Ministry in a Pluralistic Context - Day 4

We were given an introduction about Buddhism and in the video clip we watched, I realised a few things about my encounters with the Buddhists.

It dawned on me that when we dialogue with a Buddhist, the way we talk about Christianity and its main tenets have no way of latching on to their train of thought.

For one, Buddhism teaches the value of all kinds of life and therefore it is not right from them to kill any living things. And here we go talking about sacrifices in the Old Testament and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

The Buddhists have a thoroughly different concept of sin. They do not believe there is a God and therefore there is no judge. They do good and as long as they do not hurt anyone, they do not sin. So they do not have an understanding of falling short of the glory of God.

One of the main tenet of Buddhist beliefs is that salvation or Nirvana is the responsibility of one's own self. It does not make sense to them to have someone else do that on their behalf.

We have much to know about the other religions before we can even dialogue with them and share to them about Jesus.

pearlie

Wise as serpents and innocent as doves

One of my good friends once told me that after she read Eric Berne's Games People Play several years ago, she spent 3 months studying the book of Proverbs and found that it was much more fruitful. And in doing so, she can strive to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt 10:16b).

Indeed, as Jesus sent the twelve out into mission, he said in part, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matt 10:16-23)

In our course of life, we are witnesses for God in whatever we do - in words or in deeds, and even in thought. So we need to be mindful how we live our lives. Proverbs would be a good place to start on how to live this life wisely.

But reading Proverbs will not be an easy feat. Context will be different in comparison and language as well is different. And they are also somewhat all over the place and each almost stands on its own. Looks like I will take more than 3 months to study them, as I will only be able to handle one at a time.

pearlie

Driving up north: KL to Penang

I will soon be going on a short holiday driving up north for a couple of days with my cousin sister. I am thinking of stopping in Kampar, Ipoh, Taiping and Penang. If you have any suggestions where we should go, please do let me know - places that are not crowded and not so expensive, and especially where there is great food, and great photography subjects and view.

I was googling about for some information and found this from Expat Singapore on eleven road rules when driving in Malaysia, which I found so true that it is hilarious. Apparently the author has obtained them based on painful experience:
  1. If you think you've found it the first time, you're probably lost.
  2. "Jalan Sehala" means "one-way street," so stop wondering why you keep seeing the same Sehala Road.
  3. Road signs work on a backtracking system. Seeing a sign probably means that you've just missed the turning.
  4. Different maps may mark the same spot differently.
  5. Maps are symbolic representations of territory that may or may not correspond with reality.
  6. Just because the policeman smiled at you and gave you detailed instructions does not always mean he is right.
  7. Just because it is a one-way street where you're on doesn't mean the road can't change into a two-way street.
  8. The place you want to visit will be on the other side of the road.
  9. If you're on the right side of the road, you will not be able to find a parking spot.
  10. "Straight ahead" is a relative term.
  11. To turn right, you may have to keep left.
LOL

pearlie

Logical tetralemma?

I am still reading Timothy Tennent's Christianity at the Religious Roundtable. I have started on the section on Buddhism and I am now utterly confused.

Consider this logical tetralemma:
A is true
A is not true
A is both true and not true
A is neither true nor not true


Huh? I am lost.

pearlie

Postscript (on 30/7/09)
Now that I read further on the part of the Buddhist-Christian dialogue I have a slightly better understanding and where they are coming from with regards to the tetralemma. Ultimately, the "Christian God and the Buddhas seem to function in their own separate universe" ... and these two religions are fundamentally different. (Tennent, 113)

Whilst we Christians believe in an objective, personal God, the Buddhist two main schools of thought, the Yogacara and the Madhyamika, focus on philosophical idealism (all reality is in the mind) and philosophical nihilism (there is no reality or meaning at all) respectively. (Tennent, 102)

Obituary



My heart is very weighed down at the moment. One of our childhood friends, whom we have not met for awhile, had a heart attack and passed away. When I received the news late last night, his mother was still at the hospital about to him back home.

He was 42. He left behind a wife and three daughters

Heed what the Qoheleth say:
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun ... The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 2:11, 12:13)

Rest in peace, Weng Hung.

pearlie
Photo (c) 2007 Andrew Haarsager

Ministry in a Pluralistic Context - Day 3

We spent time on two things today: (1) a video on Hinduism and (2) a case study on a true account of a missionary in India.

