Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Entering the Stories of Ordinary People and other ramblings

This is a kind of cross post. Just posted something on the MBS (ED) Alumni blog on this topic appealing to alumni to send in their stories (click HERE).

But the subject is something that interests me, so here's a more personal and longer rambling version :-)

I read this morning a simple piece by Gordon MacDonald entitled Entering the Stories of Ordinary People. Caught my eye because I "love" stories. Not just stories as in illustrations for sermons ... but stories that define and shape everyday people. The article and link can be found below but before that ... just a few rambling thoughts.

I find it sad that most people do not want to share their stories.

Sometimes people think their lives are boring and they have nothing significant to share but I doubt that this is actually the case especially if one is a Christian. I can't imagine how being a Christian can be boring especially since God is working in our lives daily, changing us into Christ's likeness.

I think our mindset and attitudes are being transformed (perhaps slowly but definitely surely!) and as we grow and learn, we see the world, our circumstances, our whole life in a new and wonderful way. We find new joy and learn valuable lessons (often unexpected) in things that may have once been thought mundane and insignificant. Even tough times are seen with "new eyes".

I think it is sad that we do not share more often these stories (big and small) because they have helped shaped who we are and who we are becoming. Many of us know the power of stories and the importance of good stories. Good Stories communicate, connect, encourage, opens doors, bless ... But more than that, a person's stories help me know the real person.

An interesting fact: 40% OF the Old Testament is in story form!

One reason why I blog is to remember and share my stories.... and while they may not be "earth shattering" stories, they are my stories about my life - what gives me joy, what saddens me, what confuses me, what teaches me, what frustrates me, what makes me stop to ponder ... My stories help me to better know who I am before God, what I am becoming or even in danger of becoming ...

Reflecting on my stories and that of others also helps keep me "real"...

Okay, enough rambling, here's the article ...

The other morning I headed for the Egg Shell restaurant just down the road from our home to join a friend for breakfast. My PDA scheduled us for 7a.m; but his, I later learned, said 7:30. Result? I had a half hour to drink coffee and observe life around me.

Sitting at 2 or 3 shoved together tables not far from my booth were ten baseball capped men in working clothes and mud-caked boots. The same group is always there whenever I breakfast at the Egg Shell. They sit shoulder to shoulder saying little to each other. Mainly, they read their copies of the New Hampshire Union Leader and shovel down omelets and home fries.

I once asked Cindy, a server at the Egg Shell, who they were. She said they were retired guys who had met for breakfast for years. "They're like a bunch of brothers," she added. "They do lots of stuff together." She didn't say what the stuff was.

When these mostly non-verbal men finished their breakfasts, they paid their bills, grabbed their coats and grunted goodbyes to Cindy. Some of them even give her a "sisterly" hug. I could see why she likened them to a band of brothers. As they passed my booth, I said, "Make the world a better place today, guys." One of them responded, "Great idea. We'll do it."

Two women (middle aged) were at another table. Unlike the men, they were spirited talkers, their conversation bouncing between laughter and whispered confidentialities. When they finished eating and started for the door, one called out to Gloria, the other server, "Behave yourself, Gloria. But if you decide not too, it won't matter much." This breezy goodbye tickled me because—and I mean no disrespect—Gloria doesn't look like the kind of person who would misbehave even if she had the opportunity. It was clear that the comment was an indication of affection between people who share a lot of history together.

When Gloria started to refill my coffee cup, I asked, "Known them for a long time?"

"Neighbors," she said. "One of them may lose her home. We're pretty shook about it."

"She's fortunate to have friends like you," I responded.

"Well, we're going to have to stick close to her."

For the rest of the story, click HERE

May the good fruit of our private lives shine forth for Jesus (pastor's notes)

Just posted my latest Pastor's Notes. To read, CLICK HERE

Monday, February 22, 2010

Criss Angels Mindfreak: Secret Revelations and other rambling

One of the things I did during my three weeks plus of shingles related problems was to spend more time praying. After all I still had work to do and "prayer is work related". Interestingly, I think I got a lot more done! Of course I know this in theory - I have even preached on this ... :-) but it was nice to experience it practically. I think being unwell forced me to be more focused? Hmmm...

