Archive for May, 2009

Be What You Should Be

dancinginthegrass

This is a song for my family
Outside the walls of Sunday morning
From some within.
This is a song to confess our sins,
Lay it all out, and try to begin again.
To hope again.

Please forgive our ignorance
In looking down on you
Please forgive our selfishness
For hiding in our pews while the world bleeds
While the world needs us to be what we should be

This is a song for my family who
Just can’t believe in the Jesus
That you’ve seen on Sunday morning.

This is a song for the cynical saints.
The burned out and hopeless.
The ones that we’ve cast away.
I feel your pain.

Please forgive the wastefulness
Of all that we could be
But don’t forget, there’s more than this
Her beauty still exists
His bride is still alive
His bride is still alive
His bride is still alive
His bride is still alive
His bride is still alive

This is a song for my family inside
The walls of Sunday morning.
Be what you should be.

*

I’ll see manifested all that You’ve shown me.

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Zoned Out In The Zone


I’m back at home. The surface of my skin still seething with the heat accumulated from an entire afternoon spent in the sun. I’ll look darker tomorrow, I’m quite certain of that. The soles of my feet are sore. Aching from spending most of the day and night on my feet, no doubt aggravated by the new pair of slippers, or the rough sand of the beach.

I barely spoke to the people in my CG. Conversations were limited to a few minutes here and there when I did bump into people I know. Most were the usual ‘hi-byes’. So unlike the large majority of the 1,500 people on Tanjong Beach who enjoyed fellowship and praise & worship as part of the congregation, I was mostly alone for the entire PLAY!/The Zone youth ministry launch.

But here I am, more tired than I been in quite a while, writing through half-lidded eyes, and yet feeling like I’m the most blessed man on earth. Maybe it’s what Mabel wrote about Lucado’s “sweet spot” — or at least being very close to that — and knowing that you’re all the more richer for being to serve (as I’d wrote at length about here).

All I can say is, God is good. And when you let yourself think about that, He blows your mind. Every time.

I started out the year with little, if nothing, in my hands with regard to ministry. And truth be told, I whined to God about it: “Wah lau eh. Give me something to do Lord! Why aren’t I seeing any breakthroughs in ministry?”

Today, I’ve seen the fruits of it. The Zone magazine. First time serving as a photographer and He plants me right where He’s made a new beginning in the youth ministry with a blaze of Glory. Front-row seats to watching the day’s events unfold and capturing on camera the faces of youths whose lives were changed, right there and then, during the electrified praise and worship. Interviewing people and observing the event through a writer’s eyes as I prepare a feature article for Solid Rock.

And this I boast: not in my self, but in His goodness and faithfulness to me. That someone as undeserved and unable as me can be thus be blessed in such a way that you know, with absolutely certainty, that this is what grace really means.

Unmerited, unearned and undeserved favour. And that is what defines my life, as well as what it means for me, on a personal level, to truly be in the Zone.

The Way Home

I was reading how Yosh wrote about finding ‘home’ in New Creation Church after Ps Prince spoke on it during the midweek service.. and it got me thinking about how it was for myself, when I stepped through the doors of the Rock more than eight years ago.

Maybe I’ve shared about it before here — if I have, I can’t remember where — but I can recall how I experienced the love of God for the first time as clearly as day. When something like that happens, it’s not something you forget easily; it delves and burrows into your heart, as something that exists beyond memory, as real to you today as it was eight years ago.

I was wide awake in bed when it happened, staring at the shadows thrown across the ceiling, and my world had just fallen apart. I had given up on life. Maybe you know what that feels like. Take away every joy, every dream, everything that gave you pause to smile, every shred of happiness that you held on to that made the bad days liveable, all the strength that helped you grin and bear it — all of it — and have all the disappointments and hurt and anguish and hopelessness sink in and fill you. Like a great big sack crammed with more than it can hold.

Maybe it was the realisation dawning upon my nineteen year old mind that there was truly nothing to look forward to in life. Even the idea of killing myself seemed like a pointless thing to do, because to me, I was already empty. What would be the purpose of breaking something already broken? It would simply be a waste of effort. So I lay there in bed, motionless, imagining myself a body made out of ash, slowly disappearing as the wind took bits of me away, as invisible as I truly felt I was in this life.

Since I had nothing else to lose — I told God this: “If you’re real, you will take all this pain from me.”

