Monday, April 15, 2013

Song of the Season

"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God my salvation!"

- Habakkuk 3:17-18

My focus will not be on the emptiness and lack of fruits, but on the God who empties and fills as He pleases. He alone knows what is needed for each of us - how much fruit to encourage us, how much fruitlessness to humble and strengthen us.

I want to know the strength and hope that kept Paul going even after all that he had to go through. And if this is what it takes to understand it, then I will gladly join the club.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Simply Love

"[H]ow do you work on your spirit? Well, I ask, beg, and get desperate - I will not do anything until God fills me with His love. That's what happened to me nine years ago when I found out that it's worthless to preach the Gospel, simply worthless, without the love of God.

So here I was at a conference in the Punjab with hundreds and hundreds of women sitting there, and I was doing what Christ told me, "Shampa, you will speak nothing."

"But Lord, it's a conference; they've all come to hear me. How do I go about this, Lord? I mean, it's going to be really, really silly if I say I have nothing to share."

So Christ said, "No, no, no. You are going to have them make a line and then tell them that all you are going to do is hug them."

I said, "Oh, well that's easy; that's a good one." You just hug people; it's so wonderful. As I stood there and hugged hundreds and hundreds of ladies, one after the other, they would fall on the ground and weep their guts out and start sharing things. They shared about their abuse at home; they shared about the trauma they go through. And as I'm hearing it, I couldn't handle it. I thought I was going to go crazy, and I knew that I didn't have what it took. I knew that; I knew I was not prepared for that kind of sorrow and trauma that they were going through.

So by the time they were done with the hugging, it was two in the morning, and I looked at the translator, the pastor's wife, and said, "I have to go to my room. I'm feeling really sick," which I was. I was feeling so sick in my heart. And I said, "Would you kindly continue," and she said yes. So I ran to my room, locked the door, and screamed at God, "You have to do something inside of me. I don't have what it takes! Did you hear them tonight? Did you hear their stories? I can't handle it," I said, "I'm limited. I do not know how to hear them and keep sane in my head. I feel like I'm going crazy."

And I told God, "You've got to do something inside of me, there's a lack. I don't have something and I don't know what it is. I don't know what I'm lacking, but I know I don't have it. So whatever it is, You have to give it to me; and if You don't give it to me, I'm going to stay in this room. I'm not going out. I'm not going to sleep; I'm just going to keep standing here screaming at You."

It was like getting God in a headlock. Try it sometime. It works; it's great. So I continued to scream at God, "Look! Those ladies are crying out to You. They're not crying out to me, because they know I don't have the answer. I know You love them, so give it to me, whatever it is." All of a sudden the wall became a huge screen, and in this screen was a tiny heart. And then this big hand came with a big, big jug. Inside the jug was a pinkish color liquid.

And then the voice of the Lord came, "Shampa, watch what I do." Wow, this is incredible, I thought. Then the jug started pouring the liquid into the tiny heart, and the heart got bigger and bigger and bigger. Even though more of this liquid was being poured in, the little heart did not burst. It simply made room. "This is incredible. It's like a balloon, isn't it?" I asked.

He said, "No, it's not, Shampa, it's not a's your heart."

I said, "Oh, and what is it You're pouring?"

"It's My love - that's enough. If you never preach one more time," God said, "if you never ever share one more time, or if you never see the blind eyes open one more time, and you never see the dead being raised, and you never do any deliverances ever again - but if you have My love in your heart, Shampa, that is enough. That's all I care about, for My people to beg Me for My love and nothing else. You would do enough. That's all you need."

I fell on my face. I didn't know when I fell asleep or what time it was, but I got up in the morning, ran downstairs, and I have been going downstairs ever since. God keeps me from getting overwhelmed. He said, "You just keep begging Me, Shampa, and I'll keep filling you up, and you will be able to handle it every single time. You will never feel like you're losing it."

I said, "All right, I trust You, Lord." So He has been giving us children. Lots and lots of kids are at risk in India. About 300 girls every month are being sold to temples, Hindu temples. In one tiny district alone, 300 young girls are being exploited as temple prostitutes or sacrificed before the goddess. Children as young as 4 years of age are being horribly abused.

