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keep the main thing, the main thing.

Today, I commemorate my first year in Singapore since I returned from Shanghai for good. I fondly remember how I made my comeback at the No One Else album launch concert. I will never forget the microphone stand, the spotlight, the explosive Roller Coaster introduction, and those 10 memorable steps (wished it was 100!) I took to superstardom the centre of the stage. It was my moment of conceited indulgence (so bear with me) and it’s not very often I get to feel like a rock star. Yes, it’s a terribly vain thing to say, but I’ve never denied my appetite for the limelight. (Fronting a band gives me a completely different rush from leading worship or preaching and I’ve really missed that! RL, CK, JT… It’s time to revive…)

Anyway, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read the above-mentioned expression. “Keep the main thing, the main thing” is synonymous with “Do not major on the minor” or “Know the difference between urgent and important”. Over the past nine months, something that I’ve honestly struggled with is to discern between my dreams and God’s dreams (for I certainly don’t want to mess this up!), as well as to think about how all these dreams are translated into ministry execution. I honestly find the marriage of the two dreams extremely challenging at times.

When I felt the call to enter full-time ministry, there were only three ministries that God deposited into my heart – Lead, Preach and Mentor – and these governed the way I operated; you could say that these are the three pillars of my personal calling. I’ve tried to center all my decisions around these pillars. Of course, I’ve made a couple of wrong decisions along the way, like getting involved in the Grace 60th Anniversary and being involved with the original YAYP transition team; I try never to live in regret, but to learn from retrospect for it is pointless if to lament about spilled milk.

As my portfolio increases and as my tent enlarges, so will my influence and competencies too. I’ve learnt that I must learn not to get involved with everything even though I want to and may foolishly deem myself suitable for it, and especially when it is logical to do so. (Sigh, logic – Man’s feeble attempt at second-guessing God’s sovereign will…) That’s the reason why I believe that a personal vision statement is important. If you have a motto to preside over the way you function, you more or less know what to say yes to and what to turn down; it helps you to live a principled life. What’s yours? Mine is:

“I am a bible-believing Christian who desires to know God
by working excellently, learning earnestly while having a balanced lifestyle,
for the glory of God.”

At our mid-year appraisal this morning, RY told me that “marrying your dreams into God’s will is a constant struggle”, and I concur. That’s why I think it’s always a step of faith to act on what God has impressed upon my heart. With RY, I always learn something new or am reminded of previously-learnt lesson – that’s why he’s my mentor and that’s why I look up to him so much. And in true hero-fashion, he balanced the above-mentioned statement with this: “But remember, it is God who planted these dreams into you”. That took a huge load off my shoulders; I couldn’t believe that I missed something as obvious as that!

I have been wired to lead with my heart on my sleeves and somehow this quality has become my signature. Perhaps it explains why Passion is one of the three flagships of my personality, besides Authenticity and Believing in Young People. These are the core values I think my life represents most dominantly and consistently. Again I quote my boss, “Passion is like a tap; once you turn it on, water gushes out” – I’d like to believe that my passion for youth ministry doesn’t just trickle out, but that it surges out.

However, I know that one day my passion will run out. RY encouraged me today and told me that I have tenacity; it was the first time this word was used to describe me. He deliberately chose tenacity over perseverance for (I think) the latter represents an indefatigability to endure present situations while the former indicates a determination to push oneself through to overcome challenges. I liked that distinction and I believe that tenacity should rightly be the best friend of passion for they are perfect complements.

So anyway, back to keeping the main thing, the main thing, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and reflect, and to ask God to give me grace so that I can differentiate what I want to do from what I need to do, as well as to determine what He wants me to do. (God doesn’t need me to do anything. He doesn’t need anybody to do anything for Him. In fact, according to Psalm 50:12, if He was hungry He wouldn’t even tell you or me.) In our lifetime, we’d go through seasons after seasons and so it remains a wise thing to focus, always on the main thing. If I were to strip everything down to its core, the main tasks in life (in fact, the only two tasks), is to love God more and to love His people more everyday (Mark 12:30-31).

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is your advice any good at all?

There’s a difference between good and godly advice. Everyone is able to offer their two-cents’ worth but not everyone makes sense. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with counsellors who are able to expand your perspectives as well as to offer you solutions (or at least show you the possible consequences of any decision made). We should be cautious in selecting who we hang out with for it usually determines who we become eventually – surround yourself with cynics and you may just become one.

The way of the fool always seem right to him – they will hardly admit that they are wrong; don’t spend too much energy trying to convince them otherwise, but learn to just pray for them and commit them to the Lord. When I see how the advice that I dispense fall on deaf ears, it gives me an idea of how foolish I was when I was younger, and how I have refused and rejected advice. If you want to counsel others, it is important that you are rooted in the Word of God. Wisdom is knowing how to apply biblical principles to everyday situations. Hence, wise counsel and sound advice always comes from the Word.

