26 December 2007

A new addition to the family


We got ourselves a mini schnauzer! On 26th, we went to the pets wholesalers at Pasir Ris Farmway with my mum. There were an amazing number of Pet kennels there selling all kinds of interesting dogs - we even saw a Saint Bernard!

After enquiring a few schnauzers, the prices range from $700 to $3500, we finally settled for one Salt-n-Pepper (black & gray) little male puppy, 2 months old, at $650, after some bargaining. It's an all-in price plus one bag of dog food.

We were a bit apprehensive at how our 13 month Jack Russell will respond to this new boy. But after some loud "welcome" barkings, they are beginning to settle down well. The new boy, whom we named Elfie, whined the 1st night for a while. He also woke up early at 5 plus to cry for food. And of course, when the small boy whined, Ernie joined in and barked (at the unearthly hour of 5 something).

We let Elfie wonder around at home, and he pee-ed quite a bit everywhere. Yes, we need to toilet train him soon. He also refused to eat the food without milk and must be 'rocked' to sleep. A real baby indeed!

Elfie is biting all our fingers whenever we put in our hands to carry him. He is teething and is biting everything in sight. But he's cute.

Very cute.

21 December 2007

1st week of Holidays

The long awaited school holidays are finally here for me. After 2 weeks of winding down and settling my timetabling matters, I finally got to start my 3 week long school holidays. Great! Well, ok, after a blinking of the eye, it's one week gone and two weeks left.

Day one was spent on fetching kid to Kumon Maths class and then an unplanned trip to bring father-in-law down for a hospital appointment. Bought 3 weekend car coupons too.

Accompanied my wife for her pap smear test on day 2 and then to the hair stylist for my 3 women to have their hair cut. Not bad, $5 per person, for a home-cut. We went down to Marine Parade Hans for lunch and went back home after that.

For day 3, my older girl accompanied me to office and we scanned about 280 photos into digital format and saved them into a thumb drive. That took a day of work!

Day 4, we went for our CG Christmas party. It was a wet day. Originally, we were supposed to have 15 guests, but it turned out to be only 2 in the end. By the time of the program, the guests disappeared, and we just had our normal food, carols and gift exchanges. That's what usually happened when there is no real push - we tend to be spiritually lazy. Well, for myself I got the vitamins C as present. My girls got to know Dino - a 6 year old Schnauzer well.

Day 5 was spent at Wild Wild Wet @ Downtown East. It costs us $42 for four of us but it was really fun. It also came with $12 rebate which we used for our KFC lunch. We were there from 11:30am till 4pm. The water slides were great! The sun was very hot and we are went back with a tan.

Day 6? Tomorrow we'll know... hopefully it doesn't rain..

So far, it has been fun, fun and more fun. Not much time for personal reflections though. However there was ample time for family which is good. I'm also quite regular in my QT, thankfully. Let's see what the next 2 weeks brings.

17 December 2007

Zechariah or John – what will his name be? Lk.1.57-66

The neighbours pressed Zechariah for an answer after Elizabeth had bravely spoken up against their initiative for choosing the name Zechariah. “It has always been like this. We take a traditional family name. How can you now choose a name not in your family line of names?” Zechariah was insistent. No, “His name is John” In his many months in silence, he has much time to think and has already thought through it all. He is not to go away from God’s words anymore. He saw and knew first hand, that God exists and can be trusted. His name will be John. His name is John. Then his tongue was loosened and he began to speak again. And of course, he praise God! The others watched in fear. Now they are slowly beginning to realize that God is at work. They are not to press their ways. A new start has been made. It is a new start to fear and follow God.

There are times in my life where I followed others. I went with the flow, the path of least resistance. But it is not good for me. I stopped thinking and just followed along. There was no courage and no direction and no purpose in life. I need to re-orientate. I need to seek His will and follow it, especially in 2008.

Zechariah has also shown great wisdom. He did not sulked against God, or show any negative emotions for the silence during those past months. He accepted his punishments. He was able to rejoice again and give thanks. Why? He knew he was wrong and He was right. God was not only right, but was good and blessed him so much more than he could imagined.

Am I still harbouring unnecessary hurts against God and others? Why do I remain angry and down? Why can’t I move on? What is there to be unhappy about? Sometimes, even though I knew I am wrong and had no answers for my own emotions – I still find it difficult to move on. What I know and what I’m actually not doing does not match. I need the push – a BIG push to carry on.

May the push, or maybe a scolding, come soon.

16 December 2007

God speaks

This morning I have a hard time waking up 3 ladies, 2 gals and wife for the 8am service. Last nite, we went out late to Little India and reached home at 11.30pm. They could hardly wake up and after a few tries, I gave up and went to church on my own.

Not a great start for Sunday service and my school holidays. I was embarrassed when Paul, at the door, asked, "Eh, Today only one person?" I mentioned that they were still in bed and quickly walked in, not lifting my head to see them.

The song, "So You would come" ministered to me greatly. I was reminded of the great love of God afresh, who did everything, so that I would come to Him. He had taken my broken dreams and lives. He has sent His Son to die for me. He has accepted me unconditionally. So that I would come to Him again. I was touched.

Suddenly a picture of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son came to me. For many months now, I was behaving like the elder brother, now sulking because of the church, and refusing to go into the Father's house again. This song ministered to me in reminding me of the Father's love and deeds. What more do I want from Him so that I would go in? Do I need Him to say sorry? Was He wrong in the 1st place? No. How foolish of me!

Lord, forgive me. I have sinned and am too proud and cold to come into your house. Help me to do so again. Amen.

God in pursuit of us

I was in my school gym the other day when someone whom I have never met before walked up to me and asked if I'm from this evangelistic church. I was surprised and said "Yes, I'm from there but how did you know?" He mentioned that his colleague in his dept mentioned me to him since the 2 of them were attending the same church as me. And suddenly now, I know of 4 other person in my workplace that attends the same church as me! How did the 2 of them know me? Am I that popular? He mentioned that his other colleague knew me as I was involved in a significant way in the church previously. Hmm, very interesting.

This 2 of them, plus the other 2 whom I saw and recognised in church brings the total number to 4 - for now. The most interesting part of it, is that, this stranger friend actually stays in the same area as me! It becomes very eerie all of a sudden.

On the other hand, it reminds me that God's people are everywhere. No matter where i go to, it seems that His people are always there. And one fine day, they may just walk up to me and introduce themselves to me. It brings me comfort to know that help is around. He will always be here for me through His people.

Praise God!

13 December 2007

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This is a familiar and yet powerful story about the tree that gives her apples, branches and finally trunk to a boy, just to make him happy. To me it speaks of an altruistic love that few can really practice. Most if not all, give for a purpose, and that purpose is not to just make someone happy. Here the tree is different. In a sense it reminds me of the Heavenly Father who gives.

I have listed for myself some questions to prod me into further actions:
As a Tree -
Will I give off my trunk, branches and apples to make someone happy? If not, why? What is holding me back?
Who is like this tree to me? What would I tell him when I meet him/her?
Am I seeing myself like an “old stump” with nothing left to give, or a young tree with apples aplenty?
Do I need to ensure that I still have sufficient to give?

As a Boy –
Who is my boy (that I’m giving wholeheartedly to?)
Am I over-taking (receiving) and under-giving?
Do I appreciate the “trees” in my life? Note – boy did not say a word of thanks.

In giving, there is happiness. In taking, there is tiredness.

In a way, I see myself as an old stump (okay, mid-life stump), with nothing else to give in ministry and life to others. Maybe it’s time to re-discover that even old stumps have got good uses!

7 December 2007

Conference Inspirations

It was a dull conference by an uninspiring speaker until she started to tell a story about an underachieving kid, who when asked to do a dance item, suddenly became alive and in that process discovered himself. Here in my workplace, I see bored students everyday. While it is expected that we do not let ourselves be tainted by their lack of zeal, we sometimes failed to do that and are reacting to their responses and we become de-motivated, Hence, it is with a whiff of fresh air as I hear this speaker’s story of the student finding himself (or as Covey would put it – finding his voice).

This inspired me to live out this purpose here in my otherwise blurred and uninspiring environment. How would I do it? I’m not very sure. But I know I need to be more involved with the students, to engage them and push them beyond what they are currently doing. Going further. Not satisfied with the status quo. Good clich├ęs to turn into real practice.
Let’s see if I will and can do it.

6 December 2007

Annual Appraisal Exercise

It was supposed to be at 9am, but it got pushed off until 3 plus in the afternoon. Hmm, do they really take it seriously nowadays? Long before that, I had to wade through the pile of circulars trying to find out which is the latest form to be used. Then, I had to try not to be too humble in recollecting what I have done for the past 6 months. It took me about half an hour to think, "smoke a bit", and type it out. In the end, it was all over in less than 30 minutes.

My lady boss went through the usual questions, trying to be listening to me. Surprising now, we are encouraged to be working more cross-functionally. I mentioned that I am keen to be open to more projects, and was quickly asked if I would consider student leadership things, EQ classes, and the like. In the end, we talked a bit more, without saying yes or no, being open may be a better move. I expressed my keenness for mentoring related things - hopefully she would take note of it.