What can rescue them if not God's great love; anything less will not be able to keep them. Yeah, you can rescue them, and that's fine. Then what? Will they be better off? We have to have His love in order to make a difference; otherwise, don't rescue them. They can only have a better life if the love of God is involved, otherwise there is no better life."

- Shampa Rice, "Simply Love"

On the Orders of Nic Ong

#15 influential characters from stories you've read before turning 15

Haha I'm supposed to list 15 characters but this is really all I could come up with. I was the sort of kid who would read the same old story again and again and again if I loved it. Funny that I turned out to be so restless and easily bored!

1. Anne Shirley - Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

2. Jo - Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

3. Marcus - About a Boy, Nick Hornby

4. Kristy - The Babysitters Club, Ann M. Martin

5. Katy - What Katy Did

6. Margaret - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume

7. George - The Famous Five, Enid Blyton

8. Belle - Beauty and the Beast

9. Pip - Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

10. Aslan - Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis

The Momentary Decisions

We watched "The Encounter" as a cell yesterday and it moved me and spoke to me more than I thought it would.

One moment that really stayed with me was the part where Jesus was telling one of the characters, Melissa, that she should not accept her boyfriend's proposal because he was not the right one for her. In response, she kept protesting that they "loved each other" and every time Jesus would explain why Paul wasn't the right guy for her, she would say, "BUT I LOVE HIM!"

But Jesus began to show her all the things that would take place within the next few years and how different things were going to be and how that would affect her relationship with Paul, which was why He wanted to save her from all the pain that she would have to go through. And she kept trying to argue with Jesus and countering His reasons with her own plans ["I can save him! I can help him! I can share about You with him! I can do this!"] and Jesus just kept saying no. That she should just trust Him with Paul's life and not try to force him into something he wasn't going to be able to walk through.

And it really made me realise the danger in making decisions based on our momentary desires. Sometimes when we have to make decisions, we go by what feels "right". Everything seems to line up perfectly, and we think that this must be God's way of telling us to walk down that path, so we walk into it without really praying about it and asking God how He feels about it. We trust the "peace" that we feel, the momentary happiness that comes with the idea of that particular decision, and take those to be signs of God's approval, but He doesn't see things the same way. And if we choose to make decisions based on our "intuition", based on our emotions and our perception of the situation, we will become trapped in our own folly and never be able to see God's purposes. And we think maybe He wanted us to go through a season of pain and that He'll redeem that situation later. Of course He will. But the fact that He redeems it does not make it right. And every wrong decision results in wasted opportunities, every wrong decision means we force ourselves to take a longer route to where God wants us to be, means we make things harder for ourselves when He has set a highway before us, means that we compromise on the fullness of God for our lives.

It is the both the curse and the blessing of the PK to be able to see the fruit and impact of a lot of decisions that people make on the life of others close up. And I got to see a lot more of that in the past week in Thailand and Ipoh. Makes me realise how precious and rare it is to find people who walk in wisdom and discernment. There are so many people who so earnestly desire for God to move in their lives, or to seek God's blessings for the people around them, that they cling on to every little thing that people feed them with. But when we fail to test every spirit and every word that comes to us, it can lead to so much deception and destruction. And it pains me to see the Body of Christ walking in this manner, relying on the words of men instead of the Word of God, trying to overthrow the powers of darkness around them with their hands instead of exalting God above everything else. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. There are good decisions, and then there are the best decisions. We must rightly divide between the two and choose to bring every decision under the submission of God's leading and counsel, or live a life marked by striving and confusion and defeat.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Darkness and Light

"If darkness is meant to suggest a world where nobody can see very well - either themselves, or each other, or where they are heading, or even where they are standing at the moment; if darkness is meant to convey a sense of uncertainty, of being lost, of being afraid; if darkness suggests conflict, conflict between races, between nations, between individuals each pretty much out for himself when you come right down to it; then we live in a world that knows much about darkness. Darkness is what our newspapers are about. Darkness is what most of our best contemporary literature is about. Darkness fills the skies over our own cities no less than over the cities of our enemies. And in our single lives, we know much about darkness too. If we are people who pray, darkness is apt to be a lot of what our prayers are about. If we are people who do not pray, it is apt to be darkness in one form or another that has stopped our mouths.

