Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fee is Free indeed!

Due to the nature of my name, Fee, friends smiled when I told them that my blog is called Fee is Free. Literally, coming from an accountant, fee is Free is contradictory but yet, its good news. For a long time, I have wanted to write about the origin of my blog name but felt ill equipped to do so. Finally, this morning, my devotion had adequately spelt out the essence of how I felt about myself and couldn't resist to post it here. Thank you John Piper, you are truly God Sent!

The Only True Freedom (by John Piper)
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)
There are at least four kinds of freedom. And each one adds a crucial dimension of freedom to the last until we get to the full freedom—"free indeed." Let me try to sum up these four kinds of freedom in one definition of full and complete freedom: You are fully free—completely free, free indeed—when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make you happy in a thousand years. Or we could say, You are fully free when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will leave you no regrets forever.
  • If you don't have the desire to do a thing, you are not fully free to do it. Oh, you may muster the will power to do what you don't want to do, but nobody calls that full freedom. It's not the way we want to live. There is a constraint and pressure on us that we don't want.
  • And if you have the desire to do something, but no ability to do it, you are not free to do it.
  • And if you have the desire and the ability to do something, but no opportunity to do it, you are not free to do it.
  • And if you have the desire to do something, and the ability to do it, and the opportunity to do it, but it destroys you in the end, you are not fully free—not free indeed.
To be fully free, we must have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make us happy forever. No regrets. And only Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose for us, can make that possible. If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed. To be happy forever, our sins must be forgiven and God's wrath removed and Christ must become our supreme Treasure. Only Jesus can do that. In fact, he has already done it. He died for our sins. He absorbed God's wrath. And he rose from the dead and is today therefore supremely precious. And he offers us that now as a free gift.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Beautiful Tapestry

A few years ago when I watched the movie, The Blind Side, God gave me the conviction to start a school that could impact lives. I have always wondered since the school started, did we really impact lives? Today, I have my answers.

Gabriel had stopped attending his local secondary school for close to 2 months as not only was he ostracized by his teachers, he was written off as “useless” by his family. Out of desperation, his mother signed up his son with us. During our term two report card day, both his parents turned up to speak to our teachers. His mother was especially overjoyed “All his life, Gabriel has been scoring Ds or Es but now for the 1st time, I see him achieving Cs!” she shared. Although I was not there to speak to the mother, I felt a tear at the corner of my eyes. Indeed, if it were not for the committed teachers and God working in his life, I think Gabriel would not be far from being a school drop out altogether.

Another boy, Isaac, has been school hopping before he joined us – he has gone to 4 different private schools in the last 3 years. His grades were dropping and his attitude follows alongside. No sooner did he enrol, he made a name for himself. Later, we found out that he was famous in his previous schools too, but for the wrong reason. Today, I had the privilege to meet up with one of his teachers, Mr T. Although Mr T is still very new to our school, he immediately recognized that Isaac stands out from his class. “If there is any glitches with my lesson, for even 5 mins, I could see Isaac getting out of his chair and starting to do his own stuff.” He shared. “Today, when I start my lesson, I told Isaac that from now onwards, I would prepare my lesson with him on my mind!” I was so impressed by Mr T’s attitude, who despite having a troublemaker in his class, is unfazed but is all the more determined to help Isaac. The commitment of teachers like him has not only impacted the lives of the students in the school, but also on me: God’s Promises are all True and Life Transforming.

This morning, one of the girls told my niece that she is leaving our school for good. Rumours had it that Naomi was bullied by her peers here and although I don’t know the girl well, I felt sadden by the news. However, further enquiry into the matter had proved otherwise. At the beginning of the year, Naomi had trouble getting along with the girls at the boarding house. One of the girls, Madeline, had been teasing her and that had really affected her. Towards the end of last term, she cried and broke down. It was also at that time, that our Character Education teacher, Mr AV spoke about bullying and made them think hard by writing about it. Madeline confessed in her essay that she didn’t realize that she had hurt her friend and made the 1st step of reconciliation by apologizing to Naomi; Naomi in turned wrote about not harbouring a vengeful heart towards those who had hurt her. The real evidence of transformation came when during a basketball practice last week, a stray ball hit Naomi on her face. Almost immediately, Madeline went over to ask if she were alright. By prying into this suspected withdrawal case, I found treasure hidden instead. In actual fact, Naomi’s parents were very happy to see the change in their girl. Naomi was only joking with her friends that she will be absent from school for a day as she has a dental appointment the next day. 

