The way we look

And how does the new year look to you?

Some things don’t change. Looks matter, that is why beauty sells. And why presenting reliable physical evidence is critical to a crime conviction. To see is to believe. To demand colorblindness is actually against nature. Just ask the peacock. A beautifully wrapped gift never fails to delight. Looks tell a lot, not just your age, but your preference, lifestyle, emotional state, personality, your past, even religion and capability. When you are lost in a crowd, which stranger would you approach to ask for directions? So it seems, to an extent, we still judge a book by its cover, or by instinct, depending on the situation. Are we now supposed to judge based on appearance, gender or color? Fishermen look at the clouds before heading out to the water. Yet, we also know that “looks” alone could be complicated for we may not read the weather well. So, jewelers use tools to examine a stone that looks like a diamond. And living things, like humans, are definitely more complicated than that.

Take for example a living insect–probably, one of the most avoided group. We prepare for their arrival with sticky traps and question their existence since past experiences tell us, we know better not to. We wonder why would God create ___ [insert name the insect that you detest the most]. Wonder no more as we take a look at the ant.

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God has a purpose beyond what we can see. “Go to the ant, observe her ways and be wise.” Proverbs 6:6

Way before the Ant-Man, ants were already singled out in the Bible. Maybe God has humor? More than that, God puts their greater significance inside. Despite their look, they are not junkies, but works of art, with surprising wisdom and abilities. I’d say, their existence humbles us. The Bible says learn from the ants. They “are creatures with little strength, but they prepare their food in the summer.” Shrewd ants are in charge! There’s 20 quadrillion of them on earth. They’re not going away anytime soon though they face stiff competition with creatures zillion times bigger.

In short, it is best to hone your ability to discern by taking the time to examine what is inside a package, or a person, no matter what the wrapping looks like. Some problems look daunting until you take it apart. Some attractive people disappoint the closer you get to them. It is like feeling let down once you untie the bow to find the ring inside the box is plated gold. And there are people who look ordinary but fascinate the more you see inside, just like the ants. I am not saying we should either care more or less how we look. Looks can be significant but only according to the substance it holds. It is better to spend more time on one’s inner natural qualities, than on masking it, don’t you think? The truth is, given time, inner qualities get expressed in one’s whole being.

Small step: Still afraid you’d drop dead like flies because you lack something in your look? You don’t even need surgery to feel at home in your body, but a simple choice of changing where to put the emphasis, where you “look” for significance. And maybe, there’s more to learn from the unassuming ant.

So this is Christmas…

Merry Christmas to All Merry Christmas to All Merry Christmas to All

It is okay if you skip the video and just wants the answer. In other words, is Christmas still relevant? Compared to other seasonal celebrations, it is still what brings the most revenues for most businesses to cover for their losses in the low seasons. So far, it is the only time when soldiers in the field had willingly stopped the shelling and killing, even for just a day. It’s the time where more people smile at me in the street. Could it be the infectious hopeful joy of the carols, the glorious story of the manger, or the cheerfulness of the decorations? The givers are more generous. Perhaps Christmas is a good reminder of giving love, more than the seeking love? This graciousness extends to forgiveness of those who hurt us, because it is the time when giving is the rule and not the exception. the expectation, not the suspicion, so that even the ones who feel loneliest at this time of the year would not reject kindness. Trust is on all time high. It is a time when anticipations for what’s wrapped under the tree reflect more innocence and trust than greed. And if the gift did not quite deliver, there is always some other “stuff” ready to make up for it, for it is still the thought that counts, isn’t it? More importantly, it is because of the Baby Gift that is a gift that keeps on giving. In other words, Christmas is a unique universal experience and language that is akin to all it stands for in an enduring tradition of gospel storytelling, food, art, gifts, sights and sounds.

Winning in life

Someone once said . . . .

Or have you heard . . . The one who dies with the most toys missed the point.

