Category Archives: Attempted Provocation
I attempt to write daily because I am in the business of shifting paradigms, especially that of my own – so help me God.
These observations are a little backdated (three months late), but these lessons are timeless and will be relevant in almost every season of my life.
In no order of importance, here are 20 (albeit cryptic) reflections from Eden’s five-day stay in Gleneagles Hospital in September 2014…
1. Family trumps everybody and is my greatest priority.
It was a no-brainer forfeiting my mission trip to be with Huiyi and Eden.
2. Don’t expect sheep to show concern for shepherds.
Pastoral care is freely dispensed by the pastor, but will hardly be reciprocated in equal measure.
3. Only my immediate family and I will be there for my immediate family and I.
Every hospitalised person can rely on only two groups of people — parents and grandparents.
4. The way I shepherd in a crisis is a reflection of the way I was shepherded in a crisis.
Where is my reference point? What is my yardstick? To lead by example, I must first be led by example.
5. Being wise is more important than being loving or sacrificial.
It is better for the main caregivers to take turns to get quality rest instead of staying vigil all the time.
6. The lesser I expect, the lesser I will be disappointed.
I realised that I have unspoken expectations and it’s toxic for me to hold on to these.
7. My single presence is more important than the sum total of my prayers.
Support is meant to be felt. Prayers are meant to be answered. Both require action.
8. Be kind and courteous to everyone because nobody knows what I am going through.
Nobody owes me a living so I learnt to be polite to everyone even when I was highly strung.
9. Don’t bother updating those who don’t bother to update themselves.
Those who really want to know will naturally contact me and that’s all the people I need to update.
10. My wife and baby’s comfort outweighs showing courtesy to visitors.
If Eden or Huiyi was resting when visitors came and wanted to say hello, too bad for my visitors.
11. I am not obligated to explain or respond to everything to and from everyone.
Strange and uncalled-for comments should be ignored and deemed as insensitive or immature.
12. Guard my emotions: the devil will exploit my vulnerability.
My security is found in who I am to God and not who I am to people.
13. People care more for my work than for my worth and my family’s welfare.
Well, I honestly didn’t really care about anything else regardless of how pressing they were.
14. Strangers and acquaintances can be more supportive than relatives and friends.
We experienced unexpected favour through our paediatrician, nurses and even security guards.
15. In distress, do not miss out on walking into divine appointments.
I took the opportunity to demonstrate God’s to the seven-year-old boy warded beside Eden.
16. No point asking for prayer if I don’t even pray myself.
Believing in God becomes authentic when I do much more than what I ask others to do on my behalf.
17. Always be patient with my wife and overlook any wrong choice of expression.
Huiyi is way more stressed and affected than me and the last thing on her mind is to offend me.
18. The only person I must practically serve and verbally encourage is my wife.
Tell Huiyi she’s doing a good job and prove that I’m right behind her in everything.
19. If I can’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
Either I treat my splitting headache by going home to rest or I become Huiyi’s extra burden.
20. Considering others better than myself is viewing my contributions less than theirs.
Becoming the logistics guy was nothing compared to being a breastfeeding mother to a sick baby.
Last weekend, in my excitement to leave the house for a Christmas party, I clumsily knocked over the bottle of wine I was going to bring out. Well, my living room ended up looking like a homicide scene.
Thankfully, Eden was on her high chair and Huiyi was in the kitchen when the bottle shattered. I, on the other hand (HA), was left to pick up the pieces (HAHA) of my broken
heart Montes Merlot 2010.
As I closed the lid of the rubbish chute, I carelessly sliced my thumb against a glass shard that protruded from the plastic bag. It literally became a bloody mess, and my sink ended up resembling an amateur suicide scene.
Yes, my well-documented fears — odynophobia (pain) and haemophobia (blood) — went into overdrive; Sheryl Crow said the first cut is the deepest and baby I know she’s right about that. It was painful and I bled a lot, but I wasn’t sure if my lips turned pale from the loss of blood or the amalgamation of phobias.
