Monday, December 14, 2009

Lonely Move

I'm preparing to say goodbye to my old apartment, the first lair that kept me away from Hollywood insanity.

This is the loneliest move I've ever had. It was supposed to be fun, or at least it had always been fun in the past. The company, the laughter, the fellowship... Physically tired yet fulfilling. It's always a blessing to work towards something together to make a life of a brother or a sister in Christ easier. I mean, what's the meaning behind donating money to Africa when a neighbor needs help and you can't offer your help?

It is yet another lesson to learn. I think I adapt to a place pretty quick when it comes to food, physical situations, etc. because I can be by myself and enjoy random things pretty much. I don't even think that difference in values concern me as much. But it gets hard when the values are different and I have such high expectations on people to be what I thought they would be. Well, a fault on my part for that assumption. But still, being an idealist is a bummer at times.

I think rather than depending on money, I still want to depend on people's kindness. It makes me more humble and aware of people's generous hearts on a daily basis. I think it will be hard here, when money is so widely available for everyone. But I don't think I want to give up yet. I still have hope that people will be more communal here. I want to somehow slowly eradicate self-absorption and self-sufficiency through money.

Regardless, I give thanks to those who've taken their time to help and do the labor work. It's greatly appreciated, I feel loved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

日本の夏の思い出

今は思い出になったんだけども、ずっと心の中にいるんだ。日本のみんな、日本の思い出。

強い太陽の下に授業に歩いていって、途中は蝉の音を聞いてしまって、授業後は遊んでばかりで、おいしいラーメン,お好み焼きなどのいい和食を食べてばかり、あつすぎて汗がいっぱいで文句ばかりして、月が出るまでみんなと一緒で、最後の電車を乗ってかえった。時々野球ゲームを見に行った。それは私の毎日だった。みんなと馬鹿なことばかりした。

空は広い。私が知ってる世界の外はまた新しい世界がある。毎日はその感じだった。日本の文化や、価値観や、思い方や、言語など、全部精一杯習おうと思った。日本人になるようにしてた。あのときは成長過程か、心の期待か、毎日も自分の理想的な生活を過ごした。

夏がきた、夏が終わった。秋がきた,秋が終わった。どんどん寒くなってきた。一瞬間、春が来る。そして、夏がまた始まる。あ、過去はいつも現在より美しい。でもあの美しい分断はもう終わってしまった。

今は前を向かって、勇ましく未来に歩こう。しかしやっぱり、昔からずっと変わらなく、私の心は日本に残っていた。

Monday, December 7, 2009

Because He First Loved Us

So often we hear this:

"We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19, New International Version).

I have a thought. What if, we don't love because He first loved us? No, it's not a heretical attempt, it's a simple suggestion to an alternative explanation to the verse; because He has loved us, and yet some of us still don't love Him. What if, because He first loved us, we don't - but can - love?

What if, we can love because He first loved us? His love enables us to love, such that we love not only because we are loved first, but because we want His love. And such that we can operate under His love.

Just a thought.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Blind Side

It was a great movie! Watch it, people! It went up to #2 on my Top Movies list, and please discount the fact that I'm not a big movie fan, so there are many movies I have never watched.

The movie made me think about the brokenness of the world. People are so guarded because we know our own potential for doing evil. Our motivations can be thwarted and we can't believe others because we can't even trust ourselves. Thus, when we do good, the world will question our motivation behind the act. After all, why would or should someone give to another, without any expectation of receiving something back?

I'm sure that we all receive something when we give (even altruism feeds our own ego and need or desire to protect and help others); it's the fallen nature of human beings, animals, and the rest of the world that we brought down with us when we fell to sin.

So let's try to minimize this pleasure, benefit, or gain, while maximizing the sacrifice on our part by giving without the expectation of repayment. In fact, let's expect resistance, revenge, or bad things happening to us because we do good to them. I think that may be the closest thing we can do to learn from Jesus' example.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving in Seattle

As usual, whenever I went to Seattle, the weather brightened up. The rain somehow miraculously stopped, it became sunny the next day, and when I left, it started raining again. I thank God for the divine charm that stopped the sky from crying, at least when I was there.


