Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beyond the PMR

Getting top marks - and over 26,000 Malaysian students achieved this in the recent PMR exams - is always an occasion to celebrate. Congratulations to all those who worked hard and were rewarded with an unbroken string of As'.

I don't wish to take anything away from their success, but it may be timely to issue a small reminder.

Getting straight As' in a government exam makes one fact indisputable: You've mastered the examination game. But ay there's the rub - it's a game. And games change.

Mass standardized exams were created for an age of mass standardization (duh), for an era where it was very worthwhile obtaining a list of where everybody stood vis-a-vis everyone else, for a time when it helped to compare how everyone performed on some normal task. Why was this important? Because excellence in normal, standardized tasks were the measure of how far one 'moved up' the ladder.

But if the criteria for excellence has shifted, then naturally the criteria for assessing how well one is being prepared to delivered that excellence will also change. And here's old news: They've all shifted.

Today, getting ten As' may not be as important as having ten strong Facebook or LinkedIn useful contacts or having done ten good projects or being able to make ten good sales pitches in a month or having 10 work-in-progress mini-projects going on simultaneously.

Or just having ten crazy things in the past year. Anything that shows you're not interested in 'coloring within the lines' or going along with the system. Anything that proves you're passionate about new things and cool ideas and like-minded people.

This won't always be alpha-numerics you can put on paper; it'll be the wonder that (unmistakably) shows in your eyes when you talk about it at the job interview you'll succeed at where most will/have fail(ed).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Hard Life

If you can't pay full seek-first-to-understand attention to at least two people's problems in a day, you are under the illusion of over-importance.

If you can't give 10% of your income to a charitable cause, you are conned by the Mammon spell of insufficiency.

If you can't take half an hour a day off to reflect and think through your life, you are being deceived by the tyranny of the busy.

If you can't absorb a slight or insult without retaliation, then Ego has got too strong a hold on you.

If you must ogle at every attractive member of the opposite sex that walks by or floats on-screen, your life is hanging by a thread at the non-mercy of Eros.

If you have to keep gloating over your past successes and the compliments people pay you, then a hard fall would do you good.

And if you can't seek out hurting needful members of your community to show some unexpected and unanimous mercy/justice to on a regular basis, then you risk losing sight of why you're alive.

Life is tough, love hard.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Normal is Nice

Silent night, holy night...quiet night.

Maybe the greatest gift of Christmas, in our 21st-century rush-rush buy-buy work-work context, is the gift of normalcy. For things to be okay, stable, non-intrusive. "Fear not!" said the angel, "Everything will be normal, all shall be fine."

How we long to hear that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love the Little

There has to be positive side to getting bacteria-infected for the past 4 days. Surely I can celebrate something from the experience of four nights stumbling through non-sleep, 39-degrees of body heat and fingers which scorched when they touched.

And last night - the first peaceful sleepnight I had the whole week - I found out what it was.

It was an appreciation, like never before, of God's gift of a baby...without interruption, without demands, without luxury, without nothing but you and your dreams.

It was loving, like never before, the ability to swallow multiple pieces of meat without suspecting you might throw walk without bringing one's hands to one's head on account of the inner crown of thorns tightening its grip.

It was being glad that one can drive without having to find a shade to stop, fast, or else the next stop will be involuntary and expensive; that making a three-point turn with your steering wheel can be done without feeling like you've run three marathons.

In a word, it's cherishing the little things which no longer seem little at all because 'little' was from the start a category miscue on my part.

Note: I contemplated asking God to annihilate all bacteria from the face of the earth completely. Then I recalled these little bacteria are essential decomposers whose 'deconstructing work' every other living thing relies on i.e. if bacteria were to disappear, we'd all die.

Ahh. So much for that request.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Every Person a Potential Guest

The next time you plan to check-in at a 5-star hotel in Malaysia, try this: Dress in your sub-casual worst (preferably a shirt with two unintentional holes glaring out), uncomb your hair, lose the jewelry, hide your baggage, put on the fresh-off-the-boat look and try to walk like Gandhi.

If you're lucky, you'll arrive at the lobby at around the same time as some dude who looks like a guest of the White House.

Now comes the fun part: Observe their treatment of you, the way they look (or don't), their enthusiasm, etc. Chances are, they'll speak to you as if you were an applicant for the janitor's position and/or they'll be smooching up the other guy whislt making it clear they'll need some time before they get to you - up to the point where you tell them you have a room reservation AND THAT you'd appreciate some service please.

Merely human psychology? To judge based on appearances? Well, in Singapore - at least at the Meritus Mandarin - I'm told everyone gets the same high-quality package of eye-contact, smiles and can-I-help-you?s'.

That hotel, at least, has allowed the perception issues to be dealt with by the security folks, not the people serving the guests.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Graceful Guests

My piece, Guests of Grace, has been uploaded at the Micah Mandate. Take a look?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nothing Like a Stress-Free Christmas

This is the first Christmas season in about one and a half decades when I'm not leading or singing in a carolling team, when I'm not co-organising some Christmas evangelism meet, when I'm not leading a group to bring gifts for an orphanage or welfare home, when I'm not speaking/preaching, when I'm not (even) playing in a Christmas service band.

And you know what? It feels great

O, to have to do nothing but "show up"...'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished (grin).

No this isn't an ode to non-activity, non-involvement and non-service at Christmas time. God forbid. 

It's really an auto-biographical reminder that God is perfectly okay if you sit back and relax every now and then.

Does 'Sabbath Christmas' ring true? Should churches declare 'off-seasons' occasionally?

No 3-hour services. No mega-lunches. No mall-to-mall or house-to-house visitations or presentations. No special prayers (except maybe one short one). No big events.

Would it help to ensure that there's no chance of Christmas being associated with stress and office-like deadlines? To let the pastors and leaders...simply...chill?

Polling e-learning and Christian education

Want to participate in a poll on e-learning and Christian education at my church's edu-blog?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Top 125 in Training

Here's Training Mag's ranking of the top 125 companies which've excelled in employee training and development. I didn't see any educational institutions there, did you?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spiritual Assumptions

Alex wrote an interesting story about making controversial spiritual assumptions (probably the dozenth in his cute Abba Ah Beng series).

I thought I might list down certain generally unquestioned assumptions (about discipleship, theology, etc.) which plague Malaysian Christians. The following is based on personal experience (sigh) and conversations with others.

