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I wrote this to my daughter’s class teacher this morning.
I appreciate all the effort you put in to update us on the expectations of the school and the progress of our children.
May I offer some feedback as a parent. Both my child and I have found the year particularly burdensome in terms of expectation and amount of homework and assignments. There is hardly time left for us to relax and just be, and to have some good fun together without the burden of homework, assignments, spelling, oral and various class assessments and exams hovering over us constantly. When I come home from work, I really want to be able to enjoy my child but find it very difficult because there are bound to be some school related task to complete, be it to guide her in certain class assignments or helping her with her spelling, or preparation for oral assessment and various class assessments etc etc. Even art projects have become a chore. The list goes on and never ends. All of these have killed the joy in learning to a very large extent. Both of us get frustrated with each other when we realize we could not keep up with the demands and expectations of the school. I do not know how my child is internalizing all of these. Sometimes she seem to be able to shrug them off, sometimes she just accepts them as the way things are, sometimes she is able to rise above them but sometimes, more often than we like, both of us are exasperated to tears. I feel like an incompetent parent a lot of the time and I am not even the sort of parent who compares herself or her child with others. Neither does my child has any enrichment or tuition classes to further compete for time. This is just trying to keep up with the expectations and demands of the school alone and already we are both worn out. I really do not want my both of our lives to revolve around school. There is so much more in life that we want to enjoy but we are finding it increasingly difficult.
Please do not take this personally. I understand the school wants to provide the best education for the children and I appreciate that. Teachers have their own share of goals and demands to meet and a lot of you have the children’s interest at heart and I appreciate that too.
I don’t even know why I am saying all these. I just know I need to say them.
Just felt this is something I should share.
- This is me two months ago, commenting in someone’s blog.
March 23, 2010
“it’s very disheartening reading some of the comments here. honestly i am beyond tired. if these are comments from christians, i lagi more tired! i don’t want to be pretentious so i will admit that the devil has succeeded in getting people to avoid the church. at least he succeeded with me. i guess that makes me a loser. to hear the constant bashing, especially in recent years, of the church that has been my lifeline in so many ways, is very discouraging and hurtful. when i first got saved, there was this pure and innocent joy to share the good news. i remember inviting a friend of mine to church. she was deeply moved and over the next few years, one after another of her family members came to christ and found new meaning in life. a few years ago she sent me a christmas card with only these words…thank you, thank you, thank you (for bringing me to chruch and introducing me to christ). even now as i am writing this, it brings tears to my eyes. this is what makes life meaningful, to be an agent of change in people’s life. all that was before blogs existed, before i started reading comments and forums and the media. a lot has changed since then. it’s difficult not to be affected by all the criticism and judgment and the spirit behind them. yet it is difficult to avoid them if one doesn’t wish to be a christian living only in her own world. i love to read. i have gained a more balanced view of my faith through reading viewpoints and experiences of other believers. but it has also costs me. fortunately i receive a lot of positive feeding from my church every week. my faith journey might not have lasted this long if not for them. but all the poison has finally caught up with me. my relationship with christ and NCC has become a very private thing. i have no desire to invite anyone to church or mention anything about NCC, church …. or even Jesus. in the eyes of non-believers, they are all the same. with believers, i don’t mention NCC because it makes them run before i have the opportunity to speak. the prejudice is just too great. so i keep silent. i don’t need more people bashing my chruch or my faith. i am done for now. i need time to recover.
many of you ask, how has NCC changed my life? i can’t tell you without telling you how Jesus changed my life because the focus on Christ is central to NCC. yes there are flaws but Jesus is always central. you asked, how has NCC help my faith journey. it is difficult to prove to you in a tangible way. what i can say simply is that the Jesus presented by NCC is the reason why hope is alive even in my bleakest hour. there is an inner buoyancy that sustains my soul when my circumstances are an utter shipwreck. that Jesus is what motivates me to pick myself up and start again when i fail to live up to the christian ideal. when i thought i have completely lost my innocence because i have lost faith in humanity, when there is no one i can trust anymore, that Jesus encourages me to seek beauty in the midst of ugliness. i don’t know if i have personally impacted anyone by these but they sure do keep me from giving up on life.”
but right now, i am really tired. i need to withdraw into my church and behold the Jesus that I know again.
