14 December 2006

Small steps forward

This year has been marked by so many new experiences. New beginnings and the start of many great adventures. While they have each stressed us out in their own way, they have also been gifts - offering us insights into God's order and inviting us to grow; embracing reality.

The biggest of these, without a doubt is the arrival of Ethan. I say arrival because, though his grand expulsion is still 7 weeks away, he is too much of a lively kicker to be thought of as merely a fetus or an unborn child. I strongly disagree when someone exclaims 'O you're going to be a father!' Excuse me, I retort (silently), I AM a father. My son's just not seen the light of day yet. In every other way, he's my child, who as far as I can tell, is a mighty kicker, recognizes my voice, is soothed by Mozart. He loves the belly rub and sulks when ignored for too long. Ethan is my son, in whom I am well pleased.

The second of these is buying a house. Yes, we took the plunge and sank in our life savings and more into an old place in Taman Midah. I fell in love with the complexity of this many-staired split level unit while Joan hated it at first. But with some imagination, we can visualise our new home. Where Ethan will play, where we'll chill, what joyful moments and memories will be birthed there. From looking at ceramic bowls to timber pergolas, it is a powerful experience to ready a home and prepare a room for my child (and future children maybe?) who have not yet transitioned from womb to world.

The third is dealing with death. With the deaths of many dear ones this year, and my own studies on Eschatology in the PTC courses - I realise my worldview and tenets of living must change. I am learning the most about how to live from thinking about how I will die. And the greatest lession is realising we are not as a materialist-humanist might think, slowing down to extinction but really, gathering momentum to a great transformation. All of creation groans and moans along with mankind towards the coming of the New Heaven & Earth. The resurrected Jesus will on that Day raise us all in new flesh to a glorious new existence and all of creation with us who have loved and known Him. O, what could be more exciting than to view death as the portal to new life. Paul's metaphor of labor pains is pregnant (no pun intended) with meaning. New life is already here now contained within, hidden from view. But that day will come when that new life will be delivered - expulsed gloriously as it were into a new order of existence.

We are learning not to fear it - for ourselves, for others, or for those we leave behind. We learn to embrace our destiny with excitement. Being doctors, we are daily reminded of our mortality. Of how abruptly endings descend on our fragile earthly existence. Even the simple process of conception and childbirth is so wrought with dangers - fatal and maligning - that every step forward requires courage and faith. Yet it is this faith that is the goal of our journey; growing a deep-seated belief within amid so much despair and darkness. 'By faith and for faith', 'faith, from first to last' - Paul's battle cry in Romans - is our anchor in these storms we are coming up against.

We smile at the storm. Not unfazed or indifferent - just knowing we will weather it well, with Christ in the vessel. The months ahead are challenging at the least - delivery, house works, moving house, changing jobs for Joan, possibly an overseas stint for me. But we hold on to each other - the Father, the Son, the Spirit; enfolding mommy, daddy and Ethan. Come what may - by faith, for faith we journey on!

01 December 2006

School of Hard Knocks

I've made my fair share of mistakes as a doctor. Administrating medications by a wrong route. Missing a diagnosis. Choosing the wrong treatment. Complications from surgery. Some of them have been potentially fatal, and how many have contributed to expediting a patient's departure from this world - who knows? Medicine is not a perfect science.

I recall many such instances when my judgement was not always the best nor my observation the keenest. But a surgeon said to me once, 'Complications are taught to you because they happen. You learn them so you can avoid them best you can, but know how to deal with them when they do happen. A surgeon who says he has not had complications is either lying or hasn't done enough!' Well said. I wouldn't use that as a selling point to my patients, but nonetheless, a person who admits mistakes clears his path to progress.

The seniors I respect the most are the ones who will teach from their experiences. Especially those who will recall the disasters they encountered or caused and warn against repeating their mistakes. Seniors are seniors, in part at least, because they have made more mistakes. Mistakes qualify them to guide those following in their steps. Similarly when we make mistakes, we beat ourselves and take time putting humpty-dumpty back together again, but we are in the process of becoming experts ourselves.

Nobody should make mistakes intentionally or keep making the same mistake over and again. Yet, looking back, the things I have learnt best and remember the longest, were learnt through humiliating errors. All the more effective if a supervisor skinned and whipped me for it. Sound a little masochistic? Well, yeah. Nonetheless, it's true. So I also tell my students - be brave, speak up, and make your mistakes now. You will learn better for having been corrected than by saying the safe and right thing all the time.

22 November 2006

We will follow

Shocking news came a week ago, ripping through small church community in Cheras. A young and promising leader of their assembly died suddenly while on a business trip in the Philippines. He was 32, and he leaves behind his wife and 2 daughters. I didn't know him well, but having spent a few years with that church before, I know them to be very closely knit and unwavering in their partnership in the gospel. They have lost a dear brother and courageous comrade.

