As a month of gates and doorways, we can see it as an opportunity to enter into a new phase of our life, yet this new phase has two opposite directions, indicating a choice we have to make. Many times the choice is not between good and bad (I wonder who would decide for the year to be a bad year), but often the choice is between the year being just another year or a better year.
A better year would require us to think through, plan for and organize around what we want to achieve by the end of 2016. I believe as we start of the year, every Genesis must always begin with God. The first four words of Genesis 1:1 is “In the beginning God”. The original meaning of the Hebrew word “beginning” is the “first, beginning, best, chief, choice part”.
For the year 2016 to be the first of our best, our chief and choice part of our life, we need to look to God – our Elohim – to create a brand new beginning for us. As we plan the year ahead of us, let’s kickSTART with the following in mind:
1. Surrender the good and bad of 2015 to God
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
2. Take stock of what you currently have
2 Corinthians 8:12 NKJV
 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
3. Appreciate the people around you and circumstances you are in
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV
 Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
4. Remember that God is for you and He is always good
2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV
 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
5. Take time out to pray and plan the year ahead
Proverbs 16:9 NKJV
 A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
A couple of months back, I was in the Standard Chartered Marathon, running a 10k. There were thousands running their marathon, their half marathon or like me, their 10k. Each runner runs at a different speed, a different pace from the rest. Unless you are running in a pair or with a group, which just annoys people who are trying to overtake the pack.
Many may know that I’m currently overseas in Japan for a week for an impromptu vacation. This is the fourth day of the trip and as I sit across the popular Shibuya Crossing at the Starbucks in Shibuya Tsutaya, I can’t help but think of the thousands of people rushing across this busy street everyday. It seems like everyone is rushing somewhere, to meet a person, to reach a destination. Some are running, some are walking and some, you could say, should be walking faster than they are.
One question that kept coming back to me the past week as I walk the streets of Japan is “how do we want to pace our life?” Are we walking fast because everyone else is walking fast? Or are we keeping our own pace of life?
It is easy to walk and keep walking without stopping to think how fast or slow we walk. There are seasons in our life that we have to run, seasons in our life that we have to walk, and seasons in our life that we just have to stop. Whichever season that is, we need to choose the pace ourselves, if not we get caught up in the current.
How do we PACE ourselves in life? Four simple things to look out for:
Productivity is an interesting concept because we become productivity when we work on something. When we work on something, we eventually become engrossed in it. Eventually, we come to a point when our productivity drops even after putting in the same effort.
When that happens, we need to look at our pace, whether it matches our optimum productivity. Sometimes it is good to just stop and review before going off again.
Someone once said that nothing could stop mankind if we were to put our mind into it. That holds true especially when it comes to life. Our focus determines our results. When we attend to a matter, we put much attention into it, sometimes to the point that we forget everything around.
In my trip to Japan, one thing that had been interesting to me is the opportunity to just slow down and start changing my attention to what’s going around me. There are so many thing that we can be taking in that we would miss out if we only focus on that one thing.
When we are running too fast or walking too slow, we may miss out on the connections we can make around us. That brought me to the Standard Chartered Marathon couple of months back. Funny thing that happened – I signed up for the run with another friend, but we barely met each other during the run other than the start and the end of the run.
When we start to miss out on the connections that we could be making, we should look at the pace we are going whether we should speed up or slow down.
Remember the time when you were particularly excited about something? Give it a month or two, what happened? Let’s say a year or two, what happened? Where is the same enthusiasm you used to have about that something? Could it be that we have outpaced ourselves? Maybe slowing down could help us see and get back to why we were so excited about it in the first place.
Enthusiasm is often a litmus test for our pace. When we are unable to be enthusiastic about what we are doing, maybe we are in the wrong pace and need to calibrate again? Once we calibrated our step, we can get back into the excitement and enthusiasm.
The lesson is simply… Pace Yourself!
Food for thought… If we spend so much money on wearables that track our heart rate, our steps, our speed, etc, why aren’t we spending enough time on the pace that really matters?
Seconds become minutes, minutes become hours, hours become days, days become weeks and weeks become months. That’s how a rut happens when you get into one, going through the same thing over and over again. Then it happens – all it takes is for something to click! A moment when the motion starts to revolve, the day when everything starts to click again.
