The Mundane Matters

A student from Temasek Poly shared an encounter he had when he was doing a Hospitality and Tourism Management internship at Maldives. He saw what one of his Maldivian colleagues did.

This Maldivian food and beverage server noticed a mother was unable to have her meal properly because her little girl was sleeping on her lap.

So he went over and made a bed out of two chairs with cushions and towels and helped the mother put the sleeping child on the “bed.” Consequently, the little girl was able to sleep soundly and the mother was able to enjoy the rest of her meal.

He did it naturally, intuitively and not because he expected to be tipped or paid extra.

It seems such a mundane thing. But it matters.

Doing such mundane things for others requires no special talents. It takes no special skill to be able to wash feet. What it does take is a servant heart. It also takes an observant eye to see what needs to be done.

The reason most of us don’t see the opportunities for mundane services is that we are constantly thinking about ourselves instead of others.

We are so absorbed in our own personal wellbeing. We judge every situation, every circumstance and every person according to how it will better or worsen our personal wellbeing. When someone shares with us an earnest and desperate need, we think to ourselves – “You’ve got your problems and I’ve got mine.” So we withdraw into our selfish world, become unmoved and immune to the cry for help.

If we would come away from the orbits of “me, mine and myself,” then we need to cultivate the service of the mundane.

It is interesting to note that on the Day of Judgment, the things God would ask us would not be the spectacular or grand but rather the mundane that anyone can do.

God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. But He’ll ask how many people you drove, who needed transport.

God won’t ask the square footage of your house. But He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your wardrobe. But He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won’t even ask about the soundness of your theology. But He’ll ask how many sick you have visited.

God won’t even ask how much Bible knowledge you have attained. But He’ll ask how many of those imprisoned in pain you have comforted.

God won’t even ask about the intensity of your spiritual devotion. But He’ll ask how many thirsty you have given a cup of water and how many hungry you have fed.

Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, was once visiting Taiwan on one of his overseas trips. During the visit, he hiked up one of the mountain villages with a Taiwanese Pastor to meet with some of the Christians there.

The mountain trails were wet, slippery and muddy. Their shoes were stuck, soaked and caked in mud.

Later, someone asked this Taiwanese pastor what he remembered most about Dawson. Without hesitation, he replied, “He cleaned my shoes.”

The Taiwanese Pastor was surprised when he woke up the next morning to find Dawson had cleaned the mud off his shoes.

The act seems mundane. But it matters. It shows he cares. It left an impact.

The mundane matters!

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The Latch Is Always Off The Door

In the Eastern Russian Orthodox Church there is a particular group of people called the “Poustinikki.” They are sometimes known as hermits because they would withdraw to the “poustinia,” (which is the Russian word for desert) to pray in solitude.

The Poustinikki live in solitude but not in isolation. The Russian word for “solitude” actually means, “being with everybody.” They lived at the edge of the village and have a custom in which “the latch was always off the door.” It is an indication of their availability.

The “Poustinikki” do not actively go to look for people to help but they always welcome anyone who comes to them for help.

If someone needs a cup of tea or some bread, the latch is always off the door. The Poustinikki would share whatever they have with them.

If someone needs prayer or some counsel, the latch is always off the door. The Poustinikki are prepared to be interrupted.

If the local farmer needs his crops gathered in before the rains come, the Poustinikki would go into the fields until the harvest is done.

Such is the availability of the Poustinikki. Villagers are always glad to have Poustinikki living close by.

Just so, our neighborhood and our community would be glad to have “Poustinikki” living close by.

The question is, “Are we living with the latch off our doors?” Are we available to those who come to us for help? Are we prepared to do things that are not on our “Do List” for the day?

Our Lord Jesus told in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The Priest and the Levite ignored the cry for help. The latch was not off the door of availability. I am certain they would want to help. The laws of God they learned and taught would have reminded them. But at that moment it was most inconvenient to help, to say the least.

So often when confronted by inconvenience, we come face to face with our own selfishness.

Robert Foster has this to share.

“As I was in the frantic final throes of writing my doctoral dissertation, I received a phone call from a friend. His wife had taken the car and he wondered if I could take him on a number of errands. Trapped, I consented, inwardly cursing my luck. As I ran out the door I grabbed Bonheoffer’s “Life Together”, thinking that I might have an opportunity to read in it. Through each errand I inwardly fretted and fumed at the loss of precious time. Finally, at a supermarket, the final stop, I waved my friend on saying I would wait in the car. I picked up my book, opened it to the marker and read these words: “The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly.”

Let’s learn from the Poustinikki. Let’s be available to help even when it is inconvenient. Let the latch always be off our doors.

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iChrist Incarnation

Two days ago I read about the latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

It boasts of a water-resistant body. No more fear of dropping it in the toilet. It has a new camera, longer battery life and more storage.

Apple calls it the newest iPhone incarnation.

“Incarnation” has been for me a special term referring to the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ who took the form of humanity to save us.

But now it seems incarnation is associated with iPhone and we are going to hear more of it in future.

