Friday, September 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, T.S. Eliot!

Thomas Stearns Eliot, born 26 September 1888.

Here's what the Poetry Speaks calendar (26 Sept) said about him:

Nobel Prize winner Thomas Stearns Eliot is considered the greatest poet of his generation, and a major influence on future generations... Eliot's poetry can be difficult for readers because of its use of allusions, foreign and historical terms, and classical and complex images... [Eliot] expected the reader to approach poetry the way he would listen to music, understanding on an emotional level if not an intellectual one. Eliot insisted that poetry was supposed to be difficult.

And on 27 September the calendar quoted him;

"Someone said: 'The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.' Precisely, and they are what we know."

Typically, I don't understand the quote. Yet I love Eliot all the same; I find that, with Eliot's poems, understanding comes with time and a lot of patience and experience. It took me a long while to understand some lines in his poem 'Little Gidding', for instance.

Di Kor shares her birthday with Eliot. Happy belated birthday, Di Kor!

* * * * *

A thought: while we disparage the traffic police, they breathe the gas emissions from our vehicles and melt under the sweltering sun (or get drenched in rain).

Perhaps we should sing the chorus of Stacie Orrico's song 'Instead';

A new point of view
A walk in your shoes
I wish I could get inside your head
To see what you see
When you look at me
'Cause I could've lived your life instead

* * * *

Adakah ini Tingkat Babi?

* * * * *

The kingdom of heaven is like a student looking for the perfect ice-blended coffee. When she found one of great value, she went away and gave up all her lunch money for it.

Disclaimer: I am not trying in any way to rewrite the Bible. It's just an analogy that I think suits the picture very much. The 'student' here did not actually pay a cent for it.

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

--Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV)

* * * * *

I missed three STPM Trial papers...

Mathematics 1, Biology 1, General Paper 1...

It first appeared on Saturday...

And became worse as the days passed...

Until, on Wednesday, it was thought to be caused by...



Only on ThirtyOne

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ixora and Other Observations

I'm down with a fever, and the Elton John special on Star World begins at nine, so I won't be too long here. The last few days have had their share of interesting and poignant events and by-the-way observations, and I thought of putting a few of them down here.

* * * * *

This photo was taken on Thursday, opposite the school canteen. I think Li-Shia and I were heading for the Counsellor's office, when we stumbled upon these multi-coloured Ixora flowers. The red variety (in the background) are common, but I daresay it was my first time seeing the white and pink ones.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my SLR with me, or else I could've used a smaller aperture to keep all the flowers in focus.

* * * * *

Today's Every Day with Jesus reading struck a chord. Text was taken from Jeremiah 2:4-13.

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

--Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

As I read it, I thought of the well-known exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

--John 4:7-13 (NIV)

One question emerged from all this: does God sometimes wait for us at our broken wells? So often I have attempted to solve problems and endure hardship with the water from my broken cisterns... only to fall into the arms of the one True Well.

When we go to the well, we may well get more than what we bargained for.

* * * * *

Listening to U2's Achtung Baby yesterday, these words from 'Acrobat' resonated with me...

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this and act like that.
And you can dream, so dream out loud
And don't let the bastards grind you down.

...and I now know how to play 'Ultraviolet' on the guitar, thanks to my brother!

* * * * *

Poetry Speaks, 21 September:

"At first I was enthralled by certain tall, mysterious poems. Then some ordinary-looking poems that turned out to be great dancers captured me. Some poems don't dance at all. They speak to you from deep inside their chairs, and you know that you are forming a friendship with them that will last your whole life."

--Molly Peacock

Poetry Speaks, 23/24 September:

from "The Eve of Rosh Hashanah"

The eve of Rosh Hashanah. At the house that's being built,
a man makes a vow: not to do anything wrong in it,
only to love.

--Yehuda Amichai

Today is the beginning of Ramadan, and yesterday was Rosh Hashanah. The month of fasting/blessing in the Islamic Calendar, and the Jewish New Year, respectively.

* * * * *

Here are excerpts from the movie reviews in The Star, yesterday:

You, Me and Dupree by Zeta Lu

Remember, from now it's just you and me," says Molly (Kate Hudson) to his new husband Carl (Matt Dillon) at the beginning of the film.

This disturbs me very much, for it seems to imply that Kate Hudson is a man. One-up for gay marriages everywhere!

The Banquet by S.B. Toh

To see or not to see: that is the question. Whether 'tis yet another outrageously bad film like Chen Kaige's The Promise, which to watch is to wade into a sea of apathy -- to drowse, to become vulnerable to forty winks. Or perchance 'tis a film that will give us pause?

