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You look like you need some rest

by | 10 August 2017, 5:21 PM

How many times have we referred to life as a battle? We’re under heavy fire on every flank. Sometimes we even get hit by friendly fire: Accusations come in our ministry, relationships fail, friends fall out.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that suffering is part of life (1 Peter 4:12). In the ruckus of war, our pain screams at us, and the fight before us is all that we’re focused on.

As Singaporeans, we’re always on the go. There’s no stopping us; one goal down, onto the next. You rarely hear anyone making intentional time for rest. For some strange reason, rest has become something to be ashamed about – as if it’s a code word for slacking off or an excuse.

Rest? What rest? There’s just no time for it.

Why has rest become such a repulsive word? Maybe because we take it as an affront to our capability.

We think we can pull one more all-nighter to complete a project, despite not having slept for the past 36 hours because we think we can handle it. And if we don’t, we worry that our teachers or bosses will think we’re weak, incompetent or lazy.

We rarely take a break from ministry because we think, “If I don’t do it, who will?” But that’s not how God works – and that’s where pride seeps in.

When God is in charge, He fight our battles for us. Rest assured.

The Creator of the universe does not count on our works. We are saved by grace through faith, not by what we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus knew when He needed rest, even when people had urgent needs which needed to be met (Mark 6:31). What more us?

ARM YOURSELVES WITH THESE 3 Rs

1. REST

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Remember the Sabbath. What’s yours? Take a break on that one day, from that which you would typically do on the other six days. Rest by intentionally retreating into your secret place with God. Have longer, unhurried quiet time. Worship in your bedroom. Pray.

Why do you think NSmen are asked if they got at least 7 hours of sleep the night before a big physical activity? Because without rest, they’re less able to function on the battlefield – the very place they were trained to be the most effective.

The same goes for us; rest enables us to be effective wherever we’ve been placed at.

2. RECOVER

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

In 2 Corinthians 3:17, we learn that “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. In Him, we find freedom from hurts, unforgiveness and bitterness. When we seek recovery in God, we take upon His yoke which is easy and light; allowing us to work well from a position of restedness.

Back to the war metaphor: A wounded soldier who has his wounds tended to at least lives to fight another day. We recover for the next battle.

3. REFOCUS

The disciples went and woke Him saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” He asked. (Luke 8:24-25)

When Jesus calmed the storms, the first thing He asked the disciples was, “Where is your faith?”

His reminder was not to be distracted and distraught by everything that threatens to derail, but to instead refocus on the One in whom we put our faith.

When God is in charge, He fight our battles for us. Rest assured.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Every word has come at a cost

by | 11 July 2017, 5:20 PM

I’ve always been a private person. Even in my pursuit of meaningful conversations, I avoid volunteering personal details about my life by being the one asking the questions.

The prospect of opening myself up to people is nerve-wracking. There’s a flavour of pain that is unique to honesty.

This is the writer’s compromise: Risking the pain that comes with shining a spotlight on the innermost parts of yourself to create something compellingWhen writing, I aim to be candid. Impact comes with unabashed honesty.

By writing on a public platform, I challenge and surrender my privacy, my sense of security. To lay out private experiences plainly for an anonymous audience is much more daunting than you’d imagine.

I’ve had to struggle between holding nothing back to connect better with readers and holding on to the security blanket of anonymity or vague descriptions.

Writing about personal struggles such as loneliness and depression took a lot out of me – but in some ways, it has been my God-given therapy.

When I first started writing for Thir.st, I was going through a very tumultuous season in life. I was beginning to feel the teeth of depression sinking into me, and I was (and still am) grappling with many issues regarding my identity and the purpose of my time here on this earth.

I questioned my place in this humble office and found it hard to believe that my words could be of value. I wondered if my stories would help others better understand who Christ is.

The prospect of opening myself up to people is nerve-wracking. There’s a flavour of pain that is unique to honesty.

Then came the discomfort. It was unnatural for me to be so transparent about my failings and struggles. It went against everything I was used to.

Was I revealing too much of myself to the world? How much should I be willing to put out on the line?

To write these stories, I was left with no choice but to dig deep. I was forced to first be honest with myself. How could I expect myself to overcome something when I didn’t even know what I was dealing with?

It was harder to lay out the more personal struggles in plain view of everyone – especially those I was still in the process of going through – but those were the stories where I felt a much deeper conviction. I had to write them.

And then I learnt why.

Each time I finally managed to birth a particularly difficult story, all these people came forward with messages of encouragement for me, telling me how the stories had impacted them. God, in His goodness, showed me that my writer’s compromise wasn’t a compromise at all.

It was a divine exchange, my pain for His blessings – not just for me, but for others as well.

In my catharsis – however uncomfortable – I was making room for God to do His work in me. I realised that by putting pen to (digitally) paper, I was asking Him to search me, to deal with all the hurts I’ve collected and to lead me on the road back Home (Psalms 139:23-24).

I’m more convinced than ever that God never wastes our pain. Even in our most torturous seasons, He finds a way to make it all the more glorious – more than we could imagine.

A bonus: In my efforts to make Christ famous in all the parts of life that I’ve put on full display, I’ve been blessed with the privilege of working with some amazing people – they’ve led me and worked tirelessly alongside me as I made my way towards reclaiming a rested and reignited heart.

I’m more convinced than ever that God never wastes our pain.

My hope is for everyone to be brave to share their stories, in whatever spheres of influence they may have, in whatever medium is available to you.

Your potential in making Christ known to the lives of those around you is just waiting to be realised. If and when you bravely say yes to being a living if imperfect vessel of His.

The stories of overcoming personal mountains in your life – and even those you’re still struggling to summit – can be used to demonstrate God’s move in your life.

By sharing about our experiences where we’ve seen God move, we breathe life into the potential that someone might encounter Jesus – all it takes is a moment of unadulterated courage.

We overcome by the blood of the Lamb – done on the Cross – and the testimony of the saints. That’s our part in the process.

We don’t have to be resigned to the circumstances we face in life; in every situation know that there is a space specifically reserved for God to move. Be aware of it, invite Him in and see Him show just how much He loves you.

Don’t waste your experiences. Make them count for something.


The thing about stories is that everyone has at least one good one to tell. If you’ve been wanting to put one of yours out there and you think it would help someone — starting with yourself — don’t be shy to introduce yourself in an email to hello@thir.st!

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Make purity cool again

by | 11 July 2017, 11:12 AM

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to see God. I wonder how He looks at me, and if He likes what He sees.

I want to know if my Father approves of what I’m doing and the way I’m living my life. And like a child, all I want is to hear Him tell me: “I’m proud of you.”

As long as I live in this world, I will constantly be at war against my own flesh. It will be hard to live pure – to remain undefiled by the things of the earth. My mind and conscience will constantly be tortured by the wayward ways of this world.

But the Beatitudes offer my motivation: Those with a pure heart will see God. Even in the fog of suffering and pain.

LIKE THE ONE YOU LOVE

When you love someone intensely and know them intimately, you start becoming more like them. Ever experienced this? You subconsciously start to mimic their actions until their habits become your habits. Over time, parts of their character will become inextricably yours.

I want to love Jesus to the point where I inevitably become more like Him. I want to be so saturated by His presence that everything else fades away. I want to be fully submerged into Him until every fibre of my being reflects His DNA, like a white cloth soaked in a pail of dye.

How can I see the Maker of the heavens and the earth? You guessed it – by having a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4).

The concept of a pure heart sounds far-fetched. It even has an uncool ring to it. It gives the impression of being bland, boring and tasteless.

While those around us may offer harsh judgement, these are far outweighed by the perks of purity. When our hearts are pure, we unclog the passages through which purpose, joy and fulfilment from God freely flow.

God cleanses our hearts as we draw near to Him. Worshipping is a spiritual reboot for our spirit-man; we are replenished – reset – in His presence.

HOW TO POSTURE THE HEART FOR PURITY

1. To keep something pure, it cannot mix with impurities

Be set apart, as God has called you. Society’s cajoling can get loud and tempting, but stand your ground. Don’t conform to the world and its practices (Romans 12:2) – we get to know our Father’s will when we are transformed, with renewed minds.

The transformation happens from the inside out. As we seek to unroot habitual sin, we preserve our purity by fleeing from the desires of our flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), turning away from things like pornography, gossip, unforgiveness.

Retain the purity of your heart by keeping it unstained by the world, as we’re told in James 1:27.

2. Purify yourself with worship, the word, prayer

God cleanses our hearts as we draw near to Him (James 4:8). Worshipping is a spiritual reboot for our spirit-man; we are replenished – reset – in His presence.

We keep our hearts pure by living according to His word (Psalm 119:9). God longs to commune with us. When we read His word, we get to sit at His feet as He lays upon our hearts the things that He wants us to hear. 

In prayer, we set our eyes on Jesus and not on the things around that are vying for our attention. So pray and ask God to create in you a pure heart (Psalm 51:10) as you learn how to lean on Him.

3. Work on the state of your heart

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

It is what is inside – the state of our hearts – that truly determines how spotless we are before God, not how we appear on the outside. So guard your heart, and guard it well.

In Luke 6:44-45, it says that a tree can be judged by its fruits. So work on your character; allow your tree to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

4. Watch your mouth

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We grieve the Spirit when we are loose with our lips; better to make friends with the King, no? “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11)

If we are not careful, our tongues have the propensity to defile us (Matthew 15:11). So choose to let it bring healing instead of destruction (Proverbs 12:18).

Watch what you say. The tongue can corrupt the whole body (James 3:3-6); tame the tongue, so that purity will rule our hearts.

A consecrated and returned heart will catapult our prayers up to the heavens.

CONSECRATION VS CULTURE

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

We protect our purity by dwelling on the things that are pleasing to God.

This is difficult when apathy, cynicism and scepticism reign supreme in the culture and vocabulary of the world today. But a consecrated and returned heart will catapult our prayers up to the heavens.

And take heart that even if you’re struggling in your journey towards purity, God – in His mercy – will pardon us if our hearts are set on seeking Him (2 Chronicles 30:18-19).

Ignore the naysayers. Drown out the doubts. Consecrate your hearts and see for yourself who will have the upper hand as you watch God do amazing things in your life.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Have we lost the art of proper conversation?

by | 10 July 2017, 5:44 PM

“Okay everyone, we have a new person with us today. Let’s introduce ourselves: Name, age, what we’re currently doing, and one fun fact.”

Eventually, it was the new girl’s turn. She stated her name and age, and said she was in the process of looking for a job. She also casually mentioned that she wasn’t the most friendly person around. She then performed a magic trick – her fun fact.

But there was still more I wanted to know about her. She seemed like she had a story to tell, and the brevity of her introduction didn’t help curb my curiosity. Besides, there’s always more to a person than their occupation (or the lack thereof, in this case).

So, at the next appropriate moment in the discussion, I asked her a question, hoping to dig deeper. Which led my amused cell leader to exclaim: “You’re really going for it ah! People already say they not friendly you still want to ask more things!”

It got me thinking: As a church, we’ve gotten really good at small talk. We’ve made a ritual out of talking about meaningless platitudes instead of taking the time to ask questions like “But all things aside, how are you, really?

It goes beyond mere communication. What we really need is to revive the act of communing with one another.

Even in more intimate settings – such as at cell group, or one-on-one – people seem to find it hard to delve into deeper topics. We were called to love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8) – we shouldn’t settle for a love that is shallow or superficial.

Have we lost the art of proper conversation?

It goes beyond mere communication. What we really need is to revive the act of communing with one another. According to dictionary.com, to commune is to “to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy“. This is the type of conversation we need to have if we truly want to love one another and desire to grow together.

George Washington Carter once said, “I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.

Conversations don’t have to be shallow or inconsequential. The next time you find yourself in one, have the courage to ask deeper questions – and don’t be afraid to answer them as well.

