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Remembering Easter And The Day I Lost My Dad

Written By Amanda Lim, Singapore 

“You must have wished this was just a cruel April Fool’s joke,” my father’s friend finally said to me, still in disbelief at the sight of the white coffin lying serenely in front of him, with a photograph of my father in front of it.

He was the first to pay his respects at the wake, though it was purely by coincidence: he had just happened to pass by my block of flats while on his way home. Struggling to string his sentences together, he expressed shock and bewilderment at my father’s sudden passing, sharing how he had just seen my father running in the park just a week or two ago.

He was not the only one to have been taken unawares; none of us had seen it coming.

It was Good Friday, a few years ago. My church mates and I had just finished distributing evangelistic tracts and were headed for lunch when my handphone rang. It was my sister. “Amanda, can you take a cab down to the hospital? We think Daddy’s got a mild stroke, he’s very weak and his speech is slurred.”

But we soon discovered that it was no mild stroke. My dad had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage.

What followed was a whirlwind of events: my father slipping into a coma and being rushed for an operation, sombre and tear-stained faces arriving at the hospital one after another, and doctors on duty taking turns to repeat the same thing to my family as sensitively as they could: He isn’t going to make it.

A day later, nothing had changed. Aware of the significance of the next day, Easter, one of my uncles tried to raise some hope, saying, “Maybe he’d be like Jesus and wake up tomorrow.” Though it seemed humanly impossible that that might happen, I secretly hoped he was right and prayed with all my might that God would perform a miracle.

But my uncle was wrong. Though my father made it through Easter Sunday, he didn’t wake up.

On Monday, my family was gently reminded for the umpteeth time that we had the option to take him off the ventilator (only if we wanted to) and of the need to get an undertaker to prepare for a funeral service. Our prayers had changed. God, please take him home on Your own.

God answered our prayers that night. That evening, my dad passed away peacefully. The date was 1 April.

Today marks my father’s death anniversary. The irony has not been lost on me that it falls on Easter Sunday this year. And to be honest, I cannot be more glad.

Because the significance of Jesus’ resurrection is the biggest comfort I can ever ask for on a day like this.

As I look back on the timing of my dad’s passing, it seems as though God was giving my family a taste of the grief and sorrow He felt when Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday—and, at the same time, the certainty and comfort that just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, so would my father.

My uncle was not wrong at all. Precisely because of Jesus’ resurrection, my dad would “wake up” and live again. (John 11:25-26)

I can’t put it better than evangelist Billy Graham, who passed away recently and who once said, Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Today, my father is more alive than ever because of Easter. And I live each day with hope and joy, knowing that I’d see him again.

3 Faulty Thoughts Believers Have about Same-Sex Attraction

Written By Amanda Lim, Singapore

“I completely disagree with what the pastor said about homosexuality,” Jenny* blurted out as we warmed our seats while awaiting the arrival of our pre-lunch dessert. “It’s just so myopic. The feelings people with same-sex attractions have are natural, and their love for people of the same gender is real,” she asserted.

It was rare to see Jenny, a 16-year-old in my church, so riled up about something. Most of the time, she was deferential and careful whenever she expressed her view about something or someone. Surprised by her unsolicited comment about our pastor’s sermon earlier that day, I decided to probe a little further, suspecting that this could be a lot more personal than it looked.

As our ice cream waffles settled comfortably on our table, I asked casually, “Do you have friends who struggle with same-sex attraction?” She mumbled a reply, which I couldn’t catch. “Sorry?” I said. “I have it,” she repeated, with a certain steeliness in her voice.

I paused for a second before letting slip the response I had rehearsed a few times in my mind: “I’m not surprised, actually.” And it was true. For months, I had observed Jenny walking out of Bible class and service whenever topics on gender issues and LGBT were brought up. But I never thought to broach the topic with her.

Now that the cat was out of the bag, I knew I could no longer feign ignorance or be indifferent.

