Taste of Freedom

Exams finished and it was time to decide what to do over the summer. Internships, work or vacation. These were all great ways to spend my summer. Although I had my mind-set on working over the summer to put myself in a more financially stable situation ( well, as financially stable as student debt would allow me ), Jerry suddenly brought up an idea I had never ever considered.

*insert Jerry-hype-man*

“Let’s go to America, I need to go see Kobe!”

I instantly rejected this idea, but flights were going for ~$1400 NZD there and back! That’s pretty cheap in my opinion. I ended up using this as leverage with my parents as they are always reluctant on me traveling. To my surprise, they actually allowed me to go! Eventually ShuFen was able to persuade her parents on letting her go as well. I say “eventually” because there was honestly a lot of back and forth between her and her Dad but I’m still unsure what really changed his mind.

The next few weeks before leaving Auckland to “the land of the free” involved, working at the architecture library for 2 whole weeks ,being involved with a childcare programme at a local church; all while getting ready travel documentation and accommodation. There were many new things I learnt from this experience, mainly due to the fact that this was the first time I traveled without my parents.

  1. Passports don’t last a lifetime.
    For some reason I assumed that my passport would still be valid. I was so wrong. This required me to rock up to the internal affairs office, take a mugshot photo, fill out a couple forms and wait in queue. Lame.
  2. You need a visa to enter countries.
    No excuses here. I’m just dumb.
  3. Accommodation is annoying to book, especially on a budget.
    Traveling with parents is great, actually the best. You don’t really have to worry bout money and at the end of the day you end up in a nice hotel, ready to take home all the free soap, shampoo and conditioner. For this very trip, airbnb was the way to go. Cheap, fast and relatively clean if you looked in the right places.
  4. Deciding on things to do as a group is difficult.
    The three of us that went on this trip had very different interest. Shufen was really into her music, Jerry into his basketball and I was keen to try food and amusement parks. 12 days in California would be plenty of time usually to hit most of the hotspots but all of us were in the “I don’t mind” mindset.
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Someone didn’t get the memo.

Reb actually visited New Zealand to meet up with some others she had met when she was here a few years ago. This meant we could fly back to LA with her too.
With our bags checked in, smiles on our faces and bellies ready to consume IN-N-OUT, we left our little home in the corner of the world for what we had only ever experienced through the television screen.

Side-story:

New Zealand’s legal drinking age is 18. For America, it’s 21. Jerry and I thought it would be good idea to have a drink on the plane before I couldn’t over there in the states. We ordered a rum and coke each. Worst decision ever. The cup was about 3/4 rum and I’m pretty sure a drop of coke. Jerry downed it pretty quick and me being the man I was, didn’t want to back down. I finished my drink and instantly felt the wave of dizziness hit me.

Drink.
Drank.
Drunk.

Moral of the story, if you can’t take your alcohol, it’s probably not a good idea to have any on a 12 hour flight.

As always, I leave you all with a song.

 

 

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

So at church our pastor introduced a section of a song by Helen H Lemmel.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Let’s step into the lives of two people I know.

Person A

I flinched as the light being filtered through the blinds hit my eyelids. Bottles and the familiar red cups littered the  floor. A damp area of carpet next to the adjacent sofa reminded me of the little incident involving dinner, my friend N, her stomach and the carpet. I stood up. I was welcomed by a throbbing headache along with a vile taste in my mouth.
My friend J was making breakfast.

“Hey bro, crazy party last night aye, you drank a lot yourself, what a beast!”

Fistbump.

“Will you be coming to A’s party next Friday?, she has some pretty cute friends coming along!”
The thought of alcohol made my stomach turn. I gagged silently.
“Sure, wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
I forced a smile.

Person B

Steam rose from the cup of tea before me. Across from me sat a friend I had just met 3 weeks ago. I reached into my bag and pulled out a bible, notepad and a pen. I took a deep breath.

