Wednesday, 30 November 2005

I'm a sucker for amazing creative/design work done by Christians and I've just found something amazing.

This guy from Riverside Community Church has just come up with beautiful desktop wallpapers for the computer and I'm going to be bookmarking this site to change my wallpaper regularly now.

The images are fantastic, bright, happy, contemporary and the best part of it all is that some of them come with a monthly events calendar on some of the wallpapers - not that it would do me any good considering I'm not from Riverside, but I wanna be a member now just so that I can make full use of the calendar!

My favourite's gotta be the candy cane one, although the cross one looks quite good too.

[Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks for the link.]

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

View of Canberra (War Memorial in the foreground, Parliament House in the far distance) from Mt Ainslie.

Turned out Mr Howard was in Malta and so there was no rubbing shoulders with the Prime Minister at the National Prayer Breakfast.

What a wet and cold weekend it was in Canberra! It rained the entire time I was there and even managed to experience hail! And we're about two days shy of summer! It certainly felt more like autumn than spring.

At least we managed to sneak out in between downpours up to the three mountains around Canberra to see the city from the top. Even got to see the Big Merino on our way to Canberra.

Australia continues its obsession with all things big with the Big Merino at Goulburn.

Canberra's more like a big country town than the capital city of Australia. I don't think I've quite seen as many kangaroos and other teeming wildlife as I have in any other major city. Not even Perth, the supposed "country-er" part of the country.

The prayer breakfast unfortunately didn't really blow my mind away. In fact, I got rather upset at one point of time because it felt like the presentation was going down a rather anti-Muslim and political bent. Actually, the entire event had a tinge of political flavour to it. Then again, it was organised by the Parlimantary Christian Fellowship and held at the Parliament House. Did I really think it wouldn't be political?

It wasn't so much the political bent that I had a problem with. It was more of the fact that there were sentiments expressed that I didn't think Christians should actually agree with. The war on terror was discussed, and I found it really hard to comprehend how a Christian who proclaimed and advocated peace could reconcile being the military advisor of the Iraqi army and denounce Muslims at the same time.

In all honesty, I left the place feeling more disappointed than uplifted.

At least I had a good time hanging out and catching up with friends when I wasn't attending the breakfast.

Friday, 25 November 2005

this is a perfect example of what one shouldn't receive while at work.

my horrible colleague forwarded the link to me and I found myself happily clicking away for at least five minutes!
will be in Canberra for the next few days rubbing shoulders with Prime Minister John Howard.

I may be technically lying, but it sounds so much better than saying "I'm going to Canberra for the weekend to attend the National Prayer Breakfast", especially since there is a possibility that John Howard will be there. Let's just hope he doesn't growl at me or have me for breakfast when he finds out I'm from Singapore...

It's only a Sunday evening and Monday morning affair, but it's a great excuse to go to Canberra for a weekend to enjoy a holiday and catch up with friends!

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Tragic Flaw, Healing Grace
Written: November 9, 2005

Unless one leads a particularly charmed life, graduating from college could both be the happiest and scariest moment in your life (that is, until your wedding day, but that is another story altogether). Assignments, tutorials and exams become but a fading bitter taste in the mouth as the sweet smell of freedom starts wafting in.

Unfortunately, with it also comes the inevitable question of “what next?”

My struggle with my future last year nearly resulted in a major relational crisis with God. Far from being the “good and faithful servant” I thought all Christians were supposed to be, my search for a job brought me into dark despair.

It did not take long for me to realize that jobs requiring my qualifications were scarce, and a fresh grad’s resume isn’t the most attractive in the world.

Six months after graduating and with no job in sight, my despair became a crippling guilt. Somewhere at the back of my head was the knowledge that God was in charge, but at the same time, I was terrified. Terrified that in the next few years, my life would consist of being stuck in a job I hated, living in a city I detested. I would slowly transform into the most negative and depressed individual that ever graced the earth and my favorite Bible verse would be Ecclesiastes 1:2.

Despite my faith in God, I was afraid that things were not going to work out. And that was when the crippling guilt started creeping into my heart. After all, isn’t faith “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”? (Hebrews 11:1)

The fact that I kept fearing my future was going the way of the sewer obviously meant that I was not a good enough Christian, having insufficient faith in God.

