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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

T.G.F. Fridays - Thank God For Fridays

Apart from it signalling the coming of the weekend (no class for 2 1/2 days, rejoice and be glad), Friday is that time of the week when we Lifeline CKK members meet up for our weekly cell group gathering.

It's the time of the week I get to join peers - and old men alike - in being most vulnerable to God's presence as we sing praises to Him and glorify His Name, allowing Him to speak and minister to us through praise and worship.

It's the time of the week I get to engage in lively discussion about the real essence of my being: God the Father who created us out of the immense and unconditional Love He has.

**For those who were thinking along the lines of Biology Form 3 Chapter 1 - Sexual Reproduction, shame on you!**

It's the time of the week I get to see a certain dignified and learned seminarian go "wild" and try his hand (or rather, feet) at ice-skating (and falling badly in the process) during Fun Nights.

And more importantly, it's the time of the week I get to learn more about my faith and grow into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God at the same time.

Which is, I believe, the main purpose of the very existence of Christian communities, be it covenant communities, BECs, CFs, Lifeline or any ministry at all.

It is as a community where we get to fulfil the purposes of the church:

a) Worship
- Worshipping God is about having a real relationship with Him, a relationship that goes beyond the four walls of church on Sundays, Christmases and Easters. It's about having a lifestyle that is constantly an expression of love and devotion to Him. In community life, we learn how to adopt that lifestyle, and the praise and worship session that we have is only an extension of that on-going walk we have with Christ, where we declare our heartfelt adoration and praise for Him.

b) Ministry
- Being in a community, members learn to be more Christ-like by reaching out to others; serving them just as Christ did 2000 years ago. God-given talents and giftings are allowed to be discovered and then properly developed to full potential as we give back to Him what He gave to us.

c) Proclamation
- Jesus' Great Commission, to "Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations..." should constantly be in our hearts and minds as we go about living our daily lives. As Fr O.C. has pointedly pointed out so many times before (especially of us Catholics), we more often than not don't live the Great Commission, but rather, the Great Omission. Being a Christian, I know that God does indeed love me and I'm thankful and overjoyed for His love. It should hence naturally occur to me that I want to tell others how God loves me so that they can share in that wonderful love as well. A good community is one which constantly grows and then multiplies, enabling it to reach out to more and more people as they are invited to enjoy and savour God's beautiful love.

d) Fellowship
- Sharing the same spiritual "DNA" through baptism, we need to move beyond the hi and bye and sigh in church and actually become friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. A community allows us to "get to know" each other better - about each other's personal relationship with God, life struggles, dreams and aspirations, etc; and help each other grow closer to Him over fun, food and games.

e) Discipleship
- A lot of us seem to think that learning how to be Catholic ends after "graduating" from Confirmation class. It obviously doesn't, and we often fail to understand that the call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ is a lifelong one. We are given that chance to learn so much more about our faith in a healthy community, where we can ask all those "silly" questions about the faith and sound "foolish", without actually making (too much of) a fool of ourselves. A community also enables the sharing of struggles and requests for prayers, something which we normally wouldn't have in church.


Even during the apostles' time, Christians belonged to communities:
"When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers."
-- Acts 1:13-14
"Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favour with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
-- Acts 2:46-47
"The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common...there was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need."
-- Acts 4:32-35
But of course, the initial process of getting hooked up with a community in itself can be a challenge.

After being "recruited" by the Lifeline SFX Recruitment Drive at the beginning of last year, I went for my first Lifeline meeting with high hopes, having been given the impression by the testimonies in church that the people there were extremely friendly and would only stop short of feeding you grapes as you sat by the wayside.

Man, did I feel out of place.

Being alone in the presence of so many strangers with no familiar face in sight can be a very trying experience, especially when you are an extremely shy person. And having entered the room 10 minutes into the meeting, when the speaker was already in the middle of her session, the friendly people around me couldn't exactly welcome me with open arms, and I guess all Ignatius (one of the Tai Kors in Lifeline) could do was usher me in and get me a seat. I believe my immediate thoughts were then to excuse myself that I'd entered the wrong room, leave and never come back. But I remember I decided to stay on anyway, as the speaker was at that time talking about love and relationships (Valentine's Day was just round the corner), and heck, who couldn't use a few tips at the dating game, eh?

After the session - after the customary exchanges of peace and hugs and whatever you - when everyone else was mingling and talking and stuff, I was about to leave when Ignatius again approached me, introduced himself and asked me to fill in the newcomers' form.

The reply that popped into mind was, "No, you don't understand, I'm NOT coming back!", but being super shy and not wanting to hurt his feelings and all, I said something along the lines of "Cool!".

Even the introduction to sweet ol' Anne Yong, who could kill a yak from 200 yards away with her dimpled smile didn't do me much good - I still felt as lost as ever. I left SFX that night doubting if I'd ever return for another such meeting.

**I believe there's a common (yet quite wrong) mentality that when you are new to a group, the old and existing members owe it to you to come and mingle with you and make you feel comfortable; sort of like you're doing them a favour by being present at the meeting, and if they don't, they don't appreciate your presence and you should never go back. At that point in time, I took that mentality quite seriously and just sat around looking forlorn, fidgeting with my handphone - pressing 1, 2, 3, *clear*, *clear*, *clear*, Menu, Up, Down, Cancel, Lock Phone, Unlock Phone, Lock Phone - to look busy.**

But for some reason or another, I felt drawn to the meeting - the same feeling which I have always had with all God-centred gatherings. I think there's something very appealing about a group of young people coming together with a common objective (apart from the ladies' appeal, that is) - to worship God and learn more about Him. It was as if the Lord was compelling me to return.

So I returned.

Got to meet a few more people and found the topic discussed enlightening.

And returned.

Got to meet a few more people and found that I now knew more about my faith, even if it was just a tad more.

And returned.

Got to meet even more people and found that I had the desire to know even more about God.

And here I am today, thanking God for Fridays and looking forward to the next cell group meeting this Friday.

Whoever said taking up the cross and following Jesus was easy?

But the rewards are very, very great indeed.

Praise God.

**Some excerpts taken from SFX Potter & Clay Manual and Real-Life Worship by Phil Connew.**


Blogger Paul condemned as such...

praise God!!

May 19, 2005  
Blogger chowkueyteow condemned as such...

Yes Paul, "praise God!!" indeed...btw, what are you doing reading such a long-winded entry such as this when u should be studying?! So should I, actually...hehe, thanks for dropping by though!

May 19, 2005  
Blogger germae condemned as such...

This is one LONG-WINDED post Aaron...Interesting, seeing as how you're in the midst of having rather *ahem* IMPORTANT exams.

It's cool to know that you got hooked with ur CG and Lifeline after all. Sounds fun. Really.
Somehow, I can't help but relate with the state you were in initially, seeing as how I'm a pretty shy person myself.Right..
But hey, in the words of us Christians(& Paul & U), Praise God!

June 03, 2005  
Blogger chowkueyteow condemned as such...

Yes, Germae, "Praise God!" indeed...

Well, I'm sort of a LONG-WINDED guy, so almost everything I do will be LONG-WINDED as well...even my comments. And toilet-time. Right.

My hope is that you do actually "get hooked" to a healthy community as well (eg. Life Teen, ahem) and grow in faith as much as I have, if not more...but I think yeah, all of us do experience some sort of "isolation" whenever in a new environment, be it a new class or a new community.

Thanks for dropping by!

June 03, 2005  
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