Musings on: Flow, New Morning Mercies. Fueled by matcha espresso.

Typing this at Coffee Bean at Expo. It is raining and there is no shelter to CBP, so I’m grabbing this opportunity to have some quiet time and also to be late for work.

Reading an article sent by Austin Kleon- he has a newsletter in which he compiles all the read-worthy things that we are missing out on. There was an article titled ‘The Busy Trap. The crazy busy existence that so many of us complain about is almost entirely self-imposed’. And it is so true, but I have come to realise something more than self-regulations. It can sound very trivial and rat-race mentality to say that we are the only ones imposing (negative connotation already) our standards on us. I would say that it is part of nature’s call, that we are humans who innately want to do better, do more, and to stretch our abilities. Get out of our comfort zones. We want to know what we can achieve, because that is interesting, and we want to know how far we can go before we burn out. What happens if we die the next day, is this all we are leaving behind? Wanting to improve is a part of our DNA.

Some of us are busy, and we love it, because we know that we are doing the things that we want to do. The things that add value to our lives. Some of us are busy because we have an expectation placed on us by other people. Some are busy because even though no one cares, we still want to have what other people have. A title, money, good looks. The people who are suffering under the weight of being ‘busy’ are the people who are not choosing the right things to be busy about. You can choose to take a whole day off and go to a secluded beach to just relax, and that is it- a fulfilling, busy day. After all, the definition of busy is ‘to keep oneself occupied’ and ‘having a great deal to do’. Is it really absence of busyness if we choose to dedicate ourselves to a whole day of sitting at the beach? I am facing my inner thoughts. Standing next to them, talking to them, not letting myself gloss over them like I usually would. I am looking at myself clearly in the mirror.

I watched a tedtalk last night- it was about a book which I’ve read a few years back, it is called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

He was recapping the feelings we experience when we are doing things that give us joy- the feeling that time has stopped, hours go by like minutes, our minds and body are working to produce something bigger than the current moment. Like we have lost consciousness of our troubles and temporary to-dos, and gone into a state called flow. When I read that book in the past I was engaging with the reality of what I was experiencing then- that I had just started doing my diary entries, and flow was still an uncommon feeling. I was interested in that idea but did not have the requisite number of hours to trust that flow would come to me more consistently in the future.

When I write, flow is the feeling that I am communicating something that is really important and nothing else matters, as long as I capture the mood of the moment. It is not flowery language that helps, usually I just need a clear mind and a calm room and this need to tell someone about my day. That I have something important to say, although I don’t know what, and I will keep writing until I get to that point. Which is about 40 minutes into the diary entry.

But anyone who has experienced flow knows that the deep enjoyment it provides requires an equal degree of disciplined concentration.

Now, a year on (I think I first started writing in October 2016, although this domain was purchased in Jan 2017), my understanding of flow is not just an experience that can be worked at, but something to buffer me against the unhappiness of some projects and some blips and arguments in my life. It is not just a state of disciplined concentration, but something that I can make a part of me as a human being. It is not dependent on the activity- I can find flow in many things. Personally, I try to do something every week that would contribute to my feeling of ‘flow’.

flowcsikszentmihalyi

To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer exclusively respond in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstance.

Thinking about a question- ‘what makes my heart leap for joy’. It is the feeling when I am really excited to do something, I want to do it, my brain is generating new ideas for it etc. Like create articles for publication on the company intranet. Sing ‘king of the jungle’ with toddlers (off-key, but they are allllll off-key so it doesn’t matter. Really. Not one of the toddlers I know have musical talent, unless making muffled dinosaur noises is a foreshadowing of their potential Carnegie hall performance). Interview people at work, understand their needs and aspirations. I would be lying if I said that I like to analyse client data. But I like the impact, the feeling that we turfed out something that no one wanted to say explicitly, but we are able to verify that data and make some changes to the org structure because of it.

The essence of socialisation is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments.

I am also reading ‘New Morning Mercies’ by Paul Tripp. I started reading it during the kelong trip, but also on public transport now. I guess CBP’s greatest and worst point is that it is so far from my house. I have an additional two hours of quiet time (read: less sleep) daily because I am stuck on the bus/train.

91JGyeH+glL

I don’t think it is meant to be a book for new believers, but rather, a book for people who have been in the faith for some time already and have forgotten the main tenets of living by faith in Christ. If I were a new believer, all the concepts that he is talking about would be new to me. Older believers sometimes stray into the path of sticking to intellectual theological arguments- what does this line mean etc- and the laws that they keep, rather than the premises of everlasting grace and steadfast love. The diary entries would remind them, over and over again, of the amazing things that God has done and which he has given us. Not laws, but love.

 In some way, every person who has ever lived is on a hunt for love and scared to death that he won’t find it.

In some way, everyone fears judgement. She fears the hammer will come down on her because she has failed to measure up and she will spend her life paying for her crimes.

In some way, everyone is afraid of being poor. We’re all afraid of not having the provisions we need to live. We’re afraid that success will escape our grasp and we’ll end up as beggars on the street.

There is a difference between the doctors, lawyers, hedge fund people, and the rest of the people in the cell group. The people who fall into the first three category are always busy. They have 10,000 things to do in their work and personal lives. The rest of us- the government people, budding consultants, music teachers and primary school teachers- we are still tired, but less busy. We can find time more easily. But for all our busyness and experiences, how comfortable one feels with people is not based on how much work or busyness we have in common. God made all of us with our own idiosyncrasies and struggles, even when one seems to have disadvantages or advantages in every way.

