Thursday, November 15, 2012

What I Know

There are a lot of things in my life that are better than who I am, and better than what I deserve.

What I mean is that there are things I am called to do and people I am called to love. And love is a beautiful thing because it is an immaculate quality that is accessible to us although we are flawed and broken.

It is sometimes hard to keep a handle on who I am, for one thing because people say different things. My employers, friends, church, family. They probably ALL have some truth in them. Human beings are both as simple as spaghetti and as complicated as string theory.

But I do have a handle on how God sees me, and that I am loved unconditionally. That is something I understand as a child.

And both the fact that I am loved unconditionally, and that there are those I WANT to love unconditionally as a result, gives me a firm grasp on the man I want to be.

Give me some time, and watch me!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

For What It's Worth

Things at Westlake International School have been moving so fast of late that it has been hard to keep track of milestones, and even just be still and digest what we've been going experiencing.

It is a great wonder to see the team expanding. We have quite an ensemble - different talents, personalities and experiences. That being said, we are bound together by the pursuit of something greater than who we are on our own.

There is full of broken things, but to me, few feel as desperate as the world of education. This is probably because the ideal of what education ought to be has long carved itself unto my heart, and is continuing to grow into something more beautiful and comprehensive as I mature. I have a long road ahead.

My colleagues are all bringing in things too - really good things. Pioneering is a once in a lifetime job to stamp something positive, meaningful and inshallah, lasting. These people care about kids and want it done well. I am in good company, and I should learn.

I wonder if we realize the magnitude of what we're doing?

Even as I work, I know that I have to acquit myself worthily before the kids, parents, teammates and employers.
I know that I want to make my family and friends proud.

That being said, I also know that technically, I perform just before an audience of One. And that, I think, will keep me going even when the going gets tough, and boy do I have a tough patch coming up!

This calling is beyond me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kindness and a Kind of Radiance

Everybody’s different.

If I had to pinpoint just one thing that moves me the most in this world, it is probably kindness.

I try not to pass judgment on a person, because I know my own discernment is always finite – sometimes more, sometimes less. However, we inevitably do have opinions of people – and personally, I observe that my opinions of others generally stands or falls depending on whether I perceive them to be kind.

I really like kind people. A lot. On the other hand, anyone who is blatantly unkind to others, even if not to me directly, will, at best, be an amiable acquaintance.

What I mean by ‘kindness’ is this – having more regard and care for the broken, the lost and the "seemingly unattractive" than for the beautiful, charming and outstanding. 

It is one of the natural rhythms of life that human beings gravitate towards those who display positivity, confidence, beauty and strength. Anybody can do that.

Hence, the kindness I talk about is almost unnatural. Maybe supernatural is a better term.

What about myself? On my part, I am no kind person. I know that.

Yet, at the same time, and I say this not to boast but to make a point, I do have a regard and care for the broken and the lost. How do I explain this?

I think the reason why an unkind and impatient person like myself can be kind is because I recognize myself as a rather broken and lost person. In fact, we probably all are, but in different degrees. I don’t know, but I am sure my own brokenness helps me identify with others.

There are plenty of unkind people like me whose kindness arises from an acute awareness of our own weakness. Maybe we are like lepers who wash each others’ wounds and change each others’ bandages, if you don’t find the image degrading. I don’t.

Then there are those who (it seems to me) are just innately compassionate, to whom kindness just seems like the default approach. These people walk around, enveloped with an unmistakable radiance which I hope to catch a little of, and maybe use to brighten up some dark places in the world, and some dark corners of my heart.

Maybe they are in fact like me, just that I don’t know it. Whatever it is, they sure do seem bright and shiny. I would to God that there were more of them.

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’”
Thank God. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lunch, Time and Life

I was having lunch the other day with a friend and we were having serious talk, the kind I often wish I would with people.

