“新的枝桠来自旧的伤疤”

好扣人心悬的一段歌词

来自蔡依琳的《幸福路上》

Holiness is possible

I heard this sermon at St Helen’s Bishopsgate when I visited London in February 2016. I remember that God spoke loudly to me that day, and made a few notes on a scrap piece of paper then. It has only taken me 3 years to finally dig out that piece of paper to revisit what I learnt and share it on this blog…

Romans 12: 1-8 (By Kevin DeYoung)

You can be holy.

Christ doesn’t just save us from sin’s penalty, but also from sin’s power.

Don’t just wax lyrical about what Christ has saved us from. What about what Christ has saved us to?

To be passionate in our pursuit of holiness, we must first establish that holiness is possible, that we can present ourselves holy and acceptable as God’s children.

Why do we not take being “holy and acceptable to God” seriously? Is it because we equate obedience to “sinless perfection”? (and as a result not believe that holiness is possible) Don’t. You can be holy and acceptable by works that are TRULY good, albeit not PERFECTLY good.

Our good works are accepted through Christ because God is a loving Heavenly Father. Consider a child who promptly and cheerfully responds to requests to clean up his/her room- the corners of the bedsheets are not properly tucked in, the toys are dumped messily together in a box, the clothes are folded but wrinkled. Yet, despite the imperfections, the parents do not reprimand but seek to praise the child.

Yes, the work may not be perfect. Yes, you could have done it much better yourself. Yet, it was truly good and pleasing to the parents. Because it was done sincerely, cheerfully and obediently.

Why is it so important to seek holiness and believe that obedience is possible?

1.  If you don’t, you will give up in sanctification

  • If you think that God is austere, peevish and highly temperamental, and that everything you do is judged by his stern eye whereby there is nothing we can do to please him, you will give up. If you think that you will be a spiritual failure all the time- why would you even bother?

2. You will relativise all sins as being equal in God’s eyes

  • When every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sin at all.
  • There can be the mentality of “Why pursue holiness if one sin is going to make me as bad as Hitler in God’s eyes?”
  • Another example is “why should I stop sleeping with my girlfriend? I will still struggle with lust in my heart.”  Yes, lust is a sin and we must fight against it, but the Lord would rather we fight against sin than giving in to fornication.
  • Yes, it seems humble to act as if that no sin is worse than another. Yet then we lose the impetus to pursue holiness.

3. If we don’t understand the possibility of holiness, we make it difficult to hear the warnings in scripture

  • The warnings in scripture are meant to scare the hell out of us.
  • But if we do not believe that holiness is possible, we will read passages like 1 Corinthians 6 where we are told that the greedy, the covetous, the idolators, adulterers and homosexuals  will not inherit the kingdom of heaven… and yet we will think “well, we are all guilty of these things.” And so we won’t take it seriously.
  • If we think that we are at all times guilty of every one of these sins to the utmost, then we will not hear the sternness of these warnings when we really need to hear it.
  • We need to know that even though we are imperfect and sinful, we can still be sincerely obedient Christians. If not, we will not hear the sirens go off.

4. If we do not understand the possibility of holiness, we will be robbed of one of our means of assurance.

  • We are meant to live in such a way that we manifest the evidences of the spirit’s work in our lives that provide confirming support that we are indeed children of God.
  • Yet, many of us do not give ourselves permission to see evidences of grace. We look at passages like 2 Corinthians 13 “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith” and often choose to see that as a scary warning.
  • This is really difficult, because the more mature you are in Christ, the more you see your own sin. The closer you are to Him, the further away you seem.
  • Assurance must thus be a community project. Speak to others– ask them if they can see fruit in your life… evidences of grace in your life. Not necessarily perfect fruit, but increasing fruit.

5. If we do not have this understanding of holiness being possible, we will flatten and impoverish our relationship with God.

  • You may think that there is NOTHING you can do to make God more or less pleased with me. Well, this is true and false at the same time. Yes, you cannot make yourself more or less justified… but you can live in such a way that will either please your heavenly father or grieve the spirit. It is like a marriage– the union is fixed/ stable, but the communion can ebb and flow.
  • You have a dynamic relationship with God. God while not ceasing to love us, can still be wondrously angry at his children. Justification does not make God indifferent to our sin- he can be angry and reprove us. On the other hand, know that you can also please God.

Don’t live your whole life with a low level sense of guilt and shame. This is not how God meant for us to live. If you are truly guilty of unrepentant sin, you run to the cross, ask for forgiveness and know the sweet serenity of a clean conscience. And when you are walking with Christ in humility, repentance and obedience, you ought to know the smile of your Heavenly Father.

God is not unmoved by our attempts at obedience. You are allowed and expected to be obedient. You never will be perfect. You cannot do anything to earn justification. But as a born-again sinner, you don’t have to be a spiritual failure. By the mercies of God, you CAN present your bodies as a living sacrifice– holy and acceptable to God. There is no righteousness that will make you right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right, by Christ and through faith alone, by undeserved mercy alone, your righteous deeds are not filthy in God’s sight.