And what I personally thought was a good reminder to me.

You could read your bible every day and the entire bible each year and still live for yourself. You could be faithful in your attendance at all your church’s scheduled gatherings and still live for your little kingdom. You could regularly place your hard-earned money in the plate and still not live with God’s kingdom in view. You could be expert in the theology of the word of God and still shrink your life down to what you want and what you tell yourself that you need.

Grace, prayer and genuine human connections.

(Written on the bus to Changi, might have a few mistakes)

We reflected on a few questions when we were at BMK.

  • What is the function of a discipleship group (DG)
  • Why do each of us turn up for DG every Friday
  • What do we like most about DG/appreciate about DG
  • What does it mean to grow in love with Christ
  • What does it mean to love his people (how do we accommodate individuals with their quirks)

And a question to myself which I would say, is the most important to me right now, because I am a newcomer to the church. “Why do you choose this love?” I define anyone who has been in a committed relationship with God for less than a year as a newcomer, because everything is new and it is a learning curve without tangible milestones. Easy to slip and fall away.

There are many other loves to choose from. Look around and you can see people who devote their lives to the love of fellow human beings. Not just people in relationships but people who are just around them. The community members. There are people who devote their lives to work, to climbing the corporate ladder or just to dabble in various jobs. There are people who devote their lives to themselves- beauty, youth, material wants, their aspirations which might not match that of anyone else around them. Love, as a commitment of effort or just as a daily routine. There are many versions of love.

I did not understand what it meant to love when I was younger, simply because the love that I received from people around seemed to come with a lot of conditions. I had to be this or this or my parents wouldn’t be in a good mood. And my default personality is rather uncaring, or at least, caring for others who will not give me any practical benefits superficially because it is the norm to do so. As I got older, got sicker, and then better, and now sicker again, through internships and university experiences, I discovered a side of life that was about love and vulnerability. Learning that all human beings have their own struggles and working through some things in my life without taking the default route, thinking for myself what did I want, and then trying those things out. I guess the concept of love- true, unconditional love, became less foreign to me.

I appreciate people who take the time to volunteer, and I value the misfits in society. Perhaps I am just a very slow learner but truly, there is no one path in life that will bring everyone happiness. At least not in the secular world. Reason being that we will never fully get what we want. Things will change, even people can change overnight. Our emotions and situations can change in a split second. And because of the impermanence, there is no stability to be found in our wants and past achievements. So then what do we devote ourselves to? What is one thing or being in the world that is gracious, loving, compassionate to all, yet also a tough lover with high standards, not letting us do whatever we want at any moment in time, but someone or something with a plan for us, and if we are to follow that plan, will find rest and comfort regardless of how bad things are? That is the love that I’m looking for- knowing that I am cared for. The belonging to a cause, the understanding that it is not looks or money or which country I belong to that defines my worth in society. Or even my species- I am a homo sapien, and we are known to be fickle-minded creatures.

It is true that one can be an excellent and good person without God, and without practicing any form of religion or sticking to any one belief. But it is also true that there is no reason or cause to draw people together to be good people. There is no common understanding, and there is no overarching plan. Which is possible too- perhaps we indeed came to being without any reason for it. People often say that it is because we are unable to deal with loose ends and unanswered questions that’s why we turn to religion. But I look at the world, and then I look at everything that is wrong with the world (‘wrong’ which is defined by myself, before I knew anything about the church), and then I look at the bible and how others act (mature Christians, not the Sunday ones who act differently on other days) and I think to myself- maybe I should explore more. And so explore I did, and then serving, and finding so many people with successful day jobs- region heads, partners, presidents of this and that function in MNCs, and finding them doing ‘small’ things. Giving out pamphlets, passing out water bottles at the carnival, cutting crafts for children’s class.

There are no quick answers in church- in DG we often have talking points, where people have different interpretations of the same bible passage. We were not given a FAQ guide, and I actually like that careful deliberation. There are laws, and then there are parables which can be interpreted in many different ways. I see humans has living in the ‘now but not yet’, the period of time where we have salvation assured, and the experience of worship, but a lot of things have not come to pass.

But it is precisely because there are no quick answers in church that is why we are often turned away. There are many misconceptions- that people in church act like they are holier than thou, that God is vengeful and likes to mete out punishment just because he can. That sinners and homosexuals do not belong in church etc. That the love that God offers is not needed and that we have to fix ourselves, on our own, before he will love us. Such things cannot be explained in just one hour- the ‘how to read the bible’ session will take a few days at least, and that is just the start. But complexity deters, and human behaviours deter newcomers from coming to church. Which I honestly find to be a pity.

The function of a DG is not just to meet once a week, to have dinner and chitchat about our lives. DG for me at least, serves as a form of accountability, which is why I hate being late for DG. My meetings at work don’t always end on time and I have to uber over ($$), but my presence is a commitment to others as well. That I am in the same fight as them, if they are here, I will be here too. Physical accountability aside, there is also that mental and emotional commitment.