We want to love each other – but do we truly know who we are trying to love? Only by diving into deeper conversations will we get to discover the treasure buried in others. 

HOW TO HAVE BETTER CONVERSATIONS

1. Don’t be afraid of talking about the hard stuff

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

Taking into account the spiritual maturity of the other person, don’t be afraid to share and talk about your personal struggles. Pray for and with your brothers and sisters; encourage each other.

We’re a living exhibit of God’s glory in us when we are transparent even with our shortcomings and habitual sins (Ephesians 4:25). Although these honest conversations can get uncomfortable, we act as outstretched hands to those who might be lonely in similar struggles (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

2. Talk about how God has shown up in your life

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We glorify God with our experiences. When we speak about how God has been so good to us, not only are we worshipping him with our words but we are also spurring and encouraging each other on in our pursuit of the Father’s heart.

Our experiences shouldn’t be wasted. Choose to talk about how God is Lord over your life – or how you’re struggling to let Him be – and let people see for themselves the fruits that a relationship with Him will yield.

Don’t hide the light within you.

3. Leave the fixing to Jesus

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Many times after hearing the struggles of others, our saviour complex kicks in. We waste no time to chime in and offer 101 solutions for their problems.

Sometimes, we go as far as to hog the conversation by lamenting about our own experiences. When we do this, we rob others of the chance to process and we miss the opportunity of being there for one another.

Grief and suffering aren’t things to be fixed. The real fixing is done within our hearts – and nobody has the power to do that but Jesus. Sometimes, all you need to do is offer your steady support and show up (Hebrews 10:25). Jesus alone perfects our faith.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Be still my single heart

by | 6 July 2017, 10:07 AM

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (Song of Songs 3:5)

I’ve fallen in love with a total stranger. Not once, but twice.

The first time was when I saw someone intently reading a book on the train. I fell in love with the way his shoulders and head were hunched over; I loved the fact that a story between his hands could captivate him so much.

The second was when I saw someone who stuck to his guns, stuck to his convictions when everyone was trying to cajole him to do otherwise. I fell in love with his courage, that he would stand his own ground without disrespecting anyone else.

That’s all it took for me to want to give my heart away. Hello, stranger.

It felt like I couldn’t be complete until I had someone to love and who would love me back.

But I’ve come to realise that by falling in love so easily, I’ve been doing a disservice to myself this whole time.

I thought I was being empathetic, open-minded, allowing myself to fully experience the vastness of human emotion even in others, rather than defaulting to being too guarded or walled up to share in the passions of others.

I came to realise I should be a little more careful about awakening love until it so desires, as Solomon put it.

WHAT ABOUT ME? 

I’ve fallen in love a few — but one too many — times. I unwittingly gave away pieces of my heart.

Over time, this took its toll, and I felt the gravity of the void in me. It felt like I couldn’t be complete until I had someone to love and who would love me back.

All my friends starting getting attached, one by one. Even my own sister, who had been so jaded about love, met someone and they’re already planning to ballot for a BTO flat. The great Singapore love story!

While my heart rejoices for them, the question comes spilling out before I can stop myself: “What about me?”

I am desperate for love. I crave to be sated with it and to be fully submerged in the experience.

Who doesn’t want to love and be loved?

The human condition lusts after love in all forms; as long as it temporarily satiates the desire for love and affection, it’s appeased for a time being – even if the experience is a counterfeit one.

HOPELESS ROMANCE

I know what we’re all told as good Christians: True love can only be found in Christ. But my human mind has not been conditioned to accept that; and hence the hopeless romantic in me seeks out this love in all the wrong places.

And so my heart is tickled by beautiful poetry and stories about love, songs with heart wrenching lyrics about love found or lost. And who can forget great films about human love, so imperfectly naive and desperate, like Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby?

The more we raise false hope in our hearts, the more disillusioned we get. Our expectation of how love looks morphs into an idealistic but inaccurate picture.

And that’s how we get stuck in the vicious cycle of searching for something that doesn’t exist.

There is no void. Only the perception of one. That is what we surrender to Him.

But our hearts must be disciplined. Only in the continuous inclining of our hearts towards our Father’s can it be subjected to the full measure of love He has intended for us. No pretence, no walls, no guilt or shame.

And definitely no shoddy rom-com level romance.

BE STILL, MY SINGLE AND ACHING HEART

The focus of singlehood is lack. We only think of what we don’t have. And so we fall victim to the pangs of loneliness, and we choose to focus on what those around us have that we don’t.

Our heart gets jumpier with every passing year, with every question about the lack of a plus-one at family gatherings, with every well-intentioned but still painful reminder from some (married) Christian senior about how we should “make full use of the single years”.

My answer to this lament over lack: Prayer.

If our heart’s desires are God-centered – not merely approaching Him with a list of demands or emotional blackmail – He will honour them.

When we pray, we put our attention on God, not on our empty Friday night schedules. I don’t think God ever gets sick of hearing us pray repeatedly; for example, for a spouse.

“Be still and know that I am God,” it says in Psalm 46:10. As we grow to know who our God is, our prayers become less about us demanding to have someone to love and be loved by – and to realise that is a role He already fulfils.

There is no void. Only the perception of one. That is what we surrender to Him.

So in prayer and supplication, the anxiety dissipates as I still my heart and learn how to love Him first.

AN ANSWERED PRAYER

When I was 13, I had a conversation with God about staying single.

I asked that I would be kept pure and single until I met my future husband.

While the past 10 years of waiting hasn’t always been easy – there were times I resented God for taking me seriously – I’m grateful that He has kept me safe from all the almost-relationships and heartbreakers.

I’m grateful that He loves me more than I do.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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When there’s my will, there’s no way

by | 1 July 2017, 10:02 PM

Giving up my right to live life the way I want is hard.

How can I deny myself? I’ve always had a high internal locus of control – I don’t believe in letting things just happen to me. We should have the power to make things happen for ourselves, I felt.

So I went after my goals single-mindedly, relentlessly. I rarely took no for an answer. But it was so tiring to strive for the things I wanted. I toiled, and toiled some more.

It would take me years to realise this: We are built to strive. God calls us to surrender. And that’s where the promise of freedom comes to pass.

For so many years, I needed to be in control. It irked me, made my skin crawl whenever something didn’t turn out the way I wanted. It was a deep-seated belief that I held close to my heart: You fight for the things you want.

In those years, God was relegated to the back-burner. I was wrapped in disappointment, irritation and frustration. I was high-strung, and rarely allowed myself to rest.

If I wasn’t chasing grades and leadership positions in school, I was chasing perfection in my craft. If there had been injustice done to me, I would do everything to make sure it was made right.

We are built to strive. God calls us to surrender.

If I had a dream, there was no stopping me until I got what I wanted.

I once went against school policy just to get an internship at a company I wanted to work at. “Whatever you want, you’ll stop at nothing to get ah?”, a lecturer pointedly asked me. “Sometimes, that isn’t the best way to do things.”

Wise words which fell on deaf ears.

A lot of my friends envied and applauded my supposed drive, my go-getter attitude. But deep down, I knew I was missing something.

Every time I felt a nudging from within to let go of all the expectations, ideals and values I clutched onto tightly, I would brush it aside. That was just my past weak-willed nature – the one I’d fought so hard to get rid of – surfacing, I thought.

I mean, why settle for mediocrity when I could be great?

My pride was talking – and it was feeling chatty. I framed it as simply about having standards. I had my own set of expectations of how life should be lived.

By exercising my rights, I excluded God’s will and purpose over my life. And there I found no peace, only the pain of toil and burnout.

I can’t imagine how much anguish I could have avoided if I had just allowed God to take over the reins earlier.

I had to unlearn my self-sufficiency; it’s been a tough journey for me. I’m still a work in progress, but God has been so good to me. He sent people, circumstances and a church camp my way so that I could follow the breadcrumbs back Home.

During church camp this year, Pastor Martin Steel from Harbourside Church shared with my congregation about how we can submit our will to God. One point stood out to me: We give up our will by being in His presence.

When I invite God into every circumstance – every conversation and every crossroad – a peace envelopes me. I no longer am hard-pressed to see things “succeed” in the way I think it ought to.

The most we can attain doesn’t even scratch the surface of what God can easily do.

Which means that when things in life doesn’t turn out successful (as defined in my own terms), I learnt to accept it and acknowledge that God can do something great with it – even if that seems a far-fetched possibility at that point in time.

God’s heart is for us to live in freedom from our self-sufficient ways, by making Him our sufficiency. The most we can attain doesn’t even scratch the surface of what God can easily do.

Put plainly: We have nothing on God.

In letting go of everything my identity had been rooted in, I’ve found that His way is infinitely better. There is freedom to be found when you allow your weaknesses to be used. When you come as you are, with your insecurities and inadequacy, His strength will negate your weakness.

When we give up our rights, there is a hope that we can hold onto – and that hope is Jesus. Even if things don’t seem to be working out, His glory shines through our lack.

He’s got it covered.

Nail onto your cross all your desires, your dreams, your finances, your time, your life. In order to follow Jesus, we put to death all the things that we hold dear – and our reward will far outweigh all that it has cost us.

If you’re experiencing some form of burnout today – be it in your job, ministry or relationships – take heart. Be courageous; let go; and let God reinstate His Lordship over your life.

You won’t have to toil for another day when you surrender your rights and allow God to have His way – the best way.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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The battle for your broken heart

by | 29 June 2017, 5:39 PM

‘Tis the season for broken hearts.

It’s always the season.

Somewhere in the world, a heart is breaking. In this very moment, someone has just been dumped, someone is struggling to come to terms with the death of a loved one, someone is contemplating what it would be like to just end it all.

Even as I am writing this, my own heart is breaking.

Life in this imperfect world seems to be a constant cycle of bandaging our wounds. Some wear the pain on their sleeves. Others try very hard but fail miserably to conceal the depth of their disarray.

It makes me sad and angry all at once. What will make the pain go away?

Nothing, apparently. Nothing can take the pain away because of the flesh we’re housed in. We cannot run away from our fallen nature as long as our feet roam this earth.

Look up. No, higher. Look heavenward.

But there is a way to look past it to see something more beautiful.

Look up. No, higher. Look heavenward.

As I try to look past the pieces of my heart being discarded all around me, all I see are these eyes looking back into mine, burning with love and jealousy.

Our God is a jealous God. He fought hard to win the reality that we might be together with Him forever. He sees how I’ve chosen to look at my problems, and that instead of seeing all that He has given me, I’ve zeroed in on what I think I lack.

So many times I find myself on the edge of a death of some sort; maybe I choose to wither away in isolation, maybe I’m on the brink of giving up my faith.

Each time he saves my life. He relentlessly chases my heart with a fiery love.

Who would want the trouble of me; to go through all the hassle to put me back together only to have me fall apart again?

But Shame tells me otherwise – that I am not worthy of such a love. Who would want someone who’s been discarded? Who wants such second-hand goods?

Who would want the trouble of me; to go through all the hassle to put me back together only to have me fall apart again?

Jesus. Jesus does. To the point that He bore broken bones, the scouring of his skin, and thorns piercing into His brow. Just so I could be near Him.

Shame tugs on my chin sharply, telling me to look at him instead. But I can’t seem to break away from those fiery eyes – I’m drawn to the love within. The promise of redemption.

As long as we exist in this world, we are always going to be at war. If it’s not a war between our flesh and our spirit, it’s us against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

But the second Jesus breathed “it is finished“, the path to heaven – where we can bask in God’s glory forever with no pain or suffering – was paved with mercy. This very path is where I will find myself falling over time and time again.

The moment He yielded His spirit, the veil tore (Matthew 27:50-51), making way for us to be in His presence freely.

Knowing this affects me; I cannot remain unchanged and unmoved that someone would desire my heart so much.

He did all that so knowing He wasn’t getting a very good bargain; He knows that my heart will never be complete on its own. But the beauty of the Cross is the fact that His love makes all things new; even our bruised and battered hearts.

