Christmas and more

Christmas 2008

It's fascinating how Christmas can be a time when we find it easiest to forget about God.

In buying presents, going to boxing day sales, visiting houses with elaborate and colourful lighting and decorations, attending gatherings, and even taking part in church activities, your mind is filled; there is no longer space for what is unseen, no opportunity to reflect, no time to quieten down and acknowledge God as God.

Our Christmas play this year was, in many ways, flawed and cheesy. Nevertheless, it was an important reminder to us all that Christmas is to celebrate the arrival of Jesus and the work he was about to begin on Earth. The day is not simply a tradition, a festival, a day off work, present giving and card writing time, or family time (although these are all good things to have). And most definitely, Santa, reindeers, elves and snow angels are not the focus of Christmas (although these in themselves are harmless too).

Counting blessings

At church we have an annual thanksgiving night at the end of each year. Indeed if you think hard enough, there are indeed many blessings to thank God for. I won't list them here. But to summarise, the best blessings for the year were hope and joy, whatever the circumstances. This was the song that reminded me of my blessings:

1) Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

2) Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.

The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

3) Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Love: two choices

If you had two choices, would you rather:

1. A passionate, all consuming love like Heathcliff's; dramatic, with times of sweetness, times of bitterness and haunting pain.


2. A selfless, good and constant love, like that of Mr Linton.

Wuthering Heights was one of those books that would sit on my bookshelf for years. I would attempt to read it from time to time, but never made it past the first page. But actually, it was a fascinating and engrossing story. Classics are classics for a reason.

On a side note, why are novels considered academic, and a more wholesome form of entertainment than say, movies and magazines? In the days before television, were these books, full of scandals and drama, not equivalent to today's soap operas?


Is absolute, at least during our time on Earth. With long lost friends, there is the opportunity of reuniting with them somewhere, someday. With broken friendships, there is that possibility for repair, and at least the comfort of knowing their existence through mutual friends. Death though, means that your connection with that person has been cut permanently. And depending on your beliefs, you can wish that they can still hear you in heaven, that they are watching over you, or that you can reach them through some medium or spirit... but really, we know that they've crossed over to where we cannot follow (yet).

Death is powerful, confronting; and just when you think you've forgotten, it can tug at heartstrings you forgot you had.

It's sad to be reminded of your death by the family that you've left behind. But I think I want to remember. Remember your goodness, enthusiasm, fun and care. It's a pity I never got to tell you about my life at uni, about med, that I won't get to talk to you as an adult and as a friend. But I think your life has left lasting impressions, and your death has helped me to understand life better, and has brought the rest of our family closer.

Love always.


I know I've been writing a lot about aging... this is the last one for now!

A lot of us a repulsed by the idea of getting old. Incontinence, disinhibition (eg. socially inappropriate behaviour), immobility. Children don't have great bladder control, they do and say inappropriate things, and young babies aren't exactly mobile. Aging is like reverting to childhood, with limited memory, reasoning, abstract thinking.

Why do we find the same qualities so adorable in children and so devasting in elderly people? Why do we willingly look after babies, no matter how messy and naughty they are, but find it difficult to do the same for elderly relatives?

There are differences though. To have had that independance once, to have had that mental capacity, that ability to interact meaningfully with friends and family... to lose what you once had is quite different. Besides, babies grow out of it; to see children gradually attain physical, cognitive and social growth is one of the greatest pleasures of being a parent.

There was a time when I woke up early to see sunrise. I was shocked by how glaring and bright it was compared to the many sunsets I've seen. Mum commented that birth and death is similar. Indeed, babies enter into the world crying with all the might they can muster, and many elderly people slowly and quietly slip away.

Entropy - 2

It's inevitable. Your muscles start shrinking, bones undergo microfractures, the lens of your eyes gradually become thickened and the colour changes from clear to milky. Half of your smell and taste sensations are gone, the most mouthwatering dish becomes bland, ice cream is no longer sweet.

Even with the most careful diet, even without the risk factors of obesity and smoking, your risk of getting diabetes steadily rises. So does your blood pressure. Hypertension. To coronary heart disease, glomerulosclerosis, stroke.

