Coming from the US to Indonesia feels a little bit like being Alice in Wonderland for me – the world seems to shrink in size. Cars are smaller, roads narrower, furniture and doors more compact, etc., and people stand and drive much closer to each other. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the people are shorter too, so I’m relatively less short in Indonesia.
Maybe the shrinking feeling is not necessarily true everywhere, but it is especially true with the house that I grew up in. Of course, the most vivid memories of the house are from childhood days, when the house was much bigger relative to my size. So it’s always a surprise when I come back home and realize the fridge is not as big as it used to be.
It’s always a bit strange when a place you call home feels foreign. Whenever I don’t come back for more than 1.5 years, I need time to adapt and get used to the swing of things. And usually at the end of the visit I don’t want to leave. We’ll see what happens this time, but as for now, I’m acclimating myself to home for sure.
In about 15 hours, I’ll be taking off to Hongkong and Shenzhen for the first four days, and Indonesia (Jakarta and Bali) for the rest of this 22-day trip. They’re all familiar territory, except for Shenzhen, but it just has been a while. The last time I went home over three years ago was for a less fortunate event, so this visit will be very interesting.
All the world’s a classroom has been a personal motto of mine for many years. Last August, I had Honduras as a classroom for 10 days with many amazing personal lessons. To have the same mindset in a place I call home, where I would naturally want to kick back and relax, will be a bit more challenging.
But considering where I am in my life, about a year away from the end of grad school and probably the most important life transition, I suspect there will be tons of reflection and thoughts during the next three weeks and after.
Needless to say, I’m excited. My sister, Nestor, and Aiko will be joining me in Jakarta next week and then in Bali the following week. We will for sure have lots of good food. Stay tune for food and other pictures.
I’m a bit of a musical junkie. Ok, not a bit… a lot. I think the most enchantingly talented individuals are the musical theatre people. The sound that comes out of these human beings is just marvelous. When they’re on stage, it’s like the human anatomy become an instrument, with sound waves traveling through the biological cavities, all working together for a single purpose: to make music. They sing with all their being and the artistic creation that comes out of this process is simply amazing.
The thing that’s interesting is, say an actor or actress performs some of the songs in a concert, in a setting that isn’t within a storyline, but it’s the same song, same tune, and same lyrics. Somehow, the performance isn’t as powerful as when they’re in character and in the story (source: casual observations from a bunch of YouTube videos). It was quite a curious case.
So perhaps to say the obvious, I think the difference is exactly that – the storyline. When they sing at some function, they’re not as much in character and the song becomes just a nice song, a mixture between lyrics and notes. But when they’re in character, all the expression and emotion blend in, adding another dimension to the music, and giving it a certain transcendence that can create goose bumps to those who witness the performance. The words come from the heart and from the experience of the character, and the music communicates both to the conscious and the subconscious.
Basically the point is there’s a difference between a song that is sung and a song that is experienced; the quality of the music is noticeably distinct.
There’s a verse in Revelation that I always think kind of cool. “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps. And they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders, and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” Revelation 14:2-3.
There’s also a hymn that says the following:
Holy, holy, is what the angels sing
And I expect to help them make the courts of heaven ring
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings
(Hymn title: Holy, Holy, is What the Angels Sing. All the lyrics are relevant to this thought)
Could it be that in heaven, singing something that one hasn’t experienced is not allowed? Could it be that singing something without meaning it is akin to lying?
The song we sing is and should be closely related to our experiences. Our songs of praise are distinct from one another’s. When David said that “He hath put a new song in my mouth” (Ps 40:3), it meant that He has given him a new experience with Him.
Which brings me to a source of bewilderment when I’m in a church with a congregation that is so timid during singing time. Have we not experienced the goodness of God?
The most beautiful songs are the ones sung with the heart and with the whole being. I’m sure those are the songs God likes to hear as well.
Les Miserables in Grand Rapids, MI
Me with Les Mis cast member - Marius Pontmercy
The Elias, who are all pretty much musical junkies