Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Church - just another dating centre

Idle musings of a bookseller highlighted one of Alan's posts in his blog, the following of which is an extract:

Life was not going very well. He left his recently emptied home Monday morning for his commute to work. The sign in the front of the church building near his neighborhood read, “Come here for a blessing.”

Somehow Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were even worse than Tuesday. And the echoes in the empty house seemed to laugh at him. By Thursday, when he saw the phrase, “Come here for a blessing,” he was ready for a blessing.

So, Sunday morning, he found himself pulling his sedan into the parking lot. The attendants flagged him through the parking lot and into a space. The man at the door smiled and handed him a folded piece of paper. As he was going to say something to the man, the man turned toward the family behind him to hand them some folded pieces of paper.

As he paused inside the door, he marveled at the hive of activity that he found. The family behind him pushed past and found a pew. He sat beside them by the aisle. The husband of the family nodded, then turned toward his folded piece of paper. So, he looked at his paper, too. At the top of the paper were the words, “The Blessing of God.”

Good. He needed a blessing.

They began to pass big metal plates across the pews. The man at the front said that those who gave money would be blessed. So, he reached in his wallet to get some money. He really wanted to be blessed, so he thought twice and gave a little more.

Then, everyone was leaving. He turned to the husband of the family. The husband shook his hand, and said, “It’s great to meet you.” As he was preparing to ask about being blessed by God, the family made their way past him and out the door. He stood there for a moment and a few people nodded at him. One man shook his hand.

Slowly he made his way back out the door and to his car. He drove back home. He did everything they asked. He went to church. He sang the songs. He gave his money. He listened to the speech. He said the prayer. Was he blessed?

He cried himself to sleep that night in his empty bed.

The next morning, the sign in front of the church building read, “Come here for a new life.” He wondered if that was a lie too.

So painfully true. Having gone to church since young, I have always been surrounded by the same faces, the same friends. We were a clique, our own comfort zone. We talked about going out, spreading God's Word, getting people to come to church. We had nativity plays, invited people to watch our staged 'concerts', yet we treated them as visitors, not friends.
They came back, perhaps the next year.

I wonder now how many of those people truly wanted to know Christ. I wonder how many of them had the thirst, but were chased away by my lack of attention, my selfishness. Caught up in a whirlpool of 'me', I wonder just how many of these people have been deluded by our 'faith'.

Is church just another place for us to socialize on Sundays?

Friday, August 27, 2010


I rarely receive forwarded emails, largely due to the fact where I don't encourage this practice. But a good friend of mine forwarded this email to me today and it touched me deeply, so I decided to share it here:

"When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I've got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.

Suddenly I didn't know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly.

She didn't seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, "you are not a man!" That night, we didn't talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn't love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company.

She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn't have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane.

When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn't want anything from me, but needed a month's notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month's time and she didn't want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day.

She requested that every day for the month's duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my wife's divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. "No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce", she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn't had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, "daddy is holding mommy in his arms." His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly, "Don't tell our son about the divorce." I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside
the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn't looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me.

On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn't tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, "All my dresses have grown bigger." I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, which was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me... she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, "Dad, it's time to carry mom out." To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.

But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn't noticed that our life lacked intimacy.

I drove to office.... jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind...I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, "Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore."

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. "Do you have a fever?" she said. I moved her hand off my head. "Sorry, Jane", I said, "I won't divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn't value the details of our lives, not because we didn't love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart."

Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away.

At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote: I'll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed - dead.
My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push thru with the divorce.-- At least, in the eyes of our son--- I'm a loving husband....

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves. So find time to be your spouse's friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!

I'm a romantic at heart, and I personally find it difficult to commit on just a surface level. To me, a simple relationship requires the commitment that a marriage demands. Without that constant affirmation of your love, it's simply not possible for a relationship to last. It's quite a conservative viewpoint (perhaps even laughable) in today's context, but I feel that there's sense in investing this devotion...

