Monday, March 31, 2008

Babies and break-ups

It’s a strange time. I know of lots of people who are having babies—three arrived in the last two weeks, five due in the next few months. And I have lots of friends who have recently broken up—at least five in the last six months. It’s like there’s an emotional equilibrium that the universe has to maintain: we can’t have too many happy people or too many sad people. So it balances out.

Or something.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Talking about tomorrow

I had a conversation with God the other day about my future. It went a little something like this:

Me: I want to know what’s on your heart so that I can have these things on mine as well.

God: My heart’s pretty big. If I put all the things that are on my heart on yours, yours would most definitely be crushed.

Me: Okay, then. Would you at least show me what to do now?

God: Be faithful with what you know and what you see; act on where you’re at now. It may not be much, but it’s enough for now.

Me: *sigh* Typical.

God: You’re welcome.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jesus loves you

The late, great Rich Mullins told a story of when he was struggling in his faith, and someone said to him, “Jesus loves you.” His response: “Big deal. Jesus loves everyone.”

Sometimes, I feel like that; sometimes I feel like God’s love is so indiscriminate that it isn’t worth anything. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve heard that Jesus loves me, or that the Bible says so, it just doesn’t help with life’s difficulties and tensions, with the struggles I’m facing or the emotional turmoil I’m going through. Sometimes, I feel, love just ain’t enough.

But on most days, I’m able to live in the knowledge and understanding that God’s love is so expansive—so high and wide and deep and true—that somehow, even though he loves everyone, it’s as full as it can be for everyone.

Human love is limited; it’s finite. We only have so much time and energy to spend with people; we are only able to spread ourselves so thin, and even our greatest commitment is often not enough. God’s love doesn’t have such limitations: his love is wide and deep. He can and does love everyone, and he does so fully. Which can be hard for our human minds to comprehend.

Years ago, when I was first discovering faith for myself—becoming a follower of Christ rather merely a believer in Christ—the words I used to hear God saying to me the most often were “I love you.” And I used to wonder why he’d say it so often. I knew that Jesus loves me, I’d think; the Bible tells me so. Why does he need to keep repeating himself?

Over time, I came to realize, first, that it’s one of the hardest things to do—to see ourselves as loved by and precious to God; and second, that an understanding of how much God loves us is the source of everything else: for how we’re able to see ourselves in proper perspective, for how we’re able to respond to his love by loving him back, and for how we’re able to love others with the love that he has shown us.

God’s shown me that these three simple words speak of a truth that’s pretty important and foundational to how we look at life and how we live life. It's a message that I still need to hear every day.

Jesus loves you.

loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Think about it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm here

The other day, I met with a prof to talk about life and my future. Later in the day, I headed over to the hospital to see my friends Matt and Sara, and their brand new baby boy, Jackson. In the evening, I attended a Maundy Thursday service at Ecclesia. And then after the service, I went and celebrated another friend’s birthday.

In all of it: as I was challenged to be patient and yet probing in looking to my future and God’s leading; as I was holding seventeen-hour old Jackson and being astounded into speechlessness at the miracle of life; as I was partaking of the Lord’s Supper and meditating on his crucifixion and sacrifice; as I was laughing and celebrating with friends; in all of it, God was whispering his presence into my ear. I’m here. It wasn’t much. But it was enough.

It’s a far cry from my years in London, when it was ‘normal’ to be speaking and singing in tongues, getting words of knowledge, listening expectantly for God’s voice and often hearing, and being ‘led by the Spirit’.

And sometimes, I do wish I could just hear an audible voice. That God would just tell me to do and how to make my decisions. But I’m learning to grow up, to be responsible for my own life and my own decisions. And I’m learning to see God’s presence in new ways; I’m learning to sense him in places I wouldn’t have thought to know him; I’m learning to trust that he’ll bring things about somehow. He’s still there. And that’s no bad thing.

I can’t see how you’re leading me unless you’ve led me here, where I’m lost enough to let myself be led. – Rich Mullins, ‘Hard to Get’

Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matt. 28:20

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Part of the fun (I use that term ironically) of letting God do what he wants is that he may (read: often, at least in my experience) do some breaking, so that we don’t carry all of our preconceptions and pride and baggage with us. So in tandem with the excitement of the last week, God’s also been breaking me. Seriously. Shattering. And it hasn’t been comfortable, even though I know it’s good for me.

The following is a mosaic of words from songs and books (Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, U2’s When I Look at the World, Broken by Lifehouse, and Jars of Clay’s God Will Lift Up Your Head; oh, and the Bible) that I’ve been reading and listening to lately. God is messing me up.

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing; with a broken heart that's still beating. In the pain, there is healing; in your name, I find meaning. So I'm holding on, I'm barely holding on to you …

Thus says the Lord: maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance will be revealed.

We are called not to be successful but to be faithful.

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see them naked, to cover them?

When there’s all kinds of chaos and everyone is walking lame.

Love your neighbor as yourself. We are the body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. Christ is living inside of you and me, walking the earth.

So I try to be like you, try to feel it like you do. But without you it’s no use; I can’t see what you see when I look at the world.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly. … Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”

We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. … We can adore his cross without taking up ours.