At the end of this day, I felt immensely moved that God has brought so many wonderful teachers, helpers, boarding parents, support staff, parents and students to enrich each others' lives: He has woven us together like a intricate tapestry that by being one, we are beautiful and impactful.

(Note: names of individuals had been changed to protect their identities)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom8:28)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Graveyard Speech

As our school 2nd term draws to a close, my brother delivered a moving speech to the school team that is sharing worthy.

Some time ago when the conviction to start a school here in Kampar was rooted, the pioneer team went to visit an established international school in KL. The founder of this school was not only kind enough to open its doors to us, he granted us an audience and insight into his views. “Starting an international school in Kampar will be a graveyard! In fact, with the University of Tunku Abdul Rahman setting up its main campus there? That was also a graveyard (bad) decision! There is no future there.” He concluded.

Although we were taken aback by his honest views, we were undeterred as the conviction to build a school was not from us, but from God. Interestingly, I have totally forgotten about these impactful words until now.

“Actually, he was right. Kampar IS a graveyard for our kids!” continued my brother in his speech. “This IS the place where their bad habits die, and whatever that are hindering the children from moving forward, should also perish here!” as he concurred with the educationalist from KL but from a different viewpoint.  “ Our school will be come a GREAT yard where children prosper in learning! They will become excellent learners. Over time, the poor students will become average students, the average students will become good students, the good students will become better students and the better students will become excellent students.”

That was a great metaphor, which reminded me of what Christ had done on the cross for us. The cross despite signaling death, was a God-given victory for all of us. All of us had to die to self first before we could be born again with a new life in Christ. Thank you Lord for inspiring us in this journey with your graveyard message!

Two comes with Trials

When Priscilla turned 2, she has changed from a sweet and adorable little angel, to a demanding, physically abusive challenge! Almost everyday, her carer has to tolerate her hitting, biting, pinching and finally, her ear piercing cries that have garnered enough decibels to reach our neighbours who are more than 3 houses away.

Once in a while, I will be rewarded with reminiscences of her past through her dramatic giggles at jokes that she did not fathom, silly dances in front of the TV, serious guitar playing look-alike whenever she hears a good song and sensitivity towards others. Recently, my mum returned from the hospital with a knee replacement. For almost 2 weeks, Prissy would go up to her grandmother and offered comforting words like “ Pain ah? Po Po, pain ah?” while pointing at her knees. Even such kind gestures are overshadowed by her bossiness and mean behaviour after a while.

One day, while my mum was complaining to me how naughty Prissy had become, the house bell rang and a visitor was at the door for her. Almost immediately, Prissy went round the house, looking for her walking stick and promptly delivered the much needed aid. “Ah, see I told you, Prissy is such a good girl at times!” marveled my mum, clearly charmed by the youngest in the family again.

I guessed the ultimate kick off came was when I was doing bible study with my kids on James 1: 1-5, I asked Joseph to list down what would be his greatest trials. Initially, he had problems understanding the word “trial”. “ Its something that is challenging, and requires great patience.” I explained in simple terms. “Taking care of Prissy!” he said instantly! Poor boy, I can’t blame him. Whenever he lays out his toys to play, Prissy will either mess up his game or took some parts and declared “ ITS MINE!” If he were to forcefully grab the toy back, he will be rewarded with her shrieking cries. While trying my best to look understanding and holding back my smiles, I asked “James 1:2 says if you meet trials, how are you to response?”. “ Consider it all joy!” came his disjointed reply.

