Yan's Corner - In Touch

Monday, October 31, 2005

That Wonderful Plan for Our Children

Christopher came home last Friday with a letter signed by a “Datuk”, Chairman of his school Board. It has a wonderful plan for our children. It’s called “Nurture Class” or “Tuition Class”. Both terms are used in the letter.

Our children will start their class at 7:15 am till 4:45 pm. The morning session is the usual classes and ends at 1:00 pm. There is a lunch break of one hour. From 2 pm to 4:45 pm, our children will participate in the extra-curricular activities like games and uniformed groups (from 2 pm to 3 pm)and from 3 pm to 4:45 pm, our children will be grouped into different classes for extra lesions/tuition on subjects like English, BM, Science and Maths.

It costs a total of RM77 for all the extra activities. RM60 for tuition fee, RM10 for the extra-curricular activities fee and RM10 for air-cond charges.

I am amazed by the effort of the school to offer us with the secret of successful learning.

Christopher, the lawyer-to-be (yes, he wants to be a lawyer), told me he said this to the teacher –

“The school is taking away our quality time with our parents.”

I was moved to tears. Yes, I am still. As a working mother, as a mother who frequently travels, I really have nothing to shout about on the time I spend with my children. Yet, Chris talks about “quality time”.

Yes, that wonderful plan really leaves the children with no time with the family. We will miss the time we have lunch with our children. We shall miss the time when our children follow us in the kitchen, talking, dipping their fingers into the delicious food and licking them while we lovingly hit their hands. We shall miss many, many wonderful moments ….

Next is the money matters. It is not a big issue for me because I only have one child in that school. Added to the RM10 that the parents are now paying for the computer fee, each child has to spend extra RM87. Many parents have three to four children. It would add up to hundreds. It is a burden, a heavy burden. Are we not enjoying free education? Why are we paying? My heart goes to families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Parents have not been involved in the wonderful plan for their children. One lawyer said through the local newspapers, “I have three children who will be in Primary One, Four and Five next year. I am going to bring them back as usual next year after the morning session.”

Teachers are not favouring the wonderful plan. They have sent in their petition, as published in the newspapers.

Are we left with a choice? Shall we, like the lawyer, bring the children back after the morning session and not to participate in the afternoon session? What example will we be giving to our children by doing this? Are we singling our children out from their classmates?

Is it a wonderful plan? Who is this "Datuk" who knows what's best for our children?

As I write this, as I ponder on the pros and cons of the “nurture class/tuition class”, my window media player is playing this song by The Byrds –

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time to love, a time to hate
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a reason (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to reap, a time to sow
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.

The song is based on Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. God has also a wonderful plan for our life. There is an appropriate time for everything, the unpleasant as well as pleasant experiences. All of this is God’s wonderful plan for our life. The problem is that it is not our plan for our life. If we were given that right to plan our own life, we would have no unpleasantness at all in life. But that would make us selfish, cruel, vicious, shallow, unprincipled.

We cannot know all the answers to all the conundrums and enigmas of life. Until then, we cannot play God ourselves, wanting to be in charge of what happens to us.. God has the answer –

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11a RSV)

Let's look to 8th Nov when the "Datuk" will explain to us what's his wonderful plan is all about.

Updated (5:15 am Tuesday, 1st Nov) The local newspapers carry either half a page or a full page (broadsheet!)with some 20 parents meeting at the "lawyer/politician"'s office. A petition letter to object to the full-day study programme has been prepared for parents to sign. Eight points for the objection are -

1. School management board has not consulted parents
2. The programme should be made optional
3. Collection of RM77 is burdensome
4. Students to attend tuiton class after the extra-curriculum not healthy
5. Present facilities in the school are inadequate for the program
6. Tuition class not proficient due to oversized classes
7. Time for fetching children clash with the working hours of the parents
8. Majority of the school teachers opposed to the program, thus commitment and attitude doubted

Surprisingly, Chris' "deprived of quality time with the parents" is not found! Thoughts for parents!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Name,Names, Namess...

By Christopher Lau (aged 10)

Yeah, the exam is over! Today, I am going to talk about names...

I have a name that is beautiful and bright. It also sounds great.

My Chinese name is Lau Ker Liang(刘可亮). Lau is my family name. Ker(可) as in “ke-yi”(可以) in Chinese. That means “yes” or “ok” or “can be”. “Liang” (亮) as in “ming-liang”(明亮) in Chinese. That means “bright” or “clear”. “Liang” is also as in “yue-liang”(月亮) in Chinese. It is “moon”.

Is it not bright? Sometimes, I say it means “ke ai de yue liang”(可爱的月亮) (the cute moon).

My English name, Christopher was given by my sister. I think she likes “Christopher Robin” in the Winnie the Pooh. It is a long name. My mother said when I was small, the longest word I know is “elephant”. Christopher is even longer than elephant. So, I said my name is “Elephant Lau”.

My sister has a name that is also bright and sunny. It sounds equally great.

My sister’s Chinese name is Lau Ker Qing.(刘可晴) “Qing” as in “qing-tian” (晴天)or “tian-qing”(天晴) in Chinese. It means “sunny day”.

