Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: To Bless the Poor Even More

Lee Siew Hua looks at how different talents can contribute to volunteerism

LITTLE Adelyn Koh was laughing and twirling for photojournalist Samuel He’s camera, when I met her a couple of weeks ago.

Though the nine-year-old has unseeing opaque eyes - a rare affliction called Peter’s Anomaly - she was high-spirited and didn’t seem to have a fear of falling or twirling into a wall. How unusual, I thought.

But it struck me later that Adelyn was so normal, too, in the way she wanted to show me her toys, room, everything.

Also like girls her age, she tells her Mum she wants to learn ballet. Somehow ballet has a big fairytale pull for girls the world over, and Adelyn is among them. But then, dreams do not end with disability.

Neither can diseases - or disenfranchisement - squelch the human desire for something a little better in life.

So the 10 people profiled by The Straits Times each represent an unmet need of others in their vulnerable situation.

Whether it’s dentures for an elderly person or a flat for a child with no permanent address, their Christmas wishes are unusual, mainly because most have teeth and proper shelter.
Receiving dentures, a flat, or childcare, is of course more complex than getting a gift that can be bought and wrapped.

Yet these wishes are not outside the realm of possibility, in a country as endowed with talent as Singapore. In fact, the nation takes special pride in nurturing its own talent and also attracting bright sparks from other lands.

As Make-A-Wish Foundation or Boys’ Brigade will tell you, successful wish granting involves as much heart as tactical partnership. For that, they rope in people with the right talents, or resources.

So Make-A-Wish has corralled owners of luxury cars to rev up in a convoy to the home of four-year-old leukaemia patient Justin Lim, who wished to drive fast cars.

And the Prison Fellowship Singapore, which has ukulele and dance practitioners in its pool of volunteers, asked them to teach these skills to children of inmates and uplift them through the arts.

Mr Patrick Koh, 34, a Boys’ Brigade volunteer since he was 13, says it well and simply: "As years went by, I began to realise that helping people could be very easy."
Easy, when a talent or two is shared, beginning at Christmas.

So timely. I was reminded that I still haven't managed to get back into regular community service for our own poor in Singapore.

But thank God for Ps Lawrence who kept on faithfully reminding the congregation of the importance of community service, of serving the poor, during his sermons last time. Over a long period of time, I think these values that were taught slowly crept into my heart. :) Hee. I should find Ps Lawrence and thank him personally one day for faithfully preaching - and living - a life like that. And of course, sister Christine who also serves very lovingly and enthusiastically in the pastoral ministry - the JEDI group, which is a great inspiration to the whole church! She and her husband are living proof that just because you are leading a pastoral group doesn't mean that you therefore must cut down on community care.

On the contrary, true discipleship inevitably produces compassion for the poor. If you care not for the poor, you care not for their Maker, and therefore you are a hypocrite, a fake disciple. (Just check the Bible out... it's very fierce on this.)

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Proverbs 28
A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Galatians 2:10
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
God remembers even good non-Christians who care for the poor!
Acts 10:30-31
Cornelius [the Roman centurion] answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.
Haa.... I guess I feel very strongly about this. But yup...

Mm. Dunno whether to share this, but think it'll be good to... as a testimony... a testimony of how I experienced God's pleasure when I gave...

I've been praying and asking God to help me be a blessing to my maid, who is also a fellow Christian. So one day, she was telling me that her daughter back home managed to get a desktop computer... but there was no monitor included. So I reckon she got it cheap cheap. Now it's not cheap, a computer, but can be so useful for education.

So... some time later, I got a new monitor for my Mac Mini. Initially, I had been planning to hook up two monitors to my Mac Mini so that I can do my work more efficiently. But then I remembered about my maid, and this verse from Luke 3 came to mind:

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Wow. I could imagine John the Baptist pointing a thick finger at me, giving me the indignant stare of an Old Testament prophet, declaring with bouncing beard and flying spittle: "Anyone who has TWO monitors should share with the one who has none!"

Whoa. I wasn't about to ignore the good prophet... in case he popped up in the middle of my Christmas Eve like a Dickensian story gone wrong... Haha...

So yup, gave my second monitor to my maid. Thank God she was very blessed. So have a clearer conscience now haha, and am really glad I did a little something. And yes, seriously, do I really need so many monitors when someone else doesn't have?

Yeah... ha... but God knows I have given out of my surplus. That is so little. It is nothing, really.

And it is so simple to volunteer. I want to resume my storytelling volunteering. And also see how to use my mime skills to bless the poor children. Perhaps we can initiate a community care Club in HopeKids as well soon, God willing! :) To help nurture in our young ones a love, care and compassion for the poor... not to become materialistic as some of them already have become.

So much to do. But reminded how Jesus used the disciples' measly loaves and fishes to feed two crowds of over 5000 people and 4000 people, at different times. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Revelation: "This Will Be A Sign To You..."

Yesterday, I was reflecting on Luke 2 for the whole of the past week.

And oh! even though I hadn't received anything fresh, even though I had been poring and pondering over Luke 2 for a whole WEEK... on Christmas Day itself, when I read through the passage aloud, suddenly, I received a very fresh and relevant (and applicable) insight into Luke 2. :)

"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night." (NKJV)

Somehow something clicked when I read the connecting word "Now..." in the passage. I saw how there was a divine purpose in Joseph and Mary having to bunker down in a decidedly unsanitary manger due to no room in the inn.

Because of all the inconveniences that happened to J & M, the shepherds were able to identify very clearly who the baby Messiah was. I mean, they didn't have mobile phones back then, so finding a baby in a city would be a rather tricky proposition, especially since rural shepherds weren't the most welcome of people in an urban city.

Which helped me figure out why the angel gave the shepherds such an unusual sign: "a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And I realised the purpose of our Christmas celebrations every year is very simple: to point people to the Messiah, so that they can rejoice with the angels every year that the Saviour of the world has been born to us.

"And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. [...] 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them."

I also learnt from the passage that sometimes we go through so many difficulties and inconveniences and troubles... but perhaps PRECISELY because of all our tough times, it makes it so much easier for people to see God more clearly. That our darkest moments could, in the hands of God, serve as shining beacons for others to find the baby of Bethlehem more readily. How? I don't know. But God can use our darkest moments to become a guiding light for others to see and seek Jesus more clearly - through His life in us.

The darker our darkest moments be, the more clearly the light of Jesus people can then see.

But The One Thing

But the one thing is... above all, I really, really, really want a deeper abiding relationship with God in 2011.  That's the most important thing ever. How our heavenly Father loves us so much, that we should be called His children! And that is what we are. :)

2011: Resolutions for TRANSFORMATION

Now that 2010 is drawing to a close, what are the plans for 2011?

Seeing how God has put me through my paces, and to be honest, I see where I am so weak in... but watching others and learning from them, I think 2011 will be the year of transformation for me, where, having been equipped by God, and trained... I'll need to move ahead and try out more things for God.

So... surprisingly, somehow, despite all my reservations and inadequacies, I find myself in the ... special position of being a "Special Op" leader. (I'm serious. Somehow they gave me that "title"... o_O) Actually it's nothing to do with Counterstrike or commandos... I aim to lead and disciple boys who are extra-challenging during service, 'cos have a burden for them. Ok, maybe it's harder than storming a 747 in total darkness. ;) (Just kidding lah!) But, yes. Oh well. I was a challenging kid myself before, in Sunday school... I guess it takes one to know one. :D

Mm. Grace. I need to go back to the source again. To be broken anew. To think ... and be touched by the unbearable sweetness of God's grace.

Not easy. I wish... how I wish a lot of times I could just serve as a normal CL, etc... or just be a team leader and be able to work in a good company and go for missions regularly... Yet I know I AM different. Somehow, whether I like it or not, I know that I see and perceive things so differently a lot of times. How I wish a lot of times I wasn't me.

But as Yung shared with me while we were talking about some deeper life stuff during a midnight sharing during our missions trip, the narrow gate is narrow indeed. Yes, it would be easier to be the same like everyone else... but if I have to be different in order to do the work God has called me to do, then... will I be willing to be different?

:) But yes! To be what GOD WANTS me to be. I realise that even if I have a certain personality... it doesn't always indicate that, say, if I have a quiet personality, I therefore always serve in backstage roles... or if I have IT skills and be geeky... therefore His calling for me is in IT... or if I'm extroverted, therefore I'm to be a leader or all that. 

I realise God often has His own ideas. Sometimes, yes, He calls very talented people into the ministry that is perfect for them. But... He can also call people who are naturally or even totally unsuited for a certain role into ministry. But His ways are not our ways...

Not personality. Not ... even character. But heart for God. Because God doesn't call the qualified; he qualifies the called!