Don’t give up because He hasn’t. He loves you, He’s on your side, He’s jealous over you, He chose you and He knows you.

You’re His beloved bride. And He’s coming for you.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Where are our manners?

by | 27 June 2017, 10:59 AM

The other day in the church lobby I saw someone I knew in conversation with the parents of our mutual friend. I was out of earshot, but the body language was plain to see: The young man’s eyes were obviously glazed over, although the older couple were trying to engage him.

Would it have been so hard to be respectful enough to just pay attention for a couple of minutes?

I’m no innocent party, either. Sometimes I see it in the way I snap back at my parents. Or when I catch myself laughing at an older person’s struggles to connect with the younger generation. It feels pretty harmless in the moment – we don’t mean any real malice – but that’s probably where the problem lies.

It seems like we have become desensitised to this thing called honour.

GIVE HONOUR WHERE IT’S DUE

Everyone holds respect and honour to varying degrees of importance. Some people never fall asleep without first bidding their parents goodnight. Others don’t see an issue with not greeting their parents when they return home.

But honour is not a mere social construct, varying from person to person, but a divine command. We are commanded to honour our parents. The same should also apply to spiritual parents and those in authority over us.

In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 it says “the worker deserves his wages” – even more so those in leadership over us. So we should repay our parents – biological, professional and spiritual – for their work in our lives by giving them double the honour and respect they deserve.

But honour is not a mere social construct, varying from person to person, but a divine command.

We show respect out of our reverent fear of God – “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God,” it says in Leviticus 19:32. That starts with the posture of humility, we learn in Proverbs 15:33.

The wages of disrespect are curses (Deuteronomy 27:16), death (Matthew 15:4), and, of course, having your eyeballs eaten by vultures (Proverbs 30:17).

Clearly, God doesn’t take dishonour lightly. And we shouldn’t either.

DARK-HAIRED STRENGTH AND GREY-HAIRED WISDOM

Why does it have to be about us versus them?

There are good things we stand to gain when we look up to those older than us. We have much to learn from them – they have more wisdom and understanding than we do (Job 12:12).

They have walked on this earth longer than we have. They’ve overcome obstacles that we might go through ourselves later on in life.

Advice from those older than us are rarely bred from ill intentions. Reject wise counsel and you’re merely feeding your pride, the sentiment of I know better.

Like us, they are imperfect; they too stumble and fall. The difference is they’ve done so many more times than we have over the years, so not only do they offer the lessons drawn from success, but also the important ones that are drawn from failure.

Sometimes we feel caged by their traditions and get frustrated when they don’t share our views. But we must learn to submit, or respectfully agree to disagree, without compromising on giving honour where it is due.

We may have the energy and tech-savviness, but they have the wisdom and experience. No one is better than the other, and each is equally crucial in the church.

There should be no us and them in the church. Ephesians 4:5 – We’re one church, remember?

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Church camp is over. Now what?

by | 25 June 2017, 1:47 AM

A church camp is always amazing. It’s a time of refreshing, recharging and refocusing. It’s where you get to bask in the warm glow of our mountaintop moments.

You look forward to it for months, eager to seek respite in God’s presence, away from the dreary happenings in our home country. Fast forward to the last day and you’re all tired but happy from the rousing sermons and late night #HTHT – heart-to-heart talks.

You’ve heard God’s voice commissioning us to do His work. You’re pumped up and ready to preach the Gospel, transform society, feed the orphans.

So you’re on your way back across the Causeway when yet another driver jam-brakes in front of you.

Do you curse? Do you mumble under your breath about how drivers nowadays know nothing about driving?

So much for the mountaintop.

Why is it so easy to forget what God tells us?

We chase after fleeting highs. Like a drug, we’re addicted to the ecstasy of feeling like we’re up in the clouds with Jesus. We’re content with that experience being a short and succinct one – usually 4D/3N in Malacca, KL or JB.

But there’s no reason mountaintop moments should just be restricted to church camps. There’s no reason they have to be short-lived.

Get excited, inspired, refilled, topped up, blown away by your mountaintop moments. Then let them carry you through the valleys.

The problem is that daily life has a tendency to give us every excuse we need to step off that mountain. It all comes crashing down when we get the first cantankerous customer back at work, or the first impossible school deadline.

Thanks for the memories, God. See you at next year’s camp.

How do we bring the mountain to daily life?

Everything we do is our worship unto God. It could be your morning coffee run, or your routine admin job. We worship Him with our hearts when we set out to do His work anywhere and everywhere.

That takeaway God had for you at church camp – it wasn’t only valid at the camp; it isn’t only limited to Malaysian soil. That’s why it’s a takeaway; you bring it back home with you.

There is work to be done. Get excited, inspired, refilled, topped up, blown away by your mountaintop moments. Then let them carry you through the valleys.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Who are your good friends?

by | 23 June 2017, 11:31 AM

I’m insatiably curious about people. I find myself constantly seeking out what stories lie behind a name.

Through conversations, I get to find out what makes people tick, what makes them sad and what were their greatest moments. Because I thrive on deep and meaningful connections, it should come as no surprise that friendships matter a lot to me.

While I enjoy diving deep into and being a part of people’s lives, sometimes it comes at a cost. Some friendships feed my soul – often times I walk away refocused, spurred on and motivated to pursue things that matter. But others tend to leave me more defeated, drained and deflated.

Me being me, I threw myself fully into each of my friendships anyway, whether they were taking a toll on my emotional health or not.

BREAKING DOWN TO BUILD BACK UP

As a result of the buzz I get from connecting with people, some of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn deal with the way I viewed friendships.

It took me a while to realise, but my security and worth were being found in having many good friends. Of course, the desire for thriving relationships is not wrong in itself – it was the fact that I relied on them more than I was turning to God.

In my desire and pursuit to know and be known by other human beings, God had been reduced to the friend I connected with only when I remembered to.

Needless to say, I was soon exhausted from chasing after friendships that did not satisfy me the way I had envisioned they would. Fighting a strong sense of disillusionment, I knew I had to reevaluate my priorities.

My approach to friendships underwent a major overhaul. Apart from learning to find my worth and security in God, I had to relearn what a good friendship should look like. Here are 3 handles I’m now using to evaluate my friendships:

3 SIMPLE SIGNS OF A GOOD FRIENDSHIP

1. They encourage your growth

When you undergo major revamps in your life, a good friend isn’t afraid of the change that might come about. Instead, a good friend embraces it and is excited for you; even if that means things might be different.

A good friend doesn’t favour his/her own comfort but values your growth more than anything. They recognise that God is constantly in the business of doing a work in you. Friends who push you towards Christ are the ones worth keeping and investing in.

2. They go the distance with you

I believe that our God-given diversity means that we offer different things to different people. Some friends are great comforters, some are amazing encouragers – but one thing they should have in common is a purpose of promoting dependency on God. Find people who are committed to doing that alongside you.

A good friendship doesn’t always have to look like the active participation in someone else’s life. Time and distance only matter so much. The thing that lends itself to the quality of the friendship is the heart that both parties bring to it, no matter the physical distance.

3. They speak into your life

While we are called to love people, it’s okay to pick and choose who you allow into your life. Loving people and letting them in are two very different things. We need to be more deliberate in our selection of who we’re allowing to speak into our lives and who we invest in.

One important thing I’ve learnt is this: God knows you well. He knows what – or who – works for you. He knows what kind of friend(s) you need in any given season and will send you the right people in His timing.

Submit your friendships to God. Believe He will bring the right people to you at the right time.

COMING TO TERMS WITH AN END

With these things in mind, I’ve decided to let go of some friendships. Many of them, I admit, have been one-sided in nature.

Being the hopeless romantic I am, it has been hard for me to let them go. I had clung onto what I imagined they could be instead of calling them out for what they were for so long. Why should I shortchange myself by fighting for friendships that are like holes in a leaking boat?

Instead of focusing on the search for good friends, cling to Jesus.

Even in that release, I’m putting my hope in God that He would give me the strength to continue loving them the way He would have me do (Isaiah 58:10-11, Luke 6:32-42, Psalm 130:7).

In His loving kindness, my eyes have been opened to see the people who have stuck by me, even when I was incapable of offering them anything in return. It had been hard to see and appreciate them under the shade of their unassuming nature. These friendships were never glamorous but they have yielded the greatest support and love.

The pursuit for godly friendships has no expiration date. Some people find it at the tender age of 10 and some are still looking for it well into their thirties.

But instead of focusing on the search, cling to Jesus. Let Him meet your needs and you’ll start to realise how freeing it is to hold friendships with an open hand.

You might still be in the search for these friends now – but when the opportune moment comes, you can be sure that God will make the necessary introductions.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Daddy, I’m coming home

by | 22 June 2017, 4:42 PM

Dear God,

I know it’s been awhile. I’ve been horribly quiet. Truth be told – not that You don’t already know – I’ve been avoiding You. These days, the mere act of opening my mouth takes so much out of me, even though I know I’ll feel better once I talk to You.

There’s this undeniable yearning to be Home. It’s where I know there is no more sorrow, hurt or pain. Deep inside, I miss it. I miss being with You.

I remember the times when we would meet in my room, away from everyone and everything. It was our secret place, tucked away from the rest of the world. In those moments, it felt like Home again.

It’s funny how in my heart of hearts, I know only You can piece me back together.

I’ve heard You calling out for me; I’ve heard You telling me to take off the mask I’ve been wearing so no one can see the mess that I am. I’ve heard You whisper my name those nights when I was fighting a losing battle against my tears – when I was paralysed by my own fear and disappointment.

I know Your heart breaks every time I push you away. Your heart grieves every time I choose to walk in the opposite direction. I know it hurts You when I look for comfort and love in all the wrong places.

It’s funny how in my heart of hearts, I know only You can piece me back together. Yet the journey back Home seems like a far too tedious one to start. Sometimes I believe I’m too far gone.

Why do you love me so much, Abba? Why am I found worthy when all I ever do is to slap away the hand that reaches out to me in love? I’m so filthy; disgustingly wrapped up in my all my sins. How can You look at me with eyes that are filled with love?

How can my head wrap itself around the idea that there is Someone who looks at me not for who I am now, but for who I can be? There’s nothing redeemable about the way I’ve squandered all that’s been given to me, but You’ve taken me back into your arms time and time again.

And here I am, once again, on the outskirts of Home and longing to be back in the house where you are.

In Your grace, my time away from You has served its purpose. You’ve been doing a work in me and peeling my layers of insolence and sin off. You strip from me of everything that isn’t of you.

And with all the courage I have left, I’m asking You to break my heart for what breaks yours so it can become whole and complete in your love.

I know it’s only through my pain that I get see Your glory in high definition.

I’m learning to see that You leave little surprises for me at every corner. At every hard turn I make, there’s always a gift to be received in growth and in becoming more like You.

Sometimes, the shrieking sound of my sharp edges being refined frightens me. But I know it’s only through my pain that I get see Your glory in high definition.

So continue to teach me, Abba. Let my inadequacy be a worthy exhibit of Your goodness. And even as I continue to meander my way towards you, keep my feet steady and in the center of Your will.

Thank you for knowing me – and despite that intricate understanding of who I am in my wretched state – for loving me. Thank you for my life. You’ve preserved me from the snares of death even as I’ve haplessly wandered to the edges time and time again.

Daddy, I want to come Home. I desperately want to be back in Your arms because I know that’s where I am the safest. I know You’ll be waiting with a garment of praise to put around me and a ring to reinstate my place in the house (Luke 15:11-32).

Even as I lay all my burdens at the altar once again, let my tears be worth something to you. I’m making my way back to you, Abba.

I’m coming Home.

Love,
Your prodigal child

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Labels: Are we more than friends?

by | 22 June 2017, 2:59 PM

I like hanging out with the boys. They offer a different dimension to friendship.

