Thankfulness for God, Church, and Family

If you know me or have read my posts, I tend to over-analyze and try to explain every detail or concept in my writing. I’ve realized that I tend to hover over topics such as beauty, love, mental illness, depression, and compassion, but rarely delve into a personal outpouring of it here. Even as I write right now, I have to fight the urge to overshadow the emotion and heart with analysis to defend my reasons and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that analyzing and philosophizing about these things is important, but there are times for the restless mind to take a break and surrender to allow something else to lead it into quiet waters.  This post will be those times of surrender as I express what I’m thankful for.

 

God:

Thank God for this life that given me through the cross. For every good and perfect gift that I have been blessed to have. Thank you for the good and bad times. For the times where you gave and took away. Everything I have is from you; all my thanks that I give points back to you.

Church:

I cannot express how blessed I am to have church in my life. No church is perfect and believe me, I’ve had my share of ups and downs with it, but there’s no doubt that without this church, I would be in a very dark place. The amount of love, care, support, and guidance I’ve received throughout the years is beyond what my words can say. Thank you for every individual that I’ve crossed paths with not only in East Valley, but also in other church, schools, or random encounters.

Family:

Oh man, this one’s difficult, not because there’s nothing to be thankful for; rather it’s difficult because it reveals how unthankful and selfish I am towards them.

This month, I’ve been learning to stop focusing on the things I don’t have, but rather focus on the things that I already have, and what I have is a family that loves me- loves me so very much. I feel uneasy writing my thanks for my family on this blog at a crowded Starbucks. For one, I need to say these words to my family, not on a blog. For two, I don’t want to be holding back my tears at a public place as I write and reflect on how thankful I am and should be for my family so I’ll end it here.

 

 

Morning Woes and Romance De Amor

I woke up late this morning for work. Now I have an hour to waste at home.

“Gan ni chi ba”, is heard in the living room as my mom continues to yammer on about our house. I’m not too sure what “chi ba” means or if I’m even hearing it correctly, but what I do know is “Gan ni” is fuck you in Chinese. This phrase is about 90% of what I hear come out of my dad’s mouth to my mom.  You’d think I’d know what “chi ba” or “chi da” or whatever, means by now but I don’t.

I pick up my guitar while on my bed to drown out the immediate boredom, frustration, and laziness I get when waking up to this noise. I pick out the strings for Romance de’ Amor while the chorus of the morning plays in the background. Dogs barking, birds chirping, crickets cricketing, and parents parenting.  I play the song imperfectly two more times, meditating on the notes and beauty of the song before finally getting out of bed to get ready for work. I wash my face, brush my teeth and comb out half of my bed hair and cover the rest with my beanie. In the living room, my dad, head full of white hair, continues to lay in bed while my mom looks curiously outside the window with a million more words to say.

Romance of love was what was played in the morning by guitar strings and this is what is expected for my heart strings to play throughout the morning, afternoon and night time. We are called to love and be loved in the midst of chaos and unrest that surrounds us.

Oh, how this feels opposed to every fleshly fiber of my body

when sleep becomes the king and escape is his decree

What a lovely king he seems to be to offer a soft bed

During times of war, famine, and things that are said

But when the time comes and the war is over

We will realize that this bed is rather

an infirmary for fallen

soldiers of men

Made by a Prince in disguise

To entice

us in our evil desires, sin, and deeds

and when these sins are fully conceived

We lie dead

on our soft infirmary bed

But I hear a roar in the distance

Awake from your slumber and cease your resistance

For I have made you strong in your weakness

I have healed and freed you from your sickness,

So get up, pick up your bed and go!

For you will reap what you sow

No longer are you paralyzed by your flesh

For in Me you will find rest.

This rest that comes from the author of love. This “Romance de Amor” is what he played for us throughout his life and death. It is what’s placed in us through the Word and this is how and why we are to love despite what surrounds us. Beauty that emanates from His song reminds me of the many things to be thankful for. At this moment I only see a glimmer of it, and many times it’s mixed with sour notes and untuned strings of my own heart, yet I see the immense beauty that could be if I just spent more time in it.

