Category Archives: Creative Expressions
My little anthology of poetry, song, art and the finer things in life – for that’s what we stay alive for.
On 20 June 2017, just before 5pm, I received another incredible gift from God—my beloved son. Praise the Lord! We are thankful to Him for Huiyi’s relatively easy pregnancy and quick labour, but most of all we are grateful for another arrow added to our quiver. With him, I am well pleased, indeed.
Some of our friends might already know that my wife and I take selecting names for our children seriously; we are meticulous, intentional and prayerful about it. Click here to check out how we decided on our firstborn’s English and Chinese names. And in keeping with tradition, I will journal on how we came up with our son’s names.
For starters, we avoided names that were too common, and we also wanted a name that appears in the Bible. We preferred a name that was derived from a biblical location, just like Eden. Thus, we thought of “Israel”, a nation that is special to God, but it didn’t go well with “Tan” and we didn’t want him to explain that he’s a Singaporean, and not an Israeli, for his entire lifetime. Haha.
But because we had considered Israel, we inevitably considered “Judah” as well.
In the Bible, Judah (pronounced as “joo-duh”, not “joo-dah”) made his debut as Jacob’s fourth son (Ge 29:35). It is a Hebrew expression that means “the praised one” and “thanksgiving”, for Judah’s biblical parents shared that sentiment when he was born. Judah then became one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ge 49)—and the only tribe that remained loyal to King David’s family line (1Ki 12:20). When the Davidic kingdom split, the Northern kingdom was called Israel, and the Southern kingdom, Judah. What’s special about the Southern kingdom was that Jesus eventually descended from it (He 7:14).
Of course, Judah is not to be mistaken with “Judas” (Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus). I’ll teach my son to lovingly educate anyone who mistakens his name with Judas with, “Perhaps it’s time you read the Bible…” Hehe.
Well, we like Judah because of his actions in the Bible. In Ge 37:26, Judah intervened for Joseph’s life to be spared; that demonstrated leadership initiative. By being responsible for the family despite not being the eldest (Ge 43:1-18), Judah prevailed above circumstances and beyond limitations. I also love how courageous Judah was especially in Ge 43:9 and 44:18, as he took charge of the situation by boldly speaking his mind. And throughout the rest of Judah’s biblical narrative, he influenced the proceedings in his household and played a principal role in leading his family to redemption.
And of course, anyone who’s described as a “Lion” (of Judah, Re 5:5) gives the impression of an imposing figure. All in all, Judah just seemed like a young man who would lead the battle from the front. I love that imagery, which is probably influenced by my training as a tank officer. #oncearmouralwaysarmour
But perhaps the most significant thing about Judah was that he was the first to receive full blessings (from his father), without any curses (like some of his brothers). In Ge 49:8-10 (NLT), it reads,
“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
You will grasp your enemies by the neck.
All your relatives will bow before you.
Judah, my son, is a young lion
that has finished eating its prey.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down;
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
the one whom all nations will honour.”
As for his Chinese name, it was slightly more difficult because of the criterions we had set. Firstly, we wanted it simple, so like his sister, Judah’s Chinese name would be a single character (单名). It had to be unchanged from traditional (繁体字) to simplified (简体字) Chinese, so that no meaning is lost. It had to be in the fourth sound (第四声), so that it would sound unyielding as well as pleasant with my surname (陈). But most of all, it had to carry the meaning of “faith”, or along the lines of it, like “persevering”, “enduring” or “steadfastness”. Finding a single character that encapsulated all that was a tall order because I’m an #ACS boy and my alma-mater is (in)famously #anglominuschineseschool.
So the first person we turned to was Charles, a friend who has a PhD (!) in Chinese history (!!). He is the same church friend who gave our firstborn her exceptional Chinese name (晏). His first recommendation was 信. We liked it because it fulfilled all our conditions, but we were also open to other options. (As an aside, it would have been pretty cool to call my son 阿信 too, considering how much I liked 五月天. Ha!)
But since we were considering alternatives, I decided to consult Ps Walter, my superbly bilingual colleague and interpreter extraordinaire, for more suggestions. And after looking through two to three of his choices, we found one that was (close to) perfect. This new suggestion received rave reviews from Charles too. It carried the meanings of “perseverance”, “insistence”, “resolute”, “decisive”, “staunch”, “strong”, “firm”, “brave”, “fearless”, “urgency”, “determination” and “fighting against evil”, which are just about all we would want in our son, as a man, and as a future leader. (Yes, I’ve clearly done my research on its etymology.)
