Friday, September 21, 2007

The one on Merdeka eve.....

This was the other cake.....

And the food to go along with it.....

The mess we made thereafter.....

And of course, a great coffee to go with it.....

Thanks for that wonderful evening, guys. You know who you are.
Much appreciated.

BLC Taiping Retreat 2007 (Part 3 of the final part?)

After Camp Effect
It’s edging close to three weeks since Camp 2007 ended…and I’m overdue on completing my reflections on the event. Not that I’m offering any excuses but I had to allow a few other events of significance to take precedence over compiling my final thoughts. Not least of all was at the workplace; for
which, upon my first day’s return to the office after Taiping, I unequivocally and unhesitatingly informed the company that I was leaving. And I summarily executed that decision too, in a manner most rejoiceful, 6 days ago. It’s kind of lengthy to go into details. So, I won’t. Abstractly, let’s just say that you know things have turned the corner when work practices/ethics begs questioning and/or are in direct conflict with one's faith. Nothing explosive, mind you but for my own peace of mind, I prefer not permitting my walk with God to be compromised.

I’m not going to chronicle about the remaining events of the three days of camp. There’d be too much to write and most of it would not necessarily bear witness to the rest of my own personal experience. Notwithstanding, for those who may wonder at what had transpired at churchcamp to have led me to adopt such a life transforming transgression as to choose to give up what other third parties would deem a pretty cushy job, I’m happy to advise that the answer is ‘NO’. No, as in I did not have any supernatural visitations (nor hear any strange voices) telling me to quit my job.


However, there were other inclinations that had surfaced during those few days, but none more important to me than what I will share with you below.

Re-engaging God
In the few months that preceded the retreat, I had become acutely conscious of a wedge that had come between the faith that I serve and my way of being in the real world in relation to the former. Unfortunate as it seems, this consequence stemmed from my work as there was an unanticipated cost attached to the job; a price that I had not expected to be compelled into paying as part of the package. At this juncture, I once again decline to go into details. Suffice it to say that if the work and the promise of inevitable high rewards had meant more to me, I would have had to willingly succumb to oft accepting morality conflicts as a trade-off.

Now fast forward to a quarter of a year later. By now my instincts were ominously overclocking, indicating that I was already adrift off the shore. And slowly but surely, widening cracks appeared. I was beginning to feel worn down and it showed. Outwardly, my behaviour had become erratic on unwanted occasions, while decision making became unexplainably convoluted at the worst of times. Though not entirely lost at sea as yet, I had to be mindful of it; for I was aware of where I was headed if I did not throw caution to the wind. My spiritual health begged re-examination. Heck, I had even begun skipping Sunday worships involuntarily and I detest doing that.

The sojourn in Taiping had been lively and nothing short of fun. It was also shorter by a day compared to 2006 and I was sorry to see it end when it did. Regardless, as it was still a church based gathering by nature, it provided an avenue for me to return to the fold; to reconnect with spiritual roots. The prayer workshops conducted by our guest speaker (whom I must commend for never creating a dull moment) and the devotional sessions spent with my assigned camp sub-group could not have manifested itself more timely and evenly in my quest to re-center and endear my way of being with our Holy Father again. The theme of the retreat had been “To Pray and To Love” but for one who had been as spiritually challenged as I had been for this spell of time, the pivotal crunch came when we were posed this question, “Do you know where you are with the Lord?” When it was highlighted, it brought to the foreground for me a self-confrontational naked truth that resonated louder than all other existing aspects at that particular moment in time.

A God of Surprises
So it
was to this small town that I came, asking for the Almighty to surprise me. As always, He did not fail me. He responded in no small measures and in more ways than one. Notwithstanding His generosity, there were several notable things that stood out; each leaving its own signature footprint on me.

