Monday, February 28, 2005

The Watcher

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I spotted this closed-circuit security camera on the ceiling of the room in which we had the Malaccan inter-CF training session on Saturday.

It reminded me of the passage Uncle Jason read out to us the night before, during the short prayer meeting we had back at the Wesley Methodist Centre where we were staying for the weekend:

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD ,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you-
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I saw this beauty of an insect while walking my dog just now. Incidentally, the camera I brought along for this morning's brunch was still in my pocket.

It was almost miraculous, the way the dragonfly flew off from time to time, only to land on that blade of lalang/grass again and again, as if complying to this photographer's whims.

My only regret is that this shot isn't as clear as it could've been, but considering I've never successfully taken a photo of a flying creature, it's a first step.

Between Breakfast and Lunch

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Met up with Mrs Chang and Kok Kin today for Brunch at this dim sum shop in Taman Midah.

They ordered Tom Yam (really yummy, the way it's cooked there; more lontong-ish than Thai-style sour) but I opted for the milder stuff, what with my present sore throat and cough.

We had this really engaging three-hour discussion over many cups of chinese tea, covering topics as diverse as debate, higher education, Malaysian society, music, school, attitude, dreams and morality.

Mrs Chang suggested that Kok Kin publish a book, what with him being an economics lecturer at the University of Sydney, and I proposed the title 'Of Lalang and Caterpillars' (a corollary of recent events and our morning discussion, plus a bit of rojak-ism).

So it is that we are true Malaysians, holding fast to our favourite f-words: Food and Fellowship. Till the next time!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Yesterday, while walking to the Komuter station to meet Audrey before heading back to SU/FES to wreak some havoc, and later visit Keat Lim's house nearby, I saw these two pigeons on the road.

For a short while, I stalked them, trying to get that perfect shot...

Sadly, they flew off, and it wasn't any easier snapping pigeons in flight.

But they did land, on the roof of this single-storey house, and it was perfect, for a few moments, before they moved off once again.

Jalan Templer is really infested with pigeons, and sometimes I see their silhouettes outside the office blinds, not the mention the noisy flapping of their wings ;-)

OK, it must be officially announced on the blogosphere: Happy (belated) birthday Kim Cheng!

Coconut Trees

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
On the way back from the SU/FES office on Monday, I passed the coconut trees again.

Earlier in the afternoon, the sky was cloudless and the scene was really beachlike.

In the evening, the sun was setting behind the trees, and several fluffy clouds graced the sky.

Really, this photo doesn't do it the slightest justice.


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
On the way to Mid Valley from the Komuter station after Convention, I saw this scene from the connecting bridge.

A group of workers were standing on the lorry, one guy arranging the containers, another catching them, someone throwing from above, and a few others passing them from the source within the building.

It was a concise snapshot of teamwork, in my opinion. Maybe it's because, at MBS, we carried the sound equipment down from the hall after Convention with far less efficiency. Everyone always carried something, and so had to make several trips up and down the stairs.

If only we'd stationed ourselves, forming some sort of chain, rather than trying to be some form of supermen.

Papaya Tree

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
At MBS for the KL/PJ School Christian Fellowship Leaders' Convention this year, I saw this papaya tree a short distance away from the side entrance of the canteen.

I couldn't resist the shot, especially with the KL Tower in the background, and the LRT whizzing past beneath the tree.

It was about 7.15 a.m.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"What so wild as words are?"

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
These words, a quote from Robert Browning, grace the cover of the ISKL SEA Forensics 2005 programme book.

The International School of Kuala Lumpur organises the annual Southeast Asian Forensics tournament. It is an invitational event, usually involving various international schools in the region, and several ancient, established Malaysian institutions.

Forensics, in this case, has nothing to do with CSI or dead bodies. It is a 'mixed competition' with various events such as Solo and Duet Acting, Original Oratory (speech), Oral Interpretation (storytelling), Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking and Debate.

I took part in Extemp and Impromptu this year. Extempers have to prepare, in 30 minutes, a 5-7 minute speech on a given current issue. A question will be posed, and the contestant must answer it with support from quotes and statistical evidence.

In Impromptu, the participant is given 60 seconds to prepare a 3-5 minute speech on either a given word or phrase.

There are two compulsory rounds for all events, followed by the semi-finals and finals. Debate is an exception, with four preliminary rounds, the octofinals, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.

My first Forensics was in 2002, when I took part in Extemp only. I did not make it to the semis. The next year, I reached the finals, but did not win anything.

