Thank You // US 2017

Dear friends,

It is with a heart full of gratitude and amazement at God’s goodness that I write to you. This past month, He has brought me on a wonderful adventure to the United States, and back. I would like to thank you ever so much for the part you played in helping me go on this journey, whether it be through prayer, supporting my fundraising efforts, providing advice, or hosting my family.

Most of you will know that the primary purpose of my trip was to attend the Institute for Cultural Communicators’ international convention, or iCon, participate in the Speak Freedom Forensics Championship, and train on a shift at the ICC Training Center.

The iCon week began with a bang as I met the larger part of the ICC community, amongst whom were seventy-eight Recommended Staff Assistants, divided into teams. I led a team with another student leader, and over the week, we learnt with our team about servant leadership, collaboration, teaching, communication, and approaching the world as a Communicator for Christ. We were privileged to share on the platform to the ICC families, college students, and workplace leaders present at the convention, as well as meet and interact with professors, and business and ministry leaders who taught us about different aspects of communication and leadership.

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​East Asian ICC members at iCon this year; Photo credits unknown

Training continued with the Summer Institute at the Training Centre, where I was part of a program called PREP. PREP stands for Pursuing Responsibility with Excellence Purposefully. Here I learnt about collaboration, creating cultures, peer mentoring, and stewardship through presentations I worked on with my team or helped critique, the chores we did, and by simply being immersed in an intergenerational culture and community that was conducive to development in each of these areas. I had opportunities in servant leadership studies, presentation coaching by mentors who had been there and done that, event coordination, preparation, and planning, as well as an unexpected chance to work with the media production team. During my hours down in the media room, I got to help create some of the pieces of media that ICC is producing, by learning to use a video editing software, as well as working with ICC’s Media Producer on an interview.

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My PREP team; Photo by Jessica Shepherd

This trip has far surpassed anything I expected to be able to experience. I have returned with a new understanding of community, leadership, and collaboration. The presentations I have watched and critiqued have helped me realize there is more to platform communication and teamwork than meets the eye.

During the trip home, my flight flew over Alaska, the Davis Strait, and Greenland. I didn’t know it, but halfway through a movie I decided to hit pause and peek outside. The contrast in lighting blinded me for a moment, but I was wowed by majestic peaks and crystalline rivers running through Alaska and rushing out to the Davis Strait. Enraptured, I kept watching, and as we approached Greenland, I saw little chunks in the sea, and upon looking closer, I realized they were icebergs. Still we flew on, and I saw my first snow, blanketing Greenland.

You helped me make this trip this summer, and God has used this to teach me so many things and show me so many wonders. Who would’ve thought I’d get to see my first snow during the summer months? The friends I’ve met and bonded with over this summer, and the leaders I’ve met, have made a deep impact on me that I know only God could have arranged.

And for that, I thank you. Thank you for praying, for contributing, and for being a part of this journey with me.

Blessings,

Charis Chen

Global Student Leader Council, Institute for Cultural Communicators

Note: I am in the midst of planning and preparing for my next step in ICC, which is to be a Student Instructor at 4:12, our first ever Malaysian event, to impact other students. If you would like to find out more, or if you desire to be part of this journey, whether through prayer or funding, please do drop me an email at charis.chen@iccinc.org.

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Living in the Past Part 3

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This post is the last of a 3-part series on living in the past. Thanks for joining me faithfully on this series!

Are you someone who “lives” in the past? Someone who is sustained by memories of the past?

If so, you are not alone. Today I’ll be sharing more of the verses I found regarding living in the past, along with some quick insights. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I highly encourage you to go ahead and read those as well!

 

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Dear friend,

Have you ever been in a situation where you know what is right but can’t seem to do it?

One of the hardest things that God has been teaching me to do recently is to put aside other things so that I can focus on Him. I am often guilty of cutting short or skipping my devotions so that I can get my schoolwork and chores done. I put so much into ministry I sometimes forget why I’m serving and Who I’m serving.

It’s a silent, yet common trap.

Yet, I want to encourage you today to relook at what you’re doing.

Focus on Him.

Think about why you do what you do. Does it distract or add to your relationship with God?

I’m not saying every little thing that isn’t related to reading the Bible and praying is wrong. I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you’re not thinking about God 24/7.

No.

Think about it this way. Finals are approaching- school is hectic. Your boss is demanding a lot- work is becoming crazier by the minute.

Working hard on those- yes, they actually have the potential to add to your relationship with God. But how?

Leave the past behind. Take the lessons you learnt from the mistakes you made. Focus on the strength that only our Heavenly Father can provide. And, as you see Him strengthening you to complete what you need to do, you grow to rely on Him more and more.

