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a September stock-take and an October onslaught.

It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.

Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.

Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)

Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.

Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…

Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.

Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.

Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)

Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.

Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.

Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!

Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.

Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.

Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.

Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.

I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.

This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).

After our  mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)

September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.

I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.

On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!

I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.

When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!

October, I am ready for your onslaught!

Quenching my spiritual thirst with living water! (@ The Pinnacles, Perth, Australia)

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XIV. the other ideas that were rejected.

My first knee-jerk reaction was to return to the Southern-most Point of Sentosa. It was a significant location for Huiyi and I as we shared some wonderful memories there during the time that I courted her (before she agreed to be my girlfriend). I also considered returning to MBC or to the nearby Labrador Park…

She wasn't my girlfriend then... Silly her. :P

But it was already Monday evening when I canned the USS idea and I only had one Tuesday evening left (before cell group at 8:30pm) to recce one last location. Wednesday and Thursday evenings were no-go and Friday was it! I pressed the panic button a million times but honestly, I really thrived on the adrenaline. I am certain I perform better under stress.

And since I was no longer going to propose in USS, I had to find a way to sell the two tickets I bought for Gideon and Caleb to recoup losses. I texted a number of my friends to ask if they were interested but it was too last-minute for anyone to make it. Thank God Lionel came to the rescue and kindly agreed to sacrifice his Friday lunch break to head into USS to help tout my pair of tickets away with minimal loss. He didn’t disappoint and even made a small profit because he managed to sell it at a higher price to tourists who couldn’t enjoy the DBS discount. And to top it off, he even drove to Peony Jade on Thursday evening to collect the tickets from me. I just had to ensure that we did not see him when we were there.

There were other literally sky-high ideas I had considered – to propose on top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) or The Pinnacles @ Duxton. It was way too costly to do it at the Sky Park of MBS and to request for logistical permission and access would be a nightmare so I took that idea out. When Huiyi and I were at The Pinnacles earlier this year, I also assessed the place and deemed it unsuitable for my proposal because I couldn’t find a single power point in the entire Sky Garden on the 50th floor.

Next chapter: the final excursion that decided my destiny.

perth day 3: a tiny glimpse of the great outback.

The first time I visited Australia in 2003, I went skiing at Mount Hotham with Daniel Heng and went to the Blue Mountains with Daniel, Ps Cuixian and Manrong. The second time I visited in 2007, I drove on the Great Ocean Road and saw the 12 Apostles. This time, I went to see the vastness of The Pinnacles and even went sand-boarding! I know this is over-mentioned but how can one not marvel at the awesomeness of our Creator when he or she has witnessed such marvelous natural wonders?

However, we nearly did not make it on this tour that we signed up for yesterday.

As usual, due to me waking up (slightly) late(r), we had to sprint from Coolbellup to Perth City and did not factor in peak hour traffic and navigation unfamiliarity in our planning. (Okay, actually Huiyi did, but I did not, but since we are engaged I used the collective – we – Haha!) So as we frustrated each other in the car, negotiated with an uncooperative Google Maps and took a wrong turn, we still managed to make it to the pick-up point just one minute late. The result of that however, is to pay for a day’s worth of parking (!) instead of the original plan to park at Liang’s apartment then walk to the pick-up location at Pier Street.

We have both learnt that when we quarrel, it’s like the rhino charging at a hedgehog – and both get hurt. So we naturally gave each other some time-out as we recovered from the adrenaline of chasing a departing coach. Things resumed normalcy once we woke up from a short nap in the bus.

Our first stop was at the Caversham Wildlife Park, where we saw, touched and interacted with three marsupials – the koala, wombat and my all-time favourite (for obvious reasons) kangaroo. At this point, I want to correct a common misconception. A joey isn’t just the young of a kangaroo, but of all marsupials; as long as the creature resides in a pouch after birth, it is referred to as a joey. I learnt that from National Geographic and the park guide confirmed it. I was tempted to introduce myself as Joey, but decided against it as it would be too cute and attention-seeking for a 28-year-old man. Haha! Man, I’ve really aged.

We arrived at the Cervantes Lobster Shack after another hour’s drive. I learnt some new things about the lobster industry. For example, conservation rules disapproves of catching lobsters that are either pregnant females, too young or males reaching fertility; lobsters caught with three or more missing legs are not included into its main sales but into miscellaneous categories like sashimi; the difference between lobsters sorted into Category A and G are 300 grams and a whopping 2 kilograms respectively and each category has its own market.

The older I get, the more curious I become; I could never imagine myself remembering or even being mildly interested in such trivial information when I was younger. Age seems to imbue a hunger for knowledge. Is it like that for you?

Finally, we arrived at The Pinnacles. We were accompanied by an army of flies as we walked into the centre of the attraction. Once we were about 1 km in, its vastness simply engulfed you. There were unique rock formations in every direction you looked. And I also witnessed the perversion of Man at work. While there was a rock formation that eroded into the shape of an erect penis, I also saw two smaller rocks at the base of that rock – obviously the work of mischievous visitors.

Next up – sand-boarding at Lancelin! Man, I have never seen so much sand in my entire life! The way the wind caressed the sand mounts was poetry in motion; the unseen wind was made visible with the presence of the fine white sand and that resulted in beautiful yet delicate sand formations. I could never imagine myself at the top of a sand dune but there I was, negotiating with the blistering wind as it violently stroked my exposed body parts. I froze a few times midway through my ascent as the sand got into my eyes (though I thought I had it protected by my Oakley’s)!