And I am here still waiting, though I still have my doubts; I'm hanging on another day just to see what you will throw my way. And I'm hanging on to the words you say; you said that I will be okay.

I can’t wait any longer, I can’t wait till I’m stronger. I can’t wait any longer to see what you see when I look at the world …

Give to the wind your fear; hope and be undismayed. God hears your sighs and counts your tears; God will lift up your head!

Leave to His sovereign sway to choose and to command …

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way. Wait coz in His time, so shall this night soon end in joy. Soon end in joy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life now

For those of you with whom I haven’t been good at being in contact (or being informative), here’s the latest. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here’s the prĂ©cis: life is exciting for me right now.

At this precise moment, having finished my final paper, I’m one Hebrew final away from being halfway through my time at Fuller. By noon tomorrow, I’ll have reached the aforementioned midpoint, which is both surprising (how time flies!), sad (how time flies!), and exciting (after the happenings of the last 18 months, what more awaits?). It’s also exciting because it means I’ll have almost two weeks off from school stuff—I’ll still be working, but I’ll have more time to hang out with God and with friends, to recharge and to, as one friend put it, “do things that make you whole.”

Directionally-speaking, about six weeks ago, I switched out of the MDiv program and am now enrolled in the dual MA in Theology and MA in Cross-Cultural Studies. The reason for this was a further crystallizing of my understanding of God’s calling. God has tended to lead me incrementally (probably coz he knows I’d freak out if I saw the rest of my life), and this was just that next step—an understanding that my calling is to be engaged in fixing of a broken system, whether that leads me through social justice avenues of combating human trafficking or working in the inner city (which I mention as two currently possible options) or through the workings of the political system. Or perhaps the next increment will focus my path yet again.

Either way, it’s exciting to be where I am, figuring out who I am and where God is calling me. An experience in the last two weeks made me realize that I had been more complacent than I realized, less ready than I would’ve liked to be, and that there was much still to deal with that I had let fall to the side—one of the pitfalls of being a laidback person is that it can slide into laziness. So I’m pushing myself and exhilarated to face the challenges ahead.

The plan for the next year or so? Probably in the summer, I’ll wind down my time in the Admissions Office, a place I have been honored and privileged to work, a place of pastoral support and friendships. This will free up my schedule to engage in an immersion of sorts—I’ll be looking to get involved in various aspects of social justice, integrating the learning in the classroom (that I have become so comfortable with) with the learning on the ground. So whether it’s volunteering with the poor, interning with an advocacy group, offering time to a non-profit, I’ll be doing something that will not only satisfy my desire to be active but, more importantly, help me figure out better how God is leading, which will in turn set me up as I look to graduate from Fuller in the summer of 2009—and that’s all exciting, too.

I’m also excited because next month, I’ll be heading to Alabama to visit my erstwhile neighbors and surrogate-California family—the Holdens—and to see my mentor and his family, who were my surrogate-London family—the Lotzes. On the way back, I’ll be stopping through Chicago to see Laura (who, if you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ll know had an unwitting but pivotal part to play in my deciding to come to Fuller) and other Wheaton friends, and my high school buddy Dawen, who I haven’t seen since … who knows when!

And I'm excited because I've accrued enough miles to fly back to London for free. Now I just need to find the right time! But I promise I'll see you soon.

And it’s Palm Sunday, the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; the beginning of Holy Week. I’m coming off of two straight nights of being with friends and laughing so hard I was tired. God’s been good. Sometimes things come together. And, at least in the immediate aftermath of a hard decision, such things can serve as a confirmation of sorts that God is in it all with me. And that, above all, is the most exciting.


The Right Measure

In being afraid to commit … or being too ready to commit?

In being afraid to be vulnerable … or being too vulnerable too quickly?

In being challenging to the point of discomfort … or being affirming to the point of self-satisfaction?

n changing to be someone you’re not … or refusing to become more who you were meant to be?

In being so busy that you lose sight of peace and rest … or being so free that you lose sight of the importance of activity?

In being an introvert who is drained by large groups … or being an extrovert who can’t handle being alone?

In being all … or nothing?

Extremes are easy. I’ve been all of these. It’s the middle ground that requires grace—that’s the tightrope walk. But it’s the right road.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Good news to the poor

It so happens that I’ve been reading Jim Wallis’s The Great Awakening at the same time as I’ve started going through Isaiah, and at the same time as God continues to nudge me towards what I may well end up doing. Both texts are challenging, especially with regard to the crisis of poverty, something which I’m learning more about and something I’m learning to care more about.

Reading through the Scriptures over the years, I’ve come to know one thing that I wasn’t taught in Sunday School: God is with the poor. God cares about the oppressed, the downtrodden, those who have no one to speak out for them, those who are suffering under the weight of injustice and an unjust system. And when about half the population of the world live on less than two dollars a day (including more than a billion people living on less than one dollar per day), you’ve got to think that God is doing an awful lot of caring.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, Bono said:

The one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response. And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice. Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad. Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it. But justice is a higher standard.

