PatH Reflection 12 (22 May 2014)

Of PnP:

Friends from my previous church will know PnP as prayer and praise, our church’s monthly prayer meeting. I have learnt since the last post more about PnP, a.k.a. PatH and Prayer. I did mention in my last post that I will write about my older girl and parenting in this post. There was a hesitation to write, not because I was lazy, but I felt that God was dealing with me in this area and I had to pause to digest the things He was teaching me.

I must admit I was having a difficult time (& I still am) with my older girl. I have to qualify that she was not really naughty wild crazy type, and in the eyes of many, she is quite well-behaved. However, what my wife and I could not accept is the fact she knows what she can do, permitted to do, her restrictions, and yet she does everything contrary to that she knew. I was boiling and was toggling between rod and giving her over to her rebellious behaviour. The Scripture reminded me about disciplining a child which emphasised the necessity of using the rod and I should not give her over at any cost. Yet in the course of all these considerations, I realized while how to discipline is important, I had missed out an even more crucial aspect of parenting, and that is prayer.

My Father-in-heaven taught me a more important lesson on parenting these couple of weeks. As I was considering giving her over, which technically means I would have considered her not my child, God reminded me that this thought is actually right. She is not my child. She belongs to God; she is God’s child. I am but her legal guardian on earth, expected to teach her the way of the Lord while she is still in my charge. As teachers from MOE, my wife and I understand the role of a legal guardian. While the parents are abroad, the guardian is in charge of the child’s well-being and behaviour. If the child is not manageable even by the guardian, we have to contact the parents. If I am only her guardian on earth, God is the Father, then why is it that I try to manage or teach by my own strength? Shouldn’t I continuously refer her back to her Father who will then discipline her Himself or teach me to discipline and disciple her?

God, in His divine intervention, through different situations, showed me verses from the Scripture, affirming this very important concept of parenting: “until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24). W-O-W! My heavenly Father taught me personally how to be a parent, and that is to pray. Pray, not panic. While books and seniors did taught the importance of praying for our children, I was blinded to this until the Lord opened my eyes and ears and mind to understand this. My Father challenged me to test Him out and He was faithful to His promises. While it takes time for her to learn and grow, I must say there is slight improvement in her behaviour in the last week. God listens to our prayers and answers them, and if we pray according to His will, in Jesus’ name, He will give us our hearts’ desires. Having tasted His answering prayers, I am challenged to pray more specifically to first restore the many wrongs that were done, intentionally or unintentionally through the generations, so as to break curses and restore God’s blessings and peace in the household. Can’t wait to see more of God’s restorative wonders in my family. Having said all these, I still have no idea how to disciple and discipline my children, but now I have the assurance that through consistant and intentional prayer as modelled by Job, God will 1. give wisdom; 2. change me; & 3. grow them.

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PatH Reflection 11 (09 May 2014)

(Sorry for the delay, still not quite used to something outside Facebook)

Of Slaves and Servants:

Before I let the day pass, I must wish my wife a happy first month of Good-Riddance. It has been official a month since our FDW left. Our home is still intact, only a little more dusty and hairy (wife is the main hair contributor since her hair is the longest). Nonetheless, we survived one month without her. It is not my intention to bad-mouth her or any FDW in our midst, neither is it my intention to make a sweeping statement when I say I will never trust and employ a FDW ever ever unless really necessary. It is not as if ALL of them are bad, not trustworthy. I have seen my friends’ helpers offering real help, stayed committed to the family, and had been with the same employers for over 8 years. I even believed the last FDW we employed may be one of the faithful ones, until nonsenses began to arise. The trauma of hearing a certain foreign language these days always raise a shudder as bad experiences flash back into my head.

