Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Toast to our Teachers

“How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life?” (Source: The New York Times)

Raj Chetty (third from left) and his team of researchers.
Image source: The New York Times

That’s the question Harvard Economist Raj Chetty and his team sought to answer in his research that scrutinized the “life paths” of about 12,000 adults, who were subjects of a famous education experiment in Tennessee when they were just kids 30 years ago. Chetty presented his “fairly explosive” findings in an academic conference in Cambridge, Mass. (USA). 

According to the Chetty research, “Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.” (Ibid) In short, due to early education, these people became successful later in life. According to the New York Times, “Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance.”

This is not just a classic case of “What I Need To Know in Life I Learned in Kindergarten” but this is another feather in the cap of Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV) Thus, Chetty and his research team “estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.” That’s how valuable and strategic teachers are. 

Image source: The Evolllution
I think that applies not only to kindergarten teachers but also teachers in all levels. I believe that only eternity will fully reveal their impact on our lives. Yes, the Bible warns that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) But teachers will also be rewarded with a greater reward. If you feel God is calling you to become a teacher, step out in faith, sign up and become a channel of blessing that will overflow not just here in this life but even beyond in the life after.

My take? Let us offer a toast to our teachers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Praying for One Another

The story was told about a country that was experiencing an epidemic of psychiatric problems. The doctors could not handle all the mental health cases brought before them. In short, many people in that country were getting crazy. But later on, a civil war broke out in that country. It was a terrible, destructive war. Yet, to the surprise of the doctors, the war “had the unexpected effect of ‘curing’ many of [that country’s] thousands of neurotics. When they became concerned about the welfare of their families, friends and country instead of their own, their neuroses disappeared and hospitals and clinics were almost emptied of such cases.(John MacArthur, Jr., “Ephesians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.”) They were cured when they stopped concentrating on themselves and started caring for others.

We are commanded in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (ESV) In this chapter, James was encouraging people to pray for those who are suffering and sick. He taught believers that they should care enough to pray for others and not just for themselves. Prayer is not just about our personal needs. It is also about the needs of others. When we just think of our own needs without thinking of the needs of others, we become selfish. But, when we think of the needs of others also, we become sacrificial. Philippians 2:4 tell us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That doesn’t mean that we no longer care for our interests. But it means that we are care for the interests of others also. We don’t avoid our own needs. But we do address the needs of others. The Contemporary English Version goes like this: “Care about them as much as you care about yourselves”. When we do so, we really show that we are followers of our Lord Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) The best way to prove that we are thinking of the needs of others also more than our needs is when we pray for one another. Someone said, “Love heals both the one who gives and the one who receives.” You want to be blessed? Prayer blesses both the one who prays and the one who is prayed for.

Brethren, let us pray for one another.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Master's Own Hand

Art historians used to believe that Leonardo da Vinci painted his “Virgin on the Rocks” with the help of his student Giampetrino (Source: Reuters). The 15th century painting was discovered and authenticated only a few years ago. It was a later version of the “Virgin on the Rocks”painting that is now displayed in Louvre, Paris. (If you watched Tom Hank’s “The Da Vinci Code” movie, you saw the painting already.) However, an 18-month restoration project by the conservation team at the Britain’s National Gallery revealed otherwise. In a press statement the team declared, “It now seems possible that Leonardo painted all he picture himself, leaving some parts just sketched or yet to be completely resolved, and others fully worked up.” (Ibid) A badly degraded coat of varnish applied in 1948 “had reduced the picture’s subtle shading, particularly in darker areas, and impacted its intended sense of space.” (Ibid) When the team subjected the painting under the latest infrared technology, they “discovered two distinct underdrawings beneath the surface of the painting… One was a completely different design from that eventually painted over the top of it, while the second is a drawing of the Virgin of the Rocks but with considerable changes.” (Ibid) It seems it was a work in progress that Da Vinci never got to finish.