If I were a true Christian, I would be looking my future boldly in the eye, ready to take whatever was thrown at me. I would be sure that whatever hopes I had about job prospects would come true. Fear should not even exist in my vocabulary if I really had faith in God. My tragic flaw obviously spelt the beginning of the end of my relationship with God.

That was when I stumbled across the story of Gideon, the young chap from the weakest clan of Manasseh chosen by God to defeat the Midianites.

Most people know his story, found in Judges 6-8. The insignficant fellow from an insignificant tribe who tested God twice with a wool fleece, and had so much faith in God, he had no problems fighting tens and thousands of Midianites with only three hundred men. His was a story of courage, faith and how God can use anybody to achieve greatness.

Or was it?

It’s true that Gideon did everything God commanded. It’s true that it was because of Gideon that Israel enjoyed peace for the rest of his life. Gideon was a hero, remembered in Hebrews as one of the champions of faith.

But that’s not what was significant about Gideon. What was significant was the fact that he achieved all these despite a tragic flaw.

Gideon was not a fearless warrior. Gideon did not even transform into a fearless warrior after he received directions from God. Throughout his entire journey, Gideon remained a terrified individual, lacking courage, doubting God.

When God first commanded Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and replace it with one to God, Gideon obeyed. But the Bible says “because he was afraid…he did it at night rather than in the daytime” (Judges 6:27).

And after Gideon gathered all the forces against the Midianites, he continued to doubt God, and had to use a wool fleece not once, but twice, to be reassured that God really wanted him to fight the Midianites (Judges 6:36-40).

And still, Gideon could not get rid of his fear. In Judges 7:10, God told Gideon, “If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.” Immediately in the next verse, Gideon does just that – “he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.”

Even after all kinds of signs and direct instructions from God, Gideon never completely got rid of his fear. It was obvious that God was on Gideon’s side (you can’t get any more obvious than having God actually tell you), and yet his fear was never abated. Time and time again, God had to reassure Gideon so that he wouldn’t run all the way back home, cowering in fear.

But get this.

God did not give up on Gideon because he was afraid, even after the third extremely obvious sign. God did not deem Gideon an unfit Israelite because Gideon had this nagging feeling at the back of his head that things just may not turn out.

And Gideon fought the fight against the Midianites full of fear, but full of faith.

That’s when it all made sense.

Having faith is not about being fearless. Having faith is not completely losing our human senses. Having faith can mean we continue being afraid but going ahead with the battle anyway, just like Gideon against the Midianites.

Just like David and his men in Keilah, against the Philistine forces (1 Samuel 23:3-5).

Just like Elijah against Jezebel, even after his triumphant victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:3).

Just like when we are faced with an uncertain future, wondering if we are indeed good and faithful Christians because we are starting to fear that God would allow us to forever be stuck in an unbearable fate.

Gideon had a rather tragic flaw of cowardice that kept coming back to haunt him. But God’s healing grace and comforting reassurances were always there to reignite his courage and help him go on.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

How interesting to read about my home country from a completely different point of view.

It's funny how I've never even thought about how pliant I've been raised to become until moving away from Singapore and experiencing different countries, a different governments, different people.

It's true that many Singaporeans have been taught to simply follow and obey. It's true that we are hardly encouraged to think outside the box. And it's frightfully true that there is no way we would even think of opposing the government.

And it's certainly fascinating to learn how others view Singapore, standing on the outside.

The spotlight has been on this sunny island I still call home for the last few weeks, with the impending hanging of Australian Nguyen Tuong Van for drug trafficking.

It's true I hardly appreciate the stifling way in which I've been educated. But yet at the same time, I have to say, Singapore did what it needed to do.

It's a small country. It needed a strong government in order to survive and not be lost amidst the other Asian giants when it was left to fend for itself after WW2. It did the only thing it could - herd its people together to work towards a shared focus. Unity is strength. And the only way unity could be garnered in a country such as Singapore was to ensure that there were no dissidents and wayward thinking.

And look at what it's achieved in a short span of forty years . A country with a stable economy. A country where people are largely comfortable and well-to-do. A country that is able enough to go to the aid of Asian giants far bigger and seemingly far stronger than itself whenever a disaster hits. A country where I feel completely safe to walk the streets at two in the morning. A country that would have gone unnoticed because of its size (or lack thereof), but instead is recognised by most people all over the world.

