Post-Convocation Life: Blessings, Challenges, and Turning Points

A Year in the Books
Man, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since convocation already. I remember back when all of us could only think about that next exam, finishing that dreadful group assignment, or deciding where we’d grab a snack before class started.

But now, here we all are. All suited-up and graduated, all hungry for success, aspiring for greatness, and excited for the prosperous futures that await us. I remember being so excited for this moment. At the time, it was like: Man, this is it. It’s finally here. Yet, despite the great anticipation I had to fly away from the nest of university, I was not prepared for what was to come. After 1 year, I would’ve hoped to be a little bit further, a little bit higher, and just a little bit wiser. Yet, I find myself more lost and confused than I’ve ever been in my life.

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Family at Convocation

Now, that’s definitely something typical Asian parents would not want to hear! But it’s true. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life (or at least this is how I felt when I first began writing this post last Fall). Nevertheless, this definitely was not how I envisioned things would be like a year ago. I remember being a hopeful and optimistic graduate, so eager and excited to enter the workforce. But now, fast-forward one year. Here I am, in a place I never thought I’d be in, making a decision I never thought I’d be making…

I’m heading back to school again.

But that is a long story that I hope to unpack in this long overdue post.

Good Start 
So coming out of school, I thought I was pretty set. I had a solid job lined up for me after graduation at a reputable accounting firm, I was in a wonderful relationship, I was making money, my family was proud of me—everything just seemed to be unfolding rather nicely.

I know I always had my share of doubts with my decision to study commerce, a subject that I had little passion or history in at the time. Yet there was a certain intrigue and possibility surrounding it that made it enticing. But at 17, I guess that was enough for me. I also really didn’t want to take a fifth year, mostly because I was to arrogant. I subscribed to the notion that the victory lap was only meant for people who were legitimately lost (which I pridefully wouldn’t admit about myself). So in light of all this, these developments served as a profound source of affirmation for me. I was convinced that I made the right decision 7 years ago.

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In June 2017 when I got hired,  we threw a party to celebrate our brother Emmanuel.

Soon after I got the job, things took a bad turn, like J.R. Smith’s Game 1 blunder. I was deeply overwhelmed by the horrific gap between the theory I learned from textbooks and how that theory would translate into the workplace. What also made it hard for me was the limited training and support available to me. The co-worker who was supposed to train me completed about 50% of the training and then went on vacation. So I was basically left for dead, but no big deal, right? Well, it was, but I still tried my best. Sadly, however, I could hardly do half of the job. To say the least, this was an utter nightmare.
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As a “Bookkeeping Assistant” I found myself having a wide range of duties. The job had me doing things like issuing cheques and setting up appointments for my boss, which are reasonable. But then I also got assigned strange duties like shutting off an elevator with excrement in it. Needless to say, this definitely wasn’t what I expected coming out of school. But to make a long story short, I got fired after a month. My boss felt that I didn’t take enough initiative to take ownership of the job, that I was too slow, and that I made too many mistakes. But the truth is that I did put a lot of effort into catching up. I stayed over time almost every single day, I constantly ran back and forth asking questions, and endured so much nonsense in the process. I did make a whole lot of mistakes, but what do you want from someone who got half-trained? Needless to say, their comments were appalling and caught me off guard. If I’m recalling correctly, I had to hold back the tears until I could get myself into the car to go home.

Second Try
So that wasn’t the greatest start, but deep down, I still believed that God had a good purpose in everything that happened.  A few weeks after the firing I started sending out resumes again. While I waited, I volunteered at the annual kids’ summer camp organized by Lighthouse Ministries which I had volunteered with over the past 3 years. It was nice to see some old faces again.

Just as the camp wrapped up, I got a call for an interview from a packaging company in Scarborough for a position as an Accounting Assistant.

To say the least, that interview was interesting.

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The kids I taught at Lighthouse Camp.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it turns out that the Financial Controller who interviewed me actually worked under my previous employer before, the firm I got fired at. That’s when I thought, “Well, isn’t that great? Just when I thought I escaped that witch’s shadows. Now her former slave can torture me too.” 

