Category: People

A Christmas Eve story: Annie

There is something magical about Christmas time and marketers know it. John Lewis and Sainsbury captured the magic brilliantly and leveraged on it so well in their brand storytelling effort this year. 🙂

There are some good stories we hear and truly revel in for a moment. Perhaps we go out and buy a Monty the Penguin.

There are other stories which are worth more than a moment’s tug of the heartstrings. These stories need to be preserved, kept, and passed down the generations.

One such story, special to me, is of a girl born on Christmas Eve nearly 150 years ago in the little town of Vineland, New Jersey.

Annie Johnson Flint was born in 1866. She lost her parents at an early age. She and her sister were later adopted by the Flints, a kind and loving couple who brought Annie up in the Baptist faith.

Annie went through long times of trial and testing. In her second year as a teacher, arthritis began to show itself, growing steadily worse. She ended up crippled for more than 40 years (see here).

But Annie did not consider herself helpless. She believed that God had laid her aside for a purpose, even though that purpose was obscure to her at times. She put her very best into the writing of her poems, rendering this ministry unto God.

Her verses have an unusually deep appeal to human hearts. The simple reason is that she felt what she wrote.

One of her most popular songs which has endured till today is He Giveth More Grace:

Out of the crucible of suffering she was able to speak comfort to others, with the comfort she received from God.

Her life sings a beautiful song: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Merry Christmas.

Someone who had time for me

We’re going through the women of faith from the Old Testament at home group at the moment. Tonight, we studied Sarah (her name means princess). Sarah, the woman who laughed at God in disbelief, who schemed out of her impatience and resentment, who was harsh and unkind toward Hagar. The woman God treated with graciousness and kindness despite her ungodliness, and whom he commended for following her husband, for doing good without fear.

When I think of Sarah’s husband Abraham, I remember my physics teacher at National Junior College, Mr Kenneth Koh.

Mr Koh suffered from chronic ezcema. He was frequently on leave needing treatment.

I remember fondly the time when he went to try out for Singapore Idol, with the song His Eye Is On The Sparrow. He sang it for us in class one day. It wasn’t quite in tune, and it moved me.

In late 2007, the life I knew had collapsed around me. There were days where I simply went through my phonebook calling anyone and everyone who would talk to me. Some asked me to take my pity party elsewhere, but Mr Koh, he had compassion on me.

We didn’t know each other all that well and he wasn’t my tutor anymore, but he phoned me from Singapore and spoke to me for an hour. He told me Abraham’s story. I hadn’t realised back then that Abram was the coward who “lied” twice that his wife was his sister to save his own skin.

Mr Koh told me: “Jasmine, if God loved and used such a person, don’t you think he can pick you out of your mess and use you too?”

Mr Kenneth Koh was a real person who shared his real struggles. He hoped. He identified with the Psalmist: “I would have despaired unless I have believed I’d see His glory in the land of the living“.

Mr Koh taught physics well. But more than that, he was a teacher.

Thank you, sir.

Thomas More

It goes all the way back to Aristotle. Do we choose an active life or a contemplative life? The vita contemplativa or activa?

A lecture by Steve Chavura

Thomas More

Born into privilege, 7 February 1478, Thomas More had a father who was a successful lawyer; his mother died when he was a child. He studied under England’s preeminent humanist scholars, Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. 

Renaissance Humanism

11th and 12th centuries sought to recover Aristotle: scholasticism is perceived to have degenerated into trivia, decadent and trivial. The Church was perceived as corrupt. There was a new focus on recovering the knowledge of the pre-Catholic past.

Classical humanism

  • “Man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras)
  • Near rejection of original sin; akin to the 18th century Enlightenment

Christian humanism: 

  • Attempt to recover pre-Catholic Christianity.
  • Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1516)

Thomas More did not see his life as a series of choices. He saw it as a series of duties he had to live up to. In the end, the Chancellor was served a poisoned chalice.

Live a life of action informed by contemplation. Live a life of contemplation informed by action.

The secular power is subject to the spiritual power as the body is subject to the soul – Aquinas

St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

I would rather be a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied – John Stuart Mill

St Augustine: a lecture by Steve Chavura

Augustine’s insatiable passion was for Truth. He was a man of principle, always restless with the urgent need for a personal rule of life. To him, the quest for truth was “one relating to life itself and, in some way, to the hope of a happy soul”.

But as soon as Augustine found what goodness was, he found that he was unfortunately always wrestling with it. He was a very earthy guy. (“God, make me chaste, but not yet!”)

For a time, Augustine subscribed to Manichaeism. Founded by the Iranian prophet Mani, at the heart of this religion is the attempt to explain why evil exists. He did not find it intellectually satisfying.

He devastatingly destroyed the sceptics. 

I must exist, and every time I doubt it I prove my existence. And don’t we have to have to ‘know’ what truth is before we say that we cannot know it?

Augustine did not reject knowledge nor did he reduce it to the indubitable. When your priority is to create a coherent system of thought, you might miss the truth. Augustine was happy to change his mind, and he changed his mind on various things throughout his life.

Augustine would rather face the complexity of knowledge than dismiss it.

A summary of his political and social philosophy:

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