Monday 17 October 2016

Destiny Music

Warning: This is an authentic, sincere Auntie post! You've been warned... he he! Btw, in case you haven't noticed, the above image has obviously been photoshopped cos you can't possibly play more than one track simultaneously on Spotify!!

I must admit I'm pretty backward cos I only got onto Spotify a couple of months ago. Hard to believe but true! Haha!! Being a noob, I'm still exploring the different things it can do, like recommending the top acts in Singapore for me to listen to. Well, with Nathan Hartono's recent conquest (almost) of Sing! China, it's not surprising to find his photo representing this playlist. But as I scrolled down the list, I discovered that I actually recognised a few of the artists' names and that they had been through the doors of Destiny Music!! In fact, other than these names spotted on Spotify, there are also many other Destiny alumni who have become Youtube stars, taken part in national and international competitions and won or done very well, performed at all kinds of events all over the world, produced recordings and staged their own concerts and more!

For those of you who don't know, my husband and I co-founded and ran a music ministry for youth where we trained them and provided opportunities for them to perform and share their faith through music. Our aim was to raise up a generation of young people that would glorify God through their God-given talents in music and the arts. We weren't out to train worship leaders, mind you. Instead we wanted to see the light of Christ shine in the commercial music industry.

When the time came for us to wind up the ministry, there was quite a bit of reluctance on our part as well as among the young men and women who had grown up with us. (Some of them had joined us when they were just 12 or 13 years old.) At the time, we felt that we had already achieved what we set out to do - together with these more than a hundred young volunteers, we had reached out to tens of thousands of people with their songs and dances, through live performances and online videos. Not only that, many of these young musicians had also caught the vision of using their God-given talents for the glory of God.

However, as I look at what many of them are doing now, I realise that what we had achieved was much more than that, we had actually planted a seed in these youth that has continued to grow and bloom and bear fruit over the years.What a privilege it is to have partnered with God in the work that He's doing in these young people's lives! And I continue to pray and hope that they will keep that passion for God burning in them no matter how high or how far they go.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
1 Cor 3:6

Monday 26 September 2016

Dating & Divorce - a tip from the Brangelina breakup

Actually, I had been brooding on this thought for quite a while - probably a few months already! - but with some of the recent articles floating around online on dating, marriage, affairs, and divorce, I just had to voice my view. 

So, I'm sure most of you have read or heard about the Brangelina breakup. Well, I did too, no matter how hard I try to avoid reading about Hollywood scandals and all. But I did come across a rather interesting article on the topic. It refers to a study which revealed that "second marriages... have a higher rate of divorce, as do marriages that come out of affairs." And the psychotherapist being interviewed explained, “If someone has been capable of being disrespectful and dishonest with someone they cared about in the past, there is a possibility they can do that to you. Anyone can cheat, but this is a bigger risk.” I also read recently about how, sadly, the divorce rate in Singapore has risen.

So here's my two cents' worth! The thing is, when young people are dating, they will say or write stuff to each other like, "I will always love you!" or "I'm yours forever!" or "You can count on me!" etc etc... And although there isn't any formal contract, unlike in a marriage, such verbal and written promises they make are still promises that ought to be kept. But of course, most of these become empty promises when they break up. So the more they pair up and break up, the more 'practice' they have in making and then not keeping their promises. Later, when they get married, doesn't it then become much more likely for them to break their promise to each other since it's become a habit? After all, the marriage license is merely a piece of paper and can be easily annulled through divorce. It takes commitment on both sides to keep their vows in order for them to stay married for life. Therefore, in the same way that a history of extra-marital affairs points to a higher rate of divorce, I feel strongly that a culture of casual dating also leads to the same.

That's why I was quite surprised when I read the bad press on Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I'm not out to defend his book cos I'm not 100% convinced about everything he wrote in it either. But I do believe the general principle that one should wait till you are ready for marriage to embark on dating/courtship (or whatever you call it) rather than for teens to start dating casually is wise advice. There are many reasons for me to say so, but one of them is that just by postponing dating to a slightly older and more mature age means that you will (hopefully) be less likely to make empty promises. You would also have less 'practice' in breaking your promises since you would probably have been involved in fewer break ups. And as a result, when you do find someone whom you are happy to marry, you would not have formed the bad habit of breaking your promises and would thus have a lower risk of ending in divorce.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that this is a foolproof method for zero divorce. There's no guarantee in human relationships as we're all imperfect. [Just an aside - that's why I think it's really naive and unfair of some of Joshua Harris' adherents-turned-critics to blame him for their divorces!] I'm also not saying that someone who's been through many relationships and breakups wouldn't be able to sustain a lifelong marriage. There are (thankfully) always exceptions to everything and of course, there is also God's grace at work in our lives! My hope is just that young people will seriously consider and re-consider before jumping into any dating relationships and think twice, even thrice, before they start making promises to each other. In this way, you would be more careful about keeping your promises in general and that would help you in building a lasting marriage in future.