Though I have missed the privilege of knowing Raymond as intimately as others in the Petra & Jalan Imbi family, both Joan & I have a deep impression of Raymond's zeal as a Christian and stedfastness as a father. It is our loss not to have known him better. By all accounts, he proved himself to be an inspiring leader both in the marketplace and in the church. Unwaveringly dedicated to the highest good of everyone around him. But most remarkably (as we discovered at the service), he lived ready, organising and orientating his life around an anticipated early return to God.

If his "theme song" (which was used in the service) says anything at all about how he chose to live, we heard it in these words:

"You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like the rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me."

Raymond showed us how to live and how to die. He chose the way of Jesus; living and dying for others and for the gospel. And we are all encouraged to live as worthily! The seed that has fallen to the ground is already bursting forth with new life in all our hearts. This is not a death-in-vain, by far! It is his greatest gift to us all. I am thankful to the wife and his dearest friends for sharing his life and departure with us.

May the "God of all comfort" be ever present to Anne and her beautiful daughters, and all Raymond's family.

15 November 2006

Finding a Nest

These past months have been harrowing, and more so this last one week. We're in that stage for life - house hunting. I entered into this clueless and have had to learn many things the hard way. Freehold, leasehold, built-up space, renovated, property loans, mortgages, booking fee, land office consent - all Greek to me.

With baby Ethan on the way (oh yes, we've learnt that it's a boy!), the impetus to find a nest for mother bird to incubate has intensified. We've already gone through several months of legal wrangling, over the sale of a Bumiputera-owned lot the Land Office will not consent to. The seller was more hurt than we were, but our hopes for the place went through some roller-coaster turns before we finally gave up.

Barely recovered from that we were again given the slip. Another seller pulls out of a purchase when the ink on my cheque was still wet! We were furious. After seeing the house, falling in love with it, and paid the booking! Sigh,.. we are learning from these hard knocks. Meanwhile our agent, perhaps a bit guilty at having let a deal fall through, has been working over time to find us another nest. We've seen so many places we're starting to confuse them.

I'm feeling a lot like a bird surveying for a place to build a nest, and bringing mama bird to inspect the newfound spot, anxiously awaiting her approval.

What HAS been interesting is learning what is important in finding that right property. A stable township, easy access to major routes, nearby park facilities, structural sound-ness, and most of all, picturing ourselves living there. A place we can call home. In the meantime, we continue hunting, Google-Earthing, sifting sales-pitch from genuine value, playing the game of holding out or acting fast, anticipating renovation costs, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

With God as my help, I'll find a place and build a nest yet!

01 November 2006

A Whole New World

The best kind of discovery is the kind that opens up a whole new world to you. A bit like Christopher Columbus arriving on the shores of America, I feel like I've just set foot on totally new terrain. Not that they are uncharted territories, unknown to man but only that they are completely new to me.

I'm the kind of guy who loves stumbling on a new road or a new township. I'd sneak some detour drive to secretly explore roads when no one's around, just to know how things connect. I spend disproportionate amounts of time studying maps and staring at Google Earth images. I have an irrepressible need to know where the road leads and what's around the corner. My approach to life seems to be one big exploration.

Hence the thrill at discovering Biblical Theology and Salvation History (or Heilsgeschichte). Biblical Theology seeks to address the theology/thinking of individual authors, books, and periods of the Bible within the context of their time in history; and build a theology of what the WHOLE Bible says by piecing together the individual perspectives. Salvation History on the other hand describes a cohesive story line of the whole Bible, discerns its direction and breaks them down into its natural stages or periods. In that way these stages can be compared and used to elaborate the story line in its own framework.

Both give me new paradigms to approach the Bible. Rather than a mere collection of 66 books, lumped together according to genre and period, I begin to see that they form a progressive story line with a definite beginning and end. There is a cohesive direction to the whole volume (of volumes). There is an introductory crisis, an anticipated resolution, and countless cycles of tension and relief, approaching or retreating from the problem that demands an answer from the very beginning. And all throughout, the solution unfolds itself, anticipating, hinting, clarifying, setting the stage, to a real climactic end.

Both give me frameworks to think about any given topic. Instead of lifting statements from all over the place to construct an argument based on proof-texts, I have a means of delineating how an element unfolds throughout the Bible. With BT I can discern what various authors thought in various periods/situations in history and correlate them to build a whole. With SH I can trace the evolution of an idea progressively unpacking through the story line and its major stops along the path.

My initial foray into BT and SH have resulted in two pieces - one on Guidance, and another on Worship.

BT and SH promises to revolutionise the way I think about the Bible, myself, and the world. You could say my worldview is being redefined. And the best part of all is that I've only just set foot on the new world. I am on a threshold of many years of discovery. And nothing is more thrilling than the combination of having a road to travel on but not knowing what lies ahead. Ahhh.. the joy of discovery and the discovery that leads to endless discoveries!

09 October 2006

The Disk Arrived

Today I am the happiest man.

I have waited 3 weeks, and it has arrived. I palpitated thinking of it. I moaned waiting for it. I lost sleep wondering what it would be like to hold it in my hands. And today I have it. The best 400 bucks I've spent in a long time for the wealthiest resource I could own in one disk.

The IVP Essential Reference Collection.

