Cock-a-doodle-doo, 3 strikes and you’re out!

Peter

Peter was one of the 12 disciples and there were many accounts on his encounters with Jesus in the gospel. One of them was the rooster crowing as a reminder of Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial of him. It was at the time when Jesus was betrayed and was about to be arrested and the following account was written in the book of John 13:36-38 ESV:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

And indeed, soon after Jesus was arrested and was being taken away to be brought before the High Priest, and subsequently to Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor. The accounts about Peter’s reaction was recorded:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:15-18 ESV)

Peter Denies Jesus Again

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. (John 18:25-27 ESV)

Peter seemed like an impulsive and impetuous chap, at times `cocky’ (maybe this was how that term came about). For example, when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet:

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:8-9 ESV)

He was the one who drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus. He was also the first to walk on water to approach Jesus:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28-30 ESV)

Usually such a person in our company of friends will get shunned or made fun of for being arrogant or `cocky’. Often they will be caught in fights or arguments and get into all sorts of trouble. However, how did Jesus relate with Peter during his time with him?

There were several crucial times where Jesus had chosen 3 of his disciples, Peter, James and John to be with him when he went to the house where a child laid dead with her parents (Luke 8:51), and when he went up a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28) just before he was going to be arrested. Jesus also said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). It was expected that Peter would respond by saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33 ESV) and thereafter, he denied Jesus 3 times.

Look again at what Jesus said to Peter “and WHEN you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He knew the heart of Peter and loved him warts and all. Later we will find that Peter became one of the great apostles and wrote some of the letters in the bible. There was a transformation over his life, he repented and was changing from being that `cocky’ chap to a great teacher and apostle of that time. Although snippets of his character do come about, he was learning and changing, ever obedient to the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. For example when Peter had a kind of a vision and saw on a sheet, all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:12-15 ESV). Later Peter was told by the Spirit to meet a centurion (non-Jew) and to share the good news to him and the people around him. Peter realised what God was teaching him:

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

A life touched by Jesus should be one that leads to change and transformation towards being more like Jesus and abiding in his word more and more. Peter was clearly moving in that direction and indeed brought glory to God for all that he did till his death.

My prayer is that my life will continue to be transformed to be more like Jesus. That I will be able to turn and strengthen others. That through it all, I will be able to love and cherish God more and more for who he is and what he has done for me.

The Guilty Ones

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Three men are on death row and today is the day of their execution. Two of them, Seau and Ican were hard-core criminals with a long history of violent crimes and the law finally caught up with them. They were not partners in crime but knew each other from past imprisonments and their notoriety. The third man on death row was not familiar to them, especially among the inmates as this man was never in prison before. They heard rumours about him as being quite prominent in that town and that he was powerful enough to help and influence many people. They also heard that he might be innocent and was blackmailed by some other powerful people who do not like him.

As they were about to be executed together, they were put in one place and chained side by side. Seau turned to face the third man and said, “Hey mister! What did you do to be here with us?” When he did not respond, Seau was annoyed and said, “I heard you had connections in very high places and helped many people, how come you can’t even help yourself? Such a shame to think that you could have helped us out of here.

Ican then raised his voice at Seau and said, “Why are you doing this to him? What has he done to you? If he is truly innocent, he does not deserve to be here like us! We actually deserve to die for what we had done. We are condemned to die and when we die, we are condemned! Can’t you even see that?”

Seau and Ican were two guilty criminals who were executed as punishment for their crimes. However, they were very different in character or attitude even at the point of death. Seau held himself up in a cocky way to chide and mock another person even though he was guilty as a rat for his crimes and was going to be executed. Ican was shocked at how Seau could still be `playing the fool’ at such a time. He saw how he was deserving of death for his deeds but pondered on what would become of him when he dies. He was both fearful and afraid.

This story was inspired by a passage from the bible as follows:

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:32-43 ESV.

Reflection

I realised that even when we are guilty of our wrong doings, we may still choose not to have the guilt.

Just like Seau who had the pride to speak his mind even to the point of death. It did not matter at all that he had committed those crimes or what would become of him when he dies. He was even capable of chiding others who may be innocent or able to help him.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 ESV

Ican saw his state and knows he was doomed. He was in distress and at the end of the road. The uncertainty was eating him up. The passage stated that the man who turned to Jesus to ask for help was given eternal hope. The other guy missed it when it was just there for him, and it was free.

I pray for humility and wisdom.

There’s a time for everything, even Grief

Tomorrow, 29 March 2015 will be the State funeral for Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. It will be an unprecedented experience for the nation. The last 6 days of paying tributes and last respects have also been an unprecedented experience for the people to mourn the loss of its great leader.

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The spirit of unity and outpouring of grief and appreciation of the multitides for this great man was overwhelming, comforting and yet, heart breaking.

When I think of how my late grandmother and father, and my mother suffered hardships through the 2nd World War lacking in food, without education or jobs, yet able to eke out a livelihood to eventually raise children like me, I am grateful they were in Singapore.

I thank God for putting great leaders like Mr Lee Kuan Yew to lead this small country to where it is today and have a community of various cultures, race and religion to grow and live in peace.

