Wednesday, October 31, 2007


We have heard many cases of bad behaviour or lousy sportsmanship. However, it does take a few instances of good sporting behaviour to bring pride to the human spirit in fair play. Here are two examples that warms the heart.

(1) Leicester City vs Nottingham Forest (Carling Cup Tie)
Leicester City (18 Sep 2007) sportingly allowed Nottingham Forest a free goal in appreciation for their willingness to abandon the previous game (Forest were leading 1-0) so that they can attend to a Leicester player who suffered a heart failure. Technically, Forest do not need to abandon the previous game. Moreover, in a replay, the score will be reset to 0-0. Hence in appreciation to Forest's willingness, Leicester granted them a free goal, informing them only 20 minutes before the game! Read more about it here and here.

(2) West Ham vs Everton (Premier League)
Paolo Di Canio (Dec 2000), upon seeing the opponent's goalkeeper down and injured, decided to catch the ball with his hands despite a golden scoring opportunity to level his team. He received a fair-play award for his sporting gesture.

Cheers to good sportsmanship.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life Lessons (Randy Pausch)

The lessons are familiar but it takes a dying person to drive it home. This Carnegie Mellon University lecture by Dr Randy Pausch, who is dying of pancreatic cancer, is about encouraging people to pursue their childhood dreams. It is not clear whether he believes in God but his lecture is peppered with good thoughts and advice. I suppose the current craze and interest generated due to this lecture speaks a lot about our own dreams and purposes in life. Here are the links:
  1. Full CMU lecture here (1 hr 25 mins)
  2. On the Oprah show (abt 10 mins)
  3. Transcript of lecture (english) / (chinese) [for those of you who prefers to read]
  4. Randy Pausch's website


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Free online Christian books

Here is a good link for free Christian books online. There are many excellent books from contemporary authors like AW Tozer, EM Bounds, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Charles Finney, John Piper etc. There are also classics written by John Bunyan, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence....


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rungs of Spirituality - John Cassian

The fear of the Lord: leads to
compunction of heart: leads to
renunciation of all that is the soul's own: leads to
humility: leads to
mortification of the will: leads to
driving out the vices: leads to
flowering of virtue: leads to
purity of heart: leads to
perfect charity.
(end of Book IV, Institutes)
(Owen Chadwick, John Cassian, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968, p93)

I managed to capture this visually here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Entering the Silence

The monastic church is the Church of the wilderness, the woman who has fled into the desert from the dragon that seeks to devour the infant Word. She is the Church who, by her silence, nourishes and protects the seed of the Gospel that is sown by the Apostles in the hearts of the faithful. She is the Church who, by her prayer, gains strength for the Apostles themselves, so often harassed by the monster. The Monastic Church is the one who flees to a special place prepared for her by God in the wilderness, and hides her face in the Mystery of the divine silence, and prays while the great battle is being fought between earth and heaven.

Her flight is not an evasion. If the monk were able to understand what goes on inside him, he would be able to say how well he knows that the battle is being fought in his own heart."

(Thomas Merton, The Silent Life, London: Burns & Oates, 1956, p11-12)

When I read this today, I was blown away by the spiritual awareness of Merton in terms of spiritual warfare. If we are constantly too busy with other things, making ends meet, rushing from place to place to get things done, skipping meals to get more things done, avoiding meeting with people in order to stay 'ahead' in life, life gets reduced to a series of hitting and missing temporal targets. It is ironical that the human being despite knowing that the earthly life is temporal, yet he often lives as if they are his permanent concerns! Do we need to become blind like Fanny Crosby before we can start writing hymns of faith? Do we need to become a quadriplegic like Joni Eareckson Tada before we can share words of hope? Do we have to see someone crucified for us before we can start to love that person? Whatever we have, whatever abilities we possess, there is a reason for them. We should not just talk about our gift. We ought to use them by sharing them. How can we discern what to do with our gifts if we have not entered into the silence of hearing God? Are we attracted only by the earthquakes of the world? Storms of everyday struggles or winds of change that affects our material lifestyles? If we are, then we will miss the gentle whisper of God. Elijah was able to hear God in the silence. Let's take a leaf from his example.

The gospel is not easily spread just by simply talking down to people. In fact, talking should be second. The first is described in the following quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi.

"Go and preach the gospel to the world, and if absolutely necessary, use words,"

A great spiritual discipline is to follow the desert fathers' advice: "When praying, if absolutely necessary, use words." Now, about the word 'monastic.' If is common for people to simply brush it aside and say that it is a word reserved only for people who are in monasteries or those who have said goodbye to the outside world. If we read carefully Jesus's directive to his disciples to give up all and follow him, we will understand that all believers of the gospel, are called to be monks, in the sense that we do all we can to love God and neighbour.


