Thursday, July 31, 2014

Power banked but under the bus

I am liking the Highs & Lows app, especially today when there were really a very delightful high and a very distinct low.

I'll start with the low. I felt like I was being thrown under the bus. This is the very first time I have ever used this "bus" phrase, and I really understand what it means now. I was truly thrown under the bus.

It happened when someone complained about something I have done and this other person, who is suppose to at least protect my interest, not only took the other person's side in the matter but she began to dismantle and sabotage my work.

I could not do anything but to stand there and take it all in. I have never felt so helpless in a long while.

On the contrary with my high, I have successfully logged in and purchased two units of Mi Power Bank last week. Imagine how difficult it was to do so as it was all sold out in just two seconds after it was put on sale online. Yes, they were all gone in just two mere seconds.

However, in all my excitement of securing the two units, I gave them my house address for delivery. The thing is no one is home during office hours and the moment I clicked to check out the items, it was too late. I could not go back to change it. I proceeded anyway and hoped for the best.

But of all days that my mom drop by my house, she came in today and took delivery of the package! Perfect timing. A simple thing but I thank my Abba in heaven for it.

He also takes care of our little things. How marvelous is He!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Difference between coaching and mentoring

Someone asked me what the difference is between coaching and mentoring. I was not able to give a definitive answer.

But now that I check Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring by David Megginson and David Clutterbuck, here they are as quoted:
Coaching relates primarily to performance improvement (often over the short term) in a specific skills area. The goals, or at least the intermediate or sub-goals, are typically set with or at the suggestion of the coach. While the learner has primary ownership of the goal, the coach has primary ownership of the process. In most cases, coaching involves direct extrinsic feedback (i.e. the coach reports to the coachee what s/he has observed).

Mentoring relates primarily to the identification and nurturing of potential for the whole person. It can be a long-term relationship, where the goals may change but are always set by the learner. The learner owns both the goals and the process. Feedback comes from within the mentee — the mentor helps them to develop insight and understanding through intrinsic observation (i.e. becoming more aware of their own experiences).


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My device nostalgia

I have been labeled a very gadgetry person. But I suppose by the real gadgetry people's standard, I am not at all.

But I have been quite dependent on my devices and apps. Mostly because I am not a detailed or a disciplined person and so I make use of what I have to manage that part or my life to at least put everything in order.

I could not imagine what my life will be like without a calendar, reminder lists and alarms, note pads, GPS, camera for scanning and OCR purposes, journal apps, packing lists, password lists, and read-later apps.

It all started with my first PDA, the Palm V. I can't remember the exact year I got it. I'd estimate it at year 2000.

Palm V (2000)

I must say I had not won anything in a lucky draw in my life till this Palm V. It's quite an interesting story. I received a letter at work inviting us to an introductory meeting of something, which I can no longer remember. The weakness of the letter was that they put the note that there will be a lucky draw for one unit of Palm V on the second page. That was where I learnt that you have to put your most important messages in a letter or email upfront. I suppose I was one of the few who turned the page to find out about the Palm V and turned up at the meeting. Can you imagine there were only four of us? And in a one in four probability scenario, I won the Palm V.

And that was when my love and dependence on these devices grew. My husband saw that and a year later, he got me a Palm IIIc for my birthday, the first PDA in colour.

Palm IIIc (2001)

After about two years, I wanted to upgrade my device and I settled for the Palm Zire 71. At that time, Bluetooth and and especially WiFi weren't too widely used and I decided to go without. But right now I can no longer imagine what it was like before WiFi!

Palm Zire 71 (2003)

My first smartphone was the Nokia 6680. I was quite happy with it that I ditched my Palm Zire as I didn't want to carry two devices, a phone and a PDA, when I have a smartphone.

Nokia 6680 (2005)

When my husband handed me down his Sony Ericsson W850i, I literally fell in love with it. My son lost it when he was using it at one time. I still miss it.

Sony Ericsson W850i (2007), a hand-me-down

Then came the iPhone. I got the iPhone 3G after my husband got one. I was at first reluctant until he showed me a video in YouTube. I have been an iPhone person ever since, and I call it my "extended brain".

iPhone 3G (2009)

I must however slot in the Blackberry Bold 9700 here, even though I didn't actually own it. I started work in a legal firm and on the first day when I turned up for work, I had a meeting with my boss and he personally gave me a ready-for-use Blackberry. At that time, Blackberries are the talk of town, and most companies use them. Since I am an iPhone person, I resorted to carrying two phones. But I didn't like the Blackberry - it is not as intuitive as the iPhone, the screen size is way too small, and I could not get the apps I wanted. The only thing that mattered in a Blackberry was its email function, and that was it.

Blackberry Bold 9700 (2009)

Then as my husband upgraded his iPhones, I got his as hand-me-downs, until he was happy to settle with his iPhone 5. I bought myself the 5s, in champagne gold.

iPhone 4 (2011), a hand-me-down

iPhone 4S (2012), a hand-me-down

iPhone 5S (2013)


Monday, July 28, 2014

My Journaling Attempts

I found quite an interesting app that I am beginning to use: Highs & Lows.

