July 23, 2008

from dread to praise

...and double blech!

That is the immediate feeling after spending six hours working on five currencies for three months of finances. There is little I find more life-draining than thinking about or working with money and numbers.

However, last quarter's quarterly financial report is complete. It's been hanging over my head. I've dreaded it and avoided it (as usual) but now it's done and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I had two dreams in the early morning that I remember. The first one was what seemed to be Japan. I was looking at an apartment that I was obviously thinking about moving into, and I kept discovering more rooms and that the apartment was so much larger than I thought. I was so pleased that it was going to be so cheap (just 4 man yen...about 400 dollars). I turned around and Ben startled me...somehow I knew he was there but didn't expect him to be in the room, and he was looking at me like he was about to play a prank.

The second dream was a praise dream. I don't know where I was but it was a grand place and there were lots of people from around the world there...and we were singing praises at the top of our lungs. Now and then, I have dreams like this. This one woke me up, and I felt so full of joy. I couldn't fall back asleep.

So I got up and felt a ton of energy (the most I've felt in a while). I was SO PRODUCTIVE today - completing my discipleship study from Mark, finances (leftover income tax stuff, quarterly report), 2 loads of laundry, completed & sent out my monthly prayer requests, purchased airplane tickets for my trip to Thailand, caught up on email.

So...I have one life draining moment of today, but it's counterbalanced by many life giving highlights. Thanks, God.

July 04, 2008

thru new lenses

...or should I say, through a different set of eyes?

SOYMILK has begun the discipleship study of Mark's gospel. Saturday was our first time to split into our groups and share what we learned from chapter one. Some, of course, did not complete the task but growing being refined is generally a process rather than an overnight transformation.

Our group chose the question "What did Jesus see?" and the statement "As Jesus' disciple, I will see what He saw" for our DC (discipleship challenge). This time we'll do it as a group. We plan to go to the airport next Sunday at 5 PM and watch people for a couple of hours then we'll discuss it later. (Thanks Mike Rush, for the idea of airport rap...)

I don't find it coincidental that this question hit me hardest and that recently I feel like I'm seeing things differently. Perhaps it's because I've ended another plateau of adjustment in Singapore and I've learned we continue to go through waves of adjustment. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm consciously aware of trying to see as Jesus saw.

In any case, it started off with Pak Fook inviting me to go to Little India two weeks ago after worship and lunch. I've been to Little India before, but it's a whole different experience on Sundays when everyone has the day off. Going to that place and seeing the masses of people, seeing women (and men dressed as women) waiting for "gentlement visitors" and witnessing worship in the Tamil language (at Methodist and Catholic churches)...I felt like I was seeing a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT Singapore than I've ever experienced before. It made me think about bringing some of the youth, who are all a different cultural subgroup than this, and expose them to a different part of their own nation than what they experience day-to-day and just listen to their observations and reactions.

This morning, we met Kong Jo at the airport. He begins a new chapter in his life of university in Perth, Australia. I watched him. I watched his parents. I watched his girlfriend, and the youth. By asking God to help me to see with Jesus' eyes, I felt like I could see differently.

This afternoon, I went to McDonald's for lunch because it was hot and I wanted to be in a place with a/c. There was a Malay man sleeping at a table. I noticed him right away because I sat in the empty section at the back. I've not seen him before (hey, I'm starting to recognize the people in this neighbourhood...). School children were also there. One very round Indian boy noticed the man, and called his friends' (of varied ethnicity) attention to it. I watched them - some alone, some in small groups - each take turns taking a peek. Some were surprised, others laughed or cringed because they felt nervous, disgusted or thought it was funny/wierd. Some went for a second or third peek. Their reactions caught the attention of the cleaning auntie. She stood there for awhile, and her presence was enough to divert the children away. She disappeared, and a while later the manager appeared. The manager woke him up and kindly but firmly told him that he cannot sleep in the restaurant...but I noticed she didn't tell him to leave. He sat up and drifted in and out of consciousness. He looked at me more than a few times, and I tried to look into his eyes out of care for him. When cacophony arrived with a group of seven older Chinese people, he quietly slipped away. In fact, I had looked elsewhere and when I turned back, he was gone.

Tons of questions filled my mind. Who is this man? What would Jesus have REALLY seen in this situation? What did the man see when he looked at me, or looked at others? For how long would the children talk about it and would they tell their parents? How would their parents react (with fear, with disgust, with compassion, with a racial joke or slur) and how would that reaction shape what the kids would see in the future?

I'm looking forward to our group challenge next Sunday. Andris will be away in Austria, but she will try to do it on her own. I hope everyone else in my group (Kevin, Jeremy C, Daniel, Keith, Nicholas) can be there for the challenge.

There is a lot that has happened since my last post, and I know I fell off the wagon. But I'm back on again, and will try to "fill in the blanks" when I return from Penang and elsewhere.

God, give us eyes to see as Jesus sees the world around us and the people in it.

May 06, 2008


Talked with my parents and brother today. It was good to hear their voices. I hadn't talked to any of them since I arrived in Singapore, so it was nice to share a lot about life and experiences here.

Pak Fook has been introducing me to several research materials, journals and books for both personal growth and for future ministry in Asia. He also has introduced me to many quality movies (like, "I Not Stupid") that give insights into culture. One of my recent favourites is "Sepet" (which apparently means Chinese Eyes) by Yasmin Ahmad which explores a lot about race and culture through a love story between a Chinese man and Malay woman in Malaysia.

