Monday, December 27, 2010

Chopin's Charm

For the last few days, I can't stop listening to Chopin's Ballade No.1, Op.23.

Growing up I was never a fan of Chopin's work. I played quite a lot of his waltzes but otherwise had very narrow exposure of his music. Also I was going through a rebellious feminist phase, turned off by anything romantic. So I discounted his music as "nice background music" and never explore further.

As I return to practicing the piano, I attempt some of his Etudes to improve my technique, and ended up falling in love with Op. 10 No. 9. If he could write an exercise piece that breaks my heart (take that Hanon!), what else he could do? Browsing through my current favorite pianist's work I found the ballades, and I'm still at No. 1.

Well it is anything but background music. Its dramatic narration is at times melancholy, reflective, and at times hopeful. It grabs your heart to a stormy journey and leaves you with a maddening ending.

I'm sure my inclination to repeat listening is partly due to my obsessive nature. But the popularity of this piece has proven that I'm not the only one drawn to it. Now I have to scour other interpretations of the piece to compare. Maybe next year I'll be able to move on to Ballade No. 2.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Giver of Music

It's Christmas day and gifts galore. As I reminded my boys to write thank you cards, I found out I need to examine my own thankfulness as well.

Since my "obsession du jour" has been piano playing and classical music, I realize I haven't been thankful to God for my ability to both play and enjoy. I have been constantly coveting the technique, musicality and even the big hands of various concert pianists. And don't get me started on child prodigies!

Granted, my talent has nothing worth bragging about, but what a gift it is to be able to make music on a beautiful instrument. From the interpretations of virtuoso pianists like Richter, Argerich, Horowitz, Kempff and more recently, Kempf, I get to appreciate Bach's earnestness, Beethoven's fiery passion and Chopin's poetic sensitivity, (Thank you YouTube!)

So I'll never be a concert pianist. But even if I'll never be able to play Rachmaninoff's fat chords, Chopin's Etudes in the speed of lightning, or even finish playing the 1st Movement of Pathétique without my left hand falling off, (those pesky tremolos!) I'm tremendously and undeservingly blessed with the beauty of music in my life.

And do I need to be reminded, on Christmas day, that the greatest gift we have is Jesus who was born unto us, to live a perfect life to cloak us with His righteousness, and to die to paid the penalty of our sins? Actually, I do.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Air Pianist

Whose 4-year-old boy would throw a big fit because he fell asleep in the van and missed listening to Beethoven's CD? Well, mine would. And I don't know any other child who would dash to the CD player once we got home to jam to Sonata Pathétique, playing air piano and trying to bounce his hair, imitating his favorite pianist. Bravo my boy. Bravo.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back to Tickling the Ivories

Recently I've return to playing the piano after more than a 15-year hiatus. This is a significant event for me. Since I thought I left that life 20 years ago.

Throughout my years in elementary through high school, I was known in schools for my piano playing. I accompanied for years for choirs in schools, played Catholic masses every week for 6 years, even played for two weddings for my high school teachers, which were supreme honors. My reputations was hinged on my playing, and unsurprisingly, my head got pretty big in those years.

Then came college away from home. I had picked a practical field to major in, but of course I have to check out the music department. There I heard freshmen students practicing, and I was floored by how good they were, and more importantly, how much they were better than me. I realized I wasn't as talented as I, or people around me thought. But I wasn't as crushed as I thought I would. After years of stressful piano exams, competitions and reputation-maintaining, I was ready to move on and explore other interests. And eventually I changed my major to a field I'd never get a job in, and had a great time taking fun classes with hefty tuition paid by my dad.

From time to time I'd stopped by the practice rooms and banged out a few pieces, but that bought me very little joy. Because unless I managed to sneak into an unlock room with a grand piano for graduate students, the rooms for the "mortals" are stuffy tiny boxes with falling apart unknown brand pianos, with sticky and out of tune keys. The walls are filled with graffiti, either of pretentious poetry, or lusting of the department's only cute professor. I don't think I was ever there for more than a half hour at a time.

Then come graduation, jobs, moving, getting married, having kids. In other words, life. I didn't have access to a piano all those time, and even on the back of my mind I always thought I'd get a piano someday, I never thought I'd go back to it as intense as it is.

to be continued...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Practice of Piety/Spiritual Discipline

Lessons learned and reflections from Tabletalk Issue July 2010

We're saved/justified by faith, not by our works, but the work of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9, out of many, many verses that said the same thing) But throughout the ages, the people of God have recognized that the pursuit of the Lord is not a passive endeavor. It requires our effort, and we must WORK to know the Lord is we are to deepen our relationship with Him.