I miss my grandmother and father dearly and think of them often. I have grieved over losing them more than ten years ago and celebrate their lives and the impact they had on me and my family through making Photobooks about them and many blog posts on experiences growing up with them. They have given much of their lives to the family and we will cherish memories of them always, gratefully.

To give one’s life for a country is a noble cause and often regarded as heroic when it comes to saving lives or in battle. I wonder what it should be regarded as when it involved toiling tirelessly and selflessly, in and out of the country, for several decades to see a nation rise from almost nothing to call their own and make a significant mark in the global arena.

I have cried and will cry for the loss of our great leader. We wish his family will find comfort and peace during this painful period. After this grieving period, I will look forward to celebrate his life well lived and pray that Singapore will continue to be blessed with good leaders and good people who will strive to love the country over self.

Grief of a Nation

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At the birth of a nation, he wept on national TV. The votes were 126 to 0 for the expulsion of Singapore from the Federation, leading to the independence of Singapore on 9 August 1965.

On 2 October 2010, he wept for the loss of his wife and said in his eulogy:

“Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life. She devoted herself to me and our children. She was always there when I needed her…

She has lived a life full of warmth and meaning. I should find solace in her 89 years of life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and grief.”

(Read more from a news article here)

“But nothing seemed to comfort Mr Lee in the days after Madam Kwa Geok Choo, his wife of 63 years, his best friend and confidante, died on Oct 2, 2010.

He slept erratically. A memory would bring tears to his eyes. When her ashes arrived at Oxley Road in a grey marble urn three days after the funeral, he wept.

It took three months before he began returning to normal…

But he told his friend Dr Schmidt, who visited in May 2012, that his wife’s death had left a deep hole in his life and nothing could fill it.”

(Read more from a news article here)

On 23 March 2015 at 3.18am (Monday), this great man, our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, passed away, aged 91. The nation of Singapore wept for the loss of this great man.

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All local TV channels, newspapers and websites are in the state of mourning with news, features, articles, color theme, etc acknowledging and commemorating this loss.

The nation will mourn for 7 days till the state funeral on Sunday, 29 March 2015.

I believe our nation will feel somewhat like how he felt for his wife, where there will be “a deep hole… and nothing could fill it”.  This is because it is extremely difficult to find a giant of a man like him to lead a country, a nation like Singapore from what we were, to what we have become today. We are blessed to have him and are grateful for his lifelong sacrifice and dedication.

May he find eternal peace, joy and comfort.

The Daily Prompt: Threads

Superwoman No.1

Yes, it is not part 1. This is dedicated to the Number ONE superwoman in my life. She is none other than my grandmother. She was affectionately called Mama by all her children and grandchildren (including all her sons-in-law and daughter-in law). Mama lived with her eldest daughter (my mom) and my dad who never really had the chance to grow up with his biological mother so he regarded Mama like his own mother. Mama doted on my parents and us, her grandchildren even more 🙂

You see Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature `sarong kebaya’ (a batik long skirt and a delicate blouse set) as shown in the photo below:

Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature sarong kebaya

Neighbours, friends and relatives would address Mama respectfully as`Bibik’ when they greeted her. This was the title given to peranakan (straits-born chinese) women of a certain stature, including matriarchs. She was not only a wonderful and loving mother and grandmother, she was a great cook and you can read more about it in a previous post called Chicken Curry. I would like to focus on giving a background about Mama so you would understand better why she is so deeply loved and cherished.

At 16 years old, Mama was match-made to a grandfather I never knew and the little that I know of him was that he died at the age of 36 and did not really provide for the family.

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Mama’s only wedding photo believed to be taken in 1931.

I grew up very much under Mama’s watchful eye (and hands) especially during my kampung days where I often run around and had to be yelled at to come home for meals (not very different from my dog ‘Tramp’ except that he did not get to go out as much or as long as I did). She would cook for the whole family almost everyday except when we had dinners out over the weekends. She would do almost all the household chores as my parents were working and the grandchildren would be at school or playing elsewhere.

She had the habit of having a lit cigarette hanging on her lips like an incense stick most of the time. I never recalled her puffing her cigarette and I learnt that she had this habit from the time she was married. I was often tasked to run errands for her in the kampung to buy groceries from nearby provision shops and the items would mostly be her cooking needs and cigarettes. Another errand that I ran regularly in the evenings would be to the bookies for her lottery habit known as `chap ji kee’ which means twelve numbers. It was essentially a 2-digit game of chance where you would choose 2 numbers from 1 to 12. The results would be announced via telephone from the bookies every day. This was the most popular form of lottery then and it was illegal and there were 4-digit ones that had both legal and illegal versions. Ok, by now you would know that Mama had a gambling habit and `mahjong’ was her favourite game which she would regularly go for when she had done all her cooking and chores for the day.

Mama would come home at night and would sleep late and wake up early. She said she did not need to sleep much so I had the privilege of being around Mama alone late at night quite often. Those were the times when I was able to ask her about things and matters of the past as I was curious about them. Even my parents did not relate matters of the past to me so Mama provided much of the historical information of both herself and my parents.