We were asked to make one commitment to the DG for the next few months of our lives. I know that I am already trying my best with humans 6 days of the week (sat is my alone day), and I did not want to commit to making more connections within the DG, although we are a big group of about 30 regulars. I promised that I would be more involved in bible study sessions. Not just take my food and sit on the floor (love sitting on floors) and listen to the person explaining, but to make more in-depth preparations beforehand and look up the various references. This requires a commitment of time that I have not been able to make because I’m still struggling to adapt to things (am typing this on the bus to work LOL, annoying the aunty with my furious tapping). A lot of the time it is the same few people who ask questions, I think I can too. Because we all come with different bases of knowledge and sometimes newcomers can be scared to ask questions.

After the bible passage study, there’s always a small group prayer. We are in the same small group for one year, segregated from the males (because there used to be males who only came because of the females) and we share about our struggles in the past week and encourage one another for the coming week. At first it was a bit odd because I didn’t know any of them and it felt like I could only share superficial, church related stuff. And then after a while I got to them know better and realised that they all have some form of struggle in their lives, even though they seem to be outwardly, upper middle-class Singaporeans with great jobs and happy marriages. Some of the struggles are, admittedly, not too complicated. But vulnerability and trying to stay with the faith are common themes. Everyone can identify with sin and how we are striving to be better Christians. And in that subset, better humans.

It is not easy to open up to people- the ‘small’ group is about 7-8 on a weekly basis. And we do have middle-aged people, not just young adults, and also 1-2 elderly. We all come with our own personalities. Some are passive-aggressive and also humble, some are unapologetic about their tough love, some are peacemakers. Then you have me, unwilling to talk to anyone who looks fierce. It is a good reminder of our differences and how we care for each other despite the fact that we will probably not consider each other as friends if we never met in church. But that is the nature of church- we love as God loves. It is not easy, especially with my anxiety issues. Sometimes talking to some people feels like eating small rocks. But it does get easier over time, as long as I don’t change my self to fit other people. My core self. Focusing on my heart and my own actions, and not criticising other people.

It is true that on the surface, we are just born with a certain amount of wealth, and that wealth makes some people casual about what they buy/say during DG sometimes. But that is them, and that fact won’t change. That is for me to point out, but it should not affect the way I treat them, which is with love and respect. Love is a choice.

Conversations do get deeper as time passes, when we build up that trust. Through the experiences of other people, I learn what to say and not say even at work. Because I can double-check with my leaders if I’m doing the wrong things. (Got over not being able to date non-Christians already. So be it lololol. Being on client site really helps, the only constant I see is the shuttle bus uncle.) I can clarify the things I’m blind to- my little faults and petty things that I do- pride etc. Although I really want to write an article for the weekly prayer book, but I don’t want my name to appear anywhere. So kind of undecided about whether or not I should contribute.

One thing- because the past few days was spent experiencing fellowship, I think I don’t have the experience yet to write about something that is important to DG. Which is that when we are not with the church- overseas for long periods of time etc or when we decide not to attend church for a few months- the members in the DG are able to encourage you and help you remember God’s presence. It is the ‘missing him when he is not there’, just that because we can’t physically see God, seeing his disciples helps. Belonging, encouraging, and appreciating one another.

A gentle note to self:

  • Temptation but not sin
  • Contribution without self-exaltation
  • Repentance without hard-heartedness
  • Defenseless but not weak
  • Acceptance and not anger

And understanding that the world’s plans and standards are not God’s plans and standards. For we are in this world but not of it. It is always difficult to balance the two because there is so much pressure at work to perform well, and to over-perform actually.

Friday-Sunday

Don’t know if I can stay awake for the whole post because I’m absolutely knackered haha. I reached home at 5pm and I slept for 3.5 hours, initially thinking it would just be a twenty-minute nap. Anyway, this post is about giving thanks for things in the office finally wrapping up and how I spent my past three days.

Friday and Saturday

Finalizing the proposal, 4am to late nights and panicking, lack of communication (working with my colleagues but they are all new to me), being really fearful whenever I made mistakes. Small mistakes are fine but there were medium-sized mistakes too. I was terrified that we wouldn’t be able to get the proposal out in time because of a certain political situation but thankfully, it has passed. Now I can finally turn off my phone without worrying that a certain thing is pending or “the director hates my work”. I cried on Saturday because I felt so constrained by things and I felt that I was doing shitty work, work that even I wouldn’t approve on hindsight. You know that cold feeling you get when you realised that you really f-ked up a certain thing, and then it feels like someone cracked a cold egg down your head and your mind goes blank. I got that a lot because I was dealing with many different things the past two weeks, and the more work you do, the more difficult it is to get everything done well. In my defense, everything was new, I was slow because I had to first understand what I was doing before I could even start. Whereas everyone else on the team had 6-10 years of experience and so they work really fast. I have 7 weeks HAHA.

I had lunch with the director today, she treated me to cupcakes afterwards too and we clarified a lot of things that could have been done better. And she also apologised for her moods and how she was a bit unapproachable- which she honestly didn’t have to apologise for, so I appreciate that a lot. I mean, for someone so experienced, teaching someone who has no idea what consulting work looks like, must have been a pain in the ass LOL. Learning points: I need to communicate better, I need to follow-up even when I am scared, I need to be a lot more careful about the quality of my work and I really need to pay more attention in the meetings and not let my emotions affect who I work with. Am still afraid to approach one team member- she’s lovely in normal interactions, but when on projects she becomes really curt and slightly unfriendly, especially when stressed.

