Monday, December 30, 2013
Well, it did not disappoint.
One of the things that first hit me was this: that God doesn't speak to you on every single tiny detail of your life. He certainly can, but he most probably wouldn't. I am reminded of the analogy from a sermon Sy Rogers preached years ago. A father would be happy to see his child play with a doll. But when the child starts asking him, "Daddy should I play with the doll for 5 minutes or 15 minutes?" or "Daddy, should I braid her hair or change her clothes?" or "Daddy, should I make pretend to drink tea with her or pretend to go shopping with her?"
You get the idea.
Somehow along the way I'd gotten used to the idea that God does "A message a minute" like Dallas Willard puts it. When I read in the third chapter that He doesn't, I wrestled quite a bit with that. But I had to grudgingly accept the fact that it was probably true after checking in with God. *Wry smile*
What was especially helpful were the lectio divina exercises that were interspersed throughout the book. For those unfamiliar with it, the term is Latin for "divine reading" and in the book you would be guided on how to meditate on a portion of Scripture to receive what the Holy Spirit like to speak to you.
Finally, Chapter 8 proved really helpful. It talked in length about 3 ways we could know that God is speaking to us which are namely, circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible. I'm reading through that chapter again to better understand it.
All in all, I would say that the book helped me realise that a conversation with God is first and foremost about knowing His heart. Perhaps this is best summed up by this poem from Frances Ridley Havergal that was in the book:
Silent in Love
Love culminates in bliss when it cloth reach
A white, unflickering, fear-consuming glow;
And, knowing it is known as it doth know,
Needs no assuring word or soothing speech.
It craves but silent nearness, so to rest,
No sound, no movement, love not heard but felt,
Longer and longer still, till time should melt,
A snowflake on the eternal ocean's breast.
Have moments of this silence starred thy past,
Made memory a glory-haunted place,
Taught all the joy that mortal ken can trace?
By greater light 'tie but a shadow cast―
So shall the Lord thy God rejoice o'er thee,
And in His love will rest, and silent be.
I would recommend this as a must read to every Christian because hearing from God is such a vital part of Christian living and neglecting it would lead to a much duller walk with the Lord.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
I just finished this book after borrowing it from my friend Daphne yesterday. She was telling me so many good things about it as we were on our way home after a Christmas potluck. I then remembered how I wanted to read it a couple years back after hearing so many people gush about it. So I dropped by her house to pick up the book before heading home.
This is such a beautiful book. I feel like a better person after reading it and it certainly deserves a re-reading or two. That's the only way you're able to glean the essence of the story.
The book is about Mack, father of five, whose youngest daughter was murdered at a shack. A few years later, God invites him back to the same place, incredible as that sounds.
He meets 3 people, Elouisa, Jesus, and Sarayu who are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively. The first is a great cook, the second a carpenter and the third a gardener.
The story is about his experiences and conversations with them, individually and corporately. If you're like me, this book will upend your views about God and how we are to relate with Him.
As cliched as it sounds, the greatest thing I took away from this gem was that God desires to have a living and loving relationship with us and He only requires us to be open to this possibility.
I'd recommend this book to everyone.
Monday, December 23, 2013
I'd wanted to purchase this book a year ago, but told myself that I'd too many books to read (and I still do). However, the very day before I bought it, my pastor had preached about working in the marketplace and coupled with the fact that I felt like work was rather pointless at that point in time, I thought I'd encourage myself with this book. So it was off to Kinokuniya that Monday morning.
I was blown away by the book and it helped me so much that I'm reading it a second time through to make sure I didn't miss out anything.
It was really a word in season. There was even a chapter titled, "Work becomes pointless". Imagine that.
Well, Keller begins with an introduction on the purpose of work. He points out rightly that God had created man to work and that that was even before the fall. So contrary to popular belief, work is not meant to torture nor simply to make a living. It is something holy. In fact, work is something we can take in large quantities without suffering any harm.
