Wednesday, May 31, 2006


This morning, I read a poem by Roger McGough. I enjoyed it very much, for it rings very true.


Half-term holiday, family away
Half-wanting to go, half-wanting to stay
Stay in bed for half the day.

Half-red, half-listen to the radio
Half-think things through. Get up,
Half-dressed, half-wonder what to do.

Eat half a loaf, drink half a bottle
(Save the other half until later).
Other half rings up. Feel better.

Watched The Da Vinci Code with Fang Hai, Li-Shia (who is enjoying an Ice Blended Banana Mocha) and Rebecca today. We parted shortly after this picture was taken, but not before we managed some wacky shots...

Contrary to our facial expressions, Fang Hai and I are not 'bord.' (Actually, I only realised the homophonal connection between 'bored' and 'bord' when sorting out the pictures just now.) Behind us is the Alternative Medicine aisle. None of the books listed cures for diseases such as 'Fang Hai' and 'Benjamin.' In fact, such ailments were not found in any of the volumes there.

Inspired by the assassin Silas in The Da Vinci Code, and in part by Darth Sidious of Star Wars. (Denise, notice how my hands resemble the forelimbs of certain predatory dinosaurs?)

Here I am, Li-Shia's guardian angel. Standing behind the glass seems to have imparted to the better part of my body (namely, my jacket) a somewhat reflective and luminous quality.

So what are my views on the movie?

Firstly, if you like Ron Howard (the director), go watch his 2001 Oscar-winning movie, A Beautiful Mind. It succeeds much better as a thriller, besides also being more intelligent and emotionally gripping. The acting is also excellent.

Secondly, I stumbled upon a yet-to-be discovered relic from the Renaissance. It is called 'Audrey Tautou.' The female lead in the movie is so one-dimensional, she could even be a sculpture by Michelangelo and no one would know the difference!

Thirdly, if you want to debate history and/or religion, do NOT seek out Dan Brown's story. Even the transparent and flimsy Gnostic Gospels appear to offer far more to chew on.

Fourthly, Hans Zimmer disappointed me. I like his work on The Lion King, The Last Samurai and most of all, Batman Begins, but the music he composed for this movie was by and large forgettable.

Finally, what effect did the movie have on my faith? None whatsoever. I am convinced that when Jesus said he is the truth, he meant it. Simply put, a viewer, unless he has absolutely no opinions of his own, will walk out of the cinema believing the very things he believed in when he walked in. The movie has literally zero persuasive power.

However, one thought lingered even while I was taking my shower just now. Near the end of the movie, Dr Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) suggests that Jesus was a good man, and need not be divine as the Biblical Gospels claim, in order to do what he did. Part of me nearly agreed, but then I immediately recalled John Irving's words from his book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, that if we do not believe the resurrection, we are not really believers.

Jesus is no mere man, however great. He is God. I believe that because only God can conquer death. And because I believe no grave ever kept Jesus in, I know him to be my Master and Lord of all creation. If this is not true, then Jesus was a liar, and life would be rather inconsequential. But if it's true, then it's something worth staking my entire life on, come what may.

May our Father in his wisdom lead us. Amen.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A visit to Seremban

Joan and I travelled down to Seremban yesterday on Sivin's request, to help with the week long course he's giving on Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in Youth Ministry.

It was a good experience; we were 'interviewed' by Sivin, and later fielded questions from his students. Along the way we talked about the impact and influence of d'NA, our experiences in church and the school Christian Fellowship, and the roles played by mentors, parents and friends in our walk with God.

Just before leaving, we popped by the STM library. It's quite a nice place, and we noticed that its copy of Eugene Peterson's The Message desperately wanted wear. Looks like the translation isn't a hot reference source for seminarians!

None of the following is true, although it was mentioned during our session: Mr Sherman Kuek lectures in the B.Th. (Bachelor of The Heresy) course at STM, and is willing to publish the entries on TMsquared via his company, SK Publications.

Being at STM brought back memories from some five months ago. This year, it'll be d'NA Stage 1 for Joan and perhaps RP2 (Rewind, Pause, Play: School Leavers' Camp) for me.

While awaiting the Komuter, Joan and I saw this cat in the railway station. It was huge, and kept giving us that sneering, sideways glance.

We were in the first coach on the journey to Seremban (she hopped onto the train at Nilai), and the last coach (or so we thought) on the way back. It was only much later (at the Seputeh station, to be precise) that I realised we were actually on the first coach, as the journey back was in the opposite direction.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Truly Good Friday

Teachers' Day was a success on the whole. Many thanks to Stanley (second from left) and his team from the Audio-Visual Resource Board for doing a great job with their new equipment despite a few slip-ups in the first half of the day. Kian Ti (third from left) and I were thrilled to finish everything by noon, in spite of the programme being somewhat delayed after the first half.

Fang Hai gave a speech and Ms Magdalene coordinated the events.

And Li-Shia, if and when you read this, just to let you know: you did a good job! ;-)

But the greatest thing that happened on Friday was this: the mess of five Fridays ago is over and done with. For those who have been supporting the editorial board in prayer, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart, especially Sivin, Soo Tian, Tee Ming, Denise, Li-Shia and Ching Yeng.

From left: Jino, Lik Wen, Tinesh, Ben and Keeshoore.

