Indonesia: The Prelude

In about 15 hours, I’ll be taking off to Hongkong and Shenzhen for the first four days, and Indonesia (Jakarta and Bali) for the rest of this 22-day trip. They’re all familiar territory, except for Shenzhen, but it just has been a while. The last time I went home over three years ago was for a less fortunate event, so this visit will be very interesting.

All the world’s a classroom has been a personal motto of mine for many years. Last August, I had Honduras as a classroom for 10 days with many amazing personal lessons. To have the same mindset in a place I call home, where I would naturally want to kick back and relax, will be a bit more challenging.

But considering where I am in my life, about a year away from the end of grad school and probably the most important life transition, I suspect there will be tons of reflection and thoughts during the next three weeks and after.

Needless to say, I’m excited. My sister, Nestor, and Aiko will be joining me in Jakarta next week and then in Bali the following week. We will for sure have lots of good food. Stay tune for food and other pictures.

Captivated by Music

Captivated by Music

I’m a bit of a musical junkie. Ok, not a bit… a lot. I think the most enchantingly talented individuals are the musical theatre people. The sound that comes out of these human beings is just marvelous. When they’re on stage, it’s like the human anatomy become an instrument, with sound waves traveling through the biological cavities, all working together for a single purpose: to make music. They sing with all their being and the artistic creation that comes out of this process is simply amazing.

The thing that’s interesting is, say an actor or actress performs some of the songs in a concert, in a setting that isn’t within a storyline, but it’s the same song, same tune, and same lyrics. Somehow, the performance isn’t as powerful as when they’re in character and in the story (source: casual observations from a bunch of YouTube videos). It was quite a curious case.

So perhaps to say the obvious, I think the difference is exactly that – the storyline. When they sing at some function, they’re not as much in character and the song becomes just a nice song, a mixture between lyrics and notes. But when they’re in character, all the expression and emotion blend in, adding another dimension to the music, and giving it a certain transcendence that can create goose bumps to those who witness the performance. The words come from the heart and from the experience of the character, and the music communicates both to the conscious and the subconscious.

Basically the point is there’s a difference between a song that is sung and a song that is experienced; the quality of the music is noticeably distinct.

There’s a verse in Revelation that I always think kind of cool. “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps. And they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders, and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” Revelation 14:2-3.

There’s also a hymn that says the following:

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing

And I expect to help them make the courts of heaven ring

But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings

For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings

(Hymn title: Holy, Holy, is What the Angels Sing. All the lyrics are relevant to this thought)

Could it be that in heaven, singing something that one hasn’t experienced is not allowed? Could it be that singing something without meaning it is akin to lying?

The song we sing is and should be closely related to our experiences. Our songs of praise are distinct from one another’s. When David said that “He hath put a new song in my mouth” (Ps 40:3), it meant that He has given him a new experience with Him.

Which brings me to a source of bewilderment when I’m in a church with a congregation that is so timid during singing time. Have we not experienced the goodness of God?

The most beautiful songs are the ones sung with the heart and with the whole being. I’m sure those are the songs God likes to hear as well.

Les Miserables in Grand Rapids, MI

Me with Les Mis cast member - Marius Pontmercy

The Elias, who are all pretty much musical junkies

A Firstborn’s Memory

This entry is to commemorate my father’s passing two years ago.

The day after my father passed away, it was determined that I would be the one to find and select the specific location where we would have his burial. So I went with a representative from a cemetery and a few of my father’s relatives.

I didn’t like the cemetery representative; I thought she was obnoxious and rude. Alas, I was stuck with her. She showed me a few options in their complex, which was comprised of several ‘gardens’ with different themes, and I could weigh the various layouts, views, etc. Meaning, not all spots were made equal. Traditionally, the Chinese cares much about giving a proper, even grandeur burial, rooted perhaps in ancestor worship. Of course I do not subscribe to that, but I saw this task as my last chance to do the best I could for my father’s honor. I felt like it was upon me to ensure that this last tribute to him would be proper and honorable.

