Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Midweek Meditation: A Musical Peace in Love's River (Audio)

TITLE: Love's River: Calming Music, Soothing Music, Background Music, Dinner Music, New Age Music, Spa Music, Yoga Music, Relaxing Piano Music, Meditation Music
ARTIST: Laura Sullivan

This is a beautiful album for meditation and reflection, especially after a long day's work or when needing to find space to take a break, to rest, and to let our minds linger on spiritual thoughts. Laura Sullivan is an artist that has won a music emmy back in 2013.

Beginning with "Secrets of the Deep," one finds waves of piano melodies allowing one to swim freely without limit. The next song, "Wishing on a Dandelion" sparkles with ripples of hope and happiness. With the piano leading the way, one can follow the bright melody with lightly spirits. Then comes "Awakening to Love" which slows the mood down. Like waking up in the morning, one slowly allows the sleepy soul to awake, and to welcome the beginning of the day, the start of fresh hope, and to embrace the day or the night that is to come. The song "Blessed" is a nice reminder of how thankful we ought to be, for the ability to exercise our human senses, and to give thanks. "Holding Heaven" is a music of hope that much good and joy will come in due time. In "Moonlight Passage," we travel once again through the moods of ups and downs of life. The melancholic and sometimes haunting melody not only slows us down from the fast-paced lifestyle of the modern world, it gives us room to pace ourselves to human speed rather than technological rush. In "Love's River," Sullivan combines two piano playing styles together that reminds me of two persons in love. Like a flowing river, two persons dance with each other to learn, to move, and to enjoy each other's passions together. The song "Calligraphy" is the longest piece in the entire album. Like a musical poem, it flows like a musical essay with stanzas and choruses.

The whole album deals with the journey metaphor of life. Like waters reflecting light, the music reflects what life is essentially about. We need to take stock of what we can do and cannot do. We must learn from our mistakes, and celebrate our victories. In between is where most of us live in. The period of waiting can be a hauntingly anxious time of nothingness. During such times, we need help to be patient and to wait. Learning to rest and relax is becoming very challenging in our world of results and high expectations. We need to learn to slow down so that we can catch a breath. This kind of music ushers us into a mood of meditation and thankfulness.

I warmly recommend this album for your reflection. Though it is considered as "New Age," I would prefer to call it, meditative music for the soul. Learn to distinguish between good music and bad music, rather than all other kinds of differentiation. This album is good music.


This album was provided to be free by the producer in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

BookPastor >> "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" (Robert Schnase)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Dec 8th, 2015.


TITLE: Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
AUTHOR: Robert Schnase
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007, (144 pages).

Discipleship is one of the most used words in the Christian world, in churches, and in many Christian communities. What is it? How does it look like? What are the fruits of a Christian life? Where are the evidence of a Church that is exercising the ministry of discipleship? According to the Bishop of Missouri Conference (United Methodist Church), Robert Schnase, these are summed up in five practices; namely:
  1. Radical Hospitality
  2. Passionate Worship
  3. Intentional Faith Development
  4. Risk-Taking Mission and Service
  5. Extravagant Generosity
Schnase's purpose in writing this book is to give "permission, focus, and encouragement" for churches and Christian communities to be creative and to be able to grow in all aspects of ministry. He recognizes the hunger in people to want to grow. He believes that any congregation large or small; urban or rural; as long as they are intentional about discipleship and fruitfulness, they will serve well as transformed people. Meant to be used as a discussion guide for small groups as well as those in positions of influence, it is geared toward enabling the work of sharing the gospel with all.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"The Four Candles" - A Beautiful Story

This is a beautiful story of four candles that tried to stay lit.


If you want to read the story in text, click below...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Dare to Believe"

You can't be all things to all people. 
You can't do all things at once. 
You can't do all things equally well. 
You can't do all things better than everyone else. 
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else's.


You have to find out who you are, and be that. 
You have to decide what comes first, and do that. 
You have to discover your strengths, and use them. 
You have to learn not to compete with others, 
Because no one else is in the contest of 'being you'.


You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness. 
You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions. 
You will have learned to live with your limitations. 
You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due. 
And you'll be a most vital mortal.

Dare To Believe:
That you are a wonderful, unique person. 
That you are a once-in-all-history event. That it's more than a right, it's your duty, to be who you are. That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish. And you'll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.


Monday, March 21, 2016

BookPastor >> "75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know" (Terry Glaspey)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Dec 7th, 2015.


TITLE: 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film
AUTHOR: Terry Glaspey
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (368 pages).

A masterpiece is a great artistic achievements created by ordinary people. Like how Rembrandt's Prodigal Son painting enveloped the depths of Henri Nouwen, the author has experienced deep fascination with not just art but music, literature, stained glass, paintings, film, and many creative works like woodcut, symphony, building architecture, poems, even children's stories. The author is a writer who enjoys the beauty of God's creation and the handiworks throughout history. Beginning with his visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he describes how he was captivated by the classic and modern masterpieces. Curious about the origins and how the work was made, he becomes very impressed with the stories behind the paintings. The more things he finds, the more fascinated he becomes. In wanting to share his experience, he goes through his library of resources and experiences to inspire more people to appreciate the masterpieces. Several factors are used to decide on which masterpiece to use.  First, it has to be "universally esteemed" by both Christians and non-Christians. Second, they had to stand up well through time, that people will keep coming back as new things can always be learned from them. Third, they are timeless and can speak to people regardless of cultural background and national boundaries. Like trailers to entice people to watch movies, Glaspey starts with the paintings in the Roman catacombs, how Christian art had to go underground during the Roman persecution. He shows us how the Gregorian chant first begun and why it has enchanted the imaginations of many. The Chartres Cathedral is chosen as one with many beautiful stained windows each telling a story in themselves. He calls it a "visual book." Dante's Divine Comedy is a spiritual autobiography. Although not much is known about Andrei Rublev, who created the famous Holy Trinity icon, Glaspey is able to describe the significance of icons and the history of the controversies over their use. Michelangelo's The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel shows the famous artist more as a sculptor rather than a painter. The three central pieces of work all reflect Michelangelo's commitment to faith. Several hymns are also selected in this volume. Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress is Our God proves to be Luther's strength as he prepares for a tense debate at the Diet of Worms in 1521. John Newton's Amazing Grace and Isaac Watts' When I Survey the Wondrous Cross are also mentioned. The great novels include Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Chinese Bamboo Story - Inspirational

