Learning from the masters

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MasterChef was the reality program that got me really interested in cooking as an art form, rather than a chore.

It opened up a whole new cookbook of vocabulary like caramelisation, julienne, Mise en Place. It introduced me to an extensive menu of new and diverse cuisines like tagine, Croquembouche and Yorkshire pudding. It brought into the living room the culinary world of three-hatted or Michelin-crowned celebrity chefs.

In some seasons, there are the masterclasses where the judges and invited guests taught and demonstrated techniques and tips to the contestants. Some things are simply beyond me, but from time to time, there are certain handy tricks which can be used in the home kitchens.

The very affable Jamie Oliver was one of the invited chefs on the show. In his most recent outing, he even competed against three contestants. It was a fantastic episode as we laughed at how he sliced, chopped, cooked and plated up with such casual ease, and even found time to coach his opponents. Just loved the episode and so did many others, judging by the number of posts to the show’s Facebook wall! I was really glad to read later in the papers that Jamie Oliver’s restaurant would soon be open in Perth! And in Singapore too! Jolly good!

What was great about Jamie Oliver was that his love for food was apparent. And his delight and exhilaration while cooking was really infectious. His food was also not pretentious, but hearty and sumptuous to satisfy… unlike the so-called “deconstructed food” or “art” on a plate.

Guess which dish was Jamie’s?!
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From the three over years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we could see what a great Master He was in teaching, imparting and feeding with spiritual food.

Jesus loves what He is teaching

Jesus loves the subject matter of His teaching. He loves God, He loves the Word of God.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4

Jesus knows what He is teaching

Jesus did not forsake the learning of God’s Word even though He is the Word Himself!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
John 1: 1-2

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions.
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Luke 2:40, 46-47

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,
because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus knows why He is teaching

Jesus taught because of the people and not for position, popularity or pride. Jesus taught using parables, which are earthly stories with a Heavenly meaning. Jesus made sure that the multitudes understood what He was teaching.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Matthew 5:1-2

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:34

I can just imagine being there with the multitudes, scattered all around the rough terrain in a remote location… listening intently to and hanging on to His every word despite physical hunger! I am sure that the teachings of Jesus would have been a very satisfying feast to fill every hungry heart!
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P/S: Jamie’s dish was the sumptuous and generous platter on the right.

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Christian Retirement

We just had about a month of Australian Football League (AFL) qualifying finals and so the footy season was at fever pitch in September. Fans had turned up in hordes for the grand final parade despite the inclement weather in Melbourne.

As I was finishing up on this blog, the grand finals match was being played and shown ‘live’ on television. Even though the teams we supported were out of contention for the trophy, we were still nervous especially when the two final teams drew level with only eight minutes left to the game!

In Australia, sporting heroes are often highly revered. AFL players, especially the top-tiered ones, have a very decent income in their short playing careers. But emotionally and psychologically, many would have to deal with a change from being placed on a pedestal on the playing field to playing pedestrian outside the league. Monetary wise, they would need to be smart in managing their finances, through a second career or adjustments in their lifestyles and expenditures.

In Perth, there is a Telethon fund-raising drive that has taken place annually since 1968 (similar to Singapore’s Community Chest). One of the related events is the Chris Mainwaring Legends Match, where the players of yore from the local West Coast Eagles club and an opponent team would relive the good ol’ days for charity.

The Eagles alumni call themselves the OWLs, which stands for Older, Wiser… and Larger. This year, the OWLs are playing the CATs from the Geelong Football Club. Well, not exactly the current team of CATs, but the alumni TOMcats… which stands for Tired Old Men.

We have quite a chuckle over the  current series of promotion and love the way the veterans are able to laugh at themselves. These charity matches are usually not played in earnest. You could see some players taking extended breaks and even eating a packet of fries on the field!

While this is all in good fun, the sad fact is still that natural human heroics and heroes are but fickle and transient.

But thank God that fading into retirement and oblivion was never His blueprint for His child.

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28 to 31

Noah did everything the Lord instructed him to and entered the ark, the tangible result of his service for God, at 600 years old. Enoch walked faithfully with God and God took him away at age 365. Consider the fact that God did not set up a retirement village for Abraham (75 years old), Moses (80 years old) and Caleb (85 years old). He called them instead for a new mission for their lives.

