Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today is Pi Approximation Day

22/7 is pi approximation.

Pi approximation is the approximation of the mathematical constant pi.

Pi is the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, representing the letter P.

P is the first letter of my name, Pearlie.

Pearlie is happy today.

Today is 22/7.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Potato Couch Weekend

I still wasn't in the mood to go back to my serious reading and I have tried reading five novels but none caught on and so I ended up spending time catching up on The Big Bang Theory.

It is no surprise that this sit-com is a hit. The characters are splendid, the dialogue superb and the acting spot on.

So, yeah...I spent the whole weekend being a potato couch. Thankfully, I am still going to the gym every weekday. Phew!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Will I ever write poetry again?

I read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars yesterday morning in the gym instead of my regular read on Exodus. I was too tired--being a Friday--and found Philip Graham Ryken's Exodus, Saved for God's Glory not sinking in as I read.

I had wanted to get some time in during my lunch hour to read a few pages but I was invited for lunch by a colleague.

So after CG--where for once I said yes to a cup of coffee because I didn't mind staying late into the night reading--I got home, washed up, snuggled into bed and read for two hours till nearly 2am before I dozed off.

I woke up this morning at 5:30am. Too early but what the heck, I might as well read.

I finished the book at 8:20am.

I was crying buckets.

John Green is one of the better writers I've encountered in a very long time.

Excellent writing.

Take his poetry for instance. I attended a performance by the Trinity College Choir a few years ago. They were so good I decided I will not sing anymore. I read John Green not 20 minutes ago. His poetry is so good I now decide I will not write poetry anymore.

Just look at this:
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I could never write like that nor could I sing like the choristers but the thing is I am still singing. I spent time learning and practicing, and I must say I have improved.

I certainly wish the same for my writing.

But on a different note, whilst I have enjoyed his writing, I found myself thinking quite a lot about his stand and philosophy in the book. In the light of his existentialism and deism in the book, and there are many very interesting sections in there for discussion.

But I love this part: "You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers."

Anyway, I've been reading too much about death, what with Alcorn's Heaven, Lewis's A Grief Observed and the movie Shadowlands and now this. And all in just two weeks!


Friday, July 18, 2014

I never learn

I find myself always jumping into something without first deliberating if it is the right move.

Well, if you know about the Gallup Strengths, Deliberation and Strategic aren't high on my list. I must do something about it and figure out how to compensate for my lack of it.

But for sure, I must be more mindful and think before I leap.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

I was a bit bored today reading very serious books -- on Exodus and on Heaven -- and I thought I'd look through my books and pick up something light and interesting. I settled to try out a few pages of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

I am already looking forward to watching the movie. But I thought I'd take a look at the book first. The thing is, if I read a good book, I will watch the movie, though I will have very, very high expectations from the movie to live up to the book. But if I watched the movie first, I will not read the book.

So I had better look at the book before the movie is premiered.

Upon reading the first few pages I was already captivated. John Green has a voice I like.

I look forward to reading it in the coming days but I have a strong feeling that it will soon reduce me to tears.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finally, card begone!

My first credit card I believe was back in 1991 when I started work. I got it from Hong Leong Bank, and all it took was a copy of my graduation certificate. After which, I got a second card in 1994 through my then employer's bank, Standard Chartered Bank.

I gave up the Hong Leong Bank card not long after because I found myself always having to drive to the bank in the heart of the city to its drive-through counter for payment and their officers weren't too friendly. That was then, before e-banking.

But I held on to the Standard Chartered Bank card until today when I successfully cancelled it! Yippee!!!

I've called in many times over the years to try to cancel it only to have them delay it by various offers, which I reluctantly consented. But I finally did it today and I'm very happy - because I seldom use it in the first place and I find their services wanting.

The worst being this: I've had this credit card for the last 20 years. Sometimes they would ask me verification questions that I am unable to answer as I am no longer sure which of the data in the 20 long years they have in record. When that happens, I can't get them to do what I needed them to do and they require me to haul myself to one of their branches to get it settled!

In this e-environment off late, that is the last thing I want to do. They have not been innovative enough to offer a loyal 20-year customer a better solution and so I'm glad to just give it up.

I am sentimental (20 years!) but practical trumps sentimental this round.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Hospital Visit

Two of my very close friends have been admitted to University Hospital Petaling Jaya, one who successfully underwent a fourth surgery for a hip implant on Saturday but who still need care and observation in light of his Parkinson's Disease, whilst the other has been in ICU cum HDU for the past 11 days as a result of multiple complications due to a botched up procedure in the same hospital.

