Making Light of Things

April 2001 Archives

Tears of Joy

The tests are over. The mathematics presentation is over. It’s one of those times you sit and thank God you’re still alive. After the two tests on Thursday I had thought mathematics presentation was going to be a breeze. Work had be delegated to all three members of the group, and the other two would email me their parts and I would consolidate them with mine. It turned out to be so much more work than anticipated. I’m just glad it’s all over. It truly is a blessing to be able to just sit back and enjoy the weekend.

I received news that Uncle PK passed away two days ago. We knew he was suffering from cancer but never really kept ourselves updated with his condition. He’s one of the church elders. He was a 75 year old man who didn’t look a day past 50. I remember as a young teenager playing tennis with him. Oh he was the one playing tennis and I was the one trying to. I remember talking to my cousin Matthew about the sound tennis balls make when you hit them right. Add an O to Uncle PK’s intials and you’d have POK, the sound those tennis balls make. As you can tell, our sense of humour was still underdeveloped back then.

It is harder to fully appreciate the fact that he is no longer physically with us now that I’m so far away from home. It is hard to imagine not seeing him at church camp this year. Faith and I have always envisioned him marrying the two of us. He’s married so many couples over these years. Faith and I recall the many times he’d come to us after a wedding service and smile saying “hope you guys took notes”.

Why do I feel such a loss? Is it because I may no longer see his smile or hear his voice? The poem I wrote so many years ago still seems to voice my thoughts most eloquently.

In Memory Of things past and gone Tears of joy whimpers of sad Things that never of much importance seem People that never whole atmospheres change begin to take value. It’s true they say man will never learn to cherish an event happening a memory in making but will live to regret will regret to live an event over, a memory made.

For all the smiles, the cheer and laughter you brought into our lives. For all the godliness and love you shown. Thank you Uncle PK. I only wish I had appreciated and cherished them more.

Till we meet again. Blogger Comments x

Laying Things Down

It is Thursday night and a huge load has been lifted off my shoulders. I had my journalism and music test today. Now all that remains for this week is my Mathematics presentation tomorrow morning. I bought a grey shirt and a dark grey tie for the presentation. Having only one white shirt simply will not do.

Celebrating my release from these burdens, I went to the basketball courts and had a great game. Now I sit here, physically exhausted, but content. I just need to psyche myself into doing my mathematics written report tonight.

Mum called yesterday telling me that an invitation to join a fraternity had been sent to my home in Singapore. For so long I have thought of fraternities as a party place where people get drunk. Trust me, I’m not all that wrong on many accounts. It is nice to be invited to an exclusive club where membership is by invitation only, yet the fact that I missed the deadline seems to be something God wants to tell me. I’ve always envisioned having a wall in my own home where I’d frame up the certificates I’ve garnered over these past few years. Though it’s no major accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination, it scares me to see how tightly I hold on to these little tokens of recognition. Yet on this wall I will hang no such frame. In the middle of the wall I’d want a small something that reads “I count all this but loss for Christ who died for me.” This is what I want my life to be. Not a collection of achievements or the praise of men. I want people to see that God lives in me.

It is hard and I know that my fingers still tightly hold on to the little I have, but I pray that God gives me strength to lay them aside and focus on what is truly important, and what truly lasts. To you who read this, pray for me. That I may learn to be continually thankful for the many blessings bestowed on me, and that I may never forsake the true calling to be transformed into the likeness of the Son.

Things We Leave Behind

There sits Simon so foolishly wise proudly he’s tending his nets. Then Jesus calls and the boats drift away and all that he owns he forgets. But more than the nets he abandoned that day he found that his pride was soon drifting away and it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.

Matthew was mindful of taking the tax and pressing the people to pay but hearing the call he responded in faith and followed the Light and the Way. And leaving the people so puzzled he found the greed in his heart was no longer around and it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.

Michael Card Blogger Comments x

The Last Leg

It’s two more weeks till the end of the semester and things are really heating up. I have a huge journalism test on thursday and a mathematics presentation on friday. It is almost as if there is no time to breathe, yet in all this hustle, time must be found to watch Friends and a little of the NBA playoffs. At around midnight I’ll dive into my books with furrowed brow and renewed determination. Blogger Comments x

Circle The Appropriate Answer

What is in a face? I lay on my sister’s bed looking right into the face of her piglet doll. Yup, the one from Winnie the Pooh. Despite having read accurate descriptions of Piglet as a snivelling little chump who can’t stop complaining (“I am tired / cold / hungry ….”), I couldn’t help smiling when I saw the doll looking back at me. It is merely a conglomeration of shapes and colours, isn’t it? Yet I lay there like an idiot smiling at an inanimate object who probably had nothing on his/her mind except how tired / cold / hungry he/she was. It’s amazing what the human mind is programmed to do, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of it.

Eddie sent a mass email which was most wonderful. He spoke about what was in his heart, after the duration of his illness. In so many ways he has drawn many of us closer together, praying for him, and praying for ourselves. I began to see how precious the brothers and sisters I had in Christ were. They weren’t merely Sunday School teachers or musicians or songleaders. They were the very ones we’d spend eternity with. Their lives impact us in a profound way that transcends the formality of pure function. Eddie is more than just the person who translates my bad english into Chinese when I songlead. Erick is more than just the musician who provides the musical accompaniment. Minli is more than just the person who handles the books in the church library. To the many unnamed, you are more than what you do. In likewise manner, Faith is more than the girl who loves me with all my flaws. God is sovereign over all, and only when we see that do we know our place with regards to each other. For we being many, are one body in Christ.

Thank you Eddie, for choosing to strengthen all of us, and showing us that God wants us to do more than complain about how tired / cold / hungry we are. Blogger Comments x

Screwing Up And Nailing It

Just came back from my five hour stint with Habitat. Time passed really slowly today and I found myself checking my watch more than I would have liked. I learnt something about myself today. The past weeks were spent digging trenches for the foundation of the walls to be set in. It was fun in a rather tiring way. Time flew by as dirt and more dirt moved from place to place. Today’s task? Sorting out screws and nails. I almost fell on the ground and died. It required tenacity of a different kind. When I was shovelling dirt, carrying concrete slabs or cinder blocks, it felt so good breaking a sweat and testing the limits of my body. When I fiddle with the layout of my homepage, I am compelled to sit here as long as it takes to get it up and running. That kind of tenacity I had. Sorting out screws and nails, that I didn’t have. I guess I don’t have the knack for adminstrative details or just plain repetitive tediousness. I know I should develop at least a level of tolerance, as it is a skill needed in many aspects of life that aren’t as creative or appealing. Oh well. I’ll work on it. But give me the wheelbarrow and pickaxe anytime and I’ll pass you a bottle of screws. You go sort them out. At least I know I won’t screw up. Blogger Comments x

A Bespecktacled Beam

The whole China-US debacle over the spy plane that landed really caused quite a large commotion here. While Israel and Palestine are duking it out with mortar shells and bus bombings, they only occupy the small columns in newspapers. The 24 hour coverage goes to the US-China Standoff or Showdown, depending on which television network you prefer. I have gotten rather riled over this incident and have written to the school newspaper about it, sent emails to FoxNews about their insensitive and (to be honest) stupid remarks over the incident.

It seems the United States of America can do no wrong. You have television show hosts who think they are the leading authority on aviation accidents who assure their audience that the accident was totally China’s fault. Their “military intelligence” seemed to give them the edge over everybody else’s opinion. Even when the U.S. administration sent a letter to China stating that the whole picture was yet unknown, these television personalities took it upon themselves to bombard the Chinese, even to the point of uttering things like “how stupid do these Chinese think we are?”

Frankly, I think they’re plenty stupid. It is so easy to raise the flag of patriotism and condemn the views and government of other nations. They bring reverends on television who condemn China’s “barbaric” practice of forced abortion. It has gotten to a point where I feel outraged at their arrogance and ignorance. Tianammen Square is often brought out as an incident that forever mars China’s government, and has become a bargaining chip of sorts. I can’t help but remember the fact that this “great nation” (as they like to call it) was built on the property of the native Americans, and paid for by their blood. What apology did the native Americans get from this “great nation”? The introduction of alcohol, something that destroyed the once proud people.