God's Testimony

evolution?, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Several days ago, while revising for the Biology exam, I came across the theories of convergent and parallel evolution.

Convergent evolution is the acquisition of similar characteristics in distantly related lines of descent, such as wings in 'unrelated' species like insects and bats.

Parallel evolution is the acquisition of similar characteristics in related lineages without it being present in the evolutionary ancestor, such as similarities of wing pattern in some species of butterflies.

Sylvia Mader, who wrote the Biology textbook I use, added, "It is sometimes difficult to tell if features are primitive, derived, convergent or parallel."

I think that's a whole load of nonsense, and a preposterous waste of time. Observe the creatures in the montage above. Do their similar rest postures indicate common evolutionary ancestry? Well, if you think everything came from a single pseudo-bacterial cell, you'd believe anything.

Rather, I believe that the similarities found in the natural world point not to a common ancestor or to coincidental convergence, but to another word beginning with the letter 'c': a Creator. It is not uncommon for creative people like artists, musicians and writers to employ signature styles and patterns in their works.

That very morning, as I was reading Mader's book, I thought of Psalm 104:

Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent

and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;

they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.

You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.

They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.

The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.

The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.

You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.

The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.

The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.

Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.

There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.

When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works-

he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.

But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD.

Thoughts along the way...

The other day, I heard this song on the radio. I don't know the title, but the chorus was familiar. But, listening closely, I objected to almost everything in it;

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside
And learn to hide your feelings

Fly high and proud
And if you should fall
Remember you almost made it
(Remember you almost had it all)

I don't believe in any of that. Bottling up feelings only makes things worse; enough with the masks. But we often wear masks so as not to hurt others, so as not to allow our burdens to trouble those we love. Yet the mask is often not what we think it is. At first glance, Superman doesn't seem to wear a mask, but he does: Clark Kent is his mask. Likewise it is not Bruce Wayne who wears the Batman's mask, but Batman who wears Bruce Wayne.

As for flying high and proud, it seems to echo Isaiah's soaring with eagles (Isaiah 40:31), yet it is anything but. Almost making it is the same as never making it. And 'having it all' ought never to be our goal in life. Jesus himself taught and lived a life of self-emptying and servanthood, as in Matthew 20;

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Yesterday at the Homeschoolers' Family Carnival held at Acts Church in Subang Jaya, the actor David Sanborn performed a solo musical/sketch of King David's life. (Oh, only now do I realise he played the Bible character after whom he was named...) At the end of it, he pointed back to Jesus, saying that Jesus is the most qualified person we can trust, because he is the smartest and most loving of all. These words strongly echo Dallas Willard's thoughts in 'The Divine Conspiracy' and beg the question: do I really trust Jesus, or else what (and where) is my faith?

David wanted to build a house for God, but it was God who would do it for David (2 Samuel 7:5-16), and he spoke these words through the prophet Nathan;

"...Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'

"...I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

"The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever."

As I read the passage above, I felt that it exuded much power. Yet I feel there is far more to it than its Messianic implications. But I have yet to explore it in detail, and I believe I will be coming back to this portion of Scripture many times in days to come.

Two readings from the Poetry Speaks calendar, 18 and 19 May respectively:

"Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment."

--Carl Sandburg

Nurse's Song by William Blake

When the voices of children, are heard on the green
And whisp'rings are in the dale:
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.

Then come home my children, the sun is gone down
And the dews of night arise
Your spring & your day, are wasted in play
And your winter and night in disguise.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flowers today, gone tomorrow...

Exams ended yesterday. Felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, though it doesn't seem so long in retrospect. In the afternoon of the first day of exams (last Wednesday), I saw these flowers in my garden. There were only two growing in a sea of grass. Beautiful white petals...

I had no papers the next day, but went to school anyway to revise. Managed several chapters of Chemistry while some of my classmates did the Physics paper and Li-Shia endured Business Studies. After school, we captured a once-in-a-day moment on her handphone: the time when both our birthdates meet;

That day, Mum made an excellent lunch of potato chowder, lettuce with Italian dressing and French loaf with pate and garlic butter. Prior to that, I was in the garden taking more photos of the flowers (by then a third had sprung up), when Kevin and George happened to 'feel sleepy' at the same time;

The third flower bore little droplets of water from the drizzle in the early afternoon.

On the walls of Borders in Times Square (and also The Curve, if I'm not mistaken), there is a quote by George Orwell which says, "Great novels are written by people who are not frightened." I like it.

Last week, a friend asked me why I cared so much about his/her problems. My answer echoes Paul's words in Galatians 6:2; "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

There is an account in Luke, where four men carry their friend, a paralytic, to Jesus:

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

Together, these inspired Steven Curtis Chapman's 'Carry You to Jesus.' And his words are what I would tell this friend of mine; that I will carry you to Jesus, even if I don't understand your pain... especially if I don't understand your pain.

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’ve given 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

Within two days of my 'photoshoots,' the flowers wilted. Perhaps this is what Jesus alluded to when he said (in Luke 12);

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

And if God cares so much even for the halcyon grass, how much more he cares for us! Amen.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Of Watches, Words and Weirdos...