Thanksgiving is a time for family; for me, it is a time of family away from my real family. This is my family, the few who are left in the US. This will be the last thanksgiving that we spent together, because Dee is graduating from her culinary/bakery school!

Food served that night: cranberry glazed turkey breast, corns, garlic mashed potato with gravy, baked sweet potato with marshmallows, mushroom and vegetables, chocolate souffle.

And this is the few of us getting ready to go to an outlet on Black Friday. Dress code: bright orange with brown jacket (it's unplanned, honest.). Motive: it's easier to keep a lookout on each other, just in case we get separated.

Second day:


We were crossing the street to get to Sephora when this band played at the corner: "I am a friend of God... I am a friend of God... I am a friend of God, He calls me friend". People were clapping and singing along by the side of the street. That made my night. What can I ask for when there's the cool (not rainy!) weather, beloved friends, Christmas ambiance, and God? I thought that was worship; pure, genuine worship on a street of Seattle.

This is Chocolati on Green Lake. If you're a chronic chocoholic like I am, you'll appreciate their Chocolate Europa. It is literally melted chocolate. Yum. BUT, Dee said it's pretty grainy... I guess they should have whisked it more smoothly? I trust the dessert expert (Dee) when it comes to... ehem, dessert.

And this is me donating my old puffy jacket (the brown one) because there are holes :( This is right outside Chocolati, there's a donation box conveniently located for this purpose. Bye, college jacket!

Third day at Pike's:

So you get to see me with my new puffy jacket. I look like a motorcyclist now. Good job, Karlin. And this is at Pike's Place that's super famous for their chowder. I'm going to have to say it: it's better than Union House in Boston. (I really apologize to Union House fans.)


I thought this was the best dish for lunch at French Cafe near (or behind?) Sur La Table at Pike's. Ham and gruyere sandwich. Yum. I thought that Michelle got the best order :)


This is the last meal: post thanksgiving dinner meal. We got our ingredients from Pike's: steeped lobster and seared giant scallops! Thanks Dee for cooking them like a real pro.

When will I see you guys again? The next time we meet, probably it will be in a restaurant... So I really appreciate home-cooked meals that we had, and the late night talks we had... Now Seattle has too many memories. I'm missing you guys already!

Bonus picture: this is Dee's cake that she made.

She won the competition with this amazing creation of hers. I am so proud of her and how far she has come! Dee, you're always in my prayers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Never Been Kissed

"That thing, that moment when you kiss someone and everything around you becomes hazy and the only thing in focus is you and this person and you realize that that person is the only person you're supposed to kiss for the rest of your life. And for one moment you get this amazing gift, and you wanna laugh, and you wanna cry... 'cause you feel so lucky that you found it and so scared that it'll go away all at the same time."

I thought I'd post this famous, old school line from the movie. Just to reminisce. Hope you've had a good time reminiscing too :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prayers Unanswered

I had a deep thought about this at church today, which made me... not so attentive, unfortunately. But the thought was ignited by something that the pastor said, and it kinda lingered on until I made sense of it. Well, a little bit more understanding, at least.

Have you heard that when prayers aren't answered, it's because what we pray for aren't according to God's will? It made me think that prayers are then useless, because aren't prayers supposed to work in such a manner that our desires, wishes and dreams come true through God's divine intervention? If the only prayers that come true are those that is going to happen anyway, then what is the point of praying?

Then today, the pastor was saying that God is faithful and He will never violate His word, which is the Bible. So, my thoughts lingered around the two concepts.

Perhaps, He will never violate His word because His word is perfect. If His word is perfect, then it must produce the most loving outcome in every situation, even those that we may not comprehend yet. But if He works to make all that are broken, sinful, and painful be redeemed, such that the most loving outcome is produced, it only makes sense that He cannot violate His word. To violate His word means to not produce the most loving and beautiful outcome.

So when we pray, we pray what is according to the Bible because that will produce the most loving outcome. When we pray for something that is not according to the Bible, as much as God wants to, He cannot endorse it because it will not be the perfect thing for our own lives. And He loves us so much He'd rather be misunderstood by us than to let us die.

I thought this is a very interesting concept. I shall think more and see if I get anywhere with this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Human Evil

My heart broke. Seeing one of my clients broke my heart. If I could, I would have cried. If I could, I would have leaped and shaken the evilness out of my client's parent. Rather than being angered, though, I felt despair.

