Sunday, 10 June 2018

God will make a way?

God will make a way?....what if I had a conversation with God on this and it goes something like this…. 

Me: Dear God, you said you’d make a way for me?
God: Yes son.
Me: How? When? What way Lord?
God: It's a will. I will make it for you.
Me: So I won't know it now, right now?
God: You have enough to go by son.
Me: But that's easy for you to say Lord. You know how it ends. I don't. 
God: Do you really want to know how it ends?
Me: Well, it would really help. At least I won't worry that much. At least I can plan for other things. 
God: Ok, if you must know, it doesn't matter to you.
Me: Erm...you mean the end...it doesn't matter?
God: Yes.
Me: God, I don't understand. I am going through tough times, and it doesn't matter? 
God: How then does it matter to you son?
Me: Well, for starters, I may lose everything I have fought so hard for...my status and hope. My friends will leave me. My life will fall apart. It sure matters to me Lord.
God: Mm...it seems like you already know how it will end.
Me: (squints) Lord, you know I don't know how it will end. But that dreaded end is very real to me. Where is the way you're making for me?
God: Son, the way I am making for you involves only you. Your status, your fortune, they are not part of it. 
Me: Wait a minute...this way you talk about...is it not to save me from the impending doom like you did for Moses and Daniel? To restore me like you restored Job? To make me the head and not the tail like you promised your people? 
God: Well, you are right about them. As with them, so it will be for you and for all who put their trust in me. 
Me: But, all of them are leaders in their own rights. All have become rich, powerful and renowned. Look at King David, for God's sake. Sorry...so, so then, where is this way you have for me Lord?
God: Son, my way is not the way of the world. It is the restoration of the soul and not wealth. It is the increase in strength and not power. And it is a change of heart, not a preservation of or increase in status. They may come or they may not, but that's not my way for you. 
Me: Ha...hold that thought. I really need to read the fine print here Lord. When you say you will make a way for me...are you saying that I may just end up worse than before? I may lose everything I hold dear? I may be left with nothing to my name? Nothing that defines me in this world? I become unrecognisable to all? 
God: Son, you're right to say that you need to read the fine print, but you are wrong to imply that it is a bad thing. 
Me: But...but the way I see it, if it is anything short of a full deliverance before the levee breaks, it's a bad thing Lord. It's bad. If I am going to hit rock bottom, and that is the way you are making for me, then it really doesn't matter right? It really doesn't. You're right, it doesn't matter to me at all. 
God: (silent) Son, how long must you live in this delusion? 
Me: ha...?
God: ...until that day you can let go of the things that matter to you and trust in the things that matter to me, you will never be free. It will still be your way and not mine. 
Me: So, are you saying it's still a way that I will lose everything?
God: Does it matter son? 
Me: Well, I would think so? Doesn't it?
God: Son, your wealth doesn't concern me, neither your fame nor possessions. The real tragedy of your salvation is that I may lose you if you lose yourself in those things of no eternal value. 
Me: But if you deliver me Lord, restore me and bless me even more, I will give back to you manifold, without hesitation. I will serve you with all my heart. That's gratitude right? Radical grace?
God: No son, that's a trade, a transaction, a market bargain. I am the creator of the heavens and the earth, not your wishing well. 
Me: I know that Lord. That is why I ask you to make a way for me. 
God: No son, you are asking me to fulfill your expectations, to do your will. You have done that long enough and are living with the consequences of your own choices. It's called free will. 
Me: Okay Lord, tell me your way? I am listening. 
God: (pause) you know the story of the Rich Young Ruler? 
Me: Wait, you're asking me to disown everything I own. 
God: I am asking you to turn all that you own into all that you owe. From ownership to stewardship. For you will never be free if what defines you is what you can't let go in this world.
Me: (pause) So...Lord, your way is a change of heart from being an owner of all to being a debtor to all?
God: Is that a sudden dawning I see?
Me: And nothing that I own in my name and recognised by law in this world is considered mine...I am as good as a debtor to all, for a debt I can never repay. A debt that Christ paid in full instead.
God: (nods) Go on.
Me: That's why the Rich Young Ruler can never make it through the eye of needle because his heart is weighed down by the affairs and things of this world. He is enslaved by the ownership of his own possessions. He can't imagine living without them.
God: Yes. Do you understand now?
Me: (nods) In that case, it really doesn't matter then. You are right Lord...wait, of course you are, you're God after all. And it doesn't matter not because I will lose everything, but because there is nothing to lose since in you Lord, and you alone, I have everything. 
God: Yes, and that way has been made for you. It's the same road Christ took to Calvary. It's the narrow way that will ultimately save you from yourself, from the things that you cannot let go.
Me: I see…Lord, it's a lot to take in at one go, a lot to process. I need time to reflect.
God: (smiles) That's the price of bearing the Cross son. Go and give it some thought. Meditate on it. 
Me: I will Lord. It's after all my choice, free will, like you said. And I hope after meditating on it, I do not walk away disappointed like the Rich Young Ruler, but instead be transformed, eventually. For I really can't lose what I don't own...it really doesn't matter in the end.
Amen.
Cheerz. 



