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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.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the necessity of hope

Rating: 4/5

Screenshots taken from Official Trailer

Written By Simon Moetara, New Zealand

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has finally hit cinemas, and it was well worth the wait.

As the film begins, the malevolent First Order is on the verge of wiping out the Resistance forever. The Rebels are outmanned, outgunned, and on the run for their lives.

Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks out the legendary Jedi knight Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for his help to stem the rising tide of evil. Rey hands Skywalker his old lightsaber—but his reaction is not what we were expecting.

 

Luke Skywalker, despair, and the loss of hope

Luke Skywalker has been through a lot in the series. Since the first days when we met him as a whiney youth on Tatooine, he’s been beaten up by Tusken Raiders, hung upside down by Wampa, stuck inside a dead Tauntaun, attacked by a giant Rancor, and mutilated by the biggest bad guy in the galaxy, who just also happens to be his Dad.

Over the course of the series, we’ve seen Luke grow on his hero’s journey from annoying, idealistic adolescent (Episode IV: A New Hope) to poised and self-assured Jedi (Episode VI: Return of the Jedi). However, in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, we find the youthful hero now a cynical and haunted hermit.

The Skywalker we meet is no archetypal Wise Old Man, no Gandalf or Dumbledore, no sage mentor a la Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, dispensing fatherly insight to guide our confused heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) on her path to master the Force. Rather, we find a man who has withdrawn from life, lost confidence in his ability, and lost hope for the future. He is all too aware of his faults, his hubris and weakness. Skywalker has become disenchanted with the Jedi way, despises himself due to his own inadequacies and failures, and despairs in a hopeless future.

German theologian Jürgen Moltmann tells us that, “without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live.” Moltmann goes on to see hopelessness as a description of Hell, as represented by the inscription above the gates to the abyss in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, “Abandon every hope, ye who enter here.”

Hope is essential for our lives. It’s far more than “fingers-crossed” wishful thinking. For the Christian, Biblical hope is a confident expectation, a sureness that something will come to pass because God has promised it will happen. Our hope is ultimately rooted in God Himself, and what He has done for us in Christ. Paul speaks of hope in Romans: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 3:24-25).

In the midst of a corrupt world, we are called to believe, to love, to serve—to hope. While we are well aware of the pervading darkness and evil that surrounds us, we are equally aware that there is a greater power, a mighty and loving God who is at work in this world and has promised to never leave us. As we trust God, the source of hope, He is able to fill us with joy and peace, allowing us to “overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).

Isolated and disconnected, Skywalker has fallen into despair. Can he forgive himself, accept his weaknesses alongside his strengths, and once again find a new hope in a world in which the darkness can seem so overwhelming? Will he be able to bless others with hope, or will he succumb to doubt and despair, forever wallowing in the regrets of the past?

 

Kylo Ren and the hope of redemption

Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is the fallen villain in this latest trilogy. The son of the cavalier rogue Han Solo and rebel princess Leia Organa, Ren was trained by Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force, but ultimately yielded to the dark side, killing his father in The Force Awakens.

But in this latest film, there are signs of doubt and tortured inner struggle within Ren. Without giving away too much, Rey manages to form a connection with Ren. Can she bring him back to the light, as Luke once did with Anakin/Vader, or is Ren the “son of darkness” Supreme Leader Snoke declares him to be?

At the heart of the first six episodes of this epic series is the tragic fall into darkness of Anakin Skywalker, and his subsequent redemption through the love and belief of his son Luke. As entertainment critic Paul Asay puts it, the story arc of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader presented a very New Testament-type message: “Even the most broken among us can still be salvaged. They can still, ultimately, be made whole.”

This is why we love a good redemption story.

Because if these bad guys, as flawed and lost as they are, can be redeemed, then that’s good news for us, because we aren’t beyond hope.

There is an old Christian song that contains the beautiful lyric:
“All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife,
but He made something beautiful out of my life.”

This is a wonderful truth about the gospel. God’s love and power can redeem us from the darkest places as we turn to him in humility and repentance, and His grace restore us to the men and women we were meant to be.

We aren’t alone in this life. God is for us; who can be against us?
And this reality fills our lives with hope.

A Letter to SHINee’s Jonghyun: What If There was Hope?

Photo by saranghaegdoppa on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Written By Lee Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Dearest Jonghyun,

I was in disbelief when I first heard the news that you took your own life. I didn’t believe it was real. I thought it was a hoax, a sick prank someone had played. I couldn’t believe someone as jovial and happy-go-lucky as you would ever commit suicide.

It was only until I read various media reports on your death and the official press release by your management company, that it finally hit me: I would never get to see your cheerful face and your cute expressions, or hear your angelic voice again.

