Where Are You? Gen 3:9

Well, Lord, I was on the mountaintop enjoying the fresh air and views with You. Freed from pastoral work in church, and able to do only what I love and want to do, I felt a new lease of life and vision. My physical health improved and the doctor took me off blood pressure pills. I enjoyed the slower pace of life, the simple joys of home-bound living during the two years of the covid pandemic, and enjoyed preaching in my home church and in other churches as well as in teaching missions. I received formation as a spiritual director with a wonderful community of brothers and sisters, many of whom became friends and fellow ministers. I was blessed by an ecumenical community of spiritual directors and religious who taught, formed and loved us. I tasted the privilege and joy of accompanying others in their journey of growth. Thank You, Lord, for a sweet retirement and transition in new avenues of ministry.

Lord, this year I found myself in the valley of distress and uncertainty when my wife was attacked by bacteria on her spine which caused unbearable pain for her, and anguish for me as I felt powerless to relieve that pain. Thankfully, even in the valleys of life, You are actively present. You gave me this verse in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” You spoke and I was strengthened (Daniel 10:19).

My wife was in the ward and the community hospital for a total of 51 days. You were with her in her pain and her deliverance from it. She went through the spinal operation You granted us a godly surgeon, Dr Reuben Soh, and his skillful hands stabilized her spine and removed the cause of her pain. She had antibiotics infusion for weeks on end. You gave the infection specialist Dr Jean Sim the wisdom to treat my wife. It was a medical emergency and she was in grave danger, but You, O Lord, was with her, and today she is recovering well.  You moved many pastors, friends and my church family to pray and You heard and answered them: today she is well and no longer in pain. Lord, You are so good.

Lord, I thank you that now I am out of the valley and in the plains. My wife Jenny is at home getting stronger with her twice-a-week physiotherapy sessions at St Luke’s Hospital and she continues with an oral antibiotics course. I am less tired and at peace. I am also beginning to return to the routines and joys that were a part of my usual schedule.  I continue to preach and teach and this gives me joy. I continue to give spiritual direction to a few persons who want You to direct their lives. I have begun to edit and refine the first draft of an e-book that I have written. I was able to continue playing pickleball twice a week whenever possible. Beginning in May, I will be putting on my backpack and hiking shoes and preparing pilgrims for their camino in October 2024. Lord, You also answered one of my longstanding prayers as I did not know what course to use my Skills Future Credit on. Soon I will attend a course on Artificial Intelligence, and it will be conducted near my home too. Thank you for sending Susan who talked about and recommended the course and helped me to sign up.

Lord, I know there are some limits to ministry and meetings when they conflict with physiotherapy and medical appointments. These limits, I believe, are necessary and will only be temporary.  I believe Isaiah 43:2 and You will strengthen my wife and make her as active and healthy as before.

Lord, does this answer Your question?

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My Father Knows

I have have been using my Galaxy Note 9 smartphone for over five years. I bought it at a special price after a newer model had been released for some months. I loved getting these slightly older models at good value. This was back then when I was still pastoring. I found the S Pen such a necessary feature to write quick notes on photos, screenshots, and on blank sheets and file them for reference. Very convenient, very accessible, and easy to use, store and retrieve the notes. After I retired, I used it less, but when I needed it, it was still conveniently tucked into the bottom corner of the phone. 

However, in the last year or so, the Apps started giving me problems, and only this week, I found out that it was probably because Samsung had stopped updating Android software on my Note 9. It stopped a few years ago and this probably affected some apps. In addition, I noticed that the phone battery has weakened. This is more easily resolved with a new battery, but the software fix would be impossible for me to implement. I was resigned to living with these limits.

However, my Father in heaven, who sustains the whole universe, and is the Infinite Multitasker, knew what was happening to my phone, and what was puzzling me at that time. 