In some ways, guys and their perspective keep me grounded. I appreciate their practicality and the way they’re honest to a fault. They’re considerably less sensitive to the occasional offhand remark and they tend to take things at face value.

The different dynamics that men and women bring to the table of friendship can be very rewarding. But where do we toe the line between being friends and being more than friends?

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

The ambiguity of male-female friendships occurs when the lines of “just friends” are blurred. Is it okay if we’re texting each other constantly throughout the day, every day? Can I ask a guy out to dinner? Is it wrong if I’m always sending a girl home? How close is too close?

All these questions can get overwhelming. But the real question you should be asking yourself is this: Am I only this way with a certain someone or am I like this with everyone?

Disappointment and frustration is a result of the disparity between expectation and reality.

If you answered yes to the former, be a judge of your own motivations. If you’re ready to pursue something committed and exclusive with that person, tell them. And if you answered yes to the latter, make it clear so others won’t be left to wonder.

Disappointment and frustration is a result of the disparity between expectation and reality. That’s why we have boundaries – they help us know when things are getting too close for comfort.

We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the other person to be honest about what we want.

Mixed signals stem from the lack of communication we must first have with ourselves. We lack clarity when defining what exactly we want out of a friendship with another person. When intentions are not communicated clearly, hearts inevitably end up broken – or at the very least, someone’s pride gets wounded.

We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the other person to be honest about what we want. But truth be told, sometimes we meet someone and all we want is to “see where the friendship goes.”

This mindset can potentially be dangerous as it sets an unspoken expectation on an unknowing party. People are not mind-readers. While we don’t want to spoil the excitement of things, we still need to be responsible with what we say – and what we don’t say.

So put your intentions to the test. Asking someone of the opposite gender out to dinner is perfectly okay when you know why you’re doing it. If you’ve decided that your intentions are platonic, then it’s irrational to get mad at them if they decide to date other people.

Don’t leave room for doubt. So if you’re not in a committed relationship now, think of your future spouse and act in a way that would honour them – especially with whoever you’re spending with now.

“DATE” ISN’T A BAD FOUR LETTER WORD

Let’s be honest. Modern dating is scary. Not only do we have our own expectations to manage, we can’t escape the opinions of the people around us.

We don’t want big mouths and prying eyes to make the person we’re trying to get to know uncomfortable, so we end up throwing phrases like “we’re just talking” around too easily. But to be honest, there’s nothing shady about getting to know someone until you start being secretive about it.

We think that out of every date we go on, something positive or a step forward must happen. But even if there are no fireworks, that in itself is an answer and is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to start accepting that either outcomes are okay.

We need to be less afraid of going on dates. Dates are supposed to be fun! Not only do you get to know more about the brave soul who asked you out, it’s also a chance for you to discover new things about yourself. Don’t overthink it but go into it with your eyes open.

It’s become a lost art to ask someone out on a date without coming across as cryptic or creepy. Take a cue from the men and women in your life who are in successful relationships. Ask them how they went about their pursuit for their partners.

At the end of the day, we can all afford to be more gracious with each other’s hearts. For every date we must decline, let’s do it with gentleness. And with every declaration of our affections, do it tactfully and consider how the other person would receive it.

The foundation of any successful relationship is a healthy friendship. Pursue that first. If you sense a friendship growing into something more, don’t be afraid to define the relationship (DTR). Neither of you needs to be left guessing and wondering “what are we.”

Labels, we love to hate them. But sometimes, they’re the best thing to save ourselves from the heartbreak of unmet expectations and unwanted attention.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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One girl’s guide to dating well in church

by | 20 June 2017, 7:37 PM

“Oh, we’re just talking.”

We’ve heard it many times – maybe even said it ourselves. But here’s a question: Are we scared of commitment? Because “we’re just talking” seems to be the code word for it nowadays.

Everywhere on the world wide web, people are lambasting the need for labels. We hear things like “Why should we be tied down by something that’s so subjective?“, “How would I really know he/she is the one for me if I don’t try it out?” and “Why is there a need for labels when we both know what we want?

What I’m really hearing, is we’re afraid of losing out. We want the best of both worlds and to keep our options open. We want the choice to jump ship if someone better comes along.

When things end up going down in flames, suddenly everyone’s hands are raised as if to say, don’t look at me, I never said I wanted this in the first place.

HANDLE WITH CARE

The prospect of dating in church can be daunting. We get crippled by the possibility of things turning sour, especially when the both of you have to be in the same space every week. And still be Christian about it.

If you’re not ready to deal with the potential eventuality that things might get awkward, then you’re probably not ready to date.

It doesn’t always have to be awkward. Dating can be responsible – and it needs to be – since it has to do with something as fragile as our hearts.

The problem isn’t in trying to see if things might work out romantically with someone; it only becomes a problem when it’s done with selfish intent and without consideration of the other person’s feelings.

After spending almost all my life in church, I’ve witnessed my fair share of successful and unsuccessful relationships. Here’s what I think we all need to consider before we decide to date.

5 TIPS ON DATING WELL IN CHURCH

1. Stay away from people who like to stir up romantic dramas

“I heard so-and-so finds you cute.” To which you should say, so what? If there hasn’t been any clear communication straight from the horse’s mouth, be on your guard.

People forget that emotions are a very fickle thing. Our hearts can be easily swayed and a careless comment can stir up unnecessary emotions. If things end up one-sided due to incessant teasing, who would be left to pick up the pieces? That’s right. You.

All these needless and irresponsible comments are the opposite of what Solomon said in Song of Solomon 8:4. So please, don’t awaken love until both parties are willing and ready.

2. Always check your signals

Mixed signals – they’re the bane of our romantic existence. Much to their discredit, some people unknowingly come across as overly flirtatious to people of the opposite gender.

So own your behaviour. Have you been getting unwanted attention? Check yourself to see if you’ve unknowingly been giving someone the wrong impression. Maybe ask a good friend for their feedback.

If things are getting ambiguous with someone and you’re sure that your feelings towards them are purely platonic, don’t be afraid to spell it out lovingly and gently. Nothing curls our toes more than someone who is callous and careless with our feelings.

3. Keep your eyes open and stop guessing

I’m a firm believer of the saying, “If someone likes you, you would know.” Trust your gut and keep your eyes open. If someone seems to be paying you more attention than usual — and only to you exclusively — you can almost always be sure something is up.

Bring it up with the other person if you need to be sure. Don’t be left in the limbo of guessing what things are. If the feelings of affection aren’t returned, make it clear. Protect the other person; don’t lead him/her on and limit your time alone together.

On the other hand, we may find ourselves confused by those who are hot and then cold. All the more, we must know what we’re worth (1 Peter 1:18-19). Don’t settle for someone who is undecided about how they feel about you.

Remember, God pursues us relentlessly. We should hold ourselves and each other to a standard that mirrors the kind fervent pursuit that God first showed us.

4. Honour God and each other with your feelings

The day will come when we meet someone whom we find attractive. And sometimes, our heart can get ahead of itself. But we can honour God with our attraction to someone by first seeking Him, taking our thoughts captive and not giving in to mindless day dreaming.

While we may find ourselves imagining how things with someone else might work out, let God order your steps. Don’t let a fantasy rule your life. Instead, ask God what He would have you do with your feelings for someone.

Not only should we choose what we spend our time thinking of, we should also protect the other person by being wise with our actions and our words. Until we’re sure that we want to pursue something deeper with someone, let’s honour each other by acting in a way that leaves no room for doubt or second guessing.

5. Be brave

If someone has caught your eye and you’re ready for a relationship, then do something about it. If you’d like to get to know someone better, ask them out!

Getting to know someone cannot take place from a distance. It requires us to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable. Sometimes the fear of rejection can cripple us, but the worst thing that could happen is to be turned down. That doesn’t make you any less of a person and neither does being told “no” determine your worth or identity.

When you’ve met someone whom you’ve decided to pursue, invite the wise counsel of those older than you and listen to their advice (Proverbs 11:14). Let the Holy Spirt and the wisdom of those who have gone before guide you in this new and exciting journey.

Dating doesn’t have to be scary. We were created to enjoy relationships within certain boundaries. So don’t be afraid of the lines. Step into them and remember to have fun.😊

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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The last time I fell in love

by | 18 June 2017, 5:13 PM

Here’s the thing about romance that fascinates me: I love how easily it can make someone give away their most prized possession – their heart.

But contrary to popular belief, there is nothing romantic or poetic about unrequited love. It’s a misplacement of your affections, emotions and effort. It is a waste of time. Even if you tried your hardest, you can’t make someone love you (ditto, Bonnie Raitt).

I gave my heart away once. It was intoxicating and everything I imagined it’d be. But I was also left utterly broken and half the person I was before it.

I had unwittingly given my heart to this boy who had tugged at all of my heartstrings. He was everything I thought I wanted – a broody and eccentric creative who had an impeccable taste in music. We had known each other for a few years then and had just started to get close.

It was as if I was on a pendulum – feeling happy when he reached out to me and dejected when I’d been given the cold shoulder.

Conversation flowed easily; we shared the same wavelength. This depth of connection was rare for me to have. As our friendship progressed, I slowly began to realise how broken he was on the inside. Instead of propelling him to a fuller sense of living, his sensitive soul was becoming a crutch to him.

I’ll admit it: I had a bad case of saviour complex. I desperately wanted to save him from his debilitating self-doubt. I wanted to pull him out of his shell and show him the potential I’d seen in him.

To my discredit, I found his aloofness very enigmatic. There were snippets of moments where he would let me in for a bit before shutting me right out. It felt like a game of push and pull – and I was hooked.

For a bit more than a year, I was stuck in a perpetual emotional roller coaster ride. Most of what I felt was centered around his reactions. It was as if I was on a pendulum – feeling happy when he reached out to me and dejected when I’d been given the cold shoulder.

I lost myself in the process. I spent all my time thinking about him. I was always wondering if he was okay and if there was something, anything, I could do to make the weight in his heart a little lighter. I desperately wanted to know what he was thinking – about anything, about me.

In hindsight, his disinterest should have been obvious. It was the eventual slow and noncommittal replies – if they even came at all. It was the one-too-many times of total radio silence. It was right in my face but I still didn’t see it; I didn’t want to.

But one day it hit me. I felt rejected – not just as a friend but also as a person. My heart was left empty from pouring out all I had. I was exhausted from trying to put both of our pieces back together.

My mind had become so used to wandering in his direction every waking hour.

Nothing was off-limits to my overly analytical mind, not even my own self-worth. Was I not doing something right? Had I failed to love him the way he needed to be loved? What was so wrong with me? Was I not enough?

Deep inside, I knew I had to let go of my feelings for him. But it was hard. My mind had become so used to wandering in his direction every waking hour.

All my efforts to move on would be foiled whenever he said things like “you’re the only one I can talk to” and “you mean a lot to me.” But after I finally convinced myself that I had no business in wasting my time trying to love someone who clearly didn’t want it, we stopped talking.

And so I thought I’d successfully “gotten over” him. It wasn’t until a year later when we finally reconnected over dinner that I realised what I had been doing – I had been suppressing my emotions instead of processing them.

When I saw him that night, all the feelings and memories came flooding back. Suddenly, I missed our easy conversations, the back-and-forth banter about things that mattered the most to us.

The next day, I realised what a mess I was in again. My heart was flustered and confused. What was happening to me? I thought I’d moved on!

My worth had been so dependent on how people reacted to me that they had become my source of validation.

I took an emotional nosedive. I started questioning all my other relationships with the people around me as old hurts surfaced. It made me second-guess everything and everyone – including myself.

Realising the extent of my self-inflicted delusion catalysed my unravelling. I wondered what else I had tricked myself into believing. How could I be so sure of anything else anymore?

After wrestling with my self-doubt, I came to realise that my own unmet expectations had broken me. My worth had been so dependent on how people reacted to me that they had become my source of validation. It felt like if my love wasn’t being reciprocated, it was as if my entire person had taken a hit.

