Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Task of Reconciliation (Henri Nouwen) and quick ramblings

The Task of Reconciliation

What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people - in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life. 

Why is that our task? Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another. As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation" (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18). So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?Hope you had a blessed Christmas! 

My family will be back tomorrow after 3 weeks of separation. Solitude has been good but interestingly in the midst of the solitude, there has been a "touch of loneliness". Yes, God is all sufficient in Christ. I have no doubts about that. But it is also equally true that we are made for each other - for family and community.

I purposely kept to myself as much as possible when I began my leave last week, though I had some pastoral matters that made me break my "retreat" from community, and there was the replacement caroling engagement on the 23rd, and of course the wonderful BBQ yesterday at Chin and Elizabeth's (had to make a much needed exception for Christmas day, right? :-)). And with FB and internet connection, I was still "connected" to others via cyber world. And of course the was the telephone - spoke to my wife practically every day. But nevertheless it has still been a good reflective experience for me. Did not get to do half of the things on my to do list but I think that's okay as well. More reflections on this another day ....

Am looking forward to worship in an hour and a half, and yes, back to my pulpit responsibilities. It is good to be a part of a community of God's people and to be back actively doing the job of helping reconcile people to Christ!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

To Be 6 Again (a birthday wish)

To Be 6 Again!

A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching his  wife, who was looking at herself in the mirror. Since her birthday was not far off he asked what she'd like to have for her birthday.

'I'd like to be six again', she replied, still looking in the mirror.

On the morning of her Birthday, he arose early, made her a nice big bowl of 
Lucky Charms, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything there was.

Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down. He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a 
Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake.

Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite  candy, M&M's. What a fabulous adventure!

Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed exhausted.

He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, 'Well Dear, what was it like being six again?"

Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed.

'"'I meant my dress size!!!"


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dec 2010 catch up ramblings

Haven't blogged much on personal stuff of late as I have been .... BUSY (what else? :-))

Been really tired too as so much is happening and working very hard so I can hopefully enjoy my long break to the max! Will be on leave from 20th Dec till the end of the year! Here's what I hope to do during my break, in no particular order - hope I can do most!

1. Sermon preparation / study on Leviticus. No choice as there is no way I can get my first sermon in the series ready before I take my break. But the silver lining is that at least I know there will be no temptation to neglect the study of God's Word while on my break! :-)

Also hope that at least the bulk of the ground work for my Dec 26 sermon can be done by the end of this week ... getting there but it is not the priority as I have my Christmas service message (19th Dec) and my Gospel Magic show (17th Dec) to complete. Tough part about the 19th Dec message is that it is a special evening service and my message has to be SHORT - and I always have way too much material and I struggle with the idea of presenting the gospel in a nutshell. I can do it of course - from a 2 minute presentation to a 15 minute one and everything in-between ... but the pertinent question for me is - would these be a complete and acceptable gospel message and not an over simplified one?!

As for the Gospel Magic show, I find it hard because I have to set up very fast and have to shift mode from guitarist for carolling to "magician and then preacher!" Hard to lug around and make sure my props are ok, and look out for my guitar, song sheets, music stand etc. And what's frustrating is that all my Christmas music CDs have the covers but no CDs - lent it out last year and they all disappeared!

2. Gardening - need to catch up on my weeding which is not too bad a task as it can be therapeutic seeing the weeds removed!  But I also have to mow my lawn! *sigh* That one no fun as the lawn weeds need to be pulled out. The weeds in the planter boxes etc are pretty easy but not the ones in the yard!

3. Clean the house - long overdue - especially the nooks and crannies in the kitchen. It's pretty clean actually so not a problem with green mould or stuff like that but its the time of the year I want to clean up the fridge etc.

4. Work on a fresh magic routine! I need to have something fresh in my repertoire. I am looking forward to viewing the DVDs I recently purchased - arrived this morning! But I have not even taken any out of their cases but put them away lest I be tempted. Hehe, talked to my wife, (who is in Malaysia) yesterday and told her "Don't buy any Christmas present for me! I already bought my own Christmas present!"

5. Work on another food dish! Not sure what but it won't be a dessert as that is next year's project. Perhaps a pork dish? The lamb tangine turned out well but perhaps I had better cook that again once more to work out the kinks.

