Sunday, December 25, 2005

Deus Incarnare

christmas, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Top photo, L-R: Nigel, Alissa, Darryl, me, Wei Aun (who worked for awhile in SU, and is now a doctor practising in Sabah).

Bottom photo, L-R: Dad, Mum, me, Sara, my uncle from Singapore, my cousin Michelle, Kevin.

(Warning: long post ahead)

Last night, I went for the Christmas Eve midnight service at St Paul's Anglican Church with the Rodes (Nigel, Alissa and Mr and Mrs Rode) and Darryl; then this morning for the Christmas celebration service at Glad Tidings with my family.

(Never two more contrasting experiences, though I have yet to explore the Orthodox church in Brickfields and the famous Acts Church.)

Some highlights from St Paul's:

We ushered in Christmas with a celebration of the Eucharist. Just imagine: Holy Communion at 12 a.m. on Christmas morning! It really brings a whole new perspective to the multi-faceted phenomenon we call the Incarnation.

After the Eucharist, our candles were lighted, and the lights turned off. At one point, one of the altar servers' candle went out, so he came to me to relight it. As he turned his wick towards my flame, some of the wax from his candle spilled onto my hand.

That happened quite a bit at the d'NA graduation, as my candle melted. It's hot, but doesn't really hurt. Yet I found it instructive to note that upholding one another in a fellowship of love, involves not only sharing our light, but also bearing the 'wax' of others.

We sang 'O Holy Night' before the benediction; it remains one of my favourite Christmas carols:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night divine, O holy night,
O night divine.

Some highlights from Glad Tidings:

The Children's Church put up a sketch, which brought to light some deep and important questions. It was creatively executed, especially with the background animation which suggested the passage of time using music and sounds from different eras within the 20th century, highlighting the timelessness of the Gospel.

One of the characters remarked, "Everything seems more interesting than the Word of God today." Perhaps it is indeed apt that the theme for the KL/PJ School Christian Fellowship Convention next year is 'The Berean Call':

"[The Berean Jews] were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)

I believe the theme of the performance was, "Jesus is more than just a story on a page." How true it is! Jesus is a story, but a living one who is made incarnate in every other story, for he is the Great Story in which we find ourselves: the narratives of our life--indeed, of all creation--are merely parts of the overarching narrative that is He.

Pastor Vincent drew our attention to Luke 2:25-35 in his sermon, which centred around the question, "Who is Jesus; what child is this?" The last two verses caught my attention:

"...This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed--and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (emphasis mine)

He then cross-referenced Matthew 16:13-20; I was reading The Message and Peterson's paraphrase of verse 18 stood out:

"And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out."

I may be very much mistaken, but I believe 'energy' in the kingdom vocabulary, also reflects 'Spirit.' More on this later.

We know we have seen the living God, not necessarily because we see him in all his glory, but because by him we see ourselves for who we really are. C.S. Lewis concluded his lecture 'Is Theology Poetry?' as follows:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

And even if one does not see the sun, one can tell it has risen because it brings light to everything. Likewise with the Son. He is the mirror in whom we see ourselves for who we really are; in his eyes are we judged. No wonder Simon exclaimed, "Depart from me, Master, for I am a sinner."

At this point, I cannot say I comprehend the Incarnation. But I am beginning to see newer dimensions to it, of which I was previously ignorant. Michael's lectures on the book of John offer much insight into this great mystery as well.

Just read John 1 and 3 (NOT the 1st and 3rd epistles of John, but chapters 1 and 3 of John's Gospel); they're really mind-blowing chapters.

Now, about the Spirit, which I mentioned briefly just now. Michael pointed out the for God to become human, there must have been an enormous release of energy (forget enthalpy; no measuring device could possibly measure the magnitude of the Incarnation).

This also suggests that the Incarnation still happens today, for the Spirit of God works in and through believers and non-believers alike; by his power are all things held together. We are all, as someone once pointed out, 'after-Christs' who reflect the glory of God in this world.

(It is too much for the human mind to imagine, let alone understand. There comes a point where theorising must end, and reverence begin. And that is here and now).

I received, from my uncle and his daughter, Michelle, Mark Haddon's book 'The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time' and from Ronny, Leanne and Cassandra (three of my cousins on my father's side) a desk calendar themed 'Poetry Speaks.'

