Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Mom's Applause

That day I went home a very frustrated kid.

The mocking laughter of my classmates were still ringing in my head. The sceptical and sinister look on the face of my class teacher could still be seen in my mind.

“Are you sure you want to join public speaking?” Laughter again erupted from the whole class.

My head was bowed so low, I thought at that second I could impersonate the ostrich by burying my head into the ground. It was so embarrassing and so humiliating that I wanted to run out of the class and never return.

But that just didn’t happen. And before I knew it, I thought I heard myself mumbling, “Yes teacher, I’d like to join public speaking.” She sighed, doubting in my ability to handle it and she handing me the participation form she reminded me that I had 3 months to prepare for it.

“Haha, stammer boy wants to speak.”

“Yeah right, he can’t even talk a proper sentence, let alone deliver a speech.”

“I can’t understand why the teacher would let him disgrace our whole class on stage.”

So much for encouragement. So much for being so thoughtful.

Did I do the right thing?

I’d never know.

I stammer, and I stammer real bad. When I was still small my mom took me to see doctors and after a speech therapist checked my mouth and vocal cords medically, they deduced that I will face speech problems for the rest of my life because my tongue was 2cm shorter than a normal person. And that’s true, if I were to stick my tongue, all you’d see is just a little bit of flesh that could be easily mistaken as my lips.

“Dad. .Dad.. Daddy, I’d li.. li.. like to.. to.. to ha.. haave some wa.. wa.. water..”

That was how it went like. When my parents first thought me how to speak, they thought I was mute, then when I could pronounce slightly better they thought I was repeating what I said, and when they corrected me and I’d just keep on stammering, they thought I was being cheeky and disobedient, and mistakenly disciplined me for that very matter.

But later on did they realise that it was a real problem after all. No fooling around business, I was really stammering. That was when they got really devastated and worried. They took me to see doctor after doctor, speech therapist one after another, even boiled herbal medicine for me but still couldn’t ‘cure’ my speech condition. Then my dad lashed the ultimatium.

“Joash, I’m going to teach you how to speak without stammering.” Trust me, it was worse than the Japanese torture method used on the British POIs. He’d whack me up every time I accidentally repeated a word. And I’d be crying and crying while he was making me repeat sentence after sentence. This treatment kinda lasted for 2 months until my dad finally gave up.

“No hope,” he concluded. When I saw my dad turn his back on me and walked into his room, as he closed his room door, I cried. I sensed disappointment, despair and hopelessness in his situation, and yet felt so helpless. I loved my parents so much, and it hurt me to the bone to see them in despair over me.

I tried, but I couldn’t. It was just beyond me.

And here I was, joining public speaking. What on earth made me do that? I would never know.

I had to hand in my script together with my application form. The only topic I had in my mind was..


I scratched my head, not knowing what to talk about. My dad suggested globalisation, but what on earth would a standard 4 kid know about globalisation? That was pure insanity.. and besides my script could qualify to be a secondary school thesis.

“Something wrong dear?” my mom spoke from behind. I turned back and saw my mom looking over my shoulder. She picked up my public speaking form and analysed it closely. “When’s your competition?”

“3 months time..”

Got a title yet?


“Talk about something close to your heart, something that you would like to share with your friends, something that you can experience on your own, and something that people would like to hear about.” She pecked me on the forehead lightly and walked away.

Then I thought about a topic. This should work, I thought and started writing. Thoughts started to flow and everything just fell into place. I spent the whole night writing and writing. As I looked through my script I thought it was a bit too long, so I threw it away and wrote a shorter one. I checked through the script and realised there was still a tad too much nonsense inside and decided to re-edit it. After editing, was still unhappy with it and decided to write it again.

The alarm clock rang, and I woke up realising that I slept on the table for the first time in my life. I nearly thought I was late for school, and in my hands was a nicely written out script. I still had barely enough time to let out a weak smile before running upstairs to bath and get changed.

With the script written out, I now had to practice my speech.

“Joash, you missed out one whole paragraph.”

“Joash, why are you stammering on that line?”

”Joash, can’t you even pronounce the word ‘meticulous’ properly?”

“JOASH, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!? If you can’t even speak properly, why did you sign up for public speaking?!?” and that was the last time my teacher coached me for public speaking.

That’s right, maybe I should just go back home and forget about the whole thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have joined public speaking. Maybe I shouldn’t have signed up. Maybe it was all a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t do things to embarrass myself and my class.

Even my dad gave up on me.

I slammed my room door and tore my script to bits and pieces. I crumbled it then and threw it into the wastepaper basket. All my hard work, all the sweat and tears, now equates to the waste in that basket. Nothing more than futile.

Did I even realise that I was crying? I didn’t know, but I thought I remembered wiping my tears when my mom suddenly appeared at the door.

“I may be deaf, but I can always sense pain and the tears of my son.”

Oh no, I never wanted my mom to see me cry. That’s the last thing that I’d ever ever want to do to my mom. She had already gone through enough pain for me already, and I’m not going to put her through more problems.

My mom lost her hearing in a freak accident. That time both of us were in the garden pruning the rambutan tree. The branches were giving her too much trouble when parking the car in the garden, so some branches had to go. After pruning the branches we started collecting it, when suddenly a dried branch that has been consumed halfway by the termites snapped and fell from on top of me. My mom, in all motherly instinct, pushed me to the ground and the branch hit her on the temple of her head. She suffered a concussion and was in hospital for 2 weeks. That accident took 90% of her hearing, and as a result she had to learn how to lip read.

And I felt so bad for her. It was my fault.. I caused my mom to lose her hearing..

“Mom? I’m fine.. really..”

“Then what’s that in the basket?”

Oh, nothing much.. I’ve just decided to quit public speaking..

I wanted to say that but I couldn’t will myself to do that.. she’d be so disappointed.. she wanted me to join public speaking so badly.. “I believe that this is an opportunity for you to break from your shell of stammering.. take it as a challenge that will groom you to be a normal person that speaks normally..”

But I’ve so let her down..

She sat by my bed and gave me a hug. She whispered into my ears, “I’ve prepared a simplified speech for you, ready to give it a try?”

3 months flew past, and that fine morning when the sky was brightly shining, I stepped up to the stage and adjusted the mike. The hall was silent except for the murmuring of my classmates. Occasional laughter could be heard from that particular spot occupied by my classmates, but I couldn’t care less.

Mom, this speech is for you. With a deep breath, I spat my first word.

“Ladies and gentlemen, people have fears. Many fears. And as a kid, if you know me well, I stammer. That is not my fear, that is merely my problem. My true fear is that I fear being ridiculed. I fear being rejected, I fear being not given an opportunity to try and fight even if I am at a disadvantage and at a losing end. I fear that I will never be given a chance to prove my salt, and this day I stand before you, honourable judges, ladies and gentlemen to deliver my speech entitled ‘Facing your darkest fears’.”

And everything flowed out so naturally. From the stage, I could see the jaws of my classmates nearly hitting the floor. My teacher was dead stunned and speechless. The judges had their eyes fixed on me, and every time they nodded in approval it gave me the extra boost of energy to press on and continue to do it.

Honestly the real boost of energy didn’t come from them, it came from my coach who was willing to teach me how to stand up and speak, when everyone else didn’t wanted to teach me.

My mom.

She may not be able to hear me, but she can train me to speak properly. “Try it again Joash, start slow, everything begins from scratch. No one speaks like a bullet train in a day.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll never go away, just take your time and do it slowly ok?”

“Remember not to rush in this part, every time you rush you end up stammering ok?”

It’s amazing how my mom did it. She could lip read when I was and wasn’t stammering, she could tell whether I was mumbling or speaking clearly, she could just tell me how to speak slowly when no one else could.

