Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well Done! Canada!

Congratulations! Well done. The Canadian national ice hockey team's gold medal is the icing on the cake for Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Yapdates would like to salute the athletes and the Canadian people for embracing the world and sharing the celebratory mood with all.

I watched the gold medal game together with church friends this afternoon. The passions are high and everyone share one common goal: A Win for Canada. After Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal, the entire country erupted into a joyous celebration. Within minutes, people throng the streets of Vancouver and major cities all over the nation. It is an unbelievable sight and ecstatic experience. Thanks Canada for a great organization of one of the most unforgettable Olympics.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Top 5 URL Shorteners

Ever since the rise of Twitter, we have seen the mushrooming of websites offering to squeeze in a typically long web address into a compact one. Take for example, the 'longest URL' such as [].

The shortened version of it is using is a whopping 93% shorter in the form of Here are my Top 5 URL shortcuts. There are all chosen because they are 6 characters or less. A 'dot' counts as a character. Short URLs are extremely useful for at least two reasons. First, they easily fit into a Twitter message that has a restricted 140 characters per tweet. Second, they are easier to remember. Usually just remembering the website (eg plus a 5 or 6 letter encrypted word. Below are 5 that I use.

I like this for its sheer speed and simplicity. If you create an account and use it to shorten, it serves as a repository for all your past URLs shortened. Easy to remember, this is fast and easy to use.

This is another favourite. I like the way it gives me the statistics on how much the URL was shortened. Looking like a clean sheet, it resembles Google search engine. Programmers will find a delight to use as it can be used as a Firefox addon.

The name itself is a sheer winner. However, it is average as far as speed is concerned. It is twitter ready.
This is another popular one. It sounds like the word 'clicks' and is intuitive. The main disadvantage is that users need to click to another page before entering the URL. Most of the rest, you can do it at the first page.

This is easy to remember and the name of the website resembles the conventional 'dot com' sound. Though the number of characters are slightly longer than the rest, I think this is a good balance between 'shortening' and 'readability.'

For a list of more than 90 URL list of shorteners, check here. Have fun!


The Olympic Spirit

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games end this Sunday 28th February 2010. In terms of gold medals, this third attempt is the best ever by a Canadian city. Montreal (Summer 1976) and Calgary (Winter 1988). So far, the host country Canada has raked in 7 golds, and more are expected to come. Of course, for a die-hard hockey fan, none of these really matter if Canada fails to bring in a gold in Ice-Hockey. In fact, many are already preparing for the gold medal game this coming Sunday noon. Some churches have even prepared large screens for their members and friends to capture the historic occasion. Even though Canada is not officially in the gold medal game yet, anyone walking in downtown Vancouver is confident that Canada will be there. Having swept past Russia 7-3 last night, Canadians all over are preparing and hungry for a rematch between Canada and the USA. After the surprise upset last week where Canada lost 5-3 to the USA, this time, Team Canada will be ready.

The Olympic Spirit
This is one Olympic moment to remember. It is a moment in which we cherish our beloved hometown heroes. It is a moment where we marvel at history being made. It is a moment in which we experience the ecstasy of human achievement. In a competition that is highly contested and sometimes results disputed, everyone plays to win. Even though some are there for the experience, the fact is that, to be an Olympian is already an accomplishment in itself. What exactly is an Olympian? What exactly is the Olympic Spirit?

Baron Pierre de Coubertin has been credited as the founder of the modern version of the Olympic Games. His famous words ring true to this day. With regards to the Olympic Spirit, he says:

"It is not about winning but taking part, not conquering but fighting well."

This is important. In a winner-takes-it-all world, sometimes, we can allow our infatuation with medals and results overwhelm us to the point that we miss out the 'participation' aspect. There has been many cases where athletes behave in an unsportsmanlike manner. Take the victory of Canada's Alexandre Bilodeau for example. After winning the first gold medal for Canada, others grumbled about his win. One Australian daily reported that the silver medalist, Begg-Smith representing Australia should have won. Geoff Lipshut was quoted as saying:

"My own opinion is that probably Alex is not capable of a 4.8 or a 4.9 (on his turns) ... because 5 is a perfect score." (link)

Is this a case of sour grapes? Probably, it is a spur of the moment comment as a result of heightened emotions. I believe that the Australian officials will take a more reasonable stance once the results sink in.

