A protest song!

My Advent devotion today is still on the Magnificat, but Bryan Wilkerson's lesson was that the Magnificat is not only a praise chorus but a protest song--so apt for us today as we face uncertainties both politically and economically, wherever we are. 

Just look at these verses here in Luke 1:51-53 (NIV) in Mary's Magnificat:
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Wilkerson says Christmas isn't only about peace and joy. It's about justice. It's about the lowly being lifted up, the hungry fed and the oppressed set free. The verbs in the verses all hold the aorist tense, signifying something that has already happened. We need not wait for it for it is already done in Christ. 

When Jesus was born, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His kingdom is now established on earth and his government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:7, NLT).



Listen to this amazing version of Magnificat

I was reading today's Advent devotion on Mary's Magnificat and thought I'd also find one to listen to. It so happened a few days ago I was looking for the best choral music ever written and was working on compiling a playlist. I found this in my list:

Arvo Pärt - Magnificat (King's Choir)

It is an amazing piece, and in accapella. Not only the words of Mary rings beautifully but Arvo Pärt has put up a wonderful piece of music. And I learnt a new word - tintinnabulation. It means a ringing or tinkling sound, like the sound of bells.

And apparently, tintinnabulation is the most important aspect of Pärt's Magnificat. According to Pärt's biographer and friend Paul Hillier, the Magnificat "displays the tintinnabuli technique at its most supple and refined."

Just listen to the voices ringing. Isn't is so lovely the way the voices are put together? Do you hear those clashing semitones? How does it make you feel?


Apple Music - loving it!

Ever since I subscribed to Apple Music only 2 weeks ago, I am in musical bliss. It's so wonderful to be able to listen to anything I want to listen to. But the funny thing is, I had that when I was with Spotify Premium but I wasn't into it. I suppose I like the Apple Music interface better, and I'm having a better experience searching and listening to music I love. 

Anyway, I found myself suddenly singing this one and only Cantonese song I know how to sing. A very sad song, but very lyrical and melodious. I went and search for it and found it in Apple Music. Now it's nicely sitting in my favourite songs playlist.

Danny Chan - 等 (Wait)


So sick but so busy

I usually get a bad bout of flu once every year but this time it fell on a bad time being the busiest week ever both at work and for Christmas. 

I hope to replenish my strength and energy real soon. 


The Last Post

I attended William Chan's wake service this evening. He has gone home to the Lord on Saturday after a difficult fight with a rare form of cancer. I don't know him that well but from the eulogies and testimonies shared this evening, he had indeed fought a good fight and stayed faithful to the calling of the Lord till the end. 

He was the Captain of the Boy's Brigade 18th Petaling Jaya Company and at the end of the service, the Last Post was performed. In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day's activities. It is also sounded at military funerals to indicate that the soldier has gone to his final rest. I never knew about it before and when it was played, I was so moved and touched by this very emotional and special moment of sending home a loved one to the Lord. 

Rest in peace, brother William.


A glimpse of joy in his eternal presence

I am thankful to my God for today. For whatever reason, I found so much joy in him, so much so that I think I am getting a glimpse of what it would be like when I am with him, when I am home in heaven. 

It is no coincident that today's sermon is from 1 Thess 4:13-18, the hope of resurrection. We have hope in the living God. "We will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words." (v. 17-18)

Chris Tomlin - Home


Now I'm hooked to K-pop, oh dear

I know I am still addicted to Korean dramas however much I tell myself they are a waste of time. But I saw the Korean pop music playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. I was avoiding them but I nonchalantly went and checked them out today, and that was it -- I am hooked to it now.

I knew some of the drama male leads in my favourite dramas are singers as well, and I am surprised they are actually good.  On the contrary, I have yet to find a drama female lead who sings well. The few that I tried listening to have quite poor vocal quality.

Here are three of my favourites:

Joo Won - If I Were (Good Doctor)
I fell in love with this song when I heard it in the Good Doctor, and that was an awesome scene. Joo Won plays an autistic savant who becomes a pediatric surgeon. Too bad this song is not available in Apple Music though it is in Spotify. 

