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the stream versus the rock – who wins?

I just returned home from a very late night chat, which I thoroughly enjoyed, with XY, because I was able to share from the bottom of my heart, and to let him see for himself the fire in my eyes with regards to my future. I also felt privileged as he shared a part of his life I’d never thought I’d hear. It was an open, honest, vulnerable and hugely satisfying conversation. I’m thank God for sending a brother like him into my life. It’s quite amazing how God connects in seamless tandem two individuals with vastly different upbringings, ideals, religious beliefs, values, dreams and decision-making models – not to mention our love-hate interest for each other’s football team (though that was not mentioned tonight). I even shared a little of my faith with him, why I love God (and how that is everything to me), and how I earnestly pray for his salvation. One day, he will know God.

As such, I’m unable to write a comprehensive article tonight. I don’t even know how to title this post. I do, however, would like to share two thoughts that have been tossing in my head the entire day. One stems from a quote and the other is how I approach my relationship with HY and why I think our love for each other is burning so strongly.

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but by perseverance.” – H. Jackson Brown

And the other is simply how the Holy Spirit reminded me that the only way to love HY unconditionally and more everyday, is to love God even more and as my first priority. Humanly, it’d be impossibly to do so – both ways.

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how do you engage young people?

The iJourney team came together for a final coordination meeting on Sunday evening. Most of them were worried about whether they were able to connect with teenagers so much younger than they were. So I found the opportunity to share with them some really simple tips and insights on what I think would help them to engage young people.

However, I didn’t share this prelude with them so I’ll share it here instead. I believe that there are several important rules you must observe before you attempt to engage youths. Firstly, you need to be patient and to manage your expectations. They must be convinced that you are willing to have fun with them and that you are not here to judge them. I remember RY telling me how I have to first play with them, before they will pray with me. Before they listen to you, they must first be convinced of your sincerity.

Next, you must be willing to be genuinely interested to speak their language (or their lingo), or at least make an effort to understand what they are interested in. Failure to do so usually results in a talk-down instead of the desired talk-to. I also believe that young people whom you are meeting for the first time are usually more afraid to speak to you than you are of them; the one who makes the first move to converse usually succeeds. (On that note, I think RY has an uncanny ability to connect with youths.)

With these basic ground rules established, there are just three steps to remember in the progression of a conversation with a young person.

  1. Firstly, learn to exchange information“How do you find this?”
  2. Next, learn to exchange opinions“What do you think about this?”
  3. Lastly, learn to exchange emotions“How do you feel about this?”

Why don’t you try it and tell me if it works? The six iJourney facilitators and I will be testing this method as you read this post. Remember to keep us in prayer – may we find connect with the students and plant seeds into their lives!

the therapy of shouting.

First and foremost, I must say that VY and I had a pretty bromantic evening watching Man Utd beat Spurs and return to the top of the summit where they rightfully belong. I’ve always enjoyed his fellowship, not just because he’s frank and spontaneous, but also because I enjoy pondering over his radical perspectives on certain issues. We are both dreamers and visionaries – I think that’s where we click. Above and beyond the VictorY we enjoyed (pun unintended), it was the brotherhood and conversation that I will remember more.

We shouted many times during this match and we screamed three times over two converted penalties and a delightful little lob – it was a natural expression of a dichotomy of emotions experienced throughout the course of a 90-minute match. This got me thinking about how football is synonymous with yelling – it has to come together. Perhaps that’s why the mid-week middle-of-the-night matches are a little more excruciating to watch because we don’t want to wake the other people who are already sleeping soundly in the house; the best we could do is to shout into a cushion, muffle our voices or simply shout without opening our mouths. If I had to watch a game of football in absolute silence, I’d rather not watch it.

Men turn into part-time football talk show hosts at every live soccer game. We discuss tactics and question managers’ intelligence, reminisce history (and when and how we started supporting our teams), speculate the final score and scorers, laugh at players, joke about Liverpool (sorry, couldn’t resist), applaud great moves, raise our hands and shout “Mine!” at every throw-in or bury our faces in our hands and let out a string of substitute expletives at the miss of an open goal. We do all that because it enhances the experience of watching football with someone; and yes, it’s always better to watch a live game with a buddy.

Aren’t these the reasons why we even watch football? Why do we sit behind a TV screen cheering for teams and players that have absolutely no effect on our quality of life? Why we would spend prime time on a weekend evening just to watch the Premier League or risk coming to work groggy and being screamed at by intolerant bosses on a Wednesday or Thursday morning just to watch the Champions League? For crying out loud, most of us aren’t even able to execute 10 percent of the moves that we see on the screen yet we criticise the players as if we were the ones who trained them. I think it’s because we love the game – the game is lovely; we need to express ourselves and we do it best when we shout. For men, it’s almost primal and barbaric, but hugely gratifying.

That’s precisely why I’ve decided to install MioTV in my room, instead of in the living room. Next season, I want my buddies and I to scream without reservations or fear of disturbing my family members. I want to shout with freedom and I want to express myself; I want to be therapeutised. There you go, I’ve justified the transfer.

So gentlemen, go ahead – scream at the top of your lungs, give (manly) high-fives, exchange (manly) hugs and get decked in your favourite colours. Do whatever it takes to bring yourself a little nearer to the football in England, even though you have absolutely no bearing on the eventual result. Do it – you’ve had a hard week and you owe it to yourself. Keep watching, keep shouting. For one day they may just be able to hear you. Really.

i’d rather have teh-peng.

HY and I had this hilarious little conversation (which made me think about perspective) as we strolled to her place last evening:

HY: How come you look so short today?

JA: Maybe it’s because of the shoes I wore?

HY: Can you please not wear these sneakers next time?

