18 May 2008

Our little JB Outing

Today we did an unusual thing. In the midst of driving to do our normal Sunday grocery, I suddenly suggest, "Let's go to JB!" Suddenly the girls screamed in delight and we were all excited. We had a quick breakfast, shop for groceries, a haircut for myself and zipped home to put the things and feed the dogs.

By 1130 am we headed for the causeway and managed to reach Aeon Tebrau City by 1415hrs. There was a long jam at the Singapore side which took us about an hour to clear (had to do finger print scanning - no need white cards now). At JB side, just pay RM2.90 for the toll.

We ate at the Western Hot stones restaurant, a first for all of us. The meal cost RM100 which was cheap by our standards. After that we walked around the 3 level plaza. Each of us went back with something, except Jil. We agreed that in future, we would come every month, after my payday ;-)

It's a good break to head North for this shopping and eating trip to break the monotony once in a while. However, it's a bit heavy on the pockets as they are expect to have money to spend and shop while I do not have any extra budget for it. Nonetheless, its good family bonding time.

Caterpillars to Butterflies: A Sermon Reflection

Ask any caterpillar - do you have a future? Chances are that he will not think so. His life consists of eating leaves and he is always crawling on the branch or ground. Fly in the sky? No way. He is just "doomed" to a life on the mud ground.

Yet, the caterpillar has a destiny. He has a destiny to be a beautiful butterfly flying from tree to tree, drinking nectar not eating mud.

Sometimes we may feel like we are like that caterpillar stuck in the pits doing "shit" work with no end in sight and without hope. The Word of God reminds us today that God is at work in us, forging an eternal treasure beyond our wildest imaginations (2 Cor.4:17b-18). There is hope for us in whichever dark valley that we are in. Praise God.

However we need that spiritual eyesight to see (2 Kg 6) and faith to believe in Him. Help me to see and believe Lord that I too have a future and a hope.

17 May 2008

Walking the doggies

My 2 doggies have grown a lot. The Jack Russell is 1 year 7 mth and the Schnauzer is 6mths old now. They bring us much joy and trouble too ;-)

The JR always get bullied by S at home. Once outside, JR becomes the bully, to strangers. He will pounce on them and bark very ferociously, frightening even the biggest of men. He is still very energetic in his walks and pulls me in his walks. S is a bit timid outside though very naughty at home. At home, if they are both freed, S will chase after the older JR and often barks at JR for no particular reason. Outside, S is quite reluctant to walk at certain places and needs to be dragged or carried.

So far, I'm always the one walking them. I do it once a week and one at a time, JR 1st then S. My colleagues laugh at me, but frankly its tough bringing the 2 of them at the same time, unless my ladies at home wants to help (like when it's not too hot).

They are growing well and continue to bring joy to us. S is always the hungry fellow. Every morning when I wake up at 5 plus to go work, he will jump up on his cage and bark for food. At first, I tried to ignore him, but it did not work and his barks were too ear piercing at the wee hours of morning. He only takes about 10 seconds to finish his food. JR, on the other hand continues his sleep and will only eat later in the morning.

S will always pee and poo in his cage. JR wants to keep his cage clean so that he can sleep in it and thus always does his business outside his cage on the newspapers. Sadly, until now they are not toilet trained or doggie trained and we have to clean them up 4-5 times a day. Their "home" which is our balcony, is getting more and more run down with each day.

Yet despite all these, a dog is a man's best friend. I have great joy when I bring them out and see them responding to me. When they are on the bench with me, it is a great stress reliever, to stroke their fur and talk to them. And by the way they looked at you adoringly, it is the best feeling in the world!

Parenting woes

It seems like I will get into a quarrel with my gals everyday. Today the 1st fight was over waking my younger gal up to go for her Wushu class. I tried the nice approach, "Please get up girl, it's already 7:30am" She screamed back some unpleasant words and that got me mad. It was all hot and angry words thereafter. Since I was not so successful, I drag my wife in and get her to help. We ended up with all three of us being angry and frustrated and wanting to stop going for the class.