What are your thoughts about winning? I find it ironic that when it comes to winning, one may have clear, good goals but vague and soft means. It is like saying I want to win the pizza contest, but vaguely understand the choice of pizza oven, nor the rules of the game. So, is it still considered a win if cheating and hurting others is involved? What about making up your own rules that are self-serving? What is it about this quest to win that without notice turns on our insecurity button and dulls our moral reasoning, especially if we adopt a utilitarian approach that the end justifies the means philosophy. Is it vanity, ignorance or mere overconfident, impassioned temperament? How we win strongly affects the person we become. And so it becomes a vicious cycle. In the end, have we just encouraged more lies and fraud, create more problems than solutions, regress than progress, destroy than build, become more immature than mature, more enslaved than empowered, more humiliated than happy? We could lose our very soul while we win the pizza! What’s the point?

What’s worthwhile is worth seeking, for if we aim for nothing, we get nothing. But in reality, we cannot win every battle. Probably you already know that. And we don’t need to because not every battle is worth it. If we break it down, there are actually two spheres of winning. The physical and the spiritual. So we can be physically rich but spiritually poor, and vice versa. The rich could become materialistic. However, the physically poor may also turn into a thief. Both suffer from poverty of the soul. Ostracized for your faith, fired for your values? This could in turn enrich you spiritually at least. We’ve heard it asked, do measure our success by what we have or not have? It depends on what is that winsome treasure to you. To which Jesus said “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.” And again. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Implied in that last word is to enjoy abundantly. In summary, though we can’t be certain of winning in both levels, Christ’s way guarantees the second sphere, for sure.

Quick check: Is there anything I need to examine and change in my goal or approach to winning?

Soul Rest

A gentle reminder: we do not carry the world on our shoulder

Restlessness leads to unrest.

Anger, anxiety, antipathy, avarice, acrimony, aggression, arrogance and antagonism could be flooding our society now. Do you know someone like that, or have you become an A-lister– someone so passionate about change, of changing others or the world, but then lost perspective, principle and personality? Some could be so afflicted that they become alarmist, antisocial agitators who cannot adjust? To think, most would agree that to live for a cause is good, caring is better. But when caring takes an ugly turn, then we may explode or implode.

There is a difference. Striving is part of healthy living, but not stressing or distressing. Even good people can still drown in compassionate care. No amount of coffee can lift a wilted, tired human spirit. Stress is now considered the cause of majority of our illnesses and social ills. Yet we are still more mindful of how we work, not how we rest, We make sure our work is well done, which is impossible when we are tattered and warped. We tend to jam more work into our free time, including our rest time. We are missing by a long shot, for our hurried rest has not even reached the inner soul.

Most people don’t realize, God is serious about rest. He is no taskmaster. Slavery is created by humans. It’s possible you are already enslaving yourself. In fact, the first decree God ever instituted was to maintain the health of the world by declaring the seventh day a day of rest. This rest is not just for man, but for their land, servants and animals too. Can you imagine the impact of this to human well being and our ecosystem if followed through?The Hebrew word for rest is Shabath, which means to stop working, with the goal of getting refreshed, like a battery getting recharged.

One who has accepted Jesus has ceased to labor to be accepted by the world.

One crucial factor affecting our rest is our spiritual condition. Interestingly, survey shows that compared to those who skipped, people who regularly worship on Sundays to fill their soul with Him during the pandemic scored higher in happiness and are more mentally fit.

“Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest for you soul, … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” You will notice that it does not mean emptying your mind, chanting, or just sleeping away. Essential rest is about timely nurturing the soul. It is a spiritual experience. His presence and His Word does that. Unique and doable,

“For everything there is an appointed time, and an appointed time for everything on earth.” Ecc 3:1

When the sun seems to stop smiling at us, we know we are spent.

At times we find it difficult to rest even if we want to. But note that to rest is a command, implying we will be enabled to do it if we choose it and do it His way. Life can be unpredictable, unfair, unforgiving. But it will just get worse if we know not how to rest. It actually happened a long ago when Noah invited the people to enter the ark. No matter how bad it looks, it is not yet the end of the world because His invitation to enter His rest still remains.

Short meditation for spiritual rest, choose from: Psalm 16, Jeremiah 29:11-13, I John 5:11, John 13:15; 6:47, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Mathew 6:19-34.