On Thursday, 11 May, I gave Li-Shia her present. After opening it, she said I seemed to have a halo above my head. Apparently, it's still there today. Come to think of it, she also looks angelic in the photo above, probably due to the beautiful lighting in the Editors' Room.

So, what was in the box? The montage above is a strata-by-strata look at the contents. On the floor of the box was the Swatch, planted in lavender potpourri. Above it was a framed photo of Li-Shia (the classic dandelion one that's somewhere on this blog) on a bed of cotton. On the third level was a list of notable 13 May events in history, a CD including Haydn's 'Clock' Symphony (the one she heard performed by the MPO and fell in love with) and a card with a photo of her on the cover. Finally, the topmost layer contained the essay I wrote on 'Balanced Education' for the MUET trials (Pn Jaya gave me full marks for it) in a sea of assorted Hershey's Kisses.

To date, I have discovered seven Swatch-owners in my form. Five of them are (clockwise from top-left) Denise with the 'star' piece she recently received for her birthday, Phak Hoe with his Handwerker (from this year's Spring/Summer Collection), yours truly with a limited edition Olympics 2004 Swatch Irony, Yin Ching with a colourful Swatch she acquired some six years ago and Wilson with his Once Again from the Swatch Core Collection.

The other two are, from left, Lik Wen (he changed the strap) and now, Li-Shia with her Lovely Lavender from the latest Summer Collection. The watch on the right is my other Swatch, From Russia with Love from the James Bond commemorative collection.

Today was somewhat interesting, photographically speaking. That's a shot of me and Kian Ti wearing our neckties early in the morning; we happened to be standing next to each other, with our ties in the same position. Thanks Li-Shia for taking the photo. The other picture is of Suzanne and Li-Shia. Looks like Suzanne the Tomato has turned into Suzanne the Pumpkin!

Later in the morning, while waiting for the other students to clear the canteen after recess, I scribbled on her arm various words relating to the presents I gave her.

After a dramatic 'sinking' episode with her driver's window where we parked, next to the horticulture room, we eventually returned to the Form Six block and walked to the canteen from there. We were technically off from school today (due to MUET speaking tests, final day), and so had freedom to visit the canteen anytime we wanted to.

The scribbles began with Li-Shia writing 'Thank You' on my hand with Jian Ting's Faber Castell pen (I think it's the sort used to write on overhead projector transparency sheets), and me replying on hers. Below is a close-up of her Lovely Lavender which is, to me, more than worthy of its name.

p.s. Twelve chapters of Maths down in four days. Now to attack twelve chapters of Chemistry within three-plus.

On Mother's Day

food!, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Mum brought my grandparents, Kevin, Sara and me to Santini at KLCC for lunch yesterday. Dad was in Pangkor for an office event.

My grandparents had the Mother's Day set, comprising a scallop and salad starter, capsicum and prawn soup, cod fish for the main course and a chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream for dessert, capped with coffee and tea from Gloria Jean's.

Mum and Sara shared a spaghetti vongole (spaghetti fried with clams in olive oil). Kevin had a pizza topped with pepperoni and olives, while mine was with beef ribs.

Dad returned in time for dinner; Mum's beef stroganoff spaghetti was most wonderful! We got her the Swatch Mother's Day special, Flower Wishes, which is a leather-strapped watch studded with crystals, from the Skin series.

A great Mother's Day for the greatest of all mothers, simply because she is mine!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Now, Phase 3...

Since Phase 2 of the Great God Experiment began, many things have happened, as my recent entries surely testify. From calm to conflict, back to calm again... and more conflict. Like a never-ending cycle. But on the whole, there have been more joys than disappointments, and I thank God for that.

Celebrating the birthdays of three May babies (Ming, Soo Tian and Li-Shia) was certainly one of the highlights of the past two weeks. And tomorrow is Li-Shia's mother's birthday... so here's wishing Mrs Chan a Happy Birthday in advance!

It's been a good time, musically speaking. I memorised the piano score of 'Close to You' by The Carpenters within 30 minutes, the night before the Drama Prelims; I think I was trying to outdo myself, as I am usually terrible when it comes to this sort of memory.

Somehow it seems that the lyrics of Elton John's songs are easier to input than Mathematics...

I very much enjoyed the three concerts I attended at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas: the Elegance Series concert on 7 May, the sarod one on the 8th, and last night's stunning performance of Shostakovich's 11th Symphony, Ravel's 'Piano Concerto for Left Hand', and Vaughan Williams' brilliantly atmospheric 'Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.'

Paul Mann (below) conducted the Elegance concert and last night's.

The rat dissection on 5 May was an enjoyable experience, and I actually kept part of the skin after that. I might, however, discard it as it wasn't very well-preserved.

In the first week of May, Li-Shia and I exchanged handkerchiefs... well, scents actually. I wanted her to spray her perfume on my handkerchief, and she wanted hers washed with my fabric softener. I returned her hanky on the day of the Drama Finals, and turned it into a bandanna. (There was also some drama with one of her contact lenses early that morning).

At the National Museum, where the competition was held, Li-Shia spotted a train numbered '531'. She simply had to read it backwards, spelling out her birthday (13 May)... ;-)

Matthew SMS-ed me on Friday night. Christie fell off his bicycle, got cut above his lip and broke his nose. Underwent operation yesterday morning and is currently in stitches (NO lame pun there, just in case any smart alec is wondering).