Here's an except of one of my favorite parts of the book, one that impacted me tremendously:
"To take up work that we can do well is like cultivating our selves as gardens filled with hidden potential; it is to make the greatest room for the ministry of competence.
Second, because the main purpose of work is to serve the word, we would want to choose work that benefit others. We have to ask whether our work or organization or industry makes people better or appeals to the worst aspects of their characters.
Third, if possible, we do not simply wish to benefit our family, benefit the human community; and benefit ourselves - we also want to benefit our field of work itself. In Genesis 1 and 2, we saw that God not only cultivated his creation, but he created more cultivators. Likewise, our goal should not simply be to do work, but to increase the human race's capacity to cultivate the created world."
Isn't that brilliant?
I also learnt that bringing God into the workplace doesn't simply mean evangelising in the office, but to do our work to the best of our abilities to make the best use of the talents He has given to us in order to glorify Him.
Finally, I must say that as a Christian book, this tastes rather different from the regular fare. Although easy to read, his writing is peppered throughout with references to notable authors and thought leaders. It is interesting to hear what they have to say about work.
I would recommend this firstly to the Christian who is wearied by work, it is a tremendous source of encouragement. Secondly, I would recommend it to anyone desiring to know why God created work and what His intent for it was. Finally, I would recommend it to non believers as well, for there are many useful things to be learnt simply as a person living here on earth, having to make a living.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I was chatting with my colleague Jayashree the other day and we were talking about our hobbies. Turns out we both enjoy reading. And that we both ADORE Jane Austen's classic - Pride and Prejudice.
So it would come as no surprise that I was intrigued when she related how she'd found a comic book version of that awesome novel. Now this is the first time I'm reviewing a comic book, but hey, it is a book nonetheless. So there.
I think this is a great book to introduce the classic to teenagers, young adults, or to anyone who might not otherwise spend the time to go through the entire book. It can be pretty intimidating to start on a novel that length. Comics, on the other hand, are non-threatening and appeal to the general public. I found my sister picking up the book (I'd left it on my bed) and before the night was over, she had finished the entire story.
I must say that it stays faithful to the original story, period style speech included. It is beautiful. It's so good that my heart still skipped a beat the moment Darcy professed his love for Elizabeth, just like before.
I suppose the only gripe I have is that it could have been prettier. But that is pretty subjective I must admit.
I would recommend this book to everyone, young or old, male or female, Jane Austen fan or not. Everyone should
be given a chance to experience the power of this marvelous tale.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
So I received this book in the mail two days ago, it was like a belated birthday present for myself. I bought it like 2 weeks before my birthday but I'm sure bookdepository did its best.
Anyway, I finished it over two days and it's a really good read. Three things I loved about the book, the stories in it, the fact that it made me refer to my Merriam-Webster app on my iPhone more than once to figure out what certain words meant, and that I had to google certain American terms to figure out what they refer to. So I learnt what Trapper Keepers were and who Ann Coulter is.
I heard about the book on twitter. I think Rachel Held Evans probably mentioned it and then I kept reading comments from different ones. Started following the author on twitter too.
I think the thing that struck me most about the book was that you should not be afraid to be yourself with you start believing in God. He doesn't expect you to be all holy and pious and to be someone you are not. You don't have to try too hard to please Him. Come just as you are. He loves you just as you are.
And God can work through you too.
And that church is a community.
And finally, that you can always expect God to show up when you least expect Him to.
I think this is a pretty terrible book review. So there.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
I was on the train having a chat with a new colleague the week before the September school holidays when she mentioned that one of her favorite books was 1Q84. It was about magical realism she said and interest piqued, I went to get the three volume set (from Raffles City's MPH) to have a read.
