Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Way of the Cross (7)


The pain, the exhaustion, the love that drives Him on-but the cross is so heavy. Again He falls beneath the weight; and in bitter resolution-Thy will be done-and in fatigue, Jesus again drives Himself up against the cross, and carries it on towards the fateful Hill of Death.

Will it never end?
I'm not as sure as when I started.

I never knew it would be like this.
But this is my firm choice:
Lord, I will go on with You.
Lord, I will go on with You.

Lord, often I fall,
and the temptation is not to rise again
and continue with You.
When I fall and others watch and laugh,
or say, 'I told you so, you'll never make it,'
give me the strength to fulfil my promise:
Lord, I will go on with You.
Lord, I will go on with You.


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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Way of the Cross (6)


An act of compasssion. A woman called Veronica places a cool cloth on His hot and tired face. He feels the coolness of the cloth, and the love with which it was offered. And through His pain He smiles- a smile never to be lost, never to be extinguished. She reaches out to touch His face, and He leans His head into her hands, within her reach.

Oh, blessed day! The Master touched her life, her heart, her outstretched hands. What faith! What lovely face! What timeless meeting...O blessed Christ.

Christ of the human road, let us,
like Veronica, reach out to touch You,
and, sweet Christ,
show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.
Legend or living person, Veronica, by example,
teaches us to be Your witness,
and others may gaze into Your loving eyes
and know Your smile.
Show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.

As we see Your face by faith,
we learn to become like You, Lord Christ.
That the world may see Your glory:
show us Your lovely face.
Show us Your lovely face.


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

One of the sad deficiency of our education system (from preschool to graduate school) is the failure of the system to teach students critical thinking skills. The emphasis is more on schooling-instructional pedagogy (teaching methodology) which emphasise on memory retention skills rather than evaluation skills. Thus,we have a nation of people who accepts "facts' uncritically, argue irrationally but often with passion, and live unexamined lives.

There are 6 steps to developing critical thinking skills

(1) Knowing
We first have to acquired knowledge, especially of a subject we want to find out about. This acquiring of knowledge may come from reading a book, a journal or magazine, reading an online article, or watching a documentary on television or DVD. However, it is not enough to acquire or memorise the knowledge. You will only know something if you are able to repeat what you have read or heard.

Repeating what you read or hear may not be enough. It just proves that you have a good memory. What you need to do is to repeat what you have read or heard in your own words.

(3) Application
The next step in the critical thinking process is to make use of what you have read or heard in your conversations and in the sharing of ideas with others.

(4) Analysis
Slowly, we need to develop the skills of understanding how the author or producer thinks and how he or she arrives at his or her conclusions. Unless we are able to put ourselves in another person's shoes and articulate his or her arguments, whether we agree with it or not, we cannot be said to have analytical thinking. This means being able to compare and contrast different points of view.

(5) Synthesis
This is where we are able to put together different points of view and make our own independent considered opinion.

(6) Evaluation
This last part is the important part because it involves being able to judge the worth and value of different points of view and also the strengths and weaknesses of our own considered opinion.

This is the process of critical thinking. Critical thinking is needed now, more than ever in our nation and in our churches.


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The Way of the Cross (5)


Simon carried the cross of Christ. At first it was just a tiresome and unwelcome task he was forced into by the soldiers; only later did he recognise his privilege in shouldering the burden of the One who made the worlds.

He was compelled to carry the cross part of the way for Jesus. Simon, himself a stranger, an outcast, often misunderstood, perhaps identified with Jesus, and felt the gratitude of this Man above all men; and amid the pity Simon felt for Him, he felt a burning compassion flowing back to him from Jesus, a burning, life-changing love. Simon carried the cross of Christ.
As Simon took the weight of the cross from Jesus,
You have taught us that we must bear one another's
burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
May we carry Your cross.
May we carry Your cross.
Simon was one just passing by,
but suddenly he was compelled to change direction,
and, with all his strength given
to the carrying of the cross,
pressed through the crowds
to the place of the Skull.
Golgotha, Calvary
Sweet Jesus, like Simon,
may we carry Your cross.
May we carry Your cross.

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The Way of the Cross (4)


As Jesus again shouldered the cross and bore His burden, He glanced ahead and saw His mother. He could not stop to talk, to explain, to gather her in His arms and comfort her. All His energy was being soaked into that cross.
Who are My mother and brothers? Those who do the will of My Father.

Not My will, Father, but Yours.

Lord, You had to leave the security
of home and family, twice.
You left Your Father to be a man with us,
and left Your human family to die for us.
You had to pray to Your Father:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.

Lord, when we leave all and follow You
and it hurts those we love,
help us to know that You have been there, too;
but is more than rewarded in the end.
Help us to pray:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.

Lord, when Your cross pierces
our own desires, and make us call out,
let our cry be, through our pain:
My God, I trust in You.
My God, I trust in You.


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Level 5 Leadership

Jim Collins (2001) Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve, Harvard Business Review

According to Jim Collins’ research, a Level 5 leader sits on top of a hierarchy of capabilities and is a necessity for transforming an organisation from good to great. He suggests a Level 5 hierarchy

Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.