In no particular order of importance (and without suggesting that any of the below are categorically false):

1. True/Good Christians should be involved in as many 'Christian' activities as possible (at the office, in college, etc. and certainly in church)

2. God has a pre-planned specific will for everything that happens to me, from why my car hit a van the other day to which university I should attend, hence the habit of asking God why He would let something unpleasant into my life

3. Christians who don't behave or believe the way my church community does "have a problem"

4. Going to pubs, clubs or discoes is an 'un-Christian' activity (same goes with smoking and drinking)

5. After a great sin, performing pious acts of service appeases God and stays His wrath; and if a serious calamity occurs - especially after a sin I committed (or a good deed I omitted) - this is God punishing me

6. Everyone who has stopped going to church has 'back-slided'; their sinning and spiritual sloth has come between them and God

7. I've tried so hard to stop this particular sin; surely God will understand if I commit it now

8. It is the Christian's duty to speak up each time the Christian faith is denigrated in public

9. Anything other than a spoken sermon isn't a real sermon

10. Not giving a tithe is always a bad thing.

11. Unless you close your eyes, you haven't really prayed.

12. The job of the pastor is to give theological answers cum definitive statements. Ambiguity is near-absolutely bad.

Which other axioms do you think we shouldn't be taking for granted?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Kean Fatt Product

Does product matter anymore? In an age of advertising and Nikes' and iPods', it's tough to find examples where product quality hasn't become a function of promotion wizardry i.e. where people pay good money for an item independently of the buzz/hype that surrounds it.

So I'm glad to report that I paid RM5.50 for a normal (not big) bowl of pork noodles this morning. That's something like RM1.50 more than the standard price.

But after a few spoonfuls, it's clear why my bowl cost more than 30% above the market rate. It's the same reason why, at 10.00am, there was already a dozen or so customers at any given minute parking all over the crammed road, ordering.
  • the soup was tastier
  • the meat slices were juicier
  • the liver pieces were chunkier
  • the gizzard was nastier (smile)
  • the noodle portion didn't feel like a sushi-serving
The Place sucked (smack in the middle of cross-junction, see map). There was no Promotion (except for blog-posts like this and good'ol Malaysian word-of-mouth). The Price doesn't encourage demand. Even the People didn't seem very interested in 'customer relationship management'.

That's it. A great Product.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Learning 2.0

Was glad to know that Bob's also into online-learning. This is quite an encouragement, especially since I was informed (only a fortnight ago) by the rep of a major local institution that Malaysians still need lots of convincing before they associate 'online education' with 'real' learning.

(That institution, however, has taken a bold step in obtaining exclusive rights to market the U21 Global MBA, the only 100% online MBA program represented at the World MBA Tour at Westin recently).

My own take is that, whilst 'offline' forms of learning should still be provided, for schools to NOT have an online element (or to not begin preparing their students for Web-education) is to act and operate as if the Internet hasn't been invented yet.

Some thoughts on how an e-education should look like (and I'm not excluding theology and Christian education here!):
  • All lessons must be available online (like those of MIT, USQ, Open University, etc.)

  • Lessons must take various forms (text, multi-media, etc.), soaking in all the glory of Web 2.0,  with the implication that Library 2.0 has to appear sooner or later

  • Lecturer and student contribution to the learning should become near indistinguishable and learning takes a cyber-constructive (or connectivist) form i.e. my education 'emerges' from the conversations, the input, the debates, the projects, etc. No connections, no learning.

  • E-discussions and e-collaborations are a central part of assessment - none of that 3-hour do-or-die-in-an-exam-hall crapola! The idea of 'closed-book' assessments must be banished from educational vocabulary once and for all! (except for low-impact formative self-assessments...)

  • The 'system' should allow students to work and learn independently of time and space - one loner on the sandy beaches of Jamaica should be able to team-up with three executives in the concrete jungle of Raffles City. 
What else can/should we add? 

(Note: U21 Global presently offers all the above elements but something tells me we're only scratching the surface here...once the magic of cloud-computing, parallel computing and Web 3.0 really take off, heck, we'll be like fish in outer space).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Online Education 'Real' Education?

On Tuesday, I asked at least 80 students what they thought about getting an online degree. No classes to attend - everything via the Web (exams, discussions, the works).

Everybody's head started shaking and all said, " way...I won't accept it blahblahblah". Main reason? Physical classes are still necessary for 'real' education to happen.

Fine. That's cool. I understand - or do I?

Because my next questions were:

  • Would you like extra classes? (Response: Nooooo!!)

  • Why do lecturers have to spend time 'pulling' most people back from in-class slumber? (i.e. why come to class and sleep if you feel you NEED it for education?)

  • Why do you rejoice when it's a public holiday and classes are cancelled?

  • Why do most of you seem to NOT enjoy being in the classroom?

It's easy to say, well, it's all the lecturers' fault that lessons are boring. That may be true (and usually is, sigh), but it doesn't resolve the paradox: If students 'demand' face-to-face classes failing which we don't consider ourselves to have been 'educated', why is it so often that every iota of their attitudes and behaviour suggest that they DON'T WANT to be in class?

Isn't this like an abused girlfriend who at one moment curses the boyfriend for beating her up yet can't "live" without him? What's up?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When 'Okay' is Not Okay

I recall many years back one of my directors was watching a few us from the back of the stage. We were giving our respective presentations. He was holding a counter - clicking away.

At the end of our sessions, we found out what he was up to : He was counting the number of times we said, "Okay" as we spoke.

I did it half a dozen times within the ten minutes allotted. One of my colleagues said it fourteen times.

It's not only "Okay". There's also, "Alright", "Yah", "Uh-huh" and whatever verbal soft-farts we unknowingly make as a way of pacing/steadying ourselves.

Why a fart? i. Because it's not palatable (and is sometimes downright irritating), ii. we're often barely aware of it (but our listeners would be) and iii. like a bad odor, such words 'cloud' our speeches and turn people off.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

God of the Poor

Learnt some new things last night at BLC where I listened to Fathers Jojo Fung (see my short write-up on him) and Joseph Ng share on liberation theology and God's heart for the poor in Asia:
  1. Jesuit priests can be distinguished by at least 3 characteristics, a) gritty casualness in dressing, b) profound depth of theological reflection and c) striking gentleness and calmness in responding to criticism/objections

  2. There are some truly remarkable missionaries cum thinkers cum religious symbioticians in the Roman Catholic faith, and Aloysius Pieris stands tall among them.