She trained me. She made me hang on when I wanted to let go. Mom, it’s getting so hard. I know, but I’m by your side, always and ever. Mom, but it’s not fair for you.. you’re going through all the trouble for me too.. You’re my son, any greater trouble and I’d go through it with you. I am with you, so let’s do this together ok? Try your speech again, shall we?

More than anything, she gave me the chance to speak and be normal.

“This day, I stand before you, overcoming all my fears of stammering, to show you all that though rejected and ridiculed, I can still deliver a speech. More than a speech, but a message to challenge all of you people in this august hall, to rise up and face your darkest fears. Thank you.”

I took in a deep breath, stepped back from the mike, and bowed meekly. The hall erupted into a grand applaud. I could see my teacher and my classmates giving me a stand up ovation. They couldn’t believe that I spoke for 7 minutes without stammering, and it was amazing.

Unbelievable. The judges applauded me, the teachers were beaming with joy.

“He did it! He wasn’t stammering!”

I closed my eyes, and as the voices and sounds from the hall faded away, what was left was my mother’s applause. Every time I finished practicing my speech, she would applaud me and give me a big hug. That was my reward for not giving up, and it made me look forward to working even harder and training more with her.

Something tells me that she’s in this hall.

I opened my eyes, and at the end of the hall I saw a lonely figure clapping. I thought I heard a familiar applause, and I didn’t think twice.

I dashed from the stage, across the hall and ran up to her. My tears may have blurred my vision, but I couldn’t have mistaken.

“Mom!” I cried. I ran right into her embrace, and my mom kissed me on the head.

“I heard your speech, every single word of it. You didn’t stammer son, and I’m so proud of you.”

“Mom, that speech, was for you. I did it for you.”

I might not have noticed the little grey thing stuck onto my mom’s ear – doctors call it the hearing aid – but that didn’t matter. What mattered most, was that my mom saw and heard me speak, and at the end of my speech, the one that mattered most was to hear her applause. It was her applause that taught me at the end of the day, our tears, struggle and pain can be exchanged for the promise of a better tomorrow, opportunities to shine and hopes of success, if only someone would be there at your side to show you how that can be done.

That someone was my mom.

Disclaimer: This is an edited story that I used for an essay back in SPM days for my Chinese subject. My mom is not deaf, and my dad never gave up on me where public speaking is concern. Both my parents have been terribly supportive by helping me edit my scripts and were my audience more often than not.

Dreams in a Letter

Dear Lord:

It's been a year gone now, and I've grown up by another 365 days Lord. It's been a long year Lord, I've went through so much in such short period of time, I've been tasted the fires of hell and have seen the beauty of heaven, and Lord I am tired and weary. My physical state may sustain me another 60 years, but my mental and spiritual state are weary.

But Lord, what is a year to you? What are 365 days to you? Nothing but a glimpse of the eye, a blink of time, a snap of the finger.

Lord, what is my mental and spiritual weariness compared to your amazing grace and your love? What is my tired state compared to the strength that you can give me, your joy and your perseverance?

I wished to be more acceptable in the eyes of man: taller, smarter, more handsome, more cool.

I wished to be recognised.

I wished to be looked up to.

I wished Lord and I came to you earlier with a shopping list of what I wanted you to make me, but Lord, I am sorry for being so self-centered, forgetting that it was you who created me and not me who made you create me. I am not a factory product that could be customised, I was your creation and I am your child.

Lord, I now wish to be more acceptable in your eyes, not to be smarter or anything but to be more faithful a servant to you, that in all that I do you will find my works glorifying to your name.

Lord, in the year ahead, even if You allow me to go through more problems or disasters, I won't withdraw nor complain Lord, but in all of that I pray that you will show me your ways and your light at the end of the tunnels that I will walk through. That in my despair you will reveal your mercy, in my troubles you will show me your grace, that you will guide and lead me in all that I do.

Lord, I wished that I could get a girlfriend to love me. But Lord, in the year ahead, teach me to first love the people that you've placed all around me not for any other reason but that they'll be able to see You through me, your humble servant. That your love will become real in their lives through the hands of your servant, that I may become a channel of blessings to your creations.

In all that is going to happen next year, protect me not merely from physical blows but from the attacks of the heart, that Lord you'll guard my heart and my feelings. That I will hurt no more. I can't continue to be hurt by the people that I love with on my own strength, it hurts too much and the pain is too great, but let me love with your love and with your strength.

Lord, bless the people who have blessed me, and touch those who have not known you. Lord there are good people out there who are close to me and yet not known you, please Lord open up the doors of heaven that through your opened floodgate of heavens they will come to know you, that they will see your face and know that you are Lord.

Lord I may be tired, but as I seek refuge in you renew me with your spirit that I may run and not grow weary. It has been a long year, and it will be a longer year ahead, but I am ready to run it for you. After all Lord, I love you.

Thank you Lord, hear my prayers, my cries from the heart. The cries of a man in despair that hangs on to your word and voice, a man that is stripped from all that he once had and left with nothing but you alone.

Love ya, thanks.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Love in the Fire

Admidst the thick smoke bellowing over her head, she was kneeling down. Choking, gasping for breath, she was praying. In the middle of the raging flames, at the brisk of her life, there she was praying.

Where no one could reach her, where the firefighters failed to crash into, where the walls are collapsing and the roof burning, there she was, alone, frightened, scared, and staring straight into the face of death.

And as she looked at the end of her journey on earth, the last thing on her mind was him.

"Lord, protect him Lord, I've failed to love him, but please find him a girl that will love him truly the way he deserves to be loved.." she sobbed.

Will you want a second chance to love him the way you should've loved him?

A second chance? If only someone could save her now, but who could?

And she closed her eyes, and her mind wandered back to the days where she was still in high school. She allowed herself to bask in the glorious memories of her haydays where she was popular, beautiful and influential. She was the school crowned princess, she was the cheer captain, she was smart and topped the form, she was everything a girl wanted to be.

Every guy in school would've died for her. Flowers, love letters, chocolates, calls and messages that'll beg for her for a date.. but she all rejected them. She thought, who are these guys? They're not worth my time nor effort.

And one by one, she turned down the guys, she hurled nasty words at them, she insulted them, she put all of them to shame in public. Her girl friends would mock and jeer the guys who tried to approach her, and she'd trot off as if as she's just won another victory. Her victory was crushing guys who had a crush on her.

And as time passed, she was no longer the princess. Girls who were not as beautiful as her, but kinder and nicer girls eventually became more popular than her. While other girls were already getting boyfriends, she was still single and alone. Eventually not a single guy in high school would want to date her. The next thing you know, even her girl friends left her to be with their own boyfriends.

She was now lonely. The most beautiful girl in school, sitting alone in the cafeteria with no friends to talk to, with not a single guy looking at her. All she did was sit alone at the same spot on the same table in the cafeteria, and from a distance watched her other friends chatting happily in the hands of their man. Loneliness creeped in slowly, and then envy and sadness. If only I wasn't so mean to all those guys..

One fine day as she sat down on the same spot for recess she saw a folded piece of paper on the table. She opened up the paper and saw the words:

Why are you alone?

Weird, she thought. So she scribbled back, because nobody wants me anymore. She left the piece of paper on the table and went off for classes as soon as the bell rang.

The next day, again she saw a similar folded piece of paper on the table. Inside it: may I be your companion then?

She smiled to herself. She tucked the piece of paper into her pocket, and sat on the table and wait.

"Miss, is this seat taken?" a guy's voice was heard from behind. She turned back and saw a fine young man standing behind her. He was tall, a bit tan, with big brown hazel eyes and a nicely curved nose. At that point of time, she thought he was cute, but she was careful not to expose too much of her thoughts too soon.

"Nah, not really.." she said. The guy motioned to sit down, and she just nodded with a little smile on her face.

"I sense some loneliness here, that's why I dropped by.."

That's right, I'm dead lonely.. and it was my fault..

"I'm just curious, why would you be sitting by yourself all alone?"

