Thursday, December 30, 2010

two thousand and ten

blessings. But I can't list them all, or I'll be here for days! but here are a few standouts.



The february wedding with elmo, cookie monster and big bird cupcakes! couldn't bear to eat them; they were too cute.



the one where the whole family went to the UK and the sister and I ran off to Bath. Walking and walking all day in the lake district. Walking and walking somemore in London and Cambridge and Bath. Beautiful weather. Lovely scones and yoghurt and so.much.icecream!



there was the trip back to Oz. The meetups with friends. The crazy amount of hugging, giggling and catching up. The food and wine. And will you just look at that blue sky? I swear, that endless vista of blue and green just makes any trip to Oz worth it.


* I got baptized :)Officially a church member now. I've never been one before.

* The sister turned 21! :) with much cake, good food and family

* the first family christmas lunch in 15 years! The brother and sister in law did turkey, my cousin brought a log cake, I did the sides. We stuffed ourselves silly then proceeded to play board games the rest of the afternoon.

* I went back to being a student for 3.5 months and got to catch up with loads of people I hadn't seen for ages.

* FIVE of my friends got pregnant. Clearly the year of the rabbit will be a fertile one.

* I went to Malacca, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Manado in addition to Australia and the UK. The parents went to Eastern Europe, the brother went to Miami, London and Norway. The sister went to Germany, Budapest, Cote d'Azur and Provence and at one time, all of us were on different continents which was fun but very bad for our mobile phone bills.

* (*almost*) finished reading the bible! At revelations now and I'm so excited. Looking to the future that way is nerve wracking and sobering but gives us so much hope at the same time.



last but not least. I got a TOTORO for christmas! :) :) :) Isn't he cute? And fat and huggable? ~enormous smile~ fat cuddly stuffed toys and pets are the best.

This is such a happy, exclamation marked and smiley faced post that I feel obliged to say - that is not to say there weren't any challenges this year. There were. There were some terrible moments.

But overall, there were so many good things given to me too. I got to travel, dive, dance, read / study and most importantly, I got to spend time with family and friends I love. Plus my health got so much better this year. Energy levels are back up, stuff is working normally, I sleep normally... all this took some effort on my part, seeing the right doctors but mostly it was God being very gracious and merciful.

I'm just thankful for the last 365 days and God willing, next year will be another 365 days of learning to be wiser, more God fearing and (hopefully!) spending lots more time with family/friends.

To God be the glory.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's always the sermon

My cell group had a fun boxing day gathering and we played this musical pass the parcel game. You know the drill, pass the box around until the music stops and whoever is left holding the baby, gets to answer a question from a deck of question cards held by the game master.

Funnily enough, we kept drawing or getting asked this particular question:

Which part of church service do you enjoy the most?
a. music
b. fellowship
c. sermon; or
d. feeling of closeness with God.

I never got to answer it because (*smirk* ) I was never left holding the parcel - Mr Grey got it three times and his face when he got it the third time was just priceless.

But I mulled over the question the next day and how it related to my church and the reasons for attending church and concluded: it's always the sermon. It has to be the sermon.

I changed churches this year. December 2010 will mark the end of my first full year at church.

It has been a hard year. I struggled and fought so hard against admitting that it was hard and lonely because it would make it seem like my decision was wrong or that I was somehow a failure.

But it was.

It was hard because I left behind a church family I loved and still love so much. I left behind friends I was close to and who had struggled and prayed with me for 1.5 years as God called out to me. It was hard because I joined a church whose members had been attending since they were babes in arms and who were already close knit. Mainly, it was hard because I had such a rebellious attitude; the way I cope with change is to sulk and throw myself a pity party that lasts several months and get increasingly grumpy. Not a good recipe for acclimatizing to anything.

But the upside is that in the last year, church and the reasons for church became increasingly clear. So back to the question - what part of church do you enjoy most?

Music?

Not the music because musical tastes differ from worship leader to worship leader. While the worship at my church is lovely, I know it's not fully the reason I'm there. I'd show up even if they decided to switch to singing only hymns with an organ accompaniment or if they did the full on rock band.

Fellowship

I did and still do enjoy church fellowship. In fact this probably ranks second but this year... without my close friends, I felt agonizingly bereft. They're nice, the folks at my church, but it's not the same as having people you're already close to around you all the time. Friendship takes time and it's something I look forward to - that the friendly acquaintances of today may become the close confidantes of tomorrow.

Sermon

I just read another blogpost by an old friend and in it, he talked about his grief and anger about the fact that his church’s solution to faltering attendance is to put in new programs. Camps! Activities! Welcome committees!

In the meantime, sermons are reduced to “10 ways to live your best christian life now!~” or “seize the moment! (Coz God says so!)” type pep talks.

It’s so typical that it’s sad. So no, in the end, its not just fellowship, friends, music or great seats/lights/auditoria.

Changing churches helped me realize that it's the teaching of God's word that is the key. Not for nothing did Christ explicitly say that "if you abide in me and my words abide in you" then and only then, "ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you". The rest, the music, fellowship and closeness with God are built on the right teaching. Closeness to God, music and fellowship must be built on knowing Him and His word.

So I guess the one lesson I took away this year (when the pity party ended!) was the reason for church. Church can’t just be fellowship, friends and great music. It has to be solid teaching that drives home the fear of God and the awesomeness of His love and grace. It has to help you remember that however many grand plans you make, your little day is rounded out by sleep and death.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Walking away



I finally deleted all my old emails from the Ex. All those old shadows and ghosts lurking in my sent folder and inbox - gone, exorcised.

I felt ill going through them and deleting - they brought back memories of the girl that was and how ill and desperate and unhappy she had been. Life didn't begin until he left. I should have kept just one email though. The one I sent several months after the break up. I could see stirrings of spirit in that one. A growing strength and confidence.

But no, better to banish them all into virtual hell. It is enough for me that God sees and remembers. I don't want to carry the weight of them with me anymore.

*

A Walk to Sope Creek

Sometimes when I've made the mistake of anger, which sometimes
breeds the mistake of cruelty, I walk

down the rocky slope above the ruined mill on Sope Creek
where sweet gum and hickory weave sunlight

into gauzy screens. And sometimes when I've made the mistake
of cruelty, which always breeds grief,

I remember how, years ago, my uncle led me, a boy,
into a thicket of pines and taught me to pray

beside a white stone, the way a man had taught him, a boy,
to pray behind a clapboard church.