Is that the right thing to do? Can we have more peace and level-headedness in this home? I prayed that we can and may peace prevail.

Shortly after, the battlefield change then towards my older daughter. I asked her to hurry up as we were running late. She got angry and shouted. I was furious and slammed the door leaving her at home alone, since she exclaimed defiantly that she can stay at home.

Another parenting disaster. Later she called and spoke to my wife and expressed that she wanted to go for lunch too. Of course, we agreed.

We are an explosive family. All four of us has very short fuses and will blow up at the least of agitation. Sigh, in this respect, we are not very Christian and can do with much help. I am also not a forgiving and loving father and husband. I know all the theories but when it comes to practice, my self-will and interests takes over. And unfortunately, the girls picked that up from me too, like "pour your own drink!" or "go and answer the phone please!!" So strange that I don't faced these problems at work - in fact, I'm the exact opposite at work.

Lord please intervene and help us overcome these weaknesses.

Things are falling into its place nicely

Some time ago, I was very down and asked what am I doing here in this school. I felt lost and cheated by my previous employers. I felt like I am wasting my life again in this place.

Today, there seemed to be a little light bulb switched on and I began to see some light. I am tasked to do mentoring to the newbies, and it fitted me to a T. I like to orientate the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Hey I have been doing this for the mega-Ch before and what is doing it for a small department 29 staff strong? I felt energised when I am affirmed and when I know my stuff.

In the department, I felt like I'm the un-official No.4 man, below the Big boss and the 2 deputies. Between me and the EA, I think we solved 80% of all the problems in the department and eased the headaches of the top 3 fellows. Here again I felt recognised and affirmed by my colleagues. In fact, most of all my colleagues that I spoke to asked if they approached me for the new position since 1 of the deputies is being transferred out. Unfortunately, they are taking in someone from outside. But it sure feels good to be acknowledged.

Spiritually, my tie-ups with this Nav guy and my former East Zone member to bring in Christianity to the school is getting exciting. Pray that this will take root and expand into many more lives being ushered into His kingdom. For once, I'm able to fulfil the call of evangelism in a fresh new way. Lord, do continue to bring me more contacts and use me as a channel for souls here.

It was also exciting to discuss matters of faith in a bold and yet unthreatening way. That day, 3 of us sat down for lunch. A RC, Muslim and me a Christian. We were asking the Muslim colleague why she converted to Muslim. It was open and yet down in a friendly and fun way. Praise God! May more of these opportunities arise. Now I felt bolder and intend to meet my 2 exiting colleagues and share with them before their last day at work. In fact, one of them always remind me of my CG activities and whether I have shared with the CG on things that we discussed.

It is indeed a good turn of events, from despair to delight and purpose. Thank God. Sometimes its strange how for very long nothing seems to move and we can be easily despaired. But the kairos time of God is very important, once its here, things will move. Also, I felt strongly it could be due to the 2 years of 24/365 prayers for the nation of Singapore that things are moving.

Praise God!

13 May 2008

Today's QT

It has been since i last did my QT. The last few months has been a case of "Bible Reading is enough". I repent after last Sunday's sermon and now try my best to do my QTs in the office. Today's passage is on Col.3: 12-17

The phrase that struck me was "v13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."

Yesterday my younger gal was especially sick – I could tell because she was not her 'naughty' self. I was tender to her and offered to help her more than usual. It was a nice tender feeling for my daughter. I should do more of that and I know she’ll reciprocate and the atmosphere at home will change for the kinder. It is about time love prevails at home instead of angry words.

Help me Lord to remain and pursue to be bearing with one another, especially to those at home. It's so much easier to be kind at the workplace, where being good brings quick praise and a good name. At home, the tokens are slow to bring 'rewards' - not that I should be looking for such rewards.

11 May 2008

Latest Book - Building people

This is a rather interesting book, "Building People - Sunday Emails from a CEO" by Liew Mun Leong. In it he gave many interesting anecdotes on life, work, and the world. Some of the stories that struck me are..

