(Not) A Christmas 2012 Reflection

Empty Christmas

By the time I am sitting here in front of my computer trying to come up with a Christmas reflection, I would have been sick for three weeks to the day. I do not know what the cause is. All I know is that my body started becoming progressively worse during a 5-day IT Fair that was held between November 30th to December 4th. During the last day, I certainly felt that something was going really wrong inside my body, and then the next day, I finally collapsed and couldn’t go to work. At that time, I had no idea that the illness has gotten so serious that I have to be treated for a fairly long time.

The pain started in the middle of my stomach. When it gets worse, the pain would get all the way to the back. During the most painful moments, I could hardly stand up and walk from my bed. I had to bend and curl my body forward to soak up and endure the pain. I could hardly get any sleep. Sometimes even the painkillers would not work, leaving me to writhe in agony every night in my bed. In a span of only 10 days, I went to three doctors, yet none of them could heal me. Finally, on Sunday morning (Dec 16th) I could no longer endure the pain, and my family had to admit me to the Emergency Room (UGD) in the Siloam Hospital. Continue reading

Assassin’s Creed III Review

Assassin’s Creed III, the long awaited final installment of the Assassin’s Creed: Desmond trilogy. After going through Assassin’s Creed with the legendary man who founded and raised the Assassin Order in Masyaf, Altair Ibn La’ahad, we went to Italy and Constantinople to journey with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the next three installment, the legendary Mentor of the Assassin Order who raised the Italian Brotherhood and Turkish Brotherhood in the next three games. Now, the series has shifted to the American Revolutionary War period for the final installment of the Desmond trilogy and we got a new protagonist in Connor Kenway (Ratonhnhake:ton). How does this one go compared to the old ones, let’s find out below…

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Book Review: SEPATU DAHLAN

Sepatu DahlanAs I walked home last night, I found this book lying on my father’s reading desk. “Sepatu Dahlan” (or “Dahlan’s Shoes”) – a book I first saw on the bestsellers shelf on my local bookstore. At first, I was just curious about this book and I started to open the pages one by one, wondering what is this book all about. Suddenly, the next three and a half hours of my life was then spent finishing this 370-page book in one sitting. Such was this book’s wonder that I was glued and entranced to it, and now that I’ve finished reading it, I will compose and share my thoughts about this marvelous book.

THE PREMISE
This book is the first of a planned trilogy of inspirational novels chronicling the life of Dahlan Iskan, the current Menteri BUMN or Minister of GOC (Government Owned Corporations) who was previously the CEO and figurehead of the top-selling Jawa Pos newspaper. This first book chronicles about six years of Dahlan’s teenage years in Takeran, East Java – from the moment he was about to enter Madrasah Tsanawiyah (junior high) to the moment when he had just finished from Madrasah Aliyah (senior high), between 1963 to 1969.

Being a novel (yes, this is NOT a biography or anything like that), while being based on Dahlan’s true life story, it takes some liberties here and there with the occurence of events and the people’s names (some are even said to be fictional), but when I was reading it, I could not make the line of where it was fiction and where it was real. The flowing narrative style used in this book invokes a visual imagination, putting the reader into the perspective of Dahlan Iskan, seeing the world and events of his teenage years through his eyes. On some scenes, Dahlan even writes his feelings on his own diary sometimes, as if talking to the diary (and later, his deceased mother), bringing us even closer to his perspective on things that happened during his life.

Other than the daily life and struggles of young Dahlan, we also get a glimpse on that era’s heating political condition. A period which was marked with the Muso Rebellion, declaration of Soviet Republic of Indonesia in Madiun (1948), People’s Democratic Front (FDR) and of course, the widely known G30S/PKI. This period brought many losses to families and friendships, leaving many children who had to live without their fathers, and wives without husbands. In some parts of the book, we will get to see how these things affected the life of the teenagers in that era, the young Dahlan Iskan and his group of friends.