  3. One unique path to deeper spirituality with God may be to drop all of one's pre-conceptions of God and take a plunge into new baptisms (or allowing oneself to be initiated) into other faith-communities (Pieris into Buddhism, Fung into Shamanism, etc.). "To the Jew, one becomes a Jew. To the Gentile, one turns Gentile. To the pagan, a pagan" - so that all avenues are covered in the work of salvation (1 Cor 9:20-23) and that one gains a fresh experience of the spiritual universe?

  4. John 14:6 - "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" -, traditionally used to proof-text the 'exclusivity of Christ for salvation' may be less a soteriological 'How To' and more of a Christological 'Trust-Me"(!). Brian McLaren explains the different perspective, although (no doubt) some disagree.

  5. The human knee-jerk reaction of avoiding hardship suffocates the impulse to be in solidarity with those experiencing hardship. The active alleviation of suffering and oppression, therefore, may be inseparable from the choice of experienced suffering. 

  6. Restating 5), 'going barefoot, i.e. voluntary poverty, helps puts us in touch with those for whom being bare-foot isn't an option. 'Taking off' our shoes is a way of putting ourselves 'in' the shoes of the poor.

  7. The famous question from Jesus, "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15) should be posed to the poor, with serious Christological and missiological consequences i.e. who Christ is and what the Church's calling should be could take serious turns if we listen carefully to the poor's view of Jesus, regardless of their formal faith-confessions.

  8. The poor reflect the kingdom of God because they form the loci of Jesus' actions and very presence i.e. in a way reminiscient of the Church being one with the Body of Christ (Acts 26), the poor are paradoxically 'equated' with Jesus (Matthew 25:45).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Choose Your Own (Sermon) Adventure

How about this for a Christian learning exercise?

A preacher talked about Christians being either sheep or goats. Some other elements of the sermon included relationship-building and spiritual growth as opposed to sheer numerical growth.

But how do we get from pastoral (pun intended) animals to strong spiritual relationships? If you were the preacher, can you 'make your way' there?

Hint: You'll need to :
  • recall Biblical verses where the two kinds of animals are mentioned and what it said about them
  • have some basic understanding of Christian relationships (between God and Man, Man and his neighbour, Christian and Christian or non-Christian, etc.)
  • have some basic trajectory of spiritual growth (how does it happen? what helps or hinders it?)
  • recall some facts or history of church expansion and growth (what does the Bible say about this? how does it happen? etc etc)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Going Local

So class is dry (or drying up). Life is being sucked out of everyone. Immediate counter-boredom serums include: stories, images, physical activity, etc.

One item in 'etc.' : Speaking in a vernacular language, the more colloquial the better.

Make the switch from, "Advertising must be targeted at market segments", to "Plan to get the FU-YOH out of your clients!" and a huge percentage of students rev back to life.

Slowly sing a popular folk song (in the original language) and you'll sense the class hum back from the dead.

Mimick an everyday exchange in the market between, say, a Chinese 'aunty' and a Malay nasi lemak seller, and you'll be back in business in no time.

If contextualisation is the key to teaching (and it probably is), then local dialects are sure to put the syok back into learning. Itulah best.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Time For Imaginary Phonecalls

It's your first job after getting your first university-stamped scroll. Here's a quick tip: Skip the pity parties.

When a group of your colleagues gather round to moan about how their heads aren't doing anything, say you've got a tummy ache. Better to off-load undigested food than download problem-centric conversation.

If the conversation turns to how the system isn't working, give it a few moments, move your eyeballs upwards and suddenly exclaim that you've got to finish a report that's urgently due. I guarantee you won't miss anything worthwhile. Even if anything as glorious as a solution is hinted at, chances are no one in the group will follow-up.

Upon the third mention of helplessness and hopelessness in as many minutes (usually because of how weak someone not in the group is), pick up your handphone, make an imaginary phonecall and - because you don't wish to be rude - walk away.

You've got a job. Don't waste your time on talk which gets you nowhere fast.

Avoid the crap circles like the plague. Do it in your first year of work and you won't regret it when you reach your thirtieth.

My Church's Fund-Raiser

My church is a few steps away from a new church building. (Nah...nowhere near a $multi-million mega-complex, but the cost is heavy enough to merit a concerted effort).

Please support us! You can help by:
  • purchasing a ticket (or tickets) @ RM80/ticket
  • spreading the word that there'll be four top Malaysian music artists at this dinner
  • making a donation
For ticket enquiries or donations, don't hesitate to email the church. Alternatively, leave a comment on our blog and someone will contact you asap.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Power-Point Tips

My presentation last weekend for the Cambridge Diploma class on teaching. I hope to introduce this to the Lutheran pastors in Malaysia next year, with the aim of 'reforming' the way sermons are preached -think it'll work? ;>)

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Westin

What should a 5-Star hotel absolute have? A kick-ass lobby. The Kuala Lumpur Westin has taken it a bold step further: It's lobby's ambience resembles that of a night-club (see pic).

Like an action movie which looks like a comic book. A bakery which could be mistaken for a diamoud boutique. An office which feels like a bedroom. A church which doubles as a pub (or vice-versa, it may be hard to tell).

Profitable juxtapositions are usually fun ones, too.

Unfortunately for the Westin, waiting for the lift on the lobby could take almost as long waiting for the 10pm flight - at 8pm. I have never seen a set of hotel lifts (in Westin's case, all four of the main elevators) show numbers no smaller than 15. And they didn't seem to be coming lower.

Sure there was probably some hot function happening (on the top floors?), but standing and staring at them was as hip as watching paint dry. What can I say? Not all mix-and-matches work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Message from my book

I ordered a book from BetterWorld. They shipped it and together with the "It's coming" note, they included the below email.

Seth Godin talked about doing remarkable things. The below is, to say the very least, quite remarkable.

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Hamlet (bipolar) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Hamlet was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

But hey, enough about me, I've been asked to brief you on a few things:You chose International shipping.We shipped it via Brokers Worldwide who will then hand it off to your local postal service. Delivery time for shipments is usually 7-14 business days, but some may take a bit longer depending on destination.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email my friend Jesse and his team at If you could please include your order number (8161805) that would be very helpful.