I need no longer scrounge around others' libraries and look longingly at their volumes. I don't have to wait for that once a week visit to a pastor's office to thumb his New Dictionary of Biblical Theology or hang around SU bookstore to get free reads. Now I have it under my fingertips (not at), under, in my laptop.

My favorite of the 25 titles here must be the Biblical Theology dictionary and possibly the background commentaries for New and Old Testament. I'm awed by these works and can imagine how much more enriched will be my studies and meditations on Christian Scripture and the history of Christian Thought.

I am a happy man indeed! Back to the books I go.

Out of the woods

Frankly, I've just come out severe blues. Running a clinic was taking every bit of strength I had and dashing to the office to hide and croak after it. After a week of agonizing under its weight, I thought I was turning the corner until a viral flu hit. The second round I was almost suicidal! The world never seemed so dark, and the slightest effort felt like lifting a truck. Thank God for a weekend in Kuching - a wedding, lotsa friends and their kids, and not to mention, good food! (Teh-C-Special and chopped freshly-roasted lamb are must haves!)

That finally did the trick. No amount of navel-gazing and quiet coffee-binging at Starbucks in KL could do it. Getting away helped me detach and look at life from the outside for a sec. With the escape, I guess I was 'freed' to come to the point of 'enough is enough, I'm not going to let this ruin my life. People in my life are too important to waste life crabbing around.' You could say I emerged from the shroud(the Kalimantan haze, that is), slightly more adjusted in my valuation of what's important.

(Insight more restored, I can see in retrospect that I was headed that way from a long marathon burnout stretch of 6 weeks back-to-back high-stakes, towering-expectations activity - on call, exams, speaking, mercy trip to jungle, on call, speaking, major surgeries, operating back-to-back in 3 different OTs, research. The crazy thing about activity is that it snowballs into more till you're overrun with it out of control. So I've vowed to myself from now till 2007, NO MORE speaking engagements. Perhaps ONE fun trip to the outback to visit my favorite OA families. And then it's Christmas with friends and family. Sanity must be preserved.)

Yesterday was a happy evening, one first after a long time. You kinda appreciate little things like that when the mood-o-meter's been below zero for a long tiem. Friends had come over for a group discussion on Vocation and Life issues around the book 'Courage and Calling.' We shared our stories, prayed for one another, and had a scrumptious meal at a nearby Cafe. Nothing fancy. But just sitting together, sharing a meal, and exchanging light-hearted moments meant a great deal to me. I felt so much more human.

Today, I took my parents out for lunch and a skosh of shopping. It's nice to sit around, have coffee with them, and chat idly about going-ons and other nothing-too-significant things. Just being in the parent-child companionship without any agenda. I want to make the most of the day while it's still bright and before anu dark clouds start rolling in again!

26 August 2006

We will walk together

A student of mine recently lost her father to liver cancer. He died almost as suddenly as the pathology was discovered, leaving the family shell-shocked. There was hardly any time for coming to grips with the disease, much more with his sudden departure. From what little I hear, he was the most loving and responsible of fathers. I can see the grief and loss is immense, but there must be also a storehouse of rich memories for them to plumb in the coming days.

While I grieve with her, I contemplate afresh what death means to me.

Nouwen says:
Death is a passage to new life. That sounds very beautiful, but few of us desire to make this passage. It might be helpful to realise that our final passage is preceded by many earlier passages. When we are born we make a passage from life in the womb to life in the family. When we go to school we make a passage from life in the family to life in the larger community. When we get married we make a passage from a life with many options to a life committed to one person...

Each of these passages is a death leading to new life. When we live these passages well, we are becoming more prepared for our final passage.

Seen that way, death is a final passage that I can embrace, not deny or fight against. I will not live recklessly as though I will never die. And I refuse to die regretfully, as though I had never lived. Knowing where I am going and that I must go compels me to live meaningfully not despairingly.

The prospect of losing our most loved ones also numbs us. Sometimes it even drives us into a kind of self-protective isolation, pushing away people and walling up our vulnerable hearts. But again, Nouwen warns us:

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies ... the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

When I embrace my own mortality, I must also affirm the inevitable departure of those I love. Knowing that those I love will not always be with me helps me also love them more meaningfully - aspiring for their greatest good, yet setting them free, not clinging and entrapping others.

As we prayed around the father, and as her friends and family rallied with the bereaved - there was an undeniable sense of solidarity. I was moved by the calm and loving sendoff. But I was also deeply moved by the way her student comrades had come alongside her for strength. Together, we were in essence saying to one other: We will walk this journey together. For a time, until one of us must go. But others will come along. And we will continue to journey. Till one by one with the Father we are gathered. We will walk this journey together.

May the love of God and the fellowship of friends enfold us all as we journey together.

20 July 2006

The Great Little Adventure

For those of you who think that this event was an accident, let me say we didn't strive to prevent it! You can't say we've been trying very hard but neither did we 'obstruct' its occurence in any way. (In fact our attempts have been so infrequent this could qualify as miraculous conception!) A friend pointed out doctors have a high rate of 'accidental' pregnancies - evidence either of our daftness at handling rubber or the unstoppability of the Genesis mandate embedded in man's tiniest of cells.