Catalyses commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulates the group to high performance standards

Organises people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives

Contributes to the achievement of group objectives; works effectively with others in a group setting.

Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits.

Which level of leadership are you?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Way of the Cross (3)


Jesus has willingly embraced the cross, but His physical body was weak from lack of sleep, from the pressures of arrest and trial, and from torture and beating.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Jesus say, Yes, but His holy body hesitated and He fell to His knees, determining to rise again even in His weakness.

Lord, You embraced and shouldered Your cross,
but Your body was weak.
Your Body is still weak:
Your people shrink from the weight of suffering.
In our weakness, Lord, let us pray:
Your will be done.
Your will be done.

Jesus, You were first a carpenter:
build us into what You desire,
and secure every joint tightly,
that we may hold together.
Plane the rough surfaces of our relationships.
We are Your workmanship-
Your will be done.
Your will be done.

Jesus, You said 'YES' to the Father's will;
and only Your body hesitated.
May we, Your Body, no longer hesitate,
but follow You in Your obedience, saying:
Your will be done.
Your will be done.


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The Way of the Cross (2)


Jesus was scourged. The whips cut His back until it was shredded and bathed in His blood. A crown of thorns was set on His head in mockery. Then they returned His robe to Him, and brought Him to the cross on which He was to die.

Jesus embraced the cross, resting it painfully on the smarting wounds on His back.

Lord, You were scourged and wounded;
You deserved no punishment.
but were punished in our place.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.

When You were already hurting,
You embraced the cross.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.


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The Way of the Cross (1)


His accusers brought many false charges against Jesus, but He spoke not a word in His own defence. 'crucify him!' they shouted.

Pilate washed his hands, to show the decision was not his own, but he did not dare to side publicly with Jesus; instead, he was willing to content the people.

So Jesus was condemned to death.

Lord, when You were misunderstood,
You silently forgave;
but we so often respond in anger.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

Lord, You gave us opportunity to choose Jesus,
but for so long we have chosen rebellion
that demanded Your death.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


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On Forgiveness

The other morning some of us were together in a church where the rector was saying Morning Prayer, and leading us in a guided silent prayer. He said, ‘Let us pray for those whom we love.’ And that was easy.

The he said, ‘Let us pray for those we do not love.’ And there rose before me three men for whom I have to pray. They were men who have opposed my work. In this way they may have been wrong.

But my wrong was in resentment and a feeling of letting myself be cut off from them, and even from praying for them because of it. Years ago, I read a quotation from Mary Lyon that recurs to me again and again: ‘Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we think they ought.’ If you want to know where pride nestles and festers in most of us, that is right where it is; and it is not the opposition of others, but our own pride, which causes us the deepest hurt. I never read a word that penetrated more deeply into the sin of pride from which all of us suffer, nor one which opens up more surgically our places of unforgiveness.

Samuel Moor Shoemaker
And Thy Neighbour

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The Contemplative Christian

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme’
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

The vivid sonnet says that living beings were created to have Christ come alive in them. Eugene Peterson said. "Hopkins doesn't talk about achieving this congruence, but how it is achieved in us, when Christ lives in us." Peterson describes congruence as the alignment of who you are and what you do, the harmony of the ends you seek and the means you use to achieve them.

Nathan Bierma writes,

This is not the triumphal self-motivated march toward sanctification in which many American Christians are caught up. "It's easier to talk about what Christians do—life as performance," Peterson said. But the three pieces of Jesus' fundamental declaration that he is the way, the truth, and the life, must be in perfect correspondence. "Only when we live Jesus' truth in Jesus' way do we get Jesus' life," Peterson said. Not his truth in our way for the sake of our life. Peterson speculated that America's current hunger for "spirituality"—which he earlier told the (Christian) Century often "degenerates into a sloppy subjectivism"—may have been brought on by Christian leaders who say the right things but lack this coherent identity—"a life lived whole, with integrity, the inside and outside organic to one another."

The deeper problem, Peterson said, is that two things that are basic to the Christian life run counter to the American ethos. First, the Christian life is not about us, but about God. It is not like giving ourselves a makeover. "We're in on it, but we're not the subject or the action," Peterson said. Ever notice how in the Bible, we always come in after a preposition? God with us, in us, for us. In an individualistic, commercial culture, where the self is the center of everything, an autonomous agent of transformation, we have lost this grammar of shalom—what Peterson called "prepositional participation."

The second principle of the Christian life that runs against the grain of American culture, Peterson said, is that the ways and means must be appropriate to the ends. "We can't participate in God's work if we insist on doing it our own way." He cited two examples of "doing the right thing the wrong way": congregation and Scripture. We consider both to be our matters, not God's. Instead of forming communities that embody self-denial, sacrifice, and patience for God to become present in them, we form "consumer churches," using commercial methods to attract people and cater to their wants. And rather than reading Scripture as a way of "listening to God revealing God," we treat it as information for us to process to become more successful and enlightened people. In both cases, the ways and means—bowing to the gods of salesmanship and efficiency—are out of sync with the ends—forming a community of believers submitting to God's work within them.

