The Enemy’s Fear

Sometimes I’d read a book and make notes and markings but the bits that linger on in my mind would be parts that didn’t earn a scratch. Weeks after reading Alister McGrath’s CS Lewis biography, this extract, quoted from the Screwtape Letters (end of Chapter 8), still linger on in my mind:

Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

I met a couple of Churches of Christ folks yesterday, to talk about what happened in LifeGate recently. Towards the end of our conversation I referred to the above passage. I said to them whatever happened is in the past. I am keen only to look ahead. I said I still wanted the opportunity to work on the things of our Lord and His Kingdom. I needed to still obey.

For a long time, I had no desire and saw nothing to suggest God’s presence was there. Indeed I felt like I was forsaken or allowed myself to be forsaken. I needed to obey. Because regardless of my desires and intentions, regardless of my sense of his presence, He remains God almighty and I need to obey. Even if He is not “there for me”. But of course, I know He is. 



Another turn. Another response.

Tress and I were at the same church yesterday and on my part (and I believe for her too) I felt at peace, settled and was looking forward to allowing ourselves to find a new home there.

The sermon was on Matt 12, and the minister spoke with an English accent that sort of reminded me of that minister back in Kingsford in Sydney. I think John Smith was from Birmingham and I haven’t got a clue where Mike McNamara grew up in England but there were moments I felt like I was listening to a younger sounding John Smith.

A more important moment however, was when Mike made a point about the context of the passage. Jesus had just suffered a case of injustice. He was breaking a rule on Sabbath when he had just healed a man. The Pharisees were then plotting to kill Jesus.

Jesus’ response was to withdraw. This evoked a passage in Isaiah which referred to the Messiah as someone who would not be heard in the streets. He would not cry out or quarrel. He would not bruise a reed or snuff out a smoldering wick.

I have been thinking about how best to really move ahead. Leaving behind what had hurt a lot, would probably work best if I no longer allow myself to revisit any of the actions of those involved.

I have to also withdraw, or encourage either myself or anyone else (including my dear brother Jason) not seek to “be heard on the streets”.

Jesus withdrew because there was work left to be done.

If I still wanted to do any of the work of the Kingdom, I too have to withdraw. I can’t let this blog continue as a source or medium to battle those “Pharisees”. At least for as long as I can hold it all in and keep my eyes on what I want to still do, for the Lord. 

I needed to respond to the word of God preached well. So right there on the pew in church, I made this blog private again. I hope to keep it that way for as long as I need to or can.

Blasphemous Prelude

The prelude sounded purposeful. “Going back to Jesus” tends to evoke a sense of seeking one’s “true north”. So not only did that prelude sound purposeful it also sounded promising. Going back to the foot of the cross was even more focused, even more poignant? The promise was of a new day dawning.

Yet how does one go back to Jesus at the foot of the cross but partake in scheming and lying and in a deceptive manner, get rid of a brother by delivering a public execution styled shaming? How can one preach returning to Jesus at the foot of the cross and yet look on as his team members go behind a fellow team member to get rid of him?

No sin has been committed by that condemned board member. He hasn’t committed any sin worthy of such public execution. He has not renounced his faith, has not rebelled against the Lord in a public manner – did absolutely nothing anywhere near capital. Stand him next to me and he’d be a saint.

So why was there a near unholy haste to remove Jason? How can one on a pulpit, in one breath say he sought Jesus at the foot of the cross and in the next, preside over the culmination of secret manoeuvres to remove a fellow church leader?

It sounded far too close to using the name of the Lord in vain. Somehow, to say he has returned to the foot of the cross but to proceed to allow a brother to be hurt and harmed as Jason was, appears to be a much greater sin than using the name of Jesus as a swear word.

Like losing a son

Kiddo used to be in the music team in what was then ICC Church. We’d send her for practice on either a weeknight or Sat morning, and pick her up maybe a couple of hours later.

Kiddo’s generally a happy-go-lucky sort of person then so she’d not say much about how she felt about those practices. Too often however, she’d mumble something about the team leader.

That team leader – Kah Mun – was a young, brash and in-your-face sort of person. Tress and I would ask kiddo how practice went, and she’d mumble something about getting stressed up by KM’s demeanour and harsh words and actions.

After hearing a few more accounts of such encounters – from people other than kiddo –  I’d go and speak with Jason. I had told him the effect this young hot head was having on the team and team spirit. People were getting put off.

Without fail, Jason would defend KM. He’d say things to support and build him up – not directly in front of him, but by supporting KM’s reputation and building up my esteem of  KM. He’d say things to get me to see the better side of this young man and accept him for who he is. He even succeeded in making me also want to encourage KM.

There were numerous encounters  like this. I’d relay to Jason what other said about KM and he’d keep saying good things about KM. He’d do all he can to build KM up, build up others’ esteem of KM. 

This went on for years.