According to JUSTTHEFACTS, this is what baby should look like right now. This morning's ultrasound shows baby to be a whopping 1 inch tall.

We've always prayed that the good Lord's timing be at work in this. At least that's what I would say to my parents when they start asking things like when, and shouldn't you be seeing a fertility expert? 'God will give when the time is right,' is my standard interrogation-stopper.

Since the euphoria of that last post, which lasted a good 48 hrs, we sank into sullen denial punctuated with "Oh no... what have we got ourselves into?" and "This can't be undone, CAN it? There is no turning back IS there?" Suddenly our child-free happy holidays vanished as quickly as those double-bands appeared. That lasted about almost a week, until we learnt to take it one day at a time. We can't handle the overwhelming prospect of the BIG PICTURE of raising a kid. Being doctors, we are also constantly reminded of the innumerable risks pre- and peri- and post-natally. This is certainly ONE BIG ADVENTURE that requires every bit of courage and faith we can find.

The turning point from shell-shock to quiet and joyful acceptance was watching the baby's heart beat on the ultrasound screen. Baby was barely 6 weeks old then but seeing the heart flutter sent waves of emotion I cannot describe. A mixture of blessedness, gravity, vulnerability, awe, and helplesness. But waves of thrill isn't all the baby is sending. Waves of NAUSEA and FOOD-AVERSIONS are also flooding mother, and sometimes pours over to father!

This kid is one health freak - Joan can't touch anything with animal fat in it. Nothing fried. And nothing after 8pm. Guess who does the eating every time she discovers a new food taboo? I'm expecting to gain more weight than the gravid mother. Some experts theorise that morning sickness is Mother Nature's protective mechanism to keep the mother from ingesting foods with highest toxic potentials. I suspect as much too.

Nature has inbuilt mechanisms to protect the baby,show the mother who is boss and kill off the father early so he gets to enjoy his inheritance in college. Fine by me! As long as I don't have to be around to bail him out when he squanders it all!

01 July 2006

The Double Band

'Oh no..' came the groan from the bahtroom.

'What is it, are you positive?' I asked.

The door opened and she showed me the double-bands.

'Is this positive? Where's the box? Is 2 bands positive, or should there be a third band??'

She was shocked. I was stunned.

We held each other and contemplated the wonder - a new life within. But we are also reeling and numbed - by the implications this brings. Our life changes forever. We will go from honeymooners to haggard parents. There are numerous challenges ahead, every step one of courage and faith. Just the thought of the things that can go wrong from beginning to end - humbles us utterly. This is a journey of faith, no doubt.

According to JUST THE FACTS this is what baby should look like right now.

We celebrated at our usual Pizza Uno - myself with Bolognese, she the Tomato Soup and Caesar Salad with bacon bits. When the dishes arrived, she couldn't even take one bite of the bacon. Animal fat repulses her now - and the whole pile landed on my plate.

The bacon test was far more convincing than any urine test! God.. I am afraid, I don't know if I can do this, be a father. I'm afraid of all the things that can go wrong. This challenges my essential worldview - am I one cursed or am I one blessed?

13 June 2006

Studying again!

I've been doing a correspondence course with Moore's Theological College, working towards a Certificate in Theology. Yes, I'm crazy, if that's what you're thinking! But it's something I've always wanted to do - study the foundations of my faith in a serious and systematic way. In med school I totally envied people who had time to do that, even more those enrolled in seminaries. It's been a long time coming, but finally, after completing my Masters' and settling in KL, I can do so..

In spite of everyone telling me Moore's is as conservative as it gets, I enrolled. For two main reasons: 1) I grew up in a Brethren church - nothing can be more conservative than that!, I thought.. 2) I go to a church whose pastor was a Moore's product, and conducts a small group study for this course. Interaction and having a guru's brains to pick on are crucial, I felt, for a really gratifying study.

I believe we are in the most volatile of times in history, and religion has never been so brazenly brutalised and so violently defended at the same time. It's at such a crossroad of my own life and history that I find myself wanting to know what it is that I believe. What is it that is worth living and dying for..

Two weeks ago I sat for the exam on the book of Romans. It was an exhaustive 10 weeks preparation, and the final 5 days was mind-numbing as I swept through the themes of the letter, front-to-back and back-to-front. But it was worth it. Not only have I learnt things I have never realised was there, and had many of my presuppositions challenged and corrected,.. Not only do I know now how all the parts of the letter fit together and which parts can be used to address what issues.. More than that, I feel I have gained a whole new level of confidence and conviction about what I believe and whom I have believed. And that is priceless.

Though I feel like I've only scratched the surface, getting through the term has given me confidence in the Christian message. The sort of confidence that spurs one on to action. (Although the greatest action prescribed seems to be one of in-action, FAITH.) It has also given me a far greater love for the written Word like nothing else could have. Wrestling with the Word and its implications makes me love it more, and thirst even more.But I am warned that the written Word is not an end in itself - it points to and I must find it's journey's end in God Himself.

