Friday, June 22, 2018

Can harap or not?

After what seemed like a futile uphill task of laughable proportions, Malaysians awoke (those who had pulled an all-nighter stumbled zombified) to receive news that we had just voted in our first ever change in Government. For a country more used to a disenfranchised que sera sera or as the locals shrug, "like that lor," the change took many, if not everyone by surprise.

Not that change was not needed or wanted, but that in the heat of frustration and anger, through the monotony and drudgery of everyday politics, fighting against hypocrisy, media manipulation, a barrage of blatant lies and megalomaniacs detached from the realities of kangkung life, many, myself included, had forgotten that every marathon, even an ultra-cross country marathon, has a finishing line.

On May 9th we had crossed the line together without knowing it. In true blue Malaysian style, even victory came late (in the wee hours of May 10th) as the Election Commission stalled the announcement longer than a half-tonne, mud-wallowing buffalo.

Although every vote counts and every step has its value, the real heroes are those who had the foresight to dream big, tenacity to keep on, courage to withstand ridicule and compassion to gather disgruntled, jaded, skeptics like myself to drag our weary feet to the polls and refrain from #undirosak.

Although I still have my doubts that Malaysia has not leapt from the frying pan into the fire, Nine-O-Five has sustained its generally positive multiplier effect, for now. Until power plays have settled and footings established, there is no routine in this new political arena. Every word is open to interpretation and gone seem the days where a wave of the hand will placate the masses albeit grudgingly. Although "rule of law" seems to be the nation's trending catchphrase, I am irked because those who lean on it are often the very ones capable of manipulation and abuse of power, spinning definitions to suit the occasion, fixing stakes behind the blame game.

I am particularly interested to see how Merit will be personified in this new environment. Will she be an uncouth tai tai, all shine but no substance? Perhaps he will be a sombre critic, all chill and no charm.

Our new Government's logo looks like they took a leaf out of Star Trek  merchandise. As they lead us into unknowns no Malaysian has a map for (not even GPS can save us - GPS being the cringeworthy unoriginal moniker of Sarawak's latest political party post Nine-O-Five), let us be vigilant, for a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, following a New Hope, the Empire struck back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In case we forget

Senyum seindah suria
Yang membawa cahya
Senyumlah dari hati
Duniamu berseri

Senyum umpama titian
Dalam kehidupan
Kau tersenyum ku tersenyum
Kemesraan menguntum

Senyum… kepada semua
Senyumanmu amatlah berharga
Senyum… membahagiakan
Dengan senyuman terjalinlah

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Hippo love

Contrary to logical semantics, a hippophile is not a lover of hippos 
(although I admit they are rather cute). 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On record

As my Gratitude Jar Project enters its 4th year, I'm realising more and more that contentment is not found in looking up towards any self-glorification, neither is it found in looking forward to any plans or in storing achievements. Though striving has its proper place, I am learning that satisfaction comes from recognising the beauty of surround sound bounty, from imparting kindness into the communities I have been put into, from infusing grace into the everyday lives of everyday people. Though it is a struggle to greet gossipers with graciousness, to seek the well-being of mockers, to be self-sacrificing, even as others are self-serving, even in struggle, there is reward.

A few years ago, I wondered about the futility of self-driven success. Drowning in a false dichotomy of mediocrity and excellence, I "pushed as far as I can go... but in the end it doesn't didn't even matter." (Linkin Park) The dichotomy I have come to find, exists not within the realms of whatever temporal success I (or any of us) may achieve in life (if any at all), but within my relationship as Created before my Creator.

Though many may loathe to play second fiddle or have the spotlight taken away, I have been led to gradually, over a cripplingly extended period of time, not only relinquish desire for prominence but deliberately yearn to be doorkeeper (Psalm 84:10), to be the spotlight that illuminates Another's radiance (and not be in the spotlight!), to perpetually play second violinist and to lay down vain imagination and flights of fancy, deeply assured that in the humility of meekness, an unfiltered, unInstagram-worthy life still possesses infinite value.

Life is far from what I thought it could be; it is eternally more rewarding and more fulfilling that anything I could have constructed or accomplished.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Gardener at work

1.5 years ago I made a decision to leave the workforce. A combination of ambition, anxiety and unresolved history had taken its toll and without me realising, their effects had permeated every aspect of my life; I was a train that didn't know how to slow down with not much track left on the road. Knowing that only God could unravel the mess, I embarked on an exercise of being wholly available to God for a soul-breaking overhaul.

My initial assessment was that the issues would be "fixed" in 2 months. It is obvious in hindsight that my projected timeline turned out to be quite dismal =.=

Tomorrow I reenter the working world. Although lessons learnt are too numerous to list here, 2017 has been for me a year of learning dependence; that I can trust despite not knowing all the answers, that surrender takes precedence over solutions, that there is a plan through the pain, that service is sacrifice, that God's timing is perfect.

As my Gratitude Jar project completes its 3rd year, the lyrics of this Lutheran hymn echo deep, evoking simultaneously loss and gain, humility and hope, grief and glory.

" When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Aye and aye

Looking to enjoy eternity,
forgo the brevity of today; 
Not just til death do us part,
but for what time cannot steal away.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The flag of Joy

Joy is the flag flown high
From the castle of my heart
For the King is in residence there

When I was younger, I used to assume that I flew the flag. As pop culture will certainly attest, we have exalted ourselves as the Davids of Israel, the heroes of our imagination, the underdog who saves the day. Recently however, this old Sunday School song has returned to memory to inform me anew.

Traditionally, the monarch's flag is flown from the castle to declare that the monarch is "in residence." Through seasons of plenty or prolonged moments of disaster and uncertainty, though the castle may be under relentless siege from all sides, even when rescue seems unlikely or even impossible, that the flag continues to fly is testament that the Ruler remains, that the castle has not been captured by belligerent forces.

