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the stream versus the rock – who wins?

I just returned home from a very late night chat, which I thoroughly enjoyed, with XY, because I was able to share from the bottom of my heart, and to let him see for himself the fire in my eyes with regards to my future. I also felt privileged as he shared a part of his life I’d never thought I’d hear. It was an open, honest, vulnerable and hugely satisfying conversation. I’m thank God for sending a brother like him into my life. It’s quite amazing how God connects in seamless tandem two individuals with vastly different upbringings, ideals, religious beliefs, values, dreams and decision-making models – not to mention our love-hate interest for each other’s football team (though that was not mentioned tonight). I even shared a little of my faith with him, why I love God (and how that is everything to me), and how I earnestly pray for his salvation. One day, he will know God.

As such, I’m unable to write a comprehensive article tonight. I don’t even know how to title this post. I do, however, would like to share two thoughts that have been tossing in my head the entire day. One stems from a quote and the other is how I approach my relationship with HY and why I think our love for each other is burning so strongly.

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but by perseverance.” – H. Jackson Brown

And the other is simply how the Holy Spirit reminded me that the only way to love HY unconditionally and more everyday, is to love God even more and as my first priority. Humanly, it’d be impossibly to do so – both ways.

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top ten reasons to watch naruto.

To those who do not follow Naruto, they might just write off this post; some may not even read it; and for those who do read it, they may probably just glance through it. I have a tendency to dramatise my expressions, but to a certain extent, Naruto has made a positive impact on my life. I’ve always been able to identify with Naruto’s personality – I know this is crazy coming from a 27-year-old, but reading his character profile is like reading mine. So here goes the top ten reasons why, if you are not watching/reading Naruto, it’s time you got started!

1. Naruto educates you about mentoring – There are so many examples! Positive ones include Iruka/Naruto, Jiraiya/Naruto, Tsunade/Sakura, Asuma/Shikamaru and Gai/Rock. It also paints realistic pictures of mentoring, that sometimes investing yourself in someone may not always result in a golden ending. Heartbreaking ones include Kakashi/Sasuke, Jiraiya/Nagato and Sarutobi/Orochimaru.

2. Naruto enlightens you on friendships – one of the most touching scenes was when Choji gave up his life to save Shikamaru and Ino. Massively tear-jerking! Another classic moment is a scene from Kakashi’s past, “Those who break the rules of the ninja world are called scum… That’s true… But those who abandon their friend are worse than scum”. Let’s not forget the value of loyalty in friendships.

3. Naruto teaches you about believing in young people – This is a topic really close to my heart; I believe in young people very much and I believe that the role of the present generation is to help the future generation surpass two things in life – the present generation’s legacies and abilities, as well as the future generation’s own potential. The saddest thing to hear at your funeral is, “He was a great potential”.

4. Naruto advocates that young people can change the world – I loved it when Shikamaru told Naruto that it was time for them to inherit the will of fire and to stop behaving like kids; I’m a sucker for hero-themes and enjoyed it very much when Naruto was revealed as the child of prophecy, “The gutsy ninja”, and how he singlehandedly overcame Pain. Do not underestimate the power of one and what God can do through you.

5. Naruto has a tailed-beast within him, like how everyone has an inner beast – The part of us that’s innately evil and sinful. We try ways and means to subdue it, be it by placing the right people in our lives or by doing the right things. But I believe that this inner beast in everyone is spiritual and it cannot be overcome by a physical method. We need something/someone greater than us to overcome the darkest parts of us.

6. Naruto talks about social issues – Anything from acceptance, to power struggles, to standing up for what you believe is right, to doing things that make you look cool, to succumbing to bad influences. I believe that Naruto is able to reach such a wide audience is that it covers a huge spectrum of subjects that everyone can relate to, regardless of age. Naruto’s outspoken character encourages you to never waver in your beliefs.

7. Naruto makes you laugh really hard – The episode that cracked me up the most was when Team 7 tried to unmask Kakashi. I was ROTFLMAO when they were speculating what Kakashi really looked like. And the one where Kakashi debuted the “Thousand Years of Pain” jutsu. Sasuke: “What… That’s not a Ninjutsu… That was just a super powerful ass poke.” Absolute comic genius! Everyone needs a good laugh from time to time!

8. Naruto gives you the platform to dream and reflect – That’s what anime does, after all. Each time I watch Sasuke, CC comes to my mind; Shikamaru reminds me of LK; When I watch Naruto reminisce about Jiraiya, I thank God for RY’s role in my life; Iruka evokes how JH invested in me when I was younger. There’s a moment in each episode that temporarily removes me from reality into utopia, and I think that’s not a bad thing.

9. Naruto inspires you to ponder over what you stand for in life – This is shown in every ninja having their “way of the ninja”, which empowers them to accomplish their goal in life. Naruto’s extremely simple way of the ninja is to “Never go back on [his] word” and to “Never give up”. My way of the ninja is found here. That’s the reason why I strongly believe in writing personal vision statements. What’s yours?

10. Naruto enables you to have conversational currency with young people – I’ve always found it quite amazing when youths suddenly express interest to chat with me when they realise I’m a Naruto fan; it’s like how men bond with army talk, except kids bond when they discuss Naruto. Somehow, I think kids think you are cool when you start using Kage Bunshi no Jutsu in your vocabulary.

I think I may have proven that I’m a big fan by now. My Shanghai cell leader insisted that I was crazy to spend sleepless nights trying to catch up to the latest episode. When I discovered that my youth pastor watches Naruto with his wife and two girls, it gave me the guts to tell my cell leader that Naruto is a family-bonding and youth pastor-endorsed activity. He was speechless. HAHA! Believe it or not, I’ve even written a song called “Watching You”, inspired by Hinata’s battle with Neji with Naruto cheering her on, and how she was fighting to be recognised by Naruto. The entire scene had traces of the I’m-watching-you-watch-over-me feeling; I thought that was a rather poetic moment.

Anyway, I’ve come to the end of my fourth installment of Top Ten Tuesdays, and I’ll probably write on something more serious next week. The ones who would enjoy this post the most are the ones who have been enjoying Naruto religiously. For the rest of you – seriously, you have no idea what you’re missing.

is heavy metal music really satanic?

I fondly remember sitting through one of the most interesting and informative Sunday School lessons when I was still in Secondary Three. It was called, “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll” and according to Wikipedia, “is a Christian documentary film released in 1989… …[that] examines the relationship of rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, the occult, and other activities considered immoral by Biblical Theology.”

JN and ET stopped me at G2 this evening and asked, “Is heavy metal music satanic?” I ceased my Hebrews 4:12 lesson preparation (which I am also very excited to write about!) and gave them an answer I learnt from a video 12 years ago.

Firstly, very simply put, music is a mere combination of notes and arrangements. String a few do-re-mi’s together and add in a groove, voila, you’ll produce a melody with rhythm. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.

Next, if you add certain instruments, vocal arrangements, rhythmic variations and effects, you’ll get your musical genre. Insert piano, vocal harmonies from four boys and a basic 4/4 beat, you’ll arrive at pop music. Strum it a little more aggressive, add that dash of distortion effects and a nice little guitar solo, you’ll come to rock. Load in some double-kick speed-demon drumming, go wild on that extra distortion and start hollering like a man with very bad sore throat, and perhaps you’ll end up with heavy metal music. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.

When Beethoven started composing all his masterpieces, the people weren’t used to it and called it, “The Devil’s Music”. Same thing happened for The Beatles, Elvis Presley, then disco in the 80’s, rock in the 90’s and now they’re calling R&B “The Devil’s Music” and Beethoven, “soothing neutral music”. This reflects the inconsistent and fickle cultural adaptation and acceptance; once something goes against the norm, it becomes “The Devil’s Music”. Now, may I propose that we STOP giving so much credit to the devil? Music is just a combination of notes, arrangements and effects, for crying out loud.

Hell’s Bells, however, did teach me a qualitative and quantifiable method of assessing music. Do remember that I learnt this when I was 15 years old, so forgive me if I have unwittingly modified the original lessons. (I think what I do know are practical handles anyway.) So look out for these three factors when you determine whether the music that you’re listening to is beneficial for you or not:

  1. Image they portray – consider their onstage portrayal and how they represent themselves in photographs, posters, CD covers, on the internet, etc. Example of a negative image – Marilyn Manson. See pictures of him here.
  2. Lifestyle they lead – consider their offstage way of life and the moral values that they subscribe to when they are not performing or in the limelight. Example of a negative lifestyle – Jimi Hendrix. (For your info, for the classical music maestro that he was, “Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring [13-year] relationship of his adult life.” Source: Wikipedia)
  3. Lyrics they produce – consider the message and philosophies that they subscribe to in the songs that they sing and present, whether live or in the studio. Example of negative lyrics – Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”. See song lyrics here.

I hope these simple guidelines would help you to determine the type of artistes or songs you put into your iPod.

P/S: As it stands, my WordPress statistics reveal that 16 people have clicked on the personality temperament test link but only three have shared their results here! Come on, share your discovery with me! (:

God’s cultural sense of humour.

I took this picture on the 1,865-metre ascend up to the top of Huangshan in Anhui Province, China.

As HY, CH, KP and I climb every step, we marveled at its ever changing landscape and just how amazing the whole sight was. We unanimously agreed that that was only one word to describe the scene – majestic. Wikipedia quite rightly described it to be an “area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan Pine trees, and views of the clouds from above. Mount Huang is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of China’s major tourist destinations.”

The interesting thing is, as we observe the yellow rocks (hence the namesake), you will, in your mind’s eye, conclude that these rocks just had to be from China; I guess this could be because hand-painted portraits we are see from time to time physically depict Chinese mountains in this particular physical appearance and hence we naturally match such landscapes to oh-this-has-got-to-be-from-China.

I wonder if this particular rock formation was there from the start (not likely), eroded into this state (more likely), or man-made (unlikely – you’d have to be REALLY bored to accomplish this). Either way, I reckon that God doesn’t just have a sense of humour, but a sense of cultural humour; it’s like He knew what would have tickled the Chinese bones. Well, it could have been a Westerner in a tuxedo, an African in a loincloth or a Japanese in a kimono… But no, this rock formation just had to be a Chinese farmer wearing a straw carrying a straw basket with a wooden stick picking herbs!

It doesn’t get any more humourous than that. I’m inclined to believe that God really understand us. And the Chinese would simply say, “哈哈哈”.

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