Archive for February, 2008

Why I Write

You know, just as I was writing this – I happened to find myself back at the first (and private) post I made on this blog. Before I decided to make WP my primary means of expression, I had intended for it to be a place where I could speak, or write, to God.

Before, I could never understand why I always possessed this compulsion to post my intimate thoughts or my most brazen emotions – is it some subconscious desire for attention, to be heard? – but as I learn and grow, I begin to see with far greater clarity than I had possessed in my earlier years.

I write merely because I have to. And I believe that this is something placed within me by God, something real and alive, fuelled only by an anointing that disregards any fear of what men may think of me.

I cannot write in a pen-and-paper journal or diary any more than a worship leader can be content with merely singing in the shower. It’s not so easy explaining in words, this supernatural impetus placed in us that moves us, inexorably and inevitably, towards God’s purpose for us. Like what Pastor Benjamin said: “It is not my calling, but His calling in me”.

There is no pride. No ambition. As much as I try to elucidate upon this God-driven impulse, you may never understand what I am trying to say. It is a knowing beyond human knowing, one that surpasses human understanding; it is the secret knowledge that only the Spirit can impart as you walk in the finished work of Christ. And it is yours if you choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again for the completion of that perfect work.

God, my Father, goes by many names. Yahweh, Yeshua, El Shaddai – these are but a trickle of the infinity of facets that comprise Him, all of which we can never know as long as we dwell on this earth. And we who are fashioned in His likeness, in His very divine image, each carry facets of all that He is.

As I struggled with the idea of being a writer – all too aware of the implications of embarking on such a future in this country – I saw my Father’s hand of grace on this gift. I can still remember one of Pastor Benjamin’s messages on callings and careers: “Is there good fruit?” he asked, with regard to our giftings and choices for careers. The gist of that sermon was to say, if our choices for careers were aligned with His giftings within in – it would (super)naturally produce good fruit.

An analogy is this: your gift is a seed. And in that seed is immense potential, containing an infinite number of fruit and seeds. If that seed were an apple seed, a seasonal climate is needed. That climate is our environment or industry, or where we choose to be to use that gift. If your gift is graphic design, but you plonk yourself in, say, selling insurance – you’re going to burn out sooner or later. It’s putting the apple seed in a tropical jungle, where it’s hot, wet and awfully humid.

No tree is coming out from that seed, my friend. Much less good fruit.

So when you have that wonderful harmony of perfect elements conducive for the growth and blossoming of that apple seed – the appropriate climate (industry), fertile soil (an open heart to receive), deep roots (the correct mentality – knowing we are sons and daughters of God, fully forgiven), solid ground (the bedrock of Christ as our foundation, so that roots can grow deep; a tree, tall and strong but planted on a cliff will collapse under its own weight and plummet) and good weather (rain – the Word; sunlight – spending time in His presence).

And so the question weighing on my heart is this: Do I produce good fruit?

I am very blessed with a host of fellow brothers and sister in Christ who always encourage me when I write. But I am my own harshest critic; all too often I focus on what I lack in skill or ability, rather than the immensity of heaven that has been given unto me.

Even so, finding myself at a stage where I am searching for my own place in the world and in His kingdom.. as well as to feel that sense of purpose and destiny in whatever I do, I return back to my first love. Let my heart be as a child’s. Let me believe as one.

These are my five loaves and two fishes, Lord. Multiply them to feed the thousands.

She Smiled With Her Eyes

I saw this girl at lunch.

She’s a temp with the office. Young. Probably all of eighteen, and beautiful. She had on a cerulean blue babydoll dress, black leggings, gold-coloured pumps. Chestnut highlights in her hair.

There was this dude with her – and I know him as one of the permanent staff in another department. Idle gossip overheard, short conversations with him and some absent observations about him in the past couple of months, and I still don’t get a good vibe about him.

It’s probably nothing. But he’s always with different girls, smoking away, all smiles and nonchalant slouches, in the loading bay. He is a charmer, a devil; too smooth, too slick, and he knows it. Sometimes I feel like I can see right through him.

You know, I really dislike guys like that.

Today, Mr Slick and Ms Blue were at the coffee shop nearby, seated alone together. She was smiling, bright and white, over something he whispered in her ear.

I ordered my food and walked quietly back to my table. I glanced at her, and it so happened that our eyes met for a moment. And it was just one of those moments when you’re left speechless at how easy it is to find beauty in the simplest of things.

Like a sunset. Drops of rain on behind your glass window. A flower rising from a crack in the pavement. Wet cobblestones on empty streets. A kid running and playing.

This time, it was her laughing eyes, so full of delight. And I felt a tug at my heart when I saw Mr Slick beside her. Yes he was smiling and laughing too, but it was the same face he put on with the rest of the girls I saw around him.

How could I do anything, except to walk away in silence? As they left the coffee shop, Mr Slick opened an umbrella to shield them from the blazing sun overhead. Ms Blue was shy, brushing her hand across his shoulder, but careful not to come too close.

The sight of them holding that red checkered umbrella, walking away, looked picture perfect. I imagined it would turn out quite lovely if I took a shot of them – but it would not speak the truth.

I sighed, worried for the girl, and prayed for her. That the next time I saw her she would not be alone and with no more laughter in her eyes.

I Like For You To Be Still

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you.
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.

As all things are filled with my soul
you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.
You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,
and you are like the word Melancholy.

I like for you to be still, and you seem far away.
It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like a dove.
And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach you:
Let me come to be still in your silence.

And let me talk to you with your silence
that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.
You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations.
Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
distant and full of sorrow as though you had died.
One word then, one smile, is enough.
And I am happy, happy that it’s not true.

– Pablo Neruda

A Valentine’s Story

It is Valentine’s Day and I find myself separated from you by more than two thousand miles. I know you will not read this unless I place this letter in your hands (and I do not know how long it will be before I can do so).

I count the days and it has been three hundred and twenty one since I have come here. I fear I cannot speak more of our affairs in this country where the contingent has been deployed; we are forbidden to do so. Even then I do not want to regale you with my tales of derring-do or mighty exploits of valour. That will simply not do. I will instead leave these stories to when I return, so I can bore you to tears as we sip your marvellous homemade coffee, seated together at your table by the window.

Today I was asked, why am I here? How do I keep myself alive? I did not know how to answer. I could only look at that person in silence. But tonight, given time to think and ponder, filled with an ache to see you, I finally know what I would reply in earnest.

I would tell that person that I fight for our tomorrow. A tomorrow where I can live and breathe the air as you do, where I can take your hand in mine and walk together along the coast, hear the same crash of waves against the shore and the seagulls in flight, feel each grain of sand between our toes. This dream of mine makes me take up my rifle with each day that seems increasingly pale and meaningless with each one that passes without you. And I fight for this tomorrow that will belong to us. Only to us.

But I fear that with each life that I take for this cause.. with each man’s breath that I snuff out of existence.. I fear that each death brings me further away from you. Will you recognise me then? Will you still look at me in the same way? Can I return to you as the same man that I was when I left you at your door, when I bid you farewell?

Even so, I know that I cannot return until I finish what we have come here to do; even though I am sickened to my stomach at the thought of the man that I might become. So I think of you, of seeing you once more, so real and so near; and that gives me the strength to carry on.. and fight for another day.

When I tell my comrades this, when I tell them about fighting to live so I can see you once again, they can only laugh and mock me in return. But they do not realise that in truth, they do not understand at all. They do not realise that there is no glory in death. Not here. Is there any light in the hollow husk of man whose spirit has left him? No, for the only future he has left is the dirt, the grave and the grief of those who loved him.

And that is why I shall not consign you to such a fate, my love. Because my brothers cannot comprehend how I can hold on to the thought of you and continue in this war, when what we have seen and done could break any ordinary man, they ask me: ‘How can you love her so? Why?’

This time, that was an easy question for me to answer.

You’re wonderful. I think you’re that kind of wonderful that makes people do a double-take and glance at you again, kept silent and wordless, wondering what it is about you that made them do that, without a second thought or consideration. Perhaps they don’t do so, not in such an overt manner, of course – wouldn’t it be silly to stop in the middle of a busy street? – but they continue walking, thinking; rolling the idea of you in their heads and never quite understanding why a person can, so easily, so carelessly even, fill a room or place with light when they enter or pass through it. Making heads turn and gazes linger a second far too long.

I want to tell them, it’s because you’re special. The no-one-else-like-you kind of special. The kind you don’t ever need to explain or even try to. It’s like how you can sit at a beach, looking at the sunset, dreaming of an existence or life that could be contained within that single moment. Things like that, you don’t even want try to reason or justify or comprehend. Clever rhetoric, or wit, or all the smarts in the world – it will all get you nowhere.

You just be.

You just let yourself be in that moment. And this is what I want to tell them: that’s all there is to it.

When I think about the first time we met, it had never crossed my mind that I could ever win your heart. You always seemed that distant, impossible figure and I could only content myself with admiring you from far. I knew that I could have made it easy for myself. I could have chosen someone else and foresee a life that would have been perfectly safe, stable and boring. I suppose it eventually became abundantly clear to me that I could not imagine anyone else to spend my life with, nor to fall so helplessly in love with.

So, faced with rejection, with so much uncertainty about the future and the very real possibility of you leaving my life forever.. even then, I chose you, and everything that came or will come with that choice.

I chose you. Even when you made it so hard. Even when you made me want to give up sometimes.

But whenever I look at you from across a room, or when you’re standing in front of me and looking right through me, all with a smile playing around the edges of your mouth, I can only think:

“That’s it. She’s got me.”

And this is why I love you.

*

For all who wait and for all who fight.

I wrote this in bits and pieces. I actually wrote the ending section first, then cooked up a story to make it fit. I wrote the first few paragraphs, jumped to writing the middle section, then went back and finished the beginning, then beefed up the middle again, before coming back to writing a few more paragraphs for the ending.

Anyway, the funny thing was that when John wrote and posted The Sailor Boy, I had just finished the part in this story about this man who wrote about fighting in a nameless war and the only thing keeping him going was the dream of the life he was going to build with his lover.

The story idea is nothing new, and there’re even films about it (Cold Mountain, Atonement, to name a few).. but it is, nevertheless, a theme of human existence. Living for something, someone, and drawing strength from that. The driving force is love, just as Jesus was driven by His love for us to sacrifice His life to rescue us.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure that I’m satisfied with the story. I hope that some of you will enjoy it. This story was developed to flesh out an idea for a novel that I’m developing, hence the mention of a war in the initial paragraphs.

Writing in the first-person narrative can be exhausting. It’s as if you have to take on each character’s persona, take it off and then put on another’s.

Right. In any case, have a blessed Valentine’s with your loved one.. for Jesus loves you and you are always His valentine 🙂

A Chinese New Year

I don’t think pushing two stops is advisable. I’d recommend one, which will minimise deterioration of image quality and prevent contrasty looking photos. From what you can see in the latest set – the background, the natural light coming in from the balcony, is burned out.


CNY Day 3: 9.2.08 

Rainfall

It’s raining now. I’m touched because He knows it’s something I enjoy so much. Sleeping to the sound of the pouring rain and waking up to the cool, refreshing breeze that a rainy day brings, accompanied by its glorious sound, has always been one of my favourite aspects of nature.

The intermingled sounds of thousands upons millions of raindrops falling on the pavement, on rooftops, on people, on trees and their leaves, on lamp posts, metal railings and gates, resonates like a siren call. I am captivated by it, and the sound draws me close, as if I am seduced by its gentle but infinitely expressive symphony. And as I grow quiet in contemplation, I picture a hundred or a thousand other people like me, thinking about the rain. Thinking about how they love the sound, wishing the night would last forever, so that the sound would never be lost to them.

Perhaps some of these people are couples who stand at their balconies to watch the rain fall, and to watch how the lamp posts illumine the descent of the raindrops, like an endless array of crystal shooting stars, their lives only a brief second.

Perhaps another boy, like me, is at his desk too, but instead of bashing away at the keyboard, he pores over the letters an angel has sent him, slowly savouring each and every word, exploring each curve and twist of every letter in the words that her hand has penned; he remembers them, and how in each envelope she has shared a part of herself to him. Each one is a precious gift he will treasure forever, and occasionally he will open one of these envelopes whenever the rain comes, or when sadness tugs at his heart.

Perhaps a girl, somewhere, is lying on her stomach on her bed, with a drawing pad in front of her and a pencil in her hand. Slowly but lovingly she draws the outline of a face, and as she listens to the soft pitter-patter of the rain that she so loves, she remembers how his eyes would sparkle whenever he laughed, a beautiful sound that she will never tire of hearing.

She tries to capture the indescribable way his eyes light up onto that humble sketch, and, with fresh love and affection blossoming in her heart, she delicately traces the shape of his lips when he smiles. She would wake up the next morning still lying on her stomach with a crick in her neck, but as soon as she notices the sound of the falling rain, the discomfort is soon forgotten.

She is a little surprised to find the pencil still in her hands, and after she shakes off the eraser shavings caught in her hair, she brightens as she raises up the sketch she has made of that boy, beaming brightly. She giggles, as she tries to imagine what his face would look like when he sees the sketch.

Perhaps somewhere, a young woman lies on her bed, sprawled amongst her blankets and pillows, her long hair a wave of cascading black velvet across the bed. She cradles the creased pillow beside her tightly in her arms; she breathes in deeply with her nose buried in the pillow, trying to capture the last lingering smells of her husband who has just left for his gruelling night-shift job. It has been hardly a half-hour but there is a tender ache in her heart, because she has already begun to miss him.

The sound of raindrops hitting her window is her only companion, and at the sound she remembers the first time her husband and her had kissed, because then, it was raining too. Caught by the rain in a pavilion along the beach, with his hand grasped tightly around hers, feeling all too keenly the presence of the other, of his nearness and warmth, the sound of the rain was exactly like how it sounded now – soft and soothing.

She smiles, remembering the tenderness of that first time, even though he had accidentally pressed his lips against her nose in his initial fumblings; with a touch of fondness she also recalls how furiously he had blushed after he had clumsily kissed her on the lips. She now laughs, a knowing sound, because she knows all too well what a shy man her husband is. She turns to lie on her back, to stare at the ceiling, illuminated by the light of the lamp-posts that line the street outside her flat. She places her hand on her still-flat belly, as if to feel the life pulsing within – the little heartbeat that was contained in hers – tiny, but steady. She imagines, fleetingly, what their child would look like and whether it would have her eyes or her husband’s.

She would later fall asleep to such thoughts, and when her husband returned later and kissed her awake, he would find her with a smile on her beautiful face and her hand still resting across her stomach. She would then rise and use a towel to dry off her husband’s hair, damp from the still-falling rain, and ask about his night at work and whether he was hungry.

*

Written about six years ago, with some changes and updates 🙂

I like the rain.

Filmic

More photos. For the latest series of photos (Church & Chinatown) I used the Canon, enjoyed the autofocus for a bit and then realised it was slower than manual focusing. I do think it does a little better at indoor exposure.

I really have to get down to sorting out the Thailand photos. And come up with atas better names for the sets. One day I’ll finally get to do my Murakami concept photography..


Sunday 19.1.08


Church & Chinatown: 3-4.2.08