In the past, I have to write my responses to her comments. Now, it seemed unnecessary. She also mentioned that it would be difficult to have a B grade now that the bar has been raised. Ok, that means lesser bonus, though she did mentioned that my work performance was above average.

Does what i wrote really count? My efforts put in for the year? Well, we'll see in March next year when the performance bonus are given out. Nonetheless, my esteem is not based on their comments and rewards. I do my best for my Master. And that is reward enough.

2 December 2007

My "Mini-marathon"

It was a slightly more crowded stroll in the end (The Singapore Marathon 2008). And all in good time: 59:44 for 10km, though a bit away from my personal gym bests of 56:36. Still it was a great run.

A few months ago, I was still trying to escape the sign up for this run. After the umpteen time my boss ask, I finally said yes. That time I was 6-7km fit and 10km seemed like a mount Everest task for me. But today looking back, I perhaps should have signed up for the half marathon instead.

And that's what I will do for next year, culminating in the year end 2008 full marathon. It will be a great opportunity to capitalise on my current fitness levels, to do what I tried to do in 1996 but failed. Then I managed to run for about 19 km and then walked till the three quarter mark and gave up. Next year, I will return to try again. And to close up this chapter of my "half-past-six" attempt.

Besides it being a great running experience, I received some freebies too, like 2 dri-fit running singlets, a pack of carbo-rice, and some other promotional packets. It also introduced me to the school gym and lifting weights again.

On the run, it was quite a smooth run, albeit very crowded throughout. At a few points, after the half way mark, I sped up and tired myself unnecessary. Towards the end, there was not much reserves to speed up for the final dash. Still it was a good time. The runspirators along the route did a great job in cheering us on. Great for them! Ahh, the importance of cheerers in our lives. They just give you that extra oomph in your run.

Well I'll be looking at the Singapore race calendar and signing up for the runs..

30 November 2007

Struggle with QT

This is a dry season for me. I have not been doing QT for quite a while now. There is no push for it. I seem to be prefering to download and listen to Christian songs more than reading His Word. Doing Christian things certainly seems more fun and easy than coming back to the Father. Sad.

It's made all the more easy as there is no accountability - no one checks on me as to whether I'm walking with God (unlike previously).

Lord give me the push again please.

26 November 2007

Life Goals & Purposes

Every once a while, when I hit a life-block, example like a down moment, depressed by some insolent & indifferent student, I asked myself the familiar question, “What on earth am I doing here? Am I wasting away my life?”

In my church's discipleship training program, I have learnt that when such questions arise, I got to take a step back in the Core Curriculum wheel. I.e. in this instance, I struggle with an issue of purpose, I need to move one step back, to Biblical Identity. I need to work on this area in my life – Who am I? And the real cause of the problems, the Root problem is in one further step back, i.e. Biblical Allegiance – Who is my REAL master? Is it God or am I still struggling to be the Master of my own life?

While I spend time thinking about my Life goals and trying to re-align them to get some sense of purpose, my real root problem is really the struggle with Allegiance. I still want to be the LORD of my own life. I cannot fully trust God to run my life. I felt that He has messed it up so far. Did He? Or was it my interference? i.e. in not fully living in the way that He requires.

Don’t hack at the branches. Deal directly and decisively with the roots. I need to repent and surrender my life afresh. Not just mentally or superficially. But wholeheartedly.

This is an oft recurrent issue, which means I have not really dealt with it fully. How do I surrender fully to the Lord? Where do I need to die more?

Lead me Lord to deal with it fully. Amen.

25 November 2007

Check out this song!

I was checking out the Youtube and Internet for the latest Christian songs and came across many wonderful songs by Chris Tomlin. And the latest Dove award 2007 song, "My Savior, My God" by Aaron Shust. See this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt0WluTpFTg Great song! i love it.

If you are looking for great songs, check out this site at GMA Dove Award, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_Awards

Enjoy.

Home Alone

I am all alone at home for the next few days, all of them are not around except for my dog. My wife flew away for a short holiday with her friend. I have placed my 2 girls with my in-laws as there is no way I can look after them during their holiday period. It will be a lonely and deserted home for the next 4 days.

It started with 4:30 am this morning. We were all awake to fetch her to the airport. I was very sleepy, after watching soccer, where my MUFC lost to Bolton (so depressing!!). After fetching them with the gals too, we return and slept till 9:45. Oops, we missed church! I fetched the girls to my in-laws place and arrived just in time for early lunch. Left after lunch to go home and buy bread for the week. Brought our Ernie boy for his once a week walk too. Did not go jogging today as it was raining heavily at late afternoon.

Went dinner at Kopitiam this evening all by myself. It was a lonely time sitting all by myself. I am reminded of my pre-marriage days where for years, I ate alone. In silent sadness.

Well, it's alright. it will be over soon. Just got to occupy myself. An empty mind is the devil's favourite workshop.

Highest PSLE marks

The recent Straits Times article (see http://www.straitstimes.com/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/STIStory_179386.html?vgnmr=1) reported that a Malay girl from St Hilda’s scored the highest PSLE marks, 294 out of a possible aggregate score of 300. It was an incredibly high score given her circumstances and non-pedigree upbringing (technician father and homemaker mother). Way to go! Certainly holds out much hope for the rest of us common folks.

While much fuss is given to her, and perhaps rightly so, since she is from the ‘minority’ race here, I just wonder, in years to come will it do her any good? I mean, when you apply for jobs in future, would you list out your PSLE score? Will the employer ask for your PSLE (primary school results)?

The key to me, more importantly, is can she continue to be consistent in her results? Especially in the University results, where it matters more. Many are good-starters, but importantly, we need to be good finishers. Well, not that she isn’t – we would not know now. But the thought that came to me is on finishing well, especially after a brilliant start.

Personally, I had average results in PSLE. Nobody ever asked me what those were any more. My “O” levels were also pretty average – not that it mattered anymore now too. Nobody looks at my “A” level results too, only my University results, which were, sadly, just a General degree after a 4 year course, no honours, no 1st class whatsoever. Did they matter? I guess to a degree. But more importantly, my work experiences and how I carried myself at the job interviews mattered more.

Now? While I still wanted to pursue some studies (I had attained 2 Masters), I had to reserve the finances for my wife to do hers first. For me, I would like to do a work related diploma that will give me an opportunity to teach in another department if called upon. Maybe a business related diploma.
Well, we’ll see how it goes from here. My family still needs to be fed.

20 November 2007

Punctuality & Life's Directions

“T’cher, how do you stay motivated when the rest don’t want to study?” my good student asked me this question this morning. This boy was one of those rare ones who come on time each week, at about 8:10am (for the 8 o’clock class), and wait in class. A few of his classmates were hanging around outside, waiting for one another, refusing to go in, despite my appeals (We are toothless teachers, what can we do? Punish them? Scold them?)

Naturally it is very easy for him to lose his motivation to study in the sea of ‘bad’ students. Why be the odd ball and be laughed at by others? Why wake up early while the teacher will have to wait for at least a few students to come 1st to form a “minimum” number to make his teaching more useful? And what can I the teacher do in the midst of such overwhelming truancy?

Is it only my class that they come late? No, as I asked them. In fact at 8 am when I walked past the other classes, it is the same sorry picture. A handful at most in each class – and here we are talking about the core subjects, not like mine, the ‘pass/fail’ ungraded module. Hey our kids are not stupid, they know which classes you just have to come.

For this boy, I told him to be clear about his purposes in the institute. Why does he come here and study in the 1st place? Keep that in mind. Continue to remind himself and press on in that. Hmm, maybe, that’s a good advice for me too as I wonder sometimes, what on earth am I doing here, surrounded by all these academia mess.

While it is true for him, it is true for me too. What on earth am I here (this institute) for? For the monthly paycheck? Because I got no where else to go (this was my original fear)? Or to make a small difference in the lives of the students and teachers?

I believe God has a plan for my life. Even though I cannot see how it all link up, I know I am not here by accident and that it would eventually made sense later on (Reminder: Steve Jobs’ Commencement speech – connecting the dots).

Hang in here. Press on. Do His will. Love the kids. Share with my colleagues. Give thanks!

Latest Book Read

This is my latest book read, “Freakonomics” by Steven Lewitt (an Economist from Univ of Chicago) and Stephen Dubner (an author/journalist).

It is anything but a typical book on Economics. For starters, there is no main unifying theme in this book. No central idea or thread running through the book, except for the authors desire to show us that things are not always what they seem on the surface.

It is a simple to read book, and very interesting topics are covered in it. For example, much interesting insights are given on teachers marking of exam scripts, sumo wrestling, drug gangs, honesty in the marketplace, choosing of names (real story of a boy called Loser – my daughter loved this!)

It has these main teaching points:
- Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life
- Conventional wisdom is often wrong (e.g. gun is safer than the swimming pool)
- Dramatic effects often have distant causes (e.g. crime decline due to abortion)
- Experts use their info advantage to serve their own agenda
- The key is to know what and how to measure data
- Explore the hidden side of everything!

Once a while, you will stumble upon an asymmetrical book that throws what you know off the comfortable road. This is one of those books. Yet it is backed by research, not anecdotal stories. This is definitely a good worthwhile read.

What it speaks to me? Covetousness (money/incentives) makes the world go round. For us Christians, we need to remain rooted to the unchanging Word of God and serve the LORD. A 2nd reminder – explore further, dig deeper. Don’t conclude hastily.