And that’s the way I’d been feeling all along with him.

Since then, God has been in the process of rewiring my emotional “circuit”. He’s removing my knee-jerk reaction of feeling rejected whenever I feel disappointed. He’s been busy binding up the wounds of a broken heart (Psalm 147:3).

Who I am is not found in the way people perceive me to be. The love I receive from people – or lack thereof – does not define me. God’s love does. It’s a love that I cannot be separated from (Romans 8:38-39).

I no longer don the tag of being rejected goods. And even as I struggle to see myself through God’s eyes (Psalms 139:14), I know He’s paving the road ahead for me as I learn how to fully lean on Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Who I am is not found in the way people perceive me to be. The love I receive from people – or lack thereof – does not define me.

The person I had given my heart to may not have chosen me. But it doesn’t matter. The Lover of my soul first did – and does so every day.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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So you want to be sold out: But at what cost?

by | 15 June 2017, 11:00 PM

“Take my life, and all that I have to give. Take my world, just inhabit all of it. Take my dreams, make me assuredly Yours.”

These words are not the easiest to sing. The first time I heard it, my heart broke. The gravity of those words weighed on my heart.

I was torn. A part of me was desperate for the conviction to sing those words. Another part of me that was grieving over what it would cost to sing it.

But I realised; I was singing out my life’s purpose. But what would it take for me to live those words out? What would it cost me to be sold out for Jesus?

A LIFE OF EXTRAVAGANT WORSHIP

I’ve been a church-goer for most of my life. But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I finally got serious with God.

I had grown up in a small semi-conservative family church, but the new church I was attending was turning out pretty different from what I was used to.

People were rocking back and forth during worship and arms were fully outstretched. People were on their knees, weeping openly. Nobody was too shy to proclaim that God was in their mess.

What bewildered me was that they had the same fervour for God outside of the church and on all the other days of the week.

Then there were all these new jargons I had to get used to. Extravagant worship. Laid down lover. Sold out for Jesus. What did they even mean?

In the midst of all that confusion, I came to appreciate my new church congregation’s unbridled authenticity and unabashed worship. What bewildered me was that they had the same fervour for God outside of the church and on all the other days of the week.

While we had our fair share of friction from our differences, their friendship spurred me on in my race back Home.

They showed me what it looked like to be sold out for Jesus. It wasn’t just some tacky-sounding slogan but a fully surrendered life. A life that isn’t free from grit or dirt but lived with the kind of love that keeps on trying.

The unrelenting way they pursued God’s heart resonated in me. In my slow yet sudden awareness of Who my life really belonged to, I rededicated my life to God quietly in my own heart.

I didn’t know it then, but it was purpose that was bubbling up within my spirit man.

There was no fanfare; it was a quiet resolve. I had tasted God’s goodness and I’d seen the fruits of the changes He brought about in me.

There was no other option. Life couldn’t remain status quo. And it was as if in the twinkling of an eye, I myself had changed (1 Corinthians 15:52). I didn’t know it then, but it was purpose that was bubbling up within my spirit man.

I was where I needed to be. It felt like I had finally come home.

COVENANT RESTORED

During my recent bouts of depression, there was this quiet assurance that remained in me. I’d like to think that it was God’s grace for me – He preserved my life when I’d been so close to death.

Even from the distance that I had put between us, I knew He was waiting it out. He was waiting for me to come home.

After the longest time of giving Him the cold shoulder, I finally sat down to have a painfully honest conversation with God. My heart wept as I spoke about His goodness that triumphed through my failures.

I want to pursue His heart with reckless abandon – the same way He pursued mine.

I knew that the pain meant He wasn’t done with me yet. I was still going through the Refiner’s fire. I needed His strength to carry on.

Six years on from the first time, I rededicated my life to God once again.

It was my renewed commitment to run alongside Jesus in this race called life. I was tired of living life at a fraction. I made an altar out of my desires and asked the Holy Spirit to show me how to abide in Him (Galatians 5:16). I want to pursue His heart with reckless abandon – the same way He pursued mine.

It was the restoration of my covenant with God. I made it with full confidence that I had been appointed a purpose – one that I knew God had specifically called me to. I want to walk in a manner that is worthy of that calling (Ephesians 4:1).

It doesn’t matter that the blows will keep on coming. I’m reminded that even though my heart and flesh may fail, I know that I can draw my strength from Him (Psalm 73:26). I know I’ve come out from the valley with a bigger heart; one that has no room for expectations, just room for Him to make His home in it.

I’m reminded that this life isn’t for me to call my own (Jeremiah 10:23). I want my life to be at the disposal of the One who paid a hefty price for it (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I prayed to have the heart of the woman who had wet Jesus’ feet with her own tears (Luke 7:38).

A life sold out always comes home. It doesn’t look back at the Father’s house in shame, it continues to return even after being away for too long. It continues to give it’s all even when it goes against all rationale – because it is secure in the sonship it operates under.

In that conversation, I told God to let my life to count.

I’m all in. Are you?

 

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Guard your heart

by | 6 June 2017, 1:03 PM

The other day I asked God why I was given this heart.

The one I have looks like it’s about to fall apart; it’s purple with bruises and has weathered through heartbreaks. I’ve always had a heart for people, but often that seems more like a curse than a blessing. It hasn’t always been easy.

Courage becomes beautiful when you exchange hearts with the people you meet. It’s an honour to be tasked with holding someone else’s heart. But people take you for granted. Not everyone knows how to hold your heart well. Many of them are careless enough to drop it.

Our hearts are capable of producing good and bad fruits, so the key is in guarding your heart.

I refuse to believe this heart is in me by mere coincidence. There must be a reason why I’ve been given this particular heart. I want to steward it well (1 Peter 4:10).

So instead of always lamenting about all my hurts and disappointments, I took to Merriam Webster for a dictionary definition on what else our heart is good for – to give me a renewed understanding of my heart’s meaning and purpose. And, with this newly-acquired knowledge, I’m figuring out how better to harness my heart, with the “singleness of heart” God said He would give us in Jeremiah 32:39.

HOW TO HARNESS THE HEART

Definition #1: The heart is “one’s innermost character, feelings or inclinations”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the fluff of things; the eloquence of a poet’s words, or the showmanship of a performer. But when we get to the centre, the core and crux of a person, we get to discover beauty on another level. We get to discover what makes them do things, what makes them hold back. What makes them function, and what debilitates them.

The heart is the source from which all things flows (Proverbs 4:23).

But this means that our hearts are capable of producing good and bad fruits, so the key is in guarding your heart; this will protect you from allowing negative emotions to rule your life. Turn every negative feeling or thought to God, laying it at His feet. Ask Him to remove your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh – the new heart and new spirit promised in Ezekiel 36:26.

Definition #2: The heart is “courage and enthusiasm”

This explains the warmth that erupts from somewhere deep inside you when someone tells you “Don’t lose heart”, or to “take heart”. There’s something powerful about taking heart, drawing courage. We don’t just wait passively, but we actively lay hold of and reach for it. It requires us to set our minds to act.

We need courage to love people. We can’t run away from this calling; God commanded us to love our neighbours (Mark 12:31) and to lay our life down for our brothers (John 15:13). We can face difficulties with strength and courage because God will be there wherever you go, every step of the way (Joshua 1:9).

Definition #3: The heart is “the vital part or essence”

Your heart is distinct from someone else’s. It defines who you are. It makes you you.

Your heart influences who you are as a person, and in turn influences the people around you. It is capable of inspiration. Your heart produces things that you will be known for; from it flows your character.

It is your essence. Make it a good one. Pray for a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). And guard it, guard it, guard it.

It’s okay to have a burning heart. That means it beats and lives. Choose to tarry through your hurts and disappointment – and like refining fire, God will make something beautiful out of it.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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You can’t sit with us

by | 5 June 2017, 4:14 PM

My sister was shoved into a locker by a bunch of bullies when she was just 10 years old. It became a daily routine for her. Just like how she had to eat her lunch in a toilet cubicle each day.

She’s far from the only one. Almost everyone I know has been chewed up and spat out by the social hierarchies that inevitably spring up around the teenage years.

I’ve seen bullying from both sides of the fence. In school, I was one of the popular girls – but at the same time, I was a target for catty remarks and gossip.

I entered my first year of secondary school with wide-eyed enthusiasm to make new friends. But while I managed to form some good friendships, that was overshadowed by the unwanted attention I got from a bunch of senior girls.

They would stare at me from across the canteen, offering up nasty comments. It was condescending, it was juvenile – and it hurt. I didn’t know anything about these girls., but it was clear: They were the popular kids and I was at the bottom of the food-chain.

Thankfully all that negative attention stopped when they graduated two years later.

Then the unthinkable happened; I became the popular one for a change. I’m naturally effervescent and was quite an extrovert at that time. I hung out with a group of friends who were all popular in their own right.

I was happy. I had finally found my friends. There was rarely anything we did without each other.

One day I was surrounded by friends and laughter; the next thing I knew, I was roaming from one class to another all alone.

Then one day – for reasons that continue to elude me – they decided I wasn’t to be a part of the group anymore. I had fallen from grace.

I had never felt so alone in my life.

Suddenly, I didn’t have my usual spot at the lunch table anymore. One day I was surrounded by friends and laughter; the next thing I knew, I was roaming from one class to another all alone with a voice in my head screaming: This can’t be happening to me.

The saving grace was that all of this took place during the period leading up to my O-levels, so it didn’t last too long. Once the study break started, I could finally breathe a little easier.

But then I received my results. I’d always been an above-average student. But amid all the drama, I struggled to focus during my revision, and when I got my O-level grades they were abysmal.

I was devastated.

Anger started to brew in me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. Why me?

All my hopes and expectations for my life were in ruins. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I was ashamed that I had been so weak – so easily affected by the words of others around me.

I channelled all the negative emotions stirring up in me by throwing myself doubly hard into my schoolwork. The indignation and resentment fuelled my over-achieving self – I relentlessly pursued the best grades, top leadership positions and recognition.

I was convicted to write a letter to the girls. I told them that I forgave them – but then I struggled to write the next line. Will you forgive me?

But no matter how good my grades were, or what accolades I gained, five years after that ordeal, I still found myself unsettled by everything that had taken place. The pain and anger seemed to have taken a hold of my life and personality.

Two years ago, on New Year’s Day, I took an inventory of all the things I had stored up in my heart. And I realised that I still had not let go of the hurts from all those years ago.

I told God that I wanted to be free from all that anger and unforgiveness. I was ready to move on.

The Holy Spirit told me: Pick up a pen.

I was convicted to write a letter to the girls. I told them that I forgave them – but then I struggled to write the next line. My pride and hurt kicked in.

I wrestled with this for a while, before I was finally able to write what I knew I had to: Will you forgive me?

In my letters, I asked for forgiveness if I had done anything that caused them to act in the way that they did to me. I ended each letter by wishing them well, saying that I hoped they had found joy wherever they were.

I sent the letter out with no expectations of hearing back from them. My heart felt instantly lighter. But what was more unexpected was that I got a reply from all of them; they apologised and some of them even suggested it was time to reconnect.

Going through all of that has shaped the person I am today. Now I’m more aware of the people who have been shoved to the outskirts of social circles. My heart breaks for them; I’ve been there.

I’ve learnt that God’s heart isn’t for division. He even said that we should go so far as to leave our gifts in front of altar and make peace with our brother before we return to offer the gift to Him (Matthew 5:23-24).

The freedom found in forgiveness happens when you release the people who have hurt you from their actions. Forgiveness isn’t about a situation being rectified. It’s about a heart being set right – releasing the hurt, anger and bitterness that eat away at our soul.

When you can do that, you’re free to move on, move forward. Reconciliation is a bonus.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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On days the world seems too evil, remember …

by Tan Soo Inn, Graceworks | 2 June 2017, 10:47 AM

There are times when the powers of evil seem solidly entrenched and nobody is able to get rid of them. We do what we can, we pray, but nothing seems to happen. The forces of evil laugh at our ineffective efforts. We get frustrated and angry. We wonder where is God.

