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Recommended for your Library

    Ethics: The Heart of Leadership

    Edited by Joanne Ciulla. An important collection of essays by philosophers, leadership and management thinkers considering the role of ethics in leadership

    Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

    By Robert K. Greenleaf, Larry C. Spears, Stephen R. Covey. Servant and leader--can these two roles be fused in one real person in all levels of status and calling?

    Warranted Christian Belief

    By Alvin Plantinga. Third in a trilogy of works on the issue of warrant - the basis of the rationality of Christian beliefs written by arguably the most important philosopher of religion alive today

    Renovation of the Heart

    By Dallas Willard. A philosopher and quintessential Christian teacher relates and reflects on what it means to put on the character of Christ.

    Foreign Bodies

    By Hwee Hwee Tan. An impressive first novel by young new author from Singapore acclaimed as an up and coming Pulitzer Prize winner

    Mammon Inc.

    By Hwee-Hwee Tan. Second novel by this very important young new author from Singapore applauded the world over, including The Times in London and the New York Times

    Three Philosophies of Life

    By Peter Kreeft. Three life philosophies presented through the works of three of Scriptures most beautiful poetry books, Job, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Solomon

    Horrendous Evil and the Goodness of God

    By Marilyn McCord-Adams. A seminal response to the age-old problem of evil which attempts to take seriously the theological ramifications of the character of God


    By Malcolm Gladwell. Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant.

    Smart Mobs

    By Howard Rheingold. A social commentary about how "sophisticated mobile Internet access is allowing people who don't know each other to act in concert".


    By Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. An engaging treatise about the fundamentals of interconnectedness and complexity that underlies neurology, epidemiology, Internet traffic, and many other fields.

    The Peaceable Kingdom

    By Stanley Hauerwas. A clear explication of a Christian ethic based upon the meaning of the gospel, highlighting virtues and character, and narrative as a mode of ethical reflection.

    The Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel & Kingdom, Gospel & Wisdom, Gospel & Revelation

    By Graeme Goldsworthy. A collection of masterful works expositing on the centrality of the Scriptures: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Grace and Law: St. Paul, Kant, and the Hebrew Prophets

    By Heinz Cassirer. A Kantian scholar looks at the Old Testament Law, and Paul's understanding of it, concluding that Kant's delimma is answered by the gospel of grace.

The Un-Right Christians

Progressive Christian Blogger Network

Church Directory of Evangelical Blogs

Saturday, April 09, 2005


I thought it would be a quick exit. But Blogger was not going to let me go without a fight.

And what a fight it was... but after many long days of battle, I have finally migrated my blog to

...continue reading...Finally...Sayonara

Monday, March 28, 2005

On Desiring Multiculturalism

According to my fellow SoCal Blogger, John Schroeder of Blogotional, it is futile to cultivate multicultural churches because any such attempts will only result in heartbreaking failure.

For one thing, merely calculating the racial compositions of congregations is misleading since "[i]f integration is to matter it must be a matter of the heart, not merely the head count." Secondly, congregations are segregated only because of social forces causing people to drift to those with whom they relate more than anything else. Finally, any effort to unite people along racial, or any other, lines end up being artificially contrived.

John therefore joins others (in the comments of a post over at " target="_blank">here)in calling for the church to desire, but not force, integration. This in response to DJ Chuang's post highlighting an April Christianity Today article, on the thesis that all churches should be multiracial.

I am somewhat puzzled by John's attitude.

While he agrees that all churches ought to aim for the ideal of multiculturalism, he is ambivalent about the success of its actual practice. In fact, he drew upon his own experiences to suggest that it will only fail.

John's personal examples in previous efforts to integrate churches he had been involved in seemed to me, to be a little on the trivial side and misses the point about being intentional about fostering multicultural congregations or churches.

For I do not think multiculturalism amounts merely to having people of different language or cultural groups within a congregation, and even having different languages in your worship or fellowship groups. This kind of approach towards integration is precisely why earlier reported efforts to foster "multiculturalism" in churches had failed.

Perhaps John's earlier point about multiculturalism being more than just statistical and that it is more a matter of the heart rings true. Perhaps, true multiculturalism is achieved only when there is genuine conversations and engagement of different cultural expressions and theologizing of the same faith within the church, or congregation.

John says to "desire" multiculturalism, but, is it really enough to desire multiculturalism in our churches? How does "desiring" multiculturalism look like?

Ought there be a definite program, an intentional, concerted effort in actually going out of the way to setup our churches so that they be truly multicultural? If such programs or efforts are carried out, would that be considered "forcing" an ideal that is hopelessly unattainable except by coincidence or accident?

I might continue to explore this topic a little, perhaps in future posts, but before I do I would like to know your take about this.

What does it mean to you to implement multiculturalism in our churches? Should we even do this? Would doing it implicate us in forcing something that is not natural? Should we just remain passively "desiring" it to happen, and let nature run its course? How do "real multicultural" churches look like, and how do we measure them?

...continue reading...On Desiring Multiculturalism

Making the Move Soon

Well, I have been thinking about this for a while, but circumstances and other diversions have sidetracked me quite a bit.

Now, I think I am quite ready to finally make the move from blogger. Especially after witnessing both Messy Christian and djchuang migrating their respective blogs, it all seemed oh-so-easy. And I am jealousimpressed.

I think I am going to choose WordPress as my blogging software, which by all accounts, appears to be the most flexible without having to learn to re-create the wheel, like MT. I am going to have to find a host that will let me install WordPress or better yet, which has a free installation service. Those of you who have made the move, I have a few questions for you if you don't mind.

Since I am also going to have to migrate from blogger I would also like to migrate from haloscan. Does anyone have any experience in this process, and can you offer any tips or gotchas?

Also, any recommendations for a hosting company? So far, Cyberwurx seems to be the most responsive in my inquiries.

As of right now, I am thinking Typepad is probably not flexible enough based on comments by other bloggers, and MT is probably too vanilla and do-it-yourself to allow me to get it up and running quickly enough given the time I have for this, so I am choosing WordPress instead. Can you comment on the pros can cons of my decision?

...continue reading...Making the Move Soon

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Best of Me Symphony #70

This week's Best of Me Symphony is up at The Owner's Manual with the Kinky Friedman as the gues host.

My submission this time is Fundamentalism and Fanaticism in Any Religion is Wrong, which is in response to what I thought was a sweeping generalization in criticism of Islam.

Go have check out this week's fare at the The Owner's Manual!

...continue reading...Best of Me Symphony #70

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Drawing to a Close - Not Quite, but Almost!

It is just right there - albeit verbally. After two greulling days of negotiation, I think this long drawn out process (beginning with even before I lost my job, and the ups and downs of the subsequent job search process) is finally drawing to a close. The smoke, however, hasn't cleared.

I received a firm written offer on Wednesday night.

It was just too fast, I tought.

I had just barely come back from the interview - in fact, I received a call about three hours after the interview (it was an hour and a half commute from the office to my house), and was told by the hirer that he had sent me the offer by e-mail.

When can I start?

I told him I needed time to read the offer and talk to my family, consider my options and then come back to him.

There were a few things to consider. The job may mean we have to move, although I was assured that I could work from home.

The company is a good sized company and the opportunity seemed fantastic. They are willing to allow me to build my own department, with appropriate administrative, marketing and even technical support, and the people I met at the company seemed very friendly and highly skilled.

The only thing I was hesitant about is their process. It was just a tad too fast. Too loosy-goosy. If that is the process they use to hire me, I guess the firing process might probably be as non-methodical, apparently haphazard and quick. Can I really take that risk again after having gone through two lay-offs in three years??

In the meantime, I had interviewed with a separate company (Company A) a few times.

It started with a half-hour telephone interview on a Thursday two weeks ago with the Director of the hiring group, and then a face-to-face meeting with said director at the local Starbucks that evening. He was eager to meet with me after the phone call because otherwise, we had to wait a while for his schedule to clear. The Starbucks interview meeting lasted two and a half hours that evening.

He then asked me to prepare a presentation to part of the CSG team which I did the following Tuesday morning. The CEO also came along to the presentation. Everyone had only good feedback after the presentation.

