Monday, April 30, 2007

Battlestar Galactica-The Return



Battlestar Galactica was the name of a popular television series aired in 1978. The story revolved around the survivors of the Twelves Colonies of Kobol which was destroyed by the Cylons, a robotic race of artificial beings. The only surviving battle worthy spaceship was Battlestar Galactica under Commander Adama.
These group of survivors in a variety of spaceships set off to find the forgotten thirteen colony called earth.
This was fascinating series and I have enjoyed it during my teenage years. It created a cult following spawning a series of books, films, and even another series where they were orbiting earth.

The 2004 revamp of the series was a runaway hit and set the standard for television space opera. There were some changes in the characters. Starbuck is now a girl! However, using the same premises, the story was retold with better tension, action, and great CG. Even the Cylon looks better. The series is now into its fourth season.




This book is about an incident before the 2004 series begins- a presequel. Adama is the second in command of the aging Battlestar Galactica. The Human Cylon wars were over for more than seven years and nobody has seen any sign of the Cylon.
Galactica discovered a research station where humans and cylons (called companions) live in harmony. Apparently research station Omega was forgotten during the Human-Cylon war.
Here Galactica come against a Cylon dreadnought and discover a secret. The secret of the Cylons are [warning: spoiler] they use human parts to drive their spaceship. Duh.




.

Battlestar Galactica-The Return



Battlestar Galactica was the name of a popular television series aired in 1978. The story revolved around the survivors of the Twelves Colonies of Kobol which was destroyed by the Cylons, a robotic race of artificial beings. The only surviving battle worthy spaceship was Battlestar Galactica under Commander Adama.
These group of survivors in a variety of spaceships set off to find the forgotten thirteen colony called earth.
This was fascinating series and I have enjoyed it during my teenage years. It created a cult following spawning a series of books, films, and even another series where they were orbiting earth.

The 2004 revamp of the series was a runaway hit and set the standard for television space opera. There were some changes in the characters. Starbuck is now a girl! However, using the same premises, the story was retold with better tension, action, and great CG. Even the Cylon looks better. The series is now into its fourth season.




This book is about an incident before the 2004 series begins- a presequel. Adama is the second in command of the aging Battlestar Galactica. The Human Cylon wars were over for more than seven years and nobody has seen any sign of the Cylon.
Galactica discovered a research station where humans and cylons (called companions) live in harmony. Apparently research station Omega was forgotten during the Human-Cylon war.
Here Galactica come against a Cylon dreadnought and discover a secret. The secret of the Cylons are [warning: spoiler] they use human parts to drive their spaceship. Duh.




.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Robert Weber (1933-2007)


Dr. Robert "Bob" Webber is recognized by pastors, denominational leaders, scholars and lay people as one of the foremost authorities on worship renewal. He regularly conducts workshops for almost every major denomination in North America through the Institute in Worship Studies, which he founded in 1995. Over 30,000 people have attended his workshops. He has authored over 40 books on worship and the Church, including The Complete Library of Christian Worship and Renew Your Worship! and a complete audio and video series based on his Renew Your Worship workshops. He is also a regular contributor to numerous magazines, journals and newspapers.

Prior to his appointment as the William R. and Geraldyne B. Myers Chair of Ministry at Northern Baptist Seminary, Dr. Webber taught at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) for 32 years as Professor of Theology. Dr. Webber brought leadership to the Master of Arts in Worship and Spirituality and the Doctor of Ministry specialization in worship. Both degrees appeal to church staff responsible for worship and pastors who want to develop expertise in the area of worship.

Robert passed away from pancreatic cancer on 26 April 2007. I feel a deep sense of loss as I have hoped to be able to meet up with him to discuss his ideas about the Ancient-Future Faith. It would have been a good fellowship.

I have enjoyed his book The Younger Evangelicals (2002) where he hightlights the challenges facing evangelicalism today, and also in what I thought an unusual move, identitifed by names some evangelicals that he hope will help change the landscape of evangelicalism. My special interests is in his series of the Ancient Future Church series. I like his provocative statement that in order for the church to move forward, it first must look backwards. What he meant is that we must not neglect the rich heritage of the ancient church.He planned a series of books on Ancient Future Church and published Ancient Future Faith (1999), Ancient Future Evangelism (2003), Ancient Future Time (2004). By then he was very sick and managed to finish The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. (2006). We have lost a scholar and a friend.

Robert Weber (1933-2007)


Dr. Robert "Bob" Webber is recognized by pastors, denominational leaders, scholars and lay people as one of the foremost authorities on worship renewal. He regularly conducts workshops for almost every major denomination in North America through the Institute in Worship Studies, which he founded in 1995. Over 30,000 people have attended his workshops. He has authored over 40 books on worship and the Church, including The Complete Library of Christian Worship and Renew Your Worship! and a complete audio and video series based on his Renew Your Worship workshops. He is also a regular contributor to numerous magazines, journals and newspapers.

Prior to his appointment as the William R. and Geraldyne B. Myers Chair of Ministry at Northern Baptist Seminary, Dr. Webber taught at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) for 32 years as Professor of Theology. Dr. Webber brought leadership to the Master of Arts in Worship and Spirituality and the Doctor of Ministry specialization in worship. Both degrees appeal to church staff responsible for worship and pastors who want to develop expertise in the area of worship.

Robert passed away from pancreatic cancer on 26 April 2007. I feel a deep sense of loss as I have hoped to be able to meet up with him to discuss his ideas about the Ancient-Future Faith. It would have been a good fellowship.

I have enjoyed his book The Younger Evangelicals (2002) where he hightlights the challenges facing evangelicalism today, and also in what I thought an unusual move, identitifed by names some evangelicals that he hope will help change the landscape of evangelicalism. My special interests is in his series of the Ancient Future Church series. I like his provocative statement that in order for the church to move forward, it first must look backwards. What he meant is that we must not neglect the rich heritage of the ancient church.He planned a series of books on Ancient Future Church and published Ancient Future Faith (1999), Ancient Future Evangelism (2003), Ancient Future Time (2004). By then he was very sick and managed to finish The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. (2006). We have lost a scholar and a friend.

Boys' Brigade Enrolment Service 2007

Boys’ Brigade Enrolment Day Service 2007
Topic: You are Special
Text: Psalm 139: 13-16

Sunday Sermon
29 April 2007
Holy Light Church





Summary

One of the four pillars in BB of the building of Christian character is self-respect. We have self-respect because we are special. We are special because God has specially created us in the past, God knows who we are now, and God knows whom we will be. And God has a good plan for our lives.

Text
PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Introduction
William Alexander Smith was born in Thurso, Scotland in 1854. He moved to Glasgow in his teens and became involved in church activities. William was also a lieutenant in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1883 while he was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. While working with the children in church, he discovered the need for wholesome activities for children outside school hours. William Smith shared his ideas with his two friends, which later invited boys from North Woodside Mission Sabbath School and formed the first company of The Boys' Brigade, 1st Glasgow Company on 4th of October 1883. It is the world's first uniform organization, even before the Scouts.

William was the first Brigade Secretary in 1887 where he worked towards spreading the Brigade across the world. In 1909, King Edward VII knighted William Smith for his contribution towards youth development. Five years later, Sir William Alexander Smith passed away. Throughout his lifetime, Sir William A. Smith poured out everything he has into BB and he is best remembered as the man who spells Boy with a capital 'B'.

