Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I'm broke! (again)

I had an expensive day out this first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
First of all, met up with an old college friend of mine, KK, for lunch. We went to Bella Italia at Belissa Row, where I had the ravioli something-or-other and she had some pasta thingie. (As you can tell, I'm not a food blogger. If I were, there'd be multiple descriptions of the food and the taste and texture and the atmosphere, topped off with pictures and pictures and more pictures...) Then we indulged in some Haagen-dazs ice cream (still reminds me of that ridiculous trainee teacher I had back in Form 4 who didn't know what Haagen-dazs was).
Then we headed off for Logos Hope, and I optimistically declared "I am not going to buy anything!"
As I said, optimistically.

Welcome on board...
Logos Hope! (The logo is ridiculously tiny)
The admission ticket


After about forty-five minutes of waiting in line (during which time Wen Ping joined us and I took bored snaps above), we finally got on board. Into almost heaven. (I guess it doesn't take much to satisfy me. Heh.)
When we left, we realised that the waiting line to get in had become extremely short. Meh - we have to do something about this timing thing. At least we managed to catch up while waiting.

I do think that the bookshop on the old MV Doulos was much bigger than this, but then again, I was much younger and smaller then, so that could have been... erm... sheer perspective. Surprisingly, my stash this round turned out to be quite an even split between music CDs and books (because they had Derek Webb! and also they had CDs at RM5 each, with a buy 2, free 1 deal) and more surprisingly, I had only 1 fiction out of the 6 books (instead of the usual 100%), the remaining being primarily books on worship and/or Christian related stuff. And that would be because their range of fiction was disappointingly small. And rather unknown. I suppose most of them were Christian fiction, which seems to be mainly sanitised love stories or end times/apocalypse scare stories. Haih. Boring!
But all said, happy with my stash! (Pocket is complaining)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

On being unusually social (and yet not)

So I've been fairly busy in a social sort of way this week, despite being crazily maxed out at work.

First of all, I finally signed up at goodreads, and spent several hours rating books that I've read so far. Well, not all the books I've read, obviously, but at least those that I remember reading and can remember if I like. I realized that there are quite a few books I think I've read, but I'm not quite sure. There are also books that sound very, very familiar, but I can't tell off the title if I've read them or if I browsed through them at the store or if I (possibly) heard about them from someone. It's all very annoying. Hopefully by rating and reviewing on goodreads I'll get better in that aspect. And yes, I do intend to start reviewing books, which I've said quite often I will do, but never quite got round to doing. The next two books on my to review list are Damyanti's A to Z stories of life and death and Anne Riley's The Clearing. Awesome writers - check them out!

Next, Damyanti invited me to triberr, which is this social-media-sharing-thingy which tweets out new blogposts of your tribe on the tribe members' twitter (does that make sense?) so I've been catching up on some pretty good writer bloggers and tweeters. Which makes me sad because i haven't been blogging regularly. These people post almost every day!

Which brings me round to the next social project I'm thinking of, which is to join the writers' platform building campaign. Why? Because it looks like fun. Also, because I need more external incentives to blog because I tend to do more stuff if I tell other people I'm doing it, because I'm internally VERY lazy). And that's too many 'becauses' in one paragraph. 
[Edit: 29/8 - just signed up!]

Other random realisation of the day: I'm still really bad at typing on my iPad. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

#Fridayflash: Dear ten-year-old-self

Stop caring so much about what others say of you. Your complexes for the rest of your life mainly stem from this one year of being the new kid who doesn’t speak the language.
It doesn’t matter if you run like a penguin, even if your teacher is the one who told you so.
It doesn’t matter if the other kids in class are so superstitious that they think the things you do will give them bad luck. That’s their luck, isn’t it?
It doesn’t matter if they don’t want to be your friends. There are more friends to be made elsewhere, whose friendship won’t rely on whether you’re “in” or not. It’s not as if you’ll remember them past high school anyway.
It doesn’t matter if the locals think you’re stuck up for speaking in English. It turns to your advantage when you start work.

Don’t waste your time borrowing and hiding those Sweet Valley books. There are much better books to read, as you’ll soon discover. Those Nancy Drew books you keep getting with your book prize money? You’re going to be giving them away too.

Treasure those moments in England and Sweden with your family. It’s the last family holiday you’ll have for a very long time.

Believe in yourself. Learn to be comfortable being the odd one out, because you’ll almost always be.

And that’s cool.

---

Nina posted a story prompt on G+ that I initially missed, but I caught a call for submissions off a twitter link she sent out much later.

Read the call for submissions here, if you're interested in writing a similar post!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Worship as a muscle

I think in many ways worship* is something like a muscle. Everyone has a capacity for it, but you can also have an aptitude for it. Part of this aptitude could very well be how musically-inclined you are, but that isn’t really a very good indicator. There are some very musical people who do not worship and there are some people who just can’t carry a tune but are instantly caught up in it.

