Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To Noeó Jesus | Afterword

To be completely honest, I didn't feel very much. In the sense of deep empathy and emotions. Perhaps that's why I am not seized by the urge to write down my experiences. Perhaps it is because it is 'nothing new' to me, having been in social work for 3 years now. I could even tell Bernice, 'I can almost predict the trajectory for Z., that he will go back to drugs again.' (Okay I recall a bit of emotion when I said that)

But because I promised Abraham to send him reflections, I shall write stuff down.

Thinking back at my own experiences throughout the two days and that of the few others that I heard from, I have been wondering,"What we have achieved?" We have these stories of people. Mostly their sorrows and challenges, but also their joys. What do we do with these stories? I realise that I have this strong, if not easily articulated conviction that we are all connected, each one of us.

Don't think it is coincidence that I plucked out The Kingdom of God (eds. Morgan & Peterson, 2012) which I bought at the book table as a freshie in VCF FOC:
"Being human means seeing oneself in connection and relationship to others... persons in community bear [God's] image."

"The interconnectedness of human persons is the image of God"
 (Bradley, pp236) 
And as I think about the profoundness of that second quote, it struck me that solidarity and community is both a task and a gift for us. We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves and it is precisely through obedience to this command that we know God more intimately. He is the Triune God- three Persons and yet one God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing in perfect love. We see each person as image bearers of God but 'not simply that each person bears the image of God' (Bradley), because God is too great for individualistic conceptions of Him. Rather, striving for solidarity and experiencing community, we catch glimpses of the beautiful Triune nature of God. Not only that, we participate in this Triune nature as we lay down our lives in the service of His people in love and joy, seeking to glorify Him. Is that not fellowship? (Wonder and joy.)

As time layers over my memories, it may be hard to remember the exact details of each individual that I met, and I would probably never cross paths with them again. I'd rather focus on viewing these stories in light of the grand biblical narrative of which I am also a part: 
How does God view these individuals? Do I need to change how I view and feel about them? How is God calling me to respond? 

It was when we were heading back to Macs after having failed to find any homeless individual that I spied N. as he was laying out the cardboard on the floor. One of the first things he told us was "I am homeless". Subsequently, we found out about his coloured life. Membership in a gang, fights, family rejection, living on the fringes of society, staying in the lives of his 2 children without a place to call home or a handphone... I dare not say I empathise because his experiences are so different from ours.One thing he repeated throughout our conversation was "I am an ex-offender." I am an ex-offender without much to offer, so there is little place in society for me. I am an ex-offender, and nothing much can help me. (I am an ex-offender, rather than a father?) I could link all these back to what I learnt in the module Rehabilitation of Offenders- these are the cracks which ex-inmates fall through, the self-labelling, and how desistance does not cover this man's experience of having turned over a new life but still under the label ex-offender. More importantly I think, is the renewed desire to learn more so that I can apply this knowledge in the future. 

It is in this way that I pray those who came will be able to make sense of their experiences, and truly, all praise to God for these revelations.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Garbled Reflections on Love

It's 12.41am, and I am strangely awake. It's been a long day, starting with meeting the Utown peeps (and free breakfast yay!) at 8.30am which meant I had to wake up at 6.

I realised I have been subconsciously thinking about this in recent months, but the words for it came only today when I was thinking about the Science and Engin peeps. Especially Science.They are going to provide refreshments for our first Fellowship Teaching- which is going to be about 100 people. And my first thought was: the chairs, especially J, are already so busy, why are they doing this?

And so the conclusion: Love compels us to do things that do not make sense. To most of the world at least.

An interesting thought presented by a speaker on Galatians 5:22, and shared to me by a friend. The original manuscripts were in Greek, which had no punctuation. So he thinks that instead of the current English translation, the original version renders:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.

All these things: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control- they flow from love.

I have been seeing it a lot recently, both in myself and in the community that I have immersed myself in (I feel like before Exco I was still somewhat closed).

Like having IRB submission at the back of my mind but the front of it are friends whom I am meeting to pray together with.

Like committing yourself to pray every week for your CG mates and the world, even though no one is joining you on this.

Like getting to know an elderly without a home and build a relationship with him/her.

We are not the source. We just have enough to give. This was something said today by Derrick Wong who runs The Loft Cafe and also does a lot of outreach to the people in Chinatown.

