A Ray of Hope….

A Ray of Hope....

Today I feel a brand new energy to continue serving the Parklands community. I am bubbling with hope having found out who has been elected to serve the Burwood-Pegasus ward in which Parklands is a part of. I am committed to do my part in serving the community of Parklands and to do my part in the rebuilding of Christchurch.  The mayor, new council and my local community board can be assured of my support and prayers as we work together to enhance the health and wellbeing of the communities in this city of Christchurch.

They cant do this alone and I hope that we can all lay aside our differences and ideas and work together to rebuild this city. United we stand, divided we fall. We saw that in the last council. Lianne is the right person to unite the council and the city with a new vision. Kia Kaha Christchurch! Be strong!

My top ten pleasures in life

My top ten pleasures in life

I am sitting here in my lounge, enjoying a cup of coffee, knowing that I have a day ahead of me not having to do anything. A rare moment for me. This has got me thinking about the pleasures of life. They say the best things in life are free. Is that true? This has led me to list what I find pleasurable in life. Here is my top ten.

1.Knowing I can go to sleep without having to wake up early
I am not talking about the actual sleeping but the feeling I get when I crash on my bed knowing that I don’t have any pressing issues to focus on the next day. I start drifting into semiconsciousness and that feeling is great. I think we take this drifting stage for granted. We need to enjoy that bit more!

2. Hanging out with my family
Next to God, my family is the most precious thing to me. I enjoy family time. Even though we are at the stage of life where the whole family don’t spend time together as much as we used to, it is still great going out with my wife or my kids. Its special having those movie nights and or carrying out family rituals.

3. The first sip of a good cup of coffee
I am sure that coffee is one of the most drunk beverage in the world. I have discovered the pleasure that comes from sipping my daily morning ritual of a warm cup of coffee. I started drinking coffee at a very young age when my dad made the whole family a cup of coffee every morning. Having the first sip is so invigorating.

4. Finding money I never realised I had
Have you experienced the joy of checking the pockets of your trousers before putting it to the wash and finding a $20 note? Or you were cleaning your drawers and find a $50 dollar voucher somebody gave you for your birthday and you forgot about it? All of a sudden your heart jumps for joy and you start planning how you will spend it. I love it!

5. Reminiscing the good old days with mates
I have heaps of friends on Facebook that I have shared my growing up years with. Often in conversations with them I am reminded of some of the crazy things we did in our younger days. Or I enjoy the times when I go back to Singapore or visit some friends from the past and we sit and have a good old chat about the past. The pleasures that I get from reminiscing is indescribable. Memories are truly a gift to hold on to.

6. People-gazing
I love sitting in the mall and observing people walking by in every direction possible. Some walk fast, others walk slow. Some walk alone, others in a group. Some are young and some are old. Some have a mischievous look; some have a serious look. Everyone has a reason to be at the mall and its great feeling working out why they are there.

7. The feeling that comes from helping others
When I help someone through a situation or an issue and see them being blessed through it, gives me deep satisfaction. It feels good when you see relief or gratitude on the face of people.

8. Knowing that I am up to date with all my tasks
I have just finished a task and I look at my “To Do” List and find there is nothing left to do. This is such a rare event that I just feel like jumping up and shouting (in a dignified manner). I know new tasks will arise but at this moment in time I can just sit and feel relaxed and happy.

9. Having a hilarious chat with others
Laughter is really the best medicine. Its great when you have a good old belly laugh with friends. These moments are almost sacred because It just raises your mood and leave you feeling positive.

10. Receiving unexpected words of encouragement
It’s so refreshing when I am having an ordinary day doing routine and mundane stuff and feeling sorry for myself, and I get a phone call from someone saying how they appreciate what I had done for them. Or I get a lovely postcard from a stranger who was blessed by the way I did the funeral for their relative. Or like the other day when I was at my office and an older lady who comes to one of our social activities calls me a young, handsome man. That’s enough to get me walking on cloud nine.