A Post About Mental Health

Humans are fascinating beings with the capacity to accomplish extraordinary tasks. Our complex brains can allow us to paint beautiful canvases and abstract pictures. It can allow us to create thousand word masterpieces in literature or create life-changing technology or medicine. It allows us to appreciate the universe we dwell in; from its unrestrained beauty of nature to the life-giving virtues and love that we have can show to one another.

Whether we’re created from intelligent design, or evolved from millions of years of life, it is without a doubt that we are vessels with astonishing capabilities. However, with the immense complexities of our human nature, comes a painful darkness that always shadows us wherever we go. The gift of reason, intelligence, and awareness that we’re bestowed with is paired with the responsibility to keep it properly nurtured and healthy. When this goes ignored, un-nurtured, abandoned, or abused, a darkness arises in us that suffocates our gifts. It suffocates the fire in us that burns to accomplish and experience the great things that our gift of life allows us. It doesn’t matter if the fire’s a modest spark or an ardent flame, the dark storms in our mind can quench even the strongest of flames.

This is a pretty dragged on introduction to the topic of mental health that I want to talk about in this post. I do this to emphasize the brilliance of human life in relation to our surroundings and the amount of potential for discovery, experiences, and love that we as humans really have. But it’s also to emphasize how our mental health can blind us from this potential and paralyze us from moving forward. So much can be gained from the way we think, but so much can be lost from it too.

Mental health and disorders have been deeply ingrained in my life for as long as I remember. As a kid, I grew up with a bi-polar mom and an “Asian dad” that constantly fought with each other. I’m not saying that an “Asian Dad” is a disorder or anything, but for those who know the stoic, unemotional, conflicting-cultured Asian dad, understands the emotional and mental toll that it can cause on a child. This lack of parental guidance caused struggles that I was ignorant of as a kid. It only confused and frustrated me. It contributed to my low grades and fears. However, I was protected by something that kept me from a consuming darkness that I see many of my peers fall into. We all know the awkward, stand-offish kid in grade school, the loner, the anti-social. We also know the temptation to cut, to drink, or do drugs  For some reason, I was given a quiet persistence that allowed me to persevere passed it.

As I grew older, these struggles manifested itself into anxiety and depression that still persists in different degrees. These manifestations of past struggles are paralyzing and debilitating and have dulled my vision many times.  But I continued to navigate through the dense forests of my life and I began to realize my strengths and weaknesses that sparked interests in several things. I also realized how blessed I am to have the support and love that I received from my friends and family. Without them (you), I don’t think I’d be here today. But, I also realized how many of my peers suffer from a wide range of mental and emotional struggles that are just as painful and debilitating as mine and don’t have the support.

This post is for these people. I confess my depression and mental issues here, in hopes that this is an investment in the most valuable thing on this earth; humans. Too many brilliant, unique, and lovely people have been chained too long by the fetters of doubt, insecurities, fear, depression, loneliness, anxiety, OCD, and countless more, without a means of help or hope of freedom. For those that can relate to this, I urge you to stay strong and persistent. Know that there are people struggling with you. Also, know that you’re valuable and loved. Don’t take life for granted, rather life live to the fullest. There are books to read, places to go, people to love, voices to be heard, and peace awaiting for you.

For those who have strength and clarity of mind to navigate this world, this is a call to invest in your peers who are struggling. To be salt and light in a very cold and dark world. To be quick to listen and slow to speak. To use your gifts and talents for each other. To love your neighbor as oneself, with love that is patient and kind. A love that does not dishonor others,  is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.

 

Hope in this World Of Longing

What do we hope for in life? Relationships, money, fulfillment, family, friends, a better life? All these things are temporary. These are not bad things, but we understand that these things have an end. Like a flower or a sunset, the beauty and life it gives can lift our souls, but the light fades and the petals fall and turn brown. These hopes bring us life but ultimately falls short.

We know even while entrapped in a melody of angelic voices, or the embrace of a lover, or the cover of a million stars, that there is an end. No matter how long we put a song on repeat or how many hearts we meet, our hearts beat for much more. Something not ephemeral, rather something everlasting.  Why else are we gluttons, sex and porn addicts, hopeless romantics, or sloths? We want to preserve a feeling of blissful emotions. But preserving temporal things makes it rotten. It makes us sick and diseased.