Read more here

photo source

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spirituality Assessment

Susie, like her older brother and sister, enrolled at a Christian university in her home state. While at the university, she became increasingly involved in issues of social justice, helping out regularly at a soup kitchen and organizing a food drive. She attended chapel weekly, as required, but reported that she frequently daydreamed or took it as ‘down time’ from her busy schedule. Has Susie grown spiritually in college? To what degree? (Please round to the nearest whole number).

Is it possible to assess spiritual growth? Can we quantify spirituality? Apparently many religious colleges in the States are attempting to do so according to's article Spiritual Accountability.

Dr. Todd Hall,associate professor of psychology at Biola University developed an instrument called Spiritual Transformation Inventory (STI).

The STI consists of five domains based on previous theory and research. The five major domains include 21 subscales validated through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and convergent validity with relevant measures.

The domains are:
(1)Spiritual Meaning and Vitality
(2)Spiritual Commitment & Community
(3)Secure Spiritual Attachment
(4)Preoccupied Spiritual Attachment
(5)Dismissing Spiritual Attachment

An example of a Spiritual transformation Inventory on an individual is here.

About 25 institutions affiliated with the Council for Christian College & Universities participated in the Spiritual Transformation Inventory in the 2005-6 school year, with 15 to 20 participating this past semester, Hall says.

Most of these studies are done in the States for religious educational institutions. They are needed to justify that religious educational institutions offers a special distinctive compared to non-religious educational institution.

I wonder whether such a test can be done for our churches. Are members of our congregations growing spiritually? Are the activities of the congregation contributing to their spiritual growth? Are the teachings given adequate for spiritual growth? And do we really want to know?

photo source

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An Ambitious and Controlling Freak

Ambitious and controlling is a dangerous combination;
a lethal mixture that lead to character blowout;
one to rise to the top, one to bind others in their station;
widespread damage with emotional fatal fallout;

Ambition is competitive, cutting down threats by the sword;
sacrificing family, love for the altar of success;
stepping on the fallen to rise high, binding others by the cord;
support nourished by worshippers of the cess.

Controlling reduces people to objects, use and discard;
puppets that dance to the puppeteer’s consciousness;
managing in small details, manipulating with no regard;
wearing the triumphant badge of self-righteousness.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek;
blessed are the pure, the peacemakers;
blessed are the merciful, those who seek;
blessed are the persecuted, the soul builders.


Monday, March 26, 2007

John Denver: Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed

I'm ready to go

I'm standin here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

But the dawn is breakin

Its early morn'

The taxis waitin'

He's blowin his horn

Already I'm so lonesome

I could die

So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you'll wait for me

Hold me like you'll never let me go

'cause I'm leavin on a jet plane

Dont know when I'll be back again

Oh babe, I hate to go

There's so many times

I've let you down

So many times

I've played around

I tell you now, they don't mean a thing

Ev'ry place I go, I'll think of you

Ev'ry song I sing, I'll sing for you

When I come back,

I'll bring your wedding ring

So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you'll wait for me

Hold me like you'll never let me go

'cause I'm leavin on a jet plane

Don't know when I'll be back again

Oh babe, I hate to go

Now the time has come to leave you

One more time

Let me kiss you

Then close your eyes

I'll be on my way

Dream about the days to come

When I won't have to leave alone

About the times, I won't have to say

Oh, kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you'll wait for me

Hold me like you'll never let me go

'cause Im leavin on a jet plane

Don't know when I'll be back again

Oh babe, I hate to go

But, I'm leavin' on a jet plane

Don't know when I'll be back again

Oh babe, I hate to go

Words and music by John Denver


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Listen to the Silence in the Noise

A legend has it that there was a temple built on an island and it held a thousand bells. Bells, big and small, fashioned by the finest craftsman in the world. When the wind blew or a storm raged, all the bells would peal out in a symphony that would send the heart of the hearer into raptures.

But over the centuries, the island sank into the sea and, with it, the temple bells. It is said that the bells continued to peel out, ceaselessly, and could be heard by anyone who would listened. Inspired by this legend, a young man travelled thousands of miles, determined to hear those bells. He sat for days on the shore, facing the vanished island, and listened with all his might. But all he could hear was the sound of the sea. He made every effort to block it out. But to no avail; the sound of the sea seemed to flood the world.

He kept at his tasks for weeks. Each time he got disheartened he would listen to the village elders who spoke with passion of the mysterious legend. Then his heart will be aflame…only to be discouraged again when weeks of further effort yielded no results.

Finally he decided to give up the attempt. Perhaps he was not destined to hear the bells. Perhaps the legend was not true. It was his final day, and he went to the shore to say goodbye to the sea and the sky and the wind and the coconut trees. He lay on the sand, and for the first time listened to the sound of the sea. Soon he was so lost in the sound that he was barely conscious of himself, so deep was the silence the sound produced.

In the depth of that silence, he heard it! The twinkle of a tiny bell followed by another, and another, and another…and soon every one of the thousand temple bells was peeling out in harmony, and his heart was rapt in joyous ecstasy.

