Keeping Ahead in Borneo

on Monday, April 30, 2007

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
..........You'll be a man, my son."
(adapted from Rudyard Kipling's "If")

Murut Women Dancing to Clapping Bamboo (LGS)
The equatorial island of Borneo is an exotic place - the third largest island in the world. There are over 100 ethnic groups on the island including the famous headhunter tribes. The largest of these are the Ibans of Sarawak. In Sabah, the most feared are the Muruts or the Hill People. In the 19th Century, the strange rule of the White Rajah's had settled over much of Sarawak and the western part of Borneo. The central region was dominated by the Brunei Sultanate and the northern region was under the influence of the Sulu Sultanate located in what is now the southern Philippines. The state of Sabah was thus divided between the Brunei and the Sulu Sultanates. In reality though, the sultans' influences and rivalries were mostly concentrated along the coast and the interior tribes were never directly under their rule. Later, Sabah came under the control of the British North Borneo Charted Company from 1881-1941. The Muruts were one of the last tribes to submit to British authority and probably the last to stop the practice of headhunting. Official history states that headhunting was outlawed in the 1920's. However, there are tales of Japanese soldiers and Indonesian soldiers suffering from that fate during the Second World War and in the Confrontation of 1962-1966 respectively.

Fierce Murut Warriors Can Dance Too (LGS)

The Ibans believe when they take the head of an enemy, they absorb the life essence of that person. As such the head of a proven warrior is highly prized. The Muruts have a different belief. For them, it was simply necessary to have heads and it did not matter whether it was the head of a brave warrior or that of a frail grandmother. A Murut man would be required to give a head to the family of his chosen bride as proof of his manhood. If the crops fail, it would be necessary to bury a head in the field so that it would be fertile the following year. All the wise men would tell you that if you build a bridge across a river, you need to bury at least one head to ensure the bridge will last. So for the Murut, it was a daily necessity to have some heads handy!

Today, they smile and tell you that they almost never hear of this type of behavior anymore. They'd rather do some dances for the visiting tourist and scalp their wallets. The Murut dances are also exciting stuff but let me digress to tell you a bit about the traditional costumes. The men wear a red loincloth as well as a jacket and headdress made of tree bark from the tree Artocarpus tamaran. The headdress is decorated with the beautiful and long feathers of the argus pheasant.

The women are attired in a short, black, sleeveless blouse and long black skirt decorated with colorful beads. They may also wear bracelets made from the giant clam.

And so, the unwary tourist may find himself lulled into the belief that the Murut are now peace-loving and that he is safe in their company as they regale him with stories of the old days and entertain him with exciting tribal dances. Beware, invariably all the dances lead to the "clapping bamboo" dance. The Murut will bring long bamboo poles. In pairs, they will take two of these poles and lying them side by side will rhythmically knock the poles against the ground and then against each other. The Murut warriors and their maidens will then do intricate dances which involve sticking their feet between the clapping bamboo. Needless to say, this involves exquisite timing to avoid having squashed feet.

Tourists will see the dancers appear to do the impossible as the bamboo clapping goes faster and faster. So pacified, the tourist will think nothing of it when the dancers innocently invite the tourists to join them, assuring the tourists that they will guide them all the way. The dance starts almost in slow motion and the tourists are lulled into thinking that this is easy. However, the pace picks up and the tourists are still having fun. Finally though the rhythm reaches a crescendo when the bamboo clap like lightning. Invariably, there are many squashed feet, cries of pain and hobbled tourists........ not a pretty sight! Alas, the pitiful end was obvious.

I wonder how many squashed tourist feet are needed for the young Murut warrior to earn the right to date the girl of his dreams.

