Monthly Archives: July 2010

a dream within a dream – is that possible?

There was only one show in recent times that caught my attention and I was glad that I managed to watched it on Friday – the latest psychological blockbuster, Inception. Before I proceed to share my thoughts about this, I’d like to go on record to place this outstanding movie in the list of my all-time favourites. It contains all the ingredients that I hunt for in a movie:

  • A multi-layered plot,
  • In-depth character development,
  • A couple of twists-within-a-twist,
  • A memorable script, and of course,
  • Convincing acting skills.

I’m thoroughly impressed with this film; after all, there aren’t many movies that leave me speechless when I exit the cinema. Yes, I do recommend that you catch it.

Now, there is a huge variety of movie genres and while I prefer drama and inspiration to action and chick-flicks, the ones that truly take my breath away (and arrest my mind) are what I call, “culture-shapers”; I will rename it when I think of a better way to call it – basically, movies that change the way we look at things, us, or even the world.

I’ll list a few examples that come straight to my head. The Sixth Sense causes us to rethink the whole realm of the dead and how it may possibly exist amongst us; The Prestige makes us question the scale of evil that human beings are capable of and the extent we possibly would go to achieve what we’ve set out to do. Inception investigates the subconscious activities in our minds when we dream and leaves us to under ponder upon the hidden creative power that we may have; The Matrix (though it’s not in my list of favourites) challenges us to think about reality and whether we really live in a time and space which we perceive ourselves to occur in.

Basically, all the above-mentioned movies (and I’m sure you could think of more titles) makes us contemplate and challenges us to review what we think we actually know. Without getting existential (and irreverently irrelevant), I actually think it’s great to reexamine the normalcy of what I think is normally normal – know what I mean?

To state the obvious, I’ve decided to call these movies “culture-shapers” simply because they could potentially shape our culture. Regardless of demographic make-up, we will always remain an impressionable generation and it’s films like these that influences us to cross-examine what we’ve been brought-up and educated to think.

(I shall digress here – I think it’s a paradox to be “taught” how to think and in spite of how ridiculous that sounds, we don’t even do that enough, especially in our country – where we are educated to deliver what’s right – where the “correct” answer is the one that gives you the highest score, and not actually what you agree with, or even have a chance to agree with. All right, I think I’m starting to lose my train of thought here and as well as to lose you in them so I shall withhold these particular thoughts for another post in future, if ever. Now, back to movies that make you think…)

There are all kinds of movies, some with twisted and distorted values, some that satisfies our adrenaline appetite, some that quench our lustful desires, some that takes us on a journey back to our childhood days, some that inspires us to dream and achieve things, some that makes us fall in love, some that gently reminds us about the important things in life… And some that simply just makes us think. I’m a huge fan of that last genre because I think it’s the best thing that a secular production could make me do – to think. I’d rather fill my mind with things to think about than things which are spoon-fed to me.

Here are just 15 of my all-time favourite movies (and you’ll understand why I’ve never been a mainstream movie goer), in no order of preference:

  1. Dead Poets Society
  2. The Shawshank Redemption
  3. Remember The Titans
  4. The Prestige
  5. The Devil’s Advocate
  6. The Butterfly Effect
  7. Tuesdays With Morrie
  8. Forrest Gump
  9. Braveheart
  10. Good Will Hunting
  11. Finding Forrester
  12. Dead Man Walking
  13. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
  14. Deception
  15. Inception

I’m sure I’ve missed out other great titles in this list (such as The Godfather trilogy and Schindler’s List which I’ve been wanting to watch for the longest time already). Do you know of any other to recommend? It’d be great if I could hear from you – what’s a “culture-shaping” movie you’ve watched and why did it leave and impression in you? Do leave a comment and share your thoughts with me.

pierce – a picture with a thousand words.

I thought it’d be good to publish the PIERCE testimonies here for those who weren’t at the service when it was printed and distributed, R-AGE @ GI youths as well as all the knights and prayer warriors of this historic camp.