This story teaches us two important lessons about listening and awareness. First, all of us have a desire to hear God’s voice. We want to hear what he is saying to us. We want him to speak peace and comfort into our trials and tribulations. We have been taught early in our Christian life to set aside time for prayer and Bible reading. We call it the “quiet time.” We are told that if we have our quiet time regularly, we will hear the voice of God. If not audibly, at least we know that he speaks to us in answered prayers or certain passages in the Bible we are reading that will convey his speech.

There are two possibilities concerning our quiet time. One is that we become too busy that we do not have time to pray and read the Bible. Hence we feel guilty, and we think we have lost the opportunity to hear God’s voice. The other possibility is that we continued faithfully in our prayers and Bible reading but we find it dry and boring after a while. We also find that we do not hear God speaking to us. We must be aware that God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks to us by his Word. God also speaks to us in our prayers, through other people, circumstances, dreams, and into our daily lives.

For those of us who are too busy for prayer and Bible reading, be aware that God still speaks to us in our busy lives. For those who are disciplined in prayers and Bible reading, be careful that we do not try too hard. Like the young man on the beach who tried so hard to hear the bells by consciously shutting out the ocean sounds, we may too be trying too hard to hear God’s voice. In the spiritual life, it is not effort that counts. Spiritual growth is not something we build but who we become. Sometimes, we try too hard in our spiritual life. For example, we want to have faith. Now, faith is not something we can create. There is nothing we can do to make us have more faith. Faith is a gift, something that only God can give. The only thing we can do is ask God for it.

Second, all of us live hectic, busy, and noisy lives. A recent scientific study done showed that cities have a high level of ambience noise. This level of ambient noise can be disruptive to our well being if we are exposed to it for too long. The noise will also cause deafness. Yet it is in our hectic, busy, and noisy lives that God speaks to us. Unfortunately, many of us are already deaf to him because we have not learnt to embrace the noise until we can hear the silence within. The noisy world is like a weather storm; a typhoon. There is always a centre called the “eye” of the storm. This “eye” is a calm, quiet, and peaceful area within the raging storm. We must learn to be aware of the noise around us. We can embrace the noise of the world and move beyond it into the silence within. It is in this silence that we hear the voice of God.

How do we not try too hard, and enter into the silence of our busy and noisy lives? We begin by being aware that God is in our busy and noisy lives. God is not only just present in church on Sunday. We do not leave God behind when we leave the church building after the service. God is not only present in our daily lives, but he is speaking to us all the time. Speaking to God is prayer and Paul has taught us to pray “unceasingly”. This means that it is possible to be speaking and listening to God 24/7. Since God is already with us, there is no need to try too hard to reach him. If possible, set aside some time for him alone, this is your quiet time. If not, listen for him in the happenings of your daily lives. Try to be aware of God’s presence and voice in the routine, mundane of your daily lives. Catch a glimpse of God in a sunrise, a beautiful flower, a friendly smile, a loving touch, an opportunity to offer help, and to receive help. When we become aware of God’s presence in our lives, each encounter becomes dazzling like a sudden burst of joy. Time seems to stand still. There is a deep warm silence. And in the silence you will hear the voice of God who calls you his beloved. It is possible to hear the harmony of a thousand bells.

Reflection questions
(1) Are you trying too hard in your efforts to hear God? Or not making enough effort?
(2) How will you be aware and listen for encounters with God in your hectic, busy, and noisy life?
(3) How will you schedule some quiet time to be aware of God’s presence in your hectic, busy, and noisy life?

We thank you for your presence with us all the time, speaking to us, and guiding our lives. Help us to be aware of your presence and enter into your silence in our hectic, busy, and noisy lives. Hold us in your embrace and let us feel your love, as your beloved. Help us, O Lord, we pray.

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Mobile Suits Gundam: Ultimate Operation U.C.0079

Picked up these guys at Action City, City Square, Johor Bahru, Malaysia yesterday afternoon.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Random Bloggings about the Emerging Church

Phillis Tickle observes that in church history, there is a reformation/renewal movement every five hundred years. The last one, about 500 years ago is the Reformation. Could the emerging church be the next renewal? Read about it in The Future of the Emerging Churches from the blog,Out of Ur

In the same blog Brian McLaren Thanks God for Enemies. Brian credits Bishop Velimirovic's prayers for his enemies influential in helping him to relate to his.

Prayer Regarding Critics and Enemies by Serbian Orthodox Bishop
By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Serbian bishop who spoke out against Naziism, was arrested, and taken to Dachau.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.
Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a [fly].

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Prof. Mark DeVine writes, Fast Friends or Future Foes? The Emerging Church and Southern Baptists, which is an interesting development as one can hardly imagine an emergent church in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Meanwhile, Mark Discoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, blogs about his exhaustion, poor health and dryness in Brokeness and Buddies: a lesson we all should take to heart.

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The Enneagram

The Wikipedia decribes the Enneagram"(also sometimes called Enneagon) is a nine-pointed geometric figure. The term derives from two Greek words - ennea (nine) and grammos (something written or drawn)."

Paul Fromond, one of the two Progidal Kiwis(s) writes about the Enneagram as

The enneagram is a remarkably accurate map of our inner geography. It is distinguished from much of modern psychology in that it illustrates our inner motivations and our behaviour only secondarily. The enneagram map depicts what model of the universe each of nine different kinds of people have. This map, like all maps, describes some things and leaves out others.