Headhunters are known to bamboo chop tourist feet! (LGS)

Heads are intact but Feet are sore (LGS)

Meeting in the Land Below the Wind

on Sunday, April 29, 2007

I just got back from a week long conference of Governments and Protected Area specialists. The conference was to help the 10 nations who are members of ASEAN ( Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) to achieve the goals set for the creation and management of Protected Areas (PAs) by the years 2010 and 2012. There are basically two problems. There are still not enough PAs covering all the relevant ecosystems and endangered species and even where there is a PA, it is often still not managed properly. By the end of the week, I’d say that most of us were cautiously optimistic.

Optimistic because, there has been a great deal of progress since the last meeting almost 4 years ago. Cautious because, the entire program is still behind schedule and there are still some serious problems to solve.

The meeting was held in Kota Kinabalu which is the capitol of the state of Sabah, Malaysia. It is located at the foot of the Kinabalu Mountain which is South East Asia’s tallest and on the exotic and heavily romanticized island of Borneo. Borneo is also the world’s third largest island at 743,300 sq km. It is an island rich with natural resources, ancient rainforests, numerous ethnic tribes, endemic plants and animals and natural beauty. It is also a safe and bountiful land.

Sunset on Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

The name “Land Below the Wind” is given to Sabah which basically recognizes that it escapes the typhoon belt and is a relatively safe haven. The majority of the population are Kadazan-Dusun which is the main indigenous tribe but the Murut are particularly famous for being traditionally head-hunters (not the modern meaning about scouting appropriate talents for available corporate jobs; but rather the traditional meaning of fierce warriors raiding, killing and taking severed heads as trophies. More about this in a latter post).

Part of the 200 Delegates

My week in a nut shell:-
: arrived late in the evening, met my room mate and went for dinner nearby.

Monday:- Opening speeches. I was given the privilege to speak on behalf of the CEO of one of organizing organizations. This required me to dress in a suit ( a rare sight indeed). This was followed by country reports. First one was interesting, second one was reasonably interesting, third….fourth ….fifth…Zzzzzzzz. Woke up for summary session. Cultural performance and dinner for the first night.

Tuesday:- More of the same………Zzzzzzz. Had dinner with a local friend and his family.

Wednesday:- Field Trip to Crocker Range National Park. Woke up at 5.30 am. Had breakfast and boarded bus at 7 am. Visited the Park, Mahua Waterfalls and an interior village of the Murut called Ulu Senangang. Got back very tired and hungry at 9:30 pm.

Thurday:- Previous night and this morning, spent writing and preparing for my paper. Presentation went reasonably well. Had dinner with friend. Worked late into the night.

Friday:- Co-chaired a workshop for the entire morning. Prepared a report and presented it with recommendations for actions. Read that out in the afternoon session. Closing ceremonies. Additional meeting. Rushed dinner. Went with local friend to his bible-study group.

Saturday: Left for home. Arrived home. Had lunch and immediately started reading blogs. Good to be back. Will talk more about the cultural aspects of the trip in following posts.

One Week

on Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thanks for Peeping in!

Dear reader,

You might not find me here. I shall be travelling to attend a conference on protected areas. I shall be gone for a week of meetings and politicking. Wish me luck!

I am uncertain whether I will have time or even access to internet in the next 7 days. Hope to see you on the other side of the dark zone.

Best Wishes,

Lone Grey Squirrel

P.S. In the meantime, behave. No fighting.

What the World Needs Now...(Addendum)

on Friday, April 20, 2007

If you look at the previous post, you will see that I felt that the world needed "Peace", "Tranquility" and "Serenity". This was really partly in response to the tragedies of Virginia Tech, the car bomb in Baghdad that killed 120 people and the other stories of violence and injustice around the world in the last week.

Jay, however, commented and rightly pointed out that what the world needs now is "love, sweet love". She is right and she is also refering to an old Burt Bacharach & Hal David song;

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don't need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don't need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.

What the World Needs Now is..........

Ladislav Kamarad (Gillespies Beach)

What the World Needs Now is.....



Ladislav Kamarad (2)

& Serenity

All pictures are of New Zealand (from top) : Matheson Lake, Milford and Soda Springs.