So, Judah’s Chinese name is 陈毅 (pronounced as “Chén Yì”). It is also a clever wordplay on 诚意 (“sincerity”, “good faith” and “frankness”). Well, 毅 has a few more strokes than we would have preferred, but a future ACSian could do with a bit more practice in Chinese! Haha! Incidentally, the English and Chinese names have similar meanings.
For Huiyi and I, the English name we pick calls forth the child’s destiny and the Chinese name describes the pregnancy journey. The lesson that God had been teaching us (especially my wife) in the year leading up to his birth, is to have faith in Him. (We’ll leave the details for a private sharing…)
We’ve always wanted to name our offspring after the fruit of the Spirit. So now we’ve got love (חֵן, “Chen”, 陈), joy (Eden), peace (晏), and now goodness (Judah, well sorta…) and faithfulness (毅). So I guess there’s still space for more! Ha-HA!
In conclusion, and on a serious note, my prayer and aspiration for my son is taken from 2Ti 2:1-2 (NASB),
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Hence, it becomes our prayer that our little lion will grow up to become a humble but bold individual who will lead others to praise God and give thanks to Him through his persevering character.
As I work in a church, my opportunities to meet non-believers are limited. I asked God to show me new ways to evangelise and I was inspired to redeem telemarketing for His glory. So I told myself that instead of rudely and curtly putting down the phone whenever I get a sales call, I will ask if I could pray for the person on the line with me instead. After all, this idea had been on my mind for a while now.
My maiden attempt took place a couple of weeks ago. I was on the way to pick up my wife from work and I got a call from a dude wanting to sell me insurance. I told the Lord that morning that I’d definitely step out in faith to do it. So I put him on speaker, listened to him make that sales pitch then I asked him for his name, and went for it.
“Hi Sam, could I ask you if I could do something crazy? Can I pray for you?” I tried to sound as natural as I could.
“Oh… Sure…”, he said politely, probably not wanting to offend a potential client.
I went ahead and prayed a generic, unscripted and spontaneous prayer of blessing over Sam. And that one day, he would come to know God for himself. When we put down the phone, he actually signed off with, “God bless you, Sir”. To which I said, “God loves you, Sam!”
I was so fired up by that random four-minute conversation that I decided to pen down different types of prayers for different types of phone calls. So I composed word-for-word prayers for insurance, recruitment and credit cards sales calls. And boy was I excited to use it!
Two weeks passed and I, surprisingly, didn’t get any calls. For the first time, I was actually disappointed nobody wanted to sell me anything or recruit me to join their company!
Until this evening.
I received a sales call from a telemarketer called Catherine. She wanted me to buy a savings plan from her bank. When I politely refused her offer and asked if I could pray for her, she was surprised. She said she wasn’t a Christian but I said I could still pray for her to bless her.
She must have been surprised when I began to pray out loud. “Heavenly Father, I may not have purchased a savings plan from Catherine but I pray one day she will come to see that You’re the only savings plan she needs. May you give her success in her next sales call and help her to know the only one who can save her. In Jesus’ name, amen!”
It was almost as if I had caught her off-guard!
Then I told her that since she has my number, she could call me anytime if she ever wanted to know my kind of savings plan.
Now, I’m looking forward to the next call I receive. I am praying that these small acts of randomness will open the large doors of redemption. Since they’re stuck on the phone with me, I might as well stick something in their minds for them to remember. I’m believing by faith that these two to four minute conversations will one day change destinies. Join me as I redeem telemarketers one by one!
Instead of lamenting over the Singapore haze situation and pouring out my woes on social media (which adds zero value to this pseudo national crisis IMHO), I found ten ways to be thankful for the wind beneath my wings…
- The last time Singapore had such unhealthy PSI readings was in October 2006 (I think). Let’s be thankful that we’ve enjoyed clear skies for nearly seven years!
- In moments like these, you should be pleased that you’re not in Sumatra or any of the northern Indonesian islands – it could be been far worse!
- Isn’t it good that at least Singapore has a tropical climate where rain could come anytime to wash the haze away? Places in summer now (especially desert places) won’t even smell precipitation for weeks!
- Let’s rejoice that that Singapore’s transportation system is nearly 100% air-conditioned; when I was a teenager, buses were ventilated by natural wind! And if you’re a car owner, be contented for your own set of wheels and instead of contending with the smoke while commuting – imagine those who are cycling!
