Oh man!  I just want to go and give him a hug!!

It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.

It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ord’nary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
or stars in the sky.

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain,
or tall like a tree.

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.

The slowest 10km ever

March 30, 2008

I didn’t go to church this morning, opting instead to go for a long run in the Botanic Gardens. The brilliant plan was to run/jog/walk 10km. It’s 2 months to the Singapore Passion Run and at this point, there is no way I’d be able to run 10km without stopping to walk so I figured it was time to scare myself into realizing how much more training I’m going to need to do to be able to do 10km.

The problem with running at 10am in the morning is that it is HOT! Heat radiates from the ground, beats down from the sky and a lovely warm blanket of humidity envelopes you all round. Not fun. (Mental note to self not to wear favourite grey running t-shirt on long daytime runs. Sweat marks are very unglam.) So by 2km, I was thirsty, dying of heatstroke and totally knackered.

It turns out that the funny thing about goal setting is that it is very easy to get sidetracked. I usually run to a time goal (say 30mins) and at the halfway mark I would know how fast or slow I was going depending on which point on my route I was. Today, I ran to a distance goal (1okm) and around the 3km mark, I was totally demoralised by the heat and how slow I was going. I was ready to turn around, go home and have brunch! Then I realised that even if I walked the next 7km, I would have met the 10km goal (albeit with a shitty time) and that was better than running home now and completing only 5-6km. So I slowed down some more, tried to enjoy the scenery and had a bit of a chat with God (which went along the lines of – Hi. It’s really, really, really hot. Any chance for some rain. Oooh! Look a bright green lizard! Why did you make bright green lizards? Sorry for not being in church this morning. You know why. But you got to admit, it’s a lot more inspiring out here. To which He said – It’s ok. Enjoy your run. But you better go to church in the evening! Oops!) It turns out that it takes a while to get into the zone but things looked up from there. Until some silly tourist stopped me to ask for directions and broke my momentum. Humph!

Anyway, the park really is lovely. People seem friendlier and smile as I go past. I must have looked wretched and in need of encouragement. There were all these adorable old couples pottering along hand in hand. One little old lady sat patiently by the lake while her husband painted a lovely watercolour of the gazebo. I ran by this pregnant woman who was doing the most bizarre of hand gestures. Then I realized that she was playing a mirroring game with her 3yo. There were photographers with their clunky dSLRs trying to take pictures of ducks and groups of people doing tai-chi. There were 2 kids were pushing their dad on a little scooter down the slope at breakneck speed. There were bubble wands and beach balls and bicycles. Very nice.

So I’m very pleased because I achieved what I set out to do.

Even though I have blisters because at 10km, you start to feel the seams on the inside of your shoes.

I was at a KT Tunstall concert earlier in the week. Awesome stuff, although some of her slower songs are lost in a concert environment and I wished I was listening to her in a pub with a pint in my hand instead. But predictably, the songs from her first album brought the house down.

She opened “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” with a story about playing the song for her mom years ago and feeling a sense of trepidation. She likened it to being 3yo and bringing a drawing to show her mom and half-expecting her mom to tell her that it looked like dog poo. Turns out that her mom thought it was nice but…

“Why do you want to marry a horse?”

“It’s a metaphor, mom!”

Haha. Parents sometimes just don’t get it.

Anyway, the youtube is of her playing “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” on Jools Holland a couple of years ago. I love the song! And what’s that funny recording device! So cool! I’m especially fascinated by the idea of a one woman band. When you break it down, the backup is actually really really simple but all together it’s awesome! (By the way, I tried to play the song on my guitar, without the fancy smancy bits, and it was hard! I couldn’t even figure out the strumming. Oops).

Closing bimbo moment – I love her skirt!! 😀

You

March 27, 2008

My Bible Study group did this amazing exercise yesterday. We were supposed to reflect on our spiritual journeys and share our testimonies. Testimonies can be so formulaic but last night was just story after amazing story of how God works in the lives of ordinary people. I loved the rawness and honesty of the sharing – it was so refreshing! Real people, real struggles, real lives and a real God. It was such a spiritually uplifting experience!! It made my heart swell with an overwhelming sense of blessing and joy.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I wrote. Each statement represents 1 person or group of people who have positively influenced my spiritual journey. There are no repeats and actually, I could go on and on and on but I’m going melt into a pile of mush and sentimentality as it is.