Words change its meaning over time when embraced by majority of people.

Take the word, “gay.” You cannot use that word without projecting the meaning people today understand it to be.

But back in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s “gay” used to mean, “happy.” I remember singing the old nursery rhyme:

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,

Merry, merry king of the bush is he

Laugh kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra

How gay your life must be!

But today, “gay” has lost his original meaning. Today you cannot even sing innocently the old favorite Christmas carol, “Deck the halls” without inviting giggles and laughter.

Don we now our gay apparel

Fa la la la la la, la la la!

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

If you were old enough, you would remember the popular amusement park called “Gay World,” which provided affordable entertainment for Singaporeans before the days of television and shopping malls.

Over time words lose its original meaning. I hope it will never be so for “incarnation,” which holds a special meaning for the church and me. By the way, the church I serve is called, “Methodist Church of the Incarnation.”

It is because of the Incarnation we know what God is truly like. The invisible God became visible.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God became like us. The Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Molokai is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. In the late 1800’s there was an outbreak of the deadly and highly contagious disease called leprosy.

That disease affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities. Back then there was no cure for this disease.

In order to keep the disease at bay and prevent it from spreading, the government would send lepers to the island of Molokai.

In 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the leper colony on this island.

When he arrived, he was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically but socially, emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and a heavy sense of total hopelessness.

What he saw were people who desperately need to know where is God in their lives.

And so, in 1873 Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. He knew the dangers and the inevitable result of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and some 600 coffins.

Whenever a church service was held, he would warmly and lovingly address the lepers as “my dear brethren.”

Then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of “my dear brethren,” he began with, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.”

The humble priest became one of them. He becomes for them the iChrist Incarnation. It changed their lives for all of eternity for he answered their question, “Where is God?”

Today, people are still asking, “Where is God?”

The only convincing answer you can give is when you become for them the iChrist Incarnation.

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Z Nation

On August 27, we were stunned to hear the news that Singapore has its first case of Zika.

What is shocking is that it is locally transmitted. What is even more alarming is that in a span of just 10 days, the number of locally transmitted Zika cases shot up to 258 with two pregnant women diagnosed with that virus. And the number of new cases is still climbing.

The staggering numbers of Zika could well label Singapore a Z nation.

Already several countries have issued travel advisory to Singapore.

Within days, mosquitoes repellents, patches, wristbands and lotions flew off the shelves of Pharmacies, medicine halls and supermarkets. Believe it or not, I seem to smell citronella everywhere.

Young couples are seriously contemplating pushing back having a child. Parents are taking precaution to keep their children at home with windows closed and air-con on.

Open-air stalls and hawker centers in the identified Zika clusters are experiencing loss of patrons.

In times like this, it is not enough to spray. We need to pray.

I am praying for a good outcome.

The Chinese word for “crisis” (Wéijī) is composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity.” It is to say a presenting danger presents an opportunity.

As it turned out, in this crisis Singapore has showcased to the world how swiftly, sensibly and strategically we responded to the outbreak of Zika. The World Health Organization (WHO) lauded Singapore as a role model for countries in handling this viral epidemic.

The high level of transparency, the massive epidemiological work conducted, the public education and nationwide call to eradicate mosquitoes breeding sites and sources, the free and subsidized testing and the vector control to halt the spread of Zika – were all done with speed and synchronized effort.

May this challenging Zika episode be a defining moment for Singapore as it was in the days of SARS.

I believe when everyone in Singapore develop a zero toleration for mosquito breeding habitats and unite in concerted effort to eliminate them, we might be able to stop the spread of Zika and even dengue and chikungunya as well.

When that happened, we will not only have cleaner homes but also a cleaner environment that is no longer predisposed to mosquito-borne diseases.

That is the good outcome I am praying for.

Our sovereign and merciful God who has protected Your people from plagues and deliver them from pestilence, we pray for a good outcome for Singapore in this challenging episode of Zika.

We pray that You will bless and show Your divine favor upon the effort put in by leaders and people to check the spread of this virus. Let not these efforts be in vain but that it will lead to a cleaner environment that is less prone to mosquito-borne diseases.

Thank You for guiding scientists in Singapore to develop a low cost kit that can test for Zika in a matter of two hours.

Bless the field study of our National Environment Agency (NEA) to release male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes mosquitoes at three sites to reduce the mosquito population. Grant us success in our fight against Zika, dengue and chikungunya. 

We pray that You will continue to bless our medical researchers to develop vaccine and find new ways of eliminating such viral diseases. 

We pray Your healing grace to be upon those who are tested Zika-positive. Let them recover quickly and take personal responsibility to avoid spreading the virus. 

We pray for the expectant women infected with Zika to have hope and strength in You and to revel in the miracle of birth, believing that every child is a gift from You to love for a lifetime. Protect all our pregnant mothers and their unborn babies.

For we believe Your Word: 

“… let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11).

In Jesus’ name and for His glory we pray.

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Priceless Pearl

A fisherman was fishing in the seas off the Coast of Palawan Island in the Philippines.