The video on Hinduism gave a very good introduction to a very complex religion, which in actuality is more of a way of life than religion. One new thing I discovered was this: according to the Hindu, the worship of the figurine of deities do not result in idolatry. They explain that they are worshipping what the idols represents and not the idols themselves. This is interesting to me because if this is so, then the discussion on the subject and approach of worshipping with a Hindu will take a different turn. I have yet to further reflect on this.

As such I might take up a comparative study of the different ways of worship as my essay topic. I wonder if comparing the worship practices of all four religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam - would be too much for a 3,000-word essay paper.

The case study that we did on Hinduism was a very interesting one - I highly recommend that you read a short version of the work of Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656) here. Nobili is now termed as the Roman Catholic Brahmin as he adopted customs and practices of the Brahmin caste in his personal lifestyle. He believed that it was the only way in which the Christian faith could be presented to the Hindus.

The lecturer forced us to vote - if we were the leaders of the church council, would we allow Nobili to continue with his work or call him back? To me, there were more questions than answers, but since we have to vote, I voted for the latter, though with qualifications. I felt that based on the information give in the case study, he had gone a tad too far in it. Had he kept to a certain limits, or even presented a more forward looking plan, he would be impactful in his work -- e.g. he formed a Brahmin church because the Brahmin caste Christian would not worship in the same place as the rest of the castes. It would have been better if he had planned for the assimilation of the differnt "caste-churches" through time. He might have, I don't know. But what's more glaring is the fact that he did not criticise the custom of suttee. If he were to have continued, would it result in an assimilated Christian faith with practices that are not Christ-like?
However, I also see that if he had continued with his work, he could have made an great impact with the Hindus and converted more and something could have been worked out to trim down his practices.

He was apparently called back and the spread of the gospel among the Hindus fell back.

pearlie

Ministry in a Pluralistic Context - Day 2

We had a full day of lecture today going from a look at Acts 10 on Cornelius the Centurion to the tripartite nature of mission studies.

There were a lot of stuff but what stood out for me was the purpose of dialogue and encounter with followers of the other religions. Everyone comes with a worldview that shapes the belief system that form their values that orders their outward behaviours. And like the saying which goes, Christianity can spread a thousand miles wide but only an inch deep, we may spend a lot of time on evangelism, we focus less on discipleship. Even though there is some form of discipleship, we may not have the capacity to address the underlying worldviews.

The other one thing that stood out for me is the fact that even before we reach out to another person with the good news, God may have already gone before us.

pearlie

Ministry in a Pluralistic Context - Day 1

We started our class today on Ministry in a Pluralistic Context lectured by Dr Tan Kang San, formerly with OMF and now a lecturer in Redcliffe College, UK.

Ministry in a Pluralistic Context may sound foreign to some but very relevant to us in Asia, particularly in South Asia. We live in a society rich with layers over layers of traditions and different religions. There is such a blend that it would not be uncommon to find a Hindu, Buddhist and Christian, all living together in a home. With such an environment how do we as Christian engage with those of the other religions without reducing their beliefs and practices to something that is meaningless, when it is not. We need to find a platform that will allow us to discuss and talk about our practices and faith in a more respectful manner.

The lecturer stresses on having dialogues with believers of the other religions and not to encounter them from a reductionist approach, where we reduce the values of their beliefs and practices. All religions are complex and they exist because people are seeking after God. We have much to learn from them as much as they have to learn from us.

pearlie

Nurture by Nature
Understand Your Child's Personality Type -- And Become a Better Parent


Nurture by Nature
Understand Your Child's Personality Type --
And Become a Better Parent

by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron Tieger

Daniel introduced this book to me in our last discussion about type personality. I was telling him that I was trying to figure out which type my son was and he suggested that I read this book. I ordered it via http://www.abebooks.com/ and I just got it today.

I think my son is an ISFP. It is quite clear that he is an I and a P. It was the middle two that took me some time to figure out. But after thinking about it for sometime, while observing him more intently, I am quite certain he is an ISFP.