The first of these was a motley crew of seven other people with whom I will be sharing my thoughts with, and with whom I shall have to work hand-in-hand with for the duration of the camp. This was the sub-group that I had mentioned earlier. Each of us were randomly selected and banded together. Quite honestly, with the exception of my Godsister-in-Christ, I knew very little about the others. But for the Holy Spirit anointing us with the elements of fellowship, this would all change rapidly. Very quickly, we learnt to knit ourselves together into a single identity. And in tackling the task the group had been assigned with for the retreat, we gelled when it mattered most. Indeed, being with and working in unison with this group of wonderful people turned out to be an incredible source of joy. At this point, I have to confess that the human weakness in me will always cave in and resort to intentional disassociation from the mainstream whenever I feel vulnerable. I become ill at ease with others around me. But this time, the abundance of goodwill generated by my fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ was a factor that was not lost on me. Sheepishly, I have to admit to ceaselessly drinking from the pool of blessings that spewed forth from this pool of goodness. I suppose this was the lesson our Lord God intended for me to learn when He created the space for me to re-immerse myself into community by full association. And community is what really matters at the end of the day, is it not? No man is an island, as the wise would say. And so as I end my thoughts regarding Camp 2007, one of the things I ought to do before signing off is to acknowledge this sub-group who regarded and unconditionally accepted me as part of the bigger body of Christ through whom we share. Regardless of whether they were conscious of it or otherwise, I would like to thank them for the contributions they have made to my life at a time when I most needed it. Thank you, Bawi-li.

Oh, and then how's this for surprise #2….

An unexpected celebration.....

A candlelit cake.....

All round well wishes in the midst of the entire churchcamp gang bellowing out a song. I may have just turned forty three but this left me speechless. Irredoubtably speechless and happily stunned.

Thank you, God.

You’re just too good to me!
I am in awe of you.

"How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? "
Lyrics from Everything by Lifehouse

Oh, regarding what had been troubling me earlier? Let’s just close that chapter of my life by saying that I’ve never been happier to leave a job to renew my journey with God. ;)

Amen to that!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BLC Taiping Retreat 2007 (Part 2 of ?)

“Wettest” Location in Malaysia
Another well known infamous trait associated with Mob-town is its rainfall. Long established as the “wettest” region in Malaysia, it receives almost twice as much rainfall as any other place in the country. So having been pre-warned, few among us from the churchcamp gang dared ride into town that Friday afternoon without being armed with an umbrella or two. Afterall, we did have that little outdoor activity to worry about as we assembled at Taiping’s fabled Lake Gardens for icebreaker games.

Mind you, the skies looked gloriously dry that day; and defying the odds, it remained that way for the rest of the day too. I could not resist but reflect why. Once again, I remind readers that we are talking about Taiping here. The very same Taiping where the locals are known to put a wager or two on whether it’ll rain on any given day and at any given time; even to the specific hour and minute of when the first drop would fall, I was told. Really, I kid you not.

Anyway, why did the Lord have other plans for this day? If it was so much as due to His divine intervention, why, one would asked, did He want to buck the trend? Why tilt the balance? What was He after?

A serious thinker could (and one suspects, maybe would) dig deep and probe even deeper into DNA for nano-atomic answers. Hark, for a serious thinker, indeed. And that I am not. I have no capacity, nor the stomach. Not since a long while ago. These days, I’m more intrigued by how to arrive at simpler answers. At this juncture, I’m reminded of this joke someone told me a few days ago. It went like this…

A question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” was posed to Aristotle, ex-President Clinton and Colonel Sanders. Undoubtedly, each arrived with different opinions.

Aristotle: “It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.”

Clinton: “I've had so many chicks. I can't remember...?”

And the all-time winning answer was…

Colonel Sanders: “I missed one?”


But seriously folks, humour aside, I think the most appropriate and suitable answer would be a common sensed based reply. An answer that is simple and logical to all minds. Something not unlike what a kindergarten teacher may answer her 6-year old pupil. Something that one’s mind wouldn’t have to bend over backwards for. Something like, “Because it wanted to get to the other side...”


And so maybe it is the same for the Lord. No overly strenuous explanation. That He did what He did to not allow the games to be aborted for the simplest of reasons. And that was because it gave Him great joy to watch His children play. Regardless of how farcical and mindless the nature of the games was.

And so He made it that it did not rain that day…but unfortunately for the rest of Camp 2007, it was just for that day. Heh!

Friday, September 07, 2007

BLC Taiping Retreat 2007 (Part 1 of ?)

Man: “Life is so scary. And so confusing. I wish things could be more clear.”