Plane Crash in Richmond

Yesterday at a church potluck gathering, someone frantically reported that a small Cessna plane had crashed into an apartment building close to the popular Richmond Public Market. The entire plane went inside the building and cannot be seen from the outside. I understand everyone was evacuated and the pilot was dead. A friend from Regent lives just next to the building. If not for the building in front of hers, the plane would have hit her place. We do not live in Richmond, but we do go to Richmond, so this crash hits close. It is a reminder that life is so fragile. Hopefully, this is another incident that will rattle people's spiritual awareness that life is not simply seeking after materialism or making ends meet. There must be something greater.


Other Links
- Globe and Mail
- Canadian Press
- More pictures can be found at this flickr site.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kids' Prayers

Children, aren't they cute?


Dear GOD,
In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation? -Jane

Dear GOD,
Are you really invisible or is that just a trick? Lucy

Dear GOD,
Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? - Norma

Dear GOD,
Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't You just keep the ones You have now? -Jane

Dear GOD,
Who draws the lines around the countries? -Nan

Dear GOD,
I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay? -Neil

Dear GOD,
What does it mean You are a Jealous God? I thought You had everything. -Jane

Dear GOD,
Did you really mean "do unto others as they do unto you"? Because if you did, then I'm going to fix my brother. -Darla

Dear GOD,
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy. -Joyce

Dear GOD,
It rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad! He said some things about You that people are not supposed to say, but I hope You will not hurt him anyway. Your friend (But I am not going to tell you who I am)

Dear GOD,
Why is Sunday school on Sunday? I thought it was supposed to be our day of rest. -Tom L.

Dear GOD,
Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before, You can look it up. -Bruce

Dear GOD,
If we come back as something - please don't let me be Jennifer Horton because I hate her. -Denise

Dear GOD,
If You give me a genie lamp like Aladin, I will give you anything you want, except my money or my chess set. -Raphael

Dear GOD,
My brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha. - Danny

Dear GOD,
Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. -Larry

Dear GOD,
I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. -Sam

Dear GOD,
You don't have to worry about me. I always look both ways. -Dean

Dear GOD,
I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions. -RuthM.

Dear GOD,
I think about You sometimes even when I'm not praying. -Elliott

Dear GOD,
I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. -Nan

Dear GOD,
Of all the people who work for You I like Noah and David the best. -Rob

Dear GOD,
My brother told me about being born but it doesn't sound right.They're just kidding, aren't they? -Marsha

Dear GOD,
If You watch me in church Sunday, I'll show You my new shoes. Mickey D.

Dear GOD,
I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible.Love, Chris

Dear GOD,
We read Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said You did it. So I bet he stoled your idea. Sincerely, Donna

Dear GOD:
The bad people laughed at Noah - "You made an ark on dry land you fool." But he was smart, he stuck with You. That's what I would do. -Eddie

Dear GOD,
I do not think anybody could be a better GOD. Well, I just want You to know but I am not just saying that because You are GOD already. -Charles

Dear GOD,
I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool! -DJ

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The word "Interesting"

After hearing a particular argument or a comment, sometimes hearers will reply casually as 'interesting.' The use of this word 'interesting' is fascinating. Either that comment is truly interesting or it is a useful word for maintaining a cordial relationship.

This way, the relationship is kept at a politically correct level, taking a non-committal position that neither agree nor disagree. No engagement energy needs to be dispensed. One can simply walk away from the conversation not accepting the comment and still maintain the conversational friendship. Sometimes, it could also mean that one simply does not have the time and interest to follow up on the topic. Like the proverbial saying, 'Leave sleeping dogs alone' lest they wake and bite you.

Perhaps the hearer is mindful that he/she might not have fully understood the reasons behind the comment. In this mood, the speaker 'possibly' could have a valid point, but that needs to be verified in another way.

This is what makes the word so powerful. It is like a sword that can cut both ways. It can mean I disagree with your completely, but I do not want to confront you directly, yet. Once my arguments are ready, I will confront you at another time. At this point, I show no commitment on my part to agree, but my posture may still be interpreted as open or even agreement.

Fillers are words or phrases used to avoid that silent moment. It is also a way to communicate to the other person that the message has been received.

