Friday, June 18, 2010

Four more days to go and Thursday games ramblings

Only four more days and I'm finally off to Cambodia. It has been a hectic preparation but I think I have got all the things I need to sort out on the church side completed so I can take my trip with peace of mind.

I still have matters related to Cambodia not completed yet but I still have some time and I have an overnight stay in KL which should give me time to work on last minute matters and review my notes. Today I work on the magic part of my trip. Been too busy to really do much. Tonight I attend a farewell dinner (sad) of a friend who is returning to Malaysia. Saturday I have a lunch appointment followed by a missions team meeting cum practice and then a special youth meeting at night. Sunday is of course church and another missions team meeting to finalize some matters. After that I just want to chill and not do anything much so I can have a good rest before I fly off.... especially since over the last couple of weeks I have been feeling very tired (especially my eyes) and having headaches. And the plan is that early Monday morning I want to watch the 2 AM game between the All Whites and Italy.

A bit sore at MAS. My agent has been chasing them for weeks for our hotel tickets (transit in KL) and it only arrived late yesterday and so and he had to rush them to me via courier this morning - which may mean that I might not get them in time. I leave early Tuesday morning. And now I find out that there is no complimentary breakfast! What?! Not the right place to cut cost especially since MAS should be rolling in money if they just cut back some of the excesses and corruption among top management. No breakfast will just give MAS a bad name.

Last week we had a small dinner with some of our neighbours - the Thursday games regular gang. Very nice and great to see all our guests of honour come and thoroughly enjoy the food. I was pleased that my roast pork was quickly polished off as was my latest signature dish - deep fried crispy and crunchy chicken giblets! Many were not exactly excited about the dish but I told them to just try one piece and you'll be "converted". Lots of conversions! :-)

One sad part was finding out that Joe and Wayne's family had decided to sell their house and that they just had a buyer. They are moving away ... Joe and Wayne are around my age and are autistic and our church neighbours. But they plan to remain in the West and if all works out well, they will have their own apartment next door to their guardian brother and sister Steve and Mary so they can better learn to be independent. I have been pre-invited to come over for a home cooked meal by the boys ... once they learn how to cook properly! :-)

Good neighbours are always a blessing so it is sad. But I hope to visit them once they find a new place. Steve and Mary gave me a beautiful wooden painting of Jesus (the traditional Roman Catholic picture) as a thank you present for being such a good friend to the boys. Actually ... they wanted to give it to the church to hang up in the church (really high quality wood) but then realized that it would not suit our theology or decor so they said I should keep it instead on behalf of the church. The church leaders around that day readily agreed! LOL!!
 Here's a couple of photos of what the children and youth like to do during Games. First of all, a crazy all out football in semi darkness! We use two portable flood lights which helps but in winter it starts getting  dark at 5.30 PM! And it's not just due to world cup fever - it's been football since early year!

Then at times it is table tennis but nowadays the tables are free for us oldies. Then it's that crazy card game MAFIA as a warm down and then they jam with the musical instruments.

It's all over when we adults who by 8.45 PM start chasing them to pack up. *sigh* to be young again with so much energy to spare ... :-)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two interesting jokes

Got these via e-mail. There's a sermon illustration seed in each of them. 

On an unrelated note, for me it is officially winter now. Feeling the cold. Going to be interesting to fly into very hot weather next week....

Office Party 

The workers in a large office were making secret plans to stage a big office party for the 70-year old cleaning woman who had spent the better part of her life with the company.  

Somehow the secret leaked out and the woman got wind of it.  

Much perturbed, she rushed to the office manager. "Please  sir," she cried, "Do not let them do it! Do not let them do it!" 

"Oh, come now, Mrs. Smith, you must not be so modest. After all, they simply want to show how much you are 

"Appreciated, my foot," exclaimed the woman. "I am not going to clean up after a mess like that!" 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of that great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, reportedly tells the story of the time he went on vacation and had climbed into a taxi cab in Paris. Before Doyle could utter a word, the driver turns to him and asks, "Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?" 
The famous author was flabbergasted. He asked the cab driver if they had ever met before. They had not. 
It was, in fact, the first time they had laid eyes on each other. "Then how the blazes did you know it was me?" Doyle asked. 
The cab driver said, "This morning's paper had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who travel to Paris from Marseilles usually arrive at. Your skin color tells me you have been on vacation. The spot of ink on your index finger suggests that you are most likely a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French or German. Adding all these clues together, I deduced that you are Arthur Conan Doyle." 
"Good show! Well done!" exclaimed Doyle. "You are a real-life counterpart to my own Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" 
"There is one other thing," the driver adds.  

