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The Christian Walk: A Warm Summer Holiday?

I was brimming with excitement when I finalized my bookings for my big trip to Europe last year. Having forked out a significant amount of money for both my air tickets and a new camera, I was certain my first trip to UK and France would be a complete blast.

I could barely wait to share in my friends’ experiences, having heard stories and seen Instagram pictures of those doing their overseas experience on the antipodes. I dreamed of the endless bookshops I could visit in London, admiring my literary heroes, both past and present. In particular, I couldn’t wait to see Shakespeare and Company—the “small, crumbling bookshop on Paris’s Left Bank” that UK newspaper The Independent described as possibly “the most famous bookstore in the world”. I also looked forward to Parisian chic, croissants, beautiful apartments, breath-taking architecture and mustached-men playing their accordions around the cafes and sidewalk.

I fantasized of a warm summer holiday swanning around in cute summer dresses (bye-bye, boring black winter stockings), and looking forward to showing off my arms, which I had been working on at the gym. My thoughts were filled with taking pretty photos on my new camera, filling my Instagram account with envy-worthy photos, and walking Paris’ Champs-Élysées under a starlit night.

What hadn’t been part of the itinerary was falling sick during my three-week vacation.

It could have been the hectic schedule or the change in weather (it was winter in New Zealand but summer in the northern hemisphere), but my body wasn’t playing ball. What started as a bit of a sneeze and an itchy throat soon morphed into something else entirely in Europe.

There was a point when I completely lost my voice, managing only a croak. To make matters worse, my body decided to reject every kind of food. I was throwing up after every meal and my nose would start bleeding without rhyme or reason.

On one traumatic morning in Brixton, London, my friend and I were running as fast as we could, with our backpacks, to catch an Uber ride to the train station for our flight to France. That’s when I felt a sickly drip down my nose, and my suspicion was confirmed the minute I wiped my nose with a tissue. With blood dripping down my face, I must have looked like I was running away from a fight (or for my life).

In France, I visited the pharmacy so many times you’d be forgiven for thinking I had it down as a must-see tourist destination. Then my nose started acting up again, just before we made our way to the Shakespeare and Company. I was so terrified I would start bleeding all over the nice, new books that I made sure to have a wad of tissues near me. My backpack soon morphed into a first-aid kit: I had a bottle of cough syrup, cough drops, paracetamol, and packs of tissues.

I woke up each morning with dread. Would my nose behave today? Would I be able to hold my meal in or would today see me bent over the bathroom sink while my guts tried to make their escape?

Funnily enough, my holiday-gone-wrong had me thinking about my Christian walk: how expectation didn’t always match reality.

It was at a church play that I answered the altar call at the age of 12. While I cannot recall the play in full detail, I do remember the title was Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and it had scenes featuring a non-believer and a believer. In each scene, there was a tragedy, and the non-believer was sent away to somewhere rather hot and fiery. I certainly didn’t want to go there, so giving my life to God seemed like a get-out-of-jail-free card to escape the fiery furnace. I figured all I had to do was accept Jesus as my Savior and He would swoop me out of hell.

As I grew up, I began to hear altar calls that went along the lines of how accepting Jesus into your life was the “best thing you can ever do”. “And from now on, your new life begins . . .” was another often repeated phrase.

For me, it conjured up a life without pain, where Jesus would sweep down from Heaven to catch us before we scrape our knees. Jesus would also save me from making silly mistakes in my exams and prepare a cool crowd of friends for me.

However, none of that happened, and at one point, I was angry at Jesus my forever friend, who I felt had ditched me during my most crucial moments. For example, I remember scoring a C on a Math test and fuming at Him. Not just that, how could He allow boys to dump me? And why did I receive email after email of rejection when I was desperately seeking employment?

You see, I had fallen into trap after being sold the idea that being with Jesus is the “best thing of my life”. But Jesus didn’t guarantee that a life with Him will be free of tribulations. The Bible tells of a blameless and upright man named Job, who feared God and “abstained from and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also a rich landowner who was blessed with a big family and a large stock of animals. But Job went through some real tough situations. He lost his family and all of his animals in one day, suffered from sicknesses, and at one point, wished he was never born.

