Sunday, May 30, 2010

Initial Thoughts on the Apple iPad

Thoughts on the iPad
VERDICT: A wonderful tool to 'consume' stuff; but a poor device to 'create' content.

I got an Apple iPad last Thursday, the first day it was made publicly available in Canada nationwide. Initially, I had thought that getting one unit itself will require long waits at the Apple store, or early morning queue ups dominated by Apple fanatics. Though I am not a crazy Apple fan, I was more intrigued by the overall hype over this latest innovation from the iconic computer company. Assuming that all of the iPads were sold out by 4pm, I called an Apple store downtown, and was told that some iPads were still available. Several Bestbuy stores have already sold out their supplies then, except the one near where I live. I rushed down at 4pm. Surprisingly, I managed to snag a 3G version, albeit the one currently most popular in the USA, the 64GB model. The lady, an Apple representative, said that all the units are expected to be sold out the same day. I believed her. In fact, there was even a line up just to check out the demo units in the store. Here are my thoughts on this technological marvel. Here goes:

The iPad 64GB-3G Model
All the iPads come with the same kind of packaging. There are 3 Wifi-only models (16GB, 32GB and 64GB) and 3 Wifi+3G models (16GB, 32GB, 64GB). It has the height and width of a Netbook LCD screen, but is less than half the thickness of a typical Netbook computer. The flat LCD touch screen is a beauty.

1) iPad 'Fits' User; not the other way round
I like way the screen 'fits' me rather than the other way. For example, when the screen is facing me, the screen auto-detects the orientation in either Portrait or Landscape mode, depending on which angle I am holding. If I want my friend sitting opposite me to see it, all I need is to pass it to him in any manner, and the iPad flips without the user needing to do anything.

RESERVATION: Not all applications can flip around as well. Most of the Apple programs such as Safari and iTunes work. However, third party programs are not that consistent.

2) LCD Screen
It is exceedingly beautiful. The wallpapers are superb and the quality of the screen can rival the best LCD screens have to offer. I love the flatness and the crystal clear touch-pad, which responds very accurately to my touch. Compared to palmtops and conventional PDAs, I do not even need to calibrate the LCD Screen.

RESERVATION: I feel that the screen is too bright. Even after adjusting the dimmer to the lowest, I can still find my eyes hurting after prolonged usage. Nevertheless, for eBook readers like the iBooks application that can be freely downloaded, there is an additional dimmer facility which can correct this problem. Another thing is the multiple fingerprints that is visible on the screen. Not a nice picture. Imagine the amount of germs on the screen!

3) Battery
There is a super performance battery. The iPad can last from 8-10 hours (non video viewing) and up to 6 hours if watching a video. Assuming that a typical person has 8 hours, works 8 hours and sleeps 8 hours, this battery meets daily usage. The charger provided is a USB one, which also means that charging can be done using any USB port on any computer.

RESERVATION: Not all USBs are made the same. Neither are the charging methods. The fastest way to recharge the iPad is via the power + USB adapter provided inside the box. The slowest is when the iPad is plugged in the USB port of a computer. Though iPod and iPhone power adapters can also charge the iPad, they are regrettably too slow to make a full charge fast. When using computer USB ports, be prepared to wait for more than 8 hours for a 80% charge. When using the provided power adapter, this figure reduces to 2 hours to reach a 80% charge.

4) All-In-One Digital Viewer
This is an age where people want the maximum feature in the smallest available footprint. The iPad will be cutting into the market of digital photo viewers, as its superb LCD screen is able to professionally display photographs just like any digital photo viewer. In fact, with a suitable stand or holder, the iPad can be transformed into a Digital Clock Radio, sleek and beautiful.

RESERVATION: I prefer to see the next generation of iPads having a small memory chip slot, like a mini-SD or SD slot to expand storage. As many digital cameras nowadays use SD cards, it will be a welcome addition to make space in the iPad for a SD slot. Personally, I think using iTunes for the transfer of photo files is in itself too limiting.

When I first setup the iPad, connection to my router was a breeze. However, soon I encounter that the Wifi connections can become spotty at times. Once, I have to turn the whole iPad off to 'reset' them. After a while, the connections come back, but I feel this feature can be improved.

RESERVATIONS: This is one of the top problems of the iPad currently. From what I know, Wifi problems are more frequent for users who adjust the LCD toward the dimmest setting. I believe Apple is prepare a firmware upgrade soon. Until that happens, be prepared for some moments of frustration.

There is an amazing selection of applications out there. Unfortunately, some of the best programs must be purchased. Apple's Keynote, Pages and Numbers suite of programs are available at $9.99 each. Free ones are not as good, although some are quite well done. Be prepared to see many free apps enticing you to upgrade to one with better features.

RESERVATIONS: Being a new release, it is understandable that developers need time to come up with more. However, I feel that having paid so many hundred of dollars for the iPad, getting users to cough up more money for apps is going to be painful.

When I first held the unit, it is amazingly sleek and initially light. However, prolonged use will make the iPad heavier as our hands and arms start to sore.

RESERVATION: I doubt if this iPad can beat the current Kindle or ebook readers in terms of weight. In fact, the iPad is too glaring for my comfort, even with the iBooks application.

Excellent sound quality. In terms of loudness and various sound effects, the iPad for its size works like a champ. There is also a headphone jack to connect external speakers or other auxiliary devices.

RESERVATION: None as yet.

There are so many ways to connect peripheral devices to the iPad. The Bluetooth feature allows one to use external mouse or full-sized keyboard to work on the iPad. With the 3G facility, one can use the iPad like a GPS when navigating toward our destination.

RESERVATION: One needs to fork out extra money for bluetooth enabled devices. Again, having paid so much for the iPad, I had thought that the pop up keyboard is sufficient. Alas, for me as a fast typist, it is not as good.

I get a feeling that this iPad is more a 'consuming' product rather than a 'creating' machine. In other words, if I simply want to download apps, play games, check my email, browse the Internet, locate maps, read news and all other e-consuming activities, the iPad is great. However, when it comes to editing, creating content, I think the iPad is less capable, unless of course we purchase additional peripherals. As a content creator, I find this a major setback.

For a first release, this iPad certainly exceeds my expectations. It is classy to hold, easy to use and is an extremely versatile digital all-in-one. As long as we use it like a digital encyclopedia of information to use to access the Internet, it is a charm. When it comes to content creation, it gets my thumbs down. This posting is re-written after I lost my first version trying to use the iPad to post my first blog message. Guess what? I type this blog on the old faithful IBM Thinkpad running on Windows XP. That is because, I lost my blog data when the Wifi gets disconnected in the middle of my typing online. Some things are meant to work better offline.

It is a worthwhile buy, if you simply want to browse the Internet quickly without needing to wait for your PC or Mac to bootup. iPad is like the iPhone in many ways. Takes a couple of seconds to boot up and to connect to the Internet. Amazing machine, but if you can wait, I will suggest waiting for the second version that irons out the kinks in the first. I trust the second version will be even better. Otherwise, this iPad is still a worthwhile buy.


