Reflections: Moving forwards by stepping back

It’s been a crazy last few months. Heck, it’s been a crazy year. My last blog post, I shared about still desiring to be a person who could be and bring Christ to others. It is a challenge we all have as Christians to do so. However there was still a part of me that was a bit weary, like the Lion who has fought through many battles and just wants to sleep. Upon reflecting, I realized that I have been with the CFC Family Ministries for 14 years, practically my entire adult life. How God has worked through this community is nothing short of amazing. I’ve watched lives transform, watched journeys go on, and yet I began also to realize that I myself had fallen into a comfortable position. I was able to serve and it was fun, and while still challenging, there was something oddly too comfortable about it. So I decided to seek a new challenge for myself. To challenge my service and put myself outside of what was comfortable. And that was taking a step back. 

It sounds odd, I know, but sometimes to move forward, you need to let go. I don’t know about you guys, but when you love something a lot, it’s easy to cling to it, but if you cling too tightly, it won’t grow. You may even suffocate it. And at the end of the day, our service is simply God’s work, done through us. We are not the necessary ones, but our Yes to service allows God to work, but at the same time, we need to realize when to say no, let someone else do it, so that they can participate in God’s calling to service as well, and the other community members grow. I slowly realized that perhaps my attitude of always wanting to say yes to service was in danger of becoming a hindrance. A hindrance for others to also growin their own service. I began seeing what one of my older leaders told me, that you are here to guide, but let your members do the doing. Set an example for them, then let them do it.

It didn’t mean letting go completely, but it also meant having to trust the others to grow into their service. We all have our preference for how things get done, but at the end of the day, allowing someone else to take the lead doesn’t hinder the work of God. If anything, sometimes we let our pride tell us “well that’s not how I would do it”, instead of “Praise God, they’re doing it and doing well!”. The challenge of stepping back and letting others take the lead also means letting go of your own preferences and allowing your members to grow. They will see your advice, and you can suggest, but allow God to work through them. Once we do that, then as a whole,we as a community can move forward, once we as leaders can learn to step back and let the others grow. Trust that God will guide them, and watch as they work His wonders.

Letting go and stepping back also allows God to push you out of your comfort zone. Because letting go of one thing in service means God will give you more to do. At the end of the day my friends, we are simply the servants of the Lord. As Mary said all those milennia ago “be it done unto me according to your word”. This is what will allow us to take our own steps to grow and move forward. 

God bless everyone! 


Reflections: Being and Bringing Christ to others

So, first of all, to my few followers, hello! It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, solely because things have been so busy lately, and I haven’t necessarily had much to say, and with regards to movie reviews, well, just haven’t been able to find the time. On to my random reflection for today.

A week ago, I was sent out to Hamilton to visit SFC, and help out with their COWR (Covenant Orientation Weekend Retreat for those not in the CFC Family Ministries). As I was introducing myself, I began to share that I had been in SFC since 2007, meaning that this was now 10 years in SFC, and 14 years in the CFC Community as a whole. This was a bit of an eye opener for me, because just towards the end of last year, I was experiencing the burn out that most leaders have experienced at least once in their lives. In fact, I was experiencing it so badly that towards the end of last year, I was beginning to question whether I should even still be in this community. Why? Because after 10 years, I was beginning to question if the time I had put in was worth it, or whether I had achieved anything. What made it harder was the fact that all around me, friends were moving on with their lives, and I was still here in SFC, doing the same old thing. As friends transitioned into CFC or elsewhere, I was still “Kuya Carl”, the reliable one everyone could ask for help and would always come through. Because of all of this, I was very firm on quitting. Stepping aside and just moving on. I felt like nothing I had done had made any difference. Yes, I was serving God and doing the work that was asked of me, but I wasn’t sure any more if I still wanted to do it.