(Actually, I thought of buying the calendar ever since I saw it in Borders, Times Square. Good thing I didn't! It's going to adorn the Editor's Desk in school; watch out, Denise!)

I shall end this relatively long entry with an excerpt from T.S. Eliot's poem 'Journey of the Magi':

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


graduation, originally uploaded by mincaye.

These are some pictures from the d'NA graduation on 18 December. The graduates are in the top photo, and the d'NA group photo below. All around are the graduates' families. Jimi couldn't make it for the ceremony, but he graduated all the same!

All in all, I consider myself a rather stoic person. It is usually difficult to make me cry, and I cannot remember ever crying when reading blogs. But some things Janice and Sam wrote recently, brought me very much to the brink of tears.

Janice (on d'NA):

Honestly, before this camp, I was pretty upset and really didn't wanna go. I was thinking, "Why am I going for this camp?? It's gonna be a waste of time!" And I really thought that I wouldn't be able to last for 11 days.
And I was TOTALLY wrong. What I expected turned out to be totally different and i really enjoyed myself as well as learnt so many things and really pray that whatever I learnt will not go to waste but I'll use it for God and not myself.

When I remember d'NA Stage 1 in 2003, I realise that all our expectations and preconceptions were shattered. And how wonderful it was to know the meaning of the phrase, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

God's still pulling surprises, leading us all deeper in his abundant, infinite grace and love.

Sam (addressing the CIMP graduates, Sunway College):

My fellow graduates, the experiences that we have gained here, will be a guide to us in our future undertakings...

This journey could not have been possible without the support and encouragement from our parents, lecturers, friends and families. On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to say A BIG thank you to all of you. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my peers and friends in CIMP for making this journey a memorable one.

One interesting part of the journey through CIMP was the door that exposed us to community activities. This semester, the focus was on the Selangor Cheshire Home which is a home for the handicapped and disabled. Together students and lecturers worked hard to organize and run a week long food sale to collect funds for the home. On the 23rd of August the residents of the Selangor Cheshire Home visited the Sunway University College where a forum entitled “overcoming challenges” was held. The 10 hours of community service required to graduate this programme is a very good course component, because through these activities, we were able to develop our people skills and become more aware of what is actually happening in our community outside our comfort zone.

After today, all of us will be heading our own ways to continue on with this journey of life. We all will be graduating with a diploma today. This diploma is just a stepping stone to the future career decisions we will have to make. Learning is a life long process which will never end. We must always strive for more knowledge and never be content with what we have.

Today, we stand, as if before a row of thousands of doors, each door different from another, each potent with opportunities for every one of us. We must try all these doors, opening them to look at what lies within. We should pass through these doors with an open mind. Sometimes some doors may be shut, but we cannot be discouraged. Instead, we must look forward to the opening of other doors.

We must always seize our future and tirelessly strive towards excellence. "It is clear the future holds great opportunities. It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o'clock."

It dawned upon me that if Sam were at d'NA, he might have said those very words.

But as I read the last portion, the difference between graduating from college and 'graduating' from this community, is that in the latter, the trick is not to 'avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities and get back home by six o'clock.'

Rather, our journey is something that time cannot contain, and there will be many pitfalls, into which some or even all of us will fall. Our assurance is only this: that we have one another to count on, and a God whose mercies go deeper than the deepest pits of life.

Graduation is not the end of the road; it is the end of this phase, just as the harbour is the end of the land. But the endless seas that lie before us are in want of exploration; the sails could use some wind, and it seems the sailors are dying for a lame joke or two.

The Way of the Samurai

samurai, originally uploaded by mincaye.

On Friday night, I watched The Last Samurai on Astro. This is one of those unforgettable silver screen movies, and I remember when I first watched it with my Standard 6 classmates, early 2003.

Everything about it bears a certain majesty and awe, from the stunning cinematography and dazzling battle sequences, to the thought-provoking philosophy and soaring score by Hans Zimmer.

This time around, two things Tom Cruise said in the movie resonated with much of what I have learned this year. (It's not quite verbatim, but the gist of the thoughts is there):

"The word samurai means servant."

"From the time when they [the people in the samurai village] get up, until the day is done, they commit themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue."

