The Judgemental Stigma Among Christian Believers

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There is no shame when you cry yourself to sleep. Crying is a God-given expressive emotion, which is a result of something joyous, or deep anguish that one cannot contain within. Although crying yourself to sleep is often a result of the latter.

I personally believe we live in a generation where there is a lot of judgemental stigma among Christian believers, where people feel shameful to literally cry out for help, and in return they are judged and condemned, often from fundamentalist beliefs that falsely accuse the oppressed that Christians shouldn’t get depressed, or Christians shouldn’t worry. Even the Bible equips us with profound passages of Scripture to encourage us, when we do worry or grow anxious in testing times in our daily lives.

And it doesn’t help the individual, when critics choose to poke fun of your out-of-work season as an anecdote to gossip with others. I wouldn’t curse anyone to be unemployed in today’s day and age, especially when typical jobs on the market are for short-term employment.

It doesn’t help to live in a very secularised society, when your recent educational academics revolve around “religious” studies, and your last employment dates back a year, only to be shafted out the job due to internal politics on the issue of being bullied by senior management. And it doesn’t help anybody, when your skillset is a bit old-school, even though there is significant and proven experience to actually get the job done. I am also troubled of certain organisations who groom internal candidates – even before a job advert is placed, which defeats the purpose of advertising in the public realm. It also goes against the ethical values of equal opportunities and moral standards, especially of select organisations.

Indeed, there is a natural call for concern for not being able to secure paid work (I speak from experience), and the only thing you are clinging onto is the biblical promise that God will provide (whilst applying like mad for realistic jobs behind the scenes), but you never… NEVER use someone else’s struggle as a cheap illustration to poke fun, simply because they choose to BELIEVE that God will provide in His timing. Some people choose to believe in life on Mars. But not me, I instead choose to believe in the divine power of the LORD God that He will provide for me in His perfect timing. I either have enough faith in the size of a mustard seed, or I’m a foolish Christian.

It’s such critics that can result in the tragedy of a human being to swing towards another direction in life – away from God, or worse, when they choose to pull the plug – only when they genuinely feel there is no hope. Not me, hence my stubborn faith in God remains strong, as I lean on God’s steadfast love. At the time of writing, I may not pride myself with worldly statuses and materials like the norm, but I choose to invest my future in Christ, for Jesus tells us to lay our treasures in Heaven in Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV).

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Like I said, there is no shame when you cry yourself to sleep (physically or metaphorically speaking). For me, it’s the spiritual confusion that recently triggered a personal string with me from a bemusing incident, which I’m afraid I cannot express or write here, perhaps in coded l33t speak, but not in plain English.

All I can say is that I feel for God, and the sadness of His inwardly divided body of Christ. Above all, it’s sad when people only look after themselves, much like the big cheese of corporate businesses, where the top dog receives the world’s praise – even though it’s the minions who slave the labour and love (and fear for their jobs) at the bottom of the corporate food chain.

When you see people who display a particular body language, or when you recognise something is not right in their persona or wellbeing, in the sense that they do not appear to be their normal self, please do not be afraid to ask “How are you?”

For the one who actually recognised something. I wholeheartedly applaud you, and it brought a smile to my cheeks! In fact, I wished I could know you better in return, but I guess that is one of the predicaments of the world that we live in. *sigh*

Indeed, asking someone’s wellbeing may open up a can of worms of overflowing emotions that may demand the cleaning of one’s ears to actually listen to someone in need, but for the love for the LORD, please do not judge others for being themselves… and may I also encourage you not to swing your feet to another direction. I also talk to my inner self, when I speak (type) these words.

Too many people these days are finding a lack of hope, even within the doors of a local church (due to self-serving attitudes and hardened hearts), even though they may/do have a real and living relationship with the LORD – and so, they will contemplate in that doubt of Christian rejection, and instead listen to the father of lies and do something stupid – or worse, because nobody who represents the body of Christ is taking any diddly-squat attention for folk who typically don’t scream for attention in your usual extroverted fashion.

If there is one thing that I learned from seminary school (well, technically it was actually my honours dissertation) that I wish the Church would actually engage with around the world, and that’s Christian counselling. Or in my conclusive understanding – it’s biblical Christian counselling, where only God’s Living Word can transform the human flesh and hardened heart to praise our Heavenly Father.

~Richard

Pray for Scotland

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Most people living in the UK are aware of the passionate political debate regarding the vote on Scotland’s referendum vote on Scotland’s Independence. To my friends and readers across the pond, the referendum reminds me of the Land of the Free, where American fought with the British Empire to be independent from the State. I (can) understand the passion of the American people, and the pride that was fought for such freedom. My sincere sadness for America today is that their established freedom is being squeezed through the constitutional papers, especially the religious liberty that America once held dear.

Today’s careful reflection is a mixture of defining freedom in general terms and sharing thoughts on Scotland’s Independence.

Disclaimer: Please… please keep in mind, I am not an “expert” in any discipline, but purely sharing my own thoughts and my own opinions. I will however strive to reference on reliable sources (that are actually deemed “reliable”), should I see significance to a particular argument and/or statement.

Freedom in History

Humanity has already experienced freedom back in the day. If you believe and accept the Bible as God’s incarnate Word, then God’s creation of Adam and Eve will ring true to all believers. When God created man and woman in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), the Lord God gave instruction to Adam, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭2‬:‭16-17,‬ ESV). Make a mental note that the LORD God commanded the *man*.

