Thanks Bruce

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently act frankly; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In other words, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. – Bruce Lee, Oct 20 1963

It is hard to swim upstream. It is hard not to feel like I have to keep up with the rest of what society is selling. It is hard to dig when you only have the energy to rake. It is hard to turn the other cheek, walk in their shoes, give without getting in return. It is hard to wake up each morning knowing it’ll be a fight.

But, this is where I might find the real essence of life.

Thank God for Surgery

I went under the knife again this past Tuesday. It was the third operation I’ve had in the past six years for the same old nose of mine that seems to give me constant grief. Fortunately, compared to the previous two operations, this one was relatively minor and the recovery isn’t too bad. The doctor used some instrument to shrink the turbinates (the spongy part in your nose) so that I can breathe better. I’m crossing my fingers that this is really my last.

Surgery can be a good thing. It is often needed when things in our body aren’t right, and operations are performed in order to allow our body to function as it should again. For me, surgery was done specifically so that my nose can regain its full function and lead to a better quality of life. For others, surgery can be a process that literally means life or death if something isn’t removed or corrected. I am thankful that I live in a country where I can get the treatment I need from many qualified doctors.

But surgery can be a painful thing, too. This seems to be the absolute theme in all three of my operations. The initial aftermath is difficult and physically demanding, at times unbearable. You might be dizzy or weak from the anesthesia and all the other drugs that they put you on. You might feel numbness and tingling all throughout your body. You might vomit pools of dark blood or scream in agony from the pain caused by urination. It is learning to be thankful for these things that is the challenge.

In these moments, when I am riddled in bed, wholly dependent on my ever-patient mother and father for my every whim, I can react in one of two ways. One is to be bitter and self-pitying. To play the “woe is me” card and to demand from God reasons why accidents happen and why I have to suffer. It seems natural to take this route, but this is the foolish road.

The other is to see the story beneath and above it all. To be reminded of how loving my parents are, holding me up when I walk, feeding me when I can barely chew, caring for me like I was a newborn not too long ago. Or to be able to think and pray for little boys and girls who are suffering even worse, hooked up to wires and machines in hospitals because of their leukemia. Or to remember the little ones around the world who are suffering everyday without food and clean water, those who are living out their darkest days of despair. You can learn to be thankful in suffering, too. This is the greater road that God paves.

Wisdom is the gift that suffering can bring. It’s just hard to receive because it comes in shoddy packaging. The wrapping isn’t pretty and we can’t be prepared to discover what’s hidden inside it all. But if it is given to us let us not forsake it. You might find that the lessons learned in these times are priceless.

As a friend once told me, “Don’t waste pain.” Indeed, pain is one hell of a teacher.

Just Do Something

I’ve been reading a book called Just Do Something. I received it as a very belated birthday gift (intended for last October) from my friend Yilin. But I think it came in at just the right time.

It’s a book subtitled A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. I think that’s something I, along with many from our generation, struggle with. Most of us are talented, ambitious, and socially connected. Right out of school we are flooded by numerous networks and greeted with various opportunities. We have the whole world on our fingertips.

But we’re lost. We often think to ourselves, Where should I go? Who should I date? Should I move or stay at home? What kind of job should I take? And the lists of questions go on. Many of us believe that God has intended one specific path or direction for us, so we are convinced that unless we know what it is we are not moving. But the problem is, God doesn’t write this stuff out in the sky. So, we arrive at an impasse. We’re passive and indecisive, waiting around and wanting to be 100% certain before we risk doing anything. We have, in many ways, overspiritualized the whole process of living and making decisions.

This book debunks that. It addresses the myths surrounding the idea of “God’s Will.” It talks about the misconceptions along with the practical and Biblical principles involved in making good and wise decisions. I’m half-way through, and so far it’s been very eye-opening and challenging.

It’s a book I recommend to all who struggle with discernment and decision-making. It’s a short read–Yilin finished in 2 days–so check it out. It’s written by Kevin DeYoung, the senior pastor of University Reformed Church out in Michigan. You can find it on Amazon.

Winning in Spirit

Below is an entry I submitted to the Don’t Waste Your Sports DVD Contest last year; it was one of ten winning entries. I thought I’d repost it. It’s about a lesson on humility and the spirit of sportsmanship.

*****

The game was clearly over. Time had not run out, but the scoreboard indicated an insurmountable lead for our team and the faces of the opposing team confirmed it. We dominated on the boards and sank one shot after another.

