Category Archives: Heart Upon Sleeve

Passion is one of the core values of my life and very often, I spill my heart best through words.

fathers have nothing to lose except their family.

This is post-dated (as Father’s Day is over) but I thought I should talk about it nonetheless since fathers father their children everyday, and not just once a year. But since I’m on the topic of parents, I thought I should share my thoughts on active fatherhood.

I want to urge you to appreciate your father and not take him for granted – especially if you have a good father to look up to and model after. Godly fathers are a blessing from the Lord. Do not wait for him to disappear from your life before you learn to be grateful for him.

I tweeted this recently and mentioned it in my prayer during the Father’s Day service I emceed at GII:

Mothers are critical in a child’s upbringing but fathers are central to it; Dads, are you placing your family in the centre of your life?

Fathers, listen closely… You have nothing to lose except your family.

If you are a father reading this, regardless of whether you just became one or have been one for decades, please take heart and continue to be that father who inspires, influences, insulates and instructs your children. I don’t know about you, but I desire so much to be a father with a spark in my eye.

This reminds me of Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World”, one of the first books I read that left a vivid image of the type of father I’d want to be to my children.

I used to say that I’d want to be a father to my children that my father never was to me, but in recent years, I’ve decided to stop saying that simply because I believe God wants me to use my perfect Heavenly Father as my benchmark instead of my imperfect earthly father.

Well, for now, this video (put together by my shepherd, the vivacious Andrea Chan, and her team of Befrienders) goes out to my spiritual fathers – Ps Ronald Yow, Peter Lim and Chia Jenn Hui – who have seen me through the various seasons of my life since I became a teenager. I will always be indebted to them for taking the time and effort to walk with me.

My children, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching.

Proverbs 4:1-2 (New Living Translation)

meeting the folks who made the youths.

(Post-script: I had actually written an entry twice as long as this one but WordPress killed it when I tried to save it. So I shall not attempt to regurgitate the original content, but share what I think is most necessary to be read.)

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60 minutes. 48 slides. 40 parents. 14 Shepherds. 1 heck of a session. (:

About a month ago, I tweeted this:

Just had an amazing lunch session with another youth pastor and I think I may have found the solution to unite the church as a family! Wooh!

Today, I think the youth ministry took one step closer to realising that vision. And it has everything to do with putting young people together with fathers and mothers.

If you were at R-AGE @ GII’s from 5pm-7pm today, you would have seen me beaming to no end. No, I was not delighted because the team or I have done a good job (though I believe we have!); I was not happy because of the turn-out or the parents’ unexpected responses; instead, I rejoiced because of two things:

  1. I remained obedient to the vision that God put in my heart about a year ago to network with the parents of my young people, and successfully brought it to pass in the ministry today.
  2. The session today affirmed my appreciation of the “Family” element in the Grace AG “DNA” and I tapped on it to potentially bring the youth ministry (and maybe the entire church) to the next level.

Not many people know this, but if there was a group of people who I am most reluctant to be with, it would have to be fathers, and to a lesser extent, mothers. Perhaps it is because I do not normally interact with them; or because I did not grow up with a fatherly figure; or because there is a generational gap caused by age; or because I think they secretly scrutinise and criticise the youth ministry; or because I think they have no interest in what I have to say to them; or simply because I do not have much to offer them with my limited life experiences.

However, much to my pleasant surprise, they were not just a receptive group of adults but also an uplifting bunch. I invited them to give us feedback and here are some of their suggestions (and affirmation):

Good session – cleared some doubts. Organise some teens-parents bonding session?

Encourage leaders to communicate with parents if they should notice inconsistent behaviour.

Keep parents posted on the cell material so that the topics could be discussed in the family.

We would avail ourselves as a couple to listen to and help the youths and even their parents.

Host a cell group [at my house] – need not be a cell my child is in.

You guys have done a great job in nurturing the kids in their teenage years especially in their spiritual growth and character building. Keep it up!

