Saturday, February 25, 2006

what's the point?

last sunday i happened to be listening to the same sermon for the second time. the particulars of why i found myself in such a situation is a peripheral matter. suffice it to say i was not particularly enthused at the prospect of repeating what hadn't been an overly memorable experience already chalked up from the week before.

the reason for my lack of enthusiasm can be found in these other thoughts, similar to mine, which have been voiced following and stemming from the first hearing. it's a chronic issue, and a factor in my uncertainty about whether i should be contemplating a move or some other non-stagnant act to address the problem. previous solutions i have seen from others included leaving/moving, and attending a second church/service for the teaching (while staying at the original church/service for the fellowship).

anyways... part-way through the sermon, i noticed that the guy sitting next to me had pulled out his mobile phone and was playing games on it, while his friend next to him looked on. now from what i know and have seen/observed of this guy, he doesn't strike me as someone who has much interest in listening to sermons to begin with, and possibly comes to church to see his friends, or because of parental pressure/expectation (ok maybe i'm conjecturing and stereotyping too much...). so anyways, i was trying to decide whether i should do anything, like issuing a tap or nudge and motioning that he should put the phone away and pay attention to the sermon. but then the thought struck me: why? what would i be asking him to listen to? should he listen just because it's the polite/culturally normative thing to do? is there any merit in asking someone to listen to something in which i myself struggle to find value? i'm probably venturing into dangerous territory in sounding like i'm decrying the value of a sermon, but the question still begs asking (and the answer(s) well worth pursuing and grasping): what's the point?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

bushfire in my neighbourhood!

i was sitting in my room last night, up late again... and my brother calls me to "come see this!" i look out his window and see flames from behind the silhouette of the house(s) across the street. thinking it might be a house on fire, i rang 000 and got told that it's a bushfire that had already been reported. maybe i should have checked it out further before calling on reflex... anyways, a few seconds after putting down the phone i could hear sirens in the distance. being a bit KP, i trotted out with my camera to see if i could capture some of the scene. being a bit shy and lazy, i couldn't be bothered walking around the block to get up close and personal to the action. so, peering through a gap between two houses, i snapped the fire brigade dousing the flames, and that was about enough to satisfy this cat's curiosity and excitement quota for the night :p

anyways i don't think anything much got damaged, but there was a very smoky flavour to the air today, and my eyes didn't seem to like it much either. probably made worse by the lack of sleep. oh i feel so incorrigible!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

the perfect number

orangeclouds has tagged me with this lot of 7 by 7 things to answer...

Seven dreams before death:
  1. find a good thing
  2. raise godly offpring
  3. "save one more for Jesus" - though there's only one thing that saves, and it has nothing to do with me... nevertheless "save", and mature, and pass on the baton etc :)
  4. be able to make music (play something random/original on a musical instrument that actually sounds half decent!)
  5. harmonise on the fly
  6. experience autumnal and wintry canadian landscapes (think maple leaves and snow galore)
  7. fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith

Seven things I can't do in this lifetime:
  1. go out in the sun without my sunglasses... which sadly got broken this afternoon :(
  2. make my arms look straight when fully extended
  3. have natural 20/20 vision
  4. be perfect
  5. see my Saviour face to face
  6. attain job satisfaction
  7. consistently get sufficient sleep...

Seven things that attract me:
  1. technology/gadgetry
  2. good looking/tasting/smelling food
  3. interesting conversations
  4. theological discussions (deeper than typical everyday talk, but not so deep that i get lost :p)
  5. music
  6. a warm smile
  7. an inviting bed and pillow

Seven things I say:

(there really isn't much that's distinctive here... at least not things i'm consciously aware of...)
  1. what the ... ?!
  2. balik (kampung)
  3. wa mm zai / ngor mm jee - means "i don't know" in hokkien/cantonese
  4. so desu (ne) ... - means "(oh) i see" in japanese
  5. err/erm/umm/hmm...
  6. (something involving the word) nebulous
  7. (nothing) - i can be a very quiet person...

