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what does it mean to say “grace”?

Often we say “Grace” before partaking in meals as a formality without fully understanding its significance. I believe that “Grace” and grace is a gift from God as well as unmerited favour; we need to consciously remember that the food on our tables, though acquired by with our own resources, is still an indication of God’s providence in our lives. I say Grace because I want to give God the credit and the glory for the meal before me and so I engage my sentiments; I do not say Grace lightly.

I believe that saying Grace properly, seriously and appropriately has five main benefits which I’ve assembled in an alliteration. It gives you:

1. Perspective – If I may reiterate, I believe that all meals, big or small, cheap or expensive, are evidence of God’s goodness, faithfulness and providence in your lives. Most of the time, the meal is paid for with your money (someone else’s if you’re receiving a treat). Depending on your age, your money comes from either your parents or your job. Remember that it’s God who gave you your parents and your job. Surely, that reminds you of where your meal came from.

2. Purpose – When our hearts and minds are tuned into the right perspective, it helps us to answer the why of our communion. Besides eating for sustenance and survival, we should remember once again, that we should eat for God’s glory (note that the italics are not on the verb eat but on the presupposition for). Now, read carefully and get this – anything that is not done for God’s glory is naturally not for God’s glory; leaving God out of it would equate would equate to sin and that happens when we do not eat for God’s glory. More on that here.

3. (God’s) Presence – I find that praying together with fellow believers before meals is especially helpful in reminding us of the lingering presence of Christ, whom I believe is seated with us in every meal. In other words, saying Grace is the act of inviting God’s presence into the fellowship. There’s a holy repercussion in this acknowledgement – that our words and actions would carry intentionality and serve to build one another up, divert attention back to God and also be littered with grace.

4. Proof – I learnt this when I was working in Shanghai, away from an environment that is used to witnessing Christians suddenly bow their heads and close their eyes in public arenas to whisper a word of prayer before meals. Don’t underestimate how this mere act of coming before God to give thanks heightens other people’s awareness of your faith and whose you belong to. I’d like to think that saying Grace could prove “to be a wonderful witness for Christ to all the people” (John Piper).

5. Praise – I state the obvious; Grace is an expression of our genuine gratitude to God for the food – which is why we say, “Thank You”. I opine the inaccuracy of asking for the food to be “blessed”, simply because it already is a blessing that we are eating it! (Besides, to ask for the food to be blessed when it is already blessed reeks semblance to my former pagan practice – what‘s the point?) This analogy is exaggerated, but imagine the thankfulness we’d render in the light of famine or starvation.

I really enjoy JP’s writing and preaching. (I’m an ambitious dreamer, and I believe that one day, I will meet him in person.) There was a period of time that I recited his three well thought-out and excellently-written meal time prayers at all my meals; he wrote it for his own family’s use and at every meal they recite it together, from memory. I had actually wanted to revive this habit, but I was inspired to write, memorise and recite my own version, for my own family’s use.

So here it is, making its official debut, Joey Asher’s all-day “Grace”:

For All Meals, Anytime, Anywhere
Our gracious Father, we recall
Your true providence, both great and small.
The food ahead proclaims Your grace;
Let’s be still, Your presence we embrace.
We’re thankful, Lord, for nourishment;
Renew our strength, this good communion.
Our words, our deeds, they make You known;
We’ll proceed, for Your glory alone

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housekeeping matters.

Warning: this post sounds relatively conceited and will be blatant, shameless self-advertisement for the blog. Bear with me because I’ll probably only do this once, I hope. Hehe. (:

First and foremost, and some of you may have already realised this…

I’d like to launch my new domain…

joeyasher.com!!!

(Feel free to update all your links if you so desire; misunderstoodsunshinekid.wordpress.com gets you here as well – both urls are one and the same.)

My silent countdown to the centenary post begins and I plan to put together a minuscule competition to spice things up a little here, so keep your eyes peeled to this one. Well, so far, so good; I’ve been enjoying the process of expanding on one thought per day – that’s what I’ve been telling myself to achieve, to think big, start small, build deep (thank you, EC). Blogging daily has become a part of my routine and I think that’s a good thing (for me) – kind of like my “think time”. After all, setting out with a purpose does result in a purposeful blog.