Last year, I took part in Extemp and attempted Impromptu. Did not make Extemp semis, but reached Impromptu finals. Again, did not win anything.

Finally, this year, I made it once again to the Impromptu finals and returned with the Silver Medal (which is really quite an achievement after four years of involvement!)...

I have developed so much as a speaker over the last three-plus years, and the Forensics has made me a better improviser and improved my ability to speak off the cuff.

The photograph in this entry are those, who, in my opinion, played the most significant roles in this year's outing.

From left to right, they are:

Wilson and Jonathan, for debate (first debate team in a number of years, and they made it to the Octofinals though this is only their first ever debate attempt).


Kok Kin, Victorian (class of '95), now an economics lecturer at the University of Sydney (with only a double Bachelor's degree in law and economics!), for training the debate team and teaching me how to use apparent contradictions to draw attention in my speeches.

Miss Shanti, teacher extraordinaire for years of hard work in the Literary and Debating Society. She is holding the Sweepstakes Award for third best overall school.

Keong Yuan, my alma mater's ISKL Forensics coordinator this year, and Silver Medallist for Solo Acting. He did a piece on a guy who's wrongfully accused for murdering his aunt and eating her left breast.

At the end of the day, I realise that when I speak, I feel a sense of joy, that this is truly where I belong, what I was made for.

Like Eric Liddell, who felt God's pleasure when he ran, because he ran for God, mine is a similar experience. The gift of speech which the Father has endowed me with, I desire to use for his glory alone.

I remember the words from the song, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul (It's All About You)":

It's not about me
As if you should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender to your ways

So God, this Silver Medal, proud as I am of it, is ultimately yours, for it is from your hand that I have received it, and to your hand that it must return.

Thanks for this gift. It means so much to me. Guard my utterance, and may it be thy servant. Amen.


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
The Robert B. Gaw Theater is the ISKL theater where the finals of the SEA Forensics are held.

There's this 'Peace Garden' at the entrance, and I couldn't resist this shot, what with the heavenly rays cascading upon the obelisk.

On each of the four sides, the words 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' are written in the four main languages of Malaysia; English, Bahasa Melayu, Chinese and Tamil.

Behind it, is a mini fountain. Though it can hardly be seen, the sound of water trickling, as if a symbol of renewal and revival, is absolutely distinct.

Oh, and the paintings are excellent.


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
On the third and final day of the ISKL SEA Forensics, I took a break after the morning events, and followed Sivin for his speaking engagement at Seri Bintang Utara.

This shot was taken during the group sessions, when Sivin gave 'clues' (Bible verses) to each group, which helped describe the Trinity.

He spoke on the subject of Knowing God, with special emphasis on the very Trinity itself.

As usual, the most engaging discussions happened after the 'official' event. Some would stay back and ask questions, those who are called 'mavens' (I forgot where Sivin got the name), and my, were they tough questions!

Sometimes, as Sivin said, the only thing we can do is be silent in the presence of greatness. God's majesty.

Man can only explain away so much without trying to throw God into a box. What is a Creator whom the creation can fully understand?

As Brian McLaren said so aptly, sometimes it's OK not to know.

The important thing is, are we seeking this God who has disclosed himself, if ever in such a limited manner? Are we more concerned for organic relationship and forward motion, as opposed to theoretical assuredness and 'smug certainty'?

Trinity points to one thing: God wants to make himself known. Will we respond likewise?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Jesus Walks

Kanye West
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Kanye West's performance of "Jesus Walks" at the Grammy Awards was a pleasant surprise. Rap still sends messages across more powerfully than I'd expected.

It was voted Best Rap Song and his album The College Dropout won for Best Rap Album.

Here are the lyrics in full. Please bear with it, especially if rap isn't your thing:

Yo, We at war
We at war with terrorism, racism but most of all we at war with ourselves
(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)

You know what the Midwest is?
Young and restless
Where restless Niggaz might snatch your necklace
And next these Niggaz might jack your Lexus
Somebody tell these Niggaz who Kanye West is
I walk through the valley of Chi where death is
Top floor the view alone will leave you breathless
Try to catch it
It's kinda hard hard
Getting choked by the detectives yeah yeah now check the method
They be asking us questions, harass and arrest us
Saying "We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast"
Huh? Yall eat pieces of shit? What's the basis?
We ain't going nowhere but got suits and cases
A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis
My momma used to say only Jesus can save us
Well momma I know I act a fool
But I'll be gone til November I got packs to move I Hope

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)
The only thing that I pray is that me feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long

To the hustlas, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cuz we're the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don't think
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way y'all need Jesus
So here go my single dog radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played Huh?
Well let this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins
And bring the day that I'm dreaming about
Next time I'm in the club everybody screaming out

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks)
The only thing that I pray is that me feet don't fail me now

Leave me alone!