I felt as if the Spirit impressed upon my heart a few lessons about life from that novel experience of sliding down a 30 metre sand mount:

  1. 逆风的方向更适合飞翔. I can appreciate those 五月天 lyrics from another perspective. As the wind blew (the sand) toward you, you’d naturally want to turn the other direction, not knowing that doing that could actually get more sand in your eyes (as some would escape, run along the side of your face and get into your eyes). Instead, and this I learnt I when I scaled the sand dune the fifth time, face the wind head on and let the eyewear do what you paid it to do – protect your eyes from the forward onslaught. As we face seemingly insurmountable challenges in our lives, let’s not turn our backs towards these obstacles but tackle it from the front!
  2. When experiencing a mini-victory, don’t be too quick to celebrate. I think I’m a fast learner and besides, sand-boarding isn’t the hardest thing to do, so I thought I handled it pretty well on my first attempt and even slid quite fast. I also knew that Huiyi was taking pictures of me so as I approached the end of the slope, I raised my arms and let out a victorious “Woooh!”, loud and proud. And I ate sand almost immediately and toppled to my side. Haha! As I spit the fine fragments out of my mouth, I told myself to shut up the next time I slid down. Pride goes before a fall indeed.
  3. Learn to enjoy the uphill climb as much as you enjoy the downhill slide. My fitness isn’t bad but the 50-step ascent was literally more breathtaking than it looked. The first time I went up, I was so excited about sliding down that I forgot to check out the panoramic view from on top of the sand dune. I told myself to do that in subsequent climbs and so I paused for ten seconds longer (to catch my breath and) to take in the amazing visual spectacle before I took the plunge. Let’s learn to enjoy both the tests and trophies for each has its own set of memorable experiences and character-shaping qualities.

So there you go, my reflections on day 3, churned out on the return journey back to the city.

We are going to pack some chili mussels from Concas and purchase some soft drinks before we return to Leontes Way to prepare dinner and rest even earlier tonight. Can’t wait for the road trip!

perth day 2: uptown girl and downtown boy.

With barely four hours of sleep in my tank, I staggered out of the Leontes Way abode while Huiyi swaggered out completely refreshed. Ervina very kindly alighted us at South Street, where we had breakfast with Su Ern at the rustic Ootang & Lincoln cafe. Breakfast was exorbitant by any standard despite it being an enjoyable experience for it was wonderful to share a meal with Pastor Meng Cham’s daughter for the first time.

We made our way to Perth City after breakfast by train and I think I had one cup (of coffee) too many. By lunch, I had already consumed three shots and that (I reckoned) proved to be my undoing for the second half of the day; I found myself visiting the washroom once every hour. Down Under became an uncomfortable experience down under.

As we sauntered through Wellington Street, Murray Street and ultimately to Forrest Avenue where we picked up Liang’s black Mitsubishi Colt at City Towers, fragments of where I’ve visited the last time I was in Perth (in 2007) began to return to me. We put our belongings in the backseat and thanked God for the favour we have received from such generous friends.

We strolled to Saint Mary’s Cathedral and spent some moments at the pews, and committed to God this new phase of our courtship. That was a sweet moment that we both enjoyed – God and us in a beautiful place of worship. I couldn’t ask for more.

Functional eating meant that we settled lunch at the substandard House of PASTA. We interchanged between the red and yellow CATS (Central Area Transit System) to get from place to place and we eventually ended up at Harbour Town, where the factory outlet stores were located. We were quite proud that we exited City West unscathed – our wallets still looked pretty healthy.

Like in Singapore, Tuesdays are also half-priced waffle days at Gelare; the smell of toasted (or baked?) waffles proved too tempting for us and we succumbed; I think I have been eating too much… So thankfully I lost some weight at night with frequent visits to the lavatory.

On hindsight I’m glad I proposed to Huiyi in Singapore instead of in Perth. While it was a picturesque moment over sunset at King’s Park, there wasn’t anyone to help us capture that moment. We immediately thanked God for the amazing Gideon and Caleb. They contributed significantly to a wonderful video – we wouldn’t be able to relive that special moment if not for their dedication and commitment to Huiyi and I. Thank you, boys!

Our final stop of the day saw us end up at Leederville, where we met Pastor Mark Varughese together with his wife, Jemima and son, Ezekiel. Ps Mark was the plenary speaker for Rhema Conference 2010 and it seemed only yesterday that we brought him out for lunch at Zhou’s Kitchen in Singapore. That was nearly four months ago; time has flown us by indeed…

Giadini served excellent pasta – yes, we had it again for dinner – and I ordered Prawn Ravioli and Angel Hair Agio Olio for Huiyi and I respectively. The portions were huge – so we had enough to takeaway for dinner the next day.

We went to the nearby San Churro Chocolateria for our dessert of Spanish Hot Chocolate almost immediately after before driving 25km back home. (I’m secretly proud that our navigation back to Leontes Way was successful on our first attempt!) It was wonderful to spend a little time with the Love Birds when we got back for it gave us a preview of the D&M (Ervina’s self-coined “Deep & Meaningful”) conversations that we were certain to engage in when we embark on our Albany-Denmark road trip on Thursday.

P/S: I’ve written this entire entry enroute to The Pinnacles as Huiyi persuaded me to rest early last night. She forbid me from using the computer. I guess there’s a new hierarchy established now, especially when it comes to physical rest, which she’s enjoying now, seated beside me in the 4WD coach.

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