22 May 2006

Da Vinci Yawn

There are those who will decry the film as an affront to Christian belief, a tissue of lies and fabrications and a lurid exercise in cynical exploitation.

The more they fulminate, though, the more they play into Sony's hands, unwittingly promoting the very movie they would have banished from our screens.

Far better, perhaps, to use the film as a springboard for constructive debate on the nature of religion and the way the Christ story still resonates after two millennia.

It is, after all, just a movie that - like Life of Brian, The Last Temptation of Christ and Gibson's Passion before it - is only as significant as we choose to make it.
Well said! Neil Smith from the BBC

I'm not boycotting the movie. I just think my 10 bucks is better spent, Dan Brown doesn't deserve that much credit, and there's been so much coverage about it it's nauseating. People will believe what they want to believe. Beyond being faithful to history, having a healthy knowledge in it and a willingness to discuss it openly - there's really little point in getting up-in-arms. 'The more they fulminate,... the more they play into Sony's hands.' And Dan Brown's bank account, let's not forget.

The week that was

I am still reeling from last week's whirlwind of activities. Thankful I made it, but off balance all the same. I am glad this week's calendar doesn't look too bad, but I must resist filling it up.

I am glad most of all for surviving a preaching engagement at Ampang Gospel yesterday, thanks to the prayerful encouragement from many dear friends. I felt I didn't connect much with the listeners and was uninspired - drained from the week's work - but accepted that as a good way to desensationalise the speaker, and let truth speak for itself.

Monday was a day of recuperating from the week-long trip to Sabah. Photos of Kinabalu mountain remind me of how beautiful Sabah is compared to dreary old KL - smog-choked and traffic-logged. The peaks, mosses, ferns, and orchids all make a playground of heavenly experiences. I can actually enjoy the summit a bit better now in the comfort of home, rather than dying from bitter-cold, hunger and exhaustion at the end of the climb. I've also reviewed some food spots from Sabah - the hedonist in me couldn't resist.

Most of last week was spent marking a dissertation I could barely understand, the technical difficulty was way above my ability! And completing my notes on the Book of Romans for an upcoming exam also took up a lot of time. Which left me only nights to work on the sermon.

I've decided to backtrack my Bible reading program to keep in date with the McCheyne calendar in real time. Hope I can keep it up because honestly it's the only thing keeping me going from day to day right now.

19 May 2006

Down from the Rock

I knew I would never have the time to sit and muse about our trip up Old Kinabalu, mountain of the dead (which is what Aki Nabalu means in Kadazan, I am made to understand.) So, I'm glad I had some feelings scribbled down on my Palm - this I did when we were recuperating in the hotel room, crippled, unable to move an inch without excruciating pain.

06-5-11 Mt Kinabalu
The moment is etched upon the fabric of my being. Putting one foot ahead of the other in ever increasing agony. Every step, searing pain. But I was not alone, not without encouragement. Sweeping across the sky and scape, I could not take it all in. The magnificence and magnitude. The unencompassable vastness. And I the lone, empty-handed soul, in trepidation enter the throne room.

A million stars watch down on me, blinking in question, Why are you here? What do you seek? A few bright ones whisper, Many have come this way but few have found it.

Towering pinnacles silhoutted against pale moonlight, stand guard all around, fixing their cold, intent gaze on the weary wanderer. What brings you into the Presence? You are on holy ground. The ground I tread upon is a royal granite carved over 35000 years of slow glacier motion, the art of etchings and precise bands tell of history undecipherable even by the wisest of men. The ancient past of this kingdom is encoded on these stones.

A banner of blurry white stretches from east to west. It has been called The Milky Way by mortals past. A banner lifted high for us to gaze into the vastness of the kingdom. Why have I come? I do not know. What was I seeking? I did not prepare my heart.

I came a-wandering, carelessly tripping into the throne room of the highest. Mindlessly pressing towards a precipice they call the Low's peak. Foolishly following other climbers making their way to the point of nothing. The highest point of Southeast Asia! We cry. The sun rises from the east, black turns to gold! We gasp. Bypassing the Time and the Place.

In that very instant I lost it. I had the chance. Though by sheer accident and no purpose on my part I stumbled upon the Holy Place, I paid no heed to the Call. Obsessed with the walking and the reaching I was too blind to see and hear when the very Universe opened a portal. That all may go in and find.

I shall return. Mine eyes have been opened. A fool I will be no more. I shall return a more worthy pilgrim. I will silently revere till that day, and every day shall be that day. I will listen for the distant cry - from the farthest reaches of the sky and depths of the ground I stand. I will be holy as you are holy. Posted by Picasa

02 May 2006


Air Asia is always a wonder to watch. A company that started modest with a few leased aircrafts, it is near billion-dollar industry a year with a fleet sprawled all over Asia to match. Even when the flailing giants boot them into the wilderness, they sprout up again and come up with the... LCCT!