Your obedience is precious, pleasing and possible.

萧敬藤

I have been listening to Jam Hsiao over the Christmas and New Year period and have now decided that I really like him!

我已成了小歌迷!

His voice is magnetic and mesmerising- and I quickly find myself lost in his magical music. This video started it all…

One video led to another

And another

He also seems like a really lovely, considerate and gentle man.

I also love a man who embraces his inner child (but not too much) and is hilarious in the process!

Thumbs up from me! I shall be following him more closely and enjoying his music more!

Flow

I was chatting to a friend from church recently about the immense enjoyment that I get out of getting “in the zone” with brush-lettering and creating pieces. At that time, she introduced me to the concept of “flow” which I am now fascinated with.

What is flow?

“It is the mental state when the person performing a task is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. It is characterised by complete absorption in what one does, resulting in the loss of one’s sense of space and time.”

Here is a TEDtalk by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, the Hugarian-American psychologist who described it.

I don’t necessarily agree with him that Flow is THE secret to happiness as JESUS is the ONLY way to truly satisfying, life-changing happiness. However, I do agree that getting into Flow can contribute to emotional well-being. It puts us in a state of ecstasy where we no longer have any spare energy or attention to give our other problems and troubles.

I experience flow when I am creative (painting and lettering) and when I am exercising (even though the inertia is ALWAYS so great to start myself moving). I know that performing gets me into flow as well- I just don’t get enough chances to stand on stage to sing and act.

What gets you into your FLOW?

I hope to get into a state of FLOW much much more this coming year.

 

Looking back to move forward

What a year 2018 has been. So much has happened.

    Both my parents retired in February as they turned 67.
    Following their retirement, they decided to busy themselves with redecorating our old flat. That really needed to be done as the house was really dusty and cluttered full of stuff that we had literally stuffed into every nook and cranny we could find. The paint on the wall was dull and even mouldy in some parts. The built-in furniture was old and creaky. The grout on the toilet walls was black. We had a number of broken tiles on the kitchen walls… the house was on the verge of being unliveable. However, since taking the decision to renovate, months of stress ensued (mostly for them, since I left home after a brief period of packing up my own room)… mum was particularly stressed out by the cost (almost S$60 000 as we had to pretty much change up everything!), the packing, searching for a place to stay for 6 weeks, finding storage space, and sourcing a reliable moving company. I, on the other hand, felt the stress via the phone and the internet, as I was constantly sent pictures of  various bits and bobs to make decisions on… the colour of the room doors, the design of the toilet door, the shape and colour of the door knobs, the type of granite for the kitchen worktop etc etc etc. However, the months of emotional agony was worth it… We have now moved back home and it is beautiful! The walls have a bright, fresh coat of paint, the floor is shining, the kitchen is gorgeous, and we have cleared out a large amount of trash that we never bothered to/ couldn’t bring ourselves to throw out (we are all hoarders in this family). Our house feels so much more like a home now.
    In May, I went for my last ARCP and received an outcome 6!!!! It was lovely to walk into ARCP and receive that handshake from SMercer saying “Congratulations, well done. It was lovely having you on the programme.” It seemed almost a bit of an anticlimax though… to have it all finish like that after 7 tough years of training. It felt like there should have been more of a bang and a fanfare… Nevertheless, it is really nice to be freed from training and all the paperwork/ rules that I had been subject to. Now, I can work wherever I want in whatever sub-specialty I want. I can become a permanent fixture in just 1 particular hospital’s anaesthetic department and start building relationships, trust and teamwork in that one place… free from having to rotate & start anew every 1, 3, or 6 monthly. I can even go home if I want!
    Post CCT, I have since started my new job in paediatric anaesthesia. I now work in a wonderful hospital with lovely colleagues who have been extremely supportive through mum’s illness. I am learning lots daily and getting better at handling little children. I still cannot believe that looking after sick children is now what I do everyday (willingly- given that I chose to apply for this fellowship). Just think back on those first days in 2015 when I was absolutely petrified of having to cannulate a child, and when a 10kg fit & well 1 year old child made me sweaty and scared. Think back on those days when I hated children cos I was terrified of them and all they did was cry whenever they saw me. Today, I actually enjoy looking after these young ‘uns. I love talking to them and their stuffed toys, I enjoy blowing bubbles in the anaesthetic room. I love seeing their angelic sleeping countenances, or their drunken faces when they wake up from the anaesthesia. Of course, I STILL cannot cannulate a neonate (God help me!) and am terrified of sick babies and all those with airway issues… but hopefully these things will get easier with time and experience.
    On 20th August, we received the worst news- mum was diagnosed with biopsy-proven lung cancer. The days that ensued were particularly challenging- I should just describe the latter part of 2018 as being filled with fear and anxiety. Everyone in the household was hurting, yet nobody wanted anybody else to know. It was really hard for me to receive the news whilst overseas, unable to share in their grief or offer any comfort and support to them. I cried a lot during that time. Nevertheless, the whole ordeal led me to fasting for the first time. It made me pray so so so much more than I ever have. I grew closer to SH (one of my best friends in the UK) as she shared in my grief and prayed for me every time I broke down from the burden of it all.
    Amidst all the worry of mum’s diagnosis, I studied for the European Diploma in Regional Anaesthesia. I sat the EDRA part 1 in Dublin on 12th September and surprisingly passed, receiving a score of 74.6%! It was a really tough exam, much harder than I was prepared for having only gone through the Masterpass book once. There were so many questions and topics that I had never even come across before, so there was a fair amount of educated guessing/ blind guessing involved. I am hugely thankful for that little shimmering light of positivity at a time of pretty intense darkness. The EDRA congress was also wonderful in that I gave my first oral presentation at an international conference. I also learnt so much from real regional anaesthesia experts who would hold my hand and say “hold your ultrasound probe this way, angle it that way, look for that structure, aim for this nerve.” It was all in all an intensely satisfying experience.
    I also applied and received my Indefinite Leave to Remain this summer. It was an expensive £2000 to have a premium appointment that gave me an outcome on the same day. Admittedly I had left it a little late to take my Life in the UK test, and then left it even later still before I began the application process. I needed to have a valid visa prior to my new job starting in August, and I obtained my ILR only 2 days before the start of my new job! But oh, what a relief it is to finally hold on to an ILR. Now, I am free to leave this country (for a bit) to experience work perhaps in another environment.
    In November, mum underwent her operation and had the damned dirty thing removed. The pathology results showed that all the cancer was removed and no further adjuvant therapy is needed. PRAISE THE LORD, some light at the end of the tunnel.
    In December, I FINALLY completed and passed my Recognition of Prior Learning essay to convert my medical leadership credits into education credits… which essentially earned me the PGCert in Medical Education! Praise the Lord. The essay had been on my mind for a full year, SH had been praying for me to write it since January! After 12 long months of procrastination, eventually being given a deadline, having the essay returned to me because I had not adequately addressed one of the learning outcomes, and a lot of writing about stuff that I had no interest in, it is done. Welcome to a few more letters after my name!
    Through the year, I have also lost 8 kgs through exercise and mindful eating. Bodypump classes at my local gym helped me with weight training. Badminton sessions with SH every Saturday kept me doing cardio weekly. Myfitnesspal was also a true God-send of an app that helped me keep my calories accounted for.

