At the wedding.

It was the latest in a string of incredibly cold days this week: frigid, overcast, drizzling continuously. But it didn’t stop the wedding from being, in a word, splendid.

Both are not native to this land. She speaks five languages, and spoke all five that evening, welcoming family and friends from all over the world come here to celebrate with her. He speaks one language which is not his mother tongue, yet the majority represented there were family and friends from all corners of the city and all parts of his life, also come to celebrate with him.

She was a vision of beauty — but when is she not? She is, and will be, always beautiful and elegant and refined and a friend like no other. I’d only ever seen him in tracksuit, shorts, or the most casual of clothes, but as his brother said during the speeches, he looked sharp and handsome and wore the suit wonderfully on his wedding day. Splendour, embodied.

Many splendid sights were beheld, but the most endearing sight was seeing L., white-haired and slightly stoop-shouldered, carrying off an enormous bouquet of roses at the end of the evening.

(Each table at the reception had a huge vase of white-and-blush roses, each bloom larger than my two fists pressed together. There would’ve been hundreds of roses in that room. The guests were taking them away afterward. Who would not want to take home a memento of that day’s beauty?)

And as he was bearing away this giant bouquet for his wife and daughter, this man who’s not of any blood or ethnic relation but who has become something like a father to me in this city, said to me, “All things work for the good of those who love him, our Lord Christ. Don’t forget that.” A current caught, a thread pulled, a pot stirred, a word in season.

What a wonderful day.

Glimpses of glory.

Church has been holding prayer/revival nights. We came, some several hundreds of us, with hands raised to hail Christ our Lord and hearts open to receive him.

The teenagers were there, from middle school kids to high school youths, hands open, faces raised with passion. I thought: young lions, full of zeal. God, make them brilliant lights of hope and victory in a dark world.

The band played. I watched the young black African bassist with his groove and virtuoso fingers and flashing white grin, the young Chinese drummer whose hands and feet moved to conjure magic. Young lions, probably not even twenty yet, pouring their talent into a purpose greater than themselves, into worship.

Our pastor honoured the seniors in the congregation, asking those aged seventy and over to come forward to receive prayer and blessing. They came, the elders. Some were frail but they came from their seats to the edge of the stage. Some I know had been in this church for most of their lives, and are still here, still vibrant. We honoured their wisdom, their endurance, their faithfulness to the house.

At the end of one evening, I saw D. and R. in the parking lot. D., pastor out west, Latino, big in physique and heart, asked, “Vega, friend! you gonna make a pilgrimage out west to see us again?” R., white Anglo and fellow soldier, just smiled in his quiet way and hugged me. They got into the car and left, back out west, to the frontiers.

Soon, friends, I’ll make the pilgrimage.

Chariots at the airport.

Was at the airport a few days ago. The flight was substantially delayed. I had time, so I decided to walk down the concourse to the end of the terminal.

The concourse went on straight ahead. There was a trick of reflection and lighting, for I saw it go on and on, off the ground and into the night sky. Indeed, the wall at the end of the concourse was a big glass pane looking onto the flight runways. I was hoping to walk through a portal into the air and into another world, but I had to content myself with just looking.

It had gotten quieter as I walked down the concourse, until there were no people around and all human voices were gone. And now, the un-human sounds of the airport and runways came to the fore: the bass roar of jet engines, the moaning of the wind (for it’s been a windy, cold day), and the groaning creaks of the building under the assault of the wind and time.

Beyond the glass were airplanes, in a row. In the gloomy runway lighting they looked like gargantuan chariots of titans, parked and waiting patiently until they would be summoned to fly. Airplanes are mundane things, but tonight I was indeed looking through a portal at another world, and those mundane things became strange and grand.

Then the boarding call came through, and I had to go.

Strangeness

Was oddly restless and fey after work, so I went for a walk by the river. I need to walk more: there is something to be said about disconnecting from all intermediary forms and immersing my direct senses into the immediate moment without mediation. And then to let my thoughts run wild.

Run wild they did, mostly in the existential direction today, and I found myself praying an undercurrent without really being aware of it. The sky was bruised with deep blue clouds, and the setting sun cast a last gasp of gold and radiant white upon the oncoming storm. It was surely going to rain tonight.