His credo - Paranoia, Perfectionist and Persevere: 3 important traits in life. He mentioned the story of a Japanese engineer, Mr Sakai when constructing the Changi airport, ordered a re-paving of the runway for some concrete irregularities found. That waste of 1 day's work cost US$17k, but to him, he don't want 20 years later for his grandchildren to land in Changi and they criticised his work. Take pride in doing a perfect job - all the time!

Importance of corporate discipline. At Euston railway station in Manchester, the train was delayed for 26 minutes by the train driver who came late. The train with 10 coaches had to wait for an ill-disciplined late driver. And the worst thing is that such delays are common. Need to instill discipline in the organisation.

Story of a senior engineer from PWD sent to help him, not articulate, not motivated, due to the years of being thumb down by bureaucracy and superiors. But when given freedom and trust,this chap excelled and gain confidence. Later he left the public sector to become GM in the private sector. This story told me that we just need someone to believe in us and give us a chance. Don't just accept failure and wallow.

Kamikaze pilots (page 157). They were very committed to their tasks, though given little for their toil. The part that struck me was that the US Navy respected their courage and lowered the failed dead pilots in coffins wrapped in US flags into the deep blue sea. What respect! and from the enemy too. How far would we be committed towards our own causes?

I'm touched by his way of life and his care for his health. In church previously, we often talked about caring for your souls and body, and of how important exercises are. Here, he mentioned that he run daily and also on his de-stress methods, including watching Cantonese movies before he sleeps.

It is indeed important to keep our bodies well oiled and tuned to fight the long battles on earth.

Final Term Check up

Next Friday is our IDT Final Term Check Up. I dread the day as its Exam's day for us to check if we have learnt our memory verses and Discipling paradigms. Thankfully the verses are lesser for this time. Still, I got to start this afternoon to write out the verses onto my namecards and to learnt them as I walk to the bus-stop each day.

Do we need such exams? How I wished there were none. Old-ies like me cannot really remember well. Yet, maybe another reason I dislike it is the inevitable 'comparisons' at the end where we need to submit our exam scores to the DGL and he has to collate to pass it to the Zone Mentor. It'll not be nice if I scored only 60-70 and the rest of my DG scores 90s. Face comes into the picture. By the way, my score at the last check up was 80, before that - 70+.

Of course, I can disregard the face part and just do my 'level best'. Sure, but the motivation level will not be as strong. My proposed way is to do scripture memory at a reasonable pace and at a modular level, say 8 verses per month to be checked at the small group level. Once its reviewed. go onto the next 8 verses. This should be done all year round until its becomes like our HP number which we won't forget.

alright, enough said...better take my lunch and get on with the memory work ;-)

P.S. I scored 88, actually higher because my marker very strict. But never mind, it was a good score. Interesting how we are motivated for little brownie points and may missed the bigger picture of letting the Word of God work in us.

Mother's Day Sermon reflections

The Speaker today, a mother, spoke from Ps 100, entitling her sermon as, "The Secret to Joy". Her 2 points are: Know that God is GOD and Know that God is GOOD. While I may tend to switch off at these kind of narrow-focus topics, today's sermon did speak to me some important reminders and lessons.

Know that God is GOD. Do I know that the LORD Himself is God? Sure I know it intellectually, but when the crunch comes, and tugs at my emotions or wallet, do I still know that He is God? If I do know that He is God, why do I still worry then? I'm reminded that God is my shepherd and I'm His sheep. He will take care of me. 24-365. I need to learn to release my cares and worries unto Him. A very hard lesson for me.

One application that I drew for myself today is to re-start my QT in office. For a while I have stopped doing that, only Bible reading, which I'm doing quite decently. It's time to re-start it doing my own model, rather than the IDT DJ format which I find restrictive. It may be good testimony and interest-stirrer to read my Bible in the office. People may be stirred to ask what am I doing. In the past, I will be terrified at that. Now I'm more at ease with it, and can even put up little posters to draw others attention to spiritual things. Hopefully now others won't think that I'm a 2 face hypocrite in the office. I must walk the talk.

