Saturday, March 14, 2009

No Line on the Horizon

Thanks, Jessica!

(Thank God for neighbours!)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sketches of Lent

Once again, I find the expression of my thoughts in the words of others, as this entry testifies.

Reverends A.S. Muthiah and Thomas Low apply the ashes at BLC's Ash Wednesday service.

Thus we launched Lent.

Reverend Augustin Muthusami challenged us in his sharing of the Word;

"Easter was a time when new converts were baptised, and Lent marks the time when Jesus set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem. The question is, do I want to follow this God?"

For the first time, I shared in the Eucharist at BLC. The invitation that night was wrapped in these words, and these words alone: "The blood of Christ, shed for all."

* * * * *

At SIB, on the Saturday of TAS's Acoustic Show, Pastor Chew's wife delivered the Word, quoting John Stott and St. Augustine.

"We put ourselves where God deserves to be and God put himself where we deserve to be." - John Stott, on the Cross.

"Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee." - Augustine.

It was Sivin who first shared the Augustine quote with me, and the words continue to haunt, convict and encourage me.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

--Romans 1:24-25 (NIV)

"Sin is when we want to run our own lives."

* * * * *

Two songs set the tone for this Lent.

The first, played at BLC's Ash Wednesday service in the form of an accompaniment to Si Smith's cartoon of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, is a song called 'You Are Free' by Joseph Arthur. It is found on his 2006 album Nuclear Daydream.

Youtube has the video here.

Time is moving on
You and me
You and me
Suffering is gone
You are free
You are free

I know I let you down
Those days are over now

I'm no longer who I was
No longer who I thought I was
I'm no longer who I was
No longer who I thought I was
I'm no longer who I was
No longer who I thought I was
I'm no longer who I was
No longer who I thought I was

I'm not afraid of nothing
I'm not afraid of anyone
I'm not afraid of losing myself
There ain't no self to lose
I'm not afraid of losing myself
There ain't no self to lose
I'm not afraid of losing myself
There ain't no self to lose
I'm not afraid

Time is moving on
You and me
You and me
Suffering is done
Let it be
Let it be

When you feel you're strong
You are free
You are free

The other song is U2's 'White As Snow', on their latest album, No Line on the Horizon.

Myspace has the song here.

An excerpt of the lyrics:

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

Now this dry ground, it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land, the seeds we sow
Where might we find the lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow

* * * * *

When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again."

After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!"

But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?"

And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."

--Mark 9:25-29 (NASB)

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work."

-- Oswald Chambers, quoted in GTPJ's bulletin for the week of 7-14 March 2009.

Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.

--T.S. Eliot, from 'Ash Wednesday'

Prophet: a person who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration.


* * * * *


I pierce myself to let blood out
But the bad keeps circulating.

It doesn't work.

(Car. Sunday, 8 March 2008.)

* * * * *

When the seventh Plague came, that is, the Plague of Hail, it is recorded that some of Pharaoh's officials 'were afriad because of what the LORD had said, and they brought their slaves and animals indoors for shelter.' (Exodus 9:20, TEV)

It appears that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart did not extend to his officials. And it would take quite a doongu (as Michael might say) not to realise that the plagues were wrought by the hand of a God unlike any Egypt had ever seen.

Makes me wonder if any of the Egyptians were spared at the last Plague, the Plague of the Firstborn. How segregated were the Egyptians and the Israelites? Might any of the Egyptians have heard about the Passover instructions? Were any of them God-fearing enough to act? And, supposing they were God-fearing and followed the instructions, would the blood on the doorposts of the Egyptians be sufficient to drive away the Angel of Death? They were, after all, Egyptians, and God said He would judge all of Egypt ('every firstborn son in Egypt will die'; Exodus 11:5)

* * * * *

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

--Romans 9:14-18 (NIV)

* * * * *

Happy International Women's Day!

(Yesterday :-P)

PTH IV approaches...

Pesta Tiong Hua IV.