So true! REALLY! Because I think I am so unqualified to be in children's ministry... yet He still called me into children's ministry. And he's been training me. Can't imagine this beyond my wildest dreams. Damn scary. Yet... He still called me.

As long as someone is willing to follow Jesus - be he/she a prostitute or a tax collector or a fisherman with a parang and a score to settle or an old man with a barren wife - Jesus can qualify that fellow. God of all grace, so beyond all understanding. Not illogical. Just super-logical - so far beyond our minute IQs. :) But that's our Lord God Almighty for you!


But, well, 2011 awaits. :)

What have I learnt in the past year?

Toughness. :) To be shrewd and tough in handling kids. Setting boundaries for the kids, or else they'll crawl over you.

Groupwork. Kindness. Jinghe's advice on BGR. 

Telling a sister that I liked her. The awkwardness that followed. Yet our friendship got strengthened. We shared a lot about our own perspectives and learnt from one another. Some day I'll write a book about this, God willing. :)

Gift of prophecy confirmed as well.

Leadership skills. Communicating. Watching and guarding my heart against the tendency to blame others when things go wrong. Working with challenging colleagues. Graced with sympathetic colleagues. Observed what can happen when you are not respectful towards others... (not me... I watched others, and saw what happened. Learn from the consequences that happen to others...)

Teamwork is still tough for me. But in a way, a bit of comfort knowing that it's not a character flaw but a personality preference. Still, INFPs have to work harder in this, just as, say, choleric judging-types have to work harder in gentleness and empathy. But hey, Jesus is the same Lord of all. :)

Read Proverbs. Wow. Learnt and applied so much. How true! These words will guide me. Thank God for Peter's example lived out for me. Word of God, so important.

Lots more. :) Breakthrough in my love for my parents. Kindness especially. Seeing the results of consistent prayer for my parents - I see them showing more care towards each other. :)

New friends! :)

But yes, I still feel so inadequate. :) In terms of character especially. So will train myself even more in godliness for 2011.

So for 2011, you can read my resolutions here, if you want to. :) Hee!

Whew. Excited. And making resolutions so early? Wow. What have I just written?! 

So God. So not me. Hallelujah!

"Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." William Carey.

Hong Teck said that I'm a very driven person. Hee. Surprised. But yes, I do agree with what he says. I am not a typical "decisive" person, but I don't buy into that crap that you have be a fast and decisive decider to be a good leader. I'd rather be with a person who is slow but knows exactly where to go! So yeah, I do often think of myself as a "cruise missile"... slow but steady, and cruising on towards the target with maximum accuracy. Hee. Yeah. 'Cos some people were worried for me when I made big decisions, not so much about the decisions that I made, but that I might back out and not be sure about what I'm doing.

Aw, come on. I may change my mind about food or menus a lot or clothes... to go in planning to buy one thing, and come out with something else... but how does that apply to major life decisions such as responding to God's calling, choice of studies and choice of life partners, etc? "Faithful with small things" doesn't apply to this context... it's like comparing apples and oranges bah... :)

So I don't buy into "decisive people = good leaders". It doesn't correlate leh! To me, being a good leader is firstly knowing where to go, and then being able to help people find how to get there. By that definition, if I were stuck with John Maxwell in a jungle, and both of us were lost, I'll take a ten-year-old jungle native's guidance over Mr Maxwell's maxims anytime. :) Hey, no insult... just being straightforward. Of course if Mr Maxwell knows how to get out of the jungle, haha, sure! :)

But if decisive AND know where to go, then sure that'll be a better leader.

But yes, we are called to lead people to adore Christ Himself first and foremost. Anything else that reduces the centrality and supremacy of Christ's life in others' lives is wrong and must be discarded into the crap pile. Even good leadership can become an ideology, a false god that subtly displaces Christ Jesus Himself, if people start adoring competence more than Christ Himself. And so it will then have to be thrown into the fire and burnt, for it is abhorrent, an idol that causes men to disregard Christ and Him crucified - to downplay the power of the Cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
   “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;  the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Yes! To know Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God, more... and to make Him known to the children more too.


Now reading my dreams and goals for 2010. Wow. So encouraged to see how, even though not all the specific dreams happened exactly, they got fulfilled in spirit! And the goals for ministry in 2010... got fulfilled beyond my dreams! :)

Yes, I'm now in HopeKids ministry CG. And I'm pursuing writing as a career. Gone to Cambodia... and helped to write a cross-cultural drama.

Ministry dreams for 2010:

Establishment phase:
Establish drama ministry
Burst into two teams in second half of 2010.

Missions: Form a Hopekids missions team to perform shows for children in Cambodia in December. (For Christmas too?)

Yes, now Misha has joined onboard to do directing for the children. So glad to be used by God to play a part in helping her put her talents to good work. And guiding a team of scriptwriters as well. So now the workload is halved. Yet, it wasn't my efforts, but really the grace of God at work in me... and working for me.

That's one of the thrilling - and humbling - things about dreaming big for God. You see things happening when you dream and pray and work your best... things happening that you know it is so God and not you. :D

And we even have our own child actors as well! :D Last time the children all used to just sit back and watch the teachers perform, but inspired by Ziying's sharing about how it is important to involve children in children's ministry... I started asking the children to help act. Only a few were enthusiastic or courageous enough to respond, but that was all that was needed to kick-start. God sent us Kate. I remember taking care of her when she was in kindergarten in 2006 and 2007... She was so enthusiastic, that she even jio-ed other children to come help! Gosh. SO HEARTWARMING.

And you know, yesterday, after she had finished the Christmas drama and having acted very well, she turned to me and asked me: "Teacher Yeu Ann, could you tell me what are the areas in my acting that I need to improve in?"

OMG. I was stunned. A Primary 3 girl asking me for feedback and input... as I had exclaimed to my CG during thanksgiving sharing yesterday night, "Even some adults don't know how to ask for feedback!!!"

As Kelvin put it so well... we grow up together with the children. * ... warms the cockles of my heart... *



Still, I'm wondering at times if I jumped ahead too fast when I had transferred from HopeKinders to HopeKids LIVE... thinking that even after two years in HopeKids! But God makes no mistakes. :) The drama and everything.

I'm grateful too that God somehow used me to be a "wonderful friend and inspiring leader" to Misha (in her own words). Totally didn't expect such an encouraging affirmation from her on my birthday this year, as we're not like the 'chummy' buddy kind of ministers, and I always thought that she seemed a bit 'dao' to me at times.

So strange. That God can use someone like me to bless someone so different (and way younger than me)... but God makes no mistakes. :) I think the notion of a "generation gap" could actually be one of Satan's attempts to deceive us and delay us from making the effort to connect and understand and influence and inspire the next generation... that we're not good or savvy enough to speak their "language"... soo media-savvy and all that... then we start thinking that we can't be influential or "click" with the youths... OH COME ON! HUMBUG! NONSENSE! If the older generation doesn't influence the younger generation, who will?!

I've heard from Yufen about how her CG reached out to the member's own parents... and how she saw that the parents were actually more enthusiastic than their children in praise and worship... even though they might be spiritually "younger"... Wow! So exciting! "Your old men will dream dreams, and your young

Is there a generation gap? Only if we allow ourselves to believe that we cannot connect - and if there is a gap between what the older generation preaches... and actually practices.

I do think that the REAL generation gap is not that of a media, education or even cultural gap, but rather, a moral consistency gap in what the older generation preaches... and actually practices. For the young ones will inevitably notice any consistencies - and inconsistencies - in what we older ones say and do. So let's always be consistent in living out Christ's words AND deeds for the next generation to see and follow! :D

Hee. Then...

Personal dreams... the ones in bold have been fulfilled. The ones not in bold...

  • Serve full-time in children's ministry
  • Write down a book: "10 Things About Serving as an Introvert in Children's Ministry"
  • Writing / professional storytelling as a career?
  • Visit Cambodia again - go to the villages and orphanages
  • Organise a missions trip team
  • Explore missions in Southeast Asia / South America
  • Go deeper into community care for children in Singapore
  • See CG grow in prayer + WoG
  • Publish a children's book (on the way)
  • Implement prototype for patent
  • iPhone app development
  • Men's ministry for my CG (well, I did help to post a few articles about men's ministry, but I guess this is as far as I've gone this year. Though I have in mind to set up a boys' ministry... and in a way, I've started already this year.)
  • HopeKids online library...?
  • HopeKids video channel?
  • Children's drama script blog
  • Film-making studies?
  • Inductive Bible study...
  • HopeKids board games club?
  • Establish Writers' Circle
Yup yup... 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wow. Thank God that He protected me from making an unnecessary purchase. Had been intending to buy a music score for "Bless Us All" for one of the kids to play for the Christmas drama, but somehow the music website wouldn't allow me to. But turns out that there was some miscomm and it was not "Bless Us All" but "Joy to the World" that I was supposed to get. =D

And the sheet music for "Joy to the World" is so easy to get, and FREE too.

THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE... :))) Haha... I think that's part of the joy of ministry - seeing God's grace and providence and protection at work. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Greatest Cause of All

Not for. Not even with. But *because* of Jesus.

I was exercising just now, and praying a bit in the Spirit. "Calling home", as my shepherd would put it. Then I realized that I had really enjoyed the exercise, and wondered why.

I realized I wasn't exercising for Jesus. Not even with Jesus. But... because of Jesus. That He loved me and gave His life for me... and that I can freely talk with the Father even as I do my ordinary work & exercises... gratitude, in short.

Because of Jesus. Oh Jesus, my Lord & my God, my Saviour, I do love You... frail mortal that I am. Yet You came down to be as one of us. Oh Jesus, my Saviour and my Brother.

Sent from my iPhone

But The Greatest of These...

I was just chatting with God and sharing with Him how little faith I know I have. And was musing that my faith seemed to have decreased in recent times. But also mused that He seemed to have been moulding me in other areas of my life, especially character, even while I was struggling with faith.

Then this verse gently came to mind: "And now these three remain: faith, hope & love. But the greatest of these is love."

Ah! I see what the Holy Spirit meant. That His greatest concern and topmost priority is not even that I grow in my faith or optimism, but... in love. If I had a faith that could move mountains, but have not love, then what am I in His eyes? :)

Hee. Think I felt Him smile warmly on my little heart then. That He has been training me in the past few years to grow in love, which binds all the good and holy virtues together in perfect unity. :) Amen!

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thanks especially to my dear friends who have been encouraging and praying for me in this endeavour in writing this e-book...

Especially my mum, Jon, Huiying, Peter, Shuyi, Elvis, Sharon... thank God for each and every one of you! (So sorry, please forgive me if you did encourage me but I forgot... God never forgets you though! :))

And oh yes! MY SHEPHERD. Haha. He prayed for me a heartfelt prayer. Thank God for you Kelvin! :D

Ok! Back to the book.

The Ordinary Begetting the Extraordinary

This week (and the weekend before) has been very intense. I felt like Jack Bauer in 24... rushing to beat Cupertino's clock in the USA in order to send in my Christmas e-book. And... guess what? I'm still only 75% done. -___-. Stressed...

But I saw how God empowered me to get it done on the first night. And how He has been sustaining me. :)

Hmm. What other good can I see in this?

Well, I ... oh yes! saw how He is guiding my efforts even as I write. E.g. inserting part of Handel's "Messiah" soundtrack into the e-book. :) It does come out very neatly. And Huiying and Jon's help as well.

Endurance too? I see what God is doing to strengthen me... and I also am learning HOW God supernaturally empowers artists and writers to do His work. Sort of like how He used Handel and CS Lewis to write a piece of music and a book respectively.

And you know, Handel's "Messiah" - with the super-famous "Hallelujah" chorus - had a very mundane reason. As Wikipedia describes it:

In the summer of 1741 Handel, depressed and in debt, began setting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music at a breakneck speed.[3] In just 24 days, Messiah was complete (August 22 - September 14). Like many of Handel's compositions, it borrows liberally from earlier works, both his own and those of others. Tradition has it that Handel wrote the piece while staying as a guest at Jennens' country house (Gopsall Hall) in Leicestershire, England, although no evidence exists to confirm this.[4] It is thought that the work was completed inside a garden temple, the ruins of which have been preserved and can be visited.[5]

Handel wrote the "Messiah" because he had to earn some bread. :) But whoa. He wrote it with all his heart... and one tradition has it that when Handel was writing the "Hallelujah" chorus, "Handel's assistant walked in to Handel's room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response. The assistant reportedly found Handel in tears, and when asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to this movement and said, 'I thought I saw the face of God.'"

:D Wow. :) Yes, I'm stirred again to write this e-book for Jesus. Let it be my (and Huiying's and Jon's) Christmas gift to the Lord Jesus Himself.

Hee. I love this stanza the most, which I wrote for the e-book, because I think it's the most theologically summative and most moving description of Christ's humility in the whole story. :) Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity... and once again the mystery and the beauty of the Incarnation grabs me anew this Christmas.

Humbly, humbly, how He sleeps
God a baby, love came deep
Down here on the earth below
Can he see the stars aglow?
Humbly, humbly, how He sleeps
God a baby, love came deep

Thinking about it... one more message about Christmas - and the Messiah Himself - is that God can make marvellous magic and miracles out of the most mundane things that we do. Things such as giving birth. Things such as a baby in a manger. Of shepherds doing their daily work (night shift I guess), of a government census - normal admin and all that...

I think one more wonder of Christmas is not that God can do magic and miracles... but that He can so skillfully weave in all the wonderful stuff that happens into the very normal fabric of space and time.

So perhaps one lesson to carry away from my storywriting experience is that God can work through very ordinary people, very ordinary things, very ordinary moments and very ordinary reasons.

Perhaps the meaning therefore, of life, is this: that the ordinary things in themselves are the true intended miracles - that this world, broken though it is, is the true miracle... the reason the ordinary things of life seem so stifling is that they are now broken, but the good news is that God intends to redeem every "ordinary" moment of our lives... so that we do the same things again and again, but with a newfound wonder - the wonder of a newborn child.

"Life is full of sweet surprises
Everyday's a gift
The Son comes in and i can feel Him lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into His eyes of love and know that i belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family i hold dear
No place on earth, compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where i rome
Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much, that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love eachother
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask you bless us all

We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams we ask you
Bless us all...

:) The wonder of the ordinary, and how the ordinary begets the extraordinary. :D (An ordinary girl giving birth to the Messiah...)
Just some thoughts.

Firstly, this:
11 Ways A Leader Can Serve The People He/She Works With December 16, 2010

I read Mark 10:35-45 the other morning and made a list of eleven ways that a leader can serve people (after all, Jesus said that is how to be a great leader.)
#1 – Adopt the mindset that these people work with me and not for me.
#2 – Provide enough margin for the people who serve with you to be creative and brainstorm ahead. (The pastor that works “week of” in regards to his message really does a great disservice to those who support him in regards to creative elements.)
#3 – Make sure that the people you serve with have the resources they need to do the job they are expected to do.
#4 – Say “thank you” and “great job” A LOT instead of just pointing out all of the areas where a person came up short.
#5 – Try your best to make sure that if an area of the church is going to be impacted by a certain decision that someone from that area had input in the decision making process. (Learned this one from Andy Stanley.)
#6 – Make sure the expectations for the people you lead are both spoken and realistic. (We cannot hold people accountable for unspoken, unrealistic expectations.)
#7 – Don’t confuse personal preferences with conviction from the Holy Spirit…if you tell the people you serve with that “God told me” then you had better be willing to bet your last Bible than you heard from the Lord!
#8 – Model what you consider to be important…in other words, when you are walking into the building and see a piece of trash on the ground…pick it up.
#9 – Listen to them!!!
#10 – Understand that your words weight 1,000 pounds…choose them carefully!
#11 – Understand that WHAT you say and HOW you say it matter…the people you serve with are human beings with hearts, minds and souls…they deserve to be treated as such.
Very important reminder for me. =) Basically about kindness and humility.

And I realize that's why so many (there I go talking again about this) socially-immature people turn others off: they fail to show kindness. After some recent musing, I realize that being socially mature is more than just doing the right thing. Everything goes back to these virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And you don't need to be a smart person to practice these virtues. In fact all who practice these virtues are the truly wise people. Speaking the right word at the right time? Kindness / patience. Talking about what interests others, not just yourself? (I know one brother who goes on and on and on about his own pet topic, but doesn't show interest in others' pet topics...) Kindness again. =) Haha. Maybe I'm oversimplifying it, but yes, sometimes life really is very simple. It's just not easy, that's all. But well, the good news of Christmas tells very simply: "The Word became flesh..." :) and that whoever believes in Him shall be saved.

Eternal life. So easy for us to get for free... because it was so hard for God to buy us back. But He did.


Thinking also about always seeing the good side of things. To be honest, I think I had this attitude during my younger days as a Christian. Even when my parents had been on the verge of divorce one time, I was (of course) very worried, but chose to sing to God in the park at night how good He was. That was during my NS days.

But somewhere, something slipped along the way. Perhaps it was me, or others' influence or both. I guess I didn't want to be Pollyanna-ish, and wanting to be wiser and more "mature", I started thinking about the bad side of things.

Now that's not a bad thing. To be able to see the bad along with the good.

