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I Asked The Big “Will You?”

It is official. I am engaged!

Well, I planned to give myself to her as her 24th birthday gift =) So, this was what happened :

1. I conned her saying that we’re going for dinner with a few close friends from Puchong. I told her we’re going for steamboat porridge. You should’ve seen the cringe on her face. But I assured her that it was really nice, and it’s good to be adventurous and try new things.
2. Halfway through, we need to “pick up” Jackee (my accomplice) for the dinner. But the truth is, a whole bunch of them is already waiting at his house, throwing her a surprise party.
3. I called and found out that Jackee was not prepared yet (for dinner) when we reached his place and we need to go up to his apartment to wait for him while he showers since he just got home from work. I flashed my impatient, black face and she bought it due to my ever convincing acting. She thought I was really angry at Jackee for being late.
4. We went up to Jackee’s apartment, opened the door and wah lah, a whole bunch of people all crammed into Jackee’s kitchen right next to the door started singing the birthday song.
5. We had a chicken party (all sorts of chicken dishes such as chicken salad, chicken sandwich, fried chicken, chicken spaghetti, chicken stew and etc) because she loves chicken.
6. We talked, goofed around, shared with her our memorable moments together and did whatever we could to make her think that the party was over.
7. And then I initiated a gift opening session, and I happen to be the only one with a gift for her.
8. She opened my gift (a handmade doll that resembles me), got a shock when she saw the card that says, “Will you marry me?” I got on my knees and gave her a short speech of why she should marry me and told her I will not stand up unless she says “yes.”
9. She said “Yes!” and the crowd cheered!

So, yes. I am engaged.

The Proposal
The Mini-Me which I made (notice the distinctive hairstyle), the extremely girly card, the lucky girl and the crowd that witnessed the proposal (the guys were so pressured after that, Bernard had a major headache and Wai Kit nearly fainted).

I’m kinda sure a lot of people did not expect this coming from me and would ask questions like, “Are you guys ready for this?” or “Why so soon?” or “Do you have the money to get married?” and all sorts of other questions that the world bombards at people who have the slightest intention to tie the knot in marriage. The truth is, I don’t really understand why people are so concerned over such petty and trivial things. If I do love Chrystin, (and I have the blessings of our parents and spiritual leaders) then that’s all that matters. Everything else is secondary. Period. NOTHING else should stand in the way to hinder me from spending the rest of my life growing old with the love of my life.

If I was a girl and the man I love does not want to marry me because he thinks he’s not ready for marriage yet, then I’d be very offended. Offended because he’s not sure if I’m the girl he’d want to spend the rest of his life with. If I was a girl and the man I love does not want to marry me because he thinks he doesn’t have enough in his bank account, then I’d be very offended. Offended because money has robbed early marriage, youth and happiness from me. If I was a girl and the man I love does not want to marry me because he thinks he needs to climb the career ladder, buy a house, buy a car and get everything else so that I can live comfortably before he can marry me, then i’d be very offended. Offended because he did not include me in his life experiences and achievements. That is, if I’m a girl.

So, am I worried? Not really. I know everything will fall into place and I’d rather spend this time enjoying the planning, fussing around and working things out for our coming wedding with Chrystin (but I’m pretty sure she’ll be making most of the decisions =) Besides, the wedding should not be our main focus, but it should be marriage! Now, that I’m excited! =)

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The Vicious Cycle of a Lonely Life

When I was a university student, the circle of my friends was daunting. I have so many friends it was scary. Christmas was probably one of the most dreaded seasons for me as I’d be dead broke buying gifts and cards for everyone who was close to me (and that’s still a LOT of people). However, somehow, somewhere, that began to change when I turned into a full fledged working adult. That circle shrank. Tremendously.

