Monthly Archives: April 2010

i’d rather have teh-peng.

HY and I had this hilarious little conversation (which made me think about perspective) as we strolled to her place last evening:

HY: How come you look so short today?

JA: Maybe it’s because of the shoes I wore?

HY: Can you please not wear these sneakers next time?

JA: Huh… Do you know how many shoes I cannot wear when I go out with you?

HY: DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY HEELS I CANNOT WEAR WHEN I GO OUT WITH YOU???

JA: (flabbergasted and shrunk) Okay, good comeback.

I’m inclined to believe that our quality of life is largely determined by our perspective. Everyone goes through similar seasons of life. While it is granted that everyone experiences different degrees of joy and pain, victories and struggles, we should also accept that our journey isn’t as uncommon as we think it is. Yes, what I am indicating is, regardless of how special you think you are, or how many horrible things you’ve endured, you’re really just another one of us.

So the one thing that sets a common man apart from another one, is his approach towards life and all its ups and downs. Hence, I shall audaciously believe that my life is that much more interesting than anyone else’s – not because I actually live an interesting life – but because I live my life interestingly. I believe that our lives are essentially mundane, therefore we must choose to live it extraordinarily. (Maybe now you understand why I’ve deliberately titled one of my categories, Extraordinary Mundane.)

Pardon the cliche analogy, but if you offer me a glass of water, and ask me if it’s half-filled or half-empty, I’d simply ask for a cup of teh peng instead. Life is truly about perspective – for perspective influences and determines experience.

enough is really enough.

Tonight, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

After our maiden session of tennis, HY and I sat down, mildly exhausted, and spoke briefly about how I played like Roger Federer contentment. I remember telling her that I’ve never experienced contentment as much as I have experienced it now. I no longer feel the need to want more things, or the urge to buy the latest things. And I thank God for that, because it goes against my carnal being.

It’s like, the less I have, the more I have to make do with what I have, hence I find myself efforting to be contented with whatever that I possess. On the contrary, I’d like to think that the more I have, the more I want – it’s ironic, because in the journey of life, we’ll never have enough. So if you want to learn about contentment, my first, only and practical advice, is to de-accumulate.

HY then summed up my sentiments with one phrase, typical of her being a lady of few words, “That’s because you do not covet”. And you know what? This absence of material desires is actually good for me. I looked at her and smiled.

I’ve said it before and so I’ll say it again – I could always be happier, but I am situationally contented.

would you let go of me?

It was my turn to “teach” a lesson from EC’s outstanding handbook, “Mentoring Paradigms”. (Now, I actually don’t quite understand how I was supposed to teach a lesson that is supposed to be self-taught by simply reading the book and reflecting so) I took the liberty to teach outside of the book; after all, the book is supposed to be self-explanatory and the leaders present at the meeting are old enough to digest the wisdom for themselves.

The gist of the paradigm that I taught was on God’s efficacy. (The book is on my office desk, so I’ll update this post again and list the key lessons I’ve learnt from EC’s teaching.) And so I brought everyone’s attention to the three parables placed one after the other in the Gospel of Luke – The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. I thought it was appropriate for the leaders to see for themselves God’s efficacy at work in a dynamic manner in these three examples. In my reflection, I think it’s common to hear that nothing is wasted in the economy of God; I’d turn that around and say that in God’s economy, there’s no such thing as nothing!

Observe, for the lost sheep, one in a hundred went missing; for the lost coin, one in ten went missing; and for the lost son, one in two went missing – the stakes are upped dramatically. Observe again, the shepherd left ninety-nine and went out to search for that lost sheep; the owner (went in and) turned his house upside-down to search for that lost coin; and the father could do absolutely nothing when he lost his son. Actually, to better phrase it, it was his son that decided to lose him.

