24 December 2011

Somebody Else's Thoughts, No. 5

What sweeter music can we bring, 
Than a Carol, for to sing 
The Birth of this our heavenly King? 
Awake the Voice! Awake the String! 
Heart, Ear, and Eye, and every thing 
Awake! the while the active Finger
Runs division with the Singer.

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this Day,
That sees December turned to May.

If we may ask the reason, say
The why and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time of the year?

Why does chilling Winters morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a Mead new-shorn,

Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.

We see him come and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

The darling of the world is come
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him, and bequeath
The Holly, and this Ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who's our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

Robert Herrick
A Christmas Carol, Sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall

09 November 2011

On God and wrath in the Old Testament

"I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn't God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love."

Miroslav Volf

07 November 2011

O simple thing, where have you gone?

Tonight I found myself with comparatively little homework, and the same forecast for the week ahead in school. At loss for stress, I dimmed the lights in my room, turned on some classical music, and sat on my bed by the window and leisurely read a book I picked up from the library. I noticed some pitter-pattering on the window, and I decided to open it up a little and stick my head out. A light fog had encompassed the trees, and small brushes of rain brushed my hair. Out in the distance was a pink and gray sky, appearing ominous yet hopeful.
I remember the last distinct time I saw such a sky was my first year in academy. My roommate and I couldn't sleep, and I rolled up our window blinds and we saw a strangely lit sky at a late time in what was supposed to be a dark night, though foggy and mysterious.
"It's as if something's going to happen," I observed.
"Like Jesus is going to come?" he asked.
— ✈ —
I was reading this evening  from Madeleine L'Engle's Penguins & Golden Calves: Icons and Idols. It is a wonderful, delightful read on her simple approach to theology, exposing the beauty in mere Christianity. One of the themes of her book is the need for Christianity to return to simple faith. She shares the story of a friend of hers who comforts a boy living in neglected circumstances, his parents always drunk and fighting. "I'm going to send a special prayer for you," her friend says to the boy. "I'm going to ask for four guardian angels, one to stand at each corner of your bed. They will watch over you and keep you safe, and their love will enclose you." The boy comes back the next morning, and when her friend asks how he slept, the boy replies, "I think we can cut down on the angel guard. The flapping of their wings kept me awake."
"We lose that wondrous ability to believe," Madeleine writes, "in the inestimable power of love as we grow older and learn, often in brutal ways, that many people are unloving indeed, a realization which makes us question God's love."

There was a Week of Prayer speaker I heard who admonished the belittling of faith.
He asked, When we're driving in the city and we see a funeral going on, and there are all these people mourning in slow procession - why is it that we don't have the sudden urge to get out of the car, open up the casket, and say "In the name of Jesus, arise!"?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a teacher I highly regard. I was working on a report on Adventist Education, and I asked him something about where we might have gone astray. We have as a people of faith diminished the expectations of our faith, and the theology we teach in the classroom doesn't reflect our actions in reality; we resist the work of the Spirit of God. If God were to send an angel down to the room of a student, delivering a message that the student was to share with the school, we wouldn't believe that student. That, my teacher said, is our problem today in our education. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith upon the earth?

Berrien Springs, Michigan

05 November 2011

What we need to hear

Be it the family tradition, the cessation of labor, or the sounds and smells of sacredness, they who keepeth the Sabbath know it approacheth when it approacheth. For me there has almost always been something special that comforted me that Sabbath was near. As a child, that was my mother making the Sabbath dinner; in middle school, it was no homework; in academy it was vespers with peers.

Today I tried to find something, some spiritual atmosphere to remind me I could rest, because with the end of the semester approaching, I sure can't feel rest. I did community service in some project neighborhoods, and that didn't turn out well. I went to one vespers program and I wasn't feeling the spirit, so I checked out another program and that one wasn't exactly for my age group. At last I went to the vespers that the African-American brethren organize, and I found the blessing for which I was wrestling with God.

When my mother and father came with me to Andrews at the beginning of the school year, they had shared stories with me of their experiences in the east coast back in New York. The east coast is a beautiful place for Adventism, at least in some aspects. There is a rich cultural diversity here, and there is a deep loyalty for the faith since it was here in the east Adventism began. In our church in New York, my mother told me people addressed each other as Brother This, or Sister That. My father told me about the diverse styles of worship and preaching. When I told them the diversity I was seeing, I think they were glad that I could see what they used to see.

