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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Moving in the Mundane

Moving house has been described as one of the most stressful experiences in life. We can attest to that. Personally. Over the past few months we have put our apartment on the market, sold the place within the span of two weeks, completed the sales transaction, moved all our belongings to our uncle's warehouse, moved to our temporary home hosted by our aunts', and finally moved in to our new place. And this is only a partial move; we have not yet installed all the lights, and all our belongings have yet to arrive (we have had a total of four separate moving trips so far)!
Getting ready for renovations after weeks of waiting for the defects checks to be completed.
Our intention was to move in before Christmas, so that we could celebrate and enjoy a fresh start in a new home. But that was not to be, due to extensive defects checking and rectification; and this was not even considering the renovation schedule. And so we chose to move in just before the New Year - but that was before all the lights had arrived; and also before the gas had been switched on - which not only meant that we did not have the capacity to cook hot food, but also that we had to bathe in cold water for more than a week!
Lights! Camera! Action! Our busy workmen getting the place ready for us.
Colour me beautiful! We had fun choosing colours for the different rooms in the house.

First night in our new home.
Moving house itself has been a strain on us physically and emotionally - this has meant us spending many late nights packing things and now unpacking them. And because I still need to get my day-to-day affairs going - such as my ongoing teaching and workshop responsibilities, I have had to focus more on my work, leaving my wife to deal almost exclusively with moving matters.
This has been a difficult period for us; but it has not been without its precious moments. For instance it has been wonderful to experience the strong support of our family and friends, who have been there for us in the packing and in the unpacking. We were indeed blessed when they showed up at our house with a hot meal and a helping hand. We are also extremely grateful to our uncle, who has helped to store most of our items at his warehouse, as well as to our aunts, who housed us at their home for almost two months. Through it all we have witnessed the love of God, demonstrated in the mundane, everyday help that our family and friends have extended to us. 
The lovely group of friends who surprised my wife with a hot meal and helping hands.
When we first disclosed that we were moving house, a number of people assumed that it was a relocation overseas. And while that prospect has always interested us, we decided not to do so mostly as we wanted to remain close to our family and friends. Instead, we chose to move to an area further away from the hustle and bustle of the city and nearer to nature. For us, this decision made sense to us given that we are homeschooling our children, and that we did not have to consider any travel time to their “school”. Moreover, the fluid nature of my work meant that I would be free to move anywhere in the island without having to worry too much about travel distances.

For the kids, it has been a period of transition, and the initial weeks were not easy for them. They kept asking to stay at their grandparents’ homes, given their familiarity with these two locations. This was also a time when they were having nightmares rather frequently, and we know this was partly due to fears and concerns related to the transition. The kids eventually got so used to staying at our aunts’ that they still asked to return there for the first few days after our arrival in our new house (perhaps in part when they were asked to bathe in cold water). We know also that they had grown fond of spending time with our aunts, and that they enjoyed “bothering” them each morning and each evening in their rooms. Yet I am thankful that kids in general are resilient, and that if change is managed appropriately, that they will be able to adapt in a healthy manner. I believe our kids are now fairly settled in our new home, even as they wander around and get used to the new locations around us.
Goodbyes are difficult. One last walk around our old neighbourhood.
The boys have lived there all their lives.
Our little carpenter hard at work.
Hard at work. We hope that a new house would mean new routines for the kids!
We are enjoying our new home. I am taking time to explore the new neighbourhood, and it is interesting to discover new locales for food, groceries and other daily necessities. Our family especially enjoys the close proximity to the beach, spending our evenings enjoying the fresh sea breezes and the calming waves, which create a somewhat hypnotic experience as you stand at the sand and gaze peacefully into the horizon. The kids of course enjoy drawing in the sand, creating their artistic masterpieces and laughing wildly to the hearts’ content. 

“We are creating memories,” remarked Sue yesterday as we took a spontaneous evening walk. “Yes we are,” I replied, knowing that our kids will enjoy many more days examining the angsana fruit, and looking for hermit crabs, among many other simple pleasures.

For it is in the mundane that we experience great beauty and joy; for it is in the mundane that we experience the fullness of God’s grace.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Spirituality of Parenting Part 2

This is the second of a two-part paper that was submitted to the Singapore Bible College as part of the requirements for my Graduate Diploma. It was for the module "An Introduction to Christian Spirituality".