* Image from "wallpapercave.com".

Jason Wong: Unifier of Family and Society.

What does Focus on the Family, the Yellow Ribbon Project and Dads for life have in common?

They are all led by Jason Wong, 54, a Colombo Plan Scholar, who worked in Singapore Prison Service before moving to the Ministry of Social and Family Develoment. 

At 49, in 2013, Jason left his work "to volunteer at Focus on the Family Singapore, which he now heads as chairman in an unpaid role."

Focus on the Family operates autonomously and has 12 affiliates worldwide. "It promotes strong families through services that include talks and workshops, compaigns such as its Date with Dad events, and counselling for parents and couples."

Jason is married to Donna Kng, 54, for 25 years and they have two children: Sara, 22, an undergraduate and Samuel, 17, JC student. 

Last year, Jason wrote a memoir titled Trash of Society: Setting Captives Free, about his more than twenty years of experiences doing what he does to heal broken families, reintegrate inmates into society, and strengthen father-son bond.

Lesson? Three.

1) Jason's economic professor once gave this advice: "Ask to be sent to a place nobody wants to go."

The logic is simple. The best talent would have gone before him at "high-sought-after workplaces" to solve problems there. 

So, what's left are "unpopular placements", and that may just be where the needs are the highest. 

If the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few, then I thank god that Jason took up the calling to go where the gap is the widest, that is, places where few will go to make the greatest difference. 

This difference is not just in economic terms. It is not about how they will contribute to the economy, and when will they bear monetary fruits that the government can quantify for promotion, increment and redeployment.

The harvest is not economic alone, but social, spiritual and existential. It is about giving meaning to another and providing fresh perspectives. It is about saving the soul, so that the body and mind can live with hope. 

2) Jason said: "My financial situation was stable. Instead of accumulating more assets while I still have the energy, I felt I could give some of my best years to this."

At some point in our life, we have to start asking when enough is enough. If the rat race is about accumulating as much as possible in preparation for that proverbial winter, then when do we stop? 

Is winter ever going to come or are we making excuses because wealth and financial security define us?

Or, is it that we cannot imagine living without the trappings of wealth and fame because our worth is precariously held up by a metric that is based on an endless race to raise the bottom line (profit margin)?

These are questions that challenge us to the core because they do not seek a window dressing of our character, but to transform it whole, and for good. 

And I am deeply encouraged that Jason (and many courageous people I know) took that road less travelled to places often overlooked to raise not their bottom line, but the lives of many at rock bottom. 

And...

3) The impression the author of the article, Venessa Lee, got with the interview with Jason was that "this soft-spoken man seems motivated less by recognition and acclaim than by his Christian faith."