Today, Pak Fook showed me a commercial by Yasmin Ahmad that I simply HAVE to share. It won an award, but it also wins an award from me. It goes along the same lines as Sepet, and the children's expressions (especially Hong Ming) are wonderful. There are two others, "He, She" and "Race" that don't grab my heart in the same way, but they're still good. I'm including the dialogue following the video in case you can't understand what the kids are saying. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe I'll have a chance to comment more deeply about my thoughts/feelings at a later date.

Hong Ming: Her name is Ummi. Ummi Qazrina. I like her.
Yasmin: Why do you like her?
Hong Ming: She wears earrings, she will tie her ponytail, um...she’s pretty...
Yasmin: What do you wish to say to her?
Hong Ming: Do you wanna come on a date? Um…to a romantic dinner.
Yasmin: And, em, does she know you like her?
Hong Ming: No, I keep it a secret.
Yasmin: Why?
Hong Ming: I don’t want the whole world to know!
Yasmin: Why not?
Hong Ming: Because everybody will laugh at me.
Yasmin: Why should they laugh at you?
Hong Ming: Ha?
Yasmin: Why should they laugh at you?
Hong Ming: She doesn’t like me.
Yasmin: She doesn’t like you?
Hong Ming: (Shakes his head "no")

Ummi: My name is Ummi Qazrina.
Yasmin: Who’s your best friend?
Ummi: Tan Hong Ming.
Yasmin: Tan Hong Ming?
Ummi: (Nods)
Yasmin: Do you like him?
Ummi: (Silence)
Yasmin: Do you have a boyfriend?
Ummi: (Nods yes)
Yasmin: Who’s your boyfriend?
Ummi: Tan Hong Ming.

May 05, 2008

happy birthday, dad

My dad turns 68 today. I know 68 isn't really old - as I get older, I'm convinced our concept of "young" and "old" is based upon our perspective - but it also doesn't seem entirely real that Dad is sixty-eight years old.

At the core, Dad and I are such different people even though obvious fingerprints of him are within me. For example, Dad values privacy and independence when I'd rather be "in the thick" of the people and the activity/action. But just as I have never questioned my father's commitment to God or to my Mom, I have felt secure that Dad desired and actively cultivated a good, strong relationship with me. My father places high premium on loyalty and trust. He speaks praise of my mother to me. He listens to me and encourages me, and reinforces his belief in me and my abilities.

When I think about my high school years and beyond, Dad could be found sitting in the quiet of the living room, pouring over Scripture and sharing an insight he'd learned if I stuck around long enough. I have been in the car when he's done many unseen, unspoken acts of kindness in providing for others. He was quick to encourage and support any opportunities where I might grow and receive different exposure. As I get older I appreciate many sacrifices made for me to take advantage of Christian education, travelling, mission and ministry experiences, music pursuits and the list goes on.

As I celebrate my father's life today, this is but a glimpse of what I appreciate about the man I call "Dad" and to whom I seek to bring honour. I am grateful that God has blessed me and I just want to say thank you and happy birthday to you, Dad.


That's what we say in Japanese when we see someone we haven't met for quite a while. Yoshinori breezed out of Singapore tonight as quickly as he breezed into the country last night. It was TOTALLY unexpected for me (two days before his departure, he sent an email to my hotmail account, which I hardly check). As I watched him clear immigration and walk towards his gate, I realized how much I needed to see him, and what a blessing that it was for me.

I'm sad that we didn't have time for deeper conversation, but both less than 24 hours and so many friends to see prevented it from happening. But I felt gratitude to be with him, and I told him I wished for more time. The last 30-40 minutes at tcc (one of my favourite places in Singapore!) we were blessed with protected conversation in Japanese. Isn't it funny how some people can pick up where we left off as if no time had passed since the last time we saw each other? "Poshipori" is one of those people for me. I was reminded that our decision to set aside programs and focus, rather, on specific relationships was one of the best shifts God brought to our attention, and then gifted us with the courage to follow through in making the shift. Thank you, God.

Another blessing today was having the opportunity to witness and be thankful for my friends here in Singapore. I am definitely becoming attached and it will be hard to leave. I marveled as I sensed and experienced God's presence at the SOYMILK cell - his work amongst the group as a whole, but also how I can see God shaping the faith journeys of some of the older, leader-types. It is a unique opportunity for me to be on the sidelines and actively listen/watch for His refinement of these people. I was touched by the warmth of the Bedok church family again today in worship, in fellowship and in the acceptance and affirmation I have received. And most of all, the testimony of God's activity was clearly shown in the hearts of those who sought to greet, host and pour time/love into my dear friend from Japan.

April 30, 2008

i not stupid

Crim called me this morning and we talked for almost two and a half hours. It was wonderful. I miss her - and I'm excited that she'll arrive in Japan while I'm there.

I haven't been feeling well for the last couple of days. So after struggling to do some work, I decided to lay down at 4:15 because I had a headache and was feeling just horrible. When I woke up, it was 8:07 already! So I got up and made some mushroom soup for dinner, and ate that with some bread I bought at Marche on Sunday night. I also was surprised with a phone call from Debi - two phone calls in one day! It was so good to hear her voice and hear about Godo Reihai in Ibaraki. She, Sasha, Akiko and Yuko all went together. Earlier in the day I was thinking about it and felt a little sad that I was missing out this year.

Tonight I watched the movie "I Not Stupid" (no, I didn't make a mistake in the title). It is a drama, but one with a purpose of examining/commenting upon Singapore's education system and culture. Pak Fook recommended it. I found myself in tears several times.

It gave me lots to think about. And it made me miss my Mom, and be thankful for her.