Christian Spirituality & Parenting

Just as Christian spirituality is an amalgamation of a person’s relationship with God, Christian parenting adopts a similar perspective. A key understanding of parenting stems from our relationship with God the Father. Ephesians 1:3-5 articulates this relationship clearly, indicating that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”, and that in love, He “predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will”. As God adopted us to be His children, it is God who is the perfect model of parenting for us to follow. Matthew 7: 9-11 elaborates, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Christian parenting is about modelling God’s spiritual parenting. As a father to two young sons, it is my desire for them to know God as I know Him, and to pursue Jesus in the way that I do.
Christian parenting is about modelling God's spiritual parenting of us.
For our family, bedtime rituals are key, and I spent many nights sharing about the
Jesus of the Bible and what He means to me. 
The Role of the Community in Spiritual Parenting
Consider the role of the community. If we were to adopt a parenting approach based on the model of the early church, this would mean that we would need to teach our children on the importance of the community; it would refer to the importance of instructing our kids on how to share with other believers. The direct church community, as our children understand, would naturally be the local church comprising Sunday school as well as Cell Group. It would also be made up of the Bible School Fellowship group which my kids attend, as well as the Classical Conversations Homeschooling Group and the larger Homeschooling Community which they are a part of. The intention would be to instruct them on the importance of “belonging”. While my kids are still young, they have already expressed an affinity towards some of their friends, whom they are fond of, and whom they have invited to their birthday parties. The challenge would be how to build on the friendships that the young children have, and to instil the spiritual disciplines as exemplified by the early Church.

While it may be relatively easy to encourage our kids to develop closer friendships with other believers, it is however a greater challenge to help them develop a “community of belonging for broken people”. This takes time; and our kids have to learn from a young age that it is ok to be different; it is ok to have problems; and it is ok if you are hurt. The Christian community should be a safe place to share our problems and our hurts; for none of us are perfect, and we are all walking on a journey towards greater Christ-likeness.

A final consideration with regards to the role of the community would be the relational aspect as discussed by Scorgie and Reimer. The Church has to be a community that builds each other up, and spurs each other onwards towards a closer relationship with God. We strongly believe in the importance of mentoring, and have asked an older couple to be our mentors in the parenting journey. One of their suggestions has been to surround our kids with individuals of godly influence; other children whose parents love and fear God. Our mentors’ perspective is that if our kids develop strong friendships with other children who have strong godly principles, they would then consult them during the turbulent teenage years when things seem to become more difficult. It is based on the idea that as parents, we will never be able to cushion our kids from the numerous storms of life. However, when our kids’ faith is put to the test, hopefully they will listen to godly counsel from other believers, and hopefully gain the courage and strength to weather the storm.
Community is key. We want to surround our kids with friends who will be
a godly influence to them when times are tough. 
The Role of Temperaments in Spiritual Parenting
As a counselling student, I have always been fascinated with the impact of personality and how this influences the way we behave. Mulholland’s approach is interesting, as it presents the idea that individuals tend to choose spiritual practices that appear more suited to their personalities. Applying this to the concept of spiritual parenting, it would imply that we need to consider the temperament of our kids when we instruct them in the spiritual disciplines. Consider Jung’s four essential preferences as applied to my children. My 6-year-old son has a more introverted personality type. He is a sensing individual, and predominantly adopts a thinking and judging approach towards life (ISTJ). My 4-year-old son, on the other hand, is clearly an extrovert. He operates strongly in an intuitive manner, opting for feeling and perception as his modus operandi (ENFP).

If I was to adopt Mulholland’s perspectives on temperament and spirituality, this would imply that for my older son, that I would have to teach the spiritual disciplines in a manner that is more “analytical and structured” while for my younger son, I would have to adopt a more “unplanned and unstructured” approach. This methodology does make sense, as my older son appreciates a structured approach towards worship, prayer and the reading of God’s Word. As for my younger son, he does have a preference for a more unstructured approach towards the spiritual disciplines.
Parenting our two sons requires us to understand each child and to
respond to them in a different manner in accordance to their temperament.
It's a challenging, yet precious endeavour! 

The Mulholland approach can be co-related to the concept of Love Languages, as popularised by Gary Chapman. In the book The 5 Love Languages of Children which he co-authored with Ross Campbell (2012), Chapman observed, “Every child has a primary language of love, a way in which he or she understands a parent’s love best” (p. 7). He shared five languages through which children understand their parents’ love - physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service (p. 12).

Applying Chapman’s concepts to my children, I learn that my older son communicates best through the languages of quality time and words of affirmation. As for my younger child, he is more conversant with the languages of physical touch and gifts. Given my understanding of my children’s love languages, I realise that they respond to me best when I speak their primary love languages. However, while Chapman notes that our kids communicate best through their primary love language, he also observes that children also use the other languages in their communication with their parents. As such it would be prudent for us to focus on our children’s primary love languages, but also work on communicating love to them through all other means.

I am of the opinion that a similar approach can be used in applying Mulholland’s concepts of temperament and spirituality. While my 6-year-old appreciates a structured approach towards the spiritual disciplines and my 4-year-old has a preference towards a more unstructured approach, it would not be detrimental for their spiritual development if I adopt an approach that may not seem in line with their personality. This is in line with Mulholland’s perspectives on “one-sided” spirituality, which could have an adverse impact on the development of a child. Moreover, church communities are not intended to be individualistic or segmented. As such, there is synergy when people of different temperaments worship together. This exemplifies the concept of a body, as articulated in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
When we love our children we need to do so in a way that they understand.
Each child communicates differently in the language of love; and as parents,
our responsibility is to acknowledge and address their needs in a way that
we can understand. 