Let’s Be Happy 3

What’s a happiness spoiler for you? I’d like to invite you to delve deeper into the topic of happiness with the story below.

HAPPY FOURTH

An exchange student who fought to keep his country from turning into a communist regime asked a professor, “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” Then he explained:

You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. Then you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but to no avail. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity. The young man told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America.

What’s wrong with eating your food? But what a way to live when we develop unhealthy dependency. To satisfy our needs, do we need to peddle our freedom and dignity, or let others abuse our safety and trust? Is there no other way?

Unfortunately, it is when we are down and out that we may fall for the easier way out. It gets worse when it is a national crisis like an epidemic, war, or a recession. It might be a timely reminder to say that Hitler used inflation as the single issue to buy the sympathy of people. Now, with the rise of inflation almost everywhere in the world, shouldn’t we be more careful how we navigate thru trying times? Do we just follow the crowd? Do we just go for the free stuff? Do we just believe promises? There are “nice” people who take advantage of others in dire times, especially those who use good intention to justify draconian means. In the end, good intention is just a mask. Happiness is spoiled.

May we not become a society addicted to flowery promises and unbelievable freebees. These stop when the givers run out of other people’s money. The thing is both are addictive. “The instant gratification from dopamine it produces is a rewarding feeling like that produced by drugs. But dopamine also prevent us from learning that the reward is fleeting. It creates a learning resistance at the primal level of the brain as happens in gambling or social media by interfering with reward prediction. It overrides our self-awareness or reflection that a thing is damaging, deceptive or degrading, with an illusion that the reward is ever new and worth pursuing.

To remember Freedom day, what is one value worth remembering and guarding for you?

Indeed, nothing is free including life, liberty and happiness. There is an economic side for happiness. But the price is beyond material and temporal. Jesus succinctly asked, what wold you give in exchange for your soul?

As mentioned at the beginning, I am inviting you to delve deeper. Is this too convicting? Or, have you made an awful exchange already somewhere, somehow? Don’t panic. You are not alone. The Bible told the story of Esau who, famished from hunting, sold his birthright to younger brother cook Jacob, in exchange for a bowl of his porridge. What an exchange and loss. Did he think he was like a beast? Unfortunately, many are going to make choices out of fear, ignorance, or for instant gratification, due to haste, a dopamine rush, wrong belief, pride, misplaced trust, naive expectation, compromised social values, which plunge them into greater losses, moral failures, and spoiled, lifetime of unhappiness. Whether you are the instigator or the receiver, it does not have to end in tragedy.

Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent, and 99% hard work.”

By now, you would have realized the transactional nature of happiness. That is why we are created with freedom. We can choose to win it or lose it, wait for it or work for it. I am not saying if you do good you would only be rewarded good. For even good people suffer. Rather, we eventually reap what we sow. We have to invest if we want to see profit later, and preferably, at the right time. Losing some sleep to finish a project, giving up sweets for health, forgiving to heal, or painstakingly pray for a wayward child. The examples are endless. Based on Matthew 6:33, the solution may not be as hard or too late as it seems. It says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then all these things shall be added unto you.” If we stop for a moment and analyze this basic exchange, we would notice a different exchange that promotes happiness.

Small Step: So when the world is unkind and spinning out of control, do I turn into swine or a saint, a person made in God’s image? How would my reaction show it?

What About My Truth?

If I can be someone just by claiming it, why settle for less than God? Now-a-days, truth has a new rival. It’s called “my truth.” Is that a problem? Well, what we once refer to as my point of view, my experience, my story or my take is now hollowed, elevated from the subjective to almost the absolute, from the personal to a subtle sacredness, such that mere countering “my truth” becomes a serious personal affront. It is bolted by another destructive myth called entitlement. It means rights without responsibility. Granted, one’s needs and perceived unjust treatments should be heard, but can one justly demand it be accepted at face value? Since when is one’s claim a proof in itself, and since when is any truth protected from scrutiny? In all honesty, are you comfortable with believing something you are not allowed to cross-examine?

Am I the only one bothered by this? Don’t we know from experience that we are all susceptible to biases? You might have heard of confirmation bias, self-serving bias, culture bias or in-grown bias, to name a few. Can a 21st century person end up biased? Sure he can.