She stammered as she looked for an excuse. "Well.. that's actually because.. uh.. my friends are all busy with their assignments.. they're doing their research in the library now.."

"Oh, and you don't have to do your research?" he asked.

Uh oh.. now what am I going to say?

"Maybe you don't need to research after all.. the smart folks will wait for their teammates to do the research and all they'll do is analyse the information."

She let out a small chuckle. Phooh, that sure was a close one..

Almost immediately both of them clicked. They both enjoyed watching one tree hill, they both loved their biology class, and they both went to the same church. Later on she found out that he actually stayed near her house, so from that time onwards he would walk her back home and they'd happily chat along.

She started to grow fond of the guy, and she thought she was going to fall in love with him.

She was falling in love with him, as a matter of fact.

Her lifestyle started to change a little. She used to lock herself up in the room every saturday night listening to her hip hop charts while reading her girl fashion magazine. She used to turn down every single offer to go watch a football match (oh, she even quit the cheer team because she was becoming less popular at that time) and she'd hate to go outdoor activities.

But when she found out that he was in the school football team, she would never miss a single game he played whether it was a home or away match. And she made sure that her seat would be one that's near the players bench so that he could easily spot her. And every time she was there, he spotted her, and from the field he would wave and jump up and down to catch her attention. Then she would smile to herself and feel happy.

First time in her life she felt happy for someone. Before that she would only be happy with her achievements, her glory in class and in cheer.. but now, she was happy for a man. She was proud of him, and she wanted to be with him.

The stuck up her started to loosen up. The arrogant her was now down to earth and more than ready to talk to him. She didn't want to lose any single moment of being with him, and she wanted to be with him at any chance possible. He loved the mountains and the hills, and every summer holidays he would be at the nearby hills hiking and camping alone. She was scared the first time she went, but she went because of him. She thought, if only I could get closer to him, I'd do anything.

She never hiked before, let alone climb a mountain. And from in front she would be struggling and pulling her way up. But she was not afraid, because behind her was her man, her handsome charming prince that was always encouraging her to go on. When she couldn't pull herself up anymore, he would give her a gentle and loving push to help her get up. The touch of his strong palm on her back warmed her heart, and her heart melt at his loving gestures.

Both pitched their tents at the top of the mountain, and at night he set a little fire for their barbeque.

That night the stars were shining brightly in the sky, and both of them were lying down on the grassy spot near their tents. She slowly leaned over to his shoulder and rested her head on his chest. He in return pulled her closer until her whole body was over his, and he reassuring put both his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly.

"I've never felt so loved before.." she murmured.

"I know why you were alone back that time," he blurted out as he was holding her in his arms.

Oh no, she thought, and tears were starting to well in his eyes..

"People told me you were stuck up, proud and arrogant. You would turn guys away in the nastiest and meanest manner. And I saw you doing that with my very own eyes, but I prayed. And as I prayed, God revealed something to me. He revealed your loneliness, your desolation.. and He said, go and befriend her, for out of you I will make something beautiful in her life.

"And that day when I took my seat at your table, as I looked into your sparkling sapphire eyes, I said to myself, she is going to change for the better. I don't know why I said that, but I knew it, deep down in my heart."

This time, the tears really fell from her eyes. She didn't want him to know that she was crying, but she was sobbing in fact.

"Do you love me?" she asked.

He was about to answer the question when suddenly loud crackle was heard from the fire, and a pretty large fire spark flew from the fire unto him. He was shocked and he leapt up immediately, almost forgetting that he was holding her in his arms.

She was stunned.. what on earth was that?

"Sorry, that spark scared me.."

"Scared you?" she couldn't believe her ears.. "You're scared of fire?"

"Listen .."

How could he be scared of fire? How is he going to protect me if he's even afraid of fire sparks?

She cried, and she thought it was gone.. Her man was afraid of fire sparks. She went into her tent and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. She had always dreamed of a man who would be brave enough to save her from villains, who would dive into the sea if she fell from a ship to save her, to rescue her from a burning house.. but here he was, a man so perfect that God sent into her life..

.. and yet, scared of fire.

They packed and climbed down the next morning. Both of them were silent, they did not speak much, and they went their separate ways.

For a few days she didn't talk to him. She felt so hurt that she didn't want to talk to him. A week later, a good friend of her's came over to drop by in her house. She held a rose in her hands and passed it to her. With the rose was a little note, from him.

"Dear sweetie, I saw this rose and I thought it was the most beautiful flower on earth, and I thought the most beautiful girl deserved it.. I know that I do not deserve your love anymore, and I know it will be my lost..

Just find a man that will be brave enough to face the fire ok?


God, that's so not fair.. I loved him..

"There's a reason why he's scared of the fire.." the friend started to explain. "His dad was killed in a fire when he was still a kid. With his very own eyes he saw his dad burn to death alive as he tried to save him from the flames.."

Her tears dropped from her eyes and now she felt so sorry for the way she reacted to him. She didn't even give him a chance to explain himself, or to tell the story, and she wanted to call him up to tell him that it's ok, and probably apologise..

She was still immersed in her thoughts when she heard a loud scream from upstairs. Quickly she and her friend ran upstairs to where the scream came from. It was her younger sister's room, and as she opened the door, a ball of fire flew past her, barely missing her.

"Fire!!" she yelled. Her sister was in the room, and without a second thought she dashed in and pulled her out of the flames. She handed her sister over to her friend. "Please take her out, I need to wake my parents."

She flew to her parents room, crashed their doors and woke them up. Hurriedly they all scrambled out of the door, and as she was about to get out into safety she remembered something..

The rose.

She turned back to get it. All she could hear was her mom screaming from behind not to go in again, her dad pulling her mom back to stop her from chasing after their oldest daughter, but she ran in and she found her rose.

She took the rose and was about to go back out when the second floor crashed down right in front of her, sealing her exit. The house was burning down, and the flames were engulfing her. She knew she was sealed off and boxed up in the flames, and her knowledge in first aid reminded her that in the instance of a fire, stay low.

She crouched down, and suddenly she recalled that night. The night where she saw him jump up from the flames. She saw the fire all around her, and she started to cry. She so wanted a man to rescue her from the flames. "But it's not going to be him," she cried, holding the rose close to her. "He's afraid of the flames."

"Lord, protect him Lord, I've failed to love him, but please find him a girl that will love him truly the way he deserves to be loved.." she sobbed.

Will you want a second chance to love him the way you should've loved him?

A second chance? If only someone could save her now, but who could?

And she closed her eyes shut, holding the rose close to her heart, waiting to be taken away. She felt a strong hand touching her shoulder, and she asked, "Lord, is it time to go?"

"No sweetie, it's not time to go, it's time to get out."

She turned back, and she saw the face of her man. The man she took pride in, the man she loved, the man that she thought was afraid of the fire.

"I thought.." she gasped for air.

He didn't waste much time in that flaming building. He scooped her up in his arms, and wrapped his damp shirt around her. With great speed and ferocity he dashed out of the building and a splilt second after that the whole house collapsed behind him.

He held her in his arms the way a groom held his newly wedded bride. He gazed into her sapphire eyes as she looked into his brown hazel eyes.

"My greatest fear was once the fire, but I realise now that my greatest fear was to lose a girl that I love. I nearly lost you once, and now nothing's gonna make me lose you again. Ever."

Perhaps the rose wasn't the last thing salvaged from the burnt down house. What he saved from that house was more than her, it was their love. It was the rose that made her realise, that for her, no fire will ever be too great or too fearful to keep him and his heart away from her.

"His name shall be Joash" - My Father's testimony

I remember clearly back in September 1987 when it all started. My wife was pregnant with my second child, and we were all really excited about it. Our first son, Jo Hann was born in a year ago and the immense joy and laughter he brought to us and our house made us all look forward to the coming of a second son.