Book Review: "Take Your Best Shot"

TITLE: Take Your Best Shot
AUTHOR: Austin Gutwein, Todd Hillard
PUBLISHED: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2009.
Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself
This book tells the remarkable story of a young boy after he witnessed the horrors inflicted by HIV/AIDS on families in Africa. It begins when Austin at 9 years old as he watched a short documentary on AIDS victims. He becomes particularly struck by the image of an African girl of similar age, Maggie. Maggie in the documentary was orphaned after both her parents died of AIDS. While Austin lives comfortably with his basic needs provided in his home in Arizona, Maggie struggles far away in Africa with no certainty of the next meal in her life. While Austin is like any other ordinary American boy shooting to play for the school's basketball team, Maggie is among many ordinary Zambians in Africa, fighting to survive the terrible onslaught of the AIDS disease.

With the image of Maggie's plight etched indelibly in his mind, Austin is motivated by one phrase: "God wants to use you." Thus begins am amazing journey of Austin's desire to help AIDS victims in the simplest possible way he knows: Shoot basketball free throws.

After calculating the number of AIDS victims and the numbers that died every hour, Austin arrives at a figure of 2057. He discusses this with his parents and friends, and manages to get a small group to support him as he begins his free throws marathon. Surprisingly, word about his small fund-raising effort gets out. People pledge donations as they see this young boy doing his best to highlight the African AIDS predicament.

Believing in his heart that 'God wants to use you," Gutwein makes his free throws. The local media gets wind of his efforts. More people come to support him. At the end of the marathon, he made his point. He raised about $3000 from that effort. Few years later, that figure mushroomed multiple fold. When Gutwein turns 14 years old, he sets up an organization called 'Hoops of Hope,' which has since become an amazing success story as far as the public awareness of AIDS is concerned.

My Comments
Though this is a book written by a juvenile, it should appeal to a wider audience. Some of us adults who have failed to pursue our dreams when we were young, should feel inspired rather than ashamed. Gutwein did what he knows best, to show other boys and girls his age, that "God wants to use you." We need more stories like Gutwein's.

I am aware that some people may be cynical about Gutwein's rise to fame, and that Christians should not be too infatuated with 'big results,' or 'high publicity' stints like Gutwein's. Having said this, God can use big organizations or small individuals. He can use public media, or private persons. He can also use highly visible connected individuals, or unknowns in this world. God being God, is free to use anybody. While not many of us will be able to rise to fame the way Gutwein did, do not be discouraged if the world fails to recognize your efforts. God knows. May that be sufficient for us, servants of God.

Overall, this is a book that should inspire young people to take their best shot. It should also motivate adults to do the same. Take your best shot. Let God use that shot to touch lives.

Book Rating: 3.5 stars of 5.

What about you?

p/s: My Amazon book review is here. It is a little different, but the idea is similar.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, IncAvailable now at your favourite bookseller."

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Interesting Book Survey. . .

Book lovers! This post will certainly be of interest to you, especially those who purchase book of Christian genre. Tim Challies, one of the most popular and prolific bloggers in the Christian world has just completed a survey entitled: "Where and Why We Buy Our Books."

The results are not exactly the kind of Barna Group or Gartner organizational kinds of studies. However, it does gives us an idea on what a specific audience has in mind. In this case, Challies's audience I suspect are predominantly reformed, Calvinist persuasion. As usual, when we read surveys, the data itself is one thing. Interpreting them is another.

My Comments
I note the continuing rise of as the preferred place to buy books. It tells me that the typical Christian book buyer is more price conscious. Hence, few will claim to be loyal to their denominational or religious bookstores. Money talks loudest.

Secondly, there is an overwhelming preference for printed books, rather than digital formats. I suppose books require a longer attention span. Reading online or on a digital reader is preferred for shorter articles, say less than 50 pages.

Thirdly, the reputation of publishers among the views of the respondents is rather curious. I had thought Thomas-Nelson is more reputable, but it still ranks quite negatively in the list. With Zondervan having the lowest credibility, I am not sure if respondents are responding to the 'quality of the books they release,' or the 'big market share' they currently enjoy. Crossway is the one with the highest credibility, so I guess that is consistent with the predominantly Reformed audience.

Fourthly, I am intrigued by the majority of users preferring the ESV version. It seems to me that the NIV is quickly losing its lustre.

Finally, I am encouraged that more than half of the people still purchase at least 1 book a month. That is a boon for publishers, authors and the Christian public. This is good news for the publishing industry.

Have a look at the survey. It is not rocket science, but gives us a glimpse into the mind of a reformed, Calvinist of today.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Unfair World of Winning and Losing

In this crazy world, sometimes reality can be very cruel. In the game of life, winners are worshiped. Losers are scorned, spurned, and shipped out like unwanted trash.  Nowhere is this more evident than the world of sports where top sports clubs or teams change their managers or coaches the moment they fail to win the championship. We are almost one month away from the World's Most Popular Tournament, to be held in South Africa. The game of soccer. It has reaped millions of dollars for winners. It has also created a lengthy list of 'losers' who have been unceremoniously shipped out due to the failure to win enough glory for the club or country.

The latest evidence of such an unfair world is in Europe. The one popularly referred to as the 'special one,' Jose Mourinho, has just led his club, Inter Milan to glory, winning Europe's top club competition called the UEFA Champions League 2010. Almost immediately, Mourinho openly expresses his wish to coach another top Spanish team, Real Madrid. Such a wish is an automatic count-down to the demise of the existing Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini. After all, everybody like winners. Mourinho is a winner, having just won another Champions League victory. Pellegrini is a clear loser, who has not helped his club won a major trophy during his short 9-month tenure. He complains that he has not been given the 'backing' he needs to help the club succeed.

I see the highly popular English Premier League in the UK also being victimized by the 'winner' syndrome. In such a winner-takes-all scenario, there is very little room for trial and error. With so much money demanded of even the poorest club, only the richest and the meanest survive. What is more troubling is that the game of soccer at the EPL has become a money-talks-loudest game. It is no longer a game to promote the game of sports. It is a game where only the richest clubs who can afford to practically 'buy' whatever trophy they have with their money.

Since coming to Canada, I have been intrigued by the Canadian infatuation over the game of ice-hockey. With so many nights of hockey telecast live on TV, it is only a matter of time, any newbie to hockey will take notice of this sports. For me, what is most fascinating is not the game itself, but the ongoing commentary, especially the discussion panel AFTER the game. No matter how well a team plays, when they fail to win, commentators will say the most negative things about them. Criticisms tend to follow a numerical scale as well.   The greater the number of goals lost, the greater the criticisms. On the other hand, all it takes is one winning goal, and the commentators will be full of cheer and praise for the winning team. From goaltenders to the most ineffective skater on the ice, reporters tend to say the most positive things about the winning team.

I shudder and shake my head when such things happen. It only tells me that the game of sports has deteriorated to the point where only winners mean something. Gone are the days of brave sportsmanship. Gone are the times where healthy competition is promoted. Gone are the moments of encouraging all to do their best.

Why must the world discriminate so much between winners and losers? If there are no other competitors, what is the meaning of winning? Why should winners by themselves get all the glory?

