Upstream Field Guide: Lesson 2 Who Are You Part 1-2

Who do you admire?

Next, I am to think of at least 3 people I admire, why I admire them and in what ways am I similar and different from them. This is going be a tough one because at this point, no one comes to mind. I’ll have to search my memories of past and current people who’s made a strong, positive impression on me, enough to deserve this place of honor. Tsh says it can be a real person, living or dead or even fictional.

So here’s my attempt to shortlist these 3 admired individuals.

After a little research, I managed to come up with more than 3 names actually! None of them I know personally. The first is almost cliché but deserves the spot. The other 4 are actually people whose blog I have followed (i actually scrolled through all the blogs in my IE favorite folder!). Their blog is the gateway to their personal stories, motivations, hopes and dreams and their fears.

#1 Lee Kuan Yew (the late founding father of modern day Singapore)
My admiration for him was first influenced by my late father who regarded him very highly even though we are Malaysians, not Singaporeans. I am now a Singaporean and I think I can better appreciate his legacy then younger natives especially when I contrast it with the leaders in my own country. For the purpose of this exercise, I shall go straight to the point. Why does he deserves my admiration? He was radical with the reforms that were needed. He stood his ground for what he believed in and argued his case before naysayers and oppositions. He has great foresight. He did was was needful for the people, not what gain him the most love. He is willing to get his hand dirty an walked his talk. He conducts himself with honesty and integrity in both his personal and public life. His love for learning and personal development. His relentless efforts to improvise and stay relevant. His no-nonsense decisiveness and his well known devotion to his wife.

Similarities: stands firm in my beliefs though on the outside may appear to be more open, comfortable with being different but dislikes drawing attention, can predict outcomes of small scale matters, love for learning and personal growth, mostly honest and integrous, devoted to my children.

Differences: afraid of standing out, drawing attention and being criticized for being radical, avoids conflicts and arguments, won’t say i have great foresight, struggles between doing what is needful and what creates less conflict, idealistic but may lack drive to walk the talk, uncomfortable with change, could be more decisive.

#2 Seth Barnes of  Radical Living & Eugene Cho (formerly Beauty & Depravity)
Both are great examples of people who not only know and live out their calling but that they align it with the greater purpose of serving the cause of Christ. That I think is not only deeply meaningful but also powerful. Imagine the efforts you put in on this earth reap rewards that count not just for the here and now but for eternity. They are laying up treasures above while changing lives below. Barnes’s genuine passion to empower and inspire the body of Christ to live up to their higher calling shines through every blog post. He focuses his efforts on discipleship mentoring, missions, christian living and leadership. Cho is a relevant, edgy pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. Imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to inspire and rally this generation to action, he also founded a grassroots movement to alleviate poverty and a non-profit community cafe and music venue. I admire both for their single minded focus and commitment to their cause, their genuine love for people and the body of Christ, their ability to not only understand the issues and what needs to be done but also have the courage and drive to lead and inspire change. I also admire how both are able to remain relevant despite the changing landscape, leveraging on multiple platforms to reach their audience while being in tune  to their heart’s cry. They are then able to lead them to heed the greater cry, the cry to live radically for Christ.

Similarities: Christian, believes in the centrality of the cause of Christ, agrees that aligning our purpose to God’s is the best way, understands human issues and in tune with peoples needs to some extent

Differences: lacks a cause that motivates me enough, focus and commitment may wane over time, does not love people and the body of Christ enough, lacks courage and drive to lead and inspire change, uncomfortable with change.

#3 Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher
What endears me most to Atkinson is his writing. A reviewer of one of his books puts it succinctly, “Due to his honest, unique, and characteristically “unstuck-up” Christian ways, Gordon Atkinson’s blog became an online haven not just for people of the faith but also for those that have none…..He makes no attempt to hide the messy realities of faith; as such, he is able to transform the insignificant, the unlikely, and the problematic into something genuinely beautiful.” Yes, these are what I love and admire most about Atkinson. His “unstuck-up” Christian ways and brutal honestly leaves no room for whitewashing the abuses of religion, or sugar coating answers to the problem of unanswered prayers, or insisting that a victorious life free of the curses associated with living in a broken world is the entitlement and reality of every believer. It is a refreshing change from the ra ra Christians who pretends and propagates that such a life is served on a silver platter garnished with a personal note from God “How can I serve you?”. Atkinson is an honest skeptic who had battled his own demons and journeyed through a faith crisis. In all his writings is an underlying theme about the God who, he confesses, may or may not be there yet not one he can ignore or forget for He continues to pursue him! Atkinson helps me feel comfortable with my doubts, that it’s OK to question matters of faith, OK to linger on the fence. No one says I need to have everything figured out and put in boxes!

Similarities: plagued by doubts, skeptic, willing to question and challenge set beliefs, OK to sit on the fence and mull things over till the jigsaw fits better, battled my own demons, not wiling to just follow the heard and ignore nagging doubts, loves writing.

Differences: less comfortable to share and be open about my doubts with others, processes them internally instead, tries to have issues figured out and put into boxes.

# John Steele (photographer)
I’ve followed Steele’s photography for a few years. First got to know of him when a photograph of South Korea which I am a big fan of caught my eye. I do not know much about him as a person since his blog is a photo blog mainly showcasing his work. All I know about him is contained in this post, How I Became a Photographer. So why do I admire him? I guess there are plenty of skillful and well known photographers out there but John is different to me because I have followed his growth not long after he started and saw how he progressed. I admire him first and foremost for his photography skills and the fact that he is living his craft in my favorite place. His love for S Korea and the beauty of the land, the people and the traditions and culture are evident in his photos. I also like how he started as a photographer. He was just like any regular person with a point-and-shoot camera with no special training, sharing his travel photos with family and friends. One day a  friend tossed him a used DSLR and his started taking his first landscape photo 2 months after and uploaded it on FB. The first likes motivated him to take more photos and improve his skills. So you could say that I admire his small, modest beginnings and that he did not just stop at a few likes on FB but he dug deep to learn what he can about the craft and keeps refining his skills. So I admire his persistence, his curiosity, his drive to constantly improve. I assume that he does not shy away from saying yes to photography requests and assignments. He probably used them as a platform to hone his skills. That’ll require courage to face the fears of not meeting expectations.

Similarities: Loves South Korea, enjoys taking photos especially landscapes, humble beginnings, received compliments from family and friends, can be curious, motivated by approval and recognition from others.

Differences: non-pro skills, not living in the land of inspiration, limited language skill,  did not refine my skills despite having a DSLR at home, lacks persistence, driven to improve but lacks action, lacks confidence, fear of failure and rejection, unlike Steele, I do not live alone with lots of space and time to explore and hone the skill, do not have a pet companion.



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