Thursday, November 24, 2005

Operation Safe Place Accomplished

The Dream Team (most of it anyway)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here's a little blurb I wrote on my trip to Waveland, Mississippi.

There is no reminder of how much we are at the mercy of our surroundings quite as profound as the site of a disaster like Katrina. And there is no example of purity and innocence quite as vivid as a child. And that innocence served as a sign of hope — for recovery and renewal. During this trip I was able to stand right on the coast of the gulf, where the grace of God manifest in a rising sun over peaceful waters stood juxtaposed against the wake of destruction on shore — collapsed houses, clothing strewn about, boats floating in trees instead of water.

You want these people to watch your kids?

The children I was able to spend time with did not seem too affected by the disaster and were just happy to be kids. It would have been interesting to know how much each of them lost exactly but that was not our role there and I was glad to be able to bring them a sense of normalcy as their parents sought aid from FEMA. I know there were other groups that did hear from the kids about things like having to dig through rooftops to survive.

Hotel Morrell

Aside from the kids there was also the muggy heat of the day and frigid cold nights to deal with — the first two days were quite warm but then a cold snap hit and we ended off the trip with at-freezing temperatures at night. Waking up at 5:30am, working with the kids until 6pm, having to share the mens' bathroom with the women for a day or so, fighting off mosquitoes, was all part of the adventure. I wasn't really prepared for an entire week without laundry facilities either, which made for some creative wardrobe rotation.

So Spoiled!

The most rewarding part was spending time with people, both those on the trip and also others who had come to Waveland just to help out. Some were there just to give massages to the other volunteers. Many were there serving food — several from our group helped too. It stirred faith in mankind to see so many people sacrifice so much just to be a small part of the enormous task of healing a part of our country and nation.

Some of the devastation

Song devotionals, late night Sonic run, Pete being More than a Woman, never-ending pork and dance parties at the Wavy Gravy, terrible "Texas" accents, ultimate frisbee, sleeping bags full of Repel, Wild West, endless Matis Yahoo, the peanut gallery, Team Weenies! Thank you, everyone; this trip has been a wonderful adventure and full of great memories!

More devastation

Check out more pictures at Shutterfly. Unfortunately I only have photos from about the first third of the trip; my battery ran out as Crystal M. got a bit snap-happy. Thanks everyone: Erwin, Tracy, Charlene, Adam, Bryce, Sam, Jesse, Yolanda, Georgiana, Erika, Crystal M., Crystal Z., Natalie, Nereida, Lan, Janie, Pete, Faith, and Priscilla!

Time to Reflect at the Gulf

Watch this space for more photo links. Also stay tuned for a video, coming soon.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

HOPE Operation Safe Place

As all of you know Hurricane Katrina and subsequent similarly devastating events have brought the frailty of human existence to the forefront of our minds. I will be traveling to Houston, Texas, and eventually Mississippi, from the 11th to the 19th of this month volunteering with two joint programs called Operation Safe Place and Project Kid. There I will spending time with a team of 19 others from San Diego, meeting the needs of affected children.

A lot of the details are somewhat sketchy as things coming together within a very short amount of time, but from what I understand we will have a specific curriculum to teach to the kids. We will be staying at housing specific to the volunteers in Waveland, Mississippi and probably travel every day to where the kids are to spend time with them.

<DivX Specific>
Somewhat akin to our own Project Backpack, we also have received a number of backpacks from UCSD that we will be distributing appropriately.
</DivX Specific>

The web site detailing the original program is The specifics with traveling to Mississippi are a very recent development.

If you are interested in contributing to this event please let me know; HOPE Worldwide is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Wish me luck!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Three-Day Tour

On July 9th Michelle, Cyndie and I went to see Wicked at the Pantages.

The biggest news I have since last writing is probably my mini-road trip with Ben and Nick last weekend. We had such a great time — my throat was sore from talking so much I think. That or the drier climate. This is just a straight run-through of what we all did so it might be quite banal but here goes.

On July 15th Jill visited San Diego for a job interview.

First, on Saturday night I went to George & Kim's wedding with Christena. That was a lot of fun. A lot of the old crowd was there from eAssist. Good memories. Apparently Gary, Jeremy, Alex and Sashi are heavy into the Goowy thing for now.

The classic Yosemite photo.

Nick and I were going to head out that Saturday night but I got home really late so we decided to wait until morning to leave. We dropped off his friend in LA and then headed to Fresno to pick up Ben, who had gone up there the day before for a big family event. We picked up Ben and headed to Yosemite.