Tarry no more, I say, and take thee at once to the picture house.

I'm convinced! This is one movie I've gotta watch! (Any movie reviewer who quotes Shakespeare like this in his/her review, either loves the movie absolutely, or absolutely loves the movie!)

* * * * *

From an SMS I sent Li-Shia on Wednesday:

As i read bio,i'm rediscovering d joy i used2have.I've always done well;y should i fear or give up now?

By the grace of God, I managed to finish twelve chapters of Physical Chemistry over this weekend.

To employ a heavy metaphor: Paris landed that Wednesday, and I lost my footing. ;-)

* * * * *

Why is it that the weekends lately seem longer than weekdays? Could it be that the presence (or absence) of some people makes that much of a difference?

Finally, here's something I really like. It was Li-Shia who suggested I try taking a picture of one of these insects hovering above the Ixora, and I'm glad she did! Truly I did not realise how beautifully the photo turned out, until I zoomed in on it just now.

For what it's worth, my Minolta DiMAGE G400 camera still takes excellent macro shots at only 4.0 megapixels.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Belum-Temengor and more...

On Tuesday, Jean, Mum, Sara and I went to KLCC to watch the screening of the Belum-Temengor Campaign documentary at Tanjong Golden Village. There were some three daily shows, running for about a week; I wonder if many went.

Anyway, the long and short of it is this: there is a forest in northern Perak called the Belum-Temengor Complex, and it is being threatened by deforestation. The Malaysian Nature Society launched a campaign earlier this year to call for a gazettement of the area as a State Park. So far, the Perak government has agreed to stop logging by 2008, but the Society is still pushing for more direct action.

Click here to read more about it. In case the link doesn't work, visit the Society's website here, and do a manual search.

Containing over 75% of ALL the species of plants and animals on earth (including the famous Malayan Tiger and Sumatran Rhino), it is definitely a forest worth saving, most of all for its ecological importance in the sustenance of biodiversity in this country (which is one of the 12 Megabiodiverse countries listed by the United Nations).

Go to the links above, and the least you could do is add your name to the signature campaign, whereby all signatures will be sent to the Menteri Besar of Perak and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

This is our Father's world, and when God told Adam to 'rule over it', I believe God intended that rule to be a responsible one, not like what we're doing to the world now.

* * * * *

There was a rather hilarious article in today's Mind Our English section in The Star. Contributed by Pola Singh, here are some excerpts:

My first job was working in an Orange Juice factory, but I got canned. I couldn't concentrate.

After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as a Historian -- until I realised there was no future in it.

My last job was working in Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind.

So, I tried retirement and found that I'm perfect for the job.

* * * * *

One of the best things about foreign A-Level (or more like First Year University) texts is their sense of humour. Our local publications seem to take studying to be a journey of death or something; the pages are mostly rendered in black-and-white or monochrome, and facts are just presented as facts in point form, no more.

In contrast, consider this sentence in Sylvia S. Mader's Biology:

"A reduction in the level of abscisic acid and an increase in the level of gibberellins are believed to break seed and bud dormancy. Then seeds germinate and buds send forth leaves."

The first sentence is nothing less than explicitly scientific, but the second has an aesthetically literary air about it. And I like that!

But nothing prepared me for what Denise said was written in her book; apparently, when we smoke, our bodies will go whack! (Yes, 'go whack' was actually printed in that particular book...)

Longman, Sasbadi, Fajar Bakti... he who has ears, let him hear!

* * * * *

Poetry Speaks, 19 September.

I Pick Up a Hitchhiker
By Jay Leeming

After a few miles he tells me
that my car has no engine.
I pull over, and we both get out
and look under the hood.
He's right.
We don't say anything more about it
all the way to California.

I don't get it. But there's something distinctly atmospheric in spite of the rather transparent words. It had an effect on me when I read it, though I still have no idea what the poet meant.

* * * * *

From today's Every Day with Jesus reading. Selwyn Hughes writes:

"Expressing feelings of hurt to God can either take the form of an unholy diatribe that revels in engaging Him in a fight, or a passionate and earnest cry that reveals the depths of our desperation... God is sometimes mysterious, but always remember that His heart and purposes are good."

As I read it, I thought to myself; sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between an 'unholy diatribe' and a 'passionate and earnest cry'. Perhaps this is the dichotomy meant by C.S. Lewis when he wrote in The Screwtape Letters:

"The great sinners seem easier to catch. But then they are incalculable. They are capable, you see, of real repentance. They are conscious of real guilt."

