Posted by: Kenkou | December 25, 2010

Giving a gift to Jesus this Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Greetings from San Francisco where I’m spending time with my family this year for Christmas. Wishing everyone a blessed and safe Christmas day!

Christmas as we know it is a very exciting time of year, especially for kids. It is also often the most anticipated time of the year. I remember when I was younger, it seemed forever before Christmas finally came and I remember the immense excitement that came with opening presents. Nowadays, with more things going on (work, shopping, preparing gifts for others), Christmas seems to come a lot faster for me. Good thing I guess since I don’t like waiting for long periods of time haha.

But what makes Christmas so exciting? The gifts, the belt-busting food, the decorations, the hustle and bustle at the mall, even the snow in some states. Yes, yes, and more yes. This year I got a few DS games, a couple shirts, and a new laptop bag! Plus Emily bought me a new food processor and earlier this month, I bought a new guitar for myself. Plus this year, I’m gonna try and make Christmas dinner for my family as I did on Thanksgiving with Emily’s family (see my Eurasian Epicurean blog later for more on that). Gifts, food, we associate so many things with Christmas and as fun and exciting as they are, we must not forget the real thing to get excited about when Christmas time comes around…the birth of Jesus.

Jesus coming to save the world from sin and reunite us with God through his own death and resurrection is something to really get excited about. And it was something I didn’t realize really until I became a Christian and even more so until this year after growing a bit in faith. So the birth of Jesus (or more simply, his birthday) sounds like something wonderful to celebrate this time of year and indeed it is.

But how do we go about celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Pastor Peter Lundell, author and pastor of our mother church, put it this way. Imagine it’s your birthday and you’re waiting for your gifts. But instead you find your friends giving gifts to each other while ignoring you. Not cool right? Well, that’s pretty much what we do on Christmas. Only difference is that the birthday boy is Jesus. Now of course, I’m in no way shape or form saying that we must not give gifts to one another. Of course we should, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. But while we go about giving gifts to our loved ones today, we should also remember to give a gift to Jesus this year as well. But how do we go about doing that? The answer lies in the book of Matthew:

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepard separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

So this year, in addition to giving to all our loved ones, lets give a gift to Jesus by helping those in need. It can be something simple like donating a small amount to charitable organizations (Those Salvation Army bell ringers are one good example), to helping that one person in the street who needs a meal for the day, to going out there and helping community organizations provide gifts and meals for the needy. There are many possibilities and it really doesn’t take too much (no need to shell out $200+ on a video game system for someone, haha), nor does it need to take place exactly on Christmas. Another idea that our church is in fact taking part in is an organization called “Kiva.” Kiva is a microfinance provider that provides small loans to small business entrepreneurs in third world countries. For those who saw the Simpsons episode “Loan-A-Lisa”, this concept was parodied in that episode. Check out http://www.kiva.com for more info or to participate.

May your Christmas and Holiday season be an exciting one this year! God Bless!

Have you ever asked someone what their hobby is and they responded with things like, “Listening to music” or “Going shopping”?  While fun activities indeed, they’re not really productive activities or activities that require much action from the individual participating.  These I like to refer to as “passive hobbies.”  While they’re not all bad activities and by no means do we need to stop doing them altogether, saturating your life with passive hobbies can lead to a life that’s…well, passive…and BORING.  But the good news is, if you really have a passion for your passive activities, you can easily turn them into “active hobbies”, hobbies which allow you to do more, express yourself, and improve your character.  So let’s take a look at 7 passive hobbies and how you can turn them into productive activities (activities that are more deserving of the term “hobby”)

“I like to surf the internet”…great, but so does everyone else in this day in age.  Might have been a unique hobby during the 90s, but just randomly surfing the internet for random junk is pretty passive unless you’re actually trying to improve your trivia knowledge so you can win big money on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  The solution?  Create your own website.  There are plenty of free web services where you can create a blog or a website to express yourself or even start a business.  Or if you’re really ambitious, study a bit about web programming and create a website from scratch.  Not only will you be able to express yourself, you may learn some new skills or improve on old skills that may be of great value to you, especially in your career.

“I like to watch TV, movies, and online videos”…A good movie or television show now and then is a good thing, but unless you’re a film or TV critic who gets paid to constantly watch…and critique television and film work, constantly watching stuff on screens doesn’t really take you anywhere new or exciting in the long run.  The solution?  Use your favorite movies or shows as inspiration to create your own movies or videos.  Buy a decent camera and film your favorite live action footage or learn a few tricks on how to animate using programs like Flash.  Or you can even use your favorite shows as inspiration to perform live acts for your friends or family.  Sure the quality of your material may not be as great if you’re starting out, but who cares?  It’s more fun and you get a better feeling out of being able to entertain others in addition to being entertained by something you’ve created.  And oh yeah, for those who love watching sports, the answer is simple…get out and play or learn to play your favorite sports!  You’ll have fun in addition to getting much needed exercise.