As we went from place to place I felt the weight of the decision dawned on my entire being. I was faced with some trade-offs. There was a garden named “Sabbath” – what a proper name for a place of rest. My father died on the Sabbath day too. This garden was beautiful and it seemed like the perfect place. I thought, yea, he would like this. However, this particular spot was definitely above our budget.. The other sites were nice, although they did not strike me that much. I had to select one out of those and because I felt like they were not as special, I really wanted to drive down the cost. If we couldn’t get the “Sabbath” spot, at least maybe my success could be monetary. Inside, I was very conflicted with what decisions to make, and in the midst of this, suddenly I realized how much I missed my father. My mind kept saying, if he was here, he would know exactly what to do..

Mind you this process also involved me getting insulted by some comments that the representative made and snapping at her. At one point I couldn’t deal with her anymore and broke down. My father’s relatives had to educate her why the things that she said were offensive to the culture and to the family, which she should have known given the context of her work. They told her to stop saying those things because they hurt.

I couldn’t drive the price as low as I wanted. I ended up with a selection, although I didn’t know if I felt completely satisfied with it. Given the whole situation, a soup of emotions just flooded over me. I was literally sobbing all the way back and almost for the rest of the day. I felt like the lady insulted my father and my family, and I was angry at her; I felt like I failed my task – as the eldest, I was supposed to do this well; I questioned whether I did the right thing, whether my father would have approved and been happy with my decision; and I missed him because I knew if he was alive, even if I didn’t make the best decision and was disappointed in myself, he would have comforted me and said it was okay.

I came back to the funeral home and told my mother I couldn’t get the price lower, which was really a message loaded with my self-disappointment, and she said it was okay; we would give the best for my father. I signed the deal and the papers with the representative. I did eventually apologized to her and vice versa, although that didn’t change my opinion that she was a bad salesperson. It was ironic, but the piece of land where my father would be buried was now to be purchased under my name. Legally, that piece of ‘property’ belonged to me, and that would be so for as long as life on earth would last. Personally, I felt a weird and profound connection between my father and myself as his eldest daughter in this situation; a connection that is tinged with one word – responsibility.

I don’t think I have recounted this experience to a single soul. Alas, some things are too hard to communicate verbally. Besides, it’s been two years…

Sometimes I think about the many decisions in life that my father wouldn’t have a say in. There are many things for which I actually would want his counsel and opinions, and I have no clue what his thoughts would be because no similar situation had come up before and I simply had not asked. But I am not without counsel and I am not Fatherless, so there is no need to despair.

Time heals. It really does. But even more than that, God heals. I can testify to the healing power of the balm of Gilead, and the Lord has ministered to me tremendously the past two years. I don’t know if I can say I’m over it 100%, since there are times when it’s just simply hard, like when unexpected things come up that triggered memories. And I don’t know whether I will ever get over it 100%. But perhaps that’s okay, so as to remind me that this world is not my home.

Here’s a video clip that I made last year: Tribute


At some point this afternoon I wanted to find a document on guides on how to study the Bible in my email archive. During the process, I remembered that I had forwarded the same document to my mother and father about two years ago, not long after my father had his surgery. I found the email thread, and there I saw my email forward to them.

It was dated March 28, 2009 – less than 2 days before my father got a high fever, 4 days before he slipped into a coma, 13 days before he passed away. Literally, this was one of the last favors I did for my father – forwarding a simple email. I don’t know whether he got a chance to look at it or not, but I remember the reason why I forwarded it was because he had asked me to. He had just made commitments to study the Bible more and he asked me if I had some guides…

What interesting timing… God laid him to rest when his heart was right… I had thought that this email took place at an earlier time, less close to his downfall health wise. But it was practically right before it. Seeing this today was enough to make a girl choke…

Seeing the email was unexpected. At the moment I saw this email last time, my father’s death was unexpected. It made me think of the mysterious workings of God’s timing and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men.

Truly, the realm of the heart, the realm of the mind, and the realm of time…are in God’s hands.