Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year it has been

The year is about to come to an end. What a year it has been. It did not really start that well but it is ending on a really good note. I feel blessed and happy and I thank the Lord for his goodness, his loving kindness, his grace, and his presence in my life.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's a Good Book Year 2014

I started my book challenge in mid 2011 when I began reading ebooks challenging myself to read 50 of them but I did not meet it within the 12 months, but in one and a half years, I read 41 books. I was pretty motivated but thought I'd be more realistic and put my subsequent yearly challenge at 20 books, i.e. about 1-2 books a month which is more reasonable and workable.

However, I read 30 in 2013 and these 56 books this year, and I'm pretty proud of it. It's a good book year.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Four Views on Hell

Four Views on Hell
by John F. Walvoord (literal), William V. Crockett (metaphorical), Zachary J. Hays (purgatorial) and Clark H. Pinnock (conditional)

Before reading this book, my view on hell was the metaphorical one, which turns out to be the majority view of the Evangelicals. I find that I could not take the literal view, the traditional one, because I can't see how a God of love would allow his creation, even if they have rejected him, to suffer in literal fire for eternity. Being Evangelical, I do not see how it can be purgatorial since the bible does not mention it and I'm not yet exposed to the conditional or annihilation view.

After reading the book, I'm still not with the literal view. I will still hold (though now not so firmly) to the metaphorical view. I'm now thinking about the conditional one with an interest in the purgatorial.

Whether I'm more informed or more confused, I'm not sure!

I find that Walvoord did not do much with the verses other than just quoting them--I suppose that is him being "literal". And as for Crockett, he did not give much on what the nature of hell is, which I can understand because it really depends on one's interpretation on the verses metaphorically and with that, what Pinnock say is true: "If we do not know the nature of hell, then any position might turn out to be true," and that would include the literal position.

Hayes' view on purgatorial is interesting as I was thinking, before reading the book, if God will allow for an intermediary period after the death of an unbeliever if he really, really would reject Christ. But of course, logically speaking, you could say that our time in this life is that intermediary period, and if another is given, how many is enough? However, Hayes focused more on the perfection and sanctification of a believer in purgatory who is not good enough to be in heaven. But to me, that reduces the power and effect of the work of Christ on the cross.

Pinnock's case to me was the most convincing one. He is against the metaphorical view because that is like taking the hell out of hell. He is against the literal view with the same reason I do. What I find interesting is his point on the default understanding of the immortality of the soul which is according to him is Hellenistic in nature. He disagrees saying that the soul is not automatically immortal until the resurrection on the last day through Christ. Souls who reject God will not be resurrected but annihilated. He gave verses in Scripture which do provide support to annihilation. Like in Psalm 37, "the wicked will fade like the grass and wither like the herb (v. 2), that they will be cut off and be no more (vv. 9-10), that they will perish and vanish like smoke (v. 20), and that they will be altogether destroyed (v. 38)...God would destroy the wicked (1 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28)...Their destiny is destruction (Phil. 3:19)."

I'm not yet switching to the conditional view as I need more study on it. I have questions like, if you can't take hell out of hell, how long will they have to suffer the torment before they are annihilated? And wouldn't annihilation a way of taking hell out of hell too?

It's tough but I still hold on to the immortality of souls and yet do not accept that God will perpetually torment people with conscious suffering for all eternity. But I do see that one can hold on to the annihilist position and still be faithful to Scripture.

I'm not sure if I want to be sure about my position. Can I not leave it till I get there (not hell but heaven!)? Or does the position I hold have any bearings on how I live my life in Christ now?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Plane crashes in 2014

I was in church when I found out about the missing Air Asia flight today. I began to wonder about both the elevated number of crashes in 2014 and the probability of three of them being planes from Malaysian airlines.

I found these two interesting articles:
How odd is a cluster of plane crashes? BBC, 25 July 2014
Is 2014 the deadliest year for flights? Not even close. CNN, 28 July 2014

My heart goes out to the family members of the crew and passengers of Flight QZ8501 and my prayers are with them.


Friday, December 26, 2014

In memory of victims on 26 Dec 2004

Today is the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people.

It amazing how we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when massive disasters like this happen. I was tucked safe and sound in a hotel in Petaling Jaya on 26 December 2004. News travel more slowly then compared to now, but soon I was inundated with horrifying pictures and accounts of the disaster.

I was busy working in a project in a bank on Friday, 11 March 2011 when we found out about the earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan.

And I was in a party celebrating a car race event our company took part in when my colleague rushed in and told us that terrorists have crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers in New York. I remember leaving the party and walking to the nearby home of one of the race car driver to watch the news.