“I like listening to music”…Music is great and I personally love music.  Listening to music is great especially on the go, but when you could be doing other things, simply listening to music all day and nothing else can end up being quite counterproductive.  The solution?  Play music!  Learn an instrument.  If you go to church, you’re already a step ahead as you’re practically surrounded by music and musicians.  Learn from friends who are experienced if possible.  Or better yet, get a group of friends together who also like to play and jam together (this is a whole lot of fun).  Buy an inexpensive guitar or keyboard, learn a few things using online resources or DVDs, and start practicing the songs you constantly listen to!  Playing music is very relaxing, a great way to express yourself, a great skill to have, and quite enjoyable, especially once you get the hang of it.

“I like shopping”…Well, yeah, don’t we all?  We all need to shop for the things we need.  But going to the mall and randomly browsing items isn’t really productive for you nor for the store owners who actually need to sell you stuff.  The solution?  This one’s a bit tricky, but if you love buying things for the sake of buying stuff, try starting a collection.  Many hobbyists have huge collections of things like stamps, toys, jewelry, etc.  It’s a very unique hobby, but it may be right up your alley if you simply love “stuff.”  Plus who knows, you could end up breaking a world record for “World Largest Collection of [fill in the blank]”

“I like eating”…Yes, me too (See my Eurasian Epicurean blog for details).  But if you’re not a food critic, you’re just eating.  Not that eating food is a bad thing (unless you’re overeating or eating bad tasting food).  But it’s not a unique “hobby” because we all need to eat.  The solution?  Learn to cook!  Learn to make that pasta dish or roast chicken you saw on Food Network the other day.  Once you learn a few tricks to cooking, you can also experiment and make your own creations, either entirely from scratch or based on existing recipes.  And if you’re really ambitious, it may even turn into a career.  Cooking is a great way to express yourself and it’s a valuable asset that you can use for entertaining, whether it’s for a group of friends or for that special someone who you just asked out.  Oh and one more thing, learning to cook can save you tons of money as opposed to constantly eating out.  For some fun recipe ideas visit my Eurasian Epicurean blog at http://eurasianepicurean.wordpress.com

“I like playing video games”…In other words, I like being able to indirectly do things that I can’t do in real life through playing video games.  Well yeah, we obviously can’t shoot people or steal cars in real life without the risk of ending up in prison.  And yeah, some of us can’t play in the NFL, take command of a Boeing 747, or perform an exciting military mission in real life, but we can in video games.  And we’ll obviously never get a chance to meet Sonic or Mario in real life either.  So yeah, there are some unique uses for video games and they are a good source of visual entertainment that can’t really be easily replicated completely elsewhere.  Plus the Wii and its new motion-gaming competitors are also taking steps to make video games more active.  And lovely, lovely if you’re learning some new things while playing video games.  But there’s still much more that we could be doing to develop our own skills.  The solution?  Well, first off, only if you CAN and if its SAFE and LEGAL, try doing actual activities.  That means do NOT do anything you’re not capable of doing properly.  And that especially means DO NOT TAKE PART IN ANY ILLEGAL, UNETHICAL, IRRESPONSIBLE, OR CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.  NO IMITATIONS OF GRAND THEFT AUTO OR WHATNOT.  Sure you may never end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Yankees.  But you can go out and learn to play your favorite sports.  You may never end up being able to skate like Tony Hawk, but you can still learn to skateboard.  If you love SimCity (as I do), you may want to check out 3-D design software for structures or even mess around with building models.  And for those who love Guitar Hero or Rock Band, yes I’ll admit, they’re fun games and good for parties.  But its much more fun when you’re actually playing real instruments (see the “I like listening to music” section for more).  However, if you love video games for the sake of video games, try learning how to create your own video games!  Flash and other similar programs are good to get you started on making simple games.  And you can move further up the ladder if you’re really ambitious, maybe even take a few classes if you can find them.  Like learning how to make a website, learning to make video games is great way to express yourself and a great way to improve both your technical and creative skills.

And finally…“I like hanging out with my friends”…awesome, its great to be with friends!  But what are you guys doing?  Just sitting around and talking about that action movie you guys all saw and listening to music and watching TV together doesn’t really make “hanging out with friends” much of a hobby, despite the fact that these are fun activities to do with friends.  The solution?  Do active things with your friends.  Cook together, make music together, play sports together, or better yet, go out and help the community together.  Again, if you’re part of church, you’re already a step ahead.  Try organizing these types of activities with your church groups.  Not only are they healthier ways of hanging out, but they also strengthen bonds and friendships in addition to creating more meaningful memories so much more than passive activities.

That’s pretty much it.  What’s the overall message?  Don’t just do things that require just your senses, get out there and use your arms, legs, hands, and feet to express yourself, improve your skills, and to simply have fun!  Yes, it takes more work, but its well worth it in the end.

God Bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | December 5, 2010

Guys seeking girls for help

I’ve noticed an interesting trend lately when it comes to guys and their deep sensitive issues, especially when it comes to Christian guys.  Truth is, all guys have deep sensitive issues.  Yes, even “macho” guys.  Emotional troubles are real and they exist in everyone, even you, regardless of how many muscles you have or how many dudes you’ve put in the hospital.  Anything from relationship problems to family struggles to simply “I like so-and-so, what should I do?”  So what happens when these emotional troubles begin to take a significant toll on guys?  Simple.  Many turn to their female friends for help.  Or in some cases, even just random girls.  I’ve seen it countless times.  Now, a guy turning to his wife or even his girlfriend isn’t as bad because after God, they are your next #1.  But many girls get really irritated when their platonic guy friends come crying to them and the number one question most girls angrily ask is, “Why is so-and-so coming to me and not talking to his guy friends like he should be doing?”  Well, there are actually a few issues behind that, so here they are.