Eagerly awaiting our meeting,

Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome


I've been spending some time beefing up my church's edu-blog. Check it out?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Tribes is about people coming together for any reason imaginable.

Tribes is how we all want to connect, want to belong and - most importantly - want to be led. It preaches that we can all be leaders as long as we have a passion and have shared ways of communicating.

Tribes encourages you to leverage everything the Web can offer to perform communication feats quite unimaginable barely a decade ago.

Tribes is about the power of small groups (of any criteria) to make change their own worlds and, maybe, the communities they orbit (or orbiting them).
Tribes set me back RM65. Tribes in audio can be downloaded free on audible. Tribes' e-Q&A is also free.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Same data. Different hopes.

The post about Bible and trouble? That's not the whole story, thank God.

You know the thing about the glass being either half-full or half-empty, depending on how you see it? Same thing with the Bible.

You can choose to see a truly messed up world with even more deranged heroes (suggesting an under-par God). Or, you can perceive the power of God working with, in spite of and through the bullshit of our lives to redeem the world (suggesting a God beyond imagination).

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Bible, Trouble and Me

Adam messed it all up because he couldn't say no to his wife.

Noah got so drunk he looked like he was into kinky porno, and didn't even know it.

Abraham valued self-preservation over wife and sister (and there's GOTTA be something weird about a guy who can argue with God about sparing an evil city, yet seem to not say a word when it comes to killing his own son).

Jacob couldn't get out of repaying a debt. This guy has the guts to wrestle with God, yet acted like a chicken towards his brother.

Moses led the 40-year marathon but couldn't cross the Finish line on account of some unchecked temper.

David had "household problems" on a level not many today can imagine.

Solomon was the poster boy for Polygamy.

Not all of Peter's dogs were barking (either that or he had a real bad case of brain-fart).

Paul could never work well in a team (maybe that's his 'thorn in the flesh', eh?)

And Jesus, well...we all know what happened to him.

So I guess it's no big deal when a 21st century follower of Christ sins so badly (with eyes wide open) he's no longer sure who he is.

Trouble - it seems to tail the whole Family, don't it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

King & Malaysia

The last four slides from my message in church today, taken from a King, Jr. sermon. Any relevance for the Malaysian condition, you think?
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Apology Demanded" - An Oxymoron?

"Say Sorry!" has become seriously sexy. We crave appeasement.

Malaysia demanded an apology from Britain for massacres in 1948. There were counter-demands in the Ahmad Ismail fiasco. New Dawn PKR leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has made a couple of his own.

Last month, not just an apology, but RM10million was demanded as well from CIMB by a frustrated lawyer. And only today I read about the former University Malaya VC demanding one from the Deputy Higher Education Minister

No doubt the examples can stretch to the moon and back. Notice it's never a 'requesting', or 'asking' - it's demanding

And yet, what is an apology?

Isn't it when someone sincerely wishes to undo the hurt caused to another by symbolically putting one's self under the offended party? Isn't an apology, in fact, a wonderful gesture, a leap of good faith, a yearning for yes, a magical moment of renewal, of injecting new life into a damaged and dying relationship?

An apology is a form of risky humiliation, courageously fired across the bow of estrangement to give friendship a chance. Most importantly, an apology - like mercy - if forced by the offended party, loses all meaning

It's like demanded love. People who demand that others care for them either have no inkling of what caring is all about or, well, hardly care about true forms of caring.

When we demand an apology, then, an apology is the LAST thing we truly wantIt's not a repaired relationship we value. 

We want blood. We want a life. The pound of flesh due the debt which offense has wrought.

(This piece is also published in the Micah Mandate)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Entrepreneurial Advice...

...from the man spear-heading my former workplace (himself the former right-hand man to Robert Kwok).

What To Do
  • Always seek to craft new arrangements and partnerships with and between organizations which need each other; your business can often play a role in mediation and bringing together other companies, a role which in turn benefits you
  • Always give the best to those who’ve given their best to you
  • Seemingly similar pieces of activity can have a world of difference between them, depending on who you are as an entrepreneur; e.g. you can sell peanuts or you can sell diamonds – the thing which sets the diamond seller apart is his vision to do so much more with with virtually the same kind of activity

hat Not To Do:
  • Never wear a t-shirt when you’re giving an interview! In other words, never send out a wrong corporate image with shoddy attire or personal presentation
  • Never close the door on anyone
  • Never tolerate damage or criticism to your brand

Advice from the Cheshire Cat

It works very well in the early hours of the morning (when the kid's asleep, smile).

It certainly makes the transit time before Departure feels shorter (or less a hassle).

It's a good practice to cultivate whilst waiting for the 2nd half to begin.

It's perfect whilst vacationing on a mountain or at a beach.

It's absolutely necessary when the stress is hitting hard and the wear-n-tear is showing.

Reflecting on what's important in life, where we're headed (and why), what we're here for. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, "If you don't know where you want to go, then it won't matter which road you take."

"What We're Looking For"

Seth Godin has written what he'd like to see in a marketer's attitude. I thought it read very well as a requirement for almost any job worth having nowadays (not excluding teacher and pastor!):
"You're relentlessly positive. You can visualize complex projects and imagine alternative possible outcomes. It's one thing to talk about thinking outside the box, it's quite another to have a long history of doing it successfully. You can ride a unicycle, or can read ancient Greek.

You've taken on and completed audacious projects, and run them as the lead, not as a hanger on. You've become the best in the world at something, and completely unimpressed that you are good at following instructions (playing Little League baseball is worth far less than organizing a non-profit organization).

You have charisma in that you easily engage with strangers and actually enjoy selling ideas to others. You are comfortable with ambiguity, and rarely ask for detail or permission. Test, measure, repeat and go work just fine for you.

You like to tell stories and you're good at it. You're good at listening to stories, and using them to change your mind.

You are largely self-motivated, who finds satisfaction in reaching self-imposed goals, and is willing to regularly raise the bar on those goals.

You're intellectually restless. You care enough about new ideas to read plenty of blogs and books, and you're curious enough about your own ideas that you blog or publish your thoughts for others to react to. You're an engaging writer and speaker and you can demonstrate how the right visuals can change your story.

And you understand that the system is intertwined, that your actions have side effects and you not only care about them but work to make those side effects good ones."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Such Thing As Closed Book

The one and only assessment for the (12-week) Marketing course is a multi-thousand word assignment.