- This is me having doubts about my calling and loosing passion and direction, writing in an email to M.
April 24, 2010
“….regarding your question about interest and passion, well…I’m afraid I don’t have a definite answer right now. You see, that was the reason why I contacted Seth in the first place – because I feel like my life has lost passion and direction. I thought doing something different and following various impulses might help me see God’s leading clearer. I used to be passionate about seeing people come to see their need for Christ, accept His Grace and be transformed by His love and seeing a new purpose for life. I enjoyed reading up on comparative religion and christian apologetics and enjoyed comparing different worldviews. But all that has faded much. Perhaps I was discouraged by a lack of tangible results and a general attitude of nonchalance among the people here. Eventually I tell myself, why cast precious pearls to people who don’t care.”
coming up next…..my recovery.
Since the beginning of this new year, I keep hearing of how people around me are moving on to greater things, or at least are making plans to do so. Some are taking risk and challenging themselves to try something different. Some want to retire in 10 years and are looking for ways to make that happen. Some have plans to upgrade themselves to maintain a competitive edge. Some are fired up by motivational-self-help books to get their life back on track. Suddenly I feel a certain panic. I am turning 38 in a few weeks and have accomplished nothing by society’s standards. “What about you, what are you going to do about it?” seems to scream at me just about now. I could feel a sense of rising panic and voices telling me to catch up when I heard another voice, “Guard your heart. Let not your heart be troubled”. That stopped me in my tracks. I do not want this to be a “reaction” motivated by the fear of loosing out. I certainly do not want to end up laddering on someone else’s dream. Whatever my calling is, it should not require me to compromise on what is uniquely me. The only way to make the most of this rude awakening was to invite God into the picture. And so I did, knowing that everything else that follows will be filtered through his wisdom and love.
At about the same time, Seth Barnes, whose blogs had spoken to me in the past came to mind. With his wealth of experience in discipling and his passion for helping people reach their destiny, there must be something he can offer to help me along in this journey. We got in touch and together with another lady, Patti, they got me started on my journey. I spent two days pouring through blogs Seth had written in the past about dreaming and destiny. I even found some gems in the comments others left in his blog. Noted down everything that stirred my spirit, not fully knowing what they mean for me or where they lead yet. Basically just thinking and asking questions along the way. These are what I’ve got so far. Seth are Patti are guiding me over email as we go along. If you are a friend and a believer, do pray that God will make the path clearer with each step that I make towards Him. Perhaps you find the following resonate with your spirit as well. If they do, why not start your own journey?
- God’s dreams – dreams that build God’s kingdom.
- Besides missions and ministry, what else builds God’s kingdom?
- Emily’s dream of being a Hollywood actress. How is that a kingdom dream? How do we who are already on a conventional career path make it a kingdom dream?
- Must we always give up the conventional path?
- We come alive doing what we’re created to do. What makes me alive?
- There must be God-room in every dream. If he doesn’t show up, the dream won’t happen.
- Get the dream right. HOW?
- A good idea is worth doing badly.
- Fear constricts our heart.
- What shapes our dream – world’s needs, our passion (heart), our plan (head), our skills (hand)
- Dreams become clearer as we pursuit different impulses.
- Is it ok if you don’t know what you’re called to do but feel like you’ve been called to so something? Because I am not sure, which makes me wonder if I’m answering the call.
- Do I feel like I am where I am supposed to be or do I feel like I’ve been called to do something else?
- What legacy would I leave behind? Who have I been influencing or ministering to? How have I touched lives?
- Impact and legacy starts with listening – to God, to people we serve, to people whom we are accountable.
- Greatness = dependence on God > takes risks > unpredictable
- Turn off the noise your my life and seek God whole heartedly.
- Greatness has little to do with your competence.
- Read Steven Covey’s 8th habit.
- What is Jesus asking you to do?
- To follow Jesus is to be available to do impossible things.
