Archive for March, 2008

Leavin’ On A Jet Plane

At last! My arm is complete again!
(click here if you don’t get the reference – curiously I am getting a lot of “What arm?” questions)


Just a few more hours and I’m boarding a plane to Melbourne. And then on the 2nd, headed to Adelaide.

It’s been quite some time since I last boarded a plane by myself. Looking forward to watching movies on the plane, lugging all my stuff (so far – a backpack, sling bag, camera bag plus a tripod) and walking through the departure hall doors.

The weather there is a fine min to max of 8-20 degrees – which is great because I’m intending to spend a couple of days walking around the city on my own. I find that being able to walk around in a jacket and jeans for an entire day without a drop of sweat is a luxury. Anyway, I’ve been doing a fair bit of research – by way of GoogleMaps and Flickr – and checking out places where I can take some nice photos (awfully touristy, no). Then I started finding places where I could go to eat some good food – since Melbourne is notable for their culinary establishments (but can win Singapore meh? I’m thinking).

I’m excited. I want to read at a cafe along a broad alley flanked by shophouses, sipping coffee and whispering words to You. Brush my fingers across the graffiti-stained walls of Fitzroy or Union Lane. Lean against the railings of the bridge overlooking the Yarra River. Set up my camera on the tripod on the sidewalk of a traffic junction, capturing jetstreams of multi-coloured light. Take a walk in The Basement of Myer and gawk at window displays. Stroll amongst the thick of the the crowd in the Queen Victoria Market.

It’s gonna be a good one. Just You and me.

Film Metroplex

Mwahahaha!

This came in the mail yesterday. And at quite a bargain, I must add. Now to grab some slide film for cross-processing and Tri-X for pushing, and I’m all set for Melbourne!

Photos Galore

More photos:


Around Suntec: 1.3.08


National Stadium: 8.3.08


Arrow Servers’ Night: 11.3.08


A Good Friday: 21.3.08

The Day Of Defining

duel.jpg

I was deeply affected by something I saw in this samurai arthouse anime, Shigurui. Simply put, it revolves around the duel between two vastly different samurai, Fujiki and Irako. Both are masterful swordsmen, but their motivations are what truly divides them.

Fujiki is driven by duty and honour, while Irako by ambition and pride. In episode four, we witness their day of defining – as I like to put it – which is when they begin to emerge into their true skill with the blade. It is in the closing minutes of the episode when they arrive at their own moments of reckoning.

It is in the heart of winter when Fujiki, devastated by his master’s choice to appoint Irako as heir of the dojo and to marry his daughter (whom Fujiki is in love with), meets a sojourning samurai who seeks to challenge his master. Fujiki is barely able to think with any clarity and in his despair begins operating only on pure instinct. He is silent and does not acknowledge the visitor at all, which is interpreted by the samurai as a challenge.

Meanwhile, Irako is holed up in an inn with his mistress, and has tied her up to use as the medium of his practice. He has placed a single grain of rice in the centre of her forehead. The skill he is attempting to master is the signature technique of the dojo – which is executed with such precision and speed that one slices a single grain of rice into four with two slashes of the sword. Blindfolded, his mistress is terrified. Her pleas do not move him. Irako’s eyes are filled with a mad glint and his smile is a contorted grin of pure menace.

Fujiki faces off with his inadvertent opponent. His expression is dazed and incoherent of his impending duel to the death. The samurai, without a hint of mockery, states that Fujiki does not possess the skill to confront him in battle: “Please move aside. You are no match for me.”

Fujiki does not answer him; he remains silent and unmoving. A look of profound sadness, far more than what he can express, can be seen on Fujiki’s face in the winter night. The two men stand stock still, their silhouettes framed against the winter sky.

Reciting the names of samurai and the size of their fief (measured in koku), Irako’s greed and manic ambition can be heard clearly in his voice. He stands battle ready, hand poised over the grip of his katana. He stands in the darkness, the only light being reflected from the candle flame in his eyes. It is filled with wicked glee, a complete and terrifying singularity of mind. He does not answer his mistress who is begging for him to desist.

As Irako whispers names and riches, he finally ends with this sentence:

“How high will my sword climb?”

In a split second his blade whistles out of the scabbard, slicing crescent slashes of light in the air. With one, single movement he has drawn, cut, and sheathed his sword. His mistress’s breath is caught in her throat.

Back at the dojo, Fujiki still remains silent. His opponent has assumed battle stance, while Fujiki stands ramrod straight, arms hung loosely at his sides. His eyes seem glazed and distant. He has not uttered a single word at all.

The air suddenly tenses, and in a flash of movement, we again see two crescent slashes in the moonlight. Both have attacked; but we do not know how had struck the decisive blow. Both men have their swords still grasped in their hands, suspended mid-air. The wandering samurai speaks first, his voice soaked in disbelief:

“Impossible.. that was too fast.”

A rush of blood gushes, no, spurts with astonishing force from the side of his neck. He collapses on the snow.

We are brought to a close-up of Fujiki’s right hand. Only his index and middle fingers grasp the absolute hilt of his sword. Not the handle, but the hilt. His hands are shivering furiously; whether from the snow, or pure adrenaline, we do not know. It is possibly both. What is amazing is how he managed to unsheathe his blade and strike with such precison and strength using only his two fingers.

