“Winter in Carmel”

“Winter in Carmel”

Jan 8, 2015

Upward and outward I looked,
Across the valley and the hills covered
With grey-green shrubs:
The morning sun warm on my face,
Hummingbirds abuzz in my ear.

A bridge I crossed from old to new,
A fresh year welcomed by cymbals
Cobbled from cover and pot.
I taste the new and I caught a glimpse
Of youthful past, the tender look
Of a mother, the proud glance of
A father, and the care of a sister;
The moment was thick with memory
And anchored with hope.

Continue reading “Winter in Carmel”

Breathing Room

(I wrote this during a time when many transitions were happening. I was starting ministry work at Northeastern; I was transitioning more responsibilities to my co-staff; I was deciding whether or not to apply to grad school; and I was still adjusting to married life.)

 

“Breathing Room”

I need time to breathe.
I need time to breathe.
Time to think and time to breathe.

What does the future hold, if not those
Hidden in the present
Wrapped with the past?

Let me unfurl the layers
To see clearly now
What is in the out-stretched palm.

I need time to breathe.
Inhale, exchange:
Inspiration.

Reflection Exercise

Time required: About 1 hr. (Feel free to take more time if you need or additional sessions.)

Pre-reflection: Take a few minutes to sleep your computer, silence phones (vibrations off), log off chat, facebook, emails. Find a quiet place. Ask people not to interrupt you for this time. Take some deep breathes. Center yourself. If there are things that you need to do, you can visualize them, and put them down. Try not to carry them. Tell yourself that you will pick them up later. You can pray and give your tasks to Jesus to hold on to for that hour. You can meditate on a psalm to help focus yourself. Psalms 1 and 23 are some suggestions.

Reflection: Meditate on two types questions which can be summarized as presence and absence. Continue reading Reflection Exercise

Fundraising as Spiritual Formation

I have heard fundraising described this way: “It is a whirlwind that comes through your life that picks up all the junk. You can’t hide from what it picks up.” I have found that description to be unexpectedly accurate. In the past three years of staff, I have found fundraising to be just that. It makes sin and my own shortcomings ever so apparent. It takes money, value, shame, self-worth, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, fear of rejection, and fear of failure and forces me to confront them. And it pushes me again and again into asking, “Is this really where God has called and led me?” Over the years, it has gotten easier, like working out makes certain activities lighter. But it is still emotionally draining and mentally taxing when I keep thinking about my budget and my deficit.

Through this process, however, God has used it to shape me. Continue reading Fundraising as Spiritual Formation

Life without the iPhone

Day 0 (5.26.13)

  • It’s something I already thought through about a month ago. At that point, I thought about all the different things I have to give up and I decided that there’s nothing really that I would be missing out on. Everything I can do on the iPhone, I can do on my computer. The only thing is convenience.

Day 1 (5.27.13)

  • It’s nice knowing that my phone only receives texts and calls. I don’t have to put any special restrictions not to check email or other stuff. I don’t feel bad that “I’m not taking full advantage of the functions of the phone.” My phone now is just something through which people can reach me.
  • It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to operate the dumb phone. There is part of me that is relearning the technology. But as I’ve thought through already, this inconvenience is nothing compared to peace of mind I can get through having a limited device.
  • I am much more willing to call someone rather than text because texting is so cumbersome.
  • I am also feeling like there is some kind of comparison that goes on. People are judged by what kind of phone they have. I feel just a little of that.

Continue reading Life without the iPhone

An Unusual Request

Two weeks ago, I went into the Verizon store at Harvard Square, and I asked a sales person to help me downgrade to a dumb phone. I had an iPhone 5 at the time, and I asked if I could trade it in for a flip phone. The sales person told me to buy a used phone and said that if I sold my iPhone, I could easily make $500+. After presenting what seemed to her a compelling case, I insisted that I do the trade in, and to do it then and there. She explained to me again, as if I didn’t understand the first time. I repeated my decision. Looking frustrated, she handed me off to another sales person. I repeated to him what I wanted, and he said, “You know, this is an unusual request. But you’re the boss. So we’ll do what you want.”

Why did I get rid of my iPhone 5? I have been a loyal iPhone user since 2009. The iPhone was the first and only smartphone I’ve owned. I really like the iPhone. So what happened? In very condensed form, there were two reasons: 1) to simplify my life; 2) in seeking sexual integrity, to block access to internet pornography. I will focus only on reason 2 in this post, and I hope to explain in more depth how I got here. To visualize my thoughts, below is a diagram.decision diagram Continue reading An Unusual Request

Protecting what?