Michael Jackson
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This morning, I noticed that almost every advertisement slot during the Grammy Awards on Star World featured an upcoming TV special whose title had the effect of "Michael Jackson's Parents Tell All."

With all this hullabaloo over the ongoing Michael Jackson child molestation trial, I cannot help but feel that too much attention is being given it.

Already the guy's in enough shit as it is, without tons of nosy parkers piling up the manure, regardless of what MJ has or hasn't done.

People in general have a strange addiction to gossip, spanning an expansive range from celebrity marriages to the neighbour's third son's girlfriend's eccentric habits.

Why can't we learn to mind our own business? Sometimes these courts seem almost ludicrous. They claim to be upholding justice by investigating the case of child molestation 'in the spirit of defending human rights'...

And what of the world in general? Do they give a damn about people dying where they have no food, no water, no amenities? No. No. No!

Human rights (and whatever these guardians of justice claim to stand for) matter only if they involve high-profile celebrities. Never mind that abuse runs rampant almost everywhere else.

The media could do so much more good by highlighting needs in real places, rather than creating some Michael Jackson documentary to entertain the couch potatoes and give them food for slander rather than constructive thought.

As it stands, the last people to trust are those who tell you, "Here's everything you've ever wanted to know about..."


Reading the story of Isaac in Genesis the other day, reminded me of the Michael Card song "They Called Him Laughter," which I have not heard but whose lyrics I have read many times over. The chorus goes:

They called him laughter
For he came after
The Father had made an
Impossible promise come true
The birth of a baby
To a hopeless old lady
So they called him laughter
'Cause no other name would do

Afternoon Delight

Shield Bug
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
After lunch yesterday, as I resumed my position before the laptop, I noticed this shield bug in the corner of my eye.

Also known as the 'true bug', it was perched on the window grille. Such creatures are quite rarely spotted here, so immediately I reached for the camera.

I tried several shots; with and without the window netting, from the outside and the inside of the house, with and without flash. Eventually I settled for this, taken from the outside, without netting and with flash.

Yet another to add to my collection of 'insect photos.'

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Clear Waters

Tee Ming
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
In the story His Last Bow, these are Sherlock Holmes' last ever words to Dr John Watson, his faithful friend and companion:

"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age..."

The waters of life that are often muddy, find a rare clarity in Tee Ming. Her very un-radical nature makes her the perfect reference point and counterbalance whenever I go too far.

I am deeply grateful for the friend I have found in her, who remains the traditional and grounded voice that keeps my frequently wild ideas in check.

Words cannot express my appreciation for the hours over the telephone that she's tolerated, while I went on yakking away. Her patience stands in sharp contrast with my impetuousity, and her wisdom with my foolishness.

Like water, each time I'm muddied up, I can rely on her to distil me; to rain down on my parched state, to extract the purity from the mess that I am, to quench my thirst when I am weak and dry.

Like the ocean, each adventure into which I dive with her reveals an ever colourful and mysterious world full of awe and wonder. It is dangerous, yet never wanting in the inspiration.

I am indebted to her for the salvos of rebuke, comment, encouragement and hope. I only hope that I may live a life worthy of the seeds she has planted.

Crippled Behind Bars

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
It was a joy to meet Jon on Friday at KLCC. This photo was taken in the park, in the playground to be precise.

You have taught me the value of being lame, of being vulnerable. You have taught me what it means to be radical, to be a 'lawbreaker', to let go and be who I am.

While physicists theorise motion, you just jump into the air, understanding motion though you may not be able to comprehend their brand of calculus. (Makes sense; physicists rarely, if ever, win Olympic medals).

You have taught me to appreciate the sunrise, the monkey bars, the swings, the hot showers, the trees, the grass, the stars... you have shown me the wonder of God's creation.

You are a conundrum to everyone who meets you, an enigma that cries out for a solution. But you will not bend to their whims, you will not change to be what society demands of you. You are determined to live life on your own terms.

You are at once playful yet serious. You see in people what most would miss; in a world of superficiality, you offer your own definition of depth and purpose.