Now, from this juxtaposition, I’ve learnt that the closer the missing subject (a person, usually) is to you, the lesser you can do about it should he or she decide to leave you. There are some people you go out to hunt for, some you turn your ransack your house for, and for some, you are simply powerless to do anything about it – and yes, it is extremely heartbreaking because you can almost see their outcome.

Around three years ago, I experienced that with my beloved sister. I remember the two-hour conversation in the car. It was then that I had to let go of her as my younger sister so that she can become her own woman. Letting go of a younger sibling that you protect is a lot more difficult than letting go of a young person that you shepherd. Without getting into details, I basically realised that I couldn’t and shouldn’t protect her in the same manner anymore, for she was old, mature and experienced enough to make her own decisions, and be responsible for them. (Sometimes, I wonder if it’s painful because I am relinquishing my status in her life – I don’t ever want to be a redundant elder brother.)

I had to learn to trust God for her eventual outcome and while it’s painful for me to let go of my sister because I love her so much, I must remember that God loves her so much more than I do and so surely He will look after her well-being better than I ever can. Hence, I shall have no fear for my Lord is in control of my sister. Either way, God has a plan for her and already knows what He is doing with her, way ahead of me. At the end of the day, I’m actually left with no choice, but learn not just to trust her, but to trust Him, whom I’m entrusting her to.

On that note, I believe that parents put so many restrictions on their children in this generation not because they don’t trust them, but because they don’t trust themselves – they are not confident of their own upbringing of their kids. I’m not yet a father so I write this callously, but I’d like to believe that when it’s time for my children to make their own decisions and account for themselves, I will deliberately and gladly let go of them, so that they can grow in an exponential manner apart from me. I will do this partly because I trust them, but mainly because I trust the good way that I would have brought them up. I guess I’d only be able to put my money where my mouth is when my children reach that age of reckoning.

On a side, random and personal note, I am absolutely and unashamedly confident that I will make an imperiously outstanding father. And just like in RD’s “Danny The Champion of The World”, I will become that father with the sparkle in his eye. Perhaps the absence of it makes me pine for fatherhood so much more, but somehow, I have this unquenchable, untamable conviction that of the many things that I will excel in in life, fatherhood is one that I am most certain of because it is something closest to my heart.

I have no idea how this evolved into a piece on parenting but I’m glad anyway.

top ten reasons to watch naruto.

To those who do not follow Naruto, they might just write off this post; some may not even read it; and for those who do read it, they may probably just glance through it. I have a tendency to dramatise my expressions, but to a certain extent, Naruto has made a positive impact on my life. I’ve always been able to identify with Naruto’s personality – I know this is crazy coming from a 27-year-old, but reading his character profile is like reading mine. So here goes the top ten reasons why, if you are not watching/reading Naruto, it’s time you got started!

1. Naruto educates you about mentoring – There are so many examples! Positive ones include Iruka/Naruto, Jiraiya/Naruto, Tsunade/Sakura, Asuma/Shikamaru and Gai/Rock. It also paints realistic pictures of mentoring, that sometimes investing yourself in someone may not always result in a golden ending. Heartbreaking ones include Kakashi/Sasuke, Jiraiya/Nagato and Sarutobi/Orochimaru.

2. Naruto enlightens you on friendships – one of the most touching scenes was when Choji gave up his life to save Shikamaru and Ino. Massively tear-jerking! Another classic moment is a scene from Kakashi’s past, “Those who break the rules of the ninja world are called scum… That’s true… But those who abandon their friend are worse than scum”. Let’s not forget the value of loyalty in friendships.

3. Naruto teaches you about believing in young people – This is a topic really close to my heart; I believe in young people very much and I believe that the role of the present generation is to help the future generation surpass two things in life – the present generation’s legacies and abilities, as well as the future generation’s own potential. The saddest thing to hear at your funeral is, “He was a great potential”.