How does “abortion giving rise to low crime rates” square with the Word? It is still wrong to kill lives. One aspect of it ‘good” does not mean that it is allowable. There are still many other things that we do not know on the whole truth and it is wiser to trust on the Word of God (Prov.3:5,6).


One similar book to this is, “The Undercover Economist” by Tim Harford. Ah, that will be my next target at the library.

19 November 2007

Student-Kings

Its that time of the year that we teachers here dread. Exam processing time. Not that marking scripts were terrible - its actually the simplest part. What is the most difficult and tiring part for us is chasing after our students, begging them to come to class and do their assignments so that we can pass them.

There is an understanding here that we have to attain a minimum of 95% passes for all our classes. The students also know, after a while, that it is very difficult for them to fail. So they do what they like, which is, come late, sleep or play PSP in class, talk or blast their music loudly. What can we do as teachers? We can scold them. They will then 'switch-off' mentally and not turn up for your lessons. Or, we can ignore them and just concentrate on those who want to listen - which is what I do.

Those who are listening form about slightly less than a quarter of the class. The majority do not and also do not turn up for class. For them to pass the module, we then have to call and cajole them to turn up and do their assignments. If they don't turn up, we have to write and seek help from their class advisers. If that is still of no use, we have to turn up at their core module tests to 'catch' them to do the assignments. If that still fails, we have to wait for them at the exam hall, and catch them to do their assignments after their main exam papers.

And once they complete the 20 minute assignment, we pass them, eventhough their attendance could be as low as 1-2 out of 18 lessons. Are they kings or what?

Sigh. Such is the system that we are in. We are not really educating as they are not interested in the non-core modules. It is indeed sad that they are short sighted now and do not see the long term benefits of the module.

Well, if not for anything else, it's a great training ground for patience for me. I am learning to take it in my stride and minister/teach those who are interested. Thankfully, in each cohort, there is always 1-2 who'll made you day. Thank God for the few good ones.

18 November 2007

Handphones

What is a good age to let your children have a handphone? I have asked that question to a few of my colleagues, and the answers vary from 11-12 years old to teenage years. I never expected that my own daughter, now only 7 years old, would have hers yesterday!

It all started when my wife's Nokia 6280 was spoilt. After about 2-3 years, of intermittent reliability, it finally gave way, and the screen died on her. In her rush to get it replaced, she looked around and got a Sony Ericsson, T250i. It was not exactly a great HP, but functional and within our financial limits. At home, she preferred my Nokia 6233, and we swopped. My older daughter, who holds a Nokia 5070, later swopped with me, as my job requires me to SMS many students at the same time, which the Sony Ericsson cannot. So it was an interesting game of merry-go-round of HPs. When my wife bought the HP, she was given the M1 card (value $18), and since we have an old Sony Ericsson clam shell HP at home, we passed the HP and card to my girl. Now she has her own real HP (no need to pretend anymore)!

She was very excited about it naturally. We mused, when I 1st got my HP, I was in my 30s. My dad only got his when he was 70. When my older girl got hers, she was 10 years old, now at 7 she got hers, albeit a very old one. She excitedly selected her ring tones, wallpapers, message tones, and lamented, "Mummy, why no one calls me on my hp?" Sigh..

Now all 4 of us have HPs. That only means more telephone bills for me, and tidy profits for the telcos.

Walking our boy Ernie


Today is one of those rare days that the 4 of us walked Ernie (my 1 year old Jack Russell) together. Usually it's either me or at most with my younger daughter. But today, my wife gamely joined us, as she wanted to see Ernie run freely.

And he did not disappoint. He ran so freely that he chased after every motorcycle and person walking by. We were a bit ashamed that he is "un-control-able" and wild. He also frightened us twice as he dashed off to chase the passing motorbike.

It was the 1st time that I accidentally let him loose, and for two times in a single session! My 3 ladies were very unhappy with me - Ernie was their pride and life! I got a severe fright too, and promptly scolded and bit him to remind him not to do that again (not that it worked...)

Ahh, this boy, what shall we do with him?

Well despite the scares, it was good that our family can come together for a little walk. It would have been a longer walk if not for the weather. Hopefully this can spark off more walks together? My ladies are homely creatures, preferring to be watching TV at home, or lazing on the bed on a hot Sunday afternoon. This poor daddy has been delegated to do the manly task of walking the dog on a nice hot afternoon weekend ;-)

Silly Margins

Today's entry was from a this radio program, A Slice of Life, sent to me by a colleague. It has many interesting stories, for those of us who loved and are touched by stories. The link is at
http://www.938LIVE.sg/asol/Newsletter/3October2007.htm

"My primary four English teacher Mrs Yeo taught me this golden rule of always drawing a one-centimetre margin on the left-hand side of my exercise book. For the longest time, I wondered about this need to waste space, as I could have written more words, saved more paper and made my exercise book last longer if not for those margins. I really believed it was a silly rule but I reluctantly drew them anyway.

Fast forward 30 years. One day as I was tidying up my house, I found my primary school exercise book. As I flipped those pages of yore, I could not help but smile. There was something special about this book that made me treasure it. It was the margins. At every margin, Mrs Yeo would pen some encouraging words like, "I am happy that your ambition is to become a teacher", "Interesting narration of a pencil-box life? love your ideas of giving birth to little baby pencils", "You are the only boy whose best friend is a girl - keep it up". Sometimes she would draw a star, a sad face, a smiley or just a simple tick to show her reaction to my statement. I noticed a few pages on which I did not draw margins; there were no remarks. How I wish I had drawn them.

I finally understood Mrs Yeo's golden rule of drawing margins. Just as I had drawn margins for her to pen remarks that I so fondly cherish, I should also draw margins in life's hectic schedule so that I can savour the process of my work. I have learned a few tricks about drawing margins in life:

Give allowance of time. Avoid tight schedules and aim to arrive early by 15 minutes or more for all activities. Too often, stress is created by my ambition to squeeze too much activity into a limited time.

Plan time for things that matter. Plan time to enjoy my hobbies, time to spend with my loved ones, time to go on a vacation and time to play my favourite sports.

Spare time for little things. Spare some time talking to a child, pouring myself a good cup of coffee, comforting someone, cleaning the toilet, learning to cook Mee Siam from Mommy, helping the old lady to cross the road, marvelling at the sunset, or just watching the street busker performing.

I thought drawing those silly margins was a waste of space and was worried that my exercise book would not last the whole year. The fact was, the margins turned out to be the highlight of my book and by the end of the year the book was only three-quarters filled. Yes, I had worried for nothing. The worth of the exercise book is not measured by its length; it is measured by its content. Likewise, time is not measured by seconds; it is measured by the moments. I shall continue to create such moments by drawing those silly margins in my life! "

What are some margin activities in my life? Have I created some, or am I still living an unexamined-follow the crowd type of life? One good thing to create is to have times for reflections, like doing blog writing. This blog, at the end of the day, is therapeutic for me and also for re-alignment to what the important things in life are.

Block out a few times in a year to go down to my favourite coffee club joint, for me its at Funan Centre inside Times Bookshop, and seat by the window and write. Do it again..

16 November 2007

Discipleship Exams

Today is the Final term check up for our church's discipling program. I was a bit anxious as there was really a lot to study. But another reason for the anxiety is that I don't want to score the lowest and/or below 70. My earlier results were 85 and 75, and i hope to better that. Funny, and I thought that this was supposed to be a spiritual thing! How the worldly ideas have crept in.

I guessed my attitudes towards this training can be better. I did not put my whole heart into it this pass one year. Especially for the scripture memory, I coasted along, and when it got difficult, I just try to do it, not bothering about being word perfect. That is just plain lazy and indifference on my part.

My DG members really put me to shame. They made cards for the memory verses, printed and laminated too! Their scores were scary - mostly above 90, and as high as 98( today's high score). I as their leader, scored way below that.

For this exam today, I put in slightly more effort. For the past 1-2 weeks, I started daily memorising of scriptures in the morning as i walked to the bus stop. I started to study for the exam on Monday night. In the end i score 80, ok not too bad. I dropped points for 2 verses which were from the earlier terms' and the evangel cube part where they changed the format.

To the outsider, all these Christian exams may sound strange and worldly. For me, I think it is a good way to "force" me to study what i should know as a Christian. i would be too lazy to commit all these to memory if not for the exams. Also, my attitudes are surfaced through the exams. What is my attitude when I study for it? Grudgingly or with delight as they are the Word of God?

If not for anything, the best part of all these is that i came away memorising scriptures again, which is very good and needed for me. Great!

14 November 2007

A Year Older

I am past the 40 year old mark, and today is approaching mid-40s. It's a scary though actually that I have pass the half-way mark and am steadily approaching the end of my life.

Well, today I still need to work. The difference is that I'm going to the gym after work and am thus driving to work at 6am. At the office, I was pleasantly surprised by my 3 colleagues who gave me presents and even sang an impromptu song for me. I was touched that they remembered and gave me something.

