Yan's Corner - In Touch

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Moments to Share

The yearender of newspaper would always run the “top ten news” of the year. Some newspapers would run contests like providing twenty news and let the readers choose the top ten news that their editors would choose. Prizes are often very attractive. It’s also the tradition of my newspapers to run top ten international news, top ten national news, top ten local news, crimes round-up, sports round-up etc.

I thought, perhaps, I could do a round-up of those precious moments of the year that I have shared in this little space of the cyber world over the year. Over the past ten months, many precious moments have been put into words.

There were some humbling encounters that I drew priceless lessons, and I wrote it here.

There were moments when I stood in awe the beauty of nature that God has created and my heart broke out in song. I wrote it here.

There were times when I have half-way faith, half-truths, half-baked efforts, a lot of ifs and buts, but God confronted me with penetrating questions. I was reminded that His presence must rule over all – families, careers, business, pursuits … I wrote it here, All to Jesus I surrender, and all to Him I freely give.

There were times when circumstances seem desperate, dire, even hopeless, I wrote it here.

There were times of seemingly unending grief over the death of loved ones, I wrote it here.

There were times when I enjoyed relaxing morning lingering over a cup of coffee, experienced the joy of baking, I shared such simple things in life here.

Whether it’s God’s bounteous blessings, kind souls, prickly people, thorny problems, thick carpet of troubles, dark days, season of rest, words of wisdom I heard, comforting presence of friends and loved ones, the extraordinary gift of children … I wrote them here.

Here are the top ten of such moments I pick from my blog – to recapture the beauty of words. Give no thoughts to the pains, agonies and tribulations of the year that is going to past…

The Roses - February (Valentine's Day, my first post)

A young charming journalist had one young bud in a vase on her table. She excitedly told me that she picked up the bud from the street and said the bud would soon blossom.

Yes, I caught that moment –
Within every bud, there is a rose
Within every soul, a rose too
Reach past the thorns of your life
and let the rose within blossom many times over.

Words not said (March)

This is taken from an older Danish novel called Borderliners, by Peter Hoeg:

“I did not say much, nor was it necessary. She sat on the box, leaning forward, and listened to me, even to my pauses. She heard everything, even things I did not say. We sat there and I knew this was how it felt to be totally accepted. You sit close to another person and are understood, everything is understood and nothing is judged and you are indispensable.”

I like that! Someone heard everything, even words not said. Someone listen, even to the pauses between words! Isn’t it wonderful?

But, in real world, it’s often not so. Words need to be said. Not only that, they need to be said loud and clear.

We have two children, aged 14 and 9. They are growing up in a “newspaper friendly” environment. They have access to newspapers, three locals and two nationals, English and Chinese.

Over the weekend, during my trip to the supermarket with my children, I was amazed by the children’s knowledge of the different promotions and marketing campaigns of different consumer goods. When asked, they almost said at the same time – mummy only read newspapers, newspapers don’t talk. These products are said in the television. Cool words are used to describe them. When these brands are sponsored by the online games we play, there are sounds too.

Yes, my children know all these products better than the titles of the newspapers that enter our house each morning. The newspapers have been there, day in, day out, ever since there were born.

Philip Yancey, in his book, “What’s so amazing about grace”, wrote, “As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside.”

Listen. Yes, he says he listens for the overtones of words. He stuff his thoughts inside. The words become his thoughts. His thoughts, his words. His words come alive!

Being remembered (April, Ching Ming Festival)

It is the season for the Chinese to pay respect to their loved ones who have left this earthly world.

Is it not also the season for us, the living to take a moment to ponder our life from the vantage of death? Imagine how your obituary might read. Imagine how your story will be told. Imagine how you are being remembered by loved ones and friends...

In the Bible, the story of Jabez is told in one paragraph (1 Chronicles 4). It is a beautiful story. The paragraph that tells it begin with “Jabez was more honourable than his brothers.”

It was what the Bible calls honour that drove Jabez to rise above his past, rise above even the pain of his mother, and live the large and bountiful life God had ordained.

How beautiful it is if our obituary begins with …. He/she was more honourable than many others …

Blessings (May)

In front, a truck blows a tire and careens across two lanes of traffic. One car is headed toward the truck. It looks like a terrible clash is not avoidable. But the car comes to a stop just in time.

Two hearts pounding while witnessing the scene.

“What a luck!”

“What a blessing, mummy.”

Yes, what a blessing. A blessing brings happiness, and greater happiness if you know the meaning.

“To feel lucky” is to say “In good and bad feelings, I have been getting more than my share of good feelings.”

“To feel blessed” is to wonder “How is this God-sent happiness going to lead me and those around me to greater happiness?”

The power within (June)

“Pa, you don’t need pills to make you smart. The power is within you.”

My teenage daughter said to my husband last night. My husband has just watched a “Discovery Channel” report about the power or magic of “Omega 3” fish oil to the mind of the young ones. Being very “scientific”, he asked the two children to take “Omega 3” soft gels before going to school every day.

That’s the reaction from the young ones. The 9-year-old son, of course, agrees with “jie-jie”.

“Yeah, the power is within us.” He can’t wait to agree.

Yes, dear young ones, to be able to get your way – you are a powerful person. To be in a position where nobody can force you to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s all anybody really wants, isn’t it?

The power is within you. You can be the most popular person in your school. You can make the best grades. You can get rich. You can…. do anything if you set your mind to do it.

But any power you get from that kind of success is only temporary or illusion. It melts away.

God is the ultimately powerful one. What kind of power do you have through Him? The power of God in your life isn’t the world’s kind of power. It is the power to live your own life, free from the sins.

How about that power for a power trip?

Perfecting and shaping (July, my wedding anniversary)

My dear friend “SMSed” me yesterday that she is going to start her “braces” mission. She had one tooth extracted. Another one to go this Friday.

I thought, she would look kind of funny with a mouth full of metal. I also thought, what is the point of putting up with the aggravation to let your mouth be invaded with metal, cement and plastic?

I did not have much time to give myself an answer until today. Yes, the hardship of going through the “braces” journey or mission is for the reward of a million-dollar smile that will last through the rest of her life. She just has to live with the little annoyances and pain for a while, she’ll be rewarded with that “perfect-smile”.

How true it is in our marriage life. There are little annoyances. There are little pains. There are even sorrows no less than joys. There are daylong tug-of-war at times. There are some inconveniences at crucial times. There are times when sharp edges poke you. But, God is perfecting us, straightening us out, shaping us into something beautiful to share, cherish with our partner. And the reward? Anniversary after anniversary.

Yes, my husband and I are rejoicing over the ability to press through 19 years of shared life!

19 years, and entering 20th year…

Be Yourself (August)

"A woman without make-up on her face is a lazy woman."

This was said by a make-up artist called Adriel Khoo.

He was interviewed by Post Mag (Weekend Leisure of The Borneo Post) in its August 6 issue.

I read it yesterday and still could not accept the fact that I am a "lazy" woman.

This morning at the breakfast table, just before going for my Sunday Worship Service, I asked my 10-year-old son,

"What do you think of this statement that a woman without make-up on her face is a lazy woman?"

The boy looked at me, for a while, he said this -

"A woman without make-up on her face is a woman who is not afraid to be herself."

That's it. That makes my day!

Thank you, young Christopher.

You are original, don’t die a copy (September)

Last night, the small star, the future excellent writer, the marvellous one asked me to wake him up at 5:30 am. I woke him up at 5:30 am. He took a shower. I fixed his breakfast. After shower, he put on his school uniform. He held tight to a sheet of paper at the table. I took a peek. Printed on it are two Chinese essays. One of them, he has to memorize and write it down "for" his teacher today.

Naturally, he looked sad. The star is not shinning. His little mind must be wondering - what's this auntie Dobbs trying to tell me, I am going to be an excellent writer? No way. I am far from Auntie Ming's Marvellous! I can't even memorize this essay about "My Dog". My dog is brown in colour, why should I say my dog is white, whitter than snow?

The little mind doubts too - when mummy says write your own story, how much can I trust her? Every time, I write my own story, my Chinese teacher gives me only 50 marks. When my classmate memorizes the essay given by the teacher, he gets 90 marks. Can I trust mummy?

Well, such is the stress of the star. He wants to be original, but the teacher wants him to be a copy. He wants to use his creativity, but the teacher wants him to follow others' creativity.