To the Fallen at Virginia Tech

on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I wish to add my condolences to all the messages of love and support going out from around the world to those victims, families and friends that have been affected by the tragedy at Virginia Technical University in the United States.

We wish that such incidents do not occur and that lives, especially young lives, are not so abruptly and senselessly ended. We wish for a world that is safe for our children.

I pray for God to bring comfort, peace and love to the many broken hearts in the local and extended community.

No one can understand what it is like unless they have gone through something similar. Nevertheless, I felt that such a tragedy cannot go unnoticed or unmarked. The following poem is my attempt to emphatise. I was inspired by the fine writings and reflections of daysgoby.

Did I not dream of you last night?
Felt your presence and all seemed right
Your gentle voice, a lullaby goodnite,
I slept in your arms till morning light

Did I really wake to a world without you?
How am I expected to continue?
The sun is still shining, the sky is blue
But I have nothing this day to get up to

Were you, on this spring day, really taken from me?
Will your dreams now never become reality?
Did he not see your beautiful flame burning brightly?
Are you, my sweet, now safe in glory?

You have left us with so many wonderful memories
The joy, fears and hopes of holding a new born baby
You grew up to be all we could ever hope you to be
All these years, you made us proud and we loved you dearly.

Will I ever really be able to say goodbye?
Remember you without a tear in my eye?
These scars of love upon my heart, I’ll wear with pride
I’ll embrace the pain, and forever keep your memory alive.

Time Ball

on Sunday, April 15, 2007

Time Ball at Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
(Photo by LGS)

Vivian Harrison "Stu Yat"
A lot of cultures depend on a strong oral tradition to pass their stories, their wisdom and their history from generations to generations. I came across a very interesting tradition called the "time ball" which is practiced by the Yakama (pronounced YACK-uh-maw) tribe of Washington State, USA.

In the past much of the tribe's history was passed down from generation to generation by the women of the tribe using an oral tradition known as the time ball. New brides used hemp twine to record their life history starting with courtship. They tied different knots into the twine for days and weeks and added special beads for significant events.

They then rolled the twine into a ball known as the "ititamat," which means "counting the days" or "counting calendar." The ball of twine grew in size as time passed and as events occurred. The women would sometimes divide the twine into 25-year lengths to make it more manageable. When the women were very old, they could use the knots and beads of their time balls to recall not only what happened in their lives but when the events occurred. They could easily recount when their children were born, when they moved away, and other major experiences. When a woman died, her "ititamat" or time ball was buried with her. (Source:Bonnie M. Fountain)

I found this to be a fascinating way of recording and recalling one's life history. I can imagine the privilege and the wonder of sitting by a camp fire and having someone untwine their time ball and share orally the story of their life; what every bead, stone or knot represented and meant to them.

The Time Ball which is shown in the picture is a replica was done by Vivian Harrison who is a well known tribal historian, storyteller and artist of the Yakama peoples. Here is another time ball by Delsie Selam and it represents two years of her life from 1995 to 1997.

I am trying to imagine what my ititamat would look like. What events of my life would I chose to record on it and what choice of bead or stone would I use and why? At a birth of a child, would I use a seed instead? Would my ititamat be full of colorful memories or will it just mark the passing of time? What would your time ball look like and what memories would it record?

*The Yakama's time ball brings to mind, the Incas. They had no alphabet but apparently ran their empire, recording history, issueing directives and laws and maintaining records of crops and supplies by a complex system of knots on string. A more modern connection may lie in the current theory of physicists that the universe consists of "strings". It is a concept that I find hard to understand but which seems to fit so nicely with the tradition of the time ball - a lifetime measured and recorded on a string.