The original object of the Boys' Brigade is the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tend towards a true Christian manliness. Christian “manliness” was developed by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious classes.

Motto
SURE & STEDFAST (taken from Hebrews 6:19). The original Old English (King James Version) spelling of "Stedfast" has been retained.




Emblem
The emblem is original an anchor. Like the motto it stems from the verse "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19)

Object
The Advancement of Christ's Kingdom among members and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Character.

Imagine a table. A table has four legs. Each of these legs needs to be of equal length or the table may not be stable. So it is like for a Christian character. It has four pillars: obedience, reverence, discipline and self-respect. The BB will teach you how to build these pillars.

Today we shall teach you about developing one good habits of the Boys’ Brigade- Self-respect.

We have self-respect because we are special. We are special because

(1) God specially created us in our past
Psalm 139:13, 15
PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,


Do you know how special you are? God knows all about you before you are born. In fact, God created you. God made you specially. God made only one of you. We are not custom made like a car, a Proton Gen2 (a made in Malaysian car) in a factory. The case is assembled from identical parts. Each car that leaves the factory is the same. We are not like that. God make each of us different. Some are tall, some short. Some of black, some yellow, some brown and others, white. We have blue eye, brown eyes, green eyes, or black eyes. Some are very smart, good with their brains while others are good with their hands. Each of us is special. Each of us is unique. There is not another one like us in the whole world. There is not another one like you in the whole world and there will never be another.

(2) God is interested is who we are at present.
Psalm 130:14-15
PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Who are you? You are you. There no other you. God says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What does this mean? Fearfully does not mean that you are very scary but that those who see you are astonished. “What, that’s special.” Wonderful is because it is so great. You are special because God has made you special. You may not feel very special now. You may not like the pimples on your face. You are not happy that you are so short, so skinny, or too far. Well, at this moment that’s who you are at this moment. You are a work in progress. You are like a caterpillar. You know that hairy, yukky thing. I am sure the caterpillar feels the same. I am a hairy, yukky thing. One day however, it will form a cocoon around itself. And then a beautiful butterfly will emerge.

(3) God knows who we will be in the future.
Palm 139:16
PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God who forms you in the past, see you now, also sees you in the future. To God, the past, present and future are like an open book. God can see you in the future and he knows what you will be in the future. That is because you are special. Everything God make is good.

Lessons for us
We are special. We have self-respect because we are special. Just because we
*do not come from a rich family,
*do not have a loving family,
*family where our parents are always quarreling,
*a father who is in debt to the loan sharks,
*a father who left the family,
*we are always at the bottom of the class,
*our teachers do not like us,
*we have to work after school to help the family,
*we are always being bullied,
do not mean that we are not special. It does not matter what other people thinks of us. It matters what God thinks of us. God thinks you are special. The officers of the BB think you are special. That is why they care about you. That is why they sacrifice their time t look after you. And that is all that matters.

Because you are special you need to build up your self-respect. Your self respect we who you think you are. Here are some of the things you need to do,
*take part in all BB activities,
*respect and learn from your officers,
*build your character (remember what the four pillars of character building: obedience, reverence, discipline, self-esteem),
*get to know who God is,
*say no to drugs,
*say no to smoking,
*say no to gambling,
*say no premarital sex,
*say no to mixing with gangs,
*study hard,
*take care of your body,
because God and all of us are interested in whom you will become.

Conclusion

The Boys’ Brigade is a special organization because everyone in it is special. Everyone in it is a BB boy or a BB girl. The church is also a special organization. Everyone in it is a saint. To become a saint, you must get to know Jesus Christ. That is your mission. You are special because God has made you special. Jesus Christ is special because he is God. It is your mission as a BB to get to know Jesus Christ. He is your commander in chief. You know your have your officers, your Captain, your General. Well, Jesus Christ is your commander in chief or your chief commander. All you officers, captains, and generals report to him. You are so special that your command in chief died for you. That’s how special you are. It is your mission as BB to get to know him.



Soli deo gloria

Boys' Brigade Enrolment Service 2007

Boys’ Brigade Enrolment Day Service 2007
Topic: You are Special
Text: Psalm 139: 13-16

Sunday Sermon
29 April 2007
Holy Light Church





Summary

One of the four pillars in BB of the building of Christian character is self-respect. We have self-respect because we are special. We are special because God has specially created us in the past, God knows who we are now, and God knows whom we will be. And God has a good plan for our lives.

Text
PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Introduction
William Alexander Smith was born in Thurso, Scotland in 1854. He moved to Glasgow in his teens and became involved in church activities. William was also a lieutenant in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1883 while he was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. While working with the children in church, he discovered the need for wholesome activities for children outside school hours. William Smith shared his ideas with his two friends, which later invited boys from North Woodside Mission Sabbath School and formed the first company of The Boys' Brigade, 1st Glasgow Company on 4th of October 1883. It is the world's first uniform organization, even before the Scouts.

William was the first Brigade Secretary in 1887 where he worked towards spreading the Brigade across the world. In 1909, King Edward VII knighted William Smith for his contribution towards youth development. Five years later, Sir William Alexander Smith passed away. Throughout his lifetime, Sir William A. Smith poured out everything he has into BB and he is best remembered as the man who spells Boy with a capital 'B'.

The original object of the Boys' Brigade is the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tend towards a true Christian manliness. Christian “manliness” was developed by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious classes.

Motto
SURE & STEDFAST (taken from Hebrews 6:19). The original Old English (King James Version) spelling of "Stedfast" has been retained.




Emblem
The emblem is original an anchor. Like the motto it stems from the verse "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19)

Object
The Advancement of Christ's Kingdom among members and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Character.

Imagine a table. A table has four legs. Each of these legs needs to be of equal length or the table may not be stable. So it is like for a Christian character. It has four pillars: obedience, reverence, discipline and self-respect. The BB will teach you how to build these pillars.

Today we shall teach you about developing one good habits of the Boys’ Brigade- Self-respect.

We have self-respect because we are special. We are special because

(1) God specially created us in our past
Psalm 139:13, 15
PS 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
PS 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,


Do you know how special you are? God knows all about you before you are born. In fact, God created you. God made you specially. God made only one of you. We are not custom made like a car, a Proton Gen2 (a made in Malaysian car) in a factory. The case is assembled from identical parts. Each car that leaves the factory is the same. We are not like that. God make each of us different. Some are tall, some short. Some of black, some yellow, some brown and others, white. We have blue eye, brown eyes, green eyes, or black eyes. Some are very smart, good with their brains while others are good with their hands. Each of us is special. Each of us is unique. There is not another one like us in the whole world. There is not another one like you in the whole world and there will never be another.

(2) God is interested is who we are at present.
Psalm 130:14-15
PS 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Who are you? You are you. There no other you. God says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What does this mean? Fearfully does not mean that you are very scary but that those who see you are astonished. “What, that’s special.” Wonderful is because it is so great. You are special because God has made you special. You may not feel very special now. You may not like the pimples on your face. You are not happy that you are so short, so skinny, or too far. Well, at this moment that’s who you are at this moment. You are a work in progress. You are like a caterpillar. You know that hairy, yukky thing. I am sure the caterpillar feels the same. I am a hairy, yukky thing. One day however, it will form a cocoon around itself. And then a beautiful butterfly will emerge.