But ... that's not where we should stop. We need to see that good will ALWAYS win over bad. That it's not a "dualistic" worldview (aka the Warcraft saga), but simply the truth: one Supreme God who is GOOD and basically even the devil has to kowtow to him. Mystery upon mystery: why did God allow the fall to ever happen, why did he allow the devil (and still allows) to go and continue deceiving - even though He's going to crush the devil completely one day (and Satan knows it full well and is totally pissed off)... yet I think about it... it's part of a cosmic tale of redemption and free will and so on. :)

I like what Jinghe told me yesterday (while guffawing some more!!! crazy fella haha): "We can't see the whole of God's will fully. We can only see bits and pieces at a time." Profound words of wisdom... told while he was laughing over french fries. LOL. That's Jinghe for you. The laughing guru of McDonalds.

So. I think one of my New Year's resolutions is already very clear: practice kindness in every moment and every way. Have started with my parents haha. :) And... praise God, it really makes a huge difference. And... another resolution would be to wring whatever good I can see that God is doing even in the bleakest of situations. =) Theologically true too, amen.

What Christmas Means for Theologians

Without the holy night, there is no theology. "God is revealed in flesh," the God-human Jesus Christ—that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God's mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Same Same But Different (Questions)

I was reading Luke 1 again when I saw the similar responses of the priest Zechariah and the virgin Mary in reply to the angel Gabriel's amazing announcements of the promised children: John the Baptist & Jesus the Christ :)

At first I was wondering how come Zechariah got scolded by the angel for his lack of faith but Mary didn't, even though both of them seemed to be asking the same question to the same promise.

But upon closer examination, I saw that Zechariah was asking, "How can I be sure?" whereas Mary was asking, "How will this be?"

Think God does understand our hearts' responses to seemingly impossible situations and promises. It's not wrong to ask for an explanation for how will an impossible promise come to pass, but to ask with the attitude of wanting to be sure first...

And I think another thing is that Zechariah had been praying for a child, whereas Mary had never been expecting a child at all (pun unintended)... yet when an angel appeared from heaven in such a special timing (and a holy moment no less)... Zechariah still couldn't be sure!

Haha... but yes... not to say that Zechariah wasn't righteous - on the contrary he was blameless...

(Maybe this is also an indirect commentary on the inadequacy of the Old Testament law to help build up a person's faith? But I speculate...)

Mm. It makes me think about my own faith in God. I know He has promised so many times. But what is my heart's attitude? Do I still ask God to make me sure? Or will I choose to trust in His timing?

But yeah. Me of little faith.

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God's Power in my Weaknesses

How is my character when I am confronted with my weaknesses? And what is my response in the face of my weaknesses? Don't worry. If God is for you, he himself will train & equip you. Just be humble & obedient & patient to wait for His timing.

And sometimes God deliberately chooses those who are weaker. Like how He got Gideon to pare his army down to 300. Or Abraham... the hall of faith goes on and on. And of course, Jesus on the cross. The ultimate weakness: he died! :)

Have faith in God, Yeu Ann. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move," and it will be done for you. :)

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Walk, not just work

RT @TommyTenney: "Many have failed God while working for Him, but no one has ever failed God while walking with Him." T W Barnes

Yes! Amen :)

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Saturday Morning with Kelvin

Today, Kelvin & I went to the Casuarina prata shop. Niceeee. :D

And had a great time of sharing. Some quoteworthy quotes:

We often neglect what is important to focus on what is urgent.

Quiet time with God: just like calling your Dad home from overseas. There's no substitute for quantity time. :)

:) he really understands the part about how it is possible to serve so much but not have a close relationship with God. he had served as a UL before, with lots of sheep... but as the whole church knows (he had shared his testimony with his wife about how he had left home & church, & how God brought him back), even leaders can fall badly. He told me about how people had been praying for him, even the family of a close Catholic friend as well :) thank God for His mercy indeed.

Very sobering and yes, his testimony also made me feel very touched to the point of near-tears. :)

But yes, relationship with God - to know God & love Him... that is the most important thing in ministry.

Listening to him share, it gives me a deeper understanding of marriage - and the tough temptations that every man faces. Every married man will be tempted, frankly. I shared with Kelvin that one of my prayer requests is that God will help me stay faithful to my wife all my life. He looked at me, smiled and with the wisdom of a veteran, pronounced the magic word: "FLEE!"

Amen! To flee from temptations. And pray so that I will not fall into temptation. :)

Anyway, after the shepherding, I was walking at night, taking a break. I was thinking about God's care for me :) what a relief & joy to recall all the many miracles He has done for me. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid."

:) to experience God afresh. And the funny thing is, though I pled with God to take away my weaknesses many times, He gently reminded me that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power works best in weakness.

So, walking under the night sky, and reflecting on my chat with HT & the prophecy during CG, I realized that I had been trying to perform to meet up to perceived expectations, whether true or false.

But the real test of my character is how would I respond in the face of my inadequacies, how I would respond when confronted with my fears and failures. I think when we are struck in our weak points, it really reveals what really lies within us.

One powerful way to reveal a person's character and depth of relationship with his/her God... would be when the person undergoes great suffering. It sounds very similar to God allowing Satan to strike Job, right?

And God is not interested in what I can do. But He wants to see my heart as shown by what I actually do. We talk about ministry successes, about doing great things and winning many souls... but perhaps God prefers obedience? Patience? Kindness? Gentleness? Love, joy, peace? Deeper in love with Him? To abide in Him & obey His voice? Where there's quality, there'll be quantity in due time.

Ultimately, to fulfill the Great Commission. :) True discipleship. :) amen.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

There was a prophecy that my shepherd Kelvin prayed over me today during CG. He saw a picture of a book with many pages. And lots of paragraphs, that people are reading. And some are impacted by what they read, but others are not. The depressing thing was that there's quite a lot of paragraphs that could be better-written to be more impactful.

But the encouraging thing is that God is the one who will edit the paragraphs to make them more impactful. As Kelvin told me after the prophecy, it's not me who will do the growing. It's God! Well, I can do my part, but I can only make myself grow only a bit. It is God who will provide.

Two specific areas that he prayed prophetically for me (I hadn't shared with him about these areas before):

1. About my relationship with my parents. That God will help me bond closer with my parents, and grow more.

2. About my trust in God's provision. That I have already seen many times how He will provide, and He wants to reassure me that he will indeed take care of all my needs.

Initially, I felt very 'paiseh' actually when these two areas were prophesised, because they are accurate. And I felt I should be more faith-filled and not doubt, especially remembering how God has provided so dramatically for me many times.

But thinking about the overall prophecy, it struck me that God really knows all these things and all my fears. He knows what I need even before I ask. And... the most comforting thing is that He knows that I really desire to grow in so many areas. To be honest, I still fear a lot that others will scold me and think badly of me for being so slow to grow. But the comforting words of my Father encircle me and rebuke those who will think bad of me, like how God rebuked Job's friends.

And it encourages me that God promises me that He will help me grow. That the very fact I can even realise my poverty of spirit is in itself a gift of God - God's grace indeed. "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear..."

And reflecting further, I see that my weaknesses only serve to magnify God's glory. That His power works best in weakness. Amazing. :) So God, so not me.

But what should my attitude thus be in the face of all these? Simply to trust and believe in His provision for whatever tasks He has called me to do. God doesn't look at my ability. He simply looks at my obedience. "To obey is better than sacrifice..." So not to listen to the voices of doubts and "rational" minds, but to listen to wisdom's voice: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom..." and to obey Him first and foremost.

Ha. It's going to be an exciting but scary time for me ahead. I know, I know. I will die many times, but ah well, so be it. If I die, then let's die for the Lord! "Spartans! Tonight... we dine in hell!" Me? "Yeu Ann! Tonight... we dine with Jesus!" (Haha... more Biblically correct lah.)

Anything, as long as Christ reigns in me totally. :) I'm gonna die... and rise again. And with the help of my God, I will surely rise again as surely as I fall. And in Christ I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me! Amen!

When an Idea Becomes a Blind Deer

Just saw this cool post from Seth Godin's blog on "Where do ideas come from?". Read it!

And a lame joke comes to mind.

Q: What do you call a blind deer?
A: No idea.

Get it? No eye-deer... (Please don't gouge my eyes out.)

But seriously speaking, it's very true. That it's so easy to lose sight of the Big Picture, the Golden City, and start counting beans and scrabbling around in the sand. That we lose our freshness in ministry and start doing the weekly routines, so easy that we can do it with our eyes shut. But if we do it with our eyes shut, we'll never see the new needs that arise.