And in the instant after those words tumbled out in my monotone voice, He did. Just like that.

God ran. To me. Just like how the father did when the prodigal son returned home. God waited for me, eyes ever on the horizon for my silhouette to appear, stumbling back to where he truly belonged.

And what was it like? I wish I could tell you, to put it all into words; it was as if a great weight shackled around my heart was lifted from it, shattered into pieces. I felt a lightness in my being, as if I could finally skip, run and leap when I could only crawl or trudge; my vision cleared, like the rays of a sun breaking through thick fog; in that inscrutable emptiness within I felt a warmth like I had never experienced in all my days on earth — and it was love, love in its purest form. It was water for a thirsty man with cracked tongue and parched throat.

And it was more. More than all of that. But the most important thing is this — that I knew in that moment that it was God. And that He was real. And I had heard him call me home.

Nothing in my life had quite prepared me for the experience of stepping into NCC for the first time. To me, church was a building with rows of pews, stained glass and a choir singing hymns. I imagined myself kneeling, hands clasped, in prayer and supplication.

And how wrong I was. One of my earliest memories of being in NCC was seeing Adeline, in her pixie haircut, singing on stage lit by the spotlights, so far from my preconceived notions of a choir clad in robes. And Robin, with his impassive, almost dour, face, standing out a mile away with his blonde hair. Joy, resplendent with dreadlocks and Matrix trenchcoat, smiling widely, too unlike the respectful, well-behaved looks I thought every churchgoer would wear.

I remember looking accusingly at my friend, Roy, and said to him: “What kind of church have you brought me to!!?”

It’s been a journey, all these eight years, and not something I would trade anything for. And every time I step in through those doors, to hear the Spirit-infused words coming from the pulpit, it’s like coming home, all over again.

*

I was compelled to write this after returning home from a servers’ meeting with the writers and photographers for the PLAY! event this Saturday. It was a somewhat unique one, combining writers from the media communications ministry (that produces Solid Rock) and photographers from the youth ministry’s publicity team.

Perhaps writing all that above was to establish some context (since I especially dislike cryptic blog entries that are essentially a waste of time to read for the casual reader, though I can hardly say I’m not guilty of doing the same, sometimes), or at least to express in some way, how much I love the church and the people I’ve met through it. It would be the absolute truth to say that I would not be the same person today if not for the church — the teaching, the grace message, and the people who have shown me the love of God manifested.

As I sat there during the meeting, I could not but feel amazed. Amazed and grateful that I could be in such a place like this, to be given such an opportunity to serve. To have these placed in my hands — these two things that I love doing with all my being — to write and to photograph.

If I’d gone up to speak to them as Eileen had offered me, which I declined in my confusion, I would’ve shared how much of a privilege it is to be able to serve in a church that has asked nothing of you, and what an honour it is to be able to serve a God that gave up everything for you.

I think that one of the gravest mistakes we believers can make is to look at the ordinary. To see as the world sees. Just look at ourselves! We are not, and will never be, ordinary. How can we, sanctified by the blood of Jesus unto righteousness, ever be anything but extraordinary?

It fills me with a deep sense of gratitude to be able to serve, when I never ever have deserved to be shown such goodness from God. Just as David had said — who am I to blessed by You? What can I give unto You that which You did not first give me?

Serving is not an obligation. It’s not even about you giving up your time or your skill or your effort to Him or the church. It’s not. What serving is — and this is what I believe to be true — is that it is an opportunity, a chance, a guarantee — to receive.

And now, for me, to be given this opportunity to record what will be one of the historic moments of our church — the combining of the three youth ministries into one — completely overwhelms me. I wish I would describe what it feels like, to be able to witness this first-hand, to be there on that threshold upon which the Zone will cause change in the world unlike what we’ve never seen happen in Campus or Arrow or Teenzeal or YWA.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I even sound foolish, to wax lyrical like this — but think about it. If you can believe that a dead man rose again, and in that, transform your sinful nature unto righteousness, is it so hard to believe that real change, like lives transformed and the sick healed, will come from this generation of youths?

Eileen likened the writers and photographers to scribes: like Ezra, who was called a ‘ready scribe’ (mahiyr; prompt, skilled, diligent; as in Prov 22:29, the mahiyr man who will stand before kings). Scribes. Recorders of history. Myth-makers.