(3) God knows who we will be in the future.
Palm 139:16
PS 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God who forms you in the past, see you now, also sees you in the future. To God, the past, present and future are like an open book. God can see you in the future and he knows what you will be in the future. That is because you are special. Everything God make is good.

Lessons for us
We are special. We have self-respect because we are special. Just because we
*do not come from a rich family,
*do not have a loving family,
*family where our parents are always quarreling,
*a father who is in debt to the loan sharks,
*a father who left the family,
*we are always at the bottom of the class,
*our teachers do not like us,
*we have to work after school to help the family,
*we are always being bullied,
do not mean that we are not special. It does not matter what other people thinks of us. It matters what God thinks of us. God thinks you are special. The officers of the BB think you are special. That is why they care about you. That is why they sacrifice their time t look after you. And that is all that matters.

Because you are special you need to build up your self-respect. Your self respect we who you think you are. Here are some of the things you need to do,
*take part in all BB activities,
*respect and learn from your officers,
*build your character (remember what the four pillars of character building: obedience, reverence, discipline, self-esteem),
*get to know who God is,
*say no to drugs,
*say no to smoking,
*say no to gambling,
*say no premarital sex,
*say no to mixing with gangs,
*study hard,
*take care of your body,
because God and all of us are interested in whom you will become.

Conclusion

The Boys’ Brigade is a special organization because everyone in it is special. Everyone in it is a BB boy or a BB girl. The church is also a special organization. Everyone in it is a saint. To become a saint, you must get to know Jesus Christ. That is your mission. You are special because God has made you special. Jesus Christ is special because he is God. It is your mission as a BB to get to know Jesus Christ. He is your commander in chief. You know your have your officers, your Captain, your General. Well, Jesus Christ is your commander in chief or your chief commander. All you officers, captains, and generals report to him. You are so special that your command in chief died for you. That’s how special you are. It is your mission as BB to get to know him.



Soli deo gloria

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Buddhists Look at Christianity


I find these two books very interesting. One is by the Dalai Lama and the other by Thich Nhat Hanh. These are not new books but were written many years ago.
Rereading these books, I cannot helped but be conscious of how gracious these two Buddhist leaders are in writing about Christianity, or more specifically about the teachings of Jesus Christ.
They gave praise where praise are due. In areas of disagreement, they agree to disagree, without condemnation, without a sense of superiority, and without being condescending.
I do wish Christian writers about Buddhism show them the same courtesy.
.

Buddhists Look at Christianity


I find these two books very interesting. One is by the Dalai Lama and the other by Thich Nhat Hanh. These are not new books but were written many years ago.
Rereading these books, I cannot helped but be conscious of how gracious these two Buddhist leaders are in writing about Christianity, or more specifically about the teachings of Jesus Christ.
They gave praise where praise are due. In areas of disagreement, they agree to disagree, without condemnation, without a sense of superiority, and without being condescending.
I do wish Christian writers about Buddhism show them the same courtesy.
.

Christian Movies or Movie Christians?

The recent runaway success on Christian or 'faith' based movies like The Passion of the Christ and Facing the Giants has Hollywood turning their focus on 'Christian' movies.

Recently Christian movies makers and producers debated this at a Biola Media Conference. Jeffrey Overstreet reports on this in Christians as a 'Niche' Market.

Some of the suggestions are


The idea of marketing "faith-based" entertainment specifically to Christians has inspired a wave of new "niche market" ideas, many of which were discussed by conference guests. Some even spoke about the possibility of a new movie theater chain: separate cinemas for Christians, built within churches.


Wow. Talk about an idea brought too far. But apparently these are serious suggestions. There are still many unanswered questions.

Will "faith-based" film departments produce lights that shine in the darkness, or will they ultimately hide them under a bushel—being seen only by a Christian audience?

Will Christian movies establish a reputation for truth, courage, and uncompromising artistic standards? Or will they produce shoddy sermons, airbrush the reality of the Christian experience, and perhaps only pander to what audiences want to see?

Will faith-oriented films have a significant, lasting influence in Hollywood? Or will they be disposable, forgotten within ten years?

And what about success? What will Christian filmmakers do if they succeed the way Facing the Giants did, turning a $100,000 project into a $10 million box office surprise? Is financial success a sign of God's blessing, a sign of merely appealing to a niche market's wants, or a reflection of an audience that doesn't demand artistic excellence?

Many of these questions will only be answered through the successes, failures, and testimonies of those who blaze new trails for Christian media.

The Biola conference's theme this year was, "Gold Rush: Mining for Opportunity in the New Hollywood." Screenwriter Craig Detweiler, the conference host, summed it all up when he welcomed attendees with this question:

"Have we hit the mother lode, or will we fall for fool's gold?"
.

Christian Movies or Movie Christians?

The recent runaway success on Christian or 'faith' based movies like The Passion of the Christ and Facing the Giants has Hollywood turning their focus on 'Christian' movies.

Recently Christian movies makers and producers debated this at a Biola Media Conference. Jeffrey Overstreet reports on this in Christians as a 'Niche' Market.

Some of the suggestions are


The idea of marketing "faith-based" entertainment specifically to Christians has inspired a wave of new "niche market" ideas, many of which were discussed by conference guests. Some even spoke about the possibility of a new movie theater chain: separate cinemas for Christians, built within churches.


Wow. Talk about an idea brought too far. But apparently these are serious suggestions. There are still many unanswered questions.

Will "faith-based" film departments produce lights that shine in the darkness, or will they ultimately hide them under a bushel—being seen only by a Christian audience?

Will Christian movies establish a reputation for truth, courage, and uncompromising artistic standards? Or will they produce shoddy sermons, airbrush the reality of the Christian experience, and perhaps only pander to what audiences want to see?

Will faith-oriented films have a significant, lasting influence in Hollywood? Or will they be disposable, forgotten within ten years?

And what about success? What will Christian filmmakers do if they succeed the way Facing the Giants did, turning a $100,000 project into a $10 million box office surprise? Is financial success a sign of God's blessing, a sign of merely appealing to a niche market's wants, or a reflection of an audience that doesn't demand artistic excellence?

Many of these questions will only be answered through the successes, failures, and testimonies of those who blaze new trails for Christian media.

The Biola conference's theme this year was, "Gold Rush: Mining for Opportunity in the New Hollywood." Screenwriter Craig Detweiler, the conference host, summed it all up when he welcomed attendees with this question:

"Have we hit the mother lode, or will we fall for fool's gold?"
.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Lesson about Statistics


This is a story from Anthony de Mello's Taking Flight: A Book of Meditations (New York:Image, 1988.


I like it because it teaches me an important lesson about believing statistics others tell us.

Nasruddin was arrested and taken to court on the charge that he was stuffing horsemeat into the chicken cutlets he served at his restaurant.

Before passing sentence, the judge wanted to know what in what proportion he was mixing the horsemeat with chicken flesh. Nasruddin said, on oath, "It was fifty-fifty, Your Honor."

After the trial, a friend asked what exactly was "fifty-fifty" meant. Said Nasruddin, "One horse to one chicken."
(p.177)


.

A Lesson about Statistics


This is a story from Anthony de Mello's Taking Flight: A Book of Meditations (New York:Image, 1988.


I like it because it teaches me an important lesson about believing statistics others tell us.

Nasruddin was arrested and taken to court on the charge that he was stuffing horsemeat into the chicken cutlets he served at his restaurant.