We all know how the story flows thereafter…

- The serpent deceives the woman (Gen 3:1-5).
– Woman eats the fruit first (Gen 3:6).
– Man eats the fruit second (Gen 3:6).
– Both became naked (Gen 3:7).
– Man blames woman (Gen 3:12).
– Woman blames the serpent (Gen 3:13).
– Both receive judgement, after God curses the serpent (Gen 3:16, 17-19).
– Both suffer the consequence of eternal death through sin (Gen 2:17).
– Both are banished from the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:23-24).

And it’s fascinating when you look beyond the obvious timeline of events that the LORD God had sought to send His Son (Christ Jesus) into the world, who would later be a serpent crusher in Genesis 3:15 and conquer Satan, and give hope to mankind through the eternal life that He brings.

Defining Freedom

So what is freedom? Is humanity capable of such responsibility? We could turn to world events (past and present) and reflect on the sheer atrocities of given Acts of Freedom.

The LORD God has given us the freewill to live, but there is indeed a consequence in how we choose to live our lives. Already we have looked at a given example from the Bible.

It can be argued that freedom is closely associated with human pride and the association of power, authority and self-righteousness, and I know for one that God is not a fan of the proud James 4:6 (this particular passage is based on the warning against worldliness, read James 4:1-12 for full context).

Whilst the developing countries are trying to stabilise themselves in a given economy, despite the corruption of fallen governments and leadership… developed countries are becoming more liberal in the sense of legalising everything associated with humanity, simply to appease everyone. There’s even talks about anti-tattoo discrimination laws. What next? A discrimination law to protect people from obsessive freckles on their face and skin. This is the sad and challenging reality of everyday live in the 21st century.

The problem with this is that Christians do not belong in this world. John 15:18-25 (read the passages of Scripture in context… and then read the concluding verses in John 15:26-27 of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit for every Christian), where sin is essentially spreading like an epidemic. Because we do not belong in this world, the Scriptures even instructs us to store our riches in heaven and not on earth, as noted in Matthew 6:19-21.

After all, if you believe in God’s incarnate Word and you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you will be saved. More importantly, we will pass through from this world and live in eternity with Christ the Risen LORD.

Freedom from what?

Ultimately, Scotland wants to be free from the English who govern Westminster’s House of Parliament down in London, even though Scotland were granted moderate devolution powers and a Scottish Parliament back in 1997, when we as a nation voted for Labour to win the UK general elections by a landslide. That is the end reason of all reasons.

Curiously, Scotland still wants to adopt the pound for its currency, and acknowledge Her Majesty The Queen as the Head of State in Scotland, amongst other forms of national heritage and governing bodies. If Scotland truly wants to be free and independent from the State, it should reinvent itself, and not make a half-hearted effort to disassociate itself from the United Kingdom, only to keep British benefits through governing bodies and apply for membership to join the European Union (EU).

Scotland historically doesn’t get along with the English, and historically English politicians have used Scotland (mostly that of the conservative party… must we be reminded of the days of Margaret Thatcher). And because David Cameron is mostly leading a coalition government with “I agree with Nick” Clegg, most Scottish people cringe at Cameron’s “upper-class” association with the Conservative party, and the haunting reminder of Madge.

Remember Mel Gibson’s Braveheart movie? You know, the most inaccurate movie based on Scotland and the pride (and reason) for Scottish independence. I should know, as I studied William Wallace during my tender years at high school in history class.

The problem with the movie Braveheart is that the leading actor Mel Gibson is from Australia… the same bloke who used his personal money to fund, direct and star in the controversial, yet critically-acclaimed film, The Passion of the Christ. Secondly, Braveheart is based on emotional psychology engineered by Hollywood.

Besides, I prefer Aragorn’s manly battle speech at the Black Gate from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Even Théoden’s battle cry and the ride of the Rohirrim is worth a mention too! Again, these are emotionally-charged scenes that are designed to capture people’s emotion. It is centred on a climatic battle between two armies. As a result, we shouldn’t use a Hollywood-inspired Oscar-winning movie to base our discernment on an important vote for the future of the United Kingdom, where Scotland are given the exclusive right to sway towards independence or remain united as a nation.

I am not going to go down the political fine points of the Pros and Cons, because both present an agenda of propaganda, and I don’t want to feed the trolls. One thing I do want to note is that both campaigns use bullying tactics. Since when do politicians actually tell the truth, otherwise they should study for pastoral ministry and indeed proclaim God’s truth instead! One nationalistic campaign base the future on past statistics with overly wishful thinking of the future, whilst the opposing campaign elevates a sense of fear in the sheer cost of leaving and being separate from the State.

Scottishness and Britishness

I was born and bred in Scotland. I have studied at two of the lower-end academic institutions in Scotland, due to my chosen undergraduate degree programmes at the time. If I had chosen to study a classical subject to major in like English Literature or Medicine, then there are obviously “better” universities to study at and secure a better future, which is another reflection for later. Anyhow, what does the term “better” mean these days? When you first pursue a career like a computer games designer, then a modern university is likely to offer what you need. And who would have thought of studying for pastoral ministry. Do you understand? Scotland is like any other country in that we have good and naff universities, but it depends on your chosen academic major.

I used to identify myself as Scottish – up until I came back from South Korea after teaching English for 6 months. I later changed my national identity to British. You could say that I’m a Scotsman who reaps the benefits with the rest of the United Kingdom. You know… things like the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the National Health Service (NHS), the national identity on the world stage at the Olympic Games, and of course our strong international links, and political allies with the United States who will always have a special place in my heart for many reasons. Of course, you have the usual national government benefits like pension, working credit, tax credit, etc. and all things related to the Inland Revenue (the British equivalent to the IRS in America).