The first issue is a pride issue.  Many guys want to appear “tough” or “able to handle anything.”  And in front of their guy friends, this is the image many guys strive to portray.  Notice how most guys love to brag about what they can do or what they’ve been able to accomplish in front of their guy friends.  It gives off the “macho” or more realistically “successful” image that many guys seek to show themselves as.  So when things get tough emotionally, many guys fear that they’ll be seen as weak in front of their peers, and thus cover it up.  This brings me to my next point…fear.

The second issue is fear.  Many guys are afraid of showing vulnerability to their fellow dudes.  They fear that they may be ridiculed, teased, or simply just seen as someone who’s weak and inferior.  They fear being attacked with words like, “Come on, don’t be such a baby.  Man up and deal with it.”  Pastor Mark Gungor of “Laugh your Way to a Better Marriage” states that women are givers and men in general are takers.  In simpler terms, women love to compliment each other on everything, even if it’s just something trivial.  At the same time, men typically tend not to compliment each other as often and find more enjoyment in playfully insulting, teasing, and ridiculing each other.  This is fine when it comes to trivial things, but for deeper issues that’s a different story.  Most guys are aware of this.  Many have even experienced very harsh ridicule or even torment in their lives after exposing their emotional troubles in front of other men.  A notable and common example is where a father torments or maybe even disowns his son for showing emotional weakness and telling his son, “You’re supposed to be a man, stop crying and deal with it you wuss.”  Another example may be where a male athlete gets ridiculed by his teammates in the locker room after sharing a story about how much he misses the girl who recently dumped him.  Some men may have also experienced other men not taking their emotions seriously, getting responses like, “Man up, its no big deal, just get over it.”  Any of these things can leave damaging emotional scars and stir a lot of distrust towards other men in later life.  This leads to my third point…trust.

The third issue is trust.  Many guys as a result of their fear end up not trusting other men with their deepest emotional problems.  At the same time, they look at women and view them as caring, understanding, easier to connect with emotionally, and as individuals who will be able to give more help than hurt.  Thus, most guys will come to women simply because they trust that women will respond in a more loving, caring, and understanding manner.  This is also why many boys with emotional troubles run away from their fathers and into the arms of their mothers, especially if the father is tough and stern and the mother is kind and loving (Example: Eustace and Muriel from Courage the Cowardly Dog, haha).  Many guys also trust that women will promise not to reveal their deepest problems to anyone (this specific point however is almost never the case unfortunately).  Again, women are givers and men are takers according to Mark Gungor.  When a guy is down in the dumps, he wants someone to “give” something to him, not “take” what little he has left.  Hence, he’ll turn to women for help.

The loving caring Muriel and tough obnoxious Eustace from "Courage the Cowardly Dog"

So is a guy turning to a girl for help always a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  Women understand many things way more than guys can so a healthy dose of advice from a woman is good for the soul.  But if all a guy is doing is coming to girls for help, that’s not healthy either.  Women don’t understand everything about how a guy functions and they’re not always emotionally equipped to handle certain issues, which is why a guy also needs to turn to other guys too in order to get the most complete help he can get.  Plus its essential that men build strong and healthy relationships and trust with their male peers through sharing of deep feelings.

So what can we do?  Well, first off, for the ladies, don’t stop helping and caring.  Be as helpful as you can, but at the same time, stress that you can’t help him in every possible way and that its important to also go to other guys for help as well.  Be firm, but not harsh or angry.  And for the dudes, put the “macho” issue aside for a bit.  Understand that when a guy comes to you for help with a deep issue, he’s making himself vulnerable to you and it’s not easy for him.  Understand that the issues are real and that you need to be a brother to him, help him out, and do the best thing for him.  No jokes or teasing or any of that, even if its just playful (you never know how broken a guy is; sometimes the slightest joke will set him off).  And if that’s not enough, remember that you’ve got emotional issues too and you’re going to need someone to turn to also in the future when you need help.

And for the guy who needs help emotionally, the first thing you need to do is let go of your pride.  This may be tough for some and it’ll likely take lots of time and help from God, but it needs to be done if you want any hope of getting the best help possible.  Seek help from guys in the right places.  Build deep and trusting relationships with guys who have a strong mindset to do the right thing.  Then you can come to them when your deepest problems are getting the best of you.  Try seeking help from older men and/or men who have had similar experiences and can relate to you.  Churches, community groups, and pastors are a few good resources for help.  And there’s no need to stop talking to women about your problems, but understand that you cannot solely depend on them if you really want complete help.  And of course, the most important thing, pray about it to God and seek His comfort and guidance.  Because even when the rest of the world fails to help, God will always be there and come through for you.  Let us finish with the following verses:

Don’t just pretend to love others.  Really love them.  Hate what is wrong.  Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  Rejoice in our confident hope.  Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

Find joy in helping others and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  God Bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | December 4, 2010

First few days on a new 6-string

So in an effort to try and engage in active worship at home in addition to playing some of my favorite songs, I recently bought an acoustic guitar.  Here it is:

