Thursday, February 23, 2012

The First Imposition of Ashes I Had in My Life

This semester I took one core module titled "Worship and Liturgy". So far I enjoy the lesson because it helps me to understand the reason or the purpose of many things we do in worship. It helps me to appreciate worship service more.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and we had the ritual of imposition of ashes. It is the first time in my life. In the previous week the lecturer taught us about "Worship and Rituals" and he specifically explained to us the meaning of imposition of ashes. 

I will share with you first the meaning of ritual. According to my lecturer, Rev. Dr. Truscott, ritual is "a prescribed, customary set of words and actions meant to convey religious or cultural meaning." 
Regarding imposition of ashes, he mentioned that it signifies mourning and repentance. Here are some biblical basis that he quoted:

"When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry." (Esther 4:1)

"Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." (Daniel 9:3)

He further mentioned that this ritual is often considered outdated from the modern perspective and that some consider it strange that we ritualize "repentance". But he argued that the strangeness is precisely what makes it a powerful symbol for Christians. He further argued that it is true that we should not revive old rituals for their own sake but neither should we dismiss a ritual because it seems old-fashioned. He told us to consider: we read sacred texts from times and place we do not understand and whose language and thought patterns are alien to us yet we believe God speak to us in the ancient texts!

He also explained that this ritual reminds us that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth (liminality) and that we are seeking the kingdom.

Okay... enough lecture! If you want to know more about it you can just google it :p
So... yesterday I take part in this ritual. I found it meaningful that I want to share it here.

While placing the ashes on my forehead, the minister (which is also my family group mentor) said, 
"Ita, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". 

I don't know why, but I was surprised. I knew that the minister would say THAT sentence, but when he really said it, I was quite taken aback. I tried to calm myself and went back to my seat. That one sentence kept resonating in my head. I realised that God was speaking to me personally through what the minister told me and through the ritual. 
He reminds me of His amazing grace and depth of mercy. Come on! Get real! Who am I? I was nothing! Dust! Rebel! Yet God sent his Son to die for me! 
He reminds me that I am mortal, that my time on earth will come to an end, that my life is full of limitation, yet He called me to do His work. What can be better than that to spend my remaining years on earth!
Honestly, I tried hard to fight back tears. I don't deserve it, God. It's all You.

"Rituals express divine truth"
 -Rev. Dr. Truscott-


Education Report: 3rd Semester

Now I'm in my 4th semester. This is the result of my 3rd semester:
Introduction to Biblical Interpretation   A  
Old Testament Hebrew I                     A
New Testament Greek I                      A-
Pastoral Care                                      B    
(I think I made a right choice by taking theological track instead of pastoral track. Haha..)
The Book of Job                                 B   
(Fuih... high standard! Dreaming to be like Prof. Seow: teaching class with only Hebrew Bible in hand!)

In the previous semesters I always thank God for good results because it means that I can continue my scholarship. I'm supposed to be reviewed annually, but last semester my church sent a letter to the Principal saying that they will support me throughout my studying in TTC for 3 years. They ask the Principal to "make sure that I will go back to my church to serve" :) I found it amusing. I don't think the Principal will bother. He is too busy with school matters. Haha.. Well, I'm not sure whether this assurance will bring me any good. So far, the only motivation for me to get good grades is my scholarship. If they confirm they will support me until I finish my study, I think I will just enjoy my learning without being mindful on my grades. Honestly, recently I felt more relax. I enjoy reading anything else except what is required by the lecturer :p I even played badminton twice a week and really enjoying a healthier lifestyle I had in this semester! 
Is is complacency? Hmm.. let's see! :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Dynamic Autobiography

I'm currenty applying to a program titled Clinical Pastoral Education. As part of the application I am required to submit a dynamic autobiography. The instruction goes like this: A brief account of your life including family, Christian faith and career, the important events and relationship with persons who have been significant to you. Relate how these events and relationships have shaped and impacted your development and growth.

And... I decided to post it here. I still need to go for interview to be able to enter the program. I might fail... but at least I posted something on my blog :p

So... here is a brief account of my life before I entered TTC...

I was born in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1984. I have one elder brother and two younger brothers. Being a third generation Christian, I have always been encouraged by my parents to attend Sunday school. I enjoyed Sunday school because I got to sing songs and listened to the Bible stories. What was taught in Sunday school was significance in laying foundation and shaping of my spiritual life.

I accepted Christ as my Saviour when I was 16 while attending cathecism class. At that time the teacher handed over a piece of paper to each student. He told us that he would ask a question and all of us have to think about the answer and write it down on the paper. The question was: "If at this very moment you die, are you sure that you will be in heaven?"

I am struck by the question. At that time I felt that I was still young, I did not need to think about death. But on the other side, it is a fact that people can die at any moment, even babies. I was thinking very seriously. My heart beat very fast. On one hand, I feel that I am a good person. I was obedient to my parents, got good grades at school, went to church, and did good things to others. But somehow I could not write "Yes." Finally, I wrote "No". I really was not sure if I would go to heaven.

All the paper was collected and the teacher started to give an explanation regarding salvation (eternal life). Basically, the teacher explained it with Evangelism Explosion’s method. That moment I realized that I was a sinful man, because sin doesn’t include only any wrongdoings that I do. Sin also includes my unholy thoughts and the good deeds that I could actually do but I didn’t. I was aware that I couldn’t save myself by doing good deeds. I was also aware that I had been relying on Jesus only for the temporal things (asking for good grades, asking Jesus to provide my necessities, asking Him to lead and guide me in ministry). But I have never depended on Jesus to save me, to grant me eternal life.

