Today, I commemorate my first year in Singapore since I returned from Shanghai for good. I fondly remember how I made my “comeback“ at the No One Else album launch concert. I will never forget the microphone stand, the spotlight, the explosive Roller Coaster introduction, and those 10 memorable steps (wished it was 100!) I took to superstardom the centre of the stage. It was my moment of conceited indulgence (so bear with me) and it’s not very often I get to feel like a rock star. Yes, it’s a terribly vain thing to say, but I’ve never denied my appetite for the limelight. (Fronting a band gives me a completely different rush from leading worship or preaching and I’ve really missed that! RL, CK, JT… It’s time to revive…)
Anyway, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read the above-mentioned expression. “Keep the main thing, the main thing” is synonymous with “Do not major on the minor” or “Know the difference between urgent and important”. Over the past nine months, something that I’ve honestly struggled with is to discern between my dreams and God’s dreams (for I certainly don’t want to mess this up!), as well as to think about how all these dreams are translated into ministry execution. I honestly find the marriage of the two dreams extremely challenging at times.
When I felt the call to enter full-time ministry, there were only three ministries that God deposited into my heart – Lead, Preach and Mentor – and these governed the way I operated; you could say that these are the three pillars of my personal calling. I’ve tried to center all my decisions around these pillars. Of course, I’ve made a couple of wrong decisions along the way, like getting involved in the Grace 60th Anniversary and being involved with the original YAYP transition team; I try never to live in regret, but to learn from retrospect for it is pointless if to lament about spilled milk.
As my portfolio increases and as my tent enlarges, so will my influence and competencies too. I’ve learnt that I must learn not to get involved with everything even though I want to and may foolishly deem myself suitable for it, and especially when it is logical to do so. (Sigh, logic – Man’s feeble attempt at second-guessing God’s sovereign will…) That’s the reason why I believe that a personal vision statement is important. If you have a motto to preside over the way you function, you more or less know what to say yes to and what to turn down; it helps you to live a principled life. What’s yours? Mine is:
“I am a bible-believing Christian who desires to know God
by working excellently, learning earnestly while having a balanced lifestyle,
for the glory of God.”
At our mid-year appraisal this morning, RY told me that “marrying your dreams into God’s will is a constant struggle”, and I concur. That’s why I think it’s always a step of faith to act on what God has impressed upon my heart. With RY, I always learn something new or am reminded of previously-learnt lesson – that’s why he’s my mentor and that’s why I look up to him so much. And in true hero-fashion, he balanced the above-mentioned statement with this: “But remember, it is God who planted these dreams into you”. That took a huge load off my shoulders; I couldn’t believe that I missed something as obvious as that!
I have been wired to lead with my heart on my sleeves and somehow this quality has become my signature. Perhaps it explains why Passion is one of the three flagships of my personality, besides Authenticity and Believing in Young People. These are the core values I think my life represents most dominantly and consistently. Again I quote my boss, “Passion is like a tap; once you turn it on, water gushes out” – I’d like to believe that my passion for youth ministry doesn’t just trickle out, but that it surges out.
However, I know that one day my passion will run out. RY encouraged me today and told me that I have tenacity; it was the first time this word was used to describe me. He deliberately chose tenacity over perseverance for (I think) the latter represents an indefatigability to endure present situations while the former indicates a determination to push oneself through to overcome challenges. I liked that distinction and I believe that tenacity should rightly be the best friend of passion for they are perfect complements.
So anyway, back to keeping the main thing, the main thing, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and reflect, and to ask God to give me grace so that I can differentiate what I want to do from what I need to do, as well as to determine what He wants me to do. (God doesn’t need me to do anything. He doesn’t need anybody to do anything for Him. In fact, according to Psalm 50:12, if He was hungry He wouldn’t even tell you or me.) In our lifetime, we’d go through seasons after seasons and so it remains a wise thing to focus, always on the main thing. If I were to strip everything down to its core, the main tasks in life (in fact, the only two tasks), is to love God more and to love His people more everyday (Mark 12:30-31).
If there was any weakness that was almost synonymous with any young person, it would be insecurity. Following close would be identity crisis, which incidentally is birthed from insecurity. Growing up with a Sanguine personality, I am able to identify with youths (and adults alike) who struggle with this problem. I can offer little solution except my own – I found my security in God, who doesn’t just doesn’t change (get it?), but is also constant. This helps me to trust in Him, knowing that at the end of the day, He alone makes me whole and He alone is completely in control of what’s going on, even when things feel as though it will come crumbling down. I can’t speak for every insecure person, but these were some of the things I did when I was younger, as a defence mechanism against the ugliness and unpleasantness of insecurity. Maybe it’d strike a chord with you?
1. I ranked friends and always moved their positions based on how they treated me.
2. I rushed in and out of relationships for I was afraid of being single and lonely.
3. I took great pains to look good and spent lots of time enhancing my appearance.
4. I spent lots of money on material items to stay “ahead” of the crowd – to be first.
5. I did and said things to attract attention because I wanted to be in the limelight.
6. I picked on and poked fun at people who were weaker and slower than I was.
7. I manipulated people’s feelings to make myself feel good and better than others.
8. I hid behind an ego and always needed to prove to others how good I was.
9. I was extremely possessive of my friends and my status in their lives.
10. I was afraid to tell others my flaws so they won’t change their impression of me.
11. I gave in willing and compromised to make people happy so that I’d be accepted.
12. I hid behind humour and found great comfort in being the funny and witty guy.
13. I could never ever deal with awkward silences in conversations, so I talk non-stop.
14. I hated it when people scorned or slammed my ideas – I couldn’t handle rejection.
15. I was always on the defensive (and offensive) whenever people questioned me.
16. I was bossy and always needed to be in control of every situation, regardless.
17. I thrived on people’s approval (of me, or the things I did) and sought mainly that.
18. I hated losing and constantly needed to be in pole position in any competition.
19. I criticised others when they criticised me even when they were faultless.
20. I emotionally blackmailed those whom I loved so I could control them.
I know this is supposed to be a top ten list but listing all these things came so naturally I had to double the quota. I may be in my mid-twenties already and I may be a church leader, but I’m still a wretched human being with an abundance of weaknesses. I’d be the first to raise my hand and to admit that I’m still struggling (and may continue to struggle with it all my life!) with some of these symptoms. However, the older I get, the more battles I win against insecurity, the more I am convinced that the grace of God is the only solution for this perennial problem. Next week, I will post the top ten recommended scriptures one could commit to memory and use to counter insecurity. It is my prayer that we break this bondage in our lives in the victory that comes with Jesus Christ!
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!