Monday, February 1, 2010

Seeing Mum (grace@work) and some additional ramblings

Another particularly excellent commentary that personally resonated with my soul.
Sentences highlighted in red are my emphasis and my personal comments are after the commentary.

January 29th, 2010 Edition.
(Grace@Work Mail is a ministry of Graceworks:

Commentary: Seeing Mum
By Soo-Inn Tan

Bernice and I did a lightning visit to Penang this last Monday to Wednesday (Jan 25th - 27th, 2010.). We went to visit my mum. Widowed, she lives with a maid in her home in Pulau Tikus. We have asked her to live with us in Singapore many times, but like many Penang folk, she is not keen to leave her island. Besides her primary social networks are there.

Mum will be eighty-three this year and I wonder how much time I will have with her. In truth nobody knows when their time is up and I may die first. Still, in the normal course of things, I tell myself that I have to be prepared to bid her goodbye. Our times together are extra precious now.

Bernice and I have our hands full with ministry, church and family here in Singapore. And when we do go back to Malaysia, it's usually to Kuala Lumpur where we still have ministry responsibilities. I was thinking that I should go back to Penang to see mum at least once a quarter but it suddenly dawned on me that four times a year is precious little for an only son to see his aging mother.

We are still encouraging mum to visit us in Singapore but I need to go home more often. The pragmatic side of me is trying to find more ministry gigs in Penang so I can visit mum and also do some work there but even if there is no work I will still try to visit mum more frequently. Indeed with so many budget airlines now flying between Singapore and Penang I have little excuse for not doing so.

No brownie points for trying to visit mum more often. Honouring parents is a command taught in both the Old and the New Testaments (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3). Here are some thoughts from Bruce K. Waltke about the fifth commandment.

[ . . .to honor one's parents is to esteem them as having value . . . "To honor" exalts the object. (Old Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2007, 425)
The commandment has several implications. First to honor parents involves taking care of them (cf. Exod. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:19; Deut. 27:16; Prov. 19:26). (Waltke, 426)]

The bible also teaches that mothers together with fathers, are responsible for teaching their children about life, and that the son who remembers his parents teaching is wise (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20). I continue to learn from mum.

Whenever we talk about the political problems Malaysia is facing, or the ravages of the global economic downturn, mum would say "ah, but this is nothing compared to what we went through in World War Two." She is right of course. I don't think she is making light of the problems we are facing today but her experience of having survived World War Two does help us to put things in clearer perspective. More than that, mum's faith and tenacity, which has seen her through so much, inspire us to face life with the same bold faith.

(Incidentally, learning from mum reinforces my own resistance to generation specific services, like services purely for youth or purely for seniors. The different generations have so much to offer each other. We deprive ourselves of the wisdom of other generations when we segregate a church along generational lines.)

This trip, mum also said a few times that I was someone who "ai-bin," literally, someone who "desires face." It means that I was someone who hungers for fame and for the limelight. She said it in jest, in the course of commenting on some of my youthful achievements. But on further thought, her teasing is a timely word. As our ministry continues to grow, the threat of the growth of unhealthy pride is real. And "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18 TNIV)." Thanks, mum. I continue to learn from you.

Since mum still has so much to teach me, visiting her more often is not just for her sake. It is also very much for mine. Next visit, Lunar New Year.

I am glad that my mum at 70 is still strong and full or energy and that she has agreed to come visit us in NZ every year. NZ is certainly much more expensive and further than Singapore, even it is fare for one! How much more four of us. I am thankful for phone cards where I can catch up on a budget with my mother whenever I want to ... and for mobile phone sms's where if she wants me to call, she can just sms me.

I think that honoring our parents is an oft neglected commandment. Yes, yes, I know that when a man or woman marries, they start a new family unit but I would argue that the biblical evidence shows that even with this fact, the extended family (with parents, especially the father) are still the "heads" of the family. I get this from my study of Genesis.

I learn a lot from my mum and I think that the fact that despite her coming from a rich family, as a young girl, she went through and survived WW2. This gave her perspective and toughness, especially when she got married and was severely ill treated for years by one of her in laws. Such experiences have made her mentally tough and now as a Christian, even tougher and full of faith - more than a survivor :-)

One gift my mum has is her ability to relate across the generations and races. She finds herself friends with, toddlers, children, youth, young adults, older adults and seniors and with the blue collar and white collar workers, with the hawkers, cleaners, factory worker to the, lawyers, accountants, doctors and even pastors. Chinese, Indian or Malay is not an issue with my mother when it comes to friendship.

I think that a big part of my ministry philosophy of building a church culture where I push hard for inter- generational ministries and activities, where all walks of life, backgrounds and races work and play together is due to seeing the relevance and power of such examples in my mother's life. Of course, the major consideration is biblical teaching but good relevant examples help reinforce biblical principles.

I think community is built (among other things) s through shared experiences and stories. where trust and intimacy is built through honesty and vulnerability (and of course huge doses of grace) - real stories that help prevent false self delusions of grandeur and importance (unhealthy pride!)

I think it is more funny than embarrassing that many of my current church members are now good friends with my mum. This is the result of two trips to NZ and lots of meals , shopping and sightseeing trips and even a camping holiday. Funny because my mum is my mum and will tell all kinds of "embarrassing" childhood stories about me to any who will listen. And what church member will not want to listen to "interesting" stories about their pastor. LOL. But it is good that they know that their pastor is cut from the same cloth as they are. And see the grace of God at work! All these things and more has reinforced some key lessons and principles I desire my church members to learn - on the doctrines of sin and grace, the work of the Holy Spirit, predestination and free will, ethics, family .... the list goes on. We need to be honest with God and ourselves as to who we were, who we are and who God wants us to be.

Thank God for mum!

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