Do you remember where you were? Or...were you there?


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jesus, the Hope of Christmas

We celebrated Christmas in church today with a Christmas service that was attended by if I'm not wrong, more than a thousand worshippers. It was great to see so many people in the house of God.

We performed a play every year for the past three Christmases I was here including this year. The first one was the best in its message, and this third one, the most entertaining and comedic of all three. Well done! I will see if I can post a link of the video though you'd need to follow it up with the sermon to figure out its message. It was a good mesh between the movies The Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men, Days of Future Past.

The sermon was good. We were reminded that as much as human beings want progress and perfection in life, we live and progress in our "future past", that is our future and progress can never happen without the stain of our broken past. And it is because of the birth of Jesus, fully God and fully man, that we break that cycle and really progress in both our cultures and societies. Radical changes happened in how we treat women and children, how we practice governance, the fact that we have science and technology, it's all because God came to us in human form. And it is this Jesus whom we celebrate this Christmas and I must add that it is this Jesus who will come again to redeem us, on whom we place our hope for eternity and fullness.

And I was in the back-up choir, which is the biggest we had so far in worship. I must say I am not used to being in ad-hoc choirs but we did a fair job in bringing the joy and spirit of hope and Christmas in our worship of our God and King.

Merry Christmas and may the hope of Jesus be with you all the days of your life.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey

The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey
by Rachel Joyce

I finally got a copy of the companion to Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey and read it. I have enjoyed reading the first one more, but it was good nonetheless.

It gave an intimate look into the last days of people with terminal illness in palliative care. But mostly, the story goes around the guilt and unrequited love of a woman for a man.

I had wondered as I was reading the book how Joyce would bring it to an end. Will you not agree with me that the most important parts of a book (or story, or movie, or life events, or even life for that matter) are its beginning and ending. And I must say I like this ending better than the one on Harold Fry. It was unexpected and yet unsurprising.

When I got to it, "ahh, of course," I exclaimed.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Starbucks Day

I'm laying off coffee (think calories in fat and sugar) and I'm not really a Starbucks fan, but it turned out to be a Starbucks day for me. I bought some items as Christmas presents and found out that with my U Card, I can now get a buy-one-free-one Tiramisu Frappacino or French Vanilla Latte. And someone at work got me a latte. Nice!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Four Views on Hell

Four Views on Hell
by John F. Walvoord (literal), William V. Crockett (metaphorical), Zachary J. Hays (purgatorial) and Clark H. Pinnock (conditional)

It may not be an ideal topic to read about during the Christmas season but I bought a copy anyway as it is a topic I've always been curious about. I'm not really sure if I'll take it on during this Christmas break though. We'll see.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Burps & Giggles, Ipoh

My parents wanted to make a day trip to Ipoh just for a visit. My dad can't drive anymore and my mom isn't very familiar with the directions and so I offered to drive. My hubby is still down with a bad cough and he decided to stay home. So it was just my parents, my son and I. And we had quite a decent time there.

There is now this block of shop houses converted into cosy caf├Ęs.

When I did my research on which would be the places to go for a good bite, Burps & Giggles kept coming out tops.

And they were good. Food was delicious and the place rustic...

... and cosy.

Trinkets for sale.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Depravity of Humanity. The Absolute Goodness of God

At the recommendation of my friend who likes to watch Korean and Tarantino-like violent movies, I watched Snowpiercer today. It's an English/Korean movie directed by a South Korean director with quite an impressive list of actors, namely Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer.

It is about a climate change experiment gone bad that plunged the whole world back into Ice Age. Before it happened though, a billionaire built a self-sustaining bullet train and train tracks that goes round the world. The only people who survived were those in the train and the story was about life in that train 17 years after the catastrophe.

There exist in the train a class system with the rich and privileged at the front and the poor at the back, living in conditiona like a ghetto, but worse with the front controlling the back, and the back being violently forced to succumb to the front. Soon they began planning a revolt to get to the front to take control of the train.

Whilst for most part it does seem impossible for the train to run and for the tracks to sustain unattended for 17 years, it was still very interesting to watch human behaviours in such a condition.

The billionaire who built and controls the train is revered like a god and his appointed people ruled the train like sovereigns. The people are what they called "preordained" in their places - the privileged at the front and the lowly at the back. And so it is, nothing can be changed. Even though there is enough to be shared, the poor is preordained to suffer and die. (Sound familiar?)

I found it quite intriguing a movie as it raises many questions about humanity and power.

And this reminds me of Sir John Dalberg's famous quote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

I am absolutely grateful and thankful that God is loving and kind to all. He "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4) and "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Pet 3:9)

And as C.S. Lewis said: "God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God."