Me, Ben

We only spent a few hours there but managed to spend some time wading in a cool stream and catching sight of El Capitan and Half Dome. We tried to figure out whether moss really grows on the north side of trees or if that was just an urban legend (it's true) and also spent time talking about ghosts, absolute morality, feral children, and deciding whether to attempt a real hike (we didn't). By the time we got our bearings it was time to head to Joel & Joanne's.

El Capitan (the mountain, not Ben)

We arrived at the Leongs' place around 11pm and spent the next four hours debating John's baptism and listening to Joel's crazy ministry stories. To clarify, that's "crazy ministry stories," not "crazy ministry stories." Fun stuff. The next morning we goofed off a bit and tried to keep Ben off Diablo II long enough to meet Adelaide for lunch in Oakland.

Joel, late-night stand-up

From there we dropped Joel back off at home and headed down to San Jose to the Winchester Mystery House. We endured the 65 minute tour as we tried to decipher exactly what our tour-guide was trying to express to us. She kept putting the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-bles and it was really throwing us off. My favorite part was the stairs that led to nowhere. Super creepy. In fact when my mom reminded me that I had been there when I was young I seemed to remember getting creeped out by that. Or maybe I just manufactured that memory. Also Ben whooped me at Street Fighter. I guess I'm a bit rusty.

Adelaide at lunch

After that we ate at a nice italian restaurant and debated what the word "gambit" meant. I really like Santana Row, which is the mall where we ate. Later on the way to my folks' place Ben was trying to find out the exact constraints of Fischer 960 that create 960 possible starting positions, which I had mentioned earlier at dinner.


At home my folks have this screen setup with a projector and surround sound so you can enjoy the whole movie-going experience. I was quite impressed actually. We ended up watching "Spartan" and "Bringing Down the House," both of which Joel had lent to Ben, which probably explains their dubious entertainment value.


The next morning I had setup breakfast with Carrie in Los Gatos while the guys slept in. It was great catching up and of course I had some theological questions for her. Fun fun.

Carrie at the Iron Skillet

Back at home mom loaded us up as usual, we said our goodbyes and headed out to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Along the way we managed to discuss information theory and the tracing back of a train of thought. During the tour we of course couldn't help but debunk everything that the tour-guide was spewing forth. Ben seemed the least willing to concede but I think everything was pretty well explained. It was very entertaining at any rate.

Mom, Chuck

On the way back to Fresno we discussed a bit more about my current spiritual situation and also the idea of ubiquitous, unlimited energy. And after we dropped Ben off Nick and I talked more about biblical inerrancy and eschatology. Finally I arrived home around midnight and our trip was over. What a crazy three days, haha! Thanks again guys, I had a blast.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Winslow's Congregational Email

My apologies to any unlucky reader expecting to see signs of life here over the past few months. I have been making quite a few changes of late, some of which are detailed below. At any rate I am authoring this post mostly to make a record of an email I sent in response to a broadcast made by Winslow to the entire San Diego Church of Christ. I won't post his actual email here since I don't have permission, but suffice to say it was basically state-of-the-congregation-type address, which it turns out is not very good. He showed some statistics on how much the congregation has been shrinking over the past five years, and some plans to combat it. He ended his email with a humble plea to anyone thinking of leaving the church to reconsider and to please speak up. I was moved enough to write back:

Thank you for your heart-felt email. I will share with you some of my thoughts since you took the time to share your heart. Hopefully it will give you some perspective and may help you in your quest to help the church in its current condition.

For the past 12 years I have been a member of the San Diego Church of Christ. However, over the past month-and-a-half I have made the decision to start visiting other churches, doing some soul-searching and trying to get perspective. So far I have gone to a Presbyterian church, an Evangelical church, and a few non-denominational churches. When I first made my decision, I wasn't quite sure all of my reasons — I just began with the realization that although I was attending Sunday church and other meetings regularly, inside I really did not have the desire to go. Since that initial decision I have thought a lot about why I made the choice to step away and have been able to clarify what I have been feeling.

I have been in the singles ministry for the past eight years or so and I think that this fact has a lot to do with my decision. Without ministry growth for the past few years, the dating prospects become pretty hopeless. More than that though, is that without a feeling of investment in the singles, there isn't even much hope for the situation to change. Any investment of staff at this point is probably going to be geared towards the campus ministry, which is completely understandable. Unfortunately I don't think I have another five or ten years to wait for that influence to trickle into the singles ministry. While the Fosters have admirable hearts for the singles ministry and have done a great job overall, their work has been at such a high level and so broad that their influence has not been able to really take hold anywhere, in my opinion.