The Rise and Fall of Nations

Being here in Australia, there has been more opportunities to live, work and interact among people from different nationalities. Many had resided in Australia for a long time, having migrated since they were children from different parts of the world such as Europe. Others are second generation Australians, born and bred here.  In metrochurch, it has been said that there were sixty over nationalities in the church itself. There was once when the congregation was asked to raise their hands if they were born in Australia or specifically Western Australia, the percentage was actually on the minority side.

We have quite close contacts with Italians in particular. Our neighbours are Italians, a wonderful family who has been very kind to us and “adopted” us like part of their extended family. My driving instructor was born in Italy and migrated to Australia in his teens. He has great work ethics, and he was also very kind in giving me extended lessons without charging extra.

We used to have to walk past a Greek orthodox church, enroute to our favourite Sunday lunch place. It has quite a formidable architecture. When the doors were closed, it sounded like a very solemn service was in progression within its walls. Sometimes we got to meet the congregation after the service had concluded. The men were typically in heavy suits whether in summer or winter. The congregation was also dressed mainly in black or dark garments. In the country, one well-known Greek has to be the lovable judge on Masterchef Australia, George Columbaris. He is the one in the centre.

Cuisine wise, the different countries have contributed much to the culinary scene in Australia. Our favourite chocolate place is currently Chocolateria San Churro, with Spanish chocolate holding court in the establishment’s snacks and beverages. When Spain won the World Cup in 2010, we congratulated one of the staff (or perhaps he was the franchise owner) of San Churro and a big smile lit up his face. 

Europe was recently very much in the centre of attention. Other than the London Olympics, it was largely bad news for many European countries. The world watched nervously as Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal tottered and quivered through their respective financial woes.

It is interesting how nations like Greece, Italy and Spain used to be the dominating empires or great navigators of the world. But today, each has fallen on dire straits. We cannot even tell the people apart from the general populace. Other than some prominent distinguishing features, it can be hard to tell the originating countries of the people around us. Like we were once ferried by a taxi driver whose accent sounded Italian. But he was in fact Polish.

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel 2:20-21

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,
and if that nation I warned repents of its evil,
then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,
and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me,
then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
Jeremiah 18:7-10

But even now, there is still widespread reliance on the world’s super powers to recover and be restored to their former glory. Certain economies are watched closely… for it seems that they must continue to thrive and grow, in order that global depression can be averted. Some of us may also place faith in our own little earthly “kingdoms”… we have a roof over our head, we have a stable job, we have our health, etc, etc… our world seems infallible.

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”
Daniel 2:31-35

But as Daniel has already foretold, no earthly kingdoms can last forever. Does this make you discouraged? Fearful?

Recently, metrochurch showed a video of children from the different centres in Cambodia, who had been gathered together for a 2012 Transform Cambodia Conference. As I watched the children singing and worshipping God with all their little hearts and minds, tears just rolled down uncontrollably.

I have witnessed God’s kingdom… the only one that will remain victorious forever and ever!

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Have you added God as your Friend?

We had the most exasperating cinema experience at a certain city (whose identity shall remain concealed). All I would say is that it’s not Perth or Singapore.

As the lights went off, illumination from mobile phones became an instant annoying distraction. And guess what, the owners of these phones just happened to be sitting right next to us! 

Okay fine, could live with that… then the problem escalated. They continued to check their Facebook wall continually through the show, flashing the illuminated screens as they read and typed a response. One phone even went off and it was answered without reservation or consideration for fellow patrons.

I had to use all ounces of energy to stop myself from snatching the offensive phones and smashing them to smithereens. Oops, did I just mention that I have a temper.

After the show, I just kept raging and ranting about the inconsiderate and rude people until all the anger had been dispelled out of my system. Then I began another tirade about why people had to be so connected to Facebook all the time. C’mon, you’re not going to miss out much if you do not instantly know that your friend just had pizza for lunch!!!

Okay… I think I’d just alienated some… But lest I be branded a FB-basher, I have to add that FB is an amazing communications channel for connecting people. But the addiction to keeping up with updates is another thing altogether.

Anyway, there is a positive that I take away with this experience… and that is, how amazing it would be if the same passion and intensity, of checking one’s FB wall and updating one’s status, is applied to God?

