

I’m primarily a big picture person. I get excited over the vision I see in my mind and can be pretty driven to wanna get to the end game. Maybe that’s why I haven’t taken a great liking to artistic things like painting. It requires me to patiently, one brush at a time, one stroke at a time, inch to the completed picture I have in mind. 

In the pursuit of the big somethings, the known goals; I often forget that the process is the bridge to whatever that I’m pursuing. 

Read the entire Bible in one year, one day at a time.
Change toxic or unhealthy thoughts pattern, one thought, one day at a time. 
Stop being a complainer, one grateful attitude at a time. 

I celebrate success when I hit what I wanna achieve. 
But what about those little steps, those brush strokes that’ll eventually complete the picture?
What about those small battles, fought daily?
The small winnings that add up to a big victory?

When I read about David & Goliath from the Bible, I used to be wowed by how a small, shepherd boy brought down, literally, a giant whom other more equipped soldiers dare not fight. With one stone, a single shot from his slingshot—David hit the giant in between the eye, and the giant came toppling down. David became an instant hero. Wasn’t that a great show of how an underdog won the battle?

But the Holy Spirit revealed something else to me. 

As a shepherd, David had hours and years of practice aiming at and hitting lions and bears with his slingshot to protect his sheep from being attacked. Big and vicious beasts. It wasn’t his debut when he faced Goliath the giant. It wasn’t his maiden shot either in using the slingshot. 
David was prepared.

He had gone through the process, the little steps every day; sometimes failing, sometimes winning, but he keeps going on faithfully. God was preparing him to face the giant without him knowing it. 

We don’t go looking around for giants to fight. But those giants will come. Whatever giants that might come, be it in the form of adversities or opportunities, it’s in how we live our day-to-day that will prepare us for what’s ahead in the future. 

Preparedness is paying attention to what’s in our hands, as mundane and routine as it sometimes can be. 

Preparedness is being diligent with our daily work, whether a student, homemaker, or office worker. For we’ll never know when and how the dots will connect if we first don’t draw those dots one-by-one. 

For me, preparedness can be in faithfully writing and sharing even when I think there’s no audience reading. 

Preparedness is respecting our transition or even incubation period. It’s unsettling when we see no sight of shore after the end of a season, and we just wanna move on to a new season. But perhaps, we are not ready for a new season? So, pay attention to what’s happening now, what’s needed to be done now, and do it faithfully. 

Preparedness is the daily time with God in prayer, reading His words from the Bible, and quietening our hearts to hear him. For there will always be times where what was deposited in our hearts will be needed—to intercede, to forgive, to pray, to go into a battle. 

Preparedness is in getting better every day; when we choose not to ruminate on those unhealthy thoughts and replace them with whatever that is true, gracious, beautiful. 

Don’t look down on our daily processes and battles. 

“David said, “I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I’d go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb. If it turned on me, I’d grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it. Lion or bear, it made no difference—I killed it. And I’ll do the same to this Philistine who is taunting the troops of God-Alive. GOD, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.” Saul said, “Go. And GOD help you!”
‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:34-37‬ ‭MSG‬‬


*Image credit: By Majumwo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Preparedness in and through God, in knowing who God is—gives confidence in a battle. 

May we fight the good fight—being wise, being diligent, being faithful with what God has currently placed in our hands.

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The ending and beginning of a season

Seven months after I’ve ended my five years of full-time ministry in the church, something new is about to begin. My transition, or rather, the incubation period of “something’s gonna happen, but I don’t know what” is coming to an end.

I’m gonna start work in a Christian nonprofit organisation soon. Back to full-time ministry.

It is unexpected.

I certainly wasn’t going around looking for it. Nope. Because even though I was waiting expectantly on the Lord on my what’s next, I’ve absolutely crossed off: employment. You see, all through my working life, I was hardly the “employed” type following to the beat of others. I like to chart my own course. I thrive in a blank canvas environment where I can start and create businesses.

My rough idea for my what’s next was more geared towards focusing on using my writing to encourage people (myself included!) to walk towards a joyful life through HopeMail and this website, Knowing God—Finding Hope. Also, taking on communications and copywriting projects as my income-producing work.

My idea was: logical, practical, in line with my gifts, desires, purpose. Therefore, it’s logical that the idea should materialise, right?