- He may take us to places that are deep but have some familiarity. Eg, a relationship that is familiar but feels impossible. Reaching out to them may feel like deep water to us.
- God may want to deal with your heart before he has you extend your heart to others.
- Examples of deep waters:
bad habits that eventually define who you are (eg. too critical, too negative, too withdrawn)
reaching out to people different from you
- God wants to eventually move us and trust us with greater challenges that build his kingdom.
- God gave you a heart and passion for a reason. He expects you to listen to your heart and do not dismiss your passions.
- What is the my heart’s cry? Can I trust my heart? How will I know if it’s truly free from self-interest, fear or my ego?
- We don’t just fall into our highest and best in life. We often have to meander a little at first, fight and take mad risk along the way.
- The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
- God knows the plans he has for us. When we truly open our hearts to Him, He has us covered no matter what his dream is for us.
- We need to surround ourselves with a community of people who trust in his work.
- Trust in God’s timing.
2008 was a significant year for many. We lived through the continuing threat of terrorism, major natural disasters, soaring oil prices, inflation, global financial meltdown, tainted food and deepening political unrest. Many nations elected their new government in 08 too. And of course, who can forget the event that lifted China up on the world map. No, this one is good news – the 2008 summer Olympics.
What was it like for me?
Let me start by saying that 2008 was not a smooth sailing one for me by a long shot. I started the year with a general sense of impending doom in my marriage and finances. These alone were enough to keep me on the edge the entire year. You can imagine what it was like for me to hear pastor proclaimed to us at the start of the New Year that it will be a year of manifested blessings for many. It could feel like a slap to my face. I used the word could because although I had no inkling how this will work out for me, I said amen to it anyway. I know my God. Apart from loosing faith in Him, nothing that could happen can truly be called tragic. Now, please don’t think, “Wow…I wish I had her kind of faith.” The honest truth is that I am only able to say this in retrospect. At every point of crisis, I had my doubts and anxieties, coupled with helpless attempts to cling on to God. Sometimes I look shipwrecked….but always on the shore of His grace.
I discovered during my time in AQ (adversity quotient) training that the way I view my misfortune is more important than the misfortune itself. There is a saying that tragedies are only tragedies if we allow them to be. (Mine could hardly be called a tragedy) I know it is so cliché but there is a ring of truth in it. It is difficult to see things in God’s perspective when our faith is hijacked by the reality staring at us. I remember pastor once taught that truth is not reality. Reality is subject to change just like all things earthly are but truth is eternal and unchanging. The challenge for us today is to have a firm grasp of the truth so that it can begin to change our reality. As believers, we do not deny reality but we bring God into it so that His truth changes it.
So I was broke, my husband was selfish and irresponsible, our home was at stake. These were the realities. Some still are. Yet here I am. Have those realities changed? I know I have changed. I am more prudent now in my financial stewardship, I have a better understanding of money matters, my priorities are more aligned with what they ought to be, I am better able to pray for my husband regardless of how I feel about him and I have a lighter grip on the material. God changes reality through us. I think if He were to do it the other way round, we may not be ready to live up to the changes He wants to make. “It is one thing for us to set up a ministry and ask someone to lead it but quite another when God raises a leader and get him to start that ministry,” pastor said. Which do you think will be more successful? Inner transformation is an agonizingly slow process and its fruit may not be immediately visible. Meanwhile, God’s reputation hangs on the precipice of our human frailty. Yet this is the way He chooses. I discovered an important lesson here. Those who are secure and confident in who they are do not clamor after men’s recognition. God is not afraid to put his reputation on the line because He is sure of Himself and what He is doing. If I were to be given a Bruce Almighty moment, I will zap everyone into obedience and go about setting things straight whether my human subjects like it or not. No one can accuse me of not living up to expectations.