Sunday (today)



I spent the morning volunteering at Jalan Kukoh. It is with the same director whom I worked with on the above-mentioned proposal, she has a friend who is part of the volunteering team and they plan to go full-time so they roped us in for consulting services. At 9am we were packing eggs from larger trays into smaller cardboard trays that we cut from the larger ones. Then we packed the household things like detergent and perishables (Apollo cake, coffee, biscuits etc) and finally the heaviest items like soy milk. I didn’t think of actually volunteering with them at first because I have a strong interest in children, and tend to avoid the elderly when it comes to volunteering because I always feel that I can’t communicate with them and can’t really make them feel happier. But the idea is that we will be involved on the ground so that we can see the issues and the perspectives that the ground team has. I had the mindset that it was going to be a work meeting so I went with my laptop and dressed in a shirt-dress thingy, but I adapted and just started queuing up.


The organizing team really put thought into the project- they use recyclable bags so that the volunteers have to enter the house to put away the things, and then take back the bags. Ideally, we would also introduce each of the items to the elderly because the packaging and food items change sometimes, they told us a story of how an old man ate soap by mistake because he thought it was a dessert. Still have no idea what kind of soap packaging that is, but it looks similar I guess. It would be much faster to just pass over plastic bags but the concept is that the team should spend at least ten minutes with the uncle or aunty living there, because they are alone and need social interaction. We were told to look out for the people who seemed lonelier and wanted to talk, and that would possibly be the next phase of the project where they can send buddies down. Sort of like lion befrienders, but it’s linked to the current tech system which provides real-time collaboration with volunteers who log in their comments about the needs of the families they have visited.

There are 120 families on the list, it was recently reviewed so initially there were a lot more elderly but some of them moved on or moved away, or thankfully, found ways to increase their income. One team consists of a resident volunteer and the new volunteers- resident volunteers are residents who also stay in the rental flats but help us as tour guides, so they do not feel that they are just taking handouts- they are working for it. And it is very useful to have them on the ground with us because they not only know the place, they also know the residents, they know the RC people, they understand the lives of people who live in the area. They can give tips on how to deal with residents, and they share really interesting stories. On my team, there was a man who used to be abrasive and didn’t get along with anyone, but after two years of doing this with the volunteering ground up movement, he is now, well, not a lovely person, but a lot more talkative. His experiences are also really interesting- he is eloquent and really direct, just that he tires easily.

Rental flats are also interesting- from where you stand at the door, you can see almost everything in the flat because it’s really small. But at Jalan Kukoh, it is near Chinatown and more importantly, there is a fantastic view of the Singapore river in front of every window and staircase. I don’t know if this is the right term, but it is open air which means that the staircase isn’t blocked by a door like the one at my house, it is windy and surprisingly quiet. Although for the elderly who live in the houses, some of them might not even notice the river. Those who stay on the 12th floor have a really nice ambience, but there were families on the 3rd floor and the corridors were frankly dark and cramped, filled with old shelves and one hoverboard lol. There was a house which we went to, there was a bun (like a sandwich hot dog bun without the hot dog) that was literally just placed on the gate of the door, without any packaging. And the house had no sounds coming from within, so we were a bit worried about the aunty living inside. The bun looked fresh but it is just weird. But they should have followed up by now.

Post volunteering I ubered to church, we had a one hour bible study on Mark 2:1-12. I never really read that passage in detail, but today I did and I realised that it really spoke to me about my situation (humans have the ability to sense make everything). I am so worried about my physical and mental health that I never thought to place my spiritual health on the same level.

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

When I was younger I would think “of course it’s easier to say that sins are forgiven, you have to actually prove that the man can get up and walk if you told him to”. But now I realised that for Christ, it was more important that he should forgive the man for the very thing he came to earth for. To forgive us for our sins and transgressions against God, to make sure that we know how to repent, and to guide us when we are facing troubles like physical health and temptations of money and sex. Our earthly bodies are important to us- if I were paralysed, I would probably be deeply unhappy and angry that someone claims that my sins are forgiven, I would wonder what were my sins to be punished like this. In fact with health issues now, I feel tied to Singapore because I can’t travel without bringing my medication along. That feeling of having no freedom can really ruin a day, especially when I get stomach pains during meetings and I really need the toilet.

Now that I am older I see the importance of a Christ-like heart. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but after being in the church for seven months, I think I understand more about sin- how it causes us to turn away from God, and if we understood what God did for us and the beauty of his plan, and if we experienced the comfort of being a part of his family, then we would understand “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Never really got the gospel of Mark when I was younger, now I think I do. It is a sense of relief actually.

“maybe that’s what life’s all about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moments of beauty, where time is no longer the same”

Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives; by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease.

I was in bed last night, at about 1am, reading this part from The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

I remember all that rain… The sound of it drumming on the roof, the paths running with water, the sea of mud at the gate to the farm, the black sky, the wind, the horrible feeling of endless damp weighing upon us as our life weighed upon us: neither consciousness nor revolt. We were sitting huddled together by the fire when suddenly my mother got to her feet, throwing the rest of us off balance; we watched in surprise as, driven by some obscure impulse, she headed to the door and flung it open.