You see, I just came back from HopeKids CG. Had been inspired afresh by Hong Teck's passionate sharing. Amazed at how he can still stay so fresh for God, with new ideas and insights bursting out from everywhere. And I know I once had that fresh burst of insights and ideas a few years back. But somewhere, I started bottling up the ideas and settled down into the routine. Perhaps a mixture of self-doubt, fear, and embarrassment at what others might think of my ideas. And sometimes, just too many ideas to effectively work on.

Well, that's how I feel actually. I guess you do too? That you feel a lot of times you're just doing management, but not actually leading, visioneering, pioneering?

Maybe a healthy balance, like how Google does it, is to have 80% of your time working on the ideas and visions that you already have, and then spend 20% of your time dreaming up new ideas and keeping a keen eye for new areas that you can pioneer.

But ok lah. I think I'm being too melancholic. By the grace of God, I am what I am, and I know His grace to me has not been without effect.

For example, thank God that my drama team is making advances in empowering children to become children ministers themselves. Like Kate, who though she's Pri 3 this year, is already volunteering and acting for the Christmas drama. And her parents are very supportive of her! She has contributed many great ideas that we are incorporating into our Christmas drama, and she has started influencing others as well.

(Moral of the story? Don't underestimate the enthusiasm of a little child. Give it room and tools to take shape and grow. Enthusiasm will naturally grow into a big strong fruitful tree, with sound guidance... unless we constantly confine and clip it into a puny bonsai tree.)

And I'm in the middle of writing an e-book for Christmas. Though the deadline is very tight, I find that God has faithfully provided resources and helpers to help me see this project through. Amazing. And Jon's been a fantastic help, doing voiceover and providing music advice. Thank God for Huiying too! Sweet-spirited, both of them! I remember Jon's sage words: "We just do what we can do. Then God will provide help for the rest." Haha! Thanks dear bro. :)

Of course, there are difficulties ahead. Such as pioneering the boys' ministry. Still so uncertain about how to get started. And I face challenges such as doing cold-calls to the parents of the kids, asking them for permission to bring their kids out, etc. And if they're non-Christian parents, gee, you may not find them to be very supportive or responsive. But that's (as my ex-boss would say with a gentle shrug) life. It really stretches my courage, but I see how God has helped me each step of the way.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bless Pass All

We're performing a full-length Christmas drama for HopeKids this year, with songs and music. Well, dancing would be nice too, but I guess the actors aren't ready to do a Bollywood-style Christmas like this:

But we're adapting this beautiful old song (gosh, I was in primary 6 when this movie came out...):


Anyway I was thinking about kindness today. How important it should be as one of our character virtues. Yet our culture doesn't really regard kindness as something really core. Generally we feel paiseh about being kind to others... yet we don't bat an eyelid when we tell others to 'siam' or spew vulgarities or scold others. Perhaps this culture has infiltrated us, even the church, so deeply that to be kind is automatically considered extraordinary - even for the children of God.

But shouldn't kindness be something that is considered natural in the Christian? If we are indeed born again, shouldn't we be kind to one another?

Not politeness. But kindness.

When was the last time I actually blessed someone deeply in my caregroup? Church? Being willing to go all the way down to bless a brother or sister? Or do I just see them as another social circle? Kindness.

I guess I've been hurt before in my attempts to be kind. Then the problem lies with the other person. But how about me? Have I been kind to others who want to be kind to me? It may seem ironic, but often we can be unkind to those who want to be kind to us. We bite the hand that feeds us.

How about the workplace? I know it seems alien and strange to go around blessing others, especially if your workplace is very competitive. And to be seen doing nice things, kind things, generous things in that workplace... you'd stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe people would knowingly take advantage of you (and you yourself know it too).

But we the children of God ARE aliens and strangers in this world. Why should we protect ourselves so much? If Jesus went to the cross for sinners, what does that mean for us then? Protect our values, yes... protect one another, yes... but my comfort zones? Screw them.

Another thought. How much effort do I, as a leader, actually put into cultivating compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? Maybe the leaders of the world go for other things like charisma, power, intelligence, competence, vision and so on. But we? We preach Christ crucified. How readily can others testify that I am a compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient person?

So convicting. To bless pass all this Christmas. Dear Lord, please help me grow in kindness. Please help me grow more in this area... and let this growth be my birthday present to You this year. in Jesus' name, Amen! :)

15 Gut Check Questions For A Leader

Ouch. This is a very convicting post that I read just now. I think I need to especially grow in #1, #2, #3, #6 and #13. Gosh. So sorry, Lord... :(

I have always found it interesting that I Corinthians 13 is sandwiched in between a chapter having to do with spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues. I know that all of us have probably heard it read at a wedding…but what if we took this same passage and applied it to our leadership (which, honestly, I think it was written more for church leaders and not wedding ceremonies!) :-) Here we go…

  • #1 – “Love Is Patient” – Am I giving others the same room to make mistakes as I want them to give me?
  • #2 – “Love Is Kind” – Do the people I lead actually like being around me? (If you want to know the answer to this question just ask yourself how much they ask to hang out with you outside of work!)
  • #3 – “It Does Not Envy” – Am I automatically jealous of anyone who has a great idea and constantly perceive others as a threat to my position? (Another leader struggled with this…it didn’t go well with him…see I Samuel 18:6-9). BTW…this is why some young leaders can’t thrive in their current conditions, because the more “mature” leader perceives them as a threat.
  • #4 – ‘It Does Not Boast” – Do I feel like I always need to remind people of my previous victories? (If we are obsessed with the past then we’re not advancing towards the future!)
  • #5 – “It Is Not Proud” – Do I feel that I am the only one in the organization that has all of the answers?
  • #6 – “It Is Not Rude” – Am I always cutting people off mid sentence as soon as I discover that I do not like their idea…or am I willing to hear them out? (People don’t always have to be right as long as they feel like they’ve been heard.)
  • #7 – “It Is Not Self Seeking” – Who is this about–really?
  • #8 – “It Is Not Easily Angered” – Are people afraid to bring me information that is true and accurate because they know I will lose my mind and begin to yell? (Don’t shoot the mailman!)
  • #9 – “It Keeps No Record Of Wrongs” – Do I remind people of their past failures or encourage them in their current condition?
  • #10 – “Love Does Not Delight In Evil But Rejoices In The Truth” – Can people be honest and open with anyone in the organization, including me? (When a leader does not have people around him who will share the truth he becomes the Emperor who had no clothes!)
  • #11 – “It Always Protects” – Do I have the back of my staff? It’s very discouraging to work for someone who demands loyalty but will not extend it.
  • #12 – “Always Trusts” – Do I believe the people who lead their assigned areas can make day to day decisions without my input?
  • #13 – “Always Hopes” – Do I always automatically assume the worse or the best about people? It is amazing what can happen on a staff when the leader believes in the people he leads.
  • #14 – “”Always Perseveres” – Am I quick to give up on people after they make one mistake…or am I willing to teach them through it?
  • #15 – “Love Never Fails” – Do I have a high turnover OR a low turnover in the number of people who work with me/for me? (If the number is high then maybe it isn’t the people failing…)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Morning Happiness

For the first time in many mornings, finally a new song in my heart to the Lord :) thank You Jesus :)

His love is warmer than the warmest sunshine
Softer than a sigh...

Something happened to my heart
The day I first met Him
Something that I never felt before
And that something is that He has buried all my sins
And everyday I love Him more...

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How Narnia Came To Be

Since there's a movie about Prince Caspian, I did some reading on Narnia, and came across this interesting commentary about how C.S. Lewis came up with the beautiful Chronicles of Narnia. Inspiring... and I think, the way Lewis described the process, one can see the gracious hand of God at work, working quietly yet powerfully through Lewis' pen. :) And generations of children (including me) have been greatly inspired and stirred.

C.S. Lewis was an adult convert to Christianity and had previously authored some works on Christian apologetics and fiction with Christian themes. However, he did not originally set out to incorporate Christian theological concepts into his Narnia stories; it is something that occurred as he wrote them. As he wrote in Of Other Worlds:
Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.
Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory[16] and the author of The Allegory of Love, maintained that the books were not allegory, and preferred to call the Christian aspects of them "suppositional". This indicates Lewis' view of Narnia as a fictional parallel universe. As Lewis wrote in a letter to a Mrs Hook in December 1958:
If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair [a character in The Pilgrim's Progress] represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality, however, he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all.[17]
Although Lewis did not consider them allegorical, and did not set out to incorporate Christian themes in Wardrobe, he was not hesitant to point them out after the fact. In one of his last letters, written in March 1961, Lewis writes:
Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called "The Lion of Judah" in the Bible; (c) I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work. The whole series works out like this.
The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian tells restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy tells the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader tells the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair tells the continuing war with the powers of darkness
The Last Battle tells the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[5]

Good versus evil: a realistic viewpoint

Thank You Lord for the deep & ministering time with HT just now :)

To see the good even in the bad. The devil tries to make us see only the bad side or we foolishly see only the good, but the wise thing is to see both the bad and the good... And to see the good that springs even out of the baddest bad. The Bible is replete with examples of how God masterfully wrangles good out even of the worst evil... a brilliantly executed cosmic judo throw against the devil's stratagems.

