What Do I Know About Pregnancy & Birth?!

img_5843After a L-O-N-G break, Serene and I accepted the invitation by Wesley Methodist Church to give another pregnancy-birth talk – thanks to dear brother Ng Chai Seng who boldly asked me at the men’s breakfast fellowship in January, “Ay, so when can you and Serene give the pregnancy talk again to our young couples?”

It must have been at least 7 years since the last talk (we took a break after the arrival of our youngest), and we had to hunt for our notes and slides as we reviewed and prepared for the talk on 3 September!

img_5828

For a Saturday afternoon, the turnout was very encouraging, with many expecting their first baby. The session started with me sharing some theological perspectives about the kingdom of God and how that affects the way one views pregnancy and birth. After that, Serene took over with what I believe many signed up for: the birth stories of our seven children!

As I listened to Serene share these stories again, praise and gratitude filled my heart for the God whom we serve! These are truly testimonies of His grace and faithfulness in our lives and in our family!

img_5834

After the break, we shared on “The Christian’s Antenatal Response”, giving practical pointers to both the mother, as well as the father. More than just how to breathe and what to pack for the hospital, the emphasis was prayer and a focus on the Lord. Although Serene went through seven births without the use of epidural, experiencing what we would refer to as supernatural childbirths, it is not our practice or intention to impose this on others. Whether one experiences a supernatural childbirth or not, our desire is that each will experience God personally and draw closer to Him in and through the process of pregnancy and birth (yes, fathers and husbands too). Hence, the title of the talk, “Experiencing God through Pregnancy & Birth”.

We are indeed thankful for the opportunity to encourage the young couples and for the positive feedback:

  • “Gives me an idea of what to look forward to and what to expect.”
  • “Very personal and inspiring sharing. Very encouraging.”
  • “Great sharing. Priceless!”
  • “Great seminar!”
  • “Interesting insights.”
  • “Brought to our attention certain things that we have not thought about especially on things we need to pray about.”

If you’d like to read more…
Birth Story #1
Birth Story #2
Birth Story #3
Birth Story #4
Birth Story #5
Birth Story #6
Birth Story #7
The Home Birth of Anna: Doctor’s Report
The Home Birth of Anna – FAQs
Other Pregnancy & Labour Articles on Building Up Moms

 

Christmas Reflections: Did Jesus Ever Celebrate His Birthday?

Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html
Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html

“Did Jesus ever celebrate His birthday?”

I know this is a rather odd question but I beg your indulgence. It’s Christmas Day and I was reminded (again) that Jesus was not born on 25 December; and if one would engage in some clever detective work through the Scriptures, the astute student of the Word would know that it was sometime in September.

Sounds nice and revelatory, impressive even. But then, I can’t help but wonder, “You mean to say that the early church fathers and leaders did not know this at all?” Who did the calculations, who made the assumptions, and who approved 25 December? Oh right, the Bible as we know it today was not compiled yet. But were not the gospels in circulation already? And if Jesus’ birth was really in September, surely oral tradition would have attested to that. What’s more, could not Jesus’ family and relatives provide verification? Would not His disciples know their Master’s birthday, having spent three years with him? Surely, they must have cut at least one birthday cake with Him.

That prompted me to google, “How do Jews celebrate birthdays?” Since Jesus was a Jew, this would be the most natural place to start that I may have an idea of how important birthdays are to Jews and how they are celebrated.

To my surprise, this is what I found on http://www.ritualwell.org…

The Encyclopedia Judaica could not be more blunt: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual.”

The tradition also holds that your birth alone is not as significant as the way you live your life. After all, King Solomon is thought to have said, “The day of death is better than the day of one’s birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

As a midrash explains, ‘When a person is born, it is not known what he will be like when grown and what his deeds will be whether righteous or wicked, good, or evil. When he dies, however, if he departs with a good name and leaves the world in peace, people should rejoice.” With that in mind, traditional communities are more likely to mark the anniversary of a revered leader’s death than his birth.