He is commenting on an interview with Clarence Thomson by The National Catholic Reporter. The interview that is divided into three parts:
1. What the Enneagram is and why it works.
2. Widening your focus.
3. The Enneagram fits into traditional Catholic theology.
Download it (Mp3) here. You can complete an online enneagram exercise here.

What is interesting is the comment by philjohnson posted on Paul's blog.

I do not wish to detract from your post nor from the Catholic authors who encourage responsible and theologically reflective use of the Enneagram.

However, one point that I do feel that needs to be underscored is a matter of discernment. Although there is a corpus of Catholic literature that seeks to integrate the Enneagram into a theological framework, there is another stream of thought connected to the Enneagram that your readers do need to be cognizant of.

The Enneagram was conceived of by the Russian occultist George Gurdjieff, and other elements related to the 9 personality types were then developed by a Latin American psychic Oschar Ichazo of the new age Arica School.

There is an entire corpus of metaphysical literature built around the Enneagram that propagates an entirely different anthropology and cosmology that is essentially Gnostic, and thus in many respects stands in great tension with orthodox Christian teachings (as expressed in the ecumenical creeds of the Church).

I am not arguing here that because the Enneagram originated in the mind of an occultist therefore the whole thing must be rejected. That would be logically fallacious.

However, because of the sheer volume of published materials based on or explaining the Enneagram, some discernment is needed.

I was first introduced to the Enneagram by Richard Rohr and Angreas Ebert's 1990 book, Discovering the Enneagram. According to that edition, Rohr described the Enneagram to have its origin from sufism. Muslim mathematicians had discovered that "a new kind of number comes into being when zero is divided by three or seven (periodic decimal fractions)...they called it the "face of God,"because in the nine points of energy that the Enneagram describes they saw nine refractions of the one divine love."(p.7). This is also consistent with the "mathematic constructs of the Jewish Kabbala and the Kabalistic doctine of the tree of life..." (p.8).

I have been using the Enneagram in my counseling and spiritual direction. I find it useful especially in understanding our inner motivations and subconscious drives.

Richard Rohr and Angreas Ebert came out with a new edition of their 1990 book in 2004. Now, they claim that with additional research, they have found that the Enneagram in fact originated from the Desert Fathers and the sufis modified on the concept.

This is my personal observation but everytime I used the Enneagram, I feel a certain unease. I feel similar unease when I walk into temples, sites of old battlefields, and "sacred high places."
I believe there are two levels in the Enneagram. One is the purely psychological level. On this level, it is like any spiritual/psychological tools, it can be used to understand ourselves and our motivations better. However, there is a deeper spiritual level which we do not know anything about. I will liken this to the martial arts like Tai Chi, Karate and Wu Su. There is a physical level and a spiritual level.

Discernment is needed at the spiritual level. Who resides there? Princes, powers, and principalities? I do not know. For the moment, I have stopped using the Enneagram until my level of discrenment have improved or someone have convinced me otherwise.

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Lilian's Journey

A dear sister in Christ has started a contemplative blog, Lilian's Journey.

She is journaling this Lenten season. Lilian writes

Jesus is who he is because of the One who sent him. He does and is nothing more and nothing less. The title of this post has 3 key questions for the spiritual life: Who is God? Who am I? What am I to do with my life? These are fundamental questions suggested by Anderson and Reese in their book 'Spiritual Mentoring'. We cannot know what we are to do before we develop a loving relationship with God and allow him to speak into our lives. He tells us 'who we are' Until we know who we are we will not be able to find and live our vocation authentically.

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The House with the Golden Windows in the Ooze

The Ooze published my article The House with the Golden Windows on 21 March 2007. Hope you will enjoy reading it. Appreciate your comments here.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Pope John Paul II

Click on image for a better view

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A Meditation for Centring Prayer

We begin our prayer by disposing our body. Let it be relaxed and calm, but ever inwardly alert.

The root of prayer is interior silence. We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. Deep prayer is the laying aside of thoughts. It is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions. We do not resist them or suppress them. We accept them as they are and go beyond them, not by effort, but by letting them all go by. We open our awareness to the Ultimate Mystery whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself. The Ultimate Mystery is the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment.

We are totally present now, with the whole of our being, in complete openness, in deep prayer. The past and future – time itself – are forgotten. We are here in the presence of the Ultimate Mystery. Like the air we breathe, this divine Presence is all around us and within us, distinct from us, but never separate from us. We may sense this Presence drawing us from within, as if touching our spirit and embracing it, or carrying us beyond ourselves into pure awareness.

We surrender to the attraction of interior silence, tranquility, and peace. We do not try to feel anything, reflect about anything. Without effort, without trying, we sink into this Presence, letting everything else go. Let love alone speak: the simple desire to be one with the Presence, to forget self, and to rest in the Ultimate Mystery.

This Presence is immense, yet so humbling; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal. I know that I am known. Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence. It knows everything about me – all my weaknesses, brokenness, sinfulness – and still loves me infinitely. This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing – just by its Presence. It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, seeking no reward, boundless in compassion. It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize. I cannot force this awareness, or bring it about. A door opens within me, but from the other side. I seem to have tasted before the mysterious sweetness of this enveloping, permeating Presence. It is both emptiness and fullness at once.

