Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Our 14th Anniversary

Today's our 14th wedding anniversary. How time flies.

No essay can ever capture our story together
No page can summarize our stuggles ever.
No phrase can snapshot our plans and our hopes
No paragraph can highlight our intertwined hearts
No sentence can define our marriage
No commas can pause our mindfulness of each other
No question mark will cast a doubt of our inner love
No words can paint what God has done in our lives
No one but God, can understand how much we love each other.

Nothing, absolutely nothing will ever mean anything, if God has not brought us together and keep us together in the past, in the present and in the future.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo
(Glory to God on High in latin)

Kian Seng and Mary

On lawsuits within the church

Painful it is. Church disputes. Heartbreaking it is, infighting among members of the common body professing they are faithful to God. Devastating when the lawsuits it leads to, draws public attention.

Ever wonder why Paul is so adamant about not having lawsuits in the Church? He wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
1Cor. 6:4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
1Cor. 6:5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
1Cor. 6:6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

I read about a lawsuit currently in progress in the court regarding a church member angry about being 'ex-communicated' from the church for 6 months due to a theological disagreement. Without other recourse, he decided to take the church to court. In situations like this, some people blame the leadership, while others blame the church member.

- that they are too authoritarian. They are not 'open' enough with the dissenting church member who takes them to law courts.
- they failed in their duties to show love to the flock like a Protective Shepherd over the sheep
- they abuse their powers of leadership

- that he is not submissive enough to authority
- for initiating the lawsuit in the first place
- for the lack of self-control, choosing to air one's grievances at the expense of the whole body of the church concerned

While many will fall into either of these 2 categories, some even both, reading 1 Cor 6 shows me that neither of these is as serious as the failure of the whole community to mediate between the two groups. 'Is there not among you one wise man' in that church? The Church has been blessed richly with many talented individuals. There are people trained in many kinds of skills, including the law and skills of mediation. What happened to the 'wise men' of the church? Are they too busy with their own careers? Are they too afraid to get their feet wet? Are they too afraid to step in and spend time understanding the issues behind the 2 dissenting parties? Where are the wise men of the church?

We Need the Wise Men to Mediate NOW!
Be not deceived. This case is not simply a case of the KJV translation or not. It is not a matter of submission to authority or not. It is simply the test of the will of the church to be united in seeing the church having the political will to stick together.

Here, it is easy to draw our lines. That the church that is embroiled in this lawsuit is simply that church concerned. I will venture to suggest that the church to be involved is the universal church concerned. So all Methodist churches, all Episcopalian churches, all Presbyterian churches, all Evangelical Free Churches out there, and all of you churches who claim that unity in the church is important, this lawsuit concerns not just them. It concerns YOU! Where are the wise men of the church? Where are the wise men of the UNIVERSAL church? Step in and mediate. Do it quickly. Do it now! The true test of the unity of the church is not in the 'truths' argued for. The true test is in the actions one take in the practice of love. Wise men of the churches, come together. Use your skills. Use your wisdom. Where are the wise men of the church?

If there is enough of you willing to be humbled or ridiculed for the sake of the unity of the church, there is hope. If there is a majority of you choosing to retain 'one's respectability' by not getting involved, it will be sad. Wise men of the churches, we need you now.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Risks of Using Wikipedia

It used to be, when I was curious about anything, I will search for it using a keyword search on Google, and then try to select the ‘most appropriate’ description from the many links returned. It does takes time and effort to sieve through non relevant information. However, times has changed as more marketers are beginning to address this niche of people who are information hungry and does not want to search the whole world from A-Z when all they wanted is a basic understanding or the word say: “robustious” or “denizen”, or all they wanted to know about Antelopes.

Wikipedia is increasingly an online Encyclopedia that is gaining not only popularity but public acceptance. More and more research students are quoting in their papers information from Wikipedia. I have been using Wikipedia simply because it looks like a one-stop Information Shop for anything I wanted to know. However, one of the supposed power of Wikipedia is the ease and frequency of changes one can make to the online database. For example, St Augustine is born in the year 354. What if someone else decide to play a prank and change it to the year 1354? The poor student who happens to refer to Wikipedia at that time, will have thought that Augustine is born in the Middle Ages! The Wikipedia people says that wrong information can be corrected very quickly. My reply: 'What applies to corrections, also applies to vandalism.' The Wikipedia technology framework does not know how to tell the difference between truth and falsehood! Another example of the ease of vandalism was the replacement of the picture of the evil Lord Sith of Star Wars, with the picture of the current Pope!

