This was how I spent my last weekend. Friday and Saturday I helped lead a retreat for key leaders and centre managers of St Luke’s Elder Care (SLEC). Of all the ministry requests for the weekend, this came the latest. I said yes for a number of reasons. The CEO of SLEC, Dr Kenny Tan, is a friend and we had worked together in different contexts before. I am biased to saying yes to my friends and do so when I can. I also said yes to SLEC because my mum is 90 and suffering from dementia. I have a deep appreciation for those who work with the elderly and I wanted to encourage my SLEC friends. Like many in caring professions I suspected that they would be very committed to their work but wouldn’t pay as much attention to proper self-care. And they needed to do that if they were to continue to serve the Lord healthily and effectively.

The retreat started on Friday morning and ended at lunch on Saturday. It was a significant time and I was encouraged to see how people were connecting with the Lord and with each other. But retreats are tiring and it didn’t help that I had the runs on Saturday night, probably as a result of my encounter with gluten. (I try to avoid the usual stuff that contain gluten and take my glutenease tablets when I eat out, but it is virtually impossible to avoid gluten completely.)

I was tired from the SLEC retreat, but my weekend had just begun. I also had the privilege of preaching at Mt Carmel Bible Presbyterian Church that weekend and that meant preaching three times, once on Saturday evening and twice on Sunday morning. It is always a delight to minister at Mt Carmel. They are one of the churches that support our ministry and we have many friends there, including Dr Oh Boon Leong, their senior pastor. They are also a reading church and we always get a good response to our book table.

I preached on the Transfiguration account form the Gospel of Luke. Nowadays when I preach from a narrative passage I go through the story and, with appropriate comments, let the story come alive. I will only draw out the points at the end. Moving too quickly to extract the points means we miss the logic and flow of the story itself, and often the Lord communicates to us through the stories. I think I am most me when I have opportunities to expound the Word and connect it to life.

No rest for the wicked. That Sunday evening, I was with some dear folks from Queenstown Baptist Church to help them launch the third round of their Transitionz ministry, a ministry that mentors fresh graduates as they make the transition from tertiary education to the world of work. Queenstown Baptist Church is also one of the churches that support our work and one of their leaders, Deacon Daniel Soh, is someone I have known since our time in university in the ’70s.

It was a special evening. The dinner was peranakan food and it was great. But I was especially encouraged by the quality of the young graduates seeking mentoring and the quality of those who were committed to mentoring them. This was the third round of this ministry and clearly the mentors were clear about and at home in their roles. After this meeting was over, I came home and crashed.

In the midst of this, Bernice and I attended a wake on Saturday night. The father of a good friend and gone home to the Lord. Deaths have their own timetable and it was a privilege to stand with our friend in his time of loss.

So how was your weekend? This was mine. As I look back on the weekend two thoughts come to mind. First, a deep sense of gratitude—building community, encouraging servants of the Lord, connecting the Word to life, empowering a young adults ministry — these are all things at the heart of Graceworks’ ministry. I live for these things. I am humbled that dear friends and their communities open their doors for us to serve with them.

I also think, I can’t keep up this punishing pace. Yes, yes, I know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. But I think the Lord also wants us to respect the way He has made us, to live with a proper work-sabbath rhythm. (Ironically this was one of the things I taught at the SLEC retreat.) I think this is even more crucial as I move on in my 60s. The irony of course is that at this stage of life there are many more opportunities for ministry, at a time when I have to be more judicious in how I steward my time and energies.

So, I thank God for last weekend. But I have some breaks coming up when I need to seriously seek the Lord as to how the Boss wants me to deploy my life. As I have often said, our lives must be God-focused not ministry-focused. I say this often because I am the one who needs to hear it most.