This is the very first year that I am celebrating Christmas as a (“born-again”) Christian.
2016 has truly been the best, most joyful, astounding year of my life.
If you are reading this post, I would like you to know that no matter which faith you are in, it is my privilege to share this with you.
I felt compelled to share a little more about my very own former “aethist mentality”.
On hindsight, the transition was definitely not a one-day affair and definitely not a sudden decision to believe.
It took a lot of painful questioning, reflection, reading, researching and slow un-scaling of eyes of the heart.
Finally, the heart decided to surrender itself to the Lord.
As someone who was super sketical, I preferred not to question.
Below are just some characteristics of a “lazy, unquestioning” Aethist that lived in a system for 27 and half years of my life.
1. My main identity was built around the “wrong” things.
I grew up in a secular family. I used to think that believing in a God would be “crampin my style”, and that having a God seemed so restrictive.
Rules sounded oppressive, a sense of imprisoning, and feels “inapplicable” to me. Basically, I didn’t like the sound of rules or boundaries. A lot of my life decisions subconsciously followed what made me “feel good” — pursue your dreams, be happy, break the rules.
Basically, I preferred to deny the existence of God at my convenience, without really thinking about why I did!
Or maybe, as long as I don’t think about whether there’s a God, that means he doesn’t exist!
Even if there was a God, an upper being who created everything, He didn’t need to have a say in my life.
After all, what could be more important than the stuff of my life?
I had my family, my friends, my career, my dog, fitness, social media, how matching my outfit is or even how I even sound online – whether I’m wise, funny in a non-awkward way, poetic or any other latest socially acceptable form of trendy behaviour. My life felt complete as I thought,
The ego had to fill itself up with things. And so it did with these things. For others, it could be slaving to that dream job, or achieving #relationshipgoals or #familygoals.
(P.S I am not implying that these stuff in life are not important, however)
2. I had Spiritual Pride and thought I was in full control of my life.
I had some sort of Spiritual Pride – “the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.”
And that was an endless wild goose chase.
As a former aethist, I would be extremely offended at this particular definition.
After all, I don’t need anybody to tell me what my sense of self-worth and purpose should be.
It’s all up to me to define them, right?
Accompanied with that belief are the set of questions very commonly asked by fellow aethist friends as well.
“I’m a good person. I don’t need a God to teach me how to be good.”
“How come some Christians do bad stuff and get away with it?”
“How can all people come from Adam and Eve?”
“A God is just for WEAK people.”
“Why would a loving God send people to hell?”
If the following questions resonate with you, one of the above is well addressed by world-renowned Christian Apologist and Defender of the faith, Ravi Zacharias. A well-respected speaker, who “has direct contact with key leaders, senators, congressmen, and governors who consult him on an ongoing basis.”, he was also even invited to speak twice at the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations in New York, which marks the beginning of the UN General Assembly each year.
Just a simple contrast between Mr Zacharias’s deliverance of his speeches with that of world-renowned aethist Richard Dawkin, known for his best-selling book (“The God Delusion”), we can observe Mr Zacharias’s grace, poise and with no intention to provoke his questioners.
I do wish we could witness a live debate between Mr Zacharias and Mr Dawkins, but his schedule most likely only allow time for peacemaking seminars.
3. I thought I was a good person.
As long as my common sense tells me not to lie, cheat, steal or murder, I walk as a good person on society’s moral grounds and legal obedience.
The word ‘sin’ felt blameful. Felt accusatory.
But, in essence, it really means unprofitable behaviour – that it is more than just killing, stealing, cheating and lying.
My biggest misconception of sin was that it only refers to only outrightly and morally “bad stuff” committed.
But here’s the broader view of sin – it is an organic pest that breeds from a bad thought. It breeds the moment it has its opportunity.
Just like cancer cells, sin multiplies and proliferates to breed tumours quicker than we can ever treat it.
And they give rise to spiritual tumours like pride, greed, envy, jealousy, gluttony etc. These tumours harm relationships with others.
Temptations to gossip (pride) , ogling looks at a person (lust) , buying expensive things over giving to those in need (greed/covetedness), desire to seek pleasure from fame and wealth (envy), indulging in vengeful or violent thoughts (wrath) are always around and lurking.