A Yamaha F325.  An inexpensive guitar good for someone like me who’s just starting out (someone with no calluses either…ouch).  Yamaha’s a trusted brand in my family since my dad’s also got a Yamaha steel-string himself that still plays well (if you have good calluses that is, whew) despite being purchased way back in the 80s.  This guitar came bundled with a strap, tuner, picks, DVD, bag, and extra strings.  The picks and tuner are very handy additions and the extra strings will come in handy later on.  The DVD was extremely helpful especially for beginners and even though I’m not completely new to music in general, the DVD was sure a big help to me.  The bag and strap will do for now, but I’m a bit concerned they may break later, but no worries for the time being.  I’m also expecting a $10 gift card, which I’ll likely use to get a capo or a stand or something.

So why a guitar now?  Well one, I play bass for the worship team so that was a bit of a springboard.  But the main reason is because I felt I needed to take a more active approach to worship.  And just listening to praise songs on Pandora isn’t going to cut it (I’ve been listening to country mostly on Pandora anyways haha).  Plus it’s a fun new hobby and the guitar is a good stand-alone instrument for playing favorite songs.  Before I played bass often at home, but I can’t now because I don’t have a practice bass or amp anymore.  Plus unless you’re practicing new techniques or if you are a hardcore jazz musician (which I am not…not yet…haha), a bass is more enjoyable when played with others, especially in a worship setting.

So yeah, I’ve been practicing quite a bit since I brought the new 6-string home.  Some of the things I did right off the bat was some finger-pick practicing using E and Am chords that I learned from an Esteban DVD way back.  I bought an Esteban DVD years ago to try and learn on my dad’s guitar.  But the strings on my dad’s Yamaha were so mercilessly tough that just trying to get a slight ring from them required immense pressure and pain from your fingers.  I ended up giving up, but this new guitar doesn’t require as much pressure, so I should be able to get back to things I tried to learn from the Esteban DVD way back when.  I also learned some new chords, tips, and practice techniques from the DVD that came with the new guitar, but the main thing I need to practice is changing chords in addition to building calluses.

Two songs I started out with.  The first one is “Wonderful God.”  I played the song’s bass solo last week on Sunday during one of the few instances where I actually used a pick on a bass (I normally use just fingers).  But it’s a very simple song and that solo was one of the motivating factors for me to start practicing the song on the guitar.  Just for fun, I recreated the bass solo on the guitar during the verses while strumming chords during the chorus.  Not a bad way to enjoy practicing while practicing chord changing.

The second song I started out with is “Round Here” by the Counting Crows.  More specifically, their acoustic version off their “Across a Wire: Live in New York City” album.  I remember hearing this song way back when my dad bought this CD.  The acoustic version of “Round Here” consists of fairly simple finger-picking during the verses while strumming the chorus and bridge.  I haven’t figured the bridge out yet, but the finger-picking in this song is quite enjoyable, hence the reason I enjoy playing it.

So that’s pretty much it.  Pray that I get better each day so I can sing praises to God fully with the guitar.  I still play bass in the worship team and I’m hoping I can take a shot at learning banjo using an old banjo that Pastor John has sitting in a corner unused for who knows how long.  Yes, I still like country music and I’m a big fan of Keith Urban who’s a big banjo user himself.

God Bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | November 27, 2010

What I am thankful for

2010, quite a year. And here we are, back at the start of another exciting holiday season. I’ve always loved the hustle and bustle of shopping, the belt-busting feasts, and holiday spirit being shown by decorations both at home, at malls, and my particular favorite, in downtown areas (San Francisco specifically). But at the same time, as Emily told me one evening at Red Lobster, we should never forget to remember that the most important aspect of the holiday season is to remember how we have been blessed and to be thankful for all we have been given. And yes, its been a tough year for everyone, including me, but nonetheless, theres still much to be thankful for.

First off, I am thankful for still having a job. Yes, God came through for me in a tremendous way late September, when my temporary job was supposed to end. At the “going-away reception” held for me and other employees, a pleasant surprise occurred when we were told that more funds were available and we were asked to stick around for longer. I was amazed and overjoyed and I thank God wholeheartedly for continuing to provide my needs despite the tough environment were in right now. I am also very thankful for all the little things that I still have in addition to my job all thanks to God: a roof over my head, food to eat everyday, and money still in the bank.

I’m thankful that God pulled me through school this year and got me to graduation. The homestretch wasn’t easy and there were a lot of hurdles through my school years, but I got through it thanks to God. And I’m also thankful for all that God helped me with after graduation.

I’m also thankful for the community that God made me a part of and particularly for Xaris Church. I love all you guys! I was very blessed to be a part of many experiences as well as opportunities to serve God through my community at Xaris. I’m also thankful for Emily and how she’s been a very significant part of my life, both before and after we got together. I love you Emily ^^. And I’m also thankful for my own family, my mom, dad, and sister, and how they wholeheartedly loved and supported me all my life to this day. I love you ^^.

God has put me through a lot of experiences this year. Some of them joyful, and some of them tough. But regardless, God has helped me grow and understand so many new things this year and I’m so thankful for God helping me get to where I am today. I’m still growing, I’m still a work in progress, and there is still much to be done, but God is good.

