Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I often receive emails meant for another Esther Liu.

i survived my 8-12 pages due yesterday, 10-15 due today.
2 exams and 2 papers for tomorrow, then everything is more reasonably spaced out.

it's been so cold i can separate my hair-icicles when i go out with damp hair.
i finally duct-taped the perimeter of my window.
i am sad that i can no longer fly a kite indoors.
maybe i will get a vornado.

the heat hasn't been on in our building.
i think it's why our beta fish died.
instead of floating to the top, he sunk to the bottom.
we're gonna leave it for a couple hours to see if he wakes up.

i often receive emails meant for another Esther Liu.
this one was too good not to pass on.

Jimmy JihWed, Dec 8, 2010 at 2:22 PM

hehe, how did you respond and do you ever?

On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 12:58 PM, Mike Hwang wrote:
I enjoyed this email so much I laughed out loud and may have peed a couple drops.

On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 12:32 PM, Joshua Liu wrote:
can i borrow it?

On Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 7:36 PM, Jessica Lin wrote:
so when's the baby due?

On Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 6:23 PM, Esther Liu wrote:
i always get emails meant for another esther liu... hm.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: kim natsuko  
Date: 2010/12/7
Subject: baby shower

Hi! Esther! how are you doing?
sorry for late respond... I would like to attend your baby shower!
are you going to have boy or girl?
what do you need for baby? can you tell me?
oh,and... my kids are coming with me, is that okay?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do you speak Asian?

Why yes, I probably do!

A CUNY paper presented last week (by a white guy) at Experimental Approaches to Perception and Production of Language Variation (how this conference name collapses neatly into ExAPP2010 is unknown to me) suggests that native English speaking Pacific Asian Americans are racially identifiable by voice, even if the linguistic "differentiation may not rise to the level of a systematic dialect" (Newman).

While other speech communities may have more salient dialectal differences, Asian Americans are not without distinguishing linguistic behaviors. Cues (non-determinative) may include vowel quality, breathiness, syllable cadence, and voice quality. None of these provide strong evidence for AA-ness on its own.

A set of eight (2 Chinese Americans, 2 Korean Americans, 2 white Americans, 1 Latino, and 1 African American) women, and the same distribution in another set of men, were asked to read the same super exciting passage:
A wily coyote led sharpshooters armed with tranquilizer guns on a merry chase through Central Park before being captured on Wednesday. At one point, authorities tried to corner the animal in the southeast corner of the park, by Wollman Rink. The clever creature jumped into the water, ducked under a bridge, then scampered through the rink ground and ran off.
 Men were more successfully identified than women were, and Asians were the least accurately identified.

More from Michael Newman:

  • "Native Asian American English: the recognition and acoustic correlates of Asian American speech"
  • "Can New Yorkers identify Asian-American speech? A case of perceptual dialectology"

This kinda thing boils my nerd blood. I would love to have been a part of this study. I've long wondered about and suspected the findings. After all, it's usually pretty easy to tell when a singer is Asian.

Sorry Dad, I missed the boat.

While it is true that he can never be the father that he should have been to me, I get to choose now whether I want the father I've got. I decide if his indifference before precludes the sincerity of his gestures as of late. I determine whether he will never make up for his past injuries.

Jonah 4:2 I made haste to flee...
for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,
and relenting from disaster. 

Hamlet waits to exact revenge on Claudius in order to minimize impunity... I too, fear success. How upsetting the confidence that mercy will win the day!

Is it not sweeter, I ask, to refuse the efforts of a father who was absent, to unsmilingly apologize:

Sorry dad, ya missed the boat.

A perfect Father asks back:
Jonah 4:4 Daughter, do you do well to be angry?

In grace he places my eyes in sockets, that they might turn even while the smarting othercheek is yet dead-set.

I see now, Dad, I am the one who's missed the mercy boat.

A week from now I'll be in Naperville, through the following Monday.

Lord make in me a Thankful heart, for all you've done. Share with me the glory of your fair and merciful heart of love toward my family. Turn my eyes, my cheek, always. And quicken my heart, my step, all this way home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Your best conversationalists.

During the Great Awakening, Edwards took the time to write a lengthy letter--full of intense counsel yet gentle personal concern--to a young Christian woman from a Suffield congregation he had visited.
Always consider your best conversations... to be the ones that produce the following two effects: first, those conversations and experiences that make you least, lowest, and most like a child; and, second, those that do most engage and fix your heart in a full and firm disposition to deny yourself for God and to spend and be spent for him.
It's remarkable how he receives and responds to a young convert's request for pastoral guidance with not less urgency than the other Great Awakening duties he must have been swamped with at the time... like drafting "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" which he would deliver a month later, or corresponding with ministry colleagues, or shepherding someone from his own Northampton congregation. What humble obedience it takes to walk joyfully alongside our people!

Although this story I tell, sifting through the dates and writings like souvenirs that aren't mine and lending significance here and there, may be more the story I've chosen to imagine than the one they actually tell... I can praise the same patient precious discipling in someone else who might have in reading Edwards unwittingly molded his past to her own ends on a sentimental search for the man in shining orthodox armor--I mean, she was reading his biography in the rain under a tree when our paths crossed.