In all honesty, it has been a considerable price to pay. The lack of freedom. The lack of creativity. The lack of alternative thinking. The lack of having an opinion of our own. But the rewards are appreciable at the same time. All I can say is thank goodness we had leaders who had the foresight to bring the country to where it is today, and not some zany, off-balanced cuckoo.

So I guess the question to ask is, do Singaporeans believe the price to pay for what they have now has been too high?

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

I'm Asian.

I'm female.

I'm young(ish).

And currently, I'm also feeling like the most marginalised person in the entire world.

I'm stuck in a racist, sexist and ageist society and honestly? It's a tad unpleasant.

Yes, I realise that not everybody falls into any of the above categories. In fact, I know of amazing people out there who will not care if I've got fluro-purple skin, am a hermaphrodite and am two months old. These are not the people I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is the patronising behaviour I get when I try to make a point.

What I'm talking about is the lack of attention to what I say.

What I'm talking about is the immediate assumption that I cannot be a skilled professional.

What I'm talking about is the waitress in the restaurant who refuses to acknowledge my presence, choosing instead to focus on the guy I'm with.

What I'm talking about is the waiter who passes the bill to my male friend, and who when he realises I'm the one paying, is unable to hide the surprise on his face.

What I'm talking about is the notice on the common noticeboard calling for immigrants to either speak only English and completely immerse themselves in the Aussie culture or leave.

What I'm talking about is the refusal to pass me or any of my female friends the ball during touch footy.

What I'm talking about is hearing from my friends about snide remarks made about Asians.

What I'm talking about is not being taken seriously.

What I'm talking about is thinking I cannot carry a decent, intellectual discussion about politics, technology or the current state of the world.

What I'm talking about is not being included in the Asian community because I'm too "Caucasian", and then being expected by the Caucasians to only be interested in activities organised by the Asian community.

I'm sick and tired of being overlooked.

I'm sick and tired of being stereotyped.

I'm sick and tired of being put into a box.

Am I really not good enough?

Not good enough to do well at work. Not good enough to advance my career. Not good enough to play sports. Not good enough to carry my own weight. Not good enough to talk about the "more important things" in life.

How do I actually believe that I can do something, when people around me believe otherwise?

How do I actually believe that I'm capable, when people around me behave as if I'm not?

How do I actually believe that I have a brain, when people around me don't think so?

And even if I'm really not good enough, why don't you take the time to teach and nurture me, instead of being condescending towards me?

Update: This article is absolute brilliant. [Thanks to Della for the link.]

Monday, 21 November 2005

I think I've gotten two shades darker and consumed more chocolate than is healthy over the last couple of days.

Spent the weekend at Manly Beach (I know I didn't really like Manly when I first went there, but I'm always up for second chances. Besides, a weekend at any beach would be much nicer than a weekend at the nurses' res!) and was blessed by great warm weather.

Had great fun with kites on Friday evening and got dragged around several times, thanks to the crazy winds at the beach.

Then went on an extended walk to North Head where we had lunch while taking in some amazing views on Saturday. We were perched on top one of the many cliffs of North Head overlooking the breath-taking views of the city of Sydney and the hundreds of sailboats littered around the harbour (I may be exaggerating, but there were heaps of sailboats).

Later went exploring through the bushland and found an old wall (I have no idea what it was trying to keep out. It was wasteland on the other side as well), walked along cliff edges, jumped around rock pools, frightened little crabs and fish and attempted rock climbing.

The weekend was also littered with lots and lots of good food, that was littered with lots and lots of amazing chocolate.

Seriously, if you are ever in the Manly area, Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man on Manly Wharf is a must-visit. And make sure you order the Suckao. Divine experience guaranteed. Of course, there's also the Hot Chocolate with Magic Waffle Balls, the Cookieshake, the chocolate mudcake, the chocolate fondue....

Thank goodness there's touch footy in five minutes. Need to work off all that chocolate.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Have I mentioned before what an amazing photographer I think this guy is?

The blog is not updated very often, but when it is, it's got some of the most awesome photos I've ever seen.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

i'm going to Bangkok for five days of wild shopping. whoo-hoo!

and in true lazy blogger style, considering that Faith has written all about it, you can read about what we plan to do in her post.

note how I don't get a say in the whole "what we must do" bit ;)

Note to self:

1. buy that Nikon Coolpix S4 before trip to Bangkok.

2. no other shopping now till I get to Bangkok.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

I've been given an opportunity to repent of my sins.

The dude actually came back just now asking if I was interested to take worship over at the old folks' place again.