John Dalberg, Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887 published in Historical Essays and Studies, edited by J. N. Figgis and R. V. Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907)
C. S. Lewis - Christian Reflections, 1943

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nasi Lemak BK4

I bought some nasi lemak for my office colleagues today. I knew the Nasi Lemak BK4 is famous but I just found out that it is actually quite famous and well-known.

Here is its story of how it began.

Photo source: Pn Tay's Blog

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A really, really close call

I nearly ran over a person with my car today, and I'm pretty shaken up about it. I am indeed thankful to God that it did not happen and that I did have the time to swerve my car to avoid him and that I did not get hit by any vehicles as a result of my emergency maneuver.

What happened was this: I was on my way back from work. At one point in the highway, the car in front of me suddenly swerved to the right and what was immediately in front of me was a man rolling on the road with his motorcycle. I slammed my brakes and swerved to my left to avoid him, failing which I would have ran him over and it could cost him his life. I had no time to see if there were any vehicle on my left. Thankfully, there weren't or I'll be in big trouble myself.

I stopped for a moment by the roadside and the car which was in front also stopped. With that, I did not get down, and I do hope that the guy who fell off his motorcycle was alright.

I'm thankful for the personal safety seminar which I have attended several months ago that taught me some safe driving tips. I'm now used to keeping a good distance between cars, both when I'm stationary and when in motion. If I had not kept a good distance, I can't imagine what would happen to the guy and I'd definitely be in really big problem right now.

I thank God.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our own voices from the future

“You will say in that day”
(Isaiah 12:1, 4).

We are listening here to our own voices from the future. Isaiah is describing the revival of the church in the latter days..He is not giving us details about the end times. He is creating an impression, giving us a foretaste of what it means to live in a spirit of praise.
~ Isaiah: God Saves Sinners by Raymond C. Ortlund


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The beloved book of Philippians

I was listening to Philippians again and again today, which I can consider as my most loved book of the Bible. And these are the well-known verses:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (1:6)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (2:3)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (2:5-11)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. (3:13)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:4-7)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (4:8)

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (4:11-13)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:19)


Monday, December 15, 2014

Seeking approval and validation from others

I was wondering about how some of us, or even most or all of us are always seeking the approval and validation of others. I found many online articles about it and it seem to be something quite prevalent in the human race. How so?

Take a look at this poem apparently written by someone call Annie Hyde.

People look for validation
The ways are many
From things like
"Does this look okay?"
To "Tell me if I'm wrong"
Human strive for it
To be validated by their parents
Their peers
Their bosses
Society as a whole
But why can't we validate ourselves?
Why do we feel the need?
To be subjected
To others (sic) opinions
To others (sic) thoughts
When their thoughts
Are none of our business

The author asked, "why can't we validate ourselves," and "why do we feel the need" to be validated by others. And I began to ask the same questions and I think it's this: we seek for validation because we are a fallen race looking for the perfection which we have lost.

God has created us in his likeness and in our pristine original being, we were good and perfect. But when we chose to be our own gods, our own masters instead of God, we became sinners who now fall short of the glory of God. We have become lesser, imperfect.

But we were still made for perfection and in our imperfection, we look for validation for who we are.

As such, only Jesus is the perfection we can have in our lives. Seek him, receive him in your life, and you will already have the perfection in him. And it will only be to God whom you look for validation, and the validation God sees in you is his perfect Son, Jesus Christ.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Being one voice

I have often found myself in a position where I'm in a team and every single member would rather do things their way, which in the end result in disaster. This was what happened this evening and it has reminded me to listen to one another and be one instead of many.


Friday, December 12, 2014

My migraine triggers

At 7 in the morning. Clear blue sky and a nice cool morning.

At 1 in the afternoon. Sunny and a blazing hot day.

I was out in a staff event today in street puzzle solving, treasure hunt and pedestrian challenge today. It was really fun and I had a great time but the gathering place was in the open car park of a stadium and to me it was a bad idea.

Even though we were underneath canopy tents, it was very warm being a hot sunny day. Our prayers was answered that it didn't rain with that risk being very high at year end and it would have been a bummer since our event was in the outdoors but I returned home with a really very, very bad migraine. Worst I had in a long, long time.

This is one more item to the list of my migraine triggers and I need to avoid being out in the hot sun from now on.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Good food at Ben's

I was in Ben's at Pavillion KL this evening, and when I'm in Ben's, I usually order the same things but decided I try something different today.

Ben's House Salad
This salad was really good. It has edamame, nuts, avocado, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and my all-time favorite arugula leaves all in an absolutely delicious dressing. A must have.