Recently, Pastor Tim has been preaching on a series of sermons entitled “Connected” and it was a good slap on the face for many of us. “If you’re always busy and have no time for people, then you’re just replacing relationships with self-centered priorities,” he said. So is the culture that we’re living in today, where everyone is busy and ever busy with being busy, busily busying their busy lives away (phew). And when I think about it, most of the time, my busyness has NOTHING to do with relating to people. And that’s a very sad fact because people should matter more than matter.

I wonder what happened? What went wrong?

You see, we start off by being individualistic. We tell ourselves, “I am all that matters. I am the truth. This life is about pleasing myself, doing what I like to do, going where I want to do…” and the self-absorbed notions go on and on. Puffed up with pride, thinking we’re all-capable, we move on to an independent state of mind, thinking “I don’t need anyone else and I don’t want to involve others in my life. Why should I, since I am self-sufficient?” When this mentality continues to spread like a cancer in our souls, we isolate ourselves from our communities of friends. We prefer to do things alone, without the need nor urgency to involve others in our daily lives and activities. Pretty soon, with others out of our lives, we become indifferent and careless about people altogether. News about innocent people killed, young girls getting raped and other inhumane happenings do not bother us anymore. Our hearts are hardened like stone, without a heartbeat for compassion or love. And this vicious cycle completes itself in idolatry, placing ourselves as supreme and utmost important. And God? Who needs God when one’s idol reflects his own deceitfully beautiful but wretched image?

That probably explains the loneliness epidemic in the world today. We’ve got all that can keep us connected with one another. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and mobile phones, you name it. But people are still lonely. Still individualistic. Still independent. Still isolated. Still indifferent. Still idolizing.

Have we forgotten how to take time and enjoy another’s friendship and company? Have we forgotten how to laugh together, cry together, accomplish and build together, believe together and just to be… together?

Take time today. Ask your soul (and I’ll ask mine), “When will we finally choose to break out of this vicious cycle and live a life of togetherness again?” A life full of people who care, love and believe in one another. A life that matters to others. A life that counts.

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Thanks But No Thanks

Have you ever had those moments when some stranger makes an inappropriate remark about you that clearly crosses the boundaries (hey, you barely each other, ok?) and you feel like hurting that person physically, like slapping him with an encyclopedia or jabbing his eyeballs or thrusting your fingers into his nose so deep that he nosebleeds?

I have.

If you’ve seen my mobile phone, you’ll know that I’m an antique collector. My old faithful is well worn out, adorned with scratches, coated with patterns of peeling paint and has the evident, glorious appearance of a mobile phone well used and appreciated. The bottom line is, it has served me very well and we’re happy together.

And out of the blue, came this stranger (whom I have no clue who he is) in all his carnality and remarked, “Wow, what’s THAT?” and “I think it’s about time you changed to a new phone!” in his jokingly (but unfunny), obnoxious and condescending tone as he waved his brand new IPhone 4 at me.

I smiled gracefully. At that moment, I wanted to adorn his face with scratches, coat it with patterns of blue-black and give him an evident and “remarkable” appearance so that he can show the world how much I “appreciate” his unasked for comment. But of course, I didn’t. I am an educated, civilized and well poised person and I will not go so low as to retaliate at such shallow remarks. And yes, I have forgiven him =)

Incidents as such remind me of how stupid it is to chase after temporals. To chase after mere inanimate things that add up to nothing but rob me of my contentment, satisfaction and enjoyment of the things I already have. To accumulate lifeless objects that make me feel my self-worth is measured by what I possess and not by who I really am.

Jesus is clearly against such “idols” when he prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He wasn’t referring to the things we want, but the things we really need. He wasn’t referring to the things that will give us a better tomorrow, but the things that will make today count. He wasn’t referring to us tiresomely working and earning a living for ourselves but to rely on Him and ask Him to supply all our needs so that we can enjoy life itself. He wasn’t referring to the things that will make us happy, but the things that will make us see His grace in our lives.

“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” – Anonymous

So, do I still need a new phone? No, thanks. Unless it’s free.

