Category Archives: Extraordinary Mundane
Daily routines are mundane; I set myself apart by living my humdrum life extraordinarily.
These observations are a little backdated (three months late), but these lessons are timeless and will be relevant in almost every season of my life.
In no order of importance, here are 20 (albeit cryptic) reflections from Eden’s five-day stay in Gleneagles Hospital in September 2014…
1. Family trumps everybody and is my greatest priority.
It was a no-brainer forfeiting my mission trip to be with Huiyi and Eden.
2. Don’t expect sheep to show concern for shepherds.
Pastoral care is freely dispensed by the pastor, but will hardly be reciprocated in equal measure.
3. Only my immediate family and I will be there for my immediate family and I.
Every hospitalised person can rely on only two groups of people — parents and grandparents.
4. The way I shepherd in a crisis is a reflection of the way I was shepherded in a crisis.
Where is my reference point? What is my yardstick? To lead by example, I must first be led by example.
5. Being wise is more important than being loving or sacrificial.
It is better for the main caregivers to take turns to get quality rest instead of staying vigil all the time.
6. The lesser I expect, the lesser I will be disappointed.
I realised that I have unspoken expectations and it’s toxic for me to hold on to these.
7. My single presence is more important than the sum total of my prayers.
Support is meant to be felt. Prayers are meant to be answered. Both require action.
8. Be kind and courteous to everyone because nobody knows what I am going through.
Nobody owes me a living so I learnt to be polite to everyone even when I was highly strung.
9. Don’t bother updating those who don’t bother to update themselves.
Those who really want to know will naturally contact me and that’s all the people I need to update.
10. My wife and baby’s comfort outweighs showing courtesy to visitors.
If Eden or Huiyi was resting when visitors came and wanted to say hello, too bad for my visitors.
11. I am not obligated to explain or respond to everything to and from everyone.
Strange and uncalled-for comments should be ignored and deemed as insensitive or immature.
12. Guard my emotions: the devil will exploit my vulnerability.
My security is found in who I am to God and not who I am to people.
13. People care more for my work than for my worth and my family’s welfare.
Well, I honestly didn’t really care about anything else regardless of how pressing they were.
14. Strangers and acquaintances can be more supportive than relatives and friends.
We experienced unexpected favour through our paediatrician, nurses and even security guards.
15. In distress, do not miss out on walking into divine appointments.
I took the opportunity to demonstrate God’s to the seven-year-old boy warded beside Eden.
16. No point asking for prayer if I don’t even pray myself.
Believing in God becomes authentic when I do much more than what I ask others to do on my behalf.
17. Always be patient with my wife and overlook any wrong choice of expression.
Huiyi is way more stressed and affected than me and the last thing on her mind is to offend me.
18. The only person I must practically serve and verbally encourage is my wife.
Tell Huiyi she’s doing a good job and prove that I’m right behind her in everything.
19. If I can’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
Either I treat my splitting headache by going home to rest or I become Huiyi’s extra burden.
20. Considering others better than myself is viewing my contributions less than theirs.
Becoming the logistics guy was nothing compared to being a breastfeeding mother to a sick baby.
I have decided to take a mental break from preparing 14 messages (pray for me!) for this weekend’s Redeem Conference, next week’s youth camp at Elim Church and next weekend’s R-AGE Leaders Advance to record some fresh thoughts. Let’s see where this verbiage takes me…
A few times throughout the day, Huiyi will send me picture updates of Eden’s daily activities. She receives these pictures from her mother, who is Eden’s main caregiver from Tuesdays to Fridays.
And I have observed that more often than not, my typical replies to these lovely photos are, “I miss my family!” and “Love you so much!”, and not so much of responding to what Eden is actually doing in the photos.
Today, Eden’s 公公 and 嬷嬷 brought her to Jurong Bird Park. Eden looks so adorable in the photos and Huiyi commented that our baby girl “has such an awesome life”.
I wholeheartedly agreed with my wife. But there was a tinge of melancholy in my “Indeed!” reply.
As I thanked God for how blessed Eden is, a part of me yearns to be playing with her at the Bird Park instead of writing sermons in front of my laptop.
I found myself living vicariously through these daily photos.
I imagined myself taking those pictures and getting Eden to smile for the camera; I pictured myself pushing Eden in her stroller through the midday heat; I envisioned myself cradling Eden in my right arm, kissing her all over and littering her ears with, “Darling, Daddy loves you so much!”
Yes, I was truly experiencing life with Eden in my imagination through the actions of my in-laws.
And it got me thinking about the irony of parenting in Singapore; it is as if we bring our children into this world to have them being cared for by other people, and for them to spend time away from us.
When we are younger and more energetic, we have to work to earn money for our livelihood, and be away from our children. But when we are older and less spritely, we have enough money and all the time in the world, but our children have also all grown up! Surely there’s a way around this tension that I haven’t yet discovered?
My mother-in-law commented a few months ago that she is so much more active in Eden’s life than in her own children’s stage of infancy. She also said that that statement holds true for my father-in-law.
Both Huiyi and I were cared for by our grandmothers; I believe many of us in Singapore were taken care of by our grandparents and that (good) tradition seems to pass on from generation to generation.
As much as Huiyi and I are grateful for the tremendous support that we receive from our parents, we desire so much more to be Eden’s main caregivers instead. We are, after all, her parents — I mean, who wants to spend time with her more than us?
But the reality is, I have a day job (which I am most thankful for, because I enjoy what I do for a living) and by keeping it, I am fulfilling the other part of being a father by providing for my family.
On weekdays, Huiyi and I will only have about five hours with Eden — two in the morning and three in the evening. That is why, as working parents, we cherish weekends so much.
And that is why I treasure my off days that much more now because that’s the exclusive time I get to spend with my beloved princess and create memories for the both of us. On Mondays, I do not have to live vicariously through images on a mobile phone.
Every precious moment with my daughter is locked into my heart forever. I will never give up anything for time with her.
Oh man, I am getting emotional writing this…
Last weekend, in my excitement to leave the house for a Christmas party, I clumsily knocked over the bottle of wine I was going to bring out. Well, my living room ended up looking like a homicide scene.
Thankfully, Eden was on her high chair and Huiyi was in the kitchen when the bottle shattered. I, on the other hand (HA), was left to pick up the pieces (HAHA) of my broken
heart Montes Merlot 2010.
As I closed the lid of the rubbish chute, I carelessly sliced my thumb against a glass shard that protruded from the plastic bag. It literally became a bloody mess, and my sink ended up resembling an amateur suicide scene.
Yes, my well-documented fears — odynophobia (pain) and haemophobia (blood) — went into overdrive; Sheryl Crow said the first cut is the deepest and baby I know she’s right about that. It was painful and I bled a lot, but I wasn’t sure if my lips turned pale from the loss of blood or the amalgamation of phobias.
I was grateful for my cool-as-a-cucumber wife who took command of the situation; she cleaned up my mess (as always), attended to me with the issue of blood (phrase credits: DL) and even fed our bemused baby while we waited for my blood to clot and composure to return.
It’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve been deprived of my right thumb (now bandaged) and I’ve learnt how essential this small part of my body is, not just in function, but also in presence.
Functionally speaking, losing (the use of) my thumb was obviously and extremely inconvenient. I’ve come to realise how I probably need my thumb for just about everything I do: using the toilet, taking a shower, driving the car, eating my meals, carrying my baby, feeding her porridge, peeling her blueberries, washing the dishes, using my iPhone, locking my door, shaking someone’s hand, typing this post, patting Eden to sleep and even sleeping itself (fearing I might squash and injure it further)!
Percentage-wise, a thumb is a fraction of my body weight but its significance is unquestionable.
But what was more interesting for me was how I perceived the presence of my thumb, or better phrased, the impact of its absence; it was, after all, impossible for others to miss my bandaged thumb.
The owner of the convenience store I visited today didn’t, and made small talk with me about my injury; my friends at the party, with every handshake, asked me what happened; even my baby girl couldn’t stop touching my bandaged thumb — she’s either wondering how daddy hurt himself or thinking if that white thing is edible.
It got me thinking about the body of Christ (the Church), or applicable in this instance, any group of friends. Often, we instinctively miss people because of what they could do and have done for us (function), but there are times we will also miss people simply because of who they are innately and who they are to us (presence).
Perhaps as we approach Christmas, it makes for a good opportunity to remember the ones who have gone missing in our lives. Go ahead — give her a call and tell her how much you miss her, or text him and let him how much you miss having him around.
You have nothing to lose, except the friend you already lost.
In the meantime, I shall read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and enjoy sticking out like a sore thumb for the next few days.
It has been over half a year since I last blogged. I had always wanted to resume writing regularly, not for public reading but personal rigour. However, it has become increasingly difficult with different commitments vying for my time and attention.
I certainly miss the catharsis of writing — where I can reflect, process and record my frank thoughts, raw feelings and divinely appointed experiences. Somehow, writing slows down my life and helps me to savour the moments.
So without much fanfare, I shall attempt to restart tonight. After all, there is no better time to write than now.
A few days ago, I stopped my car in the middle of Grange Road to attend to a motorist who was trapped underneath her own motorcycle.
I was about 300 metres away when I saw the toppled motorcycle. In those short seconds of approaching her location, I was certain that there must have been many other drivers who had driven past her earlier on, and pretended to be oblivious to her obvious distress.
True enough, at least another five vehicles had zoomed past her before I could turn on my hazard lights and stop my car just behind her motorbike. I literally parked in the centre of a three-lane road and a potential traffic congestion was the last thing on my mind.
I did what every normal person would do if he witnessed something abnormal on the road — help.
I never knew how heavy a motorcycle was until I assisted her; there was no way she could have lifted it up on her own.