4. Naruto advocates that young people can change the world – I loved it when Shikamaru told Naruto that it was time for them to inherit the will of fire and to stop behaving like kids; I’m a sucker for hero-themes and enjoyed it very much when Naruto was revealed as the child of prophecy, “The gutsy ninja”, and how he singlehandedly overcame Pain. Do not underestimate the power of one and what God can do through you.

5. Naruto has a tailed-beast within him, like how everyone has an inner beast – The part of us that’s innately evil and sinful. We try ways and means to subdue it, be it by placing the right people in our lives or by doing the right things. But I believe that this inner beast in everyone is spiritual and it cannot be overcome by a physical method. We need something/someone greater than us to overcome the darkest parts of us.

6. Naruto talks about social issues – Anything from acceptance, to power struggles, to standing up for what you believe is right, to doing things that make you look cool, to succumbing to bad influences. I believe that Naruto is able to reach such a wide audience is that it covers a huge spectrum of subjects that everyone can relate to, regardless of age. Naruto’s outspoken character encourages you to never waver in your beliefs.

7. Naruto makes you laugh really hard – The episode that cracked me up the most was when Team 7 tried to unmask Kakashi. I was ROTFLMAO when they were speculating what Kakashi really looked like. And the one where Kakashi debuted the “Thousand Years of Pain” jutsu. Sasuke: “What… That’s not a Ninjutsu… That was just a super powerful ass poke.” Absolute comic genius! Everyone needs a good laugh from time to time!

8. Naruto gives you the platform to dream and reflect – That’s what anime does, after all. Each time I watch Sasuke, CC comes to my mind; Shikamaru reminds me of LK; When I watch Naruto reminisce about Jiraiya, I thank God for RY’s role in my life; Iruka evokes how JH invested in me when I was younger. There’s a moment in each episode that temporarily removes me from reality into utopia, and I think that’s not a bad thing.

9. Naruto inspires you to ponder over what you stand for in life – This is shown in every ninja having their “way of the ninja”, which empowers them to accomplish their goal in life. Naruto’s extremely simple way of the ninja is to “Never go back on [his] word” and to “Never give up”. My way of the ninja is found here. That’s the reason why I strongly believe in writing personal vision statements. What’s yours?

10. Naruto enables you to have conversational currency with young people – I’ve always found it quite amazing when youths suddenly express interest to chat with me when they realise I’m a Naruto fan; it’s like how men bond with army talk, except kids bond when they discuss Naruto. Somehow, I think kids think you are cool when you start using Kage Bunshi no Jutsu in your vocabulary.

I think I may have proven that I’m a big fan by now. My Shanghai cell leader insisted that I was crazy to spend sleepless nights trying to catch up to the latest episode. When I discovered that my youth pastor watches Naruto with his wife and two girls, it gave me the guts to tell my cell leader that Naruto is a family-bonding and youth pastor-endorsed activity. He was speechless. HAHA! Believe it or not, I’ve even written a song called “Watching You”, inspired by Hinata’s battle with Neji with Naruto cheering her on, and how she was fighting to be recognised by Naruto. The entire scene had traces of the I’m-watching-you-watch-over-me feeling; I thought that was a rather poetic moment.

Anyway, I’ve come to the end of my fourth installment of Top Ten Tuesdays, and I’ll probably write on something more serious next week. The ones who would enjoy this post the most are the ones who have been enjoying Naruto religiously. For the rest of you – seriously, you have no idea what you’re missing.

sermon recap: stephen the formidable forgiver.

I think my face is finally showing signs of aging and I do not relish losing my youth. While it has been thoroughly satisfying so far, I must be honest and say that it has also fatiguing to preach the last three consecutive weeks (so I salute RY who has been doing that week-in, week-out for the last decade). Preparing a sermon excellently is indeed a labourious challenge; I spend 15-20 hours on average with each one. The bigger challenge however, is to wait upon the Lord as I allow the Word to saturate my heart and mind – I try not to write a sermon academically; the biggest challenge is to hear from the Lord the word in season for my congregation. I find it easy to deliver a generic sermon, so it is vastly gratifying when I preach a sermon that speaks specifically to my people. I always pray that the Holy Spirit will do His work of revelation in my youths’ hearts as they receive the Word.