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The Longest Distance in the World Is From the Head to the Heart

Sometimes (if not, most of the time), I think I think too much. I am also a very critical person by nature. Add these two into the equation and that makes me a critical thinker, which makes me take the courses of my actions led by reasons but not instinct. Just put me in a situation which I have to make a decision and my brain will autonomously calculate the figures (even if there’s none), map the possibilities (and impossibilities), weigh the consequences (and its consequences) and without consulting my feelings, my brain would’ve already made a stubborn and pessimistically inclined decision. Without me even trying.

And I am at that junction of making a decision now. To add to the dilemma, this one decision will probably determine the course of my life and I have no idea what to expect.

You might ask, “But you’re a Christian. Why don’t you ask God about it then?” Well, to be completely honest and personal, I don’t believe that God will boom in his low-key voice and say, “Do exactly this,” or “Do exactly that,” and save the day. But I believe that God allows us to make our own decisions and He will give us the wisdom (our heads) and grace (our hearts) through the Holy Spirit (who is already in us) to do so.

The problem is, my head contradicts with my heart. This great divide is caused by my head saying “No,” and my heart lingering with the thought, “What if…?” So, which should I listen to? Surprisingly, the Bible made it very clear with this proverb:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

It’s heart over head, just in case you didn’t get that. Funnily enough, time and time again in the Bible, one finds God humorously using the “weak and stupid” to shame the “strong and wise.” Believe it or not, Yahweh is also the God of the mysterious, illogical, incomprehensible and unbelievable.

At this expository, going with the intelligence of the mind seems like a pretty stupid idea. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Center Point

“If the sun was to move even the slightest bit, the whole solar system and all the planets will go off tangent and will start crashing into one another,” said the ever intelligent Ps Shawn as he was preaching at this morning’s church service.

He wasn’t there to give us a lesson on astronomy though. He used that as an illustration to show the importance of a center point. An anchor that holds everything together. In the context of astronomy, he was referring to the sun and how it holds together the laws of the universe (gravity, heat, proximity and etc). In the context of life, he was refering to the power of the cross and how Christ holds together our lives (emotion, physical, spiritual and every other aspect).

But all too often, and very naturally, we trade our center points with other more “tangible” and earthly things. Fame, money, success, family, health, wellbeing, power, pleasure and so on. Guess what? All these are are mere “temporals” and they’re bound to fail one way or another. It’s just a matter of time they fail, and when they do, our worlds come crumbling down (the same way planets crash if the sun fails to stay put).

So, why should we set Christ and what He has done on the cross for us as our center point? What’s so significant about Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross? To answer that question, Ps Shawn gave us a short English lesson on each of Jesus’ final words when he was hanging there on that cross. The famous final three words,

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

The word “It” refers to the sacrifice for sins, “is” refers to an ever-present notion that never expires nor changes and “finished” (from the Hebrew root word “Tetelestai”) refers to:

1. An act of completion/perfection (when nothing else can be added)
2. A transaction/deal made final (when nothing else can be changed)
3. A notion of paid in full (when nothing else can be compensated anymore)

So, when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” it means:

1. It is utterly arrogant for us to think that our good works/actions (which the Bible calls filthy rags) can make God forgive us more because Jesus has already completed/perfected the “work” part by dying on the cross for us.
2. It is utterly offensive to think that our works/actions (be it good or bad) can ever change God’s mind to forgive us when Jesus has already sealed the deal with God. His body and life for ours. That was the deal. Not (and never) our works for our salvation.
3. It is utterly foolish to work/serve harder in order to “pay” God more for our forgiveness when Jesus has already paid for our ransom in full.

For these three words, I am thankful. Thankful because I can never outdo what Christ has done for me out of His eternal love for me. Thankful because I can never be holy or evil enough to make God change His mind about me, always the apple of His eye. Thankful because I can never repay God enough yet nothing can ever rob me from His promise of undeserved salvation.