It sure does not disappoint. Haruki Murakami is a really good storyteller and the writing is beautiful. The first two thirds of the novel alternates between the first person narratives of the two protagonists, Tengo and Aomame. Somehow, I was not too surprised when the two eventually crossed paths near the end of the novel. The last third of the novel brings in another character to give the reader a bit more insight into the story that was unfolding - it got a little more complicated near the end.
To give as little of the story away as possible, the book is about Aomame, a physical trainer doubling up as a lethal assassin, who one day enters a new world similar to the one we live in save for the fact that there are two moons in it. She finds that she is the only one who notices the strangeness of this and named the new world she was in 1Q84, a different world from the year 1984 that she had come from.
I suppose the only qualm I had with the book was the sex in it. Granted, it was not a flippant portrayal just for the sake of it, but as a rather conservative Christian, random hookups with strangers and even the short description of lesbian sex was enough to make me feel pretty uncomfortable. I'd probably not have picked it up if I knew I'd have to read that. Fans of Murakami would probably argue that the book is but a reflection of society today. Still, encountering such copious (in my opinion) amounts of copulation made me want to put down the book more than once if not for the fact that I wanted to know how the story ended.
Brickbats aside, I particularly liked the description of food and the cooking that both Tengo and Aomame did throughout. I have never quite encountered a novel where the preparation of food and the ingredients were listed in such detail and it was rather refreshing. Perhaps it was all the healthy Japanese food they ate too. On a random note, when I had a Japanese dinner with my sister last night, it reminded me of the book and the many meals the main characters had.
So warning given, pick up the book at your own risk. I quite liked this book but probably won't be picking up another Murakami novel any time soon.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
This book tells the story of Debora who grew up as a child going to church with her mother, but later ended up rejecting God in her youth. She was introduced to the world of homosexuality by another woman and began her 18 year journey in the gay lifestyle.
God reached out to her through one of her partners who brought her to the Metropolitan Community Church.
Later on in her life, with a different partner in a different church, as she developed a closer relationship with God, she was gradually convinced that homosexuality was wrong. And so was her partner. This story is so amazing because by this time, she had already entered into a civil union with her partner and built a house from scratch on 10 acres worth of land. Yet she still chose to walk away from it all.
The second half of the book consists mainly of Debora's journal entries which are testament to her love and commitment to the God that she loves. I'm so touched and amazed at her story and I'd recommend it to anyone. Whether you are an individual struggling with same sex attraction, a family or friend who is affected, or not, all should read the story of a God that pursued Debora and won her over over many years.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
I finished this slightly battered copy of Dan Brown's Digital Fortress within 2 days. The bulk of it in the first. It's that good.
I got this book from a colleague earlier this year as she was clearing out her bookshelves. Thought I'd take it since I really enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons' and I was not to be disappointed.
What a thriller it was! I was hooked from the beginning. The many twists and turns in the novel came at the precise moments when the reader's attention might be faltering and really worked to keep one reading.
The book is about the National Security Agency (NSA) in the USA that serves as the databank for all things classified and confidential. A possible leak would be disastrous and that is what it faces as an ex-employee threatens to bring the house down. Our protagonists, David Becker and Susan Fletcher are lovers who are at opposite ends of the globe working hard to solve the mystery.
That's about as much as I can give away without spoiling the plot. If you're bored, this is a book you'd not want to miss. It's really exciting. If not for the fact that I had to report to work at 8.30am this morning, I'd have stayed up to complete the book.
Well then, can't wait to get my hands on Dan Brown's latest!
Till then, enjoy!
Monday, May 13, 2013
This book was presented to me by June, my lecturer from my Post-Graduate Certificate course in Specific Learning Differences. She wanted me to find out more about the Arrowsmith programme and this was a book that was just about that. I had been intrigued by the revolutionary programme in a book I had read earlier titled, The Brain That Changes Itself, and had been waxing lyrical about it that June decided to loan me her unread copy of this book.
It did not fail to disappoint.