Then last week’s Hamilton trip happened. At that moment, that was where for the first time, I remembered what it felt like when God speaks directly to your heart. If we rewind a bit, two years ago, myself and a group of other SFC from Auckland drove down to Hamilton and started their CLP there, and all of them are still active now. In fact, the participants that we handled, are now all of SFC Hamilton’s leaders. Watching them all in action, God was telling me at that moment,
“Carl, this is why you kept saying yes all those years. This is the reason I asked you to serve. It was never for you Carl. It was so you could bring them back to me. But if you ever doubted that what you have done all these years has been worth it, look at them. By saying yes, you allowed me to reach them, and now they are doing the same for others. It’s not your work, its mine”.
So to SFC Hamilton, my heart felt thanks for being a reminder of the work of God and the reason we all serve.

I was reminded then of all the times people would tell me that on earth, we are called to be the hands, feet, ears, eyes and mouth of Christ to others, because we are all a part of the body of Christ,

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:27

Each of us has a part to play in being and bringing Christ to others. It is because of this we are SFC, so that we can live out the vision and mission we all hold to,

Every single man and woman all over the world experiencing Christ

Not “experienced” being a one time thing in the past, but “experiencing” being an everyday encounter with Christ himself. I was often told that Christianity is not just a one time choice, but an everyday battle. It is a battle to choose Christ everyday, and choose to live for Him and as mentioned before, to be and bring Him to others all over the world.

Given my little reawakening thanks to SFC Hamilton, I remembered why it was that I did what I did. Because of the joy we experience seeing others experiencing and bringing Jesus to others. I began to reflect further as to why I had drifted so far away, and realized I had become a bit lazy with that daily choice. I allowed my love of God and others to become like a job that I got tired. I was giving and giving and giving, but never really taking time to have my own prayer time. Jesus says to us:

A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39

Love your neighbor as yourself, not more than yourself. While we can be busy bringing Christ to others and working away, we also have to allow ourselves to experience Christ in our own day to day. This then reminded me of WYD08, and then theme we had for that year, Acts 1:8,

“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

Reflecting on this further in light of all of the last few weeks, I began asking myself how does this apply to me? What is my Jerusalem? My Judea? And beyond? It was that reminder then, that in the context of today, were Jesus saying this to me today, he would probably have said something like “you shall be My witness both in Albany, and in all of Auckland and Hamilton, and even to the remotest part of the earth”. The challenge each of us has is to be witnesses and missionaries where we are first, and work outwards. Moving along that train of thought, being witnesses and disciples starts from within. Because from within is the closest thing to us. The challenge as leaders, as Christians, not just limited to SFC, or whatever Church or community you belong to, but as Christians, is to be witness from within and work outwards. Only then, can we truly be and bring Christ to others.

In summary, what did I realize? That God calls each of us to be and bring Christ to others, and while we may not necessarily always see the results, our efforts are never wasted. Even if we feel like quitting, God will somehow remind us why we do what we do. And if we want to continue being and bringing Christ to others, then the best place to start is with ourselves. We start in our own Jerusalem and Judea, and then work outwards. For each of us, the challenge is, to start with the Jerusalem inside. Be a witness to our own lives and allow God to transform us. Then we can do what is asked of us, and answer that call to be Christ’s witnesses. My dear brothers in sisters in Christ, God has chosen you to be His disciple. Are you ready to answer the call? Let us continue to pray for one another, that we can live the life we have chosen, a life for Christ. A life to know Christ and make Christ known.

I sign off with this song that wraps up everything I’ve realized over the last few weeks. God bless you all!!

Movie Review: “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story” –  spoilers at the end

The biggest question on my mind was, how will this fit with the Saga films? Prior to Rogue One, we have had 7 installments in the Skywalker saga, and with Rogue One being a stand alone piece, how would it fit? In a word, perfectly. Rogue One fits so perfectly into the Star Wars world that to describe how perfectly would actually be a spoiler in itself.