I love to write and (I think) you like to read (what I write); we have a nice little partnership going on here. At the beginning of March, I’ve actually set a readership target for this blog and told myself (and HY) that as soon as I hit a consecutive daily average of over a hundred hits, I’ll register my own domain name. Well, the time has come for me to do that. (Actually, I should have done that last month but I’ve been reluctant to part with the cash… Nonetheless, I think it’ll be a good investment.) Interestingly enough, the two days with the highest hits are for nice is never good enough and the recent top ten reasons to leave church at 162 and 170 views respectively. I’m surprised at the figures, to be honest; considering that I only have less than 5% of hits referred from Facebook or Twitter, I’d like to believe that I do possess a healthy following and a group of supportive readers. Thank you! Either that, or some joker has been hitting refresh non-stop.

Well, I promise you that more will come. There’s just so much to write about – for example, the one leadership question I asked PC during our bi-monthly lunch just two days ago resulted in an answer so rich, it could spawn 10 entries. (I had actually prepared seven questions to ask him but that one answer was enough food for thought.) I can only pray and ask God to keep sending me thoughts, and people to keep provoking my cognition. I take no credit for any of my musings anyway because my writing is post-prayer and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I try to follow what Paul advocates in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – that is to write for the glory of God.

And so I have decided to enhance your reading experience. I’ve already amassed a sizable number of posts and so it’s only sensible that I keep my writing organised and archived. I’ve created three new categories – The Greatest Gift, Top Ten Tuesdays and Football Fervour – for your navigation pleasure; in time, these categories will increase in volume. I will also create more “pages” (and update the current ones) as time passes. In a nutshell, if you keep returning, you’ll keep finding new things to read.

In a bid to achieve consistency, I’ve tried as much as I could to post/schedule new entries by/at the turn of midnight. Oh, I use Bloglines as my blog reader and I highly recommend it. However, an even more convenient method would be to simply subscribe to my blog via email; so if you’d like to be the first to read my daily updates, simply 1) fill in your email at the top-right of this page, 2) click on the link in the confirmation email and 3) MSK will appear automatically in your mailbox – I’d super recommend that. Easy as 1-2-3. HAHAHA.

For now, I’d like to express my sincere thank to you for the great support. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Actually… I’ll keep writing, regardless. I promise! (:

the heart of gratitude.

A couple of weeks ago, I was dealing with disappointment. In my  journeying with and surrender to God, I’ve learnt that to deal with disappointment, I need to approach it with an attitude of thanksgiving and a realignment of purpose. I’m a highly committed individual synonymous with being passionate; hence I often get disappointed when people do not meet my expectations because I always wear my heart on my sleeve. When I was younger, I used to create a commotion each time this happens. As I mellow with age, I’ve learnt to be wiser in handling disappointment – sharing with the right people and only after settling my emotions with the Lord. PC once shared with me that it’s always easier to see God’s faithfulness at the end of a season; so I’ve learnt to be patient and to trust God for His timing and method.

20th March 2010 marks a significant day for the shepherds in my immediate ministry:

  1. KY commissioned as a 2LT,
  2. MF & MW had a positive cohesion with their CMs,
  3. KJ & BL joined my team of shepherds,
  4. EL & YX recovered from their cough,
  5. CN & JC returned safely from Australia and China respectively and
  6. HY completed her FYP
  7. I’ve removed all 25 dressings

This time, there’s something slightly different about feeling their joy and celebrating their victories with them. I can’t quite put a finger to it, but I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve been praying for them; there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that maybe I’ve played a minute part in the spiritual shift of things. It’s like what RB shares in Nooma 018 “Open” – tapping into the creative power of God.

20th March 2010 is also a momentous day for my Church – we voted in favour for the redevelopment of G1 (on the condition that the 1.4 plot ratio is approved) and if necessary, would take bank loans to finance this project. I’m confident that the Board and the leadership of the church understands that while it is the hardware that’s being rebuilt, significant time, energy and (financial) resources must be invested into its software. Failure to do so would result in an ultimate inability and incapacity to realise the vision. The last thing we want is to have a spectacular building without the right people trained and enabled to fill the spaces which we have catered expansion for.