We, indeed, are broken and imperfect creatures. We not only drag ourselves and the whole nature with us to hell, we also drag the next generations into insanity. The worst thing is, we think we are doing them good. Such audacity!

How ignorant are we to say, "The Bible said that now each person will pay for his own deeds, the next generation is freed from generational bondage." I am not trying to say that the Bible is wrong, or it lies; I believe wholeheartedly that the Bible is true, not just real. But look at my client, and you will know what I mean. It almost is like saying, we are not sinful even though Adam has sinned, because hey, that's his problem, nothing to do with my generation; but no, we are fallen because Adam fell into sin and we are his seeds. What if, we were there with Adam when he sinned, because after all, God created men before we came to this world. What if, Adam carried all of us in his being when he chose to sin?

I believe that we have the divine strength to break that generational bondage, in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God. But it takes more than that, I think, because you have to work it all out. It is, after all, a process. It is like getting a renewed strength to get off drug addiction, it is not an overnight process. So even though a generational bondage has been broken, I think that getting the flesh used to the fact that the bondage has been broken will need more time, and we often forget about that. We leave the person hanging after, not knowing what the person is supposed to do now that the bondage has been broken; and we condemn them for relapsing. What is wrong with us?

We are so broken; I am so sinful. Today, I am really taking my time to vent here. I don't even know if what I am saying up there is coherent. But I saw evil; I saw evil playing with humans' sufferings, and it's enjoying our pain. I hate that. My heart broke, and it keeps breaking over and over again with the thought of leaving my client in the hands of her parent. What can I do, but to pray for God's deliverance and intervention to come at the right time?

(P. S. All identifying information regarding the client and the incident have been changed to adhere to confidentiality procedures)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Downtown Artwalk

I went to Downtown Artwalk on Thursday night with a couple of friends, and I thought it was really cool. It was like another part of LA that I have never seen before!

It looked like New York, for one. People were walking about even till midnight (yes, I was there till really late, surprise, surprise...), the chilly air, the sound of live music on the streets, people randomly dancing to the beat of the drums at the sidewalk, the occasional scent of beer and cigarette... Classic.


Galleries were opened till really late too! I got to visit many of them even though I arrived pretty late on the scene. There were interesting exhibitions on paintings - also live painting - and sculptures, and other pieces that I would not know how to categorize them under. Like this:


I love the caption: "1200 calories that will go straight to your thighs".

NOTE: This is NOT a real dessert. It was supposed to be a farm, with human figures working between the bushes or plants. But it was still pretty cool, even though it is inedible. Hah.

This poster, on the other hand, talked about the two doughnuts that I ate:


Ok, just kidding. The right doughnut was comparable to a pie chart, explaining the different amount that US has spent on Vietnam War, Marshall Plan, New Deal, Gulf War, Moonshot, Korean War, NASA's all-time budget, Louisiana Purchase, and Savings and Loans Crisis (in no order). The left doughnut showed the US 2008 bail-out. Wow. Talk about The Great Depression. I think we might be in it right now, huh?

I bought 2 art pieces; one out of compulsion, while the other out of prudence. But I do not regret any of my purchase, probably because it's art, and I'm addicted to certain arts in my own weird, unexplainable ways. Like an outlier.

The art piece I bought out of compulsion, which I think by seeing, you may understand why:


The other art piece I bought out of prudence was by Hammerline (?), whom I later found out to be starting work with Sony for some images (and made me realize that maybe my taste in art isn't so weird after all):


I failed to take a picture of my favorite art of the night. It was an "I (heart) LA" sign, constructed with aluminum and other interesting electric device, waaaay too cool and too expensive to be purchased by a seminary student. That piece won my heart; too bad it will never be mine.

It was a good night spent; I actually got home waaaaay past my bedtime... But I really look forward to this event again next month!

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Friend


http://www.kurthalsey.com/work/my-closest-companion/

This is my friend and I during the weekends that I am not doing anything crazy. Thanks, Kurt Halsey, for putting it in a beautiful image.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jump of Faith



I did it out of spontaneity and curiosity. What does it feel like up there, when I watch the world and the people from a great distance? How does it feel like up there?