Before passing sentence, the judge wanted to know what in what proportion he was mixing the horsemeat with chicken flesh. Nasruddin said, on oath, "It was fifty-fifty, Your Honor."

After the trial, a friend asked what exactly was "fifty-fifty" meant. Said Nasruddin, "One horse to one chicken."
(p.177)


.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Seven Lessons I Learnt Playing Command and Conquer 3

Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars


Command and Conquer is a real time strategy (RTS) computer game where you choose to play the good guys (Strategic Defense Initiative) or the bad guys (Brotherhood of Nod). The bad guys want to take over the world while the good guys want to preserve freedom. The year is 2047, seventeen years after the last wars as played in Command and Conquer: Tiberium Sun. Tiberium, a toxic but powerful substance is destroying the earth’s ecosystem, replacing carbon based substance with itself. However, it is also a powerful source of energy. This game is developed by Electronic Arts and powered by SAGE gaming engine.

Each player starts with a basic construction module and a limited amount of money. He or she must build a refinery to mine tiberium to convert that to money. With money, the player can build barracks to train soldiers, war factory to build vehicles, tech centre to conduct research to upgrade weapons and buildings, and watchtowers to defend the base. One can play online against real ‘human’ opponents or with the artificial intelligent (AI) that come with the program. I had to go over to Singapore to get an original program (it is almost impossible to get original game programs where I live). I was playing the good guys (of course) and it took me 5 days and nights (with time out for work, eating, sleeping, reading) to finish the campaign. I was against the AI set at medium difficulty and without using cheat codes (honest!).

What are some of the lessons I have learn from playing this computer game?

(1) Keep your energy source close to your base. Build your refinery near to tiberium rich fields so that the harvesters do not have to go far. I wonder what in your life give you energy? I get my energy from pleasing God, being with my family, and from my passion: teaching and preaching the Word of God. I find that if I stray from my source of energy, my resources get depleted very fast and the enemy can easily defeat me. That is why I have to constantly remind myself to keep close to my source of energy. The refinery is converting tiberium to energy. Praying, studying the Word, centering, silence, practicing the spiritual disciplines, and keep building up the relationship with God and with members of my family are energy giving.


(2) Try to upgrade your assets as fast as possible. In the game, it is possible to upgrade your assets until you have space based weapons like ion cannon and shockwave artillery. I find that I too need to upgrade myself constantly. The world is changing very fast. This game with its movies clips of live actors is an example of the improvement computers games have made in the span of a few years. Anybody remember computer ping-pong? It even has an AI that learns from my moves. After placing my refinery at a certain spot a few times, the next time I did that I find the enemies hiding in the tiberium field in ambush! Upgrade means I have not only have to learn what is going on outside in the world; new technology, globalisation, and religious pluralism, but also what is going on inside of me. Am I becoming more Christ-like? Am I listening to the Holy Spirit? Am I developing the spiritual gifts that God has given me? Am I improving my mind by embarking on an intentional course of study, thinking critically about issues and reflecting on their application in my life? All these are important questions to ask if we are to be continuing upgrading to become who we are meant to be.

(3) Mix your attack force with vehicles and soldiers of different abilities. Soldiers come with machine guns, rocket launchers and special armours. Vehicles include troop carrier armed with machine guns, light tanks, heavy armour tanks, and walking artillery platforms called Juggernaut. An attack force that consists of heavy armour tanks will be easily defeated, even though they are powerful weapons. A mixed force of all types of vehicles and soldiers are harder to defeat. Reminds me of the armour of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. There are many components of the armour. Individually they are weak but used together, it is powerful; defensive and offensive. The problem is that we have always being taught that the armour of God is for individuals. Paul however uses the plural in the Greek. The armour of God is for the whole church. The church put on the armour. However it does assume that the church is united, something which Paul was teaching in the earlier chapters. If the church is not united, the armour of God is useless and we have already lost the war.

(4) Protect your base. An important lesson as the enemies always attack the base. We need to protect our families, ourselves, our leaders, and each other. This calls for showing caring and concern, hospitality, accountability, prayer support, and emotional support. Our church or small groups are our bases. That is where the enemy will concentrate their attacks.

(5) If you are defeated, try again. Failures are common if we are human. Even Jesus has failures in his ministry. Falling down is something we cannot avoid. Lying down and refusing to get up is not an option. In the game, I have had to save often, try different tactics, and persist until victory is achieved. In one mission, I have to set up a base while under constant attack from three different directions! It took me 4 hours of repeating until I finally manage to build my base. We need persistence if any worthwhile project is to be achieved. If we have a dream, we need to continually work for it. Defeat just means we try another way.

(6) Do not use the tiberium bomb. In the final mission, which is the most difficult, the player is offered an easy way to win. A tiberium bomb is given. All he or she has to do is to drop it on the enemy base and the war is won. The only side effect is that it will ignite all the tiberium. This will cause a chain reaction which will end in the destruction of the world. Be careful of the easy way out. Be careful of the easy way to get rich, become famous, or respectable by compromising your principles. It will always backfire and destroy your world, and also others who love you. Winning is not everything.


(7) The game play is unpredictable. There are five different AI programs in the game. Each AI has a different personality; balance, rusher, turtle, guerrilla, and steam roller. You never know which AI you will come up against. And in the middle of the game when victory over the enemy is almost within your grasp, earth was invaded by an alien force! Life is unpredictable. We never know what will happen tomorrow. What we have is the present. Let us live in the present rather than the future. Let us appreciate and love our spouses and children
while it is still now. May we be content with what we have. Let us appreciate what God has given us and embrace them as gifts to be enjoyed, rather than a right to be exploited.

I have enjoyed the game. It was fun, even during the frustration when my computer rebooted itself before I can save. This is something I indulge in once in a while when there is a good game available. And I have learnt some valuable lessons. Nuff said.

Seven Lessons I Learnt Playing Command and Conquer 3

Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars


Command and Conquer is a real time strategy (RTS) computer game where you choose to play the good guys (Strategic Defense Initiative) or the bad guys (Brotherhood of Nod). The bad guys want to take over the world while the good guys want to preserve freedom. The year is 2047, seventeen years after the last wars as played in Command and Conquer: Tiberium Sun. Tiberium, a toxic but powerful substance is destroying the earth’s ecosystem, replacing carbon based substance with itself. However, it is also a powerful source of energy. This game is developed by Electronic Arts and powered by SAGE gaming engine.

Each player starts with a basic construction module and a limited amount of money. He or she must build a refinery to mine tiberium to convert that to money. With money, the player can build barracks to train soldiers, war factory to build vehicles, tech centre to conduct research to upgrade weapons and buildings, and watchtowers to defend the base. One can play online against real ‘human’ opponents or with the artificial intelligent (AI) that come with the program. I had to go over to Singapore to get an original program (it is almost impossible to get original game programs where I live). I was playing the good guys (of course) and it took me 5 days and nights (with time out for work, eating, sleeping, reading) to finish the campaign. I was against the AI set at medium difficulty and without using cheat codes (honest!).

What are some of the lessons I have learn from playing this computer game?

(1) Keep your energy source close to your base. Build your refinery near to tiberium rich fields so that the harvesters do not have to go far. I wonder what in your life give you energy? I get my energy from pleasing God, being with my family, and from my passion: teaching and preaching the Word of God. I find that if I stray from my source of energy, my resources get depleted very fast and the enemy can easily defeat me. That is why I have to constantly remind myself to keep close to my source of energy. The refinery is converting tiberium to energy. Praying, studying the Word, centering, silence, practicing the spiritual disciplines, and keep building up the relationship with God and with members of my family are energy giving.