I stand guided and corrected (for I am no Jewish scholar) but if this is indeed accurate, then would it not be safe to assume that Jesus never celebrated His birthday in the way we are accustomed to in Western and secular influence? As I have learnt from Dr Michael Brown (askdrbrown.org), we need to see Jesus through Jewish lenses because Jesus was a Jew. We cannot and must not impose our own cultural biases on Him or the Scriptures (which is primarily a Jewish document).

Now, if Jesus did not celebrate His birthday, why do we make such a big hooha over it? Don’t get me wrong! I am thankful that God sent His Son, that Jesus was born (whichever month or day that was). Yet, consistent with Eccl 7:1 and the explanation of the midrash, it is the death of Jesus that is more significant than His birth. For if Jesus had not been obedient until the point of death, His birth – and I write this with utmost reverence and respect – would have meant much less. A wise man, a great teacher, a compassionate friend, a miracle worker He still would have been. But we would still be in our sins in dire need of the perfect Sacrifice and Saviour.

Perhaps that explains why I have been not been feeling very “Christmassy” of late. It could be a sign of age, or I’m just plain tired of all the hype and commercialism of the season. And no, I am not one of those who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it’s the wrong date or a pagan festival disguised in Christian garb. I just don’t think we should go overboard with this Christmas thingy.

But the Cross and death of Jesus Christ is totally different. I have always declared that every believer must have a fresh revelation of the Cross over and over again. Without His death, where would we be? Without His shed blood, our sins would only be covered but not washed away. Without His broken body, there would not have been a new and living way into the presence of God! Paul never wrote about Jesus’ birth but always gloried in His Cross and determined to preach Jesus and Him crucified. Yes, I would gladly mark and celebrate the death of Jesus Christ … more than His birth.

Thanks for reading this little Christmas reflection. For sure, Christmas, with all its traditions and inaccuracies, is here to stay; as will the fat man in the red suit and Christians who still insist on wearing his signature hat (Santa? No Santa?). And yes, I am still open and available to preach at Christmas services and outreaches.

Blessed Christmas!

The Birth Control Mindset: Anti-Abortion Is Not Necessarily Pro-Life

Picture taken from Generation Cedar's website www.generation cedar.com
Picture taken from Generation Cedar’s website http://www.generationcedar.com

This morning, my wife posted the article “The Connection Between Birth Control & Abortion: Is the Church Really Pro-Life?” on Facebook with the comment: Food for Thought. I read it and decided it was good enough, provocative too, for a re-post or a share on my own wall. In it, the writer addresses “the birth control mindset” very well (and before you jump to any conclusions or defence, please read the article first to fully appreciate the writer’s distinction and definition of such a mindset).

“Hear what I said: “the birth control mindset.” This is a very important distinction. I am not saying, nor have I ever said, it is a sin to use birth control or that a Christian can not, upon careful prayer and discernment, space children. It’s not a discussion about specific circumstances, or sick mamas or hard pregnancies.

The “birth control mindset” is one that treats new life too lightly, fails to give proper authority to the Creator, assumes absolute control over fertility and consequently establishes (either consciously or not) that the idea of “normal” family size is two or three children.

The birth control mindset inadvertently becomes hostile to the practice of forgoing birth control. And herein lies a great problem.”

Indeed, just because Christians are against abortion doesn’t necessarily mean that they are pro-life. On the one hand, the Church speaks out boldly for the protection of life for the unborn, yet on the other, advocate and practise the prevention of life for the yet to be conceived too. The birth control mindset has become a way of life in today’s world, even for Christians, usually rationalising and justifying it as a responsible act. Or to sound more spiritual, that they are not called (?) to have many children.

So does this mean that we who have grappled with this birth control mindset just cannot wait to have more children? I know of some couples who are like that, but that’s not us. We have been asked many times before, “Do you want more children?”, a typical large family FAQ. Well, the answer I give is, “I am happy with the number I have at the moment.” And that has been the answer since we decided to let God plan our family size some years ago. Let’s be honest. Raising children is tiring and calls for many sacrifices. If I had my way, I would do what many have done … STOP. But the truth is, we have chosen to let God have His way in our family, and that means being willing to submit to His plans, regardless the number.