Anyway it was also a time where I decided to put the FOTF Pastor to Pastor CDs in my car. I bought a stack of them (sale for USD 1 each). The first one I put listened to (now on the 2nd CD) was on the theme "Pastors Unplugged". Reminded me that I needed to relax more and spend more time with my hobbies.

Since gardening was currently too painful, I realized that I have not enjoyed a good book unrelated to ministry for a long time so I surfed trademe and found, bid and bought for NZ$10 each - Criss Angel's Mindfreak season 2 and his book, Secret Revelations. (Yeah Trademe!!)

So here's a quick review ... and before that the other picture is one of my salad plants with a nice slug in it (two actually) which is nice as it is a reminder that my vegetables from my little garden is pesticide free. Tasty too :-) Oh and back to gardening the last couple of days! :-)

Ok, on Criss Angel's book ...

A very interesting easy to read book where Criss shares about his life - from his childhood to the present, about his family (very important to him), his philosophy of life and magic, why he does what he does, how he thinks, his inspirations etc. The book closes with 40 mindfreaks. Oh, if you have no idea who he is, go here and here.

A lot of interesting nuggets that helps me understand why he is "that good" (in magic) as well as give me food for thought on how limited my thinking about magic is. I was left very impressed by his incredible determination and how he overcame tremendous setbacks to get where he is today.

It also helped me understand why he seems unfazed by the bad press he is getting for his current "Believe" show. I don't agree with parts of his philosophy of life and even after understanding why he does the kind of magic he does, I still personally am uncomfortable with a lot of what he does but I do admire his work ethic and integrity... On his relationship with his manager Dave Baram....

I grew up believing that a man is as good as his word. If I tell you something, it gets done ... We are blood brothers. We literally cut our hands, let the blood seep through, and shook on the deal. We have no paper contract. We have no need for one. Our commitment is mutual. Our goals are shared.

I don't personally "approve" of such blood brother rituals but I can certainly agree with his thinking - a man indeed ought to be as good as his word. And after reading about all the broken promises made to him in his career, I can't help but admire how he still sticks to his principle and belief and risk his whole career and livelihood (yet again) on a handshake.

I think some more quotes from the book would best illustrate why I enjoyed the book. There are many so here's a wide selection

My philosophy on magic is simple: Think of something completely impossible and then figure a way to do it. It's not easy but he sure makes for great headlines.

I do think of many "impossible" magical ideas but hahaha can never get passed the first stage of finding a solution :-(

You name it , I was willing to do anything and everything. I was the man under the baseball cap and dark sunglasses passing out flyers promoting MINDFREAK, ... No job was too small or daunting to distract my attention from the big picture, even the odd jobs .... sweeping the stage ...

Ah .. if only more people in ministry and leadership had such "tunnel vision" and the willingness and do even the "menial tasks" so that God's kingdom is made known!

The real question isn't, 'Is it a trick?' but. 'Was it done well?'


I kept all the rejection letters I received over the years as my personal inspiration to prove all those doubters they were wrong.

Here's someone who really believes in who he is and what he can do. Sounds a bit arrogant though :-)

It's so important to develop a personality that people will identify with your magic. You never want your audience to get bored with you.

This actually encouraged me as I am not technically very competent in my magic skills not do I have the natural agility or fancy props etc but at least I know that no one has complained about me being boring. :-) Whew!

You can take a mediocre performer, put him in the most amazing Cirque du Soleil show and he will still be mediocre, because its just not in his soul. He's lacking passion. When people try to re-create my demonstrations, they don't know what my intention was when I created it. They approach it from a superficial perspective without knowing my motivation.


There are lots of people working who are far more skilled in using a deck of cards or coins that I am, but I guarantee you'll fall asleep watching them because they don't understand how to make a connection with their audience and the relevance of engaging them on an emotional level.

Good book. However, the most disappointing part of the book was his 40 mindfreaks which are simply basic magic tricks that you would pick up from introductory magic books or videos. Not to say that these 40 tricks are poor magic tricks as I think some of the simplest effects can play very big when done well. But simply because these tricks cannot be considered mindfrreaks (by his own definition) which is 1. "A Modern -day mystifier who uses skills beyond the category of magic."
2. The result of something incomprehensible. 3. Criss Angel (a pretty bold claim but I do think he deserves his own self accolades)

Ok, off to take a nap, gardening was pretty tiring :-) and maybe later watch a couple more Mindfreak episodes

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Glendene Fun Family Day and KCC gala

I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of this Waitakere City Council event planned by my council friend Mei. I will be doing a magic show for the occasion.