(2) Try to upgrade your assets as fast as possible. In the game, it is possible to upgrade your assets until you have space based weapons like ion cannon and shockwave artillery. I find that I too need to upgrade myself constantly. The world is changing very fast. This game with its movies clips of live actors is an example of the improvement computers games have made in the span of a few years. Anybody remember computer ping-pong? It even has an AI that learns from my moves. After placing my refinery at a certain spot a few times, the next time I did that I find the enemies hiding in the tiberium field in ambush! Upgrade means I have not only have to learn what is going on outside in the world; new technology, globalisation, and religious pluralism, but also what is going on inside of me. Am I becoming more Christ-like? Am I listening to the Holy Spirit? Am I developing the spiritual gifts that God has given me? Am I improving my mind by embarking on an intentional course of study, thinking critically about issues and reflecting on their application in my life? All these are important questions to ask if we are to be continuing upgrading to become who we are meant to be.

(3) Mix your attack force with vehicles and soldiers of different abilities. Soldiers come with machine guns, rocket launchers and special armours. Vehicles include troop carrier armed with machine guns, light tanks, heavy armour tanks, and walking artillery platforms called Juggernaut. An attack force that consists of heavy armour tanks will be easily defeated, even though they are powerful weapons. A mixed force of all types of vehicles and soldiers are harder to defeat. Reminds me of the armour of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. There are many components of the armour. Individually they are weak but used together, it is powerful; defensive and offensive. The problem is that we have always being taught that the armour of God is for individuals. Paul however uses the plural in the Greek. The armour of God is for the whole church. The church put on the armour. However it does assume that the church is united, something which Paul was teaching in the earlier chapters. If the church is not united, the armour of God is useless and we have already lost the war.

(4) Protect your base. An important lesson as the enemies always attack the base. We need to protect our families, ourselves, our leaders, and each other. This calls for showing caring and concern, hospitality, accountability, prayer support, and emotional support. Our church or small groups are our bases. That is where the enemy will concentrate their attacks.

(5) If you are defeated, try again. Failures are common if we are human. Even Jesus has failures in his ministry. Falling down is something we cannot avoid. Lying down and refusing to get up is not an option. In the game, I have had to save often, try different tactics, and persist until victory is achieved. In one mission, I have to set up a base while under constant attack from three different directions! It took me 4 hours of repeating until I finally manage to build my base. We need persistence if any worthwhile project is to be achieved. If we have a dream, we need to continually work for it. Defeat just means we try another way.

(6) Do not use the tiberium bomb. In the final mission, which is the most difficult, the player is offered an easy way to win. A tiberium bomb is given. All he or she has to do is to drop it on the enemy base and the war is won. The only side effect is that it will ignite all the tiberium. This will cause a chain reaction which will end in the destruction of the world. Be careful of the easy way out. Be careful of the easy way to get rich, become famous, or respectable by compromising your principles. It will always backfire and destroy your world, and also others who love you. Winning is not everything.


(7) The game play is unpredictable. There are five different AI programs in the game. Each AI has a different personality; balance, rusher, turtle, guerrilla, and steam roller. You never know which AI you will come up against. And in the middle of the game when victory over the enemy is almost within your grasp, earth was invaded by an alien force! Life is unpredictable. We never know what will happen tomorrow. What we have is the present. Let us live in the present rather than the future. Let us appreciate and love our spouses and children
while it is still now. May we be content with what we have. Let us appreciate what God has given us and embrace them as gifts to be enjoyed, rather than a right to be exploited.

I have enjoyed the game. It was fun, even during the frustration when my computer rebooted itself before I can save. This is something I indulge in once in a while when there is a good game available. And I have learnt some valuable lessons. Nuff said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Discovering God in Ancient China


There have been a number of books on God's fingerprints in ancient China which came out in recent years. The new book by Thong Chan Kei with Charlene Fu is published this year, 2007.

It is an interesting book but most of what Thong writes about have been published by others before.


Some examples are:

* The Chinese language i.e. certain Chinese words show correlation with certain events that happened in the book of Genesis.

*The old name for China was Shen Zhou which can be translated as God's country.

*The ritual sacrifice and prayers at the Temple of Heaven have similarity with the blood covenant in the Old Testament.

*The Chinese emperors were called "sons of heaven"and were regarded as mediators between Shang Ti and the Chinese Han people.


A meticulous written book but needed more research to support the many assumptions.


.

Discovering God in Ancient China


There have been a number of books on God's fingerprints in ancient China which came out in recent years. The new book by Thong Chan Kei with Charlene Fu is published this year, 2007.

It is an interesting book but most of what Thong writes about have been published by others before.


Some examples are:

* The Chinese language i.e. certain Chinese words show correlation with certain events that happened in the book of Genesis.

*The old name for China was Shen Zhou which can be translated as God's country.

*The ritual sacrifice and prayers at the Temple of Heaven have similarity with the blood covenant in the Old Testament.

*The Chinese emperors were called "sons of heaven"and were regarded as mediators between Shang Ti and the Chinese Han people.


A meticulous written book but needed more research to support the many assumptions.


.

The Batman: The Complete Third Season


This cartoon series The Batman comes after Batman: The Animated Series which ran for 4 seasons. There is a revamp of the drawings. While Batman: The Animated Series shows a square jaw Batman, this cartoon series shows a younger Batman/Bruce Wayne. Actually this Bruce Wayne has oriental features and looks like a young Bruce Lee! Must be the influence of Asian, mostly Koreans graphic animators.


This series shows a younger Batman, and the storyline takes off where the movie, Batman Begins ends. However this Batman has cooler gadgets. The villains like the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Clayface and the rest looks different and are more aggressive. Imagine Penguin fighting and you know what I mean.


This is the third season. Batgirl/Babara Gordon joins an unwilling Batman (who is unwilling to take on a sidekick) to fight Joker, Penguin, Scarface, Gearhead, and an assortment of other criminals to keep Gotham City safe. There are 13 episodes and some episodes are quite funny. I like the one in which Joker stole Bane's device and uses it on himself! A Bane like muscular Joker is fun to watch. And they also introduced a new batmobile and batplane. Cool.


This is the DC Comic Kids Collection. Just right for me.


.

The Batman: The Complete Third Season


This cartoon series The Batman comes after Batman: The Animated Series which ran for 4 seasons. There is a revamp of the drawings. While Batman: The Animated Series shows a square jaw Batman, this cartoon series shows a younger Batman/Bruce Wayne. Actually this Bruce Wayne has oriental features and looks like a young Bruce Lee! Must be the influence of Asian, mostly Koreans graphic animators.


This series shows a younger Batman, and the storyline takes off where the movie, Batman Begins ends. However this Batman has cooler gadgets. The villains like the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Clayface and the rest looks different and are more aggressive. Imagine Penguin fighting and you know what I mean.


This is the third season. Batgirl/Babara Gordon joins an unwilling Batman (who is unwilling to take on a sidekick) to fight Joker, Penguin, Scarface, Gearhead, and an assortment of other criminals to keep Gotham City safe. There are 13 episodes and some episodes are quite funny. I like the one in which Joker stole Bane's device and uses it on himself! A Bane like muscular Joker is fun to watch. And they also introduced a new batmobile and batplane. Cool.