6. Sleep! Oh yes! I plan to wake up later during my break as I need to catch up :-) Aiming for 8 AM - trouble is that the sun comes up so bright and early in summer and my body just says "get up!". Hmmm.. maybe some afternoon naps in the hall with the air con on!

7. Was thinking of playing some old PC games but

8. Clean up and install software onto my new PC old notebook - this I am not looking forward to. MInd numbing boring task! I inherited my son's notebook ... as he bought a state of the art desktop a few months ago - rich guy! :-) But he deserves it as he earned the money for it. Go Andrew! Anyway I told him that if he got a new PC, the notebook which cost me so much to buy for him when he started university reverts to me. My current notebook is I think 6 years old now and while it still works fine, it is good to have a newer one set up in case anything goes wrong with the old one. And it is faster and has loads more HDD space so I can actually put in all my software!

9. Sit on my front deck in the evenings, sip a cold drink and play the guitar! I have never had the energy or time to do this. Hope my neighbours don't complain if I sing! :-) But I do remember as a teenager doing this with my neighbour - sitting outside the house gate (next to the rubbish bin!) and just jamming. Was very relaxing and fun.

Got to go!

10. One day personal retreat to reflect on the year and prepare for 2011!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Christmas, I wish you Jesus! (Pastor's notes)

For the 19th Dec 2010 bulletin

This Christmas, I wish you Jesus!

It’s the final bulletin for the year and I would like to end with the lyrics of an old favourite of mine “I wish you Jesus” by Scott Wesley Brown, and hope it will help you recall the thrust of my Christmas sermon as well.

I could wish you joy and peace
To last a whole life long,
I could wish you sunshine,
Or a cheerful little song,
Or wish you all the happiness
That this life could bring

But I wish you Jesus,
But I wish you Jesus,
But I wish you Jesus,
More than anything.

I could wish you leaves of gold,
And may your path be smooth,
I could wish you treasures,
Or that all your dreams come true,
And I could wish you paradise,
That every day be spring,

But I wish you Jesus, But I wish you Jesus,
But I wish you Jesus, Cause when I wish you Jesus,
I've wished you everything.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Medicine is not just a career, but a calling (Dr. Lee Wei Ling)

Sent to me by a good friend who is a vet - "Dr. Haiwan" :-)



Thought is was such a good read, it needs to be shared, as it is applies not just to medicine! (p/s what has been highlighted came to me that way)

------

Medicine is not just a career, but a calling.

By Dr Lee Wei Ling, Lee Kuan Yew's daughter.
I have always felt keenly the suffering of animals. Since I was a child, I had wanted to be a vet. My parents persuaded me to abandon that idea by using the example of a vet whose university education was funded by the Public Service Commission. When he returned to Singapore, he was posted to serve his bond at the abattoirs. That was enough to persuade me to select my second career choice – a doctor. I have never regretted that decision.

There are still many diseases for which medical science has no cure, and this is especially true of neurological diseases because nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord do not usually regenerate. Hence, a significant percentage of patients seeing neurologists, of which I am one, cannot be cured. But as in all areas of medicine, we still try our best for the patient, ‘to cure, sometimes; to relieve, often; to comfort, always’. 

An example is a 70-year-old woman who sees me for her epilepsy. Her husband has taken a China mistress whom he has brought back to his marital home. He wants my patient to sell her 50 per cent ownership of their HDB flat and move out. Her children side with the husband because he is the one with the money and assets to will to them. 

When this patient comes, I always greet her with a big smile and compliment her on her cheongsam. She will tell me she sewed it herself, and I will praise her for her skill. Then I ask her whether she has had any seizures since the last time she saw me. She sees me at yearly intervals, and usually, she will have had none. 

Next, I ask her how she is coping at home. She would say she just ignores her husband and his mistress. I would give her a thumbs-up in reply, then ask her whether she still goes to watch Chinese operas. She would say yes.
By then, I would have prepared her prescription. I hand it to her, pat her on her back and she would walk out with a smile on her face, back straight and a spring in her step.
It takes me only five minutes to do the above. I can control but not cure her epilepsy. But I have cheered her up for the day.