When wrestling with God, it isn't always clear if we're passionate and earnest, or not. But that shouldn't stop us from wrestling when we need to, because wrestling reveals two things: first, that God is real and stronger than us (or else what point would there be in wrestling something false and fragile?), and second, that we want to be made more than what we merely are, even as we throw ourselves into His great mystery and abandon ourselves to faith.

That's what I call You
I'm curious about You
I'm scared and I'm not sure that You are safe
But your eyes seem to say that You are good...

--from Rebecca St. James, 'Lion'

* * * * *

Just a note on the layout change:

I thought a change in the design would be good for a blog heading into the end of its second year. Perhaps, thematically, it might reflect something like U2's journey from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby, though not as dramatic as that... not yet, anyway.

I'm limiting the font colours to blue, yellow, white, purple and green.

Blue, yellow and white reflect the picture above, which I call 'Breakthrough' (more has been written on it in a previous entry).

Purple is the staple colour of a special person's blog.

Green was the colour of my blog. It's good to remember our roots. ;-)

(I baked my first pizza this morning!)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Parquet & Questions

I wrote this song while teaching Jean and Chean Hong yesterday. It's a first, as the idea wanted expression as a song instead of a poem. So a song it is; there's music, but these are just the lyrics.


Polished surface lined in pain
Scars and tears run through your grain
Dark and dusty on the ground
You hide your heart where it can't be found

Whispers echo in the wood
Do you remember where we stood?...

Listen to the rustling leaves
Little solace for the soul that grieves
Wishing for a brighter tomorrow
Rivers of joy to drown the sorrow

Whispers echo in the wood
Do you remember where we stood?...

French kissing on parquet floor
Something says I've been here before
Voices that scream out in September
Seems like I've been dying forever

Love lies buried 'neath the memory
Of a life we lived reckless and carefree
Breaking away from the help and hurt
How I wish I'd understood

Whispers echo into the night
There's no more strength left in this fight

French kissing on parquet floor
Something says I've been here before
Voices that scream out in September
Seems like I've been dying forever

Love... try to run from it
Love... try to hide from it
It leaves you no thoughts to spare
Throw you into the middle... of nowhere


French kissing on parquet floor
There's no walking back out of that door
Drowning in this living dream
Where things are not all as they may seem

* * * * *

Today's Every Day with Jesus Scripture:

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?


Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.


Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.

Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

To search our hearts and be silent...

Can we learn to live with not knowing or being what we want to know or be? Can we learn to live with mystery? Can we be content with what God has given us?

* * * * *

"Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."

--Aslan to Shasta in C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy

"Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Go find out what God's doing, and do it, for it is already blessed."

--the words that spurred Bono on to campaign against poverty.

"Ain't love the sweetest thing?"

--Bono/U2, 'The Sweetest Thing'

"If God has blessed us, it is so that we can share. What we have is not ours; it belongs to God."

--Pastor Vincent (this morning)

* * * * *

Is it alright to be weird?

I suppose I've always desired greatness... but now all I seem to want is a normal life.

Inevitably we become like those we love. But what if the one we love is nearly an opposite? Can such love endure?

Is God calling me to full-time ministry?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

No fear in Love

Love is put to the test in the face of trials, skirmishes, conflict and the like.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another... There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And [God] has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:11,18,20-21 (NIV)

Perfect love drives out fear.

* * * * *

Imagine a corrupt priest who leads some sort of cult that believes we must pay for each day. And this priest tells his congregation that if they don't pay up, the next day won't come.

Wednesdays cost RM50. It is the most expensive day. That is why traffic during rush hour was particularly bad last Wednesday (13 September), I think. Simply because our kiasu society wants to make the most of the day they paid so much for.

Think this is far-fetched? Ask the girl who inspired this thought.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On awareness

This morning's Every Day with Jesus reading left me encouraged and challenged. The selected Scripture was Philippians 2:1-11.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

--Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)

In the devotion, Selwyn Hughes wrote; "This is the comment made by an engineer: 'The great word in engineering nowadays is "awareness" -- awareness of people.'"

Thanks, Valerie, for reminding me again and again about awareness. Truly it is the way of the Lord to look towards and for others and not just myself.

* * * * *

There is a passage in Chapter 8 of C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters that never fails to grip me every time I read it. I'll just quote the few lines that came to my recollection today. Please bear in mind that this is written from a demon's viewpoint, and so God is considered to be a vile enemy.

...the Enemy [i.e. God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment... the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use... For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures [i.e. humans] are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.

