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top ten reasons to rejoice for our Dawson flat.

As HY and I experience the Dawson saga, it doesn’t just give us the assurance that God has good plans for us, but also that He has the perfect timing. Hence, the best thing we should do, always, is to trust in His gifts and believe in His timing. I will be detailed in this thanksgiving because I want to give God the full glory. This will be a long entry.

The Dawson BTO (Built-To-Order) project was designed by award-winning architects and centrally located in the Queenstown district. As a result, around 10,000 people applied for it, making it over-subscribed by a few times. We applied for a four-room flat because we know that by 2016, we probably would have just started our own family.

There were 1,102 four-room flats available and our queue number was 1,302, meaning we needed 200 applicants to drop out before we were eligible. However, we actually needed more than 200 applicants to drop out because these 1102 units were divided to meet the ethnicity quota. This basically means that we needed Chinese Singaporeans to drop out if we wanted to smell a chance! Nonetheless, we made it by God’s grace and here are ten reasons why we are still rejoicing and praising God for His providence.

I. Balloting Success. By God’s grace we were successful on our first attempt – quite a miracle considering that there people who have repeatedly applied without success. I remember telling HY that the more we had to depend on “luck”, the more confident I was for God is in control and that we need not depend on our achievements.

II. Right Phase of Relationship. Timing was key in our application. We had arrived at a point in our relationship where we were ready to move on to the next phase of our courtship. We felt that we were ready to progress in our relationship.

III. Additional Housing Grant. Couples with a combined income of less than $5,000 would receive additional housing grant (AHG) of up to $40,000 from HDB. Basically, the lower the combined income, the higher the AHG awarded. This worked out perfect for us because by God’s divine timing, we applied for this when HY was a student without income and when I drew the modest salary of my working life. Any earlier and I’d be on a better income, any later, and we’d have been on a higher combined income. Applications for Dawson opened in that perfect window. HDB actually requested for HY’s CPF statements only up to June 2010 – she began work on 1 July and would therefore have CPF contributions from July onwards! Get it?

IV. Staggered Downpayment. HDB created this payment method to encourage couples to settle down at a younger age. Those below 30 years old have the option to pay their deposit (10% of cost of flat) at two intervals – once at flat selection (now) and the other at keys collection (six years later). And as this is completely paid through CPF, it means that our cash-commitment amounts to zero (not because we have a lot in our CPF, but because of the AHG).

V. Queenstown District. One of the factors that helped us to increase our balloting chances was to be situated near one of our parents. To qualify for this, you’d need to stay within a 2km radius of your parents. Ghim Moh is over 4km from Dawson but because both estates belong to the Queenstown town council, we still qualify.

VI. Breakthrough with HY’s Parents. There was no easy way to ask HY’s parents for their approval and support for this application. We were so scared about this that we actually methodically prepared a detailed six-page FAQ as we tried to speculate the questions they might ask, and we even rehearsed the Q&A! This chat also took place at a time when there was slight tension in the family. It really took courage and a step of faith to present this to them. And their response took us by complete surprise, “Actually you don’t need to ask us because it’s your combined decision… But if you ask us, there’s no issue – this is a good deal – go ahead!” W-O-W!

VII. Centrality. In light of the current skyrocket prices of flats, our Dawson flat actually seems affordable (and almost a steal). It’s a great investment no matter how you look at it. One reason why we were attracted to the place was for its location – a 10-minute commute to almost anywhere (Ghim Moh, Holland Village, the Singapore CBD, Orchard Road, Harbourfront, Chinatown and City Hall), leopard-crawling distance to Grace Assembly of God and walking distance to Queenstown MRT.

VIII. Growth Spurt in Faith. We selected the flat on the fourth day of Grace Retreat. We spent most of the two weeks before our selection appointment refreshing the HDB website, checking how fast our quota was depleting. Our appointment was the second-last of the day and at the time of our selection, we were amongst the final 10 Chinese (i.e 10 more remaining units for the Chinese ethnicity). When we left HDB, there were only five units left. By 10am the next day, the Chinese ethnicity quota had completely depleted. Imagine the mental roller-coaster! Despite all that, we managed to select a high floor – 11th – and while it feels like a relatively low floor in a 47-level block, it was much higher than we had expected!

IX. Payment Commences in 2016. Yes, it will take half a decade for the flat to be ready but we see it as a good thing because it means that we’ll have more than enough time for our CPF to swell with nearly six years of monthly contributions. By then, we won’t even need to worry about additional cash injections because we could easily sustain the monthly repayments. This is significant; if we had purchased a resale flat, we’d require around $80,000 liquid cash (how!?) – half for Cash-Over-Valuation (COV) and half for renovations. Thank God we need not worry about that! In fact, we can take our time over to slowly and steadily save for renovations.

X. Housing Loan Eligibility. As this is a BTO, it means that our housing loan eligibility (HLE) would be reassessed when we collect the keys in 2016. This means that our HDB loan would be derived based on our combined income in 2016, instead of now, where it’d be based on only a single income. This is easily a difference of over $200,000 in loans! Can you imagine if we had to borrow that additional amount from a bank to finance a resale flat, or buy a $200,000 flat?

There’s so much more to thank God! For one, we are officially home-owners now and it’s a huge load off our chest. After all, purchasing a house is one of life’s milestones, and for us to nail it at 27 and 23 years old respectively, was beyond our expectations. To know that we’ve overcome this hurdle allows us to focus on building our relationship and making us even stronger than before. God is faithful indeed. All glory to Him alone!

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top ten ways i will remember PIERCE.

I actually ought to be shot for only posting my reflections on Pierce now – especially when I encouraged all the campers to blog, facebook and tweet about Pierce – and I’m the last to be on the task which I set. Shame on me and thank you all for being merciful (I’m sure you’re more merciful than those who threw the water bombs with such glee!)

When I began the day, I knew that I’d write about Pierce tonight and I’m glad I met up with JH tonight; and as I shared with Him what God had done in Pierce, it helped me to consolidate my thoughts into bite-sized chunks. (I actually wrote a really long reflection on my mobile, but I think I’ll just can that for this instead.)

In no order of importance or significance, more like a what-comes-to-mind-first:

I. The difference between this awesome youth camp and the last awesome youth camp (Dream-makers) in R-AGE was the God-factor; what sets Pierce apart from the other events that I’ve been a part of over the last decade (and trust me, I’ve been part of a lot) is that God visited us in a progressively tangible manner with each passing hour. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed and the presence of God was so strong in this camp that it was un-mistakable and un-manufacturable.

II. The youths rose to take ownership of the youth group. I smiled the widest during two particular moments; firstly, when I saw cell kids approaching cell mentors at the altar call to take turns to pray for them – forget about hierarchy or maturity, they just wanted to minister to their brothers and sisters! Next, when JN, TT, SY and LW approached me for a five-minute interval to teach the campers an R-AGE cheer which they had created themselves – that to me was “youths leading youths”. To these two items I’d say, “Outstanding and well done, R-AGE, keep it up!”

III. For me, there were two events that really galvanised the ministry. Even though we had already expected the youths to gang up on the committee during the war game, I felt that there was a spiritual significance behind that epic rallying of all the campers – I’d say this carelessly, but I think there’s something prophetic about that act of coming together for the same common purpose (of mercilessly destroying us). The other activity that, hopefully, would stick in the campers’ head for a long time to come would no doubt be the Midnight Workout and how they earned their camp t-shirt – it taught them about sticking together, no matter what, whatever it takes. I’m confident these two programmes brought our unity and togetherness to new heights. May it drive commitment to the youth group into their hearts.

IV. When you are surrounded by an outstanding team of Generals and Knights, you can’t help but to rejoice with them when you see them rise up to take the mantle of leadership and exhibit the qualities of excellence, passion, initiative, dedication and commitment. On paper, I already knew that my committee would make an amazing team and when execution took place, it confirmed their ability to deliver. I deliberately gave them autonomy and they reveled in it. Well done!

V. I had never in my wildest dreams expected Be a Barney to take off like that. When we printed about 400 cards, we thought it’d be just about right, and that we’d actually have a few leftovers for ourselves to bring home as keepsakes. I think it was just after dinner on the second day that EL reported the crisis to me, “Joey! We have no more Barney cards!” I smiled and thanked the Lord for how the campers really caught the Barnabas’ spirit of encouragement! They’re still at it now, I believe!