When I travel up north, I love the scenic mountains and in ways its fun to count the scattered sheep that dot around the landscape. It’s one of the most majestic views that I have ever witnessed (and can afford to see at the time of writing), and we as a family make an annual visit to drive around Scotland. The Scottish mountains are a popular hot-spot for pastors and ministers to go hiking. Though, I want to believe they enjoy hiking, purely because the mobile phone (cellular) signal is so weak that nobody from their congregation can get in touch.

When I travel abroad, I miss the connotations of all things Scottish, but when I land back – I feel like I want to travel elsewhere. I think it depends on the weather, which can be like four seasons. I’m sure Scotland was a major influence for Vivaldi.

Scottish Outclass

There are things that I cringe about being Scottish, as with most people who are associated with a country that do stupid things on the world stage, or are embarrassed of the association of such global ranks.

For someone who has travelled to three continents in this very small world of ours, I find it easier to secure a job overseas than I do in Scotland. I know some young people would rather emigrate overseas for a better future, at least for emerging industries where there is a higher ratio of young people likely to secure work. I know of an old friend from Dundee who would emigrate to Canada, if Scotland were to secure independence. At the time, I didn’t share the sentiment. And yet, fast forward 9 years and I can relate with the plausible mindset to move on.

Scottish Potential

Scotland may have been renowned for its inventions that have shaped and changed the world that we live today, including John Logie Baird who invented the television… and yet, it’s America that dominates the TV and turns the world into couch potatoes with Hollywood movies and a never-ending slew of TV programmes (mostly imported from the States). It’s also the States who gives us the ability to glue ourselves to monitors and game consoles playing games all-day, whilst the non-gamer are instead consumed by the endless entertainment streamed via Netflix and iTunes (or the BBC iPlayer).

You also have Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone and pioneered AT&T (again in the States)… and yet, other countries are dominating the mobile phone market with the likes of major technology firms like Samsung and Apple. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple’s company value is the equivalent to Scotland’s potential value as a whole.

These days, Scotland seems to pioneer itself with renewable energy by building vast amounts of wind turbines. There are over 5 wind turbines across from where I live. Essentially, Scotland is capable of farting its way with renewable energy, especially with the countless cows that also dot the Scottish landscape.

As for whiskey… well other countries make whiskey. There is no patent on whiskey, just like there is no patent on water. It really depends what type of whiskey a consumer wants to buy that makes it his thing. Scotland may be the biggest exports that helps to contribute the UK economy, but I am sure it’s because the UK government helps to market overseas through international business and trade. And don’t forget, we are also pioneers of one of the most controversial video game series, Grand Theft Auto.

Scotland does however control and maintain NHS Scotland, and they govern the Scottish education system via Education Scotland. Outside the age-old academic institutions including St Andrews University and Glasgow University, the education system is of a poor standard compared with the international education ranking. I speak as a student who had his tuition fees paid for when I studied for my first undergraduate degree course, though I had to cough up and pay for my second undergraduate degree course. I also had first-hand experience as an ESL Teacher, and I am in awe of the high standard of education overseas, especially countries in East Asia including Hong Kong and South Korea.

How much further power do Scottish politicians need, so they can better serve themselves with corrupted salaries and back-scratching favours, before they serve their country and the people who choose to vote them in parliament? That I do know, as I previously worked for a private company, yet we were still part of a major regional council in West Central Scotland.

Concluding Thought

At the end of the day, I don’t take pride in any national identity, other than my identity in Christ, and Him alone.

As I shared from the very beginning… Pray for Scotland.

~Richard

Hallelujah

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Last month in early July, I received a graduation present from my parents. A smartphone. My parents wanted to celebrate the completion of my 2-year part-time studies at Cornhill Scotland, hoping (and praying) it would signal an end to my formal academic studies. Mind you… a Masters of Divinity from the States does look appealing!

Previously, I used a trekkie-style flip-phone, more specifically a Sony Ericsson W300i since 2005/2006. I now own a Motorola G (4G Edition). Being a bit of a geek, I won’t divulge in writing the technical details. Feel free to Google both models for the tech spec for your reading pleasure… You may find yourself laughing and crying!

Today’s blog title is not a shout of praise for owning a new phone. I am of course, thankful and grateful for the love of my parents who wanted to express their love and buy a new toy for me. I even had to tell my parents that they didn’t need to bother, as I was very happy owning a dinky brickphone that I could slip inside a pocket. It is so old, nobody would even dare or care to pick pocket (even when I was in Hong Kong earlier this year). For most people, it is the most repulsive thing known to man, but at least the phone can churn out 2-weeks worth of battery life in a single charge, unlike modern day smartphones. That of course, I will gloat about!

The blog title is merely a reflection of a song that I have chosen to play to wake me up each and every morning… only if there’s enough juice to kickstart the app to wake me up in the first place!

It is of course, “Hallelujah“ (Messiah) from George Frideric Handel (a.k.a. Handel).

It seems such an odd choice to play classical music as a wake up song. Yes, and no.

Previously, I configured my Sony brickphone to play “I am the Doctor” by Murray Gold, who composed a rather exciting orchestral soundtrack from BBC’s Doctor Who (Series 5). I generally prefer classical music, as I love the journey that orchestral music can take the listener. And since there are no lyrics embedded in classical music, I don’t need to think.