True Competitor
Personally, I believe that sportsmanship is a mark of a true competitor. Whether one wins or loses, one should be proud of having been part of the sports to spur one another on toward achieving their best. A healthy competition is only when all athletes give of their best. It makes it worthwhile. It motivates each athlete to compete and fight well. It encourages the public to see that dreams can come true. I like what the Canadian skier, Jennifer Heil says about her silver medal. She said:

"I really don't feel like I lost gold, I really feel like I won silver." (link)

While she may have felt let down by her failure to win gold, I think this should be the attitude of all competitors. The joy is in participation. The reward is in knowing that one has tried the best. If there is a medal won, great. If there is no medal, give thanks for the privilege of being able to compete in the first place.

More Than Gold Within Us
Truly, a thankful heart goes a long way. As a Christian, I believe that this is where Christian athletes can shine for God. With a thankful heart, be grateful for the privilege to compete. For the Christian, if winning is important, there is something else that is 'more than gold.' In fact, this is precisely why a group of Vancouver churches have banded together under the umbrella, "More Than Gold," to remind all of us, that winning is not the end of it all. It is competing for something that is more than gold.

We may not know the extent of the influence of More Than Gold. However, I must say that the words 'More Than Gold' (MTG) captures the Olympic Spirit in more ways than one. It is helpful to contrast "Just Gold" vs "More Than Gold."

Firstly, there can only be one gold medal winner. In MTG, we are all winners in the name of Christ. Secondly, in the medal race, some people use all kinds of ways to win. Some use cheating, like drugs. In MTG, there is no need to do any cheating. One seeks to give more than to receive. Thirdly, a 'Just-Gold' mindset tempts one to try to win at all costs. A MTG mindset reminds us that winning is just not the only thing in life. Whether one wins or loses, one can be proud of the fact that they have tried. Finally, in the MTG website, there are many different athletes whose testimonies reflect a common faith in Jesus. They come from diverse ethnicity, different nationalities and various other backgrounds. They may compete under the flag of their respective countries. However, all of them know that something else is at stake: their witness for Christ. Their stories can be found under the "Beyond the Ultimate" website. Some of their quotes are worth repeating here. Reading them warms my heart. I pray that you experience the same too.

Quotes from Olympians who are Christians:

  • "The way that I conduct myself could be seen around the world. In the heat of competitions, emotions run high. It can be easy to lose tempers, get mad, or argue with officials or opponents. But the person that keeps Christ as a priority throughout the competition seems to be the winner no matter what the score is in the end. A great Christian can remain calm in pressure situations, upbeat in the face of defeat, and even content with not winning. It’s important to be consistently reminded that winning and losing are not the most important things in life. The bigger picture is serving God the right way. I pray that I will always compete as a man with a strong apparent faith." (Curt Tomasevicz, Bobsled, USA)
  • Having Jesus in my life makes a big difference. Even if you fail, God can make the best of it. He stands behind you and carries you through the difficult times. I don’t know how I would survive without God, knowing that whatever I do in competition is good enough and doesn’t affect what God thinks of me. To get to the top in the world of sports there is so much pressure. People may think you have everything in life but I have learned that knowing Jesus and being loved by Him is the only thing that can really satisfy me.” (Ursula Bruhin, Snow Boarding, Switzerland)
  • "My courage comes from my faith, and I don’t know any other way of thinking about it. It’s engrained in me and I can rely on God and know that He has a plan for me and things are in His control, not mine. That’s where my courage comes from." (Lyndon Rush, Driver in Bobsled, Canada)
  • There are great pressures – having spent so many years of effort just to get there. The expectations of your team and country and your own expectations, the coach is under pressure and passes that pressure on to athlete. If your race does not go well everything seems to collapse and you don’t know how to deal with it. As a Christian if I knew I had done all the preparation I could then I was able just to leave the rest to God.” (Katya Antonuk, Cross Country, Russia)
  • "Whether the suffering is large or small, many people believe they will feel joy only after their circumstances get better. Actually, it’s the other way around. Making time and choosing God’s joy when your circumstances are at their worst gives you the energy to face those difficulties and truly effect change. The secret is to allow God to continually clear out the old cobwebs and make room for new joy in your life." (Bonnie StJohn, Paralympic, USA)

