Sunday, December 25, 2011

And also with you-r spirit.

I have to be honest and say that it was really hard not to judge all them fooz who haven't been to Mass since the new translation happened (and by "fooz" I mean "fools" in the Proverbs sense). Reflexive responses of old gave way to fumbling and awkwardness which made for my amusement, but distracted me from the coming of Christ. Here's hoping that the shock pushes them out of lukewarmness.  But preferably towards the hot side of reawakening their faith.  And not the cold side like Christopher Hitchens, but hey, he was fascinatingly cold.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Dad Confession 2

Let's say this is my baby:


When we went to the doctor for our two month checkup and we were told that our baby is in the 90+ percentile for height and 20-ish percentile for head size, this is what I imagine how people must see our baby:

(Don't call me "Tiny")

Here's hoping that the height percentile will persist and that it's matched with hand-eye coordination.  College athletic scholarship here we come!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Dad Confession

Go with me for a sec.

Let's say this is me:
(For the record, I don't intend on being a Tiger Dad.)

And let's say this is my baby daughter:
(My daughter is way cuter, but so far not as chill.)

When the majority of people say that my daughter looks like me, I have a hard time taking that as a good thing. 

Simply put, I'm a guy and my daughter's a girl.  If a girl looks like a guy, it's not supposed to be a good thing right?

As a result, what I end up processing in my head is that my daughter looks like me if I were a chick.  Something like this:



Yiggity yikes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blood Relationship

In today's Gospel Reading, aside from the fact that genealogies are notorious for feeling like the boringest books in the Bible, one thing that always stands out to me when reading Jesus' genealogy besides the sprinkling of women of faith throughout, is that after all that work of listing the direct bloodlines, we end up with:

Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Do I have to trade in my Christian card if I admit to feeling a bit of a let down?  Knowing that Mary conceived Jesus with no "input" from Joseph, it feels like this genealogy sort of breaks at the end.  All this effort to tie the blood relationships together for 42 generations and then Jesus has no Joseph blood in Him.  It's almost as if it would be more logical if it was, "Jacob, the father of Mary, the wife of Joseph.  Of her was born Jesus..."  So there must be something else.

Clearly, the original makes St. Joseph way more of a key player than my way.    Joseph's line is obviously very important being a descendant of Abraham and David, but the fact that we call Jesus the son of Joseph (and the son of David) seems to indicate some sort of sanctity of marriage and parenthood that's stronger than blood relation.  Hm...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Maturity

It's gotta be an eight grade boy's worst nightmare to be massaged by a big black man named Gaylord.  

But I have to say though, the massage was fantastic!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

You can do better.

While playing with my daughter today, I realized that I don't know the words in Chinese for, "I'm proud of you," to say to her because I've never heard them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent: Waiting Means No Control

The Advent season has finally arrived (I know, I know, I'm two Sundays late for the party already)!  This means we are in the liturgical season that reminds us that we should be living our lives waiting for the coming of our King.  We not only reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation (ie. Why the heck would God make Himself human and not only that, why He didn't just beam Himself down ready to go, but went the traditional route of being pushed out of a woman's va-jay-jay. I mean, it's mind boggling when I see how farty, poopie, and altogether dependent my own baby is - that's not God right?  God is supposed to be all muscles and Santa Clause...), but also the hard-to-imagine mystery of the second coming of Jesus.

These things are awesome and all, but my weak mind can only handle a few minutes at a time of contemplating these things before my head feels like its about to explode from the sheer brilliance and My-ways-are-not-your-ways-ness of it all.  To slow down the head-spinning, I try to bring it down to a personal level and ask myself, "What am I waiting to hear from God about?"

To prepare for this season in my life, I stepped back from most of my on the ground responsibilities in youth ministry in order to make space for my new daughter and being a new parent.  It was a wise decision, if I do say so myself, but it was really hard to relinquish a mode of ministry that I did straight for five years.  One of the hardest things was not being able to guide certain parts of the ministry like I was used to and feeling anxious about seeing certain parts slide back towards ways that I had tried to make better as if it was invalidating the work that I had done.  Obviously, that's not true at all and was a lesson in "it doesn't have to be done my way."  It was both liberating and terrifying when I realized one day that while it felt like that previous mode of ministry was just on pause waiting for me to return, the reality was that I would never be able to return to exactly the way it looked. Rebirth.

So it seems that in this Advent season, I am waiting in joyful hope for how God is calling my ministry to evolve.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Telling God, "I love you."

Just as a father never tires of hearing their child say, "I love you," a child also never tires of hearing their father say, "I love you"...

.....unless the child is in front of their friends and cares more about what they think about them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Avoidance

Just like I think that a lot of Protestants shy away from Catholic-y things like Mary, I also think that a lot of Catholics shy away from Protestant-ish things like direct invitations to take faith seriously.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

People Pleasing Penance

I have joined the ranks of those who bring little children to Mass.  From outside the club, it was easy to judge and cherry-pick what I would and wouldn't do with my children.  But to be fair, I could still acknowledge that it was a tough assignment.  Now that I'm in the club, I could sum it up by saying that suddenly, going to Mass has become a whole lot more adventurous.  Big surprise.

Taking an infant to Mass is a total penance for a people-pleaser (read: most Asian people).  The debilitating fear is being any kind of a distraction to other people.  And I mean, any kind.  I guess I never realized it, but it's easy to expect to fade into the crowd at Mass and not want to draw attention to myself.  Atheistically, it is group think and blindly following rituals, but hope-fully, it's because the attention should be on Jesus at the altar.  Regardless, bringing an infant to Mass now means having to guard against the doubly-whammy of worrying about what other people are thinking of us as parents as well as disturbing others' worship experience.  Even if my daughter isn't crying or making her baby velociraptor noises, it's easy to live in constant fear that she is about to.  It makes a lot of sense then, to see why many families with young children sit in the back of the church. 

The first time we brought our daughter to Mass, during communion, these thoughts went into overdrive.  Our baby is still small enough that we leave her in her carrier as long as we can.  However, as the usher came closer and closer to our pew, my mind began to be like: Should we take her up?  The carrier is unwieldy and not that easy to carry despite the name.  It also takes up a lot more space than people usually take in a two-person wide communion line.  People might stare!  And God knows that we're not rolling up to the front in the snap 'n go.  So should we leave her at our seats?  Darn you, making-the-decision-to-sit-in-the-back-so-as-to-not-disturb-other-people!  Because if we leave her here, it's a long way to the front of the communion line and then all the way back.  People are gonna judge the heck out of us while they should be hanging with Jesus because we left our baby alone for 45 seconds.  Either that or an overzealous auntie is gonna swoop in there and steal a cuddle.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and soon after I thought, "F that!"

The last thought reminded me that communion really was about spending time with Jesus and of course I would want my baby girl to go up and to receive a blessing.  If Blind Bartimaeus can be socially awkward to meet Jesus then I could too!  I decided that I wanted my daughter to have an experience of Mass that is "in your face" and not tucked away to the back of the church only to realize that at some certain age when they're older I have to play catch up with teaching her what Mass is really all about.  After all, at the end of my life, I'd rather have tried to unapologetically bring her to the feet of Jesus than circling around worrying more about what people thought of me.  Like I said, penance?

So there I was, walking down the center aisle like this:

http://www.lionking.org/imgarchive/Act_1/Presentation5.jpg

Just kidding.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 9

"What am I s'posed to do when the club lights come on? /
It's easy to be Puff, but it's harder to be Sean /
What if the twins ask why I ain't marry they mom? /
How do I respond?"

         ~ P.Diddy, Coming Home

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Accidental Properties of Blood

I've always thought it interesting that the concept of bread and wine transubstantiating into the actual Body and Blood of Christ means that the accidents of the bread and wine still maintained all of their physical characteristics.

What that means is that if you drink enough of the Blood of Christ, you can get drunk!  That's way more exciting than, if you eat enough of the Body of Christ, you'll get....full.  Trust me, it's highly amusing to me when the wine is overestimated by the sacristan and the Chinese Eucharistic minister has to finish it all after communion and ends up with a healthy Asian glow.

This guy, but more holy.  And with a chalice.