As a side-stepping change from Doctor Who music, I wanted to wake up and be reminded of the word “Hallelujah” – a simple spoken word that folk often struggle to spell – and at times pronounce.

In recent years, I am thankful to wake up with good health and see another morning. It may seem like a radical way of appreciating life, but I feel driven and determined to give thanks to the LORD for the days that I live and have, that I may use this time to serve and build for His Kingdom Come and give Him the glory in everyday possible.

And no, I don’t take or need any happy pill. I simply want to discipline myself from the distractions of the world, and strive to honour God with the relatively limited time that we have in this rather short live. I simply want to honour God as a form of personal worship by expressing my “Hallelujah” to God each and every day.

At the time of writing at the start of another month in August, I am still out of work. Doors have closed like crazy throughout the year so far, but my Spirit is at peace and I can freely say that I have joy in Christ. Remember that happiness is different to joy. Happiness is a result often associated with the human elements of everyday life, or the material things that we choose to worship (think about it). Joy however, can only be found through Christ Jesus. After all, Jesus declared to Thomas in the Good News of the Gospels that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)

Life may not be going the way you “expect” it to unfold, but it’s the hope in Christ that can find true joy, knowing that He gives eternal life to those who believe and accept Him as LORD.

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, ESV)

When was the last time that you expressed or meditated on the word “Hallelujah”?

~Richard

 

Fear Factor

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We all have fears in our lives, whether we admit that we have fears or not. It may be a fear of spiders. Those pesky things who will stand boldly like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as it murmurs, “You shall not pass!” For others, you may simply have a fear of loneliness and / or rejection. For me, well…

For someone who has been technically out of work for over 9 months (legally only 2 weeks), I remain a relatively sane person. I know how to control my emotions, which in recent months has even surprised myself, especially when I should have got involved in some heated arguments, but I chose to let God deal with those situations. I have shared concerns of my stagnated future with trustworthy Christian friends, and curiously the tables have turned where they have listened. It’s usually me who listens to others. My parents are cautious in ways. I guess it’s the fear that I could suddenly lose the plot, if I take my eyes and focus away from the LORD, but they know I am stubbornly strong in my personal faith in the LORD.

Upon applying to secular work (I have reached double figures), I presently have an old-hat skillset. Allow me to break this down…

QWERTY Career

I read the latest in trends across 4 areas in the world of all things computery including: graphic design, web development, photography and underlying technologies of tomorrow’s world. I still even read about the latest in the games industry, and it’s a relief in ways to learn that I haven’t missed anything since my first undergraduate degree course from my student days at Dundee.

Despite keeping in touch with all things digital on a daily basis, I do not see it as my true passion in my heart. I am even experimenting and forcing a mindset to see through it as a fake passion, perhaps in the way of securing a job in the meantime, but also to seek a godly confirmation if a short-term job is what I should be pursuing. However, the lack of passion is showing through when I write cover letters to express an interest in secular work across the creative design industry. It can be quite uninspiring to sit (or stand) at a computer desk and glue your eyeballs to a monitor all day.

A B C… It’s easy as 1 2 3

The same goes for teaching English overseas. I still have to be reminded daily that the opportunity to teach English in South Korea was God’s perfect timing and deliverance. Everything worked out perfectly! Why I keep applying for ESL opportunities in Hong Kong, when I know the working culture and employment conditions are harsh – I have no idea! Perhaps an act of human desperation for employment, or my ignorance of God perhaps – or both!

As of late, I have now stopped looking to Hong Kong for work. One of my impulses was a fear of Scotland going independent, which is something I personally don’t agree with. And yet, I don’t trust any political party. I will still uphold my duty to vote. I am just one to believe in God’s blessing for us as a united kingdom (play of words not intended).

Nonetheless, teaching English to kids of ridiculously wealthy parents is not exactly my true passion in my heart. As much as I enjoy the role of teaching and inspiring the younger generation in a nurturing environment to see them excel in their academic studies, my calling is not teaching English overseas. Teaching – yes! Teaching English – no!

Underlying Passion

So far, I have expressed two core areas of potential work, where I find such blandness in my heart. Ultimately, they are not my true passions in my heart. Coincidently, I neither have the utmost academic credentials or an overflowing digital portfolio to secure such lucrative contracts. It is a bit of a predicament, and yet, I have utmost peace in the LORD despite my given situation that is beyond my control.

The only realistic thing that is going on in my life is this never-ending pursuit and ever-growing desire to serve the LORD in a vocational role. It’s not exactly a tag line people would rush out to write as your profile statement on your CV, but it is a underlying true passion in my heart.

Why? Life is ridiculously short, and I feel brokenhearted for the lost and the poor in Spirit of this world, and the crazy thing is that I am willing to let go of my selfish fleshy desires / ambitions and exchange them to serving the lost and the poor in Spirit – and lead them to Christ, and point them to God’s absolute promises of Scripture, and help those who are already walking as God’s elect to journey with them in genuine Christian fellowship.

The spark ignited back in 2005 when I re-assured my faith in the LORD, and I am slowly seeing the flame consume a bush. Me being me, and I need to seek out godly confirmation(s) as to recognise that it is indeed of the LORD, and not my own imagination! I don’t think its wise to force yourself and make believe that God is leading you to a misleading path.

