Dredging up Old Artefacts :)

Given that our house is rarely visited during Chinese New Year, we almost never do spring-cleaning. As a result of that, we have lots of unused stuff just kept lying around in cupboards, taking up space which could otherwise be used for other stuff.

A few days ago, my sister somehow had a mini-accident in her room because it was so cramped. Because of that, my mum decided that we needed to clear up some space in our house – so that my sister would have more space in her room to study. I have to admire my mum for always taking the initiative in such house-keeping matters.

Anyway, what started off as just clearing a box of stuff in her room became a massive operation and we started clearing and files which I would not refer to in the near future (a few of them), clothes which I no longer wear (plenty of them), CDs which we no longer listened to (some of them), books I felt could be stored away for the time being (tonnes of them!).

 

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CDs I used to listen to. Yes – do not be shocked by some of them. In fact, I actually kept my Westlife CDs from my Secondary School days. 🙂

After we cleared them out of the shelves, we had to do the next job of separating them into stuff to be donated, and stuff to be kept at my aunt’s place (in case of future need).

 

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This box contains books which will be stowed away at my aunt’s place. This is my whole University life combined. Do note that there are two other whole boxes of books at my aunt’s place already. I believe all Lit Majors can probably make a business by starting their own library!

 

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These were the books to be donated. What a mix of high and low culture! At the top, we have Giovanni Boccacio’s The Decameron, a piece of very medieval literature from which Chaucer drew a lot of his inspiration from. Then we progress to Harry Potter and finally guides to the Buffy TV show. (Yes, I used to be a Buffy fanatic when I was in JC.)

I also uncovered many journals from my previous years – which I will write more about when I come back later today! 🙂

Challenging mindsets

Very often when coming to church or attending cell group, there is always a routine and a structure which is very comfortable – meaning you come to cell group and you know what’s going to happen from start to the end, similar for a service too and everything becomes very comfortable.
However, once in a while in church, we have services that break that mould and we have performances, interviews etc. These are the things that break the mould and keep church exciting and interesting.

 

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The sermons over the past two weeks have been interspersed with small skits from our very talented drama crew! Breaking the mould indeed.

Today’s cell group too was a cell group that broke the mould and challenged my mindset of what a cell group meeting should and can be like. It was truly a cell group meeting with a difference!

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Ruling the Spirit

Proverbs 16:32 has been stirring in my mind since God spoke it to me two weeks ago at the Military Christian Fellowship devotional, especially the second part about us ruling our spirit.

 

I was just looking through the different translations of it this morning:

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV)

Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power. (The Message)

Patience is better than strength, Controlling your temper is better than capturing a city. (New Century Version)

Controlling your temper is better than being a hero who captures a city. (Contemporary English Version)

The latter two translations speak simply of controlling your temper, which I believe is a more restrictive view of what this verse means. In fact, even the idea of self-control seems to fall-short of what I feel this verse fully entails, which is captured by as always, the more reliable NKJV version – he who rules his spirit.

I have been pondering over what this means and how this can apply in my life. Having mentioned earlier that God ‘spoke’ this verse to me, it obviously speak to a particular situation in my life which I felt God was telling me to ‘rule’ over.

Interestingly enough, in the course of the past week, certain comments and discussions were made about this idea of ‘emotions’ – I’ve come to realise that I am someone who does not reveal much of his emotions outwardly, which is something I am comfortable with since it is something that I am aware of myself – the fact that I can ‘control’ my emotions in terms of how they are presented externally.

However, the great battle is that battle within – to control that emotional struggle inside of you that nobody sees and hence there’s no accountability except between you and God.

During the sermon over the past week, our pastor shared 1 Samuel 16:7 – a verse many of us are conversant with about how man looks at the outward appearance, yet God looks at our heart.

Pastor Kong spoke about it in very different context, yet it was a firm reminder to me that God judges me by my heart and the struggles that go on within. Regardless of how I appear to the world, how I appear ‘outwardly’, all that does not matter when I come before God – because it is my heart and my internal struggles that He looks at.

I’ve come to realise that sometimes I focus too much on ‘ordering’ my public world and neglect that ‘private world’, which nobody looks at but ultimately determines my response and behavior externally. And this is what determines our ‘power’ in Christ – He places more authority on the person who can rule his spirit rather than one who can rule a ‘city’, which is what the world looks out for.

May the Lord continue to build me up on the inside as I draw nearer to Him.

The ruling of the spirit comes with constant connection with Christ – with a continual submitting of the flesh to His will and surrendering to Him in your quiet place. Yet to say that the battle is in the quiet place is to underestimate the magnitude of this battle. The battle takes place everywhere. Yes, prayer is important in preparing ourselves, yet once we leave that quiet place, what becomes even more important is our ability to use the right spiritual resources, the strategies we use to draw ourselves away and renew our minds – that ability to ‘deal’ with the world that determines how well we can control our spirits.

The Lord is indeed teaching me a lot about this. I pray that I will emerge eventually as a man who is able to rule his spirit – and this is something that nobody else can see, but God. 🙂

Education over the past week

I haven’t been able to follow the papers much last week. A browse thru the articles on my Google reader, however, revealed that education has indeed been focused on a lot in the news lately… A summary of key issues.

School Drop-out Rates

“Mr Masagos also told the House his ministry had successfully reduced the rate of school dropouts to 1.5 per cent last year, which works out to about 500 to 600 students. Previously, the rate was 3.6 per cent in 2002 and 5.3 per cent in 1997.”