Sob. Sob. I think these are true Olympians in the Lord. One more thing, as light of the world and salt of the earth, how are we training for the spiritual Olympics?
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim 4:7)
May we be true Olympians in the Lord, not just in name but in the heart. All of us can be.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Medal Count Widget


Note - Updates end at the conclusion of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Technology and Learning

Letting Technology Do all the Talking (and Learning!)

On February 5th, 2010, the Province published an interesting opinion ( piece about technology and its influence on the young. Entitled, 'Heavy Use of Technology Undermines Learning,” Michael Zwaagstra cites the results of a Kaiser Family Foundation ('Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8 to 10 year olds'). In that survey of 2000 young people from 8-10 years old, he sees a direct correlation between the use of technology and its impact on reading and learning, with social implications.

When compared to five years ago, TV watching has risen by 16%; computer use by 44% and video gaming by a huge 49%. The study further divides the technology users into 3 groups, namely the heavy users (more than 16 hours per day), the moderate (between 3- 16 hours per day), and the light users (less than 3 hours per day). People who are in the heavy and moderate categories report the following characteristics:
  • More easily bored;
  • Dissatisfied in school;
  • generally unhappy with life;
  • Readily get into trouble.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book - "Five Love Languages" (Gary Chapman)

Book Review: The Five Love Languages – the secret to love that lasts
Author: Gary Chapman
Published: Chicago, Northfield Publishing, 2010.

This is a classic book on communications, in particular marital communications. Published since 1992, this book has become a phenomenal bestseller worldwide. The idea is simple. Every spouse has one or more out of five major ‘love languages.’ By learning, knowing and learning each other’s love language, spouses will be better able to connect meaningfully and love wonderfully. These five languages are: ‘Words of Affirmation,’ ‘Quality Time,’ ‘Gifts,’ ‘Acts of Service,’ ‘Physical Touch.’

Using his personal encounters with hundreds of couples over a period of 30 years, Chapman crystallizes his experience into five conveniently packaged ‘love languages’ which becomes the ‘secret to love that lasts.’ Indeed, we all claim to love our spouses. Often, we become more frustrated instead even when each of us tries to display acts of love without our spouses responding in some meaningful way. Gary Chapman argues convincingly that the reason lies in our lack of understanding of both our own as well as our spouses’ love language. In the book, the author explains in detail what the love languages are an in easy to understand manner. He tries to make it interactive by posing questions for reflection after every lesson. He provides a simple exercise to help couples discover their primary love language. Now, with online exercises, this is made available to even more people.

My Comments

POSITIVES: The first time I read this book, I was blown away by its sheer simplicity and relevance to many marriages suffering from communication problems. It makes one more aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It helps one to become more conscious that showing love is not a one-size-fits-all box of chocolates. Often, what is needed is for people to have their inner lights turned on so that they can see the road ahead. Chapman’s metaphor of an emotional love tank is especially helpful. Filled with optimism, it makes marriages exciting and significant for both parties when both know what to do.