Seven books that I love:
(not so much love - except perhaps the first one - but books which have made/still make an impression on me, and whose titles i can currently think of...)
  1. the Bible, by God and his team of inspired writers
  2. The Teenage Textbook, by Adrian Tan
  3. The Teenage Workbook, by Adrian Tan
  4. I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris
  5. Boy Meets Girl, by Joshua Harris
  6. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
  7. Wild Swans: 3 Daughters of China, by Jung Chang

Seven movies I've loved:

(in no particular order... i'm sure there are others, but my memory fails me)
  1. Young Guns 1&2
  2. Fong Sai Yuk 1&2
  3. Turn Left, Turn Right
  4. Dead Poets Society
  5. Love Letter
  6. My Sassy Girl
  7. Lonesome Dove (ok so this one is really a mini-series, but it's good!)

Seven tags:

(ok this is gonna be hard cos i don't think i know that many people who read my blog, AND keep blogs of their own... so i'm sorry if you happen to see your name and wonder why, cos i'm struggling to get 7 names together!)
  1. benji
  2. island
  3. j.s. (??)
  4. pearlywhirls (??)
  5. shte2
  6. sweet yung (??)
  7. (ok see i told you i would struggle... :| and i told you i couldn't be perfect :p)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

channel surfing

the activity of channel surfing is often associated with the complaint that "there's nothing (good) on". not that i lay any claims as to the quality/value of my posts, but i guess this blog is due for a bit of an update.

well my voice did recover in time for me to be able to sing at the church's chinese new year reunion dinner last weekend. i don't know that i would say i enjoyed the evening - i guess it just felt kinda neutral. it was probably more meaningful for the older folk who were able to catch up with old faces and past acquaintances etc. i was glad in a way to have been asked somewhat last minute to help video parts of the evening - it gave me something to do in between visits to my table, engaging in relatively minimal conversation, and trying to eat some food before it all got gobbled up by the other 7 guys (and 2 girls) there :p

anyways, here's a couple of video clips of some of the performances on the night. the first is a singing family (the wife used to go to my church, but i think that was before i started going there) presenting 'jesus is the answer'.

i'm no vocal talent scout, but i thought the two tween girls had good voices. the older girl also did a solo with 'i still call australia home' accompanied by her father on guitar.

the second video if of 'Generation D' - some uni students doing a choreographed dance thing... don't know enough about dancing styles to use an appropriately descriptive label... hmm... well anyways the youngsters in the audience enjoyed it :)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

when your opponent gets personal...

... you know it's because they've run out of legitimate ammunition.