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Avengers: Anatomy of an Overhype

The Avengers (2012)

When it was first announced in 2008 after the success of the first Iron Man movie that Marvel Studios would be producing an all-star movie called THE AVENGERS, all comic book fans (and movie fans in general too, that fell in love with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man) cannot help but to wait in anxiety for this movie to come out. Originally scheduled for July 2011, the movie was eventually pushed back to 2012, making it a long four-year wait for the fans before their wildest dreams came true. Along the way, we got Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor, movies that would eventually tie-in to this final one. Now that the movie is out, has it actually fulfilled every fans’ expectations, or was it merely an overhyped movie?

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Everything Shall Pass, Only HE Will Remain

Life is a JourneyReading Budiman Hakim’s article on his fears of living in Jakarta, suddenly I am reminded of my old unfulfilled promise to a friend of mine in Singapore, Rev. Ayub Yahya, to write a story about how I finally decided to return to Indonesia after a one year and a half stay at Singapore, and how I managed to reintegrate myself and cope with living in Indonesia once more after having a totally different and *arguably* somehow better life in Singapore.

By the end of my first year there, when I just finished my Master of Business studies, I started to look for job vacancies in the newspapers and online job search websites. There were only a small handful of jobs offered to non-Singaporeans and non-PRs during that time, so I knew that competition was going to be tough, yet I braced myself for anything that might happen, even preparing myself to accept reality should I have to take a job with a salary below the norm. After all, for a fresh graduate like me at that time, experience was something that I considered more valuable than money, especially in a country like Singapore.

I sent my resume and application letter to each and every job vacancy available out there to non-Singaporeans and non-PRs. Yet, after a few weeks of waiting and waiting, I did not receive even one job interview. And then the finishing blow came when the apartment room I was staying at was no longer available for rent. In this apartment, I was staying only with the apartment owner, a 60-70 year old uncle. His family would come about once a week to have a family dinner with him. During my stay, his health seemed to got progressively worse and he started coughing a lot during my final months there. Finally, his family decided that one of them would stay there to take care of this uncle, and thus my room was no longer available for rent as they would be using it.

This situation left me with no choice other than to return to Indonesia. The only other option was to look for a temporary apartment while waiting for a job, then move to a permanent one near my workplace once I got accepted into a job. But this option is a high-cost one and a risky one. After some considerations with my family and friends, I finally decided to leave Singapore for good and return to Indonesia in July 2007.

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In His Perfect Time

God's Perfect TimingThe LORD seems to be in the mood of teaching me a lot of things in the space of these last few days. After the lesson about obedience yesterday, today He was teaching me about trusting in His time.

Isaiah 55:9 says that “God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Just like the heavens are higher than the earth”. Have you ever seen a rat inside a maze trying to find his way out? Reading this passage evokes that kind of imagery for me: where we are the rat, only able to see what is in front of us, our vision blocked by the walls; while God is like an eagle hovering above the maze, having a full perpespective on the situation from His bird’s eye view position.

Well, this exact situation happened to me right the day after the 24-hour worship ended. In the final session of the 24-hour worship, we were led by an awesome worship leader from Pennsylvania, USA by the name of Stephanie Peters. It was an awesome experience for all of us that really gave us a glimpse of Heaven. A feast, a party with all the citizens involved, just singing, dancing and basking with joy, enjoying the presence of the LORD. When it was announced at the end of the service that Stephanie would be leading all services the next day (Sunday), naturally I wanted to come and experience more of that awesomeness of God’s presence. Since I was tired after all that 24-hour experience, I decided that I would come to the last service, the third one at 4.30pm in the afternoon, so I could take a rest first.

Imagine my total disappointment when I arrived at the 4.30pm service to find out that Stephanie wasn’t there. I asked people and they told me that Stephanie was only there during the first two services. I wondered if I heard it wrong the night before, but they told me, yes, I heard it right the first time, but apparently there was a sudden change of plans. I was getting a bit angry, especially since my girlfriend was really looking forward to talking with Stephanie again and getting her to sign her Bible.

All of a sudden, my worship pastor came out and greeted me, and I told him about my issues. He then told me that I do not need to be disappointed, as Stephanie would still be there for 2 more days: the weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday, and a worship team training on Wednesday. I literally leapt with joy upon hearing this news, it meant God has replaced my sadness with joy once more. But as this moment happened, the Spirit told me to hold back, calm down, and think about what has happened during the entire day…

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Following The Spirit’s Lead

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
— John 14:15-17, New Living Translation

This is a story about the Holy Spirit leading me to where GOD wants me to be.