The conclusion to the weekend sermon in church – ENJOY… at the end of LIFE as a friend of mine said it, became the turning point when everything starts to get into perspective. Five easy points – Engage, Nurture, Jesus, Others and You. For me, the context is simply to Engage Life, Nurture Life, have Jesus, Others and You in Life. To enjoy life would be the main ending point in the LIFE series. *starting to chuckle with the two “enjoy life” groups I know*
Incidentally, this week became the first object lesson to ENJOY LIFE, as I spend time in Japan for a week, all thanks to my sister. Walking the streets of Tokyo has been a surreal experience as I visited some of the same places I’d been years ago… Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Osaka to name a few the past few days.
One of the first things I got reminded of during the past two days was a lesson I had learnt and am still learning. A lesson on travel but also a lesson on LIFE.
Yesterday I was walking and shopping around Shibuya, one of the busiest places in Japan. I wasn’t expecting to buy too many things, since I don’t usually like to shop too much in these trips. Sadly, I’m not a shopaholic when it comes to traveling overseas. Still, I managed to nab a few t-shirts along the way and some snacks to bring back. At the end of the day, my bag was full and I had several bags on hand, which means I had to go back to the hotel to unload before heading out again.
First lesson in travel – Always Travel Light! As we go for holidays, we are bound to shop and buy things along the way. People may stuff us with freebies and things we may or may not need eventually. If we are walking for the whole day, a light baggage would help us travel longer and faster. At the end of the day, you may need to unload your baggages before heading out again, so you can pick up more along the way.
First lesson in life – Always Travel Light! As we go through the hustles and bustles of life, we are sure to pick many things up along the way. Things will happen whether we like it or not and we can get affected eventually. We are walking in life for the long haul, so a light baggage would help us travel longer and faster. At the end of the day, always learn to unload your baggages somehow before you head out again, because you know you are going to pick up more things along the way.
The lesson is simply… Always Travel Light!
Food for thought… Why do we go for vacations? Simply to vacate (to leave a place that one previously occupied). Are there things we should leave behind and vacate in life? Things we should not be carrying anymore?
Now that the March and April madness have fizzled out, it is time to get back to reflections and writing, something that I missed so much over the past few months. As I got in and out of writing the past year, I realised that my best times and seasons often happen when I learn to pause and write. Not that I don’t go through challenges when I write, but my challenges take on a different meaning when I do write. I guess now is the time to make writing a habit and a practice again before embarking on anything else.
April has been a significant month for many of us. Two weeks ago we mourned for the death of a great man – the founding father of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Last week we celebrate the resurrection of a great Man – the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. For many, it was an emotional period and till now, many are still reminiscing the impact of those two events. For me personally, the season had been trying and still is, as the engine gets turned up for my work. Three more months to the big event and we are miles away from getting anything done. Once again, we are up against the impossible as time is not in our favor.
I’ve entitled this post “The Road is Long, Valley’s Deep, Ocean’s Wide in Front of Me”, taken from the song “But God” by C3 Church. This line resonated a whole lot with me the past few months as I battled the challenges of life, work and ministry. There are many things I am still battling both in and out of me, but what I love about this song is the line “But God saved the day”, taken from Pst Phil Pringle’s sermon – But God.
Just to share a couple of my favorite But God verses in the bible:
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) But as for you, you meant evil against me; BUT GOD meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Psalm 73:21-26 (NKJV)Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
1 Corinthians 1:27 (NKJV)BUT GOD has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
Any my all time favorite:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; BUT GOD is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
I’ll leave this post with a clip of the song “But God” and its lyrics. Hope this blesses you as much as it blesses me.
Don’t wanna walk this road alone
‘Cause I know You are The best of me
And I won’t do it on my own
Cause in You I found my destiny
The road is long
The valley’s deep
The ocean’s wide
In front of me
But God saved the day
Jesus You’re the way
The truth, the light, the hope for all mankind (yeah!)
Last week during the weekend church service, we learnt about the transition generation where we are constantly moving in between various seasons of our life – from summer to autumn to winter and to spring. We also learned about the 5th season that many of us may not recognise – the transition season, which is why I love this picture because the season is just like the empty space right in between each season.
