Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Gallery, Chiang Mai

This was a photo I took with my iPhone 4 that turned out better than I had expected. I initially took a photo of only the building, which I found uninteresting. It was then that I thought having a motorcycle whizzing pass in the photo would give it some movement. It wasn't hard, there were many of them anyway, motorcycles.

Wish I fished out my DSLR though...


Friday, December 16, 2011

Retelling the Christmas Story

In my recent silent retreat, I was given the Jesus birth narrative to do a contemplative prayer on, which I did and it was an amazing experience and encounter with God. I wanted to record it down, and when I began to do that, I ended up re-telling the story of Joseph and Mary, and the birth of Jesus, found in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20.

Since it is the advent and soon Christmas season, I have posted it here, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing and learning from it. I would not have believed that I could learn so much, both spiritually and theologically, by re-telling a biblical narrative.

I have tried to keep it as close as I can to geographical and cultural setting. If you find any misrepresentation in there, I would appreciate if you would let me know.

Merry Christmas!
And They Laid Him in a Manger
The story of Joseph and Mary, and the birth of Jesus
Dramatized and retold by Pearlie Ng
Painting: His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful by Simon Dewey

Joseph ran into the house looking harried and said to his wife, now heavy with child, "Mary, we need to be going now. Caesar came out with a decree that we should all be registered."

It was only about eight months ago that Mary was found to be with child, and Joseph's world was turned upside down. Mary was betrothed to him when that happened. He had begun to love Mary and her gentle soul. He didn't know what happened, or how Mary could have done that to him, or whose baby that was. But he had decided that he will not put her to shame but to divorce her quietly.

That was when the most unexpected happened. An angel of God appeared to him in a dream and said to him, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

When Joseph was awakened, he was shaken. It was too clear and distinct to be just another dream.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit? Save his people from their sins?

Joseph could not fully understand what that meant but the rest of it was as clear as day. And as he pondered on those words, do not fear, take Mary as your wife, call his name Jesus, he decided to do as told.

He knew he will be laughed at, for marrying an impregnated girl. But he decided that he will trust in God and do his bidding, come what may.

That was more than eight months ago.

"Slow down, honey. Where do we need to go? We need to be what, registered?"

"Bethlehem. We need to go to Bethlehem to be registered, since I am of the house and lineage of David."

"Oh Joseph dear, do we have to? I don't think I travel at all in this state. The baby is about to come."

"Yes, we have to go. I realize that it will be difficult for you to travel so far, which is why we must start off now. We will go in a slow and steady pace and hopefully arrive on time. What do you think?"

"Alright, but I think that place will be packed with people returning for the census. I'm afraid there might no longer be any place for us to stay when we get there."

"Don't you worry about that for now, dear. Let's just get you to Bethlehem," Joseph said as he smiled and planted a kiss on Mary's forehead.

So they got themselves ready, donkey and all.

"At least we still have that donkey. I can’t imagine how you would have to walk the distance," Joseph said as the tied the remaining bundle to the saddle.

They did not bring much, just enough for the trip. But Mary had reminded him to pack enough cloth and some swaddling cloths for the baby, just in case.

The journey was arduous. They had to stop more than usual to give Mary some needed respite. Joseph was glad that they started the journey way ahead of time. It would normally take them four days to get to Bethlehem. And it is already the seventh day, but they were almost there.

"Are you feeling alright, dear?"

"Oh, I'm fine. It is just that baby must be having a ball in here with all the movement I am giving him. He keeps kicking me!"

"I think he wants to come out to see what's happening," Joseph laughed, "anyway, we will be there real soon. There, I can see wisps of smoke. We should arrive this evening. And I guess you are right, it will be a challenge for us to find a place. But let's trust in God."

They arrived in Bethlehem at dusk. The place was still quite alive at that hour. Many people were already there. They were out and about setting up their place and getting ready to settle for the night. Joseph gingerly led the donkey with Mary along, trying not to bump into anyone.

"Mary, there's the inn there. Looks like it is the only place in this town for us to get a room. Let's go find out."

They headed towards the inn. A couple of children running whizzed passed them as they came to the door.

"Hello! Any rooms for rent? Hello! Anybody there?"

"Oh hi! I'm the innkeeper here and it has been crazy these few days, you know, getting these people all settled down. And their demands! Oh! They do think they can get anything they want as long as they shove money in my face! Thank goodness, this census thing doesn't happen so often! Oh I'm sorry! Pardon me. What can I do for you? If it's a room you want, I'm sorry I'm out. I've ran out of rooms since Day One, and I have to tell you that this is the only inn here. Which is why most people arrived way ahead of time and I have been at their beck and call ever since. Will there ever be rest for me? No!"

"There are no more rooms?"

"No! No more rooms. Even the few good souls that offered their spare rooms in their houses around here are all taken up. I'm so sorry I can't help you. I got to go, I have this family who keeps asking for new sheets as if I am not already washing enough."

"Wait! You need to help us. Look, my wife here is heavy with child and she will deliver anytime. We need a place, any place."


"Please, help us. Don't you have any place left?"

"Well, I would not want to do this to anyone, seriously—but you are desperate now, aren't you?"

"Yes, any place will do as long as there is a roof above our heads and a place for us to rest."

"Alright, you asked for it. I have the stable there. I know, it is not ideal, but it is still a place you can use, if you want. Sorry, I have to go now. Did you hear that? They are yelling for me. They need to be taught some manners!"

As the innkeeper rushed off leaving them at the door, Joseph looked dejectedly at Mary.

Mary smiled.

"Alright, alright, I can hear your I-told-you-so. But let's go check this place out, shall we? I don't think we have a choice."

The stable turned out to be quite decent viewing the situation that they were in. It was not big but enough for three sheep and their lambs. For now, there was just one, with her two lambs, lying by one side of the stable. Their heads bobbed up with inquiring eyes as Mary and Joseph walked in.

"I think this will do," Mary said.

"You sure, sweetheart? Well, we can clean up this side of stable and lay it with some fodder here, cover it with the cloths you made me bring, God bless you," Joseph smiled at his wife.

"We should put these wooden blocks around it to hold it all up."

"Good idea! It will also tell the sheep there—Shoo! No offense but this is our place now. There you go, how's that?"

"It looks good."

"Okay then, we're set. The sun has gone down. Let's light a candle and get settled in, and have our dinner. We have not eaten will all the excitement, or frustration should I say...Oh! What's wrong? Are you okay? Tell me. Oh! You mean the baby is coming? Oh! Oh! Baby is coming! Baby is coming! What should I do? What should I do?"

Mary heaved and breathed hard. She felt the spasms and contractions acutely. Hours passed and soon she really felt the urge to push. She yelled and moaned in pain. Joseph looked worriedly at her, praying and hoping. Finally, with the last push and wail, the baby was born.

Joseph laid him on the tired mother, cleaned him carefully and wrapped him in swaddling cloths. Joseph watched his wife and son in awe, he has become a father. He remembered the words of the angel.

That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their his people from their sins…save his people from their his people...

"Joseph! Joseph!"

"Oh! Sorry, I sort of zoned out. Do you need anything?"

"I am wondering where we should lay the baby tonight. This bed of fodder does not seem safe enough for him. It's too flimsy for a newborn, and I can't put him on the ground."


"And I can't stay awake the whole night carrying him, I am just too tired..."

The baby whimpered as if in agreement.

"I know. Let's see...Hey, how about this thing over here?"

"What thing? The manger?"