That is my feeling from the ministry perspective. From the regional perspective, I felt a certain stagnation. Specifically — my region has strengths and weaknesses, most of the pretty obvious. The characteristic strengths would be things like: educated, strong-charactered, influential, eloquent. The main weakness would be: lack of warmth or heart. Now in my mind, this is all completely acceptable — every region, every person, has a personality and character. But if we go so many years without even some kind of plan of growing in or even acknowledgment of these weaknesses, I begin to feel like things will not change, at least not very soon.

At any rate, after doing my best to champion these causes for a few years, I have come to a point where I feel like I am not getting my own needs met sufficiently to continue serving in a sustainable way. So I have decided that for myself, I need to take an active role in my own decisions and find a place that I feel has the resources and potential to help me where I am at. And who knows; I may get to a point someday where I feel strong enough and have been able to incorporate what I've learned and bring it back to the San Diego Church of Christ.

In summary, here are my suggestions, if I may be so bold.

  • Focus on finding a way/learning how to inspire people to desire church growth. For a while I did not think this was important, mostly as a response to feeling forced to for so many years. And unfortunately I think the leadership has shied away from it first because of the backlash, but second and more importantly because I think it doesn't really know how to truly inspire people without control tactics.
  • Humility has not been our church's strong suit especially with regards to other churches. I think that the time has come to swallow our pride and look to grace outside of ourselves and find help and direction from other successful churches. All forms of redemption require a point of realization that we cannot do it by ourselves — why not for the church also?

I am not sure where my steps will lead me at this point in time but for now I consider anything a possibility. Also I hope that in no way has this email been patronizing or condescending or offensive to anyone. Thank you for your time.

Well, we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I Am

Well yesterday I had a few things I really wanted to write down but I was too tired and I figured I could remember them until I had a chance to record them. Unfortunately I think I figured wrong.

Ah yes, I remember. Well one of them was a concept that I heard from Barbara De Angelis (warning: links to a very fufu page) when I dropped into one of her seminars last week. Paraphrased, it is:

If I don't allow people to know the real me, then any love they give me is counterfeit and I will therefore never really experience it nor be truly filled by it.

Which means, if in fact I am portraying a certain image, no matter how much people love, respect, and care about me, I may not truly be available to receive it, and it would be my own responsibility to change that. Now, this isn't terribly revolutionary — I'm sure if I thought about this I could have come up with a similar perspective — I just have never really heard it phrased in a way that really made me want to examine the contrast between who I am and who people think I am.

That seminar, by the way, was pretty amazing, despite the fact that the majority of attendees were old, white women. When I walked up to the ticket booth the lady asked me, "Can I help you?" as if it wasn't already obvious that I was going to buy a ticket. She seemed pretty surprised that I was there, I guess. Anyway, I was most impressed with the Question and Answer time she had after her speech — she seemed remarkably perceptive in diagnosing relational issues in a very short amount of time. Throughout the seminar I was also impressed with this feeling of giving, empowering, and grace that she seemed to give off. Good stuff.

At any rate I left with the distinct desire to focus much more seriously on figuring out who I really am, what I really need and how I'm going to get it.

The other thought I have been mulling over now and then relates again to Christianity and evolution. I have been considering how evolution has really served to shape and perhaps even correct my concept of Christianity.

Consider our typical American Christian concept of God. If you start young enough, many of our ideas resemble an old man who wants people to do good and not bad. This is a useful illustration when we are too young to understand much else, but most adults are at a point where this preliminary characterization is simply not enough.

Another concept of God that I think is pretty popular in our culture is that of being chosen by God, or somehow special in His eyes. This is an idea I have really given a lot of thought to before (wow, almost a year ago!). In my mind, I cannot reconcile the idea that God loves all people equally and yet at the same time considers me (or anyone else, for that matter, besides Jesus) special or chosen. Either you love all those around you equally, or there are some you love more than others. I don't think it can be both. It makes sense that we would try to fit God's idea of love into the mold of our reality of humanistic love — after all, no human being can honestly say they love all mankind equally.

That conflict troubled me for a long time, and so I find myself revising my understanding of God and His love. It is not something that fits our human understanding of love, it must be bigger than that. Strangely enough, this bigger concept of love feels to people (myself included) to be a colder, less romantic kind of love — that God loves all people equally and wishes for all to be saved. And it that sense, I think it seems to resemble evolution (or maybe, natural selection).

Well I've written about as much as I coherently can for be continued.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

You-Reek-a (Eureka)

Zak and Mark and I were hanging out after our Men's buildup tonight and it really got me thinking. In fact, I really think I've hit upon something. I guess it's not really something that revolutionary when it comes down to it, but I think that the clarity with which I see it now is somehow different. Anyway here goes...

