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Charissa Ee

Blessing or Burden?

The day I lost the joy of raising a dog… 

This was the topic of one of the last conversations I had with the late Michael Ross-Watson in June of 2017 before he boarded the plane for Singapore. This had been something Pastor Michael had been talking to me about and like every good spiritual dad, he always left me with more questions than answers.

So, what has a dog got to do with God or anything spiritual? 

God has often used people, animals and situations in my everyday life to disciple me, challenge me and shape my heart. This time, was no different. Zane, my foster dog came into my life about 17-months ago. A foster dog is one that has been placed in home care until it is adopted. A fosterer’s role is to raise the dog to become a well-adjusted pet so that it is able to assimilate into it’s adoptive home environment.

“God has often used people, animals and situations in my everyday life to disciple me, challenge me and shape my heart.”

Zane was rescued at 6 weeks old because he had been abandoned by his mother and had gotten bitten by maggots. He came to me approximately at 12 weeks, a tiny tot weighing less than a bag of rice. I inherited this dog because he had a slew of behavioural problems rooted in a lack of self-control and insecurity. In my opinion, Zane was probably the world’s worst dog. For a puppy to display so many problem behaviours at such a young age is quite rare.

From the start, I always thought of Zane as a burden. A burden because it seemed impossible for him to become a proper pet dog and it would be unethical to rehome a dog like that.

When I first shared about my struggles with Zane, Pastor Michael gave me an assignment – find out what God has to say about caring for animals. Of the verses that I found, the one that jumped out to me and pierced by heart was Proverbs 12:10 “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

Proverbs 12 compares the righteous with the wicked. What struck me was that even if a wicked man has compassion, God regards it as cruel. That chapter caused me to seriously examine the state of my heart.

I could hear God asking, how something He had given me become such a burden? God doesn’t give us burdens to weigh us down or drain us. God blesses us! I sensed His gentle reproach, telling me that I had not been a very good steward of His blessings and, if I could not be grateful for a mere animal, then how could He trust me with other things? In that one statement, God chided my faith because I believed that it was impossible to find Zane a forever-home. 

“…if I could not be grateful for a mere animal, then how could He trust me with other things?”

That was an ‘ouch’ moment for me and it called for repentance. I made a new resolve to think and see Zane differently. Like any discipleship journey, I’m still walking this one out. There are days where I still struggle to see Zane as a blessing.

The Journey from ‘Burden to Blessing”

The first thing I did to begin my journey of ‘‘burden to blessing’ was to shift my perspective by going back to God’s truths. In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet Jeremiah writes “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I found this very familiar verse extra meaningful this year. It’s amazing that God said this to His people while they were lost, bewildered and nationless. 

I. Finding security in my identity

On days when I found Zane a burden, I began to realise that it was as if I was looking in a mirror. Zane’s issues were rooted in his insecurity and he has acted out this insecurity as an aggressive dog. Why? Because of his fear of getting hurt, he usually goes for the first bite. Similarly, my heart was the same – I examined the crevices of my heart that I had not yet surrendered to God; areas in which I’ve had difficulty trusting Him, decisions I’ve made due to my lack of faith as well as the thousand and one questions that I always bring to the table when I commune with Him.

These days, when I’m working with Zane on his aggression issues and he does get the lessons – I celebrate with him. I imagine God doing the same when I finally come to that place of surrender to say, “God, your will be done. Not mine.”  And on days when he doesn’t want to be compliant, I can imagine God shaking His head because I’m probably very much like that when I refuse to surrender my heart.

Knowing my identity and what God promised, gave me the resolve to surrender those places in my heart that needed moulding.

II. Giving Thanks

The second thing in my journey, was to create a thanksgiving journal.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I started by writing one thing a day that I could be thankful for regarding Zane. Whether it was a good day or not, I would sit down to reflect and then write one-liners in my calendar. For the last 9 months, my daily reflections have come in handy, especially when I found myself in tears and feeling like I didn’t have the capacity to be a good handler for Zane.

Zane is a dog that requires the kind of precision handling that I don’t think I’m hard-wired for. He needs a highly regimented life and a handler who is consistent to the degree of how gentle or hard you can tug him on the lead. The lead has to be held at the right tension or he might react. Training him has been tiring because he’s the total opposite of me. I like fluidity and spontaneity while Zane is unable to tolerate either.

Giving thanks has helped me focus on how God brings me through each day with His might not mine and by His strength, not mine.

III. Understanding the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of LOVE

Re-looking at the attributes of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 has also enabled me to reflect on my heart’s intentions. I am certain of the lesson that God is teaching me – He’s disciplining my heart. 