It is sunny and bright in my family all the time. We have joy, we have fun, we have season in the sun. We also enjoy the many-changing faces of the moon.

Both my name and Jie-jie’s name are given by my mother. My mother likes beautiful words. She said a beautiful name must have good meaning, easy to write, easy to read. She is good in both Chinese and English. But, she is very poor in Bahasa Malaysia. (sorry, I am telling the truth)

One night on a “sunny” day under the “moon” with “swallows” (my mother’s Chinese name has this word) resting on the tree nearby, my mother, my jie-jie and me were having a nice supper. My mother told us how she had carefully chosen our Chinese names so that we would not have a name that could be made fun of by people.

Suddenly, my jie-jie said, “I don’t like my math teacher. He always calls me kan-ching instead of ker-qing.”

My mother said, “kan-ching?”

My jie-jie said, “kan-ching in BM sounds like the word that means passing urine lah.”

Poor jie-jie. Poor mummy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

At Wit's End

My good friend, Hie Ming called up early yesterday morning asking me the meaning of “at wit’s end”. She is Chinese-educated. And I am always her “living dictionary”.

Incidentally, my reading of the Bible today is Psalm 107. There is a wonderful verse –

“At their wit’s end they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out…”

Here is one poem (author unknown)written based on this beautiful verse -

Are you standing at Wit's End Corner,
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you
And you in the battle alone?
Remember -- at Wit's End Corner
Is just where God's power is shown.

Are you standing at Wit's End Corner,
Your work before you spread
All lying begun, unfinished
And pressing on heart and head
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember -- at Wit's End Corner
The Burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at Wit's End Corner?
Then you're just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of him who faileth not;
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved
But only at Wit's End Corner
Is the "God who is able" proved.

Are you at Wit’s End Corner? When the pressure is so great – you know you still have God who is able.
.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Accomplices?

I clipped this paragraph from a Christian magazine:

We pick up our newspaper and read about a three-year-old boy who is whipped with a belt for three hours because he wet his pants. We read about his cries and pleadings as his little body squirms under the foot of his stepfather. We read about this beating, which is his last in a year long series of frequent beatings; his last because he died in his bed a half hour later. We read about how the boy's body is found months later, buried in a creek, with a tiny cross clutched in his hands. We read about this brutal murder of a defenseless child, and we feel sick.

Then we turn to the financial section and read about how the economy is improving. We turn to the entertainment section and look for an interesting movie to go to. We turn to the sports section and read about last night's game. Soon the sickness leaves us. We forget about the little boy, and forget that indifference makes us accomplices.


This morning, I picked up my Chinese newspaper. I read about the social problems. I read about the local news, national news, international news, business news, entertainment news .....

Finally, I was caught by quite a prominent advertisement, “Acknowledgement of thanks”. One son, three daughters and many grandchildren put up a notice in the newspaper thanking relatives, friends, business associates, community leaders, and political leaders for assistances rendered to them during the funeral service of their father/grandfather. The advertisement starts with this –

Our beloved father/grandfather passed away peacefully at xxx Old Folks Home at the age of 73 ….

Er… at the Old Folks’ Home? Beloved? Appreciating those who have helped in the funeral service?

I wish I can forget that old man who spent his last days in the Old Folks Home and passed away peacefully there and yet not an accomplice.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Heights and Depths of Life

A long-time friend in the medical profession writes –

Been out of touch for a while. Thought I better send you an idea of my recent 2 legged “distractions”.

(He sent me a link to his photography works on oriental birds, I think a hundred of them)

Most around me feel it must be part of a mid-life crisis, dreaming to achieve what one did not in ones’ youth. However, my thrust is that splashing out a few thousand on a camera and lens is not the equivalent of getting Ferarri or Porche, and more creative.

Hope you like the results.


Yes, I like the results. Here is one (lifted without permission, but I guess he will not sue me.)

Posted by Picasa

Yesterday, as I viewed the magnificent works of this long-time friend, it brings me to new understanding of the Scriptures. The Scriptures mention two types of birds in particular.

Swallows are one of them. During my teen years I lived in Sarikei. There are many swallows in the town. Every evening I could see them darting about. Now in Sibu, the town where I live now, there are also swallows. Swallows are the swiftest of birds. They exemplify restless activity. Are we not like the swallows sometimes? We are restless, we are forever on the move. But, the Psalmist says, even the swallow can find in God a home, a place to build a nest and to raise the young, a place of purpose and fulfillment.

“Come unto me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Looking at the peace shown in the birds through the lens or eyes of my friend, whether resting or soaring high, I know these are not mere words. It is not just beautiful language for stir our emotions. These are words designed for life.

“Your father knows that you have needs of all these things. Do you think he is unable to supply them to you? If he can feed the birds of the air an cloth the lilies of the field do you think he cannot find some way to meet your need as well? (Matthew 6:26-28)

Life is difficult because we refuse to believe that our Father can supply what we need!

