Archive for June, 2007

Fat Cats and Guitars

Yesterday’s CG was held at Beverly’s place at Holland Village. I had quite a time getting there, first along the jammed up PIE, then making a few wrong turns once I hit Holland Road. It’s all good: just part of the learning process. I also, regrettably, scuffed the rim of the car’s right rear wheel when I made a right turn too close to the kerb at a traffic junction; I knew it was coming once I made the turn and soon after felt/heard the grinding metal. Sorry mum 😦

Everyone was very amused at Beverly’s cat, called Tabs. It reminded me of this cat:

Tabs isn’t as huge but pretty darn close. Joana was saying that Tabs was twice the size of Happy, her shihtzu. I’d have to agree. Tabs seemed to like the fellows well enough though; he tried settling into Darrell’s open guitar bag and kept walking between us when we were seated on the floor playing the guitar together. What an attention seeker! Beverly says Tabs is really just stout, but let’s call a spade a spade: the cat is FAT. Comparisons to Garfield and Hercules (the cat in the picture) are therefore, inevitable. Heheh.

Speaking of playing the guitar, Abba has really revived my love for it, especially after being unable to practise during the past few weeks of hectic-ness. It was such a simple joy to spend a little time to practise together with Darrell. I really have an affinity with this precious brother of mine because we are taking similar journeys in this aspect of playing. We began with no skill and no ability. Utterly self-conscious of singing and playing. Coming into this with just a heart to praise and worship Him from the depths of our souls, without concern for technical flourish, vocal training or whatnot, but with eyes just fixed firmly and solely upon Him. Both of us (at least I am) are amazed how playing and singing comes so easily to Joseph (with his Josh Groban-esque voice and slender fingers that caress and coax music from wood and strings) and Zhengkai (rockstar just waiting to rock out).

This blessing deserves more introspection, but I wanted to take some time to pen down these thoughts for deeper reflection in future. Before HM6 I was practising on ONE song, and it took me weeks to even play, let alone sing it. I was tired, frustrated and ultimately despondent. I had tried for several years, beginning from way back in my poly days (when I was spellbound by Yongwei’s mesmeric skill), to be able to strum and sing. I have NO musical talent whatsoever to speak of, and being able to play a song from start to finish is a miracle in itself.

So I told Abba: just let me learn to play ONE song, and I will be satisfied.

And I did manage to strum and sing one song from start to finish, and it was ‘How Great is Our God’. How apt, now that I think of it. Can you imagine what it felt to be able to do so, after years of constant and utter failure? The experience teaches me this: God can turn a desert into a garden. There is no impossibility with God; what is barren and devoid of life can be transformed into fruitfulness and life abundant when we let go and let God take over. When we take up the cross of Jesus’s finished work, that says that we only need to believe. We need not work, nor do, to attain or achieve. We only believe. Grace. Undeserved.

I tried practising the song ‘Devotion’ (from Hillsongs United’s All of the Above album) before my short hiatus, and I was horrible. I felt defeated; I thought I had come to the end of my tether – my lack of talent or ability becoming glaringly obvious in my eyes. I realise now that I had missed the point. It never was about my talent or ability. These are good things, but when it comes to worship, they are not the crucial things. I asked myself: Do I see as I, in my self, see, or do I see, as God sees? Was I concerned about flesh, or spirit?

So during the weeks I stopped playing the guitar, God led me back to Him. He renewed my mind, refreshed and restored me, leading me back to seek what is truly important. To focus upon the person of Jesus, and how all I am today, as a believer, is bound irrevocably by His finished work. Sealed by His blood.

The past week, I picked up the guitar again and tried playing Devotion. Amazingly, and no doubt by the grace of God, I managed to play it. It was as if something just fell into place and clicked. Honestly, I was overwhelmed, because I saw that right from the beginning, Abba was there. The ability to play and sing is indubitably gifted by Him.

So all I can say now is that He is faithful. Always faithful.

Thank you, Lord 🙂

Review: Romeo x Juliet

This epic tale of love and tragedy takes on a new form in Gonzo Studio‘s Romeo x Juliet with an adaptation into Japanese animation.Romeo x Juliet is as distanced as possible from Baz Luhrmann’s modernist take on Shakespeare’s arguably most well-known play, and instead of a Mexico City-esque Verona Beach, we have Neo-Verona, a fantastical city with pegasi and wondrously-designed architecture.

Shakespearean purists will be livid at the artistic liberties taken in this adaptation because other than the character names, little else of the story remains intact. While I have not studied the play, little of what I’ve seen so far indicates any faithfulness Fumitoshi Oisaki (director) has paid to the source text. For example, in the first episode, the Capulet family is decimated by Lord Montague, leaving only Juliet as the last living Capulet. The anime fast forwards to Juliet in her teens, who has resorted to masquerading as a boy to conceal her identity and expresses her rebellious angst as a masked vigilante known as the Red Whirlwind.

It is clear that the anime is targeted at teenagers. The lovers are wide-eyed with awe as they first lock gazes; nothing like the passionate intensity between Di Caprio and Danes in the aquarium scene of Luhrmann’s adaptation. Juliet here is little more than a girl caught in the first flush of infatuation, displaying a familiar anime character archetype that flits between feistiness and feminity. Romeo is the perfect gentleman, burning with youth’s idealism and hesitancy, while being disdainful enough of his privileged aristocracy to suggest a nobility of heart.

What we have here sets the premise for ‘love at first sight’, but what should have been climactic in a manner which dictates the motivations of the two star-cross’d lovers for the rest of the series, is swiftly lost. Juliet here does not, unlike Claire Danes, express the character as both strong yet fragile (though it has been implied in the first episode with Juliet’s facade of bravado and swordsmanship). Romeo does little better, looking like a slack-jawed male entranced by a pretty face. Fumitoshi tries to amp up the drama with cascades of flower petals (or leaves) but the scene falls flat; I am thinking: Where is the earth-shaking, mountain-moving love that will drive these lovers to their deaths? I am unconvinced.

Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

I remain divided about this anime, which might not be too surprising considering I am ten years older than the target demographic. However, let not what I’ve said so far detract from the obvious qualities of the film.

First, the opening (which for me, reflects an anime’s overall quality). Lena Park sings in Japanese You Raise Me Up (popularised by Josh Groban, and sung as a church item before). It is ambitious and a display of bravura; elements of which persuade me to continue watching the show.

View the opening here, while you can download Lena Park’s Inori ~ You Raise Me Up here (only available for those in my Multiply network).

Furthermore, the high production values of the anime are among the best I’ve seen among the spring anime releases. Lingering landscape shots allow us to be wooed by the towering, magnificent structures of Neo-Verona, a city of renaissance. A sense of magic and wonder is imbued into the city’s veins, enchanting and drawing one into its spell.

Romeo x Juliet is at best an indulgence, an adolescent love story based loosely on an essential literature classic. Yet it goes down like a delicate confection, a nostalgic reminder of our own tales of love and loss and the people we used to be. We all know how the story ends, but don’t let that distract you from the delightful journey you will have getting there.

Rating:

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

loveridden: The Film

My brother scripted a short film narrative for his wedding. Camera direction, sound, cinematography and production was done by his best friend, Ralph.

The final product is a stunningly well-put together short film which has no name, so terming it loveridden isn’t so far off the mark, I think. Well, it’s more for convenience’s sake anyway. I would say the film is a homage to Quentin Tarantino and in particular, his first film Reservoir Dogs. The phrase ‘a royale with cheese’ is of course lifted from the conversation between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) in the film Pulp Fiction, as any film buff would know.

In loveridden, we have five men in suits seated around a table, lim-ing teh.
(the teh was bought from the nearby coffeeshop and carted to the void deck)

The story is simple. Our conversation centres around the discussion of instant noodles and its relative merits. Just like any good and proper discourse, there are conflicting views. Joshua is the idealist; Ronald the cynic; Peter the activist; me the joker.

My brother attempts to draw a parallel between the ‘fine art’ of cooking instant noodles and the ups-and-downs of a relationship.

Love. Ah. The many splendoured thing. How will we ever begin to understand it? This is the sentiment that echoes throughout the course of the film.

As my brother expounds on his hypothesis that cooking instant noodles is very much like handling a relationship, requiring patience, understanding and a fair amount of skill with chopsticks, we see clips of Joanne and him experiencing, well, the ups-and-downs.


(sorry about the repeated pic; too lazy to screencap again)

That part is really quite amusing, knowing that it’s all scripted and nothing like how my brother would behave. At least I think so. Heheh.

The film continues. My brother explains that the boiling and bubbling of hot water, the risk of the flame beneath the pot being put out, is all worth it.

For at the end of it all, you have a steaming bowl of perfectly-cooked instant noodles. Not too limp or crispy. Joy-giving. Contentment.

Throughout this scene, my brother sings a sentimental song with such lovey-dovey scenes interspersed within.

Of course, the rest of us men being men, we deride him for his sappiness. The film ends; the credits roll, another tribute to Tarantino’s opening scene in Reservoir Dogs.

This part is pretty darn cool. I wish I could upload the video, but it’s about 2GB in AVI format; impossible to upload to YouTube.

You really have to see it to enjoy it to the fullest.

Thanks Kor for letting me play a part in this. Well I didn’t want to in the first place, but seeing the final product made me glad that I did. I never thought I’d ever say this – but I’m proud of you. I’m so glad to see how much you’ve put into this wedding to make it special for Joanne.. to me, it’s as if I’m hearing you shouting your love for her from the rafters, for the entire world to see. It is inspiring.

I declare by faith that your marriage is blessed because you both have made the love of God its foundation. May you both see an ever increasing abundance of our Father’s love, grace and favour in your household. Jesus will be and is your ever present help in time of need, for the righteous lack NO good thing.

Your marriage is a testimony, a living epistle of our Father’s goodness and mercy; it shall give glory to Him above all else. This I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Your Goodness Never Fails

I’ve been faithfully checking my university email for the past couple of weeks, as the results for the first assignment for the advertising module had been delayed. So I’ve grown quite used to seeing “No New Email” in the website.

This morning I was going through the same routine – logging in, clicking on “My Email”. I saw the heading of the new email – “Assignment Return – Assignment 1” and my heart jumped. I was frantic. Thoughts of failure and disappointment flooded my mind, and I was afraid. Afraid that I would not measure up. Afraid that I’ve been living a sham and my entire life would amount to nothing. Funny how a simple assignment grade can cause your mind to project desolate futures for yourself if you allow it to run wild with these lies.

This is probably why the phrase “the mind plays tricks with you” exists.

Then a calm, reassuring voice cut through all the babble – “My goodness never fails.” And BAM!, the storms were laid calm in an instant.

I clicked on the email header, and saw my grade:
HD – High Distinction

Indeed, You are faithful even when I am faithless. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what grades I get, because they are not what guarantees my success or worth. You guarantee me good success by your undeserved favour and superabounding grace. My worth is Jesus’s worth, for You sent Him to die for my sake, that I may live, and live a life more abundant.

This life is Yours, Abba. Use it to do what You will. I know it is in good – no, the best – hands.

The Ascendant Path

(written on Saturday, 9th June, 4.20AM)

Here I am, 4.20AM and typing this in the dark. I just had my shower a bare fifteen minutes ago, and the air is a cool touch to my skin. After meeting up with my buddies earlier, I came home and continued cleaning the house to ensure it looked as best as possible for the tea ceremony later.

Didn’t I mention? My elder brother is getting married today. 🙂

My brother’s impending nuptials will be left for another post, but in this one, I want to pen down how grateful I am to Abba for His continuing work in me. I believe with all my heart, with a conviction in the Spirit that cannot be ignored or cast aside, that I am being taken higher and higher on a path that shines ever brighter. As I’d said in an earlier post – I am caught up in God’s way, the HIGH way. Precious is the revelation that it is not by my flesh or self-effort (if that were so, then it would certainly ensure my swift disqualification), but by the unceasing, ever-abundant grace that comes so freely from my Abba.

Take for instance the humble (and very sweaty) work I’ve been doing in my house – carrying heavy boxes, unpacking the store room, repacking it, cleaning up my sister’s inglorious mess, lugging trash bags down the block, arranging shoes and furniture, ironing shirts (need more grace for that).. and the list goes on. I say all this, my intention not to show off or boast of what I’ve done in this house, but instead to give all glory to Jesus. The old Jianzhong would never have done this. The old Jianzhong would have shouted at his mum to leave him alone and to shirk all manner of responsibility.

What began as a seed, my Abba is now showing me how it is growing; not quite finished yet, but continually ascendant. Drawn towards the Son who nourishes and nurtures it. Watered by the Word and rooted in the soil of a open heart washed by the transformative power of salvation.

Even though I am tired, exhausted for a plethora of reasons, I remain joyful. I look at the pristine living room and I feel a sense of fulfilment (the bedrooms, however, are not fit for a term such as ‘pristine’ just yet). I feel curiously attached to my home, as if it is something I must care for and protect. Perhaps the correct term would be… ‘territorial’? Heheh. I often wonder whether this is preparation for my role as a husband and God-appointed head of the household in future. Nevertheless, it has been an edifying journey in which I have grown immensely.

Truly truly, this is the grace of my Abba at work. None of self, and all of Christ, for apart from Christ, I am nothing.

Amen.

from Boundless

“You’re a great guy, but…”

🙂

God is in the Rain

“Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

Today, after meeting with one of my classmates for teh peng, I walked home on the path that led to my house. I was halfway along the gravelly concrete pavement when I stopped in my tracks.

I took a deep breath, and an encompassing peace descended upon me. The faint sounds of the football match on the LCD screen of the coffeeshop played softly on the edges of my hearing.

It was the perfect night at the perfect time, and it was wondrous; it was as if I stood at the crossroads of eternity and reality. An after-rain breeze swept over me, and my Father’s presence strode upon it. I mouthed a word of thanks, the sole expression of what was an inexplicable gratitude. The simple things, the tiniest details wrought by my Father’s hands have always amazed me. By the grace of God may I never cease to delight in such things.

I sense a shifting of the seasons, come now to the half-year mark, and my Father asked me: “Son, tell me what do you see (for the year remaining)?” It was worded with a wry smile, like when parents ask a child, What birthday present do you think you’re getting today?, and the child knows that for the past few months he has only been asking for one thing.

“I see a gateway with a multitude of possibilities. I am scaling a massive mountain, but there is no effort, on my part, involved. Instead I see myself carried by the wings Your grace. You lead me where to go; I merely follow the path You have carved before me. Your way is the highway.”

Abba led me to read from Proverbs 15, confirmation and reassurance for the journey thus far:

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life;

The lips of the wise disperse knowledge;

The prayer of the upright is His delight;

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD;

The way of the upright is a highway;

A man of understanding walks uprightly;

A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!

The LORD is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.”

(excerpts from Proverbs 15)