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but what if I cannot connect with youths anymore?

Even though I’ve only been with R-AGE as a full-time staff for nine months, it feels as if I’ve been doing it for nine years. I started serving as a youth leader when I was 17 years old and I “rose” through the “ranks” and have experienced almost every single ministry role before. Before I left for Shanghai, I must have been one of the youth leaders with the highest public profiles – surely everyone knew Joey Asher Tan.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), all these amounted to nothing.

I was severely humbled when I returned for my first Grace Retreat (the one with Life Game) and to my shock and horror (and massive disappointment), there were people who did not know who I was and those who knew me pretended like I didn’t exist – I don’t blame them – being physically away does result in relational drifting, and that is manifested in friendships that are eventually downgraded to acquaintance-ship. I have since learnt that youth ministry is transient and that no leader, however big his or her profile, is indispensable. The reality is, one day youths may forget who RY is or what CX has done for the ministry. I always think that if it could happen to JH, SH, DL or JT (leaders of yesteryear) it could definitely happen to me.

And you know what? I’m actually thankful for that.

It challenges me to think beyond myself and to build for the next generation of leaders and youths, for the future R-AGE and Grace Assembly of God, and ultimately, the next Joey Asher (i.e. the next youth minister who’s going to take over me). And yes, I’ve already identified my potential successor(s). I’m so thankful that this ministry is never going to be about me. And the best thing about it is that it’s not even down to my own choices or “something that I’ve set out to do” but by the innate and proven ephemeral nature of youth ministry. It forces all of us to think beyond today. I absolutely embrace that because I’m in the business of guiding and helping the generations after me to surpass everything I have achieved and will ever establish.

By the way, I’m quite astonished with the way the Spirit leads my pen.

Actually this wasn’t what I had intended to write about today; what I had wanted to share was the advice I gave to AS this afternoon. She asked, “But what if I cannot connect with the youths anymore?” I struggled with exactly that when I first re-joined and attempted to re-connected with R-AGE and I could really identify with her. So I gave her three pointers which I applied to help me overcome this real challenge.

  1. Ask God to give you a heart to love the youths and hands to serve them.
  2. Be consistent and always be around for them – to listen to and guide them – they’ll open up to you sure enough.
  3. Be patient with yourself and give yourself a trial period of at least three months before you evaluate your progress.

I met LW for an early dinner and I was so encouraged by his appetite to learn and grow. This boy’s got immense potential in the ministry and I can’t wait to see him grow into a man of God; it heartens me greatly to know that the ministry is filled with young men who are as hungry as he is; the future of R-AGE looks bright indeed. Praise the Lord!

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my wish for you.

Three years ago, CN, MO, MT and HY sang and recorded RF’s “My Wish” as part of my “farewell pack”. I remember how it made me smile and cry when I viewed it immediately on my flight to Shanghai; the passenger beside me must have given me strange stares.

Fast forward to today, I have to say, that JT’s rendition of the same song heightened my appreciation of it, to whole ‘nother level; this song seems to fit almost every other occasion, as long as it’s presented to someone you love. Every wedding seems to have a tear-jerker moment and I think for JT+WS’s wedding, it was the groom’s brother and best man belting out his wish for his newly-married brother and new sister-in-law.

In all my years of knowing JT, I’ve never seen him cry, or even display emotions so publicly. For him to express himself in such a heartfelt manner today, the occasion and sentiment must have moved him tremendously. While two strangers can forge a friendship tougher than steel, there is nothing like a bond between two real brothers. I say that as I juxtapose my friendship with LK against the Tay brothers; just when I thought, “Well, this is about as tight as brothers could be…”, the two of them demonstrated “Phileos” at a level that I’d never get to experience simply because I do not have a brother as a sibling. I will never forget their scene of embrace today – it made me want to have two sons so that they could do the same for each other. Even typing this post-wedding reflection stirs up some emotion within me.

As I’ve told him personally after the special item, I thought this was JT’s most impactful and memorable performance – and it couldn’t have come at a better time than his elder brother’s wedding. What a powerful message of brotherhood, in a literal sense!

But more than anything, more than anything/ My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to/ Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small/ You never need to carry more than you can hold/ And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to/ I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too/ Yeah, this, is my wish.

Once again, heartiest congratulations to JT+WS and a great big pat on the back for JT. I’m most grateful for being able to play a part in it as one of the groomsmen and as an emcee, and I can’t wait to welcome the lovely couple to Ghim Moh. I also can’t wait to engage the “Chorister” at a much deeper level; I’m greedy – I want to progress in my friendship with both JTs. It was a beautiful wedding and I’m sure all who turned up would concur.

the seven common struggles of leadership – part one.

Majority of us tend to think that there are two general groups of people – the leaders and the followers. While that may be true to an extent, I’d like to believe that there also people who embrace leadership and those who shun leadership, or better phrased as, those who love to lead and those who hate to lead. Most of those who love to lead are usually leaders but there are also those who hate to lead in leadership. I’m worried about the latter category. I enjoy leadership and I’m confident that I’m a good leader; I’m thankful for the many leadership opportunities and exposures that I’ve had. The following are seven common struggles I notice about emerging, outdated or unwilling leaders.

The first is when you lead without relationship. The scarier thing about that is when you lead thinking you have relationship. Bad leaders are those who are blind, but the worst leaders are those who don’t even realise that their eyes are unopened! It is imperative that you know the people whom you are leading, regardless of where you’re placed as a leader. Failure to care for your people usually results in a failure to achieve your leadership objectives.

Secondly, it’s common for some to lead with constant criticism or prolonged periods without encouragement. Perhaps you could take this time, right now, to send your leader a note of encouragement. A simple, “Press on!” or “Keep it up!” or even, “Praying for you!” makes a world of difference. And if you’re the leader who’s discouraged, then I’d recommend that you find a person you trust and to confide in him or her. Sometimes it’s really tough to lead from the front, and weakened leaders end up herding people instead of guiding them – be aware of this symptom.

Thirdly, there’re some who lead without vision. Regardless of where you’re serving as a leader, you must also remember to receive your vision from the leader above you. It’s dangerous when you start to stray from the original vision; when there are two visions, there is division. Once you know where you are heading, it’s important to always put your vision in front of those whom you are leading; every once in a while, you must remind them of their purpose and their responsibilities, as well as the end point.

It’s getting late and I’m getting tired; I need to prepare for JT’s wedding, as well as to get to bed early, since my Saturday will begin in a few hours at 5:30am. I shall resume this entry at the close of tomorrow. For now, do you agree with me on the first three so far? Do share your thoughts with me – I’d love to hear your perspectives.

top ten wedding songs.

2010 seems to be the year for weddings. Last Saturday I knew of four couples who got married; I was invited to three but I could only attend one. Two of my closest brothers are getting married within the next three weeks. I attended a wedding earlier this year and there’s gonna be one at the year-end. Maybe even two, if the other one takes place.

I’ve been privileged enough to be involved in significant roles for quite a few weddings so far; I’m typically either the emcee, worship leader, wedding singer or one of the brothers. Last Saturday, I had the honour of singing the march-in as well as the end-of-evening songs for my closest friend from my Ngee Ann days, JC, and her husband HH. This Sunday, I will have the honour of playing the role of best man for my best friend, LK.

Weddings are lovely events to be a part of and there’s nothing more precious than to be invited to contribute to the couple’s matrimony. I thought it’d be nice to compile a list of songs which I’ve performed before, or think would work, for a wedding.

1. Flying Without Wings. I sang this for J+H’s march-in, at their request. It was beautiful and as I got acquainted with the meaningful song lyrics, I understood why this song was so special to the two of them. Check it out here.

2. I Could Not Ask For More. I didn’t sing this for X-C’s wedding but it remains, to this day, the most “epic” wedding song. But it’s a song already performed before and so I probably won’t sing it at my own wedding. Check it out here.

3. Maybe Tomorrow. I’ve always acclaimed the poetic masterclass of its lyrics as well as how catchy its music is, and if not for how the vocalist has such a crazy-high-pitch-Chris-Cabrera voice, I’d have performed it long ago. Check it out here.

4. What A Difference A Day Made. I got hooked to this classy jazz item when I performed it with JT at the R-AGE 10th Anniversary Dinner Gala. I also performed it with DH at X+C’s wedding and it really fit the occasion. Check it out here.

5. Because You Loved Me. All right, what’s a compilation without mentioning a diva? There’s a reason why this topped charts and won a Grammy. Check it out here.

6. When I’m 64. DH introduced this Beatles classic to me. I can’t remember when we performed it, but I remember how his mum danced to it! Check it out here.

7. Two Is Better Than One. This was the solemnisation song for X+C’s wedding and I saw how it unfolded. DH and I performed it at Rhema Conference last year. Indeed, it’s true, that two is indeed better than one. Check it out here.

8. 我又初恋了. With the permission of HY, I shared this song idea to X+C and it worked out great as a march-in – fun, energetic and happy. Check it out here.

9. Cinderella. I think that there isn’t a better song than this to capture the bond between a father and his daughter. What a moving scene! Check it out here.

10. 1, 2, 3, 4. DH and I performed it for the first time at the Blackmarket gig and it was because HY told me she liked it. I think it’d work pretty well during a wedding too. Sweet and cute – it’s got puppy love written all over it. Check it out here.

I refuse to include the cheesy titles and I don’t want to offend anyone who’s used them in their wedding, proposal or is intending to use them so I shall not list the titles. Of course I have more titles in my head, but I won’t release them because I’m saving it for my own wedding. So yes, this isn’t my real list, of course. I couldn’t possibly let everything out of the bag, could I? I’ve got to keep some tricks hidden up my sleeves, right? (:

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!

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.

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