“When your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life.” (34)

POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Two brief comments. Firstly, I notice very little updated citations on the latest research on marriage communications. The book does look a little outdated. It seems like the book stands mostly on its own authority. Perhaps, that is understandable as it has blossomed into its own ministry. As our world becomes more interdependent, I feel that Chapman may do readers a greater service by having additional reference materials and links to other notable authors and resources, other than Gary Chapman incorporated. Secondly, as I reflect, I think its simplicity may lead people to practice it simplistically. In other words, a simple concept, naively applied without due consideration for timing, for appropriateness, for many other non-communications factors will let the best ideas give the worst possible results. Marriage counselors will be the first to argue that communications is important, but is definitely not the only factor that make love last. By having a subtitle that claims to be a ‘secret to life that lasts,’ the book may be overselling its main optimism of the author, which is,
When the emotional need for love is met, it creates a climate where the couple can deal with the rest of life in a much more productive manner.” (167)

My conclusion is that this book works best as a primer that turns one’s inner lights ON, as far as marital communications are concerned. It could be the ‘secret’ switch to shine light on a darkened path of a troubled marriage. However, it is just a switch. Like a flashlight, there are batteries to keep the light running, a hand to hold the light, and a conscious decision to know where and how to shine the light. Otherwise, it can become an insensitive effort to blind one another into thinking that we are in marital bliss. If you have not heard of the five love languages before, go get this book. If you have, it is certainly worth re-reading it and let it turn our lights on again. Remember, it is only a 'switch.' Marriage after all, is more than a switch. It is a love for life and a life of love.

The book is available now at your favourite bookseller.


Monday, February 15, 2010

First Gold for Canada!

The biggest news story for the day is definitely about Canada's first gold yesterday at the Moguls event during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. It has many firsts, but the top one is that the Home-Gold jinx has been broken. Canada did not win gold when they play hosts to the Olympics in Montreal or in Calgary. It takes the resolve of Alex Bilodeau and the united support of the entire country of Canada to rein in the first gold for the country, on home soil!

At every major newspapers in Canada, Alex Bilodeau has become the national hero. The pictures above and below speaks more than a thousand words. Yet, it tells me that this home-goal-drought element has become more hyped up than anything. Advertisers and the mass media has done an impressive job of getting this into the heads of every Canadian. It has become a resounding success in media influencing the minds of so many people. On the streets, we can hear the hype turning into mounting pressure for athletes to break this jinx. At some point, I think it becomes unhelpful. This is when athletes start to fumble under pressure. Not many people can perform their best when the limelight is shined upon them. Much less, the novices or unknowns who simply compete for the joy of the sport.

Rejoicing with Those Who Rejoice
We want to rejoice with all in Canada on this historic moment, with "Go Canada Go!" Yet, I believe there is something else that Canadians have to maintain their passion in. Winning gold at a major competition like the Olympics is great. Winning it against all odds is even better. What is most important for the human spirit is to share this joy of achievement with all athletes. This is a time to rejoice. This is a time to be happy. However, let us not forget that the medal winners cannot be where they are without the support of so many people. Apart from their families and friends, the government and various big organizations that step up their giving, the time and sacrifices of every volunteer, there is also the need to recognize the competitors. Be glorious when we win, but be gracious when we lose. There can only be one gold winner at the top. What makes this gold most meaningful is not the winning, but all the rest who pushes him/her to achieve the gold. Alex Bilodeau may be the champion for now. Canada may be partying all over for the first gold to be won on Canadian soil. We must always remember to acknowledge the rest who makes it all possible to push Alex to attain his best. 

Keeping Things in Perspective: Hospitality Gold at stake
If we win, we give thanks for the privilege to excel. If we lose, we give thanks as well for the opportunity to compete. As important as winning is, I believe sportsmanlike behavior must be the winning attitude in all. When this attitude is worn throughout the Olympics, I believe Canada and all countries supporting the Olympics are the true winners. For Canadians, remember that we are all competing in another arena: Hospitality. Thus I feel troubled that even as protesters are congregating downtown to protest against the Olympics for whatever reasons, we need to distinguish between 'freedom of speech,' and extending a hand of hospitality to our guests. Both can be done. May we win 'gold' in this oft-forgotten responsibility even as people are embroiled in a medal-feasting frenzy. In fact, it is clearly ours to win.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some Funny Beer Commercials

I don't know why. Some of the funniest commercials happen to be by beer makers. These Canadian commercials are hilarious. #1 is my favourite.

