Archive for August, 2009

The Troubadour Aimee Mann

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The lights dim. On cue, the crowds scream, hoot, catcall and cheer. Aimee, lean and long-legged, strides on stage. She slings her guitar and whips out a camera.

“Let me take a picture of you first.”

The lights come on. And the crowds cheer.

It was that kind of gig that was less a pitch-perfect performance than an authentic, stripped-down conversation with the audience. The kind that you’d be more likely to find at a live music bar around the corner in town with wooden floorboards and the chink of beer glasses than at the swankiest concert venue in the country.

It was really, a gig for the memories. And one of the reasons why listening to music on your iPod is all well and good, but to listen it to live, from a truly seasoned and accomplished performer, is a transcendent experience. You can’t really explain shelling out a not-inconsiderable amount of money to hear music you can replay a million times until you’ve been to live gig.

Before she played Save Me, one of her hugest hits:

“This song was Oscar-nominated but lost out to Phil Collins.”

Scoffing sounds reverberate throughout the audience. A loud BOOOOOO! comes from somewhere behind me.

“But I heard he’s retiring, so I’m.. glad.”

The crowd laughs.

It was just that kind of thing. She took on requests from the audience, tuned her guitar and practised for a bit on stage, even forgetting the lyrics, apologising, thinking for a while, before playing it flawlessly. No pretenses. No jitters. No pre-packaged manufactured bullsh*t. Just witnessing something great from someone who’s been in the game for more than twenty years.

Who would sing a couple of verses, stop, say, “I’m sorry, I just got better from being sick, so my voice’s a little raspy. I just need a drink of water.” She would then take a swig from the bottle perched on her music stand, and then get back right into it. No brattiness or prima donna behaviour. No hollow rousing of the audience. There really wasn’t any need to.

The best part? Her final encore piece of Voices Carry, the hit from her 80s band Til Tuesday when she had poofy hair and impeccable makeup. What a treat.

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The 27 Club

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Turning twenty-seven kinda sounds like I’m getting old. What doesn’t help is seeing sprightly teens on the cusp of adulthood, or fresh-faced rookies making their first foray into the working world, every time I attend a youth service.

Twenty-seven. That’s like… LATE TWENTIES (cue shudder). A term reserved for old fogeys who have long forgone descriptions such as young ‘upstarts’ or ‘turks’. Y’know, I never really imagined getting to this point. It’s a terrifying thought. If I didn’t know better.

Where did all my time go? Don’t I remember scouring the long grass in the primary school field for bugs like ladybirds and spiders? (I also remember getting hit in the face by a badminton racket and the bright red spots of blood spattering across my pristine white uniform — which I prefer to forget, actually.) Don’t I remember the girl with the huge geeky plastic spectacles who sat behind me in class and was also my very first crush at ten years old? Don’t I remember the glorious games of football, shirt tails flying in the wind as I streaked down the flanks, during the first year of secondary school? Don’t I remember being caned outside my classroom, along with my fellow errant classmates, for one of the many flagrant violations of the school regulations?

How on earth did I get to be twenty-seven?

I don’t feel like I’m twenty-seven. No sirree. In many ways I still feel like a boy at heart. Not in the sense of shirking responsibilities or stepping up to the platform God has prepared especially for me, but perhaps in everything else — to how I want to find beauty in the simplest of things, to be content or filled with glee over what others may find mundane, or to approach every circumstance or situation with a child-like faith that carries no doubt or hesitation.

I believe that everything we encounter in life — whether it’s a question, problem or issue — ultimately boils down to two choices: His way or our way. Not conformed to some deluded sense of morality of right and wrong, but to whether we will allow to be led by His wisdom or by our own understanding (“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” Prov3:1). To choose the Spirit instead of the flesh (“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Ps20:7-8). To choose joy over despair (“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Ps37:2).

It really doesn’t matter what age I am, at the end of the day. I’m just like you. No wiser, no stronger, no smarter, no more accomplished. Just like you, I belong to Christ. So whether I’m nineteen or twenty-seven or thirty-five, I will praise Him and remember the measure of what I have been given at Calvary. I am forgiven. I am healed. I am redeemed. I am covered in Him, I want for nothing, and my youth is renewed like the eagles (paraphrasing Ps103:2-5).

We were, fair Queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal.

We were, fair Queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal.

Ready Now

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Thank God for leaders who speak the Spirit-led word over you.

Coach SH has always been someone I’ve admired greatly — not only because there are certain similarities that I imagine we share — but because each time I listen to what God has put in his heart to share with such matter-of-fact conviction, I am blown away. If the church were likened to a tree, he’d be the long-reaching roots stretching beneath the ground, forming its foundations; no flash or pomp, not the glistening fruit, nor the flowers in full bloom and clad in beauty.

CG on Friday night was as atypical as any other — I arrived late, tiptoeing through the door to sit in for the communion, before a phone call from the sister had me leaving barely ten minutes later to deliver a forgotten tripod for her film shoot. By the time I got back, it was already in the middle of the message. It was a different kind of CG that I’d ever experienced. Part of it was the sharing — been a long time since I felt it so real, so grounded, so deliciously nourishing to my spirit that I lapped up every word in earnest.

It was the prayer, however, that sealed the day into memory. Every month we celebrate birthdays of people born in the month, and because I turn twenty-seven in August, it was my turn to receive cake, song and prayer with my usual sheepishness and slight awkwardness. Moreso since I’ve haven’t had as much opportunity as I’ve liked to fellowship with my CG members.