We were visiting my mother-in-law back in Alor Setar when my wife limped out of the room. She motioned for me to go over to her, and she pulled me to a corner.

"What's wrong dear?" I asked.

"Something's really wrong," I could sense great fear and anxiety in her voice. "I'm bleeding profusely.. and it hasn't stop since the last 20 minutes."

I was shocked. The carriage was already in the third trimester and my wife was expecting in January 1988. Profuse bleeding at this stage was surely no good sign at all.

The next day I rushed her back to Ipoh, and she was still bleeding when I took her to the Ipoh GH. The doctors checked her in the medical room while I waited outside. And that was when I started to pray in a long long time.

Lord, are you pulling a joke on me or what? If it's anything that I've done wrong, punish me, but spare my wife and my child.. Come on Lord, you can't do this to me can you..

Then the doctor called me into the room to be with my wife. Wearing his long white outfit with a stethoscope over his neck, he spoke solemnly as he penned down his diagnosis on my wife's medical report book.

"Mr and Mrs Tan, I'm afraid that I have to tell you very frankly.. that though I am yet to underline the root cause of your wife's profuse bleeding, but if this continues, there are only 2 outcomes: it's either going to be a threatened abortion, or a miscarriage."

Threatened abortion..


The journey back home was a dead silent one. No conversation, no nothing. I thought I heard my wife sob quietly but she swallowed all the tears.

We made a detour to pick up my elder son - we left him in a friend's place to look after him while I took my wife to the hospital earlier on - as soon as he jumped into the car, he said with great excitement, "Mummy! Mummy! Guess what, Jesus told me that I'm going to have a baby brother! And Jesus told me that he's going to be very very cute too.." and he started talking about how his younger 'brother' is going to play with him, run around the house with him..

I looked at my wife, and she was just all ears. Coming from our little one year old son who just learned how to talk, she felt that this is a revelation from God. And little kids don't lie, do they?

That night back in our room, me and my wife went down to both our knees. We were about to pray when I popped the question to her, "Dear, are you prepared to go through the whole thing again if we lose this one?"

With such confidence and assurance in her tone - contrary to her state of emotions when she just left the hospital after the medical check-up - she replied, "This child, this son, is going to be from God. Where medical personals have failed to sustain, God will sustain my son as long as he is in my womb."

And I was in awe.

She prayed, "Lord, as much as you've granted me this child, as long as it is in my womb, it's safe in your hands. Give me this child Lord, and I'll dedicate my life to the upbringing of both kids that you've given me, that in all their ways your Name will be lifted high, your works be exalted, your Kingdom glorified."

And I broke down in tears, such faith of my wife, and deep in my heart I knew that if anything would happen, she was more than ready to give up everything she had to protect the baby in her carriage.

The next 3 months that followed, in my very own words, was a period of grace and mercy. Because never in my life have I felt so assured and peaceful in the thought of the baby that my wife is going to deliver. And the mere thought of the baby would bring us joy and peace, and though the bleeding didn't stop, we were more than prepared for the blessings that we expected from God.

Of course, we didn't stop seeing doctors, not becuase we lacked faith, but becuase we needed some medication..

Then in the wee hours of 11th January 1988, my wife delivered an 8 pound baby that looked like a little white chubby sumo wrestler. His cries - according to the doctors on call that very morning - could be heard from the hallway half a mile across my wife's delivery room. And as she held our little son, I asked her, "So what's his name gonna be?"

"His name shall be Joash."

"What does Joash mean?"

My wife smiled as she craddled the little sumo. "It means," she paused to gaze into my eyes lovingly. "God sustains."

And through the years of my son's life, I have seen how God's grace and mercy has sustained him through his school years, and how God has sustained him in our family, and above all, how God has blessed us through this whole experience. An odd way of learning how to trust in God indeed, but a necessary lesson to learn that God's the one that is always in control, and trusting in His ways are never wrong.

- a narration from my dad's point of speech. The authenticity of this testimony can not be proven unless you talk to my dad personally, of which I doubt any of you people would. -

Postlude: I recently did a Google search for the meaning of my name, and I found out that the name Joash also means 'Fire of Yahweh', so that perhaps explains why I have such a foul temper at times.

The Rambutan Trees in my Garden

I have 2 rambutan trees in my garden. One's an old big rambutan tree that produces red rambutans, and the other younger rambutan tree - which came from my grandmother's house in Alor Setar -produces yellow rambutans.

Now when I talk about a rambutan tree, it's obviously more than just the fruits, the rambutans of course. I'm talking about the amount of time you have to spend maintaining the tree, pruning the tree, watering the plant just for the fruits to come out nice.

Well this morning I woke up to some loud noise from the garden. My dad was snipping the rambutans away with a modified axe that can snip off branches. Then I heard my mom's yell.


Coming mummy, coming.

My parents would always call me to help out on the rambutans and the tree. Firstly because I'm the one that eats the most rambutans in the family, and secondly because I'm always the one that helps with the rambutan tree, not my brother. He's doing his medicine course right now, and since he's having his quizzes and tests soon, my parents decided to give him a break from housework so he can spend more time mugging.

Back to the rambutans.

I went out to the garden and saw all tree branches on the floor. Not one, MILLIONS.. and literally the whole porch was full of branches. I looked up and my dad was standing at the balcony of the second floor.

"You pruning or chopping or cutting the rambutans out?"

Cutting the rambutans? Forgive the grammar, that's what we normally say at home. After all, we don't pluck the rambutans, we use the modified axe.. so what do you call it? Papa, are you axing the rambutans? Nah.. that doesn't make much sense either does it..

Anyway.. my dad was actually just cutting down the rambutans, it so happened that the branches were all just part of the package to bring down the rambutans.. so well, now what I had to do was help my mom in the garden to pull out the rambutans and then gather all the branches together to tie and throw away later. So started to get to work..

Some of the rambutans my dad cut down were tangled to the larger branches higher up the tree.. well as it fell to the ground it got caught in between the branches so I naturally had to get a ladder, go up and pull it down.

Now really, apart from all the hassle and stuff, there's one particular reason I love the rambutan trees, not so much because of the fruits or anything, but because it is the one thing that causes me and my parents to work together as a family. My dad can't cut the rambutans alone, someone has to be at the ground to catch the rambutans as it fall, if not at the acceleration of g=9.81m/ss, the rambutan would just split and spoil. And usually I would be the one that catch those rambutans.

The rambutan trees gives me and my parents a lot of room to do things together. Tying up the rambutans, chopping down the big branches, sweeping and cleaning up the garden... though it is hard work, I appreciate the time I get to spend with my parents. Especially now that I'm already in INTEC Shah Alam, rare opportunities like this must be utilised. I once took my parents for granted, and after leaving home, I realised that the home is truly home not because of the bed and room, but because my parents are there. And I too realised, home is where my parents are close to me.

The rambutan trees bring back sweet memories of me learning how to pluck rambutans when I was a kid. Back then my dad would teach me how to use the long pole to pluck rambutans, and as a kid my dad would have to help hold both my hands and the pole because it's both too long and too heavy for my small hands. Occasionally the rambutans would just land on my head, and my dad and I would just burst into laughter.

After I swept up all the leaves and branches, I heard my mom sighed. She told me that we have been slaves to these 2 rambutan trees for many many years, and it should be fine time to cut it down. Maybe my mom forgot, that in the process of enslaving us to work, the work created opportunity for me and my parents to spend time together, something which all of us are no longer able to do often, and surprisingly overlook.

If the rambutan trees would mean spending more time with my parents then, I'd not only be keeping the rambutan trees at home, I'd plant as many of such trees when I get my own house with a garden.

My Public Speaking Coach

Back in secondary school I was hyperactive where Public Speaking was concern. That was the one thing I could win, and I really worked hard for every tournament. Well not that I don't join other competitions like debate or choir, but because PS was the one thing I could do well, that's why I placed a lot of emphasis in training.