Like cancer and its unpredictable mutations, root of sin manifests in all forms and variations, even when we think it is harmless.
On a side note, if common sense is all we need, how are we to assume that a serial murderer’s common sense is the same as one of a civilian’s?
4.I thought “being yourself” was liberating.
Needless to say, I played hopscotch with multitudes of “Be Yourself” self-fulfiling philosophies.
Skipping from different streams of “be yourself” messages out there in the media, it all led to a river of confusion.
“It is a trap to say we should not worry about living up to everyone else’s standards, just set our own. That’s not an answer. Boosting our self-esteem by living up to our own standards or someone else’s sounds like a great solution. But it does not deliver. It cannot deliver. I cannot live up to my parents’ standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to your standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to society’s standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to other societies’ standards – that makes me feel terrible. Perhaps the solution is to set my own standards? But I cannot keep them either – and that makes me feel terrible, unless I set incredibly low standards. Are low standards a solution? Not at all. That makes me feel terrible because I realize I am the type of person who has low standards. Trying to boost our self-esteem by trying to live up to our own standards or someone else’s is a trap. It is not an answer.”
God is like a loving father to his child. He sets His house standards, and unlike how one might view it as restrictive, His boundaries are loving, and protects us from self-destructing ourselves because of society’s worldly standards.
5. I believed in evolution simply because it looked logical.
As a former aethist, I believed strongly in evolution, admittedly stemming from ignorance and just because it was taught in school.
Today, there are a lot of heated debates over this, that it’s either the creationist way or another.
Still, there are some questions yet to be answered.
If we came from apes, where are the apes in mid-transition?
Did the chicken or egg come first?
How did the first organic molecule DNA come about from random collisions of non-living, inorganic substances?
I never thought about these questions until I read The Reason For God. After much thought and a deeper dive into cell biology, I have come to the conclusion that I have no problem accepting that God created humans from the very beginning.
The complexity and inter-dependance of the different biological systems plus the unique physiology of each organelle, cell and tissue makes it hard to imagine that each part can come about without the other.
Just like a computer program that has very unique functions, it requires an intelligent mind to design it just as the human body does.
There are many differing views on this topic, one in which evolution could jolly well be compatible with the Christian faith. Regardless, this whole topic has provoked a series of questioning in relation to the Book of Genesis, which made me further in awe of God’s amazing works.
Also, below is a very interesting video that gives us an insight regarding the thought process of disagreement.
(The host could come on a little strong at some parts, so I do recommend keeping your mind open. If you find that you would like to have a discussion, I’m very happy to take it into a private chat or email. )
The overall goal isn’t to reinforce a belief on anyone, but to re-open a door of thought about why one thinks the way he or she does. I do admit that I still do have a lot of reading and researching to be done on proposed theories, but what God has shown me supercedes any reason to waiver my faith for Him.
If you’re constantly searching for the meaning and purpose of life, then question of whether the chicken or egg came first could be one of vital importance.
Even if you believe in the scientist, question the science itself. For having belief in science without questioning is still faith without questioning. A great way to continue learning!
If you’re interested, here’s another interview video on evolution.
As of by far, we have not have any concrete evidence to prove inter-species evolution. Most of them would point back to the Galapagos Finch, even though the birds still remained as birds. I recalled this as primary school textbook information, and it’s still only the one that professors at college level could use as concrete evidence (but it’s classified under natural adaptation rather than inter-species evolution).
Whether you’re working hard into the wee hours and doubting yourself, or wondering why you’re back to square one of depression after a month of getting your $XXXXX pay increment, or giving up your career as a woman in this “super-mom” society.
With Christ, there is only gain. This means
for each and every one of us.
Love taught in the movies has us looking for it all in the wrong places, when the true love
- the love of God -
has been knocking on our doors all the time, just whether we choose to answer it.
It was a matter of whether I was willing to drop my pride.
It was a matter of whether I was willing to take back my words and ask for forgiveness for my ignorance.
And till this day, I submitted my life and never looked back.
