Monday, July 31, 2006


(Just a note before I begin: I intend to finish this post by midnight.)

I turn 19 today. Which means I have exactly a year left to make fun of the 'aunties' out there, i.e. Yen, Tien, Mich and Hwei Ling. Next year, everyone in their 20s must be considered young, and only those in their 30s will be aunties and uncles. Finally, when I touch 40, I'll probably end up subscribing to the FES marriage conspiracy; the older you get, the younger you are. :-P

Anyway, here's a BIG thank you to those who wished me yesterday and today, including (but not limited to): Leanne, Sivin, Su Lin, Dinesh, Miss Shanti, Siti Zulaika, Ming-Shien, my classmates, Victorians, and the d'NAers.

And thanks for the presents; I'll blog on them someday.

So what did I do this year? Eat, eat, eat!

First, it was lunch with the d'NAers yesterday; Soo Tian, Tee Ming, Yen Yen, Tee Keat and Joan. We were joined later by Joan's friend, Kay Jin (also an 'Ong'!).

There are some reasons why I can never date Soo Tian: we'll take forever to decide where to eat. (We eventually settled on Nando's.) There are some reasons why Joan cannot navigate: we ended up walking to the opposite end of the mall when the restaurant was just two floors below us.

Clockwise from top left: Joan caught in between the gay guys; July babies (Ben 31st, Yen 15th, Kay Jin 13th); Kay Jin's new style of drinking Sprite; Tee Ming and her cousin, Tee Keat. All pictures by Tee Ming, except the last, which I took.

Then Mum treated me to the performance of Handel's Messiah at Menara PGRM last night, which ended the Yin Qi Music Centre's Sacred Music Festival 2006.

In school today, I met up with several 'twins': Huey Ping of Lower Six, Izleen of Upper Six Arts 2, and Weng Kit of Form Five:

At the hour of my birth (10-something in the morning), I was with Miss Shanti and Li-Shia, outside the canteen. Later, also within the hour, Mum SMS-ed me while I was in Li-Shia's class:

"I'm in the delivery room. I'm going to have a baby. I'm so excited. I'm going to be a mother soon. Oh! A baby boy! Fast forward... 19 years later... In a classroom in VI, a fine young man is studying. (I hope!) Happy B'day son."

(For a moment, I actually thought she was really going to have a baby at that time!)

Then it was today's lunch at Swensen's Leisure Mall with Mum and Sara. Unfortunately we sat at table 32, not 31. Sara gave me one of her Alphabet fries; the letter 'B' which is sitting on top of my black pepper seafood pasta:

Finally, dinner with my family! Mum loves outdoing herself. Tonight we had marmalade roast chicken. ;-)

The dinner table...

...and the family at dinner.

In between, I did something unusual: I gave my dogs a bath! Decided to go wild a bit, and besides, they needed a bath. So I took on both George and Ryan at the same time...

...and joined in the fun as well! :-P

Miss Shanti SMS-ed me this today:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's chile has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day
Is bright and blithe and bonnie and gay.

Wednesday's child is full of woe. And I wonder, why do we love even those who are full of woe (whether or not they were born on Wednesday)? Surely it is NOT a morbid fascination with despair that draws us to compassion, mercy and love. I think the answer lies somewhere along the lines of a God who loved us enough to become one of us, despite us being children of the worst sort of woe.

I've always been a man of words, sometimes few, often many. Some spoken, others written. And upon reflecting on the last few years, I really thank God for bringing music into my life, that it may not be merely dull with words: for people like Mrs Chang and Soo Tian, above all, who opened doors to realms I never knew existed, and who instilled in me a passion for music.

Another thing is photography. And for this I also thank God, for it was He who declared, at the creation of this universe: "Let there be light!" Photographers are cheaters; we only know how to manipulate light, for we cannot create. We can only capture; we cannot summon something out of nothing.

Whether in words, music or images, God has graciously and incredibly revealed Himself in my life through these media. I am only a servant, a steward: one who has been given the task of using words wisely, of manipulating light responsibly, of causing this spirit of dust to sing to the glory of its Maker. May God be merciful and allow me to do this as long as I have breath, as long as I celebrate the anniversary of life.

Which path from here? Shall I pursue my passions; literature, photography, biology? Or shall I put up with Chemistry and Mathematics as well, in order to do well enough to pursue a degree in medicine? I think of Patch Adams; if ever I become a doctor, it will be, to a large degree, because of him.

I realise the following year seems to be coming in three phases: August through November, December though March, and April through July.

Phase 1 will be a time of much-needed focus, for I'll need to study hard for the STPM, which is in November.

Phase 2 will probably be a time of unwinding and reflection.

Phase 3 will most likely be a season of gearing up for challenges ahead.

The earth lies fallow in winter, in order to prepare for the warm currents of spring, before blazing forth with the bounty of summer, and finally settling down to the backward glance and contemplation of autumn. As seasons change, so do men.

Inspired by 2 Corinthians 10:4...

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

...and James 5:16...

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

...Petra wrote the song 'Get on Your Knees and Fight Like a Man' in the late 80s. On the whole, I think the lyrics sound like something from a Positive Thinking book, or an Anthony Robbins seminar. All but the first four words of the chorus; 'Get on your knees...'

The kingdoms of this world are kingdoms of power, not weakness. Men don't fight by getting on their knees; no, they hold their heads up high. But the Kingdom of Heaven is different. It is a kingdom of peace, a kingdom of sacrifice, a kingdom of discipleship and righteousness, a kingdom of servanthood. Big words, one link: Jesus Christ.

If, on the night of the greatest battle of all, Jesus could get on his knees, why can't we? If, in Gethsemane, where the forces of darkness were all gathered, Jesus prayed, why shouldn't we? Moses, Elijah, David, Paul and so many, many more, were men of prayer. Even Jonah, the 'anti-prophet' as I like to call him, prayed.