I’ve been reading a Chinese novel titled 駱駝祥子 by 老舍. It’s been a while since I’ve read Chinese, but it’s also been a while since I’ve thought about Chinese etymology. While I was reading, a word popped out at me, and I realized I never wrote about it. The word is 护(s), 護(t), (hu4), which means “to protect.” I will reference two previous posts which will explain some concepts that I’ve written about before. “What is love?” talks about how when the Chinese Communist Party simplified the Chinese characters, they also changed the etymological structures of the words. “Pitiable Fish Scales” talks about how the sound component of the word can also provide meaning.

One of the first things you will notice is that the simplified version and the traditional version of this character don’t have any shared radicals. In fact, they are completely different words, etymologically. Let me explain what this means, and we will start with the traditional, then the simplified.

護 (hu4)
| __
言   |
蒦 (huo4)
| __
又   |
雈 (huan2) Continue reading Protecting what?

Oblivion

oblivion-tom-cruiseThe plot is very much identical to Moon. So nothing new there. The graphics and technology design was pretty impressive and innovative. The drones looked both good and evil at the same time. The landscape was not as apocalyptic compared to other movies, and it doesn’t show the city being destroyed, like The Day After Tomorrow. It was more sad and forlorn. Tired and weighty. Most of the structures were covered under sand and soil of some sort. And it doesn’t feel creepy like zombie movies. A little detail, the boundaries set up for radiation zones that keeps Jack inside his area, reminded me of a similar concept in the movie Gamer. [spoilers coming up]

What is interesting is that half way through the movie, it forces you the completely change your view. At first you think the drones and the repair team are working for the humans. Then you learn that they are working for the alien force. In terms of meta-narrative, what I found most striking is that it combines a Christ figure who sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity, but at the same time puts it right next to a pseudo-reincarnation theme moderated through clones and a hint of new age spirituality, with a spark of humanity in all of us. And this all comes together at the last minute of the move. Let me explain. Continue reading Oblivion

My Reflection on Easter

2013 marks my sixth Easter as a Christian. It is significant because this is not where I expected to be. Working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is not what I had in mind when a freshman at Harvard. But as I look back over the past six years, without a doubt, my decision to follow Jesus was the most significant turning point. I did not do it because it was vogue. In fact, historically, it has never been so. I did not do it because I was coerced, for genuine faith cannot be forced. And I did not do it to fit in, because what happened was quite the opposite.

It was never easy for me. I faced opposition from my family. I feared rejection from my friends who weren’t Christian. My decision was seriously challenged as I encountered a number of faith crises along the way. I was a geology major so I had to wrestle with the Bible, creation, earth history, and evolution. I got entangled in a Christian cult that manipulated me and taught me inaccurate and potentially damaging theology. I struggled to understand how Christianity interacted with other religions, especially Buddhism and Islam. And as I interacted with my same-sex attraction and explored my sexual identity, I was puzzled, troubled, and intrigued with what Scripture had to say about it. All the while, I wondered, “Was I captive to the brainwashing of a false institution?”
Continue reading My Reflection on Easter

Luke 10 – “Don’t take anything with you”

A few weeks ago, we looked at Luke 10:1-24. It was too long for us to cover in an hour, but one thing that did stand out to me was question that one of the students asked about verse 4, “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” He asked, “Why do you think they were sent out like this?” A follow up question was, “How would you respond to someone who came to your door with a suit on? Or plain clothes? Or with armor?”

I then saw something significant in the passage: the place from which we share about the kingdom of God is crucial. It is with a certain meekness, not weakness. It is with a certain confidence without arrogance. It is with a boldness that is gentle. And what I saw was that even as they were sharing about the kingdom of God, these messengers were very much in need themselves. They had much to offer but at the same time were utterly dependent. It was from a place of humility because in not bringing anything, they were aware that they had nothing to offer but God. It was not about how clever they were or how charming they could talk. They didn’t even really have themselves to offer. They were just heralds and messengers of the one who was to come.

So I think about how Christians evangelize today and how Christians share about the kingdom of God today. How often do Christians approach others with spiritual arrogance and pride, thinking that they are better? How often do Christians mock the worldviews of others? How poorly do they communicate God’s love?
Continue reading Luke 10 – “Don’t take anything with you”