"What is that?" 
"Your name is on the front of your suitcase."
- from Mark's Musings

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just obey and do it! (Pastor's notes)

Just posted up this Sunday's Pastor's notes. To read, click HERE.

Let the Children Come (William Willimon)

Food for thought ... for me at least ...

Let the Children Come

A couple of decades ago, in a sincere attempt to make our churches more accessible and welcoming to children, some of our churches adopted an innovation: the children’s sermon. Today the children’s sermon is, to my mind, a prime example of a noble effort but an unfortunate strategy. I’ve heard lots of children’s sermons. Tried a few myself. For what it’s worth, here is my assessment of children’s sermons.

I sometimes say that I’ve only got two objections to children’s sermons: they are not for children and are usually not sermons.

They are not for children. Any child younger than older elementary age (who usually avoid coming down for children’s sermons) cannot possibly comprehend the complicated analogies and object lessons of most children’s sermons. When an adult says to a preacher, “I get more out of your children’s sermons than your regular sermons,” this is not a compliment to children’s sermons but a criticism of our sermons! At their worst, children’s sermons put children on display, sometimes embarrassing them with a “Kids say the darnedest things” routine. At their best, they reach only a small proportion of children. Besides, if we really want to reach our children and to affirm them, the sermon strikes me as the least effective liturgical act to reach children.

They are not sermons. If a sermon is an attempt faithfully to proclaim the Christian faith, then the moralism and trite common sense of children’s sermons make them questionable. “Let’s all be good boys and girls next week,” is a long way from the truth of the gospel.

From what I observe the most effective children’s sermons are delivered by lay persons who are called and equipped by God to communicate with children. A stiff, uncomfortable, age inappropriate lecture by a pastor sends the wrong message to children and congregation. True, it is important for the congregation to see the pastor as relating well to children (our aging church desperately needs more young families and children) but there are numerous ways to do this more effectively than in exclusively verbal, abstract communication. For instance, every time the church celebrates a baptism, why not call all the children down front and have them gather about the font so they can see what’s going on? Try to explain one thing we believe about baptism to the children. They may have difficulty knowing what to make of “redemption” but they all know about water! Jesus communicates with us through ordinary, everyday experiences like eating and drinking, bathing and singing, all activities that are accessible, though at different levels, to children.

I fear that children’s sermons tend to backfire, saying to parents and children that which we do not intend to say. We wouldn’t interrupt the congregation’s worship with, “And now I would like all those of you who are over 65 to come down front while I say something sentimental and sappy to all of you old folks.” That would be ugly. So why do we single out the children saying in effect, “Boys and girls, I know that you are bored stiff by Christian worship, that you can’t get anything out of what we do when we praise God, so come down front and I’ll take a few minutes to try to make this interesting for you.”

Be suspicious when someone says, “My child doesn’t get anything out of worship.” Children can sing, pray, read, or simply enjoy being with others in praising God. Children can be asked to prepare and read the scripture on Sundays, or to usher. I have been in the habit of producing a “Children’s Bulletin” for our children each Sunday (Dale and Kelly Clem began this practice at Duke Chapel when I was there.) I was deeply moved when I visited an African American congregation in our Conference where the children all processed with the choir and the children’s choir sat in the choir loft for the service. “It’s our way of saying to them how proud we are that they are here with us,” explained the pastor.

United Methodism has a problem, as do a number of denominations, in retaining our young. I saw a study a few years ago that proved to me that those churches that remove their children from worship on Sunday (taking them off to ‘children’s church’) have a difficult time of retaining their children in their church as the children grow up. Those churches that lovingly find a way to keep their children with them on Sunday tend to keep their children as throughout their lives. We must not squander the most formative years of our children’s lives by removing them from the central, defining act of the Christian faith – the Sunday worship of the congregation.

I therefore hope that our churches will show their full commitment to the full inclusion of children in our Sunday worship, that we will not imply that they are not full and valued members of our fellowship. Our Lord has expressly given little children a place at the center of his Kingdom. We are not in any way to hinder or to forbid them. Let’s pray that God will give us the determination and the creativity truly to include our young in our church.
Will Willimon 

Where to point the finger of blame in the flotilla incident (Tawfik Hamid)

An excellent article by a Muslim
Where to point the finger of blame in the flotilla incident
 by Tawfik Hamid 