I am learning to trust God more and more for His providence and I believe that, in the words of BH, “When there is total submission, there is total protection“. On one hand, I’m delighted that we can finally advance as a Church, on the other hand, I pray that we will understand the sobering responsibilities that now line our way. I believe that if we, as a Church, have missed this point of investing in our people, then there really is no point in physical redevelopment. The leadership must be committed to see through this vision.

Let our hope be in You, Lord, and may You show us Your way – I desire nothing more and nothing less.

living to excite.

Everyone is excited by different things in life. I am always excited to go on a date with HY, to be near her and to just be with the woman I love; I am always excited to partake in my mother’s cooking and it’s almost certain that I’ll finish every morsel of food; I am always excited to converse with my sister (when she’s not moody) because she’s like the best friend I’ve always had (and knowing her, she’d puke when she reads this because she has affection-phobia towards me).

So, what always excites you?

Nowadays, I get excited by learning something new about God and knowing something more about Him. I get excited about preaching because I think it’s something that stretches and challenges me in my competencies. (On that note, I really think that my “season” of worship leading is over, well sort of.) I get excited when I am mentoring someone and imparting what I know and have experienced to him or her. I get excited when I meet my mentors and to learn from their many life experiences and stories.

So, what excites you today?

I think it’s imperative that we all live for a purpose greater than ourselves. It would be pure drudgery for anyone to have to drag themselves out of bed each morning. We have to be internally motivated by goals and externally driven by actions to achieve all the dreams that are birthed in our hearts. There is no salary high enough that could ever satisfy a man if it doesn’t challenge, inspire or motivate him to take a step closer to his given destiny in life. This is why I’ve always aspired to live the mundane in an extraordinary fashion.

You and I are no different. We have similar struggles and have as many victories as setbacks. We get persecuted as much as we get praised. I’d like to think that my life is a fulfilling one because I choose to approach it that way. I refuse to live a life of mediocrity and settling for second-best (unless God specifically instructs me to do so). While life (on earth) is short, it is also the longest journey (on earth) that we will ever embark on. So let us learn to remind each other to live our lives for something, someone, some event greater than ourselves.

And to close a less serious note, I do enjoy very much (“get excited” is an exaggeration of this sentiment) when I make people laugh or when they laugh at my jokes – there’s a sense of gratification bringing joy, fun and laughter to someone’s day. This is one reason why I have baptised myself as Asher – which stands for “blessed, joyful, happy”. I also enjoy it very much when I pull off a stunt that people will remember. Presenting to HY her 22nd birthday gift was one; suddenly deciding to leave Shanghai was another; appearing for the No One Else was something that is etched in my heart forever.

And for the most recent one, it was great to pull off something so crazy in my trip to Shanghai last weekend. Man, the look on people’s faces – priceless. Lovely.

fight today’s battles today.

I am grateful for the welcome that I have received from my colleagues. Everyone has been kind and helpful. It feels like working from home; after all, this is a place I’ve called home for over a decade. Premature to say, but I feel good about being here. Let’s see where that takes me tomorrow.

Attended a prayer meeting in the afternoon together and somehow it feels really good to pray during office hours and not feel like you’re taking time away from your work! I never felt this way before when I prayed for extended periods of time in my previous jobs during office hours.

Thought of the day – there’s no difference between relational praying and religious chanting if we’re just doing it for the sake of doing it without engaging God with our heart, mind and spirit. Whenever we pray we shouldn’t just vomit words but we should really seek God and ask Him what we ought to be praying about and for today. It’s all about praying the will of God.

HY and I experienced a breakthrough in our journey of faith today. She’s been such a courageous girl, bless her heart – I have a girlfriend who inspires me. God has shown Himself to be faithful and He granted us favour tonight. We are beginning to make sense of Romans 8:28 and have that verse personalise our faith in God. God is good, He is in control and He will bring it to pass.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Can’t wait to wake up to pursue His purpose in a few hours.

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