This is the DC Comic Kids Collection. Just right for me.


.

All That Matters


Cliff Richard: The 40th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1998. One of the songs sung by Cliff Richard was All That Matters. The lyrics truck a chord in me.


All That Matters


The love in you and the love in me, is all that matters
All the rest is vanity
That time will shatter
The only treasure in the life we live, is the measure of the love we give


All that matters in the end will be
The love in you and the love in me, that's all that matters


Every heart must change it's shape
To fit the space a lifetime makes
Some regrets and some mistakes
We touch happiness but we can't hold her


Feelings come and then disappear
I know the laughter, I've cried those tears
I should know better after all these years
But I'm no wiser, I'm just older


It's all a question of priority
We've got so much that we just don't need
But if it ain't got love then it's luxury
We can learn to live without it


lyrics by Paul Field

All That Matters


Cliff Richard: The 40th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1998. One of the songs sung by Cliff Richard was All That Matters. The lyrics truck a chord in me.


All That Matters


The love in you and the love in me, is all that matters
All the rest is vanity
That time will shatter
The only treasure in the life we live, is the measure of the love we give


All that matters in the end will be
The love in you and the love in me, that's all that matters


Every heart must change it's shape
To fit the space a lifetime makes
Some regrets and some mistakes
We touch happiness but we can't hold her


Feelings come and then disappear
I know the laughter, I've cried those tears
I should know better after all these years
But I'm no wiser, I'm just older


It's all a question of priority
We've got so much that we just don't need
But if it ain't got love then it's luxury
We can learn to live without it


lyrics by Paul Field

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Love Affair with Amazon.com


Happiness is coming home and discovering a box full of books from amazon.com sitting on my study table. My love affair with amazon.com started many years ago when they first started as an online bookstore. These were wonderful days of passion because they only sell books and nothing else. I would spent hours browsing her stocks, looking at the covers and aching to read the contents between them. Then come the selecting, the buying, and then the waiting. After months, the books will arrive in pristine condition, clean and well protected in bubble wrappers in their distinctive boxes.

Amazon.com appreciated me then. Not the logarithm automatic type of appreciation that appears when I log in nowadays. Those days, they send me Christmas cards and coffee mugs with the amazon.com logos. Ah, the honeymoon period was wonderful.

Then amazon.com became successful and famous for making it as an online bookstore. Amazon.com began selling other stuff aside from their books. Initially one or two DVD will slip into the catalogue. Then whole new departments started appearing. The book department began to shrink. It has become an online shopping mall rather than a bookstore. Oh, how it hurts when amazon.com left her first love, books.

No longer do I get the lingering attention I longed for. The interface become more user friendly but not lover friendly. It takes longer for books to arrive nowadays. Books arrive dirty and tattered, wrapped in plastic over a cardboard.

Like a jaded lover, I have been discarded for a bigger market and reduced to a line of code. Ah, amazon.com the online bookstore. How have I loved thee and I love thee still.

.

My Love Affair with Amazon.com


Happiness is coming home and discovering a box full of books from amazon.com sitting on my study table. My love affair with amazon.com started many years ago when they first started as an online bookstore. These were wonderful days of passion because they only sell books and nothing else. I would spent hours browsing her stocks, looking at the covers and aching to read the contents between them. Then come the selecting, the buying, and then the waiting. After months, the books will arrive in pristine condition, clean and well protected in bubble wrappers in their distinctive boxes.

Amazon.com appreciated me then. Not the logarithm automatic type of appreciation that appears when I log in nowadays. Those days, they send me Christmas cards and coffee mugs with the amazon.com logos. Ah, the honeymoon period was wonderful.

Then amazon.com became successful and famous for making it as an online bookstore. Amazon.com began selling other stuff aside from their books. Initially one or two DVD will slip into the catalogue. Then whole new departments started appearing. The book department began to shrink. It has become an online shopping mall rather than a bookstore. Oh, how it hurts when amazon.com left her first love, books.

No longer do I get the lingering attention I longed for. The interface become more user friendly but not lover friendly. It takes longer for books to arrive nowadays. Books arrive dirty and tattered, wrapped in plastic over a cardboard.

Like a jaded lover, I have been discarded for a bigger market and reduced to a line of code. Ah, amazon.com the online bookstore. How have I loved thee and I love thee still.

.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Spiritual Heart Attack

I cannot resist not posting another story from Anthony Mello's The Song of the Bird

Uncle Tom had a weak heart and the doctor had warned him to be very careful. So when the family learned that he had inherited a billion dollars from a deceased relative they feared to break the news to him lest the news give him a heart attack.

So they sought the services of the local pastor, who assured then that he would find a way. "Tell me, Tom," said Father Murphy, "if God, in his mercy, were to send you a billion dollars, what would you do with it?"

"I'd give half to the Church, Father."

When he heard that, Father Murphy had a heart attack!

When the industrialist had a heart attack from pushing his industrial empire it was easy to show him his greed and selfishness. When the priest had a heart attack from pushing the Kingdom of God it was impossible to show him that it was greed and selfishness in another, more respectable disguise. Is it the Kingdom you are pushing or yourself? The Kingdom needs no pushing. Your anxiety betrays you, does it not?

.

The Spiritual Heart Attack

I cannot resist not posting another story from Anthony Mello's The Song of the Bird

Uncle Tom had a weak heart and the doctor had warned him to be very careful. So when the family learned that he had inherited a billion dollars from a deceased relative they feared to break the news to him lest the news give him a heart attack.

So they sought the services of the local pastor, who assured then that he would find a way. "Tell me, Tom," said Father Murphy, "if God, in his mercy, were to send you a billion dollars, what would you do with it?"

"I'd give half to the Church, Father."

When he heard that, Father Murphy had a heart attack!

When the industrialist had a heart attack from pushing his industrial empire it was easy to show him his greed and selfishness. When the priest had a heart attack from pushing the Kingdom of God it was impossible to show him that it was greed and selfishness in another, more respectable disguise. Is it the Kingdom you are pushing or yourself? The Kingdom needs no pushing. Your anxiety betrays you, does it not?

.

Council of Churches of Malaysia is 60 years old


Last night attended the celebration dinner of the 60th anniversary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia(CCM) at Pulai Springs Resort in Johor Bahru. This was held in conjunction with the 12th Triennial General Assembly of CCM which was held from 23-26 April 2007.


It was an interesting event because it was unusual to see so many bishops, archbishops, priests, pastors, and lay leaders from different denominations and traditions together in one room. This is ecumenism at its best.


Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) is an ecumenical fellowship of Churches and Christian Organisations in Malaysia. It is one of the three constituent members of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).


The message "that they may all be one ... that the world may believe" (Jesus' prayer for this followers, from John 17:21)

The task of churches together :

To provide witness to the unity which Christ desires for his people.
To share witness together and build wholesome human communities where faith, hope and love are nurtured.
To offer prophetic witness for justice, peace and the integrity of God's whole creation.
To witness together with other Christian bodies, nationally and internationally, to advance the servant mission of Christ.