Monday 19 September 2016

Everyday Theology - from the young and the old

I've been leading pre-service prayer meetings in church almost every Sunday for the past three months. The two most regular attendees are my 11-year-old daughter and Auntie K who is a mighty prayer warrior in her 90's.

After the meeting, there's a 45-minute break before the service during which I sometimes get to chat with Auntie K and listen to her amazing stories of answered prayers. She is always quick to attribute all glory to God, reminding me of how little education she's had and how incapable she is of doing anything great. Well, yesterday she made a comment which got stuck in my head, "No matter what they say, don't let other people sidetrack you from doing what God wants you to do!" I made a mental note to make sure I remember her advice for life.

Later in the evening, during our family prayer time, our little girl seemed very much affected by what we had been praying for in the morning pre-service prayer - the war in Syria - and requested that we pray for the world to be a better place. (Let me know if you didn't immediately hear Heal the World playing in your head!) So we suggested that she lead us in prayer which she promptly did. The one phrase from her prayer that got stuck in my head was, "Please let people know that we should make friends and not enemies!"

As I thought about these two phrases today:
1. Don't get sidetracked
2. Make friends, not enemies
I realised that they had succinctly expressed Jesus' teachings in His Sermon on the Mount!

 ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 7:21)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:44-45)

With 80 years' age difference between them and only primary school education (at least so far, for my girl,) what lovely gems of wisdom these two had spoken! You don't need to have a degree in theology to be a theologian. :)

Monday 22 August 2016

Sing Praise!

I was recently reminded of this episode which I had recorded in my online journal 13 years ago. Basically, it's about how our #2 boy's first words were actually sung and from a worship song.

Just to add an epilogue to that journal entry, our boy has turned out to be the chattiest of all 3 children. And he has progressed from singing praises to wanting to be a preacher!

Anyway as I thought and prayed about all this last week, I realised that my desire for my children is that they not only start praising God early in their lives but also keep on praising Him till the very end! In fact, that is my own desire too, so that it would be a natural progression when we graduate from this life and enter into an eternity of endless praise.

That's our preacher-in-training's 15th birthday celebration. :)

Monday 15 August 2016

Chasing Bubbles

Where there is no vision from God, the people run wild,
but those who adhere to God’s instruction know genuine happiness.
Proverbs 29:18 (VOICE)

While meditating on this verse yesterday, I was reminded of bubbles. Like this picture from my girl's birthday party a couple of years back, little children love to blow bubbles, chase after them and try to catch or pop them. I think the fun of it comes mainly from how shimmery and colourfully attractive the bubbles are, making them even more desirable to young children.
But they'll learn soon enough that once the bubbles pop, there's nothing left. Maybe that's why older children and adults find this game of chasing bubbles meaningless and are usually not interested in it.

Sadly many grown adults still haven't figured out that they have actually been running around wildly, chasing after bubbles all their lives. These shiny, beautiful 'bubbles' could be anything from health or wealth, to beauty or popularity, to qualifications or power. In fact any worldly achievements could qualify, as long as they are not from God but from our selfish desires. In the end, we will find that 'all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind' (Ecclesiastes 1:14b.)

However, when we have a vision from God, then all our efforts in pursuing and fulfilling it will not be wasted. Like Martin Luther King, whose dream was to see a time where 'justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,' giving everything he had to achieve this God-given mandate was worth it, even to the extent of sacrificing his life. Ultimately, the best example we can have is Jesus who 'for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God' (Hebrews 12:2b.) Even if we do not see the fruits of our labour in our lifetime as we pursue God's vision for us, know that in the end He will reward us for our obedience. Only then will we see clearly whether we have been catching mere air or real gold.

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Monday 1 August 2016

Intelligence and Pop Culture - Never the Twain Shall Meet?

I am slightly, greatly disturbed by the state of arts education in my country. And I'm sad to say that having worked before in the department that oversees arts education in schools, perhaps I am partly to blame for it! But I've realised since that the streaming that takes place in schools especially at the secondary and higher levels, doesn't do justice to the important role that the arts play in our daily life. 