Yet the question remains, have those circumstances changed? People of the 21st century are very realistic people. We don’t need feel good stories and have little patience for philosophy, much less, theology. Yes, they are nice and inspiring but….show me the money! I want to know that my debts are cleared, that the tumor is gone, that my home has doubled in value, that I have a new husband! We want results and want them fast. Otherwise, we move on to the next thing that promises a quick fix. It is a short-sighted view of life. We make judgments base on the material. If only we realize who we are directly affects how we experienc life, regardless of the conditions, we will be more willing to wait. I recently read the testimony of Jacelyn Tay, a Mediacorp artiste. She said that she no longer sees her misfortune as something necessarily bad. To put it another way, all of life’s experiences can have a redeeming value. She brought God into the situation and rose above them.
But to answer the pragmatic question – I moved from zero savings to having an emergency fund. It is still small but growing steadily. The wonderful thing is that I did not have to sacrifice my tithes for it. I will write a little more about this experience another time. My mother-in-law stepped in to help save the home. It is safe for now at least. These came about in the most natural way. Money did not appear from nowhere. I did not suddenly win the state lottery. Instead God brought certain people and resources to me. They helped put me back on my feet. My husband is still pretty much the same but he did get his job back before the year is over. In the past I had struggled to pray for his blessing because I felt he deserved what was due him. Now I am learning to look pass his failures and pray for him anyway even though I don’t feel like it. Along the way, I also witnessed relationships of people around me rose and fell and was surprised to find myself interpreting them with new eyes; less judgmental, more honest and certainly more objective. Things may not have change much in the materialistic sense but I feel I have grown much more this year compared to the last couple of years put together. When I look back, I discovered I am a different person now then I was years before. Yet it didn’t all happen in one episode. It is an on-going process. Years of being washed in God’s word while in the training field of life’s arbitrariness has shaped the way I responded to life. Together, they made me who I am today. Looking back, I could see why all the shaking was necessary. May we all grow from strength to strength. Remember, we can also slip backwards. The determining factor is the condition of our inner man.
I say all these to say that the power to make a difference lies within and nothing changes the inner man the way God does. Circumstances can either make or break us but with God, the latter is less likely because in Him we find an anchor. Without an anchor, we are easily tossed about by the waves of life’s uncertainties. So it follows that real and lasting change (for the better) begins with God at the center. The horizon is still a long way off. Never think that we have arrived. Instead, let us look for redemptive value in every set back.
I have rambled for too long and should proceed with my list. It has become a tradition for me at the end of every year to present a list of favorites in various categories. I have taken out Lesson of the Year because I have just written 1000 words on it.
Film of the Year
Last King of Scotland / Blood Diamond / Children of Men / Waitress / In The Valley of Elah / Batman: The Dark Night / Freedom Writers / Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian / Good Will Hunting / Schlindler’s List / Gandhi / Apollo 13 / United 93 / Hitler: The Rise of Evil / The Good Shepherd
Book of the Year
The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life – Suze Orman
Nothing short of life-changing for me. She gives sound financial advice that does not just address the surface of a problem but digs deep to reveal an underlying spiritual condition. Money is more spiritual than we think. Read Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s work in Thou Shall Prosper and you will know what I mean. The 5 Laws of Money just makes it easier for everyday people like us to understand it. Lapin’s work might be a little heavy for some of us. Neither of them are Christians but their views of money will lead us to honor God with our money and change our life for the better.
Waiter Rant – Steve Dublanica
It was finally revealed that Steve Dublanica is the author behind the hugely popular blog, Waiter Rant. I have followed his blog for years and am so proud and delighted to know that his first book by the same name is so well received. I feel a certain connection with the book. It’s like seeing one of your own finally making it big.
People of the Year
I don’t care if she is lesbian. She is one of the most influential people God brought to my life this year. She is charismatic, sharp, witting and funny. It is evident in all the advice she gives, that she always lives by her values – people first, then money, then things.
Whenever I read about all the criticisms out there about Christians and our failures, I look at Seth Barnes and the work that he does and I don’t feel so depressed. Recently an atheist group in London launched a massive ad campaign in the city’s subway stations and double-decker busses. The ad carries the slogan, “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life” Funny, ever since God came into my life only the opposite is true. When you read about Seth’s life, his thoughts and the work that he and his team is doing, you will see why that is so.
Sermon of the Year
There were just too many to list. The bulk of it came from my very own pastor, Ps Joseph Prince. There is hardly a sermon by Pastor Prince where God did not speak to me. There were many excellent sermons this year but one that particularly stood out was, God’s Protection Plan Against The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.