This was designed by JH and her publishing team, consolidated by the hardworking YX (who also initiated this project) and made possible by the gladiators who contributed. It was a joy for JH, YX and I to have read these testimonies before they were published. Do save the soft copies into your computer and remember the good things that God has done at the second and final youth camp in R-AGE history. And allow your heart to be encouraged all over again!

I’m so privileged to be pastoring this amazing youth group. I love you, young people. (:

“there is no such thing as mere coincidence.”

In the end, one must finally come to see that if there is a God in heaven, there is no such thing as mere coincidence, not even in the smallest affairs of life: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Not one sparrow “will fall to the ground without your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29, RSV).

– John Piper (Desiring God, p.37).

I’m neither a scholar nor a theologian and I’m still trying to make sense of the above-mentioned. However, the more I think about it, the more illogical it is not. I believe that in light of God fulfilling His own intended will and purposes, “there is no such thing as mere coincidence”, really. I am of the notion that nothing will stop God from achieving what He had planned, from the beginning to the end; not even sin or the evil acts of men will prevent or stop it. I am of the opinion that God is truly in control of His own sovereignty. For if “coincidence” really did exist, then it is an audacious conclusion that there is something (far) greater than God (oh, the thought!) who is able to control what God is doing and will do. That, my friend, is sacrilege.

These are the fresh thoughts in my head as I re-read JP’s Desiring God for the third time; If there was any book that one should read after the Bible, this book would receive my hearty endorsement a hundred times over. But I digress.

Interestingly enough (at the time of posting it on my FB status), MW commented, “I was just thinking about it Joey, if there’s such a thing as ‘coincidence’ or if it is just God’s hand working in His perfect timing”. And coincidentally, LK’s first post on his blog after a five-month hiatus, was about how God is in control. He wrote, “Today God reminded me that He is sovereign and that His priority is not what He can do through me, yet, but what He is doing in me”.

I think this is a topic worth discoursing over and hence I’m inviting you to share your opinions by leaving a comment. I’m calling out to theologians, pseudo-theologians, atheists, scholars, cynics, zealous Christians, back-sliding believers, Muslims, Taoists, politicians, mothers, youths, and of course, you – the invisible reader of my humble blog. In other words, all are welcome to offer their two-cents’ worth.

What is coincidence? How does it tie in with the will of God? What is the will of God? Is there evil and blemish in the good and perfect will of God? What does it even have to do with you? I’m not attempting to prove any point or convince anyone of any opinion. I sincerely just want to hear what you have to say, so please, share your thoughts on this!

life lessons learnt from a game of musical chairs.

There’s nothing more rewarding than to see people know Christ. Since I’ve entered full-time ministry, my opportunities to interact with non-Christians have been greatly diminished. I’ve always seen myself as an evangelist because of how I came to know Christ and what He has done in my life, so I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me in iJourney – where I’m able to get to know youths who do not yet know Him, and therein lies the challenge to introduce Him to them.

KK conducted an activity for the students in today’s session and he asked if I had wanted to share anything at the end of his debrief. I declined initially, but when the Holy Spirit started to deposit lessons into my heart, I took it up; I’m always quite impressed by how quick the Spirit can impress lessons into me.

These are my observations from a modified version of musical chairs, where the participants’ difficulty of movement was introduced by tying a person’s arm to his or her leg with a short string to simulate aging:

In life, there are three facts; we will all:

  1. Get old – the most certain thing about life is death.
  2. Face new challenges – for that comes with age and changing environments.
  3. Experience suffering – in various intensities and variety.

And so there are three things we can do:

  1. Do not complain – for it doesn’t change our situation, solve our problem or make us feel any better about what we are going through.
  2. Help one another – assistance is always appreciated and it increases efficiency and reduces frustration. A word of encouragement goes a long way, even if it’s just a word. Learn to look out for each other.
  3. Walk together – competition is good, but it could be venomous. Everyone gets there safely when we walk at an agreed pace, without anyone lagging behind, speeding up or overtaking; don’t leave anyone behind.

I think that when students eventually leave the world of academia and enter what’s commonly known as the “real” world (as if life as students is an illusion) they will be thrown challenges from all directions simply because of how unnecessarily cruel meeting the world’s expectations can get. So instead of fight each other, why don’t we get on the same side, join hands and do battle together? I’m idealistic, but I’m not wrong.

financial advice: how to invest your money.

I’m three months shy of turning 21 years old for the seventh time and I’d like to think that I’ve had a blessed life. Of course, I could always be happier but I’ve arrived at a stage of my life where I’ve never been so contented with my current material well-being.

I have a healthy variety of shirts, pants and shoes to choose from, a good collection of watches, a decent guitar, camera and laptop, a branded wallet and a smartphone. Two years ago, I remember counting my collection of 20+ Threadless t-shirts and 10+ Crumpler products. My room is hooked up with a 27″ LCD TV and a 5.1 surround-sound system. Bottom line is, there’s nothing I need, really, and I’m thankful to have (almost) everything that I’ve always wanted to purchase. I’ve done my fair share of possessions-accumulation during my days of earning a higher income.

But, so what? All these thing amounts to nothing at the end of the day for I will take none of these with me when I exit this earth; they will be useless and worthless eventually.

Of course I still have material desires – I’ve been eyeing this and this for some time now and each time I walk past an optical shop, I’d always check if that pair of sunnies is in stock and if there’s a promotion, and without fail, I’d politely say to the disappointed sales representative, “Okay thanks, maybe I’ll get it next time”, and walk away. Would I ever buy it? I think the question I ask myself these days is, “Is that good stewardship of money?” I’d be honest to admit that I’m still tempted by some items but I also deliberately desensitise myself from accumulating things.

I like what RS, the founder of this website, stated about conscious spending, for there’s truth and logic in his philosophy, even if it’s of a secular mentality:

“Spend extravagantly on what you love and cut costs mercilessly on what you don’t.”

Having a reduced income over the last nine months have certainly helped me to be more decisive and cruel in differentiating my needs and wants. At the same time, it has also helped to shape my “investment portfolio”. While I’m a prudent spender and a happy saver, I don’t think I’m qualified to give real financial advice – I mean, did you really think I was going to teach you how to invest your money on my blog? Come on! (:

But I’d like to share with you how I have been investing my money and why I’ve chosen to do it this way. Perhaps this could encourage or challenge you to revisit your spending habits and investment inclinations. I’m not sure if these items have eternal worth, but I’m confident that they have a life-long value. So, please allow me to share the three things I delightfully invest money in:

  1. People. I used to be stingy in treating people to meals. But over the years, I’ve learnt to be progressively generous, simply because people have been exceedingly generous with me. Nowadays, I’m always quite happy to foot the bill, especially if I am fellowshipping with a young person who has lesser resources. When people buy me meals, they indirectly tell me that I’m worth their time and money. And so, I pay (pun!) it forward – I hope my young people will feel the same way too – that they are worth my time and money. (Pun!) I’m putting my money where my mouth is. (I can also instantly detect those who are out to exploit this…)
  2. Knowledge. The older I get, the more I spend on books, seminars, conferences and audio CDs and DVDs. In fact, I just took advantage of the Desiring God July DVD sale and invested good money in some DVDs which I will be sharing with my cell. As for gifts, I also find myself buying books because I think that there’s nothing better than to give my friends the gift of knowledge. Besides, this is one investment that can be passed around, shared and revisited.
  3. Perspective. Lastly, I always enjoy expanding my horizon of perspectives and there’s no better way to do that than to visit new places and to do new things. I try to go on a couple of vacations every year and I always try to visit new destinations. I enjoy investing into my worldview (and sabbath too!). I get a kick from meeting new people, learning new languages, visiting new places, immersing in new cultures, tasting new cuisines and enjoying new experiences. And as a budding preacher, I believe that all these new perspectives will empower and enhance my ambitions to be a more dynamic and balanced communicator.