All that rain, oh, all the rain… Framed in the door, motionless, her hair clinging to her face, her dress soaked through, her shoes caked with mud, staring lifelessly, stood Lisette. How did my mother know? How did this woman who, while never mistreating us, never showed us that she loved us, either by deed or word- how did this coarse women who brought her children into the world in the same way she turned over the soil or fed the hens, this illiterate woman, so exhausted by life that she never even called us by the names she had given us- to the point where I at times wondered if she even remembered them- how had she known that her daughter, half-dead, neither moving nor speaking, but merely staring at the door without even thinking of knocking, was just waiting in a relentless downpour for someone to open and bring her into the warm room?

Is this a mother’s love, this intuition of disaster in one’s heart, this spark of empathy that resists even when human beings have been reduced to living like animals? This is what Lucien said: a mother who loves her children always knows when they are in trouble. Personally, I do not care much for this interpretation. Nor do I feel any resentment toward that mother who was not a mother. Poverty is a reaper; it harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day. Nor do I nurture any sturdy illusions, there was nothing of a mother’s love in my mother’s intuition, merely the translation into gesture of her certainty of misfortune. A sort of native consciousness rooted deep in the heart, which serves to remind poor wretches like us that, on a rainy night, there will always be a daughter who has lost her honour and who will come home to die.

Lisette lived just long enough to give birth to her child. The infant did what was expected of it: it died within three hours.

Reading the part about Lisette standing outside the door and then dying made me tear up. How alone she must have felt. There are many single mothers in the world, how many of them just function on survival mode hoping to give their kids a better future. Nationality, ethnicity, religion, such boundaries don’t matter when it is a bond between a mother and a child. How many people are alone in this world? Choosing to leave your family and identity behind is a difficult decision, until you have done it you will not be able to imagine what ‘never again’ means. Because you can’t return to the past. Other people will be affected.

I don’t like emotions because I always feel terrible when I have them. Shame, anger, guilt, loneliness. Sometimes, occasionally, true joy and comfort, but most a bland neutral outlook. But I have lived without the ability to feel for a long time, and I don’t want to go back to that situation when everything was the same, nothing mattered because there were no feelings involved. The same with dating- I am only comfortable going out with people I feel nothing for, because then whatever happens wouldn’t matter to me. Perhaps it is not a fear of commitment, having to stick to just one person and the feeling of novelty, but the fear of intense feelings and not knowing what to do about those feelings. How would I react, how would he feel, what can happen next, am I changing my life in a way that would matter?

“I’ll say it again to make myself perfectly clear,” says Kakuro, with the sort of infinite patience one exercises with children or, rather, the simple-minded. “Renee, you are not your sister.”

And as I go on sitting there like a moron, staring at him:

“I’ll repeat it one last time, in the hopes that this time you won’t choke on a piece of sushi that -I might mention- cost thirty euros apiece and normally require a bit more care in their consumption: you are not your sister, we can be friends. We can be anything we want to be.”

—–

Got an allergic reaction to the medication I’m on, and then intense sleepiness so I took a long nap again. I still have overdue work so I need to drink coffee and then get my shit together for a long night. I am just upset that nothing in life seems to be going right now all because of health reasons, that my panicky moments affect how I see my day. Did it go well, did it go badly, how many times did I feel like I was in a cage and couldn’t breathe? I know that I am in a good place compared to many other people, I also feel that I am in another low point in my life. No longer able to look at events retrospectively and think, “all these were my becoming”, now it’s like “fuck what the fucking fuck again??!” Sorry for vulgarities- they are necessary because that’s my mind right now.

That said, I’m pretty normal most of the day, my mood is only much lower when I am alone or when I have to take a long nap to stop the yawning and it’s really late when I wake up. There are client proposals to be done this week hence I can’t afford to continue this medication, I don’t know when the side effects will end but I would rather not risk more allergic reactions. Other parts of my life are good- children’s church went fine, it got kind of zoo-like during the story time when kids suddenly decided to stop listening, some were walking around, which is unusual because they are all quite quiet during story-telling. Then Andrew, the youngest, he always gets overshadowed by the older and louder ones, he just gave up and laid on the mat fully outstretched and I was like “what are you doing LOL”. Esther is quite sticky, I had to carry her a few times today because she wasn’t crying but she just doesn’t like to be with the other kids on her own. And Ethan and Calvin, they fight for the same things whenever they are together- will remember to separate them in the future. It’s like it doesn’t matter what toy Calvin has, Ethan wants it. Until Calvin gives up and walks away. Then depending on his mood, Ethan might follow Calvin.

Sermon was by Pastor C. Which reminded me of how I have to be careful to not make stupid choices. It’s really easy to go from friends to friends with benefits. Or maybe I am just really open to experiences, I really like to try new things. And cute guys are exciting, it can be quite fun. Like a spark of light during the rather boring day where work is impactful but not exciting all the time. Pastor C. reminded us that if we don’t call on Christ (not his surname, it means the ‘Messiah’) when we are facing temptation or while sinning, we are likely to be ‘finished’- did not clarify what finished meant, because our sins were taken away by Christ when he died for us, and also when we continually repent. I was seriously considering sinning in a rather obvious way and then repenting, and be like a life-stage Christian where I am sometimes a Christian and sometimes not, and continually tick-tocking between the two. The response is that, if that is so, salvation isn’t ensured because your repentance at the end of your life might not be genuine. And what kind of heart are you carrying to church on Sundays then. But I’m also really tired and I would like constant company.