 The recent interruption of the flotilla ship that was supposed to carry food and medicine to the people in Gaza has resulted in global anger and strong reactions against Israel. These reactions included many demonstrations against Israel and denouncements by different governments and government officials (1).
 The question that came to my mind when I saw such demonstrations is why we have not seen many in the Muslim world until today reacting in such an angry manner against the terrorists who actually killed thousands of their fellow Muslims. If we can see tens of thousands in the Muslim world an Europe demonstrating against the killing of the pro-Palestinian activists  we should wonder why we do not also see similar powerful reaction against the Islamists who conduct terror acts nearly on daily basis and resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.   If the aim of the demonstrators is to show respect to human life then one should ask why the demonstrators do not respect to the same extent the human lives of the victims of terror by also demonstrating against the terrorists. In addition, why we have not seen the pro-Palastinians in the West also demonstrate with such anger in support of the human life of the Israelis who were brutally killed by Palestinian terrorists. Are these demonstrations a true expression of sincere care for human life or does it only represent a covert form of anti-Semitism that is expressed by selective demonstration against Israel. If the demonstrators truly care about human life we would have also seen them also demonstrating against Hamas as well when it killed many Palestinians (2);(3) in Gaza in its fight with Fatah to gain power and control over Gaza.  
Furthermore, a radio discussion between the IDF and the leaders of Flotilla demonstrated clearly that Israel offered the Palestinian activists to deliver on behalf of them the food and medicine to the people in Gaza (4). If the intention of the Flotilla was only to deliver this support to people in Gaza why the Palestinian 'activists' rejected such an offer and thus resulted in such bloody end to the problem?
Before blaming Israel for attacking flotilla it is fair to mention that previous experience with Palestinian terrorists showed that on several occasions they disguised under different humanitarian covers in order to achieve violent goals (5).  In such a case, it is unfair to deny Israel the right to be suspicious about the intentions of the Flotilla especially when its leaders refused to let the Israelis deliver the support on their behalf to the people in Gaza.
To understand another dimension of the problem, let us imagine that a ship full of food and medicine has been sent to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan- Is it correct to allow such a ship to deliver the material knowing that the main aim of Al-Qaeda is to destroy the US?
Allowing such support for Al-Qaeda can be considered as an indirect support for killing more Americans.
Some may argue that, Al-Qaeda is different from Hamas. Let us have a look on some statements from Hamas Charter to see the similarities between the two groups:

The Covenant and Slogan of the Islamic Resistance Movement
·        Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.  
·        Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
·        It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis.  
·        Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized.

Some may argue that the ship was for the people in Gaza rather than to Hamas. It is important here to mention that those 'people' in Gaza are the ones who actually choose Hamas and gave it a sweeping victory in Jan 2006 (6).
All what is needed to stop the Palestinian suffering is that the Hamas organization accepts the three basic and justifiable demands of the international community (i.e. to accept the right of Israel to exist, to respect the former international agreements of the PLO, and to stop violence against civilians). Had the Hamas organization accepted these international demands, people in Gaza would not have suffered and the flotilla incident and loss of lives would not have occurred.
So, before pointing a finger of blame at the Israelis, this finger should point first at the Hamas organization and its leadership for refusing these basic demands of the international community and also at the leaders of flotilla for refusing that the IDF deliver the support that was carried on the ship to the Palestinians.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some photos with superstar magicians

Some photos I took with and of some superstar magicians during the 30th NZ Magic convention

With Whit Hayden before the International Superstars show.  I had a great time interviewing him and getting off topic simply because he is not just a magician but very knowledgeable in the subjects of theology, philosophy and psychology. He once studied to be a pastor! :-)

Then with John Carney, and later with "Mr. Mysto" backstage before his performance. It does pay great dividends to be asked to help backstage and to agree! :-)

And of Paul Romhany in his "Charlie Chaplin" - also backstage as he gets ready for his opening act. He's one of the top NZ performers and a really nice person as well and as well as a photo together before backstage preparation.

And last but not least, a photo with Paul Daniels himself and of him and the lovely Debbie McGee!

Empowered to Pray (Henri Nouwen)

Empowered to Pray
Prayer is the gift of the Spirit. Often we wonder how to pray, when to pray, and what to pray. We can become very concerned about methods and techniques of prayer. But finally it is not we who pray but the Spirit who prays in us.

Paul says: "The Spirit ... comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words; and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God's holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God" (Romans 8:26-27). These words explain why the Spirit is called "the Consoler."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Twisted media reporting on the Gaza flotilla story.

I have to repost this which was sent to me. I find this despicable! Will this be simply"swept" under the carpet?