“Hey man, you’ve probably noticed I’m a Christian over these past couple of weeks that we’ve been friends and I would love to share with you the most important thing in my life, my faith.”

It has been almost 3 years since I was person A. What I lived for were Friday night parties, alcohol, girls and acceptance. All these things never really gave me long-lasting happiness, more of a dose that would subside by the morning. Reflecting on the song and being person B, the things of the world that I used to live for seem “strangely dim”. All those things seem so meaningless to me now. It’s the strangest feeling ever to see the things you used to love and now find barely any interest in them. It really reminds us all of how God has been slowly shaping and molding us to be more like Jesus, aligning us with His will and helping us turn away from sin.

I was introduced to this song through going to Equip Conference 2016 , such a great reminder of the victory over death through Jesus!

Decisions

Growing up in asian family, my brothers and I were constantly hearing stories about what life was like for our parents before we were born. Now you may think, “This sounds like the beginning of How I Met Your Mother”.

I wish.

These stories were mostly about the hardships they went through, fresh off the boat and first setting foot in a little country called New Zealand. There were stories about where they lived at that time, how they lived in a small garage sitting on milk crates and eating food that they would buy at those asian markets with what little money they had. These were always ways for my parents to “unintentionally” guilt trip us, reminding us of how lucky were are to live in conditions that are infinitely better than the ones they had to deal with.

I sound like such an ungrateful brat but the reason I bring this up is that recently I’ve been thinking through how my decisions my whole life have been affected by what my parents have said. Stepping out of high school and into university I had wanted to take nursing, the idea of being able to help people and there being a real need for male nurses played a huge part in why I wanted to be one. When my dad had heard about this, he tried every way to make me change my mind. He said things like “Do you really want to spend your whole life helping people clean themselves?” or “You might contract some sort of disease while in hospital and drop dead a couple days later”. Now these were all legitimate reasons to weigh up but I think the biggest thing that bothered my dad was the fact that I would be somewhat emasculated.

I don’t think there is any problem with listening to your parents, actually I highly recommend that. But on some things you definitely have to draw the line on and put your foot down. My faith in Jesus is a perfect example of something I would have to stand firm in. It’s something so important to me and is something I shouldn’t change due to someone else not agreeing with my belief.

This brings me to the point of how I make my decisions in life. My life decisions leading up to three years ago were mainly influenced by the worldly desire of wanting to get a well-paying job in order to live a comfortable life and raise a family. There’s nothing wrong with this, money and family alone are all good things but when that is all you live for… well that’s where we do have a problem.

Ever since I began following Christ, I have been very careful when making decisions, asking myself why A over B, is it because I want status, money or even acceptance? The question everyone dreads. What do you live for?

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16 

Just reflecting on this verse, it really changes the way I live. The joy of knowing Christ is already pretty wonderful, imagining what it would be like when he returns is utterly indescribable. Reading this verse about the trumpets sounding, the archangel’s voice and the Lord descending from heaven with a shout, it feels like a blockbuster movie. We should be living with the Lord’s return in mind, comparing eternal life to the 70 maybe 80 years we have on this Earth. The joy of being with Christ at all times, that’s something we should be looking forward to.

Having Jesus’ return in mind and readily awaiting the day of the Lord puts everything in a new perspective. The world around us screams “Carpe diem” or “seize the day” and to make our mark on the world before we die. The God we know calls us to enjoy life but also to be investing in eternity and being ready for his return because:

“For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”
1 Thessalonians 5:2 

If God was to return tomorrow, would I be happy with what I am doing today and how I am spending my time? Will I be able to stand firm in my faith and blameless in God’s eyes ?

So when making decisions on my future and how to spend my time, I guess no matter what I’m doing I want to be able to continuing growing in my love and knowledge of Jesus and seeing others come to know Him either through me or supporting full-time missionaries.

As usual, I’ll end this post off with a song. I recently was recommended Anthem Lights by my friend T. She definitely knows my taste in music.

Taking on Christchurch

3 days.