F.R.O.G – Fully Rely on God (October)

By Christopher Lau

My mother told me this story –

There was a lady in a hospital who was dying. A pastor of her area came to visit her. This pastor was a very young lady with long blond hair. The pastor listened to the dying lady. She prayed for her. Before she left, the pastor left a tiny ceramic frog for the dying lady.

The next day one of the friends from the lady’s church came to visit her. The lady told her friend about the young lady pastor who came to visit her. The friend was amazed how the lady had improved. The friend thought of telling the young lady pastor. However, she was told that there was never any young lady pastor with long blond hair in the area.

The friend came back to the hospital again. She wanted to tell the lady that she might have mistaken. There was no young lady pastor in the area that fit her description. Just then, a nurse entered the room. The nurse saw the ceramic frog and said,

“You have a nice guardian angel with you.”

When asked why the nurse made such a comment. The nurse said,

“Frog stands for (F) Fully (R) Rely (O) On (G) God.”

Yeah, I also have a big “FROG” jump for my final term exam. It’s from position 19 to 6. The next time you see a frog, don’t panic. It is Fully Rely On God!

Watch how you walk (November)

“Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15

When I suggested to Chris that we walk, he has many instructions on how we walk. Before the walk, he instructs –

“Don’t wear expensive clothes. Don’t bring your purse. Bring your handphone. Wear comfortable shoes.”

During the walk, he cautions and cares -

“Watch up, there is a hole there. It’s dark here, be careful. Is your knee painful?”

From the simple process of two steps repeated over and over again, I have gained much insights. How we walk is actually an apt simile for how to live our life.

The supreme thing is not where you talk, but how you walk, “Look carefully how you walk.”. It is followed with instruction on how to walk rightly and accurately.

As Chris and me walk along the road, we have no problem as to where to walk. We know where we are going. But how we walk is a problem. Part of the route that we take does not have a pedestrian walk yet. So, the reminders from Chris here, “Watch up!”

Know your way, understand your route. That’s how you should walk. “Understand this, be wise; don’t be foolish but act as a wise man.”

Here are the Top Ten of the Words to steal your hearts away just before the close of the year!

I wish you God’s Blessings for the coming year, 2006!

If you are in Sibu, you are warmly invited to my Church, Wesley Methodist Church for the Watchnight Service tonight that starts at 10:30 pm and closes at 2006 with an invitation to Lord’s table in a Holy Communion. Isn’t it a meaningful way to enter the new year?

Again, God’s blessings. Till we meet, next year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Life, the Lessons, Food, the Fellowship

For the past two nights, my best friend, Sandra and I have adopted this philosophy –

Into this world to eat and to sleep
And to know no reason why he was born
Save to consume the corn
Devour the cattle, flock and fish
And leave behind an empty dish.

Well, we have consumed the quantity of food equals to the total of our normal one week’s meals in two nights! We are very “watchful eaters”. That quantity of food is not unthinkable. To many, it may be your normal one-meal quantity!

The first night we went to a steamboat BBQ by the pool at a leading hotel in Kuching. There, we stayed from 6:30 pm to 09:30 pm.

Last night, we went to a Japanese food buffet also at the same hotel but in a comfortable coffee house. From 8:30 pm to close midnight!

The Japanese food buffet was packed. It was not cheap. For both nights, if we have to pay out from pocket, it would be close to RM200. But, thanks to my significant half for the two complimentary buffet vouchers which he “contributed” to the fulfillment of our body, heart and soul!

Food and talk naturally go together very nicely. Nothing help conversation more than to sit down around a table of food and to talk and eat together!

For the past two nights, the fragrance of friendship and fellowship covered the aroma of food. When I returned to my hotel room that overlooked the beautiful Sarawak River, there was a deep sense of gratitude. A gratitude to God for provision of friendship!

Food can be for fellowship. Food can also be for life lessons!

One of the treasured memories of my two children have for their “gong-gong” (grandfather) is the mealtime. Dad-in-law was a busy businessman. But, at mealtimes, he was always that loving “gong-gong”. It was through the conversations shared at mealtimes that the children learnt from him the courage, the confidence, the joy and the wisdom that produce a sense of reality of God in our home around the table.

Indeed, conversations over food at the table are always sparkling, bright and interesting!

It’s Biblical too, go to Deuteronomy –

“talk of them when you sit in your house. – Deut. 6:7b

When do you sit down in your house? One of the times is mealtime!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Level 13 - Possibly Minor Depression

You have reached level 13 on the Goldberg scale

0-9 - Depression unlikely
10-17 - Possibly minor depression
18-21 - On the verge of depression
21-35 - Minor to moderate depression
26-53 - Moderate to severe depression
above 54 - Severe depression

You have some symptoms of depression. Some of these symptoms normally occur in many people. It is difficult to say whether you will need treatment or not, but it is worth speaking to your doctor about how you feel.

Depression is a disease like any other disease, and it can be treated very effectively. Recognising that you are suffering from depression is the first positive step. If you are depressed, you should arrange to see your doctor to talk about the illness right away. You may also want to raise the issue with your friends and family. You should look for support from these people you until you get well. Anyone can suffer from depression, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Treatments, including medication and psychotherapy, have a very high success rate.

Please note that this test result is not a certain assessment of your mental health. You should always consult a doctor if you feel depressed or if you feel that worries and anxiety have taken over and affected the activities of your daily life.

Medical adviser: Jørgen Holm, specialist
Source and copyright: Dr. Ivan K. Goldberg

This is the result of my test!

I run a test for myself (did a google and just hit one sit for a test) after reading Deputy Human Resources Minister that “whether they like it or not, they need to have the tests.”

What tests? Psychiatric test to find out whether workers are “depressed” or “burn-out”.

Look like I need to see a Psychiatrist! I wonder what will employer do with the above result. Adjusting their system of increment? Asking the employee to leave? Sending them to psychiatrist to be counseled?

I am “worried”. I am “depressed” and I am “burnt-out”! Am I? No, not at all. My employer said, “No mad person will admit that he/she is mad.”

A bleak future..….

Dear Datuk Abdul Rahan Bakar, have mercy on us!

I am just musing with the new directive from the Minister on screening all employees of their mental health next year. But, I believe, many will be worried – employers and employees alike. Reasons? Do we have enough psychiatrist? I want to talk to one, but I have not found in my town!

Let’s face it. Whatever comes along, face it and find a solution.

Interestingly, I read that C.W. Lewis also suffered from clinical depression. Lewis showed signs of clinical depression before his conversion. In his diary and letters, he appears irritable, pessimistic, gloomy and hopeless. After his conversion, joy was “the central story of my life”. His friends described him as cheerful and outgoing. Lewis found happiness with his newly established relationship with the Creator.

Lewis said that God cannot give us happiness apart from Himself, because it is there, there is no such thing.

Be comforted that there is hope. All of this, then, rests upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What would we do without that to live today? Keep working, keep occupied, face the problems of life, and handle them all with the sense that the Lord of peace himself will give us peace in all ways and at all times.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Words of Love I'll Remember

I often get a little sentimental at the close of the year. It seems like so many things need to be done, yet left undone. It seems like I have wasted much of the time. It seems like racing against time before the sun sets…

This year is a lot better, seemingly. Because I do not seem to worry about things undone, I do not seem to rushing for many last minutes’ things…

I have time to even remember some of the beautiful words I have read or heard this year. Thanks to this blog, thanks to Rachel, thanks to Christopher, thanks to the significant half, thanks to friends, far and near, old friends, new friends, friends whom I have never met …

A young woman who misses her father writes,

Dad has been widowed 20 months now. And each day I see him getting smaller…. He misses my mum very much and he’s holding on to their memories together…

Dad is such a wonderful man. He gives and he gives and he gives; of himself, his time and his love … Thinking how little time is left for me to look after him…

Imissed my mum so much after she died. I am so afraid that Dad would go too someday. I know tht is inevitable for isn’t that the cycle of life? But I don’t want him to go without God – he has shot down every mention of Him as long as I can remember. And I pray desperately that when he eventually walk through the door to eternity, God will be waiting at the other side…

Dad, how can I make things better for you??

I remember how the daughter’s cries touched my heart. Who could write words better than a daughter’s love for her father? Thanks, DBW. My heart goes to you, my prayers for you and your father.

A young girl who lost her father in an accident two years ago, writes this in May on the first anniversary of his passing on,

My dearest Papa,
I know that you’re enjoying more than golf in Heaven.. so why does my heart still bleed?
I know that the good memories will suffice.. so why do I selfishly long for more?
I know that your 52 years were years well-spent.. but whywouldn’t I give for a 53rd?
I know that you love me … could you tell me again, in some way?
You’ll always be the man of my life

How much love, how much longings are expressed in those words? We know how difficult it has been. Thanks, Jem, though I only know you through the blog you kept until May this year when you said you would “vanish into the real world”.

