Monthly Archives: November 2009

fanning the flame.

It is inevitable that I am extremely excited about REAL and especially about the upcoming lock-in camp. I’m praying that God will send me the right 10 participants who are serious and not just curious. On a side note, I realised that I’m really quite a camp person; I spent the day putting together the lock-in schedule and I am proud of what I have put together because it looks different from the other years, refreshing and purposeful. I’d like to think that this lock-in camp packs a punch.

I’ve been accumulating sleep debt over the last week (mainly due to FM, I have to be honest here, but my repentance began last night) and as I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning, I thought about my friends who have “burnt out” in ministry and what these former youth leaders are now. I’d like to think that there’s a huge difference between burning out and losing your fire completely. Think about that for a moment.

More often than not, (physical and emotional) fatigue is usually the cause of sizzling out and I think to address that, it’s an issue of constantly having input – be it through your devotions, mentoring sessions, bible studies or other methods. But losing your fire completely is a sad state of being – it’s like having your passion, zeal and zest for serving God completely removed. I cannot imagine the kind of person I’d be without passion! I’ve become so synonymous with passion over the years that without it I’d be devoid of my driving force, or in a more humourous way, my mojo.

I don’t quite know where I am going with this entry but I find myself juxtaposing how we used to serve and how we are serving now. Did something happen along the way? Did growing up or the allure of the world take something away from us? Some of us seem to have lost that spark in the eye, that fire in the belly, and end up serving the ministry with a lackadaisical attitude.

I have strong opinions about this matter and I do apologise if my tone sounds offensive, but it won’t stop me from saying that it is truly sickening when I see people shortchanging the ministry with a less than excellent spirit (because I know that they can do and have done better!), and yet put in 101% for academic or work pursuits. The question I’m asking isn’t “What’s your passion?” but “WHERE’S your passion?”

This entry is turning out to be a little tough to stomach but at least it’s out of my system. I especially caution those in leadership positions. Once these symptoms start to infiltrate the way you serve, you have to address it immediately by being accountable to someone. If you don’t already know, bad leaders produce bad members who’ll eventually result in becoming worse leaders. This downward spiral of standards and vicious cycle of mediocrity is poisonous not just for our generation but for the generations after us.

May we should rethink the way we ought to serve God.

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shanghai tan part 2 – sleepless on sq.

It’s quite amazing that the last person to get onto the plane was actually given a window seat. No complains whatsoever, of course.

Well, after settling down from that pre-flight adventure, I caught my breath and got started on planning for next year. I can’t divulge information here so let’s just leave it at that. I decided to stop at 3am and to reward myself after such a dramatic evening, I clicked “Start New Game” on my newly purchased and installed Football Manager 2010. I know I’d regret embarking on this addiction but it’s the only game I play; I’ve built up quite a collection of original Football Managers since 2005.

It’s funny how guys connect via (fantasy) football; at 3:30am, after a glass of riesling and after putting unwanted players on transfer lists and putting in bids for desired players, the passenger sitting beside me decided to break the ice with me. I actually had the feeling that he would because of the occasional glances at my laptop.

“The new Football Manager, ah?”

I think it went something like that. Well, I shall not reveal his name or initials (because he might read this and I don’t want to embarrass him) but I’d like to think that it was a pretty divine appointment. He was my age and he also plays football and has a team. Like me, his girlfriend was from NTU and was doing her GIP in Shanghai. I think those common denominators were adequate for a good, long conversation.

The conversation naturally included what each of us do for a living. He’s a banker who used to serve as a youth leader in his church. He said he backslided a little and one reason why he’s heading to Shanghai is that his girlfriend, whose faith is a little stronger, wanted to help get him back on track in his walk with God. He also mentioned that he was getting a little tired of his job.

Well, I went on to share with him a glimpse of my journey towards full-time ministry and how important it was for me to pursue what was in my heart. I’m not sure if I’ve stated it on this blog before, but there is nothing more satisfying than waking up and going to bed every day and night knowing that you are in the centre of God’s will for your life. I feel like that at this point in my life.

Anyway, after hearing my sharing and after sharing his heart out to me about failed relationships, a collapsed ministry and a career standstill, he was also convinced that it was a timely and divine appointment (as he got onto this flight due to a last minute change). He told me that our conversation ignited a desire in him not only to get back on track with God, but to get his youth ministry restarted. How could I not beam with joy and praise God for His grace and goodness in blessing a 3-hour friendship?

We talked until the plane touched down in Shanghai and until the sun rose at 630am. I bade farewell to him at the baggage collection belt but I believe that we will keep in touch. On a side note, I’m pretty sure I will be able to share with him some of my youth ministry experiences as well as to get his church team to play against TeamR-AGE. I was extremely exhausted by the time I cleared customs but this encounter was worth losing sleep for. God used a random person like me in a random situation to draw His child back to Himself.

the youth ministry you dream about.

During the prayer time before youth service, God directed me to 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 and downloaded an entire sermon into my head. But its contents are gonna be really tough to deliver so I think it’ll remain brewing in my head before it gets served.

VY and I had a good conversation over lunch today. I think having similar mentalities and visions towards ministry do help people to bond quickly. I enjoyed hearing him share and I also enjoyed sharing with him. I do hope there’s more to come from this fusion of hearts.

I crashed YX’s cell today (much to her reluctance and her sad face x 10) and I’d like to think it turned out better than I thought. I also joined the entire cell for dinner at Lot 1 and hung out at the top floor of the compound after we ate. It was there that I asked them to dream about the kind of youth ministry that they wanted to see. Here’s how a group of 14-18-year-olds responded:

“More growth.”

“More enthusiastic.”

“Everyone is discipled.”

“Hang out more, bond more.”

“Every youth knowing one another like one big family.”

Well, these are all great things to have. And I believe that if we all play our part, these dreams would become reality. The above-mentioned does resonate with what’s in my heart. I believe that for R-AGE to head to another level, we need to come to realise that this is OUR ministry and that we have to take ownership of it.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the SOAR youths was that they knew that they would exit the ministry (and Shanghai) once they turn 18 (and leave the country for college). And so a good number of them endeavour to leave behind a legacy. They knew that they were the ones who had to make it work. They knew that if they didn’t own the ministry, no one else would. I pray that this attitude would also be birthed R-AGE. I know a number of youths who already feel that way and I believe that I am strategically positioned to enable and empower more young people to catch this vision. Imagine its life-changing, Bukit Batok-shaking, ministry-revolutionising consequences!

I believe with all my heart that there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing youths leading youths. And what a great privilege it would be for me to help play a part in making vision that come true. I believe that R-AGE is on the threshold of a new dawn. Let’s put our hands into the plough. Everyone has a part to play. The youth ministry in G2 is about to explode. I believe that by faith and I believe that with all my heart. May that be in line with God’s will.

why misunderstoodsunshinekid?

The moniker of misunderstoodsunshinekid sounds like some teenage bubblegum nickname that reeks of adolescence and youthfulness. And certainly not very appropriate for a man who turned 21 for the sixth time this year. There is, of course, a meaning behind this deliberate choice of words.

Coined towards the end of my time in Ngee Ann Polytechnic where I studied Mass Communication, it first appeared in the yearbook which was contributed by and distributed to every student in the cohort. The editorial team asked each of us for a photograph and three words that best described ourselves. Come to think of it, considering that I’ve not seen 90% of my school mates since we graduated, these three words would actually go a long way in helping us remember each other.

It was really amusing to see some of the entries. The more commonly used words were “Bubbly”, “Friendly”, “Outgoing”, “Sociable”, “Funny”, etcetera – basically words that were safe, correct and well, forgettable. There were some that went out of the box with “Nobody Knows Me”, “Damned I’m Good”, “Ahh Whatever Lah” and “I Am Indescribable”. But the one that tickled me most was “Humourous, Cheerful, Easygoing” and attached with the words was a really fierce, unfriendly and serious picture. Nice.