1) Asking For Trouble
Attention world. Canadians are nice, but don't mess with them, like the one below.

2) Pet Beaver
A little bit like #1, though I like #1 better.

3) "Spit it Out"
A little ridiculous. I laugh at the way the actor seem so serious about his beer.

4) "A Canadian visits Vermont"
This is funny.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Free Places To Visit over the Olympics

Here is a great site that shows where to go visit during the Olympics in Vancouver. If you are in town, do check it out. Many of the places are free. Check out the link here. (Credit:

There are many helpful places which should give you an idea. These links are not mine. I put here for the convenience of my readers. If you know of other links, let me know.

  • Google Maps List of Places (link)
  • Vancouver Pavilions and Hospitality Houses (link)
  • "You Gotta Be Here" campaign sites (link)


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Book - Business of Changing the World

Title: The Business of Changing the World
Author: Marc Benioff & Carlye Adler
Published: NY: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

This is a book that contain voices of 20 prominent leaders of business organizations. They share one thing in common: they practice generous philanthropy. They consist of companies in a wide range of industries like technology, food, pharmaceutical, financial, human resources, transportation and many others. There are several observations:

  • All try to make a difference in the communities they are in;
  • they are large firms with a well-known brand name;
  • Most of them are North-American based;
  • Giving money is a big part of their philanthropy.
  • They think more long-term, which is exactly right as the fruits of philanthropy are in many ways, long-term in nature.
  • The CEOs take initiative and leadership;
  • Most of them are in the private sectors.
About the Book
This book reminds us of the size of the non-profit industry. With corporate businesses pouring US$30 billion each year to this industry, it is certainly one that deserves more attention. Each person give a brief background of their company. They almost always describe philanthropy as giving to various causes. They describe their company philosophy, with philanthropy as an integral part of their business strategy.  They state their primary philosophy at the beginning of their chapter. The common thread in the book is described as:
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." (Winston Churchill)

Many of the chapters are packed with personal testimonies of stories about how they become passionate about philanthropy. Their toughest challenges remain on how to spread this message to the rest of their organizations. Some of them establish trust funds, or foundations. Many integrate the giving philosophy in their company credos.

My Comments
Philanthropy is something evolved into, not designed upfront. Many of them are still in the process of formulating and learning about how to give more effectively. All of them gives out of what is meaningful for them in the first place, that is, out of who they are. For example, Cisco by virtue of their networking business, translates this into building a community that is able to humanly network with each other. GlaxoSmithkline helps tackle world health problems.

While some people may accuse them of either showing off, or trying to use their philanthropy efforts as another attempt to expand their business empire, I think we should learn to show more grace to what they are doing. After all, if they do not practice what they preach, it will be a matter of time before the truth catches up on them. For me, I take the optimistic approach. It makes business a lot more meaningful and a lot more humane. Any success that cannot be shared is downright pitiful. Thus, being human is really learning to share our successes. Our world is much better off with more interdependent initiatives instead of independent narcissistic endeavors. The former builds up prosperity for all. The latter accumulates riches for self-consumption and self-gratification.

This is an uplifting book. Read it if you want to know the brief background of the 20 humble beginnings to current success stories.  Some businesses struggle for survival. Other businesses constantly seek more success and profits. For all businesses, success is not everything. Leaving a meaningful legacy is more important. May the philanthropic examples in the book show the various industries the way to go, that businesses will not be caught up in profit-making to the detriment of forgetting the very society that allows them to be where they are in the first place. Indeed, true business is not only about counting how much money we make in our hard work. It is making those money count for us and our communities. Pick up this book and read.