Great company.

Christchurch.

Day 1

The day started with the usual. A shower. I checked the clock on my phone.

5:15AM.

W was kind enough to wake up early to drop H and I off at the airport. We hurried over to find the Jetstar counter to check-in. What stood before us was one of the things I dreaded most.

A massive queue.

This is the last thing you want to see when your flight is at 6:15AM and you have to check in 30 minutes before. After waiting in line and finally reaching the front, we were redirected to another line. I glanced at my phone.

6:00AM.

The chances of us making it on the flight were slim. We reached the front of the queue once again.

“You have missed your flight, it will be another $50 to get you on the next flight”

Regardless of the rocky start to the morning, I got to catch up with H, someone I don’t get to talk to very much due to her very extremely tight schedule. The plane ride was just over and hour long, just enough time to hear H’s story of how she began to date W. She also gave me some great insight into thinking through relationships which is always appreciated.

Christchurch welcomed us with a breeze that made your goosebumps jump out of your skin. H and I met up with A and B as we waited for our ride. A friend of ours, J, was kind enough to offer to host us for the weekend at his house. As soon as we arrived at his house, we were bombarded with hugs from faces we hadn’t seen in about half a year. The plan for the afternoon was to explore our surroundings of Pegasus where we were staying just 20 minutes outside of Christchurch. J had planned a surprise for us for when we got back.

The surprise was well, definitely a surprise. This picture pretty much sums it up.

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Nerf. Enough said.

We later went to grab chinese food for dinner. Nothing like sharing good food with some good company.

Day 2

Day 2 was pretty much the last full day we had to spend in Christchurch. A couple of us had already left for Auckland earlier in the morning due to personal matters. The plan today was to head out for a hike up Castlerock and then hang out at J’s church. On the way towards Castlerock, J took us to one of the redzones in Christchurch which was greatly affected by the earthquake back in 2011. Living in Auckland and hearing about the earthquake back then, I had never really fully realised the power of mother nature.11741111_10203036515313360_1684551575911616432_o

This used to be a road with many houses on both sides.

We arrived at the foot of Castlerock, our legs ached just looking up the mountain. And so we started our trek up. There were many breaks along the way up, at some points I regretted beginning the walk. Anytime I have this sort of attitude, the view just slaps me right in the face. Totally worth it.

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Just take it in.

We all then headed over to J’s church with some dinner from a takeaway and watched Kingsmen. I’m still real envious of the little home theatre they have in their church.

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I need to get me one of these.

Day 3

The final day was spent going to see J play hockey, cheering him on and just more good hangs with the crew. Everyone headed to the airport at separate times to check in and catch their flights. At the very end, only I was left with J and E. We shared our last half an hour together talking about what has been going on at church and what we all want to do after we graduate. I was also really encouraged by E about continuing to put my heart into discipling a couple of guys back in Auckland.

Overall, the weekend was well worth it, exploring Christchurch, catching up with good friends and just being able to get away from the busy city life. I usually like to end my blog posts with a song and conveniently my friend J was playing this song in his car all weekend. It’s surprisingly catchy.

Let’s Go Conference

Waking up with a sore neck.

Having to walk through the cold to the shower in the morning.

Actually having breakfast.

These are a few of the things I became accustomed to over the 5 days that I had attended conference. Over the past 2 or so years I have been involved with a christian group at The University of Auckland called StudentLife. They are part of a larger worldwide organisation called Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). Every year StudentLife holds their midyear conference to train and equip students on how to share their faith and allows students to get to know the other students involved in the movement.

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With all that being said, this year was my third conference and the theme was “Let’s Go” which was inspired by the bible verse:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

What excited me the most this year going to conference was leading a group of students in discussion during team times and seeing God shape and mold them into godly men and woman. Our team name was Muller. Every team was named after a famous missionary or pastor. Sadly, we were one of the teams that were easily forgotten by everyone else. Good thing was, this resulted in us being picked last for duties and usually there were none left for us.