We may not say it out loud but there are times when we even begin to wonder if God actually exists. And then we remember Exodus.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. (Exodus 2:1–4 NRSV)

This happened at a time when God’s people had been enslaved by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. There seemed to be nothing they could do to throw off the crushing yoke of Pharaoh. Prayers went unanswered. God was nowhere to be seen.

Exodus Chapter 2 begins with a normal everyday story. Two people get married. They have a son. How everyday can you get? No flashing lights, no press conference to announce that God had begun His rescue mission.

But He had.

Every time I read these chapters I am reminded that God is sovereign and acting out His purposes in history but that He doesn’t always show us His working. Therefore, at times when evil seems untouchable and God seemingly absent, I am called to trust Him and to continue to work for good.

We also note that God takes His time to do things. It would take 80 years before Moses would encounter God at the burning bush and receive his orders to lead God’s rescue mission for the Israelites. We learn again that God is neither early nor late but works at His perfect timing. Not only are we called to trust God in the dark, we are also called to trust His perfect timing.

This is a tough call indeed when evil seems to be so strong. But what are our options? Give in to despair? Jettison any belief in God, or in a God that is all loving and all-powerful?

I am sure there are days that that’s exactly what we feel like doing. But then we recall the stories of Joseph, and of Moses, and of Jesus, and we are reminded of the ways of God. And we choose to trust again. Sometimes trust begins as resignation but then it grows into something positive and intentional.

We live in dark times. (Though mum reminds me that the difficulties we face are nothing compared to those faced by the generation that went through World War 2.) There are times when God seems to have forgotten us. Evil is unchecked. Prayers go unanswered. What are you going to do?

We remember and we press on.

 

The author is Chairman of Graceworks, a consultancy committed to the promotion of spiritual friendship in church and society through publishing and training. The article was reproduced with permission from the Graceworks website.

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Can I talk about my pain?

by | 1 June 2017, 3:42 PM

Every night for the past few months, I’ve allowed sadness to snuggle up into bed with me. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up.

It feels like I can’t escape it. Sometimes it’s all I think about. I feel like I can’t talk about my pain. I picture someone, somewhere eager to tell me to “get over it” or to “focus on the more positive things”.

But I can’t help it. My pain consumes me.

I’ve since learnt that lamenting is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many people in the Bible lamented (there’s even a book of Lamentations). The righteous cry out (Psalms 34:17-18).

“Even in the midst of our pain, God does not spiritualise our pain away. All throughout the Bible God is deeply attracted to people in their brokenness,” says Esther Fleece.

A lament is a cry for God to come into our mess, activated by pain. It is us pouring out of grief overflowing, even when our spirits are crushed.

COME CLEAN

There was this wordless groaning in my spirit (Romans 8:26). It came from a place of misery; my spirit was crying out for redemption.

Slowly, I realised that all the mess I had accumulated under my proverbial rug had left me stranded on an island, all by myself. I was all alone with my grief.

But I still didn’t know what to do with it.

I felt close to death; I was emotionally numb, and every day went by in a blur. I would alienate myself from friends. If I could, I’d avoid anything remotely social.

I didn’t have the strength for conversations. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I felt that if I told anybody what I was going through, a) they wouldn’t understand and/or b) they’d give unsolicited textbook-advice that I really didn’t want.

It took me a while, but I finally resolved to take it up to God.

STILL I TRUST YOU

Lamenting requires uninhibited honesty. We’re not just talking about mere complaints, but passionate grieving that will arrest God’s attention. We cannot fool God with our plastered-on smiles. There is nothing in our hearts that is hidden from Him (Psalm 44:21).

On the Sundays I felt especially raw, I would manage to croak out promises over my life during worship. Some days, I would whisper a prayer while on the commute to work.

My heart was weeping and while I didn’t have the strength to be verbally coherent, I trusted that God understood the groaning in my spirit.

That’s when true worship takes place; it’s when we are left vulnerable in not knowing what to expect, but still choosing to put our trust in Him.

Even though I could not verbalise it, I lamented in writing. And there I discovered a new pain that came with the honesty.

It’s especially painful when we don’t get an immediate answer. Even after pouring everything out, I was still as clueless about what I needed to do to improve the situation I was in.

But I’m learning that’s when true worship takes place; it’s when we are left vulnerable in not knowing what to expect, but still choosing to put our trust in Him.

BUILD AN ALTAR OUT OF PAIN 

Instead of brushing your pain aside, learn how to build an altar out of it. The praise that has been birthed out of hurt is an incense from the fire of pain. Our sacrifice is our broken hearts (Psalm 51:17).

God will not turn away from it, so why should we?

We build an altar out of our pain by continuously going to God with it. The intentional act of surrendering our pride, our need to be in control and our fear – that is our worship unto Him.

We are asking God to have His way in us, so that we may become purified as we are in the crucible of Christlikeness.

Whatever we sow with our tears, we will reap in joy.

We need to make space for our laments. When we worship out of our pain, we acknowledge that He is sovereign. We are handing over to God the reins we had clung so tightly to.

I don’t think our finite minds can ever fully comprehend how our grief is part of the grand scheme of things. But we can be assured that our sacrifice of praise will be like a sweet fragrance to Him (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Whatever we sow with our tears, we will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5-6).

Navigating my way out of pain has not been easy. If anything, I’m more confused about things than I’ve ever been before. But I’m learning to make my pain count. Not by wallowing in self pity, but by offering it to the One who will take my ashes and trade it in for beauty.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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To the first man who ever loved me

by | 29 May 2017, 11:51 AM

I’ve got a funny relationship with my father. I mean, I inherited his great looks (ahem ahem) and his passion for music, so from the outside, many would assume that I’m very much like my dad. While there is some truth in that, our personalities have always found ways and reasons to clash.

We had a very rocky relationship while I was growing up. We couldn’t see eye to eye. I’d tasted the sweetness of rebellion and seemed to have a knack for knowing exactly which buttons of his to push. Tears and anger punctuated every conversation we had – and that was if we were even speaking.

But over the years, I began to see a very different side to the disciplinarian that I had grown up fearing. I admired the way he handled his relationships with unbridled authenticity, and how he wasn’t shy about his passions. I didn’t always agree with him, but I learnt how to agree to disagree. And he learnt how to accept it when I did.

This is my way of thanking you, daddy. Knowing I won’t be able to say all this to you without sobbing, I thought I’d express it in writing.

So, over time, I’ve allowed my dad to speak into my life. And I’ve come to realise how much of a difference it’s made to me.

This is my way of thanking you, daddy. Knowing I won’t be able to say all this to you without sobbing, I thought I’d express it in writing.


Dear Daddy,

I’m sorry it took so much out of you to love me.

I was so difficult. I was defiant. I was struggling so much within myself and didn’t know what to do. So I acted out in frustration, confusion and anger.

But through it all, you were that steady presence in my life. Even when you were angry with me, I always knew you’d be there for me in a heartbeat if I was in some sort of trouble.

I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry I held onto all this anger and unforgiveness – way longer than I should have. I’m sorry I disrespected you with my thoughts and my actions (or inaction).

I’m sorry I was so stubborn. It was hard for me to say the words I’m sorry without the fire of defiance burning in me. I failed to see my own faults and was always quick to blame you for the way you raised me.

I know now what it means to love someone, even if they don’t want it. I’ve learnt what it looks like to love regardless. Loving me meant you had to scramble to hold me together when I was falling apart. Loving me meant you had to fight back your own tears as you dried mine.

You knew at some point you had to let me go and find my own way. Even if that meant that I would get hurt in the process. Even if it killed you to see me wander off so far.

It took me a while, but I’ve learnt to recognise your love when I see it. It may not look the way I want it to – but I don’t question it anymore.

You may not share my enthusiasm for certain dinner table conversations. But I know if I ever need to talk, you’d be there to hear me out. While it’s hard for you to keep your opinions about my life to yourself, I know whatever you have to say holds weight.

I’m starting to appreciate that you’re always there when I return home after a long day. I’m thankful I still get to say goodnight to you before I head to bed. I’m thankful that you’re still here to chide me and say “this house is not a hotel” whenever I come home late.

I’m learning to appreciate having you here with me. I’m going to want to keep you around for as long as I can. I’m learning to savour the little moments we have because, well, who knows how much longer we’ll get to enjoy them?

Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for forgiving me time and time again. Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I’d already given up on myself. Even when I’m at my least lovable, you’re always there to pour your love into my life.

Thank you for giving me the kick in my butt when I need it most – but also when it is the last thing I want. Thank you for being the kind of father who isn’t afraid to tell his daughter  to “man up”. Thank you for always being quick to come to my defence, but for also being equally swift to correct me when I mess up.

I couldn’t have asked for a better dad. But perhaps you could have wished for a better daughter (too bad you got stuck with me).

I know it hasn’t always been easy and your job is a thankless one. But today, I’m appreciating your love. I know you’ve brought me up in the best way that you knew how.

Love you daddy. You’re truly my hero.

Your better-looking doppelgänger,
Sara

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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I’m taking my joy back

by | 23 May 2017, 3:06 PM

The longer I sat through the Church service, the more miserable I felt.

Joy had been a stranger to me for quite awhile. I felt like I’d been robbed of it. God’s goodness was becoming a foreign concept to me. The last thing I wanted was to listen someone drone on and on about it.

The message was about the power of God that lives in us. The preacher reminded us that we hold the same power as Christ did on Earth. We need to be in sync with the Holy Spirit so that we can live life to the fullest measure God intended for us.

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was done carrying this weight with me.

Each anecdote he gave felt like a reminder of how I was the antithesis of a good, thriving Christian. Life had been so hard up to that point. I was dealing with so much disappointment and everything seemed meaningless.

Then, right on cue, the preacher started to shout. “Your life is not that bad. Look at the things that God has given you! Whether you feel like it or not, your life IS good!”

Maybe that worked for someone in the congregation, but not for me.

CHIN UP, CHILD

I couldn’t see how life was good. All this sadness. All this loneliness. I was struggling to hold it all together. Every part of me felt vulnerable, raw, tender.

My heart was breaking. I was so uncomfortable and was dying to get out of there. But I couldn’t. I kept my head low as the tears flowed. I never liked to cry in public, or in church. I didn’t want an audience to my unravelling.

As the preacher concluded his sermon, I felt God lifting my chin. The same way a father might to a child with her head hung low in shame. Then I heard the preacher say, “Come on everyone. Declare freedom over every area of your life where you have felt robbed; over every sickness, every disease. Know who is in you.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!”

I’ve learnt that every day I have to make a choice. Every day I have to dig a fresh grave for sadness, and ask for His unspeakable joy.

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was done carrying this weight with me. I decided: I was going to take back what had been stolen from me. I placed both my hands over my heart and asked God to restore in me the joy I had lost. I declared freedom from the cycle of sadness that had been weighing like chains around my ankles.

My heart was finally letting some light in.

JOY IS A DAILY COMMITMENT 

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:22-24)

While happiness rides on pleasure, joy is independent of circumstances. Joy isn’t a feeling or an emotion. It’s a conscious decision. It surpasses all understanding; it doesn’t make sense but it is secure in something bigger than myself.

I admit I don’t have it all figured out. Some days the heaviness is hard to shake off. All I know is that the moment I finally opened my heart to the One who had been knocking, I felt a door unlock within me. Out went my self-pity and in came peace.

I’ve learnt that every day I have to make a choice. Every day I have to dig a fresh grave for sadness, and ask for His unspeakable joy – for my mourning to turn into dancing (Psalm 30:11). Every day I have to die to myself; my worries, my baggage and my hurts.

Now where did I put those dancing shoes?

