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I’ve served as an usher at my church for two years ever since the previous ministry I was in merged with the usher team. So now on ever third Sunday, I get to welcome and greet people at the door and show them to their seats. When you are an usher, you really meet all sorts of people. Most are nice, polite and warm but there are some really difficult ones. It wakes me up to the sobering truth that the church is really for imperfect and broken people like you and I.
I’ve also greeted and welcomed many LGBTs into my church and I always marvel at their courage to step into a place where most people think would be hostile towards them. To me it simply shows that they love God more than the pain or fear of being rejected. And I thought their just being there is already a testimony. When many would walk past me without even a glance of acknowledgement to my greeting, they are the ones who made eye contact and returned my smile.
So when I read this from Seth’s blog this morning, I just have to share it.
To all my LGBT friends and family, I am sorry we did not love you more.
Okay, so some Muslims in Malaysia is saying nobody else can use the world “Allah” to mean God in their religious text. Now, “Allah” is the Arabic translation for the word, God. So what is an Arab Christian to do? I did a search and found in Wikipedia that it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews. It is also interesting to note that it was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia. Now, I can understand why some Muslims are upset. They are worried it might cause confusion among it’s people and why they could be mislead. It is because the concepts associated with the term “Allah” differs among the various traditions and they do not want their concept of “Allah” to be misrepresented by another faith.
If you ask me, I’d say, teach your people well in your own tradition. Build in them a strong foundation of your concept of “Allah”. You can even warn them that there are others out there with a different view. You can’t build a hedge around them and expect them to grow in faith. If you believe your concept of God is true and beautiful, your best defense is simply to make that known to your people and live in such a way that testifies to it. That way, they will not be easily seduced by any foreign ideas. If they do, it is only because you have failed.
Christians have had to deal with competing ideas of God for centuries and have taken it in their stride. Just think about all the Christian cults out there. Perhaps this is something Muslims can learn from. It’s not about the competition. It’s about strengthening your own forte.
Recently, I’ve been examining my heart for others and I ask myself these simple questions – especially when I’ve experienced pain, tension, or envy in my relationship:
Do I truly want this person to prosper? Do I want the best for this person? Do I truly want this person to flourish? Do I truly want this person to be restored? Do I truly want God to bless this person?
Here’s the kicker. If I can’t positively answer the questions above, the problem isn’t the other person…it’s me. – Eugene Cho
Pain, tension and envy. Who amongst us is not guilty of them? Eugene accurately points out the problem. These are some of the same searching questions I ask myself whenever feel a disharmony in my spirit, pertaining to relationships. Over the years friends, colleagues and even family members have shared with me their fair share of complaints, gossips and criticisms about other people. To those who were just sharing to get it out of their system, I do not give much input. But to those who genuinely want to be better people and have better relationships, I try to divert their focus to get them to first look at the situation from a new perspective. That almost always involve taking a trip down to their own heart. It is usually not a very pleasant trip. But it is necessary that we first deal with our own heart and our inner motivations. Clear the cobwebs there first if we want to revolutionalize our relationships. Once that is dealt with, we will feel liberated. It frees us to respond in a way that reflects the part of our self that is beautiful and true.
I have gone a good distance when it comes to pain, tension and envy in relationships but there is still quite a lot of ground left to cover. I am still working on it every single time those feelings surface.
The quote above was taken from Eugene’s post on Tiger Woods. It is a good read for personal-reflection (click here for full post), especially if you struggle with the same issues and well, if you want to be a better person generally. Who doesn’t?
If you are looking for a place to give, One Day’s Wages is good ground. It was officially launched a few months ago by Eugene Cho and his wife, Minhee. Although I do not know them personally, I have been following Eugene’s blog for a while and have a great respect and admiration for this man and his vision. Fighting global poverty seems like such an impossible task but ODW made it simple. You do not have to be a star or do big things to make a difference. Everyone can participate. All you need to do is just to donate your one day’s wage. It is that simple. 100% of your giving goes to organizations, causes and projects that deal with fighting poverty.
“The numbers (of people living in extreme poverty) are staggering but are absolutely real. Behind each number is a human being: a mother, father, sister or brother. While ODW is not a religious organization, we are compelled by our faith and conviction that human life is sacred and precious. 3 billion people live on less than US$2/day. 1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25/day – the definition of those who live under the condition of “extreme global poverty.” – ODW
www.onedayswages.org Go check it out now.
I just came home after a night spent at my church’s ministry meeting. I almost wanted to skip this, feeling rather tired after a long day at work. I am glad I went anyway. What I received tonight from our ministry leader not only refreshed me but also brought clarity to the struggle I am facing with Linda, the women I wrote about in the preceding post.