Some students were half-complaining; their (sub?)(semi?)-conscious desired a closed-book exam to go with it.

I told them I didn't understand why they should prefer an examination, since in the 'real-world' there were no such thing as closed-book assessments. Everything is 'open book' because, why, it's no longer about recalling information by synthesizing, manipulating and creating new ideas/proposals from that which is easily accessible.

That got me thinking: The above is what I said to a Marketing class in a Business course to students self-tasked to make loads of money when they graduate. But what do we say to a church congregation, that community of God's people tasked with taking God's redeeming way and message into the world?

What kinds of assessments should a Christian learner be given?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two Circles

Here's the thing. Life can be said to consist of two circles:

If you focus on the circle INSIDE (the Circle of Influence) i.e. on what you can work on or have control over (e.g. your habits, the way you treat people, your response to problems, the improvement of your skill sets, ec.) then eventually that particular circle expands, as per below:

What happens is that you develop greater influence over the items you previously had no influence over. You're able to do more because by focusing your energies on what you can address, you've in a way become more.

But here's the problem. Most of us choose to focus on the larger circle i.e. the stuff we care about but can next-to-never control or influence (e.g. complaints, what others are doing, how bad the economy/politics is, etc.). We generally dis-empower ourselves by attending to matters we don't have control over.

By doing so, our circle of influence shrinks. Until we end up becoming the victims our language and (non)-actions foreshadowed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The 14th Int'l Thinking Conference (KLCC, 2009)

A Faster Way to Learn

What can you do if you want to learn about, say, Global Warming real quick? As in less than 10 minutes or so?

  • Reading a book can be a drag

  • Reading a blog helps but may be a little shallow

  • Watching a video means you need to sit there and wait for the talk to end

  • Talking to someone requires both that someone to be there and knowledgeable (and able to teach you in a short time)

So here's what I'd do. Go to SlideShare, search for 'Global Warming' and run through the slides meself. Read quick, learn fast.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Advocacy Gap?

Stephen Covey's first habit of highly effective people is Be Proactive. Being proactive is :
  • realising that one's choices needn't be determined by anything other than one's freedom and self-determining power.
  • realising that one can choose. 
  • living 24/7 in the light of the realisation that one can decide to NOT think like a victim; 
  • deciding to NOT be dis-empowered by self-defeating language
  • choosing to NOT make one's self a product of circumstances, our past, our environment or other people.
In the context of political advocacy, whilst I certainly don't wish to disregard the kinds of injustice meted out to various people groups and individuals (especially in Malaysia) I wonder if there's a gap which remains unfilled, that of educating people to make self-determined responses whatever the problems occuring.

Could there be a need to re-educate and empower those experiencing the brunt of political indifference and cruelty.

'Simple' lessons (which even many of today's Malaysian college grads take for granted) like:
  • Time Management
  • Learning how to Learn
  • Money Management
  • Working in Groups
  • Being Proactive!
  • Anger Management
  • Relationship Building
  • Leadership
  • Conflict Resolution
(Sounds like a training provider's brochure, eh? Indeed it is, but what's the problem? How many of us have excelled in more than two of the above topics anyway?!)

When balanced with sound Biblical teaching on the power of God and our missional calling, such lessons can fill the 'gap' of personal development and nurture greater effectiveness (can't they?)

When taken to bigger, national circles, perhaps this will go some way in reminding politcal victims (both individuals and communities) that whilst the advocacy can continue, feelings of helplessness and defeatism need not (should they?)

All of which, who knows, may change the tone (if not the face) of advocacy itself, bringing real power to the people i.e. that which is nurtured in the mind. Not the fist.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Find Things To Do"

That's one of the best ways I've heard 'being proactive' defined. It's the ability to find helpful, productive and meaningful (and usually rewarding) things to do with one's time at work.

I can attest it's an art, having spent three years at a professional services firm, in which possibly only 20% of individuals are constantly seen initiating tasks they love i.e. finding cool things to do.

It takes more than merely asking the senior manager, "Is there anything I can help you with?" Nah, it takes a lot more than that.

It's transforming the most menial task allocated to you into something which makes other people go Wow.

It's marketing oneself, slide by slide, report by report, explanation by explanation, smile by smile.

It's thinking of instantly acceptable new ideas which get others excited and eager to see implemented (not necessarily by them, of course).

It's doing some very obvious things which no one else has taken the time to do because they feared stress or non-appreciation or both - and you couldn't care about these concerns either way (why not? because you were looking for things to do).

Carolling at Kamunting

Stand in front of a government office responsible for perpetuating injustice and shout, "Down with oppression! We want justice! We want freedom!"

Shout it out. Do the whole 'power to the people' thing. Have at it.

Then...after a few minutes, sing Silent Night or Joy to the World - the way you know it's meant to be sung. 

Chances are, you'll feel weird.

Why? Because it's two different worlds. Anti-government chants are based on a certain kind of philosophy. Carols on another.

Many have implied that I'm hardly qualified to say any of this. They are certainly right. But unless others with more credibility begin to say it, I feel compelled to break the silence: Whilst Malaysia is burning (with injustice, with oppression, with the ISA, with ethnic strife), Christians have to burn not just the light of justice but the light of a new kind of justice.

Shouting demands and singing carols are both about taking down evil, about dealing with what's wrong with the world. Yet, just like one doesn't say I-Forgive-You whilst standing in a power position, likewise we cannot meaningfully embody the revolutionary Jesus-like way of peace-making (not unlike singing carols!) in a clenched-fists posture.

A Jewish baby born in a manger (not unlike a Jewish prophet nailed to a piece of wood) two millenia ago reflects a unique way of power, a new kind of kingdom.

Maybe it's time to sing carols at Kamunting. And let the songs lead the way - for both oppressed and oppressor.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Coining a New Edge

The bill came to $17.30. I had a fifty-dollar note and, sigh, only twenty cents.

Doesn't this take the wind out of the buying process? When both you and the guy at the counter realise that a huge load of coins have to change hands?

Bills aren't too bad. But for the customer to be handed ninety cents in change - that's at least four separate pieces of metal to store in one's pocket - is less than paradise, isn't it?

So here's an idea: How about a shop which promises no exchange of coins? Customers get the better end of a decimal-oriented receipt. E.g. if the bill comes to $5.40, we'll let the 40 cents go. If it's $7.99, we'll sacrifice the 99 cents.