Perhaps, as viewers and consumers of sports events, we should learn to let our money do the talking. For that, I will refuse to sign on more sports channels. Maybe, once my current subscription is up for renewal, I might even think twice about dropping some.

Winning is important. However, when winning becomes the sole ambition, the only reason for playing,the meaning of sportsmanship is undermined. When that happens, nobody wins.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Church Bulletin Bloopers

This is why Church people needs to be more gracious? No Church is perfect.

The following are actual church bulletin 'bloopers.' Read with care.


  • Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa will be speaking tonight at Calvary Memorial Church in Racine. Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.  
  • Announcement in the church bulletin for a National PRAYER & FASTING Conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer conference includes meals." 
  • Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King. 
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang, "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. 
  • "Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands." 
  • Next Sunday is the family hayride and bonfire at the Fowlers'. Bring your own hot dogs and guns. Friends are welcome! Everyone come for a fun time. 
  • The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict. 
  • The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
  • The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing "Break Forth into Joy."
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community.
  • Smile at someone who is hard to love.
  • Say "hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
  • Don't let worry kill you - let the Church help.
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoy sinning to join the choir.
  • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • The Lutheran men's group will meet at 6 PM. Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread and dessert will be served for a nominal feel. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person(s) you want remembered.
  • Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.
  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment, and gracious hostility.
  • Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 P.M.-prayer and medication to follow.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon. This evening at 7 P.M. there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
  • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
  • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday. Please use the back door.  
  • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The Congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.   
  • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

  • Mrs. Johnson will be entering the hospital this week for testes.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book: "Toxic Childhood" (Sue Palmer)

Title: Toxic Childhood
Author: Sue Palmer
Published: London: Orion Books, 2006, (357pp).
Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It

Sue Palmer's book is a fascinating look at how the world we are living in can 'toxicate' our children. Presenting multiple statistics from a wide range of disciplines, the author provides a reader a compelling look at the slow and dangerous potential, ordinary stuff can harm our kids over the long run.

Brief Notes About the Book
This book contains several things that are considered 'damaging' to children. Firstly, Palmer attacks the kinds of food children are eating nowadays. Things like the long term effects of junk food. This phenomena is driven by a crazy rush for fast-food that is cheap, gratifies short-term needs, is quickly and readily obtainable. When the hunger comes, feeding the stomach overrides any conscious awareness of cultivating a healthy brain. Modern eating is full of unhealthy calories, from sugars to saturated fats, from junk fast-food and snacks to the demise of the family meal.

Secondly, in playtime, children's play habits are increasingly more INSIDE rather than OUTSIDE. Fear and insecurity pushes many parents to turn their children into couch potatoes. When Palmer describes 'decline of the free-range children,' it gives me a terrible comparison to the kinds of eggs that free range chickens produce compared to caged chickens. Given such an image, it is easy to conclude that if children do not play and exercise enough, they can be likened to being 'caged' at home and not able to fully develop their growth, leading to a decline not only in physical abilities but mental prowess as well.

Lack of sleep is the third major toxic element. From infants to 11 years old elementary school children, there is an alarming decrease in the actual hours of sleep an average child receives. All reflect at least 2 hours below the recommended daily hours of sleep. Such lack of sleep results in learning problems, unproductive school hours, anxiety, and illnesses such as ADHD.

Fourthly, even though technology has advanced in many ways, people seems to talk less with their children. This results in a lower language skills, literacy and learning aptitudes.
"In all communication and language, the key is interactivity." (119)

This requires a human touch, amid the potpourri of technological choices. Given the choice between virtual communications and human talk/touch, the latter is most vital.

The four toxic factors above call for all to notice the four things children need; namely love, stability, attention and time. The fifth factor hones in on these four factors via the family unit. Palmer asks the question:

"One of the biggest questions facing all parents today is: how do we define the roles and responsibilities of mothers and fathers within the rapidly shifting kaleidoscope of the twenty-first century family?" (137)

She is pointing to the need to let children know the precise ROLE and RESPONSIBILITY of parents. Thus, communications within the family ought to remind all about this role to avoid ambiguity that confuses innocent children. Palmer argues for an intentional 'physical presence' of parents for their children (155). Her conclusion:
"The family - love it or hate it - is where the grown-up generation forms the generation to come. it's where the parents, and other adults-in-charge, develop children's sense of self, security, and self-esteem, their ability to get along with other people, their knowledge about life and life skills, and an inner code of conduct to guide and protect them when we're no longer around. So far the human race hasn't come up with any better way of passing on these essential elements of our culture. The family is where, in the words of the old adage, we give our children 'roots to grow and wings to fly.'" (158)

There is a separate section about technology. Palmer appears to belong to the same camp with Neil Postman, a moderate skeptic of technology. Yet, she is a little more optimistic than Postman. She makes a few sharp observations about the threat of using technology like TV to be a babysitter of children. She lambasts the inclusion of electronics within the bedrooms of kids, and warns us about the dangers of social isolation called hikikomori (withdrawal from human society) currently experienced by Japanese society (258). While she does not dismiss technology totally, her prescription for the 'right' use of technology is through community accountability. she advises families NOT to let technology be the 'default activity' the moment one steps into the home. In fact, she goes further to advise all that the use of technology be 'always purposeful, intentional and finite' (271-2). I think this statement is worth the price of the book.

My Comments
Even though this book views modern structures negatively, such as our tendency toward fast-food and junk food culture; our culture of self-gratification and various toxic childhood symptoms, Palmer has a lot of positive things to say about our attitude toward them. In each chapter, she gives a load of tips on how to detoxify ourselves from these things. She has a list of good advice on how to treat an addict of any of these elements. Moreover, she provides parents with a helpful way to police, to guide, and to wean their children away from any dangerous addictions. List of resources are provided followed by an insightful closing of any gap. Like a surgeon, Palmer identifies the problem and symptoms of erratic childhood behaviour. She prescribes redemptive steps and ideas toward recovery. Following the surgery, she suggests post-operational therapy and continued steps to strengthen family, and parent-child interations. In this way, the book is rather balanced and forward looking. Let the title of the book shock our bored minds and dreary hearts. Do not let the incisive cuts and criticisms of the book discourage you from reading beyond the negative views of modern living. Instead, see it as a means for us to recognize our tendency to become intoxificated unconsciously. Then we can positively recover and do preventative measures to live a healthy life, in body, in mind, and in spirit.