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

This is one reason that, though I am a fervent advocate and supporter for Barack Obama, I’m also an admirer of John Edwards (who bowed out of the Democratic race a few weeks ago). He impresses me because he consistently stands up for the poor, for those who have no voice in the system—Wallis notes, “low-income people have the lowest voter turnout of any group in society (and don’t make many political donations either!)” (107) so it’s no wonder that advocates on their behalf are hard to find on Capitol Hill.

Broken systems need fixing, unjust institutions need correction, change needs to happen at an institutional level—it all seems rather daunting. But God is bigger than broken systems and unjust institutions. And he is on the side of the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Prov. 14:31; 19:17).

It’s as much a challenge to me: what am I doing to get involved in God’s story? What am I doing as I learn more and more of God’s heart? A while ago, I blogged about how when we love someone, we come to love the things that they love. God loves the poor. Do we?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18, cf. Isaiah 61).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Goodnight, Stan

I found out today that my ex’s grandfather passed away last summer. In the three years that Ally and I were together, I got to know him a little. He was a POW in Hong Kong during the Second World War, and had many stories to tell. We watched cricket together (on occasion), talked about Hong Kong, and he used to speak whatever Mandarin he could remember to me. In the last few years, his memory and his health had been deteriorating, and so it was as expected as a death can be, I suppose.

RIP Stanley. You're missed already.

Time won't leave me as I am

The last two mornings, I’ve been able to make time to hang out with God. Just me and him. Like old times. Like when I used to have lots of time to just be. For the last year or so, those times have been few and far between, and I’ve had to learn a new way of relating to God—amidst the busyness and craziness of life, when everything tries to distract me from spending time from the one Necessary in life, the only one I actually need to survive. So it’s been a different season—a more laborious season of survival.

But God’s been good. Even in the last year and a half, he’s brought people around me to be community: families to provide stability, guys to be accountable to and pray with, friends to laugh with and to challenge me. He’s been focusing my vision, and leading me where he wants me, gradually revealing piece by piece of the puzzle (though I may never see the whole picture). I love being in the now, being in the excitement of seeing where God leads and what he’s going to do.

In many ways, it’s still hard—as I like to quote from my songwriter friend JV, “Life is hard; life is beautiful.” There are still things to contend with: as long as I’m working and studying at the same time, time will be at a premium; friends will move away, and it’s improbable that I’ll ever live in the same place as my best friends again. And I’m still not quite sure where my home is. I was praying the other night and came to the conclusion that “I just want to go home.” And then I realized that, actually, “I just want to know where home is.”

This morning, sitting in the sun, chilling out with God, the words of a song sounded: He is my home. My family will always be an international family, my friends will never all be in the same place, and I often wonder if my restless soul will let me stay in one place for a long stretch. But God will be my home.

I wrote a song almost three years ago; my brother and sister-in-law were about to have their first kid, and I wrote it from the perspective of a new parent. This morning, God spoke to me through it:

When all the world can’t seem to get you right,

And all the words you scream won’t bring you light,

When tears fill up your eyes and cover up your sight,

I will be your home.


Related to this, the realization that what goes around comes around.

Time and again, I’m astounded by how the songs I write for other people, or th are inspired by other people, come back and speak to me in another time and another circumstance, whether it’s a life challenge—“Are we going to put up a fight or let the world turn to rust?”, or a love challenge—“I can’t break free unless you find me; I am undone by you”, or something else—“What happens now? Will I fall down flat on my face or will I find the strength to get back to my knees?”

What happens is that when I write songs, I empathize with people and their situations, and then somehow, somewhere down the line, I end up in a similar scenario and need the same ministry. I think it’s God’s way of ingeniously incorporating all of our foibles and talents into his greater scheme. Or it’s just his unique sense of humor: God using my own words to challenge me and spur me on.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Saying Goodbye

"Goodbye", the latest song, recorded at the request of Danie, is now up on my Myspace. The audio's a little interesting, but enjoy nonetheless. Let me know what you think.

Of course, I can't claim full ownership to the writing of this song. Due credit has to be given to the wonderful writer of the "Paper Chain" song, who inspired me to crank out my first song in six months. You know who you are ... thanks.

God spoke in the ellipses

Yesterday, I had a conversation with God. He didn’t say much at all; there was, audibly, no still-small voice, nor a thundering from out of a tempest. Most of the time, he spoke in ellipses. But somehow, he managed to get me from talking about what I wanted to talk about to what he wanted to talk about. It began with speaking; it ended with tears. I began on my feet; I ended on my face.

And somehow … it was good. Somehow, it was exactly what I needed.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Every now and then, you meet a kindred spirit; someone who’s walking the same journey you are, someone who’s trying to figure out the same things you are, someone who’s wrestling with the same kinds of questions you are, someone who’s seeking to see the same kind of change you are. And when you do, you encourage one another in whatever God’s doing right now, in whatever you’re doing right now, in however confident or uncertain you are in the path that you believe God has called you to.

I’m not the only one trying to figure out how God’s going to bring together the distinct pieces of me into a whole, dedicated to and focused on the task ahead, whatever it may be. And sometimes, knowing this is the encouragement we need for the next little while.

I thank God for conversations like the one I had last night. They have a way of coming at the right time.