The thing I’m MOST thankful for, is the fact that God never left me, regardless of how many times I messed up. And boy, I messed up hard in so many ways this year. My spiritual life taking a dip and plateau was indeed a big one. The fact that I put God on the back-burner so many times this year wasn’t a good thing either. But God’s grace is so amazing and so abundant, that He never leaves you and never gives up on His children. Just like my own parents loved me regardless of how I screwed up, God still loved me just as much regardless of many times I messed up. And it wasn’t until later this year when I realized it, and I’m so thankful just for God’s TOTALLY amazing unconditional love, His grace, His mercy, His protection, and His provisions. Just thinking about it now is touching my heart so intensely and I just want to say, “God, help me grow, help me live more like Jesus, and help me more and more bring you into my life. I love you Lord.” As Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

So this holiday season, lets all be thankful for what God has blessed us with!  Btw, feel free to share anything in the comments section.  As Paul said to the Thessalonians:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Be sure to check out my holiday feast photos and tips on my Eurasian Epicurean blog in addition to holiday air travel tips on my Eurasian Aviation blog!  Happy Holidays!

God Bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | November 20, 2010

Alright, I’m officially back!

Hello everyone!  Boy, its good to be back.  I forgot how long its been before my last post and apparently its been more than a year since my last update.  My apologies for not updating.

A couple reasons why I didn’t update for so long.  A big reason was that my spiritual life hit a major plateau for much of 2010.  I had basically turned my focus toward a lot of different things, mainly finishing school and preparing for life after graduation.  Additionally, I hadn’t really taken what I have posted on this blog earlier to heart and I ended up going through long periods of anxiety and worry about my future.  Thus, my spiritual life took a big ride on cruise control and I spent many days just going through the motions and not really diving deep into God’s word.

I graduated from college in June 2010 and over the summer, I spent much of it thinking about where I was going to live and where I was going to work.  I maintained a temporary job that was supposed to end in September of this year, working at the City of Los Angeles doing environmental engineering-related work.  Having worked there since November 2008, I hoped to stay there as long as I could, but I also maintained that come end of September, I would have to start searching for a new job.  I also had to undergo the daunting task of searching for a new place to live, combined with the fact that I had no credit history and no experience searching for a place to live that wasn’t on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona.  Yes, the summer I spent was not without anxiety and worry.

Ultimately, I realized that a big reason for my lack of confidence was because I wasn’t letting God into my life.  My focus on other things was so intense I had basically put God in the backseat for the longest time.  After a job interview with a good company and one I had a few connections with didn’t go quite well for me, I sank into even deeper anxiety.  So much so that I couldn’t take it anymore.  The next evening I went to my church’s prayer meeting and that evening, I decided that enough was enough.  I sang to God like I never did before and I prayed that my life be taken into His hands.  I surrendered and held nothing back and at the end, I began chuckling.  That chuckling soon turned into laughter and before I knew it, I went from sitting on a couch to rolling on the floor laughing uncontrollably at absolutely nothing funny.  That was when I knew, that the Holy Spirit found its way back into my heart and was celebrating joyously from the inside of me on out.  It was an amazing experience and I remember all my worries being washed away that day and replaced with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

From that day, began a slow rebuilding process that wasn’t without its hurdles.  I’d say that my spiritual rebuilding process is still ongoing and theres still much work to be done, but its a work in progress nonetheless.  I began to pray from my heart again, I began to read my bible again, and I went through many different experiences that changed my views and habits significantly.  Again, all made possible by the grace of God.

Probably the biggest thing I learned through this is that God still loves me, He still has my back as Pastor John likes to say, and He’s still my provider and protector.  I was able to easily get a decent apartment (which so happens to be very close to my church) despite my zero credit history.  And even more amazingly, the City of Los Angeles miraculously obtained additional funds and as a result, I still have a job for another year!  So yes, I have a roof over my head and I’m still working, all thanks to the grace of God!  God truly is good and He deserves all our praise!  Amen!

As I continue to grow spiritually and as I learn more, I will certainly start writing about my experiences again here.  I also have two brand new blogs, one geared towards my passion for commercial aviation, the other geared towards anything food.  Feel free to check those out out on http://eurasianaviation.wordpress.com and http://eurasianepicurean.wordpress.com.

Glad to be writing again!  God loves you and He wants the best for you!  Best wishes and God Bless!

Alright, it’s Saturday, October 31st, 2009.  Happy Halloween everyone.  I just woke up after some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.  You can say that this is the conclusion of one very eventful week.  I had 2 exams that were enough to drain all of my energy and yet, that was only the beginning.  There were papers, lab reports, project modules, engineering problem sets, and a load of other assignments waiting to be completed also all in one week.  That was just for class too; I forgot to mention other items that were required outside of class.  Literally, there was something due every day this week for every single class and then some.  It was indeed tough, but praise God as He was able to pull me through it all successfully and now I’m sitting here, finally, with some downtime and a chance to finally relax (and write stuff here also). 