I think this word is a good word for taking a non-committal position. I am not sure if it is helpful in the long run. As one of my professors once taught, if there is any word that is not clear, or can potentially confuse, try not to use it. Does that apply here? I think it is a challenge for educators to continue to teach people to use words that more accurately reflect their feelings and thoughts. That is a valid point in relationship building. Language forms one of the most critical bricks in constructing a house of relationships. Like a shining light, we need to help bring clarity into this world. Instead of 'interesting', if one intends to disagree without offending, the phrase 'i am not sure' is better. Loving one's neighbour means loving confrontation or positive affirmation. Otherwise it can become vague, unedifying and downright confusing. Is there a middle path? There always will be, but the truth is that at some point in our lives, we have to choose. Perennial fence sitters may claim to make no enemies. However, they seldom make good lasting friendships.


What is your Pastor's Preaching Style?

Poll as of 16 Oct 2007

It is heartening that expository preaching is still among the top styles. I think the church is in greater need for expository than topical. Pray for good bible expositors worldwide. You can add in your church's statistic at the ChristianityToday site here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Queen of the Sky - A380

This A380 is a beauty. Come 28 Oct 2007, Singapore Airlines will be the first in the world to fly this plane, hailed as the largest passenger plane in the world. In market analysis, this is usually seen as a great opportunity for airlines to promote their brand by being the first to market. No doubt SQ will be taking the chance to go big on publicity. Singapore, small in size but big in visibility. Be prepared to see news flashes of the event worldwide. The interior is also attractive. Just see the pictures, taken from Singapore Airlines.

Just like the train cabins

A place to lie down flat. I like this.

A Mirror to see whether one can slow down aging by flying luxuriously

This is lovely. Very romantic setting.

Then there are the business class seats.

This is really comfortable.

I like the lighting

Book lovers will love this posture

See the large LCD screens?

Now for the rest of us.

After seeing the luxurious cabins, these look very rudimentary.

There is a big difference between first class private suites and the economy seats. Point is, if you want the goodies, be prepared to pay.

- Singapore Airlines A380 website
- Airbus website
- Singapore Airlines website
- AsiaOne website
- Today's New York Times article

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jolt Quote XV

"You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race." (Eric Liddell from the movie Chariots of Fire)

I like the notion of faith compared to running a race. Run with an aim to win.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Striking for a Principle? (how long....)

Since late July, public services in Vancouver has been halted. The strike is entering its 85th day. Libraries are closed, senior daycare and childcare centers remain shut, garbage collection are stopped and many parks, building maintenance etc are not available. In other words, when the union and the city management are at loggerheads, the people suffer. Interestingly, both the union and the management are part of the people too, so they too will be affected in some way. As a parent, I find this article from the Vancouver Sun, illuminating and make a lot of sense. it is one thing to fight for a principle. It is yet another to fight all the way while the public is affected negatively as a result. The strike has gone on for too long. It is time to look longer term and ask ourselves what kind of principles we want our kids to learn.

Common sense, maturity missing among some of the union leadership
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, October 11, 2007
You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need. -- Jagger/Richards
Children learn early on that they can't have everything they ask for. By the time they reach kindergarten, the concepts of limits, trade-offs and compromise are well entrenched.

These principles are reinforced in adulthood when common sense comes with maturity. They are fundamental to social order, to family relationships and to employment contract negotiations.

Vancouver's inside city workers, members of CUPE Local 15, recognized that labour negotiations require give and take and voted 73 per cent in favour of accepting the terms of a contract proposed by mediator Brian Foley, which include a 17.5-per-cent wage hike over five years, a $1,000 signing bonus and amendments to provisions covering contracting out, harassment, whistleblowing and job reclassification.

CUPE Local 15 president Paul Faoro, who recommended his members approve the proposed deal, clearly understood those fundamental principles. He said the collective agreement "had been bettered," and that his members can go to work knowing it is the best deal they can get "under the circumstances."

No, the union didn't achieve everything it might have hoped for but it has improved the terms of employment for its members. That's its job. The settlement matches those of public servants in similar occupations in neighbouring municipalities. It's one they can live with until the next round of negotiations.

But the leadership of CUPE Local 1004, representing outside workers, and CUPE Local 391, representing library workers, told their members to reject Foley's recommendations. Library workers did so overwhelmingly -- 78.1 per cent voted against it -- even though nearly half would benefit from a job classification upgrade on top of the regular wage increase. "They'd would have had a wishy-washy committee that went nowhere," Foley said of the union's demands. "I gave them pay equity."

Most outside workers defied their union leaders, who had urged rejection of the proposals, and voted 58 per cent in favour. It's a rare event when the rank and file fails to heed the advice of its local executive. Nevertheless, the members' clearly stated intention to accept the deal, end the strike and return to work will be denied because of a union bylaw that requires a two-thirds majority to ratify a contract.