That even when we experience bad things on earth we can rejoice because we know that we are going to be so spiritually blessed in the heavenly realms. For we know that our present sufferings allow us to identify more with His Son & become conformed more and more to His likeness. Oh what joy indeed!

That whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven! Amen and Hallelujah indeed... :)

That we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. :)

That we can see both the good and bad realistically in a situation... and see them in a healthy balance. But this balance is not a zero-sum game, but always works out in God's favor, in the favor of those He loves. And the devil is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us be glad & give Him glory & honour! :)

Amen! :)

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Feeling Virgin?

In Luke 1, we witness the Annunciation, in which Gabriel tells Mary that she will give birth to the long-promised & long-awaited Messiah.

And Mary's first response is: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (emphasis mine)

How about you? Are there challenges in which you feel totally virgin, entering virgin territory, and you feel totally unprepared? Perhaps God has called you to do something that you have totally no idea how to start. Perhaps new situations come suddenly into your life. Perhaps you know that God wants to do something new and wonderful in your life and has called you. But you have no idea how this will be, for you know that naturally speaking, it is impossible for you.

But be encouraged, dear friend. For nothing is impossible with God. :)

I recall how God has helped me expand the drama ministry from size 1 (yours truly) by bringing in people with not only great skills and talents, but great hearts & spirits. Where I have lacked knowledge, He has guided me. Though I have not much skills, He has brought people greater than me to support me in this holy task to help children appreciate the Word of Christ.

Thank God. :)

How about you? What new thing may God be wanting to birth through you? Take heart. He who made the virgin bear a son will make you bear much fruit, if you believe that He is able to do what He said.

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Putting the Word to Work

Listening to Ps Jeff's sermon of the same title. Deeply moved. Heart-stirred. :) I'm thinking how my blog also serves as a "memento" for me to write down all that I have learnt, so that I can put them into practice. If I don't remember, I can't practice. Thank God journalling comes naturally to me, so it's not too difficult for me to do every day =)
But I think perhaps I should write more about how I have put into practice what I have done in response to the Word. Personally, I feel reluctant to share, because I think it may make me end up doing things to show and tell. But on the other hand, it will encourage me and others who read this blog about how God has helped me grow in character, as shown by deeds - and not just words.
But oh, I am so reluctant to do it. Haha. But perhaps I should, so that it can be a form of accountability. To share how God's Word has been transforming my life, and that His Word really is living and active. So that it can also be a testimony as well.
Hee. I remember one brother had been correcting me a couple of years back, and I was feeling sad. :) But one thing he told me at the end lifted up my spirit. "I know that you want to do the will of God." Which is the most important thing, I guess, in the face of all my character failures and so on. That as long as we desire to do the will of God, we are not alone, for He will help us, as long as we are willing to put in our parts, to grow so that we can do His will.

Psalm 40

 6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
   but my ears you have opened[c]
   burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
   it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God;
   your law is within my heart."

 9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
   I do not seal my lips, LORD,
   as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
   I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
   from the great assembly.

Amen. :) Yes, Lord... help me do Your will... and to proclaim Your saving acts, Your righteousness, Your faithfulness, Your love and grace... in Jesus' name, amen.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~ Jim Elliot

Fwd: Meet Channy. She's 17 and this is her story.

From: Yeo YA
Date: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Meet Channy. She's 17 and this is her story.
To: Foo Wan Yueh

... wow. thanks for sharing this with us sis. :\ tight-throated. reminded again that this going out into all the world to extend His kingdom is no mere talk. it is a matter of life versus death, of heaven versus hell, of darkness versus light. thanks again sis.

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 2:59 PM, Foo Wan Yueh wrote:
A story from Riverkids in Cambodia,

When I met her, Channy was twelve, turning thirteen. I have a photograph of her that day because we were setting up our very first Get Ready for Girls group and we'd put out the word that we were going to teach teenage girls. 
Families started turning up with their daughters, a few of them holding precious documents - school records, birth certificates. Channy's mother didn't come. But Channy did. 
She wasn't noticeable then, just another sweet-faced quiet girl in grubby clothes and flip-flops. But at the coffeeshop we went to write down all these girls names and figure out who'd gone to school, who could read and write, who couldn't - she put up her hand and said she wanted. Wanted what, I asked? To go to school. To learn.
We got her mother's reluctant permission to enroll her, once we'd explained that the girls would be bringing home a food box - rice and basics - worth $40 each month to replace the lost income they'd earned gathering trash on the streets. 
Channy worked hard. She'd had barely any school, so she struggled to read and write in khmer but that was what she did - struggle. She kept on trying, patiently over and over, and slowly, slowly, Channy began to blossom. The other girls trusted her because she was gentle and kind.
Then she started falling asleep during class. We had literacy and social skills in the morning, sewing and other hand skills in the afternoon, and Channy would end up curled up in a corner, fast asleep before lunch. 
The other girls tried to cover for her at first, but after a few days, Channy admitted what was happening. Her mother and stepfather were making her work after she got home from a full day at school. She'd take an old rice sack and set out at dusk and walk down the streets until late at night when she'd filled her bag, then come back exhausted and hungry, sleep for a few hours then force herself to get up for class. 
What choice did she have? Her mother didn't work regularly - headaches, she would say one day, or her pregnancy, or no work - and her stepfather was either away or 'difficult', as the neighbours politely put it. 
Channy didn't complain. 
We did. We argued and begged with her mother and step-father, finally getting them to sign a document at the local songkat that they wouldn't make Channy work at night on the streets. 
Some weeks, Channy would come and ask to stay in our weekly boarding. She didn't want to say why, but it was common knowledge among the other girls that she was being beaten and whispers of worse. 
She certainly didn't want to be home with her stepfather. 
Her mother said it was rubbish, when we asked. It was because their house was so small, just one room. 
But the other houses, we pointed out, they have only one room, and the mother sleeps between the husband and the children.
She has to share, her mother said. It's none of your business. 
And Channy refused to talk. She was brave, so heartbreakingly brave to dare to defy her mother and go to school, to try - but to talk about what happened at night? She'd learned early on in her life not to complain. 
So she ran, and she would stay with us for a few days, a week or two. 
But her mother would turn up, sometimes drunk, sometimes simply angry, and yell at our gate until Channy came out and agreed to come home. 
We had to ban one of our staff from talking to Channy's parents, because - well, when you've had a 13-year-old shaking in fear and weeping in front of you, then see her quietly gather her things and walk slowly back to the people hurting her, it's hard not to lose your temper when the parents make yet another excuse. 
We made another deal with her mother, now heavily pregnant. If you let Channy continue, let her stay in weekly boarding, we'll train you in making handicrafts and buy them from you to sell. 
Her mother had a difficult delivery and Channy had to stay home to help for a while, but oh, her baby brother! She was in love and he was a beautiful healthy little boy. 
The Get Ready program was coming to an end - we'd lost one girl to trafficking, another had dropped out to work, and we were worried about Channy's future. 
She couldn't go back to school, not when she was still barely reading and writing. We decided she should repeat the program with the second cycle, and then we'd see about vocational training.
A wonderful french NGO, Pour Sourir des Enfants, had vocational training programs and we applied for a place for her. 
Things got better for a while, then worse, then better. One week, her mother would decide to sell the house, then that she wanted to leave her husband, or to start a new business....
And slowly, it unravelled. Channy started skipping class to work. We had her work for us part-time, but then she started skipping even that. Her mother started gambling again. 
She had a huge fight with her husband who came storming into our offices to explain why his son, Channy's little brother, was doing so badly - she was selling the milk powder for drugs. 
Channy turned 15, and then dropped out of school. She needed to work, she said. It was too far away, and too difficult and boring. 
Someone hired Channy and some other girls to hand out drinks and keep customers company at their little gambling den. Easy money, he said, short hours. Not sex work, just hostessing. 
Channy earned in two weeks as much as she'd have earned in two months at a safe job. 
She came back sometimes for dance class, for english class. Sometimes just to talk to her old teachers. 
But in January this year, a woman rented a room in the slums, another single mother with a child, we thought at first. But she wasn't. She watched and waited, and once she knew who the families in trouble were, she befriended them. 
I'm like you, just trying to make ends meet, she told them. You have all this debt, so many problems. But maybe, I have an opportunity for you.
She was clever. She made sure that every girl she targeted was over 16. She didn't hurry - why would she? She was just talking, it was just a business deal, a job at a hotel. Nothing illegal - yet. 
We went to the families and to the girls, offered shelter, help, anything, but the trafficker had chosen well. 
In February, at least six girls went with her to a hotel in Phnom Penh. 
They were virgins. The men who bought the right to rape them for a weekend would have paid at least $2,000 each, more for the younger and prettier girls. 
Channy brought home $700. The trafficker would have taken at least that amount, the pimp who brokered the deal with the hotel and customers another chunk. 
Her mother paid off her moneylender debt, bought a TV, fixed up their house. 
Channy got some new clothes. 
At the coffeeshop with the girls who would join our Get Ready program
Here's the photograph of that day I met her, all those years ago. Channy is cropped out for her privacy, but she was just off the side. 
I wish so badly I could turn back time somehow, go back and say to her "Leave, honey, just pack your bags and go. We'll find you a foster family - someone, someplace safe."
But the truth is we did try. No-one in the community would take her in because they were afraid of her parents' tempers. Without Channy's consent, we couldn't remove her from her family without a court order, and that would've required a lot more than bruises. 
We did a lot. But we didn't do enough. And every time I look at that photograph, I can't think of how much we did do - the times we stopped her being hurt, the shelter we provided, the years she got to study and learn, the hospitalizations, the friendships, her little brother's brighter future -
I think of Channy crying silently as she walks away from us, all those years ago. 
And that drives me to improve our programs, to do more, to figure out new ways and better ways to reach these families, to help the kids who are trapped, who are so hurt that they can't escape even when you hold the door open. 
Because of the lessons we learnt with Channy, we can do so much more for the girls like her that we meet now - better counselling, stronger family intervention, tougher legal measures. 
We've had more than fifty girls in our Get Ready for Girls programs since Channy, and we've been able to send almost all of them to school, training or safe jobs. 
And now?
Channy's mother stayed home until the money ran out and now collects rubbish for recycling. She's been clean from drugs for a while, although she still gambles. 
Channy's little brother just started at our kindergarten. He's a strong healthy little boy, doted on by his big sister. 
Channy's at home. Her most recent job, hostessing with sex work on the side at a night club, ended when she was cheated by the owner out of a month's salary. She's lost weight, and she looks -
She looks tired. She looks old. She looks like a 17-year-old who's been hungry, beaten, and hurt. 
We're still hoping for her, still visiting her and her family often because that's the promise we made when we first met her. That we wouldn't give up on her, even if she did. That's the promise we make all our kids. 
This year, we're opening our Butterfly Club program, a weekly outing and self-help group for teenage sex workers. We hope Channy will be one of the first girls to join. 
We hope that with friendships from other girls in the same horrible situation, with support from trained local mentors and counsellors, that Channy will find the courage she had all those years ago again, and she will enter a residential shelter for the care and help she needs, with our support. We believe in her. 

