Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Books on books

I have been searching for books on books, the history of books and soon after, on reading. And I found these two:

Introduction to Book History
by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery (Routledge, 2012)

A History of Reading
by Alberto Manguel (Penguin, 1997)

Introduction to Book History has a cover I really love, or I believe any bibliophile will love. Based on a few reviews I read, the book is quite technical. But for a 176-page book, it carries a price tag of USD31.99 or more, and it is indeed quite pricey.

A History of Reading it turned out, is quite a popular book it seems. And viewing the preview and book description, it might be a more interesting read compared to the first. But after reading this review by Douglas K. Hartman and Tariq M. Abdulaziz, I decided not to get it. The review says, "...does he have the scholarly dexterity to represent the complexity of reading's past while placing the people, practices, local events, and facts of his and others' personal histories in the larger context? After reading his book, we think not."

But God being God - obviously knowing what I was looking for to read, interjected this book into my path. I quickly bought a copy without much ado about it.

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books
by Tony Reinke (Crossway, 2011)

For one, I was unusually attracted to the reviews of the book printed in the first few pages, and I even found these reviews enlightening, which is rare for me. Here is what Andrew Peterson said in his review of the book, "This is the perfect book for someone who doesn’t like to read, or who likes to read but isn’t sure it’s a good use of their time, or who loves to read a little too much and needs to proceed with discernment. Reinke has made a wise, theological, and edifying case for why words matter. I’ll mention Lit! every time someone asks me why in the world Christians should read fiction—a question that never fails to shock me. Now, instead of snapping, ‘Are you serious?’ and spouting opinions, I’ll just smile and slip them a copy of this book."

I have just begun reading it and love the very voice of the book. Just listen to this: "Illuminated by the gospel, we now perceive and enjoy God’s truth, goodness, and beauty—whether it’s in the blazing sun of the inspired Word of God, in the moonlight of creation, or in the starlight of great book...As strange as it sounds, our eyes are filled with the Creator’s glory in literature because we read in the presence of God’s radiance."

The author's quest to write this book was generated by these questions he had in his own reading:
What makes reading books like swallowing a large vitamin?
Why should I prioritize book reading in the first place?
What do I lose if I don’t read books?
What biblical convictions must I have before I shop at the bookstore?
Does the gospel really shape how I read books? How so?
What books should I read?
What books should I not read?
Should I read non-Christian books? Why or why not?
How can I best read nonfiction books?
What, if anything, can a Christian gain from reading fictional literature?
How can I determine the difference between good fiction and bad fiction?
Where do I find all the time I need to read books?
Should I write marginal notes in my books?
What are the pros and cons of reading books on an e-reader device?
How can I encourage my friends to read books?
How can I use books and reading groups to encourage other Christians and to build my local church?
It certainly promises a delightful reading, on reading. I look forward to spending my coming days in relishing this book and hope to follow up with a review.

I find myself rubbing my hands in glee as I dive in.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

If I die...a follow up

I blogged about this last week. I could not get it off my mind and have been thinking of it quite a lot. I was not sure what and how to get about it but I am now a bit clearer as to what I need to do.

For one, I have finally gotten my will done up. I have wanted to do this for a really, really long time but I kept putting it off. In my opinion, he is a responsible person who gets his last will and testament done.

My next step is to deal with the small stuff.

As it is with most people these days, my life is quite tied up to the digital world. I find it weird if this blog and my Facebook, though not very active, would be left unattended and silent if I die suddenly. I want my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts removed, but I would like my blog to live on, albeit left suspended.

And what about all the books that I have amassed? If my son does not want them, I would prefer them to be given to a library than to have them left unused. As far as my ebooks are concerned, I have already accepted the fact that they are really just for my consumption.

And what about my passwords - my husband or son need to have them, in a safe way.

I have figured what I want to do with and I hope it works when the time comes.

After doing all that, i.e. coming up with instructions and wishes, the next step is a pretty tough one I'd say - writing notes and letters. It feels weird writing them when you are not dead and I wonder how it would be for others reading them when I am actually dead.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever. Amen

My devotional reading this morning was on the last portion of The Lord's Prayer, "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever," (Matt 6:13) and thus completing the readings on the Lord's Prayer in R. Kent Hughes' The Sermon on the Mount. And with this, I thank God for the valuable lessons that when I utter the prayer from now on, it is with better understanding and awe of my God.