And one of the greatest challenges that lie ahead in this coming year is probably best expressed in this song. Not just because I need to pray more, but because I really need to learn that I can only stand tall on my knees; that the only power I have is the weakness of God; the only wisdom I have is the foolishness of God; the only strength I have is my infirmity, in which God's strength is made perfect.

Get on Your Knees and Fight Like a Man

Out on your own with your own self reliance
You've got no one to watch your back
You find yourself caught with no strong alliance
You've been left open for attack

Over your heard the condition is graver
You've given ground you can't retrieve
The cards are stacked and they're not in your favor
But you've got an ace up your sleeve

Get on your knees and fight like a man
You'll pull down strongholds if you just believe you can
Your enemy will tuck his tail and flee
Get on your knees and fight like a man

Under the gun, you've got no place to hide out
Backed in the corner on your own
This is one storm you are destined to ride out
One way to leave the danger zone

You've got the backbone to fight this tide
You've got the will to survive
You've got the weapon, it's at your side
You've got to learn to confide

As God has begun, so will he complete. (Philippians 1:6)

(Didn't quite go as expected. It is now 12.48 a.m. on the 1st of August. Li-Shia called a few minutes ago, to be the last person to wish me a happy birthday. "Imagine it is still 11.50 p.m. yesterday," she said, for that was when she wanted to call. But I was trying hard to blog before midnight, so I postponed the call. Failed anyway. Nevertheless, I'm setting the clock backwards, so this post will still appear on 31 July, for I want it documented as part of July. The time indicated below is the time I started blogging.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Picture of the Stalkers in the water tank area, in the roof of the Seminari Theoloji Malaysia Chapel. Last night of d'NA 2005. For some reason, I recalled this picture, and just thought I'd put it up here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life in Dry Bones

In the book of Ezekiel, there is this account:

The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "

--Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NIV)

Indeed, it is this that came to my mind when I visited Jon Gan on his 16th birthday yesterday. He's suffering from brain cancer, and his body is pretty much wasted; he is now tube-fed. But these words of Ezekiel came to my mind when I saw Jon, and I was encouraged in the face of what seems to be a crushing, crippling blow to a young man's life.

The little quote (is it from a song lyric?) at the end of Li-Shia's most recent post;

It will be you and I up in the sky...

reminds me of something T.S. Eliot wrote;

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Some thoughts

The verses that inspired the Petra song, 'Falling Up':

The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.

--Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)

At first, I was only looking for the verse that has the phrase, 'through a glass darkly', but the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 13 is worth reading in its entirety. It uses the word 'charity' instead of 'love' as in other translations, and this helps shed some light on charity, the greatest of loves:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

--1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV)

From today's Poetry Speaks selection, a quote by Naomi Shihab Nye:

Poems allow us to savour a single image, a single phrase. Just think how many people have savoured a haiku poem over hundreds of years. It slows you down to read a poem. You read it more slowly than you would speak to someone in a store. And we need the slow experience with words.

This morning, as I looked through the lyrics of 'Memory', two verses seemed leap out of the page at me:

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Touch me, it's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me you'll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun

So much yearning for a new life, a new beginning. It's not that I don't appreciate where I am, what I am; believe me, the memories are wonderful. But I mustn't give in... there must be something more.

Every time I drink 100 Plus at recess, I seem to fall asleep sometime later in the day. Last week it happened twice, both during Maths class; today it happened during Chemistry, though I wasn't in class when I fell asleep this time. Have I been drugged?

Monthly test this week. It'll probably be my worst performance yet, as I've been extremely out of touch with lessons lately. But I'm not afraid to fail; I think I need a break from being at the top. I need some time off, but not to worry... I shall bounce back for the trials, and by God's grace, for the STPM proper.

I'm very proud of the girl with the new spectacles, who seems all fired up to study lately. Good for you, and all the best!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shrunk by a Shrink?

Specially for Soo Tian and David, and all shrinks and shrunks everywhere; today's Poetry Speaks reading:

from "Essay on Psychiatrists"
By Robert Pinsky

II. Some Terms
"Shrink" is a misnomer. The religious
Analogy is all wrong, too, and the old,
Half-forgotten jokes about Viennese accents

And beards hardly apply to the good-looking woman
In boots and a knit dress, or the man
Seen buying the Sunday
Times a in mutton-chop

Whiskers and expensive jogging shoes.
In a way I suspect that even the terms "doctor"
And "therapist" are misnomers; the patient

Is not necessarily "sick." And one assumes
That no small part of the psychiatrist's
Role is just that: to point out misnomers.

Meet the True Victorians, 2000-2006. Thoroughbreds who've spent all seven years in the VI.

Front row, L-R: Helmi, Kah Loong, Kian Ti, Phak Hoe, Lik Wen, Phon, Boon Chong, Aizuddin, Chun Hong, Hazim, Jinq Sien, Afri, Wai Loon.

Back row, L-R: Lau, Chien Fei, Mok, Fareez, Santokh, Aminudin, Ben, Ashan (2001-2006; honorary True Victorian), Tinesh, Vincent, Yee.

Wai Loon decided to try something wacky. I like the way his thumb looks 'curled' around the front face of the Clock Tower:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Three Songs

(I originally typed this entry before the Doulos one, as I was waiting for the photos to load onto Photobucket. And I had some problems with transferring the photos to Blogger, so I had to manually edit the HTML code for the pictures in the Doulos entry. Although this story comes after Doulos, feel free to scroll down and read the Doulos Photoblog first. I would recommend it in that order.)

Three songs.

One heard while in the jeep, on my way to my grandmother's house after the Doulos trip.

Another I played on the piano this morning.

The third through my discman, just before sleeping last night, and again this morning.

* * * * *

Kelly Clarkson

Written by Matthew Gerrard, Bridget Benenate and Avril Lavigne. (I'm not sure if Clarkson herself had a hand in writing the song.)