I didn’t have to share about that part of my employment history, but I felt compelled by the Spirit to share. I knew it’d be game over if I did, but I wanted to honor God by being transparent. So with that said, I decided to share about it. And then somehow, some way, I ended up getting the job! I don’t think anyone in their right mind would’ve hired me, so I know for certain that this was God’s gracious doing!

Early Grind
By the time I began working on this post last year around October, I found this new job pretty manageable. However, at the beginning—it was insane. Coming in, I was replacing an employee who resigned and who had 1 week to teach me his entire job before he left. There was just so much to learn in such a short amount of time. I had to write down everything in a notebook. In fact, I now have 2 notebooks of cheat notes. I mostly had A/P-related duties with some light payroll administration and inventory management duties. I think the 2 main challenges I faced on the job was dealing with the monstrous volume of work and receiving uncalled for criticism. Early on, I had to stay overtime several days each week to ensure all my work was done and it didn’t help that I was working with a crazy supervisor. I got scolded for things beyond my control and got blamed for faults that weren’t mine. These experiences definitely overwhelmed me and I was naturally driven to pray. I wrote all my prayers on sticky notes which I stuck under my desk.

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A glimpse of my messy work station.

Mental Health
While all this went on, I started experiencing a heavy and radiating tightness in my chest. Then, along with this tightness, I found myself breathing heavily while experiencing an overwhelming anxiety. One Sunday night, it got so bad that I had to get it checked out at the Toronto-East General Hospital ER. While I was there, they ran some tests, but the doctors told me everything came out fine. That’s when they shared that this might actually be a mental issue, not a physical one.

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Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I wrote out my prayers on sticky-notes and stuck them under my desk. By May 2018, I had over 300 notes.

I later found out that what I experienced were panic/anxiety attacks. I didn’t feel ashamed about this as I believed that this experience was basically synonymous to someone feeling physically ill and needing to see a doctor. And so, with the encouragement and support I got from my friends and family, I got connected with a therapist whom I’ve been visiting for a few months now.

A Resurfaced Problem
With work stress and the cloud of mental health issues hovering over me, I became increasingly stressed and frustrated over my situation. And so, in a desperate effort to self-medicate, I reverted back to an old pattern. That is, I fell back into the shackles of pornography. It’s a painful reality to confront when you thought you had the struggle beat, but with the change of life’s circumstances and a few dumb decisions, everything was undone. But what has profoundly encouraged me is the support of a close brother. This brother shared some of life-giving words with me when I was at my lowest point and picked me back up. He reminded me that freedom isn’t something we work tirelessly to attain, but  it’s something we receive and respond to because we’re already living in it, in the life that we now live through Christ. We don’t fight for freedom, but by it and from it, we fight on.

My Comrades
Okay, so I’m sure this workplace doesn’t sound like the most pleasant place to work—and it’s totally true. But what made it a bit more bearable were some amazing troopers I met there. Initially I felt like I walked into a war zone as a lone wolf, but I’m thankful for the comrades who looked out for me. From getting blasted by supervisors for no reason, to getting bullied on the job by superiors, we stood by one another. Phillip, Michelle, Kathy, and Vivian, y’all the real MVPs!

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This is the only photo I have with my team. Photo was taken at a Chinese New Year banquet hosted by the company.

When we think about someone like Bill Nye, we immediately think of him as “the science guy.” Yet, if you think about it, he isn’t the most educated dude when it comes to science. The man only has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering! But through his show and his great passion for promoting a scientifically-rich culture, he became the science guy! Now, in my situation, the truth I couldn’t bear acknowledging for the longest time was that no one ever saw me as an accountant. Not only did I lack passion on a personal level, but amongst my peers, I was never seen as the Accounting guy—ever! Yet, for whatever reason, that bothered me and made me try 10x harder to prove my critics wrong.

But why did everyone say what they said? It’s because they knew me and the me that they knew wasn’t about this debits and credits, consolidations, and tax planning stuff. They not only knew what  I was good at, but also what I truly enjoyed and found meaningful.

In the end, I think the words my friends didn’t go to waste. My attention was drawn back to all these thoughts as I got so sick of the repetition of opening and closing periods, the new mountain of invoices that would magically appear on my desk each morning, and the suffocating internal controls of my workplace.

