Reflections on Maitland Alive 2017

mission

It’s been a day since I returned from mission, and I already miss it! But as Chewy said, it’s a good thing that not every day of the year is Maitland Alive. Just as church on a Sunday is a little taste of the new creation – of how life is really meant to be – mission week is a reminder of the new creation for the entire year. Can you imagine the feeling after a long, intensive work out? Your body aches in exhaustion, but you know that you are being made stronger. And though it was painful, there is a joy in the experience. Mission week has felt like an intensive spiritual workout. I feel like I’ve been pushed hard spiritually this past week, and I’ve grown and learnt a lot. I honestly did not expect to grow so much, and so I’m so, so thankful for how God has worked through this week.

To start off on a down-to-earth, tangible note, mission was interesting because I had never worked with kids before. I don’t think I’ve had a serious conversation with a primary school kid since I was… a primary school kid. And so, before mission began, I had no idea how to relate to these kids. As the days rolled on, I gradually got more and more used to it, and discovered that you needed to approach kids with high levels of energy and a healthy dose of silliness. Many things on mission were scary, purely because I had not done it before. Things like playing with kids. Taking kids to the bathroom. Disciplining kids when they were acting up, and comforting them when they weren’t feeling well. Even trying to teach kids the gospel in a way they could understand. From experience, I’m very comfortable having intellectual conversations with quiet Asian-Australian youth, but not with rowdy, white primary-school aged kids. Being forced to “step up” in many ways, by the sheer fact it was uncomfortable doing something for the first time, really challenged me to be courageous and take initiative as a man of God.

One thing I really, really loved was singing kids songs! Again, it’s been a long while since I’ve sung a kids’ song – complete with actions and all. But really, if these truths are good enough to teach children, then they are good enough for us old people. And the songs, in all their simplicity, really get to the heart of the message. As an adult (and especially as a uni student), I love to think about theology and philosophy and how the big ideas of the Bible all coalesce and shape our lives. But… the very, very basic truths which we should functionally live by? They are very easy to gloss over. And so, the kids’ songs get to the truths that we should trust and hold to heart. Oftentimes, I found myself singing the songs to myself as a reminder of the truth during the stressful and tiring day, and they really did refresh me! Some of my favourite lines:

“And He’s known me and He’s loved me since before the world began. How wonderful to be a part of God’s amazing plan!” (Our God is a Great Big God!)

“Well it’s been slow going, but there’s a knowing – that someday, perfect I will be!” (Little by Little)

Mission was an undeniably high-intensity and draining week and half. From the early wakeups, to the high-energy program, visitations, spending large amounts of time with people, section meetings, late nights to bed – it was unbelievably tiring. And the team knew this. Inevitably, there would be times when we would be tired, and weak, and upset, and unappreciated, and peopled-out. Yet, because of this fact, everyone in the team was all the more intentional in loving one another, taking care of each other, and being an encouragement. And Christ shone so, so brightly. I feel that back in our normal lives, there is no explicit “need” to be so intentional. But on mission, we are forced to take an active role and stance in loving one another. It’s all good to be teaching the gospel to kids… but we also needed to live it out in our lives. And I could really see this happening during the week. One of the mission ‘values’ was that we were to be people-centred and not program-centred. These few words made a world of difference in the way I approached things during this week. Stressed? Tired? Lots of things to organise and do? The most important thing is to love one another. Getting the perfect program can wait. Living the gospel in the way we treated one another was much more important.

I remember there were moments on mission when I was extremely discouraged. In these times, I was especially tired – the long days and heavy interactions with people were draining. The hot weather didn’t help either. There were also times when there was some friction within our section – understandably, as most people were tired and stressed. In these times, Satan was whispering in my ear “Disunity! Disunity! Disunity!”. These moments honestly did feel like poop. But I know they weren’t poop. God used them to teach and sanctify. I’m so thankful that during these times, I could receive the grace of rest – to catch up on sleep back in the room, to have a warm shower, and to be refreshed and reminded of the truth and goodness of God in edifying conversation. Yes, we were tired and discouraged at times, but God’s grace was enough.