The Role of Missions in Spiritual Parenting
Missions is about using our being, thoughts, speech, actions, passion and relations i.e. our spirituality, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, to “bring about the whole creation to worship or come under the Lordship of God and Christ” (Lang, 2016b). This understanding of missions incorporates our understanding of Christian spirituality and implies that we are to use our entire being for the purpose of missions work. Lang’s definition is congruent with a group of twenty global Christian bodies, which met to share a collaborative reflection on Christian mission. The Edinburgh 2010, which represents the various major Christian denominations, defined mission spirituality as an “experience of God, lived out as persons in communities through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for witness and service, following Christ’s way in the hope of reconciliation with the whole of creation” (Ma, W. & Ross, K. R., 2013, p. 7).

Considering this understanding of mission spirituality, it is imperative as parents for us to raise our children with a heartbeat for missions - and this does not only refer to the notion of taking our kids on a mission trip to an underdeveloped country with the purpose of bringing salvation to the people there. Missions involves the use of our entire being; and we use the gifts that God has given to us to draw pre-believers to Jesus. Parenting our children with a missions paradigm involves getting them to have an implicit understanding of their spirituality. It then involves sharing with our kids about others less privileged than us, in the hope that they develop a desire for outreach, and a burden to share God’s love to the nations.

We have been homeschooling our children since the older child was 2/1/2-years-old. This has allowed us to teach him various subjects not normally taught in pre-schools, such as history and geography. When our older son became 5, we became part of a group known as the Classical Conversations community. The group meets once a week, and the kids are taught about important aspects of life through biblical principles. We have therefore not shied away from teaching him about difficult issues in the world, and about how man has failed time and time over again; but that it is only through the redemptive power of Christ that the world can be saved. We were therefore heartened when our son decided one day that he wanted to sell away one of his toys and use the money to buy and cook food for a poor child, bringing the boy home with us and caring for him. We realised then that our 6-year-old had at a young age developed an understanding of the heart of God towards the less fortunate. We intend to continue the incubation of such precious values in him; and to one day bring him to visit poorer communities in Singapore and the world.


Many missionaries refer to the “call” as that turning point in their lives when they felt a prompting from God; either as a direct word from Him, through the movement of the Holy Spirit, or through the influence of godly people. The Macedonia Call, as described in Acts 16:6-10, has often been cited as a means through which God directs the movement of His people. While not all missionary calls are through visions as experienced by Paul, the prompting of the Holy Spirit is believed to be key in leading God’s people in the direction He has for them.
By helping our kids to understand what missions is all about, we share with them what is foremost on God's heart - for the whole of creation to be subject to the dominion of God, just as it was meant to be. 

Many Christian parents fear that their children will be “called” into a full-time ministry, either as a pastor or as a missionary. There is a genuine concern that as a full-time minister, that their children would always lead a life of poverty, not unlike some of the famous preachers and missionaries. The converse is true. When God calls a person to take on the role of a full-time minister, it may not be an easy job, but the vocation is no less demanding than any other “secular” position. If we were to understand the theology of vocation, we would have the perspective that there is no job too “sacred” or too “secular”; and that the difference between the “sacred” and the “secular” is merely a label created by man. In God’ economy, He calls different people to take on different roles in the Body of Christ; some to be teachers, to be lawyers, and yet others to be pastors and missionaries. There is no job that is greater or lesser. All are called; the only difference is where you are called to serve God.

From the day our children came home to us, we were very clear that both of them are God’s gift to us; and that we would be prepared for them to go wherever God has called them to go. Given how our kids came to be part of our family, we have always been inspired by Hannah and her response to the child God gave to her. In 1 Samuel 1:26-28 Hannah brought Samuel to the temple and dedicated him to God, saying that “As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” Since our children were younger we have been praying to God, and dedicating them both to Him. We desire for both of them to serve God wherever He calls them to go, whether it is in our presence or far away from us. That, I believe, is the heart of spiritual parenting with the perspective of mission spirituality; for parents to acknowledge that our children never truly “belong” to us. All that we have, including our kids, ultimately belongs to God; and all that we have, including our children, are intended for His glory.
All that we have, including our children, belongs to God. And our
key role as parents is to guide our kids to glorify God in all that they choose to do. 
Spiritual Parenting Across the Ages

Many centuries have come and gone since the early days when the Church first came to develop a notion of what Christian spirituality comprises; from the days of Acts when believers first came together after the departure of their teacher and mentor Jesus, to the present day when believers congregate in different denominations and worship God through different methods and in different community sizes. Much has changed; technology has ensured that. There was a time when the Word of God was copied by hand one scroll at a time, and when only highly educated individuals had access to the teachings of God. Today, the Bible can be found on every smart phone on the planet, and Internet sermons provide easy access to believers who do not wish to meet in a local church to listen to God’s Word. Yet despite the numerous changes experienced across time, there are things that have remained the same throughout the ages - the Word of God and the souls of men. As parents, it is our responsibility to raise our children to treasure these two quintessential elements. We need to always impart God’s truth to our kids; and to help them understand that it is God’s desire for the salvation of the world. Therein lies the essence of spiritual parenting.