While aspects of personal piety ("piety" means religious devotion?) , such as music, prayer, Bible study, meditation and more are not what save us, God has purposes in giving us these spiritual exercises.

"Growth in grace is a lifetime process, aided by several spiritual disciplines outlined in sacred Scripture" (Tabletalk July 2010 p.29)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salvation in History

Lessons and reflections from Tabletalk, issue March 2010

The salvation that Christianity proclaims is a salvation grounded in history. God enters into history, or I should say God create history, and work through real people, institutions, and events to save His people.

Through studying the Old Testament, we can see how Christ and His church are promised, through people like Abraham, Joshua and David. In events like the Exodus, and in the institution of monarchy. We can learn from them, these people and events from long ago, how to please our common God in our day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sounds of Life

One of the activities I like to do with my boys is to have them close their eyes and identify the sounds they hear. According to some parenting books it's supposed to heighten their sensory or something like that. I'd say it's a good way to have them be quiet for a few moments.

So one day I tried the exercise myself. I heard the washing machine, dishwasher, the CD player cranking up music so loud I bet the neighbors from 3 blocks away can hear it, the boys banging (I mean drumming) the life out of any surface with any object remotely shaped like a stick, while belting out a medley of tunes at the top of their lungs.

Those are the sounds of home, of life. And what a blessed life this is. Even though we'll probably all go deaf within 5 years.

The Ultimate Problem-Solver

If someone comes to me with a problem, I'm more inclined to solve it than to empathize with the person, a trait more stereotypically found in men.

Regardless of what problems we have or had, there is no bigger problem than sin. Sin separate us from God, and bring us condemnation to eternal torment of hell. What other problem can be bigger than that?

Our sins gave us the worst problem, God gave us the perfect solution:

1. Incarnated His Son on earth to live a perfect life, so those who put their faith in Him can be clothed with His righteousness.

2. Sent His Son to die a gruesome death for our place on the cross, so His justice can be done.

So what are YOU going to do with this amazing God? Ignore Him? Do good deeds to appease Him? Call on Him only when you're in trouble?

How about: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Mark 12:30

Sounds great, isn't it? But how's THAT going to be carried out?

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Good Question

My 3.5-year-old son:

"How do you put hair on your armpit?"

Thank goodness he was talking to my husband, not me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Politics of MacGyver

"In 1991, the conservative Media Research Center named "MacGyver" one of the ten most "liberally biased" TV shows of the 1990-1991 season because of its focus on the environment, gun control, and foreign affairs." MacGvyer Online

So when did focus on the environment become a political issue? And spinning off on that, when is ANY issue become political? I found issues can be social, moral, military, foreign affairs and such. But when an issue becomes political, it clouds people's judgment and motives. I suspect sometimes, if most times, politicians oppose whatever the other party suggested, without considering if the idea has any merit or not. One could disagree with an issue within the party, but is pressured to follow along. Sometimes I think, politicians and voters alike, are too focused on insulting the other party to think of constructive solutions for problems in our country.

Maybe it's better to eliminate all political parties, and everyone runs for the office as independent. That way the candidates can truly states their stands on issues without the the distraction and the dirt of politics. But I guess the founding fathers did have a point about setting up our current governing system–to prevent anyone nor any group of people gaining too much power. For a country made up of imperfect and fallible humans, this is probably the best system to have.

At least we have something to forward to: when God establishes His Kingdom here at the end of the time we'll have one leader, one ruler that we all know can't be wrong on ANY issue. And we won't have to debate to death about them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Swiss Army Knife Show

I feel dorky to admit that lately I've been watching MacGyver on the CBS website. The viewing began for nostalgia's sake, but now I think it's actually a pretty good TV show. Sure, it can be campy at times, and Richard Dean Anderson, as handsome as he is, his mullet in the later seasons is still hard for me to get used to. But the show is smart, clean, and surprisingly, I can learn a thing or two about science. Do you know that you can break a light bulb with drain cleaner? Yes it really works! Remember that next time you need to escape from various thugs!