What is the transition season like? It is probably the most confusing and frustrating season that we have to go through in life, because very often it is marked by simply… nothing much. We are neither here nor there. We are not in summer season where we have lots to do nor autumn season where we are enjoying the fruits of our labor. We are not in winter season when circumstances are cold and down nor spring season when life picks up with many new things. Basically there’s really nothing much and we are just waiting for things to happen. To top it off, people in this season are very often neglected because we are not doing so bad that others would take notice and at the same time, not doing so good that many others want to celebrate with us.
Recently, I have been pondering… Many times we are asked “how are you doing?” and the answer we are expected and socially attuned to give are statements like “I’m fine”, “Not so well” or my favourite “Okay”. But social expectations aside, truth be told, many of us are probably in the region of not doing so fantastic where butterflies and rainbows are singing for us everyday and at the same time, not doing so horribly that we are dragging ourselves through the mud and the whole world is against us. So, for a period of time, I decided that I would go with just “So-So” for the question, which is also kinda like “50-50”.
That said, when we talk about the transition season, the one story that came to me was the story of Joshua who crossed over into the Promised Land but just before he conquered Jericho.
Joshua 6:1-5 Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”
Joshua came out of the Wilderness and into the Promised Land. That is like going from winter into spring, where God is going to do something new in our life. But right smack before his first conquest, God spoke to Joshua to march around Jericho for six days and on the seventh day to march around seven times, leading to the triumph. What we may not be aware is that the walls of Jericho were probably less than 1km in distance, which meant that Joshua had to lead an entire army to walk less than 1km around Jericho once a day for six days. Imagine what they would have been like – They make preparations early in the morning, set out to Jericho, walk for probably about 15 minutes and that’s it for the day. Talk about simply nothing much.
The six days around Jericho were pretty much nothing much, just like a transition season. But yet, that transition season laid the foundation for the seventh day when they had to multiply their efforts seven times. That transition season taught them to trust in the faithfulness of God. That transition season allowed God to test them right before the greatest victory they had ever seen before for an entire generation.
So, what do we do in our transition season? The Huffington Post gave 5 Tips For Getting Through A Major Period Of Transition:
To add on the list, as a Christian, how do we go through a transition season?
1. Find time to seek the Lord
Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
2. Connect with people who matters
Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
3. Take time to reflect on God’s goodness
If I’m sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection. Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play. I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post
4. Encourage someone in need
The Master, God, has given me a well-taught tongue, So I know how to encourage tired people. He wakes me up in the morning, Wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders.
5. Exercise patiences in everything, and I mean EVERYTHING
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary – we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
We must realise at the end of the day, in all transition seasons, Romans 5:3 will always hold true – THERE’S MORE TO COME even when there’s pretty much nothing much.
We started December with the 3 D’s to end 2014 right and here we are at the last day of the year 2014. To end off the year, I’ll have 3 E’s to start your 2015 well. If you’ve noticed, the past few posts had been with alphabets and if you put all four together, our December has been a month to DARE. As we end of the year, I would like to DARE you… to move, to change and to step into the new year! Before we get to the last post, just to dedicate something to everyone out there…
Actually I’ve cheated a little, because the 3 E’s of this post is in fact 3 “Embrace” that we need to adopt in the new year in order to start it well.
1. Embrace the moment
As we start off the year, take time to smell the roses. When we step into office the next day, don’t forget to pause as the busyness set in. Before we get caught up by people’s expectations or the load of work awaiting you, know that everyday brings new experiences for us to appreciate and acknowledge.
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. Eleanor Roosevelt
2. Embrace the change
We often hear the phrase “the only constant in life is change”, but many of us would probably like that phrase apply to everyone else but ourselves. We would like other people to change, our circumstances be change, the cards dealt by life be changed. We need to realise that the only way people, circumstances or chances can only be changed when we change.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw
3. Embrace the possible
The only way for 2015 to be the best year yet is to expect the unexpected, which means that anything is possible. Even things that we think are impossible, more often than not, life will prove us wrong. So rather than being proven wrong, we might as well embrace that anything is possible. When we do so, we will grow to the capacity of doing anything we set out to do.
Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. Mahatma Gandhi
May the coming year be the best year of your life!!! Yet!!!