Anyway. It's about time for the Great God Experiment, Phase 3. I failed to achieve what I hoped for in Phase 2; there were already so many setbacks in the first few days. Whatever the next few weeks may hold, I am just praying for God's grace to see me through and keep me safe. Exams are starting, and I doubt much will happen. Nonetheless, I'm not taking anything for granted.

Pastor Linda preached this morning from Numbers 13 and 14 (the spying of Canaan). It was a message I needed to hear. She summarised those two chapters into a story on 'Grapes, Giants, Grasshoppers and God.' The grapes represent blessings, while the giants represent problems in the way. And these problems are the things we cannot face alone; sometimes, we are the problem. Often, we may feel like mere grasshoppers, but it is worse still when we influence others (as the ten spies did) into thinking they are grasshoppers.

But the ten spies forgot one factor: God. Joshua and Caleb had God-focus. And the moment Pastor Linda said those words, I immediately thought of the lines from Jeremiah 32:17;

"Ah Lord GOD! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee."

Speaking of God-focus, I think Eliot was right when he wrote in 'Little Gidding';

"...You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid..."

Is anything too difficult for God? No. Not the Giants of Canaan nor the giant boulders of life. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mould me and make me, O Lord... this is what I pray.

Dancing with the Dinosaur

This is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, from his album Heaven in the Real World. It was inspired by Acts 24:16, 2 Corinthians 1:12 and Hebrews 13:18.

I think Denise might find the title amusing ;-)

Dancing with the Dinosaur

Once upon a time not so long ago in a land not so far away
Right and wrong were not quite so hard to know
And black and white were not so gray
Times have changed and now it seems
Conscience has gone the way of the dinosaur
But I believe it's still alive and well today
In the hearts of those who will stand up and say

I'm dancing with the dinosaur
Living my life with conscience and conviction
I don't want to see the truth ignored
So I've gotta keep on dancing
I've gotta keep on dancing with the dinosaur

There's a banner waving saying tolerance will set you free, it's the
latest thing
While the consequences it leaves behind are like a ball and chain
But there's a voice in everyone called conscience
That's been around since God created man
And as we learn to listen to its whispering
We'll find the greater freedom when we stand up and sing


Right is right and wrong is wrong just like it has been along
We cannot sit by and see conscience become history
So come on, get up and dance
Dance this dance with me

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Have been studying lots of Maths lately. Just took a short break to enter two poems, and check Li-Shia's blog (she's finally posted something after such a long time!).

It's her birthday today, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY LI-SHIA! (Some pictures from Thursday coming up soon, after she puts hers on her blog, that is).

From May 11 and 12 respectively, Poetry Speaks calendar.

Silence by Marianne Moore

My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat--
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth--
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.

[I love the part from 'they sometimes...' till '...but restraint']

Beware of Things in Duplicate... by Dana Gioia

Beware of things in duplicate:
a set of knives, the cufflinks in a drawer,
the dice, the pair of Queens, the eyes
of someone sitting next to you.
Attend that empty minute in the evening
when looking at the clock, you see
its hands are fixed on the same hour
you noticed at your morning coffee.
These are the moments to beware
when there is nothing so familiar
or so close that it cannot betray you:
a twin, an extra key, an echo,
your own reflection in the glass.

Going for an MPO performance tonight. Shostakovich's 11th Symphony.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What are we really looking for?

From the Poetry Speaks Calendar, 10 May.

On Certain Wits

When Moses in Horeb struck the rock,
And water came forth our of the rock,
Some of the people were annoyed with Moses
And said he should have used a fancier stick.

And when Elijah on Mount Carmel brought the rain,
Where the prophets of Baal could not bring rain,
Some of the people said that the rituals of the prophets of Baal
Were aesthetically significant, while Elijah's were very plain.

--Howard Nemerov

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Two Pictures

This is for Denise. Read: smiley dinosaur ;-)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Reflections from Isaiah

The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread,

and he will be a sanctuary;
but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.

--Isaiah 8:13-14 (NIV)

From Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord by Charles E. Hurlburt and T.C. Horton;

Where is thy place of worship? Where, in the turmoil of the street; where, in the busy cares of home; where, in the hurry and confusion of men, shall our souls find the place to pray? "He shall be for a 'SANCTUARY,' closer to thee than breathing, nearer than hands or feet." At any moment during all the hurried day thou mayest be hidden from all earth's eyes, and still from all earth's din. Only abide in him.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.

--Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

Thanks be to God, the meeting with Mr O. of the school admin went well today. Denise thinks it's because Mrs V. was there.

Today it occurred to me that above and beneath the tumult the board is passing through, we each only want to get our job done. We, being unable to soar as eagles, are merely praying not to faint in our walk.

God's not done yet.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Hatty Birthday! (and other observations)...

Went for dinner with Soo Tian, Tee Ming and Yen Yen on Friday night at Subang Parade. Took the long way from the Komuter station, met up in MPH, dined at Dave's Deli, and capped it all with dessert at Baskin Robbins. Both Tian and Ming were born on 5 May 1987.

The montage above features the four of us wearing Soo Tian's new 'hat' in different styles. Taken at Baskin Robbins.

