Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Loneliness of Grief

I was just a few days before my 25th birthday when my Mum passed away. 

Nobody told me how terrifying losing someone can be. I was 19 when I first said goodbye to someone I loved very much. It was my grandmother. I saw the ECG heart monitor read 92 to 52 to 0 in the hospital. I was overcome with shock and sorrow and I felt it hard to breathe properly. 

When my Mum was alive, I kept replaying the scene in my head to prepare myself mentally of what might happen in the end. Each night as I fall asleep, these fears would creep into my head. It was a nightmare that would never end.

Finally, it did. Or did that actually start? 

Mum passed away in the hospital after she was admitted in for a week. 72 hours before her death she was still doing fine. We even celebrated the three of our birthdays in advance.

“Sing the birthday song,” Mum said in her weak voice as she clasped her hands to sing it. 

“Ha-ppy Birth-day to you…” She continued gently and conjured a smile on her face. We took our last family photo together, forever immortalised. 

I wish people would ask me about my Mum or me. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt - It’s difficult and maybe people don’t know what to say when I tell them. Of course it would make me sad, but I rather people acknowledge my loss rather than sweep it under the rug. Ask me about my Mum, ask me about how I am, ask me about what I miss most about her. 

Losing a Mum at 24 is different from losing a parent when you’re 50. Losing a Mum because of cancer is different from losing a parent because of old age. There are so many unanswered questions, so many fears. I think about my own mortality, I think about how my Mum will never be able to be with me in the future - like if I get married or if I have kids. My Mum was my emotional rock. There’s nothing like a “Mum is always on your side, okay?” to make my day better. 

People often tell me time will heal all hurt. What if it doesn’t? What if I have to carry this grief to my grave? At 4 months, time passes too fast, yet also slowly. I wish there was a way to fast forward time and go to a place free from the hurt and pain. 

But I know I have to go through the mourning process if I want to heal. 

Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew

On the 23rd March 2015, our nation grieved the loss of the founding father of modern Singapore - Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. We stood in solidarity to pay our last respects to a great man ahead of his time.

Throughout the whole of this week, there was a silent air of grief that floated around. There was something about the atmosphere that was different from its usual days. People on the trains were quiet, a sea of monochrome wrapped around CBD.

It's probably the one day apart from the National Days, where I see Singaporeans united, to mourn the loss of a great man. I was especially touched when I heard of how Singaporeans queued up quietly, without any murmur or complaints to pay their last respects to Mr Lee at the Parliament House. Or how student volunteers and some F&B outlets have so generously distributed food, water and umbrellas to those in need.

As I listen and read the tributes of Singaporeans and others, I too, feel sad inside my heart as I read of stories of how one man could have had such a huge impact on Singaporeans, the nation and the world. He was such a visionary leader, and full of charisma and grit!

Thank you Mr Lee, for laying the foundation for Singapore to thrive and grow and be the financial hub it is today. I have not have lived through the 70s-80s and see the development of Singapore firsthand, but looking around the Singapore River, the Marina Barrage, the HDB blocks, I can't but imagine the transformation Singapore went through, under your leadership.

Growing up in Primary school, I remember there were six National Education posters plastered around the school hall. One which I fondly remember is this - No one owes Singapore a living. As a child I did not fully understand what that meant, nevertheless it stuck with me.

Singapore has indeed found her way to prosper, albeit a tumultuous journey. But we made it. No one owes Singapore a living. But we owe you that much, you, and Singapore's forefathers, for improving our lives, for building this Singapore, which I am proud to call my home, the Singapore it is today - a prosperous, progressive and peaceful country.

Friday, 6 February 2015

"Ordinary" Gifts

Often I tend to think of God's blessings as big presents or surprises you get, like those on your birthday, forgetting that sometimes His blessings come in small sizes too. Just like big presents, we can get easily excited over them and we get caught up in how big they are. Like God working big miracles e.g. In the parting the red sea or causing the wall of Jericho to fall down. We, or I forget that He is also the God who feeds us, like how he fed Elijah or the 5,000. Sometimes I forget that God's blessings can come like small presents, but are still gifts nonetheless.

As I reflect, I am reminded of how God has blessed us in simple ways like the supply of food on the table. Ever since Mum fell sick, we have had food cooked by my Grandfather's maid daily. I never had to worry if there would be food on the table since Mum would not be cooking. And I don't have to worry if there's food in the fridge because they always seem to be well stocked.