VI. Here’s some trivia for you – Plug & Play was actually an idea which I had wanted to implement in R-AGE way back in 2005 (I still have the meeting minutes!). It remained dormant for years until I identified the hidden potential in NC to “take over” it and take it forward. She took a good six months to say “Yes” to my invitation and it was my personal delight to see her execute the inaugural Plug & Play on the first evening. I was convinced there and then that there was no one except her who could pull it off in that manner and magnitude. She far exceeded my expectations and everything I had hoped Plug & Play would turn out to be; she basically took it and made it her own, and I’m sure she’d soar with it now.

VII. With every camp or retreat, and yes, I do mean every, there will always be hype at the end of it – there is no exception for Pierce. However, while it’s only been two weeks since Pierce concluded, I’ve already seen noticeable changes in R-AGE @ GII’s culture, both in and out of services and cells. It’s as if the youths finally realised that they could actually have so much fun, actually enjoy worshipping God, actually engage with sermons, actually pray for one another in such a manner and actually relate with one another with such kinship. Pierce somehow became a point of activation for the youths to actualise what they’ve always had. I remember telling JH that it’s not as if we went “higher from being already high”, but that we went from “zero into one”. Something just clicked and we never had that!

VIII. I am seriously considering publishing the evaluation forms for they will be a great source of encouragement for anyone who reads it. What encouraged me most was how a great number of youths indicated their interests to serve in R-AGE – as CMs, emcees, ushers and just about anything – simply because they want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of its growth!

IX. At the close of the first day, I had an opportunity to catch up with DL and she, very excitedly, shared her Dream-makers experience with me – she still kept Angel & Mortal notes from that camp in her Bible and she still remembered all the different activities and lessons, especially the one where we tortured the leaders. There and then, the Spirit reminded me of the potential of Pierce and that its impact and effect would continue to be felt a decade later. It has been my prayer and desire that this camp creates a mark in R-AGE @ GII’s journey to fulfilling God’s destiny. I believe and I confidently declare that, by faith, we will achieve our destiny in God!

X. Last but not least, Pierce seriously affirmed my full-time calling 1) with youths, 2) at Grace Assembly, 3) in R-AGE. I am immensely grateful to God for His faithfulness in my life and it gives me great courage in the coming days!

All right, I know the past few entries have been really long and grandfather-ish, but please bear with me for I already know what I am going to write about tomorrow and for the next couple of days and they sure look like they’ll be lengthy entries too!

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.

top ten ways to end your relationship.

Even though I’ve been with HY for nearly 2.5 years, I’d never profess to be an expert in relationships simply because I’ve made countless mistakes in the past. But being with HY has changed me significantly (for the better, of course!) and there are some lessons that I’ve learnt along the way, which I’d like to share with you. As the Latin proverb goes, “A wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own”, I do desire that you learn from my shortcomings. So, from the top of my head, here are the top ten things to avoid doing if you want your relationship to last!

1. Hang your dirty linen in public. Go ahead and announce to the world how terrible your partner has treated you and how horrible he or she is. There’s never a better way to kill your relationship than to embarrass each other publicly. While you’re at it, be sure to publish it on facebook, twitter and of course, on your blog.

2. Keep using “never” and “always”. Actually, this applies to any perilous relationship. If you want to continually make your partner feel condemned and like he or she always pisses you off and never makes you happy, go ahead and use these two very powerful and poisonous adverbs in your daily conversations.

3. Threaten to break up at every conflict. Nothing makes the relationship more unstable and volatile than to intimidate each other with the promise to call it quits at the dawn of any argument. Yeah, reap the benefits of blackmail. (This is something HY and I have carefully committed to never do and so far, we haven’t, thank God.)

4. Reply with “fine” and “whatever”. Guys, especially, will be particularly annoyed with this common bad habit that girls have. Whether you’re the guy or the girl, remember that this damaging attitude is one of the most terrible ways to communicate and it’s act of cowardice and immaturity.

5. Sweep things under the carpet, avoid and escape. Then rake up everything when you quarrel. This soak-and-strike method reflects your inability to resolve existing conflicts and your failure to learn from past mistakes. At the end of every episode, you both will feel empty, frustrated and like you’ve taken a step backwards.