Foolish because then the store loses a fraction of a dollar for every sale? But think about this:
  • Customers will plan to make purchases which 'add up' to the biggest decimal possible; e.g. if two Cokes cost $2.60, heck, why not get a third to make it $3.90 and gain that 90 cents? So the shop gets $3 for three Cokes instead of $2 for two? What's the big problem?
  • Customers smile more because they get to 'beat the system' and rake in rewards of their own making; this translates into repeat business (and if the items are generally north of $10-20, what's the big deal about 'losing' 99 cents -tops! - for a receipt?). Oh, and in case there's a concern about customers requesting separate receipts for multiple items - why, put a floor to any receipt to which the 'game' applies (e.g. "Only for all purchases above $5")
  • This sets the store apart, especially from those (like 99 SpeedMart) which has a mean poster upfront announcing, "If bill comes to $5.49, receipt is rounded UP to $5.50" - how friendly is that?

No more irritating coins. Pleased shoppers. Good buzz from word-of-mouth. What more can a CASH-ONLY store want?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not By Preaching Alone

If there's one continual rant I'll make (until the Rapture or otherwise), it's the sheer lack of learner-centered education in churches. There's still a lot of "I-Talk-You-Listen", one-way monologuing.

Which is why perhaps all pastors and preachers may wish to try the below exercises. What's the best way of ensuring the trainees below learn well? Tip: It's not by preaching!

1. Trainees : 10 young trainee managers. Learning outcome : To practise good interviewing techniques

2. Trainees : 12 trainee motor vehicle engineers near the end of their training. Learning outcome: To apply the wide range of skills learned during the previous two years

3. Trainees: 4 classes of day-release learners in four simultaneous 1 ½ hour classes. Learning outcome: To become familiar with the first part of an eight-week module in World of Work on ‘Technology and Society’

4. Trainees: 14 adults. Learning outcome: To apply certain general principles of production management and gain increased awareness of the complexities of actual problems

5. Trainees: 15, 16 - 18 year olds. Learning outcome: To consolidate information received in a preceding talk given by a visiting speaker, on AIDS

6. Trainees: 16 learners on Basic DIY course. Learning outcome: To make simple shelves for the home

7. Trainees: 10 learners on a catering course. Learning outcome: To apply the skills of cooking, waiting and associated tasks in a realistic situation

8. Trainees: 14 shop stewards. Learning outcome: To understand the techniques of negotiation and bargaining

9. Trainees: 10 social workers. Learning outcome: To understand how people behave in times of stress

10. Trainees: 8 trainee managers. Learning outcome: To order their problems and tasks in priority so that they can decide when and how to tackle them

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Robert Kwok Quote

"Make money slowly."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Clicks

Facebook's definition of a friend is, well... two clicks.

Want to add me as a friend? Click on the button next to my name or face - the first click - and click another time to convince Facebook you didn't tap your mouse button by mistake.

That's it. One more click at my end to confirm your request and, hey, we're friends.

Never mind I may never do anything other than glance over your photo or one-liners. Never mind I'll probably ignore every message, invitation and request you send me and vice-versa. Never mind we may never communicate or do anything resembling what humanity considered a 'relationship' over thousands of years (let alone something like John 15:13)

Never mind all of that. In the world of Facebook, we are 'friends' - two clicks and another. Nothing else matters for the label.

MPH-Alliance Bank Short Story Contest 2009

Between Order and Outcome

We ordered one strawberry waffle and a cup of coffee. We were told it would take twenty minutes and would we mind? I certainly did and was going to leave, but my wife exuded the kind of patience I could only imagine this evening.

The waffle and coffee eventually reached the table in less than six minutes.

Of course I brightened up but my curiousity's stabbing me: Why tell us it was going to be twenty in the first place? If the concern is to 'prepare' the customer for a long wait, why leave it at the information stage? Why not do something to compensate your guests for the long wait? 

In a word, why give bad news with nothing in return?

Note: This isn't like pizza delivery where customers expect a certain (even semi-substantial) time-gap between the call and the knock on the door. For that, yeah, go ahead and say it'll take 45 minutes, then surprise the family by reaching them on the stroke of the clock. Or better yet, 15 minutes earlier.

The Bad, The Good and the Monstrous

First, the bad news:
  • Greenhouse gases could be four times higher than previously thought (you know, this makes me feel worse than the fact that influential people are locked up without trial for alleged sedition); perhaps David Keith's ideas on geo-engineering (read: climate manipulation)need to be accelerated
  • Windows 7 is coming out (pointless upgrades are always a bad thing, don't you agree?)
  • China's milk scandal isn't over...

Good news:

  • Spurs get their first win of this EPL season (phew!) - I hope the Redknapp revolution continues, what with Arsenal and Liverpool coming next
  • Copyblogger recommends a few sites to grab great images
  • Sonia Simone shares ten commandments about the new social media (cute! I like #9, "Thou Shalt Not Pontificate About Shit Thou Knowest Nothing About"!)
  • A new book's coming out, The Monstrosity of Christ, which has Slavoj Žižek and Jon Milbank in (what promises to be a) stimulating dialogue), check out the two 'promotional quips' (Milbank:"What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief." Zizek: "To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank.")
  • Tom Peters and Seth Godin appear together in dialogue about new perspectives on business (topics include blogging, loyal employees, social networking, etc.)

Finally, Diwali is turning out to be a very restful day indeed. Can't wait to go to Kuala Terengganu tomorrow - my first time in the Peninsular's East coast (what a sorry bloke, eh?).

Rushdie's Children

It was 1998, my first year after graduation. I remember crouching to examine one of the books on the bottom rung of the shelf titled 'Matured Readers' in a bookshop with a strange name, Bookazine (long since closed) in Section 14 next to Jaya SuperMart, also closed earlier this year.

My saturation with theology and apologetics made me want to read something new, something 'thick', something which would 'come at me' from an angle I'd have completely no reason to anticipate.

I only knew Salman Rushdie's name from the famous fatwa associated with Satanic Verses, a book whose thirtieth page I could barely reach without giving up (at the time - I've since read and talked about both the book and the controversy to many friends and students).