A young boy waited for his grandfather to return home from hospital, but his grandfather went to stay in Jesus' home. After a year on “Grandparents’ Day” this year he writes,

My mooooooost loving grandpa went to stay in Jesus’ home last year in October. I miss him very much. I miss the time watching TV with him. I miss the dinner time with him when he would always joke with me. I miss the time when he and the driver fetched me from tuition lessons and music lessons. I just miss calling him “Gong Gong”. I even miss him calling me from downstairs – Liang Liang.

Mummy said “Gong Gong” is now living in Jesus’ home. It is a beautiful home with many rooms. One day, we all shall meet in heaven. But, why doesn’t Jesus let him stay here in our home for a longer time? There is a big room for him and grandma.

Gong-gong, I know it is more than a house in heaven, it is home of Jesus.

I know you are singing happily there with a better karoke-system than the one at home. But, why do I still want you here?

I "battled" with Liang Liang for almost a year to overcome the "loss". I thought it's over. But, it seems there's some more battles ahead when he called late night crying bitterly. Dear Liang Liang, hold on that strong faith that you shall meet your loving “gong-gong” one day in heaven.

I also remember this beautiful poem by Christina Rosetti called “Remember”. The poem was read by Condoleezza Rice during the 911 anniversary this year,

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d;
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray

Yes, if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Words, words, it's only words that I can take your heart away?

Remember is a look-back. It’s the season of the year to do so. But looking back does not always need to be sad. It could be thankfulness for those beautiful people, beautiful things in your life. If it is of something to regret, remember, realize, return and repent.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Unbroken Love from A Broken Heart

By Christopher Lau

We finally watched The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The movie was on in Sibu the day before we left for Singapore. Mummy said we could watch it in Singapore. Upon arriving Singapore, we realized that the movie would only be on 22nd December. By then, we have returned home. So, we still watched the movie in Sibu.

However, we had the opportunity to walk through the wardrobe and experience the magic of Narnia in Singapore. We were on our way to Borders Bookshop when we passed by the stage set up by Focus on Family at Orchard Road.

The four scenes were Lucy’s first encounter with the Faun; Walk through the white witch’s castle; Gather clues in Mr & Mrs Beaver’s kitchen and Prepare for Battle in Aslan’s Camp.

I even acted as one of the wounded soldiers in preparing the battle in Aslan’s Camp. It was fun. At the white witch’s castle, I was quite uneasy being “scolded and chased out”!

The next day I even found out the secret of my doctor. He went through the wardrobe also. I knew it because he did not clean the stamp on his hand properly. I wonder if he was scolded and chased out also at the White Witch’s Castle.

Watching Narnia is a wonderful adventure. I imagine myself to be one of four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. The four children discovered a world with talking animals. A great lion, Aslan, rules in majesty. It roars in triumph. Each time Aslan roars, I am a little scare. The children in the movie also tremble. But, they find hope in the loving roar of Aslan. Aslan submits to being put death by the evil characters controlled by the White Witch. However, at last the Kingdom of Narnia is freed. Winter goes. Springtime arrives.

I told my mummy that my heart melt when Aslan dies for Edmund. It is like the death of Jesus for you and me and all mankind.

What a friend we have in Jesus!

From a childlike adult – Yan

Narnia is a captivating fantasy. Like little Chris, I also went through the wardrobe of “Focus on Family”. I like the gathering of clues in Mr & Mrs Beaver’s Kitchen. There is a conversation often quoted by speakers –

“Ooh!” said Susan, “Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” asked Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver, “Don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I like Lucy. She is so pure. The Bible says, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humble himself like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

In the Narnia adventures, Aslan is a powerful, unpredictable, remarkable lion. But Aslan is not a tame lion. He is not, in fact, tamable. He is unchallenged and unchallengeable. Following Him, it is always an adventure. We can never know ahead of time what encounters He has in store for us.

Narnia is a world of friends and enemies, battles and betrayals, sacrifices and a promise to become a king and queen. How could C.S. Lewis used such world filled with battles and betrayals to effectively show the significant metaphors of God’s Love – having the faith of a child, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, His resurrection from the dead resulting in salvation for sinners?

C.S. Lewis’ life was told in the book, “Images of His world”. Keys to his life were long walks in the country side alone, hour after hour. He got all his fantastic insight into the mind of God and the way He works through this time. He walked and talked to God. He walked in fellowship with God.

C.S. Lewis, undoubtedly, did a wonderful job of capturing what hope is about in the Bible. The four children go to Narnia and become kings and queens there. They returned to the real world and grow up. Three of them remembered that they were once upon a time kings and queen in Narnia. They remembered the life of joy, beauty and friendship and being given honour and authority. Their life were forever changed by their memories and experiences. Susan could not remember. To her, it was a mere child’s tale, and it ceased to persuade her. Susan, like many of us, is overtaken by the things of this world.

Imagine the anguish that a loving heart can experience? It is the pain of estrangement, the paths of longing to love someone, yet having its love manipulated, resisted, taken advantage of, or totally rejected.

But, He has not given up – His love is unbroken though His heart is broken.

Think about His love, think about His goodness
Think about His grace that’s brought us through
For as high as the heavens above
So great is the measure of our Father’s love
Great is the measure of our Father’s love

"Some people come into our lives and quickly leave, but others stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same." From the way little Chris’ heart melts with C.S. Lewis’ metaphors of Christ dying for us, one of those sets of footprints that leave in our children’s heart belongs to C.S. Lewis.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Not doing anything

By Christopher Lau

When we were in a Christian Bookshop in Singapore choosing a present for my teacher, my Jie-Jie (sister Rachel) suggested to buy a book about how to “teach” students, how to “love” students.

She went on to explain, “Then Chris would not be abused by this teacher next year! He will have a great time!”

My Jie-Jie does not know that Jesus has changed this teacher. She has been a loving teacher since Jesus came into her life. In fact, she was “OK” even before that, only that she was very strict.

I remember last year on Christmas Eve, we went to fetch this teacher to the Church. I sat next to her. Later, I learnt that one of my classmates said to his mum, “Poor Christopher, having to sit next to this teacher.”

Now, my mother is her good friend. However, don’t think that I am his favourite boy and live happily ever after in her class. She still punishes me when I am naughty.

The moral of the story is Santa knows when you are good, when you are bad, you better watch up!

Yesterday, I went to the Family Christmas Party of my mummy’s colleagues. When the “game master” asked for some male participants in the first game, I was the first one to stand up. I ended up making a fool of myself. The game was to dress up as a “Miss Santa” and be judged as “Miss Santa”.

I wonder whether they could organize better games. Boring!

The moral of the story is always know where you are heading before you jump into it.

Yan’s remarks

So, the moral of the two stories?

Christmas is over. Sit in your garden today. Not thinking. Not doing. Not worrying. Appreciate the pleasure of being alive!

I am not going to write anything today. In fact, I thought of writing one on “Remembering My Father” since most of my friends here are “Fathers”. But, but, I found this wisdom just now (can-do one, to share with “Fathers”). Here it goes –

I find time spent doing nothing really important and as soon as I complicate it, it loses something. If I add a cup of coffee to my solitude, then it’s a coffee break and not a space just for me. If I listen to music, then it’s a music break. If I have a companion with me and I chat, then it’s a social occasion. If I read the papers, then I have moved away entirely from the concept of a little space for me. Keep it simple. Keep it bare. Keep it pure.
- Richard Templar

Remember? My mother taught me always to have a little margin or a little space.

During my teenage years*, my late father always said, “Find something to do. You can’t idle your days away like that! You will never amount to anything by having nothing to do.”

*(My father passed on right after I out-grown my teenage years.)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Remembering My Mother On Christmas

(She is now in a better place, often I wonder whether she still cooks....)

Christmas would not be Christmas without remembering my mother. Remembering mother can’t do without remembering the childhood. Childhood memories were made up of food, friends, fun, play and work.

I was “tagged” by Dobbs to do “Childhood Memories Food” some three weeks ago. I have wanted to keep that till Christmas.

Today’s “Remembering my mother” is modified from an article on “food review” that I did for my newspaper, The Borneo Post during last Mothers’ Day. As I read the article again today, on Christmas morn, I know it’s going to bring me much tears. I do not mean to affect your Christmas mood. Pardon me, if I do.