One thing we learned: never hire Soo Tian to promote your book, especially if it's the Gospel of Judas. He'll say, "This is the Gospel of Judas, retailing at 83 ringgit here in MPH... but you can get it for free off the net!"

One of the songs sung during worship at church this morning had a line that went, "I will sing." It reminded me of Don Moen's 'I Will Sing.' One of my favourite Moen songs, it was inspired by Habakkuk 3:17-18;

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

Pastor Vincent spoke on The Da Vinci Code, the Bible, and combatting heresies. Interestingly, the high point came after his sermon: he prayed that we would be like the Bereans who searched, and checked what they heard against, the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

And it struck me that God was already preparing us for the year ahead with the KL/PJ SCF Leaders' Convention themed The Berean Call. I'm inclined to think that Nigel will agree that this is indeed God's master stroke in reaction to a world permeated with lies, deceit and illusions; to raise a generation of people who are rooted in His Word, who will stand for His truth.

In the wake of much confusion, intellectual chaos and spiritual anarchy, will the apprentices of the Christ take up the Berean call? Only they can answer.

This morning, I awoke at four-something. Somehow my body didn't seem tired (though I did sleep on the way to church), and I got through a bit of writing for a friend. As I was thinking of a suitable poem to incorporate, Stave IV of Eliot's 'Little Gidding' came to mind. I eventually chose Stave I of 'Burnt Norton,' but the former seemed to require some mention on the blog nonetheless.

If I'm not mistaken, I've quoted the excerpt here before, but perhaps not in this context. Recent events have led me to identify with the apostle Peter, and when I read the poem this morning, the two 'fires' reminded me of Peter's two fires: first, the fire of denial where he warmed himself; then, the fire of redemption which Jesus prepared on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

Michael Schumacher won the European Grand Prix. Woohooo!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

From Shanti with Love

I couldn't bear deleting many of the SMSes Miss Shanti sent me, and some I sent her. So I'm going to 'store' them here. It'll probably seem like some pages torn out of a diary.

7 Jan 2005 (Shanti)
"Sweetheart, it'll be nice if you could get those whom I've taught or worked with in V.I. to visit my class of 79-80's website at One of the many best things that I've done for myself -- reunite with ol' pals. Everyday is a new chapter."

17 Feb 2005 (Shanti)
"Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast, nor is it proud. It is not rude, selfish, or easily angered. It is forgiving. It does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:4-8. An all time favourite of mine from the Bible. I've always believed in your ability... And these past few years in your commitment to our cause. You will do us proud and whatever the outcome as a team tomorrow... You have my utmost respect. My sincere appreciation for all the assistance you have provided me simply because we are Victorians. With hugs and God bless. Rock that theatre tomorrow!"

[She quoted my paraphrase of the Corinthians passage. This was sent the night before I won the Silver Medal at the 2005 Forensics. 'We' refers to the V.I. Literary and Debating Society (VILADS).]

14 Jan 2006 (Shanti)
"You did address the issue well... Religious, historical knowledge does aid with application of ideas and philosophies to current scenario. Liked the way you rated the order of importance of issues that'll ensure the peace process continues. I foresee you as one of Malaysia's/World's thinking and visionary minds Ben. God bless and thank you for being a part of my life. Teach."

[This was after I gave an extemporaneous speaking demo to several juniors. The topic given by Miss Shanti was regarding Ariel Sharon and peace in Palestine. That very afternoon, Sharon appeared on the TIME magazine I received through the mail. Sharon would later be one of the topics for the Extemp Finals. I received the SMS while in my grandparents' house. 'Teach' here means 'teacher', not some encouragement to teach in the future.]

21 Jan 2006 (Shanti)
"Decisions made early in life saw you through the number of rounds you got through over the years and I believe that progress and advancement does come with years, age and experience. My advanced congratulations to you Ben. You will always be a pleasure to work and have discussions with. But of course... most of all to be with as a friend near and dear to me. Forever in my mind and treasured in my heart. Not flesh of my flesh but near the same. God bless."

[I was commenting on the fact that I gave more and more speeches at the Forensics each year, indicating my continuous improvement over the years. From 2 in 2002, through 4 in 2003, 6 in 2004, to 7 in 2005. This year, I gave 10 speeches in total, out of the 12 possible (which I also desired very much) had I reached the Finals in all events.]

24 Feb 2006 (Ben)
"This is the 29th Forensics Tourney, and tomorrow, I'll be giving my 29th speech in 5 years. Really full circle, no? I began in the deep end, and now I'm back. Eliot comes to mind ;-) 'By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace was not in vain.' -- 1 Corinthians 15:10. Thanks for seeing us through, Teach!"

[The 'deep end' is Extemporaneous Speaking, considered one of the hardest, if not the hardest event in the Forensics.]

24 Feb 2006 (Shanti)
"Speechless and teary eyed for the myriad blessings I have been showered with. I love you all dearly from the bottom of my heart... Have little incandescent shrines built in there for all 22 of you eternally. Take care and shine bright tomorrow. Teach always."

[Sent as a reply to my SMS (see above) on the night before this year's Forensics Finals. I would go on to win a Gold Medal, and our team of twenty-two would be crowned Overall Champions.]