Foley said he had "poured his heart and soul" into finding a solution to the strike. But Dave Van Dyke, a Local 1004 bargaining committee representative, disparaged his efforts. "Foley's sold us down the river," he said.

Since a majority of outside workers don't share that opinion, Local 1004 leaders might want to tone down the rhetoric if they plan on being re-elected. Besides, CUPE locals agreed to have Foley mediate their contract dispute with the city. To suggest he was partisan and did not act in good faith is untrue and an insult that warrants an apology.

Like children who want it all now, some union leaders are demanding benefits and restrictive contract language (particularly as it relates to disciplinary measures and caps on deferred vacation) beyond what Foley has proposed. They are also beyond what the city is prepared to pay. Even so-called non-monetary issues carry a cost, whether they're sick leave, vacation entitlements, extended health insurance or contracting out. Such measures make it more expensive to run the city.

City finances are not infinite. Municipal funding comes from taxpayers -- indirectly from the province and directly through property taxes and fees. Vancouver residents already face a property tax hike of eight per cent and aren't likely to welcome further increases to pay for richer wages and benefits for city workers than they receive for their own labours.

Foley's proposals meet the test of a good compromise -- they don't make everyone happy, but set reasonable terms that provide all at least some of what they need.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Aiming High in Christ

There is no leaf that is not in Your care. There is no cry that was not heard by You before it was uttered. There is no water in the shales that was not hidden there by Your wisdom. There is no concealed spring that was not concealed by You. There is no glen for a lone house that was not planned by You for a lone house. There is no man for that acre of woods that was not made by You for that acre of woods.
But there is a great comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.
(Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence (Harper San Francisco), p487)

I am constantly fascinated by Thomas Merton, whose understanding of happiness is in relation to God. In fact, he claims that "The only unhappiness is not to love God." That makes his spiritual walk most authentic, very Christian. Today I was reflecting upon the meaning of life and the spiritual journeys that a Christian take. I chanced upon this segment (above quote) from Merton about solitude and silence. Reading it makes me realize that solitude is not a matter of being alone by oneself. It is an enjoyment solely with God, a meeting with God that we do not want to end. It is like a first date with someone we like, in which we never want it to end. A moment of divine presence with Christ which we want to remain forever. Silence is seen as a form of dialogue with God. The constantly asking, persistently seeking and regularly finding is a measure of our spiritual health. Forget about those types of spiritual disciplines, which aim more at self-gratification, or mere obligatory fulfillment of a set of do's and don'ts. It may be ok to start off our spiritual search via obligation, but we cannot always remain there.

Consider a self-professed Christian who has never evidenced their desire to grow. Spirituality to them may simply mean going to church faithfully every Sunday, or just saying their graces before meals. If Christ is in all, and through all, should not our pursuit of Christ be 7 days a week, 24 hours a day? My personal view is that whatever we want to aim in life, let's aim high. If we want to live a good and perfect life, aim high towards Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Regent College Grand Celebration

"The wind tower art glass installation complements the dynamic lines of the tower, and acts as a visible expression of Regent College’s spiritual mission. The south-facing fa├žade will collect solar energy during the day, and use this energy for illumination at night, acting as a welcoming beacon for the UBC community.

At the heart of the design is a majestic column of light, flowing like a waterfall in silvery blues, violet and white. Arranged within this column is dichroic glass which presents an ever-changing rainbow of colour to the viewer. Woven within and through the flowing waterfall of light is the Lord’s Prayer, written in Aramaic."
(Sarah Hall)

On Sep 29th-30th 2007, Regent College's "Writing a New Chapter" campaign officially comes to a close. It is termed a celebration weekend to reflect the entire college's gratitude to God for providing the financial donations through donors and well-wishers. Who says Canada is spiritually impoverished? There are many individuals, even organizations who believe in the Regent vision and mission.

On Saturday, there were several faculty members who gave a 30-minute lecture on their vocation, their passion and their mission in life through Regent College. The strong faculty representation includes Eugene Peterson, John Stackhouse, Darrell Johnson, Rikk Watts, Paul Williams, Ross Hastings and several others. Sarah Hall was also there to explain her design of the wind tower.

On Sunday, I participated in the morning service at Regent. Every entity was represented, with me representing the part of students. It is a deep honour for me to step up to lead everyone in the reading of the Apostle's Creed. My focus was on uniting everybody. This is my lead up prior to the initial reading.