It has been said that each congregation has a "personality," and by that I take it to mean that each one has its strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing inherently wrong with that just as there is nothing inherently wrong with people having personalities; nevertheless, I believe it is useful to explore a certain personality in order to specifically accentuate those strengths and illuminate those weaknesses with the intent of growing in them.

Now, the West region has many strengths: generosity monetarily, intellect, talent, vision, and organization come to mind. There is however one particularly glaring weakness — namely, love. It is my opinion that this weakness that is the major obstacle to our growth at this point.

Of course, love is such a broad term which has several manifestations, and this is not to say that the West Region lacks any love whatsoever. I suppose the specific type of love, if there is such a thing, that I find lacking could be described as warmth or heart or even hospitality. Perhaps even the physical expression is all that is lacking — affection, then.

How many times have you seen real affectionate love and appreciation in a congregational setting? Effusive, lavishing, heart-felt and humble — gratitude, acknowledgment, praise. It stirs in my heart just describing it. I remember Russ Ewell in San Francisco showing his sincere appreciation of those serving for the worship service; he was encouraged how, without prompting, someone cared enough to come early that Sunday to organize Christmas carols in the foyer, so that people walking in would feel just a little more special when they came in. I remember Ismael Rodriguez praising me profusely for my work on the "Celebration of the Soul" service (most of which was possible because of his own inspiration). And I remember James Counts always remarking his amazement at my varied abilities.

As a child I would spend time with my dad on certain weekends, since my parents were divorced. I remember the day Dad dropped me off at home without kissing me goodbye. I don't recall specifically what we did that day, but I do remember leaving realizing, okay, things have changed. I remember feeling a subtle sense of loss as I got out of the car.

It is so much easier to laugh things off, to quip with a snide remark, to brandish our quick wits, than it is to show deep affection. I am much more likely to spar back and forth for hours with the guys than work on deepening my expression of love for them. It's so much safer, so much more culturally accepted. I will never run the risk of letting people know I need them or their love so long as I have my shield of humor around me.

This is probably not news to anyone. What is remarkable to me, I think, is that we haven't done anything deliberate about it for as long as I can remember.

When people contemplate leaving the West Region, do their hearts ache? Do they feel pangs of anguish as the memories of the tears of pain and joy flood their minds? Do they agonize about their decision, weigh other options, pray for miracle opportunities to stay to open up? If not, why not?

In thinking about these things with regards to myself, I realize that there is a certain wall where affection simply stops. I think about all the words I've used to describe this kind of love and what really gnaws at me is the fact that those words are what I think I can be. When I am filled up, when I feel most loved or empowered, that is when I feel the most myself, and that is when I wish there were more people with which I could share love. More typically though, I find myself scraping by, barely meting out a half-polite word to my roommates because I'm so drained and tired of dealing with the indignities of my daily life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Steve Shoff's "Meaningful Service Initiative"

For Steve's leaders' meeting ("E-quip") he had us fill out a service initiative statement. Here's what I put together after some short thought.

What? (overall idea/vision):

To bring each member of my group to another level of maturity and
connectedness with each other and the rest of the fellowship; to
empower each of them to clarify their own needs and what it will take
to meet them; to empower each of them to pursue their own individual
or collective projects with community, workplace, or church

Why? (reason/purpose/meaning):

We haven't spent enough time cultivating people and their gifts, to
where each person knows him- or herself deeply and knows what he or
she can offer. As a result we have many who do not know what they
really want and feel instead like they are wandering without hope or

Who? (people involved/friends/team):

My "Changes That Heal" discipleship/support group. I also need to
develop relationships with people that will meet my needs more
directly; specifically, strong-charactered men that I respect.

What for? (goals/objectives/aims):

An overall more healthy west region, and more specifically, singles ministry.


I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I mean, partly I just put something in order to fill in the blanks. During the meeting itself we worked on a "Credo Memo" — an exercise described in the book The Leadership Challenge. The task is as follows: assume you are on a paid sabbatical from your job or group for six months and will have no contact at all during this time. What kind of memo would you leave them with? We worked on it for about ten minutes; I spent the first half of it finishing my Pat & Oscar's BBQ chicken and thinking what to write and then the last quarter of it cleaning off my hands. Unfortunately I lost the paper after the meeting. I'm pretty sure I put something like this though:

Credo Memo

Help people be the best that they can be by: letting them be themselves, cultivating their strengths, realizing their weaknesses, celebrating their victories and mourning their losses. Love several different forms, at several different times, in many different ways.