At that instance, I realised that God is reminding me that I too should consider Prissy’s growth phase as a joy! Afterall, its good to see her developing and growing! It's indeed a greater joy for me to witness that God is using Prissy to shape both Joseph and Clarissa: They have learnt to be more tolerant and creative when taking care of their little sister. Good job kids!  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Burning Coals

For a long time, I didn't understand this verse in the bible:-

Instead, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads." Romans 12:20

Then again, it doesn't really matter as this is not the only verse that I don’t understand in the bible, although the phrase “heap burning coals” does sound uninviting and almost tragic.

There is always sibling rivalry between Clarissa and Joseph, which I normally leave them to resolve by themselves: I hate being Judge Dredd, its both time consuming and emotionally draining.  Unfortunately, by letting the kids decide on the outcome of their feud could lead to undesired results.

On one occasion, Clarissa was upset with Joseph (nothing’s new!) for disturbing her.  Instead of putting out the fire, she took vengeance. The result? It was a crossfire that necessitates the intervention of Judge Dredd!

All I could tell was: I was mad at Joseph for initiating the fight and even more furious at Clarissa for adding fuel to the fire. At the back of my mind, I was doing a playback. Had Clarissa acted maturely, and walked away, I would have showered her with much love and praises. Not only would she have saved me time and heartbreak, she would have exhibited a good example for Joe to emulate. “And, I would have been really proud of you!” I told her with a disapprovingly look. “Now, you have made me even madder at you than I would at Joe alone!” Clearly, her eyes were telling me that none of this was her fault if Joe hadn’t started it all.

At that very moment, it clicked! Yes, when we allow God to take control over an unfair situation, God would be only “mad” at the culprit, equivalent to heaping burning coals over his/her head. However, if we were to take matters into our own hands, our Father would end up disciplining both “us” and the culprit. What perfect sense! Thank you Lord for using my kids to teach me. Now, please grant me patience, patience and patience to deal with them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Children Devotions

I could think of 101 reasons why I can’t do daily devotions with my kids: such as Prissy is disruptive and it will be too late to wait till she is asleep; Joe can’t read well which means that I will be doing most of the reading and he ends up being distracted and bored; Clarissa can do her own devotions as she is old enough! I’m cleared of my responsibilities, no?

Then, my brother moves back to Kampar with his brood. As his house is still under renovation, his family of 6 stay with us and much to my amazement, both him and my sister-in-law read the bible daily with their 4 kids. Still, I am only slightly inspired!

The crunch came when I received news that England, who once experienced the greatest revivals and commissioned the most number of missionaries in the past 2 centuries, has the lowest church goers statistics compared to other Europeans counterparts and it is now at the brink of bankruptcy! As a Christian, I do believe there is direct correlation between the two.

“What had happened?” I wondered. “Did not the previous generations pass on what they had experienced to the next generations?” I asked myself. “No, the parents had failed to share Christ with their children. In fact, they were like you, having all the excuses of not telling their children of who their Heavenly Father is!” came the God’s gentle small voice.

That was the turning point in my parenthood. Since then, I started reading the bible with my kids and I must say that now, there are 101 reasons I could think of why we should do our bible devotion with our kids! :-
1.     The ten-minute bible reading helps me not only to understand God’s words better but to understand Joseph and Clarissa better too!
2.     Joseph gets to share and reflect about what he had experienced during the day. I am so excited to see the thinker side of him immerging;
3.     Although Clarissa understands what she is reading better, I could help her see the application side of the scriptures. Through this process, her faith has increased immensely;
4.     By being vulnerable and applying the scriptures to my own life, I find that both of them open up to me like never before. I am sure glad that they are willing to share whatever that is bothering them.
5.     Most of all, we could all see God at work in our lives, through our struggles and our successes. He is indeed real in us and that is the greatest reward that I could ever ask for.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut 6:7

Turning 41

The day that I turned 41, there was a rainbow summoned to make my day colourful and the sun was shining so brightly that I thought, God was smiling down at me. The traffic was cleared, as though everyone knew that it was my special day and they had used other roads to get to their destinations. Everyone I met was smiling at me, giving me their approving nods. Clearly, this must be a dream!