As I made my way to the meeting venue, my mind was already heavy with thoughts about what I have written about my encounter with Linda. I was cutting through the crowded CityLink Mall with my iPod on when I felt a sudden rush of emotion, a sense of “blessedness”, like someone is loving me right there and then. I wasn’t feeling very proud of myself after what I have written about my reluctance to get further involved with Linda. Yet I was reminded of how loved I am and I thought to myself, this is what I want Linda to have – to always feel loved, even when she least expects it. In that instance, I felt the reluctance fade a little and somehow….more ready.
When Deacon Sam spoke later that night, I knew it would be a word in season for me. It refocused my heart and mind again on the heart of serving, stripping away everything that is peripheral to it. Why do I serve? Because I love God. It is an expression of my love and worship. I can never give to God more than what He has given me. Because I love my Pastor. Through him, God has impacted my life in immeasurable ways, the very reason why I have that joy and hope still living in my heart today. Pastor has kept that flame alive. Because I love my church, my lifeline. Without her, every week would be such a drag. She is great today because she has some of the best leaders and pastors. The unity among them is admirable. Because I love the people that walk through its doors. I want for them the same life giving force that changed my life.
These are not directly linked to my incident with Linda but the motivation is the same for both. What is the meaning of serving if I can only serve God in one area and not another. What more when I know that above all things, God cares for individuals the most. In the end, there is really no excuse and I knew it.
Deacon Sam so rightly puts it, the only way we can serve God freely, with joy and not out of a sense of obligation is to know that God accepts us regardless. Our service to Him is not for His sake but for our own. It grows us. It enlarges us. It enriches us. I resolve then to mirror Deacon Sam’s attitude in the context of Linda’s case. God, if this is what You intend for me, give me the grace and for it so that it is not a struggle. If not, send somebody else. I am not responsible for the results, You are. If there is a challenge, You will meet it. I am just a tool in your hands.
Grace sometimes results in complacency, dependancy and self-centeredness. How does one avoid that?
Recently, I went out of my way to extend help to a stranger in need, more than what many people are willing to do. I believe I have exercised discernment in the way I handled her and did not help her beyond what was necessary and healthy. I have shown her grace when she felt most undeserving. I have hoped, with what I have done for her so far she can at least have a chance to pick herself up and start over. Instead of doing what she can to help improve her circumstances, she grew emotionally and for a while, financially, dependant on me. She spends a lot of time and energy regretting her past and indulging in self-pity. I have tried to point her to Jesus but she kept asking why God does not bless her and fail to realize what God has already done for her through me. Perhaps she expected more. I know she is depressed and lonely. To be truly honest, I am not prepared to get so involved with a complete stranger and someone who is so emotionally needy. My way of showing her grace at this point is to continue to pray for her, communicate with her and encourage her through text messages, but I am not ready to be there for her in person. This incident has exposed me. I saw that I have been more comfortable with the idea of charity and compassion than actually doing the hard work of getting personally involved in peoples’ life and discipling them. It further seals the fact that I can never be Jesus. Unlike Jesus who is inexhaustible, I do not have so much for people to draw from. I kept pointing her to Jesus so that she can learn to draw from him herself. I know she will find real food there because of the difference it has made in my own life. But I am her only link to Jesus at this point and that is a scary thought. I can’t live up to that expectation. The pressure will kill me. I can only be that link for her to a certain extent. I have been encouraging her to join the church near her home whenever she can but so far she has only kept asking why God does not bless her.
Let’s be honest. Every one of us has gossiped one time or another in our life. For some it has become a habit; part of their character and that is really sad for they will find themselves very lonely one day.
Most people however, try to distinguish between communication and gossip. They draw a line so that they do not cross over to the dark side but sometimes they are confused, or their emotion gets the better of them, or they didn’t want to feel left out. Sometimes silence makes them uneasy, or they simply wanted some attention. Some do not know how to steer the conversation away from the gossip. So they listened, trying all the while not to contribute anything to it yet knowing that by tolerating it, they have already contributed. They always regret it afterwards.
If like me, you are concerned about what this destructive activity does to your soul and your sense of worth and how to know the difference between communication and gossip so that you can eliminate it from your speech and improve your relationships, may I recommend that you read this.
Wait Till You Hear This….!
Have you seen the latest episode of Gossip Girl? Read National Enquirer lately? How about People Magazine? Decrying gossip may seem quaint today, but with over one hundred magazines, TV shows and websites selling gossip, maybe we ought to remind ourselves of its dark side.
The more we value something the more specific we are in discussing it. For instance, to me, flour is just flour. However, if I’m shopping for my wife I am forced to differentiate between unbleached, bread, whole wheat and various other types.