Nope. No sirree. Negative. Nah-ah.

Somehow my paths have converged into this soon-to-be new season. A new beginning.

A friend from a nonprofit organisation asked if I’m ready to explore working with them. Two years ago, the same question was asked, and I said no. This time, I said yes to finding out more about the opportunity, provided that it’s on a non-employment basis as I wanted the flexibility of time and location. But it turns out that the role needed someone to be a full-time employee.

I had wrestled through the decision-making process. Prayed, sought wise counsel, used logical thinking, connected dots, and prayed a lot more. Not serene, calm prayers, mind you. More like an urgent call, God! God! Are You sure? Am I making this up?! Back to ministry again? And employment? God, you know my natural bent is not suitable to be constricted to rigid rules and such. I thought the past five years with the church was a (once-in-a-lifetime) “miracle” and I’m done. Now? Again? What?! Are You sure?

I’m not sure if I drove God or the people I’ve sought counsel with crazy, for I went round in circles with my thoughts and (in)decision.

I was almost whiny, like a kid. That’s when it hits me. Has God ever short-changed me when I took a leap of faith and joined the church office? Wasn’t I blessed (even through tough lessons) beyond my imagination? Haven’t I grown in my relationship with Christ?

Also, this upcoming season may not happen if not for my past five years in the church—because I wouldn’t have the chance to prepare for it.

And it hits me when I knew I’d contradicted myself. When I earnestly told God on 31st December that I wanna surrender my life to Him, meaning, I would listen to Him and follow. Because I love Him. And He knows what’s best for me. He loves me. He is God of all.

But then, I acted like this kid who’ve been invited, but unwilling to give up her little sandbox for what’s more significant.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20 NIV

This verse appeared to me, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times (yes, I’ve kept count) during the entire decision-making process. I don’t know for sure if it’s God patiently telling me this: hey, quit clutching on what you think it’s good, for I’m gonna give you something great. Now, if you can just let go and trust in Me.

Still. I was too chicken to leap as I wanted a 100% assurance that I’m hearing correctly from God to go ahead with this new season.

Finally. I can’t take this sitting on the fence any more. Furthermore, the people I’d sought counsel with, and circumstances all stacked to a yes. Most importantly, I do not wanna risk being defiant to God. So, I lept.

It’s the only way to know for sure. To quiet down my pesky, anxious, worried voice. Just like how I did with the church ministry. For when God invites His followers to His work, often some life adjustments are needed. And adjustments are uncomfortable. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to be logical or practical in my finite human understanding too.

This period of wrestling with the decision also brought to attention how my heart has strayed from the centrality of Christ. His sovereignty. How my heart has been cluttered with worries and wants. How unrested my soul was.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for muddling that fine line between my dreams and God’s plan. FOMO (fear of missing n out), I had. Fearfully clutching to my own dreams and goals because letting them go to God may mean that they might not be realised.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m just like a kid not wanting to get out of the sandbox when God is saying; there is more, get out of that box (or get out of the boat, like Peter in the Bible). When I too wanted the ”there is more of God”, but I’d mistakenly turned it into a logical arithmetic exercise. I’d temporarily lost sight of how mighty, wise, and all-knowing God is. And of my desire to wanna follow Christ.

I didn’t hear what Jesus said:

“And He said to them, “ Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men.”

And I guess I didn’t do this either:

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example].”
Matthew 4:19-20 AMP (Emphasis mine)

But I’m a lifelong learner. Learning to tune, to recalibrate, to become more and more aware of the rhythm of someone walking closely with Christ. Learning to identify the beginning and end seasons of life. To accept and live with the season. To prepare and make room for a new season to begin. Following to the beat of His drum, not mine.

So help me, Lord. (and pray like mad.)

 

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It’s the last quarter of the year (time to reflect)

It’s October, the start to the last quarter of the year. I usually don’t wear my year-end reflection uniform (I made that up) until Dec or even January! Because I’m usually “too busy”, which is just another egoistic way to describe misaligned priorities.

This year, I’m half a year jobless (though I would seriously call my writing for HopeMail a job that doesn’t pay my bills), so I’m less swept by pressing schedules and have a head start to get my reflective mode on till the end of the year.

I’d like to pause here and invite you to join me in using this reflective moment of the year to ask ourselves this question: how did we live our days this year?