"It is sturdy. It is made of stone after all. We can clear out all the grass. I'll go get some water, wash it and clean it a bit. Dry it and layer it with cloth, the whole lot we brought along. We'll make it comfortable, and I think he will just fit in nicely. What do you think?"

"Yes, I think it will work. Let's try it."

And so they did, and they laid him in a manger.

Mary let out a deep breath. It was done. The baby Jesus was born. 

She has been keeping it all to herself throughout the ordeal. Mary was one who treasured and mulled things in her heart, unlike her husband who preferred to talk about it. They had been discussing about his dream many times already, but she has yet to say much about Gabriel's visit. Joseph did know of it. She just has not said much about it yet.

Now with the baby here, she remembered Gabriel appearing to her and the fear she had when he did, and the shame she suffered in consequence.

Gabriel had said to her, "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

All she could think of then was the impossibility of it, since she was, and still was, a virgin. The angel had told her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. The child will be called holy—the Son of God.

It is still quite mind-boggling but she had submitted to God. She knew she will be the talk of town, but it was worse than she had thought. She could not walk in the street without being sneered at. The men will usher their families away from her, the women would not even look at her and the children would point and laugh at her.

This was why she felt so thankful for Joseph. He had every right to divorce and leave her, but he did not. He had protected her the whole time, encouraging and reminding her time and again of his dream and her encounter with Gabriel. He often brought her to visit Elizabeth, her relative, which made her feel better when she was in her company.

She gazed lovingly at her husband who was at that moment, baby-talking to his son, to God's son.

But as she began to look at the place around her, she felt a sudden pang of sadness. Tears began to well up in her eyes, and before she could help it, she was weeping.

"Mary? What's wrong? Are you in pain?"

"No, no. I'm alright. It's just that..."

"Yes, tell me. What's wrong?"

"Joseph, look at this place! From what you've told me and what the angel has told me, this is the Son of God. And look what have we here to receive him? A stable? A manger?"


"I know we don't have a princely bed to lay him in. I know we don't have much to give him. But we don't even have a bed, for crying out loud. A stable! A manger, Joseph! We have nothing but the worst place for him!"

Mary crumpled down, sobbing and shaking in tears.

Joseph held her close, trying his best to comfort her.

Minutes passed and Joseph said quietly, "You know back home when we were getting ready and you were worried about getting a room, and I said to trust in God? I think that's just it. There is nothing we can do but to trust in Him. Think about it, we planned nothing of this. Not the conception, not the census, not the fact that there is simply no room available, and definitely not the birth. As you have told me Gabriel has said that this is the Son of God, and as such, God is definitely in control, no question about it. He could wait till we are back home, but he did not. The baby came. So he must have planned this. Don't worry. God knows what he is doing."

"I suppose so. But still…a manger? Who puts a baby in a manger?"

"I don't know, honey, I don't know," he sighed.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps outside the stable, and someone talking hurriedly in whispers.

Mary looked alarmed.

"You stay put. Let me go check."

Joseph peered out the door and found three men, looking very excited. One of them saw Joseph and asked hurriedly, "You have a baby in there?"


"A baby! Do you have a baby in the stable?"

"Yes, but..."

"And is the baby lying in a manger?"

"Yes, and..."

With that he began to exclaim, "We found him, Eythan, we found him! We found him, Tomer! Praise be to God, we found him! I was right, didn't I tell you? We are looking for a manger and where else would it be if not in the stable here?"

"Excuse me, but may I know what is happening here?"

"May we come in? May we come in? I will tell you all that we have seen. You wouldn't believe it!"

"Well, alright. Do come in. But I see that you have brought others with you."

"What? No, there is only the three of us. We were watching the sheep and...Oh, I see. Looks like we have awakened the neighborhood and they are all here. Look what you've done, Tomer. Anyway, may we come in?"

"Of course, of course, come in. Take a...a seat."

The three shepherds scuttled into the stable. There wasn't much room for them, but nothing would have stopped them. The people who were attracted by the commotion came as well and curiously watched from the door.

"Look, Eythan! Look, Tomer! The baby! In a manger! Just as the angel said. Look!"

"What angel? Could you tell us what you saw?" Mary inquired.

"It is not only what we saw, but what we heard! It was amazing! Alright, let me start from the beginning. We were out in the field, Eythan, Tomer and I, keeping watch over the flock as we do every night. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared before us. We were so afraid. He was glowing, shining! He told us not to be afraid. He said that he has brought us good news. You could have seen our faces, we were stunned. Eythan was shaking, wasn't he, Tomer? Good news? What good news, I had wanted to ask, but I was frozen, speechless. He said that today a Saviour is born, who is Christ the Lord. Christ the Lord! Imagine that! We've just been told that the Messiah has come! And he said there is a sign. He said we will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Yes! A baby! In a manger! Then you wouldn't believe what happened next. Just when we were trying to figure out what the angel had just said, there was suddenly a whole lot of them, the angels. They were blazing, it was almost like daytime! And they burst out in the most glorious sounds I have ever heard in my entire life! There was music! They were singing! It was spectacular! Then they were gone. Whoosh! Just like that. We were lost for a moment but I immediately told Eythan and Tomer that we must come to Bethlehem and see for ourselves this thing that has happened. We've been practically running for an hour until we came to your door wondering if indeed we will find an infant in a manger. And we did! Would you believe it? We did! And here he is, here he is...Christ the Lord...Messiah."

The air was still. It was suspended. The shepherd's account has mesmerised everyone there: Mary, Joseph and those by the stable.

After awhile, the shepherd said that they had better get back to the field where they left their sheep and hopefully still find them there. As they left, they were in high spirits, praising and glorying God for what they have heard, found, and experienced.

Joseph found themselves alone again and said, "Do you know what just happened, Mary?"

Mary looked at Joseph and slowly nodded her head.

"Did you hear what the shepherd has said? The angel told him that they will find a sign, a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger. Think about it. Would they have found him if we had laid him in a bed? There will be countless babies in their beds in this town. And even if the Son of God would be laid in a crib in the palace, would the shepherds be allowed in to see him? Now I'm thinking about what was said to me in my dream. The angel said that he will save his people from their sins. His people include the lowly people like us, like the shepherds. He has to be found in the worst place, like you said, the most lowly place, or he wouldn't be found by us at all."

"Yes, Joseph. I do see it too. We did not give him the worst. He chose it himself to be in a place of the worst."

Mary treasured up all these and continued to ponder in her heart.

What will the future days be for my child, Jesus? How much worse will he be choosing for himself?

Little did Mary know at that point that Jesus in the manger will soon be Jesus on the cross.

© 2011 Pearlie Ng
All rights reserved

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This is My Body, This is My Blood

One of the interesting experience I had during this silent retreat was the mass services that I have been attending. First, I must highlight that all the silent retreats that I have attended, four so far, were ran by Catholics. It is only because I only know of silent retreats organized by them. I don't seem to find any details about the ones ran by Reconre, and I have not encountered any other people who do them in Malaysia.

Anyway, about the Catholic mass, I recognise the sensitivity of the Catholics with regards to non-Catholics who attend mass, and I know that it is common practice that most priests do not allow non-Catholic to partake in the bread and wine. I accept that - because I do not subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation and therefore I am okay not taking it, which has been the case for the first two retreats.

During the third retreat, the father commented to the non-Catholics that if we would choose to receive it, we are invited to do so. He said the choice was ours. I did not and the reason was theological. I felt that if I choose to take it, then I will be subscribing to the dogma of transubstantiation because it will be given to me as such, based on the belief of the attending priest.