And this takes the cake – it made me beam as brightly as a thousand suns:

I am so proud to be a parent of R-AGErs who have grown and matured through this amazing ministry. Keep up the good work! Phil 1:6

Off the top of my head, here are the 10 things I would like to thank God for:

  1. I expected a turn-out of 20 but nearly 40 parents showed up today.
  2. I expected a bored, restless and uninterested group but I saw genuine enthusiasm as they participated in the ice-breaking activity and patiently sat through the hour-long ministry update.
  3. I wished I got a dollar every time I saw a parent nod his or her head with me in agreement.
  4. I took the risk to give Keith and Yixian the opportunity to (re)present the cell and service elements respectively and they have exceeded everyone’s expectations of them – I am so proud of my beloved proteges!
  5. I thought Melody and Bradley did a superb job at organising this event with limited time and resources.
  6. I saw a beautiful scene of “Family” at the ground floor after the session – teenagers, youth leaders and parents freely mingling and chatting with each other over dinner. That’s precisely what a family church is all about!
  7. I was surprised to see how genuinely keen these parents were to be a part of what R-AGE did, does and will do.
  8. I could almost see it in their eyes that this session was like an answered prayer for them.
  9. I expected a tricky Question-and-Answer session but I ended up receiving generous words of encouragement from two fathers. I also received an insight into the real fears, struggles and concerns of parents with teenage children.
  10. It was beyond my wildest imagination to see at least 35 parents responding to my pseudo “altar call” of committing to being a secret prayer warrior for the youth ministry and its young people.

I shall not go into the details of what transpired today because I do not want to let the cat out of the bag… (: But if you are really keen to find out what happened, here’s all you need to know, whether you are a parent or a teenager:

  • We now have one parent committed to interceding for one R-AGE @ GII GGL (who’s not related to them) for six months.
  • We made history today by organising the inaugural Meet-The-Folks session; as far as I can remember in my 14 years in Grace AG, and confirmed by parents who have been in Grace AG for more than two decades, this was definitely the first time something like this has happened. And we were all most grateful for it.
  • We are all looking forward to the next Meet-The-Folks session, perhaps at the end of the year.
  • We have a bunch of parents who sincerely desire to make a greater contribution in their teenagers’ life and ministry.
  • We are on the threshold of a new culture being established in Grace AG – championed by its young people.
Change is coming and I can sense the air of anticipation amongst us… Can you? (:

a change of plan or a plan of change?

I led my wonderful team of dedicated Shepherds to Batam’s iHotel over the weekend; this was our first independent ministry-planning trip and I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I trust that my Shepherds had also enjoyed this time of reflection and evaluation that I had carefully designed for them to embark on. I’ve journeyed with them for 18 months now and while it’s been a wonderful ride, I desire for them to grow deeper in their individual walks with God.

Keith and I arrived slightly later than the rest of them as we had to oversee the collaboration with the Grace Kids at GII Sunday services; it was also the first time I had the opportunity to be the emcee in the adult services. (I improvised from what I thought was a messy first service and I am grateful that the second service turned out much better…) I am confident that the adults now know that R-AGE @ GII exists and that it’s the best place to be at on a Saturday afternoon.

It was great to have caught up with Keith on our journey to Batam. I’ve always identified him as one of my successors and I’m confident that he will be able to lead R-AGE @ GII to greater heights where I could not. Keith, you will surpass me and I will help you to do that because I believe so much in what God will do through you. (: I am blessed to be able to mentor an exceptional young man like him.

I bunked with Bradley for this trip and I thoroughly enjoyed bonding with him and knowing him more intimately. We had a good time catching up in the room and in the pool. I celebrate his appetite to get out of his comfort zone – that’s the mark of a G0d-fearing and Christ-loving disciple. And I look forward to hearing his reflections on a passage of Scripture I asked him to meditate upon.

We decided to have seafood dinner at a roadside coffeeshop – yes, those typically dirty and warm ones (with pesky buskers) and the overpowering aroma of belachan chilli that clogs up your respiratory system. I must say I was impressed with the team’s courage to eat everything that came their way (although some felt queasy after dinner). The best thing about the feast was its price – we ate a mountain of food for a mere 10 SGD per pax.