If we could name a theme to our year, what would it be? If our immediate response would be the word “busy”—can that be an invitation to look deeper—what is it that we have been primarily busy about? And why? Did it connect with the bigger picture of life?

The overarching theme I’ve set at the beginning of the year is: soul harmony through rest. I know, poetic sounding, right?

Did that—soul harmony, happened?
Yes and no.

Yes: Because I was intentional in making space to read God’s words, pray more regularly, and schedule periodical silent retreats. I’ve had moments and brief periods of time where I truly felt rested, perhaps more than my previous years.

No: Because I had more time this year during my period of not working; I think more, and the clutters from my heart surfaced more than before.

I’ve cleared loads of clutter from my physical and digital space. It’s the spiritual clutter that’s more difficult to remove. Not so straightforward.

The struggles got my heart’s attention in whether I’ve placed God as the Lord of my life. And how did I live it out in the days of the year.

This year—I learnt more of myself as I know God more and more.

The more I looked beneath the symptoms from the problems of my life, and shifted to look at Christ’s character: loving, forgiving, gentle, humble…the more God revealed to me the condition of my heart which is often not pretty. Usually, the problems are not the problem; it’s our response to the problems that is the problem. My pastor used to quote this: the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Bingo.

This year—I’m big on digging beneath the surface of me, going beyond yearly action-based goals.

There were a lot of thoughts examination. Why I’m repeatedly triggered from the same thing, the same persons; why I’m easily angered (by the way, if you are often easily angered or irritated, this is a big symptom of something’s not right, and it’s leaking out in the form of anger). I’m still working this through, and I felt like this is just the beginning.

This year—I’m not my usual gung-ho self. The go-getter, get-it-done Type A.

Oh, I still have it in me, that’s for sure. But, I’m learning to be pliable to life as life doesn’t bend to our wishes. I’m far, far away from being this vision I have of how a rested person in Christ looks and feels like. But I’m thankful for the seed of wisdom being nurtured to grow into a person—rested because of her dependency on God.

One of the more prominent lessons I’ve learnt to f-l-o-w with God’s leading is during my transition period; when I left my previous work with no idea of what should I do next. I’m not in my 20s to have this boho spirit, mind you.

After a tug-of-war phase of toggling between doing the logical thing of planning to launch my copywriting business; while keeping an eye for directions from God—I hit the oasis of having peace in my heart with uncertainties rather than chasing over what’s uncertain.

That’s when I had a clear why and direction for my then blog, now, newsletter+ website for the first time in four years. And also that building a copywriting business might not be the best thing for me now. Though I’m pretty sure I can push for a decent business to happen, but it may not be well with my soul to chase for it. I don’t know why. Just doesn’t feel right.

So I learnt to let go of my stubborn bite. I’m learning to channel my bull-dog tenacity away from things that don’t matter in light of eternity (which is A LOT); directing it to be watchful of when I stray away from having Christ as my true north. I discovered that like sheep, despite being shown green pastures, I like to waddle away from my Shepherd. A lot.

This year—I’m learning to simplify. To cull: goals, wants, apps, tools, ways, information, social media.

The world: its stimuli and its good intentions are just getting too much for me.

Take productivity tools for example; I know there are loads of useful apps out there for task-tracking, reminders, planning, note-taking, etc. But that also means I have to keep all those different apps synced to one another. So, I chose to stick to Evernote. One app for almost everything. My grocery list, to-dos, meeting notes, idea dump, prayer journals, sermon notes, travel planning, blog post drafts, and many more. It syncs across all my devices. I love it when I can access what I need wherever I am.

This year—I’m learning to focus on the process towards a goal.

Wanna get fitter, lose or gain 2kg? It’s those three-four times a week of workout that we need to be diligent with. Small things done consistently is powerful. And oh, how I love the word “diligent”. Let everything we do be with diligence. Let diligence be in everything we do. We can’t be “diligent” with our goals, but we can be diligent in our steps, our process, our actions.

This is the year that I dare to, albeit gingerly, stick my head out and called myself a writer.