I finally had the opportunity to visit the latter today and grabbed the chance to visit the former as well.

My prayers are with the both of them for full healing and recuperation, and their exhausted wives for strength and peace of heart. In my books, these two women are absolutely amazing.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pain, Suffering, Death and Salvation

I used to devour C.S. Lewis's book after book a decade ago, when I found the joy of reading theology.

I remember reading A Grief Observed with a very basic understanding of its depth. I read it like any other book and moved on.

It is ten years later now when I found out from reading Andre Agassi's Open that there is a 1993 movie about C.S. Lewis's life with Joy Greshem. It's entitled Shadowlands. I managed to find a copy of the movie and I've just watched it.

With that, even though I have many books lined up to be read now, I'm putting A Grief Observed ahead in the list.

A Grief Observed
by C.S. Lewis
A classic work on grief, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moments,” A Grief Observed an unflinchingly truthful account of how loss can lead even a stalwart believer to lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and the inspirational tale of how he can possibly regain his bearings.

I may not have lost anyone as dear yet, but I gather reading it in tandem with Randy Alcorn's Heaven will help me put things in better perspective. It will be obvious that the pain will not be alleviated, or even lessened. But I hope to see it in newer light and have a more stable footing on the hope that is given by God in Christ.

On a separate note, I am also beginning to get curious again on the topic of salvation. During the recent silent retreat, one retreatant asked why doesn't God give man another chance to receive Jesus after death. At that point of time, I thought if that were the case, it will be possible to ask the same question to no end at every stage. We are instead been given a whole lifetime here on earth to know and believe Him.

But upon reading Alcorn's Heaven, I begin to really wonder. And these are not new questions: what happens to people who live in secluded out-of-reach areas and have no chance to hear the Gospel, what happens to people who did not really make a choice and regrets it the very moment after death, and pleads for another chance?

The only book I have that I think may draw some light into this book on four views on salvation.

Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World
by Clark H. Pinnock, Alister E. McGrath, Dennis L. Okholm, Timothy R. Phillips, John Hick, R. Douglas Geivett, and W. Gary Phillips.
Increasingly, Christianity is seen as just one among many valid paths to God. Four views...presented by advocates of each, help Christians understand and meet the challenges of our pluralistic culture. Religious pluralism is the greatest challenge facing Christianity in Western culture today. The belief that Christ is the only way to God is being challenged, and increasingly, Christianity is seen as just one among many valid paths to God. In Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, four perspectives are presented by a major advocate of each: (1) Normative Pluralism: all ethical religions lead to God (2) Inclusivism: salvation is universally available, but is established by and leads to Christ, (3) Salvation in Christ: agnosticism regarding those who haven’t heard the gospel, and (4) Salvation in Christ alone.

Oh dear, my reading list is getting longer than ever. On top of that, I only have a print copy of the book on salvation. It will indeed be challenging, both on content and medium.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blessings by Laura Mixon Story

I am in the worship back-up team for tomorrow's service and was in church for practice today. We are to do this song written by Laura Mixon Story entitled Blessings.

To me, of all songs I have done for Sunday worship services, this is by far the most difficult. The song's difficulty level was multiplied by three more factors: (1) only one singer knew the song, all other singers and all the musicians did not know it, (2) we don't have the music score and (3) we only had half an hour at the most to figure out and learn the song.

But I must say, the song is quite good, with amazing lyrics.


P/S 13/07/14 we did it fairly well considering the above, though we came to a completely stop in the mid of the final chorus in the first service! Oh dear...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book craze

My good friends know that I used to buy print books like crazy. I buy books that attracted my attention and I buy them four or five at one go every time I visit the bookstore and I used to go there at least once a month.

I do that because whenever the book stores carry the titles that I needed or I thought I needed, I would grab them before they run out. If I don't I would never be able to buy them when I needed them. Most of the time however, I just wanted them.

The buying behaviour changed when I went electronic. Since the titles will always be there, I can wait and will only buy them when I need them.

With an exception.

Sometimes I come across good promotion deals that if I don't make use of them, they will expire. Therefore, I do find myself book binging at times, but still, it's not as bad as it was with print books.

As mentioned a couple of days ago, I am now reading Randy Alcorn's Heaven. It is an excellent book, and I am learning many new things. I like his writing style and he did quote some of his novels in the book and so I thought I might as well make use of the deals before they run out.

