God’s Canvas

… I was driving back home from a friend’s house in Kirkland at around 4 am Friday morning. The drive itself left me thinking and frustrated about one of the things I did that day. But as I crossed the 520 bridge into Seattle, I took a look to my right to see a beautiful sight. Along the horizon, there was a sea of colors painted across the morning sky. It was a clash of the former night sky and the morning rise. The dark hues of blue fighting to remain as the lighter shades started to shine brightly. The plane of orange along the horizon prepared the sun for its glorious appearance to the city. As I saw this, I was just in awe. The sky was God’s canvas and all I could think was “That’s a beautiful painting, God. You never fail to amaze me with what you can do and what you’ve done and shown in my life…”

It was a little over two weeks ago when all the conferees at Mt. Hermon began their trek to their homes, with memories and thoughts of God’s game plan in mind. But as I start to reflect on all the amazing moments throughout that last week in June, it reminds me of one thing: It’s all about you, Lord. It’s always about you. When I made the commitment about a month ago to cabin lead at InterHigh, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I began to have a lot of fears and worries start to take control of me. Will I be able to do this? Will I be able to handle that? Am I going to have to do this alone? I was concerned about my performance and leadership at camp… but that was the wrong mindset. It wasn’t about me first. It was about Christ. It was about God first.

As we walk along in our path in life, we’re walking into an unknown darkness that leaves us, at times, struggling with fear, worry, and temptation. Maybe it’s our grades, our relationships, or our careers. In a society where we’re so focused on individualism, we can easily become engulfed into thinking about ourselves and selfishness. We’re in a world where success is a means to survival and prosperity and instant gratification and sin are a way to personal, but temporary, happiness. These obstacles will always be scattered through our paths. And from there, we can succumb to those things… And it leaves us wondering and asking: where God was to get us out of that rut?

The answer is simple though… He was right behind us the entire time, waiting for us to turn around and call for Him.

During the week, I was reminded of Joshua and the battles he fought to regain Israel. There were a lot of actions that someone might think, “Why the heck am I doing this? Walk around the city this many times and look like a fool? Are you kidding me?” But Joshua didn’t. He wasn’t concerned about himself, he was doing what God told him to do and followed His will. As he did, cities fell, and Israel returned back to the control of his people. It was a matter of trusting God and God would fulfill His promise. He didn’t leave them stranded. Nor will He do the same to us. It’s important for us to get away from those thoughts of our own self-preservation, self-concern, and selfishness and to just say, “Christ, take me. Use me for your kingdom”…

When we say “Jesus isn’t a religion, but a relationship”, it’s exactly what it means. We don’t just go to church and small group every week and just read God’s Word everyday because we have to. It should be because we want to seek out a relationship with Him. Communicating with Him, glorifying Him in our everyday lives… but ultimately trusting Him and seeking His will. There is no relationship without those things in mind. Once we do, those once mountainous obstacles become anthills that we can just step over. It’s a matter of thinking about God and that it’s always putting Him before ourselves. He knows us better than we know ourselves. It reminds me of Psalm 37:3-7. When we commit ourselves to Him first, He will make something of the lives we live and see out our hopeful desires and dreams.

… As I got off the bridge and onto I-5, I thought about how much larger God is than my life. While I focused on myself and my concerns, I was left paranoid, in fear, and frustrated. But as I started to put more trust in Him, things started to work out and I could really start to see the works in His kingdom. As I thought about what I did that day, I realized the selfishness and the sin I committed towards my friend that day. I needed to look to Him to help me through the realization that I now had to deal with. While I was not happy with what I have on my hands now, I know that He loves me and He will provide for my needs. Rather than try to paint my own picture, I allow God to use me as His canvas to paint a picture of His love, His glory, and will for me for everyone else to see.

As I passed the UW exit, I looked up and I saw a cross shining brightly over the highway off the Calvary building. I smiled with a sense of relief. It was just another reminder of all the things He’s done for all of us and just how amazing a God He is.