To end this off, to all of us who are His children, may the verse Jeremiah 36:12 tug your hearts this Christmas:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 The Joy of the Lord is our Strength until eternity <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
*Min. Donation per pax: $1000 (See elaboration below)
**Est. Individual Costs: $1264++ (not including R & R)
Est. Total Costs: $2264++
* There is a donation of S$1,000 per pax for a team of min. 12 pax. Do note that this is donation is EXCLUDING in-country expenses, airfare and any other recreational costs.
The donation goes towards the cost of building a house in the host country. Participants may choose to fundraise for this donation by contacting civic groups, churchs, friends, family etc.
** Individual costs include airfare, in-country expenses, accident and medical insurance and is dependent on the build location. Recreational costs have not been factored in and is subject to discussion within team for any extra activities outside the build dates. All costs are stated in Singapore dollars.
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of being invited by Ministry of Adventure to experience kayaking around the Marina Bay water! For you adventure seekers whom are looking to do something different or another unsual activity, you should definitely not give this a miss.
It was an enthralling experience just to be out in the waters and be surrounded by our beautiful skyline in the morning. This is by far a special way to enjoy the view as you glide gently with the current on a low-ride.
We gathered at 930am for our briefing and introduction to kayaking.
Basic walk-through included the following:
Getting into the kayak
Carrying the kayak
Paddle placement and holding
Paddling action (Be complacent in this and your partner will do more work. )
Once the 15-minute briefing is done, we’re off to carrying our kayaks to the waters. Now, this is where your deadlifts get handy! So make sure to keep your backs straight when you lift the boat off the ground.
Receiving our briefing before we set off.
And off we go across the Kallang River!
Excitedly heading towards MBS!
All got a little tired, and thankfully we got a stop point to rest for route briefing.
We’re in the waters and at all smiles .
This has got to be an STB shot..
After an hour of rowing, our instructor made each of us stand on our seats!
Seriously, it was scary trying to balance on the Kayak. You’ll need to have a core of an acrobat for this.
The trick of course, is to have the other rowers hold onto adjacent boats for stabilization.
But we did it anyway! Look at how pro we are.
Once we were more confident of our balancing skills, our instructors made us play Swap-Seats!
And we were trying hard not to step on each other.
All with gleeful faces and we’re ready to go back. The very same waters were also the training ground for the dragon boat teams, so you can be sure to catch some exciting synchronous energy as part of your experience too. Wish we caught some of them in the pictures but we were too busy rowing ourselves.
On our way back, our instructor guided us further on refining steering techniques since we were paddling so beautifully out of line every 5 seconds.
Our final group picture before we head back. These people obviously know how to spend their weekend lah!
Thank you Ministry of Adventure for the wonderful day! Couldn’t have been a lovelier way to spend my Sunday.
This year May 2017, I decided to take up a shelter build trip with Habitat for Humanity with 9 other amazing individuals. The initial motivation was to expose myself to a different kind of experience altogether. But at the end of it all, it could only strike the most impact upon one’s perspective of life . Before I deepen into any afterthoughts, let’s scroll down the pictures to what a shelter build is like!
Stage 1 – Demolition
Before we could begin any construction, we had to commence the demolition of the current house, an old shelter made of mainly wooden walls and brick roof. So here we begin tearing down the house.
Stage 2 – Trench Digging and Material Transportation
And once we’re done clearing the site, the canvas is set up over the area to provide some shade while we begin digging trenches to lay the foundation. We also had to transport materials (cement, bricks) up the slope. Boy, was it just gruelling manual labour.
Stage 3 – Wire Bending and Cement Mixing
While the materials are being transported, other tasks such as wire bending has been assigned to other team members who would like to take it a little easier.
Stage 4 – Bricklayering and Plastering
Next, we’re all set to lay the bricks and plaster them up!
Saying our Goodbyes
On the final day, it was hard to hold back. Tears were shed not only because we had to leave, but we learnt how much this had meant to Mr Kami and the villagers. It’s all about Mr Kamin being able to have a home to pass down for generations.
Highlight – Rest and Relaxation!
As we come to the end of our build, a day is scheduled in for rest and relaxation. So off we go to Borobudur at 3am to catch the amazing sunset, then we raced through the gravel on Mount Merapi in jeeps.
