Category Archives: Simple Pleasures
Godliness with contentment is great gain; may God forbid me to take for granted the simple things in life.
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…
On 18 March 2014 just after 5pm, I received the greatest gift in the world — my precious baby girl. I’ll chronicle the epic labour process in another entry but today, I want to record a memoir of how my princess’ English and Chinese names came about.
Names mean a lot to me. A name carries identity, prophecy and destiny. And sometimes, it does feel like if you pick a good name, you’ve got half the battle won. You see, I selected “Asher” as my baptism name because it means “blessed, joyful and happy”, as well as “the most favoured one”.
As for our children, we’ve already shortlisted a number of English and Chinese names. The plan was to pick one that described the pregnancy journey. We’ve decided in the second trimester that our firstborn would be named “Eden”, because like her name suggests, she has brought us and others around us so much joy and delight. In Hebrew, it means “paradise” (she’s our utopia after all). And practically speaking, Eden is a simple, two-syllable, and easy-to-remember name.
Some years ago, I discovered the meaning of my surname, Chen (陈). While its most obvious meaning represents the sun (阳) that rises from the east (东), it’s actually also pronounced like a Hebrew word (חֵן) that means “loveliness, grace, and favour with God and men”. Not too shabby for one of the most common surnames in the world!
We’ve always wanted to name our offsprings after the fruit of the Spirit and since we had “love” and “joy” already working in Eden’s favour, we wanted to select a Chinese name that either described love or joy, or another of the remaining seven parts of the fruit of the Spirit.
As a typical ACS boy, I knew I needed some help with picking the right Chinese name for my daughter. So I approached a church friend, Charles, who’s studying for his PhD in Chinese history, who had very kindly agreed to help Huiyi and I pick a Chinese name for Eden. We met for coffee one afternoon and went through a few possibilities. I mentioned to him that I wanted Eden to have a single character (单名) in her Chinese name. So instead of the typical three characters, all my children’s Chinese names will only have two.
It’s not easy find a name that fits with the dialect and English “Tan” as well as the hanyupinyin “Chen” so we decided that Eden’s given name on her birth certificate will simply show “Eden Tan”, without her Chinese hanyupinyin name. After all, when you do introduce yourself, you don’t say, “My name is Joey Tan Chong Yi” or “你好, 我是Joey陈崇仪 but simply, “My name is Joey Tan” or, “我是陈晏”.
After an hour of tossing up possibilities of his initial suggestions and the Chinese names that I preferred, Charles and I went off topic and shared about the respective journeys we’ve each gone through watching our wives get pregnant. Many of which are very private so I’ll leave it that way. But as with several seasons of my life, God has always been teaching me about what it means to surrender… And everyone knows surrendering (to God) isn’t always the most pleasant or easy thing to do. I told Charles that through this process of surrendering, God has really taught me about His peace that surpasses all understanding — that assuring knowledge that He is with me and His presence is all I need.
That little sharing seemed to have ignited something in Charles’ eyes. He began sharing with me a little of his own journey into parenthood and how he’s learnt to trust God for all outcomes. Then he paused, and it was as if he rummaged through the virtual annuls of thousands of Chinese characters in his mind, then keyed one in on his cellphone. With aplomb, he made a suggestion…
“How about this character — 晏?”
Unsurprisingly, I did not recognise that Chinese character at all. And I’m confident that unless I’ve explained it to you before, or if you’re also studying for your Chinese history doctorate, chances are that this is the first time you’re seeing this character and you, like the rest of the modern world, have no idea how to pronounce “晏”.
“It’s pronounced as ‘yàn'”, he explained, “and it means ‘peace'”, he continued.
Upon seeing “晏” and perceiving its meaning, it became one of those moments for me. You know, those moments where you kind of know, this is it. I think Charles must have saw it in my eyes too. Like “Eden”, “晏” had a nice ring to it and immediately resonated with my heart. There was a certain sense of conviction about it. I knew there and then (barring consultation with my wife) that “晏” would be Eden’s (only) Chinese name. “Eden Tan” and “陈晏” — what a perfect combination of love, joy and peace.