this is an update on (one of) the pirated DVD(s) i bought off ebay a few months back (see section 3 or so of previous post). upon noticing the discrepancies with the disc i received, i made contact with the seller in an attempt to resolve the problem. the list of discrepancies grew during this time, and my final findings, after comparing my received product to information about, and images of the genuine article obtained from meiah (the actual distributors?) and, and doing followup research, is as follows (text mostly copy-and-pasted from an email i sent the seller, links to photos added for this post):
  1. The design of the front cover, while very similar to the genuine copy, is different in a number of places:
    1. The "Mei Ah" logo, which should be in the bottom left corner, is missing
    2. The font face, colour and size of the main crew are different, and contain spelling errors
      1. Cheung Yuen Ting is credited as the DTRBCTOR
      2. Alex Law is credited as the WRITTER CO-PRODOCER
    3. The "DVD video" logo in the bottom right corner does not appear on the genuine copy
    4. The Chinese writing on the bottom (below the picture of the three young girls, and half chopped off by your trimming) also does not appear in the original
  2. On the back cover, the bottom quarter and the pictures look to be the same as the genuine copy, but the rest of the text is all wrong
    1. The font used to list the awards is different - this goes for both the the Chinese and English text; the Chinese text uses an inconsistent mix of traditional and simplified characters
    2. The English synopsis contains various punctuation errors and is missing two phrases from the full original text
    3. The Chinese synopsis is written in simplified Chinese, which is inconsistent with the rest of the Chinese text used on the front and back covers, which should be traditional Chinese for a product coming from Hong Kong
    4. There is supposed to be a cast and crew listing after the Chinese synopsis, but this whole section is missing
  3. There are also a number of problems with the text/artwork on the DVD itself, apart from the spelling which I have already pointed out previously (ie that the text along the bottom of the disc reads "all rights in this DVD video are reserved and it is staictly prohibited to usr this DVD video other than for rivate viewing in the Double-Dsymbol are frademarks of Dolby Labaratories Licensing Corporation"
    1. At the very top of the disc, next to Maggie Cheung's head (middle woman), and a bit cut off, is Maggie's Chinese name in simplified Chinese - out of place and again inconsistent with the other traditional Chinese text used in the package
    2. Of the four little boxes near the bottom of the disc, the second box displays a logo which reads "compact disc digital video". This logo "may only be used on discs complying with the Video-CD specifications: the Philips-JVC-Matsushita-Sony Compact Disc Digital Video Specification (the WHITE Book)", therefore this logo should NOT appear on a DVD
    3. The next logo accompanying the "5.1 SURROUND" text is wrong - there is a similar logo on the box cover, which at least features 6 distinct black squares representing the 5+1 speakers. The logo on the disc itself only has 4 squares/speakers
    4. The region code logo on the disc says the disc is region 1, which is inconsistent with what the box says (should be all region)
    5. Lastly the 3 Chinese characters printed below these logo boxes... at first I thought it was supposed to say 非毒品, which means something like "not drugs/poisonous". Besides the obvious question of why such a phrase should be relevant to a DVD, I also realised that the middle character is "spelt" wrong - it looks like something that should sound the same as the proper character to fit the phrase, but isn't actually a valid character in Chinese.
so anyways, i originally asked for a full refund given that the listing of pirated items is against ebay policy. seller refused, maintaining that the item is an original (without addressing my list of evidence to the contrary), and offered a refund on the sale price (ie not including postage) once i return the item. that wasn't going to fly as a solution cos the return postage alone exceeds the sale price, and besides, i want justice on the piracy issue, not just getting my money back! and so i turned to the paypal resolution process for assistance. they eventually decided in my favour, awarding me a full refund of the original sale price plus shipping costs - but again i was required to send the item back at my own expense. so now i get to recoup a few of my dollars (not much, after having to supply proof of postage), and i'm still waiting for the actual refund to hit my account. meanwhile nobody at ebay/paypal seems bothered by the piracy thing that i'm actually complaining about - i guess maybe it's not really their fight and even so how much does my one droplet of a pirated dvd rate in the global tidal wave of the piracy business, right? anyways, i haven't mentioned the icing on the cake yet: the seller leaving me negative feedback (my first ever!) that says "TROUBLEMAKER! Original sent fast & still wants refund w/o returning! BAD BUYER!"

me? i'd really rather stick to facts. you know, things like the proof of postage that shows i have returned the item, which paypal required from me, before they processed the claim and decided the case in my favour... (by which time the item would have well and truly arrived back at the seller's address, where they could well turn around and sell to the next unsuspecting victim - a major reason why i wasn't keen to return it in the first place)

so i'm just a little bit unimpressed. it seems too easy to break the rules and play dirty in this world of ours [going off on a bit of a tangent, this has been a common and recurring theme i'm encountering with people who find out (some too late) that their employers have not been paying their superannuation entitlements - if you aren't sure whether yours is being paid, do something proactive about it sooner rather than later; read the superannuation FAQ from the ato if you need a starting point]. but i really shouldn't be surprised at that... so i guess meanwhile i'll just keep waiting for "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 peter 3:13)

Monday, February 06, 2006

When Your Past Comes Knocking

if a deer hang out on the roads long enough, sooner or later it will encounter a vehicle. i don't think i've ever seen a deer caught in the headlights, but perhaps i understand a little what it might be like - the feeling of being suddenly confronted with something and responding with a perhaps fear-induced frozenness. you know that something is coming your way, and that when it "hits", it's not going to be fun and games. your mind races, desperately thinking of escape routes, frantically analysing what-if-i-do-such-and-such scenarios and at the same time reminds you that the clock is ticking. your body... it does nothing. it just sits in absolute inaction, maintaining a fixed pose with a resoluteness that would give those "statue" mime artists a run for their money.

it's silent, except for the mental *tick*tock*tick* which continues...

- - - - -

a while ago, i wrote:

the mistakes of the past
they continue to haunt
like dogged, hungry vultures
circling, waiting for a swoop...

... to take another bite of flesh from this body
better the victim be dead than half-alive?
the shock leaves him numb and unfeeling of pain
though emotions and psyche more than compensate

- - - - -

more recently, i heard:
Jesus, My Only Hope

I come into Your presence
With nothing in my hands
I only bring thanksgiving
For Jesus, God, and Man
I cast myself on mercy
I cast myself on love
I trust Your gracious promise
To wash me with Your blood

I will not fear Your judgment
For me no wrath I dread
For it was spent on Jesus
Poured out upon His head
When Satan's accusations
Make my poor heart afraid
I hear my King declaring
"Father, that debt is paid!"