After the presentation, the Director met with me for probably an hour, after which he brought me to meet with the CEO, which lasted for another hour. We seemed to hit it off and everything went very well.

Next, they invited me to attend a corporate seminar on the following Thursday which they organized jointly with Microsoft for their clients. After that seminar the director and CEO took me out to a delicious dimsum lunch where there were more discussions.

Then the Director met with me on Thursday of this past week to discuss/negotiate the compensation package. It went for the entire morning! We started at 9 in the morning and ended at about 12:30 with the director promising that he will speak with the CEO about my requests and calling me back that afternoon.

In the meantime, the other company (Company B) had given me until 5 pm to response to their written offer.

I received a call finally from Company A at 4:30 pm. He needed more time!

He said they were willing to give me almost everything I asked for, but they needed to revise the conditions, in particular the sales revenue target in order to have me on-board.

Further, he said he needed time to think through the strategy, as well as he needed to talk to my references. I was a little perplexed. Talk to my references? Didn't they do that before they start negotiating the offer to me?

So I had to call Company B to let them know that I needed more time.

Company B's CEO, who made the offer, said he was going to Cancun the next day and he needed to know pretty much right away. He upped his offer, upped the commission rate and promised me that I can in fact work from home and in fact start the division as a branch office in my County rather than at the head office. All too good to be true!

And that was what continues to trouble me. So, I remained firm for asking for more time.

He said, "OK, then, I will call you tomorrow from Cancun. Can you give me an answer by then?" Yes, of course, I said.

Friday. 12 noon came and went. I thought that was when Company B CEO was going to call. It was not until 1:45 pm when Director of Company A called. They had been busy and both he and the CEO had been on the road he explained. Can he send me the firm offer on Monday, but can I agree verbally, if I was still in the market, to an offer to an offer meeting my salary requirements but with the stipulation of a sales figure (which was actually lower than what I had expected). I cautiously replied, yes, I will accept. Inside, I was jumping for joy!

However, it was a verbal offer right now. I have yet to wait till Monday for the offer in writing.

At 2, CEO of Company B called. I explained that even though I was excited about the opportunity with his company and am flattered by the offer, I had to decline. I thought he would be angry but he said, "OK, call me if it doesn't work out with Company A." I promised to do so if that happens.

So, at the end, I hadn't quite burned that bridge, and I have a verbal offer from the company that I believe is the right fit for me. I leave it in God's hands now as I await that all important offer in writing on Monday!

As you can imagine, I was exhausted by yesterday evening, so after attending a soul-refreshing contemplative Good Friday remembrance and reflection service at my church, I was ready for a long, deep, sleep!

Through this process, I have learned so much about trusting God, and am still learning, as there are still a few major huddles to jump over. It is far from over, but the ride has been an exhilarating one, and I thank all my friends who have joined me in this roller-coaster ride. Even though you don't know me by name, yet I feel the power of your fellowship, and I thank you for your willingness to pray with me and for my family and me. I have been much strengthened, and have grown to know a little of the power of Christ's love through the process.

...continue reading...Drawing to a Close - Not Quite, but Almost!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Update on My Job Search

It's getting closer people!

I want to thank all those of you who have offered me prayer support, a word of encouragement and an insight into life's ups and downs and the assurance of God's care and providence.

On Monday, I woke up with the resolve that I will get a job finally by the end of this week.

On Tuesday, my phone seemed not to stop ringing!

I had two further face-to-face interviews and a couple of phone interviews.

By Wednesday afternoon, I have one firm written offer and one verbal offer.

Thursday morning, I am going to be meeting face-to-face with one of the companies to negotiate the job offer.

Both companies are reasonably well established and much larger than my previous companies. Both roles will utilize my skills, experience, and passion and have great potential for growth. The CEO's of both companies are people I would be happy to learn from and grow with, rather unlike my previous manager.

There are still a few more things to get squared away before I can be back sailing on smooth waters yet.

So, I'd appreciate it if you would continue to pray for wisdom, courage and peace. Thank you all so very much!

...continue reading...Update on My Job Search

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Christian Carnival #62

Apparently by the time this post is up, Jim Nutt of A Nutt's View is fast asleep, but the guy has been laboring most of today to put up this week's Christian Carnival. There are 51 posts in all, so there is probably something for everyone to savor.

As Jim puts it he labored hard to put the carnival together for this week. With much pomp and enthusiasm, he presents the carnival for your "amazement, amusement and edification" for you ..."to watch", "to gasp", "to marvel" and "to weep".

My own submission this week is a post which is not so much pro-Rick Warren as it is anti-Rick Warren critics. I just think that most of the critics of Warren (whether they are opposed to his book, or just to the columns he has begun to write for the Ladies Home Journal) are just missing the point. But you will have to read my post to find out what I mean!

Well, enjoy!

...continue reading...Christian Carnival #62

More Limelight for the "Heretic" of the Month

From DJ Chuang: Rick Warren is going to spend the whole of Tuesday AND Wednesday on not one, or two or three but ten different shows nationally! Wow!

I can feel the heads shaking and the chins wagging already.

But I join DJ in asking that all those who see this as an opportunity for the gospel to pray for our brother.

Moreover, perhaps we need to see this an opportunity for all of us to talk to our friends and neighbors about what he wrote about, to pray that we are able to use this as a means to talk a little more about our faith with our friends.

Let's pray that God will use this man, in all his frailties, to say things that will make people want to know more.

Let's face it. This day and age, we are not going to have many D L Moody's, John and Charles Wesley's or Jonathan Edwards preaching repentance, hell-brimstone and fire style. Not for too long anyway.

Even if there were these kinds of preachers around, people are less likely to turn up in their hundreds and thousands to listen to that style of preaching.

We all acknowledge that people these days are more skeptical and less Biblically-aware and literate. After all, we acknowledge that we are in a post-modern age, and with the new age, comes new styles, including communication styles.

Yet, we also acknowlege that there is nowadays a noticeable resurgence of interest in spirituality, albeit, a different kind of spiritual awakening.

Rick Warren is one of the many voices to whom people are currently listening. He may not be preaching the kind of gospel that you might used to, but then again, very few people are listening to the kind of gospel you are used to.

However, God is working these days as He has always been working - through Christians relating to their non-Christian friends and neighbors.

Perhaps you can use this as an opportunity to talk to your non-Christian friends about what you believe. Perhaps the PDl is a way to open doors for you.

Recently, I said as much at the comment I left in response to this post at JollyBlogger's.

Whatever your take on PDL, on Rick Warren, his church, his beliefs, his teachings, hopefully you see it as an opportunity rather than as hindrance to your calling.

...continue reading...More Limelight for the "Heretic" of the Month

This Sales Guy Talks Too Much!

Just received a personality profile report from one of the job opportunities that I am chasing.

It is a 27-page manifesto-like report on my personality trait profile, and the potential match between what I am as a person and how I might perform in a sales position.

Very interesting read.

Here is what it says in part:
...consistently meets the challenge of persuading people to his point of view. Some buyers may desire less talk and more facts...Inclined to talk smoothly, readily and at length, he loves the opportunity to verbalize... He becomes highly excited about selling something that he really likes. He can become emotional about the product or service that he provides to his clients or customers.
Perhaps I should be a preacher?

Here's more:
...He has probably been known to answer objections even if he has never heard the objection before. He will rely on his quick thinking and verbal skills to meet the challenge...[He] can be guilty of overservicing the accounts he feels are personal friends. To him friendship is important and he may overlook certain requests to maintain the friendship... has tendency to be more concerned with popularity than sales results.
Opps! Maybe that last bit might lose me the job! Who wants a sales person who is more concerned about popularity than with sales results?

So, I was just thinking... am I really like that? Be more concerned about popularity??

Hmmm... then I thought have I in the past walked away from any sale just because I was more concerned about being popularity?

And, then it dawned on me... yes, I am more concerned about the social impact or consequences of my actions and behavior than about the actual sales itself.

In other words I am more relationship-oriented than transaction-oriented.