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Workdays were pretty tough, but it was nice to see views like this after a long day.

This is when I knew I had to stop lying to myself. I had to let go of my pride and admit that I made a big fat mistake. I realized that I couldn’t find true fulfillment in proving others wrong and pretending I knew what I was doing. The truth is, for 5 years of my life, I had no clue! I saw God’s name written all over this wall that I just ran into and had no more interest in trying to hop over it. It was time to throw in the towel.

At this point, two things held me back from making a much dreaded yet much needed career pivot. One was the expected backlash I’d get from my parents.  Another was the frustration I expected Michelle to experience as our projected engagement time drew closer. I knew that if I walked away from the job now that our plans would be pushed back as I would no longer have financial staility. But thankfully, both my parents and Michelle assured me that I have their support and this gave me the peace and the courage to take a step of faith. And so, with that said, I quit my job in early May.

Self-Examination
In finding my personal passion and gifting at odds with my current profession, I went through a serious self-examination period and began thinking long and hard about my next step—something I didn’t do at the age of 17. The mistake I made in high school was that I knew I should have stayed, but didn’t. Then I took it one wrong step further and pursued a field of study that I knew nothing about. But this time around, I knew I had to go, I just didn’t know where.

In the sessions I had with my therapist, I found myself sharing thoughts that I never shared with anyone else before. My therapist took me on a journey in which I revisited every major decision I ever made. In the process, I learned so much about myself. In some ways, I was remembering what made me me. I was then able to be honest and admit to myself that I didn’t like the work I was doing, that I was passionate about journeying with people through difficult transitions and decisions, that I was uninterested in getting my CPA, that I deeply interested in promoting the mental well-being of others, and that I loved writing and hope to author a book some day.

So then I began think: Maybe I should pursue a career in clinical counselling? The profession seemed to align with my strengths, my passions, and the opportunity was there. I also got to receive it first-hand and witness what the day-to-day duties entail. So then I began to involve the community in my decision this time around and I actually received a lot of support and affirmation. I felt confident with this new direction, for the first time in my life. I felt like I was truly honoring God in how He made me, and that I was finally willing to take wise counsel from my nearest and dearest peers. I experienced a deep sense of peace, and with that, I made my decision.

Tyndale Seminary & SCHC
I applied to Tyndale Seminary in late May and  by the grace of God, I got accepted into the Masters of Divinity Interdisciplinary program. I sadly missed the deadline to apply for the Clinical Counselling program so I was advised to enter this program first and to proceed with taking counselling courses. The hope is that I can transfer over into the program next year.

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While I’ve been waiting for school, I picked up a part-time job at a food station that sells Filipino food and began volunteering in a hospice program organized by the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities (SCHC). Starting this month, I’ll be making visits to clients who are terminally ill and seek to maximize their quality of living through meaningful conversation, various activities, and programs.

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Our group at the final training session for the SCHC Hospice Program!

Well, that’s all for now. I hope to really get back into this writing and not be so self-conscious about what I put out there. I hope everyone who either read a bit or miraculously made it to the end were encouraged in some way and that you would journey with me as I begin this new chapter. I’ll need all the prayer support I can get! Let me know your thoughts via comments or some other platform! Thank you for reading!

 

 

The Dark Knight: Loving Sacrificially, in Steadfastness, and in Secret

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This is quite embarrassing, but I must confess–I had no idea that Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were connected films. In fact, I didn’t even know the first and last one existed until this year…

But that’s besides the point. My unforgivable ignorance does not take anything away from this three-part masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. If anyone hasn’t seen these bad boys, you should really make the time investment. I missed out on this treat big time, but  I am so glad I spent 3 straight nights catching up on 8 hours-worth of cinematic greatness.

Yet oddly enough, it wasn’t the performance of a lifetime by Heath Ledger or the heart-pounding story line that resonated most deeply with me. Rather, it was simply a few small, simple, yet profound lessons about love. And from this film, I think I saw 3 major aspects of love put on display by Batman (who I believe is a very Christ-like figure if we analyze the film closely).

