A caffeinated epiphany.

Why do people drink coffee? I never understood why adults drank so much of it. I mean, why? They were guzzling down coffee faster than I could say starbucks-iced-blended-caramel-frappucino (the only coffee I drank – more for the caramel and whipped cream). The adults stood by their conviction. Fists up high, I made known mine.

I DON’T NEED COFFEE! I DON’T NEEEEE…

Aged twenty-five, Ming Rong stands corrected. Now dependant on a kopi-peng a day, he believes coffee is a lifehack. Now that he understands why adults drink coffee… he presents: an epiphany by coffee.

Sometimes when we are young (and possibly naive), we cannot understand why our parents and leaders made the decisions the way they did. I never understood why they drank coffee.

Even if we did, we would only see a fraction of the bigger picture. Maybe, it was just a really really nice drink?

Why did they have to be so strict and harsh? Why kopi-o (black) and not kopi (brown), you know, condense milk sweeter ya?

Why weren’t they more understanding? Why not tea instead, why must be coffee?

The tough thing about being responsible for many people, is making decisions that inevitably costs someone something. It’s for your own good… Words we took in but never fully understood.

Why am I thinking about this now? It could be the elections… it could be the things I read about people talking about how mad they are. It could be the kopi-peng.

Or perhaps, I’m finally learning that making choices for people around me comes with a price. Maybe, I’m just a little closer to understanding how those in bigger shoes than mine are faced with greater decisions every day. And the loudest disgruntled voices are those who don’t have that weight on their shoulders.

Making a decision that affects 5 people and 20 is very different. Making a decision that affects 100 people and 1000 is very very different. Making a decision that affects 10000 people and 1000000 is very very very different.

Perhaps, perhaps.

Perhaps I need another cup of kopi-peng now tomorrow.

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The Pawn Shop

Isn’t it interesting, a pawn shop? A place where exchanges are made. In return for a precious jade bangle, I could get a little money. What are the exchanges we make in life today? Where are we putting our time and money?

The Pawn Shop
Took this picture of a rustic pawn shop during a morning run around the neighbourhood.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Booktique: Where Writers Shop

I first chanced upon the pop-up store, Booktique, at the Cathay – a quaint little shop tucked between Starbucks and some perfume store. The first thing I noticed the quiet shop was its signboard:

“Booktique: Where Writers Shop”

Crossing my fingers, I hoped it was not going to be a stationery joint for “writing”. Stepping in, I saw collections of interesting literature – Shakespeare, Poe, the Classics… they had it all. What made me most excited was when I reached an entire table on the right corner… an actual table stacked with books on WRITING.

In the past, I would only able to get my hands on Copywriting material from Basheer or Kinokuniya, and sometimes, Times. Here, the books seemed to be carefully selected, and meticulously wrapped too!

Then, I was encouraged to pick up a copy of Copywriting (Ha! Pun number 2, did you spot the first?). I already had an earlier edition of the book but delighted to know I would no longer have to go on a wild-goose chase to get another. It would all be available here…in the Booktique!

It turns out that the man who encouraged me to get the book was Anthony. Anthony is a writer himself, and you can read about his idea behind starting Booktique (click here)! He’s really nice and would even help reserve / order in books if I chope them quick enough when he releases them on the shop’s Facebook page.

 

Some of the books I’ve met at Booktique

Over the months, I found myself visiting the store to get my next reading fix. Soon, Booktique ended its pop-up at the Cathay and moved on to Citylink Mall. And yesterday, it ended its last day at Citylink Mall – six months passed by so quickly! I managed to rush down last night for a last look at the shop, and get myself one last book there.

Inspiration and Motivation for Writers Chloe Henderson

If you love writing, you have to visit them… Of course, they have a good selection of contemporary and local works for a casual reader too; I first saw Neil Gaiman’s ‘Fortunately The Milk’ here, and not in Popular. You neeeeeeeed to check them out… When they’ve found a new store location of course!

Pop-up again and see you soon, Booktique! I’ll just shop at uhhhh…I-don’t-know-where for my writing books till then…

Taking five instead of two.

If you’re a regular around Paya Lebar, you’ll know that the taxi stand has shifted across the road (to Paya Lebar Square) from Singpost.

However, errant taxi drivers continue to stop opposite the stand…this of course would not seem much of a problem UNLESS you’re the one waiting for a taxi at the stand. And so, to my surprise, this LTA officer became a common feature in the afternoons. It was magical. Almost as if they had set up a force field, the taxi drivers seemed to swerve away from drop-off point – almost speeding into the taxi stand at Paya Lebar Square. Without lifting a finger!