It is also important that you are a Spirit-filled individual if you want to offer advice to others. I always tell my leaders to pray (silently) in the Spirit (in their hearts) when they talk to youths, and to be sensitive to what the Spirit might possibly prompt them to say instead. It’s imperative that we do not make up advice; for the lack of a better way to phrase it – let’s not bullshit others. There are days that I do not have the answer and when that happens, I will be honest and tell whoever I’m speaking to that I will get back to them a few days later. Don’t trust anyone who’s always got the answer. We must stop whenever and however the Spirit leads and prompts us to, and seek God for an answer first. I remember BH’s advice regarding advice-giving – “If people run to you, you better run to God, otherwise they might think that you are God!”

I try to surround myself with people who know what people are like – basically older and more mature individuals who have seen more people than I have. They give great insight to people and how to deal with those who are more challenging to manage. They teach me how to discern and share their experiences with me. Hence, regardless of how high-up I may rise in a leadership role, it is important that I do not isolate myself, but to surround myself with people who are involved in the right kind of attitude, and those who are like-minded. Having RY and PL to share with me their journey on being a ministry-man and a family-man gives me great leverage to know what to do when I’m faced with similar situations. However, after I receive their advice, I will still consult the Lord first for obeying what the He has set upon my heart to do is of utmost importance.

And then of course, there are those whom you simply trust with your life because you know that they always have your interests at heart. These are people whom have gone through seasons with you and the ones who have proved their consistency and availability in your life – basically, those whom have stood the test of time. He or she could be a best friend, parent, sibling, mentor or partner. Always treasure the value of their opinions simply because they love you without agenda and want the best for you.

In conclusion, in the area of giving and receiving advice, here are the four categories of people whom you should seek and aspire to become:

  1. Word people
  2. Spirit people
  3. People people
  4. Trustworthy people

These are the people whom you know will dispense good advice and godly counsel.

pardon the movie title, but this was my best friend’s wedding.

Most of you know that my best friend got married today. And since I was their best man, I had the honour of giving a speech. I say that it is an honour because they have given me 10-15 minutes of the most significant and important event of their lives thus far. Thinking about it humbles me greatly. Well, regarding the speech, I enjoyed delivering it and honestly, I thought it was well-delivered; people were kind and generous with their encouragement and that gave me a huge boost too. More importantly, I thought I managed to nail what I had intended to say to the couple, and more specifically to LK.

I think there were two lines in the speech that seem to have caught everyone’s attention and so for the sake of downloading it to my digital memory, I shall share it here.

“… This is the best friend who has given me the privilege to be his best man; and I actually think that I can be his best man because first and foremost, he has been and is the best man in my life…”

“… There’s an old wedding joke about rings; before the wedding – engagement ring; during the wedding – wedding ring; after the wedding – suffering. Well, I have my own version. I’m praying that the two of them would be enduring, restoring, and since this speech is for the groom, maybe a few more diamond rings…”

I knocked out at 2:30am, got up at 6am and spent the entire day playing the role of a personal assistant and time-keeper for LK. I’m comprehensively exhausted. On hindsight, after being involved with so many weddings, this wedding is one that would definitely be closest to my heart – simply because it’s my best friend’s wedding; as I watched the event unfold, I found myself nearly in tears as I prayed in my seat and gave thanks to God for the work that He’s done with the two of them. I shall conclude this short post with a poem I wrote nearly a decade ago, specially for newlyweds.

Wedded
By Joey Asher Tan

Before me stands a beautiful bride;
Her groom gleams in radiant pride.
A big day, a grand day,
A wonderful day; it is today.
Smiles aplenty, hugs and kisses,
Both enter a stage where one turns a missus.
Unaware what lies before them,
Tests and trials and even small exams.
But one thing I know that will shine through:
It is, “Our love for me and you”.
I say a prayer for them right now,
That God turns all their frowns to smiles.
Beautiful bride, submit to your man;
And may the man stick to God’s plans.
You haven’t married a person you could live with;
You’ve married a person you couldn’t live without.
May God bless you and keep your home,
Now that you’ve found your matrimonial dome.
And now I see a beautiful wife,
Her husband revels in glorious pride.

when the best friend becomes the best man.

Please allow me to get all sentimental with LK as I await with bated breath the end of his bachelorhood. Although the picture below was taken at my fourth 21st birthday cum farewell party, it’s quite appropriately used now – only this time, I bid him farewell.

What more can I say about LK? He is a true friend who allows me to have total freedom to be myself; he’s someone whom I trust and love and have every confidence that the feeling is mutual. Being best friends for over a decade certainly reinforces the steel in our friendship. While I observe everyone’s “best friend” filtering in and out of their lives in the various stages of life, I thank God that I’m able to say that I have the same one.

