One More Choice

I’ve had Facebook for the last 3 elections, and I have never seen things get as personal as this one. Discussions were not being had; people were being talked at. If someone voiced a different opinion, they were not welcomed into the discussion, but belittled and attacked.

And this happened among friends.

The damage has been done, the words have been said, and the wounds have been inflicted. We are tired. We are all tired of hearing one thing or another, and being made to fit into one box or another. We are numb and weak from fighting back.

But I’m asking that we all make one more choice.

Decide if it’s more important for you to be right, or if it’s more important for you to be in right relationship with those in your community and your circle of friends.

These are the people who will go to your kids’ soccer games, run the booster club with you, or sit with you for coffee or a meal. The politicians will continue to be faces in the crowd and our TVs, and they will be perched on a mountaintop we cannot scale. They will never love us back, nor will they feed and clothe us when we are broken.

But we, the people, will be in each other’s lives, day in and day out. We, the people, must be each other’s community, and we must hope for a successful term, whether we voted him in or not.

Because what he does in these next 4 years does not affect only those who voted for him, but it affects all of us and even the world, and the generations that follow. If the captain doesn’t know what he is doing, the ship will sink with all aboard.

So pray for our neighbors, pray for our leaders—both locally and federally. Decide if a relationship is worth it, and say what you need to say in order to mend it or move on from it. Think before you speak and act. Listen before you pass judgment. Learn what it means to truly love, sacrificially and unconditionally, to the point where it is uncomfortable and asks us to give everything we have.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a nice sentiment. It is a command. Love your neighbor. Love your African American neighbor. Love your Mexican neighbor. Love your Asian neighbor. Love your gay neighbor. Love your hypocritical neighbor. Love your white neighbor. Love your Muslim neighbor. Love your racist neighbor.

Love like Christ loved the church and gave all for her.

up to the highest height

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring

On my way home yesterday, I drove past a man on the bridge. He was likely homeless, the childless jogging stroller carrying all of his material possessions. It was a brief glance, but what I saw in him was something I’d not had myself in quite some time.

Determination.

The man was flying a kite. At this point in the seasons, California is not exactly known for having breezes. There was a slight one, but certainly not such that would pick up a kite and fly it high. The amount of room he had on a sidewalk with a divider certainly added amongst the challenges against him.

Yet this man stayed on the bridge and moved and positioned himself as he was able in order to send it soaring as high as he could with what wind he had been given. I couldn’t see his face, but I would imagine a mix of joy, frustration, excitement, and resolve. The wind current and the weather worked against this man, but he flew his kite.

My passion for writing had somehow diminished in recent months. As it stands, I’d lost sight of the goodness of God and believed I had to take on the challenges of the world on my own. I put my kite down and went to work and came home and survived to do it again the next day. Whenever I thought about picking up a pen, I just as quickly pushed the thought away, feeling as though I had deserted my passion and, therefore, had no right to take it back up.

Challenges had begun to arise, revealing survival to be as hollow and unsustainable as was meant to be. I was put on this earth for more than what I’ve been doing. I am most alive when I am following my passion, and I do not have a passion for surviving. It is time to pick up the pen and move forward, adjusting with what I’d been given to work with and pursuing my dream as rigorously as this man pursued his delight.

I don’t know how long the man stayed there or how long he had been there before I’d spotted him, but I would imagine he’d lost track of time, possibly recalling a moment when life was simpler, and he was just a boy with his kite.

And isn’t this the best way to lose the time: doing what you love, what makes your soul soar, and your heart thrive?

Just a girl.

With her pen.

Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

I have hope for a unified Body

I came across an article today from LifeWay, and my soul smiled.

Dr. Thom Rainer, the current CEO and president of LifeWay Christian Resources, issued a formal apology for VBS material that was released 10 years ago called, “Far Out Rickshaw Rally – Racing Towards the Son.” The material was the subject of major controversy, utilizing Asian stereotypes and generalizations to teach kids about Jesus.