Complaints about quality and reliability of Wikipedia information continue to rise. Yet the number of users and adherents is growing. Rather than a blanket call for a ban, my feel is that for a general initial appreciation of any knowledge, you can try out Wikipedia. Just make sure that it does NOT become the bible or the ONLY source of information. Above all, check it with discernment.

Follow the links below
1) A video by Colbert on Wikipedia. Scathing remarks under the guise of humor. (link)
2) Wikipedia problems (link)
3) Wikipedia founder admits to ’serious problems’ (link)
4) A study on lies and truth on Wikipedia (link)
5) Wikipedia themselves admit on their pages but chose to trumpet them as strengths (link)
6) Wiki people replies to common objections (link)
7) Will Wikipedia Change history? (link)

Again I would like to reiterate. Doing a search on Wikipedia for basic introductory understanding is ok. To base one’s research on it, or to use it as the main source of information is NOT ok. It is like putting hearsay and call it truth simply by posting it on Wikipedia. We need to continue to battle for truth. This battle is now increasingly in the Internet domain.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Papers completed, 2 sermons next...

What a relief. Completing papers gives a nice feeling. Completed all my requirements for the Christian Spirituality and the Theology of the Arts papers. Now I can refocus my attention on my History audio and my sermons for the next 2 weeks.

My main point for the first sermon is aptly captured by Oswald Chambers:

"Holiness, not happiness is the chief end of man."

In preparation for my 2nd sermon, I will be going to the mountain after my 1st sermon. How can I preach a sermon on holiness if I do not meet up with God, the Holiness Divine.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The View from the Church @ FBC Watertown

As the press continues to bombard First Baptist Church @ Watertown, let us pray that wisdom will prevail among all. The woman getting 'fired' is not the main point now. The main issue is public and press relations.

Here is the news release from the Church's web site.

1) From the pastor

2) From the Diaconate Board

3) The Church web site.

4) The Church blog site.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Woman 'Fired' from Church

Here is another proof that proper theological education is crucial for the health of the church. Mary Lambert, 81, who have been teaching Sunday School faithfully at her church was suddenly fired from her church simply because her pastor interpreted the First Epistle to Timothy, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.".

Read more about it here.

Certainly, if this verse is interpreted to the letter, we have to grapple with how the word teaching is to be defined. Not all men is learned enough to teach all women. There are women who are more knowledgeable and better teachers than men. It will be a shame for any church, no matter how well-intentioned, to foolishly apply this verse to the letter without considering the context.


Weekend @ The PNE

So we finally went to the PNE, Greater Vancouver's so called 'Best entertainment in Canada." Well, we did not go because it is best. We went because the entrance fee was free. Without the free passes, it would have set us back by at least 60CAD for the whole family. Yet, in spite of this initial savings, we still spent about 100CAD for the rides, monster cotton candy and popcorn. More than 92000 people turned up on the opening day (19 Aug 2006).

We were toying between buying the expensive fare passes for all vs buying individual coupons for rides which limits our number of rides but cheaper fares upfront. After seeing the immense crowds and queues, we decided against buying the passes as multiple rides require multiple queues. So the two older kids went for rides on the Roller Coaster, the Cockscrew, Hell's Gate, the Inverter and the Enterprise. My wife took the little one for a reduced fare pass which enabled one parent to ride for free. My wife is simply brilliant with her sums. I couldn't have thought of that. I reminisced on the times my dad brought me on the roller coaster rides. It was fun then. Now the fun is to watch my kids enjoying themselves. More importantly, I enjoyed seeing how the older brother and sister accompanying and caring for each other. This building up of brother sister relationship is more uniquely developed without the parent around. Though the roller coaster ride takes about 90 seconds, I think the memories collected will last much more than that. Pictures later.

Did we do anything together then? On Sunday, we build little trenches on the beach. Life lessons on simple pleasures.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Free online Word Processor

One of the best online features is to have an online word processor available on the Internet. You can type an essay, leave it on the net and edit it later. You can also collaborate with a few others in writing an article. You can use it as a repository of documents. Here it is: Google Writely! Check it out. It is cool. All is needed is an email address to register.

Unlimited storage online but each document is a maximum 500KB in size as of today. Read the review here.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Email Etiquette

As email becomes more prevalent and increasingly necessary, we need to make sure that basic etiquttes are kept in step with the use of email. This is not simply to avoid misunderstandings but also to ensure we are wise and thoughtful about its use and misuse.

Have at least 2 different email addresses. For example, one for work and the other for personal matters. This is because we do not want to mix the two, to enable us to concentrate on our given tasks on the one hand, and to respond appropriately on the other.

