Thursday, June 28, 2007

Non nobis Domine

Two weeks ago when my sister and her husband arrived, son started playing the piano.

He was not trying to show off. He just wanted to play The Entertainer which he enjoyed.

For some reason he could not play a phrase properly. It's a bit of music that he had been playing without a problem before. This caused him immense frustration and there were floods of tears. In the end he tried crawling under the piano again.

There was frustration all round.

When I finally got him to the kitchen where we tried to have a conversation he was going, "I wish I was dead." It's a phrase he repeats often when things go wrong.

"And what good would that do?" I asked. "Who's going to be happy when that happens?"

"I will."

"You can't be happy when you are dead. But Mummy would be sad. Daddy would be sad. Is that what you want? Is that going to make anyone happy?"

He was in deep thought for a while.

"I know who would be happy."

"Who?" I asked.


It frightens me sometimes when my son brings into conversation aspects of the spiritual realm. I get pictures of him turning schizophrenic, "I hear voices telling me to kill ...."

But there in the kitchen I realized that he might well have hit the nail on its head. When I reflect on it now, he does often have these "episodes" after he's been contemplating issues of a religious nature.

When I could finally speak I heard myself saying, "Yes! I think you are right. When you are dead you cannot give any glory to God. You know Satan is the only person who does not wish you to use your music talent or your cleverness to serve God! He does not wish you to use your gifts so that you can give glory to God."

And then like a light has been turned on, son said, "I know what to do."

He went and got a piece of paper and made a poster: 'Down with Satan I love God' and held it to his forehead.

Then he made another drawing: Satan on one side with 'loser' on it and God on the other, the 'winner'.

When I was pregnant my prayer for the unborn child was that he would be a healthy child so that we do not have to be distracted from serving God, that whatever his talents might be, he would use these to God's glory.

We felt blessed that he was born good-looking with a calm nature as well. As he developed, we realized that he is intellectually advanced. Soon after he started learning the piano we had to come to terms with the fact that he is also gifted in music.

His progress has only been hampered by episodes of extreme frustration when he felt that he was not performing well. Most recently he froze at the class handwriting competition.

He had practised for it, although his efforts seemed to have deteriorated nearer the competition instead of improving. He was so distressed he could not carry on with the competition. The reason for this is, we thought, he knew he was not the best at handwriting in class. Clearly he was not going to win, and he did not like that.

We could not fathom why, when we do not push him to be perfect, he has set himself such high standards. My husband thinks that this is from his Chinese genes, the need to keep 'face'.

So it was worrying for us. He has all this talent, was he going to waste it?

Knowing now that this might be a spiritual battle ... well, we are now better armed.

Son has been singing "Non nobis Domine" in preparation for the School Speech Day next week. Searching through the Internet I found this:

Not unto us, O Lord,
The praise or glory be
Of any deed or word.

For in Thy Judgement lies
To crown or bring to nought
All knowledge or device
That man has reached or wrought.
And we confess our blame,
How all too high we hold
That noise which men call fame,
That dross which men call Gold.
For these we undergo
Our hot and godless days
But in our hearts we know
Not unto us the Praise.

O power by whom we live,
Creator Judge and friend
Upholdingly forgive
Nor fail us at the end:
But grant us well to see
In all our piteous ways
Non nobis Domine

To God be the glory indeed in all that we do.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


It has been a good week for us wrt son.

He enjoyed his cricket match (his team won) which finished earlier than expected, continued to play"fun" cricket while waiting for his piano exam, and looked surprisingly relaxed.

He emerged from exam earlier than expected and while I was head down between pages of The Ecologist (the one with a near-naked man on the cover) a voice chirped up beside me, "I think I might get a distinction."

And there he was grinning from ear to ear with a look that exuded nothing but pure confidence.

He was soon followed by his music teacher (on a crutch) who confirmed that he had done well from what he could hear on the other side of the door.

Son did confess to making two mistakes.

I told son I do not now care whether he merely passed, passed with merit, or even a distinction, but to see that look of confidence after the exam was priceless.

For a boy who gets upset that he could not do some things right (perfect) the first time (especially in the pool), who froze at his handwriting competition because the rules were changed slightly, and who crawls under the piano when a practice does not go well, for him to say, "I enjoyed the exam. It was easy," was the best treat I've had for ages.

So we wait in anticipation for the results.

O! To top it all, he also won the Junior School Shield for Pupil of the Week. His citation reads: for being calm and collected for the whole week! This is probably the last week in the year that the Shield is being awarded. He is delighted to have won it, his fourth time in three years.

What joy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

D-Day tomorrow

It's nearly here now. Grade 1 piano exam tomorrow.

But before that son has a cricket match to play against their arch-rivals.

He does not think very much of the sportsmanship of this school. They keep refusing to play their matches at his school. They have excuses like they do not have enough staff and so we have to go to them, or they simply do not show up.

Surely if they do not show, it should be considered a walk-over, and we should be declared winners. But we are far too polite to act like that.

Any way, tomorrow, this school comes to play cricket. While our boys have not been able to work on their cricket as they had been rehearsing for their Sports Day last week, and Speech Day in two weeks' time, they have been playing a lot of cricket just for fun.

By all accounts our boys are much stronger at cricket than they are at football or rugby compared to this other school. So I look forward to seeing them in action.

And then I would have to whisk son away for his exam. Pray that his fingers are not injured.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I have invited the boys from school to busk for some money to liven up the atmosphere at the school summer fair.

Of course my son insisted that he should also be busking. He had been working on The Entertainer all by himself and was keen to show it off.

So I was constantly being harrassed at the fair by a seven-year-old, "Where is my piano? When can I busk?"

We had to move the piano away to make way for the bottle tombola in the corridor. In the end the 'big boys' decided that they would perform indoors and wheeled the piano in.

Of course son decided to jump on it and played. Not very much as he was shooed off by the senior boy, probably afraid that people would be giving him money instead of to his band. (These 13-year-olds decided to play for money to raise funds for a new school trophy. That is so very sweet, I thought.)

Thankfully son did not mind too much about being shooed off in this instance. But he's just been given new music books by my visitng cousin and it has got movie theme tunes in there. He can't wait to work on those.

However he has his piano exam to get over with first. This Thursday, after his cricket match in the afternoon.

Just hope and pray he does not get injured during the match. He does have a tendency to throw himself around.

Meanwhile no computer games. We noticed that after a session of hitting the keyboard furiously for a few minutes (not more than 20 minutes usually), his piano playing goes hay-wire.

It is as if the muscles used for the piano keyboard goes a bit wonky after a session on the computer. Just as I used to find it impossible to play the flute after an orchestra rehearsal playing the trombone. Totally different muscles are used and they need to be 're-conditioned' to get them right.

All the best, my son!