Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gratitude for 2013

There is so much to be grateful for in this year. This is not to say that there wasn't time of mourning, disappointment, confusion, and anxiousness. There were. Nonetheless the year has to be concluded by thanking God for all the good things that have happened.

First, it has been a year of adjusting to married life. There were happy times as well as times when we argued over petty misunderstanding. And the amusing part is when grievance is over, we can look into the past and laugh away those silly quarrels. For all the experiences, I give thanks to God.

Second, I am grateful for the well-being of my family members in Malaysia. I didn't get to visit them as often as I wanted to. I constantly ask God to provide for my family as my contribution to them is insufficient. God has been faithful. My father has decided to join back the work force after having rested for 2 years. God has provided him a managerial role that oversees the logistic operation in a British company. My brother and sister have graduated and are now working. My mother's health has been good. So my parents do not need to support any of their children anymore. Grateful for God's provision for all these years.

Third, my friends have always been around and well. I thank God for all of them. As I am a more introverted person, I don't have many friends, but God has blessed me with 6 close ones (including my wife). These are people whom I can be vulnerable to. They are people whom I trust. The present age is re-defining "friendship" through social network technology such as Facebook. People think that friends are those on your Facebook's "friend" list. I work with youths and young adults, and this is a concern. Young people should be more savvy with social network technology. The form of virtual "friendship" promoted by social network website is not real. Real friends are those who know us and desire to spend time with us face-to-face. Such desire means that they like to be around you. They have such desire even though they have thousands of things to do on their daily diary. This real gesture is ontologically irreplaceable by social network technology. For this reason, I don't even wish "Happy Birthday" to those on my Facebook list. And likewise, I don't indicate my birth date on it. 5 birthday wishes from those dear to me are much more meaningful than getting spammed by 200 wishes on my Facebook timeline. Therefore I was very happy to receive birthday wishes from the few close friends. And I celebrate their birthday by meeting up to eat and laugh together. God knows that I need friends, and God has provided. 

Fourth, earlier this year, Yale University's Center for Faith & Culture's Singapore Institute graciously sponsored my participation in their 5-days conference on Christian-Muslim relation. It was a marvelous learning experience. There were representatives from the region's religious organizations for the program. I have learnt much from my fellow participants. It was also the first time I met Christopher Choong, a sociologist from Malaysia, after having corresponded over emails and Facebook all this while. He is also one of the contributors in The Bible and the Ballot.

Fifth, I received scholarship from Cambridge University to attend their summer school on inter-faith issues. It was a great experience to study at one of the top universities in the world. I vividly remember the moment I first saw Cambridge on the bus. My heart was filled with so much joy that I couldn't stop thanking God for the opportunity. David Ford, the Regius Professor of Divinity, gave me a ride to the Madingley Hall, where the program was held. Jews, Christians, and Muslims spent 3 weeks learning, engaging, eating, and living together. (The photo above was taken by Sarah Whittle when we visited Cambridge's Selwyn College, where Prof. Ford is a Fellow.) I also took the opportunity to visit my good friend Nathanael Goh and his wife at Durham University. Nathanael is currently pursuing his doctorate there. After the summer school, my wife flew to meet me. We spent the next 2 weeks traveling around London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. All these are possible only because of God who have blessed us through scholarship and friends' love gift.

Sixth, my second co-edited book Christianity and Citizenship is published in electronic form recently. The introduction reads: "[The book] is a follow-up series to The Bible & the Ballot that focuses on Christians’ participation as citizens. Like the previous series, the present one is also a collective effort by Christians from different parts of the theological spectrum. Six writers weigh in on topics ranging from governance to education, political movements to the gospel, as well as things that often go unspoken and avoided."

To God, in gratitude.

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