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!

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