I love you, bro, from the bottom of my heart. You better honour your word – we have to keep up with our monthly hangouts! Finally, heartiest and most heartfelt congratulations to you two and may you and JQ bring glory to God through your marriage!

air thoughts at the airport.

I won’t have sufficient time to write properly tonight as I’ll be with the boys tormenting LK on his buck’s night. I was just telling BL (whom I met for lunch), that LK will either thank me for such a great job planning this memorable evening or regret making his best friend his best man for his wedding. Tonight is going to be legendary evening that will live on in brotherhood folklore; I can’t wait to execute the tricks up my sleeves together with JT1, JT2, JW and ML. I’m in the business of creating memories! (Actually, I’m going the extra mile only because he has been my best mate for nearly half my life.)

So for today’s entry, I’ve found this two-year-old note lying amongst my facebook notes and I think it’s quite a poignant read, now that I’m finally back and settled in Singapore. I’ll share it here. By the way, do remember to participate in my centenary giveaway!

Air thoughts at the airport
Friday, 10 October 2008 @ 16:13

The all-too-familiar Singlish of my fellow passengers surrounds me as I sit at Gate D87, waiting to board the plane. Like me, a good number of people are also at their laptops, doing work. I have to churn out the company budget for 2009 to while I’m on the plane as I plan to submit it tonight. What really drives me on is that the earlier I complete it, the earlier I can indulge myself with Naruto. HAHA! But seriously, the less outstanding work I have means the more work-free my holiday would be. I do not want to suffer the same fate as my colleague who went back to Singapore just before I did – hounded by calls from the company everyday. That must have been absolutely annoying on a vacation.

I have appointments lined up, hmm, more like packed-to-the-brim, during my time back home. It’s quite scary how I do it but strangely enough I enjoy being loaded with activities. It’s almost deja vu; at the same time last year, I was frantically meeting up with people from all over to say my goodbyes, averaging 4-5 appointments a day; it’s no different this time. Huiyi thinks I’m crazy. Sometimes I think I am crazy too but I think at the end of the trip I will look back and be glad that I’ve actually gone on an appointment frenzy.

I really miss hawker food – good, cheap, fast. I remember a friend telling me that between the three adjectives, you can only choose two. Things that are good and fast will not be cheap, etc. Hawker food is the answer.

More and more people of all nationalities are starting to congregate even as I write this note. I look forward to the many embraces that I will receive from and give to my friends, especially the affection from my family and my girlfriend. Somehow, this trip back – my fourth in a year – is the one that was most hastily arranged but yet the one that I am most anticipating. I guess spontaneity always puts me at the edge of my seat.

Oh, and I have to mention this. I had a total of four checked-in baggages but only one belonged to me. (Thanks, Kurk, for the very snazzy black Samsonite!) The other three baggages are: a snare drum which I helped Jenn to buy, a bag for my grandmother, and a bag for Aunty Coreen; these two bags are such a contrast from my overall public image – it’s a Tiger Beer and a Chan Brothers bag for pete’s sake! That’s certainly 100% yucks. HAHA. Well, it doesn’t matter. The total baggage weighed 37kg! That’s the SAME WEIGHT as when I first got to Shanghai! Thank God the airport folks closed one (and possibly two) eye(s) on this! And to think it’s actually quite a full flight makes me all the more grateful.

In retrospect, it’s coming to a year in Shanghai and in that year, I’ve learnt so much. Well, I can’t possibly write down the things I’ve learnt in one paragraph so don’t expect it to be published here! I believe I’ve matured spiritually, grown wiser in my character and gained valuable work experience over here. I believe I experience many things others do not; for example, my friends in Singapore are dying to head out of Singapore for a vacation and yet I’m dying to head back to my home country for a holiday. Nothing beats home – absolutely nothing. Oh I’m so convinced that It’s a gonna be a good homecoming. The fourth, and the best one yet, I’m sure.

Yes, I’m coming home.

a break before i break.

A number of misunderstandings have taken place during the planning process for this trip, but I guess, at the end of the day, I’m still really looking forward to Langkawi. I’m heading there for the weekend together with HY, the recently engaged LK and JQ, CN and JW. I’m sure it’s gonna be a great trip.

I hope the weather holds and I am looking forward to quality conversations with everyone. It’s great to have my girlfriend, best friend and super friend on the same trip. I’m blessed. That combination itself is worth it. Let’s see if I’ll have time to post a short entry while I’m there.

On another note, besides being excited about this short weekend getaway, I’m even more excited about the REAL applications that will be confirmed this weekend. I can’t wait to put faces and names to the 10 slots. It’s gonna be a great camp from 28-31 Dec and it’s gonna be a great journey with the 10 of them until 28 Feb. You can either leave it on my table or better still, pass it to either RY or CX.

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