First, some background. Every year, my church ICA has an event called the 24-hour Worship where the sanctuary will be opened for 24 hour non-stop as a place of worship. The 24 hour period is divided into 12 timeslots where in each timeslot there will be a worship team leading worship for 1 hour and 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break. There is no preaching and nothing else during this 24 hour period, just worship and the reading of Psalms (which is, actually worship songs too during ancient times, and as you know some of them have really been translated into actual songs today, like widely known Psalm 23).

For this year, the event was to be held from Friday, Feb 3th 7:00 p.m until the next day at 7:00 p.m. I was planning to join this event from the first time the date was announced, as in 2011, this event was one of the moments where I can feel God’s presence so clearly in my life like never before, so yeah, you can say that I was really anxious to join this one. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances and hard times at work, my body broke down with illness and I had a high fever just three days before the event.

I prayed to GOD for Him to heal me so that I can join the 24-hour worship and had faith that as I desired to get close to Him and know Him more, He would hear my prayer. The illness continued though, and my body temperature went up and down rapidly during the first two days, from a high fever at one moment to a chilling cold the next.

When Friday came, the illness had subsided somewhat, but I was not yet fully recovered, so I pondered whether to go to the worship or not, Because I thought I still need some time to heal and I was feeling a bit tired and weak at that moment, I finally decided to just take a rest first for the night and join it from Saturday afternoon instead…

Well, that was the original plan anyway.

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Every Little Thing: Part II

This is the continuation and conclusion of my previous writing, “Every Little Thing”.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me.You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
— Psalms 139:1-6, New Living Translation

Today’s events in the opening ceremony of my new DELL retail outlet that I was talking about in my previous post have totally proved that GOD takes care of even the most little things and strengthened my faith immensely. There were several unexpected problems that were coming my way in today’s preparations for the opening ceremony as I had to juggle three things at once this week: managing my DELL retail outlets (my usual work), managing the IT fair at Jatim Expo International and also managing the opening of this new retail outlet, something (or a lot of things) was bound to go wrong as I was pushing myself far beyond my limits leaving myself dead tired and totally stretched thin.

Deadline Day Issues
In my previous post, I stated that I have to deal with the store opening deadline, which is actually on November 1st, 2011. This deadline has given me a lot of headache, because at that point, I will still have an IT fair running at Jatim Expo so my time and resources would be really limited. My dad then made the decision that we were going to hold the store opening ceremony and blessings on November 5th, 2011 (today) and proceed to start the retail store’s operation on Monday, November 7th, 2011.

This hard decision was ultimately made to avoid any further conflict and issues with the mall’s management. Unfortunately, as this decision was made in quite a rush, it brought forth another issue that we only had a few days to prepare everything and finish the entire renovation work. I asked my contractors to make haste and finish things on time, and by God’s grace, the store interior renovations were completed by this morning, allowing me to proceed with the opening ceremony. There are still some minor work left to do on the exterior, but they should be finished by Sunday night, which means I should be able to finally open this store for business on Monday (barring any major unexpected things).

…And Then I Forgot To Ask Permission…
Yes, due to my hectic schedule, I actually forgot to inform the mall’s management about this opening ceremony and invite them to it. Since my store is located around the centre of an open area with a lot of traffic, it would have been wise to ask them for permission first, as the opening ceremony would start with a prayer meeting, which would have been a strange sight for people not familiar with it. So this morning I wrote an invitation letter and drove as fast as I can to the mall to finish this issue…

…only to find the management office CLOSED. I then asked a security guard nearby and he told me that it’s been a while since the management office are closed on Saturdays. Last I remembered, it was open on Saturdays, albeit only for a half-day. Well, at least since the management were closed, it means I wouldn’t have any problems with them today with the ceremony. But it sure led to another problem.

…And THERE WERE NO CHAIRS!!!
When I did my previous store opening ceremonies in this mall, the management would let me borrow their chairs for the event. Since their office was closed, it means there were no chairs that I could borrow! I then arranged for some chairs to be delivered from my office to the store, but it would take some time before the chairs arrived, while I had to start the opening ceremony real soon, as the guests were already coming in.