Squirrel's Secret Spot No: 5a (Bogor Botanic Gardens)

on Friday, April 13, 2007

Bogor is a city with many interesting facets. It is located about 60 km south of Jakarta in the Indonesian island of Java. Located between the hot coastal plains and the mountains and also receiving the most rain on the island, it is a popular retreat from the heat of Java. It is also a very historical city. In the 5th Century, it was an important part of Java's first Hindu kingdom of Tarumanegara. Then in the early 19th Century, for a short period, it served as the administrative centre for British controlled Indonesia. When the Dutch took control of the Indonesian archipelago, it then became the capitol of the territories during the dry season and went by the name of Buitenzorg which apparently means "beyond cares". Today, Bogor is a sprawling city of over 3 million people. If you have even a flleting interest in botany, then it also holds another gem.......the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

These gardens were the inspiration of Sir Stamford Raffles but officially completed and launched in 1817 by the Dutch. They are 87 hectares of botanic wonders from the Malesia and Wallacea regions and today also borders with the Presidential Summer Palace. It is estimated that there are about 15,000 plant and tree species in this garden.
It is too big and wondrous to be covered in just one post. This will be the first in a series of three and will focus on the town and large trees and plants.

Entrance to the Gardens

Bananas with the heart (flower)

World's Tallest flower- too
bad it isn't blooming

What it is supposed to look like

Bird's Nest Ferns

Very big buttress roots

Extremely Rude Fruit

Unnatural Sounds

on Thursday, April 12, 2007

PhotoCredit: LGS "Sarawak Peat Swamp"

My work often takes me into the equatorial rainforest. Although I have spent quite a bit of time in the jungle, each time I do so, I am acutely aware that I am just a visitor and there is so much that I do not know about it. I do know that you must always respect it and the animals. Not to do so is to quickly invite disaster. Tragedy befalls those who underestimate the strength of river currents or who ignore the dangers of wild animals. Many, even seasoned trekkers, can be overconfident but end up getting lost in even a small area of jungle. In many parts, the jungle can be so dense that during the day you cannot see more than a few feet into the underbrush and at night the darkness is complete. It becomes so easy to get lost, disorientated or to become panicked and afraid.

The native forest people, the Orang Asli, share tales of spirits of the forest and give advice on how to appease or avoid them. Pure superstition? When you are in the deep jungle, it is hard not to give weight to their tales which are told soberly and with gravity. Many outsiders who work in the jungle listen to their advice and follow their instructions dutifully.

Since visibility in the jungle is so poor, many of the tales allude to the sounds that one hears in the jungle. One simple rule that is almost universally followed in the deep jungle is never to call a companion by name. The Orang Asli believe in evil spirits that lure men into the jungle by calling their names. These men are never seen again. They believe that you remain safe if the spirit does not learn your name. Call an Orang Asli by his name in the jungle and he will turn white with fear and you have made a mortal enemy. When travelling in the jungle and if the party gets separated, they will call to each other by whistling but never by calling their names.

Others tell of hearing babies crying. Some have even claimed seeing a small woman clad in white in the middle of the jungle just off the trail and when they leave the trail to investigate, they are unable to find the trail again.

Hard to believe? There was a celebrated case of a University researcher walking along a long-distance trail in the National Park. She was somewhere in the middle of her party but it was so strung out along the trail, that she was out of sight of the front and the back parties. She disappeared and search parties failed to find her. She reappeared some 10 days later, back along the same stretch of trail where she disappeared. It is said that she thought she heard a voice call her name.

Logging often occurs in the deep jungle and the logs transported out by lorry on rough logging roads that run for many kilometers through the jungle. In some parts, lorry drivers advise each other not to be stuck out on the road at night. Occasionally, some lorries may breakdown. When that happens, the drivers try to lock themselves in the cab of the lorry with all the windows closed. Seasoned drivers will have curtains and cloths to cover all the windows. They say when the darkness comes, there will be a time when they hear a cacophony of strange shrieking voices outside their cab. They advise one another not to look out or they will encounter eyes floating in the darkness that will compel them to walk into the jungle.