But during the this retreat however, things turned out very differently. During mass on the first night of the retreat, I automatically remained in my seat when the retreatants proceed to received the bread and wine.  Nobody said anything, the priest was silent about it, and I let it be, as being the common practice of non-Catholics in a mass. 

The next morning however, when I had my reflective session with a Catholic sister, she asked me very inquiringly, "Don't you take Holy Communion together with people in your church?" 

"Of course! I do! I do not take it in a Catholic mass because..." 

"Because you are sensitive to the feelings of the Catholics." she finished for me. 

I just nodded. She continued saying that she has spoken to the father about it and that it was okay if I desire to join them in receiving the sacrament. I thanked her for it and left the matter at that.

But I found myself in a dilemma. I had not tell her that though one of the reasons why I did not partake with them was because I respected them, the bigger reason was because of my theological stand. Like I mentioned, I felt that if I were to take it, it would seem like I am subscribing to the doctrine of transubstantiation. But she had approached it from the perspective of the body of Christ, that we come together to partake in the holy meal as a family in the Lord. 

I never felt so torn between. It felt wrong taking it and it felt wrong not taking it. As the time for mass drew closer and closer, I began to feel quite panicky. What should I do? Should I take it, or should I not take it? Or should I just not attend mass? 

I started writing my thoughts down. I write for therapeutic reasons. I write to feel better, I write to still my thoughts, I write to manage and to put in place my one million and one thoughts. 

And as I do so, the body of Christ begin to win over theology. But as I walked to the chapel, I was still undecided. As mass proceeded on, and as I begin to pay closer attention to the words uttered, I finally set my mind and stepped forward to partake in the holy meal together.

And that in itself is a very refreshing experience. I still do not believe or subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation, and it did not matter. What was special was that it has brought me to look at the Holy Communion anew. For the Methodists, we see it as the Holy Mystery of the Real Presence. Whilst it has not literally turned into the body and blood of Jesus, it is more than a symbol, more than a remembrance.  It is a Means of Grace. It is a holy sacrament that brings us into the holy presence of God through his grace and mercy.

I will not partake it anymore as before, I was serious about it but yet I can't help it but to say that it was in a sense of nonchalance in comparison to how the Catholics do it.

I will now partake it with more seriousness, more awe, more wonder, and in worship to my Lord Jesus Christ.

We will have the last mass service for the retreat later today. This may be the last mass I am permitted to partake in and as such, I will savor it and savor in the special and holy presence of my Lord.

Thanks be to God.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Holding the Moment Still

Time really have no mercy. It simply does not travel at the rate you want it to. I have been in the mountains of Chiang Mai for the past few days, and just when I was relishing the fact that I have a long 5-day silent retreat for myself, I am already in the last day.

It is still morning and I just had a very good session with my spiritual director, and I look forward for the day today.

I want to try to hold every moment still, to suspend it.

Impossible, I know, and yet I hope that the more mindful I am of it, the longer the moment will stay. This last day of retreat may just feel like it lasted a really long time.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feeling guilty?

The project that I was working on has been completed. I was taken in on a contract basis, and I am not engaged in anything for now. There are no projects running at the moment.

I am talking the opportunity to a long deserved break. I worked a full month December last year, which has not happened before, and being contracted, there weren't many off-days I could take. And so, I think this long break is a well-deserved one.

Except that it suddenly feels weird not being at work, and feeling a bit guilty.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Parents' duty to their children

Pastor Marvin spoke on "Raising the Next Generation for Jesus" and I think it is an important and timely message.

To working parents, I am sure this is quite hard to hear. We relegate the duty of caring for our children to the babysitters, and daycare centres. We let the televisions, computers and iPads babysit out kids these days.

I am not saying that it is wrong to do so. We are thankful for the availability of these services especially when working parents do not have family nearby to help. And televisions and gadgets have their own good uses.

But what is important though is how we relate to them everyday. Do we spend time listening and talking to them as the main activity of the moment? And do actually listen to them, rather than only spewing out instructions after instructions, order after order?

Instead, we need to both make time to actively teach them about God and His Word, and to live our lives according to God's way and truth so that we are good witness of Jesus to them. It must be clear in our mind that it matters to them how we relate to each other as husband and wife, how we relate to our own parents, how we perform our work, how we talk and communicate with others, how we manage our finances, how we spend our free time -- basically how we live our lives.

And what Pastor Marvin did at the close of his sermon was excellent. Back in those years when I was teaching in Sunday School, I found that it was, and still is, the most neglected ministry. Teachers were not trained, they themselves were not very serious about it and the way I see it, most, if not all, handled Sunday School lessons like kindergarten lessons, with what Pastor Marvin termed as handing out "morality lessons". I did what I could in teaching them about Jesus, but what was lacking was the support and the active push from the pastor, the shepherd of the church. And that was what Pastor Marvin did and I thought that was superb.

He made time to introduce materials that the church will use in 2012, and how parents will be supported by the church in providing them and their children the platform to be saturated in the Word of God. And I was also delighted that the materials used are those under John Piper's ministry, Children Desiring God.

I actually felt the excitement by just listening to him and what the church will be doing in 2012.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sabbatical Cycle

My husband pooh-poohed it as a normal tendency for us to see patterns in all we do, but I see it as something quite interesting nonetheless.

I have been working for 20 years now and as I began to reflect on what I have done and what lessons I've learnt in these periods of years in different organisations, I saw that I have have been at work in 7-year cycles with prominent breaks at the beginning of every 7th year.

This I feel is reminiscent of the Sabbatical year cycle, even though I do not take year-long breaks (except for the first cycle, which I did).

And so, as I enter into the 4th cycle, I'm taking a deliberate break to reflect, recollect and regroup myself in preparation for it.

And I am reminded of the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26, which I will receive from the LORD, as a commitment to Him that He is the Lord of all, He is the source of all good things, He is the purpose of life:

The LORD bless you and keep you
The LORD make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you
And give you peace


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 STM Graduates
from the Methodist Church

Front row (left to right)
Rev Dr Philip Siew (Director of Advance Ministerial Studies)
Rev Dr Anthony Loke (Director of Communications & Promotions)
Rev Dr Ezra Kok (Principal)
Rev C. Jayaraj (President of the Tamil Annual Conference)
Rev Dr Hwa Yung (Bishop of the Methodist Church, Malaysia)
Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik (President of the Trinity Annual Conference)
Dato’ Dr Alex Mathews (Council Member from the Trinity Annual Conference)
Rev Dr Wong Tik Wah (Dean of Students)
Rev Dr Joseph Komar (Tamil TEE Director)
Miss Ho Gaik Kim (Chapel Warden)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Grace Notes: The Evidence of Grace

Grace Notes together with The PJ Philharmonic Orchestra had worked together on a praise and worship piece entitled The Evidence of Grace to raise funds for the El-Shaddai Refugee School. It was organised by Migrant Ministry Klang and held in Harvest Christian Assembly Klang on Saturday, 12 Nov 2011.

Grace Notes has worked very hard on this, and in record time, compared to the other events we have taken part in. We took about a year to prepare for the previous big events. We only had a little more than 2 months for this one - and it was indeed stressful, and more so for Joanna, our conductor. Towards the end, we were literally meeting for practices every other day! It was truly all through the mercy and grace of God.

I do not think we did that well. But all in all, it is for the glory of God in His majesty. However, it was the journey that meant a lot to me and which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It was the learning, the going out of tune during initial practices, the frowns, the laughs, the frustrations, the accomplishments, the fellowship, the learning to bear with one another, that made it all worth it.