She mentioned about how difficult it was for housewives to keep up with their devotional lives. For her, she prays in the kitchen, talking to her stoves and pans. To her, even kitchen stoves can be turned into a burning bush (sounds like Brother Lawrence's example to me). I think its great. It is finding God in the ordinary things of life. Not something that all of us know how to do.

Another point that struck me was the building up of the spiritual lives of our kids. She shared about how the 2 of them take pains to read Scriptures to their kids and how their kids grew up to honour the Word. Here, I felt most guilty. How often have I spoke up for, and showed a positive example to my gals for the Word of God?

Right now that I am writing these, my older gal is beside me playing her Voodoomins, a computer game, with her sister beside her. I am often at a lost how to turn the hours of playing computer games into something more spiritual.

While the sermon touches the heart, often that is not enough to turn words into action. The speaker can only sow the seeds. The action part needs to come from the listener. Also, another part is very important. The listener needs moral courage to act upon it, and to continue at it. If not, all good things come to an abrupt end. Oh, for good CG/DG members/friends to come alongside and poke me forward.

I was reminded not to give up in this important task to bring up my gals in the fear of the Lord. How? I got no answers now, Only prayer. Whilst that group of mother gather to pray for their teenage kids during the Saturday Youth meeting time, maybe my 1st step is to start and pray for them and for me.

Football's pull

I have been a football fan and player since the early 70s. While I was never good enough for the school or state team, I can still play at a decent level in my hay days. My favourite role was either a full back or right back.

The team that I supported for a long time is Manchester United, since the 80s, i guessed as it was simply way far back to remember. My favourite player now is Park Ji Sung, the Korean winger. He stands for me an icon, that if you work very hard, you can succeed at the highest levels.

My team is in the final game against Wigan. The EPL crown hinges on tonight's game. Soon thereafter, they will battle away with Chelsea for the Champions League Title, which they have last won in 1999 (I watched that game!) For me, tonight's game is a Must-watch match. In fact, I'm tensed up now, 9.5 hrs away from the game, wondering who'll win, who'll score, and whether Wigan will deny them the crown. Football has indeed a strange strong pull on me. It can caused tensions and frustrations that other things can't do. It can wake me up at 2.30 in the wee hours of the morning to watch it though I have a full teaching day the next morning. Powerful!

Then again, my wife thinks I'm nuts. It's simply incomprehensible for her. Or like what the advertisers say, "The Ladies don't get it!"

Come on United! And may Park score one too tonight.

P.S. We won! 2-0. And now for the Big one in Moscow!

10 May 2008

Dealing with Failures in our School

Yesterday we had a long discussion on what we should do to the failures of our module. For too long, we had been under pressure to pass as many as possible, especially those students who have passed their core modules but failed ours. Our main grouse is on why should we bend our standards and pass the "bugger" who have not attended a single lesson in 18 weeks and just need to come to do a simple test and get away with it. Worse, this chap has to be stalked at the exams hall, escorted all the way to our office and "forced" to do the test and get an automatic pass! Some of them who knew the loopholes in this system, cheekily tell off one of my colleagues, "See you at the exam hall!"

Are teachers here so impotent? Are we to forever swallow our integrity and pass these "terok-terok" students?

We discussed and talked for 1.5 hrs. In the end the conclusion is that we make them do another simplified project and asked them to come for about 4-6 hrs for us to speak some sense into them. And of course, the miracle happens and they passed the module - without attending much lessons and probably never even buying the course workbook. What a mockery of the whole system! My take is that this "terok-terok" would not even come for your make-up project and class, and we have to end up with the exam hall stalking again.

The whole matter, i believe, can be solved if we are serious about the standards. If they don't do well enough or are not serious enough, let them fail. Don't push them up. Hang on to our corporations core values - Integrity. In so doing, our morales will be higher and we will be able to lift our heads in front of our students.

What about the Christian teacher in this situation? Tough, in fact very tough. For me, i failed in just going along with my bosses' orders and never seriously think it through for myself and make a stand. It's the easier path.