And the coach that I could best remember throughout my PS days were 2: Miss Veronica Woo and Miss Yvonne Yew. Both English teachers, but more than teachers, they were coaches.

Miss Woo was the one that spent the hell lot time with me. She qualified to be a full-time coach the rate she went training me. And compared to any other English teacher, the way she trained me was far different from the way other English teachers not just in my school, but in other schools too would train their folks for the PS Tournaments. Here's a scenario of the how other teachers would train their kids:

"Okay Manivan.. this is what I want you to do.. you go back home, memorize this whole speech and come back tomorrow ok?"

*Next day Manivan goes back to the teacher, telling the teacher that he's memorised the speech already.

"Okay, now let's hear your speech... No no no, this part you must go louder.. And this part speak slower, you were too fast just now.. You must have EYE contact.. You must remember this line, just now you forgot to say this part.. Okay, you exceeded your time limit, now let's cut this line.. OKay, go back and memorise harder and see you tomorrow ok?"

And that goes on and on for one whole week until the tournament day.

Now I'm not against this form of training seriously, my coach too has to do certain technical refinery with my speech most of the time. But the problem here is that many teachers that train their kids don't realise something important about PS: that the essence of PS is not in the speech, but in the understanding of the topic that he is talking about, and his delivery of the speech. At the end of the day, no one remembers the speech, but rather a good speaker will be remembered for the message that he sent across to the audience.

I've heard of fantastic speeches in my life before. One was the speech presented by Prasad, then ACS boy who champed Perak in 2003. His message was a message of love, but delivered in such a way he used a cabbage to talk about love. His speech title? 'Cabbage -the symbol of Love'. And till now I still can laugh at the jokes he said back in 2003!! It's been 3 years, but I still can remember it because he gave a good speech that had a strong message.

And that was how my coach trained me. The understanding of the topic I was speaking about, and the delivery of that message.

After everytime I delivered my speech, first question she'd popped at me:

"What do you think of your performance just now?" *grin*

Well, uh.. I haven't memorised it completely yet.. Usual, I always memorise my scripts late

"No no, not about your script.. about your performance" *small frown*

Oh, my performance.. well not bad..

"Not bad, and not good enough to win don't you think so?" *pause* "Let's try it again."

"Joash, make me feel your emotions. With your expression, with your eyes, draw me into your speech. Make me cry with your eyes when you talk about the sufferings in Africa, give me hope with your face when you talk about the tearing down of the Berlin wall.."

And that was just a small part of training. She emphasised a lot on the facial expression. She hated it when I frown. To her, a good speaker doesn't frown. A frown makes the person look old, not sad nor frustrated. Use your eyes, she always said.

My speech was always drafted in a way that every section of the speech had different emotions and expressions. Different messages that run around a common theme, and that made my speech a roller coaster of expressions. My best speech ever delivered in the PS circuit was my state champion speech delivered back in 2004. Here's a small summary of my speech.

Paragraph 1: The introducing of my title, A Borderless World. Starts of with a nostalgic excerpt from Beatles. Required expression: Take the audience into a dream land, where they remember what happened back in the times of the Beatles.

Paragraph 2: The situation of a borderless world. Creation of a free market, intercultural exchange of information, setting up of new industries worldwide, global trade taken to a higher level of competency and efficiency. Required expression: Hope in anticipation, a promise of a better trade market.

Paragraph 3: The perils of globalisation. Local markets are devastated, small scale local industries jeopardised due to the fact that they cannot compete with the global companies. Required expression: Threatened, fear

Paragraph 4: The works of a borderless world. The removal of Berlin wall, the hopeful formation of a unified Korea, the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Required experssion: Conviction, tell the audience Yes! This is the marvellous wonders that a borderless world can do, convince them to believe in the wonders of a borderless world.

Paragraph 5: Closing with the same excerpt from Beatles used in the beginning. Required expression: Make the audience ponder, leave the stage with them left in their own thoughts of what a borderless world can really do, leave them to decide whether they are ready to enter a borderless world in the near time to come.

That was my script. In a matter of 7 minutes, my job was to take the audience in for a roller coaster of emotions, to bring them to laughter and tears, to lead them into a world of imaginations and dreams and colours, to bring hope and conviction to them about what I am talking about.

All of this, with my face, my eyes, my voice, and simple hand gestures.

And who said PS's easy?

After every time I present my speech, my coach would ask me questions like, "Tell me what you know about globalisation." "What do you know about the quota and trade tarriffs as you mentioned in your speech just now?" The whole idea of asking these questions is to get me to think on my feet. She doesn't believe in a memorised script, she believes in an internalised speech. The difference is that you don't just swallow what your teacher has written for you and vomit it out on stage in front of the mike and audience, you internalised it by understanding what you are talking about.

So the more I researched and read up on topics and issues like human rights or globalisation, the more I understood what I was talking about. And the more convinced I was in myself that "I know what I'm talking about" and that gave me more convidence to deliver a more convincing and expressive speech. A dynamic speech is not in how loud you can speak, but how convinced you are in yourself about your speech. And my coach taught me how to do just exactly that.

Every speaker has a fair share to say about his or her training. Well in my case, there were the times that I'd just make a total blunder during training.

"What on earth were you talking about? That was pure nonsense Joash." BOOM

"Out you go! You lost." BOOM

The reasons to why she said that?

No expression. I nearly fell asleep listening to your speech.

You don't even believed in what you said.. convince me!

You frowned! Lousy..

Well there you go, and everytime that happened, I'd have to redo the whole speech or the problematic section again.

Trust me, that was only the prepared speech. In the national PS tournament for secondary schools, 2 main sections would be the prepared speech and the impromptu speech. If you thought prepared speech was bad, wait till you hear how she trains me for impromptu speech.

"Okay Joash, let's do this topic: Maid Abuse. You can start speaking now, 3 minutes. Go."

Huh? No time to prepare? I thought we had 5 minutes usually..

"Nope, no 5 minutes for you. Start NOW"

Sheesh.. I'd be standing in front of her yaking like a total moron who just came out from a 3 month jungle camp, not knowing what on earth I'm talking about or what in the universe I'm supposed to talk about, and more often than not I'd be talking just to fulfill my time quota of 3 minutes. And more often than not, the comment I'd hear from my coach after a lousy impromptu speech - that I always expect to hear:

"Nonsense. Out you go."

Then she'd get me to sit down beside her and she'd take out a piece of paper and start talking to me.

Okay, tell me what you know about maid abuse.

Well maid abuse.. probably the case that just recently happened.. the maid got scalded, burned, tortured, bruised, beaten up..

How did you know about it?

Newspaper.. articles.. pictures..

So who did that job?

The press..

So here we are looking at the media as a powerful tool of dissemination of knowledge right? But in this case, the media is more powerful than merely sending out information, it is about the formation of thoughts. So we are addressing an issue of the media influence in controlling the mindset of people. By just publishing photos on the main papers, the media has already sent out messages to the people by telling them that the maid was abused by the owner, and the people who read the papers and saw the photos buy their story. This is the media power and the media influence. This is the key issue that you should be tackling in your speech.

Wow.. that's cool..

Okay, one more issue.. what about human rights?

Oh yea, human rights.. the maid had rights to be protected..

No, not talking about the maid, I'm talking about the owner.


Now basically people are already pointing fingers at the owner, saying that it was all her fault and stuff, but did people give her a chance to make her stand of defence? No right? So isn't this a violation of the human rights in that manner? How sure are we that the maid was abused and the injuries were not self inflicted? Now we have 2 major issues to address here.


So ready to try your speech again?

That's how I was trained for impromptu. A higher level of thinking and preparation for impromptu speeches would require me to think not only on the basic level of "Answering the 5 W's question" but on addressing key and pressing issues related to the impromptu speech.