I started writing in a diary back in my school days but my sense of discipline is pretty low and it didn't last very long.

I picked it up again when I got my first PDA, the Palm V. I have started work by then. And even though I did not journal everyday, I kept at it every other day or week and since then I have moved those digital pages of journal from device to device and app to app until they are all now stored in my iPhone Momento app.

In the midst of all this, I picked up blogging in 2006 as part of my journaling and I am thankful I am now back to keeping a daily blog, at least for now.

So this Highs & Lows app intrigued me. I have only a few days of entry but so far it does help show the colour and feel of the last few days I have spent.

I will try to be disciplined and keep it a daily for as long as possible and see if say in a month's time or if it does last longer, in a year's time, I could still feel nostalgic about the days.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sharing of a Prayer Book

I have been using the new Echo Prayer Manager for a month now and so far it has been good in keeping me in my prayers.

I then tried to search for an app our CG can use and share to pray together.

The Echo Prayer Manager do not have a sharing feature yet, nor does it have an Android app, but according to their website, it is in the works.

Evernote would be the next best bet but we need to pay to upgrade to have that sharing feature.

I tried Wunderlist. It does have a sharing feature and I added some people into my list. However, my friends at the other end were not able to get it working.

The other list apps all require upgrading and payment.

Looks like we will have to wait for Echo Prayer Manager for its next update features while we settle with our normal book and pen.


Update (10 Aug 2104): now that the thought going digital in keeping our Prayer List is in my mind, I can't seem to let it go. And since Echo Prayer has not ventured into Android yet, and half the people in my CG are Androiders, I did some research and testing. With the latest update of the Wunderlist app, the sharing feature has been improved. So we have started our CG Prayer List in Wunderlist and we'll see how it will fare.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Death for food

I was in a Chinese wedding dinner this evening and we were served a suckling piglet.

I felt guilty looking at it.

I felt guilty both for the piglet and myself: the poor piglet having to die to be food and me eating this fat laden food after all the gym-ing I've done.

But I felt more for the piglet.

I've seen chicken being slaughtered before, back in my school days when I watched my late grandmother slaughtering one. I was ok with it then.

But I have not seen the slaughter of a pig before and I am not sure if I want to see it, much less the slaughter of a piglet.

And here I am eating one.

I found this interesting article: A day two pigs would die: ethical slaughter. And I began to wonder why God allow us to eat meat.

To eat meat means an animal has to die. The verse where God said meat can be eaten is found in Genesis 9:3, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."

This was after the flood in Noah's time. I had thought God said it right after the fall of Adam and Eve.

Why after the flood? The only logical thing I could think of is that with the flood destroying every plant on earth, the only food now available to eat are the animals. But there weren't many of them to begin with.

I don't see myself going vegetarian. But I'm certainly going to read up more on this.

Meanwhile, the suckling pig was absolutely delicious.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Gallup Strength: Input

When I talk about the Gallup Strengths these days, and was asked about my take on it, I tend to end up talking about my Input strength.

When I first got the assessment results, of all the top-5, this was the one that befuddled me the most.

What? Me collect things? No way. But soon I realised I actually do, and a lot of it. Maybe I am so natural about it, it didn't register.

I think a better word for Input is Resourceful. I have checked with several people who knows me and with whom I worked with and they agree that I am someone who is pretty resourceful.

Need something? Need an idea? Need a tool? Need a solution? Need information? Need anything? I will surely find you something. It may not be exactly what you are looking for but I would hope to give you enough options to find something useful or for you to have an idea where and what to be resourceful yourself.

I have been subconsciously aware of this strength of mine because it has been awhile now that I am mindful to hold back every time I thought I have discovered something to share. Whilst I may feel satisfaction and energy in discovering things, I feel others may not want to be inundated with stuff that is not (yet) relevant to them.

Whatever it is, it's a strength I'm most proud of and one which I keep noting that I'm practicing.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lonely, Mr Lonely

Talking about songs that have been filling my mind these few days, this is the other one.

I got to know it when my then colleague used this as her phone ring tone. That was back in year 2005. It used to irritate me when her phone rings. It is plaguing me now, nine years down the line.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thank You Lord for the Trials that Come My Way

This song has been staying with me these few days. I was the song leader in CG last week. The song just came to me and I decided to put it in the song lineup. I have never sung it or heard it sung in church for the longest time. It is a very, very old song sang during my youth fellowship days when I was in my teens.

So imagine my amazement when it was sung on Sunday during worship. Coincidence? I doubt it. It is my firm belief that God had a message intended for someone, though I will not be able to confirm it. This will stay with me for a long, long time and my prayers will always be with that person.