We wait patiently; in silence, openness, and quiet attentiveness; motionless within and without. We surrender to the attraction to be still, to be loved, just to be.

How shallow are all the things that upset and discourage me! I resolve to give up the desires that trigger my tormenting emotions. Having tasted true peace, I can let them all go by. Of course, I shall stumble and fall, for I know my weakness. But I will rise at once, for I know my goal. I know where my home is.

(adapted Thomas Keating)

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

21st Century Literacy Summit

A "21st Century Literacy Summit" was hosted by Adobe, the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) in April 2005. This summit provides a framework for the consideration of "new media literacies" in "The New Media Literacies Project", a collaboration of the University of Chicago and MIT.

The older media are oral media, print media (1500), graphic media, and cinema (1900). Nowadays we shall have to consider the e-media and the experiential media.

Kristina Woolsey presented a paper New media Literacies: A Language Revolution in which she postulates that it is a language revolution. She writes,

Digital technologies have created a new environment for human thinking, learning and communication.Many think of this as a media revolution. Me, I think of it as a language revolution. I think that digital technologies have fundamentally changed the nature of the tools available to the human species for thinking and human expression. I believe that they have extended traditional media as we have known them, to create new e-media, and that they have created a new class of immersive experiential media to add to those that we have known in the past. More critically, I think that the context for the interactions and exchange of these media have been altered drastically by digital technologies, creating a very new digital “soup” in which we humans are now exchanging and developing our ideas.

She concludes by stating that to prepare students for the e-media age, they need to

• engaging critical judgement in assessing the wealth of available information,
• using imagery in communications,
• engaging collaborative groups in solving problems,
• assessing information gathered from multiple sources,
• expressing ideas in a range of media,
• choosing media appropriate to tasks,
• thinking in multimodal terms, and
• participating actively in collective intelligence communities.

Susan Marcus, in response to Woolsey's paper presented The New Literacies: What is Basic Education Now? Susan notes

The definition of what the new literacies are all about, what “they” should contain, or how or where to teach “them”, or measure “them” is still under construction. The general agreement from the 21st Century Literacy Summit Report is that while the underlying concepts are “informed by work in media literacy, semiotics, iconography, visual cognition, the arts, and other well-established fields, they emerged so recently that there is not a body of literature or theory in place yet that can provide adequate definitions, taxonomies, or ontologies.”

...the new “language” of imagery (and sound) is another very basic symbol system to learn, utilize, and invent with. And that it is the oldest symbol system of our species, coming long before the other symbol systems of words and numbers that have taken the cherished literacy spotlight today. I will also try to “connect the dots” a bit differently and show how creativity (a higher-order thinking skill) and individuality are central to new literacy thinking and also deserve to be moved up the ladder of priorities of what occupies our children’s time in preparation for their (and our)

Personally I find it exciting to be at the cutting age of a new revolution in our thinking, writing, and communicating.


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Top 25 Down Under

What they're singing in Australia

(1) Here I am to Worship
(2) Shout to the Lord
(3) Lord I lift Your Name on High
(4) How Deep the Father's Love for Us
(5) For All You've Done
(6) One Way
(7) Open the Eyes of My Heart
(8) The Power of Your Love
(9) Come, Now is the Time to Worship
(10) Above All
(11) In Christ Alone
(12) Ancient of Days
(13) I Give You My Heart
(14) Shine, Jesus, Shine
(15) Everyday
(16) The Heart of Worship
(17) What the Lord Has Done in Me
(18) There is a Redeemer
(19) Worthy is the Lamb
(20) My Redeemer Lives
(21) As the Deer
(22) The Potter's Hand
(23) Awesome God
(24) This Kingdom
(25) Hear Our Praises

CCLI list of most used lyrics
Leadership Journal Spring 2006

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Centering (Centring) Prayer

Centering prayer is a method designed to deepen the relationship with Christ and to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our facilities to cooperate with this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times (e.g., The Cloud of Unknowing) in an updated form and put a certain order and regularity into it. It is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; it simply puts other kinds of prayer into a new and fuller perspective.

During the time of prayer, we consent to God’s presence and action within. At other times our attention moves outward to discover God’s presence everywhere else.

The Guidelines

(1 ) Choose a sacred word (e.g. love, Jesus, Father, God) as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

(2) Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

(3) When you are aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

(4) At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

picture credit

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Introduction to the Devout Life

The Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales is one of my many favourite devotion and spiritual books. Even though it was written in 1608, it has relevance to the teaching of our spiritual growth and spiritual direction has not decreased.

In fact, I would consider Francis de Sales as one of my many spiritual directors as his writings continues to inspire, guide and point me to the Transcendent in my everyday life.

For a more comprehensive study of his writings, I find this book, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction 1988 (New York:Paulist Press) which is part of The Classics of Western Spirituality series worth reading.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Way of Walking Alone

adapted from The Book of Five Rings


The Australian Soul

Bouma, Gary (2006), Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the Twenty-first Century, Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge University Press

This is an interesting book about Australian religions and spiritualities.

