Friday, September 18, 2009


Verses are put into one's  heads and hearts for a reason I think.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:7-12

This reminds me of what someone once said (I forgot who this was, or where I heard it from - anybody know?) about a father who hid away a shiny red bike for his son in their garage, and then set about to convince his son that he wanted a shiny red bike for his birthday. The son is eventually set in his mind that he does in fact want a shiny red bike, and lo and behold, the father produces it from their garage for the momentous occasion. A short and simple story, but the point of it was that God has prepared good gifts for His children, and He wants His children to want it as much as He wants to give it to them. When they do desire it, He is more than happy to give it to them. He won't substitute that with a cheap imitation, or a stone or a snake.

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:16-18

God will not fool you. He knows better than we do, and what we cannot see or feel or reason in ourselves is not a sign that it cannot be possible, but rather a reason all the more for us to trust wholly in Him... Perfect love drives out fear. Fear of failure and rejection - of the unknown, the unsure, the unstable.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:7

He who gave us such a capacity to love must have so much more capacity to love. And He who has so much capacity to love that He is love chooses to shower His love upon us ~ what reason do we have to worry? What reason do we have to fear?

48_5640.jpg (350×350)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sigh [of relief]

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness [your reasonableness, moderation, considerateness] be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything excellent or praiseworthy [things of virtue, whatever is commendable] - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

Monday, September 14, 2009

Label Request - A Desire Unspoken [a summary of summer, a preparation for fall - i.e. a very long post]

You know how Google automatically lists a bunch of search options for you when you start typing? And how sometimes when you start typing in a text field somewhere else there will be an automatic list too? Somehow, "Label Request" is on my title's list. I think that it came from Magic Hour - a title of a page at one point was Label Request.

I spent last last Friday with Cattoma and Keima for Keima's birthday :) We started off taking pictures at Cat's place, and then we went to a pizza place (Italian Pie?), Cafe Latte, and then Quince (which is filled with lots of expensive trinkets and vintage-ish clothing) -- it was so much fun! I miss my skipos... I also went camping last weekend for the 4th and last time this year - it was really warm! Except at night when my mattress deflated.

There is a sense of beauty when you see a score of Chinese parents gathered around a campfire (started with the luxury of lighting fluid and coals, rather than with desperately scrounged for wet tinder and painstakingly handmade sawdust) and singing praise songs together... A glimpse of an ethereal beauty when I see myself with my sisters (babies/ma's/spouzy) laughing together, pigging out together, paparazzi-ing together, simply enjoying the warmth of each other's presence. This beauty I have tried to write of many times before - this sense of what I've called "nostalgia", a sweet bitterness that cannot be properly contained in the meager words I've produced. But it is so beautifully descibed by C.S. Lewis in "The Weight of Glory" ~
"In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. ... The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. ...

...We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as 'the journey homeward to habitual self.' You know what I mean. For a few moments we have had the illusion of belonging to the world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: "Nobody marks us." ...

...Ah, but we want so much more - something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves - that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. ..."
So that is the description of the ever present yet ever elusive beauty that we seek - that we search desperately for but cannot be a part of. Yet Lewis also writes this:
"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of rewards. There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. ...

[In the same way] those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship. ...

...The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last."
How many of us are desperately crying out in the deepest crevices of our beings for a Label? Yet we obstinately refuse the ones we deem to be "slapped on us by society", and wildly squander away our life strength trying instead to don the ones which we have set upon our golden pedestals, hoping that our last breathes will be ample glue to cling it to us forever. A desire unspoken and unfulfillable, yet painfully clear in the way we live our lives.

How far is Heaven? The beauties that we see now with our dimmed eyes are only blurred and faded reflections of the Beauty that awaits us - in the glory of Him all other things will fade... Then we shall see the true Narnia, of which our previous Narnia was only a hazy vision. Indeed, better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere. I can only imagine what it will be like...

This post concludes the summer of 2009, first in Virginia in the company of my wonderful fellow computer science nerds, and then at home in the company of my beloved family, both biological and not. I witnessed my own weakness and patheticness as I tumbled from a haven of spiritual comfort in Boston - where I was surrounded by sisters and brothers in ATD, TWIGS, BCEC - into a pool of complacency in beautiful Virginia. It gradually became a pool of self pity, then one of choking self loathing and disgust, and ultimately would have drowned me in its seemingly sourceless hopelessness if my Lord had not pulled me from the depths of its waters. Oh the richness and joy of being held in His arms, and oh the sweetness of Christian fellowship, how it fills and nourishes one's heart through it's channeling of God's love, and oh how I had taken it for granted until I realized that I had lost it...