Yet, there are times when that simply doesn’t seem possible, because, where is God??? I can’t see Him!

Take heart! The biggest storms are often the ones that draw us back to God. I love this verse:

… because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your Holy One see decay.

~ Acts 2:27

You are loved by God. Repeat this with me, “I am loved by God!”

God loves you, and He will not abandon you. What you’re going through right now may be no laughing matter.

You may be wondering what on earth He’s trying to do. 

Dear friend, trust Him.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

~ 2 Timothy 2:4

We have a mission. We are Christ’s soldiers, and our job is not to get caught up with the things of this world, but rather to please God.

Let go of the past. Leave the mistakes behind. Look ahead. See what you can do for God.

Do you see that glimmer yet?

Now go catch it!

Much love,

Szen

 

Thanks for joining me on this series of Living in the Past! Do leave a comment below, or drop me a little note here to let me know what you enjoyed and what you would like to see in the future!

Living in The Past Part 1

This post is part 1 of a 3-part series on living in the past. Stay tuned for more!

Are you someone who “lives” in the past? Someone who is sustained by memories of the past?

If so, you are not alone.

About a week ago, a friend and I had a chat, and our conversation led to us being people who use memories to drive us on, or in other words, living in the past. What does God say about living in the past? I wondered.

So, for the next few days, I looked up verses about remembering the past, and what I discovered was truly thought provoking for me!

The first passage I came across was Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

God doesn’t want us to dwell on the past. He’s doing something right here, right now, and even though we might not be able to see it, He wants us to focus on what He is doing. We may be in a rough patch, struggling to cope with something, trying to cling on to what little hope there is left. Or maybe things are going great! What I find comforting about this verse is that God is saying that no matter what’s happening now, He’s has a greater plan and He’s going to make something beautiful.

Something else I discovered was that living in the past limits us. It holds is back from doing God’s will. It keeps us tied and doesn’t allow us to live to our full potential. Now, people have told me before, that you just need to put things behind you and keep going, or you will never get anywhere. But to find it in the Bible- that was a hard pill to swallow…

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

I realised that by living in the past, I was allowing myself to be distracted from discovering God’s plan for my life!

Today’s verse took me quite a while to understand.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.                               Ecclesiastes 7:10

Why was it not wise? I decided to look up the Hebrew word for wise. 

The Hebrew word for wise is chokmah.

חָכְמָה

It means piety towards God (Job 28:28). When we ask why things used to be better, we are -and I won’t mince words- essentially not being grateful. It is disrespect towards God because we are not obeying His will and plan. Now, why do I say we are not obeying His will and plan? Simply because obeying requires cheerful willingness. 

And, I’ll say, I’ve been guilty a thousand times over of not obeying God’s will for me, going over how good things used to be, trying to manipulate things to go better, and wondering why God seemed inexistent at times. I’m trying hard to change.

It’s really hard, yes.

But I guess that’s why I need God’s grace 🙂

– Szen

What are your thoughts? Are you like me, someone who lives in the past? What do you do about it? Comment below⬇! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Plans He Has

A lot has been happening the past week. And as I look back, I realise how God has a purpose for each trial that He has put into my life.

There are certain challenges that our family has been facing. I won’t talk about that here, but I’ll say that it is often extremely tough and we wonder how we will overcome our trials. Sometimes, I question why we experience all these things from the rough side of life.

Last week, during a meeting, we had to make a decision on a certain matter- something we were unable to do- but God provided the means for us through a thoughtful friend. Shortly after, I noticed a young child. This child’s family, I knew, was also unable to do this.

I contemplated. I hesitated.

The child needed it.

But, I thought. Will this child want to accept my help?

I looked at the child again.

That innocent face, those pleading eyes.

And I decided to give the child some of what I had.

The child didn’t know anything about the situation or the decision-making. At least not that it was obvious.

The child was happy that someone had decided to share.

Nothing more than that.

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

That was enough for me.

I didn’t need a thank you. Just watching the child’s happiness- that blissful ignorance.

That was enough for me.

I looked around me. No one else had noticed the child.

And now, as I write, I realise that the situation my family had been in had enabled me to see the child’s need and do my part to meet it.

Aren’t God’s plans intriguing?

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About two days later, we ran into a sticky situation. I was left reeling in shock.

I’ll be honest, I was having my doubts about God before that. I was questioning why God put me where I am. For a moment I even thought about turning my back on God.

That incident? It was God kicking me in the back. There was nothing else I could do. The only thing left for me to do was to rely on His strength to bring me through.

I was stunned. Unsure of how to respond. Scared. In fact, it would be an understatement to say I was terrified.