Even the sparrow finds a home
And the swallow a nest for herself
Where she may lay her young
At thy altars, O Lord of hosts,
My king and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in thy house
Ever singing thy praise! (Psalm 84:3-4)

The sparrow is another bird mentioned in the Scriptures. The sparrow is a popular symbol of insignificance. Sparrows represent those who feel they are not worth anything. If you remember the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples referred to the sparrows.

“Not one of them will fall to the ground without your father’s will.” (Matthew 10:29), he further said, “you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31).

He also said, “Are not five sparrows sold in the market-place for a farthing (the smallest value of money)” (Luke 12:6).

The Psalmist says that even the insignificant sparrows finds in God a home, a place of warmth and security, a place where life is fulfilled and overflows. How many times our Lord bypasses the proud, the haughty, the powerful and chooses some insignificant individual and uses him to accomplish his purposes. We are never to feel how insignificant we are. You will find through God a wonderful sense of purpose, if you go to Him.

I salute my friend who is very successful in his profession finding time to look at the beauty of God’s creation through the lens. Being a photographer at my tender years, I can understand the long wait to capture a scene. I have never been able to capture a satisfactory photograph of birds. My friend has reached the heights of his profession, and now the depths of his life.

The song writer has said:

Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green,
Something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen.
Birds with gladder songs o’ver flow
Flowers with deeper beauties shine
Since I know as now I know
I am His and He is mine.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Sunday!

Yan: It's Sunday! This space is for my little boy, Christopher. Enjoy a ten-year-old's story...

My mummy likes to eat chicken bones

By Christopher Lau

My mummy told me this little story few days ago. It goes like this –

A couple has been married for 50 years. It means they are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. 50th wedding anniversary is called Golden Wedding Anniversary. I read all about Wedding Anniversaries here.

The husband brought the wife to a very nice restaurant. One of the dishes they ordered was fish. When the dish was served, the husband immediately took the fish head and put it on the wife’s plate.

The wife began to cry bitterly. The husband was lost. “Why is my wife crying?” He tried to calm her down.

When she calmed down, she said, “We have been married for 50 years. Each time you give me the fish head. You eat the better part of it. Even on this happy day, you do not give me the best part of the fish.”

The husband was speechless. He has been wanting to eat the fish head for 50 years. He has been giving the best part of the fish to her wife because he loves her so much.

Mummy said the moral of the story is that the husband and wife are not talking to each other.

I remember few years ago, my sister and I thought that mummy liked chicken bones. Every time when we have chicken wings, she would take the tips of the chicken wings that we don’t like to eat. One afternoon, my sister and I finished a whole plate of fried chicken wings and we decided to keep all the tips of the chicken wings for mummy. When mummy came back in the evening, I gave the whole plate to her thinking that she would be very happy.

Mummy smiled and told me that she gave the best to me and “Jie Jie”. O, oh, she does not like chicken bones!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Lonely, but never quite

Our beloved Prime Minister who has just lost his life companion said he is lonely. The Borneo Post reports -

A day after cancer took his beloved wife, leaving behind memories of their blissful 40-year marriage, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted that he is feeling lonely.

"Sunyilah...sunyi (lonely)," he told reporters when asked how he was feeling after visiting Datin Seri Endon Mahmood's grave....


Loneliness is always the threat to the happiness of a person's life. It could be one of the single greatest cause of suicide. Indeed, it is the most widespread source of human misery. Yet it is perfectly human experience.

We all need human companion. Does not God Himself made us that way?

Look at the Bible -

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:18-20 RSV)

There is nothing wrong for our Prime Minister to feel lonely. "It is not good that the man should be alone."

God has given us that emotions of "loneliness". But He provides a way out for loneliness if we seek for His divine companionship.

Here is a quotation from a Christian man who has been an invalid all his life -- one of those lonely, obscure people who live in constant pain -- who does not know what it means to be able to use his physical body in any way except in pain and suffering. But he writes this:

Loneliness is not a thing of itself, not an evil sent to rob us of the joys of life. Loneliness, loss, pain, sorrow, these are disciplines, God's gifts to drive us to his very heart, to increase our sensitivities and understanding, to temper our spiritual lives so that they may become channels of his mercy to others and so bear fruit for his kingdom. But these disciplines must be seized upon and used, not thwarted. They must not be seen as excuses for living in the shadow of half-lives, but as messengers, however painful, to bring our souls into vital contact with the living God, that our lives may be filled to overflowing with himself in ways that may, perhaps, be impossible to those who know less of life's darkness.

This Hymn of Promise, one of my favourite hymns, often lifts me high -

In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:
butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence,
seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future;
what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing;
in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection;
at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Grand Perhaps

Just when I'm safest
There's a sunset touch,
A fancy from a flower bell, someone's death,
A chorus ending from Euripides,
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears;
The Grand Perhaps.

This is a poem by Robert Brownings. There was a young journalist who decided to put aside all the things he has been taught about God. He was going to run his life without God. He worked out his philosophies and none of them include God. Robert Browning put it in this poem.

When we think we have got everything taken care of. We plan our life to exclude God. Something happens to intrude.

We see a sunset. It reminds us of the ending of life.

We see the beauty of a flower. We know it’s going to wither soon.