One very special patient, Jac, has idiopathic severe generalised torsion dystonia. By the age of 11, she was as twisted as a pretzel and barely able to speak intelligibly. She did well in the Primary School Leaving Examination, but was a few points short of the score needed for an external student to be accepted by Methodist Girls’ School (MGS).
I had done fund-raising for MGS prior to this and knew the principal. I phoned her and explained Jac’s disease as well as her determination and diligence.
I told the principal that the nurturing environment of MGS would be good for Jac, and that it would be a good lesson for the other students in MGS to learn to interact with a peer with disability.
At the end of Secondary 2, Jac mailed me a book and a typed letter. The book was a collection of Chinese essays by students in MGS.
There were two essays by Jac. In addition, she had topped the entire Secondary 1 and, subsequently, Secondary 2 in Chinese. She was second in the entire Secondary 2 for Chemistry. She was happy at MGS, and her peers accepted her and helped wheel her around in her wheelchair.
Medication merely gave Jac some degree of pain relief from her dystonia. Being admitted to MGS gave her the opportunity to enjoy school and thrive in it.
I was walking on clouds for the next few hours after I received the book and letter. Jac showed that an indomitable human spirit can triumph over a severe physical disability. As a doctor, I am not just handling a medical problem but the entire patient, including her education and social life.

I have been practising medicine for 30 years now. Over this period, medical science has advanced tremendously, but the values held by the medical community seem to have changed for the worse.

Yearning and working for money is more widely and openly practised; and sometimes this is perceived as acceptable behaviour, though our moral instinct tells us otherwise. 
Most normal humans have a moral instinct that can clearly distinguish between right and wrong. But we are more likely to excuse our own wrongdoing if there are others who are doing the same and getting away with it.

These doctors who profit unfairly from their patients know they are doing wrong. But if A, B and C are doing wrong – and X, Y and Z too – then I need not be ashamed of doing the same. Medical students who see this behaviour being tacitly condoned will tend to lower their own moral standards. Instead of putting patients’ welfare first, they will enrich themselves first.

The most important trait a doctor needs is empathy. If we can feel our patient’s pain and suffering, we would certainly do our best by our patients and their welfare would override everything else.

Medicine is not just a prestigious, profitable career – it is a calling. Being a doctor will guarantee almost anyone a decent standard of living. How much money we need for a decent standard of living varies from individual to individual. My needs are simple and I live a spartan life. I choose to practise in the public sector because I want to serve all patients without needing to consider whether they can pay my fees.

I try not to judge others who demand an expensive lifestyle and treat patients mainly as a source of income. But when the greed is too overwhelming, I cannot help but point out that such behaviour is unethical.

The biggest challenge facing medicine in Singapore today is the struggle between two incentives that drive doctors in opposite directions: the humanitarian, ethical, compassionate drive to do the best by all patients versus the cold, calculating attitude that seeks to profit from as many patients as possible. Hopefully, the first will triumph.
 Doctors do have families to support. Needing and wanting money is not wrong. But doctors must never allow greed to determine their actions.

I think if a fair system of pricing medical fees – such that doctors can earn what they deserve but not profit too much from patients – can be implemented, this problem will be much reduced. The Guideline of Fees, which previously was in effect, was dropped last year. I am trying to revive it as soon as possible.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute. 

I was born and bred in Singapore.
This is my home, to which I am tied by family and friends.
Yet many Singaporeans find me eccentric, though most are too polite to verbalise it.

 I only realised how eccentric I am when one friend pointed out  to me why I could not use my own yardstick to judge others..
 I dislike intensely the elitist attitude of some in our upper socio-economic class.
 I have been accused of reverse snobbery because I tend to avoid the wealthy who flaunt  their wealth ostentatiously or do not help the less fortunate members of our society.

I treat all people I meet  as equals, be it a truck driver friend or a patient and  friend who belongs to the richest family in Singapore.
I appraise people not by their usefulness to me but by their character. I favour those with integrity, compassion and courage..

 I feel too many among us place inordinate emphasis on academic performance, job status, appearance and presentation.
I am a doctor and director of the smallest  public sector hospital in Singapore, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI).

I have 300 staff, of whom 100 are doctors. I emphasise to my doctors that they must do  their best for every patient regardless of paying status.
I also appraise my doctors on how well they care for our patients, not by how much money they bring in for NNI.

My doctorsknow I have friends who are likely to come in as subsidised patients. I warn them that if I find them not
treating any subsidised patient well, their appraisal - and hence bonus and annual salary increments - wouldbe negatively affected. My doctors know I will do as I say..