I had no choice but to rely on Him with every bit of me. Every drop of blood in me cried out to Him to have mercy. To be gracious with us. With me.

God sometimes has a sobering sense of humour. The incident turned out to be nothing very big, but it has left its mark on us, and I know I will remember that kick in the back that God gave me that day.

It’s a tough battle to fight- keeping one’s faith in the midst of trials. But I look back at what God has done, and I see His mighty hand, working out His plan.

And I’m comforted. Yes. It’s hard.

But He has His plans for me. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give me a hope and a future.

As I’ve seen in the past week, sometimes the most uncomfortable circumstances can be used by Him to fulfil His purposes.

The plans He has?

I’m choosing to allow Him to lead me. Yes, to lead me according to His plan.

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Dear Girl // Hang On

You know what it’s like when you’re sick and are recovering, only to fall sick again? You know what it feels like when it seems like you’ll never get well?

You know what it’s like to go through the deepest, darkest part of you life?

Yes?

You know what it’s like to think you overcame it– that things were getting better, only to find yourself crashing. again?

Yes? So do I.

When everything is a mess. when you don’t see a way out. When there’s nothing more to live for.

Yes?

When you become numb. When you silently cry out for help. When you realise you’re alone in this.

Yes?

When you have lost control of yourself. When there’s no more hope. When your heart bleeds so profusely you can barely feel anything else.

Yes?

I know. It hurts. a. lot.

And the greatest pain is in watching everyone else live a “normal” life while you are drowning– gasping for breath and pleading for help– but having to hide it all, knowing no one will understand.

Yes?

I feel you.

Dear girl, don’t give up. I know you’ve heard this a billion times, but I’m still going to say it.

Hang on. Hang on with every last bit of you. Don’t ever give up.

Saying “things’ll get better” doesn’t help– I know– so I won’t say that.

But know this, dear girl. There’s a soul out here who feels you. You are not alone. You are loved. Perhaps by no one else, but I love you.

You may have suffered at the hands of people– Christians– and have determined to hate this God who doesn’t even attempt to make things better. I don’t know what you’ve been through. If you’ve met a Christian and realised he/she was a hypocrite, I’m sorry.

I know I’m not perfect. I don’t do the slightest bit of justice to the Christian faith because of who I am.

But God still loves me. And He loves you. Wait. Don’t click that button to close this window.

I’ve questioned how He could love me despite me being the wreck I am. I’ve rejected Him– spurned Him– hated Him, even.

Yet, He is faithful. I can’t say how things will work out.

But He has brought me safe thus far.

Depression and anxiety are in no way pleasant. It’s torture. Torture to the farthest extent of the soul.

But, dear girl, don’t do anything else to yourself. This is a note to myself, too.

Don’t, dear girl. Don’t. Don’t do anything to yourself. Hang on. I love you. God does, too.

And here‘s something I’d like to share with you. 🙂 I love you, dear girl. Hang on.

Dear Girl // Because Life is Fragile

Life is fragile.

Life. Is. Fragile.

The word fragile swims in my mind. As I picture a pair of hands probing some mysterious crystal with the gentlest touch, I am brought back to that moment when I first read WOYS’ blog, “The Journey.” Perhaps I’ve never actually recorded this, but it was her blog– that artfully simple, yet strikingly honest form of expression– that inspired me to do the same. It doesn’t have to be fancy or anything– just a journal where I can express myself and just be me. Sometimes, comfort can be found in the simplest of things– pen and paper. I loved those subtle messages that I wove and sprinkled my poems generously with– it reminded me of a word’s worth– how much just a few alphabets can mean.

But I’m diverging. Life is fragile. It really is.

Life can go– just like that. Cancer, illness, suicide, murder, accidents– you name it. And sometimes, you just have to let it go.

It is that precious. It is that fragile.

Fragile enough to shatter with a thoughtless action.

Fragile enough to shatter with an ignorant look.

Fragile enough to shatter with words. Yes, words.

That’s why life needs to be handled with utmost care.

Don’t take it for-granted, dear girl.

Acknowledge and cherish the fact that you are alive for yet another day, no matter how painful it may be.

Life is fragile.

It can be gone.

Just like that.

Just another patient. Just another driver. Just another abortion. Just another suicide.

Life is fragile.

Don’t shatter another life by shattering your own. Don’t.

I know what it’s like– that unbearable agony that crushes you and rams you against the wall of hopelessness, leaving you gasping for air. Yes, I know. You see no way out.

But hang on a little longer, dear girl.

Because that little moment can mean a lot.

It will mean a lot to me.

Don’t do it. I love you.

Life is fragile.

I’m here for you. Go out there on the battlefield.

Go fight.

Go help build someone up.

Because life is fragile.