Thursday, December 30, 2010

two thousand and ten

blessings. But I can't list them all, or I'll be here for days! but here are a few standouts.

The february wedding with elmo, cookie monster and big bird cupcakes! couldn't bear to eat them; they were too cute.

the one where the whole family went to the UK and the sister and I ran off to Bath. Walking and walking all day in the lake district. Walking and walking somemore in London and Cambridge and Bath. Beautiful weather. Lovely scones and yoghurt and so.much.icecream!

there was the trip back to Oz. The meetups with friends. The crazy amount of hugging, giggling and catching up. The food and wine. And will you just look at that blue sky? I swear, that endless vista of blue and green just makes any trip to Oz worth it.

* I got baptized :)Officially a church member now. I've never been one before.

* The sister turned 21! :) with much cake, good food and family

* the first family christmas lunch in 15 years! The brother and sister in law did turkey, my cousin brought a log cake, I did the sides. We stuffed ourselves silly then proceeded to play board games the rest of the afternoon.

* I went back to being a student for 3.5 months and got to catch up with loads of people I hadn't seen for ages.

* FIVE of my friends got pregnant. Clearly the year of the rabbit will be a fertile one.

* I went to Malacca, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Manado in addition to Australia and the UK. The parents went to Eastern Europe, the brother went to Miami, London and Norway. The sister went to Germany, Budapest, Cote d'Azur and Provence and at one time, all of us were on different continents which was fun but very bad for our mobile phone bills.

* (*almost*) finished reading the bible! At revelations now and I'm so excited. Looking to the future that way is nerve wracking and sobering but gives us so much hope at the same time.

last but not least. I got a TOTORO for christmas! :) :) :) Isn't he cute? And fat and huggable? ~enormous smile~ fat cuddly stuffed toys and pets are the best.

This is such a happy, exclamation marked and smiley faced post that I feel obliged to say - that is not to say there weren't any challenges this year. There were. There were some terrible moments.

But overall, there were so many good things given to me too. I got to travel, dive, dance, read / study and most importantly, I got to spend time with family and friends I love. Plus my health got so much better this year. Energy levels are back up, stuff is working normally, I sleep normally... all this took some effort on my part, seeing the right doctors but mostly it was God being very gracious and merciful.

I'm just thankful for the last 365 days and God willing, next year will be another 365 days of learning to be wiser, more God fearing and (hopefully!) spending lots more time with family/friends.

To God be the glory.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's always the sermon

My cell group had a fun boxing day gathering and we played this musical pass the parcel game. You know the drill, pass the box around until the music stops and whoever is left holding the baby, gets to answer a question from a deck of question cards held by the game master.

Funnily enough, we kept drawing or getting asked this particular question:

Which part of church service do you enjoy the most?
a. music
b. fellowship
c. sermon; or
d. feeling of closeness with God.

I never got to answer it because (*smirk* ) I was never left holding the parcel - Mr Grey got it three times and his face when he got it the third time was just priceless.

But I mulled over the question the next day and how it related to my church and the reasons for attending church and concluded: it's always the sermon. It has to be the sermon.

I changed churches this year. December 2010 will mark the end of my first full year at church.

It has been a hard year. I struggled and fought so hard against admitting that it was hard and lonely because it would make it seem like my decision was wrong or that I was somehow a failure.

But it was.

It was hard because I left behind a church family I loved and still love so much. I left behind friends I was close to and who had struggled and prayed with me for 1.5 years as God called out to me. It was hard because I joined a church whose members had been attending since they were babes in arms and who were already close knit. Mainly, it was hard because I had such a rebellious attitude; the way I cope with change is to sulk and throw myself a pity party that lasts several months and get increasingly grumpy. Not a good recipe for acclimatizing to anything.

But the upside is that in the last year, church and the reasons for church became increasingly clear. So back to the question - what part of church do you enjoy most?


Not the music because musical tastes differ from worship leader to worship leader. While the worship at my church is lovely, I know it's not fully the reason I'm there. I'd show up even if they decided to switch to singing only hymns with an organ accompaniment or if they did the full on rock band.


I did and still do enjoy church fellowship. In fact this probably ranks second but this year... without my close friends, I felt agonizingly bereft. They're nice, the folks at my church, but it's not the same as having people you're already close to around you all the time. Friendship takes time and it's something I look forward to - that the friendly acquaintances of today may become the close confidantes of tomorrow.


I just read another blogpost by an old friend and in it, he talked about his grief and anger about the fact that his church’s solution to faltering attendance is to put in new programs. Camps! Activities! Welcome committees!

In the meantime, sermons are reduced to “10 ways to live your best christian life now!~” or “seize the moment! (Coz God says so!)” type pep talks.

It’s so typical that it’s sad. So no, in the end, its not just fellowship, friends, music or great seats/lights/auditoria.

Changing churches helped me realize that it's the teaching of God's word that is the key. Not for nothing did Christ explicitly say that "if you abide in me and my words abide in you" then and only then, "ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you". The rest, the music, fellowship and closeness with God are built on the right teaching. Closeness to God, music and fellowship must be built on knowing Him and His word.

So I guess the one lesson I took away this year (when the pity party ended!) was the reason for church. Church can’t just be fellowship, friends and great music. It has to be solid teaching that drives home the fear of God and the awesomeness of His love and grace. It has to help you remember that however many grand plans you make, your little day is rounded out by sleep and death.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Walking away

I finally deleted all my old emails from the Ex. All those old shadows and ghosts lurking in my sent folder and inbox - gone, exorcised.

