This is the Afterword in my forthcoming book, Into the Depths of Living Water.
Afterword—Meditation on Writing
The book you are holding is the latest at trying to share the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ in a different format. I hope you have enjoyed it and in some ways be edified by it.
Writing is hard and gruelling work. It is incubated amidst blood, sweat, and tears. No, these aren’t the ink I write with. I just want to express that it not just physically challenging, but mentally too. The thought of all the work frightens me, as it involves transferring all those ideas that I carry with me in my mind, into words. Ideas brew and form, and run ahead of writing—writing about them is akin to playing ‘catch up’. Such imagery is enough to make me feel breathless. Writing, especially in an authentic voice, makes me exceptionally vulnerable, as my inner thoughts and aspirations are made bare to the world. Such glaring spotlight is not easy on me—an extreme introvert.
So why write? Putting all things on a balance, I sense that a net effect is at work, to pull me towards writing as the means to share my ideas with a wider audience. I hold dear a vision to nurture disciples of Jesus Christ who possess informed minds, hearts on fire, and are contemplative in actions. This process of orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxis are the foundations of my writing. The process of becoming like Jesus Christ is necessarily a holistic one, as we strive to live out the faith in everyday situations, in the various roles we play in community life. In attempting to address such needs, the scope of my interest and writing inevitably takes on a multi-faceted approach. It draws upon insights from theology, biblical studies, spiritualities, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, biomedical ethics, culture and the arts (poetry, literature etc.), science and medicine, popular culture (movies, computer games etc.), parenting and Christian living. At first blush, these seem very disconnected ideas but all of these can be mined for lessons on spiritual formation—the common theme that undergirds my writing.
My editor, Shu Phay, encouraged me to share something about my writing journey. Initially. I was very reluctant because my journey is not over yet. I believe I have still a number of books inside me to be written. However, after mulling it over during a retreat, I have decided to share a part of that journey that God has unveiled thus far. Thinking about why I write what I write humbles me—I must aim, at all times, to be a good messenger and steward of knowledge. And yes, I must keep the interest going, to explore and use the most suitable media or technology to communicate with you, dear readers.
For readers who may want to get to know me through my writings, please read on. There could be common interests, you and I, and I welcome exchanges and collaboration.
Random Musings from a Doctor’s Chair (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This is a collection of articles where I experimented with different approaches of writing to connect with my readers. I wrote from the first, second, and third persons on issues that concern me as a Christian doctor, such as depression, suicide, euthanasia and cloning.
A Good Day to Die: A Christian Perspective on Mercy Killing (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This book is a Christian response to controversial and emotive issues of euthanasia and end-of-life concerns. I gave my response from the lens, as well as from the ‘heart’ of a medical doctor. I shared some perspectives to guide Christians to think about this: We live well. Shouldn’t we also die well, with dignity and minimum pain and completely at peace with life’s rhythm and His will?
Live and Let Live: A Christian Response on Biotechnology (2006); Kairos Research Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Here, I injected insights and knowledge from my medical career and theology education to make sense of scientific processes relating to the termination, design and creation of life—abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and transhumanism. I got started on this book after a period of observation about the Church’s attitude to technology and new advances. It seemed to me that there is a general skepticism on new technology, and I ponder if the rejection is a gut reaction— a crippling fear of the unknown blocking attempts to view it rationally and with theological basis. This book is an attempt to fill the gap at a time when response papers were typically written by systematic theologians, rather than Christian ethicists or medical practitioners.
This is a work in progress and the book, admittedly, is a bit dated. One day, I shall get my lazybones to update it!
Spiritual Formation on the Run: Meditations to Build a Busy Life (2009); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Travelling further on my journey in spiritual formation and transformation, I began to realise that many Christians shun the active, intentional formative processes of their faith communities because they are too busy. Somehow, there is an entrenched view that we can only grow spiritually if we are ‘unbusy’. My thoughts were on busy people as I wrote this—hence the short chapters with a key takeaway in each, to be ‘consumed’ on the go. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit can cause spiritual formation and transformation in very busy people—people who are always on the run.
Tending the Seedbeds: Educational Perspectives on Theological Education in Asia (2010); Asia Theological Association, Philippines
I contributed a chapter on problem-based learning (PBL) in theological institutions. When researching and writing this, I discovered a valuable area—how people learn—and have not stopped thinking about this since, the theory and applications to the Church. A significant milestone in my journey of writing and discovery.
Tales from the Monastery: Spiritual Formation the Asian Way (2012); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Alex Tang (Author), Hai Seng Lim (Illustrator)
Jesus told parables. Parables are stories that have multiple layers of meanings. Stories are a powerful media of communication, cutting through our filters and worldviews. This book represents an attempt to communicate biblical truths through stories. Set in the fictitious Sow Lin Monastery headed by Abba Ah Beng, the book follows a group of mischievous disciple monks (and one girl) on their life adventures (misadventures too) musings, and ‘learning moments’. The book was delightfully illustrated (with cartoons) by Han Seng Lim. I am grateful that many people, both young and old are blessed by it. It is presently in its fourth printing.
Till We are Fully Formed: Christian Spiritual Formation Paradigms in the English-speaking Presbyterian Churches in Malaysia (2014); Malaysia Bible Seminary, Malaysia
This is an academic tome based on my PhD work on spiritual formation. It provided the opportunity to formalise and disseminate my ideas about learning, spiritualities, spiritual formation and transformation, and discipleship in Christian faith communities.
Conversations with my Granddaughter (2014); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Kids are at the heart of what I do; parenting and grandparenting are issues close to my heart. I thought that the idea of a series of letters to my granddaughter would be a great medium to convey parenting advice in a post-modern age. It has proven to be very popular. A companion volume on letters to my grandson is being written.
A People Apart (2016); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This is a collection of meditations on 1 Chronicles for Asian Notes, originally published by the Scripture Union. I thought it is useful for people, especially busy people, to have access to the materials in a handy, compact booklet.
Meditations in Autumn (2015); Meditation in Summer (2016); Kairos Spiritual Formation, Kuala Lumpur
I have in recent years begun to develop photography as a spiritual discipline, to train the mind and eyes to focus in looking and seeing, and in the process, learn to perceive the world differently. I want to be closer to the Creator by appreciating the beauty of his creation. I have noticed lately that people take in information better if it’s presented visually or as short sound bytes. Thus birthed an idea to develop a four-part series, each a photobook devotional. The first two books contain photos taken in autumn in Kyoto, Japan and summer in Alaska respectively.
Soli Deo Gloria