And so I bought two books today. And buying books electronically only takes two minutes, it's scary. I'm thankful they are not as pricey as print books, or I'll find myself as broke as I was in my book crazy days.

I got myself these two titles and I look forward to reading them.

Safely Home
by Randy Alcorn
Is this the day I die? Li Quan asks himself this question daily, knowing that he might be killed for practicing his faith. American businessman Ben Fielding has no idea what his brilliant former college roommate is facing in China. He expects his old friend has fulfilled his dream of becoming a university professor. But when they are reunited in China after twenty years, both men are shocked at what they discover about each other. Thrown together in an hour of encroaching darkness, both must make choices that will determine not only the destinies of two men, but two families, two nations, and two worlds.

Edge of Eternity
by Randy Alcorn
Imagine Being Pulled Into the Hereafter. While You’re Still Alive.
A disillusioned business executive whose life has hit a dead-end, Nick Seagrave has lost loved ones to tragedy and his family to neglect. Now, at a point of great crisis, he unbelievably and inexplicably finds himself transported to what appears to be another world. Suddenly he’s confronted with profoundly clear views of his own past and personality. At the same time, he’s enabled to see, hear, taste, and smell the realities of both heaven and hell–realities that force him to face dangers and trials far greater than any he’s known before. Pitted against flying beasts, a monstrous web that threatens to hold him captive, an evil, brooding intelligence, and undeniable evidence of a spiritual world, Nick must finally consider the God he claims not to believe in. Walking between two worlds, Nick Seagrave prepares to make decisions that will change his life forever, as he stands on the Edge of Eternity.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

My crazy high personal standards

I am in the midst of administering a workshop for work. I am stationed in a hotel function room making sure things are running as they should be for the workshop that is facilitated by my company's director.

With the time I have on the side, I brought work to do--I have so much of it--but I find it hard to concentrate while the workshop is ongoing.

So I decided to do some run-of-the-mill work that does not require that much thinking. With that I spend almost the whole day reformatting organisation charts uninterrupted. This is good as I will not be able to do that in the office.

On a different note, being in a place out of the usual, I can get out-of-sorts. In my trying to make sure everything is running perfectly, I got careless and dropped my iPhone cable yesterday and lost it. It is a small matter but being who I am with very high personal standards (as explained by a DISC guru whom I totally agree with), I was extremely angry at myself. The thing is I was trying to stop myself from spending the money to get a third cable, and here I lost one.

Today, I tried to resolve the matter in my mind and to come to terms with it. And in reaction, I said to myself I might as well go to the Apple Machines store this weekend and buy myself two bloody iPhone cables.

Photo: Klaus Post, 2005

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

MeetUp of a Book Club

I was introduced to MeetUp recently. It's an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.

I joined last month and among the (very) few groups I signed up for is a book club. I have never been in a book club before and I was quite looking forward to it.

The book for June last month was Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
by Douglas Adams

It was an interesting read, but it took me quite awhile (12 days!!!) to complete it. As it is with science fiction, I tend to get lost more easily and I have to pay more deliberate attention. Moreover, I made a big mistake in checking out IMDB on its movie. I found that Martin Freeman played the protagonist role of Arthur Dent. It kind of spoilt the book for me. Don't get me wrong - he is one of my favourite actors, but having his face in my mind as I read the book definitely muddled my reading experience.

I did finish the book in time for the meet up but I didn't go. I must say I was suddenly not very keen in meeting 21 strangers all at one go. When I RSVPed, it was only about a dozen people. But it ballooned up to over a score and sadly, I chickened out.

For the month of July, the designated book is Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie

I thought I'd give the meet up one more try. So I started reading it today. I loved it! It isn't that long a book with only 184 pages--I finished it in one day.

And doesn't the book cover look amazing as well?

Compared to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I think this book may be more interesting for discussion. It talks about two boys undergoing "reeducation" during the Cultural Revolution period in China. They were sent to a mountain village and there they met a tailor's daughter whom they nicknamed The Little Seamstress. It is a becoming of age story set in the background of China's revolution period but without the usual escapism theme in books about the Mao regime, which was good, since every book I read of that era talks about almost the same things. This instead revolves around the lives of the two boys growing up and getting to know this girl and their adventure in stealing banned books to read. What more, I simply love books about books.

Now I hope I will be able to gather enough guts to attend the July meet up. I really hope so...


