Trying to Grow Up

One of the reasons why I wanted to start working, as opposed to continuing onto graduate school, was because I wanted to force myself to learn how to be independent. I probably haven’t made too much progress, but hopefully it’ll be steady. I just moved out of my sister + brother-in-law’s house to a new house that is an overwhelming 2 minute walk away. In any case, it’s still much of a step up towards trying to survive on my own. While I was shopping for regular furnishings and necessities, I realized there was so much I took for granted.

Soap, tissues, hand towels, hangers, kitchenware, sheets and other bedding, shower curtain, the list goes on. The other day when I was shopping for kitchenware, I first started with, “Okay, I need a pot and a pan so I can start learning how to cook my own food…that means I probably need a ladle and spatula….oh yeah then I need bowls and plates to put the food on…oh yeah then I need forks and spoons….fine, chopsticks too I guess….OH! Knives!…also cutting board…measuring cup cause I like to make jello…oh yeah then tupperware so I can hold the jello…” (you get the idea). So after about 20-30 minutes, I had a decent amount of stuff in my cart. Then my mom called, and when I told her I was shopping for kitchen stuff, she said, “Aiya! Don’t buy any kitchenware! Just bring whatever you want back with you from home!” I’m thinking, that’s a good idea and a good way to save money. But there goes 20-30 minutes for nothing.

My landlady is kind enough to provide a mattress and a small old desk, and my sister + brother-in-law gave me this higher-surface table with two racks. Combined with my $20 shelf from Target, I have a semi-ghetto home office corner that has no style but some function. Here’s a picture (taken with my new DSLR!):

As you can see, at the time this picture was taken, there were no curtains yet so I had to use whatever resources that were available at my disposal. Thank God I bought a 23.6 inch monitor.

When my landlady went out shopping to buy curtains, she called me and asked me what color I liked. Needless to say, I felt really childish. Anyways, I said blue, so lo and behold, I now have blue curtains haha.

So after I was “done” with basic setting up and arranging and procuring stuff, I realized I had no meal food (although apparently gummy bears and potato chips were somehow considered as basic necessities in my mind). Before I went home for the holidays, I had nothing to eat in the house except for holiday cookies from my cousin and my younger older sister. I think the lack of proper nourishment, coupled with the lack of heat at night/early morning (my landlady programmed the temperature to like 55 degrees!) and lack of proper sleep, resulted in triggering some headaches and toothaches and half-facial swellings that lasted the duration of my Christmas weekend at home. Thank God though, the pain was not as bad as when I had severe toothaches during the semester at Cornell, when I had a couple sleepless nights and emergency visits to the nearest walkable dentist (fortunately there are quite a number of home dentist offices in the surrounding area of campus). I attribute malnutrition because it did gradually become better as I ate more wholesome cooking from my mom and some vitamin B complexes. And gummy multi-vitamins. T’was a shame that I had slight loss of appetite because of the dull but constant pain above the upper corner of the inside of my mouth. It was kind of amusing, however, to wake up and look in the mirror and see that my right cheek was noticeably bigger and rounder than the other side of my face. I could even tell the difference tactile-ly (pretty sure that’s not a word), as in when I moved my hand to touch my face, I was like, “Wow, I did not expect to make contact with my face that fast.”

Anyways, going back to food, today I did some shopping for the “essentials” which included frozen chicken breasts, salt, pepper, olive oil, and eggs. Oh yeah, and cereal. Thank God for cereal. All that’s required to eat it conveniently is a spoon and some container. It doesn’t even have to be a bowl; I’ve been eating cereal out of tupperware at work this week (the cafeteria is closed all this week, which is unfortunate for me if you couldn’t deduce that for yourself already). At my sister’s request, I also cooked something for dinner today too! Oven chicken fingers with cranberry-orange dipping sauce! Recipe is here. I think they turned out pretty well, although I couldn’t find frozen cranberries so I used raspberries instead. And instead of buying grated parmesan cheese I bought shredded. And they are not really unhealthy because they’re OVEN roasted and not deep fried! They were not crunchy though; will have to try to broil for a portion of the time next time.

One of the other issues I’ve been trying to workout is money management. This is a disaster because I don’t know anything about finance, stocks, 401k, mutual funds, IRA, whatever….but it’s really important that I do know. It’s on my todo list…as of now my employee stock purchase plan has randomly selected stocks and my 401k investment plan is also littered with random selections. Anyone have any recommendations of a book or website for someone like me to quickly get up to speed with money management and investment?

Oh, and it’s just SCARY at how quickly money is spent. Scary. I need to be a bit more frugal and calculative with what I spend on. Let the asian instinct to go for the cheaper stuff dominate when the quality really does not matter to me.

Okay, that’s enough blabbing for now. Still working with django and brainstorming ideas for my next website and photoblog. This is when I wish I could become as creative as I was when I was a little kid.

Serving Two Masters

Mat 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Mat 6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Maybe this is a “duh” realization to other people, but recently I started to think about this serving two masters concept differently from how I used to think. I used to think that this passage was saying serving two masters is wrong, that it is a sin to serve both God and mammon (or money, wealth, etc). Serving two masters is akin to idolatry, and God deserves our undivided heart.

That’s all true and I’m not disagreeing with any of that. But upon reading the whole worrying segment of Jesus’ sermon with a clean slate, I felt that these verses were plainly emphasizing a slightly different concept.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse doesn’t say it is wrong to serve two masters; it’s saying we can’t. As in, it is impossible to actually serve two masters, and even if we tried to, we’d end up serving one. We can relate this to the thorny soil in the parable of the sower.

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”

This can be thought of as a person who was trying to serve two masters. He heard the word and wanted to grow in it, but the cares (or worries, anxiety, etc) of the world made him spiritually unfruitful. In other words, although he tried to serve both God and riches, he ended up serving riches.

What does this mean for us? I’ve already talked about how much we tend to worry about our education and careers – after all, these are for our livelihood and future prosperity. But is our livelihood taking priority over our desire to grow in the Lord? Are we trying to bear fruit among thorns?

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…”

The fact that this immediately follows vs.24 was a bit jarring to me. If we find ourselves worrying often, that is a symptom of trying to serve two masters. If we let this worrying continue, most likely the deceitfulness of riches will win out. “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!”

So, the conclusion is the same as the previous post’s – don’t worry :) How can we get to a point of not worrying? One way is to learn from the multitude of the 5000. They valued the words of God more than their livelihood, and followed Jesus for three days and did not have food. Some of them may have worried about not having anything to eat and may have returned home on day 2. But for those who worried and endured till day 3, Jesus had compassion on them and filled them, and they realized their worrying was needless. Once we experience and are aware of God’s grace, I believe we can leave behind a lot of worrying. Another way to alleviate our worrying is to simply read the rest of Matthew 6 after vs.25 :p

——————————————————————————

Note, not worrying is not equivalent to being complacent (and lazy) and not working hard, thinking we’ll get food or riches or whatever spoonfed to us (that was a lot of “not’s” in that sentence!). Being diligent and being worrisome are obviously two different things. Jesus concludes Matthew 6 with “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” That means that today, we still do what we need to do to carry on, without getting caught up in worries over the future.

God has many promises for us; but in order for us to obtain those promises, we must pull our own weight. There are many examples of this in the Bible – if you can think of one off the top of your head, please share in the comments!

Hearts Hardened Towards Loaves (II)

Mar 8:14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.
Mar 8:15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Mar 8:16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”
Mar 8:17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?
Mar 8:18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?
Mar 8:19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”
Mar 8:20 “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.”
Mar 8:21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

Ironically, this conversation occurs not long after Jesus fed about 4000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus even spelled out for His disciples that the leftovers they picked up exceeded the amount of food they started with. And yet, the disciples reasoned that Jesus was upset because they didn’t bring enough bread with them. They worried because they barely had one loaf.

It’s easy for us to shake our heads in amazement at the disciples. Even after witnessing two miracles they still did not really internalize what God’s power was capable of. Jesus also was perplexed at the disciples’ lack of understanding. From His questions we sense a little bit of frustration and disbelief. “How is it you do not understand?”

Today most of us don’t have to worry about having enough food (we probably have too much), but we certainly have other worries. For me, as a student, I remember worrying so much about getting homework done, understanding the material, and doing well on exams. In college I worried so much about interviews and finding a job. Sure, maybe it helped me to stay focused but only to a small degree. Even if I put in the hours for studying and working on a project, I still worried.

But if we think back on our lives thus far, we realize that such worrying is needless. I can only speak for myself, but in all situations when I was worried, I came out of the circumstance completely fine. God has already brought me thus far; is there any reason why He will not continue to help and protect me? Is there really a cause for worry or fear?

And yet, we continue to worry. We insist on being anxious, despite the great assurance we have from the Bible and from our own experiences. So I think when Jesus sees how we are still worrying all the time, He may be perplexed like He was at His disciples. He may be asking us out of disbelief and frustration, “Do you not remember how I have blessed you in the past? How is it you do not understand? How is it you are still worrying?”

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

Don’t worry. The Father takes care of us :)