Listening seems simple enough. We listen everyday, don’t we?
But… How many of us listen closely enough? It’s when you listen closely that you hear the little things.These things that matter and could change your life.
We often hear of people complaining about others and how “this person has an anger issue”, or how “this person is so selfish”. Well, if you listen close enough, maybe you’ll understand why that person in question person is the way he or she is… You’ll have a glimpse into the person’s life, and that’ll change your perspective.
When Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan shared with us about the fig tree, there were so many wonderful principles to learn and catch! However, I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing out for the little things.
I remember clearly that Pastor Cecilia Chan shared how she would be found kneeling by her bedside praying very often. That’s what I wanted to do too! I started in the mornings before heading out for work… and in those moments are when I learnt to pray to God about the day ahead, about problems that are bugging me, about having faith to overcome them. It worked because the bed is where I start and end my day; going by the corner to get under the fig tree is really pretty easy and fast. You know how it is… The moment the rush of the day sets in there’s no time for anything else… if you put it off for later, it’ll never happen.
Many people complain about how they don’t hear from God anymore, or how churches are getting too busy. I sincerely beg to differ. In Heart of God Church, I hear so much… All I need to do is to listen carefully.
When you start to listen, listen carefully, and closely – you’ll realise there’s so much more to be heard. God whispers in a still small voice, it’s time to start hearing out for the little things! Try it – this weekend in church, when you’re talking to your friends, even when you’re sitting on the train home… Aiyoh, how can you eavesdrop? Seriously, they talk so loud what!!! Hahaha..
Look what came in the mail a few days ago! A card from Cris – a child living in the slums of Manila. I’m glad to know he’s safe even with all the news of tornados hitting the shores of the Philippines. Even as our lives go on in Singapore, it’s hard to forget that they’re still there living their lives in the slums…
I had my first pair of Red-Eared Sliders when I was in Primary 4. They were also my first “real” pets… the fishes didn’t count because they always died in a few weeks (oops). Papa brought us to Sam’s Aquarium and we got to pick our first hard-shelled friends. Er Jie chose and named hers Panicky – it was the most frantic tortoise in the entire tank, which got her attention. I chose the only tortoise hiding at the corner, away from the crowd, silently chewing on it’s own…hmmmm…brown stuff… I named it James, after James Bond – the hero of the movie I had just watched.
For the next few years, both of them would be my fellow companions. We fed them well, and they ballooned to huge, heavy critters. They were masters of escape, using their webbed feet, they were able to lift themselves out of their tanks. Imagine the surprise you would get, coming home to an empty tank, and two tortoises crawling around your living room. I would take Panicky and James to the open fields beside my void deck for walks. There, they would frolick for hours. Once, James disappeared and we were so worried. Hearing a cat’s screeching, we hurried over… I saw a cat scurrying away with James calmly retreated into its shell. Good biting, James.
Here the story gets interesting. One particular day, I left James alone in the balcony for some time. I returned to see it desperately shuffling its hind legs. Upon closer inspection, I realised its feet were bleeding from trying to dig at the balcony tiles. “James!” I cried, hurriedly returning it to the tank. Then, it struck me. That James was not a James at all. But perhaps, a Jamie… This was a huge blow to a young boy. However, I was determined to help my critter companion accomplish its mission.
Everyday then, I would take James (change name need to change on NRIC, leceh lah) for its afternoon walk in the field. Without fail, she would find the most shady spot, and begin to dig. Dig, dig, dig. She did for hours. Sometimes the ground would be too hard, and hours of digging would only leave scratches on the floor. I’d take her back upstairs back to her tank, give her a good scrub and feed her.
“We’ll try again tomorrow, I promise…”
Day after day went by. But this day, it was different. She found a quiet spot under a tree, and she kept digging for hours. Soon, it was night but she wasn’t done. The hole was considerably deep. I ran upstairs to grab a torchlight while Da Jie got her camera. It was hard to spot James as she was she blended well with the tall grass. Then… lo and behold… She laid her first clutch of eggs. I marvelled at the miracle unfolding before my eyes. Unbelievable.
After James covered up the nest, I returned to retrieve the eggs – carefully tucking them into an essence of chicken box (the green one). The eggs never hatched but nothing could be more special to a young boy. There’s just something about the way God wired us to love nature and animals, I guess.
Later on, Panicky and James would always be found outside of their tanks. It seemed the more I brought them out, the more they hated their plastic container. I could take them out of the endless fields, but I could not take the endless fields out of them. They longed for the freedom to bask in the sunlight in open fields, and nothing would stop them. The escape artistes continued their act. I found James two floors down one time (by then they were too big and mum put their tank outside). How does a tortoise get from the 4th to the 2nd? The stairs? The lift?!
The day came when Panicky disappeared for good. I was kinda upset, but I still had James, right? But the day came too, when James would disappear forever. I spent hours scouring the drains downstairs, sticking my head in, hoping to find a stuck tortoise… but it was not to be. Maybe the parents released them into a pond somewhere… but I never want to believe that. To me, they got out somehow… even if they were out there in a new pond.