I have never experienced any of this myself but I stick to the rule of not calling out some one's name. Once I slept in an open tent and could hear twigs snapping all around in the darkness (very similar to Blair Witch Project). However, that might quite likely have been just a wild animal moving about.

On the contrary, for me the eeriest experience I had in the jungle was silence. It was during the day and I was climbing up a hill. All through that trip, the jungle was full of sounds from birds chirping, leaves rustling and the ever present hum of the cicadas. I remember reaching a small plateau just short of the ridge top when I was stunned by the silence. The sun was bright and the light filtered down through the tree canopy. There was a light breeze and the leaves were rustling. But that was all. The cicadas and the birds had fallen silent. I felt the hairs at the back of my neck rise. I walked as fast as I could, feeling a chill that did not go away until I reached the top and there the birds and the cicadas were heard again.

Pure superstition? In the deep jungle, it seems easier to believe.

To My Fans....Both of Them

on Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Here is an autographed photo of the Lone Grey Squirrel hanging out. Since I cannot sign it (no opposable thumbs!), I have left my paw prints.

To my fans, both of them (Odat & Michael),

Thank you for asking for my autograph. You have made me a happy squirrel. I know that it was only out of sympathy and pity but I'll take it. I have no shame.

I have a vegan message for you: "Give Peas a Chance!"

All together now, " All we are saying, is Give Peas a Chance....."

LGS Passing Out.

**Please note: No squirrel was hurt in creating this parody. I do not do drugs. I am only burning my parking tickets and finding immense satisfaction!

*** Dear gentle readers, in actual fact, I was born too late to be a flower child but I have always been drawn to the concept of communes, "make love not war", long hair, etc. With exception of drugs (I am completely against anything that impairs my mind), I might well have been in the hippie scene if I was born earlier and in the USA. (there being no hippie scene in ultra-conservative Malaysia).

As Seen On TV

on Monday, April 09, 2007

Ever since my 100th post, some of you have been curious about my appearances on TV on the BBC, CNN, ABC (Australian) and Al-Jazeera All of these appearances are related to my work because currently I am one of the main spokesperson for the environmental conservation organization that I work for.

I am reasonably articulate and that is one reason that I have been given this role but it is actually very stressful for me as I am inherently and naturally an introvert. As such, I am very uncomfortable under the bright lights and camera. Reminding me that the interview is being filmed live and that millions may be watching is sufficient to set off a panic attack. Somehow, I have survived but the price for “fame” has been paid for through physical illness (nausea, cold sweat, heart palpitations etc) and mental anguish (extreme stress and occasional extreme embarrassment.

The very first interview was for local TV. It was live and took the form of the show’s host guiding the discussion on an environmental topic by asking his two guests specially selected questions to spur debate. The other guest and myself were chosen because we were expected to take opposing views on much of the subject. I was extremely nervous and I was also very intimidated by my opponent. She was a very famous public personality, a senior expert on the topic and a long-time veteran of doing TV talk shows. It was terrible. I stammered. I repeated myself. When I watched it later, I wondered why my voice was so high pitched.

However, the big slip-up was during the middle of a heated exchange, I said, “I am sorry but I have to disagree with…….”. Then my head began to seize up and the room felt like it was spinning round and there was just no way I could remember the name of this person. She was practically a household name in Malaysia but at that moment I just could not bring her name to surface. So I had to end my sentence like this, “…..I have to disagree with a…a…..your other guest.” I wish I could have buried my head in the sand.

My big breakthrough was during one of the bad episodes of haze from forest and peat swamp fires in Indonesia. Someone from Reuters, dropped in to my office, and just asked if he could ask a couple questions on the topic. I knew this guy and felt quite comfortable. The whole thing was over in just a few minutes. It was very impromptu.

To my surprise, the next few days, I heard from friends and relatives from around the world that they had seen me on BBC and CNN. It seems they picked up the footage from Reuters.

During the interview, I happened to recommend a course of action for the government. The following day, after my interview was broadcasted, the government decided to take that action. In truth, I am sure what I said had little to do with that decision which was probably made earlier but the timing was such that some people were impressed by my apparent authority and said so. It was my 15 seconds of media glory.

To counter that high, there were also lots of lows. On one occasion, I was asked to take part in a 20 minute interview. I spent half a day preparing and reading up on the topic and than braved a one hour traffic jam to go to their studio. Suffered through 15 minutes in their makeup section. However, just before I got on, they said they were running behind schedule and had to cut the interview to 5 minutes. I got on, answered one question and then they ended the segment with a short video. I was on for less than one minute. No apologies for the time wasted. That’s just how it works. Oh, and did I mention that they insist on putting makeup on your face. The face powder makes me sneeze and lipstick makes me sick. I think that’s why I always look ill on TV.

Now, despite all this fame, I can still walk the streets without being accosted by fanatical fans. I do not need to have decoy cars to avoid the paparazzi. Strangely, despite spending hours in practice, no one has ever asked me for an autograph. In fact, nothing much has changed except I think I might be getting gastric attacks more often!

Celebrating Easter! Celebrating Christ! Celebrating Life!

on Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Above All" . Words and Music by Michael W Smith. The Love Story of Easter, planned and executed by God.

Above all powers
Above all things
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure what You're worth

Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Crucifixion II : The Resurrection

The Garden Tomb

His Death was Witnessed by Many.
This story starts simply with the words, “It is finished.” With those words, Jesus bowed his head and died. Amidst the crowds, the women and the disciples watched from a distance as the light of life was extinguished. In their sorrow and mourning, their only comfort was that at last, all the abuse and suffering of their beloved Jesus had come to an end. At least, he was suffering no more. (Matt 27: 55-56).

The soldiers were trained to make sure that the condemned prisoners on the crosses were truly dead. In fact, to speed up the process of death, it was normal to go from cross to cross and to break the legs of the prisoner hanging there. With the legs broken, the condemned man is unable to support himself to breathe properly and death ensues quickly. However, when they came to Jesus, they knew there was no need to do so as they could see that he was already dead. Yet one of the soldiers decided to be sure and used a spear and thrust it up the side of his chest. Immediately, water and coagulated blood came out from the wound confirming that Jesus was already dead. (John 19: 31-37).

Their leader and Lord was dead. The followers and disciples dispersed in grief, fear and helplessness.

He was Definitely Buried.
Jesus’ enemies celebrated that night. They had won. Jesus was no more and his followers were shattered. They held all the winning cards in their hand. They rejoiced.
In all their celebrations, they did not really care what happened to Jesus’ body; a dead body.

The story makes a turn here. With the family and the disciples of Jesus paralysed by fear, no attempt was made to claim the body. Unexpectedly, Joseph of Arimathea, who until now was a secret follower because he feared the authorities, found the courage out of his love for Jesus to approach the Governor Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body to be released to him for burial. With Pilate’s permission, he and Nicodemus (another secret disciple) took the body and prepared it for burial according to the customs of the day which included wrapping the body with 75 pounds of aloes and myrrh and linen strips. When this was done, the body was placed in a tomb in a garden near where Jesus had been crucified. The tomb was a recently completed one, carved out of solid rock and a big stone was rolled into place to seal it. (John 19: 38-42; Matt 27: 57-60).

When Jesus’ enemies in the high places found out about the burial, they demanded that the tomb was put under guard to prevent Jesus’ disciples from trying to steal the body and stir up trouble by claiming Jesus had risen from the dead. As a result, a guard was placed there. (Matt 27: 62-66).

He has Truly Risen
Before sunrise on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and to her surprise found that the guards were no where to be seen, the heavy stone was rolled away and the tomb empty. She was shocked. She called Peter and John, two of Jesus closest disciples, they too came and saw the empty tomb, the grave linen and burial cloth but no body. They were all shocked and confused. They very likely assumed that Jesus’ enemies had desecrated the tomb and stolen the body. The disciples returned to their homes in despair. They did not understand what was happening even though it had been foretold in Scripture (John 20:1-8).

