Saturday, December 31, 2011

Remembering 2011; Anticipating 2012

Each end of the year brings about retrospective moments. What was I doing on Dec 31st, 2010? What were my New Year resolutions, if any? What are the things I regretted doing or not doing? The thoughts are many. The answers are few. In the final blog post for 2011, let me attempt to do 3 things. Firstly, I will recall what are the memorable moments of 2011, and secondly, some teaching moments for me. Thirdly, I hope to point out some reasons for hope in the coming new year.

A) REMEMBERING 2011 + B) Teaching Moments

1 - Moving: This year, my family moved to the city of Coquitlam. Since coming to Canada, we have been renting. We have also been forced to move from one location to another due to various factors. For the past 7 years, each move we made was Eastward. We simply could not afford the high rentals. At the same time, why sink in rental money that bring no returns when we can pay installments instead and eventually own our house? Money has been very tight for us, as we continue to live on a year by year basis. Like many of my friends, one sudden shift in our job situations, and we will probably start to pack our bags once again.

Teaching Moment: Perhaps, this reminds me that life is really temporal. We are all on a journey whether we know it or not. Our constant moves remind me that we are on a journey. I remember Mark Nepo's words about journeying. “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.
To journey and be transformed is to be a pilgrim.”

2 - Ministry: Working with my senior pastor, I have been given more opportunities to preach, while holding down my regular responsibility as a part-time student. This year, I have also completed my first study series with a very good group of brothers in the Men's Fellowship in Church. Teaching programs have been held on average about once a month. The Church has by and large been very gracious to let me serve. It has been joyful. The moments of ministry can be very stretching. On the one hand, I celebrated the births of new babies with members of my congregation. On the other, I mourn the passing of dear brothers and sisters who have passed on. Some got married. Some others are struggling with their marriages. A few people had a renewal due to some major revelation of health problems. If there is one word to describe ministry this year, it is the word, 'enjoyable.' It has given me new impetus to write, to learn, and to preach the Word.

Teaching Moment: Serving is a privilege. Just because we have the training or the gifting does not mean we barge into any place demanding to serve. That would be tragic as it is pride in action. I learned again what it meant to serve from the edges. It is nice to be serving with a senior pastor who is kind and understanding. In fact, the Church I serve is really gracious about it, very concerned that they do not over-stretch me. I learned to serve joyfully. This reminds me of Richard Bondi's very good book, that encourages us to begin our service not from the center (ie, being a senior pastor, or a central lynchpin of a ministry) first, but from the edge (take the lower position first). The advantages are many, the primary being the opportunity to shift focus away from self to others, and more importantly, to God.

3 - Blogging: From one blog, I started another two new ones, namely, "Panorama of a Book Saint" (booksaint) and "Bookworm Pastor" (bookpastor). This is because of the sheer volume of new books to review as well as to avoid clogging up my blog frequency on Yapdates. This is one reason why Yapdates have not had that many postings this year compared to the last. On "Panorama," the focus is on new books that I have been generously given by various publishers and agents for review. On BookPastor, I make a weekly recommendation of a book a week to encourage my readers to read or buy for their own personal or spiritual nourishment. Of course, my daily meditations on "Theology@Work" continued on in 2011.

Teaching Moment: Blogging remains one of the most important tools in modern ministry that is increasingly technological and electronic. Churches do well to establish an online ministry as much as possible. This is going to be the main way in which people communicate. As I write, it is an opportunity for me to share of my reading and my learning. This is where my gifting is.

4 - SabbathWalk: The year 2011 marked 3 years of weekly ministry of an article a week. Each week, I attempt to draw in biblical reflections and write my thoughts about contemporary issues and culture. There are times I feel so dry and exhausted that nothing seems to flow. Other times, I have so many things to write about that I came up with more than 2 posts! Thankfully, I managed my regularity and have produced more than 150 articles to date. This week was the last for 2011, entitled "Overcome Evil with Good." My blog articles have been subscribed to and read by people all over the world, in North America, Asia, Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Every subscriber brings me an encouragement, even though I have not met many of them.

