In response to: “Kami Cinta Indonesia. Tapi Buat Apa Kami Pulang Ke Indonesia?”

Indonesia, Asia’s sleeping giant, has recently been woken up by a man on a quest to clean up Jakarta with his straight-talk and no-corruption movement. What he is doing is unheard of in Indonesia where corruption has become part of our cultural identity, one that I abhor but at the same time benefit from.

This man, Pak Ahok, truly has the heart for the nation. He should be hailed as National Hero because he is unafraid of the “elite” gangsters and working his best to help the citizens who are unable to return him any favour. But instead he is put behind bars for deliberate blasphemy. While I can see why a Muslim can take offence of what he said but anyone should be able to tell the context of what he said was that voters should not be deceived by politicians hiding behind the religious veil and using that to manipulate people. It wasn’t a deliberate blasphemy. Besides, if someone said something negative about the bible I would defend it but I wouldn’t demand that person be locked up or cry for blood. We can have differing opinion and still co-exist that’s the whole point of democracy. Anyone with clarity of mind should be able to tell Pak Ahok has no ill-intention to the Muslim community. It’s just unfortunate that he was a marked man and his opponents were looking for reason to throw a grenade and they did.

For Ahok’s supporter, I can understand your disappointment, anger, or sadness. His sentencing to 2 years in prison is clearly a political play. How could the sentence be harsher than what the prosecutor demand for? I find the whole case just ridiculous. After the verdict, my Facebook timeline was flooded with posts expressing my friends’ disappointment and how some of them are ready to abandon their Indonesian passport or move to another country. Then I read an article of a letter by a student in Australia asking “Kami Cinta Indonesia, Tapi Buat Apa Kami Pulang Ke Indonesia?” (translate: We love Indonesia, but what for we come back to Indonesia?)

I grew up in Singapore and I’ve spent most of my life abroad. Every time someone asked if I have any intention to come back, I would say “what for?” or “not really”. I’m much more comfortable living in Singapore where rules are observed and values are sustained. In Indonesia everything is malleable. My friends say that what makes Indonesia creative and filled with opportunities but I find it just too much hassle. I like to keep my hands clean and enjoy the advantages of earning dollars, spending rupiah. Yes, I’m one of those hypocrites but if there’s anything that Ahok has stirred within me is the desire to come back to Jakarta.

Since Ahok came along I see how the nationalism towards Jakarta has improved among Indonesians around me. He brings glimmer of hope that Jakarta can be improved and become a city we are proud of, or willing to come back to. I always thought the slogan for Indonesia should be “Money is Power” but Ahok has a vision to help the less fortunate. As an idealist, I think that’s more important than thinking of how I can earn more for myself while watching the depressing news everyday and reading about the poor dying because they are denied of basic health care.

Now that Ahok is locked behind bars, the first thing that came to my mind was “Man. Jakarta need more people like Ahok to continue the fight!” We have an obligation to come back if we truly love the country. Honestly I don’t know if I love the country enough to leave the comfort of Singapore and if that’s what my calling at this point. Even if I come back I don’t know what good can I do to the country. Will I be joining a political party? If yes I need to be active? Am I willing to be active? Okay, this indecisiveness is my problem. Let’s leave it at that but I’m considering returning for good.

Ahok said “Kalian semua bisa memenjarakan Ahok, tapi kalian tidak bisa memenjarakan ide-ide saya.” (translate: You can put Ahok behind bars, but you can’t put my ideas behind bars.) Ahok may be in jail but we still have more people with his ideas. We need to rise up. We need to continue the fight. It’s time to stop mourning for Ahok’s sentence. The war is not lost. It has only started.

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X,
Mel.

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Are you open for Jesus Monday to Sunday?

You’ve heard about Sunday Christians. You see them on Sundays. They don’t get too involved with the church and if you bump into them on a weekday, they behave like a different person. You’ve also seen Devout Christians – people who follow God wholeheartedly and the familiar faces who show up at almost every church events.

Then there are Christians like me who are a little harder to distinguish. I attend service and small group, serve in church, read bible, and do whatever I can to inch closer to God. Yet when my leader texted if I’m coming to the church’s monthly Prayer Meeting on that very day, I hesitated. I’ve always thought Prayer Meetings are for the holiest members of the congregation because the people who attend are usually the devout and it falls on a Wednesday night. The latter might not sound like a solid reason but you see, I’ve planned God’s activities to be on Sunday and Friday – the days I attend church and small group.

So I started having a mental debate whether I should come to the meeting. The argument centred on the questions if I don’t go to church tonight, how will I spend my evening? Will it be more useful or meaningful? I’d spend time with my family at home which is a strong case because I don’t spend enough time at home, and I would be reading this book called Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science. Then I began to see the irony. I was about to choose to stay home and read about the evidence for God when I could be in church experiencing the evidence for God. I decided if I can get off work on time, I will make my way to church. And yes, God made it happen.