Jesus my only hope
My only plea
My righteousness
My Great High Priest
Who intercedes for me
Before the throne
Jesus, I trust in You alone

Though I am poor and naked
Your prodigal come home
You place Your robe upon me
Your holiness alone
Though I be dry and barren
By grace this love springs forth
Love for You and Your Kingdom
Joy in Your glory, Lord
- - - - -

this morning, i re-read:
working through the consequences of past choices ... doesn't mean that you have to dredge up every sordid detail, but it does mean that you need to honestly face the effect your past can have on your future .... Unless you are honest about past sin, you won't be able to understand the potential challenges you'll confront because of it. Neither will you be able to root yourselves firmly in the sustaining grace of God.
- - - - -

earlier this afternoon, i watched:

2 young (link to review), a movie i recently borrowed from a friend (am still recovering/recuperating my voice, so today is another sick leave day). probably not the best choice in my current frame of mind, though i didn't bother to read the synopsis at all before popping the disc in. anyways, maybe i'm reading themes into the movie (from what's on my mind), but i had to pause the movie so i could go clean my face after one particularly poignant scene, and i found a couple of other scenes triggering various thoughts and reflections.

- - - - -

then, i was about to try for a nap and maybe stop thinking for a while, but managed to catch a fom online and a brief chat there indirectly helped me to regain a bit of focus.

and before you know it, the day seems almost over... but there's many a mile to travel before the journey ends.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

at a loss for words

i've been diagnosed with a case of laryngitis, a major symptom of which is the loss of my voice. not that i'm a naturally talkative person, but for the last nearly 1 year i've had to talk all day for a living, and it's a bit of a change to go from that to not saying anything at all. a common response that i've been getting when people find out is "ahhh... no wonder you've been so quiet". aren't i normally quiet? hmm...

anyways, the fact that i might have something valid to say or contribute, but was physically restricted from doing so, has brought back to mind another issue about having something to say yet not actually saying it.

let me backtrack a little: over the course of a few months last year, i found out that a number of my female friends were progressing in their relationships with their respective partners - i use partner in a loose and generic sense, for the various "progresses" cover the spectrum from starting to date, through getting engaged, to getting married. in all the cases the girls (afaik) were professing christians, and their partners were, at the time and imho, unsuitable husband material (me being of the opinion/belief that starting/continuing a relationship with someone who you w/shouldn't marry is a waste of time for all parties involved). the reasons for unsuitability ranged from being clearly non-christian through to nominal christianity - whichever way you look at it, not exactly your ideal candidates to fulfil the mandate of "[h]usbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25; see also the shtes' summary/thoughts from a wedding sermon on this and surrounding verses). i was closer to some of these girls than others, and the guys involved i mostly didn't know from a bar of soap. and so, the question with which i wrestled was this: should i say anything?

in an article titled evasive manuevers, author matt kaufman writes on the issue of "our reluctance to see and confront sin in our loved one's lives." he notes that:
We're often loath to confront any number of sins in their lives.

The chief reason is that we're afraid to damage our relationships. Imagine your sister is living with her boyfriend ... You're not happy about it; you may even be heartbroken about it. But you don't want tension with her, and you really don't want to take such a strong stand that you strain the relationship to the breaking point.

In a situation like this, you know the stand you should take. But, again, it's hard -- and you're scared of what could happen if you push it too far. So you don't say much. Or you say something, but you water it down. (You don't tell her she's doing something wrong; you ask questions that won't threaten her autonomy, like "Are you sure you want this?") Or you say nothing at all.

We're also reluctant to take a strong stand for another reason: We want to think the best of the people we love.
he goes on to agree with the common sentiment that for most people, the costs of taking a stand are too high. yet he reminds us that "no cost is higher than a soul", and progresses to relate an example from his life where he eventually confronts his friend "Becky", a single mum who had moved in with another man and subsequently married him. in response to a letter from Becky asking why a distance had grown between them, matt responds by explaining... and as a result
Becky never spoke to me again. I've always regretted that. But I've never regretted what I did. I can't be responsible for whether she took the message to heart. I can only be responsible for trying.