Finally when Kiddo was doing year 12 and was starting to ease off her involvement in music ministry, I was sort of relieved that she did not have to be subjected to that harsh and tense practice sessions again. I said to Jason then that I was glad Kiddo was no longer involved and Jason would continue to say only good things about KM. By then I would also start to hear Mel using terms of endearment in referring to Rachel – as though she was her own daughter.

And so when KM was seated not more than 10 feet away from me last Sunday, publicly asking Jason questions in short and curt manner and in derisive and belittling tones that made it look like he had little time for Jason, I was aghast. I was also aghast at the same derisive and dismissive tone he used against my aunt (Tress’ aunt) – one who had such close ties to the family. It was a public dressing down by a young man against his elders who have done only the best to support and nurture him all these years.

Many later told me they were disgusted with what they saw and heard.

For me who witnessed for years, how Jason treated KM like a son, I am still trying to digest what KM did to him last Sunday.

Widow in a funeral

Our dear friend has been with that church for so long. She’d told us so many times that when she first walked into the church her two kids were only so young – maybe 3 or 4 years old. Those kids are 19 and 21 now. After spending nearly a lieftime in that church, one can only imagine the depth of descent her soul has plumbed.

Her husband, who has given his life and more for so long, has been trampled and discarded. A bunch of fools and ingrates who lied and schemed to get rid of him. These low life ockers rejoiced, I hear. How can they call themselves christians, let alone leaders?

Not a word, not so much whisper or a gesture, to indicate they know the depth of pain they have caused. What became of them I wonder, that they allow themselves to be the seats of such plots of hatred and evil. What’s worse – all dressed up in a despicable disguise to whitewash the dirty tombs. The ugly proclamation of altruism that is so misplaced its ugliness defies the basest imagination.

I did one thing well and that is to renounce and stay away from that squalor.

When I see that dear friend, I cant help but think of a widow in a funeral.

Widow at a funeral

Of Tears and Other Public Displays

In introducing the bill for disability care, Julia shed a tear or two. It was a measure of public distrust in her, that so many expressed their doubt as to the authenticity of that emotion.

See this short piece where it said:

of “authenticity” as a leadership characteristic. Without it, leaders cannot expect to influence others

And also this:

it is also true that precisely because of the artifice she has employed as Prime Minister, many will dismiss the raw emotion as more play-acting.

And then there was this story on public apologies:

figures who have fallen from grace have little choice but to make public apologies that have a theatrical element in them.

And this:

But officials “feel compelled to apologize publicly’’ to keep their job

And finally this:

public mea culpas often seem designed to help people keep their jobs





Lawsuits… a la Grisham :-)

“The Litigators” was a hilarious work by Grisham. I don’t recall him creating such comic figures in his other books. And so while the subject matter was grave, the characters enlivened and gave a kaleidoscope of colours to the narrative.

 The fact that litigation can be an expensive, drawn out and energy sapping endeavour was clearly interwoven with the elements of greed, freedom and family time represented by each of the 3 protagonists in the ambulance chasing firm. Other than the young Harvard lawyer who literally stumbled into this barely surviving practice, the other 2 lawyers reminded me of the first two firms in KL who invited me to spend some time with them when I first went back to Malaysia more than 20 years ago.  Both did personal injury work, but the first did plaintiff work while the second did more defendant work. Invariably, the plantiff work firm made more money but it was a firm with little respect within the legal fraternity. Grisham showed why ambulance chasers are generally frowned upon. He exaggerated the behaviour of course but I’m glad he did because he made it really funny.

So last weekend I thought I had enough of another quick and dirty Grisham novel on lawyers and lawsuits but I had barely started on G. K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” when I felt the itch for more Grisham… oh no… 

So much has been happening I couldnt really dwell on something potentially layered with meaning so a quick and dirty page turner looks the obvious gap filler.

It isnt always time wasting anyway. “The Confession” for example, started with a convict needing help and wandering into a church. There, he met a pastor who quickly discovered that convict had something important to say in relation to a death row inmate.

That scene of a man walking down the street and wandering into a church office and starting a process leading to a possible redemption of a condemned man, was played out as a possible real life scenario last night.

Someone rang, and recounted the aftermath of the weekend circus. One small detail amongst severl to have emerged was how a pastor was loathed to spend time in church office. That caller bemoaned the fact that the opportunity, such as illustrated in Grisham’s fiction, was probably denied to God knows how many souls. Simply because a pastor wanted to have a ministry largely on his own terms. Well he can now, pretty much.

Normal behaviour… and a circus

I remember wanting a lawyer to be transferred to my team. She would have the same pay, work in the same office, do similar type of work, but only reporting to a different partner.

Something as benign as that transfer had to start by a chat to her. Her then boss and I had to take turns to chat to her, before we did anything else.

We talked to her about what we had in mind, and we invited her to let us know what she thought about what we had in mind.

She was receptive (I wasn’t a bad boss…) and then we started planning the move.

Other than courtesy and decency it was also something one does if the action was going to affect a person, one would have thought.

It wasn’t something you would have thought necessary to point out to anyone calling himself and herself a leader but then again it has been a bit of a circus.