SURRENDER MY DAYS

Standing in the church hall that night made me feel out of place. I was not used to worshiping God in church among the “stronger” Christians on a Wednesday night. Sure I listen to sermon at home on weekdays but it’s not the same to seek God on your own time and comfort versus rearranging your schedule to be at His altar. I clapped and lifted up my hands during praise and worship like I usually do on weekends but deep down I was wondering if the awkwardness of being in God’s presence that night will go away. Finally I did what I need to do. I prayed and invited Jesus to be Lord over my life Monday to Sunday.

LIVE ON GOD’S TERMS

I wake up to pray and listen to sermon every morning, read a Christian book on my way to work, and read the bible at night. On the surface it seems like I have my spiritual life figured out. I even prayed for God to enter every room of my life but I didn’t realize I only hand Him the keys on Sundays and Fridays.

Is God a guest or is He the owner of your life? When we choose to live for God it means He holds the keys and has access to every room in your life. Matthew 16:24 says “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  It doesn’t say to follow Him on a specific day because following Jesus is a 24/7 commitment. Jesus is not a counsellor or therapist whom you schedule your time with. He is the leader of our lives and He has the privilege to rearrange our schedule. We live under His terms and not the other way around.

OPEN WHEN HE KNOCKS

If I had said ‘no’ when my leader asked me to come to the meeting I wouldn’t be writing this. It wasn’t the first time my leader asked me to a church event, few of which I declined but there’s one thing I learn – I can keep saying ‘no’ to man, but I can’t say ‘no’ to Holy Spirit forever. Every time you say ‘no’ to God, you’re distancing yourself from Him and disobedience will eventually dull your spiritual senses. Unless you’re ready to live without God, don’t let yourself slips into a place where you’re no longer bothered by Holy Spirit’s prompting. The fact that you’ve read my writing to this point, I hope means that you have the desire to live out the life that God calls us to have and so let your heart be open to Him 24/7.

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Put up this sign for God. Photo Credit: Pinterest, Etsy.com

X,

Mel.

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The Conversation

Conversation is a window to the World different from mine. It changes my perspectives and there’s always something to learn from the different characters we meet. The past few weeks I am privileged to be able to have conversations with friends whom I haven’t met for a while, new acquaintances I come to admire, and people of higher position than I am who opened up themselves.

One of them is my couple-friends who are moving out of the country next month. They have 2 beautiful kids and they shared how they might someday adopt a child because they, especially the wife, just can’t see a child suffers and not do anything about it. After she became a mother she sees every child as her own. I’ve heard mothers said that before but I could sense how heart breaking it is for her to even talk about deprived children. I know adoption is common now but I come from a typical Chinese family where adoption is taboo and the only reason one would adopt is because they are unable to bear biological child. It’s heart-warming to see a couple with such openness and genuineness about adoption.

Another interesting conversation I had was with a couple who owns a sound studio I met through work. The husband had to concentrate on the actual work so I didn’t get to talk much with him but while waiting for him to complete the task, his convivial wife kept me fascinated with stories of what they do. I know zilch about audio and as I listened to the wife sharing the process of composing and orchestrating a song for advertisement, it’s like walking into a Narnia wardrobe. It’s my first time being exposed to the audio world, and I began to understand why there are so many audiophiles around. Also, I’ve never met anyone who loves watching movies as much as this lady-boss. Even I, a self-proclaimed film buff, will gladly pass my crown.

And last week, I was at the right place where I met someone senior who shared briefly about how he arrived at his current position, and the choices he made along the way. It makes me see under the layer of titles, people are quite the same. Yes, some people are pretty much born-leaders (I met them too) but even born-leaders went through a period a grilling and reshaping. I’m just very humbled to hear about their vulnerabilities.

There are more conversations I have been blessed to have, and the more I speak to people the more I realised the importance of a conversation. You gain knowledge, understanding and relationship at the cost of nothing (or the price of coffee). When I was in New Zealand, people – strangers just like to greet one another and talk. I was always very fascinated with that. It’s a shame we don’t have that culture here but no matter where we are I’m sure conversations can happen. When it does be sure to listen.

X,

Mel.

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2017 New Year Resolution

In a true Popcornaday tradition (one that I invented just a sec ago as I’m typing), let me post my New Year Resolution for 2017 before the first month comes to an end!

1. Go on vacations and keep expenses within budget.
Kick the habit of treating foreign bills like monopoly money when on holiday.

2. Be healthy.
Limiting myself to eating 24x junk food/year, having tea without sugar, and aiming to walk 10,000 steps each day.

Strapped and ready to track

3. Learn a new skill.
Driving and/or cooking a proper dish.

4. Cross 1 thing off my bucket list.
I have 100 things to choose from. Anything from sky-diving to spotting a whale.screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-11-26-12-pm

5. Become a Morning Person.
Setting alarm clock at 7 a.m. daily. (With 15 minutes snooze allowance.)

6. Be involved in a community.
There are 2 communities in mind; Cell Group and Toastmaster Club.

7. Better financial planning.
At least 30% of my monthly earning shall go to savings.

8. Try out 24 new restaurants this year.
It’s a conservative number since I tried about 50 new restaurants last year. But because I’m resolved to have better financial planning, I should reduce my eating-out frequency too.