Action of churches together :

Heads of Churches Consultations
Ecumenical Pastors' Schools
Women's Conventions
Spiritual formation using ecumenical resources
Partnership in Mission
Relief aid to the suffering
Nurturing creative theological reflection in Malaysian and Asian context
Engaging in Faith and Order issues
Hosting national and international Consultations, Workshops and Conferences on contemporary issues
Holistic evangelism
from their website

The CCM is 10 years older than our country, Malaysia! The emphasis last night seems to be on fund raising for a new CCM headquarter building. Unfortunately not much was mentioned about the 60 years history of CCM. It will have been an interesting history that started at preindependent Malaya. I hope some Christian historian will take up the challenge to record the 60 years history. Will be a shame if it is lost and forgotten.

Council of Churches of Malaysia is 60 years old


Last night attended the celebration dinner of the 60th anniversary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia(CCM) at Pulai Springs Resort in Johor Bahru. This was held in conjunction with the 12th Triennial General Assembly of CCM which was held from 23-26 April 2007.


It was an interesting event because it was unusual to see so many bishops, archbishops, priests, pastors, and lay leaders from different denominations and traditions together in one room. This is ecumenism at its best.


Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) is an ecumenical fellowship of Churches and Christian Organisations in Malaysia. It is one of the three constituent members of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).


The message "that they may all be one ... that the world may believe" (Jesus' prayer for this followers, from John 17:21)

The task of churches together :

To provide witness to the unity which Christ desires for his people.
To share witness together and build wholesome human communities where faith, hope and love are nurtured.
To offer prophetic witness for justice, peace and the integrity of God's whole creation.
To witness together with other Christian bodies, nationally and internationally, to advance the servant mission of Christ.

Action of churches together :

Heads of Churches Consultations
Ecumenical Pastors' Schools
Women's Conventions
Spiritual formation using ecumenical resources
Partnership in Mission
Relief aid to the suffering
Nurturing creative theological reflection in Malaysian and Asian context
Engaging in Faith and Order issues
Hosting national and international Consultations, Workshops and Conferences on contemporary issues
Holistic evangelism
from their website

The CCM is 10 years older than our country, Malaysia! The emphasis last night seems to be on fund raising for a new CCM headquarter building. Unfortunately not much was mentioned about the 60 years history of CCM. It will have been an interesting history that started at preindependent Malaya. I hope some Christian historian will take up the challenge to record the 60 years history. Will be a shame if it is lost and forgotten.

Stories and Spiritual Formation


I love good stories. Good stories stimulate the emotions, challenge the intellect, and satisfy our hunger for the adventure and exploration. Stories teach us spiritual and moral lessons. Many of us have mental models which we adhere to. These act as filters or worldviews. Hence we only see what we want to see. Or in other words we only see what our minds through our mental models allow us to see. Anything that does not fit our mental models, we do not see.

That is why stories are an important means of communication. It cuts through our mental models into our subconscious. Jesus uses parables which are a form of stories. Stories are also used to teach in other religious traditions.

Anthony Mello was a Jesuit and well known spiritual director and retreat director. He died in 1987. Mello used many stories collected from different religious traditions to teach spiritual truths. He had published many books of collections of these stories, often adding his insight after the stories which I have found very valuable. The Song of the Bird is one of my personal favourite. Another must read is Sadbana:A Way to God.
Here is one story from The Song of the Bird

Wheat from Egyptian Tombs

A handful of wheat,

five thousand years old,
was found in the tomb
of one of the kings
of ancient Egypt.
Someone planted the grains
and, to the amazement of all,
the grains came to life


When a person is enlightened his or her words become like seeds, full of life and energy. And they can remain in seed form for centuries until they are sown in a receptive fertile heart.

I used to think the words of scripture were dead and dry. I know now that they are full of energy and life. But it was my heart that was stony and dead, so how could anything grow there?


A very good reflective question. Compare that to Jesus' parable of the sower, seeds and different soil. (Matt. 13:3-9)


.

Stories and Spiritual Formation


I love good stories. Good stories stimulate the emotions, challenge the intellect, and satisfy our hunger for the adventure and exploration. Stories teach us spiritual and moral lessons. Many of us have mental models which we adhere to. These act as filters or worldviews. Hence we only see what we want to see. Or in other words we only see what our minds through our mental models allow us to see. Anything that does not fit our mental models, we do not see.

That is why stories are an important means of communication. It cuts through our mental models into our subconscious. Jesus uses parables which are a form of stories. Stories are also used to teach in other religious traditions.

Anthony Mello was a Jesuit and well known spiritual director and retreat director. He died in 1987. Mello used many stories collected from different religious traditions to teach spiritual truths. He had published many books of collections of these stories, often adding his insight after the stories which I have found very valuable. The Song of the Bird is one of my personal favourite. Another must read is Sadbana:A Way to God.
Here is one story from The Song of the Bird

Wheat from Egyptian Tombs

A handful of wheat,

five thousand years old,
was found in the tomb
of one of the kings
of ancient Egypt.
Someone planted the grains
and, to the amazement of all,
the grains came to life


When a person is enlightened his or her words become like seeds, full of life and energy. And they can remain in seed form for centuries until they are sown in a receptive fertile heart.

I used to think the words of scripture were dead and dry. I know now that they are full of energy and life. But it was my heart that was stony and dead, so how could anything grow there?


A very good reflective question. Compare that to Jesus' parable of the sower, seeds and different soil. (Matt. 13:3-9)


.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lessons on Doing Doctorate Studies



Thanks to Sivin who points me to Michael Jensen who gave some interesting comments on The Blogging Parson: Twelve Steps For Doctoral Students on his blog, The Blogging Parson


Lessons I have learnt about doctoral study on the way:

1. Few books, but good. Learn to be a good re-reader rather than try to read absolutely everything. Who cares if you can read 1000s of mediocre books and articles? Find the best. Read them carefully.



2. It may not look it, but thinking is hard work. Thinking takes time to be good. So you will need rest, and holidays, and fun, and diversions. And these will actually help the work progress! Even TV is good.

3. Footnotes should be fun. Slathering everything in footnotes is a bad habit that helps nothing. References are sometimes necessary, but if a footnote is merely a sign of indecision - 'I couldn't work out whether to put it in or not, so I put in a footnote' - cut it out or add it in.

4. Don't wait for inspiration, start writing from day one! Getting words down on paper is really important, because you actaully do much of your thinking while you are writing. This business of leaving writing till the third year is weird to me.

5. Read outside you topic. Attend seminars and lectures. It is amazing how much benefit I have gained from this. It is amazing how unforeseen connections will spring up from completely unrelated contexts. Also, if you are aspiring to be a teacher in a certain area, use the free time to fill in the holes in your knowledge.

6. Find readers for your work/read others' work. Your supervisor will read your work twice a term, perhaps. You will need more than that! The price you might have to pay, is that you will have to read someone else's work: but the pay-off there is that it is comforting to see how they are struggling too!

7. Overcome the evangelical tendency to polemicise. We tend to see life as a series of battles between the forces of good and the forces of evil. But good scholarship is not about polemics first and foremost. Simple either/ors are a bad habit, because the truth is rarely that simple. Your work will gain in sophistication and ultimately in its polemical usefulness if you can avoid a 'goodies' /'badies' mentality.

8. Find surpring friends. Look for surprising agreements or harmonies with your work in other writers/thinkers. Show how someone completely different to you comes to the same conclusion. This is a very powerful strategy for apologetics, too.

