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Career Advice from Hidden Figures

Photo taken from Official Trailer

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Written By Chia Poh Fang, Singapore

Have you ever felt angry for your lack of opportunities? Perhaps, due to the color of your skin, your looks, your gender, or your not so well-connected family background.

We’d all like to believe that career success is strictly a result of talent, drive, and skill set, but experience may tell us otherwise. In reality, it seems as though hiring managers favor those who are better looking. And we know all too well that prejudice against a certain skin color and gender is still prevalent in this day and age. In environments where supply exceeds demand, we may even need people in high places to help us land any job—not just our dream job. I’ve heard that in China, many university undergraduates are fretting about their job prospects because of a lack of connections.

That’s probably why Hidden Figures’ message is especially poignant and relevant for us today. Based on the true life stories of three African-American female mathematicians, the inspirational movie portrays how these three women crossed gender, racial, and societal barriers, to help America chart a new frontier—send an astronaut into outer space and return safely.

In one of the noteworthy scenes in the movie, one of the key characters, Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe), was challenged by a fellow colleague, Karl Zielinski (played by Olek Krupa) to dream big and not allow societal prejudice against females and colored people to hinder or deter her from achieving the “impossible”, i.e. becoming an engineer.

Karl: Mary, a person with an engineer’s mind should be an engineer. You can’t be a computer the rest of your life.

Mary: Mr. Zielinski, I’m a negro woman. I’m not gonna entertain the impossible.

Karl: And I’m a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I’m standing beneath a spaceship that’s going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

Mary: I wouldn’t have to. I’d already be one.

That conversation awakened Jackson to realize one thing: she didn’t have to be a victim of low expectations. She later went on to win a court appeal to study in an all-white high school and became NASA’s first black female engineer.

That’s inspiring, you may say, but that’s not me. I’m no trailblazer. I’d rather take the path of least resistance and be resigned to my fate, than go against the grain. You’re probably not alone in that thinking.

However, let’s consider this possibility: we may never reach our God-given potential if we don’t try and give our very best. One author puts it this way: “If we never attempt things that would stretch, grow, and strengthen us, we may end up weak and unprepared for the amazing future that could have been.”

It’s the same message the Apostle James wrote in his letter to encourage the believers who were undergoing immense persecution: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, NLT, emphasis mine).

If not for anything, this should encourage us that difficulties and hardships can be for our good if we respond rightly. On top of that, we as believers have good reason to not let society define us. In the words of missionary William Carrey, we can “expect great things, attempt great things” for we serve a great God, who not only holds the universe in His hands, but also holds us close to His heart!

So what does it mean for those of us in a seemingly unending job search or for those of us stuck in a rut in our current job? Consider how God has made you. Use whatever He has bestowed on you—skills, intellect or disposition—to overcome all obstacles, by His strength, to reach your fullest potential! You are God’s wonderful and unique creation (Psalm 139:14), and He has prepared a good work for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

5 Ways to Become the Most Eligible Bachelorette

Written By Chia Poh Fang

Poh Fang never dreamed of being in a language-related profession; chemistry was her first love. The turning point came when she received Jesus as her Savior as a 15-year-old and expressed to Him that she would like to create books that touch lives. She serves with Our Daily Bread Ministries in the Singapore office as Managing Editor.

Yes, you can congratulate me. I am finally getting married.

The wedding will be held in a church, and will be followed by a fabulous lunch reception. And nope, we won’t be having a wedding banquet. My parents are so happy that I am finally settling down that they will concede to any arrangement I want. My father even said, “I’m okay even if you just publish the wedding announcement in the papers!” I am tempted to do just that, but for the sake of my non-Christians relatives and friends, as well as others who are looking for a reason to purchase nice, new clothing—you know who you are—I will hold a church wedding and pray that God will touch their hearts as they witness my holy matrimony.

And of course, I would be too busy, and probably too emotional and nervous, to hold a decent conversation with you on the wedding day. So I would be arranging small group gatherings with close friends following that so that we can laugh, talk, and simply, have a great time together . . .

I have dreamed about my perfect wedding numerous times, and this is just one of the many musings. They occur more during the seasons of Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. Sometimes, when watching a nice rom-com, I’ll start fantasizing too.