Mary stayed weeping outside the tomb. First she sees two figures who are angels but she does not immediately realize this and she tells them that Jesus’ body has been stolen. Then she sees another figure which she mistakes as the gardener and she implored him to tell her where they had taken Jesus’ body. (John 20: 10-18).

Then, in a magical moment, through her veil of tears, she recognizes Jesus standing there alive. She becomes the first to witness that Jesus had conquered death and was alive. Out of despair, hope rekindles into a blazing light.

She ran and told the disciples but they would not believe until finally they too say Jesus in their midst. Thomas who was not there would not believe until finally Jesus appeared to him and he saw with his own eyes Jesus alive. They were all overjoyed.

From, then on Jesus appeared to many again and again until his ascension into heaven.

“He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
And by his wounds, we are healed."
(Isaiah 53:5)


Easter as I See It (by HMYU)

on Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just six months ago, I was oblivious to the blogging world. My wife reads blogs but they were mostly recipe sites and of little interest to me. Then a good friend of mine talked about setting up a blog to share about his faith in God. I waited and waited for it and nothing happened. Then he'd mention it again and I'd wait and nothing happened. Finally, last October, I challenged him to see who could get a blog up over the weekend as a way of getting him moving. That really didn't achieve its purpose but it did get me started on blogging.

Anyway, he has finally got his blog up and I asked him if he could guest blog over here for me. So, may I present to you HMYU and his first post on the blogosphere with his take on the Easter Story. Please help me to encourage him to keep it coming.

"I see disunity among Christians,
I see no peace among nations,
I see the Gospel twisted of its facts,
And I see now why God had to act!

I see deterioration in moral values of the human race,
I see corruption and injustice showing its ugly face,
I see no hope for us all at this age,
But yet I see each individual knitted and created in God’s image!

I see sky scrappers and man-made achievement,
I see man’s pride with all it’s invention,
I see self-reliance is the key to life,
And I see now why Christ had to give up his life!

I see nature being plundered and raped,
I see no hope for all the creatures that God made,
I see how marvelous God's hand in all creation,
And I see only through Christ, we can have redemption!

I see the cross where you and I should be the one carrying,
I see death as our destiny with eternal suffering,
I see this journey to Calvary no one is prepare to take,
And I see Christ who took all these for our sake!

”My God, My God, Why have thou forsaken me?”

I see pain on His face at Calvary,
I see grief and sadness, with breath barely,
I see much tears and blood that were shed,
But I do not see Him showing any regret!

I see bondage in the human race,
I see death and destruction we will surely face,
I see God’s intervention in human history,
And I see hope, for Christ who died and now arose in all glory!

”Forgive them for they know not what they are doing”

I see sadness,
I see gentleness,
I see forgiveness,
And I see love manifested in all its greatness!

I see Christ as the living Savior,
I see His grace is for all without condition or favor,
I see salvation if we only believe,
And I see there is hope with God's full pardon......what a relief!

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” ~ Joshua 24:15

I see Christ ascended up in glory,
I see now this is the Gospel story,
I see no matter who says whatsoever the contrary,
I will still declare....He lives! He lives! And He lives in me.....what a mystery!"

Animals Speak of the Human Condition

on Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Okay, I have had a very bad day at work and really not inspired to do anything creative on this blog tonight (read "lazy", "unmotivated", "wanna go to sleep and wake up to a better day").

Nevertheless, I thought I would leave you with something I cobbled together from sources all over the internet. It made me smile a little; hope it make you smile. I entitled it, "Animals Speak of the Human Condition" cause animals pick up these bad habits and traits from us as we are the most advanced species on this planet.

"We could all just back away from here or else it could get ugly."