But here was a book with a strange name and sufficiently intimidating thickness, Midnight's Children. I must've turned it around a few times, contemplated exchanging with another book, felt the smoothness of its cover and imagine what it would be like to actually finish a book like this. It would be my second attempt at Rushdie. And besides, the book cover included a line about it winning the Booker Prize (in 1983). It also won the Booker of Bookers in 1993.

Now, 27 years after its publication, 25 years after it won its first Booker, 15 years after it established itself as a 'best of the best' and 10 years after my buying it in Bookazine, Midnight's Children has won yet another Booker of Bookers. Its shortlist rivals were:

  • The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995) - never heard of the author nor the book...

  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) - bought the book about THAT for a coincidence?

  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999) - a little too disturbing for my taste...

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974) - heard of the author, not the book.

  • The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell (1973) - never heard of either

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Bean Beaten

In SS2 (Petaling Jaya), the Coffee Bean died. It was killed presumably by its arch nemesis, Starbucks.

For over half a decade, CB thrived. Corner-lot and numerous restaurants (and a karaoke) nearby - smack inside a river of money.

But it died anyway. To a rival which opened less than a year ago.

And it wasn't like CB was bad or anything. The seating was comfortable, lighting serene and inviting, staff were fine. Overall, nice ambience and good food/drinks.

But it died anyway. To a rival which offered ambience, service and products (and prices) which were near identical, except for the colour.

Holding the brand quality constant for a sec, there's a lesson here: When two organisations are of near-equal quality and 'positioning', the newer one wins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First Habit of Highly Effective People

"Every time you think the problem is 'out there',
that VERY THOUGHT is the problem" - Stephen Covey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blog Rules

A slide I shared with my colleagues.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Rare Look

Welcome to Alwyn's lair at KDU...

New Qs'

There's IQ. There's EQ. And there's SQ. Today I heard two new ones:

XQ - Execution Quotient (invented by Stephen Covey, I think). Too manufacturing-ish for me.

SQ - Smile Quotient. Very nice.

What's next? A Jesus quotient?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mental Warm-Ups

I'm really no warm-up freak.

Like breakfast, prescribed textbooks and best-selling novels, I used to think that warm-ups' are part of the many social needfuls our community presses into us from young (thus our often unquestioning acceptance of these items).

Stretching, yes. But to get to a light-sweat condition before the 'real' workout begins? To raise the heart-beat a little before absolutely pushing your blood-pump? Ugh.

Until I tried to better my 3-rounds-in-6-minutes running time. There's definitely more stamina, rhythm and confidence if I precede my run with a 1-round jog. Now I'm a believer.

I've also heard that Michael Johnson warms up for a full hour before his 200m races. And haven't we seen all those EPL substitutes folks run up and down the touchline before coming on? Now why didn't I pick up on the fact the pros' are doing it?

So, okay, warm-up is good. Which suggests that psychological warm-ups are cool as well. To get the adrenalin pumping prior to a talk, presentation, crucial meeting, etc.?
  • How about taking an informal class of 4 before giving that formal lecture to 90?
  • How about tele-marketeers selling to each other, before turning to that client list?
  • How about sales-folks pitching to colleagues half an hour before rolling out?
  • How about taking 5 minutes to explain the kingdom of God to a friend before taking the pulpit? (assuming you're not the pastor, but even sometimes one is able)

This gives your face and gestures an immediate 'vroom' each time you take the stage. It's almost as if you've been doing it the past half-hour...which of course is exactly the case.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Student-Centered Education?

When is a topic always interesting? When do students never fail to pay attention or be 'present'?

When it's about them.
  • Does the environment reflect their (colour and deco) culture?
  • Are the materials related to their likings and media preferences?
  • Have the learning outcomes been set with their collaboration? Do they agree on the relevance to their lives (as opposed to some pre-set curriculum)?
  • Has the instructional stimulus been fine-tuned to connect intensely with their feelings and lives?
  • Has the method of assessment been agreed upon by them? Can they assess each other?

It's not about ensuring that a resounding Yes is given to all of the above. Hardly.

The critical thing is: Have we asked questions like the above? Are we listening to the unasked ones half-crying out from our students/learners, regarding their education?

Redeeming Corporate Team-Building

If academic lessons (and sermons) are all content and no cheer, corporate team-building is the opposite.

This is a common sequence at many Rah-Rah sessions:
1. Team Building Activity = Fun and games! = Great stuff! = Yes! (followed by...)

2. De-briefing = What did you learn? = Cheap corny clichéd one-liners = Yuck.
How do you communicate a coherent set of complex ideas without suggesting that the participants are a bunch of unread, turtle-under-shell, naive simpletons? How much sense does it make when, after half an hour of running up and down, the speaker says: "This game is to teach us that we must all communicate clearly as a team".


I can swear I hear the participants' inside voices going, "Wow, man! You got me all the way into this conference room, made me miss my Saturday morning trip in DreamLand, jump through hoops (literally) and perform all manner unnatural endeavours, in order to say that to me?! Couldn't you just have gotten my boss to email me a frickin' memo?! %#$!@*"

The fun and games are, well, loads of fun. That's a must.

But corporate trainers need to find a way to avoid the corny 'party-line' quips which all but deflates the energy. For sure, I've never read a feedback comment which went like, "I already knew that and you didn't have to waste my time". People don't always tell you what they think (duh). All the more why we shouldn't wait until a client finally drops the bomb.

There's lots of thinking to be done, and I'm very new at this, but off the top of me scalp, some ways to ensure the content is high-class include:

1. D
o away with general, common-sensical 'teaching' for good i.e. decide to never EVER to conclude with things like, "Listening carefully", "Working together", "Doing your best", "There is no I in T-E-A-M" and all this Junior School stuff.

I'll be blunt: It's insulting.

2. Include at least one piece of cutting-edge theory, something you've read recently from a hot new best-seller, or a blog, or forum, etc. This obviously presumes you need to update yourself constantly.

There's nothing like a trainer who has been keeping up with his reading and self-learning.

3. Include many skill-based learning outcomes and ensure that the session is about practising a new skill, NOT doing activities which 'illustrate' some abstract pithy phrase. E.g. negotiation, public speaking, writing coherently, etc.

In a world starve of action-oriented relevance, providing folks with a safe 'space' to perform something new can be an invaluable thing.

4. Obtain a commitment from the participants and their bosses that there'll be follow-up, at-work assessments, etc. True, this may take SOME pleasure out of the session but if conducted well, there's no reason why anyone should dread being evaluated on what they've been trained.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Game You Play Thrice A Day

When the class looks and feels like somebody's died, it's time for a diversion. Of any kind.