From what I have gathered, I think this is the first time such a Council sponsored event has been planned for Glendene - the purpose of which is to help get the community together for a fun time and to get to know each other.

From what I understand ... unusually complicated in my opinion :-) Waitakere City (which is West Auckland) is divided into four wards: Massey, Henderson, New Lynn and Waitakere.

Hmmm.. I do wonder what it will be like when all the cities merge to become the new Auckland Super city! Anyway back to the subject at hand.

New Lynn in turn is subdivided into New Lynn, Kelston (where my church is), Glendene, Glen Eden (where I live) and Green Bay. My new friend Mei works as the Council Sustainable Neighbourhood Broker(Social development) for both Kelston and Glendene (as both are relatively small districts and the least well off in terms of facilities and social development). It's a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends and promote our church community's presence.

Our KCC Gala is I think also something new in the community and I hope it turns out well. We moved it a week earlier so as not to clash with the Glendene Fun Family Day. I am really encouraged by the support and hard work of so many of my church members as we work towards the gala. Especially so since we are all so busy and our numbers are relatively small since we have many senior members. Even the children are involved with the Sunday School aged children developing and running a Games stall! And Kiwi churches are not used to such a flurry of activities - unlike Malaysian churches :-)

Anyway I am one proud pastor :-)

Tying the clouds together (Leadership Journal)

Interesting reading ...

Tying the Clouds Together
Rob Bell's metaphors and references make his listeners stretch, but his wisdom for preachers is down to earth.

He once planted a church by teaching through Leviticus. He can use a rabbit carved from a bar of soap to illustrate the nature of suffering. Google his name and the term "Sex God" will appear among the top entries.

Rob Bell is the most interesting preacher in the world. ...

Click HERE to read the interview

Three women caned under syariah law

From the STAR ... Three women caned under syariah law

I am more interested to know whether the men were caned as well for this crime of illicit sex. ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quick comments on politics related news

Been catching up on the news on The Star online ...

Zul Nordin: Group in Pakatan scheming to kick me out

And you still want to stay? I don't get it.

But there was no permit ... if it involves the PM, an illegal billboard is okay?

So Nik Aziz is manipulating for this political mileage but this is not?
Will the DPM and Pak Lah show they are not using this celebration for political mileage by turning up?

I'm impressed that he admitted he made a mistake. Good sign.

Then on to Malaysian Insider ..

Yawn, it was expected ... RPK some time back predicted all this political wrangling. What is so sad is that these are the main issues of people who wish to be respected leaders of the country.

Er ... I thought protesting and marches etc were not part of "our culture"?

And will the government grant them a permit to do this? And if they do not, and they do this "illegally" will any action be taken against them?

Okay, enough of this - the news and my comments are too negative. *sigh*

Catch up ramblings - mid Feb 2010

Woohooo! This Sunday sermon's done - passage is on Luke 20:45-21:6.

Still have a headache - bad night due to pain and mosquito bites and had a fever yesterday :-( BUT hardly felt my shingles pain this morning! :-) But still had to take some panadol for the headache ...not much help though :-(

Just had lunch catching up with one of my church youth who is back after a one year teaching stint in Korea. Sadly the Indian restaurant was closed so we ended up at a nearby Wendys. But still it was a nice lunch. Good to hear the many stories of his experiences in Korea.

Steven went back to school last week. He's clearly enjoying being back at school. he was actually sick on the first day of school (due to the heat , flurry of activities and lack of sleep etc at the recent Parachute festival) BUT insisted on going to school. Good for him!

Andrew still waiting for Uni orientation and in the meantime spending lots of time with his GF and happily doing extra shifts at McD. (Good money!) He got into Engineering so that is a big plus for him.

For Jennifer and myself, life as normal ....
Been busy too as there are a number of major events coming up. But a different kind of busy which is different but nice. Actually been focusing more on praying as the main organization of these events are being handled by other people. I am blessed and happy that I have a great team of church members who have taken on these major events with great passion. It's very hard work too! If they did not volunteer I would have had to handle them.
Nice to minister from the back seat.

Chinese New Year celebration (20th Feb) is an outreach event - not just for ethnic Chinese but for all. But this time major parts of the meeting will be done in Mandarin and perhaps some dialects.