Rating: 3.5 stars of 5


Monday, February 08, 2010

Praying For Our Pastors

Praying for Our Pastor(s)
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 8 Feb 2010

Last week, our pastor asked the congregation to pray. He pleads with all who were there listening, "Pray for your pastor." This is something that has been requested over and over again by many servants of God. The most wonderful gift any pastor can give to the Church is constant prayer for the sheep. Likewise, the best response is for sheep to pray. The shepherd prays for the sheep. Let the sheep also pray for the shepherd. We need praying shepherds as well as praying sheep. We need leaders who pray. We need members to pray. Blessed is the Church whose leaders and members regularly pray for each other. A Church that does not pray becomes easy prey for the evil one. A Church with praying leaders and praying members form a tight defense against any spiritual attacks.

Prayer is Spiritual Warfare
Prayer is spiritual warfare. It is something that is invisible to the eye, but facilitates the Holy Spirit's movement toward fulfilling God's will. Praying allows us to glimpse the coming of the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer, we disrupt the powers and principalities of the world. Prayer warriors pound the gates of hell, and the evil ones shudder off in fear of God's holy people. A living Church is a praying Church. A praying Church is a lively Church. A lively Church is the Church of God. Each time we pray, God listens in like a father listens to his beloved child.

Prayer is an offensive assault on the powers of this world. For we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against the powers of this world. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12)

How do we pray for pastors?
Let me suggest the following. Think of the Shepherd and the sheep. The pastor is often likened to the image of a shepherd. After all, Jesus specifically asks Peter to take care of the sheep. The pastor tends the sheep, and the sheep acknowledges the pastor's care and love for the flock. The best way to do so is to pray intentionally. Let me suggest a simple way to help us pray for pastors. I shall use the acronym S.H.E.E.P for us as sheep to remember how to invoke intercessionary prayer. Here goes.

1) S = Servantlike
Pray that the pastor will always remember that he serves not on his own strength, but is one who is empowered by our Saviour, Jesus. The worst thing that any pastor can become, is to think that he can serve out of his own limited energies and skills. Pastors are well trained in many areas, such as theology, counseling, communications and many others. The temptation to serve out of their own human effort is great. Pray that God will grant pastors a servant heart, just like Jesus.

"And calling them to himself, Jesus said to them, 'You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord over theml and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all." (Mark 10:42-44)

Pray for your pastors to continue to grow a servantlike attitude.

2) H = Healing
Pastoring is one of the most challenging vocations in the church. It is common to see pastors getting hurt during ministry. Sometimes, the best intentions do not necessarily turn out well. For every one positive word of affirmation, usually there is a word of criticism. For example, there was a pastor I know becomes very open with his congregation about his limitations, his struggles and his weaknesses. While some in the congregation appreciates his openness, there were others who feel otherwise. One even came up to this pastor and scolded him for not being 'strong' enough.

Pastors are also people in need of healing. They need time to be nursed as sheep as well. There is no perfect human. Certainly, there is no perfect pastor as well. Pray that God's healing will be upon our pastors.

3) E = Encouragement
What I learn about pastoring is to remember the equation A=B. If 'A' is the amount of quality output a pastor gives out, 'B' is the amount of quality input a pastor needs to receive. In other words, pastors cannot serve out of an empty 'gas' tank. If we expect our pastors to travel 500 miles, we need to pray that this pastor is able to RECEIVE enough gas to travel 500 miles. A brief word of encouragement is one of the best ways to pump up our pastors.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)

4) E = Endurance
Fourthly, remember that the task of pastoring is a long journey. It requires perseverance and endurance. I have served in many church ministries before. It is very often a thankless task. Even those who have been faithful year after year, are looking for opportunities to take a break. Outsiders who have seen ministry workers getting exhausted are simply too afraid to take up commitments to serve. A pastor sometimes has to pick up loose ends, especially things that nobody else in the church wants to do. Very often, the congregation does not even know that there are these loose ends. Pray for pastors to have that endurance, that only God can give.

"And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:4)

5) P = Protection
Remember that at the beginning I said that prayer is spiritual warfare? The devil knows that a praying pastor who has a supportive family is hard to break. Hence, one of the strategies of the evil one is to tempt pastors to pray less and work more. They tempt pastors to think that pray does not result in anything tangible. They also strike at the pastor's family in such a way that he can be easily distracted. Pray that God will protect pastors, even as they care for the flock.