And who am I, only a boy, only a man because of Him, to be this blessed?

Here’s something I wrote a few days ago, in one of my letters to Abba:

“Why be ordinary.. why allow yourself to be limited by the constraints of people or money or small minds.. why dream of the little and a mediocre existence afforded only to those who dare not risk the little that they have.. why not have the boldness to believe the fullness of that which have been to given us, and run with it.. why see the physical when the spiritual has already promised victory over the circumstances..

why define yourself by the image imposed upon you by those small-dreaming, small-thinking men.. why imagine the worst when you have the best that heaven could ever offer.. why not step up.. rise up.. to the calling placed upon you and your church.. why settle for second best.. why not love.. with all you’ve got.. with everything inside of you.. this life is not yours to live out.. in your carefully-constructed walls and defenses.. you only have one life.. why not live it for his glory.. for his name to be on the lips of your neighbour in praise and supplication..

why make do.. when you can make history..”

And I don’t need to see it to believe it//I don’t need to see it to believe//Cause I can’t shake this fire burning deep inside my heart (Tear Down The Walls, Hillsong United)

It Had To Happen

flickrexpiring

Well, there it is, then: my two-year run as a Flickr pro account user, winding to an end. The onerous passage of time that not even the best of us can avoid — seconds and minutes and glorious moments and swift years — and now I have come to the end of my tether.

I have this icon of a hobo carrying a placard that says, “NINJAS KIDNAPPED MY FAMILY NEED $$ FOR KARATE LESSONS”; maybe I should make one that says “PLEASE GIVE ME MONEY NEED USD$47.99 FOR TWO YEAR FLICKR PRO ACCOUNT ON INTERNETS” and stand somewhere in the CBD area during lunchtime.

It’d be an interesting social experiment I’m sure, but darn you T.T Durai!

Clearcut Intentions

ninjascarf

It’s been awhile since I messed around with my hairstyle. Years, in fact. So I blame the girl entirely for my new ‘do – some kind of faux mohawk with close-shaved sides running to the back so the hair tapers off into a tail of sorts. It’s kinda hard to describe, and I never really was handy with the use of hairstyle terms and descriptions. Free favour also led to the director of the salon cutting my hair, who was using his Jedi mind trick on me all night so I ended up paying for a colouring job as well (!). And exorbitantly priced hair product. Gah. Never underestimate a good hardsell.

So. I have a new hairstyle and havana brown (don’t even ask me what that means) coloured hair. And I’m secretly hoping I’ll see honest looks of appraisal/approval instead of raised eyebrows and badly stifled giggles. (So far, it’s been a subtle inching away as I fix a glare on passersby)

The process of me getting a haircut is painful to watch. It’s the journey to the final product really, that makes me want to turn invisible. First its the unruly mass of hair that’s grown too long, which then morphs into a bird-nest as my sides are shaven, with strands of hair sticking all over the place.

Unstyled, I look like a ghetto hoodlum from Thailand with too much sun and not enough facial product. When the hair colouring is applied, stinging my scalp to altogether uncomfortable levels, and with my hair all slicked back, I look like i) a very round egg with eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows and ears pasted on it for good measure, in an honest attempt to pass of as human; ii) a bad imitation of a 1920s triad boss from Shanghai, or a snarky young turk trying to get noticed by the boss in the shadier parts of Koreatown in San Francisco; iii) or, as the girl’s cousin puts it, “a calefare gangster from a TCS8 drama serial”.

Not very encouraging, as you can tell.

It does look better when styled, however, and makes me look several times more menacing given my size and naturally impassive, sullen features. I’m not sure what to make of it. The girl’s first reaction upon seeing my hair, after her own red-streaks colouring job and hair trimming: “OH MY GOD YOU LOOK EVEN MORE LIKE A THUG NOW!” before breaking out into peals of laughter. Mom’s reaction, with features shifting between horrified shock and amusement, as I return home later: “What did you do to your hair??!” Younger brother’s: “Huh. Why.”

Bah.

On another note, Taken is the perfect guilty pleasure film for all INFJs.

And Words

cassettes

1. Miranda Lee Richards – Early November
2. The Swell Season – Falling Slowly
3.惘闻 -缘
4. Sun Kil Moon – Gentle Moon
5. Bluedawn -친절한 나의 길
6. Brendan James – Manchester
7. Caribou – Sunsesame