I have a keyboard, and can run Garageband and Mainstage on my macbook. But I hadn’t the midi cable to connect the two. One fine day, I decided to ask my friend to loan it to me, and one thing led to another. Totally off the cuff, I have now birthed two instrumental tracks, featuring mostly the piano and sometimes a flute here, (hopefully) a cello there. Collectively, these tracks will form an EP called “Come All The Weary.” The concept of the EP is to bring listeners music that would soothe and minister to weary ones.
All music is recorded and produced at home, just me. So some novice quality is expected, but still I’m quite glad at how it turned out! It’s been fun, but also I’ve lost some sleep over this. Now to recover on this Saturday that I have off work.
Here’s sharing the two newly minted tracks. Yep shameless plug on my very own blog! I even have these tracks on a YouTube channel, can you believe it! Might this be the beginnings of something new? Who knows…
Track 01: Be Thou My Vision
Just the piano with a gentle pad in the background. Some minor tweaks to the traditional chords for interest. This is my all time favourite hymn and also the worship song that has, for me, stood the test of time. It’s my go-to song in all life’s seasons.
Track 02: Saviour Like A Shepherd / Shepherd Of My Soul
Two oldies blended together. Also featuring a soothing flute solo. Rather often, I receive a member of the congregation’s curious question: Sam, how do you know all these old songs? Well, I grew up traveling around with my parents in the car wherever they went – to church, to school, to work, and back. They’d always play these old christian songs on the cd player. I soaked it all in, and they stay in my repertoire till today!
Next year’s outlook is a completely different picture from anything I’ve ever envisioned, yet this picture is closer to what I’ve always dreamed in my heart. I’m finally doing the thing I promised myself, and God, at 16 years old. Well, almost. I’m taking one step closer.
But this step, this one step forward, sometimes feels like many steps tumbling backward. This step out of my comfort zone, off the edge of everything I’ve ever been familiar with, feels like a step off a cliff and into free-fall.
All I’ve ever known was a stable income, and my friends and family around me all day, everyday. I’ve begun savouring foods I’m familiar with, and making mental notes to try this again before I won’t get to try it again in a long time. I’ve begun tearing up when my heart feels the finality of the last of things on various occasions – last departmental meetings, last gatherings, last worship set, last this and last that. Oh my sentimental heart.
Transitions are also scary when you’re here and not-yet-there, when what is to be hasn’t yet happened, and you’re now waiting. In between the old and the new; in-between.
I am Peter, who took a step out of the boat when Jesus said, “Come,”; whose feet stumble a little because anxiety has taken over my vision. But my heart remembers this verse from my long-time favourite hymn:
Heart of my own heart / whatever befall / still be my vision, O Ruler of all
It’s been a difficult week, and the turning of the page into this new week isn’t getting any easier. T-6 weeks brings dark clouds and doubts.
If I’m honest about my fears, here’s what it is: I fear that somewhere deep in my heart there’s rebellion, a running away from facing God on the hardest things. I fear the unknown, and that I’m not resilient enough. I fear I’m wasting time, money, resources, and relationships.
Yet I have a drive that comes from deep within: not a rebelling but a compelling, to run this next leg of the race, with courage to step out of the comfort zone of having the guarantee of time, money, resources, and relationships.
The more I tried to drop anchor in the seabed of resolution, the more God pulled my boat deeper into the sea of questions. I believe He is not confused, nor is He confusing me. But there’s a work that He’s doing in me, and it sure doesn’t feel like cushioning. More like chiseling.
I didn’t expect T-6 to be so difficult. Oh, for grace and wisdom from the Lord!
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.
One of my pet peeves is moving around in crowded places. I can’t stand crowds. It’s not about the number of people around, but it’s this one annoying thing about crowds that ruffles all my feathers: not being able to walk in a straight line. And each time I’m in a crowded place, I would almost certainly whine “Gosh I can’t even walk in a straight line!” to whosoever has the misfortune to be my walking companion at that point of time.
Today, I caught myself saying that many times. And not in a crowd, but in my heart, making my complaint to God. And not about people, but about future plans. Because I had lined up some of my plans wonderfully. I was all ready to make a dash, on my beautiful straight line. But God has very clearly stopped me from dashing out just in the nick of time, and I have a love-hate thing with that. I love that it’s always an adventure with Him. I hate that it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient sometimes. Yet I must tutor my heart to listen, and ultimately to obey.
The thing about walking in straight lines is that impatient people like me favour it for its efficiency and convenience. Waste no effort, waste no time. Yet walking in a straight line also means you won’t get to see the sights on the off-roads, and that’s rather a pity.