In further other words, I am more interested in the ethical and moral implications of the business relationship than in the profitability of the individual business transaction.

I hope my future employer sees that underneath this "personality profile template" type report.

By the way, guys, it is almost ONE WHOLE MONTH since I have been laid off, but I'm cool. My wife reminds me that I need to only think about what is true, profitable, noble and uplifting (cf. Phil. 4:8), and I know that my God has a plan for my life and will provide for my family.

...continue reading...This Sales Guy Talks Too Much!

What Price Is Right?

Recently I was musing about whether or not it is right to negotiate the highest possible price for a commodity when one is selling on EBay.

At the time that I was asking the question my daughter had come to me to inquire about a situation in which she was offered a price much higher than what she had paid for an item which she was auctioning off. She was wondering if it was morally right to sell an item so much above her asking price.

Although we decided that the selling price of an item at an auction was totally negotiable with the both seller and buyer attempting to get the most value for their money, I had some doubts about morality of the whole process/system.

A couple of commenters were guarded in their approval of the system, although they called for moderation and balance. One cautioned that the gospel demands that greed and profiteering should not have any place in living out a gospel-infuzed life.

I tend to agree.

When it comes to pricing and economics, fairness and value-for-money must always balance the pursuit of profits and high gain. The standard must always be value and the exchange of value - we cannot give things away for nothing as well, or no one will ever be able to stay in business for long.

While I think within limits selling and buying on Ebay can be like a poker game in that it is like a game of chance and subtle negotiation, business is not and ought not be like that at all.

I think as Christians, we must always look at justice - from a moral standpoint, and not just from a legal point of view - and in business dealings especially, justice or fairness must always come into play. The problem is that for the Christian, we sometimes forget tend to measure our justice from the moral standpoint and accept the lower standard of a legal justice.

The trouble with our society is that too often all of life is taken to be somewhat like Ebay - with the primary goal of achieving the highest profit possible driving all transactions.

That is why we have so many artificially inflated prices like we have now in this world today. Just look at the disparity in what people get paid for doing what they do - in sports, entertainment and in the pricing of some of the commodities that we take for granted. No wonder it seems so true that in a "free" society like ours, the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keeps getting poorer.

What can we do as Christians in this culture, and how can we affect the culture with a call to a higher moral standard in economics, justice and business?

...continue reading...What Price Is Right?

Questions for all the Rick Warren Bashers

A few days ago, I wrote about some criticisms, unjustified in my view, of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life.

Apparently there are many who share such critical assessments of the book, and some are even questioning his teachings, his beliefs and that of his church, the Saddleback Church.

It seems that people are also finding further evidence of his theological non-orthodoxy in the column that he has begun to write in the Ladies Home Journal.

I wonder why it is that people are so quick to judge what the guy really believes just by the things he writes (or does not write) in the Ladies Home Journal, or even in his one book alone?

For one thing, regarding the LHJ - have you heard of editors? Could it be that they deliberately remove the more ostensibly "evangelical-isms" from his article?

Even if the editors did not do their redline thing to his article, even if he had intentionally written the stuff as published, isn't there a possibility that Warren is aiming for the long term rather than the short haul?

What good would it be if he were to come out with all guns blaring so to speak only to alienate the culture that he (and we) so want to engage?

Couldn't it be that there is a long term strategy to gain credibility that what this guy says makes sense, and if that's the case, and he claims what he says is from the Bible, then perhaps one or two who likes what he has to say might begin to open the Bible and read it?

Paul says,
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
Is it really that hard to imagine that Rick Warren could have asked himself,
"How can I be all things to all (wo)men in this instance?"

"How can I reach out to the typical person who would be picking up a copy of the Journal and who would stop long enough to read the entire article?

"What would I have to say to get them even slightly interested in reading on, and perhaps to keep reading me so that the they would be interested to find out more?"
Apparently, the idea is that by doing what Rick has done, by allegedly deliberately "dumbing down" the gospel and not emphasizing sin, repentance and the cost of discipleship (just some of the many complaints floating out there), Rick is in danger of winning a different kind of Christian. A Christian who is not grounded, not really "born again", or in some respect a lower quality type of Christian who does not really understand what it means to be a Christian. And therefore, he is out to make followers of a different gospel.

Really? What or who saves a person? What or who keeps them saved? When you were saved did you have a full understanding of the gospel? Really?

And, is what Warren really aiming to win people to become Christians merely by reading the Ladies Home Journal, or by reading Purpose Driven Life for that matter?

Or couldn't we believe that what he is doing is to build links in the minds and thinking of the masses so that they can take a step closer to the kingdom?

Let's put the issue a different way, now that there is an interest in a "new kind of spirituality" in society, and the editors of Ladies Home Journal are interested in having someone of authority to write a column on the issue, who would you prefer to write that column? Rick Warren or Dan Brown or a host of other "spiritual leaders"?

The issue is this: Rick Warren is a communicator. Writing for the LHJ takes a different style (and content) than writing for the Discipleship Journal. The readership is different as well. That is precisely the point.

I don't think we can seriously think the typical LHJ reader would be interested to pick up Discipleship Journal at the hairdressers or the dentist's office. However, imagine this, the typical person who is going to pick up the Ladies Home Journal might be drawn to read the column, and hopefully after reading it, they might be interested to take a further step, and perhaps go purchase and read the [gasp!] Purpose Driven Life.

Then, from there, hopefully, they might go find a church that is doing a study on that book. Or maybe that person can find someone to talk about his or her life's purpose and perhaps more...?

Perhaps, that person is a friend of yours... hopefully if he or she talks about Rick's column, you are able to help him or her take the next step on the spiritual journey, or would you rather spend that time trying to correct all the supposed theological inaccuracies that this poor soul has been exposed to...?

Would you be helping or hindering your friend in his journey along the pathway of faith?

Here's another thought: Wouldn't it be a good thing if your friend or neighbor came up to you and rather than ask, "Say, have you read the Da Vinci Code?" they ask, "Have you read the Purpose Driven Life?

The question is, What would your answer be?

Would you go into a tirade of how inaccurate biblically that work is?

Even if you were to decide to do that, wouldn't it be easier to do so (as in way fewer inaccuracies) with the PDL than with the other work?

However, wouldn't it be better for you if you could begin with the PDL or the concepts within it (or within this month's LHJ's column, and starting from that text, preach Jesus to your friend, by perhaps starting with sharing from your own experience?

If your friend were talking to you about one of the other guy's books (the one about supposed mysterious codes in some medieval art and about ancient hidden secrets), wouldn't you have to do much, much more than just connect the dots?

My point is, Christians around the 'sphere ought to take another look at these works by our good friend (and he is a friend, guys, but really he is a dear brother, if truth be told) Rick Warren is putting out there, and see them as good pre-evangelism works.

And, we ought to prepare ourselves to help our friends to keep on walking down the road of faith, rather than alienate them from that journey.

Perhaps then those who spend their time dissecting Rick Warren's works ought to spend their time connecting the dots, that is, write what to say to our neighbors when they ask us about the PDL or about this month's LHJ columns in order to aid them in their journey of faith.

...continue reading...Questions for all the Rick Warren Bashers

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Best of Me Symphony #69

The Best of Me Symphony for this week is up, and this time the cacophony of posts, quotes and graphical accompaniment are guest hosted by "the best British columnist you never heard of, Julie Burchill."

My submission for this week is Showing Mercy to the Poor, a post that was inspired by a sermon my pastor delivered, and also written in response to the fracas that was the debate about stingy-ness and helpfulness to those who are less fortunate and going through suffering.

Talking about some of the other posts include comments about the age-old argument against God's existence in light of the inscrutable suffering present in the world, as well as the usual political commentaries and other posts.

Go visit Gary Cruse's The Owner's Manual and enjoy!

...continue reading...Best of Me Symphony #69

Friday, March 18, 2005

Ethics of Ebay

My daughter is currently caught up in the craze of selling through eBay (Note: Selling, not buying; thank God for small mercies!).