Does a relationship with God also demand such (or even more) devotion? Is there a need to renew contact with Him daily, in order to maintain this relationship and not let it grow cold? If we don't keep in constant touch with Him, would it be easy for Him to become a stranger in our lives?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. -- Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Disposable cars?!

It seems like The Onion just can't stop taking a dig at General Motors. They published an 'article' (fake, of course) about General Motors selling disposable cars in 2001, and they've now done it again as a podcast on 23 August:

The posts were no doubt sparked by GM's spate of car recalls and customer complaints - flammable heated windshield wipers, seatbelts that didn't work, engines that sounded like a train was pulling your car, and poor customer service to boot. Not good, not good indeed.

Now, if someone could come up with a real disposable car, that'd be interesting. But I can already imagine all the problems that would come with a disposable car... Poor safety standards, low power, no power steering, people dumping their unused cars at the side of the road.... woah, that would really suck!

But what about religion? Are we in the process of creating a 'disposable religion' as well, one that you dump the moment it doesn't cater to you? Imagine the following:

SINGAPORE - "The Emerging Church of Singapore (TECS) has announced an overwhelming 500% increase in its church attendance in the first quarter of 2010. Church attendance spiked after the announcement of their new mission statement - "Everyone is precious in God's eyes. We meet your every need."

With this mission statement comes a well structured approach towards outreach. The church has adopted a new attitude that is open to people from all walks of life. "It doesn't matter if you lie, cheat or are gay", says Senior Pastor Jing Swee. "God loves you all the same, and that's what really counts. We will continue to support you emotionally for as long as you need." Senior Pastor Jing Swee is married to Senior Pastor Jing Ho, and the couple now runs a workshop that caters to other LGBT relationships.

"I've been blessed greatly in this church," enthused Lee Pai Kia, a businessman who travels from Sixth Avenue to the Singapore Expo every week for service, "It doesn't matter what I've done wrong -I know that I'm accepted and loved for who I am. Going to TECS is a weekly must - It sets my conscience free, knowing that God will work in me somehow and that all things are in God's hands."

"I used to be a staunch Buddhist, but I now alternate between Buddhism and Christianity because both cater to my value system," recalls Ms Sui Sap Sap. "I'm leaning more towards TECS now, though. It's really what I'm looking for when it comes to catering to my spiritual life."

TECS unexpected boom in its weekend attendance forced them to relocate from their previously small, 50,000 square feet site in Jurong. "It's a pity that we can no longer continue to use the old premises, but we are thinking of using it as a day care center instead", says Elder Ai Swee. "The move to the Singapore Expo is estimated to cost us S$350 million, but our church members have been contributing freely and generously to facilitate God's work in our church. It's amazing to see God at work." The Jurong premises were originally built for a price of S$150 million in 1995.

The best news for the burgeoning congregation may be the fact that with the space already built and available, TECS was able to make the shift almost instantly, since there had been no lease on their previous site.

Other churches have also started to adopt a similar mission statement, recognizing the need for Christianity to be as flexible as other religions in order to maintain and grow its congregation.

As Senior Pastor Jing Swee explains, "These are troubled times. It is here we can provide an opportunity to show others how much God cares, no matter what you do. If people don't see that, they leave. We have to make sure that they are always assured of their faith."

What about you? How disposable is your faith?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How's your garden doing?

So, my favourite bookseller's blog has been writing a series of updates on his gardening adventure. I'm impressed to see that he not only looks after his own garden, he also makes his own canned peaches, tomato soup, apple sauce etc. To do something like that in Singapore, where land is scarce, would be completely unthinkable.

But the one thing that he writes after every one of his gardening adventure updates is this:
"So, how about you others? Is your garden doing ok?"
It reminded me of my parents, who would subtly pose that question to me every time they wanted to know how my spiritual walk was going. And every time, I'd try to avoid the topic by throwing back an offhanded remark similar to "oh, yeah, it's kinda withering right now - check back in a few month's time".