The first part of my paper discusses why it is beneficial to view Christian spirituality from an integrated perspective. You can read more here.

References

Barlow, F. (1976). William Carey: Missionary-Evangelist. In Barlow, F. Profiles in Evangelism. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers. Retrieved from http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey1.html.


Chapman, G. & Campbell, R. (2012) The 5 Love Languages of Children. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.


Gallagher, R. L. (2012). Mission from the Inside Out: An Analysis of the Role of Spirituality and Mission from Selected Protestant Missiological “Writings” from 1940-2000. Retrieved from http://www.wheaton.edu/~/media/Files/Graduate-School/Degrees/Intercultural-Studies/Gallagher-homepage/Articles/Mission_From_Inside_Out.pdf.


Kraft, M. (2000). Spiritual Conflict and the Mission of the Church: Contextualization. Nairobi: Lausanne Movement. Retrieved from https://www.lausanne.org/content/contextualization.


Lang, D. (2016a). Lecture: Communal/Social/Familial Aspect of Spirituality.


Lang, D. (2016b). Lecture: Missions/Evangelism & Spirituality.


Ma, W. & Ross, K. R. (Eds.) (2013). Mission Spirituality and Authentic Discipleship. Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series, 14. Retrieved from http://www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum/downloads/Mission_Spirituality_and_Authentic_Discipleship-final-WM.pdf.


Mulholland Jr., M. R. (2016). Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Scorgie, G. C. & Reimer, K. S. (2011). Spirituality in Community. In Scorgie, G. G., Chan, S., Smith, G. T. & Smith III, J. D. (Eds.). Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. (77-83). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Sittser, G. L. (2007). Water from a Deep Well. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Solomon, R. (2011). Contextual Spirituality. In Scorgie, G. G., Chan, S., Smith, G. T. & Smith III, J. D. (Eds.). Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. (205-10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Spirituality of Parenting Part 1

This is the first of a two-part paper that was submitted to the Singapore Bible College as part of the requirements for my Graduate Diploma. It was for the module "An Introduction to Christian Spirituality".

Reflecting on Christian Spirituality

Christian Spirituality as based on the Bible has to do with “things that are of God”. It incorporates aspects of being, thought, speech, actions, passion and relations (Lang, 2016b). This definition of spirituality adopts an integrated approach and considers a person’s relationship with God in a holistic manner; not only focussing on traditional spiritual disciplines such as the reading of God’s Word, prayer and worship, but also a person’s purpose and calling, and how his or her actions serve as a Christian witness to the larger social group and global community.

This paper will discuss the “Spirituality of Parenthood”. It will examine how as parents, our understanding and practice of Christian Spirituality has a direct impact on our immediate sphere of influence - our children; and how this bears witness to the larger global community. The paper will focus on three aspects of spirituality discussed in the course, An Introduction to Christian Spirituality i.e. the role of the community, the role of temperaments and the role of missions, and how each of these three aspects have shaped my understanding of parenting.
Each of our two boys has a different temperament; and this has a significant impact on how we parent them.

The Community & Christian Spirituality


The early Church in Acts is often seen as a model for the Christian community. Acts 2:44 notes that “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (English Standard Version). The early Christian community devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They broke bread and prayed together. For them, community included the selling of possessions and distributing the proceeds to all, as according to individual need (Acts 2:42-45). Given the deep sense of belonging, it was considered a serious transgression if a member of the community chose to lie to the community, or to deal dishonestly with property that was intended for the community. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a case in point (Acts 5:1-11). In this instance the couple sold their property to give the proceeds to the Church. But they lied regarding the amount of money, and were struck dead by God.

Gerald Sittser, in his book Water from a Deep Well (2007), shared about how the early Christian community had a deep sense of belonging to each other. Sittser pointed to the implications of what it could be like if today’s church adopted the model of the early Christians. He noted that God calls the church to be a “community of belonging for broken people” (p. 65). Such a community of believers would then be a testimony of the power of the Gospel to transform lives and to provide a sense of belonging for all who are outcast and alone.

While the early Christians emphasised community-based spirituality, many modern-day Christians are of the opinion that spirituality should be an individualised affair (Lang, 2016a). Spirituality is seen as a personal responsibility, and that it should be private, with religion confined to the private sphere and prayer conducted in a secret, secluded place. Moreover, the emphasis on individual spiritual disciplines such as quiet time, memory verses and personal evangelism seems to suggest a more personal form of spirituality. However the Bible is clear that spirituality is often community-based, with instances of righteousness and sin being transferred across familial and generational lines (Lang, 2016a).