Jason affirms this when he said:-

"It's supposed to be a movement. It doesn't matter who founded it. Since I was young, I had wanted to live my life meaningfully. But it was not until I became a Christian at the age of 21 that I realised life was not just about I, me and myself or about academic achievements and accumulation of wealth."

"Instead," he added, "I learnt that life is about the giving of oneself, serving and loving others and helping them fulfil the calling in their lives."

I do not want to make too much of the giving of oneself, serving and loving others because it risks being a kind of fad or trend in the postmodernist movement. 

Unfortunately, this movement has resulted more in the enrichment of self than others. That is, we hitch on to (advertised) virtues just because it is the (most viable) springboard to the enlargement of our own estate.

But what Jason has taught me is that of a silent revolution in the heart before it ever gets to the public places. 

It is a life transformed first before it seeks to transform others. And such a life and its works are enduring because it does not define success by a worldly metric but a spiritual one.

I believe that is where Jason's Christian faith comes in. The essence of that faith is self-sacrifice, and the transformation of that faith is the heart, beyond appearances. 

I have always craved after a religion that addresses this aspect of the human heart as an end in itself, and not a means to an end. For when it is used as a means, the self is always enriched. 

And for me, the Christian faith does this surgery effectively by "piercing asunder the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Truly, our greatest hope for redemption lies not in what we do for charity, but how our hearts are changed by charity (love).

I believe this is where Jason's unassuming life takes the lead, as he himself traces the footprints of his Savour who had walked before him. Cheerz.

Ahok's divorce and the challenge of marriage.

It is a sad day. A day marked by a broken marriage. 

Ahok's divorce from his wife, Veronica, was granted by the court. He is 51 and she is 40. They have three children, 19, 16 and 11.

Here's a brief background.

Basuki met Veronica when she was 19, and he proposed to her in 1997. 

At that time, they were both active members of the Kristus Yesus church in Pluit, North Jakarta. She was a member of the church's choir and he was on the church committee.

Basuki loved the way she played the piano and sang, and she fell for his resolute character.

When Basuki decided to enter politics, she decided to follow him and supported him wherever he went. 

Even when he was partnering Joko Widodo in 2012 and became the deputy governor and governor of Jakarta in 2014, Veronica was his dutiful wife, supporting him and ferrying their children to and fro. 

She performed her role as a mother faithfully to her successful politician husband.

Then came the public revelation according to court's record and evidence. 

Basuki presented to the court that "the marriage is no longer harmonious due to his wife's love affair with Mr Julianto Tio."

The evidence consisted of "conversation between (Tio) and (Veronica)" which included "form of photos of chats from a mobile messaging app". It revealed "a close and special relationship."

Basuki's sister, Ms Fifi, filled in the gap here about their secret relationship. 

She said that Tio was a former friend of Veronica's sister. Tio was a married businessman and Ms Fifi said that "his affair with (Veronica) stretched seven years."

It reports as follows:-

"Describing Mr Tio as a "deadly seducer", (Ms Fifi) said that Basuki exhausted all efforts to keep the family together, including confronting Mr Tio in 2016 to leave his wife alone for the sake of both marriages.""

Even Basuki's son confronted Tio "to tell him to keep away." But Tio denied the romantic relationship, "though they continued to contact each other."

What is disconcerting is that the evidence in court showed that "(Veronica) had concealed the identity of her "good friend", Mr Tio, on her mobile phone by using a nickname for him."

The judge said: "To deceive anyone, including her husband, (Veronica) changed the name of Julianto Tio on her mobile phone to another name, Medan Elang (meaning "eagle")." And they would communicate in Hokkien which the husband does not speak."

Veronica did not engage a lawyer to defend her and all parties did not appear in court. 

Basuki (Ahok) is currently in jail for blasphemy. He has been serving his sentence of two years since May last year. 

Lesson? One. 

I think the danger of marriage is the danger of the idea of the perfect couple. And let me be frank. I suspect the "poison" in the wedding cake is the poison of unearthly expectations. 

