April Newsletter - Letters from a girl on an adventure…
More About Me
A Seattleite living in Jakarta, Indonesia, passionate about Jesus, life, the arts, and solving social issues. Oh and coffee. Let's not forget that.
April Newsletter - Letters from a girl on an adventure…
Happy hump day e’rbody!
(According to Urban Dictionary, hump day is Wednesday, or the hump of the week. The absolute BEST day of the week, the day of maximum hope that maybe, you might make it out of this week alive.)
Hump days are when the rubber meets the road. It’s the middle of the week, practically AGES since Sunday. But allow me to share a short reflection on what I learned and have been thinking of since Sunday.
At church this past weekend, PD (Pastor Dave) preached from 1 Corinthians 15:12-23, and he talked a lot about the resurrection and of death. Two things stayed with me long after the sermon was over.
First, on the topic of resurrection and death. The resurrection is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.
Death is “the debt that all men pay.” (Quoted from the movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets)
I believe that Christ was resurrected from the dead, and his death and resurrection enables me to enjoy right relationship with God. Jesus paid this debt in full, and rather than death being the great equalizer, death becomes the gate to spending eternity in the presence of God. The resurrection proclaimed Christ’s victory over death and sin. Our eternal destiny was redeemed the day God proved himself victorious over death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26; A literature geek like me probably get all giddy when realizing J.K. Rowling used the Bible in her Harry Potter books! This exact quote, actually.) Rather than getting what we deserve, an eternity of separation, Christ paid the price so we receive an eternity with him. By conquering death, Christ has redeemed our eternity.
Second, PD asked this question this weekend:
How is my life impacted by my beliefs?
I thought about this a lot over the past few days. I had the privilege of speaking at the Midweek service at IES last night, and that message was very much a product of my rumination of this question. There is no question as to what or whom I believe. I believe in Jesus, his deity and his death and resurrection. But the next step is to ask how is my life impacted by that?
When I think of the word “impact,” I can’t help thinking of major car wrecks and their moment of impact. Think of being hit by a semi going seventy an hour. Bam! The world will never be the same again.
Has my life been that impacted by my belief?
The price paid for my eternity is too costly for me not to live a Christ-defined life. (That was my sermon last night, that worship is our response to Christ’s love, and it involves giving all of us and living a Christ-defined life.) So how should I be living each day?
1. I should be living my life in light of eternity. Knowing that death isn’t the end puts life on earth in perspective. People might think that life is too short to not do whatever I want whenever I want to. But when I owe Christ my eternity, the least I can do is live my life the way God wants me to.
2. Death isn’t something to be afraid of. In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If he lives, he said, his life is going to be defined by Christ, but if it’s his time to die, it’s even better because he gets to be with his Lord. For Christians, death is a door to an eternity with God.
3. I should be sharing the love of Christ to the world, through the things I do and the things I say. Their life is too short for them not to hear about Jesus. Their eternities too long a time for them to be separated from Christ.
This morning I had my first cup of coffee since Tuesday night. I know some of you might be wondering why I inflicted that much torture to myself (and the people around me).
Our church did a week of prayer and fasting starting this past Sunday, March 2nd that went on to yesterday. People are encouraged to fast and pray for Indonesia, for the church, and for themselves. The church didn’t specify how people are supposed to fast; it’s their own commitment to God. I decided that I was going to fast from food for roughly 23 hours every day of that week. So I ate dinner on Sunday night and my next meal was dinner Monday night. I was drinking water, but I had also decided not to drink coffee during my fasting period. That resulted in an interesting week for me.
This week, I found out that what was making fasting hard for me wasn’t the lack of food. It was the lack of caffeine. For those of you who guessed it, congratulations. Yes. I was having coffee withdrawals. Big time. Friday was the first day I didn’t have a caffeine-induced headache. (A quick side note: if you’ve lived in Seattle and actually enjoy drinking coffee, this is not out of the ordinary.) Some of my friends at church, the ones who don’t normally drink coffee, laughed and said, “This shows signs of addiction. You’re addicted to coffee.”
They’re not wrong.
Now that the fast is over, I have had enough nourishment in me to start thinking clearly and reflect on the week. What have I learned? Did I learn anything?