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Devil

(WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. DO NOT READ ON UNLESS YOU’VE WATCHED THE MOVIE OR NOT PLANNING TO WATCH THE MOVIE AT ALL)

Went to watch this movie called “Devil” the other day with Chrystin and I must say, this movie was totally out of my expectation. I expected some b-grade horror thriller (since it was by M Night Shyamalan) but I was pleasantly surprised. Have you ever watched a Christian-horror movie before? (Is there even such a genre?) This was my first. Interestingly, it had very obvious Christian values on repentance and forgiveness. They even showed a Bible verse at the beginning (another surprise that this was not banned in Malaysia). Anyway, here’re some thoughts I got from the movie.

1. If the Devil is real, then God must be real too.
This was one of most profound dialogues (somewhere in the end) of the movie. If people can believe in ghosts, demons or any supernatural/spiritual entities as such, I don’t see no reason why they should not believe in God too. If the Devil is powerful, then God must be even more powerful since God created him (or known as Lucifer, an archangel before he chose to become the Devil). If the Devil is scary, then people ought to fear God even more. It really doesn’t make sense to me why some people choose to glorify agents of evil and not agents of holiness.

2. All sin will be exposed in the end.
In the movie, all mystery was solved when Tony confessed the sin he committed. As remorseful as he is, he thought he could get away with it as long as nobody knew about it and it was never exposed. Until he met the Devil in a horrific manner, that is. It’s only a matter of time when our darkest secret sins will be exposed to the whole world to see. The Bible promises it. It’s either now when we’re still here or in the afterlife. And frankly speaking, I could not think of another religion or belief in the world that offers an assurance of absolute pardon for sins the way Jesus does. Our sins are completely blotted out if we choose to embrace Christ. As though having our sins pardoned is not enough, Jesus promises us a new life, a turn of the life after that.

“The light has come into the world, and people who do evil things are judged guilty because they love the dark more than the light. People who do evil hate the light and won’t come to the light, because it clearly shows what they have done. But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.” John 3:19-21

3. Forgiveness is a choice. A difficult one, but a necessary one.
At the end of the movie, I really thought Detective Bowden, in vengeance would kill Tony for the crime he has committed against his family. It was a secluded moment, they were alone and he had every opportunity to do so and still get away with it. But surprisingly (and definitely not a common gesture you find in Hollywood movies nowadays), he looked straight into Tony’s eyes and said, “I’ve dreamt of this moment forever, of the things I would say and do to you… but… I have forgiven you.”

I believe in that instance, the detective was released. Released from the bondage of hate, revenge and pain. Forgiveness does not just heal the other person who offended you. But ultimately, forgiveness heals you. It is only when we choose to forgive, can we experience real freedom and joy. It is only when we choose to forgive, can we be released to pursue a fulfilled life, unashamed, unbroken and unhindered.

7 Things Never to Say to Your Boss

(Got this email from a friend and I thought it’s something that has nuggets of truth here and there)

Everyone has a boss. Even if you “work for yourself,” you’re still an employee to your client.

A big part of maintaining the boss-employee relationship is to never allow a boss to think you dislike your work, are incapable of doing it, or–worse–consider it beneath you.

These sound like no-brainers, but many statements heard commonly around the workplace violate these basic rules. Looking for an example? Here are seven heard in workplaces all the time. They may seem ordinary, even harmless. But try reading these from your boss’s point of view. You’ll see right away why it’s smart to never allow these seven sentences to pass your lips:

“That’s not my job.”
You know what? A lot of bosses are simple souls who think your job is to do what’s asked of you. So even if you’re assigned a task that is, indeed, not your job, refrain from saying so. Instead, try to find out why your boss is assigning you this task–there may be a valid reason. If you believe that doing the task is a bad idea (as in, bad for the company) you can try explaining why and suggesting how it could be better done by someone else. This may work, depending on the boss. In any case, remember that doing what’s asked of you, even tasks outside your job description, is good karma.