O hai der.
I didn't know then just how dear a gift it was that she would draw up her chair or pick up an oar or a pen to attend to my grief and fear, to refix my sights so "earnestly, affectionately, and thoroughly." She is precious to me. Happy birthday, soul-friend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tell Me A Story / Dan Taylor

We are created to be creatures who live in story and understand story.

The Significance of Stoires:

How Stories Shape People:

Transferring Values through Story:

Story in the Bible:

How Stories and Faith Relate:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Onward, forward, upward, homeward.

great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me
morning by morning... You help me to see

Your guiding presence tells me that good/better/best are ahead rather than irrecoverably past.

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


is the new sos
Kevin: is it weird that when I see
  I think of a man
  waving his arms around
  for help
Sent at 1:00 PM on Wednesday
me: hahah
Kevin: I hope that has changed your life
me: it has
  now i will say things like
Kevin: hahaha
  lol is secretly the call of help of a culture which finds it neccessary to shorten the phrase "laugh out loud" into 3 letters

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Little Brother

what else can i do?

cuz You cut to the place where i hide away
and You're breaking the stones in my wall.

never thought i'd ever be caught by surprise...
look at me fall.

so lead me on now cuz i don't remember this road
but the place we're going feels a lot like coming Home
we'll be there before long

i was so sure i'd never be here again; i thought i had tasted it all
never thought i'd ever be caught by surprise
but look at me fall, look at me fall

// KG - Fall

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Big Brother

Always looking out for me with his rape prevention plans... =P

One winter break when he came home from college we killed a fifth because he insisted I build up my tolerance.

Tonight he surprised me with goshin jutsu class--fun times!!

He always was protective. He always stayed around...

Until he left. In six years the most time we've spent consecutively together was the month we traveled to Honduras, Hawaii, Taiwan.

When he started college we knew it to be the start of seeing each other only a couple times a year. He would not always be around for me.

In the coming weeks, he'll be moving to Seattle for work.

The protection he models, far-reaching, works toward its own abdication. It equips. And it loves. Enough to let me go. I have much to learn.

Weekend Soundbites

I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me... By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you... 

"I like us. We make me happy. :D" KH
Right back atcha, dear friend.
We'll make it through!
Thanks for being safe
for allowing me, by voicing it to you,
to confess what I hadn't yet admitted to myself.
You always keep it real.

In this and all things, I've never walked alone.

Friends remind each other not to give up and of reasons for hope,
of which at the end of the day, there is only One.

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you... What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 

Even when confronted
with the truth of 長痛不如短痛.
with the sliminess of my deceitful heart.
with how jealous/possessive/covetous my "love" is.

Think over... for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 

"Your mother is emotionally... special." EK
O boy.
On account of Friday PM to Sunday AM's absurdities, I was... so preoccupied the rest of the weekend. Too much to really make the effort to socialize and knit the group together even though I organized.
Rame. Why ever half-ass anything?! Your mercy... I need it so.

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 

"... [unintelligible]... confused ...[unintelligible]..." FC
Me too.

But God's firm foundation stands... “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” ... Be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions.

"You have a way of bringing random people together =) fun fun!" JL
I can think of few things I enjoy more.
I want this "way" to be only from You.

Madison Yelpers have low standards.
Or is it that NYC has imprisoned my palate to its city limits?

Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies... The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil... 

"[cannot-be-repeated-should-be-forgotten/forgiven]" AL
Ma, what do I do with you?
How do I love you rightly?

There will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self... proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turn unto your rest.

Slavery is when I spend every minute of my life attempting to justify myself in the way that this hymn explains Christ has already done.

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt sin
Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement You have made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whatever Your people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in Your righteousness,
And sprinkled with Your blood?

If You have my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand--
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto your rest!
The merits of your great High Priest
Have bought your liberty;
Trust in his efficacious blood,
Nor fear your banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inception makes me wanna SCUBA.

After weeks of being a cultural outcast, I finally watched Inception last night with Cat and Eugene.

Overall I feel slighted for my liking of the movie because I feel like the things I most appreciate are not the things being hyped. And most conversations have obsessively centered on determining the right interpretation of the plot, even though it seems to me that Nolan's commentary unambiguously transcends the alternate understandings...

On things like dream-sharing, lucid dreaming, reality, the sub/conscious, I don't find Nolan (even for his own work) or his latest movie all that original. Underneath that un-novel buzz is the real brilliance, in my opinion, and the director does a dearly effective job commenting on typically touchy subjects like grief, guilt, duty, exclusive truth. More on these in some later posts :)

My favorite parts:
[WARNING: May contain spoilers]

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Three years ago today.