Ah, the name calling: "Bitch" "Kiss-ass" "Wierdo" "Teacher's Pet"


"Trust No one! Suspect Everyone."


"Stay calm and act like you belong".

Crucifixion I

on Sunday, April 01, 2007

PhotoCredit: miriam_1973

Today is Palm Sunday. This marks Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem while the crowds cheered him and some shouted that he was the King of Israel. Yet paradoxically, despite the strong up-swelling of support, Jesus entered the city not as a conquering hero of the people astride a noble steed but rode in like a humble servant on the back of a donkey. Thus begins an amazing final week in the life of Jesus.

This story can be read in the Gospel of John from chapter 12 to 20. If you are not familiar with the story, may I suggest you read it. It is a fascinating account and has all the elements to make it a great story.

The story starts with a dinner amongst friends, the calm before the storm. Yet even here we learn that there is embezzlement going on behind the scenes (John 12:6) and away from this peaceful scene, Jesus’ enemies, which included respected and powerful members of the community were plotting and mobilizing (John 12: 10).

The next day was the triumphant entry into the city. Jesus’ popularity with the common folk was never higher and many believed that he would become King (John 12: 12-15). Yet at this moment, the story foreshadows the future with Jesus saying that he must die even as a kernel of wheat must die in order that it may grow and produce many seeds (John 12: 23-24).

Jesus is a man on a mission but he is not a two-dimensional character. He suffers from doubts but yet he re-affirms his dedication to the mission that God the Father has given him. His followers and all present receive two divine signs, a voice from heaven and Jesus prophecy specifying how he will die. The people though are not happy. Their hero speaks not of victory and the lifting of Roman oppression but speaks of his own death and defeat. Many begin to lose their faith in their hero (John 12: 37).

Despite, his impending doom which he himself predicted, Jesus continued to spend intimate moments with his disciples, teaching them revolutionary ways of thinking, like the greatest should serve the least (John 13: 1-17). The story now darkens with hints of betrayal from amongst his closest friends. Jesus knows who will betray him and asks only that he does it quickly (John 13:18-30).

The disciples begin to get worried and Jesus begins to reveal to them the extent of the plot against him and warns them that they too will later suffer for their beliefs and obedience to God. Jesus comforts them and prays for his frightened flock.

The plot now moves quickly to the dreadful act of betrayal (John 18: 1-11). Judas who has been at Jesus side for most of three years meets Jesus in an olive grove, hugs him and kisses him. Alas, the kiss was the signal for the soldiers to arrest Jesus; the irony of being betrayed with a kiss. Judas’ motivation? Greed.

Next comes the court scenes. The law is subverted but a show trial is carried out. Jesus stands alone. All his friends desert him. Some would be so intimidated by fear that they would deny ever knowing him (John 18:25-27).

The legal maneuvering comes to a climax when the plotters appeal for the Roman Governor to pardon a known murderer but to sentence Jesus to death. Pilate the governor wants to release Jesus as he finds him innocent of any wrong doing but is afraid of losing control of the angry mob. The mobs chant for Jesus’ blood; they warn Pilate that releasing Jesus may be construed as treason against Caesar. Pilate relents and sends Jesus to be executed by crucifixion (John 18: 28 – 19:16).

What follows is a dark tale of torture, abuse and finally a poignant death. There are no angry words from Jesus, no curses or threats. Instead, he asks God to forgive his enemies even as they stand and taunt him and mercilessly watch him die (John 19:17-37 and also Luke 23:34). The whole point of his mission was to bring forgiveness to men.

And so, Jesus died. For his mother and his family, the grief was soul-rendering. For his followers, they saw their hope die and were powerless to do anything. All that was good had been snuffed out. The forces of evil were rejoicing. It looked like the end of all the wonders that Jesus had shown them.

But like all the best of stories, hope will reappear from the ashes and victory will be snatched from death’s jaw. However, that story is for the sequel, “Crucifixion II: the Resurrection.”

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