The world looked small. I felt small. The ocean stopped at the horizon; I still could not catch the other end of it. The houses, offices, streets, they don't seem to matter anymore. The air was fresh and cool. The wind against my face made it a little hard to breathe. The world that God created was so beautiful. I felt like I was flying.

When it ended, it felt surreal: what was I thinking, dropping myself from 13,000 feet? When I watched myself jumping out of the plane, I wondered, was I crazy? My knees still went weak. My mind could not comprehend the different emotions and thoughts being triggered: fear, anxiety, surrender, surprise, joy, being breathlessly in awe, etc.

At the top, I learned that fear is... when I am full of myself. I feared of ME falling, ME getting hurt, ME not landing safely, ME, ME, ME... Then a random thought came into my mind: perhaps this is how we should face life. Life's unpredictability is fearful, it brushes your face against the cold. But if we surrender and trust God, who knows what He is doing, He will ensure the parachute will open when it is ready. So while we freefall and live our hard lives, why don't we just trust God, while enjoying the view and the whole process? We will get there anyway, somehow.

But the experience was more than what words could describe. It was like meeting God mid-air while overseeing His creations. I wonder if this was how Adam felt, while he was at the top of the hill, looking down on God's creations and naming them?

When I landed, I realized that perhaps all my life I've been crazy, perhaps I have asked for the impossible, but because I did, I felt like I have walked on water. My faith's journey was like the cycle of me sinking into the water and God reaching out to rescue me, so that I could continue. Thank you, my God.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Your Will Be Done

At church today, all the songs somehow sang God's greatness, faithfulness, love, etc. One of the songs that we sang went like this:

"S'gala puji
S'gala hormat
Seg'nap hatiku menyembahMu
Terimalah seg'nap hidupku
S'bagai persembahan yang hidup
Bukan kehendakku,
Namun kehendakMu
Hidupku bagiMu" (GMB - Tiada SpertiMu)

Literal translation:

"All praise
All honor
All my heart worship You
Receive all of my life
As a living sacrifice
Not my will
But Your will
My life is for You"

When I sang this song, my heart was wrenched. I teared. It was because I truly understood the weight of the words I sang. These are words that we are so used to singing in church! But a thought dawned on me: how could one sing about living as a sacrifice and walking God's will without tearing? I understood the difficulty of the choice. Living for God is not easy, walking His path is no joke. For me, it has become much harder day by day; but there's great joy and fulfillment.

To say, "Not my will, but Your will" is not an easy matter. That feels like killing my inner and sinful self everyday. Deciding to stop breathing the world's lies is like restraining from mental masturbation that my flesh has been used to for the past decades. When I understood the hardship ahead, I teared. I teared because I have been singing these songs lightly. I teared because God knows the hardship I am to face, yet still continue to have faith in me, even when I no longer believe in myself.

The choice is hard, but the choice has to be made. Not making a choice is a choice by itself - a choice that leans to the other side. Let's be wise in our choice. Walking His path is filled with great sufferings, but you know that the promise of a happy ending awaits.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hypocrites

Have you heard someone say, "I hate Christians. They are hypocrites"?

Essentially, what they meant is they do not want to deal with Christianity because of the people. When you hear this, depending on your relationship with that person, I suggest that with wisdom and gentle words, cut through that kind of masking.

Churched or not, we are all hypocrites in progress. The difference: we are saved, and (hopefully) are working towards a less hypocritical lifestyle.

Imagine this. There are many hypocrites in your school, so you don't go to school anymore. There are many hypocrites in your workplace, so you quit your job. That is ludicrous! Not going to church because there are hypocrites is really just an excuse. The person is just uninterested. I think it is better to bring that understanding to that person's face; it will make him or her think of a better reason why he or she avoids church. Insights, change of mind, different emotions and thoughts arise when one digs deep into the self. It is like doing a reflection. Whatever the outcome may be, whether one's heart softens or hardens towards the whole issue, I think it is better for the church and for him or her, because at least he or she is not lukewarm and has a strong reaction towards Christianity.