As much as this doxology may not be a part of the original prayer (it does not appear in any of the oldest manuscripts for the Gospel of Matthew), it is fitting close to the most complete model of prayer given by Jesus.

In all our prayers, we need to confess and proclaim that God is indeed the King, absolutely free and sovereign; the Omnipotent, the all-powerful one who can do anything; and the Forever Glorious, whose splendor and honor we can look and depend upon.

When he stood with Pilate, Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The kingdom of God is indeed out of this world, not in our dimension and yet we are already citizens of it through Christ under his kingship, reign and power. How amazing!

Jesus also said that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Hughes here gave mention to a very interesting painting by a French painter Émile Renouf, where "an old man dressed in fisherman's garb, seated in a boat with a little girl beside him. Both the elderly gentleman and the child have their hands on a huge oar. He is looking down fondly and admiring upon her. Apparently he has told her that she may assist him in rowing the boat, and the child feels she is doing a great share of the task. It is easy to see, however, that it is his strong, muscular arms that are actually propelling the boat through the waves...(it) is a parable of what a soul can do when it depends upon God."

The Helping Hand (1881) 
by Émile Renouf

(I have always wondered how people can sit for hours in front of a painting in a gallery. Now I understand. I would do that with this painting and find out the meaning behind the expressions of the man and the girl, and feel their feelings.)

The blatant fact is this: if we do not believe that he is indeed the King who is omnipotent, who can do anything—for some hold on to a "sick God" theory in that whilst he is all-loving he is not all-powerful—then we have no reason to pray, at all. The very fact that we are commanded to pray affirms the very sovereignty of God.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Pearl of China
by Anchee Min

I bought 4 of Anchee Min's books back in February and have read all of them except this one, until today. Whilst I found those 3 books just okay and even though this one is over 300 pages long, it has so captivated me that I could not put it down.

Not being American and though I'm Chinese by ethnicity, I have never been back to China and my historical knowledge of China is sparse, I have not known about Pearl S. Buck till now. I am now looking forward to reading her books, especially The Good Earth.

Some have said that they would rather the book been written from Pearl's vantage point, rather than from a friend's, in this case, a fictionalised version of a friend, Willow Yee. I would disagree and felt that Min did a great job in telling the story from a Chinese perspective.

It speaks of a girl who got to know a very special friend in Pearl and how their relationship grew and grew; and when Pearl had to leave China, the tone of the book averted to one of pining and longing. I must say, I have not cried so much reading a book, it is embarrassing!

What was unexpected was the Christian "flavour" of the book. Even though the message of the gospel of Jesus was not at all apparent and there were several parts where I winced at the dialogue when they talked about the faith, particularly on a work-based salvation rather than grace (though the hymn that holds center point in this book is John Newton's Amazing Grace)--not sure if it was intended by the author or if it was her misconception--I found it quite refreshing to read how Christianity took root in China. And it felt so encouraging to read about how the characters held on to God in their acute suffering and persecution. But of course, this is a work of fiction, albeit historical, things might not have happened as depicted. 

I have really enjoyed reading it, an excellent read indeed.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Reading: From Tablet to Tablet

I found this most informative and interesting - a short history of my favourite activity: reading.



Saturday, September 07, 2013

The most delightful book ever

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
by Winifred Watson (Persephone Books, 1938)

I had a long tiring week and I felt a need to temporary lose myself in a happy nowhere land of make believe. I scoured the list of books I have in my Kobo reader but they were all either too serious or too gloomy.

So I went to Goodreads and searched for an "easy read" and found Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson. I got my hands on a copy yesterday evening and it was such a delightful read. Had I not been so tired last night and had it not been so late a night, I would have finished it then. I woke up earlier this morning than planned and so I thought I might as well soak myself back into the story and had a most wonderful morning in a long time.

It is a Cinderella-like fairy tale: sweet, poignant, funny. The dialogue is absolutely amazing and Watson's story telling skills captivating. It has been awhile since I got so caught up in a read, not since my childhood days when I used to get buried in books.