Bible study was back to basics, we are covering Mark for the next 13 weeks. Likely to miss a few because of overseas trips but we learned basic tenets of faith today. Who is Christ, why did he come, and what are we supposed to do in response to him. It is not just to turn away from sin, but also to do good works, and learn the experience of faith- how to trust God and let God lead.

Prayer requests:

Please, that at least let one of the problems in my life become less burdensome- health, work, finances (due to health) or relationships (or the lack of feelings). I don’t think I can last the whole month if my issues don’t pick themselves up.

That people in the world will not be so lonely or troubled. That even if they don’t find meaning or God, at least let their troubles be alleviated temporarily. Suffering is useful for long-term growth, but too much of it over the years can force a person to do odd things that a rational person wouldn’t normally do.

And pray that I will learn to pray more, and worry less. Be less anxious about work, about how people see me at work, about whether or not I am liked, be less anxious about the impact I’m creating and trust that a combination of prayer and sufficient sleep will work. Prayer is not just about communicating with God, for me it is trusting God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

-Hebrews 6, ESV

Love is patient, love is kind. 

(Disclaimer: All my posts have been rambles, this one is no exception. It is midnight now, and I have been not been sleeping too well. Hopefully I will be able to finish this within half an hour. Before waking up for work in seven hours.)

I was trying to fall asleep but the key word being ‘trying’ to. I was just lying there, thinking about the books I read today. The nth time of deathly hallows, Joseph Heller’s ‘god knows’ that has been sitting in my storeroom since I was 15, and a Chinese book published by a weibo author. I was thinking about the lunches I had this week. On Monday, I met with a fellow associate who joined six months earlier, to eat the nasi lemak burger. It is really good by the way, the chicken patty is delicious and I love the sauce. On Tuesday, I met with a senior from my unit, we had subway. I could relate to how she can’t sleep during the week but crashes on the weekends, and how she works on government projects and has to follow all sorts of compliance rules. Today, I went out with my new friends from a different department, we all joined three weeks ago so everyone was still getting to know each other and asking simple questions to start the conversation ball rolling. Beef pepper rice bowl was good! Tomorrow, I have lunch with people I sat with on the very first day of work, then pork ribs with tonkatsu and on Friday I have anopheles and DG! Shaping up to be a good week.

I love meeting ENFPs and ENFJs because I always get along very well with both groups, but not everyone fall into those categories. But sometimes, I really just can’t talk to a stranger. You know in the initial conversation, by the sort of questions a person asks and how fast he talks or his body language, it is usually possible to get a sense of what kind of personality he has, what his priorities in life are. Occasionally I will wonder about why is his opinion so confined and unaccepting, why does he not see that he has an unpleasant personality, and can he stop whatsapp-ing me because I have to keep archiving his chat. Or when the person says A and I am eating my sandwich and I say B and the topic moves on to C as if none of us mentioned A or B. Or when I do something unintentionally to him or he does something unintentionally to me, that little bit of annoyance and whatever happened to love is patient, love is kind? Is there any value or joy in those unremembered moments, when the relationship isn’t progressing fantastically?

I want to talk about the people whom we meet for the first time, or the friends whom we have been around for a long time, and conversation for some reason, on that day or that morning, does not flow well, idiosyncrasies are really glaring and everyone is just not blending in together. It rarely happens in groups but sometimes I just meet one or two people that I cannot click with. And I realised in that past three weeks that people are no longer one of my KPIs. If I go out to lunch with them, it is because I want to. It is because I genuinely enjoy being around people for lunch, it is not because I have to report to my boss about their job satisfaction levels. One of the key reasons why I didn’t want to do internal HR is because it would mean that I would be separated from all my colleagues, because I am privy to policies that can change the nature of their work. 

It is the ability to love someone else that I’m honing. A capability. Of loving a stranger, or a friend who has changed from his or her original personality. I am not perfect, sometimes I say weird things and I interact in weird ways, and sometimes I overthink things. The feeling that every human being is worthy of respect and should be treated with love and kindness was foreign to me. I only realised it this month when I started intentionally interacting with people, trying to get to know them, and to see them as they see themselves, and more. I finally understand a little bit of what it means to love the unloveable, the people whom we would not naturally gravitate to, and not just see them as an interesting specimen that I can analyse and then write about.

Learning to love might take a lifetime, I am just scratching the surface with many of my colleagues, I see their flaws and their hobbies and what they enjoy talking about, I see their smiles and sometimes their insecurities when they talk about their job search. I can let go of things much more easily now, in the past I used to not remember grudges because I couldn’t be bothered to, now I see  that such things are unimportant. Truly unimportant. There are many parts of love that I have no idea how to describe. I still don’t know how to commit to someone else. But perhaps I have it in me to love others.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

My work is proceeding smoothly, I understand a lot more of what we deliver to clients now. My relationships are proceeding smoothly, I say hi to almost everyone, although there are definitely pockets of time when I don’t know what to do and feel snubbed by people, or snub people accidentally. It’s all in my head, literally. I can see that others are struggling too. And I thank God for my hr research experience, which is really useful when reading a tonne of materials online. And for my current company allowing me to practice the growth mindset, trying out so many new things this year. Especially for my food allergies and rashes having recovered just before I started work. This week is a week of just one symptom, a highly upset stomach. Not a single hive has appeared. But the stomach was highly upset.