Fun Day at Long Beach (27th Feb) is a friendship event that is focuses on new migrants and refugees. Great events this year including boat rides, games, competitions and of course great food.

KCC Gala (6th March) is our initiative to get to know our neighbours and community via games, selling of a variety of food and items (all at a very low price) to bless the poorer people in our community and raise funds for TEAR FUND to support rebuilding projects in Samoa.

Did not originally plan to have three back to back activities but it is due to a series of unforeseen circumstances. It's going to be a busy time but I am sure a blessed time.

One more event too on 13th March for me - but more on that in another post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Affirming our identity in Christ as a response to temptation (Pastor's Notes)

Just posted up my Pastor's notes. To read, CLICK HERECheck Spelling

My "Avatar" disappointment

Finally went to see Avatar yesterday. My wife and I waited till school had begun and so could enjoy watching the movie in the morning on a working weekday! Once again, we had most of the cinema to ourselves. Nice :-)

The 3 D experience was really nice despite my getting a headache because of it for the first half an hour or so. The scenes on Pandora were brilliantly done etc BUT the storyline to me was really weak. The characters to me were pretty one dimensional. The hero who overcomes all odds (Jake), bad military guy (the colonel), the greedy corporation man, the mostly mindless soldiers who follow orders without question, a couple of geeks, a sexy macho tough woman who is at home with weapons (can't even remember her character's name - but it was Michelle Rodriguez - hehehe which tells you that I have noticed that this is her stereotype role in many movies - and even the LOST TV series). The noble (but still one dimensional) native (Tsu tey) who is the jealous territorial type, a native princess (Neytiri) to fall reluctantly in love with hero. And of course how the natives need this "outsider" to come in to save them. This is not to say I did not "enjoy" the special effects - especially the action scenes, the running, jumping, climbing, falling, flying etc. But I wonder if the many accolades for the movie are remotely justified....

Most disturbing for me is what I think is the over glorification of our "oneness with nature". Way too "new agey" for me. I read that this was James Cameron's response to the Star Wars universe and stories. Am not a big Star Wars fan but I think Star Wars is way better... in terms of characters and storyline.

Friday, February 12, 2010

UMNO's 1 Malaysia a pipe dream?

Just read a couple of interesting but also very disturbing articles / reports in the Malaysian Insider. Here's the first ...

Here's the Star's report that prompted the above article ...

And the second article.

and the rebuttal ... which to me makes it even more disturbing ... read it for yourself and you will see why *sigh*

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Heroism of the Ordinary (Slice of Infinity) - some personal reflections and ramblings

Did not find the normal disclaimer that I cannot reproduce this without written permission etc, so hope it's okay to do so :-)

I found this piece by Margaret Manning from Ravi Zacharias Ministry personally challenging. Brother Lawrence's book, "The practice of the Presence of God" is one of the books that have impacted my life so the discovery that he hated his kitchen work but yet did it joyfully has not just made me admire him more but made me sit and rethink again how I think about faithfulness.

The article too has made me sit and think on various aspects of "potential" and vocation (I am once again re-reading Gordon Smith's "Courage and Calling" because I am in a new mentoring triad)

Anyway, do read the article below first! I am still reflecting on the article and so I have more questions than even tentative thoughts so all I have done is highlighted in red some of the questions I am trying to think more deeply about.

The Heroism of the Ordinary

The question was asked and the room fell silent: "Does anyone ever feel they've lived up to their potential?" It was a loaded question, not only because it was asked in a group of persons struggling with vocation, but also because the word "potential" is elusive in its definition. What does "potential" mean in a world that views achievement as athletic prowess, celebrity status, or economic success? If the exceptional is the guide for the achievement of one's potential, how will those of us who live somewhere between the average and the ordinary ever feel we've arrived?

The inherent routine and mundane tasks that fill our days contribute to the struggle to understand our "potential.” How can one possibly feel substantial when one's day-in, day-out existence is filled with the tedium of housework, paying bills, pulling weeds, and running endless errands? These tasks are not celebrated, or noticed. They are the daily details that make up our routine.

Indeed for artists and bus drivers, homemakers and neurosurgeons, astronauts and cashiers our days are filled with repetitive motion, even if we do have moments of great challenge or extraordinary success. It is no wonder then, with our societal standards and our routine-filled lives, that we wonder about our potential. Indeed, does much of what we do even matter when it feels so ordinary? Does the "ordinary" contribute to our sense of meeting our potential, or does it's predominance in our lives simply serve as a perpetual reminder of a failure to thrive?