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/assets_c/2010/02/201012031-thumb-200xauto-2327.jpg  (If you think this is bad, check out the wikipedia article on it)

By extension, I've always thought that it would be way more cool if through the miracle of the consecration you could drink as much of the Blood of Christ and not feel any of the physical affects of alcohol.  "Well, how do you explain that?" I would smugly tell my non-believing homies.

But alas, God's ways are not my ways and in this case, God's way is way more humble and meek, requiring faith of the believer.

This is why the third line from the Anima Christi prayer extra stood out to me today.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me,
Blood of Christ, inebriate me,
Water from Christ's side, wash me,
Passion of Christ, strengthen me…

I'm glad that it's been embraced for at least 700 years (from when the prayer was first written).  Oh, to be intoxicated by Jesus.

Brought to you by what I like to call "Holy Moments on the Crapper"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You can't Google God

"Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised / And His greatness is unsearchable."

          ~ Psalm 145:3 (NASB)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Decisions

With only a few days left of being 26, my dad and I had a nice chat on the way to Mass.  It probably wasn't my first time hearing it, but hearing again that my Dad was 26 when he immigrated to the United States felt a whole lot different this time. 

That part of my dad's life always felt like a novel or something from a history book - there was never any personal empathy towards it.  This time, it made me shake my head.  Being the same age, it's completely unfathomable to me that I could just pick up my life right now and then move to another country (at the same time, with the way this country's going, we all might be immigrating to China at some point).  My dad also shook his head acknowledging that it's sort of unfathomable to him that I could be married, a home-owner, and a father at my age. 

With my own three week old daughter, I can't help but wonder what God has in store for her life and what decisions she will make when she grows up.  The decisions that my Dad made directly affected my life giving me opportunities and the way that I was able to make my own decisions.  Of course, then, my decisions will affect my children's opportunities and decisions.  I'm praying and hoping (not the secular definition of a blind flailing in uncertainty, but trust in God's Word) that the spiritual and family-oriented decisions I've made will pan out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 8

"You don't get another chance, life is no Nintendo game /
But you lied again /
Now you get to watch her leave out the window /
Guess that's why they call it 'window pane'"

          ~ Eminem, Love the Way You Lie

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crazy Talk

Sometimes, when I read something from the perspective of one of the Christian cults (or "New Religious Movements"), I can't help but react to the absurdity of it.  It's like, who would believe something like this?

Then I think about how there are plenty of people who feel the exact same way about Catholicism. 

So I guess instinct isn't always a great measure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 7

"Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice \
I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots \
. . .
Time to heal our women, be real to our women \
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies \
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies \
. . .
You know it's funny when it rains it pours \
They got money for wars, but can't feed the poor"

          ~ 2Pac, Keep Ya Head Up

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Well...birth happened.

I have a kid.  A beautiful daughter to be exact.

It's unbelievable, really.  In some ways, things don't feel all that different, but of course in every other way, my life will never be the same.

I expected to have overwhelming feelings of emotion and love, but honestly, things just felt very numb with a surge of emotional tears here and there.  Maybe that's just the way my psyche was trying to deal with it.  I went to Mass later that day after the birth and half expected the readings to absolutely floor me like God stepped forth from the tabernacle with a personal message (maybe this is always the case and I just miss it).  However, the readings felt like their normal, interesting if I really pay attention selves and not hand-delivered as if the Kingdom of God was business as usual - in its macro-ly awesome, but not always wish-granting-genie way. 

Then the whole sleep deprivation thing.  Going into this, one of the things I was most nervous about was the fragmented lack of sleep.  Though it's tough at times, I'm surprised at how much I don't feel like a zombie.  Maybe it's the adrenaline or maybe my body knows that this will be life for the foreseeable future and is just dealing with it.  It's only been five days so we'll see.

While we're talking about sleep, I've never spent the night at a hospital, let alone two nights.  It was quite a weird experience like a combination of luxury hotel and prison.  I could sort of come and go as I pleased per my wife, but she on the other hand, being hooked up to an IV, needed to be supervised even to go to the bathroom.  Walking around the hospital, there were all kinds of people around (great for a people watcher like myself).  While I was there experiencing one of the greatest days of my life, walking by the surgery unit, I could see people weeping over the death of a loved one.  How can one place be both a place of so much joy and simultaneously, so much sorrow?

But back to the more mundane, poopie diapers haven't felt that gross.  Sure, they're gross, I suppose, but changing them feels more like a mildly unpleasant act of love as opposed to say cleaning the vomit off the communal dorm bathroom floor after a weekend of partying (by other people) for my buddy Jesus.  It's funny, the thing that bugs me more is the inefficiency of wasting diapers.  I mean, do you wait a few minutes longer while your child sits in their own feces knowing that the motherlode is about to arrive?  Or do you change the diaper for hygiene's sake only to have to change it again a few minutes later when boom (goes the dynamite)!.  Of course, I do the latter, but gah....the inefficiency.

And on a final note, though life feels both normal and crazy at the same time, one thing I am enjoying beside my SUPER cute daughter is that life is so much simpler right now.  My days used to be filled with commitment after commitment with complex first world problems with either too many or too few options, but these days, I just lounge around waiting for the next need that I can meet for my wife or my daughter.  It's pretty dope.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 6

"Doubt starting to creep in, everyday it's just so gray and black \
Hope, I just need a ray of that \
'Cause no one see's my vision when I play it for 'em, they just say it's whack."

          - Eminem, I Need a Doctor

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 5

"She got that good, good \
she Michael Jackson Bad \
I'm attracted to her \
For her attractive ass \
And now we murderers \
Because we kill time \
I knock her lights out \
And she still shine"

          ~ Lil' Wayne, Bedrock

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Fatherhood

I'm no expert on fatherhood, but I do know that more of it is sorely needed in this world today.  Whatever it is, its role in true masculinity has always been something I've been drawn to which might also explain my longtime enjoyment of Daddy blogs.  It probably also explains my excitement to be a first time dad.

I have no idea what kind of father I'll be, but off the top, I hope that I'll strike a good balance between discipline and extravagance.  I probably fall more to the disciplinarian side, but I definitely have an aversion to the Chinese style of always pushing your children to be better, to improve, and rarely, if ever, telling them you love them and are proud of them (oh, and hugging them too).  I definitely have some ideas about what was amazing about my own father, but also some where I felt like he came up short. The crazy thing is that no matter what, I'm gonna come up short as well, we all do, and that terrifies the heck out of me.  Because of my desire to be perfect.  So I can win the admiration of those around me. At the root, it's probably that of my parents.  There's some recursion for you.

At a recent doctor's appointment, the nurse practitioner greeted my wife in a way that really stuck with me.  She asked,

"Are you ready to fall in love?"

My wife and I have been busy preparing the nursery, reading up on birthing and baby theories, getting excited and freaked out at the same time wondering how our lives are going to change.  I totally hadn't considered this hormonal and emotional change that is imminent (probably days away).  Hm...that's right because I know that as soon as I see my baby girl, my heart is going to melt in a way that will blow my mind.  It's weird living my life knowing that "love at first sight" is going to happen at any time now.  Imagine being single with that kind of expectation.  Sheesh.

But what's even more crazy is that no matter what our baby looks like (wrinkled, God-forbid nine toes, conehead, etc), I don't think I'm even going to notice with all the love that will be surging through me.  My spiritual director used a better word - I will "delight" in her.  Unbelievably, that's the way that God sees me too.  Why I tend to be more fearful of a withering glance from Him is the struggle of my life, and it's hard to wrap my mind around how God can see past the sin.

I haven't really paid attention to which Person of the Trinity I tend to pray to, but, at my spiritual director's nudge, God, the Father, is all of a sudden, a lot more relatable.  He told me a light-hearted story of a fellow older Jesuit who joked how recently, he's prayed less to Jesus and more to God because frankly, Jesus, in his human nature, was just too young.  I haven't been as voracious of a reader as I thought I would be about childbirth and child-rearing and I think a big part of that is because of how many theories and ideas that are out there and an inherent distrust in the wisdom behind it.  Now it's like, oh yeah, I've been asking for wisdom my whole life, so Father and Wisdom, teach me.

St. Joseph is also my new homie having likely coached Mary through the birth of Jesus - the innkeeper's wife was probably not very helpful.  I'm not terribly excited about the helpless feeling I'll have of not being able to take away my wife's labor pangs and so I could definitely use some guidance in the redemptive quality of suffering and empathy.  Here's to hoping that my male empathy goes further than just feeling it too when some other dude gets hit in the nuts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Worship Songs that are from the Bible

I suppose I'm one of those weird Catholics that reads the Bible every day. 

It started in my early high school years when I first got serious about my faith.  I felt that in order to have any credibility as a Christian, I should be able to say that I've read the entire Bible.  At the time, I was self-aware enough to realize that there was no way I would be able to keep up with one of those Bible-in-a-year programs, but on the flip-side, I knew that I was in it for the long-haul and wasn't in a rush.  As a result, I decided to read a chapter a day from the start of the Bible to the finish.

With 1074 chapters in the Old Testament (of the Catholic Bible) and 260 chapters in the New Testament, it took me almost 4 years!  There were obviously days when I was reading just to keep up with my commitment, especially through some of the dryer books, but among the cool moments I encountered was just how many worship songs I recognized in the scriptures. 

My worship song background started with my Protestant mother who taught us mostly Maranatha and Vineyard songs during our weekly family worship night growing up (I mean like this and this).  That was combined with some of the older, what I like to call, "Catholic Epics," like Be Not Afraid and On Eagle's Wings.  As I got older, I started to get into Contemporary Worship Music like Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Passion, Shane Barnard, etc., as well as music by Hillsong.  Then it was fun to discover contemporary Catholic music like Matt Maher and Audrey Assad. 

So when I recognized songs that I knew in the Bible, it was exciting to see the context that various songs were based on and imagining the experience of the songwriter being inspired to pen the melody.  However, with some songs, I have this weird neuroses where when reading the inspiring passage, I can no longer read the verses without my mind getting distracted by how the lyrics of the song fit into the passage instead of thinking about what the passage is actually saying.  For example, I've always associated the song, He is Lord, with my mom singing it and that has meant that whenever I read Philippians 2:10, I tend to read it so that the song plays smoothly in my head, glossing over the lines that aren't part of the song.  That's the case with Psalm 91 and many other passages. 

With all that said, it's kind of an annoying reflex.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gratefulness

How can we ask God for anything if we are not prepared to properly thank Him when He gives it to us?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crying Poor

The Lord hears the cry of the poor...

... especially if the poor is a 50 year old man who is crying on the steps of a church.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 4

"Guess it's a G thing, whenever we swing /
 I'ma need Coretta Scott if I'm gonna be king /
 I'm a movement by myself, but I'm a force when we're together /
 Mami, I'm good all by myself, but baby you, you make me better"

           ~Fabolous & Ne-Yo, Make Me Better

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 3

"Don't you ever leave the side of me / Indefinitely, not probably / And honestly, I'm down like the economy"
                      ~Lil' Wayne, Down

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Awkward Greetings

http://images.piccsy.com/cache/images/dead-fish-handshake-98227-400-296.jpghttp://1.bp.blogspot.com/_XU9x8G7khv0/TQKJwVvyarI/AAAAAAAAQ9s/jPgotakYtyo/s1600/Summer3.jpg

I can always tell how comfortable I am with a person based on how non-awkward our greetings are.  It's not just the way it looks to witnesses, but also how it feels internally as you see the person, anticipate the greeting, and then go in for it.  This mainly goes for friends, peer co-workers, and the first generation Chinese relatives who aren't touchy-feely, but want to show their love to their ABC nephew and give extra-super awkward one-handed side hugs that are the lovechild of the dead fish handshake and the hover hand.

There are few things in life more awkward than a missed greeting.

For example, with best friends, not only is the greeting smooth and majestic such that it sometimes even sparks a tad bit of envy in any witnesses, but because I know the greeting is going to be super comfortable, it makes me that much more excited to greet the person.  Incidentally, it also creates potential new awkward greeting situations like during the Mass at the Sign of Peace when said witnesses also then assume they'll get the same bro greeting of peace awesomeness, but I unconsciously (consciously) don't reciprocate.

However, when I see someone that to me is more than an acquaintance, but seems a stretch to call a friend, I start to over-think the situation due to my introverted, don't-rock-the-social-situation-Chinese-influenced self.  It's like, you probably like the person enough to not want to pretend like you didn't see them (especially if it would be even more awkward <pause> BUT IT'S EASIER.....RUN!!), but you don't know if you should go in for a professional handshake (too stiff/serious and if he doesn't expect it, we might accidentally interlock fingers <shudder>), some kind of jive handshake variation (are we that close?), or a fist bump (but I'll need to be very clear lest it becomes this).  It doesn't even really help to have a go-to game plan.  Sure, sometimes you avoid some of the awkwardness if your non-verbal communication is clear, but you also risk alienating the person if it's awkwardly professional or looking like a total dork when they don't respond with the same enthusiasm.  Or this happens.  I usually settle for a head nod and hope we move past the feeling of lack of physical contact quickly.

http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/27518_362131930731_7331_n.jpghttp://welcometoharlem.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/black_and_white_handshake-other.jpg

So it's usually pretty great to have a set greeting with people that you know to enact.  For this person, it's a one hand over the shoulder, one hand under the arm hug.  For that person, it's the SoCal slap and bump.  For my black friend, it starts with a jive shake pulled into a one-armed hug and bending the fingers (monkey or thumb-war grip) upon release.  For my nerdy Asian friend, a regular one or two shake handshake.  For my trying-a-bit-too-hard friend, an exploding dap.  And for my obscenely tall white friend, a hug with my arms around his waist and my head resting on his chest.  Just kidding!  But seriously, what are you supposed to do when homie is 6'6?

Sometimes I wish that we could just settle on something like the standard European greeting.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_nVGyx975u38/Rw9qm2no-sI/AAAAAAAABNc/84LvkoFMTxo/s320/Air_Kiss.jpg

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 2

"You should have a travel agent cuz you a trip / You should make your own toilet tissue since you the shit"
                            ~Kanye West, Deuces (Remix)

Friday, August 19, 2011

What is Love?

"God cannot fall in love for the same reason water cannot get wet: it is wet. It is wetness itself. Love Itself cannot receive love as a passivity. It can only spread it as an activity."
                                                       ~ Peter Kreeft, What is Love?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bad Liturgy, Awkward Moments, and Improper Thoughts


Mass is the source and summit of the Catholic faith.  I love the Mass and most people who know me would never question that.  However, I'm sure like many people, my mind can tend to wander around a bit during Mass both through my own fault and sometimes as a result of bad liturgy.  I'm sometimes bemused by bad liturgy, awkward moments, and/or improper thoughts.  For example:
  • Priests that like to make small talk
    You know those priests that try to make a personal connection with the congregation either right after the entrance song or right before the recessional song?  The ones that say something like "How is everyone today?" or "Have a great day!"?  It's always funny to watch how the congregation responds.  For the greeting, some people respond with, "Good, Father."  Others say, "Fine," or, "Great."  For the farewell, you hear some people say, "You too, Father," and others, "Thank you."  Some of the responders speak up forcefully as if trying to speak for everyone while others sort of respond quietly out of automated politeness.  For both cases, there are also those who sense the awkwardness of the situation and simply nod or shift uncomfortably and don't say anything.  Altogether, it makes for a few moments of a messy din that makes me just want to look at my feet.  I think it actually makes the point of why liturgy, the definition of which is a prescribed form of public worship, is practical, necessary, and important.

  • Judging the Cantor, Lectors, etc.
    This is the one where while the cantor or lector is doing their thing, you find yourself distracted because you're thinking more about them.  Perhaps it's because you're judging them because of "stuff" you know about their personal lives which, for whatever reason, makes you deem them "unfit" for their role.  Or maybe you feel like they're cantoring because it makes them feel like a rock star or lectoring because they just like to hear the sound of their own voice instead of seeing themselves as a vessel of the Holy Spirit.  In any case, your thoughts are distracting you from paying attention to the Word of God.  And by "you," I mean "me."  However, the reverse is also true where an inspirational lector or cantor can also lead you into a powerful experience with God.