Sometimes when I'm as mean as a stone, I weave
between trees above that crumbling mill

and stumble through those threaded screens of light,
the way anger must fall

through many stages of remorse.
Any rock, he allowed, can be an altar.

- David Bottoms

*

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life of the Mind and the Love of God



Extracts from the John Piper sermon which can be found here:

So I take loving God in the Great Commandment to mean most essentially treasuring God—valuing him, cherishing him, admiring him, desiring him. Therefore, loving him with all our mind means that our mind—our thinking—is not what does the loving, but what fuels the loving. Loving God with the mind means our mind does all it can to awaken and express our treasuring God above all things.

If we equate loving God with thinking rightly about God, we jeopardize the very reality of love. If you say that fire and fuel are the same, you may not order the wood. Then the fire goes out. The fire is not the wood. But for the sake of the fire, you exert yourself to provide the wood. And for the sake of love, you exert your mind and provide knowledge.

We cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to “love God with all your mind” means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all he is worth.


Favourite Quote: "when our thinking begins to focus on this event, something strange happens. The light of God’s glory that we meet at the cross is so strong and so bright as to make all self-exalting thinking look foolish."

*

I hope and pray that the day will come when my heart and mind are so engaged with loving and glorifying God that I may write the way Piper does. I may not be entirely in agreement with his verbosity or his style but there is no question that the love of God spills out of every sentence.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scaffolding

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that their planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten all bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Catching up

An old friend rang up yesterday. He had some time to kill and rang me just to chat and catch up. It was fun; we laughed at each other, caught each other up on the latest news with other mutual friends and spent half an hour just horsing about.

Arriving at a certain destination in life to find that you've finally caught up with where your friends are, spiritually and mentally is such a blessing. When I first got to know him years ago, church and faith were mysteries to me. I wasn't involved in any church, wasn't even attending one regularly. I don't think I even knew what church was for. In the past, when he talked about his struggles with his faith and ministry, I sympathized but could not understand.

It has been like that for some of my old friends, especially the ones I knew from Campus Crusade. Back then, they were starting to get more and more involved in their church youth ministries, starting to serve more in church, delve into theology, ponder the meaning of life, death and resurrection. They were so far ahead, I couldn't see them at all.

I was this messed up and lost kid who wandered into their company. Sometimes I wonder why they let me in. It must have been so obvious I didn't know what I was doing. I see it in others so clearly now; they must have seen it in my eyes too.

Did God use them? I think He did. That verse about being the salt and light is really the key.

I hadn't the foggiest idea about God then and I was heavily involved in a very damaging relationship. But as an ex-crusader who wasn't really one, I often thought of people I knew in crusade and about the things they did in the name of their faith. The ones who went off to become missionaries. The ones who died to self and showed up at church week in and out, serving the church in so many capacities, small and large. The ones who wound up being there for each other in sickness and health and poverty and wealth. The ones who flatly said that they didn't believe in extra-marital sex or that porn was ok. The ones who were kind. The ones who said, over and over again, that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to salvation is to believe in His name.

These were the lighthouses in the sea and the fog. They shone - dimly sometimes, but always light giving - in an age where everyone seemed to have lost their collective moral compasses.

I watched them from my perch in the sidelines and even through the years I was physically and spiritually farthest from them, they never quite left my heart. For better or for worse, they had stamped my inner landscape with alien notions of personal holiness and the fear of God. But now, when I see them at infrequent gatherings or read their blogs - I finally get what they're struggling with, I finally understand their heart for God.

Christmas is drawing near and even as all the churches gear up for carolling, evangelistic outreach events and celebratory dinners, tempers are bound to fly, tired people are bound to wonder if all this is worth it. So this is for every christian I've ever known who may someday wonder: Did I make a difference? Was it worth it? Did I do enough? I can't see the fruit of my labour despite all that work - was it all for nothing?

As one who took a much longer time to catch up - and then not even on my own strength or volition - I just wanted to say that it was worth it and it wasn't all for nothing.

Yes, you did make a difference. Yes, it was worth it. No, you can't always see the fruit of your labour - but that doesn't mean there wasn't any - you just can't see it yet. God took your weak and fumbling gifts and used it for His glory even when you don't see it. Salvation belongs to the Lord, but He definitely uses your efforts in the process.

So press on. Don't be afraid to be different, to be as drastic as Josaiah. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and speak the truth in love. Press on so that one day we'll get to do the best kind of catch up session - the one that takes place in heaven.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Postcards



The exams are OVER. I PASSED.

The adorable postcard was sent by the little sister who is even more adorable (but less green) than that froggie. She does, however, jump out to scream 'Hellooooo' at me just to drive me nuts.

*melts into puddle of relief*

I keep sneaking peeks at my exam results slip to make sure I read it correctly. Gives me this uplift of joy and relief every time :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

little rabbits

Me: I have so many friends who are pregnant right now.

B: Yes, there are going to be so many little rabbits.

Me: ..... (horrified and wondering if its a reference to the phrase 'breeding like ...')

B: chinese zodiac lah.

Me: OOOH ~face palm~

*

two couples in conversation

Wife: Yeah I guess when the baby comes, things will be different. Harder to find couple time.

Husband (who shall remain un-named): Oh we can just sedate the baby....

Other Guy : I was just thinking that!!

Wife + other girl at table: ....!!!!!

*

Re reading Howl's Moving Castle after watching the animated Hayao Miyazaki film :) I shall never get tired of DWJ, never.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anything. I was a reader.

What did you like to read when you were growing up?

Anything. I was a reader. My parents would frisk me before family events. Before weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, and what have you. Because if they didn't, then the book would be hidden inside some pocket or other and as soon as whatever it was got under way I'd be found in a corner. That was who I was...that was what I did. I was the kid with the book. Now having said that, I tended to gravitate towards anything fantastical be it SF, be it fantasy, be it horror, be it ghost stories or anything in that territory. But I was definitely the kind of kid that read anything.

From a 1999 Neil Gaiman interview.

*

That was pretty much me from age 8 onwards to ... well, I kind of never stopped being the girl in the corner with a book. It's always nice to find kindred spirits. People who love the written word, stories that thrill and overwhelm you and teach you new ways of seeing the world. I don't think it even matters if you started on Harry Potter, Narnia or Dahl - the point is that a well written story will take a life of its own and pull you in.

The water is rising




We got to Hoi-An on Monday afternoon, in time to walk around town and marvel at how the river had swollen since the last time M was in town. The next morning, the water seemed to have risen slightly but it wasn't until after lunch that we realized that it was really going to inundate the town.

By nightfall, the water had claimed the street closest to the river and the air was charged with urgency: local shopkeepers hurrying to get their goods off the ground level, motorbikes whizzing about and a heightened level of noise and alarm generally.

The next morning, the field behind our hotel had turned into a swamp and very large parts of town were inaccessible. But the oddest thing was that it was a lovely day - dry and clear - not even a hint of rain. We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel's veranda, overlooking the swamp and the lone fisherman toiling to set his fishing lines through it, then walked out to find the river greeting us within ten metres of leaving the hotel.

I've done some travelling, but this is the first time I've ever patted a friend on the back and thanked her for booking a hotel a few streets back from the river.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One



Just one paper left - the hardest of the lot though.

The parents are back from Europe with oodles of chocolate and the loveliest stack of CDs. I've swiped the Placido Domingo and the Vienna Boys Choir one :)

Listening to Ave Maria (both the Schubert AND Gounod), munching on some gorgeous chocolate wafer thing (kind of like Loacker) and feeling blissed out. It's nice coming home from evidence law exam to all kinds of good stuff.

So blessed to have friends who care - Thanks so much to Meg(who's been emailing me encouragement), the sister (who sent me a post card all the way from Cambridge), Eilonwy, who's been praying and Mr Grey; he bought me rum and raisin ice-cream!

(And it was the rummiest rum and raisin ice cream too... it's a wonder I could study after that)

Back to the books tomorrow - but for tonight, some rest and music.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

humbled

Four years ago, a man named Ian Murphy was in a car accident. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for a substantial period of time. During the last four years, his family, his church and his girlfriend stood by his side, constantly keeping him in prayer and supporting him.

They never lost their faith and they never lost hope.

And they never stopped praising God.

It's crazy isn't it? When earthquakes happen, when random terrible things happen, usually the first thing people do is start blaming God.But not these people.

They have a faith in God's sovereignty, His eternal plan that is amazing and humbling.

Ian married his girlfriend Larissa this year. In the last four years, they have done more to display the self sacrificial love of Christ than I ever thought was humanly possible. It's so crazy and beautiful all at the same time and I'm so glad they decided to share their story online. Their blog is here. The main authors of the blog used to be Ian's father, Steve and Larissa. But last year, Steve passed away of cancer so it's mainly Larissa blogging now.

Larissa wrote this -

"Our every hope for marriage rests on what Christ has done. We are both entering this marriage with extreme weaknesses, difficulties and challenges that most marriages never experience. But we have hope. We have hope because the gospel affects everything about our lives. And we have everything we need for life and godliness through Christ. Our affection for each other and therefore our marriage cannot thrive outside of the gospel. So we are hoping and trying to enter into this knowing that we stand on nothing else other than Christ. We are so weak but we have a great God, who works way beyond what we can understand."


I went through a discontented funk in the last couple of days and felt so .. aggrieved about some stuff. But reading this made me realize - this is what the christian faith is about. That even in the midst of grief, you rejoice in the Lord and give thanks for His compassion and love. That it has been given to you to know Him and be adopted as sons. That you really and truly have been given new hearts that seek to obey and glorify Him.

So I'm writing this down as a reminder to myself. There is so much in my life to be thankful for - so much that I don't deserve. There is also such a long way to go in my walk with Christ, so much growing in humbleness, love, repentance and joy. But like them, my hope for salvation rests in Christ and the gospel.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Optimistic Little Poem

Now and then it happens

that somebody shouts for help

and somebody jumps in at once

and absolutely gratis.


Here in the thick of the grossest capitalism

round the corner comes the shining fire brigade

and extinguishes, or suddenly

there's silver in the beggar's hat.


Mornings the streets are full

of people hurrying here and there without

daggers in their hands, quite equably

after milk or radishes.


As though in a time of deepest peace.


A splendid sight.


By Hans Magnus Enzensberger (b. 1929)


Originally in German, translated by David Constantine.


*


I was reading a collection of poems published on the London Underground while on the MRT (so very appropos!) when I came across this little gem.


This is a little poem; it's not one of those epic, take on life/death/ancient mariners and albatrosses type :) But I like the little poems - they're so good when you need some laughter and whimsy.Looked through photos from my recent trips and I'm thankful for so much grace - good times with friends, music and so much good food. Counting blessings is a good indoor pastime when the haze strikes :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Following the pattern of sound words

There is a trend in many large churches for the congregation to be split and organized according to generation/age lines. So the young adult/university age people get cordoned off into one cell group (or set of cell groups), young working adults into another and so on.

This works out in terms of fellowship; it stands to reason that most people would have an easier time connecting with people their own age and given the similar life circumstances (hey, have you ever seen NS men get together and complain about NS?), they get to share their difficulties/travails with people who'd understand.

It's a reasonably good system, particularly for smaller congregations. But for large churches (loosely defined here as churches with a membership of 600 and up) and mega churches ( membership of 1000 and up) this system is potentially problematic when it comes to the issue of christian guidance and discipleship.

I'll put it bluntly. A lot of young Christians or young people seeking to find out more about Christianity are liable (in large churches especially) to get stuck in a group of people their age who're probably nice to hang out with but are similarly situated and have no real answers for their questions.

(Yes there are exceptions but I'm not talking about the exceptions.)

My point is this, as God’s people, we need to lean on those who’ve gone before us. (This post is inspired Keith and Kristin Getty's post so the link to their post is on the line above as it was taken from their post)

On their post, they also wrote:-

“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all he has made. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145:4, 13, 21

"When I read this passage, I’m reminded that the praises and testimonies of one generation are to echo into the next. All ages serve and worship the same God, gather under the same gospel and add to the collective song that praises the faithfulness of God as each generation shares in his promises to us. We are part of something timeless, and the exercise of stretching our vision beyond ourselves leads us further down the road to an eternal perspective on all of life and our very reason for being."


When Moses wrote Deuteronomy, he spent so much time exhorting the Israelites to keep on telling their children about the wonders that God had done for them, how He had brought them out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and the desert. He reminded them over and over again to tell the succeeding generations who had not witnessed these wonders for themselves.

Christianity is, at the core, a historic faith. God chose to work through human history, the history of the people of Israel and so much of the bible is concerned with historical narrative, with the trials and travails of the people of Israel as they blundered about, got some stuff right, got a lot of other stuff wrong and somehow found themselves kicked out of their own kingdom. This history, when read together with the decretive/teaching sections of the bible, is meant to give us a holistic picture of who God is and how He has worked through His people.

I believe that this should be reflected in the church. That one generation of christians, who have gone before us in the faith should commend God's works to the next, telling of God's faithfulness, compassion and mercy. When we segregate ourselves into groups that have mainly teens or people in the same age group and fail to make essential connections with the older (and more rooted) members of church, we miss out on discipleship and teaching. Ideally, all older persons in the church should function as role models and mentors, modelling for us the Christian walk in growing sanctification and holiness.

Back to my example of people stuck in a group of people their own age - the thing is, it's fun and it draws a crowd. People like to fit in and have friends to kick back with - but is it all that church (or a christian fellowship) is supposed to be? Is it biblical?


"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:1 - Paul's last letter to Timothy)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nicene Creed

After I looked up the Apostles' Creed, I came across the Nicene Creed and did a really quick 2 minute comparison of the two.

They match each other point for point except that the Nicene has a great deal more detail about the nature and sovereignty of God and of the person and works of Christ. It emphasized, in short, the Holy Trinity of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and took pains to add that Christ is a'being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;".

Both creeds are among the oldest declarations of the essentials of the Christian faith; the Nicene dates back to the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325) and revised in the First Council of Constantinople (AD 381). This was before the split between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox church - and obviously well before the rise of Protestant Christianity in the 1600s.

The difference in emphasis was apparently due to the fact that the Nicene Creed was written as a response to the rise of Arianism - the belief that Christ was a created being and thus not fully God.

In liturgical churches, the Apostles creed and/or the Nicene creed is recited as part of the service every Sunday. My own church is Baptist, a non credal denomination, and reciting it has never been part of my regular church going experience. The Scots Church service that I visited two weeks ago, is apparently Presbyterian, a liturgical denomination that does make the recital of the creeds part of their regular service.

I'd love to do classes on church history, latin and the historical rise of Christianity. But this is such a bad time to pick up anything. Exams coming up! Everything else will have to wait til after they're over.

*

Traditional Wording
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he rose again
according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
and he shall come again, with glory,
to judge both the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son];
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified;
who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
and I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

*

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum non factum, consubstantialem Patri; per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de caelis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est, et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre (Filioque) procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Grace and peace be with you



Giving thanks for ... the night and the music.gelati. a trip filled with much love and friendship. Mr Grey's company.

the girl, the girl who died? it's terrible to put this in writing but.

the girl was the same age as the sister, had gone to all the same schools.

and but for the grace, the everlasting grace of God....

she could have been anyone of us.

*

there are so many distractions. food, shopping, moving countries, academic interests, music, art - we pretend that some of it is more important, more weighty than the others. but all the same, so much of it coming at us and then we forget.

the things that really matter. the things that have eternal weight, eternal consequences.

MFE quote:

the most important question in our lives isn't about who we're going to marry, where we'll work, what we'll do in the next five, ten, fifteen years.

it's this: on that great and final day, when He comes to judge the living and the dead, to separate the goats from the sheep - where will you stand?

who will we follow?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apostles' Creed

Visited the Scots Church in Melbourne when I was there and was struck by their recital of the Apostle's Creed and that the entire congregation could, with one voice, stand up and recite together, the Lord's Prayer (KJV version too!). Why have so many churches stopped reciting it? This creed is so short but contains almost all the essentials about the Christian faith.

Who are you? What do you believe in?

*

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

*

In Latin

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,
et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
descendit ad ínferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,
inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.
Amen

Friday, October 1, 2010

from more to more

STRONG Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seemed my sin in me;
What seemed my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.

-- Tennyson

*

Vacillation

The Soul. Seek out reality, leave things that seem.
The Heart. What, be a singer born and lack a theme?
The Soul. Isaiah's coal, what more can man desire?
The Heart. Struck dumb in the simplicity of fire!
The Soul. Look on that fire, salvation walks within.
The Heart. What theme had Homer but original sin?


-- Yeats

*

Reading through bits of Tennyson's In Memoriam now. Some really beautiful verses but some parts, trite as trite could be.

Yeats is an old love. I read and was taken by "An Irish Airman foresees his death" before I knew who Yeats was or that he was a famous poet. The best way to encounter beautiful writing, really. To just bump into it on the street or in some out of the way bookstore and have the whole world just shift, sideways and inside outside in.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Diving into the wreck

It was cold, colder than it had been on the night dive and the visibility was clouded by the silt from the bottom. There was no coral, not here, not this deep. Still, we followed the slope of the sea floor down, down and down. Twenty metres, twenty-two, twenty-three, the dive master swimming elegantly ahead, arms folded across his chest. We followed him like a trail of ungainly porpoises, kicking up sediment and getting into each other's way.

Twenty-six metres, almost the deepest I'd ever been and still nothing. We began to wonder if this was a futile undertaking. Our time was running out and we had seen nothing but the sand and a few secretive fish.

When the hull rose up from the grey green depths. I thought of ghosts, the myths of davy jones, the ship that was doomed to sail and keep sailing. And I thought of this poem.

We skirted the wreck of the ship carefully, watching the schools of fish swim lazily in and out of the deck.

Then I understood this poem, the understanding surfacing clearly and greenly in the depths of the sea while I swam past mirror eyed fish.

*


Diving Into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers

the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
abroad the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it's a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or week

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
and I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
Obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.


--Adrienne Rich

Thursday, September 2, 2010

be thou my vision

I was reading parts of this blog and I'm roundly ashamed; we who are whole in body and have so much are so often ungrateful, discontented and bitter.

Dinner with some friends and we wound up solving some brain teaser type problems that were posed as part of an interview process. It came to me only after dinner, on my way home, that if only all problems in life were really like brain teaser, IQ type problems. Those can be figured out given time and ingenuity but... some of the problems I see out there in the world, problems of the heart, those don't give way to easy solutions.

This is one of my favourite verses in this hymn, a verse that is rarely sung; in fact, the only reason I've heard it is because I managed to get my hands on a Van Morrison cover of this hymn and he included it. It came to me that so many hymns I love are prayers - this one, be thou my vision - is really a prayer that Christ may be your all.


*

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

*

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11:33

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let's grow old together


Met with some lovely friends in the last few days - I heart the kind of friendship that has grown comfortable and old :)

There's an oft repeated line in rom-coms or romantic movies about couples growing old together and I don't see any reason why this shouldn't apply to friendships too. It's exciting to watch people I knew from school get married, have kids, move to the middle east, adopt kids, go back to school and go through all kinds of mad, weird, happy and beautiful life changes.

