December 2008


This is the time of year when our emails are full of sweet and sometimes inspiring messages from friends and acquaintances who wish us well by sending us a story about some kind deed done somewhere that has had an effect on someone. As well-intentioned as these stories are, there is an impersonal element to them. The events didn’t happen to us, or to someone that we know, and although the story is touching, we can be forgiven for wondering to what extent it has been embellished. The story sounds a little too polished in the telling.

Here is a story, told by our son Jon, that has not been embellished or polished in the least. It is not about someone who later became famous, nor is it important that you send it on to ten friends. It comes with no promise of future blessing, but we think you will be encouraged to read it. And perhaps, if you go and do likewise, you likewise will be blessed.

See for yourself at http://www.jonandnic.com

The is the final stage of our video effort. We tried – unsuccessfully – to upload to our weblog direct from our computer, but the file is apparently too large. So this is the best we can do. Thanks for your patience. Have a wonderful Christmas!

We are so sorry! To all of those who got our email and viewed our slides, we apologize. The music we recorded was imbedded in the slide show, honest! But somehow the sound got lost in the ether and didn’t make it across the Pacific. So we have scrambled to learn Movie Maker – which didn’t prove to be all that difficult – in order to put the sound in sync with the slides, and get this posted on Youtube.

We are sorry that the quality of this video is not what we hoped. We have spent a lot of time trying to overcome our deficiencies in understanding in order to get this to you, but there is obviously a lot left for us to learn. Despite all that, it is still a Wonderful World, isn’t it, and we both have a lot to be thankful for.

So if you don’t mind, have another look (we have added a couple of slides to better fit the music) and rejoice with us that the Lord is good to those who seek to please Him.Please see – and hear! – at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYV84kCUq94

 

picture2

We hope by now that you have been able to see the Christmas slide presentation that we have prepared and sent out by email. If you have not received a copy, just give us a hit in our comments or email us at steve@spwise.com or pam@spwise.com and we will send you one.

We had a lot of fun putting it together and had a chance to reminisce about this past year. The hardest part was choosing just 30 slides from the hundreds that we have. We also learned some things about recording and embedding sound, and formatting pictures to maximize content and minimize size. Next year maybe we will be ready to send you something on movie maker!

We will miss seeing you at Christmas, but we hope our little slide show will give you a little visit with us. We wish you all a very merry Christmas.

briefhist1 A couple of weeks back I posted a weblog about creation that engendered some debate. One of the comments from a reader was about Hawking’s view of the creator. Stephen Hawking holds Newton’s chair as professor of mathematics at Cambridge, and his twenty year old A Brief History of Time is still one of the most readable books on an admittedly difficult subject: the beginning of our universe. I must thank my brother Wyn, who gave me this book on my fortieth birthday, for a gift that continues all these years later to confirm my faith in an omnipotent God.

My reader questioned my assertion that even Hawking, as brilliant as he might be, can not find a logical explanation for the creation of the universe that does not encounter God at some point, although he and others have been attempting to do so for centuries. I hated to bury the writings of such a genius in a response comment, so here are Hawking’s own words; he writes “Why did the universe start out with so nearly the critical rate of expansion that separates models that recollapse (hence, no creation) from those that go on expanding forever (hence, so widely dispersed that particles can’t coalesce to form matter), so that even now, ten thousand million years later, it is still expanding at nearly the critical rate? If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hudred thousand million million (100,000,000,000,000,000), the universe would have recollapsed.” (p.122)

Hawking continues “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but they reflect a certain underlying order. The laws of science contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electron charge and the ratio of mass between the proton and the electron. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. For example, if the electron charge of the electron had only been slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would have exploded. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” (p.127)

Lesser minds than Hawking’s dismiss God as if by not thinking about creation they can avoid the thought that there is a Creator. Hawking admits that he is uncomfortable with the concept of a loving creator. If I had half as brilliant a mind and I was trapped in his body, I would have doubts myself; that is only natural. But to dismiss the overwhelming scientific evidence for a Creator is neither natural nor smart. If you are reading this and you do not believe that God created the universe, and all life within it, then what do you do with the fact that the brightest mind on earth cannot avoid that conclusion?