I am thankful to God for the generous encouragement and plentiful affirmation that I’ve received over the last three weeks; I never take any for granted – these pats-on-my-back spur me on to preach even sharper and deeper sermons! As I conclude Part III of Facebook with the Newbies, I embark on the preparation of the final installation. I pray that this series won’t just end on a climax, but it’d end in a manner that the Spirit leads. In the meantime, do check out the slideshow below to refresh yourself on the two main themes that Stephen leaves with us – managing anger and overcoming unforgiveness.

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Part One – Managing Anger

  • The main difference between the angry Jewish leaders who couldn’t control themselves, and Stephen who clearly was in control of his emotions, was that the latter had the Holy Spirit while the former didn’t; in short, the Jewish leaders had the presence of anger and the absence of the Spirit.
  • The greatest obstacle to forgiveness is anger – for anger kills. It gives birth to murderous intent, which is different from incidental or accidental manslaughter. The Jewish leaders didn’t kill Stephen unexpectedly – they had planned to do it.
  • Hate is a choice and the judgment of hate is murder in your heart (1 John 3:15).
  • The Jewish leaders’ answer to Stephen’s inspiring and riveting sermon in Acts 7 revealed a three-step progression of anger.
  • The first stage of anger is when you realise it with your senses, through your eyes and ears“When they heard this”. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to be your filter, to separate and sieve away the things that make you angry.
  • The second stage of anger is when you respond to it with your emotions, in your mind and heart – “They were furious“. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to help us to choose the right response in any situation.
  • The third stage of angeris when you react to it with your actions, by your hands and mouth“And gnashed their teeth”. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to help you do the right thing that doesn’t cause you to sin.
  • Ephesians 4:6 states that we should not sin when we are angry, but it doesn’t say that it is a sin to be angry; what we do when we are angry makes all the difference.
  • Anger is an extreme emotion that can sometimes be damaging and destructive; it is always a decision made in our thoughts and feelings, and it never happens by chance. Remember that anger is an emotion, not an action.
  • We cannot control what happens externally (situations and circumstances) but we can ask the Spirit to help us to control what happens internally (emotion and cognition).
  • The biblical remedy to managing anger is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us – that’s why Stephen was known to be a man full of the Holy Spirit.

Part Two – Overcoming Unforgiveness

  • While Stephen’s answer to the Jewish leaders was completely different from the way they treated him, his reply to them in the face of being stoned was actually quite similar to the way Jesus Christ in the way that He was crucified.
  • Stephen had an absence of anger and a presence of the Spirit; he demonstrated for us three possible approaches to overcoming apparent unforgiveness.
  • The first approach is to be filled with the Holy Spirit (“But being full of the Holy Spirit”) by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Actively deal with unforgiveness and not passively avoid it.
  • The second approach is to look to God’s love intently (“He gazed intently into heaven”) and remember our God is One who is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Nehemiah 9:17)!
  • The third approach to know Jesus’ mission wholeheartedly (“Do not hold this sin against them”) for when we understand that the mission of Jesus is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), we’ll understand how to honour and give Him glory in our most trying situations.
  • The glory of God is evidently distinguished and displayed when we compare manmadestructures to GodmadeWonders (pun intended); hence we should fix our eyes on something bigger than ourselves, better than our situations and more glorious. We should put on heavenly spectacles.
  • Those who are full of the Spirit are game for anything in life, be it good or bad – because they are willing to do His work and to suffer for Him.
  • Forgiving others is a natural cause of action when we are being forgiven by God.
  • When evil does its worst, God does His best; Stephen’s martyrdom indirectly resulted in Paul’s conversion. Paul became a legendary missionary and author of half of the New Testament.
  • God desires for us to be reconciled to Him first, before we are reconciled to others (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). We experience freedom to relate to others when we are liberated in how we relate to God.