It's something I've brought up in another blogpost about Ms E but I guess it goes for all friends too. I can't wait to attend their weddings, watch their kids grow up and see them travel the world.

Equalizing

The first time my head went under the waves, I felt a dim wave of panic: What if I drowned? What if my oxygen tank ran out? What if I couldn't breathe? You prepare and prepare but the one thing you can't ever be prepared for is fear itself.

In diving, when you first begin your descent, absolutely the first - and arguably most important thing to do - is to start the process of equalizing immediately. It's so that the pressure difference between your middle and outer ear will be equalized, i.e, your ears will go 'pop' and feel comfortable again.

The process of equalizing takes longer for some people, some others seem to be able to equalize in a flash, disappearing into the blue depths quickly and easily. Whatever it is, it's important not to rush it, if you can't equalize, you go back up a couple of feet and try again, descending slowly when you're comfortable again. There is no place for stubborn, gung-ho, 'I'm sure I'll be fine and my ears can take it' kind of attitude - that in fact, is probably precisely the sort of thing that gets divers' eardrums ruptured.

I haven't been blogging much because I don't adapt well to change - there have been so many of late- and some of it really got to me in the last couple of months. So rather than allowing the blue funk that had overtaken me overflow onto this page, I blogged other things - pictures, odd snapshots from the books I read, a verse or two of poetry, bible verses etc. There was stuff up here, but my heart hasn't been fully in it for awhile.

The trouble with being plunged into new circumstances in life is that, in life, unlike diving, no one expects you to have to equalize to adapt to the pressure of the new environment. Nope. No such thing. It's all mask on, fins on, regulator on and down you go into the blue depths. But there really isn't any reason why the equalizing principle shouldn't apply to real life as well. When you undergo major life changes, you have to adapt to the pressures of a new environment just like you have to adapt to the pressure on your eardrums (and the additional under water related dangers) when you dive.

It doesn't make sense that we're expected to adapt instantly and uniformly. Just as some people take a longer time to equalize, some people - like me, duh!- take a longer time to adjust to a new surroundings and new people.

The next time I go through any kind of a major life shift, I'm going to keep that equalizing principle in mind. No more gung-ho, grit your teeth and take the pain of the pressure attitude.

No, life is not that different from diving. The same survival principles apply: When you're uncomfortable, you should go back up a couple of feet and equalize, before descending slowly. Don't panic. Know that you're in an alien environment, the rules that applied on land
(or elsewhere) may not apply underwater. Keep breathing. Communicate - because in life, as in diving, when you're having problems, it's critical to signal your distress so that your buddy can help you. Staying quiet and suffering in silence is as bad an idea on land as it is underwater.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Standing on the Rock

"We talk about Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the saviour, who died for our sin, rose from the dead, and is coming again. What happens? A generation ago when a Christian would do that with one who did not believe or who did not want to believe, he generally got an argument. The person who did not like what he was saying would explain why most people could not believe it.....

But what happens when we present the claims of Christ today? Sometimes we meet a particularly argumentative person, somebody who has been readiing the old liberal literature and wants to defend these ideas. He might argue. But, generally speaking, we do not get arguments today. Usually people will say, I'm glad you have found something meaningful for you, but that is just not my bag. What they mean is that it is truth for you, but it is not truth for me; I have a different kind of truth in my own area."

-- James Montgomery Boice, Standing on the Rock

Monday, August 2, 2010

one, two and three

One



From Joshua Harris' blog :) On a related note, do wander over to have a look at his blog sometime, he's put up a free chapter from his latest book, Dug Down Deep there.

Two

The Guardian has put up one of Shaun Tan's stories from his new book, Tales from Outer Suburbia. Like so many of his other illustrations, it's quite disarmingly poignant. Link to the story is here.

Three

Poem of the week at The Guardian is the Schubertiad, a poem loosely based on Schubert's String Quintet. I say that its loosely based and the Guardian says that its a translation of music into text - a statement I find curious.

Why a translation? It connotes a direct transfer of similar ideas from one language to another and I'm unsure if music can ever be translated into art or poetry. The creative arts don't quite work that way.

I do know this: being a music lover who can't play any instrument properly hurts. Perhaps I insist on poetry partly because I'm unable to express myself musically. The pain from being shut out of that world is quite raw and real, rising up before my face with every piano sonata.


Schubertiad

After the String Quintet in C, D956

One moment before it starts –
one breath.

Light stills
in the meadow,

stalls at oaks
and the river's silver line.

For an instant
your stomach turns over –

as if you missed yourself

and this minute
and the next

were already a memory.

*

Sometimes,
world slips from beat to beat
like a song.

The afternoon fills
with lokum's evasive scent,
deep notes of cherry,

and there are saucers of honey
and peaches and a girl
who leans on a cushion to sing –

Open your notebook,
catch
how she throws out the tune

as if she tongued
a rose
between her lips –

*

Wanderer, the wide river
shines in the morning sun.
Between the country and the city -
see it run.

You'd like to run with it
to a quiet place, in fields
time and sickness never visit
and joy shields.

Too soon the flood and battened sluice,
the detritus of a life
that's been turned adrift
on this tide

which now seems beautiful and bright:
the river's backdrop to the kiss
you borrowed from daylight
and bring to Dis.

*

Waiting (stateliest of the modes)
among Greek key, acanthus,
shuttered glass
and the light snagged in stucco –

where each façade rises
in stillness
and stone grows
infinitesimally –

you feel a creak and strain:
spring ice
yawing on its tethers.
You poor soul.

Without summer's garlands and girls
you're quite bare,
bespectacled and alone
in that soiled bed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tracing the rainbow through the rain



Thank you for the well wishes :) all of those who left me messages, sent me text messages from overseas! Love you guys!

*

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.



P.S I do not attend Glory Presbyterian, which is the church featured in the video. But its the only video on youtube featuring the Chris Rice version of this hymn, so here it is.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

乌云



In a terrible funk at the moment. The difficult unreasoning kind - where nothing seems to help much and you just don't want to get out of bed. I get that way around my birthday.

But. I will not wallow, I will not play "It sucks to be me" or various weepy Jay Chou songs or think about eating worms and instead will listen to this:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lullaby

Lullaby
By Jenny Joseph

Only when we are in each other's arms
Babies or lovers or the very ill
Are we content not to reach over the side;
To lie still.

To stay in the time we've settled in, that we've
scooped
Like a gourd of its meat,
And not, like a sampling fly, as soon as landed
Start to our feet,

Pulling one box on another, Ossa on Pelion;
Getting the moment, only to strain away
And look each day for what each next day brings us:
Yet another day;

Pleased with the infant's health and the strength of
its frame
For the child it will grow to,
The house perfected, ready and swept, for the new
Abode we go to,

The town in order and settled down for the night
The sooner for the next day to be over,
The affair pushed straight away to its limit, to leave
and notch up
Another lover.

Lie still, then, babies or lovers or the frail old who
In dreams we carry
Seeking a place of rest beyond the crowds
That claim and harry.

We are trying to reach that island for the festive
evening
Where our love will stay –
Waylaid, prevented, we wake as that vivid country
Mists into day.

Stay on this side of the hill.
Sleep in my arms a bit longer.
This driving on will take you over the top
Beyond recall the sooner.

Born in 1932 in Birmingham, Joseph has written poetry for adults and children, as well as fiction. In 1986 she was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial prize for Persephone.

*

What I really love about this poem, is how relaxed it is. One line falls into another and you hardly notice the rhyme and meter. And yet the images stay with you, the gourd scooped of its meat, the abode swept clean - in an unhurried manner, they create clear distinct images, one linking into another.

Very often with poems in a distinct verse form, one has the feeling that the lines are contorted to fit the rhyme, very much the way you see a contortionist twist his body to fit in an impossibly small box.

But this is free and easy. It reaches for the skies and yet curves gracefully into rhymes, looping itself in and out.

Just like when you see terns fly low over the sea, dipping now and then into blue silk water, and there are no words but it is sheer poetry.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What does God require of us?



He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

*

Revelation from the minor prophets - that God is indeed kinder and more compassionate than man.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jazz dancin' on the streets of NY



From the Sartorialist.

Don't these people look like they're having fun? She's so obviously doing the lindy twist-twist :)

Oh my, I've had enough of not dancing. Go away flu virus, I want to go back to dance already!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

epiphany



*

"It's really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, she's called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some have. She's a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera." She's wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see. Anyway, Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, "Gillian, how'd you get to be a dancer?" And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the '30s, wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. (Laughter) People weren't aware they could have that.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it -- because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of eight -- in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me, and I need to speak to her privately." He said, "Wait here, we'll be back, we won't be very long." and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick, she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."

I said, "What happened?" She said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think." "

*

Mr Grey sent me this yesterday. It's the only TED talk that has ever made me tear up. Right around the time he told this story.

You see, when I was about 10 years old, I was this exceptionally spacey child. I was solitary and I liked reading and was always always nose deep in some book or another.

And one day, one of my teachers took my parents aside and told them that I had a problem. I was day dreaming too much and that if they didn't stop me, I would fail all my exams and then terrible things would happen.

So one day while I was at school, my parents went home and removed every single fiction book, every single fairy tale and every single non school related book in the house. They left the encyclopaedia sets, the Reader's Digest and the assessment books. The rest, they all got boxed up and dumped into storage somewhere.

I came home from school that day and practically went into shock. Then when they got home from work, they sat down and told me that dreaming was a bad thing, that I had a problem and this was the cure. They told me that if they didn't do this, I would dream my life away.

Later, when I was 11, they told me that if I went on day dreaming, I might end up being autistic - if I wasn't already.

I don't blame my parents because I don't think they really understood what they did - and it is with a desperate sadness, not anger that I write this. They're hard headed Asian professionals and they weren't prepared for a dreamer of a child and were at their wits end when it came to dealing with the absent minded, spacey child who nattered on about, well, nonsensical things. To them, it was alien; it was a "condition". For better or worse, they were stuck with me and I was stuck with them and by the grace of God, we survived each other.

(Although I do think that I was lucky they hadn't heard of ADHD too - otherwise I might have also been put on medication.)

Anyway, I was pretty old by the time I realized there were actually other people like me. Who liked the same stuff I liked. And he's right, it was wonderful. It really was.

Lewis - On love and God

C.S. Lewis:

“(Sensual love) ceases to be a devil when it ceases to be a god. So many things—nay every real thing—is good if only it will be humble and ordinate.” (from a 1940 letter)

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” (from a 1952 letter)

*

Frustrated. I can't find my copy of 'The Problem of Pain', I'd only gone as far as Chapter 2!

~looks around messy room in despair~

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vagrant Waters

It takes a special kind of mood to read Neruda. The kind that comes upon you at midnight when your sins and past loves flame into being. The time for stories thickened with passion and history, when night enfolds you with her wings.

Then it is time for Neruda. For the salt rose and topaz and the blossoms of longing and passion.

Oh if I could only write that way, feel that way. This is a strange affair - this crazy impassioned dance with words. Sometimes I fight them and they stand up to me, unyielding and obstinate. Most times, they taunt me from a grave distance, cool and unfriendly. But I live for the moments when they come near and we dance.

*

Here I Love You


Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
Oh the black cross of a ship.
Alone.


Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.

Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.

The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.

The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.

Pablo Neruda

Monday, July 12, 2010

One and Two

One - For those who love stories but lack cash, a new-ish Neil Gaiman short story's up at Fifty-Two Stories :) For those who love stories and don't lack money, there's a new anthology of short stories out, collected by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.

Two - Matthew Smith's guest post "Confessions of a failed worshipper" is up at Challies.com. He gives a personal account of how he first encountered hymns while in college in Nashville and how he came to write modern acoustic guitar driven music for hymns.

"The hymns also invited me to be honest. Rather than demanding that I leave the hardships of life at the door to lose myself in a “worship experience” (which had never panned out anyway, and upon reflection, seemed more of a Buddhist ideal than a Christian one), they spoke frankly about how weariness, sorrow, and pain are a part of the normal Christian life—not a sign of personal spiritual failure.

Dear refuge of my weary soul, on Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll, my fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief, for Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel"


I love when the lyrics point firmly toward God as the fount of all blessings and His Word as the guiding light for life. So much modern worship music focuses on the self and is frighteningly devoid of reference to the Word.

The other thing about a lot of modern worship music - aside from the focus on the 'experience' - is its lyrical emptiness. It sounds good and feels good but the gospel seems to be of penumbral significance when it should be front and centre. In the move toward modernizing the church, I think people were a little too hasty in abandoning hymnals - which I guess also shows the church's woeful lack of reference to scripture in decision making. Ditching traditions that have no foundation in the Word is one thing, but replacing biblically sound lyrics for empty and almost wordless "worship experiences" was a terrible idea.

I'm too old to beat around the bush so if anyone wants to get me birthday presents, Indelible Grace and Matthew Smith CDs would be very very welcome :) ~ahem~ (goodness, writing this out was more embarrassing than I thought it would be).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Docimedis has lost two gloves



"Docimedis has lost two gloves. He asks that the person who has stolen them should lose his minds and his eyes in the temple where she appoints"

I was half amused and half taken aback at the sheer number of vituperative curses found in the Roman baths. This bit of writing dates back to sometime in the second or third century, just before Christianity reached England.

My pastor's preaching through the sermon on the Mount and the week before, he taught through the passage in Matthew 5:38 - 42, the famous one starting with: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.".

These roman coins found in Bath is a vivid reminder that this teaching was radically counter-cultural for an age marked by violence, bloody politicking and vengeance. We've become so much more "civilized" in the last two thousand years that we've forgotten the roots of our modern beliefs in human rights and civilized neighbourly behaviour.

Anyway, here's some more of the sermon on the Mount:

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said,'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you,Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rise up and call her blessed

The NYT recently published an article profiling three prominent female golfers, discussing a conundrum common to many working women – career or children?

The article went on to point out – in a picturesque simile - that as with many careers, the prime years for career building and child-bearing overlap “like a total eclipse of the moon”. In the last two years, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa have bowed out from professional golf, citing family as the reason. In December 2006, Cristie Kerr (currently the world no. 1) married Erik Stevens, a 45 year old man who – by his own admission – wants children. It is not unforeseeable that in the next few years, Kerr might also retire from pro golfing to focus on marriage and motherhood.

I read two articles almost side by side today, this article from the NYT discussing profiling three prominent female golfers and their decisions vis a vis the issue of career and motherhood and this thoughtful series of blogposts mourning the passing of Sono Sato Harris.

For those who don’t know who she was, Sono Harris was the mother of Joshua Harris, the guy who authored the seminal Christian book on dating "I Kissed Dating good-bye” (yeah, I know, controversial right?). Joshua Harris wrote the book at age 21 and is now the senior pastor of a church in Maryland. Sono Harris had six other children and two of her other sons, Brett and Alex also co-wrote a book, “Do Hard Things: A teenage rebellion against low expectations” which incidentally, was read by Abby Sunderland, the American teenager during her attempt to sail solo around the world.

Sono Harris died on 4 July 2010. Hers was a life characterized by self sacrifice, courage and strength and tributes poured in, from her children and many others.

I switched from reading about her to reading this NYT article and the disjunction between the two made my head spin.

Spread out over, two, three tabs in my browser were loving tributes to Sono Harris and on this tab? A discussion of “conversations on motherhood among golfers now often include surrogacy, adoption, freezing eggs, assisted reproduction techniques and the side effects of hormone injections.” and how the pregnancy weight gain made surrogacy "the logical option".

Cognitive dissonance much?

The only thing I could think of when I read that was - I do not ever want to have a conversation like that and God willing, I never will.

This isn't to say that marriage and kids are the only possible goals in life. But seriously, this is an age when personal achievement and fulfillment are considered to be the paramount goals of an individual's life. This pursuit of happiness is largely based on a very selfish and fleeting model of happiness - one that is premised on individual satisfaction and fulfillment.

You know, when I came across the photo of Sono Harris, taken just before she died, I was struck by how beautiful she was. She was thin; the cancer had worn her down but she looked kind and gentle. I looked at it and realized I knew other faces like that in real life. People whose lives are marked by courage, service to others and a great loving unselfishness have faces like hers.

It's when you see people like that, that you come to understand 1 Peter 3:4 "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" and Proverbs 31:28 "Her children rise up and call her blessed".

I never knew her, but I've been indirectly blessed by her sacrifices and am deeply grateful for people like her, men and women both, who model Christ for us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

So over.

There's a scene in Grey's Anatomy, when Christina's wedding gets called off and Meredith is tasked with informing the entire chapel full of wedding guests that there will be no wedding.

Meredith strides up to the front, and in what must be the most brutally terse announcement ever, says:

"It's over. You can all go home now. It's so over."

It's over.


I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy last year. And Gossip Girl. And How I met your mother. They weren't bad shows (well, not all of them were bad anyway)but well.

It's just that the only reason I was watching some of them was because I felt such a powerful connection with the weird damaged characters fumbling their way through life. Fact and fiction blurred and some parts of last year, my life felt strangely like an episode of some bad soap opera. So I watched them partly because I needed to know that I wasn't the only one with a crazy mixed up soup of a life. The only one who didn't progress through life with a perfect GPA and glittery pom-poms.

But last year at some point, the connection just simply went away. Last year, all the familiar old signposts and tracks of the old world were simply erased.

People sometimes talked about their mental furniture being moved around. For me, the room (with all attendant furniture) just disappeared as though it had never been and I found myself staring out into a vast wilderness. Thorns and briers marauded but through it, a stream of clear cold water. Vines, lush and rich hung over the stream and winding in and around the thorns, always within range of the stream, was a path.

So I did the only thing I could. I started walking.

In the post I linked below, Challies talked about how Sauron (in Lord of the Rings) could not see how anyone could bear to destroy the ring of power. He thought that anyone who held on to the ring, would want to do the same thing - use it to rule all of Middle Earth.

Tim Challies wrote this at the end of that post:

Evil cannot understand good. When I communicate with an unbeliever, as I’ve been doing in my letters to Luke (another of which is coming soon) I can have confidence that I understand him better than he understands me. Why? Because I have been brought from darkness into light, from evil into good. I’ve known evil and now know good. Through the Bible I am given God’s eyes to see evil as he sees it and to understand it as he understands it. This gives me a whole new clarity. But one who has never turned to Christ has known only evil. He can see what is good but can understand it only through that lens of evil. I know what it is to be lost in a way that he cannot know what it is to be saved.


Grey's and all other associated TV shows just went away. They just didn't have any more connection with me or the road that lay ahead. I could see them as they truly were and while I recognized the refractions of reality in them, I could also see that they were pretty much useless (even dangerous) as road maps go.

It's a small change amidst the firestorm of changes last year and it was more a natural corollary of the greatest change there was. Anyway, all this bubbled up today, because, while looking for an Ingrid Michaelson song, I stumbled across a youtube video of the Grey's episode I described above.

I watched and remembered - the show, the girl watching the show and behind all of that, the girl who needed to watch the show. I watched it and knew that connection I once had with these shows was over.