To make matters clear, it is never about a certain race or people group or occupation. It is always about the individuals’ character and the group they hang out with. Our ex-FDW happened to be one of those who chose the wrong company. Very often we tend to zoom in to criticize a nationality or a certain people in a particular job, and look at them with prejudice. However, from the testimonies of my friends, and even looking at my own students of different races of whom we may have certain stereotypical views about, I have learned that there will always be that group of horrible people and there will always be a group within the same people group that are doing and behaving according to the social norms.

I believe as employers, my wife and I have done to our best knowledge, as close to the Scripture’s requirement of a master, because the bible reminded us that we ourselves are servants to other people and ultimately slaves to the Almighty. It is then up to our employees to behave accordingly, and if not, they will face the consequences of being reprimanded and sacked. It is amazing that the FDWs seem to thinking that they are here for a long holiday, to have fun and see the world, choosing Singapore as a good employment ground because this country’s laws protect them more than its citizens. They breach contract or commit certain minor offences, employers pay; they give substandard work, employers reprimand and correct them, employers are considered as verbally abusive. All I ask for is a fair contract and law. We breach contract, we get penalized, they should then be subjected to the same penalties. In the beginning, it was them who chose this profession and chose to follow an agency to come here. No one actually forced them to, even if their circumstances at home was not favourable, it was still their choice to leave home. Then honour your own decision and contract. Do not cause others to stereotype your own people because your bad behaviours.

This should also be observed by us too when we are employees. As servants now, we also should serve our employers with the best behaviours we could. This is only right in the eyes of God. And now, I will have to stop writing as my bosses are getting hungry and another boss awaits my picking her up to go for lunch as a family. Till next post.

PatH Reflection 10 (6 May 2014)

Sacrifice:

One month into being PatH, I often hear people telling me, “Wow, you have made a great sacrifice for your family, good job!” Of course, I smiled and they moved on. They have no idea what kind of sacrifices I have made for my family.

 

Recall 1:

I have been running two households at the same time, planning for my MIL’s healthcare, FIL’s finance, taking care of the kids’ daily routines e.g. eat school shit sleep, having tuition lessons as usual. Worries of the inability to provide for the family haunt me everyday e.g. housing loan, food, bills, transport costs. And it doesn’t help to realise that I will have gaps in my resumé should I need to write one in the future, knowing well that this arrangement can well last for 6 years at least.

 

What sacrifices have I made? Sacrifice, in my understanding, means to give up something for the sake of something else. Based on the recall, I have given up the chance of materially providing for my family, a.k.a. my pride. I have given up my chance of advancing in career prospects, not as employee but as business and learning opportunities. I have given up my freedom to take time off for myself a.k.a. movie sessions.

 

However, each time I was told I made a sacrifice, and according to some a great sacrifice, I was baffled. Why is my decision and action considered a sacrifice to others while I don’t feel it at all? Would it be a sacrifice if my decisions were made out of struggles and obedience?

 

Recall 2:

One fine day last December, God asked if I was ready to stay home. Of course I said yes, though not without a month of struggling with myself. Another fine day after Sunday service with my in-laws, with my eyes fixed on the two elderly, God asked me again, “are you ready to stay home?” ‘Yes Lord,’ I said, ‘but let my FIL have the final say, he is the elder of the house, isn’t he?’ “Why are you pushing away the authority I have given you as head of the household? Are you really ready or have you not trusted Me? What is holding you back?” ‘Yes Lord, I will let my boss know tomorrow, but on my terms, ok?’ One week later, God spoke again, “tender resignation with immediate effect.” ‘What? You serious ah?’ *struggle struggle* “Fine, have it your way, but remember that you will bear your own consequences.” ‘Ok Lord I will follow You, but since You commanded it, grant me favour with the bosses.’ And so I did as He commanded, God did as I asked. Bosses and colleagues are fine with my leaving at a moment’s notice, I was even blessed with some vouchers to help with family expenses.