This book presents the journey of Howard Eaton, himself someone who has dyslexia, on his educational journey growing up, how he set up Eaton Learning Centre, a centre for assessing children with learning difficulties, and how he went on to set up the Eaton Arrowsmith School.
The book consists mainly of the profiles of various students of this school. It details how they were before entering the school (mostly underachieving), how the Arrowsmith helped them do up a comprehensive cognitive profiling, what they did in school, and finally, the results they achieved after 2 - 3 years in the programme.
Their stories are nothing short of remarkable.
Many had issues that even schools dealing with dyslexia could not handle. These include a severe lack of social skills, motor difficulties, verbal expression difficulties among others. However, after being in the Arrowsmith programme that dealt directly with the underlying cognitive deficits, these children blossomed and overcame these difficulties.
All of them had psycho-educational assessments performed on them before and after the programme and they simply blew my mind.
All of them showed substantial improvement in all areas of whatever they were tested in, showing that the brain is indeed plastic.
The Arrowsmith programme is founded on the underlying principle that the brain is plastic. Its basis on neuroplasticity was groundbreaking. However, many educational practitioners chose not to believe in it, hindering the widespread use of the programme. This book aims to persuade the reader to embrace the programme and perceive the impact the programme would have on countless of students who are only languishing in their current educational systems.
This is a read for all those dealing with students with learning difficulties, dyslexia or otherwise. This book is also a must read for parents with such kids and would inspire them not to give up hope on their kids. Finally, all teachers ought to read this too, as roughly 10% of all kids in their classrooms would have a learning disability of one form or another.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This book was recommended by my lecturer June and she said it is one revolutionary book that provides a different perspective on the issue of dyslexia. For the uninitiated, dyslexia is a neurological condition that hinders otherwise intelligent people from reading, writing and spelling effectively. They often have 'b' and 'd' reversal issues which is a common symptom.
It's a fascinating read! The author, Ron Davis, has a different perspective of what causes dyslexia - he says it's a "disorientation" problem. His theory is that people who have dyslexia think in pictures and when they encounter "trigger words", or words that are abstract, e.g. a, and, the, they become disoriented and this is the main cause for the reading problems.
His solution? Orientation Counselling or the Alignment Procedure. Both methods teaches one how to use the "mind's eye" to prevent disorientation. The book continues to educate the reader with other techniques such as Symbol Mastery and various reading strategies to enhance the remediation for the student with dyslexia.
This book is a really interesting take on the said learning difficulty and it would do him no justice if you don't read the book if you are an educator who is involved with students who have dyslexia. The author himself has dyslexia and came up with the assessment method and remediation by himself. His website provides a brief overview on what the book might be like. Check it out today!
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I'd first learnt about this book on the social media platform for books - GoodReads. My friend from university had posted this book as one of his "To Reads" and the title was pretty intriguing. When I discovered that it was on the bestsellers list at Popular bookstore I knew that I had to read it.
Why? Because I've always considered myself as an introvert even though nobody believes it. My colleagues and friends would label me as someone outgoing and friendly. After reading the book I realized I am probably a pseudo-extrovert. More on that later.
The author took a grand total of approximately 7 years to write this book and really did plenty of research to prove her point that introverts have many strengths that are often overlooked by a world that prizes the charismatic personality. The detailed research is evidenced by the dozen of pages worth of appendices or notes at the end of the book.
She tells us that anywhere from one-third to half of the entire population are introverts. That is a whole lot of people if you ask me. And she opens with an interesting story of Laura, an introverted lawyer sent to fight a tough case against one that had opponents her complete opposite. She was a nervous wreck but reminded herself that she had strengths others probably didn't. So she kept her cool and ask probing questions and maintained her stance and eventually managed to reach an agreeable solution. Then she reveals that the introverted lawyer was in fact, the author herself.
Amazing isn't it?
The book is an easy read and covers much ground. The author interviewed neuroscientists to find out how the brains of introverts differ from those of extroverts and also gleaned insight from psychologist that could predict which personality a baby would turn out to be.