“It’s not my problem.”
When people say something is not their problem it makes them look like they don’t care. This does not endear them to anybody, especially the boss. If a problem is brewing and you have nothing constructive to say, it’s better to say nothing at all. Even better is to pitch in and try to help. Because, ultimately, a problem in the workplace is everyone’s problem. We’re all in it together.

“It’s not my fault.”
Yet another four words to be avoided. Human nature is weird. Claiming that something is not our fault often has the result of making people suspect it is. Besides, what’s the real issue here? It’s that something went wrong and needs to be fixed. That’s what people should be thinking about–not who is to blame.

“I can only do one thing at a time.”
News flash: Complaining you are overworked will not make your boss feel sorry for you or go easier on you. Instead, a boss will think: (1) you resent your job, and/or (2) you aren’t up to your job. Everybody, especially nowadays, feels pressured and overworked. If you’re trying to be funny, please note that some sarcasm is funny and lightens the mood. Some just ticks people off.

“I am way overqualified for this job.”
Hey, maybe you are. But the fact is, this is the job you have. You agreed to take it on and, while you may now regret that decision, it’s still your job. Complaining that it’s beneath you only makes you look bad. Plus, coworkers doing similar jobs may resent and dislike you. And guess what? Bosses will not think, “Oh, this is a superior person whom I need to promote.” Nope, they’ll think, “What a jerk.”

“This job is easy! Anyone could do it!”
Maybe what you’re trying to convey here is that you’re so brilliant your work is easy. Unfortunately, it comes off sounding more like, “This work is stupid.” Bosses don’t like hearing that any work is stupid. Nor do they really like hearing that a job is easy peasy. It belittles the whole enterprise. If a task is simple, be glad and do it as quickly as you can. Even “stupid” work needs to get done.

“It can’t be done.”
Saying something can’t be done is like waving a red flag in a boss’s eyes. Even if the thing being suggested truly is impossible, saying it is can make you look ineffectual or incapable. Better to play detective. Why is the boss asking you to do whatever it is? What’s the problem that needs to be solved? What’s the goal? Search for doable ways of solving that problem or reaching that goal. That’s what bosses really want. Most of them do not expect the impossible.

Last words: When in doubt, remember that silence really is golden.

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The Book Of God

Two days ago, I started reading this book called “The Book of God” by Walter Wangerin Jr. I bought this book two good years ago (yeah, I know, stop judging me), and I finally found the time to read it. And guess what? I couldn’t stop reading.

It’s actually the Bible written as a novel. Imagine that. Something like the whole series of Harry Potter (or something better) in one book only more exciting, enlightening and life changing. I’ve read the Bible through and through multiple times, with various versions, various languages (English and Malay because I can’t read Chinese) and accompanied by various commentaries. To be honest, after reading it so many times, I’ve lost the ability to imagine and put myself in the author’s shoes and circumstances. I just read and… read.

But this take on reading the Bible as a novel is a totally fresh change. Walter Wangerin did it pretty well by retelling Biblical stories with imagination, passion, depth, personality and warmth. I shed a few tears here and there reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Joseph. Yes, I’ve only just finished the book of Genesis (in two days) and you’re probably asking what’s there to cry about these stories. I’ll give you an example. Remember the story of Rachel and Leah? Of how Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah? And how Leah gave birth to lots of children to earn Jacob’s love and Rachel was barren? That whole portion of the story was written in a monologue. Leah’s. It was a monologue of how she hoped that Jacob would look at her, but instead of seeing Leah, he only saw not-Rachel; of how she felt when Jacob told her to leave her new house back to her mother’s house when Rachel came into the picture; of how she felt when she did not speak for her sister for more than ten years because of jealousy; of how they reconciled and realized they both still loved each other dearly. For the first time, after reading this story for so many times, I felt the pain, the rejection and the confusion Leah went through. And there’re many other instances where “insignificant” stories like these were amplified and put in context.