Whilst we spent a fair few hours each day with the kids – the program went for about three hours – we spent a lot more time together as a team. Twenty-four hours each day together. And this really, really was the thing that stuck out. If we think about our personal growth in terms of the head, the heart and the hands – reflecting what we know, feel and do – there are some places where you really grow in terms of the head and heart, such as AnCon where there are heaps of amazing bible teaching and talks. What about the hands though? I felt that mission was a place where I really grew in terms of the hands – in actually, physically, living out as the body of Christ. The gospel was in action. And I could see this through the team – everyone was so servant-hearted, so humble and gentle, so real and genuine, so eager to seek the good of others. And everyone acted with such joy – there was very little grumbling or complaining. Even in the most menial and mundane of tasks – washing up the dishes, cleaning the toilet, cutting up bits of paper for craft – everyone was so ready to serve and love one another through their actions. And no glory to themselves, but all glory be to God. It really is refreshing living with Christians that you don’t usually hang around with, and seeing them live, and being built up by their words and actions.

However, one thing I became increasingly aware of over mission was my own sinfulness and brokenness. Especially in moments of tiredness, being drained after a long day’s program, I really saw how much darkness there was in my heart – moments where I’d taste the pride, or the self-centredness, or the bitterness and hurtfulness that came so naturally. I guess this was the result of being vigilant and constantly checking myself in this high intensity environment. But one thing that I had really come to appreciate on mission was hearing the word preached (especially at team time in the morning), and being wrecked by it. The talks always felt so real – there was always an immediate need to apply it in the intense environment of mission. And often, the talks would be very painful to listen to in the rebuke it brought. It’s difficult coming to terms with your sinfulness, yet it’s so liberating to be able to face it and repent. Nick said something which really stuck – “You hear it, and it’s so painful, but it’s so good.” Having the word of God slice into you and incisively cut away the sin in your life – it really does hurt, but it’s a good pain, because you know you are growing.

Man… there’s a lot to say, and a lot that I can’t put in words. It was an edifying experience. Whilst mission is over, life goes on. And whilst it was quite sad to see mission come to an end, it really is a beginning rather than an end. My prayer is that I’ll take what I’ve learnt and experienced and grown over the past one and a half weeks, and that it would charge me up for the year ahead. I pray that I might continue to walk faithfully, and encourage and love those around me. Because mission continues wherever we are, and wherever the Lord places us.

“With man things are impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (Oh yeah!)

mission-2

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Book: Mere Christianity

mere-christianity-image

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis has an extraordinary ability to take what you already know – or what you think you know – and make you think about it in ways in which you have never before. When we wake up every day and live out our lives, there are so many things working in the backgrounds of our minds which help us make sense of our world. Very often, we take these things for granted, and for the most part, we hardly even notice them. In Mere Christianity, Lewis directs our attention to these unnoticed aspects of our daily experience with grace, wit and razor-sharp logic, and uses this to present an endlessly fascinating account of how Christianity works. What I have found particularly refreshing is that Lewis starts with nothing, and builds his case from the ground up. There are no assumptions. He begins with what we all know, and experience, and feel in our day to day lives – and then he goes from there.

Let’s put things in context. The year is 1942, and Great Britain is at war. The front line is at the doorsteps of the civilians themselves, as planes bombard this small island nation each night. C. S. Lewis is called to deliver a series of radio broadcasts on BBC on the Christian faith, and these speeches were eventually gathered into a single volume and printed. See, Mere Christianity was not originally a book. It was a series of radio speeches to a broken and war-weary nation.

Here are some of the nuggets of truth and insight I have gleaned from Mere Christianity:

1. The reality of the moral law. “Hey, that’s not fair!” – “Come on, you promised…” – what occurs so naturally to us is that there is some sort of standard of behaviour which we expect other people to follow. Yet, this standard, or ‘law’, is very peculiar if you think about it. Consider the idea of science for a second. Science is able to observe the world around us, and tell us how the world works. It can provide ‘laws’ which describe the world – Newton’s laws of motion, Mendel’s laws of genetics. But the ‘moral’ law is different – it doesn’t actually describe anything that we are doing. Instead, it describes what we should do. In fact, many times what we are actually doing is contrary to this moral law. So, this moral law is very real… but at the same time, it isn’t really “real”. It’s a thing, but it’s also a not-thing. This is something that we can’t learn from external observation. We can observe humans, but unless you were actually a human – you wouldn’t experience, and thus understand, this idea of a ‘moral law’. Where does this experience come from? What lies behind this ‘moral law’? Our experience of the moral law raise many questions, and it is in this context which Christianity starts to speak.