But honestly, how is your garden doing? I like analogies, and Jesus draws a great analogy when he describes our hearts like a field in which a farmer sows his seeds. Some seeds were eaten up by birds, others fall on rocky ground where there isn't enough soil, some parts of the field have weeds that choke the plants as they grow, while others fall on nice fertile soil and grow up to provide a nice crop. You can listen to this parable (and its explanation) below:

Many people, after reading this, pose the question "what kind of soil are you"? But I would like to pose a different question - "Are you preparing your soil to have the conditions suited to sow the seeds?" Are you:

- Putting a cling wrap over your garden soil, hoping to protect it from the rain and the heat?

- Leaving those huge boulders that are in the middle of the garden because they're just too tiring to move?

- Not bothered to maintain your garden because "the weeds will grow anyway and weeding is a boring and tiring job"?

- Having fun gardening, and seeing the tomatoes and cucumbers grow?

I don't have green fingers, and I'm a lazy person, so I think my garden looks like an overgrown thistle farm right now. Unfortunately, eliminating adult thistles is a horrible task. Herbicides don't help - it just kills the adult thistles, but do nothing to the seeds already in the soil. A relatively fast and effective way to eradicate them would be to burn the whole field, but this is not only painful, it also harms the other plants in the field.

So, how can I get rid of my field full of thistles? It's said that one of the most effective ways would be to dig out or spud out the roots at an early stage of the thistle growth. You've got to be really thorough though - broken roots can lead to multiplying thistle growth!

But thistles are prickly and troublesome, and I'm not sure I want to start on my 'garden spring cleaning' now, even though I know that the longer I wait, the harder it'll be to clear.

Sometimes, we just don't know what's best for us.

But what about you? How's your garden doing?

Image thanks to the Happy Living Magazine

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Pastor speaks on Biblical Oral Sex

Okay, I take that back. My pastor doesn't. But Mark Driscoll at Seattle's Mars Hill Church does.

This article led me to wonder if this blog is doing essentially the same thing as well - 'making Christianity hip by making it shocking'. Time and again, I've written posts with blasphemous titles in order to strongly state my points. Brett McCracken expresses:
"But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?"
I, too, wonder if I'm giving that same effect. I hope not - In fact, I hope I'm doing the opposite.

I'm not against telling people about God's grace or great music at worship sessions, but when this becomes the focal point of the church, I feel uneasy with the effect that goes along with it.

Let me stick my neck out and share from my experience two churches that I've attended regularly in the past. I might lose a few friends for this, but these are my honest feelings.

One was my birth church - an 'old fashioned' church that still sings a number of hymns during main worship, has a relatively crappy band that's below public performance level, and has pastors that deliver grounded, in-depth messages that might sometimes make the congregation feel uneasy. It was hard going to that church - not because the music was bad, but because it was like looking in a mirror and seeing all the dark spots that you had in you. It was a joy for those who were constantly trying to clear those dark spots and could see visible improvement.

Compare that with another church that I attended. The music was great, the songs were contemporary, and even the equipment standard was pretty high up the ladder. But the depth of the sermons, although it wasn't completely lacking, wasn't as grounded. It wasn't clear whether people came for the good music and spiritual high, or to truly worship God. But it was easier to attend church - I could go, not have my conscience challenged, and continue with my daily life the minute after.

What kind of Christians are we breeding? What kind of attitudes do we encourage when we only spread gospels of God's love, but hide passages that speak about the Christian walk that we should adopt in the process? And is this far worse than having 'young people pouring out of churches, never to return'? I personally feel that a person who is a Christian-by-name-only is far harder to reach than a person who has never heard about Christ. And while Martin Luther did a great thing by allowing us the freedom to personally interpret the Bible and interact with God, I find it sad that we now pick and choose what kind of church best suits what we want.

And worse, of course, is the fact that I see this and still choose to continue walking along the 'straight and easy path'.