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I just stared out my window
Dreaming of a could-be
And if I'd end up happy
I would pray (I would pray)

Trying not to reach out
But when I'd try to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me
Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here
So I pray (I would pray)
I could breakaway

1st Chorus:
I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky
I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I love
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean
Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
And breakaway

1st Chorus

Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging around revolving doors
Maybe I don't know where they'll take me but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway

2nd Chorus:
I'll spread my wings
And I'll learn how to fly
Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk
Take chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway, breakaway, breakaway

Of all her songs, I like this very much, besides 'The Trouble With Love Is'. While in the jeep last night, I was soaring along with the song.

* * * * *

Memory (alternate lyric)
From the musical Cats

Words by Trevor Nunn, after T.S. Eliot

Daylight, see the dew on a sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses wither away
Like the sunflower I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day

Memory, turn your face to the moonlight
Let your memory lead you
Open up, enter in
If you find there the meaning of what happiness is
Then a new life will begin

Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Burnt out ends of smokey days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

Sunlight, through the trees in summer
Endless masquerading
Like a flower as the dawn is breaking
The memory is fading

Touch me, it's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me you'll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun

'Memory' is a classic. But the musical omits three verses from this seven-verse version written by lyricist Trevor Nunn. This 'alternate lyric' just goes to show how much he was influenced by T.S. Eliot.

Virtually every other song in the musical uses words written by Eliot himself in his book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, but 'Memory' incorporates themes and images from Eliot's other poems, such as the line 'burnt out ends of smokey days' from his poem, 'Preludes'.

* * * * *

If I Had to Die for Someone

Words by Bob Hartman. Music by Lonnie Chapin and John Elefante.

I wear my seatbelt in the car I buckle up for safety
I run for cover from the storm
I wear a Band-Aid on my knee I look both ways when crossing and I flee
Any danger I can see

And if I try each day to save my life in every way I can
How could I understand the way
You died for me

'Cause I don't know if I could even if I think I would
If I had to die for someone
If I had to die for someone else
How could I ever give my life to set the guilty free
When I cannot imagine
If I had to die for someone else like me
Someone else like me

I keep away from falling rocks and I don't play with matches
I lock the door I don't know why
It seems to me I'm much too old to wear a scarf out in the cold but
I want to live until I die

I guess I love my life a little more than I should love it
And if I had to I don't know if I could
Lay it down

And I am glad that You are not at all like me
'Cause You laid down Your life and did it willingly
It still amazes me to know
It's me that You were thinking of
No one else could have a greater love
A greater love


I don't agree with certain elements of Petra's theology, but their anthemic songs are in that tradition from which U2 emerged, and they are very inspiring. This is the first song from their album God Fixation, which I bought from Doulos yesterday, and it almost instantly asserted itself as a classic in my ears when I first listened to it.

The song was inspired by John 15:13, in which Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

When I heard the chorus, I was gripped by the staggering nature of Christ's sacrifice for us. Paul writes;

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

--Romans 5:7-8

For 'righteous' and 'good' people, someone might possibly dare to die, though rarely. But Christ died for sinners--the Holy One for thankless parasites. I cannot imagine dying for someone like me, but God gave His life for the scum of the universe.

What kind of God is this?

* * * * *

Lately I've been wondering if God might be calling me into full-time ministry.

Maybe I've been keeping too much company with staffworkers from SU and FES.

Maybe repeated encounters with Doulos over the past week or so had something to do with it.

Maybe it was because I've been going to seminary over the past three years.

Maybe it's none of the above, or all of the above. Maybe there's something else.

I just feel some sort of prompting/prodding in that direction.

Doulos: a Photoblog

I've never done this before, but the Choir Conductor demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique in one of her recent posts. It is now my turn to prove the supremacy of Blogger to Xanga. ;-)

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the midst of the second draft of my essay when my parents and Sara returned from the Marriott, Putrajaya. My parents decided to drop by Doulos in the evening, since we failed to do so last weekend. So I rushed the essay and e-mailed Miss Shanti.

The ship at dusk:

It was my brother who first noticed Darryl, who is volunteering for three days on Nigel's invitation:

We were met onboard by Nigel, who is back on the ship after five years:

He brought us into the ship for a tour, beginning with the Multi-Purpose Area (is that what it's called?).

This certificate from the Guinness Book of Records says: "MV Doulos. Oldest active passenger ocean-going ship. Built in 1914 in the USA. Operating now as an international educational and Christian service vessel." International indeed; the volunteers come from over 40 countries. None are paid; in fact, all pay to serve. For Malaysians, each volunteer has to pay about US$450 (no joke). Usually they are supported by churches, friends and family.

This picture of the ship is a montage of all the people who have ever served on the Doulos, according to Nigel. He's still trying to find his face:

We visited, among other places, the laundry room (usually the girls serve here, as the guys do the hard labour on deck)...

The balai bomba...

The bakery (fresh bread baked daily)...

The passage leading into the Engine Room (the sign reads 'Engine Guys')...

And the dining area, where singles sit on one side, and families on the other:

This is a shot of the Book Exhibition area, which has been drawing in multitudes of visitors day after day:

Most of the books are old, and so are the CDs in the Music section:

But old is a good thing, as I managed to find these rare albums by Petra (1998's God Fixation and Petra Means Rock, a compilation of their hits from the 80s):

I ran into Darryl again in the storage area near the Music section. I thought to myself, "Hey, that guy behind the curtain looks familiar!" (OK, come to think of it, looking at guys behind curtains might sound just a little suggestive. :-P)...

Finally, after purchasing the CDs, a Doulos ship model kit and a keychain, I set about looking for Audrey and Michelle. Being a sucker for books, I was sidetracked along the way, and spent a minute or two browsing through the place where they had the 'Buy a Doulos bag for RM25 and fill it with any three books' offer.