Reuters under fire for removing weapons, blood from images of Gaza flotilla

News agency rejects charges of biased coverage, says it reverted to use of 'original set' of images once cropping discovered.

By Natasha Mozgovaya
  • Published 01:12 08.06.10
  • Latest update 01:12 08.06.10

The Reuters news agency has been accused of removing images of activists wielding weapons and bloodied and wounded Israeli naval commandos from photographs taken on board a ship headed for Gaza during deadly clashes last week.
An image of 
an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara ship, 
with a passenger's knife, the hand of a wounded soldier and a pool of 
blood cropped out.
An image of an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara ship, with a passenger's knife, the hand of a wounded soldier and a pool of blood cropped out.Reuters
The same image of an IDF soldier being 
attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara ship, with the knife, 
soldier's hand and pool of blood restored.

An image of an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on 
the Mavi Marmara ship, with a passenger's knife cropped out.
An image of an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara ship, with a passenger's knife cropped out.Reuters

 same image of an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on the Mavi 
Marmara ship, with the knife restored.
The same image of an IDF soldier being attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara ship, with the knife restored. Reuters
Nine people were killed and dozens others, among them Israel Defense Forces soldiers, were hurt when the clashes erupted as IDF troops tried to board the Mavi Marmara ship in order to prevent it reaching its destination in Gaza.
The ship was one of six vessels that made up the "Freedom Flotilla," a convoy carrying aid that set out from Turkey in an attempt to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip. Five of the boats in the convoy were boarded by IDF troops without incident, while passengers on the sixth fought the troops as they came onboard. All six boats were towed by the Israel Navy to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
Reuters on Monday rejected accusations of biased coverage, adding that it had reverted to the use of "the original set" of images, once the organization realized that the photographs it had published had been cropped.
A Reuters spokesman told Haaretz: "Reuters is committed to an accurate and impartial reporting. All images that pass over our wire follow a strict editorial evaluation and selection process.
"The images in question were made available in Istanbul in following normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included cropping at the edges. When we realized that the dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images Reuters immediately moved to the original set as well.”
This is not the first time that Reuters has been criticized for images that appear to be biased against Israel. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the news agency admitted that one of its pictures of destruction caused by Israel's bombing of Beirut had been altered with a computer graphics program. 

They deserve this parody ...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Short-term Mission Trips (Pastor's Notes)

Just posted up this Sunday's Pastor's Notes. To read click HERE ...

An interesting "coincidence" that the timing of this devotion is just before our team leaves for Cambodia ...? Hmmm....

Busy Busy Busy ramblings

May not be blogging much for a while. Busy! Busy! Busy! leaving in 2 weeks for Cambodia and so much to do. Lots of meetings and projects to complete before I leave.

A few planning meetings, mission trip practices, lessons to fine tune, a number of magic tricks to work on (for Cambodia), packing -always a minor challenge as I have so many resources to bring and I need to pack light since I want maximum space and weight to bring stuff back from Malaysia after Cambodia.! Then there is the church admin stuff to sort out so that all is well covered when I am away. Of course there are the other pastoral matters to see to as well. Almost feel over whelmed.

I am so glad I am not preaching these next 2 weeks ... though I need to prepare for 5 sermons in 6 weeks when I return! *scary* So I need to get at least my outlines for the first two ready before I leave or risk spoiling my week's break in Malaysia.

Taking leave last weekend from Friday to Monday for the NZ magic Convention has certainly reduced  preparation time BUT boy was it worth it!!It was an incredible convention - and one highlight was getting to know Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. On the first day when I got them to sign a magic book written by Paul Daniels, they signed a generic greeting. On the last day when I brought out a second book (different one) for them just before interviewing them (they granted me an exclusive interview!), he gave me his Paul Daniel's look of mock exasperation and made some comments about the book and then told, me "I am going to sign this differently and personally mention your name!" *you had to to be there to see my very big grin to understand*

One thing I really enjoyed about Paul Daniels was they way he kept "taking the micky" out many of the Kiwis for their horrible pronunciation of words. I thought it was so funny, and to hear Darren Carr (an Australian ventriloquist) do the same in his acts were hilarious! When I mentioned back stage to Darren how I enjoyed though Paul Daniels teasing the Kiwis on this matter, he looked at me and agreed saying "I actually understand what you say when you speak to me unlike many of the Kiwis whom for the life of me, I have no idea what they are saying!" (That was a paraphrase) Hahaha. Gave me the guts to respond to a Kiwi lady who said to me, "You speak with an accent", with "Actually, so do you!" :-) (I was smiling of course and acting innocent).