Professor Gary Bouma is head of the School of Political and Social Enquiry at Monash University. He holds the UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations-Asia Pacific and is Chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics in Research involving Humans. He has served as a minister in United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church of Australia. I find it fascinating to discover more and more bovocational Christians who are proficient in both their vocations.

Professor Bouma describes

Australian society can be seen as post-empire, post-colonial, post-modern, post-ecumenical, post-secular and post-family.(xiv)

... the Australian norms and expectations associated with the dimensions of patterned relations with the transcendent, religious and spiritual include:

*intensity: a strong tendency towards the subdued, laid back
*expressivity: a strong tendency towards the shy, withdrawn and not exuberant
*frequency: a strong tendency towards infrequent or occasional attendance
*periodicity: annual/biannual participation is more acceptable than weekly
*cyclicity: a tendency for participation to occur early and late in the lifecycle
*consistency: a low level of consistency between belief and practice is accepted
*singularity: persons are expected to identify with one religion
*proximity: the transcendent is expected to be distant, localised and diffuse
*efficacy: the transcendent is subject to influence, trustworthy and effective
*access: the transcendent to be accessed directly and through professionals
*social location: religious groups are expected to be on the margin, not central

I find this book an interesting read. Australian society is not like the US and progressively less European. It is not Asian either. With immigrations, they are beginning to face issues of multifaith, multiculture and multiethnicity. It is a post Christian, and progressively post Anglican culture. Many of us are familiar with Hillsong outside Sydney. However, the megachurch Hillsong is an exception rather than the rule in Australian Christianity. Bouma calls for a way of doing church that is closer to the Australian psyche.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007


I shall be offline 10-19 March. Please continue to post comments and continue the conversation. I shall respond to your comments as soon as I can.

Soli Deo Gloria


Prayer for the Day

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God's infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father's holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lampstand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father, and with you, I can find my way to the Trinity. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all - all I have, think, do and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own.


Henri Nouwen
Prayers from the Genesee


Friday, March 09, 2007

300-The Movie

STARRING: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIO: Warner Bros.

Let me come straight out and say it, I love the movie. The movie followed closely the Frank Miller's comic even to the narrative. "SPARTAN...come back with your shield --or on it." Great send of if your husband is going to war. Its shades of gray lighting, with virtual background gives me the feeling that I am watching the comic.

The movie is faithful to the characters created by Frank Miller, the costumes, the deformed traitor, the uniforms, down to the nose rings and earrings of the Persian ambassadors. No, not that closely, because in the comic most of the Spartan are naked and have only a cloak, their helmet, shield, sword, and spear. In the movie, they are modestly wearing hot pants.

The battle sequence is exciting with slow motion frames, cutting, thrushing and lopping off of body parts. Gerard Butler looks like King Leonidas in the comic. He also looks like a younger Mel Gibson. 300 Spartans against a million Persians. When the Persian archers shot their arrows, the sky blacken. The Spartans with distain says, "Then we shall fight in the shade."

The only part I did not like is the part added into the movie but not in the comic. That's the part about the queen trying to get the Council to send the rest of the Spartan army to help their king.

There was an earlier movie, 300 Spartans which covered the same battle. The only memorable part of that movie is Richard Burton running around in a short skirt.

Steven Pressfield wrote a novel, Gates of Fire, which is worth reading.

The war scenes are quite graphic and may be scary for small children. Definitely worth a cinema. Do not miss the sound effects.

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Simon and Garfunkel: The Boxer

I am just a poor boy.
Though my story's seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles, Such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

When I left my home
And my family,
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station,
Running scared,
Laying low,
Seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know

Lie la lie ...

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job,
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue
I do declare,
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there.

Lie la lie ...

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone,
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren't bleeding me,
Leading me,
Going home.

In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains
Lie la lie..........


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300-The Comic

Go tell the Spartans, passerby:

That here, by Spartan law, we lie.

300 by Frank Miller is one of the best comic I have read. Published in 1998 in five issues, it was collected as a hardcover in 1999. It was published by Dark Horse Comics.

Frank Miller's drawings are his classics, portraying human bodies, not in its ideal Greek form but as functional tortured souls. Lynn Varley did the coloring. It reminds me of his classic, Batman:The Dark Knight Returns. The story is based on an event in Greek history.

The Persian army of one million soldiers under Xerxes were on the way to invade Greece. It is said that the earth shook when the Persian army marched. This attack of the Persians took the Greek city states by surprise. They needed time to gather their forces. The initial attack had the Persians franked the Greek army.

Knowing this, King Leonidas of Sparta decided to lead 300 of his elite force to try to stop the Persians at a narrow pass called the Hot Gates or Thermopylae.

According to Herodotus, Leonidas had been warned by the Delphic oracle that either Sparta would be destroyed or their king would lose his life. Leonidas chose the second alternative. All the Spartans died, including Leonidas.

However the 300 Spartans managed to hold off the one million Persian army long enough for the rest of Greek army to escape. Their courage and their death became the inspiration for the Greek nation states to fight against the Persian.