I was tempted to pick up a Maths book for our aspiring Arts Stream mathematician, but my wallet wasn't too keen.

Eventually, I ran into Aud upon descending a flight of steps next to the 'Doulos bag' tent. At that time, Mich was in that room on her left--on the phone or something. They were selling Doulos T-shirts:

"Doulos T-shirt and Starbucks coffee for RM25!" So I bought a set. Between the Mocha (can't remember if it was hot or ice-blended) and the Caramel Ice-Blended, I opted for the Caramel.

Here's a picture of the Starbucks kiosk onboard the Doulos:

Some people have a weakness for rich, creamy, ice-cold Caramel Ice-Blended frappuccinos... *nudgenudge*

The customary group photo before going home...

And a shot of my family with the ship in the background. Notice how the ship's cross-shaped mast stands out against the darkness?

Near the car park, I saw this giant leafy plant. I thought it might be some dinosaur plant, what with its humongous size. (Stop laughing, Denise! :-P)

And just as I began this entry with a shot of the ship at dusk, I shall balance the ending with one from the same angle, but taken at night:

It was an awe-inspiring experience. Like Denise, I think I just might serve on that ship sometime in the not-too-distant future.

This is not the first time I've thought of serving on a ship. After visiting a naval base during NS last year, I entertained the idea of joining the Navy someday. I'm still considering, actually.

And the girl with the braided hair knows how much I want to swim with whales before dying. Perhaps I'll find myself on a National Geographic vessel in time to come...

After all, I've already been serving on a ship for nearly seven years: the school's Christian FellowSHIP! (Stop groaning, Denise, heheheh...)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thoughts after CU...

At Reunion, I asked David what would happen if the entire record of conversations between d'NAers were made public. He said something along these lines: we'd be blacklisted by most (if not all) churches and Christian organisations. Then I asked him if there was anything at all that could be said in favour of the d'NAers, given our failure to pass the 'sound theology' tests. He said, we accept one another.

At the Christian Union meeting today, I came face to face with this truth again. We had our meeting in 4 Hijau, one of the classrooms in the Art Block, a.k.a. the most inconspicuous corner of the school. Our meetings were always held there, until we moved to the Lecture Theatre block last year. Anyway, today's meeting brought back many memories.

Those present, besides me, were:

Lai Nai Kiat, Form 2
Lai Nai Lim, Form 3
Earnest Victor, Form 3
Edwin Siew, Form 3
Siew Wai Hung, Form 4
Kennard Lai, Form 4
Gustave Oon, Form 4
Wilson Lim, Form 5
Daniel Chen, Lower 6
Rebecca Wong, Upper 6
Shantini T., Upper 6

I realised that to some observers, the list above may read more like the city's Most Wanted Criminals. But over the years, that's the reality of the Christian Union. We're not a bunch of polished saints, but stumbling sinners trying to find our place in this world. Maybe the hardest thing to believe is that such fellowships of ragtag misfits all over the world, have all been ordained by God.

As the verse in the picture above says, let us not give up meeting with and encouraging one another, spurring each other on towards love and good deeds. When we introduced ourselves today (because Daniel was a newcomer), Kennard said, "I don't have a church, but I still believe in God." And I realised that over the years, the CU has been 'church' to many of my friends, like Huai Zhi, Paulvinder and Li-Shia--people who would otherwise have no contact with a Christian community.

This reminds me of the question that has been floating on the Emergent Malaysia mailing list for some time: is it possible to be unchurched yet faithful? Given some thought, I think my answer is no; it is very improbable to be unchurched yet faithful. But in saying so, I don't think church should be limited to buildings and denominations. This journey of faith cannot be undertaken alone, and so if we make it to the finish line, it will be because of others like us, who have supported us along the way. In that sense, this community of 'supporters' is our church.

It is often easier to turn to our neighbours in church or any Christian group and say, "How can this person call himself/herself a Christian?" that it is to remember God's grace to us. Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we are saved by grace alone, and not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. Shall we not then live and let live, by the grace of God? Why should we withhold from others the forgiving grace that God has so freely poured into our lives?

Reading Michael's blog today, I found lots of food for thought. Here's some:

We are inherently bad. I think the problem with us Christians is that we think we are inherently good. So when we sin, we tend to think we have failed God or Satan has won or something like that. As i pondered more and read the bible and reflected on life, i have come to the conclusion that actually, sinning is something natural for us. And when saying 'natural' i mean we do it without even thinking - it is part of our human nature. Therefore even without God or Satan, we will sin naturally.

The difference then is that by becoming a Christian, we have been given the ability to do good. The Holy Spirit enables to do good works for the glory of God and mankind. It is not a natural thing but through a supernatural act of God. To do good, we need God to enable us.

Therefore i think in the morning when we pray, we need to ask God to help us do good. Stop concentrating on our sins because if we do so, it will only damper our spirits. I remember Paul stating that he prayed 3 times to God to take away the thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12) but he was reminded that in his weakness God is made strong. Strong for good works, strong to do God's will.

Michael may be a father again!

Yes, Wuey Ping and i are going to be parents again though it is never confirmed till the first three months is up. That is the I and + for those who has not seen a pregnancy kit before. We are vary of informing this news as anything goes. Why now, well i do hope you all will continue to pray for Wuey Ping as she carries this child. And also for protection on the baby. I have heard and seen many people who have suffered miscarriages lately and we can never take anything for granted. All needs God's constant grace and protection. We are indeed in need of both.

There's even more evidence that FES is consolidating its part in the Marriage Conspiracy:

Hi! Today has been a horrible day for me. I have come to some conclusions about RELATIONSHIPS and i would like to drive in some friendly advice to all you couples out there who have graduated.

