Monthly Archives: May 2012

DO Out Loud

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreaming lately. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a princess and that was the end goal.  As I grew older, I wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher, then a talk show host, then a publicist, then a wife. And season after season, I had a new end goal in mind.

The trend of trading in dreams for new ones is constant. I’m a dreamer, so this may never change. But I realized this week while talking about dreaming with some friends of mine, that it’s easy to associate our life “dreams” with future husbands and future jobs. I’m not saying that’s exactly wrong, it just isn’t necessarily right.

Here’s my question for you. What do you dream about? I mean, beyond white, picket fences and elaborate wedding days, ideal career situations and cushy salaries. What exactly are your dreams made of?

This is what I dream about:
– Being passionate about something and doing something about it
– Meeting with influential people, sharing ideas, dreaming big and doing something about it
– Loving people and doing something about it

I’ll be honest. I got really overwhelmed thinking about my big non-relationship/career dreams last week.

“I physically don’t have the energy to start something,” I thought to myself before putting in another disc of “Friday Night Lights.”

But that’s the negative thing about merely dreaming. It stays a dream. It’s safer that way. You don’t really have to move past the thoughts in your head, turn off the TV and actually get your butt off the couch. You don’t have to actually move mountains, just talk about it to your friends and say things like “if only” or “maybe someday.” And in a world where people are okay with just being okay, being a dreamer is enough.

But I don’t want to be just another dreamer. I don’t want to talk big and live small. I don’t want to dream out loud, I want to DO out loud. I want to jump fearlessly off hypothetical life cliffs and wrestle with a pack of doubting hyenas.

I was made to dream, but I’m called to do something about it. It’s time that I started living this way.

This is my best end goal yet.

The Prodigal Daughter

When I was younger I felt like my parents played favorites between my older brother and I. From constant phrases of “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” to the differing amounts of presents they would give us, it was pretty obvious to me that my brother was the overall contender in this sibling competition.

I remember one particular Christmas when I was home from college where my brother got a ton of gifts he had been asking for –the collection of James Bond movies on DVD, three boxes of this 3-D puzzle he loved, some Star Wars knick-knacks and a palm pilot. My stack was a bit smaller and included a re-gifted tin of cookies and two CDs. One of which was a Randy Travis album (because I “love country music”) that my mom had found at the Dollar Tree.

When it came time for my main gift, I was pretty excited. They obviously skimmed on the smaller details to build up the excitement for this gift. I mean, my brother got a palm pilot! Plus, I was pretty confident this gift was an iPod, since that was the only thing I had asked for.

It wasn’t.

It was an electric toothbrush.

At first I thought it was a joke. My iPod was going to be sneakily hidden in this box and my parents were just pretending they got me a toothbrush. But when I opened the box, it was, in fact, an electric toothbrush. My heart sunk. I looked at my mom with tears in my eyes and just whispered, “Why?”

“Because I know you like to brush your teeth and this is the best toothbrush out there.”

If you know me well, you will know that I hate mint. Which makes me dislike toothpaste. Which leads me to not look forward to brushing my teeth. This sort of flawed gift reasoning was just another proof to me that my parents loved my brother more. So, I calmly excused myself and went into my room and cried. Even when my mom came to the door later, I refused to come out. “It just isn’t fair!” I hiccupped through my tears.

Sometimes I view God the same way I view my parents. I see people with things that I wish I had and lives that I desperately want and my heart sinks. I find myself comparing my blessings against theirs. I have this, but they have this and that. I have four, but they have five and something else. It’s a constant scale where their cups all seem to runneth over while mine, well, runneth dry.

It just isn’t fair.

Whenever I used to listen to the story of the Prodigal Son, I would give myself permission to zone out. Mostly because I just couldn’t relate to this kid – breaking the rules, partying and running wild, wasting away all of his inheritance. Please. That’s cultural suicide for an Asian kid. We know not to mess with that line.

But did you know this story has two Prodigal Sons?

There’s the one that we hear and focus on: the kid that rebels against his parents by leaving home and being irresponsible. Which is the one that correlates to the Christian who strays away from the Lord, probably during his or her wild college-phase.

But there’s another son in the equation.

He’s the one who knows his responsibilities and does it without complaining. He does his chores, follows the rules from his parents and can be trusted to make the right decision every time. Come to think of it, he was probably Asian.

I am the second son.

I follow the rules. I do the right thing. I go to church every Sunday. I try to live my life as a good person, a good Christian. And when others around me stray away, I know better than to follow. I am a good kid.

But the story in the Bible reveals to us the heart of this seemingly good kid. He may have been the one who stayed at home, but his heart was angry. He may not have physically wandered away, but he did emotionally. And what we see in this story is that this second son, with his impressive list of good things, is in the same position as the lost son. His heart is lost. All his work means nothing because his heart wasn’t in the right place.