The Bible contains many different words for ways to communicate because it places such high value on human connection. These words are not interchangeable; each has a specific meaning.
Leviticus 19:16 is commonly translated as:
Do not go about spreading slander among your people…
The Hebrew literally reads as:
Do not peddle gossip among your people…
Everyone agrees that slander is destructive and Biblical laws prohibiting it spawned similar civil laws. But gossip isn’t slander, right? Gossip is neutral and harmless, isn’t it?
Unlike any other language, Hebrew words magically intertwine with one another in a mystical dance. Every word in the Bible sends the student on a search for words that share the same roots and letters. Thus we get a clue to gossip’s essence by noting that the Hebrew for gossip, R-CH-L also means peddler. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that both these words also relate to R-G-L, the root word for spying.
In other words, gossiping, peddling, and spying are closely related ideas.
This helps us understand the reference to “peddle” in Leviticus 19:16. Peddlers convey goods from one person to another just as spies carry information. Similarly, gossips transmit details about one person to another. Peddlers provide economic benefit while spies can be either heroes or villains depending on your loyalties. Think Nathan Hale vs. Benedict Arnold.
What about the gossip? The prohibition in Leviticus seems to suggest it is always evil. But how do we define gossip? After all, if we never talk about other people, we might never discover someone needing our help. We could become utterly alienated from our families and communities.
What turns positive communication into negative gossip?
The Hebrew reveals the answer. While earning his living, a peddler does benefit his customer by selling him a desired product at a fair price. The patriotic spy engages in dangerous clandestine surveillance in order to help his country, but we have contempt for the amoral spy who engages in his activity for self enrichment.
So here is the foolproof monitoring system you need to install somewhere between your brain and mouth. Before speaking about another person ask yourself, “Who am I trying to benefit?” If your answer is “me,” you can be sure you are about to gossip.
Perhaps you want to fill an awkward silence, or perhaps you want to draw attention to yourself and appear important. Either way, if you breach a confidence or invade someone’s privacy, you are crossing the line from communication into gossip.
The gossiper always finds an audience but all recognize that he is not someone in whom to confide.. Gossiping reduces you in the eyes of others.
Gossip shatters relationships. The victim often discovers who spoke about him and then shuns that person forever.
Third, listening to gossip not only coats you with a slimy, subconscious sense of reduced worth but it forever changes your opinion of the person under discussion.
Decrying gossip is far from outdated. It is one of the most important self-improvement steps you can undertake. Banning gossip at your family’s dinner table and making your workplace a gossip-free-zone, will improve productivity in both arenas.
This article is taken from Thought Tools by Daniel Lapin – Vol. II Issue #26
Greetings to all my beloved fans! (i like to think that I have fans)
I am sorry I have not written for a while. Not that I have not been thinking about anything but just that I didn’t feel the flow to write, if you know what I mean. I have this bag of thoughts about various issues but they were very scattered and I didn’t feel up to task stringing them all together so that they make sense. I have been slacking a great deal lately, I know. And it doesn’t help that a friend recently introduced Korean drama to me. I tell you…in the past I would never be caught dead watching Korean drama, yet here I am – guilty as charged! But then again, I was a fan of Sylvester Sim before, so expect the unexpected! “Ahhh….how could you be a fan of Sly?? It’s so unlike you!” Hehe…I know I know, don’t have to remind me. So I have been watching Boys Over Flowers and I think I am in love all over again. Ji Hoo!!!….ahhh…you’re sO cUtE!! <in typical teenager’s shriek> For some reason, I have a soft spot for guys who are musicians and has a melancholic air. Hee.. Okay I better stop before I get dizzy and bore you to death.
Now back to the reason for this post. Just like many in Singapore who were caught up with the AWARE incident last month, I have much to say. Recently someone from a blog I have been following wrote about the subject and I found that it reflected very much my own views about the issue. So I am going to cut corners (no doubt disappointing some of you who wanted to hear my own voice about this) and direct you to that blog. I assure you, it is pretty close in terms of views, as it is to mine. She said it so much more eloquently, so why not? I am good at making excuses for my laziness. It is important to remember here that we and our views about issues change as we grow in understanding and grace.
In the beginning I had refrain from commenting about the issue because I had not been following its development consistently. I didn’t feel qualified to say anything about something I did not have a complete picture on. My lack of response disappointed my lesbian friend. I realized it gave her the impression that I was indifferent to an issue very close to her heart and that was as good as saying “I don’t really care about you”. That was certainly not the message I wanted to send, especially so when the offending party in this saga are Christians. The reason why I decided I should spend some time finding out more about the story and give an informed response was first and foremost to let my friend know that if something is that important to her, then it is important to me as well. That is of more importance to me than trying to salvage the image of Christianity from a group of loud and aggressive Christian conservatives. Christianity suffers from an image problem due to the foolishness of some of it’s adherants but the true message of Jesus Christ will survive all that. I made peace with my friend but there was so much more left to be said and I would like to share it here (through the voice of another).