Without spoiling too much, the positives for me were the characters themselves, just coming together and becoming a family of rogues, definitely Rebels, but somewhat outsiders with the Alliance. Jyn Erso is an interesting protagonist who leads the plot, but isn’t the only focus, and a complete world is built around her and Captain Cassian Andor. By far the characters who stole the show for mewere the reprogrammed K2SO and Donnie Yen’s force sensetive but not a Jedi, Chirrut Îmwe. Other characters Baze and Bodhi round out the main protagonists nicely. Villain eise, Orson Krennic comes off smart, a little bit naïve, but also as an opportunist, always looking to force his way up the ladder. The narrative also addresses a huge plot point from Episode IV that fans have been debating and discussing for years. Well, it’s now settled (you’ll understand when you see it). My biggest bonus, was the very last Darth Vader scene. We often heard how much of a bad ass mofo he was, but this time, we really got to see it. And wow, was it incredible.

Other areas I need to critique, there were a few uses of CGI (two in particular) which were a very good effort at bringing certain characters to life, but as with most CGI, the uncanny valley hits, and though the CGI is 95% there, that last 5% can be a bit jarring and off. Also, apart from Jyn and Cassian, I would have liked a bit more back story on our other 3 rogues.

Overall, it was a great addition to the world that is the Star Wars post Disney Canon. Would definitely (and probably soon) watch it again.

Minor Spoilers below:

The CGI used on Tarkin and Leia was great, and as I said, 95% there. While I was taken out a bit, at the end of the day, seeing Peter Cushing standing there and interacting with the other characters was amazing. And it made sense to have a young Princess Leia on the Tantive IV.

The Alliance scenes were cool, especially a young Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, a throw away line referencing Obi Wan Kenobi, and pf course in the finale, the return of Red Leader and Gold Leader from 1977’s A New Hope with some reused footage.

Finally, Darth Vader, the scene where he is just cutting up Rebels at the end, amazing!! And how that scene leads directly into the opening of A New Hope, also amazing!!

Ok, now go watch it!!

Movie Review: Doctor Strange – NO SPOILERS

Now I’m not the biggest Doctor Strange fan by any stretch. Even among the Marvel fanbase, he’s not huge front line wise compared to say the X-Men, Spidey, and the Avengers. However my limited knowledge of the character was enough for me to walk into this movie excited. How was it? Well, it was pretty good. But it didn’t wow me the way I had hoped. Not too long ago, Marvel made Ant Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy work on screen. Trying to ground everything in realism for Phase 1 to talking raccoons into the later Phases of Marvel, it was always going to be interesting how they would bring the Sorcerer Supreme to life.

Starting with Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how much I liked him as a character. I did go in a bit worried that I’d be taken out of the movie because all I’d be seeing was Sherlock on drugs. But instead I was presented with an updated Stephen Strange. Though at times, he was almost bordering on Tony Stark lite. Here’s hoping for a Mustache Bros high five later on. The decision to make Baron Mordo a secondary protagonist as opposed to his arch villain from the comics was also quite interesting. The story of Strange and Mordo works well enough that the conflict suddenly becomes more personal if and when Mordo shows up and turns bad like he does in the comics. The Ancient One worked quite well, and the slight tweak to the story we all know was welcome enough that I could see it eventually driving a wedge between Strange and Mordo. As for our main villain, typical Marvel bad guy, it’s especially difficult when with any Marvel movie, most tend to measure any antagonist against Loki.

With regards to the story, not much else to say except for the fact that it really is a standard Marvel Origin story, but with Magic. I will however say that there were times I felt that the jokes were getting to be a bit too much. Having said that, it was no where near the level of over the top one liners that we got in Age of Ultron. The magic and spells were great and while they still leaned towards a science and magic approach like Thor, it was still great once the actual fighting happened. And rather than the old traditional Magic battles that you would think of,like in Harry Potter for example, here, we’re effectively getting Kung Fu Magic. My own personal take, this is how the action in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender should have been.

Overall, the movie works as it is, but it’s not going to be at the top of my Marvel list. However, when the top of the list of favorite Marvel movies is The Winter Solider, it’s actually not too bad. It’s still miles ahead of Iron Man 3. The characters are likeable, and there is, as always room for a sequel. This may have also detracted from it a bit, because of the need to keep sequels open. Having said that, it’s still a very enjoyable Marvel movie, and a good addition to the MCU as a whole.