I've booked in for early next month. Hopefully I won't mix up the time again this time!

The next challenge now is to think of something to talk about! muscles....

With the onset of summer, I seem to have mysteriously taken up sports as well. It really is quite amazing to my friends, but especially myself, considering the last time I actually played proper something or other was way back in 1998.

Played touch footy with a bunch of colleagues from work (and some not quite colleagues) yesterday evening. Two hours of running up and down the field, where at one point of time I nearly flew backwards because of a supposed "touch" inflicted by an opposing team member (which unfortunately meant I was therefore labelled "delicate") was surprisingly rather enjoyable.

It felt great to be out in the open, with the gentle breeze, setting sun, fresh smell of grass and to simply get your heart pumping.

Have been swimming rather regularly for the past month or so, but somehow, playing sports with a bunch of friends seem to make things far more entertaining.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

this is absolutely brilliant (albeit a tad sacrilegious at times)!

The Brick Testament is an illustration of various Bible stories using Lego blocks.

Had a bit of a laugh, a few gasps, but mostly was in awe as to how good this guy is with his Lego, and how much time he had on his hands.

[Thanks to mincedLifeCentral for the link]

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Not sure if I'm simply opening up a can of worms with what I'm going to say, but what happened yesterday got me thinking.

Was at Bible study yesterday evening and since it was my first time, I was naturally introduced to everybody. What was interesting was a conversation I had with one of the guys at the end.

There were the usual get to know you questions, and I was asked what I did for a living, to which I replied, "I work with Letrica at the church office."

"Oh, so you're a secretary then."

"Er, actually, no. I'm involved in public relations."

And I could immediately see that I had thrown him off-balance. There was a look of slight incomprehension in his eyes, but he quickly recovered and continued the conversation with a "you must be a real people-person then".

It's actually not the first time I've been mistaken for a secretary after telling someone where I work, and it only ever happens if I talk to a church member. (That is, unless they recognise my name, with which I get a completely different response along the lines of "Oh, so you're the Melody Tan!" that is followed by a very embarrassed murmur of acknowledgement from me.)

Why do people immediately assume if you're female and working for the church, you've got to be in secretarial work?

Then again, I guess it doesn't really help that it is the reality, at least within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific. There are more females working in the office than males, but the proportion of females in high-level decision-making positions are few and far between. Of the females working here, I think about two thirds of them are secretaries, or in some kind of support work or other.

Why are there so few females involved in non-secretarial work within the church?

Is it because such positions don't exist?

Is it because women are simply not good enough?

Is it because we're not interested in working for the church?

Is this happening only just within the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that being a secretary is not a proper job or anything like that. I'm just wondering why women in the church have become so typecast - they're either secretaries, nurses or teachers. Can't they be anything else?

Saturday, 5 November 2005

I've discovered muscles I didn't even know existed. And they're currently screaming out at me in pain.

Went for an archaeological dig with the Conservation Volunteers yesterday at The Rocks, one of the oldest part of Sydney. It was a dream come true, considering I've always wanted to be an archaeologist, but it certainly was hard work.

All the shovelling, lifting, tipping and bending brought out muscles that have long gone into hiding. It was a brilliant experience though, especially when I managed to pick up broken pieces of pottery and feel like the archaeologist I've always dreamt I'd be. Except of course, I've taken the life of a wimpy city girl, and so was hardly strong or fit enough for the yesterday's activities.

The day started off pretty horribly though. And for anyone who ever wishes to volunteer with Conservation Volunteers, make sure you check and check again where the meeting point and venue would be. Don't make the mistake that I did, and assume that an organisation like theirs actually know what they are doing.

When I first signed up for the project, I was sent an email with information on where and when to meet. It said a van would be there to pick me up at 8am sharp from the Central Station taxi stand. Fair enough.

I arrived yesterday morning at 8.02am because my train was late and although I tried and tried to call the number I was told to call if I was running late, nobody picked up the phone. Seems like I was calling the Conservation Volunteers office, and their working hours were 9am-5pm, and so I couldn't tell anybody I would be all of 2 minutes late.

Showed up at the taxi stand and there was nobody in sight. Not believing that they could actually be that punctual and have left at 8am sharp, I waited around for 15 minutes hoping that maybe the van was late. No such luck.