Without going into too much detail, here’s why I chose “Misunderstood Sunshine Kid”:

Misunderstood
Half my life I’ve been misunderstood for my intentions, choice of words and actions. I’d like to believe that it’s always been love-hate with me; people don’t really have a neutral feeling towards me. They either like me or dislike me. And because of this I almost always end up leaving either a great or a horrible first impression. As I age, I’ve learnt to deal with it by simply not bothering about it; I cannot please everyone, so I’ve learnt to stop having to justify or explain what I say or do. I’ve embraced this as a part of me and the only approval I seek would be that of God’s. I’ve learnt to take myself less seriously and not be so uptight about what people say or think about me. Yeah, I know this sounds very teenage/emo/angst, but hey, this term was coined when I was a 19-year-old teenager.

Sunshine
I’ve always been a positive and optimistic person and I think that it rubs off on the people that I interact with, especially with those in my sphere of influence. I’d like to I exude a “You can do it” vibe. On a side note, my heart goes out to pessimistic and negative people, but how they live their lives is their problem, not mine. I desire to be contented and always joyful. Another ethos which I live by is, “I could always be happier but I am situationally contented”. That was a phrase I coined together with PL some years ago. To an extent this word contradicts the former, but both somehow capture a key essence of my personality and character.

Kid
I’m always up to some mischief and I’ve always enjoyed being cheeky and naughty. There is a difference between being childish and childlike. I never want to lose the sense of wonder that children have. I always want to retain the kid in me, for the kid that I will have in future. I am confident that I will be a father with the “sparkle” in his eye. You know, kids are actually very sensitive and can detect sincerity from hypocrisy. I enjoy playing with kids and I think they (know it and) enjoy it too because they see it in my eyes – that I really want to play with them and I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. I’ve always dreamt about being the father that my father never was to me. And for that to happen, I’ll always have that boyish playfulness hidden behind a now older and wiser head.

Each word could be an entry in itself so I’ll just leave it like that until I decide to elaborate further.

shanghai tan part 1 – (nearly) terminated at the terminal.

“Sir, I think you booked the wrong tickets.”

Without a shadow of a doubt, this goes down as one of my biggest boo-boos. I couldn’t believe that I committed a mistake of this simplicity. The crazy thing about it was that none of the four people I had sent my itinerary to spotted it as well. The dates on my E-ticket read 28 Nov Fri to 28 Dec Mon (!!! – I know). On hindsight, thank God there was no promotional fare this time – the more expensive flexi-saver ticket I purchased allowed for a n0-fee flight change.

To help you understand the severity of the situation, on the line was 40kg of fish meat, a $919 SQ air ticket and another $90 paid for excess baggage. It was midnight and my sister (who kindly sent me to the airport) had already reached home. The current flight was fully booked and so were the next two flights at 7am and 10am. The frozen fish meat only had a lifespan of 10 hours without refrigeration.

To say I was panicking is an understatement. But a part of me really enjoyed the impending adventure. Suddenly I was captured in a cinematic moment. Strangely, I was at peace but also in a flurry.

Check-in for the flight closes at 12:35am. The plane takes off at 1:15am.

T-30 minutes @ 12:05am:
After confirming this major mistake, the check-in officer informed me that 12 people have not turned up for this flight. And there were already two passengers on the waiting list. I was third on the list. If nine passengers turned up, it’d be game over for Joey. My uncle and I dismissed paying for Business Class (DANG!) and were hoping for the no-show of these 12 people.

T-20 minutes @ 12:15am:
After putting down the phone with HY for the third time – I needed an anxiety-venting outlet – I was informed by the same officer that there were only 5 seats left. Calmly, he said, “Sir, maybe this is your lucky day”.

His colleague added, “But honestly Sir, based on my experience, I think your chances are really low.”

T-10 minutes @ 12:25am:
I told HY that I couldn’t be on the phone anymore because I was in such a state of peaceful flurry (!). I hung up, looked towards the counter and established eye contact with the same officer. He didn’t give me a thumbs up, but gestured “3” instead. I remembered the two already on the waiting list and my negotiations with God reached a new level of extraordinary wagers. I think I must have really tickled God.