Another notable teacher I read and heard this year was Joe Stowel of RBC ministries. He taught on the transforming power of Christ from the book Philippians, His book Radical Reliance: Living 24/7 with god at the center and his sermon albums, Ruth: Love Unshaken, Firm Foundation: Faith and Truth in an Age of Uncertainty and Shattered: Making Sense of the Brokenness of Life were all excellent materials.
Blog of the Year
Radical Living in a Comfortable World by Seth Barnes
Beauty & Depravity by Eugene Cho
To read past year’s In Focus, please refer to the Site Index under the category: In Focus.
I am sorry to disappoint some of you with a password protected post in my last entry. If you’ve read the about segment at the top of this blog, you would already know that these are posts that contain too many intimate and private details. Either that, or I need to protect certain parties involved in the story. I know some of you are waiting to know what my decision is.
That post was a word-for-word email I sent to my in-laws a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I made my thoughts and feelings known to them in a clear and honest manner about the situation at home. My in-laws have been very nice and supportive all these years, whatever little they know of our situation. My mother in-law had invested so much to help her son over the years. It will not be right for me to withhold my intentions from their knowledge after all their sacrifices.
I have decided to start working towards leaving an emotionally oppressive environment and a person who clearly has not grown up after all these years and who continually puts his family in grave financial risk. I have known for a long time this was what I wanted but never really had the resolve to act on it in a consistent manner. I want to do better this time. Here are a few things I want to accomplish by end of this year.
- learn about personal finance and investments
- engage an independent financial advisor and start planning for a future as a single parent
- see a counselor
- get in touch with an attorney familiar with divorce and family law
- start working with my husband towards an amicable solution with regards to custody and
splitting of assets etc. in case of separation or divorce (this will be the toughest challenge as he still doesn’t think I will go through with it)
Recently I discovered that being a permanent resident here has it’s disadvantages when it comes to housing, which is a big consideration for me. There are a lot of other practical issues I am still trying to sort out. I read somewhere the other day that many couples choose to remain in their current position for practical reasons. Now I can understand why. Then there is the emotional side of things, not so much my own feelings (we have been living separate lives for as long as I can remember) but those of my children. Surprisingly, I feel a tinge of sadness for my husband as well because I know we are everything he has. To deprive him of that feels somewhat cruel and heartless. He had his chances and blew them, what can I say? I cannot continue to allow him to be irresponsible without consequence. It is not fair to me and the kids. We deserve a stable environment.
I have something to share which I have not shared with anyone before. A few years ago, my spiritual strength was at an all time high. It was a time when my faith and passion for God overshadowed every problem and every challenge and I had felt that I was ready to deal with more. So one morning, with legs crossed and hands opened in worship, I told God how much I appreciated Him and then with quiet confidence I declared (to Him) that I am ready for whatever challenges He may have for me ……. as long as He walks with me. It was as good as saying, “Lord, I am ready for more shaking. Come and test me out.” I can’t decide if I was being naive or arrogant, probably both! And come they did. Sometimes in a trickle, sometimes in torrential thunderstorms that shook me out of every false impression I had of God, of myself, of my circumstances and my faith. Now many showers and thunderstorms later, I discovered that He is still walking with me and I learn to trust and appreciate much more His loving provision and gentle guidance. Over the weekend I watched Schindler’s List for the second time and asked myself’ “What could possibility be worse than that?” and I realized I am blessed and protected beyond measure. I can’t help but notice the ending comment that Oskar Schindler, for all the good he did, wasn’t protected from failure in his marriage and subsequent business ventures after the holocaust. It can be an unsettling thing to see that the reward of our faithfulness might not come this lifetime but thanks be to God it does not depend on our goodness but on the unsearchable richness of God’s grace.
This will be my last post about this gloomy topic, at least for now. My life is more than my marriage. It is more than my children, more than my problems and certainly more than my husband. I will be busy living it and live it well I will, for the glory of God. I invite you to do the same.