In addition, I have also improved tremendously in my brush lettering. I can now do bouncy letters, flourish my letters, paint floral wreaths, and have even tried my hand at foiling. My work is by no means wonderful, but the progress is very visible and I am extremely proud,

OK, enough reflecting on the events of the past year. How did I fare with keeping my 2018 resolutions?

  • Joy in the workplace. I want to enjoy my work more and feel less stress, fear and frustration→ Maybe? Not sure. I do enjoy going to work most days, but I think my intrinsic being is just built for stress, especially with neonates and sick kids!
  • Improved brush calligraphy skills→ Pass (as above)
  • Better eating habits and more exercise, hopefully accompanied by noticeable weight loss→ Pass-ish. I have lost 8kg this year and dropped a dress size. However, I am still quite a little way from my weight goal. I am not massive, but I want to be fitter and more toned.
  • More travelling→ Fail. I don’t think I travelled to any new places this year… except Dublin for an exam.
  • More friends and deeper friendship→Pass-ish. I don’t think I have made more friends this year, but my relationship with SH has certainly grown deeper through weekly play and pray sessions (badminton followed by prayer). We share about almost every aspect of our lives with each other and have prayed together in the gym, the library, the garden, by the roadside…
  • Love and relationship→ Major fail. Major fail every single year. I would love to have love, but almost don’t dare to wish for this anymore.
  • Prayerfulness and complete trusting in the Lord Jesus→ Yes. I have prayed so much this year through hard times. Even when the going got tough, I thank God that He has stayed with me throughout and helped me trust him through it all.

What do I hope for in the new year? Well, my motto for next year is to:

BE LIKE WATER.  

Fluid and flexible: Be all things to all people. Receive change with a smile- don’t sweat over it.

Be cool and refreshing: Help others feel alive and inspired simply by being present.

Be strong, powerful and fierce, yet capable of calm stillness

More measurably, next year I hope to:

  • Practice more brush lettering and experiment more. Get so good that I can start a business selling cards and prints.
  • Learn Chinese calligraphy
  • Pass the EDRA part 2
  • Lose more weight, at least another 8 kg!
  • Listen to more music. Be more receptive of more music genres by more artists. Dance to the music.
  • Go to concerts, musicals, theatre performances. Basically, immerse in the performing arts that you love but have neglected for years.
  • Make a plan– am I going to do another fellowship? Get a consultant job? Maybe move back home? Certainly get registered with the SMC.
  • Rejoice and give praise to the Lord through every circumstance. Don’t forget about Him even in happy times.

Here’s to a joyful and fruitful 2019!