 

I would say, I will appreciate it more if affirmations and encouragements were directed to my obedience to God rather than my sacrifice. Sure, such a move is painful especially on a man’s ego and does amount to some form of sacrifice. But it only tells of my works and none of God’s authority and sovereignty over my life. Looking at what I might have missed out not working speaks more of my own strength rather than God’s grace and power over my situations. Psalm 51:16-17 reminds me this:

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

 

As I was writing this reflection, I was also reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We celebrate His death and resurrection, we thank Him for His sacrifice. But have we recalled His prayer in Gethsemane written in Matthew 26:39, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I don’t belittle my Lord’s sacrifice on the cross, but I was more impressed and in awe with the fact He obeyed to the point of death. His death will amount to nothing if done for His own glory and not the Father’s glory, not of obedience. If Jesus had not obeyed but die for His own glory, it would have out of His own pride and saviour mentality, which then split the triune God into three, then the redemptive purpose would have been in vain, we would have placed our hopes and trust on a false god. Hence, to be like Christ, I have to obey like He did, love as He did. While sacrifice for family is valid and necessary, the more important aspect of our lives is obedience to God the Father, lest our works become self-serving with limited potential and strength.

 

Coming back to the switch to staying home, I find that I had enjoyed my time at home, all its joys and pains. The extended time with the children is valuable as my simple presence have shown slight improvement in my son and younger daughter’s growth (I shall leave the discussion on my older daughter and parenting for the next reflection). I have also eased the anxieties of my wife and FIL by being at home and running the show and calling shots when required. While it seems to have been a sacrifice on my part, if I have not obeyed God, what would I have sacrificed then?

PatH Reflection 9 (26 Apr 2014)

10 days since I last wrote something for PatH Reflection. It was a trying 10 days, with the care-giving and meals preparation for the family, the re-admission of my MIL into hospital, planning of after-discharge care for her, working out FIL’s finances and putting these in order, dealing with the eldest one’s growing pains, not forgetting my own moonlighting and being mindful about my fallen nature.

That is one longest list of events for 10 days, and I found it really hard to have time to pen my thoughts. Okay, I have to admit that if I really want to, I could have done so. This leads to something I read in these 10 days, something about not needing to be entertained. I am guilty of wanting to be entertained, giving myself the excuse that I am tired, and I need to relax my mind and therefore I need Android games on my smart phone, I need to watch movies and catch-up TV on local channels (I don’t subscribe to cable channels, so I don’t have those on-demand kind of channels). Well, this is something I need to discipline my mind, especially when I have so many things on my plate, I must find time to reflect and chew on my daily responses to important things happening around me.

I find that my mind is a curious creation of God. On the one hand, I find myself reflecting after every significant happening, yet at the same time it can be so deceptive to fool myself to believe that I have no time to reflect or write, which of course resulting in not remembering what I have learnt, which means making the same mistakes again or not repeating what I did well. And so here I am, making an attempt to recall some of the things I have learnt this week. There are two main lessons this week and one possible revelation which require prayers: 1. obedience to my Father in heaven; 2. glorifying my Father in heaven; 3. generation curse.

1. My eldest got on my nerves big time this week. A shocking 7 out of 7 days! My patience ran paper-thin and anger got better of me. Yes, anger-management and disciplining method of my children are important lessons, but no, that is not the focus in this reflection. It is the principles I glean from the father’s perspective that help me understand my Father’s perspective better.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15),

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21),

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:23-24),

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

It is interesting to note that within 10 verses, Jesus repeated what it means to love Him three times, and that is to keep His commandments. The disciples must have been really thick to require the Lord to repeat the same point three in one sitting. Wait. Am I not one of them, the thick ones? How many times must my Lord be repeating before I finally understood that if I love Him and belong to Him, I am to show it by keeping His commandments? Yet it took me my child’s multiple disobedience to realise that I too behaved like my child. Have I kept my Father’s commandments, or am I too stubborn and insisted to follow my own senseless logic?