So at the final vespers I visited tonight, the preacher said his brother was shot last week, but he praised the Lord for it. Sometimes the Lord has to bring us to a point of hardship so we can see the light. I remembered when that happened to me. The preacher went on about Job, and blessing the Lord O my soul in the midst of suffering. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tonight I found what I was looking for, or rather God assured me I was never lost. I've been needing to hear something assuring for a while, in the midst of my essays and exams.

This is what I love about being a student of Adventist Education. Faith is (or should be) closely intertwined with scholastics. More than prayer before class, more than the teaching of religion and science, but also rather the hope that the knowledge we learn will endeavor us to do everything in hope of a better day.
I remember being outside one Friday evening at the end of a long week with some peers, rowdily (but meaningfully) singing spirituals - much like some mates at the pub. One song we sang went like this:
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah -
We're going to see the King.
Berrien Springs, Michigan

23 October 2011

On God in three persons

“The Trinity, like any other concept about God, ... is a groping attempt to explain wholeness to a fragmented race of mortals ... The Trinity proclaims a unity that in this fragmented world we desperately need. We are mortals who are male and female, and we need to know each other, love each other.”
Madeleine L'Engle

01 October 2011

On a perspective of humanity

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch."
Edgar Mitchell

From NASA, this is the northwest coast of the United States to central South America at night.

24 September 2011

Somebody Else's Thoughts, No. 4

Were the sky of parchment made,
A quill each reed, each twig and blade,
Could we with ink the oceans fill,
Were every man a scribe of skill,
The marvelous story
Of God's great glory
Would still remain untold;
For He, Most High,
The earth and sky
Created alone of old.
Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai

12 September 2011

These vagabond shoes are longing to stray

     A lot of people at Andrews are from the east coast. So when I meet an individual and they say they're from New York, or New Jersey, I'll say I used to live there.

And they'll ask where I lived in the town,
and I'll say Queens - Sunnyside neighborhood, not far from Jackson Heights.

Where do you live now?

Seattle. I lived in New York for five years, then I moved out west.

So Seattle is pretty much where you grew up.

Yes, I suppose. But I'm still a Yankees fan, and I'll always identify with the city.

And they'll say, That's good
 - offering their appreciation for the loyalty I have for Gotham.

     Growing up in the northwest, I've tried my best to stay loyal to New York. I childishly bragged to my friends I was a New Yorker, wearing my Yankees cap around as if I knew the game. In fourth grade my teacher jovially wrapped my desk in black paper after the Yanks lost to the Red Sox after when they had won the first three games in the ALCS. Besides baseball, I pronounced the word roof with a long O like in moose, whereas my classmates pronounced it like a barking dog - ruff or something like that. I was holding on to east coast pronunciation. Still, it didn't feel like I was truly a New Yorker.
     But what really prevented me from identifying with New York was September 11. I was away from the city, away from the pain and suffering. I was absent from the grief of a connected community, and I could not feel the sorrow of they who truly experienced that day. Now I look back and I know the day will mark the coming of age of my generation. Sure it changed the direction of America and the world, but I just cannot feel emotion from it. I know there are others, just as American, who (don't) feel the same.
    I remember a few years after September 11 (strange how that date will usually contextually correspond to 2001), I visited New York with my father. We stopped by the site, and paid our respects as best we could. He once told me that we visited the towers when I was young and could barely walk, and that I found a coal and drew there along a concrete wall. I've thought about that, and I realize there is a piece of me there.

Said the French, Nous sommes tous Americains. Nous sommes tous New-Yorkais.


11 September 2011

Somebody Else's Thoughts, No. 3

Wage Peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, memorize the words for thank you in 3 languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the word seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.
Judyth Hill
"Wage Peace"

10 August 2011

The summer's gone and all the roses falling

As I was driving home I noticed the moon shining kindly on me. It was as if it were laughing at my melancholic face, all the while knowing that the next time I see it again my view will no longer be obstructed by the evergreen trees.

Tonight is the last night I sleep in Washington, for a few months at least. I am reminded of the emotions I felt four years ago when I was a freshman going off to boarding school an hour away. Even now I try to assure myself that it will be the same as I leave for university, but I know it isn't.

06 August 2011

Summer's Requiem No. 2

IT IS a very early Saturday morning and I ought to go to bed since my parents get upset when I wake up late on Sabbath, but I can sense a rush of thoughts in my mind that beg for release. So here I am tonight writing.

Quite often in my young life I will question and doubt my faith. I do read a lot, and the National Geographic and other literary substances will generally push for an evolutionary agenda. This leaves me feeling like I should accept what most of the educated world accepts.

Or I may find myself thinking about society and the world today and I'll come to the conclusion that religion follows a pattern that can be predicted, and that we are all we need to create a better future.

And when I find myself discouraged and downcast with the way the world turns - when I prefer humanism over hymns or Darwin over the desire of ages - I think about something that gives me hope.

An old man once said that to be an Adventist doesn't mean to just believe Jesus is coming soon, but to absolutely love the thought of it. Alas when I find myself distraught with church doctrine, world problems, or sinful people, I go back to the essence of my Adventist faith. I get homesick for a place I've never been to.

How can humanity be torn between doing evil and desiring a better day? Only a creative power could have instilled within the human soul the hope for something better.

It's so strange to want to go home, to a place I've never been to, but I can forcefully call it home.

Quelle pagaille mon écriture est

05 August 2011

I am a failure and you have made me one, Summer's Requiem No. 1

AS I wait for my piece of technology to finish updating, I write haphazardly the first part of a requiem for summer.

The title of this post is a part of an infamous quote by former President Clinton. I often feel that that statement always applies to me.

For every year that I've had this blog, it has been a tradition for me to write about how miserable my summer was and how I didn't accomplish the things I wanted to.

Pas la fin

26 July 2011

Somebody Else's Thoughts, No. 2

The Lord feeds some of His prisoners better than others.
It could be said of Him that He is not a just god but an
indifferent god.
That He is not to be trusted to reward the righteous and
punish the unscrupulous.
That He maketh the poor poorer but is otherwise
It could be said of Him that it is His school of the germane
that produced the Congressional Record.
That it is His vision of justice that gave us cost accounting.
It could be said of Him that though we walk with Him all
the days of our lives we will never fathom Him
Because He is empty.
These are dark images of our Lord
That make it seem needful for us to pray not unto Him
But ourselves.
But when we do that we find that indeed we are truly lost
And we rush back into the safer fold, impressed by His care
for us.
Reed Whittemore

19 July 2011

True North

I recently took a brief excursion to Canada. Of all the places I travel, I always feel quite comfortable in British Columbia, probably because it's not a rural country place or in the South.

On one of the evenings I was sitting alone in a steam room at the hotel when one boy popped his head in the door. "Um. Hello," he said awkwardly, as he came in followed by a crew of other boys, ranging from 6 to 16. After intermittent conversation with each other, the room was silent. One of them greeted me in an attempted obnoxious fashion, "Hi."
"Hi there."
"What's your name?"
I responded.
"Are you a traveler?"
I figured maybe I should pretend I'm student roaming around, and I responded so.
"Where are you from?"
"You don't look fat like an American. Not that you're fat or anything, or Americans are fat. or.."
"No I understand. I have these premonitions of Canadians as well. Do you put maple syrup on everything?"

And we continued from there.
They told me about the polar bears they had to ride to school from their igloos, and admitted they joked that Americans live in McDonald's restaurants, all while purposefully concluding their sentences with something that sounds like the first letter of the alphabet. I'm not sure.

One of the more intelligent ones explained that Canada's right-wing is not as right as America's, which is why homosexual marriage is legal there. I was at least glad they approved of Obama, while showing contempt for his predecessor.

I was getting tired of acting like a foreign journalist talking to children in an underprivileged country, so I excused myself. A younger Canuck quipped back, "Come back and we can ice fish at my igloo eh?"

29 June 2011

Somebody Else's Thoughts, No. I

Yes: wisdom begins with fear of the Lord,
which comprehends the power that made the seas,
the earth, the shimmering dawn, the unexplored
unfathomed skies, the moon, and the Pleiades.
Which also know Who comes to judge our shoddy
little failing lives, knowing full well,
we need not fear the one who kills the body,
but only He who condemns the soul to hell.
Which also knows it magnifies the Lord,
defying the demon, being the only release,
oddly enough, from fear, being its own reward,
which is also wise, is faith, is hope, is peace,
is tender mercy, over and over again,
until, at last, is love, is love. Amen.

William Baer

28 June 2011

Lost and Found

When I was going through a problem, my psychologist asked me, “Ryan, are you good or bad?”