LTA Officer Paya Lebar Square

It’s natural for humans to take the easiest way out. Why spend more time taking five minutes when the easier way only takes two, right? Well, do you choose to do what’s right, or take the easier way out?

Not Afraid

Some days I wake up and all that’s swimming around my head is negativity and pessimism.

“Oh today’s gonna be tough…so many things to do and settle…”

“Man…my to-do list gets longer…”

“Sigh…here we go again…”

Starting the day like that leaves you sapped. You feel drained even before your day begins. Your body starts to ache too, almost as if it’s echoing and manifesting every bit of unwillingness that your mind is harbouring. Your back is sore, your shoulders sour.

“Why not go for a massage or spa… relieve some stress…”

…NO!

That is not faith. That is wallowing in self-defeat. It’s losing the battle even before it’s fought. Don’t get tired at life’s problems; problems will ALWAYS be around.

It doesn’t mean you live in self-denial, as if problems didn’t exist. Be tired at the condescending voice that tells you that you can’t overcome whatever you’re going through!

Don’t be fed lies that eat away your spirit and your fight. Even a king can be brought down by negative thoughts.

LOTR: Wormtongue whispering lies to a king. (Photo: pixshark.com)

Every time there’s too much negativity going on in my head, I remember this verse…

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Keep away negative thoughts! I choose to think of the good that there is around me, not just the problems and challenges. That’s why I go to church! To get a dose of faith (just like how some of you need a dose of coffee). Or, I put on a sermon, and play an uplifting song.

Here’s a good start:

Not Afraid by Heart of God Church

I promise for tomorrow, I’ll choose to have faith when I open my eyes! After all, as a man thinks, so he is.

Left and Write.

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” – St Augustine of Hippo

It doesn’t make it right even if all your social media “friends” put a like to it, or retweet to it, or tell you how great you are. Not everyone who strokes your ego is helping you.

Closer to home, let us ponder on what our primary school teachers used to say…

“Cher, I was following him… Not my fault what…”

“He jump, you also jump issit?”

“…”

Choose your cause wisely; choose what you speak and write for. Some things are worth living for, but not everything is worth dying for.

Friends and Foes

Friends.

I may not have had many of them, or many true ones when I was in school. For me, it was easier to turn on Steam or Battle.net and face off with “friends” on TF2 and WC3. It didn’t help that my surname was Yong, and based on the alphabet my register number, my seat was always the farthest away from everyone.

Sometimes, I wondered if I could just fit in (the real world) – have that clique that I could always go to in the canteen. To never have to worry that I would have to walk around school alone. At first, I found that camaraderie in Scouting. Man… The things we did, and the time we spent together.

It felt as if I didn’t choose them, but they chose me. While that’s pretty true, and I thank God for them, we started to drift away as we grew older. Scouting is now but a faint, nostalgic memory. As I’ve started working… I’ve had my share of working with people all around… And I understand what Pastor How meant when he taught us when we were younger: some people are friendly, but they are not friends. You know, like an air stewardess? They smile at you and serve you your lunch, but they’re not going to recognise you on the streets and give you a friendly high-five.

Too many a time I’ve stuck around with the wrong group that drifted me further away from God and what I really want to do. It’s hard to describe how hard it is to want to be part of something fun and exciting. So why the need to decide to have the right friends? Why do we choose to live a good life, rather than have all the fun in the world? Why is it while I was having all the fun in the world, I felt I was walking away from God? Couldn’t I keep my values while having fun? Well…

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

What, evil company? My friends are not evil…

Here’s the same verse in another version (NLT), that might be easier for us to swallow.

33 Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”

Say what? Well the previous verse before 33 said this… “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 

Isn’t that what most of us wish? To be happy and enjoy our lives before we die?

Not always…and it’s never easy trying to stay away from old friends that you’ve shared many memories with… But a choice has to be made between having good character and sticking around bad company. Do not be fooled, it doesn’t say good character saves the bad company. It says bad company corrupts good character. Seen my share of friends who stuck to the wrong people too. Tough choice huh…

Pastor Tan Seow How shared in a Checklist for a Great Life when dealing with complicated relationships:

Don’t cut what you can untie
– Complicated relationships are like a knot
– When you cut it you can never put it back together
– Don’t untie what you should cut
– If God says cut don’t be sentimental
– Think of  Lot’s brother and Potiphar’s wife
– A lot of times we are too sentimental and too nostalgic
– To live well you need to live wisely
– Wisdom is hearing from God and knowing which are the ones to cut
– And which are the ones to untie

After many years, I’ve learnt that what I need more than fun. What I’ve really been searching for, are not just friends, but family.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Friends are very different from family. There’s little obligation to stick it out with you when things go south. But when it comes to family, they’re with you through thick and thin. In Heart of God Church… I’ve found more than friends. I’ve found family.