***

The first activity we embarked on after dinner was “Dials on a Dashboard” – a little exercise I’ve adapted from Wayne Cordeiro’s excellent book, “Leading on Empty”; I got my Shepherds to systematically recognise, rate and recalibrate the various dials on their dashboard. It was a brutally honest activity and it set the tone for the contemplation they would embark on.

For the purpose of my own journaling, the 15 dials I’ve identified in my life are:

  1. Faith life
  2. Family life
  3. Relationship life
  4. Mentoring life
  5. Leadership life
  6. Intercession life
  7. Online life
  8. Author’s life
  9. Speaker’s life
  10. Competency life
  11. Contemplative life
  12. Financial life
  13. Leisure/Fun life
  14. Social/Fellowship life
  15. Health life

It is my earnest prayer that everyone in the team would UP(a)GRADE in their own faith pilgrimage. I am eager to grow, as I always have been, and I have already put into action some things as soon as I arrived home. May the Lord continue to give me grace as I seek to please Him in all that I do.

I encouraged the team to wake up early the next morning to do their devotions on a passage of Scripture (Hebrews 12) that the Holy Spirit revealed to Yixian during the Dashboard activity; I thoroughly enjoyed receiving insights and understanding from the Lord as I meditated on and memorised His Word. It was an empowering experience! MAN, I LOVE THE WORD!

***

After breakfast, we returned to the room and I asked the team two key questions:

  • “What have you done?” (I got them to list all their achievements in ministry – to itemise what’s been happening)
  • “How have you done it?” (I got them to investigate their attitudes behind these ministry achievements – to inspect the condition of their hearts)

It turned out to be a powerful exercise as this soul-searching activity became a heart-wrenching experience for a few of them. One Shepherd (whose identity I shall protect) even broke down during this activity. We ministered to her on the spot and tears flowed freely – not just on her cheeks but on those who were standing in the gap for her as they laid their hands to pray for her. It was a moving scene indeed… This is unity… This is the body of Christ… This is biblical fellowship.

I was led to get everyone to worship God together before every session (with David’s iPod and two speakers no less!) because I believe that it’s important to engage the Lord in any crucial decision; I felt that it was imperative to make decisions in the presence of God for it’s always in the presence of our living and loving God that our lives are changed to be more like Him. And so it was – God is faithful – this was ministry at its finest hour. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the Spirit’s conviction.

***

As part of my bid to sort out my health, I had already completed 10km on the treadmill within 24 hours of arrival and was about to go for my first swim in eons; it must have been more than six months since I last put on my goggles. On a lighter note, I discovered the power of my physical presence – some of the girls who were in the pool disappeared (more like ran away) within seconds of me entering it to swim my laps; it’s like they saw a ghost or something. HAHA!

We consumed lunch at a local restaurant and after that, half the team went to do water sports while the other half remained behind to enjoy some free time. Huiyi and I would have loved to join those out at sea but her sudden bout of illness prevented us from doing so. We ended up enjoying a nice two-hour Thai/Balinese combination massage for a grand total of 14 SGD per pax (cheaper than Shanghai!). More importantly, as always, I enjoyed my afternoon with my wife-to-be. (:

We waved Esther, Natalina and Huiyi goodbye as they left a day earlier due to prior commitments. The rest of us went to the nearby Nagoya Hill (for the umpteenth time!) for dinner at another local establishment. The most hilarious scene must have been when Bradley and I literally carried the table top without its legs. You must see it to believe how ridiculous it looked!

***

We returned to our Shepherds Headquarters (a.k.a. Yixian’s and Jeraldine’s room) where we embarked on ministry evaluation. It was a proper meeting with minutes recorded and we listed down all the various programmes that we had already embarked on for 2011. And I helped the Shepherds to see how important being intentional is in planning for our programmes. We made quick-fire assessments to every programme, from cells, to services, to regional gatherings, to trainings and to special events:

  1. Should we keep it or trash it?
  2. If we plan to keep it, how can we improve it?

All of us unanimously felt the need to be even more evangelistic in the way that we operated. When we plan “Win” events, we will naturally need to have “Equip” activities and eventually it will result in it being a “Build” event. I saw in the Shepherds’ eyes a conviction to be intentional, intensive and inclusive in all that we would plan next year. I was glad to be able to transfer what I had learnt from a conference to my team of leaders.