Mrs Teo noted that youth who do not continue their education beyond secondary school would add to the 17,000 or so jobless Singaporeans under the age of 30. Mr Masagos said 93 per cent of students progress to post-secondary institutions such as the Institute of Technical Education or polytechnics. (“Tracking System to Keep Dropout Rates Low”, 12 Feb)

Abolishing Exams for Primary Schools

Dr Ong Seh Hong (Marine Parade GRC) also said the recommendation would not achieve its purpose if pupils still had to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in Primary 6.

‘If the end product of primary education is examination-based and result-oriented, parents would continue to steer their children towards doing well in the PSLE,’ he added. (Concerns Raised over scrapping exams, 11 Feb)

 

MOE’s Recruitment Drive

The Jan 24 ad she saw in The Straits Times ‘over-glamorised’ the profession.

While Ms Phua applauded the ministry’s move to speed up hiring plans, the ad made her worry about the motives and aptitude of applicants.

They may view teaching as ‘a relatively high-paying job that provides the iron rice bowl complete with school holidays, and hopefully a less stressful environment than the private sector’.

The ad featured six education professionals – including a principal, teacher, department head and project manager at the ministry – clad in jackets and boots. (“Teach for the love of the job, not glamour”, 11 Feb)

 

Poor Fitness in Schools

From 2003 to 2007, 75 per cent of the JC graduating batch attained a silver or gold standard in their Napfa test.

By comparison, only 20 to 30 per cent of their counterparts in polytechnics achieved a similar standard in the same period.

All five polytechnics told The Straits Times they are now introducing or planning new fitness and training programmes.

 

Pre-School Education

Last year, the Education Ministry announced that from this January, all new preschool teachers must have at least five O-level passes, including a credit in English, and a diploma in preschool education teaching. The diploma must be obtained within four years of joining the preschool sector.

From 2013, teachers of kindergarten 1 and 2 classes must have at least a pass in O-level English or an English proficiency test, and a diploma.

But two MPs – Mrs Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh) and Dr Maliki Osman (Sembawang GRC) – said yesterday that much work still has to be done.

Mrs Teo noticed a ‘vast difference in the scale and depth of efforts’ in improving the primary education teaching force as compared to preschool teachers.

Life Impacts Life

Christ and His disciples – Life impacting Lives

The second semester of NIE is so quickly drawing to an end. In less than two weeks time, I’ll be out there in the school, interacting with fellow teachers and students – one step closer to my dream of becoming a teacher. It’s hard to imagine really that time has passed so quickly.

I will definitely miss my friends here in NIE during my time in NJC, but God is really good – an impressive number of 15 of us are going over to NJC together! It’s almost a whole class of PGDEs going over together. I’m looking forward to getting to know them, working together with them to hopefully impact the school in whatever ways we can.

My time over the past two weeks have been taken over predominantly by assignments, though in the midst of all this, I thank God that I’ve still been able to faithfully keep my Sabbaths free from NIE work. My Sabbaths have, however, been far from restful, but they have indeed been very fruitful.

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Last Sunday, we were supposed to celebrate the birthday of ST, a member of my CG. Just before service started, I received an SMS from my cell group leader. He said:

Both ST and her husband are unable to make it for service.

Would you like to MAKE A DIFFERENCE by paying them a visit after service?”

To which I responded immediately with, “Sure. I’ll be there”.

So after service, I finished off whatever needed to be done from my usher duty and waited around for my cell group leader to arrive. After that, we made our journey to visit ST.

ST remained uncontactable all the way from Expo to Seng Kang. We made a short stop at Compass Point to buy some gifts first before calling again. There was still no response.

My CGL decided then to take a step of faith, to just go and visit her since we were already here. So we went and lo and behold, ST and her husband were at home!

We managed to pass the birthday gift and card to her, to pray for her and her husband. I truly believe that their needs were met thru this visitation. They were so thankful for the prayers and the visit and I believe that we truly made a small, but significant impact in the lives of our members through this act of going the extra mile by my leader.

I was truly impacted by his actions and felt so privileged to be a part of this journey with him to bring this cell group together. I am truly learning so much in this CG.

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Along the way to Seng Kang, my CGL shared with me his experiences in leading an adult cell group. He shared with me his burden for the cell and how there is a need in an adult cell group to really look out for the needs of each individual member and meet those needs. He shared with me his personal journey as a leader too – about how he used to scold his members a lot, but how his previous cell changed that.

He shared with me the amazing testimonies of his previous cell group. They were an adult cell group too, but they were just so close and united that they met three times a week. Besides church and cell, they had an additional night on Thursday where all who were interested in learning the guitar and worshipping God could come. This was an adult cell group, but it was one that kept on growing. He told me that this was a cell group that made a lot of demands on him too. The core members constantly asked him to disciple and ‘scold’ those who did not flow with the vision of the cell. There was a very high standard of punctuality which the core group insisted had to be maintained in the cell.

At the end of our visitation to ST’s place, my CGL asked me this question (how very teacher-like of him) – “So tell me what you have learnt today about cell group ministry?”

I shared with him about how I started to see the true meaning of a cell group and the necessity to ensure that all in the cell are flowing in the same vision, grounded by the same values, driven by a similar passion to meet needs. I shared with him about faith and meeting needs.

I realised after my time spent with my leader that what I had gone thru that afternoon was something which could have never been taught to me through any Bible study or sermon. The principles which guided my CGL’s actions are ones which ALL Christians, and arguably even some non-Christians know – the Great Commandment to love people fervently. What I had seen was that verse being carried out in action. More importantly, that openness of my leader in sharing his journey with me made me feel a part of something bigger as I saw the depth of experiences that had brought him to this point.

I was reminded once again that it is ultimately life that impacts life. As much teaching as we can receive, discipleship needs to be about lives and the sharing of lives. I truly believe that I am in the right place and the right time and I am looking forward to how God moulds me in this cell in the year ahead!