Maybe sometimes we need to call people's bluff and bring their thoughts deeper into why they have such reactions, thoughts, or emotions. And hey, that's a good bonding time too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Imitate God








http://www.atimetolaugh.com.au/cartoons.php?a=prev&c=j65


A quick laugh for all. It's almost weekend, hang in there, peeps :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sisterhood

I was out of town during the weekend. To be exact, I went back to Ann Arbor to settle some things that have been left undone for the past year. I'd have to say I had interesting moments, visiting the places of my past in the present.

I learnt that I really do love my Michigan community; they will be my family forever. This includes my church family and sorority sisters. I'm going to have to talk about my sorority sisters here, because their attitude is admirable. While the weather was really cold in Michigan, the people were really warm. Amazing. You guys have made a mark in my heart.

My sorority little sis picked me up from the airport at 6 in the morning when the sun was barely out. The amazing thing: she did not (and does not) have a driving license, so she had to seek a good friend's help to pick me up. I was touched by her act, because she knew that if she wanted to, she could have excuses to not pick me up, and let me find my own ride with my church people. After all, she knew that I have a lot of church friends in town. But she was so excited to meet me, that she did not really care about putting others to trouble, which by the way, usually takes more effort than putting the self in trouble.

On another note, a sister who flew to NY 3 hours after I reached, flew back the next day to meet me. I cannot even utter my deep appreciation and love. I was touched deeply. The other sisters, amidst their exams and other responsibilities, took their time to be with me. They didn't have to. I am a graduated sister who is in town to finish my business, and they have their own busy lives to live. But we hung out, talked, spent time with one another, and that, I think, is what relationships are about. Their hospitality screams, "Welcome home!" And indeed, I was home.

I felt loved, and in turn, I love them even more. I think that a lot of churches must learn from my sorority in this aspect. We care for one another, sacrifice our time for the others, and really, just enjoy one another's presence. We appreciate each other's value and love one another simply because. No other reason. Perhaps it's only for a weekend that I was there; perhaps if I were to live there, things would be rather different. And true, we have our own issues that we have to deal with. But I sincerely think that a weekend's experience as loving as this is one that I will keep close to my heart forever.

Once a Kappa, always a Kappa; I love this sisterhood. Loud and proud.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grad Students' Humor


I was laughing my head off! Man, I love PhD Comics, they have great comic strips that will send you down laughing the whole day, IF you are a Grad Student. Because obviously, we have a different sense of humor, LOL.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Problem of Big Cities

Many of us live in big cities: New York, LA, Boston, Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, etc. You name it. Having used to live in a smaller city like Ann Arbor has made me realize a fundamental difference in the way people live their lives. This may be an overgeneralization of the whole issue, but let's hope that we all get something from this insight that I have received.

In bigger cities, I think that people are separated by distance and pride. This is probably because people in bigger cities are more wealthy and self-sufficient. Or maybe, bigger cities tend to bring together people who are like that, I don't know. What I am familiar with, is how it becomes more difficult to get together because people are located across towns and cities; traffic has become a major turn off. I find it amazing that traffic shows a lot of our selfishness and ugliness. Think about the last time you turned down someone's invitation for lunch or dinner because it was too far away, or when you were annoyed at the slow moving traffic.

On the other hand, perhaps due to this distance, people are more unwilling to seek help. The more wealthy we are, the more we are capable of paying for services that otherwise we will have to ask for help from others. After all, that is a bother to others. If a payment is made, at least nobody owes anybody anything. It ends the relationship there. I will call this pride, because I think that it takes a lot of humility to ask for someone's help. The feeling of indebted to someone is not very nice, thus we don't mind as much being the helper as being the helped.

As a result of this self-sufficiency, there is a huge deal of privacy in one's life, because there are less people who are involved in our lives. I'm not talking about sharing our stress or daily activities, because I think it comes easier for girls to do that. It is when we ask our friends to help rent a U-Haul or move boxes across towns because we are moving, or help clean our house for spring cleaning. This requires more time commitment and energy from the other party. Plus, there is a the feeling of rejection is greater if someone says no.

People in the bigger cities are often more isolated and lonely. I think on top of the physical separation, the emotional separation is more of an issue. I think it is good to start asking for help from others, because others may be more willing to help than we previously thought. It also trains our humility, knowing that we don't have it all, and we need others in our lives more than we think we are needed by others.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Investment

Wow, I haven’t posted for too long now! I have so many topics that I want to write, but I guess I will have to stick with this one, because this insight was received recently. I think this must be God's attempt to get me back on track. I can only explain this with financial terms, but I have tried to give explanations and use more layman terms. Here we go.