Someone dies, we are faced with the issue of life and death.

And all that tugs at our heart and grabs at our soul. We just can’t escape them. The Grand Perhaps that is God, always waiting to step out in beautiful scenes, relationships, death, you just can’t escape Him.

P/S My appreciation of poems is very limited. Perhaps, MGFs here, like Desi could add in your thoughts...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Till Death Do Us Part

It is a bitter day for our beloved Prime Minister today. The Bernama news flash –

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 20 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Endon Mahmood passed away at 7.55 am Thursday at the Prime Minister's official residence Seri Perdana Putrajaya, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told Bernama.-- BERNAMA

It is perhaps the lowest point ever reached by human, and the sunset for him of all earth’s hopes and expectations – the passing on of his dear life companion.

All the dear sweet days. That beautiful girl who captured his heart long, long ago. Those wonderful times. The sunlight glittering in her hair. The radiance of her face on her wedding day. The softness of her touch. The grace of her caress. Love that drew them together. Through the bad times. Through the good times.

Each remembrance brings a heartache in the grief of this hour…

But, it is not the end of the story –

When shadows come into your life, it is a sign that there must be light somewhere. As Paul says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth," (Colossians 3:2 RSV). With the nation praying for our beloved Prime Minister at this hour, May God grant him this attitude, this state of mind, that gives strength and grace and peace to the grieving heart.


Prayer:

Our Father, as we pray together for our beloved Prime Minister for the loss of his dear life companion, our own hearts enter with sympathy.

We know life can often strike us with terrible blows. At this time we feel the hurt of it and the loneliness of it. We know that we can be shaken sometimes by the things which take place.

But we thank you, Lord, that though there are things that can be shaken, there are also things that cannot be.

When our faith is resting upon you. When our hearts have been captured by one who has said that we can never be fully satisfied with what is here below, our eyes will fix by the light that streams from the city beyond. Grant us that strength to press on toward that so we may be fitted and made ready for that place.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Stuff" of life

I have always taken it as great pride and joy when Chris (my 10-year-old boy) waves goodbye to me after I drop him off at the school gate every morning. He waves goodbye when he closes the car door, and turns to wave goodbye after a few steps, and turn back again ....

Chris is an early bird, and very punctual. We have a great time in the car though it is just a 5-minute drive from home to school. Because we are early, we are always at leisure in the morning. I have heard "horror stories" from friends that their children take breakfast in the car, or wear socks and shoes in the car while the mother/father said, "Oh dear, Oh dear, I'm late, I'm late" like the rabbit in Alice in the Wonderland.

Yesterday morning, Rachel (my teenage daughter) woke up early. She suggested to have breakfast with me outside though it's a Tuesday. Our usual breakfast date is Thursday when she goes to one morning tuition lesson. She joined me to drop Chris off first. As usual, Chris waved "goodbye" a number of time.

"I never know that Chris is so insecure." Rachel remarked.

"What makes you think waving goodbye to mother is insecure?" I was much surprised by the remark.

"Oh, he seems like he is not going to see you anymore. I know I'm going to see you again after school." Rachel answered. She has always been independent. Christopher always says his "jie-jie" is very brave. Like most teenagers, she is vocal. She knows her "rights".

For which, I told this story over the RM1 noodle that she had for breakfast -

There was a very special teacher whose husband unexpectedly died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students.

As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there. With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, "Before class is over, I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important.

Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves... and none of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment. Perhaps this is God's way of telling us that we must make the most out of every single day."

Her eyes beginning to water, she went on, "So I would like you all to make me a promise... from now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn't have to be something you see - it could be a scent - perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone's house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees.

Please, look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the "stuff" of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted. We must make it important to notice them, for at any time... it can all be taken away."

It is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn't do.

Waving goodbye may seem "insecure", but it's appreciating life and loving life. One never knows what will happen next.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Boringlah"

Reading Tun Mahathir’s stories have never been boring. Whether when he was the Prime Minister or after he retired. Today’s lead story of The Borneo Post started with this statement from Tun, “We just close down Proton if this is what the people want.” I am not going to comment on that. This little remark towards the end of the article –

When it was suggested that the AP controversy had been going on for months, he said: “Yes, Boringlah.”

is the reason for today’s thoughts.

I remember in the 80s, there was an institution called “The Boring Institution of …..” (Oops, can’t remember the name) who picked the most boring people of the year. I also remember Michael Jackson being picked the “Yawn of the Year” at one time because of his over-exposure in the media.

Perhaps, Tun is suggesting AP’s over-exposure in the media with that little remark!

We do get bored with life sometime, somehow and some what! Why do we get bored? I learn this from my two children, we get bored easily. Children get bored with toys. Do you have a basket of toys at home that your children are no longer interested in? They have got bored playing them. They are looking for something more exciting, a Gameboy? a PS2?

AP’s issue has been on for months. Tun gets bored too!

Boredom comes when we demand satisfaction from some instrument or activity, or even some people, outside ourselves.

There is no doubt about it.

Look inside yourself and draw resources from there, and you will never get bored.