But GOD was Good and Gracious…
Since we had no chairs, the worship leader just asked us to stand around together in a circle. Somehow, this made the situation more intimate and I could certainly feel GOD’s presence being there. Although we only sang three songs in acapella (since we were worried it would have been too loud and distracting for the other stores nearby if we used a guitar), I felt the songs really came out from the heart towards GOD. After some testimonies from me and my dad as the store owners, it was then time for the sermon to begin.

To be honest, coming in to this opening ceremony, I didn’t know who was going to preach. I had hoped for someone from ICA to give the sermon and bless the store, but as I was very busy and it was all so sudden, I didn’t have the chance to invite someone from ICA. When the prayer meeting organizer asked who would I have liked to invite, my mind was just totally blank,as I couldn’t think clearly at that time due to hecticness. So I left the decision on whom to invite entirely on the organizer, but it turns out that GOD was the ultimate organizer and He made a divine appointment for me. Guess who GOD invited?

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Every Little Thing…

When it’s all falling down on you
You’re crying out but you’re breaking in two
When it’s all crashing down on you
When there’s nothing you can do
There is someone who can carry you

Last Friday, it seemed as if things could not have been any worse. As some of you might know, currently I am in the process of opening a new DELL retail store in a shopping mall in Surabaya. Early on, when we came to the mall’s management to sign the agreement and legal contracts, there was one clause there that I said I couldn’t agree to.

The mall’s management stated that the store’s neon box has to be made by a certain neon box maker that was chosen by the mall. I said that this was not possible, as DELL have their own standards for their retail stores. The design of every store, including its neon box and store furnitures, are the same all over Indonesia. I did not even have to design or build a thing. I only need to facilitate the rent with the mall and provide the place for the store, then DELL would handle the store renovation and install everything for me. So basically it just works like this: I rent the place, DELL fixes it and then I operate it.

We talked about this at length, and I said that if that’s the rule over there and they cannot bend it, then I am okay with it and I would just tell DELL that they cannot open a store there. The guy from the management then said that the rule is flexible and is actually there just to ensure that the quality of the neon boxes in the mall are good and not made from rubbish material. As long as the quality of the neon box is good then there would be no issue with DELL installing it. He even pointed out another store that has installed their own neon box.

This point was actually very debatable as the clause said clearly that “the neon box cannot be installed by the store owner or the brand vendor (which means DELL)”, but as the guy convinced me that it would be okay, I decided to sign the agreement. Which is why I was very surprised when last Friday they turned back on their words and called me to say that I have to obey the clause and handle the neon box’s construction to their chosen maker.

I tried to call DELL and they said that I have to follow their rules, if I want to open a DELL retail store then all of the design, construction and installation have to be from them. I then called the mall’s management again to inform them of this, but they chose to keep their position too, even after I explained that I have told them all about this before when I was going to sign the agreement. Then they just say that this decision came “directly from the general manager”.

At this point I was becoming confused and angry, and I had a fit of rage. Despite this week’s teachings to guard my mind from murderous thoughts, those thoughts were exactly what I had in my mind after all this. I lost control of myself and was prepared to harm and do bad things to this person just to have my way with it (even though later when I came to my senses I learned that doing things physically won’t help at all, it would just make it worse).

Fortunately I have friends who prayed for me and calmed me down. I asked one friend to suggest some songs that he always run to when he’s in trouble like this. We went through several songs, but in the end I came back to the song that I’ve always listened to whenever I was in deep trouble: Delirious – Every Little Thing.

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And If We Are The Body…

Came back from the GO Group discussion about the real meaning of the Third Commandment (do not bear the name of the LORD lightly) and I got the inspiration to write about this when I listened to this chorus part of Casting Crowns’ song, “If We Are The Body”:

The Body of Christ

If we are the body,
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?

And if we are the body,
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them
There is a way?

Sometimes, whenever we face difficulties in the church, difficult Christians, people who are not acting like they should, as believers and childrens of Christ – we hear people say “do not look at the people, but just look at Jesus”. For years I thought that this is the way to take when dealing with such people. But then I found out that this is not rightly so.

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