In his apology, Dr. Rainer addressed the issue, acknowledged the hurt that it caused, and proposed a solution to move forward. According to the article, LifeWay is planning to train staff members to be culturally sensitive and avoid disrespecting other ethnicities and cultures. And the fact that this man had nothing to do with producing that material speaks volumes as well. Above all else, his focus is on the Body of Christ and its members. It takes a lot of love and humility to give a 10-year overdue apology for something he didn’t personally do, and it has made the biggest difference in reconciling our cultures.

This is a huge step since my last entry regarding cultural insensitivity within the Body. It is a bigger issue than just skin color—when my culture is made one-dimensional, my identity is attacked. I am Chinese-American and Christian and female, and this is how God made me. It’s when my brothers and sisters don’t try to understand the implications of this identity that I am hurt. It is a complex identity. Being Chinese-American is already complicated. Both of these cultures clash in many areas as it is. And on top of that, I’m a Christ-follower, which clashes with both of those. When my Chinese culture tells me that my family, my blood, is the most important thing, that I am to be loyal to that forever, no matter what the circumstances, how do I reconcile that with my American culture, which tells me that the individual and the individual’s freedom is the most treasured thing? And then there’s this Jesus guy who says that He is the object of greatest value, and even our love and commitment to our family has to look like hate in comparison to our love for Him (Luke 14:26).

Being female in these cultures is a whole different can of worms. I don’t fit the stereotype of the typical Asian woman, and I have no desire to. I often wonder what God was thinking when He put me together. “I’m going to make her make no sense at all, and in doing so, make perfect sense.” Because essentially, that’s what it is. All of my cultures and pieces of my identity clash, but in me, they work, and they work together.

Someone once said to me that with Jesus, there is no culture. I would absolutely disagree with that statement. With Jesus, there is perfect culture. We, as broken mirrors, reflect that perfect culture imperfectly, but reflect it, we do. This thing called “identity” isn’t simple. It’s not just one thing. I’ve been told often that my identity is “child of God.” Yes, absolutely, but what does that mean? What is the makeup of a “child of God”?

I think “child of God” is more like an umbrella or a body. Underneath this identity is all that makes it up, like a skeleton, if you would. Underneath this yellow skin, God has, as I mentioned, created me to be Chinese-American and female. These absolutely affect my identity as child of God as much as child of God affects these identities. And beyond that, my identity as a healed and healing person also affects my identity as child of God. The way I see and experience God is very much influenced by everything that makes up who I am.

I feel most loved when those around me make an effort to understand or at least respect my identity—this includes my ethnicity and culture. I feel stripped of my identity when people try to be “politically correct” or “color-blind.” Color-blindness didn’t work for anyone else, it won’t work for us either. When you tell me you don’t see color when you look at me, I will hear that you don’t see me. I will feel like you’ve taken something away from me, like you’re denying something that is deeply rooted in me.

This article gives me hope for healing within the body. The Body of Christ cannot be masochistic if it is to be healthy, and when one part is hurting, the rest of it is also afflicted. We in the Asian-American community have been hurting, and this wound has been neglected for a long time. But we are a part of the whole.

As the Body is conscious of the pain it feels, I am excited for the healing that can come about now. When I signed my name on the open letter to the church, I hoped that someone would listen. We are hurting, and it needs to be addressed in order for this Body to be whole.

I am grateful both to Exponential, for their apology and speediness in addressing their contribution, and to LifeWay, for showing that it is never too late to reconcile.

restoring the temple

I’d done it.

I redecorated.

Happily, I lead Him around, pointing out things I learned, things I’d done, things I’d changed—all because of Him. My heart is being changed still by Him; it is being changed for Him.

He smiled, and my heart fluttered a bit, knowing He was pleased with my progress.

But then He turned and walked down a hallway I hadn’t finished—hadn’t touched really. It was badly lit, the walls were in bad shape, the pictures were crooked—some even shattered on the floor—and I was embarrassed.

And then my heart stopped.

He stood in front of a door that was completely swollen with secrets that the hinges groaned with gossip and accusation. A foulness seeped from the cracks.

“Open this door,” He requested.

Hesitantly, I shook my head and dropped my eyes. “No.”

He looked at me then. “Why not?”