D-day H-hour @ 12:35am:
“Sir, please proceed to the opposite counter to pay for your excess baggage after you check-in. Please watch your time as the gate closes at 1:05am. Have a good flight.”

This was the first time I was the last person on the plane. And this miracle really made me look forward to my short 3-day 2-night hiatus in Shanghai.

Tomorrow, find out why I got zero rest on the plane in Shanghai Tan Part 2 – Sleepless on SQ.

living to excite.

Everyone is excited by different things in life. I am always excited to go on a date with HY, to be near her and to just be with the woman I love; I am always excited to partake in my mother’s cooking and it’s almost certain that I’ll finish every morsel of food; I am always excited to converse with my sister (when she’s not moody) because she’s like the best friend I’ve always had (and knowing her, she’d puke when she reads this because she has affection-phobia towards me).

So, what always excites you?

Nowadays, I get excited by learning something new about God and knowing something more about Him. I get excited about preaching because I think it’s something that stretches and challenges me in my competencies. (On that note, I really think that my “season” of worship leading is over, well sort of.) I get excited when I am mentoring someone and imparting what I know and have experienced to him or her. I get excited when I meet my mentors and to learn from their many life experiences and stories.

So, what excites you today?

I think it’s imperative that we all live for a purpose greater than ourselves. It would be pure drudgery for anyone to have to drag themselves out of bed each morning. We have to be internally motivated by goals and externally driven by actions to achieve all the dreams that are birthed in our hearts. There is no salary high enough that could ever satisfy a man if it doesn’t challenge, inspire or motivate him to take a step closer to his given destiny in life. This is why I’ve always aspired to live the mundane in an extraordinary fashion.

You and I are no different. We have similar struggles and have as many victories as setbacks. We get persecuted as much as we get praised. I’d like to think that my life is a fulfilling one because I choose to approach it that way. I refuse to live a life of mediocrity and settling for second-best (unless God specifically instructs me to do so). While life (on earth) is short, it is also the longest journey (on earth) that we will ever embark on. So let us learn to remind each other to live our lives for something, someone, some event greater than ourselves.

And to close a less serious note, I do enjoy very much (“get excited” is an exaggeration of this sentiment) when I make people laugh or when they laugh at my jokes – there’s a sense of gratification bringing joy, fun and laughter to someone’s day. This is one reason why I have baptised myself as Asher – which stands for “blessed, joyful, happy”. I also enjoy it very much when I pull off a stunt that people will remember. Presenting to HY her 22nd birthday gift was one; suddenly deciding to leave Shanghai was another; appearing for the No One Else was something that is etched in my heart forever.

And for the most recent one, it was great to pull off something so crazy in my trip to Shanghai last weekend. Man, the look on people’s faces – priceless. Lovely.

breaking inertia.

So… I am back from my weekend getaway to Shanghai and because the greatfirewallofchina has blocked wordpress (and facebook and youtube), I wasn’t able to post an entry. Yeah, it was a low key visit and it lasted no more than 3 days but it was an amazing adventure.

I have stories upon stories to regale but I also have this horrible monster called inertia. But I shall at least get the first post out so that I can retain the life of the blog. There’s a greater purpose to this blog (which I will reveal in time) and I shall not allow a Shanghai hiatus to take it away.

On a grander scale of things, I guess everyone goes through a period of inaction during their lives. As a sanguine, I cannot keep still, and as a choleric I cannot be unoccupied; I almost always am doing something all the time. It’s not a bad thing it’s not necessarily a good thing either.

But over the last couple of years, my phlegmatic has risen and I’ve learnt the art of waiting and just observing. It’s no excuse for not writing in the last few days but this is what’s on my mind at the moment. There’s a beauty in waiting and sometimes silence can be the loudest noise. I think God speaks regardless but sometimes it’s easier to hear Him when it’s quiet.

All right, now that I am writing again… May I continue this tomorrow. That’s all for today. It’s out of my system for now!

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