I’ve thought about how I would respond if a human had hurt me the way Zane hurt me last year – he bit me to the extent that I was not able to use my left hand for 2 weeks. 

Would I react in anger or would I respond in love with patience and selflessness? As I write this, I cannot help but think of Michael and Esther Ross-Watson who have modelled what it means to love unreservedly to me.

This has given me cause to give thanks for parents who have loved me even as a prodigal.

IV. Learning to be like Jesus

Another question I’ve asked myself: “Can I be like Jesus?”

In John 13 : 34-35, Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This is the passage where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples knowing that He was about to face betrayal and be crucified by the very people who celebrated Him just the week before.

Will my heart be like Jesus, a servant leader? Jesus knew that Peter was going to betray Him yet He didn’t attempt to change history even as the Son of God. He knew what had to be done in order to give us righteousness through His sacrifice.

V. Reflecting God in my life

And lastly, am I living my life in such a way that the people who have been placed in my life can see God?

Some of you will probably ask,  ‘Did I ever get the joy of raising a dog back?’ Yes, I did! But I’ll save that for another series of lessons I learnt about leadership and discipleship.

*Bible verses taken from Amplified Bible

Charissa is a trainer for both humans and dogs, and loves to put her observations and musings down in writing on her blog, The Orange Chalk. Very often, you’ll read about her rescue mutt, Lady-Mae, whom God uses to refine Charissa to serve like a servant and lead like a royal.

They Will Know Us By Our Love

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

A week ago, a friend’s Facebook post with a caption, “They will know us by our love” caught my attention. It led me to an article titled, “We die a Thousand Ways in Love” by Marshall Segal, a writer and managing editor of the website Desiring God.

In that same week, while heading to a friend’s relative’s wake, another friend Tanya shared about how she believed the importance of learning not to hold grudges.

Oftentimes when we are in the wrong, we seek grace from others. But many a time, we hold double standards without even realizing it. As I read the article by Segal, I reflected on my own extension of grace and kindness to others.

Last weekend, I took my dog Lady-Mae to the ‘dog run’ – a designated enclosed field where dogs can run freely. To me, it’s a dog’s equivalent of our cafes where we can meet with friends and hang out. A pair of dogs entered with their owner and just as they were meeting and greeting, one of the dogs had an altercation with mine.

Since there was no blood shed and Lady Mae continued to interact with the other dogs present, I thought nothing of the incident. Later, as we were leaving the park, we met the same pair of dogs and Lady Mae joyfully and earnestly went to greet the same dog that had an earlier confrontation with her.

Four days later, I noticed that my dog kept licking a certain spot on her body. When I checked it out, I found a bite on her – a deep gash resulted from her earlier encounter.

This recent incident taught me two things:

One, it exemplified how authentic kindness and grace should look like. In witnessing Lady-Mae’s desire to meet her fellow canine friend even though they just had an altercation, I am prompted to reflect on how pro-active I am in expressing kindness and grace to others. I’m certain that Lady-Mae remembered the incident with the other dog but that did not prevent her from making the first move to reach out.

My second lesson was gained from an understanding Lady-Mae’s training grounded her in a way that enabled her to walk away from the incident unaffected. The episode did not alter her temperament nor did it hinder her from interacting with other dogs. Similarly, the more grounded we are on the word of God, the more we learn and practice His Word, the more we grow in maturity especially when extending gestures of kindness to others.

I repent for not being as kind, gracious and loving as I should be. I am humbled that God always gives us many chances on this side of eternity. I am grateful that I am surrounded by friends and family who live out these values and model them to me, challenging me also live them out with authenticity so that they will know us by our Love.

Charissa is a trainer for both humans and dogs, and loves to put her observations and musings down in writing on her blog, The Orange Chalk. Very often, you’ll read about her rescue mutt, Lady-Mae, whom God uses to refine Charissa to serve like a servant and lead like a royal.

LOVE : Anything but Easy (Pt. 2)

This second installment of Charissa Ee’s  reflection on love features the remaining 3 Lessons on Loving God

LESSON 5 : Loving God means being willing to be kind and compassionate

I’m quite certain that most of us think we know about kindness and compassion. But, until you live with a dog, you’ll never really know kindness and compassion. Dogs demonstrate these qualities on a level that may sometimes seem humanly impossible!

On one occasion, I was getting water filled up from a water point at Tanjong Beach, Sentosa, when Lady-Mae ran into the female toilet. The toilet was about 5 to 6 feet away from me and dogs are not allowed in.