The "simple lifestyle" movement attempts to locate potential in exactly the opposite ways of our society. In this movement, simplicity unlocks the key to potential, and not acquisition, or achievement, or recognition. Clearing out what clutters and complicates makes room for finding potential in what is most basic and routine. In the Christian tradition, as well, there are many who believe that one's potential and one's purpose would only be found in the radical call of simplicity. Some of the earliest Christians, who fled the luxury and security of Rome once Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, believed that one's "holiness" potential could only be achieved within the radical austerity of a monastic cell. There in the cloistered walls where each and every day presented simple routine, repetitive tasks, and the regular rhythm of prayer and worship, perseverance with the ordinary became the path to one's potential.

Brother Lawrence is one of the most well known of this type of monastic. In The Practice of Prayer, Margaret Guenther writes that "Brother Lawrence, our patron of housekeeping, was a hero of the ordinary."(1) As one who found his potential in cultivating a profound awareness of God in the ordinary tasks of his day, Brother Lawrence was the "hero of the ordinary." While he attended chapel with the other monks, his true sanctuary was there amongst the pots
and pans of his Carmelite kitchen. What we may not realize in the popularized retelling of his story is that he hated his work. His abbot wrote about him:

The same thing was true of his work in the kitchen, for which he had a naturally strong aversion; having accustomed himself to doing everything there for the love of God, and asking His grace to do his work, he found he had become quite proficient in the fifteen years he had worked in the kitchen."(2)

Quite proficient in the kitchen. Could it be that Brother Lawrence was able to fulfill his potential by washing dishes? Despite his strong aversion, he found purpose in the very midst of the most mundane and ordinary tasks of life. He fulfilled his potential by focusing on faithfulness. This is not faithfulness that triumphs over the desire to fulfill one's potential. Indeed, as Guenther describes it "faithfulness rarely feels heroic; it feels much more like showing up and hanging in. It is a matter of going to our cell, whatever form that might take, and letting it teach us what it will."(3) Availing himself to consistent faithfulness yielded the blessing of both proficiency and presence—the presence of God—right there in midst of the monotony of dirty pots and pans.

Fulfilling one's potential has little to do with greatness. And yet, the heroism of the ordinary does not preempt "greatness" that our world confers to those who have reached their potential with staggering and dramatic achievement; for even those who achieve greatness have faced the drama of routine and the tidal wave of tedium. But to assign the fulfillment of one's potential solely to great acts and recognition is to miss the blessing that comes from faithful acts of devotion, often done routinely and heroically in the ordinary of our everyday. Perhaps it might be said of us, as it was of Brother Lawrence: "He was more united with God in his ordinary activities."

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Margaret Guenther, The Practice of Prayer (Boston: Cowley Press, 1998), 113.
(2) Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, The Practice of the Presence of God, ed. John J. Delaney (New York: Image, 1977), 41.
(3) Margaret Guenther, The Practice of Prayer (Boston: Cowley Press, 1998), 112.
(4) Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, The Practice of the Presence of God, ed. John J. Delaney (New York: Image, 1977), 47.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Been sick for over a week

Been in a little quiet in the area of blogging as I have been sick for over a week.

All kinds of ailments - from super sensitive skin to a couple of stomach related issues as well as bleeding when passing motion and ... a lot of pain. Symptoms keep "changing"and yesterday what I thought was merely swelling from more and more insect bites seems to be due to the development of shingles. Interestingly, not all the symptoms which has made it difficult for my GP to diagnose (3 visits in over a week). Rashes that seem to fit the shingles patterns only suddenly came up yesterday (that's over a week since I first experienced the nerve pain) and I do not have a fever. But enough of a pattern to suspect that it is shingles. *sigh*

My scheduled gastroscopy and colonscopy (spelling?) now has been postponed due to this new development. Decided to go for these tests (dear wife has been pushing me to do this for almost 2 years now). Personally not that keen as I think the bleeding etc is just over sensitive "piles". But I guess it is best to do them and put to rest any concerns my wife has. Hopefully my medical insurance will cover a high percentage of the procedure costs. Medical costs for such things are very high.