I also think back on those days when I was cooking dinner and on some days I underestimated (unplanned) the portions and ended up having lesser food. God has shown me that he does indeed supply us our daily bread. I remember a few occasions when some of Mum's friends came to deliver soup to us and would happen to bring extra food for us. And it truly is daily bread because God does provides us with food on a daily basis. The food which people give are not just adequate but more than enough. And I think this also gives us a glimpse into God's resources and gifts. He is more than enough and he will supply us our needs and according to His riches in glory.

It's amazing just as I was thinking about God's blessings and here I am reminded again that God's blessings come in all forms, shapes and sizes. Even in little, ordinary seemingly less dramatised ways. They are also gifts and are also God's way of telling us how he loves us so.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 7

"For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." 2 Corinthians 1:20

All of God's promises are a Yes and Amen! Paul doesn't say God says yes to some of His promises, or say that these promises are only valid once, in the past. But all His promises are available for us in the present and for the future.

God does not promise that life will be anxiety-free but He promises that He will give us the peace that passes all understanding.

God does not promise that life will be easy when we follow Him, but He promises that if we follow Him we will have life everlasting and abundant.

God says Yes to His promises, therefore we can have the assurance to utter Amen to Him!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 6

In this chapter, John Piper compares faith in future grace with pride.

Pride is the essence of unbelief. Piper compares faith with pride and connects unbelief and pride. Unbelief is when we turn from God and believe or find satisfaction in something else. Pride is when we turn from God and believe in self.

We get anxious about the future and become self-sufficient, so we do try to do things by our own strength. Pride says we can boast in our achievements and don't need God in our lives.

Probably something I've never thought about was how self-pity could also be a form of pride. Self-pity is a form of self-exaltation and says "look at me, I've suffered so much and deserve recognition".

I suppose it's really easy to fall into the sin of pride. It's an ever important reminder to ourselves, that everything belongs to God. He gave us intelligence, strength, talents which without him we are nothing.

Yet there is another spectrum to avoid - false humility or self-pity. May our only boast be in Christ alone. He must increase, and I decrease.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV
Thus says the Lord : “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord .”

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 4

Probably the most encouraging thing about this chapter is to learn that God's grace is not supplied merely for the past, but it's an ever flowing fountain of future grace that streams into our hearts and gives us refreshment for our weary souls.

The chapter uses the experience of the christians in the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-4) who gave generously, despite the poverty and trials they were facing. It's really encouraging to see how these christians lived by faith in God's future grace, and were filled with abundant joy which overflowed in rich generosity.

How then can I/we experience that joy and generosity in the midst of suffering on earth? The following verses as pointed out tell us that the answer is through the grace of God (2 Corinthians 9:8). And this key is able to unlock the door to give generously too. By knowing that we live moment by moment from the strength of future grace, it gives us the hope and assurance that if God is able to sustain us daily, He is more than able to bring us through future needs or difficulties. Thus, we are able to love and give generously.

Grace is the air we breathe.


I remember we were discussing about selling and sharing our possessions from our Bible study from Acts 4 last Sunday. During our discussion, we talked about what hindered us from giving and I said a selfish spirit and a lack of faith in God's provision for the future. I guess one of the things that hinders us from giving is that feeling that when we give, we will make a loss because we have to give up our own comfort and treasures for the benefits of others. Plus we sometimes give according to whether we think the other party deserves it and thus make a mental judgment?

Anyhow, through my devotions I seem to have been hearing a lot of things regarding giving and money and faith, so I believe God is prompting me to examine my heart and see where my real treasures lie - whether on earth or in heaven. I've never thought of myself as materialistic, but after reading that line "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be", it has sort of awaken me to realise that if I don't see Jesus as my ultimate prize or treasure, my heart will drift away and seek other things to try and find satisfaction.

I guess one of the best tell tale signs of whether Jesus is one's treasure is to see where one spends their time, energy and money on.

This chapter has been really helpful for me in understanding God's grace and how it unlocks the key to love and generosity towards others.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 3

This is quite a straightforward chapter with little to debate about.

The root of anxiety is due to our inadequate faith in God. We get anxious because we have little faith in God's future grace.