After all, there's music and visuals/video everywhere we go, both in the physical and cyber worlds. Design and aesthetics also impact every area of our lives, from furnishings to buildings and practically every piece of tool or gadget that passes through our hands. So why is it that when it comes to academics in school, the focus and emphasis rests heavily on the technical subjects? Why do we keep pushing the bright students to study these supposedly more important subjects and even discourage some who are obviously artistically talented from taking up the arts, in particular modern and popular arts?

Of course, I'm not denying that parents here do actively send their children to art, music and ballet classes from young. But these are mainly in the classical arts and many of these parents do so because of the edge it would give their children when applying for prestigious secondary schools. Ultimately, they would not encourage their children to pursue the arts as a career but merely as a hobby. Unless of course they discover a prodigy in the process and there's a chance that their child could make it as a world-class artiste. However, these are very few and far between.

To be fair though, the problem may not be peculiar to this nation. Otherwise, why would people in the West and in another Asian country be surprised and even shocked to find that celebrities in pop culture - actors, singers, musicians - have high IQs?
Somehow, talent in the pop world and intelligence aren't viewed as being compatible!

Yet, if we look closely at the list of intelligent celebrities, we will find quite a few of them who have truly excelled in their art, challenged stereotypes, pioneered new genres and actually stimulated their audience to think. So we really do need smart kids who can do great art, or else I shudder to think what we would be left with...

Now you may ask what brought on this rant. Well, one of my children who happens to be gifted (not sure what his IQ is but he is in the top 1% of his cohort and Mensa members are the top 2%) has said many times over many years that he wants to be a rock star. Not boasting here, but he certainly has the qualities to become one - musical talent, motivation, good looks, charisma. [Listen to his original music here.] Yet, I tried to persuade him to put this dream aside and work on getting a degree in a 'proper' subject first. But as I thought about why I was asking him to do that, I realised to my horror that the kind of thinking that's prevalent has become deeply ingrained in me!! So as I critique it while writing, I'm actually looking inward and trying to correct my own attitude towards popular arts and culture. Ultimately, if it is God's plan for him to make a positive influence in the world through rock music, who am I to stop it?

Now, whether my boy does actually become a rock star, that remains to be seen! ;)

Monday 25 July 2016

Is The Limelight Getting Too Sour?

Happened to chance upon this page when I was searching for something else and I was really impressed by these K-pop stars' courage in being open about their Christian faith. But if you scroll down and read the comments below, you'll find the usual accusations about some of these stars being promiscuous, homosexuals and even satanists. That got me thinking about how difficult it must be for celebrities and famous personalities to maintain a Christian witness. It's already tough enough having to live constantly in the limelight and not being able to retain any personal space. But every little slip or mistake you make gets blown up a million times especially if you are a professing Christian cos people just expect you to be perfect! Even those who do lead pretty decent lives get falsely accused of all kinds of transgressions from adultery to illuminati.

As I considered how it can be possible to withstand such criticism, I realised that God has already shown us in His word. And whether you're a pop idol, football star, politician, or even just a 'nobody' like me, the same principles apply in situations where we face undue pressure or are being unfairly judged by others.

First of all, we need to be RESILIENT.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 1 Cor 4:8-9
No matter how terrible it gets, don't let the bad press get to you. Rather than hitting back at the critics or crumbling under the criticism, look to God our Rock and trust in Him for He will pull you through. Unload all your frustrations to Him in prayer and draw strength from Him through the promises He has given us in His Word.

Next, we got to be REAL.
First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matt 23:26
We got to be real before God, constantly repentant and washed clean inside by His blood. Only then can we be real before man, so our outward words and actions will also be pure and blameless. But if we ever fall, we also have to be real and not try to hide behind a perfect mask. Being honest about our weaknesses and how dependent we are on God's forgiveness and grace could even lead others to think about their need for the same.

Third, we must REFLECT. 
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18 
We must constantly reflect on the motivation behind our words and actions as well as the impact they will have on others. Are they aligned with God's standards as revealed in His Word and if not, how can we make them so? Only when we are willing to be progressively changed and moulded by God can we then start to reflect His glory.

Finally, we should REFOCUS.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt 6:33
We should refocus our attention and efforts on God's calling and destiny for our lives instead of just doing what we like or what others expect of us. Then we can refocus other people's attention away from us and onto Him, the source of our talents and abilities.