Part of my training required me to deliver my speeches everywhere, anytime. I was once called into the office to do my speech, some of my training sessions were held in the canteen where thousands of small kids and animals were running around like mad people, I had training sessions in the biology lab assistant's quarters before, classrooms were a normal training outlet, speeches during assembly, and the worse one ofall..

I was made to train in other school's assembly. Twice actually.

And at both occassions I had to talk non-stop impromptuly for 1 hour straight. Personal best record, talking officially in front of an audience non-stop for 1 hour straight. And after I finished, I nearly collapsed and fainted on the spot, not because I was physically tired but because I was mentally drained. You see an impromptu speech required you to use your brain power a lot.. so that's the real reason why..

Come competition day, my coach would pyschic me up before every tournament.

"Slept well? How do you feel now?"

"Ready to rock and roll?" Yeah, I loved that statement..

"Now, it's not about winning here. Just go up, make me believe in what you have to say, make me cry if I have to, make me laugh when you tell me a joke, and above all stay focused. Your job is not to win another title for the school, it's about making a legend of your speech." Wow, a legend of a speech.

I know what she was talking about, some speeches are just legends. People will live to remember that one fine morning a small kid went up on stage and made all of us cry with a heart warming story. Yes, there are legend speeches, so why not just do one that's equally good as that?

And I'd go up, take a deep breath, and everything would just pour out so naturally. And the audience who never paid attention would suddenly just stop doing what they were doing before, stop breathing and followed my speech as I flow along. With hundreds of pairs of eyes stuck to me, I had their attention, and they were listening. That was the golden moment for me to do my job.

But the pressure on the stage was always immense. I had no stage fright anymore (I was basically immune to it) but the pressure of not losing their attention was great. I had a lifespan of half a minute to grab their attention and not lose it. Once I lose their attention, it will naturally mean that the judges' attention is lost too, and then I'd know that I've blew my chance.

And the satisfaction of presenting a good speech comes when you take that step back from the stage and bow, the audience clap and cheer. That's when you know, they got the message. And the joy that comes from that satisfaction - beyond what words can describe.

I won the state trophy twice, and at both occassions when the hall cheered and applauded, from the stage I could see my coach just sitting down quietly. She wasn't cheering, she wasn't applauding. She was just smiling and nodding her head. And that meant the most to me, because when she nods her head in approval, I know that I did a good job up there. No nonsense, I didn't go out, it wasn't lousy.

And as I took the trophy to her, the only thing on my mouth was:

"Thanks coach, I owe you one."

And her reply was simple.

"Take a break for one day, I'll see you on Tuesday. Better start preparing for nationals."

Postlude: I have a little ritual that I kinda perform before delivering my prepared speech, whether during training or tournament, is that I'll jump around like a monkey to the tune of the BeeGees song "Stayin' Alive".. and one Saturday morning before going off to nationals my coach couldn't stand it, she burst into laughter and said "You monyet kah?" and that became my personal hit phrase. Some teachers even adopted that phrase when they tried to tick me off in a more humorous manner.

I was a school represent in PS from 2002 to 2005, and my coach trained me from 2004 to 2005. Those 2 years were the toughest, and yet best training I ever had in my life. When I lost in nationals back in 2004, she sent me a letter that quoted a famous bible verse:

Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize.
Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.
That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches.
I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.

1 Chorintians 9: 24 - 27

More than merely a coach, she's been a friend. A friend that truly cares, a friend not just to me but to the school.

This post is in tribute of the 2 great coaches who taught me everything about PS. Thank you so much for giving me the chance.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas in Solitude

Lights! Christmas trees! Santa Claus! Presents! Carols! Laughter! Food!

That's what everyone's christmas is like.
Not mine, my Christmas was spent in pure solitude this year. No noice, no carols, no games, no presents to open, no calls to make out..

Just pure solitude.

Last year I spent my Christmas in Taiwan.
People, if there's any place that doesn't celebrate Christmas, it would be in Middle East and Taiwan. Gosh, there's just no festive about Christmas! It's no public holiday over there, no decorations, no Santa Claus, no presents.. no nothing! But you know what's the best part? I heard the best sermon in my whole life that Christmas back in 2005. The pastor spoke a message of hope, a message of salvation.

"The only reason why the date Jesus was born is so that all of us will always remember, that any day and any time, Jesus came down and can still come into our lives." Gosh, that's so real and that really ministered.

"Fortune tellers tell you you have no hope; your horoscope says you're a goner; your feng shui says you're out of luck. People, I'll introduce to you the best fortune teller in the
universe - He knows your past, he sees your present, and he holds your future - I'll introduce to you the best horoscope analyst in the world - He placed the stars in the sky and arranged the universe in place - I'll introduce to you the best feng shui reader of the planet - He created nature by command, and nature obeys Him. People, I introduce to you Jesus. And today, He says to all of us, 'No one, no one at all, has no hope when he invites Me to come into his life.' And that's the meaning of Christmas."

That was the message of hope that I heard in
Taiwan Kaoshiung back in 2005. 2006 was different. I didn't go to church, I didn't go carolling, nothing, just sit at home in pure solitude. Not doing much, probably played NFS Most Wanted, chat on messenger and just living a normal day..

Ok, I actually travelled back on Christmas day itself from Alor Setar
to Ipoh, so that means the whole morning was gone, and at night I went to a friends house for barbeque and worship meeting and stuff.. but most of the time I was on my own, not doing much things, not celebrating the way I should have celebrated. I wasn't depressed, I wasn't sad or anything.. I just didn't had the mood to celebrate.

After all, what was there to celebrate really? Were people really celebrating Christmas? Were those trees and songs and music really meant for Jesus, or were all of those merely commercial purposes that were meant to bring in more profit?

This year, I wanted to be more handsome. I wanted a girlfriend so badly, and I wanted a nice girl to love me (I don't expect the whole population of girls in my region to love me, just one.. not being greedy or unrealistic) I wanted to be famous, to be popular, to be strong and mighty. To be respected, to be the Man that people wanted me to be.. to be wise,
smart, no not smart, but the smartest.. I wanted to top the form, top A-Levels in INTEC and stuff.. I wanted to be a champion debater, internationally ranked.. I wanted to be influential, president of the student board, captain of debates, international speaker..

I so badly wanted to be recognised. I was never recognised, I was never acknowledged, never given a stand-up ovation ever in my whole life, and I just wanted that.

But none
of it is coming to past.

And on Christmas, in my solitude, in the absence of laughter, in the absence of all the noise and the world, I said,

"Lord, be merciful to me."


Lord, I'm so lonely. I'm really lonely.. I've served you for so long, I've been faithful to you, and yet..

If you've read my year end review, I hid a lot of things from you. My results in INTEC is a flop, I'm not doing well at all in INTEC. Life in Shah Alam was a
struggle, a very tough one. I'm far away from my parents and my mom especially, the one person in the world that I could really really seek refuge and advice from. I'm not used to speaking in Malay in class, and I'm always an odd one. I still talk a lot, I'm still too talkative until I give my lecturers a headache. I sometimes forget to do my homework which really ticks the lecturers off, and sometimes when I see the disappointment on their face, I feel ashamed of myself.

I'm far off from what I want to be. Or what my ego wanted me to be.

And now, on Christmas day, I realised, that what really makes a Man, is not the noise that he creates around him
, is not how popular he is, it's not how good his results are, but it's how faithful a servant he has been to God. And I want that. I want to be that servant that God can be proud of. I wanted to be proud of myself, but now it's fine time that I take that step back and tell God that I want to be the guy that He can be proud of instead. No point satisfying my ego, for what Man achieves in the world is nothing more than the clouds in the coffee. Nothing more than history, and all share pass and fade. Nothing remains but the glory of the Lord.