I have seen many Christians who are deeply rooted in their faith live day-day-day and are seldom bored. To them, everything is exciting. Even in difficulties and trials they regard that as adventures. They look forward to how God work them out. They do not grumble, complain and criticize. It means they are thankful in everything.

It looks difficult to be thankful in everything. But, I am always inspired by this little story of Dr Matthew Henry. Dr Matthew Henry is a Bible Commentator. Many Christians have a copy of his commentary. The next time you use the commentator, remember this story –

Dr Henry Matthew was robbed as he walked along a highway. When he told his friends of the incident, he mentioned four things for which he gave thanks. First, he was thankful that it was the first time he was robbed and that he had never been robbed before. Second, he said that he was thankful that they did not get very much though they took all his money. Third, he was thankful that they took his money, but they did not take his life. And finally, that is the most amazing one and an eye-opener, he said, “I am thankful that it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

With so much to thank for even in such situation, will his life still be boring? No, it’s a life filled with zest and excitement, every moment of it!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Adam and Eve

By Christopher Lau
Adam and Eve are my two tortoises. Two weeks ago, my mother and I went to a pet shop. The owner had only two tortoises. I was praying very hard that my mother would take both of them. One tortoise will be too lonely. Thank God, my mother thinks one is too lonely. She bought two. I was so happy that I forgot to thank my mother for letting me to keep pets. Thank you, mummy.

Adam is slightly bigger than Eve. He is a big eater. He gobbles up the food once I throw the food into the tank. I think he has to be strong in order to protect Eve.

Eve is smaller and timid. She withdraws her head into the shell every time I come near. She does not like to eat. She follows Adam closely most of the time.

I put them in a small tank. I collect some pebbles and grass and put inside the tank. It looks really like a small pond. Perhaps, I should call it Eden Garden since Adam and Eve lived in Eden Garden.

Every morning before I go to school, I feed them. When I come back from school, I bring them out for sun bath. I talk to them, “Adam, Eve, it’s not good to be in the cool place all the time. You need some sunshine. I am bringing you for some warm sun ray.” The tortoises seem to nod their heads happily.

I also clean the tank in the evening. I think tortoises also like to be clean like us before going to bed.

Taking care of tortoises makes me understand how my parents take care of me. It is really wonderful to have a happy home.

Adam and Eve live happily ever after in their Eden Garden.

Gates

Yes, it is Bill Gates. It is also the gates. It is all about gates on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Last night, I picked up an old issue of Fortune magazine. Fortune's David Kirkpatrick spoke to Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie on "How to escapte Email Hell". The interviews was done in June 2005. Microsoft bought Ozzie's Groove Networks in March 2005. Gates has called Ozzie "the best programmer who doesn't work for Microsoft." Now, they are working on collaborating software to help workers to get beyond today's email travails.

We used to work at a specific time. We come home at specific time. Now, with emails, it seems the gate between our work and home is being torn down. Even as we travel from office to home, we are still being bombarded by emails!

Not only that, with people just a "click" away, the gate that guarded us from some legal issues is also being weakened. Bill Gates himself has been nailed in court through email that was found in legal discovery. Gates said,"I live an examined life. Basically every email that I have ever sent has been looked at by something like 30 to 40 lawyers to see if there's anyway it can be misconstrued."

An examined life is keeping in repairs the gates of our lives. Gates are means of access and egress in the Scripture. They represent ways of entering other people's lives and also letting them into ours, of reaching out to others, and allowing them to share our thoughts and feeling.

In the book of Nehemiah Chapter 3, there are many gates mentioned. Now, join me to see the different gates of our lives.

The first one is the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate is where we begin our Chrisitan life. Remember how zealous we are for the Lord when we first met him? It is as sweet as our First Love. As times go by, the passions fades. Watch up, you need to repair the Sheep Gate to grow into a stronger Christian!

The next one is the Fish Gate. We are to be the "fishers of men". Be a witness in your deeds and actions!

The Valley Gate is the next one. "Valley" is usually referred as humility in the Scripture. Have we been proud? Have we been arrogant? Time to rebuild the Valley Gate and be humble.

The next gate is the gate of elimination. It is called Dung Gate. It sounds awful. But, this is the gate where all the rubbish and corrupted things in our lives found their way out and be dumped and cleansed.

The next gate is Fountain Gate. A fountain is always overflow with water. It means a spirit filled life that overflows. It cleansed after the Dung Gate. How aptly it has been placed.

Water Gate comes next. When you are thirsty, you need water. In Christian life, we need God's words to help us grow.

Horse Gate reminds us that we are in the battleground. Life is always full of struggles. Be reminded and repair the gate lest you fall due to hardships in life.

The next gate is Inspection Gate. A timely reminder that we need to give an account of our journey!

The Scripture leads us back to the first gate, the Sheep Gate. It the beginning and ending of our lives.

While Bill Gates is working to re-organize our work life, let's get organized in our own lives, guard our different gates in life - guard, rebuild, repair and maintain!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

On Being Wrongfully Accused

I was in Psalm 109 yesterday. The Psalmist describes the reactions of a man who has been unjustly accused and wrongly treated. We have all experienced being wrongly accused, whether the matter is big or small.