Love is Sacrificial
Quite frequently, love is cheaply presented and defined as a mere feeling, something that just comes and goes. Though in many ways, this isn’t exactly false, it’s certainly not a complete picture. In the bible it says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Here we see that love is a decision, an action, a commitment and a sacrifice we consciously and willfully make to those we claim to love.

In the last film of the trilogy, near the end of the film, Batman knew the bomb was going to go off. Without hesitation he decided to lay his life down for the people of Gotham, by sending this bomb out of the city. If you watched the film, you would know what happened, but in any case, he made that decision knowing the state of the people that lived in the city he unconditionally loved. Many of them were not deserving of this act of kindness at all. He had all the reasons in the world to just bounce and call it a day with Anne Hathaway. But still he chose to lay his life down to make a way for the people he loved. In the same way, Jesus showed us what love ought to look like when he died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. He proved it with His sacrifice. Love is sacrificial.

Love is Steadfast
I referenced the bible earlier because if we really wanna know what something was meant to be like, we gotta to back to the source, namely God. Only in this case, if we wanna know what love is like, God Himself is it. In 1 John 4:18, it says that “God is love” meaning that love is an integral and inseparable feature of God’s existence, character, and being. We learn more about this in John 3:16  where it says that “For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” On the old rugged splintered cross, drenched in His blood,  Jesus remained steadfast towards us and told the Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here we see that even at the peak of his humiliation, He chose to show mercy and did not waver in His commitment to those He loved.

In The Dark Knight, Batman was condemned falsely for the crimes of Harvey Dent. He was persecuted despite doing nothing wrong. Even then, He continued to watch over the city he loved as they trampled over his noble works and spat in his face. Whenever the city was in need, he always showed up and never wavered. He never took a day off. Truly, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “love bears all things.” Love is steadfast.

Love in Secret
In the Matthew 6, it tells us to give to the needy, pray for others, and fast–but in secret. These are all acts of love that ought to be focused on the receiver, not the giver. But sadly, we often aren’t concerned for the well-being of others, but merely the gratification and glorification of ourselves. In the bible it says that those who seek the praises of men will get it–but that’s all they’ll get. Jesus wants us to do good, but even when no one’s watching. Yet in reality, we know God is always watching and that’s enough.

In the Dark Knight Rises, Batman tells Blake to wear a mask when working alone. He explained that it’s not for his safety, but rather, “to protect the people you care about.” I know I’m taking this quote a slightly out of context, but I think that when you truly love someone, it doesn’t really matter whether they know or not. The mere sight of their well-being is enough. I think the best example of this is seen in the closing minutes when Lieutenant Gordon begs to know who Batman is. Though he does end up telling him indirectly, he basically tells him that it doesn’t matter whether he gets recognized for it or not. He was content with setting a good example for future heroes of Gotham. Love is in secret.

The Sad yet Hopeful Reality
Though I’m sure this is all makes a whole lot of sense, these are difficult principles to live out. There’s a deep longing in our souls for recognition and affirmation which makes it hard to love in secret. On top of that there’s a big love for ourselves that makes it hard to surrender our will and see the interests of others as greater than our own. And loving imperfect people is especially hard, so hard that we want to give up at times. Yet the reality is that though Batman doesn’t exist (though he probably can) Jesus does exist and He loved us perfectly in every respect. Just as the city of Gotham built a memorial statue to recognize Bruce Wayne’s sacrifice and contribution, we ought to make a living memorial of God with our lives to not only remember His great act of love displayed on the cross 2,000 years ago, but to also revere Him, and ultimately retell of Him and rejoice in Him.

This post isn’t really meant to be jam-packed with insight, but it’s just some observations I made from watching these 3 films haha.

 

 

 

Ordinary people, Everyday Heroes

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So about a month ago I fell back into an old pattern–again. And anyone who has made that shame-filled visit back to that familiar place would know what it’s like. Echoes of accusations running through the halls of the mind, the cold bench of our souls collecting dust of unworthiness, collectively impeding all efforts to move on with the expedition of life. I’m sure we’ve all been there before and for those who haven’t, you will. But as I stared at the crimson stains of my transgressions, something hit me. It was like a moment of revival. I was reminded of my life’s purpose and God’s amazing love for me and the entire world. It made me think: Why was I settling for less?