Did my previous colleagues remember? Not that i knew of. In my previous job, it was one of those monthly circulated birthday cards, that after a while, you just sign it for the sake of signing. Now this is different, they remembered unannounced. My sis-in-law, bro-in-law, DG member, mum and sister also remembered and SMS/called me too. Now on the receiving end, I knew what it meant to the birthday person. It felt nice to be remembered and that you have someone out there who cares for you. Of course, my wife and 2 gals remembered too.

After work, I went to the gym for my once a week gym workout. Today was my 3rd time. Each week, I will attempt to run 10km as fast as I can. My 1st attempt in the gym was 80 plus minutes. Last week, was slightly more than 70 plus minutes. Today, was my best effort so far, 57:39! i was very pleased as it was my best timing in all these years - even faster than my 1996 attempt.

Did I do anything spiritual today? After bathing, I sat in the car, before the 7pm move out time, and I decided to listen to Christian songs. The song about "All that I am" spoke to me. It was about giving back to God all that I have and am. I was thinking that my life now is not very meaningful nor impressive. But i believe that God can make something good out of it. And i would like to give that to the Lord. Take it Lord, and make it into something beautiful.

At night, we went to Swensons BPP to celebrate. The gals were 20 mins late and I was angry with them. But ok, after a while the anger subsided. We had a good time eating and posing for photos too.

Well another birthday had passed. A year older now.

11 November 2007

Dialogues with my Muslim colleague

It has been a long time since I had a Muslim colleague. In my 1st job, I had a few, but I was not comfortable to discuss religious matters. I was still learning the art of conversing with others then as I was a very introverted person. There were no Muslim colleagues in my 2nd, 3rd and 4th job. Now there are 2 Muslims, 2 Indians, and 4 pre-believers in my department alone! Great. And I am much more friendlier and at ease with others now.

It all started with this Muslim colleague asking which church i was from. Interesting isn't it? I don't even need to crack my head to think of how to speak about Christ to her - she started first! We spoke about generalities about the faith and denomination differences. Suddenly it shifted to seeing spirits, I can't remember why, and we were really engaged.

She has a stay-in visiting spirit. They even had a name for her, Apollos, and yes, they knew it was a she. This spirit disturbs the family for a long time and can be seen by the youngest boy. She told us of how she can sense its presence by the 'dense-ness of the air' and by the foul smell. Their dogs would bark at it and retreated if the ball is thrown at the spirit's direction. It was all interesting stuff. I would share some of my encounters in my previous job. And we had a lively discussion.

The next occasion, I got bolder and asked her how she became a Muslim. She was a Catholic in her younger days. Her family now was catholic too. But she was converted after a dream where she sensed the presence of allah talking to her and saving her from calamity.

What a change! While I hear of many stories of Jesus appearing and converting Muslims, here was one incident in the other direction - allah appearing and converting her, a RC.

I also asked her how she would feel if she is invited to a Christian rally. She said that she would not go as she is beyond that age to change.

If one dream can change her allegiance, I am praying for Jesus, the King of kings, to appear in her dreams, to correct her view, and to bring her back to Himself.

Work Lord in her dreams and in her life. Let her come to know you soon.

Private fault lines have public consequences

One cannot fail to forget this phrase as he walks out from the sanctuary today, "Private fault lines have public consequences". It was drummed into us over and over again by the speaker today. I appreciated the repetitions. I think it was one of the most important lessons to learn in life. Be very careful of hiding secret sins in private. It is so important to have a band of brothers to be accountable to.

Many of us have the wrong mental attitude of 'It's a small thing' and 'I can handle it'. But failed to realise that such fault lines are subtle. They are no respecter of persons - Solomon, the wisest of all persons fell for it. The priests of the day, the holy people, fell too. And these subtle fault lines defiles us, and corrupts our faith, ultimately destroying us.

The speaker's main concern is that while we can win the battle for today's souls, we may lose the war in tomorrow's generation. The key obstacle is in our next generation - our children. We are fighting difficult battles in our Sunday Schools and homes. Most of the time we have little answer to the media, internet and now, Youtube.

And why are we losing the next generation? The Bible places the task, not to the church, but to the fathers. And we fathers are losing the war because of the busyness of our work and the tearing apart of our private fault lines (sins).

The message spoke to me today as a father who is losing the battle to align my girls to the Word of God. I may be getting my own spiritual act in place finally, but for my kids and spouse, I am still far from it. I have neglected God's commands in Deuteronomy to teach the Word to my kids.

I started out with a 'great-let's-do-it' attitude. But after a while, with work pressures, soccer watching, and other compromises, I begin to lag behind. Now I find it difficult to broach the subject, especially to my younger gal. Lord, help me. I have failed badly here, as a father. It is easier to mentor adults, and sometimes even youths, as long as they are not yours.

I was also touched by the speaker's true account of his grandpa's love for his wife.At her dying bedside, sensing that she had died, he wept for her. But he also sang a hymn for her and gave thanks to God that their love could last when many said that it would not last beyond a bag of rice (because of the 12 years age difference, she was older).

My relationship with my wife was far from that. We have our fair share of frequent fights and quarrels, most of the time over finance. Here in this regard, the speaker correctly pointed out that it was not over money per se, but power, a contest of wills.

Isn't it good to be in the house of the Lord? Come and give thanks to Him. Come and hear and let your life be transformed. Heal the private fault lines before it erupts. Go out and share His goodness and glory.

Praise God.

Ministry through Song

"I just want to be where you are..." This is one song that touches my heart over and over again. I remember the Life bookshop near Anson Road area was where i first heard this song. I was into my second job then as a young man, late 20s, struggling to find meaning in my work. Weekends was where I come alive in the BB ministry. Weekdays was where I have to earn my keep and think of ideas for the ministry. Something was wrong. I was more like a fulltime worker disguised as a worker in the marketplace.

Hence when this song was played over the in house system, my heart was touched. Hey, i just want to drop everything and go straight away to serve God in the capacity of a BB fulltime officer, and do nothing but BB youth ministry work.

Of course, now I knew better. It was just my youthful enthusiasm. But it was one part of my heart and at one point in my life that I really and fully long for God. Ps 27:4 became very real for me.

At other times, in CG, in worship services, in devotion sessions when I were leading, this song also came to be very meaningful to me whenever it was sung or led with. I guess in my heart there is a big part of me that just want to be where the Lord is. To dwell in the house of the Lord, to glaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.

Today too, as the song was sung, it surfaced up the same longings. Not to be a fulltime worker, but to be just where the Lord is. Enjoying His presence and beauty.

How I wished for my family to learn that too. Most of us have little time for anything else, except for work. It is thus refreshing to give that time back to God on a Sabbath Sunday. Now to learn how to do that...(as my family are not exactly very near to God)

10 November 2007

Birthday celebration

My sister sent me an SMS the other day, "want to meet and celebrate your birthday and younger brother's ?". I was pleasantly surprised but declined as I wanted to keep it simple. After all, I'm already over the mid-life mark, what is there to celebrate?

She was persistent and suggested another date. I finally gave in and agreed to meet on a Saturday evening for dinner. Though she was keen to set up the family gathering, there was not much coordination. But anyway, it is a family gathering, and if it is not that neat, it is still alright.

My family is like that. We hardly talk to each other - unlike my in-law side. So it was good for my sister to press on with this arrangement, for i am sure on our own, the 2 brothers will not arrange anything. Why are we so 'distant' with each other? We are all Christians, with no particular disagreements. I'm not sure. Maybe it was our upbringing - we are just not a closely knitted family.

Tonight, we came together, as a family: my sister and her 2 boys (husband did not join in as usual); my brother, wife and 2 kids; and my family, meeting in our brother's home. Pot-luck dinner. My mum did not cook, but left most of the cooking to my brother's wife/maid. While the kids played the X-Box, the adults busied themselves with our potluck dinner set-up.

Tonight was also the 1st time that I set together with my brother to take a joint birthday photo together. How interesting! We gather and eat and played some games (XBox and card games) and then we departed.

Well, that's our family. It could have been worse. But for all it is, I think we tried to come together and make it a happy gathering, at least for our parents' sake. Would we still meet when they are not around? I hope so. I think my sister will still be the initiator.

Let's see...

Where's my HP?

I felt my pockets for my HP. Eh, where is it? Did I accidentally dropped it in my colleagues' car? Or while walking to the carpark? Or in the office? A hundred questions race through my mind now. And I had better called my wife to inform her that she may not be able to reach me. But wait, how do you call without a handphone?

We have all grown so used to a HP that if one day, like now, you lost your HP, your life will come to a grinding halt. I cannot call anybody as I don't have a spare phone card. There is also no phone booths around here. And worse, besides my wife's number, I can't remember anyone else.

It was just one of those 'bad' days where everything that you planned to do was disrupted. It was those 'back pedalling' days where everything was threw aside so that you can retrieve that one important thing. Sometimes that back-pedaller was someone falling sick, or, an accident. Whatever it was, it sure brought a scowl and a frown to me.

How do I respond to such things? I frown and I cursed and swore. But, perhaps it was one of those divine appointments? I was especially alert after that for anything unusual or people that I meant which I normally won't. The only unexpected person was my colleague - 2nd time that when i went back, I bumped into her. Hmm, what Is God trying to tell me here?

Well, thank God when I made it back to the office, the handphone was there all these while, waiting for me to pick it up.