We are to give ourselves entirely to God, and yet in doing so we will find, and not lose, ourselves. I still find this idea incredible and unbelievable.

And yet, in giving myself to someone else, I have come to know myself even better. If this is possible when it comes to human-to-human relationships, surely it must be true on the cosmic level of the God-to-human relationship.

The road ahead will, I believe, be rocky. But if God can withdraw and let us learn to walk on our own, being by our side all the time should we fall (and don't we always?), perhaps I can learn to let go -- to yield my control and fears to God, who is above all.

* * * * *

Reading Chemistry these few days. Just finished Haloalkanes today.

There used to be a time when I loved Chemistry, when it was one of my favourite subjects. And I've been fortunate to have good Chemistry teachers all these years.

But I think there is no more chemistry between me and Chemistry anymore.

A little sad, really.

[I typed 'between me Chemistry' at first; Sara pointed out the missing 'and'. A blogger in the making, or... an EDITOR? *gasp!*]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Glass Walls

Glass walls are cruel; they allow you to see, but not feel. Only a glimpse of what might be.

* * * * *

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

--T.S. Eliot, from Stave III of 'East Coker'

I will always remember these words as the words that introduced me to T.S. Eliot. Philip Yancey quoted them in Disappointment with God, but I had no idea then that I would be so influenced by Eliot.

With these words, I began my Silver Medal-winning Impromptu speech at the ISKL SEA Forensics last year.

And these words come back to me today, to remind me to wait. To encourage me while I wait, for the loneliness and silence is too often unbearable.

* * * * *

Father, forgive our disobedience.

Remember us for choosing to obey. Let not our obedience be in vain.

Remember us in Your love, dear Father.

* * * * *

[And Job] said,

"...The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD."

--Job 1:21 (NASB)

Why can't the Lord take away our lives as well?

Why didn't He allow Job to die, even though Job spent so much of his discourse lamenting his very existence?

* * * * *

I first heard this song in 2000 when on the way to school with my cousin, Ronny. I always thought it was a little too heavy for Light & Easy, but it soon established itself as a radio classic on that station.

This morning, I heard it again, and suddenly it resonated with virtually everything that we are going through.

By Lonestar

Everytime our eyes meet
This feeling inside me
Is almost more than I can take

Baby when you touch me
I can feel how much you love me
And it just blows me away

I've never been this close to anyone or anything
I can hear your thoughts, I can see your dreams

I don't know how you do what you do
I'm so in love with you, it just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life with you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby I'm amazed by you

The smell of your skin
The taste of your kiss
The way you whisper in the dark

Your hair all around me
Baby you surround me
Touch every place in my heart

Ih it feels like the first time everytime
I wanna spend the whole night in your eyes


Every little thing that you do
I'm so in love with you, it just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life with you by my side
Forever and ever

Every little thing that you do
Ohh, every little thing that you do
Baby I'm amazed by... you

Now I know what the song means. And yes, it will always remind me of you. ;-)

* * * * *

God willing, United States shall live on.

It's been five years since New York city was virtually levelled, but it has since bounced back.

Here it may take five years, maybe more. A finger for each year...

Valerie says love is no trivial matter. She is right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wilt thou tarry?

It has been said that we can see ourselves through the eyes of those who are close to us. But what about seeing ourselves in their eyes? ;-)

* * * * *

Pastor Stanley preached today on receiving God's blessing, and he based it on the account of Jacob in the book of Genesis. There were three strands/currents that seemed to address me: thoughts on waiting, changing and breaking.

Somewhere in the sermon, pastor said these words; "Lord... at the right time, in the right way." I don't know what the context was, as I think I wasn't listening at that particular moment, but these words seemed to pierce me. And I thought; there is nothing wrong with pleasure, but when and how is so important.

It is like when Aslan nearly crushed Digory's hopes in The Magician's Nephew, when he told Digory that a stolen apple would not bring joy to his mother, and that it would be better for her to die than to live on a stolen magic apple. Digory almost cried when Aslan then said, "That is what would have happened with a stolen apple; it is not what will happen now." And he then gave Digory an apple.

Like Jacob, we are born selfish, pastor said. We want to have our way, and often, we'll do anything to get it; if we do relent, it is frequently with a heavy heart. Somehow, we seem to think that we have our own space, our own 'rights', so to speak. And then I thought, this world belongs to God, not us at any rate.

