Bloganuary Day 19

I became a member of a traditional denomination in 1989. Sometime in the early 90s, we had Sunday evening services, held in the then “new” wing, about 13 years old that time. These would finish around 9pm or later, depending on the preacher. A friend and I were regulars.

One Sunday, after the evening service had finished, my friend was walking down the stairs towards the main road, I following behind, when she suddenly exclaimed: “Something touched my leg!” We stopped and instinctively looked to the right where there was a cluster of green plants, about waist high. The bushes were moving in a deliberate manner as if something was pushing past, except that “something” couldn’t be seen.

I wondered about that intrusion:

  • What was that?
  • As Christians, we know there’s a boundary between the seen and unseen world, which is not to be crossed. But something crossed it anyway.
  • Third, why was my friend vulnerable to it?

Today’s question brought back a minor incident which I thought I had forgotten. I guess it’s still filed somewhere in the back of my mind, in the “Mystery” drawer, where I had put it 30 years ago.

Bloganuary Day 18

Not a book. It’s a Zoom call, a teaching on the “Structures of Time”. The title intrigues me. And there are no other details.

Will it zero in on the phenomenon that some people experience of waking up at 3am every night, heart pounding? Or the interesting coincidence others experience of always looking at their watch just when 2.22 strikes, or 3.33….

Is the talk about a new tool to get people unstuck from their past? Some people’s past haunts them, a remnant PTSD perhaps. We have existing tools to help, maybe this is a fresh perspective.

Anyway, whatever it is, the title is enough for me to calendar this and join the Zoom tomorrow at 7.45pm my time.

Bloganuary Day 17

As a teen, my constant day-dream as I rode the bus to or from school was: “What would it be like, to be at the right place, at the right time, saying the right thing and to the right people?” What I was wishing for was synchronicity.

At 31, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ. Subsequently, He sent the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 (NIV)]:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

The Spirit prompts us to use our gifts “for the common good”. We are to give messages inspired by Him. Words, spoken or written, can be like a surgeon’s knife; used skillfully, it can cut out a tumor; used carelessly, it creates great damage. So I learned to use my words carefully, and in the right manner.

God sets it up so that I’m with people who desire to be set free. Often times, I can help through my prayers and intercession; sometimes, I can’t. There’s something blocking and both my client and I can’t discern it. But when one uses words carefully, there’s no damage done. She hasn’t improved, but she isn’t damaged further either. It leaves the door open for another time, another session, using a different tool, to get freedom.

One superpower that I wished for, and was given, was the “message of wisdom” — words spoken at the right time, in the right place, and the right manner, to the right person.

Wishes can come true.

Bloganuary Day 16

Get healing for your issues, and don’t give up until you find the right therapist.

You know what your issues are: that loss of love, that childhood trauma, that sense of abandonment, that low self-worth — the list of hurts and wounds that the human race encounters is a long one.

And don’t give up.

Don’t give up just because the first therapist you saw was insensitive and you didn’t feel heard; don’t give up because the subsequent counsellor was judgmental; don’t give up because the next inner healing practitioner was jealous when God came in a wondrous way to minister to you and you became more whole (Yes, that happened).

There’s one out there for you, keep searching until you find.

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Bloganuary Day 15

Daily reflection has proved to be very beneficial. Over time, I have formed the habit of going over in my mind the day’s events. And I allow the feelings to bubble up.

  • If it’s joy, I re-enter the event in my imagination, and relive it again. I am reinforcing and strengthening my joy.
  • If it’s something negative like hurt or irritation, I would reflect on the cause. Is it my own unfulfilled expectations? Is it the other person’s lack of consideration? How can I do better next time?

For people who like a more deliberate structure and the authority of 400 years of tradition initiated by St Ignatius of Loyola, these five steps are very helpful.

The Pocket Examen is from Loyola University, Maryland

These daily reflections gets me unstuck from today and moves me on to tomorrow.

An unexamined life is not worth living


Bloganuary Day 14

As a child, I was brought up to instantly obey my elders, to never question them (at least outwardly) and to take whatever they dish out. This mentality set me up for victimization and it took me years to change.

But, change I must. I found I was attracting predators because I was tolerating bad behaviour. There’s nothing more attractive to a predator than someone who has been continually brainwashed to think that the interests of others always took precedence over hers.

So I got to work on establishing boundaries. The book on Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend was pivotal in my life; so was some coaching on confrontation by my counsellor friend, David Blakely. I would be tested on my boundaries, time and again, by young and old.

One day I was sitting across from a much older lady who had invited me for lunch. We chatted, but I noticed that whenever I glanced away from her to reflect on what is said and to formulate my response, she would immediately tap her hand on mine. After three or four times, my annoyance was rising. She was giving me no personal respite. Whether she was conscious of it or not, she was tugging at me emotionally like a puppet on a string. And no one likes to be controlled.

I took a deep breath and countering cultural expectations — we have been taught to never be “rude” to hosts, even more so, to an older person — I said, “Would you stop touching me, please?”

This was the litmus test for a friendship.