But I've learnt an important lesson - always have a back up list of important tel nos. Now I keep some key numbers in my wife's hp, just in case this happens again ;-)

8 November 2007

Growing up years

"Daddy, I got all band one!" my elder girl excitedly told me the other day, "Do I get anything?" My quick reply was, "Well done, but no, girl, we are on a tight budget. You only got papa's love." Sigh. But, thankfully she brought in the required grades.

Here in Singapore's education system, instead of "As", they have grouped it into Band 1 and Band 2 for Bs, Band 3 for Cs. She is also taking Higher Chinese in Primary 5 next year. I'm a bit uncertain, but her teachers suggested it and said that she should be able to cope. Okay, we'll try for it.

What about Mei-mei (the younger one) ? I am concerned when there is silence, as usually she would be the one to brag about her marks. Alright, we'll wait till next week, hopefully she did not fail any subject. She is the tough one to teach and settle down to study.

How quickly the 2 of them had grown! I was just flipping through the photo albums the other day. What a sweet 3 year old toddler and a cute baby - then. Now all that had disappeared and what was left, were the daily challenges of discipline, doing homework and cutting down on the tv.

Were my grades as good then? I was pretty average, definitely not all As material. She has definitely surpassed me in this regard. But she's pretty sedentary, staying at home most of the time, preoccupied with computer games or Hong Kong TV serials. I was footballing and badmintoning in my younger days.

Now, we're discussing about their CCAs. For the older gal, we will sign her up for swimming. The younger one, wushu in school and swimming/ballet. Better get them into some exercises so that they can grow taller and stronger. Now both of them are about half a head shorter than their classmates.

Yup, growing up pains ... and joys.

Quiet Times Thoughts - Luke 1:5-25

What do you do in tough and hopeless times? Where do you find the strength to press on and even excel? And when someone gives you an unexpected break, would you question and doubt? Today's text in Lk 1:5-25 records for us Zechariah and Elizabeth's experiences in trying times.

Textual Observations (What does my eye see and my senses feel?):
‘Bad’ things can also happen to good guys. Zechariah was a ‘good guy’, both he and Elizabeth got good pedigree. They were (1) both righteous (which is very commendable) and (2) walking blamelessly (still ongoing holiness despite old age) and in (3) all the commandments & statutes (excellent! Beyond reproach.)

Zechariah & Elizabeth faced a BIG problem. They were advanced in years (age) and she was barren (infertility). They had no modern science, no precedents of old people giving birth, no help and hence little hopes. Having no children also meant little income support, and being looked down socially, being a reproach among the people.

Zechariah continued in his service to God despite personal problems. Verse 8 said that, ‘while he was serving…’

God speaks to us when we are walking with Him, serving Him. (v8).

Zechariah continued to pray in his difficulties and God heard him. (v13) He may have been troubled by his problems and prayed fervently. God knew and addressed that.

God intends for us “joy and gladness’ not ‘trouble and fear’. He will also, through our situations, bring out His plans for the nations (many will rejoice at his birth, v14).

God brings forth great descendants from faithful parents. V15 “he will be great…”

Zechariah doubted and was ‘silenced’. We can doubt even when we see an angel/God. The important thing is not to walk by sight, but according to His words, which will be ‘fulfilled in their time’. Zechariah based his judgments on human experience – he is old, its difficult for old people to reproduce. Note the corresponding judgment for doubting – struck mute for 9 mths? Gabriel’s goods news was questioned.

God does care for His people. He takes the reproach of His people away.

Reflective Enquiry (What curious questions do I have?):
How long were they childless? What social pressures did they go through?
Why did Gabriel punish Zechariah when nowadays we also doubted and got away with it?
Elizabeth conceived but hid herself for 5 mths. Why?

Divine Touch (What touches my heart?):
In difficult times, pray. When all does not seem to go your way, push on. Continue to walk in all His ways. Don’t neglect the Word. In His time, the breakthrough will come and our reproach will be taken away. My trials are nothing like Zechariah & Elizabeth. Yet, I scream and grunt as if it’s hell every day. Time to get a proper perspective of life and reality. I also need to develop more perseverance – to hang onto His laws and not to take it out on God when His people disillusion me.

While we wait and pray and grow anxious over God’s ‘non response’, but when He does respond, we doubt and question. We tend to want things our way, our timing, our style. But not so with God.

An oft forgotten fact that is clear in this passage is that there is a price to pay for doubting God’s words. Zechariah was mute for x months. While in this modern day the punishment may not come instantly, that does not mean that it is forgiven or white-washed. Don’t doubt His words.

Prayer Response (What is my prayer response?):
I pray for perspective O LORD, to see beyond difficulties and for more strength to press on in this journey. Amen.

Action Steps (What should my hands do?):
Let His words continue to speak to me daily in my scripture memory and infuse me with a fresh level of faith and holiness.

4 November 2007

Sunday Worship Reflections

Today is the swansong sermon for the preacher in church. After 2 years, he is moving back to the marketplace and going to be stationed in Brussels, Belgium to work for an airline company. He came in when I was leaving church, and he always strike me as an intellectual, a man of letters. His presence on the pulpit certainly lifted up the standards of spoken English and pronunciation. But like most other speakers, in my opinion, the level of authenticity and connection can be improved. I find that they are good in the "whys" but stopped short of giving good guides for the "hows".

Despite the above comments, I like his questions posed as an applicational guide for us. What are you doing to guard your gates (i.e. guard your Sabbath rest)? What are things to stop doing? What are some things to start doing? How will you reflect on Sundays?

Sabbath Sundays, or weekends for me are usually spent lazing around at home. Friday evenings are usually occupied with IDT (Intentional Discipling Training) in church, followed by supper with wife. Saturday mornings are leisurely breakfast times with wife again (my gals usually chose to skip breakfast for tv). Lunch is simple fare - cup noodles at home. Usually we may go out on Saturday afternoons, followed by dinner with grandparents. Sat night - EPL, watching my favourite MUFC beat up the other teams!

Sundays are in church for the 8am service, followed by grocery shopping. Lunch is again cup noodles at home, or the occasional picnic lunch with doggie walks. Afternoons are for naps followed by a long run before dinner at home. Sunday night is for ironing and blogging.

Is my Sabbath weekend well spent? Is it spent with Jesus? Besides the occasional longer QT on Sat, it is mainly no - more family related things, to keep the family going.

What are some things to stop doing? Not sure.

What are some things to start doing? Plenty. Sat morning play time with gals. There has to be better things for the gals to do beside watching tv. Got to re-start the badminton - exercising regime. Sat noon to 3 is a dangerous time. If I do not guard it well, I tend to slack and waste it in mindless surfing. Need to do some reading or blogging here. I have to work in a time for the gals to meet my folks too. Now the frequency is once in 3-4 weeks, not very good at all.

My weekends are generally short and crammed. Need to slot in time for ministry too - an area which I have neglected. I think perhaps it's not just the Sabbath weekends that need to be re-looked, but the weekdays too. For me, I want to continue the good habit of meditating on the IDT verses. Last week did Ps 100:1-5, Ps 121:1-4, Ps 73:25-28 and Ps 39:4,9. Great! Will start a new pack this week.

Yes, I am excited that things are moving well again. Praise God.

2 November 2007

Time to grow up?

On Friday night in our church meeting, the speaker was sharing on service in church ministries. He exhorted us to serve and not let past burdens or difficulties hinder us from serving. Some Christians are easily hurt and he ask them to grow up instead of pulling back and refusing to serve.

On one hand, while I agree it is important to grow up and not let past bad experiences hinder the potential server, I feel that those who are providing the ministry opportunities should also examine themselves to see if they are unwittingly the culprit. Have they put in place difficult burdens or task oriented leaders who lacked the human touch? Have the ministry occasionally became more important than the person?

I am a people person and I think can pick up these things more easily. However I was not always like that. I have changed over the years, from a task leader to a more caring people oriented person. I now see the importance of people and value relationships. Maybe I'm getting older.

Question for myself - am I still waiting for someone to invite me to serve? Am I procrastinating because of past hurts? Is it not time for me to grow up and serve God and not men?

1 November 2007

Verse meditations Ps 100:1-3

This is my latest verse that i have memorised while walking to the bus-stop at 5:40am a few days ago. It marks a new change in my life now. Hitherto I will walk half-asleep to the bus-stop and in that sleepy state travel all the way to work. Now as I walked, I will take out my verses, written on the back of my little-used name cards, and meditate and memorise at the same time. It has turned out to be fun and enriching too. Try it!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! What kind of noise do i usually make? Sometimes it's grunts of complaints. Other times, it's sighs of frustrations. Occasionally, it's bursts of cheers and songs. Make a joyful noise. Summon your hearts to make that noise - and make it a joyful one. Pull together your body members. Align them for praise.

This joyful noise is to be made to the Lord. He alone deserves all our praises. Definitely not our human works or man's supposedly wonderful capabilities.

All the earth is to make that joyful noise. All the earth? When will that be? Now there are still millions who do not know Him. Is it a hyperbole? Or is it a desire, a calling forth by the psalmist? Anyway, this joyful noise is to be made by all to the Lord. So let's all raise the joyful noise to Him.