So how it all started was with a friend of mine who shared a video clip via Facebook from the film Freedom Writers. The video begins with a Latino student who draws a racially offensive sketch of a fellow student in the class. That sketch is then passed around the class as chuckles of laughter crept through each row. Eventually the sketch reaches the student being drawn and when it reaches him, he’s crushed. He then bows his head in deep embarrassment. Without a hole to hide, he sinks into his desk. The sketch, however, eventually falls into the hands of the teacher. She then lashes out on the class, hoping to make them see the foolishness of their life aspirations and the danger of sketches like theirs’.

My reaction to the video: WOW that was INTENSE! What on earth was this film about again? I need to rewatch this.

So that’s exactly what I did. Going in, I did have some expectations though. I thought, hey, it’s probably just another film about how some guy made a difference, everyone lives, the bad guy gets locked up, and everyone’s happy.

But man, was I wrong.

As I rewatched the movie, something I can’t explain just hit me, I felt it. I was just unable to speak as I surveyed the open wounds of gang violence and cultural pressures, the ever-oscillating wheel of familial hardships, the fruitless woods of hopelessness in the darkness of the projects, and the gallery of everyday realities that each individual character faced. The thought of one of the lines in the film really shook me from within.

“We’re graduating everyday.” This was said in the context of academic achievement and its reality for those stuck in the rough neighborhoods. Like, lets not talk about getting past the grade, we’re talking about getting past today. But, this is just a thought I had on the side, not my main point.

So in summary, the film talks about Erin Gruwell (played by Hilary Swank) who is excited to carry out her teaching expertise in the new racial integration plan. She becomes deeply involved in her students’ lives which are drenched in the sorrows of domestic abuse, gang violence, and racial discrimination. The students initially fortified their vulnerabilities and trust with invisible walls built with the dense cement of stubbornness and pride in their hearts.  But the marching of Gruwell’s compassion, persistence, and hopeful enthusiasm around their mental fortress eventually brought down the Jericho of their hearts as students began to trust who they saw as their academic and familial shepherd. Gruwell used personal writing journals as a medium to empower the students with a voice that they never thought existed.

And through the experience of watching this film twice now, I learned or rather revisited a very important lesson.

It takes one person to make a difference
I know this sounds ridiculously cliché, but that really hit home for me. The reason why these students got lost in their ways is because they lacked a guardian, just as sheep lose their way without their shepherd. Some of us have friends, family, even acquaintances (not sure why they haven’t upgraded to friend status in your mind yet, but that’s another matter) and these people do some pretty stupid things. And I’m not any better as I do stupid things all the time. But it takes one bold, counter-cultural, one I-give-a damn-about-you voice to call someone out of the darkness and back into the light where they belong. And if we really think about it, that’s how God saved us all.

In the Bible, when Matthew the Tax Collector was working against his own people and served the Roman authorities, indulging in his own greed, what did Jesus say to him?

“’Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.” -Matthew 9:9b

In the same way, when we were dead in our sins, the voice of Christ called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. How can we, like many of the snobby teachers and school administrators in the film see these kids as lost causes, unworthy of our efforts and nurturing when we ourselves were once in their very shoes? That reckless friend, that alcoholic, that scumbag–that you too once were in the eyes of God.

In this instance, because one person was willing to listen and do something about the problems standing before them, some of these students became the first high-school graduates and college goers in their families. Her act of love sparked a nationwide inquiry of teaching styles and some schools actually implemented her model to replicate the F success. All they needed was one person to speak up, listen up, and not give up on them, even when they gave up on themselves.

If we don’t call up that friend we haven’t spoken to in ages or if we don’t have that conversation that’s been sitting like the elephant in the room for decades, there’s a chance that–maybe no one ever will. Thinking about what I just wrote right now makes me think even more. I may not see tomorrow, someone I love may not see tomorrow, so I must act today. And yet how simple it is in writing yet oh how difficult it is in practice.