  • Gift Bearers Bowing During the Offertory
    I especially love seeing large Catholic families bring up the gifts to the altar.  It's so heart-warming for me.  However, it could easily degenerate and this is where having a good liturgical coordinator is crucial.  The pace down the center aisle is important, but not as important (to me) as coordinating the bowing.  It's painful for me to watch when after presenting the gifts to the priest and altar servers, one of the gift bearers unsure of whether or not to bow begins a half-hearted bow.  The second gift bearer, who wasn't going to bow in the first place and has already slowly started to walk away turns back and starts a quick bow because the other gift bearer was bowing.  The first gift bearer has already stopped bowing and is walking away.  It's like liturgical teen angst.

  • Musicians Coming in at the Wrong Time
    I tend to see this more when there is a new priest or if the lead cantor has zoned out a bit.  It usually goes something like this.  The priest has just finished saying, "And so we join the angels and saints in proclaiming your glory..." and is waiting for the musicians to come in.  They are a little bit late and so the priest begins to say the Sanctus.  Just as the congregation is about to join in, the musicians come in and everyone stops in their tracks and then begins singing.  If it's not late, then it's early.  I imagine that many Catholics have experienced a moment where in the middle of the beautiful Eucharistic prayer, the overzealous pianist or organist comes in with a triumphant chord jarring everyone and throwing the priest off.  People spend the rest of the prayer trying not to look at the embarrassed musician who is trying to hide. 

  • and my personal favorite: Has a Priest Ever Been Hit in the Face with the Thurible?
    Incense is a beautiful image and symbol within the Mass and the moment during the Mass when the priest and the people are incensed with three swings is one of my favorites.  One day, while the altar server acting as the thurifer was incensing the priest, I had a horrible thought.  For the next few seconds, it was all I could do to not burst out in giggles because I couldn't stop picturing the altar server accidentally swinging the thurible into the priest's face as he bowed, knocking him backwards with a solid "boink."
I need to go to Confession.  However, most importantly, I am reminded of how human liturgy is and the amazing grace it is for God to make Himself physically present in the midst of such brokenness and awkwardness.




Friday, August 12, 2011

Lyric of the Moment 1

"I'll treat you like milk, I'll do nothin' but spoil you."
                                             ~Lil' Flip, Sunshine

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Changes...

In keeping with the last post, not only does getting married change things in a relationship, but so does getting pregnant.  Go figure. 

As my wife and I undergo this transition in our marriage, one thing that pregnancy has changed is the way we're used to physically interacting with each other.  I know that it may seem obvious, but it's not really something that is talked about as much as YOUR LIFE BEING OVER

For example, hugging.  There's nothing better to calm one of us down or pick one of us up than a nice intimate hug.  I'm talking crotch-to-crotch intimate.  But with the growing tummy, that experience actually sorta feels a little violated.  It's supposed to be a me and wife moment and whether we like it or not, there is now a melon between us that is perfectly/conveniently in the way of prime bit-fitting nuzzlage.  The obvious take-away here is: welcome to parenthood.  I guess even starting from the womb, kids can naturally get in the way of potential intimacy with the spouse so I suppose my feeling towards it depends on my thoughts about how I entitled I feel to that intimacy and how hard I want to work towards it.

Then there's the cuddling change.  Yes, wifey and I love us some cuddle action.  Face to face, I guess it's actually made that particular position better as there's a natural negative cavity that's perfect for the baby bump (think of the space when two spoons are facing each other).  But speaking of spooning, now, when I'm small spoon, I also get nice, random kicks in the back by the baby.  It's a really weird, yet awesome feeling.  Still, this position is the bomb-diggity because instead of getting left behind for the pregnancy pillow like in The Back-up Plan, which I may or may not have seen, I'm still the man.  Seriously.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.

And going back to bits fitting together, sex has changed as well.  Previously comfortable positions now no longer really work either for health reasons and/or practical reasons.  We've had to re-learn a bit and try new things.  This one had the biggest potential to drive a bit of a wedge between us almost literally, but communication has been the key to unlocking this new adventure.

Lots of changes, but we've embraced them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Changes

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2367/2333164002_c7901c4fbe_o.jpg

Of course things change after you get married.  But one of the things that I didn't really expect to change was kissing.  Still, I guess I could have expected it based on the decidedly non-sexual way that elderly couples kiss even when it's supposed to be passionate (think kiss cams at sporting events).  

Why did it change?  Well, for me, I think it had something to do with our commitment to save sex until marriage.  Think about it, if kissing is the only physical act that is "integrously okay" (ie. affection with integrity, not including "accidental" boobage brushes or extra close hugging of the entire torso, just sayin'), then prior to marriage for a chaste couple, there's gotta be an unbelievable amount of sexual tension behind every kiss - which was true at least for me (and a natural part of the commitment).

Now that we are happily married and enjoying the fullness of our bodies, the built up sexual tension has long been released or at the very least, significantly less. This had made kissing as a physical act much more pure.  Initially, it felt like a negative thing, but that was probably because previously, there was so much oomph behind each kiss and makeout session.  Now, it feels like a much more beautiful thing because it contains its purity in its one-of-many expressions of love that we have for each other and not re-actively a means to express sexual frustration.  A piece of advice that I heard during marriage prep was to practice times of kissing that does not lead to sex. As a Catholic, that fits very nicely into pregnancy avoidant times of NFP :).

[ted.bmp]


Friday, July 15, 2011

Mary and Elizabeth

I am amazed by the crazy experience pregnancy must be for a woman.  Watching my wife go through it, it totally makes sense the immediate connection and solidarity that she has with other currently pregnant women. However, when I see this, I immediately try to categorize one woman as "Mary" and one as "Elizabeth" and either want the "Elizabeth" to be a mentor figure to us or my wife to be the mentor figure to the "Mary". Being the J that I am, I get especially gleeful if one woman is almost exactly 6 months ahead of the other. I'm a weirdo.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Extraordinarily Ordinary

http://tigerblog2.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/mountaintop.jpg

As I continue to walk along my spiritual journey, I continue to be amazed by how each pinnacle of spirituality I was trying to reach was actually only a baby step into deeper fullness of life – that which I could not adequately see until I had reached the peak.

Moving from one climax to the next, I grew from going through the indoctrinated motions as a child to taking ownership of my faith as an adolescent, from embracing spiritual discipline to gaining freedom in the mist of it.  I went from one mountain top of realizing my own Belovedness to the next mountain top of learning how to listen to my own body and being attentive to my inner child.  While going through this rhythm, somewhere along the way, I began to pine for the high of struggling along the spiritual climb and its resulting breakthrough with its breathtaking view of the next summit.  Even still, the Truths that I absorbed from previous mountain tops became a deeper part of me than I even realized.

In fact, in the practical struggle of giving God dedicated personal time, I originally wrestled with the notion that in order for God to be present during the time, I needed to have kept Him consciously at the forefront of my mind and thoughts.  Any wandering off or distraction and I would need to lead myself back into His Presence. 

Through a re-awakening of my own Sacrament of Confirmation, I have begun to take hold of the Truth that an indelible mark on my soul has sealed the Spirit in my heart and that the God who I had sought externally as another entity fighting for space in the cosmic universe was actually not that and simply within me.  This realization changed these times I desired to spend with God from needing to constantly remember and explicitly think of Him to a simple acknowledgment of His presence with gratitude for the time to spend, and then being present to the activity, or lack thereof, knowing that the fullness of my physical, emotional, and mental presence was a deep worship of God because I was living in the Truth of my created being.

Still, these "sacred" times needed to be distinct and for some reason, that felt rightly so.  But the wisdom I had been gaining began revealing to me that this approach put unnecessary pressure on these "sacred" times and made me anxious to receive every ounce of spirituality there was to be gleaned – I was straddling the line of being utilitarian with God. 

Over the course of a few years, without it being an explicit goal I was striving towards, I was making my way to the next spiritual pinnacle.  And now, it seems, that I have reached the vicinity of this next mountain top without even realizing it – that slowly, along the way, I began to trust that the God I was hoping to encounter at each minor height was present as I walked along the ascent.  "Sacred" times no longer needed to be dramatic, well reflected, or deeply self-aware.  Attentiveness to my inner child led me to feel content with listening to my body's call for sleep or food and a peace to space out in what I previously would have termed "undisciplined meditation."  Heeding my masculine call for adventure no longer meant the added pressure of needing a "good story."  In my desire to find the next summit, I had inadvertently discovered an inner peace and Godly-contentment with the ordinary, plain, and even boring life.  That God would be so powerful that He would not be content only with bringing me to my knees at each mountain top, but that I would also be able to experience peace in knowing that He is also fully content with my boring life in the valleys between, even the mundane self-perceived flaws that camouflage so easily with mediocrity.