The writer is someone I respect very much for her fair and balanced take on many issues that are of particular interest to Christians. I found her blog by chance more than a year ago. I do not know her personally but I found out later that she attends the same church as mine, although it is not her own home church. Another person I would like to recommend is Korean-born, American pastor, Eugene Cho (err…he was before my infatuation with Korean drama). I am sure you all know him by now as I quote him regularly on my blog. He always leaves you something to chew on.
So here they are.
I caught this video on Eugene Cho’s blog and I really like it. It is such a joy to watch these kids sing. Eugene called it an even better story than Susan Boyle. Do visit his blog for his take on children, music and arts.
19 million in the kitty in less than 24 hours.
That was in reference to funds collected on the Sunday of 15th February for our building project at One-North. In the midst of so much bad news about the economy in recent months, that was certainly good news, or so we thought. I had wanted to write about it the week following the update by the church leadership. I thought it would be an encouragement to all, especially believers, that people can be joyful and willing givers in times of deep recession. However, I chickened out for fear that my church would be misunderstood and criticized by people who will not understand. I am usually weary of too much publicity about my church because I know of man’s tendency to criticize things that are counter-culture, especially when it comes to money and religion. And I was right. Critical, mean-spirited, judgmental response did come. Sigh……
It all started a few Sundays ago. Our church collected close to 19 million in one Sunday for its church building fund. The intention for the collection was announced to us only two weeks before. When the day came, we gladly opened our checkbooks, emptied out the ATM machines in the Suntec vicinity, and arrived in droves in response to what God had placed in our heart. We recorded our highest attendance that Sunday. Over 80% of the congregation gave. It goes to show that people came with the express purpose to give. We were in this whole-heartedly and with our eyes opened. There was no coercion or pressure from our pastor or the leadership in any way. The only thing that came close to giving this a little push was a couple of excellent, heart enlarging, soul liberating, poverty-mindedness dispelling and biblically supported sermons on God’s provision and His way of rising above a famine. (Gosh, that was a mouthful!). Pastor was addressing the current economic crisis; lifting the people’s spirit and vision to a place where the crisis cannot touch. One-North was mentioned a couple of times in those sermons but it was not the focus. If people wanted to call that coercion, pressure, or even fund-raising, so be it. As far as NCC-ers are concerned, it was a great opportunity and privilege to give. So fired up was I, and I believe many others too, that I made it my goal this year, to free up more money in order to support God’s work. I am not just talking about One -North here. I am talking about funding the work of fighting poverty, slavery, disaster relief and missions. I have started making a list of Christ-centered ministries that cater to these needs which I can support on a more regular basis. So you see, it did not produce a bunch of people who were just hyped up about a building, it produced people whose heart are into giving. If that offends people, so be it.
We were told that giving towards One-North might not be the call for everybody and we should each hear God for ourselves and give according to what God has directed in our heart. There was no guilt-inducing tone in the sermons and no threats of God’s wrath and curses if we fail to give. For heaven’s sakes, we are a church that preaches grace! Threats and guilt-trips are not our way of doing things. Pastor whole-heartedly believes that if One-North is really of God, then God himself will convince the people’s heart to give. We were not there just to support our pastor and his 280-million-dollar vision, we were there to sow into God’s kingdom through a building project that we believe not only makes practical logistic and sound financial sense but also one that will see many souls saved and lives changed. You can find some of these testimonies here. One-North is a commercial building. It is not fair to draw judgments by comparing it to a church building. I could go on and on but I won’t. I don’t expect people outside NCC to understand our position. For those who are genuinely interested to understand the rational behind this mega-project, may I direct you to this blog instead. I have personally read it and am fully in agreement with the response to every point raised.
I heard this story while watching Charlie Wilson’s War a few days ago. It’s the story of a Zen master who observes the people of his village celebrating a young boy’s new horse as a wonderful gift. “We’ll see,” the Zen master says. When the boy falls off the horse and breaks a leg, everyone says the horse is a curse. “We’ll see,” says the master. Then war breaks out, the boy cannot be conscripted because of his injury, and everyone now says the horse was a fortunate gift. “We’ll see,” the master says again.
Is One-North really God’s directive for NCC? Maybe or maybe not. All we know is that, right now, we believe it is God’s word for us.
Related post- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility