Spiritual Food

Pr. Ko is in the bay area and has been leading services at Pacifica church for the past week or so. I had the opportunity to attend Wednesday night service yesterday after work, and all I can say is, “Thank God!” I don’t really know exactly why or how, but the topic and each verse that was brought up really had an impact on me and caused me to reflect.

Ever experienced a time when you don’t know exactly what you’re craving for dinner, and then what you eat just happens to really hit the spot? Or when you try to spend the time to cook your own food and the results are just kind of bland and plain, and then when you go out to eat the food just tastes amazing? That’s kind of how last night’s sermon was for me. I came to the church hungry (physically too, since I had been working up through 7:30pm), and I left in awe of how satisfied, rested, and nourished I felt.

In the past several weeks I had a recurring thought that I really needed an SSC or a seminar to just focus on God’s word, and to rejuvenate my spiritual pursuit. Thank God, I really felt renewed from the service, as if a few days worth of SSC inspiration were bundled in the sermon (or going along with this food analogy, it was like http://dinnerinabottle.com/, minus the grossness of the idea).

Even just upon arriving and seeing some members that I know but do not regularly see brought back that gladness of greeting other brethren who fear the Lord, the kind that brings an involuntary grin on my face.

There are certain children at Pacifica church who are famous for singing very loudly. After the hymn, Pr. Ko said that it reminded him of the passage where children were crying out loud praises in the temple (Mt 21:15-16). To some adults the noise may be shrill, harsh, disharmonious, and downright annoying, just as the Pharisees were indignant of the children’s cries. But Jesus said that praise was perfected out of the mouths of babies and infants. Their praise is perfect. Indeed, I also marveled at how engaged the kids were during the service. They sat in the front and listened intently and answered questions that the pastor asked them. Pretty sure I didn’t pay such attention during sermons when I was their age. Thank God for these children who are examples to children and adults alike.

I haven’t even said what the topic of the sermon was, but I intend to write about it in a later post. Still need to take some time to revisit and think it through for myself. But it was truly powerful and inspiring right from the beginning. And it wasn’t even really the speaker’s eloquence or words; he simply spoke the words of God. But the words of God, words that I have come across before but had forgotten, suddenly became scintillating. Right from the introduction with the motivating verse I was brought into a humble state, admiring our Jesus who came into this world. Our Lord. Our Savior.

Hehe, and I shall keep you in suspense of the content of the sermon until next time. Meanwhile, treat yourself and go out for dinner more, spiritually-speaking.

One thing I miss about college

When people ask me if I like working more than going to school, I don’t have a certain answer. They are completely different in multiple ways and I like somethings and hate some things about both.

But one thing I really miss about college is the social life. I wasn’t really that outgoing or involved with many groups at all, but I miss just “chilling” with my groups of friends. I miss being able to just call people spontaneously to see if they want to eat, meet at the library or a friend’s apartment to study, and even make jello. In college, generally all of your friends are close by.

But in “the real world,” people are more spread out. Even if a bunch of us live in the bay area – the bay area is big! Any friend that I’d want to hang out with lives at least a 25 minute drive away. Calling someone 5 minutes before dinner is no longer feasible. And studying together? Those who are working either don’t have a reason to study, or they prefer studying on their own because trying to coordinate some sort of study group and meet up place that requires planning and driving is simply too much trouble and too much overhead. And most of all, people are usually busy, especially in the bay area. Trying to coordinate a mutual gathering with more than 3 people becomes such an involved affair. (I do live literally 2 minutes away from my sister and brother-in-law, and we do meet up together regularly, but the dynamic is kind of different, and understandably married couples want and need their privacy).

Obviously there can be a deep sense of community at work too, but for me that’s not really the case, mostly because the people I work with are much older than me and have their own families. Sometimes I think I would enjoy “work culture” more in a smaller and younger group; maybe something to consider after grad school.

I guess this post can be summarized in one sentence: Some days I feel kind of lonely. Some days, especially recently, I feel very lonely.

Attitude Towards “Our” Money

Today a friend asked me something related to receiving monetary gifts from church members. It got me thinking a little.

When I started working, I could finally say that I had my own money. And because I have my own money, I can spend it however I like. No more asking my parents if I can buy this or that, if this is cheap enough or too expensive, etc. If I want to buy fruit snacks, I can buy them without any grief.

Now what if I received money as a gift? For me, I would think twice about how I spend this money. I would be afraid to waste it and would want to ensure I spend it on something worthwhile. And depending on who I received the gift from, I may be even more cautious and reserved. Even though the money becomes my money, somehow the source of the gift influences how carefully I spend it. I don’t know if there’s an explicit social rule that says you should spend money from friends more wisely/carefully than money that you make, but there seems to be something not quite right if your best friend graciously gives you $20 and the next day you tell him, “I ate McDonalds for every meal!”

Anyways, this thought process made me realize that our money, and everything else we have, is ultimately from God. He is the source of our prosperity and abundance. David acknowledged this when he and the Israelites offered their treasures for the construction of the temple. Paul also reminds us, “What do you have that you did not receive?” If we have the attitude that our money is really a gift from God, how would that affect the decisions we make about using it, whether in small or great amounts?

Life itself is such a precious gift because for Christians, it is infused with the hope of salvation. This hope that was given to us was purchased with the blood of Christ. Knowing this, should we not live our lives carefully and thoughtfully? Should we not walk worthy of our calling? Should not our conduct be worthy of the gospel?

Jetlag

Having recently come back from Taiwan last Wednesday, it’s no surprise that I have jetlag. There’s a whopping 16 hour difference and given that I don’t think I fully adjusted to Taiwan time in the first place, my biological clock is whack. Usually these sorts of vacations occur during an extended break so I have a couple free days to recover from the jetlag. But since I have a job now, it is my first time where jetlag actually has negative consequences. Let’s just say, thank God my job allows me to have flexible working hours.

I don’t know if this is normal, but the side effects seem worse after a few days. Worse in the sense that I’m having more trouble going to sleep before 2am and more trouble getting out of bed when I wake up when I’m supposed to. It’s kind of interesting how my body functions in this state. I start feeling SUPER tired at around 2pm (just like the 5-hour energy commercials describe the 2:30 feeling), but try to keep myself awake for the remainder of work. Then after dinner around 8-9pm, I feel this huge crash. But by the time I get ready for bed around 10-11pm, I’m not tired anymore and my eyes are wide open. Then I lie in bed, toss and turn, look at the time, and repeat until sometime after 1:30 or 2am. But when I do go to sleep, it’s a pretty light sleep and I immediately get awakened by my alarm at around 7am. I snooze instinctively and tell myself I’ll just lie a little longer in bed. But then I drift off into sleep again and this time it’s a DEEP sleep that renders me completely deaf to my two subsequent alarms which are auto-snoozed. And then I wake up later than I was supposed to.

Case in point: on Thursday I got out of bed at 11am. I suppose the deeper sleep is shortening, since today, I came to my senses at 8:40am which is only an hour after my last alarm. But now my neck and shoulders are really stiff and sore for some reason, and sitting in a chair is largely uncomfortable.

Not a good way to kick off the new year when people are gearing up for better self control and discipline. I still need to take out some time for resolutions and reflections, of which self control will be a recurring theme. Spiritually, I think at this time last year I was a little more focused, so I have some catch up to do…

Some Videos from Taiwan

A few video clips that I took in Taiwan with the Canon Rebel T1i. Please pardon my shaky hands, noob focusing, and american-accented chinese.

Youths from Sabah singing hymn 389 in Malay

All of the youths, save one, are related. I believe three are siblings (children of a Pastor Joshua) and the rest are cousins. A few of them play piano and are quite talented in embellishing/improvising, and it’s interesting how their style of improvisation is slightly different from what I usually hear in the states (at least, to me). They prepared at least several pieces with and without music to read from so that was pretty remarkable. I wasn’t able to record others because I had to conserve my camera battery, but they also presented songs in mandarin and English. The whole concept I think is really neat; they’re like a traveling TJC choir. Taiwan/Hualien is a great place to make this kind of trip because there are so many local churches to visit and a lot of amazing things to see. It would be fun to do something similar with some church friends.

Cute Hualien Saleskid

Here’s the saleskid I was describing in an earlier Taiwan post. I wish I had thought to start recording video earlier; it was so funny to hear him say, “Hen pien yi ah!!”

Beulah Land

Doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling.

None of these shall move me from Beulah Land.

As I read these lines from hymn 196, Dwelling in Beulah Land, and look at my life right now, I can’t help but feel some sadness, discouragement, and disappointment because for me, these lines aren’t true.

I long for the day when I can sing these lyrics with sincerity, conviction, and affirmation. When my sinful desires, worldly addictions, and temptations indeed call to me in vain, and when I feel that indeed, nothing the world has to offer compares with God.

I strive for that day. Strive with me. To Beulah Land!

Taiwan: The Beginning of the End

We are now situated in the Farglory Hotel in Hua Lien, which is probably the most baller tourist hotel in the area. As my sister described it, it looks and feels like a Vegas hotel. It’s the last night for Whei and I; my mom and Hain-Sing (to his great dismay) are in Taiwan until the 8th. My mom said to my Whei and me, “Aiya, ni men ming tien jiu hui qu le…”

Then Hain-Sing asked, “Aww c’mon. Why can’t we leave earlier?”

We also bounced around ideas on what my mom should do in the near future concerning retirement and relocation and where Hain-Sing should go. We think it would be ideal if my mom moved in with dad in Taiwan, to which Hain-Sing immediately objects. Then Whei said, “Well you never know; now you think you couldn’t live in Taiwan but after staying for awhile it might be okay.” Then, to my mom, she says, “We should just make him adapt.”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Whei: “I said ‘adapt,’ not adopt!”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Earlier today we did some walking around in Taroko National Park (we spent all day there yesterday too) before leaving for other sites. It was rainy so we decided to go pao tang in hot water springs/a spa. Apparently it’s a place that is frequented by the pastor (who I finally caught on to be Pastor Yeh) with other members, so we were able to borrow towels free of charge, since we didn’t bring any. Even though it was rainy, it was still VERY relaxing. I was also happy that it was NOT one of those places that required you to be butt-naked, which was a slightly traumatizing experience in Japan. There were multiple pools of varying temperature, including a full-size swimming pool which was not temperature-regulated. I actually took a swim in it even though it was freezing cold. Pastor Yeh was already swimming laps in it and he watched me ease myself in. I only had my legs in and my whole body was experiencing large-amplitude shivers. Fortunately, after submerging myself and moving around, it wasn’t that bad and I could swim. Going from cold water to hot water was pure “Ahhhhh…..”

We also visited an AMEI bakery factory and sampled/bought lots of mochi-related goods.

One of the interesting things here is that church members are pretty prominent/well-integrated in the society, and as a result we end up meeting some in the places we are touring. Yesterday we went around Taroko National Park and stayed at a hotel in the Bulowan Recreational Area. There is an indigenous elderly church sister who works there creating fabric hand-weaved things like bags and garments. We watched her do the weaving and she insisted on giving each of us a free money bag, which was really nice of her obviously.

A church couple also works in the hotel we stayed in. Pastor Yeh introduced us and we were able to get discounts/freebies for dinner.

And then, this morning when we went hiking in one of the trails in Taroko, we bumped into another church sister who works there as maintenance (that’s what it looked like to me anyways). I had met this member the night before because there was a special evening service in one of the churches to introduce the youths from Sabah and our family.

After the service, Pastor Yeh invited us over to his house where his wife served us a second dinner with two kinds of wild chicken (one of which actually flies), ginger soup/tea, and tang yuan. Later the youths from Sabah also came by (they were chaffeaured by another pastor, Pastor He). And then, a third pastor came by (Pastor Chang). All three resident pastors live pretty close by (Pastor Chang and Pastor Yeh are literally neighbors). Pastor Chang was a funny guy partly because he has a very soft voice and gentle tone. One of the first things he said to me was, “Oh! You’re a handsome boy!” which made Whei crack up.

It’s just kind of neat that wherever we go, we are greeted with a “Hallelujah!”

And now, for more pictures. Need to sleep soon; the plan is to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning…