So what have i been up to since the last entry on 11 June? It's been 53 days, and an entire month has passed without any updates here.
* * * * *
First of all, I went on a short-term mission trip to Sarawak. That was STOMP (Students Together on Mission Partnership), organised by the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES). A detailed report on that will come soon.
The whole chain of busyness started when, on the last night in Sarawak, I SMS-ed Arivin, asking if he needed any help with the college's debate team during the Orientation Week (Haluansiswa). He said yes and, as the week went by, they did well... very well. So much so that I was engaged throughout the week in campus and so was able to observe quite a bit of the Haluansiswa.
Yu Deng and Krystle found the cheers and antics of the supporters from college a great confidence booster.
Haluansiswa was followed by the Interaction Week in college (Minggu Interaksi Kurshiah, a.k.a. MIK). I was a lot less involved with the MIK, but coming to terms and psyching myself to cope with a really hectic schedule proved to be quite a challenge in the first week of this semester. My only free stretch is on Thursday afternoons, and even so it will only last until the middle of the semester, after which my days will generally begin at 9.00 and end at 5.00.
I found myself playing guitar and singing on the last night of the MIK, per Jimmy's request. Esther, Jee Haw, Amos and Wee Keng were sporting enough to join in and help me butcher Michael Jackson's 'Heal the World' and The Beatles' 'Hey Jude'. Actually, it was supposed to be me and How, and we'd independently thought of the same song (U2's 'Running to Stand Still') but he'd already decided to go home for the weekend.
12 July brought some respite in the form of an MPO concert my friends and I had been waiting nearly a whole semester for. Xiao Lee, Joana, Ming-Shien, Leanne, Sean and Ai Wei were able to make it for the MPO's performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and I was glad to have been able to make up for the time I missed it three years ago due to chickenpox.
However, Kenneth, Wan Yu, Chian Ming, Su Lin and Chee Seong pulled out last minute; Chee Seong on the day itself due to some motor accident or car breakdown (I can't remember which). We managed to find some replacements in Adrian, Shannon and Rachael Wong. Dad, Mum and Sara were also there.
The week after found me returning to debates after a semester's absence. However, I am not sure if I will be able to cope with the regular training schedule given my already hectic timetable and desire to rest and draw away more regularly this semester. So far I've attended two (or three) sessions, and without fail I have been feeling extremely drowsy at each.
On the Tuesday of the week of PKV's MSK (Malam Suai Kenal, a.k.a. Introduction Night), I joined Denny, Pei Yi, Pei Wern, Shi Hui and Esther at Telawi Street Bistro for supper. Denny picked me up from college in his BMW; it was quite late and I'd managed to get some sleep while waiting.
It has been ages since I last met Esther.
Another oasis came in the form of the PKV Committee 'Retreat' at Rachael's house on Friday, 25 July. It was good riding in Shannon's van with him drumming on the steering wheel, eating one-and-a-half packets of chicken rice, listening to Rachael's mother share, and slapping colours on each other! (Perhaps next time we should literally have a 'paint the committee member' session!)
After that we caught the 12.30 a.m. screening of The Dark Knight at 1 Utama, and bumped into Joyce Kee and Colin Choong there. It was my second time watching the movie; Adrian, How, Andrew and I caught it on the opening day, 17 July.
The movie was richer, darker and certainly more carefully constructed and orchestrated than the first, Batman Begins, but I still like the first better. Maybe it's because the first movie had more engaging one-liners and memorable quotes, maybe it's because the first was simpler and more powerful (in the raw sense).
Nonetheless, just as the first movie shaped much of my philosophy and encouraged me in the months and yeras that followed it, some of the dialogue in the second still haunt me now. Like when Alfred tells Bruce to 'endure' and 'be the outcast'; I find myself challenged to seek solitude and endure it this semester because my constant socialising and noisemaking last semester left me weary and dry at the end of it all.
I also strongly believe a major part of the ministry of prayer lies in the discipline of silence and learning to hear.
The other line is delivered by Rachel Dawes through a letter to Bruce; "I don't know if there will come a day when you no longer need Batman." It struck me that the tragedy of Batman is that, with the exception of Alfred, he is always alone. The cruel irony is that somehow, he must be alone. And so, in this movie as in the last, almost everything he holds dear to him is taken away. He yearns to destroy his alter ego in order to win the person he loves, but ends up learning that he cannot--for his sake but more so for the sake of Gotham.
Hence Commissioner Gordon's closing words to his son near the end of the movie, "He is the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs now; that is why we [the police] must chase him..." And those familiar with the comics and the cartoon will know that Batman never gets along with the police, with Gordon being the only exception.
As I was telling Ai Wei, I wonder if there are things in my life which I might desire with all my heart to get rid of, but somehow for my sake and the sake of others, I cannot and must not.
On the day of the MSK, I cycled around UM because I needed to take some time out after a rather depressing day before (I'd been swimming with Ai Wei after visiting the PKV's Exhibition Booth; Soo Tian was in UM). Before leaving college, I made some photos of the weaver ants, flies and spiders living on a tree beside my hostel block.
The mamak adventure was finally published in The Star's R.AGE pullout for schools, colleges and universities on 30 July.
* * * * *
Last night I started reading Max Lucado's 3:16 - The Numbers of Hope again. As you might guess, it's about the most famous verse in the Bible. My eyes fell on the words 'Includes a 40-Day Devotional' printed on the back cover.
If you've read Max Lucado, you'll know his books are about 30 per cent (or more) devotional guide. I used to dislike this, simply because I felt I was being cheated; it was as if Lucado was getting away with writing little and using the devotional to thicken the book.
But last night, I realised I have been wrong all this while. God's message to me since STOMP has been about recovering the devotional life; I knew somewhere midway through STOMP that how this semester turns out would very much depend on how I manage my quiet time and devotions.
Now when I look back at all the Lucado books I read (well, 70 per cent read), I realise I ought to have used those devotional guides because the ministry of the book lies not so much in the pen of its author as in the fellowship with our Author when we meet Him in prayer and solitude, into which the book merely leads and guides.
* * * * *
As I type this, many of my friends from the PKV (and my brother too) are at the Passion Conference featuring Chris Tomlin in Sunway.
Perhaps now I know what it means to be alone. Only now, alone, am I able to blog. Only alone am I able to face my fears and my darkest parts. This is what Henri Nouwen wrote of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.
Is this why they dared to flee? Is it because they knew somehow that, painful as it may be, they would rather seek God and leave their lives as a survivor leaves a sinking ship? Not everyone needs to flee as they did; some are able to maintain the a godly life in the midst of life's whirlwinds. I'm not those people.
I have been feeling so out of touch, yet I am encouraged by Nouwen who wrote that it was precisely out of the 'out-of-touchness' that the ministry of the Desert Fathers and Mothers flowed.