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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The lost art of friendship

by | 18 May 2017, 4:41 PM

People have always expected me to have it all together. I don’t blame them. I make it easy for them to believe it. So because of that, my friends always come to me with their issues and the expectation that I will have a solution tucked somewhere up my sleeve.

But what if I don’t?

It feels like I haven’t been allowed to be sorry for myself. I wonder if someone else could reach out their hands to me instead. Don’t I get to grieve and mourn over the joy I too have lost?

Am I allowed to not be okay?

HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE

When I was at my lowest, I was told by a friend that I’ve apparently come up short of her expectations. I felt let down. I was disappointed that she was unaware of how much I was struggling – but I knew she had been hurting too.

I struggled with forgiving this friend. Call it a defence mechanism; I had mentally decided to cut this friend out of my life because I wasn’t willing to sit with my hurt and look at it in the face. I didn’t want to risk the pain of processing. I was exhausted.

When you are weighed down by things that are unseen, a steady and unwavering friendship can do wonders. While your hope should be in God first and foremost, He created community for a reason.

The damage had been done but I knew I had to keep working at it to let go of the hurt that I felt.

After not speaking for a few months, by God’s grace, we were able to reconcile and talk about what happened. God knew what we needed – in that space of silence during those few months, we were able to process and heal in our own time.

STILL THERE FOR YOU

Throughout the whole episode, I made it a point to continue being there for my other friends. I did it because I knew firsthand how difficult it is to ask for help – even more so when you’re debilitated and feeling like Satan himself took a dump on you. I know the doublemindedness it comes with; the hope that someone’s presence or words could comfort you but yet the dread of being an inconvenience.

When you are weighed down by things that are unseen, a steady and unwavering friendship can do wonders. While your hope should be in God first and foremost, He created community for a reason: To comfort others when we ourselves have seen the grace in His comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Even when we have been slapped around by life, we still have to work that muscle. The muscle that stretches when you choose to see beyond your own hurts and help to ease someone else’s. The muscle that holds you upright when you choose to stand by someone in their battle even when you’re in the middle of your own.

That’s the lost art of friendship: Doing unto others what you wish others would do for you.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Tools for your Quiet Time

by Samantha Wiraatmaja | 18 May 2017, 3:28 PM

I get it. Sometimes, you read the Bible, and characters like Enoch and Moses appear unrealistic – it feels like they’ve set a standard for spirituality I can’t reach, and it’s super discouraging sometimes.

But the truth is that God wants us to encounter Him at those levels – deep and intimate. It might not always feel that way, but it’s the truth.

I walked most of my spiritual learning journey with no available mentor to guide me or lead the way, which really just meant that I learned by making mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. I offended many people in the process, got my heart bruised a few times, and got rebuked by His gentle voice many times.

The truth is that God wants us to encounter Him at those levels – deep and intimate.

I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything, but I also believe that this next generation rising up won’t have to go mentor-less. You don’t have to pursue the prophetic alone because forerunners have already gone before you to prepare the road you must tread. You won’t need to go in blind. You get to stand on our shoulders; our ceiling is your floor, and you will do far greater things than we’ve done.

Here are some practical things that draw me in to deep worship and help me hear from God. Some may work for you, and some may not. And there may be other things that I haven’t listed here.

NEXT TIME YOU DO YOUR QUIET TIME, TRY …

1. DANCE

Dance is powerful for me because it bypasses the mind and heart and goes straight to my spirit.

It pleases the Lord, and here’s how I know: I’ve only ever danced before Him privately in my prayer room, and yet I can’t tell you how many times total strangers have actually come up to me and said, “You dance before the Lord. The Lord says that you are His dancer and He is pleased. Your movements create things.” These words always move me to tears because God knows what is done in the secret place, and He delights in it.

There are many different ways to dance – sometimes I dance with the tambourine, sometimes with a special dance scarf, most times just with my hands – but it’s really just super simple. Let worship music play, feel how Holy Spirit is moving you, and just follow Him. There’s really no list of steps to follow when it comes to worship dance.

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

There are times that I’ve danced in His arms in a huge palace ballroom. Many times, it has torn down strongholds and created heavenly realities in my own life and home.

Some days the dance is simple and twirly. Some days it’s intense and punctuated. Other days I don’t dance at all because He just wants me to sit with Him.

The Holy Spirit guides us as we learn to move as He moves, so there’s no shame or embarrassment to try in His presence!

2. MUSIC

I believe there’s music 24/7 up in heaven, so I think it works here on earth too!

Some days I worship on the piano, sometimes the guitar or the flute, but mostly I play songs on the computer so I’m free to sing, bow, lift my hands and dance.

I’m not a very musical person, but God moves and speaks often through words and songs. I feel like that’s because music opens our senses, and “the whole person, with all his senses, with both mind and body, needs to be involved in genuine worship” (Jerry Kerns).

3. SILENCE

This is sometimes the deepest way to engage with God.

When we come to the end of all things, including ourselves, and come face to face with God Almighty, are there any words left to say? All our glib words become mere babble, and we stand unmasked in His presence. At that point, we can only stand surrendered, silent, and remember that He is King. That is the moment that true worship bursts forth from our hearts.

4. JOURNALING

This is an incredible, vastly underrated tool. I could go into the benefits of journaling, but I feel like this article did a pretty good job of it already.

5. READ THE BIBLE

Last in this list but certainly not least! The Bible is life. It is food and living water. It nourishes and cleanses. It convicts and builds us up. The Bible is so important.

These are some of the things that take place during my quiet time, and they’ve helped me encounter God through many different seasons. I hope this list helps you in some way, but at the end of the day, these are just tools — what we need the most is Holy Spirit. He is the One who will guide you in prayer (Romans 8:26), in worship (John 4:23-24), in understanding God’s word (John 14:26), and in knowing God (John 16:13-16).

Invite Him in today – He will provide the hunger, and He will make a way for you to get there.


This post was originally featured on Samantha’s blog. Samantha is the co-founder of Antioch Hub, a prophetic-apostolic hub that serves as a filling station for believers.

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Winning the battle against Murphy’s Law

by | 18 May 2017, 3:11 PM

Have you ever had one of those days where everything that can go wrong goes wrong?

You wake up 30 minutes late for work. You’re in panic mode; you’re out of the house in record speed. You wait for your train, trying not to sweat through your shirt, when you realise you forgot your handphone.

Six trains – all packed like cans of sardines – pass you by. You get on seventh train only through some unearthly contortion between men who apparently have sworn off bathing. When you’re 300 meters from your office building, it starts pouring. You plop yourself at your desk, soaked to the bone, cold and ready to explode.

I had one of those bad days recently. But instead of shaking my fists at God, I chose to … pray.

BE STILL AND KNOW

In the words of C S Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We’re forced to look for God in our struggles; because when life is peachy keen, we’re so busy enjoying it that we forget the one who’s made it all possible.

On another of those bad days, I woke up feeling exhausted. I was worn out from constantly putting on a front, and tired from nursing all my wounds – fresh new ones and scabby old ones. I didn’t want anyone noticing a dent in my usual upbeat demeanour. Pretending to be perfect was exhausting.

I told God that I wanted to break the mindset that having a bad start means I’ll have a bad day.

My heart was shaken and hard-pressed, and it was desperate for some peace and quiet. Then a verse sprang to mind: “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” That’s when I decided to get on my knees and placed my head against the cold, hard floor.

I told God that I wanted to break the mindset that having a bad start means I’ll have a bad day. It was one of those days that I couldn’t afford to have a bad one. I had so much to get done; so many things that were clamouring for my attention and not one of them could be put aside.

In that moment, I was reminded that God cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). He cares for me even when I’m flustered, anxious and angry. He’s looking out for me even when I can’t seem to get my head around things. I know He’s still concerned with the state of my heart – even when I’m at my least teachable and open to correction. I know that God is and will continue to be sufficient in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

And right there, in prayer, my heart turned from having a bad attitude to being full of gratitude. There was a shift in my heart, and it was because I chose to put my hope in God (Isaiah 40:31).

CHOOSE WELL

Instead of letting a bad start set the tone for the rest of your day, choose to give thanks for the fact that at least you managed to get onto the seventh train. Choose to give thanks that you’re able to put food on the table. Choose to give thanks and hold fast to the faith that God will turn it around for good.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. (1 John 5:4)

Carry on choosing to give thanks because it honours God. Carry on being excellent in your work even when your boss is tough. Carry on loving well even when you’ve been given every reason not to. Do it because that’s how you honour God (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23)

And right there, in prayer, my heart turned from having a bad attitude to being full of gratitude.

The next time you get a foreboding glimpse of a bad day, don’t be anxious but give thanks in advance because God will give you victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).

You just need to stick around for it.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Should you get a tattoo? Here’s how I made up my mind

by | 16 May 2017, 5:49 PM

I’ve always thought tattoos stood for something beautiful. A permanent and unchangeable mark of a decision made – a sign that you stood for something, believed in it so much that you had to make it an indelible part of you. I imagined tattoos always come with great stories.

Google tells me that tattoos have meant different things over the years. It was a sign of ownership for slaves, status for the Egyptian women, affiliation for certain groups (think biker gangs or the Japanese Yakuza). In earlier days in England, they were a sign of being in the upper crust of society.

I think people get tattoos today out of vanity. They look good, they make us stand out. They’re a tasteful rebellion to social norms.

That’s me. I can’t deny it: I wanted a tattoo because I thought it would look good. Besides, it would tell anyone looking who I am and what I stand for – the ultimate storytelling tool.

THAT CONVERSATION WITH MUM

Why you would want to put something so permanent on your skin?! Many well-meaning people in church recited Leviticus 19:28 to me, and affronted relatives protested.

I had this argument figured out. During Moses’ time, the people in neighbouring countries got inked with symbols of various gods; it was also their way of mourning the dead. Surely that’s what the law was about – worshipping other Gods. As long as I do it with the right spirit, it’s cool. Besides, the Mosaic law isn’t very relevant today.

I wasn’t convinced … until I had that conversation with my mother.

I knew my parents had a firm stand when it came to tattoos (don’t they all?). But I knew my mother would be more willing to listen to reason. I started off by asking her what she thought of tattoos – I wanted to ease her into it, lest she accused me of giving her a heart attack.

She answered me with a question: “Why would you want to do something that everybody else is doing nowadays? It’s become a norm and everyone seems to have them.” My mother is a smart woman; she knew she was speaking to the non-conformist in me.

“Besides, why do you want one so badly? Do you need it?”

I was happy for a while – I had been given the green light. Sort of. It wasn’t a straight “no” – that was good enough for me. So why was I still hesitating?

I tried to win her over with my love for stories, saying that I really wanted to wear mine on my skin. They’d make for interesting conversation starters – they could serve as talking points with my non-Christian friends! #inkvangelism

She reiterated what we both already knew: My father would not approve. But she ended the conversation with this: “If you have the peace to do it, then by all means. I can’t stop you. You’re old enough to think for yourself. But if you want to know what I really think, I wouldn’t want you to do it because you’ll probably regret it in time to come.”

She left it as that and I mulled over it for the next few days. I was happy for a while – I had been given the green light. Sort of. It wasn’t a straight “no” – that was good enough for me.

So why was I still hesitating?

THAT CONVERSATION WITH GOD

In Leviticus 19, God gives His laws to the Israelites. The first law He gives: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy.” And the second: “Each of you must respect your mother and father”.

As I read those verses, I felt a tugging somewhere inside me. I was starting to realise a few things about my motivations behind getting a tattoo.

No, the tattoo(s) that I had planned to get weren’t literally of idols or other gods – but they were the idols in my life. I had romanticised and glorified my pain, my stories. I may not have been worshipping them, but I was letting them taking precedence over what God had called me to do: Be holy and honour my parents.

Then, there were all these other questions that I had to answer.