These moments at home - filled also with dearly cherished memories - they've brought me to see how much I love and treasure my family - in a sense, God's first gift after we enter the world... My sister is now a teenager (and sharing my room) and my brother is 7, the age I was when my sister was born. He's no longer the little toddler I had seen in my mind, and she is no longer the 7-year old that I had always thought her to be... While I struggled with figuring out how to treat them properly, how to best show them love and be an example to them, I also struggled (and still do) with the wrenching realization that they are growing up. I will not be able to witness it all, but they will continue to grow taller, older, wiser, more mature as God has planned for them, as I too will grow as God has planned for me. I may not be able to see my sister much in her high school years, to share fully in her pains and joys, nor see my brother enter his years of middle school and reach adolescence. One day, he will be taller than me just as my sister shot above me, and she will blossom into a woman before I know it. Will I know their likes and dislikes as I do now? Will they still turn to me as they do now? I wonder if that's how a parent feels - though with infinitely more I'm sure. And as for my parents - I realize more and more that age spares no one. They are no longer as supple or energetic as they once were, the contrast made even more stark in the presence of the younger families in our fellowship. Youth visits each of us for a short while before it flits away and leaves an older, more weary body. This same body holds within it so much more wisdom though, and a grace that cannot be replicated even in the bodies of the most elegant dancers. In many ways, I feel as if I have failed my family - in my not quite met goals to mentor my siblings, to help and encourage my parents, to be not the perfect daughter but to be an expression of love to them, as they have shown me love, and more so as God has shown me love. How can I serve and love them enough? Yet I know too, the Accuser stops at nothing - I am thankful for the time I've had and indeed look forward to when I can come back to them.

And so, I am heading to London next Monday. Thus far, I have written up a packing list (far from comprehensive) and started assembling the various this-and-thats that I must bring. Still cleaning through my room which is still cluttered with all the things that I still have (even after many rounds of heartless throwing away). I am such a packrat. I must say that I am anxious, even afraid of what's to come... I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally unprepared... True, there is much excitement in going to this new place, and a wondrous expectation for the adventures that I'm sure lie ahead. Yet there is so much uncertainty, so much insecurity and unwarranted fear of a something that I don't even know how to pinpoint. At these times, I question whether it was even a good decision to make. Perhaps not - perhaps it was based too much on my rash yearning for adventure, on my hunger of hoarding opportunities, the packrat that I am... My heart is no longer at peace within me and I don't know what to do about it. It seems too late to back out now - school has already started in Boston and how would I be able to to withdraw my tickets, my housing, my tuition, and restart all my plans back at Wellesley within proper timing? This is like getting cold feet but not really.

God shows Himself in little ways though... For shame, I admit that I refused to clean up the cluttered paper bags of stuff on the floor until our dresser and the missing piece of our new bookshelf was delivered so that I could put the clothes currently on the half assembled bookshelf into the dresser and thus clear out the space on the bookshelf to place actual book-shelf items. *breathe in deeply* Last Friday I checked the progress of our bookshelf as it was to arrive earlier (it went from Canada to 4 places in New York before reaching the midwest) and it was literally 5 miles away! But unfortunately, in some mailing facility that we had no access to. I was impatient. And our dresser was not supposed to arrive until sometime between this upcoming weekend and 2 weeks later. I therefore anticipated subjecting my poor family to deal with a messy upstairs until sometime in early October. Lo and behold my surprise when earlier today, both bookshelf and dresser arrived... Not only that, but a few days earlier, we saw that our little apple tree blossomed again - an autumn flower garden! The one lonely apple that hung on its branch is now joined with 9 more baby siblings. Perhaps they will not survive the winter frost, but then, what kind of tree will flower in September? Surprising, and yes, convicting of my utter lack of trust. Does not God provide? If He can bring a dresser and bookshelf to one of His children's homes, can He not bring me safely from Minnesota to London? If He cares to take care of an apple tree, or the eggplants and tomatoes in our garden, if He can guard the vulnerable snow pea from a garden slug, cause plants to bear fruit and seasons to change, if He can hold a broken heart and make it whole, and cause a dry and poisoned pool to become a stream flowing with living, loving water, can I not trust and love Him?

Yesterday, Pastor Mike spoke about what he learned while he was on his sabbatical - about God's amazing and transforming love. Amidst the other words of wisdom that he shared with us, there was a particular quote from Hannah Hurnard in her earlier days (Hinds Feet in High Places) about how the waterfall was a representation of true love - in the way that it is humble and always seeks to go to the lowest position; in the way that it gives without holding back, because the more it gives, the more it fulfills itself; in the way that it serves the entire valley by giving up itself; in the way that it rejoices while doing so, fearlessly expressing pure and blissful joy as each spray of water soars toward the jagged rocks below. How can one love in such a way? Who will look out for you when you give yourself up with such fervor, and according to some, such recklessness? Who else but the one who demonstrated His love in this way and so many more?

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life. Perfect love drives out fear.

Here's to a new year ahead.