It had only been about a year or two ago that I decided that for the rest of my earthly pilgrim life, I shall endeavour to keep the Sabbath work-free, purchase-free, and set it aside as a proper day of fellowship, prayer, reflection and worship… day-full conversations with God. This must continue upon my return to Singapore.
God has been very gracious, I think. Things through the week overspill (I use ‘things’ as a general term for ponderings, work, experiences, feelings, you know.. things we call ‘things’), but there must be a whole day where I must close the lid on the bottle, screw it tight, and, not put it away, but put it in God’s hands for safekeeping, and then focus on conversation with Him and about Him. A child and her Heavenly Father, enjoying time together. I do revel in special moments as these through the week, but its different, to set aside time for these moments for an entire day. Taking the Sabbath out for rest reminds me that I am first Christian, then worker. Because God has set aside a day of rest for those whom He call His children, so also, I will obey and rest in faith on a Sabbath.
You know, at this point on this day, I’m imagining God putting the bottle behind His back, and simply gesturing for me to sit still, be still (always ever a challenge for a jumpy soul), look Him full in His wonderful face, clasp His hands and tell Him everything. What I love about Him, all the questions I have about Him, about life, about love… I tell Him things in the bottle, I tell Him what’s in my heart, in my mind and in my soul. There is no One else who would have such time, patience, and above all, Love, who’ll be there to listen to me. There’s no One, like my Abba Father.
In faith and by His humbling grace, I then attempt to say, “Take these away, and give me Jesus“.
and God is always Faithful, always very Good.
He had given me Jesus, a long, long while back.
And He continues to give me Jesus, each and every day, each time I ask.
He meets me at the Cross, when I lay my burdens at His feet.
That’s how great our God is.
This week, I had found myself particularly encouraged by the personal life and testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada. I had first chanced upon her song which came up on a browser, “Alone, yet not Alone”. The song had moved me very deeply. I had looked out my little window then, and the Sun with its glorious rays was also shining through that very morning.
It was a powerful moment, memorable to me. I was very touched at her expression, of the deep, deep love of a human being, for our Great God. Indeed, He created us to worship Him, and glorify Him, and it is in our lives of worship that we meet God, and find the meaning of Life.
Slowly, I began reading round Joni’s life, and found her writings to be of great encouragement to me. I think to the times God has been teaching me about disability and the Kingdom: First, a year ago now, bringing to mind the story of Temple Grandin (p.s. in this new theme a faintly underlined word carries a link to another site 🙂 ), which encouraged me to explore the Education ministry’s provisions for children with Special Needs (and following this, God’s very gracious providence of a meaningful summer internship home), and then, just late last year, the story of Ian and Larissa, to see Christ exalted in a circumstance as theirs, and now, to be greatly inspired by the God-given love between Joni and Ken Tada. Read on a little here. (There follows a Part 2 and 3 too, as well as this excellent half-hour video). What a glimpse of sacrificial love, what a glimpse of human lives lived so entirely and so, physically and so literally and so evidently… in Christ alone. On Jesus alone as the One who must carry them through, in Jesus alone as the sweetest Gift to the craving soul.
I have since embarked on a daily journey with Joni on “Finding God in Hidden Places” , and was inspired just in the week, to begin to think about how I would prepare myself for life upon return to Singapore.
I had shared this with a few people of late – that it had begun to be increasingly impressed/dawn upon me, that these next few months were indeed my final few months here, in a place which has become so very dear to me. Durham, County Durham, Northeast England. Where Rowan Atkinson “Mr Bean” was born… but importantly, where God had held my hand and taught me so many life lessons (“so many” as a term not a worthy contender of what I am trying to express here). Maybe I should bold and italicize “so many”. Okay.
Where I had the opportunity to appreciate God’s beautiful expanse in Creation. To marvel at the variety of human beings He’s created. To follow Jesus in His footsteps. In Loving, in missions, in work, in complete surrender. To learn what it really means to die to self, and really find, really understand, really experience… really Live, gaining Christ. His sweet and precious fellowship.
Thankfully, these lessons are journalled. Physically, in my diaries and journal writings, and on a deeper, more meaningful note, engraved in my heart and soul. I think God has indeed been very gracious to stir me to realize this in advance, and to prepare myself (no actually, be open to Him preparing me), lest I end up having lots of withdrawal symptoms when I do return to Singapore for good. So on a good Thursday this week, I resolved.