Now that I got the book, and reading his section, entitled "Gentle Free Spirits", it describes him quite well. And with that I hope I will be able to nurture him better. The one thing I must learn in dealing with him is to be gentle with him. I tend to be quite impatient, and I these are something I need work on, as the book suggested:

* Speak to him with a soft gentle voice *
(I tend to be harsh lately, I am not sure why -- still figuring out why I am so short-tempered lately)

* Look him in the eye and give him my fully attention when he speaks to me *
(I have been bad in this area, being a mom who is doing this and that and everything else all at one go)

* Be explicit in my directions and instructions; whenever possible, show him what I mean and physically point out limits and boundaries *
(I am a generalist, being an N -- I must learn to come down to details. No wonder I usually do not get the answers from him. I do realise even before this that my questions are usually too general for him to give me a detailed answer)

* Support his feelings and allow him to express them in his own time and style *
(Oh dear, I have been demanding him to answer my questions most of the time whenever I see he is not too happy about certain things. I wonder how I will be able to work this out, since I am a person of the moment. When I am passed that stage, I will not bring it up again.)

And many more that I would have to think through and slowly work through to make it a better experience to be his mom and he my son.

If you think (I do) if I am getting too serious about this type personality, let me know -- I do need someone to look over my shoulder to watch over me, lest I go overboard. I have always been very intrigued by personalities and since being introduced to this 16 types, I find it a very useful way to manage communication, understanding and life in general -- as long as it is not abused that is.

By the way, I am only using about 20 over pages of this 287-page book. If you know your kids' type, I'll see how I can share it with you.

pearlie

Post-Script: Ouch, this bites.

(Nurture by Nature, 1997, p.7-8)
Happily, most children don't live in the kinds of horrible conditions that we have all seen so much of on the news. So why, then, do so many children become adults who feel lousy about themselves? Perhaps it’s because the most common and pervasive assault on a child’s self-esteem that does on every day in most of our homes. As well-meaning but unaware parents, we all chip away at our child’s sense of self in a multitude of little ways: the criticism and disparaging comments, our impatience, the times we hurry our children though tasks they are enjoying to do something we deem more important, It’s the way we casually dismiss their interest or curiosity with things vaguely odd or seemingly inappropriate. It’s when our children live though years of constant nagging, discouragement, or disrespect. Ironically, we often treat our children in ways we would never consider treating another adult and certainly wouldn’t tolerate ourselves.

Those are the conditions that erode our children’s sense of themselves as strong, capable, and resilient individuals. And the price they pay for our criticism is that they begin to see themselves as we keep telling them we see them – as inherently flawed and in need of major overhauling, rather than innately perfect, capable, and divine. When the measure of a child’s worth is tied to how he compares to our estimation of what’s good or valuable, we undermine his confidence. When we gauge a child’s value by how he may meet our expectations, we cause him to doubt himself and doubt his true nature. Instead, as parents, we need to consciously accept and love our children for exactly who they are, naturally. That’s how we encourage self-esteem.

But how do we really accomplish this? By tailoring our parenting to match our child, rather than expecting our child to match our parenting.

Only I know what I want, and I'll make sure I'll get it, whatever it takes?

There is a general sense of malaise going on with me for awhile now and I just cannot seem to shake it off and that itself has compounded the irritation I am experiencing. There are just too many things hovering over me that I have no control with.

The economic and political condition for one, and the self-centeredness the-hell-with-the-rest-of- the-world kind of attitude (and that's putting it mildly) that I keep encountering, one that would usually result in the "suffering-of-others-as-long-as-it's-not-me". What with the "get-rich-schemes" of shoddy I-don't-care-who-gets-hurt construction work and the purported oh-no-he-knows-too-much murder of Teoh Beng Hock and let's not forget the let's-blast-her-to-bits murder of Altantuya.

Just imagine if they are found out, would there not be loud wailings of "woe is me, where is justice", when justice is the last thing they would understand. Let's have them put in front of God and see if they can talk about justice without becoming cinder.

To go back to the very beginning, God created the world and all living things. God created us, although in his aseity he does not have to, but he did. To us he gave us his image and with that he gave us a self -- a self that has a freewill to seek for a purpose in life. And a created being who makes it a purpose in life to love his creator would be a testament to the greatness of the creator.

But no, we chose to love ourselves instead and see where it brought us?

Lies, murder, cheating, betrayal, robbery, rape, adultery, abuse, fraud, hatred, drunkenness, ... all for the gratification of self, for the worship of self.