My Father’s surprise

Ping, my daughter in law, sent me a message and said she had received a gift Pixel 7a smartphone from her Japanese friend. Her friend had won the prize in a company function, and didn’t need it. Ping and all others in the family uses iPhones. I am the only Android phone user. So when she generously asked if I wanted it, I quickly checked out the model on the internet, and replied with a happy YES! of course.

Pixel phones intrigued me many years back. Their first few models became popular for being bloat-free, for their pricing, system apps, camera software, and their regular software updates and upgrades. I became quite excited to explore this new tool, even though I will have to sacrifice my S Pen, and a few better specs, that I can live without. 

The last few days since Presidential Election Friday, I have been transferring data, familiarizing myself with the new phone, calling out “Hey Google” and asking all kinds of very important questions like, “Who won the match between Arsenal and Man United?” this morning. In the last hour I was trying out the editing tool in the camera. And there is so much more I need to tap on. It’s like the finished work of Christ – there is so much more that we can appropriate and experience if we want to, and are willing to keep pressing in. 

When I reflected on what happened, my heart overflowed with thanksgiving. My Papa gives attention to my minute needs and sometimes even before I pray for something, he surprises me out of the blue, and a new vista of exploration, learning and capabilities opens up.

Praise the Lord. Let all that has breath, “Praise the Lord!”.

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A Visit To Plastify.sg

Paul Lee Wen Por, my nephew, an actor with Fly Entertainment, has been working at Plastify.sg, an environmental organization in Singapore that gives plastic waste a new life. He arranged for several of us uncles and aunties and his family to visit his workspace. The church, World Revival Prayer Fellowship, is about ten minutes away, so we decided to visit on a Sunday, after the morning church service. It turned out to be an interesting visit. 

Located on the second floor of the Yu Li industrial building, we entered into a space that looked like a sizeable workshop with machines, work-tables, stools, and storage shelves. Yew Jin, the technical director was there doing his thing and we were introduced to him. Then, Paul did a presentation to us, showing us the space and explaining the step by step process of converting plastic waste into pretty and useful new products, like carabiners, coasters, and wall décor.

We had an opportunity to see the bits of plastic waste melted and pressed into a mold and made into beautiful recycled coasters (see above). These folks are very committed to recycling and cutting wastage. Even the machine that melts the waste was designed and made from odd metals and what not. The machines look like some alien lifeform with long metal limbs and spouts that excretes melted plastic lava that enters a mold and like magic…. trash becomes treasure!

I reflected on this and thought of how this is so like my life. I was useless, worthless, ugly, purposeless, rubbish. Jesus came into my life and through a process of transformation made my life meaningful, valuable, useful, relevant, and admirable. This was what the gospel did to me: it cut me to shreds with conviction of my wrongdoing; melted my resistance with the love of Jesus; and molded my life by his Spirit. 

I was glad I went for that visit. It was a lesson for me of the redeeming and transforming power of God’s love. God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house to give him a spiritual message of warning that he was to deliver to the idolatrous people of Judah(Jeremiah 18). The message I received is one of hope and love. I hope you receive a similar message: God never gives up on you and can recycle the worst of you into the one of his millions of unique masterpieces. Trash into treasure!

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Having A Blessed Covid Christmas

On Wednesday, my wife had a bad sore throat and cough. She had been accompanying her brother in and out of the National University Hospital because of an eye problem. She probably caught it from these frequent hospital visits. She tested herself and found that she was covid-positive. The home quarantine began that very Wednesday evening.

I was worried because I had to preach an evangelistic message in my home church on Christmas Day during the morning worship service. I quickly informed Ps Alvin Lim, the pastor of the English congregation. The decision was that he would be on standby while I continued to prepare to preach. 

While I was adding the final touches to the sermon, I had also taken over my wife’s role of accompanying her brother to the eye clinic for surgery on Friday, and taking care of her needs. However, I was beginning to feel the beginnings of sore throat. Oh Lord, don’t tell me? On Saturday morning before I brought my wife’s brother out for a post-surgery appointment, as usual I did a test, and found that I too had been infected with covid. Thankfully, my son Joshua was willing to hurry out and he brought my wife’s brother to the hospital and back to his home. 