She told me that a taxi driver had hit her and then sped away. Thankfully, she said she was not hurt and surprisingly, she was not upset at all. Maybe it was the adrenaline from her struggle, maybe she was at fault, or maybe she was just grateful to be alive.
As I raised her motorbike, I was joined by another man who did the same normal thing I did; he stopped his SUV and got out to help this woman in her late 40’s.
Once she was back on her feet and sat on her motorbike, she appreciated the both of us, assured us that she was fit enough to resume riding, and went on her way. I would probably never meet her again and chances are, even if I did, I would not recognise her.
The entire incident was over in less than a couple of minutes (and I was on my bluetooth headset with KY the whole time) but it got me thinking about what it meant to help others.
1. The right person to help is often the first person who helps.
2. The first person who helps naturally invites the second person to help.
3. Everyone needs help, but they may not be able or know how to tell you.
4. The best help you can offer could be as simple as a minute or two.
5. Helping others is an end in itself because it is not about you.
Reading all the tributes about Sir Alex made me realise that the man is more than just a manager… He’s a leader, teacher, father, coach, friend, mentor and even a “pastor” of sorts (among countless other roles) to not just the football players but the entire football club. He’s built not just a few football teams but an entire football club.
When you have a “manager” attending youth training sessions, attending employees’ bereavements and sending personal letters to grieving fans, texting former players and calling up fellow managers to support them, you know that he’s so much more than just a salaried man. If only I had the chance to have coffee with him…
The dedication to the job, the desire to win and the demand for excellence… We are not replacing any other man. We are replacing a football institution. And how is it even possible? I cannot imagine anyone else in the dugout because truth is, no one else has been in there except him!
Fans of rival clubs and haters will never understand how we feel (and it’s even harder for non-football people to get it). He’s been around before I started supporting United in 1994 and he’s the only manager I’ve known since. Only United fans can say something like that. He’s brought United from nothing to something, so that’s why he’s everything to United and all of us.
United is a machine – his machine – and this club will move on. But it will never be the same again. Sir Alex has always said that nobody is bigger than the club. But I think maybe… Just maybe… Ferguson is as big as the club because he IS the club. His retirement feels like something is being ripped out from my heart. It was hard when Cantona retired; Ferguson retiring is the same gut-wrenching feeling magnified multiple times over. Supporting United will never feel the same again.
Legend, legacy, longevity. He’s not just a football manager. He is Sir Alex Ferguson – the greatest EVER football manager in all of history.
I was disappointed with myself for not being able to subdue my anger during a meeting yesterday.
No, I didn’t flare up at a particular person or used words that I wasn’t supposed to, but I produced an unusually strong reaction to a decision that was made. I was the only one with a bad reaction even though that decision impacted all of us; there was another colleague who raised her eyebrow to that decision but she was gentle. Somehow, that decision triggered something in me.
The first few questions I asked myself were,
- How can a person who tries to be a man of God react in this unacceptable way?
- Is a pastor even allowed to show such emotion or is he supposed to be even-tempered all the time?
- Have I stumbled any of my colleagues with my display of emotions?
- What does it mean to respond, and not react, in that situation?
- How would I respond instead, if I was given another chance?
I excused myself, headed to the bathroom and attempted to sort out my emotions before I returned to the meeting. My colleague who went out with me encouraged me to speak to the decision-maker so that I can get it off my chest. I told her that I wouldn’t, until I sort out what’s in my heart, otherwise I’d get myself into more trouble.
I realised that over the years, a part of me gets especially annoyed whenever I feel that there is inconsistency in decision-making or in example-setting. I realised that I like things to be in black and white, yes and no, true and false. I operate in dichotomy and struggle to deal with ambiguity and ambivalence. I also have a low threshold for injustice.
Until I succeed in managing this tension, I’ve always asked the Lord to keep my head straight and stick to my convictions, but never at the expense of being self-righteous. I asked God to make me flexible leader with wisdom to know when to compromise and when to stay firm; there are some battles that are just not worth fighting. I asked the Lord for a greater threshold of grey areas.
Then the Lord reminded me to wear my Double-L plate; except that this time, a leader and a learner must also be ready to be a loser and lover. I want to learn to lose my rights and love others. I want to grow from this setback. I want to mature. I want to be godly.
I am thankful for the grace of God and how He would still use me despite my multiple flaws. I will do better next time.
I met up with two of my closest friends today – Lionel Koh over lunch and Joel Tay over a late night chat.
There was no need for airs or icebreakers. We just dived straight into a heart-to-heart talk, being as honest and straightforward as we knew how to, without the fear of being judged. I am thankful that God has blessed me with buddies whom I can be truly be myself with.
It’s tiring (sometimes, honestly speaking) when you relate to people as a leader or pastor or mentor. It’s refreshing to just be Joey for a change, to be among people who grew up and will grow old with me. The older you get, the fewer they get.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. — Proverbs 17:17
Pray for me, for I’m losing sight of the goals of my Lent. I must persevere… I must stay focused. I want to experience that breakthrough.