It's amazing how one phrase and one verse can be mined for its deep riches. No wonder the Word of God is so rich and deep, and it will in fact take a life time to discover the riches of His Word. My SP used to remark that some of the Bible scholars are so deep that he will take 3 lifetimes to catch up with them. While that exalts the scholar, it also shown me how much deep treasures are contained in His Word.

Be a digger today. Mine His deep treasures and be blessed.

A Deeper Walk with God - different QT approach

Each daily Quiet Time is a real face to face encounter with the Almighty. Who are we to be given the privilege to meet Him? Yet in His love for us, we are granted that wonderful privilege to enter His presence and to commune with Him unhindered.

How then should we meet God? I would not dare to have a format for all to follow. But what is on the market is usually too simple, too quick and too touch-and-go only. There is simply no time to enjoy the encounter with God. And subsequently, little depth in our spiritual lives.

This is a new approach on Quiet Time materials. It is different from the conventional Daily Bread QT styles. It has 5 key components to anchor the disciple to a deeper walk with the LORD.

3 Inward Invocations:
a) Fresh and deep insights from the Word (through observations). What does my eye see and my senses feel?
b) Sustained interests and deeper reflections by pondering on what questions you may have on the text. (What curious questions do I have?)
c) Deep stirrings with an authentic touch (through authentic personal sharings – Divine Touch) What touches my heart?

2 Outward Expressions:
a) Prayer Response (our response to God as a result of reading His Word) What is my prayer response?
b) Action step for self and community (our response towards His people) What should my hands do?

I hope to faithfully cover the Gospel of Luke and then the Epistle of 1 Peter, followed by an Old Testament book (probably Narrative genre). This would have made my life meaningful and hopefully uncover for many others the joys of reading and applying His Word.

To God be all the glory!

31 October 2007

QT thots on Lk1:1-4

Others may compile the narrative, but Luke’s Gospel is different, in that it: (1) is backed up by close observation and facts; (2) is an orderly account for a specific person; (3) has the purpose of giving us certainty concerning what we have been taught. We can have assurance that it is accurate, orderly and authoritative.

Others have compiled a copy of what was accomplished. Have we written down what has happened on our journey with God? Specifically, did we give praise and glory to God where it is due? Did we record down lessons learnt on the way? Action point: start journaling again. Am I reaping the rewards of journaling? Is there another way to do it better?

What have I been taught? Am I certain of those things? On the gospel message, am I certain that Jesus came to die for our sins and that He is the only way to the Father? Are my fundamentals sound? Is my assurance of salvation certain? Last time after reading the Calvinistic and Armenian views, I used to be more confused and became doubtful about the certainty of my salvation. Now, in reality, I don’t really think much about this issue. I know and believed that I’m once saved always saved and that no one can take away my salvation. I do not go and read controversial topics and viewpoints. I have no time and “itch-iness” to stir up the hornets; nest unlike in seminary where I have to do the assignment.

What doctrines and truths have been “less certain” now? After my last job loss, my view of God’s love and personal plans for me has been shaken. But thankfully it has regained strength and I have slowly renewed a sense of passion for life. Has God forsaken me? Or have I been deluded by my emotions and forsake God? On balance, it might have more been the latter.

Jeremiah 29:11 (English Standard Version)
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

I need to believe again His promises for my life. Promises like this one above.

Prayer:Thank you Lord for your Word, and the certainty that comes in it. Help me to rest upon the truths therein and order my life accordingly. Heal me thoroughly and make me whole again to follow you. In Jesus name, Amen.

28 October 2007

Sunday Worship

Today's Sermon was on Tithing Renewed and it dealt with three significant questions:
- The Historical Question (What?)
- The Theological question (Why?)
- The Personal Question (How?)

I was reminded from the Word that I have not been faithful in tithing and giving. As a good guide, the 1st 10% of our income (don't quibble over gross or nett!) is to be given to God under tithing. From the 90% of the rest of our income, we give the freewill gifts and offerings. Tithing was instituted by God to teach us about God. He wants us to trust Him to provide for us and know that He is a giver. Giving in that sense detoxifies the soul and strengthens our trust in Him. Those who struggle to tithe will also struggle to trust in God to provide.

In this regard, I quiver in my seat. I am far from it though I can teach it and encourage others to do so in many times. When it comes to the crunch, I failed. Why? Humanly, I weigh what I have to spend with what I have on hand. Rationally, I knew it cannot balance and I hold back. Humanly and rationally but not spiritually. I knew it is wrong, yet I continued to walk by sight and not in faith. Sigh. From where does my help come? It can be indeed a heavy burden.

Yet in all these, today I was encouraged by the worship song, "You Shine" and in these 2 sentences, "why should I give up, when your plans are full of love..." Yes, I should press on and hope in Him.

There is always hope with God.

Life Mission Statement Revisited

I pick up my Life Mission Statement written in 1 Nov 1997, ten years ago recently. How fast ten years have passed. When I read what I have written then, it both inspired and shamed me. I also learnt some interesting lessons on Personal Mission Statements.

What did I wrote then? It was first written on 6 Nov 1996 and then revised one year later. Here goes...

"My life must be lived deliberately. Abundantly. Progressively. It must be Bibilically directed and not self-driven. Faith based and not circumstances dependent. I must seize the day, each day to the last day of my life, as night is coming where no man can work (Jn.9:4)

As God's Son, I want to know Him deeply and inspire others, all over the world, to know Him deeper throughout my sojourn on earth. I want to make my heart completely His (2 Chr.16:9) - in personal holiness and in serving out His purposes on earth.

As a Family person, I want to keep family relationships as key in my life. To love and provide for my wife, my children, my parents, family members and relatives. People are always important, especially those of my kin.

As a Church member, I want to train up leaders for the church, local and worldwide, To share with them the joy and value in serving, not for the short term but life-long. To support my leaders and missionaries unwaveringly. To give consistently and sacrificially.

- my vital contributions is in the area of training. Training leaders for CGs, ministries and leaders.
- My secondary passion is to win communities for Christ (West - Bt Panjang/Hong Kah). To move into schools, institutions, community work groups, etc, to exploit situations for the gospel.

As a Full Time Worker in the area of ministry coordination, I want to excel in the area of Church governance and administration. To constantly identify and learn from the best in the field. To implement desired policies and plans with unflinching stubbornness (Eze.3:8,9a)

As a Citizen of the Earth, I want to contribute by lovingly and humbly serve the disabled, destitute and elderly of all nations, race or religions.

I want to live a life with no regrets."

In a way, I was inspired by what I wrote then. But now, 10 years older, I knew that a lot of what I have written then is indeed a tall order. I can have a nice sounding goal/vision, but what I really lacked is the will power and ability to bring it to fruition. I am not any where near what I have envisioned.

So was it an academic exercise of time and effort wasting? I think it is suitable for some people but perhaps for the vast majority of ordinary people, they need to be tempered by many reality checks and mentoring.

What made it difficult for me now to still do the above written aspirations is that I have been emotionally (and spiritually?) damaged. The heart is only a bit willing and the flesh is too worn out by now.

Will I write or re-write another life mission statement now? Maybe. Perhaps a more down to earth one, aiming for lesser things and letting God me into other unknowns. We all mellow wuth age and tiredness.

I will choose to let it evolve round 3 key questions.

1) What am I doing now? Am I happy with it? What is right and what is not right now?

2) What are some key areas that I want to live for (contribute in)?

3) How do I get there? What does it take to get there?

Let's see what happens in the next 5-10 years.

24 October 2007

Flu-ed for 4 days

Oh it was miserable to be down by sickness, and in this case a strong bout of flu. It started last Wednesday after some screaming at the students. In the evening the throat worsened and I knew that it is about time to visit the doctor and to take my 1st MC after 1 and a half year.

Saw the doctor on Thursday, and it cost me S$43 for 10 mins of consultation, 3 kinds of tablets, and a wonderful sheet of paper declaring me unfit for duty for 2 days! I was a bit kia-su, called up my colleague, then my EA, then another colleague, just to make sure that all the bases are covered.

Did I have a good rest? Well for the 1st day, I carried out my fatherly and husbandly chores. Rest only came in the late afternoon, and then only for a short 2 hours. By the 2nd day, the flu was full blown and I felt really horrible. The weekend was wasted - resting at home.

This flu reminded me of one thing. My body does has limitations and it is about time I have some rest.

Well it does have a good outcome. I started to meditate on Bible verses on Monday, and has since memorised and meditated on Ps 39: 4,9; Ps 73:25,26, 27,28. Not too bad!

14 October 2007

Hope for our Messed-up lives

Is there still hope for us? Some of us have reach the point that we seriously doubt whether there would still be a happy tomorrow for us because of our hopelessly messed-up lives. We hang down our shoulders and our countenance and drag ourselves to work each day. No joy. No strength. No life in our steps.

The speaker today gave me a new sense of hope. In the Old Testament, the Moabites and the Ammonites have sinned against the Israelites in Numbers 22-24, and were judged by God to be excluded from the assembly later on in Nehemiah 13. But today we are reminded that though one is a Moabite, there is still hope for them to be reconciled with God, even though the tribe as a whole is excluded. Ruth, serves for us the prime example. Ruth who is a Moabite was included in the assembly through her expression of faith to God and her obedience. She went on to become the great grandmother of David, and one of the 4 women to be mentioned in the line of ancestors to Christ. God is not so unforgiving after all.