Last year, she went on an unchecked spending spree (she calls it her "retail therapy") when she was able to earn quite a bit of money. Finding herself without many bills and having just discovered the supposed "wonders" of the consumer credit system, she amassed for herself "bargains" from such brand-names as Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Now that her credit card bills are catching up on her she is beginning to see the errors of her ways and have begun to let her prized-collection go via eBay auctions.

Because all of the items she is auctioning off are genuine brand-name articles that she picked up at so-called "discounts", she is getting bids that are now equaling or surpassing what she originally paid for the items, even though the retail prices are even much higher.

The past few days, she has been sitting by the computer, with her eyes transfixed on the screen Gordon Gekko-like, watching the bids climb steadily, every now and then letting out an occasional whoop of joy. (Come to think about it, this is not too dissimilar to bloggers watching their sitemeter stats click over oh goodie, here's another referral! And another page viewed! hooray! - how we wish those numbers are our stock portfolios, eh!? Or, maybe not!)

Her excitement has spread throughout our household as we rejoice with her as she gradually knocks off the balances from her credit cards.

For one of these items, a bidder recently emailed her requesting that she close the auction off right away if she offered her a higher price. The price they are talking about is way above what she paid for, and my daughter is a little perplexed.

She asked me, "Is it right, daddy, for me to sell the item at such an exorbitant price? After all, I only wanted to get my money back for the item..."

After a short discussion, we agreed that as long as both parties are in agreement, any price is acceptable. We decided that in an auction, it is up to the seller to try to get as high a price as possible for the item and the buyer to get it as low as possible. It is a negotiation game, somewhat like playing poker.

I didn't think much about it at the time.

However, now in my more reflective moments, I am beginning to think, is this the Christian way to conduct ourselves, especially in business transactions?

What is the Christian response to economics, pricing, value and fairness?

My daughter's internal radar was sensitive to the morality under girding the economics of pricing, value and business. Yet, have I distorted it by unthinkingly endorsing and promoting a free market style of thinking?

Will she learn to properly apply good judgment and ethics in her business dealings later on? Does it even matter in this case? Am I just being a worry-wart?

...continue reading...Ethics of Ebay

So, how do you do church?

When I was in Perth, Western Australia, I called this church "home." My family and I still miss the church in many ways.

Some of the things this poster wrote about the church may still be true about it although I didn't think it was too engrossed what he called the "prosperity doctrine" even when we were attending.

I was especially intrigued by his take on some of the things that he was critical about the church and thought that we Christians seem to be guilty of them universally.

One is "clique-ism." I remember as the young people at a smaller church we used to deal with this problem. Our youth leaders used to urge the regulars at the youth group to go out of our way to reach out to those who are new and not stick to those we like to hang out with all the time.

I also remember that the first time I attended the church I go to now, I stood after the Sunday service merely a few feet from some others who gathered around greeting, chatting, smiling, hi-fiving each other.

All seemed oblivious to me standing there. I don't remember even having eye contact with anyone throughout the entire time.

After about 10 to 15 minutes of standing around, I recalled that the Buffalo Bills were playing on TV (for a die hard Bills fan in Southern California, that is a real treat!).

So I headed towards the parking lot, walking past more folks who were busily greeting and catching up with old friends, got in my car and left. No one seemed to have noticed that I came that morning, and no one seemingly cared that I left not having met anyone else.

It took me a while to return for a visit, even though in my hunt for a suitable church all around Southern California, and in speaking with various Christians, quite a number recommended that I "check out" this church. Already did I would tell them. Crossed them off my list. I would say. A couple of times I was urged to reconsider and check them out again. That was why I came back, bringing my family along. This time, I came to stay though. But, what if these friends of mine didn't persist in their recommendations?

Another thing this guy criticized was the way the worship leader called the congregation to "celebrate." In the comments the poster suggested that it was better if worship leaders invited the congregation to worship only if they were comfortable.

I suppose nowadays, public worship services are no longer the gathering of a community of like-minded people who are linked by a shared faith, a shared custom and a shared passion. Different people at various point in their spiritual walk come into our midst. How then shall we serve them?

It might be interesting to observe our own gatherings from an outsider perspective, and see how "attractive" we are to first time visitors, or seekers who are not too used to what we normally do during our services.

How does your congregation or gathering measure up?

...continue reading...So, how do you do church?

Vulnerability and the Love of the Body of Christ

About three months ago, my wife and I attended our church retreat where we were challenged to be authentic in our faith.

Specifically, we were challenged to love.

Our pastor opened the retreat by re-iterating the importance of the greatest two commandments:

He said that the most important thing we Christians must "get" are the Greatest Two Commandments - to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds and all our strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Then he divided us all into small groups to share and challenged us to go "deep" with each other - to be vulnerable. My wife and I decided to open up ourselves to the group.

I posted a little about this right after the retreat, that we told them how we felt we were misunderstood in the church and how we were hurting. We told them about our perceptions of the reactions that people had to us when we began to share our hurts, that it seemed like they were too busy with their nice successful "The OC" type lifestyle that they did not like to deal with our brokenness. But we were willing to come back and to open ourselves to our brothers and sisters because we wanted to let God work through us all.

The preacher for the weekend preached from Mark 12:30:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
He unpacked the verse and using Dallas Willard's ideas from Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, he explained how we are to love God and each other.

He showed that embedded in the idea of loving God is loving one another. This is just in line with the teaching from I John, especially chapter 4. For instance, I John 4:20 says:
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
As I posted before, my wife and I came away from the retreat with one resolve. We decided to take God at His Word , and intentionally love His people, our brothers and sisters.

For us that meant to open up to our brothers and sisters and to be vulnerable before them. We decided to be intentional about community life, and about transparency, about giving and receiving love, and to seek opportunities to practice koinonia - deep spiritual intimacy. We trusted God the Holy Spirit to work through our brothers and sisters, our community however messed up, however unwilling, however perceptively unloving, and seemingly aloof other Christians were. We decided to see Jesus in them and let His Spirit draw us closer to one another, as He intends for the community.

You see before the retreat, we had gone through almost a whole year of relatively painful isolation from the rest of the body. Although we went weekly to the services, we weren't connecting with anyone.

We were pretty much by ourselves, our own little island of self-pity, dissociation and silent anguish. We had rationalized within ourselves that these folks were just too comfortable with their own lifestyle, and did not understand what we were going through.

We felt that we could not share our anguish with them for we might disrupt their happy little lives. We were withdrawn and hurting in a soul-sapping and gradual-life-draining sort of way in the midst of a vibrant church among an affluent middle to upper-middle-class neighborhood.

Yet, after the retreat, we decided to take positive steps to go deeper with our friends at church. When they asked us how we were, we stopped to tell them.

Initially it was uncomfortable. For both parties, sometimes. But the more we were intentional on our commitment to them as brothers and sisters, the more we begin to see the responses from our brothers and sisters.

Sure, there were those who thought we were giving too much information, and there were those who just wanted to hear the "Great!" in response. We refrained from judgment, and we refrained from self-pity but decided that our responsibility to love our brothers and sisters was to drop our masks and open up to them and share deeply with them.

We also sought out a small group. The small group leaders initially were forgetful and did not contact us after telling us they would. We persisted and sought them out week after week, until we got invited and we attended. We went into their comfortable small group and decided to go deep with them from day one.

The results have been amazing.

Rather than meeting folks who were too busy with their own hustle bustle of life, we find Christians responding in love, prayer support, compassion and koinonia. The very people whom we thought were not caring and were too comfortable with their own lives, were reaching out and praying with us.

We have learned our lesson. Sometimes when we are downcast and depressed, our antennae get distorted, and we misinterpret other people's compassion. Our own self-pity and self-centeredness misguided us into thinking that we ought not bother our brothers and sisters with our problems. We think that this is due to our own humility, but really it is nothing but pride.

When we decided to humble ourselves and decided to be vulnerable to our own fellow Christians, we give them a chance to love and to live out the koinonia community that Christ wants to foster among us.

So, we learned that to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not only to seek those who are hurting to share Christ's love, peace and healing with them, but also if we are the ones who are experiencing pain and suffering, that we are to be willing to go to the body and let the body do the work of Christ and receive their love, without judgment, without self-pity and with open arms and hearts.