We've become gods in our own rights and we've concluded that the only people who will show allegiance to us and who will give us due worship and sacrifices are none other than our very ownselves. Who better than I to know what I want, what I like and what I should have, and I better make sure I get it all.

And who has given the "I" so much freedom? The short answer would be God -- he has in the first place gave us that freewill. But the longer answer would be, yes God has given us that freewill but it is not without responsibility. God is still sovereign, he is holy and just. We will soon stand in his presence to be judged for the way we have spent our freewill, and we had better spent it well, or it will be to our doom.

It is no wonder then what Jesus said to his disciples and those with them:

Mark 8:34-38
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.

Jesus has the answer -- Jesus is the answer.
Tell me who else has the answer other than Jesus.

pearlie

Christianity at the Religious Roundtable


Christianity at the Religious Roundtable
Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam
by Timothy C. Tennent

I have signed up to attend Ministry in a Pluralist Context this weekend, and it will last for two weekends. I have finished reading all nine pre-course articles, which were no easy reads and I have just picked up this textbook today, and have started on it. They are all very, very interesting reads and I am really looking forward to the classes.

I have not been attending class for awhile now, and it feels great to be in it again.

pearlie

How to post larger pictures in Blogger

Today’s post will be a technical one.

I wanted to find out how I can post larger portrait photos in Blogger but I could not find any help when I googled for it. Me being me, I had to get it done, and I did.

From this:


To this:


Here’s how:

1. Resize your picture to the exact width you require for your blog.

2. Load it up as usual into your blog


3. Edit the html as follows:


Voila!

pearlie

Getting out of Sitiawan

It does not help that I cannot sing and shoot at the same time as I busied myself in the morning in the church's two services with my camera resting snugly in my bag.

Grace Notes had sung in not many, but a few different churches by now, and it is amazing that we get to experience different kinds of worship services with different kinds of people, but all in one body of Christ.

The worshippers in Chin Hock Chinese Methodist Church are large in numbers. The first service is held in Mandarin, mainly attended by the younger generation and the second in the Foo Chow dialect, mainly attended by the older generation. I only know a little Mandarin, and this was the first time I actually heard Foo Chow being spoken at length. It is a very interesting dialect.

Soon we were checked out of the hotel and each went our own way back home to KL.

We kind of got lost on our way back. We did not realise we had made a right turn into Sitiawan, and as a result we missed that turn on the way back. We were soon headed down south on the coastal road, not the North-South highway.

There were 3 options: (1) turn back, but we were already about an hour on our way and that is not an option, (2) use the coastal road, but the traffic was heavy and we will have to go through Klang to get back to KL, which was not an interesting option to me since Klang is "further" than KL (we were later told we could actually by-pass Klang) and (3) make a left turn and head to Tanjung Malim to get back into the North-South Highway.

We took the third option -- whether or not we made the right choice does not matter because we had quite an adventure.

The road that we took to get to Tanjung Malim was one interesting one. I fished out out camera too late -- I was driving and was a tad too worried -- but the 76 kilometers which we had to drive to get there was an experience.

First, there were the sawah padi (rice fields), on the left and on the right. I missed a photo opportunity there.

Then, it was the forest, with the bumpiest road ever. It was when my nerves settled down that I asked Alicia, my "co-pilot", to fish out my camera and start shooting. It was really a very narrow road with almost no traffic.


Then, the palm tree plantations.


Then, it was almost a mountainous road. (This route also connects to Kuala Kubu Bahru, which is why.)


Those are all the photos we managed as we got out of Sitiawan.

pearlie

Off to Sitiawan

Grace Notes were invited to sing in Chin Hock Chinese Methodist Church in Sitiawan and I was looking forward to the trip. We started our journey today at 11 morning.

We reached Bidor at about 12 and stopped at my dad’s favourite Wan Ton Mee stall.


I wanted to visit the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan and so we made a detour to the town. The tower was built in year 1885. Due to the strong influence of Chinese architecture, its built was that of a Pagoda. The leaning was due to the soft ground it was built on. The other reason was that because one of the uses of the tower was to store water, and the water load has caused it to lean towards to southwest.