I write this with a heavy heart because I do long for these temporal things and this longing has made me sick. But I want them. In some cases, I feel like I need them like I need food and drink. When hungry, there is food to satisfy the belly. When thirsty there in water to quench our bodies.

But when lonely, where is the company? When troubled, where is the family? When confused, where is the answer? These feelings are just as part of humanity as food or drink is. When one is lacking a father or mother, or the current father or mother is dysfunctional, how does one deal with this? This hole in their life that nothing can really fill. This hole can consume people’s lives, like hunger or thirst.

This is how I feel every day… I long for a functional family, for relationships, for sex, for answers. I’ve turned to quick fixes for these problems that leave me even more empty. I confess these longings because I know that you as a reader, and also humanity as a whole, are asking these questions day in and day out. We are aching for more. There must be more!

If this longing is within you, there are three possible routes that people choose to take. These three are taken from C.S Lewis “Mere Christianity”, section 3, chapter 10. I do not intend for this post to be all preachy, but simply as an observation of our human condition.

  1. The first route is the “fools route”. C.S Lewis explains it in this way

    He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, discontented, rich people in the world are of this type. They spend their whole lives trotting from woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is “the Real Thing” at last, and always disappointed

  2. The Way of the Disillusioned “Sensible Man.” is the second route

    “He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. “Of course,” he says, “one feels like that when one’s young. But by the time you get to my age you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.” And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, “to cry for the moon.” This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls “adolescents”), but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably.”

  3. The Christian Way is the third way

    The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

The third way is the hope in heaven where our longings will be satisfied. For those who scoff at the idea of a heaven, I don’t blame you. How do we know heaven exists? How can I hope in heaven, when there is so much crap on earth? Heaven is just a fairy tail to give people meaning and peace in life. These are some of the questions and ideas that pop into my mind that I’ve asked myself. These are difficult questions that I don’t have these answers right now. Theirs no proof or evidence of it. That is why we’re called to have faith and hope in. I recognize that this response is by far not sufficient for many of you. But I do have this picture of what it’ll look like if people set their hopes on heaven, rather than on earth.

First of all, looking towards heaven is not a form of escapism, where people fantasize about a perfect world in order to forget about the present. Rather it is a storing up treasure in heaven so that we become lights in this world.

All of the most effective Christians in history have set their hopes in heaven. They are willing to sacrifice what they have on earth for the greater good. They sacrifice their money, time, health, pride, and life for the sake of love because they see past their worldly possessions, and look into heaven, which is their reward.

Only those who are not consumed by the temporal things of this world can joyfully and freely give up their worldly possessions out of a true and selfless love for others. So imagine people not full of greed or selfish ambition. People who are willing to feed the poor or give to charity, not for people to praise them, but out of love. Humble individuals that are willing to be brothers or sisters to widows and orphans. These are the people that can fill the holes in our lives.

But none of this is possible if we view our iPhones or Cars or our own comforts as more precious than a human life. None is possible when we hold so tightly the temporary things and fulfillment that engulf our lives. When we are able to let go of our possessions and show love to others, we, in turn, gain this family, these friends, this love that this world is so starved for.

As C.S Lewis says ” Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

 

Hatred, Facebook, and C.S Lewis

One thing I’m realizing more and more about society today is that we are subtly being indoctrinated to hate and also support hatred. We’re told that it’s good to hate certain groups or people and if you don’t you’re shunned by society. Whenever we push a like button or comment on a post, we may be unknowingly  growing hatred within ourselves and society. This hatred I’m talking about is towards people and groups of people, rather than the things they stand for.

Here’s an excerpt from C.S Lewis’ book Mere Christianity to further this point.

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity)

At first, this did not make any sense to me. Why wouldn’t I be relieved that an atrocity that I heard on the news was not true? What kind of sick person wouldn’t feel the first feeling Lewis describes. In my confusion, I read this passage again and realized he was specifically talking about if our enemies were the ones that did those atrocities. This made me even more confused. First of all, I don’t think I have any enemies that I’m aware of, so I couldn’t really place a real person in this scenario. Secondly, even if I imagine myself having an enemy, I would still not find “sheer pleasure of thinking [my] enemies as bad as possible”.

This confusion frustrated me so I decided to go to the one place that I always go to when I feel confused; Facebook. While listlessly scrolling through the same pictures and videos that I saw 10 minutes ago in search for answers, I noticed a common theme of people posting and commenting about the misdeeds or misfortunes of specific people or groups in the form of Memes, articles, videos, and Tweets. Specifically, these posts target people like Trump, Hilary, Trump/Hilary supporters, Obama, Conservatives, Liberals, Muslims, the police, and ethnic minorities to name a few. Ironically, looking at these articles allowed me to break through the confusions I had with the C.S Lewis’ excerpt and opened my eyes to the hatred that we are constantly fed.

So I have a test for yall to hopefully see what I see. Open up Facebook (or just click the open facebook tab on the top of your browser) and look at the posts on it. Go to one of these posts about a group that you strongly dislike or don’t agree with and read it. It may be an article about something racist that Trump said, or a reiteration of the Hilary scandal. Maybe it’s another police-related shooting or some attack on the conservative or liberal party. Or think about a sports team or player that have taken beef by the media like Kobe, Tom Brady, Curry ,Lakers, or Warriors.

Now imagine that this article is fake or not telling the whole truth (as if it isn’t already). Does it disappoint you that Trump didn’t really spew garbage racist statements out of the cesspool he calls his mouth, or that Hilary’s email scandal was made up? Or that Tom Brady didn’t deflate the footballs. Or do we say “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that.” My guess is that many of us express the prior sentiment and from the way I talk about Trump, you may correctly judge that I feel the same way.

This is what C.S Lewis describes as a byproduct of hating the person or peoples, rather than their evil words or deeds. He clarifies that “by all means, we should not reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery”. But our attitude should be different towards people. For Christians, we are taught to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and by neighbors he also means enemies. Essentially this is one of the two greatest commandments. However, this isn’t the attitude that we typically portray on social media and also social settings.

We instead love to revel in the idea that our enemies are evil because it justifies our desire to hate them. It feels good to hate Trump. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels a sense of satisfaction and pleasure when I hear him give another racist tirade about immigrants or Muslims. This pleasure isn’t from the content of what he said or did, but it’s “for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible”.

So if you agree with what C.S Lewis is saying and my analysis of it, then this is something we must consider and examine in our own lives. We should not be promoting an attitude of hatred, even subtle attitudes of hatred. Rather we are commanded to love not in a subtle way, but in a deep and selfless way.

 

 

Consider this.

Voices in our heads tell us to give in to the world

It tells us to use this format,

To think this way and do this and that

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in truth, morals and values.

Yet our longing for absolutes for things that deserves to be weighed,

With utmost patience and understanding, is overriding our need for

Our God given reason, heart and more.

 

Does not your heart mourn for the homeless, the refugees?

Does it not fall into despair for ones without love?

And ones that are restricted to love?

Kids learn to “walk two moons in someone’s shoes”

Yet adults cannot bear to see themselves lose

Because they feel mocked

To be in someone’s moccasins

To walk

To talk

As if others were shocked

That their choices in life

Is not a wife

But a man

 

So I say to those who

Don’t understand why people do

Certain things that go beyond what they know

To be moral and not a hoe

 

To consider the following

That we are not to follow

Our pride

Of being right

In the sight

Of others around us

But rather

To give ourselves as living sacrifices

Instead of giving into our vices

We pay the prices

For others who can not

Because of the one who came and sought

The very ones who are lost

 

Yes, we are to fight for what’s moral,

And what is true

It is not as they say “what is true for you

Is not true for me”

No, we must stay firm in our beliefs

And the commandments given on these sheets

 

In James chapter 2 verse one three (13)

You and me

Are to do deeds

In humility

Not in  jealousy

So people can see

That the acts are for He

Who lives in glory

So let us sow in peace

So that we can reap

The fruit of righteousness which we so dearly need

In our complete and utter depravity