I took the Skybus there on Friday, and arrived at a slightly ware-house looking place, reminiscent of Carrefour and TESCO outlets.


Brightly lit, bustling with activity and a couple of food outlets to keep you occupied.


Surprisingly crowded check-in counters, but mostly the Indonesia bound flights.


And a nice walk on the tarmac, like the good old Subang days.

Overall a nice experience for the budget traveler. Posted by Picasa

Works of art - our rivers

Who says our rivers aren't beautiful?

Klang river running under the Titiwangsa LRT station

Take a look at the Klang River today. Running right through the city, what a beautiful sight it is to behold! A swirling mix of ochre and vile black, intertwining and interfacing on a canvas of water. You have to admire the artistic talent of refuse dumpers and reckless effluent dischargers.

While it was heartening to hear of tough action planned for miscreants, this sort of coloring of our waters go on every day, right under our noses in the heart of the city.

The thing to do is to get in touch with the Department of Environment or post a pix to your local paper. We are a long way from crystal clear, blue waters but if we don't something about it now, they are soon going to be pitch black.

27 April 2006

The Da Vinci Craze

I read it for no other reason except that it is going to explode on the silver screen this May. I didn't want to be ignorant. The fact that the Da Vinci Code has generated so much of interest on both sides of Mary Madgalene alone repels me. How can one silly myth cause so much glib fanaticism on one hand and reactive defensiveness on the other? (To be fair, I have read the 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail', which in part is the basis for the newer Da Vinci Code.)

When I did pick up the book, I found myself instantly collar-grabbed into a pretty well-woven story of religious mysticism, conspiracy, historical intrigue and anagrams, all tied to a cord of murder and the struggle to vindicate a lost cause and a dead man. It was an un-put-downable. And the more I read, the more I wondered, what the heck is all the fuss about? This is just fiction. Irreverent, but fiction all the same. Until I came to (not unexpectedly) the great revelation by Leigh Teabing of the great conspiracy of the Church - a conspiracy as it were to slay the sacred feminine and glorify the masculine, deify a mere man countless millions now worship, doctor documents and secure its political campaign with blood baths and witch hunts.

It wouldn't have been more than a wince in the side were it not for the author's claims that documents and archeological evidences cited in the book were accurate. And I've seen him come on TV to say he started out trying to disprove it all and ended up the believer. The sales gimmick is as laughable as some self-contradicting inventions of the author paraded as history. But not everything in the book could be waved away with simple logic. It was indeed disconcerting to have it suggested, with claims of historical fact I could not disprove, that my faith was baseless, or worse - built on mere spinmeistering.

But what I found TRULY disturbing and reason to get very upset indeed was not that it exposed any conspiracy of the early Church. It was not the Church that was on the stand, or the Council of Nicene that was being indicted. No! The joke is on us! The great gag is on every believing Christian who can't see through the web of deceit for sheer lack of knowledge. Myself included. ON THE COUNTS OF BLATANT IGNORANCE AND UTTER DISREGARD FOR THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF YOUR FAITH, DAN BROWN AND THE PEOPLE FIND YOU GUILTY AS CHARGED. we are in the docks, and our brazen neglect of self-education on matters as crucial as the tenets of our own professed faith should draw tears.

Every morning on my walk to the train station, I see little children in songkoks and green sampings hop onto their kereta sapu to the nearest religious school. Some of these Islamic kindergartens are not cheap and parents pay for the best religious education money can buy. Outside of regular school time. It speaks volumes of the value Muslims place on knowing the truths that undergird ther lives.

I know my wake up call has come. Whatever his intention, Dan Brown's own 'disclaimer statement' rings true: '“My hope for The Da Vinci Code was, in addition to entertaining people, that it might serve as an open door for readers to begin their own explorations and rekindle their interest in topics of faith.” That, I hope it has done and makes for a great opportunity for Christians to explore the roots and facts of their own faith.

A Malaysian forum on the topic is coming up this Thursday in PJ.

Resources abound on the Internet to start off your research:
Da Vinci Quest
Challenging Da Vinci

18 March 2006

Go Public!

I am all for the switch from petrol-guzzling automobile travel to public transport. My wife and I
promised ourselves we would leave our car at home and become train-riders if the fuel price were to go up again. It has, and we have ditched our car. Though there are a 100 reasons discouraging the use of public transport in Kuala Lumpur, I can still think of a few good reasons to give it a try and make it work.

1- Save money. At nearly 25 cents per kilometre of car travel (working at 8km/L fuel consumption) the savings are considerable if you are a heavy commuter. With LRT season passes that cover both Putra & Star lines, and RM2/day City Shuttle buses, I'm saving at least RM50 a month. And I'm not even counting savings from parking
at malls.
2- Save time. It took a bullock cart 1 hour to get from Kg Baru to Masjid Jamek in the old days. 100 years of progress later, it takes the same time. Go figure. Traffic jams are a complete waste of time. There is a profound pleasure in gloating over cars stuck in jams as you whiz by in your high speed train.
3- Get more sleep. If you can get onto a train or bus early enough, you can actually catch a few extra winks. If you are desperate for a sit-down and shut-eye, take the train to the terminal where the carriage empties, and come back again in your seat of choice.
4- Get fit. With our badly connected public transport system, much of the commuting is by foot between stations and stops. Walk fast enough and you can get a pretty good workout. A 70kg adult can burn 116 calories by walking 30 minutes at a speed of 3mph. Keeping a high heart rate during the walk will also improve your cardiovascular fitness.