1. If you have been a couple for more than 2 years of graduation, please GET MARRIED!

2. If you are NOT MARRIED, girls, please give you boyfriend an ultimatum - "Either tell me why or buzz off!"

3. Girls if you are the reason than tell yourself the same thing.

4. If money is the problem, then ask your boyfriend, "are you collecting money for your own self, or are you just using this as an excuse!"

5. If it is really an issue, then can i ask you why? Money can never be the security of a relationship! It is faithfulness to each other and to God which ensures success!.

6. And finally, all you couples out there, if you are NOT MARRIED, please and i say please many times over, DO NOT BUY A HOUSE TOGETHER!

Well that's all from Michael's blog. Quite overwhelming, no? Well, that's Michael!

I don't know why there's been some reference to the May 13 Incident, both on Michael's blog and the Emergent Malaysia mailing list, in the middle of July. But the Emergent one seems somehow related to some supposed racial heckling at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Watch the video here.

Miss Shanti just SMSed me. Here I punctuate for clarity:

Years pass us by without us realising it because so many lessons are learnt in that span of time. You have your 2-in-1, 3-in-1 or 100-in-1 happenings on one storyboard occurring at the same time at varied venues to varied people, that with so much to absorb at one go you take time to do so. Perhaps that's why time does not pass us by fast enough. However, when a particular scene presents itself with persons, belongings, ideas and all else deemed important--time assumes a jet set speed and we wonder where time has soared off to. We long for meaningful time with all that we consider precious to us but are often deprived of time to do so.

She and I are thinking very much of this year's MPH Search for Young Malaysian Writers competition, the theme of which is Time.

In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes asks Bruce Wayne, "What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?" This is before his pilgrimage out of Gotham. When he returns, Rachel tells him, "It's not who you are inside, but what you do that defines you."

Throughout the movie, it seems that this is Bruce's struggle: to translate his conviction into action. And Batman is the expression of that. I realise that although Batman is merely fictional, the 'moral of the story' is not: what we do, and who we are inside, are often different people. Sometimes well-meaning people do bad things, and sometimes they do nothing.

Is it because of fear? Maybe. I think fear expresses itself differently in different people. In that light, Batman has something we don't: a physical mask. Only behind the menacing fa├žade of a bat, is he brave enough to do what he knows he should. Maybe we're afraid because we cannot hide like he does; when we face up to something, we make ourselves vulnerable.

Back to square one. In d'NA, no less than in the CU, we are vulnerable people, stripped of our pretenses. When I first entered the VI, I was ushered into a world where seniority dictated the pecking order. The CU was a breath of fresh air, a community where seniors never lorded it over their juniors, where I could talk to a senior as to a friend. Audrey once quoted C.S. Lewis's words in The Four Loves, applying them to what she thought of d'NA:

We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts.

And so, even in neighbourhood reunions (like SS2 would be for Shern Ren and Tee Ming, and Putrajaya for Sam), the whole environment is transformed into this 'neutral ground'. I felt it was the same in the CU. At this point, I still do. And on neutral ground, there is no weakness in vulnerability, simply because we see each other--to borrow a Lucado phrase--as soldiers longing to make it back home safely.

There is no humiliation, only humility. And there's nothing to lose and nothing to fear, for perfect love casts out all fear. And because God is love and God is perfect and God is with us, I think fear doesn't stand a chance.

I told Li-Shia via MSN Messenger a minute or two ago, that we often invest in those in whom we see ourselves. Somehow all these random comments, these sparse fragments... they all seem eerily related to one another. Everything about the people in d'NA and the CU--the friends we put so much hope in, the friends we trust, to friends who trust us--it really echoes what Lewis wrote at the end of the chapter on friendship:

A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work.

I tend to talk a lot, and I think I might've just spoken out of turn.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thoughts on Resting

Some verses that came to mind.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

--Genesis 2:1-3 (NIV)

Max Lucado once remarked that God took a break on the seventh day, and the world didn't fall apart. What makes us think it will if we follow suit?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

--Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)

I think it was also Lucado who mentioned that this is the longest of the 10 Commandments, due to the detailed explanation given to it.

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.

--John 19:28-31a (NIV)

This was a special Sabbath because it occurred during the annual Jewish Passover. The work of redemption, as with that of creation, was completed on the sixth day.

Perhaps sometimes the best thing we can do under pressure, is rest. I mentioned that even God rested after creating the world, and Li-Shia said, "I wonder why." So do I. Did God need the rest? Surely the Almighty could have continued running the world without rest. Was He merely setting a pattern for us? If so, it doesn't seem to be a very satisfactory explanation.

All I know for sure is that God rested. And it seems he rested after the crucifixion too, as his first resurrection appearance was on Sunday morning after the Jewish Sabbath, which falls on a Saturday.

A poem by E.E. Cummings

From the Poetry Speaks calendar, 20 July. All punctuation errors are the fault of the poet: Cummings is notorious for these things.

maggie and milly and molly and may
By E.E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

On the reading for 19 July, Christopher Sawyer-Lau├žanno commented:

The mystery that is identity is the focus of 'Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May': the four girls are described as who they are by what they find at the beach. The sing-song of the rhyme belies the deeper intent, which is that who we are determines what we seek out in life. What the girls find, in some sense, is predetermined by our own natures, for the objects retrieved are neutral. It is what we see in them that create their value. Or, as the last couplet concludes, 'For whatever you lose (like a you or a me)/it's always ourselves we find in the sea.'

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Walk on, Choir

At least two people have said this about me and my SLR: "You look like a National Geographic photographer." Come to think of it, I really wouldn't mind working for National Geographic someday!

Yesterday, at the Choir State Finals, I broke my record for most photographs taken in a continuous session. At the Science & Maths Fair, it was 50 per hour, for a total of 300 in six hours. Yesterday, it was about 80 per hour, totalling some 400+ in five hours. It was so draining, that in the evening, my left arm ached and I couldn't even hold a fist.