People, knowledge and perspectives are indefinitely more valuable than material possessions and I’d gladly invest extravagantly on them. Apart from these three items (at this point in my life), the rest of my money is really spent for function’s sake, like functional eating and functional travelling. My question then, to you, is:

What do you invest your money in?

distant… can you hear me?

I am so uninspired tonight yet I am overwhelmed at the same time. I need to sleep – I really do. But there’s so much on my mind, yet I can’t extract any. I need a release…

Distant
by Joey Asher

Need I resort to clambering
My face dragged against the floor
Yet I barely scratch the door to your heart
What must I do to get near you

I’ve contravened myself
And denied all that I’ve held fast to
Your whispers and your scent
They envelope me like a warm blanket

Your sweet blinks embraces me
And sends me into a fury of emotions
My heart fulminates and swells
But my mind etches out to confusion

My prison is my responsibility
Locked away with masticated emotions
Unknowingly involved unwittingly
Strong only as my strongest weakness

I pine to leave my quiescence
To step into action
To prove to you that all I want is all you are
And all I need is what you have

Inconspicuously, this prose reveals much
The overwhelming myriad of sensations
And the dichotomy of which leaves me in dire conditions
Akin to an antidote-less jet-lag, time might exact her healing authority

To wait, to deliberate
It forms the leitmotif of our song
To anticipate the moment
Where I lay bare my heart before you

A relentless quest breeds dauntlessness
And an abandoned fear of mockery inspires valour
Significance is lost when a mismatch transpires
Knowledge of my fondness for you remains abed

Reaching out, my troubled heart for hire
And bruised mind laced with reckless desire
An effrontery effort would repel
Yet it might resolve to be my bravest act

The bellicose strife of battles resides in my head
Tossed between making sense of it all
And the birth of these feelings – which is harder
A nebbish would not reconcile

Being near you comforts me
Being with you is my delirium
You send me into whirlpools of joy
And you are also the sanctum of my troubled soul

I have failed in umpteen attempts
To practise my practice and to refrain from contradiction
Lest amicability be misunderstood
To guard against an indurated pursuit

Uncertainty remains my greatest enemy
Yet it coexists as my immense epilogue
A prized trophy or a cherished race – I chose the latter
But my levity defies my determination

The day will arrive
The hour when my pain is palliated
I’ll search for you and keep you close
And treasure you with all I’ve got

These words are birthed in the atelier of my heart
And they have been since the distant March
I’ve lost control of my affection for you
Exiled dangerously in an investigated unknown

It couldn’t have been as touche as this
The gravitas of the situation herein lies
When I boldly declare my love for you
Greater than my fear without you

I’d sacrifice my reputation
And have it reduced to a lumpen state
If that would draw you to me
I’d gladly be a clown for you

Rejection shuns and shuts me out
A camouflaged backlash aggresses inaction
Proving that unrequited loving from a distance
Is easier than a spurn from close proximity

My incipient hopes may vanish
But it doesn’t cease my love for you
The object of my happiness
To see yours fulfilled

Through countless dawns, moons and seasons
I’d hold on and persist quixotically
The present may gratify more than an secret future
My biggest regret would to lose you without trying

Losing three was hard enough
To squander another would be disastrously jeremiad
I will parse my motives
And overcome fatality with wayworn obstinacy

Your reciprocation may seem perfunctory
But it’s a response nonetheless
At least I have your attention
Even for a while, even for a little short while

just how big is the internet?

I normally blog only once daily but I found the stats presented here so cool that I had to post a mid-day entry. Although honestly, I doubt its accuracy as the usage of Internet from China alone could own anyone; it’s as if they exist in their own Internet universe.

It got me thinking about how we actually utilise this surfeit of information. For a good number of people, especially youths, their daily navigation do not go beyond three to four websites (I’m guessing Facebook, Youtube, Gmail and their blogs). May I urge all of us to make fuller use of the Internet for all its worth instead of idling our time away on it.

Nonetheless, enjoy the stat attack! (Source: “15 things I bet you didn’t know about the internet” from Curious? Read.) May it give you some interesting perspectives.

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