I sincerely hope that was helpful for you. With that, I conclude Stephen’s chapter and look forward to the last character in this series, as well as some much-needed rest at the start of the week.

we should always keep it fresh.

Tonight I watched the Mayday DNA concert at the National Stadium; this was my fifth time watching them, but the first time that the tickets were free, thanks to TT’s involvement with Youth Olympic Games. The last time I saw them was last Spring in Shanghai, about a year ago, and I paid S$150 for a seat 30 rows from the stage. This might just be the final time I’ll watch them… Unless I receive complimentary tickets again.

I declare this to be the final time because I know just about every single showmanship trick, stage line and musical arrangement that they have up their sleeves. I wasn’t impressed anymore – I didn’t clap or wave my hands or dance and I didn’t get high anymore. I was entertained, but that was it. Yeah, there were new elements – a huge robot, a children’s choir, an impressive mini orchestra as well as a new song. But I told HY that I wouldn’t have gone tonight if it wasn’t because a free show. She concurred.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a excellent concert; anyone attending it for the first time would have left the stadium impressed (although for the ideal experience, you’d have to sit at the more expensive seats directly in front of the stage). Mayday still remains one of my all-time favourite bands and I will continue to hum their music and be inspired by Ashin’s song-writing prowess, but there’s nothing new about them under the sun anymore. It was a great concert yet I was bored.

On my way back after sending TT, NY and HY home, I thought about what I was going to write about today and I was reminded of Mark 6:4 (NLT).

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”

I haven’t done my homework on this verse yet but I offer my quick thoughts anyway. I’m no longer impressed with Mayday because I could predict my concert experience. This got me thinking about why people decide to leave church or change services for somewhere or someone better, not because the new place or preacher is actually good (or better), but because they probably could predict all the antics of their regular service and sermon. Whenever Grace Retreat approaches, there’s an air of anticipation for the fresh word in season that the speaker would bring; I don’t deny that anticipation, but I think that our regular preachers are just as solid – the only difference is that we are familiar with them, too familiar sometimes.

I remember telling myself to attempt to treat every service like it’s the first time I’m attending it, or as if it’s a special retreat or conference service, or as if it’s the first time I’m hearing the preacher – all this to keep the experience fresh and to keep it new. I get a better understanding of why Jesus said the above-mentioned after tonight’s concert. The Mayday concert was spectacular, no doubt, but it was also boring because I was already used to it. The miracles Jesus performed were still miracles (there’s nothing unspectacular about healing illnesses!), but He wasn’t as effective in His hometown because I’m guessing the locals already knew what was coming up next in the list of Jesus’ to-do’s.

Tonight, as I remind myself to keep my own service experience fresh, I remind you to do likewise. You’ll be surprised at how much more receptive and expectant you might just be at your next service.

the best four-letter word in Korea.

He never stops running, ever – After a good night’s sleep dreaming about running, Park runs out of bed and runs around the kitchen making breakfast like Morecambe and Wise on crack. He then runs himself a bath, runs laps at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground, runs back home in the evening and then runs to the shop because he’s run out of milk.” (Source: Sport.co.uk)

What a candid and fitting description of possibly the most famous Asian footballer of all time!

The majority of us are convinced that Park Ji-Sung was purchased to sell shirts. Regardless of his stellar performances, the everyday skeptics would never recognise Park’s contribution to Man Utd’s tactical extension. While being with a successful team has enabled him to become the first Asian to ever feature and the only Korean to ever win the Champions League final (against Barcelona and Chelsea respectively), we should also remember that he’s the captain and highest scorer of an undefeated national team in the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign and the only Asian team that has reached the World Cup semi-finals. Park is also the first Asian to ever captain Man Utd (even for just a few minutes) and to win the FIFA Club World Championship.