I have never been challenged theologically or philosophically by your thoughts, but I have been moved by the simplicity, spontaneity and directness of your ways.

And if you return to a 10-minute moment at NSCF 2003, you will find the point where it all started. Where I became the Simian Disciple; I still am.

Veggies and the Message

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
He calls me his sparring partner, and I am honoured to address him by that same title.

We are learning together to overcome our old ways, our procrastination, our hatred of vegetables, our frequent over-obsession with music (expressed in different ways)...

And we are learning to follow the Leader in this journey called life. Our exploration of The Message began last year, after d'NA Stage 1 in December 2003, and it continues still.

Your perspectives and devotion to creating a more united and peaceful country/world, as well as your big-picture thoughts, have always challenged and inspired me.

The best part about being sparring partners is that for every blow I deal you, a similar one is returned; we grow together, get bruised together, and discover joy together.

Our domain is TM Squared; it should be resurrected sometime mid-may, when we shall both have completed our respective NS stints.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


I'm currently reading C.S. Lewis' extremely thought-provoking and challenging book The Abolition of Man. The following, on page 45, resonated with the 'writer' in me, while I was reading it during breakfast just now (it was all in one paragraph, but I have decided to split it to make reading easier):

A theorist about language may approach his native tongue, as it were from the outside, regarding its genius as a thing that has no claim on him and advocating wholesale alterations of its idiom and spelling in the interests of commercial convenience or scientific accuracy.

That is one thing.

A great poet, who has 'loved, and been well nurtured in, his mother tongue', may also make great alterations in it, but his changes of the language are made in the spirit of the language itself: he works from within. The language which suffers, has also inspired the changes.

That is a different thing--as different as the works of Shakespeare are from Basic English. It is the difference between alteration from within and alteration from without: between the organic and surgical.

As a student and teacher of English, I am appalled by the state of the language as expressed in various reference books lining the bookshelves of stores and schools, where it is treated as something mechanical, to be 'worked upon' and understood in an empiric sense, without any love for the language being required in the least.

As a writer and reader of English literature, I am appalled by the lack of spontaneity, raw idea and emotion, especially in classrooms, and the virtual absence of appreciation for the language amongst the general public, who are content reading manufactured works geared for nothing more than the Bestsellers List.

We have become superficial, as Richard Foster pronounced in the very first line of his book Celebration of Discipline. In our so-called 'depth of understanding,' and in the presence of the innumerable dissected corpses of art, language and science, we have lost that one crucial element that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts: love.

p.s. I had thought this post didn't make it, so I re-typed the whole thing about three times again, each time accidentally deleting it. And now I find it posted up. Argh... Patience is truly the virtue of the blogger, and I really must learn this. As Sivin says, blogging is a discipline.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

Star Wars
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
OK, I have a confession: I love Star Wars. No, I'm not a die-hard fanatic whose shelves are lined with Star Wars novels, toys, posters and other memorabilia, but I am an ardent fan of the movies.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, my uncle from Singapore drove up with this delivery, which I'd 'ordered' from him a few days ago. It's S$90 there, which is cheaper after conversion, compared to the Malaysian retail price of RM300.

The new DVD version is simply excellent; you'd never believe it was produced in the late 70s, save maybe the rather spastic lightsaber effects and spacecraft designs. But hey, that's what made it legendary then, and still does now.

The Bonus Disc is full of stunning goodies, including the history of the lightsaber, the original movie trailers, a 2-and-a-half-hour documentary and a preview of Star Wars Episode 3 which focuses on the return of Darth Vader.

What made it a hit then and now, is the same reason behind my great admiration for it: the battle between good and evil.

Yes, it's a theme that has been exhausted by virtually every film genre, and probably every action flick in history, but Star Wars took such a fresh approach to the idea, and infused it with unforgettable philosophy (think Yoda).

Darth Vader still strikes me as the most complex villain in film history, and his journey into and redemption from the Dark Side of the Force reminds me of my own walk with God; it remains a very strong point in the movies.

In one of the featurettes on the Bonus Disc, someone attributed the uniqueness of Star Wars to the worn and torn appearance of the vehicles and machines, as opposed to spanking clean and shiny in most sci-fi flicks. Elsewhere, another commented that the 'background' aliens of Star Wars would've taken the limelight in a lesser movie.

In short, George Lucas brought the whole premise so close to reality that millions could identify with it then, as millions undoubtedly still do now. I am one of them.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Max Lucado
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
If not for Max Lucado, I may have never learnt the truth behind this saying.