My mother had never baked a cake before. So, Christmas’ memories are not about Christmas food cake, or a baked turkey. But, my mother was a great cook. It was my mother who taught me to always have a little margin in life.

What’s this little margin?

It’s leaving a little space in our busy life, whether it’s emotionally, physically or spiritually. Then, no matter what situation we are caught in, we always have a little space to stretch. And cooking is one of the ways that you can have that little margin in life.

While the father embeds into the heart of a child of God’s trustworthiness being strong and safe and always trusting, mothers are warm centre, the safe place. They are “Home”. Mothers are model for a child that God is “there”, that He exists and is ever present. It is a mother, after all, that a child runs to when feelings are hurt or the knee is skinned. All through life, whatever accidents happened to me, it was my mother who was there who said, “O, I know it’s painful.” Two Christmas ago, when I broke my right knee patella, my mother had gone back to the Lord. I remember, after the surgery, it was miserable. In the hospital bed alone, I thought I saw my mother at my bedside telling me, “O, I know it’s painful.”

It’s the mother whose presence makes the house a home and makes a home a safe base to launch into life from. It’s the mother whose presence makes the pain more bearable!

Yes, home, the warm place. The place where it is always safe, where it is always filled with the good smell of food during dinner time, lunch time and even early morning the aroma of coffee and toast.

My mother was a great cook. Her small refrigerator was always not even half-filled. But, we had never gone hungry with her around. She could always produce some home-cook food in a most economical way for her nine children. Yes, nine children! Anytime, we visited her, she would be able to have something for us.

My childhood food were not of burgers, fries, fried chicken or chicken rice. It has always been the home-grown vegetables. One of them is the bitter-groud fried with egg. Eggs were also from home-reared eggs-laying hen. It was not bitter, because my mother had her magic way of taking away the bitter juice. My mother also presented the dish with all the six "musts" of good food, the colour, the aroma, the taste, the presentation, the quality and the nutritional value. So, the bitter-groud fried with egg filled my days.

Yes, we did not have refrigerator then. So, what did my mother do with all the long beans from the farm? She cleaned them, boiled them, and dried them under the sun. After that, these beans were salted. When come to cooking, she added in some red stuff, the end product of home-made wine. That was another one of that. Preserved long beans cooked with the “red stuff”, with warm smell of wine!

And the third one? This one was not home-grown, but very, very precious. The cream-crackers! Cream-crackers? Yes, but not the “Jacob’s brand” we are having now. I don’t know the brand. Why would cream-crackers bring such memories?

It’s because we could never have enough of them! Imagine our children saying “yuk” to the cream-crackers when they have all sorts of “cookies”? I am glad Rachel and Christopher like cream-crackers too!

Now, why we could never have enough of them. Remember there are nine of us. My mother had to keep the tin of cream-crackers under lock and key! Every night, before we started revision of school books, my mother would give each one of us one stack of about 5 or 6 pieces of the cream-crackers. That was for supper after finishing the revision. We treasured them so much.

I remember when I related to my mother few years ago how she kept the cream-crackers, she was so “angry” and denied that she ever did that to us. She reasoned that how could she be so "mean" to her children as to keep a tin of cream-crackers under key and lock! But, we had a good laugh over it.

Though childhood food memories was not of "burger", my mother and I did share a secret on "burger". 15 years ago, we were in Singapore staying at Paterson Tower, near to Orchard Road. I was then pregnant with Rachel, our first precious baby. One night, I craved for 'burger". So, we decided that we walked down to buy. We bought one "King Burger". That "King Burger" brought me to SGH, where I stayed for 100 days and it was CRIB! My mother and I never ever talked about it during the 100 days, even during the years that followed. I know my mother meant good to me. The secret remained until the other day I talked to an inspiring doctor, also in Singapore.

Yes, my mother is a glorious creature, a representation of part of God’s nature. She is the woman who keeps the flame of faith burning. She checks on the aggressive nature of me, perhaps the most difficult of all her nine children. The surprised story of cream-crackers is just like my mother who surprises me time and again…

My mother protects, encourages, blesses and celebrates the good and she believes in the good of all her children, nine of us.

She is now in a better place. Often, I wonder whether she still cooks.

My mother went to the Lord in 2000. You would have noted that the last three paragraphs of this post are written in present tense, that any English "guru" would give me a big "X". Allow me to forget about the grammar on this Christmas morn, to me, my mother still lives in us, each one of her children, and nine of us altogether…

All mothers, and all fathers, blessed Christmas. You may like to log on to my friend’s place, fishtail for a heartwarming story of “Fear-Not –Angels” on this Christmas day and give due honour and respect and love to your parents.

Also visit The Tent, the cyber home of a Malaysian doctor who has just returned from a Pakistan Mission on his "Grown-up Christian Wish". A wish not for himself, but for the poor, the broken, the downtrodden and the sick.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Beautiful Words To Live By

Joy. Peace. Love. Hope.

These are just a few of the beautiful words we share with each other at Christmas. They are words of power and tenderness which flow from the reality of God’s Word, Jesus Christ. They scatter the clouds of spiritual hopelessness that sometimes gather in our hearts, and bring with them all the light and promise of eternity.

There are many other words we hold special and dear at Christmas. Words that kindle memories of the past and hold out hope for the future.

Words like family and home. Friendship. Laughter and Celebration.

Each one, like a favourite photograph in a family album, evokes an image in our minds as we welcome Christmas again.

The words above are the narration part of the Choir presentation tonight.

I attended the usual Christmas Eve Service tonight. What is usual for this Christmas Eve Service is that it is always a Cantata when the choir sing for almost an hour with a short message. The main message comes from the Cantata presented by the Choir.

Tonight’s service was “unusual” because it was not a Cantata. The Choir sang, but it was a much shorter presentation. Tonight’s service was “unusual” also because even without the Cantata, it touched my heart over and over again.

I met the choir conductor at the entrance of the church where I distributed bulletin. The conductor of the church evening service choir of some 30 years. I have known him for 30 years! I was his choir member some 30 years back for a number of years until I got married and could not find time for the weekly practices. But, I make it a point that each Christmas, I go back to sing. 30 years is a long, long time. If I am to live for 60 years, it’s half of my life! But, it seems like only yesterday that I sang joyfully in the choir!

A mention of meeting the choir conductor at the entrance because we don’t meet each other every week because I go to 7:30 morning service, while he is still the conductor of the 5:00 pm evening service!

I also met a young girl of Girls’ Brigade whom I worked with four years ago. From a teenager, she is now an university student. She comes back for holidays. It’s such a joy to give a pat on her back and said, “well-done.”

There were many, many friends ….

Christmas is about friends, isn’t it not?

It is also about families – my significant half, my mother-in-law, Rachel and Christopher were all there!

Based on the few beautiful words that we share during Christmas, here are my prayers –

JOY - God, do not let me be satisfied with anything less than the joy of being in your presence. Protect me from anything that might lure me away from that simple joy.

PEACE - God, reign in my heart. When life’s storms rage, only you can give me peace. And when my circumstances are calm, I pray that you will give me your peace then too.

HOPE - God, thanks to you I have hope – not just for this life, but for eternity too. Christ in me is the hope for glory. All praise to the One who is my hope.

LOVE - God, you have loved me beyond my wildest dreams. Make me shine like a mirror to reflect that love to those around me – that my joy may be full.

To my friends, far and near, May the joy, peace, hope and love be yours too, this Christmas and many, many more to come. I do not have much to offer you, perhaps, like Bee Gees sang –

It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.

Start Breathing!

Last night, Little Chris asked, “What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?”

With his challenging look, I know it must be something not of the routine of brushing the teeth.

So, I said, “Thanking God for another good day.” At the back of my mind, I thought the answer that Chris wants could be breathing.

“No, don’t you breathe? But, I can’t say you are wrong.”

I would not want to miss the opportunity to ask him what’s wrong when a man said this, “I have lived for 90 years without God. I don’t think I need him now.”

Bewildered, “You are kidding, who does not need God? Even the air that we breathe is God’s.”

Indeed, it can be incredible. Someone who breathe God’s air, something he does not invent or produce, someone who enjoy the beauty of nature which he does not create, someone who lives by means of the sunshine, the rain and the life’s provisions which come from God, and yet still declare that he has lived for 90 years without God!

I have a plaque that I hang just beside my bed. Most of the mornings, that is the first thing I read –

No thought is worth thinking
That is not the thought of God

No sight is worth seeing
Unless it is seen through His eyes

No breath is worth breathing
Without thanks to the One
Whose very breath it is.