Charles went on to explain that 晏 in one character, carries the same meaning as 平安 (peace) in two characters. Not only that, but it’s “peace that comes with day” because it’s “日” (day) + “安” (peace). To help me understand this, he explained that we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” because we are looking forward to the peace that comes in the morning, knowing that we have survived yet another unknown night; that’s why we chorus “All is calm, all is bright” in the following line. It was like a double Eureka moment for me — new understanding of that Christmas carol and new knowledge to appreciate the profound meaning of this Chinese character. Another way of looking at 晏 is that everyday (日) Eden will be filled with peace (安) — 每日平安.
Charles also explained that 晏 is one of those rare Chinese characters that has not simplified its strokes over the centuries; 晏 in written the same way in both traditional (繁体字) and simplified (简体字) Chinese. So that means that it’s meaning has not changed through time! In addition, what I also liked about this character is how feminine it looks — don’t you think it looks really pretty?
And finally, I also saw a pictograph in 晏 — it looks like the sun (日) is forming a protection (宀) over my little girl (女)! And if I may stretch it and “Christianise” its meaning, it kind of looks like the Son is watching over my daughter! In summary, looking at 晏 was like marvelling at Eden for the first time — love at first sight.
Through bringing our baby girl to full-term, God has indeed brought us joy and delight, allowed us to experience His grace and love, and taught us the precious lesson of knowing His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Eden Tan, Mummy and Papa love you very much — beyond what you can imagine. Thank you for teaching us love, joy and peace even before you’ve met us. You’re going to be an awesome, and very precious daughter. What a privilege it is for Huiyi and I to be your parents.
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!
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.
I’ve said this many times – I have a dream job.
I still pinch myself every morning because God has given me the privilege of being the youth pastor of the youth group that turned my life around. And because of indebtedness towards this youth ministry, work never feels like work as it is something I’d have done anyway.
Huiyi and I wanted to start a tradition in R-AGE – a 开工餐 at the start of the year to kick-off the year of ministry. I gathered those who were working together with me as full-time staff (my ministry interns) as well as those in my Think Tank (key leaders in my strategic team). These folks are critical to the operations, leadership and growth of the youth ministry.
So after dinner last night, my wife and I went to Sheng Siong Supermarket and bought over 20 different ingredients for the steamboat dinner that we were hosting tonight. There was enough food to feed a small army. We told ourselves to go all out to bless the people who go all out to bless the young people. We wanted the eight of them to feel loved and like they deserved nothing but the best.
Together with my awesome mother-in-law (who kindly and generously offered me her time and energy), I spent most parts of today preparing the food. I think she put in the most work for this steamboat – she prepared the soup broth, marinated the meats and chopped the vegetables. As I ate lunch and did a little grocery shopping with her earlier today, I felt so incredibly blessed. It is God’s grace that I’ve found favour with my mum-in-law, and I am grateful.
And I realised that my wife and I are like Martha and Mary respectively – you need both types when hosting a gathering. She is amazing – she helped me clean up everything when we finished dinner – and this after a full day of work. I am blessed indeed! Darling, you’re a wonderful pastor’s wife – thank you for being a part of and embracing my ministry and calling as your ministry and calling. (:
The 10 of us ate to our hearts’ content and had a great evening together. It’s truly a blessing to serve the Lord alongside brothers and sisters whom you like and love. These young men and women are like my family. I cannot imagine leading the youth ministry without them by my side. I also cannot imagine R-AGE without them.
Ministry is all about relationships indeed. I thank God for being a part of these God-given relationships and the privilege to do life with them.
- Spending four hours with my mentor’s mentor, Jim Chew, and gleaning wisdom from his life.
- Catching up with Daniel and Vimun over the weekend and adopting Stacey as our god-daughter.
- Pulling off stupid stunts at Moeraki Boulders and convincing my wife to capture me in action.
- Navigating through a forest route on the final blinking bar of petrol, and without phone reception.
- Swinging 120m in tandem from one mountain onto the oncoming cliff face with my brave wife.
- Jumping off a 134m platform between two mountains – the highest bungy jump in Australasia.
- Experiencing shock and helplessness when my wife went overboard from white water rafting.
- Sailing into Doubtful Sound and seeing whales, dolphins and seals in their natural environments.
- Clocking a mileage of 3,283.6km in 18 days – covering the entire perimeter of South Island.
- Being and sharing every moment with the love of my life for all 1,555,200 consecutive seconds.