Lord, You never let go of me.
E: theres no bridge michael! no freaking bridge. isaiah 43.
mahkoZ (2:57:28 PM): what are you defining as "bridge"
E: theres no way to the other side in sight
E: theres nothing i can do or build
E: no. effing. bridge.
mahkoZ (2:59:18 PM): yeah..
mahkoZ (2:59:49 PM): you'll see it though, when you get to the other side
E: ???! or
E: IF i get to the other side
mahkoZ (3:00:18 PM): you're gonna get there esther
E: with my faith intact??
mahkoZ (3:00:43 PM): that i do not know
mahkoZ (3:00:54 PM): but based on your history, and the myriad of things you've endured
mahkoZ (3:01:08 PM): i would definitely put all my chips on you making it through
mahkoZ (3:01:13 PM): with your faith solidified
E: my faith is wimpy and i am so afraid
mahkoZ (3:01:45 PM): i think you know God better than a lot of people do..
E: i think i believe God less than a lot of people do..!
mahkoZ (3:08:28 PM): well.. at any rate, God knows esther infinitely well
mahkoZ (3:08:50 PM): God will deliver you
mahkoZ (3:10:42 PM): listen, king jehoshaphat and all who live in judah and jerusalem! this is what the lord says to you: 'do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. for the battle is not yours, but GOD's..'
E: but thats why im afraid
mahkoZ (3:21:22 PM): yeah.. i understand
mahkoZ (3:21:29 PM): well.. i shall pray for you esther. but i need to let you know that you encourage me
mahkoZ (3:22:51 PM): i see in your life, a story of struggle, and fear, and redemption, and faith, and child-like love
mahkoZ (3:24:05 PM): and it makes my heart want to praise God more fully and more realistically

God, let it be true of me, keep writing me into Your story!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone...

My lease ends/begins today.

... and this house just ain't no home anytime she goes away.
dearie DPVivian,
thank you for filling my life with beauty
you were the first one i met
in the city where beauty himself is changing me
where would i be without you
most certainly not alive in new york
how do i live (in an apartment) without you
guess i'll be finding out soon
one thing i know to stay true as ever
i'll see you at home
love you near and far, DPE.

God is in the business of finishing what He starts.

This truth is full of hope and rebuke for a quitter like me.
   full of hope whenever I am feeling harassed by sin and self...
   full of rebuke whenever I feel so harassed as to want to quit.
It corrects my vision and tells me to
   glance at my own sin and weakness, but to
   gaze upon my Savior and trust his finished/finishing work.

Lately I have been revisiting the many incomplete saved drafts sitting in my blog and even cleaning up and completing some of them. Many reflections sit unfinished because they are too ramblejumbled and personally received to be publicized. But many more posts, I've just never revisited, either out of laziness... Or else the process from start to not-finish looks something like... Sit down, click "New Post", brain dump, reflect, dislike what I see, despair, abandon. As such, so many thoughts and dreams and musings and opinions and reactions I have left uncaptivated by Christ.

As part of all this I've also moved my

On the one hand, it has been wonderful to see the story arcs in what God has been teaching/doing in my life. Even recalling how full of doubt/anger/confusion I was at the time of each of those events taken in isolation, I am newly assured that He was continuously at work all along. Assured is a funny-looking word.

On the other hand I'm seeing my flakery and how very much my comings and goings lacks follow-through, especially in reflecting, processing thoughts and carrying tasks through to obedience. If you are someone I've injured by my indiscipline, I need your accountability especially!

Pray for me in all areas from something as seemingly inconsequential as finishing a thought or a writing, or as immediately relevant as persevering to finish my last 2 weeks of Intensive Attic Greek study this summer, as vital and life-long as being conformed to the likeness of Christ... Who finishes what He begins. :)

from Seda.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Balaam moments.

Of the times God reminds me of his character he's occasionally more specific, for example to remind me that he's my Father. And he does this with the most loving sense of humor. The uncontrivedness of those organic moments in which he speaks most clearly and unexpectedly--you know the times when God's Spirit wants to mess with ya a bit--only make them seem all the more divine. Like Balaam's talkin ass.

On Aug 8, 2007 I learned childlike faith from a child. Not to liken Katie to a donkey but catchin up with Ed I was reminded of this recorded appointment that I had with an 8-year-old and with God. I was nannying/tutoring her and her sister that summer, and her assignment/project for that afternoon was to let me drill her about what she learned at our church summer camp the weekend before. My tears confused her during our mock interview and she asked why I was crying. Between heaves I wanted to explain because Katie I love you and you're breaking my hearts in ways that big words can't... And you're telling me things I don't want to hear. Why? Oh wait, because I asked you. Duh...

Level 1 Katie is in the purple life jacket.

It had to have been the Holy Spirit speaking.
If you knew her at all you'd know.
If you'd been there at all, you would have seen her fidgeting over her elementary-school attention span, you would have seen my jaw drop and my efforts to hold back or hastily disguise the tears.
She would get up and start pacing, come back and flop on the couch, lay her head on my knee and tell me that GOD LOVES ME EVERYDAY.

E: Are you sure God doesn't think I'm silly for being so scared?
K: No! He LOVES you. Why would he think you're silly if he loved you a lot? very much a lot?? ... He loves you only at a point so much that it's like more than six hundred thousand miles! Well it's not a number! But... more than that! (The faucet leaks.) What are you crying about?

E: I'm scared of how and when and if I'm gonna get there. I'm scared of God.
K: Oh... well just remember. That God is always with you. Esther?

E: Do you think God would listen to us right now?
K: Yes. I'm guessing He feels really sorry for you.

(O_o and =X)

K: Sometimes, you're just kind of a little bit mean. But, then, you are like our sister. And when you take us out to eat, I like it!
E: Do you think God is like that?
K: No, He won't be mean. He will love you everyday (all-out weeping at this point) That's a good thing, why are you crying again? He will let you rejoice and...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

abrasion, disruption, and discontinuity

Mature personhood does not come by pilgrimages of continuity,
but by abrasion, disruption, and discontinuity
which shatter our grasp of things and make us, at key points,
not the initiators but the recipients
of gifts and surprises
that we often do not want to receive...