9. Set aside time for things that matters. 
Being intentional in meeting up with people I want to invest my time in. Prioritising Time Alone With God over my Netflix addiction. Setting aside 6 hours of sleep.

10. Volunteer.
I usually donate to a cause I believe in. This year I want to go beyond and put in physical effort to help others or cats.

12. Read 24 books.
Currently reading my 2nd book of the year. I have to finish it this week to meet the timeline.

14. Read the old testaments.
I’ve read the New Testaments last year. Now onward (or backward) to the heavy duty stuff.

15. Buy 1 thing that will make my life more efficient. 
A new laptop would be good.

16. Hold on to my personal mission for the year. 
Matthew 5: 14-16. Light of the World. City on the hill cannot be hidden.

I sense 2017 will be an awesome year, one of breakthroughs and expansion. January is ending and we have 11 months to go. Let’s make them count!

X,
Mel.

P.S: For this year’s resolution I actually refer to an article in a magazine I recently subscribed to. It’s the only magazine that I read cover to cover.

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I Do As I Say?

I was watching a video regarding the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I came to a realisation that there’s a huge discrepancy between the things I say and the things I do. Clearly I have been violating Habit 3: Put First Things First.

Whenever someone asks me what do I want to do with my life, I replied with no hesitation;“I want to write” . And how much time do I spend writing? Feel free to judge me by how infrequent this blog gets updated.

Why is it so hard to align what you say with what you do? I think it’s because it take less effort to say something than to do it. Basically, talk is cheap. It’s a prevalent issue because how often do you come across someone who over-promise and under-deliver? Same reason why there’s such a high divorce rate. Your vow means nothing if you have the habit of talking cheap.

How do we overcome this bad habit? (I’m asking many questions today because I’m trying to figure this out as I type). We need to get into a new habit of putting first things first. The first step is to determine your goal, and then make a to-do list starting with what needs to be prioritised. From there start clearing the list from top to bottom.

Again, it sounds much easier typing it than putting it into action. But I believe words that escape our mouths carry weight, we just don’t know it yet. There’s higher chance of me updating this blog after saying I want to be a writer than if I have kept silence. Words make you accountable.

So, yes. You’ve heard me say I’m going to blog more often. Trust it will happen.

X,
Mel.

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BOTW: The Power of Unstoppable Faith

BOTW stands for Book of The Week. I just coined that but wouldn’t be surprised if the internet has already have plenty of #BOTW posts.

I always have a book in my bag. Yep, am one of those girls. The Power of Unstoppable Faith by Nick Vujicic is a 55-page palm-sized book which only take 2 train rides to complete and it’s also one of the most powerful books I’ve read during my train rides. The content is succinct and direct. I feel so motivated reading it, but of course the point is not just to feel motivated but to be compelled to put my faith into action and fully experience the power of unstoppable faith.

“You can believe in you dreams, but you have to take action to make them happen. You can believe in your talents and have faith in your abilities, but if you don’t develop them and put them to use, what good are they?

You may not have a clue of what lies ahead, but it’s better to act on life than simply let life act on you.”

-Nick Vujicic.

Shall keep this book in my bag, and pick up a new book for next week.

X,
Mel

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2/365

I ended 2016 and began 2017 in the house of God. At first I had apprehension it’s gonna be quite draggy with hours of praying and listening to sermons, but it turns out to be exactly the contrary. I mean yes, we spent time praying and listening the message and direction for the church in this new year but God’s presence was so palpable and spirits were high. Every worship is a resounding declaration of how God has been so real to the 4,000 strong congregation that packed the room. I had no idea celebrating New Year in church could be so refreshing.

The pastor shared his vision for the church in 2017, titled “Decade of Expansion”. He encouraged us to break out of the limitations we have physically or mentally and expand the horizon for our vision. This is especially important since we’re facing what the economists are predicting to be a slow year ahead. We need to discern the fact from God’s truth. Bad economy is a fact but the truth is God is still our provider and in control.

As for my personal direction for the year, the word I have is Responsibility.
I know it doesn’t sound sexy. In fact it sounds like impending hard work. But as I prayed over the word and seek God’s direction, I know this is the year that I need to rise up to the opportunities and be responsible for my own growth be it spiritually, career wise, etc. Events in 2017 are pre ordinate, but how I respond to them will determine the outcome of 2017 for myself. With that in mind, I want to be deliberate in being responsible and doing things as an example for others instead of finding the easiest way like there’s no one following.

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While it’s easy to say how I want to do this and that because it’s still the holiday season, tomorrow my conviction will be put to test as the first work day of the year commences. I’m stepping into the new era of my life in faith for good days ahead (or at least God’s days) and not dwelling on former things.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

X,
Mel.

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