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finally, the winner is…!

All right, this post comes 125 entries later, but as the cliché goes, better late than never!

Many moons ago, I set up a competition to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (worth $40+) and there were a number of people who very kindly submitted their reflections. I took a million years to decide on the winner and when I finally decided on the winner, I never found the right opportunity to pass her the gift! But last Friday, we finally met and I was delighted to give her the Bible.

Basically, the task was to extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on, and the winner is… SERENE WEE!

Thank you for taking part in this little competition and thank you for your support! Please allow me to share with you her two-page winning essay; she has written her insights based on the article, “you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.” I sincerely hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have!

Please consider this my entry to your competition. Reason being, this post came at just the right time in my life, and my thoughts about them are particularly personal. As you know, I am not all that involved in the youth ministry, but as a children’s church teacher a lot of the things you mentioned I find applicable to children’s ministry as well.

Childhood is the soil which determines what sort of teenagers and adults these kids grow into. If that is any indicator, then I must admit that I am literally stunned sometimes. I think, “If they can be so selfish, so rude, so cynical even at such an age, what then?”

“let them be, let them fall and let them learn”

This struck me particularly because I realise there are times when “No! Don’t do that!” doesn’t cut it anymore. Not that setting boundaries is not important, but after one whole week of being restrained in a classroom of 40 children, constantly shouted at to keep quiet, I think church teachers should strike a better balance when we see them on Sundays. Honestly, this phrase of yours really got me thinking about the children’s perspective, and how they may react to my actions, more.

“I encourage you to manage your expectations”

I think sometimes we’re so caught up on helping the child to achieve the “best” and forsaking the process, just as in the secular world. I was doing a craft with my class the other day, when this boy asked me if he could colour his foam flower with a marker. I looked at the flower and the flower itself was coloured, so I thought, if he adds colour on it, it wouldn’t look nice. So I said, no. But later I wondered why I wanted to wrest artistic license from him just because I thought it would look nicer. The craft was for mother’s day, and is not the child’s own effort, creativity and sincerity more important than “niceness”? With my control, he had one less chance to learn. And this is of course applicable in so many things.

“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.”

Yes, yes and yes!

“For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.”

It is through personal experience that I know this to be true as well. I am a person who is very motivated by appreciation. Give me one nice phrase and I could probably remember it for life. But this can really distract from the primary purpose of ministry. Not only in terms of wanting recognition more than serving God faithfully, but in terms of what KIND of recognition is craved for.

In children’s church there are weeks when we have to do master teaching, which is basically teaching the lesson. Teachers have the freedom to structure the lesson as they will, and they can add in whatever games, object lessons etc. that they think would help bring the point home better. After weeks of hearing other teachers say “oh you teach so well”, and “oh the background you use for your powerpoint slides are so nice!” I found myself one night before a particular master teaching session, trawling the internet for nice backgrounds. My dad looked at me and said, “Instead of spending so much time on this, why don’t you spend more time praying for the children?” Wake up call!

And sometimes when leading worship (yes we juggle multiple roles in CC haha), I find myself judging the success of the worship session based on how many children are singing, and how many are raising their hands. While I do believe an outward expression of praise is important, I’ve come to realise, that I cannot simply look at the surface. The last thing the world needs is to have children learn hypocrisy at a young age. And if the children DON’T sing, will I then stop praising God with all my heart?

A lot of times too, teachers tend to take some form of pride in their ability to handle the classroom. And again, while I view that to be important, how sad is it that I should be praised for being able to make a rowdy class keep quiet. This to me, is again, simply on the surface. To show love, I believe I ought to dig deeper.

“that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits.”

The way I read this goes hand in hand with the idea of patience. Matthew (Tan) once encouraged CC teachers that though they may not see it now, the children they teach may one day grow up to really love and serve Christ – men and women of God. Perhaps it’s because I am not that old myself, but I will think, “Huh, must wait sooooo long lehhh.” And that is the thing about planting seeds. Because seeds take time to grow, it’ll need a lot of patience to see them grow to fruition, or, like you said, we may not have the privilege to see that at all.

And so it hearkens back to what rewards we are looking for. The ones in heaven, or the earthly ones?

But my children do surprise me. Some surprise me with little bouts of maturity, way beyond what I expect from them. Some rough and tough ones surprise me with their gentleness. Some surprise me with their creativity. Some surprise me with their smiles and loving words.

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life lessons learnt from a game of musical chairs.

There’s nothing more rewarding than to see people know Christ. Since I’ve entered full-time ministry, my opportunities to interact with non-Christians have been greatly diminished. I’ve always seen myself as an evangelist because of how I came to know Christ and what He has done in my life, so I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me in iJourney – where I’m able to get to know youths who do not yet know Him, and therein lies the challenge to introduce Him to them.

KK conducted an activity for the students in today’s session and he asked if I had wanted to share anything at the end of his debrief. I declined initially, but when the Holy Spirit started to deposit lessons into my heart, I took it up; I’m always quite impressed by how quick the Spirit can impress lessons into me.

These are my observations from a modified version of musical chairs, where the participants’ difficulty of movement was introduced by tying a person’s arm to his or her leg with a short string to simulate aging:

In life, there are three facts; we will all:

  1. Get old – the most certain thing about life is death.
  2. Face new challenges – for that comes with age and changing environments.
  3. Experience suffering – in various intensities and variety.

And so there are three things we can do:

  1. Do not complain – for it doesn’t change our situation, solve our problem or make us feel any better about what we are going through.
  2. Help one another – assistance is always appreciated and it increases efficiency and reduces frustration. A word of encouragement goes a long way, even if it’s just a word. Learn to look out for each other.
  3. Walk together – competition is good, but it could be venomous. Everyone gets there safely when we walk at an agreed pace, without anyone lagging behind, speeding up or overtaking; don’t leave anyone behind.

I think that when students eventually leave the world of academia and enter what’s commonly known as the “real” world (as if life as students is an illusion) they will be thrown challenges from all directions simply because of how unnecessarily cruel meeting the world’s expectations can get. So instead of fight each other, why don’t we get on the same side, join hands and do battle together? I’m idealistic, but I’m not wrong.

and the winner of the NKJV Bible is…

First and foremost, thank you for all your submissions! I didn’t receive as many as I had hoped for, but it was certainly more than I had expected! I’m happy either way. Of course, I lay the blame of the not-so-hot response on the laid-back Asian mentality and the aiya-don’t-want-lah-so-paiseh attitude. It’s never my own undoing, right? :P

Anyway, I have looked through and enjoyed reading all the submissions! I have already selected the winner and will announce the result in the coming days, together with the winning entry! Keep your eyes peeled on this blog because for the first time in my blogging history (do allow me to self-hype), I will publish someone else’s writing in its entirety! Nonetheless, since it’s my competition, I will bend my rules and declare that I still accept entries until 20th May, but the bar has been raised and any subsequent entries would have to better the existing ones by a mile!

On a more serious note, I humbly request that you keep a few of us in prayer, as the Spirit leads you, over the next few days. ET, SW, TT, NL, LS and KJ, together with KK and I, will be at a camp called iJourney, from Monday to Wednesday. This annual programme is conducted for the Secondary 1 Normal Technical students and selected Secondary 3 student leaders from Dunearn Secondary School. It’s a great opportunity for us to plant seeds in these young lives, as well as to be demonstrate Christ-like testimonies for them.

I have already written in advance and have scheduled daily posts to (still) be published at the stroke of every midnight. So if you keep reading and commenting, I will surely keep writing. I told LK that writing daily has become such a habit that this catharsis is turning into an obsession. And I think it’s a good one.

For now, I think it’s time to kill the monotony of words and to colour the blog. I took this picture of the magnificent birds’ eye view of the Seogwipo World Cup Stadium in Jeju, South Korea, when I was atop the hot-air balloon. I remember telling myself that this would be the closest that I’d ever get to any World Cup. This is the breathtaking scenery 150-metres above ground! Enjoy!

top ten things you must know about this blog.

I think it’s high-time to do some housekeeping so why not write it in my favourite top ten format? Whether you’re a new or regular reader, this post should help you to get the most out of my humble little blog/website. I will always try to improve it!

1. Firstly, time to celebrate! I welcomed my 10,000th visitor yesterday! Wooh! I have some plans for this blog and I do hope to execute it in the coming year. Having substantial readership is extremely encouraging. Thank you for your continuous support!

2. Bible-giveaway! I’m desperately trying to give away a swanky, brand-new, handsome denim-covered NKJV bible in my 100th entry anniversary competition. A slight change of rules (exhibiting signs of desperation) – you can leave comments in any entry.

3. Subscribe to msk! Receive my posts immediately and in the convenience of your mailbox. This is faster than checking bloglines, facebook or twitter. Simply submit your email at the top right of the navigation bar. Easy as 1-2-3.

4. Navigate with ease! Rummage through the archives by Recency (last 7 posts), Diversity (15 different categories), Museum (by month, since it inaugurated in October 2009) or Fragments (most commonly used tags). Sorted for your expedience.

5. What’s hot here? The three links of By Popular Demand changes everyday; the amazing WordPress captures the highest clicked links on my blog and reflects it there. See what the others are clicking on when they visit this blog.

6. Add me, okay? Every new post is automatically and simultaneously published on facebook and twitter. So if you don’t want to subscribe (why not!?), you can still keep yourself updated by adding me on facebook and twitter through the sidebar.

7. Stand-alone pages! See the five pages at the top of this blog? I’m currently working on four more and will update the existing ones in time. Nothing much to shout about at the moment, but it’s a work-in-progress.

8. Bygones be bygones! Though I’m not proud of it, my old blogs are still a part of my history. But don’t expect to find as many good reads in an angsty livejournal, a random blogspot and a shorn theshanghaitan. Enjoy the walk down memory lane.

9. 111 and 172! Not bus services but entries and comments respectively – I delight in every single one and it’d be great to hear from you because I write to be read; I’d love to have you bounce off my insights and share what’s on your mind – like you’re re-blogging.

10. Lastly, I write daily! Or at least I try to. I doubt I’d ever run out of ideas. (Pssst, I have 60+ draft posts!) If there’s something on your mind you’d like me to write about, and if I can, I will attempt to. Write in to me and I’ll (try to) write one for you.

Once again, THANK YOU for frequenting this blog. I’ve enjoyed writing as much as you’ve enjoyed reading. Here’s to the next 10,000 visitors…! I can barely wait. (:

top ten favourite songs to perform.

All right, I’ll be honest here if you don’t mind (not that you can stop me anyway). As a performer, I absolutely love the stage and to perform on it; I’m even honest enough to admit that I thrive under the limelight. The stage is my little paradise and the older I get, the more I enjoy (and miss) performing, maybe because I’ve found my niche and forte as an artist. Due to this love for performing, I’ve always regretted that I’ve only been able to be involved in a musical just once in my entire 13 years with Grace Assembly – when I was 14 years old! I hope I will have the opportunity to be involved in another major production one day. (Actually, I told VY that I’ve already set my eyes on only that one role should we actually decide to make a musical out of it.)

On a side note, I believe that there’s a gulf of difference between a singer and a lead singer – and it’s one reason why I’ve always enjoyed being a lead singer more than a worship leader despite the many similarities in both roles. I long for the day that I get to perform regularly with a rock band again – to belt out original compositions, express the emotions of a ballad through convincing performances, and to bring these songs all over the region through gigs, tours and music CDs. I firmly believe that there’s a part of the human soul that only music can reach.

I’m about to go offtrack again; I had actually written two other paragraphs before I decided to save that for another time; this entry would be too long if I were to throw in my band history (which makes for good reading on separate entry anyway). Tonight, I’ll take a stroll down memory lane and recall the first ten songs (that come to my mind) that I’ve enjoyed performing over the decade as a wannabe rock star.

I present this list of my top ten favourite songs to perform (over the years) in no order of preference or chronology:

1. Tears in a Bottle – FhLY. There were two performances which I fondly remember about this signature FhLY song. One was when the song debuted and received DL’s friends’ affirmation of its lyrical ministry. The other at the outdoor Cineleisure gig was more memorable – I had completely forgotten the lyrics to the second verse and being a rather inexperienced performer then, I downright froze on stage and stopped singing altogether; this resulted in a minus one track for 30 seconds until I regained my composure and picked it up again at the chorus.

2. Put Your Arms Around Me – All Star United. DH and I began performing this anthem when we were in secondary school and it followed us through our polytechnic days. Practising and performing this song as Castor & Pollux brings back an influx of fantastic memories. I believe this to be one of the songs that really demonstrate the musical and performance chemistry I have with DH. The one at the Salvation Army auditorium really stood out as our first performance outside the school compounds.

3. Safe and Sound – Castor & Pollux. I’ve said it to DH a million times – that this composition remains my favourite of the hundreds of songs he’s written (no exaggeration). It debuted at the Singapore Street Festival gig at Heeren and has remained a crowd favourite as well as a mainstay in every single Castor & Pollux gig ever since. I’ve always told DH that if I were to ever audition for any talent show, I’d most certainly use this soulful and stirring piece as my song choice because of how it coincidentally brings out my vocal (and emotive) range rather perfectly.

4. What a Difference a Day Made – Jamie Callum. JT and I made our debut as a duo at the R-AGE 10th Anniversary gala dinner. I can’t remember if we had volunteered for it or if the organisers asked us, but I was glad we performed it anyway! It was the first time I attempted a slow jazz number with a piano and I absolutely enjoyed singing with a non-rock voice. I’d like to believe that it was a pretty classy and classic performance. Allow me to indulge – if there was a word to describe how I felt after that performance, it’d be “charming”.

5. I Love to See You Smile – Homer Simpson & Marge Simpson. I think this song made its debut at one either my 18th or 21st birthday party and it received such a positive response that DH and I kept resurrecting it gig after gig. It remains one of the best songs to open a set because of how cute and innocent it is.

6. Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional. As Castor & Pollux, this was the first and only time we’ve performed Hands Down, and we didn’t even plan to. We had planted a couple of encore items at the Ben & Jerry’s gig but Hands Down wasn’t in our original lyrics set. At a time when Hands Down was at the tip of the mouth of every emotionally-charged young male, it was performed by popular demand; besides, we had already jammed it so many times and had the lyrics engraved into our hearts, we just spontaneously pulled it off. And it absolutely rocked the house!

7. Coastline – Rust. It never fails to amaze me how a simple four-chord song has stood the test of time and emerges to be the all-time favourite song of all the (other more accomplished) songs that DH has ever written. I remember struggling to sing this song when my falsetto was a lot weaker as a raw vocalist. Without a doubt, I’ve enjoyed performing this song most at X&C’s wedding dinner.

8. The Day – FhLY. Every performer simply has to have a melodramatic moment and it couldn’t come as dramatic as this one. Written to describe the scene and emotion of saying goodbye to a person at the airport, I performed this song at the Cineleisure gig, at the time when it was drizzling heavily. The relentless beating rain pounding against the beating heart of a man with reeling emotions… I remember AC tearing as I performed it because she felt the full force of my emotions!

9. I Liked You – Castor & Pollux. While the original remains one of my favourite compositions so far as well as one of Castor & Pollux flagship songs, I was cheeky enough to tweak the lyrics and I performed the spoofed version at the Blackmarket gig. I think the audience enjoyed the mischief in the updated lyrics and JT even felt it was my way of getting back at the girl whom I wrote this song for. Well, I haven’t quite confirmed it to this day and I don’t intend to. Read between the lines!

10. Roller Coaster – No One Else Band. There was no way I’d leave out this high-energy song. Due to some miscommunication, RL and I only submitted one song from our days together in FhLY. Should a sequel album be produced, we will definitely submit more songs. As for its performance, I will never forget the moment I walked out from the backstage of the G2 Sanctuary to centre stage during the No One Else album launch concert. To date, it’s the closest I’ve ever felt as a rock star.

I reckon the ones who would enjoy this entry most are those whom I’ve mentioned. As for me, I’ve enjoyed every single moment of my journey as a performer! Have you found your niche in life? Have you discovered your forte? When you do, you’ll be able to come up with your own top ten list and I’d love to read it.

A gentle reminder for the bible-giveaway competition. The response so far has been OH-SO-ENCOURAGING. -_- Do remember that the competition ends in 10 days on 14th May. I really want to hear from you! So go on, write to me and win a brand new bible!

if i can turn 100, then you can win a free gift!

Slow and steady wins the race and in the blink of an eye, ever since I kept up the habit of writing daily, I’ve arrived at a century of entries! And so to self-commemorate this unique achievement of consistency, I’m going to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (pictured below)! This bible retails for $40+ in bookstores and it could be yours at no cost! Anyone and everyone is eligible to participate. (Even if you don’t want the bible for yourself, it’d make a good gift for someone else!)

Thomas Nelson’s Life & Style Compact Bible – Peppa’ Genius: Spring Line 2006

To stand a chance to win this bible, all you have to do is to write a short reflection (longer than one sentence) based on any of my 100 existing entries. You can choose to either extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on. I’ve been blessed through my daily reflections so now I want to bless my readers in a similar manner.

Samples:

1. Quote – “I could always be happier, but I am situationally contented.”

I’ve learnt to find blessing in counting what I have instead of what I do not have. This has brought me joy as I stop coveting what my peers possess.

or

2. Entry – “would you let go of me?” April 21, 2010

I had a troubled childhood myself; my parents didn’t have enough time for me. I’m determined to never let my children experience the same neglect!

Yes! It’s that simple! I’ll pick my favourite reflection amongst all the many entries (hopefully! I’m optimistic!) and the person who submitted it will bring home the bible!

This competition ends in two weeks on 14th May; I will announce the winner on 16th May. To increase your winning probability, you can submit as many reflections as you want. So go ahead, submit by leaving a comment and win a bible in the process!

You never know, you might just be the only one who submitted. All the best! (:

(In the sad and unfortunate event that no one bothers to submit anything, I will stubbornly attempt this method again at the 200th entry and give away the same bible. HAHA! I’m gonna keep trying until it exits my bookshelf!)

housekeeping matters.

Warning: this post sounds relatively conceited and will be blatant, shameless self-advertisement for the blog. Bear with me because I’ll probably only do this once, I hope. Hehe. (:

First and foremost, and some of you may have already realised this…

I’d like to launch my new domain…

joeyasher.com!!!

(Feel free to update all your links if you so desire; misunderstoodsunshinekid.wordpress.com gets you here as well – both urls are one and the same.)

My silent countdown to the centenary post begins and I plan to put together a minuscule competition to spice things up a little here, so keep your eyes peeled to this one. Well, so far, so good; I’ve been enjoying the process of expanding on one thought per day – that’s what I’ve been telling myself to achieve, to think big, start small, build deep (thank you, EC). Blogging daily has become a part of my routine and I think that’s a good thing (for me) – kind of like my “think time”. After all, setting out with a purpose does result in a purposeful blog.

I love to write and (I think) you like to read (what I write); we have a nice little partnership going on here. At the beginning of March, I’ve actually set a readership target for this blog and told myself (and HY) that as soon as I hit a consecutive daily average of over a hundred hits, I’ll register my own domain name. Well, the time has come for me to do that. (Actually, I should have done that last month but I’ve been reluctant to part with the cash… Nonetheless, I think it’ll be a good investment.) Interestingly enough, the two days with the highest hits are for nice is never good enough and the recent top ten reasons to leave church at 162 and 170 views respectively. I’m surprised at the figures, to be honest; considering that I only have less than 5% of hits referred from Facebook or Twitter, I’d like to believe that I do possess a healthy following and a group of supportive readers. Thank you! Either that, or some joker has been hitting refresh non-stop.

Well, I promise you that more will come. There’s just so much to write about – for example, the one leadership question I asked PC during our bi-monthly lunch just two days ago resulted in an answer so rich, it could spawn 10 entries. (I had actually prepared seven questions to ask him but that one answer was enough food for thought.) I can only pray and ask God to keep sending me thoughts, and people to keep provoking my cognition. I take no credit for any of my musings anyway because my writing is post-prayer and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I try to follow what Paul advocates in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – that is to write for the glory of God.

And so I have decided to enhance your reading experience. I’ve already amassed a sizable number of posts and so it’s only sensible that I keep my writing organised and archived. I’ve created three new categories – The Greatest Gift, Top Ten Tuesdays and Football Fervour – for your navigation pleasure; in time, these categories will increase in volume. I will also create more “pages” (and update the current ones) as time passes. In a nutshell, if you keep returning, you’ll keep finding new things to read.

In a bid to achieve consistency, I’ve tried as much as I could to post/schedule new entries by/at the turn of midnight. Oh, I use Bloglines as my blog reader and I highly recommend it. However, an even more convenient method would be to simply subscribe to my blog via email; so if you’d like to be the first to read my daily updates, simply 1) fill in your email at the top-right of this page, 2) click on the link in the confirmation email and 3) MSK will appear automatically in your mailbox – I’d super recommend that. Easy as 1-2-3. HAHAHA.

For now, I’d like to express my sincere thank to you for the great support. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Actually… I’ll keep writing, regardless. I promise! (:

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