As I called for her to come out, she refused. Instead, she defied me and chose to stay inside. As I walked into the toilet, all I could think of was that a member of the public was going to complain that my dog was being a nuisance.

I found Lady-Mae sitting outside the door of a cubicle, whining. If you’ve ever met my dog, you’ll know that she hardly makes any vocal sounds. So, I decided to open the door and found a cleaner on the floor. She had fallen and fractured her wrist. She was in such great pain that she had no strength to call out for help and could only speak in whispers. My dog, heard her whispering and acted on her will to alert me that someone was in need.

I called the Sentosa lifeguard for help and they, in turn, called for an ambulance.

It was only after Lady-Mae had seen the cleaner being helped into the ambulance and leaving the premises that she stood up and looked at me with eyes that said, “it’s now time to go”. I need to qualify that I have never trained my dog for such a task. She did it by pure intuition alone.

This incident reminded me of the good Samaritan who not only saved the Jew who was robbed, but also made sure that he was well looked after. Not only did I learn a new definition of kindness that day but I also understood the difference between kindness and compassion.

Kindness is our willingness to render an act of service without any external prompting. Compassion is the act of service that we render to make sure that there is a follow through.

LESSON 6 : Loving God means having the moral courage to speak up even when you’re being laughed at

On another occasion in Sentosa, Lady-Mae ran up to a lifeguard and started barking at him. She was trying to get his attention because she had spotted a man floating on his back, out in the sea. In actual fact, it was an elderly gentleman doing the backstroke. Lady thought that he had drowned and needed help.

I found it funny seeing my non-swimming dog get frustrated trying to enter the water to get to the man. As I was getting Lady-Mae away from the lifeguard to show her that she had been mistaken, the elderly gentleman came to shore and told me to never laugh at my dog for doing that, but to reward her more instead.

No one on the beach that day even bothered about my barking dog. Not even the lifeguard. He just stood there and ignored her. That image was engraved into my heart. Being a disciple of Christ means that we must be willing to be like Lady-Mae; we need to speak up for what is not right.

No one taught my dog to do what she did. She did it because it was in her instinct to do so. Likewise, if we are to be like Christ, then our instinct should be to have courage for our faith.

LESSON 7 : Loving God means having reverential worship daily

Recently, Lady-Mae hurt her dominant paw when I took her to the Green Corridor for a romp. When I got home from church later that day, she greeted me at the door, hobbling on 3 legs.

The ritual of a greeting in dog training is called, “The Reunion”. To greet a dog properly, you do not speak, have eye contact or pet a dog unless the dog is calm.

Rituals are important in a dog’s world. Unlike dogs, our rituals are based on intellect and emotion. For dogs, rituals are instinctive and natural. They do it because of who they are. Dogs can never fake their rituals; whenever dogs get into a ritual, they speak truth.

So, when Lady-Mae persisted in greeting me and refused to go back into her bed until we were done, it really left an impression on me. We may see this moment as insignificant but Lady-Mae modeled to me what total abandonment looks like. She laid aside her pain and greeted me at the door despite the deep gash in her paw.

As I was kneeling on the floor petting my dog who was gently wagging her tail, I began to reflect on how my daily reunion with God should be.

Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.” [NIV] This verse is the thread that ties these 7 lessons on loving God together. Critical lessons that I know will take a lifetime to perfect.

Charissa is a trainer for both humans and dogs, and loves to put her observations and musings down in writing on her blog, The Orange Chalk. Very often, you’ll read about her rescue mutt, Lady-Mae, whom God uses to refine Charissa to serve like a servant and lead like a royal.

LOVE: Anything but Easy (Pt.1)

Charissa Ee shares 7 How-tos on Loving God in this 2-part series inspired by her gentle resue dog, Lady-Mae

In the past couple of weekends, we’ve been hearing about discipleship, covenant and promises. We know that discipleship is a journey. Interestingly, God used the journey from Egypt to Israel to teach his people about discipleship. In essence, this journey was the beginning of discipleship.

As I am pondering about what God is saying to us in this season of Lent, a recent article in The Straits Times by well-known journalist, Sumiko Tan, helped me to encapsulate what God has been stirring in me. Tan, in her March 13, 2016 article wrote about her sick dog and how easy it is to love dogs versus loving humans.

Contrary to that article, my own dog didn’t teach me that love is easy. Lady-Mae, my rescued street dog of 4 years, taught me that love is anything but easy. She’s given me 7 lessons of what being a disciple looks like in the 21st century.