However, only half of this dream is true and in real life, it gets better! God is smiling down at me, not just on the day that I turned 41 but on everyday of my life! It was my usual morning, and I did suspect that someone is going to throw in a surprise for me, which will not be a surprise, because I’m mentally prepared: I will definitely not tear like last year. “I will be composed!” I promised myself.  But of course, in the element of surprise, there is always something I’ve missed out.

Finally, when I stepped into the office, someone was hastily carrying a tray of plates into the boardroom! There was party atmosphere in the air. This year was a different as my brother, his wife and my dad turned out unexpectedly and gave a short summary of what they thought of me. And, lo and behold, my tears came. I could barely contain myself when it was my dad’s turn to speak. He started with talking about his bad habits, and then, he talked about me. Although he has not always been there for me (and my brother), he is proud to see that we are walking along the right path. “If I were to pass on, I am happy to know that you will be doing fine. I loved the two of you!” He said hugging both my brother and I.

That was the melting point in my life! This was the first time, I hear my dad approving of me! It's a miracle to hear him say this words, which I never thought would take place. Don’t get me wrong here its just that I know that my dad is not an expressive person. At that very moment, I could safely say that both my brother and I hear this for the first time in our lives! It carries a weightage of healing, freedom and inexplicable emotions.

More importantly, I am more convicted than before that God’s hands are on our lives. Its almost as though He is the one who is doing all the work backstage, preparing for this day to come: from start to finish! So I would say, that my day was better than my dream: It was perfect! Thank you Jesus!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Middle Child Syndrome

Some months back when Uncle Eddie mentioned that I needed to pay more attention to Joseph, my middle child, I was taken back. I thought I was doing pretty well as a mother of three. Although outwardly I nodded in seeming agreement, inwardly I was quite sure Joseph was on par with the other two.

“Normally, the sign that the middle child had been neglected was through him misbehaving!” He said. At that point, I realised that Joseph had been tough to handle. He quite often throws tantrums at me and not at his father, which I thought it was a boy thing! When he doesn't get his way, he will become painfully rude to me. “ Are these symptoms?” I wondered. “Lord, please help me to re-connect with Joseph again.” I prayed.

A few weeks later, I found the situation turning from bad to worse. If Uncle Eddie had not warn me about middle child syndrome, I would have put this down to a difficult phase that Joe is undergoing, not unlike the terrible twos, except that this is the annoying eights!

One night, just when I thought that I was going through another mundane bible reading, which Joe would not be paying attention most times, I was in for a treat. The bible reading started with the arrival of Jesus as a newborn baby. God was so excited with baby Jesus that He just couldn't wait to share the news with His people. However, as the birthplace was so remote, how was He going to broadcast the news without drawing unnecessary attention?  He used the stars to lead the wise men to the manger! What ingenuity!

“Joe, could you sense that God was really ecstatic about baby Jesus? In fact, when you were born, both daddy & mummy were overjoyed! Our happiness was shared by your grandparents who came to visit soon after you were born!” I exclaimed, much to my own astonishment, as I know that this could only be divine inspiration! Normally, I would have just read the bible passage with little to add (after a days’ work and looking after prissy, I was close to dozing off myself during bible reading!).

Immediately, Joe’s face lit-up in a manner that I have never seen before! He was surprised that his family was celebrating his birth! “Yes, both daddy & mummy love you very much.” I added. “Really?” he asked. At that instant, I felt that God had ministered to both of us and more importantly; He had bridged the gap between Joe and me.

Joseph restoring joy to a friend

We were at a family retreat at Cameron Highlands. Children were having a fun time playing frisbees when one child, Ashton, threw the frisbee...