But the prophecy of Isaiah is that into this darkness a great light will shine, and of course the proclamation of the Gospel, especially the wild and joy-drunk proclamation of Christmas, is that into this darkness there has already shone a light to dazzle the world with its glory and its terror, for if there is a terror about darkness because we cannot see, there is also a terror about light because we can see. There is a terror about light because much of what we see in the light about ourselves and our world we would rather not see, would rather not have be seen. The first thing that the angel said to the shepherds was, "Be not afraid," and he said it with the glory of the Lord shining round about them there in the fields because there was terror as well as splendor in the light of the glory of the Lord."

- Frederick Buechner, "Come and See", from The Hungering Dark

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Prayer

Whoa, found this unpublished from November 2011! But it spoke to me coz I've been struggling with prayer recently...

Romans 8:26-27

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we do not know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will." (NLT)

"Likewise the Spirit also helps us our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (NKJV)


God has a really interesting sense of humour. In the past few days, a few people happened to ask me some questions about prayer: How do I pray for someone who doesn't seem to be struggling with anything and when the person doesn't articulate what s/he needs? How do I know what they need? How do I pray when I feel like all the words I'm using are "borrowed" words, like they're not my own?

I say God has an interesting sense of humour because these are the questions I struggle with all the time. In fact, I think prayer is the most undeveloped and difficult area of my spiritual life even though I've often been told that I'm called to pray and intercede. When I'm in the secret place, the words just flow out of me, but it is a different story when I have to pray for someone before that person. Sometimes I don't understand why there is such a huge disconnection between my private and public prayers because I know that prayer is important, and can be especially powerful when it is done within and with the agreement of a community. But it terrifies me to pray in public, knowing that my words are being assessed by other people and the cracks in my eloquence are being made bare for everyone to hear. But I think maybe that's the root cause of all these questions: we think of prayer always in relation to how other people will perceive it when it's supposed to be about us pouring out our hearts to God.

And whilst I'm also still learning what it means to be praying for someone with a language that is inadequate, with a heart that can't fully see all things, with a spirit that is sometimes lukewarm and tired, here are some things that God has been teaching me about prayer in the past few weeks that I find comforting and helpful in my own prayer life:

1. When I know I have to pray for someone I consider spiritually a lot more mature than I am, I try to start asking God for prayer pointers beforehand so I won't be paralysed when I actually pray for that person, or feel like I'm unworthy to pray for him/her.

And I try to remember that no matter where we are spiritually, we are still human, and there are still situations and circumstances in our life that will always be out of our control. There are always a few things we CONSTANTLY need each day because we are fighting against the powers of principalities that come to steal and kill and destroy, so even if we don't know what the person needs, we know that we ALL need God's protection, power, presence, grace, strength, love, mercy, wisdom, favour everyday.

These are some of the things I think we take for granted when we think about prayer. We always think praying is about coming up with something mindblowing, or it's always about the fire from heaven moments, but these small things remind us of God's faithfulness and help us to acknowledge His work in our life.

2. Always remember that I am a child of God. That I am a CHILD to Him.

Children don't know everything, and they're not expected to. Children don't always know how to use language effectively, but we still understand what they're trying to get at. And in the same way, God doesn't expect perfect prayers, and even our lack of words or understanding cannot separate us from His love, which covers over all our shortcomings.

And it helps to remember that God KNOWS and understands that I am like a weak and helpless child without Him, sometimes even with His guidance I stumble about in darkness and maybe fail to follow Him perfectly, and He remembers that I am made out of dust, He is closest to me in my weaknesses, He knows all my anxious thoughts. He knows every word I am about to utter even before they are fully formed in my mind, He knows the intentions of my heart and the deepest cries of my spirit, so He will hear both the words that I speak and those that are left unspoken, the ones that I know how to put into words and the ones that are inexpressible and left unexpressed. And that thought just comforts me.