Kim Bum - I'm Going to Meet You Now (Boys Over Flowers)
I just could not stop listening to this one. I'm quite impressed with his vocals. The romanization and translation of the lyrics into English is found here

Hyun Bin - That Man (Secret Garden)
The lyrics do not appeal that much to me, but it is after all my favourite drama and he really emotes the song very well.


We all play games at work

I am doing a revision for the final module in our manager's development programme and I'm trying to get back into reading this book Games at Work, How to Recognise and Reduce Office Politics by Mauricio Goldstein and Philip Read. 

Games at Work, How to Recognise and Reduce Office Politics 
by Mauricio Goldstein and Philip Read

I have started reading it when I last bought it March this year but stopped halfway. Like when I was reading Eric Berne's Games People Play back in 2009, I found it hard to follow the descriptions of the games. You can see I am not a very structured person, and I need more effort to work structures out, to unpack them. 

I wanted to also check out on this avoidance game that people play but I don't seem to find it in Berne's or Goldstein's book. I found this article useful though: Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic

Games are played in at different intensities and levels in our lives, be it personal, in a team, or in an organisation at large. Goldstein said that game playing is often a subconscious activity and it does the damage beneath the surface. We all need to reduce our games and become more authentic. A team that reduces games becomes more trusting and connected. An organization that reduces games becomes more believable, meaningful, attractive, creative, and productive.

But it is not easy. A lack of awareness of games played and the presence of an unhealthy culture would encourage people to play them consciously or unconsciously and this will certainly thwart the success of the business. It is worse still when it is played from the top.

But it starts with us, where we are: to be a leader who journeys from self to service...coping to character...from games to giving (Goldstein).


Handel's Messiah in KL Wesley

I am singing The Messiah for the second time this year. First time the whole three parts for Easter, and now Part One for Christmas. It is such a privilege to do so. 

Entrance is free this time round and it will be held in KL Wesley presented by The Festival Choir with The PJ Philharmonic Orchestra and Friends on Saturday, 10 Dec 2016 at 8:00pm. 

Do come and celebrate the birth of Christ with us if you are in town. 


Twelve Days of Christmas in accapella

I was listening to the Christmas playlist in Apple Music and the presentation by the Tenebrae choir of The Twelve Days of Christmas arranged by Ian Humphris was included. I loved it! 

I could not find the Tenebrae's version in YouTube, but this one by QuireCleveland choir is just as good. 

Twelve Days of Christmas, arr. Ian Humphris
presented by QuireCleveland choir


Can you be gay and Christian?

Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding with Love and Truth to Questions about Homosexuality
by Michael L. Brown, PhD

I had wanted to know more about the LGBT subject for awhile now. I missed a conference on it once before and so when I noticed this book, I quickly got a copy and dived in. 

I did not know much about it, not about what their arguments were and how they justified and explained their lives in light of Scripture. The book presented it very well with every chapter beginning with a "gay Christian" argument followed by a biblical answer. Brown was fair in his treatment of the subject with grace and compassion. 

He explained the biblical position of homosexuality through context and word study. And as much as the LGBT scholars try to read it positively into God's word, Brown has shown that "every single reference to homosexual practice in the ancient Jewish world is 100 percent negative—sometimes in the strongest of terms—and there is not a single positive reference to be found." 

And I like the way he explained the creation of man and woman. I have never looked at it this way before: "The author of Genesis is explaining to us that because the woman was taken out of the man, the two are now joined back together as one in marital union, each one uniquely complementing the other." Then he quotes A.B. Simpson saying, "Man was created male and female. This does not mean, as it would seem at first from the language, that he created the male and the female at the same time, but He created male and female in one person. The woman was included in the man physically and psychically, and afterwards was taken out of the man and constituted in her own individuality," concluding that "only a man and a woman can be joined (rejoined!) together in this way."

This is a must-read book. You may or may not agree with him, but at least he presents both sides and faithfully explains the Bible as it is intended by the original writers as inspired by God. And most of all, he is firm in his stand that we are all broken people before God and we are all in need of God, as heterosexuals or homosexuals, in need of his grace, mercy, love and redemption. 


