Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Building Meaningful Relationships

Wow! You know something... relationships have been in my mind a lot lately... And yes, there are some things that have been troubling me, though I try to stay upbeat and not show it.

Reading this article written by Shirley B from CHCKL was refreshing to me, and funnily enough, the tension that I've been feeling thru my shoulders up to my head eased after I read it and made some decisions about the way I've been handling some relationships.

"A special feature article written for CHCKL BULLETIN Feb 26-27, 2011.

Over the past 10 years of being in the Pastoral ministry, I realize that one of the best ways to impact lives is by investing our time and energy to build meaningful relationships with people around us. I’ve learnt that being ‘relational’ doesn't mean you’re building meaningful relationship’.

Very often we become too occupied with tasks, events and even our ‘ministries’ and neglect building genuine relationships with the people around us. Thus, though many are still actively serving and striving for achievements, they are actually suffering silently from loneliness and rejection behind their masks of busyness.

Nobody is meant to be a loner, especially when you’re in this cool church! ☺

Here are 10 things I’ve learnt in my life that I’m trying my best to apply daily:

1. Learn To Communicate With Openness
A ‘Relationship breakdown’ is usually due to the lack of communication and too much of assumptions. Openness is one of the keys to build meaningful relationship. Learn to share your heart openly and communicate your thoughts in order to clarify, connect (understand) and then only conclude a matter.

2. Say No to Gossip!
Very often a ‘get-together’ or ‘hangout’ session can easily turn into a gossip party. We gotta be watchful of this deadly habit! If you really have to discuss about someone else (where most of the time is none-of-your-business), be sure your discussion is out of love and provides solutions for him/her to be a better person!

3. Cease to Judge Or Criticize
There are too many judges around us! Everyone likes to play ‘judge’, but only God is our judge, so let the others be silent. Judgment and criticism are simply seeing yourself as superior. Stop judging and learn to put grace on your lips by praising and encouraging others!

4. Don't Be Jealous, Be Zealous!
Jealousy can burn down a house. It destroys beautiful relationships. Guard your heart and do not allow comparison, competition and jealousy to creep into your life and caus you to turn into a selfish beast. Learn to celebrate joys and successes with others! Be zealous in love.

5. Let’s Be Real. Nobody likes a ‘fake’.
If everyone is relating to each other behind a mask, then all relationships are superficial. No wonder there are so many lonely souls out there! Let’s be real to each other. If they can’t accept you for who you really are, then what’s the point of having them in your life anyway? Take off your mask today!

6. Kick Out The ‘Offenses’
Keeping offenses in your heart is like having a bullet in your soul. Let me warn you that keeping offenses is highly destructive. It can even destroy a strong relationship if it is not dealt with soon enough. The way to remove offenses is to forgive as Christ has forgiven you. Remember, it is a choice!

7. They are not YOU, you are not THEM
Never impose your standards on others. You are not God. Have you met people where only their standards are ‘THE’ standards? It’s stressful hanging out with such people. We can’t expect everyone to like what we like because everyone is unique! We should celebrate diversity and appreciate uniqueness. If you think this is cool and they don't think so, love them anyway! ☺

8. Walk The Talk – Show Love and Empathy!
Yes! “Show” it with actions and not just your words. The best sermons preached are those sermons applied. Talk is cheap… living it may cost you everything. Let’s not become too mechanical in the way we care and love others. Let’s be human! Learn to empathize with them and you will win them over because there are indeed not many who ‘truly care’.

9. Putting Others First!
Has anyone told you yet? You’re NOT the center of the universe! Therefore, don't just think about yourself all the time. Abstain from the selfishness that dresses itself in many disguises. If you can start dying to yourself, you can then start living for others. Learn to esteem others better than yourself!

10. I Believe In You!
Believing in people is a great way to build meaningful relationship. I don't believe in building relationship by just ‘scratching the surface’. Go into that person’s life and minister to him/her is the best way to get connected. Don't condemn anyone. Learn to believe in people (with wisdom and discernment), you will win many friends.

Remember, success is not determined by how much money and fame you possess but by the fruits of meaningful relationships you’ve cultivated. The rich and famous may one day still die a lonely man.

So, let’s cultivate fresh love in our hearts and work on our relationships with one another. We are only as strong as our weakest link!

Why don't you make it your aim this year to restore broken relationships & start building meaningful relationships!

Love God, Love people, Love life!
Shirley Boon"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hidden strength

Finally 'going home' to City Harvest church is... I don't even know how to find the words to describe the feeling. I think Heaven will be a million times better, but it is that kind of feeling.... just 'going home' after a long, long day.

Thanks to the fact that most of my volunteer work is on Sunday, I decided I needed to find a Saturday night service rather than hang around hoping my volunteer stints would let up. I thought of all the churches that had Saturday night services, and honestly, I was at first reluctant to go to CHC because I thought it might be too 'youth-y' for me.

But just being there, seeing youths in cut-off jeans, black t-shirts with wild designs, off-shoulder blouses... electrical instruments handled expertly to become instruments of praise.... video screens during worship... I felt just right :> Working with youths so much has made me most comfortable with being around youths, rather than adults.

And you know what was the best thing of all? I knew that I would never hear a word of cruel criticism made against my pastor and my pastor's wife here. And that was the greatest relief of all.