// Hope Within History -- Walter Brueggemann

Sunday, July 25, 2010

21. An invitation from your Kinsman.

And as for your birth, on the day you were born...
No eye pitied you out of compassion for you,
but you were cast out on the open field,
for you were abhorred,
on the day that you were born.
An invitation to be born, and so to live,
to feast on fine flour and honey and oil,
to dine at the table with your King.

And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood,
I said to you in your blood, 'Live!'
I said to you in your blood, 'Live!'
I made you flourish like a plant of the field.
Dress code: birthday suit.

And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment...
yet you were naked and bare.

When I passed by you again and saw you,
behold, you were at the age for love,
 and I spread the corner of my garment over you
and covered your nakedness;
I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you,
declares the Lord GOD,

and you became mine.
Répondez s'il vous plaît while ye may. =)

Remember the days of your youth,
when you were naked and bare,
wallowing in your blood.
I'm 21 today.

Marianne & Hinda outside Fat Cat.

For all the year and all of "adulthood" ahead I pray,

Spread Your garment over me.
Be my Redeemer.

When just a corner of His robe will do,
He bestows splendor in abundance!
Then I bathed you with water
and washed off your blood from you
and anointed you with oil.
I clothed you also with embroidered cloth
and shod you with fine leather.
I wrapped you in fine linen
and covered you with silk.
And I adorned you with ornaments
and put bracelets on your wrists
and a chain on your neck.
And I put a ring on your nose
and earrings in your ears
and a beautiful crown on your head.

How could You be so good?

Thus you were adorned with gold and silver,
and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth.
 You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.
And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty,
for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you,
declares the Lord GOD.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth,
and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.
I will establish my covenant with you,
and you shall know that I am the LORD,
that you may remember and be confounded,
and never open your mouth again because of your shame,
when I atone for you for all that you have done,
declares the Lord GOD.
YES!!!!! // Ezekiel 16

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just like last Saturday

Last night and this morning were difficult. To think that summer camp was only a week ago, and yet the blessings and truths ascertained there were already fleeting fast... Added to my growing feeling of disjointness between IL and NY, but more immediately just... how frustrating it's been this summer to feel really disconnected in general because of the very intense and isolating experience that the Greek Institute has been.

It often feels like two separate lives. It can get easy to forget about my family or LWEC while I'm away. On the other extreme I can be so enmeshed and so wishing I were in the other place that it prevents me from being fully present where I'm at.
A sign on our co-ed summer camp dorm floors.
Whose great idea was that?
I visited Times Square Church with Cat now-here-from-back-there today, and was sharing some of these things with her...

The pastor spoke on John 12:23-28...
And in response we sang "In Christ Alone."

I felt reassured as though re-receiving that same gift. In simple ways, God reminds me that His work in me is continuous, that his word to me is unbroken and uninterrupted, and that He is ONE God. So I must worship Him with my one life.

I liked something else the pastor said today that's ringing true as I think back on when and where I've most clearly encountered God: "If you want to experience the resources/power of God, move toward human need" (since God's in that business of saving and healing and all that).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God really really really desires freedom for me!

LWEC Summer Retreat 2010: Surrender.

St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN.

Sunday night in small group I asked my girls what they'd share if limited to only one sentence, or say, 140 characters, about what God had been speaking to them throughout the weekend. It was cool that as a church we'd all been hearing the same messages via Dave Kang and yet it was clear that God was specifically speaking in unique ways to each person as well... Here are tweets from my small group and Monday breakfast/lunch tables.

Jessica C - God's love knows no boundaries.
Christina Y - When you surrender to God, you find peace.
Michelle X - God accepts us in our brokenness.
Yifu Z - It's okay to break down in front of God.
Pearl H - It's time to give God all of me, not just parts.
Christina H - Peace found in Jesus Christ beats any feeling, person, or thing.
Jane X - It's not all about me.
Steph L - God delights in me.
Jon P - Unconditional surrender to Christ not only leads us back to the heart of worship, but also gives God supreme glory.
Calvin C - Time to grow up.
Andy C - God continues to be faithful to LWEC.
Jimmy K - Whether I deem myself useful or not, if God is using me, I will serve wholeheartedly and fearlessly.
George H - How can I please God if I don't know what his heart wants?
Michael H - I need to surrender my fear of failure.

Comment with your own :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In a world already dark to me, I closed my eyes and would not see.

I scorn, scoff at, spit on You. Mt 26.67
Utterly unfaithful then I added anger to my sin...
And still Your death... it saves me every day.
(Syntax is p resent tense for progressive/repeated aspect as HH DG and BP would say)
"S'all good, praying sure does beat sleep. Im glad that you came back this weekend, and not just because we could see you or whatnot... But seems like He was really speaking to and through you. Ill miss you, but I know you are in the best of hands. We are prone to being rebellious, but its the turning back to Him thats the key. He is forever faithful. Take care, friend" 2:55pm text from bro made me cry in Greek class. He gets it. Prayer works. Lord, you win the hearts of men.

I'm slightly ashamed and embarrassed still that he had to witness my rebellion and refusal to talk to You. But LORD I thank you that it is not my example or faithfulness that convey any power, but yours. I thank you that he follows not me but you. Let him... let all of them... see not that I am/appear faithful, but that You remain utterly faithful in my rebellion.