God, being all mighty and perfect, must be a good and perfect investor. That means, when He invests in something, His return must be really good, or at least that’s His plan when it comes to us, His creations. But of course, because of freewill and such, we have often failed His investments.

This is an example. He healed 10 lepers, only 1 came back to say his thanks. That’s a 10% ROI (Return On Investment). 90% of His investments unfortunately failed when it comes to humans; and humans are His creations. He should know better about us than ourselves, right?

Think about this. How many times have we invested in another person, and then failed, and then we gave up on the whole act of putting ourselves out there? We should expect less than 10% ROI, because even God Himself, the perfect one, received only 1 out of 10. Knowing this, shouldn’t we be more… risk-taking? Because when you try to love 100 people, perhaps only 10 will return your love. Others will take it for granted, and sometimes even hate you for it.

Knowing this data, we shouldn’t expect anything in return anyway. This means that we must not expect any reciprocity in what we give to others (this can be anything: time, gifts, service...). I know, it’s easier said than done. But think about it. This business that we’re doing involves people, and people are unpredictable. Sometimes, your ROI can be 90%, depending on the pool, while sometimes, and most of the times, it will be 0%. It doesn’t mean that we should stop the investment. It actually means that we should invest even more!

I think that in the end, what matters is not the failed investments, but the successful ones, because the successful investments will proliferate. After all, the successful investments will do their own investments, so in the big picture, the total return will increase exponentially.

So for those who have been disappointed by people’s lack of enthusiasm, cynicism, and even insensitivity, I can only say: DO NOT GIVE UP! Maybe it is time to leave and move on from that particular company (ie. Individual), or even portfolio (ie. Community), but there are many others who may need your investments of time and energy; after all, you don’t know who will give you the high ROI!

Keep investing in others!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Persecution

I read this in www.time.com, and thought that I should share this with others. Click to read the article.

The Law: Can Atheists Be Parents?

My thoughts:

So often we say that the world persecute us for being Christians, that we cannot really live according to our faith without obstruction... And we are not happy about it. Well, isn't this the same as the non-Christians? They too, are forced to obey our laws and standard at times. These are the people who have not yet belong to our community, yet forced to believe and live as if they are already part of the community. As much as we say that we are being persecuted, perhaps it has always been a two-way persecution; just like we have been persecuted, we too, have been persecuting those who are not part of us. This is the irony of our community whose people are supposedly spreading and living a lifestyle of love.

This perhaps shall remind us always that it doesn't matter if we are persecuted, because we should expect that anyway, so we must not complain. We have no right to complain, because we have been warned, and we have accepted the consequences of our choice in following Jesus. But instead, we have to fight for those people who are persecuted by our own people... Before our God and we are both thoroughly hated by the other people because of our own stupidity, selfishness and irresponsibility.

Let's live for humanity, rather than for religion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Silence

Silence is a topic that has been discussed before; it is not a foreign subject that we have not heard. We have often been taught to be silent before God, to rest our minds from worries and to allow God come in by quieting ourselves down. However, that seems like silence has become a medium in which God speaks to us through, that God only speaks to us when we are silent.

What if God is silence? In silence, we commune with Him, thus we hear ourselves and we hear Him speak. To be silent we will need discipline, upon entering we will need to listen, and in it there is a communion. Maybe silence is the message, not the messenger.

Silence is fearful because it is like stripping naked. It is awkward to be silent before another person because we are entering a holy ground. So we are good in making pointless chatters and creating noises through TV, radio and mp3, even when we are not really listening to them. The old couple who are holding hands and looking into each others' eyes in silence can do it because there is communion of souls; they have overcome the storms of life together, and there is no need for surface chatters.

It is, however, not only about external noises. When we quiet ourselves, we realize that there are many more noises within ourselves: painful memories, hurtful experiences, broken relationships, etc. We sometimes avoid silence to avoid the past hurt. It takes courage to enter silence to see ourselves for who we are and not who we want to be. Being silent is accepting all of ourselves for the brokenness and the things that we hate in ourselves, while quieting down the fearful rebel who is living within. As we wrestle with all these, peace will grow.

Let us be touched by silence; let us experience God.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Law and Grace

This is a reflection based on a part of the talk/sermon/presentation by Pastor Dave in International English Service today and some Q&A by McManus during my Summer class.

The Old Testament rules no longer apply to us today because Jesus has come down to this world. He came down not to abolish the laws but instead to fulfill them. I was quite confused by what that means until I have done some processing today, with some ColdStone ice cream freezing my brain - figure how my brain actually works when it's frozen.

Truthfully, we would not want to live according to the 10 commandments anyway because if we were to follow a law, we must follow all laws; and Jewish laws are pretty detailed, and there are hundreds of them. No pork, prawns, lobster... I think that is a pretty big loss to our tasting buds. Anyhow, the 10 commandments are not sufficient to live by, so living by the Law is not enough. Those are the basic guidelines to living morally (and ironically, we can't even follow them all obediently). For example, is it acceptable to follow all 10 commandments perfectly and abuse your children? Morally, no; but if you are talking about just following the 10 commandments and you are good to go, yes. I think that is pretty messed up. So 10 commandments are really something that we follow to make us mere humans, but we need more than that.

Jesus came down to fulfill the laws. It's no longer about not committing murder, it has become not hating; it's no longer about committing adultery, it has become not lusting, etc. Instead of the Law, it has become Grace. Grace allows you to do beyond what the Law has required, not doing less than what the Law has stated and be forgiven for our shortcomings. The Law tells you to love your neighbor, Grace allows you to love even your enemies; the Law tells you to tithe 10% of your income, Grace allows you to give even more than that. Thus, Grace is not an excuse for committing sins. At this point, I actually think that Grace sounds much harder than the Law. But nevertheless, act upon Grace, for God has given us His Grace through His Son, Jesus.

P. S. Try ordering Our Strawberry Blonde in ColdStone Creamery, changing the base ice cream to Cotton Candy, or Sweet Cream if the former is too sweet for your taste. Giving such a delicious experience beyond customers' expectation? THAT is Grace. Maybe.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Small Group

We are very stuck to the idea of small groups these days. Somehow, everyone in the church is encouraged to join a small group - or whatever else you call that: care group, cell group, etc. I have two thoughts about being in a small group. These are my very raw thoughts (ie. unrefined, uncensored), so please forgive the extremity and one-sidedness of this entry, if there are any out there that differ in opinion.

1. Not everyone is made for small groups.

Why do I say that? Probably because I, amongst many others, also am not cut for one. Not to say that I don't like the people; I love my small group members. But how many times has the rule of "what's in here stays in here" been broken? Countless times. Not condemning or judging my past or current small groups or anyone at all, but I think it is just human tendency to talk, and I am guilty of it as well. Sometimes people have a slip of a tongue, conscious or not. I don't think they should be blamed, but we must learn to be wise in knowing what should be said and what shouldn't. And that doesn't sound like what you will do within a trustworthy family, at least to me.

Honestly, how comfortable are you in telling things that are intimate to you in front of 10 other people (and to realize that they do talk, and what you want to hold secret with them somehow becomes known to the public)? So maybe we should stop pushing people to share until they become comfortable themselves, if they ever reach that point. Instead, we must encourage them to participate. In here, what I mean by participate is the action, not so much the words.

The next question is how, and what kinds of action? My suggestion: what about hosting a small group at the orphanage? You have your prayer and sharing right before you put what you have learned right on the spot. The problem: we are too lazy to take one step to organize this, we like the stability and consistency of our current small group; it is comfortable because there's no action involved, and our faith is not being used and stretched. We don't have to engage the world with our faith, and that often feels safe.

2. Our small group has become boring.

What do I mean by boring? Let's compare to the risk-taking, danger-inducing small group that Jesus led in the first century. Thirteen people went everywhere together, fasting, eating, celebrating, learning, driving out demons, healing the sick, standing up against the current ruling, etc. Our small group right now is pretty much confined to sitting down in someone's house, praying, discussing, and eating. I wouldn't call our small group "revolutionary" at all. Sometimes, it even feels like a weekly chore.