The one technical thing I have learnt from this round is the ability to sing more consistently in the lower register. The soprano part in this piece is quite challenging, with the lowest note being a Bb3 and the highest a B5. So it is good for me that I broadened my range as well.

On the spiritual end, I was quite moved by it on the whole. My favourite song is "I Can Only Imagine" - envisaging how it will be like when I am there. The song that brought me closer to God though was "Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord", reminding me to always be aware of God's presence in my life and to always keep my spiritual eyes open to the mercy, grace and love of God, open to obedience to Christ, and open to the needs of other people.

This video was created by Eddie Loh, a good friend of mine who was so willing to do it even though it was on a last minute request. The three of us, Eddie, his son Nicky and I, spent Sunday and Monday last week taking photographs and videos of a Myanmar church service and of Myanmar families in their homes in Kampung Jawa, Klang. However, I did not take any photographs this time - I left it to Eddie and Nicky. I was basically the driver.
(Note: the track used in the video above is the original from Word Music.)

The video was played during the song, "I Can Only Imagine", a wonderful song about how it might when one is in heaven and about to see God. If you notice the song lyrics, while they are mainly around the expectations and the imaginations of an individual, you will hear how it takes after Revelations in picturing how worship will be like in eternity in the presence of the Father and the Son - "Worthy is the Lamb, Praise the Great I AM! Hallelujah!"


Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

I was attracted to this book first by the title and then by the cover. And then I thought I have for myself a wonderful book when I read its introduction - it promises a lot of things I was looking for.

But alas it feel from the sky to the very depths of the underworld. I could not continue with it and stopped at Chapter 6 with 6 more chapters to go.

I was indeed looking forward to read about what it means to build a life in Christ. I did know from the start that Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, but little did I know he is as one Amazon reviewer termed him as a "progressive Catholic". I would say that he is pluralistic more than anything.

His views about how life in reality is true and I agree with him. I also agree with him that many areas of our lives and the church needs to undergo a more radical transformation than they have. But I could not agree with his means, and his treatment of theology and Scripture. He gives statements that are blatant and I could not agree with his explanation and justification.

For example, his treatment of sin is rather light, with statements like "you cannot avoid sin...anyway". I find it too absolute - cannot...anyway. Yes, it is difficult to avoid sin, but something we can do and should strive to do.

In reference to Paul's "It is when I am weak that I am strong", he writes, "he was merely building on what he called the 'folly' of the crucifixion on Jesus." Merely?

He writes that Jesus praised faith and trust more than love. Really? Where in the Bible did he find that?

He writes, "People who know how to creatively break the rules also know why the rules were there in the first place." Excuse me?

He writes, "You must first eat the fruit of the garden, so you know what it tastes like." If he is referring to the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden...I really do not know how to respond to that. I suppose I can, in a tirade, but I am just rendered speechless for now.

And this is among the last ones that made me stop reading the book: he writes, "There is not one clear theology of God, Jesus, or history presented, despite our attempt to pretend there is."

I rest my case.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

It is oh so comfortable

Some of you may remember Daniel Radcliffe's splurge on a $17,000/RM60,000 mattress some years ago. Don't ask how I got to notice that piece of news, or actually even remembering it - I was a keen follower of some tweets back then I suppose, and I was on a search for a mattress in the past few weeks.

My husband has finally indicated that we need to change our pre-historic mattress and I have been mattress hunting ever since, and it has never been so confusing. Well, how often do you buy a mattress anyway. Ten years? Twelve years? Twenty years?

I did not know where to start. I did not know what was in the market. I did not know what is which and which is what. All I know was spring mattresses. But spring mattresses were the rave back then ten twenty years ago. Is it still the kind to go for?

Apparently not. Foam has been upgraded to memory foam and natural latex is back in business.

My first encounter of a natural latex mattress is quite amusing. Most mattresses sold here are locally manufactured and the only place I could find any reviews or recommendations of brands was the LowYat Forum, which wasn't much of a help as the information were scattered, incomplete and scant. So I dropped into a store just to have a feel of what's available. I remembered reading in the forum that King Koil mattresses were among the more popular ones, and so I requested for a view and a quotation. As I was about to leave, I sat curiously on a Getha mattress - I have seen it being advertised extensively for the past few years. I went, "Mmm...this is so comfortable!"

I knew then what I wanted. A latex mattress.

My subsequent search in the Internet was more helpful. I found some articles explaining the different types of mattresses currently available, and what I should do in choosing and deciding on the right one. I came away with several conclusions:

(1) The kind of mattress one should get depends on one's preferences, and of course, budget. There isn't any one best mattress for all.

(2) The key in choosing which mattress to buy is to lie on the display units of your choice for 15 to 20 minutes in your most preferred sleeping position, and if you still feel good after that, the bed is for you. Be prepared to visit the stores in your most comfortable clothes, save your pyjamas.

(3) It is very important to get a good and suitable mattress so that you get really good rest and sleep every night, since you will be using it for at least 10 years. So don't simply settle for any one. Get the best your budget can allow you.

(4) Most mattresses come with a 10-year guarantee. Find out all the information you can get about the warranty.

(5) Mattress purchases usually come with free gifts. Make sure you get your worth of extras without the extra cost.

My next visit to a store was when I was window-shopping with my mom. It so happened that we passed by a dedicated Getha showroom. I tried most of the mattresses there, which were so comfortable, and I took note of two which I preferred, priced at RM5000 and RM5800. It was above our budget though.

The third store I went to, sealed the deal. It was quite a random visit but it so happened that they carry another natural latex brand, Naturatex. They also have the memory foam type, which I tried but did not like. I finally settled on a Naturatex with a RM3290 price tag, which is well within our budget.

It just arrived awhile ago, it may not be RM60000 worth but it is oh so comfortable.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

After all these years

Someone posted an old group photo of us when we were back in Primary 5, and God bless her because of that, I had lunch with a really old friend this afternoon. We have not met for 31 years!

It was delightful that we caught up again to exchange memories, to share stories of our lives, to talk about our families and our dreams.

Now how often does that happen? Well, maybe more now that we have the good ol' Facebook.


Monday, November 07, 2011

125 volumes of commentaries and references literally at my finger tips

I just found out that the Bible✙ app by Logos in my iPhone and iPad now reads all the electronic references and commentaries I have purchased from Wow!

The thing was when I last downloaded and installed the app, the only commentaries available for use in mobile devices were those like the NICOT/NICNT, which cost about RM5000 for 40 volumes.

With the access now enabled, I am now carrying more than 125 volumes of work in my devices. I have 58 volumes of the Word Biblical Commentaries, 49 volumes of the Tyndale Commentaries and 18 volumes of the Essential IVP Reference Collection.

I am now very, very tempted to get the Bible Study Library at RM830. I am not a very fervent user of my BibleWorks, but I do wonder how the Logos one match up to it.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Oh! For a good night of sleep

I slept so well last night after telling myself off for the late nights I keep ending up having, and not that I am doing anything useful at all. I told myself that I must at least get to bed by 10:00pm.

Last night, I finally listened to myself and did just that. It still took me about an hour to wind down and I fell asleep at about 11:00pm, which is nevertheless a record by far.

I had problems sleeping recently, so much so that I reinstalled a sleeping pattern monitoring app back into my iPhone and had it monitor my sleep cycles. The next thing I did was to cut off on coffee and tea consumption after 12:00pm, not that I am very successful with that though. And now to get to bed by 10:00pm.

Results? I had it from a bad nights most of last week,

to a great night last night.

I could not even believe it when I saw the graph this morning.
It looks like going-to-bed-at-10pm is a habit I will need to build and maintain. And the amazing thing is that my brain actually felt much more industrious today.

I is common sense, but I think it all began with the invention of the light bulb, the television, the internet, right down to the iPhone and iPad, that are keeping me up most of the nights...bad...I know.

I am going to have to give up a lot of things I enjoy doing at night before I go to sleep.


Check out the Sleep Cycle app.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Centering Prayer

Lately, I have been trying out a more contemplative prayer way by spending 15 minutes in the morning just being quiet. I am not sure if it is some kind of centering prayer, but what I try to do is to be still and spend that 15 minutes of quietness focused on God. The time usually pass by very quickly, which may be a sign that it will be good to increase the length of time slowly but surely.

It is not easy to keep complete focused all the time, but it still is a very good, peaceful and deliberate time of being in God presence. I do not desire to "empty" my mind in the quietness, but rather to fill it with thoughts of God. So, I began to pick favourite bible verses to dwell on, letting them sink in.

But I realised something today. I found that most of the verses that I have been choosing so far for the quiet meditation are those that focused on me in relation to Him. I do not think it is all wrong, I am after all desiring to have a closer relationship with Him. And so I chose John 1:1-4 today, though I was not so attentive today.

Nevertheless, I must say, it should come with more practice.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

iPhone apps: Kobo vs. Kindle

I last posted in November 2009 that I still can't get the hang of e-books. It's almost two years now and here I am not only stating that I am a confirmed e-book convert but trying hard to help a friend with hers too.

I was having a chat with Stella last week when she told me she purchased herself a Kindle. I asked if she realised she will not be able to buy e-books for her Kindle so easily. She did not. She was not happy to find that out and so I offered to help her figure it out, which I did.

Then I thought I could do the same with the Kindle app for my iPhone, since I am not too happy with Kobo now (long story, how it happened). And I now I am a happy Kindle customer. The Kindle app may not have the nice-to-have features like statistics and awards, but I find it better than Kobo.

Here are my take in comparing the two apps:

PerformanceKindle performs better. It has less waiting time and moves to a new chapter like another page. Kobo has a few seconds of waiting time from a chapter to another.Kindle
Turning the pagesIt does not give you a book-like page turning. It swipes. I did not like it at first but soon got used to it.I like Kobo that it emulates a real page quite well. I do prefer this on Kobo.Kobo
Search functionIt has the so-very-important search function. Nada. Go figure.Kindle
Reading between devicesKindle synchronises reading seamlessly between devices and backs up notes and highlights via Whispersync. It actually asks you first before the syncing to ensure you want to do it. I find that smart, so it does not automatically go to a page I do not want when I change devices.It does not sync between devices and I lost ALL my book highlights and more importantly, my notes. How that happened I'll tell later, when I feel less traumatised.Kindle
Storage of booksI am able to archive books in Kindle, so I can choose to keep a selected number of books in my devices.I can remove books from my app and later add it back by bookmarking it in the site. Not from the app like Kindle.Kindle
Reading in landscapeI like the way the iPad displays the book in landscape mode. It columnise the book into two making reading much easier. It really feels like I am reading a book book.Kobo does it all in one huge column.Kindle
Highlight and notationAccess to the highlights and notes in Kindle is just two taps away. You need three in Kobo. May not seem like a big difference but in an intense flow of reading a book, it does.Kindle
DictionaryOxford. Access right on the page you are reading, hence it might be truncated but most of the time, it is sufficient.Webster. The whole page comes up, making it easier to read. Provides options to check it out in Wikipedia and Google within the app. The strength over Kindle is that Kobo allows you to define phrases and not just one word.Kobo
Screen orientationKindle's screen orientation lock is very intuitive and can be performed in the midst of reading. For now, it uses the iPhone/iPad's orientation lock.Draw
Screen brightnessYou need to close the Kindle app, do it at Settings in iPhone and get back in. You can change the brightness of the screen right there on the book. Very useful.Kobo
Reading ProgressionKindle kept it simple. One progress bar in any page you are reading. It is good, important really, to know how far you are at any one point. However, it does not show you progress by chapter.It only show your progress within the chapter. You have no any idea how much into the book you've read. It may be better in iPad but I still could not figure what it actually shows.Draw
InterfaceKindle's interface could be improved. It will be nice to have books in shelves. Not necessary, but nice to have.I like Kobo's interface and it looks better. Books can be displayed in shelves. Display of books can be customised, new folders can be created. It logs your activities, reading patterns, it keeps track of which book you have finished. The awards a' la FourSquare are pretty cool, not necessary, but cool.Kobo
TextKindle fully justifies the text in the page leaving big gaps in some of the lines.Kobo is easier to read with word-hyphenation. I don't mind that it is not justified.Kobo
Copy and pasteA hard-to-get thing but still, I wish I had it. Kindle allows me to share selected text in Facebook or Twitter. Now, why would I want to do that?Kobo does not have it too but at least it allows me to email selected text, albeit limited. I email what I need to myself but it is a long piece, it is quite troublesome.Kobo

11/5/2012 update: I am encountering problems purchasing ebooks from both Kobo and Kindle, but I am not giving up on them, I am using them both now. And on the contrary, I am now all for ebooks. I wish I could exchange some of my book books into ebooks.

25/2/2013 update: Kobo has made improvements to its app and I am enjoying using it now. I have made updates to the above table and now there is a draw. However, I am not using Kindle as much now and if you do not agree with my points above on Kindle, let me know.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Be a fountain of blessings!

Today's devotion by Oswald Chambers is a continuation of yesterday's. I find it so good and true, and I'm including it here.
Fountains of Blessings by Oswald Chambers

The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life —John 4:14

The picture our Lord described here is not that of a simple stream of water, but an overflowing fountain. Continue to “be filled” (Ephesians 5:18) and the sweetness of your vital relationship to Jesus will flow as generously out of you as it has been given to you. If you find that His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame— something is obstructing the flow. Was Jesus saying to stay focused on the Source so that you may be blessed personally? No, you are to focus on the Source so that out of you “will flow rivers of living water”— irrepressible life (John 7:38).

We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as “rivers of living water” in blessing to everyone. Yet some of us are like the Dead Sea, always receiving but never giving, because our relationship is not right with the Lord Jesus. As surely as we receive blessings from Him, He will pour out blessings through us. But whenever the blessings are not being poured out in the same measure they are received, there is a defect in our relationship with Him. Is there anything between you and Jesus Christ? Is there anything hindering your faith in Him? If not, then Jesus says that out of you “will flow rivers of living water.” It is not a blessing that you pass on, or an experience that you share with others, but a river that continually flows through you. Stay at the Source, closely guarding your faith in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow into the lives of others with no dryness or deadness whatsoever.

Is it excessive to say that rivers will flow out of one individual believer? Do you look at yourself and say, “But I don’t see the rivers”? Through the history of God’s work you will usually find that He has started with the obscure, the unknown, the ignored, but those who have been steadfastly true to Jesus Christ.



Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Shine, Jesus shine through me

My devotion this morning was a good one from Oswald Chambers: The Far Reaching Rivers of Life.