I ended up at the boathouse, on the pontoons the rowers used to lower their boats into the river. I love this pontoon, because it gets me right on the level of the water at some distance from shore, and gives me the impression of walking upon the river itself. Nearby was a power line that stretched across the short span between the banks.

On the power line hung the carcass of a bird.

Continue reading Strangeness

Subterranean

I went walking by the river the other day, and saw something I didn’t notice before at the side of the pavement. It was a raised cement platform standing on its own surrounded by large gravel around it. Embedded into the platform were three metal covers like manholes, except made from much heavier iron material. Two of them were manhole sized, about 2.5 feet in diameter, and the third one was larger, close to 4 feet diameter.

They were stormwater drains. Furthermore, the largest one was ajar, the lid tilted half open.

I stood on the platform and peered into the ajar stormwater drain. All I could see was dark water standing about a foot below the surface of the drain, clogged with debris and a bit of rubbish.

I thought, something has crawled up from the deep and escaped. Something hidden and secret is now at large, and civilization is no longer safe.

A few days later, I walked by the same place. The large drain was covered over.

Killing the dragon.

Apropos of playing too much Dragon Age: Origins (I’m at the endgame too) and listening to heroic Final Fantasy soundtracks:

Last night I dreamt of a dragon-killing girl. She was living in a futuristic arcology: high-rises everywhere, what appears to be endless future city in all directions. A cyborg/android dragon was terrorizing the arcology, who knows where it came from. Her weapon was a tablet with a screen, the only way to kill or disable this cyborg dragon.

I was watching this all like a movie. The girl had pale skin and shoulder-length dark brown hair, and wore a grey trenchcoat. She had a tall, grim looking man with her — her retainer, or some leader. They went up to the pinnacle of one of the tallest towers in the arcology. The dragon emerged from a kind of cocoon and began flying around, roaring and destroying buildings. It was gun-metal and silvery-metallic, with glowing red eyes, and perhaps a red laser in its mouth. (Imagine Bahamut from the Final Fantasy series, if you will.)

The dragon attacked the pinnacle, and the girl and the man had to spend much time sheltering from the damage. When she could stand up, the girl aimed her screen at the dragon, like she was taking a photo or movie. The moment the red glowing part of the dragon (eyes, or the throat laser) focused on her screen, something happened… perhaps the laser got reflected? Whatever it was, it damaged the dragon, which enraged it. Three times she did this.

And then the dream ends. The rest, before and after, is unknown. Interesting seed of a story, perhaps I should work over it more…

Day flock, night flock.

Yesterday evening, walking home from the train station, I saw a most wondrous sight: bats flying out in the dusk. At first I thought they were birds, but then saw the membranous wings, the blunt heads, the outstretched legs in place of feathered tails. They were departing from some distant roost, and they streamed overhead non-stop in loose groups, all flying in the same general direction. There was nothing inherently sinister about that flock of bats.

I marvelled at how silent they were. They made no sound apart from the faintest flap flap of soft wings. And, but it might have been my imagination, the faintest of chirpings. On and on they came; I must have stood there with my head craned upwards for a full five minutes, entranced by the bats.

Then I recalled, in a vivid flashback, an almost identical vision I had some years ago, watching a flock of corvids streaming overhead at sunset. Black crows in an endless stream, flying towards their night roost, cawing like commuters shouting news and gossip to each other as they made their way home. Now I saw the same vision, but these were bats, departing to forage and socialize, and possibly calling the same kinds of greetings to each other in their ultrasonic voices.

A fascinating mirror: one flock going home in the evening from their day activities, whilst another flock emerges at about the same time to go about the same business night. How wonderful!

Wonderful, continued.

The Holy Spirit breathed a question into my mind this morning.

“How much do you want God’s presence? –Wait. Let’s rephrase that. Do you want God’s presence above all else?

And the answer that comes from my life is: No, I don’t. I don’t want it that much.

“Why not?”

If I take a certain tack, the question is easy to answer. But that’s the wrong tack to the wrong answer.

So I answered: I have forgotten the great story of my life.

I have gone to the lesser stories that delight for the moment. All those stories eventually end, and I’m left with that dissatisfaction and hunger for something greater. But the Great Story that God the Author is writing will never end. And my story is woven into it. Yes, God is writing my story and he is writing it perfectly.