As I wrote that I kept thinking, the more I write, the easier it is to get too bogged down into details and to place too much emphasis on something, to the neglect of something else. It seems that I am limited to the overly broad term "love" to express my thoughts. I start to appreciate how supremely difficult it would be to write something like the bible, for this reason. I wonder if that is why the book of John can seem so "lofty" sometimes, as if John purposely kept things very conceptual. To those who would criticize the bible for not spelling things out more explicitly — I imagine it is pretty difficult to write something useful enough that the population that benefits from it transcends gender, age, culture, and even historical time period.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Satan as a Concept

Another book I read recently is called Glimpses of the Devil, by M. Scott Peck. Although there was not a lot of study material per se, it was a very interesting account of two supposed cases of demon possession. The purpose of the book is to convince the reader of at least the possibility of such supernatural concepts — demons, possession, the existence of the devil.

The accounts are quite gripping, especially early on in the book — I could hardly put the book down — but in the end I found myself less than thoroughly convinced.

The book brought to mind C.S. Lewis' concept of good and evil (bear in mind that I am paraphrasing; it has been a while since I read Lewis' works). He argues that there is no such thing as "evil" in and of itself — evil is simply a spoiling or negating of that which is good. It is similar to the concept of heat and cold; technically, there is no such thing as "cold", it is only the absence of heat.

I remember my grade-school teacher trying to explain why vacuum cleaner doesn't "suck," and getting very confused by her explanation. Now I realize that in the same way, a "vacuum" occupying an amount of volume is not an actual "thing," it is the absence of a "thing."

These could all be semantics, or a shifting of your reference point. I think the concept of the devil as a thinking, active being is difficult for me to accept. All personality is a facet of the goodness of God; if Satan is totally devoid of goodness, does it have a personality?

God Will Make a Way

I just finished the book God Will Make a Way, by Cloud and Townsend. It was a pretty quick read, I think mostly because by now I am quite familiar with most of the concepts and perspectives they bring forth. The premise of the book is to encourage the reader that when there are obstacles in our lives, there is hope because God makes a way. This book does a lot of exploring with regards to what those ways could be, over a large breadth of topics. Here are some of the points that really jumped out at me:

  • See pain as normal. As long as we keep fighting this truth, we will lose. We can continue to fight this truth and oppose God; or we can accept this truth and have room to grow.
  • Sometimes blaming can be confused with assessment, though they are quite different. Reality apportions real responsibilities to people. Refusing to recognize these responsibilities in other people for fear of the evils of "blaming" will only make true forgiveness more difficult when it is needed. The need for forgiveness itself will be difficult to recognize without investing energy into assessment.
  • When we are engaged in life, life becomes timeless. When we are disengaged however, time drags on.
  • Like nature, our situations have seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. Each has its responsibilities and its roles — a time for resting, harvesting, preparing, discarding, etc.


Roy & Tu's wedding

Well if this were a game this would be a good time to hit "save." A lot has happened in the past month or so, so here goes.

Roy and Tu got married! This is the same building in which Dave and Nancy got married last year, up in Orange County. Same crazy church lady too. I mean, just kidding; she was very nice.

Roy in the traditional Chinese wedding attire (I'm guessing)

Directly after the ceremony there was a short cake and punch reception in the courtyard outside. The invitational reception was later, actually about five hours later, so I killed some time hanging with Claire and Colin. Actually I napped; big surprise. No Halo this time...

Roderick, Kathy

Not sure exactly what Kathy's doing here. Roderick doesn't seem to mind.

Claire, Ben, Colin

Claire, Ben, Colin and I had fun passing the time away before the meal with some mind games and laser pointer pranks. When the food did come, it was incredible — ten courses! The fish eyeball was a little too much, though.

Between Ben stirring things up and Kathy's ear-piercing laughter and everybody's full stomachs, ours was certainly the loudest table at the reception. Good times.

Castles Made of Sand

The next weekend Zak and I went up to LA for a date with Nancy and Erica. We made a sand castle on a beach in Santa Monica. Zak had actually been on a blind date with Erica before, and it was just coincidence that they were setup again this time.

Later that night we ate at a restaurant called Moonshadows, where we happened to see Carl Lewis. Truth be told I never would have recognized him, were it not for Zak's keen eye. Zak asked our waiter quietly whether Carl Lewis was in the restaurant and he said, "Of course, of course" and then he went on to describe all the things that Mr. Lewis eats in order to get enough protein in his diet. The only one I remember was "sturgeon." Probably because I like the sound of that word.