Last week, I stopped the Consumer Buying Behaviour lecture to talk about eating. Not many people know this, but food combinations are important. The kinds of food you mix and match shouldn't be of just any kind.

Most importantly, one shouldn't combine protein with carbohydrates. That's the cardinal rule. Get this right and your life (not to mention your weight) might just change tremendously.

Why not combined these two? Now...hmm...I'm not expert, but I read it's got something to do with digestion. Protein enzymes and carb enzymes cancel each other out i.e. digestion is poor and energy is lost. Result: Fatigue and increased likelihood of disease.

So, what kinds of dishes should you avoid and how can you modify them?

  • Chicken rice! - Eat the chicken, leave out the rice, make you eat lots of cucumber and lettuce (because vegetables can be taken at all times)
  • Burgers! - C'mon, you know these aren't that healthy anyway, skip 'em! Or, if you absolutely have to, call one of those avant-gardish vege burgers or somethin'...
  • Chow Kuey Teow! - Not really a big deal, just leave out the prawns and cockles! (See? It's not that difficult)
  • Spaghetti! - Select one of those with only mushrooms and veg, I assure you they still taste bleedin' good
  • Noodles (wantan, prawn, pork) - now this is a tough one; what I've been doing is avoid these altogether (apart from that occasional moment of weakness, *grin*)...nowadays I take my noodles with bean-sprouts, greens and mushrooms. Alternatively, for wantan noodles, you can skip the noodle and eat the wantan alone
  • Dim Sum! - tough luck, virtually all the dishes are protein-&-carb this case you either i. avoid it completely, ii. give your diet a break and go for it (but make sure you eat loads of veg-based stuff) or iii. pick and choose only meat+veg items (which sucks, I know)

But overall treat it like a game you play three times a day. As with all games, you get better with practice and with each success.

And because it's a game, eating becomes more fun and, certainly, more healthy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Apart from my 2-hour toilet ordeal in the middle of the night, the Carnaval experience is something I'd recommend to one and all.

Apart from my having to take half a day off to let my stomach and sleepless head recuperate, the Brazilian Churrascaria BBQ is a must-try and is perfect for meat-lovers and generally anyone who can 'hold their portions' all evening long.

Apart from my sleep being interrupted, probably due to the nearly rare beef romp served - which was simply superb, I might add - I'd say: Make a trip there at least once a year. Find a time when you've skipped lunch and haven't had a decent meal the whole week. The beef and the lamb are so good, my wife abandoned her anti-lamb stance for an hour.

No other place offers you twelve kinds of BBQ dishes served at your table in skewer form. You feel like Genghis Khan having the luxury to choose the choiciest meat.

Apart from having to scour the medicine box for diarrhea pills and stomach pain tablets, I'd say it's not only the food that was welcoming. Service was the most polite, helpful and efficient I've come across in the entire Damansara area.

Apart from paying the price with your guts in the wee hours of the morn, I'd say it's really worth it to pay the RM50 for the Adult Meal, and have yourself a blast before blasting the basin six hours later.

For the money, there's nothing like the Churrascaria BBQ. Only be careful you don't have important assignments the following day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Un-doing Dilbert

She didn't like my initial email, so she wrote back with some thinly veiled sarcasm.

I didn't entirely get the point of her response, so I counter-responded with some bite of my own.

I then sat and waited. And waited.

Until I decided to go up to her cubicle. I went up to her, shook her hand, said I didn't mean to offend with my earlier email, and things were back to normal after less than a minute.

Peace-making. Never leave office without it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Malaysian Politics & A New Kind of Humanity

It was, from the start, unlikely that many would find the below presentation totally agreeable, but I appreciate the feedback nevertheless (from ROH Merdeka 2008 participants and non-participants alike).

Some responses raised to the idea that peace-making, reconciliation and forgiveness must be the Church's defining role (in politics and all domains of life) included:
  • Jesus has many facets, not merely the suffering/dying one e.g. His Temple action
  • The Church also has a prophetic role to play i.e. Christians have a responsibility to rebuke the world as the Biblical prophets did - attempted response here
  • "Love thy enemy" doesn't apply to societal/institutional evil (e.g. we are not called to love apartheid) - a teenie-weenie response of sorts here (argument still to be developed)
  • One doesn't tell an abused wife to 'love her husband'
  • The book of Revelations was filled with tirades against Rome (e.g. it labeled Rome a beast) - attempted responses here
A good friend even said that whilst he wouldn't mind inviting Ahmad Ismail (who made racist remarks against Malaysian Chinese) to dinner, he would also call UMNO to fire him.

Can you add (or counter-respond) to the above? I'd love to hear more.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

4Ls' of God

Glenn Miller, arguably the best online Christian apologist today (certainly the most verboise and intellectualy vigorous one) posted a very rare entry in his letters section.

This one includes what he calls the 4Ls' about God: The living, loving, laughing and lamenting God.


Preachers not only have to be good teachers; they often need to be watchful psychologists.

The average church worship service can be - let us agree - very dull at times, no?

The music doesn't connect. The message is overly stratospherical (unintentionally, of course - God forbid the preacher would leave out down-to-earthiness and everyday relevance, right?). The congregation's attention isn't there. The passages sound like Greek and Hebrew (smile). Everyone's in outer space or yawning their way there. Heck, even the pews aren't friendly.

The point is: States are value-neutral. There is nothing sinful or evil or godly about how people feel physiologically wherever they are (even and especially in church). If they're tired, they're tired. If they're moody, then they are.

But - unlike 95% of preachers in the world - one doesn't need to remain helpless. Preachers needn't do nothing if they're aware that they're "losing" their audience. Think about it: it only takes a FEW minutes of the service time to:
  • get people talking to each other (about the sermon, about the day, about one thing God has impressed upon their heart in the past 24 hours, etc.)
  • get people to write down two things they like best about the sermon on post-it notes and exchange them w each other
  • get people to find out one interesting thing about someone he doesn't know very well
  • get people to massage the person on the left / right
  • get people to play a quick game or do a quiz

These activites (and others like it) take up little time, are not at all 'ungodly' and helps revive a tired congregation's spirits. Given that merry hearts doeth much good, why shouldn't these be encouraged (more) in church?