2. The person of Christ. We look for something to help explain our ‘moral law’. Enter first century Palestine, and we see a man – Jesus of Nazareth – make the preposterous claim that he is able to forgive sin. This phrase – ‘forgiving sin’ – is a phrase that we have difficulty understanding. We throw the phrase around often, and we don’t realise the scandalous implications of what it actually means. Consider this. Let’s say you punch me, I forgive you. Or you steal my money, I forgive you. But let’s say you hit me, and a stranger off the street – completely irrelevant to our situation – comes up to you and says, “I forgive you”. You would make him out to be a fool. “Get out of here”, you’d say. So, we see Jesus acting like he’s the chief party concerned in any offence. And if you think about it carefully, Jesus is claiming to be the power behind the ‘moral law’ I spoke of above. He’s the one who sets what is right and wrong. He is the one who you are offending every time you break this moral law. And so, what can we conclude something about this man, Jesus of Nazareth? He is a lunatic. Or, he is a liar – a really great actor. Or, he is God himself. How do we approach the person of Jesus?

3. The root of evil. Lewis spends an entire section of the book talking about Christian ‘virtues’ or ‘values’ – ways in which Christians should live and behave, and how to make sense of them. There is so much good stuff here I cannot possibly write it all down, I may as well quote the entire book! So, if I was to draw attention to one thing which really stuck out to me, it is what Lewis calls the centre of Christian morals: “the essential vice, the utmost evil – Pride”. Pride is the vice that leads to every other vice, and is the complete anti-moral, anti-God state of mind. We aren’t proud of having something, but rather, we are proud for having more of it than the next person. See, the very essence of pride is competition. Once we take away competition, there is no pride. Pride, as Lewis says, is enmity. I’ll keep quoting Lewis (I can’t think of any better words to say): “For Pride is spiritual cancer, it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense”.

4. Heaven and Longing. This idea of ‘heaven’ is central to popular views of Christianity – “I want to go to heaven” is a popular sentiment. Whilst this idea is common misunderstood, I think there’s something quite important and insightful here. Here are a few things that Lewis says. “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither”. Or, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Interesting.

5. Life and transformation. The last thing I want to say, and probably the most profound thing I have learnt. We say that ‘Christ has come to give us life’. Hold on, aren’t we alive already? Why do we need to be given life? So, Lewis makes a distinction between natural, biological life, called ‘Bios’, and Spiritual life, called ‘Zoe’. Imagine bringing a tin soldier to life. This is what it’s like bringing a being from Bios to Zoe. When we put our faith in Christ, we aren’t just committing ourselves to follow another set of rules, but rather, we are being given life and being transformed into a timeless, spiritual being.

What I’ve written so far is completely inadequate in capturing the spirit of Mere Christianity. There are so, so many nuggets of insight strewn throughout its pages – so many little word-bites that get you thinking long after you’ve read them. If you haven’t read it before, I must recommend it. This is definitely a book which I’ll be revisiting again and again.

When is a paintbrush most like a paintbrush?

paintbrushes

Consider a paintbrush.

Just a wooden handle with bristles at one end. It is, however, an extraordinary thing. This humble paintbrush is able to produce the most beautiful works of art.

It’s simple. It transfers paint from palette to canvas. Yet, in doing so, the paintbrush builds a window. We don’t just see the paint. We see beyond it, and into it. And through it, we can gaze and catch a glimpse of a world much like our own, a vista which thrills the heart, a pair of wings on which our imaginations are lifted that we might see the view – mere paint on canvas commanding our attention, and ultimately, our response…

“Wow… that’s beautiful.”

We can see beauty by the work of the paintbrush.

There’s something missing here, though.

“Hmmm…?”

It’s not the paintbrush that does the work. It’s the painter, of course. Only in the artist’s hand do we see art revealed as the paintbrush is moved over the canvas. The artist is the one who provides the creative spirit and the vision needed to actually produce a beautiful painting. Without the artist, the paintbrush is nothing. Yet, in the hands of the artist, we see magic happen.

The moment the paintbrush is in the artist’s hands is the moment where it is truly a paintbrush. It is being what a paintbrush should be. It is doing what a paintbrush should do. It has attained the most paintbrush-esque state a paintbrush can attain. And beauty abounds.

Okay. Let’s imagine for a moment that paintbrushes could talk.