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so – Mark Twain

And the more we try to find fulfillment and answer, the more we are tempted to changing reality to favor us, instead of confronting our problems and inadequacies with long rigorous research and sound reasoning. Instead of due process, we use undue speed. I am amazed at how even highly educated people put comfort before conscience, degree before dignity, progress before principle, empathy before evidence, profit before people, votes before victims, compliance before science. In so doing, we end up confusing my truth with the truth, prevention with purging, fact with feeling, compassion with compromise, authenticity with mere sincerity, examination with experimentation, reality with ideology.

A society that denies objective truth finds itself standing on shifting ground. Often, the children suffer the most.

Truth takes time. Early in life I tried to find the truth of the matter since I didn’t like being fooled. Children often ask why. Turns out that is a skill that safeguards what matters. Children get rules, then they ask why. Meaning what you say is another demand they have. Later on, I learned that clarity, objectivity, rationality, consistency, and certainty are also characteristics of truth. These are essential to shaping one’s mind, and consequently, one’s life. But there’s more.

Personal “truth” is not the truth. The latter does not change with time, person or place. You know why? Because it is based on basic human nature and need. And these do not change. For this, truth is comprehensive. It has the full in view, weeding out partiality and omission. That means you get the head and tail, not just bits and pieces when you form your judgment. It is the only way to weed out biases, like the picture of the cub below. That is why truth does not avoid cross examination, and it stands the test of time.

One such test is the reality check. If our ideas do not match with reality, isn’t that a definition of insanity? Indeed, some have become insane from being “over-educated” believing that re-framing changes reality for everybody. Take the example of a rose. May I call it red? A rose will still be a rose by any other name, because a rose is not a social nor personal construct, but a real object. One grave result of fudging with reality is we end up losing ourselves. Sad to say, mental illness is on the rise especially among the youth.

Truth does not change.

We were not here before we were born. We won’t be here after we die. So how can we be the source of truth? Truth is not inborn, fortunately, we can know the truth. And to be on truth’s side, you must be wiling to hate lying to others and to yourself.

He was crucified when He spoke the truth. Living out the truth is not for the fainthearted.
Don’t Give up...because Truth wins eventually

Quick Check: Am I aware of my own biases? Since truth is not of human nature, how open am i to challenging “my truth” ? Am I afraid to ask, to be challenged, to debate, and to change when proven wrong?

2022, what’s new?

Good day and welcome to Flight 2022. We are prepared to take off into the New Year. Please make sure your Positive Attitude and Gratitude are secured and locked in the upright position. All self-destruct devices; pity, anger, selfishness and resentment should be turned off at this time. All negativity, hurt and discouragement should be put away. Should you lose you positive Attitude under pressure during this flight, reach up and pull down a prayer. Prayers will automatically be activated by Faith. Once your Faith is activated, you can assist other passengers who are of little faith. There will BE No BAGGAGE allowed on this flight. God, our Captain has cleared us for take-off. Destination – GREATNESS! Wishing you a New Year filled with new HOPE, new JO and new BEGINNINGS! Stay Blessed and welcome in 2022. Hope you had a nice Christmas. Ist day of January. Very sunny in SD. (author anonymous)

Maybe you are done with new year’s resolution. And please, not another new variant of the virus.

I know. How’s about this, just a refreshing  take off?

One new attitude puts you in the new year. 

“Not that i have attained it, but one thing I do: forgetting things behind and reaching out for what’s ahead for me in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul

Happy Holiday? Hmm…

I like to call it by its proper name, Christmas. Proper name shows respect and recognition. It’s Independence Day, not just holiday. Or Mary, not just woman. It is heartwarming to receive a Christmas wish the way it has inspired countless musicians to write soul rousing songs. “O Holy Night” “Mary Did You Know” “Joy to the World” are so so good. That does not happen with “Holiday” no matter how many “Happy” we put in front of it.