I highly recommend this book, if:

1. You think your Bible reading times has gone mundane and it has become a drag more than an excitement.
2. You’ve read the Bible but you don’t understand why certain parts turn and twist in such a drastic manner (as though certain portions have been fast-forwarded)
3. You want to read a shorter and concise version of the Bible (yes, it does cut short a lot of repeated sections in certain chapters)
4. You lack imagination when reading like me =)

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Migrated… Virtually

It is finished.

After years of deciding and procrastinating, I finally made it. I’ve migrated from blogger to wordpress. I’ve always wanted to do so, but the thought of the hassle and work involved just turned me off. However, due to certain circumstances, I finally had to do so. And I must admit, wordpress is definitely a great choice. Made me wonder why didn’t I use it earlier. If you’re a blogger, you really should consider wordpress too.

I needed a single domain for my portfolio, blog and other pages (which will come soon) and if you observed, this is an integration of all that! In one domain! Hallelujah.

Well, make sure you bookmark this URL (www.aaroink.com) because from now on, I am officially giving my old blog an indefinite sabbatical. With a cool new blog like this, I think I’ll be inspired to write more nowadays.

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To Part or Not to Part?

Recently, as some of you know, I’ve resigned from my lecturing job at my university. It wasn’t an easy decision but there’re a few reasons behind the resignation. First, I started another clothing line and I need more time to run the business if I were to make it happen (Yes, we’ve shut down Testify Wear because my partners and I have different visions and goals for life and the company). Secondly, my three year bond with the university was finally over and I no longer owe them anything. Thirdly, I wanted a job where I can really just focus on teaching and improving myself as a Graphic Designer (with that job, I’m always assigned with tasks that are non-related to my field of work and I barely have time to explore and experiment due to the long working hours). And because of this, I was angry and bitter. I’m a very progressive person and I get upset when my job hinders me from doing what it takes to be a better designer.

Well, I thought that was finally the end of that chapter of my life and I can say adios to my university… and then came the phone call (these are the moments where Lady Gaga’s song hits you with “Stop calling, stop calling, I don’t want to think anymore”)

Apparently, my boss called and he wanted to talk to me before I go. Very reluctantly, I went to his office. I was set to leave no matter what he said (or at least that’s what I thought). Sat down in his office and he started asking the usual questions like, “Why are you leaving?” and “Anything wrong with the faculty?” or “Am I going to another university?” And then he started sharing some sort of heart to heart talk. I’ve never heard him talk like that since he’s always been critical and sarcastic from the first day I met him.

“Well, I was like you too. A few months ago, I wanted to quit too. I was fed up. But then I’d be a hypocrite if I did that because I remember challenging you guys to not quit when there’s difficulty at work. So I stayed on instead. What kind of example would I be, if I left?,” he said almost in a humbling manner.

“Oh man, why can’t you just scold me or something so I can leave completely?!” I screamed in my mind. For your information, my boss is a very proud and confident man and I’ve never heard him speak in a manner as such. He usually scoffs and hurls insults in a jokingly manner. But in moments like these, such prudent words and humility found its way to soften even the most hardened and resentful of hearts.

He asked me to consider a part time position instead. Make it a slow transition so that if anything goes wrong with the company, at least I still have a backup plan, he suggested.

I really don’t think I could’ve left after that conscience-violating conversation.

Well, as of today, I am still working for my university as a part time lecturer. This seems like the best for both worlds. I get what I want (a stable income, ample time to prepare for my company, to teach and give back to society) and they get what they want (a good lecturer, according to their evaluation anyway, to teach the students).

Lesson learnt : People do notice if you’ve got substance. Make sure you are the real deal and don’t ever, ever stop desiring to progress. And make sure you switch off your phone after resigning from your job (or switch to a new number, whichever works best).

“Show me someone who does a good job, and I will show you someone who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.” Proverbs 22:29