I only regret the times I should have tried with other people, but didn't. Sometimes I've had reason to hesitate: In deciding how to proceed, I had to think about things like how well I knew someone, what's the right time and way to talk to them, and whether they profess to be a Christian (which makes a big difference in the kind of conversation we'd have). But in stopping to think about these things, I've sometimes awakened months or years later to realize that, instead of finding the right way to say something, I've said nothing at all. Other times, if truth be told, I've just let my own fears lead me to procrastinate.

But this I know: If you love someone, you must seek the welfare of their soul above any risks to your relationship with them.

And you can't reach that goal by evasive maneuvers. You can only get there by going straight to the heart.
in reading and reflecting on this article, i realised how evasive i usually am. i dread confronting others about their sins/wrongdoings, even when i may feel some sense of righteous indignation. just like matt, i find all sorts of excuses about me not being the right person, the timing not being right, my knowledge of the situation not being sufficiently informed... the list goes on. and for the most part i end up saying nothing. i advocate the matthew 18:15ff style/method of conflict resolution, yet fail miserably most of the time in actually carrying out the first step. and when i do manage to open my mouth, what comes out is often a truncated, watered down, stammering, roundabout and usually lacking in love version of the truth.

not to deflect blame/attention, but it seems that many others suffer from this problem. in speaking to some other people with association with the couples i mentioned earlier, i find the reluctance to risk relationships exists in family members and friends alike - no one appers to be willing to call anyone to repentence, lest the confronting nature of the challenge push the other away and sever/damage the relationship. (granted, there may well have been other people doing things in the background / of which i am not aware - i am only commenting on what i myself have seen/heard. i also fully realise that i do not have any grounds for accusing any of these people for being "soft", for i wear not their shoes... again i am basing my comments on what i have seen/heard for myself.)

it's a situation that i heard a local christian worker once label as the 'cult of relationships'. in a recent sermon from philippians, he also made the following points about our inability/failure to "speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (phi 1:14b) - the transcription is mine and probably not be 100% word-for-word accurate:
many are the ways we consider to be an appropriate speaking of the word of God ... everything but speaking fearlessly ...

I'm not an advocate of running rough-shod over other human beings, I'm just saying that it is a joke the idea that the weakness of our modern churches is that we are too bold and fearless in our speaking -- that is exactly the problem we don't have. Our problem is the opposite.

[For example, let's look at the popular idea of] building bridges [one problem with which is the building of bridges] that are never burnt - ie I'm not prepared to lose the relationship in order to honour or exalt the lord Jesus Christ. A classic example is of the Christian girl going out with non-Christian guy... [who reasons that] I don't want to drop him, I don't want to end the relationship because if I speak to him too harshly about Jesus then I'll lose the relationship, he'll be lost and he won't be won into the kingdom. The paradox here is that the way to win him into the kingdom is to risk burning the bridge.

It's the ones who say: look, I am bound for heaven, I live for the lord Jesus Christ, I cannot share my bed with someone with whom I cannot share my eternal destiny. It's when the girl says that, and she cuts off emotional supply, it's then that that bloke hears the loudest evangelistic sermon he is ever likely to hear. It's then that it dawns on him: that the silly Christian sisters who continue pirouetting around, saying: I'm serious about the lord Jesus, but my personal demeanour screams out that I'm not... they're just giving double messages. If you believe that you are bound for two different eternities, show it!
how's that for a counter-argument to the practice of missionary dating (if that excuse even features in such a Christian sister's thinking/rationale)?

anyways, we (Christians) all have responsibilities to live out the gospel in ways that doesn't turn a blind eye to matters of unrighteousness, whether in our own lives or in the lives of those we claim to love and care about. i myself have lots to learn and apply... of the friends i mentioned above, i have made only one serious attempt to go "straight to the heart" with one of them (and that, i think, didn't go down too well) - all the others have been at best very weak attempts to indirectly broach the subject, or too much deliberating resulting in nothing actually being done (though if the couple is already married, it changes what you c/should say).

i say this last bit not as a cop-out excuse for inaction, but i am glad and relieved that God is ultimately in control and doesn't need for me to do anything (though he may very well have desired for me to do something) - for two of the girls, their non-Christian partners are now professing Christians. and anytime anyone crosses from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, that's cause for rejoicing :)