This new understanding has brought fresh appreciation of a song previously sang by rote. Today I understand that Joy flies high regardless of my emotions and regardless of my circumstances. Happiness may be fleeting (especially if fueled by sugar-heavy chocolate) but Joy is a constant even on days that seem dull and grey. It flies high and defiant against enemies who threaten to overtake, sounding truth through trials. Joy entered the moment God the Joy Giver claimed ownership over my life and it continues to declare the residence of the King who dwells within.

Often, it is hard to find the distinction between happiness and joy. Sometimes the two are seemingly intertwined yet at other times, even when we are bereft of happiness, there is assurance of joy, if but a glimmer. The world tells us to "seek happiness" but that's where wisdom leaves and foolishness takes over. As much as we want to believe it, happiness is not rooted in securing a home, a high-flying job or an exclusive romantic relationship. We need only to listen to the woes of the world - the lifelong mortgage, debilitating anxiety and crushing infidelity - to realise that the advertised honeymoon (terms & conditions apply) is hollow.

Our desires reveal the object of our Joy. It is a pet peeve of mine whenever Christians utilise Psalm 37:4 as a preamble guarantee of a soulmate. Good as relationships are, if we are sincere in delighting ourselves in God, His ownership becomes our central delight. A delight and not drudgery. Dynamic, not drone-like. Alive, not artificial. His goodness is our encouragement. Doing His will becomes our motivation and delight. In striving to please Him, our happiness is fulfilled.

Romantic affiliations, though good, only fulfil their goodness within the scope of God's pleasing will. Whilst by nature demanding, requiring our urgent attention, relations will ultimately only decay with time; an investment worth entering into, but only with sufficient and thought-out God-centered reason and purpose.

Admittedly, it is easy to be labelled "sour grapes" but I find it neither a burden nor a prerogative for me to prove otherwise :)

Even though I myself may lose sight of Joy when troubles overwhelm, the flag continues to fly high, reminding both myself and the world of the sovereignty and authority of the King who whose banner over me is love.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Masterpieces of brokenness

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation
Quietly applauds
And you're covered with
The fingerprints
Of God

~ Steven Curtis Chapman ~

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A new normal

What a strange glee,
That I feel free,
No longer choked by chains
Of insecurity.

What a strange notion,
Gone is the weight
Of revolution.

What a strange thought,
From wreckage wrought,
Was once impossible
 Yet now is nought.

What a strange feeling,
This lightness appealing,
Sorrows from before
Give way to dreaming.

What a strange turn,
That what once could burn,
Have no more regard
No longings return.

What a great joy,
With wonder employ,
How could it be?
But He did it for me.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jars of Clay

As it was the year before, the herald of a new year meant it was time for me to face the contents of my "annual jar." I was terrified to revisit what I thought would be a reopening of wounds that never healed; reminders of a seared spirit, failed resolve and crushed ambition.

Instead, what met me in my fear was grace upon grace. Every sting had been met with unreserved mercy and every loss with undeserved opportunity. The effects of 2016 still reverberate but I look forward to new mercies in 2017, knowing that my burdens are carried by One whose strength I will continue to depend on and draw from, despite ongoing tensions as I try to grasp the magnitude between striving and yielding, servanthood and inheritance, Creator and created.

The 2016 jar is the photo above is set against the backdrop of an embroidered tus kii. Found in Kazakh gers, also known as yurts, of western Mongolia, the tapestry design is purposely left unfinished to signify that life, for all its tragedy and beauty, continues regardless. May today mark the beginning of renewed focus, of not holding back, for free falling.

Joshua 24:15
...but as for me, and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Offroad adventures
During an impromptu, unguided hike under a towering canopy, The Pilgrim's Progress came to mind. I had found myself doubting the faintly-marked, narrow trail that wound its way across a changing terrain - tree roots the width of my thigh, clay hills, muddy banks and ancient rocks - wondering if the route was outdated, tempted with each passing minute to search for another way besides the never-ending path we were on whenever alternative options looked easier or voices were heard through the trees.

Half-tumbling, half-stomping through the uncertain undergrowth, when we finally reached our journey's end it dawned that whether shadows threaten or our hearts embrace nature's beauty, if we pursue the path steadfastly, we will arrive at our destination.

Just as it was on the hike, so it is in life. I was reminded that though the earth's riches may beckon, and worldly wisdom captivates with her allure, though distractions may direct affections and energy elsewhere, and anxiety brings us low, all that is required in this Christian life is that I remain a faithful witness and helper, loving God and His church (what that looks like in practice is another story!).
There is no promise that the path will be free from burrs or creatures that sting and cause harm; there will be times when the path is showered with mercies abundant. Whatever our personal experiences, we walk humbly in the footprints of giants who have gone before us, knowing that even as our heart's yearning is for a distant future, the groaning itself is a gift, as we wait eagerly for redemption at the end of a long road of perseverance.   

James 1:4 
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Balancing flavours

Porcini mushrooms and pan seared scallops on charred fennel bulb.

If we put prejudices aside and give dislikes a second chance (in this case, fennel), we may surprise even ourselves with the outcome.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting there

To achieve balance, one needs to accept that falling multiple times is simply part of the process as we learn to find our feet on shaky ground. Failure does not characterise the fall.
There is joy yet to come.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Highland romance

With perseverance and grace, we may yet see the wreckage of our past redeemed in ruddy wonder.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dreaming again

Last night I dreamnt that I had to look after an albino baby koala. Whilst cradling it, I stepped into a glass elevator in a shopping mall, which then went up several floors, passing black and white geometric designs along the way.

I wonder if a dream interpreter will affirm that it means I'll have a white, Aussie baby during my climb up the corporate elevator in creative design.