If I were to critique this book, I think it is focused more on the Western culture, a society of haves rather than the have-nots. The 'modern world' the book assumes is only about one-third of the world's population. There are other more serious problems the rest of the world deals with. Things like poverty, and basic water and electricity resources. Physical pollution and environmental concerns are also high on that list. If I were to exclude all of these, there is still a missing component in this book. What about the soul? What about the spiritual realm? On what basis of moral thinking do we view toxic childhood? On this basis, 'Toxic Childhood' sees the whole situation more from a scientific and psychological perspective. I assert that this alone is insufficient. We need more. Yes, I will readily admit that I am biased toward seeing life from God's perspective. In other words, Palmer's motivation to write the book stems from a desire to help us care for the next generation. If we see from God's perspective, we will learn to care for ALL generations.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Imperfect Justice

This article by Don Hutchinson is much food for thought. It is a piece of writing that reflects upon the ambiguity and unhelpful legal 'remedy' handed down by the Ontario courts over the Heintz vs 'Christian Horizons' case. I first know about Christian Horizons through a friend back in 2008. It is a ministry that reaches out to help people with 'exceptional needs,' such as learning disabilities, autism, and various challenges that impact people's ability to keep up with society at large. Serving more than 1500 families in Ontario, and many more beyond, the organization has won government support for their charitable goals and results. It is openly Christian, and expects anyone working for the organization to understand that their core value is:

"We will honour God and value people in all we do and with all of our resources."

Now lies the problem. What about people who work in CH do not subscribe to this core value? The example of Connie Heintz presents such a dilemma.

  • Heintz is said to have 'violated' the stated morality and lifestyle requirement with the employment agreement with Christian Horizons. She was laid off. Not wanting to take it lying down, she sued CH.
  • Christian Horizons argues that Heintz at the time of employment, signed the contract knowing about such a lifestyle code. 
  • Unfortunately, in the court ruling, the justice department fails to offer helpful guidelines for anybody.
  • This latest reflection repeats this case with a stronger tone, that the law courts have sliced the baby into half and left no winners.
This is precisely the problem in Canada. While one seeks to allow every one to practice their types of belief, how one practices is determined by how many tails are being stepped, and how vocal one becomes. There is even a lack of understanding what true justice or true freedom, or true freedom of religion actually means. 

For the case of Christian Horizons, it seems like it is no longer enough to state upfront one's faith and to practice one's belief in the public arena. In secular societies, the law seems to favor a secularism that is devoid of all religious references. One is immediately under the mercy of people fighting for 'freedom' to behave and to believe in whatever they want. 

I feel troubled because it is something rather unhelpful for organizations that try to help society and the underprivileged. Come on. Christian Horizons was set up based on a desire to help fellow people. The name 'Christian' should have made it clear that it does not try to deceive the public about its religious convictions. If anyone disagrees, why not set up your own organization called "Gay Horizons," or "Absolute Freedom Horizons," or "Anything Goes Horizons," etc.

My advice to Heintz: Take your fight elsewhere. Christian Horizons, or for that matter, people who disagree with your lifestyle is not your enemy. Will you prefer CH to be dishonest with themselves, and to keep you on payroll against their deepest beliefs? Worse, if you have signed the lifestyle agreement willingly, you should have the integrity to resign in the first place, when your lifestyle no longer meets the standard you agreed. This is not about human rights. It is an issue of integrity, not rights.

Hutchison's article should help us appreciate that the latest court ruling only adds to the confusion.


Friday, May 21, 2010

"Becoming a Healthy Disciple" (Stephen A Macchia)

Title: "Becoming a Healthy Disciple" - Traits of a Vital Christian
Author: Stephen A Macchia
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004 (256pp)

Stephen Macchia is a distinguished Gordon-Conwell alumnus (see bio here), and founder of Leadership Transformations. he begins the book by thinking back to that fateful September 11, 2001, commonly known as "Nine-eleven." Calling out 9-11 helps to remind many Americans about the time where people remember the words like:
  • "God bless America"
  • Firefighter, Police, Rescue Worker
  • United we stand; Freedom
  • .....
If such words can evoke memories of unity, patriotism, community spirit and all the positive aspects of human beings, what about the Christian? Does the Christian has a known set of characteristics that can be floated up? What are the basics of discipleship? Macchia lists ten traits of a 'healthy disciple' as a sequel to his popular "Becoming a Healthy Church" published in 1999, also by Baker Books.

Short Preview of "Becoming a Healthy Church"
Main Point: "A healthy church is prayerful in all aspects of church life and ministry, reliant upon God's power and the authority of his Word, and values the following:" (14-16)
  1. God's Empowering Presence
  2. God-exalting Worship
  3. Spiritual Disciplines
  4. Learning and Growing in Community
  5. A Commitment to loving and caring relationships
  6. Servant-Leadership Development
  7. An Outward Focus
  8. Wise Administration and Accountability
  9. Networking with the Body of Christ
  10. Stewardship and Generosity
In his book about healthy disciples, he made an important observation about Christians.
".. Jesus is our example to follow, the ideal to achieve. Our tendency, however, is to focus on two primary attributes of Christ and his teaching - his prayer life and his evangelistic outreach in need. This gets translated into our day to the quiet time and the testimony. When our understanding of discipleship is wrapped up almost exclusively in these two areas, we tend to miss much of what Jesus said to his disciples in the first century and what he desires to say to us today. " (17)
What about the Healthy Disciple?

Well said. Indeed, the goal of healthy discipleship is to imitate Christ in loving God, and in being faithful to practice what he taught us. Macchia defines a healthy disciple as:
"The healthy disciple is prayerful in all aspects of personal life and ministry and reliant upon God's power and the authority of his Word." (18)
Macchia makes no extra effort to re-invent his ten traits. In fact, just as a healthy disciple flows out of a healthy church, his ten traits for a healthy disciple, flows out of his previous book on healthy church. In summary, his ten traits for a vital Christian are:
  1. Experiences God's Empowering Presence
  2. Engages in God-exalting Worship
  3. Practices the Spiritual Disciplines
  4. Learns and Grows in Community
  5. Commits to Loving and Caring Relationships
  6. Exhibits Christlike Servanthood
  7. Shares the Love of Christ Generously
  8. Manages Life Wisely and Accountably
  9. Networks with the Body of Christ
  10. Stewards a Life of Abundance.
My Comments
I have previously posted a comparison of the 2 books here. Most of my thoughts about the two books are there. Let me add one more. As I look at this list, it is quite impossible to pin-point which is most appropriate for any disciple of Christ. Safe to say, if I am one looking to grow in discipleship, and Macchia's 10 points are listed before me, I will do the following.

Firstly, I will pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me which part of the spiritual journey I am now in. This is important because, being human, thoughts change. Feelings alter. Acts differ from time to time. What is normal yesterday cannot be easily assumed today. Neither can today's high be easily translated into tomorrow's ecstasy. The same can be said for other forms of emotions.

Secondly, I will seek out mentors and mature Christians to probe me about my spiritual condition. Sometimes, in ministry, we can try to help others so much that we forget to look at our own. This easily leads to hypocrisy in ministry.

Thirdly, I will look at this list, and force myself to pick out 1-3 specific traits. Like many self-tests and personal surveys, every time we take the test, our results can differ drastically. If I were to choose one of the traits as my top need right now, it is basically #1 - to experience God's empowering presence. Well, as an additional pointer, do this periodically, say each quarter.

Having said that, there is one more thing for the uninitiated. If you are not exactly sure how to go about doing discipleship, maybe, as a start, just treat each trait consecutively. You will begin to see the logic of Macchia putting #1 as one, #2 as two, #3 as three and so forth. Maybe, along the way, you will suddenly feel the Spirit prompting you, "That's right! That trait is the one I need to address right now."