Often times when I look at the lives of my friends and the people around me, my heart becomes bitter because they seem to have it so much better than me. “Look at their pasts, God! They went through crazy, wild phases and dealt with situations so much more immaturely then I did and yet you reward them?! When is it my turn??”

Let me tell you something. Our Heavenly Dad doesn’t play favorites. It may feel like it sometimes but He loves us all the same. He doesn’t shell out more blessings to one individual because He secretly likes them more. And at the end of our lives, we won’t be able to stack up our blessings like Christmas presents and see how our gifts add up compared to others. God doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t have to gift us with any blessings, but He does so anyway simply because He absolutely adores us. That means that every blessing is, in fact, a beautiful, undeserved gift.

He gives us what we need in the moments we need it. And so often He blesses us even in our most undeserving moments as prodigal sons and daughters. There’s a hymn that I love that says, “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy praise.” It is such a great reminder of how every blessing God chooses to bless us with is something to be thankful for. And I mean every blessing, whether extravagant or seemingly small.

Yes, even if it’s an electric toothbrush.

I Saw The Sign…And It Opened Up My Eyes

I was driving on the highway last week and there is a digital marquee that said since January the state of Tennessee has had 288 highway fatalities. I wondered out loud how many people would get distracted in reading that sign and cause an accident.

Then yesterday, I noticed that the death toll was now at 318. If your math sucks as much as mine, you need a calculator to put it in better perspective. Let’s see…yes, that’s 30 deaths in 7 days. That’s almost 4 deaths per day. And this isn’t a combination of all the states or includes Tennessee residents with long-term illnesses. Nope, this number is only for the fatalities of Tennessee drivers on the highway. Pretty big number right?

This got me thinking about how there must be a lot of bad drivers out there. Actually, I know there are because on a daily basis, I feel like my car is Frogger and I’m braving the streets to make it safely to point B in one piece.

The other day I was on the highway, minding my own business, going a healthy 3 miles above the speed limit in the middle lane. The car to my left (in what we all know as the passing lane) was going a little bit slower than me so, naturally according to physics, I was slightly ahead of her. If I was behind her in the left lane, this would have annoyed me because she shouldn’t be in the passing lane if she’s planning on staying and cruising there. But I was perfectly content middle lane-ing it so she could do whatever she wanted. Which is why I found it odd that she decided to swing her car behind me suddenly and then tail me for a good 2 minutes, fist in the air, red-faced yelling something at me. Lady, I can’t hear you, I’m in a different car.

Don’t worry, I did give her the benefit of the doubt. I looked around for Godzilla. Nope. I looked in the air for a meteor about to hit the Tennessee highway. Nope. I looked in my backseat to see if I was about to be slaughtered by an axe murderer. Nope. Oh that’s right, you are just being a crazy Tennessee driver.

Sometimes when I look around at all the bad drivers, I wonder how they got their drivers license in the first place. Somewhere in time, twilight zone or not, they read the same driver’s handbook, took a test, agreed to be safe and cautious and someone handed them a little card that deemed them officially legal to drive. I’d like to believe in that moment they were of sound mind, with no intention of getting into a car accident, must less breaking any traffic violations on the road.

Now, I know I am not a perfect driver. On occasion, I make a careless mistake while I’m most likely daydreaming and I find myself jerked back into reality. But I shrug it off and hope the cars around me offer me some grace. After all, it was a one-time lapse of judgment. We all get a couple freebies, right?

I think this concept can be applied to how we live our lives as Christians. We all read the same life manual, are aware of the do’s and don’t of life and made a commitment to live our lives as a reflection of Christ. We are deemed Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. And like driving, one single mistake on the road could not only destroy your life, but the lives of those around you.

I noticed that just like my driving slip-ups, I expect grace when I make life mistakes, justifying them as one-time lapses of judgment.  Like my road rage, I have life rage. I see my fellow brothers and sisters driving around carelessly and I get angry. “They read the same book I did! They should know better than this!”

I use to see God like a traffic cop; handing out tickets for our careless driving, slapping our wrists and making us attend classes to learn how to live a holier life. Whenever I saw someone breaking a traffic violation I would yell out loud, “Where is a cop when you need them!” But that’s not who our God is at all. No. In fact, I think we are the traffic cops. We are the ones that are so quick to pull out our little notepads of tally marks and pointing out even the smallest of traffic violations of our peers.

Joshua 1:8 says, “Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

Let’s face it. As humans, we’re all pretty good about spotting bad life drivers. But God call us to work on ourselves and our own terrible driving not point out the mistakes of others. Interesting that this verse doesn’t say, “Meditate on it day and night so that you can tell everyone what they are doing wrong and be better than them.” That’s because we are all the same. We read the Book, said a prayer, made a vow and God handed us the privilege of this beautiful ride.

That means every road, every highway, every traffic light and everything else in between on this journey is a series of choices. Read the manual, follow the signs and maybe we could all try to drive a little more safely.