I can't number the times when I've been driven to tears in secret because of the cruel accusations and criticisms hurled at Pst Kong and Pst Sun. Sometimes I wanted to turn around and hurl back at the people saying those accusations, "Excuse me, but please look at YOUR life!" But that would be rude, and wrong. God is Pst Kong and Pst Sun's vindicator, and He is faithful.

Sometimes I look at all Pst Kong and Pst Sun have gone through, and I'm amazed. I know that as a youth, Pst Sun struggled with depression. I know that Pst Kong came from a broken family. I marvel at how God has made them strong on the inside to go through the horrendous pain of the world turning against them. I can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like.

I go to Youtube videos, and I see nasty messages calling Pst Sun all kinds of horrible things written there. It makes me so angry and hurt on her behalf... I can't even imagine if I am Pst Sun how I will feel. I see websites set up speaking against Pst Kong.

I can only pray: God, make me that strong. That really I only rely on Your affirmation. That really I can stand when the whole world is accusing me and mocking me and has turned against me because YOU are for me. That just having You as my only Friend, I can be happy. I can be fulfilled inside, just because I have You.

I haven't reached that stage yet. God, keep me growing in You. And God, remember my pastors. Remember them always and strengthen them. Let them know that they are loved. And God, give them the strength to forgive every cruel word spoken against them.

Only You can make someone THAT strong.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Being different

Something that makes me so sad every time I hear it are words such as these:- "Why are you so kind to me? Nobody has ever been this kind." "Why are you being so nice?" "Why did you do this for me? Other people don't!"

It breaks my heart to hear words like these. To realise that there are people out there who don't recognize or understand kindness, caring and love because they have yet to experience such expressed actions.

And... a confession... it also makes me feel fearful sometimes and back off. Sometimes I will think to myself, "Oh, I shouldn't do this! This person will think I have an ulterior motive." Then I wonder, why am I letting someone's thoughts and opinions dictate how I behave?

One of my schoolfriends, LF, recently talked to me in a very perplexed tone about her housemate. She said, "You know, Gillian, isn't it normal to buy something when you travel and give it to your friends? But she returned all the presents and said, "Please don't do this, I'm not used to people being kind to me like this." Truly, truly heartbreaking. What must this housemate have gone thru in her past that she is unable to accept a simple small gift?

I remember last year someone emailed me the same thing, "Nobody has ever been this nice!" The person sounded so suspicious of me. I felt sad for her.... but at the same time, I could feel myself withdrawing. Sometimes, I will still extend the same love and care that I do with anyone to this person. Sometimes, I feel a wariness.

There are so many choices in life. So many times when we can choose to be who Jesus is, and when we can choose to be just like the rest of the world.

The most recent challenge I had, which still makes me smile, is when a group of us were talking about taking a whole bunch of sugar packets at McDonald's to use for our youths. I shook my head and said that I did not feel it was the right thing to do. My friends pointed out that if we asked, the staff would surely say it is okay to do so. And I agreed; I told them that if we asked, I don't mind (and I really don't!). But I don't agree with taking it without asking first.

It sounds such a silly, small thing and of course, there were exasperated sighs and rolled eyes when I made my stand.

I felt discouraged and inside me, I raged as I asked God why I felt this caution when other people did not. Why did I feel in my spirit that things were 'wrong' when others seemed to take it as 'okay, what?'. Then I went home and read one of Joel Osteen's books, and in the pages was this reminder, "God wants His people to be a people of integrity." The book went on to narrate that it is easy to compromise a bit here and a bit there... but when we do so, we also compromise on the BEST that God has for us.

We talk a lot about being salt and light in the world. If we do the things that others do that compromise on God's ideals, what salt and light are we? We are just the same and no different.

Yes, it is painful to be jeered at and mocked and ocstrasized. But I have found that whenever I do something or say something that is rude or nasty, I get astonished looks and my friends will say, "Gillian, we don't expect that from YOU!"

That tells me that people have come to expect integrity from me! They may sneer and jeer, but they still expect that I will be different in the things I say and the things I do.

Besides, God reminded me, Jesus was mocked at and jeered and laughed at... for doing right! It is not something strange that I am experiencing. It is only what is to be expected.

So... I'm going to be different anyway!

Kids Band - City Harvest Children Church

Inspired and joyful to see the numbers who are coming to know Jesus thru the children's church ministry. And love seeing kids living their lives with love and passion full-out with Jesus!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Amazing Race Melaka!

On the way by bus!

At the Hang Kasturi Mausoleum. Traffic jam!

Goofing around...

Baba Nyonya museum! The youths got stuck here trying to draw Chinese characters for the first time!

What's a trip to Melaka without Jonker Street, right?

The youths had a buffet spread!

The adults ate outside... but everyone was cheerful about it!

I think most of the youths, if not all, chose the fast forward! Hop on one leg around the (really big!) fountain!

At the Porta de Santiago

Independence Memorial.... Looking for Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat... These really huge metal jeeps...

Finishing stop!

This girl is so lovely... Melina Jokita! She's so sweet!

Group piccie!

Sam can do debriefings already!

Wow! I was so touched that the East Timorese had prepared a good dinner for us!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aimee Walker

I remember watching this girl on Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. I did not know then how challenging balance is for a Deaf person, nor that she was also blind in one eye!

When she was compared to Helen Keller, Aimee Walker said, "She's so wonderful, but I am glad I'm not Helen Keller, I'm so lucky- I have my one eye." I love that. You go, Aimee!