2. John 9 talked about a man born blind. Jesus said “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him”. I looked at the family situation in the recent two months. We did not have a good time, obviously. MIL is losing control of her thoughts and mobility. What works of God is left to be seen? Doctors said dementia is irreversible, so unless a miracle happens, she will never recover. Just like the man born blind, what hope is there to reverse such damage? How can God be glorified through her illness? A CG member once said when I spoke of becoming a PatH that he would gladly take my cup when I asked for the cup to be taken from me yet not my will but His be done. Of course now he dares not ask for my cup after knowing a clearer picture of my situation. No, MIL can’t exactly glorify God anymore in her current state of health, at least not in the way I can understand. But why doesn’t God take her home, and lessen her suffering and ease our load? Then I realized how God can be glorified. Not through MIL, but through the rest of the family. We have no strength on our own to take care of three young kids, one dementia patient and an aging man, but we can through God’s love and strength, continue to serve her in the best way we can, trusting God for strength and resources to see us through. FIL continues to exemplify Christ’s love for the Church through his selfless love for his wife, holding on tightly to the promises he had made 34 years ago at the altar. His action is even more precious in the current society where divorce for whatever reasons is on the rise. No, God’s work may not be shown in the form of miracle healing, but it can be seen through miraculous strength in caring for the family and unfailing love through sickness and in health.

3. My pastor spoke about generation curses some time back. Lately, as I reflected on my relationship with my firstborn, and my relationship with my mother (I am the firstborn, by the way. And I was not supposed to call my parents as parents but as uncle and auntie according to some fortune-teller guy), and my grandfather’s relationship with his firstborn, I was quite alarmed at the trend. Our relationships with our firstborns were way below desirable. And it hurts. But more than hurt, I feared. If my guess is right, then my children will be under such curse too. Some say that this could be learned behaviour, like that of abandonment and suicide, some say it could be spiritual. Whatever it is, such bondage needs to be broken, and only the power of resurrection of Jesus Christ can break such curses. Do pray for us that our relationships may be restored and that this trend will break from my family forevermore. Nothing more can be done for my grandfather and his firstborn as he has passed, though a closure on her side would be good. Pray for my relationship with my mother and with my firstborn to be fully restored and past hurt be completely healed in the blood of Christ.

Thank you for reading such a long post.

PatH Reflection 8 (16 April 2014)

When I did not ask my wife then to be my girlfriend (shall re-tell the story of did not ask another day), I thought I knew what I signed up for: 3 families, 5 old folks, 3-4 kids, with me working and she handling the home. Little did I know that 10 years on, I am the one bearing all these at home while she is out working. I am effectively running 2 households, managing 1 sick old folk, 1 at-a-loss old folk and 3 young kids. Frankly, I am at a loss too, given that I knew geriatrics is not my strength having felt totally repulsive and too overwhelmed with emotions since I visited an nursing home in my younger days.

 

Running the daily affairs is not an easy task and multiply that by 5 for the number of dependents I have. I have yet to prepare lunch for all and I have just put the youngest to her nap and now taking a moment to rest my hurting back. I asked myself, what have I gotten myself into, inviting them to stay over and to help my dad-in-law to keep an eye for my mum-in-law, and with that comes running more errands for them like dismantling, transporting and reassembling a bed in 1.5hr, & settling their banking issues. I am already reaching my threshold of inconvenience, yet at the same time, I was reminded that I was doing these not for my own recognition or for my in-laws’ approval, I was doing these as unto the Lord. I realized I did all these not for the approval of men, nor even to seek approval from God Himself (key phrase here is seek approval), but out of love for my God, my wife and my dad-in-law who was my surrogate father in the last 10 years. I know my actions and my heart have the approval of my Father-in-heaven, I want that but that was not what I sought after. As my Lord Jesus had said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Now I begin to understand what He meant. It wasn’t even a desire to seek approval, it’s about being in Christ and of Christ, being like Him in His work, loving as He has loved us. In short, being a mini Christ, as suggested by the term Christian, to those around me, and hence showing the world that I am a child of God because I have loved as He loved, worked as He worked, obeyed as He commanded.