Now you’re probably wondering if I have a boyfriend. Nope. Though I have received a few love letters in the past, I’ve never dated anyone. And I probably missed some opportunities too—because I was too dense to recognize the guy’s interest or because I was too preoccupied with my pursuit then to make time for the relationship to blossom.

But anything can happen. You’d never know what tomorrow may bring, right?

Whoa, such optimism, you may say. Aren’t all the good guys attached or happily married once you’ve passed a certain age? And yes, I’ve passed that age. Well, the Bible contains numerous examples of how some people’s lives took extraordinary turns as they were doing ordinary things.

Isaac was having his devotional time in the fields, when he looked up and saw his future wife (Genesis 24:63). Ruth was looking for a place where she could work in order to bring bread to the table, when she walked into Boaz’ field (Ruth 2:3-11). Subsequently, Boaz her boss becomes Boaz her man.

So, even though you can’t envisage any change to your current status now, don’t despair. Today does not mean forever. Anything can happen.

Meanwhile, as you wait, there’s plenty you can do. Here’s a list of what I’m personally doing. You may want to try them too.

1. Keep growing in grace as God adds days to your years.

The book of Proverbs contains several wise sayings about how insufferable it would be to live with a quarrelsome wife—and I believe it applies to a grumpy husband too (Proverbs 21:19, 25:24). Will you be “worth more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10) or will you be like “the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm” (27:15)? It has been said: Who you will be is who you are becoming. So measure your character growth every once in a while. Are you more gracious or critical than last year?

2. Live healthily.

If you want to enjoy life—married or single—you need to be healthy. So eat well and exercise regularly. Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes are due to poor diet and lack of exercise. And if you wish to start a family in future, you would definitely need the health and energy to run after your children and to manage a household! Live a healthy lifestyle, so that you won’t become a burden to your future spouse (if you get married) or to your family and friends (if you remain single).

3. Learn to relate with people of all ages—the young and the old.

It has often been said that marriage is not just between two people—you marry into each other’s family too. So learn to relate to children, teenagers and seniors. You don’t have to learn how to be a parent only after you have kids of your own. The church presents many opportunities for us to learn these precious lessons. For example, you can offer to help a young mother babysit her toddler for a few hours, or volunteer your time in the youth or elderly ministry. The Bible exhorts, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10, emphasis mine)

4. Live each day with purpose.

Be the best you can be in your studies or at work. Sometimes, I wonder how my life would pan out had I been married. Knowing my nature and inclination, I would probably become a housewife and do part-time work. But now as a single, I can travel overseas whenever my job requires—without feeling guilty for neglecting some important duties at home—and use my after office hours for self-improvement activities.

5. Get to know people.

If a friend wants to introduce you to someone, gamely take up the offer. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with exploring Christian dating sites. You are not signing your life away. Just remember to exercise wisdom. Invite your friends and family into the process. Get their opinions; consider their cautions, and receive their blessings—and even critiques. It doesn’t mean that you must marry whomever you meet. It’s okay to part amicably if things don’t work out. In the meantime, continue to build strong relationships with friends and family. There may come a day when you can’t spend as much time with them anymore.

 

Sounds pretty busy, doesn’t it? After all, it takes effort to become the most eligible bachelorette (haven’t we heard much about not simply waiting for the right one, but being the right one?) And regardless of the outcome, whether you remain single or get married, you can say: I have lived a fantastic life!

How Entertainment Helps us Enjoy Life to the Fullest

Written By Chia Poh Fang, Singapore

What are your favorite forms of entertainment? Mine are reading and sports. My perfect day of rest is spent exercising for a few hours in the gym or cycling on the park connectors, before curling up with a good book.

Recently, I just finished a three-part Chinese novel, Nirvana in Fire, and am now in the process of reading through Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide. My reading list is quite varied. I read fiction and non-fiction; Christian and secular; fantasy, crime, history, and the list goes on.

I enjoy the arts as well. Every year, I set aside a budget to indulge in these activities. Watching a theater performance or catching a concert—whether classical or pop—brings me great delight.  In fact, I’ve bought tickets to watch the Berlin Philharmonic during my upcoming holiday in Germany. Oh yes, I watch K-dramas for entertainment too! On average, I watch about one hour of K-drama a day to unwind before I go to bed.