Gradually your memory slips away. And you forget who you are. Even if you recognise your loved ones, you no longer feel a connection with them. Can't quite comprehend how they became, and how they are your children, your spouse, your sibling.

"Aging. And the only way you can avoid it is to die".

Entropy - 1

The most vibrant petal falls, decays.
The sturdiest building collapses.
Carefully carved candles are set ablaze.
Winter always overcomes summer.

The darkest hair turns white.
The smoothest skin scars.
The liveliest baby sleeps in a coffin.

Even the closest friends we forget.
Memory becomes a blurred silhouette.

From dust we came, to dust we return.

Thoughts triggered by the first line - where I saw these bright red petals scattered onto the muddy ground underneath the tree from which it grew.

The paradox

Do we carelessly toss what we have,
Then lament for what has been lost?

Only in turmoil is peace so dearly cherished,
And amongst tears that laughter so precious.

Does the same peace become monotony,
To which we forget to be grateful for?

Bound as brothers in storm; calamity!
Then becoming strangers in silence.


While doing cleaning duty at college today, I realised how much of my "growing up" process happened at church. The first time I did dishes, the first time I mopped, vacuumed, served food, stacked chairs, set up tables... were not at home, but all these are random things I picked up at church. My real extended family has been far for a long time now, but I did have a "family" of sorts at church.

1) My "brothers", my best friends, who ran around, played and fought with me. Sharing "deep talks" with from time to time. And continuing to keep in touch with me :) It's only during these holidays in Shanghai did I notice how similar our friendship is to that between my cousins and I.

2) Sisters, who I had more conflicts with in the past... but nevertheless, forgiven me for the times when I have been rude or childish. Who shopped, talked, checked out guys with me and sometimes fed me :)

3) The younger children who are not so little any more. Some were like real little siblings to me, and taught/prepared me to be able to look after and play with my real sister.

4) Aunties who told me off, sometimes gossiped about me, especially about my relationships. I think it's because they cared. The adults weren't perfect, but looking back, they are encouraging examples of people who strive to be faithful to God even in difficult times.

I'm particularly grateful for a lot of the care, corrections, parenting during Sunday school, although I may have resented it at the time. Particular things that come to mind include:

1) One of the Sunday school teachers chatting with me in Mandarin the first time I came to church (all the kids spoke in English and I didn't understand a word).

2) Letting me know that putting my foot up on the table is "not very lady-like", because I really saw nothing wrong with it at the time.

3) Another Sunday school teacher being great in presenting evidence, explaining and provoking thought. Then attempting to answer all my endless questions.

4) For being flexible and letting me continue in Sunday school instead of attending normal service, at a time when I didn't understand the reason and wasn't willing to sit through long sermons and prayers.

For those of you reading this, thank you all for growing up with me, putting up with me, forgiving me, teaching me, sharing fun times, sharing life with me :)

Reminds me of that song we sang at YWAM summer camp one year:

I will stand with you
We will fight the fight
I will stand with you
Through the darkest night
I will stand with you
As God gives us might
Hand in hand, hand in hand
We will stand

When you're tired of the battle
Feeling worn out to the bone
And you feel like you've been fending
Off the arrows on your own
Close your eyes and see the angels
Who are fighting brave and bold
In the family of God in the family of God
In the family of God
You're not alone

When life can overwhelm you
And the tears rise in your eyes
And you wish that you could find a place
To run away and hide
I'll be there to hold my hand out
And to gently lead you home
In the family of God in the family of God
In the family of God you're not alone

Cold is...

(yup it's a long and totally pointless post, because you all know what cold is)

an unfamiliar, large empty room with high ceilings. An eerie line of light from a gap where the blinds don't quite meet the width of the windows. The deepest winter night, wrapped up in a thick blanket with the heater on full blast and all windows closed; but still freezing.

chilling winds gently rocking a lift chair suspended high above the slopes. Sitting with no assurance that the heavy skiis attached to your boots will not plummet into the (deceptively soft) white snow below. Hands numb from wet gloves, clasping tightly to the metal rails.

sitting on a lone bench in the middle of a park with stretches of grass on all sides. A park from which, in the distant horizon, a row of high rises can be seen. Not believing that the vast spaces are empty, wondering if anyone hides behind the night cover. Shivering uncontrollably inside a fur coat.

breathing out a magical ball of mist with every puff you let out. Marvelling at it like a child; knowing it's condensation but being fascinated nonetheless.