“Actually, I’m sick of this artist guy. I want to express myself and be who I truly am.”

“Well, if that’s what you want… so be it.”

A momentous occasion. We celebrate! Independence! The paintbrush is finally free – free from control, and from slavery, and from relying on other things and peoples – and it can finally be itself, and express itself, and be who it truly is and achieve the things that it was really made for and …

… And it lies neglected, on the storeroom shelf. It dries up, and it gathers dust. And it wasn’t like old times. Nowadays, it doesn’t produce any beautiful paintings.

“Hold on…”

Yes… In this moment of independence, the paintbrush isn’t really fulfilling the mandate and purpose and proper place of a paintbrush. In fact, it’s much less of a paintbrush on the storeroom shelf than when it is in the artist’s hands. Apart from the artist, the paintbrush isn’t really a paintbrush.

So… “When is a paintbrush most like a paintbrush?”

***

“Why the paintbrush story?”

Consider God. A being who is self-sufficient in and of himself. He is the source of all things, and furthermore, all good things. When God creates, whether it be the plants, or the animals, or the world, or human beings, their existence and goodness are derived from God.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

Where else would their existence come from? There are only three things – things which exist because they are God, things which exist because God gives it existence, and things which don’t exist.

Where else would their goodness come from? There are only three things – things which are good because they are God, things which are good because God gives it goodness, and things which are not good.

Human beings only exist, and are only good, because of God. Furthermore, it would make sense to be in relationship with God – because he is the source of all good things. If you try and get away from Him, if you try and sever the link, if you try and cut off the relationship between you and God – it might seem like a good idea – but the only thing you’re doing is severing yourself from the source of all good things. The right and proper state of man – his purpose and his function – is to enjoy and exist in relationship with God, because in doing so, he is in relationship with the source of all good, and this is the greatest possible good you can be without being God himself.

Apart from God, man is nothing. He is like a paintbrush on the shelf. Yet, in relationship with his creator, like the paintbrush in the hands of the artist, he flourishes. Beauty abounds.

Human beings find their true self when in relationship with the creator.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

 

 

Brief Reflections on First Year

“Wow I can’t believe our first year of university is over already!”

What do you mean? Of course, you can. Time passes. Is that anything new?

“It’s just surprising, don’t you think?”

Yes, I do think so. It’s been a tremendous year. I’ve learnt a lot, and have grown a lot, and I probably have a lot of things I’d like to say and reflect upon. But since it’s all a big, grey mess in my head, and also because I’m quite tired and just want to get on with the holidays already, it almost amounts to having nothing to say and reflect upon at all… haha. Though, it wouldn’t do justice to not say anything at all, right?

The mind is a stage, and performances come and go. Thoughts and feelings change. The spotlight never stays in any one spot for too long. I have found this particularly so this year. I spend one moment thinking about one thing, and the next contemplating something completely different. I feel passion and zeal and uncontainable jubilation one moment, and dull, lifeless, existential despair the next. The mind is a stage, and performances come and go. Now, in reflecting, I could zone into any one of these momentary performances – I could talk about university life, academia, or friends and relationships, or ministry, or how my view of the world has changed over the course of the year. But since my thoughts and feelings about these things are constantly changing, I’m finding it difficult to find something concrete to write about. It’s all mist. And sure, I could comb through the annals of my mind and slowly squeeze it into words – but, do I really have the energy for that? Too much effort required. So, why don’t I just pick out some things that I want to remember, write those down, and just get on with my life?

“Yeah that sounds like a pretty good idea.”

Thanks, I think so too. Sorry for reflecting about reflecting before actually reflecting about the year. Anyway, so moving on. Here are two things that, at this point in time, I want to say to myself.

Firstly, I am supremely grateful for the people that have been placed in my life. I cherish the very small, brief moments – the conversations on the trains in the mornings and afternoons (especially when we cross the bridge over the Parramatta river and admire the dulcet tones of the sunset rays on the clouds), the smiles and greetings and silly things that have been said in passing one another. I cherish the intentional time spent with others, wrestling with truth from God’s word, thinking about how to spread good news. I cherish the friends that I’ve made this year, the relationships that have slowly grown – all interweaved through the daily hustle bustle, the daily laugh, the daily tiredness. The encouragement, the rebuke, the jokes. The way people lived, and the words they spoke. All these have shaped me and transformed me and grown me over the year, most likely in ways that I don’t even notice. And I’ve come to see that these relationships manifest themselves in the most ordinary things that we do, and I’ve come to realise just how important these relationships are. This year – my first year at university – was tough, but it was filled with growth. And this growth didn’t come from myself, or from studying, or from the new lifestyle. It came from the people around me. I am so grateful for this, and it is my hope that I will continue to invest my life in the lives of those around me.