5- Finish a book. Trains are an ideal place to read. It's quiet, well air-conditioned, and even standing with a hand on the rail, you can finish a book with
one hand!
6- De-stress. The biggest frustration of driving in KL is not so much the petrol cost, but the traffic jams. To sit in a gridlock, seeing red (bumper lights) for
hours on end does nothing for my blood pressure. I can imagine years of my lifespan shaved off for every hour I spend in jams.
7- Save the environment. Why burn good cash on polluting the environment? Our carrying capacity for pollutant is already maxed out. The slightest puff of
smoke from a forest fire will tip us into a blinding haze. Imagine the amount of emissions reduced by leaving your car at home to be used only for long distance trips or short family outings.
8- See the city. A season pass pays for unlimited travel. Why use it only for getting to work? See the city! Go on a walkabout of Dataran Merdeka or Petaling
Street on weekends, or hit the malls. Watch your spending though - otherwise whatever you save on petrol might just be burnt on shopping. Posted by Picasa

12 March 2006

Inspired... by food

I haven't done this in some time, posting the latest salivary gland pumping concoction in the culinary world of our homeland. So today, I decide to pull out some choice pix of the latest appetite stimulant, or diet-program killer whichever way you like to look at it.

Though not really Malaysian cuisine, but for sheer joy-to-taste we are proud to have them in our land.

Petaling street offers some great photo ops, so a vertiginous shot of chestnuts went into my still-in-infancy TTL gallery.

Well, that's my weekend blogging quota fulfilled. In the process I realised I write in record time when I'm intensely inspired.. And nothing quite inspires like good food. So, the next time you need creative, and other juices to flow, go get a bite!

10 March 2006

When will I stop?

It's funny, how when I'm busiest and accomplishing the most that I feel that I've been ineffective and need to do more. Is this some kind of death wish? Why does my mind conspire against me to burn a few more holes in my stomach and drive me to my grave prematurely?

I've read about it - it's called adrenaline addiction. The more thrills you get out of work, the more you crave it. And the more burnt out you are, the more you look for it to prevent the impending blues. Withdrawal from work is actually difficult because it requires I say NO to the seductive attraction of work and insist that I get the detoxifying rest I need.

This week has seen two busy and overbooked clinics, two lengthy student encounters over lectures and bedside teaching. Two powerful meetings with senior professors, both giving me great encouragement and insights into the world of research. I've been reading at least 4 books concurrently. One massive literature review on cancer markers left me completely spent but deeply satisfied.

Amidst all that I also met my real estate agent and placed a booking fee for a home we've been eyeing, drafted the newsletter for the Malaysian Society of Otorhinolaryngologists, AND writeup an interview for Kairos Research Centre.

Yes, I'm reeling. And it's not even over. I meet the printers this evening, and tomorrow GCF is having a dialog on "Dealing With Difficult People At Work." Hah.

I'm glad therefore for short moments and places that I can use to stop and get reoriented. Like the little corner Starbucks in KL Sentral, tucked away, with trains whizzing by. (Yes, you can see I was poring over my clinical photographs at the time...)

Or in the privacy of my own office, open the Bible and catch up on some reading.

This weekend, I must stop. Really stop, declare a moratorium on all forms of work. And 'Be still once more my soul, for the Lord your God has been good.' (Psalm 116:7).

09 March 2006

Learning Chinese the Geek Way

Did you hate your POL classes in school? Did you get sent to a Chinese temple for language tuition as a kid? Well I did, and have deep emotional scars to show for it. But, I still can't speak my own mother tongue if my life depended on it.

But all that is going to change! Well, at least it potentially and theoretically CAN change... And here's how (I propose, in theory) it can be done: THE GEEK WAY.

1) Pick a Chinese website you would like to read: like a newspaper, an interlinear Bible or the Dao De Ching for high show-off factor.

2) Get it translated using Babelfish or a Chinese-English Dictionary

3) And get it read ALOUD using YELLOWBRIDGE TALKER

Let me give you an example.

This is a screenshot of Nanyang Siang Pau in Chinese:

This is Nanyang translated into English:

After you've had a ROTFLOL session reading the direct translation, try the Yellow Bridge dictionary.

This is the headline translated en bloc, word by word, into English on Yellow Bridge's Chinese-English dictionary.

And if you've got Yellow-Bridge Talker installed, you can have the text read aloud to you simply by right-clicking your selection and selecting "Pronounce Text" or clicking the yellow speech baloon on the Dictionary page!