Random Blog: DC Rebirth now a few months in

It’s now been a few months since DC Rebirth kicked off. When it was first announced, many screamed “another reboot?!”, especially since we only just had the New 52 a few years ago. Now a few months into reading some of the regular titles, I must say, DC Rebirth is easily one of the best things to happen to DC in a long time. I feel so engaged with the story and everything that’s happening, I can’t wait until the next issue to come out.

Titles I’m currently following are:

  • Superman
  • Action Comics
  • Batman
  • Detective Comics
  • Supergirl
  • Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corp
  • Green Lanterns
  • Nightwing
  • Justice League
  • Wonder Woman
  • Trinity
  • Titans

The two that have really stood out for me are the Action Comics and Detective Comics series. So many unanswered questions, but the stories are so good, I keep coming back for more! Detective Comics #940 for me was an incredible issue (which I won’t spoil)Full size image What I’m loving about it was the whole classic Batman feel to it that I had when I was reading the Batman and Robin stories from the 1990s.

Everything about Rebirth feels both new yet classic at the same time. And while we still have the whole Doctor Manhattan thing to address from Rebirth #1 (that’s not a spoiler…everyone knows this by now), I hope that DC doesn’t stop putting out great issues like this.

Random thoughts done!

Christ Bound – A reflection on SFC NZ Natcon 2016

Romans 12:2 says

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This was the theme for this year’s SFC New Zealand National Conference, as well as all the other National and Regional Conferences for SFC around the world. Now, for those of you that know me, you know that usually, I’m excited to attend, can’t wait to go, but for some reason, this year, I “wasn’t feeling it”. To put things into perspective, I’ve been a member of the CFC Family Ministries community since 2003. I came in through YFC, and transitioned through into SFC, with not much of a break. I had the odd inactive period here and there, but nothing major. And usually for more interesting reasons.

Over the last year, especially having transitioned from being Head of Music Min and handling a Household to now being Unit Head, things changed. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed with the duties I had to do, there was a lot to worry about, plan, a heck of a lot more admin, plus more meetings that I was used to, in addition to trying to balance work, social life, relationships, family, all of the above. Plus the feeling really hit home during the Covenant Orientation Weekend we had earlier this year when I stood there thinking to myself, “well, here we are again”. Not that it mattered when it came to the actual doing, I would still throw myself head first into whatever opportunity to serve came up because that’s what I would do, and part of it was because I felt like that’s what people expected of me. In my own mind, I began thinking that people saw me as “Kuya Carl”, the Leader, the reliable one, the one who would do anything asked of him. And I soon realized I was getting tired, not because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore, but because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

Everything about this Natcon was different, and admittedly, part of my own thinking was, “well that’s not how we would have done it if we were the hosts”, but I had to let that part go. And I was happy that I did, because everything about the weekend was pleasantly surprising. Leading up to Natcon, I remember we were asked to be the band for the Club Praise Evening, and also playing for one Worship, which I absolutely loved because it reconnected me with one of the things I enjoyed about service in the first place, Music Ministry. But the thing that I wasn’t expecting was being asked to be a sharer for Session 1. However, from the usual meeting new friends, reflecting on my sharing about spaghetti cans (you had to be there), I think a lot of what this conference did for me was remind me of the reasons why I do things. A call back to the commitment of “I want to serve” rather than “I have to serve”. A part of what this conference did was connect me with what I had not really forgotten, but put to the side, the one who I serve. A year ago, had you asked me why, I would tell you, “I say yes because God is asking. Because what He has done for me, I want to give to others also”. Leading up to Natcon, “…yeah I said yes, I guess I have to, but yeah, just want to rest. I feel like people are expecting me to, so I probably should do it. I’m a leader, I have to”. And that was the difference, “I want to” vs “I have to”. In essence, I allowed myself to be shaped by a worldly view, in this case, a position, a title. “Unit Head”, and because of it, I struggled, was tired, and began to feel burned out. Being in Christchurch, I remembered again, especially in one of the biggest areas – relationships.