I won’t divulge too much on the Ooohs and Aaahhs of this particular vocation. And no doubt, one of the reasons that I am not in pastoral ministry (as yet) is my inability to butter up people and endorse myself to a set denomination or localised institution. Hence, I come across as unexcited in the outward department. I never use emotion or dramatise myself to achieve something, when seeking out God’s call for me. I just be myself, and I strive for humility.

In response to my last reflection, I strive to work on areas of godly character, as opposed to being someone else. It’s the fear of God that makes this journey a bit slow (at least for me) to see through if this is where the LORD truly wants me to serve.

For me, well… I fear the LORD that He is indeed calling me to pastoral ministry, that I am not sure if He wants me to butter up to select people, simply to shepherd a flock… or that this time of waiting and hardship is to shape me to be a Christ-centred Bible-believing leader that God is calling me to be and serve – in whatever capacity that may be!

~Richard

Life on Hold – Please Wait

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It’s a strange feeling to hit a writers block for nearly 3 months beyond my reflections of Hong Kong. In recent times, my heart and mind have been hitting a brick wall.

It would be hard to fully articulate what I really want to express without causing controversy, so I shall resort to l33t speak for those who know enough of me via the blogosphere or in-person, whilst maintaining a level of integrity and sanity.

Companionship

I am beginning to wonder if single Christians are fuss-pots (myself included). Speaking within a British context… beyond the stereotypical scenarios of boy meets girl at a social gathering often involving alcohol, or clubbing at really dodgy ghettos, also involving alcohol… why must the single Christian find themselves plucking daisies from the fading grass of superficial pastures – that is the ever-changing opinions of today’s culture and society?

Why does the “good gal” or the “good guy” always have to endure singleness like an ice pole? Can one identify such in a gathered body of Christ? Does the local church even care about single Christians? I know the LORD cares, for He is the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23), and He is likely to use that pure form in one’s sexual purity and burning passion to serve and build for God’s Kingdom in fanciful ways, but surely one can still grow in friendships with those of the opposite sex to at least develop healthy relationships. Perhaps single Christians are indeed fuss-pots (myself included)!

Roundabouts

At different stages in one’s life, we come towards a complex intersection, where one has to decide what direction to journey in life. An intersection may be in the form of a T or Y junction or a set of crossroads. For others, they are presented with a roundabout of unknown lanes and exits. These roundabouts can cause a fluster, as you question whether you’re travelling on the right lane, and you find yourself voicing prayers and asking God earnestly when to get off the roundabout, without having to go round the roundabout again.

There is something nice to feel privileged in certain areas in life (i.e. family support, circle of people who actively pray for you), but there is a sheer sense of madness in not knowing what lane to be travelling on at a given roundabout. You have ideas. You even crave the impossible with good intentions. You even dream the IMPOSSIBLE! You contemplate your motives. You get blocked off, when you think the timing is right. And once again, you find yourself on the same unknown lane, where you’re still nowhere near a desired exit. It’s especially nail-biting when there is a lack of fuel in your car – and any minute the engine can cut off, and you could potentially find yourself in an ill-fated collision.

Attention

I think its fair to say that those who are charismatic in display and character are often admired by the world, and yet they shroud themselves behind many hats and masks (think of the Chinese Opera if you will). Often, they live alternative lifestyles, yet people find them so attractive. They are people pleasers of today. They accumulate Facebook ‘friends’ in the masses. These days, you need to promote yourself with self-recognition and praise, otherwise you won’t get very far in life. It’s sad, but true. And those who avoid the limelight and work behind the scenes of the world’s judgement are mostly forgotten of their existence.

I was inspired lately by someone’s tweet on Twitter who declared that, “We need to raise up & deploy 1,000,000 ordinary, Bible-teaching, people-loving pastors, not 20 sensational conference speakers.” Another swing to the 2-sided argument is that many of God’s “divinely appointed” don’t bother to disciple and train such people. And yet, it’s the local church who is responsible to train its congregation, not a seminary school who has to survive as a business model (more students = more revenue). It makes folk question the biblical context of the Great Commission and the pivotal focus of God’s Living Word, beyond creating communities we have today.

Returning back to the limelight illustration and how it leads to superficial acceptance. Admittedly, I have nearly fallen into the temptation to become someone else, other than myself. After all, it is one such ingredient to finding earthly success, but that’s the point. Earthly success only belongs to the world. When one passes away, they can’t exactly take with them their countless academic certificates, lifetime achievements or world-renown recognition and accolades with them. Because of this truth, it brings a smile (and cheeky grin) to my face, because only the LORD God truly knows the heart of man (1 Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10). We need to recognise to be ourselves, the unique way that God created us to live and be.

Parents

I am so thankful for my parents. They are incredibly loving to me in every way that I honestly do not know how to repay them. I strive to keep them as my No. 2 (God being No. 1), as they both know. But seriously, I am just humbled to have loving parents who are incredibly patient with me, especially when I had to give up my part-time job last autumn. They do share my pain and frustrations with things of late, and they have unconditionally supported me in my remaining tuition fees that I may complete my studies at Cornhill.

Two reflections come to mind here. One being my next door neighbour, who is frail with a long-term stroke. Although, he has carers who visit him daily, I am thankful that he has loving kids who is committed to return back their love for him, who is struggling in his health. Reflecting upon their family, I do pray that the LORD would provide a wife who will also love my parents, as being an only child can be quite overwhelming. But together that we would raise godly children, who will naturally know how to love others the way that Christ Jesus set an example to us, as noted in the Gospels.

My second reflection regarding parents swings back to the LORD. As much as I am always thankful for the love of my parents, as they strived in godly discipline, and an overflowing unconditional love for me… I cannot begin to imagine how much more that our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us, especially those who belong to Him through Christ.