 

On this topic of love, I finally understood the common verse which is often used in weddings, but probably not in context. “We loved because He first loved us” (1John 4:19). Newlyweds love to use this verse for their weddings. It is true a couple can only love each other because God first loved them, but quoting from my pastor, “true but inadequate”. John in the epistle was talking more about the greater love of God’s people and towards the gentiles, not mere towards couples. As I looked back at the last month, I could not have done what I have done, made the decisions I made if I was without love, or if I were loving out of my own limited love. The love of God must have been with me such that I can love my wife and her family to the point of going out of my comfort zone to serve them. With this thought, I am reminded again that God loved me and His love overflows, else I wouldn’t have enough love to fuel all that I need to do.

 

My prayer, and please do pray for and with me, is that I may have the strength in my back, steadiness in my legs, the gentleness in my hands, patience in my heart and a genuine smile on my face to serve these folks God had placed in my life. I know I can love them because He first loved me.

PatH Reflection 7 (14 April 2014)

I hate Mondays. When I was working outside home, I dread every Monday morning. The daunting tasks of mindless administration, meaningless politicking, purposeless pursuit of performance bonus (or at least not to be looked upon as surplus) greeted me every Monday morning, knowing well that I will never do well in any of these. Each Sunday night, fear began its grip on me. By the wee hours of the new week, I was fully engulfed by trepidation. I woke up many a Monday morning, whimpering like a beaten puppy, moping like a monkey in a cage.

 

And so escape I did. Out of the savage jungle I ran, from that which had sought to devour my deepest desire to make a difference, only to tread into the jungle again, this time as a tourist, playing my part to preserve what I can and ignore the rest.

 

Now having been pulled out of the jungle to stay fully at home, I realized I dread Mondays too. I fear my wife’s going to work. I fear that I can’t take good care of my kids, or if I might just burn down the kitchen when distracted with petite arguments among the siblings, or if littlest one may just get lost in the jungle of her own home and be found sampling the toilet bowl water, or the older ones making the littlest one their guinea pig for weird experiments. And the greatest fear of all, this is only Monday! Can I survive the week?

 

My heavenly Father is great. Long before I had confirmed my PatH, He gave me a verse for this year. It was this verse that almost immediately stopped all my fears for today and gave me strength to do what I need to do. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2Tim 1:7) How sweet is the sound of God’s word, how refreshing and empowering is the stream of living water and the bread of life.

PatH Reflection 6 (9 Apr 2014)

Another episode had finally come to a close, which in turn signifies the proper start of a new chapter. The main task I had today was to send the FDW off at the airport, making sure proper closure was done. With this event done, I suddenly began to evaluate my loss, not financial but rather a consolidation of the chain of events over the past 3 weeks and realized that I actually missed going to school. I missed my classrooms, my students, my colleagues. What amazed me was how I turned to function mode over the last week and the emotions I evaluate were just the most important ones to maintain my sanity. Throughout the whole week, I had not thought about school at all, putting all my energy solely in my family and repatriation of the FDW. With one closure, I was now more able to evaluate the next layers of emotions and losses.

On the note of missing school, I have still a classroom of my own: my home and my kids. One day as PatH and I have seen many similarities between school and home. My kids and I are now my students, teaching and learning now happens at home. I have to learn to manage three kids in their daily living, while teaching them life skills that school can’t teach. Only one day and the kids grew more matured and I have learned much more. The kids began to bathe themselves, do homework automatically, follow my instructions without having repeat the instructions more than twice. My baby walked the whole length of Terminal 2 unaided, learnt to fall asleep in her own bed without having me rocking her. My son taught my wife a valuable lesson on unconditional love, how he exercised it on the FDW because Jesus and his parents loved him even when he is naughty.

Yes, this is just one day. They may go back to old ways tomorrow. But I have learned to give thanks for this one day, every day, one day at a time. I am glad to have chosen this PatH.