Servanthood, and perfection. Themes that arose throughout this year, were consolidated at NSCF, and continue to challenge me even as 2006 dawns.

These are messages of the Kingdom:

"The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matt 23:11)

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." (Matt 5:48)

It was John Wesley who said, "What is Christian perfection? Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength."

In other words, loving God with our nous.

Perhaps this is where the 'conspiracy' comes in. Observe the link between the following words:


(Hint: keep an eye on the TMsquared blog. The third adventure is coming soon!)

Friday, December 23, 2005


d'NA!, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Three years of d'Nous Academy. The entire family is in the above montage; Jon was absent in the Stage 1 picture (dengue), but made appearances in Stages 2 and 3.

Shern Ren was whisked off midcamp at Stage 2 to deal with the Petronas Scholarship, but is clearly visible smack in the middle of the Stage 3 picture (look out for the Zheng cameo here as well!).

There is much to write, but I have neither time nor space here. In fact, many thoughts are likely to go unwritten, let alone on this blog. Rather than being something I feel compelled to comment on, d'NA influences everything else I write.

Suffice it to say, the d'NA community will live on. And perhaps as far as my life is concerned, that is enough. Thanks, everyone; we move in phase!


My house is undergoing renovations. In a few days' time, my family will be evacuated to my grandparents' next door, hence I will not be able to blog. These are some thoughts, just random and all 'blended' together, that have come to me over the last two days or so.

Just now, I was reading through C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy. I liked the very last paragraph:

Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I'm afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarrelling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently...

A friend of mine believes we are likely to quarrel more and more in days to come. Now if we keep making it up again each time, I wonder if our future might not lie along the same path...

I was born on the 31st of July, right in between Julius and Augustus Caesar, two of the greatest rulers Rome would ever know. My Zodiac sign is Leo, reminiscent of the great lion Aslan. My Chinese name is wang, 王, which refers to 'king.' So many kingly symbols, yet I am not a king, heheh... still, it's a nice thought.

As I try to do my backlogged Maths homework, I finally realise why I dislike it so much: I'm a person of words, not numbers or symbols. And not just any kind of words, but on the side of literature and language. Hence I find even Hebrew and Greek less puzzling than Mathematics, but history and economics on the same level of obscurity as, say, Physics.

Mart de Haan, president of Radio Bible Class (RBC) Ministries, publisher of the well-known Our Daily Bread devotional guide, wrote the following in his Decemer 'Been Thinking About' column, which I received via e-mail:

Christ may come today. Or He may come tomorrow or 100 years from now. But that’s His decision, not ours. Our part is to make sure that if He does come today, He will find us doing His business rather than our own.

Doing His work means looking for His return, but not waiting. It means living with an expanded anticipation of possibilities.

Maybe today we will find the grace of Christ to be better than the relief we are seeking. The apostle Paul repeatedly asked the Lord to remove an unnamed “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But when the problem remained, Paul surrendered to God’s purpose in the pain. He discovered that he would rather experience God’s strength in his weakness than to have no problem and no sense of how desperately he needed the enabling grace of his Lord.

Maybe today we will have an opportunity to bring the rescue of Christ to someone in need. This is the high purpose of God. All who have discovered the love of Christ have been called to care for others as He has given Himself for us. Our call is to work together with Him as His hands and feet to the needy and lonely people in our lives. The challenge is not merely to wait, but to keep on praying, working, and watching, in the spirit and purpose of our Lord.

Maybe today we will see our Lord rescue us through physical death. Because we don’t know if Christ will return in our lifetime, we need to be realistic about our own mortality. While the will to live is a gift of our Creator, we must also come to terms with a willingness to die in Christ, if that is the will of our God. Only by being ready to meet Him in life or in death can we find the courage to live without an obsession with self-protection and fear.

Maybe today Christ will come. This is the hope that re-emerges when we have our eyes refocused on the ultimate rescue of Christ.

The parts I highlighted above resonate very much with me. I believe this is what incarnational faith, which is a reflection of the great Incarnation some two thousand Christmases ago, is all about:

To know that grace is present in the midst of trial and pain, to be 'wounded healers' (to use a Nouwen phrase) ministering to others in their need, to be mortals aware of just how fleeting our lives are, and to be concerned with the business of the Kingdom rather than the businesses of the earth.

I really admire Isaiah the prophet for saying in Isaiah 6:8, "Here am I; send me!" But more often than not (and a lot more so lately), I find my sentiments echoed by Moses more than most other prophets; "Here am I; send somebody else."

In the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (NRSV), Gregory of Nyssa is quoted in the profile on Moses. He wrote in The Life of Moses;

This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing worthy of honour and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.

There is yet another prophet in the Bible with whom I identify, more so than Moses (for Moses was a leader, yet I hardly consider myself one; David [Tan], yes, but not me). His name is Jonah. Here I need to reflect a little bit more, but I will certainly write about it in due time.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Of care and nerd-hood

Something I saw in The Star yesterday (it was actually from Monday's paper) reminded me of my community work experience at d'NA this year.

The full article on Datuk Dr T.P. Devaraj is here.

Some excerpts:

"Sometimes all you have to do as a doctor or a nurse is just to sit and listen to your patients and see how best you could help them cope with their illness..."

[Dr Devaraj] has been involved in community work since he graduated from the University of Singapore in 1952.

After completing his housemanship in Singapore, he returned to Malaya in 1954 and served at the Penang Hospital until his retirement in 1979.

He was among the founder members of the Malaysian Medical Association (MAA), was its president in 1983 and had served many years in MAA’s ethical committee.

At camp, Michael said several times, "We are all nerds, right?" After awhile, it occurred to me that this 'label' was not at all derogatory at d'NA, though it might be a painful stigma for some in school/society.

And this afternoon, a possible reason dawned upon me: God indeed uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise. So who knows what he might do with a bunch of ambitious nerdy teenage monkeys?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Man and a Woman

This song is really relevant at this point of my life, though Tien did point out that the last line isn't necessarily true.

A Man and a Woman (U2)

Little sister don’t you worry about a thing today
Take the heat from the sun
Little sister
I know that everything is not ok
But you’re like honey on my tongue

True love never can be rent
But only true love can keep beauty innocent

I could never take a chance
Of losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman
No I could never take a chance
‘Cos I could never understand
The mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

You can run from love
And if it’s really love it will find you
Catch you by the heel
But you can’t be numb for love
The only pain is to feel nothing at all
How can I hurt when I’m holding you?

I could never take a chance
Of losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

And you’re the one, there’s no-one else
You make me want to lose myself
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

Brown eyed girl across the street
On rue Saint Divine
I thought this is the one for me
But she was already mine
You were already mine…

Little sister
I’ve been sleeping in the street again
Like a stray dog
Little sister
I’ve been trying to feel complete again
But you’re gone and so is God

The soul needs beauty for a soul mate
When the soul wants… the soul waits …

No I could never take a chance
On losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

For love and sex and faith and fear
And all the things that keep us here
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

How can I hurt when I’m holding you?

In memory of Roger

roger, originally uploaded by mincaye.

On 24 November, a little stray mongrel puppy set foot upon my grandparents' garden next door. George was all excited at first, but they warmed up to each other very quickly and became friends.

We decided to keep the puppy until its rightful owner came to collect it.

After a few days, it became apparent that the owner either did not exist, or wasn't bothered about the missing charge. So we decided to keep the puppy and named him Roger.

He had really sharp teeth, though not quite the jaw strength to work them. I still remember when we were playing one day; I very quickly moved my hand across his mouth, and my thumb slid across his teeth, leaving a minor skin-deep cut there.

Roger loved playing with George, and I daresay our Dachshund was equally fond of the pup. Roger would frequently gnaw on George's coat, with special preference for the neck.

In the mornings, Roger would be sitting expectantly outside the house door, so that he was the first sight to greet whomever opened the door that morning. Above all, he loved to eat.

The day before I left for d'NA, we took him for his vaccination, choosing the 7-in-1 course instead of the 6-in-1; it cost more, but offered better protection. We also picked up a food bowl, water bowl and dog shampoo for him.

Then, on 15 December, eight days into camp, I received an SMS from Kevin, saying that Roger was sick and in hospital (the vet's clinic happens to be called a hospital, by the way). "Please pray for him," it ended.

The next day, Roger died. It had something to do with a case of tick fever and a relatively soft object that wound up in his intestine. It wasn't hard enough to prevent x-ray penetration, and apparently took on a roundish shape.