Returning to Irako, he squats down to his kneeling mistress and peers closely at the grain of rice on her forehead. She is still alive. His mad grin and glint in his eyes is chilling; he bears no concern for his mistress’s well-being or life.

Irako begins to chuckle, the corners of his mouth spreading further on his face with demented fascination and triumph as the grain of rice splits into four pieces. His mistress only whimpers softly.

Fujiki is standing over the fallen body of his opponent, and has not moved a single step from the start. He is frozen in position, his trembling fingers still grasping his sword.

The narrator speaks sombrely:

“A new technique was born in the freezing cold..”

And then it is in times such as today when I wonder whether I will live to see the fulfilment of God’s promises to me. Will I squander away the immeasurable potential that Jesus’ death has given me? Will I truly be able to live a life that is testament to His finished work?

I begin asking myself, “How high will my sword climb?”

But I see the truth in His word: a shepherd boy can be made a giant-slayer; a sinner can be made righteous, a priest-king; a murderer can be made the greatest gospel preacher the world has ever known. Men who were transformed from their human nature through divine intervention. Their definition came not from their flesh but by the grace of God.

And I realise that in my moment of reckoning, in that very pivotal moment of truth, the very essence of what will define me is You.

Change the World

Tonight, we relived the fellowship of the ring during adventure camp, when we prayed under stars and night in the cold. We spoke into each other lives: destinies, dreams fulfilled, mark-making.

Thanks, ZK. Once again, today, hands clasped and prayers uttered between the three of us in secret. A covenant sealed by His blood.

Let’s change the world.

Wintersong

This is how I know
You exist.

That even in winter’s night
or an absent sun that ushers in
bleakest day,

When nothing falls in place
and things not where they should be
when you can’t even see your hand
in front of you

or there is such a stillness in you

of the most frightening kind,
that you wonder that all that you’ve ever felt
or thought or dreamt or imagined
was ever real

but You show me that
nothing
absolutely nothing
can keep You from me.

You come to me even
in empty streets,
in secret and in the dark places
where I try to hide

And You touch my face
my being, all that I am
and every part of me
becomes a part of you

So even in the harshest
and most frigid cold
even with winter’s rush
You come to me
in the whispers of a song.

And this how I know You exist.

Broken

I haven’t been writing much. That much is true. I look within and can find no discernible way to put into words and express what it is that is truly weighing on my heart.

One of the things that the Lord has been impressing on me for this year is the breaking of the outward man. Pastor Benjamin mentioned it during the adventure camp and as I was researching Watchman Nee, whom Pastor had quoted from, for the article I was writing of the camp, I came across Nee’s book, The Release of the Spirit.

I am barely digesting the first chapter and there are already so many things that speak to me:

“The Bible tells of the pure spikenard. God purposely used this term “pure” in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure spikenard will not flow forth. Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man … One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself as an important person ; others highly regard themselves, feeling they are better than others, their eloquence surpasses that of others, their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth. However, we are not antique collectors; we are not vase admirers; we are those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Without the breaking of the outward, the inward will not come forth. Thus individually we have no flowing out … Why then should we hold ourselves as so precious, if our outward contains instead of releases the fragrance?” (from Chapter 1)

What is this breaking? I asked God. How does it happen?

Nee quotes from Jesus in John 12:24-25:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

I went to read on how wheat is harvested (by hand) – from how it is cut with scythes in the field and then threshed, which in itself involves several steps before the wheat can be obtained.

The first part involved flailing that separates the wheat from the straw (or stalks). The mixed wheat and straw are then separated with a sieve, leaving behind the kernels of wheat and the chaff, the fibrous outer shell or husk that surrounds each grain of wheat.

Finally, the chaff is separated from the wheat, which is much heavier than chaff, simply by tossing it in the air. The wind carries the chaff away, leaving behind the useable grains. That’s how you have the phrase “carried away like chaff on the wind”, which the Bible mentions numerous times (Psalm 1:4; Job 21:8; Psalm 35:5; Psalm 83:13, to name a few).

I continued reading from John 12, and checked verses 24-28 in the Message:

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.” (The Message)

All of this says to me that the breaking of the outward man is finally being driven to the end of our selves, that we can no longer rely on our gifts, abilities, possessions, our very flesh – to define us or to carry us through life. It is being driven to a complete and utter desperation for Jesus and all that He is – a rescuer, a redeemer, a Saviour.

When we have been stripped of that outward man, which Nee refers to as our soul man – having been rid of every shred of self-reliance and begin leaning and resting on the promised land, the finished work of Christ, the inward man – the Spirit of God can, by then, pour forth unhindered.

This very breaking is our defining. Like grains of wheat, the chaff must be threshed and tossed away by the wind, revealing the life of the seed within. Like the shattering of the alabaster box to release the fragrance contained within it.

What emerges from the threshing and breaking is the life of the seed that “bears much fruit” and the fragrance of the pure spikenard (perfume), which I believe is Jesus glorified in our lives. Our Father will put His glory on display and we are the bearers of that glory.

So right now, feeling so depleted, drained and burnt out, I have come to an end of myself. I feel like I have nothing to write, and I can’t think of any interesting ways to take a photo. Without Him, all these things become meaningless; and so, I find myself being driven to desperation for Jesus simply because I know that I cannot live on without Him. He is the only thing and person that gives this life any meaning.

Here I am, Lord. Break my outward man that Your glory shall be put on display in my life.

I’m ready.