I’m sure a lot of you have gone through similar weeks like this.  And often times these weeks place a lot of stress and worry on many.  “Worry” definitely crossed my mind more than once this past week.  And as I was coming back to campus from Los Angeles the other day (with all of my work for the week completed, thank goodness), I had a chance to really reflect on how I handled everything this week.  To be honest, while I was able to successfully complete all my work, I do feel that I could have handled my worries a little better.  That’s when I began to think about a lot of occasions where I’ve heard about the nature of our worries and how we should handle them.  Since I like music, we’ll start with that.  By the way, the Jason Mraz song I used for the blog title is something that constantly reminds me about how to handle my worries XD. 

In case you haven’t noticed, I do listen to a lot of country music.  Hey, it sounds good to me, that’s why I listen to it.  But anyways, I love the second verse of “So Small” by Carrie Underwood, and it goes like this: 

It’s so easy to get lost inside
a problem that seems so big at the time
It’s like a river that’s so wide
it swallows you whole
While you’re sitting ’round thinking ’bout what you can’t change
and worrying about all the wrong things
Time’s flying by
moving so fast
You better make it count ’cause you cant get it back
 

This certainly applies to many of you, and if you’re a student like I am (or even if you’re not), it’s more than likely applied to you several times.  Often times we tend to get lost within our own problems and it ends up consuming us to the point where we lose sight of everything else that matters more.  At the same time, as Pastor John mentioned in another one of his messages, we often worry over a lot about things we have no control over (if we did have control over something, we’d do something about it right?).  Not to mention that worry doesn’t really change anything about anything, nor does it allow us to do things that could actually make a difference.  Big example is often worrying about the past and future (the wrong things to worry about).  It’s very common for many of us to think constantly about “what could have been” or “what could be.”  Truth is, we can’t change the past for it has already happened.  And we can’t control the future for we don’t even know what it is.  All we can do is make today count, which is hard to do when you’re consumed in worry.  And yep, time moves quickly, so there’s no reason or time to worry about anything else that we can’t do anything about while we could be making today count.  As j-pop superstar Hamasaki Ayumi also said on her CNN TalkAsia interview (I’m a big fan of Ayu XD): 

I don’t know yet, I don’t know about the future, I don’t know about tomorrow, I can just control today or present right now…I don’t want to think about the future too much, because present is the most important for me…always…

Jesus himself teaches us in Matthew 6:25-34, as he says: 

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing?  Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you.  Why do you have so little faith?  So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?”  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.  (New Living Translation) 

Haha, I don’t think I really need to explain that.  Jesus said it all in a very crystal clear manner ^^.  Jesus is AWESOME ^^.

Point is, worrying over all the wrong things that you can’t change, never really does anything positive, so there’s really no reason to worry.  But even if you are consumed in worry because we all are at one point (we’re human, we all are at one point, that’s what makes God’s grace even more awesome), try remembering Matthew 6:25-34.  As God knows our needs and He will provide them and get us through any sticky situation.  After all, He pulled me through this rough week, I was able to successfully complete everything I had to do, and I found so much comfort in the fact that He was with me the whole time.  It’s a big factor that has shaped how I look at things ever since I was born again.  So, let’s not worry, for God is with us ^^. 

What are my plans for the rest of my downtime?  A trip to the spa with a good glass of wine sounds good right about now.  Haha, just kidding.  Just rest, maybe going out for a little shopping, playing some bass, and of course, church and hanging out with everyone from Xaris ^^.  Love you everyone ^^.

Best wishes and God Bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | October 19, 2009

Longing for belonging? A story on biracials (like me!)

Praise God for today!  Despite having a boatload of assignments due in a short time combined with an extremely tight schedule that was packed full, I managed to get quite a bit done today.  Shows how much God really works in your life and pulls you through even the stickiest of situations. 

Anyways, over in Louisiana recently, an African American man and a Caucasian woman fell in love and decided to get married.  Shockingly, the justice of peace who was asked to help make the marriage official refused to let them marry.  When asked why, the justice claimed that he was concerned for their potential children.  Their potential biracial children would apparently suffer socially so claims the justice and that’s why he refused to grant marriage to the couple. 

Now of course, this is an unacceptable act regardless of the justice’s feelings.  Fortunately in the meantime, the couple can still get married as long as they find a different justice.  But this story really stood out to me, particularly because I have a mixed ethnical background myself (Japanese, Caucasian).  And I had a chance to read an article by Patrik Jonsson from the Christian Science Monitor titled “La. [Louisiana] interracial marriage: Is life tougher for biracial kids?” relating to this story.  Jonsson made some interesting points, and since he’s basically talking about people like myself, I thought I’d share a little of my own two cents. 

Jonsson starts off by referring to the mythical “tragic mulatto” by saying: 

Research on mixed-race children once focused on the social and psychological problems that can arise from not feeling like a full member of any racial group. That notion permeated early 20th century American literature through the figure of the “tragic mulatto,” who did not fit in with either the black or white world. 

So now you’re probably asking, was I myself ever a “tragic mulatto?”  Actually, when I was kid, I was at times.  I wouldn’t call it “tragic” or anything, and it didn’t really impact me to point of having psychological problems.  But I guess you can say that I did have a little issue with “my ethnic identity” and also how it related to other kids.  Most of the kids I went to school with were either full Asian, full white, or full something else.  There weren’t that many mixed kids if any, at least to my knowledge.  Myself, I think I understood who I was in terms of my background.  But often times, when asked about my ethnic background, I would usually reply “Asian” or “Japanese” as that was the one group I closely related myself to.  I guess I was trying to fit in with most of the other kids I knew at the time.  I would also check the box “Asian/Pacific Islander” when taking standardized tests (nowadays I check “Other”, like most mixed Asians do, haha). 