To Forgive and Be Forgiven

From the moment we come into this world until the moment we leave it, we’re bound to mistakes in some way. They’re usually of varying severity, depending on the person that we’ve harmed. A small white lie… a rather defamatory insult… damage to something that was precious to someone else… and sometimes, it is far, far worse… The fact of the matter is that these mistakes are bound to happen, regardless of how much we try to prevent ourselves from making it a reality.

There’s always two parties involved when incidents like these happen. When we’re in the party that caused the problem, it’s our immediate duty to apologize regardless of how deserving it is or right we might think we are. If we are the ones that were the recipients of such actions, it’s our duty to forgive those that hurt us when they apologize.

Why? Like I said earlier, we’re all prone to making mistakes. We all are sinners. It is an unfortunate trait that we as humans possess. However, something to think about is this. Is it right for us to ask for forgiveness from someone if we can’t forgive someone else for what they’ve done to us? Or is it right to be expecting an apology from someone if we are too prideful that we won’t give one ourselves? We all want to be forgiven when we’ve hurt someone and to receive an apology when we’re been hurt.

This is obviously easier said than done. I know I haven’t been so easily swayed to do one or the other as a part of either party in the past. And I know I forget sometimes as well. Again, it’s a trait of humanity. It does take time as well to do this, depending on the severity and the extent of the damage. However, it regardless of how severe it is, if someone is to apology with their full and honest heart, it is important for the other to forgive with the same kind of heart. To either with any lesser kind of heart is about the same as not doing it at all. It shows that we don’t care or love them if we don’t do it without the fullness of our heart.

But lesson learned, in our daily lives, we should keep this in mind when things like this happen. Apologize for mistakes that you make. And forgive those that have committed mistakes that affect or hurt you and apologize. And do so with an honest and whole heart. Otherwise, it’ll hypocrisy if we choose not to.

In X Years, I Want To…

About a month ago, I went to a little birthday party for a friend of mine at a bar/pub in Fremont. I got the chance to hang out with him and some friends of his, chatting, laughing, and harassing him about being “so old”.

While talking to him, one of the girls at the table asked, “So… where do you see yourself and hope to do in one year, five years, and ten years?” He starts laughing in hopes to avoid the question. I start harassing him by throwing comments related to a thought going through his mind that “starts with L and ends in Z”. But he shared some things that he wanted to do, things he wanted to see, and other thoughts.

But it was an interesting question that the girl asked. It made me think about it for a second myself, even though it wasn’t directed at me. Where do we see ourselves in a year? Five years? Ten years? While I agree with the idea that it’s better to think and focus about the present time, there is no harm in just imagining and thinking about the future for the sake of daydreaming and just for fun.

What do I see myself doing in each of those years? Maybe some day I’ll share that, because right now, it’s still in a bit of limbo and chaos. But in the meantime, I’m going to go back to my state of sulking and “being emo” after seeing the Red Wings beat the Pens earlier tonight… It would have been nice to see Sid, Malkin, Hossa, and Staal win a Stanley Cup. 🙁

Quitting soccer…

A few weeks ago, I suffered my third concussion in the span of a year while playing soccer. A week before that, I landed on my head rather clumsy on a bad challenge and was dealing with a lot of headaches. The fact that I had taken two head injuries over a week span left me made me thinking long and hard about my health and well-being.

It’s the things that we love so dear sometimes that we have a hard time letting go of. Sometimes, it’s a loved one. Or it could be it’s an item we’ve treasured for so long. For me, soccer was one of those things I had loved a lot.

It wasn’t for the glory of playing the game, nor was it for bragging rights or even to work towards becoming the best. It was the fact that I learned about a game that isn’t about one person. Or two… Or even three. It was a collective whole that made it work. It was about building the trust between everyone on the team in order to succeed and progress.

But more importantly, it was about the relationships that I had built through playing the sport. Whether it was IMA teams, Shamrock leagues, or Co-Rec teams, I built a lot of friendships there. That’s what really crushed my spirit when I had to make this decision. I could still watch games from the sidelines, but it wouldn’t be the same as it is on the field. The difference in the relationships between player to spectator versus player to player is huge. The other thing was it wasn’t with just men, but women as well. It gave me a bit better understanding and more respect for women in the game. I cherish all my relationships with those on the teams I play with though.

How long am I quitting for? That seems to be the question everyone is asking. Some are saying that I should just take a break and come back. However, I already know the answer. It is for good. During that weekend, I considered all the pros and cons about a possible return. While I have control over my own actions, that only half of it. It’s about the opposing player that I can’t control. It wasn’t worth that risk of taking another injury from another place that could result in me suffering serious brain damage or disabling motor skills. To have to deal with that as well as my friends and family suffering the consequences due to it wasn’t something I was willing to make them go through. Being unable to serve, my family, my friends, the community and the world would be extremely difficult as well and I didn’t want to do that either.

While it’s sad for me to have to quit playing the game, I know it doesn’t mean that I am leaving everything behind and moving on to something else. I will still try to be involved somehow. It could be coming to games to support or it could be helping with managing teams. I don’t know, but I will still be around.

Though this door has started to shut itself, I know that there will be another one that will open up for me. It’s the way life and God works with all of us.

Reality Check…

The past year has been frustrating to say the least. There have been some bright spots, but for the most part, it had taken its toll on me. I’ve tried to maintain a positive attitude despite the problems that have risen and the events that affected me. The three concussions in the past year forcing me to quit a game I’ve loved to play for the past few years… all the job rejections that I’ve had to deal with… the relationships that I’ve cherished so much have started to fade away… my mental health slowly deteriorating due to my head injuries… my inability to work out my relationship with one of my best friends… and much more.

Over the past couple of weeks, these things started to overwhelm me. And in doing so, emotions started to flare a bit more. I started to get a lot more upset and more apathetic about things. My mind kept thinking “Screw going to church and the retreat. This job hunt is pointless. My degree was just a waste of thousands of dollars. There’s no point in staying in Seattle anymore.” I just surrounded myself with negativity and tried to verify my current situation with blame and anger. While I didn’t show it in public, I was constantly fuming. Negativity just swarmed my thoughts frequently. I started returning back to my old ways, becoming ticked off at life and isolating myself from everyone else whenever possible.

Then I was reminded of how selfish I started to become again…

Thoughts flooded my mind of the current state of the world and all the tragedies that have been occurring over the past few weeks: The hundred thousand people in Myanmar that have lost their lives, and the many more that have lost their homes, loved ones, and much more due to the cyclone. The ten thousand that died due to the earthquake in China in the past few days. It wasn’t just that, but other events as well: The genocides in Darfur, the HIV virus epidemic, the war in Iraq, and the struggles going on in Israel, the homeless that are across the US. So many of these events came up and forced me to think about my life right now… and how fortunate I should feel.

I’d become unthankful despite what God’s provided for me throughout my life. He provided me a place where I can live, a family that loves me for who I am despite my downfalls and struggles, a great group of friends that care about me and help me get back on my feet when I fall, two great roommates and a best friend that listen, give me advice and help me through the tough times. And ultimately the love that He alone provides me through the best of times and the worst of times. I had forgotten everything He’s done for me that it left me feeling broken and asking His forgiveness for what I had done. The fact of the matter is I could have be somewhere else in this world right now, struggling and suffering much, much more. What I have to deal with is nothing compared to what many in this world have to deal with.

All that I can do is be thankful for how good of a life that I’ve been given. For me to wallow in such self-centered thoughts and be frustrated about my future was not the kind of person that He asked me to be. It’s to use my resources and gifts that I have to provide to those that are in need for this world. And to be thankful for how amazing a situation I am in right now. God gave me a reality check and a swift kick in the… Well, you can pretty much finish this sentence. It’s what I needed to realize how good I have it right now.

A Fresh Start…

A fresh start… Does it mean starting from scratch? Or does it mean coming off from something previously? What does it exactly mean? Anyway, I’ve decided to start anew and completely write something new and more focused than what I have done before. Life’s more than just those things we see. But it’s more about the things that we don’t see in front of us. So what is out there?