I have been quite privileged in understanding how this fatherly aspect of God works because my earthly father often KNOWS what I'm craving for without me having to tell him, and sometimes KNOWS what I'm doing, the desires of my heart, the secret plans I have and dare not share with the world, and sometimes he will speak them into being before I really understand what is going on in my own heart. So can you imagine how much more deeply God would KNOW us and WANT to help us bring these things to life?

3. Because of that, I find that I often do my best praying not when I'm blazing with passion, but when I'm so weak, so emptied out, so tired, so cold on the inside, so uninspired that prayer is the last thing on my mind.

And that is when the truth of Romans 8:26-27 comes in and asserts itself.

It is in moments like these when I just come before Him and tell Him I have nothing left to give Him, and ask Him to wash over me with His presence, to overtake me, to give me His words, to give me life, that He brings my prayers to a deeper level. I start seeing connections I never saw before, I start praying things I never would've prayed in the natural, I start delving deeper into His truths and begin to catch His heart in them, I start to let go and allow Him to expand His words over my life.

For example, if I'm asking Him to teach me how to love, I might normally pray, "God help me love with Your love", but in situations like these, it might come out as, "God flood me with Your love, help me know it and feel it. Let it begin to fill me up so strongly that I will be able to love others with a love that is unshakable, a love that is stronger than death, stronger than the works of the enemy...", and it's like the Holy Spirit brings me on a journey and I begin to see what God's love looks like in a clearer way, the power that it has, what it can do - and as I pray those things, I am also putting to death the lies of the enemy and proclaiming His life over my own heart, life, or the lives of others.

It ALWAYS surprises me when this happens, coz I'm not consciously sitting down and mulling over God's word or trying to get at the truth of what His Word says, but God will bring all these scriptures into my mind and suddenly I just get hit by revelations that go beyond knowledge, that I know do not proceed from my natural mind. And it's just fun, so try it!

4. And at times when I REALLY don't have any words, I just tell Him I don't have any words and thank Him for being the Lord of my life - which makes it OKAY for me to not have any words or know what to pray for - and tell Him to just do what He wills in the life of whoever I'm praying for. After all, I don't want to manipulate God with my words, or try to tell God how to run my own or someone else's life. I just enjoy Him. And that's enough for Him - and me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Owning My Authority

"I was reminded of how often people remarked on Jesus’ teaching as one of authority. “We’ve never heard anyone speak or teach like this!” they would say. I highly doubt that first century Palestine was lacking in authoritative men and leaders: so what was the difference with the authority of Jesus? His authority did not derive from the honour of men or from his finely tuned rhetoric or subversive theology, always available in abundance.
No, it was Holy Spirit authority, wasn’t it? It was authority rooted in the love and power of our Abba, not in any other source. It was authority, not for flaunting or power, it was authority for servanthood, for the purpose of giving life and freedom, for the purpose of invitation to God’s way of life, and his Kingdom ways.
So I may not have much authority in my own self, sure. I may not have much authority in the eyes of the world or even the Church, particularly the dwellers of The Table. I may not have authority of rhetoric or debate, arguments or prose, PhDs piled behind my name alongside womens’ studies or biblical literature notations. Even if I get slammed by critics, even if I’m wrong, even if, even worse, no one reads it ever, even if: I want to be faithful. I want to be faithful to the work God has given me to do.
Yet, I have authority, but it’s not my own. it’s the authority of the Holy Spirit, isn’t it? It’s a different authority than what we think: it’s the authority of Love. It’s the authority of grace. It’s the authority of being a daughter of the King. It’s the authority of living loved, walking close to the Father, knowing that when I take a step or make a move, it’s the authority of paying attention to the Voice in my ear, saying this is the way, walk in it, and remaining faithful to that Voice. It’s the authority of Narnia, perhaps, therefore a true privilege, who knows."