(I was tickled to see the contrast between my M&M’s (Melody & Melissa) – one was bustling with energy and the other completely zapped!) We spent the next few hours affirming one another with objective, subjective, introspective, retrospective and most importantly, heartfelt words of encouragement. I am confident that this is the first time the Shepherds were encouraged on such a scale – I pray that it had lifted their inner man/woman. (: Well for me, I went to bed feeling great and grateful about what the Lord is doing in this season of my life.

***

Our final activity was inspired by 2 Corinthians 5 where I reminded the Shepherds of our duty and need for the ministry of reconciliation. I shared with them openly and honestly on my own attempts to reconcile with a couple of people in my life (and I am proud to say that I’ve already taken reconciling action tonight, as soon as I got home).

I believe that as we grow as a ministry both in quantity and quality, through processes and programmes, cracks of misunderstanding will appear in our relationships; these are inevitable for when iron sharpens iron, there is heat and friction. And when cracks appear, the devil will too, with his lies and deception. We must not fall for it – hence the great need to reconcile each other to Christ (and to each other) and to clear up any potential or active misunderstanding before it erodes into bitterness.

By the end of this retreat, we had evaluated the three main components of ministry: people, programmes and processes. We had also recorded feedback for the various programmes that the ministry had executed on the service, cell and events level. I am hopeful that this Retreat had been in line with the coming 40DOC campaign, and sets the tone for personal renewal and corporate alignment.

Praise the Lord for all that He’s done through me at this Shepherds Retreat – A change of plan of a plan of change?

***

I shall leave you with two paradigm shifts that the Holy Spirit inspired me to share with the Shepherds:

  • I challenged them (and now you reading this, and eventually R-AGE) to remove “Arrowed” or “Bombed” from their dictionary for that’s a secular and selfish way of thinking. Instead, let’s train ourselves to say, “What an opportunity indeed!” whenever we are given the privilege to do something for the Lord and His people.
  • But if you are simply unable to lend a hand due to your existing commitments: “Don’t be a dead-end, but be a Y-junction instead.” So that when you really can’t help when people approach you, you can still help by pointing them to other people who may be able to help them. This results in their burden being lightened regardless.

We are a team and this is a team effort; let’s behave like an Ephesians 4 team!

***

Of late, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to have a deep life and to dig deeper, thanks to the influence that Ps Edmund Chan has in my life. And I believe that this is evident in my conversations and in the way that I operate. He put it succinctly, “The depth of your life determines the breadth of your ministry.”

I have never desired depth in my life and ministry as much as I have right now. Oh Lord, please give me Your grace and enable to grow myself and R-AGE in a deep and riveting manner. Hear my cry, Lord – I do not want to raise a shallow generation of believers!

happy mother’s day – I’ll tell you why my mother is a remarkable woman by any measure.

It’s Mother’s Day! I’m single-dating her tonight and I hope that she would have enjoyed the food and the company of her favourite son (Ha!). And since I (think I) am a writer, I will of course blog about my mother on this day that rightly belongs to her.

Mummy, I know you’re reading this – I love you and I want you to know that I am immensely proud of you for raising Maisie and me. You have done a remarkable job with your limited resources and no amount of words will do justice to the sacrifice that you have put in. But I do hope that you will be honoured this way – because I respect and love you very much. 放心,我和妹妹会照顾你的!

***

I found the transcript of an email interview my mentor Peter Lim conducted with me. It was part of his article for Motherhood magazine. And I was hoping that this may turn out to be a good read. This document dates back to June 2006 – so what you are about to read is my perspective half a decade ago, when I was still in the Army. And I’d like to think I’ll probably answer these questions in the same way if I am asked again today.

Anyhow, I’m publishing the document as it is. Enjoy the read. (:

1. Do you mind if I title it (the article): “Our mum is a divorcee”? And you can send me a happy smiling picture of yourself and your sister?

