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'.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Moments

This moment I am getting the feels listening to Vivian Chan's song, sitting in a mess of a room. The room is snug especially with Bex's quiet and strong presence near me.

My hair is wet and I catch whiffs of my shampoo as I type- every time I finish bathing I thank God because the feeling of having hot water after coming in from the cold is just awesome. The mattress that I am sitting on is so cosy and makes coming in to sleep each night pleasant.

Especially after a night of talking with these dear brothers and sisters here- these lovely beautiful people with all their quirks and flaws, whom I have been learning so much from.

Today was like sunshine. My morning time with the Bible was more fruitful than the previous days, and during the time of prayer subsequently, I was actually dialoguing with God rather than being distracted by other people praying.

During lesson time I was cooking seasame oil chicken and stir-frying xiao bai cai for lunch as a representation of Singaporean food. It was not without hiccups but the dishes actually tasted legit. Really praise God for that, because all three of us have never cooked a full meal, much less for 30+ people. I want to remember Nyamaa saying Yes in an almost shy way when I asked her (through Sorgee) whether she wanted more Roti John as she was standing by the kitchen sink.

My soul was somehow touched during the games time, looking at them having so much fun playing the traditional games I played as a child. The food time was awesome too, seeing their reactions of disgust to durian cake, and their fondness for muruku and chicken curry. I really like how Argee just went to the kitchen to scoop 2 ladles of curry for himself after the day's programme ended.

After that we went to Tumen Ekh to watch an ensemble of Mongolian song and dance. Sitting there, watching all the performances, thankfulness just welled up- I am here, again. Seeing and hearing these things. At the same time, praying that God will work powerfully in this vibrant culture- to truly give them the abundant life.

Dinner was really satisfying- bibimbap WITHOUT MEAT. Haha yes I am a bit scared of meat now because it is always mutton or beef which has that gamey taste which I can't eat too much of. And the vegetables are really measly in Mongolian food. So I was really thankful to have a bowl full of fresh vegetables.

The walk after dinner was incredible too- just talking as we walk along the streets of Ulaanbator, and then stumbling into an art gallery and discussing the art pieces. Those moments are really beautiful to me.

Moments. Fleeting but like Patronuses in my life.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Word

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3

""But sir, " Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"" Judges 6:13-14

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Prayer

It is 12.02am and I need to be awake in less than 5.5 hours' time. And I should probably be thinking practically what I have to do for my role as Outreach Coordinator so I can have something to share with my Exco and OCs working with me. Or the fact that I am going to meet NKF to talk about research for my Honours thesis this Friday. But no. I want to write about prayer, how it spoke to me today, even as I prayed.

I was asked to pray to close after the segment on ministries in the residences. The significance of that prayer for me was the reaffirmation and genuine faith that God is omniscient, and having that vision on how it looks like for our ministry. We see things only as we are experiencing them (even history is socially constructed based on our own interpretations that is in turn influenced by our backgrounds/values/beliefs), and we don't even see them fully. We are so limited in our sight. Not knowing what lies ahead, I somehow also saw that God uses each of the people He has placed in leadership roles and other roles to work all things for good.

Again, after the individual handover I was asked to pray. Again I get this sense of peace. It engulfed the fears of implementation, knowing my weakness in relating and seeking harmony/agreeableness and time with my family just as they sprouted up- it was the sense of peace that surpasses all understanding. And so I was really genuinely thankful for prayer, that golden moment of delighting in it as a privilege. Praising God for this means of access to Him. And I saw that tensions will always be there, just because we live in a broken world.

Tensions between broken people (beautifully redeemed though we are), tension between doing things ourselves or enabling/empowering and I guess very prominently the tension of this human concept called TIME.
I've been asking God, You who created the 24 hours of each day- is it right to ask why there is no time? Or should we change the ways we do some things? No answer.

But Abba Father, Jehovah Shalom (Lord is Peace), Jehovah Rapha (the Lord that heals)- these names and more are what You have revealed to us about who exactly You are.And when I prayed these were brought to mind, and it was my strength and hope. Your name, is a sturdy bulwark.

I am actually not typing very much sense at this point so yes, I really need to sleep. It was a good day :)

8 hours later // Being Prayed For
Am now carving out that space for myself away from my friends now- and I need that space (reminder not to be conscious about that).

So I was being prayed for by a succession of people which I felt was significant. Starting from Sabrina who interrupted my thoughts and suspended state of mind + emotions coming together. To be honest I was a bit peeved because I was in that almost-comfortable state. No actually quite comfortable. And then after that, with the exception of Esther because I was already expecting to be prayed for by Tong I was slightly peeved at being broken from my own state of mind to be prayed for. Well I think that is significant because as they prayed and I thought about it, I tend to want to hide. Although I put myself out there, for spiritual matters I think I am less open- though no less vulnerable. It might be an unconscious thing.

So anyway, starting from Sarah the succession of prayers really felt like God speaking to me in a very clear way because these things were already in my heart. Sarah prayed holding both my hands, and I was just thinking as she prayed that this is like the very real bond between Christians in the Spirit that perhaps I have never really experienced? (Oh dear I am losing that feeling and consequently what I wanted to remember). Oh yes. It is the joining. Allowing one's heart to be joined to another's in a way so intimate it is scary. She started by saying that she did not know me very well. Then she prayed, and Ecclesiastes 3:11 was prayed "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.".And then the end, she just hugged me and prayed that God's love will engulf me. And I was thinking and feeling it that this is what I need. Even though I might not always see that need in myself.