That said, I could write a list which the exact opposite of this one. I’m not naïve enough to believe that Christians are all rainbows and butterflies. But it would be a short list with things not worth mentioning. Crap is put in perspective when you realize why it bugs you so much is because you’ve been so conditioned to expect otherwise. And this exercise really made the crap in my life look like fertilizer for bigger and better things. It’s funny how the view changes when you turn your eyes…

So this note is to YOU. Thank you for being part of my spiritual journey. Most of you still are and because of the role you’ve played and continue to play in my life, I considered myself truly blessed.

1. You – I don’t know how you can summarise life truths in bite-sized chunks that fit into an SMS but when you give me advice, it always resonates and switches a light on in my soul.

2. You – You always take the straight and narrow road. Not because it is easy but because it is the right thing to do. You always tell me to do the same.

3. You – Thanks for bringing me to church. I haven’t left yet.

4. You – You have always been someone who loves me for who I am but who sees me for who I can be. I wish you lived here. (Actually, if I’m wishing for stuff, I wish I lived there.) Yours is a friendship that never gets old.

5. You – One of my earliest experiences of the assurance of the Holy Spirit was when you told me that it was ok to feel lost and that we could feel lost together but we should just stand still and *bleat* (like sheep) and soon enough our Shepherd will come for us. My first thought was – Hi God.

6. You – I never understood your sacrifice for us until I led a cell group.

7. You – You are strategic in your decisions and I have great respect for that. Once you told me to consider becoming a preacher. I’m frankly a little worried.

8. You – In your quiet, steadfast ways, you have been a bigger blessing to me that you will ever know. I respect how you know what you want to do and pursue it with conviction. I pray a lifetime of Bavarian sugar cookies for you.

9. You – Meeting a friend to just to pray used to seem totally odd to me. But you made it seem totally normal. And it is possible to pray together anywhere – in a public carpark, in an empty coffee shop, over dinner or a drink, in a pub, over the phone, over IM.

10. You – You’re so funny! There have been times that your ability to make me laugh when I’m feeling down is enough proof to me that there is a God. You’ll make an excellent father.

11. You – You are often one of the first people I turn to when I’m having an ARGH moment. I must have written you a million emails with the header “ranty email warning” and your replies are always thoughtful, objective and encouraging. God is working in your life more than you think he is.

12. You – I watched you try again and again to the point of pain in the offering and I wished that the people you served could see how blessed they were.

13. You – I disagree with you about many things but at the heart of it, I know you have a deep love for God and his people and I am blessed to serve alongside you.

14. You – I watch you lead and I give thanks that you pursue excellence in ministry. Sometimes I take notes.

15. You – You took interest in the ministry and share in our burdens. Leadership used to feel like jungle-bashing. It doesn’t anymore.

16. You – Thanks for checking in when I’m not in church. Most people don’t even notice.

17. You – I really enjoy our conversations about religion at the pub over a pint. I had to read a lot of apologetics books just to be able to talk to you.

18. You – You struggle with walking the Christian life sometimes. And sometimes you get so indignant at the state of the church that your voice goes up one octave and you start talking really fast. And I think – God, I wish there were more people like her who would get indignant for your cause.

19. You – You’ve held on all these years because God placed a burden on your heart and you’re not letting it go. I thank God that you’ve always bounced back.

20. You – You told me once that God might not be on time but He is never late. I’ll always remember that. You’ve also always challenge me not to settle for less than God’s perfect will in my life.

21. You – You gave me a cross to put in my pocket when I moved to Melbourne. It was worn and used but it meant a lot to me because it was yours. I gave it back to you when you moved to the UK. We hardly talk about religion but whenever I’m struggling, you always have kind words to say.

22. You – We are actually very different people and even though the differences in our personalities means that you don’t always identify, you always try to understand and for that, I’m always very thankful. You are more amazing than you think you are and you deserve better.

23. You – We have such great conversations and I’m glad they always fall into a familiar pattern – The world is shit but God is good. I’m also glad you like ice-cream too!

24. You – You preach not with words but with your life. You live different and it shows. Your life as a case for Christ is very compelling.

25. You – You are possibly one of the most balanced people I know. You pursue things that are of eternal value and when I grow up, I want to be like you.

God bless everyone. 🙂

Spiritual spring cleaning

March 23, 2008

Lent is a time of spiritual spring cleaning and I’ve meant to write this post for a long time but have struggled with the words.

I recently stepped down from leading a cell group. Coming to the decision was an interesting process (a gross understatement) and resulted in a bout of severe Christian identity crisis (another gross understatement). How do you step down from something that you seriously believed was your calling and that you were gifted to do it but know that is taking so much out of you and that you don’t get enough support to soldier on a day longer? The significance of this decision is lost on most.