We’re all ordinary people, but we can be heroes for people we love everyday. We don’t need to take a bullet or lose a limb to be that quintessential hero. Simply being there for a friend, telling them what they might not want to hear but need to hear, loving them, listening to them. Who knew a high school teacher could make all the difference in the world for these kids? I don’t think we’re all called to be heroes per se. It sounds like it’s a one-time deal kind of thing.  But instead, I think we are called to live heroic lives. God asks not for a one-time sacrifice, but steadfast obedience.

My brethren and sistren. We are apparently the salt and light of the world, image bearers of the living God. It’s about time we start acting like it.

It’s revival time baby.

 

Van City Shenanigans: Adventures with Gramps

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Has anyone ever gotten “voluntold” to do something? You know, when your boss is like, “Alright, who wants to run this errand for me?” and then after a haunting moment of silence some punk calls your name out for you. Awesome eh?

I mean, it really depends on the context because it ain’t always bad. How things turn out is one thing, but being voluntold in itself ain’t pleasant.

And trust me, I would know.

I had one of those days (sort of). Shortly after the winter semester ended, my parents asked me if I had plans during the month of August. Out of curiosity and a hint of suspicion I questioned why they had asked. Turns out they were already in the process of planning a trip to travel around Western Canada.

They asked me after they planned it.

The plan was for me to travel with my grandpa. Just grandfather and grandson, rolling out into the wild west. Wouldn’t that be nice? Like, don’t get me wrong, I was certainly down to travel with my gramps, I just wish they could’ve asked me first.

So when August 21st finally came, I boarded the 12:10 PM flight and headed to Vancouver, BC.

During the trip, God revealed no shortage of insights to me, but here are just a few that really hit home for me:

The elderly become kids again
When I was young, my grandpa used to always hold my hand and take me to school. But on this trip, in a way, the roles became reversed. Now I was holding his hand and taking him to places. Time really flies doesn’t it?
This next thing might be exclusive to him because he’s a die-hard chinese food eater, but what I found was that his eating habits resembled that of a child, if not worse. Like, after volunteering at kids’ camp during the whole month of July, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with picky eaters till the next camp came around, but oh boy was I wrong. Like, my gramps would not even go near a bowl of salad. It got to the point where he didn’t eat any vegetables for 2 whole days because the only veggies available were raw salads. This guy just wouldn’t eat his veggies.
I found all this collectively mind-boggling because we were born in a state of vulnerability and over time, we gain a considerable deal of independence and self-sufficiency. But as we grow older, we eventually become more dependent and child-like again. In vulnerability we were made, in vulnerability we will return. In a way, I find that we were designed this way to be humbled and know that our days are numbered and that things always come back full circle. What we boasted about in our youth will look foolish in our old age and the things we boast about in our old age will sound foolish to our youthful selves.

Generational Gaps
First, I just wanna thank God that I was graced with another opportunity to share the gospel with my grandpa during this trip as it’s not everyday that I get to do that. However, there were many moments of shock that seriously knocked me out of my groove. For instance, I was shocked to find out that my grandpa’s worldview is actually quite polished and complete. It’s clear to me now that he is a self-professed atheist, a big believer of evolution, and on the political side of things, a left-wing extremist (in my opinion). He strongly believes that I have been brainwashed by western ideologies and that I’ve been deceived to believing in the existence of a deity. His ideas were preached heavily during the Maoist years in China so considering that, I’m not too surprised. Little if anything I said got through to him based on what I observed, but hey, if God’s willing, even a mountain like this one can move before my eyes and that’s exactly what I’m praying for.
Another thing that was difficult to deal with was his anxiousness. Perhaps I take Philippians 4:6 very deeply to heart so I tend to be less anxious than most people, but I just never thought someone could be this anxious. My grandpa would literally scan through an entire buffet and just jump to the front of the line, even when he knew that we would have ample time to eat. He would even bud into conversations with the tour guide just to ensure that we weren’t left out of anything. He just constantly worried about whether we were getting ripped off, if we were gonna get to places on time–just a bunch of things he had no control over. I would even say that he has a lot of FOMO, like a lot. But I have a big hunch that this comes with age because since things are moving slower for him it might make him feel like he has to keep up with the pack. However, I do hope he comes to terms with the reality that we actually don’t have a whole lot of control over our lives and to embrace that as liberation.