Teaching Moment: These weekly reflections is my personal training to learn to prepare a message once a week. It is also my way of practicing a readiness of heart to prepare to give anyone the hope in Christ I have, at anytime. This way, my teaching remains fresh. My learning remains sharp.

5 - Reviews: My reviews have gained in ranking on Amazon. As of today, my Top Review ranking has moved up to #9899, up from a few hundred thousandth position. This has been my best rank to date. Books are pouring in from different publishers like Baker, Barbour, Brazos, Discovery House, Moody, NavPress, Thomas-Nelson, Tyndale, Waterbrook, Westminster John Knox, Zondervan, and others. My reading has certainly improved. There are times in which I felt the writer mainly repeating what others have said. I suppose having read most of the literature within the genre, there is bound to be a sense of familiarity with it.  It comes with the territory.

Teaching Moment: I love to read. I want to learn. The more I read, the more I realize I do not know so much. I am thankful for the opportunity to read and to review. My hope is that my reviews will enable to bridge author to readers, ideas to hearts, and encourage authors to continue writing and readers to continue reading. Even as the publishing industry goes through mounting challenges, every support counts. I believe that good writing requires good reading. The publishing industry fills an important role in society in terms of educating and forming people of influence.

6 - Living in Vancouver

Every year, people ask me when I will be returning home. Honestly, I don't know. Since 2004, I have lived on a year by year basis. All I want is to learn to be faithful to what God has called me to. Learning to engage the culture of our age is one way in which we practice faithful witness. Vancouver has had their fair share of ups and downs. There is the highlight of the Stanley Cup run of 2010/11 where the home team (Vancouver Canucks) easily became the best team of the league and went all the way to the wire for the coveted cup of ice hockey, the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, they lost to Boston Bruins at the very last game. This high became an immediate low. The team lost the cup. The players their composure, and the city, their pride as rioters ransacked and looted several parts of downtown Vancouver. Then there is the Occupy Vancouver protest movement which has gotten many people to think about the rich-poor divide. There is the multiple strikes movements from bus drivers to school teachers; from postal workers to construction unions.

Teaching Moment: We cannot take our peace for granted. Rather have peaceful protests to let citizens voice their opinions, than to shut them up and store up anger. I learned about the practice of a free democracy in which power and control do not reside in any one place or person. Having said that, I learn the importance of praying for leaders. They have a tough job. A protest may be a time to vent our anger and dissatisfaction. However, that does not mean we have a free license to disobey or break laws. Canada after all, is much more blessed than many other countries in the world. Do not take our freedom for granted.

C) Hope for 2012

I do not foresee anything drastically different from what I am doing. As the year is about the begin, there is no point in writing too much or too detailed. What I will offer are snippets of hope. The rest will be filled in as the year progresses.

This year, I hope that I will be able to defend my thesis successfully and graduate. That will give my family a reason to cheer. By April 2012, hopefully you can call me 'Dr.'

In my ministry, it will be more challenging as I preach more in Church, about twice a month. My senior pastor has left and it makes ministry a little more demanding than before. May the joy of the Lord be my strength. May the Lord guide the leadership to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In my reading, I hope to do more reviews that are insightful and helpful for my readers. It remains a core part of my ministry.

In my writing, I want to continue to engage culture as well as to promote Bible learning not only in Church but in the blogsphere.

In social networking, I want to begin a discussion within the church about a social media strategy. If we can do it well, we can use an increasingly important piece of technology to form relationships and communications frameworks. Who knows, social media may very well be an excellent opportunity to bridge the generation gap.

In hockey, I look forward to the Vancouver Canucks going for another Stanley Cup Run. Only this time, I hope they will be more mature, and will go all the way to win.

Finally, my family. I want to pray for them more. I ask God to show them the way to determine their calling in life. I pray too that I will be a responsible father to guide them and to teach them in the way they should go. The year 2012 also marks my 20th Anniversary. It will be special time. Hopefully, God will spring a pleasant surprise for my wife and I.

Have a wonderful New Year 2012 ahead!


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