This was the second time I had a youth whom I was mentoring tell me she was same-sex attracted. The first time it happened, I was completely blindsided and at a loss for words. The first one eventually decided that she had enough of trying to fight her feelings, and decided to embrace them instead.

Until then, not having anyone close to me struggle with same-sex attraction, I had always steered clear of the topic; I didn’t see the need to find out more about it, much less get embroiled in it. But God began to show me there was a need to be interested, to be engaged, and to make known His truth, in love.

 

Faulty thought #1: The Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin and that’s all we need to know.

A good friend of mine once asked what I thought about gay relationships. Treading carefully, I gave what I believed to be the “biblical” answer: “The Bible teaches that God created sex and it’s meant only for men and women within the context of marriage, and not between individuals of the same gender. I believe in the Bible and therefore I think it’s wrong.”

My friend replied that he respected my belief but said that he wouldn’t be caught dead at a church event that preached against homosexuality. “Why?” I asked. “Because people in church are never really willing to engage in a discussion on the issue,” he replied. “They always get defensive when I try to ask more and give me the cold shoulder. I feel that both sides need to be more willing to engage each other.”

It felt like a slap in the face. I knew my friend’s observation was right. I’ve seen it happen a number of times, especially within the context of church. “Homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so,” we say impassively. We quote Romans 1:26-27 and the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 to support our statement and the discussion ends there. No one raises any questions or tries to challenge what is said. We walk away hardened in our conviction that homosexual behavior is wrong, and even more apathetic to the feelings and struggles faced by those who have the inclination.

Maybe it’s because most of us don’t struggle with it, so we don’t spend time mulling over how to genuinely love, reach out to, and walk with someone who is same-sex attracted. When pressed to give an answer about why homosexuality is wrong when it’s an “innate” disposition, we find ourselves tongue-tied. Next thing we know, we get slapped with labels like “bigot” and “homophobe”.

To return to my encounter with Jenny, I ended up journeying with her for a couple of months on a one-to-one study of what the Bible says about God’s design for mankind. Though she eventually decided that she wasn’t prepared to accept God’s purposes, I am immensely thankful for the time we spent together, as it gave me a chance to hear her perspective, appreciate her struggle, and grapple with how best to present God’s truth to her lovingly. Through the entire process, I also began to see that ultimately, we are both sinners in need of God’s grace.

 

Faulty thought #2: It all boils down to a matter of choice, and homosexuals deliberately choose to live the homosexual lifestyle.

One of the strongest arguments used to support homosexuality, it seems, is that it is something we cannot choose, just as we cannot choose the color of our skin, our height, our gender, the family we are born into, and so on.

As another Christian friend of mine who is same-sex attracted shared with me, the feelings he has seem natural, spontaneous, and enduring. “It feels like a desire to love and be loved by someone, except it’s to the same gender. It feels like it can result in a good thing—acceptance and intimacy when acted upon,” he shared.

As I’ve witnessed in the lives of the two young ladies I had been given the privilege to mentor and some other good friends, anyone can be same-sex attracted. There isn’t one underlying reason behind their feelings. Some people are attracted towards individuals of the same gender even though they’ve grown up in an environment that doesn’t foster or encourage that inclination.

Sure, you could argue that ultimately, those who struggle with same-sex attraction can make a choice to embrace or not embrace homosexual behavior. But I believe that these “choices” are not always so straightforward and could have come at a great cost.

Some struggle against the inclination for years as they try to follow God’s intended design, but finally give in to their desires. And even for those who are determined to fight their feelings and obey the order God has set in place for mankind, there is no guarantee that they will experience a transformation in their orientation. As pastor and writer Vaughan Roberts, who struggles with same-sex attraction himself, attests: “God has the power to change their orientation, but He hasn’t promised to and that has not been my experience.”

 

Faulty thought #3: Homosexuals are a different breed from the rest of us.

We never voiced it out, but the way my friends (both Christian and non-Christian) and I spoke about homosexuality showed that there was an underlying perception that they were different from us. Unlike other traits like greed, drunkenness, slandering, swindling and others, homosexuality is often seen as more contentious and more problematic.