I have only very recently thought of myself being a river where God's goodness can flow through. I think it was from an mp3 sermon by John Piper that taught me that truth, and I am thankful for it. And here again in this morning's devotion, I am being reminded again that I must stay close to the Source for this river to flow and be a blessing to the people I come in contact with. I must never let any emotions or experience block the river from the Source. I must always stay close.

Chambers also commented rightly that, "God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others," and I thought that is wise, lest we be proud of who we are or what we've done.

In the midst of the devotion, I was reminded of the song: Shine Jesus Shine, and it took on a fresh meaning for me, though it would be better if it went "shine through me", rather than "shine on me".

Lord, The Light of Your Love
Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness shining
Jesus light of the world shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us
Shine on me, shine on me

Shine, Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light

Lord, I come to your awesome presence
From the shadows into your radiance
By the blood I may enter your brightness
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness
Shine on me, shine on me

As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story
Shine on me, shine on me
Shine Jesus shine

~ by Graham Kendrik (1987)


Monday, September 05, 2011

I forgot to breathe, eat, sleep, mull, write and pray

I had a great week off, being the long Hari Raya-Merdeka break last week, and I've taken the time to do and catch up on quite a bit of stuff, one of which is my sleep debt. Too bad sleep cannot be deposited but it can be owed, cause I slept quite a lot! At least for the first couple of days, and then I'm back at my bad habit of staying up late. But I made sure that I settle the debt the last two days over the weekend.

But one thing I have not been doing, i.e. updating my blog. I was too caught up with the break. Well, in that case, there is one even more important thing I have not been doing - keeping my prayer and quiet time. I notice that this is always the case when I get long breaks. I get lost in the flow of all the things I want to do that I can't do on ordinary days. That is bad, I still need to breathe, eat, sleep, mull, write and pray; and not play all the time.

But the break is over, sadly and gladly, and I'm back to life, back to reality, contentedly back to the quiet spot where I meet my God everyday. I'm sorry for my absence in the past week.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Economist:
The minister of magic steps down

I was reading with the headlines yesterday about the resignation of Steve Jobs, but no one but the The Economist has captured the sentiments so well - "The minister of magic steps down."

I wish him well.

Apple and The Economist: two of my all-time favourite corporations. One with amazing products and creativity that propel and stimulate my days, and the other with amazing writing and creativity that propel and stimulate my mind.

Click here for The Economist article.


Friday, August 26, 2011

It all comes to nothing

I really do not like working with MS Powerpoint - it is really limited to be used to generate documents but that is what I have been using for almost a year now. It is a requirement and a norm here to submit documents and deliverables in MS Powerpoint format.

I missed using MS Word and Excel.

Therefore, I was pretty excited to start working to analyse an Excel sheet this morning, and that is practically what I have been doing the whole day.

But alas, no matter how good the tool is, it is still the content that counts. I could not get any valuable analysis or conclusions out of the Excel sheet because of the poor quality of data and hence, nothing to include into the Powerpoint document I am suppose to update.

As such, I have been working hard for one whole day but nothing came out of it. Which means, in the eyes of others, I have not done anything.

However, at least I can proof that the answer to the question cannot be derived from that particular set of data, and there isn't any other data available. This will justify the use of a higher end model based on some assumptions.

That is at least one thing profitable out of my day, but as far as the Excel sheet is concerned, I had fun!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

I used up all my sick days...

The Bitbook (like Facebook or Twitter) of the Bitizens from Tiny Tower, the iPhone game am still at, is quite entertaning. This for example, is hilarious:
"I used up all my sick days, so I'm calling in dead."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Prayer

Psalm 25 (ESV)
Teach Me Your Paths

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed,none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.

Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My day of languages

If I were to mark each day of my life with a theme -- well, I actually have been doing that in a sense with the title of my daily posts -- then today will be the Day of Languages.

It began when we had a discussion among my colleagues about the Malay language - one of them commented that it does not have an original word for "bag". It uses a loanword: beg.

Later, I remembered Pastor Marvin (of Pantai Baptist Church or PBC, where I am attending for now) had announced that he will be speaking on the topic of the Bible this coming Sunday, in conjunction with the 400th year of the publication of the King James Version of the bible. I am looking forward to hearing it. Other than its spiritual aspect, the history and the technicalities of the Bible takes a very special place of my interests.

It reminded me of two books I have read before -- The Story of English by Robert McCrum and In the Beginning: the Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister McGrath -- that the work of both Shakespeare and the KJV bible is "regularly singled out as one of the most foundational influences on the development of the modern English language" (1). As such, the King James Version serves as a polished jewel in the crown of English language and culture (2).

However, I began to think that with the mark of the 400th year of the KJV, wouldn't the modern version of the English language be considered a very young language? What with the Chinese language that I believe is more than a thousand years old? And I have always thought that the Malay language is a very young language, but English too?

I do know that the modern English language has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which began in the early 5th century.

I shared this with a friend who goes to PBC too and he did not quite believe me when I told him he would not understand Old English. So I showed him The Lord's Prayer in Old English (3):

Original and Translation
Fæder ūre þū þe eart on heofonum
(Father of ours, thou who art in heaven,)

Sī þīn nama ġehālgod.
(Be thy name hallowed.)

Tōbecume þīn rīċe,
(Come thy riche [(kingdom])

ġewurþe þīn willa, on eorðan swā swā on heofonum.
(Worth [manifest] thy will, on earth as also in heaven.)

Ūrne ġedæġhwāmlīcan hlāf syle ūs tō dæġ,
(Our daily loaf do sell [give] to us today,)

and forgyf ūs ūre gyltas, swā swā wē forgyfað ūrum gyltendum.
(And forgive us of our guilts as also we forgive our guilty)

And ne ġelǣd þū ūs on costnunge, ac ālȳs ūs of yfele.
(And do not lead thou us into temptation, but alese [release/deliver] us of [from] evil.)

( Soothly.)

So in that sense, English isn't so young - it has been evolving for 1500 years till what it is today. A fully developed and perfected language takes a very long time.

A perfected language is one that has a letter of every single sound, one with words that are very original and one that has a wide vocabulary to cover a wide scope in the articulation of meanings. I do not think the Malay language is that fully developed, not even English but it is better, comparatively. I am not sure about the other languages, but I was told that the Arabic language is considered a highly perfected one, as well as Korean.

I went to check out the ages of language and found quite a comprehensive list here in Wikipedia. And I am surprised to find out that Old Malay is as old as Old English, 683AD and 650AD respectively.

Here some familiar ones:
* Greek - 1425-1375 BC
* Old Chinese - 1200 BC
* Aramaic - 950BC
* Hebrew - 950BC
* Korean - 100BC
* Arabic - 512AD
* Old English - 650AD
* Old Malay - 683AD
* Japanese - 700AD
* Old Hindi - 769AD
* Old French - 842AD
* Italian - 960AD
* Middle English - 1066AD
* Thai - 1292AD
* Korean (modern?) - 1446AD
* Early Modern English - 1470AD

Modern English is almost at the last of the list, albeit incomprehensive. And I did not realise that the Greek language is so old, older than Hebrew. But of course that will be Old Greek as compared to the current Modern Greek, which has evolved from Koine or Common Greek, what is used during the New Testament time, i.e. the language of the written text of the NT extant that we have now.

Indeed, a very interesting day of discovery for me.


(1) Alister McGrath, In the Beginning, (New York: Anchor, 2001): 253

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gaps in my brain

Why is it that you find what you are looking in the last place you look?!

My memory is failing me. I spent the whole evening looking for my computer charger cord. I tried tracing my steps to no avail. I finally checked in the most unlikely place and there it was. Then I remember putting it into a paper bag. I packed the paper bag aside forgetting what was in there.