In my culture, if we rebuke someone, there’s a high probability the other person would take it as a put-down and find ways to take revenge, whether passively avoiding you or aggressively badmouthing you. The cultural “unforgivable sin” is to cause someone to “lose face” (i.e. be embarrassed), especially in front of others. So inappropriate behavior is rarely confronted.

That day, my friend was shocked and taken aback; I could see the emotions rolling across her face. Subsequently, she caught herself trying to tap my hand, and stopped.

To my relief, she didn’t take offence. We still have a good connection.

But I took a 50-50 risk. It could have gone either way.

Bloganuary Day 13

A good breakfast is necessary. Now, I am fixing bagels — bagels toasted in the oven, oozing with hot cut sausage, pan-fried tomato, fresh veggies and if I’m feeling really hungry, a sunny-side-up topped with melted cheese. Biting into the crunch of bagels mingled with spicy chorizos and the mildness of lettuce and tomato — it’s a symphony of goodness. I pair my bagel with chamomile, honey and vanilla tea and enjoy its sweet and mellow flavor.

Then, it’s time to focus on the music: My singers for today are Don Moen and Lenny LeBlanc. The big band leader-organiser vs the sweet balladist play off each other. They are in their winter years but have aged like good wine, as they say. Men who’ve made difficult choices but good ones have a gentle, mellow wisdom about them — although they are not devoid of some sharp edges. They call themselves the “two grumpy old men”, and with reason. Some of the grumpiness slipped out when spontaneous Lenny spotted Don’s carefully prepared song list and said, “What’s this? You don’t need this.” And sent it sailing to the floor! Long-suffering Don is taken aback, but recovers, and all goes smoothly.

Next, to check the Bloganuary prompt. If I’m inspired, I write straight away. If not, I may skip writing. Today is a good day. I’m inspired.

Then, to listen to cutting-edge Christian teacher Arthur Burk. Through using his principles, I’ve helped many get free of spiritual hindrances — not all, though. Some people are stuck in such murky stuff I can’t get them out. At least not yet. The world, as the hymn says, has “many dangers, toils and snares” and some desperately desire to be freed from the traps.

After hearing Arthur, I check through what he says. As usual, no issues with his interpretation. And next, I make a mental note to see if I can help one of my struggling clients with this new tool.

Then I meditate on passages in the Bible or pray quietly. These practices ground me. When I ground myself in Eternity, the irritations, annoyances and disappointments of the day slide off. There’s nothing like being intimately connected with the life-giving flow of the One “who was, and is, and is to come.” This makes my day perfect.

Bloganuary Day 12

I use the thumbs-up emoji a lot. Why? Because I want to encourage people.

If someone is doing something that could be hard, I would like to encourage them along. Like, climbing a mountain:

Or, my friend wishes to share her joy:

Or, she wishes to share beauty:

Or, wisdom:

Encouragement gives people strength and confidence to go on. It makes them feel they’ve someone on their side. It’s such a simple symbol, but it can convey much to someone who receives it.

All photographs courtesy of Abby Chua.

Bloganuary Day 11

There’s a difference between being bold and being offensive. In my Krazy Karismatic days in the late 80s, I was church-hopping. We were a pretty reticent crowd and were constantly encouraged by our preachers to be as “bold as a lion”. After one such meeting I met with a small group where a Krazy Karismatic said she used to be shy, timid and reticent, but now “I AM BOLD AS A LION”! she screamed into my ear. Today, I have ringing in my ears… I wonder if she was one of the reasons.

Being bold means being willing to stand up for your beliefs when the situation calls for it — even if it risks losing a lot of “Likes”. When the situation doesn’t call for it, it’s downright offensive.

As a teen, I decided to try basketball; to my chagrin, the ball kept slipping from my hands… Sigh. Anyway, there were two girl leaders there, one whom the boys called the Sherman Tank because she was taller, bigger and fitter than some of them. After a game, they cornered me in the basketball court and forced me to hear about Jesus. No one likes to be force-fed. When I told them I wasn’t interested, one of them — I think it was the Sherman Tank — told me I was going to Hell. As I walked away from them feeling harassed, intimidated and offended, my one thought was, “I don’t think God is like that.”

And I was right. He’s a lot bigger than that, and the world that He showed me after my encounter with Him was way beyond anything I had ever imagined. But I digress…

After a few months of church-hopping, I returned to my conservative Methodist church. I joined the Adult Fellowship, a group of about 50 people. We had a couple of good worship leaders and as they sang and played, I felt really excited and was drawn to sing and lead. Now I had not sung since my teens, when I was Alto in the Combined Schools Choir. Nevertheless, the situation called for me to be “bold as a lion” although in truth I was shy as a mouse. So I valiantly volunteered to lead worship, while the two leaders looked at me dubiously and tried to train me.

After some practice, I took the mike to lead the people… and found I could hardly sing. Something was hindering my voice. But even as I struggled in my singing, the presence of God slowly filled the room… one by one, people were being overcome by His power and my leader, seeing what was happening, invited everyone to the front for prayer.

It took me some time to overcome my singing issue — with training, practice and prayer, I managed to sing adequately.

That experience however, taught me that being “bold as a lion” pays off. Just do your best with what you have, and He will do the rest.