Garden Plaque

One of the nice things about being a part of a team is the diversity of interests that each team member brings to the mix.

We find it very difficult to get into any sort of holiday spirit in spite of the decorations all over the malls in Malaysia. It is still hot here and without our family around, celebration is the last thing on our minds.

christmas08-008  christmas08-005

Not so for Beth and Craig who love Christmas and have even shipped their Christmas ornaments around the world. They threw a great Christmas staff party on the weekend with a real tree purchased from Ikea and plenty of traditional baked goods, all done in her toaster oven. With three guitar players and many enthusiastic vocalists, the music was great.

christmas08-009Frank, the current Program Director of ICPU is retiring, so it was also a nice opportunity to spend some time with him and his friend Cathy before he moves on.

stephen_harper_prime_minister

Harper seems to have survived his recent brush with international notoriety and now has about seven weeks to burnish his tarnished image before facing the wrath of parliament again. We do follow Canadian news over here, although it rarely hits the front page as this recent incident did.

The reason for that is obvious: it is so reminiscent of Asian politics! Thaksin in Thailand and Mahathir in Malaysia have both gone the same route, and Harper’s arrogance is well understood in countries that have suffered from similar excesses of ego over the years. The difficulties of mounting a concerted coalition of the disparate opposition parties against such arrogance is equally familiar in this part of the world.

The irony, of course, is that Canada has been wont to look down its northern nose and sneer at the contemptuous politics of Bush and Reagan only to find that they have somehow seemed to rediscover their electoral spine while in Canada we seem to have lost ours. Let’s hope that our American friends treat us with a little more understanding in this embarrassing time than we have shown them over the last few years.

Thosai

Steve has a wheat allergy. It’s not crippling, but it is inconvenient. Think of all the things that are made of wheat: bread, crackers, pizza, pasta, bagels, donuts, cake. Just a few things, right? Have a look at the box of cereal in your cupboard, or check out a few next time you are in Loblaws. How many of them don’t have wheat in them. Let me save you the trouble, there is only one, Rice Krispies that does not have wheat. And yes, they do get a little boring.

Here in the East it is particularly inconvenient as roti canai is practically the national dish. That would be bread (wheat) and an assortment of veggies for dipping. How delightful it was then, on our recent trip to Singapore to discover dosa (or thosai), a combination of rice and chickpea flour. For about 2 bucks Canadian you can get enough dosa and dhal to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. Pam likes hers stuffed with potato and cauliflower with a masala sauce. We both like to find out of the way food stalls with an authentic ambience. Throw in some freshly squeezed limes or mangoes to drink and you’ve got yourself a feast. Eat your heart out McDonald’s, fast food never tasted this good back home!

pam-in-singapore

We are in Singapore so that Pam can meet with her colleagues at TWR and Steve can get a couple of days R&R before heading back for a round of administration duties to wrap up the term. We had the privilege of witnessing the wedding vows of our friends Karen and Moaz on the weekend and headed out last night for a look at the Christmas lights along Orchard Road.

I don’t think either of us will ever get used to the idea of Christmas in the tropics. There is something almost surreal about strolling down the avenue in shorts and a light top in the early eveing when it is still plus 30 degrees and seeing Christmas decorations. We stopped alongside this enormous three story tree outside a Christian department store called Tangs and went inside to browse the ornaments. We have two tiny trees in our apartment in KL, but found nothing that small. They had Christmas balls the size of five pin bowling balls and peacocks that were even bigger, but nothing tiny. They do Christmas in a big way.

Everywhere you looked there were decorations and carol music on every corner. Store windows had displays of winter clothing and the Salvation Army were out with their kettles. Everything you would expect to find back home except for the palm trees, the shorts and the sandals, and the heat. Oh, for a little snow!