27 Feb 2006 (Shanti)
"Know you are writing the report for the Forensics without me asking. Ben, it's an unwritten request that's in both our hearts. I would like for nothing better than for you to write the report as an outgoing gesture. A move to different pastures but never our of our lives at V.I... mine especially... 'Sides I'm in awe of you and your fluidity with words with hearts attached to them... each and every one. You'll be publishing your novels and persuading the citizenry of the world with your spoken and written word. That I be alive to see that day is my only wish Ben mine. Much loved and ever cherished. God bless and hugs..."

1 Mar 2006 (Shanti)
"I absolutely love it B! Short of screaming out in joy and peace of course! What you wrote is etched in my heart... my whole being actually. How we feel, how we think, how we jot our thoughts with love, conviction and in life-giving blood... effusive... the only way to go... body, soul, mind and heart! You are worth more to me than any precious entity. Love always."

[After I gave her the book The Case for Peace as a thank-you gift. I chose it because it comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- something that has 'extemp' written all over it. And 'Shanti' means 'peace' in Tamil (or is it Hindi?)]

29 Mar 2006 (Shanti)
"Believe you addressed your conversational piece of writing in as wholesome a manner as possible. 'I/in this case its you bud forth delights like the vine.' Ecclesiasticus. Ben, never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can make a difference; indeed, it is the only thing that ever really has. Margaret Mead. -- Always, Teach and peace to the world."

[A comment on my essay for the Malaysian Scientific Association's essay-writing competition, themed 'Science for Humanity.' Results aren't out yet at present. I'm not sure what the Ecclesiasticus quote means.]

31 Mar 2006 (Shanti)
"Simply 'cause it's your year and God has worked his plan via his vicegerents to see the silver lining and the golden aura at the end of your life as a student at V.I. and to see that both glows grow in intensity and remain with you beyond your lifetime... And to be remembered where it all started."

[I asked her, "Why is everything this year on science and shalom?" (My Oratory piece for the Forensics was on grace and peace; my Extemp Finals topic was on stability within the Muslim community in Iraq; the NST-LimKokWing essay topic was on scientific advances; the upcoming INTI-Kojadi essay competition is on inter-racial friendship and peace in our pluralistic society.) 'To be remembered where it all started' is probably a reference to our favourite T.S. Eliot lines in the fifth stave of 'Little Gidding.']

31 Mar 2006 (Shanti)
"You are to some extent a product of science and to a great extent a blessing of God... and you're definitely living a life of shalom... So blessed to be a part of your life Ben. Hugs."

[Here, she's referring to the Hebrew meaning of 'shalom,' which is deeper than the 'peace' commonly understood by most people. Hence, I can safely say that the life I'm living is in actuality far from this 'shalom.']

1 Apr 2006 (Ben)
"Nay, 'tis not shalom yet; till we behold the sun that never sets. Tho' all seems said and done, there arise new peaks i' th' midst of familiar scenery ;-) Hugs back."

[This was a reply to her SMS above. 'New peaks in the midst of familiar scenery' was a phrase used by a critic to describe U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The English used in this SMS was influenced by Shakespeare's Hamlet, which I was reading at that time.]

22 Apr 2006 (Shanti)
"Nothing great has ever been started by a committee... And as George Bernard Shaw once said, 'Progress is in the hands of unreasonable individuals.' -- How you made me rethink that which I so believed in Ben. You are much admired... by me of course! Hugs."

[She sent this on Saturday, the end of the Great God Experiment week. I eventually used the Shaw quote in my essay for the NST-LimKokWing essay competition. One of the things I fear is that she supports me a little too much, to the extent that she's almost always biased in my favour. And it's so dangerous, because I've been wrong so many times.]

22 Apr 2006 (Shanti)
"The art of... and the artiste -- whether writer, actor or any other productive practitioner -- may seem unreasonable, bordering on the absurd even but eventually reaping masterpiece of the best he or she has to offer. How picturesque you are with words..."

[An immediate follow-up to the previous SMS. Somehow, the past few weeks have been really, really 'experimental.' It's been a year of trials, experiments, tests, mistakes and failures. And it's not over yet. Sometimes I'm so afraid of tomorrow.]

2 May 2006 (Ben)
"A verse om the Bible: 'Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.' Someone once said that the last part says the most: for sometimes all we can do is walk, just putting one foot ahead of the other. The hope is that God's strength is perfected in our weakness. Hemingway: The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. Rest well, Teach. Grace and peace be with you."

[She was so tired and worn out after spending virtually sleepless days on end, preparing for the Drama Prelims. And most of the teachers who were supposed to help her, hardly did. I will remember the tears and the prayer and the hug in the Bilik Bestari.]

2 May 2006 (Shanti)
"How I love you Ben and more so the Lord who gave me you. Will do. Still not home."

[This was her reply to my SMS.]

3 May 2006 (Shanti)
"Hi Sweetheart, have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, in sleep in peace. God is awake. Victor Hugo. Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will give yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict... not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will save yourselves. Luke 21:14-18 NIV. Grace and peace be with you Ben mine."

[This was meant as an encouragement in the wake of yesterday's tumultous events.]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Letter to God

Dear Father,

'Twas a fucked-up day today.

Some things happened during the Drama Preliminary Round at school, that just made me snap. I think it started when I decided to wait with Valerie for the event to be over, before going for our recess. The idea was to go with Denise and Suzanne, to go together. To my dismay, after my performance of Mira, I found out that Denise and Suzanne already had their fill. During my performance... and yet Denise wanted to hear it.