To end it all, I would like to share a little story.
When you are born into this world with a list of privileges ready for you and basic needs satisfied it is unconditionally ingrained that this is the everyday norm. It is hard to fathom even a day without our smartphones, much less to say not having enough food on the table.
Back in Secondary school, I was a glutton and did not like to share my food. Often, during recess breaks, my classmates and I would gather around for lunch. I would buy my usual plate of rice, vegetables and meats, coming back to the table brimming with joyful hunger. Just as when I am about to dig in, at least one of my friends would ask me the dreadful question,”Donna. Can I have some?”. During the age of growth, such a request throbs my heart as if someone was about to kidnap my daughter rice grains from my plate.
Despite my blackened face, I usually say “Yes” unwillingly. Truly, deep inside, I pleaded them to read my face and politely back off.
And then Miss Hungry-but-not-hungry-enough-to-order-her-own-food would reach for my spoon at tortoise speed, gently scoops into my rice mash at a speed where my eye pupils could steadily follow her thumbnail’s arc of motion. Inside, I was screaming,”Why don’t you buy your own food?!”.
The whole situation may feel hilarious and my group of friends will always poke at me about this fact.
But the whole point is on the grand scale of things, the world becomes cold when each of us desire the excess of things when we can have less and share with others. Just as the eating incident as aforementioned, I don’t really need that much food in order to be full, yet I wanted to be filled to the brim. And this is why gluttony is also known to be a “sinful” act. Taking in beyond what we need robs others of their daily bread.
Nevertheless, I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Albeit a little shortcut through the summary, but I hope the pictures have given you an idea about a build project hosted by Habitat For Humanity.
When people start to take up personal training or decide to follow a diet, most of the time something goes wrong!
And it stops, and then they give up.
Because following a diet plan is so much more than just eating the food prescribed on it.
It involves getting the food, preparing, and cooking according to the plan. All these are TIME-CONSUMING.
Moreover, by the time you reach home, you’re zapped out with energy and cooking is the last thing on your mind.
Unlike the usual route of following a strict diet plan, we go much further to ensure that you are able to eat towards your goals according to your LIFESTYLE at your convenience.
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With Chinese New Year around the corner, the upcoming week’s worth of affairs is enough to pause exercise routines and inflate appetites.
While we line up several house visits, awaiting us are smiley Uncles and Aunties preparing to shove into our mouths their most premium Kueh Bangkits and sugary Pineapple Tarts from that 5-star hotel so-and-so. And before you know it, you have packed your total calories for the day in just a single house visit, with a few more to go.
If you have already engraved the mindset of “ready to whack”, then your stomach’s agenda is all fired up and no man will stop you. But if you are wondering on how to negotiate with the internal conflicts when that buttery fragrance whiffs through your nostrils, read on.
This is especially for the new year “Get-Healthy” resolutionees feeling the upcoming sabotage to their plans. Not helping are the the rest of your friends whom are like “wait until chinese new year over then I start lah“.
So, below are a few tips to tackle the Chinese New Year binging.
Are you ready?……Honestly, it’s the same for any other usual day.
#1. Have your usual balanced meal just before you go visiting.
What? Won’t I just eat even more.
No, the point is to not have a super hungry you going crazy in the presence of food galore.
When we intentionally starve ourselves because we know we are going to fill ourselves up with food, our minds psychologically becomes a zero-willpower beast.
By feeding ourselves then only can we keep this beast tamed and calm. Your “ready to whack” gets reduced to “test test here and there”. Our brain then allows us to exercise better decision-making, picking out the most “worthy” goodies left to fill up the remaining space.
So go ahead and have your usual meal. Or if you are visiting, approach the table of foods first and get your usual portions of vegetables and meats in first. After that, enjoy your remaining space with some snack delights!
Point to note — it’s easier to stop when you are ACTUALLY full compared to trying to resist finishing the whole TUB of pineapple tarts.
So the key thing to take away here is – aim for fullness on nutrient-dense stuff rather than restriction on nutrient-poor stuff.
Remember – starvation leads to way more food intake than what you actually would eat for the day. Unless of course if you literally enjoy the feeling of being gorged, then this doesn’t apply to you.