I remind them that the purpose of our existence and the  measure of our success is how well we care for all our patients -
and that this is the morally correct way to  behave and should be the reason why we are doctors.

In NNI, almost all patients are given the best possible treatment regardless of their paying status.

My preference for egalitarianism extends to how I interact with my staff.
I am  director because the organisation needs a reporting structure..
But my staff are encouraged to speak out when they disagree with me.
This tends to be a rarity in several institutions in Singapore.
The fear that one's career  path may be negatively affected is what prevents many people from speaking out.
This reflects poorly on leadership. In many organisations, superiors do not like to be contradicted by those who work under them. Intellectual arrogance is a deplorable attitude. 'Listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story,'

the Desiderata tells us.
It is advice we should all heed - especially leaders, especially doctors.
 I speak out when I see something wrong that no one appears to be trying to correct.
 Not infrequently, I try to right the wrong. In doing so,

 I have stepped on the sensitive toes of quite a few members of  the establishment.
As a result, I have been labelled 'anti-establishment'.

Less kind comments include:
I am indifferent to these untrue criticisms; I report to myconscience;and I would not be able to face myself if I knew that there was a wrong that I could have righted but failed to do so. I have no protective godfather.

My father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, would not interfere with any disciplinary measures that might be meted out to me.

And I  am not anti-establishment. I am proud of what Singapore has achieved.
But I am not a mouthpiece of the government.

I am capable of independent thought and I can view problems or issues from a perspective that others may have overlooked.

A few months ago, I gave a talk on medical ethics to students  of our Graduate Medical School.
They sent me a thank-you card with a message written by each student.
One wrote:'You are a maverick, yet you are certainly not anti-establishment.
 You obey the moral law.'

 Another wrote: 'Thank you for sharing your perspective with us and being the voice that not many dare to take.'
It would be better for Singapore's medical fraternity if the young can feel this way about all of us in positions of authority.

 After the SARs epidemic in 2003, the Government  began to transform Singapore into a vibrant city with arts and cultural festivals,
and soon, integrated resorts and night F1.
But can we claim to be a civilised first world country if we do not treat all members of our society with  equal care and dignity?

There are other first world countries where the disparity between the different socio- economic classes is much more extreme and social snobbery is even worse than in Singapore.

But that is no excuse for Singaporeans not to try harder to treat each other with  dignity and care.

After all, both the Bible and Confucius tell us not to treat others in a way that we ourselves would not want to be treated.

I wish Singapore could be an exception in this as it has been in many other areas where we have surprised others with our success.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A personal and physical Christmas! (Pastor's notes)

For the 12th Dec 2010 bulletin



A personal and physical Christmas!

Matthew 1:23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."

Here’s a Christmas story from my files (abridged)…

Back during World War II, four young American soldiers who had been on the front lines of battle for some time, were sent back away from the fighting to a small French village for a little R & R. As it was Christmas Eve, they began to discuss how they would like to spend Christmas. One of the soldiers said, “You know, as we were coming into town earlier today, I noticed an orphanage on the outskirts of the village. Why don’t we go there in the morning and take some Christmas joy to those children?” They all liked the idea, so they went out and bought all kinds of gifts and early the next morning, they showed up at the front door of the orphanage with a wonderful variety of Christmas presents for all the children.

The orphanage director was pleased and all the children were delighted as they opened their gifts. All the children that is, except for one 5 or 6 year old little girl who stood sadly and quietly off to the side. One of the soldiers noticed this and he asked the orphanage director about the little girl. “O, bless her heart,” said the director, “We just got her last week. Both of her parents were killed in a car wreck. There was no one to take her in, so we brought her here.”

The soldier went over to the little girl and gently he said to her, “It’s Christmas morning and we have wonderful Christmas presents here: toys, clothes, candy, food, books, puzzles. Which would you like? What do you want most for Christmas?” And the little girl said, “I want somebody to hold me.”

An integral part of the Christmas story is that God sent His Son into the world to save us and be with us! It was a personal and physical expression of God’s love. May God grant us opportunities to be personally and physically present for someone this Christmas!

A Franciscan Prayer

Thanks for this Sivin!



A Franciscan Prayer: 

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

- (Author unknown)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Parents 'put teens into sex work' (NZ Herald)

New Zealand is a beautiful and great country. Please don't let "political correctness" on personal rights end up allowing things like this! This article is disturbing!