So what are your pleasures in life? 🙂

Are you dissatisfied with church life?

Are you dissatisfied with church life?

Over the years, I have met many people who have become dissatisfied with church life. As a pastor I know it is important to make church life meaningful to people who are part of my church community. However I have to admit I can’t keep up with the consumer culture that is being cultivated in us. Much of our society is steeped in consumerism. Advertising has promoted items that claim to give us satisfaction. We now have choices which leads us to compare products and services to find what can give us the greatest satisfaction. Consciously or unconsciously we have fallen into the game of keeping up with the Jones.

I remember watching the TV series “Little House on the Prairies” many years ago. The church in that series was part of the community. The pastor was very much part of family life and the local church shared the highs and lows of that community. If a person had a conflict with the pastor or the church, there was a need to work through it because there were no other churches to go to.

However today, we have churches everywhere. People no longer go to a church in the community but a church that meets their needs. If they didn’t like what one church offers, they move on to another. As a pastor I constantly feel the pressure of meeting the consumer needs of church members. What would Jesus do if he was pastoring a church in the 21st century? And I have a funny feeling that He would say, “If you cannot give up all that you are pursuing, you cannot be My disciple.”

There are 4 steps that will take Christ-followers from a path of discipleship to a path of dissatisfaction.

Step 1 – Start criticising about church life. Instead of looking at the positives or working at bringing positive changes, be critical of the faults of the pastor or the church. Compare your church with what appears to be perfection in other churches.

Step 2 – Start believing that you are entitled to better services from your church community. Instead of seeing the church community as your spiritual family where you share life together, start noticing that the church is not meeting your expectations.

Step 3 – Start spending less time with your church community. If there are so many faults in the church and it’s not meeting your expectations, then start staying away from church and don’t relate with the members of your spiritual family. Stop seeing Sunday mornings as the weekly gathering of your spiritual family. You will soon feel disconnected from church life

Step 4 – Look for something else that can satisfy you. This could be another church. And when you get tired of that, move on to another church. Don’t forget you could also replace church with spiritual TV programmes and books. Or you could take up fishing, golf or Facebook 🙂

The alternative to deal with dissatisfaction with church life is to be an agent of life within your local church community. Pray for your church and church leaders. Get to know members in your church. There are a number of “one another” verses in the Bible – love one another, practice hospitality with one another, serve one another, be kind to one another, forgive one another, etc. If we practice these ‘one another’ verses we can never be dissatisfied with church life.

Lets be agents of life in our churches.

Beware of friendly fire!

Beware of friendly fire!

“I am tired, hurt and discouraged.”

These were the words an emotionally wounded community leader said to me over coffee today. He had given his time and energy to support the community and be an advocate for others, but was unfairly attacked for not being assertive enough. As I listened to the pain of this community leader, I wondered “How many good people have been wounded by ‘friendly fire’?”

The term ‘friendly fire’ is used in military or law-enforcement actions to refer to ‘fire’ delivered by others on their own side of the conflict. With our community of Parklands facing many perplexing issues and dilemmas, I am seeing signs of heated disagreements and conflicts within our community resulting with a number of soldiers’ getting injured emotionally by friendly fire. These emotional scars that a number of our citizens have received from others are worse than the physical trauma and loss of property they got as a result of the earthquakes.

When I look at my own life, I realise that when I am threatened or anxious about something, I go on the defensive. Its a natural human response to threats, both real or perceived. When I feel threatened, my tendency is not flight but fight. The problem is that when I react to the threat, its easy to allow the truth to go out of the window.

I wonder if this is true for people going through a disaster. As their anxiety levels keep increasing because of the loss of control of our lives, we make emotion-driven assumptions regarding the intentions of others. Could this be the reason why we are seeing escalating accusations and the loss of trust within our community at the present moment?

I am learning (and its hard) not to react but to take a deep breath and re-examine the facts before responding. I am learning to not let what people tell me affect me. I am learning to stop take a deep breath and not react impulsively. Most important I am learning to watch my words and to focus on words that build up and not tear down.