Secondly, I realise that… time flies. Not that the passage of time is a bad thing. However, I don’t think it’s time passing quicker. I think it’s the fact that so much happens in the time we have. We can look back and think ‘wow – we’ve done so much and seen so much and have come a long way since’. And it’s true – so much has happened this year, and that is something that is really, really awesome. But there’s another reality lurking in the shadows. It’s that this blissful, carefree, exciting time of university won’t last forever. First year is already over. Only two more years until undergrad is over. Time keeps moving, and that’s not something we should ignore or become complacent about. Right now, it is a season where we can be so free with our time and our thoughts and the way we live our lives. And that’s an absolute blessing. However, it won’t go on indefinitely. Soon, life will change, and we will have to readjust – and that will be a new season for new things. I feel strongly that we should make the most of our time, to enjoy it and to embrace this season of university life for what it is.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Our days are numbered, and we shouldn’t forget this. But if we recognise this, and know that there is a season for everything, and that seasons don’t extended forever, and that we only have so many days – we become wiser. We gain a heart of wisdom. This year, I’ve really learnt a lot about wisdom by spending time studying the book of Proverbs. And wisdom allows us to live better – to better make use of the time and energy and thoughts and blessings that have been given to us for this season. So, at the end of first year, which has passed by quickly, I say – let us number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

 

 

Reflections from AnCon 2016

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
// 2 Corinthians 5:17 //

photo from ancon

“You can’t overhype AnCon”, they told me.

But, if there’s one thing that I mildly dislike – it’s hype. A lot of the time, I feel that hype is just a great blob of emotions that make you feel excited and great for a little while. But it’s just sugar – soon the rush disappears and you realise it wasn’t anything substantial anyway. Surely, AnCon was going to be good… but was it really going to be that good? So feeling a bit detached, and perhaps even a little dry, I rocked up to my first AnCon.

And… five days later, I discovered that AnCon was like a meal – a wholesome, delicious meal. It was one that not only tasted great, but also one which left you feeling filled, nourished, and with the satisfying knowledge that your body had what it needed to grow – despite the great food coma that it left you with (which I am still recovering from to this day)! It tasted so good. The special ingredient, truth. Much unlike the whole idea of ‘hype’ which so irked me, these five days at AnCon were eye-opening and challenging in a deeply real and genuine way. So, here are some reflections:

Over the course of AnCon, I slowly learnt how to function on three hours of sleep, just surviving through Rowan’s talks (the answer is an overdose of apples, and lots of tea). But through this, I was immersed in truth over and over. I was dead in Adam, but now alive in Christ. God made us for glory, and loved us in Christ. My most fundamental identity is being found in Christ. These were truths which I “knew”, yes, but being exposed again and again awakened in me a very strange realisation – “Hold on… these things are true!” True, for me. And true, whether I felt it or not, whether I was hyped or not, and whether I wanted it or not. Coming to grips with God’s truth and appreciating it for what it was – this was so, so refreshing. AnCon wasn’t just about learning cool pieces of theology or obscure facts about God. We talked about “being transformed by God’ word”, and I felt that I was certainly being transformed. And I watched as 700 other odd people were transformed too, as they lived out this reality over those five days at Merroo.

If there was one other big take away from AnCon, for me it was this – I’ve never been hit by so much talk of the LRLR (less-reached-less-resourced) before. We heard from our bold missionary friends each day, and the entire EU was buzzing about this whole ‘festival’ thing. And I realised that there was a task here to be done. I was challenged about the great needs of people all around the world, and furthermore, the fact that the LRLR exist on campus. The lost are out there, and need to hear the gospel. The gospel is powerful to save, and we should be bold with it. It might be scary or uncomfortable, but as Rowan said, “There will be plenty of comfort in Glory.”

So, my prayer is that AnCon might not be the high point or climax of the year, but a starting point and springboard for God’s great mission, as we continue on our trajectory towards glory!