I was grateful for my cool-as-a-cucumber wife who took command of the situation; she cleaned up my mess (as always), attended to me with the issue of blood (phrase credits: DL) and even fed our bemused baby while we waited for my blood to clot and composure to return.
It’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve been deprived of my right thumb (now bandaged) and I’ve learnt how essential this small part of my body is, not just in function, but also in presence.
Functionally speaking, losing (the use of) my thumb was obviously and extremely inconvenient. I’ve come to realise how I probably need my thumb for just about everything I do: using the toilet, taking a shower, driving the car, eating my meals, carrying my baby, feeding her porridge, peeling her blueberries, washing the dishes, using my iPhone, locking my door, shaking someone’s hand, typing this post, patting Eden to sleep and even sleeping itself (fearing I might squash and injure it further)!
Percentage-wise, a thumb is a fraction of my body weight but its significance is unquestionable.
But what was more interesting for me was how I perceived the presence of my thumb, or better phrased, the impact of its absence; it was, after all, impossible for others to miss my bandaged thumb.
The owner of the convenience store I visited today didn’t, and made small talk with me about my injury; my friends at the party, with every handshake, asked me what happened; even my baby girl couldn’t stop touching my bandaged thumb — she’s either wondering how daddy hurt himself or thinking if that white thing is edible.
It got me thinking about the body of Christ (the Church), or applicable in this instance, any group of friends. Often, we instinctively miss people because of what they could do and have done for us (function), but there are times we will also miss people simply because of who they are innately and who they are to us (presence).
Perhaps as we approach Christmas, it makes for a good opportunity to remember the ones who have gone missing in our lives. Go ahead — give her a call and tell her how much you miss her, or text him and let him how much you miss having him around.
You have nothing to lose, except the friend you already lost.
In the meantime, I shall read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and enjoy sticking out like a sore thumb for the next few days.
It has been over half a year since I last blogged. I had always wanted to resume writing regularly, not for public reading but personal rigour. However, it has become increasingly difficult with different commitments vying for my time and attention.
I certainly miss the catharsis of writing — where I can reflect, process and record my frank thoughts, raw feelings and divinely appointed experiences. Somehow, writing slows down my life and helps me to savour the moments.
So without much fanfare, I shall attempt to restart tonight. After all, there is no better time to write than now.
A few days ago, I stopped my car in the middle of Grange Road to attend to a motorist who was trapped underneath her own motorcycle.
I was about 300 metres away when I saw the toppled motorcycle. In those short seconds of approaching her location, I was certain that there must have been many other drivers who had driven past her earlier on, and pretended to be oblivious to her obvious distress.
True enough, at least another five vehicles had zoomed past her before I could turn on my hazard lights and stop my car just behind her motorbike. I literally parked in the centre of a three-lane road and a potential traffic congestion was the last thing on my mind.
I did what every normal person would do if he witnessed something abnormal on the road — help.
I never knew how heavy a motorcycle was until I assisted her; there was no way she could have lifted it up on her own.
She told me that a taxi driver had hit her and then sped away. Thankfully, she said she was not hurt and surprisingly, she was not upset at all. Maybe it was the adrenaline from her struggle, maybe she was at fault, or maybe she was just grateful to be alive.
As I raised her motorbike, I was joined by another man who did the same normal thing I did; he stopped his SUV and got out to help this woman in her late 40’s.
Once she was back on her feet and sat on her motorbike, she appreciated the both of us, assured us that she was fit enough to resume riding, and went on her way. I would probably never meet her again and chances are, even if I did, I would not recognise her.
The entire incident was over in less than a couple of minutes (and I was on my bluetooth headset with KY the whole time) but it got me thinking about what it meant to help others.
