looking for Job

a journal excerpt

You know what I’m feeling right now?

I feel like there were a lot of things that didn’t have to happen this summer.

Things that caused unnecessary emotional stress and needless pain,
Things awfully timed,
Things unfolding in the worst way possible,
Things beyond my control that I could not prevent,
Things that no matter how much I prayed against,

still happened.

None of this had to be this way.
But they are now. And I got hurt.

You know what I’m feeling right now?
I feel like all those things that happened, You could have stopped,
but You chose not to.

That perhaps, the demons are out to get me
and You’re letting them.

Because maybe, they have this idea that if You let them torment me, I will fall out of love with You. So they go after what I treasure the most.

My dreams. The magic. The wonder.

Disenchant the Kid.

And maybe,

You have this idea

that they are wrong.

 

#Jobsearch

divine love affair

January 17th, 2017 –––––

She is like… like white, fluffy sea foam rushing through sandy toes. She is like salty mist blowing through my ocean-blue hair. Like the shifting texture of windblown sandscapes. She is almost hypnotic, like the waves. I wave back.

Like the upside-down world as I lay on a fresh pillow of grass in the middle of somewhere. She is like the auburn glow of fallen leaves, the perfect accent to green pastures. She is like the sway of the trees. She likes to speak to me with the sway.

She is somewhere in the wind. Gentle like a woman’s touch, powerful like a woman’s heart. She is.. somewhere in there.

She is like soft skin.
She is the perfect season.

She is the most caring and gentle person I know. Just her presence makes me feel warm. Like every hour is golden hour. She is like the perfect nudge or squeeze on the shoulder.

She is the best of storytellers.

She looks deep into my eyes and finds a lost child, lost in the playground of his dreams. She drops the world for the child and dives into his dreams. Not to pull him out, but to play with him. I tell her, “Wait! Just a little while longer”, and she waits. She tends my cuts and bruises, just by listening to me.

She looks deep into my eyes and finds a lost child and says, “I believe in you.”

She is the best of storytellers.

Her eyes. Oh man, her eyes.

Something about her gaze pierces me, through my burning tears, through my dark, fathomless eyes, through my soul. Her eyes possess magical powers. They make me feel known and understood completely. It is almost too intimate. Makes me feel like the most important person in the universe.

She looks at me tenderly. And somehow, my world slows to a standstill and I can see the stars.

Yet even these eyes do shed tears.

Wait. Just a little while longer. And she waits. No matter how big or small the wound. We sing the same song of heartbreak together – she seems to know exactly when to sing alto harmony, when to sing in unison.

She looks at me tenderly.

She is slow-burning blue fire.
Like me. We join hands and dance like the flames.

She is affectionate, yet empowering. Her heart is more delicate than mine, yet it burns with fiery passion. She is vulnerable, yet unbreakable.

January 22nd, 2017 –––––

We were this close, looking straight into each other. Our mouths slightly buried in our crossed arms so we smiled with our eyes.

She was beautiful. I knew her eyes could see right through me. All we did was look at each other but we felt alive. This moment was exactly when we needed to be, where we needed to be. Everything else faded to the blurry margins of our peripherals.

Sometimes, romance is this game you invent on the spot while you play it. And somehow, she just knows what the rules are.

I took a deep breath, opened my mouth a hint, and slowly blew into her face. I didn’t think she could get any prettier. Her bangs were gently pushed aside as my breath softly caressed her forehead. I thought it was cute the way she squinted.

Her turn.

She drew her own breath and blew. It was a long one, putting mine to shame. It rushed through my head and through my hair, soothing my mind and massaging my soul. My head felt clear and crisp, the way the wind is on a brisk winter morning.

We went back and forth, taking turns blowing, playing this arbitrary game meant only for fools, only for lovers.

Only for us.

January 17th, 2017 –––––

“Who is your God? What does He mean to you?
What does He look like? What does He wear? What does He smell like? Who is God to you?”

“Who is my God? My God is…

Well, He is a woman.”

the crescent’s edge

I hold my breath, readying my heart to brace the shattering impact of past and present.

Soul surgery. I smell the metal of sterilized tools and hear the disquieting crinkle of plastic packaging. I can feel the cold air of the canyon’s shadow brush over my skin.

Okay. Deep breath. “What’s next?”, I inquire nervously, expecting to descend the treacherous ladder down the canyon and into the chasm. I even feel ready for it. Let’s do this thing.

But the wayfarer does not move. He continues to stare into the distance, unyielding in his gaze. “Come back”, he beckons me. “Take yet another look. Let it captivate you.”

I hoist myself up the ladder and off the cliff-face, willingly yet hesitantly. I inch towards him like a timid child and sit beside him. My peripherals are not as great as I would like so I attempt stealing a glimpse of his face. But my awkward side glance quickly becomes an awkward stare. Wait. My heart suddenly slows down and beats with greater resonance.

I can see the universe in his eyes.
The star-covered tapestry. I see… the cerulean expanse. It’s real. The waters welled up and left his eyes. A swirl of galaxies lay in a teardrop, hanging suspended in midair.

He’s crying.

I turn my eyes to find the view that held him hostage. Wind. Lots of wind. Rushing through my hair, massaging my soul. At the crescent’s edge, we survey the awe-inspiring scenery of the canyon and the glittering backdrop that accompanied it. The overwhelming sight of celestial bodies and the vast expanse of abysmal darkness, juxtaposed in a scenery of beautiful disparity.

 

 

It’s not time yet. The ticks of two metronomes pound unrelentingly within me, my heart lost between the two tempos, not knowing which to beat to. He’s inviting me to un-sync my heart from the rhythm of one to another. When your being tries to align itself to two different times, something inside tears. Something is ripping. I guess I’m still jet-lagged.

The pace of life around me demands the next step. “Progress”. Solutions. Results. I expect him to pick up the shovel but he prescribes a different medicine.

And so we sit there at the cliffside, not even in anticipation, but in consummate presence. I taste a different-flavored peace, that somehow, this is exactly where we need to be. On the verge of light and shadow. We stare off into the distance. We wonder. And as we do so, we remember.

 

“Let us take the long way, shall we? The view is breath-taking, I promise you.
Put on your helmet.”

the art of good news

Why is it that when I am exposed and surrounded by nature, I feel an urge to write?

There is this phenomenon that occurs in the world of artists. When one painter indulges in the works of another, the painter feels an urge to return to his paintbrush. When a musician listens to another’s compositions, the melodies and rhythms of an un-birthed song are already playing in her imagination. When a dancer sees someone sway and move to the beat of the song, he can’t help but to join in.

Inspiration.

Beauty begets more beauty. Inspiration inspires more inspiration.

When I am in nature, I’m surrounded by God’s artwork.  A walk on a trail becomes a tour through a holy art gallery. A good art gallery takes multiple visits to appreciate fully. With so many pieces on display, I sometimes miss a few on the first visit or I fail to see the full beauty of each piece.

God, the unrivaled Artist, has an infinite collection of art galleries, each of them constantly shifting and in perpetual change, like the waves of the ocean or the clouds of the sky. Like the family of deer stenciling footprints into the snowy winter canvas. Like the twinkling “star-covered tapestry plastered on a clear night sky”. Like black holes distorting time, matter, and even our perception of reality itself. Like the birth of galaxies that we cannot see until they start to die.

There is simply too much beauty. When I am in nature, I not only feel inspired, but compelled to write. I need to create art.

God made it such that good art not only inspires, but demands a response.

Is that not the gospel?

Is not the gospel God’s finest art piece?

 

“Good art doesn’t give answers. Good art asks questions.”

the Kid, pt. 1

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

There is this phenomenon studied in Community Psychology known as the “expert mentality”. An expert figure administers what he believes is professional help to a recipient based off of what the expert perceives as the recipient’s needs and deficits. But in doing so, the expert unintentionally creates more deficits that necessitate more “professional help”. The expert consequentially responds to the newly created needs by prescribing another treatment, which would only give rise to yet another deficit, requiring another treatment. A detrimental, crippling cycle is inadvertently manufactured in an attempt to provide help.

Think of a doctor who attempts to cure his patient’s disease by prescribing a medicine. The patient faithfully takes his pill daily but the pill produces some deleterious side effects. So what does he do? He goes back to the doctor, of course. Aha, the doctor knows exactly what to do: prescribe him a new pill to take care of the first pill’s side effects. The patient diligently takes both pills but to his surprise, this new pill spawns its own side effects. So the doctor prescribes yet another pill (with more side effects!) to treat the second pill’s side effects. You get the idea.

In an attempt to address the patient’s deficits, the professional creates new ones, further harming the patient and digging him deeper into a well of cyclical dependency. In the end, the solution to the problem the medication was made to solve is to get rid of the medication itself.

We see this all the time in social work and non-profit attempts to aid underprivileged communities. “Professional”, college degree-brandishing outsiders come into these communities and start implementing programs (often without the people’s consent/cooperation) that they believe will be the solution to the community’s problems.

We, psychologists, have this strange obsession of pathologizing everything, especially things we see as deviant. We have a keen awareness of people’s life problems and we subconsciously start diagnosing their ish, even if we don’t know them too well. (Guilty). And as with individuals, we do same with communities. But there is something fundamentally wrong and unhelpful in our thinking. The problem is that we are viewing people by their deficits and needs, rather than their strengths and assets. Why is it that we let people’s deficits be more definitive of who they are than their strengths?

To take it a step deeper, the lenses by which we view their deficits are easily susceptible to cultural, gender, and worldview biases. For all we know, what we think are “needs” in other communities may not actually be real problems. Often times, these communities don’t actually think they need our help. Go figure.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

Any community psychologist knows that the ultimate goal is empowerment. But we will never empower individuals and communities if we see them by their deficits. When we see them by their deficits and interact with them as such, we instill a debilitating belief in them that there’s something wrong with them. And the potent self-fulfilling prophecy does the rest.

God has long been at work remodeling my heart to love the socially-marginalized but I’ve always thought that I have a special place in my heart for that inner-city kid who struggles with school. The ex-gang member teenager. The father living on the street. As I digested these new concepts in my Community Psychology class last semester, I felt a deep sense of compassion for those who felt identified by their weaknesses rather than by who they fully were. And even more so for those who weren’t aware that this was happening to them.

For some reason, this time was different. I didn’t just feel sorry for them. It was a profound feeling of identification, as if I was sharing in their suffering. It didn’t take long for God to reveal to me the reason for my empathy: “That’s you, Justin”. This struggle I was discovering in underprivileged communities was a struggle I had already gone through. I felt for the inner-city kid because we had matching scars.

How could one from a stereotypical Asian-American, middle class suburb relate to the good Kid of the Maad City? I wrote an article titled “Memoirs of a Racially Confused Blogger” in my latter years of high school (roughly four years ago). Crawling out of a turbulent year of academic failure, my disillusioned self released a 3,000+ word, messy tirade on my scarring experience of Asian culture. I recently revisited this piece and thought about editing it to make it more cohesive but decided against it; I was angry and wounded and this rant captured my raw emotions while they were still fresh. I did not plan it but this article became my unofficial self-declaration of divorce from my own culture and people.

Rant TL;DR – I was not Asian enough. I was left to navigate the brutally competitive, cut-throat environment of highly-comparative hyper-Asians and everything in my environment was affirming my non-Asian-ness. Everything and everyone was a constant reminder that I was not enough.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had trouble reading.  I still have vivid memories of my mom dedicating extra time to me to help me read quicker and more efficiently. I have a particular way of learning that is slower than others. But all the attention was given to the slowness. From the third grade until my senior year in high school, my parents sent me to more tutors and after-school programs than I can remember. To be quite frank, it made me feel like shit.

 I was confused. “Why didn’t my friends have tutors? How come my siblings don’t have to go to this after-school program? Why aren’t they coming with me this time? (Why are you spending so much money on me?)” As I grew older, I began to catch on. I’m the problem child of the family. They were trying to fix me.

After years of tutoring, I can say with confidence that I learned nothing. Four years later and I don’t remember the Pre-Calculus. I don’t remember the SAT grammar rules. What I do remember is the insecurity and the pain of knowing that I was not good enough. In my parents’ attempt to “educate” me, my years of being tutored have only taught me one lesson: that there is something wrong with me.

Such is the nature of institutionalization. When a child grows up in a reality in which everything in his environment is reinforcing the fact that there’s something wrong with him, he will start to believe it. When someone’s neighborhood is saturated with outsider organizations (non-profits) attempting to “fix” his people/community, a great debilitating work is done on the soul. Good intentions are not enough.

Once it dawned on me that people were trying to fix me, the seed of bitterness was sown. Am I not enough for you? Do you not want me? Fine. I don’t need you. I’m done being your slave. And in one final act of defiance, my soul beat its chest and gave a last “fuck you” as it raised the double middle-finger to my own culture and people, once and for all.

I am unashamedly ashamed to be Asian American.

Yes, God has got a lot of work to do with me. I know. Save the rebuking comments. I’ve got quite a distance to cover before my heart learns how to forgive my culture. Jesus calls us into multiethnic community but He doesn’t call us to forsake our own culture in the process. Our pursuit towards multiethnic community cannot be an escape from our own personal cultural identities. But I’m currently in a place where I just don’t want to own my cultural identity because of how much pain it has caused me. I want to escape.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that Jesus brought me outside of my suburban hometown and exposed me to the inner city in such a time as this (college) so that the good Kid of the Maad City could show me that his scars were much like mine. I needed the Kid. I had to enter his story and decipher his struggle if I was to understand my own pain. God created us such that we, an unlikely duo, would live a symbiotic relationship with one another. The Kid and I must depend on each other to see God’s redemption in our identities and in our Maad Cities.

Who would have thought that our stories could be so intertwined?

“We cannot view them as deficits.

Rather than seeing them for what they don’t have, we must see them for what they do have, for what they are capable of.

They are not deficits. They have assets and strengths. They are valuable.

They may be broke, but they are not broken down.

After trying to find the solution to the community’s needs, we completely miss the solution that is right in front of us: the people themselves.” 

–excerpted from my Community Psychology lecture notes [October 8th, 2015]

Update 1/6/2017 – This is part one of the Kid, a series recounting my story as an ethnically-confused (and slightly jaded) 2nd-generation Asian American. After much soul surgery, bloodshed, and cussing at the gods, I wrote a sequel 10 months later. You can continue the story here: the Kid, pt. 2.

Dear Justin

Here are some reflections that I have of this past Fall Semester as a leader on InterVarsity at Cal State Long Beach, written as a letter to my future self. I had some fun with it. Hope you enjoy!

Dear Justin,

Do you ever have moments when you learn something from Jesus and not too long after, you learn the same/similar lesson in one of your classes? Of course you do. You’re me, haha. Sometimes, it’s vice versa but you get the idea. I took Community Psychology this semester and this actually happened pretty frequently. Probably my favorite class I’ve ever taken in college and probably for this reason, too.

One of the first lessons I learned in that class became so core and fundamental to my thinking that you’re probably still thinking about it as you read this letter in my distant future and your present. On the first day of class, I learned that the way that we ask questions frames how we see the world. Therefore, we must carefully discern how we ask questions if we are to understand ourselves, other people, and the world in the most holistic way possible.

The secret to the Kingdom of God is to pursue Jesus by asking questions. So we must therefore be vigilant in examining the way by which we question, lest we miss Jesus, or see Him through the wrong lens. I’m not sure which one’s worse. It’s not only avoiding seeing Him the wrong way, but seeing Him for who He truly is. If so much of following Jesus is the discovery of His character and His truth, we have to question how we question, for how we question is how we intake and digest truth.

The secret to the Kingdom isn’t a one-time prize that you receive when you decide to follow Jesus. It is a process of learning, a state of mind that must be sharpened constantly, a heart posture that needs continual refinement. It takes practice.

Perhaps the most helpful question we can ask ourselves is this: “Am I asking the right questions?”

This semester, I asked the wrong questions. Out of the brokenness of my heart, I warped the image of God. It’s interesting how when you ask the wrong questions, you can make Jesus disappear. The Light of the World can grow strangely dim.

And yet, I blamed God for this. Is He really the Good Shepherd? What kind of shepherd leads His sheep to a valley of over-demanding stress and turmoil? What happened to green pastures and still waters? I thought the yoke was supposed to be easy. I knew I shouldn’t have signed up for this.

It took the voice of community and the grace of God to rescue me from my blindness. And only one question would suffice to lead me to the right ones.”Are you asking the right questions?” I realized that it wasn’t that Jesus was disappearing or that Jesus was a bad shepherd (oh. yeah.), but rather, there was a problem with the lens that I was viewing Him with.

Jesus was still the Good Shepherd. He never stopped being the Good Shepherd. It was my vision that was faded, not His goodness.

As I saw Jesus more clearly, truth could sink deeper into the soil of my heart. And with truth came conviction.

“This semester was a demanding one, but was it really other people making those demands? Or was it you? It definitely wasn’t me. You were trying to give it your all AND some. You were trying to give your 150 percent. I never asked for more than 100. Indeed the yoke is easy but you’re just adding more weight to it.

Stop living like you know how to do it better than I can. I can live your life better than you can yourself. You need to let go of all the expectations you placed on yourself. Let go of control. It was never your’s to begin with.

You need to learn how to ask for help. How can you speak of raising new leaders and empowering people if you’re so afraid to delegate the ministry to the people you’re discipling? I think you’re scared that they’ll make mistakes. That they’ll fall. Well I knew that YOU were going to make mistakes but that didn’t stop me from calling you into mission, right?

Justin, I took you through this turbulent semester, not so that I could punish you, but so that I could reveal the areas that I needed to heal you. I wanted to stretch your faith and invite you to deeper trust.

I miss you, Justin. I miss it when you could see me more clearly. I could have just left it that way but I love you too much for that. I knew that although you could see me clearly, your vision could still be sharpened. And I was willing to do that for you, even if that meant leading you somewhere where you couldn’t see me for a while. You don’t know how much that pained me.

Justin, you need to learn to trust me more or this will have been all for naught. I implore you. Come and take the freedom and vision that is already your’s. Come and follow me.”

oh.

dammit.

I’m so sorry, Jesus.

 

Have you ever done something that was good while it lasted but you would never choose to do it again? Of course you do. You’re me, haha. Well, this semester was one of those times. Jesus’ healing is good but it’s also kinda painful.

So. future Justin, don’t screw this up, okay? I don’t want to have to go through this again. Thanks.

By the way, Jesus is proud of you.

 

To infinity and beyond,

Justin (as of December 19, 2015)

now you see Him, now you don’t

the way that God works is mysterious.  and strange.  and hidden.  i don’t think many of us understand it most of the time so a lot of times, we don’t see it.  other times, our eyes are just not tuned to the spiritual work of God so we seldom notice Him.  our eyes are tuned to see other things that we deem as “important”, such as our facebook profiles, our reputations, the number of stars at the restaurant we’re eating at, our annual salaries, the college we go to, our gpa’s, etc.  i’m not saying that these things aren’t “important” or “good” but it is often these things that blind us from the work of the Lord.  in fact, God usually has to take these things away from us [often forcibly] in order to get our attention.

over the past two weeks, God sent me on a mission trip with 15-ish other crazy taiwanese dumplings to the city of Hualien in Taiwan, our homeland.  objective of the mission: none other than to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  in a land where over 90% of its people don’t know Christ.  we must go.  the call is urgent.  the people need Christ.  mission accepted.  Jesus, I am in!

but how?!  how do we proclaim Your name to these kids and their families?  of course we could always go to their homes and shout “JESUS CHRIST” in their faces, but that might not work.  can’t take that too literally.  we need some sort of.. “vehicle”.  something that will allow us to reach their hearts.  we must first tend to their physical hunger, in order to reach the needs of their spiritual hunger.  what do the people want/need?  english.  many of the families want their children to learn some english.  so we’ll give that to them!  and at the same time, we give them Christ.  more of showing than giving, but yeah.  and so for two weeks, we taught english to around 85 kids at the donghong church, hoping and praying to God that these precious kids would come to Christ.  that was our mission trip.  the end.

a lot of people would conclude their reevaluations of a mission trip abruptly, like such^.  “oh, the mission trip was good and stuff, we had a lot of fun.  kinda tiring.  but like, it was good”.  hearing that makes me sad.  not only does it make me feel like you don’t wanna talk to me, but it also shows that you were unaware of all the work that God has been doing.  “seriously?!  nothing to share all??  there has to be at least one testimony…?  okay fine :(”

in my opinion, there should be tons and tons of testimonies to share on each individual mission trip. [btw, testimonies aren’t limited to just stories of salvation; they can be about anything that the Lord has been doing in your life].  why?  because God is always working.  to reiterate, the way that God works is mysterious and hidden.  if you can’t think of anything that God has been doing on your past mission trip, search harder.  over the past mission trip in hualien, i think God has really helped me shed my “worldly glasses” [as i like to call them] and open my eyes to see His marvelous works.  it was as if i was blind to a whole separate dimension and God just revealed the 3D world to me.  was blind, but now, i see.  it’s mindblowing.  eye-opening.  i can now see the invisible and mighty working hand of God, molding hearts, transforming lives, and even moving typhoons.  i can’t see all of it but i am so certain that His hand is there; i just know it.  there’s evidence everywhere!!

  1. changed hearts and changed lives – hearing from last year’s missionaries, there were supposedly only around three local TA’s.  very small youth fellowship.  this year, there were over fifteen.  i know that still doesn’t sound very impressive but the amount of growth that their ministry has gone through over the past year cannot be underestimated.  some of the TA’s have only been attending this church for six months!  and hearing from their stories, they went through dramatic change in just that short amount of time.  some of them were [i quote] “mean”, “scary” and “gangster”and yet, i didn’t see any of that.  i saw a loving and mature christian with a good heart.  it’s hard to believe that they went through so much change in six months.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  2. numbers don’t matter – on saturdays, the donghong church has a youth fellowship that welcomes anyone from middle school to college who wishes to commune with other believers and God.  this is similar to the “Friday Night Fellowship” that we do at East Valley, except with maybe less than a third of the people.  i’m pretty sure our EV team made up almost half of their attendance that day.  we could all fit within the first row of pews.  and somehow, i was still blown away.  not because of their attendance, but their passion.  their numbers were so few, yet their spirits were so strong.  when they played games, they were so excited and enthusiastic; when they fellowshipped, they were overflowing with joy; and when they sang…   wow.  i still don’t understand how they sang so loudly with so few people.  it wasn’t so much the skill of their singing [though they are good], but more of the heart behind it.  when they worshipped God, you could really tell that they were worshipping God.  they were passionate, bold, and unashamed.  it was so beautiful.  i couldn’t even understand the words to the songs [they sang in Chinese] and i still wanted to cry!  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  3.  fruit – during our trip, we also spent our afternoons and nights visiting the families of the children who attended our english bible camp.  our goal was to be salt and light to their households, make a lasting [good] impression on both the kids and the parents, and ultimately, invite them to become church members at donghong.  most of our visitations were very successful; the families were mostly open to the idea of allowing their children to participate in church activities.  a couple of families even told us they would send their children to sunday school every week!  the sunday right after our team left hualien, there were already new kids.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  4.  coincidence?  i think not – God?  i think so.  july19th was our second and final day of english bible camp; we were already packed up and ready to leave hualien that afternoon.  we traveled by train and 2-3 hours later, we were back at the Taipei Main Station.  we all passed through the gate and showed our tickets.  well, all except one.  one of our team members somehow lost his ticket, causing us to wait for 5-10 minutes as he searched his bags and pockets.  thankfully, our team captain had a receipt of all the tickets so we didn’t have to abandon him but as we were about to leave, another group of 10+ asians speaking english passed by us.  i didn’t know who they were but they randomly stopped to ask me if we were a mission team.  it turns out that they were also a mission team from irvine, ca [not too far from us] sent to hualien for a mission trip for two weeks and they came back on the same train as us.  whoa!!  what the crazy.  now that i think about it, if our team member hadn’t lost his ticket, we probably wouldn’t have ever bumped into them.  fast forward 3 days.  me, my brother, and another church friend [J] were flying back to LAX; i kept trying to see if there was anybody on the plane that i knew.  but no dice.  as we were passing through immigration, J was telling us about the person who was sitting next to her; he was a caucasian male who was a missionary that was sent to taipei to learn chinese and spread the gospel.  and he just so happened to end up in the seat next to J and wanted to share with her.  whoa!!!  what the crazy.  if that wasn’t enough to swallow, it turns out that there was in fact somebody that i knew on the plane: my old small group leader that i met at a church winter retreat two years ago!  he also was sent on a mission to taiwan to spread the gospel with a team of 14-ish people.  WHOA. WHAT THE CRAZY.  what is going on.  from these different observations, i think i finally began to realize that God truly is working in Taiwan.  through this trip, i’ve learn to pray some prettyy bold and extreme prayers, one of them being the salvation of the entire city of hualien.  i prayed that hualien would become a beacon of light for the rest of Taiwan and soon, the whole country would know Jesus.  and throughout the course of these seemingly disconnected events, i think God was trying to tell me that He really was there.  right there in Taiwan.  doing His work.  doing His thang.  He gave me this assurance that..   that He was, in fact, answering my prayer.  of course, Taiwan won’t become christian overnight but i could see that God was doing His work.  werk it.  and from that moment on, i felt more at peace.  coincidence?  i think not.  God?  i think so.  and there was the hand of Yahweh.
  5. go away and never come back – i really don’t know about this one but i’d like to think that the typhoon was His doing.  originally, there was supposed to a severe typhoon hitting hualien on the first weekend but the typhoon shifted direction and went up north to Taipei.  had the storm hit us, we would have had to cancel one day of english bible camp, and that, in my opinion, would have made a big difference.  but instead, there was no storm, only a light drizzle.  and there was the hand of Yahweh?

these are only a few of the dozens of things that showed God’s work; i assure you that there are many many more.  there is a certain Jana Alayra song [woot] that goes “come and see what God has done, all the wonders under the sun..”;  we sang this many times during singspiration in those two weeks.  every time we sing it,  i am reminded of all these things..  the changed lives, the new church members, the “coincidences”, everything.  and it always blows my mind to think about it.  God’s fingerprints really are everywhere, we just have to open our eyes to see them.  perhaps it isn’t because these things are hidden, but more so the fact that we are blind, that we fail to acknowledge God.  perhaps we rely too much on the eyeballs of our face, rather than the eyeballs of our hearts.  next time you go on a mission trip, pray to God that you would be able to see things beyond a worldly perspective and i assure you that your trip will become so much more meaningful.  and bring it back home with you, too!  don’t just leave your spiritual glasses in the mission field.  don’t forget that you are always on a mission, whether you’re in taiwan, or back at home.

as i have learned to appreciate the invisible, yet awe-inspiring works of God, i have also consequently learned to worship that same God on an even deeper and more profound level than ever before.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  – C. S. Lewis

the inclusio of scripture

[here’s a little article that’s dedicated to the bible-lovers]

inclusio – a device in literature where a section of text is bracketed off.  the story is placed within a frame, so that it begins and ends the same way.  like a sandwich.  inclusios are everywhere, in books, music, movies, you name it.  we often overlook them the first time we read, listen, watch them, but when we look back, we realize that they’re there and it’s quite mindblowing sometimes.

in onerepublic’s most famous song “apologize”, ryan tedder begins and ends the song the same way, with the words “i’m holding on your rope, got me ten feet off the ground”.  inclusio.  jason mraz both opens and closes “the sunshine song” with “if there’s a light in everybody, send out your ray of sunshine” [excellent song, btw].  inclusio.

in movies, they’re not as prevalent but there still are some out there, such as mission impossible iii.  in the opening scene, ethan hunt is strapped to a chair and watches in agony as the heartless antagonist owen davian counts down to the second he pulls the trigger of the gun pointed at hunt’s wife’s head.  turns out it was a flash.. forward? and the audience does not get to see davian finish counting.  2 hours of intense, spy action sequences later, we revisit the interrogation scene once again, only this time, davian finishes counting as a desperate ethan hunt attempts to negotiate with him.  inclusio.  in forrest gump, both the opening and closing scene show forrest gump [and forrest jr] waiting at the bus stop in greenbow, alabama as a white feather is carried by the breeze into the sky.  inclusio.

i find it weird that i enjoy writing blogs and whatnot but i’m a terrible reader.  i don’t read too much but anyone who knows me well would know that my favorite book of all time is the bible.  just about a month ago, i’ve been made aware that even the bible, the living word of god, has inclusios in it.  if you look in the gospel of mark, there is a very subtle inclusio hidden in chapters 1 and 15.

in chapter 1, we witness the baptism of Jesus [by John] in the Jordan River.  pretty epic moment.  in chapter 15, we witness the death of the messiah as he breathes his last on the cross.  overwhelmingly epic moment.  though baptism and death are two concepts that one would most likely find contrasting to one another, these are the two elements that make up the big juicy sandwich of the “gospel inclusio”.  but how, justin?  how do the baptism and death Jesus make up an inclusio if they’re not even the same thing?  you be trippin, man!  well, let’s take a look at scripture.