What a way to begin the day!

It is the business of people who have been born again to keep on learning from his Word how God thinks, to obey that Word, and then to reach out and meet the human needs we find all around us. This is the true message of Christmas.

If you are in Sibu, you are invited to come to share the joy of Christmas with messages, carols, and choir singing at Wesley Methodist Church tonight. The service starts at 7:00 pm.

I also share at mGf, Desi's cyber home here in the light of Christmas. But, mGf said "It came upon a midnight clear". Oop... whatever the horse (host) says.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Who is Jesus?

You are a creative director. How would you bring the message of Christmas to the world? You are a corporate writer. How would you write a press release to introduce your boss, Jesus Christ?

Little Chris said he could use this picture for a “coda” advertisement. What is “coda”? I remember writing about “coda” sometime back. To refresh your memory, for the benefit of new friends here, “coda” is a type of toothpaste that Chris “invented”. “CO” as in Colgate (you know!) and “DA” as in “Darlie” (at one time, it’s called “Darkie”). When the two combined, it’s called “Coda” – Chris’ tooth paste.

He created this picture. He says,

“Colgate makes your teeth strong. Darlie makes your teeth white. And you smile. So, here it’s – whiter, stronger, happier!”

Chris is the creative director. Chris is the copy writer.

I have another friend called Yasser. Yasser is a Muslim. I could not remember how he came to my blog sometime ago. But, I remember that he would never miss an opportunity to tell me about Islam. He knows I am a Christian. He has even created a site about Islam and invited me to have a better understand about Islam. I received an email from him last night. It reads,

Hi, Yan

Merry Christmas.

I have read your last post about new year calendar. It really reminds me to set my targets for the new year. Thanks a lot.

It is Christmas! I think it is nice to give you a brief description about Jesus in Islam.


(the mail follows with description about Jesus in Islam)

Here is someone who would never miss an opportunity to tell me about Islam.

How about us?

I may not be as “creative” as Chris to create a picture. I may not be as “innovative” as a child to combine two brands of tooth paste for fantastic result. But, I can share with you someone’s else description of Jesus today!

More than two thousand years ago there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood.

He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives was inconspicuous, and had neither training nor formal education.

In infancy He startled a king. In childhood, He puzzled doctors. In manhood, He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep.

He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service.

He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries of the country could not hold the books that have been written about Him.

He never wrote a song, and yet He has finished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.

He never found a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having so many students.

He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.

He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near.

Once each week the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him.

The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more. Though time has spread two thousand years between the people of this generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives! Herod could not destroy Him, and grave could not hold Him.

He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord and Saviour!

Christmas is associated with warmth, love, joy, forgiveness, healing, beauty, light and glory. Unless you have CHRIST in YOU, you will never know the meaning of Christmas. Just like you have to have “Colgate” and “Darlie” in “Coda”, I hope the gratitude of our hearts will express in our own way to God what it means to us to have had “the Son of God” born in “our hearts” as He was born in the stable in Bathlehem.

I am repeating this -

Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
Until he is born within your heart
Your life is still forlorn.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Calendar, God's Calendar

For the past week in Sing-Land, I have been working on my calendar. A calendar that covers a year in advance.

First, I worked on my Girls’ Brigade Calendar, a talk this week for the girls, compulsory services at charitable organizations for the girls, EXCO meetings, Officers’ Meeting, Camping, Officers’ Retreat …. I am happy with it.

Next, the Church’s calendar. I am happy with it.

Next, the business trips, monthly visits to offices … I am happy with it too.

I plan, I program, I try to fit in the calendar my desire and my interest. Done with it. I may not be able to fulfill all the plans. But, at least, it gives me an outline on what I intend to do in 2006.

Why do I do that? Or do you also do that? There are limits of life. We know the limitations. So, we tell ourselves, “Let’s make the year counts. Let’s use time to the full.”

I have my calendar, beautifully planned. What’s my position in God’s calendar?

This pressing question keeps bothering me. Does God also keeps a calendar that includes me?

Today, I studied the book of Leviticus and was amazed by God’s calendar of feasts for Israel. There were seven of them, plus the weekly Sabbath. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, are My feasts.”

From the feasts of The Passover to the Feast of Firstfruits, The feast of weeks, the feast of trumpets, the day of atonement and finally to the feast of tabernacles, these are God at work in our life or in our Calendar. It ultimately comes at the place of joy.

C.S. Lewis says, “The ultimate purpose of God in all his work is to add joy.”

The last feast, the Feast of Tabernacles is a beautiful picture of the joy in God’s Calendar. It is written,

...when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feat of the Lord for seven days, ..... you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days....

Then, in God’s calendar, there are Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee. Sabbath Year occurred every seven years, while the Year of Jubilee was to be celebrated every fifty years.

Aren't these delightful topics? The feasts and the Jubilee!

At this Christmas, I have a new understanding of My Calendar, God’s Calendar. I would have included in my calendar a time of rest, an opportunity for redemption, a time for reflection, a time for reward and repair, a time for relationships, a time to refocus!

Where are you in God’s Calendar?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Finding The Amusing

Chris has a cap. It is a red cap. It is a gift from his doctor. He likes it very much. We were at Changi Airport yesterday. (Oop! Changi Airport, don't mistaken it to be another place nearby!)

I took a few snaps of him, and he created this picture to amuse you.

I call these photos stages of Life in this Christmastime -

1. You believe in Santa Claus.
2. You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3. You are Santa Claus.
4. You look like Santa Claus.

Which category do you belong in?

Mark Twain said,

"Age is mostly a matter of mind.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

If you don't mind about your age, join me in this folktale.

The Prince's Happy Heart

Once upon a time there was a little Prince in a country far away from here. He was one of the happinest little Princes who ever lived. All day long he laughed and sang and played. His voice was as sweet as music. His footsteps brought joy wherever he went. Everyone thought that this was due to magic. Hung about the Prince's neck on a gold chain was a wonderful heart. It was made of gold and set with precious stones.

The godmother of the little Prince had given the heart to him when he was very small. She had said as she slipped it over his curly head: "To wear this happy heart will keep the Prince happy always. Be careful that he does not lose it."

All the people who took care of the little Prince were very careful to see that the chain of the happy heart was clasped. But one day they found the little Prince in his garden, very sad and sorrowful. His face was wrinked into an ugly frown.

"Look!" he said, and he pointed to his neck. Then they saw what had happened.

The happy heart was gone. No one could find it, and each day the little Prince grew mroe sorrowful. The one day he was gone. He had set off on his own to look for the lost happy heart that he needed so much.

The little Prince searched all day. He looked in the city streets and along the country roads. He looked in the shops and in the doors of the houses where rich people lived. Nowhere could he find the heart that he had lost. At last it was almost night. He was very tired and hungry. He had never before walked so far, or felt so unhappy.

Just as the sun was setting the little Prince came to a tiny house. It was very poor and weather-stained. It stood on the edge of the forest. But a bright light streamed from the window. So he lifted the latch, as a Prince may, and went inside.

There was a mother rocking a baby to sleep. The father was reading a story out loud. The little daughter was setting the table for supper. A boy of the Prince's own age was tending the fire. The mother's dress was old. There were to be only porridge and potatoes for supper. The fire was very small. But all the family were as happy as the little Prince wanted to be. Such smiling faces and light feet the children had. How sweet the mother's voice was!

"Won't you have supper with us?" they begged. They did not seem to notice the Prince's ugly frown.

"Where are your happy hearts?" he asked them.

"We don't know what you mean," the boy and the girl said.

"Why," the Prince said, "to laugh and be as happy as you are, one has to wear a gold chain about one's neck. Where are yours?"

Oh, how the children laughed! "We don't need to wear gold hearts," they said, "We all love each other so much, and we play that this house is a castle and that we have turky and ice-cream for supper. After supper mother will tell us stories. That is all we need to make us happy."

"I will stay with you for supper," said the little Prince.

So he had supper in the tiny house that was a castle. And he played that the porridge and potato were turkey and ice-cream. He helped to wash the dishes, and then they all sat about the fire. They played that the small fire was a great one, and listened to fairy storeis that the mother told. All at once the little Prince begain to smile. His laugh was just as merry as it used to be. His voice was again as sweet as music.

He had a very pleasant time, and then the boy walked part of the way home with him. When they were almost to the palace gate, the Prince said, "It's very strange, but I feel just exactly as if I had found my happy heart."