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Enough durians for the year

I used to look forward to the durian season every year. Other than savoring the most delicious fruit in the world (not to some though), it is definitely a time of friendship and camaraderie--because normally, no one eats durians alone (unless you can't help it but buy the pre-packed ones in styrofoam containers).

I remember the time when the durians that we bought were kampung durians, hence we wouldn't know what we have until we open up the fruits and try them. Everyone will surround the person who opens the durians and watch in silence too see what is in there--and then taste to see whether it is good or mediocre. Those were the good and fun times.

I don't very much look forward to it any longer because I have to watch my diet since durians are really the most unhealthy fruit as well. It is one fruit that is both high in sugars and fats, and absolutely piled up in calories.

So nowadays, if I were to eat durians, they have to be really, really, really good.

The Musang King breed is my durian of choice for now. Moderately affordable and absolutely delicious. I had some in the office yesterday, courtesy of one of our bosses who owns a durian orchard and some today, purchased by my mom.

But I have had enough for this year!

In retrospect on yesterday's musings about heaven, the thought of freely enjoying the best breeds of durian without health consequences is just so delightful!

Photo source: http://www.duriansupplierexporter.com.my

Monday, July 07, 2014

My comfy corner in Heaven

I have always wondered how heaven is like since I was very young. I wondered if I will still know who I am, that is if there were no tears and no sin, would I be still me? Will I remember my sad past in nostalgia and still not feel even some kind of sadness? Or worse, will I not be able to remember at all?

Then over the years, I begin to have a firmer picture of heaven, as an actual place where I will still be who I am, with the full presence of God with us. And I will have with me all the treasures I have accumulated while on (the old) earth, like love, patience, kindness, etc. I will get to do stuff I love to do. And most probably I will have work but work that is joyful and fun! I will have all the people around me whom I do not have to second guess because our relationships will be perfect and transparent. I do not have to worry about making anyone angry or feel bad because we will be in an eternal spirit of giving and love.

That is my current understanding of heaven.

So when the Catholic priest said yesterday that heaven is not a place but a state, I said to myself, "hold on...no way." But I have not done enough study to effectively defend it with Scripture. Someone actually tried and quoted from the Gospel of John, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." (John 14:2-4, ESV)

The priest then said we cannot read the Scripture literally all the time. And the "place" here is not literal.

I am of course not convinced. If the "place" is not a place, where in Scripture can he prove that it is not a place but a state? I don't think he can disprove that by just commenting that it is not literal. The way I see it, the gospel of John is to be read literally. It is not an apocalyptic writing like Revelation.

This is where as I have noted yesterday, that I will finally dig into that book sitting in my library for far too long.

by Randy Alcorn

I have just started and I like his writing. And here is a paragraph I really like, and mind you, I have just started reading the book and I certainly look forward to the coming days snuggling in a comfy corner reading about heaven! Such bliss! But imagine, this comfy corner in heaven! Ahh!

"What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. Our desires correspond precisely to God's plans. It's not that we want something, so we engage in wishful thinking that what we want exists. It's the opposite—the reason we want it is precisely because God has planned for it to exist. As we'll see, resurrected people living in a resurrected universe isn't our idea—it's God's."


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 3

The place I was in for the silent retreat is an Ignatian retreat house. I like the place because of its quietness, being close to nature in the jungle and its landscaping.

But however, that's about it, I'm afraid.

Other than the excellent retreat on Praying Ways led by the Cenacle Sisters, which I attended in May 2011, the rest of the retreats I attended in this place had me having issues with their theology. I do have good moments with God but I am always aware of teachings that is not aligned with what I was taught.

Well, I can't complain since I asked for it and I had freely signed up to attend. Anyway, it is not my place to say anything at all, being an "outsider".

But I will make a few observations about this particular retreat here:

1. I find that the retreat focused a lot on framework and tools, not very much on Scripture.

2. I was a bit disappointed not being able to take the communion. I understand and respect their decision. But after I had taken communion during a silent retreat in Chiang Mai, I felt pretty much left out of the body of Christ this time.

3. The father said that heaven is not a place but a state of being. I don't think I can agree with that. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and that sounds very "placey" to me. With that, my next read will be Randy Alcorn's Heaven so I can resolve the matter in my mind.
(P/S: it is a real place! "They're as real as the places we were born and the places we now live"
Source: Heaven, "Introduction: The Subject of Heaven", Randy C. Alcorn)

4. The father made a comment that Catholic theology has been stable and the same all the centuries unlike the Christians, making reference to Kong Hee of Singapore. That I feel is quite an unfair statement. Coming from a Wesleyan background and now growing in the Baptist tradition, our theology and doctrine have been very stable indeed over time as well. And I am in the same way as aghast as he is with the likes of Kong Hee.

