Author Archives: atyanna

In Search of Authentic Christian Community, Part I

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It’s been a long and winding journey…

After multiple entries into and exits from Christian organizations, church congregations included, I’ve wound up here – finally, a resting place for the burnt and downtrodden, a place of healing and restoration. And I am thankful. Once again, Abba has provided.

The series of events that led me to this spot has got me thinking and reflecting quite a lot recently. In my anguish and at times angst, I’ve wondered inwardly and aloud at the failure of Christian organizations to be what Christ would desire his body to be. What went wrong?

I don’t pretend my perspective is unique or revelatory in any way. It is simply the conclusions I have drawn from one person’s vantage point, with all the pros and cons of the unique perspective that I have, and the myopic vision I might possess given my flawed state of being.

My conclusion is that it nearly almost always begins with the sacrifice of people for the system. We think that it’s okay to drop that one person ‘for the greater good’. It’s okay to injure that one person because – ‘oh, they’ll deal with it and God will heal them and help them to rise above it after some rounds of forgiveness’. We forget that people were at the very center of Jesus’ ministry, and that he cares much more deeply for every single human being than organized Christianity has given consideration towards sufficiently. I say this not only as a victim of systems, but also as a perpetuator, who have, in my own selfish moments, blazed people out of my path because:

it was inconvenient, I was too fixated on some task or goal, or pride got the better of me and I scrunged up my nose (inwardly – I’m pretty good at hiding these things) as my ego received a good dose of self-inflation of my supposed high worth. I forget that before God, we are all equal.

What gives us the audacity to treat another human being like that? As though he or she isn’t a priceless, highly treasured and beloved being whom the Highest and Almightiest laid down His very own dignity and life for? We have trampled upon sacred lives and human dignity in our hasty bids to rush to places of religious worship, like the priest and Levite in the well known parable. God forgive us.

We turn up our noses because we perceive the other to be many rungs below us in social standing. In my observation, Christian community is ruined whenever we practice the same worldly practice of erecting social ladders for people to climb. It’s even worse when the steps in the upward climb are achieved by religious credits from our ‘achievements for God’. The only antidote, is an increase in humility with each advancement made for God’s Kingdom under our names.

What would it be like, if people and relationships were truly at the center of all our endeavours? Perhaps there will be a lot less injured saints, a lot less disillusioned ex-congregation members, and authentic Christian communities gathered for whatever high calling and purpose God may have envisioned for them.

I dream of one day when congregations/Christian communities will be places where every societal outcast finds themselves welcomed, known, accepted, cherished, and yes, loved.

I believe that’s God’s dream too.

Omer of Manna

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Manna, literally, “What is it?”

The mystery and wonder of the substance encapsulated in a few scant syllabi of its name. Was it puzzlement or true wonder that the Israelites felt? I’m not sure, but for now let’s run with the latter.

The five day Worldview camp on the Eastern tip of our beloved island was a period of manna-raining. It fell daily from the sky – like dew, refreshing; formed wafer-like substance, to satisfy genuine hunger. The Israelites had a physical hunger to deal with. Mine was of the soul and of the spirit.

God knows how long I’ve gone hungry, settling for spiritual junk in moments of non-self-control.

So the manna fell, softly, gently, winsomely and beautifully, like snow. I was a child full of wonder as I took in the sight around me. Every day, my soul was being restored a bit more. Every day, I drew a little closer to and then and little deeper into the presence of God.

I’d come for the intellectual stimulation – I’m sure most participants who signed up for the camp had at least some part of that in their minds. We were certainly not disappointed with the fare, both the nourishment that fell from the speakers’ lips, as well as the extensive spread from the buffet tables. We fed our minds, and our bodies, and on the holy, sacred grounds of fellowship and communion with the Trinity and with one another, we fed our souls too.

It could have been the times of worship, as twenty over to thirty of us sang impassionately, joined by our common love and commitment to the Lord and His Kingdom.

Or the personal moments when discourse went from the theoretical to the personal, both in the function room as speakers revealed the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in and through their lives, and around the dining table as kindred souls connected with one another over newfound knowledge and understanding.

Or the lull moments in the afternoons, when we quietly collected our thoughts and reflected on what God was working on in the private closets of our lives.

In my own time, I devoured the words off “The Ragamuffin Gospel” hungrily as words leapt off the pages like manna from the skies. In the quiet quarters of my hotel room, God was mending and restoring. Each day brought fresh revelation as my mind expanded over the insights from the speakers and my heart enlarged over the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I emerged from the camp five days later a little off colour from a flu, but extremely robust in my spirit. I would not realize the extent to which God had done His work, until I am sitting before the television at night with absolutely no desire for entertainment, and felt, instead, a poison seeping into me through the airwaves from the screen.

My appetite had changed. I had been restored to the degree that I started desiring holiness. Holy Spirit in me was rejecting all the junk that I’d grown accustomed to, and I knew that if I let Him lead and not quench Him, He will continue stirring up my desire for more things of God.

It has been more than a week now since camp, and after the initial spiritual high, holy living has now transited to some level of discipline. I can choose to continue in the spirit of what God had begun and say ‘no’ to my hunger pangs for junk, or I can feed the old fleshly appetite and let it grow and outgrow this newly developed taste for purer things. It is a daily decision, and slowly, I am learning to prefer God above other things.

So back to manna.

The Israelites would become dissatisfied with this miraculous arrangement in the desert and eventually dream backwards to the leeks, onions and meat of Egypt. After its initial sheen, it’s easy to become disillusioned with this miraculous falling of dew-like wafer from the skies. We’ve been there, done that, ate it the night before. So what’s new?