I want to be a healing influence in my community. I don’t want to be the cause of hurting people who are on my side. Maybe when we all do our part, we wont end up shooting our own team mates.

Why Parklands community need to come together…..

Why Parklands community need to come together.....

Parklands is a community in need of recovery. The residents face a number of issues that are holding them back from moving forward – issues like insurance claims, sewage, land remediation, rebuilding of properties, road repairs, etc. There are multiple views and ideas within the community that has led to disagreements and even conflicts. I believe there is a need for all the various groups and organisations with vested interest in the community to come together and work out a master plan of what we want to see happen in Parklands.

No community development can take place unless the key stakeholders work together for the benefit of the community. This makes collaboration critical in community development. Collaboration helps stakeholders create a shared vision for the future, resolves disagreements and conflicts by clarifying and prioritising the issues faced by the community, and develops a community master plan that all stakeholders focus on.

Having a shared vision for the community is essential for community development. Collaboration amongst stakeholders to identify a common purpose and to work towards that purpose together distinguishes it from other forms of cooperation where there are common interests but lacks a collectively articulated vision.

Collaboration also helps clarify issues that are important in enhancing the health and wellbeing of the community. Often issues are either ill-defined or divisive. When there are divisions within the community, it is virtually impossible to move forward. However when all parties identify the key issues facing our community and work together collaboratively in dealing with these issues, the development of community life is enhanced. When we put the health of the community as our top priority, then we will be more prepared to listen to each other and negotiate the best way forward for the community.

Finally collaboration also helps us develop a plan of action that stake holders take ownership of. With a common plan of action, stakeholders make the best use of resources within the community. Some stake holders have more power or resources than others so by working together on a common plan, will benefit everyone.

Building collaborative communities can be inspiring. It brings the stakeholders together to find new and better ways to enhance the health and wellbeing of the community. For Parklands who are facing multiple issues, collaboration enables us to come together and tackle these issues together. We can then support each other to achieve our common goal. My dream is to see Parklands coming together to dream and to move from a new sense of possibilities.

It’s life but not as we know it

It's life but not as we know it

Life in Christchurch changed when the first earthquake hit on September 4th 2010. We entered a new phase of life, not one that we were used to. Countless people were affected by these earthquakes and many lives are still gripped with a variety of emotions that have changed their lives. I meet people who tell me that life for them has changed for ever.

For many of these people whose lives have changed, they are still trying to make sense of this new life they now face. People are still seeking for answers to make sense of their changed world, but have failed to get the answers they long to hear, answers that provides hope and comfort for the their future. Older adults wonder if they will ever see the bright future being promised.

The church has been very successful in putting on a friendly face and have served the broken communities in Christchurch with the best of their abilities. But is the church helping people make sense of life in Christchurch? I am not seeing people turning to the church for answers. In fact people seem to be moving away from the church for answers. For those who profess no belief in God, what has happened only reinforces their view that God does not exist or is not interested in helping humanity. For those who profess a faith in God, it raises more questions about their faith that has led to changes in their theology about God, and that is causing them to drift away from the church.

Various groups have tried to give spiritual meaning to the earthquakes. Religious people have made sense of this new life by saying its God’s judgment and we need to repent. Atheists see life as both random and meaningless and we just have to get over it and accept the new life. Spiritual people are wondering if God is an external being or a ‘force’ within us orchestrating life in the world we live in.

Christians hold on to the fact that God is supreme and that all things will work together for good for those who trust God. That’s the view I hold. For me, as I face a life that has changed, my theology has changed. I have more questions than answers to life in a broken world. But instead of weakening my faith, it has strengthened it. Even though I don’t have the answers, God is still an anchor that I need to help me make sense of life. Psalm 73: 25-26 says “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I can never understand God and His ways but I will still trust Him to know what is best for me. Maybe its too simplistic but the alternatives don’t appeal to me.

Consider the roses….

Consider the roses....