Hope I recover soon. On the bright side, this has made me more empathic of those in pain :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time to change the NZ flag?

I found this news report from the NZ Herald interesting.
How important is a flag as a symbol identity, ... values ... heritage?

Patriots agree: Time to change the NZ flag

Today, two days from Waitangi Day, the Herald starts a serious debate about changing the national flag. The familiar flag with its Union Jack dates from an era when New Zealand became a British dominion. We believe an independent nation deserves something more distinctive.

The New Zealand flag is lost in a sea of blue and Union Jacks. Photos / Supplied EXPAND

The New Zealand flag is lost in a sea of blue and Union Jacks. Photos / Supplied

A majority of New Zealand's most eminent citizens say it's time to change the New Zealand flag.

A Herald survey of 18 of the 22 members of the Order of New Zealand - the country's highest honour - has found 11 of them believe it is time for a new flag. Only five oppose a change at this time. One is unsure and one is unwilling to comment.

The survey comes as debate about the flags of both New Zealand and Australia, which still feature Britain's Union Jack, starts again on both sides of the Tasman.

Here, the Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori sovereignty) flag will fly with the national ensign on the Harbour Bridge, at the Prime Minister's official residence in Wellington and on other official buildings on the 170th anniversary this Saturday of the Treaty of Waitangi, as a gesture of reconciliation between the two Treaty partners.

In Australia, former TV journalist Ray Martin launched a push for a new flag just before Australia Day last month, supported by prominent authors, sportspeople and former politicians.

But opinion polls until now have consistently found most of the public in both countries oppose change.

The last New Zealand poll, by Nielsen for North & South magazine in 2008, found only 25 per cent support for changing the flag, and 62 per cent opposed.

A Galaxy poll for News Ltd newspapers in Australia last month found only 27 per cent for change and 45 per cent against.

Ironically, the Herald survey of Order of NZ members has found that one of the strongest factors driving their support for a new flag here is the fact that few can tell the Australian and NZ flags apart.

"Our flag is too much like Australia's and most people in the world don't know the difference," said former All Black captain Sir Brian Lochore.

He said New Zealand supporters at international sports events already waved what had become the de facto national flag - the silver fern on a black background. "We should take notice of what people do who support us. The people have been giving us a message about the flag they want."

Former Governor-General Dame Catherine Tizard said: "You ask an American what flag you are flying - either flag - and they will say that's the Australian flag. I don't think we should have a mixed-up identity."

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said even officials sometimes got the two flags confused. "On the commemoration of the landing in Europe at the end of the Second World War, the Australian High Commissioner in London walked down off the podium and picked up the New Zealand flag and proudly carried it off," he said.

For the full report, click HERE

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A life changing encounter with the Holy Almighty God (Pastor's notes)

Pastor's Notes resumes this Sunday. Have posted this Sunday's Pastors Notes. Will be trying to continue to follow the lectionary readings.

To read it, CLICK HERE.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seeing Mum (grace@work) and some additional ramblings

Another particularly excellent commentary that personally resonated with my soul.
Sentences highlighted in red are my emphasis and my personal comments are after the commentary.

January 29th, 2010 Edition.
(Grace@Work Mail is a ministry of Graceworks:

Commentary: Seeing Mum
By Soo-Inn Tan

Bernice and I did a lightning visit to Penang this last Monday to Wednesday (Jan 25th - 27th, 2010.). We went to visit my mum. Widowed, she lives with a maid in her home in Pulau Tikus. We have asked her to live with us in Singapore many times, but like many Penang folk, she is not keen to leave her island. Besides her primary social networks are there.

Mum will be eighty-three this year and I wonder how much time I will have with her. In truth nobody knows when their time is up and I may die first. Still, in the normal course of things, I tell myself that I have to be prepared to bid her goodbye. Our times together are extra precious now.

Bernice and I have our hands full with ministry, church and family here in Singapore. And when we do go back to Malaysia, it's usually to Kuala Lumpur where we still have ministry responsibilities. I was thinking that I should go back to Penang to see mum at least once a quarter but it suddenly dawned on me that four times a year is precious little for an only son to see his aging mother.

We are still encouraging mum to visit us in Singapore but I need to go home more often. The pragmatic side of me is trying to find more ministry gigs in Penang so I can visit mum and also do some work there but even if there is no work I will still try to visit mum more frequently. Indeed with so many budget airlines now flying between Singapore and Penang I have little excuse for not doing so.