Going up to the First Floor


At the First Floor


The Water Tank viewed from the Second Floor


I am not sure what this is, and there was no one to ask


After visiting the Leaning Tower, we stopped by this quaint little shop for some snacks. I like the fact that I tend to find my “quaint little shops” here and there and I think I shall try to find one wherever I go.

One of its walls were decorated with a collection of antiques: old photos, antique bowls, jugs and kettle, antique charcoal irons and, antique tea cups and mugs.


Antique table fans


Their tables were made from antique “ham dan gong” or salted eggs containers (I think), each mounted on a wooden stand and covered with a slab of polished marble. The stools are made from bamboo.


Outside the shop, I couldn’t resist a quick candid snapshot of these two men who were happily chatting away. After I shot them, one of them quipped, “Hey, I am not handsome enough.” No, uncle, you are handsome enough for a perfect shot! (This seem to be a common response like the same one I received from the elderly lady from Melaka.)


The street where we were in Teluk Intan


We continued our journey to Sitiawan, and as we drove along, we were greeted by one of the most amazing view – padi fields. And since I was driving, I stopped for a few shots.




As we settled after on arrival to Sitiawan, the whole entourage were brought to a seafood restaurant and we almost chomped our way through. The weird thing was everything was in an opposite direction. We first had toddy (a fermented coconut drink, which I discovered I did not like), then mangoes, then an amazing array of seafood dishes, with a grand plate of crabs as finale. By the time we went to the church for a rehearsal to get ready for tomorrow, none of us could actually sing with such a filled stomach! We realised it would have been perfect if the sequence of events were the other way round: practice first, then dinner beginning with crabs, followed by the assorted seafood dishes, mangoes, and toddy, so that we all can go back to the hotel to have a good night's rest.

But we were one happy group of people.

Two happy Grace Noters ...


... one disgruntled girl ...


... but friends forever.


pearlie

Psalm 4 (ESV)

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2  O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

4  Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

6  There are many who say, Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord! 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

pearlie

You'll see why I am utterly incensed

I just came back from a total waste of my time – what I thought was a play-the-piano-by-ear workshop only to end up attending a session where someone gave a sales pitch about how she benefited from a play-the-piano-in-the-shortest-time-possible course, complete with a video show packed with student testimonies. Yes – testimonies – what irony.

I know I am being mean-spirited – you can even call me a bigot if you want but when I see people use the Christian faith and spirituality to promote a business, I’d go ballistic. I am all for proper training of musicians to serve in churches, don’t get me wrong. When I was placed in charged of a team of worship enablers in my previous church, I have arranged classes for some of them. I have even managed to engage a non-Christian who was willing to give lessons to the pianists on how to play with improvisation at no cost. But if you use spirituality to sell your products and services, it’s utterly despicable.

Come on, “these classes means more because when we come together, we also pray together and encourage one another in the faith”? When in the world did prayer and fellowship become so cheap, that you can just throw it in like freebies and hey, this is a great investment for the church?

And, “God has blessed me with this framework and system that will train more pianists for the churches, and it can train even those with no musical background to play the piano in 18 months. Oh by the way, it costs RM3200”? God has blessed you with it? Then bless others with that blessing without having to turn it into a business, for goodness sake.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t charge for your services, I mean you still need to cover your costs and operating expenses, but please for goodness sake, don’t use Christianity to make money.

pearlie

Grace Notes' big event in Sept

Grace Notes has been having rehearsals since the start of the year to get prepared for a big event that will be held on 12 & 13 September 2009, in Bukit Jalil Golf and Country Club, Kuala Lumpur. The concert will feature Grace Notes with the PJ Youth Orchestra, and it is held to raise funds for several churches.

As a "trailer" for the concert, I upload here an a capella piece that we rehearsed today. There are several spots where we need to really touch up but on the whole I think it is not too bad :)


Wait for it to load (it may take awhile), then hit the play button.

Tickets will be on sale soon -- would you be interested? Do let me know.

pearlie

Oh! To a seminary

I have been checking out Joshua's blog to see how he is coping with seminary life and I must say he made me miserable. Why? Because I wished I were there.

First Class on OT Introduction: I wish I can write on all and submit all ... And guess what? I already had disagreement with my lecturer in the first class.

Why Am I in Theological College?: I am at a theological college to ponder over my existence, behavior, and the world around me.

Again, I wished I were there.

pearlie

Twitter?