My whole being waits, and it will happen!

Rediscovering Advent, A 30-Day Guide for Family and Individual Reflection 
by Christianity Today

I was searching for some Advent devotional material to use for this season but I didn't really find anything good until I found this one yesterday. I read some excerpts from its preview here and decided to get a copy and spend time daily meditating on God's word in the following four weeks. 

Today's reading was from Psalm 130:5-6 and Isaiah 9:6-7 with the perspective of viewing Isaiah's prophecy through Psalm's lens of longing and waiting. 

Psalm 130:5-6 NIV
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 

Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

This is one thing we have always been doing all our lives. We have always been waiting, whether in anticipation or in fear or in apathy, we have been waiting. As I have noted in yesterday's devotion that it is a gift to be thirsty, I think it is also a gift to be in waiting.

How so?

It is in waiting that we depend on God as we cling to him in weakness and trust. It is in waiting that we learn profound spiritual lessons which will be lost if we ever had the privilege of hindsight. It is in the experience of longing that we value what we will receive when it comes. It is in the longing that we know when to rejoice when it becomes a reality. 

My whole being waits! The emphasis is seen in Psalm 130:6 where "more than watchmen wait for the morning" is mentioned twice. The Psalmist says it and then he says it again, hence we better pay attention. But why would the watchman watch for the morning? Isn't he suppose to watch over whatever he is watching, rather than the morning? The NIV Zondervan Study Bible states that the "watchmen know that the morning will come and provide relief from their burdensome task, but they still must wait for that relief. Likewise, the sinner can be confident that the Lord’s forgiveness will eventually come, but in God’s own timing."

My whole being waits. And it waits in anticipation for the fulfillment of the kingdom of God, and it will happen! We will see justice and goodness and fairness and peace. The Lord Almighty will surely make it happen. 

This is Jesus's message of hope, of Advent. 


Advent begins today

It is the first day of Advent today. It is a season lasting four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord, both to celebrate his coming as Immanuel 2000 years ago but more so, the eager anticipation of the second coming of the Lord in glory, his parousia. It symbolizes the present situation of the church in these last days as we await his return to take his place in the eternal kingdom.1

With this, I meditate on Psalm 42:1-2 and 63:1-8 on this first day of Advent this year: 

As the deer pants for streams of water, 
so my soul pants for you, my God. 
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
When can I go and meet with God?

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land where there is no water. 
I have seen you in the sanctuary 
and beheld your power and your glory. 
Because your love is better than life, 
my lips will glorify you. 
I will praise you as long as I live, 
and in your name I will lift up my hands. 
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; 
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 
On my bed I remember you; 
I think of you through the watches of the night. 
Because you are my help, 
I sing in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you; 
your right hand upholds me. 

How do I cultivate and dwell in this longing for God? We need to become the patient, expectant, thirsty people of God. We must, for longer than a moment, see the daily distress of living. Only in view of suffering will we learn to watch for the dawn—and thirst for its merciful rain. To be thirsty for God is in itself a gift.2

In times of contentment, I rarely feel that thirst. What I see as "blessings" of God can ironically be that which draws me away from him. I pray that I will thirst for him like a parched deer that pants for water. And in seeking him, I will be filled with that living water, and only in him will I find life in all I do, in all I am, in all that I find myself in. 

1 "What is Advent?", Christianity.com
2 "Rediscovering Advent", Christianity Today, 2016

Debut - a vocal recital by Chow Ee-Tan and Alphonsus Sim

I had a good day today. I spent the morning and afternoon with my hubby, song and mother-in-law and it was lovely. And then in the evening, though I had tired out, I attended my good friend, Ee-Tan's vocal recital debut. It was a small cost setup and it was nice. The repertoire chosen by both the singers were really good ones. And they did very well. 


Ee-Tan and Alphonsus started the recital with a duet. 