Here is a song to encourage all those who are walking through the valley of the shadows. Footprints in the Sand by Leona Lewis
Here is a post I wrote on footprints back in 2004.
Of Footprints and Failures
In my last entry, I shared about how a movie motivated me to take a more active role in a situation as old as my daughter. A few things unfolded along the way during that period, including my husband’s debt coming to light and the possibility of giving up our current home in order to service his debts and cut expenses. Around the same time, I was trying to get my finances in order which included reviewing all our existing policies with insurance companies. I have to start planning like a single parent. Then came the devastating news of the financial meltdown in the US. The majority of our policies are with a subsidiary of insurance giant, AIG. I have some investments which, though were not directly affected but Lehman’s fall, they were nevertheless bleeding due the global economic downturn. Surely all these couldn’t come at a better time, no?
As if that wasn’t enough, my own brother’s marriage was on the verge of a collapse and they had sought my help to mediate things, not knowing of the uncertainty lurking in my own backyard. Is it by chance that family and friends came to share their relationship woes at a time when my own was down in the dumpster? How ironic is that. Try as I may, I just did not feel qualified to say anything let alone dish out advise on relationship issues. But I was able to empathize with them and maybe that was what they needed at that time.
Although I do feel let down sometimes, especially when people around me are living prosperous, victorious life while I seem to be stuck with the same issues after all these years, I do not despise the refining fire of God. I know there is value in it and I have seen what it can do. It can humble us and help put things in the right perspective. Regardless of the reasons why I am where I am and however it may end, I hope I will bring honor and glory to God in the midst of it.
Many people will not agree with the decision I have made. I do not know for sure myself if it is God’s will but I figure any decision is better than no decision. As I go about it, I will trust God to lead the way, to open doors and to close doors. I hope the path ahead will become clearer with each step. Whether He should lead me to a U-turn or an expressway, I pray I will have the courage to follow.
So what exactly have I decided? I will leave that for the next entry.
It’s depressing reading the papers these days. The news seem to be getting bleaker and bleaker. We’re only into our fifth month and there are already more than we can handle. Worsening economy, political unrest, shortage of food, diseases, natural disasters and the continuing terrorist threats. I am reminded again of how blessed I am to still have a job, two healthy children, family and friends and living in a relatively safe nation. Even then, I know I must not put my trust in earthly things, especially now that “the shaking” is going on. “Put your trust in God; the only thing (Person) that is unshakable!”, pastor urged us earlier this year. Really, there is nowhere safe anymore. You think Singapore is safe? For how much longer and from what? earthquakes? tsunamis? cyclones? terrorist threats? what about diseases? But we do not need to fear the shaking. C.S.Lewis likens pain to God’s megaphone. It’s gets our attention! Philip Yancey, having worked with Dr Paul Brand who works with leprosy patients, discovered the “gift of pain”. It calls our attention to the problem. Leprosy attacks the body’s pain sensors so that you cannot feel pain. Lepers slowly loose their limbs, most times without even knowing it!
So fear not the shaking, fellow pilgrims. We share the same earthly home, bearing it’s joy and sorrows. Your triumph is our celebration and our tears, your sorrows. Whatever destiny awaits us, we shall pass through the fire and testings with courage and hope knowing “that what can be shaken will be removed so that what cannot be shaken will remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22)
Before I sign off, I just want to share with you this lovely hymn by Chris Rice.
In my first post of the year, 2007 In Focus, I wrote about a financial challenge that I am facing. Just before that, in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I wrote about my views on money. Last month, I left a comment in Steven’s blog questioning the link between our finances and our heart.
Two weekends ago, I made a financial commitment. Not on impulse but after much thought. By all natural reasoning it is foolishness; suicide. At first I didn’t feel safe enough to share it here as I felt it should be a matter between me and God alone. But at the same time, sharing it here will serve as a form of accountability. If it’s just between me and God, it is more convenient to shrink back when the pressure increases. The commitment I am talking about is the consecration of 10% or my gross income to God; what the Bible calls tithing.
