Discipline helps to avert a worse outcome

When you see people all around you doing all sorts of things and getting away with it, you wonder if there’s justice and fair play in the world. They seem to be living like there are no consequences to their actions. Something is just not quite right with this picture.

Will such people always get away with it? I think not. It’s inbuilt in life that our mistakes and shortcomings catch up with us at some point. When they catch up with us, those with integrity face the consequences and grow to become better people. Those who weasel their way out will leave the consequences for others to clean up. That isn’t fair, is it?

Those who think they are spared the consequences of their actions are usually in denial. They won’t face the music. If there are people around them to tell them of the state they are in, they are lucky — if they listen and act accordingly. By doing so, they very likely avert a worse scenario. That’s the way of life.

Facing the consequences is a form of discipline and the Bible teaches the benefit of it. (And, I’m in a preachy mood today, so here goes …!) Hebrews 12:5-11 talks about the value of discipline and how God disciplines those he loves because he regards us as his sons and daughters. As Christians, if we really love God, we will understand that his discipline of us is an act of love and, out of reciprocal love, we will submit to his discipline. We won’t argue with him that it is not meant for us, it’s a mistake, we don’t deserve it, we didn’t do anything wrong (we say this when we can’t see our blind spot), why me when others are getting away with it, etc, etc.  There is no point in resisting; all we have to do is just submit to his discipline, which is to assume responsibility for what we have done and face the music.

This is especially true in doing the “right thing”. Sometimes, in doing the right thing, we go against the grain and there will be consequences. Whatever the consequences, we need to face them. It’s a discipline that builds us up.

I don’t think God disciplines because he gets a thrill from it or because it is his nature to punish us for our failings. I believe he disciplines to achieve a desired outcome that fits into his scheme of things which we may not know much about. That desired outcome includes improving the individual by the discipline of dealing with consequences.

And, hence, we come to what for me is one of the most encouraging verses in Scripture — Heb 12:11 which states: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Our actions have consequences, even when we mean well. By facing the consequences, we become better people and enjoy a peace that really passes all understanding (Phil 4: 6-7). That peace is something we should desire and it comes when we go through the pain of facing the music.

So, when we have to do the right thing or something we feel God is saying — even when it’s painful — we do it because we know we are loved and at the end of it we’ll enjoy a peace that blesses. That is God’s discipline and only good comes from it. If good follows discipline, then, we can safely assume, by submitting to discipline we avert a worse outcome.

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Spare our athletes, please!

Why don’t we let our athletes just be, and cheer them on to do their best? Instead, we place such high hopes on them and when they fall short of expectations we get disappointed. Is that good sportsmanship?

Shouldn’t we be giving all the help — monetary, physical and moral — we can to motivate them to excel and then see how they perform at competitions? Athletes also want gold and they strive for it, but they know their limitations, too. They know what they can achieve and what they can’t and yet they give their best.

The fact that we won a silver by the national badminton mixed-doubles pair Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, another by Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong in the synchronised 10m platform dive, and a bronze by Azizulhasni Awang in the keirin cycling event is a commendable effort. This medal count is higher than the two we won in the London Olympics. And, we might get a gold or, at least, a silver in the badminton singles when Lee Chong Wei takes on China’s Lin Dan.

We should be proud that our athletes are getting more medals and winning at more international events, instead of politicising their participation or diminishing their achievements with racial undertones — like the two Malay papers which downplayed Chan and Goh’s silver. Seriously!

Surely, we have reached a stage where Malaysians, whatever their ethnic background, are simply Malaysians? It is very disappointing that some Malaysians are still trapped in their ethnic mindset. They have yet to become true Malaysians.

But, I suspect such Malaysians are a minority rather than the majority. What is disturbing is that the minority seems to control the media in wielding the influence to shape the opinions and perspectives of the unsuspecting majority readers.

A good way to counter such media is for other media to express exactly what they think of thoughtless and insensitive reporting through the race lens. People need to speak up against such reporting and, generally, against such bias.

I hope the athletes are not discouraged by the negative publicity they have got from the two earlier mentioned Malay papers. Do your best. Take part in all the competitions you can and win all the prize money and medals you can! The rest of us are rooting for you!