Esther. Hers was clearly a prophecy because when she said it I was like yes. This is it. I do not do not want to be shaken in my belief. What she said was that I might see Christianity and Christians in a different way than how I think it should be and how I think it to be- and I will be shaken. I am reminded that nothing pains me and shakes me more than Christians not doing the things they should be doing, Christians doing the things they should not be doing. And Christianity. I always want to see that unity in what Christianity is- and I still believe and think that there is unity in what we see. Also about supporting Elijah. Hmm. I think I can see why she prayed that.

Tong. His was the prayer that moved me and got me teary.. First the childlike faith. Second the thankfulness for  me. About my gifts and how I impacted him and people around. I guess I know. But what I learnt from this process of being prayed for is that I am and I have been trying to hide this from myself, because I didn't really know how to acknowledge this without having that pride.And also, putting myself out. Because if I acknowledge this it means that these gifts will be used and that will be used by God. Which will definitely definitely lead me to places I have never seen myself, challenges that will be overwhelm me, things I do not want to see.

Okay back to people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tonight EVERYTHING Shifted

Nursing a quarter cup of cold milk to calm my gnawing stomach and hopefully I will sleep better later. Doesn't help that my heart is palpitating from both the caffeine and what God has placed upon me tonight.

So. I have been elected into the 63rd Exco of NUS VCF, as Outreach Coordinator (OC). It is a position that is aligned to what I am passionate for and which I want VCF to grow more in. But all this is on hindsight.

I shall retrace back to when something imperceptibly shifted, and detail it so that I can look back (Hi future Kang reading this) and remember that which will start me on this cray journey that has already begun.

So I was praying for VCF AGM for sometime, fuzzy vague idea about who was being elected but just praying that the Exco will be united in love and grow the ministry. Yesterday as I was praying for AGM, I had this idea that I was going to be nominated as OC. My response was like Oh well, okay up to You God, while dismissing the thought because I am like a nobody in VCF. Besides, there were very practical considerations like how my family will take to me staying out late ALOT, and of course that the next semester will be a crazy semester with 3 core level 4000 modules. And also, I have things on my mind that I wanted to do. I was actually quite content for how I planned things to be- reaching out on my personal capacity to the friends whom I have been praying for, serving in Youth for Christ + Sunday School, continuing to spend time with family especially my granny and seeing how I can show Christ to them.

But then, this afternoon came the challenge/invitation: will you consider OC? I was at Subway having coffee that induced the said palpitations. Before that I passed, really really by God's grace, my basic theory test. WOOHOO it is really grace because I had just finished studying the book's contents this morning and the book was 2 editions old as I was too cheapskate and lazy to get the newest edition. After that, I waited 2.5h just to get that green slip of paper that was to be my Provisional Driving License. But you know, God is so very shrewd. Oops is that a negative connotation. But yes the wisdom of God is mind-boggling because even as I type I am linking what I did during that 2.5h to how he spoke to me.

I was alternating between reading Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and listening to my playlist. From Tolstoy I reflected on the meaning of life and death again- what is a good life and what is a good death? The protagonist had such a "pleasant and decent life", so respected in high society, but ultimately he realised that "everything he lived by, and he could clearly see that none of it was right, it was all a dreadful, huge deception, covering both life and death". So indeed, what was preserving my CAP? And all manner of having things within my control if God wants me to go further? 

And a song that struck me was Nothing I Hold Onto. The lyrics speak for themselves:
I lean not on my understanding, my life is in the hands of the maker of Heaven.
I give it all to you God, trusting that You'd make something beautiful out of me.
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.
I give it all to you God, trusting that You'd make something beautiful out of me.

So back in Subway- I was like 'omgerd...' but it wasn't entirely a bolt in the clear sky. God You are super wise man. And there I kinda made up my mind as I am reminded of Isaiah 6:8- "Then I heard the voice of the Lord sayiing, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said "Here I am. Send me!"" (NIV)

During thanksgiving service also, as I was still wrestling with remaining doubts and the fear of practicalities, this verse which I haven't thought of for a long time popped into my head. I had spent this past semester in doubt, and in prayer also. Towards the end, I told God and I felt Him saying: Kang is ready now. To take on something; just feeling my way about exactly what.
"Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him." (NIV)
He is working for us. He is working for us; and so can I have the trust that this is a great and sovereign God working for us? At that point, and now, there was peace :)

Now going back to wayyyy before this, back to my hostel in HK. I was praying about running for Vice President for Uni-Y, because under the Community Champions Programme which I was in I was technically obligated to run. But of course YZ said that it has to come from personal conviction. Somehow, I applied- I was Skype interviewed and I genuinely meant what I said about making changes to how volunteering is done in Uni-Y. Can't remember exactly what I said but yes I meant it- though serving in Uni-Y Exco was really so fuzzy with me free from obligations in HK. I was chosen. But I didn't have peace in my heart- something told me it was not right, so I rejected it. Perhaps tonight's election is part of the answer.

Honestly speaking, I have no idea how all these is going to work out. Right I was going to make a piechart for myself. 


I was feeling a little sad that I wouldn't be able to meet up with my friends as much as this semester and thinking will that mean that my friendships will be affected which is bad news for socially insecure me. But ultimately, I resolved to leave this to God. 
Well the piechart is not static (seeing how a whole new segment has just been added within 10 minutes tonight), just a reminder to not forget, especially family. It will definitely not be easy. I'm looking forward to the end already actually, where in my mind, in the next thanksgiving service at the end of the AY I will stand and sing praise for His faithfulness and grace.