Have fun.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: "Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" (Alain de Botton)

Title: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
Author: Alain De Botton
Published: NY: Pantheon Books, 2009, (333pp).
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
This book is one of my required readings in preparation for my Boston residency next month. Written by a Swiss-born founder of England's School of Life, Botton is remarkably observant of the highs and lows of the work environment. With a penchant for details, he strings each observation together with constant probing of meaning in each occupation he studies. The questions he ask are basic, but profoundly meaningful.
  • Why do we work?
  • What makes it pleasurable?
  • What is the meaning of the work we do?
  • What significance does the work bring to the person, to the company and to society at large?
Botton selects ten diverse occupations; namely, cargo ship spotting; logistics; biscuit manufacturer; career counselling; rocket science; painting; transmission engineering; painting; accountancy; entrepreneurship and aviation. In each particular subject, Botton personally visits each site, writing down what he sees and asks insightful questions about why things appear as they are. Every chapter is filled with childlike curiosity and adult-like philosophy. With sharp literary skills, Botton brings us through a rollercoaster of 'pleasures and sorrows' of each type of work. He is spot on as he talks about the enigmatic mixture of work, environment, rewards, pleasures and toil.
"We are now more imaginatively disconnected from the manufacture and distribution of our goods as we are practically in reach of them, a process of alienation which has stripped us of myriad opportunities for wonder, gratitude and guilt." (35)

He makes a grand philosophical observation about the Western perspective of work and rewards compared to the rest of the world. He describes the tendency of Western society to work beyond simply making ends meet:
"All societies have had work at their centre; ours is the first to suggest that it could be something much more than a punishment. Ours is the first to imply that we should seek to work even in the absence of a financial imperative. " (106)
The book is aided with powerful photographs which gives readers an opportunity to see what the author sees, as well as to reason it out for themselves.

My Comments
The author impresses me with his attention to details, as well as his willingness to go the distance to observe the extent of each occupation. He traces electrical distribution lines from power station to the individual house in the UK. He travels to the Maldives and studies the modern logistics of fish traveling more than half the world within hours of being caught. He interviews and observes how accountants from one of the world's largest accounting firms work, as well as the environments they deal with. He climbs in and out of aging aircraft fuselage, and ends with a philosophical description by asking what is the end of work?

Despite the fascination of the wonders of modern technology and advancement, there is a nagging sense that the perception of meaning has NOT kept pace.
"I felt keenly the psychological adjustments required by life in modernity; the need to juggle a respect for the potential offered by science with an awareness of how perplexingly limited and narrowly framed might be its benefits." (167)
The book looks like a combination of a travelogue plus photo album that provides a captivating overview of the ordinary work environment, its workers and their impact on society. Botton concludes that work has a multi-pronged purpose.

"Our work will at least have distracted us, it will have provided a perfect bubble in which to invest our hopes for perfection, it will have focused our immeasurable anxieties on a few relatively small-scale and achievable goals, it will have given us a sense of mastery, it will have made us respectably tired, it will have put food on the table. It will have kept us out of greater trouble." (326)

Wow! At a time when many workers question why they work, Botton provides us with a multiplicity of reasons for work, in other words, the pleasures and sorrows of work. Interestingly, I would have expected Botton to deal with computer technology and the telecommuting environment. However, technology is mentioned at various parts of the book. I guess technology and telecommunications have become so ubiquitous that Botton deems it unnecessary for its own category. Still, I believe there is a place for technology to be treated on its own category in this book. Maybe in a second edition, I hope Botton will include this increasingly common occupation.

I find this book a very intelligent one. It gives me a new way to appreciate ordinary work, and to learn to ask why certain things are done. It reminds me that complex working infrastructure can often be best understood with simple questions. After all, isn't life essentially small building blocks of history, philosophy and simple humanity?

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


eShopping with CSN Stores

One of the benefits of the Internet is the ability to shop from home, using the Internet. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, people are becoming more comfortable in shipping online. The YellowPages have the popular phrase: "Let your fingers do the walking." With modern Internet, we can say, "Let your online connection do the shopping." I must admit, that the range of products are huge.

Apart from which is popular for books, I am currently exploring an online opportunity with CSN Stores, to review their site and some of their products. One of them is 'track lighting,' and many other household products. If you want to check them out on your own, before reading my review, you can do so here.

I hope to offer some comments to my readers, and to provide another source for online shopping, especially for the busy person. Do stay tuned for my review in the coming weeks, for I will post some giveaways (through gift coupons courtesy of CSN Stores). This posting does not mean I officially endorse/Not-endorse the site. I am still reviewing them.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Is Social Media a Fad?

Fads are temporary attractions. It comes suddenly, generates an adrenaline rush for a while, before it exits. Fads happen to grab attention and create a buzz. However, after all the excitement, people go back to what they normally do. With the sudden popularity of social networking media like Facebook, Twitter and others, some people start to question whether these are also fads. The well made video below says no. Looking at the statistics on the video, we will find it difficult to argue against the 'people-driven' social economy.

Websites like 'Church Blog Theory' are starting to ask if social networking is here to stay. The video above is part of the promotion for the book called Socialnomics. Hence, I am not surprised by the passionate arguments that the author is making that social networking is here to stay.

My Comments
I think social networking will be here for a while. It is a way people communicate with one another, just like the telephones since they were invented. Judging from the trend how emails replace telephone calls and fax messages, social networking is fast replacing emails as the communication of choice. The crux of the matter is this. People desire to know others, and be known. In an age where efficiency, productivity, costs and technical speed are worshiped, people will choose the medium that optimizes all four aspects of communications.
  • Efficiency: If it gets the work done the way I want it, use it;
  • Productivity: If it gets results according to my plans, use it;
  • Costs: If it is cheap or free, use it;
  • Speed: If it is fast and effective, use it.
I dare say that social networking is the electronic fast-food of the new era. Anyone familiar with Fast-Food will be familiar with fastfood style electronic communication. Technology is fast becoming popular and pervasive because people have been exposed to fast-food syndrome since young.  Think McDonald's Happy Meals etc.

Such a phenomena is coined by George Ritzer as the 'McDonaldization of Society.' According to Ritzer,
"McDonaldization is the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as of the rest of the world." (George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society, NY: Sage, 2004, p1)

The McDonaldization of Society 5I think Ritzer's observation can be applied to the electronic media as well. The reason why social networking is so popular is because it works. It is fast. It is cheap. It is efficient (people get updates instantaneously). It is highly productive (try looking for long lost friends). All of these factors reflect the fast-food society that we are all familiar with. So what's the future? Maybe faster-food society?