To help girls like Channy, the very best way is to donate to us regularly. Monthly donations mean we can keep programs running and offer stability in the chaos of slum life. 
Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Dara, a 9-year-old boy, and his family. Dara lost his mother earlier this year. 

Thanks for reading,
Dale Edmonds

(Channy is a pseudonym to protect her privacy)
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~ Jim Elliot

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~ Jim Elliot

Becoming an Effective Servant of God: The Pursuit of Godliness

2 Timothy 2
"20 In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts."

This passage speaks to my heart, especially the part about youthful lusts. Recently I observe that my heart gets distracted very easily when I sit and do work/relax at places like City Hall. The reason is because of all the pretty ladies who walk past. (Yes, yes, it's nice to know that I'm straight LOL, but I realize that I expose myself to unnecessary emotional triggers that make me long unnecessarily deeply to be in a relationship.)

So, instead of needlessly exposing myself to enemy temptations, I should, as a servant of Christ, pursue the things of God. I think I can do this more effectively by going not to cafes in busy areas to relax, but to quiet places with fewer people eg parks, reservoirs or to good bookshops. (Tho i do look forward to unexpected & spontaneous meetups with friends in the more popular places!)

And of course, to fellowship with like-minded & like-hearted fellow Christians who have a strong desire for the things of God.

Yes! Let's train ourselves to become more godly. 1 Tim 4:8

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It's been such a busy time, this period of ministry. Christmas season. But also been flipping through my blog entries, and reading about my relationship with God over the years.

And I see seasons in my life. =) Seasons of activity, and seasons of contemplation.

Contemplation, especially, in the sense that I am more able to extract life-lessons from everyday experiences and to write down what I have learnt from God through these experiences. :)

Activity, as in learning to be content whatever the situation... the experiences... sharing what God has done for us... through us... to boast in the Lord (not in our own strength).

But I think there's sometimes just thanksgiving. Writing down all the little graces and mercies that I find from God each new day. The simple joy of just being alive. That your loved ones are alive. That... really, sometimes you don't have to try to be something that you want to be - but just to revel in the fact that you are a child of God, and that you can experience God each day. To learn to live in the present, giving thanks for each new day as it comes.

=) To just be more childlike.

People come in and out of your lives, and we ought to be thankful for whatever goodness they may bring, for every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.

And I'm learning to experientially trust God as my Jehovah Jireh.

You know, I think God spoke a very clear rhema word to me a few days ago. I had been talking with Him about something on my mind... and it's been on my mind for quite a while actually. But that night, it was different from the other times. Just as I was about to enter my house, a verse came so clearly to my mind that I knew it had to be God himself speaking to me.

(There's a certain style that He has when He speaks directly to me... I have learnt to recognize it as my Shepherd's voice. Like that time He told me even before I had applied for a certain job, that He would make my starting pay $2750...  and it really came to pass. So I know it was Him speaking to me that night.)

The verse was: "Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

And an additional sentence came straight after that verse. That the appointed time is near, and it will come to pass indeed. I was so surprised. But yay, the sermon today... wow, was on Abraham and his sacrifice. And then, after the sermon, I found myself next to Eugene. I decided to share with him what I had heard from God a few days ago, and he was pleasantly surprised. :)

Anyway, the key thing is that after today's sermon, I am encouraged and strengthened in my faith in God. As long as He is with me, I know that He will provide me with whatever I need each day. And something that I think I finally understood in my heart after the sermon is that I really have a very good reason not to worry about the future. Because my God really cares for me. Cares as in a tender, compassionate kind of care. Not a weak-willed kind of care, but a strong, tender and loving care. Just like a Father. :) He indeed is Jehovah Jireh, the LORD our provider.

Oh what a joy to know
Our Father loves us so!

I guess the road ahead will not be any easier. But I see more of God along the narrow path... I see His realness and beauty. I see how He can provide. And I think most of all, I have the joy of being able to communicate directly with God. That I once did not know Him, and wondered whether He was real... but now, wow, that I can actually talk with and serve and even experience Him working in my life... wow, it is so wonderful to be a child of God! :)

Provision financially. Experiencing daily bread - literally! Provision in career path and calling. Guidance too with regards to missions. Provision in writing the book. And so on and so forth. Very exciting!

These two years have really been a stretch of faith for me, in experiencing His provision. But I see it as God preparing my faith for the road ahead. :)

Thank You Father.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writing in Progress...

Sketches that I did for the storybook... till Huiying came along. Haha! But these sketches helped me communicate more clearly to her what I had in mind. :) She's still doing... must pray for her! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pondering & pinpointed. Insecurity, and confidence. Where can one find confidence? So reading 2 Corinthians to search for a clearer understanding.

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Found Faultless

Reading 2 Cor 6:3-9. Thinking about ministry, and how I should conduct myself, so that I can be an example & inspiration to others for Christ.

True ministry isn't just a spiritual activity I do. It is, above all, a lifestyle.

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Just had a poignant dream

Just had a poignant dream
Of my dad turning very old
Turning white-haired & health failing
And I was holding on to him
Calling out "Daddy, Daddy"
When suddenly I woke up
In the dim silence of the morning
It all seemed so real, that dream
And I wanted to hug my dad there & then
To feel him while he has strength yet

Mm. Lots of feelings about the inevitable senescence of my parents. I guess that's one tough thing about being born very late in your parents' lives.

My dad's 70 today. I don't think he'll see this, but happy birthday Dad. :) Gee! Thank God he's still in good health. But he has stopped exercising because of back pain. Which is a very bad thing. :((

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Connecting with Challenging People: Practical Tips

Oh man... my eyes opened wide when I read this post. I LOVE THIS ARTICLE! :) Hee. Because it's something very close to my heart. I remember how my shepherds didn't give up on me even when I was a very challenging person.