Bai Yun? No, Gao Gao? I forget

On Wednesday the 20th Jill came to visit! There are more pictures here but you may not want to see them since Jill may deem them "unacceptable."

I took her to the world famous San Diego Zoo where we got to see, among other things, the (in)famous pandas Bai Yun and Gao Gao. We were lucky enough to see them at their most rambunctious. Here is the female — at the time she was tearing into this bamboo quite vigorously.

The other panda (male)

The male panda was smaller, interestingly enough. He didn't seem as active either, but probably he was just trying to stay mellow while the lady of the house was on the rampage. The lady panda, I mean.


Did you know that peacocks can fly? That's just one thing I learned from a kind gentleman working there who sounded like he was from Australia. I guess every day around 5pm this one gets down from his perch in the tree to air out his feathers.

Peacocks are pretty freaky looking from the back, I noticed. The stalks that support their feathers kind of give me the creeps.

The Coronado bridge

The next day I took Jill to Coronado. Although we checked out the beach, we failed to notice this amazing hidden message. I guess I'll have to go back and check it out sometime.

World Famous San Diego Airport Bench

We managed to spend a few days together without killing each other! I'm quite impressed.

In other news — I finally got a new phone. I decided on a camera phone since its resolution almost matches my current dinosaur of digital camera, sheesh. Unfortunately it's not able to bend around enough to take a picture of itself. I'm not that impressed with the quality though.

Russ got a camera phone too, actually. This photo was taken by his phone at Rei do Gado, a Brazillian BBQ place downtown, where Carlos and I helped him celebrate his birthday. That place is a celebration of MEAT! Highly recommended.

This is a photo taken by my phone. Not spectacular. This quality seems especially poor in low-light conditions. In my amateur opinion.

I'm so excited; DivX is renting out a theater for Episode III, woohoo! I know, I know, Lucas has gone mad — I don't care. I have enough nostalgia stored up to make up for the 3D show, the live action television show, and another trilogy on top of that.

Okay, now to update my other blog...

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spiritual Energy

I have been thinking about the concept of spiritual energy recently. The idea of it fascinates me, especially because I seem to find myself in short supply so often. I first started to think of it a few years back when I read this:

"And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." - Luke 8:43-36

Now of course this is a very moving story of the healing power of a woman's humble faith. The detail that struck me in this case though was the fact that Jesus felt power go out from him. Please indulge my technical side when I assert that this implies some kind of noticeable differential; in other words, there is a qualitative nature to the power that Jesus describes. (The fact that Jesus is the Son of God probably also implies that this power is replenished instantaneously, but you get the point.) Anyway I don't think I thought too much of this idea at the time, but over the years I think this idea has had an influence on the way my world fits together.

At times when when I would feel tired or lonely, one supposed explanation was that I "wasn't giving enough." That perspective typically develops from conclusions drawn from the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) and similar verses. While at the time it sounded like sage advice, there lingered the thought that there was a kind of clumsy quality to this conclusion. Even now as I read this scripture I can sense the formulaic equation itching to express itself — "If I give, I will be blessed," which easily turns into, "If I give, irrespective of my situation, I will categorically be blessed."

Anyway. I have since revised my perspective on this and tend to think of life as managing the elusive commodity of spiritual energy. All of life is spent deciding where to invest myself: time, money, attention, focus, heart. Some things will pay great dividends in the far future; others will reward earlier but not last as long. And some things simply seem to drain me without any payoff at all. Some activities require more energy than others. Some bring greater rewards than others. Ideally I will seek the activities/people/situations that encourage and foster and cultivate energy, and carefully prune those that do not.

With that perspective in mind, the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" takes on new meaning to me — that is, that giving produces greater rewards in the long run than simply receiving. I believe psychologists call this "delaying gratification." And what is the ultimate gratification but Heaven?

My conundrum then becomes this — what do I do when I don't have enough energy to find those things that replenish and restore that same energy? (Answer: sleep) As the saying goes, "It takes money to make money;" isn't same be true of spiritual energy? Certainly God's abounding grace and Jesus' example give us the "down payment" we need — but there are always challenges to seeing clearly enough to be able to experience them.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A(-)Typical Retreat

We went to San Juan Capistrano last weekend! It was a ton of fun and jam-packed with stuff to do. Here we are kicking off the day. Doesn't everyone look happy? Except maybe Eddy.

The first stop was the Ocean Institute. Well, here's the parking lot, anyway. I don't have any pictures of the inside but there were some pretty amazing jellyfish and sharks and giant lobsters. All that was caught on the video.