It’s partly to do with mind-set, as I blogged about here. It’s easy for someone who’s really into music to forget that the heart of worship isn’t about the music or the musician, but about the One that the worship is directed to. It’s very easy to get distracted about how the music is or isn’t picking up, how it is or isn’t good enough. It’s very easy to shift the focus of worship on to the worship itself.

I have had edifying talks over several nights with several people about worship and the state of our worship teams. It’s always encouraging to know that there are others who care just as much about the direction of our corporate worship and also very humbling to be reminded over and over that I do not always get it right and that there are other people striving for the same thing in their own ways.

That said, worship is really like a muscle because it can be built and strengthened – you can increase your aptitude and capacity - or it can fall into disuse or weaken from abuse. There are many times that I just want them to disband the worship team and start from scratch – and that was one of the things we talked about for both the youth team and the main service team (both seriously AND jokingly!). I also managed to be really mean and blunt, which I am when I’m really disillusioned (sorry, guys).

I don’t doubt that most of the people in the team once had a great capacity for worship. Maybe it’s just the way we’ve been running things (or the way we lack in running things, for that matter) that has gotten us to where we are. It could also be the way we tend to cater to the weakest, which is a nice thing to do in the short run, but can be pretty devastating for the long term.

Then Yuen Thern starts talking about really building the team, mentoring them and immersing them into worship; of working together to rebuild that culture and practice of worship**. And you know what? That really is a better solution. You don’t cut off your muscles because they aren’t working right - you go for physiotherapy. You work at it and rebuild it. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a tough journey and it really is going to be for the long haul. But it will be worth it***.

I’m in. Are you?





* as in reference to worship in song, not your life as a worship. I suppose this always needs to be clarified. I don’t want you to get me wrong. Your life and how you live it is your worship and the work you do is part of it. Forgive me if I want to concentrate on a small portion of it. I’m pretty narrow-minded.

** I love it when he gets that way! It’s been way too long since I’ve heard this passion from him. Perhaps I haven’t been listening hard enough. 


*** I'm also really excited about our current group of worship leaders. I do think that there is SO much potential overflowing here, and I think that we should hang out more. Who knows what may happen when all our visions align and ignite?

Friday, 19 August 2011

#Fridayflash: Living is simple

Living is simple.
The floating lyric echoed itself in his head. Was it really? He stood on a precipice.

Twenty floors below him, the people seemed to crawl like ants on the sidewalk, bustling about their unknown business. What would they do if he came down among them like a bolt from the grey? Would they run about screaming? Would they be disgusted at the mess? Would they wonder if he had blown in from a stray cloud? He hated the rain. It was cold, wet and depressing.

The strong winds whipped a gust of spray into his face. He stepped back from the balcony railing. A step forward was all it would take for a shot at the next life, if that was open to him.

Living is simple.
It was dying which was hard. The when, where and how was more than he could take. It pounded in his brain, making it hard to concentrate on anything else. Everything he had considered would be too messy, too disturbing for everyone he left behind. If they took the time to bother. That was moot at this point.

His apartment was stark, bare. He sat down on the starchy couch and stared at his peeling fingers. The detergent he used was too corrosive and he had used too much of it, but he wanted everything to be neat and clean when they found him. It seemed now that everything would be except him.

And that was the problem.

Living is simple.
It sure was simpler than trying to die. You didn’t have to think much, living. Living was just carrying on - putting one foot in front of the other, watching time slip away. Living was waiting for the crushing, like the way his car had broken down yesterday, like the gimp knee he had that made him limp, like the smile he had given Kerrie when she had walked out. It didn’t require much effort. It just was.

He walked out to the balcony again, watching the slow stream of red and yellow lights below through the thickening downpour. The north wind blew and he turned to close the glass door behind him, determined that his hard work would not go to waste. He shivered as his soaked clothes clung to his skin. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Living is dying.
---

I didn't exactly start out to write such a depressing piece based on a random line from a Switchfoot song. It just happened.
Switchfoot stuff is generally very hopeful, in case you didn't know. This song is actually quite a nice one. Not depressing at all. It talks about mercy. And choices remaining, like second chances.
I should not take song lines out of context. Sorry.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bombed.

So there are times when you get ahead of yourself, and you think that you know what you're doing and then you reach a point and go... I lost them. I didn't intend to, but I did. I guess that's another learning curve to deal with. 
I realised something though: the people who are there to worship, do worship, regardless of whether they know the songs or not. You can tell by their stance, by their focus. But I guess not everyone is like that.
On the other hand, a post that deals with what I go through most Sundays here. Because sometimes I tend to be the critic, thinking what I could do better, though that's pretty much a moot point. (The Sundays I lead I'm usually going ohGodwhyamIdoingthisagain?Stressstressstressstress.Savemeeeee) I think the most important thing to remember is his last point:


Lead yourself

I know there’s a “worship leader” on stage. Forget about that. Lead yourself. Make up your mind beforehand that you are going to lead yourself in worship.
This is a habit you need to build. Don’t wait for your favorite song or epic keyboard pad or perfect lighting. Lead yourself. Go for it. Cry out to God.