Yesterday I headed out with my friend ZX to get some groceries. When we arrived at the storefront, I picked up two baskets. One for her, one for me. She asked me why, and I proudly proceeded to give her a full analysis of the efficiency of our grocery shopping habits. She walks every aisle, and not in order, stopping every now and then to pick up something and stare at it, pondering if to buy it or not. I am rather focused, I head in for desired item, I don’t even compare prices, I place it in my basket, I pay and get out. Her movement on the floor plan of the supermarket looks like spaghetti – squiggly lines in all randomness. My movement? You guessed it – straight lines.
What I missed out in applying my strategy last night was the chance to “sightsee” around the supermarket with ZX. I imagine we might have geeked out at some of the items for sale, and learnt more about each other as we talked about our home setting. (Because food is always the magic access point to talk about the deeper stuff in our lives, isn’t it so?)
The experience of following God is oftentimes like walking in a crooked, long-drawn, bendy, winding so-not-straight line, but just like I learnt at the supermarket yesterday, and just like the Lord’s teaching me most recently in matters of a personal nature, it’s better to go sightseeing with Him than to head straight to and wait for Him at the final destination, yet miss His company altogether.
I’ve been keeping some plans in my heart, and at a few key meetings tomorrow, scattered throughout the day, it will be time to release them, and that would catalyze a whole series of events that would change my near future. I feel a little bit like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who “kept all these things in her heart” when she was carrying promise. I’ve been carrying some promises and dreams myself too, and though I can’t say yet what it is here since this is still a public blog, I must say that I am somewhat nervous, excited, and wide-eyed altogether. Nervous because I’m afraid of curve-balls and things that don’t go as planned, but excited because it’s all one big adventure. Oh, how much tension could one heart hold!
How prophetic, too, that tomorrow, I will also turn 31. 7th of November, 2017.
My birthday this year is a rather quiet affair, compared to last year’s fanfare due to the landmark big 3-0. Nonetheless! I like it quiet, and uncomplicated. Just to be able to spend the day with loved ones and go about the day like any other day, working as diligently as possible on the things I have before me, is privilege enough. Life, and breath for another day, and the thrill of hope at a new year bringing new possibilities, these are enough.
Regarding some fears that come in the tension mix of keeping and releasing hopes and dreams, God spoke to my heart today and said: “What are you so afraid of? The possibilities are endless, if only you take the step out.”
And take the step it shall be, when the morning comes.
For now, goodnight you, and thanks for staying tuned 🙂
The sound of rain permeated the stagnant and humid air, a constant drone interrupted occasionally by passing traffic outside. Sunlight from a stormy sky filtered into the small house of worship through glass doors, unaided by momentarily un-powered lights during the day-long blackout. In that unlikely place, hearts were opened, tears shed, and a small piece of the puzzle fell into place.
Going back two days, the six of us arrived at our pleasant-looking hotel in the otherwise humble town of Singkawang, West Kalimantan, where we made contact with our full-time missionary host. Even before we unpacked our bags, we jumped right into unpacking our program for the next few days: a worship workshop for the worship team of a young church supported by Grace Assembly. We had each spent many weeks planning for the program and were well pleased with the final iteration. Hopes were at an all-time high; everyone was excited to take on tomorrow.
Tomorrow did come, and that was when all our plans went right out the window.
9 participants were present for the workshop. At any given moment, almost all of those 9 faces registered confusion, frustration, or total blankness. With all our hearts we taught worship principles and music techniques, but it all went over their heads like clouds in the Borneo wind. There was an invisible wall between the Singapore and Singkawang teams. A wall of language, culture, knowledge or something else, we didn’t know.
That night, we plodded into debrief feeling exhausted and defeated. Our cups were empty as we sought after God for an answer. His reply: to painfully abandon our painstakingly crafted program and trust Him to lead us one session at a time.
The very next day, as we shared life stories, God delivered the breakthrough in the uncomfortably warm and dusky room right in the middle of a thunderstorm. The glass wall cracked ever so slightly as a small but significant connection was made. This pivotal opening made way for the impartation of biblical teamwork, important technical skills, and a deeper touch from God.
Faith strengthened, we cranked up our dependence on God for the rest of the week – for the children’s programs, the leading of worship and preaching of the word. Some of us had never preached a sermon before; had never sang or prayed in Bahasa Indonesia before; had never worked with kids with such fractured childhoods before. Yet, each of us can testify of God’s providence in our weaknesses.
There was a desire for a deeper understanding of life in Singkawang, and the home visitation ministry became our platform for exploration. When we walked through the doorways into each house, we entered portals that offered glimpses into the lives of the people. Through our interactions with locals like the elderly residents and a widow with four children, we discovered that we were able to relate to each other’s experiences even though they were gathered from quite contrasting societies.