When I got home, I went into my room, locked the door and began to pray. In the presence of God I confess that I am a sinner and I profess Jesus as my Savior who died on the cross to redeem me. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and reign in my life so that I would not sin anymore and that I may live in accordance with God’s will in my life. Since then I have peace in my life, knowing that I will be with the Father in heaven. I was also becoming more interested in spiritual thing, thing that is eternal. I also have deeper longing of serving the LORD.
At that time I was a very shy and introvert person. I had a very low self-image because people were always making fun of me being obese. My youth pastor, Ps. Hendrikus helped me to overcome it. He always reminds me that I am wonderfully made and the value of my life is not decided by what people think of me, or even what I think of me, but on how I live my life, whether it is according to God’s purpose or not. I grew up to be a leader in teen and youth ministry.

I sensed the call to be a full-time minister was when I was 18 years old. At that time I was about to graduate from high school and started to think about which college I should apply to. Bible School was one of the alternatives, but when I consulted with my parents, they went against the idea. I was then decided to study International Relations. After graduating with a Bachelor degree, in December 2006 I came to Singapore to work.

I began my first job as Conference Producer with high expectation to be financially independent. Receiving my own salary means I can buy whatever I want. I was able to buy my favourite branded products. I would treat people at Japanese restaurants and follow my colleagues to go for buffet in prominent hotels. But after one-and-a-half years, I began to feel emptiness in my heart. I couldn’t find long-lasting satisfaction. “Is this what my life supposed to be?” I thought.  I can’t stand the feeling, so I resigned. I felt the need to pause and think deeply about what I am supposed to do in life. There are several alternatives considered: to take Master Degree, start a business, or work while taking part-time Bible School.

Being unemployed, I had a lot of time to consult with Ps. Isabel Tong, my church pastor. I asked her about how to know God’s specific calling for me and what God wanted me to do in my future. She really guided me to improve and develop my spiritual life, especially my personal relationship with God through spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, quiet times, journaling, etc.)

Since then I started to see more clearly what God wants me to do in my life, God was calling me to serve him full-time. I explained my parents about this calling. My dad allowed me, but my mom was still against it. She only allowed me to take evening Bible Class. Since January 2009 I started taking evening Bible class at the Singapore Bible College.

At that time I still had doubts about my calling. I was worried that the strong calling came to me just because I was unemployed. I thought it is possible that the calling would cease when I started working again. In February 2009 I got a new job as a Safety Trainer for the Indonesian domestic helpers who just arrived in Singapore. It turned out to be a very meaningful phase in my life. I was given a chance to get in touch with a lot of people and to share the Gospel to some of them. I enjoyed my job. However, the call to go full time grew increasingly stronger in my heart. I am more convinced that I was ready to quit my job and fulfill God's call as a full-timer.

Since April 2009, I started calling my mother again for her approval to be a full-timer. I kept praying to God that He would change my mother’s heart. I let the Lord know that I could not be one hundred percent sure to apply to Bible School if my mother did not approve. I kept calling my mother to explain about God’s calling in my life and I kept praying to God. God showed His grace and answered my prayer. After a couple of months, my mother’s heart was changed and she finally gave her full support for me to be a full timer. The Lord has opened a way. The church also decided to provide scholarship for my study at Trinity Theological College. Praised the LORD :)

I'm Tweeting

Yup, I officially revived my Twitter account. You may check it on the right side of my blog. Feel free to follow!
I will mostly put direct quotations and reflections on the things I hear, read, experience, or I will put updates on interesting things that happen to and around me.
On why I decided to do it: I think it is first because with Twitter I can share more things on-the-spot. I actually have so many things to share, but blogging can absorb so much time as I need to sit down and type, while with Twitter I can tweet everywhere with ease. Secondly, it helps me to develop the skill of articulating messages. Tweeting, I hope, will help me to convey message in a more concise way while still attain the essence.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hi-Ne-Ni 我在這裡 Here I Am

Another beautiful song presented in today's chapel by some students from Chinese department. 
Don't get me wrong. I can't really understand Chinese. However, the chapels in TTC are conducted bilingually, so they showed both Chinese and English lyrics. That's why I can appreciate this song more...


耶和华我的主啊 !
求你使我放下心中 心中所爱
耶和华我的主啊 !
求你使我打碎心中 心中偶像
无怨 无悔 永不回头 永不回头
无怨 , 无悔 我在这里 我在这里
Hi-Ne-Ni Hi-Ne-Ni
烧我 , 差我 , 我在这里
Hi-Ne-Ni Hi-Ne-Ni
烧我 , 差我 Hi-Ne-Ni
我在这里 Hi-Ne-Ni
我在这里 Hi-Ne-Ni

English translation:

* Hi-Ne-Ni” is Hebrew for “Behold! Here I am”
Lyrics: Lily Liu Music: Francy Shao

Yahweh! O my LORD my God
Come and help me forsake my love
Forsake my love, my all

Yahweh! O my LORD my God
Help me break down all my idols
Idols in my heart
Till I give myself in worship as a sacrifice
With no regrets, No turning back
Till I at the altar hear the calling for my life
With no regrets, Here I am

Hi-Ne-Ni , Hi-Ne-Ni
Purge me, Send me Yes! Here I am
Hi-Ne-Ni , Hi-Ne-Ni
Purge me, Send me, Hi-Ne-Ni

For the darkest corners of the world
O LORD! Send me!
For the souls hopeless in despair, Here I am!
Yes! Here I am, Hi-Ne-Ni
Yes! Here I am, Hi-Ne-Ni

Lyrics and translation are taken from: