all of us are gifted.
Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with an old friend and he shared with me how he rejoiced with his wife when his son finally uttered, “Mama”. I rejoiced with him for it was a breakthrough for their family and when he shared it with me, he communicated a gratitude to God that nothing in the world could manufacture.
I juxtaposed it with parents who constantly berate their child for not doing better than their cousins, classmates, neighbours and whoever they could conveniently use to destroy their kid’s self-confidence and beliefs system. I remember telling HY that we’ve gotten it all wrong and have become complacent for the things that we ought to be thankful for. The more I hear it, the more I find “better than” a repulsive phrase.
That one-worded “Mama” was a gift from God to his child; as he shared his delight with me, I couldn’t help but to thank God for giving us speech – and I told HY that all these seemingly basic functions are truly gifts from God. I told her that in the future when we do have children of our own, we should be thankful for everything that the child has – speech, sight, hearing, limb movement, cognition, health and even something as taken-for-granted as daily breath! And not wish that our child is a pianist prodigy, artistic phenom, mathematics maestro or a kid with elephant memory (or not). Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to think that that’s being gifted, but we have forgotten that everyone is gifted – your ability to inhale and exhale is the gift of life from the Giver of life. Let’s not fight the wrong battles.
It wrenches my heart when I find out how my youths struggle with their (“inadequate”) academic achievements, because most times they’ve gotten it all wrong – they seek the result instead of the process; they seek a resume instead of academic returns; they seek worldly covetousness (wanting to be better than someone else) instead of godly contentment (wanting to be the best that God has designed them to be). I believe that our mentality is messed up because of the way we have been brought up (and this is no fault of ours). However, we should be careful not to pay it forward to the next generation.
At the end of the day, these pursuits amount to nothing all that significant. I so wished that I could hold their faces in my hands, look at them in the eye and tell them, “Come on, do you REALLY think that a C grade or a ‘regular’ CV could stop God from fulfilling His purpose in your life?” Oh, we of little faith; we ought to be dismissed for thinking that our destiny is determined by our downfalls. When will we finally learn that the sovereignty of God far exceeds earthly meritocracy?
Let us all take a step back to recalibrate our compasses, unless of course you have already decided to raise your child in the exact same manner that you have been raised. Let us remember that life in itself is the greatest gift and that we ought to be thankful for it. Let us not go overboard in seeking additional gifts instead of the Giver Himself. Don’t get caught in the world’s definition of “gifted”!
you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.
Over the last 15 years as a young person, I’ve learnt many things, both as a youth and as a youth leader. One of the things that PC taught me is that with people, you need to be patient, for one day they will surprise you with their goodness. I think this is particularly relevant for anyone dealing with a teenager, and especially for parents whose children are in their (painful and excruciating) juvenile years.
Mothers and fathers need to bear in mind that they may see very little (and often disheartening) results that may not be worth celebrating over especially in the younger years of their kids’ teenagehood. This also applies to all youth leaders. I encourage you to manage your expectations when working with adolescent (and often rebellious) youths. They will always think that they are right and they will always want to prove you wrong. This sounds cruel, but really, let them be, let them fall and let them learn. Don’t expect them to make good decisions at 14 years old and change the world at 16 years old when you only started to mature and wise up at 17 years old. I reiterate this to almost every young person under my leadership – that one of things I expect from them (pardon the lack of a better way to phrase it), is to screw up. And this immediately sets them at ease.
As a parent, mentor or youth leader, you must always remember that being with young people is often a thankless and behind-the-scenes job. Of course, there will be pockets of them who know how to appreciate you. Oh, I am so grateful for these because their appreciation of your investment in them is often so genuine and heartfelt. But I do not live or thrive on these boosts. Their encouragement is a bonus, not a necessity; I’d love to receive it, but I do not need it to do what I am called to do. A mature youth leader needs to sort this out in his head and heart. For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.
To be frank, sometimes it can be tough (and tiring) working with youths, especially those who do not listen; I was one of them, so I know. You put in the hard work, sweat and toil with them, but when they succeed, they get all the credit and you simply get forgotten. When they are in trouble, you offer advice and genuinely want to help them, but when they mess it up, you sometimes get the blame and even need to pick them up. So today, I encourage you to look further and beyond all these seemingly disparaging signs.
Always remember that you are here to plant seeds, and most times you will not be the one to reap what you have sown – not immediately at least. JH was amongst the first to plant seeds in my life, and as I develop fruits, I can honestly tell you that he did not benefit from it directly – but it doesn’t stop him from planting it anyway. So I’m here to remind us all, that whenever we work with young people, that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits. Let’s be committed to do our jobs well and to trust God to nurture and eventually complete what we have started. After all, we do the planting, He does the growing.
For those who are much younger and not in a leadership position yet, I’d urge you to encourage, appreciate and honour those who have planted and are still planting seeds in your life. Let them know, in whatever way you know how to, that you are thankful for their investment of time, emotions and resources in you. You’ll make their day.
Do remember that the bible-giveaway competition is still ongoing. Please make my job as the jury a little harder! Come on!? :P At the same time, I’d encourage you to consider subscribing to my blog (fill in your email at the top right of the page) so that you’d receive and read my daily posts in the convenience of your mailbox at the time of publication. Also, just want to mention that the readership response for the last entry on my journey into full-time ministry was extremely encouraging – I hope you were blessed by my sharing. Blogging daily has become a think-time that I look forward to. (:
are you competitive or comparitive?
Singapore has world-class education system – that I do not deny. My scholastic abilities have been tuned by my learning environment (observe the careful choice of words) and I’d like to think a big part of my confidence and street-smartness (or some would say arrogance) comes from a decade spent in ACS. However, if I had a choice, I’d rather not raise my children in a local school and if I had the resources, I’d rather home-school my kids; I do not want to subject them to the unnecessary and poisonous culture of the education system here – where students somehow feel that they are never quite good enough.
Our academia has changed considerably – some would consider it progress, some see it as regress and for a few others, digress; I belong to the third group. I think that we’re missing the point of education, really. We should teach people how to think not what to think. Today’s students are subjected to a lot more pressure and stress – that doesn’t come from themselves but primarily from their parents and secondarily from their peers. The desire to improve themselves is shrouded by external motivations instead being influenced by internal drives.
I’ve always opined that pride is not about wanting to be the best – there’s nothing wrong with that – but pride is about wanting to be better than someone else. There’s an element of covetousness in pride, where the desire to better oneself sprouts from the obsession to outdo others. We’ve heard it time and again – a student could far outperform himself and score a 60% in a test (and achieve his all-time highest score) but this joy is somewhat short-lived; his initial delight soon plummets into despair when he begins to compare his results with a classmate that scored 70%. The process is transferred to the next dimension and (if you pardon the direct translation of the old Chinese adage) there always seems to be a higher mountain that is insurmountable. Where does it stop? Before you know it, these students return home to mourn about their oh-so-terrible score when they should instead rejoice over their progress made. There’s no end to this vicious cycle of self and societal inflicted torment. No wonder suicide cases related to academic pressures have risen sharply over the years.
Achievements and successes are all relative – hence it is imperative that we manage our expectations and chart our progress on a realistic rate. Today, you should ask yourself if you are competitive or comparitive. There’s nothing wrong with benchmarking yourself against the best to gauge and improve your own abilities and thresholds. But once you begin to compare and slide into the venomous glance-over-your-shoulder behaviour, you inevitably welcome self-destruction and a never-ending pursuit of nothingness. We are all different – get used to the idea. To those who have more, more is expected of them. Learn to be comfortable with yourself and realise that if you want to be someone else, who’s going to be you?
When I stroll down memory lane, I don’t seem to ever recall a time that I wanted to be better than someone else because I realised that I’m constantly waging war with my own insanely high standards (again, this is a relative statement). To an extent, I seem to allow no one to determine how good or how bad I can and will be. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m an ambitious person and I effort to bring out the best of my gifts and talents by being excellent in all that I undertake, but in the event that my desired outcomes do not materialise, I have learnt to trust God for the lessons learnt in temporal failure and postponed success. I realised that I’ve always secretly (but confidently) trusted God for the results, for God was the origin of my desires and ambitions. Either way it turns out, I already know that God, being efficacious, has a lesson in store for me to learn; I believe that He has pre-prepared different packages of lessons for every single different outcome.
I urge you to be wary of the poisonous standards of this world, where it tells you that being contented with your lot is apparently mediocrity. A subscription to these worldly values often results in worldly remorse and regret – that’s not biblical or victorious living at all! Know that with Jesus, we fight from victory and not for victory. Be comfortable with who God has created you to be for your strengths complements someone else’s weaknesses and vice-versa – that’s how the body of Christ works. Everyone plays a different role and is a different jigsaw in the puzzle of life – never let this world determine how you should live and what should make you happy. May your spirit be acutely tuned to the dangers that inescapable and obligatory academic excellence brings.
So what if you finally become the best and better than everyone else? What’s next? At the end of the day, it’s all meaningless. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else, really. The antidote then, to competition and comparison, is contentment.
top ten reasons why i’m thankful i’m a guy.
The time has come for the weekly top ten. It’s somewhat enjoyable and a challenge to write within ten points because it coerces me to concise my ideas as well as to surface the first decathlon of my thoughts; sometimes I have an abundance and other times, insufficient. With homosexuality becoming increasingly rampant (and the scary thing to me is, it’s also becoming increasingly acceptable) in our society, I’d like to write about why I’m thankful to be a guy, in the conventional context of what a guy is designed to be. I don’t know another more politically correct manner to phrase that sentence.
I’ve deliberately decided to keep this list fun and politically indifferent but the harsher radicals would find the controversial overtones in-between my lines; radicals always do anyway when their senses are heightened and acutely sensitive to their forte topics. So here it goes, as light-hearted as I can be, the top ten reasons why I’m thankful I’m a guy.
1. I spend lesser money on clothing and accessories simply because I have lesser parts to cover. And for those parts that require coverage, it’s a fuss-free affair. Walking into a ladies’ shop is an overwhelming experience; I haven’t the faintest clue how girls just know what to purchase in the plethora of choices. I’m inclined to believe that the material world was created for the ladies and would collapse in their absence. I mean, just undergarments alone, my choices are limited to only boxers or briefs (thank goodness!), of which both serve the same purpose, and cost a lot lesser than bras, panties and lingeries! And I haven’t even gotten started on make-up! *phew*
2. I am physically stronger and naturally more athletic. Of course, I do not compare myself to a professional woman athlete. Having physical advantages is blessing that men should not take for granted – that we can run faster and last longer than the average lady, as well as to carry more weight and endure more bodily hardship than most ladies. However, while I believe that guys have better endurance, girls’ threshold for suffering is without a doubt higher than their counterparts.
3. I get to pee standing up. There is no question about this benefit for I think it’s something that girls may even desire! This means that I can answer nature’s call anytime and anywhere. And just for the record, I don’t really have to bother about the cleanliness of the lavatory as no part of my pelvic area would ever need to come into contact with a urine-stained toilet seat! I’m sure, however, that some girls do possess this skill of vertically taking a leak…
4. I can’t get pregnant or experience the pain of childbearing. This characteristic is definitive of being a woman. In fact, I know a lady who medically cannot give birth and hence is sad that in her lifetime she won’t be able to undergo this defining experience. The only ones who can experience (the pain and joy of) childbirth are women who are born women; this sets them apart from men forever. Hence, men must truly appreciate wives and mothers for they can never, ever emphathise with this aspect of a woman’s life.
5. I am rational and have better control over my emotions. Now, there are rational ladies and emotional men and there’s nothing wrong with either. I’m just personally thankful that I’m built this way because it has enhanced my ability to make decisions as well as to have a pragmatic approach towards most things in life.
6. I live in a patriarchal world. Like it or hate it, this world has always be created to favour men. I won’t go into too much detail and as much as I’m all for equality, I believe that there’s order only when the equality apportioned to women is determined and deemed allowable by men. Oh, what a contentious statement. Peace, peace, peace.
7. I determine the gender of my child(ren). In olden days dramatised by TV serials, the paternal mother-in-law always makes life a living hell for the daughter-in-law who fails to deliver an heir to the family line. Of course, we are better advised these days and know that the determining factor of a child’s gender belongs to the X chromosome that only men have. Maybe that’s why children continue their father’s family name?
8. I am the biblical leader of my marriage. I genuinely believe that most ladies, even the most independent, intimidating and outstanding ones, in the inner-most recesses of their heart, long for their man to be established as the leader of their relationship and would gladly relinquish and empower them to exercise it. I don’t have the statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised that one main reason for a dysfunctional or broken family is the man’s failure to command leadership in the household.
9. I have the privilege of influencing and raising young men. While mature women can mentor young men, there’s just something that they cannot impart simply because they are not men (and vice-versa). Young men look for role models to follow after; I had my hero figures when I was younger and I still have them now. A lack of a dominant alpha-male (pardon my lack of a better way to phrase it) is sorrowfully missing in our society and it is especially prevalent in the church, where ladies are generally more active, fervent and prolific in serving the Lord. It’s not a bad thing but it’s time for the men to rise up in (my) church! I want to play my part in reversing the alpha-female culture in my youth group.
10. And last but certainly not least, I’ve saved it for the end… I get to fall in love with girls! This has to be one of the best things about being a guy (if not the best) – for you appreciate what you don’t have and who you will never become. Opposites certainly attract, but beware, for sometimes differences complement and sometimes they conflict! As much as I am thankful to be a man, I know I can’t live without a woman. Either way, I’m thankful that my lifelong companion is a lady.
Have I missed out on any other reasons? Do you disagree with any of the above? Let me hear your opinions!
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.
The moniker of misunderstoodsunshinekid sounds like some teenage bubblegum nickname that reeks of adolescence and youthfulness. And certainly not very appropriate for a man who turned 21 for the sixth time this year. There is, of course, a meaning behind this deliberate choice of words.
Coined towards the end of my time in Ngee Ann Polytechnic where I studied Mass Communication, it first appeared in the yearbook which was contributed by and distributed to every student in the cohort. The editorial team asked each of us for a photograph and three words that best described ourselves. Come to think of it, considering that I’ve not seen 90% of my school mates since we graduated, these three words would actually go a long way in helping us remember each other.
It was really amusing to see some of the entries. The more commonly used words were “Bubbly”, “Friendly”, “Outgoing”, “Sociable”, “Funny”, etcetera – basically words that were safe, correct and well, forgettable. There were some that went out of the box with “Nobody Knows Me”, “Damned I’m Good”, “Ahh Whatever Lah” and “I Am Indescribable”. But the one that tickled me most was “Humourous, Cheerful, Easygoing” and attached with the words was a really fierce, unfriendly and serious picture. Nice.
Without going into too much detail, here’s why I chose “Misunderstood Sunshine Kid”:
Half my life I’ve been misunderstood for my intentions, choice of words and actions. I’d like to believe that it’s always been love-hate with me; people don’t really have a neutral feeling towards me. They either like me or dislike me. And because of this I almost always end up leaving either a great or a horrible first impression. As I age, I’ve learnt to deal with it by simply not bothering about it; I cannot please everyone, so I’ve learnt to stop having to justify or explain what I say or do. I’ve embraced this as a part of me and the only approval I seek would be that of God’s. I’ve learnt to take myself less seriously and not be so uptight about what people say or think about me. Yeah, I know this sounds very teenage/emo/angst, but hey, this term was coined when I was a 19-year-old teenager.
I’ve always been a positive and optimistic person and I think that it rubs off on the people that I interact with, especially with those in my sphere of influence. I’d like to I exude a “You can do it” vibe. On a side note, my heart goes out to pessimistic and negative people, but how they live their lives is their problem, not mine. I desire to be contented and always joyful. Another ethos which I live by is, “I could always be happier but I am situationally contented”. That was a phrase I coined together with PL some years ago. To an extent this word contradicts the former, but both somehow capture a key essence of my personality and character.
I’m always up to some mischief and I’ve always enjoyed being cheeky and naughty. There is a difference between being childish and childlike. I never want to lose the sense of wonder that children have. I always want to retain the kid in me, for the kid that I will have in future. I am confident that I will be a father with the “sparkle” in his eye. You know, kids are actually very sensitive and can detect sincerity from hypocrisy. I enjoy playing with kids and I think they (know it and) enjoy it too because they see it in my eyes – that I really want to play with them and I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. I’ve always dreamt about being the father that my father never was to me. And for that to happen, I’ll always have that boyish playfulness hidden behind a now older and wiser head.
Each word could be an entry in itself so I’ll just leave it like that until I decide to elaborate further.