In this 2005 file photo, a visitor looks at paintings in an Ancona, Italy museum, where a previously unknown work by Leonardo da Vinci goes on public display for the first time.
Giulio Napolitano/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

According to Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV) The word “workmanship” means “product,” “a work of art” or “a masterpiece.” We got the word “poem” from that Greek word. Yes, there are times when we look at the mirror that we think we are a Picasso abstract or, worse, a Mister Potato Head. But, seriously, God Himself is painting the picture of our lives. We are a work in progress that He will complete. We may not see His design beneath the surface. But, it is there. According to Philippians 1:6, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language) So whatever challenges or crises we are facing right now, as the song goes, “When we don’t understand, when we can’t see His hand, trust His heart.” God knows what He is doing.

Brethren, we are God’s masterpiece.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Buffett's Best

Image source:
Billionaire Warren Buffett is “consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people, and is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2010… He is one of the most successful investors in the world… In 2007, he was listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world.” (Source: People’s ears perk up whenever he speaks on his views on economy and other issues. His devoted followers deem his economic wisdom Solomonic.

Now, what was the best advice that this most sought-after font of financial advices has ever received? In an exclusive interview, he lauds his father, businessman and politician Howard Buffett, for “teaching him how to live” (Yahoo! News) Buffett credited him for teaching “The power of unconditional love. I mean, there is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean, you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it — it’s not uncritical love; that’s a different animal — but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being. (Ibid) It seems that Buffett is also working on making a better world. He is now fulfilling his pledge of donating 99% of his wealth to charity. (He already gave away US$2 billion.) And, to top it all, Buffett “has joined forces once again with Bill and Melinda Gates on an initiative to persuade the world’s billionaires to donate half their fortunes to charity.” (Ibid) What a noble cause indeed!

Yet, we don’t even have to be billionaires to fulfill such cause. We have already experienced the power of unconditional love. “We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other.” (1 John 3:16, CEV) So, now we are to transform from objects of God’s love to channels of His love, from recipients to givers. Since we experienced His love, we are now to express it through our words and works. That’s how it is to live! Sharing God’s love is also one sure sign that we really received it. “God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him… Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life.” (1 John 4:8; 3:14a) It is time that we grow from not just being loved towards being lovers ourselves.

My take? “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, ESV)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Caught in Traffic

I could not believe my eyes when I read it. President Benigno Aquino III, whom we now fondly call “P-Noy,” got caught in traffic. “On his second day in office Aquino ordered his driver to stop for red lights and declined to use lanes set aside for public buses and as a result arrived 40 minutes late for the turnover ceremonies for the new chief of staff” (Source: According to his personal driver, P-Noy obeyed traffic rules even before he became a congressman, something he learned from his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

Needless to say, it was a security nightmare for the Presidential Security Group. “Police escorts were also barred from using their sirens, and members of his security detail jumped out of their vehicles to secure the presidential car every time the heavy mid-morning traffic stopped the limousine” (Ibid). Last Wednesday, June 30, 2010, on his way to his inauguration as president, people saw that there were no blinkers or sirens (In Filipino, “wangwang”) in his convoy and that it took all the proper U-turns and left-turns. Then in his inaugural speech, people loudly applauded when he declared, “Kayo ba ay nagtiis na sa trapiko para lamang masingitan ng isang naghahari-hariang de-wangwang sa kalsada? Ako rin… Walang wang-wang, walang counterflow, walang tong.” (“Have you had to endure being rudely shoved aside by the siren-blaring escorts of those who love to display their position and power over you? I have, too… No more sirens, no more short cuts, no more bribes.”)

Of course, personally I think he should reconsider his stance, given the security risks he is exposing himself. Since, after all, he is lawfully entitled to use “wangwang” along with the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice. But he intends to model obedience to the law. Thus, we really felt he is one of us. I believe that his brand of leadership by example already endeared him to us.

That gives us a glimpse of what the Lord did when He became flesh.
“Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.” (Philippians 2:6-9, CEV) That ought to make us love Him more.

Brethren, our Lord Jesus became like one of us.