I don't think there's anything wrong in wishing for things to get better. It's the yearning for something more that pushes you to strive in your art, creativity and basically in everything in life. And that should translate into your worship as well. It should translate into you crying out for God to move in your worship. Because what you have, what you've experienced is never enough. There is always something more, something better, something that you have to press in to.
The thing to remember is as much as you want to criticise after the service, don't let it be that you're criticising during the service as well because then you wouldn't actually be worshipping. And as much as you want to criticise after the service, make sure you're doing something to bring about positive change. Because things don't get better via mere criticism. Things only get better by finding solutions to your complaints.
I guess there are several things I need to work on.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

#Fridayflash: Adam's death

In contrast to the harshly lit cells, the interrogation rooms were dark. Mahatma in his tattered prisoner’s jumpsuit seemed to blend in with the shabby room filled with old stains. He figured that a lot of the stains were probably his own. How many times had he been in here? How many times were they going to ask him to recant? He sat rock still in the chair, years of discipline quelling the need to fidget even if he was still as afraid as he had ever been. What if today was the day he would be beaten to death?

A faceless man entered, standing far in the shadows, whilst the beam of the light was shone directly into his eyes.
“We’ve arrested your son. You’d be glad to know he’s been following in your footsteps.”
His heart sank.
“I guess traitors run in the family. What, nothing to say? No fatherly words of concern?”
“What is there to say?”
“No pleading for mercy on his behalf? Ya Allah, you’re hardly human!”
“He chose his own road. Let each man live or die on his own convictions.” Mentally, he prepared a shroud, played a funeral, recited a Psalm. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, may your short life have done some good, provided some beauty, because nothing will be beautiful henceforth. I hope they kill you quickly, mercifully, before you become an animal like me. And yet… Adam for Met. Hadn’t that smuggled note meant that he had escaped? Didn’t it mean that he was now underground with the Metropolitan agents? Or was it merely a ruse to prove that they had caught the mole?
They now dragged in a thin body - a young teen so badly beaten that his features were almost unrecognisable. Mahatma schooled his body to stillness, even as his heart felt like it would fall out of his chest. He steeled his face, showing nothing. The boy, as much as could be seen, resembled Adam very much, and yet, his mind protested that it was impossible. It was impossible that this person could have come from what he remembered of his son’s lankiness. He had only been eight then, yes, but he had shown indications of very great height. This corpse, for it wasn’t breathing, looked to be barely above his own five feet five. Unless his growth had been tampered with… suppressed… denied… but anything could have happened in ten years.
He had to admit to himself, he had no idea who this youth had been. And if he didn’t know, it could be anyone. So he shut his heart back into its recesses and turned his stony face towards the nemesis in the shadows.
“And what do you want me to do with this… corpse?”
“And this is what you would wish for your dream Malaysia? Heartless men like you who cannot grieve the deaths of their sons?”
“You have no proof that this is my son.”
“Oh, you wish proof, cynic?” The man laughed and tossed him a wallet.
Willing his fingers not to shake, he flipped it open.
Adam’s face stared out at him from the identification card, his baby boy grown up. His gaze flickered towards the body. It was hard to decide what he should do. He had been living so long counter to all that they tried to make him be and do, that there were little impulses left in him. Should he acknowledge this strange person as his son and grieve? Or should he deny that it was his son? Or was there another way that would annoy them even more?
Laughter seemed to fill the room. It took him a few seconds to realise that it was coming from him, which then made him shake with fear that he had finally lost it. Maybe he had, and maybe it didn’t matter. As they dragged him back to his cell, tears started falling for the first time in over twenty years, and they wouldn’t stop. 

---
This week's Friday flash is an excerpt from my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel. I picked a passage at random, and edited it slightly for some clarity.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A worship ramble.

One thing about Twitter is that it's been leading me to interesting links/sites. I just started following a whole bunch of worship related accounts which has led to blogs, one of which is Rob Rash. (I'm not sure why he uses ".us" because it makes me think of Rashes. Like Rob has Rashes. Err. Anyway.)