The world tells us that we are all different. Many people, including Christians say to each other, You have your opinion, and I have mine, so let us all agree to disagree. The truth is, we all have more in common than there are differences. Let us stand to read the Apostles' Creed.
Several individuals came up to me to express appreciation for what I have done. I was touched as I see them blessed by God. That moment, I realize in my heart the meaning of Ps 133.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Ps 133:1)

I came across several links that talks about the event.
- Official Next Chapter site
- Wind Tower
- Mark Petersen (A Canadian philanthropist)
- Another Wind-Tower article
- Sarah Hall Studio

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The JiPod

Hi, many of you have heard of the venerable Dr J I Packer. Many people all over the world knows Regent College largely due to this gentleman. In keeping up to date with technology, Regent College bookstore has 'technologize' our great professor of theology. This is called the 'JiPod'. Check out the website here. Some great lectures are available from this location, free!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is "Give and Take" a valid Christian Expression?

"Let's give and take." "Our organization is a place where everyone is expected to 'give-and-take' ." These are common cliches we hear from time to time, from day to day.

Even in Christian organizations, such 'give-and-take' are unconsciously inked in the unwritten code of conduct for all employees and volunteers. The concept is simple. Sometimes I give so that you can take. Other times, the converse becomes true.

The problem I have with such give-and-take behaviour lies in the expectation that comes with it.
  • Will I be prepared to give if there is no possibility of taking back what I have given?
  • Will I take something if I am expected to give back another in kind?
  • Is it true giving when we only give to people who can afford to reciprocate our giving?

I think while the earthly practice of give-and-take remains theologically flawed, I still think that there are situations where it can still be useful. However, it should not be the first card we flash everytime, especially for Christians. If I were to put it in a chronological order, the flow goes as follows:

#1 - Take-and-Take
#2 - Give-And-Give
#3 - (if need to), Give-and Take

Here is my rationale. Firstly, we are from the start incapable of giving. We are all born as babies, desiring to be carried, wanting to be fed and clamoring frequently for attention. How can babies be asked to give? They cannot communicate or provide comfort in ways adults often expect of each other. Parents not only have to give time and attention, sometimes they need to go beyond the call of duty to make sure that ALL the needs of the baby are taken care of. Young Christians are in that kind of situation, which is one reason why Paul requests that young believers are not to be called into positions of leadership in the Church. The only person who can give us everything is God. Between God and us, we are always on the receiving end of grace. Can we give God what he already has? Second, true giving can only come with true receiving. This leads us to the next stage, a give-and-give attitude. Christ give and give. We take and take. Even today, Christ is continuing to give us wisdom and truth, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to 'take-and-take' (from the Lord), so that we can 'give-and-give' to others. The less we 'take-and-take' from God, the less able we are to 'give-and-give' to one another. It is from this perspective that I think 'give-and-take' is less than the Christian ideal.

Perhaps the final stage of 'give-and-take' does apply in organizations where people have expectations of each other. I will argue that a 'give-and-take' relationship is not good in the long run. It is as unstable as a grenade, constantly needing to have 'something in return' to act as a safety catch to avoid detonation. I will further argue, that if we allow #3 (give-and-take) to dominate our thinking, our lifestyle and our expectations of one another, we will be digging our own trench of unhappiness hemming our own selves in. The gulf of the trench becomes so wide that those without the ability to 'give' to our expectations cannot cross over to meet us. Relationships will become more transactional. This transactional implication is my third argument. The problem is that human relationships get defined by one's ability to meet one another's expectations, written or unwritten. Transactions are very impersonal, as impersonal as an online book purchase from Amazon.

'Give-and-Take' is essentially a transaction of expectations. It is not to be held up as the Christian way of doing things. It works in many areas of society. It get things done. That is besides the point. It is the attitude of the heart that will put a relationship on a more durable and longer life span. Without this attitude, life gets reduced to a series of transactions and calculative behaviour. When that happens, life loses the human touch. Thankfully, Christ has shown us the way. Only Christ can restore our human touch. Let's begin with Christ in our heart and receive grace from him. The more we take-and-take from Christ, the more able we are to give-and-give to one another. Of course, When I say take-and-take, God is completely free to choose to reveal himself to us in both supernatural phenomena and through brothers and sisters like you and me. The prayer of St Anselm is a helpful prayer:

God of truth,
I ask that I may receive, so that my joy may be full.
Meanwhile, let my mind meditate on it, let my tongue speak of it,
let my heart love it, let my mouth preach it,
my flesh thirst for it, and my whole being desire it,
until I enter into the joy of my Lord,
who is God one and triune, blessed forever. Amen.
(St Anselm, Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm with the Proslogion, trans . Benedicta Ward, (London: Penguin Books, 1973), p81)

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