I was linked by Desi to read the account of a young man (young because I read that he is still single and I assume he is young) being wrongly treated early yesterday morning right after I have my daily reading of the bible.

The Lord always speaks to us through person or circumstances. I attempted to read Psalm 109 the second time. It is a psalm of someone who is deeply disturbed by unjust accusations against him.

Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me
Speaking against me with lying tongues
They beset me with words of hate,
And attack me without cause
Even as I make prayer for them
So they reward me evil for good
And hatred for my love (Psalm 109:1-3 RSV)


The first part of the three verses tells of the man being wrongfully accused without any reason. The second part relates of the man making an effort to rectify the situation by praying for them. However, this is what he gets in return of his conscious effort, he says,

In return for my love they accuse me
Even as I make prayer for them.
So they reward me evil for my good
And hatred for my love (Psalm 109:4-5)


He describes the kind of treatment he gets for no wrong on his part -

Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser bring him to trial.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few; may another seize his goods!
May his children be fatherless,
and his wife a widow!
May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord,

and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
Let them be before the lord continually;
and may his memory be cut off from the earth! (Psalms 109:6-15 RSV)

How strong is the language! His enemies even would not spare his parents, wife and children -
What are the reasons for such strong curses even to his generation?

For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death.
He loved to curse; let curses come on him!

He did not like blessing; may it be far from him!
He clothed himself with cursing as his coat, (Psalms 109 16-18a RSV)

How aptly it describes of our human nature. His enemies curse him and yet return to say that he curses them.

I am amazed by how the psalmist deals with such strong curses and accusations by his enemies. He puts his case in front of God. He admits to God that he is weak and ask God to make his strong.

This is the reward which my accusers seek from the Lord,
those who speak evil against my life!
But thou, O God my Lord,

deal on my behalf for thy name's sake;
because thy steadfast love is good,
deliver me!
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone, like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
Help me. O Lord my God!

Save me according to thy steadfast love!
Let them know that this is thy hand; thou,
O lord, hast done it! let them curse,
but do thou bless!
My assailants shall be put to shame,

and thy servant shall be glad!
My accusers shall be clothed with dishonor;
they shall be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle! (Psalms 109:20-29 RSV)

He ends with thanksgiving and praises -

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save him from those who condemn him to death. (Psalms 109:30-31 RSV)

Thoughts from this Psalm -

When we are wrongly accused and insulted, thank God for the experience, accept it as the wrongful accusations are allowed by Him for our spiritual growth. Put the case before the Lord, He will make everything good.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Momentary Hiatus

Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
"I would really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they've no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

This little rhyme came to mind last night as I sat watching the two tortoises perched high on the pebbles that my little boy put in their home. Over the past few days, Chris has indeed put in a lot of effort to build a house for his tortoises. Clear water, pebbles of different shapes and colours, some little plants, clear water .... It is indeed a peaceful silent in the home that Chris has nursed with care and love. Chris has even identified that one is a "girl" and the other is a "boy". He calls them "Adam" and "Eve".

It has been a tiring day on a day trip to Kuching leaving home early and reaching home at 10 pm. I thought Adam and Eve were looking at me and said the little rhyme -

Said Eve to Adam,
"I would really like to know
Why Chris' mother
Rush about and worry so?"

Said Adam to Eve,
"Friend, I think that it must be
That she has no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Indeed, yet God considers the tortoises. They do not sow nor reap or store away in home, and yet our Heavenly Father feeds them. He cares for them. He provides their daily needs.

Surely I am more precious to Him than the tortoises. He will provide for all my tomorrows!

We live in a fast society. We want speedy results. We want instant answers. But, between the poles in our lives, there must really be a lull period. A momentary hiatus. A temporary standstill.

Look how the two tortoises have inspired me and filled with me with an inexpressible joy and help me stride confidently towards the next milepost of my life.

It's a beautiful Wednesday!

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Pencil Parable

I am in the mailing list of PPS World, a mailing list of Pravs World, a website of a 26-year old boy aiming to "inspiring you for a better tomorrow".

Yesterday, I received "The Pencil Parable" in powerpoint presentation. The wordings, I quote -

In the beginning, the Pencil Maker spoke to the pencil saying, "There are five things you need to know before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and you will become the best pencil you can be."

First, you will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone's hand.

Second, you will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but this is required if you are to become a better pencil.

Third, you have the ability to correct any mistakes you might make.

Fourth, the most important part of you will always be what's inside.

Fifth, no matter what the condition, you must continue to write. You must always leave a clear, legible mark no matter how difficult the situation.

The pencil understood, promising to remember, and went into the box fully understanding its Maker's purpose.

Now replacing the place of the pencil with you; always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best person you can be.

One, you will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God's hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.

Two, you will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems, but you'll need it to become a stronger person.

Three, you will be able to correct mistakes you might make or grow through them.

Four, the most important part of you will always be what's on the inside.

And five, on every surface you walk, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to serve God in everything.

Everyone is like a pencil....created by Maker for a unique and special purpose. By understanding and remembering, let us proceed with our life on this earth having a meaningful purpose in our heart and a relationship with God daily.