I watched MacGyver during my teenage years when it first aired. Soon I had my heart set on getting my own Swiss Army Knife, which my doting daddy complied. Though I hardly use it, I still think it's something everyone should have.

But as I find out more about the show now, questions on political and social issues were raised. Boy, I can't just enjoy a TV show without going into those topics, can I?

To be continued...

All Theology Roads Lead to Romans?

Paul the Apostle's letter to the Romans has a special place in my heart. Not only it's because I love learning about theologies, and this letter is loaded with them. But also it was the book that was preached on when I became a Christian. When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to understanding some of the doctrines taught there I had no choice but to surrender my life to this amazing God and His gospel.

The way Paul wrote the letter reminded me of how master film directors who don't waste a frame of film nor a line that doesn't further the plot nor character development. There is no "filler" verse in the letter. Studying more than a few verses at a time would surely set my head spinning.

My women's Bible study group has spent about four months studying the first five chapters. My plan is to review them this summer before we continue in the Fall so I can have a really good solid understanding. I pray that what I learn will not only satisfy my quest for knowledge of God, but through that, I'll draw closer to God.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Moneyback Guarantee?

I got a colorful direct mail from a new local church, promoting their sermon series on improving family relationships. The brochure highlights the "five guarantees" of the church:

A Casual and Contemporary Atmosphere!

The Music Will be Contemporary!

Your Kids will Love It!

The Talk will be Positive and Encouraging!

You are our Guest! We want you to feel relaxed, welcomed and accepted!

As I got all dizzy with all those exclamation points, I try to look for any indication, other than the name of the church, that it's actually a "Christian Church". Well, in the mist of all the promises to make sure the readers know this is not the kind of church that is "boring" or "stiffly", I finally see the word "Bible" in the kids section, indicting that after all, the kids are going to hear some Bible stories. But nowhere is "God" nor "Jesus" even mentioned.

I got curious and checked its website. While the mission statement is still man-centered rather than God-centered, at least the doctrines seem solid. I'm praying that the brochure is more like a "bait-and-switch", lures people in and then fill them with Scriptures and the greatness of God. Though I'm not even sure if I like that approach to outreach.

Here's what I'd like a Christian church to guarantee:

We will only and always teach from the Bible.

We will remind you of the sorrow state men are in without God, and then rejoice in the mercy and grace that our glorious God freely gives through Christ Jesus.

While we bask in God's mercy and grace, we understand the seriousness of sins and therefore we will exhort you to a live a holy life.

Our worship will focus on God. Not so much as "what God can do for me" type, but meditating on and praising God's wonderful attributes.

And yes, we do want you to feel welcomed and accepted. But more importantly, we want you to grow in your faith and depth of your relationship with God.

And moreover, no overuse of exclamation points in our brochures!

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Laughing!

Recently, my three-year-old son has been talking non-stop:

Are your teeth falling out?

No honey.

Because you brush your teeth?

Yes, I brush them every night.

I brush them every night too!

That's great honey.

If you eat sugar, you have to brush your teeth so your teeth won't fall out!

That's why we don't eat sugary food.

Only once in a while.

That's right. Only once in a while.

The way he is so serious about what he says is just super cute. But I have to remind myself I can't laugh because he'd perceive as me laughing at him.

A friend's mom laughed when overhearing her pouring her heart out with her sister. It took her a long time before she trusted her again, even she was only 12. I remember a teacher in high school, when I told her teenagers can have our share of troubles too, she snickered. And right there and then, I lost ALL respect for her.

Of course it doesn't mean I can't laugh when I share them with my husband after they fall asleep at night!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Not to Judge

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged". Matthew 7:1

A presidential candidate recently used this Bible verse to support his stance on a social issue. This verse is probably one of the most quoted out of context, misunderstood and misapplied verses.

In Romans, the "Do Not Judge" idea is repeated and expanded:

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Romans 2:1-4

The "therefore" in the verse 1 was referring to the previous verses, where the Apostle Paul was saying how NO ONE was righteous, therefore we shouldn't judge others.

So what should we do? Eliminate the whole judicial system? Keep quiet when we see the wrongs in the world? Tolerate, accept and approve all behaviors?

As Christians, the Holy Spirit in us enable us to discern what's right and wrong according to God, not man. And this is a good thing. However, what are in our hearts, what are our attitudes when we recognize sins in others? Do we:

• Feel great about ourselves because we don't/think we don't commit the same sin?
• Feel superior? Prideful?
• Have a sense of self-righteousness?
• Extend condemnation instead of compassion?

What we should be doing instead:
• Be humble and recognize that it's ONLY through God's grace and mercy that we can be free from any sin.
• Recognize that we too are sinners, not better than them.
• Be thankful for God's "kindness, tolerance and patience," Romans 2:4
• Be compassionate. Serve, minister and pray instead of condemn.
• Grief for their sins, and ours.
• Repent our own sins.

One of the impressions many has of Christians are that we are all too eager to wag our fingers at what others do. Unfortunately, it's true for many Christians, both true and self-proclaimed ones. I, too, have done this. When we are prideful and self-righteous, we are much less effective in ministering and being a light for God. Not to mention "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2.

Now go read your Bible again, Mr. Presidential Candidate.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Enjoy Movies, Without Watching Them!

The last time I watched a movie from beginning to end was the third installment of The Lord of the Rings. So it's been a long time, especially for someone with a college degree majoring in Broadcasting and Film.

Film is a wonderful medium for artists. It has a vast canvas, where layers and layers of stories, emotions, characters, themes, symbolism and other artistic elements can be packed in.

And that is one of the reasons I hardly watch any movie anymore. I don't see movies as much as entertainment, but as a work of art to be moved, experienced, analyzed and researched to death. With the life stage I am in, I can't, and I am not willing to commit my very limited free time and energy to do so.

Another important reason is that as a Bible-believing Christian, I'm wary of what goes into my head. Garbage in, garbage out. With a corrupted mind and sinful heart, I can hardly afford to actively put in more God-dishonoring language nor images in my head. There are movies out there with incredible directing, superb acting and beautifully shot, but the profane language and scenes of gratuitous graphic sex/violence ruined them for me. It's one thing to be in a sinful environment to minister and serve, but there's no eternally value to analyze why the director composed the shots in a certain way.

But that doesn't mean I need to detach myself completely from movies. I watch movie trailers, read movie reviews and spoilers, and even watch a few clips from Youtube if they look promising.

Not only it's interesting for me to keep up to date with what kind of movies are out there, it helps me to continue to know and understand the worldly culture, help me to relate to others without endorsing nor becoming like it.

There's a whole other discussion about how Christians should relate to the secular culture. But that's another post for another day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

St. Louis, Circa 1994

My first and only trip to St. Louis was during my junior or senior year in college. I, along with four other foreign students, participated in video project about our college life in America. It was such a big hit we were sent to present it at a international student conference in St. Louis. On that trip, I traveled with great company and had an amazing time. I even played tambourine on stage with a band in a bar! But it was something else that turned that trip into an unforgettable experience.

On the trip with me were Karin, the smartest girl from Denmark, and Ansa, a kind and gentle boy from Africa. Together we were like a walking music video of "We are the World", drawing attention wherever we go. We finished our presentation and immediately skipped out of the conference for sightseeing.

We shared a room in a seedy motel. Before we headed out for a night out, we heard noises like a hard object being banged on the wall, and then screaming and crying. We told the owner at the reception about it. With a thick Indian accent, he told us the phone in that room didn't seem to work, but he promised to try again later.

When we came back, we heard a man complaining to the owner about being hot in the room, AND the phone not working. It dawned on us that's the man in the room across from us. "Brother, let's have a talk," Ansa approached the man, as Karin and I went up to his room to check on his family.

His wife, in her early twenties, had a bruise on her face, and three young children with her. We tried to play with the kids, but they just stared at us with the most vacant eyes I've ever seen. We told her she got options, there are places that she could take the kids to and be safe. She said she'd go stay with her mother.

Ansa returned, with the news that the husband went out for a drink. We returned to our rooms, promised the family help if they wanted.

The next morning, with muffins and orange juice in hand, we knocked on their door. The wife answered, and told us she was just going to stay with her husband. Our hearts sank, knowing she'd get hit again, and there was nothing else we could do.

The drive home was quiet. For the first time in our sheltered life, we experienced the ugliness of the world outside our comfortable college campus. We aged years in the space of a few days.

Regrettably, I've lost touch with both Karin and Ansa. I wonder if they still remember that trip. I pray that in some way, however small, God had used us to extend some comfort and hope to the wife and the children that night. I pray that the family is now doing well, that God's grace and mercy had transformed their lives.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mad World

The top news stories on the internet today includes a natural disaster, a presidential race filled with candidates with less than desire values, and no peace in sight for war-torn countries. Even the entertainment section headlines a young actor's tragic death.

It's no big revelation that we live in a messed up world. And it has been this way since Adam and Eve, instead of trusting and obeying God, believed Satan's lies and choose to decide for themselves what's right and what's wrong instead.

As long as sin is in the world, suffering on this world is inevitable. As Christians, we have an eternal hope that through Jesus complete work on the cross, one day we'll be where "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


My three-year-old son is all about the moon these days. Every night he'd ask if the moon has come out yet. We're blessed to live in a house where the moon is clearly visible through our playroom window during the full moon phrase. So tonight we spent quite a bit of time sitting by the window with the lights turned off, gawking jaw-dropped at the brilliant moon as it lit up the room.

Compare to many other stars, the moon is tiny and quite insignificant. There are countless other stars, suns, galaxies exist in the universe far beyond the strongest telescope can see. Even if a person just minimally believes God's hand is at least involved somehow, how can the sheer number of stars doesn't blow one's mind and see how powerful and majestic this God is?

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands"
Psalm 19:1

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Can Lead a Horse to the Water...

Never before a baby can be so similar to a odd-toed ungulate mammal than my 15-month old. Against my instinct, I caved into pressure and pushed solid food on him before he was ready. So my strong-willed child clamped up for months and had very low weight gain. Of course we got worried and pushed him harder. It wasn't until a few weeks ago when we stopped pressuring him, and now for the first time in his life he discovered the joy of eating solid food and his weight is much more satisfactory. Whew!

So at this tender young age, he is already teaching us that he is his own person, not an extension of us. That is so annoying. I want to control what, when and how much he eats, what his interests and beliefs are. I want to pick his wife for him (let's bring back arranged marriage!), choose his career, and arrange the house a few blocks from us for him to live. Since all these probably won't happen, all I can do is to do the best I can to teach and give him the resource for wisdom. And to be on my kneels everyday to pray for God's touch on his heart.

I guess I should be thankful for this lesson and practice in letting go, and trust that ultimately he (and all of us) is in God's hands. So when he finally move out to be on his own, hopefully I won't be grabbing onto his heels screaming, "my baby!"

The neighbors would think I'm so weird.

Monday, January 14, 2008

And Apple Was Its Name, O

With the buzzing anticipation of Steve Jobs' keynote speech at Macworld Conference and Expo, bloggers had make all sorts of contests and games. My favorite? Apple Keynote Bingo Card!

(click on image to view larger)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And Deliver Me from My Own Stupidity, Amen.

It's amazing that I'm alive and well today, consider all the stupid things I've done in my life.

Case in point: As a college student, I decided to photograph and interview a local artist for a class. He lived half an hour of driving away, and I had no car nor a driver's license. I enlisted a friend to drive me there, but she couldn't drive me back. So I checked the Greyhound bus schedule and planned to go home that way. Well, by the time I arrived at the bus station after 5 p.m., the last bus was long gone and only one staff remained. As I pondered my next step, he offered to give me a ride home when his wife came to pick him up. While I know hopping into a car with strangers wasn't the best idea, I agreed to his plan. I guess I felt at ease because it wasn't just him, but his wife will be there also. So the couple and their son went out of their way and drive half an hour to get me home. I thanked them profusely, and they would not accept anything from me.

They could be serial killers, and I could meet my well-deserved end there by my own stupidity. But instead God delivered me and kept me safe.

So to those kind souls who were so generous with their time to help a foreign student, I can't thank you enough. I hope that somehow in some way you know you have my gratitude, and God is praised because of you.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Are You Game?

"Keep the house spotless, look after the children, feed the family, and push your multi-tasking skills to the limit."

You'd think that is a partial description of what a parent do. But it's actually for a computer "game" called Nanny Mania.

So when did completing mundane tasks online become a game people do for fun? I'll bet no busy mom would play that one.

I have no desire to own any video game system. I don't have the time and energy to play video games anyway. But now I guess since my daily life is like one I have no reason to have one, ever.

What are they going to have next, have a "Filling-Out-Forms" game?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Numbing Machine

I have a pile of unfinished "draft" blog entries that never got posted. One of them is about television and young children. Then I found this post, which approached this subject with more adequateness and articulation than I can ever muster. So here's the link:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Best Advice to the President

"Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him." Psalm 2:10-12

The Good Fear

As I read the Psalms 1-2 and Proverbs 1, I found a very similar theme:

Fear of the Lord=Wise, which leads to good consequences
No fear of the Lord=Foolish, which leads to very bad consequences.

It sounds simple but it's so true. How foolish it is for one to ignore, deny, scoff, rebel against, despise and/or hate God's word? Do we really think we can win when fighting with the almighty God, who create the world by just by speaking and can wipe it out the same way?

Sure, God is also a loving, caring and compassionate God. But many people focus just on the "warm fuzzy' part, and neglect the other attributes of God such as almighty, powerful, holy and just. The God in the Old Testament is the same never-changing God in the New Testament, the same God we have today.

So take heed to the wisdom of Solomon, and have a healthy dose of fear for our God. The other alternative is not pretty.

"Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices." Proverbs 1:29-31

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fruits and Lots of Them. A.K.A My Goal This Year

As I reflect on the year 2007, I think that while I've grown in the knowledge of various theologies and solidified my Christian worldview, I have not been reading the Bible and in prayer as much, hence feeling disconnected with God. It's like I know all the FACTS about a person, such as his favorite food and book, but if I never listen to him nor talk to him, I don't have RELATIONSHIP with him and we don't truly know each other.

Therefore one of my goals this year is to be more consistent in the Word and in prayer. Beginning with Psalm 1:

"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season" Psalm 1:1-3a

My prayer is that we'll plant ourselves by the streams of God's Word, and through the Holy Spirit, we'll yield more fruit than the farmers' market in the summer.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Happy 1st Birthday, Under Grace!

That's right. This blog was started exactly a year ago.

So the entries have been scarce, especially during the second half of the year. But the fact that I'm still writing is something that pleases me.

To my (very) few readers, I hope this blog has blessed you in some way. It certainly has blessed me. It had provide me a free place to vent and to de-clutter my mind.

So off we go to another year of blogging. I have a few new ideas and projects in mind. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

So Cool...Yet So Useless

I don't care much for useless knickknacks, but I got to admit this is pretty cool.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Global Warming and God's Will

In previous post I wrote about Greg Craven's series of videos on global climate change, and I found one of them is called "God's Will". In it he tries to tackle the viewpoint of global warming is God's will, therefore we're powerless to stop it. He gave an illustration of how we would take the matter into our own hands if the scale of pollution is small, and challenged us to think where should the line be drawn between human's doing versus God's doing as the scale gets bigger.

Craven handled this viewpoint respectfully. However, he made some unmentioned assumptions:

1. He presented those who believe global warming is God's will thinks since there's nothing we can do about it, hence we don't need to do anything.
Maybe some people do think this way. However, just because it's God's will doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything about it. It's like saying it's God's will for my roof to leak, therefore I shouldn't go fix it. It's God's will for the crops to grow, but we still have to water and fertilize them. God regular carries out His will using us as His tool.

2. That if the size of the problem is small it's all men's doing.
God has EVERYTHING to do with EVERYTHING. If I did good on an exam, it is because I studied hard. But God is the one that deal with all my brain cells that remember what I read, and deal with how my eyes see and transmit the information to my brain. He kept my heart beating and alive so I can study. He didn't put me in an accident on the way to the exam. And the list goes on and on.

In summary, I think nothing falls outside of God's will, but we should still take actions as God can work through us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How It All Ends

Oregon high-school science teacher Greg Craven's series of videos on global warming, How It All Ends, has made him somewhat of a celebrity. His simple argument, "the risk of not acting on climate change far outweighs the risk of acting," and his earnest and quirky appeal, has won him more than 4 million views worldwide through YouTube and other video posting websites.

But this is not what this blog entry is about. While the video title is "How it All Ends", it really doesn't tell us about the very very end. The ultimate end. The Grand Finale. The fat-lady-sing type of end.

To learn about that end, you have to read this.