~Richard

Hong Kong Photo Essay – Part 4

Welcome to the last in the 4-part series of my photo essay of Hong Kong. So far, I have chosen to reflect on some key highlights from a photographer’s perspective, and why I felt led to capture a particular frame on film. I am using Flickr to upload a select bundle, which you can find here at: www.flickr.com/photos/indescribablelove (select Hong Kong from the Albums tab).

Okay, I am cheating here by adding a bonus photo, but all the cakes and pies were calling out my name and screaming “EAT ME!” Hong Kong bakery is somewhat unusual in the sense that sugar is used very sparingly in cakes and delicacies. Sugar isn’t cheap, and I am sure there are cheaper alternatives. The typical taste buds among Asians will find Western bakery and confectionery far too sweet. Hong Kong cakes are very colourful, creative and tantalising. One of the reasons for sharing the photo with all the pastries is actually to contrast the size with Western pastries, which is actually smaller in size than British pasties. I can only imagine American pasties are larger yet again!

A picture of Starbucks… nothing special you say. Well look again, and you will actually notice a chef to the far left preparing and cooking hot foods from the bar. Yes! Starbucks in Hong Kong serve hot foods, alongside your traditional over-priced bakery and snacks. The way you are served is a bit different compared with the West, especially if you do decide to order any foods with your drink. They come to you with your foods. All they ask is that you grab a seat and make yourself feel comfortable. Now that’s service!

The fancy building to your left is actually the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which I managed to gain entrance to observe the latest in tomorrow’s technology. The place was packed out with thousands of international buyers and stands showing off the latest products in electronics and computer gadgets. Strangely, I lost interest after several hours, but I enjoyed the lovely walk there and back. The day after my trip to the HKCEC, my legs were sore after the amount of walking. I think I counted more than 6 hours worth of walking. A good workout on the eyes and the legs!

When I finished attending the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre, I wanted to visit the Hong Kong City Hall (the tall-ish building behind the far right of the forefront building). To my surprise, the traffic lights were slow to change for pedestrians to cross at this junction (around 3-5 minutes waiting for the lights to go green for pedestrians). The Hong Kong City Hall is where my parents tied the knot in Hong Kong at the registrar. Sadly, it wasn’t at a church, because my Dad didn’t have a church membership certificate (talk about church policies back then). Nonetheless, a lot of friends and family from Mum’s local church came out to support… and for Dad, well he represented his family (himself).

Who would have thought… a real ice cream van in Hong Kong selling soft scoop ice cream. It was playing this annoying music… so much so that I had to buy ice cream. My excitement and delight for the soft scoop ice cream drowned away the irritating background music. The ice cream van was situated outside Pier 5, which is the ferry pier that allows one to travel to Cheung Chau and back. And yes, I even took a photo of my ice cream!

I want to close this 4-part photo essay series of Hong Kong not with a stereotypical view of the Hong Kong skyline, but a picture of the restaurant where we had our family meal… the so-called “Last Supper”. Restaurants are actually the hub of Chinese gatherings, and in ways a central highlight to Hong Kong culture. The skyscrapers you see outside is the result of the booming economy. The real buzz take place inside these fancy buildings. The Chinese love eating, and they often eat out in large parties. It’s a special time of fellowship and banter with friends and family, and it’s typical for people to eat out on-demand on a regular daily basis. This is Hong Kong culture! This restaurant was unique in the sense that it featured a mega fish tank, where you can choose what fish to have for your meal. You can see our last family photo via: Days 8-12: Farewell Hong Kong. From the family photo, you will notice that I am wearing a photojournalist vest. I wouldn’t normally wear a photojournalist vest, but since it was our last day in Hong Kong and I was carrying all the travel documents and looking out for my Mum, I wanted to look the part.

~Richard

Hong Kong Photo Essay – Part 3

Okay, I am determined and giddy to do a back-to-back daily photo essay of Hong Kong.

From the series, I will be choosing to reflect on some key highlights from a photographer’s perspective, and why I felt led to capture a particular frame on film. I am using Flickr to upload a select bundle, which you can find here at: www.flickr.com/photos/indescribablelove (select Hong Kong from the Albums tab).

The transportation system in Hong Kong consists of ferries, a world-class MTR subway system, trams (also known as a “ding ding”), standard buses, mini buses, and red taxis. These mini buses come in two colours: red and green. Curiously, these mini buses actually drive faster than regular buses at crazy speeds, as they weave in between traffic all throughout Hong Kong. If you want to get from A to B, hop on a mini bus and before you know it – you’ll reach your destination in no time!

This is an unusual scene (at least for me), where Mum and I witnessed a gathering of retired Christians from neighbouring churches across Cheung Chau island. The gathered pilgrims join in Christian unity for worship in the great outdoors at the Cheung Chau Sports Ground. However, it raised eyebrows with me, as the worship service and co-ordinated exercises is done via loud speakers. Basically, you can actually hear words of Christian worship being played through the airwaves. It didn’t bother me, but it made me think about the Freedom of Speech in Hong Kong. Even though the State Government controls and censors the media, I was encouraged that there is no law regarding the Freedom of Speech among Christians. It’s hard to believe that Hong Kong actually have more freedom of religious speech compared with Britain (and even America these days).