I felt ill going through them and deleting - they brought back memories of the girl that was and how ill and desperate and unhappy she had been. Life didn't begin until he left. I should have kept just one email though. The one I sent several months after the break up. I could see stirrings of spirit in that one. A growing strength and confidence.

But no, better to banish them all into virtual hell. It is enough for me that God sees and remembers. I don't want to carry the weight of them with me anymore.


A Walk to Sope Creek

Sometimes when I've made the mistake of anger, which sometimes
breeds the mistake of cruelty, I walk

down the rocky slope above the ruined mill on Sope Creek
where sweet gum and hickory weave sunlight

into gauzy screens. And sometimes when I've made the mistake
of cruelty, which always breeds grief,

I remember how, years ago, my uncle led me, a boy,
into a thicket of pines and taught me to pray

beside a white stone, the way a man had taught him, a boy,
to pray behind a clapboard church.

Sometimes when I'm as mean as a stone, I weave
between trees above that crumbling mill

and stumble through those threaded screens of light,
the way anger must fall

through many stages of remorse.
Any rock, he allowed, can be an altar.

- David Bottoms


Friday, December 17, 2010

Life of the Mind and the Love of God

Extracts from the John Piper sermon which can be found here:

So I take loving God in the Great Commandment to mean most essentially treasuring God—valuing him, cherishing him, admiring him, desiring him. Therefore, loving him with all our mind means that our mind—our thinking—is not what does the loving, but what fuels the loving. Loving God with the mind means our mind does all it can to awaken and express our treasuring God above all things.

If we equate loving God with thinking rightly about God, we jeopardize the very reality of love. If you say that fire and fuel are the same, you may not order the wood. Then the fire goes out. The fire is not the wood. But for the sake of the fire, you exert yourself to provide the wood. And for the sake of love, you exert your mind and provide knowledge.

We cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to “love God with all your mind” means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all he is worth.

Favourite Quote: "when our thinking begins to focus on this event, something strange happens. The light of God’s glory that we meet at the cross is so strong and so bright as to make all self-exalting thinking look foolish."


I hope and pray that the day will come when my heart and mind are so engaged with loving and glorifying God that I may write the way Piper does. I may not be entirely in agreement with his verbosity or his style but there is no question that the love of God spills out of every sentence.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that their planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten all bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Catching up

An old friend rang up yesterday. He had some time to kill and rang me just to chat and catch up. It was fun; we laughed at each other, caught each other up on the latest news with other mutual friends and spent half an hour just horsing about.

Arriving at a certain destination in life to find that you've finally caught up with where your friends are, spiritually and mentally is such a blessing. When I first got to know him years ago, church and faith were mysteries to me. I wasn't involved in any church, wasn't even attending one regularly. I don't think I even knew what church was for. In the past, when he talked about his struggles with his faith and ministry, I sympathized but could not understand.

It has been like that for some of my old friends, especially the ones I knew from Campus Crusade. Back then, they were starting to get more and more involved in their church youth ministries, starting to serve more in church, delve into theology, ponder the meaning of life, death and resurrection. They were so far ahead, I couldn't see them at all.

I was this messed up and lost kid who wandered into their company. Sometimes I wonder why they let me in. It must have been so obvious I didn't know what I was doing. I see it in others so clearly now; they must have seen it in my eyes too.

Did God use them? I think He did. That verse about being the salt and light is really the key.

I hadn't the foggiest idea about God then and I was heavily involved in a very damaging relationship. But as an ex-crusader who wasn't really one, I often thought of people I knew in crusade and about the things they did in the name of their faith. The ones who went off to become missionaries. The ones who died to self and showed up at church week in and out, serving the church in so many capacities, small and large. The ones who wound up being there for each other in sickness and health and poverty and wealth. The ones who flatly said that they didn't believe in extra-marital sex or that porn was ok. The ones who were kind. The ones who said, over and over again, that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to salvation is to believe in His name.

These were the lighthouses in the sea and the fog. They shone - dimly sometimes, but always light giving - in an age where everyone seemed to have lost their collective moral compasses.

I watched them from my perch in the sidelines and even through the years I was physically and spiritually farthest from them, they never quite left my heart. For better or for worse, they had stamped my inner landscape with alien notions of personal holiness and the fear of God. But now, when I see them at infrequent gatherings or read their blogs - I finally get what they're struggling with, I finally understand their heart for God.

Christmas is drawing near and even as all the churches gear up for carolling, evangelistic outreach events and celebratory dinners, tempers are bound to fly, tired people are bound to wonder if all this is worth it. So this is for every christian I've ever known who may someday wonder: Did I make a difference? Was it worth it? Did I do enough? I can't see the fruit of my labour despite all that work - was it all for nothing?

As one who took a much longer time to catch up - and then not even on my own strength or volition - I just wanted to say that it was worth it and it wasn't all for nothing.

Yes, you did make a difference. Yes, it was worth it. No, you can't always see the fruit of your labour - but that doesn't mean there wasn't any - you just can't see it yet. God took your weak and fumbling gifts and used it for His glory even when you don't see it. Salvation belongs to the Lord, but He definitely uses your efforts in the process.

So press on. Don't be afraid to be different, to be as drastic as Josaiah. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and speak the truth in love. Press on so that one day we'll get to do the best kind of catch up session - the one that takes place in heaven.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

Thursday, December 2, 2010


The exams are OVER. I PASSED.

The adorable postcard was sent by the little sister who is even more adorable (but less green) than that froggie. She does, however, jump out to scream 'Hellooooo' at me just to drive me nuts.

*melts into puddle of relief*

I keep sneaking peeks at my exam results slip to make sure I read it correctly. Gives me this uplift of joy and relief every time :)