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?