For those of us who prefer only one email address, we can program rules into our email programmes so that they can automatically sort emails into different folders. That way when we are in the office reading office mail, we will not be distracted by personal mails coming into the same mailbox as they will get sorted into the respective folders. Then we can read the personal mails over break time.

Let's face it. There are emails which we tend to reply quickly before any second thoughts. Sometimes we do so at the risk of hurting the other party. We can type a quick response, but keep it in draft mode. Let it thaw or brew for a day or two with prayer. Then send it when after prayer, you still feel a need to respond. Remember that emails once sent, it is gone from your inbox. One sends it knowing that there might be consequences to it.

We are all human in the sense that we are not perfect people. Moreover, one person's innocent words can be a nasty accusation on the other person's integrity or feelings. Controlling the tone in the most loving manner is a mark of maturity.

Spams and useless messages can continue to fill up our mailbox. We can be easily upset about the types of mails coming in that we do not want to read. Rather than making a big fuss over it, the fastest way is to hit the delete key and forget about it. This is better than to tell the whole world how evil spamming is, which exhausts one from other more important work.

Like TV and computer games, email can become an addiction that one wastes lots of time reading it. Sometimes it is best to disciplined one to check the mails only at periodic times of the day. One of the touted email advantages is the ability to respond at one's convenient timing. Maximise this benefit. Do not get bogged down by any self-driven need to respond to every mail immediately. Above all, realise that one can get hooked on email and not be able to spend time interacting 'offline' with other people.

Feel free to contribute more tips.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who Won?

The Lebanon ceasefire has been in place since 14 Aug 2006, and at current time, it is still holding. The Israelis and the Hezbollah groups are restraining their fire. How long it will remain, nobody really knows.

Yet both sides are claiming victory. Israel and most of their supporters said that they have won. Bush said Israel won.

Israelis however are mixed on who has won.

The Hezbollah said that they are the victors, and Arab supporters claimed the ceasefire will not hold.

The Hartford Courant said that there are no winners or losers, but victims.

Both Israel and the Hezbollah groups have not won. It is more true that both lost something and gained more hatred for each other. Their supporters try to prop each other up with statements of victory which is in some ways a self-delusion. Nobody won.

Who won?
- Ask the 1 million Israelis who were forced to leave their homes.
- Ask the 800000 Lebanese who were evacuated from their cities.
- Ask the Israeli soldiers and family who lost their children in the war.
- Ask the Hezbollah who suffered casualties.
- Ask the parents of anyone living in that area, who lost a loved one in the war.
- Ask the world. Ask the victims. Ask the inside conscience.

How can anyone claim victory amidst much hatred and bloodshed? Is victory defined as destroying the other party? What about sowing the seeds of hatred? What about the wars burning the hopes of innocent people on all sides? Which is more powerful? A missile of explosives or a mission of mercy? Which is more humane? An extermination of the enemy or an affirmation of each other's existence? Which is more hopeful? Investing in arms or investing in aid?

In wars, there are no winners. Only victims.

Perhaps when the allies of Israel stop supplying arms to Israel, and when the allies of the Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations stop their military support. Perhaps a de-militarised zone is strongly enforced by an group of civilians comprising people of both sides. Perhaps.

Until then, the ceasefire is like a ticking time device, which nobody knows when it will trigger the next war.

Monday, August 14, 2006

One Laptop Per Child Project

Some people have an idea (Stage A) and that idea drove them to find a solution. The drive to find a solution (Stage B) leads them to find the ways and means (Stage C) to achieve that solution, often resulting in a product (Stage D). Along the way, Stage B and C could perhaps generate more ideas, powered by the continuous renewal of creativity and entrepreneurial initiatives.

However, this conventional sequence of Stages A -> B -> C -> D has often been dismantled in this era of 'thinking out of the box'. For example, the widespread knowledge of computers and availability of low cost computing equipment has left many people a product in search of a solution. After all, one of the marketing techniques is to continuously find new ways to sell or market a product beyond its conventional usage. Then the mind goes on to rationalize and justify the efficacies and benefits of the product. As a result of marketing and highly touted features, the product becomes the primary message.

The OLPC project appears to start with the benefit of giving a laptop to a child in order to 'learn learning'. It is certainly an odd proposition especially in a third world environment. Three reasons why it is odd.

1) LINUX: The $100 laptop runs on Linux which is already not as ubiquitous as Windows in the developed world.