The perfect couple must be everything to the other, that is, a consistent provider, a super-sexual lover, a self-sacrificing partner, an unconditional giver, a tireless spouse, a stimulating companion and best friend, even soul mate.

I once talked to a friend (who is married now) and she admitted to me that she desires for a simple and godly husband who satisfies about 36 of her criteria of what makes up a Christlike Husband, that is, he has to be honest, humble, responsible, forgiving, loving, faithful and the list went on and on. 

Her expectations were truly unearthly, and in my mind, should she find such a man, I don't even know whether she will be worthy of him.

Alas, I think the greatest challenge to monogamy is to think of the marriage as a series of tests to be fulfilled (or hoops to be jumped over) once you walk down the aisle with your so-called ideal partner. 

As such, we enter into holy matrimony armed with a checklist, and then as the day goes by, and the weeks turn to months and years, we start to feverishly tick the boxes of eagerly anticipated virtues as if we stand apart from the union like a quality inspector checking for faults and flaws in an assembled product. 

But human relationship, especially a union meant to last a lifetime (or both lifetimes), brooks no binary answers, clear-cut definitions or easy resolutions. 

It is not like a cut or a wound where you can plaster it over and watch it heal overnight. And once the scars are gone, the pain is wholly forgotten. 

In fact, there is a word (or two) for marriages where couples never disagree, argue or have differences. It is called separation or emotional divorce. 

In the same way you can't divide a sunbeam with a butter knife, you cannot expect a wound of the heart to be healed or stitched up overnight, where the pain of a betrayal is both totally forgiven and completely forgotten. 

The irony is that the prerequisite for forgiveness is remembering. The only difference is that what is remembered is not so much the pain and hurts of the past but the mutual pact to heal and overcome in the future. 

So, remembering is the forward-looking verb to the future tense of forgiveness. 

Let me end with trust. It is indispensable in a marriage. 

If you can't trust, you enter this marital journey at your own peril. It is like a backpacker going on a road trip by staring at his map all the time without even bothering to survey his surrounding once in a while to see where he is heading to. 

The map is the ideal we jealously hold about marriage and monogamy. It is always well delineated, well presented with colours and all. But it is not the actual reality, that is, the actual journey we trek upon.

And because the map does not reflect reality, and does not reveal all its meandering and even treacherous nuances, we often lose our way and fall by the wayside. Some of us even give up the journey. 

But trust in marriage is like the horizon we see before us. It is an experiential journey with your covenantal partner, and both of you take it with your eyes and hearts fully open, ready to meet the challenges ahead, that is, the insidious bends and sharp turns, and to eventually overcome together. 

More importantly, trust does not hide our human vulnerabilities or brokenness, but it joins (or melds) them with maturity, resilience and hope.

And because with trust, unlike the metaphor of a map, you see beyond the trials that a couple face to the endless horizon of hope, devotion and love. As such, your marriage is always resilient and transforming to overcome disappointments, broken expectations and even emotional betrayal. Cheerz.

Redemption road : Anthony Ler, inmate Z, and Allan Ong.

Mrs Dorcas Lee's son, whom the papers named as "Z", killed a woman in 2001, and he was only 14 then. 

The victim was Annie Leong and the case captured the imagination of the nation. 

The court records showed that Z was manipulated and instigated by Annie's estranged husband, Anthony Ler. 

Ler even went to the extent of threatening to hurt Z's family if he did not do his bidding. 

Ler's masterminded the murder so that he could retain the HDB flat and have custody of his daughter, who was only 4 then. 

Convicted of murder, Ler was hanged in 2002. 

Z has been paying the price for what he had done ever since and is currently being detained at The President's Pleasure ("TPP"). He should be in his early thirties today. 

Lesson? One. It is about the bond between Z and his mother. It is a story that has to be told (thanks to journalists KC Vijayan and Tan Shu Yan).

His mother never gave up on her son. 

When she first heard of the news, Mrs Lee (who has two other children) recalled: "I was stunned and shocked then. I lost my voice. He had caused the death and I was going to lose him."