My Cantonese is garbage
This I always knew so this isn’t anything big. But I think I never really took in how bad it really was. It took an encounter with some tourists from Hong Kong to really smack me in the face. I realized that in a way, I do know how to say everything, just not in the smartest ways. I got called out numerous times for my “interesting” speaking habits. But yeah, I really need to work on this haha.

This trip wasn’t exactly an escape into the land of peace for me, but more of a luxurious opportunity that helped me find true peace in God. I would say that made the whole trip really worth it. Surely I don’t wanna undermine the incredible awe provoked by the breath-taking scenery though. The ginormous trees I came across reminded me of His might, the waters of the peace found in Him, and the from the captivating landscapes, His artistry. The beauty and meticulousness of creation boldly points to a Creator.

On a funny note, when I look back, it’s kind of crazy how so many people spoke to me about the exact same topic. “You’re such a good boy, accompanying your grandfather!” I heard that so much, but I always reminded them: “I didn’t volunteer, I was voluntold.”

But regarding the less eventful shenanigans, hours upon hours were spent on the bus each day. Listening to pre-downloaded sermons was a big time-killer for me. Most of them were spoken by John Piper and one sermon that really hit home for me was one about the 5 relationships that Christ has brought peace to and the necessity of having peace before using power given by Him to carry out our ultimate purpose of glorifying Him. Another sermon I liked was spoken on Psalm 127 which shed insight on how to rest in God’s sovereignty and power and the fact that embracing that truth is a key to true rest. They’re pretty old, but I recommend giving those a listen as they’ve really stuck with me ever since.

But despite all that I can gladly take away from the trip, this tour didn’t come without hiccups. My grandpa and I surely had our fair share of arguments and what not. For the most part though, God supplied me with great patience and encouragement from other tourists which really powered me through it all. And without hesitation, I can say that I’d definitely wanna travel with my grandpa again, but ideally on a tour with more experiential, hands-on activities as opposed to just sightseeing which can get boring if done for 8 straight days as we did.

Yeap, that’s all for now haha.

Shalom!

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Rethinking the Father-Son Relationship: A lesson learned from an unlikely bunch

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What will probably be one of the most important lessons I’ll ever learn in life finally came through to me.

It clicked for me in late July, so it wasn’t too long ago. And oh, how I wish I could say I learned it from the words of my parents or a soul-convicting sermon delivered on Sunday at church–but either case would be far from the truth. In fact, as shocking as this may sound…

I actually learned it from a couple of kids.

Yes.

The ones that can walk and talk, poke and joke, and ask questions they shouldn’t be asking(yet).

So last year I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a summer kids’ camp that a friend of mine was organizing. For the whole month of July, two days each week, I helped out with a group aged 8-12 and I must say–it was an awesome experience. The kids were shockingly teachable, weren’t wasteful with food, respected one another, and just behaved like absolute all-star kids. Like, you have no idea. I was so impressed that I shook hands with a mother of one of the kids in my group to commend her for what I knew was the epitome of Godly parenting.

And so, with the addition of this priceless panorama of joy-filled memories, I thought to myself: I have to help out again next year! Or so I thought…

Unfortunately, I signed up for a totally different ball-game. This year’s batch of kids were nothing short of monstrous–a nightmare dreamers would pray for deliverance from. These kids were wasteful with food, made filthy jokes I never thought kids at this age would understand, disobeyed me just for the sake of it, had little respect for other kids (not to mention the teachers), and were just plain brats altogether. When the main camp organizer asked me to nominate the best-behaved child in our class, I just shook my head and told her: “We’d be picking the best out of the worst.”

These rascals simply drove me nuts. My temper neared breaking point on numerous occasions, but one instance caught me really off-guard. That is when this dialogue took place:

Me: Guys, stop yelling. Lets use our indoor voices okay?
Kid: Jackie, we don’t like you, we want a new teacher!
Me: …

After that last piece of dialogue, my heart just sunk. It kind of reminded me of when the Leafs gave up a 3-0 lead in a single period and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Bruins. I remember I just walked up straight upstairs after the game to my room and sat there, staring at the blank ceiling, trying to think of excuses to get them off the hook. I mean, it didn’t make me want to hide from life, but in those first 20 minutes, I really felt lost, heartbroken. All the time I poured into supporting them just trickled down the drain. I was in disbelief.