I wrote this article in the hope that my readers will my express their thoughts on this issue. Please write freely. With your comments, more people will read your thoughts and I really believe that would help in countering the negative publicity a couple of our athletes have got.

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Bersatu, a way out and forward

The big plus point about Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s newly-founded Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is that it represents all the bumiputra groups in the country, irrespective of ethnic background and religion. The party is open to Malays, the Orang Asli and ethnic Sabah and Sarawak tribes (many of whom are Christians) who are the first communities of this nation earning the rights to their bumiputra status.

Some may argue that the party’s exclusivity to only bumiputras may push minority groups to the category of second-class citizens. Whether bumiputra or not, everyone must have a vehicle to express their concerns. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), although Malay-based, provides that vehicle to minority groups. The dominant minority groups have their own parties; the MCA, Gerakan and the DAP are all Chinese-based parties, with the former two with the Barisan Nasional (BN) and the DAP with the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).

The Chinese have a choice of the parties they want to represent them. The Indians have the MIC, which is with the BN but they are also represented in PKR. The Sabah and Sarawak parties are solidly with the BN although some are represented in PKR.

The issue right now, however, is not whether the minority groups have political representation. The problem is with the majority group, the bumiputras, particularly the poorer rural bumiputras, who are torn between bread and better issues and the middle-class issues of justice, rights and integrity. Umno has successfully capitalized on their concerns with promises of development and other benefits to keep them voting for them.

Those bumiputras who have progressed beyond bread and butter issues to justice, rights and integrity have abandoned Umno and the BN it leads. These are the urban Malays and they are solidly with PKR. Their numbers are more than the rural bumiputras who can be bought for their bread and butter because that is their need. It is this group, smaller in number, but represented in more parliamentary and state constituencies which currently forms the bulwark of support for Umno and the BN. They see in the BN a government which helps them. They don’t see an alternative which can do the same.

Bersatu, if approved by the Registrar of Societies, could provide that alternative. It represents the collective bumiputra interests, which is good, but the question is whether it will get supporters. For a start, it may get the support of the disgruntled members of Umno. It plans to go on a nationwide roadshow to explain the contentious 1MDB to the grassroots. It would be good if it would ally with the opposition on the roadshow and include reforms in its agenda.

The reform agenda is necessary because all the problems we are having now is due to the lack of it. The only reason why BN has to go is to enable the PKR-led opposition to introduce and cultivate a culture of reforms to ensure checks and balances in government and to proscribe the errant behaviours of leaders so that their actions are confined by law, and the excesses we see are never repeated — ever, again!

People need to know what is at stake, that we risk losing all the gains we have made so far and this has to be made known to the grassroots. A nationwide roadshow by Bersatu and the opposition would likely win over many supporters. If they succeed, they would certainly break up Umno’s current support base.

That, maybe, Bersatu’s immediate strategy — giving the traditional BN supporters an alternative where their interests will still be maintained. If Bersatu works hand in glove with the opposition, they will present a very credible coalition to the people, one which has majority bumiputra and minority support. In addition, the coalition will have national level leadership as well, and will have the experience, talents and passion and numbers to rule.

If Bersatu succeeds, in the long run, it would become the party that adequately represents bumiputras, especially the rural communities. Any ruling coalition would have to woo it to have majority bumiputra support in their pocket and with it, that coalition will have the right to rule.

From the way I see it, Bersatu is a way out and forward — if the bumiputras are smart enough to follow.

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Enjoying God comforts

It was a hectic two months, first running around making hospital visits to attend to my brother’s care and on preparations on a new project I took and later making his funeral arrangements. In the midst of it, my washing machine broke down and I had to replace it and last-minute changes had to be made to the course I was teaching. Phew! Really hectic!

But, I was calm in spirit and held it all together through it all. It was a new experience, stretching myself out without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out! Surely, that’s the grace of God? In my life, there have been many moments when I have experienced His grace to help me get by difficult circumstances. In my life, I can only say, God is real.

Others may dispute and dismiss God’s existence. In my life, though, it is a reality that I experience again and again and am always grateful for.

After all that hectic running around, I had some personal time to rest, reflect and recoup. There’s no stress to deal with. Instead, I am enjoying the comforting assurance that all is well with my soul. He takes care.