I really love how love doesn't make sense.Maybe I am not also at this time I just want to sleep.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

22

Birthday wish: By the Holy Spirit, to love recklessly.

"We loved because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

Sunday, July 31, 2016

tense

This week has been one of tensed shoulders, little sleep, anxiety, distressing thoughts at whether I might be developing anxiety issues or being able to cope with the year ahead or how people will see me or whether I am going to do anything worthwhile.

Standing at the edge of it on the other side, I want to look back and remember. Sorry if this post quite hard to read because I am actually going to finish this up asap so that I can spend more time alone with God. (Perhaps that is also one reason for the anxiety- I am a worrier I realised, needing to make sure I am things ahead in control)

I get quite distressed reading the news. I want to move on, but at the same time I cannot because these are lives. The 80000 Mexicans that died through the violent drug wars are lives.I think, they are probably not saved. And so I cry out... and I feel like there's so much to do but I am so weak. Even prayer and intercession, I struggle with that for these people I read in the news. So I am fearful of opening the newspapers.

This week I was also fearful of turning on my data. Distressing to see the messages, calling for my attention. Cognitive bandwidth and social competency felt like they were things I was lacking in. I need to talk to people, to the VCFers, to get my thoughts across, to build relationships. Thinking about all these, I felt like imploding.You know, a super power I wish I have is to be able to say the right word to a person at the right time. To be able to carry on conversations. Even to remember names and what people are studying/year they are in. Too much for me. Which led me to feel like my mind is underdeveloped.

At the back of my head are my family and friends whom I need to spend time with.

Mm.

I guess, underlying all these is fear. And the lack of trust in God. One truth that I need to speak back to myself: He holds all things together, child of God. The world is His. "We cannot make or unmake the world because it is not ours." (Brueggemann: Living Toward A Vision, 1990)

The terrorists, child abusers, rapists, and whatever brokenness out there, they cannot unmake the world. I have no need for anxious fretting and agonising about what I can do, what I should do.

I still have questions: How then do I live my life? Do I concern myself only with people around me (which I am not that good with either)? It's a journey... You who will be at the end shining brighter than the sun, full of joy and goodness, You are worth it Lord. This is also something to speak back to myself.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Brueggemann//Idea

Partially blogging to calm the restlessness in my heart. It manifests in the form of checking my phone every 3 minutes and going on FB every 5. This is terrible man. Why is it there I wonder. I feel like I have a lot to share with different individuals and groups suddenly but I am trying to restrain myself. Is that why? Perhaps one main driving factor is to see who is on my side on things that I shared.

xxx
I already wanted to write about Brueggemann (henceforth Bman heh). He is really gold. I love how he is so incisive in such an artistic manner that I can both understand and appreciate. Reading Living Toward A Vision now and I can't begin to describe it. It's the feeling where there is something out there you had an inkling of in your heart but can't put a finger to, and someone comes and expresses it beautifully with a greater passion than you have. Thanking God for Bman and for people who introduced me to his writings every time I read.

This chapter named "Ordering and Eating" particularly struck me:
"In eating we engage in the most primal event of being insiders, and without knowing it we order our eating most carefully... It is in the elemental act of eating that we make our fundamental decisions about what we mean by shalom" (p75)

"(S)egregation and discrimination (are) so pervasive in our situation... in our primal activity, like eating,  we eat and drink the order we call shalom, carefully circumscribed by our values, fears and wants. And when we do that, some are in and some are out" (p77)

And then Bman calls us to 'listen to this' familiar text in the Bible:

"Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)

He asserts: "Everybody lives in a safe measured world where we get and give all on the same scale... We are reduced to calculation, and no humanness rises there. It is a no-surprise environment devoid of graciousness."'

(Is that also why it is is more blessed to give then to receive?)

And thus the call to action is for us to live as a critique to the 'culture that is heavily committed to quid pro quo rewards' (p82), to order reality toward shalom. 

xxx
 So as I was reading the Luke passage in light of all these, an idea struck me:

What if we actually do what Jesus says? I am thinking mainly of the homeless in Singapore. An invitation to come, to enjoy the community around the table of food which nourishes.

How do we order reality toward shalom in this context?

I would have to research more on the self-stigma and reasons for homelessness (I remember attending a thesis presentation on this)- but this act of eating together is powerful. 