Vulnerability (especially in deep relationships) is about the only way to dispel this false notion that we own ourselves. It is as Eliot wrote in East Coker, about our fear of belonging to others, our fear of belonging to God. Because that would mean we are no longer our own masters; we yield to a greater power. And that is something we are not often willing to do: we don't want to let go.

In being vulnerable, we learn that there is a time to embrace, and a time to abstain, just as the writer of Ecclesiastes (probably King Solomon) wrote. We learn to let go.

But I suppose what gripped me most, was the idea of breaking. The conviction that it is not wrong to want to hold on. Jacob had his name changed to Israel (i.e. he who has wrestled with God) because he refused to let go of God, until He blessed him. And here's the puzzling thing: when is it right to hold on?

All I can say is that I don't know. Sometimes it's not so wrong to be stubborn; that is, to be stubborn for the right reasons. But the story of Jacob also seems to teach one more thing: that if we hold on to get something we want, we will inevitably be broken somehow along the way.

There is no joy without sorrow, peace without pain, redemption without death. As surely as roses have thorns, love will have its share of hurt.

This begs the question: is the prize worth the price? To Jacob, God's blessing was worth the intense night-long wrestling with the angel. (I am inclined to think that humans usually don't wrestle with angels as our chances of winning are relatively slim.) It was Bono who said, regarding U2's attitude in the recording studio, that "no one notices the blows or sees the bruises. All we're concerned about is where is the beauty."

Maybe, just maybe, when all is said and done, some things are worth it. Some dawns are worth the nearly endless dark of night.

* * * * *

One of my favourite U2 songs is 'A Man and a Woman' from their album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb. Some of the lines have been ringing in my head today.

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

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

It is said that Achtung Baby is U2's most emotionally naked album. The more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced. I like the song 'Ultraviolet (Light My Way)', though I must say I don't really understand it.

I like the second verse, though I'm not sure what it means;

You bury your treasure
Where it can't be found
But your love is like a secret
That's been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it's the price of love
I know it's not cheap

* * * * *

If it's really love, it will find you...

When the soul wants, the soul waits...

The price of love is not cheap...

* * * * *

From Thomas Hardy's Lines to a Movement in Mozart's E-Flat Symphony:

Show me again just this:
The moment of that kiss
Away from the prancing folk, by the strawberry-tree! --
Yea, to such rashness, ratheness, rareness, ripeness, richness,
Love lures life on.

Love lures life on indeed.

Double Celebration

Two birthdays, two consecutive days.

Valerie today, 10th September.
Wai Loon tomorrow, 11th September.

Happy birthday, guys!

Saturday night was simply fantastic, for all kinds of reasons. It was fun because of friends and food, to say the least. Thanks, Valerie, for hosting all of us!

And now... *drum roll* Heheheh... Here's what I think is the definitive photo of the night:

A big THANK YOU to Kian Ti, Tsu Wern and Wai Loon for helping to make the plot-of-the-week a success!

Oh, there's actually a third: Dmitri Shostakovich, my favourite composer, 12th September 1906. Happy Centenary; though you're no longer alive to celebrate it, your legacy lives on in your emotionally gripping music...

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Genesis 18:20-33

Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

...Then Abraham approached [the LORD] and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."

Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?"

"If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."

Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?"

He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it."

Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?"

He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."

Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?"

He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it."

Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"

He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."

When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

That was this morning's reading from Every Day with Jesus. But I was left with a thought quite unrelated to what was discussed in the written devotions.

The question that kept ringing in my head: can we live apart from the mercy of God?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Reaching out...

Oh my gosh...

Nearly 3.00 p.m.

United States. Locked.

* * * * *

from "The House by the Side of the Road"
By Sam Walter Foss

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;--
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by--
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish--so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat
Or hurl the cynic's ban?--
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

(Poetry Speaks calendar, 6 September)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Life Invaded

I wasn't intending to blog today, and I probably won't be blogging much in the coming days. Need to prepare for trials at the end of this month. But something happened yesterday that moved me so much so that I feel compelled to make mention of it here today.

* * * * *

Stephen Robert Irwin
22 February 1962 - 4 September 2006

So ends the story of the great Crocodile Hunter, who was killed by a stingray while diving in the Great Barrier Reef yesterday. But I look at the dash, the hyphen that separates 1962 and 2006... and I think it's one heck of a meaningful dash.

I recall Eugene Peterson's description of the explorer John Muir, in his book The Wisdom of Each Other, and I'll just share an excerpt here.