Yes, that's the "final-showdown-between-God-and-Satan" end. To oversimplify, the following will happen:

1. Satan will be defeated once and for all: (not a big surprise, isn't it?)
"and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Revelation 20:10

2. Those whose names are in God's Book of Life will dwell with God, where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

3. I hate to do a "fire and brimstone", but the fact is:
"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

If you think thank goodness I'm not a murderer, a sexually immoral...etc. Well, think again. In Roman 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". You can also read this again. (Yes, I actually finished reading that book, though I kind of just browse through the last few chapters. Got to go reread it again some time.)

The good news comes in the very next verses in Roman 3:24-25:
"and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

So if you don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, or if you believe you need or can add something other than Jesus work on the cross (good works, religion...etc.) to bridge the great gap of men and God, use the logic of Mr. Craven: the risk of not acting far outweighs the risk of acting. With an open mind, read the Bible from beginning to end. Don't take verses out of its context. Go do some research on how the Bible come about, pray for guidance. Don't believe something just because someone in authority tells you. Find it out for yourself. If the Bible is wrong, the most you'll lost are some time and energy. But if what the Bible says it's true, the worst-case scenario for you will be extremely far worse than those from global climate change.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Be a Historian

I need to include myself more in photographs with my boys.

Ever since my first baby is born, I am rarely in the pictures since I'm usually the one with the camera. I had no problem with this, it's the babies that are the cute ones anyway. But then I imagine them all grown up, and wonder what their father and I used to look like. I know when I look at my own baby photos, I am always intrigued by how my parents used to look, how they used to dress and more. I wonder what their daily lives are like, what are their hopes and dreams? I want to document that for my children.

Documenting our own lives is not being self-absorbed. It's the history of our families and a way to take inventory of God's blessings. Imagine your great-grandchildren reading about the people and events that shaped you and how God had worked in our lives.

So go ahead, take photographs of yourselves, write stories of your lives, however mundane they seem like. They'll be treasures for generations to come.

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy 4:9

Friday, July 27, 2007

Happiness Vs Joy

My personal definition for "happiness" and "joy" are very different. In a nutshell, I define "happiness" as a a emotion feeling of well-being and contentment, which is affected by external circumstances. Mostly from shallowly things such as enjoying good food, or for me, being able to eat without interruption from my children.

I think most people would define "joy" as something like "really happy by something more meaningful" such as having a good relationship with our families, or being able to help someone in need. But for me I believe true and lasting joy can only comes from God. And it would not waver due to any change of circumstances, because God is the only one sure thing that never change.

Our delight in God, His attributes and His promises are what gives us everlasting joy. When Paul was in prison, I'd bet he's not happy about it. Yet his letter to the Philippians, written in prison, is full of joy. The words "joy" or "rejoice" are used fourteen times!

John Piper, an gifted preacher and writer, wrote "...only God can create joy in God. This is why the old saints not only pursued joy but prayed for it..." How true! My prayer, to quote Mr. Piper's book When I Don't Desire God, is this:

"And thus give them more joy than all the gladness that the world can give. And by this joy in Jesus Christ, fit them to love and serve and sacrifice. And by this joy, with which they bear their cross, Lord, cause the earth to know what you are truly worth."

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Dilemma of Play

Almost everyday you can find news on young children being kidnapped, or die in accidents because the caregiver "looked away for a second." But then there are regular articles like this one, saying children's social development and creativity suffers when they don't have enough unsupervised outdoor free play.

So what's a parent to do? Let them roam free in the neighborhood and risk being abducted and/or get into a serious accident? Or keep an eye on them everywhere and stunt their growth?

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Wise-Cracking God?

The extent of God's holiness is way beyond our comprehension. There is nothing and no one even can compare to Him. We're not on a same playing field as God. We have to be very careful not to humanize God, because that's not the God of the Bible.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:8

That's why I'm disturbed to see even Christianity Today, a Christian publication, gave the movie Evan Almighty a glowing review. In the movie, God is played by Morgan Freeman, who instructed a modern day character, Evan Baxter, to build a ark just like Noah of the Old Testament. Well, the fact that the moment God revealed Himself to Evan, he didn't fall flat on his face with reverence, fear and worship is enough for me to give it a very thumbs-down. So the movie has positive elements such as family value, but it depicts our almighty God merely a perfect human with super powers. That, my friend, is beyond unacceptable.

Focus On the Family's media review site, Plugged In, also gave this movie a positive review. But the founder of the ministry, Mr. James Dobson, put in his personal comments at the end that nailed my sentiments. You go, Mr. D.