The “calling” into cell leadership came just after a profound in-filling of the Holy Spirit years ago and it was my first true experience of Christian leadership. It was a real baptism of fire. For the first time phrases like spiritual gifts (hooray!) and spiritual warfare (boo!) became real and regular parts of my life and vocabulary. I’d always viewed cell groups as cliquish and inward-looking so cell ministry was not the most obvious choice for me. But I did believe strongly that God intended more for cell groups than what I saw and thought I’d take a stab at trying to change the status quo. Can you tell that I have an extremely idealistic personality type?

Anyway, this Easter would have made it 3 years. Not a long time by any stretch of the imagination but to me, an end of an era. I won’t lie. There are days when I am deeply resentful of the sacrifice and deeply disappointed in people, their behaviour and with the way that things turned out. Would I do everything all over again? I can’t say that I would. But that said, I do have a deep sense of assurance that I decided wisely and God understands the struggle. That is good enough for me. So this Lent, I’m deciding to close this chapter of my life and move on. Baggage is a bitch.

So for posterity, here is a list of 10 things that I learnt from being a cell group leader.

1. Above everything, hold your relationship with God sacred. If ministry gets in the way, ministry goes.

2. Have a group of trusted friends and keep yourself accountable to them as a matter of spiritual discipline. Tell them everything. Even the times you hate God and the world. And having 1 friend who is also a cell group leader but not from the same church is very helpful. You will need someone to complain to who actually understands and can pray for you.

3. Leadership is very lonely. Worse if you are young because you are never in the company of peers. Most days, I feel like the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD” (Isaiah 40:3). Depending on the day, this either makes me feel on top of the world or like a total loser.

4. Expect spiritual warfare. It is not fun. There were/are days that I feel like a punching bag. Being able to identify it and understand that that is what you are going through (and of course praying like mad) makes it bearable.

5. Even in church, group dynamics works like classic economic game theory. Each member of a cell group has 2 choices: to be “self-interested” or “community-focused”. Unfortunately, the rational choice would be for the players to be “self-interested” even though each player’s individual (and therefore group) reward would be greater if they were “community-focused”. The belief in and love for God is the necessary and sufficient condition to make people act in a way that goes against their dominant, self-interested strategy.

6. Sharpen the saw. Spiritual gifts are important but I also believe in old fashioned grunt work. Read, talk to people etc. God is always trying to teach you something.

7. Manage your expectations. I have very very high expectations. In part because I’m tough with myself and in part because people in my life spoil me to believe that better is possible. I’m learning to hold in tension being gracious and maintaining my stand that the Christian ideals are set high and worth pursuing.

8. It is the confidence in your identity and status in Christ that gives you the ability to extend grace.

9. Always look for opportunities to edify. Just as the simplest of selfish things can stumble the strongest of leaders, the simplest of selfless things can build the weakest person up. The little things are often symbols of what is systemic.

10. Jesus healed the 10 lepers, only 1 came back to give thanks. If Jesus gets only a 10% hit-rate, don’t expect more. It is an instant recipe for discouragement. Instead, work for God’s approval alone.

And just like that, 3 years comes to a close. There is no need for more words.

Just a blog post and a still, small voice inside which says, “It’s ok kid. You did good.”

While clearing out my room tonight, I found a little sign that I wrote during my final year in Melbourne. (Yes, I’m a pack rat.)  It used to hang above my study desk and I think I wrote it after a particularly frustrating, i-don’t-need-this-crap day (clearly). Tonight, I just chuckled at the fearless arrogance of youth. Yet, in many ways, the person I am today really isn’t  much different. I mean I just wrote a blog post yesterday titled “No guts, no glory” for crying out loud. Seriously?! I’d better start praying for more humility. Haha.

Anyway, this blast from the past made me think about me as a cocky 21 yo pretending to be all grown-up (while humming the Toys”R”Us theme song).  She was hopelessly imperfect but she always tried.

My promise to God this year (2002)

I am in the top 2% of IQ levels
I am tough, creative, confident, talented, mature, articulate, strong, perceptive, gifted
I have potential that most people will never understand and never experience
I am on God’s side
I was not born to be a failure, a quitter, a loser, an underachiever
Whatever is holding me back, I will get rid of it
If I can’t, I will figure out how
I will finish the race with all my energy spent and my heart at peace because I will do my best and more with everything that God has blessed me with
I will graduate with an excellent Honours degree and be proud of myself. No matter what.
And God will say “Well done, Cheryl”
And that will be the only thing that matters.

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I love Harold’s Planet!

And do what I did today.  Go to the gym and when you’re done, settle in a cafe with a great book, a hot cup of tea and a slice of yummy carrot and walnut cake. *grins*

I’m very pleased.