I think the first and most important lesson I learned this week was to focus on Jesus. I know it sounds very simple. Fasting - especially when you commit to fast things you have grown attached to like coffee, Facebook, food, sugar - has a way of re-focusing. Like with a camera, you adjust yourself and focus on what’s really important, while disregarding some of the interesting yet distracting things around. I think fasting has a way of calibrating your life and your priorities. Is God at the center of everything? Or have you gotten distracted by life that God ends up being a blur?
The second lesson, that comes out of the first lesson, is to let go. (Yes, suddenly Idina Menzel’s Let it Go is playing in my mind.) I happen to like coffee. (Also, it’s a great medium for socializing. I love going to coffee with friends!) In the past, when I fasted, I didn’t fast coffee. I had always told myself (and God) that I just can’t do that. That I just don’t have the willpower. That I don’t want to fast coffee. I know, I know. Spoken like a true coffee addict. During this week, though, I’ve learned to let go of something I’ve hold on to. Fasting is about letting go of the things we have trouble letting go of. It’s us declaring through our actions that Jesus is Lord over our lives, sovereign and uncontested. Physically for me, it’s coffee. But there are things that I’ve been holding on too tightly to emotionally and spiritually as well.
I felt very challenged to let a few things go this week. Trust me, for a control freak like me, that is what it is - a challenge. Towards the end, last night actually, I felt like I imploded. During the worship section of our prayer meeting, I couldn’t stop crying and talking to God. Okay, it was more of a yelling match with God. And it continued at home afterwards. I think I understood a little of how Jacob felt when he wrestled with God in Genesis 32:22-32. For me, it was an intense tug-o-war with my life and my plans and my emotions.
At the end, I was so spent. I was so spent that there was no other thing to do but to let go. I asked God one thing, the same thing Jacob asked. “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” I asked God for him to do something. Anything. And not leave me unchanged.
As I laid, curled in a fetal position, on my bed, this song played on my iTunes:
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching over me,
I can sing though billows roll
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout this life’s long journey
He will lead me all the while
Take the world, but give me Jesus.
In His cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see!
Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!
So take the world, but give me Jesus
So take the world, but give me Jesus
Take the world, but give me Jesus
Take the world, but give me Jesus
Whoa. I didn’t expect that when I started fasting and praying. It was a draining experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So take the world, but give me Jesus.
For all you people in Jakarta, Phil Stacey is coming to town.
“American Idol 2006 finalist Phil Stacey is coming to Jakarta for a weekend long live concert. Come and hear his powerful voice and experience his passion for touching people’s heart through music. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Bring ticket? Bring your e-ticket in your phone and show it to our ushers at the door.
Busway? Hop out at the Tosari station. The station is connected to UOB Plaza through a pedestrian bridge.
Rubber Time? Never. Do come early to get good seats.
Hungry? There are great restaurants in the building.
Parking? There is plenty of basement parking spaces.”
[Info taken from the Eventbrite page.]
I’m going to this. Are you? You should… It’s free!
Get your tickets here.
This past weekend, Pastor Dave preached on a couple of IES’ family values. One of them is God’s Word changes lives. PD then spent some time talking about the written Word being a standard to live by compared to living life just based off of what we retained from others’ explanations. In Life Group that Sunday, we talked a bit about that as well. What do you think about tradition and the Word of God? (Okay, that was me paraphrasing the discussion question.)
Between Sunday and today, I’ve had some time to think about things. Mainly about the discussion of tradition. (Is it just me or does that one song from Fiddler on the Roof pops up in your head upon hearing the word “tradition”?)
Before talking more about tradition, let me set this straight. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by God (God-breathed) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. I believe that the Word of God has power to change people’s lives, and I believe that as followers of Jesus, we need to soak ourselves in God’s Word — study it, read it, memorize it.
Now that I’ve made that point clear, I wanted to share my two cents about tradition. Some of my friends with more pentecostal tendencies would probably be the first to tell people that tradition is bad, or that it’s dry and somewhat devoid of emotions. I also know some who would veer to the argument that if the church has been doing this for centuries, there must be some truth to it.
Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was a family who owns a cat. The cat was very mischievous and would get herself into a lot of trouble. The cat especially liked to jump on top of the dinner table while the family was eating dinner. Because of this annoying tendency, the family decides that they needed to tie the cat to the fence outside of the house. This solved their problems. Every night before dinner, a member of the family drags the struggling cat outside and tie her to the fence until dinner was over. The cat lived a long time and after it died, the family replaced her with another cat. They kept on tying the cat to the fence every night before dinner, even when this cat is a different cat. Even when the kids move out and started their own families, they felt it necessary for them to continue this. Decades later, this family still continues this weird tradition, which includes (a) owning a cat, (b) having a fence of some sort, and (c) tying aforementioned cat to the fence prior to eating dinner.