Before going any further, allow me to introduce the VI Choir. In the front row, from left, are Adi (conductor, 2003-2004), Shazlan (founding member and coach), Chiam (bass, 2003-2004 if I'm not mistaken), Li-Shia (conductor, 2005-2006), and Stanley (pianist, 2005-2006):

But without an audience, there would only be rehearsals (in the words of MPO Conductor Matthias Bamert). Introducing the supporters, from left; Melody (alto, 2005), Len Yi (alto, 2005), the photographer, Wee Kee (Li-Shia's friend), and Michelle (choir conductor, SMK Taman Melawati):

The choir improved on their dismal season last year with a strong showing to claim Second Place this time around. Convent Bukit Nanas were crowned Champions, boasting what I consider to be a sound vocal arrangement (no pun intended) of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Think of Me and probably the best pianist of the tournament.

But the VI will always be my champions, simply because the VI is famous for doing what no other school ever would: dare to take the road less travelled. The VI's Choir don't just sing; they mesmerise, inspire and uplift. Shazlan wrote their second song, Satu Suara, Satu Hati, Satu Fikiran (also dubbed the 'Triple One'), and I think it is one of the finest songs, not just of this year's competition, but of all the songs I've heard in the last few years.

While other schools sing songs like Do Re Mi and Sing a Song of Sixpence, the VI has been known to programme heavy works like To Those Who Came Before Me and A Heritage of Hope and a Legacy of Love--songs which are not only harmonically demanding, but also thematically challenging. It's one thing to sing in pitch and keep a steady rhythm, but an entirely different challenge to make an audience feel, to take them somewhere else in a song. And the VI does that so well.

With the 'Triple One', Shazlan has truly shown that he is to the choir what Bono is to U2, and I look forward to many great choral pieces from this budding composer. Amidst the sadness of being so close, and yet so far, I realised that the VI's four-year victory from 2001 to 2004 was always taken for granted. Success can inspire; but defeat often teaches more valuable lessons. Like progress, for one. Li-Shia and Stanley have come so far over the last year, performing with so much more energy and enthusiasm this time around.

In many ways, I am grateful that over the last seven years, I've only won one essay competition, one debate tournament and one Forensics gold medal. And these I won in the last year I could participate; the essay and medal this year, and the debate in Form 5. My failures far outnumber my triumphs; but whenever the 100th blow breaks a boulder, it's always the 99 that came before it that really caused the damage. So it is that no failure has ever stopped me from carrying on.

My journeys have taken about five years each, but none of the active members of the choir have had more than two years of experience. Yet I see in them a flame that, though weak now, can erupt into a blazing fire someday. Li-Shia, if you're reading this, I'm still waiting for you to win Best Conductor in a major conducting competition, and I'll be there for the Gala Performance when you conduct a professional choir in the future!

Thinking of success and defeat, I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling's words in his poem, 'If':

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master;
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same...

Why imposters? I think triumph can breed complacency and also turn passion into pressure, while disaster can shatter the spirit and kill enthusiasm. Dreams and thoughts always point to a greater reality, to something other than ourselves. But the moment they become goals in themselves, we have turned our world inwards; we live for nothing but ourselves. So long as the adventure is undertaken for its sake alone, and not for winning or losing, we can and will profit much.

The 13th chapter of Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life is called 'Trust LITTLE Deeds', and reading it yesterday, I felt it spoke to the events of the morning. Here are some quotes from the chapter:

"Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?"

--Zechariah 4:10 (The Message)

Many things start small. Like the early church following Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension. Or even the life of Jesus, which began in a manger in some obscure corner of Bethlehem. Jesus himself said:

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches... The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough."

--Matthew 13:31-33 (NLT)

Lucado asks:

Where are the Romans who crucified Christ? The Epicureans who demeaned and debated Paul? The Gnostics who mocked the early church? And the great temples of Corinth? They dwarfed the infant church. Do worshippers still sacrifice to Zeus? No, but they still sing to Jesus.

And he ends the chapter by quoting John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church:

God inhabits the tiny seed, empowers the tiny deed. He cures the common life by giving no common life, by offering no common gifts. [Wesley said,] "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." Don't discount the smallness of your deeds.

It's not just about the choir; it addresses virtually all small beginnings. The little things like essays written, words of encouragement spoken, prayers said but unheard by anyone else... God notices all these things. I speak from experience. I'll always remember the day Kenneth (Christian Union president, 2002) prayed with me in 2000; he was in Form 3, I in Form 1. It was raining heavily and I was in the class where we usually had our prayer meetings. No one else was there, but he spotted me and said, "I'll pray with you."

He probably doesn't remember that day, but I do. And I've never forgotten the lesson: there is no number too small, no adversity so great, no darkness so powerful, that a good deed cannot be done. A seed can be sown in the midst of a hurricane as much as in calm weather. I've never given up on my juniors because me seniors never gave up on me; all that I am, I owe to them. Our lives influence others, for better or worse. And so I find God's words justified: do not despise the day of small beginnings!

Enough words. I'd like to introduce what I consider to be the best picture of the day. The zoom-through worked perfectly on this shot, and there is both a feeling of static stability and fluid motion here. A choir works by allowing melodies to flow freely, yet work cohesively on a foundation of harmony; I feel this is the visual representation of that concept:

Back in school, we witnessed performances in the VI by the Melbourne High School Boys' Choir and the Hong Kong Yip's Children Choir. I still wonder why the performances were held after school, when there's hardly an audience available. At least the choirs from St Mary's Secondary School and SMK Cheras (both also finalists, with St Mary's emerging second runners-up) came to watch as well.