>>> Ya, actually I do mind. Because I never saw her as a divorcee. So I don’t want others to think that we think of her that way. In my head and heart she’s one amazing super mother. She’s living proof that you can raise two kids properly without a husband and with income that could only make ends meet. Her sacrifice is second to none. Perhaps you could skew your title to something with sacrifice? I’ll leave the coining of the title to you then.

2. How old were both of you when your parents divorced?

>>> Maisie and I were 5 and 8 years old respectively when our parents officially divorced.

3. Did you know why they divorced?

>>> Over the years, many different reasons have surfaced; some were conventional ones like financial disputes and failure to meet expectations, but there are also a couple of reasons that I cannot share because it’s just too personal. Both our father and mother gave us different perspectives on why the marriage failed; and of course they absolved themselves of any traces of blame. When we were younger we couldn’t understand why, but now that we are older, we see a much clearer picture by piecing all these information together. We’d blame neither of them for what has happened – or we’d blame the both of them.

4. What were your reactions then? (Or were you too young to understand?)

>>> At 5 and 8 years old, I honestly think we were too young to understand. The fact that I existed in a single-parent family only hit me when I was 15 years old. It hit my sister too, but differently. I hated my father for not being around, for not lighting my path to manhood, for not disciplining me etc., etc. Kids who have their fathers by their side through their growing up years will never understand what I went through so I’d say to treasure your father – they are a gift from God to their children. My sister struggled with another set of hurts; once the apple of her father’s eye, she found herself “demoted” to second-best when my father remarried and his wife bore him a son. She was no longer daddy’s girl and not being able to approach our Papa like the loving father that he used to be that hurt her the most.

5. What do you feel is missing (if anything at all) from a single-parent family?

>>> Nothing is missing from a single-parent family. 3 is a whole number and not an odd number. Our mother has done such a remarkable job at playing different roles you couldn’t tell that we were from a single-parent home. It did help that we became Christians; in church, we’ve been blessed to have a lot of brothers and sisters, both young and old, to love and protect us. Our maternal and paternal relatives are also a closely knit group. Maisie and I were never lacking in any area.

6. Do you compare yourselves to friends who have both parents in their growing up years?

>>> Comparisons are inevitable. We look at “complete” families and although we are delighted for them, we also feel a tinge of envy. But we wouldn’t have traded our single-parent upbringing for an “ideal” family (by the world’s standard). Our family background has allowed us to experience things that some kids would never even imagine. It has made us stronger, wiser and certainly more independent than most kids. We are more aware of what’s going on around us and there’s this unmistakable drive that Maisie and I both have; I firmly believe this was birthed out of a unique upbringing.

7. In your parents’ case, was there anything positive in being divorced (from your perspectives, not theirs)?

>>> Our mother married our father when she was 20 years old. She had her firstborn at 22 years old. While it was common for women in the past to marry early, it also meant that she never had the chance to “see the world”, and had to care and provide for her own family at a premature age. The divorce allowed her to expand her horizons, social circle and of course the way she perceives things.

>>> For our father, as he was the initial custodian to us both, his life revolved around us. His first and last thoughts of the day were of and for us. He was quite an extraordinary father. However, due to circumstances, my sister moved in with my mother after a couple of years, and I followed suit after another couple of years. I believe my dad’s life picked up from there. To date, I’m not sure if the path he chose (to start another family) was what he desired, or what he needed to do to feel normal again.

>>> Both of them have become a very different person from who they knew each other to be.

8. What’s your advice to parents who are divorcing/divorced, in relation to consideration for their kids?

>>> Regardless of marital status, always be there for your children whenever they need you. Your children belong to both of you, not one of you. It is possible to raise good and sensible kids even if you are divorced, but it requires an intentional and active sacrifice. Time is the greatest gift you can give to your children. Your presence makes a difference in their lives so don’t let your absence become the difference in their lives.

Three is a whole number – still happy and smiling today.

I love my church… part 1.

Probably our favourite photograph together, taken at the inaugural Rhema in 2006.

