The Future is Rend Collective Experiment

Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) is the future. I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying that a lot lately — be it about the iPhone or iPad or the ebbs and flows of social media — but RCE here is the real deal.

Imagine this: the Rend Collective is a bolt of blue, a breath of fresh air, a streak of light across a night sky. Throwing out what we understand about modern worship out of the window, right with the baby and bathwater. Completely redefining what we consitute about the ‘sound’ of worship, infusing a whole new sense of what it should be like, and presenting with such honesty, realness and verve. Oh, I could wax lyrical about their music the whole day long if I had to. But more than that, more than the bright-eyed, whimsical musings of star-struck wonder, more than just plain good music, you can touch, feel, experience the joy of the Lord reverberating through their notes and melody.

What truly sets RCE apart is the sense of freedom that propels their music, best expressed in ‘Movements’ — in which the video perfectly illustrates their sound — it’s the liberation, the elevated joy, that we possess because of Jesus. No longer prisoners of sin but of hope. What would your reaction be if you, a slave born to a life of servitude, wretchedness and death, were told that, ‘You are set free from your slavery, your bonds are undone; you are now a king, a beloved son, and all that is in the kingdom is now yours’? Would you not shout, dance and sing? Would you not give praise to the One who broke the chains, bought you liberty?

What RCE does is reveal that freedom and that joy. And it is all too evident in their music. Like in ‘You Bled‘, it’s a song of praise, of exultant worship, contemplative but without the sombre weight that accompanies most of the music we hear from Christian bands nowadays. It’s a celebration. One that frees you to be who you are, whoever you may be, but also welcomes you with open arms; it’s not a commission or an exhortation, but an invitation! Worship in the Father’s house is always one that includes and never excludes. We are brothers and sisters all, each different and every one unique, all belonging.

And there is always dancing, that expression of pure joy, that spreads and suffuses every inch of your being, that you can’t help but sing and smile and move; united together with the sharing of that same rich exhiliration that can only come with the revelation of the price and purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice of love. It’s faith and hope and love, wrapped into one person, expressed in this music. Community.

Rend Collective Experiment shows us a whole new way of expressing worship. ‘Radical’ is not the word. Nor is ‘transcendent’. But it is real. And inclusive. And maybe that’s what we need to know most about God.

P.S There is so much to be said about the individual videos as well. iPhone worship is one example of their boundary-breaking efforts. I love their use of brass instruments, the collective scenes of fun and celebration (in ‘Movements’ and in the end of ‘You Bled’), and the mash-ups of old hymns in ‘You Bled’ (How wonderful/how marvellous and Yes, Jesus loves me) and the narrative of children. How it alludes to how we must approach the things of God like a child, and how God is best seen through their eyes of simple faith and open hearts.

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These Words Help Me To Be


hemingway

Being surrounded by writers in a meeting can be liberating, never mind the huge egos that invariably come with the territory. Maybe it’s really just the comforting thought that there are other people in the same room who understand the writing discipline, who have tread that sadly familiar path of not quite finding the right words from the mad, roiling tangle in our brains.

And the thing about writers meeting in a room is that it is always quiet. But the silence is neither awkward, nor deafening. I imagine the words dancing around our heads, livid little letters in strings and ribbons, half-formed sentences and phrases, curling, twisting, turning, tossing, twirling, spinning; typewriter fonts and scratchy pencil scribbles and neat elegant Helvetica; it is never quiet. The conversations are in the air, noiseless and without sound, invisible fingers tapping an invisible keyboard, imaginary hands scrawling the next line and letter. We are never quiet.

Why do writers write? It’s a rhetorical question really, much akin to asking ‘Why do dogs bark?’ or ‘Why do fish swim?’; it’s more than self-expression, the desire to inform or educate, or self-actualisation. I can only say that we write, simply because we do. Perhaps it’s a discovery of self.  An unveiling of personal truth. Or it could just be that when we write, we find ourselves set free from the bodies and clothes we inhabit, from the inadequacy of expression set in our faces, mannerisms, and tics; the I that I am becomes real, filling out the invisible outline that is my body, this heavy sack of flesh and bone that is strange, alien and unfamiliar.

Do we write to be, or to feel? Is this pedestrian activity of self-expression really necessary for us to be able to seize that fleeting, elusive sense of fulfilment or actualisation? Does this nebulous exercise give shape and form to our perception of uniqueness and reality?

No wonder writers, or rather the self-styled ones, are egomaniacs.

Love IS the Answer

Peru, Lima
Brazil

What does it take to change the world?

We talk about it.. we profess it.. we declare it.. but does it mean something more than a phrase we like repeating because it sounds cool? Or because everyone is saying it? I want to know, whether you, or myself, really believe in it when we let the words roll of our tongue.. punctuated with pursed lips and a slight nod and perhaps a clenched fist thrown in as well?

I keep coming back to Hillsong and United, who have seemingly pervaded boundaries and cultures across continents with their verve, passion and fervour.. it’s mind-bending when you do think about it, because we’re talking about lighting a fire in tens of thousands of people in a single night, who glimpse Jesus in new and radical way as they experience a kind of earth-shaking worship they may have never seen or heard before until that moment — that moment when heaven collides and your spirit does a little somersault and sets off a series of explosions that you shed a tear or are just awed into silence — something inside you is just lit up, as if it were as simple as throwing a  switch, and you walk away from everything changed, brand-new, different, reborn.

This is worship we’re talking about.. imagine a city on a darkened hill, blazing, fiery, turning on thousands of little lamps at every angle it can reach.. so much so that we see the hillsides dotted like fireflies, who then turn on little lamps of their own.. it gets faster, quicker, spreading like wildfire… and before you know it, everything is just light, all darkness forgotten, a distant memory.. Mine is a poor metaphor at best, but think about it, chew on this and wonder about what it means.. more than just a metaphor Matthew uses.. ask Him what does it mean for you in the literal sense, in a real and practical way: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16

Change is in our hands.. in the way we bring light to the people around us.. the real question now is how.. and the answer is simple.. we’re lamps.. vessels shaped to carry light.. used in dark places.. light-bearers and darkness-banishers.. and now we come to the exciting part.. and how gloriously simple it really is..

What is it that changes hearts, transforms minds, fires up the soul…? Something so powerful.. so all-encompassing.. so ferocious.. and yet so gentle to the one that it touches.. what is it that reaches that place deep inside of you that no man or natural thing can.. transcending mere words in a book.. crossing all walls and defenses.. more than language.. more than perceptions and mindsets.. even more than doctrine?

What is it then? Let me tell you this.. Love is the answer.. and His name is Jesus.

Let my hands be Yours, my words Your own, Your heartbeat in mine

Park & Cube

I’ve been reading Park & Cube for the last couple of days with some interest. At first glance it seems like one of the ubiquitious fashion/streetstyle blogs dedicated entirely to clothes and/or shopping and pretty much a self-celebration of narcissistic self-indulgence — though one can hardly deny the guilty pleasure of reading them with such vicarity — but Park & Cube, with some aplomb, separates itself from the drooling hipster masses.

(I was reading JUICE magazine over the hotness’ shoulder last night and the ‘Hipster Bible’ article advocated the hipster to read Dostoevsky, Satre and Salinger. Not to be snobby, but really, now.)

It’s probably because of the very intentional choice of words and images. The photos are consistent: in the sense of layout, composition, mise en scène, focus; all of which goes to shape its own identity in our heads. Clever. Stylish. Rich. Even tasteful (which is hard to find in the content that runs the gamut on the intarwebs, so never, ever, take that for granted). Decidedly un-gimmicky. And any one who talks about ‘panoptics, global connection and disappearance of space’ is good in my book.

‘The sky is so hormonal lately I feel like throwing it a big fat painkiller so it stops being so pissy and sunny within the course of a few hours. The other day I misjudged its temper and went out wearing nothing but a blouse and that fake lamb fur thing and caught myself a tickly cough cold, the thing that only creeps out in the most inconvenient of times like in church or in a packed train. I’m sure that if it weren’t for bird flu, swine flu, caterpillar flu, refrigerator flu I would’ve received a gentle pat on the back from a middle class gentleman while being offered baby backup water from mothers.’

Faithfulness

last night in the highlands

Faithfulness. This was the word prayed over me by Jon as we sat together with Shawn in his room, going over tomorrow’s songlist, clarifying chord progressions, tweaking how each song would lead to the next. I couldn’t help thinking, that just a few years ago, you could put a guitar in my hand and I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’m far from an expert, but the simple fact that I can even strum, let alone sing while playing, is proof enough to me that He is faithful.

Now, to be in this place, right at this moment at this point in my life, I am reminded once again of His heart for me, that every word and whisper and secret that have never known any other human ear, He has heard and answered in kind. This can all seem so curiously insignificant, especially when considered against the grand scheme of things, but it’s all about — as some of you may come to agree — the tiny little details. It’s that little smile, that near-imperceptible nod, but filled with so much meaning, so much life.

