Sunday, March 13, 2005


Truth Wing
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
It was great meeting up with Sivin today at BLC and chatting on the way home to his house, and seeing May Chin and baby Elysia there!

This photo was taken at the Truth Wing of the church, by Chin Hor. (Thanks!) The cross is actually glass, and the light is natural sunlight pouring in from outside... has a rather otherwordly feel, I think.

Anyway, my National Service (NS) stint begins tomorrow, and I will only be back sometime in May. So I do hope all of you keep well, and do continue blogging!

(Please also remember there is a blogger here even though he is unlikely to blog for about 70 days unless there is broadband at camp!)

Have a blessed Easter. In reflection and contemplation, let us remember, now and throughout the year, the meaning of what it is to call ourselves Christians, or 'God-followers,' and what it truly means to carry our cross and follow the Master.

Not an easy call no matter how you choose to see it, and more wildernesses than oases. But God is good; the pillar of cloud still leads by day, and the pillar of fire. He still prepares a Sanctuary in the midst of the desert, and fills it with his glory.

So I look forward to the next two months, a time of challenge, refreshing, meditation and maybe even empowerment. Keep all NS trainees, past and present, in your prayers. Always.


Petal Shower Reincarnated
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
When my father drove up the road to drop me at the Bangsar Lutheran Church this morning, we passed through this nostalgic site.

It brought back many memories of the morning petal shower at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) on 11 December 2004.

While this place wasn't quite as secluded, yellow petals have never failed to remind me of that morning, forever seared in my memory.

Here's to all d'NAers, past and present. I shall remember all of you at NS... is it even possible not to?

In the beginning...

Patch Adams
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Lately, I have been giving much thought to my career. For many years -- 12, in fact -- I had wanted to become a doctor. But lately, I have been mulling over the idea of doing a course in English Language and Linguistics -- something in the vein of C.S. Lewis.

Yet a few days ago, I deliberately watched Patch Adams again (have watched it umpteen times), to see if I can remember what it was that kept me so single-minded on medicine.

No matter what the critics say about the movie (most of its reviews are bad), I owe a lot of my still burning desire to do medicine, to Patch Adams.

The sheer power of the movie and the man, I believe, lies in how much he values the quality of life, how a doctor's job is to heal the person rather than merely kill the disease.

I know how many tend to scoff at such idealism, but all things said and done, I'd rather live this kind of life, than the life many people claim to live in the 'real world.'

As Puddleglum said to the Queen of Underland in C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair, "Four babies playing a game have created a play world that licks your real world hollow."

Perhaps I will find a renewed passion to pursue this dream that I believe was God-given in the first place. Or maybe not. But whatever the case, it was good walking down that path again.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


St Francis Xavier's
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy
Tried and true

With thanksgiving,
I'll be a living
For you

I will never forget the time we sang this song on the very first day of d'NA on 1 December 2004. It never fails to encourage me and remind me of what I'm meant to be.

The word 'sanctuary' appears umpteen times in Leviticus, and again another timely message to keep me through NS. Indeed I've been discovering countless gems in this oft-feared, almost never-read book of the Old Testament.

Indeed, Sivin, do consider the paraphrase!

Last Tuesday, Joshua (Johnson, not the son of Nun!) and I attended Mass at St Francis Xavier's Church; it was my first time at a Roman Catholic Mass.

Mass started proper at 7 p.m., but we arrived an hour early (the website indicated 6 p.m.!) so we had ample time for meditation before pre-Mass intercession at 6.30 p.m.

In one of the intercessory prayers, the congregation was to respond, "Lord Jesus, may your death bring us to life." This reminded me of the Evanescence song Bring Me To Life, which is probably the most powerful salvation anthem I've heard lately.

Perhaps the most obvious element in the air of Mass is the solemnity of the proceedings. Congregants came in noiselessly; some made the sign of the cross with the 'holy water' at the entrances and genuflected in the aisle before taking their seats.

Two altar boys helped the priest with everything from preparing the Bible at the pulpit, to assisting during the Communion. One of them lit the candles flanking the altar table in such a priestly manner (again, reminded me of Exodus/Leviticus -- the parts about the lampstand).

At such a young age, they are already being groomed in the area of service unto God. They take their work very seriously, and carry themselves with such discipline and grace. Very much like Jedi apprentices, who more often than not begin young.

Indeed, with all the solemnity, silence and kneeling (of which there was plenty throughout Mass), I can only arrive at one word to describe what I experienced: reverence.

Forget floodlighted auditoriums, over-exuberant ushers, pre-service banter in the pews and concert-type worship; this brought me closer to the mystery of God than almost anything else in my life, the only exception being d'NA.

Perhaps I will be able to attend a Catholic church during my NS stint. Soo Tian and I managed to find Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches in Segamat (nearest town to my camp, apparently).

Well then, less than 40 hours till the start of NS. I can only rely on the pillar of cloud and fire to lead while I'm there, and as David says, to go with an open heart and mind. In other words, an open 'Nous'... is this part of what we were prepared for?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Wilderness Wanderings

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Journeying on in Project C2C:GaL, we are now in the midst of the book of Leviticus. Somehow I find this really apt, because at the moment, I feel somewhat lost.

Leaving the relative security of Egypt behind, I find myself wandering in a desert of uncertainty, unsure of what will come next, or what steps to take, which path to choose. Yet God continues to lead; a cloud by day and fire by night.

I hope to go into NS with an expectant heart and mind, and consider this a time of hiatus, an interval, a selah, a brief pause before I switch to forward gear, a time to reflect on life thus far, and that which is yet to come. Thanks Soo Tian and David!

Sudarshan is right; life goes on. I owe so much to him for daring to be different, and living life on his terms, rebelling against the system, and leaving the path of convention to blaze his own trail. Indeed, I remember telling Yen last year that the SPM was like an encore exam, not the pinnacle of high school life.

Sadly, the education system will never recognise someone like him. Never mind that he is the best philosopher/musician/artist the school has, but if his report card and SPM result slip don't look inspiring, he's nothing much.

My faith underwent many reconstructions last year, and he was one of the most influential factors during that difficult yet awesome period.

Anyway, for the record, I got 10 A1s and a B4 for Moral (that does NOT mean I'm immoral!). It was a timely B that I may not boast, and forever carry the reputation/stigma of being a straight-A student. Come to think, it actually feels good to stumble a bit.

God is really gracious, and I am very thankful especially for the A1 in Bible Knowledge. I barely prepared for it, basically beginning initial study, at most two or three months before the SPM.

But it was a wonderfully intense time of reading and re-reading the books of Luke and Acts in my NIV Study Bible, and yes, The Message! Also read through two Inter-Varsity Press (IVP) commentaries, Luke by Michael Wilcock and Acts by John Stott.

In the end, there was only one theologically-inclined question in the paper; the rest were more memory-based If I'm not mistaken, it had to do with why Jesus healed the way he did, particularly with the lepers. I enjoyed that tremendously.

So I am grateful to succeed where it matters, only that Moral was a disappointment mostly because I enjoy it very much, and somewhere in me, I still want to teach it someday.

Dallas Willard was right about the state of morality in institutions of higher education, in which opinions are highly-prized, and critical thinking is applauded. But they scoff at radicals who actually try to live out these moral codes.

This is only the beginning.

Rose Garden

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This is NOT a rose. I walked past these flowers on the way home from piano yesterday (ended up chatting with my teacher about SPM results and many other things, and never touched the piano in the end!).

Inspired, I wrote the following poem (sans later edits) while I was giving tuition in the evening:

Rose Garden

Silence creeps upon the grass
Like a shadow whose light passes
Through the soul when the night is cold.

Prickly, thorny, pierce my heart;
Stabbed and shattered into prismic shards
My body bleeds, my life feeds
On death, for decay becomes me.

When the plate is empty
And the cup dried up
I wither into winter without end.

Drowning in the dew of life
Dripping each morn on a man long gone
Whom roses do not bloom to greet
But fall by petals at the feet
Of the observer, who wraithlike
Disappears into the silence
Of this hollowest of nights.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

On robots and more...

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I read something on the Christianity Today website this morning; it was an article about the writer's all-time top 10 favourite robots.

Among the familiar faces were the Terminator, R2-D2, C-3PO, one android from Star Trek and Optimus Prime, who wasn't on the Top 10 but received honourable mention.

One of the qualities all these robots seemed to possess, was that they were imbued with a certain degree of humanity that made them so believable, and indeed, the Star Wars droid exhibit this more than any other.

On the new Star Wars DVD Collectors' Edition, there is a bonus disc that discusses the background of Star Wars and many other things pertaining to its legacy.

Apparently the team struggled to create C-3PO's face; they wanted to create an emotionless face, and allow his words to be the conduit of expression. Many of the original designs were too emotional, but at last they discovered the perfect look that we have today.

Indeed, 3PO's wry and sarcastic humour has become a mainstay of the Star Wars universe, in spite of the virtually blank visage he sports.

On another note, I read some passages in Numbers regarding the appointment of the Levitical duties this morning. The brief commentary/thought had this phrase: we are saved to serve.

As I reflected on what that means, I also wondered if sometimes we are saved through service. Perhaps in serving, we gain a fuller understanding and experience of salvation.

My extremely limited time of voluntary work in SU contributed to my reflection as well, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to work there.

Yesterday was officially my last day, and saw the completion of the project to which I was assigned. But I returned for a few hours this morning to get some CDs done.

SPM results will be out tomorrow. While I am hoping for the best, I am prepared for whatever shall await me. God's plans are too great to be thwarted by a slip of paper I shall receive.

"Father, forgive them"

I just read this on Jessica's blog, though it was writted about a month ago:

sigh. long road to go. the parents thing. yeah, it jus gets better and better, sarcastically speaking. way to go, mom and dad. say stuff to piss me off. or hurt me by saying relly wrong things that u noe are not true. woo hoo. i'm so happy and thankful i've got a**h***s for parents. whoops...did i say that? sigh. i jus feel so mad when i think about them. i feel the need to...retaliate with a bad word. it's kinda hard to do the jesus, thing, especially if they're your own flesh n blood n u have to put up with them every single day. i relly don't know how you did it, god. father, forgive them? i don't know how you killed them with kindness. i'm still trying, god. i'm still trying.

I was very much taken by the phrase "killed them with kindness," which, like all philosophically paradoxical phrases, tugged at some of those rusty strings and cogs in my heart and mind, making me wonder, once again, what is it all about, this God thing?

In sporadic outpourings of passion, writers often strike those rare Olympian notes of inspiration.

For that my gratefulness knows no expression.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I Am Found in You

Tee Ming's right; I am at a point where I know what I must do, and I know God has provided me with the necessary resources. Hardly any doubts remain, and it is not a matter of factual knowledge or uncertainty that stands in my way. The question is, do I want to do it?

We were talking about why we still lead Christian lives, although there is great temptation to do otherwise. Why do we hold on to our integrity, to believe and try our best to live righteous lives? The fight is far from over, and it will be many bloody Sundays later before I can dare to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

In the midst of my own sin and struggle, I found these words from Steven Curtis Chapman's song "I Am Found in You" very encouraging:

So where else could I turn
And where else could I go
You have given me life
You have made me whole
You have rescued my soul
So where else could I go
For I am found in You

Somehow, at the end of the day, I realize that a life without God, apart from him, isn't really a life at all. There is this stubborn creature within me that wants to do things my way, and each conscious decision to follow God's ways exacts a heavy price from me. Sometimes there isn't any indication that it's going to be worth it.

And yet I journey on, meandering and wondering what the point of it all is. Yet up until now, I can lash out at the Father, I can curse the Creator, I can shun the world and live in my little corner of self-indulgence... and still I will find that I cannot escape him.

If you look in me, chances are you won't find Jesus there. I don't really know if he lives in me anymore. But of this I am certain: no matter how far I run or hide, I am still found in him. God is great enough to have room even for one so depraved as I.

I don't know what to think. I don't know what to say. Maybe it's just wiser this time, to shut up.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Seeking the will of God

In less than a week, I will be at the Pinggiran Pelangi NS camp in Bandar Muadzam Shah, Pahang, doing my term for some two months before Form 6 begins in mid-May.

As I reflect on the coming weeks, I am forced to confront my deepest motives, desires, hopes and expectations for the period of National Service. Where does God fit into the picture... or rather, where does this fit in God's big picture?

I wonder about the sort of personality I should carry with me into the camp; whether I should be warm or cold, taking a genuine interest in things or being indifferent, vocal or quiet, extroverted or introverted, friendly or reclusive.

Soo Tian told me this afternoon, something that Yen Mii told him prior to NS: it was to the effect of, "If you trust God much, he will do great things; but if you trust little, then he will not be able to do as much as he'd wanted to." I am still struggling very hard with what it means to really trust God, and especially so since this is such a major turn of events in my life thus far.

What role do I play? Will I lose my step on the stage, fall off and never rise again? Or in spite of that, can I trust the Lord of the Dance to keep me secure?

I will spend the week in reflection on this, though indeed I cannot stifle my anticipation for the SPM results, which will be announced come Thursday.

May it be as he pleases. What other way is there?

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I remembered reading this in Philip Yancey's Reaching for the Invisible God some time ago. Lately, it has taken on a new significance for me. It's quite a long quote, so I seek your patience in reading it. Thanks.

On a visit to Russia in 1991 I attended my first Orthodox church service, which is designed to express sensually the mystery and majesty of worship. Ensconced candles lent a soft, eerie glow to the cathedral, as if the stucco walls were the source of light rather than its reflection. The air hummed with the throaty, bass-clef harmony of the Russian liturgy, a cell-vibrating sound that seemed to come from under the floor. A service lasts three to four hours, with worshipers entering and leaving at will. No one invites congregants to "pass the peace" or "greet the folks around you with a smile." They stand -- there are no chairs or pews -- and watch the professionals, who after a thousand years of unchanged liturgy are very professional indeed.

Later that same day, accompanied by a priest and a representative from Prison Fellowship, I visited a chapel in the basement of a nearby prison ...

... Ron Nikkel of Prison Fellowship ... turned to Brother Bonifato and asked if he would say a prayer for the prisoners. Brother Bonifato looked puzzled and Ron repeated, "Could you say a prayer for the prisoners?"

"A prayer? You want a prayer?" Brother Bonifato asked, and we nodded. He disappeared behind the altar at the end of the room. He brought out another icon of the Lady Who Takes Away Sadness, which he propped up on a stand. Then he retrieved two candle holders and two incense bowls, which he laboriously hung in place and lit. Their sweet fragrancec instantly filled the room. He removed his headpiece and outer vestments, and laced shiny gold cuffs over his black sleeves. He placed a droopy gold stole around his neck, and then a gold crucifix. He carefully fitted a different, more formal headpiece on his head. Before each action, he paused to kiss the cross or genuflect. Finally, he was ready to pray.

Prayer involved a whole new series of formalities. Brother Bonifato did not say prayers; he sang them, following the score from a liturgy book propped on another stand ...

Elsewhere in Russia I met western Christians who sharply criticized the Orthodox Chruch. Reverence, submission, awe -- the Orthodox convey these qualities superbly in worship, they admitted, but their God remains faraway, approachable only after much preparation and only through intermediaries such as priests and icons. Yet I came away with the conviction that we have something to learn from the Orthodox. Under a Communist regime that had no place for God, that made human beings the measure of all things, the Russian church continued to place God at the center and survived the most determined atheistic assault in history.

I knew that Brother Bonifato was no otherwordly mystic, for I had seen his service among criminals in a place that could only be called a dungeon. His tradition had taught him, though, that you do not approach the Other as you would approach your own kind. The ritual helped him move from a spirit of urgency and immediacy ... to a place of calm whose rhythms were the rhythms of eternity.

If you find God with great ease, suggested Thomas Merton, perhaps it is not God that you have found.

Lately, I have found myself drawn to tradition, silence and darkness -- the very opposite of the Pentecostal Christian background in which I was raised.

I know not what form of rebellion will follow, especially with my life going rather haywire lately, but I only ask that if I die, I may die in the hands of my Maker, and no one else.

I Could Fall?!

Meehan Streak
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
Meehan Streak is frequently sarcastic and subtle, but it has been a long time since I'd read something as thought-provoking as this.

Some say that ignorance is bliss. And in this case, it would seem that the ignorance takes away the fear of the second man.

But we would be quick to point out that fear is needed in order to keep him safe. The first man, in imparting his 'knowledge', is actually doing the second a favour.

Yet I questioned myself, could it be that the second man was actually safer walking without the knowledge of his vulnerability? Awareness of the danger shifts his focus from walking to a cautious fear of the deep fall below.

I found it a most precise and concise snapshot of society today, where certain knowledge has led us not to be bolder in living life, but more paranoid about death and suffering.

Life is now an effort to thwart negative influences, rather than cultivate positive ones such as true goodness. Society today seems more keen on avoiding the fall, rather than walking around the mountain with head held high.

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Whole New World

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
When I went to Su Lin's house during Chinese New Year, we discussed the idea of getting Mrs Chang a pet for her 48th birthday.

Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and amphibians were generally out, leaving us with the choice of fish, hamsters, rabbits or guinea pigs.

We eventually decided on our aquatic friends, and on Wednesday, I bought the whole works from Pets Wonderland, assembled it up for a night, and yesterday gave Mrs Chang what was probably the greatest birthday surprise in some years.

It so happens that our lessons and her birthday fell on the very same day this time around, and also present to witness the ceremony were, from left to right, Marcus (Mrs Chang's son), Benedict, Zoe, Sara and Belle.

Seated on the floor are the culprits behind the aquarium plot. Perveen was there, but left shortly before I went back home to get the camera. Mum took the photo.

Two golden gourami, two dwarf gourami, two ghost glass catfish and an upside-down catfish, plus a shipwreck and a plant for decor. The aquarium is fitted with a filter system to minimise maintenance work (something Mrs Chang would surely dread).

Her husband was duly shocked when he returned from work, so I heard. Apparently he spent the whole night staring at the fish, and reminiscing about childhood days when he used to keep fish. Even Mrs Chang used to keep fish.

Mum was saying that in the days of her childhood, fish and stamps were some of the more popular hobbies; these days, not many young people pursue them.

Oh, and there's that really ugly, but hugely popular fish called the flowerhorn. Yeah right, more like Tumourfish.

I do hope to start a marine aquarium sometime soon. It's a lot of work, especially maintaining the salinity of the water, but marine fish are truly some of the most spectacularly breathtaking creatures on earth.

A whole new world unfolds, and this is only the beginning.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Garden of Eden

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
My friend Sudarshan said not too long ago, "I wonder if Kashmir is the Garden of Eden?"

I am not too sure exactly what he meant by that, but upon some pondering, there were few other places that could truly bear that title.

The eye of the storm is often more peaceful than a tranquil landscape.


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
A group of four wasps built this nest on a hanging flowerpot in my garden.

Some eggs have already been laid, and some cells even sealed up to protect the young hatchlings.

It was very difficult to get this shot, as the thin leaves grew out over the sides of the pot, and I had to take the photo from below, at an angle so as not to have leaves (the green thing in the photo) in my way.

Really interesting, these creatures.