if we were having coffee today


I’d share my checklist for gratitude.

The ability to say, “Thank You, Lord,” is among the most wonderful things about being a follower of Jesus Christ.

So when a few of my favourite people gather in one place to break bread and make quiet merry, I remember that every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, from whom there is no shadow or variation (James 1:17).


Twice removed

Every year, the memories I have of my father become more faint and unclear, and distant. Once they were vivid and painful, then, they became like photographs. Only the good, the crinkly smiling eyes and prosperous grins captured in stillness. And now they are photographs of the photographs.

It is as Krauss wrote – the truth was I’d given up waiting long ago. The moment had passed, the door between lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces. And sometimes no length of indecisiveness is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said.

In such cases, all there is needed is conducted silence. And to walk away, quickly, before either party does something foolish.

Perhaps this is what it means to be a father – to teach your child to live without you.

And even this thought gives me a feeling in my heart that isn’t an ache, but something different.

Lacrimae rerum 

At the turn of today, I am lulled by the gentle melancholy, the sense of lacrimae rerum – the great sadness at the heart of things, the sad lessons of transcience that life teaches, in the quiet pleasures of solitude. 

This found in 8th century Japanese poetic verse. The tears of things.

YOSAMI, Wife of Hitomaro

At the death of her husband

Today, today,

I wait for him, 

But do not men say

He lies mingled with the shells

Of Stone River?
To meet him face to face – 

I may not meet him thus.

Stay, you smoke-clouds

Over Stone River,

That, seeing, I may remember. 

When will you

I know you, my heart said. I knew you by the way the heart thundered in my ears. 13 years may have passed but I can still feel the scars. I can chart its path all the way back to the core that still remains inaccessibly numb. 
And the mind is in a jumbled messy blankness, the way it always is with over-stimulation. And the heart continues to remain as inaccessible as it was those years ago, and what I cannot access I cannot remove. 

I cannot remove it. Still it lingers. 

The odd grief, yes, it’s very heaviness, squats here, in the general vicinity where the rib cage meets the lungs. 

I poke at it, push around the old memories we don’t like to remember because they make us sad, push it around in the mind and swirl it around like bitter medicine i am not inclined to drink but will have to because i want to feel better. 

Yes. I want to feel better. 

Your face was so strange, and strange is the wrong adjective, because you are weird and wonderful but a stranger. 

Awake my soul to the Hope You hold. Arrest my heart from this reckless path, and release the chains, Lord. 


by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;

Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.

I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .

And the Master so gently said, “Wait.”

“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply.

“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!

Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?

By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.

“My future and all to which I relate

Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?

I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,

Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,

We need but to ask, and we shall receive.

And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:

I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,

As my Master replied again, “Wait.”

So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,

And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?”

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .

and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.

I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.

I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.

You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.

You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.

You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;

You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.

You’d not know the joy of resting in Me

When darkness and silence are all you can see.

“You’d never experience the fullness of love

When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.

You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,

But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

“The glow of my comfort late into the night,

The faith that I give when you walk without sight.

The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask

From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,

What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.

Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,

But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.

“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see

That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.

And though oft My answers seem terribly late,

My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”

Midnight Friday

Chocolate bing Su only at Bugis, after a dance concert and meeting two students I have been thinking about from time to time.

My heart is full from the special people who just keep entering and re-entering my life. And I can’t help but be truly humbled by the community I am blessed with. There is no room for ingratitude and discontentment – I tell this to my heart, which yet still yearns to live a bigger adventure.

My adventure is now.

The batch of us

I’ve been part of the public service for close to 4 years, which isn’t a lifetime but is longer than I’ve stayed in one place. Having had my school years split up between different schools, a 3-year undergraduate education and a final year in London living in a way I pretty much dictated completely, it feels good to be rooted to a place and a culture that I have come to appreciate and reckon with. I’m far from the perfect civil servant – and there are times I wouldn’t choose me to be in a project or lead a team. But I’m given the chance anyhow.

And I’m thankful. 

Despite the darkening eye bags, despite the headaches and the lack of good rest for months, despite the working through the weekends – I’m deeply grateful to be part of a larger story, and to have been placed where I am to do what I am doing. 

On Friday, we meet DPM Tharman for a meeting. I never thought i could enjoy such an intense discussion and yet be utterly schooled for being stratospheric. It was a well deserved and timely slap on the wrist, and I am amazed at the quality of leaders we enjoy in this country. 

I may not have the brains or the vision, but I can do the best I can.

And in the meantime, enjoy the Shangri-la with colleagues as best I can. 


Guildenstern: It’s autumnal.

Rosencrantz (examining the ground): No leaves.

Guildenstern: Autumnal – nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day… Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it… Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses… deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth – reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light.

At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke.”

Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.