My foray into Christian literature began with him sometime circa 2000/2001, when I read his book He Chose the Nails; it was the contents page that caught my attention.

Since then, I have read various writers whose depth of insight and flair of language surpass that of Mr Lucado. But never elsewhere have I seen such simplicity and vividness as in his works.

Max is clearly on the conservative wing, but because he writes with such humility and love for the creation of God, he successfully avoids the greatest pit into which many of his contemporaries have fallen: fundamentalism.

His books are ever as refreshing as when I first read them, and I am the writer I am today because of him. As Beethoven was to Brahms, so is Max Lucado to me.

Carry You to Jesus...

Yesterday, I was thinking about the idea of praying for others, about intercession, and Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Carry You to Jesus" came to mind:

I will not pretend to feel the pain you're going through
I know I cannot comprehend the hurt you've known
And I used to think it mattered if I understood
But now I just don't know

Well I'll admit sometimes I still wish I knew what to say
And I keep looking for a way to fix it all
But we know we're at the mercy of God's higher ways
And our ways are so small

But I will carry you to Jesus
He is everything you need
I will carry you to Jesus on my knees

It's such a privilege for me to give this gift to you
All I'd ever hope you'd give me in return
Is to know that you'll be there to do the same for me
When the tables turn

And if you need to cry go on and I, I will cry along with you, yeah
I'll give you what I have but still I know the best thing I can do
Is just pray for you

I'll carry you
I'll take you to Jesus on my knees

The song is one of the least 'catchy' and more reflective on his album Declaration. Some experiences two friends were (and are) going through recently, reminded me of it.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Seremban DNA

Double Helix
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
On the way to my grandaunt's place in Seremban, we navigated this roundabout, in the centre of which lay several double helix structures.

They reminded me of d'NA (d'Nous Academy), especially since it was held in Seremban too.

As I was resizing the picture using MS Paint, I accidentally clicked on the 'invert colours' button, and found the effects pretty striking.

It has a rather icy look now, I think.

Cat and Bird

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This painting, done with simple, bold brushstrokes, hangs it my grandaunt's living room.

It reminds me of the opening scene of the movie Mrs Doubtfire, in which Robin Williams voices a cartoon cat and bird, resembling Sylvester and Tweety.

If you look carefully at the photo, you'll notice the photographer responsible for it.

On the Sofa

Spider 3
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Several feet away from the spider under its web, and several minutes later, my brother spotted this spider on the sofa in my grandaunt's verandah, adjacent to her bedroom.

Its translucent green legs were most striking; it has been said that the most elegant spiders are usually very small, and having seen this one, I find it hard to disagree.

Beneath the Web

Spider 2
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I saw this spider in between the pages of my grandaunt's Every Day with Jesus devotional guide.

It's the first time I've caught a spider under its web on my camera; were it larger, it would've been very much akin to the famous funnel-web and burrowing spiders.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Of nuts and more

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Bono in The Observer:

'He [Anton Corbijn, U2's longtime photographer] shoots the music you are making, who you can be rather than who you are.'

Perhaps the most definitive illustration of that gift was his now iconic image of U2 that graced the cover of their breakthrough album, The Joshua Tree, in 1987: four stern figures in a barren and biblical desert landscape.

'It was Anton who sent us down that dusty road.'

Soo-Inn once wrote in his e-commentary:

In this regard I can now better understand why Barnabas treated John Mark the way he did in Acts 15:36-41... Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with him and Paul on their next mission trip. Paul said no because John Mark had let them down before. I am sure both Paul and Barnabas had good reasons for their respective decisions.

Paul saw John Mark as he was. But Barnabas saw John Mark in terms of what he could be. As it turns out, Barnabas' decision helped John Mark to develop and grow so that later, even Paul acknowledged his worth (see Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11).

In a world that is moving increasingly faster, we often have to size up people quickly. In doing so it is easier to judge a person on the basis of what he or she is. And was. It is harder to take the longer view of seeing a person in terms of what he or she could be.

But none of us come ready made. We all start out as unrealized potential that takes a lifetime to unpack. We all need Barnabas' who will see us and treat us in light of our potential if we are to grow into that potential. We need folks who will not view us purely from the perspective of our mistakes but from the perspective of what we can be.