Reading Job’s story made me realize that following God doesn’t necessarily spell a smooth ride. There will be times where I will be tested or left clinging onto my faith. But Job’s story has also showed how faithful God is, and I took comfort knowing Job’s life had a happy ending, where in the end, God restored everything he had lost.

Even though my own Christian walk has been filled with ups and downs—nothing like Job’s thankfully—I can sincerely say I don’t regret answering the altar call as a 12-year-old. With God, I know He is just one call away. I have lost count of the times God has answered my prayers and I love resting in the deep, unconditional love He has for me.

I also take heart in knowing when my life ends on Earth, I’ll begin a perfect one with Him in Heaven. The Bible says Heaven will be a place where God will wipe every tear from our eyes, a perfect place where there will be no more death, or crying, or mourning or pain, for the old order of things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

This perfect place may sound like a fantasy, but unlike the fantasy I had of my holiday (where nothing went as planned), I know this promise will not disappoint. That makes all the present suffering worthwhile!

A Fruitful Life

Title: A Fruitful Life
Materials: Watercolour
Artwork by: Jenn Cruz
Description: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

What does it mean to live with the “fruit of the spirit”? How can we recognize these “fruits”? How can we see the beauty of each aspect and prayerfully ask God to help us live out these characteristics as engage in relationships?

Over the last month, I painted each attribute of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit live on Instagram. As I was painting, I invited the followers to discuss the attributes at hand, sharing our difficulties and engaging in encouraging conversation to spur each other on. My intent was to get viewers to ask themselves the question: what does having the Fruit of the Spirit mean to you?

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

 

 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

 

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience (Colossians 1:11)

 

 

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:4-6)

 

 

For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. (Ephesians 5:9)

 

 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17)

 

 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

 

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Life online and offline

Title: Life online and offline
Materials: Graphic Illustration
Description: 
Are we reflecting our true selves to others or is the light off our phone screens glowing brighter? Perhaps these 4 points will shed light on what it means to reflect Christlikeness in our social media saturated world.

 

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Do you show virtual empathy or real empathy?

Hitting the reaction buttons on Facebook to express our empathy towards someone or something is easy. But is it real concern? How can we communicate our feelings in a genuine and real way? Instead of reacting virtually to the news of the day, explore opportunities to get involved and serve those affected by the event.

 


 

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Do you capture life or live your life?

Sharing the events of our day on social media can be a fun way of looking back and remembering a moment. But what do we miss when we pause to take a photo instead of just taking in our surroundings? Do we pause to see God’s blessing or just type #blessed for more views? Whether it’s a beautiful landscape, a delicious cup of coffee, or a day at the beach with friends, don’t forget to stop and take in all that God has to share with us in that moment.

 


 

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Do you rant or exercise thoughtfulness?

What’s on your mind? Whether you’re excited, disappointed, or indifferent, social media encourages you to share unfiltered opinions with friends, family, and strangers. Before clicking that post button, do you ask yourself if you would say the same thing out loud? Let’s not be so quick to complain and comment, but instead be slow to anger and exercise thoughtfulness beyond our screens.

 


 

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Do you spend your time online or offline?  

The refresh button is our best friend and worst enemy. Social media has its benefits, like keeping us up-to-date and connected but it also encourages jealousy and ingratitude. How often do you leave your phone in another room and take a break from life online? Giving yourself a limit on how much of your day is lived with curated feeds and grids can be refreshing. Use this time to step outside and spend time with your creator.

 

The Compulsory Queue

Title: The Compulsory Queue
Materials: Illustration
Description: 
In life, sometimes it feels like we are standing in a line. We move along the line — step by step — until we reach our journey’s end… and along the way, we collect things — memories, relationships, possessions, achievements, etc… These worldly treasures pile up over time and can cause us to get caught up in the hustle for more. We pile one thing on top of another as if we have to scramble to fill up an empty warehouse.

However, when we reach the end of the line — the end of our life — what worth do these worldly treasures hold? Whatever we have stored up here on earth will all be left behind. Everything from our hands will disappear but the treasures stored in our hearts will remain. What we store in our heart is our true treasure.

What are the kinds of treasures that God calls us to store up in heaven?

 

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