In conclusion, I think the video does highlight some important observations. Yet, I do not believe that it will stay that way for long. Things like Facebook and Twitter will be overtaken by others, especially if they do not keep up with the changing environment, or the social and psychological movement of culture and society.  regardless of what the video above advocates, I think any media, even social media, will need to keep up with what is going on in the metanarratives of modern society in order to be relevant. Otherwise, they will be a fad. Already there are many who are contemplating quitting Facebook altogether. It is a growing movement and I think it spells the beginning of the end of the Facebook fad. Yet, something else is more troubling. Whatever the new substitute for social media, I hope it will be something that enables people to communicate purposefully, with a firm understanding that both good AND bad information can be communicated quickly, efficiently and cheaply. I hope whatever new media will not be the domain of any one particular social group, but something that people of all ages can comfortably use. Keep it simple. Keep it meaningful. Remember, social media is only a tool. Keep it that way. If social networking is a form of electronic fast-food, remember that too much calories can kill relationships too.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unbelievers Ministers in Church

This is disturbing news. Is there something worse than a shrinking Church in America? I think there is. It is the hiring or the inclusion of non-believers ministering the sacraments in Church. In a troubling news report entitled, "Disbelief in the Pulpit," the basic question asked is what the church should do, if the servants of the Church, primarily the preacher loses his faith?  This prefaces the study ("Preachers Who are Not Believers") done by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. Based on interviews with clergy from 5 Protestant denominations, the paper deals with issues surrounding clergy who no longer believes what they formerly believed.

I find the conclusion of the study more disturbing.
"Perhaps the best thing their congregations can do to help them is to respect their unspoken vows of secrecy, and allow them to carry on unchallenged; or perhaps this is a short-sighted response, ultimately just perpetuating the tightly interlocking system that maintains the gulf of systematic hypocrisy between clergy and laity."
(Daniel C. Dennett, & Linda LaScola, Evolutionary Psychology, p149-150; – 2010. 8(1): 122-150)

Scriptures record a harsh damnation on teachers and leaders who lead flocks astray. While one can say all the 'right' words, one cannot deceive God. God will judge the heart. For those who are dishonest with the congregation, they are most dishonest with God.

My Comments
It troubles me to read that many of these interviews reveal a secretive element. Not only do many of these unbelievers not hold to the faith of their denominations, they 'playact' and that smells dishonesty and dangerously unauthentic. These people come from both liberal and conservative camps, indicating that the problem is larger than we thought.

Before we become paranoid, I think we must recognize the disclaimer in the study. The phrase 'our sample is small and self-selected,' should remind us that such unbelievers in the pulpit is simply a small fragment of the church. They should not be deemed as a growing force. The main challenge for us is basically be able to nip any of such dishonest behaviour by cultivating a culture of grace. Instead of being overly ready to mete out cruel punishment for disbelief, provide clergy and ministers an opportunity for 'spiritual rehabilitation.' The Old Testament teaches us to show grace even to people who commit murder by providing areas of refuge for them. Likewise, for people who are tempted or honestly have second thoughts about their faith, seek help. The path to honesty has to be carefully taken. Deception can easily enter. Sometimes, we use the word 'being honest' as a reason for selfish motives. Other times, we are tempted to 'be honest' when given wrong information or deceitful arguments. That is why a community of faith is necessary, gentle and gracious enough for all to sound one another out and to find some solace in our difficult journey of faith.

One more thing. We need to distinguish between burn-out frustration from genuine doubts. I believe that there is a kind of faith that leads to unhealthy doubt; and a kind of doubt that can lead to healthy faith.

Unhealthy forms of beliefs are like people holding on to views that they no longer embrace. Such believing makes matters worse. On the other hand, healthy questioning can open up opportunities to learn. When we ask God, 'Why?' it is not necessarily doubting God's existence or plans. It is essentially a spiritual struggle to ask God to speak to our heart's condition.May the Church show grace to struggling clergy when they have difficult problems with their faith. Likewise, may these clergy show grace to the congregation by being frank.

I like one of the comment for the article. To the unbelieving pastor or clergy, 'Resign first.'


Friday, May 14, 2010

CNN: "Why Amish Businesses Don't Fail"

Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses ThriveThis article from CNN is based on the latest book by Erik Wesner entitled, "Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive." In a comparison of Amish businesses with non-Amish ones, Wesner discovers that Amish businesses register a 95% success rate in terms of a business staying open after 5 years. The survival average for a typical American business is under 50%. This begs the question, why?

Firstly, there is the culture component like 'hard work' and 'cooperation.' Secondly, Amish people stick with their core skills, and play to their strengths. Thirdly, Amish are remarkably humble about their achievements, choosing to focus on others instead of lavishing self-praise. Above all, the work of Amish businesses has an underlying conviction: Faith in God; Faithfulness for God. Eventually, Wesner focuses on the values that Amish people adopt. This is essentially the same management teaching that MBAs and management gurus highlight most of the time. For any business to survive, one cannot afford to surrender core values in exchange for a ravaging win-at-all-costs mindset.

My Comments
If I am Amish, I will be uncomfortable about being given such an attention and the apparent target group for a book like 'success made simple.' In fact, any inside look will be frowned upon, for good reason. People who are faithful in God typically prefer a quiet faith. For any businesses wanting to emulate the Amish style of business, they cannot afford to go alone. They need a corporate network of like-minded cultures. They need to be able to share core values and be prepared to give more than to receive.

As a simple analogy, for businesses trying to surface some 'business gems' from Amish businesses, it is like trying to make processed food by extracting the vitamins and minerals from natural foods. Eventually, we get a cereal-box of management principles, with the values of thrift, hard-work, cooperation and various cultures as a sub-percentage of the overall business in a cereal-like box. As we all know, processed food is no match for natural ones. Wesner's book is helpful to remind any business of the need for core values. However, if one is solely concerned about profits and worldly success, the Amish model is unsuitable simply because, Amish businesses are not conducted purely for profit-making. It is based on a call, a very divine one.


Talk@VST: "Biblical Narrative in an Age of Twitter" (Barbara Brown Taylor)

I traveled to UBC on Tuesday to attend a lunchtime talk. Thanks to VST and the Peter Hayes grant toward sponsoring the lectures, we in Vancouver were able to listen first-hand to a world-class preacher. Dr Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my favourite preachers and authors. I see how effective she was in terms of communicating with wit, humor, honesty and poise. She has a magical ability to weave words together into beautiful prose. The lecture sounds like musical notes strung together melodiously. It gives me encouragement, to learn to revere the power of words. Entitled, "Biblical Narrative in the Age of Twitter," Taylor talked about the intersection of faith and culture, the biblical faith, with the contemporary culture of today.

With wit and humor, she helps the audience lower their guards with her plain honesty and simplicity. Describing her clumsy experiences with technology, she begins with a heartening disclosure of her limited TV signals (one!) and the intrusion of cell phones into the lives of her students, something she says has never truly comprehended. She shares an important observation, that faith and culture seems to be clashing, just like 'virtual reality' being at loggerheads with 'actual reality.' The deeper danger is not the clash but the losing of self. OK. I know that. What else?

She talks about our own lives' narrative. That the real meaning of freedom is in terms of giving attention, awareness, and effort to appreciate people. Those of us who have read her book, "Geography of Faith - An Altar in the World," will be familiar with this. Essentially, her key note is that it takes a story (our life) to make a story (our calling). With anecdotes and stories from her wide literary library, Taylor puts together an enjoyable talk that we can identify with. The most humourous part of the talk is the part about the 'living novel' project she read about, from a student who tattooed a word 'and' on her arm. The organizers of this project will invite participants and volunteers to choose one word and tattoo it on their bodies. At a specified date, volunteers will turn up at a location to stand with other volunteers with their chosen word tattooed on them as well. Depending on the number of people who turns up, the organizers will then put the people together to form phrases, which will determine how the living novel will look like. It can be a bizarre experience, like a human scrabble where instead of letters, people come as words.

My Comments
The whole talk was delivered like a living narrative. Those of us who attends her talk, thinking that it is something to do with technology cannot be more wrong. Taylor's gift is not in explaining the do's and don'ts of technology usage. Her talent lies in the ability to craft a story with words, and astute observations of contemporary culture, backed by biblical faith. She is a world-class preacher.

I learn that when we give talks, it is a powerful way to communicate narrative by being able to narrate our lives with it as well. In our modern age (age of Twittter), where people tend to rush, push and shove, we need to learn to connect, to recognize our own limitations, and to engage culture as persons. In other words, in an age of Twitter, when we engage culture, there are 2 things to note. Firstly, we need to be conscious of our own life narrative, who we are, what defines us. This helps us understand who we are regardless of what is happening out there in the world. Secondly, we need to recognize that the world is changing constantly. Sometimes, the best way is not to explain the world away through problem solving or solution seeking. The best way is to use a story (our life) to tell the story (our engagement with contemporary culture).

"Biblical Narrative in an Age of Twitter" is a compelling title to remind us of these 2 thrusts. Remarkably, Taylor provides us another insight, in that sometimes it is not us who choose the narrative, but the narratives that choose us. Above all, our narrative of life is based on what we give our attention to. This is the single most important nugget I take home that day. Thanks Dr Taylor.

I left the lunchtime talk with a personal autograph from Barbara Brown Taylor. Awesome. If only this talk has been more widely publicized.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Be Interesting" vs "Being Interested"

Written by Conrade Yap

Main Idea: There is a difference between 'interesting' and 'being interested.'

I remember back in Regent-College where I encounter how people use the word 'interesting.' After each lecture, classroom discussion, or any impromptu chats, the word 'interesting' appears to be a suitable one-size-fits-all answer to any question. In fact, after talks from the esteemed and popular Dr James Packer, to the lesser known adjunct professors with their newly minted PhDs, the word 'interesting' can be fitted in like a standard three-pin plug in any electricity outlet. New students can say it with confidence without becoming embarrassed by any lack of theological jargon. Older students use this word to politely disagree, or to appear brilliant, while carefully preparing one of their brainy counter-points to the propositions concerned. 'Interesting' is a word likened to a T-shirt, clothing that reveals a little bit, and hides the rest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lausanne Marketplace Ministry Conference 2010 (HK)

For those of us interested in workplace ministries, here is an opportunity to participate, especially if you will be or planning to be in Hong Kong.  The note below is from Rev Dr Will Messenger, whom I have known through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a great guy, very knowledgeable and well connected in both the business world and the Christian evangelical world.

He is currently the Executive Editor of the Theology of Work project, based in South Hamilton in Massachusetts.  It will be held from 29th July to 2nd Aug 2010 in Hong Kong. This conference is a joint effort by the Theology of Work project and the East Asia Graduate Conference. You can download the full brochure here.

Do note that this conference is targeted at specific audiences. Before you sign up, read the following:


Participants SHOULD be:
  • Active, long-term participants in business, business education, or another non-church field of work
    • OR highly experienced marketplace ministers/teachers/professors (e.g., John Terrill, Buddy Childress, Paul Stevens)
    • OR exceptionally astute pastors/preachers, with respect to workplace (e.g., Tim Keller, Mark Roberts)
  • Biblically/theologically trained/educated/experienced, either formally or informally
  • Experienced (at least 3-5 years) in faith/work integration
Participants should NOT be:
  • Newcomers to faith/work integration
  • Church workers with an interest, but no experience, equipping people for the workplace
  • Students, unless having at least 5 years of workplace experience prior to enrolling in a postgraduate degree
  • People with less than 5 years workplace experience
  • Biblically/theologically inexperienced 



Cat Testing Out the iPad

This video is so cute. Thanks Rosie for this.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Review: "Scripture by Heart"

Reviewed by: Conrade Yap

Title: Scripture By Heart - devotional practices for memorizing God's Word
Author: Joshua ChoonMing KANG
Publisher: IVP Press, 2010 (150 pages)

This book is an easy read, but involves some effort in order to practice it. It invites the reader to begin an age old practice: Memorizing Scripture. The book was first written in Korean. Now translated in the form of 30 short chapters, the author gently guides the reader to begin the long journey of what he calls the 'memorization divina.' Just as the 'lectio divina' implies a slow and intentional reading, the memorization divina implies a perseverance that over time, in short sound bites.

The author provides 4 reasons for memorizing the Word.

1) For Knowing God;
2) For Imitating Christ;
3) For Worshiping God;
4) For Fulfilling the Will of God.

I will add that the reasons for memorizing God's word is basically for loving God. How I love thy Word, says the Psalmist. Ps 119 alone should motivate us to put the Word of God in our hearts. For this reason alone, you should read this book and learn some memorization skills. This book can also be used as a companion to Spiritual Formation.


The structure of the book is by itself a representation of the book's philosophy. The 30 chapters may seem long (like the Bible is with many books and chapters), the brevity of each chapter shows us the need to pace oneself in the memorization process. The author is deeply aware of the difficulties and pitfalls of such a massive effort to remember Scripture. Thus, he guides te reader with reminders of the 'sweetness' of the effort, and to encourage one toward persevering toward the very end. The practical ideas are distributed throughout the book.


  • We begin memorizing Scripture by taking small steps, then expanding gradually to larger steps. Be patient with yourself, especially whenever you’re tempted to memorize Leviticus in an hour and a half!” (23)
  • “A healthy spirituality sends deep roots into a cultivated mind; knowledge is essential to spiritual development. We feel and act upon knowledge because our thoughts affect our feelings. The mind also influences the will because our choices depend on our knowledge.” (32)
  • "A cultivated mind produces more insight, possesses a richer sense of the world and enjoys a more attractive experience of reality. Our minds are influenced by what comes from outside of us. We cannot create our own world, and yet we can create our own worldview. The abundance and vitality of the world we live in depends on how we see it. When our minds are cultivated by the Word of God through Scripture memorization, we can see the world that was created by God in the way that God sees it.” (33)
  • one of the most enjoyable spiritual pastimes is drawing a Scripture verse from memory and meditating on it. Often meditation is a joy of its own, but gaining wisdom while doing so leads to ecstasy.” (34)
  • "Emotion follows motion." (24)

I am intrigued by Kang's description of how some people who attended his seminar on Memorizing Scripture have their interest fizzle out within the first few minutes of his talk. These are the people who perhaps thought that the seminar contains some quick-fix easy to use formula for Bible memorization. Unfortunately, even if such a formula exist, it may enter the head but hardly influence the heart. Kang makes a good observation saying that:

it must be remembered that digesting the word is more important than ingesting it; food itself is of no use until it’s converted into energy.” (18)

Right on. We need to make a distinction between 'ingesting' the word vs 'digesting' the Word. The former involves wholesale swallowing; the latter requires bite-size chewing. The former gobbles quickly; the latter nibbles intentionally. Ingesting focuses on the speed of the memorizing process while digesting requires a concerted effort of the whole person. In other words, ingesting is for spiritual formulation whereas digesting is for spiritual formation. Having done Bible memorization, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Kang is saying. In fact, one of the rewards of Bible memory is to be able to meditate on it when the lights are turned off before I go to bed.

