Virtually Reel Retreat
I Touch The Skies When My Knees Hit The Ground
By Evelyn Pang
During our “Gone Fishing” Virtually Reel Retreat, we took a deep dive into the sea of God’s teachings on discipleship through the eyes of John. There were abundant pearls of wisdom in each sermon and during the breakout sessions so please allow me to share some of my reflections here.
My dear friends, we may not have met in Carmel as I am a young Christian, but I sincerely hope that my sharing will encourage you to watch the recorded sessions and read the chapters again — first for the learnings, the second to discuss with God in our time alone with Him, how the fresh perspectives of familiar stories, brought to life by Dr Desmond Soh, can be resonating and applicable in our everyday lives.
Surrendering to God is a necessary commitment in our walk with Him. Yet it is one of the toughest balancing acts (read: struggles) — to walk by faith, and not by sight; to lean not on our human understanding but trust Him completely; to turn away from our earthly nature and desires to pursue His words, His heart. His and only His.
We know this principle very well, and we know what we need to do. The question is how and when so that we can be His faithful disciples in all ways and always, just like His unwavering love and faithfulness to us.
I will run to You, to Your words of truth
Discipleship is a marathon and our personal best is to run steadfast and finish strong.
That’s “Ground Rule 101” that sets the stage for the retreat on Day 1. The disciple, John the Baptist (John 3:22-36), spent time with Jesus; he is not self-seeking but Christ-seeking. He was secure in his identity at all times and most importantly, he served the master joyfully and heartily. In this sermon, one statement resonated with me strongly — There is no room for pride in God’s kingdom.
As a working mum with two young boys, there is always the natural tendency for hasty self-decision making for efficiency to balance professional work, children’s homework, tuition, meet-the-parents session “feedback”, and the all-important family time. However, that’s when we forget who runs the show in our lives — the director, the scriptwriter, our true boss — God.
If the guiding compass in our lives is His words, decisions can be instinctive and confidently grounded. If we lead prayerful days, answers come intuitive because our inevitable thirst for His ways will be quenched by the living water that rejuvenates us eternally.
Since He is our anchor, the natural next question is then how to prioritize to ensure our discipleship is not just about wearing the cross or being weekend warriors attending church service as how Dr Soh aptly termed some of us. God is our first love and hence we need to put Him above all.
Just as many of the Wonder Women in my breakout group had lovingly termed Jesus as our best friend, our Father, we have to learn to seek Him first in everything we do and learn to not procrastinate spending time with Him just because we had a long day or the last few episodes of K-drama to watch on Netflix.
What works well for me as I discovered through the recent months of my walk with Him is to talk to Him 24/7. There are routine times that I would have these conversations, and these are effortless slots like whenever I am driving or working out. Reading His Word and starting each morning in prayer helps tremendously as it allows me to surrender the anticipated hustle and bustle in exchange for peace within.
The stillness clears my mind, I can literally close my eyes, breathe it in and be overwhelmed by His presence. With loving words and many a time without, there are numerous occasions where I am simply overawed by His faithfulness to my prayers. Such indulgence be gifted to me as a child of God.
Fearfully and wonderfully made by the creator, the king of kings who chose to stay so close to us as our personal friend, our light to this world. What more can we ask for but surrender completely and run to Him?
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
To finish strong in this race, we need to grow our relationship with Jesus, letting Him take full control and do His great works in us. Through our acceptance of healing and serving Him, we allow Him to transform us.
Be it the blind man in John 9:1-38, who was born with a disability, or us with our stubborn inabilities to humble ourselves, to listen and to follow, He meets us where we are — imperfect, broken, rejected. During our darkest times, where all we could feel was only pain, tears, flooding thoughts of loss and doubts, remember that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness. When we are down and out, God holds each of us even closer and His voice tells us to look up, seek Him and lean onto Him.
All of us were blind, but now we see. We see the unseen, we feel the unspoken and most importantly, let’s be willing to take the leap of faith to serve Him wherever He places us. No act is too small to touch a fellow Christian or a non-believer, we just need to take the first step.
Perhaps timely for a personal sharing here where I was once a “weekend warrior” at church, to how God reached out to me through Pastor Peter to invite me to serve in the church choir just because of a casual WhatsApp text when COVID-19 measures relaxed and I shared “Oh, I am so happy that now they allow us to worship during service!”
I am a dancer for more than half of my life, but never a singer (apart from the usual KTV/bathroom singing). Instinctively I saw in myself, the depiction of the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-42, my smokescreens curtained up — How can I sing in public, I like new-age Christian songs, I don’t know how to sing hymns… if three excuses were not enough, I could easily come up with another ten more.
That’s when a dear friend told me as a matter-of-fact, it’s a privilege to serve God in any way. And so, I said yes. While every cell in my body wanted to say no, we always have the braver option to say yes and obey Jesus’ invitation to serve Him. Say yes first and leave it to God and our seniors in the church community to guide us.
Let our willing hearts lead the first step and humble our minds to learn and relearn so that we can step gracefully out of our former comfort zones. As we grow in our love for Him, He must increase but we must decrease.
This is my first time participating in a church retreat and as a regional marketing professional, I am desensitised to virtual calls and digital interactions. Yet, I cannot help but be impressed with the organizing committee’s dedication in putting together an interactive programme, energizing us with icebreakers and bubble tea while seamlessly integrating other digital tools like Telegram and Facebook.
What left the most heartwarming impression was how all participants embraced the new format of the retreat readily. Yes, there were technical glitches, but everyone laughed them away. Yes, many may not be IT or Zoom-savvy, but by the last day, everyone took pride in knowing how to change Zoom background, chat heartily in the chat box and toggle between main and breakout rooms.
In my humble opinion, the retreat was a success in many ways to bring all of us together to learn and rekindle a deeper connection with God. So please join me in thanking the organizing committee and all participants for putting in best efforts to serve and commit our time to God together.