They offered to do a post-mortem, but it would've been expensive and wasn't really worth it. (For the record, George once swallowed a pebble from the garden, and was operated upon successfully. That was some years back; I think in late 2003).

He was so small, that he could easily slip out of the house through the spaces between the gate's vertical metal bars. So, we fixed a netting across the lower portion of the gate using twistine wire.

Yesterday morning, I set about undoing the twistine to remove the netting. George had taken his bath earlier (while I was asleep), and was drying near the gate. I told him, "We don't need the twistine anymore; Roger's gone home."

Immediately after saying that, I realised it was true. When Roger first came, I told myself that we would look after him as if he were our own (that would only be standard hospitality for any stranger or guest under our roof), and until his owner came to claim him.

That person, it is now clear, did come. He said, "I am the master of this dog. From my hand he came, and to my hand he will now return."

I look forward to meeting Roger again.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Originally uploaded by mincaye.
d'NA Stage 3 begins tomorrow (well, actually, today). I've so much to blog about the recent trip to Alor Star (see picture), but this is not the time.

For now, I just want to make two brief comments regarding two significant journeys in my life thus far.

TMsquared, Soo Tian and my joint blog, is not dead. It is our adventure together, and so long as both halves are alive and in contact with one another, TMsquared is alive. I shall return to it after d'NA.

The link is on the sidebar; do feel free to hop along on our journey, or maybe eavesdrop from time to time. The beginning (sometime June 2004) would be a good place to start.

On the second journey, this song was played in MPH Mid Valley just now; I have not heard it in a long time. Here's to you, my friend, whatever the future might hold for us.

Perhaps Love

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home

Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself
And don't know what to do
The memory of love will see you through

O love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
Some say they don't know

Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict full of change
Like a fire when it's cold outside
A thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Way of the Heart

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I read this book while on the Alor Star adventure, from which Yen, Ming, Shern Ren, Joan and I returned early this morning.

The book is divided into three parts: solitude, silence and prayer.

Went through solitude on the way up north, silence while at Soo Tian's place, and prayer on the way down.

Really deep. And if In the Name of Jesus is anything to go by, this Nouwen book will only get better over time.

So many starting points for reflection, and this is not the time for it. I have yet to read again, go slow, and let the words sink in this time.

Will write about it some time in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Waters of sacrifice, waters of life...

baptism, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Tee Ming was baptised on Sunday, 27 November in her church, SS Gospel Centre. Alissa, Jon, Tee Keat and I were there to witness it.

I believe there are two things inherent in the act of baptism; a challenge and a promise.

The challenge is to surrender all that we are to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. No one has expressed it more bluntly than he, and I quote from Luke 9;

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."

Even children are familiar with the song;

I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back

Prior to the baptism itself, a two-fold question is asked:

"Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that in believing in him as Saviour and Lord you shall have eternal life?"

Yet I am inclined to think that baptism goes beyond that. I think it is a public declaration of the decision to follow Christ, and this probably reflects much of what I have written in the past week.

As for the promise, we need only look at the baptism of Christ himself;

"At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."

The Spirit descended. It should come as no surprise, for I am not convinced the Spirit does not at that moment indwell the believer who has decided at baptism to follow Christ, with no turning back.

This is our assurance. Later in his life, the apostle Peter wrote;

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

When we decide to surrender to God, he promises his Spirit to counsel and to comfort, to strengthen and to guide. The unforced rhythms of grace begin to work when we let go... and let God have his way.

On that night, Tee Ming recited a poem she had written not too long ago, and I think it is an excellent prayer;

Only You know what's in my heart
All the little things that are troubling me so much
It may not be an issue to somebody else
But You know exactly how I feel

I hate myself for being so emotional
Taking things as if it were the end of the world
Why can't I take it as others do
To live each day as it comes

You have always been here for me
Why can't I seem to trust you and lay everything down
For you are far above all my tears
You're the almighty, loving God

Love me, I pray,
Help me fall lost in your embrace
Let me sleep well, rest well and free myself
To die to self and live again in you

Words, so many words,
Do I have to say so much?
Don't you already know
What's in my heart?

Surrender, surrender, O my soul
To your Creator...

(The painting of the waves I did with my art teacher, Mr Apollo Hui, in June 2001. It seemed to suit the occasion, and rests now in Ming's house)