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

-Soren Kierkegaard

Book of Hebrews and prayer requests

A long time ago, I wanted to do a ‘Why I decided to return to church’ post but I decided that that was only intellectual knowledge and experientially, I was not a Christian yet. Even now, I don’t think I am ready to make that post. It wasn’t until this evening when my DG was studying the book of Hebrews, that R made a point that really resonated with me. The point is this: we can use all the philosophical arguments and scientific arguments to say that there is no God, and also that there is a God, and use external verification (not from the Bible) to prove that the Bible is indeed the word of God. But all of this reasoning will not bring a man to faith. It will not increase his willingness to follow Christ, for since the beginning of the Old Testament there have been humans who hardened their hearts and refused to listen, and it will be so until the end of time.

Intellectual reasoning and the dissecting of arguments about why the Bible is true does not make a complete case for why God is important in our lives. Faith is only something that can be experienced through a combination of reading the Bible, fellowshipping with other believers, being tested in our daily lives, serving in church, and allowing our minds to be reshaped by the new words in our lives. Faith in the word of God is something that takes time to cultivate, otherwise it is just untested emotions based on unsound beliefs, because no one can comprehend the whole Bible (old, new, connections between the two etc) in a single day. Or week. Basic tenets yes, but the deeper ones like how the old prophecies were fulfilled, the meaning of individual words, how God is changing lives daily (experienced through testimonies in church), that takes at least months. Which is why I find it very difficult to explain to people who ask ‘why can’t you date a non-christian’ or ‘why do you go to church’ or even ‘don’t you have better things to do in life’, because all of that stems from my experience in church. Which all stems from a belief that God exists, and more importantly, I am worshipping the right one, and my actions are pleasing to Him because I am reading the right books and it’s not just gobbledygook.

July marks the beginning of my 6th month in church, and the second journey I am taking with a church. The first was FCBC, with my friends from JC, but that was basically for fun and I don’t think I really changed much. This year, I committed myself to a four-year long journey with God, with the right people. The sermons in ARPC are known to be solid, plus my DG has a lot of scarily smart people with a strong faith. I told myself that I am not allowed to stray from that path. It was honestly a punitive mindset because I started out with a “you better get this right, or leave the church forever if you can’t figure out your faith within four years”, but now I think I finally understand what it means to live under a God who is love, grace, compassion, faithfulness, a God who is willing to sacrifice his son (Christ) to die for those who are sinners. It is a mind-blowing concept because there’s nothing like this in the secular world, or in other religions (although I still maintain that Buddhism is a very useful way to live a life by), only in Christianity is there a non-punitive idea of salvation not by good works, but by faith.

One thing that can only be found within a church community (or any small group of Christians) is the fellowship- the trust that we all need God and that we are all on the same long journey towards being better Christians. It is what I really appreciate in my church, because we do a lot of outreach missions, not just overseas but also within Singapore. To those that the world thinks less of- the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, those who live on the margins. Our efforts may not be perfect, but if there is one message that is sent, even if none of them turn to God, I hope it is that they know they are still loved and not forgotten.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

-Deuteronomy 31:6

As Christians, we don’t look at other people with the same lenses that the world uses. You are not worth more than others because you have more abilities or earn more money; you are not less sinful because you don’t visit brothels, we are honestly all the same. None of us should be made to feel small and worthless just because we are not as eye-catching or as bold as others. None of us should be made to feel that we shouldn’t be here, or that we will never be good enough. Because we were not made to live like this, our self-esteems fluctuating depending on what happens during the day. The biggest sin is to live as though there is no God in our lives, to be self-reliant, self-criticising, self-approving, to hold all our anxieties within us and not commit our fears and worries and troubles up to him.

The book of Hebrews is connected to Thessalonians (during camp) in that it reminds us to admonish those who have strayed, and to encourage those who are faint-hearted. And to help the weak.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

-Hebrews 12:3-6 (read as: Hebrews chapter 12, verses 3 to 6)

During DG we will have a small prayer session after the bible study. During the prayer session we will each share about our troubles, group size can vary from 3 to 8 depending on who is on call, and I thought I would just list them here so I will remember what I am supposed to remember- it gets a bit fuzzy after a while.

Dear Lord I would like to pray for these people:

A, that her mother-in-law will be supported by her family members and live out the remaining few years of her life with dignity and peace, even as she suffers from dementia, and that all of A’s family members will be able to get through this period of their lives with faith and love and patience for one another.

Y, that as she starts her new job on Monday that she will be courageous as the most senior doctor on call, and not be intimidated by her consultant (grr, stop being unfair towards subordinates!), that no matter what happens she will remember to look towards you and your words, and that even in her most fearful and anxious and lack-of-sleep periods, she will have at least a tiny silver of peace in her heart.

A, that as she is still finding her way around as a fresh lawyer, that she will be able to find a company that really suits her, even as she overcomes this current obstacle of not knowing what to do next, and that she will always have the support that she needs to get past her anxieties in this period.