Finally, I think… Panicky and James were truly free. Someday, someday, I’ll meet you again my friends. Happy World Turtles Day, Panicky and James.
The following pictures are of another tortoise that Nadine gave to me almost 3 years back. It had special training to be just like Panicky and James. I made it do pull-ups and stuff…but its interest have mainly been food pellets and dried shrimp so far.
We had a stayover to celebrate the end of the university exams last night! Somehow, ten of us managed to squeeze into my room. We played Bang! and Coloretto… These games and Saboteur are games that are tests of friendship. How much do you really trust me? Am I on your side?
After everything, the dudes then went on to watch Taken 3… While some of us were taken by the zzz monster. The highlight of the night had to be when it was three-ish close to four. We had just finished another round of Bang! and decided to take a time out to head under the fig tree. Pastor Cecilia Chan had shared with us over the weekend about spending time under the fig tree – spending time with God in His presence. So, we put aside our card games for a moment. We took out a guitar, and started to worship, singing really softly so we wouldn’t disturb the neighbours. It’s hard to explain but it was such a sweet moment.
“I draw near… I draw near… to You… You draw near… You draw near… to me…”
There in His presence there was a peace, and we felt so refreshed (yes, even at 4am).
I remember Pastor Cecilia Chan sharing with us before that it’s not the glamorous moments where we encounter God, but the most heartfelt ones. It’s those when we put aside all our worries, fears, pride…When we have no pre-conceived idea of how we’re going to encounter God. When we come before God and say “I really really need You…” You see, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! The same presence of God that touched me years ago is the same presence last night. Some days, I just need to un-complicate myself and get my heart right before Him. Can’t wait to hear Part 2 of The Fig Tree tomorrow!
I first chanced upon the pop-up store, Booktique, at the Cathay – a quaint little shop tucked between Starbucks and some perfume store. The first thing I noticed the quiet shop was its signboard:
“Booktique: Where Writers Shop”
Crossing my fingers, I hoped it was not going to be a stationery joint for “writing”. Stepping in, I saw collections of interesting literature – Shakespeare, Poe, the Classics… they had it all. What made me most excited was when I reached an entire table on the right corner… an actual table stacked with books on WRITING.
In the past, I would only able to get my hands on Copywriting material from Basheer or Kinokuniya, and sometimes, Times. Here, the books seemed to be carefully selected, and meticulously wrapped too!
Then, I was encouraged to pick up a copy of Copywriting (Ha! Pun number 2, did you spot the first?). I already had an earlier edition of the book but delighted to know I would no longer have to go on a wild-goose chase to get another. It would all be available here…in the Booktique!
Over the months, I found myself visiting the store to get my next reading fix. Soon, Booktique ended its pop-up at the Cathay and moved on to Citylink Mall. And yesterday, it ended its last day at Citylink Mall – six months passed by so quickly! I managed to rush down last night for a last look at the shop, and get myself one last book there.
If you love writing, you have to visit them… Of course, they have a good selection of contemporary and local works for a casual reader too; I first saw Neil Gaiman’s ‘Fortunately The Milk’ here, and not in Popular. You neeeeeeeed to check them out… When they’ve found a new store location of course!
Pop-up again and see you soon, Booktique! I’ll just shop at uhhhh…I-don’t-know-where for my writing books till then…
If you’re a regular around Paya Lebar, you’ll know that the taxi stand has shifted across the road (to Paya Lebar Square) from Singpost.
However, errant taxi drivers continue to stop opposite the stand…this of course would not seem much of a problem UNLESS you’re the one waiting for a taxi at the stand. And so, to my surprise, this LTA officer became a common feature in the afternoons. It was magical. Almost as if they had set up a force field, the taxi drivers seemed to swerve away from drop-off point – almost speeding into the taxi stand at Paya Lebar Square. Without lifting a finger!
It’s natural for humans to take the easiest way out. Why spend more time taking five minutes when the easier way only takes two, right? Well, do you choose to do what’s right, or take the easier way out?
Some days I wake up and all that’s swimming around my head is negativity and pessimism.
“Oh today’s gonna be tough…so many things to do and settle…”
“Man…my to-do list gets longer…”
“Sigh…here we go again…”
Starting the day like that leaves you sapped. You feel drained even before your day begins. Your body starts to ache too, almost as if it’s echoing and manifesting every bit of unwillingness that your mind is harbouring. Your back is sore, your shoulders sour.
“Why not go for a massage or spa… relieve some stress…”
That is not faith. That is wallowing in self-defeat. It’s losing the battle even before it’s fought. Don’t get tired at life’s problems; problems will ALWAYS be around.
It doesn’t mean you live in self-denial, as if problems didn’t exist. Be tired at the condescending voice that tells you that you can’t overcome whatever you’re going through!
Don’t be fed lies that eat away your spirit and your fight. Even a king can be brought down by negative thoughts.
Every time there’s too much negativity going on in my head, I remember this verse…
Philippians 4:8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Keep away negative thoughts! I choose to think of the good that there is around me, not just the problems and challenges. That’s why I go to church! To get a dose of faith (just like how some of you need a dose of coffee). Or, I put on a sermon, and play an uplifting song.