I have arrived at the 18th month of my journey with Grace AG and it has been an eye-opening experience. A perfect church doesn’t exist and Grace AG is no different; there are cracks and weaknesses in my church, just like there are in yours. (I’m throwing the “This-is-not-your-church-this-is-His-church” cliche out of the window – I’m not here to quibble over semantics.) But not everyone, be it a salaried minister or a serving member, will dare to make this statement:

“I love my church.”

And I’ve been privileged enough to meet men and women whom I’m confident will dare to make that statement – Lionel, Joel and Suhui, just to name a few. As for my colleagues, I only have superficial knowledge of the majority of them but I do have intimate knowledge of one man – Ps Ronald. And I know he loves his church. His passion for Grace AG has rubbed off not just on me, but on many others who have crossed his path.

One reason why I look toward Ps Ronald as a role model is that he is a home-grown pastor. (Sidetrack, but I humbly think that we need more home-grown ministers!) This man was once a rebellious teenager; he once served as a Sunday School superintendent; and I believe that in his 12 years serving full-time in Grace AG as a youth pastor, he has stepped on many toes in the name of advancing the church. I believe that all good leaders have an insatiable appetite to improve their organisation with whatever influence they have. Their attitude is always exemplary and inspirational. After all, attitude reflect leadership (Julius Campbell).

I am a passionate person and I am not ashamed of the way I communicate. A couple of days ago, I enjoyed a heated phone conversation with Ps Ronald; it was almost cathartic to have these occasional dialogues. No, we didn’t quarrel. I doubt we’ve ever quarreled outrightly. I love and respect him too much to fight against him. He has over the years led me by example and proven that he is fighting alongside me. You must have heard me say this time and again – everyone has a hero of faith and Ps Ronald is in my hall of fame.

I brought to him a couple of issues that were tussling in my head in an open and honest manner. And I didn’t mince my words. There aren’t many people who can convincingly tell me, “I know where you are coming from”, and have me believe them. And there aren’t many people who can make me feel like they’ve really heard what I had to say and understood every word of it. Ps Ronald is one of the few who can cut it with me.

I put down the phone and sent him a follow-up text:

Bro, sorry if I sounded rude or disrespectful. I do get carried away and am passionate in my arguments. Trust you know it’s nothing personal. I’m challenging the policy, not the person.

His candid response made me beam with pride – for who doesn’t want to be a reflection of their role model? This was what he replied verbatim:

Yes, miniature Ronald. Hahahaha. You brought up a good point…

And the rest I shall omit… Well, you may not make heads or tails of what Ps Ronald and I exchanged but that was a significant moment for me, even though he has affirmed me time and again that I remind him of himself when he first started out in ministry. I believe that there are many others on the staff team who are like Ps Ronald and I – people who love the church and want to see it grow and change for the better.

Are you an old-timer harping on the church’s distinguished history?
Let the young ones show you how much they will love the church!

Are you a young person discouraged by the church’s dismal destiny?
Let the older folks show you how much they still love the church!

My rhetoric to you tonight is – “Do you love your church?”
God knows the answer in your heart and Man will know the answer by your fruit.

No, Grace AG isn’t just my place of employment.
It is home – my home – and I will fiercely protect it.

fighting the temptation of depending on yourself.

Psalm 73: A Psalm of Asaph.

1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.

4 They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else. 6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace, and their clothing is woven of cruelty. 7 These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! 8 They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. 9 They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. 10 And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. 11 “Does God realize what is going on?” they ask. “Is the Most High even aware of what is happening?” 12 Look at these arrogant people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. 13 Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong? 14 All I get is trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.

15 If I had really spoken this way, I would have been a traitor to your people. 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! 17 Then one day I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I thought about the destiny of the wicked.

18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. 19 In an instant they are destroyed, swept away by terrors. 20 Their present life is only a dream that is gone when they awake. When you arise, O Lord, you will make them vanish from this life. 21 Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.

23 Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. 24 You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

27 But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

(New Living Translation)

I’d like to believe that Asaph was like any one of us. He had real struggles too (in this case, being tempted to harbour righteous envy against wicked men) but more importantly he dared to be real before God. I think that is remarkable for a man of his calibre.