The tempo escalated quickly at our final destination. It was an eerie little house, its walls seemingly draining light and life out of the room. Wary eyes watched as we interceded for the family’s patriarch. The man was wheelchair-bound after a stroke, but God miraculously restored movement in his arms right before our eyes. At that point, a small crowd had materialized outside the house, encircling a teenage victim of demonic oppression. Anticipating a heavenly crescendo, we geared up to pray for complete healing for the man and deliverance for the girl. Then, unexpectedly, the leaders told us to wrap up with haste and exfiltrate. Alas, the song had ended before its crescendo.
We were left with a mixed bag of emotions. That morning, we had dipped our toes into the murky local pond that harbored dark undercurrents of cultural/traditional strongholds and churning with demonic influence. And just when we were about to dive in to do spiritual battle, we were abruptly pulled out.
However frustrating it was, we realized that our short-term actions had far-reaching repercussions for those doing the long-term work over there, especially for C and his wonderful family. The precious moments spent with the Khoos had opened our eyes to the intricacies of the ministry. We would never want to jeopardize their safety nor their good work, so it is only right to humble ourselves and submit to godly authority.
There was a game we played that captures our key take-away. An Artist revealed a drawing one line at a time. Participants took turns being blindfolded and then guided to replicate the developing picture. No one but the Artist knew the final picture. All we could do was to follow line by line. Likewise, on the canvas of time, no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived what God has already painted. Short-term mission trips like ours are but single lines in a very complex work-in-progress.
From this side on the South China Sea, we too can do our part in His picture by raining down volley after volley of potent prayers to lay siege upon the enemy. Let us intercede for the people of Singkawang and the laborers of the harvest field. Let us bind the works of the enemy in Jesus’ name. Let us proclaim the revelation of Christ in their land!
The Great Artist’s piece is far more beautiful than the best of our human imagination. Often times, we try to run ahead of Him to actualize that which we think should be the final picture. But when we surrender our ideals and trust Him one line at a time, no matter how small the act of faith, another piece of the puzzle falls in place. And we will be one step closer to the glorious reveal on that final day.
I’m back home in Singapore, where morning salutations are chirped, “Good morning!” instead of “Selamat Pagi!” Where I wake to the sound of my radio clock alarm, instead of little J’s babbling and darling K’s chatting. How I miss the children so, and how I miss my friends C and S. Living in their home for a few days on the last leg of my trip to West K has grown our friendship by leaps and bounds, and has been such a soothing balm for my soul. God certainly has used my time with this beautiful family to allow me to dream again. In the unhurried moments of everyday life in Indonesia where the pace is mercifully slower than my hectic Singapore work life, my heart feels like it can sing better, breathe better, love better, see brighter, dream bigger.
I carried home a few new wild ideas, like maybe one day I’ll run a multi-functional cafe as I move to another country. Maybe one day I’ll teach music and English from that cafe. And maybe one day (sooner than later) I’ll also have my own family to grow and cherish. Also, maybe one day I’ll write and publish a book, as my friend P has prophetically spoken (and she’s not the first to prophetically speak about me and book writing)!
I’m happy to let these dreams stir and stew for a while to see which ones God would activate first. I’m a firm believer that the dreams we carry in our hearts are not meant to be dismissed, because every good dream is a God thing. That being said, it’s also good wisdom not to jump on every dream that springs up because we need to yield to God’s leading and timing. Let me be the first to say: I’m good with God’s leading, not so good with God’s timing, ha!
Presently, I look outside my gate, and notice the skies threatening to rain. Same unpredictable, equatorial weather, different country. I love how God uses little things like these to weave my heart, your heart, into the plans He’s establishing all across the world. May His kingdom come and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The Global Leadership Summit has been such a mind-blower, eye-opener of a conference. I don’t usually enjoy many conferences but this one tops it all. We heard so many talks on leadership, vision, creativity, organisational culture, courage, making an impact in the world and the like. At the end of it, I felt affirmed of the good things I was doing as a leader. I felt I was given permission to carry with the visions, dreams and purposes that I carry in my heart daily. I felt encouraged to continue the good work, and likewise to spur and challenge others to do the same. I also took a reality check at the things I need to change. Best of all, I felt empowered to be creative.
Tonight, as I’m up working late to push deadlines and get things going before downtime hits when I travel for a mission trip next week, all the gathered inspiration from the conference hits the first wall: the reality of what it takes to see any creative idea through from start to finish.
It’s awesome to have a creative idea. But every idea needs to be translated into workflow, people management, timelines and deliverables if it ever comes into fruition. Christmas Extravaganza 2017 was a creative idea I had in its initial stages, but now nearing midway through, my (newly minted) team and I have hit some real hard obstacles:
Where is the manpower coming from? We’re going to need more budget. This decision is not going to be popular. We’ve got to hustle or we’re not going to make the deadline. This is going to call more sacrifice out of us than is comfortable, but it is necessary.