I was encouraged by another colleague who made the 'terok" students stay for remedial classes on Fridays to try to speak some sense into their hardened minds - and it seemed to work for 1-2 of them! I should rise up and do something more - don't be too easy anymore. Put in the effort to reach out and try harder to change them.

Another thought shared by another colleague - why are we just concentrating on the failures? Why not work on attracting them to come to class and help them do well? Great thought!

I have slacken a fair bit since my 1st year and is on cruise mode now in my 2nd year. I need to wake up and put in more efforts in my teaching. Both for their good and mine. I want to be able to see God with joy and the satisfaction that I have done my level best in this vocation.

Sickness in the Family

After more than 1 week of flu, fever and cough, and raking up more than S$150 in medical bills, my older daughter have finally recovered. But our joy is short-lived as my younger daughter and wife fell ill, same sickness, yesterday. So here we go, all over again. Taking medicine, meeting all their every whim and fancy for water, sweets, chrysanthemum, cold water to sponge, sleeping in their beds, etc.etc..

The doctor commented in jest, "Wow, the daddy is the last man standing!" Yup, only a matter of time now before I too join in the queue to pay our medical bills to her clinic...

Could we have prevented all these? Maybe some exercises will have helped. Maybe more vitamin C popping too. These are the things that my gals at home never do. For me, I better drink more water and pop the Vit C more regularly.

We can cure physically sickness and they are usually more visible. What about spiritual sickness I wonder? Do we know if we are spiritually sick? Are there any signs and symptoms? Can we swiftly recover from them?

Last night at DG, 5 out of 8 of us were there. Is absence a spiritual sign & symptom? Is an absence of things to share, dry spiritual walk, not zest to do the daily journal, not evangelising, no fruits, all signs too?

Who is the spiritual doctor for us ? Is it the pastor, who is not often within reach? Or is it our 1st level defence - the DGL?

Even when we can spot it, and saw the doctor for it, is there an effective medicine to take to recover from our spiritual sickness? Sometimes in spiritual sickness, the 'patient' himself may know that he is not well, but yet do not want to recover, preferring to wallow in his sickness.

Just some ramblings from a soon to be sick person... ;-)

4 May 2008

Liquid egg to hard-boiled?

Today is one of those Sundays where God spoke. First it was through the worship song and then the sermon.

We sang all ‘oldies’ today – but it was good once a while to remember our songs of old, instead of the newer and ‘noisier’ songs. When it came to “How great Thou art”, there was a phrase there that struck me, “When Christ shall come and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart…” A quick thought struck me – is it joy that will fill my heart, or something else? Maybe shame. Or regret?

For me the certainty of Christ’s return has never been a doubt. But yet, I’m still somehow stuck in the wallowing process. Where I will meet the Saviour and yet had little to show and yet feel indifferent and not fearful enough to do anything about it. Sad. Shame. Apathy. The communion that we had just gone through came forth as a reminder – don’t just sing and shout about your love for God, show Him the works. Where do you love God? I can last time. I cannot now – sure I have tokens here and there, but deep down I know it’s not enough. The heart has not changed yet.

Then came the next strike. The speaker shared about the story of 3 things: carrots, egg and coffee. They are went through the hot water of “affliction” but came out differently. The hard carrot became softer in the hot boiling water. The liquid egg became hardened in the process of prolonged boiling. The coffee was different – it totally changes its substance and gave off a wonderful aroma. The speaker then went on to ask, “What kind are we?”

No prize for guessing. I’m not the 1st and 3rd kind, but the 2nd kind – once soft and pliable in the hands of God, now bitter and hardened (thankfully not totally hardened). Have I allowed myself to be hardened by persecution/trials? Have I seen things wrongly and blamed God? The next question is important: how long more am I going to remain hardened?

Today the pastors urged us to sign up and be involved in service or ministry. Suddenly I remembered my BB days – shall I join them back? And jump into the trying but happy days? Now I have little ministry – a lot of time but not much growth and challenges and don’t need God. Last time it was very packed days, worry like crazy and praying like desperate men – and grew a lot.

Whither the BB ministry? Or maybe a mentoring type of ministry?

Please show the way LORD.

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