- It’s a good sign that lesser people (especially teenagers) are on the streets because they’d rather be indoors, whether at home, in the office or in malls – out of the streets, out of trouble!
- Let’s be relieved that at least everyone in Singapore is united by the same public enemy – instead of population, politics or (gender) preference issues!
- Believe it or not, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness to us in the way that He led the Israelites through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud and fire – sounds like concentrated haze in a column to me!
- For all you photographers out there, let’s get trigger happy for this is the only time where you can capture pictures with a natural “smoke out” effect without using any filter!
- For those who aspire to be ninjas, this is your time to bring out your face masks and actually look socially acceptable – when else would you get away with it!?
- And finally, if this situations worsens, the government might start ordering people to stay indoors to avoid the haze – I can hear students and national servicemen cheering already!
It is finished. And I am relieved. I’ve completed two major milestones in the same week – RMIT and my book manuscript.
Praise God for how He sustained me through school, ministry, wedding preparations, and authoring in the last two years! I couldn’t have done it without His grace seeing me through. All glory to Him!
The following essay is my final piece of secular academic work. Thought this might help to fill the eerie silence on my blog…
Introduction: abstain to understand social media
From the first email sent in 1971, to the debut of the Internet in 1991, to the introduction of AOL Instant Messaging in 1997, to the launch of Facebook and Twitter in 2004 and 2006 respectively, the way we communicate has metamorphosed the way we socialise. Indeed, social media has become an extension of our personality. At times, it is uniform with real life, but in other instances, it can be altogether inconsistent.
An effective way to grasp the impact of social media in our personal and professional lives is through an abrupt and complete abstinence from it. For the purpose of this assignment (and its relatively personal nature), I embarked on and completed a radical 72-hour social media fast. My observations and recommendations are presented in this essay.
Examining the impact of social media
Cyberspace can elevate anyone to the position of an expert. Popularity instead of pedagogy has become the new credibility; with enough “likes” garnered, any opinion can be deemed believable and eventually accepted. This is the age of blogging and re-blogging, photo and video sharing, and social networking and bookmarking. Alarmingly, social media has overtaken pornography as the ascendant power of and predominant activity on the information superhighway (Qualman, 2009).
Suffice to say, social media has become the resident protagonist of new communication technologies. Jameson (2010, p. 4) aptly described social media “in the 21st century” as “the power of word of mouth… …kicked into hyperdrive by technology”. She echoed Bill Bernbach, founder of international advertising agency DDB Worldwide, who once said in 1989 that “word of mouth is the best medium of all”.
Social media is inescapable
According to Boyd (2011), social networks are “connected by information, time, and space… …[and] navigate life as a series of relationships”. Whether we realise it or not, people like watching others and being watched, and find ways to retain control in watching each other because everybody wants attention. Users adapt themselves and evolve with the improving technology that is available to them.
Social media abounds in multiple platforms. It is only when we disconnect ourselves from Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, Instagram, WordPress (among many others) and all online chatting platforms that we realise its pervasive dominance in our lives. Besides its presence on the World Wide Web, social media is also proliferated through orthodox electronical communication means as well as applications on mobile devices; its convenient and seamless attachment to email notifications and mobile application badges means that one is required to effort before he can completely detach himself from social media.
According to McLuhan and Fiore (1967, p. 8-9), the media “is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life” and went on to suggest that youths “instinctively [understand] the present environment – the electric drama” and “the reason for the great alienation between generations” was “created by electronic information media”.
The widespread utilisation of social media is synonymous with Generation Y (or the Millennial Generation) and especially Generation Z (also known as the Internet Generation). Social media has evolved rapidly in a mere decade. And with mobile technology ameliorating at an even faster rate, it becomes inevitable that communication means between people have accelerated and eroded simultaneously through the rampant and seemingly irrepressible exploitation of social media.
Three benefits of refraining from social media
The first benefit felt from an absence of social media is increased work productivity. The Internet Generation is also known as the Multitasking Generation and this multitasking phenomenon is perpetuated by their employment of social media. By keeping oneself devoid of social media, greater concentration is afforded to the task at hand, and increases effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace.
The second benefit felt from abstaining from social media is increased physical rest. One of the key reasons for the prevalent nocturnal lifestyle of Generation Y and Z is the (self-induced) uncontrollable need to respond to social media activity straightaway; micro-blogging and instant messaging has instinctively encouraged users to reciprocate immediately. However, if the urge to reply is eliminated, users naturally wind down mentally, and allow their mind and eventually their bodies to rest.
Sagen (2005) labelled these users as the “microwave generation” and explained how almost everything is demanded instantly.
At what point does someone become so dependent on technology that in our world of instantaneous feedback we forget the virtues of patience and personal cultivation? We live in an era where cell phones, PDA’s and MP3 players are always within a finger’s reach and our dependency on these technological gadgets are such that we rely on them to communicate or entertain with one another.
In essence we’ve turned into a “Microwave Generation”, which can be explained in two parts; one, that our reliance on technology has become so “all consuming” and commonplace that without it we’d be in a state of shock and two, we as human beings want everything now (59 seconds or less it seems). Look around you, there’s a “fast, quick, instant, speedy” service to just about anything you can think of including espressos, fast food, medical checkups and oil changes.
The third benefit felt comes in the form of increased world awareness. Instead of filling our minds with tweets and status updates, we gain the opportunity to keep ourselves abreast of world and national news. Due to prolonged overuse (and possible abuse) of social media, there is a conditioned and institutionalised need to check on the activities of, as well as to share our thoughts and observations among our social circles. The desire to speak and be heard drives people to be active on social media. This might be driven by a basic human need for validation and acknowledgement.
Social media in social environments
One cannot deny that social media has infiltrated the workplace. Organisations have discovered that social media is an efficacious way of reaching their target audience. A dearth of social media is inconceivable in this highly sophisticated consumer climate, especially if it involves getting in touch with youths. Technology assembles “the flaneur and the voyeur” and brings both to prominence; people take turns to watch and be watched because networks are increasingly salient (Boyd, 2011).
Social media has also taken relationship building to a new paradigm. Significant moments (like childbirths, anniversaries, demises, etc.) in social relationships are now magnified and multiplied through social media because it makes the sharing of these moments convenient and accessible. For example, instead of meeting up vis-a-vis, users now keep in touch with each other through weblogs; moreover, user-generated content on social media platforms also provides conversational currency during actual meet-ups. As such, social media has proven itself to be an immensely useful networking tool.
However, social media will continue to alter the way we communicate with real people. And if one is serious about reaching Generation Y and Z for business or personal reasons, then he must consider the capitalisation of social media. It is however, possible to wean off social media so while organisations may rely on the heavy use of social media, it is not wise to depend on social media as the sole platform of communication.
New communication technologies like this might result in Generation Y and Z being handicapped from expressing themselves in real life. They can describe their emotions online but struggle to do it offline in person. As a result, real life communication has eroded into undesirable superficiality because people might resort to tweeting about instead of talking about it. What is more hazardous is that this mentality is set to continue.
Conclusion: social media is a social concern
72 hours provides only a preliminary insight into a world without social media; although a longer duration is necessary for substantiated findings, three days may be sufficient to determine the effects of social media in our lives. For the sake of social balance, social media should remain a social utility instead of a social necessity. One merely uses it (and does not need it) to increase the convenience and efficiency of daily chores and functions.
Social media is here to stay and has become an integral part of the way we communicate; it has become the preferred way of communication. And since voyeurism and flaneurism are inevitable, instead of preventing access, people manage the attention they receive and divert it away.
Hence, instead of denying its impact or shunning the use of it, we must learn to educate ourselves with it, manage and grow with its regular development, and subsume it into our daily routines. To prevent being consumed by it, we should learn to set healthy perimeters for ourselves when we use social media, otherwise it may distract us from and destroy our priorities.
Now, if “people are the most important media” (Jameson, 2010), and if people are defined and made significant by relationships and society, then social media must not become the culprit that takes the “social” away from people.
Boyd, D. (2011). Dear Voyeur, meet Flâneur… Sincerely, Social Media. In Surveillance & Society 8(4): 505-507. Retrieved January 7, 2012, from http://www.surveillance-and-society.org.
Jameson, L. (2010). The Power of Six Degrees. In The Yellow Paper Series. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from http://www.ddb.com/what-we-think/DDB_YP__ThePowerofSixDegrees.pdf.
McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the massage: An inventory of effects. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Qualman, E. (2009). Statistics Show Social Media Is Bigger Than You Think. In Socialnomics. Retrieved February 2, 2012, from http://www.socialnomics.net/2009/08/11/statistics-show-social-media-is-bigger-than-you-think.
Sagen, E. (2005). Microwave Generation. In Kartooner. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from http://www.kartooner.com/archives/2005/11/29/microwave-generation/