I think anxiety is one of those things that Christians (or basically all) have to battle with. We can't help but worry over things present in our lives or the future because it seems dangerously unknown. And we are often encouraged or told to not worry but trust in God's timing and provision.

I liked how John Piper actually wrote that the way to fight anxieties is to fight against unbelief, and fight for faith in future grace. I think I tend to do more of the former, but neglect the latter, but both are equally necessary in the constant battle against anxiety. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Future Grace; Day 2

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
Being a Christian sometimes feels like following a set of rules to obey. Sometimes it feels like we obey out of duty, sometimes out of love. The thing is that when we obey out of duty, it makes Christianity look like some rule book. I remember coming home from BSF after the lecture from Matthew 5 feeling like there was such a heavy stone in my heart because it was so hard to achieve God's high moral standards. Certainly it takes no Christian to know that being a Christian is not easy!

Take giving of our tithes and offerings as an example. We give God because we are commanded to do so. But the moment it becomes something that we do out of gratitude, grace somehow becomes nullified. We should instead, give out of faith, trusting in God's future grace and know that He will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory.

Therefore, gratitude is not meant to empower us for future obedience, but faith is. I suppose it does relieve a lot of burdens, knowing that if we want to obey God it requires faith, and less of works to try and "repay the debt".

And as Matthew 11 tells us, we can come to God for rest for our souls. Knowing that God shoulders our burdens and is pulling my load together with me towards the same direction is comforting. Surely "his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3)! And as Andrew Murray puts it "it was Jesus who drew thee when He spake "Come," so it is Jesus who keeps thee when He says "Abide." The [past] grace to come and the [future] grace to abide are alike from Him alone."

We don't live our life in gratitude to God, but we live our lives by faith

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Future Grace; Day 1

What is the biblical motive for Christian obedience? Perhaps most people would say gratitude.

Yet, John Piper argues in his book 'Future Grace' that gratitude is not the biblical for Christian obedience. Rather, faith in future grace is.

I'm currently reading that book and it's 31 chapters, so I hope to finish the book within a month and pen down my thoughts daily as I read it.

Apparently the book has received lots of praises from well-known Christian figures like J.I. Packer, Kevin DeYoung, C.J. Mahaney etc. saying that apart from the Bible, this book has had the most impact in their lives and it has changed their thinking. Got to live up to its expectations, right? So I'm delving in and reading, hoping that it will challenge me the same way A.W Tozer's 'Pursuit of God' has done for me.

And it has.

The first chapter goes straight into the debtor's ethic - whether we should try to pay God back. Gratitude has he puts it, is good because it exults in grace. The problem with it though, is that gratitude has sometimes lost its spontaneity, and we are tempted to pay it back on the basis that someone has done something good for me, so I should reciprocate. The gift then sort of loses its real meaning.

I suppose it's true, because as Christians we say things like "God has done so much for me, and what have I done for him?" The thinking or motive behind it is probably good, but the Bible as John Piper points out, doesn't show that gratitude is the way we obey him.

Rather, he argues that the reason why we sin is because of our lack of faith in God's future grace, not ingratitude. Faith in future grace is the missing ethical power to overcome rebellion and motivate obedience.

"It's this faith in future grace that channels the power of God into obedience" - We obey, because we fear the Lord, and fearing the Lord involves us trusting in Him, and trembling that it would be an insult to God if we do not have faith after seeing all the signs and wonders he has performed.

Besides, we can never repay God's gift of love for us so the motive for us to obey/please God is driven by faith. Indeed, "without faith, it is impossible to please God".

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why work is useful

I'm currently reading this book by Timothy Keller called "Every Good Endeavour" and so far, it's been a much needed and helpful read on why and how our work matters to God.

Unfortunately, these authors who write on Christians at work aren't from Singapore so it's a bit hard to understand where they're coming from. I mean, they aren't from Singapore and they don't understand the need for survival and practicality. I somehow wish there would be a Singaporean Christian to give a balanced perspective on work.

Nevertheless, this is what I've inferred from reading the first few chapters of the book:

1. Work gives us an opportunity to identify our strengths, weakness, talents, what we are good at, so that we can be equipped with this knowledge and of self and use it to better serve the church and others.

2. We work, to earn, to give. When we work, we earn money and we can use these money to contribute purposefully to missions, church funding and evangelism.

Still reading and still learning.