Parents 'put teens into sex work'




Teenagers in South Auckland are being sent to work as prostitutes by their parents to pay for drugs, says an Auckland Council member.
Sharon Stewart challenged fellow councillors this week to see what was happening for themselves during debate on a bill banning street prostitution in parts of Manukau.
Mrs Stewart, who represents the Howick ward, said young girls and boys were often on the streets - some of them sent there by their parents.
"Some of their parents are taking them there to get money for drugs."
She told the council meeting that girls as young as 13 were working the streets and urged councillors from other areas of Auckland to join community workers and police one night.
The view was supported by former Manukau City councillor Colleen Brown, who this year took a group of people to Manurewa so they could see what was happening for themselves.
"Definitely the stuff about the parents - they're awful stories," Mrs Brown said.
"There was one gentleman who phoned me up very distressed. He'd come out of the RSA and there was a young girl there who propositioned him and all she had on was a coat.
"And he said to her, 'Young woman, you should be ashamed of yourself. What would your mother think?'
"She replied, 'My mother's on the other side of the street."
Mrs Brown said she'd heard several other stories, including tales of pregnant teenagers working the streets, with their parents in support.
"It's just one of the most desolate sights, watching a pregnant woman [working as a prostitute]. And the worst thing was after she had the baby, the mother looked after it and she went back on to the streets."
Maori warden Diane Black told the Weekend Herald it was not common for parents to send children as street workers but she did know of cases.
In one case a couple used two girls who had been fostered to them.
She said that following publicity about young girls working around areas like the notorious Hunter's Plaza, their numbers had dropped.
But she feared the onset of summer, with its warmer temperatures and school holidays, would result in more young girls working the streets.
At this week's council meeting, Sir John Walker (Manurewa-Papakura) said it was "very difficult" to see young girls standing around waiting for someone to proposition them.
"It's not a good sight."
Councillor Cathy Casey was the only dissenting voice at the meeting and voted against endorsing the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill.
She said it was a double standard because it penalised women and not men who sought their services.
"It will be seized on by rednecks all over the country."

Why the Arab-Israeli conflict has not yet been resolved (Tawfik Hamid)

Straight shooting from the hip, calling a spade a spade thought provoking piece by Tawfik Hamid.


Why the Arab-Israeli conflict has not yet been resolved  
By Tawfik Hamid
The Arab Israeli conflict has repeatedly proved itself resistant to negotiated solutions. Despite peace treaties such as the Oslo accord, hatred toward Jews and Israel has risen to unprecedented levels in the Palestinian areas and continues to rise in much of the Muslim world. This consistent lack of progress should lead us to think anew about the underlying causes.
The view that solutions for the Arab-Israeli conflict have failed because of what some in the Muslim world call the 'expanding and colonizing ideology of Zionism' is unfair and devoid of truth. Israel proved its dedication to peace when they withdrew from Sinai, Lebanon, and Gaza in hope of peace with its neighbors.   
What therefore are real factors causing the repeated failures of negotiated attempts to solve the Arab Israeli conflict?  What perpetuates the stalemate?
One of these factors is that Palestinians do not accept the existence of Israel. Until Palestinian leaders, in both Arabic and English speeches, declare that Israel is their legitimate neighbor whom they no longer will strive to overrun, their participation in negotiations is fake, hypocritical, doomed to fail. It is impossible to negotiate with a partner about borders if this partner does not accept your existence to begin with.     
The second factor blocking progress is the selfish mentality of the Palestinian leadership. Palestinian leaders seem to be interested in proving their "merit" by destroying Israel than in gaining a better life for their people. True leaders must be ready to do concessions to ensure better life for their people. Until Palestinian leaders are ready to make some concessions to the Israelis the problem will not be solved.
A third factor is the international community's naive belief that less radical Palestinians are "moderates."  Fatah is not much different from Hamas in its refusal to accept that Israel is an established country with the same right to continue to exist as any other country in the world.  Fatah is similarly virtually identical to Hamas with regard to its promotion of extreme anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propagandist incitement.  Considering the Fatah leadership as 'moderate' because they are less radical in terms of their Islamic practices is like considering  grade III cancer as a 'benign' tumor because it is less malignant than grade IV cancer. 