Unfortunately an increasingly competitive and fast moving world gives little encouragement for such a grace. If people do not shape up quickly they are written off. This is a sad paradox because an increasingly complex and needy world actually needs more creative and mature people in every sphere of human endeavour. But often, we first encounter such people as rough diamonds.

So yes, we're mostly nuts with yet unknown potential. Will we grow into mighty trees, or atrophy and die? Or worse still, lie dormant, unwilling to develop?

Indeed, we need Anton Corbijns and Barnabases in our lives, to encourage us and push us onwards to realise what we can become. The road will be dusty and dark, but once we have taken root, we will begin to shoot. And after that, blossom and offer our branches to the birds of the air.

Oh, and here's a distant analogy, but maybe, just maybe, we may even grow some yellow flowers, the petals of which will fall and pave the ground with gold, blessing others along the way.

No. 17: A Window to the World

Mrs Chang
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
It appears I'm really in the tribute mood lately; and no, this has nothing to do with the fact that the Grammy and Academy Awards are just around the corner.

If I must name the most significant adult outside my immediate family, it would have to be my piano teacher of 13 years, Mrs Chang.

Ever since my kindergarten years, when I was merely five, she led me on a journey through the magically breathtaking world of music.

Halfway through, at about Standard 4 when I was doing my 3rd Grade, I stopped for about two years. Apparently it was related to my reluctance and stubbornness when it came to a particular scale.

But looking back, that break was good, as I began to learn, ever so slowly after that, what music was all about. Now I appreciate it in ways I could never have, had I not stopped. And the extra time has given me a couple of years to mature.

I used to practise for the sake of it, because it was something I had to do. Now, I play for the joy of music, even though I know I am not a good musician. I play for the beauty of heaven's touch that I never fail to hear in great music.

Today, I received my Grade 8 Theory results, and to my great joy, I passed with distinction. Many great years it has been, and I have such fond memories of my amazing theory mates: Su Lin, Sheik Cheng and James. We would always snack over pages of manuscript paper, and chat and tell jokes till kingdom come.

And with a piano teacher, older than Malaysia, with an ever explosive sense of humour, it's been such a pleasure even navigating the more grating and daunting parts of the journey.

To the many years of friendship ahead, and in memory of the many years before, Mrs Chang!

By the way, the title of this entry was the title some of us suggested for Mrs Chang's memoirs, if ever she wrote them.

Not about me...

During worship at The Father's House on Sunday, we sang this song called "It's All About You, Jesus." The first verse really meant something to me:

It's all about you, Jesus
And all this is for you
For your glory and your fame
It's not about me
As if you should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender to your ways.

The line, "as if you should do things my way," struck a chord somewhere in me, and I was reminded once again of who it is who truly calls the shots in this picture.

It was a humbling experience, albeit shortly-lived. But then most of them are, anyway. I suppose that's where discipline comes in; we don't always live in such a conducive environment.

Ed. (12 Feb): The title was actually "Jesus, Lover of My Soul"...

Spider Revisited

Spider Revisited
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Remember the spider that lives outside my front door? I blogged about her about a month ago.

Well, the other day I saw a different side of her: the underside. So yeah, this is what a spider looks like from beneath.

She actually seems to have put on some weight... then again, maybe it's just me, or an optical illusion of some sort.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Glimpses of Eternity

Apollo Hui
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
All my understanding of art, I owe to this man, Mr Apollo Hui.

I spent some four-and-a-half years learning watercolouring under him, first in his little kedai runcit in Taman Segar, then for a shorter while, in his art studio in the Bangsar Shopping Centre.

His favourite paintings were of nature scenes, and he developed a certain spatula technique that I daresay I've never seen in other paintings, not in the way and to the extent that he uses it.

In painting, he demonstrated a masterly knowledge of the art, and his expressions, whether on paper, canvas, or board, flowed so naturally that it seemed he was 'one' with the brush and the colours.

One doesn't always meet people with such passion for what they do. He's a rare exception, who, in retrospect, gave me glimpses of eternity, awe and beauty in a temporal, mundane and often ugly world.

This is my tribute, however meagre it may be.

When the Sage Speaks

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Finally, I met Soo-Inn in person this morning. He spoke at The Father's House (Sivin's church!) on the subject of the Transfiguration of Christ.

It's very encouraging to know that a man, dubbed the C.S. Lewis of Asia (promoted thus by his marketers), formerly a dentist, and now pushing 50, reads the blog of a young nut barely 3 years past 15!

I am truly grateful for the sages who have advised, corrected, encouraged and directed me, and continue to do so with such passion, of whom he is one.

Again I am reminded of the words in the song "Find us Faithful":

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Thank you one and all. An honour to know you.

At Starbucks

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Met up with Choon Wei, Eugene and Chee Loong (who's going to Australia for further studies come Saturday), at Starbucks yesterday after Reunion.

When I looked up from the table, I saw this word, and couldn't resist taking the photo, for reasons d'NAers and Sivin will know ;-)

Oh how we often unconsciously subscribe to dualistic perspectives which violently isolate the physical and spiritual, the natural and the supernatural.

And all along, the truth is that all things in existence, empirically measurable or not, are either all supernatural, or else all natural.

It makes no difference, since the distinction is in our different angles, not the properties of the subject, as dualism would have us believe.

(Inscribings on the walls of Starbucks can be very philosophical. I once blogged, on the now obsolete mBlog, about a conversation between two Sirens that I saw at the Cold Storage Starbucks in PJ)

After the Reunion

d'NA Reunion
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Some experiences cannot be described in words, and this was one of them.

It was rather different from the Reunions of 2004, in many ways deeper.

I am honoured to know such a remarkable group of people, many of whom are directly or indirectly responsible for where I am now, and the direction in which I'm heading.

Here's to d'NA, now and for eternity, when we shall have no more need for reunions.

Friday, February 04, 2005

After RBS

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Just to clarify, the last two posts and this, are supposed to be on Thursday, but anything past midnight is the next day, so...

I attended Tee Ming's graduation from Residential Bible School (RBS), held at The Life Chapel, Sec 17 PJ.

She'd just finished a 36-day 'camp' in Cameron Highlands, an amazing experience of spending time in reflection, with God and other RBS students (51 in all, under 5 staff members), classroom lectures, and missions work.

It was good to see an old face once again. Some joy that words cannot really express.

p.s. I forgot to mention one more friend in my 'Christian Union Tribute' a few entries ago. Thanks Suet Wan for teaching me patience and faithfulness. (I suddenly realize those are some of the fruit of the spirit, our theme last year)

Periuk Kera Gergasi

Pitcher Plants
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
What are the odds of discovering pitcher plants large enough to swallow humans?

I've passed this fountain (next to the Selangor Club Padang) many times on the road, but never stopped to take a photo with it.

Today, Dad took me to the POS Malaysia headquarters at the Kompleks Dayabumi to get the first day covers for the latest stamp edition, Migratory Birds. After that, we walked to the DBKL Building to get a new licence for my dog. Passed the 'plants' on the way there.

One of the most spectacular sights actually, embedded in the heart of an otherwise inorganic city.

Rambutan Tree

Rambutan Tree
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
There's this rambutan tree that grows outside the neighbour-two-doors-away's house.

I found the red fruit very striking against the green leafy backdrop, a symbol of ripening and growth.

It was so sunny I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Today, I attended the five-hour lecture prior to the Highway Code test. Yes, I am finally beginning my foray into the realm of four-wheeled vehicular piloting: driving.

As I flipped through the pages on offences and penalties, demerits et cetera, I couldn't help but think of 'crime and punishment' in the context of religion.

Why is it that so much of the motivation for obeying comes from fear of being punished? "Do this and that, or else..." Those ominous words lend their haunting presence to almost every religious code of conduct, regardless of culture and philosophy.

Even the pitch of much evangelism seems to spring out of this: "Repent and believe or you're going to hell!"

It's as though we're to obey God, to surrender to a Force beyond us, simply for fear that something untoward may happen. And then, when someone does something wrong and gets away, the whole system seems to be unreliable. What next? There comes a state of spiritual anarchy, because we can do anything we want and not get punished.

But then the entire point is missed. Why is there so little motivation to do what's good for the sole reason that it is good? Have we lost all capacity for transcendence, to be simply because there is no other way that is worth it?

I keep thinking of how Jesus taught. There were virtually no "or else" pitches about, and yet the message drew more hearers then, from more diverse societal strata, than anything before or anything after. Simply because they saw something real, something good, that could not be denied.

It sometimes pains me to say this, but Christianity today has lost that inherent goodness that characterized the ministry of Christ. Why are we wearing his name if we're content to preach prosperity gospels, escape-from-hell gospels, 'forgiven-but-not-perfect' gospels and heaven-after-earth gospels?

We've so watered down his message and denied the reality of God's kingdom here and now, that it's no wonder there is so little capacity to be truly good for its sake, in the midst of the church (and society) by and large. There's always some ulterior motive somewhere.