I leave gaps in my brain.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Restoring, bearing and sharing in a local church

The sermon today completes the exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians. Paul in the last chapter sums up his overall theme and message of the epistle, i.e. the gospel is not a religion. It is not some laws and regulations that you can adhere to and as a result gain acceptance. The gospel is the salvation of God that happens at the very core of our being, that we are first accepted because of Jesus and as a result we desire to keep his commands.

What struck me though was the pastor's exhortation from Gal 6:1-10.

The passage can be summarised as follows:
(1) Restore your relationships with one another (v.1)
(2) Bear your burdens with one another (v.2-5)
(3) Share your blessings with one another (v.6)

The thing is this: in order to carry out all three, one has to be attached and active in a local church. Walking in the Spirit also means walking in the faith community, where there is mutual accountability of one another.

I am in a lurch at the moment - not being sure of where and how things will and should be concerning a local church. I am praying about it and hope to resolve the matter soon.

It is just that once you have been in a situation where you have been affected by church politics, you'd want to keep your distance and not be that involved again.

But I suppose this is why restoring, bearing and sharing with one another is so important.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

One Down, One More to Go

I finally sat down to work on my assignment. I have been procrastinating it like there's no tomorrow. I am glad I got down to work on it today from 11am to 11pm and completed the one on the Gospel of Mark, with another one to go.

I should hit the iron while it is still hot, which means I must do this again tomorrow. Though I would need more than a 12-hour stretch to complete the second one on 1 Peter.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Actually, that's not in the Bible (CNN Belief)

I found this article in CNN Belief blog. What do you think?

Actually, that's not in the Bible
By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Feeding of the 5000 according to John

The sermon text this past Sunday was taken from Matt 14:13-21 about the feeding of the 5000. I obtained an article from ATLA Serials, but based on John 6:1-15 by Gail R. O'Day, Professor of Preaching and New Testament in Candler School of Theology.(1)

I made a parallel comparison of the feeding account:

(Click on image to enlarge)

The professor's take on the John passage is interesting. I agree with her that comparing with the Synoptic Gospels, John tend to leave a lot of gaps and include several mentions that are not in the Synoptics:

1. The Passover was at hand (v.5)
2. The testing of Philip (v.6)
3. It was a boy who has the 5 loaves and 2 fish (v.9)
4. Jesus gave thanks for the loaves rather than saying a blessing (v.11)
5. The people saw it as a sign that Jesus is the Prophet who is to come into the world (v.14)
6. Jesus withdrew because he perceived that the people are about to come and take him by force to make his king (v.15)

Let me see what we have here:

1. The Passover
John mentions the Passover all across the Gospel (John 2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; 18:28,39; 19:14), unlike the Synoptics where it is only mentioned in the Passion passages, except Luke who related the journey to the Passover feast when Jesus was 12 years old.

In my view, the Gospel of John is not structured chronologically and hence his mention of the Passover, which is not limited to the Passion narrative, is a significant sign pointing to Jesus as the Passover sacrificial Lamb of God. And it is only in the Gospel of John, not the Synoptic Gospels, where John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36).

2. Testing of Philip
I am not too familiar with the disciple theme in the 4 Gospels, except maybe in Mark where the disciples were unaware and blind to who Jesus is until Peter's confession in chapter 8.

What I am beginning to discover in John is that Jesus' focus on the disciples is in the revealing of Himself as the Messiah. This is in line with the general theme of the Gospel of John, the book of signs, i.e. the revealing of the Son of God, who is Jesus.

Right from the first miracle at Cana, the purpose of the miracle was accomplished as John said, "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him." (John 2:11) We must take note that in this first sign or miracle, no one else other than Mary, the servants and the disciples knew about it. And John stated that Jesus has manifested his glory, and as a result his disciples believed in him.

At the end of John's Gospel, we find the account of doubting Thomas, not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. The disciples have met the risen Jesus except Thomas and when he was informed of it, he did not believe until he saw and touched Jesus' wounds. Jesus' respond to him and implicitly to us is so profound: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (20:29)

3. The Boy with 5 Loaves and 2 Fish
I find it interesting that only John mentions the boy. I believe countless sermons have been preached and Sunday School lessons taughton the generosity of the boy with the bare minimum he had, and lowly kind of food too. O'Day validly commented that the Gospel does not say that the boy offered his food to Jesus. Andrew just pointed out that a boy had them and that Jesus later had the food, which he distributed.

I may be wrong but I think the focus here is still on the disciples. Andrew is inadvertently saying that they have the food but it is not enough for so many people, and the food belongs to another person anyway. It shows the lack of faith in the disciples in who Jesus is.

4. The Giving of Thanks
I am not sure if there is much of a significance between the saying of blessing and the giving of thanks for the loaves and the fish. O'Day referred it to the difference in relation to the Eucharist, but I don't see the point there.

5. A Sign that Jesus is the Prophet
This is the very character of the Gospel of John, with it being called amongst others, the Book of Signs, by some scholars. John has used the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 as a sign to show that he is the Messiah, Christ, Son of God and the Light of the world.

6. The people wanted Jesus as king
Jesus is the promised Messiah but in the form of a suffering servant, the Lamb of God. The people wanted a second David instead, a political king.

What I learnt:

The Gospel of John is really about who Jesus is and who is this Jesus we should believe in, and what we should do about it. John says in 20:30-31, "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

And the Feeding of the 5000 passage in John accomplishes that very purpose - the display of who Jesus is and the requirement of our faith in him as the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (note "sin" in singular form).

As Philip got tested, so will we be tested in our faith in who he is. We do fall into the temptation of taking Jesus and wanting Jesus to be other than who he is, the Christ and the Son of God. We do fall into the danger of limiting him to our needs and desires, as if his only job and purpose is to fulfill us in our small and insignificant lives.

He is more than that! Jesus is the Son of God, worthy of praise and worship. As much as we are given the right to a relationship with him, an intimate one no less, we still must treat it with seriousness, and approach him with awe and reverence, respect and honor.

He fed the 5000, now he wants to feed 7 billion.
With the bread of life that only he can give.


(1) Gail R. O'Day, "John 6:1-15", Interpretation April 1, (2003): 196

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tiny Tower

My son introduced me to this game and now I am kind of hooked on it. It is something like Farmville though simpler and not as complicated, and not so much of a time waster, albeit still a potential. I wonder how many floors I'll build before I am done with it. I've built the 9th.


p/s (24/8/2011) I am not at Floor 24. Getting a bit tired of it already.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why the change?

The route that usually take me just 15 minutes to get me to where I am headed is now taking me almost an hour. Sigh...

Photo (c) 2008 drouu

Monday, August 15, 2011


I learnt a new word: logorrhea. It means speech that is pathologically incoherent and repetitious. It's wearisome volubility.

And I had to suffer a big share of it today. It was painful.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Body, the Church

My family church celebrated its 44th anniversary today. Grace Notes was invited to sing and so I was there. It has been awhile since I have attended Sunday service in this church and even though I spent more than half my life there and even though I call it my family church, I did not know half the people in the service.

It has now became a reality to me that the church is the faith community and not the structure. The longer you spend away from the community, be it physically or even mentally, the further you will feel in relation to it.


Friday, August 12, 2011

"...but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool"
(Oswald Chambers)

God as always has his way with me. I had prepared some devotional readings for Grace Notes to use every Wednesday to set us first in the presence of God before we practice and rehearse our songs. I have been taking it from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening: Daily Readings but have recently changed the source to Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. The readings are shorter but the language is quite up there. So I spent some time looking through each of the ones I've selected to simplify the language where I can.