LESSON 1 : Loving God means being willing to be ridiculed

I never realized people’s biases until I adopted Lady-Mae. When I adopted her at 4-months of age, she was still rather small in size. Unlike most puppies who are silly, cute and all over the place, Lady was not like that at all. She was a very serious puppy; gentle and rather skittish. Whenever I took Lady out for walks, I never failed to encounter fellow residents who would literally screech and scream in terror just because they saw a brown puppy walking next to me.

Even though Lady-May is a well-adjusted dog today, I still get people who would pass snide remarks. Some, when they see my dog, would walk far away as if I were a leper. Some would scold me, while others would tell their children not to walk too close for fear that my dog would bite.

Lady-Mae teaches me daily that following Christ mean being willing to be jeered at just because we decide to follow in God’s ways.

LESSON 2 : Loving God means giving generously & sacrificially

Since I adopted Lady-Mae, I’ve been an active volunteer for a local shelter as a fosterer. One of the roles of a fosterer is helping to house and train a dog until it gets adopted.

One day, Lady-Mae brought her chewed up stuffed toy, dropped it in front of our foster pup and walked back to her bed to rest. The young pup took it and enjoyed chewing on the tattered toy. As I witnessed this moment between these two dogs, I could hear the Holy Spirit tell me, “That’s exactly what it looks like when you give your all.”

Giving is not about giving out our excess. Giving is about being sacrificial. 1 Chronicles 21:24 [NIV] says, “But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

LESSON 3 : Loving God means accepting what God wants

Lady-Mae models to me daily, how a surrendered life to Jesus looks like. So, when Pastor Michael Ross-Watson was recently talking about dying to self, the image I had was how Lady-Mae was so willing to walk a familiar road with such zest and eat the same kibble everyday like it was something new.

Dogs die to their rights so easily. Once they find their place in a pack, they accept their roles and position within that pack and never question it. When they are living with humans, they adapt to our modern lifestyles and rely on their humans for everything – even something as simple as a pee break. That kind of daily reliance really rings home for me and causes me to reflect the extent of my reliance on God.

LESSON 4 : Loving God means being willing to be inconvenienced

In a fast-paced society like Singapore, we are usually busy with our daily schedules and places that we need to be. Most of us have a plan that includes what we want to do, to achieve, etc, but most often than not, our plans aren’t exactly what God has in mind. My parents often remind me of this proverb, “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” [Proverbs 16:9 – NASB]

Over the years, I’ve experienced many times when I am inconvenienced but I have learnt to hold my breath, wait and see what divine opportunities come my way. Since I’ve had Lady-Mae, I’ve received countless blessings and many of those blessings have come out of inconvenienced times.

Out of our many experiences, this is one that I hold dear to my heart…

Lady-Mae and I were scheduled to attend an event at Bishan Park on a weekend. I decided to book a taxi 2 days in advance just in case I couldn’t find transport on the day itself. Despite having my booking confirmed, an hour before our designated time to leave home, the taxi company called to inform me that the driver had cancelled the booking and that they would be getting me a replacement.

The company found a replacement driver promptly. However, the replacement driver also decided to cancel his booking with me 20 minutes prior to pick up. The hunt continued for another driver and this time, I took Lady-Mae down to wait for the taxi once the company called to confirm a third driver for us.

When the taxi arrived, I was shocked to find that the driver was a Muslim. I told him that there must have been a miscommunication with my booking and that I would call for another taxi. To my surprise, he replied that there had been no miscommunication. He had seen my booking 2 days before and when he realized that no one wanted to pick me, he answered the call.

The driver was a grandfather in his late 60s who used to live in a kampong and told me that mongrels are probably the best dogs to have as pets because they are so loyal. My point in all of this is that the driver was a very devout Muslim who risked a lot just by fetching Lady Mae and myself.

This incident taught me that being reliant on God humbles us and that when we go with God’s plan, we will always be refreshed.

Lady-Mae and I still take the public transport today.

– Look out for the lessons 5, 6 & 7 on loving God in the second installment of LOVE : Anything but Easy –

Charissa is a trainer for both humans and dogs, and loves to put her observations and musings down in writing on her blog, The Orange Chalk. Very often, you’ll read about her rescue mutt, Lady-Mae, whom God uses to refine Charissa to serve like a servant and lead like a royal.

Preserving Tradition

What traditions are worth preserving? our contributing writer, Charissa Ee, asks All-important questions to get us started on a meaningful new year ahead.