The fourth reason that makes things worse is that the Palestinian leadership prefer to live -and make their population live -in delusions rather than in reality. Just recently, an officialPalestinian report claimed that a key Jewish holy site - Jerusalem's Western Wall - has no religious significance to Jews. It is impossible to solve the Arab Israeli conflict if the Palestinian leaders persisted on living in such delusions instead of admitting the archeological reality that Jerusalem's Western Wall is Jewish. Problems are not solved by living in fabrications and lies but rather by facing and admitting realities.

The fifth factor that aggravates inability of Palestinians to participate as serious partners in peace discussions is that the Palestinians of Gaza who elected Hamas have not had to pay the price for their choice. Hamas was elected on the promise of the Muslim Brotherhood that "Islam is the solution."  Allowing Palestinians to see that Hamas is unable to fulfill its promises would weaken radical Islam in the area.  European and American economic support for Gaza under the banner of humanitarian aid masks the realities of the radical group's poor governance and enables them to survive.
With Hamas still strong, Gazan Palestinians have zero interest cooperating with peace arrangements negotiated by the West Bank PLO leadership. To the contrary, their version of Islamic doctrine forbids any accommodation with the Jewish state.
What about Israel's role in the stalemate?  What mistake does Israel continue to make?
The fifth factor inhibiting progress has been insufficient use by Israel of negative consequences, perhaps in part because their American and European "allies" would balk at Israel's use of such tactics.   Israel, for instance, could announce that it will build a certain number of new West Bank towns every year, or will annex West Bank land each year, unless and until Fatah and Hamas accept the minimal principles necessary for Israel to participate in any further negotiations.  These principles would include: 1) Declaration of the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist, 2) Cessation of both verbal incitement and physical violence against Israeli civilians and 3) Implementation of all previous agreements between Palestinians and Israelis.
Lastly, what of America's role?  By contrast with encouraging Israel to establish negative consequences for continued Palestinian hostility, the current American strategy for obtaining a peace agreement in the region is counter-productive.  President Obama's pressure on Netanyahu to make further concessions to recalcitrant Palestinian leaders adds yet another obstacle to peace. Concrete evidence shows that unilateral concessions from the Israeli side without significant concessions from the Palestinian side are counterproductive.  
Unfortunately, given the mentality of the Palestinian leadership, a strategy by Israel and its allies of negative consequences is probably the only strategy with potential, at last, to give peace a chance.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ramblings ...Tired but also over-stimulated ?

I am feeling sooooo tired. Clearly not enough sleep BUT strangely am feeling so "hyped up"? So much "nervous energy" :- ) = mind is kind of over stimulated - and NO, it has nothing to do with coffee. I think my adrenaline glans (?) are pumping too much into my system. Guess it is due to so many things happening all at once.

The week so far has not gone exactly as I planned. Was hoping to get my next week's sermon done - and be kind of one ahead? But that's all out of the window. BUT just because things have not worked out as I planned, doesn't mean it hasn't been a fruitful and exciting week (and it's not yet over - got people to visit on Saturday and then 4 hours plus of church games in the afternoon, church service and caroling practice on Sunday, full day of running around on Monday - due to my boys last minute stuff before they fly off! On leave on Tuesday too but my list of to do things is pretty long :-) And tonight home group's closing meeting for the year and I am going to cook my Hokkien Mee!

Some highlights this week - Was nice to drop by Laidlaw College and start to get to know Tim Keel - and am thrilled he agreed to speak at my church next year. Am glad that I was able to be there for someone who had a personal crisis - and see God do His work! Thoroughly enjoyed the HIPPY graduation service and the St. Leonard's Boys Primary school's cultural performance. Superb. Missed the food as I was busy doing balloons for the children and getting to know some people. But it was worth it! Brought 60 balloons and was left with 10! Was a personally encouraging boost for me to have some children come up to me to tell me that they loved my magic show (they saw it in Oct during the Light Party)! And give me some valuable feedback of what tricks they loved the most - my jelly beans trick is now on my "have to do list" for kids shows.

What else, ah ... response to my Sunday sermon was very positive. So pleased that it was very helpful and particularly relevant to those who came to speak to me - and even wanting the sermon audio file to send to friends (which the AV team sadly forgot to record!). Youth committee meeting went well - looks good for 2011!