My sermon was sent to Ps Alvin Lim and credit to him he preached the message based on what I have written. In emergencies like this we have to be willing to adapt very quickly. Meanwhile, I took the typical medicines: cough mixtures, Panadol, Betadine sore throat spray, and slept and slept and slept. Good good sleep. The chills were kept away by the Panadol. My appetite was erratic. Thus I was thankful for some surprise deliveries of cakes and salmon sashimi donburi from good friends Sunny and Annie, which perked up my appetite. Thankfully when I began to observe my medicine running low, my son Joshua and Pink his wife brought lots of cough mixture, Chinese medicine, and Panadol pills, and some porridge too. 

I was disappointed I could not preach the message I took a long time to prepare and research, but was glad that it was at least delivered albeit through another pastor. Besides sleeping a lot, I also had time to watch Netflix’s “The Recruit” and a Chinese movie, and also analyze Bishop Solomon’s preaching style. More on this in the next blogpost. Perhaps, this compulsory stay at home rest will speed up my writing momentum. Only God knows what other good will come out of this interruption to my plans.

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Lunch with Tung Ling Friends

I cannot remember how we got together but my first contact with Rev Dr John Sim was through Facebook years ago. I had learned that he took speaking engagements whenever he was in Singapore visiting his in-laws, so I invited him to preach in our church in early 2019. John and I were in the second batch of Tung Ling (1979), when it was situated at the Church of Singapore, Marine Parade mother church. We then caught up with what happened in our lives over the 36 years gap. For me I had been pastoring in World Revival Prayer Fellowship all that time. For John, it was back to ministry with Canon James Wong in an Anglican parish, followed by training in Christ For the Nations Institute (where he got to know Marguerite, another of our course-mates), further studies, another stint with the Anglicans, and furthering his studies still more till he had two Masters’ degrees and a Doctorate from Princeton Seminary and Fuller Seminary. It had been adventure after adventure, school after school, until he finally landed in Vanguard University for two decades of faithful ministry as co-ordinator, then registrar, then instructor in digital pedagogy and adjunct professor. He is probably the most theologically educated among all of Tung Ling’s alumni.

John asked if I had contact with any of our Tung Ling Bible School course mates. I only knew of one and that was Benjamin Foo, who after Tung Ling went on to theological studies in Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He returned and bacame a bi-vocational pastor who also worked as Executive Vice President of the Singapore Exchange (SGX). I bumped into him when I was a guest preacher at Geylang Evangelical Free Church (which is in the building next door to where the church I attend is). He is currently an Elder there, a speaker and author of two books. I remembered we had a few lunches together the three of us.

Then it was John who linked us with Marguerite in our Whatsapp chat group. I remembered her but we have all more or less lost contact with each other. She is low-profile and has to remain so because of the ministry she co-founded with her husband, which provides Bible and ministry training for indigenous workers in unreached countries around the world. 

Since John came back for a short visit, we took the opportunity to have a long, long lunch fellowship at Orange & Teal at Rochester Mall. I could not locate it and had to ask a security guard outside some car park. The magic words I used was, “Do you know where Chee Soon Juan’s restaurant is?” Immediately he pointed me in the right direction, and told me to use the escalator up. We had a great time catching up and talking about our families, our ministry, US politics and culture, the Ukraine war, covid-19, and as folks over 60s were sure to talk about: health matters and remedies.

John could not preach in Singapore this time because he would need to apply for a work permit to preach in churches here and that would be too onerous. The church would miss his preaching but I got to fellowship with him, Marguerite and our lunch sponsor, Benjamin. I was energized and encouraged as I left for home after lunch. How lovely to be among such godly, faithful and humble leaders. How lovely for brethren to live in unity. It is like fragrant oil coming down on Aaron’s head down to his feet. Altogether a wonderful, refreshing time.

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