Scorgie and Reimer (2011) argue that Christian spirituality is relational in nature. They present the thesis that God is triune in nature, and given our role as bearers of His image, that we should also be relational in nature. Moreover, loving God and loving others is inextricably related, and we cannot detach our devotion to God from our affections towards others (pp. 77-8). A key for moving away from individual-based spirituality lies in the realisation that we are not alone in this spiritual journey, and that as individual Christians that we must rely on others to help us, given our own weaknesses and blind spots (p. 80). Scorgie and Reimer quote the work of David Benner, whose book Spiritual Companions identifies people who not only provide pastoral care, but are also spiritual directors, spiritual mentors and spiritual friends (p. 81). Undergirding the idea of a spiritual community is the foundational work that such a community has on individuals, building them up in spiritual truths through elements such as Bible study and biblical preaching.


Christian spirituality is relational in nature and we need fellow believers to give us a helping hand in times of need.

Temperaments & Christian Spirituality


Robert Solomon, in Chapter 29 of the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (2011), discusses the study of Christian spirituality in context. Solomon argues that spirituality can be examined from three dimensions - personality and life stages, culture and society (p. 205). Solomon observes that the personality and life stage approach considers that an individual’s brand of spirituality is determinant on his or her personality type and life stage (p. 206). Robert Mulholland (2016) takes this concept further and comments that just as psychology should not be used as a substitute for spirituality, neither should spirituality replace psychology (p. 56). He elaborates by stating that spiritual formation should not be seen as the panacea for all the worries encountered by a Christian; and that should there be any psychological issues, that these issues should be resolved through psychological means.

Mulholland considers the impact of personality on spirituality by studying the four essential preferences as identified by Carl Jung, namely extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, judgement and perception. Mulholland notes that for each set of choices, individuals generally prefer one of the pair, and this then shapes their overall personality, and constitutes an individual’s “creation gifts” (p. 61-3). In making preferences, Mulholland suggests that individuals tend to choose spiritual practices that appear more suited to their personalities; for instance thinking persons could be more “theological, analytical and structured”, while perception-oriented persons could adopt a brand of spirituality that is more unplanned and unstructured (p. 70). This “one-sided” approach towards spirituality could lead towards spiritual disintegration, and Mulholland suggests that despite one’s preferences in personality, that it would be prudent to still adopt a balanced approach towards the pursuit of spirituality.


What are our "creation gifts"? What makes us who we are?
Christian Spirituality and Missions

The biblical mandate for missions can first be found in Genesis 1:26, when God gave man dominion over all the creatures of the earth. The call to missions was again mentioned in Matthew 28:18-20, when Jesus charged His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of God. These traditional verses have been used as the basis of missions, to spread the Word of God to all the peoples of the earth.

Kraft (2000) notes that the mission of the church is to “introduce people to Christ”, to “make them aware of God’s purposes for all human beings”, and to “assist them in responsibly becoming bearers of His good news”. She observes that the church must meet felt needs when communicating about the Gospel to the unreached peoples; and that felt needs must be met in order for spiritual growth to occur.

Gallagher (2012), in analysing the role of spirituality and mission from various Protestant missiological works from 1940 to 2000, noted that there were three major themes in these writings, that of Bible study, worship and prayer, and the role of these three elements in missions. Gallagher noted that the missiological works did not focus much on Bible study, but they did mention that as people studied the Bible, that the Holy Spirit would show them that the Scripture is a missionary book. People would then realise their “responsibility to witness both locally and globally - in proclamation and social activism”. Regarding worship, it was seen as an important aspect of missions, with the heart of worship coming from the “adoration and worship of Jesus”, which stems from an “inner personal communion with our Lord”. As for prayer, Gallagher noted that the missiological works did not emphasise much on this, with only some writings calling on the importance of prayer as the “most important thing Christians can do for God’s mission”. This was as our communion with God shapes our communication with people.

Missionaries always describe the “call” as the reason for their entrance into the mission field. Consider the case of William Carey, who founded the first Protestant mission in the non-English-speaking world. Barlow (1976) writes that it was in a small English town that Carey first heard the call while reading the Last Voyage of Captain Cook. Last Voyage of Captain Cook. Barlow observes that to many, the book was a “thrilling story of adventure”. But to Carey, it was a “revelation of human need”. The young English cobbler then began to read every book on the subject. He then became more and more convinced that “"the peoples of the world need Christ." Finally Carey uttered the words that Isaiah once cried out, "Here am I; send me!” Thus began a difficult journey to the mission field; but it also became a voyage that would change the course of many lives in India.


What is our "call"? How will we answer the call of God?

The second part of this paper will 
elaborate on how each of the three aspects mentioned above - the role of the community, the role of temperaments and the role of missions - have shaped my understanding of parenting. You can read the paper here.


References

Barlow, F. (1976). William Carey: Missionary-Evangelist. In Barlow, F. Profiles in Evangelism. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers. Retrieved from http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey1.html.


Chapman, G. & Campbell, R. (2012) The 5 Love Languages of Children. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.


Gallagher, R. L. (2012). Mission from the Inside Out: An Analysis of the Role of Spirituality and Mission from Selected Protestant Missiological “Writings” from 1940-2000. Retrieved from http://www.wheaton.edu/~/media/Files/Graduate-School/Degrees/Intercultural-Studies/Gallagher-homepage/Articles/Mission_From_Inside_Out.pdf.


Kraft, M. (2000). Spiritual Conflict and the Mission of the Church: Contextualization. Nairobi: Lausanne Movement. Retrieved from https://www.lausanne.org/content/contextualization.


Lang, D. (2016a). Lecture: Communal/Social/Familial Aspect of Spirituality.


Lang, D. (2016b). Lecture: Missions/Evangelism & Spirituality.


Ma, W. & Ross, K. R. (Eds.) (2013). Mission Spirituality and Authentic Discipleship. Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series, 14. Retrieved from http://www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum/downloads/Mission_Spirituality_and_Authentic_Discipleship-final-WM.pdf.


Mulholland Jr., M. R. (2016). Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Scorgie, G. C. & Reimer, K. S. (2011). Spirituality in Community. In Scorgie, G. G., Chan, S., Smith, G. T. & Smith III, J. D. (Eds.). Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. (77-83). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Sittser, G. L. (2007). Water from a Deep Well. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Solomon, R. (2011). Contextual Spirituality. In Scorgie, G. G., Chan, S., Smith, G. T. & Smith III, J. D. (Eds.). Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. (205-10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hong Kong for Kids: Our Dorsett Wanchai Experience

It was only a few months back when we had our lovely holiday experience in Hong Kong. We had then stayed in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, a lovely place located at the northern tip of Hong Kong island, near the world-famous Ocean Park. Most people have asked us why we chose Hong Kong as a destination for our kids given the island's reputation as more of a food and shopping paradise. We shared with them that there is actually more than meets the eye to this territory known affectionately as the "Pearl of the Orient". 
The view from Stanley, one of our favourite spots in the beautiful city of Hong Kong.
Rooms in Hong Kong are small, and we had a hard time looking for a place to stay that could meet the needs of our two very energetic children. We settled for the Cosmopolitan Hotel, given that it was one of the few hotels that had affordable prices for its Family Quad Room, a large room that could accommodate all four of us comfortably. We were pleasantly surprised when we received an email from the hotel, informing us that we had received a free room upgrade to its Ocean Park Family Suite. What excited us the most then was that the room had a mobile library for the kids - which meant that we did not have to lug around too many books for the children to read. Of course it was also decorated with an Ocean Park theme, a treat for our kids, both of whom are really fond of animals.
The kids were all ready to dive into their Ocean Park Family Suite experience!
A lovely reading corner for kids to snuggle up with a cosy book.
Contemplating where to go next in our adventures around the world!
Our kids really enjoyed ourselves in Hong Kong, and till today they are still talking about their trip there, and about their stay in the grand "bouncy bed" (our kids love hotels and they affectionately term them as "bouncy beds" in recognition of how lovely the mattresses feel).


We spent many evenings reading the kids a bedtime story before sending them off to dreamland.
A lovely sight - Mummy and son enjoying a goodnight story.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel has been renamed as the Dorsett Wanchai Hong Kong. The hotel is known for their special "signature" rooms such as the Grand Deluxe Course View Room, the Ocean Park Family Suite, the Sony 4K/3D Experience Suite, and the OSIM Massage Suite. Each of these rooms has been ornately decorated, and we were very impressed by the extent that the hotel has gone through to ensure a wonderful experience for its guests, especially in the amenities provided for the kids and the "surprise treats" which guests sometimes find in their rooms.


The luxurious Sony 4K/3D Experience Suite - a treat for technophiles!
All tired from a full day of shipping? Here's the ultimate massage experience in the OSIM Massage Suite!
Our kids enjoyed the lovely snacks carefully curated by the hotel to make them feel comfortable.
This cute bear goes home with you - and he bears an educational message on how far
you should sit from the TV!
Parenting on Purpose is pleased to partner with the hotel to present a free 2-night stay there! The winner of our giveaway will win a 2-night stay in the hotel's newly renovated Premier Room, valid between now till the end of March 2017. The room voucher will come with 2 meal vouchers redeemable for breakfast/lunch or dinner in one of HK’s venerable cha chaan teng (coffee shop).

The Dorsett Wanchai Hong Kong Premier Room
How to qualify for the giveaway:

1) Like the Parenting on Purpose Facebook Page  and the Dorsett Wanchai Hong Kong Facebook or Instagram page.  Include the hashtag
 #dorsettwanchaihk on either/both social media channels.

2) Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends (not including the friend who had tagged you. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to "Public".)