The boy laughed, "Why, you have," he said. "Only now you are wearing it inside."

Joy of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwellings;
All Thy faithful merces crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.
- Charles Wesley

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have You Found Christmas?

Merry Christmas

By Christopher Lau

I wrote a card for my doctor last night. I wrote,

Wishing you a merry X’mas.

My mother said no one would be merry with a “X’mas”. X’mas is something unknown. As in Maths, we always use the unknown as “X”. Until you find Jesus Christ, X’mas is only another day, what is the reason to celebrate about?

Mummy said, “You have to put “Christ” first, then you have Christmas.”

Dear friends, Merry CHRISTmas!

Yan's Thoughts

I was walking along the Citylink in Sing-land. From the City Hall MRT or Raffles Shopping Centre, the Citylink links to Suntec City. I saw people. I did not know anyone of them. We passed each other. We rubbed shoulders. Everybody is rushing for last minute shopping.

In the middle of the hurry-burly and hustle and bustle of Christmas, with the old Christmas carol, “deck the halls with boughs of holly…’tis the season to be jolly.”, how many of these people are really happy. How many of these people feel the somberness of this occasion?

I walked out the City Hall MRT, this banner caught me , “Have you found Christmas?” I received a gospel track that asked, “Would you like to find Christmas? To know how to find Christmas, please proceed to St. Andrew’s Cathedral Welcome Centre.”

I was also caught by one of the program of the concert, the Group Bamboo Band performed by Sarawak Lun Bawang Tribal. I walked in the amphitheatre and found a place to sit down and enjoyed two hours of music, dance and Youth Mime.

(Read about Lun Bawang people here)

Every Christmas season we remind each other it is not enough for Christ to have been born in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. What really counts is this same Christ being born in our hearts. We have in our midst and in our hearts, if we have found Him, a Saviour, a Deliverer, a Rescuer, Christ the Lord.

That is CHRISTmas.

Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born
Until he is born within your heart
Your life is still forlorn.

Have you found Christ in the season?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Adding spices to Life

Just a little brain teaser

By Christopher Lau

My sister overheard this at the Pizza Hut counter yesterday.

“You want to cut your pizza into six pieces or four pieces?” The girl at the counter asked the customer.

The customer is a woman.

The customer answered, “Four pieces. I can’t finish six pieces.”

Adding spices to life

By Yan

Rachel and Chris like brain teasers or puzzles. They like to put me in a very “stupid” situations until one day I learnt how to handle such situation. I remember some brain teasers and ask them back. In order not to look very “stupid” too often, they cut down the number of times they want to “laugh” at me.

Such are spices that add joy to life.

I drink coffee with no sugar, creamer or milk. I don’t take tomato sauce, chili sauce, or whatever sauces. I like the real taste of food in many ways.

The basic colours of my wardrobe are black, white and blue. For many years, this has not changed. When the photography art turned from black/white to colours, my friend jokingly remarked on my “black and white” clothes, “Hey friend, we have entered the era of colours. Please add in colours.”

Life goes on in the black and white world.

Surprisingly, I fit in quite well of the changes in life. Over the years, though in the same industry of work, I have moved from the never ending paper works in the administrative department to the ever changing news world and now to the many faces in the business scenes. I have enjoyed each responsibility tremendously.

My friend said creamer, sugar, tomato sauce – are spices of life. It makes life more interesting and exciting.

I guess cutting one pizza into six pieces or four pieces make no difference. It’s still that piece of pizza. But it explores the value of laughter. When Chris and Rachel laughed about it, not meaning to laugh the old woman, it is like the comforting breath of God to lighten their heart.

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
  • W. H. Auden

Mirror Mind

Who is smart?

By Christopher Lau

My mummy, my Jie-Jie and me were in the Night Safari, Singapore last night. A little girl sitting a row in front of us dropped her water bottle while the tram was moving. The father said, “Shit”. The little girl followed, “Shack”. She did not get it right.

I whispered to my mummy, “That father is teaching his daughter bad word.”

The tram moved on. The little girl said, “Daddy, I want water.” The father answered, “You dropped it just now.” The little girl said, “Shit”.

She got it right this time.

Who is smart?

Mirror Mind

By Yan

I always like to use this comment when I am inspired by children – “Children are a wellspring of inspirations.”

Over the years, I have learnt much from my own two children. I must say nobody has helped me to understand life and to understand the scriptures more than they have.

When Rachel was 4 or 5, one day, my favourite’s leather shoes were torn by the dog. Naturally, I was very upset and murmured to myself that the maid should have put the shoes on the shoes rack the previous night. Rachel was quick to remark, “Mummy, kakak did not bite your shoes. It was the dog.”

There is a Chinese proverb that says like this, “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.”

You and I are living in the shade of some trees that were planted by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. We are shaded by their moral standards, their value system, their commitment to duty. We are shaded by what they have planted, isn’t it not?

Now, what are we planting for our children? What kind of moral values, what kind of value system are adopting to shade our next generation. Or, are we planting anything?

Here is a quotation from a woman named Lenora Weber, who wrote an article entitled what parents owe their children,

Parents owe it to the children they bring into the world to put the tools of living in their hands – hands which we have made as strong and capable as we can. But, having given them the hands and the tools, we also owe it to them not to do their digging for them.

I do not want to scare you during this Christmas time. But this report by the Minnesota Crime Commission must be noted –

Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centred. He wants what he wants when he wants it – his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these once, and he seethes with rate and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children – not just certain children, all children – are born delinquent. If permitted actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal – a thief, a killer or a rapist.

It’s never easy. But the wisdom of this proverb assures us, both parents and children –

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not to your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge him
And he shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Being Kindergarten

Holiday is a time to read books that you have bought for quite a while but no time to read. I grabbed hold of “When there’s a will” from my bookshelf at home before leaving home for Sing-Land for a week of holidays.

This is my third day here. Rachel and Christopher are fascinated by the world of books here. The uniquely Singapore is not the “wild wild wet”, the “no-other-comparable dolphin show”, “the Christmas lightings at Orchard”, it is the smell of the books. I overheard Rachel said, “Wow, the books smell so nice.”

Yesterday, at the check-out counter of a bookshop, Chris rushed to the counter and asked if he could buy another book. I took a look and said, “That’s a kindergarten book.” He said, “It’s okay to be kindergarten sometimes.”

The lady behind the cashier was amazed by Chris’ response of being “kindergarten”. I readily accepted her compliments and felt “kindergarten” too at that moment.

Back in the hotel, I continued with “When there’s a will”. The author, John Mortimer is 81. He was a British barrister. To his credit, there are 27 novels and short story. He is the creator of the Wordsworth-quoting lawyer Horace Rumpole. Two years ago, he wrote on reflections on what he has learnt from life. “When there’s a will” is the book of reflections of Mortimer’s reflections.

I thought this story “On Staying Young” fits in well for this delighted mother who wants to be “kindergarten” –

Read his wisdom,

I live surrounded by ageing rockers. Joe Brown of The Bruvvers is in the next village. Jim Capaldi of Traffic is in a nearby town. George Harrison, until his untimely death, lived in Henley, and our great friends are a beautiful pair of twins, known to us as the Heavenlies, who are married to members of the group Deep Purple.

John Lord, the keyboard player and one of the founders of the group, has changed his life and now successfully composes classical music.

One of my own changes in life is more rapid and fundamental.

I am at my first rock concert, admittedly late in life. Deep Purple are giving a concert in Oxford. The theatre is packed with an almost all-male audience, many of them playing air guitar or standing with their arms raised, swaying to the music.

I am standing in the wings, drinking champagne out of a paper cup as the band crashes triumphantly through the sound barrier. Ian Paice completes a miraculous drum solo and throws his sticks into the applauding audience with the elegance of Marie Antoinette chucking out a few cakes to the hungry mob below her windows.

As I clap enthusiastically, a man standing beside me asks, “Are you Ian’s Dad?”

“Yes,” I say modestly. “I’m Ian’s Dad and we are terrifically proud of the boy,” It was a moment of relief, a sudden escape from too many other problems. I could give up being myself and concentrate on being the delighted father of a brilliant drummer, if only for half an hour.

Occasionally, meeting other rock bands and talking to drummers, I become Ian’s Dad again. All this only points to something I should mention in a will, the importance, in a long life, of changing it whenever possible.

That really sounds 18, not 81!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sealed With A Prayer

I have stopped sending Christmas cards for many years. I could not remember for how long. I decided to stop because of the hundreds of cards received by the company and hundreds of cards that our department have to sent out during those days working in the administrative department. I thought it was too commercial. It has lost its meaning totally.