It breaks my heart.

I had always thought that you would use your voice to bring happiness to those who love your music. That I would get to see you releasing your next self-composed song, reuniting with the rest of SHINee, serving the nation, getting married, and even becoming a father in the future. It never crossed my mind that you would choose the lonely road of no return.

I’m so sorry that I only learned of your struggle with depression after reading the letter that you sent to your friend, Nine from Dear Cloud. In it, you wrote that “the depression that was slowly devouring me at last consumed me”.

On behalf of other Shawols who have supported you ever since you debuted in 2008, I’m truly sorry that we were unaware of all the pain and exhaustion you felt.

It feels particularly sorrowful to hear of your passing in this season of Christmas, and to think that you won’t be around to spend it with us. For all those who love you, this Christmas is going to be exceptionally difficult to go through.

Dearest Jonghyun, as I’m penning this letter to you, I can’t help but wonder what I would have said to you if I actually had the chance. Right now, the words that come to my mind are from Isaiah 9:2-6:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It’s not your fault for falling into depression and despair. But I wonder if death was the only way out for you? I wonder if you would still have made the same choice if you knew about Jesus, our true hope?

If you had known that 2,000 years ago, a baby—Jesus Christ—was born among us and His arrival brought light into this world of darkness and despair, and that He bore our sins and sacrificed Himself on the cross in our place so that we could have true joy and everlasting hope, would that have given you the courage to cling on despite the despair you felt?

It’s heartbreaking that we’d never be able to know the answer to this “if”.

Dearest Bling Bling Jonghyun, it saddens me that I would not have the chance to call you by this name again.

You’ve worked hard and we will always miss you.

Finally, I wish that nobody on this earth will have to feel the despair and hopelessness you felt, because there is an everlasting hope who can give us the grace to face the challenges of tomorrow.

His name is Jesus.

 

Your fan of nine years,
Lee Soo Yi

Crying Over Nabeel Qureshi

Screenshot taken from YouTube

I never thought I would cry over a complete stranger. But the death of a man whom I have never met had me tearing up a few times this week.

Last night, it happened again while I was watching the live stream of Christian apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi’s memorial service. Hearing two of his mentors, apologist Ravi Zacharias and Rice University chemistry professor Jim Tour, recount their time with the 34-year-old and his love for Jesus as well as his non-Christian family, had me welling up in tears.

Perhaps it was because the tributes were heartfelt and heart-breaking, or because it felt like I actually knew him personally. I bought Nabeel’s book two years ago, and have been following his progress since he first announced that he had advanced stomach cancer. Whichever reason it was, Nabeel has certainly made an impact on my life—as well as the lives of many others.

Here was a man who centered his entire life on Jesus and the gospel even though it meant turning his back on the people he loved most dearly—his family, who were staunch Muslims. Not only that, he went on to proclaim the good news of Christ, through talks and books—such as New York Times Bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus—despite threats to his safety and relentless criticism from those who considered him an apostate.

So many, including myself, were shocked that God would take him home so early on in his earthly life. Like most people, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why? Why now, when he was at the peak of his ministry? Why now, when he had just started a family? Why now, when the world needs gifted and passionate communicators like him to build bridges with the Muslim community?

Though none of the answers that have been circulating online can fully answer these questions, a post I stumbled on provides a deeply encouraging and helpful perspective. It was written by Nabeel’s colleague, the North American Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). In a beautiful tribute to his dear friend, Abdu Murray wrote:

Ravi Zacharias, who loved Nabeel deeply, has written about him in a secular news source. Thousands who had never heard Nabeel or the gospel he loved to preach have now been exposed to Jesus’s life-changing message. People have seen Nabeel’s steely faith remain steelier yet in the face of death. They have seen the “peace that passes all understanding,” as the Bible calls it, in Nabeel’s voice. And they are encouraged to face difficulty with grace. A deaf world is roused through the megaphone of pain to hear the message that God has overcome the troubles of the world through Jesus. Nabeel was a megaphone for that message in his life and he is a megaphone for that message in his passing.

 If not for anything, Nabeel, who made a significant impact during his life, continues to make an impact in his death. Many have come to know of him, his books—and his God—after hearing about his life and death over the past week. I believe Nabeel’s legacy will continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Nabeel is no longer with us. We will miss him dearly. But while his passing may seem like a huge loss, let us not forget that he is in a far better place today. And let’s not mourn without hope—for we have the full confidence that God will continue to raise up men of great faith to continue His kingdom work. Just as God can raise up a devout Pharisee like the Apostle Paul and an ex-Muslim like Nabeel to become effective ambassadors for Him, He can—and He will—continue to convict the hearts of men in His own time and way.