I am not writing this to condemn anyone, nor to say that one is better than the other. “Why do you condemn the speck in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” America needs to learn that they cannot push their weight around without remembering their own mistakes. Maybe only then will forgiveness be a trait of this country. Until then, “this great nation” is only a title they bestow upon themselves. Blogger Comments x

More Than These

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

The question that Jesus asks me today is: “Do you love me more than these?” It is not a question that one answers trivially. But I know that the passage I read today was meant for me. It has been a barren period of time in my life. In a familiar song it says:

But it goes against the way I am to let my human nature down and let the Spirit take control of all I do. Cause when those trials come my human nature shouts the things to do and God’s soft prompting can be easily ignored.

There has been so much pride, so much self in my life. it almost seemed like a shackle I was unable to free myself from. Much as I told myself of the need to be free of them, they bind themselves ever tighter, and I find myself without strength of will to overcome them. Yet now I know in full how weak I am. The guilt that comes with failure saps my strength like a leech and I forget how valuable a human life is. Yet today Jesus asks me if I love Him. After so much futility I whisper “Lord You know I do.” It is not a proclaimation of my love and how much I offer, but one of my need, and how little I have to give. Jesus asks Peter thrice not because He doubted Peter. He did not do it to make Peter feel bad for denying Him three times. He did it, so that for every denial Peter uttered, it was restored with an utterance of Peter’s love for Christ. I need that restoration in my life, in every aspect, every facet. And I feel a gentle hand guiding me, not chiding me for my mistakes. Because His love covers all sins.

I hope that all of you who read this will find out for yourselves the fullness of Jesus Christ. The depth and the height of His love. And somehow I hope that in my own proclaimation of need, you may see that people do need the Lord.

Blogger Comments x

Rolls, Not Danish

We finally ran out of toilet paper. Faith had the great foresight of buying a whole warehouse full when she was five months ago and we never had to worry about it till now. I am reminded of Aiken’s poem, for her hands have graced this house. Hands that have lined the kitchen drawers with Christmas wrapping paper. I just wanted to reminiscense her presence here, that the memory of her love for me will never run out.

MUSIC I heard with you was more than music, And bread I broke with you was more than bread; Now that I am without you, all is desolate; All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver, And I have seen your fingers hold this glass. These things do not remember you, belov├Ęd, And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them, And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes; And in my heart they will remember always,— They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

-Conrad Aiken

I miss you so much. Blogger Comments x


I forgot to write about this. Almost a week ago I almost got into a fight at the ball courts. Our team was made up of four guys and a girl. Despite all efforts to accomodate feminist beliefs, one could rightly say we had a matchup problem. While the girl could dribble the ball and shoot as well as anyone, defensively she was a liability. She was assigned defensively to a short muscular African-American who seemed to be more content running off his mouth than his feet. I must admit she tried her darndest to stay on him. Being the egotistical being that he is (I obtained real live footage just by hearing his non-stop commentary on court), he wanted his teammates to pass him the ball so he could go one-on-one with the girl. Not being as offensively gifted as say Michael Jordan, he had problems getting the ball into the hoop. Needless to say, the ego didn’t quite agree with what the body was doing. He began elbowing the girl and shoving her. Mind you, this was a tiny girl we’re talking about. Not anything like Lisa Leslie or Venus Williams.

Somehow something inside me snapped when I saw him doing that. The poor girl was shoved totally out of the court, holding her head. I ran straight at him and bumped him, stared straight at him and explained to him not-so-nicely that it was a girl he was going up against. God knows what I would have done had he really fought back (he is bigger than me) but by the time he could get his senses together I had the whole team, and his whole team behind me. Ironically enough, that particular game ended with the girl hitting the winning jumpshot, and the guy asking “what? it’s over?” I know that if I meet the guy again I’ll walk up and apologise for my outburst, but at least my stand was made clear.

What is it about women that make us men so protective towards them? Is it their vulnerability? Watching Notting Hill with Min last night, the question within the show was “what’s the deal with breasts? Every other person in the world has a pair. Hugh Grant’s reply: Actually, it’s more than that. Meatloaf (male song legend at the time the movie was made) has a very nice pair.” The deeper question, why do women drive us so? If their curves were the main motivating factor behind our attraction, it might explain why I like basketball. But it’s more than that. The smile, the hair, the voice. That and a couple of million other combinations make them touch us in a way nothing else can. I don’t know if the mystery is quite as profound for women. If you’re one and would like to offer your view, email me, or drop a message in my guestbook. Either way, I’ll try to follow up on this investigation.

Meanwhile, erm…..Faith dearest…you do know that my heart is still very much with you right? Blogger Comments x

And A Little Child

Just came back from El Corral - arguably the best place for prime ribs here in Tucson. Of course Stephanie who introduced me to the place would say it’s not even close to arguable. We (my sister and I) sat beside this table that had two adults, a large teenager and a small boy. In classic Singaporean style we sat there and eavsdropped while we chewed on the dead cow that lay before us. It was interesting to note the difference between things children talk about, and things adults talk about.

It is far too often we deride the things that children say. We often think of them as childish and hardly of any importance. As I make my entrance into the rest of my life, I envision adult-to-adult talks of the stock market, the job - usually how we’re mistreated and overworked, and little else. The things that concern our lives no longer dwell on the simple, natural pleasures of life. We delve deep into the man-made world of economy and engage in little power struggles of our own as we strive to establish our own position in society. Who’s childish now? The light that once graced our faces begin to flicker and die.

I only hope that I learn to listen to children and the things they have to say. I hope that in the some way I may be inspired by their newness of life. May we never look down upon them and think of their world as unimportant and trivial. We have so much to learn. Blogger Comments x

Step Into Geekdom

After many hours of struggling with the blogger templates and a small javascript, I finally managed to construct a fairly attractive template for this page. It does look much, but at least it’s tidy and displays well on different resolutions. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who’d ever sit in a closet, programming to the wee hours of the morning. But even as I was sleep deprived for two whole days already, I found it hard to sleep without thinking of finishing this battle between my computer and the server this page resides on. I hope that as you access this page there are a minimum number of glitches. I do know of some, and I hope to remedy them, though the blogger way of archiving is not exactly the smartest. So sitting here, many hours later, I can proclaim to you that I have entered Geekdom. Do I hear chortles of laughter? Blogger Comments x

More Than Words

I finished writing my ten page paper on journalism ethics last night. An absolute masterpiece, if I may say so. Of course no one else would probably agree with me, but hey, if I had to grade myself, I might as well give myself a perfect ten. After hours of toiling on bibliography and in-text citation formats and finishing that paper, I was about to raise my arm in triumph. Then I remembered. Had another paper I forgot to work on. Back to the drawing board. It felt fabulous at three in the morning. Somehow God had granted me enough strength to rise from my chair and drop (almost) dead on my bed.

Not sure if many of you can relate to this - but I get very excited when I write a good paper, or even a nice journal. I am not excited because I expect a good grade. On the contrary, I’ve had my head snapped back a few times when what I thought was a good paper wasn’t well received. I am not excited because I thought I impressed anyone. It’s a weird high that originates simply from the act of effective communication. I want to believe that in some way I touched someone, or evoked some level of thought. I guess this is one reason why I look forward to teaching, though I know that teaching is not the idealistic activity I envision in my mind.

The one thing that was in my thoughts this afternoon was this: What if I lost the ability to communicate? Would there be anything I would regret never saying? Any apology not given? Any gratitude unexpressed? I guess that’s why I write these journals. In the hope that should anything happen to me, these words will be read and remembered.

The one thing I wanted to say was to Faith in particular.

Should the day come when my eyes close and never see or ear cease to hear or voice fade into the silence of night Remember that in my mind’s eye I see the same most beautiful girl I know. In my own silent galaxy I hear your voice and more than anything my heart utters thanks to God above for giving me the chance to love you everyday and every moment. Blogger Comments x

Father Knows Best

One of the things I had to do for my classics class was to watch Ben-Hur. I remember as a child I harboured a strong dislike for the movie. My dad would be watching it on television, either a borrowed videotape (back when our VCR was still working) or one of the umpteen telecasts celebrating a public holiday. I’d sit beside him for a while, before walking away in disinterest. There was once I asked him what Ben-Hur was about. He began to tell me laboriously about how Ben-Hur’s name was Judah, and that he was a Jew living in the time of Jesus. He also told me that Jesus would eventually appear near the end of the movie. I remember being totally confused. Why would the movie, titled after the main character, have the main character assume another name? Also knowing the Jesus was always the main character, why did someone make a movie about a peripheral character? If I wanted to watch a movie it had to be about the main character, and not the sidekick right?