When the anchor of his boat was caught on something, he swam down to pull up the anchor. In the process he dislodged a giant clam housing an enormous pearl.

Priceless PearlThe pearl is 30cm wide, 67cm long and weighs 34kg. It is the largest natural pearl in the world with an estimated value of over US$100 million (or S$135 million).

But the unnamed fisherman was totally unaware of the value of the giant pearl. For ten years, he kept the priceless pearl under his bed as a good luck charm. He would touch the pearl every time he went out to fish, not realizing the immense value of that pearl could change his future.

Then a fire broke out this year forcing him to flee his wooden shack. He almost forgot all about the pearl until he was moving out and he remembered he had something under his bed.

He decided he would bring the pearl to his aunt, a tourism official for safekeeping because the pearl was just too heavy to carry along with him.

And that’s when the secret was out. The priceless pearl is now a centerpiece of attraction for tourists at the New Green City Hall in Puerto Princesa, capital of Palawan.

When I read this I wonder how many of us are also unaware of the value of the priceless pearl we have found.

Jesus likens the Kingdom of heaven as those who had found a pearl of great price.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We have found the priceless pearl of salvation in Jesus Christ. Yet we hid it under our bed where no one knows we have such a precious gem.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We go about our lives treating our precious Lord like a lucky charm for blessing and favor in our business contracts and dealings.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We don’t seem to value the Bible like a treasure trove that is “more than gold, yes, than fine gold.” Instead we keep the written Word of God under the bed of neglect and obscurity.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We are not driven to value worship like believers in religious sensitive countries who risk the pain of persecution every time they gather together for worship.

Do we value the priceless pearl?

We only come to realize the immense value of the caring support of our fellow brothers and sisters when the “fire” burned away our earthly hopes and securities.

Do you value the priceless pearl?

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Humble Beginning Honored Ending

SR NathanThose 4 words sum up the life of our beloved former President of Singapore, the late SR Nathan who passed away peacefully on 22 August 2016.

Unlike many Presidents in the world who have a bright start in their lives, born with a silver spoon or from illustrious families, SR Nathan had a very humble beginning.

At the age of 8, his father took his own life. He came to Singapore to study but was expelled from school at age 16. He then ran away from home. Went to Muar and survived by taking on odd jobs, giving tuition, delivering letters and even worked as a hawker assistant.

Then came the Japanese Occupation. He started learning Japanese from a Japanese-English dictionary. And he became an interpreter for the Japanese until the war ended.

Thereafter he pursued his studies in the University of Malaya. Upon graduation he joined the Public Service, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

As director of the Security and Intelligence Division, Nathan displayed his bravery in the Laju incident. He led a group of Singaporean officials as guarantors to accompany the terrorists on board a plane to Kuwait.

Thank God for his safe return together with the other Singaporeans.

Then he became our first elected minority President serving from 1999 to 2011.

As I watched the news I am totally amazed by the tributes and accolades of his achievements during his Presidency.

He had helped Singapore sailed through many diplomatic storms and even improved bilateral ties with other countries.

He strengthened the Labor Movement and Trade Unions. He initiated the President’s Challenge, which has since raised more than $160 million for various beneficiaries.

And most of all, he is widely remembered for his friendly rapport with people, especially those who have special needs.

He died at a ripe age of 92. He lived a full, tough and eventful life. He left a legacy of good works, great examples and grand inspiration that humble beginning can lead to honored ending.

Thus so says our God in Zechariah 4:10 NLT

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin …”

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I Say He Says

I met a new visitor to our church. She is a single mum.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she recalled her only son passed away last September. He was push over the stairs, sustained a hemorrhage and died.

Ever since that day when her 27-year-old son died, she spiraled into inconsolable pain and deep grief.

She told me there were many times she wanted to end her life. But something kept her. She gave me a paper in a plastic covering as if it is her most precious treasure.

On it are written:

I say, “It is impossible.” He says, “With Me all things are possible” (Luke 18:27)

I say, “I am exhausted.” He says, “Wait on Me, I will renew your strength” (Isaiah 40:31)

I say, “Nobody loves me.” He says, “I loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I say, “I can’t go on.” He says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Corinthians 12:9)

I say, “I don’t know what to do.” He says, “I will direct you” (Proverbs 3:6)

I say, “I can’t do it.” He says, “You can do all things through Me” (Philippians 4:13)

I say, “It is not worth it.” He says, “It will be – just keep going” (Galatians 6:9)

I say, “I can’t forgive myself.” He says, “You can – because I have” (Ephesians 4:32)

I say, “I can’t make ends meet.” He says, “I will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19)

I say, “I am afraid.” He says, “I did not give you the spirit of fear but of power” (II Timothy 1:7)

I say, “I can’t handle this.” He says, “Give it to me; I will carry it for you” (Isaiah 46:4)

I say, “I am not smart enough.” He says, “I will give you wisdom” (James 1:5)

I say, “I am all alone.” He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

Which do you believe? Which speaks louder? Which do you choose to cling on to?

For me I chose to let what He says become what I say.

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