That Wonderful Plan for Our Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it a wonderful plan? Who is this “Datuk” who knows what’s best for our children?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprisingly, Chris’ “deprived of quality time with the parents” is not found! Thoughts for parents!

Name,Names, Namess…

By Christopher Lau (aged 10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mother said, “kan-ching?”

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

Poor jie-jie. Poor mummy.

At Wit’s End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Accomplices?

I clipped this paragraph from a Christian magazine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Heights and Depths of Life

A long-time friend in the medical profession writes –

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

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

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

Hope you like the results.

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

swallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The song writer has said:

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

It’s Sunday!

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

My mummy likes to eat chicken bones

By Christopher Lau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lonely, but never quite

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

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

“Sunyilah…sunyi (lonely),” he told reporters when asked how he was feeling after visiting Datin Seri Endon Mahmood’s grave….

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

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

Look at the Bible –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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