Just imagine how our lives would turn around if we constantly and consistently check if God has anything to impart to us and if we never tire of updating Him about what’s going on with our lives. Imagine the same gripping interest in wanting to know more about God, like how we want to know what our friends are doing moment by moment. Imagine the impact when we really know and appreciate how interested God is about our lives, like how we cherish having friends filling our FB walls with greetings and well wishes. Such clear channels of communications and the open, honest sharing of our hearts will surely increase the intimacy of our relationship with the Lord!

God loves having friends. God loves befriending His creation and sharing with them out of His heart.

And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Genesis 18:17

The answer to that could be found in the rest of Genesis 18. If God has a Facebook account, it might look like this:

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God,
and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
And he was called the friend of God.
James 2:23

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…
Exodus 33:11

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Have you added God as your Friend?

My Giant Robot

So this was my treasured childhood memory…

Finally found a video clip that resembles… or remotely resembles a cartoon that I used to love and enjoy as a kid. In a dusty corner of my memory bank, there was this fantastic giant robot that had fascinated me with his power and reduced me to tears with his courage and sacrifice.

Now, the video clip has reduced me to tears with its corniness and incredulity.

My childhood hero, the Giant Robot, is now a sad artefact of a bygone era and outdated technology.

I was able to spend time with my parents recently and took the opportunity to clarify some of my vague memories of events in the past and of anecdotes imparted by my aunt. There were the simple things like whether my Mum had sewn my little bolster and pillow (no, my aunt did) or whether my grandfather had actually built air raid shelters during the Second World War (no, he didn’t).

In turn, my Mum was more than happy to tell me more about her story, Dad’s story, their stories and other things.

I am not sure about others, but there had been things in the past which affected my relationship with my parents. It’s unfortunate, but inaccurate memories or understanding could cloud our judgment and affect our responses towards people and things. It wasn’t like there was great hostility and animosity between my parents and I. But there was definitely a lack of understanding and intimacy.

After a heart-to-heart talk (or more so, allowing my Mum to pour out her pent-up unhappiness and frustrations), I wish I could turn back time and make things better. I wish that I hadn’t judged that it was abandonment when they decided to put me in the care of my aunt (this arrangement actually turned out for the best as I was led to the Lord and spiritually nurtured by my cousins, Paul and Susan).

When we begin to clear our vision that has been fogged by hurts and unforgiveness, we will begin to see with new eyes a different perspective of people and situations. There is a fresh understanding of where the other party is coming from, why they are behaving in certain ways, and how they are reacting to situations. We will also be able to take a long hard look inwardly to spot the calluses of a hardened heart and closed up mind. We will then know that we are very much like the people whom we dislike, despise or detest. Yet God forgives us… and who are we not to forgive?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12 to 14

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19 to 20

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 1:19 to 21

My parents are no longer that Giant Robot memory of the past. But may the giants of the past, that are blocking the way to our future in God, be slayed and laid to rest instead!

By the way, did I mention that I was a fan of Ultraman and I even had a big action figure in kindergarten?

Suddenly

“Suddenly” is such a good word for English composition in school. For a primary school kid, the word helps to create the ambience for a dramatic turn of events or introduce some form of suspense.

As one grows into an adult, there can be the highly-anticipated “suddenlys”. There could be an unforeseen job offer, promotion or salary raise; a surprise marriage proposal; etc.

As one grows older, the “suddenlys” can develop into something less desirable… diagnosis, displacements, disappointments…

I had a “suddenly” moment during a recent Sunday service. I was feeling lousy and so spiritually low during the worship service until this song was sung. The turning point was the phrase “the Lion and the Lamb”, which can be heard after the 2-minute mark of this video:

The strange thing is that this part of the lyrics had not meant much to me in the past, in fact, it sounded rather odd initially. But in this particular service, the words leapt out at me as they revealed the Lord in such a vivid way. I began to see that Jesus is:

The Lion: There is such majesty and splendour in Jesus, the King of kings, seated in the place of honour at the right hand of God!

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed.
He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelation 5:5

The Lamb: Yet in the next verse, Jesus is described as the Lamb, who looked very different from what a mighty lion should be:

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain,
standing at the centre of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.
Revelation 5:6

Such assurance and forgiveness flooded over me as it was affirmed again that Jesus has died for my sins and He is mighty to save!