It is many years later when I am forced to watch the movie for a class where I begin to understand my dad’s fascination. The movie based on Lew Wallace’s story is without a doubt a cinematic masterpiece, garnering more academy awards than any other movie ever made. The only one ever to achieve the same number of academy awards thus far is Titanic, an almost laughable comparison. The scriptwriter ought to be shot for writing the whole “you jump I jump sequence”. Back to Ben-Hur. The story of one man’s personal struggle and that of his people were so powerfully portrayed in the movie. The little nuances gave the movie a depth hardly found in today’s movies. The foreshadowing of things to come and the subtle gestures of the actors as they wielded personal power back and forth in friendly debate.

It was today I saw my father in a new light. I had always known him to a man of great knowledge, no doubt. In my mind, he was one who’d walk in a forest and rather than complain about the inconveniences, find such beauty and fascination in the colours of the fruits, the trees and the animals around him. He’d be the one I’d go to if I wanted to learn how to spin a top or fly a kite. But today I was taught not to think my father’s tastes as backdated or irrelevant to today’s times. I learnt how foolish I was many years ago not to take time to listen to him, and how the story of Judah Ben-Hur (I now understand the concept of first and last name) touched him. There is so much I have to learn from this man my father. I only hope his humility and gentleness can be developed in my own life.

There are times when Min (my sister here with me in Arizona) would ask me to take her to the mall, or some small favour, and I would find agitation rising up within me if her timing was bad. I would then remember my father and the things he did for my mother. He would deshell crab, and rather than eating it, give it to my mother. Almost all of it. Of course my youngest sister Louelle would hijack a rather large portion of the loot. He was never resentful or dissatisfied. He was never one to complain about sending me to school early in the morning. I’ve never heard him complain about how he had to take the bus because his son wanted to use the car. Fact is, many a time he never even communicated to me his need to travel to the other side of Singapore and give me use of the car. He does his things in his own quiet manner, never holding it as leverage.

Sometimes I’m afraid America will change the person I am for the worse. That I’ll be robbed of whatever innocence I possess and develop the aggression “necessary” for survival in society. I do not know if my father prays for me while I am here. My lack of knowledge does not lie in his inaction, but the quiet and stealthy assertiveness in which he shows he cares.

Blogger Comments x

Spelling Bees

Drinking Campbell’s Alphabet soup today brought back memories of so long ago. I remember when Matthew (my cousin) used to stay over at my house and we’d have late suppers that usually consisted of some heavy sodium soups. It was only once or twice we actually had the Alphabet soup and I distinctly remember the joy we took in playing with the letters of the alphabet. I’d be spelling Faith on my the side of my plate while he (at that time) would be spelling Cheryl. Of course, Ys were much harder to come by and we often had to trade letters. Not bad for an educational activity.
Blogger Comments x

Generation to Generation

There’s a certain calm in coming back to your own little den, to its serene silence. Being the only sound within its walls. The flick of the finger turns on the television, the sound of singing (no matter how unpleasant) carries past the hall. The things are exactly where I left them - messily if I didn’t tidy up, organised, if I did. It feels nice to be responsible for myself, what I eat, where I go, when I do my work and when I play my computer games. It is also important to me that I remember my parents who made this possible. It is through their hard work that I have this opportunity to come to a foreign land and be exposed to new things. I wonder if they wonder what it is I see, hear and learn in this place. If anything at all, I’d like to assure them this - I remember their kindness, and I learnt to be grateful to God for their love. Blogger Comments x

Keeping in Touch

Quite a number of people have asked how I manage to keep a long distance relationship going. To be honest, I don’t know. It is not a colossal effort on my part, or any unique characteristic of mine that makes it stick. I just miss Faith. A lot. Especially now after coming back home from a few games of basketball. I miss hearing her voice, seeing her face and everything about her. I miss sitting in front of the television set and watching JAG or Bear and the Big Blue House with her. I just sent her a page via the Singtel website and it comforts me that she is smiling right now. I can’t wait to come home to her. Guess the page will have to do. Blogger Comments x

A New Beginning

It rained yesterday, turning the clock back. What was Arizonan Spring time turned into Winter. I sit here in a bundle of clothes (and socks, don’t forget socks). The central heating has been switched to air conditioning instead when the weather got warm a few weeks ago. I’m trying out this new page format in the hope that its ease of use will facilitate more frequent updates from an utterly lazy person like myself. Hope it works. Blogger Comments x

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