...continue reading...Vulnerability and the Love of the Body of Christ

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Crying Foul Over PDL Publicity

Everyone and his dog seem to be blogging about the Ashley Smith: "the Angel from God" story and about the book, The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?.

Hennessey View shares a moving story of how the story is helping him recall the pain of his own loss of his daughter and to begin a journey back to his earlier faith in God by embarking on the 40-day challenge in The Atlanta Killer and His Savior.

Many of the posts are positive, but some are critical about the way that people are glibly attributing to God events that He wasn't responsible for. Or they are casting doubts about God's hand in the events, asking why some Christians choose to be selective in praising God for some things and not for others.

Surprisingly (at least to me), it seems some Christians are worried that the news story will give undue publicity to the book itself. Apparently, they fear that because of this story more people would buy and read the Purpose Driven Life, and thereby, get a bad dose of theology or a watered down gospel or some such.

CNN highlighted the book in their show this evening, and apparently all these Christians could do was cry foul. It almost seems to me that they fear that people's lives would actually be changed by reading the book.

My question is, why?

Why can't we see this as a good thing for the kingdom of Christ? Why not see it as any publicity for the Church, for Christianity or for the gospel as a positive thing. After all, people are drawn to question their own mortality and their purpose in life.

Now, I must admit I haven't read the Purpose-Driven Life through. I made it only through to chapter 5 or 6, I can't remember.

However, what I did read, I could not fault. From what I have read of other people's evaluation of it, it may not be the whole story in that the book seemed to have been written for a wider audience than theology students. Apparently, it may not contain all the elements of a full-blown gospel message.

Therefore, the reasoning goes, people's lives cannot possibly be changed by it. And, if they were, it could not be a real authentic change. However, consider this, if lives are going to be transformed, it won't be just because they read a book, or because it was written by a particular person. If lives are going to be changed, it would be because God changed them.

If the book makes people think about their destiny, their Creator and why they are here, then surely the Holy Spirit can use it as a catalyst for a process in the right direction? If anything, it could be an excellent pre-evangelism book? After all, it is sold at many secular bookstores and recommended by many well known personalities. Shouldn't it allow more people to at least consider what it means for them to be creatures of a Creator who has a claim on their lives?

Even in the first century, there were those who did not preach the whole gospel or who preached out of bad motives. So, rather than bemoan the fact that one person, or his book, is getting "undue publicity" among the masses, perhaps the better posture for all of us who call ourselves Christ followers, to pray that God will use that book and that person for His glory?

Surely He can and will do that! So, why don't we join the party and celebrate rather than stand aside pouting like that older brother that JollyBlogger so eloquently wrote about recently?

Perhaps we can be like Paul and rejoice:
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

...continue reading...Crying Foul Over PDL Publicity

The Difference Between Careers and Occupations

I recently received an email from friends of mine who minister to professionals and young adults. They wrote me about a recent weekend retreat they conducted for young professionals committed to being “marketplace ministers”.

Apparently they found that many were confused about their role as Christians in the marketplace, and how to balance their commitment to their Lord with their enthusiasm for their professional life and work.

As they talked about this during the weekend, they realized that the confusion boiled down to the confusion between one’s occupation and one’s career. Even dictionaries seem to define “career” as “occupation”.

From the point of view of a sociologist, a career is “a course of employment that offers advancement and honor”. A psychologist puts it bluntly: “The ‘career’ definition of work is mainly concerned with the record of success, achievement, and status”.

Both definitions are couched in around ideas about the self, and that is perhaps why conceptions of self-worth and self-esteem revolves around one's job and what one does for a living. More precisely we often judge ourselves and others by our position or title at work, what we or others earn and how much we have collected, bought or how much we have in our bank accounts.

Further differences between career and occupation can be seen in how we use the words. For example, we do our job, fulfill our calling, but we pursue our career. One’s career can “take off” but not one’s job or calling. There are “career paths” (to success) but not “occupation paths”.

The pursuit of self-advancement or temporal success is so fundamental to the idea of “career” and yet it is not obvious that the word has this meaning.

So even sincere Christians may treat their occupation as their career without realizing that the hidden meaning of the word is gripping them from within. When they commit themselves to seeking God’s kingdom in the marketplace they will likely sense an internal conflict that they do not understand.

It is arguable that the idea of career is built upon a conception that is a distortion the conception of work that was established in Genesis.

Christians need to allow the Spirit and the Scriptures to renew their minds so that we can increasingly be set free to fulfill our commitment to serve God in the marketplace.

We need to distinguish between our calling, our occupation and our careers. We need to understand and prioritize where our commitments ought to be. We need to realize that when the Lord called the church to minister and preach the gospel to the ends of the world, He did not leave it to the few to do the task.

Christ has given all of us the high calling, and He has asked us to "occupy" till He comes. In the mean time, He wants us to press toward the high calling.

...continue reading...The Difference Between Careers and Occupations

Walking through the valley

Previously, I blogged about my current jobless state and how it has rattled my cage.

I have been mostly silent about this whole process over here at my blog the last few days, but the emotional roller-coaster has been throwing me around, tossing me about and driving me nuts.

Last week was especially bad.

I had seemingly exhausted all known leads for possible job prospects and none had gone past the "phone-interview" phase.

In fact, by Tuesday I was almost convinced that I was truly unemployable and that I had to make some drastic decisions about my future and my family's well-being.

And I mean drastic.

Drastic but ill-advised and possibly, dumb.

My logic was off-balanced by my depression, but even in that grasping-on-to-the-straws state, I hung on to the tiny bit of hope/trust I have in God.

I was describing my condition to someone as hunging on by the skin of my teeth, and yet I was aware at the back of my mind that underneath me are the everlasting arms of my loving Heavenly Father.

Anyhow, I survived the emotional down-swing of my bipolar condition and came out of it slightly scathed, but with a little glimmer of hope that I might have found a job
that is ideal for me, given my passion, skills, experience and personality.

It is not only a job that my skills, training and experience will put me in good stead as a worker, but it was also a job with a company whose ethos and culture in which I belive I could thrive in. So, I went in to the interview and was really gung ho about it all. I sold myself like I have never done so before.

About fifteen minutes into the interview, one of the interviewer said to me, "____, I am sorry, but I do not wish to waste your time and mine. You are just not the right person for this job."

I thought, Hmmm, good ploy. He is only trying to see how I handle objections. So I put out a teaser and after a couple of exchanges to determine that it was the right move, I went into my Objection Handling Spiel.

He put out the palm of his hand in front of my face.

"Let's just leave it at that, shall we?"

To say that I was dismayed is understating it.

What do you mean? You hardly know me! I am so right for the job! I can do it too! Wait! You are making a bloody mistake!

As I drove away from that interview, anger turned into self-pity.

If only I had been more agressive. If only I had given them more information about ...

Self-pity turned into self-loathing.

You fucking idiot. You blew it! I knew it! You didn't have it in you! You bloody imposter! Who do you think you are! You are a useless no-good sonofabitch! You're a bum!

Self-loathing turned worse...

In the midst of all this mental self-torture, I saw that I was beating up myself because of how I was viewing myself.

You see, I judged myself based on who I thought I was. And that view of myself was based on what I had or had not achieved. And what I have or don't have in my bank accounts and my non-existent stock portfolio.

Further, I also saw that my depression, or at least some of what was contributing to my distress, mental torment and my generally downcast feeling was the idea that I was solely responsible for supporting my family, being "successful" in life and fulfilling my duties as a father, provider and defender of my family.

God had to jolt me out of my stupor and think outside of myself. He had to lead me to the place where I have to acknowledge His Lordship and Providence for my family.

When I finally came to realize that He is indeed my Father Who cares for me, loves me and provides for me, I begin to open my eyes to the vast resources He has already prepared for me. I begin to pray, "Lord, help me to find my strength, resources, contentment and completeness in you alone."

My wife reminded me that the promise that He has given us in Genesis 50:20,21 and Psalm 81:10 still hold true.