For an extra chance to win:

Comment on this post and share with us which signature theme room interests you the most and why. Please leave your email so that we will be able to contact you should you win the contest!

The giveaway will end on Saturday 17 December and entries must be submitted by 10pm.


And the winner of the giveaway goes to Mag Yeow!

Parenting on Purpose is also pleased to announce that if you key in a special promotional code SUEMARK, you will enjoy a 25% OFF all room types and packages when you book your rooms via the hotel official website. You can also enter the promotional code under ‘Special Codes - Corporate/Promotion Code’ in the hotel's booking engine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This Way! No, That Way! The Search for the Magic Paintbrush (A Review of the 2016 I Theatre Production)

When Singapore girl Toni Lee makes a wish, little does she know that her dreams can come true! The 10-year-old travels back to ancient China, and becomes the poor painter Ma Liang, who is presented with a special gift by the Spirit of Creation. Anything Ma Liang paints can come to life! And he uses this gift to provide for the poor and the under-privileged. But what happens when the tyrannical Emperor finds out? Will this spell the end of Ma Liang and the Magic Paintbrush?
"If only.... " A Singapore girl faces her dreaded exams; and her parents don't seem to understand how she feels.

I Theatre's last production of the year, the Magic Paintbrush, is a theatrical work of genius. The first time the play was run was in 2000, and the musical generated so much hype it was made into a book by publisher Marshall Cavendish. The 2016 version stole the hearts of the audience from the get-go. With powerful songs put together by the I Theatre music trio of Kenneth Lyen, Bang Wenfu and Sara Wee, the show was a sizzling success. The song 'Reaching", for instance, sung by the lead Ma Liang (played by Jodi Chan), struck an emotional chord with its soulful melody and pensive lyrics. But it was the delightful phoenix Madam Hoang (played by Amanda Tee), whose enchanting voice resounded throughout the theatre. 

The village comes alive in a spectacular delight of song and dance!

Artistic Director Brian Seward, who wrote the play, created characters larger than life. From the narcissistic emperor (splendidly depicted by Tan Shou Chen), to the comic imperial guards Sotong and Shrimp (daftly brought to life by Ebi Shankara and Darren Guo), the dramatisation was of the very best. One could almost get into the shoes of the characters, and empathise with their struggles and successes.

"This way?" "No, that way!" Comic relief by Ebi Shankara and Darren Guo, who play the
fumbling imperial guards Shrimp and Sotong.
The I Theatre production also scored an "A" in the use of props and puppetry. Madam Hoang and Phoenix and Chicken, were specially created for the production; and the use of black light theatre at the end is always a delight for audiences young and old. Parenting on Purpose understands that even though there were only 9 actors, there were 25 different costumes, and each actor had to change costumes up to 10 times during the play! In addition, creating the backdrop was no easy feat. The scenery took six weeks to build, and two days to install in the theatre! But the results were spectacular; from the Maoist-like images of the Emperor, to the surreal and peaceful village scenes, and finally to the set of the golden boat amidst the towering ocean waves - The Magic Paintbrush was a wonderful work of theatrical magic!

The delightful backdrops were an eye-turner. I Theatre truly outdid themselves with this endeavour!

However no I Theatre production is complete without a set of values imbued in the story. Seward is ultimately a teacher at heart, and he tells Parenting on Purpose that there is always a desire to "raise questions more than present answers". Seward insists that true learning can only occur if the audience answers the questions themselves. What then is the moral of the story? From this writer's perspective, the play is a social commentary highlighting that success should not solely be determined by one's grades; and that there is no end to striving for things that have material value. Instead, virtues such as kindness and generosity should be pursued, for these are the things that make a difference for the world around us. 

An outstanding performance by the cast of The Magic Paintbrush.

I Theatre has ended its 2016 run of plays, and the 2017 season begins its run with the popular The Ant and the Grasshopper. Parenting on Purpose will bring you details of the plays. Watch this space for more!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Magic Paintbrush: Up Close & Personal with Brian Seward

I Theatre's spectacular production The Magic Paintbrush starts its run this week. Parenting on Purpose goes up close and personal with the company's Creative Director Brian Seward, to learn more about why I Theatre is bringing back this popular play.
Spectacular artwork from the original production of The Magic Paintbrush.
Parenting on Purpose: 

What made you choose this particular Chinese folk tale as the original inspiration for the play?

Brian Seward:  

It was an interesting story, with not too many characters, and with a very clear moral, that was suitable for younger children as well as older ones. A lot of Chinese folk tales can be quite long and involved. Others involve a lot of fighting and chopping off of heads. This story lent itself a bit more to a theatre adaptation - although we have the challenge of making things that are painted come to life!

There were a number of different versions of the story - some more bloodthirsty than others. We decided to take elements from the best and oldest versions, and blend them with contemporary references.


Parenting on Purpose: 

Hmm... It might have been difficult to show scenes with the chopping off of heads! 