6. Live in your private world all together separate. Isolation often leads to secrecy and this results in the couple making mistakes without the protective umbrella of accountability. This is deceptive when things are fine and dandy but when you get into trouble, you’ll learn the precious lesson of, “No man is an island”.

7. Express yourself through physical intimacy. I honestly confess that this is the number one struggle for guys and the number one weakness for girls. Too-far-too-soon is the number one killer for most relationships. Those who’ve experienced it may just tell you, regretfully, that their number one relationship didn’t survive.

8. Communicate the wrong love language. This passive error is one of the greatest cause of misery because the good intention displayed from either side is let down by the wrong delivery method. Do not ever forget to discover how your partner feels loved and appreciated, best done at the start of the relationship.

9. Exclude each other from each other. As if being guy and girl, being brought up completely differently and having different values systems isn’t already hard enough, you can jeopardise your relationship further by keeping your friends and activities to yourself. Watch how you slowly but surely drift – it’s a guarantee.

10. Maintain status quo, rewind and repeat. Take your courtship for granted and persist in your comfort zone by continuously doing the same things and going to the same places. Your laziness, inertia and reluctance to be creative will bear the fruits of apathy, lethargy and monotony. Great ingredients for any relationship.

As I type, I realise that I can easily share another five to ten more. So maybe I’ll share that in the sequel to this post. In conclusion, just remember that my relationship is mine to learn from and cherish and yours is yours. Every relationship is vastly different yet it requires the same amount of immense effort in order to make it work. So, whenever you’re in doubt, refer to a higher authority. I don’t know who or what you turn to, but I’d recommend you to consider referring what I use as my guideline:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever… 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, New Living Translation

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!

nice is never good enough.

Here’s what the Spirit inspired me to share with RL during our lunch today in the context of a boy-girl relationship (or I’d go as far as to say that this is applicable to any relationship):

“A selfish boyfriend cares for his own needs before his girlfriend’s. A good boyfriend puts the needs of his girlfriend before his own. A godly boyfriend desires God’s best for his girlfriend.”

I’ve advocated umpteen times to some of my close girl friends that “nice” is never good enough. *pssst* Girls, don’t soften your heart to a guy pursuing you with honeyed words, fanciful gifts or sweet acts of kindness because that’s exactly what he had planned to do to win your heart, isn’t it? Instead, test his christian character, question his spiritual maturity, examine his moral values and enquire about his journey with the Lord; these are more essential qualities that would set apart a godly man from a good worldly man.

In Ephesians 5, we read that wives are to “submit to [their] husbands… …in everything”. A few verses later, we read that husbands are to “love [their] wives… …to make [them] holy”. I’d like to think that wives are to submit to their husbands on the condition that husbands love their wives (although I do know admirable wives who submit to unloving husbands). While we are to aspire to demonstrate unconditional agape love, we should remember that there’s only One who is capable of showing such divine love. Nonetheless, the standard of a husband’s love towards his wife is set extremely high – as Christ loves the Church. Now Christ loved the Church to the extent of redeeming her with His own blood – that has to be the extent of love that husbands ought to demonstrate towards their wives, no?

While I may not yet be married, I think I might just be able to understand this concept. You see, I’ve had my fair share of (bad) relationship history and conduct which I am never proud of. However, with HY, I find myself drawing strength to love her not by my own efforts but by God’s grace. In fact, the only thing I tell myself is to love God more than yesterday – this is the source of my love for HY. It is due to this love that I have for God that causes me to embrace her flaws and forgive her mistakes as well as to change myself for the better and humble myself to serve her. I do not believe that I will be able to continue to accomplish this on my own merits. And because HY knows that I love her deeply, she trusts me; from this trust births the foundation of her natural submission towards me (or alternatively phrased, towards my love for her). There’s no rocket science in this Biblical model; hence I say I can comprehend what the Apostle Paul was talking about.

So in a nutshell, if I may audaciously conclude, girls should be on the lookout for boys who love God. And boys (as leaders of relationships) should just focus on loving God more everyday. I always believe that instead of searching for the right person, you ought to be the right person (and the right people will start to search for you).

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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