But at the same time, I knew that I wasn’t full Asian.  I mean come on, does my name look like an Asian name to you?  Haha, even though I would call myself an “Asian”, the fact that I knew I was only part Asian did make me feel a little uncomfortable when talking about my background. 

Despite all that though, it was never really a critical issue.  I still made friends and hung out with many different kids at school.  That’s the nice thing about California is the diversity.  So, even though I may have had a “tragic mulatto” status at times in my life, it never affected me to the point where it got serious.  Furthermore, just as my own “tragic mulatto” story is now a thing of the past, so is the “tragic mulatto” myth in general.  As Jonsson further continues in his article:

But loosening of marriage laws and more-accepting social mores have transformed perceptions of multiracial families. For one thing, there are now 7 million mixed-race kids in the US, up from 500,000 in the 1970s.  

A 2008 study of 182 mixed-race high school kids in California found that these kids didn’t focus on exclusionary features like skin color or hair texture when thinking about themselves, but instead, they appeared to feel that their heritage made them “unique.” 

The kids are able to “place one foot in the majority and one in the minority group, and in this way might be buffered against the negative consequences of feeling tokenized,” the study authors wrote in the Journal of Social Issues. The students surveyed included those with mixed Asian, Hispanic heritage. 

Heehee, now THAT’s more like it.  Indeed, this definitely nails how I feel about my background now.  The uniqueness that comes with being a descendant of two different kinds of people and being able to associate with two or more different cultures is a true blessing from God, of which I am very thankful for ^^.  And especially with the diverse world that we live in today, we don’t even have to be ethnically mixed to enjoy and associate with many different cultures.  Yale student Phoebe Hinton adds on with a pretty nifty quote from her own blog stating: 

I am lucky enough to have an excuse flowing in my veins to do whatever … I want: there are some things white people do and … I’ll do them. There are some things black people do, and … I’ll do them. 

Haha, pretty nifty.  But anyways, the whole point is this.  Whether you’re a descendant of one ethnicity or several, and if you yourself may be feeling like a “tragic mulatto” out of not feeling a sense of belonging, be assured that there’s no need to feel that way.  As Romans 12:4-5 states: 

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.  (New Living Translation) 

God made each and every one of us unique and blessed us in many different ways.  And He did it this way so that we could all bring glory to His name and spread the love of Jesus in a vast and endless amount of ways.  And God blessed you as well with special gifts, because you are one of many different and unique people who belong to the body of Christ.

Let us wish the very best as well as a good marriage to the happy couple in Louisiana.  And may they be fruitful and multiply just as Genesis 1:28 states.

Best wishes and God bless ^^.

Posted by: Kenkou | October 17, 2009

Change…toward something greater

Life as we know it, rarely stays as is.  If you’re like me who was once a lost soul and later found Jesus, then you’ve already gone through one heck of a life change.  There’s so much change that occurs in our lives.  Some changes are large, some small, some are overwhelming at first, some are easily grasped, some slowly take place, and some occur instantly and maybe even surprisingly. 

As I was coming home from work the other day, I had a chance to really reflect on how much my life has changed.  And if you read my very first blog entry, you’d see that this year (2009) has had a particularly significant impact on where my life has taken me.  Experiencing the salvation of Jesus and becoming a believer has taken my life in a completely different direction.  A lot of change took place and I’ll admit, I was a little nervous at first.  But despite my initial feelings, I am really grateful that I became a follower of Jesus and I feel really blessed on how God has changed my heart by His grace.

Change for many, is not always easy to cope with.  And often times, we get nervous about significant change if we are comfortable with life as it is.  We know our lives as they are, we know what to expect, and typically we know how to mitigate certain things if we are living in a scenario where everything is familiar.  The fear of the unknown that comes with significant life changes is what worries many.  Many “what if…”or “how will I…” or “will this really be better…” types of questions arise.  And sometimes, those types of questions are enough for us to resist the type of change that could potentially make things better for our lives.

Truth be told, if there’s a kind of change that’s really making you think, chances are, it’s likely a really good opportunity.  Of course, if it involves anything wrong or illegal, then it’s a kind of change that you most likely want to steer clear of.  I tend to think of good change as one door closing while another door opens to something greater.  You may have to leave certain things behind, often they may be things that you’re used to at the moment.  But once you open the other door, you enter into something much greater.  It might not be easy at first.  There will be new things that you may need to pick up on.  There might be a couple bumps and you might have times where you fall and have to pick yourself up.  But in the long run, you will reap many benefits.  You’ll be grateful for the new direction that your life has taken, the changes that took place, and you’ll be living a much better life overall.