What were some of the challenges in producing the original play and was it any easier to do the 2016 remake?

Brian Seward: 

For the original play, we had little experience of producing a musical, so it was a very steep learning curve. The amount of time needed to learn songs and then to choreograph was a lot longer than we had anticipated. Using puppets, we had to design the stage scenery to hide the puppeteers, and that meant that there was a LOT of scenery onstage, with very little space for the actors to move.

We had to find ways of creating effects that look easy on-screen, but are a very different matter onstage!
Rich characters and stunning scenescapes were a strong point for the 2000 production.

Parenting on Purpose: 


Can you share the story of how "The Magic Paintbrush" was picked up by Marshall Cavendish and eventually transformed into a book? What were some of the challenges of changing one form of literary genre to another?

Brian Seward: 


Quite simply, we got a phone call one morning from the publisher, who had the idea that if they produced a book of our play, we could help each other by cross-marketing, so that each of us would benefit. They had seen the show in 2000, and were keen to work with us so that when we brought back the show in 2004, the book would be published simultaneously.

In a play, you really only write the dialogue, and maybe occasional stage directions. The actors will add the intentions, the emotions and the actions, then the designers will add in the costumes, scenery, lighting and ‘atmosphere’. For a book, the writer has to take the dialogue and fill in the rest of the picture using descriptive language. Actually I had to REALLY trim down the dialogue, and very carefully try, in the minimum number of words, to create the atmosphere, describe the scenery and build up the full picture. 

It was very good to have the original 2000 production to refer back to, and for the illustrations we used some of the original production photos as reference. It was easy and fun to overcome some of the limitations of the script in the book, because in the book we could make anything happen!
Cover for the book that was published by Marshall Cavendish.

Parenting on Purpose: 


That's a really interesting story! 

Tell us about the 2016. What has changed? How have changes in the wider international landscape affected the script and characters?


Brian Seward: 

The story remains the same. The majority of the characters also remain the same. Obviously we have to retain the original storyline from the folk tale. However, the original play was very episodic in nature; we met a series of characters, but then never saw them again. I wanted to develop these characters, and give them a through-line, so we were able to follow them throughout the play. In the original story we had a lot of static puppetry. For this time we have streamlined the number of puppets, and gave them the ability to travel around the stage. We also gave them clearer and more developed storylines, so they became much more part of the action and less as just ‘decoration’. One of the ‘live’ actors has been transformed into a puppet, and three of the original puppet characters are now ‘live’ actors.

Because we are using a bigger and more technically advanced theatre space, the scenery is MUCH bigger and more spectacular, and we are able to make much bigger scene changes.

The songs had begun to sound a bit dated, so we have edited them, in some cases re-written the melodies and the words, and we have added in two new songs, and removed one which was really nice, but did not suit the mood or the action. Occasionally the music references may seem a bit dated now, but we think they are still a lot of fun, so we kept them in. (You’ll just have to watch to find out what I mean!). we have managed to mix a very eclectic range of musical styles in this production.

We were surprised - and maybe a little sad - that the original messages we wanted to convey; of the value of creativity, and the way that the arts can enrich our lives; that constant academic study is not necessarily the best way to go; and that the pursuit of money and riches to the exclusion of everything else is not the best aim in life - are still very relevant today. It DID mean that very little change had to take place in the way that the characters were written, and we really did not need to change the emphasis of the play very much
There's always breadth and depth for an I Theatre production. Each show imbues a moral for the audiences
both young and old,

Parenting on Purpose: 


Was the original piece intended as a social commentary and as a means to infuse educational values for the audience? How did this influence later plays that you have written?


Brian Seward: 

When I wrote the play originally, it was written as much for the parents (maybe MORE for the parents and teachers) than for the younger audience members. As such, it was written without talking down to the audience - and although there was a lot of comedy in the play, we tried not to make it ‘childish’. That is something which we ALWAYS try to do now, whether the play is for a younger or an older audience. We wanted to raise questions more than present answers. We wanted the audience to answer the questions for themselves - as this is where true learning lies. This is also a principle we have tried to stick to, even through pressure to give clear moral ‘answers’. Quite often the answers are there, ready for your to work out for yourself, but we still don’t hand them out on a plate!

Parenting on Purpose: 

Thanks Brian! We can't wait to watch the show!


Parenting on Purpose is pleased to partner I Theatre to present 4 tickets for the 11am show on Saturday 29 October 2016.

How to qualify for the giveaway:

1) Like the Parenting on Purpose Facebook page.

2) Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends (not including the friend who had tagged you. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to "Public".)

For an extra chance to win:

Comment on this post and share with us one interesting thing you have learnt about The Magic Paintbrush and why that interests you! Please leave your email so that we will be able to contact you should you win the contest!

The giveaway will end on Thursday 27 October and entries must be submitted by 10pm.

And.... we congratulate our winner E Ling, who has won 4 lovely tickets to the performance!

We will be contacting your shortly!