9. Find the toughest opponent. Fall under their sway, if only for a week or two: be convinced by their case for a time. Then your reply will carry authority. Your work is only as strong as the opponents you defeat! My tendency when I started was to find any nutter to have a debate with, because debating nutters is always easier than debating reasonable people whose assumptions on the whole I share but who come to different conclusions...

10. Don't talk about you work when you don't feel up to it. One of the shattering experiences for a graduate student is when a family member or friend asks you, 'so, what are actually doing then'? and NOTHING COHERENT comes out of your mouth. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. And you walk away feeling very discouraged about it. Have a prepared speech perhaps! However: I have found writing and talking about my project in other contexts extremely helpful - I find blogging like this. It is a way of accessing other areas of your brain because it is writing/talking in a different mode, somehow.

11. Trust your methodological instincts; go with what you know. You got this far because you have some idea of what theological work is about. You have read quite a bit already. So, use what you already have to your advantage! I often feel intimdated by those theologians who know more philosophy than me (that's most of 'em): I forget that my training was far more in the area of biblical studies and biblical theology. I need to lean more on this, and see it as an advantage, while at the same time not neglecting to deepen my philosophical understanding.

12. Keep doing ministry. Keep serving the people of God, because the tendency of the doctoral student is to wallow in the solitary self-indulgence of it all. Keep preaching/teaching/ministering. After all, what are we doing it all for? If you aren't already doing some ministry in the church, my question is: what are doing entering into graduate theological study? Are you sure you are called to this?

Addenda: I was going to say something about prayer, but I feel foolish and not a little shame hectoring anyone about prayer. I was also going to say as matter of importance: learn to write well. There is an AWFUL lot of bad and unclear and dull writing out there. Write well.
(emphasis is mine)

I like his emphasis on reading a few good books. However I must add that one must read a few good books critically. Unfortunately this does not exclude reading the other 1000 books.

His comment on footnotes is interesting. I have been told that if it is good enough to be in the footnote, it should be in the text.

My greatest joy is to find friends or conversation partners. It never ceases to amaze me that some great world authority figure will take time to answer an email from a humble PhD student. We also need to find a 'devil's advocate', a friend who will mercilessly critique your writing.

Writing is hard work. However as Michael has pointed out, writing is essential because it helps us to think and focus so as to put our ideas onto paper (or word processing software). Then we need to revise, rearrange, rethink, rewrite, revise, and rewrite.

Michael's advice on keep doing ministry is controversial. There are some who advocate taking the 3 years off totally while there are others who advise to remain in ministry. Personally I feel that doing a doctorate is a timeout from ministry, a sabbathical. It should be time devoted solely to research, thinking and writing. Then, by the grace of God we should return to ministry a better person for it.


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Lessons on Doing Doctorate Studies



Thanks to Sivin who points me to Michael Jensen who gave some interesting comments on The Blogging Parson: Twelve Steps For Doctoral Students on his blog, The Blogging Parson


Lessons I have learnt about doctoral study on the way:

1. Few books, but good. Learn to be a good re-reader rather than try to read absolutely everything. Who cares if you can read 1000s of mediocre books and articles? Find the best. Read them carefully.



2. It may not look it, but thinking is hard work. Thinking takes time to be good. So you will need rest, and holidays, and fun, and diversions. And these will actually help the work progress! Even TV is good.

3. Footnotes should be fun. Slathering everything in footnotes is a bad habit that helps nothing. References are sometimes necessary, but if a footnote is merely a sign of indecision - 'I couldn't work out whether to put it in or not, so I put in a footnote' - cut it out or add it in.

4. Don't wait for inspiration, start writing from day one! Getting words down on paper is really important, because you actaully do much of your thinking while you are writing. This business of leaving writing till the third year is weird to me.

5. Read outside you topic. Attend seminars and lectures. It is amazing how much benefit I have gained from this. It is amazing how unforeseen connections will spring up from completely unrelated contexts. Also, if you are aspiring to be a teacher in a certain area, use the free time to fill in the holes in your knowledge.

6. Find readers for your work/read others' work. Your supervisor will read your work twice a term, perhaps. You will need more than that! The price you might have to pay, is that you will have to read someone else's work: but the pay-off there is that it is comforting to see how they are struggling too!

7. Overcome the evangelical tendency to polemicise. We tend to see life as a series of battles between the forces of good and the forces of evil. But good scholarship is not about polemics first and foremost. Simple either/ors are a bad habit, because the truth is rarely that simple. Your work will gain in sophistication and ultimately in its polemical usefulness if you can avoid a 'goodies' /'badies' mentality.

8. Find surpring friends. Look for surprising agreements or harmonies with your work in other writers/thinkers. Show how someone completely different to you comes to the same conclusion. This is a very powerful strategy for apologetics, too.

9. Find the toughest opponent. Fall under their sway, if only for a week or two: be convinced by their case for a time. Then your reply will carry authority. Your work is only as strong as the opponents you defeat! My tendency when I started was to find any nutter to have a debate with, because debating nutters is always easier than debating reasonable people whose assumptions on the whole I share but who come to different conclusions...

10. Don't talk about you work when you don't feel up to it. One of the shattering experiences for a graduate student is when a family member or friend asks you, 'so, what are actually doing then'? and NOTHING COHERENT comes out of your mouth. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. And you walk away feeling very discouraged about it. Have a prepared speech perhaps! However: I have found writing and talking about my project in other contexts extremely helpful - I find blogging like this. It is a way of accessing other areas of your brain because it is writing/talking in a different mode, somehow.

11. Trust your methodological instincts; go with what you know. You got this far because you have some idea of what theological work is about. You have read quite a bit already. So, use what you already have to your advantage! I often feel intimdated by those theologians who know more philosophy than me (that's most of 'em): I forget that my training was far more in the area of biblical studies and biblical theology. I need to lean more on this, and see it as an advantage, while at the same time not neglecting to deepen my philosophical understanding.

12. Keep doing ministry. Keep serving the people of God, because the tendency of the doctoral student is to wallow in the solitary self-indulgence of it all. Keep preaching/teaching/ministering. After all, what are we doing it all for? If you aren't already doing some ministry in the church, my question is: what are doing entering into graduate theological study? Are you sure you are called to this?

Addenda: I was going to say something about prayer, but I feel foolish and not a little shame hectoring anyone about prayer. I was also going to say as matter of importance: learn to write well. There is an AWFUL lot of bad and unclear and dull writing out there. Write well.
(emphasis is mine)

I like his emphasis on reading a few good books. However I must add that one must read a few good books critically. Unfortunately this does not exclude reading the other 1000 books.

His comment on footnotes is interesting. I have been told that if it is good enough to be in the footnote, it should be in the text.

My greatest joy is to find friends or conversation partners. It never ceases to amaze me that some great world authority figure will take time to answer an email from a humble PhD student. We also need to find a 'devil's advocate', a friend who will mercilessly critique your writing.

Writing is hard work. However as Michael has pointed out, writing is essential because it helps us to think and focus so as to put our ideas onto paper (or word processing software). Then we need to revise, rearrange, rethink, rewrite, revise, and rewrite.

Michael's advice on keep doing ministry is controversial. There are some who advocate taking the 3 years off totally while there are others who advise to remain in ministry. Personally I feel that doing a doctorate is a timeout from ministry, a sabbathical. It should be time devoted solely to research, thinking and writing. Then, by the grace of God we should return to ministry a better person for it.


photo credit
drawing credit