Coming to this realization at this point in my life can only be God's providence.  With my wife and I about to bring new life into this world, in many ways, our lives are about to get extremely ordinary, perhaps painfully so.  Seeing many fathers that are found lacking, I am moved to be present and to love deeply.  On the other hand, seeing many fathers that I am amazed by and long to model myself after, I am paralyzed by inadequacy.  However, as "sacred" time slowly becomes less of a distinct time, it begins pervading the rest of my life itself.  In the midst of diaper changes, feedings, and nap times, the pressure of needing to have God at the explicit forefront of my mind would likely be a frustrating battle.  All time is sacred and the Truth of living out my vocation being physically, emotionally, and mentally present means that I am spiritually present as well.  This brings the peace and the presence of God into ordinary life.  When I can live like this, only then can I bring my daughter into that presence as well.  That feels like freedom in an extraordinarily ordinary way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's with all the negativity?

http://shawncita.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/080428-kids-how-about-no.jpg?w=480&h=384No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children

It's unbelievable to me the amount of outward negativity there is associated with having kids.  I guess, given our immediate fulfillment type culture, it makes sense, but I find this sentiment equally in secular society and among those Christian (and Catholic) friends whom I know believe that children are a blessing from God.  Still, I'm sure if you drilled down into them, most people would find positive words to say about being a parent and their kids.  It's just that my idyllic, Theology-of-the-Body-influenced self is so struck by the fact that the first words out of parents' mouths are always something to do with how negatively impacted their lives are.

Like I said, I recognize that with me being an expectant Dad, I probably still have on rose-colored lenses and that I honestly have no real world experience with the emotions of being up in the middle of the night with a wailing baby.  I definitely don't want to discount the difficulty and enormous amount of self-sacrifice required and I suppose technically, from the lens of the Bible (Romans 8:13, Luke 9:23, Galatians 5:24, etc), people are correct that their lives are over because they are dying to themselves for the sake of another, but I somehow doubt that's what people really mean in the moment.

I think partly what I'm responding to is the erosion of the nuclear family in modern society.  Like I said earlier, the prevailing mindset seems to be one that is self-serving and so those things that go against that mindset probably feel the most painful.  As a result, in our status-updating culture, that discord is at the front of our minds and so maybe that's why it gets shared so often. 

I'm not really asking that parents no longer complain because at times, it's probably therapeutic.  Sharing honestly about your current emotional/mental/physical state can probably help people connect relationally, ie. sharing how tired you are because you've been trying to soothe a colicky baby or how frazzled you are from trying to round up a bunch of kids to get to church.  But it's those sweeping statements that are more a factor of perspective, intentionality, and desire for affirmation that seem dangerous to me.  Stuff like, "Oh, you're pregnant?  Congrats!  Your life is over!  Kiss your sex life goodbye!  You'll never travel again!"   I just want a bit more balance.

My prayer is that I can represent a more Truthful understanding of family in my life (Psalm 127:3-5). But check back in with me after October.  I might be feeling pretty sheepish.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

**SPOILERS**

It has become a part of our Silicon Valley culture (at least) these days where people are quite courteous and sensitive when it comes to spoiling movies.  Most people, from critics to random people, will almost always give a disclaimer when discussing a part of a movie that gives away some significant portion of the plot.  Usually, a prominently typed or formatted, "SPOILERS," acts as the writer/talker's sufficient warning that releases them from any culpability for ruining someone else's movie watching experience.  If this is ignored or forgotten, there will almost always be a socially justified strong reaction out of the reader/hearer to berate the spoiler-er.

With DVR's found in more and more households, it seems (definitely for me) that watching sporting events on tape delay is becoming more and more and commonplace.  If you've ever attempted to watch a game on tape delay, you know that there are definitely pros and cons.  Pros include being able to skip commercials and watch the game at your own pace.  With a growing family and a marriage that is a top priority, the less time I can spend in order to get my sporting fix means the more quality time I can give the wifey.  However, the cons are where it really becomes an adventure. 

Especially if the sporting event is fairly high profile, like say a play-off or finals game or a top college football game, and most people know you're a fan, you might as well turn off your phone.  Even if you try not to look at your text messages, based on the timing and possibly who sent it to you (on the home screen), you usually can figure out if it's positive or negative.  Status messages (on GChat, Facebook, AIM, etc) should also obviously be avoided.

There are also always people who want to talk about the game and inevitably, in passing you're also likely to find out about the game - people gathering around a TV and cheering or groaning, people who were following on the internet or on their phone, etc.

Of course, I acknowledge that if one chooses to watch a game on tape delay, you can't complain *too* much if it gets spoiled, especially if you were in public places during the game.  But really, it always feels like a gut-punch especially if I had been building up the watching experience expectation in my mind for a while - to just kick back with a glass of scotch and just chill.  So as a result, I'm proposing, out of the goodness of peoples' hearts, that we institute a, "SPOILERS," cultural shift that, like movies, encourages a sensitivity to people's sport watching preferences. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Beat That Testimony

http://www.bible.ca/beat-that-testimony.gif

One of the most uplifting things in my faith is hearing people share about the transforming, redeeming power of God in their lives.  Growing up in a variety of Christian environments, the sharing of testimonies were pretty much standard in Evangelical, Protestant communities, rare in modern Catholic culture (though everywhere in the lives of the saints), and so collectively, I've heard my fair share of these stories.  Especially in light of a secular culture where the common rhetoric for the non-existence of God is the lack of evidence, I've always enjoyed hearing these sort of macro-social examples (though I realize that atheists don't feel that it's bullet-proof).

Something I've realized over years of hearing testimonies is that I have sub-consciously developed something that I'm terming the "prodigal-meter."   What is that you ask?  Well, assuming we're familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son, it's basically a meter of spiritual tolerance that dictates the emotional amazement and awe I feel when hearing a testimony.  The more "prodigal" a testimony is, the higher it scores on the prodigal-meter and the more, "Wow!  God is so awesome-spectacular-worthy-holy-is-the-lamb-praise-tha-Lawd!" I get.  The interesting thing with this "prodigal-meter" is that it is relative, ever-changing, and continually normalizing as I hear more and more stories and is honestly something I have to actively fight against. 

For example, when I was in middle/high school and heard my first testimony of someone praying to God for an A and then getting it, I was like, "Foe reeealz?!  God hears and answers those types of prayers?!  Siiiick! (a little norcal 1990's slang for ya'll)"  Then, as I got older and learned more about how God isn't a cosmic, wish-granting genie (Jesus Following 101, I guess), each subsequent time I heard this type of testimony again, it was easier and easier to dismiss the relative importance of that experience for the testifier and even feel a bit smug. 

These days, it almost feels like the "gold-standard" of testimonies has become ones of deliverance from a life of promiscuity, drugs, and/or alcohol.  And even then, the rank of the wow-factor of this "gold-standard" testimony seems to go, from least-wow to most-wow, alcohol and partying (eh, lots of people get into that), then the dabbling in drugs (okay, this is bad, but at least you're mostly only screwing yourself up), then the sexual sin (sex?! <cue general Christian insecurity and personal confusion>).  But still, it does seem that people ascribe the most awe to these types of testimonies and it has had an impact on general Christian culture.  Seeing it especially in my generally square high school students, there is sort of an increased lack of sharing because there is a fear that if the testimony isn't "hardcore" enough, people feel lame about sharing it or may not think it's even worth sharing, diminishing a powerful thing God did in their life.

While I could write a lot about that, on the flip-side, one testimony I recently heard set a new standard on the prodigal-meter.  In a large group setting, someone that I know shared how a few years ago, in a moment of alcohol-affected weakness, he ended up molesting a younger, more vulnerable friend and how he had carried the guilt and shame with him through the years.  In fact, it was this guilt and shame that drove him to be so active in the church to "make up for it."  He hadn't been to Confession since that time, but through a powerful retreat experience, finally went, fully confessed it, and experienced the amazing redemptive power of God's forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession.  You could've heard a pin drop.  I was so blown away.