I joined Facebook last year because I thought if I can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

Calvin joined Twitter yesterday and I thought I had better see what it is all about, so I'd at least know what he is really getting into.

And I think I am liking it. Whilst I am not really one who would update the world (almost) on what I am doing every other day, I like being updated with tweets from Star Online and Time Magazine.

I am only a day-old Tweeter. I'll see how it goes. I am about given up on Facebook.

pearlie

Useless but entertaining


Block Breaker Deluxe 2         Bejeweled® 2

I had purchased these 2 games on my iPhone. And I kind of wasted the day away playing them. But I am entitled to a break once in awhile :)

pearlie

Unless I wash you,
you have no part with me

We started on the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John today, and what Jesus said here in John 13:8 is profound: "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

The lesson usually highlighted in passage where Jesus washed his disciples feet is always about humility. Rightly so, but there is also one point we have somewhat missed -- the fact that according to Jesus, in order to be a part of him, he has to wash us clean. We cannot do it ourselves -- we have to allow Jesus to wash us for us to a part of him.

However hard we try, we cannot save ourselves or make ourselves part of the body of Christ. We have to humble ourselves and let God clean us, and having cleansed, we are welcomed into the family of God.

pearlie

Echo Prayer Manager: Update

I have been using the Echo Prayer Manager for a little more than two weeks now and I have found it very helpful in making me keep up with my prayer list. I time the reminders to come 3 times a day and having received them in my mail, I will pray the prayers that I have put in, with variations as I go along. All thanks and praise to the Lord, I have some prayers answered as well.

And I was just in a short discussion with Melissa about fatalism of certain religions. I am grateful that our Heavenly Father, who is sovereign, has this hesed love for us. In that, whilst His will and purpose is ultimate, He still commands us to seek Him, to pray and ask for His mercy and leading, and He will give it to us according to His purpose.

pearlie

Maths and Science Back to BM

I have just found out that the Cabinet has decided that the medium of instruction for Maths and Science in our national schools will be reverted to Bahasa Malaysia from 2012 onwards. I was hoping against hope that it will not happen, but it has. Whilst we have been forward looking in introducing the Teaching of Math and Science in English programme six years ago, the government has decided that it was a flop and will be reverting back to teaching them in Bahasa Malaysia.

Calvin has been learning Maths and Science in English since he started school. While he is doing well in these subjects, his command of Bahasa Malaysia has been lacking. Based on the news report, I do not think he will be affected by the change and will still be doing his Maths and Science in English, but I cannot be too sure. Anything can change.

For more, see these reports in the The Star and The Malaysian Insider, and here for an interesting look at the statistics (let me know if you need some translation).

pearlie

Giving is a gift

We had Rev David Loo, a.k.a. The Singing Pastor (or as he has pointed out, also The Singing Loo!), as our guest speaker today, and I almost forgot what a wonderful singing voice he has. His sermon was on the Gift of Giving, from 2 Corinthians 8.

I’ve learnt a few lessons, one of which is this: giving is a gift – we must be careful not to resort to impulse giving or pity giving or guilt giving. Giving is a gift of grace.

I’ve seen and experienced much impulse giving – the thought would just come and without much prayer, the act of giving is just carried out.

Pity giving, on the other hand, is a kind of giving that is almost self-righteous. It elevates one self to a position where the giving is “I have more and therefore I must give to the less”. What is lacking is love and compassion, which is altogether different from pity.

Guilt giving, I think is the worst of the three – it is self-serving. It may or may not be subconscious, where “I give and therefore I feel good about it”.

And of course there is a worse kind of giving – shall I call it “reciprocal giving”*? It is to give in return of something. Some people give so that the recipient will be indebted to them.

Giving is a discipline we must learn and cultivate. It needs much prayer and discerning when and what to give. Money and valuables are dangerous stuff and could cause the downfall of others – so give prayerfully and responsibly.

If in doubt, ask the LORD.

pearlie

* note: "reciprocal" has a two-sided nuance to it -- I am still thinking of a better word to describe this kind of giving with a motive.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult



By happenstance, I came across the movie trailer for Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and it caught my interest. I was at the bookstore 2 days ago, saw it on the display counter and got a copy of the book. It took me about 8 hours to finish it.

How do I find it?

I find that the story/premise was good, the execution a pain, and at the ending, I get a wham!