In summary, as sheep being cared for by shepherds, let us remember that we are little sheep whose biggest contribution to the pastors health is not financial or material but spiritual. We need to come alongside our pastors to support them always in prayer. The Scottish reformer, John Knox (1505-1572) is so well known for his prayers, that his enemy, the dreaded Mary Queen of Scots was reported to have said:

"I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe."

Prayer is a powerful weapon. If there is one thing that defines Jesus's ministry, it is prayer. As followers of Christ, we are expected to pray. Remember the simple S.H.E.E.P. acronym as we pray for our pastors and our leaders. Pray that they develop a SERVANT heart. That they be HEALED. That they be ENCOURAGED with a a word of affirmation. That they be able to develop ENDURANCE on the long spiritual path of pastoring. That they be able to receive God's PROTECTION always.

"Teach us to pray often; that we may pray oftener." (Jeremy Taylor, 1613-1667)



My Top 10 Vancouver 2010 Olympic Videos

They cannot be avoided. Each time I turn on the news, everyone seem to be talking about it. The Olympics are coming to Vancouver BC, Canada. Woo-Hoo!

I am an Olympic fan. After all these years of watching the Olympics on TV, this year, the Olympics are coming to my city! I list the videos below in no particular order. They are all good, that's why they're my favourites. For the fun of it, I thought I can list down some of them, so that I do not have to search for it next time. If the embedded videos do not show up in your browser, just click the title.

(1) "I Believe" Music Video [updated link HD quality HERE!]

This is a nice video, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful voice of Nikki Yanofsky. The lyrics may not be as great. However, put together the musical rendition and the touching images, this is a winner!

(2) The Wonder-Bread (Commercial by Wonder-Bread)

Children is always fascinating. This video is brilliant for being able to remind us to have fun even in competition. Winning is important, but it is not everything in life.

(3) "You Gotta Be Here" BC Promotional (HelloBC)

This video is impressive for the sheer picturesque images of British Columbia. It makes me proud to be living in BC.

(4) Vancouver 2010 Mascot - Mukmuk

This is delightful. A reminder that of the oft forgotten first nations natives in BC. 'Mukmuk' is derived from the first nations trading language.

(5) "Do You Believe?" (CTV commercial)

This video is wonderful as it brings together the city of Vancouver to welcome the world. It is a heartwarming image that we can all have something in common to believe in.

(6) "All Together Now" - Animated (IOC publicity)

This animated video shows us the meaning of the Olympics. That while everyone competes to win gold, it tells us that unity is the goal.

(7) "One Dream" Music Video (sung by Sarah McLachlan)

Sarah McLachlan's voice is powerful. This rendition is a good companion to Nikki Yanofsky. Personally, I think the lyrics are stronger than "I Believe."

(8) "Let the Games Begin" (narrated by Donald Sutherland)

As the euphoria continues, the "Do You Believe" campaign is certainly becoming such a catchword all over Vancouver that some people gets sick of it. I must say, CTV and others are doing a very effective way to inculcate Olympics awareness. I appreciate the firm and calm voice of Donald Sutherland, that gently peels away a hype-like feeling that usually comes with publicity commercials.

(9) Olympic Pins (CTV commercial)

I include this not because of the video, but for the last momentary question posed by kids: "Do you believe?" For me, that sticks in my head.

(10) "O Canada!" (McDonalds)

This video begins slow. However, be patient and watch the momentum builds up. It's good. It is certainly an uplifting one. Even if Canada does not win gold in any sports, they can win gold in cheering for their athletes. Go! Canada! Go!


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Humility and Hope

Written by Conrade Yap   
Saturday, 06 February 2010
[Simultaneously published at my church website here]

The Irish poet, Oscar Wilde describes the human saint and sinner as follows: “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” In one sentence, he reminds us of two important aspects of being human: Humility and Hope. By grace, we can experience both.