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Revelation 5:12b

It was a “suddenly” moment which I really needed.

But I believe there is no “suddenly” in God’s vocabulary and plans. There was no panic in Heaven when Jesus was crucified on the cross. God did not have to say to His heavenly host, “Uh-oh guys, we need a Plan B…” God has in fact laid down the plan of salvation and redemption from the beginning:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

Enoch and Elijah were not suddenly taken away; they had walked with God and served faithfully for many, many years:

Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 5:23 to 24

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
2 Kings 2:11

What looked like a “suddenly” was actually preceded by a period of prayer and preparations:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1 to 4

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Acts 1: 12 to 14

In our finite human understanding, it may seem that God’s appearance and answer could come suddenly and randomly. Maybe God will answer when He feels like it… maybe when the timing is just right… maybe when things happen to click in place…

But maybe… just maybe… if we were to take care of and take heed to the “consistentlys”, the “patientlys”, the “steadilys”, the “faithfullys”… the “suddenlys” might just not be so sudden after all.

And so after waiting patiently,
Abraham received what was promised.
Hebrews 6:15

Heaven (2) – I Can’t Find My Name!

Those who were around in the 70s would have remembered this memorable and successful advertisement:

Last Christmas, there was a new campaign by Coke which I quite like.

Coca Cola Australia has put personalised labels of 150 first names on their bottles, and I believe this was really successful given the rather empty shelves allocated to Coke in the supermarket in the initial weeks.
http://www.facebook.com/CocaColaAustralia?sk=app_161596147260366

While primarily a chocolate milk drinker, I was nevertheless excited to find out if my name was included in the 150. I was more sceptical but still quite hopeful at the same time to find our names. Allan’s would be a bit trickier because of the spelling. Mine isn’t much better, judging by the typical difficulty in locating magnets and key chains with my name on it.

As expected, the chosen names were the more popular and common Australian first names like Alana, Caitlin, Hayden, etc. Which is good, or I may have the dilemma of deciding whether to buy a bottle or two for keepsake (i.e. more junk). Oh but it seemed I could order a personalised can… hmmm… should I…. should I not?

Not finding my name from the 150 designated names was just a minor disappointment, if it can even be called that. It didn’t matter whether I have a personalised Coke bottle or not.

But imagine if my name isn’t included in the Book of Life. Now, that’s a horrifying thought.

Yes, I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I accept Him as my Lord and my Saviour!

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:12 to 13

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you,
but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Luke 10:20

Yes, it can happen!

The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.
Exodus 32:33

So let us be fearful!
No, this is not about fretting in uncertainty.
But let us maintain a God-fearing attitude and know with great certainty that we can be overcomers in Christ!

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence,
but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Philippians 2:12 to 13

May Psalm 51: 1 to 12 be our constant prayer…

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Is Whitney in heaven? The answer will be revealed one day. But for now and far more importantly, is our name in the Book of Life?

Heaven (1) – Where Are They Now?

This is one of those Where-Were-You-When-It-Happened moments.

I was too young to understand the massive outpouring of grief when Elvis died.

But I did when Princess Diana passed away… the princess whose fairy-tale wedding was celebrated and whose death was mourned by millions around the world.

I could imagine how the fans felt with Michael Jackson’s demise.

Only a few days ago, another celebrity was added to the list of notable personalities whose passing could perhaps be deemed as premature. Whitney Houston was only 48.

There seemed to be some parallels between Whitney and Elvis.

Elvis Presley attended church as a child. Whitney Houston was raised as a Baptist.
Both rose to meteoric heights in the music industry because of their amazing voices.
Elvis used drugs; Whitney went down the same path as well.
Both died suddenly in their forties.

When Whitney made her debut, her clean-cut image and expressions of faith and gratitude to God were like a breath of fresh air.

I could only hope then that she would not fall into the trappings of fame and wealth.

But as we now know, it was not to be.

There was a torrent of tributes on various media, and I found this on the internet:

Also available on the internet was a mobile phone recording of Whitney’s last song in public. The song was “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”. It was not an official performance, but this may bear hope that despite what had happened in her life, she did find an opportunity to get right and restore her relationship with God while she still had the time.