And yet, God saw different.

After Coach SH prayed for all of us, he stepped forward to pray a word from God for me, and only me, out of the other ‘August babies’ who were standing together with me. And the first thing that I remember from his mouth — “The Lord has not forgotten you” was a bolt of blue searing through my heart. What was next was hearing what I’ve always struggled to believe or hold fast to with all faith: “The Lord says that you are marked for greatness”. Even saying it out loud sounds a little silly. If you know me as I or my closest friends know me, you’d know for certain how absurd a statement like that sounds.

But the thing is, my destiny, or my future, is not in my hands. It is in His. So against all logic, all common sense, I’ll say an ‘amen’ to heaven. And all I have in my heart tonight is His love, so full, so deep, and so true; He whispers to me now, “Watch me”.

Long Weekends Forever

Mondays make the best public holidays, and times like these, however ordinary and not unlike the thousands of people who do the same thing, are infinitely precious. So I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Vivo + PageOne + UP + Marina Barrage. But I say it’s the people that make all the difference.

IMG_9451The girl + the little one + a new geek

IMG_9456lovely ladies

IMG_9462made me break off the lens of her daiso frames

IMG_9469superheadz cameras on sale

IMG_9464poster girl for a teen movie: the lil’ one is growing up

IMG_9499cheryl is lovin’ the geek glasses

IMG_9531the new Breakfast Club

IMG_9533the look they were going for was ‘angsty’

IMG_9503denise’s turn at the geek glasses

IMG_9553jieyun + mabel

IMG_9558ms miyazaki

IMG_9593don’t ask me why

IMG_9594weird couple

IMG_9491precious people!

Tasting His Goodness

One year ago around this time, I was driving in the darkness on the interstate from Las Vegas to San Francisco. It’s unlike any kind of driving you can do in Singapore; you’re driving at 70mph in the fast lane, no streetlamps, guided only by the little reflector bits on the road. Silhouettes and shadows play tricks on your eyes in the dim ambient light — your mind can’t frame what they are because you’ve never experienced anything like it before, so it sends chills of terror up your spine in a bid to activate the self-preservation part of your brain.

But a part of you wants to dance with death, and exults in the adrenaline and the surreal hyperreality of such an experience. So you suppress the fear. Keep the foot on the accelerator as your travelling mates snooze in their seats, the only sound in your ears other than the slighting ringing drone you get while ensconced in absolute silence (the uniform whir of the wind rushing past your windows fades into the background and beyond your consciousness).

Road trips are often symbolic; they can represent our own journeys we take in trying to make sense of our place in life — a quest of self-discovery, if you will — or it could mean running from our demons, fate, responsibilities, or anything else worth fleeing from (or at least what we thought was).

Many nights on the road, as I was left alone in my room, was my quiet time with God. I found myself praying, and not quite knowing why, for a woman almost ten thousand miles away. I prayed even when He presented the possibility that I might never end up being with her (which was hard. Really hard). I was even told to pray for her life partner (which I didn’t understand at first, argued with Him about, but eventually did), even though it absolutely hurt whenever I thought about her being with somebody else.

I didn’t understand why I was doing all that, night after night. But in hindsight, one year later, I can see how the road trip, beyond what I could imagine then, was a journey I was taking with Him as well. It was a journey of letting go, moving on, and choosing to be led even when it was hardest thing to do. And now, today, after listening to Ps Benjamin’s sermon on relationships, and feeling blessed beyond which I could ever ask or imagine, I am thankful. More than I ever express.

Today, I’m reminded all over again how much of God’s goodness is in my life. I am loved. Blessed with a group of brothers and sisters who somehow consider me good company. Blessed with a leader whom I will gladly, without hesitation, lay down my life for. Blessed with a calling and a ministry. Blessed with the most beautiful, wise, lovely, gorgeous, super hot, anointed woman who brings out the best in me.

Indeed, I have tasted and seen His goodness; and to quote Ps Judah: “The best days are ahead of us”.

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just a few examples of people I am privileged to capture on camera

IMG_9316Coach Maddy, whose presence in my life kept me from leaving the church; Darrell, always without guards or defenses, who carries His tangible glory; ZK, who loves with such abandon, anointed to fulfill great things

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Denise, a walking example of God’s extraordinary contradictions: carrying both wisdom and an irrepressible child-like spirit

IMG_9345Adelene, a new friend who has such hope and faith and acceleration; Mabel the indomitable spirit who has grown so much and whose journey shows how much she will be used for great things

IMG_9349Diana the worshipper who finds true expression in music; Nancy who is ‘larger than life’ and exudes pure joy

IMG_9356miss adventure; the one who inspires, captivates, exhilirates, confounds, baffles, exhorts, enraptures me and frees me to be my best self. And a whole lot more.

The Widow’s Heart

IMG_9091 with everything

Intentions.

It’s not so much about the physical expression; the hands that move or the carefully constructed smiles; it’s something more akin to truth over fact, or to spirit over reality.

Everything we do — whether it’s by our hands or the words spilling from our lips — it must carry truth and spirit. Maybe that’s why whenever we undergo something we consider a trial — by fire or high water — all of it distills us to our very essence, like some sort of purifying rite, the threshing of wheat, or the broken alabaster jar; what remains is what we hold on to, what we guard, or simply — who we are. Indeed, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Here’s to new seasons. To dreams. To dancing. To singing your hearts out. To loving with all you’ve got.