Mr Iscariot?

As a young Christian, one of the things I was very intrigued by when reading the gospels was about Judas and the betrayal. I wondered… What went through his mind? Why did he choose to do it? Questions like these often make me feel a deep sonder.

I had the chance to ask this question to Pastor Tan Seow How once. I asked, why did Judas betray Jesus for 30 silver coins? Was it a significant amount of money? If he had been Jesus’ treasurer, didn’t he have access to much more money? (Something along those lines). 

The answer that came back to me was simple enough. It blew my mind, but also got me thinking about the circumstances I’m in at times.

Sometimes when we are given a responsibility, it is not because we are good at it, but because we are bad at it…God is giving us a chance to change.

When we’re stuck in a rut, or facing the same test and challenge again and again, it could mean we aren’t doing it the way we’re supposed it. You could be stuck doing something that isn’t exactly your favourite thing. But… Each opportunity is a chance to change and do better, and also to seek repentance.

How is it that repentance is a big part of the lives of our heroes of Faith – to turn away from what is wrong, and seek to do what is right – while we are more accustomed to raise our fists to vindicate ourselves? It’s time for a change in perspectives.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Keep on keeping on.

Rules, but not Conditions.

Reflecting on today, I remembered what Pastor Tan Seow How shared in Heart of God Church a few weeks back during the OOPS Series. It was about the difference between having rules and conditions. Here are some parts from my notes.

First up, Rules. We need them! Children cannot be disobedient and dishonouring of parents. You can’t have your brother running around with a knife at home, right?

Without rules, family become dysfunctional, and society would descend into anarchy.
There are rules, but they are not Conditions. You may break the rules and face the consequences, but your value doesn’t change.
There are Rules in this house of God, but no Conditions.
Whether you keep the rules or break the rules… Rules do not mean God’s love is conditional. God loves us no matter what.
My thoughts
#1: I am loved
So, on some days I make really big blunders. I mess up. When I mess up, there are two ways to go – fight or flight.
Either I take myself on, to search deeper inside of me and find out what’s wrong with my character… Or I would run away, pushing the blame on someone else instead. I hope it’s obvious which is the easy way out, and which is the correct way to go.
However, no matter how big the mistake I’ve made. I’m always given a chance to change it. If I break out of my own fears and insecurities, I realised that the love for me is unconditional. No one’s giving me the weird eye, or looking down on me. I’m still loved and valued the same, mistakes made or not.
God’s love is unconditional.
#2: I must fight the right battle
Ask yourself some questions… Do you think others look down on you? Do you feel that you are judged? If you do, whose voice are you listening to? Is it the voice of truth? Or the voice of your own fears?
When I break a rule, I want to make sure I learn and grow from it. I remember that correction is not rejection. It’s never a personal attack.
You see the enemy is never another person… The enemy is not your family. The enemy is not your friend. The enemy is not your boss. And the enemy is not your leader either.
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
You see, if you are always going against people or a person in your life, you may just be fighting the wrong battle. 
 
God, I pray I grow in my character always… To be more and more like You. 

Of Faith, Hope, and Love.

7 April 2015

12.00 am.

Ring~

It’s a Facebook birthday notification from my phone.

I should be celebrating.

Then I see that the name that appears…

Is of a friend who passed away just last year.

I’ve known a few who fought hard for their lives.

In their loving memory,

I choose to live a life of significance.

To not indulge in petty conversations,

Or hang on to grudges that are beyond me.

You see, it’s only in the fragility of it all that you decide what is important.

It’s then that you realise you need God so much,

And others need Him as much too.

Though they are gone, we must carry on. With faith, hope, and love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Teach me, God. In my words and deed, to have faith when all seems bleak; to hope when the road ahead looks treacherous; above all, to love when all else fails.

How to love? We don’t need to be saints. My Pastors asked us this simple question: “After you talk to someone, do they leave feeling faith, hope, or love?” You must understand, our words have the power to build or to destroy others.

What do you choose?

Miss you all bros, till we meet again. Each of you have inspired me and shown my bravery and boldness in the face of darkness. Goodnight.