On one of these times, Mama reflected about the years soon after her marriage when she was pregnant and had very little provisions from her husband who hardly held down any jobs. She had to bear 8 children where only 3 survived; her first and last two children (girl, boy and girl), all in that harsh era of the1930s.  Five children in between either died at birth or at a very young age. In most of her pregnancies, she wondered whether the baby would survive as food was scarce and she was illiterate and had no money to buy milk or baby food. This is just too overwhelming for me to relate further so I shall  focus more on better times Mama had, especially when she had grandchildren like me 🙂

Things became better for Mama when her children were able to get stable jobs, a proper home to stay and proper food to eat. Life did become a bed of roses but not without all the thorns that came with it like world war, racial riots and political instabilities of those times… in Singapore. Yes, it did happen in Singapore like it did all over the world then. When times changed, Mama was able to dance and laugh and those were the times when I came into her world too as you can see her dancing and enjoying herself in the following photo:

Mama dancing

Mama dancing with Uncle Swee in 1987 at dad’s 60th birthday party.

 All the years I was with Mama, never did I hear her complain or moan about her past or the sufferings she went through. She only focused on doing her chores and cooking for us faithfully. She hardly fell ill or complained of any ailments. She would simply look after herself and was independent until her bones became too frail. I will share more about Mama especially the interesting observations and experiences I had with her. For now, it is undisputed that she is the No. 1 Superwoman.

Uncle Baba

Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

Yes, I believe there were many but there was one who was always there for my family since I was perhaps a toddler. He was my dad’s buddy and all of us know him as Uncle Baba. He was rather small in size as he was about 5 feet tall and slim built. It was rumored that he was a jockey. He loved to ride motorbikes that required the rider to bend his body down to hold the handle bar. It looked like his body was hugging the fuel tank. Come to think of it, it could be due to his size.

Singapore’s weather is generally humid and hot but Uncle Baba always wore his black leather jacket to ride his bike. Fortunately, black leather pants was not in fashion or available then. He worked at some kind of warehouse that store frozen foods and supermarket supplies. When he visited us after work, he would have goodies stuffed in his leather jacket like frozen sausages, ham or canned foods. Sometimes I wondered how he even managed to stuff jars of pickles in that jacket and was able to ride the bike the way he does, to our house to share the loot.

When I was in kindergarten, my family went on a road trip to the nearby hills of Malaysia. We traveled in a convoy of cars. Uncle Baba of course couldn’t ride his bike so he had to sit in one of the cars. He sat behind in my dad’s car looking after me and it seems that he had motion sickness and was feeling unwell during the journey. However, he still took the time to chat with me and looked after me through the journey.

He was a chain smoker and always had his Camel cigarette pack tucked in his shirt pocket but during the journey, he was not able to smoke as I was in the car and he persevered on until we reached the destination hours later.

After some years had passed, I gradually saw less of Uncle Baba as he had retired and was suffering from serious gastritis that kept him house bound. He was looked after by his wife and daughter so our family managed to visit him a few times to see how he was. He sat with us to chat although he was visibly in pain. I felt saddened by his state and wished I could do something for him. He had lost almost all his teeth due to his heavy smoking and excessive coffee drinking. I believe his stomach problems were also due to the same addictions. Later on I heard that he passed on and I wondered why his family did not inform us until much later.

Uncle Baba, thank you for being such a wonderful Uncle. You have showered us with your love in your own simple way and always put us before yourself. I know my dad was very fond of your friendship and my family also loved your company. God bless you always.

Never Too Late – DP

Golden Key

You’ve been given a key that can open one building, room, locker, or box to which you don’t normally have access. How do you use it, and why?

It took me awhile before I could ‘pen’ these words down as something has been occupying my mind lately. Most of the time I would be able to promptly do this but this time, it is a struggle. So what is the key issue? I want the key to that box, where all the answers I need can be found and now that I have been given this key, I shall go that box and open it.

First, I need to make sure that no one knows or sees me doing it because the things inside the box are greatly sought after and you can make millions or rather billions with it. It can make people beg, steal or even kill for it. Once I am able to get to that box and open it, I will take those precious things and go to trustworthy people who will help me with it. Ok, I am not stalling anymore. Those things refer to formulas for cures against all cancers, alzheimer’s, parkinsons, dementia and vaccines for all forms of viruses.

I will work with people who will use these formulas to make it available worldwide to fight against these dreaded disease and viruses at the lowest cost possible so that everyone will have access to it. There should not be any country or organisation that has priority above the other. Once the prototypes are made, it shall be distributed to all countries that can produce it and then distribute it as quickly as possible to all parts of the world, even those in remote areas should be reached.

This key will help end the sufferings of people I know who have to go through chemotherapy. It will end the heartbreaks of people who see their loved ones suffer pain and uncertainty of life. It will end the pain of those who have to see their loved ones gradually unable to remember who you are and lose their ability to walk, talk or even eat or drink. It will put an end to untimely and premature deaths of friends and family. It will put an end to fear of infection and remove stigmas.

I believe I have given more than enough reasons why.

Golden Key – DP