I want to evoke humanity in that table. Humanity so beautiful and also broken.

Friday, July 8, 2016

freshie again

In all honesty I remembered being quite sian during the ExCo meeting when they decided that I should be the ex-officio for the freshmen orientation camp. At that point I was like gah, I need to go attend all their meetings and stuff.

Today's QT reading really spoke to me- king Hezekiah's prayer after his illness and recovery in Isaiah 38. The themes of God not answering when you cry out, God being the one who afflicts, God working in ways so contrary to who He says He is, and a man's anguish at all this.

"I waited patiently till dawn, but like a lion he broke all my bones; day and night you made an end of me" (v13)

"But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too." (v15-16a)

"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish" (v17a)

There was a breakthrough during this camp, I am sure of it.

During the altar call yesterday, I felt a tugging. Initially I didn't want to go up, because I felt quite self-conscious to be publicly declaring my commitment. But there was that familiar thumping in my heart when God wants me to do something. And I thought: is this not what the community is for, to support one another in pledging and maintaining our allegiances? I didn't really want to be prayed for because I didn't really want to share I realised. Another part of me was struggling with trust and also, I knew that what I was going to commit myself to required much boldness. Boldness to stand alone, to be in the dark space, to love, to communicate my inmost thoughts (or even try hah), to be this person and yet not be proud. So there were many things and I'm not that good with verbal expressions so I didn't want to share and not be understood.

But I responded- I thought that I should at least give this a try. The song was Alabaster Jar which was a song that was already on my heart for some time.

"This time that I have left is all I have of worth
I lay it at Your feet, Lord, it's less than You deserve
And though I've little strength, and though my days are few"
It encapsulates what I feel as a year 4; after all the experiences I have had- there is still something I want to do, Lord.

I have shared with many people how I heard a clear authoritative voice "Remember your vision", some time after I accepted the role of Outreach Coordinator. Over the past 2 months I have frequently pondered what that means. Through this camp and also last night's meeting with the hostel chairs and faculty OCs I think I see it clearly now. Or as clear as it can be.

Interacting with the freshies over these past 3.5 days, I am reminded of what I hoped to do in NUS as a freshie. The burdens, the dreams that I had, the places that I have been led to, the people that I have known- somehow during my third year they felt like disparate things that I have done- and it got me thinking: what exactly have I done? They ceased to have meaning to me and I felt it, especially when I shared about CASA.Perhaps I have lost that boldness to dream/hope that I had as a freshie.

You amaze me, Lord. Up till the morning of Day 1 in camp I was still really really lethargic spiritually. At that time I was reading Brueggemann's Living Towards A Vision and feeling crappy. Because on one hand I understood completely what he was talking about, this shalom which God has called us to bring about in this world; and yet I just cannot see myself doing it. Guess the lack of trust also drains hope.

Thank you, dear Abba. I will remember my vision. Remind me if I ever lose sight of it.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Walking on Broken Glass

This was typed during the family trip to Hokkaido; felt like I should just publish it without too much editing- 

The petty squabble
Articulation of my innermost thoughts that I kept almost hidden from myself. self-righteously judging these people but only realising that I agreed when these thoughts were verbalised.
The lone ladies in pink jackets waiting by the roadside.
The chiselled figures in tight fitting pants at the tourist spot.
The two ladies with their bunny tops
Old legs can't walk
Caught in between mother and daughter
Can a mother and daughter not be able to spend even 5 minutes together? What happened between them I wonder.
Hardness of mouth, hearts not seeing the concern behind the scolding words.
No country for old men (and women).
Thankful for the jacket against the cold wind.
Thankful for the pat on the back.
The chocolates (but somehow I feel bad taking them because I feel like I deserved it)
Thank God for heart and eyes- that break and tender be

"In the face of a suffering and broken world, belief in divine solicitousness and special protection is hard to come by for sick souls. ... Even though it might be easier, simply as a matter of coping, to hide our eyes from life (as many do),  the sick souls refuse to look away. They refuse the too easy retreat into existentially consoling beliefs. And the price they pay for this is allowing a painful tension to sit at the center of their existence, a belief in a God who is often not present and who often fails to rescue." (Becks, 2012: The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience)

May I have that courage to continue being that 'sick soul'.