1. “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”    -Mark 1:9-11

here is the scene when Jesus gets baptized.  what observations can we make?  Jesus was getting dunked in the river and as he rose from the water, the heavens opened.  i’d like to say i have a vast and vivid imagination but the imagery in here is simply unfathomable.  i try to picture some large crevice splitting open and creating a divide that breaks some invisible, metaphysical boundary between heaven and earth.  and wind.  lots and lots of gushing, loud wind.  then, the holy spirit makes its way down from the other side of this momentarily fractured barrier and the voice of God thunders from it: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”   holy cheeseballs.

2. “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”    -Mark 15:37-39

fast forward 15 chapters.  Jesus dies.  what observations can we make?  as Jesus let out one last sigh, the curtain of the temple tore completely, from top to bottom.  so what temple is mark talking about anyways?  in case you didn’t know, it was the temple of Jerusalem [Herod’s temple, if i am not mistaken] and inside this holy temple, animal sacrifices were made as well as worship according to the Law of Moses.  there was also a room called the Holy of Holies, in which the presence of God resided.  it also contained the Ark of the Covenant [yes, the one in indiana jones].  this place was so sacred that no one could enter into this inner sanctuary except the High Priest once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins.  this room was separated from the rest of the temple by a curtain.  and this wasn’t just any old window curtain that you put on for decoration.  it was a 4-inch thick curtain with such strength that even horses tied to each side could not pull apart.  oh yeah, it was also 60 feet tall.  pretty buff curtain.  but not buff enough.  when this curtain tore in half, even the Roman centurion instantly knew that Jesus was certainly the son of God and he was so sure about it that he felt like he had to say it out loud.  holy cheeseballs.

okay, now it’s time to connect the dots.

EXHIBIT A

in mark chapter 1, jesus was baptized by water.  while one may think that this is just something that all believers must do as a public profession of their faith and acceptance of God as their heavenly Father, baptism also has another meaning.  “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Romans 6:3-4]  baptism, in essence, means death.  so what was Jesus up to at the end of Mark?  oh yeah, dying.  bingo.

EXHIBIT B

after Jesus’ baptism, the heavens OPENED!  after Jesus’ death, the curtain OPENED!  well..  tore in half.  if you haven’t already got it, the curtain wasn’t just an extraordinarily buff curtain, it was a symbolic representation of the separation of God and Man.  separation of the Holiest of Holies and the rest of the temple.  of sinless and sinful.  of light and darkness.  of the heavens and earth.  when Jesus died for our sins, the impenetrable barrier between us and God was shattered.  bingo.

EXHIBIT C

after the heavens opened, we hear a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:11]  this is the voice of God, and He is proclaiming that Jesus is His beloved Son.  after the curtain ripped open, we hear a voice from a bystander: “Surely this man is the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39]  this is the voice of a Roman centurion, and he is proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God.  bingo.

i don’t know about you but when i first realized all of this, i was completely mindblown.  the entire gospel story of Jesus Christ, wrapped in a big, delicious sandwich.  wickedly cool.  personally, this revelation served as a reminder of just how amazing God’s Word is.  the bible is a truly remarkable book and i think we all ought to spend more time reading it.  trust me, it will change lives.  and lastly, i would like to give a big shout-out and thank you to the fantastic mr. jimmy l., who did such a phenomenal job at sharing God’s truth with me and the other highschoolers at ev.  personally, this was one of the most memorable bible lessons i’ve ever been taught in my entire life.

PRAYER:  heavenly father, thank you for your word.  thank you for this amazing book of life, because through it, we may grow spiritually and learn more about you.  thank you for God-breathed scripture, for it is useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training others in righteousness.  it is your truth that we cling on to and it is our double-edged sword.  thank you for revealing yourself in it so that we may see a glimpse of just how great you are.  Lord, please help me grow a desire and eagerness in reading your word.  move my heart and let me have an inclination to hear your truths each and every day of my life.  God, I want to grow in you.  i want to know you more and i want to love you even more than i already do.  help me become a better son.  as always, i am eternally grateful for your gift of love and i will forever praise you.  and it’s in your Son’s most precious name that I pray,  amen.