But 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 clearly lists all these traits as equally wrong before God’s sight, reminding us that a greedy heterosexual (for example) is no more righteous than someone who practises homosexuality.

I can almost hear an immediate outcry from those who have same-sex attraction: “How can you even put my feelings for the same gender on the same continuum as greed, slander, and drunkenness? Those are harmful to others but my feelings don’t hurt anyone.”

As Christians, we take the Bible at its word. But how do you help someone see that his “natural” inclination to love someone of the same gender is a result of mankind’s fallen nature and not part of God’s original design for sexuality? How do we shed our judgmental, I-am-better-than-you complex as we point others to God in humility and love?

 

My view on the challenge

 I believe that the challenge believers have is two-fold. For those of us who have never struggled with same-sex attraction or do not have close friends or loved ones who struggle with it, it’s time we pay attention to what’s going on and what the gay community is saying, and seriously think and pray about how to meet them at their point of need. It could start with simply asking questions about their experiences and their story, such as, “When did you first realize you had same-sex attraction?”, “What was it like growing up gay?”, and “How can I be of a support to you right now?”

And as we try to engage them, we must be willing to continue to love them unconditionally regardless of what their response is.

For those of us who have personally struggled with same-sex attraction or have loved ones who have this inclination, the challenge is to remain engaged with the Word of God. In a society where the gay voice is becoming louder, cooler, and more mainstream, embracing our feelings can seem like the “right” thing to do.

But in a bid to “be comfortable in our own skin” or “show love to our neighbors” and avoid being called bigoted and homophobic, will we compromise the truth? What if true love involves loving in truth, and that means sharing God’s plan for humanity even though it may shake the happy status quo?

In our responses, we need to have God’s truth on one hand and His love on the other. It is not enough to say that homosexuality is a sin. We must be willing to journey with those with same-sex attraction and love them in truth.

 

*All names changed for confidentiality purposes.

5 Ways to Deal With A Difficult Boss

Written By Amanda Lim, Singapore 

If you’ve clicked on this article because you have an impossible-to-please boss, my heart goes out to you. Truly. I know from personal experience the grief and emotional stress he or she can cause is no laughing matter, and may well plague you beyond your office hours and even waking moments.

If you need a mental picture of what my ex-boss is like, think of a fussy, demanding, insecure, and manipulative micro-manager. I know of ex-colleagues who have suffered from headaches, insomnia, and heart palpitation (just to name a few) as a result of working with her.

For me, it came in the form of a temporary memory blackout. I can still remember the incident vividly. My boss was upset with me that day and had sent a string of emails finding fault with—among other things—my grammar, punctuation, and speed of email replies. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, I had left the office feeling like the most useless person on the planet.

Just when I thought I had the night to recuperate, I received a text message from her asking if I had checked some data. My blood froze as I realized I had not. In my panicked state, I realized I couldn’t recall the passcode to unlock my phone—despite having just used it a couple of minutes earlier.

Long story short, the four digits eventually did come to mind and I got into trouble the next day for not being on top of things (as I couldn’t recall the data she wanted). For the next couple of months, my boss continued to alternately criticize my work and give me the cold shoulder, regardless of what I did to try to appease her. Things took a turn for the better only when new colleagues joined the team and her attention shifted to new targets.

As I reflect on those six terrible months under this boss, here are some lessons I’ve learned. If you’re in a similar situation at the moment, I hope some of it can provide some encouragement and help.

 

1: Talk to your boss about it.

As far as possible, give your boss the benefit of doubt, especially if either one of you is new or things between the both of you weren’t this way before. Perhaps your boss is going through a rough time and is not aware of how his attitude is affecting the staff and work. Or maybe it could be due to a miscommunication or a mismatch of expectations.

Doing this, I believe, is one way to show respect and reverence for our bosses (1 Peter 2:17). When things started getting challenging at work, I remember having numerous sessions with my boss where I tried to articulate how I felt as well as see things from her perspective.

That said, this may not always change things, especially if your boss is not one to take feedback well or could never see himself as the problem—which brings me to my next point.

 

2: Realize that you can’t always “manage” your boss

Countless self-help articles will tell you that the trick is to manage your boss better. Find out what triggers your boss and make sure you don’t step on his or her toes. This advice may help turn the situation around in some instances. But if your boss is irrational, it’s not so clear-cut.

Before joining my department, I had heard about my boss’s reputation. My predecessor even pleaded with me not to take up the offer to work in the department, but I wasn’t convinced; I sincerely believed I could “change” my boss as long as I did my work well and proved my worth. And that seemed to be the case for the first six months, when I relished being one of her favorites in the team.

But after all her original targets quit, that’s when the tables turned. Though nothing had changed from my perspective, everything changed. Things I did that never used to bother her suddenly became heinous crimes, and not a day would go by without me apologizing profusely to her for something that I had done—or not done.

I lost the joy of work and dreaded going to office every morning. I beat myself up over the smallest mistakes and started to doubt myself and lose confidence in my work. When I realized there was nothing I could do within my power to turn my situation around, I turned to God.

 

3: Remember who’s really in control – God

I remember nights where I would curl up in bed, writing down my prayers and crying out to God to help me to do my work for Him and not for the approval of my boss (Col 3:23-24).

During one of those down moments, I wrote this in my journal:

“Lord, for the first time, I’m actually dreading going back to work. I didn’t think this would be a problem I would face, but since my boss’s recent comments about my work, I’ve been affected and I just dread the thought of receiving emails from her about the same issues again. God, you’ve taught me since young to trust you, honor you above all else, work heartily for you and not men – I pray that you will help me to let go of whatever bitterness and unhappiness I have towards her and just focus on you.”

Within just one week of penning that entry, God changed my perspective in the most unexpected way—a family tragedy struck and I had to be out of office for a few weeks. It snapped me out of my state of self-pity and helped to put everything in perspective. Suddenly, my boss’ approval didn’t seem that important anymore. Being recognized and affirmed for my abilities was also no longer something I craved for and fretted about.

All this time, I had been so self-absorbed in my own woes that I had lost sight of who was really in charge. I was reminded that God was my creator and provider. Just as He could give life and take it away, He could give me my boss and take her away as well—which He eventually did.

 

4: Find like-minded colleagues or friends who can support you.

But before that happened, God didn’t leave me in the lurch. I thank God for fellow Christian colleagues and churchmates who counselled me and reminded me of God’s sovereignty and love throughout this time, some of whom have become my closest friends as a result.

Don’t bottle up all your frustrations and grievances and suffer in silence. Find a mature and caring friend who can pray for you and counsel you; God has given us brothers and sisters in Christ who love us and will journey with us through difficult times (Proverbs 17:17). In time, you may be the one to provide support and counsel to another fellow believer in a similar situation.

 

5: Don’t gossip.

As you find a group of friends to support you on this journey, one of the biggest temptations is to turn the sharing of prayer requests into a gossiping session about your boss. I am guilty of this on so many occasions. The more wide-eyed stares and looks of disbelief I got from sharing about my boss, the more emboldened I became in my sharing. Soon, I found myself telling the same story to other friends that I would meet—sometimes adding in a few more details.

As I continued to meet up with ex-colleagues who had also suffered under her ill-treatment and we exchanged stories about her “abuse”, I found my description of my boss turning from bad to worse; in my mind, she had become a hideous monster, devoid of any hope.

But every time I came back from those gatherings, God would convict me of my poor testimony for Christ to both believers and non-believers. And over and over again, I would end up confessing my sin and asking God to forgive me for badmouthing her (Psalm 34:13).

This is one lesson I’m still learning today.

 
Today, I work for a boss who is the complete opposite. Aside from being a big-picture thinker, he’s patient, understanding, and gives each one of us room for trial and error. Had I not had the experience of working with my previous boss, I probably wouldn’t have realized how blessed I am to be working under my current boss.

My prayer is that you, too, will one day be able to look back on this episode and praise God for seeing you through.