// Nuggets of truth //

1) We are on a trajectory – once dead in Adam, to now alive in Christ. This is a God planned, God enabled trajectory towards glory. And this stands true, whether I like it or not, whether I feel it or not. The truth is that God has loved us so much, brought us to life, redeemed us as his people – all by the work of Christ. God made us and loved us in Christ. This is thus the most fundamental, most important truth about us. We are made in God’s image – his representative ruling presence, and He is sanctifying us each day to become his faithful image bearers.

2) “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15) God’s word is powerful, and it transforms us. We have been saved into community – a family of those who are in Christ. So let us keep coming back to the word to be transformed by it, and continue to remind ourselves of the truth, and encouraging one another with it.

3) We must be bold with the gospel – because the gospel is powerful to save. It is not how well we present it or how engaging we can speak, but only through the working of God’s spirit that people may come to know him. ‘So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ (1 Corinthians 3:6). The consequences are real and terrible for those who are lost, yet the joy and glory is unsurpassed for those in Christ – so let us go out into the world, be faithful seed-sowers, and share this great joy that we have. There are so many less-reached less-resourced peoples – and the gospel is for everyone. And reaching out to the lost and the LRLR may be uncomfortable. But let us stop pursuing the ‘god’ of comfort. There will be plenty of comfort in Glory.

4) Jesus redefines the primary family as those who are in Him – those who do his will. Having been adopted as God’s ‘sons’, the body of Christ is thus our true family, with Jesus having our primary allegiance. We are co-heirs with Christ, and enjoy the same relationship that God the Son has with God the Father. Yet, our commitment to Christ generates and shapes a renewed commitment to love our biological families – a persisting, steadfast love which mirrors the love of God for us.

 

Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north

“If the clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”
– Ecclesiastes 11:3

It was in the late afternoon, on the third day of ISCF Camp 2015. The clouds had just rolled in over the country landscape and rain was falling. The sky was greatly overcast. The day up until this point had been several hours of logistical duties, and I felt like that we had nothing else to give. Drained. Sitting on the step on my right was my fellow camp overseer,equally as drained.

We decided to turn towards God’s word for perhaps even a small speckle of light. Some word of encouragement. And we flipped, and we landed on the 11th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Okay… let’s read. It began: “Cast your bread upon the waters”.

And in our completely deadened state, we burst into utter laughter. What strange wisdom the Bible had to offer. We read on. “If the clouds are full of water, the pour rain on the earth”. Hysteria continued. Geography lesson from the word of God. Continuing, “Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie”.

What.

“Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”

Hold up. Are we seeing things, or is this legit? Right there; these few words were hysterical. Where a tree falls, the place it falls, there it will lie. Wow! And for the next half hour, the three of us were on the ground, laughing at this seemingly meaningless piece of wisdom.

Over the next few days, I reflected back upon these words. And with each moment, it made more and more sense. Let me tell you what ISCF camp was like from the perspective of a leader – someone who was involved in organising it.

Before camp had even begun, in the early weeks of the term, we were already running into problems. We had no attendees. We needed at least 80ish attendees for camp to even run. And the weeks progressed. Notes were due in the seventh week. And at that point, we were barely scraping half the number of attendees we needed. Things were not looking good. Yet, as we neared the holidays, and camp was barely a week or two away, our attendees list was overflowing. We had over a hundred people coming this year; so much that we needed to request extra cabins! How foolish were we to worry that we wouldn’t have enough people. Our God is the God of the universe, and we were worrying? Ridiculous, right?

A week out from camp, and weather forecasts were rolling in. Now, if you were on camp, you would have known that the plan was to hop off the train at Richmond in the afternoon and spend a few hours in the park before taking the bus to the campsite. Now, the weather. Rain was on the radar. I don’t know about you, but taking over 100 people to the park in the rain, with luggage, isn’t the most pleasant experience. And so, in the days leading up to camp, we were frantically planning, coming up with plan B’s and plan C’s if it were to rain.

Fast forward a few days, and it is the day of camp. I was driving up all the equipment earlier in the day. At first, the sky seemed ominously overcast, but then, the first rain drop fell on the windscreen. Then another. Then another. And it started pouring. WHAT WERE WE TO DO? Yet, ask anyone that went to camp. The moment they stepped out of Richmond station, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining. Rain? No. Plan B? No. God’s in control? Yes. From this, we started to learn – “perhaps God has a plan”.