The aspects of deciding on a change, whether its right for you, and later coping with it are all of which we must lift up to God.  God will always guide you in the right direction and if He feels there is a change that is good for you, He will guide you to and through it.  As Proverbs 3:5-6 says

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.  (New Living Translation)

Once you do go through change, God will always be your source of comfort.  As Isaiah 40:1, and Isaiah 40:10-11 says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.  (New Living Translation)

Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.  He will rule with a powerful arm.  See, he brings His reward with Him as He comes.  He will feed His flock like a Shepard.  He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart.  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.  (New Living Translation)

Finally, despite all the changes you may experience in your life, God and His promise will never change, as Hebrews 6:17 says:

God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change His mind.  (New Living Translation)

If you’re reading this right now and you’re in a position where you’re thinking about accepting Jesus into your life, let me assure you that it will be the best change you will ever make in your life.  Even if you’re just remotely considering it, this is one life change that will guarantee you brand new greater direction in your life.  God wants you to be saved and that is one life change that God will always say “yes” to, regardless of who you are or how you’ve lived before.

Some good songs that relate to this topic: 

“Changes” by Chette Dizon

“Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson (Haha, a little cheesy I know)

“I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

Until next time, best wishes and God Bless ^^.     

Posted by: Kenkou | October 11, 2009

Much needed rest

Whew, I guess I can consider this the eye of the hurricane, haha.  I’ve had quite a bit of things going on lately, particularly with school.  Fortunately, I get a little more downtime now and a little more time to get my thoughts together again.  Random side notes, I was watching some of Hamasaki Ayumi’s concert videos last night and wow, were they awesome ^^.  I’m currently listening to a remixed version of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and it’s quite nice actually.  But despite all that’s going on in my life, I enjoy it all because God is good and all that I do, I’m doing for Him.

Anyways, new topic, titled “much needed rest.”  Interestingly, this topic actually came to me last night (Saturday).  I was going to write about it yesterday, but I ended up waiting until today.  Then this morning at church service today, Pastor John gave an entire message on exactly this.  Haha, so I was thinking, “wow, what a coincidence, should I still write about it?”  The answer is, “Sure, why not?”  So here goes.

Let’s start by going to the beginning of scriptures, for a prime example of rest in Genesis 2:2-3:

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so He rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work of creation.  (New Living Translation)

Later in Exodus 20:8, as part of the Ten Commandments:

Remember to observe the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.  On that day no one in your household may do any work.  This includes you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and set it apart as holy.  (New Living Translation)

Now of course, the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st Century has obviously changed things.  Sunday, originally reserved as a day of rest, has become just another day of work for many of us.  If this applies to you, take some time to think about why.  Maybe it’s because you have so much work to do with strict upcoming deadlines and you feel that you must get things done now.  Maybe you’re just trying to get ahead.  Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll never get things done if you just rest a little.  Or maybe you’ve procrastinated to the point where you’re cramming everything on your day of rest to meet your Monday morning deadline.

You’re not alone.  It’s something I struggle with too at times.  The anxiety that comes from the demands of our modern world doesn’t make it easy to find even a little rest, let alone a whole day.  And with technology especially, its seems like we can’t even spend one day of vacation in Hawaii without being bombarded with dozens of emails from work or cell phone calls from our co-workers regarding that next big sales pitch or project.

A lot of us tend to avoid rest because we think that we will accomplish more if we go through less downtime.  If you’re a student like I am, you’ve probably tried this and ended up waking up with your head on your desk next to an empty energy drink can.  Truth is, our bodies are not meant to endlessly work without adequate rest.  And if we try to continue working without resting, we eventually crash or even get sick, which leads to unhappiness as well as even lesser productivity than before.  Even things like computers, cars, or machinery, they burn out if they’re used endlessly without downtime.  And if that’s not convincing enough, even God and Jesus took time to rest.  Do you think you can do more work than Jesus?  Hehe, didn’t think so.

But despite our modern world as we know it, it can never override the gentle comfort and extraordinary peace that comes from knowing God and how He passionately works in our lives.  As Psalm 23 says:

The Lord is my Shepard; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.  (New Living Translation)

Remember, that God is your provider and despite all the difficulties and struggles that our world lays out on us, He will continue to make sure that we have all we need in the midst of things (read my previous article on struggles for more on that).  So there’s no need to think that we must continuously keep working and working at the cost of our needed rest in order to get more accomplished.  Believe that despite all that you may be going through, God will guide you along the right paths and provide all that you need to live fruitfully.  And when there’s time for rest, there’s no need to feel guilty or hesitant about it either.  God created rest for a reason and also as a blessing, so that we may recharge and recuperate and continue living each day to the fullest. 

This time of year, I’ve certainly had quite a bit going on.  Haha, the gap between blog articles kind of explains that as well.  But knowing that I do everything for God and that God will guide me along has really set a brand new level of comfort and security in my heart.  I don’t really feel as stressed about certain things I used to worry about constantly, especially in regards to things related to school.  And at the same time, when its time for rest, I’ll gladly take it, not only as something I need, but as a blessing.

So go ahead.  Take a break from that research paper or math problem that you’ve been working on for four hours already.  That project you’ve been toiling over can wait a little bit.  Walk away from your computer screen, fold up the laptop, and turn off your phone.  You’re not going to do a good job on anything anyways if you’re burned out.  Relax and rest comfortably, knowing that God will make sure you will get everything you need despite all that’s going on.  Refresh yourself so that you can continue living well ^^. 

Best wishes and God Bless.

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