When I lived in Shanghai, I used to play football every Sunday morning with a team of Singaporeans and I squirmed when they called me Park; I don’t know if it was because of resemblance or because of my constant running (no, really), but I’d like to think it’s the latter because a few of them keep telling me to stop running!

I became a fan of Park Ji-Sung when I visited South Korea last July – it was there that I realised how massive Park was, and how, when I use his name (in vain), it gets me places. I thought, “Hmm, I should just introduce myself as Park since I’m already used to it”. And so I did. With all the broken Korean an-nyong-ha-se-yo that I could speak, I introduced myself as Park whenever I met a South Korean, be it the innkeeper or the owner of the amusement park. “My name, Park.” Without fail, they break out into a hearty chortle every single time.

It sets them at ease immediately and builds up a sense of familiarity between two strangers. With that audacity to shamelessly pretend to be the national hero, I received massive discounts, unexpected favours, patient answers to annoying tourist questions, and most precious of all, I experienced the South Korean hospitality and smile in the warmest way possible. And being shrewd, you can imagine how I continued with that introduction for the rest of the trip. I have so much to thank you for, Ji-Sung. And I didn’t even need to run!

The more I watch Park play, the more I enjoy his honest, hardworking and tenacious contribution to Man Utd. He has consistently proven his credentials and deserves all the accolades after scoring in big matches and against big teams like AC Milan, Arsenal and Liverpool. He willingly covers every blade of grass for his teammates and has rightfully earned the nickname,  “Three-lung Park”. He’s not quite at legendary status, I think he has confirmed his status as a United great and will surely enjoy a “cult hero” treatment in the stands and in our living rooms for the rest of his career.

“I didn’t think that (Park was bought just to sell shirts)… …When I went to see him play in those Champions League semi-finals for PSV Eindhoven in 2005, I thought this is a player who understands football. He is intelligent and disciplined and he can play different positions.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

“When Ji first arrived in Manchester he never talked and people didn’t know much about him. But when we arrived in Seoul you can see he is the King of Korea! They shake, they cry, they scream when they see him. It’s amazing. He’s like the David Beckham of Korea. I’m very happy for him because he’s a really good friend and on the pitch he always gives 100 per cent for the team. That’s why people love him.” – Patrice Evra

“I know that some of the Korean players are doing very well in England… …And Park has started very well. I think he has made his name at Eindhoven first and in the Champions League has convinced. When you play against him, he’s a very hardworking player who sacrifices for the team but as well has good skill and scores important goals, unfortunately, against us. I’m convinced by his quality. He has a top level attitude.” – Arsene Wenger

“When we were scouting Park at PSV, I went to see him at the quarter-finals against Lyon. What we identified was a player with a great understanding of space. When his team had the ball, his movement was clever. We saw a player who could penetrate in the last third of the field and that is why we bought him. Since then he has developed his tactical and technical ability and he has become a very important player for us. He has had a fantastic career with us. When a local lad like Ji-Sung has left his country to play for Manchester United and excel at the highest level then it is obvious he will receive adulation at home. He has been the star of the national team for a while too. This is a football nation and when they see Park doing well and then when he comes back, the reaction is understandable.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

We used to dread Park’s inclusion on the team sheet but now we feel more confidence with him in the starting 11; he has indeed proven to worldwide audiences that hard work pays off after all. He is an inspiration for all Asians – if he could do it for Man Utd, surely one of the billion others could.

I’ve spent a fair amount of money on Man Utd and this was the first time I received financial dividends. If you ever happen to be in Suwon (Park’s hometown), look out for Park Ji-Sung Road – this unprecedented road-naming for a living person honours Park’s sizable contributions to South Korea through football. Remember also, to use the most powerful four-letter word – P-A-R-K.

Keep watching, keep believing and keep working hard. For one day, worldwide success (and local discounts for your fans) will surely knock on your door.

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