Chambers is wonderful with his words and lessons. I was being chastened and corrected by most of them, even though my intention of reading them was only for editting purposes. The Lord has indeed spoken.

These two hit me quite hard today:

Imagination V. Inspiration
(Sep 14)

"The simplicity that is in Christ."
2 Corinthians 11:3

Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25).

The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God's will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.

The Unheeded Secret 
(Oct 19)

"My kingdom is not of this world."
John 18:36

The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the Systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, for lo the kingdom of God is within you," a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives in the shop window. It is the innermost of the innermost that reveals the power of the life.

We have to get rid of the plague of the spirit of the religious age in which we live. In Our Lord's life there was none of the press and rush of tremendous activity that we regard so highly, and the disciple is to be as His Master. The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men.

It is not its practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College, its whole strength lies in the fact that here you are put into soak before God. You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in over-active energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him what ever happens.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A song to laugh at myself

Sing a song of sixpence
My day was in a daze
Four and twenty hours
Being stuck in a maze
Oh I feel so stupid
What have I here to bring
Won't it be a humbling thing
To set before the king

Don't mind me - it's just one of those days and I am laughing at myself...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Whole Earth Had One Language

I was "chatting" with a good friend via emails when he brought up the topic of languages, of how he was revising his skills in the Tamil alphabet, something he had not done since childhood. I told him that I too am limited in the usage of the Chinese language, and isn't it interesting that we all now speak in one global language, English.

I began to wonder: if God dispersed the people of the world by language, what happens now that almost the whole world is using one language?

Gen 11:1-9 (ESV)
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one anotherís speech." 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The reason why God dispersed them was because they wanted to build a name for themselves (v.4). They wanted glory and honour. Their desires were akin to that of Adam and Eve's, i.e. to be lords of their own lives.

God dispersed them because not only will they do that but they will want more - human will never be satisfied with their current status, it will not be enough. Just imagine if God had not dispersed them, how the world would be like if there were only one nation. I think it will be the same or worse. There might not be any racial disputes, but there will still be much war and strife.

So God dispersed them and after the dispersion, God chose from all the nations, the nation of Israel, to teach them the way of God and to lead them into a dependence on God and God alone, and through them, to teach the world at large on the dependence on God. But Israel failed and in their disobedience, they ended up dispersed.

Then God sent his Son, and through the work of the cross, believers came together as one body to form the Church. But as we see it, the Church has its dark ages as well and in no time, we were also dispersed with differences in doctrines and denominations.

I began this train of thought with the question of what would be next now that we have one global language? It turned out that language is not the issue. When God first dispersed the human race, it was because of what they desired to be. So God dispersed them by introducing different languages, resulting in different nations. With that, the nations developed differences in culture, lifestyle, beliefs and history over the centuries, and with it, strife and discord. So even if we speak one global language now, it will in no way unite us. The only thing that can unite us is the love of God, through His Son, Jesus.

There will be a last dispersion - the dispersion on Judgement Day, and what will segregate us then will be the Book of Life, of the Lamb. Either we are with Jesus or we are not. This segregation will be the final one - whether we are good and faithful servants in Jesus or we are not, whether we are covered by the blood of the Lamb or we are not.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dying to self?

Someone said this to me sometime ago as something I needed to do - die to self - and I have been keeping mindful of that lately.

However, I know that we weren't commanded to die to self in the Bible. It is the denying of ourselves that was the command. It is the denying ourselves of our desires of the flesh and being dead to ourselves. We are alive because Christ is risen, we are not dead.

It may be just a matter of semantics. I found someone writing about it here.

What do you think?


Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Circle of My Relationship with Jesus

I completed my retreat today - I have mixed feelings about it.

For one, I signed up for a silent retreat but it turned out not a silent one. Silent retreats are a blessing for introverts like me who sometimes feel drowned in the sea of extroverts, God bless them, they are everywhere!

The theme of the retreat was Friendship with Jesus Through Spiritual Exercises. I tend to be careful about the theme of friendship in relation to Jesus. If I am not mistaken, Jesus does not call himself our friend. He only called us his friends.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
~ John 15:12-17

I have not done much exegesis on this passage yet, but what I can say is that Jesus in calling us his friends is related to his work on the cross, where he laid down his life for us. This friendship is not reciprocal nor chummy, which is the danger if we see too much into Jesus as our friend. The context of friendship, I believe, is only in relation to him giving up his life. The language in the passage do not portray Jesus as friend - a friend as we understand it (1) do not command as Jesus is doing here and (2) friends choose each other to be friends, but we did not choose Jesus but he chose us.

I have not fully digested what I read here but it might be useful if you want to think about it more.

With regards to the spiritual exercises, it was described in the website that spiritual exercises will be introduced in the retreat but only one format of exercise was used. It was alright, really - it is quite a good structure though I'd rather have some variety. I know I sound like a whiner, but doing 12 exercises for 3 full days using the same format is really a bit much for me.

But I have had a good experience with God nonetheless. Each of the exercise were accompanied with a symbol and I thought that was good as it will help connect us to the experience we had in each exercise.

The spiritual exercise involve:
1. Preparation - before my prayer place, I consider ____ (e.g. how God created life). I make a gesture of reverence and humility.
2. Opening Prayer - With simple words, I offer my ____ to God/Father/Jesus/the Holy Spirit (e.g. offer my whole life).
3. Desire - I desire to ____. (the one intention of the exercise, e.g. know the the life-giving God).
4. Prayer - imagination contemplation of a related Scripture passage.
5. Conversation using the symbol.

The symbols were presented in the friendship theme but I am going to change it into a broader relationship perspective. Another observation is that I find that not all of the symbols were directly applicable. I don't know...I do not want to have such a critical spirit but yet, these things matter to me. So I am going to make changes as well.

The Circle of My Relationship with Jesus

The Spirit hovers above the water to symbolise God who is the creator

Life that is brimming in the soil to symbolise Gos who is the life giver

My Grandma's Thimble
(anything that belongs to your grandmother or your birth certificate)
The link to my ancestors in our genealogy to symbolise my link to Jesus

My image in the mirror to symbolise God creating me in his image
(I do not know how to change this. This is one exercise that I had the most problem with. I could not carry out the spiritual exercise because I could not relate the image I see in the mirror,i.e. my face, as an image of God. And if the mirror symbol is picked up from 1 Cor 13:12, we have to realise that mirrors at that time are made of cast metal or bronze, i.e. the image that you see will be dim and unclear, and the context of the mirror here is not related to us being created in his image. What do you think will serve as a better symbol?)

The body and the blood of Christ in the coming together as one body of Christ

The ointment "in the alabaster jar" to symbolise that Jesus accepts us

The word of God that God sowed on us as soil to symbolise listening to God

The ring that the forgiving father gave to the prodigal son who returned to symbolise forgiveness

The healing oil that symbolises God's healing power

The towel that Jesus used to wash the disciples' feet to symbolise servanthood

A fruit to symbolise that I am merely a branch of the vine who is Jesus who is the source of everything I have and need

The cross of Christ where Jesus carried my guilt and shame

New Clothing
New clothes to symbolise that I am a new creation and risen with Christ into a new life

Fire on a candle to symbolise the Holy Spirit who is now in me, renewing me everyday in Christ, and bringing the symbols into a complete circle.