We were the better team on the court that day, or at least the scoreboard would have you believe.

With the decision in hand, our team of 8th graders was clearly having a blast. And being an inexperienced, volunteer boys basketball coach, I seemed to let the unruly on-court behavior get the better of me. Discipline soon waned. One fancy no-look pass on one play gave way to a showy alley-oop on the next. Before we knew it, our players began chucking three-pointers from half-court.

After the game, as both teams were exchanging high-fives, their coach, several decades older, confronted me.

“Congrats on the win. You got a talented team,” he said, “But it was disrespectful what you did towards the end. Maybe they can learn a thing about sportsmanship, Coach.”

I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me then, but we were no longer just having fun—we did it at their expense. Though we won the game, as was obvious on the scoreboard, we had lost the game in spirit. Sure enough, I would deliver this message to the kids who were not expecting such words after a victory.

There is much to be said about humility, because the ability to reflect genuine grace is perhaps the best victory of all.

Ride A Cow, Find A Horse

supercowfail

Not a proper interpretation of the proverb.

It is an interesting experience to be raised in a Chinese home. (Then again, I wouldn’t know what it is like to be raised in a home that wasn’t.) I receive tasty and healthy homemade meals from my mom, and I get red envelopes full of money at least two days out of the year: Chinese New Year and my birthday. I also get lifelong lessons on things such as tradition, honor, and martial arts. (Just kidding. Sorry, white folk–as opposed to conventional stereotypes, we don’t all know Kung Fu.)

What’s more, the perspectives my family and I share regarding certain issues of life can be quite intriguing. It wouldn’t do justice to say it was just a race thing, because it also has as much to do with age, generational differences, religious, cultural, and individual experiences. But whenever there is a deeper issue worth probing into, we would always enjoy sharing about our respective worldviews. And whenever I lay down my pride or ego, a lot of times, I realize they are actually quite right.

From time to time, whenever appropriate, my parents would mix in old Chinese proverbs to supposedly illustrate or enlighten my knowledge of the topic at hand. Sometimes, I don’t pay much attention to them. But then there are times when it seems like a picture perfect example, a beautifully profound concept wrapped up in a simple, vivid phrase.

There’s a saying in Chinese that, loosely translated, means “Ride a cow, while finding a horse.” The first time I heard this was over dinner, when we talked about jobs, careers, and doing something you really enjoy. I was doing a stint at this dental lab at the time, and I told them how I had other aspirations of being a published author. I ranted and whined and complained. My parents, the patient ones that they are, heard me out. Then, before long, they responded with this proverb. This was one of the few that struck a chord that night, and has stuck with me ever since.

This maxim, at its core, means that while you are looking for a horse, it is good to be riding a cow. Why? Because it is much better to be riding something, as slow as it may be, instead of walking to get to your destination.

This applies to my friends and readers who are looking for jobs and/or a means to fund their passions, whatever they may be. I share this because I know for our generation, we are a mixed bunch. Some of us have no idea what we want to do. Others of us want to just follow our passion (even if it’s weaving dreamcatchers) and make lots of money doing it. I am guilty of the same. As I’ve shared many times before, I would love to make a living writing books and literature.

But, while I am cultivating my talent, I still need to have something to feed myself. To pay the bills. To allow me to support my own basic living. I still need my cow. That’s why I have a 9-5 which would afford me that (though it also happens to be a great job, a dream job for many).

So, I want to encourage all of my readers who are having a tough time in the job sector. It’s not easy. I know how it is–I didn’t find my first real job until 7 months after my graduation. It was a humbling experience. But what I’ve learned through the hardship was this: you must first lay down your pride, learn to suck it up, and continue to persevere in whatever craft or area you would truly like to pursue.

I think many of us are so used to having things handed to us or “getting it our way” that we aren’t used to the struggle. We don’t know what it means to bust our chops and work crazy nightshifts. But, often times, it is only through these seemingly “going-nowhere” phases that we learn the lifelong character lessons of diligence and sacrifice, lessons that prepare us for the next step in life.

Because as tough as it might seem right now, things will get better. But you can’t just sit there and wait. Do what you can with whatever opportunities, big or small, that are before you. The horse is out there, but it might take awhile to catch it.

So, if life hands you a cow, ride it. Cause in the meantime, it sure beats sitting or walking. And if all else fails, shake it. (I hereby absolve myself of any possible misinterpretation of those lines.)