#2. Fill yourself up with Veggies and Fruits
Steamboat for reunion dinners is actually a blessing in disguise compared to other occasional fares like Christmas.
In preparation for the family reunion, load up more on the veggies (and abalone). Kai Lan, Spinach, Seaweed, Fa Cai, you name it.
The fibre is sure to keep your saiety in check and curb your appetite. Instead of snacks, steer towards a whole mandarin orange first instead and then you decide again.
#3. Eat slowly and savor.
In our culture, we have the habit of gobbling and wolving down our food as if an eternal war is going on. When it comes to buffets, we conceive that 8-month old food baby from a fullness rate of 150%.
If you can’t control the quantity, then one thing you can control is YOUR SPEED.
So learn to eat SLOWLY. Listen to your appetite and hunger cues. The food is not going to disappear. When you eat slowly, you feel full on a lot less than you actually eat. Cos it takes some time before our body starts telling us we’re done.
I used to be eating 500 calories within 10 minutes and still feel like I want to eat a whole cow. Heck me and my girls even took pride in how much we could eat because it was so impressive to our relatives. It’s a vicious demultiplier to our health, and our internal organs were definitely not impressed.
So, having practised slow, mindful eating, I have found that the rate of me wanting to order another portion has reduced by half overtime. Simply because, by the time I’m done, my fullness cues have already set in.
Oh no. It’s impossible. I will still feel hungry.
I am a huge foodie with a very large appetite so yes, I will tell you it’s possible. If you haven’t tried it, you will never know.
#4. Aim for non-sugary drinks
Instead of the sugar-popping sodas, aim for iced water. Other soft drinks such as Oolong Tea and Heaven and Earth sugarless Green Tea will be great alternatives too if you have a wide selection from the beverage box.
Soft drinks are notorious for their sugar count and leads to an unwanted sugar spike. Combined with the binge baby, this is sure to leave you comatosed on your relative’s couch.
So with all that said, I hope now you have a better idea on going about your CNY portion control for each house visit. Nevertheless, relax, enjoy and have fun.
#5. Eat from the hand. Not from the tub.
A lot of you may go meh at this point. And I can truly understand.
‘Shiok leh eat from the tub.’
Yes okay I know it’s shiok.
Unlimited supply of pineapple tarts.
Getting high on that tub-frenzy spasm that swims through our bodies as we dig in.
But given that, we have no visual cue of our portion size. So what does this mean?
“Nobody eats one and a quarter apples, right? The unit is an apple. And so you eat an apple. And so you can apply that same sort of experimental logic to things like bags of chips. And you can actually make a bag of chips 20 percent bigger, and 20 percent smaller. And people still eat one bag of chips, and they eat until it’s done.”
So there you go, this year’s CNY, that unit is your hand, your palm size. Watch how you feel after 1 palm of serving.
Well, like I said, if you already have the agenda to go nuts, by all means. But if you’re keen on understanding how to go about in moderation, you can start by the palm rule. Indeed, Auntie may be disappointed that you aren’t finishing her good intentions. So just say no to her ang pao and she’ll feel better.
Also, go for whole snacks such as almonds and cashews are the best option to go for as they are rich in magnesium and good fats. They fill you up indefinitely.
With the new year embracing us, it’s the time where we re-write our list of new goals. If “get fit” is at the top 10 of your list, then read on. While every new year ignites another spark of determination, an all-or-nothing approach usually sends one dwindling back to the same bad habits.
Say, you start the first day with cutting out with rice. Tad a little uncomfortable. But you hang on. Yes, you reached the second day without rice. And then the third. And then the fourth. You keep giving yourself a pat at the back. But what is happening is a stone pulled back in a catapult… waiting for that moment to launch. That stone is your hunger. And the catapult is all the unhealthy habits you are reinforcing to hold back that hunger. Before you know it, the stone flings forward and you find yourself ravenously munching on the chips.
Sound familiar? That’s because you’re most likely entering a starvation diet, one that restricts your calories. Yes, you do need to be in a calorie deficit for fat loss to occur, but you don’t have to be bored, hungry or depriving your body. You can still be healthy and living it up. How?