In addition, she points out that introverts are able to develop an extroverted personality, also known as pseudo-extroversion, on topics that they are passionate about. This is because the love of the subject would help them overcome their shyness and reticence.
That is how an introverted girl like her who'd a fear of public speaking became a Wall Street corporate lawyer who quite her job to set up a consultancy and have a TED talk that has been watched by over 4 million people. Not bad for someone who couldn't sleep the entire night the day before a conference.
She even teaches us how parents with the opposite temperament from their child would benefit from having a parenting style that suits the personality of their child and how to raise up confident introverts.
This is a book for everyone, introverts and extroverts alike. Introverts, because you now know that there is nothing wrong with you. You are just different and unique. Extroverts, because you will now be better able to understand your polar opposite a little better.
It's an awesome book and I bet you'll enjoy it like thousands of people have.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The lecturer in my Post-Graduate Certificate in Specific Learning Differences course recommended this book to us in one of the lectures. It seemed really interesting so I promptly snapped a picture of it with my iPhone and posted it up on Facebook, asking if any of my friends had it. Turns out one of my colleague did.
She kindly loaned it to me and I finished the book within 3 weeks as I have been tremendously busy.
It's a most fascinating read. From Chapter 1, the author explains how the brain is plastic and is able to adapt and change to accommodate various situations and circumstances. In Chapter 2, a lady who is born "retarded" but gifted with a photographic memory managed to make it to university and then after she developed cognitive exercises to improve her abstract thinking skills, the other parts of her brain demonstrated significant improvement as well. Now at 50, she is the successful founder of the Arrowsmith School in Toronto and is a person who is "sharp and funny" according to the author.
In Chapter 4, the author delves into "what neuroplasticity teaches us about sexual attraction and love" which is very interesting. This is followed by an incredible Chapter 5 that shows us how "stroke victims lean to move and speak again". Have you ever heard of anything like this?
The rest of the book expounds on the concept of neuroplasticity and emphasizes the fact that "neurons that fire together wire together", meaning that the more one does something, the more ingrained the habit will become. On a side note, the Bible has taught this concept a long time back, telling us that we need to transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds.
I would recommend this book to EVERYONE, yes you, because when you are able to understand and tap on the concept of neuroplasticity, the potential is boundless! After reading this book, I decided that if I had a choice, I would do a PhD in neuroscience. But first, I'll do my Masters in NUS, that is, if I can get in, but this is a story for another day.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I was pleasantly surprised by my cell group leader who presented this book to me last Friday before the cell group meeting started. She had just attended the Arise and Soar conference in Singapore and saw this book on sale there.
Anyway, it is an easy read and I completed the book within 2 days. The titled, "Called Out" refers to God calling Janet Boynes out of homosexuality. Whereas homosexuals refer to a "coming out" experience, Janet has been "called out" of the same lifestyle by God. It is also a reference to the passage in 1 Peter 2:9,
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light
The author separated the book into two clear portions, the first, her life-story, and the second, a advice/FAQ section.
I must say that compressing 40 years of your life into 6 chapters must not be an easy task. But she has done a great job in doing so. I must probably give credit to her editor (if she had one) because the text flows smoothly and within the blink of an eye, I've finished 6 chapters.
I would have preferred if she'd fleshed out her life-story a little more and tell us in more detail how God and the people around her transformed her life but I suppose she had more pressing things to talk about. The second half of the book, consisting of 5 chapters, addresses the various stakeholders involved when a person chooses the homosexual lifestyle. It was kinda trying reading through these chapters but I can see that she is trying to cover as much ground as she can within a single book. So this is definitely a book for everyone to read.
Chapter 7 - For those who struggle
Chapter 8 - For the Church
Chapter 9 - For parents
Chapter 10 - For friends and family
Chapter 11 - What can we do?
