The new year simple gift to be free


Ps 103 - 1 Praise the LORD, my soul;    all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, my soul,    and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins    and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit    and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. - 6 The LORD works righteousness    and justice for all the oppressed.


'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
to bow and
to bend we shan't be ashamed,

to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett

During this New Year and Chinese New Year period, as I reflect on the New Year resolutions, I am reminded of the Shakers hymn “Tis the gift to be simple”, a religious reflection of the Shakers Christian Faith. Here lies the core of their faith of humblesness and humility in a simple lifestyle and regular praise and worship in long dancing occasions.

I told my friend my life is almost over after 40, for the first half is a slow climb but the second half to return home to God is usually a roller coaster ride of a steep curve. We can slow it down, by treasuring life and to live one day at a time and not worrying too much about tommorow.  It is to have a structured simple life of faith and simplicity of things treasuring all that we have.

We often strive too much, keen on asserting our rights rather than bowing down to each other just like in the dance. This is especially so for the GLBT community who has been deprived even of the most basic rights of freedom. Without bowing down, there can be no dance (for it starts with a bow), no turning round together to share this season of life. Simplicity is to carry few baggages of self, hate or bitterness but to simply to love, forgive and give grace. Christ is our example, and our grace.

Writing this article, enjoying the ambiance in a nice café/restaurant in Orchard in a simple meal of what I could afford. Life has been difficult. I don’t have much – no car, house, hifi-systems, luxury clothing, art collections, gold or silver. However, my complaints were met with laughter at my birthday where friends reminded me that they are of a poorer lot. We are to be grateful of what we have, grateful for God’s blessings in our lives, and the continuing work of Christ making our lives beautiful in His time. To be grateful and contented hence living within my means is my first resolution.

The shakers lived locally in communal groups, their lives centered around fellowship and friends. The "turning" together represents an inter dependency of one and all. They were not known to be travelling pilgrims. Yet the world has become much smaller in the last 200 years with the ease of air travel where we spend our money and time visiting exotic and far away places to see the world where once it would have taken months of travelling instead of hours by jet planes.

I am envious of my friends and their frequent trips to Hong Kong, Japan, London, Australia, and Europe when I could only afford nearby Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur on budget airways I may add rather than the luxurious Singapore Airlines. But I am reminded that it is the quality and the friendships that matters or Christian kinship where we visit and support our brethren, or join them in GLBT Christian conferences. This would be my second resolution this year, to make friends and connections, and deepened existing relationships.

The Shakers lived simple lives – little belongings, ate simply, with few luxuries of life. Their lives were focused on prayer and worshipping God. Tis a spiritual gift to be satisfied with being simple, to have less – to eat a meal a day with a small portion of rice and vegetables, no meat. To buy less and have few belongings, no major purchases, no TV or good hi-fi set. Their lives were a dance routine, of joining hands, and "turning" around together in the center of God's will of simplicity. Our focus then is prayer and worshipping God, walking in that attitude of being associated intimately in a walk with the Holy Spirit, a walk with Christ. The awareness of the nearness of God uncluttered with the temptations of life's wealth and luxury. 

We are not implying that Prosperity theology is wrong. They have their place for surely we can’t be a skinny church mouse. Yet, there is truth and a Godliness of living simply, reflected by Jesus Christ whose only belongings seemed to be a few clothing. Hence, my third new year resolution, would be to live simply, and be focused in prayer and worship, and not following after the fashion and techonology gadgets, or buying a house.

The Shakers were called “shakers” because they were known to pray with trembling, and outbursts of spiritual tongues and sprawling on the floor. There was seemingly no order and almost as if drunken yet not by wine but by the Holy Spirit of God. They were moving in the might and power of the Holy Spirit long before the Azuza revival of 1904. This year would be a year of prayer – a year of praying in the spiritual language in a consistent manner. God moves, He moves when we pray and seek our dependency on Him.

God answers our prayers because of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Our prayers are made righteous and Holy in Christ Jesus, and the prayer of a righteous man or woman avails much. Jesus Christ is our righteousness by faith. God answers our prayers because of His Grace due to what Jesus had done on the Cross at Calvary. Therefore, my fourth resolution this year is to pray fervently even to the extent of using spiritual gifts and languages. It would be a prayer of power, and prophetic anointing.

  The shakers lived in communal groups for mutual support. They failed to grow because they had insisted on celibacy and not because their concept and yearnings for simple communal living and “turning” to share their talents, gifts for the greater good of their faith community. They turn and turned together, sharing of their lives and work, being joined together by humbling themselves, just like the dance where they bow down together and joining hands turning round and round in the dance of life changing dancing partners throughout the night. Their lives are joined together turning round and round joning arms and hands together in the dance of life.

At the end of the dance, they had in the process turned together with one and all, developing a Christian communal kinship. Hence, the fifth and the last resolution is to start/join a cell group with the focus on encouraging the Christian faith walk of each other, reading and studying from the bible, prayer and ecstatic worship. It will also focus to outreach to GLBT Christians in a gentle manner emphasising that being gay is a gift from God. Our lives are to be inter-related as we join arms to dance together bowing down to one and all accepting people just as they are and not insisting our rights.

Truly, it is a gift to be simple, a gift to have the freedom of being one with ourselves in reconciliation with our sexual orientation and our Christian Faith in Christ, and a gift to be gay. Herein we will find our valley and place of love and delight where we will bow down and serve each other (as Christ has served us) and no longer be ashamed of being a Gay Christian. 

’Tis a gift to be loving, ’Tis a gift to be gay, ’Tis a gift to accept one another anyway, And when we are ourselves, And have no pretence, Then we shall find that our lives make sense.

When true simplicity is gained, There’ll be no excuses, No need to explain, To love one another will be our delight, Till by living in love we will come round right.



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