Even with the smallest things; we ran into problems. In setting up all the music equipment, we realised that the campsite didn’t provide all the audio equipment we needed. They were, of course, provided just as we needed them. On the first day, the session time was looming closer and closer, and we didn’t have all the equipment driven up. We were waiting for a bass amp and drum kit – two of the most important things in the rock songs that we were going to open with. Come session time, and we still didn’t have a bass amp and drum kit. But God always provides. He gave us a way out. We could link everything through the sound system, and play drums (funnily enough) on the keyboard. We were so worried that the session wouldn’t work out. Foolishly. God has a plan.

Just a few of the stories and stresses that we leaders went through. But throughout the course of camp, we realised one important thing: God has a plan. It was almost as if He was toying with us. Ye of little faith. We have the God of the universe, the sovereign God who is in control. Yet, we worry and stress that things won’t work out. Foolish. I guess camp was one big lesson – to trust in Him. Because whatever happens, it is in His plan.

“Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.”

If a tree falls to the south, it will lie to the south. If a tree falls to the north, it will lie to the north. Whatever happens happens. Because it’s in God’s will. And we should trust it.

Crazy Busy

Life can get terribly… busy.

I mean, even in the holidays (it’s the last day as I write this!), it feels like there’s an endless list of things to do. Thrilled to to see how busy the term will get. In my life, there’s always this feeling that I need to be doing something. I’m sure it happens in yours too. There’s just so much to do, and so much that can be done. But alas, we are given 24 hours a day, and that’s it, so I guess that’s something we just need to deal with.

What can happen though is that busyness turns into stress. Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed by the ten million different things I need to do, and it feels hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. You don’t know where to start, you don’t know what to do. Need to do this. Oh, but don’t forget that. And that other thing you had to do. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Please stop. Life just generally sucks when you’re stressed, doesn’t it?

Before the holidays started, I picked up a book called ‘Crazy Busy – A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem’ – by a guy called Kevin DeYoung. It’s a book written from the Christian perspective on busyness, what it means, why it happens, what to do about it, so forth. Here are a few things I got out of it:

We are finite beings.
Bluntly put, we can’t do everything. We are limited beings constrained by our physical bodies and mental needs. We are not God, because God is God. That’s really important. We can’t do everything or serve everyone simply because we are finite. Often we forget this, and we try and do way too much, which makes us busy, then stressed. Accepting our finitude   also means to set priorities – because you cannot do everything or serve everyone. This is important if we are to keep ourselves from becoming crazy busy.

We are prideful beings.
Pride is one of the things which can make us really busy. Sometimes, we try and do things for the purpose of glorifying ourselves – making ourselves look good. Other times, we try and do things to please people. I guess, these are all manifestations of pride. We should question who we are doing it for. Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good? I mean working hard isn’t bad – but when you work to feed your pride, things can go crazy.

Sleep is important!
Sometimes, one of the most productive things to do is sleep. As physical human beings, we need sleep. You simply just can’t ignore it, or sooner or later, you’ll crash. It is hard work indeed to let go, trust God, and go to sleep. Yeah. Sleep. Good stuff.

Rhythm is important too.
Like sleep, rhythm is important. I guess they are all linked. Rhythm means purpose and order – if you have a rhythm of doing things, things become easy to do. It makes things less stressful. It makes things seem less busy. It’s important to have a rhythm of work and rest.

Lastly, and most importantly, we need more Jesus.
Life can get so crazily busy that we forget the most important thing. Coming before God, learning more about Him, spending time with Him, in a world where we need to do this and do that, is the single necessary thing. I guess, the last sentence of the book sums it up quite well – “What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need”.

So yes, there we go, 5 points that I took out of the book (there’s plenty of other good stuff which I haven’t included though). Busyness is something I continue to struggle with. Hoping that through this busy year of HSC, I place my trust more and more in God, who unlike us, is infinite, is powerful, and is in control.

I want to end with a rather lengthy quote from the book. I think it ties everything above nicely together.

“Busyness is as much as a mind-set and a heart sickness as it is a failure in time management/ It’s possible to live your days in a flurry of hard work, serving, and bearing burdens, and to do so with the right character and a right dependence on God so that it doesn’t feel crazy busy. By the same token, it’s possible to feel amazingly stressed and frenzied while actually accomplishing very little. The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude and trust in the providence of God.”