BEFORE YOU PUT NEEDLE TO SKIN, ASK YOURSELF …

  • Why do I want to get a tattoo (Psalm 139:23-24)?
  • Am I glorifying God with it (1 Corinthians 10:31)?
  • Will I honour my parents with my decision (Ephesians 6:2)?
  • Will it stumble anyone (Romans 14:13-15)?
  • Does it show Christ in me (Galatians 1:15-16)?
  • Will I still want this tattoo, even if I had to wait till I was 30 to get it?
  • Will I have a good enough answer when my kids ask me about my tattoos in the future?

Deep down, I didn’t have the peace. I knew I wouldn’t be honouring my parents if I decided to get it done. I struggled for a while before I finally laid my desires at God’s feet.

I can still imagine myself getting a tattoo every now and then, but the strong inclinations are gone. I still admire my friends’ tattoos and what they stand for. But I don’t have the peace to get one done for myself. Not if it’s just my vanity speaking.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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The social butterfly that grew lonely

by | 16 May 2017, 5:16 PM

“I think I’m struggling with loneliness.”

The first time I admitted it out loud was three days ago. I was having dinner with a close friend, and we were on the topic of “things you don’t already know about me”.

I could already imagine the thoughts reverberating through her head. How can you be lonely? You have so many friends! You’re constantly meeting people and your Instagram is full of pictures of them!

While loneliness is quiet, it isn’t shy about showing itself and making its demands known.

We think we know the face of loneliness. We imagine it’s the face of a lone ranger who appears to enjoy his own company – but that’s just a stereotype. Because while loneliness is quiet, it isn’t shy about showing itself and making its demands known. It creeps up on you and grips your heart.

We tend to skirt around the topic. It makes us uncomfortable. Talking about it is like shining a spotlight on our shame, weaknesses and insecurities.

FACE TO FACE WITH LONELINESS

I grew up struggling with feeling loved. I often felt overlooked and I wanted to change that. So I decided: No more being a pushover. I thought that by reinventing myself, I would be found worthy of love and adoration by the people around me.

So I underwent an identity makeover and created Sara2.0. She was like me, but more sociable, confident and she even stood up straighter.

But even as my social circle grew, that dull ache never went away. I could spend an entire day out gallivanting, but when the darkness of the night covered me, the crippling feeling would overwhelm me again. And I couldn’t understand why.

It wasn’t long before my paper castles came crashing down.

I spent so much time pursuing friendships, constantly seeking people out. I was spending time with a different friend every other day. But it felt like they weren’t half as invested in the friendship as I was. The weight of disappointment sat on me like an anvil. All that work I put into becoming a friendlier me didn’t seem to be working. Sara2.0 wasn’t strong enough on its own.

I was left exposed and defenceless – and angry that I was back at square one.

SO I PUT ON A NEW SELF

When I finally sat down to look loneliness in the face, I asked God to unveil the reasons behind the emptiness that I couldn’t shake off.

It wasn’t that I lacked friends and emotional intelligence. God showed me that the identity I’d strived so hard to curate wasn’t built on a strong foundation. He had a better one for me, one that would not be easily swept away when the waves came (Luke 6:48).

He told me I needed to put on a new self; one that was created in the likeness of Him, in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). I was afraid of what people might say about the “new me” – it would be uncomfortable to dig up old hurts. But I took heart that with Him I was more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

As we grope around in the dark, trying to figure life out, sometimes all we need is a silent companion who’s willing to walk with us through it.

Since my epiphany, God has been in the process of peeling my layers off. All the ill-conceived notions I’ve concocted about myself and the ungodly beliefs I’ve collected are all slowly being pulled off one by one. My pain is a sign that God is in the process of completing the good work He’s started in me (Philippians 1:6).

The next time you feel the dull ache of loneliness in the middle of your chest, set your heart on the things above (Colossians 3:1-2). If only you’d invite Him into your mess, just wait and see what beautiful things He can yet make out of you.

Back to that dinner conversation. My friend didn’t say much that night, but I went home knowing that our friendship had reached a new level of intimacy. Vulnerability was scary – but I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I had taken the plunge and laid my heart bare … and she didn’t try to fix me. 

As we grope around in the dark, trying to figure life out, sometimes all we need is a silent companion who’s willing to walk with us through it.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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How are you? No, really: How are you?

by | 9 May 2017, 10:03 AM

It’s a rainy Sunday morning and the guy on stage is giving his usual welcome-to-church spiel and, like he does every week, he refuses to let us sit down. Before we all get comfortable in our seats, we have to greet at least three other people and/or give them a high-five.

I sigh a little sigh to myself as I psyche myself up to flash a smile and look for three people to say hi to. We get through the usual flurry of “good morning” and “hey, how are you” before we all settle down into an attentive kind of silence.

It’s only then that I hear that whisper of a thought: How many of those three people are really doing good?

Not many of us are inclined to go beyond that blip of an exchange. But if the church is meant to be a hospital for sinners, we’re supposed to be focused on the healing. So why are we, for the most part, not intentional about looking out for signs that someone is hurting?

Maybe we just can’t be bothered. We’ve got bigger things to worry about.

SO HOW ABOUT THAT WEATHER?

We shouldn’t settle for superficial encounters with our brothers and sisters. There must be more depth in our interactions; we need to go beyond meaningless platitudes, talking about the weather.

This is something we need to work on corporately and individually. The lao jiaos need to go out of the way to include people in your conversations and activities, individuals must also make the effort to join in and not isolate themselves.

For a year or so, my family was looking for a church to be rooted in. It was a struggle for me to perpetually be the new kid on the block. I experienced firsthand how a community that leans toward exclusivity can affect a newcomer who’s just trying to fit in and build meaningful friendships.

An inclusive community does not happen overnight. Inclusiveness starts from the willingness to go to an uncomfortable place.

The feeling of being ignored when you’re struggling with your demons can be devastating. This can drive you further into isolation – what you least need at a time like this.

The church is meant to be a safe space for individuals from all walks of life to share and carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), where we stand shoulder to shoulder to share the weight of others. An inclusive community.

But an inclusive community does not happen overnight. Inclusiveness starts from the willingness to go to an uncomfortable place. To express hurt and vulnerability.

To love one another (John 13:34-35, Mark 12:31), we first need to know what’s going on in each other’s life enough to know what to say – or what not to say.

WHAT MAKES AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY?

1. BE AWARE
Keep your eyes peeled for those who are (potentially) being left out.

Looking out for others must come from a place of empathy. We are called to be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8). So if you see an unfamiliar face, or someone being excluded from a conversation, reach out and include them. Bridge that gap. Speak to that brother in love (Galatians 6:1). And prepare to journey with him.

2. BE AVAILABLE
Consider others higher than yourself.

It may be painful when we ourselves are all nursing our own wounds, but we need to make sure we’re there for others, especially when they desperately need someone to be with. When we put aside our own hurts and extend our friendship to someone who needs it, it’s the modern day equivalent to us laying our life down for a brother (John 15:13).

3. BE ACCESSIBLE
Bare your heart – be vulnerable.

It’s a word that gets used cheaply. But it’s still important to be vulnerable with one another. It’s not just a simple formula of exchanging dirty secrets with someone else. It involves you mustering up the courage to invite someone to step into your mess and trusting them to journey through it with you. It is the courage to believe the other person would hold your heart as carefully as you hold theirs.

And even if they happen to drop it by accident, vulnerability doesn’t blame the other person for it.

RUNNING THE RACE ALONGSIDE ONE ANOTHER 

Life is messy. People struggle violently within themselves. Many of us are incapacitated by our insecurities.

That’s why God called us to be a people committed to building each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), spurring one another on (Hebrews 10:24-25) as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

At the end of the day, we’re all on a journey to be more Christ-like. Jesus did not shun the unpopular, but instead got everybody #shook when He chose to hang around and be associated with the likes of tax collectors, prostitutes and the sick.

In the same manner, we shouldn’t let someone’s social standing get in the way of us extending the same love and friendship Jesus first offered to us.

Love creates a space where people feel safe to show their scars and bear their hearts.

What an honour it is for us to be willing vessels to offer comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:4) and to show them what His love looks like.

Don’t grow weary in doing good, especially to those in same family of faith (Galatians 6:9-10). Before we go out there to love the people of the world, we need to be able to do the same in our own spiritual and physical homes. Love creates a space where people feel safe to show their scars and bear their hearts.

So the next time you’re in church and your pastor asks you to give your neighbour a high-five, try to find someone who is desperately avoiding eye contact. It may be a silent cry for help.

So help them.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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Just started work at your first job? How to transition from student to salaried worker

by Samantha Chin | 8 May 2017, 3:40 PM

I’d been a student for 16 years, so when it was (finally) time to graduate, I threw my mortarboard into the air with glee. It was freedom at last, no more assignments, presentations, late night studying and stressful examinations. I couldn’t be more thrilled to leave all that behind and start “living in the real world”, working.

Yet, at the same time, I couldn’t be more bewildered. There were so many unknowns awaiting me: Would I do well in my first job? Would I earn enough money to support myself and my parents? Where would I be in five years’ time?

The mostly predictable world of studying had given way to a murky unknown: Young working adulthood.

This may all sound a tad melodramatic, but if you are a young adult transiting into the workforce, I’m sure you can identify with me. As I fumbled around in this new reality, I learnt some key lessons which helped me navigate this transition, and my hope is that they will help you too.

JUST STARTING WORK? 3 LESSONS I LEARNT … 

1. YOUR IDENTITY IS IN THE LORD

I felt lost, knowing I was no longer a student (no more student discounts 😢), yet not fully understanding what being a working adult entailed. What am I supposed to do now? What does the future hold? I know people go through mid-life crises – surely there is such a thing as a “newbie young adult” crisis too!

Entering into a new phase of life can be unsettling, and it helped to remember that my ultimate identity is in Christ. The circumstances in which we find ourselves may change but who we are in Him never changes – we were created in His image (Genesis 1:27), we are children of God (1 John 3:1-2) and we are set apart for good works (2 Timothy 2:21).

When our peers seem to be getting the “dream job” along with an impressive remuneration package, and we start to wonder if we are “good enough”, we ought to remind ourselves that surely He has a wonderful plan for me and my future is safe in His hands.

2. SEEK THE LORD

When people ask how I knew I was meant to work where I currently work, I tell them I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted to do some kind of family-related non-profit work and impact lives. I prayed (often) for His guidance, did my research and applied for the job I thought might suit my interests and capabilities.

Now, as I look back, I know God was the one working behind the scenes to direct my path and make the pieces fall in place.

We may not always be 100% sure of our decisions, and may experience times of doubt. Even with the most sincere prayers and earnest desire to follow God’s leading, we may find that the job we are at is not the best fit after all. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a mistake (and neither did God). When we do our due diligence to seek His guidance, we can be assured that He will lead. Most of all, He has a reason and purpose for wherever He brings us to, even if it was short-lived.

3. TRUST IN THE LORD

Other than grappling with the many unknowns of the future, there were many times I felt inadequate as a new worker learning the ropes. I’ve lost track of the number of times I narrated 2 Corinthians 12:9 to myself: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It dawned on me that all my perceived weaknesses and uncertainty about the future left me with no choice but to rely on God for help, and that is precisely what He desires. I was learning to let go of my need to know what lies ahead and simply trust in Him.

I have been in the workforce for 5 years now, not quite a newbie but far from a veteran. Though the rather unsettling days of transition are over, I am still learning what it means to rely on Him daily as a working adult. There’s a popular hymn that goes, “Many things about tomorrow/I don’t seem to understand/But I know who holds tomorrow/And I know who holds my hand.” And I know He holds your hand too.

When people ask how I knew I was meant to work where I currently work, I tell them I didn’t know.

Did you find the read helpful? If you would like to receive regular news and encouragement for your faith + family, click here to subscribe. This article was first published on Wholelife.sg and republished with permission. © 2016 Whole Life. All rights reserved.

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Just started work at your first job? How to transition from student to salaried worker