People still ask me, why didn't I stand for elections for the student council.
They heap me with false assurance and praises that "If only you stand for elections surely you'll be the president!" But deep in my heart, I know the only reason I didn't stand for the elections. Becasue there was no calling. I heard no voice from the Lord to go! And I didn't go, instead I went for training in PJ for an upcoming toastmaster humorous speech competition - and got shot left right center by the people who were evaluating my speech.. speak about jumping from the wok into the fire huh..

I want to
be a speaker, yes, but I want to speak of God's goodness and God's grace. I want people to know that God is just more than a religion or a piece of information you have to fill in your ic, or a little ritual that you have to perform, God is REAL, and He can be a friend. He has been a friend to me! I've quarrelled with Him before, argued with Him about the girl I like, chose to be stubborn.. and like a friend who never turns His back, He was always there. Always.

The solitude of the christmas made me realise, that when the voices of the world cannot be heard, it is when the voice of God is heard. Clearly.

Jesus was born in the humble city of Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. In the absence of the royalty, in the absence of the center troops guarding Israel, in the absence of the palace or the castles.

Jesus was born in the quietness of the manger, with neither fireworks nor celebration. His audience were no physicians, no midwives, no reporters nor journalists. Only animals, nature, the very thing that He created with his commands.

The announcing of His birth was done by the angels, not to the King or aristocrates of the time, but to the humble sheperds who were tending to their sheep.

The best Christmas message that I've ever heard
of in my life, was delivered in a land which celebrated no Christmas, but humbly embraced and rejoiced in the birth of Jesus in their very own way.

I'm going to listen to the Lord, not to the world anymore. I have to make up my mind and decide, because it's my life that I'm talking about. No joking issue. My ego
just has to collapse, because my heart can no longer hold one seat for two. It's either my ego, or it's my best friend.

And I have decided. All in the solitude of Christmas.

Queen of my Heart - A tribute speech to my mom

Every one has something to say about their mother. My friends call their moms a monster, firstly because the word mother rhymes with the word monster, and secondly, they deem their moms as one! My mom is the queen of my heart, and she’s the most awesome lady on earth! She’s a professional home maker, not simply because she can do the laundry very well or cook wonderful dishes. If that’s all she could do, well, she’d be nothing more than an Indonesian maid.

My mom used to love playing hide-and-seek with me back when I was a kid. That was what I thought. Every evening, I would wait eagerly for the cue to start the game: “Piano time Joash!!” Trust me, I hated practising the piano, and I would run up the stairs, down the stairs, hide in the bathroom and every room in the house to run away from both the piano and my mom. For a 29 year old lady then, my mom had pretty bad stamina, so she sat me down on the piano chair, looked me into the eye and said, “No practice, no ice-cream.” As far as I could remember, that was the last time I played hide-and-seek with my mother.

My mom has a great sense of humour. She takes jokes very well! One fine evening our family was sitting on a table telling the lamest jokes on earth, and my dad said, “Darling, you gave me 2 great sons, ones a joker and the other’s a joke!” Guess what? For the next 2 weeks, she made my dad do all the housework, from washing the floor to doing the ironing, from washing the toilet to bathing the puppies at home. One fine day I came home from school at 6pm and I heard a loud crash from the kitchen. The kitchen door flew wide open, 2 live chickens scrambled out of the door, a knife zinged past the chicken, and guess what! My dad was scrambling behind the ruckus in front. So much for house work, what more cooking..

My mom was a graduate from University of Flinders back in 1984, with a first class honours in chemistry. She came back to Malaysia to work for a plastic firm as a general manager in a branch firm with a starting pay of RM 2000 back in 1985, met my dad, got married and gave birth to me and my brother. Funny thing was as soon as my brother was born, she gave up her job.
A few years back in my secondary school days, I had this opportunity to sit down and just chit-chat with my mom. I asked her why she quitted her job. Her reply was pretty a surprise. “Joash,” she said. “I may have missed out the salary, I may have missed out the reputation, the social status, the functions, or rubbing shoulders with the Datuks and Datins. But I didn’t want to miss the fun of having to chase you around the house, watch you practise your piano and grow up, watch you eating your ice-cream or watch you grow up to be a man and the best you could ever be.”

Now I realized that over the years I built a solid relationship with my mom. It was a blessing my mom didn’t continue working, because I would have missed out all that hide-and-seek games and the opportunity to bond and confide in my mom. Just this Tuesday, I called my mom to tell her some of my problems. “Mom, the girl that I love is hurting me a lot.” “Joash, just let go.” What? I always thought my mom told me to never give up in the exams if not I’d go to sleep with a red buttock! “Some things are just not worth pursuing… besides, I thought you were better off talking to an audience then getting a girl! More so... with your face like a moon crater, your 5 foot 3 height and your father's spare tire, it's gonna be a fat chance you could get a girl now. I tell you what, you come back to Ipoh, I'll fix your face then I'll teach you how to tackle girls ok?"

My message here is simple friends. Every one will have that queen of your heart, whether you realise it or not. And this queen is the one that knows you better than anyone else and she makes you the best that you could be. She is the one that you can go to no matter where you are, no matter what the time and no matter what the problems are. Appreciate them! They will not always be here, so show them that you love them! Give them a hug, a kiss, a call, or a little note or present. After all, it’s always better to appreciate them while they’re still around then to get Chihuahuas to replace them once they’re gone.

Bing Xing once asked her mom, why did she love her? Her mom’s reply was simple, no reason why, but because you are my daughter and you are my darling. Right now I’d probably have a million reasons to why my mom deserves to be the queen of my heart, because she made me all I am, because she brought me to this world, because she made me a musician, but you know what? I don’t need a reason anymore. It matters the least. Realising it or not, she has always, and forever, will be that queen of my life.

"God, Amaze me"

Literally that was what I said on the first night of Planet Shakers concert. The message was simple and straightforward, 'When was the last time God amazed you?' And I responded. Fine time you amaze me now Lord. AMAZE, not AMUSE..

It was a real bad week for me. If any week could have been worse, it would have been that particular week. First was the NHSD Debate in IMU. Me and my teammate perpetually screwed up anything that could've been screwed in that debate. Wrong approach to the motion, lousy mechanism, poor extensions, no clash of debate... and we ended up hitting rock bottom. It was a devastating moment for me, especially when I had sweet wonderful dreams of actually being a good and known debater before I leave INTEC.. at that point of time, I thought all of those dreams were going to go down the drain.

Before I could even lick those wounds, in came another bomb, and a larger one. I found out that the girl I love - who claimed that she loved me too at one point of time - left me for 2 other guys.. the first thing that came across my mind was, what the heck?!? Not one but two?? Gosh.. nothing beats that, but wait, why did she go for those guys? Apparantly the same reasons. More good looking, richer, nicer, more fun to be with.. haha, I didn't know I was such a boring person to be with at times. Yup, it's my fault that my parents are poor, it's my fault that I have so many pimples on my face, it's my fault that I didn't eat enough when I was younger that's why I'm so short now. It's all my fault, and I should just accept the fact that she left me for better guys. After all, I've let go of her, have I?

I'm not sure. At that point of time, maybe not yet. But I assure you, after I found out that truth, any chance or possibility of a relationship was sent to the gullotine.

And there I was that night on Planet Shakers concert, challenging God to amaze me. In the most confronting tone, I said to God, "Come on dude, come on! Amaze me, let's see what you can do!"

Then I started to weep softly. It's been such a long time since I let out some tears, but there I stood and cried softly. No one noticed coz it was dark. Jason was beside me, and he was praying himself, but I was crying. And I cried because it was just too much for me. For 'her' to leave me, it was a heavy blow dealt to me. I didn't know what to do from that point onwards, I didn't know how to face my fears or my pain. It hurt so badly, and yet I had to move on.. but how?

And I was devastated, I was in agony, I was in pain.

It hurt so much and so badly.

Then the voice.

How many girls have you liked before? How many has caught your eyes and captured your heart?

I counted, since the first girl I seriously liked back in Standard 4 till the last one that just left me..