Do we take time to smell the roses or are we living in the fast lane? That was my reflection during the past weekend. My life is spent living and working in a city that is broken due to the series of earthquakes that started 3 years ago. This has led to my focusing on what we have lost rather than what we have.

‘Take time to smell the roses’ seem to be a clichĂ© in recent times but the more I reflect on this, the more it makes sense. It’s so easy to spend time yearning for things that I have lost but have I taken time to appreciate what I still have? There is still beauty around me if I take time to appreciate it. Focusing on what I have lost or trying to get what is not there can cause me to become angry, bitter, frustrated….the list can go on. If I am going to find the contentment the Bible talks about, then I need to stop running around to regain what I have lost or to achieve something that is not there. As I spend time appreciating the beauty of things and people around me, I begin to see the value and meaning of what I have – a person, an event, a behaviour, or creation itself – and I develop a heart of gratitude because of that.

The Bible reminds me that learning to be content in every situation would lead to God looking after me. That makes sense to me because if life is only about the pursuit of things, then taking a break from the fast track to let God take over becomes virtually impossible. But when I discover that life is more than worrying about things or striving to get what I want, then I discover a heavenly Father who loves me and knows what is best for me.

Lord, help me to find contentment with the ‘roses’ that is around me.

Finding Strength through Suffering

Finding Strength through Suffering

The past few years have been the most hardest period in my life. I would be lying if I did not tell you that I felt helpless, scared and worried about the various situations that was happening in my life. I felt very torn trying to support my family, my church and my community and trying to make sure I didn’t burn myself out. During this time I have wondered many times where was God in the midst of my challenges. Its really hard when the people who are important to you are going through distress. Its easy to start wondering what I have done wrong to bring me into this situation. Its so easy to identify suffering with sin.

However the book of Job reminds me that not all suffering is related to sin and may occur for reasons that I don’t understand. When I face trials or tragedies, it does not mean that God is punishing me for some evil that I have done. What I see in Job is that suffering can be an opportunity for my faith to grow. Even though Job could not find God in the midst of His suffering, there is an assurance that God knew exactly where Job was.

What can I learn from Job that is relevant for me as I deal with my challenges?

1. I must not let suffering make me negative or bitter. I will embrace the sufferings that come my way because it strengthens and grows the bond between God and I.

2. I can be honest with God on how I feel. I can cast all my grief, anger, doubts, bitterness, and disappointments to God and He wont be shocked.

3. I wont let people around me make me feel guilty. Job had friends gather around him and accused him of sin in his life. But they were totally wrong. No one knows what God is doing in my life. Only God knows. For me its to keep on seeking God in the midst of my suffering knowing that one day I will understand.

My prayer is that whatever suffering you are going through today, let it draw you closer to God and not let bitterness take root in your heart.

Discovering the power of transparency

Discovering the power of transparency

Whenever I read James 5:16, I wonder what it would look like in real life. We are told to confess our weaknesses to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Its true that we all have weaknesses and sin that we like to hide. What would happen if I was more prepared to admit my weaknesses rather than hide them? Could it bring healing because I no longer have to pretend to be someone that I am not and that others can pray and help me work through my imperfections? Could it lead to a new freedom to be who I am?

If Jesus came to give us a satisfying and meaningful life (John 10: 10), then I need to stop being ashamed of who I am and learn to be who I am. If there are imperfections in my life, then I need to own up to them, and with the help of loving people around us, to point them out to me and help me deal with them, rather than judge me for them.

However being honest about who I am and who I want to be isn’t always easy. It means I need to be part of a safe and loving community where we can be honest and transparent with each other. Its a place where people do not gossip or speak behind the backs of each other. They understand the true meaning of the word ‘confidential’.

Maybe one day I can find a community where I can share the challenges and frustrations of life without having to keep the image of being a pastor intact. And my goal is to keep working at bringing about such a community, not just to help me find true meaning and satisfaction of being who I am, but to help others discover who God has made them to be.

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