Yet we're made in the image of God. Doesn't that say something? I hear a call, to be something more than what this world understands. To be more than what we think we know; to be, because God is.


Chamber Concert
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
One of the thoughts I had during yesterday's chamber concert at the DFP, was that chamber performances are often 'marketlike'.

They're informal, and feature small groups (sometimes as few as two or even a solo piece) of very varied instruments.

The repertoire is far more personal and often more unique in terms of musical exploration than pieces written for and performed by orchestra.

It's like seeing different people from different backgrounds, with different thoughts and voices (represented by the instrumentation), coming together to share a communal experience with the audience.

Something the layman can understand. Yet something profound to be discovered beneath that guise of simplicity. And a chance for individuals to truly shine.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

SU Journey Begins...

Yesterday was my first day volunteering at Scripture Union (SU). I've been assigned by Keat Lim to work on a revision of one of their Resource Books for School Christian Fellowships, with the theme Abide in Christ, the focus of which is the Fruit of the Spirit.

I am thankful for this opportunity to work, to gain experience, in a way to give back to SU. The last year has been simply amazing in every sense of the word, and I owe a lot of it to the people I met and experiences I had at the NSCF Leaders' Camp 2003 and d'Nous Academy 03/04.

Also, I'd like to take this moment to thank a few people who have made my experience in the VI Christian Union so fulfilling and meaningful over the last five years:

Alvin -- You're still the CU president!
John Phang -- No one plays guitar like you do
Huai Zhi -- For introducing me to the serious side
Michael -- For introducing me to Steven Curtis Chapman
Kenneth -- For encouraging me so much and seeing me throughout the years. And for that one rainy afternoon in 2000, when you prayed with me in an empty classroom that would later be mine in Form 5
John Ratnaraj -- There are Yetis still...
Sean -- For praying with me, and the insights, radical and conservative, expressed in violence and in tears
Jon Mah -- For plunging me into inter-school CF activities!
Weng Ken -- For the BK reference and lots of encouragement
Darren -- You're the best Vice President anyone could have; I'm grateful for all the support
Jon Kuek -- The best treasurer I know; it's been many great years we've shared
Leon -- For your exuberance and uninhibited passion, and for bringing out the honest side of me

The VICU will always be the CU as far as I'm concerned; I grew so much because of you. Maybe in heaven, when this world is made new, I will finally get my chance to repay all you've done for me.

I take this opportunity also to wish Jerry and Wilson all the best in the months to come. Go for it!

Runa prayed these words during the brief morning prayer meeting: "Lord, thank you for making us partners in your ministry and kingdom."

Maybe that's what draws me to working in SU, or serving God in general; the fact that somehow God is real, and we really matter. Because of that we are his partners in making this world a better place, in bringing hope to the hopeless, joy to the downcast, and life to the dead.

It is a difficult life, and the more I enter into it, the clearer I hear Jesus' words, that there is no turning back for those who follow him on this adventure. There's no place for individualistic narcissism or self-indulgence here. Neither is it a path of strict ascetism.

I am merely learning, day by day, what it truly means to be free, yet at the same time to be a servant of all.

p.s. It rained today. Thunderstorm. Hasn't been so in awhile. With all that I've written on storms and rain, I ask the same question as I have many times over: Is it a new beginning, yet again? Another significant chapter unfolds...

Light and Darkness

Soo Tian wrote these words in an e-mail he sent me before returning to NS after the Aidil Adha break:

...why is it that darkness is almost always a symbol of something bad in the Bible? We know that God created light and it was good. Did God create darkness as well? Or is darkness simply a result of no light? Before any creation, it seems that darkness was already present. "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep" Formlessness being a result of having no form. Emptiness as a result of having nothing fulfilling. I suppose darkness is just a result of having no light. Maybe that's why darkness vs light is as potent as emptiness vs fulfillment. And maybe that's why I find myself singing in the bathroom at camp, "I wanna be in the light... as you are in the light..."

The more I think about it, the more I agree.

Where the life is...

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Thoughts from Bono; he said these words in 2003:

I just go where the life is, you know? Where I feel the Holy Spirit. If it's in the back of a Roman Catholic cathedral, in the quietness and the incense, which suggest the mystery of God, of God's presence, or in the bright lights of the revival tent, I just go where I find life.

I don't see denomination. I generally think religion gets in the way of God.