I replied, “Well I’ve done some good, but I know I’ve done evil…”

“Are you a success or a failure?”

“I sure feel like a failure right now, but to other people’s standards…”

“Are you a sinner or a saint?”

“I…don’t know.”

The answer to all of those questions, he told me, was yes. He then went on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said something about how when we come together as the body of Christ, we are altogether sinners and saints.

22 June 2011

Morning has broken

A friend of mine recently stated that the definition of God (or the Biblical definition) for a day is "evening and morning", rather than "morning and evening", and that our definition should be likewise.
I was rather bothered by this idea. I didn't get the point of such observance, even though as an Adventist I observe the Sabbath from evening to evening. But why on earth should we observe everyday, at least from a spiritual aspect, as evening and morning? It seems as if the entire world begins in the morning and ends at night; the pulse of humanity starts in the morning and dies down as darkness sets. Do we have anything to gain from believing our day starts the evening before?
Recently I came across these two Protestant evangelists on a cable channel discussing Jewish beliefs that can be observed by Christianity, and they brought up the evening and morning concept, underlining it with a quote by Eugene Peterson:
"This Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops His covenant. We wake and are called to participate in God's creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn't make, into a salvation we didn't earn.

Evening: God begins, without our help, His creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work He initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning."
What an idea. We are conditioned to the rhythm of grace. I would say more, but I believe Peterson made sense out of this.

When you feel so tired but you can't sleep

It's nearly an hour past midnight here on a Wednesday morning. My mind is buzzing with so many different thoughts that I just can't lie down and sleep. I've been feeling this way quite often since I got out of school. I feel surrounded yet alone in my corner of the world all at once.

Always I've said that the night is my friend. There is a certain peace to the night that cannot be found anywhere any other time. It is only I and the buzz of my computer, and the ticking of a clock. But there is this resounding symphony of ideas and emotions and expressions that comes from all points of the day, that are then drawn into this late hour of the night. This symphony is one of confusion and commotion, but because it carries my emotions and feelings, it means much to me. So I feel drawn to make sense out of this jumble, but my mind is too tired and weary that I let my dreams organize the score itself. After all, the night is my friend; I'll let the night take care of it. I suppose this is why I've had some messed up dreams lately, and why, bluntly and honestly, someone I like keeps recurring in my dreams nightly. That's nightly. Which is fine with me. But I desperately wish for reality.

Now let's summarize sans Freud: Like I said earlier, I can't sleep. I've got a lot on my mind.

I'm feeling like a captain of a sinking ship. I'm living alone here at the edge of the world.

One of Bobby Kennedy's favorite poets was Aeschylus, and he once reflected on where the road lies, saying,
"Even in our dreams, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God."

12 June 2011

Were the world mine

At the end of a certain experience or at the closing of a chapter in one's life, you wonder whether you did everything you wanted to do, or say everything you wanted to say, or love the things or people you wanted to love. Or at least I wonder that.

For the last week or so, I've found myself having difficulty sleeping with incessant thoughts running through my mind. I wish I had more time. Being an adult sucks. It's so lonely. Thoreau's Walden seems quite applicable right now.

So I wonder if I did everything I wanted to do over the last four years of my high school experience. If I had to admit it, I know I didn't do everything. And knowing what it is I wished I did, eats me up.

Auburn, Washington

09 June 2011

The summer's here, and all the roses blooming.

I had a very strange urge to begin writing this morning.
With the end of my high school experience met, I am indebted to write much and more often this summer. Once again I find myself at the same place I was four years ago, not quite ready to be a freshman in a new school.
I've looked at my blog's statistics and nobody really reads my blog. The last time I had a high ratings jump was when I blogged over my trip to Wisconsin. Then I hope it is safe to presume I can share some of my most intimate mysteries and ideas that few choose to query on.

I'll be right back.

19 March 2011

Once again

Once again I must apologize for not blogging in a while.

On a different note, I would like to mention that I have caught up entirely with my laundry and now my dorm room is cleaner, brighter, and with more space. You may have seen a picture of my wall on Facebook:

I'm rather eclectic in my picture choices for my wall, and it conveys my background, as well as my aspirations.

There isn't a lot of furniture in my dorm room, though I hope to be putting in some modern decor soon, with less than 3 months left in academy. In college my room may become even more of a mess, but with the help of modern decor, my roommate and I could be having a blasted old time.