Is there anything you've been dying to say in Chinese - like, say, cheaper please I have no money, or please cook my chow mein really really spicy? Well, key it into the YB Dictionary, and have it read OUT LOUD back to you. My Chinese-proficient dad vouches for its accuracy and high standard of Chinese.

Also available on Yellow-Bridge is the cool Flashcards method of learning a word a day, and a Decomposition Explorer interwoven into the dictionary. No, the Decomposition Explorer is not some kind of post-mortem surgical technique. It is in fact a breakdown of each component in a chinese character complete with its individual meaning.

For instance, did you know that the word WORRY in Chinese, consists of two parts - which could mean to have strings attached to your mind, or to conspire against the soul? Now, which Chinese dictionary or teacher, for that matter, will give you that?! And it certainly makes learning impossible Chinese squiggles a lot more fun, meaningful and easy to remember.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Hah.. talk about easy and high geek appeal!! No more embarassing dictation sessions, no fierce, hefty POL teacher with the swishing cane, and no more messy brush and ink in Chinese temple classes!!

05 March 2006

The Radiant Newly Weds

"It gives me great pleasure to present to you,.. Dr. and Dr. (Mrs.) Jeffry Paul Wong!!" Quite a mouthful? What is it with these labels anyway? I felt sorry for the officiant-pastor. But with the billowing sea breeze, grass beneath your feet, garden ambience of E&O Penang,.. nothing could've spoilt the moment.

Not bad, Jeff & Doris. Still able to manage some genuine smiles and laughs after a whole day of plastic grins posing for an unending stream of pictures. Bet you never, ever, want to do this again! Talk about deterrents to polygamy.

We do wish you a life time of joy and laughter.

Awwww... pucker up... Enjoy the moment. EOD calls ahead is no way to spend your post-nuptial week. Unfortunately, that's life for us civil servants. Onward ho! Posted by Picasa

More photos of the wedding here!

The Weekend That Was

Attended good friends' - Jeff & Doris' - wedding in Penang. One of those dreamy, by-the-sea garden weddings that make every girl burst in romanticistic elation. Doris was our maid-of-honor in our own walk down the aisle two and half years ago. Notice the woman in red by the bride? No prizes for guessing who.

Old friends, Angie - now in Likas, Helin - Bruneian in Belukas spending her evenings angling by the river, Tammy - houseman working her butt off, Sudoku winner, and USM medic gold-medalist,... and my wife (you didn't know?!).

An entire convoy of big bikes appeared out of nowhere and accompanied us for a good half hour. It was interesting to watch their routine, the head biker, the tail man keeping watch for stragglers, the hand signals, and the accompanying support car all making a monster team.

Joan couldn't resist trailing this biker. What do you call a bike with tall handles like that anyway? Posted by Picasa

04 February 2006

Another team goes!

Another team has gone.

This time, with some dear friends of ours in that team.

We had seen them from the signing up, briefings, talked them through their fears and doubts and prayed with them. Today, seeing them raring to go at the airport was wonderful.

And heartbreaking.

Partly because we are not going. Partly because we're going to miss them. It was hard to do the necessary distancing and allow the new team to catch their own wind.

Back home, we think of the adventure they will have, the children they will bless - and we're happy. Our prayers go with them.

03 January 2006

Critical conditions in Pakistan

The situation has turned critical for quake-hit victims in Pakistan in the last week.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
that thick snow is falling, roads are cut off, children are dying,
and tents are no longer adequate. It seems like a panic effort to
bring in tin sheets are now futile.

Please keep praying for the people and aid workers, and if you or
anyone you know might be able to volunteer for a short trip please
contact CREST or myself. There are several tonnes of winter clothing
and insulation material here in KL waiting to be dispatched, and CREST
badly needs a medic to go with them to access the villages.

02 January 2006

People I Never Want To Forget

There are people we've met in Pakistan we will never want to forget.

Dr. Reginald

Medical director and builder of the new Pennel Memorial Christian Hospital, is a man of finest character. He is a super-surgeon (does a vaginal hysterectomy and open cholecystectomy in 1/2 hr each) and perfect gentleman. An all-rounder consultant (who single-handedly manages all the patients in his wards and OPD) and a man of discipline. A man of faith and prayer. Having left a lucrative private practive in Hyderabad to restart the defunct 100yr-old mission hospital in Bannu, he exemplifies how healthcare is mission at its best. He shows what healing is in the holistic sense - body, soul and spirit.

Just when we thought the Albert Schweitzers and Mother Teresas have left us forever, we meet in person, hidden in the Afghan frontiers, this living legend carrying on the legacy left behind by Theodore Pennell a 100 years ago. We've been immensely inspired and touched by this man.

The People of Bannu, Battal and Battgram

We have never experienced being denied education or health care for lack of money. Much less food or shelter. Having never tasted real want, I am unable to respond when I see such hardcore poverty. Perhaps I fear because I am myself poor. Without our things and achievements, we are in essence bereft. If I can learn to embrace the 'poverty' within, I may be able to embrace the poverty of others more readily. And then maybe I can learn the joy and simplicity of the have-nots; for whom all of life is a gift to be received and to be given.