What am I trying to say? Participating in tradition just for the sake of tradition is quite silly. Also, “that’s what we’ve always done,” is not a good enough reason to do anything. Sometimes we get quite caught up in the way we do things that we’ve lost the meaning of it. I’m not bashing the liturgical churches or the tradition based churches. I’m not! There are times when some of our non-liturgical churches come up with equally inexplainable “traditions.” We just don’t call them traditions…
What are some of the traditions in your family? Your church? Your community?
Why are the traditions there? What are their significance?
I like some traditions. (The ones that aren’t too silly and have lost their significance.) Some traditions, like lighting Advent candles or fasting during Lent, still hold deep theological and emotional meaning. Another thing I like about tradition is how it connects us with the bigger Church community - followers of Christ in the past, the present, and the future. Traditions remind us that we are part of the body of Christ and that we are part of something bigger.
Well that’s it. My two cents.
Today is Valentine’s Day. An alternative would be Single Awareness Day. (The fact that both “holidays” are horrible when shortened into acronyms didn’t escape me.) I don’t really observe either one. To be honest, I forgot that today was Valentine’s Day until I went on Facebook and saw the myriads of posts dedicated to this interesting day-that’s-not-really-a-holiday. I do, however, realize that for some people, Valentine’s Day is hard. And calling it Single Awareness Day fails to make it any easier.
Some of my friends have asked me if I could post the message I preached this past Tuesday at Midweek’s Valentine’s Formal, and I figured that this might serve as a refreshing little read on Valentine’s Day (or the day after for people in Indonesia). No, I’m not boycotting Valentine’s Day, nor am I donning pink and eating chocolate today. I’m writing this as I sip my Starbucks coffee and wearing my Noam Pikelny shirt. Ah. The little things in life.
About Time: on time travel and other important matters
It’s about time. This. This message. “About Time” is also a romantic movie that just came out not too long ago. It’s about this guy who has the ability to go back in time. So he kept on re-doing his first moment with this girl. Don’t you wish you have that ability? I’ve seen that recently, there are lots of movies that focus on the idea of time travel, or just a different take on time. Movies like “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “In Time,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” are among many. So what’s so interesting about time?
Our life is made up of time, but time never seems to do what we want it to do. When we’re enjoying something, it goes by really quickly. When we’re suffering, it feels like it goes by really slowly.
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
Time is a very human concept. God is beyond time. He is eternal, the creator of Time. For him, the past and the present and the future is always now. This is difficult for us to grasp because our existence is so very constrained by time. Tick, tick, tick. The clock’s always ticking. Until it doesn’t. Then we’re in a completely new realm.
As Ecclesiastes 3 states, life happens in seasons.
Time is a gift from God. Every season is beautiful. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
Further on in Ecclesiastes 3, we read, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Every single season that we experience is beautiful! People often consider births as joyous occasions, so it’s easy to say that that is beautiful. However, death is often considered gruesome and ugly. But God is saying that death is also beautiful in its time. There’s a time to mourn, and that’s is beautiful. There’s a time to dance, and that is beautiful. There’s a time to be silent, and that’s beautiful. There’s a time to speak, and that is also beautiful.
Sometimes, it’s easier to think of some seasons in life as being beautiful, while others are painful and just something for us to bear and get through. God says that every season of life is beautiful! If time is a gift from God and every season is beautiful, what does that imply for us?
Relax! Take a deep breath, and let it out. Tomorrow, the Bible says, has its own worries, and you can’t change things by worrying about them.
Enjoy it! There’s also no universal remote control where you can fast forward your life to the part you want! So might as well have fun. One of my professors in college was diagnosed with cancer, and she had to undergo treatments that left her weak and losing hair. Rather than sulk around or hibernate and never show her face to the world, she had a lot of fun with that season. One time, she came to class wearing an electric blue wig and matching lipstick. Another day, she dressed up exactly like the lady on one of those WWII posters. Fighting a thing like cancer is not a fun season, but I’ve never seen anyone pull it off that well!