I need You, God!

Thank You, for equally yoked friends. I don't know when that happened with Franklin but what I do know is that You alone did it. Thank You for not leaving me alone in my anger and doubt and for my friend's boldness in administering Your grace to me... especially for how simply albeit... nervously?... he opened the dialogue with you. I wonder if he was scared to... or how he saw/sees me, I guess I can be hard on him at times... wonder if he picked up on it that other night at camp.

I guess... like... how can I be praying for you?
And I sighed and shrank into the drivers' seat of James' car which we'd hijacked and I wanted to yell or fight or cry... but met Your mercy there, in sticky hands and melted cones, 2 to 4AM in the McD's parking lot. I gripped the steering wheel, 10 and 2 and pushed against it as if to push your invitation and his away... And felt the weight of my rebellion. Again.

How could I have denied you again, so soon after retreat. But You always bring these to these moments of horrific awareness at my stark denial of you, Jesus--leaving Michelle's party saying fia and getting trashed... sweet repentance with Konny... news of Mrs. Shiou the next morning and sobbing through my OT Narrative midterm--how could you make me contemplate your character in that pain? how could you? i wanted to deny your love. so lost in my lostness i crossed west side highway without even looking... GAh. God... drowning in Your mercy then and in your jealous love all that next week in south bx. And even this weekend chucking my journal across the room at what You were asking me to do, at how You wanted to make me more like You... how You showed me how I was like him. like him, the one who doesn't even realize he needs my forgiveness, who if he knew i'd given it might even sneer at it and reject it?! the one who continues to live as though never having tasted or understood your grace. how could You make that comparison? and yet how am i not he... battles between grace and pride, mang. but you show a mercy that i don't understand... Then last night dying and despairing again by mom and dad...

And so I struggled there in the car against you and myself, betrayed your worth to my brother... Lord thank you for speaking through him to me... foremost of sinners.

I shrank at Your touch every time he called upon You, "Father God." But You are not like any earthly dad... Why even now is it so hard to call on You this way, Abba. Heal my heart, Jesus.

Always turn my heart back to you, Lord.
Make it in grace to stay.

Why do I resist You, Lord??? I who have glimpsed Your glory, tasted Your goodness ... am so quick to forget and rebel.  I completely invert what James 4.7 says to submit yourself therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Merciful God, though I resist You, you have not fled from me. Though I flee from You, where can I go from Your presence????? Thank You for never letting go of me... Thank You thankyouthankyouu. For bringing me to these places where I realize it was I who crucified the Son of God and yet it is I who am shown mercy... I kill You, and rather than let me have the final word, You resurrect in my heart and You let me worship You freely, remembering that it was for me that You died... You let me deny You and You pour out forgiveness...

Lord You are good to remind me of the truth through these moments of denial and rebellion. I am that sinner You died for. I am the one yelling crucify. Mocking, scoffing, abandoning you. So loud that I don't hear You gasping my pardon. You are good to turn my heart back to you. But please, Father, grant me a steady and submissive heart that doesn't just... flare up and forsake You. Not first that I might be/seem faithful, but because You are, and You deserve love and devotion. You're so. Freaking. Faithful.
on a different note its like a bajillion degrees out. and i had set down to write a reflection on camp, but hey this is it, isn't it, God? you say something, like at camp, and then you do it. you pour out your mercy and forgiveness and grace. you're such a patient teacher to send a word, then give a test. if i have failed, You teach me gently. You're SO good.

this is so long and rambly but God i really don't want to forget Your grace or deny You again anytime soon.

I stood in Peter's shoes today. i have never so closely identified with him and the rooster and your reconfirmation of him. you knew he would deny you, just like you must have written all these events like last night into your story... and you let him stray and brought him back, that he would know your grace so deeply that he would never shut up about it the rest of his life. how many times did i deny you in one night before the sun rose? you warned him Lk 22.31, that Satan would tempt him to despair, would sift him like wheat. and you prayed for him, that his faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

I am Peter. I am without answer when you ask three times "Do you love me?" for the three times I deny you, hearing your call to feed your sheep. I will, Lord.
I'm astounded at how well you keep me, you pray for me that my faith may not fail, you teach me.
Is that what my life will come down to? Always turning back to you, and strengthening my brothers.
May it always be. in your worthy name.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who is missing from the table? Part 2.

With all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast
Each of us cries with thankful tongue, "LORD, why was I a guest?
Why was I made to hear Your voice and enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?"

'Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in
Else we would still refuse to taste and perish in our sin.

-- Isaac Watts, "How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place," 1707.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If Grace Is an Ocean...

There lives a sea turtle who had lost his sea.

How he reached the desert sands or when, no one knows for certain.  It would almost seem the sprawling arid wasteland were home and always had been. A tortoise I shall be, resolved he. And so he belonged to the wilderness.

I like this picture a lot.
Once upon a time the sea turtle knew his lostness.  Back then he would stop each passerby and ask for the way home. But in these parts no one knew the way.  They had never seen the ocean, was it really real?  The desert, they convinced him, was the only sure place there ever had been or ever would be.

And so the waters drained from his dreams, until he was thirsty but knew it not.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Excess is not abundance. Joyful choose the better part.