One December day a storm moved in from the Pacific -- a fierce storm that bent the junipers and pines, the madronas and fir trees as if they were so many blades of grass. It was for just such times this cabin had been built: cozy protection from the harsh elements. We easily imagine Muir... wrapped in sheepskins, safe and secure in his tightly caulked cabin, a fire blazing against the cruel assault of the elements... But our imaginations, not trained to cope with Muir, betray us. For Muir, instead of retreating to the coziness of the cabin,... strode out of the cabin into the storm, climbed a high ridge, picked a giant Douglas fir as the best perch for experiencing the kaleidoscope of colour and sound, scent and motion, scrambled his way to the top, and rode out the storm, lashed by the wind, holding on for dear life...

I think Steve Irwin really invaded creation, availing himself to the sheer power and magnitude of the natural wonders of this world. And this creation invaded him; it became a part of who he was, even until the very end, when his heart was invaded by a stingray's barb. I don't think his life was wasted at all, for indeed, how many can lay claim to having done the great things he did?

Jesus said;

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."

--Mark 8:35

Our lives are never ours at the end of the line. I am faced with this question: would I rather live 40 full years, or 90 empty ones?

God never promised us safety, but He did promise us His grace and mercy; and the greatest promise we have is that of who He is, and He is good. C.S. Lewis will probably always be remembered for these words in the Chronicles of Narnia;

"Safe?" said Mr Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

We need fear nothing in this life, because we know who is King here, and King in the next. To God be the glory for invading our lives with the riches of his mercy.

In the words of Shakespeare; may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, O Crocodile Hunter.


* * * * *

This was inspired by Physics class today (which I sat through because it was about relativity and quantum mechanics), and my personal statement for the UCAS application. I'm not sure, but I think it alludes a little to Steve Irwin as well.

It takes on an inverted haiku form, 7-5-7 syllables instead of 5-7-5.

Zero Gravity

Accelerate, so that you
Come closer to
Approximate gravity.

You cannot run alongside
(It is beyond you);
Only simulate the force.

Suspended animation;
Animated, yet
Suspended in mid-descent.

Creator and creation
Outside experience
Yet invading daily life.

Falling at nine-point-eight-one;
Zero gravity...
Deep calls to deep, and you reach

Out into an endless void.
Head spins, and you float...
Falling? Flying? Cannot tell.

For us only the trying
(T.S. Eliot's words);
Gravity... life abundant.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Seven Short Poems and Other Stories

These were written in no particular order, and represent a number of ideas which suggested themselves to me over the past week or so. Perhaps I'll write about the inspiration for each of them in time to come...

Seven Short Poems

i. Bored Look

The carpenter who had far more
Than his share of life's fast pace
Tried to look a little bored
And drilled a hole right through his face.

ii. Reminder

My life's become a living reminder
And so it isn't quite a surprise
That I use my handphone to remind me
That I'm a testimony to Christ.

iii. Two Become One

Kampung Boy meets City Girl;
He diasporic,
She in charted territory.

Their hearts whirl and feelings twirl,
Make each other tick;
Opposites dancing lovingly.

iv. Devotion

The strongest devotion is born
Not of sunshine and endless gain
But of the sunless morn,
Anxious pain and stormy rain,
Fires burning again and again.

v. Voices at a Chemistry Practical

"We'll clean up for you." (in Cantonese)
Carried by the other half, the monitor, the first aider
(I heard a voice; "I did not come to keep you safe")

Then the scientist in a world of his own
(As scientists tend to be);
"White precipitate formed, woh!"

vi. Angel of Mercy

Angel of mercy, stand by the suffering
Over them spread thy wings
Who are you, angel of mercy;
Are you sometimes me?

vii. Promiscuous

'Promiscuous' redefined
Is still promiscuous: undefined.

* * * * *

"This kind of thing only happens once in a blue moon," said Mr Rashdan (class of '96). Li-Shia then remarked that it was befitting for the VI Blues Night to happen under a blue moon.

There was no blue moon that night, but I managed to take this picture of the blue balloons adorning the dining tent, juxtaposed with the blue dome of the up-and-coming surau/masjid next to the school hostel.

* * * * *

I read this in Ahmad Deedat's book Is the Bible God's Word?, which can be read online here. He is citing supposed weak points in the 19th and 21st chapters of the book of John. Words in block capitals are Deedat's.


St. John 19

35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.


St. John 21

24. This is the disciple which testifieth
of these things, and wrote these things:
and we know that his testimony is true.


25. And there are also many other things
which Jesus did, the which, if they should
be written every one, I suppose that even
the world itself could not contain the books
that should be written. Amen.