I honestly don’t know what to expect for tomorrow. I may mess up completely, fluff the chords, forget the carefully-crafted plan I have to slide effortlessly from one song to another, remain silent when I should not; it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. All I need to do is show up, because He definitely will. So in spite of my sore fingertips and creaky voice, I just have to rest, to keep my heart safely ensconced in my Father’s hands. And He will take over.

Your faithfullness endures always
Where mountains fall and reason fails
And You calm the raging seas
And You calm the storms in me, again

All I know is I find rest in You
All I know is I find rest in You

My heart will praise throughout the night
Where singing seems a sacrifice
Your grace is all I need
Your grace is all I need

FAVOURites


My first time attending CG was in fact with NP during the Campus days, and even then it took a great deal of rebellion against self to do so. Needless to say, still too steeped in my own insecurities and the immense inertia of moving outside my comfort zone, my time with the NP CG was short-lived.

It would be several years later, after taking a journey of brokenness, when I decided to take the plunge again. To see if this fellowship-with-the-brethren thing would work out. After all, when you’ve hit the rock bottom of your flesh, what have you really got to lose?

I would never have expected that it would be a decision that would change my life forever.

Our twenties may contain only a decade, but they remain the most formative for our generation. Higher education, commitment to our first full-time job — the two most crucial aspects of life for a young adult in our contemporary society in Singapore — this is, I believe, when we grow up the most. Leaving behind juvenile notions and preconceptions of people, friendships, life goals; sooner or later we embark on this journey, forced to confront the very real truth that we need to make what can be very hard decisions that will lay the foundations for the rest of our lives.

But I digress. The notion of CG is something very close to my heart, and some of my best friends in church have been met through it. Some of the most amazing people I know I have encountered through CG, and through whom many of the life-changing moments in my life have occurred. Great joys and great sorrows, to meet people and see some of them move on from my life.

And yet God is still faithful. I remember praying, at many points when I have felt disenfranchised and marginalised, that somehow I would have that sense that I belonged. Though some of us may be loathe to admit it, no man is an island, not even the most taciturn and introverted of us. And years on, I find myself surrounded by friends whom I consider an honour and privilege to know. Friends who have stuck by me, prayed with and for me, and shown me my Father’s heart through simply being themselves. Friends who care. Who love in the way they have been loved by Him.

Sometimes I feel that I can never adequately express the measure of gratitude I feel towards them, even for the little ways that they have moved me. I can make envelope-cards, mixCDs, tiny inconsequential doodles, streams of words — and still I feel that they fall far too short of what I want to say.

So even if this sounds a little too trite and contrived and even outright silly: thank you for being you. My life is all the more richer for you being in it.

Born

So it’s been two weeks. And the words have been running out, petering from an empty shell. I feel like a shadow of my former self: I know I exist, aware of the person I am, with some vague idea of who I should be like, but it’s as if I walk, talk, breathe, without substance, without anchor. Something invisible, perhaps God, perhaps the last vestiges of memory, holds everything together, held fast by gossamer threads spun from a lifetime.

Reservist training ended a week ago. The army and I share a tempestuous relationship; in many ways my national service represents one of my greatest failures, a clock that can never be turned back, a past with too many ‘what ifs’  and regrets. And yet it shares with me one of my greatest joys.

Memory. A lifetime ago. Back in the jungle where I was born. The sweet plastic smell of camouflage paint heavy under my nostrils. Chin strap slick with sweat, tropical heat burning underneath my skin, nails and hair, the dead weight of my rifle pulling at my neck, a familiar shape in my hands. Heavy leather boots dusted with mud and crushed undergrowth weighing my feet down like an anchor. All physical discomfort a dull cry in the back of my head.

Wandering in the darkness, my eyes gleaming in the moonlight, weaving through the trees with the shadows, treading across a jungle floor full of history, of ancient villages and scared young men too far from home. I was never afraid.  Never. Instead I welcomed every moment, each problem a promise of new thrill and adventure, the ghosts never close enough to touch me. Alive. Come home again.

Then everything imploded, exploded, like ball bearings streaking with shrapnel, and I was crying in my pillow that fateful night, with the word ‘why’ mouthed through a grimace and soundless lips. In some ways like Ronnie Barnhardt, the poor fool who built a life around something that could never offer him what he truly wanted.

Some days, I imagine and I think I understand why everything happened the way it did, but most of the time it is a bitter pill to swallow. Some things we can redeem, and see restoration. But some things, whether good for us or not, are only lost forever.