Idols once they won you, charmed you,
Lovely things of time and sense.
Gilded thus does sin disarm you...

Arm yourselves, therefore--Been back in Naperville a week now and will stay until the end of this week. Starting to be militant against two decades of clutter, the result of parents who never permitted throwing stuff away. It's exhausting; realizing clutter for what it truly is--putting something off to evaluate, sort out, deal with later--be it mental or relational or any other kind of clutter, I feel its weight and entanglement like I've never before. Of laying up our security in all the wrong homes, of passively holding onto stuff or retaining habits because change takes gruel.

But it all adds up and chokes the abundance right out of life, the purpose out of a house/home, the wholeness out of relationships.

Purge, purge, purge. Confront all this stuff and the memories that are evidence of where my heart has been and what it has contained, and the closets of misplaced affections or mistakes or hurts or distraction that I have held onto--to let go of later.

All of life is repentance--repentance now. Lord let me choose You, now. Help me to stop putting off the choice no matter who tells me it is right to do so, or how sentimental or comfortable or attached or overwhelmed I feel. When I say I'll choose You later, I'm choosing not-You now.

Luke 10:41-42. I have accumulated much to be anxious and troubled about.  Much that belies true security and value. Heart, see true worth. Learn to live more with less.

This hymn keeps playing through my head to remind me of hope. My favorite rendition of it is a mash-up to the tune of "Tis so sweet."
Have you heard Him, seen Him, known Him?

Is not yours a captured heart?

Captivated by His beauty,
worthy tribute haste to bring.
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
crown Him now unrivaled king.

What has stripped the seeming beauty from the idols of this earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
but the sight of peerless worth,
the beaming of His beauty,
the unveiling of His heart.

What have we who have companied with Him to do with idols?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Peace among ourselves.

We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.

// D.A. Carson via Of First Importance  1 Thess 5

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Thank you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Forever firmly fixed.

Every time I read it I wonder that I'd read it before.
Either it keeps changing, or I do.

Forever, O LORD, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
// Psalm 119.89

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good morning, blues.

When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had already been there a long time,
he said to him,

"Do you want to be healed?"

Do you want to be healed? Why did He even have to ask. Duh of course I want to be healed. Or do I more often refuse to see myself as He does, invalid and in need. And nakedly cling to panhandling rags and deadly cures, while to His remedy saying "Eh... nahh."

Do you want to be healed? What, I need to be healed?! This is what Leadbelly was in on. You gotta first admit and greet your blues, and then ya gotta sit your blues down, get acquainted with and befriend them.  Even when we are spectacularly blue, tangibly battered, visibly bruised, we try to outrun the specific brokenness, if we even recognize it. Rather than face the pain frontally and walking through--not around or over--it.  Most spontaneously we react by avoiding, ignoring, denying, or suppressing the suffering... We? Or maybe this is just me.

Do you want to be healed? But how ever will I accept myself, and claim that uniqueness, until I also accept the suffering as mine? Our many bugouts these last weeks say again that there is something intimately individual and accordingly revealing about the way you and no one else breaks and about the way that God purposes that brokenness to serve your good. Would you be healed, He asks, because He wants to take the stripes and the burden and be my Healer where I've settled for anesthesia or waited to be carried by all sorts of lesser-than-Him things.

Befriending your blues sounds a bit twisted, I guess. Maybe more accurately... I gotta stare down the anguish squarely. Courageously, not masochistically. Face it. Until I step into the pain rather than away in retreat I'll just remain paralyzed "lying there... a long time" as the sickness and soreness fester, metastasize, and the eyes grow dim to hope.

That day by the Sheep Gate, the invalid found after 38! years! that his affliction was not an obstacle, but the very vehicle, to life and joy and peace.

I want to be healed, Lord Jesus.

Take me to Bethesda, your house of mercy, where you will stand me up in and grow me strong through the pain, where joy and sorrow are not opposites. I need to be healed.

Thank you for this Family that loves me when I'm blind, lame, and paralyzed. You give them to keep me standing here as they encourage me to not resist your healing by running away from my blues, and as they stand by the broken and as they step back to let your pruning run its full course.

Where I suffer, heal my unbelief, so I would suffer with you and thus enter into your glory: Into the peace deeper than anguish, the life stronger than death, the love that conquers fear.

By your saving, healing name Jesus,
YES! I want to be healed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

faith is a verb.

living faith,
an active faith,
a faith of verbs:

to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.

to seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.

// terry tempest williams

Monday, April 26, 2010

Men I'd die for.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Charity as commanded, 2.

I often attempt to justify ignoring others' needs or not loving them. This rebellion surfaces when my own needs--especially pain--make me feel entitled to whatever I want and feel. I have rejected community, to avoid getting messy and enmeshed and also to avoid being a burden, to pursue self-sufficiency and my own benefit. Fear is masked with intentions of love and protection. I draw lines:

Me, mine, you, yours.

If you love me, respect the boundaries: Those are yours, these are mine, don't touch. My needs are mine, my gifts are mine, my time is mine, my goals are mine, my life is mine. My friends, my family. My purposes, my plans, my pursuits... Mine. To choose to give or to keep.

I have asked:
Why is such costly, crazy love owed in obedience?
And how is it possibly sustainable?!