Fuck. So she asked me later if I could play for her. I said, very loudly, clearly, sarcastically, and whatnot, 'NO!' And then I walked off triumphantly, with Valerie and Li-Shia, to the canteen. Lo and behold, Mr Othman was there. He's asked for a meeting with the VEB committee tomorrow afternoon. After avoiding him for nearly three weeks, I've fallen into his clutches. Double fuck.

Well I'm not rescheduling my piano lesson tomorrow. Besides, how can we possibly meet the school admin, given the present state of the board? And Pn Vasantha isn't even around! We're already in such deep shit, and now we're tangled with the admin!

My mood was totally ruined, and I was unable to even congratulate the team enthusiastically (V.I. were champions, with the Methodist Girls' School in second place). Thing is, it wasn't their fault; not Denise's nor Suzanne's nor Mr Othman's. I didn't tell the girls I was waiting for them, and Mr Othman has been in the dark so much so that I actually pity him.

Vasantha's only coming back next week. So that means if I get screwed on Friday for not showing up at the meeting tomorrow, I get screwed alone. I'm not going to notify the committee. This is not the time for meetings. Period.

Then after school, Phak Hoe had a meeting with a few of us (namely, Kian Ti, Li-Shia, Chun Hong, Debbie, Ai Ling, Wai Loon, Tsu Wern, Ching Yeng, Li Ling and me) to discuss what we, the Sixth Formers, could do for the Teachers' Day celebration come end of this month. Basically Pn Norhana has requested that we put up some kind of performance, so he's also stuck with a job he hates.

There was talk of a multi-cultural dance, a skit, games between teachers and students, and even an interactive singing competition for the teachers. Out of malice and bitterness, I suggested a sketch with a subtle message: act out the staffroom gossip and bring to light all the backstabbing, rumours and name-calling that goes on in there. I also suggested a debate between the school admin and the best debaters of the V.I.

I mean, this whole fucking idea wasn't supposed to even come about! Over the last few days, I'd planned to write a poem for the teachers, not to be recited in public, but just as a tribute to them. And now here I am, disparaging them and thinking of evil things to do, like pour sugar into petrol tanks as Jon Hwa once suggested. I am, after all, the Simian Disciple.

When I got home, I poured out a bit of rum, and added some lemon juice. Stung like hell, but if alcohol's not for drowning sorrows, what is it for?

Yet I feel sorry for my student, Jean, for I was unable to teach as I should have. When I awoke from my nap, my stomach hurt quite badly. Some honey did wonders though, and I have this to say to Li-Shia:

"Say what you will about honey,
It still heals a hurting tummy."

Thankfully the stomach ache went away, and I managed to talk quite a bit about rhetorical questions (questions that require no answer) and questioning statements (non-questions that require answers). Owing to lack of strength, I just asked her to write an essay; the topic for the MUET exam, "Education today should focus on producing creative individuals." Was supposed to begin the topic on electricity.

Denise corrected me. It was Psalm 56 the other day, not 66. Indeed, as she said, the Spirit leads. Or as U2 might put it, the Spirit works in mysterious ways. But today, she told me to read Psalm 56, so I just did.

For the director of music. To the tune of "A Dove on Distant Oaks." Of David. A miktam . When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me;
all day long they press their attack.
My slanderers pursue me all day long;
many are attacking me in their pride.

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me?

All day long they twist my words;
they are always plotting to harm me.

They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
eager to take my life.

On no account let them escape;
in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.

Record my lament;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?

Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise-

in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

I am under vows to you, O God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.

For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Father, if I do not trust in you, who else is there to trust? That is why this entry is addressed to you. My contention is with you, O Lord. What good is it for man to fight mere man? But Jacob and Job wrestled with God and were changed. Surely a dog which fights a dog can gain nothing. But the dog that survives a battle with a lion has quite a story to tell!

Ching Yeng SMS-ed me this quote by Cavett Robert: "Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds you down or polishes you up is for you and you alone to decide." And Li-Shia also messaged; "Mistakes now deter us from making similar ones bearing greater consequences in the future. So you made a boo-boo. Learn from it. What's left? Looking for the best solution. You can."

Sometimes friends can be a bigger curse than blessing. How many fucking mistakes do I have to make this year? Can't I do anything right? Maybe I should just quit the board and live life on my own, for God's sake! (...OK, for your sake? Maybe not. What is Ben, that you are mindful of him?)

I know they mean well, and they only want to help and encourage. And no one is more thankful than I, to have such patient and longsuffering friends. But I don't know which is better: to make a decision, even if it's a drastic one... or not to decide at all, and just bear with life.

Yesterday, I memorised the Carpenters' 'Close to You' within half an hour. Just because Li-Shia inspired me. But then today, the song kept playing in my head... in the midst of my fucking depression. When a positive, happy song repeats itself in a tormented mind, it's pure mockery. That's why I hate Mozart so much; the fucking guy can't seem to put a little thought or emotion into his music. All that tomfoolery and frivolity and flippancy!