She said the killing was committed a day after Mother's day. "Celebrating that day is not for me any more. Every Mother's day I feel terrible," she said. 

What shocked Mrs Lee was that her son was a gentle and kind person. She said that "he brought back a cat which followed him to the house, brought back a sick bird to nurse till well and then released it. When his hamster died, he cried a few days." 

Mrs Lee recalled that even in prison, Z never forgotten his friends' birthdays. Without fail, he would ask her to buy birthday cards and send them to his friends on his behalf. 

What touched Mrs Lee deeply was this incident as recounted by her:-

"One time I was surprised when someone suddenly knocked on my flat door with a birthday cake. It was for me and he had somehow arranged with an ex-inmate to come to my house and present it to me." 

But Z did not give up on her and life either. For the past 16 years, Mrs Lee has been encouraging him, urging him to strive for the best. 

It reports that "he topped his O-level class in the prison school and went to enrol for a degree course through self-study, seeking to major in English and Business Studies."

During this period, Mrs Lee had to "travel back and forth from prison to the university campus office to get his assignments and exams graded, returning with more materials."

All this time, Mrs Lee has been supporting Z, believing in him, and always assuring him that she is proud of what he has achieved behind bars. 

She said her faith has kept her going and is hoping for a Presidential pardon, which her (pro bono) lawyer, Peter Ong, had submitted to the President. 

The petition is still pending.

One of Z's inmate, Allan Ong, who received the pardon (for gang-related killing) and was released in 2012, told Z this:-

"(He) understands the feeling, sometimes waking up suddenly in the middle of sleep, wondering how long before going out. There is nothing to look forward to."

Allan himself had studied two-year specialist diploma course in precision engineering after he came out. 

He said: "Now I am married and have a stable job to support my family. I got the keys to my Build-to-Order flat in 2016 and attend regular worship at the New Creation Church. I deeply appreciate the chance given by then President Tony Tan and cherish the opportunity to start life afresh."

About Z, Allan said: "He is always trying his best to be the best, to show others he has changed. He is very hopeful that miracles will happen."

The above story literally writes itself. And in my book, miracles come in many disguised ways that I have at times taken them for granted. 

Life's miracles is in the simplest things, or acts. 

While most are looking for that big break, that grand reception, or that financial windfall, in a life that is brief, the miracle I learn from Z, his mother, my friend Peter Ong, and Allan is in a contrite heart, an undying love, a generous spirit and a trusted friendship. 

You don't need much to embrace life and the miracles that it offers to you when you are walking through the valley of your own trials. 

While I can never imagine the torment and pain that Z and his mother have to go through, that is, the freedom denied, the sleepless nights and the fear and uncertainty, I can nevertheless be deeply inspired by their love for each other, their fight to stay strong for each other, and their ceaseless cherishing of every little opportunity they have to move forward together. 

I always believe that miracles are transforming, and they transform you from deep within. Anything that doesn't is not a miracle, it is life's misfortune. 

Here's what I mean. 

If you should come to certain material wealth but along the way, you lose your integrity, your loved ones, that's a misfortune. If you should come to certain fame, but in the process ends up compromising your virtues, that's a misfortune. 

And if you should gain titles, knowledge and accolades, but you achieve them through means that erode your character, through dishonesty, that's a misfortune. 

But a miracle is different for it makes the enduring difference. It doesn't depend on circumstances, it is about inward transformation. 

You progress with miracles, but you regress with misfortune. And you grow as you take nothing for granted but you come to ruin when you take everything for granted. 

So, I am better off by the story of Z and his mother, and the many people who have made a difference in their lives. 

Like Z (and his mother), I am looking forward to a miracle in his life, a miracle of a future of hope, transformation, and most importantly, overcoming love. 

For the greatest story ever told is often not about who made it to the Forbes's list or Hollywood Walk of Fame, or who walked down the coveted red carpet, but it is about a life transformed, and how he or she has transformed others. 

That is what makes the natural supernatural for me. Cheerz.