I agree and believe wholeheartedly that tithing is not just a responsibility (as creatures of God) but also a privilege (as children of God). What I struggled with was the material blessings that comes from tithing, where the spiritual affects the natural; that God uses tithing as a tool to prosper us right here on earth, even though God did say, “test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” It’s context clearly suggests earthly, material blessings. In the end, I think it’s about trust. I didn’t really have the faith to believe that God would take care of all my financial needs, let alone multiply my seeds sown. I was afraid the remaining 90% will not be enough. In the past it was easier to tithe because there were reserves I could fall back on if I fall short. I didn’t realize then that I wasn’t trusting God to provide for my needs, I was trusting my bank account! Subconsciously I was thinking, if God doesn’t come through, there is backup…..and so save everyone the embarrassment. As long as I think I’m covered, I could tithe. That shouldn’t be! Tithing should be as much an act of faith (a reflection of our dependence on God as our provider) as it is an act of worship (honoring God with our wealth).
But this time I am going to run with God, even though it sounds CRAZY to the natural mind. There is no more backup this time. How my paycheck is going to stretch till the end of the month after 10% of it went to God last week, I have absolutely NO idea. How this is going to play out month after month, only God knows. If He doesn’t come through for me, by all natural reasoning and calculation, I should be in debt before the year is over. Actually, that was exactly “my financial forecast” this year by a local Feng Shui master. No, of course I DID NOT ASK for it to be read, God forbid! It was up on a big banner (kinda in-my-face) in a very public place during the recent Lunar New Year festivities. It is common for Feng Shui masters to give a general “prosperity forecast” of all the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Mine was under the first Chinese zodiac of the Rat. To be exact, it said “many financial woes”. As if that is not enough, a co-worker forwarded me a list of the best and worst dates to start work in the new year. <roll eyes> That is the kind of obsession people have over here! Well you guessed it, I started on the worst possible day, completely ignoring the warning. So you see, even the “stars and elements” are against me!!
But you know what, to hell with them all! I am a child of the Most High God, Creator of the heavens and the earth and whatever elements within. He alone is the final authority in my life. Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall NOT be in want. He shall supply ALL my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Because He is my helper, I will not be put to shame. A thousand (rats) may fall at my side and ten thousand more at my right hand, it shall not come near me. My barns will be filled to overflowing and my vats will brim over with new wine. If God is for me, who can be against me? Not any stars, nor moon, nor any created thing.
Do or die, I am going to trust my God this time.
It’s time for my annual In Focus blog – my personal version of the Oscar moment. Before I go on to name the winners, I just wanted to say that this year has been a rather uneventful year for me in many areas. There weren’t any major event in my life worthy of being named Event of the Year. Nevertheless, a few of them deserve some mention. So I am going to do that right now before I present my list.
There were a few setbacks and disappointments. This is the first time I am writing about some unhappiness at work. I have always loved my job and my workplace. But for some unknown reason I seem to have less favor with a few people this year. As someone who has had a record of good relations with co-workers and bosses most of her working life, I am a little concerned. Let’s just say that I feel the need to constantly remind that I have to learn to stand up for myself sometimes and not allow people to run all over me. I wouldn’t say it’s a major issue but it does piss me off when it happens.
This is also the year my son sat for his first major exam, the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination). I know it’s not a big deal to most of you but among Singaporean parents, it’s a big milestone for their children because it determines the path the child will take in his secondary education and so on. My son did not do as well as we’ve hoped for. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. While I take my children’s education seriously, I also constantly remind myself that education encompasses more than just academic excellence. The education system here is rigorous and very competitive but from the onset I have endeavored not to get sucked into the mad race. My disappointment was not due to his ranking lower than others. It has never been my vision for him to chase after awards and medals. What I want is for him to challenge himself; pushing his own boundaries so he can reach his full potential. This is where I felt he could have done better. Anyway, we have accepted the results and moved on, continuing to trust God will work all things for good and has good plans and purposes for him in this less popular route. I strongly believe that His destiny is in God’s hands and not determined by his academic achievement alone. The next stage of our prayer is that God will bless him with good teachers and classmates who will have a positive influence in his life and that he will grow healthily not just in his academics but most importantly in his character. Already, I could see God’s grace. Because of his normal results we have decided it’s best for him to continue his secondary education in his affiliate school. It turns out to be a very good choice. I’ve just attended a whole day’s worth of briefing and presentation by the school’s principal and his team the other day. They spoke with passion and resolve about providing a holistic education, built upon strong Christian values for the children. But what impresses me the most is their sincerity and love for the children. It concluded with a moving, God honoring ceremony to welcome and integrate the new cohorts into the “family”. By the end of the event, I am convinced this is the best school for him!
Moving along, it has been a pretty dry season spiritually as well. I am ashamed to admit that I have not invested much in this area this year, so the dry spell is no surprise. Truly what we invest in, in terms of our time, energy and focus will reap it’s harvest eventually. A little slumber, a dash self-indulgence and emptiness and frustration is brewing in the pot. I find myself more carnal this year than I have ever been. It is a year I am not very pleased with myself in terms of spiritual growth.
It has also been a year of escalating financial challenge. Due in part to lack of good financial stewardship but mostly due to increasing financial burden. My husband’s continuing financial dilemma and obsession with the stock market naturally affected us as well. It is difficult and unnerving to live from one paycheck to another. But thanks be to God at least I am not in debt. Due to these financial woes I struggled to understand certain doctrine and to reconcile them with the reality I was facing. Nevertheless, I will say, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Right now I need to reassess my finances and make some changes which will have to include letting go of certain comfort things. I told God that I really wanted to start tithing on a regular basis again. My past 2 year record had been spotty. If you are a personal friend of mine, please do not worry about me. It is not as bad as it sounds. You know how we tend to assume the worst. It will make me feel awkward and I will have reservations sharing them in my blog in the future. When we do meet, you need not feel obliged to discuss it unless of course I initiated it. The best thing you can do for me is to relate to me the way you normally would and if I had to decline certain get-togethers, I hope I you will understand. Don’t assume it’s always a financial issue. More often than not, it’s because of family commitments. And no, I will not be comfortable accepting treats from you during this period. You will know when I am back on track. This doesn’t mean I can’t do anything with you guys anymore. It’s more like, lets go to the local kopitiam instead of a fancier venue. Ultimately, it is the human bonding that makes the difference. I feel a burden lifted already. Thank you.
Oh dear, sounds like it’s mostly bad news. Don’t know why I’m sounding so gloomy when I am not even feeling that way right now! My mom once told my brother that I am not the sort to wallow in depression. (wow..you really think so Mom?) I didn’t know exactly what she meant until I heard my pastor preach one day; that there is a certain buoyancy in our inner man that keeps us from drowning in utter hopelessness. It sounds a lot like 2 Corinthians 4 – “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” And for this I owe my gratitude to God. Thank you for the hope and promise that is in Christ. Thank you also for moments of refreshing and grace in my journey this year. They make it less arduous than it would otherwise be.
And now, my list for 07.
Film of the Year
These are films I’ve watched this year. They are not necessary produced this year. All of them deserve my 5/5 rating!
The Talented Mr Ripley
Life Is Beautiful
Book of the Year
I have not read that many books this year. Will try to catch up in 08. To read my comments on these books please refer to the Site Index under the catergory, Books.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jewish History and Culture by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Anne Frank: Beyond The Diary
Heroes of the Holocaust – Arnold Geier
Event of the Year
People of the Year
Sermon of the Year
This is a surely a year of good sermons! Unfortunately I am unable to share them here this year because there were simply too many and to add to that, most of them were all pretty lengthy. They all have this amazing ability to refocus my mind, settle my heart and reignite the fire of hope in me. In the coming year, I am considering keeping a record of the title of such sermons so that those who are interested could at least visit the ministry’s on-line store to find out more. It will come in handy if I need to listen to them again in the future.
Blog of the Year
Lesson of the Year
I think I’ve learned something about choosing priorities and how the results of misplaced priorities is not always immediately evident. This year’s setbacks, some of which I’ve mentioned above, has also taught me a thing or two about humility and gratitude.
To read past year’s In Focus, please refer to the Site Index unter the category: In Focus.