This is a heartwarming story about hard work, patience, and hope. Be encouraged!



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Eight Symptoms of Dying Churches"

Why churches plateau and die? Here are eight symptoms from Jeffrey Allan Christopherson's "Kingdom First" book.
  1. Majoring on the Means: "They value the process of decision more than the outcome of decision." 
  2. Self-Indulgent: "They value their preferences over the needs of the unreached."
  3. Aging Leadership: "They have an inability to pass leadership to the next generation."
  4. Loss of Neighbourliness: "They cease, often gradually, to be part of the fabric of their community."
  5. Program-Centered: "They grow dependent on programs or personalities for growth or stability."
  6. Finger Pointing: "They tend to blame the community for a lack of response and in time grow resentful of the community for not responding as it once did."
  7. Failure to Acknowledge: "They anesthetize the pain of death with overabundance of activity and maintaining outdated structure. "
  8. Property Focused: "Confusion of caring for the “building” as caring for the church."

Monday, March 14, 2016

BookPastor >> "Reordering the Trinity" (Rodrick K. Durst)

A fascinating overview of the Trinity as well as some thought-provoking perspectives on the Trinity, This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Dec 4th, 2015.


TITLE: Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament
AUTHOR: Rodrick K. Durst
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015, (pages).

The Trinity is one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted doctrines in Christianity. Some say that it is about three Gods. Others claim one God but errs on the side of reducing God into one mode at a time. That is why Durst begins this book with Dorothy Sayers's observation to describe the general confusion among many people:

"The Father is incomprehensible, the Son is incomprehensible, and the whole thing is incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult." (Dorothy Sayers)

Spurred by one of his students' paper on the Trinity with an Asian perspective, Kurst begins an active interest in studying the Trinity in the New Testament's "triadic occurrences." He nuances the multi-dimensional order of Father-Son-Spirit and then expands with a variety of combinations of how the Trinity is presented in the New Testament. In doing so, he attempts to fill in the biblical sources and theological framework which he feels was lacking in his student's paper. He makes three observations about Scripture reading by people. Firstly, Christians typically "affirms the plain sense of the Scripture." Secondly, Christians tend to interpret according to what they "expect to see" rather than to see the Word for what it is saying. Thirdly, people tend to see the Trinity is one order: Father-Son-Holy Spirit, and in the process thinks of the Trinity mainly in this hierarchical order.

Durst asserts that according to the New Testament, we need to go beyond all of these conventional ways of thinking. The more than seventy New Testament references to the Trinity describes more than just one or two orders of the Triune Godhead. The theological method he uses is the one proposed by Millard Erickson to review the order of the Triune Godhead; to develop historical theology followed by applications toward pastoral theology and mission.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Caring Friendship"

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)
"Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. The word 'care' finds its roots in the Gothic 'Kara' which means lament. The basic meaning of care is: to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with. 

I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the ‘haves’ toward the ‘have-nots.' And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone’s pain before doing something about it. Still, when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares." (Henri Nouwen)

Monday, March 07, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Parables of Jesus" (James Montgomery Boice)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Nov 25th, 2015.


TITLE: The Parables of Jesus
AUTHOR: James Montgomery Boice
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (272 pages).

Parables are unique, especially those told by Jesus. Used to cast alongside important truths, parables are meant to be clear for those with ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand. It is simple enough to understand at first read, but contains fresh insights on the spiritual life when read again. Studying it is even more rewarding. This book gives us a deeper insight to the things we thought we already knew. Since it was first published in 1983, this book has become a classic. It categorizes all of Jesus' parables into five categories.
  1. Parables of the Kingdom
  2. Parables of Salvation
  3. Parables of Wisdom and Folly
  4. Parables of the Christian Life
  5. Parables of Judgment
The author is James Montgomery Boice, who died in 2000, and who had previously served as pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for 32 years. Originally created as sermons to be preached, he had never thought it would be published in a book of this nature. Thankfully, it has been published for the benefit of people beyond the confines of the pulpit. Bible study groups can use it. Church groups can learn from it. Even pastors and preachers can learn a lesson or two from it and share it with their congregations.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "I Am a Christian"

When I say that ‘I am a Christian’, I am not shouting that I am clean living.
           I’m whispering ‘I was lost, but now I’m found and forgiven.’

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I don’t speak of this with pride.
           I’m confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I’m not trying to be strong.
           I’m professing that I’m weak and need His strength to carry on.

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I’m not bragging of success.
           I’m admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I’m not claiming to be perfect.
           My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I still feel the sting of pain.
           I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.

When I say ‘I am a Christian’ I’m not holier than thou,
           I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!

(Adapted from Carol Wimmer)

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