She also reminded me that when my mind goes astray and starts to wander in the labyrinths of worry and fear, to only dwell (think/meditate/reflect) on
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.
This I will do, and I will rest on the Lord.

...continue reading...Walking through the valley

Christian Carnival #61

This week's Christian Carnival promises to be another smorgasbord of Christian blogfest. Stephen at ChristDot has gathered the posts under three broad categories: Discussions, Blessings and Lessons.

I submitted my reflection on Depression and Spiritual Healing and it is grouped under lessons, although it could also be counted as a blessing... Hmmmm... now that I think about it, perhaps this is the clue why I seldom get comments on my posts...

There are quite a wide range of topics submitted for this week's Christian Carnival, from In the Spirit of Grace's lessons on spiritual potty training to my erstwhile King of the Blog "rival" Randomness (there were three of us vying for that crown that week, the ultimate winner, the beautiful and the bad (yours truly). She's the beautiful one) with her submission on why we need God.

There are a host of other interesting submissions. One that caught my eye is a submsision which is part of a series from just a litte bit odd on reasons why people are leaving churches to find God elsewhere.

I haven't had the time to check them all out yet, so doubtlessly, there are many other good posts and new sites for you to discover.

The Christian Carnival is a weekly series of "Christians" posts submitted and showcased in "carnival" style by a host. You can find good reads from the Carnival as well as find good new, sites to add to your blogging addiction, I mean, reading, or enjoyment, or whatever...

Go, put up your feet, top up that cuppa, prop that pillow up, clip that Cuban (or whatever you do to prime yourself up for a good blog-feast) and enjoy!

...continue reading...Christian Carnival #61

When the Bishop Brought the Emperor to His Knees

While enjoying my morning cuppa today, I was doing a little blog-hopping through my long neglected bloglines subscriptions. I found a very interesting piece on taking up one's cross at a time of war posted by Kevin Poorman at the Ekklesia Project referenced in this post by The Gutless Pacifist.

While I am not sure if I'd call myself a pacifist, I do have quite a lot of sympathies to the call to nonviolence for Christians.

What I did find was a well balanced plea for the Christian to take up his or her cross seriously and a consideration of what that means in light of a nation waging a "just war" against so-called terrorist-supporting enemy nations and regimes.

Matt Gunther, the author of the sermon on which the post is based, wondered if
the religious lackeys of the left don't have their parallel among some conservatives who have never seen a war waged by their own country that they could not justify.
Gunther bemoans the fact that Christians seem to be entangled in this political divisions between political liberalism and conservatism. For the Christian, Gunther believes
the way of the cross means a commitment to peace.
He further examines how the way of the cross look like at a time of war.

1) Taking up the cross in a time of war means getting our loyalties straight.
The Gutless Pacifist quoted Gunther's story here about a tee-shirt that promotes both that Jesus saves and also, troublingly, that USA saves!

2) Taking up the cross in a time of war means the way of humility
It means being prepared to entertain the possibility that we are wrong. It means asking, why does most of the rest of the world disagree with us? Even those governments that support the United States' invasion of Iraq do so against the will of the overwhelming majority of their people. Right and wrong are not determined by majority vote. But, it is arrogant to presume that everyone else is automatically wrong because they don't see it our way.

3) Taking up the cross in a time of war means we must recognize our own sin.
Recognizing our sin means we need to be suspicious of our own motives. Can it be that every country that opposes war with Iraq has mixed motives, but the United States does not?

We need to deny ourselves the indulgence of self-justification and recognize that this is neither accidental nor simply a matter of colossal misunderstanding. There are reasons many in the world do not trust us. I am very concerned that as a result of this war and our behavior leading up to it we will be living with the deep resentment of much of the rest of the world for a long time.

(4) Taking up the cross in a time of war means repentance.
We need be prepared to repent of sins we commit as individuals and as a nation. And if sometimes we decide we must resort to violence, we need to repent for that violence. Some have suggested that the classic just war approach does not presume that violence is wrong. I do not know if that is true. If it is the just war theory needs to be rethought in light of Jesus and the cross. Killing some people for the sake of other people is always a devil's bargain - even if we decide it is the only bargain we can make.
So, what has the bishop or the emperor has to do with all this? Actually, Gunther began his sermon with a story from the Roman Empire:
In the year 390, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, sent a letter to one of his parishioners. Ambrose was convinced that this parishioner had committed a grievous and public sin. In his letter, Ambrose told the parishioner that until he repented publicly he would not be allowed to receive Communion. Ambrose had excommunicated him. But this was no ordinary church member. It was Theodosius, emperor of the Roman Empire. It seems one of Theodosius' officials had been murdered in the Greek city of Thessalonica. The exact circumstances are unclear. Perhaps it was a tax revolt. Perhaps it was a random terrorist attack. In any event, Theodosius had done what emperors always do. He sent in the army to teach the people of Thessalonica, and by extension the rest of the empire, a lesson. Some 7,000 people - men, women, and children - were killed, the vast majority of whom had had nothing to do with the death of the official. Ambrose was not a pacifist, but he knew that the emperor's actions needed to be condemned even if it meant the very real possibility of being sent to prison or killed. Emperors don't usually like to be challenged. Against all odds, Emperor Theodosius repented and publicly sought absolution from his bishop. I've been thinking a lot about Ambrose and Theodosius lately. What would Ambrose say about the looming invasion of Iraq? Would it make any difference?
(Even though I have quoted extensively from his post, you've got to read his entire post for the context)

Gunther ends his sermon with these words:
Lent is about taking up the cross, denying ourselves, and following Jesus. It includes denying our tendency toward self-justification - as individuals, as a church, and as a nation. It means dying to other loyalties. It means humility. It means acknowledging our own sinfulness. It means repentance. It is a way of martyrdom. If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow. I can't say whether, if he were here, Ambrose would oppose war with Iraq. What disturbs me more is that for many Christians in America - it wouldn't matter.

...continue reading...When the Bishop Brought the Emperor to His Knees

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Best of Me Symphony #67

Well it's that time again. Gary Cruse has put together this week's Best of Me Symphony with his usual flair. This time the guest conductor is Joseph Campbell. Once gain, Gary has hunted down a whole collage of images and appropriate quotes to go with the different submitted posts.

Given that this is now more than sixty days after that terrible tsunami event in the Indian Ocean, we have a few posts that were sparked by events in that region. My own submission this time around is sparked from an account that led to quite an interesting exchange between commenters at that web site and posts over here as well as elsewhere.

Rambling Commodore submitted a post about that infamous T-Shirt So, why are we giving away $350 million to people like this? That T-Shirt sparked quite a few irate posts throughout the 'sphere, including this one from me.

Gary of The Owners Manual" opines in this submitted post that there is a danger this country is changing to a nanny-state.

Go have a look at the fare this week.

...continue reading...Best of Me Symphony #67

Friday, March 11, 2005

Fixing One Thing and Breaking Five Others

Y'all probably have seen those people before. Knowing just enough to be dangerous. That's me when it comes to this CSS and HTML and stuff.

I learned how to use post summaries after searching high and low for it. You know, how you can just have a couple of paragraphs on the front or archive page and then you get the "Read More" prompt or "Continue reading... " prompt to go to the rest of the post?

That way you can have more posts on the main pages and if readers need to read more they can click through to the entire post.

Well, I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to activate the feature, and in the process learned a bit about using a post template as well. Also I learned about how to have a default font rather than using Blogspot font tool which automatically inserts font commands where they don't belong.

Anyhoo, now you see I have broken a few things. I need help. If you can offer some advice that will be great.

(1) I have somehow disabled the background color on the post pages. Sorry about that. I know the too-much-white background is just too glaring. Just bare with me, while I try to figure out where to re-activate the background color.

UPDATE 1: I am a silly dufus. So, I rebooted my computer and the background color came back on ok. It was my computer's memory playing tricks on me. But the other problems are still bugging me. So if you can provide tips that would be useful.

(2) Also I seem to have broken the borders around the posts where I have the "Continue..." command. I tried to fix that to no avail. I will have to troubleshoot that one. Please offer advice if you can.