I wanted to crawl into a corner and disappear. He didn’t—wouldn’t—look away. “Why not?” He asked again. There was no anger in His eyes nor bite in His voice, but those words were burning me from the inside.

“Because,” I started in a small voice, “because this is where I lock away what I don’t want You to see.”

“What you don’t want Me to see, or what you don’t want to see yourself?”

I froze. What a question! I expected nothing less from the One who knows me best.

I took a deep breath and gathered my words. “What I don’t want to see,” I answered. “In there is everything that reminds me I’m a sinner, everything that says I screwed up, everything that makes me—”

“Human?” He offered.

I nodded.

“What’s so wrong with human?” He asked.

I looked at Him like He’d lost His mind.

“Yes, you’ve sinned. Yes, we needed to fix our relationship because of that, but isn’t that why you have Me? Isn’t that why I’m here?”

I had no words. I had allowed everything in the room to define me and keep me from seeing Him. I looked at the door and slowly reached a hand to the knob.

But I couldn’t do it.

He placed a hand over mine. “May I?”

Before I could think too long on it, I answered, “Yes,” and He turned the knob and opened the door.

The scene before us was horrific. The sounds, the smells, the sight of it all made me want to vomit. I covered my face. I was so ashamed.

“Hm,” He commented. He tapped His chin. “We’ve got some work to do.”

I was surprised at His reaction, but I wanted to get Him out of there. This dirty room was no place for the Son of God. “Can we just… I don’t know, destroy this room? Forget it ever existed?”

“Destroy it?” He asked and smiled. “Absolutely not, this is a perfectly good room. Look how much space you have in here!”

Yeah, and look what I’ve done with it.

“This is perfectly good space,” He continued. “Think of all the love we can put in here.”

I looked at Him then, hope struggling to reach my eyes.

“It’ll take a while, but we can get this place cleaned up and repurposed soon enough,” He offered.

I shook my head, disbelief and defensiveness attempting to drown the small bud of hope that was trying to bloom. “You shouldn’t bother with this.”

And then He did the unthinkable.

He dropped to His knees, ripped off a piece of His garment, and started scrubbing.

“Nonsense. Look at the rest of your heart. I made it into a pretty nice home, didn’t I?”

He was right. This place was redecorated, but I didn’t do it—at least not alone. He supplied everything—the lessons, the material, the support—I just cooperated. He cleaned up the broken walls and fixed the foundation. He rebuilt this heart so that He could live here and be with me.

He stopped and looked up at me, playfulness dancing in His eyes. “Are you going to keep standing there, or are we going to clean this up together?”

A smile stretched wide across my face as I got down and started cleaning.

There’s a lot of work to do, but I’ve got the expertise of a Helper, the love of a Father, and the hands of a Carpenter working to make me whole.

Freedom

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” ~ Matthew 6:14 –> 爸,我要神原諒我,所以… 我就原諒你. 但是… 我們都已經沒家人的事了… 我只想要媽媽開心,想她終於能看到她是神最漂亮的女兒。你碎了我們的心,但是為了我們的自由還為了讓神開心… 我就原諒你,要是你就永遠都不會有力量傷我們的心. bye.

This headed up my Facebook status earlier. Translating the part I wrote in Chinese, it says simply this: “father, i want God to forgive me, so I will forgive you. However… we are already not family. I only want my mom to be happy, I want her to finally see that she is God’s most beautiful daughter. You broke our hearts, but for the sake of our freedom and for the sake of making God happy, I forgive you, so that you will never have the power to break our hearts again.”

Struggling to forgive, straining for justice, I judged this man and labeled him a sinner. I name his sin. Adultery. Abandonment. Pride. Lust. Greed. Materialism. Selfishness. Being a dbag in general.

But what makes me different?

Adultery. Have I not forsaken my Beloved in order to chase after things of this world? Have I not walked away from Jesus, broken His heart, and chosen sin above perfection?

Abandonment. I leave my first Love in order to find something He is willingly giving me: unfathomable, inexplicable, beautiful beyond reason LOVE.

Pride. If I ever claim not to be a prideful person, I show my pride already. I take great measures to never seem wrong, even if I must attack God’s person.