Build meaningful relationships without the pressure of always advancing! In relationship-speak, build meaningful relationship without pressure of finding “the one.” I always joke around that I went to Northwest Bridal College, where you get your ring by spring or your money back! Sadly, I’ve found that a lot of people spend their time obsessively looking for Mr. or Miss Right that they fail to get to know people and hear their stories and love them the way God tells us to love them. I’ve seen girls that upon meeting a new guy, bust out their mental Mate Checklist and then, when something is not to their liking, walk away without a second glance. (I’m not saying don’t have a checklist. It’s great to have standards and know exactly what you want.)
So, what season are you in?
When I talk about seasons, I’m not limiting this to relationship status: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, or “it’s complicated.”
My friend Kristi is a new mom (and she’s rocking it!) She has entered a completely new season of life: motherhood. Kristi used to always have to have her beauty sleep, and that means at least eight hours of sleep every night. She was very disciplined about it too! Now, with the new bundle of joy, everything changed! I’ve gotten texts from her at 2 A.M. That’s unprecedented! It’s the new season that she’s in, something she needs to get used to. But it’s still beautiful, and I’m sure she won’t trade it for the world.
My former teacher just recently lost her husband to cancer. It’s heartbreaking, losing your partner in life. I can’t even begin to imagine what that is like. She is now in a new season of life. But it’s still beautiful. There’s a time when relationships end. In my former teacher’s case, it was ended by death. Some romantic relationships end in break ups, and prolonging the relationship when it’s clearly time to go your separate ways is like trying with all your might to stop time. (This reminds me of the title of a book called It’s called a break up because it’s broken.) Even in business partnerships, there comes a time for people to go their own way.
There’s a time to stay and a time to make a change. In 2006, I moved to Seattle for college, and I had a blast. I experienced very little homesickness, and it was very easy for me to plant some roots there. Whenever people ask me if I wanted to move home to Jakarta, my answer would be a very firm no. I didn’t want to move back to Jakarta. Once, I went home for a month, and I was getting frustrated and homesick for Seattle. About a year ago, for the first time ever, I felt like I wanted to move back to Jakarta. Not because I was frustrated or because I was homesick. I just thought that it would be nice to go home. For once, I didn’t dread the idea of living in Jakarta. God gave me such a peace about it too. Here I am, a year later, in Jakarta. I’ve been here for three months, and I know this is where God wants me to be. I haven’t had a meltdown, I’m really quite OK with the traffic, and I’m having a lot of fun! It’s a completely new season in life, and it’s beautiful!
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.”
1 Corinthians 7:17 (The Message)
Paul was writing this to the people in Corinth, because some of them were fussing about changing their statuses. Some of them thought that by changing their marital status, they would be more spiritual. I’m probably going to be the first to admit that sometimes I fall into a similar thought pattern. If I’m married, then I’ll be able to do more things for God. One thing I’ve learned is…
Your place in life (the season you’re in) is understood to be a calling.
Don’t spend your time wishing you’re someplace else or with someone else! Where ever you are, be there. 100%. Whatever season you’re in, make it count!
So how shall we respond to this? In 1 Corinthians 7:17, we find some practical things we can start applying to our lives. “Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.”
Live out your call. Whatever your place in life and whatever season you’re in, make it count. Use it!
Obey Christ. Maturing as disciples means to follow Christ. Follow what God tells you to do faithfully.
Love fearlessly. Love people the way God loves you, without fear of missing out or other fears that might plague us every now and then.
Believe always. Trust the eternal God with our temporary lives.
Let God define your life. Carpe Deum. Seize God!
When I was preparing this message, I was thinking that this is a very Carpe Diem kind of a message. #YOLO right? You only live once! Or think that scene from “Dead Poets Society,” where Robin Williams’ character proclaimed, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary!” Most of the time, carpe diem can lead us to a very self-centered approach, where it’s focused on us and what we can do to make our lives more meaningful. When brought to extreme, it can lead us to very hedonistic lives.
I’ve been reading Holy is the Day by Carolyn Weber, and its message has encouraged me in this last part, letting God define my life. “Replace carpe diem with carpe Deum,” she wrote. “Shift the focus from us to God. Carpe Deum grasps at God. It seeks righteousness. It touches [Jesus’] robe. It holds onto the Lord and refuses to let go.”
Often when I’m overwhelmed by life, I let go of God and grab onto me. I let myself define my life. I list what I want in life and how my current circumstances don’t meet my expectations.