I forgot to mention that another problem I encountered with this conditional statement I added for the "Continue reading" part obviously isn't behaving conditionally. It is adding the "Continue reading" whether or not the post is complete. So on shorter posts, my readers click on the "Continue reading" only to find that they had already Completed reading! Help!!!!

Well, I'll be! The borders fixed themselves. How did I do that?? How am I gonna learn this stuff if I don't even know what I did to fix it???? I guess I should just be happy that it got fixed! Now, if only I know how to switch it OFF when the post is short enough and not broken up.

(3) As some of you know when I activated haloscan I played around with the template and finally got both haloscan and the old blogger comments to show, but I disabled the ability to enter blogger comments. But now I seem to have messed up the background of the comments section. I will need to troubleshoot that too.

(4) A few weeks back, I worked on the template and added a left column so I can fit more stuff around the posts. I managed to do it, but in general I think the template is just too unstable and does not work very well. I don't know why for instance, the left colunmn would load and then wait a while before the center and right columns load. I would like all three columns to load together, but don't know how to achieve that.

(5) I also have a problem with the right column sometimes drifting to the bottom and not fitting on screen. It seems to have a mind of its own!

So bear with me while I fix this, although it may be awhile before I get it done. If you have suggestions or let me know what you like/don't like about the layout, please leave me a comment.

...continue reading...Fixing One Thing and Breaking Five Others

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Looks Like I am Not the Only One Who is Depressed Around the 'Sphere is Nick Queen. Only difference is when I talk about it, I get hardly any feedback.

I need some love too people!


I was saying.

This depression thing. It is going round in the 'sphere you know.

What is it with bloggers and depression?

Is it that we are typically a little more melancholy than the population?

Or perhaps we are a just a tad more introspective?

Or maybe all of us just have had bad childhood experiences.

Or something.



And if I don't get anymore feedback (comments, hint, hint) I am going to kill myself. I promise ya!

...continue reading...Looks Like I am Not the Only One Who is Depressed Around the 'Sphere

Marriages Restored Weekend

My blog-friends, Ben and his wife, Ann are running a marriage renewal/restoration weekend. Have a look at the information and plan to go or send it to someone you know who may be of benefit.

By the way, before you brush it aside too quickly and think that you don't need it, let me share a short story from my experience.

Quite a number of years ago, my wife and I heard about a Marriage Encounter weekend at church and we signed up immediately to go. We were new to that church and found out that the church actually organizes the retreat regularly. That week, we were invited to a couple's house for fellowship. During our convesation, the topic of the Marriage Encounter weekend came up.

"We signed up. Are you guys going?" we asked.

"No." The husband replied. "We don't need it."

I can't remember what else went on during that convesation. But, what I do remember is just about six months after that evening, a very distressing and devastating thing happened.

The husband, who was one of the deacons at the church, returned home after a deacons' meeting and found a note that the wife had left behind. She had taken off with the kids with another man.

Incidentally, the "other" man was also present at that deacons' meeting. He had left the meeting, left his own wife and kids and met up this woman and taken off together. Out of the state to another state, we later found out. The whole drama hurt a lot of people in the church and out of it. It was very ugly.

Now, I am telling this story not to tarnish anyone. Please don't start judging and thinking that "all Christians" are hypocrites, or say "Those deacons are not spiritual" or anything like that. We are all broken in one way or another. We all need God's grace and mercy. It could very well have been my wife and I. Or your spouse and you.

And, Ben and Ann's story will reveal to you the extend of God's grace, mercy and love. So, have a look at their blog and check the weekend out.

...continue reading...Marriages Restored Weekend

Battle Brewing Over Gay Marriage at the Marketplace

I happened upon this eloquent post regarding the gay marriage debate over at In the Agora.

Here is a choice quote:
I'm gonna let a little secret out. When you charge that those of us who push for gay marriage are just trying to "legitimize" gay're right. Guilty as charged. I absolutely want to legitimize those relationships. I want to put them on equal legal footing and, yes, equal moral footing with straight relationships. I want people and society as a whole to view those relationships no differently than they view any other relationship because that is an important step toward allowing gay people the same dignity that the rest of us take for granted and never have to think about. Because maybe when that happens, when it becomes so common that it's just a matter of routine, no one will ever again have to arrange a funeral for someone they barely know because their family disowned them. And maybe when that happens, we'll have less of those funerals happen as a result of the self-loathing that your perpetual messages of indignity instill in those you think are different from you.
I agree wholeheartedly but most of you already know that.

In fact, I would re-phrase the us/them language, because it is not about us/them, it is about us all. If we refuse dignity upon one part of the human race, we refuse dignity on all of us.

If we cannot see that, we have failed to see the heart of Jesus when he dealt with the woman at the well, nor when He dealt with the woman caught in the act of adultery.

This is not a matter of lowering our view of sin, of distortion of the gospel or of twisting our theology.

It is a matter of setting things in the proper perspective, and of understanding the difference between culture, people and gospel. It is understanding the difference between our role as citizens and our role as Christians in the state. It is differentiating law with morality, rights with grace and mercy. It is also seeking first things first, of being humble, of loving our neighbor, and ultimately of loving God.

I know I have merely been rhetorical without putting up any real argument. However, here is a stab in the same direction that I have been urging. (HT: Jollyblogger).

And oh, by the way, looks like both places are having those Great Debates in their respective comments - something that never ever happen here. Which makes me wonder - do people just not like to talk to me or what? Oh all right, I won't go on any more about that.

Go have a look at those two places and take part if you wish. I am not up to it myself. As some of you know I am a little preoccupied at the moment.

Enough of that too.

Good night!

...continue reading...Battle Brewing Over Gay Marriage at the Marketplace

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

When Your Doctor Says All You've Got Are the Baby Blues

Through TulipGirl, I found a moving, sometimes nerve-wrecking, sometimes sad, but also, quietly inspiring series of posts from amy loves books this morning.

Last night I was thinking about Iris Chang's response to mental illness by hiding it from close family and friends. Ultimately it robbed her of her own life.

Her parents think this is due to the stigma that Asian-Americans normally attach to mental illness. Perhaps this stigma might wider than the Asian community. Christians, for instance, might view it as a spiritual problem. So Christians who are mentally ill might have the fear that others might think there is something wrong with your spiritual walk.

Whether Christian, or Asian, perhaps, there is a persistent worry that others might find out you are not "all-that-well-up-there":
One thing that writing this story has helped me realize is the powerful need that I felt to keep my mental illness a secret. When I started becoming paranoid and delusional, the feelings of panic and fear were accompanied by an equally overpowering conviction that I should not tell anyone. No matter what. I needed to appear normal.

In writing these entries, I've struggled with a desire to try to justify myself, or make excuses, or not really own up to how dark and delusional I was. But that is not fair. Not fair and not true.
Here are the rest of Amy's story:
A Baby Story -- Part One of A Tale I Don't Tell

Part Two -- Birth

Part Three -- All We Need to Know of Hell

The End: The Monster

This morning after I read the stories, I sat and read them out loud to my wife. Although we did not go through her kind of depression and psychosis, we struggle with our own kind, so we resonate with her and share her pain and sorrow. We especially know how true it is when she says
...I considered myself emotionally strong. Now, I visualize that, somewhere inside of me, there is a bite from a poisoned apple. I don't know how it got there, and I don't think it will ever really go away. I have the potential to get very sick. I can never be sure it won't happen again.
Know that this problem does not just hit those who have just undergone a major emotional and physical change like a childbirth. Sometimes it hit others as well.

...continue reading...When Your Doctor Says All You've Got Are the Baby Blues

Depression and Spiritual Healing

Depression is still not widely understood and accepted in our society today. Some cultures attach a stigma to it and this is believed to have been fatal in at least one case, but doubtlessly in many others as well.

For Christians, especially those of us who come from sub-cultures where "Victorious Christian Living" and "The Secrets of the Happy Christian Life" are seen as worthy ideals, being diagnosed as clinically depressed can be disheartening.

Already one is depressed for whatever reason. Now, there is a silent accusation that one is either not trusting God enough or else there is something amiss with one's spiritual walk. So if you are an Asian Christian for instance, you are twice doomed if you are mentally ill!