Troy Mcknight was the guest speaker this year, a maple syrup loving Canadian man, born in Canada but now living in Auckland, New Zealand. Throughout the week he touched on several topics:

  • What it means to be a disciple
  • Having faith in Jesus
  • What it means to have mercy

The topic that stood out the most for me was “What it means to be a disciple”. Troy first went over what education was like for the early Jews. Boys as young as 10 were to have memorised the first 5 books of the bible and then only the best went on to study the rest of the old testament and more. For the boys that didn’t make it, they returned home to their fathers to learn the family trade. Finally the most elite students would go out to seek a Rabbi to learn under and even then it was not easy and many were rejected.

The point of this was to compare Jesus’ yoke and the yoke of the conventional Rabbi. The conventional Rabbi would ask very difficult questions to their student such as reciting the old testament backwards.  Jesus’ yoke on the other hand is easy.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus also goes to seek men to become his disciples unlike the conventional Rabbi.

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Matthew 4:18-20

What I learnt from these passages is that Peter and Andrew were fishermen meaning that they had been rejected from a Rabbi and returned home to learn their trade which happened to be fishing. Instead Jesus seeks out the rejects and calls them follow Him. In the same way Jesus calls us to follow Him, to leave everything behind, family, friends and possessions, to become like Him. Troy really helped me to realise from this passage that Jesus believes that we can become like Him even when we don’t think we can. To know that the almighty creator who sustains this universe believes in you in that way is just mega encouraging.

Every year I walk away from conference with a song that has really moved me.  Here’s this years.

The Little Prince

So over the course of a semester, I read an intriguing book for grown-ups disguised as a children’s book. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Front cover of the book.

I was recommended this book by a friend who was on the same mission trip as I was on during last summer. I was skeptical at first, expecting it to be a simple story, and yes it was, on the surface anyway. Antoine was very clever in the way he portrayed his ideas. He used two main characters, the narrator and the little prince to show the contrast between an adult and a child. More specifically he talks about the respective ways in which an adult and a child views the world.

Antoine brings up many great themes such as the dangers of narrow-mindedness and the responsibilities that come with relationships. These themes left me pondering where I stand in how I handle relationships and my degree of narrow-mindedness now that I close in on the age of 21. Definitely an eye-opener and something I should think about more.

This book also has some very wonderful quotes. Here are a couple of my favourites.

“But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all of the world”

“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart…”

I highly recommend this book. Some advice would be to take it slow. Let the images fill your mind and imagine you are sitting along side the narrator. The journey the little prince brings you on is something that you shouldn’t miss a second of.

Wait What? That Was A Lie?

I can’t believe it took me 20 years to finally realize. To realize that it was all a lie. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

Eraser
“An eraser that erases both pen ink and pencil led”

Over dinner, a friend of mine asked “You know those double sided erasers back in the day with the one side with another color? What were they for?”. With much confidence I answered “It erases ink from a pen!”. Everyone at the table looked at me, a couple holding back laughter. I later found out that the colored side was used on rough thick paper, it did not erase ink. Thanks Google.

I don’t remember who told me that when I was young but I’ve held onto this lie until just recently. Maybe my 5 year old brain had dreamt this idea up. This got me thinking, what other lies have I told myself as a child?. I’ve compiled a few of my favorites below.

  1.  Cats are female dogs.
    It just made so much sense as a child. Dogs were always male, and cats were always female. Maybe that was due to television.

  2. A kiss on the lips could get someone pregnant.
    So you can imagine how shocked I was every time someone kissed on a TV show.

  3. 3. If you wrapped yourself in your blankets nothing could hurt you.
    Well I still feel pretty safe wrapped up warm and snug in bed as a 20 year old. I guess I’m still a kid at heart.

If I thought these things up in my own head, I wonder what silly things I would have said out loud. On an entirely different note, all this reminiscing brings me back to a song I feel my Mum had introduced to me.