If you, like me, are a proponent of enjoying what life has to offer, here are two verses from the book of Ecclesiastes that you would wholeheartedly agree with:

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” —8:8

“You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see.” —8:9

Essentially, the Bible is telling us to enjoy life to the fullest. So if your favorite forms of entertainment help you do so, by all means, continue in them, especially when you still have the youthful vigor to do so! I know of a friend who regrets not reading more in his younger days because now his eyesight is failing and he cannot read for a sustained period of time without getting a headache in the process.

When it comes to K-drama, don’t believe those who tell you that it kills your brain cells and your brain will turn to mush. At the end of the day, it’s not about the form of entertainment, but about what content you’re consuming (same with books, music, etc), the amount of time you spent on it, and whether your mind is engaged.

For the record, some K-dramas do inspire me. I recently watched one called Marriage Contract that tells the story of Ji-hoon, scion of a very wealthy family, and widowed single mother Hye Soo, who wind up in a contract marriage. Although it didn’t have a groundbreaking plot, the astute and thoughtful directing, combined with its sensitive writing, made everything about these characters natural and organic. I particularly love the character Hye Soo, portrayed by K-pop singer Uee. One blogger’s description of her perfectly captured why her character is so appealing: “I think it’s a combination of Hye-soo’s gentle spirit, her core of steel, and her love  . . . She’s like this gentle sun, warming and altering those around her for the better, but never changing herself. She’s such a constant—she’s not perfect, but she’s already the best version of herself she can be.” I remember thinking to myself, “Hey! I want to be that kind of person!”

In terms of books, many have served to impart valuable life lessons, like my recent read, Nirvana in Fire. In it, the protagonist, triad leader Mei Chang Su, wanted to redress a great wrong that was done to him and his family, but that would involve the most powerful man—the arrogant Emperor—to acknowledge his own mistakes, and be remembered in history as a king who caused a grievous crime. Mei Chang Su’s approach was nothing short of inspiring. He refused to let revenge get to his head, and sought to achieve the right end with the right means at the right time. The storytelling was captivating and the historical background well researched; it was a story that transported me back in time, giving me a glimpse of a bygone era. But what I enjoyed most about the novel was its insightful take on human nature, and its celebration of great themes such as friendship and loyalty.

So good entertainment can really help us lead meaningful lives, if it reminds us about certain virtues, inspires us towards goodness, or simply gives our body much needed rest. But as we engage in our various entertainment forms, we need to bear in mind this caveat: In all that we do, we must remember to live responsibly before God (Ecclesiastes 8:9). That is, don’t choose sinning to be happy; and don’t choose happiness apart from God. Instead, choose to find joy in the things that make God happy too. In fact, this is the only way to not turn life’s legitimate pleasures and good gifts into self-indulgence, and the only way to find true and lasting joy in our entertainment.

In short, this is what the Bible teaches: enjoy life to the fullest under the fear of God.

Where’s the Joy This Christmas?

Written By Chia Poh Fang, Singapore

The weather has turned chilly. The sky is mostly overcast. Raindrops splatter the ground, as though someone forgot to turn off the sprinkler.

December feels sorrowful. In this month, bad things happened. A good friend’s mum went into the surgical room for a minor operation, but never came out alive. Another experienced complications during childbirth and the long anticipated child came into the world with permanent disabilities.

Yet, while my friends are grieving, the world is still spinning. The crematorium is filled with anguished mourners; and the malls are thronged with merry makers.

Amid such a grim setting, a glimmer of light shines through. This sounds so clichéd but it’s true. For in this mournful month, we celebrate the birth of Christ—a historical event, the fulfillment of a promise made many years ago.

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned . . . .
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” —Isaiah 9:2,6

God entered our broken world, broken dreams, and broken lives. He came alongside us in our pain; He shows us that He cares. God became man and made visible for us the invisible God. Through Jesus, we see and understand that God is love. He is compassionate and He has the power to heal. Eventually, Jesus gave up His life for us. By His sacrifice, God is turning a world that has gone upside down the right-side up.

On Christmas, we recall Christ’s first coming to bring hope to the hopeless and to give life to the perishing. It also points to the certainty of another day—a day when Christ will come again to wipe away every tear. When He returns, there will be no more death, mourning or crying or pain. Indeed, all these things will be gone forever.

So when we think about Christmas and are heartbroken to face another holiday with tears, may the remembrance of Christ’s coming comfort us in our pain and give us hope to face another day.

 

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