I have not gone unanswered:
You are not your own. Your land is Mine. Its produce is Mine. The labors of your hands and of your heart are Mine. All that is yours is yours because I give it to you. It is Mine to give and Mine to take away. You are Mine. I made you for Myself. Lev 25, 1 Chr 29.10-19, Col 1.16, Augustine.

I command and enjoin you to share what is yours—which is Mine—with all who are Mine. Don't worry about not having enough to live. I will give manna for the day. Deut 8.
By faith you will leave the corners uncut—they belong to the poor and needy ever amongst you. You will not wait for them to beg. They will come to your corners—even your home—in dignity, for I have shown you to love mercy. Lev 19.9, Deut 14.22-29, Micah 6.8.
You also are poor and needy, yet this is no excuse to withhold good. Even if you feel you have nothing and feel justified in your selfishness, even if you come to depend entirely on others’ obedient caregiving, you shall first give your uncut portion. Numbers 18:26
I am enough. Trust Me. Believe into My sufficiency for your weakness, My fullness for your hunger, My riches for your wretchedness, My help for your unbelief. I am gracious.
If you remain in me, your cup overflows even as it is emptied and poured out--I will be your portion and the strength of your heart. Ps 23, 2 Tim 4, Ps 73.26
Through many means, I am reminded of who God is, of what nothing I am and have without him. Knowing him, his name, his character are key. Doubting and forgetting these cause me to disobey...

so Lord, show me Your heart and lay mine bare. Show me Your way and give me strength to obey. Help me remember.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Charity as commanded, 1.

Today I helped a stranger in need and got very shaftly screwed.

Hebrew צדקה, like Latin caritas, also often gets translated as "charity." But it renders literally as "justice" or "righteousness."
צדק צדק תרדוף
Justice, and only justice,
you shall follow,
that you may live.
Deut 16.20

Tzedakah is the right responsible way humans care for each other--for each image and representation of God, independent of feelings, whim, finances… It is as optional as obligations are; as with any commandment, the choice is whether to obey. The law is not contingent on the heart, rather, the heart must subject itself to the command.
Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart.
Deut 15.9

There are always opportunities to obey and do tzedakah. The poor, the heartbroken, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, the sick... Those in need are always among us.
There will never cease to be poor in the land.
Therefore I command you,
"You shall open wide your hand to your brother,
to the needy and to the poor in your land."
Deut 15.11
Me? My hand? My brother? My land?
Well if it's mine, don't I get a say?
You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand...
But you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need,
whatever it may be.
Deut 15.7-8

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What I look like, a charity case?

Thankful for today's new mercies as I reflect
on what hurt about yesterday,
on my subsequent recoil and fear,
on imperfect love foolishly given and miserably received,
1 Jn 4:18 on God's perfect love whereby fears are stilled and hope remains. 

Your charity wounds. Throw it on the ground.
If you would do right, love God and love your neighbor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Because He loves jealously--

let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship,
with reverence and awe,
for our God is a consuming fire.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Altar of love.

A sonnet written for James Heup, November 2006.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 7.

therefore, behold, I will allure her,
   and bring her into the wilderness,
   and speak tenderly to her.
and there I will give her her vineyards
   and make the valley of trial a door of hope.
and there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
   as at the time when she came out of the land of egypt.
and in that day
declares the LORD
you will call Me "my Husband"
and I will make you lie down in safety.

I will betroth you to Me

I will betroth you to Me
in righteousness and in justice,
in steadfast love and in mercy.

I will betroth you to Me
in faithfulness.

and you shall know the LORD.
and in that day
I will answer

// hosea 3.16-21

Friday, April 16, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 6.

the Lord very frequently addresses us in the character of a husband... so He requires love and chastity from us; that is, that we do not prostitute our souls... as the purer and chaster a husband is, the more grievously he is offended when he sees his wife inclining to a rival; so the Lord, who has betrothed us to Himself in truth, declares that He burns with the hottest jealousy.

// institutes II.viii.18, calvin.

how can I give you up?
how can I hand you over?
My heart recoils within Me;
My compassion grows warm and tender.

// hosea 11.8-9

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 5.

My child, listen carefully.

I have written your name on My heart

you are Mine

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 4.

for the LORD your God is a consuming fire // deut 4.24
 until You have it all

come be the fire inside of me
come be the flame upon my heart

// "You won't relent," misty edwards.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 3.

 is jealous for me
 loves like a hurricane
 am a tree
 bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy

Monday, April 12, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 2.

what art Thou to me? in Thy pity, teach me to utter it.
or what am i to Thee that Thou demandest my love, Ps 8.4
and, if i give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me...
is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? oh!
for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, o Lord my God
what Thou art unto me.
say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Ps 35.3
I am the LORD your God
from the land of egypt;
so speak, that i may hear.
behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee;
open Thou the ears thereof, and
say unto my soul. I am thy salvation.
you know no God but Me,
and besides Me there is no savior.
// the confessions, aurelius augustinus.
// hosea 13.4

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Love of a jealous kind, 1.

i'd rather feel the pain all too familiar
than be broken by a Lover i don't understand

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bleating for comfort

from your staff and your rod.

and finding only your rod of jealous discipline.

consider, lord, how it looks to us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Family Fun

Uncle Tim, Dad's little ninja brother who lives in the city and who has a glass eye and who married a Brazilian lady whose last name is Castro and who we like to call Uncle Ted a la "Bobby's World," came over today.