In order to counter these debilitating emotions, I suggest the following steps:

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and this advice is not from a mental health professional. I am speaking from my own experience roand reflection on this issue, but remember, I might be a depressant in denial!

(1) Read the Psalms.
The Psalms are pregnant with the outpouring of the soul of a person who is "downcast" (Psalm 42, 43 and in deep "trouble" (Psalm 9, 10, 22 37, etc).

The Psalmist does not hide his emotional turmoil. Instead, he tells himself to keep his melancholy in check and encourages himself to praise God, to cry out to Him and to boldly confess his trust and confidence in the saving grace of the Savior.

The past few days, my depression has robbed me of energy and sometimes have totally incapacitated me. As the psalmist says, I have been sleepless, have lost my appetite and I have felt the "bones suffer(ing) mortal agony" Psalm 42:10. It sometimes feels too much to bear. Yet, it is also through the Psalms that I find solace, motivation and strength.

(2) Embrace your depression.
Acknowledge that you are depressed. Do not deny it. As you read the Psalms, agree with the Psalmist that you are fearful (Psalm 34). Talk about it. Join a group if there is one in your area. 12-steps groups are very powerful and supportive to your healing process.

Share with your friends and family. If that is uncomfortable, why, put it on your blog and let your online community be your support. Whatever you do, recognize that you need support!

If you wish, drop me an email and I will talk to you!

(3) Reflect the causes.
Find the root causes to your depression. It could be due to physical exhaustion or "burn out". Perhaps it is chronic or caused by childhood or adolescent experiences. Or perhaps it is caused by social interactions. There are things that you might be able to change. If so, change them.

However, if the cause or causes are deep-rooted, you may need professional help.You may need to "change the past" or at least, change the effects that the past have on you. A quote that helps me comes from Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People : Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, "I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday." Acknowledging that, he says allows me to choose differently.

(4) Seek Treatment.
Do not feel ashamed to seek help. Find a counselor or a therapist. There are many different counselors, so check them out. Talk to them about their therapies and find someone that you can feel comfortable to talk about your thoughts, feelings and reflections.

If appropriate, and your counselor may refer you to one, seek help from a psychiatrist. At the least, go talk to your pastor or church leader and start from there.

However, some Christian leaders or pastors frown on counseling or any form of psychological therapy as they believe that psychology, and especially, psychiatry is humanistic.

Whether or not you accept that premise, at the very least, go talk to a counselor/spiritual mentor/pastor/leader.

(5) Understand that it is a disease.
Depression is not just a feeling. In fact, call it what it is: mental illness. It is not just a matter of "feeling depressed." It is a matter of being physically unwell because whatever else is happening to you mentally or psychologically, there is something physically wrong with your body - you have a chemical imbalance in your brain.

If you are consistently feeling down, and are incapacitated by this feeling, it is time to note that it is not healthy not just for you but also for your loved ones. If prescribed medication, you need to take it.

I know I am being hypocritical here, as I was prescribed meds and recently, I decided to go off the meds and also stopped seeing my counselor and my psychiatrist. In my case, I am taking a calculated risk due largely because of my financial situation, and believe me, I am doing the other five things that I am sharing here in this post.

(6) Share with Friends and Family
I have already mentioned this above, but I need to reiterate the importance of seeking the support of family and friends. Years ago, concerned about some of my more disenfranchised friends who were obviously depressed (and one or two who were even identified by the church as demon-possessed), I read a very good book called, "Helping Hand" by Anthony Yeo.

The thesis of the book is that if only more of us lend a helping hand to our close friends and family, then we will be able to prevent them from slipping to the stage where professional help is required.So, this point is both for you if you are feeling down and also for you if you are not, that you seek out your friend or loved one, to lend a helping hand.

Incidentally, I talked a little about this before, how the Church is designed by God to be the balm and the means by which spiritual, mental and physical healing is channeled through koinonia I do strongly believe that community life and intimacy is one way out of depression.

DJ Chuang recently blogged about the possible next fad for the church being friendship, to which I say, "Bring it on!"

(7) Pray
Recently, I mused about the purpose of prayer, but I was probably being too theoretical there. Some of my darkest moments have been lifted up by reading and praying with the Psalmist.

It is uplifting to hear the great man after God's own heart pour out his soul in his anguish and sorrow, and to imitate him in so doing, and then to resonate and agree with him as he confesses his confidence, trust and hope in God his Savior, Rock and Redeemer.

I hope the above helps you.

Please share if you think I have missed something, or if you care to share with me stories from your own journey through depression, yours or someone else's close to you.

...continue reading...Depression and Spiritual Healing

Christian Carnival #60

Christian Carnival #60 is up at Belief Seeking Understanding. Douglas has arranged the posts around themes of the Christian life: Bible Study, Prayer, Fellowship, Engaging Culture and so on. My submission is a little piece I did on the Commandments, which is part of the on-going saga that is my series on the Commandments (when will it end? Who knows? This is blogging, right?)

Looks like it is going to be another long carnival this one, so get cozy, and enjoy!
...continue reading...Christian Carnival #60

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Stigma of Mental Illness

I haven't really talked about my depression for a while now. I do accept that I have been diagnosed as clinically depressed; I am just hoping that I can cope for a little while without taking anything for it, and also without therapy. Mostly, the reason is financial, although I do have my doubts about whether my condition really requires medication in the long term. Yet, I am not sure if this is due to me being in denial.

So reading what Iris Chang's family and friends are saying (needs registration. If you don't wish to bother with that, go here for a similar account), is making me think twice.

By the way, you might remember that when I found out that Iris was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound, I was deeply saddened and shocked. Such promising young talent gone so suddenly. I really admired Iris' internationally acclaimed work, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II and really looked forward to more hard-nosed historically significant works from her. Her other works include The Chinese in America: A Narrative History and Thread of the Silkworm and she was working on yet another historical work when she died.

Anyway, I was saying that reading the words of her family and friends is causing my doubts to resurface about my own situation. Iris Chang apparently took her own life because she was ashamed of her mental illness. Her family spoke at a fund raiser over the weekend for a nonprofit that works to help Chinese Americans be more aware of mental illness.
They described Chang's shame after she suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with "brief reactive psychosis" and possibly bipolar disorder. They said she asked them not to reveal her condition, and resisted taking medication.

"What's so powerful about the stigma of mental illness that someone would want to take the knowledge of their illness to the grave with them?" her brother, Michael Chang, said Sunday.
Reading their anguished "what-ifs" have opened my eyes to my own feelings about my depression, and bringing up more questions than answers.

Although diagnosed with "borderline bipolar disorder" I am thinking perhaps it is due to life circumstances, both past and present. Although I accept that I may have chemical imbalance in the brain, I am hoping that this is caused by my having to deal with life circumstances which have caused both the depression and the chemical imbalance.

Recently my Daughter #1 went to see the Doctor at her college, and after examining her for her flu symptoms and speaking with her, they made her take an evaluation for Depression and confirmed that she is mildly depressed as well. We talked about it and agreed that for now she should not take any medication for it.

Now I wonder if we are plain being reckless.

As Ying Ying Chang, Iris' mom says,
"... mental illness is a disease, a chemical imbalance in the brain. We should treat it just like a heart attack or diabetes."
Yet I struggle with whether that is just one aspect of the problem.

Depression may have other causes as well, as I mentioned above, such as having to cope with different events. There might also be spiritual causes to mental illness. If so, Christians who are diagnosed as depressants might feel that this is a sign of spiritual weakness and spiritual defeat.

Perhaps then, that is the double entendrewhammy for Asian Christians. Mental illness is not only humiliating for us from cultural influences but feelings of guilt and shame are attached to it since it is seen as a spiritual problem.

So, what about me? Do I feel that there is a stigma to my depression? Do I feel shame? Guilt? Humiliation?

Am I blindly rejecting my own proper treatment by ignoring my psychiatric therapy and medication?

Will prayer, meditation, and the support of my family and friends be sufficient?

...continue reading...The Stigma of Mental Illness