A celebration of Chinese culture through a variety of stage performances, including drama, yo-yo acrobatics, wushu and lots of music!

7.30 p.m., 10 March 2009.

3rd Residential College, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

* * * * *

Looking back...

This is how we did the photo shoot for the committee last year. I brought car reflectors for the Entangled shoot, and they came in handy to block the sun at the PTH group shoot. Then, for the committee portraits, we experimented with sidelighting courtesy of the reflectors.

And the result was this.

This year, I decided to mix the sun's backlighting with muted flash. I think it went very well with the overall mood of spontaneity in the Laman Pidato's wakaf that morning.

(I had about three hours of sleep after Entangled, before I was jolted out of bed for PTH. This year, I didn't have much sleep the night before the PTH shoot either; the Student Council meeting lasted till about 2.00 a.m.)

Of Waterhens and Bulbuls

Over the last few months, life at home has been spiced up by encounters with two kinds of bird: the White-breasted Waterhen and the Yellow-vented Bulbul.

* * * * *

Amaurornis phoenicurus

White-breasted Waterhens are from the family Rallidae, along with rails and crakes. Their loud quarrelsome calls sound like their Malay name, ruak ruak. They are more vocal at dawn and dusk.

They eat mainly seeds, insects and small fish. They also nibble on worms and small snails; and snack on shoots and roots of marsh plants. They forage on the ground, pecking at titbits in chicken-like movements. Their enormous feet, constantly flicking tails and inquisitive nature make them very amusing birds to observe.

They also often forage above ground, in low bushes and small trees, but their long toes make them rather clumsy among the branches. Their slender body allows them to quickly and quietly slip through the undergrowth.

Although they are associated with water and do swim, they are not particularly good swimmers. They forage alone or in pairs, are active during the day and roost in low bushes and trees at night.

(Information from

I first spotted the waterhens sometime in the middle of last year (if I remember correctly). They live in the now abandoned squatter settlement down the road from my house.

On the morning of 4 December last year, Kevin drove and I used the car as a kind of hide from which to photograph the waterhens. A police car pulled up alongside us, for we were in a rather awkward position in the middle of the road. When Kevin said, "Ambil gambar... waterhen," they seemed satisfied and drove away.

Waterhen chick. Precocial at birth (able to move freely and fend for themselves), just like chickens.

Why did the waterhen cross the road? Not that I know, except that it's really quite an amusing sight when they dash across the road on their extremely slender legs!

The same legs confer a notable degree of agility when it comes to navigating viny, creeper-covered terrain.

"Aha, I have my breakfast!"

* * * * *

Pycnonotus goiavier

The Yellow-vented Bulbul is a resident breeder in Southeast Asia from southern Thailand and Cambodia to Borneo and the Philippines.

It is found in a wide variety of open habitats, but not deep forest. It is one of the most common birds in cultivated areas. It appear to be nomadic, roaming from place to place regularly.

The Yellow-vented Bulbul builds a well-camouflaged but fragile, loose, deep, cup-shaped nest from grass, leaves, roots, vine stems, and twigs. The nest is untidy on the outside, but it is neatly lined with plant fibers. It may be built in a wide range of places from low bushes to high trees. This is a species adapted to humans and may even nest in gardens. The Yellow-vented Bulbul lays two to five eggs in February to June.

Yellow-vented Bulbuls eat berries and small fruits. They also sip nectar, nibble on young shoots, and take some insects.

(Information from

Maria and Mum spotted a nest in Popo's garden at the end of January. We monitored the chicks until they flew off on 21 February; we believe our 'disturbance' might have had something to do with their early departure. The chicks were already in quite good shape to fly, but they didn't seem all that ready... yet.

In contrast to chickens and waterhens, bulbul chicks are altricial, requiring intensive postnatal parental care.

Mum and Dad; not sure which is which, though.

Bulbul with a spider in its beak.

One of the parents returns... with food for the hungry chicks!