1. The right person to help is often the first person who helps.
2. The first person who helps naturally invites the second person to help.
3. Everyone needs help, but they may not be able or know how to tell you.
4. The best help you can offer could be as simple as a minute or two.
5. Helping others is an end in itself because it is not about you.
As I work in a church, my opportunities to meet non-believers are limited. I asked God to show me new ways to evangelise and I was inspired to redeem telemarketing for His glory. So I told myself that instead of rudely and curtly putting down the phone whenever I get a sales call, I will ask if I could pray for the person on the line with me instead. After all, this idea had been on my mind for a while now.
My maiden attempt took place a couple of weeks ago. I was on the way to pick up my wife from work and I got a call from a dude wanting to sell me insurance. I told the Lord that morning that I’d definitely step out in faith to do it. So I put him on speaker, listened to him make that sales pitch then I asked him for his name, and went for it.
“Hi Sam, could I ask you if I could do something crazy? Can I pray for you?” I tried to sound as natural as I could.
“Oh… Sure…”, he said politely, probably not wanting to offend a potential client.
I went ahead and prayed a generic, unscripted and spontaneous prayer of blessing over Sam. And that one day, he would come to know God for himself. When we put down the phone, he actually signed off with, “God bless you, Sir”. To which I said, “God loves you, Sam!”
I was so fired up by that random four-minute conversation that I decided to pen down different types of prayers for different types of phone calls. So I composed word-for-word prayers for insurance, recruitment and credit cards sales calls. And boy was I excited to use it!
Two weeks passed and I, surprisingly, didn’t get any calls. For the first time, I was actually disappointed nobody wanted to sell me anything or recruit me to join their company!
Until this evening.
I received a sales call from a telemarketer called Catherine. She wanted me to buy a savings plan from her bank. When I politely refused her offer and asked if I could pray for her, she was surprised. She said she wasn’t a Christian but I said I could still pray for her to bless her.
She must have been surprised when I began to pray out loud. “Heavenly Father, I may not have purchased a savings plan from Catherine but I pray one day she will come to see that You’re the only savings plan she needs. May you give her success in her next sales call and help her to know the only one who can save her. In Jesus’ name, amen!”
It was almost as if I had caught her off-guard!
Then I told her that since she has my number, she could call me anytime if she ever wanted to know my kind of savings plan.
Now, I’m looking forward to the next call I receive. I am praying that these small acts of randomness will open the large doors of redemption. Since they’re stuck on the phone with me, I might as well stick something in their minds for them to remember. I’m believing by faith that these two to four minute conversations will one day change destinies. Join me as I redeem telemarketers one by one!
Instead of lamenting over the Singapore haze situation and pouring out my woes on social media (which adds zero value to this pseudo national crisis IMHO), I found ten ways to be thankful for the wind beneath my wings…
- The last time Singapore had such unhealthy PSI readings was in October 2006 (I think). Let’s be thankful that we’ve enjoyed clear skies for nearly seven years!
- In moments like these, you should be pleased that you’re not in Sumatra or any of the northern Indonesian islands – it could be been far worse!
- Isn’t it good that at least Singapore has a tropical climate where rain could come anytime to wash the haze away? Places in summer now (especially desert places) won’t even smell precipitation for weeks!
- Let’s rejoice that that Singapore’s transportation system is nearly 100% air-conditioned; when I was a teenager, buses were ventilated by natural wind! And if you’re a car owner, be contented for your own set of wheels and instead of contending with the smoke while commuting – imagine those who are cycling!
- It’s a good sign that lesser people (especially teenagers) are on the streets because they’d rather be indoors, whether at home, in the office or in malls – out of the streets, out of trouble!
- Let’s be relieved that at least everyone in Singapore is united by the same public enemy – instead of population, politics or (gender) preference issues!
- Believe it or not, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness to us in the way that He led the Israelites through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud and fire – sounds like concentrated haze in a column to me!
- For all you photographers out there, let’s get trigger happy for this is the only time where you can capture pictures with a natural “smoke out” effect without using any filter!
- For those who aspire to be ninjas, this is your time to bring out your face masks and actually look socially acceptable – when else would you get away with it!?