After the Institute, we headed to a park for lunch, which, by the way, looked a lot smaller than on the map. After eating, a few of us relaxed with a hacky-sack or a frisbee or devil sticks.

Next, we trekked on over to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Jason heads on over.

The mission was quite amazing — very lush and serene. Here we are figuring out how many group shots we can take before everyone goes crazy.

This is where the bells used to be. Jason found this spot to be the most peaceful.

Carlos takes a little breather in the inner courtyard. If you get him going he'll tell you all about how this courtyard is a great example of how communities should be designed.

The fountain in the middle of the courtyard held some huge koi. This was a great place to relax after a long day of being on my feet.

From the mission we had a little coffee at the shop across the street, and some decided to tour a bit more of San Juan Capistrano. It seems like it was mostly antique shops and such.

Later on we headed to the hotel and unloaded.

Here we are getting ready for a nice dinner out.

Co and Eddy engage in an interesting discussion (as usual). I believe this conversation was about biology.

Ryan approves.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and played games into the wee hours. Thanks to Faith for being the great game maestro! Note to self: in games which require picking an arbitrary number of M&Ms, pick fewer M&Ms.

We arranged the rooms so that all the cold-blooded guys were in the same room for the sake of climate control. It was like a sauna in there! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hey, where did this picture come from??

The next morning we had a communion service at the beach. Church included clearing the air and such, which by this point was pretty important. It was nice having everyone there and the view was gorgeous (again, you'll have to wait until it comes out on video).

After church Carlos' car headed home but the rest of us checked out lunch at a little deli nearby. Ryan wanted to get some surfing in, so we split off from there.

On the way back our car decided to take a pit-stop at the flower fields in Carlsbad. Quite a bit of it was in bloom, probably because of the recent rains. We ended off at Baskin and Robbins for a bit of ice cream to top off our trip. What a weekend!

Thanks Michelle for being the grand coordinator! Tons more pictures here, thanks to Ryan! And thanks to everyone for making it a great first retreat!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

An End To The Hiatus

Federica's going-away party

Hopefully this is an oasis in the desert of my blog. Plenty of stuff to write about and so little time. And where to start? I suppose I can use my backlog of pictures as a guide.

Well WAY back in the middle of November Federica left to go back to Italy, and she was so sweet to throw herself a going-away party for all of her new friends. She took a lot of painstaking efforts to make special gifts for people -- she made me a really cute cardboard ping-pong table with a message on the bottom. Here she's giving the mom of the family with whom she stayed a Sponge-Bob she made herself. Very impressive.

Ryan, Sofia, Tasma, Faith, and Alden listen intently

Since returning home Fede has gone to Rome for some studies and we've kept in touch over email and chat and even Skype. The internet rocks.

Chuck's 70th!

Also in November we celebrated Chuck's 70th with a nice big get-together at Eric's home in Goodyear, Arizona. We had an all around great time -- Yong was an excellent host and the food was incredible. That is, except for getting chewed out for wanting to play PS/2 with Steven. Aw, c'mon, Mom!

Goodyear, good food

Steven is my step-nephew, Brenda is Curt's girlfriend, and Kimberly is my step-niece. Steven is huge; hard to believe we're related. Oh wait we're not.

Eric, our gracious host

Tried to take Eric by surprise here.

Kenny, Eric, Christine, Yenchi, Trang
At the end of November George got engaged! I was one of the gift-bearers at the Vietnamese-style ceremony. Luckily I was the one taking the pictures here -- I don't think I look very good in a dress. The hat was pretty cool though; I think it enhanced my kung fu.

The happy groom

George nails down some final details.

Christine, Eric, me, Yenchi, Kenny, Trang

After the engagement reception we dropped by Yenchi's new venture, a quaint authentic Vietnamese cafe/restaurant. She decorated the place herself -- it was very nice and seemed to be putting the other Vietnamese place in the area out of business after only a month.

The Leongs!

Joel and Joanne got married on December 11th, 2004! The whole week was a blast; I spent some time with the folks and Linda during the week and then it was a wedding-party extravaganza over the weekend. Even the footwork was exciting -- Joel managed to get into a tiff with the Men's Wearhouse guy; I don't know how he does it. With the wedding though, there was so much family and so much love, it was quite an amazing time. And of course Halo 2 at the bachelor party was quite fulfilling.

Are fortune cookies considered witchcraft? Even if the truth of its message is undeniable? ;-)

During the reception I had a conversation with a sister about how she was feeling in her congregation and it turned out to be a great opportunity to encourage her. I shared a lot of the struggles I had in trying to put together my group and how much it was worth it in the end. It was actually a very moving conversation for me; I do hope she finds hope in her circumstances.