That's why I can only claim to know about God, not to know God.

Logos 4 is out!

So, Logos4 for Mac is out! Why the excitement? I'm known to be rather reluctant late adopter when it comes to installing new software on my laptop (not least because it's already bursting with the Adobe Suite and 3D softwares already flooding it), but if I had some spare cash (and a new laptop) I'd actually consider buying the Logos4 to use.

I heard about Logos several months back, when a blogger posted about their really cool Word Tree visual representation tool. I'm very much a visual person, and stuff like this really excites me. Since then I've been interested in exploring it, but the lack of spare cash (yes I'm a poor kid) has made me reluctant to actually go out and purchase it.

Logos 4 Word Tree Tool - Read the full review here

Ironically enough, in writing this blogpost and searching for a picture of Logos4's Word Tree, I stumbled on this other cool site that has something really similar to Logos' Word Tree. Take a look!

Many Eyes visualization tool

But honestly, Logos4 is packed with far more stuff than just that (the Bible History and Culture is one of the sections that I wish I could get my hands into!), and it seems well worth the money.

So, a little advertising for Logos4 (maybe if i get that Mac I'll save up and get myself that Logos4 too :P):

Logos Bible Software is giving away thousands of dollars of prizes to celebrate the launch of Logos Bible Software 4 Mac on October 1. Prizes include an iMac, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPod Touch, and more than 100 other prizes!

They’re also having a special limited-time sale on their Mac and PC
base packages and upgrades. Check it out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hell for eternity

So right after I blogged my Cat 5 Hurricane Warning post, I returned to the story I was reading and, lo and behold, the same verse appeared before me:
‘And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying , Tell us , when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places. All these things are the beginnings of sorrows.’ It’s from the book of Matthew, chapter 24.
- Excerpt from No Man an Island
I was completely taken aback, and the first thought that jumped to my brain was "Is this coincidence? Or is the end of the world (as we know it) nearing?"

The strangest part is, I don't even know how I'd stumbled upon this story. I started reading it several days back when i was searching for some original fiction to feed my lethargy, then left it aside when my spare time ran out. But this verse snagged my attention, having blogged about it so recently, and I kept reading.

So here's a quick review. If you're looking for a fluid, experienced and captivating writing, this probably isn't it. The writer isn't extremely mature, the English is a little broken at places, and some of the sentences don't flow as well as they could. The story also does not stick purely to the Bible, and some parts could even be misleading for young Christians. But there's an intriguing side to it. G.S. Williams somehow manages to weave a myriad of well-known bedtime stories together with Bible history, forming a relatively complete, complex jigsaw puzzle. It's quite a feat.

I'd say read it, if you have the time, because that storyline is worth the tiresome, draggy and incomprehensible bits.

But No Man an Island also gives an interesting perspective to Christianity, one that I've been contemplating for some time. One of my first posts, God is a cruel God, brought up my grouse where I felt God was cruel because He created millions of people to condemn them to death. G.S. Williams writes about what happens after the Lord's second coming, and has a view that echoes Julie Ferwerda's opinion:

“What about the others (the rest of the world that has been banished to hell)?”

“I will go to them, cousin,” He said. “To see if they can ever accept my love. Real love means always having faith, always hoping. I will not give up on them.”
- Chapter 35: Clarity, No Man an Island

Is our view of Hell as we know it completely misguided? Could it be that the lost sheep are not banished forever, but instead serve their term in hell until their eyes are open and they turn to God? Is that how 'real love' works?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Category 5 Hurricane Warning

Having been born and bred in Singapore, you could say that I’ve led a very sheltered life. Literally. Singapore has somehow been placed in just the right position to enjoy the benefits of trade, yet avoid (so far) all sorts of natural disasters.

The nearest fault line is several hundreds of kilometers away in Indonesia, so earthquakes are but distant tremors to us, and the only hurricanes that have appeared over Singapore were the British fighter aircrafts that patrolled our airspace during the World War. We were even spared from the tsunami, having been protected by Sumatra’s landmass, which is fortunate since the 10 meter wave could well have drowned our puny country in one fell swoop!

Perhaps this is the reason why we have a false wall of security built around us. Even the flash floods that have recently wrecked its havoc in Singapore have been somewhat classified as an “unexpected inconvenience”, one which is unlikely to recur.

But are all these incidences just a warning for the huge storm to come?

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors or wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
--Matthew 24:4-8 (New International Version)

Beginning of birth pains?! Wow, talk about making something sound insignificant! But can we really trust the Bible, or is this all just a whole bunch of nonsensical ramblings? After all, there have been wars and hurricanes and earthquakes throughout earth’s history, but the second coming hasn’t come! Interestingly enough, Chaplain Mike brings up passages where Jesus foretells the reaction of many who hear the warnings but choose not to believe in them.

But are we going to wait for the hurricane to strike before regretting, are we going to start making just-in-case preparations, or are we going to trust the warning siren and go into full-blown preparations?

What say you?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Addicted to Worship

One blogger whom I regularly follow (apart from Julie Ferwerda) is Idle musings of a bookseller. Like Julie, he has snippets of his life integrated into his posts, while his ‘idle musings’ take on interesting perspectives that are usually thought-provoking.
One of
his latest posts jumped out at me today.
Too many people are addicted to the emotional high they get from "worship" times, but when the high is over, they are spiritually adrift.
To me, that statement couldn’t be more true. I guiltily remember times when I’ve looked forward to church for its worship and mingling sessions with friends, yet dreaded the 30 minute to 1 hour sermon where I would fight to keep my eyelids from drooping. As an excuse for my sleeping sessions, I’d even attribute it to the ‘subliminal learning of God’s Word’!

Is worship just a matter of going to church, raising our hands to sing with all our heart for 15-30 minutes, then reverting back to our old self the moment it’s over? What are we looking for in our Christian lives anyway? Is it the friendship, the comfort it provides, the overwhelming feelings of love and passion during the moments where you ‘connect’ with God? Or are we looking to build a steady relationship with God?

What do you think?

When the passion fades and the raging fire within you begins to flicker, will you let it die or will you cultivate it into a quiet, beautiful, steady flame?

When the music fades and all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

King of endless worth
No one could express how much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor all I have is yours
Every single breath

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear – You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the things I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus

Can we really just make it all about Jesus?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Faith as small as a mustard seed

I've been reading a number of reviews about Rachel Held Evans' book, Evolving in Monkey Town, and it's piqued my curiosity to want to get my hands on it as well. Perhaps an e-book, because as much as I dislike reading from a computer screen (the tactile feeling just disappears when that happens), I can't see myself lugging back a few kilos worth of books when it's time for me to pack my bags and return to sunny Singapore.

As I read Chaplain Mike's review on her book, this excerpt caught my eye:
Sometimes I long for the days when I was so certain, when faith was a sure a thing as thunder after a lightning flash or the scent of almond cherry at night. Things have changed a lot since then, but not necessarily for the worst. (p. 43)
Exactly how I feel, to the tee. There was a time when it was so much easier to have faith. You didn't doubt. You'd just believe. But as I grew older and cynicism kicked in, I found myself doubting more and more. There are times when I yearn to retrieve this simple, trusting faith - this complete adoration for God and the innocent acceptance of the Bible and the church.

But, like Rachel puts it, this journey of doubt isn't necessarily for the worst. I remember the days when my daddy was everything. He was perfect in my eyes, and I adored him, for no reason at all except for the fact that he was my father, and he loved me. But as I grew older, I began to learn more about him. I began to see qualities in him that I admired, to love him not just simply because he loves me, but because he has won my love and trust.