Soft Shell Crab Spaghettini
I need to stay away from seafood but the combination of crispy soft shell crab and spaghettini with chili flakes and curry leaves was very interesting. I'm glad I ordered it. It was very, very good.

Photo sources: Bad Boy Ben and Cindy's Planet

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The mystery of time

I read a book about time a couple of years ago but did not put up a review on it. I found that I do think back on what I have read, and it will be useful for me to read it again to make sure I remember it correctly.

Time enthralls me and I'm always amazed with it being created by God. Or did he? I suppose he did since Genesis began with creation with the words, "in the beginning", hence that is when time began.

But I do wonder if there is time with God? When God says he is eternal, is he referring to time, where it last forever and ever? If not, does it refer to one point where it is eternity in essence, where past, present and future exist all at once? If that is so, when we are with God in eternity, can we even survive to have it all at once?

And Einstein said that, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once."

I do have William Lane Craig's book Time and Eternity, Exploring God's Relationship to Time, except that I have yet to read it. I did try to but found it a bit too technical for my appetite lately. Will I be curious enough to try reading it again?


Monday, December 08, 2014

Chronic cough

My hubby is having a bad cough that does not seem to go away. I was checking up on cough mixtures and found that in the olden days, heroin and cannabis were used as cures!

I rarely get a cough, but when I do, I'd usually go for traditional Chinese cough mixtures, though I'm not too sure if they really work, but they sure taste good though.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

by Emma Donoghue

Just when I was contemplating if reading is a waste of time, of course it's not, I'm just being a tad more philosophical about it, I came across this book that when I read the last word of it, all I could say was "wow".

It is a gripping tale about a 5-year old boy who grew up all his life incarcerated in a small room with his mother. The story was presented from his perspective as the first voice, and you could almost get into his mind as he perceives his world within just the confines of a square room.

This is one of those extremely good books that creates images in your mind as you read without requiring much of an effort. The words just flow and you find yourself in that very room with Jack.

It's an amazing read. The best one I've had in a long time.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

I learnt about this amazing orchestra today. And really, hats off to these young musicians who in their poverty in life are able to bring music to life.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Is reading a waste of time?

I am getting another(!) dose of the 7 Habits training, and this time I spent a bit more time thinking about the Time Matrix. It was highlighted that effective high performance organizations spend 60% of their time in Quadrant II, 25% in QI, 14% in QIII and 1% in QIV.

My first question is whilst I understand that QIV needs to be minimized, is 1% enough? Some of the mindless and brainless things that I do, I will put them in QIV, but I find them important to wind down a stressed up mind. Can it be elevated in QII?

My next question is more interesting--I read a whole lot, but how is it different from watching hours and hours of TV, which I also do at times? If I read as mere entertainment, if I read just fiction, will it be lumped together with watching TV as time wasters?

After thinking it through, I'm still convinced that reading is still a virtue compared to TV. Reading takes more effort and builds more discipline. It builds your imagination and on top of it helps you improve your command of the language more effectively than TV. They may fare equally in learning new things, the former in reading and visualizing and the latter in seeing and hearing.

As such, reading takes its rightful place in QII, but TV can be in QII too if you ask me. But whatever it is, everything in moderation. After all too much of a good thing is not a good thing.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce

With all my serious reading lately, I wanted something lighter and different and came upon this delightful book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

It is a story about a retired husband and father who on his way to mail a letter to a long-lost friend who is now dying of cancer, made a sudden decision to walk to her instead, all six hundred over miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

In his journey, he met and encountered many different people and situations. But what I like about the story was that he spent most of his time thinking about life, discovering about what he finds on his path and reminiscing about his past. There were memories of nostalgic and happy moments but mostly there were also painful and regretful images which he did not want to face especially when he started the journey, only having to face it finally in the end.

I like the story because if I were to travel, this will be how I want it to be, not the walking but the time spent thinking and mulling over life. To view the sights and learn about things I see and think about how it all connects both to life and in life. And now I understand why I have not been really traveling - it is only because this kind of traveling require a whole lot of time and money, both of which I can't afford for now.

Rachel Joyce also wrote a companion book from the side of Harold's friend who was dying - The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. I have not bought it, yet. It is almost double the price of the first volume and I have been buying too many books lately, I shall wait a bit before I get this one. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to it.


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Coincidence or premonition?

I'm not sure if you can call this a coincidence or a premonition.

All five ATM machines that I went to were either out of service or ran out of cash. I really need to withdraw some money but I'm just not able to.

Hope it's ok tomorrow.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Oh no...

My colleague just remarked, "Oh no! It's already December."

I must admit I had not realised it, but yes, oh no, it's already December. And what have I accomplished?