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


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


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
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
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



"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.

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 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.