I think there is something very important, however, that the author didn't mention very much - the heart of God for these "challenging" people. These "challenging" people are often like the the one lost sheep that the shepherd looks for...
Luke 15
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Mmm... I guess one thing I've always wondered was why did God let me go through the pain of being such a challenging person. But Jesus' words keep on coming to mind: "This happened, so that the work of God might be revealed in his life." :) Hee. And no doubt, after more than ten years, people around me can testify how God has changed me so much.

Well, I still am growing. Still struggling up to now. I can fully identify with the fear-management tactics that fearful people use. Things like 'tics', undesirable habits, and so on. And the cycle becomes very vicious. But that is where God's grace is so critical. That the church must not join in with the world in condemning and classifying, but instead to embrace and accept (even while helping the person break free of his/her fears) wholeheartedly. God's grace, in order to smash Satan's vicious cycle of destruction, delay, deceit and despair, so as to set the captives free and bind up the broken-hearted. Then the world will notice how we treat the undesirables and the losers... and know that we really are His disciples, if we love one another.

But I think all the more God has called me. I find I have a special heart for the challenging people, especially the children. So have started pioneering a "special-ops kids" CG in children's ministry. Funnily enough, it's full-circle for me. That I was one of the challenging kids in Sunday school... and now God has used me to start a ministry as such. So rich is His mercy, and so abundant is His grace, even to a sinner like me. :)

Hee. Do read this article: I think it'll challenge your existing preconceptions. Really pray and hope that your heart will be convicted of whatever existing prejudices you may have... and to see as the Lord sees the 'sinners' and the 'outcasts'. :)

May God's grace and peace be yours this beautiful season! Amen.

Pat Sikora is the founder of Mighty Oak Ministries (, a ministry devoted to providing tools and resources to equip the church for ministry to the wounded and broken. She also authored Why Didn't You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members. Pat maintains the blog, and she admits that caring for difficult people has become her specialty. She spoke to Tyler Charles about what church leaders need to know about ministering to challenging individuals.
You admit that caring for difficult people is your specialty. To what types of "challenging people" do you have the opportunity to minister?
Over the past 35 years, I've probably ministered to almost every type of challenging person. My earliest experiences were in a Christian singles group where many of the members were in their late 20s to mid-30s, wanting to be married but never quite making it because they were "challenging." There were men who were poorly groomed, clueless to social cues, clingy, and hovering. Some were very intelligent but lacked character or confidence. Others were not very intelligent but tried to pretend they were. Some battled alcoholism, pornography, or drug abuse.
Many of the women lacked confidence and direction; some had come out of a worldly lifestyle and still struggled with their identity in Christ. Some were over- or underweight, often because of deeper issues. Both men and women were afraid of commitment, prompting them to act "flaky."
Later I began ministering to women who had been abused in childhood, some profoundly. Many of these suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder). Most profound abuse survivors exhibit fear, anxiety, or panic disorders. They often have difficulty holding a job or living independently. Many are dependent, looking for a good mother or father figure. Others are control addicts. Many are chronically ill and even disabled.
Over the years, I've learned that, while some people have obvious issues, the reality is, we're all social misfits. We all have weak spots. We all have flaws in personality, character, or commitment. We all fail in one way or another. Some of us just cover it better than others. As John Ortberg says, "Everybody's normal…until you get to know them."
Based on your experience with difficult people, what are some common challenges they pose for those who genuinely want to connect with them?
I think the most common issue is fear. I find that no matter what the presenting issue, it usually boils down to fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of man, fear of bridges, fear of freeways. Fear of…well, just about everything. In our attempt to deal with the fear, we develop coping mechanisms that, over time, become tics, habits, hang-ups, and undesirable behaviors. These cause people to reject us, to want to avoid us.
I think many "normal" people shy away from the unlovely, not only because they have become unpleasant to be with, but also because we somehow fear they're contagious. In our desire to not be identified with the unlovely, we refuse to identify with them. The more separate we can remain, the safer we feel. And the irony is, we can do this even while thinking we're connecting.
Do most challenging people realize they're difficult to work with? If they're aware of this, does that make the leader's job easier?
At some level, I think most at least realize they are different and undesirable. These behaviors seldom develop in adulthood; most have been with the person from earliest childhood. They usually grew up in unhealthy homes. They were victimized by the bullies and mean girls. They were ignored by teachers. As they moved into adulthood, their problems followed them.
I remember one woman who was routinely asked to not join small groups, even recovery groups. One time she was the first person to sign up for a group, but was told the group was full. She was devastated. That's when I developed a group for challenging people, systematically teaching challenging women how to successfully be part of a small group. I coached them on good group skills and for some it made a difference.
Because these people have experienced so much rejection and failure, many expect to be rejected and to fail. So they protect themselves using a variety of methods. They may enter a ministry or a helping relationship assuming it won't work. They will not show up, complain, blame, sabotage, and more. That means that a leader needs to model consistency and unconditional love, sometimes for a very long time. It means you'll give and give before you ever (if you ever) receive.
Working with challenging people is obviously going to be, well, challenging. Do you think most church leaders are up for this challenge, or do they shy away from it?
Yes and yes. I think most people can do this work, but most shy away from it. Why? In addition to the avoidance mentioned above, it's time-consuming work with a high risk of failure. Why volunteer for a job like that? It's going to take a lot longer to see a return on your investment of time, energy, and prayer. And you may not get the return you wanted. I've had people I've ministered to reject me, turn on me, and spread lies about me. I've seen great progress only to have the person commit suicide. I won't kid you. This job isn't for wimps.
On the other hand, I can't think of anything more rewarding than seeing a former misfit coming into his or her own, becoming the man or woman God created them to be, learning how to be a true friend and a productive member of the body of Christ. And when this happens, it's important to deliberately encourage the transition from mentor-mentee to friends. Peers. Colleagues.
How would you respond a pastor or a church leader who says they just don't have enough time to give these challenging people the attention they require?
This is a wonderful ministry for volunteers and lay leaders. It isn't realistic for most pastors to take on more than one challenging person. (This doesn't mean you can't have input and can't be kind, but you may not be the key mentor). But here is where the body of Christ shines. Church leaders can fulfill their Ephesians 4 mandate and equip healthy members to do the work of the ministry. You can multiply your effectiveness as you train, equip, and encourage lay people to come alongside your challenging people.
Encourage small group leaders to include one challenging person. Not half the group. Just one. Let that group love the person to wholeness. Encourage adult Sunday School leaders to reach out to the one or two challenging people in their class, and to equip others to do the same. Encourage children's Sunday school teachers to identify these kids early and find a healthy kid to come alongside and befriend the needy child. Affirm those members of your church that you see reaching out to the needy.
You've said that simply treating challenging people like human beings can make a huge difference. Do you think church leaders might be failing to do this without even realizing it?
I think we all do this to some extent. As I mentioned earlier, we tend to shy away from challenging people, feeling either that they are contagious or that they'll make our ministries more difficult. Simply being aware of this, coupled with a desire to care, can go a long way. The key is recognizing the imago dei in each person. If we recognize that even the most challenging person is created in the image of God and is beloved by the Father, it's easier to let down our own defenses and simply love.
What are some common mistakes people make when dealing with difficult people?
If you're going to venture into this land, there are several tools you'll need. First and foremost, you must shed your Messiah complex. The reality is, these people have made it this far without you, and they'll probably continue to limp along just fine without you. You need to remember that God already sent a Messiah—and it isn't you. Therefore, you'll need to hold this ministry loosely. It's God's work; not yours.
Second, you need to bathe your efforts in prayer and the word of God. Go back to the source and see what his plans are for this person rather than trying to remake them in your own image.
Third, develop a broad skill base. I've not only received ministry for my issues, but I've also taken many classes and learned a variety of ministry skills. I have a very full toolbox, which allows me to be open to whatever strategy the Lord gives me for each person. Some people are committed to one method and use it as a "one size fits all" strategy. No matter how good the technique, that seems a little arrogant. And be sure that the method you use is biblical. Just because it "works" doesn't mean it's right.
Fourth, set and maintain good boundaries and train the person to honor those. I'm very clear with people that my family is my priority, and that I don't answer the telephone if it isn't convenient. They're welcome to leave a message, and if it's an emergency, say so. Just don't cry wolf.
What would you tell leaders who are frustrated because they've been doing their best to minister to a challenging individual (or more than one), and they aren't seeing results?
Don't expect overnight success. Change takes time. Lots of time. Lots and lots of time. Consistency is more important than immediate results. I've worked with some women for 15 to 20 years before seeing measurable results. That can be discouraging if you expect to wave your magic wand and fix things right away. But the good news is that God is faithful and he will multiply any efforts you make. Stick with it and you will see change. Sometimes even success. And that makes it all worthwhile.
—Tyler Charles; © 2010 Christianity Today International/