His recent post on Worship Pastor vs. Worship Leader vs. Song Leader is an interesting one:

The Song Leader - The song leader does just what the title implies, leads the church in songs. There is no real leadership or vision. There is no shepherding going on, it’s the simplest form of leading worship as there can be. The song leader sings worship songs.
The Worship Leader - Once again, going off the title, the worship leader knows how to lead the church in worship. This is a step above a song leader and they know how to speak, cast vision, and lead the church beyond just singing songs.
The Worship Pastor - The worship pastor goes beyond just singing songs, casting vision, and speaking into people’s lives from the stage. The worship pastor is shepherding the church. Moving past the stage and Sunday mornings, the worship pastor gets involved in people’s lives and has a sense of responsibility mixed with a calling to move people in their faith.
There is a major difference in all three, as each one assumes a slightly different role. I believe it’s important for those of us that are leading the church, whether in worship, preaching, teaching, or in leadership, to have a real clear understanding of our calling.
I figure that most of our "worship leaders" (WLs), me included, are more inclined towards being just "Song Leaders". A lot of times, it's about throwing a bunch of worship songs together based on our own directions - maybe the current themes in our heads/personal devotionals/etc - with no clear vision, no clear direction that is in line with the church. Maybe this has to do with the disconnect between the WLs and the general leadership of the church. I don't know if this is something the other WLs feel, but it's been something I've been mulling over.
I may be wrong, but I just some how think that if the church is entrusting a bunch of guys (and a girl) to lead the church in worship every week, there should be some kind of deeper discipling happening at that level. I mean, if you really take worship (as in the corporate worship-in-song, not the worship-as-a-lifestyle) seriously, there has to be a correlation between what is going on during the worship, including the songs selected, and the general sermons coming out over the pulpit. There has to be a connect. (On an aside, having the sermon theme/outline BEFORE choosing songs is a great plus. True, it's great and awesome when both WL and the Pastor are so in tune that they sing/speak on the same theme... but face it - it's not that common an occurence. Then the WLs have to scramble about for a suitable song for altar call on the spot.)
Taking that further, it shouldn't only be the WLs per se who are getting this deeper discipling - the whole team need to be on the same page as well. Because a worship leader doesn't lead on his/her own. The musicians and singers need to engage as well, because if not, it will fall back into another weekly performance. The tech people need to be there - not just to make it sound right, but to be sensitive to where the service is going.
I don't know. I suppose that the carecells are supposed to be taking care of this, but it just seems to me that this new cell model is shallower than the previous one. It's a lot more about connecting, yes, but it's not much about discipling. Or maybe I should just be patient and wait until the next level of discipling starts and wait and see if I'm on it. As it is, this leadership cell thing is only for cell leaders. (Okay, this could be a personal chip.)

So the question now is how do we move ourselves from being "song leaders" to being "worship leaders"? And do we wait for a church appointed / ordained / paid Worship Pastor, or do we seek to step up into that role because that is what the church needs, and where our hearts lie?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Restless - Switchfoot


I am the sea on a moonless night
Calling, falling, slipping tides
I am the leaky, dripping pipes
The endless, aching drops of light
I am the raindrop falling down
Always longing for the deeper ground
I am the broken, breaking seas
Even my blood finds ways to bleed
Even the rivers ways to run
Even the rain to reach the sun
Even my thirsty streams
Even in my dreams
I am restless
I am restless
I am restless
Looking for you
I am restless
I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you
I am the thorn stuck in your side
I am the one that you left behind
I am the dried up, doubting eyes
Looking for the well that won't run dry
Running hard for the other side
The world that I've always been denied
Running hard for the infinite
With the tears of saints and hypocrites
Oh, blood of black and white and gray
Death in life and night in day
One by one by one
We let our rivers run
I am restless
I am restless
I am restless
Looking for you
I am restless
I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you
I can't hear you breathing
I can't hear you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can't feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
Till the final healing
I'm looking for you


Until the sea of glass we meet
At last completed and complete
Where tide and tear and pain subside
And laughter drinks them dry
I'll be waiting
Anticipating
All that I aim for
What I was made for
With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for you

I am restless
I am restless
I am restless
Looking for you
I am restless
I run like the ocean to find your shore
I'm looking for you
I can't feel you breathing
I can't feel you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can't feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
Till the final healing
I'm looking for you
I'm looking for you


---

There's just something about a melancholic Switchfoot song that just captures the longing in your heart. I am restless. Aren't we all?
We're all pilgrims, aren't we? Looking for something more. Looking for something deeper.
And there are times we just can't feel Him. It's a glass ceiling we can't get through, even if most times the glass ceiling is of our own making.
Always running hard for the infinite, not yet there, still hypocritically pretending that we are. Still, striving, restless, looking.
Always the paradox of Christ and the paradox of man. Death in life, night in day. 
I am restless, and yet there will be a day. Pushing through.

Also:
Revelations 15:2 appears here? And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God.
Betcha you didn't catch that: Until the sea of glass we meet / At last completed and complete / Where tide and tear and pain subside / And laughter drinks them dry.