- And finally, if this situations worsens, the government might start ordering people to stay indoors to avoid the haze – I can hear students and national servicemen cheering already!
I am constantly amazed at how much the Holy Spirit is willing to teach me when my heart is open to God’s Word. In case you’re wondering, I do not use any devotional materials (since 2008 anyway). In my daily time with Jesus, I’m accompanied by an NLT Bible, a black Staedtler pen, a yellow Staedler highlight and a trusty ol’ journal. I use a variety of methods to get deeper into the Word: including mechanical breakdown, SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), word studies and of course unstructured incoherent scribblings. And since these observations are birthed from my journalling, they obviously make more sense to me than you.
When you feed your roots, you grow your fruits. (:
7 Jan // Mark 4:1-20
My observation is that a farmer (aka preacher/teacher of the Word) has a seven-fold responsibility:
- Firstly, he must faithfully plant (seeds). If he doesn’t scatter them, there is zero chance of plants growing.
- He must pray that birds don’t prey on his efforts of scattering seeds and eat up those that fell on the footpath.
- He must (re)position the plants growing on rocky soil to fertile soil, so that their shallow roots will grow deep.
- He must purge out the thorns and weeds in his farm that prevent the plants from producing fruit.
- He must prune the plants that are not growing too well, and this painful process usually involves patiently taking one step back (but two steps forward later).
- He must persist with the plants that fell on fertile soil by cultivating the ground and not getting complacent.
- Finally, he must press (in) and entrust the growth of the plants to God, and patiently wait for them to produce fruit in season in multiple folds, and then be ready to harvest them.
Thankfully, these roles actually have many limitations. It teaches me to be rested in the Lord who grows people and not get restless in wanting to grow them by my (enthusiastic but unnecessary) over-exertions. When I am rooted and rested, my life will be radical (back to basics).
8 Jan // Mark 4:21-34
“Secret” is a neutral word. I’m inclined to link it our sense of security. And those with nasty secrets live in fear; either it haunts them from time to time, or the fear of it coming to light makes them live defensively.
“Exposure” too, is a neutral word. And those who live righteously have nothing to fear. On the contrary, the good things executed and the bad things endured in secret receive commendation and vindication respectively.
That’s why the ideal but toughest part of your life to surrender God and let Him dwell in is your heart. No one but the Holy Spirit knows what’s truly meditating in the deep recesses of your heart; after all, who can hide from God?
The call to live out the kingdom of God isn’t just an outward show for men but an inward submission to the Master. If you allow the Word of God to purge you and the Holy Spirit to purify you, “secrets” and “exposure” might just become your allies.
Lord, grow the Word planted in me in secret and at the right time by Your loving grace, have the Holy Spirit expose to me my known and unknown sins so that I may become more like Jesus. In my secret time alone with You, reveal to me Your kingdom and help me to pay close attention to what You are saying so that I will understand You and receive even more from You.
9 Jan // Mark 4:35-41
Of course Jesus knew what He was doing when He sailed out to sea with his disciples after dusk. Of course He was “sleeping” in the middle of a fierce storm. Of course He knew that His disciples were oh-so-full-of-faith after teaching about faith the entire day.
In the midst of a storm in your life, is your first response to Jesus about how bad your situation is and why He would let you to go through it?
But despite our immaturity, Jesus is still faithful; He first sorts out your storm, then He gently confronts you with two key questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
In life’s struggles, let’s learn to have faith in Him who doesn’t just control the situations but personally leads us in and out of them. And let’s remember that He is more concerned about us knowing “Who is this man?” than simply delivering us from shipwrecks.
Don’t put your faith in the practice of faith, but in the person of Jesus.
10 Jan // Mark 5
To “Legion” who possessed the man, Jesus represented the end, but to the suffering man, Jesus represented the beginning.
Jairus and the bleeding woman shows us that knowing Jesus requires both faith and fear. Both Jairus and the woman fell at the feet of Jesus; one overcame his reputation, the other overcame her reservations. Would you overcome these to know Jesus?