It's the same with God. Through my cynical questioning, I've learnt more about this God who is so awesome, so powerful, so distant and yet so close to my heart. Right now, it still feels like I'm getting to know about Him, but perhaps one day I can reach a point where I can sincerely say that i know Him.

If only I had faith as small as a mustard seed...

Monday, August 9, 2010

6 little fishies in the croc pond

Just the other day, my boss brought me fishing. Yes, you heard me right. My boss brought me fishing. During office hours, no less! That's something which I truly appreciate about being in Sweden - There's no real sense of hierarchy here, and organizational structure (especially start-ups) are pretty much flat. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed at the amount of trust they're placing in me, a simple intern. These are privileges that I'll treasure, and be sure not to abuse.

So we went to the river near our office and caught some worms (eergggh!). Using a simple line, hook, sinker and float, we managed to snag ourselves 6 smallish fish within the hour. Fish aren't really the smartest creatures - you throw out a bait to them and they quickly come swimming around to 'get the good stuff'. That's normal. What I'm amazed with is the fact where, even after their 'friends' start disappearing one by one, they still come back for more! In fact, they come back even faster, as though annoyed that "that other fish got it all"!

Silly though I might sound, I realized that we are pretty much the same. How many of us get 'snagged' by money? Or gambling? Or various forms of addiction? We know that something's not right, and we see others suffer a crappy fate, yet we still continue to fall for the bait, thinking "Hey, the other person has become a millionaire through gambling/smoked for 40 years and is still healthy, why should anything happen to me?"

In any case, we skipped (or I skipped) back to the office with our prize catches. 6 fish! Our crocs are going to have a feast! Oh. Did I mention that my office has 2 crocodiles as pets? No kidding. They had a good time trying to chase the fish around the tank, and Bert (the older croc) ended up eating all of them. Ed was too slow, and had nothing to eat in the end.

6 little fishies in the croc pond
6 little fishies in the croc pond
Bert went CHOMP and the little fish was gone
So now there're 5 little fishies in the croc pond

But in the midst of the 'live office entertainment', I recalled a little verse:
"Follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men" -- Mark 1:17
Don't you think that that's such a strange thing to say to anyone, much less a fisherman? Yet, when Peter, James and John heard these simple and enigmatic sentence from Jesus, they immediately dropped their nets (their livelihood and lifeline) and followed him -- no questions asked. I couldn't figure it out. So, under my friend's prompting, I looked up the different places where this incident was being mentioned.

It turns out that, out of the 4 gospels, 3 of them mentioned this event! That's quite interesting, and it certainly shows the impact that Jesus had made on these three disciples of his. How can one single sentence prompt a person to drop everything that he has to follow a stranger?

The answer lies in the first few verses of Luke 5.

Jesus' preachings from Simon Peter's boat must have been inspiring - inspiring enough to Simon Peter to obey when he was asked to let down his net at the side of the boat. Not only was Jesus only 'a little away from land', Peter was an experienced fisherman who had been out the whole day without catching anything! You have to understand that a fisherman doesn't just 'let down their nets' for the fun of it - It takes a fisherman many painstaking hours to wash, fold and take care of their nets in order to keep them in a good condition for future use. Given these conditions, I find it amazing that Peter obeyed immediately.

And boy, was he rewarded! They caught so much fish that their nets tore! But instead of rejoicing over the large catch and hurrying straight to the market to sell the fish while they were still fresh, Peter fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord". It's no wonder that when Jesus asked him to leave everything and follow Him, the trio did so without hesitation.

How did your Christian journey start out? Was there a significant event (or series of events) that stirred your hearts to turn to Christ, to respect and be in awe of Him?

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm a grape!

I read Julie's blogpost today, and I've arrived at this conclusion - I'm a grape.

I want to be a grape.