Today in my own situations, I received hope from the example of Ruth. Though my circumstances seem dark and impossible, it is not impossible with God. He will make a way for me. However i will need to walk in it in obedience.

My sermon applications for today is 2 fold. Re-start scripture memory. Do not be complacent and satisfied with 70+ marks for check ups when I can do better. Second, start serving again. For a start, work on Befrienders Ministry and minister to whoever is there. I have an inkling to start a little "Listening Booth" for whoever is in need of a listening ear. This is something that i can do well. Maybe i can do that from next Sunday onwards. Serve. It is more for my good then for the person I'm 'ministering' to.

13 October 2007

No arms.No legs.No worries.

Nick Vujicic, a man born without limbs. Yet one without angst and a living miracle of how to triumph over life's adversities. Check out his website at http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

My pastor brought to our attention this amazing man yesterday night at IDT. What impresses me most is his ability to cross over the bridge of hurts and limitations, and to discover life and God's purposes for him. It is really incredible!

Our DG was just commenting, we who have 2 arms and legs, have much more worries than him without them. What is important here is the bridge crossing. You can have limbs or no limbs, but if you have not crossed over your bridges, you cannot fly in life. You will still be hampered by that sin, that event, that person and it stalls your life in gear one. I am sure Nick has many questions when he was young - why am I born like that? But he came to terms with that and moved on. And it made all the difference.

Cross the bridge today. Act upon it in faith. And fly.

Books Read

Yet another book read this month. This is entitled, "Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism" by Patricia Aburdene, 2005, published by Hampton Roads.

This 179 page hardback has one simple message, Capitalism (for profits only) is dying, and being transformed spiritually by conscious choices. It records the rise of spiritually in the business place, the advent of the values-driven consumer, and the transformational of the marketplace towards green and spirituality.

It is simple to read and packed with many of the same examples of the turning tide. Ok we are aware..

Take home for myself - the world is changing and back to a search for God. While some do it through meditation and yoga, others allow gradual introduction of prayers, sharing sessions, and meditations. In the midst of a fast paced world, they are recognising that they need God again - though they may not openly admit it, and call it by other terms.

While walking through Harris Book shop at Orchard MRT, I spotted some books that I want to look up at the library. They are:





I'll hunt them down on my next library visit..Viva reading!


10 October 2007

2 Harlots.2 Stirrings.2 Responses.

What do we do when we come to familiar Bible passages? Do we read over them quickly? Do we bear with them indifferently? Or, can we ask ourself, "What questions have I not ask before about this passage?"

My QT today is on 1Kings 3:16-28. A very familiar passage on Solomon judging the 2 women and the dead baby. What questions have I not ask before about this passage? Many. Why were these 2 women in the same house? What were their relationship? What other ways could Solomon use to discover whose child he was? Why does he need to use the knife? Why can't he do a recognition test? Any significance in that they are both harlots? Why did the author chose this incident to illustrate Solomon's wisdom? etc.. Suddenly my hitherto boring QT becomes more interesting!

2 harlots in the passage. 2 stirrings. The passage records for us one of them was "deeply stirred over her son" (3:26). The 1st woman's (the one who accidentally smothered her son) stirring - "If i don't have - you also won't have!" It was a selfish self-focus stirring. The 2nd woman, this one who was deeply stirred over her son, focus was for the good of the baby. It's alright if she don't have him at the end, but do not kill him. Life is precious. Here she demonstrated true love, a love that loves so much that she would rather give him away to preserve life than to lose a life.

I read another stirring in this 2nd woman. Other than the "this is my son, how can i bear to let you be cut up?", there is possibly another stirring, "Why is God allowing this to happen to me? I have done no wrong!"

This 2nd woman was caught in God's unfolding plan to authenticate Solomon as His wise earthly ruler. She does not see the whole picture yet, and honestly thinks that the King is going to cut the baby into 2. And thus the deep stirring and anguish in heart.

As we know later, God vindicated her and she came forth justified and reunited with her child in her arms. When times are dark and we do not know why God has allowed certain things to happen in our lives - hang on! Trust in Him. The light will come on soon. It is all part of God's plan. When we do not see His hand in it, trust His heart. It is for us.

2 responses. The 2nd woman in her deep stirrings, love and give. Today in my domestic affairs, I too faced stormy weathers which are too painful to describe here. Can I love some more? Earlier in my relationship, it has been like the 1st woman, "if i don't have - you won't have also". I am wrong. This is not the way to go forward. My response should be: Love. Give.

God's purposes in my family will be unfolded and cleared in due time. Now, though it is stormy and dark, i must hang on and trust Him.

p.s. In the afternoon, I was praying over these stormy issues at work. At night, when I did my QT, God's answer came through this passage. Praise God! Now, I just need to trust.

9 October 2007

Prayer Power

What would you ask for if God asks you, "Ask what you wish Me to give you"? I can think of a thousand and one things to ask for. Primarily for myself and those around me perhaps. Or, maybe it is the area of money, sex and power? Here in 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asked for an understanding heart so that he will be able to judge the people and to discern between good and evil.

I learnt 3 other things from this passage. First, God is one who gives. He gives what we ask for. And also, what we have not asked for (if we walked in His ways). He does not only demand things from us, but He gives. I can ask God for things in prayer. If I don't - am I missing out on a lot of things?

Second, He can be pleased when we walk uprightly. He is not always a God in wrath and comes to judge. But He can be pleased with us and blesses us - when we walk with Him in His ways.

Thirdly, He is actively involved in our lives. He speaks to us. Yes, He still does, in our dreams, or through circumstances or people.

When was the last time that God intervened in my life to speak to me? As far as I can remember, it was last year through SP calling me into his room after Sunday service to speak of God's plans to bless me. Lord, do speak to me again. Let it not be a "few and far in between" intervention, but a daily and regular happening where i can hear you and commune with you! Cleanse me and speak to me Lord.

If God were to speak to me and ask the same question that He asked Solomon now, what would I ask for? I think I have 3 things now. Financial freedom. Healing of family ties. And renewed fervency in family spirituality - serving together in ministry.

Let it be so Lord. Amen.

4 October 2007

Books Read


My vacation time is being profitably spent on reading nowadays (1 more week to go). After the excellent book, "First, break all the rules", I have finished "How Countries compete: strategies, structure, and government in the global economy" by Richard Vietor, 2007, Harvard Business School Press.

It is an interesting and informative book. It lays down 4 key fundamentals that countries must have to compete effectively: strategy, organisational structure, developing resources, and the efficient usage of resources.It also points to the role of government as pivotal in helping the country compete.

It picks out a sample of 10 countries and list out the above 4 aspects and states his position as to where they are in the past, present and future. The 10 countries are Japan, Singapore, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Europe-Italy, and US.

Overall, it is a good read for information on what's happening in these countries. I would recommend it for beginner level reading on global competition.

One good quote from this book, Historian R.H.Tawney observed about China, "they ploughed with iron when Europe used wood, and continued to plough with it when Europe used steel." page 59.

One lesson learnt - role of government is very important, and for government to have continuity and hence country have stability to reap the benefits. Praise God for good governance in Singapore.

2 October 2007

Once a "Mighty Men"

Reading today's passage in 2 Sam.23:8-39, reminded me about myself - i was once a mighty men. Maybe, not MIGHTY men, but at least in a small way. But how this mighty man has fallen!

The writer of 2Samuel, used the phrase "the three" mighty men about 5x in the passage. What made these 3 mighty? I felt that they were singled out because they:
- defied the Philistines,
- slained 800 enemies at one time,
- while others withdrew & fled, they stood and fought and won
- they took their stand, defended it, and struck their enemies
- they were fiercely loyal and brave
Abishai was brave and great. He killed 300 at one go, but he did not make it to the three. It seems to suggest here that you need to slain more than 300 at one go to make it to "the three". That's the three's minimum standards.

The deeper lesson, I feel, is not so much about their exploits and killings. But it is about when they held on in the battle, when others fled, God knew and was with them, and He gave them the victory. The phrase, "and the Lord brought about a great victory" was repeated twice, in Eleazar and Shammah's exploits. Don't miss that. It's not about us, but all about Him.

Why did they fight on while others fled and withdrew? I felt, these three believed in their cause, they had something to fight for. And they knew that God will be with them and not abandoned them. They had faith - charging on faith and hanging on faith.

The question for myself as I read this passage is: do i have a cause to fight for? Now? And, do i still believe that God will be here to bring about that great victory?

I used to be mighty in that sense. I served well in the BB ministry. Hang on and did great exploits for God, touched lives, etc. But all those were in the past now. It has been 1.5 years since.

And it is time to have another cause to fight for.

1 October 2007

"Don't say that ok, don't you know I'm hurt by it?"

"Hey, don't say that ok, don't you know I'm hurt by it?" my younger girl replied when we scolded her for over-relying on us for the Maths answers and not thinking through them herself. I was in the bathroom about to bathe when it happened. I came out, and for the 1st time (I think), put my arms around her and said, "It's alright girl, don't cry. You try to do it first, if you don't know, I'll help you after my bath." She nodded and continue sobbing, with one hand wiping her tears and the other, holding onto my shoulder. Here you need to know that my this daughter do not cry easily.