Hearing this testimony actually made me realize how normalized deliverance from sexual promiscuity/pornography/masturbation has become in the sense that it is something that increasingly gets shared, in my experience.  Don't get me wrong, on an individual level, it's still an incredibly difficult struggle and thing to share, but I think that part of the reason for the normalization is because just about everyone can identify with the struggles whether you have gone through it yourself or could easily see yourself doing it based on what you know about your desires.  Molestation is such a taboo topic, especially in the Catholic Church, that it has almost reached "unforgivable" status, right there next to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

It was a good reality check for me.  Clearly, I need to be intentionally vigilant against the prodigal-meter and continue to allow myself to experience ever new the breath-taking goodness and love of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How do children understand marriage?

A question I've been pondering to myself today is: How do children learn and understand the concept of marriage, especially if their parent(s) aren't married?  

In my daily consumption of pop culture, I've already come across two examples of male celebrities who are openly thinking about getting married due to their (out-of-wedlock) kids asking them why they aren't married to their mother.

1. P. Diddy in his song, "Coming Home":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-ImCpNqbJw

Between 1:05 and 1:22, P. Diddy raps:

What am I supposed to do when the club lights come on /
It's easy to be Puff, but it's harder to be Sean /
What if the twins ask why I ain't marry their mom /
How do I respond?  /
What if my son stares with a face like my own /
And says he wants to be like me when he's grown?

2.  An article on people.com (<sigh> yes, I do glance at it occasionally...okay fine, daily) where Brad Pitt is re-considering his long-held view that he, "will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able."  What's making him reconsider?  His kids asking about it (full interview here).

Preparing to have a child myself, I've been thinking more and more about how I want to teach my kids and how I want them to see me.  Surely, a great deal of their understanding of marriage will come from the model they learn from me and my wife, but in the two situations above, the children seem to know either that if their parents love each other or if they are their parents' children, their parents should be married (or both). 

Is that something learned in school or from societal clues around them?  Or is there an additional instinctive, inherent, natural order to it as well?  At the very least, the family unit is showing to be quite influential to even the more world-hardened people.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Possimpible Way










I've always liked David Hayward's image of the "Narrow Way".









As I live more and more life, Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14 continue to ring more and more true.  It's really hard to follow Jesus and it requires changing, stretching, and conforming our hearts, very painfully at times, to be more like His.  Narrow gate indeed.

I have to admit though, that after seeing Hayward's image, one of the first things that came to my mind was, "Hey, that totally reminds me of the Japanese variety show human tetris game!"



And then after watching the video again, I've come to the conclusion that it's an even better analogy, albeit a much more ridiculous and light-hearted one!  Let me explain:

It's always a shock when we first realize how much is required of us to become a disciple.


Many of us actually make an attempt to try and figure out what it takes to follow Jesus.



Some of us fail...


...even when it looks pretty easy to observers.
(how do they not beat this one?!)

Some of us succeed!...


...only to discover that the next level  in following Jesus is even crazier and more impossible (or possimpible if you will).



 Then on top of that, try to do it in community.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

I need to anticipating

As an ABC, it is engrained in me to anticipate others' needs.  If someone asks me for help with something before I anticipate it, I am internally shamed (though not to be mistaken for having already mentally anticipated a need, but just waiting for them to ask - hey, we're not robots). 

It's like I go through life with one eye on the things I'm doing and one eye on the people around me.  If I'm buttering my bread at the toast making station in the cafeteria, I can feel exactly if the person behind me wants to squeeze in behind me to get their toast started in the toaster (that reminds me of one of my favorite puns: The phrase, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" doesn't make sense - that's like saying, "Toasters don't toast toast, toasts toast toast."  Great...now the word "toast" just looks spelled wrong.).  Anyways, so I let the person squeeze in next to me, after all, efficiency, I guess, is king.

However, just because I can anticipate something doesn't mean that I'll meet the need.  I am an aggressive driver (not to be confused with an Asian woman driver), there, I said it.  And so when I see a fellow aggressive driver coming up behind me a lane over knowing that he wants to cut in front of me, I may speed up so that he gets stuck behind the slower car ahead of him in his lane.  There, I said that too.  Sometimes I can be a jerk like that.

But even more jerk-like, it's sometimes amazing to me how I can irrationally project this value I have onto other people.  I mean, if I'm working so hard to anticipate others' needs, people should at least return the freaking favor right?  That right there is the heart of the sins that I tend to confess the most during Confession.  If I'm next in line at the toast station and all I want to do is get my toast started, if only the person taking their sweet time and their sweet space could feel the wrath of my internal lambasting that I'm too non-confrontational to say.  Don't even get me started when I'm driving behind slow people.  <sigh>.  Sorry, Jesus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Qualities

Over my first five years of high school ministry, I've started to notice a trend. The students who seem to grow the most in their faith after graduation and during their college years tended to have the following three qualities:
  1. Teachability
    These students allowed their hearts to be challenged by seemingly familiar concepts and were always looking to grow.
  2. Unafraid to ask questions
    After allowing their hearts to be challenged, these students were unafraid to ask the tough questions, which always had a connection to their personal lives, and seek out answers.
  3. Willingness to take risks
    Once they asked their questions and heard the answers, they found the courage and conviction to be able to take a risk and attempt to put the principles into practice in their lives.  
It has been one of my greatest joys in ministry to hear the students testify to God's faithfulness in their lives as they continue to grow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Endowment

http://ed101.bu.edu/StudentDoc/current/ED101sp10/cldavis/Images/Wooden%20Ruler.jpg
It's funny how thoughts influenced by the secular notion of the importance of "package" size can flash by during the season of pregnancy.  From the technician not finding male genitalia during the ultrasound (does a 90% certainty mean a 10% chance it was too small to find?) to knowing 8th-grader-like glances between guys when a baby comes out "strapped" or not, at the very least, you know your ish works.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When I'm lost...

...sometimes I feel like I don't really identify as a man who's too prideful to stop and ask for directions, but rather, I'm so prideful that I'd rather know exactly where I'm going and what I'm doing.

(off of today's Gospel reading: John 14:5)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Would I really be pro-life if...



A relative of mine recently got married and found out they were pregnant. As a couple, they are not very well-off financially or in a place the secular culture might deem as being "ready" to start a family.  Not being particularly religious, they were receiving pressure to abort the pregnancy and were seriously considering it as an option.

When I heard about the situation, it hit rather close to home.  It made me realize that in my social circle, there isn't a lot of practical room for a situation like aborting an "unplanned pregnancy" to play out or at least where the couple would share about it as if it were a completely normal and valid option.

All of the catechesis that I've received or that I've taught or that my fellow young adult volunteers at my church teach is mostly theoretical.  We are quite well-versed in the rhetoric, but through this situation, I've realized that very few of us have a deeply personal connection or at the very least, share openly about a deeply personal connection to these life issues in our lives (ABC's tend not to be very vulnerable, but that's a different post entirely).

Being in the middle of our own pregnancy, I've had to face these issues more than I've ever had in the past on a personal level.  It has been a great experience being a part of the West Coast Walk For Life and also praying outside of an abortion clinic, but when our doctor is telling my wife and I about the need for genetic testing so in the case of catastrophic genetic deformity, we would be able to consider our "options," it hits me in a much deeper way.

Thankfully, my conscience has been well-formed enough so that we will receive whoever God gives us, no matter what.  But it was an interesting thought experiment for me to think about what it might feel like to consider abortion in the event of a major disability. 

I found that my immediate, albeit hypothetical, reaction was that all of the dreams of having a normal child, like running around in a lush field of green grass, having rowdy family dinners, cheering at their sporting events, etc., were the first thing to be offended and since that's what I really wanted - those experiences - the child, not being able to provide that, so I would think, didn't fit. 

The second reaction was thinking about all of the work and sacrifice that I hadn't signed up for.  There were expectations of a normal first few years of sleepless nights and diaper changes, but eventually the child would gain more and more independence and ultimately, we would have an empty-nest.  I didn't sign up to have to care for this child the rest of my life, never regaining the independence that I was supposing to only be temporarily giving up (see #2).