This is the only video I found with the "bridge" ending tune I usually sing to:

Copyright 1972 by Lexicon Music, Inc

Verse 1
G7 C D7
Thank You Lord
Bm Em
For the trials that come my way
Am D7
In that way I can grow each day
G G7
As I let You lead
C D7
And I thank You Lord
Bm Em
For the patience those trials bring
Am D7
In that process of growing
G G7
I can learn to care

But it goes against the way I am
Bm Em
To put my human nature down
Am D C/D D G G7
And let the Spirit take control of all I do
‘Cause when those trials come
D Bm Em
My human nature shouts the things to do
Am C/D D G
And God’s soft prompting can be easily ignored

Verse 2
I thank you, Lord,
with each trial I feel inside,
that you're there to help,
lead and guide me away from wrong.
'Cause you promised, Lord,
that with every testing,
that your way of escaping is easier to bear.

Verse 3
I thank you, Lord,
for the victory that growing brings.
In surrender of everything
life is so worth while.
And I thank you, Lord,
that when everything's put in place,
out in front I can see your face,
and it's there you belong.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today is Pi Approximation Day

22/7 is pi approximation.

Pi approximation is the approximation of the mathematical constant pi.

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

P is the first letter of my name, Pearlie.

Pearlie is happy today.

Today is 22/7.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Potato Couch Weekend

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

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

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


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Will I ever write poetry again?

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

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

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

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

I finished the book at 8:20am.

I was crying buckets.

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

Excellent writing.

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

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

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

I certainly wish the same for my writing.

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

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

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


Friday, July 18, 2014

I never learn

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

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

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


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

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

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

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

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

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


Note: my subsequent post to this book

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finally, card begone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, July 14, 2014

Hospital Visit

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

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

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


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pain, Suffering, Death and Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blessings by Laura Mixon Story

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book craze

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

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

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

With an exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 10, 2014

My crazy high personal standards

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Klaus Post, 2005

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

MeetUp of a Book Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Enough durians for the year

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

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

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

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

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

But I have had enough for this year!

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

Photo source:

Monday, July 07, 2014

My comfy corner in Heaven

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

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

That is my current understanding of heaven.

So when the Catholic priest said yesterday that heaven is not a place but a state, I said to myself, "hold way." But I have not done enough study to effectively defend it with Scripture. Someone actually tried and quoted from the Gospel of John, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." (John 14:2-4, ESV)

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

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

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

by Randy Alcorn

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

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


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, July 04, 2014

Silent Retreat Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good night everyone.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

An answer to a prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, July 02, 2014

How I choose books to read

For me, it is quite a challenge to find books that are interesting to read. It is so because the moment I start on one, I will push myself to finish it no matter what. So it will be an awful experience if I find out halfway that the book does not meet up to my expectations. But finish it I will, unless it is really, really, really very, very, very bad.

So the trick I use is to first read the first page and if I find myself reading on, I will go for the whole chapter and then decide if this is a book I will invest time in. How then the author pitch the plot or premise in the first page and chapter, or even the first sentence is therefore very important to me. If he is able to keep me reading, he has that voice that I am looking for.

And as I have blogged before, I now use book recommendation tools in and With that, I am currently reading this book by Brent Weeks, recommended by

The Way of Shadows
by Brent Weeks

I am very selective with books in the fantasy genre (same goes for science fiction). I tend to get lost in them because most are too abstract about things I am not familiar with but when they delve into the stories of the people, I am interested.

Brent Weeks's The Way of Shadows is a good read for me, but I did get lost in some places towards the end. I should be able to finish it tomorrow. I find myself already spending too much time in it.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Samplings on the Fourteenth

I had the privilege to have lunch in Samplings on the Fourteenth this afternoon. It is quite a special fine dining restaurant with a very apt name.

It is a learning kitchen and restaurant as it is staffed by a team of culinary students of the Berjaya University College of Hospitality.

It is aptly named Samplings because the menu is different everyday and it is indeed a daily sampling of the students' creation guided by a master chef.

The restaurant setup is simple. Not too posh but nice with a good window view of the city.

I ordered the scallop for starter, and the chicken roulade for mains. And silly me was so hungry I just dug in and forgot to take a picture of the chicken roulade. I am not a photo foodie anyway. I remembered to take a photo each of the starter and dessert only because the other three ladies at my table were busy taking photos of theirs!

The scallop was really delicious. I can't remember what it was served with. Definitely some eggs and maybe some beans under the scallop and cilantro over the mashed eggs wrapped with some sort of greens.

The chicken roulade is quite good too though not spectacular. It is served on a bed of tomato purée kind of sauce.

The dessert is really unique. It is some kind of mouse with raspberry paper made in the kitchen.

I wish I was more attentive to the menu and the food description and not ending up with what I referred to above as "sort of" this and "some kind" of that!

Anyway, on the whole, it was a delightful meal and for lunch, the price is unbelievably cheap for fine dining. It was only RM28 per 3-course serving. Some may find the serving rather small but it is just nice for me.

Do note that the restaurant can get quite busy and so make your reservations before going there. And being a fine dining restaurant, make sure you are dressed appropriately.

Samplings On The Fourteenth
Berjaya Times Square Hotel,
1 Jalan Imbi,
55100 Kuala Lumpur
03-2117 8000

Photo source: (photo #1 and #2)