It was a precious few moments that we held onto each other - and understood each other for once. Father and daughter. For once, I did not scream at her. Nor did I find fault with her ways. I hugged her and understood her hurts and pain.

For too long, perhaps we were the guilty ones, creating these coping mechanisms in her 7 year old mind. She responded with similar harsh words and bully actions, aimed towards her older sister (unfortunate gal). When she responded rudely (in self-defence), we got angry and scolded harsher words. She in turn defended herself and the vicious cycle continued.

Tonight, when I responded in love and concern, she reciprocated in obedience to the things that I asked her to do. Praise God! There was love instead of retaliatory words and actions.

In the bathroom while bathing, as I thought about her sobs and hurts, tears roll down my own cheeks. I felt guilty. Sorry. And bad. For too long, I was nasty to a little girl who was just trying to learn and gain approval from her parents. I was a poor role model father for her. For all fathers, I should have known better, especially with my MA in Pastoral Counseling. Yet sometimes when it comes to your own family members, titles and degrees count for nothing.

Tonight, I spent sometime in their room before they sleep. I spoke kindly to them and made milk for her, and waited till she finished drinking and took out the bottle. These are the things that I have not done for a long time. Tonight I did again. Hopefully for many more nights to come!

As a human father, these are the little bright spark moments that I connected with my child and shown love. I know that my heavenly Father knows my hurts too. His hand is always around me though i do not see it. I pray that there will be more times of breakthrough for me to know experientially that God loves me deeply.

30 September 2007

Serving again

I was moved by the many brothers and sisters around me in church last night and this morning. They really served enthusiastically. There were serving God and not men. They were serving tirelessly, Saturday night and first thing Sunday morning(Judy's testimony was stirring!). Many were serving continually, week after week, without a break, in the Sunbeam ministry(children's ministry). And where was I?

1.5 years ago, I was like that for a straight 15 good years. Serving my hearts out in the Boys Brigade ministry. Now, I sit back and with cold hearts - unmoved and un-involved. Nonchalant. Hurt. Dis-illusioned.

Yet, deep within, I knew that I need to serve again. It's God's design for my well-being. As I water others, I myself will be watered (not being watered while holding back). Yet, the inertia is so strong and hard.

I do not know if Children's ministry is the right fit for me. Perhaps, Men's ministry? For one who used to teach others to find a ministry to serve in, I'm sure hopeless when it comes to myself.

Lord, show me the way. I'm not where I should be in now. And it is not helping me at all.

26 September 2007

Book Summary: First, break all the rules

How do you remember what you have read? By having a good memory? By reviewing it every now and then? By putting it into practice?

I have summarised my reading of this book, "First, break all the rules" by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman and presented them into power point format, for teaching or for presentation. Hopefully, this will help me to remember, retrieve the valuable pointers, and apply them when I am promoted next time.

Enjoy!

A Famous Man or A Certain Man?

Most people want to be a Famous man. We can easily rattle off famous names, Bill Gates, Li Ka Shing, Lee Kuan Yew, and Gandhi. But a certain man? An anonymous certain man?

Today in reading 2 Samuel 18:1-18, the thought that captured my imagination is the phrase, "a certain man" in v.10. In the Bible, instead of the exploits of the rich and famous, we are often introduced to the poor and obscure. Yet these poor and obscure did significant things that changed the course of history. It was an obscure Galilean carpenter that died for the sins of the world. It was 11 obscure nobody fishermen and rag-tag band that changed the world upside down.

In this passage, it was an obscure soldier that spotted Absalom and told Joab. He was just a common soldier - a nobody, who saw what no one else saw: Absalom, hanging on the oak tree, caught by his thick hair. It was a ridiculous sight. A general (where were his troops?), on a mule (not a horse?), stuck in an oak tree, being careful not to scream for help to the wrong search party.

This certain man. not only saw it, he heard it too. He heard what David told his 3 generals as they left for war, that they should deal kindly with Absalom for David's sake. He knew that he should not kill Absalom bit to capture him alive. But Joab did not share his sentiments nor the commands of the king. Joab speared Absalom thrice and got his armour bearers to finish off the job. This certain man, did not touch Absalom for he feared the king and knew that Joab would not stand by his side if questioned by David. He was a wise certain man, who, saw it, heard it, knew it and also hold it. He had restraint unlike Joab.

For me, I know I'll never be a famous man, since at this past middle age I'm still not one. I am at peace and contented to be a certain man, who values His Word and is obedient to it. One who can see and hear His Word and to apply it to his life. One who knows the Word and orders his life by the Word.

I may not do very big and famous things on planet earth, but I am contented to be that certain man, who through walking with God, do significant and strategic things that will alter the course of history. Here, my source of strength is not in myself, but in God.

Throughout the passage, God's powers and presence is evident. But few can see it outright. The forest devoured more than the sword. The smaller size army won. 20,000 enemy soldiers were killed. Absalom caught in an oak tree. Surely, all these are signs of God at work!

I pray for God's powers and presence to be made manifest in my life daily. Though there is no "pillar" erected to remember me (like Absalom), it is alright. A quiet death and a sure route to heaven is enough.

It is well with my soul.

postscript: Absalom erected a pillar of stones for others to remember him. At death, he was thrown in a deep pit, in the forest, with a great heap of stones erected over it. What a sad ending. Finishing well is important.

24 September 2007

My running record

My boss signed me up for the 10km year end run. While others run for the full marathon, I gamely take part in the 10km run (the quarter Marathon). Hey, it's no small feat for an aging fellow like me!

This afternoon, i ran at the canal near my home. Finished 6 kms at 53 mins. A bit slow, but not too bad. I'm going for completion, not personal best timings - don't want to be like those who dropped dead running!

During the 3 weeks of holidays, I'll run 3x a week, increasing a km each week. By the end of holidays, I'll run twice a week: Wed & Sunday. Hopefully this will prepare me to finish well on 2 Dec.

Running is a joy for me. Though i politely declined when my boss first asked me, I still took it up later and trained hard for it. In 1996 I completed the Marathon up to 3/4. Now I'll finish the 1/4 run and see whether I'll do again next year.

Run on, man!

PS1 - 4th Oct, ran 10km, 1 hr 21 mins.
ps2 - 14th Nov, ran 10km, 57:39
ps3 - 20th Nov, ran 10km, 56:07 Yeah!

23 September 2007

Am I backsliding?

I seemed to be driving a car that has no more petrol and power. I stepped on the accelerator but the car does not speed up. No power. No drive. I can't seem to start this spiritual vehicle.

Spiritually wise, I do not get much out from the Word. Certainly not like what I used to get. My prayer life is just about 1-2 minutes a day. IDT is a "going through the routine" for me - no preparations, just go by flair. Ministry - none existent. Every Sunday is a chore for me - to wake up 3 other sleepy persons who grudgingly go along with me. Sometimes, honestly, I wish I don't need to go.

Am I backsliding? Have I fallen so far back and down that I'm beyond hope and restoration?

I seemed to have died spiritually on March 2006. That was the day that I left full time service in the church. After that, everything seemed to be downhill. I have not really recovered since. There is no more spiritual zest or life in me. I am like a walking zoombie in the spiritual world.

In the workplace, things are better for me. I have recovered somewhat financially and seemed to fit in well in the workplace. The colleagues are great and the bosses "passable". In fact, I have even been promoted to the function head position for time tabling.

It's only in the spiritual aspect that I have died. I see my fellow IDT members - some are faithfully memorising the Word and evangelising. The sad thing is that when I hear it - I have no response. It did not stirred me up. I am still nonchalant.

Today I saw the obituary pages. One of them has this verse from Paul, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith." 2Tim. 4:7. I fear that in the days to come, I may not be able to say that I have kept the faith or finished the race. I wanted to finish well. In fact, perseverance has always been my greatest trait. I always aspire to be like Caleb, to be faithful and strong. My greatest strength has been tested and found wanting. Now it is slipping away.

I want to, yet I have no strength to run on. Why? What would be helpful for me to recover? Is it unforgiveness? It has been 17 months now.

Lord, please be gracious to me and let me run again.

My daughter (3)

"She has double heartbeat and heart murmur," my wife informed me today. My younger girl had a routine medical check up by the school and they detected an abnormality with her. The school advised us to go for an appointment on 1st Oct to verify the condition. We were stunned.

The doctor gave her a letter to excuse her from all exercises. She was the only one in class to receive that letter. She told us, "My teacher said that I am special. I cannot exercise for the time being."

When I read the contents of the letter, it advised us that we do not need to be alarmed. We just need to wait to hear from the specialist later on. My wife felt her heartbeat - it was indeed twice as fast as my older girl's. What does that mean? we are not sure. Is it very serious? Is it life threatening?

This girl has always been the source of our anger and frustrations. But suddenly, when these things happened - the school letter, the thought of the possibility of losing her to death becomes scary and real. I suddenly felt bad for all those times that I scolded her. There seems to be a different lens now and i ask myself, maybe I do not need to be so angry with her. So what if she did not bring her plates to the kitchen after dinner? So what if she is always rude? The crux suddenly becomes - what if she is taken away?

What will happen to her and to us? We don't know. We will wait for 1st Oct. And pray that God will show us the way. In the meanwhile, I try to be nicer to her.

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