Thankfully, Elton John came to the rescue, with 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road':

When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man

You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough
Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road

What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again

Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

There's that song, 'Jesus Take the Wheel'... by Carrie Underwood, I think. But Lord, isn't the wheel in my hand? Isn't the choice of where to put the rubber, mine? This is your car, your land, your keys. Yet maybe I just need to say goodbye to the yellow brick road, promising as it may be, and go blaze a trail where no one would bother going, or even dare to.

I've hurt so many people, that I cannot bring myself to believe that I should stick to this path. 'Cause I'll certainly go on hurting more people if I continue here. It's a fucked-up decision, but I feel I've got to make it sooner or later. Is it worth all the brokenness and heartache and tears? And these not mine, but of my friends?

[Soo Tian sent me a few messages via MSN. I didn't even realise that until a moment ago. He's offline now. His nickname reads, "Gift of grace -- Easter: Peace be with you." How I wish I could experience this now. But thank you so much, Father, for giving Miss Shanti grace and peace today. She looks so much more cheerful now, and I can't help smiling because of that.]

Just before our team took to the stage, she asked me to say a prayer. So I recited the one you taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
Even as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.

Yet of all the things I experienced today, one thing shook everything up, and stays so stubbornly within me: an SMS from Li-Shia.

At 6.18 p.m., during my class, I sent to her: "Stomach hurts like hell. Must be the alcohol I took just now. A shot of pure rum with lemon juice. Close to You is playing non stop in my head. Bloody irritating."

She called. We talked for awhile.

At 7.15, she replied: "Oh yes. My reply to your last SMS informing me of your pained and annoyed state would be this: ='("

I don't know what symbol that is. Probably a 'tearie' or a 'frownie'... definitely not a 'smiley.' It says so much.

God, if words are not enough, let tears speak for us. And let them speak for you, Father and Friend.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Running into Royalty

On Saturday afternoon, after the MUET exam, we played host to the annual Premier Cup football tournament between the V.I. and the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar.

The Board of Chairmen and the Prefectorial Board were to 'escort' the Raja Muda of Perak, who was the Guest-of-Honour. It turned out that all we needed to do, was form a line past which the Raja Muda's BMW would drive. Less than a minute, and our job was done.

Nevertheless, opportunists that we are, we made the most of the occasion. ;-)

These photos were taken by Wai Loon on Li-Shia's camera. First, a 'formal' shot of the chairmen who were present on that day. Contrast that with a candid shot, which does better justice to the 'real' leaders beneath that serious facade!

Wai Loon and Li-Shia. BMW, front view.

Chun Hong and Phak Hoe. BMW, rear view.

Kian Ti and me. BMW, side view.

Lik Wen and outrider's BMW motorcycle.

Phak Hoe, Kian Ti, Wai Loon, Li-Shia, me and Chun Hong stepping on the red carpet. So jakun, no? Thanks, Miss Nirmal, for taking this memorable photo that says it all!

In the Under-15 division, we won 11-0. And the Under-18 team thrashed the M.C.K.K. 7-0. It's a rather surprising outcome, as the teams almost never scored more than three goals each in the last few years.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Great God Experiment: Phase 2

On Tuesday last week, Denise told me to read Psalm 66. I did, and it was a Godsend. Verses 8-12 especially encouraged me:

Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

This morning, I searched my NIV Study Bible's concordance for 'illegitimate,' in an attempt to find the phrase 'Abraham's illegitimate children.' If I remember correctly, either Jesus or the teachers of the law said those words during one of their encounters. Instead, the search brought me to Hebrews 12.

As I read the passage in context, I sensed a new challenge ahead: the challenge to bring the Great God Experiment into Phase 2.

Hebrews 12:1-13 goes;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I have chosen Steven Curtis Chapman's 'Bring It On' as the theme song for this phase.

I didn't come lookin' for trouble
And I don't want to fight needlessly
But I'm not gonna hide in a bubble
If trouble comes for me
I can feel my heart beating faster
I can tell something's coming down
But if it's gonna make me grow stronger then...

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, maybe you're thinkin' I'm crazy
And maybe I need to explain some things
'Cause I know I've got an enemy waiting
Who wants to bring me pain
But what he never seems to remember
What he means for evil God works for good
So I will not retreat or surrender

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, I don't want to sound like some hero
'Cause it's God alone that my hope is in
But I'm not gonna run from the very things
That would drive me closer to Him
So bring it on

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let it make me fall on the One who's strong
Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let me be made weak so I'll know the strength of the One who's strong
Bring it on
Bring it on

But unlike two weeks ago, when I set certain goals, like the poem and not blogging, this week I cannot think of any. Yet somehow I know it will be an eventful week, one which is very likely to bring with it many surprises, some welcome and some not.

I can only pray for God's grace and strength to see me through. And I shall use poetry in prayer: to voice my thoughts and hopes and fears, and to express the 'unforced rhythms of grace' in words. For that is what Runa reminded me of last week; indeed, that is what NSCF 2005 will always remind me of.

Phase 2 leads on into uncharted terrain, and the only hope I have is the One who already sees all things. By His grace, I will not 'run from the very things that would drive me closer to Him.'

'Twas a fruitful day with Yen. She found the Pride and Prejudice VCD, and I picked up Elton John's Greatest Hits (special DVD + 2 CDs edition). Finally, I get to hear 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' properly. Great song.