This is one of my favourite pictures. It was a rare moment with nature up close. It looks beautiful on the big screen. It is what you see… a brown butterfly drinking from a plastic drinks container (and no it wasn’t from Starbucks either). I just wish I had a better Canon SLR camera to capture such beauty with more pixels, but nonetheless I was happy with the result.

I don’t really need to mention much here, but this is indeed a large Apple store that is part of the IFC mall. It’s HUGE, and I managed to pop inside and have a look. The Apple store in Hong Kong is always packed out with people wanting to try the latest gadgets. I couldn’t help but notice special cling film over the iPads, iMacs and iPhones due to the hygiene laws in HK. If you visit your local Apple store in the West, there is no clear plastic over the Apple products… you can smear your fingers to your hearts content. Over in Hong Kong however, gadgets are cleaned out thoroughly as to prevent infections and germs from being passed on to other people. Very considerate may I add.

I took this shot en route from Island Evangelical Community Church (Island ECC) on the tram, hence the overhead cables and no traffic from behind. I unknowingly captured a bus that featured a crying baby at the bottom left corner, and I unknowingly passed an evangelical church that is hosted in one of these skyscrapers (hint: Ambassador International Church at the Conrad Hotel).

~Richard

Hong Kong Photo Essay – Part 2

Continuing my photo essay of Hong Kong, I will be choosing to reflect on some key highlights from a photographer’s perspective, and why I felt led to capture a particular frame on film. I am using Flickr to upload a select bundle, which you can find here at: www.flickr.com/photos/indescribablelove (select Hong Kong from the Albums tab).

This photo is taken from Kowloon side facing Hong Kong island. The skyline of Hong Kong is an incredible view. For those familiar with the old Hong Kong skyline will probably still recognise some of the original buildings. I have three favourite buildings along the Hong Kong skyline: IFC Tower 2, the Bank of China Tower building, and the Jardine House (the small white building with circular windows). Seemingly, late in the evening each day at 8pm, the Hong Kong skyline lights up and there is a beautiful display of lights and music that features 40 buildings along Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong side. The best vantage point to view the lights and listen to the music is along the Avenue of Stars on Kowloon side. The multimedia display is known as “A Symphony of Lights” and unfortunately I haven’t ventured late into the night to experience it myself, but I have read up on it. The famous Star Ferry commutes from the Hong Kong pier to Kowloon (and back) in less than 10 minutes flat.

This funny looking building is one of many stunning landmarks on Kowloon side, also known as Tsim Sha Tsui (which means South Kowloon). The featured building is actually the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which hosts concerts and performance artists from around the world including your traditional Chinese Opera. It is home to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The HK Cultural Centre is the equivalent to the Sydney Opera House. They even offer free tickets to concerts that feature uprising stars from local universities… just don’t expect a free ticket to see Lang Lang.

Next to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre is the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Opposite of the HK Museum of Art is what you see here, which is actually the Hong Kong Space Museum. The white dome beyond the streets lamps is actually a planetarium, where the seats are reclined like sun chairs on a beach, as you gaze towards the ceiling that projects a 360 degrees exhibition video. Sometimes it’s an excuse to sit in and chill from the sheer heatwave outside. Museums in Hong Kong are free on Wednesdays, and as a result it can be mobbed of school kids, but at least they get to learn cultural things at neighbouring museums throughout the year. I remember the days of my childhood and we went to museums once in a blue moon, and our museums in Glasgow are mostly free.

That particular day was extremely hot, I think my face melted off. I was keen to capture the shot of the never ending change and radical growth of Hong Kong. Even though this shot is taken from Kowloon side, Hong Kong is still advancing and growing at an exponential rate. I can understand why people want to work in Hong Kong, because there are many job opportunities that pay well… but it makes you think, how far can Hong Kong grow?

Another photo of a junction, this time on Kowloon side. I love how Hong Kong is full of billboards and exaggerated signs that try to capture your attention for your business and wallet. It’s also encouraging to see that even the smallest of businesses in Hong Kong can thrive and survive among the big players in the business. The Western equivalence to a scene similar to the one I captured here is perhaps New York Times Square with the gigantic LCD screens and neon lights on Broadway. I have a better shot of this example, which I will try to remember to add to the photo essay.

~Richard

Hong Kong Photo Essay – Part 1

I have finally sifted through the collection of 1600+ photos captured from Hong Kong, and so far, I have made a wee video slideshow of the best bits including family photos, which I have uploaded as a private video through Vimeo, as they promote creative videos… whereas all the trolls lurk in YouTube.

However, I will be choosing to reflect on some key highlights from a photo perspective, and why I felt led to capture a particular frame on film. I am using Flickr to upload a select bundle, which you can find here at: www.flickr.com/photos/indescribablelove (select Hong Kong from the Albums tab)

Let’s get started then!

Hong Kong is renowned for its outdoor markets. This particular photo however is actually taken in Cheung Chau, which is part of the outer islands outside Hong Kong known as the Islands District. I have a thing for colours and shapes, and I wanted to capture the vibrant fruits that are simply hanging out ready for eating. Because the foods are sourced from local farmers, the price is a bit more expensive than the two rival supermarkets in Hong Kong (ParknShop and Wellcome). The only thing that I was unable to capture is the multitude of smells from the ripe fruits.

Admittedly, I took this cheeky shot on Day 2 (there were multiple shots, but I chose this particular one where the woman on the left looked at me directly). American fast food outlets has been consuming Hong Kong locals in maybe the past 20 years I reckon. Young folk are more inclined to abandon local cuisines and indulge in Western dishes. Super Size Me anyone?