I can imagine that Deedat never read The Lord of the Rings or probably any work of fiction, for that matter. Otherwise, he would be able to reconcile the third person with the writer, for not all pieces must be written in the first person.

For example, if I said, "Ben wrote two poems today," would I thus cease to be Ben? As for the 'I' that appears in the last verse of John, could I not have said, "Ben wrote two poems today and was happy with them. I spent about four hours on them altogether."? Admittedly, it seems cumbersome, but there is no contradiction where logic is concerned.

With regards to what Deedat calls an exaggeration, what then of those who say, "I'm so hungry, I can eat a horse!"?

Perhaps this is unique to John's Gospel, that it is the most human of the four, and therefore most susceptible to Deedat's criticism. But I do not consider it a weakness; from the outset, John makes it clear that he is presenting 'the God who became man', and he does well to show the life of Christ from a man's perspective.

The Muslims (or at least, those like Deedat) have a problem with this. For them, the Word of God must not be tainted by human hands at all; at best, a supernatural hand should descend and write the words, in the manner that the Ten Commandments were inscribed on the tablets on Mount Sinai. But if God really dwelt among men, as the Gospels claim, then the testimony of men must be, to some extent, valid.

John was arguably the closest disciple of Jesus', and he even stayed on when Jesus was crucified, while the others ran for their lives. I wouldn't trust anyone to write my biography; he/she would have to be a very close friend or family member of mine.

But at the end of the day, the question is simply this: do we trust God enough to accept that He can use any method he wishes to get His words across to us? The Muslims do not believe that God became flesh; it is too great a leap of the imagination for them. But that is what I believe, and if God can become man, then surely He can make sure that the words written about Him are correct.

* * * * *

There is a song by Petra called 'Counsel of the Holy', and it speaks of the Bible, the Word of God. The bridge kept repeating itself in my mind this evening:

More precious than rubies
More precious than gold
Mighty is the wisdom of the Lord

Two verses in the Bible speak explicitly of this. One is Proverbs 8:11, and the other is Job 28:18.

...the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.

--Job 28:18 (NIV)

And I realised, reading today's portion of Every Day with Jesus, that this is what the Bible is all about: being immersed in the wisdom of God.

I remember Ravi Zacharias asking, at the National Congress of Integrity, if we all have a price at which we will forsake our values and all that we hold on to. He said that a person of integrity (such as Joseph, son of Jacob, in the Old Testament) will hold on to his/her principles.

I believe that if we root ourselves firmly in the Word of God, we will not be shaken, simply because what we have cannot be bought. Simply because we cannot be bought. I think this is the confidence which characterised the early church; nothing could silence them. Nothing could weaken the countless martyrs after them who would never compromise or yield to any sort of bribe.

* * * * *

Bumped into Ms Caroline Tan of ISKL at Kinokuniya today, before going for the MPO Family Fun Day. She asked about my future plans (i.e. university) and if I would still be able to participate at the Forensics next year.

Today's theme was 'Pirates', and I was overjoyed to hear the medley arrangement of Klaus Badelt's score for Pirates of the Caribbean. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest film scores in recent years; I will never forget the moment Captain Jack Sparrow first appeared, accompanied by heroic music, only to have it revealed moments later that his ship was sinking fast!

* * * * *

Something Praba said last night, looking at the sole bowl of ais kacang; "Oh, come on, get your own!"

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Word and God

[Jesus said,] "...the Scripture cannot be broken -- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does."

--John 10:35b-37 (NIV)

Today, I returned to the Quiet Time I used to know. A few weeks ago, I picked up the September/October 2006 issue of Every Day with Jesus (EDWJ), written by Selwyn Hughes. This issue is titled 'Life Convictions' and it is a collection of Selwyn's writings on several convictions that, in his words, held him through life. He passed away recently.

The first reading was for today, 1 September, and the Scripture was taken from John 10, part of which is quoted above. I was gripped by the two verses that frame the excerpt, namely verses 35 and 37.

Two statements:
(i) The Scripture cannot be broken
(ii) Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does

I realise that the Christian faith rests upon these two foundations: that the written Word (the Bible) is the voice of God, and that the incarnate Word (Jesus) is God himself. If either one of these is false, then our faith amounts to nothing.

Somehow, I think it resonated very strongly with me because I'm going to confront Ahmad Deedat's efforts at debunking the Bible; I'll be getting a VCD of one of Deedat's lectures/debates from Danial soon. Of course, another reason would be the very significance of the implications of those two verses. Oh, and the numbers 10:35 and 10:37. *wink*

* * * * *

The promised photos are here. I've decided to montage some of them, so as to accelerate the loading of this page.