The woman foreshadowed the positive kind of faith that Jairus should have – drawing us towards Jesus. But the people at Gerasenes who chased Jesus away featured a negative kind of fear that drives us away from Jesus – what a contrast!
To Jesus, having faith is everything. Maybe that’s why He chased away those who laughed at Him when He said Jairus’ daughter was asleep – not because He was embarrassed, but that He didn’t want these mockers to douse the faith of Jairus, his wife and His three disciples.
No wonder He said to Jairus (and perhaps to us all today), “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Our response to Jesus determines our knowledge of Him. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God.
11 Jan // Mark 6:1-29
You can choose to be amazed by Jesus, or you can choose to amaze Him. If you want to amaze Him, start by scoffing Him, then by taking deep offence with Him. It’ll naturally lead you to a refusal to believe who He is and what He can do.
Holy Spirit, please guard my heart and mind against unbelief.
12 Jan // Psalm 42
Lord, make my heart how it used to be. In taking care of young people, enable me to love as a father could, intercede as a mother would and help as a brother should. For I desire to lead Your people to shout for joy and sing Your praise. May my hope in You alone anchor my soul in tumultuous days of disappointment.
13 Jan // Mark 6:30-42
Do I depend on the power of the Master or the proficiency of man when I preach God’s Word, pursue God’s ways and perform God’s will? It baffles me constantly that Jesus would choose to use human agency to showcase the Kingdom of God; that the power of Christ is made manifest through the potential of Christians. Technically, Jesus wasn’t the one who fed the 5,000. His disciples were the ones who brought that miracle to pass. Jesus could have asked the Father to rain manna from heaven to feed the masses, but He chose to involve His disciples in this logistically astonishing mission. What a blessing it is for us to be used by God to bring Him glory!
Although I shared these leadership axioms with my leaders and shepherds after turning them out at 4am (!) to clean the entire church, I believe these principles that I’ve observed over the years in my leadership journey stands true in any context of leadership.
- Leadership is not your right – you didn’t do anything to deserve this position. By faith, you were appointed to take on the privileged position of leadership, through the grace of God.
- Signing a leadership covenant is mutually bonding. This means that you remain committed even if the other party fails to be. (Context: this leadership covenant signing is Phase III of my 4-year strategy to move the leadership selection process from default, to deliberation, to decision and finally for Phase IV later this year, to desire. More on that in separate post…)
- Your most important responsibility as a leader is to stay close to God and keep growing in Christ to become more like Him and to do His will.
- Leadership = Lead Your Sheep. This essentially means four things: love God, learn from your shepherds and mentors, lead your youths in grace, godliness and growth and lay aside your personal preferences for the sake of the ministry.
- Leadership is about committing your time, talent and treasure to the Lord for the sake of the ministry and your personal growth.
- Leadership is about being a part of the solution and not adding to the problem.
- Remember that you are a leader everywhere. Not just with your youths, but with your peers in leaders’ meetings, as a student in school, as an employee in the workplace and as a child at home.
- Leadership is dirty work – get ready for unglamourous, unpleasant and unpredictable times. Through this dirty work, you will be presented with opportunities to know yourself and your sheep. It will inconvenience you – that’s the price you pay.
- Sometimes, leadership is without recognition – people may not always know what you have done for them or the extent you’d go to serve them. That’s why you must always be secure in the Lord – for He’s the one who rewards you in secret the good things you’ve done in secret.
- Sometimes, the task of leadership can be beyond your understanding. In moments like these, learn to submit, be faithful and persevere, so that you can experience the fruit of your effort and the blessings of God. We’re called not to unconditional obedience but to unconditional submission. (More on that in another post.)
- Leadership is about taking initiative and following things through. It is about clearing up after each other – even when you’re the not the one who’s at fault but got dragged into the situation.
- Leadership is about being together and exceeding expectations. It’s easier to do the latter when we accomplish the former; it’s easier when everyone plays their part.