I am at peace and increasingly becoming aware that I may be entering a new phase in my life. I’m looking forward to it with a sense of rising expectation. I’ve no idea what it is, but I will certainly continue sharing the insights and experiences God gives me.


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Exemplary care at Putrajaya Hospital’s ortho ward

Of all the institutions which provided care for my eldest brother before he died, I must single out Putrajaya Hospital’s (PH) orthopaedic ward for special mention. They gave exemplary medical and nursing care to my brother.

He was in the ortho ward for 10 days and it was the first time that I got no complaint from anyone about my brother. Both the doctors and nurses (male and female) were very professional and asked me for his background and treated him accordingly. They were aware of his old age-related cognitive impairments and accommodated him.

They understood that it was because of his cognitive disabilities that he was difficult to manage, but, manage, they did. They treated him with respect and spoke very kindly to him even when he did funny things like pinching lose his diapers. They would kindly tell him not to do this or that and then solve the problem without putting the burden on him.

Everywhere else, I got a litany of all his woes! For goodness sake! He is cognitively impaired! That’s his illness! Everywhere else, if they couldn’t give the care he should get, the problem was him not them! But, not at PH’s ortho ward. Not once did I get a negative word about him. They just did their job very well. In addidtion, they were very helpful. When it was time to discharge my brother, I asked if they could help move him into the car because the surpervisor of the old folks home at Calvaryland where he was staying and who came to take him needed help, they obliged.

Some cynics may say that they put on their best behaviour because they know I am a journalist. Well, the other institutions also know that but that didn’t motivate them to treat my brother the way PH’s ortho ward did. I don’t think that was the reason. I think they are just a better crop of caregivers. From my observations, they have better people skills and, most likely, are better trained. So, they gave exemplary service.

My brother got just as good medical care at UH’s ortho ward when he was admitted there two months ago, but the nursing care was not as good as at PH’s ortho ward. The nurses were sometimes rude not only to my brother but to other bedridden patients as well who kept calling them to attend to them. For them, the problem was the patient, not their own lack of skill. (I must add here that the nursing care was better when my brother was moved to UH’s geriatrics ward.)

Both hospitals gave good medical care, but one gave it with a respectfully caring attitude irrespective of how the patient behaved. To me that is an excellent attitude in care giving. If, at the back of their minds, caregivers think the problem is the patient, they’ll always have the attitude that they are superior to the patient and that it is all the patient’s fault. And, any one can pick that up. If that anyone is someone like my brother, he will react.

Perhaps, that was the reason why my brother made no scene at PH’s ortho ward. He was still difficult but less agitated.

In care giving, the attitude counts. You may still provide the service, and the recipients will acknowledge it and pay for it, but they’ll never be appreciative of your efforts and never feel gratitude. As long as caregivers feel that the problem is the patient or the person in their care, they reveal their lack of skill. Instead of admitting to their lack of skill and trying to improve, if they continue with that judgmental attitude, that attitude will negate all the good works they do.

I was at peace when my brother was at PH’s ortho ward. And I’m very grateful to the doctors and nurses who took such good care of him. Their service deserves commendation and is an exemplary act to follow.


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Mercy triumphs over judgement

My eldest brother passed away peacefully last Tuesday after less than two months of age-related illness. He was 80. I am glad his last stage of illness didn’t drag out too long and that he died in a familiar place and not all alone in a place among strangers. He was bedridden for about a month, and I am also very thankful to the caregivers at Calvaryland — the old folks home where he had lived, which is run by Calvary Church — who attended to him in his last days. On Tuesday, as was the routine, they fed (he had to be fed intravenously) and cleaned him, and then he rested. At 3pm, they gave him the afternoon feed. He then took a deep breath and then he was gone.

There is only one thing I want to say about my eldest brother, JR Linus. And that is this: God took care of him.

My brother has nothing to show in his life. He was the source of much grief to us and estranged from the family. The only person who watched out for him was my second eldest brother. He kept in touch with our eldest and was there for him in his every crisis. Me? Because of his past, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him! Until, God intervened.

I recall that morning more than 15 years ago in my quiet time, in the book of James, I read verses 12 and 13: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I came to the last sentence, and my eldest brother came to mind.

It hit me that God chose to forgive us in Christ. If He hadn’t, all of us would be damned because He understood the human condition! Not one of us would be spared. Yet, He forgave us! If He has forgiven me, then, I thought, I should forgive others, too — my eldest brother included.