I remembered the very first time I did that was in August. A newly-met friend asked, “what do I do”. I figured saying “I’m jobless” is not so appealing so I said, “I’m a writer.” “Oh, what do you write about?”, she asked. “Articles that’ll help people find hope in trials and walk towards a joyful life.”, I pitched. That led to both of us, strangers just a few minutes ago, sharing about the pains from our lives. I also had the privilege of praying for her.

This is the year I learnt to say no to many things and be intentional in enlarging the space of my heart for God.

I’m ever thankful to God for this season where I have the blessing of time away from full-time work to sit still, be solitary, be present with and for people, “waste time” with God, pausing long enough for truths to surface within my heart so that they can be dealt with.

Have I lived a good life this year? The ambitious Type A in me might dismiss it saying, “it could have been better, ” followed with a long list of things-to-improve. But I hope my developing Type B will say, “Keep walking with Christ. I’m happy that you have become so aware of your need for Christ in your life—yes, you did well this year.”

Your turn (to reflect).

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard

 

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Look beneath a person’s exterior

Looking past or beneath a person’s exterior is something I struggle with. And hence, something I’m continually reminding myself to do—to go beyond the outside and see the real person as God created he or she to be.

It’s hard because most of us look at the world through our lenses.
We sometimes perceive things and people at face value.
We might jump into conclusion of who a person is based on what he or she did (or didn’t!). Hello, acceptance-by-performance—I had loads of that dished out on me for the last decade. Trying to fit into the expectations of certain people, and when failed, was given the no eye contact, cold shoulder treatment. Like an outcast. Doesn’t belong to the tribe.

Sometimes we form opinions of people based on colours, educational background, even how a person sounds like when conversing in English. Sometimes, we pridefully use these limited data to put people in a box.

I’m guilty as charged on many occasions.

We look at the exterior:
How polished someone looks or behaves.
How rude someone is.
How different someone is.
They dress differently.
They smell differently.
They speak differently.
Of the foreign worker who struggled to take our order in the restaurant.
Of the old man; grumpy and demanding.
Of the blue-collared worker; rough in his words.
Of the teenager or young adult who didn’t fit into our standard of acceptance.

And we allow these elements to filter how we see the person. We might even label them before we had a chance to know them.

We look at the world through our lenses.

And you know what? Our lenses often need a thorough wiping from God. Because our lenses are filthy; masked by the grime of: pride, self-righteousness, shame, blame, divisiveness…
These grime are pervasive. Found in homes, office, churches, temples, schools, malls, etc. And it makes us critical and judgmental people, to a greater or lesser extent.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a clean lens. But I do pray that my lens gets cleaner day by day.

That I’ll see people the way how our loving and just God sees them.
And I’ll have the wisdom to understand that we are different because these are different: culture, background, upbringing, experience, surrounding, belief.

That I’ll see beneath the tough or rude shell—hides a fearful and hurting person.
That I’ll see the families of the foreign worker—missing his children back in his home country.
That I’ll see the confusions of the teenager—struggling to find his or her footing in a too-much, too-fast, information-overload, and media-dominated world.

That beneath the exterior of a person, I’ll see:
The hopes of a mother.
The dreams of a school dropout.
The courage of a father.
The hurts of a man.
I went to a photography exhibition recently. This photo caught my eye and heart.

Photo of a Jahai family
Photo of a Jahai family in front of their home in the Belum flooded forests in Perak, Malaysia.

The family in this photo is different to mine as day & night. Yet beneath the exterior—we are the same in the sense that we want and need the same things: love, acceptance, happiness, family, and relationships.

Can we allow God to wipe our lenses clean?


Credits:
Photo from the book Grit & Grace, the grandeur of monochrome Malaysia.
*Photo of a Jahai family in front of their home in the Belum flooded forests in Perak, Malaysia.

Photograph by SC Shekar. www.scshekar.com/gritandgrace
*Text by Liew Suet Fun.


 

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Talking about suicide

The news of the suicide of a lead pastor, Andrew Stoeklein, broke my heart. He was 30 years old, a loving husband and a father to three kids. Before his suicide, he was open with his battles with depression and anxiety.

At this time of writing, I’m still mourning the loss of this person who I don’t know personally. All the while thinking, what happened?

To a person who obviously knows Christ deep in his being and his soul.
Knows of the hope of Christ.
Knows the power of prayer.
Knows about seeking help. (which he did)
Knows how much His Heavenly Father loves him.