Journeying with God is much the same. After the initial hype of a revival, it takes something else to sustain what was birthed and to keep us on the right path. It takes conscious choice. It takes effort. But lest we think we’re on our own, we lean heavily onto the grace of God to whisper the better choice to us when temptation calls. Or as a couple of speakers emphasized at camp, we are to rest completely into, settle deeply into, sink all our weight upon God. In that way we truly abide and remain in Him.

This blog post, my omer of manna from camp, is for my remembrance, lest my forgetful soul loses sight of the awe and wonder of that time in the desert when manna rained from heaven, when God miraculously provided for His people.

Arise, Issachar! – conclusion of camp

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It’s been nearly 2 years since I last posted. Starting a blog requires impulse. Maintaining it, on the other hand, requires a fair bit of discipline.

As with God’s usual pattern of practice, He chose both the scheduled moments and the unscheduled ones for downloads of truth. The sessions I did manage to sit in for before the flu hit were definitely impactful, but equally divine were the two unplanned breakfast meetings that resulted from late risings (as mentioned, due to said flu).

I have but one thought to put into words for this entry.

When God gives us a message, He often has to first work with us, the messenger. As my second breakfast companion very aptly pointed out, until we are fully dead, we end up getting in the way of the message. Our hearers detect Jesus plus whatever bits of self lingering in us. The messenger corrupts the message. Hence, years on since the fire started burning deep within, the same phrase is replayed,

“Back to the drawing room.”

The message is still in the making; God exacts His fine-tuning. The messenger? Far from ready, there is more silt to pick off, more chaff to be blown off.

And so, I abide and wait.

The self in me, refusing its death, strains and struggles against the gentle but firm Hand holding it in place. First, it has to die. Only then will the straining cease, the struggle end, the peace settle, the state of rest entered, and the fullness of joy come forth.

And that’s the state I want to be living in.

This thought comes as an answer to earlier questions regarding my academic pursuits. Was it for a season, or was it for life? Maybe I’d been lulled into entertaining the idea that it was for a season because something in me wanted more, didn’t want to settle, wanted to go back to what is safe, recognized, secure. Having tasted the higher, better way of faith, I started entertaining worldly persuasion. Manna wasn’t enough; I needed the leeks, the onions and the abundant supply of Egyptian savouries.

Yes, that is the abominable nature of our faithlessness, but God, thankfully, operates on a much higher plane than we do.

Abba, have mercy on us.

As I am learning, the self takes multiple deaths, as do our learning take multiple lessons. But that’s okay, because God is fully aware, and has the whole timeline stretched out in His palms.

Wait, wait, wait. Wait for God. His timing is perfect.

31 Oct 2013

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Another seemingly uneventful Saturday, and I am confronted by my pest to kill.

In ‘The Great Divorce’, C. S. Lewis write of the man with his pet lizard who has whispered lies in his wars his whole life, but who deigned to kill it at heaven’s gates for he had grown so attached to it.

Tonight, I finally see my pride that is my pet lizard. For a few moments there, I’d really debated the thought of slaying it. Now I know in flesh the struggle of the man who must slay his pet in order to gain eternal life, and flesh it is. Thanks to the prayer of another saint, I summon up just enough courage to throw it to the ground, ready for the angel’s sword, our in this case, the intense great of God’s refining fire.

No wonder hell is really the end product of a life lived as a series of choices that are ‘not God’. There us a choice to be made at each turn. Tonight, let the flesh lay slain as I look upon the Saviour who took to the cross – for all of humanity’s filth, including mine.

Jesus, bid me,
Sweet Saviour I come;
Even unto death of my self,
Lord I come, I come.

Restedness

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“If you dig below the surface of the average Christian, you will find inner anxieties, inner fears and inner insecurities. Seldom do you find an inner restedness. Although there may be engagement in spiritual activities, the inner life has not been tutored in the quiet composure of restedness.

There are many restless Christians, few rested ones.”

“Cultivating Your Inner Life”, Edmund Chan

Learning to find that restedness. Lord, there is so much joy in just coming into Your presence with hands open, no agenda. I want to want to do that more.

His love through yours

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Household chores, the most unromantic thing. And yet, you came of your own accord, selfless love in action.

You brought a gift and a card, and I found you on your knees outside my door. Our first tiff, and the fault was mostly mine, but you heard, through my tears, a wounded heart, and you came. You came, bringing a warm embrace and a heart of understanding, comfort for my pain.

So this is what it’s like to be loved. I think I glimpse Abba’s love just a little more through you.

简单爱

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房间里的大灯开始闪,我就索性把它关掉。按上开关的刹那间,房间突然以不同的方式亮起。原来是天花板上的荧光星。我随性躺在床上赏星;瞬间,心里恍然。

原来祢要的那么简单。

其实星星一直都在,只是经常会有其他更耀眼的灯光把它的亮遮盖过去。关上大灯,星星才会亮。我想起了三月在巴厘岛的事。我生平未见过那么绚丽,那么夺人耳目的夜空。

其实,与祢同步也是一样的道理。这段期间,我允许太多不必要的东西掩盖了祢的轻声细语。

Jon Thurlow 唱出了祢我的心声。

So no reservations no more | But just an open door in my heart | Let there be no reservations no more | But just an open door in my heart | Because I wanna give all that’s inside of my heart to You

‘Cause all your fountains are in Me | And I have everything you need | So just keep coming back to Me | And those who call upon My Name | They will not be put to shame | So just keep coming back to Me

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