From the back cover of the book: Sara Fitzgerald's daughter Kate is just two years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Reeling from with the helpless shock of it, Sara knows she will do anything -- whatever it takes -- to save her child. Then the test results came back time and again to show that no one in their family is a match for Kate. If they are to find a donor for the crucial bone marrow transplant needs, there is only one option: creating another baby, specifically designed to save her sister. For Sara, it seems the ideal situation. Not only does Kate live, she gets a beautiful new daughter, Anna, too. Until the moment Anna hands Sara the papers that will rock the whole world. Because, aged thirteen, Ana has decided that she doesn't want to help Kate live any more. She is suing her parents for the rights to her own body.

Now, doesn't that sound promising for a good read. Sad to say, no. It started well, and I was 4 hours into the book before it started to lose me and from them on, I have begun to speed read as I went along, just to get it going and finish it.

Picoult took the story through with each chapter taken from the first person perspective, of the main characters in the story. You have Anna, Sara, Brian (the father), Jesse (the brother), Campbell (the lawyer) and Julia (the woman, as all stories need a woman, and this woman who is the guardian ad litem, is the lawyer's old flame). I would say that it is quite a good approach to a story, if and only if, you have the skill and capability to hold your audience. She did not have that with me. And what's worse, each chapter begins with a different time frame, dislocated from the previous chapter. When I start each chapter, left just afresh from the last one, and about 5 sentences down, I would frown as I try to figure out where in the timeline of the story am I now. As it happened too often, I ended up trudging on and hoping that it will come to me as I read on.

I have never read a book so infuriating, especially when I it started so well. I cannot stand Sara, I am bored with Brian, I could not believe Julia, and Campbell sound quite hollow though I like him, except for his wisecracks about why he has a service dog, the first few was alright but it just went cheesy from there. Only Anna and Jesse were the more believable characters. And the ending was like a "WHAT???"

It is suppose to be a good story. I only wished the story was better told, and ended. This will be the first and last time I read Jodi Picoult.

And this review by Robert P. Beveridge absolutely took the words right out of my mouth:

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Oh, if she'd only stopped twenty pages before it actually ended.
October 16, 2006
By Robert P. Beveridge "xterminal"
Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper (Washington Square Press, 2004)

Did you ever start off reading a book with a relatively high opinion of it, and then have that opinion spiral downward every few pages until it just bottomed out at the end? That's how I felt while reading My Sister's Keeper.

Picoult has a great hook-- a child, conceived for the purpose of keeping her leukemic older sister alive, sues her parents for medical emancipation-- and she starts out defining her characters well, giving us a stable of interesting people about whom to read. It all, however, goes downhill from there. Picoult has that rare and undesirable combination of a taste for melodrama and a fine ear for cliché, and it's so well-mixed that even the quotes she chooses at the beginnings of sections are fraught with both. (When you see Milton's long-trampled quote about darkness visible in a book, what's going to happen? Yes, you know.) At over four hundred pages, the writing style just wears you down. Then characters start to slip from three-dimensional model into two-dimensional archetype, and either Picoult's own prejudices, or her attempts to manipulate the reader, start to show through. The rise of this trait and the rise of the melodrama, not surprisingly, go hand in hand. As the characters get less and less three-dimensional, they get more grating. This is especially true in the case of Sara, the mother involved; by page three hundred, I was marveling that no other character in the novel had simply killed her in her sleep to put her out of everyone else's misery.

And then comes the ending. Holy cow, the awful, horrible, cheesy, syrupy, lowest-common-denominator, you could see it coming from so far away because it was as big as Jupiter's great red spot, Lifetime Original Movie(TM) ending. It was like a punch in the stomach to have come this far with these characters and then have the author take the path of least resistance. If you read this book, when you get to page 350 or thereabouts, stop, take a bunch of index cards, and write down all the possible ways you think this book might end. Rank them in terms of desirability. I guarantee that the end of this book will be the one you put at the absolute bottom of the stack. It's THAT bad.

I probably should have waited a few days to write this review in order to mellow over the awfulness of the ending, but the simple truth is, the book doesn't deserve any mellowing out. The author pulled a cheap shot. There's no reason the reviewer shouldn't as well. It starts out a relatively decent book. By its end, it is unbearably awful.
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pearlie