JA: Huh… Do you know how many shoes I cannot wear when I go out with you?

HY: DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY HEELS I CANNOT WEAR WHEN I GO OUT WITH YOU???

JA: (flabbergasted and shrunk) Okay, good comeback.

I’m inclined to believe that our quality of life is largely determined by our perspective. Everyone goes through similar seasons of life. While it is granted that everyone experiences different degrees of joy and pain, victories and struggles, we should also accept that our journey isn’t as uncommon as we think it is. Yes, what I am indicating is, regardless of how special you think you are, or how many horrible things you’ve endured, you’re really just another one of us.

So the one thing that sets a common man apart from another one, is his approach towards life and all its ups and downs. Hence, I shall audaciously believe that my life is that much more interesting than anyone else’s – not because I actually live an interesting life – but because I live my life interestingly. I believe that our lives are essentially mundane, therefore we must choose to live it extraordinarily. (Maybe now you understand why I’ve deliberately titled one of my categories, Extraordinary Mundane.)

Pardon the cliche analogy, but if you offer me a glass of water, and ask me if it’s half-filled or half-empty, I’d simply ask for a cup of teh peng instead. Life is truly about perspective – for perspective influences and determines experience.

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.

football creates memories and conversations.

As most of you would know, this blog would naturally be about topics close to my heart. Amongst these things is football, of course.

This love affair started in 1994, when Man Utd whipped the living daylights out of Chelsea in an emphatic 4-0 victory at the FA Cup Final. It was the first time I watched football on TV, the first time I watched United, and the first time I saw in action L’Enfant Terrible, Le King, Eric Cantona. Proud as a peacock, he scored two penalties to secure the win and there was no denying an instant admiration for the puffed-up chest, erect collar, nose-in-sky arrogant swagger; he is the sole reason why I’m a Man Utd supporter, why I like #7 and why my preferred position has always been as a support striker.

Well, I was hoping to write this article at the back of an away United victory at the Allianz Arena, but alas, that utopia could not materialise. Instead, very ironically, Munich exacted its revenge on United in the same manner almost 11 years ago and scored the winner late in injury time. That moment in time, my friends, has to go down as one of the highlights of my life (although it had absolutely nothing to do with me).

There’s something special about football that allows guys to channel that barbaric, unbridled energy into something decibel-defying and of course in time to come, conversation-starting. It’s just like how Singaporean boys would congregate and chatter non-stop about their NS days even though majority of them slam it. Girls would probably never comprehend this love-hate sentiment boys have for NS; in the same way, most of them still do not understand offside, in spite of umpteen patient explanations. They just don’t get it, do they?

Back to football, it was on 26 May 1999 that my most distinct football memory was constructed. I watched it together with CC at his house and it looked like United was set to collect the runners-up medal. United conceded a goal in the 6th minute and Munich played a tremendous game to protect that precarious lead. In the 91st minute, Sheringham scored the equaliser from a Beckham corner. To put it very mildly, we went berserk – a barbaric celebration of screaming, shouting, hugging, hollering, decibel-defying madness. Just as we were about to settle down, Beckham stepped up again to take another corner in the 93rd minute and Solskjaer put the ball at the back of the Germans’ net from close-range to send 300 million fans into raptures. To put it very mildly again, we went ballistic – an even more barbaric celebration of screaming, shouting, hugging, hollering, decibel-deafening insanity. We weren’t the only ones replacing the rooster’s early morning crow – the whole neighbourhood was either with us, or woken up by us.

CC watched this morning’s loss with me at my place. We reminisced about the buzzing feeling that we had when we trotted off to school a couple of hours later. We were riding on the cloud nine of 1999. It was like we needed to tell everyone about the adrenaline-filled, lung-busting once-in-lifetime adventure we had just moments ago. Ask any twenty-something year old United fan about that night and I promise you an instant, enthusiastic conversation to follow. Observe the sparkle in his eye as he revives the memory that’s still fresh in his mind.

Now that’s the power of football – to create memories and conversations. Keep watching, keep screaming.

water and conversation.

There is nothing more satisfying than to drown oneself in ice-cold water on a blistering hot day or after a sweaty game of football. Water is essential to life; after all, our bodies, like planet Earth, has 70% worth of water. No wonder older folks always ask us to drink more water whenever we fall sick, regardless of what sickness it is. I subscribe to that theory too, especially when I am lacking in sleep (which is pretty often) for water compensates the loss of rest. Water sustains life.

This got me thinking about relationships and its sustaining factor. Of GC’s five love languages, quality time is often the one that is easiest to offer yet hardest to measure. Most people think that it’s just about hanging out and spending time together doing nothing, but I beg to differ. And remember this – it’s not about how much time you spend together. A relationship or friendship cannot progress if there is no exchange of facts, opinions and feelings. Why do you think so many people end relationships because one has failed to understand the other?

Don’t underestimate the necessity of conversations. I am certain that conversation is to relationships what water is to life; something simple and almost taken for granted, but in its absence, cessation is almost a certainty. Rethink the way you relate to one another. Make a deliberate attempt to progress from exchanging information, to exchanging thoughts, to exchanging emotions and convictions. Just as water promotes plant growth, watch how quality conversations bring development to relationships. We were created to be relational beings and are unable to thrive in isolation (from other people). The famous old adage by JD stands true – “No man is an island”. (Funnily enough, islands are surround by water.) We must learn to depend on one another as life is not a soliloquy.

Needless to say, your relationship with God naturally stagnates when prayer, worship or the reading of the word decreases in quality and quantity. In the words of BH, “Frequency and intensity equals bonding”. It is my prayer that you experience the yearning to bond with the Lord today.

So whenever you drink water, may you remember to make intentional efforts to have quality conversation with the ones you love.

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