These were from dinner at Chili's last Friday with the debaters. Clockwise from top left: Kishan (a.k.a. Mortar) and his GPS device, Ben (a.k.a. Smart Bomb) and the famous Chili's bottomless orange juice, Danial (a.k.a. Rocket Launcher) and the can't-visit-Chili's-without-ordering-it Chocolate Brownie, and Dinesh (a.k.a. Stinger) popping the cherry that adorned the brownie's ice-cream.

We're really quite a diverse group, with Indian, Malay, Chinese and Burmese blood between us, and interests that span philosophy, economics, science, law, religion and the performing arts. Our university studies are taking us as far as the UK and Australia, and Danial recently debated in the Philippines.

Before David and Sam would leave the country (again) on 31 August and 1 September respectively, a few of us decided to meet up at Mid Valley. We made it a late lunch on Saturday, and after much hassle (as usual), decided on Delifrance, as Swensen's had closed down and the Irish Pub idea wasn't too much favoured.

Clockwise from top left: Sam and the gadget we put together using a straw and the menu holder (which one of us mistook to be a wallet!), Yen getting excited with Sam's camera (as usual), David looking very focused (as usual), and Soo Tian being Soo Tian!

I had to rush off in the middle of the d'NA get-together because I needed to get ready for the MPO Gala Concert that night. It's the (now) customary birthday treat for Leanne, and we had a light dinner at Dome; we were trying not to fill ourselves as food would be served at the Gala (as usual). From left: pancakes with berries (from the All-Day Breakfast menu), sausage rolls, my Café Vienna (some espresso concoction topped with a mountain of whipped cream), and Leanne's Choco-cino.

Taken after the concert. Thus begins the 06/07 Concert Season! For the Gala, the MPO performed Leopold Stokowski's arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor (with Alexander Toradze on piano), and Antonin Dvořák's 9th Symphony 'From the New World'. Matthias Bamert conducted.

Dvořák was enjoyable and replete with memorable melodic themes (as usual) and the Toccata and Fugue provided a dramatic start to the season. But the highlight of the night was probably Rachmaninov's concerto; and Toradze played so intensely that it was breathtaking at times! In fact, I think I like the piece because it is so deep and layered with profundity like Shostakovich's symphonies.

* * * * *

This morning, Ryan (a.k.a. the Panda Dog) created such a mess in the garden (compared to the past few mornings) that Dad and I had to spend some 10 minutes cleaning up. Dad was understandably angry and scolded Ryan. A thought occurred to me, that it is easy to look at a dog like Ryan and say, 'How could you possibly scold such a cute little fellow?'

But discipline must not be fooled by appearances. A wrong deed is a wrong deed, no matter who does it. Yet there is certainly a difference between scolding a dog/person to point out a mistake, and exacting some form of retribution; the one is a rehabilitative process that tries to bring out the good in something/someone, while the other is a restrictive process that tries to suppress the evil.

And this made me think of the Batman dilemma. Near the end of the movie, Batman says something to Ra's al-Ghul that continues to disturb me: "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you." After that, he jumps out of the train, while it brings Ra's to an explosive end. Valerie (I think it was her) commented that Batman is, in a way, contradicting himself because leaving Ra's to his death is effectively the same as killing him.

However, I now realise that Batman was perhaps surrendering his right to judge. If it's one thing that torments the soul of Batman, it is the idea of vengeance and justice. And if it's one thing that sets him apart from most (if not all) other heroes, it is something that was uttered by Commissioner Gordon in the animated movie The Mask of the Phantasm; "The Batman does not kill. Period."

Dandelion knows how much I wanted to be Batman (metaphorically speaking), but now I realise that being Batman isn't what I thought it would be. I thought Batman was someone who took the law into his own hands because the city was corrupt; I now understand that Batman is not the law, but merely a servant of it. Would I be able to do as he did, to come so close to revenge, yet stop and concede that 'vengeance is not mine'?

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.

--Romans 12:19 (NASB)

Yet we must be careful. This sort of statement is subject to abuse, as when people blame everything on God, and attribute every mishap or tragedy to His judgement. It is perhaps no less than murder to say, "He deserved his cancer because of the sinful life he led; God is judging him." For who are we to judge if God is judging someone? God can do it without our help!

After all, we're in the same boat and the judgement of God falls upon all in equal measure.

* * * * *

This morning, I awoke at 3 a.m. and decided to go back to sleep. A few days ago, it was the other. Today, it was me... *sigh*