Finally, I called the number again and left a phone message, thinking they'd call me back at 9am when they actually started work and let me know where I could join the group. And considering I had 45 minutes to kill, decided to take a slow rock down to The Rocks.

Arrived at The Rocks right on 9am and received a phone call. It was Tom, the team leader of the project wondering if I was planning to join them for the day. Now, I thought he called me because someone in the office had received my phone message and got in touch with Tom so that Tom could track me down and have me rejoin the group. This was not so.

Upon further chatting with Tom, I realised that nobody from Conservation Volunteers had called him and that Tom was calling me on his own initiative because he thought I may be running late. Running late to meet them at 9am at Circular Quay train station.

The meeting point for the project was 9am at Circular Quay train station, not 8am at Central train station as I was told.

So from thinking I was late for my project, I ended up being early for it. It was ridiculous! What upset me even more was the fact that nobody from Conservation Volunteers even bothered to return my call from 8.15am! If Tom hadn't called, I would probably have just went home wondering whatever happened!

Actually, I lied, they did call me back. They returned my call at about 2.30pm, six hours after I left my phone message, five hours after the project started, to tell me that, "The meeting time was actually 9am."

If it was 9am, why did you send me an email saying that it would be at 8am? And why did you take six hours to let me know that? What was I supposed to do with the rest of my day? A day that I specially took off from my full-time job to work for you for free?

Just because you don't pay me doesn't mean that you can take me for granted like that.

If it weren't for the fact that I did eventually find the group (no thanks to the folks back at the Conservation Volunteers office), if it weren't for the fact that I had a really great experience immersing myself in the history of the place and digging out a cellar built in the 1800s, I would really have advised everybody to never volunteer with Conservation Volunteers.

Now all I can say is that if you ever do volunteer with them, confirm and reconfirm that they have got their facts right. Otherwise, you may end up in Melbourne waiting for them to meet you at 8am, when you were actually meant to be in Cairns at 10am.

And they would possibly leave you high and dry, returning your phone call the next day, when it is all too late.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Check out Worship House Media, especially if you're heavily involved in various aspects of your local church ministry.

This is what I call being relevant and catering to the present.

There's a whole bunch of resources to be purchased, from mini movies, stills to this rather interesting church sign countdown. (In all honesty, I haven't actually bought anything from them, but looking at their website design and the whole idea of providing resources for a creative church is enough to win me over.)

The freebie's really cool too. Pity I don't work with young people anymore...

[Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks for the link.]

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

I thought getting into public relations/communication meant that I would never have to deal with numbers ever again.

It really was for the better.

After all, this is the girl who very calmly and confidently asked a banker (of all people), "Oh, when we give you 100% of the capital, you will invest 85% in X and 25% in Y?" much to the consternation and embarrassment of her brother (he still reminds me about it).

This is the same girl who comes up with three completely different answers when asked how much is 16 divided by 2 (or something incredibly simple like that. If you want the actual numbers, ask my brother. I swear he keeps a notebook of all my numerical stuff-ups.)

So I'm going to be spending this afternoon looking at the expense report of my department. I will be checking to see that numbers match up, and try to make sense of the department's budget. I will have numbers pouring out of my ears.

This makes perfect sense doesn't it?

Where's that calculator? I need to find out how much is 2 + 2.
The blood bank came to the area on Monday, and as I usually do, I made an appointment to donate blood.

Unlike my previous experiences though, I found myself close to passing out this time. While standing next to a friend who was still having her blood sucked out of her, my heart started beating erratically and I was soon seeing bright lights.

Anyway, after being made to lie down again with my legs raised, I soon felt better. I did feel crook for the rest of the day and was close to fainting again a few times. But I survived the day without actually passing out in the middle of the streets or something.

(At this point, I feel that I should mention my fainting spells had nothing to do with my vegetarian diet. I've donated blood several times before and have had no problems.)

Told my mother about it, who then told my brother.

I got an email from my brother this morning mentioning that he heard about my experience, and after a typical brotherly reaction of "hahaha", he proceeded to ask me if I was ok, and then an instruction to eat more iron-rich food.

What made my day wasn't the fact that he sounded like he cared. He actually showed that he did.

A second email accompanied his first. It was a list of food I can/should consume because they are iron-rich.

Granted, he may have simply googled "iron food" or something like that, but the fact that he actually took that extra few minutes to find that out was more than enough for me to start gushing.

Aren't siblings great?

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Two more months to 2006!

Where did the year go?

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