Because of her Christian heritage, many naturally would think or want to believe that Whitney has gone home to be with the Lord.

Let’s hold that thought for now…

to be continued…

HOME

Years from now, would “Instagram moment” replace the “Kodak moment”, the latter being relegated as a relic in the darkroom?

A long, long time ago, I used to buy rolls and rolls of Kodak films for long holidays. Returning home, one of the first things was to hurry to the photo lab to develop the films. That was a rather costly exercise with no certain results, unlike what we could do now, take copious number of digital photos and load them into cyberspace. And if we really want to have a print copy, we can easily choose the best pictures.

Despite the transition to the digital age, I have developed a habit of internalising holiday memories. There was a line from an old Japanese series where the protagonist talked about capturing an important memory, “with all my might, I clicked the shutter in my heart”. And this was exactly what I did on the last nights of holidays… peered out of the hotel room and just took in the night skies and cityscape so that these became imprinted in my memory. Sometimes, I would just keep staring till the lights went off one by one in the surrounding buildings.

I could recall how I dreaded leaving Singapore on our first trip back home from Perth. On that last night, there was incessant clicking in my heart as I sought to capture and cling on to as many memories as I could. And so it was, for the second trip home, the third… and then the most recent trip…

Surprise… I didn’t do the usual lingering and longing shots of the last night. Sure, I was rapt by the magnificent panoramic view atop the Sands Skypark observation deck. But at the end of the holidays, I was longing to return home. Home… as in Perth…

Don’t get me wrong… Singapore will always be home. At this stage of my life, though, Perth is more of a home to me. It caused me to wonder… what has caused this transition? Maybe…

Home is where the eart is. I have grown to love my current city, embracing all its beauty and shortcomings. Yes, it is not exactly a “happening” place; the restricted shopping hours are ridiculous; it gets unbearably hot in summer (40+ degrees anyone?); the cost of living is rocketing skyward… but this is a landscape and lifestyle that I now cherish and enjoy… where I have built new relationships and where going to work amidst lovely people is more of a pleasure than pressure.

Home is where one has wnership. Travelling may be fun, but after a protracted period of living out of a suitcase, I just long to be back to my very own lot in this world, where all my belongings can be found. I can make as many clothing changes as I like simply because they are all there… everything is familiar, and arranged according to my needs and lifestyle.

Home is where aintenance is required of us. When we have a stake in something, we have the responsibility to carefully, conscientiously and consistently upkeep its condition. This may sound ironical, but I really hate housework. I would rather someone do this on my behalf. But then again, there is nothing like the satisfaction that one gets from accomplishing a gleaming mirror, a clean floor and a tidy house.

Home is where xtension and   xpansion can take place. A home is where one goes…

  • Hmmm, this painting will go well on the feature wall.
  • Oh, I’ve just found the perfect ornament to dress up this corner!
  • Maybe it’s time for some renovations and home improvements?

 

I am quite sure that my conflicting desire, to either linger longer at a holiday destination or to return home, is nowhere as strong as the dilemma Paul faced:

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far
Philippians 1:23

I just can’t say this in as much passion. Of course, I want to be homeward bound towards Heaven. But compare this to the excitement when one is planning towards a holiday? Or to the gladness in returning home for the real holiday, (i.e. rest)?

So where exactly is our spiritual home? Our spiritual address is actually determined by where we choose to reside on earth. Lot chose to set up his tents in Sodom (Genesis 13: 10 to 13), a land which appeared to be well irrigated and the better choice. But he ignored the fact that the people living in that land were wicked. A closer examination of our heart will help determine the latitude and longitude of where we have chosen set up home.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:34

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37 to 39

If our lives are cluttered with the affairs of this world, what we have actually inherited would be kept outside the door to our heart. When we do begin to grasp a little of what God has in store for us, the goals we have or the way we live will change very drastically.

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2 to 3

so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:7

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13 to 14

When we take on a vested stake in Heaven, we will be compelled to stick to the strict regime and discipline of maintaining our course and spiritual life. It is like how one would fork out the money to join a gym, in the hope that with that bit of ownership, there will be an impetus to continue with the program.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Philippians 2:12 to 13

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

And not forgetting the most important thing… we are the very house where God dwells!