You were made to do Great Things!

Unquote

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cool

By Christopher Lau

A year ago, I wanted to make my hair stand. No matter how much gel I applied, it just did not work. I want to be cool like my friends.

My mummy told me being cool is not just having hair that stand up! It means “thumbs up” in many things we do.

On Thursday evening, I was playing football at my friend’s house. A boy riding on a big motorbike skipped and fell. There were some people passing by. None of them helped the big brother. They just stood there and watched. My friends and I were also standing in the football field watching.

As the boy was struggling to pull up his motorcycle, my mummy arrived. I saw mummy stopped her car by the roadside. She tried to pull up the motorbike, but she could not do it. Still no one came and helped. My mummy called me to help. Together with mummy, we pushed the motorbike to the side of the compound.

I think the boy broke his arm. My mummy asked whether to send him to his house or the hospital. The boy said he stayed very near and asked mummy to send him home. My mummy asked whether there is anyone at home. The boy said his mummy is at home.

So, my mummy helped him into our car and sent him home. As we were about to leave, the boy’s father came home. The father and my mummy actually know each other!

When I saw my mummy helping the boy, I think mummy is cool! To be cool is actually doing things right! Thumbs up for mummy!
It is not cool to go to school on Saturday. I have to go to school today!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Finding something good in you

I had dinner with MGF Hung last night together with two other friends from Sabah. Hung was formerly a very outstanding journalist. We have been good friends for nearly 30 years. We can talk on anything under the sun. Recently, we can talk of “things above” too. We are encouraging each other to focus on things above, not on earthly things. Very often, we begin to see things with new perspective. Last night, I caught this statement from her – there is always something good that we can find in a person.

True enough, two outstanding women leaders have something to say about Rafidah. I take it from my newspaper, The Borneo Post today –

Rafidah earns admiration from local women leaders

Kuching – Whatever said and done, nobody can deny Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz’s plus points when it comes to intelligence and leadership, said Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datin Fatimah Abdullah.

She felt that the Minister of International Trade and Industry, being one of the pioneering leaders, was a fine example to follow.

“She has the potential to deliver. Looking at it professionally, no one can deny that she is intelligent, dedicated to her work and possesses strong leadership skills”, she said yesterday.

These were skills that many women leaders aspired to have, knowing that these skills did not come easily to anybody, she said.

Fatimah was commenting on whether Rafidah should be looked up as a heroine, especially by women leaders, given that she had been constantly in the limelight recently.

Fatimah said another thing that could not be denied about Fatimah was her strength of character which some people might find it not easy to accept.

“On a professional level, I have to admit that she has the debating power and she strikes me as an articulate person,” she added.

Concurring with her was Padungan Assemblywoman Lily Yong, who felt that Rafidah had all the good qualities that made a leader.

“Some people might find her too straight forward but having said that, she does possess the essential leadership quality,” she said.

She believe a strong character coupled with a good heart made a powerful yet respected leader.

“What I can say about her is that she has the guts. She dares to speak, which is an important trait of a leader or politician,” she added.

Yong said she noticed Rafidah was the type who did not turn her back away from problems; instead she faced her responsibilities and this quality should be admired.

Meanwhile Parti Rakyat Sarawak Wanita chief Josephine Mawat felt that Rafidah had done Malaysia proud by being a minister for a very long time.

“People should take into account that she has been serving the country and its people for well over 20 years and this should be taken into account,” she said.

She described Rafidah as a proactive leader who paved the way for women politicians.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Little Bird Told Me

One of the books in the Bible I like is Ecclesiastes, or also called the Preacher. Indeed, there is so much wisdom in the book that each time I read it I get some new insights.

When I started the blog on Valentine Day this year, I have wanted my blog to be free from “politics”. Having worked in the press for nearly three decades, I think I have enough of it. I want my blog to be positive and a delight to my visitors. But, my morning reading on the book of Ecclesiastes gave me some insights on the issue of “government”. There is an urge to share some wisdom of King Solomon today.

King Solomon was the head of the country in his day. So, he was the government. He admitted in the book that all government is not good:

Woe to you, O Land, when your king is a child
And your princes feast in the morning.
Happy are you, O Land, when your king is the son of free men,
And your princes feast at the proper time
For strength, and not for drunkenness! (Eccl 10:16-17RSV)

Some administrations are difficult to live with when they are headed by persons who are greedy, incompetent, arrogant and even untrustworthy. We have seen enough of it either in our homeland or in other foreign countries. Therefore, you see the princes “feasting in the morning”. In Hebrew, morning was supposed to be devoted to work, to solve problems of the people. They feasted in the evening and night. So, if a person was feasting even in the morning, it meant the leaders were not working.

But if the “king is born of free men”, he would be responsible. He feasted at the proper time and not to get drunk, but to get strength.

The Searcher guided us to get the wisdom from God -

Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18 RSV)

Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19 RSV)

The Preacher is comparing the nation to a house. If there is no firm foundation, people are not hardworking, the house leaks. Even the simple pleasures of lives, bread and wine could not be enjoyed. Money answers everything means money comes from hard work. The leaders may be weak, but if the citizens are hardworking, it still contributes to a healthy nation - a house that is not leaking, and people enjoying the basic necessities of life, bread and wine.