It is certainly not gloomy but lighthearted yet unexpected. I kept wondering what's the next wonderful thing that would happen to Miss Pettigrew in the remaining of that one day. The definite book to read when you need something feel-good.

This has become my favourite and I will certainly read it over and over again.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Stephanie Wong's Vocal Recital

A wonderful night of French, German, Italian and Chinese art songs by a very talented lyrical soprano, Stephanie Wong. I was pretty tired but I enjoyed myself. I only wished I was familiar with the songs. 


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

If I die

I am taking audit classes on Ezekiel for the past couple of months. This question was asked by one of my classmates on Monday in his presentation requirements for credit on Ezekiel 36: what is one thing that you really hope for?

The first thing that entered my mind was death, so that I may live. It is a complicated thought. No, I am not thinking about suicide. Yes, I still want to live on here on earth - for the sake of my family at least. I am thinking more in line of Paul's "for me to live and to die is gain." 

But that is not what I am trying to get at here.

What has been filling my thoughts for the past few days is this: what will happen if I die suddenly?

It will be too late to say what I want to say to people I want to say them to. It will be too late to tell them what I need to get done and not done. It will be too late to tell them how to get access to my digital stuff. Mostly trivial stuff, but still...I need them to know.

Then I thought there should be an email service provided for that purpose, in that you write your notes while you are alive and when you die, the letters will be sent to the recipients.

And yes, I found this site that does that exactly:

I have created an account but I have not done anything yet. I don't know how and where to start.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I Forgot My Phone

I saw this YouTube video yesterday and I found it so poignant.

Written by/Starring Charlene deGuzman
Directed by Miles Crawford

I do see my phone like an extension of me. I find it a very useful tool to do the things I want and need to do. But if I have to choose, I prefer the company of people—I'd rather have a good chat with them than to check Facebook (I used to only go to Facebook about once a month. It's about once a week now.) And I'd rather behold the plate of food in front of me and dig in rather than taking a picture (I am usually so eager to sink my teeth in it that by the time I remember to take a picture of it, it's too late.)

But I do feel like the girl in the video. I find myself in those situations very often.


Monday, September 02, 2013

"Hallowed be your name" (Matt 6:9b)

Like many, I have been reciting the Lord's Prayer since childhood. But never quite truly understood this part of the prayer: "Hallowed be your name". What does it mean to pray that God's name be hallowed? God is already holy and why pray that his name be holy? What is the significance of God's name?

One of Pastor Marvin's sermons that is memorable to me is this one he gave on the third of the Ten Commandments - Exalt God's Name Always as well as this one where he spoke on this portion of The Lord's Prayer - Pray for our Father's Good Name.

The question is this: what does it mean for a person to have a name? What does it mean for God to have a name?

Just as we know a person by name, we know God by his name, and more, since we now choose names for our children for mere euphony purposes. (Though I did choose my son's name for both how it sounds and what it means, as most Chinese do.)

As such, God's name is for us finite beings to know the infinite God. His name speak of who God is - his character. God's ultimate name is I AM, but he is also known as YHWH ShalomThe LORD our peace, YHWH JirehThe LORD will provide, YHWH TsidkenuThe LORD our righteousness, YHWH NissiThe LORD our banner, El ShaddaiGod Almighty, El ElyonGod Most High and many more.

It is through his names that we get to know who he truly isbut again, he is I AM, he is all and more, infinite. eternal, unchangeable, self sufficient.

So what does it mean to pray that his name be hallowed?

It is for God to be known as who he truly is, and his character be seen in all the world so that all will come to see and honour him, and that all praise and glory will be given due to him. (Marvin Wong).

It is asking God to "cause his Word to be believed, to cause his displeasure to be feared, to cause his commandments to be obeyed, and to cause his person to be glorified" (John Piper).

"How is [God's name] hallowed amongst us? When our life and doctrine are truly Christian." (Martin Luther)

Our lives in our thought, word and deed must reflect the holy name of our Father in heaven. "We cannot truly pray 'Hallowed be your name' without dedicating ourselves to him." (R. Kent Hughes)