A) Humility in Saints

Interestingly, those called saints, think they are the greatest sinners. The reputable third century saint, Augustine of Hippo, well-known for his Confessions, is a womanizer who fathered an illegitimate child! Yet, he goes on to become a Patron Saint of Western Christendom in the early centuries. Without proper recognition of his past sins, Augustine would not have lacked integrity in his leadership.

Humility for Augustine is via confession out of obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The title of the book, Confessions, speaks for itself. In that book, Augustine humbly confesses his sins before God, and becomes an open book to people all over the world. He openly lists his wrongdoings. What is amazing is that Augustine does it willingly, without external pressure. At that time, there is no CNN, no cable, no TV stations or paparazzi to expose his sexual misdeeds. There is no Internet or Youtube to reveal his faults. There is no one to pester Augustine into submission. Augustine did it through humble confession and simple obedience. It is only God who is able to prompt his heart into open confession.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids"

CBC aired this documentary today. The underlying message in this documentary is that there is a growing breed called "Generation Y" that grows out of a hyper-protective parenting. As a result, the children (called coddled kids) are stressed at childhood, stretched in their junior years, squeezed into the best institutions, and with parents even negotiating salaries on behalf of their kids. Granted, the parents interviewed in the documentary represent an extreme example. Yet, from my interactions with various parents and their hyper-anxiety over their children, I cannot help notice that this is a Middle-Class syndrome where high achieving parents transfer their competitiveness to their children and project their insecurities in the name of protective parenting. The Montreal Gazette uses this documentary to call parents to stop micromanaging their kids.

Problems of Gen Y: Expecting Handouts from Home to Society
Hyper parenting and coddled kids together form a whole new generation called Generation Y. One of the main characteristics of Generation Y people is a sense of entitlement. Children who are given adult responsibilities and expectations too early too much develop deficiencies and the inability to handle life on their own. They are easily bored. They can face an identity crisis when trying to solve a problem on their own, without their parents. Of course psychologically, there are much more. This is a result of parents micro-managing their children. In the CBC documentary, experts generally agree that hyper-parenting not only harms the child, but impacts society in general when they bring their attitudes and expect society to revolve around their needs, just like their parents did for them.

Personally, I have encountered many friends who send their children to all kinds of after-school activities. When I speak to their kids, I notice a lack of joy in many of them. I feel sad. Even in Vancouver, many immigrant Asian families continue to stress out their children the same way they did when in Asia. My question, has education or the children unconsciously become an idol in the parents' eye?

My Thoughts
Biblically, as parents, we ought to teach the children by not doing things for them, but by equipping them. In Proverbs, it is written:

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov 22:6)

In this verse, there is present and a future aspect. For the present, parents are to train the child in a particular way. The action lies in the training of the child, not the draining of their energies with activities, until they cannot enjoy what it means to be a child. The activities that hyper parents subject their kids to, often do not demonstrate this biblical aspect. How do we know it? Maybe the following questions can help
  • Is the activity something the child needs, or something that parents want?
  • Do parents spend enough time discovering who their child is?
  • Are parents trying to cover their own insecurity, and projecting them onto their children?
  • What criteria do parents use when deciding upon the activities for their children? How much did they discuss or talk with them first?
There is a second aspect in Prov 22:6, the future aspect. The way that they should be trained is that they can discern wisely what to do in the future, and not turn from it. Ephesians 6:4 expresses it very well.
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

If I were to paraphrase the verse above with regards to the CBC documentary, I will be reading it as: "Parents, do not subject your children and frustrate their growth in personal identity. Instead, let the biblical wisdom of the LORD guide them, and trust God to give them a heart to walk faithfully in obedience to the Word of God." The MESSAGE gives an alternate translation.
"Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." (Eph 6:4, MSG)
We have a lot to learn in terms of parenting. May we practice humble parenting, not by forcing our kids to do things that they are not meant to do, but to guide them by encouraging them. Children is a special gift from the LORD. Treat them gently and lovingly.


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