I found both reactions to be selfish.

On the flip side of the earlier situation, I lay awake that night asking myself, "If [the couple] were going to go through with the abortion, do I value life so much that I would volunteer to adopt their child?  I mean, I talk the pro-life talk, but do I believe it so much that I would sacrifice my life in this way so that a priceless life that I always teach/preach about would be saved?  Of course I would have to talk it over with [my wife]...I wonder what she would think.  It would be almost like having twins.  That would be CRRRAZY.  Jon and Kate Plus Eight here we come?  And it's interesting that the only way I'm having this conversation with myself (Thought Inception!) is because I'm married.  This definitely wouldn't work if I was still single.  Funny how marriage changes things..."  I think I fell asleep after that.

Thankfully, the couple has decided to keep their child!  That has now led me down the line of thinking how we can help support them and future play dates.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

White Knuckling vs Freedom to Choose


My Lenten fast taught me that when I foresee temptation, instead of shutting my eyes, putting my fingers in my ears, and shouting, "No! No! No!" (the classic white knuckle approach), I can simply recognize the temptation and, using my freedom, choose to say, "No."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

God's Blessing == Crazy Life?

Sometimes, God's lavishness and blessing on me makes my life here on earth feel really crazy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Healer

Oh Lord, I know that You can heal me of my affliction, but I struggle
with believing that I'm worth it to you and with thinking that there
are a lot more "worthwhile" things for You to concern yourself with.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Triduum Services

It's funny.  At my home parish, I always found myself getting a bit self-righteous when all of the Easter Triduum services would be standing room only because all of the CEO (Christmas and Easter only) Catholics would come out.  For various scheduling reasons, this year, I've had to piecemeal together the services I attended (all three at different parishes) and surprisingly, all of them, even one at a cathedral, had a sorry turnout.  Makin' me think twice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

ABC's + Dandruff

It's funny.  You never hear about ABC guys talking about dandruff problems personally or stereotypically (unlike small package jokes <nervous chuckle>), but based on the ... enormous sample size over the course of my life, lots of Chinese households carry Head & Shoulders.  Including myself.

Faith != anti-science

It's annoying how faith has become so synonymous with being anti-science.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Jeremy Lin

Being a fellow Chinese-American who grew up in the Bay Area playing sports, I've always admired and enjoyed following Jeremy Lin and his rise to the NBA.  Really, that guy is totally living the dream that was crushed as soon as I realized I was a 5 foot tall insecure Chinese freshman who weighed about a buck (my six inch growth spurt came about two years too late).  In pointed jest, I've always been bummed that my unathletic parents weren't rabid fans or themselves successful athletes where I could've gotten a leg up purely by childhood osmosis.

After reading this article by ESPN on Jeremy Lin, the next time I went to visit my parents, I gave my Dad, who with my mom also follow Jeremy from the Chinese parent community perspective, a playful slap on the back and chastised him, "Why couldn't you have been super into basketball and taken me to the YMCA all the time to work on my game?  I could've been in the NBA!" 

Without missing a beat, he replied, "When you were growing up, I always took you to church especially while I ministered to the young people.  That's why you're a youth leader now."

<sigh>

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Unnecessary work

Two-stream pees can be quite annoying at times for those who stand up.
I never seem to learn that instead of consolidating, pushing harder
means more splitting action.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Playing sports while being Christian

The other day, while playing in a tense league basketball game against one of the strongest teams, one of my teammates (who also happens to be my accountability partner) made an aggressive move to the hoop.  However, it was a bit too aggressive and he slammed right into the opposing defender and was called for a charge.  It was a physical play in a close game, but it was clean and both players recognized it as such.  Since most of the players from both teams often play pick-up games together, lots of trash-talking ensued.  As teammates were helping them up, one of the snarky guys on the other team quipped, "Hey, hey!  Easy now.  Don't you guys go to the same church or something?"

In fact, my teammate is actually a college campus minister and the opposing defender is actually quite active in one of the large evangelical churches in our area, where both my accountability partner and I have attended services in the past.

That line cracked me up for a good while, but after thinking about it some more, I started wondering about people's perception of me when I play sports. 

In an open gym setting with pick up basketball games, lots of different types of people come in and play.  However, when I think about what I know about them, in general, it's usually only by their game and until I know their name and more about them, some description of their body type.  It's usually something like, "You know, that little blonde guy, about 5'8, who's quick and throws his body around?" Or, "That big dude, about 6'6, who's athletic, but doesn't seem to know how to use his body and can't finish around the hoop?  Man, if I had that height..."  It's actually a bit of a minor paradigm shift when I learn more about the players such that they shift to become a real person in my mind versus just another player I'm glad is on my team because of their ball handling or are annoyed at because I know that they can tend to stagnate an offense.

But that got me thinking about whether or not, based on the way I carry myself at the gym, people would be surprised to find out I was Christian?  An orthodox, practicing Catholic?  Would they be surprised because of the occasional swear word that I yell out when I miss an easy shot (I'm working on it) or how I might respond if things get overly competitive?  Or would it make sense based on perceived integrity or lightheartedness?

I guess the seed of this thought was planted when at a noon Ash Wednesday Mass a couple years ago, I saw one of the guys from the gym.  I was a bit surprised to find out that he was Catholic, not because of some negative perception I had of him on the court, but because it hadn't occurred to me that these people I had been playing with also had a real life :P.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turning down sex?!

Prior to getting married, I couldn't fathom a time or a situation
where I would turn down sex. It didn't seem possible that there could
be an opportunity to unite with my wife and I wouldn't feel up for it.
I used to always joke, "Every hour on the hour!"

It's sort of surprising then that in the busyness of life, I find
there are moments when I'm not that interested. In the moment, I just
don't feel like it, but looking at it through the lens of my
premarried days, it's crazy. Usually, it's because I'm in a good
groove working through emails or I'm a bit anxious about getting some
ministry prep done or I'm in the middle of Sportscenter or a game. My
premarried self would want to kick my ass for writing that last
sentence. Funny how that works and it's a little convicting thinking
about my availability to my wife.

More and more I understand why my spiritual director always tells me
to look for my libido to act up when I slow down or go on a personal
retreat. It's so interesting how busyness can suppress the libido and
how eventually it needs to be expressed in some way. It makes sense
then that without slowing down and in the midst of busyness, it can
get expressed in some pretty destructive ways.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home Depot

It's funny how Home Depot has become less overwhelming since becoming a homeowner. 

I'm sure the switch from walking in there with the mentality of "eh, I could always just get the landlord to take care of it," to "this is my house!" probably helped.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just in passing...

Sometimes I think that a small part of my cross to carry in life is to
sit behind giant people at Mass :P.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What do you do when ...

... you notice that one of your high school leaders has a huge hickey on their neck when they're leading a small group discussion?  Part of me wants to just call him out in front of the whole group, but that's probably not very helpful.  Or loving.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Relic of St. Mary Magdalene


As much as I love the Church, one of those things that I'm still trying to more fully understand is the devotion and veneration of relics.  Reading up on it a bit, I can grasp that the bodies of saints as former temples of the Holy Spirit through which many blessings of God were poured out ought to have a special place particularly in light of undertsanding our bodies via the Theology of the Body.  However, in practice, I'm not quite sure what to do with that.

A relic of St. Mary Magdalene (a piece of her tibia) was at Vallombrosa on February 20 making its California tour and I had the opportunity to go and see it.  This was my first time seeing a first-class relic and I had no idea what to expect.

Vallombrosa had provided some history on the relic and so it was nice having an explanation of the timeline all the way back to St. Mary herself.  When it comes to relics, I often find myself wondering how people really know it actually belonged to the saint.  I'm skeptical that some dude dug up a body part, made some outrageous claim, and then here we gullible people are, centuries later, wanting some affirmation of our faith and venerating it.  I don't really believe that, but the thought does cross my mind.  However, knowing how the Church moves and how careful she tries to be when it comes to claims like this helps that.

Entering the chapel where the relic was on display being venerated, there were many people praying before it (her?).  As I waited to go up to it, I was watching what other people were doing.  Most people went up to it, looked/stared at it, presumably praying in their heart, and then closed with a sign of the cross.  Then it was my turn.