How could I lose my delight in the Great Story, unless I had forgotten it? How could my life take on this grey cast, if I had not started thinking that the Great Story is not for me?

Spirit of God, remind me again of my story that you are writing. Truly, in the humdrum busy of life, I gradually forgot and forgot, until it became a faraway echo. Bring me back to wonder — how wonderful you are, and how wonderful is my life because you are the Author and you write a perfect Story.

“Remember not the former things,
     nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
     and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honour me,
     the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
     rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
     the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
—Isaiah 43:18-21

In singing waters; in silent waters.

Written on 13 January 2013.

We are holidaying in Cairns.

What enchanted me upon first sight were the tall mountains overlooking the coastal lowlands. Green mountains covered in pristine, burgeoning tropical rainforest. This part of Australia is verdant green with no brown. Having lived in dry, mostly brown landscape for the last 10 years — even the southernmost portions of the nation are green mixed liberally with brown — this is a startling sight. A welcome sight.

We were riding up early in the morning to the Tully. The road up afforded the most charming view of high rainforested hills reaching up to the pure blue sky, some of their heads dreaming in fluffy white clouds.

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We went white water rafting. So much fun! The mixture of calm water and class 4 rapids was an exhilarating ride all the way down. We rafted most of the time, but often went overboard to float in the water too, letting the current carry us in the quiet stretches. In the midst of the churning, clear waters, I could imagine them singing, making a joyful noise towards God — and I felt unafraid, because God’s nature made by the Creator could not harm me. Indeed, I laughd for delight and joy in myself. The rapids are roaring with praise to God, why should I refrain?

A wonder to be drifting in the river past volcanic basalt cliffs, past banks burgeoning with riotous greenery, past grand verdant trees and epiphytes, pure pristine nature rising high above us as we ride down the waters.

I love water and doing things in and on it. Together, the rapids and I rejoiced and shouted for love to God.

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The next day we went on a cruise to snorkel off the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral grows to a maximum depth of 30m, so there was much to see from the surface. What a beautiful sight, to see corals and fish in another universe. One perceives the ocean to be a quiet world, so it was surprising to hear the sound of parrotfish eating coral. Of all things to hear in the water — the crunching munchings of fish?

Fish swam here and there, going about their daily lives, ignoring us human beings. In the slightly deeper waters, schools of tiny fish would swim around, scales flashing, all in synchrony. I found myself often swimming amidst a school — the fish swimming around me, dodging but not fleeing — yet always beyond arm’s reach. What a joy to be amidst animals, God’s creation so indifferent and unafraid!

Even one of the reef fishes approached me, studying me as if inquisitive, peering first through one eye and then the other. Eventually it swam away — but then it came back again sometime later. (Or was it a different one?) I dared not reach out in case I scared it off. But oh, it looked at me just as I looked at it, fascinated at how different we were, creatures from two separate worlds.

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The trip was blessed. I felt such a strong sense of gratitude, praise and thankfulness at all I’d experienced. Neither the bad sunburn on the tops of my thighs, nor the really bad seasickness that nearly put me off the snorkelling, could change the overwhelming thankfulness of my heart. How wonderful was God’s creation, what a privilege to partake of it! The joyful roaring waters of the rapids, the silent magnificent waters of the ocean… for ages they had all worshiped God together. And today, I join them.

{Psalm 42:7, Psalm 89:9, Isaiah 51:15}

Seen: lady in a headscarf.

There is a lady who lives in my apartment block. A white Caucasian, tall and shapely, quite striking. I see her now and again: sometimes at the tram stop, sometimes in the elevator. She wears a headscarf, and is completely covered from head to ankle; only her face, hands and feet are exposed. I saw her once in the gym, and she was also wearing a full bodysuit while working out. Her clothing is demure, but nevertheless very stylish and flattering, and always flowing and billowing around her. I saw her again at the tram stop today, and she had on the loveliest heels. She always makes a greeting, “good day”, when she gets off the lift at her floor.

This lady fascinates me. I wonder who she is, and why she is covered. Her husband? Her faith, or a tradition? She seems friendly. I would like to get to know her, somehow.