Once upon a time an artist completed a painting. He was mesmerised, delighted! A scene rich in harmonious colours, with exquisite details, with life. (The rainforest. Grass green, dark green, dull green, crisp green. Fine rays of sunshine shy through the rustling leaves. A fresh scent lingers, the dampness seeps through the canvas, the birds are gliding out of the page...)

He continued to paint. But none matched the one he had completed. His skills and techniques were unchanged, but in light of his masterpiece, they were mere shadows, without colour, without magic. After numerous failed attempts, the joy of art was lost to him.

The artist was contented with his works before the painting changed him. If by some power you could decide, would you have let him create this masterpiece?

Flickering flames

In a fireplace. The solid, thick log is tended to for a long time before it's heated enough to catch fire. Once it alights, it burns slowly and steadily, radiating a warmth and a dim orange light within the room. Balls of newspaper are thrown in. In contrast, they instantly produce a wild and brilliant flame that is intensely hot. As this flame rapidly dies, the log continues burn and provide heat.

Last year at college, I had the opportunity to play with fire at a fireplace for the first time. I didn't understand why we used the logs instead of bits of tree branches, recycled cardboard, or just the newspapers from each morning. Well, now I do.

Who are you?

Children dressed in white,
Twirling hand in hand,
Innocently at a park.

A woman with painted lips,
A silky silhouette
Moving in the moonlight.

An addictive needle,
Painful and destructive;
Yet unable to live without it.

Best friends whispering secrets,
Sitting side by side,
Sharing and giggling.

A thirsty, weed-filled garden,
Unable to tend to itself,
Draining a lake.

A warm, cozy blanket
Sheltering another,
In true selflessness.

Are these faces all yours?
Or is love one name
For many distinct things?

Love is not an excuse to be possessive, to not let go, to act without thought and rationale, to not see others and the world around you, to be trapped in hopelessness and not pick yourself up. To be like this is not sweet, and is not to love too much. It is to not love at all.


1. On the way back from Alpha camp there was a circular break of light amongst stretches of grey rain clouds. Last week I looked up to some unusual leaves on the trees lining the path at uni. They had multiple small holes in the green parts of the leaf, which merged until only the delicate outline of a leaf remained. Not unlike a skeleton without flesh. (Actually they were dying leaves but looked quite pretty.) At these times, and at times in the past when I used to walk my dog while gazing around, I start to appreciate God as the ultimate artist.

I usually draw with pencils. The product would be a grey or blue sketch. With coloured pencils or with Photoshop I can colour the picture with any shade I desire. When I want to do something different, I might even animate the drawing.

God creates in 3D, and on a much larger scale/canvas, although he also operates microscopically and isn't limited by the square of a pixel. The clouds, leaves, everything, is a symphony of animations, constantly moving, changing and growing. The artist also added senses of smell, touch, sound, taste. And while I draw what I see, I suppose creation was purely from his imagination.

I noticed that I write a lot more about my thoughts than my life. Well, the next 2 are about my life.

2. I slept to my heart's content at camp :) and recovered from my flu. Apparently I'm like a koala: sleep, eat, sleep, eat. I just want to mention how I love sleeping, especially in M. Snuggling in my blankets, next to my two soft pillows is so comfortable. I study on my bed and never use the desk chair. In fact, I'm typing on my bed now.

3. It's been cold. Which makes me more sleepy than usual...

Twinkle twinkle little star

Every evening the sun falls and slams into the horizon. Light turns to dark. Droplets of tears hidden behind the blue day sky begin to appear as thousands and thousands of shimmering stars, forming a stream. The tale of a star is only unveiled to gazing eyes, patiently track her journey. Their mysteries are forever hidden from indoor eyes, busy eyes, eyes that see yet quickly forget - indifferent eyes. At the break of dawn a wave of energy sweeps the little stars away; faded and forgotten until night rises once more. The cycle is constant, never ending, eternal.

But today the sun died. The splendor of the stars will hang, not with joy, but shyly and with great sorrow.

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