And then, almost out of nowhere, Kok Kin appeared after the show. He's back with a Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE), and will be staying till the end of the month. He suggested the following shot, and likes it very much. I've decided to call it 'Spaces':

I sent Li-Shia this SMS the day before the competition:

I've been encouraged by the choir over the last few weeks. Surely you'll bring the walls down tomorrow. Go out there, wave your arms BOLDLY, sing your hearts out! Give thanks to GOD whatever the outcome, for He's given us ears to listen and voices to sing. May your performance bring glory to Him alone, and maybe a tear or two to me. An HONOUR to know you ALL.

Pretty ironic. I looked forward to hearing the choir. But I didn't manage to, as I was busy taking photos. Perhaps next time I'll hang the camera and just sit back, relax and enjoy. ;-)

At any rate, the journey doesn't end here. I think it's just beginning. Congratulations, VI!

(Note: the Finals this year was at the Old VI, just like last year. It's now called the Taman Budaya, NOT Laman Budaya as I erroneously stated last year.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Falling Petals

Went with Li-Shia, Ryan, Shook Mun, Eka and Pn Ambigai to the Taman Budaya (NOT Laman Budaya as I erroneously spelt last year), a.k.a. the Old VI, to survey the venue for tomorrow's Choir Finals. I'll be taking photos again, but this time I intend to make bolder moves and try less conventional angles. The catch is this: their performance lasts only 6 minutes, so I'll have no room for mistakes.

The picture above is of the choir practising this afternoon. That's Pn Sharifah Shafinaz's husband waiting for her outside the hall; I didn't know who he was until she appeared. Anyway, watching the choir practise from outside the hall made me realise something: this is what the VI is all about. This morning the school pledge somehow struck a chord; the line 'to develop our talents and potentials' resonated within me.

After a great weekend with the d'NAers, I saw something in school today that had 'Icing on the Cake' written all over it:

(Didn't bring the SLR today, so couldn't manage a wide-angle shot. Had to split it up in two: one of the flowers on the tree, and one of them on the ground.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Upon returning to the real world...

It is only fitting that an entry on a d'NA Reunion begin with a picture that says it all: d'Noose Academy!

Just in case you were wondering, that is NOT a noose! And d'NA is actually d'Nous Academy, nous being the Greek word for 'seat of emotion'. Soo Tian and I came up with more uses for the poor massage gadget (below) than Drew Carey and co. probably would have on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, much to the amusement of the others.

We had lots of fun with Yen Mii's inflatable mattresses, as you can see below. That's a triple-layered sandwich, with Shern Ren (who looks very cheeselike here!), me and Tee Keat as the filling.

Yen looks very sultry here, doesn't she? Go into modelling, Dr Leong Jr!

No d'NA Reunion is complete without the customary group photo. Having exhausted various positions, we opted for the human pyramid this time, which is an enlargement of the tiny pyramid at the bottom-left corner of the picture. Going row by row, from left to right, beginning at the bottom: David, Tee Keat, Zheng, Shern Ren, Ming, Soo Tian, Joan, Yen Mii, Yen Yen, and the photographer right on top.

I arrived a day late, as I had a lunch to attend in Seremban. My maternal grandfather's sister celebrated her birthday yesterday, and she wanted the whole family present. So we had various relatives coming from as far as Germany, Singapore and Ipoh (her hometown) for lunch at the Regent Restaurant. By the time I reached SS Gospel Centre yesterday afternoon, Audrey and Sze Yao had already left. And by the time Sunday dawned, Soo Tian and Zheng made their exeunt.

And so there were only left eight of us who attended church this morning. We visited the PJ Evangelical Free Church (PJEFC) on Shern Ren's invitation; it's also Yen Mii's church. We managed to locate Dr Ng Kam Weng (genius in physics, Greek culture and philosophy and co-founder of d'NA) there. Meet the d'NA Football Team:

We talked with Uncle Kam Weng about various issues, but two gems stood out. First, he advised us to write on issues, not ourselves. "When you are 75, then you can write a book, My Thoughts," he said. The second is this: "When you're in love, don't philosophise! Be a poet." We will remember this as the reunion in which Uncle Kam Weng put his hand on David's shoulder when talking about relationships and marriage...

And Joan will also always remember this reunion should her actions below come to fruition, heheheh. :-P

So much for the photo highlights. This reunion really meant something to me. The last few weeks have been somewhat devoid of direction and purpose, but the past twenty-odd hours have been immensely encouraging and purposeful.

When the Doulos volunteer from Papua New Guinea shared in Ming's church on Saturday, I was reminded of Isaiah's words in Isaiah 6, when God asks, "Whom shall we send?" and Isaiah says, "Here I am, send me." (For the record, it was also the material of one of the night's rhyming heresies: "Here I am, Yen Mii.")

On Friday night, the gang went to PJEFC for the Doulos International Youth Night, and this morning Pastor Pil-Hun Park of Doulos was the guest speaker. Perhaps it is ironic that we had so many encounters with Doulos, yet I didn't have time to drop by the ship itself before heading for the reunion, which was the initial plan. But the birthday lunch was delayed, so plans changed.

Pastor Park's message was something I needed to hear.

Making a reference to the feeding of the five thousand, he said, "It doesn't matter if you've got only one fish and half a loaf of bread, instead of two and five respectively, as the boy had. The power of the miracle is in God." He continued, echoing the words of the guy from Papua New Guinea, "We're ordinary people, but God can use us to do extraordinary things."

His message was taken from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, focussing on three main themes: work of faith, labour of love, and endurance of hope. Some of the things I will always remember are these:

"When we cannot endure ourselves, we should come back to Christ."

"The work of faith is to invest ourselves in the lives of others. Things pass away, but people remain." [Li-Shia would note that this resembles the words of Charles Schultz on Rauf Fadzilla's blog.]

But it was truly the ending that capped it all. He recalls his experience as a deckhand on the Doulos, saying: "We can make it to our destination only if we keep coming back on coure, for many things will disorient us. If we are heading south, which is at a bearing of 180 degrees, we might look out to the right and say, 'Hey, dolphin!' and forget to steer. Thus we might end up heading 175 degrees. Se we must correct ourselves and return to the right course, following the navigation chart."