We told him his eye needed polishing and suggested Windex, then glitter, and then wasabi; when it gets dull you can tell that his left eye is fake. I never could tell as a child which one was real, and if he told me I wouldn't remember. I'm pretty certain he alternated his answer each time anyway. And I would ask to poke his eyes to verify.

He asked about life in Harlem and my week in South Bronx, and of course the stories included Minnow's of Shadynasty [ʃə˧-daI˦-nə˧-sti˨]... which steered the conversation to other favorites like La-a (Ladasha) and Lashlasha, Lacomma, Watermelondrea, Usnavy, Cherokee (Shiraq-i), Lemonjello, Orangejello, [ə˧-ʃo˦-leI˨], [ʃə-θid]...

In the words of Jonathan Walton's embarrassment: "Are we blacks the only ones who do this to our children?!" Well, Jonathan Paul Walton himself having maybe the whitest appellation ever appears to have been spared.
E: Uncle Ted, if you were black, what would you name your children?
Tim: 那個... and... 這個 (Nigga and Chigga. Their approximants in Mandarin mean "that one" and "this one" respectively.) 
At one point this afternoon Ma had Josh and me stretch her by the hands and feet. Hello? Did this actually happen?!? Also she let me punch her armpits as a "massage."

Around 8:30pm on 3 April 2010 as I was about to make a 10-min drive to Franklin's:

Ma: Remember to drive carefully, don't come home too late [...clipped...] and if you are getting tired, call and we can talk and I can keep you awake ... but don't call while you are driving ...
Josh: ... and if you need to pee, do it in little spurts so you can wait for it to evaporate. Also if you need more advice, call me. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYCUP Update Letter: Holy Crap!

30 March 2010
Holy Tuesday.

I'm not really sure what Jesus did on like Monday-Wed of Holy Week... Nor can I keep my eyes open and support my neck long enough to look into it tonight for how pooped I am (in more ways than one--more later). Nor am I still convinced that I have to cleverly contrive these letters and reflections to correspond to the historical Passion Week. What I do know's that during this week He was on the move and did a whole bunch of really intentional stuff, the glory and meaning of which would be revealed by the weekend... Similarly, God is on the move here and preparing me for this weekend too. I cannot believe how much we've done and learned, but even more incredible is how much God is doing in my heart and in this community... I don't how to begin so I'll try beginning from the beginning of the Plunge.

Beginning Saturday, Jonathan Walton, director of NYCUP, challenged us in all our proceedings especially in foreign situations to respond, as Jesus did, rather than merely reacting. In so doing, whether we share a sack lunch and a story with a homeless woman in Grand Central, or rebuke the man outside the 125th Street methadone clinic who leered at our girls, we bear witness to Christ Jesus, whose every doing was covered by grace, whose every word was true and laced with life. As such, we began each morning at 7:30AM in prayer and in the Word to draw nearer to the heart of Jesus. We are challenged by the many new situations we encounter to also to pray forward in anticipation; proactively and responsive, not just reactively.

How can I appropriately respond to encounters in this impoverished neighborhood? With the children who innocuously told me of their envy "because Chino food is mad good," and who re-laced my hi tops because apparently my Chucks were "not hood enough" for their liking. Or even with Harv and Robyn Bowman--the sweet whitest most mid-western couple who followed the call of God from their Ohio farms with JUMP Ministries to South Bronx. Here lies the poorest urban congregational district in the United States, yet it is situated less than a mile from the richest: Upper East Side. The challenges these people face, and what it means for them to pick up their cross to follow Christ, seem to find no root in my own experience of being raised in Naperville.

With what credibility could I respond? Pray for me as I am learning that truly, I represent not myself, not flesh and blood. The witness I bear is not of my world. Rather, I walk as a child of my Father, a daughter of the King, and so I—we—represent the Kingdom of God. And that comes with a whole different authority.

The sewage pump in the basement's utility closet which we call "the darkness" has been out of commission for at least two years, and the basement runneth over. But the neighborhood kids still sneak their way in for a place to play. They call it "turd surfing." Okay I'm seriously exhausted from squatting in the closet and scooping poop at the church all day. Too much so to even give you some words to lessen the weirdness of the image you must have... Ah... I didn't even say half of what I want to share... But sleep for tonight, to rise early tomorrow, and work, that the children might have a clean and safe space to play and to stay a child if only for another day. But more importantly, as the Lord purged the temple on that Monday, that 1800 Grand Concourse would be reclaimed from its filth to be a house of prayer, set apart.

Good night,


- the necessity of ... - "you guys need a hand? i like to keep busy you know, helps keep me away from the wrong people whie i get clean"
- "this church was a gem... you wouldn't know it now but that bell used to chime every sunday"
- there is a river of sewage... how do you react? jump in/save. go to the village and mobilize. engineer a damn. we need all those but ultimately any sustained response requires going to the SOURCE of living water. how else could i be so close to filth for any extended season unless i abide in him?
- you walk in victory esther, not just toward it.
- leave your messiah syndrome at his feet! you can be his hands, follow his beautiful-news-bearing-dirty feet, you can speak his words... but you can never replace him so abide in him!
- mighty to save / my glorious
- shock @ D from feed500 grand central... lord it is mercy that you are jealous for my heart thank you