She then devotes a lengthy 70 pages to a Question and Answer section. I must say I'm pretty impressed with her and it is true that the church has been too quiet about LGBT issues in the community. Instead of letting them set the tone, as a church, we ought to lovingly yet firmly put forth our stand.
All in all, it's an interesting read, but I must say that as good as her intentions were, I don't really consider the book as solving my needs. Labels are too past-tense. In any case, a good read nonetheless. I'd recommend this for all, Christians and non-Christians alike, SSA-strugglers, parents, friends and family and church members and leaders as well.
Monday, March 4, 2013
I received this book as a Christmas gift from my counsellor Mabel. It's a slim volume comprising several journal entries by the late Henri Nouwen. For the uninitiated, he is a Catholic priest who authored many books on spirituality.
This was a book born out of great anguish and prayer, a fantastic combination if you ask me, yet a difficult process to endure. Anyway, this book came at a great time. I am going through a period of great anguish and his entries resonate deeply within my spirit. I even wrote a half-baked sonnet cos I was so touched one day.
The foreword did mention that it is a book to be read slowly because it was written so. Flying through the book will diminish its impact and one would fail to truly tap into the brilliant, Spirit-inspired insights that the author intended it to be. (I've only read through half the book but it's so good I decided to write a book review today.)
So, here's the sonnet, and here's to all who are experiencing great anguish and for those who are into books, this is one for you.
On Reading Henri Nouwen
by Rachel Tan
I am reading Henri Nouwen's great work
It is titled, 'The Inner Voice of Love'.
The book was his secret journal. God lurks
Within. Extreme anguish - set free like doves.
I've gleaned so much through his many pages
So much wisdom; such great sorrow he felt
So relevant to all groups and ages.
Freedom, so close, yet so far, this he smelt.
Freedom, so close, yet so far, this he smelt.
"Every time you do something that comes from
Your needs for affection, affirmation
Doing something that makes these needs grow, um,
You know you aren't with God," this he mentions.
This was such incredible insight that
I took days to digest. God I thus met.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
You can imagine how touched I was.
Took a pretty long time to finish the 14 chapters of this book. But that was because I wanted to savour it and make it last as long as I could.
It is THAT good.
Well, the legendary missionary Watchman Nee did not actually set out to write this book. It is just a compilation of his most brilliant sermons on the said topic - The Normal Christian Life.
The examples he uses are deceptively simple and targeted at the Asian mind.
Here is an excerpt:
"Shortly after my conversion I went out preaching in the villages. I had had a good education and was well verses in the Scriptures, so I considered myself thoroughly capable of instruction the village folk, among whom were quite a number of illiterate women. But after several visits I discovered that, despite their illiteracy, those women had an intimate knowledge of the Lord. I knew the Book that haltingly read; they knew the One of whom the Book spoke. I had much in myself; they had much in the Spirit. How many Christian teachers today are teaching others as I was then, very largely in the strength of their carnal equipment!"
Amazing isn't it?
I would recommend this book to Christians living in Asia and especially Chinese because he was based in China and had to simplify complex theology to the folks there many years ago. Nevertheless, the message of the Gospel still rings true.
In addition, it might take a slightly more seasoned Christian to read and digest this book. But anyone who's interested in living out The Normal Christian Life ought to read this brilliant exposition on it.
It's a work like no other.
Monday, January 28, 2013
This book, which is more like a chapbook, talks in detail about the threefold nature of man - spirit, soul and body. In that order.
I was really blessed and educated between the difference between sprit and soul as I've always had a confusion between the two.
The author even includes a Question and Answer section right at the end of the book for those who might have any further questions.
I loved the section on hearing from God through the Spirit as that's something I'm constantly learning to do and his advice was really helpful. In fact, non-believers can also hone their spirit-man such that accurate predictions have been known to happen.
All in all, get this book if you are a Christian as it really helps you differentiate and distinguish and understand the three parts of yourself.