Now, the next section of the warning hits me hard -

Even in your thought, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedchamber curse the rich;
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter. (Ecclesiastes 10:20 RSV)

That reminds me of Screenshot’s “little bird”! Perhaps, Jeffooi can tell me whether “A little bird told me” originated from here?

Do we indulge in "cursing" the government? The Preacher said, not even in your thoughts, not even in your bedchamber!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Through the eyes of the child

I bought two tortoises for Christopher (my 10-year-old son) yesterday evening.

He has found a new treasure. Within minutes of “owning” the tortoises, Christopher could tell me many things about the pets. The dots on the body, the shell, which one is more bold and which one is timid…. He touched, he smelled and explored. And with wide-eyed delight he shared the treasures with me. Though I did not say it out, but, in my heart, I thought, they are just two little creatures.

For the whole night, he was talking about the “treasure” in the little creatures. And even in his dream, I thought I saw him smiling!

This morning I woke up early. With much curiosity, I looked at the little creatures. Like me, the tortoises woke up early. Could it be they could not sleep because they were in a new home? I tapped on the side of the container, and lo! True enough, one of them was so timid that a little sound frightened it. The other one seemed to look at me and asked, “now, what do you want?’ I began to see the beauty of the little creatures!

How often we missed the joy of experiencing the treasures that surround us. Our lives are forever busy and complicated. We seem to be forever caught up in what we think are more important matters.

Today, I have learnt to see the world through the eyes of the child and restore that excitements in many things I see today!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Please, Thank You

Early this year our Prime Minister launched a nationwide courtesy and noble values campaign. It aims to develop the moral and spiritual characters of Malaysians.

A booklet was printed by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage listing the courteous qualities and noble values -
  1. Belief in God
  2. loyalty to king and country
  3. obedience to laws and regulations
  4. sincerity
  5. mutual respect
  6. love and affection
  7. community spirit
  8. knowledgeableness
  9. physical and mental cleanliness
  10. neighbourliness
  11. cooperative spirit
  12. moderation
  13. thankfulness
  14. competitiveness
  15. valuing time
  16. spirit of community living
  17. giving and receiving pardon
  18. self discipline
  19. responsibility
  20. trustworthiness
  21. fairness and justice
  22. helping one another
  23. agreeableness
  24. care and concern
  25. patience
  26. understanding
  27. tolerance
  28. sympathy
  29. humility
  30. earnestness
  31. respect for every individual’s rights
  32. love of self, family, neighbours and society
  33. holiness of heart
  34. positive thinking
  35. good conduct
  36. sacrifice
  37. sharing good and bad fortunes
  38. genuineness
  39. courage
  40. generous disposition
  41. confidence,
  42. ontentedness
  43. gentleness
  44. directness
  45. ambition
  46. not taking others’ rights
  47. and loving the environment.

47 of them! How many of us can practised all of them? It left me in much despair when I first took note of it early this year. We are entering the 10th month, it means near to the end of the first year's campaign, I am still in despair for both myself and many of my fellow Malaysians watching at the list!

Well, we got to start somewhere, somehow, or are we not?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Constantly in trouble

I like this description of a Christian by someone –

A Christian is one who is:
Completely fearless,
Constantly cheerful, and
Constantly in trouble.

Do I meet that description?

I have been in trouble recently. The trouble comes when I stand by my principle and would not compromise to protect my own interest. In a gathering, Pslam 1 was read. This Psalm describes the wicked and the righteous. The person who arranged that to be read was clearly hinting to me that I am under the influence of the wicked. Soon after the Psalm was read, the person followed with a two-page text of “prayer” with allegations. I could have walked away. But, I did not. I remember, a Christian is one who is “constantly in trouble”.

That gives me a chance to meditate Psalm 1 early this morning.

The Lord brings me to a new understanding of this Psalm. The Psalm talks about the wicked. When the word wicked comes to us, we often visualize somebody who is evil, murderers, rapists and gangsters.

But the Lord tells me otherwise. The wicked is referring to self-centred person, the righteous is referring to those whose life that is God-centred.

The wicked really means the ungodly, the man who has no time for God in his life.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day end night. (Psalms 1:1-2 RSV)

The first verse of the Psalm is negative, NOT doing certain things. Here, I picked up three words that described the life of a man –

Walks. Stands. Sits.

Walking is taking steps. Are we not taking steps every day? The decisions big and small are the little steps we make everyday.

Standing means the commitment we make, taking our stand on matters, big and small.

Sitting shows a picture of a person while at rest. Here, we see the stage of the person’s heart while at rest. Is it at peace? Or is in turmoil?

The positive actions are found in the second part. Here I pick up two action words –

Delight
Meditate

He delights in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night. And when delights in the law and meditate on the words of God day and night -

His is like a tree planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:3 RSV)

What joy!

What timely reminder that I have been lazy with my daily readings of His Words!

The Lord always speaks through circumstances, and through people.