Now I’m not only talking of romantic relationships here, but the relationships you have with people around you. This was the main focus of Session 3, and it was what stood out to me the most. Because I found myself remembering what it was that drew me in all those years ago. The relationships I built with the people I have been called to serve, why. because, as we were reminded over the weekend, we are called to see Christ in all those we serve and in all those around us. One of the best parts of the weekend was the reflection on St Theresa of Calcutta and how she always chose to see Christ in everyone, and it was there where I was reminded the answer to the question. why do I keep saying yes to service, because I see Christ in these people, and I want to give back what He has given me.

In addition to this mini realization of mine, I was also blessed enough to hear the stories of others, stories of their victories, their struggles and ultimately, where they saw God in all of this. And the encouragement to seek God in all we do, especially with the content covered during session 1, seeking God in career, lifestyle, relationships and service. And to be honest, this was the first conference which really challenged me to consider my career thanks to Session 2. Session 3, as I mentioned above, really hit home with centering relationships on Christ and seeing Christ in all that I do, where as Session 4 was the challenge to remain true to our destination on this journey we call life. One of the most refreshing things, surprisingly, was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, I heard a Priest speak on the actual effects of Sin, and the realities of Hell. Something we sometimes tend to shy away from, but as Christians, we must also realize that this is a very big part of our mission as members of the Church, to save souls and to bring and be Christ to others.

We all go to these conferences for many different reasons, but what I can at least share is that, God will always speak to you some how, there’s always something He wants you to hear. And while I may have felt a little lost for a while, I have been reminded to no longer be shaped by the world, but to seek God’s will in what I do. I have been reminded that, I no longer have to seek the approval of others views of my service, but I choose to serve because I see Christ in them, and because I also love them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been reminded that in this journey we call life, the greatest thing for all of us to do is to choose to be Christ Bound. A big thank you again to SFC Christchurch. Praise. For your service and an amazing conference! Shout out to our hosts, Einx and Iktong, love you both! 

May God Be Praised!

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond – No Spoilers

Having been a huge geek for a long time, I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, yes even the bad movies, and even the one with the whales (Nuclear Wessels anyone?). So when JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek back in 2009 with the original crew and new cast members, I was excited and nervous to see how characters I’d loved for so long would be portrayed by a new cast. In short, I enjoyed the first two “reboot” movies, but they never quite felt like old school Star Trek. Something was always a little different to the Trek movies I had watched in the past. And I’ve watched all of them, First Contact is still my favorite of the TNG movies, and of course, Wrath of Kahn for the Original Crew. Watching Star Trek Beyond, I actually felt like I was watching an old Star Trek movie again, with all the fun from the first two Abrams movies.

Starting out with a Captain’s Log entry was great. If I recall correctly, the other two movies didn’t start that way. Spoilers, in the 2009 movie, we’re shown the destruction of the USS Kelvin, and in Star Trek into Darkness, we’ve got that random volcano sequence. Here, after a brief little adventure and a nod to Kirk always having his shirts ripped, we’re straight into a Captain’s Log, and a montage of the crew of the Enterprise. Soon, we’re at the Yorktown Space Station for a bit of down time, until some stuff happens which sets our plot in motion.

The cast does quite well, I really enjoyed Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto’s moments as Bones and Spock together on screen, and as for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, I really did enjoy his performance which makes the news of his death earlier this year very sad. The rest of the crew function as they normally would. My personal biggest complaint is the whole Spock and Uhura relationship that has been going on throughout the reboot movies, because it’s the only thing that doesn’t seem Spock like when I compare them to the original cast. Everything else feels fine. The main villain’s introduction is cool, but you’re really left hanging until right near the end to see what exactly his main motivation is. It’s good motivation, but I do wish it had been fleshed out a little more. New addition to our team of protagonists, Jaylah is, for me, a very fun character. Again, wish we’d had a little bit more back story, but what we’re given is enough for you to figure it out. And without spoiling too much, the fact that the Beastie Boys are referenced as “classical music” during one scene definitely did put a smile on my face.

Overall, very enjoyable, and a good addition to the list of Star Trek movies that I’ll want to revisit again and again.