5. On the irony, he actually said that non-Christians, i.e. Buddhists and Muslims, if they lived right according to their conscience may go to heaven. Wow...where did Jesus and the cross go in this?

But God is in all of this nonetheless. I say this because of what happened when I got into my car at the end of retreat to return home.

The Praying Ways retreat was very special to me (refer here and here). It was a time when God revealed himself to me through a dragonfly and the sound of thunder in line with the song by Steve Green, The Symphony of Praise.

What happened this time was this: when I got into the car I automatically connected my iPhone to the car player and as usual it plays a song randomly. Out of the 387 songs I have, this time it played The Symphony of Praise! This song has never played randomly before.

I realised God is reminding me that he is ultimately in charge and I can depend on him at all times and in all ways.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 2

Coming here on a last minute basis, I came to the Lord this morning asking him what he desires of me. It got it resolved to two items, one of which is to re-center my life in him.

I began by re-looking into my "life line" which I keep track under this free Apple app call LifeTrack. I updated it and realised that I have not been in a silent retreat since my last one in Chiang Mai in December 2011.

And what is more amazing is that I have been to three silent retreats in year 2011 alone. I did not even realise that.

Then there was none till now, two and a half years later.

This augments the need for me to re-center my life in God. I've had several major things that happened in these two and a half years, among which are changing jobs three times, one of which involved being laid off. And one good thing is that I have started attending a care group under PBC in this period and I am still faithfully attending it.

My life is full of stuff to do at the moment, at home, at work, my reading, and at my faith community. With so much doing, I have neglected my time with God some. I am still praying and reading his Word. But it could be better.

With this, I hope to double up the time I spend with him. And be more mindful of him every hour of my days.

Like what the ESV Study Bible say of 1 Thess. 5:17, "pray without ceasing suggests a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in his presence throughout each day."

That is indeed my prayer, that I will continue in a daily personal fellowship with God and being conscious of him throughout each day. Amen.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 1

I had a really long day today administering a workshop session for about 30 people. I have been doing that since Wednesday and I am totally exhausted.

And as it is with most Fridays, I spend the evening with close friends in CG in a warm hearth of friendship and brotherly love.

Instead I found myself in a group of strangers. Maybe it is because this silent retreat was a last minute one, of which I have had no preparations made. I know I did say that I am a queen of last minutes yesterday. It's just that when I am finally here, I felt so uneasy and out of place and in my tiredness, I did not recognise what it was and it was indeed unnerving. Introductions with the few people who spoke to me were really awkward. My deepest apologies to them.

But I am more settled down now that the time is silence has begun. The time of solitude that I am yearning for is now here and I am feeling more at peace.

But the thing is I am so tired I want to get to sleep but I can't. My mind is just too busy.

I need to wind down. And retire. And sleep.

Good night everyone.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

An answer to a prayer

We all know that God work in amazing ways and he does.

I have not been to a silent retreat for a really long time and suddenly I had this urge to be silent and to spend time alone with God. So I popped an email to Margaret of Maranatha Retreat House on Monday for the retreat this weekend. I wasn't expecting much and true enough, it was full.

The amazing thing however is this: I received an email this morning from Margaret telling me that there is a last minute pull out and if I would be interested to go.

Last minute stuff usually works for me. I texted my husband if he can manage with me gone for the weekend. He, being a last minute person himself, was ok about it too. And the next thing is to really decide if I want to go.

Margaret gave me a name, Mary, and contact number to call, without much detail. I could not get Margaret on the line and so I called Mary. It turned out that it was Mary's friend who pulled out and as a result Mary had to pay for the entire twin sharing room and she was about to confirm an expensive taxi ride up the hill. Apparently, I called just in time because not only can I replace the person who pull out and pay for half the room, I can also offer her transport. She wasn't too comfortable being alone in a taxi for such a long journey.

It feels nice to be an answer to someone's prayer and it feels good that I listened to the still small voice of the Spirit telling me that I need my silent time with God and that I should checked out the retreat time table.

O Lord, I look forward to spending time with you this weekend. Open my ears, my eyes, my mind and my heart to your words, your glory, your presence and your grace.