Since i understand that it might take some extra energy to click on the above link, here's what she wrote:
Most people don’t know this, but the Bible talks about three types of people and what it takes to line up their lives to follow the correct path so that they can be useful to God and others. These types of people are directly compared to barley, wheat, and grapes.

is separated from its exterior chaff by winnowing, or light blowing. Wheat has harder chaff and takes a bit more to be refined and made useful—its chaff is removed bythreshing. And the last type of people are described as grapes. Do you know what it takes for a grape to be conformed to Christ and made useful? It takes a winepress! But in the end, wine is sweet, and it is very good to the taste.
Why did I come to the conclusion that I'm a grape? Because I'm stubborn, rebellious and I require a lot of attention for so very little faith.

But why on earth would I want to be a grape?? I feel that the experience of going through the winepress is worthwhile, if only I could be transformed into sweet juices that linger on the tongues of others that sample the end result. To use what I've learnt to touch the lives of others, to acquire a distinct taste that makes others notice the difference. No matter how painful the winepress, if the result is a glass of clear, refined wine, then it's all worthwhile.

I only hope I won't end up being just a bunch of sour grapes...

What about you?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sambal Belacan and Christianity

For those of you who know me well, you'll know that I pretty much live to eat. Being in Sweden has made me appreciate Singapore's surplus of International cuisine. So, when the craving to eat good spicy chili hit me, I decided to make my own belacan :P

For those who have never had the pleasure of tasting it, sambal belacan is a fragrant chili paste that has been fried with dried shrimp. The chillies give the spice, while a variety of other flavours are what gives it the fragrance, making this my all-time favourite chili sauce.

Now, I enjoy cooking. (Note that I didn't say I'm good at cooking - i just like it :P) It's one of the few activities that makes use of all your 5 senses while leaving part of your brain free to rest. I'm a very experimental cook (I like to have fun with my food), and that's probably why some of my dishes turn out tasting really strange.

Fortunately, though, sambal belacan is not difficult to make. It's just rather time consuming, so make sure you have a 3-5 hr window available before you begin the process.

I followed the instructions from
PigPig's Corner, but played around with the ingredients a little, by adding less sugar, more chili padi etc. The end result was a chili paste that was sweet and tasty, with an extremely fiery aftertaste :P YUM!

I started my cooking journey, excited and passion-filled as I sought out dozens of recipes, comparing the differences while reading reviews. Then came the hunt for the right ingredients. Asian ingredients aren't rare in Stockholm, but finding reasonable quality ingredients proved a challenge. Three stores later, I was finally equipped and raring to go.

Then came the preparation stage. I started out enthusiastically, all ready to perform my cooking feat. As the hours ticked by (I only had a mini blender, and it took a long time to prepare all those ingredients!), I got rather tired. But the thought of eating delicious chili kept me going with a dogged persistence that I never thought I had.

By the time I'd prepared all the ingredients, the pungent smell of ground chilies had started to make me cough, my hands had chili burns and my eyes were watering from the vapor emitted by the small onions. Tough indeed. But I was delighted. I'd finally finished the first HUGE step! Now all I had to do was to fry up the ingredients, and my mouth-watering sambal belacan would be ready to set mouths afire!

I never expected the cooking to be so tedious. Many times, I was tempted to dump in the belacan before the blended chilies were properly cooked. Why does it take so long?? But when the sharp, fragrant sting of chilies filled the air, I knew it was well worth the wait.

After throwing in the sambal belacan, I prepared myself for yet another round of waiting. But this time, I knew what to expect. And this time, I knew that the rewards would be worth it. And so, when the flavourful, all-familiar fragrance began to fill the air, I couldn't help but give a whoop of delight - YES! It was complete!

It felt a bit like Christianity, this chili making process. If only we could start off with passion and faith, keeping in mind the end goal and result, persisting to the end. As we overcome each challenge, we learn and grow, and the next hurdle seems just that bit easier to overcome. Perhaps one day, I too will be able to set off on this journey enthusiastically, keeping in mind the prize, and working towards savouring the sweet rewards of this arduous journey.

And perhaps one day, I'll be able to say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)
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