So when the kids said what they said, it actually made me think: How does God feel when I prostitute myself to things and people that I know cannot fill the void in my heart? I can’t even imagine. Like, I wonder. Pouring all my time, money, thoughts, and strength into someone. You know what’s good for them, and that’s exactly what you give them. But in the end, they reject it all, and go on seeking things that’re bad for them. How much would it hurt a father to watch? What I basically did, was cut off my relationship with my dad and put other things and people in His place. That’s why I can now better comprehend the anger of God in the bible when His people seek after other gods and mock His commandments.

To say the least, this interaction made me deeply ponder about the recent sins that I had committed. I tried to complete myself by investing in worldly, adulterous passions and looking back on it now–I’m sickened by myself. Like, it must’ve ripped the heart of God right open when I went out like the Lost Son (Luke 15) looking for worldly treasures when His greatest possession had already been given to me–and that’s Himself. He came in the form of His Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross 2,000 years ago to save me from my sins to reconcile me back to Himself, while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).

According to the apostle Paul, in 2Corinthians 5:17, we have been declared “new creations.” The righteousness of Christ is clothed over us and we’ve been regenerated. The Father has taken us, His lost sons and daughters back! We do not have to go out to seek other things. We ought not to return again to the pig pen, the places where darkness dwells. We ought not to return to our old vomit. The heart of the Father only breaks more when we do.

The fact is that rejection of a child towards their father is hard to take. Even as someone who was just a teacher over these kids, I got a glimpse of how hard it would be for a father to take those words. It’s hard. And so what I take home from all this is that when we do, say, or think something outside of God’s desire for us, we’re not just breaking rules and commandments, but we’re making a statement on how we view our relationship with Him. When we sin, we’re essentially saying that He’s a bad father and as a result, we end up looking for other wells to meet our cravings, only to find that we’ll only thirst again. The reality is that it’s about more than just rules, but a relationship.

Praise God for using these kids to teach me such a simple yet profound lesson. It has made me rethink every action as proclamations on my relationship with not only my heavenly Father, but also my earthly father. Like, when I come home late with poor reasons, or wait days before I actually do what he says, what do these actions really say? it just shows a lack of love towards my father. As I said, it’s not so much the rule-breaking, but the relationship straining part of it.

After this lesson hitting me, there’s been a major shift in how I view all of my actions. I’ll probably talk more about it in future posts, but until then…

Shalom readers.

Back on the Writer’s Grind

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I haven’t written much this year.

Last year.

Or the year before that.

I used to do it a lot though…what happened?

I mean, it was different before. Writing for me was as natural as sinning–I did it that much. I just never questioned why I wrote so much, I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote. As surely as the sun would rise, the ink of my complex soul would fill the blank space on the monitor each night, even in the midst of a colossal of other commitments. But at some point, it just lost its sense of belonging in my daily landscape. In a way, it just didn’t seem worth it anymore. I was tired of writing…that was, until the past two weeks.

In an instant, as Drake would say, things went from 0 to 100. Or, in not-so-fancy biblical terms, it was like the Isarelites wandering in the desert for 40 years–followed by Joshua and Caleb partying it up in the Promised Land. The tables turned drastically, from the old covenant, to the new. I found myself writing at home, at work, on the subway–I was writing as a sort of escape from the same activities that pushed my writing into exile! Right now I feel like I can write a dang book! It probably wouldn’t gonna get published or anything and I’m not even sure how that process works, but breathing literary life into the pale pages on the monitor each day has brought me joy like never before. And what’s cool is that I know exactly what sparked this. But the trigger to this rush for pounding literary junk on to a Word Document is rather embarrassing. Perhaps I’ll share some time in the future, but simply not right now as I have no idea who or if anyone will read this. It’s not so much that I mind others reading, I just don’t want that person reading it. Sounds pretty sketchy, but please bear with me. Anyhow, one thing is for certain. This blog is up and running and I look forward to telling the tales of life on Second Avenue.

Shalom readers.