Day in, day out, I wrestle with efforted authenticity before God. I rest in the knowledge that God already heard what’s in my heart and therefore I am lazy to articulate it. Oh, you’d be surprised to count the number of inaudible, invisible and illusional conversations that I think I had with Him. After all, why say it when He already knows it?

Asaph for me does it so well. He laid down his guiding principles at the start and proceeded to come clean with God. He neither left out details nor hid his true disgust. Sometimes, I think God can’t handle it when I get too honest… It got me thinking – if I tell God bad things about people, am I not gossiping, albeit with God?

The resolve arrived in v15 – that key word “If”. He faced real temptations but he emerged better for it. And instead of complaining and leaving it there, he actually sought insight from the Lord. So many times I have failed to rely on the counsel of the Spirit and depended instead on my own wisdom in interpreting the matter.

Tonight, Asaph takes on the role of my divine mentor and it is from his experiences that I will learn. What a sobering reminder v27-28 is! The condition underneath and the conversation upward are what truly matter – these must be my primary concerns when I fight the temptation of depending on myself.

I shall chew on Psalm 73 for the next week.

Lord, help me to see Your power in my weakness. And help me to remember that I don’t need to act invincible in Your presence.

perth day 9: I carry you with me.

Four final shots at our unofficial Perth Retreat Centre. Haha! :P

I’m glad I took the time and effort to write daily in the past nine days; now these wonderful memories are forever locked away and never forgotten (especially since I am so absent-minded). It has been a memorable holiday and certainly served its purpose of providing rejuvenation and revelation. With bated breath, I look forward to leading R-AGE, marriage preparations, restarting a new school semester next week and… My next holiday. (: For now, I believe I will enjoy re-reading these entries and re-living those memories:

Day 9 passed the fastest. Before we knew it, we already had lunch and completed last-minute purchases at Cockburn (pronounced “Koh-burn”, not “Kok-burn”) Gateway Shopping City. We returned home after that and Huiyi and I attempted to seal our luggages while Ervina and Chin Seng prepared for our last supper at the patio. No one could actually tell that I was feeling quite sad that I would soon be saying goodbye to the lovely people here; I honestly thought it was too melodramatic to display my emotions so I held myself back.

Chin Seng powered up the outdoor gas-powered barbecue pit and brought out gigantic tiger prawns and huge chicken wings while Ervina prepared a refreshing spinach garden salad with red wine vinegar and a lovely concoction of mint honey iced tea. Even Granny Aw joined in the action and contributed an avant-garde spicy cucumber and parsley salad of her own. (I’m pretty sure Huiyi and) I felt the love that has been so generously lavished upon us as we waited for dinner to be ready. Ervina gave thanks for the final time as we tucked in to a sumptuous spread. I shamelessly asked Granny Aw if she would miss me… And she said, “当然会,你们走了这个屋子没有那么热闹”. My heart practically melted.

We snapped our final photos before we gathered in a circle in the living room and held hands to pray for one another. I was so inspired by the way Granny Aw prayed – fervent and full of faith! With one final sweep of the house, we ensured that we had left nothing but good memories behind. We sat in their grey Mazda 3 for the final time, linked up with Ervina’s grandmother along the way, and drove to Perth International Airport.

There was a part of me that wished that there was only four of us at the airport. Maybe without Ervina’s relatives around, I might have actually expressed some emotions because I needed an outlet! I already knew that I was going to miss them both so much and even as I type this, I feel a heart-wrenching sensation at the core of my being. Beyond all the sights and sounds, this couple was undoubtedly the highlight of Perth and I’m glad Huiyi and I spent the bulk of our time in their endearing company.

I love those Love Birds so much more after this nine-day getaway and I’m sure it will be a good reunion when we do meet again. Lord, thank you for bringing me to Perth but more importantly, thank You for placing Chin Seng and Ervina in my life.

***

Darling, maybe someday
Forever I will stay
Lord knows that’s what I’m dreaming of
And I’m trying to find a way
But for now the wind keeps blowing
It carries me across the sea
So don’t you worry now, because

I carry you with me
I carry you with me

(“I Carry You With Me” | Tyler Burkum)

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