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,


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.