I have reread the comic. Now I am ready for the movie.


At the Movies

My friend and dear brother Soo Inn shares with me the love of the Lord, mentoring younger people, teaching, preaching, movies and comics. Here is his take on movies. Reproduced with permission, of course.

GRACE@WORK MAIL 10/07 [March 9, 2007 Edition]
"Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
"Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
(Ecclesiastes 1:2)

[Note: If you haven't watched the movies Ghost Rider and Protege and intend to do so you may want to skip today's column.]

Commentary: At The Movies
Caught two movies over the Lunar New Year holidays.
Ghost Rider was fun. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, it worked while his previous efforts (Daredevil, Elektra) failed because Ghost Rider doesn't take itself too seriously. (Catch the Nicolas Cage character trying to sterilize a needle with hell fire.) I left the theatre feeling like I had read a comic on the screen. Cultural soda pop on a hot afternoon.

As is often the case in movies that feature the supernatural, God doesn't make a direct appearance. And as is often the case, Christianity is portrayed as ineffectual and weak. Check out the priest, well meaning but helpless in the face of evil. I believe in a God who says that it is possible to move mountains even if you have faith the size of a mustard seed.

Still the plot presupposes a battle between good and evil with evil losing in the end. Here is the perennial human hope. The real contours of this battle are recorded in the bible not in popular celluloid and when we reach the book of Revelation we know the good guys do win in the end. But salvation comes not from heroism or romanticism but through the conquering love of Christ on the Cross.

Christians see this movie? Depends. If you are particularly vulnerable to images of supernatural evil then seeing them may give real evil a foothold to trouble you. You should give Ghost Rider and other movies that feature the demonic a miss. But if your faith is strong enough then go if you want to. But go with others if possible. And always go with discernment.

The other movie I saw recently was the Hong Kong production, Protege. Now here is a parade of images of real horror as the movie deals with the destructive power of heroin addiction. Directed by Tung-Shing Yee, Protege has promise but is let down by the unnecessary gore and slapstick that we sometimes find in movies from Hong Kong. (Did we really need to see the Customs officer's hand bludgeoned off?) And at times the movie felt like a National Geographic documentary, documenting the decline of the heroin trade.
But the primary question raised by Protege is profound. Why do people take drugs to begin with? The answer could have come from the book of Ecclesiastes. People take drugs to escape the emptiness of life. The root problem is not drugs. The root problem is that life has no meaning. This was portrayed well by the two protagonists in the movie.

The drug lord, played by Andy Lau, has worked hard all his life in the drug trade. The onset of kidney failure causes him to realize that he ought to retire so that he can have time to tend to his health needs and to enjoy life. So he chooses a protege to take over his business. But his protege turns out to be an undercover narcotics agent who betrays him. The drug lord is caught before he can leave the country. He ends up taking his own life. All is meaningless.

The narcotics agent played by Daniel Wu, succeeds in what he set out to do. He gets to bring down the drug lord. But success is hollow. He gets a perfunctory clap on the back by the powers that be. He loses a girl he has come to care for. He is no longer capable of living a normal life. And he has to live with the guilt of having betrayed a man who had come to love him and trust him. All is meaningless.

As a movie Protege is uneven. Nevertheless it portrays well the central question of life. Does life have meaning? And if it does not why shouldn't I lose myself in drugs? Or take my own life? What a great starting point for some good conversations with friends Christian and non-Christian.

I minister to many young adults and college students and I have long come to realize that the movies are a key feature of their lives. They are a key feature of my life. Therefore I hear Peter Fraser and Vernon Edwin Neal when they tell us in their book ReViewing the Movies that "...the time is at hand for Christians to engage our movie-made culture courageously, and this means we have to struggle with real issues and tell the truth." (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000, p. 20)

They go on to remind us:
"For too long we Christians have feared the corrosive influence of film and so avoided approaching it thoughtfully. We need to shift to the offensive and intentionally discuss film as a way to illustrate and apply the truth. And we need to appreciate film for its artistry and praise our Creator who gives such gifts to men.

It may be useful to recall that Jesus never reduced life to simple platitudes, and He never chose the safe, sanitized road. He embraced each person uniquely, and He got his sandals dirty. If films had existed in first-century Israel, it just might be that His tastes would have surprised people. His tastes in people seemed to surprise people, after all." (p.22)

Fraser and Neal end their book with some guidelines for Christians and the movies. They include:

*Christians must get involved in all aspects of the film industry and find ways to use that medium to honor God and advance the Gospel.
*Individual Christians who watch film should find the means to educate themselves and their children about film.
*Films need to be evaluated according to the twin standards of artistic excellence and truthfulness.
*The popularity of certain kinds of film reveal as much about the longings of the human heart in general, as well as particular cultural and historical moments.
*The wide range of films produced in the past hundred years offers manifold opportunity for Christians to enter into dialogue with the larger culture.
(pp. 178 - 179)

If you haven't seen Ghost Rider or Protege, well I think you can give Ghost Rider a miss unless you are an old time Marvel comic fan like me. You may want to see Protege but be warned. The true to life horror in Protege blows the cgi horror of Ghost Rider away any day.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan

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