Aaron Lee and Namiko Chan Takahashi: Caring for Culture

Expanding the vision

I was looking for someone who could expand the congregation’s vision of how God is present and active in the creative arts to reveal His glory and power. I found such a person in Aaron Lee, an award-winning poet, bi-vocational pastor-lawyer, and a leader in the arts ministry. I first got to know him through Facebook. Later I got to know his wife, Namiko Chan– again on Facebook, and found out she was an award-winning portrait artist, and a Hula dance teacher. They are together the founders of Laniakea Culture Collective.

Made-in-the-Image-300x193

Aaron Lee and Kenny Chee
Aaron Lee and Kenny Chee

Sunday sermon: Made in the Image of the Master Artist

I invited them to take the Sunday morning message and the afternoon workshop. Aaron preached a message of how we are made in the image of the Master Artist and how we needed to submit to the ongoing work of the Master Artist as He shaped our broken lives into something glorious. The masterly and creative and precise use of words and videos were evident in his sermon. After all what do you expect from a wordsmith?

Kit Chan: I should have recognised her

I thought one of his guests looked like Kit Chan but she did not look like the glamourous Kit Chan seen on TV and the news. I could now see why the Jews had missed the Messiah – they had misconceptions of what the Messiah would be and do. The congregation was as clueless about her identity. And I lost a chance to get a picture with her.

Presenting a gift to the host (Photo: Lynne)
Presenting a gift to the host (Photo: Lynne)

 

The ho'okupu (token of honour)
The ho’okupu (token of honour)
Inside the wonderful gift: five stones (a reminder to "play")
Inside the wonderful gift: five stones (a reminder to “play”)

A creative gift

After lunch, Aaron and Namiko-Chan began their workshop with an interesting piece of Hawaiian culture. They presented a makana (gift, or ho’okupu “token of honour”) to the host, WRPF church, represented by my wife and I.  It looked like banana leaves and flowers tied with straws. It was actually lovingly made the night before with ti leaves and some flowers. Inside the leaves were five stones – a reminder to actively “play” throughout our lives.

Beng Choo and Deborah dancing
Beng Choo and Deborah dancing the prayer song (Photo: Aaron)
Namiko hulas to the prayer song. You could feel the presence of God as she moved with grace
Namiko hulas to the prayer song. You could feel the presence of God as she moved with grace (Photo: Aaron)

Enthralled by their stories

Then they shared their journey in the arts. The congregation was enthralled by their stories of how they were called and mentored into their ministry in the creative arts. Namiko’s story of how the Lord led her into learning the hula from a Hawaiian master, and how God used their 10,000 Profiles project to serve the orang asli were reminders of how God leads and uses us with our unique gift-sets.

During the workshop, Namiko got the whole congregation involved in expressing a prayer song in movements of our hands and arms. Then she gave her hula dance interpretation of the same song: it was anointed and captivating. I sensed the presence of the Lord conveyed through the dance.

Creative journalling

After a short break, Aaron gave us some tips on creative journaling. Doodling is one the interesting items on his list. There is hope for those who dislike writing. They can doodle! We ended with an open-ended exercise in journaling, a fitting closure to the workshop. For some, their journey has begun with this workshop, I hope.

After the meeting, people were still interacting with Aaron and Namiko.
After the meeting, people were still interacting with Aaron and Namiko.

Mind the gap

One takeaway for me was Aaron’s portrayal of the challenging gap of a lack of mutual acceptance and appreciation between the church and creative artists. Will creative out-of-the-box artists feel comfortable in a church that values respectability, conformity and acceptability? What would it take for a church to be more friendly for people of the creative arts to thrive in the church community?

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A Great Bible Reading Program for 2017

It has been some years since I went through large chunks of scriptures. In 2016 I was meditating on short passages from the Revised Common Lectionary for the public reading of Scriptures in worship services.

There were the usual readings from Psalms, the Old Testament, the Gospels, and other New Testament readings. Typically about four passages. I settle on the ones that caught my attention and stayed there to hear and see what the Lord had for me.

U versionThis new year I began a new habit: reading the whole Bible in a year. I downloaded a Bible app called the YouVersion. Then I chose a reading plan called Bible in one year 2017 in which Nicky Gumbel, of Alpha Course fame, makes comments on every passage.

bble plan

Instead of reading, I listened to the audio readings. I chose the NIVUK version which has audio support and a very good reader. Listening to the scriptures has been a refreshing change for me.

The challenge is that it is difficult to switch from reading to listening. The mind wanders too. However the more I listened the more I enjoyed this way of learning even though it was not my preferred input.

The Old Testament scriptures were heard by the people of God. There was a great tradition of orality. People did not own Bibles. The printing press had not been invented yet. Scriptures were listened to in the Temple and in the synagogues. For the first several centuries A.D. it was like that too. The Old and the New Testament were heard in house churches. That is why the promise in book of Revelation is for those who heard the apocalypse read to them. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev 1:3 ESV)

I enjoyed going through large segments of Genesis and Job recently. They give me the big picture narrative. The context was clearer. I still got lost in Job, with the endless cycle of arguments and debate, but what helped to supplement this was a YouTube book survey that gave me an overview of the whole book. Its titled Read the Scriptures series. Here is a sample: JOB.

I had to refer to this survey twice as Job is an often misunderstood book and I found this to be one of the best overview of Job I have ever come across. And its done succinctly and pictorially and expertly. The Bible Project, under which this Read the Scripture series belong to, covers all the books of the Bible and more.

What a great study program then it is to go through the whole Bible in a year and along the way do the relevant Bible overviews of the books you are currently reading! Its a great way of equipping, of feeding oneself, of knowing scriptures better.

Though I listen to large chunks each day I listen attentively for a word, verse, or idea that catches my attention and meditate on that through the day. Like a burning bush, I let it speak to me, and reveal God to me.

I am doing this with the church colleagues and the people I am mentoring and we have just begun a year long journey. Pray for us. Better still join us on an exciting and challenging journey.

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Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route free and easy

We toured Japan free and easy from 26 October to 7 November 2016. Travel free and easy is always cheaper and more fun. On average each person spent about SGD$2,800 (food/accomodation and transport – minus shopping)

Day 1: Nagoya

Day 2: Magome-Tsumago Trail

Day 3: Narai- Shiogiri

Day 4: Wasabi Farm & Apple Orchard

Day 5: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Day 6 & 7: Kurobe Gorge & Shinminato Fishery

Day 8: Shirakawago: World Heritage Site

Day 9: Kanazawa Castle & Kimono Photoshoot

Day 10: Of Samurai & Geishas

Day 11 & 12: Hida Takayama & Nagoya

To give geographical context.
To give geographical context.

 

 

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