2) USEFULNESS: How will children learn to use the computers without learning the usefulness of computers? So what if the computer can allow one to type essays. Wouldn't that drive up to total cost of ownership? Who pays for paper and printer consumables? Who pays for repairs for mishandling? Who pays for Internet connectivity? Who pays for power supplies? Who pays for other pieces of software necessary for the functioning of the system? Who pays for training? What about technical support?

3) FIRST THINGS: Will people from the third world really appreciate the tools often used in a developed world? The contexts are simply different. The reason why the developed world is able to maximise its benefits from computers is because of their developed and available infrastructure. Third world countries often does not have such infrastructures. Pencil and paper would be best in most learning situations for them.

My conclusion: Before even thinking of helping Third World countries learn, one should seriously address the most important first steps for the children of the 3rd world. If training and the associated trainers and educational frameworks are not there in the first place, these so called wonder tools, one laptop per child initiatives will end up like games machines or other time wasting devices that plagues the first world nations today.

For more information of the One Laptop Per Child Project, click here.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Of Stress and Many Distractions

This Summer is uniquely stressful.

I have 3 exams to take, 3 papers to write, and 3 book reviews. That is the problem of me trying to do so many classes despite taking on a lower credit requirement per course. With noisy kids and loud construction noises all around, the stress that comes from the work to do can be a potent combination for quick temper and frustration.

But wait. I was reminded of the sermon I preached 2 sundays ago, "Martha Martha, you are distracted and worried by many things. Only one thing is necessary and Mary has chosen the better part."

Yes. The secret to tackling distraction is to not simply to work on one thing. It is also not doing 'one thing at a time.' It is most importantly, whatever I do, I am mindful of the Holy Spirit leading me in my thoughts, Word and deed. If whatever I am doing can bring glory to God most directly, that I should do first.

So I am going to hug my wife now.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Blueberry Picking

Some facts about blueberries

- Ranked #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to other fresh berries and fruits/vegetables {ref}
- 'Anti-Aging' properties (ref)
- Reduces cholesterol {ref}
- Lots of fiber
- Improve blood circulation
- No if not minimal adverse effects of use of extracts
- Can treat coughs, diarrhoea, gout, rheumatism, typhoid fever, mouth ulcers

Was it due to the reasons above? Not really. U-Pick blueberries is simply good clean fun and cheap too! So on Sunday after church, we headed to Richmond along Blundell Road to pick blue-berries.

Clarissa's collection after 20mins (with dad's help)

Aaron found a bird's nest too!

We picked 6Ibs of blueberries in 80 minutes. After all the activity under the hot sun, we thought we give ourselves a little treat. Where else but McDonald's.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Wordpress vs Blogspot?

A friend of mine has just moved to Wordpress from Blogger. I am considering....

Check out the comparison between Blogspot vs Wordpress.

Any comments? Anyone?


Thursday, August 03, 2006

More Free Stuff from AOL! 5GB Storage Space

The mantra "Some of the best things in life are free" has fired another salvo at "Nothing is for free". AOL just announced that they are offering up to 5GB free storage space for ALL web users starting September 2006 through www.xdrive.com, their subsidiary of AOL. It comes hot after last week's AOL announcement of offering their 2GB AOL email accounts for free.

Click here for more information.

Google and Microsoft are certainly being pushed a level more.

Yet, we read here that 5000 jobs will be cut. Seems like it is indeed true that "Nothing is for Free." It costs something. Simply a matter of where.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Preaching on Martha/Mary -30July06

I preached last Sunday on Luke 10:36-11:1, with a focus on Martha and Mary. The stories were told. The exegesis were made. The observations were mentioned and the applications for us were explained. The start was slow, as I fumbled over trying to put many things within the first 5-10 minutes. I knew that from my expository preaching classes that context is critical. Somehow, I felt like a living Martha scrambling in my head and mouth over the many exciting discoveries I made regarding the text with the limited time given. Indeed, only after the initial 10 minutes, I started to focus on one thing which helped tremendously. Words came natural. The thinking juices started flowing like a brand new fountain. I gave the congregation the question: "Is the text telling us to be Martha-like or Mary-like?" After giving sufficient rhetoric over that, I pounced onto my main point and thought I hit it home.

Yet I felt strangely disturbed within me. I do not feel like I have connected my heart with the hearts of the congregation. Preaching is already hard, from a preparation and delivery standpoint. However, to preach as a form of worship and neighbourly care for the congregation is to me a distant art, that I can simply glimpse at. My feelings danced between disappointment and hope. Perhaps that is the Lord trying to care for me in a way that does not flatter me or break me.

May the Lord be merciful on my next 2 sermons in August.


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