Every Singaporean Chinese family has their own traditions that are unique to them. My family is without exception. As a Peranankan family, our traditions include certain types of food like Ayam Buah Keluak for our reunion dinner. This year, I felt the need to reflect more deeply on my family traditions because my only surviving grandmother decided to break with tradition. She wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year at a restaurant.

When she broke the news to the family, we were all at a loss for words. We had gotten so used to our Chinese New Year routine that we assumed this year would be no different. We were so thrown off center that we needed to reconvene over ‘Whatsapp’ to discuss this change of plans. That one decision to break with tradition got me reflecting about Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:2 “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.” [NIV] We know that Paul wrote this to the Romans particularly because they had such a strong culture that permeated throughout their empire.


My grandmother’s decision made me re-evaluate the Chinese New Year rituals we had come to know well in our family. Of all the various traditions that my family has, I’d like to share one that perhaps does not conform with most other Chinese families. Interestingly, both my paternal and maternal grandparents shared the same tradition of giving an ang pow (a red packet containing money) to each of their children and grandchildren regardless of age and marital status. This is quite unusual because most Chinese families believe that once you’re past a certain age, or if you’re married, then you no longer qualify to receive an ang pow.

Not only did my grandparents instill an uncommon practice, they made sure that their ang pows were of substantial value. They wanted their red packets to reflect their belief that influence comes with giving and giving generously of everything that we have, be it money, time or energy. Being believers they walked and lived out Psalm 112:9 “They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.” [NLT]

My family has taught me that influence doesn’t come from being persuasive. Instead, it comes from giving what we have in life regardless of its value. Over the course of these many Chinese New Years, I’ve realized that I have used my ang pow money towards my friends or towards attending workshops, buying books etc. In other words, I’ve used my ang pow money on things that could grow me as a person.

This year, I’ve decided to use my ang pow money as a yard stick to evaluate how I have been using the talents that God has endowed upon me.


Last year, one of my goals was to grow one of my Top 5 ‘talent themes’ (personal-character attributes) of StrengthsFinder® (a personal strengths assessment test) from infancy to maturity. Of all my Top 5 ‘talent themes’, the theme, Command has always gotten me into trouble and very misunderstood. So, I decided to put it to good use by offering to foster delinquent dogs from a local shelter. Through the grace and strength of God, I managed to foster and rehabilitate 5 dogs amidst a highly stressful and heavy work load. What I loved about the experience was that I got to know 5 new pre-believing families. On top of that, word got around that I could help others with problem dogs and by the end of 2015, I got to know more pre-believers in that one year than I ever have in my entire life. Looking back, Psalm 112:9 came very much alive for me.

As I look towards this Chinese New Year and the year ahead, I’m re-energized because I know that if I make the effort to invest in my talents, His might and His Spirit will bring about growth and influence.


As you think about Chinese New Year, what are some traditions that you have as a family that has spiritual significance? If you’re a parent or grandparent, be sure to specifically share why these traditions or family rituals are important. The Bible is full of rituals that God wanted the Israelites to remember not because He wanted a scared cow but rather because He knew that rituals shape our culture. Culture shapes our values and influences the way in which we do things and the life choices that we make.

As someone who grew up with dogs, I know that regardless of breed, size, and background, ALL dogs share the same rituals in greeting one another and how they behave in pack. You will notice that every dog seems to know what to do despite not knowing or having met the other dog; dogs share the same language even though they are raised in different households.

Every dog owner knows that in order to have a well-adjusted dog, it is highly important to be able to communicate effectively to your dog through training. Because they do not speak English, the onus is on us – beings of higher intelligence – to be the ones to learn how to speak ‘dog’. Dogs will only listen to you if you actually mean what you say. Dogs are loyal and highly social creatures that need to live in packs like we do in families. In every pack there’s a top dog. But no matter which country they come from, or which breed they are, they all follow the same rituals of meeting, greeting, playing and living with one another.


So why are dogs so in-tune to a united ritual unlike us humans? Why can’t we, the modern-day church, be as unified? What rituals have we preserved or lost that has caused us to be so removed from the natural world? Why can’t we seem to agree on what defines the Kingdom of God?

In a fast-changing city like Singapore, what is worth preserving in our culture? Perhaps the more important question we should be asking is – What traditions can we preserve to create the Kingdom culture that Christ so often speaks of in the New Testament?

Charissa is a trainer for both humans and dogs and loves to put her observations and musings down in writing on her blog “The Orange Chalk”. Very often, you’ll read about her rescue mutt, Lady-Mae, whom God uses to refine Charissa to serve like a servant and lead like royal.