The locus of the conversation darted about to the “young people of this generation”, and how we all seem very sensually driven. We observed that people of this generation tend to chase desperately after thrills and sensory pleasure to fill the emptiness, discontent, even boredom of our hearts.

I've come across across an article about this problem that really got me thinking. I'm convinced a lot of us have this problem, and we are greatly impoverished as a result.

Just as I was feeling a little crestfallen and absent-mindedly using my fork to push rice around on the plate, my friend remarked,

“Well Derk, we can thank God you yourself seem to have somehow avoided this problem!”

I couldn’t smile, because I know I’m not that much different. Maybe I’ve just got really good acting skills that help me to project a thoughtful exterior.

I'll be honest here: the time to be alone, contemplate, think and therefore experience the wonder in the world is getting harder and harder to find. Like most people of my generation, I too am getting bombarded with messages, demands, images and sounds far too often than is good or beneficial. Work is meaningful and good, but it is no walk in the park.

The iPhone has been a blessing in that I can take pictures and text my sister and friends overseas at any time, but it’s also been an invasive presence. I’ve just deleted the Facebook app , and already can feel some degree of relief, like the smell of rain on a hot day.

I’m also making it a point to carve out time in my daily schedule, in the midst of all the admittedly good things that demand my time. I know now that regular time to pause and reflect is worth fighting for.

Christ may be knocking on the door, but the way our generation is now, there are all kinds of other people banging on my windows, walls and or trying to climb down the chimney. And unlike the one who offers living water that will take my thirst away forever, these intruders just want to push cheap, glitzy wares that gives a moment's relief and leaves you hungrier than before.

Are we such children that the world can peddle us such junk, and succeed?

Lord, I ask for wisdom to distinguish what is vanity and what is of eternal value, and I ask for the fortitude to push away the former, and cling fast to the latter!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Psalm 16

I actually woke up one morning feeling pretty downbeat until I read this song below. It's a song in the Bible which really says a lot about the relationship that God wants to have with human beings, and how that relationship transforms everything else. Go ahead:

 Psalm 16 - A Miktam of David
1 Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

At times like this I am just filled with wonder. I'm supposed to be a teacher and all "grown up" and whatever now and it's true that I've grown a lot... but it is also true that when it really comes down to it, I'm just a sheep.

 Just a sheep, baaaaa~

What do you think YOU are?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Submission Deadline Unknown

If total conformity and submission to the will of God is what I preach, surely I must also do it!

Although you are God of eternity, you often had to wait for me as I went about life my own way.

Now, maybe just for a little while I will wait on you, and your good, perfect, pleasing will to achieve clarity in your time.

I don't have forever but you, o God, have a better grasp on my timeline than I do.

How much further?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Be Afraid


Which characterizes Scooby-Doo without his Scooby Snacks.
Evolutionists might say that fear is a vital and crucial experience for living things to survive (This is not to say all of them say this, but some do, and all kinds of people call themselves "evolutionists" these days). The logic is simple: fear is motivation to ensure the self-preservation and continuity of that living thing. 

I don't agree. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that fear is what cripples us and holds us back. I might even bring this further to say that, having our fear taken away would make us thrive and prosper  under the right circumstances.

I recently read this article which contemplates the origins of students' fear of failure. The writing style is to me a bit ponderous, but the message is pertinent and timely. Give it a read - it'll apply to you in some way or another as nearly everybody in this world has either been/will be a teacher, student or a parent at some point in time.

The article really struck me like lightning. I really ask the Lord to help me examine the inner workings of my heart and mind, as it will manifest in the impact I have on my students. What fears and insecurities linger on? How can I cast them away before they perniciously seep into the innocent children under my charge?

I want to be a teacher that motivates through acceptance, approval, adventure and a sense of wonder, not fear. 

I must really set it in my mind that I will not see a '"C" student' as any less precious as the child prodigy producing the works of Shakespeare. 

Neither should I use my own achievements at their age as a yardstick to measure them.

Something that the Elder/Apostle John once said comes to mind: 
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18