When dobbs wrote a few days ago that she had sent out her Christmas cards this year, it sort of touched a soft spot of my heart. However, it was just that moment. Life went on, I ignored that. This early morn, I read two articles from the Guidepost also about Christmas cards.

Sue Ellen Hudson of Alabama, like me also stop sending Christmas cards a few years ago because “it had turned into a chore I did by rote”.

But Sue’s meeting with her friend over coffee gave her new meaning on sending Christmas cards. Her friend has always liked the idea of greeting people at Christmas. Her friend called that “mail-a-prayer”. Sue’s friend explained –

“As I write the address for each name on my list I think of some special need that person may have. Or a problem or goal. When I seal the envelope, I ask God to help and guide him.”

In another message from Sabra Ciancnellli, Web Editor of Guideposts Newsletter, Sabra recalled how she and her mother used the previous years’ Christmas cards to make a collage that they turned into an advent calendar. In December, each morning as they opened a little door of the calendar, her mother always remembered the giver of each card and when they opened the door of their image, they said a special prayer for that person.

Sabra wrote –

It was a wonderful way to count down to Christmas, a tradition I think about when I hear people counting down the shopping days, as it helps me to remember the greatest gifts are not things we buy.

I know I am going to shop for cards while in Sing-land as Jim Reeves’ An Old Christmas Card brings many memories of yester-years –

An Old Christmas Card

There’s an Old Christmas Card in an old dusty trunk
And it brings back sweet memories dear to me
‘Though it’s faded and worn, it’s as precious as the morn
When I found it ‘neath our first Christmas tree

I thrill with every word, every line
Guess I’m always sentimental ‘round this time
Pardon me if a tear falls among my Christmas cheer
It’s the memory of an Old Christmas Card

You know, I don’t know why I get to feeling sentimental
About this time, every year
But every time I see a Christmas card
I somehow can’t help reminiscing
About the very first Christmas that you and I spent together
What a beautiful Christmas card you gave me that year.
Why? I know you must have looked through thousands of cards
To find that wonderful poem that still brings a tear to my eyes.

Dear, dear friends of this cyber world, I know I could just click and send you an electronic card, but I would like to send you a card, seal with a prayer, if you allow me, drop your address in my mailbox (phylliswyy@gmail.com) please.

I am rushing to my office to pick out my address book and some call cards of friends. I still have one hour before I leave for airport.  I have all the time in Sing-land and all the heart to send friends card, sealed with a prayer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why do we come here for?

Last Sunday at the worship service after singing the three-fold amen, Chris asked, “Why do we have to sing Amen three times, isn’t it simpler just to say Amen in one accord one time?”

People come to church for different reasons.

For some, it is for personal benefit. Personal benefit means to get something out of it. It may be vague, but still it’s legitimate.

For some, it is for socializing. There is a need to meet someone. That someone may be a friend, a lover, a secret admirer, a business friend, or just meeting people. That’s the basic need of human, it’s understandable.

Some enjoy the music and singing. Some like the hymns. These reasons are acceptable if you really mean what you sing. I remember a man burst into laughter while singing in the church. When the wife asked the reason. He said, “I wonder how true it is for all those millionaires in our midst when they sing, take my silver and my gold not a mite would I withhold..”

Some like the preaching.

None of the reasons seems really wrong.

With various reasons also come various expectations. Like little Chris, he thinks an “Amen” in one accord is as good as singing “Amen” three times. Some think that a worship service should be in order with all program in proper. Some prefer to be led by the spirit and be free in worship. Some demand that the congregation raise their hands while singing or praying. Some feel uneasy about raising and clapping of hands.

A poem by Sam Walter Foss tells it all –

“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keys,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Revelationerend Doctor Wise
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no!” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing the ground,”
Said Revelationerend Doctor Blunt.

“Last year I fell in Hidgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a-stickin’ up
And my head a-pointin’ down.

And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said
The praingest prayer I ever prayed
A-standin’ on my head!”

Whatever reasons, whatever expectations, whatever style we prefer in worship, we must come with a heart of truth, sincerity, humility and thanksgiving. The results? Your yourself be uplifted, the people be united, there is a sense of belonging, of caring, and of loving one another, encouraging and admonishing one another, and the worship should prepare the worshippers to serve the needs of the world.

Leaders of 10 Asean countries plus three partners, China, Japan and South Korea and three others, Australia, India and New Zealand are here in Kuala Lumpur talking issues of global and regional interest. Each leader has their own problems at home, even the host has his own problem, but can each of them, go home and say –

The meeting has foster a sense of unity
The meeting has made me feel closer for my neighbours
The meeting has increased the love and unity
The meeting has motivated me to take practical steps to help others
I sense the true and close companionship with other participating countries.

My good friend, Desi, has titled his posting today as “Mu$ic to the ears…” with a dollar sign for “S” in “music”. With a dollar sign in “music” it is expected to hurt the ears. In the singing of praises, psalms and hymns – let’s have a mutual harmonious expression of faith through the music even its ultimate end is a gain in economic sense for all participating countries!

Amen, as in little Chris’ version.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Watch How You Walk

Walking with Mummy

By Christopher Lau

Mummy and I have found a new way to exercise. We walk. Where do we walk? And how do we walk?

We walk along the road. We walk from our house to the town and walk the other way back. It is walking a big circle. The walk takes one hour.

Why do we walk? I can not go swimming for the past one week because I have blocked nose and cough. That leads to an ear infection. I have seen a doctor this morning and the doctor said the infection is now clear. The best news is we can go on holiday on Wednesday. Last week, the doctor said I may not be able to travel because when the plane is landing it may hurt my infected ear.

Walking with mummy in the evening is a happy time. Mummy listens to all my stories. Mummy also tells her stories.

I ask mummy why doesn’t she just make it simpler by walking on the machine at home for one hour also. Mummy says, “Walking on the machine you can stop anytime. But walking away from home, you need to walk back home no matter how tired and lazy you are.”

I think walking along the road gives me more scenes to see and allows me more time with mummy.

Watch how you walk

“Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15

When I suggested to Chris that we walk, he has many instructions on how we walk. Before the walk, he instructs –

“Don’t wear expensive clothes. Don’t bring your purse. Bring your handphone. Wear  comfortable shoes.”

During the walk, he cautions and cares -

“Watch up, there is a hole there. It’s dark here, be careful. Is your knee painful?”

From the simple process of two steps repeated over and over again, I have gained much insights. How we walk is actually an apt simile for how to live our life.

The supreme thing is not where you talk, but how you walk, “Look carefully how you walk.”. It is followed with instruction on how to walk rightly and accurately.  

As Chris and me walk along the road, we have no problem as to where to walk. We know where we are going. But how we walk is a problem. Part of the route that we take does not have a pedestrian walk yet. So, the reminders from Chris here, “Watch up!”

Know your way, understand your route. That’s how you should walk. “Understand this, be wise; don’t be foolish but act as a wise man.”

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sealed With A Loving Kiss

Remember the days of “love letters”?

Love may be in the air but it is no longer in the mail, according to a new competition to revive the art of love letter writing.

Reuters reports that the competition was run in United States for the first time last year. There were 5000 entries. This year, the competition is open to entrants from Britains as well.

The philanthropist Henri Zimand organized the competition in memory of his wife, Anda who died from breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 49.

Zimand said, “In this age of one-line emails and abbreviated text messages, the simple art of letter writing has all but been forgotten. No one should underestimate the power of a letter that truly comes form the heart and with every letter I receive, I am moved, and remember my Anda.”

For each of the first 10,000 letters submitted to the website www.AndaSpirit.com in Britain or www.AndaSpiritUSA.com in the United States, Zimand will make a contribution to a cancer facility in the area where the letter originated.

Reuters further reports – If inspiration is needed, an example of one of last year’s entries is as follows: “Heartfelt and true, your beauty shines through, with love, emoion and everlasting devotion, I yearn to marry you.”

Well, I know many of my learned friends can do better than that!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Poetic tribute

Bracing for war, but praying for peace
Using his power so evil will cease
So much a leader and worthy of trust
Here stands a man who will do what he must

Get the hidden message from the lines above taken from 20-line ode entitled "The Leader" which was taught to Pakistani students aged between 15 and 18?

Take the first alphabet of each line and you have the answer.

AFP reports -

Education officials in Pakistan have dropped a poem from a school textbook after discovering it secretly contained the name of US President George W. Bush.