Creativity takes a whole lot of inspiration.
But it also takes courage. Courage to stand by your ideas regardless of the comments that leaves you a little shaken. Courage to find a non-negotiable bottomline, and stick to it, no matter the changing circumstances. Courage to call others to arms and charge forward, no matter the cost. Courage to sacrifice comfort, coffee quotas, play time and a whole lot of sleep.
Creativity takes grit. Grit for when you’re coffee-imbibed at 1.21am and you’d much rather be sleeping, and this has gone on for consecutive days. Grit for when you need to deliver because others are waiting on you, and counting on you. Grit to tell yourself that you can do this all over again tomorrow, and when tomorrow is done, to tell yourself the same thing again. Grit to keep on believing in the dream as when you first began, to hold unwaveringly to the reason why you even began walking down this path. Grit to push through the obstacles that come your way, again and again.
Creativity also takes hustle, and heart. Magical fairies will not make things happen. And if you’re not doing this to make a difference in the world, even though slight, why do anything at all?
Courage. Grit. Hustle and heart. May the good Lord grow these qualities in you and me as we undertake to do any good thing in this world, and I believe He will see us through whatever He brings us to. Because being creative is sometimes hard, but God is always good.
P/s Passing on good stuff gleaned from the GLS: for more on courage, check out Gary A. Haugen’s work; for more on grit, check out Angela Duckworth; for more on how to hustle well, check out Juliet Funt; for more on heart, check out Sheryl Sandberg and Immaculee Ilibigaza.
“Sorry this is late, I’ve only just managed to make time to see to this.”
“Sorry I don’t have the answer yet, I’ve been handling other matters recently.”
These are the most often repeated phrases in my conversations all week, for two, maybe three weeks now. Multiple projects. Anticipating down time because of mission trips. Assignments for school are backlogged. Letting people wait, letting people down. Letting things slip, forgetting some detail here and there. Schedule’s sardine-packed, and actually nothing’s new about that. If you know me personally, you know this isn’t new.
Except this time, something’s different. I have a constant joy.
Though… if you pass me at my desk, you might not have dared to strike up a chat because I know I look very focused and serious. I know my brows are furrowed. I’m staring at my computer like it’s a bug I’m about to squash. I’m plugged in with my earbuds so that I can drown out the distracting voices (and also it’s a helpful signal to others that I’m not available for conversation now). So it’s not a surprise that people have mistakenly (and quite annoyingly too -_-) commented on my being focused as being stressedout, when really I’m just in the flow of work.
Because when I’m in the flow, I’m seriously joyful, and joyfully serious.
Friends who ask me how I’m doing despite the mad packed overdrive; those who cared enough to lean in and say, “hey tell me how you’re really feeling, not just about the stuff going on that you’re dealing with,” would receive this reply from me, something to the effect of: “I’ve never before worked so continuously and intensely as I am now within the span of these weeks, yet every piece of debris the storm of this busyness flings keeps hitting something rock solid within me. In the frenzy, I’m not shaken. In the exertion, I am not crushed. In the exhaustion, I am not broken. Despite curve-balls and challenges, I am not giving up, and I am not without hope.”
Three months ago I would not have said that. I would have been a crying mess, curled up on the floor, my mind unable to silence sounds of fear, and shame, and despair. Unable to sleep, nervous and high strung. But I’ve come some way. The Lord has strengthened me so, and girded me in His word. He has taught me new and improved ways to guard my heart and put boundaries around the areas that I need to keep negative influences out.
Because He’s shown me that happiness is an emotion, but joy is a condition.
And I have joy enough to joke with the Lord that I’m going to claim a decade-long string of pajama parties all day errday, complete with the fluffiest pillows and comfiest bed. Somebody say it with me: sleep is also worship, amen and hallelujah.
When I got baptized 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to add a customary middle name in my baptism certificate. I sensed then that the Lord wanted me to add the word “joy,” so that my name became Samantha Joy Lim. But I had battled melancholy for so long and thought of myself as more often a sad or angry person rather than a joyful person, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. You have to live what your name says, after all, right? And I knew I couldn’t live up to it. Yet recently, God brought this idea that He put in my heart seven years ago to the forefront of my memory again. He challenged me to change my name wherever I publish it online. At first I hesitated, but then I finally took a leap of faith, and made the name change.
Because there is significance in a name, and He wants to mark me with His brand of joy.
And His joy shall be my strength, just as I have testified in today’s post. Work is sometimes hard, but God is always good.