I recommend this book highly not only for meditation purposes, but for loving God more through intentional spiritual formation. You can purchase the book by clicking here.

[first published at SabbathWalk at]

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Jolt Quote XXVI

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you." (William Arthur Ward, American Writer, 1921 – 1994)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Book Review: "Patience with God" (Frank Schaeffer)

Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)TITLE: PATIENCE WITH GOD
Author: Frank Schaeffer
Published: Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009, (230pp).

This is a book by the son of the renowned evangelicals, Francis and Edith Schaeffer. Part philosophy, part memoir, the prologue right from the beginning aptly describes the mood of the entire book. The author meticulously highlights the various ideologies and theologies, and subsequently reveals his reasons for rejecting them. From New Atheism to the New Evangelicalism, anything that resembles a bigoted approach to thinking or believing is rejected. Instead, true to his Greek Orthodox tradition, Frank Schaeffer prefers the apophatic aspect of his faith. This is also known as negative theology. For instance, instead of saying God is good, apophatic theology says God is NOT evil. There is a subtle difference. This lies in not being too arrogant in what one claims to know, but to be humble about what one does not know. With this posture, Schaeffer allocates the first six chapters of the book, hanging out the fallacies of the New Atheists, symbolized by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris etc. He then pairs these 6 with the next 2 chapters that describe the other extreme, the Christian evangelical right, or the extreme Right. Both New Atheists and Extreme right evangelicals are lumped together under the same bucket called: "Fundamentals." According to Schaeffer, both are equally guilty of bigotted behavior. He supports Obama. He is against celebrity worship, categorizing Billy Grahams and the Rick Warrens of the day as such (96).

He attacks the evangelicals, even those his father supports, saying:
"The problem is that evangelical/fundamentalist faith revolves around two directives: Be successful and evangelize. That leads to bad choices. For instance, if you are trying to get people 'saved' through your writing instead of writing the best and truest books you can write, you are nothing more than a propagandist. Combine this with commercial interests, and not only are you just a propagandist, you are a gutless wonder who doesn't want to offend your market." (97)

He then summarizes that both atheists and the evangelicals are essentially similar.

"It might also mean that we should look for a less drastic alternative to fundamentalist faith in God than a fundamentalist faith in no God. Perhaps both atheists and religious fundamentalists have been looking through the wrong end of the same worn-out telescope." (14)

The second part of the book has a more gentler tone. It reveals intimate details of Frank Schaeffer's perspective of his famous parents, and why he does not believe the same way they have believed. He points out that his parents should not be overly hyped that they are perfect. In fact, he claims that his father is more interested in arts and culture rather than theology per se. He ends the book with a call to recognize that everyone is on a journey, both believers and non-believers. No one should claim they have the truth. He asserts that:

"The future belongs to the peacemakers." (226)

My Comments
Each chapter begins with a quotation of the famous Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkeggaard. This gives us a clue that Frank Schaeffer is also an existentialist. The two parts of the book contains two distinct tones. The first part is like an angry young man, frustrated by all the stubborn groups where each of them claims to have the truth. He refuses to spare any group, even himself about any attempt to proatively declare that truth IS. This is essentially the way that apophatic theology leads to, which is to claim "Truth is NOT" rather than "Truth IS." In this regards, I have some reservations to the manner in which Frank Schaeffer pushes his view. One may even accuse Schaeffer of being overly zealous about his application of his apophatic standpoint. While one can argues against the "TRUTH IS THIS" camp, likewise, the "TRUTH IS NOT" camp is not immune. In other words, if we can argue against the fundamentals about the way they uphold truth, we can also argue against Frank Schaeffer for the way he stubbornly say NO to all of the above.

This is why I also appreciate his closing statements.

"I think most people are better than their official theology and/or ideology." (226)
In a sense, I feel that the author is rebelling against the very forces that made his parents famous. His disillusionment with the religious proponents of the day, leads him toward the Greek Orthodox tradition. His unhappiness with the New Atheists leads him to brandish the New Atheists as being of the same mold as the fundamentalists Christian religious groups. He allows himself to react against the Warrens, the 'Left-Behinds' and all manner of beliefs that proposes something as a truth claim. In a nutshell, the apt summary of the book is, the key to being patient with God lies in this: "Whatever man proposes, Frank Schaeffer disposes." Schaeffer becomes a victim of his own accusations. It can even be baffling when the reader at some point realizes that as far as Schaeffer is concerned, the best way to explain things is NOT to explain things. Perhaps, Schaeffer will do well to write another book entitled: "Patience with Man." While this is a good book from a philosophical standpoint, I find it too emotional and angry to be comfortable with.

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Book: "Plan B" (Pete Wilson)

TITLE: Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
AUTHOR: Pete Wilson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009, (245pp).

I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the way Pete Wilson handles the problem of suffering and disappointment in life. Wilson does not come across as a pontificating know-it-all. Neither does he take the cowardly stance of hiding his head under the sand of 'I-Don't-Know.' Wilson knows that a typical person's Plan A frequently fails. For anyone who puts their trust and hopes in a successful Plan A, they will be lost when they are forced to adopt Plan B.

Wilson's style is more like a hand-holding style. He does not dismiss the magnitude of the problems. He recognizes that Plan B is almost the defacto plan that many people face. Having recognized that, he leads the reader toward a positive embrace of Plan Bs, especially when our hopes are dashed with a failed primary plan. More importantly, he gently leads the reader beyond focusing on plans, toward focusing on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. This alone is worth the price of the book. Harnessing the wisdom of Augustine, St John of the Cross, to the modern preachers such as Francis Chan, Henri Nouwen and Peter Scazzero, Wilson gives the reader a buffet of spiritual encouragement in one volume.

This book begins gently with the recognition of tough issues of life. It nudges the reader with a hand-holding atmosphere, and climaxes with an unabashed declaration that hope resides in the cross, in the resurrected Christ.  This book is Pete Wilson's first attempt. It is not a scholarly treatise. Neither is it a plain devotional for Christians. It is a down-to-earth invitation to the reader to journey with the author, to address an often avoided question in life: "What do we do when God doesn't show up the way we thought He would?"

Wilson answers this question brilliantly. In fact, this is a book for all Christians, not just those who are struggling. My favourite quotation in the book is this:
"No, my greatest fear for my life and for yours is that we'll just get busy and distracted and settle for a mediocre, unexamined life. It's that we'll just settle into life as usual and never become the persons God intended for us to be." (193)

Wow. In this light, perhaps our Plan Bs, are actually God's Plan As, after all. Wonderful.

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.

A Thomas-Nelson BookSneeze reviewer.


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