One change at a time..
Make small adjustments weekly to your regular eating patterns and physical activity. For example, if you are not a regular breakfast taker, then start taking breakfast for the first week. Focus on that one change you need to make. Once that change gets a strong daily foothold, you’re good to move onto the next change.
You can also start by making a resolution to eat more multi-colored fruits and vegetables for your first week. This itself, is an easy change to tackle, whether you’ll be eating in at home or ordering take away. Once that habit locks in, you can move on to other habits such as deciding whether you want to start preparing your own food and increasing your exercise frequency over the weeks.
Soon you’ll find the incremental changes becomes a permanent lifestyle. Unless you are fully experienced and a true-blue practitioner of bulking and cutting diets (usually applicable to professional figure models), it’s most likely you want to do it slow and steadily. Just like walking on a thin line mid-air. And in that, balance is key.
Key Actions You Can Do
Over a span of 2 weeks, change one meal at a time. For example, during breakfast, have scrambled eggs (a protein source), spinach, tomatoes (vegetables and fiber) and a slice of whole wheat toast. Focus on having that balanced breakfast daily. Then move on to changing your dinner to something as simple as grilled chicken breast (a protein source), avocado, cherry tomatoes, mixed salad.
If you are just starting out on the exercise, you can begin by having just 1 to 2 sessions of workout per week, which will allow ample time for recovery and adaptation. Adding in too much exercise too soon can hamper your recovery sleep, motivation and appetite. Remember to allow your body to adjust before deciding to add another session.
Aim for 15 ml of water per pound of bodyweight. Water plays a vital role in almost every function in our bodies. Even that daytime fatigue can be caused by lack of water. A natural appetite suppressant, water helps to metabolize stored fat.
Eat slowly. Your body takes a while for the fullness to be signaled by the brain.
Understand situations that make you vulnerable to binge. This means occasions like Chinese New Year (pineapple tarts, yikes) where you’re more likely to be surrounded by Force-You-To-Eat-Uncles and CNY goodies. You can use Point 5. to tackle them just to prove you still have more in your hands before you can move on to their “please eat more” demands.
As a big fan of HIIT, here is a cool infographic from greatist.com on why HIIT can give you sky-rocket benefits!
In short, the above reasons holds for why I incorporate HIIT into my weekly regime:
HIIT is time-efficient. More calories, shorter amount of time. Period.
HIIT gives you a higher EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygym Consumption), which yields a higher afterburn post-exercise, causing you to still burn calories even after you are done.
But here are still some reasons why I choose to do cardio:
HIIT is awesome, yes, fast and efficient. But it is also TAXING if you are maxing out your weeks ahead with just strength and HIIT. This can be overbearing for your central nervous system. and result in higher chances of burning out your body, instead of recovering. Try including a day or 2 for low-intensity within the week to boost recovery. If you are training intensely for a week, it will be good to have a deload week of steady-state cardio or even low-intensity activities like yoga.
If you are looking to come back fro a sedentary life, then jumping all into a 30-minute nonstop bootcamp spider climbers may indeed… set you spider-crawling for the door. The key idea here is progressive. Begin your journey again with cardio may be a better start to slowly rebuilding your cardiovascular rate, rather than suddenly pounding up on the heart throbs.
Most people say cardio is a waste of time, although I beg to differ. Empty cardio is a waste of time. Because while burning the calories, most of us don’t take advantage of the steady-state motion. Usually we are running just to pass time, to exchange it for the calories. Try, instead to combat the boredom by undertaking de-stressing tasks. For example, If I’m doing some inclined walking on the treadmill, I usually like to detach from everything else from the world, immerse myself in articles, magazines, documentaries and let my imagination run wild. If I’m running, then a podcast would be more suitable without all the eye-focus jitters. Take the time to even space out, and re-evaluate your priorities in life. You may never know but some of your life revelations could come from that period of quietness.
So all in all, the big picture is for the busy rat, HIIT is still an overall winning strategy to maximizing fat loss. Do it. 30 minutes. 3 to 4 times a week. Eat well. And you will notice changes in your energy, mood and physique. And should you choose to get some cardio in, remember, don’t make it an empty cardio.