After so much going off course, it's high time I get back on track.

But that's only one part. This morning, before the rest awoke, I was reading Max Lucado. On page 69, he quotes from Ephesians 1 (The Message):

It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

--Ephesians 1:11-12

The NASB puts it this way:

[In Him] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

The phrase 'in Christ' reminded me of Steven Curtis Chapman's song, 'I am Found in You':

The sun sinks low and here I go
Wrestling with questions that refuse an answer
This path of faith can be a place
So barren of what I understand
I can her the voice of fear
Saying let me show you another way
So I cry out my Lord, Jesus
It's in Your love for me
I find all that I need

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

I may not see in front of me
But I can see for miles
When I look over my shoulder
And Lord, it's clear
You've brought me here
So faithful every step of the way
What can I do but follow You
For You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life
And You've promised never to leave me
My Saviour, my friend
From beginning to end


Lord, without You
This child would be so lost
But I've been found in You
And now I'm bound to You
By the love that you've shown
It will not let me go

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
All I've been made for
So there's no where else I could go
I am found in You

Last night I dreamt that I was beneath a very starry sky. This morning, at whatever quiet time I had, after reading Lucado and checking Ephesians in my pocket NASB, ideas for the MPH essay poured in. And I began to understand the role of the stars in my dream.

I went into Saturday with a fair degree of trepidation, for I recalled Michael's warning at d'NA last year, about me hiding behind my camera. I can do that quite well, and in so doing cut myself off from really interacting with people. Thanks be to God, that the camera wasn't abused at this reunion. With these friends of mine, I can be who I really am, without fear, without a mask.

I'll miss them; Ming, David and Yen are probably having dinner at this moment. I had to come home this afternoon; anyway, I was tired too, and needed some time to recuperate before launching into tomorrow. At least I get to put this entry up.

It's been a great weekend, but now reality beckons. Yet as Kim Cheng said just now via SMS, we're attempting to live an ideal in the midst of reality. To me, that's what life is about, and it's great to have fellow sojourners on this same road. Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Perfectly Knit

(I composed this entry before the previous two, but am only posting it now, as I wanted it to go last.)

Poetry Speaks calendar, today:

Of Three or Four in a Room
By Yehuda Amichai

Of three or four in a room
there is always one who stands beside the window.
He must see the evil among thorns
and the fires on the hill.
And how people who went out of their houses whole
are given back in the evening like small change.
Of three or four in a room
there is always one who stands beside the window,
his dark hair above his thoughts.
Behind him, words.
And in front of him, voices wandering without a knapsack,
hearts without provisions, prophecies without water,
large stones that have been returned
and stay sealed, like letters that have no
address and no one to receive them.

Mum bought The Prince of Egypt for Sara yesterday. Brings back memories, that movie, not the least of which is the Oscar-winning theme song, 'When You Believe'. Thinking of Moses, I can't help but wonder:

Why did God allow the Israelites to suffer for four centuries before saving them? Why did God subject Moses to exile, only to summon him at the age of 80? Why did God lead Moses and the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land, only to tell Moses he couldn't enter because of a stupid mistake? Why did God put up with Moses' excuses?

But these are merely speculative questions. What actually stirred me just now, was the sequence in the movie where Miriam (Moses' sister) watches the journey of the papyrus basket containing Moses. The biblical account in Exodus 1 and 2 doesn't say much, but the movie suggests that it had a rough ride into the hands of Pharaoh's daughter.

Pharaoh ordered that all the Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile; they were to be drowned. In that sense, Moses followed suit. But God delivered him, and perhaps Moses himself was meant to be a sign of deliverance. The symbolism of the Nile seems to stretch beyond that, as it also reminds me of baptism, which represents death and resurrection.

As I think about purpose and value and the whole 'what's-the-point-of-living?' question, I am reminded of Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

--Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)

The piano tuner came to school today (the owner of the centre where Valerie used to study ages ago). Looking at the inside of the piano, the word 'knit' comes to mind; the verses above seem to go very well with the picture below.

A Great Day for Photography

Today was an excellent day for photography, and a new personal record for me. I took over 300 shots in about six hours (between 7.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m.), which averages some 50+ shots an hour!

There were so many pictures at the end of the day, so much so that for the first time since I started digital photography in late 2004, I had to sort out the photos from a single session into several folders. Seven, to be precise: Consumer Club, Continuous Shutter, MNS Talk, Photo Shoot, Piano Tuner, 'Portraits' etc, and Science & Maths Exhibition.

Here's Valerie riding the 'hovercraft'. It really hovers!

Wai Loon 'taking a photo' of Valerie, Tsu Wern and Li Ling with a cardboard model camera:

Some of the students of Lower Six Biology-Physics (L6BF) who were involved with the exhibition/fair. What an enthusiastic bunch they were, posing for photographs almost non-stop! And to think these are the people who will sit in my class next year; the school is in good hands, muahahahahaha...

At about 11.30, Valerie, Tsu Wern and I made our way to the Lecture Theatre for some talk by a representative of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). It all started late, and eventually Tsu Wern and Kian Ti left. But while the theatre was still empty, I got this shot of Kian Ti at the door. He looks like some alien that just landed on earth or something!

Finally, what I consider to be one of the best shots of the day. Nothing artsy about it, just that this angle would never make it into the Victorian (the school magazine), for obvious reasons. So I decided to go wild with the 18mm wide-angle (I was within four metres of the subject, so that's how wide the wide-angle is!) and used the flash to bring out the committee and teachers of the VI Science & Mathematics Society.

All in all, I think the day was enjoyable simply because I've not had this kind of opportunity in a long time... probably since the Leadership Camp earlier this year. And the FRIM trip lacked subject variety. Then again, I didn't have the SLR then; a new age has indeed dawned!