And last night's Pasifika meeting went well. Got to know a few people and we got along well so I can see good prospects for working together in 2011 - if we can get a common community project to work on.

Ok, gotta go ... work calls!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On NZ's Binge drinking culture

From the3 Family First Newsletter/


Now is the time to 
tackle our binge
drinking culture
           
    CHURCHES * COMMUNITY GROUPS * FAMILIES * 'PUBLIC ISSUES' GROUPS             
Please speak up for families on this important issue
Every report we have read regarding child abuse and family violence says that alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor. A child is hugely at risk when an adult is under the influence of alcohol, and a recent survey by Massey University found that more than half of our sexual and physical assaults occurred while under the influence of alcohol. Our teenagers are binge drinking at an earlier age, and our health and justice system is clogged up with the fallout from our drinking culture.

The binge drinking culture has been spiralling out of control since liberalising laws and controls around alcohol abuse. In 1989 alcohol law changes eased restrictions for off-licence selling including supermarket and grocery stores selling wine, and availability increased as trading hours of on-licence venues were extended. And then in 1999 we foolishly lowered the drinking age, allowed the sale of beer in supermarketsand further increased trading hours.
The government’s response to alcohol laws will have little effect on our binge drinking culture and as a result the problems of domestic violence, child abuse, underage drinking, public drunkenness, repeat drunk driving offences and binge drinking will continue.
Polls over the last couple of years have shown that 2/3’rds to 3/4's of NZ’ers want the drinking age raised to at least 20,instant fines for public drunkennesson-license premises to close by 2am, and the legal blood-alcohol limit lowered to 50. These opinions have been ignored.The government says they are listening – the question is to who?
      
IT'S TIME THEY LISTENED TO YOU AND ME... FAMILIES
The lack of strong action on health warnings on all alcohol products, loss leading and availability within supermarkets, marketing of RTD’s, and pre-vetting and restrictions on alcohol advertising is all very disappointing.

TAKE ACTION!PLEASE MAKE A SUBMISSION - we'll make it as easy and quick for you as possible(Closing date is 18 February 2011) 
BASIC OVERVIEW OF WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPENHere's what we're recommending:
reduce marketing and advertising 
reduce alcohol accessibility e.g.restrict sales of alcohol from residential area bottle stores, grocery stores and supermarkets.
* More community say on liquor outlets. No 'loss leading'.
raise the tax on alcohol - this tax will help cover the huge costs to the health and justice system from alcohol abuse
raise the drinking age (both purchasing and drinking age) to at least 20
* strong penalties for selling to underage
* penalties for public drunkenness
health warnings on alcohol products and advertising
* increase treatment opportunities
Family First's Submission will be posted on our website shortly - but click here for our previous submission to the Law Commission, which will form the basis of our submission to the Select Committee.(You are welcome to cut and paste any material you wish to) 
OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE FOR THE BILL HERE   BASIC OVERVIEW HERE

FREEPOST your submission to: Justice and Electoral Select Committee
Alcohol Reform Bill
FreePost Parliament
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160
or: MAKE AN ONLINE SUBMISSION HERE (bottom of the page)
The bottom line... This is our opportunity to protect our children and our granchildren from a culture of alcohol abuse that comes at a great cost.  
Thanks for speaking up.


Bob McCoskrie
National Director
 

Fighting Islam with Islam (Tawfik Hamid)

Another excellent article! But I wonder if his view will find much support within Islam. Calls in the past to base Islam on just the Quran has never been accepted as a valid option as if I am not mistaken Islamic practices and law depend mostly on the Hadith.

God have mercy!