Now, I know that sounds very commendable and full of faith. But do not be deceived 🙂 Each time we found out we were expecting another, let me say that it was not without anxiety or concern. We had to keep reminding ourselves, and still do, that if God has chosen to bless us with a child, He would be faithful to enable us to care for and to provide for this child too.

And so, we have seven lovely children today. I said lovely, not perfect. Is it easy by any means? You’ve got to be joking! Just read some of my parenting posts (rants!) and you will see that we have exactly the same challenges as anyone else, if not more (multiplied by seven, of course)! And for the record, it is not funny when people jokingly pop questions like, “So are you going to stop?” or “Is No.8 on the way?” or “Have twelve la, like Jacob!” Firstly, it really is none of your business. Next, since I do not have two wives and two maids, like Jacob, don’t compare me with the biblical patriarch. And finally, in case you didn’t know, you really should be asking, “Is No.11 on the way?” Yes, unfortunately, Serene has suffered three miscarriages, one in 2007 before Anna Joy (our youngest), and two after in 2012. As such, in God’s books and ours, it’s ten and we are looking forward to the day we get to meet our other three children 🙂 But I digress…

So, back to the question, “Is the Church really pro-life?” Well, on the surface, it appears so. But from real-life, on-the-ground interactions with both clergy and laity, our birth control mindsets are sadly not much different from the world.

Oh, and as expected, as at the point of publishing this post, my Facebook share only garnered one LIKE … from a single male.

Here We Go Again

I guess it can’t be helped. As long as the problem remains, it will be headline news, over and over again. In case you’re wondering what I am referring to, I’m talking about babies. Or more accurately, the lack of babies in Singapore.

In his address at the Tanjong Pagar GRC National Day Dinner, our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew urged Singaporeans to “get married and have babies.” Simply, our most senior statesman has raised the red flag. Of course, this triggers a whole new barrage of comments, opinions and suggestions in the media and online. I understand that this will also be the topic for Channel News Asia’s Singapore Talking next week. I wonder what will be discussed or raised? Would it not be the same points, reasons and excuses again? What new discoveries and revelations will there be? Truly, this baby talk is getting tiring.

Anyway, since this is the talk of the town (again), permit me my share of air-time …

Two days ago, I was approached by a friend if Serene and I would be keen to be interviewed by the press. I wonder why? – haha! This friend thought that it would be a good idea for our family to be featured that others would be inspired to have more children. Such optimism, but honestly, I think it will take more than an article with a family of nine to convince Singaporeans to have babies. With present mindsets, a picture of our family might just scare them off … for good 🙂 So, we declined the interview.

Two weeks ago, at the “Day of His Power” prayer concert organised by LoveSingapore, the time came for all to pray for families. The prayer leader led the way, praying with full conviction as his voice bellowed over the mega sound system of the Indoor Stadium, “LORD, OPEN THE WOMBS…” Indeed, for those who have been trying to conceive but can’t, this is the prayer for them. But I don’t think this addresses the right target audience. The more appropriate prayer, in my opinion, should be, “Lord, open the hearts and minds of those who refuse to have babies …” Unless and until they – Christians included – see that children are indeed blessings from the Lord, nothing is going to happen. I’ve always wondered if the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for Christians is significantly higher than that of society?

So for the next few weeks, let us brace ourselves for more media coverage on this great Singapore conundrum. Already, articles and blogposts have been circulating on Facebook, with many sharing their views and perspectives. Yet, however well presented these socio-economic papers and propositions might be, they remain Man’s attempt at solving the problem, for God is never mentioned, understandably, in our secular setting. And yet, the institution of the family is entirely God’s idea. As such, it can never be solved apart from Him and according to His ways!

Read more closely and you will discover that it’s the same blame game, … blame the government, blame the economy, blame the housing, blame the high cost, blame the education system, etc. Then, in the end, it’s the same hopeful Singaporean suggestion: that the government will do something about it. Really, if the government could manufacture babies for the nation, they would. After all, we Singaporeans expect them to do everything for us, including raise our children on our behalf. And if we are not happy about how our children turn out, at least we can blame someone else again.

Enough said. Until we stop talking and start doing, it’s going to be a very different Singapore in the years ahead. Lord, help us.