God: “There is nothing scary about life, if you are not attached to results.”

Man: “You mean if you don’t want anything?”

God: “That’s right. Choose, but stay on the path of ‘don't want’ after that.

Cameron Highlands 2006.
I had attended churchcamp there last year, and had enjoyed that experience immensely. More so, as it had been my first ever.

Taiping 2007
Now, exactly twelve months later to the day, Camp 2007 beckoned. I had been unsure about what to expect this time. I don’t know (and won’t know) about the outlook of others, but unlike the cool and idyllic holiday setting of 2006, this year’s chosen venue was the small town of Taiping; an eon old relic town enclaved midway up the northern region. The name Taiping comes from the Chinese word Tai-Peng which means eternal peace. Ironically, its history was anything but such. Word has it that this sleepy hollow was birthed during a notorious era when warlords battled one another for the much coveted prize to control the lucrative tin-fields. A slash, slash here and a chop, chop there. Not much different from the typical blood and gore stuff that reeks out of HK gangster movies.

TAIPING (a.k.a. Mob-town). Heh! :D

Anyway, I digress.

Casting aside the infamy of the location, there was further reason for my slightly left-of-center pessimism regarding Camp 2007. I had, in the fore year’s event, experienced a spiritual “high”. And the source for that may mostly be attributed to the presence of a particularly skilled guest speaker whom my church had invited. Renowned as he was for his oratory deliverance, he had impressed most of the participants; leaving upon us his indelible mark. Heck, tickled I am still each time the word “plumbing” is uttered, for it fastidiously serves to remind me of what transpired during the “Men’s Only” workshop session.

And so, herewith, this gave rise to a mini dilemma. That is, if I choose to attend Camp 2007 carrying the expectations of Camerons 2006, I may become vulnerable to disappointment if the event failed to live up to its billing. Wary and worried as I was about being disenfranchised with church retreats, I thought I’d strike up a deal with the Almighty. And so I said, “Abba Father, I give thanks for the gift to attend this year’s camp but if I may, I’d like to go with NO EXPECTATIONS. I only ASK TO BE SURPRISED by You, and for this, I also ask for You to CREATE OPENINGS in my heart and in my mind to receive as such. Amen.”

3 Days Later
And with that, I scooted off to Taiping and returned 3 days later fully renewed with my second consecutive “high” in two years.

“God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.”

(To be continued…)

Perhaps, an all-Malaysian 'Unifying' Barbecue?

I'm not normally given to reproducing news reports unnecessarily but this one struck a chord. So I find myself asking "And why not?". Afterall, we do live in "Boleh-land" and eating is a passion with its inhabitants. Ok, ok, it's also my primary passion. There. I've admitted it. Happy now? :P


Archbishop Desmond Tutu at a barbecue outside his office
Archbishop Tutu's favourite sausage is a beef boerewors
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has become the patron of South Africa's Barbecue (Braai) Day, saying the pastime is a unifying force in a divided country.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate celebrated his appointment by donning an apron and tucking into a sausage outside his office.

"This is something that can unite us. It is so proudly South African, so uniquely South African," he said.

Braai Day takes place on September 24, which is also National Heritage Day.

Organiser Jan Scannell said the idea was not to have a mass braai, but rather many small ones with friends and family.

'Wonderful institution'

"There are so many things that are pulling us apart, this has a wonderful potential to bring us all together," Archbishop Tutu told reporters on Wednesday.

"We have 11 different official languages but only one word for the wonderful institution of braai: in Xhosa, English, Afrikaans, whatever," he said.

Sometimes I am surprised when people say, 'You are our patron'
Archbishop Tutu

"We've shown the world a few things. Let's show them that ordinary activities like eating can unite people of different races, religions, sexes... short people, tall people, fat people, lean people," he added.

The retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, who won the Nobel Prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid struggle, continues to speak out against injustice at home and abroad.

He is linked to a peace foundation and HIV and TB centres, and he is patron to a number of organisations, including children's hospitals, hospices, nutrition clinics, orphanages and a soccer team.

Darn! It's past 1 in the morning now and this blogpost has made me hungry. Where the heck am I gonna find me a hotdog made of beef boerewors sausage?