7 Lord.. I know, it's not very good...

Enough is enough, 7 is complete. Wait for the one that I'm about to give you, wait upon me and not upon the world. For what I give is perfect.

Fuyoh. No joke man, a promise that the next one will be The One if only I wait upon God and let him bring her to me.. Cool! But have to wait, and this time I'll learn my lesson.

Then I saw flashes of images. Many many images that kept flashing in my eyes even as my eyes were closed and praying. First I saw my heart in my hand. It was still beating, but it was dark and looked a bit dirty, was torn, tatted, bruised, cut, full of scars and fresh open wounds. In front of me was a tall figure clad in white. He stretched forth his hand and motioned me to give him my heart. I was reluctant, come on it's my heart, why should I give it to you. But then I sensed such love and security in that gesture, that I slowly put my heart into his hands. 'Now I have no heart..' And as soon as I gave him my heart, he took out a new heart from behind. It was really new, beating even harder than the first, it was fresh, it was blood red, it had no wounds, no cuts, no tears. Nothing, it was new and beautiful.

The new heart.

Then in front of me was a large door. I opened the door and saw a field with no borders inside the door. It had long grass and lots of flowers, but the flowers that were most abundant there were roses. As I walked along the field, something prompted me to pluck some roses and make a bouquet of roses. So I plucked one stock, but the thorns of the rose pricked my fingers. It hurt obviously, and I threw the rose. My fingers started to bled, and I was not going to pluck another one when the same voice prompted me to go ahead and make the bouquet of roses. So I bore the pain and just plucked the roses even if it pricked me. And to make matters worse, I had to remove the thorns from the stocks of roses to make a bouquet of roses. By the time I was done, both my palms and my fingers were bleeding already.

I looked up from where I stood and saw a huge oak tree - like the ones you see in movies - with a swing tied to a large branch. On the swing was a girl. Long straight silky hair, fair skin, and dressed in a white flowing gown. I couldn't really catch a glimpse of her face, so well.. *sigh* And as I approached the swing I handed her the bouquet of roses. She took the roses from my hands and saw that my hands were bleeding. She asked me, why were my hands bleeding? I told her, the thorns pricked my hands. And she washed my hands..

p/s: As I said, these were flashes of images, I couldn't make up where she got the things she needed to wash my wounds, but that's what she did..

While cleaning my wounds, I noticed that everytime she wiped her hands across the wounds, one layer of dead skin and dried up blood would just fall off from my hands. (Literally, fall off) And when she finished cleaning the wounds, I looked at my hands.. no more wounds! No scars, no marks, no traces of the wounds..


Oh yea, one more thing.. her hands were soft. Really really soft.

Then the message that dawned to me: She will be the one that will make you not just everything you are, but she will come in and take the pain of your past away, and exchange it for the joy and assurance. That is the girl that I (God) will give you.

And I cried again. This time it were tears of joy and gratefulness that fell off my eyes in a dark corner of the concert hall..

Thank you Lord, I am amazed. It's been a long time, but it's never too late.

Lessons from the home

Just recently I was helping both my dad and my mom to do different things at home. My mom was sick, so she couldn't really move around much or do much stuff as she'd used to, so I had to help her with the housework like sweeping the floor and mopping the floor. As for my dad, I helped him handle the garden. Apparantly he bought aroud 85 kg of granite stones to pave the garden bed, as to prevent the dogs from digging up the garden anymore.. so well here we go with the garden..The housework was really easy. I mean, sweeping the floor and mopping the floor was really sweatless stuff, and it literally didn't require much thinking to do it. The tricky part of helping my parents came from my dad's side. As my dad is an experienced gardening-professional, he knew what had to be done, and I didn't. And my dad is the type of person who wouldn't tell you "Boy, I need you help" and instead of asking for help, he'd be struggling to do all the work by himself - which of course doesn't really contribute to you at the end of it. What happened most of the time then was that, I would be standing by the side watching my dad do most of the work, while he would be heaving and panting and sweating and stuff...

"Papa, do what now?"

*Grunt* *Grunt* "Uh.. well.. the bricks.."

That was the type of situation I was dealing with.

But that didn't last long. Eventually what I had to do was to use an old unused wok to scoop up rocks from the rock pile and throw it over the soil to form a layer of granite rocks over the present soil. And so I started working. Initially it was easy, I was so full of enthusiasm and spirit was so on fire that I worked fast and hard, but as time passed by I started to slow down, felt that I was getting weaker, thought I needed a break and stuff.. and was on the verge of giving up. As I was just about to walk in, I looked over my shoulder and saw my dad still working tirelessly on the garden. "Geesh," I thought, "doesn't he need a break?" And the thought of leaving my dad to do all the work alone was totally disgusting.. I mean, come on, you can't let your old man do all the job alone could you? I'm not that unfelia after all, so that was the last thing that hold me on to continuing to finish up the garden with him.
So the garden floor was done, and little did I know the fun was just about to begin. My dad started to rearrange hanging pots of orchids all over the rambutan trees in the garden. What he did was that he'd use a metal pipe and tie it on large branches horizontally, and then hang the orchid pots on it. He'd be the one that goes up the ladder and tie the pipes, and I'd be the one from below passing him the stuff.
"Joash, cut me a wire (signals with hand gestures) THIS long, ok?"

"No, that's too long for one wire and too short for two.."

"Pass me the longest pipe there is down there.."

"Got any longer ones?"

"I said i wanted a LOOOONG one, you give me such a short one for what?"

Ya ya ya, and did I mention anywhere that my dad nags too?

So there you go, he tied the pipes and hanged the orchids pots.
As I looked back on the whole little gardening experience, it made me realise a number of things. I, as my dad's son, may be physically stronger than my dad now, but where responsibilities and duties are concerned, I still am not as ready as my dad to handle stuff. Unlike the household chores, I could do all of that, but what my dad has been doing all this while, I'm just not able to do all of it. Even if I had enough strength to do it, I wouldn't know what to do!

Which reminds me in a very indirect manner, that I'm not ready for a lot of things.

Kinda like a pin to my inflated ego..

I've always like the thought that I can do a lot of things on my own without my dad or mom, I can travel here there anywhere, I can work, I can do this I can do that, but at the end of the day when it comes to the real work that mattered, I still had to cry out for help from my dad. When I was working in the microbiology lab, the only thought in my mind was "How on earth did my dad do all of this on his own last time?" and I was partly amazed, coz at that time I knew nuts about microbiology, and all I thought about microbiology was the microscope and the magnifying glass in the lab.. that's all! So when I saw all the work that my dad did in the lab, I was dumbstruck. I would hold up an apparatus and ask the staff there, "My dad buat punya kah?" and they would just nod their head in a very as-a-matter-of-fact way.

And my dad never said bragged about any such stuff at home. All he did when he comes home every evening was to tell the funny stories of how the new staff meddled up the culture plates, or complain about how lousy his boss was to him. Another funny thing, my dad was a state microbiologist, most experienced and senior microbiologist in the country, and he still had a boss?

Here I am, standing and loooking at the garden and thinking, it wasn't hard actually, it was just that I didn't know what to do. And at times things aren't just tough to do, it's just that we don't know what to do. After all, we always need a guide to lead and show us what to do when we don't know what to do. There must always be a someone in front of us.

And in life, I have chose to let that someone be Jesus. Speaking about Jesus, I have a real funny relationship with him, and at times I'd literally argue with Him and be stubborn... but seriously I'll keep those stories for another time. (No joke, I argued with God before.. I'll relate later) And the only reason why I chose him was simple. Not so much because He is God or because he sees the past, the present and the future, or because he knows everything..

... but simply because He is a friend. A best friend. A friend that never fails when Man have, a friend that never betrays when people have, a friend that doesn't turn his back on you when you need Him the most. He's always there.

But if it's about gardening, it'll be easier to just ask my dad then.