I resolved to come up with a set of habits of which I must be disciplined in to maintain in love for my King. Like any true relationship or friendship which requires effort, so also, our relationship with God must be cultivated, nourished, cherished. On our duty as His brides, His bethrothed, such would consist of finding God in His word and by His Spirit, and in this world, every day, simply lifting one’s heart in true song and praise and worship. Remember? I once dwelt upon how often I actually say “I Love You” to God. I realized that I didn’t then – I simply assumed God knew it if I was talking/praying/singing to/living for Him, but a year ago I decided to be more lovingly intentional in saying those words.
“I Love You, God” .
And His Spirit fills me, every time I say it. I encourage you to say it this very moment.
You’ll understand what I mean 🙂
It’s even more amazing when you park yourself in the middle of a forest and amidst the tree the River and the vast greenery and animal life around you, and you say these words. You have my word on this.
And so yes! I have decided to prepare a list of things I do yearn to do, by His grace, as I prepare for my eventual return home to Singapore. To a life commencing in NIE embarking on a journey to be trained as a teacher, to living on the grounds of NTU (I hear there are forests there!), to being with the Yong family in proximity, and to being, well, Theo in Singapore again.
Not the Theo that would only often come back for a month/s and then disappear, but the Theo who would be staying, and loving, Singapore. Loving God in Singapore.
I have decided on my first few resolutions!
1. To continue my love affair with the skies.
Both the night sky, and the morning sky. Beautiful as the morning skies especially, so too are the starry night skies here in Durham, so also, God has been gracious to weave great beauty in the Singapore skies. I recall that morning when I observed, in my room up in Toh Yi Drive, the evolution of the dawning wisps of clouds.
Aiyaiyai. Absolutely beautiful.
Once a day, I shall simply have to look up, and in that moment I shall meet God, and remember all the beautiful skies He had showed me, in my time here in Durham. Each time I wonder at the skies, I remember. I remember moments dear to me, dear to God, dear to us.
Every day, shall we not look up and marvel at His beauty in Creation, and think:
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
1 Chronicles 29: 11-12
The skies, in their unrivalled beauty and expanse, will remind me of who I am in Christ. They will remind me of my Jehovah Jireh, the Sovereign One in Loving Control.
I foresee this to be a very useful aid, especially when I do begin teaching.
“Eh, where did Miss Yong go?”
“Miss Yong went outside to the school field. There, she standing in the middle. Don’t know what she’s doing. I think maybe crazy already.“
Nevermind. Miss Yong, when she does, will be staring up at the skies, and thinking about her God. & most confidently, Miss Yong will come back into the classroom, or the staffroom, knowing how to love you, love the people around her, get to her work, better than before.
& ah, drizzle rain or sunny starshine, she won’t be carrying an umbrella!! Hahaha.
This is because Miss Yong has resolved not to be afraid of tans, for they are wonderfully inevitable, and one thing Miss Yong learnt from her time in England: People don’t carry umbrellas in drizzles. And if its thunderheavy rain, the sirens will be out so don’t worry, Miss Yong knows what is safety. Miss Yong’s voice will be louder than the pattering rain.
2. Remember I am to be a listening tentmaker.
A conversation of recent had also got me thinking about how to live as a Christian in the secular workplace. Sure, there are probably millions of good Christian articles talking about how to live for Christ and witness in the workplace, witness in the staffroom, witness in the classroom. I have found one particularly encouraging article: “Tentmakers in Minneapolis” by John Piper. As a tentmaker, as was Paul, Priscilla, Aquila, etc…
So Miss Yong, will also endeavour to be a tentmaker.
In work, in attitude, in speech, in obedience, in diligence, in excellence,
Miss Yong must be a tentmaker, for the glory of God.
But first and foremost importantly, Miss Yong must be a listener.
Growing up as a Christian, I have begun to and continue to understand, that much as I desire to speak God’s words all day long and have conversations about what people think of the God I/we love… there is a time and a place for everything. There is no better time, no heightened urgency, for the friends and family we love to come to accept Jesus as rightful King, Lord and Saviour. God has been lovingly patient. But as much as I want to speak and share about Jesus all the time, I must first learn to listen. I cannot be shuffling Jesus’ truths – Loving as they are, and gently warning as they are – down people’s throats, because people would not listen. I need to understand people who are living their lives by their worldviews, and then lovingly challenge them in their worldview with my Christian own. I cannot speak without first listening, and I must live my life – my actions, thoughts, deeds must be congruent with the faith I proclaim. I think, and I hear and understand from friends, that people have generally been discouraged by Christianity because the people who profess to be Christian don’t live lives as Christians. Like Gandhi once famously quipped in a pithy distillation of thoughts: “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity”.