Fighting Islam with Islam
By Tawfik Hamid
Unbiased observation of the Islamism phenomenon reveals beyond doubt that barbaric acts and discrimination against non-Muslim minorities are repeatedly practiced and conducted in the name of Islam.
 Preventing Christians in Saudi Arabia from having a churches or even carrying Bibles, the recent attacks on Christian Churches as what happened recently in Iraq and   recent incident which could lead to the possible hanging of a Pakistani Christian Mother -of five in Pakistan for criticizing prophet Mohamed are just few examples of many that exemplify the inhumane discrimination that is currently practiced against innocent non-Muslim minorities in several parts of the Muslim world.
 Unfortunately, many Islamists use Islamic religious text to justify such injustice and hate-based barbarism against the non-Muslim minorities.  It is shocking to see the leading scholars and organizations of the Muslim world -who want Islam to be called the religion of peace- not standing strongly against such unacceptable acts. One would expect that these scholars and organizations to strongly denounce the laws that prevent Christians from building their Churches, issue powerful fatwa to call those who attack churches as 'apostates', and have a declaration to denounce the ruling which could lead to hanging of the Pakistani woman who insulted the prophet-if they truly want others to call Islam 'peaceful'.
 Proper analysis of Quranic verses reveals that preventing Christians from building Churches is against the Quran itself. The Quran in fact considered destroying non-Islamic worship places as a major crime {Quran 22:40 Did not God check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure}. 
 The practice of suppressing Church building in the Muslim world is based largely on the unjustifiable practice of some early leaders of the Muslim Caliphate who politicized the religion. Suppressing building Churches as practiced by some Islamic regimes is not only unjustifiable in the Quran but is opposed to the teachings of the Quran.
 Furthermore, attacking innocents for being Non-Muslims is clearly forbidden in the Quran {2:190 do not transgress limits or attack others for God loveth not transgressors}. The practice of attacking Non-Muslims has stemmed from the Sharia Laws and Quranic Interpretations that undervalue the lives of Non Muslims and promotes war against them to spread the religion. Understanding violent Quranic verses in their historical context and upholding the value of freedom of religion {e.g. Quran 18:29: Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)} -can assist in ending such barbaric practices against the small non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world.
It might be surprising for many -including Muslims themselves- to know that the Quran blamed Mohamed for even 'thinking' in forcing others on his religion {Quran 10:99 If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!}.
 In addition, the Quran never mentioned any punishment for insulting the prophet. On the contrary, the Quran mentioned that if Islam was insulted the prophet can do nothing but to temporary avoid sitting in situations when Islam is insulted and mocked {Quran  6:68  When thou seest men engaged in mocking and insulting our verses [Quran], turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme}. The concept of killing those who insult Mohamed or Islam is one of the parts of Sharia Law that contradicts the Quran itself.  Mohamed was called "mad" {Quran 15:6; 68:51} and the other prophets were considered a "mockery" {Quran 15:11; 36:30; 43:7}- yet none of them was instructed to retaliate for this.
 It is vital that the Muslim world start distinguishing between the historical violent and discriminatory practices of Islamic Caliphate and the Quran as a source for the religion. Many of the former inhumane practices against Non-Muslim minorities are actually against the Quran and insisting on doing them under the banner of Islam is not only against the teaching of Quran but can also ignite a war of civilizations.
 Fighting Radical teaching in Islam with secular views is ineffective as the radicals usually provide a theological base for their violent views. On the other hand, looking to the Quranic verses via eyes of modernity and upholding some of its suppressed values can be one of the best antidotes for Radical Islam.

A reflection on hope and promise (Pastor's Notes)

For the 5th December 2010 bulletin



A reflection on hope and promise

The recent Pike River Mine tragedy is indeed a national tragedy and I will be joining the nationwide observation of two minutes of silence at 2 PM today (Thursday 2 December).

When news of the first blast reached the nation’s ears, there was hope of rescuing the trapped miners alive. That in time faded away to slim hope, replaced by reluctant resignation of no hope. The focus then shifted to promises and hope of recovering the bodies. But soon due to more explosions and fire, it became “hope of recovering the bodies are fast fading”. Now today, we have to have the memorial service without the bodies of the miners. But at the same time we are told to be hopeful that the bodies will be recovered, and that the mines reopened one day.
The commitment level of commitment of the authorities, rescuers and the Greymouth community has not wavered and is to be commended. But there has been an obvious backlash of deep emotional pain and grief each time hope is given and slips away. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of these miners as they have to endure a horrible emotional roller coaster ride of ups and downs. The sad reality is that as human beings, we can only do our best in difficult situations and because we are not in control of external circumstances, there are no guarantees.
But as I reflect on “hope and promise” I find the NT lectionary from Romans 14:4-13 reading so helpful. It reminds us that there is one hope that will not disappoint - Jesus! Because the hope promised by God is different. It is a certainty, a confident expectation because it is rooted in an all-powerful, consistent, all loving God. Scripture is given to us that we may have hope, to endure and be encouraged (v.4). Jesus came so that all people and nations may have hope through Him (v.8-12).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (v.13).