At first sight the anonymous 20-line ode entitled "The Leader", which was taught to Pakistani students aged between 15 and 18, appears merely to list the qualities of the ideal statesman.

But closer inspection reveals that the first letter of each line spells out the American president's title and name.

"The poem triggered controversy. It has been deleted from the book," senior education ministry official Tariq Qureshi told AFP.

Co-incidence? Planned?

AFP reported that the Ministry said the poem was downloaded from internet by a committee of subject specialists. It was further reported that the incident has raised eyebrows in this conservative Islamic country.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I me myself

A friend called few weeks ago saying that her husband is keeping a mistress. This morning, the husband called and asked whether his wife told me any story. I was hinted to stay out of the issue because the wife is entangling herself in trouble. The unspoken words were I might get myself into the trouble of being "beaten up or even ...." I listened to his side of the story. Shortly after, the wife called and told her story again. I have decided to stay out of the issue because the wife asked me whether she could keep a "master" also and that she had "ready admirer" whom I also know. She said she has "legitimate" reason - to satisfy her needs.

Very stressed by HIStory and Her story, I amused myself with this little jingle over an ice-mountain of "ice-kacang" -

I am a lover of myself today.
I had a little tea party
this afternoon at three.
'Twas very small, three guests in all,
just I, myself and me.

Myself ate up the sandwiches,
and I drank up the tea.
'Twas also I who ate the pie,
and passed the cake to me.

Here's another one that I overheard three "orang utans" (monkeys lah, but orang utans sounds more Sarawak) murmur.

Man is funny. The Creator tells him that he was originally created in His own image. But, he tries to prove that he is actually evolved from a monkey. He wants to make monkey of himself. The three moneys or orang utangs try to prove that they have more sense than man. Here you are, the monkey story -

Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree.
Discussing things as they're said to be.
Said one to the other, "Now listen, you,
There's a certain rumour that can't be true -
That man descended from our noble race -
The very idea is a disgrace!

No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life,
And you've never known a mother monk
To leave her babies with others to bunk,
Or pass them on from one to another
Till they scarcely know who is their mother.

And another thing you'll never see,
A monkey build a fence 'round a coconut tree
And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monkeys a taste.
Why, if I'd put a fence around the tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.

Here's another thing a monkey won't do,
Go out at night and get on a stew,
Or use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life.
Yes, man descended, the ornery cuss,
But, brother, he didn't descend from us!"

- Author unknown

I, me, myself are self-centred, but, you, we ... are all made in the image of God, why are we settling for "monkey stories"?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I belong

Last week I purchased three tickets for myself and two other officers to go to Kuala Lumpur for a Girls’ Brigade Meeting. We shall travel on AirAsia. I bought the tickets online. I paid a total of RM299.94 for three return adult tickets (Sibu/KL/Sibu) including  airport taxes.

On the same day, I used 75,000 Malaysia Airline Enrich points to redeem three return adult tickets (Sibu/Kuching/Singapore/Kuching/Sibu) for myself, my significant half and my teen-age daughter. I went to MAS office to collect the tickets and was shocked that on top of the 75,000 points, I have to pay a hefty RM1,500 plus for one child ticket for my 10-year-old son, fuel charges and taxes for the three adults “free” tickets.

Expensive as it may be, my first choice is always MAS. From the number of points I have earned in the enrich membership, you would probably see that “sense of belonging” to the national carrier.

AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes was here in Sibu yesterday. Tony was one of the speakers invited to the two-day Sibu Development Forum. He suggested Sibu to come up with a brand name with emphasis on the Rejang River to promote and sell Sibu as a tourist destination. “It needs all the courage of the people of Sibu and their creativity and innovative mind to really make things happen.” Tony said.

I also read the MAS story in NST yesterday. NST reported – If first impression count, Idris scored well. Several MAS employees said that he was a down-to-earth person. I remember in September when it was announced that Idris shall head MAS, I posted proudly, “Yeah, Sarawakian picked to head MAS”.

The Prime Minister also talked on accountability and transparency to over 500 management staff of MAS. He said MAS staff should survive, strive and succeed.

A brand name, a down-to-earth person, accountability, transparency, survive, strive and succeed, the joyful shouting of “yeah” – these are the hunger of man. If I am allowed to use other words, these are mirrors of our needs –

To belong
To be accepted
To be loved
To have an identity
To have a relationship
To have a cause to live
To have a cause to die for

It’s a sense of belonging.

If you want to solve any problem of life, or to turn around an organization, it all begins here – the need to belong.

Friends of Idris have remarked

...It would not surprise me if he rolled up his sleeves and helped out the crew during a flight. That is the kind of person he is.

Can Idris make MAS staff feel that they belong to MAS, they are accepted in MAS, they are loved, they have an identity, they have a relationship, they have a cause to turn around MAS?

It begins here, the basis upon which all relationships of life, all problems of life can be worked out – meet the deep and clamant cry of the human heart – I belong to the family. I belong to the organization. I belong to the Creator. I am accepted by the family. I am accepted by the organization. I am accepted by Him.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Other Message

So, the execution has been carried out at dawn this morning.

Much to my surprise, I read the “strongest message” from the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard. I picked up bits and pieces from the Australian newspapers –

Prime Minister John Howard has used the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van as a
warning to young people to stay away from drugs.

The 25-year-old from Melbourne went to the gallows in Singapore’s Changi Prison at 6 am local time today, three years after being arrested at Changi Airport with almost 400 grams of heroin.

“I don’t believe in capital punishment, he was convicted drug trafficker and that is to be wholly condemned,” Mr Howard told radio 3AW.

“(But) I hope the strongest message that comes out of this, above everything else, is a message to the young of Australia.”

“Don’t have anything to do with drugs. Don’t use them, don’t touch them, don’t carry them, don’t traffic in them and don’t imagine for a moment – for a moment – that you can risk carrying drugs anywhere in Asia without suffering the most severe consequences.”

“I think that is the most important message that should come out of this traumatic and tragic event, over and above anything else, if there’s to be a message.”

Yan’s thoughts –

Nguyen wrote from his prison, “So many things I should have done. And should not have.”

Julian McMahon, Melbourne barrister said of Nguyen's mother last moments with her son, "She was inconsolable, she was taken away from a person she loves with her whole heart - a happy, health, wholefully cheerful, good young man, who made a terrible mistake."

We tend to say things like, if I have a life to live all over again, I would have done this, or I would not have done this ….. If, if …

A terrible mistake left a mother inconsolable ...

We can be living right now, at the same time experiencing death right now. Death is not something waiting for you at the end of your life. You are experiencing death if your life is filled with fear, guilt, hostility and emptiness.

What is living then? Take the opposites -

If death is fear
then life is trust, hope and confidence.
If death is guilt
then life is a feeling of acceptance, security, and assurance.
If death is hostility
then life is love, friendliness, kindness and reaching out to others.
If death is emptiness
then life is a sense of well-bring, fulfillment, excitement, vitality and fullness of life.

With life – comes peace, hope and love!

P/S Today's post has been an inspiration from mGf Desi.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cyber Hugs

Reuters reports from Singapore -

Singapore scientists looking for ways to transmit the sense of touch over the Internet have devised a vibration jacket for chickens and are thinking about electronic children's pyjamas for cyberspace hugs.

A wireless jacket for chickens or other pets can be controlled with a computer and gives the animal the feeling of being touched by its owner, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) told Monday's edition of The Straits Times.

The next step would be to use the same concept to transmit hugs over the Internet, it said.

"These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important," the paper quoted NTU Associate Professor Adrian David Cheok as saying.

NTU is thinking of a pyjama suit for children, which would use the Internet to adjust changes in pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged. Parents wearing a similar suit could be "hugged" back by their children, the paper said.

Incidentally, this article by Johann Christoph Arnold was in my mailbox today. Quote -

Recently this headline caught my attention: “A LOW-COST LAPTOP FOR EVERY CHILD - Effort to link world’s rural poor to Internet with $100 computers gets boost from U.N.”

Over the years, my wife and I have traveled to more than two dozen Third World countries and have seen children struggling with unbelievable obstacles—hunger, disease, and countless other ills. Amazingly, these children were happy with the little they had. Certainly they needed help—but not low-cost laptops, as trumpeted by the headline I referred to above. That would be like giving stones to someone asking for bread. These children needed food, medicine, and—most of all—the love of God.

Read the article here.

Cyber hugs or a real hug? Christopher and Rachel want real hugs!