Having been away from Singapore for the past 4 years meant that I was (relatively) spared the fast-paced life and rat-race-mentality held by most, if not all (it is inescapable to an extent). Buying house, climbing up the promotion ladder, investments, work-life inbalances….
So different from life here in Durham, where life flows comparably leisurely, and most people seem generally content with their lot – certainly, this mindset is bolstered by pretty brick houses, marvellous riverside views, quiet cottages and old teahouses, lots of very affordable tea and cake, and places to dwell…
Different mindsets one encounters when back in Singapore. Different might be an understatement – more thoughts to dwell in time to come!
I must therefore genuinely love people, genuinely seek to understand their worldview on how life may be (fruitfully) lived in Singapore… and meet them in their thoughts. Certainly not easy in a society where everybody wants to be heard more than to listen, but listen I must, and listen and understand is what I endeavour to do.
and so, Miss Yong shall be a listening Tentmaker in Singapore.
3. To pray incredibly often, to pray more often than I speak.
Point 3, which really threads itself through Point 1 and 2, is that Miss Yong must never underestimate the might and power of Prayer to accomplish things.
I have been learning so much (again, not a very worthy contender of words, therefore bolded and italicized it shall be) about the incredible power of prayer to do things, and its beauty in humbling oneself entirely before God… that really, there isn’t going to be much to life nor doing life without praying. If one has read my previous posts, there is so much to learn about prayer isn’t there. God has been very gracious to send such resources that we might all be persuaded, warned, chided. Oh, to be one of prayer.
“Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings.
The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.
We pray not to inform God or instruct Him but to beseech Him closely, to be made intimate with Him, by continuance in supplication; to be humbled; to be reminded of our sins.
Prayer should be the means by which I, at all times, receive all that I need, and, for this reason, be my daily refuge, my daily consolation, my daily joy, my source of rich and inexhaustible joy in life.”
– Saint John Chrysostom
Oh, to yearn dearly to speak with God more often! I remember a dear mentor once telling me that the first thing she does every morning, is to run to Jesus’ feet. Indeed, people say first thing in the morning is to run to Scripture reading (already a struggle), but the battle must be conquered of the flesh – the devil trembles at the sight of a saint on his/her knees.
To run to Jesus’ feet first thing every day. All the day. How important, how important.
Spurgeon’s morning devotion this very morning was a duly reminder in itself:
“And David enquired of the Lord.”—2 Samuel 5:23.
When David made this enquiry he had just fought the Philistines, and gained a signal victory. The Philistines came up in great hosts, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without enquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, “I shall be victorious again; I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Wherefore should I tarry to seek at the Lord’s hands?” Not so, David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He enquired, “Shall I go up against them?” He waited until God’s sign was given. Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if thou wouldst know the path of duty, take God for thy compass; if thou wouldst steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to His sovereign will to choose and to command. The Puritan said, “As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers;” this is a great truth. Said another old divine, “He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand;” and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence tarries, tarry till providence comes. He who goes before providence, will be very glad to run back again. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go,” is God’s promise to His people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to Him, and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Leave not thy chamber this morning without enquiring of the Lord.
Oh, to daily enquire of the LORD! That is what I must, and the practice begins now.
The afternoon is here, and a ladies’ tea in church beckons; I must get ready. I think I have written a fair bit for a Sunday morning after rested thought, and so I shall leave one with the above first 😀 I do hope one is encouraged, that one’s heart is strengthened to live more bravely, more mightily, more heartily for Him who is Worthy. The week trundles on – it is mission week (talks are recorded online and may be accessed here), and may we, as we commit the week ahead and all that it entails in the Lord’s hands, to remember these words of Hudson Taylor:
“God’s work, done in God’s way, will not lack God’s provision”.
Thoughts on life in Singapore to be followed up soon! Until then, however, life in Durham must be duly cherished. This is a gift from God, a very precious gift from God.