As you come to him, the living Stone
—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood,
offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4 to 5

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
John 14:23

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them

and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
2 Corinthians 6:16b

Is God at home in us?

Origins

I guess Allan and I are still very much city folks, even though we have been closer to nature since we settled here in Perth.

It still fascinates us when we spot animals like horses, cows, sheep… which is fairly often as it is still a modest farming region where we live.

We get all excited when we see melons sitting on the sandy patch outside a shop or on the roadside. Oh… wow… that’s how they are grown!

Buying vegetables at the grocers’ or markets also brings fresh revelations of the actual forms of the produce before they become food on the dining table.

This reminds me of those childhood days when I used to go marketing with my aunt at the wet markets. There was a fascinating corner where hens… very much alive… were kept in cages. My aunt would pick one out (not sure how she chose), tell the hawker her choice, and he would retrieve it from the cage and go behind somewhere. As a kid, I had an inkling as to what had happened to that unfortunate hen, but wouldn’t dwell too much on animal rights especially when my aunt was such a good cook. The pots of chicken curry, the chicken rice, the deep fried chicken wings… sedap!

These days, I would prefer to buy meat that doesn’t look like their original form… better still if it comes diced, sliced, minced or even marinated. It still bothers me to see remnants of feathers on drumstick and wings… oh can’t these be plucked more thoroughly?! It’s also easier to buy vegetables in packaged or frozen form, hence eliminating the hassle of having to wash and remove traces of soil and bugs, and then to trim, chop, slice, julienne, dice, etc.

So yes, there is a tendency to want to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour without the corresponding recognition of or interest in their origins.

Both our parents worked very hard in their youth and led a frugal lifestyle in order to give their next generation a better life.  Today’s environment may be tough, but just imagine those days when Singaporeans had to grapple with great uncertainties and unknown challenges that loomed ahead of the new-born nation. Up till now, despite a much improved financial situation, our parents continued the same simple lifestyles and would not bear to lavish creature comforts, good food and expensive holidays on themselves. It gives them more joy to indulge in their children and grandchildren. We are definitely enjoying the fruits of the pioneers’ labour.

I think about the origins of Evangelites who grew up or are now growing spiritually through the ministry of the church. For example, in the 80s, many teenagers and young adults came to the Lord through the ministry of Evangelism Explosion and the stirring two diagnostic questions.

Most did not come from a Christian family background. But we were brought back like lost sheep to the Good Shepherd. We had prayed to God that our parents would understand the decision we made. Raised on Godly principles and discipline, thriving on a healthy diet of the Word and exercise of faith, the young students and adults of those years saw the continual increase of God’s goodness and favour in their lives. We had prayed to God that we would pass our exams, with flying colours if we dare to ask for more. We had prayed for God’s wisdom to choose the right jobs. We had interceded with fervour for God to bless us with a spouse. We applied for a HDB flat, we started a new family, we continue to stamp our mark in this world…

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Do you ever wondered how differently your life might have been if you had not taken the first step of accepting the Lord as your Saviour? Or how things might have changed if you had decided to stop being a follower, but to go your own way back into the world?

I just cannot picture how I could independently live a life that can be so easily rocked by life’s circumstances. How does it feel to rely just on my own resources to get through problems and issues, not knowing or being able to put one’s trust in the Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent God?

Not sure if it is a sign of our age, but Allan and I reflect a lot more these days. Evangel has done Reflection as a CG group, and it’s a beautiful to see people deep in thoughts, meditating on the Word and their lives.

We retrace some of the footprints behind us by going through past diary entries and old photos and compare these to the present. There is also a thanksgiving “scroll” on the fridge to record our gratitude and thanks to the Lord for His blessings and divine intervention.  It never fails to make us marvel at how we have progressed and how God has positioned us in His blueprint in such amazing ways.

Origins…

We did not start out as finished and flawless products. We were but dust. We have a sinful nature and we were meant for destruction. But despite this, God redeems us and restores us to His original design. His faithfulness and goodness continue to follow us all the days of our lives. This definitely gives us confidence in moving forward for the future.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Genesis 1:26 to 27

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:3-7

For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD,
my confidence since my youth.
Psalm 71:5

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:7-8