That same evening, I attended a service in church (Calvary Church) and the speaker shared something I don’t quite remember. But, I recalled the verses of Scripture I had read in the morning. And, the truth hit home that I had to forgive my brother. And, I did. After that day all my hate for him disappeared.  And, little by little, I began to reach out to him, visiting him once in a while, buying him a meal and giving him some money. And, when he couldn’t manage on his own, I put him in a couple of homes, and, finally, at Calvaryland where he stayed the longest. (“This is a good place to stay!” he would say.)

He was not an easy person to live with or take care of and I would fight with everyone concerned so that they gave him the best care possible! (I wasn’t popular with those responsible!) Then, when my second eldest brother suffered a stroke and could not visit him, I became responsible for him.

After he died, sitting in the funeral parlour quietly by his coffin, I thought to myself: Despite the way he lived, God took care of him. He didn’t have a place to stay and St John’s Cathedral gave him a room until he found a job and got a room behind Central Market. By the time, he couldn’t work, God had changed my heart, and I was ready to take charge of his senior years and found a place for him to stay at Calvaryland.

Not only did I find a safe place for him stay, but I also began to pray over him and he began to appreciate my prayers for him. I would not have done any of the above if God hadn’t changed my heart.

To me it is crystal clear that this man, a “nobody” in this world is a somebody to God who made sure he was taken care of. My brother died without a sen to his name, but God made sure he was taken care of until the end.

His life counted for just this one thing: God took care of him.

We held a simple funeral service for him at St Francis Xavier’s church. It was a small crowd of our closest relatives. Their presence was such a comfort to me. In his death, I wasn’t alone. In the warm acceptance of family and close relatives, we released our brother into the hands of God who took care of him.

There is a blessing to take from my brother’s life: If God took care of this nobody, surely He will take care of all the other nobodies and somebodies as well?!

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Do we really have enough money?

I had an interesting conversation with a man in the waiting room while my eldest brother underwent a minor operation at Putrajaya Hospital. This man, a businessman, was also waiting there as his wife was having a baby by cesarean.

He has his own IT consultancy and we started chatting about this and that and, soon the topic of politics in the country came up. Just a few sentences into the conversation and with a final air, he summarized his point of view: “Umno leadership has to go.” I figured he wasn’t an Umno man. “I was with Umno. Now I am not!”

(It’s funny how all the people I interact with on the ground — the “old paperman”, the mini-market owner, the hair stylist, the restaurant owner, the laundryman, the cashier etc, etc, — all don’t seem to be Umno people or BN (Barisan Nasional which leads the government) supporters! I guess it must be a case of “birds of a feather flock together”!)

Curious, I asked why he wasn’t an Umno man. He laughed, saying, “Hmm… . Mahathir, ah! He is a leader! These people, er, no lah!” Why? “You know, we have to deduct taxes monthly for next year’s income! How?! Why like this? Whaaat, lah!”

His exasperation was tangible! I couldn’t go on with the conversation because I saw the attendants wheel my brother out of the operating room and I had to follow. But, it brought to mind another conversation I had when my brother was admitted. The cashier was getting the details about payments and I asked why they were being so finicky and she said: “The hospital wants to improve or, maybe, the government doesn’t have money!”

I laughed and teased, “Ya, the government doesn’t have money!” She laughed, nodding her head in agreement. “Ya, the government doesn’t have money!”

Quite apparently, the government is trying to collect money in every way it can — even collecting taxes before the income has come in! Which means, they really don’t have much to work with or they may have enough for the moment but they want to ensure the funds don’t dry up in the near future. Very efficient of the government! Yet, at every elections in the past under the current leadership, millions of ringgit were promised to the people and the BN won back some of the support it had lost. From where is the government getting the funds? It seems like giving with one hand and taking it back with the other!

Don’t we have the right to know if the government has enough? If you were to ask the leaders, they will reply in government-speak: “Our fundamentals are strong. The people don’t have to worry about this! We’ll make good on our promises!”

Don’t the people have the right to know? The people who make these queries have been effectively silenced or keeping quiet for whatever reason. The government-controlled papers all paint a rosy picture. The PR is great but I think the people can still see through it.


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