No brownie points for trying to visit mum more often. Honouring parents is a command taught in both the Old and the New Testaments (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3). Here are some thoughts from Bruce K. Waltke about the fifth commandment.

[ . . .to honor one's parents is to esteem them as having value . . . "To honor" exalts the object. (Old Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2007, 425)
The commandment has several implications. First to honor parents involves taking care of them (cf. Exod. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:19; Deut. 27:16; Prov. 19:26). (Waltke, 426)]

The bible also teaches that mothers together with fathers, are responsible for teaching their children about life, and that the son who remembers his parents teaching is wise (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20). I continue to learn from mum.

Whenever we talk about the political problems Malaysia is facing, or the ravages of the global economic downturn, mum would say "ah, but this is nothing compared to what we went through in World War Two." She is right of course. I don't think she is making light of the problems we are facing today but her experience of having survived World War Two does help us to put things in clearer perspective. More than that, mum's faith and tenacity, which has seen her through so much, inspire us to face life with the same bold faith.

(Incidentally, learning from mum reinforces my own resistance to generation specific services, like services purely for youth or purely for seniors. The different generations have so much to offer each other. We deprive ourselves of the wisdom of other generations when we segregate a church along generational lines.)

This trip, mum also said a few times that I was someone who "ai-bin," literally, someone who "desires face." It means that I was someone who hungers for fame and for the limelight. She said it in jest, in the course of commenting on some of my youthful achievements. But on further thought, her teasing is a timely word. As our ministry continues to grow, the threat of the growth of unhealthy pride is real. And "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18 TNIV)." Thanks, mum. I continue to learn from you.

Since mum still has so much to teach me, visiting her more often is not just for her sake. It is also very much for mine. Next visit, Lunar New Year.

I am glad that my mum at 70 is still strong and full or energy and that she has agreed to come visit us in NZ every year. NZ is certainly much more expensive and further than Singapore, even it is fare for one! How much more four of us. I am thankful for phone cards where I can catch up on a budget with my mother whenever I want to ... and for mobile phone sms's where if she wants me to call, she can just sms me.

I think that honoring our parents is an oft neglected commandment. Yes, yes, I know that when a man or woman marries, they start a new family unit but I would argue that the biblical evidence shows that even with this fact, the extended family (with parents, especially the father) are still the "heads" of the family. I get this from my study of Genesis.

I learn a lot from my mum and I think that the fact that despite her coming from a rich family, as a young girl, she went through and survived WW2. This gave her perspective and toughness, especially when she got married and was severely ill treated for years by one of her in laws. Such experiences have made her mentally tough and now as a Christian, even tougher and full of faith - more than a survivor :-)

One gift my mum has is her ability to relate across the generations and races. She finds herself friends with, toddlers, children, youth, young adults, older adults and seniors and with the blue collar and white collar workers, with the hawkers, cleaners, factory worker to the, lawyers, accountants, doctors and even pastors. Chinese, Indian or Malay is not an issue with my mother when it comes to friendship.

I think that a big part of my ministry philosophy of building a church culture where I push hard for inter- generational ministries and activities, where all walks of life, backgrounds and races work and play together is due to seeing the relevance and power of such examples in my mother's life. Of course, the major consideration is biblical teaching but good relevant examples help reinforce biblical principles.

I think community is built (among other things) s through shared experiences and stories. where trust and intimacy is built through honesty and vulnerability (and of course huge doses of grace) - real stories that help prevent false self delusions of grandeur and importance (unhealthy pride!)

I think it is more funny than embarrassing that many of my current church members are now good friends with my mum. This is the result of two trips to NZ and lots of meals , shopping and sightseeing trips and even a camping holiday. Funny because my mum is my mum and will tell all kinds of "embarrassing" childhood stories about me to any who will listen. And what church member will not want to listen to "interesting" stories about their pastor. LOL. But it is good that they know that their pastor is cut from the same cloth as they are. And see the grace of God at work! All these things and more has reinforced some key lessons and principles I desire my church members to learn - on the doctrines of sin and grace, the work of the Holy Spirit, predestination and free will, ethics, family .... the list goes on. We need to be honest with God and ourselves as to who we were, who we are and who God wants us to be.

Thank God for mum!