BTW, If you ever get the chance to see Darren Carr live, you should make an effort. His act is first rate.

Then I also got an exclusive interview with Whit Hayden which never got off the ground the way it was supposed to be - which was fine with me as it lasted an hour! The reason was that he knew I was a pastor and he actually trained to be a pastor. A fellow seminarian. But he dropped out due to the insight of a venerable godly seminary professor who took him aside one day and suggested that being a magician was his vocational calling! An amazing story of insight and mentoring..... It was so cool talking theology with him as he mingled it with his insights into human nature, psychology and logic, and of course his philosophy of magic. I know a lot of the younger magicians found him boring but to me he was brilliant as a thinker and a practitioner. His moves are so subtle.Okay, enough about magic for now ...

Back to work~! Busy! Busy! Busy! *sigh* but HAPPY!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Disciples Need Focus (pastor's notes)

Just posted my weekly Pastor's Notes. To read click HERE

I met Paul Daniels last night! First impressions

I met Paul Daniels last night ... and the lovely Debbie McGee. And it was a pleasant surprise as I almost missed meeting them.
I was so tired last night and had a headache as well but I dragged myself out (an hour early too) to a teenage friend's house to help him with this routine for an upcoming magic convention, and then drove over half an hour in cold foggy weather to my local club meeting feeling lethargic.

But was I glad I came out as we had a few surprise guests. The place was packed with visitors as well. Paul Daniels and the lovely Debbie McGee had arrived a few hours earlier and insisted on coming from the airport to the club to say hello to us all. That was really nice as they were clearly tired.

And to add to the mix, we had another two surprise guests - Steve Valentine and TC Tahoe. TC Tahoe was not too big a surprise as I knew he was coming for the magic convention but not Steve Valentine. At first I did not know who he was - he looked so familiar as did the name. Only later when I came home and googled him did it fully dawn on me who he was. 

I think it is funny that only in a magic club can we get excited about such as person as a magician but not as a Holllywood actor  play second fiddle. And only in a magic club can an accomplished  Hollywood actor be treated as a regular guy and "mobbed" not for his Hollywood achievements but his magic skills. :-)

I must say he was an easy going friendly person as well - no airs about him and he is an incredible sleight of hand cardician. His three card monte was very creative and very entertaining, as was his ambitious card routine. His acting skills was definitely a factor as he had us in stitches as well as in awe. Right in your face magic and the vanishes and appearances were mesmerizing even when he did a funny slow motion repeat. 

But back to Paul Daniels. I was actually in awe of him but both he and Debbie were so friendly and warm to everyone. Debbie even came up to me to greet me as I was standing there like a dummy not being sure how to approach him. The lovely Debbie McGee by the way actually does deserve that title - she is 52 but she she exudes a charm and beauty that took me by surprise. Like Paul, no fancy airs but a natural kind of "stage presence" even when she sits down. Of course Paul Daniels quipped that he actually married her for her money! :-)

Anyway I won't bore you with the details of his impromptu mini magic lecture but it certainly drove home his reputation as one of the all time modern greats of magic. He took a simple child's magic trick and kept us in rapt attention for over 10 minutes as he turned into a magically entertainment routine. And what was way cool is that I approached him to ask him about some details about something he shared some time ago on an interview related to Muhammad Ali and a magic effect.  He promptly retold the story for a group of us and then proceeded to give me a personal lesson on how he did it, the simple nuances etc using my props! :-) Pure genius. Really motivational as he makes it so simple.  I am looking forward to attending his master class this Friday and learning from him. 

He is a really funny man and he has loads of stories and had us in stitches telling us in a small group about some of the practical jokes he has pulled. And he kept toying with us too trhought out the meeting. 

For example, he walked up to the table and we thought he was going to perform some magic, but then he passed the table and went up the stage - causing even more baited breath and anticipation, but then he walked to the side of the stage, and adjusted a slightly crooked picture of the Queen! 

Then after he gave his lecture, he walked way and got up and said with a straight face - that he was going take up a collection right now for a worthy cause. Then a long pause and with a straight faced continue ... "for Steve Valentine" as he needs the money. Of course we all looked at Steve and he had a surprised look on his face. Then he waited till we naturally had to turn back to look at him and then continued "... if you notice his jeans has a hole in them. He can't afford to buy a new pair, so I think we should give him some money so he can get a new pair." (or something like that). It was hilarious as we all instinctively turned to look at his jeans (US fashion to have jeans that a bit ripped) and everyone including Steve burst out laughing

Yeah, a great way to end a tiring day. Just had to blog on it. th