Sometimes it’s hard to live out our call, to obey Christ, to love, and to believe. Sometimes it’s hard to relax and enjoy this season of life. Sometimes the pressure from people and our desires for the future work together to make it difficult to follow what Christ has for us.
The harder it gets, the harder we should hold on to him. Like the woman with the blood issue, who touches Jesus’ robe with the crazy faith that touching it will touch her life, we should reach out and grasp him with the same crazy faith.
It’s going to be hard. Sometimes, more often than not, life seems less of a fairy tale and more of a series of unfortunate events. We doubt that we have the strength to endure. But I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to grasp at God and simply refuse to let go.
Grace is no nibbler. It swallows and carries us whole. Often, it takes us where we don’t want to go, only to help us realize that’s exactly where we need to be. And that there, our wants are filled.
Carolyn Weber, Holy is the Day
It’s so close to Valentine’s Day, and for the first time in my life it’s in the forefront of my mind. Why? I’m speaking at a Valentine’s Event at IES Midweek the Tuesday before.
I’m probably one of the least romantic girl around. (My favorite movie is a courtroom drama with no romance whatsoever.) I’m not a man-hater, nor am I callous. The stereotypical dozen roses, life-sized stuffed animals, cheesy lines, and overdone big gestures just make me… laugh. I’m not a big fan of sappy, I guess.
So here I am, preparing for Tuesday. (I’m sure some would scoff, who let this love-hater ruin Valentine’s Day?) And I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day and what it means for people - when we strip away the grandiose gestures and seasonal sappy moves.
St. Valentine’s Day is originally a part of the liturgical church celebration. And it has nothing to do with little almost-naked chubby angels flying around with bows and arrows. It had to do with martyr, Saint Valentine, who sacrificed his life for the gospel of Christ during a time when Christians were persecuted.
As most popular holidays, Valentine’s Day brings in big bucks for quite a few stores. Think of all those flowers and chocolates and teddy bears and balloons and champagne. So… am I boycotting Valentine’s Day? No. If it takes something like Valentine’s Day to make some guys (and girls) get off their butts and tell people they love how they feel, then it’s a good thing.
I think, though, that there’s an unspoken pressure created by all the fluff and aforementioned grandiose gestures for the people without significant others to find one. Some have said that Valentine’s Day makes the difference between singles and the couples that much different. And it apparently causes a lot of depression and anxiety attacks.
Well… I think being single, being in a relationship, being married are all seasons in life. And they’re all good. They’re different, that much is true. But they’re all good.
For my fellow single friends out there, don’t settle just because you feel some pressure to find someone. Because there are worse things in life than being married or being in a relationship… and that would be being in a relationship with the wrong person.
Carpe diem. Where ever you are right now, be there. 100%. And make it count.
And when you think about being in a relationship and what you would want (because doing that is perfectly normal and healthy), consider this.
Michael Bennett said the Seattle Seahawks have the best defense since the ‘85 Bears. With Richard Sherman and Co., he might just have a point. Gregg Rosenthal has 12 takeaways from Super Bowl XLVIII.
I am so excited, and I feel the need to share this with everyone. Most of you have already known about this, but I’m in Indonesia and most people don’t know or don’t care about the Super Bowl. Most Indonesians are more caught up with Chinese New Year than Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
I moved from Jakarta to Seattle in 2006. A couple of months ago, I just moved back to Jakarta. In the seven years I spent in Seattle, I have grown familiar to football (America’s football; I’m already familiar with the rest of the world’s football). I have also adopted the Seattle teams as my own.
In 2007, I went to my very first Super Bowl party. I went there to get to know new people. After that, I went to Super Bowl parties for the 7-layer dips. I started to enjoy watching football games, although every so often, I would have to lean over to a friend and ask, “What just happened?” Seven years later, I am now capable of watching a football game by myself (and understanding what is happening). I watched the game in my room in Jakarta, Indonesia, at 6:30am on Monday morning Jakarta time. While I would probably still get more riled up at a Sounders FC match compared to a Seahawks game, this is different. It’s the Super Bowl!
Well, what happened?
The Hawks’ Legion of Boom made it happen this morning (Sunday night in the States). Their defense won the game. Did you see the score?! I was expecting a closer game for the Super Bowl, but the Hawks’ defense made me proud! (And the “12” references that kept in popping up in the game was cool!) They’re bringing home the Lombardi, peeps!
This past Friday, some celebrated the Chinese New Year, the year of the horse. Well? I beg to differ. It’s the year of the Seahawks, baby!