As if all that wasn't enough, after the reception I went with Ming to her company holiday party. Company parties are always such awkward social situations. We had a good time though.

North Carolina

I visited the McCaa's after Christmas and spent the New Year there. Nice and cold there. It was great to see Tom and Jenny and Trey doing great. I found out I really like hush puppies too. Here Tom and I were walking by the river in Wilmington.

This is for you, Campbell

To anyone with sensitivity, please disregard this photo. This is intended for Alan, Dan, and Scott. Cool eh, Campbell?

Last week there was a singles church conference in Vegas. Some 1400 singles were there, about 35 of which were from San Diego. Eddy, Dave, Rey and I rode up together on the Friday and stayed in the Alexis where the conference was being held, along with Kris. I hope Eddy's chi didn't mess me up.

There was a message on Friday night, a message, two classes, and social events on Saturday, and a church service on Sunday. Personally I got the most out of the discussion part after the message on Saturday morning. We were handed some discussion questions and encouraged to group up with 4-6 other people and discuss for a bit. Finally! I actually missed the two classes -- Rey, Tasma, Faith and I got back pretty late from lunch, missing the first class, and by that time I was wiped out so I crashed through the second class. From what I heard it doesn't sound like I missed much. Speed dating is quite a trip though. I had a good time but I don't think it's for everybody. It's pretty much like it was portrayed in the movie Hitch. It really suited me well because I had a chance to talk to a lot of people that I wouldn't ordinarily have the guts to talk to. Another nice consequence of the format is that I don't get sucked into talking one person for the whole night, which I am realizing I am prone to do. I don't think that the women typically had a very good time though. I think that is mostly related to the fact the ratio is always so bad for the women at these events. Even though the ratio within the event was 50/50, there were a lot of women who wanted to be involved but couldn't find a "buddy" to make things even. I also wish there was a time of mingling afterwards. As it was, once the final bell was rung everyone cleared out of there pretty quickly. I think everyone was probably overwhelmed after meeting some 50 people within an hour-and-a-half. I know I was pretty drained mentally.

I ran into Jill at the conference and it was so good to catch up. I also met a cool sister named Nancy and we went to breakfast on Sunday morning before church. So overall I had a really enjoyable time. The weekend ended in somewhat of a bust though; Eddy had supposedly invited about 30 people to lunch, but for whatever reason no one showed up and it ended up being just Eddy, Rey, Dave and me at -- of all places -- Hamburger Mary's. Wonderful.

Nervous, Michelle?

Fast-forward to the present. Today Michelle had her singing recital! It was lots of fun, and Michelle did great singing Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Kids are hilarious. One girl, poor thing, made a mistake in the middle of her piano piece, stopped, and couldn't figure out where to start again. After about a minute of staring blankly at the keys, she abruptly got up and did a quick bow and left the stage. Ah, the good old days.

Last night we had our first San Diego singles devo, which the west hosted and organized. It was really impressive how many people were involved in it, actually. We had about 20 people from the west just in organizing and serving. I was really happy the way things turned out, although I thought my personal contribution to my group's skit was pretty pathetic. Plus our scripture was ridiculously hard to act out, much less guess. But anyway, at least the umpteen meetings we had putting it together really paid off. We had an "after-party" at Rock Bottom where I had a great time getting whipped on the pool table by a sister from Vancouver, Canada named Kathleen. Man, I haven't been that humbled in a long time.

Today I also had a fun phone conversation with Jill. Wake up, sluggard! ;-) Also got in a game of ultimate after two weeks off. Oh, the aches ... and I didn't even win. But it's not just about winning, it's about ... um ... wait, what else is there?

Last week was my last week with Silicon Space, Inc. It actually turned out to be more emotional than I thought it would be. Everyone there has been so appreciative of the work I've done. Now that I think about it, this is probably the job where I've felt the most appreciated so far in my career. Actually they even pleaded with me to work on Monday too, which I, being the sucker I am, couldn't refuse.

Unfortunately it was also Mike the QA guy's last week this past week too, but he wasn't planning on it. I actually didn't even get to say goodbye because he was let go Friday morning before I got in. I feel bad; he has two young kids but is himself no spring chicken. Hopefully he'll make the Personnel Logistics release party.

Me and our star performer

This Tuesday I start my new job at DivX! I'm really excited and nervous. I'm so afraid that I'll be so wiped out from ultimate Frisbee and my weekend schedule in general that I'll be nodding off through some orientation thing. Guess I shouldn't be staying up late to finish my blog, eh? Stay tuned, more deep thoughts to come. Shih out.