Lust. I hunger for and chase after things that are not godly, things that break His heart.

Greed. I want. I want. I want. I want this. I want that. My want is insatiable.

Materialism. This will make me feel happier. With this, I need nothing else… but the only thing that will allow me to need nothing else is if I have God.

Selfishness. I don’t know why people don’t think I’m selfish. Do I really hide it that well? I am more self-centered than I let on, I suppose.

Being a dbag… well……. I mistreat people. I judge people. I play favorites. I ignore those I don’t like. I will be the biggest jerk to you if I find fault in you.

His sins are my sins. They may have manifested in our lives in different ways, but what difference is there, really? Sin is sin. I need to take the plank out of my own eye before I can ever hope to take the speck out of another’s.

I want to be pleasing to God. I want to be forgiven by God. God wants me to forgive those who have done me wrong, and even more so, He wants me to love those people.

The sinless God came to the earth He created, relinquishing His right to be praised and putting on a servant’s clothes to wash the feet of those He taught. The sinless God who had and still has every right to be angry and hateful toward us who break His heart over and over and over and over again… the sinless God who chose to forgive and whose love compelled Him to die for those who break His heart and His laws in order to allow them to come back into fellowship with Him.

The innocent sought the guilty for reconciliation.

So how can I, in my selfishness, justify hating this man for what he did to me? For breaking my heart and abandoning me when I am just as guilty as he.

Forgiveness is the key to freedom. Forgiving someone is not for them, it is for us. Forgiving someone releases us from our anger, releases us from our bitterness, releases us from the cage we locked ourselves in, and allows us to use all that wasted energy and time to focus on more important and lasting things like putting a smile on our Father’s face.

The person who hurt us could care less what happens to us. The person who hurt us probably doesn’t even think of us anymore.

So why do we give them the pleasure of thinking of them everyday of our lives? Why do we waste our energy hating them when they don’t waste theirs thinking of us?

Forgive. Forgive and be free.

Forgiving him… forgiving my father… it will be something I will be doing for the rest of my life. I will pray for him. I will pray against his sin, but I also must pray blessings on him. I am called to a higher standard: Love those who persecute you.


By this… they will know we are God’s disciples: our love.

Hey.

Mr. Gao.

I forgive you.

Grace Complete

“It is finished.”

The words that marked a dying man’s last breath.

His words are a comfort to know that it is by grace we are saved, that not of works so that no one can boast. It is finished because He has finished it.

What is it about grace that frightens us so much? The idea of receiving something with no strings attached. Don’t we do that for our friends and loved ones? Then if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to those we love, how much more will our Father who is in Heaven give what is good those who ask of Him? The gospel is His gift to us. Gospel from Old English meaning “good news.” Can there be a greater gift than perfect love and divine royal blood given on our behalf? Can there be better news?

Yet the idea of grace has us running and screaming like the plague. From a God who is so amazing, we believe there must be some kind of “catch” to this gift. Do we question when we receive a gift from our friends? Generally not. There might be a “why” involved, but we usually accept it because we know they gave from their love as a means to show us they care. So why is it different when God is giving us a gift? He’s given many others before. Our breath and our life are beautiful gifts from God. Yet He loves us so much that He is willing to go even further. So that we are not forever bound by sin, God cast Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life, and though because of their sin they could not reside with God, He never left them. His presence is a gift we receive when we choose to receive His grace.

What is it about grace that frightens us to the point where we decide that it can’t be all there is? To the point where we add onto it things that really don’t factor into what grace in the Gospel does for us? We tell people to live this way or that way. We tell people that they are wrong. We tell people that they have to DO MORE STUFF to keep their salvation. We profile a believer and tell others to measure up to it.

Beloved, don’t you see that these are our responses to His gift rather than ways to receive it?

Because if these are what’s important….. why did the story not end sooner? Why didn’t it end with Jesus’ baptism? Why didn’t Jesus just say “peace out” after He gave us some nice lessons? Why did Jesus have to keep pushing the buttons of the religious leaders who thought they had salvation worked out? Why did Jesus have to shed His blood and suffocate on a cross?

Do you know the Savior? Why is He the Savior if His gift is not enough? If what He went through is not enough to give us life? We spit on grace when we choose works instead. If it is by our means and our works and things that are humanly possible, then why did the sinless God have to die on our behalf? What kept Him on that tree, waiting for death to take Him?

Love. Love that killed a man who had no fault. Do you know that the Savior is in love with you?

Grace.

Grace, beloved. Grace that tells us this is something that we can NEVER earn, that our sin is something we can never atone for on our own. To atone for a sin, one must give his life. The wages of sin is death. And this man took our death that when the righteous Judge looks upon us, He sees the blood of the Lamb who was given on our behalf. In the Old Covenant, God allowed an animal to be sacrificed for a family’s sin. Blood was shed and a death gave way to life. There were restrictions. The animal had to be pure and devoid of blemishes. The blood of the last Passover Lamb signed the New Covenant. That through this sacrifice all mankind can come to the Father. And who was more blameless than Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

God has written us a beautiful love story through the life of His Son. So why are we trying to alter it? God is as creative as He is sovereign. Just look at the world around us. The green leaves of spring topped off with blossoms of bright reds and pinks. The stars that dot the night sky. The sun that gives us warmth. The human body and all its complexities. Can man or other creature have this creativity?

Grace came from Love. True Love died to bring us to Himself, that we may die to our old selves and have life anew in His resurrection. Grace is grace because it cannot be earned. Grace is beautiful because it cannot be earned.

“It is finished.”

If He says it’s finished…… I’m sure as heck going to believe it’s finished.

the God I praise

God will get His glory, and God deserves to be praised. Recent events have shown me who God is and just how insignificant I am, yet there He is watching over me with all the love and provision of a Father.

What exactly is it that draws us to Him? Actually, I think human nature causes us to turn around and run the other direction from where He’s standing. But sometimes, God stops a few of us, and we see who He is and why He deserves to be praised.

What is it that we want from Him? A free ticket out of hell? Doesn’t that sound so selfish? Here’s the God who created the universe and spans it with the width and breadth of His hand….. and all we want from Him is a way out of the punishment we deserve?

We can make a case to God’s goodness and justness and love, that He’ll let us into Heaven because of those reasons. But it is precisely God’s goodness and justness that prevents us from entering Heaven as sinners. His standards are high, and we can’t meet them. This is why, in His love, He sent Jesus to be our sin, and as He died a righteous man with the world’s sin cast upon Him, He then rose a righteous man and left the world’s sin in the earth. His love gave Him peace as He went to the cross because He knew that this action would give Him His children. Of course, physically He was in turmoil to the point where He sweat blood, causing His skin to be ever more tender to the touch. The weight of humankind’s sin from the beginning of time to the end of time was crashing on a Man who forsook His place in the Heavenlies to become soft flesh and frail bone in the form of a being He had created from the dirt in the earth. It’d be silly to think He wasn’t in despair. But deep down in His heart was peace. Not the feeling of peace but the state of peace.

This is the God I praise: the God who, in His creativity, gave us a complex world of vegetation, water, and life; the God who, in His creativity, gave this world 8 siblings (yes, I’m still counting Pluto) to share a solar system with; the God who, in His creativity and knowledge, placed us in the perfect spot in our solar system to receive life and light from the nearest star; the God who, in His creativity and love and pride, wrote every chapter of my life thus far and will continue writing this story till the end; the God who, in His lovingkindness, died a cursed man’s death to save a wretch and call her holy. And His.

This is the God I praise.

God will always deserve to be praised. Whether I am going to heaven or not (I’m confident in my salvation, but God’s still God no matter what), whether the world is in turmoil or not, whether I have money in my bank to pay rent or not….. God still deserves to be praised. Just being able to borrow another breath from Him in the mornings when I awake and look out at the world and see the canvas where He painted His art… these things alone show how much God deserves to be praised. And to know what Jesus gave up for me, for my sake… how can I not look at my God and see how much praise He deserves from me?

This is the God I praise.

Who am I?

“They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.

Who am I? Who am I that the God of the universe would even know my name and care about my details? Who am I that the Creator of everything spent time to give me the life I have, to give me a story to love? True, this story has had its fair share of scars and tears, but from these scars and tears grew joy and smiles and overwhelming love and thankfulness.

Who am I that a man should bear my punishment? That I should be spared and He should be suffering? Who am I that I should receive forgiveness when I truly deserve not an ounce of it?

Jeremiah 1:19 promises trials. They will come from every side, every angle, everywhere a shadow casts. They will come in their multitudes, equipped with the necessary weapons to defeat us. Lust, hunger, desire, money, stability – their weapons are great, and they know which to use and how to use them most effectively.

But they will not overcome us. He is with us to rescue us. When we think we cannot overcome temptation, He shows us we can through Him. When we think all hope is lost, He shows us our hope is in Him. When we think it’s the end for us, He shows us our new beginning with Him.

Why? Why is the weak and timid sparrow allowed to become a strong and spirited phoenix? “The appearance of a phoenix” – a name to live up to for the rest of my life, rising from the ashes to a new beginning. Who am I that i should be allowed to bear such a name? That I should see trial after trial become blessing after blessing?

Who am I that You should even care about me? That I should even receive a second glance?

You’re My daughter, He says. It’s as simple as that. He smiles then. And I love you.

I am Your beloved. I am Your rebellious daughter. I break Your heart, come back for food and shelter, then I break it again. Your love is greater and stronger than anything I could ever begin to dream about. It is a love that sent an innocent Man to die for the most guilty of girls. Who am I that I should receive such a gift?

My daughter.

A betrayer.

My love.

A deserter.

My creation.

A failure.

My image.

One tarnished.

My precious child.

I miss you, Daddy.

This is who I am. I am a failure who’s trying. I am a deserter who’s learning to commit to Him. I am a broken and dirty sinner who’s learning to allow my Father to wash me clean and clothe me in white.

I am Yours. It’s as simple as that.

Choice

Choose Me.

As she spins around the ballroom, she hears the faint voice of temptation beckon to her. But amongst these frightening whispers, there is another. It is a soft, simple plea.

Choose Me.

She looks into the eyes of her dance partner.

 Choose Me.

The faces in the ballroom begin to blur. They stop dancing and stand in the middle of the floor, staring at each other for several moments. He reaches a hand toward her.

Choose Me.

Her hand slowly reaches to her face and grasps the white mask around her face. Would He still want her after the mask came off? After her nature is revealed?

Choose Me.

Why?

Because I chose you.

The faces around her disappear; the music, the voice, the sounds fall mute. She only sees Him and hears the simple message His eyes communicate.

Choose Me.

In one swift motion, she rips the mask from her face and braces herself for ridicule and rejection.

In that instant, she saw everything for what it was. The faces around her grew frightening. The white dress she thought she wore was stained with dirt and blood. She expected the man before her to turn away in disgust and leave her to the mercy of those around her. But instead, He pulls her tightly to Him.

Her eyes shot open and she wakes up where she left herself – in a cold, dark, dank cavern mustering the strength to take His hand. The things she tried to hold onto – her fantasies, her desires – they clung to her, taking her energy, her life, while enticing her to stay with them. Her eyes focus on the Man before her, still held back by the things she thinks she wants. His hand is outstretched toward her. His face, His eyes tell of His weariness along with something else: determination. Determination to bring her back to Him.

Choose Me.

She mustered all her strength and, as swiftly as she removed her mask, she swung her hand into His. He pulls her to Himself and banishes the darkness. Opening her eyes, she sees their familiar meeting spot. He comes up behind her and shows her what He sees when He looks at her. She averted her eyes, afraid of what she’d see. He beckons her to look, and it took as much courage as it did to place her hand in His and to remove her mask.

A face without blemishes or scars, a simple dress made of the purest light – she caught her gasp in her throat. This is how He sees her? She didn’t need a mask or an extravagant dress?

He extends a hand out to her once more, and with a smile, she took it as He drew her toward Him. Somewhere down the line, she learned to dance, and she couldn’t wait to show Him she didn’t need to stand on His feet anymore. She could really dance with Him.