This shot is actually a scene of a forthcoming event that is typically held on Cheung Chau island (the place where we stayed during the 2 weeks). The annual event is known as the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which attracts thousands of people to the island. This centre piece of the bamboo-steel structure in the middle would be covered in white buns. The aim of the event would typically involve a race of young men / or children to collect as many buns as possible, and the higher they reached – seemingly the better the ‘fortune’ the family would receive. The Chinese are of course, very superstitious, but these days the Bun Festival is mainly a family event involving music, games and floats. Traditionally, there were 3 bun structures, but due to past accidents and health and safety regulations, only one bun tower is implemented.

This shot was taken at a cross junction on Queen’s Road West. Opposite me faces a modern McDonald’s branch, which also houses a mobile phone outlet just at the entrance to the left. Far left of the picture is a branch belonging to the Bank of China, where I believe I camped outside the shop floor to take this photo. Far right of the picture which is not captured here is actually the residential care home, where my grandparents stay. This photo is your typical shot of a street in Hong Kong, where you see a bunch of air conditioners clumped outside high-rise flats… the streaming traffic and the densely populated streets, where you can bump into some interesting characters. I wanted to capture a rare shot, where you see no vehicles on the road. Unknowingly, a black car had crept into the frame at the far right. Sometimes, you just can’t plan your shots!

This has got to be one of my favourite images captured from Hong Kong. I love the vivid primary colours, and the contrast here of the big and small. I took this shot outside one of the ferry piers (possibly Pier 6 or 7). For once in Hong Kong it was a clear blue sky. Often the skyline is obscured by the thick smog from China and nearby coal power stations. I know, who uses coal power stations in the 21st Century. Straight across the road (in between the red taxi and blue van) is the Four Seasons Hotel a luxurious hotel… I would hate to find out how much a cup of water would cost. The IFC shopping mall is situated below, which hosts all your premier retail shops from Gucci to Apple. The IFC mall is also a central hub to to the MTR subways, and you can even check in your luggages before grabbing the subway to the Hong Kong International Airport from here, which is super convenient. The IFC mall is connected from the IFC Tower 1 (the smaller tower to the left of the Four Seasons Hotel) and joins with the IFC Tower 2 to the far left… the famous building that was used in The Dark Knight movie directed by British film director Christopher Nolan. The IFC Tower 2 building is also the second tallest building in Hong Kong. IFC is an abbreviation of the International Finance Centre.

~Richard

Days 8-12: Farewell Hong Kong

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They say that good things must come to an end. This has got to be the quickest trips to Hong Kong ever! It is also the first time I have experienced Hong Kong during the Easter break, which was of a cooler temperature (like mid-20’s, usually mid-30’s). Nonetheless, my face still melted from the hot temperatures! Usually, we parents try to travel when time and money permits, but due to circumstances that would typically involve Mum and Dad to travel together, I stepped in for my Dad this time, while he continues to recuperate in his health… (from his double bypass) and the fact that his travel insurance is very expensive.

I also apologise in advance for condensing the last 5 days of our trip into one blogpost. The reason for doing a super blogpost is purely because Mum and I have been busy lately every night, and I have been unable to visit the local library to edit and upload some photos. You think we’ve been going to raving parties, but we’ve mainly been enjoying the company of friends and family.

We feel blessed that Mum has loving friends and family who are so generous and hospitable. And it’s amazing that despite the hard-working culture here in Hong Kong, they have been able to spend a day or two to keep us company, either guiding us to new places and pick up the odd bargain here and there, or to help us with our luggage en route to the airport.

Dad has generously paid for my flights (as it would have been Dad’s ticket anyway) and he’s even given some spending money, as he knows I’m still without work at present, but he wanted me to keep Mum company, especially when I haven’t personally seen Mum’s side of the family for 8 years. In a way, I feel embarrassed, as I want to be able to afford things myself, but of course, circumstances in life can take a sharp detour… and suddenly you find yourself pleading with the LORD in prayer demanding a firm answer.

Speaking of prayer…

Dad took ill-health when we were away, coincidentally within the first 24-hrs of Mum and I leaving the country. One thing led to another, and all is well in the end. Dad had a kidney stone that caused much pain, but the stone has left his body. It’s a blessing to have brothers and sisters in Christ locally back home in Scotland and even overseas pray for his health and recovery. The LORD is good.

I also don’t have a calling to work or serve in Hong Kong. I know I could force myself to work in East Asia, purely for the sake of finances and my single marital status. Teaching English overseas is a lucrative career, something which comes and goes with my mind. Visa-wise, I can legally work in HK. However, teaching English overseas is not my current passion. It is still the Church that still screams out. Funnily, I still have a heart for Scotland too!

Will I return back to Hong Kong soon? It really depends on the future… whether the central path opens up to new doors of opportunity, and even with Scotland’s Future regarding Scotland’s Independent Vote.

Now that I’m 8 years older than I was last time round, I have been brave to venture among the locals buying groceries and go my own way. I can often understand family-oriented conversations better than everyday conversations with complete strangers. I don’t feel 100% confident when speaking Cantonese with the locals, especially when the Scottish accent pierces through the mixed Asian appearance.

Overall, I wish to thank you for your well wishes, welcoming back to British soil and prayers for our safe journey there and back again, and I hope some of the pictures posted so far give a bit of a taste and flavour of Hong Kong. I have exactly 1,569 photos captured and I hope to start sifting through the collection and host a selection via Flickr and use 500px to host some artistic photos.

~Richard

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