"Wow!  That's a big-ass piece of bone."  That was my first thought.  Oops. 

"Hi! ..."  That was my second thought.

I hope I still looked reverent like everyone else.

Not having a lot of experience with non-living human body parts, I was surprised by how dark the bone was.  At the same time, I found myself struck by the fact that this was part of St. Mary Magdalene herself!  This flashed me back to a self-imagined dramatic, epic montage of the Bible stories of St. Mary.  Snapping back to reality, but with gravity still there, I had a deep sense of my faith connection being here in the 21st century going all the way back to the time of Jesus.  I felt privileged to be a part of such a rich history and even empowered to be able to continue on the battle of faith.  I closed with a quick prayer asking St. Mary to pray for me to continue to grow in my understanding of her, this whole relics thing, and following Jesus better.  Not the most eloquent, but it was me.

I think that might be what it's all about.

Procession of the relic of St. Mary

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Receiving a Blessing from God

I’ve realized that I have this underlying expectation that in order to receive a tangible blessing from God, I must have met certain requirements.  I need to first be in the “proper” emotionally receptive state to fully be aware of it when it comes so that I have no doubt and I can only receive it after I’ve had a struggle proportional to the size of the blessing.

Why is it that I have a hard time receiving it otherwise?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Buying a House?!

My wife and I are trying to buy a house in the Bay Area and the numbers are so big that it just feels like Monopoly money.  Like Jon Acuff says in this post (#2), as we are going to open houses and meeting with our realtor, I keep find myself wondering when the adults are going to show up and make the real decisions.

Growing up in an affluent Chinese family, there was never a need to talk numbers.  Though my parents are helping us out quite a bit, they just gave me a rundown of our financial history.  Talk about a bubble burst.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Spoon is too Big

I was always under the impression that to be a man meant that you always had to be the big spoon.  It was the position of power and control.  You also got to be the protector and provider of warmth.

Since being married, I now have the possibility of spooning every night and for long periods of time.   However, that has turned the above ideal into awkward placements of the mattress side arm, mouthfuls of hair which always tickles your face first, and getting way too hot.

Being wiser and more married-er, I've discovered that a key to marital bliss actually lies in being the small spoon! The wifey still feels secure and warm wrapping herself around you, your arm no longer needs to go numb under her head (for some reason this isn't as big of a deal for women), and you can breathe easy, hair-free, AND have full control of the blanket thermostat (ie. how much you are in or out of the covers).  You can take that to the bank.

I've come to terms with the fact that...

...unfortunately, I can no longer poo without busting out my iPhone.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pregnancy Envy as a Guy

It's really weird as a guy to know what pregnancy envy feels like. Prior to wanting to start a family or even being married, I knew this was an experience for people who desired to have a child, but were having trouble conceiving. Growing up, I knew of certain couples in the church who wanted children, but couldn't and even now, I'm friends with couples experiencing this. It seems pretty obvious that it must be very difficult when people around them are getting pregnant and especially when their good friends who try for the first time and boom, they're pregant. It's also probably very spiritually stretching if you're in a good a place and spiritually dark if you're not.

However, my personal empathy to this experience prior to us wanting to start a family was that I was only affected when talking to these couples directly, hearing them share about their struggles or trying to be sensitive about dropping any mutual friends' baby news.  I didn't really think about it otherwise.  Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

My wife and I have always been very excited to start a family and both desire a large family. But now that we're actually starting to try, the whole shift in mindset has been quite staggering. There are lots of weird little things that I start to notice or think about. Among them:

  • It's quite liberating to go from avoiding green and white baby stickers (Creighton Model) to just enjoying each other.  It's funny because in our first few months of marriage, almost every month, there was a day we "shouldn't have used" which caused us to look forward to the next period in anxiety wondering if we got pregnant.  I remember thinking that if we had gotten pregnant, I would've been a bit distraught.
  • The whole process has really brought out what my wife and I individually believe about God's goodness to us.  We can tend to struggle with feeling like God asks us to sacrifice things for Him more often than not so we've found ourselves wondering if we'll end up being one of the couples who can't conceive or if we may be parents to a special-needs child or something else.  This has really brought to light the concept of barrenness in the Bible and how it's an age old problem. 
  • On that note, the whole process just seems way slower than I expected.  Each month you try during the fertile time and then you just ........... wait.  There's nothing else you can really do to make things happen faster or ensure a positive result.  You just wait and see if the period comes.  It was a bit surprising, but very interesting to see that in conjuction with the common societal value of needing to be in control.  We have only been trying a few months and so far, it's felt like forever.  I know there are tons of couples who are rolling their eyes right now.
  • And as you're waiting, I've noticed that my wife struggles with how much to look into every single sign.  I'm starting to cramp --> my period must be coming --> I'm not pregnant =(.  I'm feeling a bit nauseous --> I've had a cold for a while --> or I might be pregnant.  For the woman who is desiring to become pregnant, it feels like such a roller coaster ride.
  • On my side, it feels like EVERYONE is pregnant around me.  All of a sudden, I have baby bump radar (or bump-dar).  There are seriously at least six women at work who are pregnant and three guys just announced that their wives are pregnant.  In the same meeting.  It's like it's so easy for other people.  And then that gets me thinking about all of the teen pregancies out there shaking my head in disbelief at how that works out.  Either they are having TONS of sex or they are super fertile. 
Well anyways, forgive my political incorrectness.  This is a new experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 West Coast Walk For Life

I went with a group to the West Coast Walk For Life yesterday. I consider myself pro-life, but I'm not very ... militant ... about it. Don't get me wrong, I think there is something very powerful and worthwhile in being on the front-lines of the battle. We need those people. I'm not sure if I'm one of them at the moment. It may be a calling thing or it might just be that my heart isn't convicted enough about it yet. Personally, I prefer battling it out through teaching on it and engaging with people one on one about it. I feel like I can communicate and dialogue about it in a much more productive manner. Maybe it has to do with my non-confrontational (Chinese) nature. But either way, I was out there walking yesterday.

It was pretty powerful to see the vast amounts of people and there were a few interesting things that stood out to me.

1. With all the talk about life and anti-abortion, I was surprised that there was no talk about sex. It's weird to me that you can talk about what people do as the result of having sex without actually talking about sex. Maybe it's too risque with kids around and "sex" being "adult content," but there's gotta be a way to do it without triggering peoples' fears of awkward conversations on the birds and the bees? With media bombarding us constantly with sex and sexualized images, if we never talk about it as a group in a wholesome way, can we ever combat it? I saw a lot of teenagers there and I couldn't help but think that there is likely a number of them that may find themselves facing the hard decision of whether or not to keep the baby. I dunno. I just think it's helpful to connect abortion and sex on the activist front.

2. Debriefing the experience with the group I went with, the most memorable part for people were the counter-protesters. Many of them were quite out there in terms of the way they dressed - classic San Franciscans (think PRIDE). What's interesting about it is that you really only saw them over a very small part (maybe one block) of the two mile walk, but they were the most memorable part. Watching the pro-lifers walking by watching the pro-choice protesters, there were lots of interested looks, picture-taking, the occasional shouting match, and lots of misunderstanding on both sides. I did, however, hear a few passing comments on both sides of interest and/or agreement (if only partial) of certain signs which brings me to my last thought.

3. The signage for the most part did not impress me. A lot of it on the pro-life side was the same-old rhetoric (is that bad of me to say?). There were some occasional good signs on both sides and by good I mean creative, sharp, or in-your-face. I even think that my group had a few of the better signs out there (I'm probably biased). But maybe I don't really understand the point of signs. Based on the event itself, it's already clear where people in the walk stand and so it should already be understood that the issue is divisive. Wouldn't it be more helpful for some of the signage to help build bridges or even just to ease some of the tension unto helping bring about some understanding that there are people on both sides, not just a faceless enemy? I'm thinking next year, I will make a big sign out of white board (dry-erase) material so that I can have rotating material. If I had one this year, the following might've made it on:

"Go Giants!"
I may have missed the boat on this one. Who knows if we'll have World Series solidarity next year.

"Chinese Catholics. Yes, we exist. Yes, most of us are single."
Sorry, just a bit of remaining bitterness and wanting to be noticed in a crowd.

"I love Jesus & I love sex!"
This should be worth a high-five or two.