This Christmas, I decorated before Thanksgiving, to have more time to enjoy its message. I guess this is the real reason why. Christmas is huge so that a day or a week to enjoy and talk about it is not enough. Whereas we so much need to be lifted up in spirit. Have you heard of the little known story of the Magi which says they did not see the baby Jesus until January 6? I’d say why not prolong the celebration of hope till then? Surely a pandemic year would not reject the idea of spreading more hope and good cheer. Shall we then say it like it is?

Be filled with the joy and peace of Christmas throughout the year.

What’s it called?

What is it called?

 Everyone starts life by  getting acquainted with one's body and surrounding. When Adam started life,  God brought to him the living creatures to see what he would call them.  The Bible said that "whatever name Adam gave for each, that became its name."  So the first time Adam met Eve he said "she is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." He gave his wife two names. "Eve" or "Chava" in Hebrew because she was the mother of all the living; and  "Isha" which means woman, the feminine form of Hebrew  "ish" for man. Her gender is part of her identity not just an add on. Her names described her role, her term of engagement, her relationship with Adam. In other words, naming is basic for living and much more.

Don’t you think that account is amazing? I do. It is God naming the world as He sees it, which is a good definition of truth. It means names are not to be tampered with, but respected because Reality exists. It means that reality exists apart from our own understanding, certified by God Himself.

These days, who hasn’t come across a misnomer?  Violence is called peaceful? Colorblindness is racist? Abortion is life-saving? Criminals are victims. Parents who stand up for their children’s education are domestic terrorists? The nameless mass is hailed as heroes and anyone with a notable name is in danger of being replaced, twisted or obliterated. It is like people take the liberty to define reality including history, value, morality, identity and rules of engagement, to the extent that names no longer need to correlate with reality. The assumption is Truth no longer exists, only one’s own perception or feelings is true.

What happens when you are Jane today and Jill tomorrow by the time you reach Russia? If Pam is the convicted felon, what happens if she is now Pete?

Misnomers create a fractured world instead of a universe where people can converse intelligently (uni: one; verse: word). Now, that is much worse than communication gap which is usually just misunderstanding. Rather, it is idiocy fueled by misinformation, ideology and controlled narratives. That’s one sophisticated description of lying infiltrating pre-schools all the way to the top universities. If reality is fluid, how does one decide what is? How can one be ever sure? How does that train anyone to think clearly, communicate accurately, or execute precisely? Then only a life of failure and misery awaits them. Isn’t it a mark of childishness to be double-minded, to disregard consequences, to believe with passion that which is not tested against broad wisdom in existence for centuries? And I thought testing is the basis of scientific research?

From experience, we know that mistrust turns people against each other, not just distancing them. Instead of changing the world, we are changed by the world we create. We become skeptical, cynical and alienated where we no longer know who to believe, what number to check, what name to use. After a while, we create causes to justify those lies, make up categories, events, victims and enemies that don’t exist as long as these yield the desired result we want. That is how victim-hood becomes hip. It’s lucrative.

For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a double-minded individual , unstable in all his ways. James 1:7-8

Ah… did you hear that a teacher was fired for misusing pronouns! What? Can’t he just correct himself? Obviously the issue is not grammar. Rather, designation, speech, and human transactions are now based on color, gender, politics, ideology, feelings or mere loudness. Grammatical rules, language rules, moral rules are now a thing of the past? Well, if someone wants to change the basic rules of engagement, shouldn’t one have the right to challenge them or opt out, without getting vilified or fired? Creating rules that are one-sided only court friction. Worse if it is turned into a policy or a law. It’s a lie that it is done for unity, equity or progress. To call it justice is another misnomer.

Control the words to control someone’s reality and change it to one’s advantage. That’s gaslighting. I know what peaceful protest is when I see one. I bet you do too since you’d run for cover otherwise. You would not find it amusing if someone makes you second guess what you know is true and then suggests that you are paranoid or crazy. Would you?

Better ask how can one know he has fallen into any of these holes. Only the wise is willing to face his lie and admit it. For our greatest enemy is ourselves. We lie to ourselves constantly to get what we want. But since life for Adam did not start with a lie, neither should we. Be bold and call it by its name.

Small step: Have you come up with a way to sort out truth from distortion? May I suggest checking the basics or the Bible for what God calls “it” for real?