Ee-Tan told me that she has taken singing lesson for nine years. I wish I had the time and resources to do that too. She inspired me to reconsider going back to singing classes. The challenge though would be to get a good teacher. 

She emotes well in all the songs she sang, both sad and even one playful one, which is most important in relaying the message and heart of the songs. 

Well done, my friend!


A prayer to be closer to God

My Father, my God, my Lord. I feel so far away from you even though I know you are near. You are here. Your presence is with me. Yet I long for more closeness. I long to seek you every moment of my life and yet I know I don't all time. I desire to come near, to center my life in you, from you, through you. I need to put you first and seek you. You have told me that when I seek you I will find you when I search for you with all my heart. So here I am, Lord, coming to you, believing in you—despite my fears, doubts, and failures. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Prayer inspired by Jackie M. Johnson, Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times

Kyrie Eleison

I accidentally added this song into my playlist and I can't seem to undo it. (I'm still getting used to Apple Music.) So I just let it stay. I know I can click edit in the list to remove it but I didn't bother to. 

Which was a good thing because I heard it on my commute back from work today and I loved it! I just found out that he released it only a month ago, on 21 October 2016. 

A really good find. 

I might as well add his entire Never Lose Sight album into my Apple Music and see if it's any good. 


So many books to get but...

The Ringgit is weakening by the day and I still have a whole list of books from the Kindle holiday deals that I want to get. And so I thought I might as well just get these few before it gets worse.

Money, Greed and God, Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem
by Jay W. Richards
I have not read any books that looks at the economy, capitalism and the Christian faith before, and so I thought this will be a good start.

The Bible Tells Me So...Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
by Peter Enns
I found out from Hank Hanegraaff's book The Creation Answer Book that Peter Enns is a theistic evolutionist, and so I thought since this book is on sale anyway, it would be good to hear what he has to say.

Parables, The Mysteries of God's Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told
by John MacArthur
I have not read John MacArthur before and this would be a good book to find out more.


Spotify or Apple Music

I have been using Spotify Premium to listen to music for a year now and it's great to have access to whatever  music you feel like listening to at any time of the day. 

However, the free premium service has come to an end after one year. I have just stopped the premium account and I was about to sign on to their family package when I realized that I should try out Apple Music first. 

I have read some comparison reviews between the two and Spotify was recommended for a higher quality of sound and Apple Music if you use Siri a lot. 

I don't think the sound quality would bother me much because I'm not that much of an audiophile. I'm good with it as long as I have access to the kind of music I want to listen to.

I feel that Siri might be a plus for me, since I usually listen when I'm driving and it would be safer to just tell Siri what to play. 

Apple Music also offers a free three-month trial and I've just signed in. But I find that in terms of the user interface, Spotify is much better. It's easier to find music and create playlists in Spotify compared to Apple Music. I wanted to delete an album that Apple made me put into the iCloud, but even though I'm quite sure I just deleted the album, all the playlists I have created went missing as well. And I had to start all over again. What a bummer. 

I'm giving Apple Music three months. If I can get used to it and if I can get a good experience out of it, I might continue with a paid subscription. If not, I'm going back to Spotify. 


How do you know when you need to change your car battery?

How do you know when you need to change your car battery? For me, it has always died on me, or exploded on me the last time I got it changed. 

It happened again today and I was stuck outside a restaurant near my house. Oh no, it didn't explode this time. It just died. My son and I had dropped into the restaurant for a quick meal and when we were ready to leave, my car will not start. 

I have shared here before that I did have problems starting my car, and I am now not sure if it is a starter or battery problem. On top of that, my hubby just informed me a week ago that AAM, the auto assist services that we have subscribed to, has wound up and we no longer have their services.

And there I was in the car, not sure of what to do. My hubby was with some foreign clients and was not able to attend to me at that time. 

I then remembered that when I changed my car insurance provider, the agent did mention something about an auto assistance services that I can use. I quickly called him, got the number and arranged for a technician to come check the car. 

Alas, it is the battery after all, which only lasted one year! I hope this new one will last longer. 

But the next question is this: was the problem of getting my car started a battery problem in the first place and not the key lock cylinder?