Yet he was in so much pain and darkness that he wanted to take the pain away. And he did.

My heart is broken for him, his family, his friends, his church.

Please join me in sending lots of prayers to his family. If you are inclined to do so, you can contribute to #careforkayla at https://www.gofundme.com/careforkayla. This campaign will provide education costs for Andrew’s boys, day-to-day expenses for his wife, Kayla, and financial security during a tough season.


Many of us may not be able to comprehend how a person could take his or her own life. But to the sufferer, they may feel that death is the only way out.

The sad and scary thing is, there could be people around us who are in danger of suicide. Either we may not know the signs of suicide (though not everyone would display the signs), or we have a misconception about a suicidal person. Saying that it’s a cowardly act is one of them.

Understanding more about suicide.

How might someone think or feel like to be suicidal?

Hopeless, there’s no way out.
Overwhelmed by negative thoughts.
Their pain is unbearable, and there’ll be no end to it.
They are of no use to anyone.
Desperate.

Some of the outward behaviours could be:
Avoiding or isolating from others.
Self-harm or have the intention to self-harm.
Change in appetite.
Sleep is affected.
No desire to take care of yourself.

Facts and Myth about Suicide

(information from Befrienders)

Suicide Myth
People who talk about suicide are just trying to get attention.

Suicide Fact
People who die by suicide usually talk about it first. They are in pain and oftentimes reach out for help because they do not know what to do and have lost hope. Always take talk about suicide seriously. Always.

 

Suicide Myth
Suicide always occurs without any warning signs.

Suicide Fact
Sometimes there are warning signs. (However, there might not be signs or you might not be able to tell)

 

Suicide Myth
Once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Suicide Fact
Suicide can be prevented. Most people who are suicidal do not want to die; they just want to stop their pain.

 

Suicide Myth
Suicide only strikes people of a certain gender, race, financial status, age, etc.

Suicide Fact
Suicide can strike anyone.

 

Suicide Myth
People who attempt suicide and survive will not attempt suicide again.

Suicide Fact
People who attempt suicide and survive will oftentimes make additional attempts.

 

Suicide Myth
People who attempt suicide are crazy.

Suicide Fact
Not necessary. They are in pain, and probably have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Anyone could attempt suicide.

 

Suicide Myth
People who attempt suicide are weak.

Suicide Fact
Not necessary. They are in pain and probably have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Many people who are very “strong” die by suicide.

 

Suicide Myth
People who talk about suicide are trying to manipulate others.

Suicide Fact
No. People who talk about suicide are in pain and need help. And telling them that they “just want something” or “are trying to manipulate” is both insensitive and ignorant. People often talk about suicide before dying by suicide. Always take talk about suicide seriously. Always.

 

Suicide Myth
When people become suicidal, they will always be suicidal.

Suicide Fact
Most people are suicidal for a limited period of time. However, suicidal feelings can recur.

 

Suicide Myth
People who are suicidal definitely want to die.

Suicide Fact
The vast majority of people who are suicidal do not want to die. They are in pain, and they want to stop the pain.

 

Suicide Myth
You should never ask people who are a suicidal person if they are thinking about suicide or if they have thought about a method because just talking about it will give them the idea.

Suicide Fact
Asking people if they are thinking about suicide does not give them the idea for suicide. And it is important to talk about suicide with people who are suicidal because you will learn more about their mindset and intentions, and allow them to diffuse some of the tension that is causing their suicidal feelings.

 

Suicide Myth
When people who are suicidal feel better, they are no longer suicidal.

Suicide Fact
Sometimes suicidal people feel better because they have decided to die by suicide, and may feel a sense of relief that the pain will soon be over.

 

Suicide Myth
Young people never think about suicide, they have their entire life ahead of them.

Suicide Fact
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. Sometimes children under 10 want die by suicide.

 

Suicide Myth
There is little correlation between alcohol or drug abuse and suicide.

Suicide Fact
Oftentimes people who die by suicide are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

 

Suicide Myth
People who are suicidal do not seek help.

Suicide Fact
Many people who are suicidal reach out for help.

Counselling, support, someone to talk to:

Please help someone or yourself to seek help. Here are some links you can use. 

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There’s no spam. Just honest, useful content to help walk toward a joyful life. Why not join us?

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