It was just so over.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Such a jocund company





We wandered - my family and I - about the Lake District for four whole days, walking four, five hours a day, drinking tea and collapsing into deep sleep every night.

The loveliest part was when we were in the woods and I looked up at the sunlit green leaves, at the sister taking photos of wildflowers and realised:

All around were - green tree cathedrals, aisles of flowers, congregations of sheep and - oh best of all - No exhaust. No construction dust. No piling noise. No buildings. No phones. No computers.

*

Deo gratias.

*


Dear Mr Wordsworth,

I apologize for always thinking that you were a romantic, tree hugging, flower loving dilettante. And for wondering why you were always making such a fuss about flowers and lakes. And for... well, wondering if you really deserved to be poet laureate.

I've just been to the lakes and watched sunlight dance off their waters. Oh and I finally read your Preludes.

I get it now.

Respectfully yours,

Di

Sunday, June 27, 2010

O earth what changes hast thou seen!



On the tube (Gloucester to Hammersmith). How I love it when poetry infiltrates the mundane world, speaking its secret language to those in the know - akin to a lover reaching under the table to hold one's hand in surreptitious joy.

From In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.


There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central see.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Orrest Head - Lake District



*

Inscription on a stone bench at the top of Orrest Head:

Thou who hast given me eyes to see
And love this sight so fair
Give me a heart to find out thee
And read thee everywhere

*

Everywhere I turned, there were remnants of England as the Christian nation it once was. But everywhere I went, there were living reminders of the secular nation it now is.

A lovely trip nonetheless - but with just that little shadow of sadness.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Can I get there by candle-light?

Back from church retreat, packing my bags at midnight (thankfully not by candle-light) then off again to the U.K for a couple of weeks :)

Yay! Oh how I've missed crazy night time packing and running about different places. Blogging might be scarce for a bit, folks but I'll be back after the break with stories to tell!

*

How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, there and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You will get there by candle-light

*

Praying for God's grace for this trip and his mercy to be upon my family. Remembered what the dude once said about journey's mercies - we ask for it as a matter of course but its only when sudden danger comes that we recall that our lives are indeed held in His hands.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wading into Deepwater

They say that all divers become amateur conservationists. Well not all. But most do. In the dive trips I've been on, one of the most fun things to do post dive is to look up the fishes and marine creatures you've spotted. For that one hour or so, you're allowed entry into another world and it's addictive. You want to keep going back. But you also banish - forever - that distance that exists between your heart and the wild spaces of the earth. It's so easy for us to pretend that disasters don't exist or that they're somehow too far away to touch us. But once you've been diving, you learn that there are complex communities that exist beneath the surface of the blue waters and that are vulnerable to our carelessness and greed.

I've been reading the reports on the Deepwater oil spill off the gulf of Mexico with growing horror. Then today, I saw this series of photographs of sea birds, pelicans mired in the oil, flailing about helplessly, trying and failing to fly and I almost cried.

I thought of my boat ride out to sea last week when I stood at the prow of the boat, watching a pair of graceful sea terns fly in unison, dipping into the sea for fish, skimming the breezes - the living epitome of joy. I thought - what if this spill were in my own backyard? Off the coast of the South China Sea? What if I was told that my children would never be able to see the coral reefs of South East Asia vibrant with life and teeming with fish? What if the same pair of sea terns showed up tomorrow, covered in disgusting brown slick and unable to fly?

I sound like a bleeding heart environmentalist and heck, I know I am. But enough is enough. Concern over this world we live is not the sole province of a few left wing environmentalists - after all, last I checked, we all breathe the same air and eat fish from the same oceans.

The truth is also that for a long time, I've felt that Christians have failed to take environmental concerns seriously and I'm glad - SO glad - to see Russell Moore grapple fiercely with this issue and call for evangelicals to take environmental protection seriously. Read his blogpost on it here.

Protecting the environment is as much a moral issue as it is a practical one. Above all, God has called for us to be good stewards of our resources and has told us, over and over again, that the love of money is the root of all evil. Those who fail to see that environmental destruction is a result of human sin and folly, hold too low a view of the depravity of the human heart.

Here's a decent write up by the NYT on the effect of the spill and the Boston Globe has more pictures here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

(S)He is like a tree

During uni, lots of friends routinely packed up their bags and went on back packing holidays around Europe or America - I stayed home, hung out with friends and was content with the usual year end family holiday.

Talking to a friend online that day, I was surprised by his reluctance to travel - surprised but also reminded of myself at that age. I warned him that once work started, time would become a precious commodity and that travel was an important way to see the world, broaden his horizons and to learn independance and survival skills. I can't remember if I told him this, but if I didn't I'm saying it now: I deeply regretted not having travelled more during my university years. I regret having stifled that part of myself and that I lacked the self awareness to realize the restlessness within. The regret over travel is part of a bigger regret - of having wasted so many years thinking someone else's thoughts and trying to live another person's dreams. Those were prime years for learning, trying stuff out and yes, travelling. So much of what I do now, I wish I'd been brave enough and confident enough to try out then - dance, diving, travel, learning a musical instrument etc etc.

Thinking about it more though, I've come to realize that I associated travel, activities and learning with the idea of living fully and wisely and the two strands don't always go together.

I have several very wise and gentle girl friends that I turn to when in need of advice and I've been grateful for them. But it came to my attention recently that two of them have never lived abroad and one of them rarely travels.

It made me realize all over again that the accretion of skills and knowledge do not always lead to wisdom. My friends are wise (although not always gentle when scolding me about my silly shenanigans!) because they are planted firmly in the fear of God. In other words, they know who God is and who they are and have spent years learning to think God's thoughts after Him and learning to live out the faith.

They may not be super brand name uni grads and they may have lived in Singapore their whole lives but I would trust their assessment and opinion on any situation at any given point in time - above and beyond the opinion of supposedly "smarter" or more "worldly" folks.

There's still much I want to do. White water rafting in NZ/Australia, trekking and travelling around SE Asia and Europe, learn jazz dance and languages. But these are the people who help keep me grounded, who'll scold me when I take on too much and who are so highly allergic to fools that I'd be warned well in advance if I tried anything silly. These are the people I want to become.

I'm still restless and God willing, I'll be able to travel and see much much more of the world but by the grace of God, I'm no longer the will 'o' wisp, blown hither thither by passing gusts of wind but becoming more and more like that tree, grounded and planted by streams of water.

*

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.