And in general-

Of those in the DG and in the church and in the world, people who are living by your word, and especially those who are not, that they will have the peace and comfort that they need when they are facing new beginnings. Beginnings are honestly scary- I am really scared of next week- please show those who are lost, a path, so that they will not live in negativity or be stuck in the doldrums. And those with a path, please send them the support they need to be encouraged, so that they will not stray from that path.

Of good health, especially to the underprivileged and the young, both mental and physical good health.

Of courage, the ability to meet our weaknesses and fears in the darkness when it is just us and them. To confront truths about our lives and how we are fearful to move on, or unwilling to, because we don’t know what lies ahead.

Of love, that we can love one another even in our angriest moments. I constantly struggle between not helping my mother and helping her, but then knowing that I am only helping her hold on to power and more gossip in her church commitments. Case in point: helping her do the roster this afternoon, oh boy I was ANGRY. I know that she volunteers for things she cannot do because she thinks we can do them, and excel spreadsheets are really not her forte. It has been that way for the past few years, and she still can’t kick her power/gossip habits. I really wish she would fulfil the promises that she made in January about resigning from all those committees by April but nope, gossip mode still on.

Of finances, that no one has to degrade themselves or lose their integrity just to survive and to feed their families. Especially those who are living on the margins and about to make that decision to cross that borderline, to have an alternative source of income, which reduces their integrity as a whole human being and how they see themselves as humans.

Of sufferings bravely suffered, let us bend but not break under pressure.

Of strong relationships– to build them up, to maintain them when life gets tough.

To mend the church;

The world;

And our hearts.

And humility, patience, tolerance, and faith to those who follow your word.

On ‘Last Things First’, church camp’17

bus

(I wrote a thank you email to the pastor, because one of his two dogs just passed away, so I figured he would be a bit encouraged by that fact that his work matters. Actually no one really thanked the organizers. Apart from clapping and some general ‘thank yous’. Haha sometimes I’m very extra lol.)

Dear Pastor C,

I attended the church camp last week, and I just wanted to say that it has made a difference in how I trust in God and also in my comfort levels of fellowshipping with my DG mates. I started attending ARPC in February this year, and since then I have always felt rather alienated from the rest of the church goers- partially because I am very new, but also partially because my DG is quite big, and people in church are generally not super welcoming (but I know they are good people). Through camp, I got to know a lot more people- the BSLs, the cute kids in CC, the BASIC girls on my coach, my own DG mates etc. 

Before the camp I only had ‘head’ knowledge of God, and frankly my heart did not fully believe in God’s grace. For a few weeks I entertained the possibility of me being ‘unsuitable’ for ARPC (because of the socio-economic demographic at Adam) and giving up on Christianity for the 2nd time in my life. After all, none of my friends think church is necessary and books can’t do much if one does not feel the presence of God in her life. 

The camp made it possible for me to live for five days in an environment where people were unashamedly meditating and living out God’s word, praying wholeheartedly before meals and during talks and bible study groups. I felt the energy of everyone around me as they devoted their time and energy to run the events, and it reminded me of Galatians 5:13, “through love serve one another”. From the smooth running of the children’s church program to praying for each other during talks, I could see that everyone was putting God first, and no one was relying on the effort of man alone. (I also prayed for better food and less cockroaches in my room, but anyway I don’t need to be too comfortable.) Through these experiences, I finally understood what does it mean to trust in God with all my heart, and to not worry about how things will play out. 

I just wanted to thank the church committee for their efforts- everything was done well, the execution of coaches and rooms were flawless! If possible, please squeeze in separate workshop time slots next year, I really enjoyed the workshop. Special thanks to Fook Ngian and Thomas for running BS Group 13, Priscilla and Mitchell from BASIC who took care of everyone on Coach 13, Fang Yi, Edward and Zi Yang from Pine Grove DG, Sin Ee and Ying from the Taiwan workshop, and Jasmine, Ian, and Desmond from P1 Children’s Church. And everyone else who worked behind the scenes- thank you all for providing me with the opportunity to appreciate the grace of God 🙂 

tagkidschurchtwo

I learned that the tag is for the kids to identify you, but also for the parents to identify you as “the person to ask things like when will the talk be over/where is my kid/can I take her out earlier”.

kidschurch

 

I lack faith on most days. Although 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”, I mostly feel that I am fighting a kind of protracted battle on my own. To be better at things, to try out new experiences, to not drown in social awkwardness and to treat other humans like humans. I still don’t know how to do that, and I have dinner with my new BASIC/DG friends later. At least I tried out variations of breaststroke today- four kicks, one pull. I realised that I can hold my breath for much longer if there is no one in my immediate surrounding (i.e., the whole pool).

skyjuice
A “luxury hotel” which serves sky juice.

Queen Elizabeth I had a parting line- “all my possessions for a moment of time.” I don’t want to go to death like that. It is beautiful, because it means that she finally felt the intensity of being alive. But it is also terrifying because my religion teaches that there is a life after death, and those who do not repent etc will go into purgatory/hell/depends on the unique teachings of the church you go to. I would like to go to death without fear.

My choices are never perfect, but it reflects the kind of life I want to have. I like creating things, including terribly ugly dinosaurs, and what I create matter to me more than the profits I can make in my day job. And the profits go to clients anyway, what am I saying.