Jesus' small group went and impacted the world after Jesus left. Don't we want our small group members to be the next Peter, John, etc.? And of course, taking Judas into consideration, you know that if Jesus as a leader could have such a follower, you and I will have multiple encounters with Judases. Nevertheless, their small group went around engaging the people in their world, causing great upheavals in the community for they were doing radical things; our small group, however, often stays within ourselves to feel safe. Don't you want to be a part of a small group that heals the blind man and casts out demons? Our small group must be one that engages the world, and not one that is confined to traditional practices and structures.

Perhaps we need to stop living for ourselves and our church community. Perhaps we need to start living for humanity.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lukewarm

Today, I understood why being lukewarm is bad, in the most personal way that has brought a chill to my spine.

Remember the classic story in every Introduction to Psychology textbook that tries to give an example as to what bystander effect means? This was in the news some time ago (I believe it's in the 1960s). In Queens, New York, a lady called Kitty Genovese, was coming home from her work at the bar. A male stabbed her, and while she screamed for help, not one among the 40 people (an estimated number who heard her scream) in the neighborhood took action. There was even a man who turned up the volume of the radio so he would not have to listen to her scream. Until someone in the neighborhood shouted at the attacker to leave her alone, was she left alone. As she stumbled along into her house, the attacker came back for the second time, stabbed her a couple more times, raped her, and then finally killed her. Nobody helped her nor called the cops, even though some heard her, while others watched the incident.

So often, we turn on the news at night and hear about how broken the world is. We feel angry at the terrorists and murderers, and our hearts were saddened by stories of abuse, oppression, rape, etc. But never once did we realize that we could be worse than terrorists, murderers, oppressors... It never came to us that we might be more evil than they are, because we know, and still do nothing about it. The terrorists are at least living their beliefs; the murderers and oppressors are living their passion for evil. We, however, are living passively, watching all the evil things happening around us, not casting a sound. Silence means consent; by not saying or doing anything, we agree to the murders, rape, and abuse... And we call ourselves followers of Jesus.

This passivity is like maggots eating at our bodies - our hearts are not genuinely alive; for if it is, our actions must follow. We must be proactive in our faith. Start by making a sound, one may not make a strong impact, but one who is passionate is enough to spark the beginning of a movement.

We live in a broken world. Ritz Carlton and Mariott were just bombed in Indonesia. People are still dying from starvation, diseases, murders, oppression, and other evil. Do we need to have our relatives and loved ones to die as victims before we start doing something? Do we need to have one of our limbs blown off by the bomb before we realize how much the world need us to create a change? Being lukewarm is not only bad, it is dangerous, especially when it comes to a faith such as ours, for our faith requires us to be proactive.

Let's start thinking about what we can do in our community. What does life require us to do? What do the people around us need the most? Ultimately, let's start creating a future for our country.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Earning The Right

Some thoughts are by-products of reading Erwin McManus' book, called An Unstoppable Force.

McManus says something like this in the book: in the past, we never called ourselves Christians, we just followed what Jesus did and then the world somehow called us Christians; now, we call ourselves Christians, and the world calls us hypocrites.

How ironic. Perhaps we need to earn the right to be called Christians again; maybe we need to do something so we deserve to be called God's church once again. In the past, we have done too much damage; in this life, we must bring restoration. It is our job to fix things that have been broken by our ancestors.

How nice it will be if people know us by the things that we have done and not by our Christian labels! How awesome it will be if people refer to us as "the guys who brought hope to us because they taught us how to make straw hats", or "the guys who brought us life because they gave us a cure from HIV", instead of "they are a Christian organization (ie. church), they'll do something".

Perhaps it is time to reconnect to the world and meet the needs of everyone around us. We have done too much hiding in the past - hiding behind God's sovereignty. We believe that God will take care of everything and run away from the responsibility of bringing change in people's lives. Ironically, the world doesn't believe God will intervene, so they ended up doing something on their own to bring help. I wonder who seems more like Jesus' hater now, the world that somehow tries to establish God's kingdom by bringing hope of life, or the Christian guy who hinders the establishment of God's kingdom by being idle?

God is inviting us to participate in His creation of the future; it's time to take a step forward.