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I woke up with the stomach flu. I puked a couple of times this morning, hacking up bits of lettuce and saliva-infused water. I felt hot and my skin was sensitive.

I became a little delusional in the early morning. I said things like, “what’s the point, God?”, “Fuck that shit”, “Why the fuck did you have to take her?” (referring to my mom). All sorts of weird things came out.

To cope, I entertained fantasies that I will not pen here.

And then I forced myself out of bed, poured a can of chicken broth into a pot with old rice, ate it, and took an ibuprofen.

Then I played Douglass Moo’s lecture on the book of James on YouTube, the book we are studying in church right now. I respect Moo because other people respect his scholarship, but I also like listening to him because he’s an eloquent but gentle speaker. He fields all questions with respect and does not talk down at his students.

The book of James is a mess. According to Moo, it’s unlike the Pauline epistles and more like the intertestamental wisdom literature, stuff protestants like me don’t know about. The structure is not easily discerned, if there is one. Luther classified the book as a secondary letter, since it disagreed with his “justification-by-faith-alone” ethos and others seem to have labeled James as “weak” in theology. It’s just a bunch of exhortations, like Proverbs.

Moo replies that while James does not have much explicit theology, it is still theologically written. Its content is concerned with pastoring a flock gone awry, not with indoctrination or fine points of theology. In light of this revelation, we can read and appreciate James for what he tries to accomplish – the exhortation of brothers and sisters in the Christian diaspora to act properly.

James starts off with:

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

It’s hard to be joyful in moments of disappointment and loss. In our 30s, I can already see some of my friends suffering from deep disappointment in themselves for not accomplishing the things they wanted to have accomplished by this age. Some want to be married. Some want financial stability. Others want to be more advanced in their careers. All of us compare ourselves to others. “He’s younger than me, but he has a child already”, “he’s got millions and a house and a great girlfriend…God’s favor is on him”, “he went to a great law school and has a job set up for him already”. Living in the bay area, where so many young, talented, highly motivated, and rich professionals populate the area, I think envy and anxiety are creeping around at every corner. We want to hang our heads high but the competition is just too fierce.

Moo reminds us that trials come from God. Much of the Old Testament, he says, report God giving his people trials to test their faith. Perhaps the most famous being Job, and, in the New Testament, Jesus.

If we see our failures in life as trials from God, I think we could have some sort of joy. James encourages his readers to persevere in trials because it renders the believer mature or perfect, as the ESV puts it. Moo comments that the NIV translation, “mature”, is too weak of a word to get across the finality and strength of what James means by teleios. “Perfect” is too loaded a term in English because it connotes a sense of OCDness or impossibility, and, thus, a despairing word. And yet, James pushes us to have faith in the testing process, which will achieve for us some wholeness, and, of course, “a reward of the life of the crown” (v.12), that is, life itself. With this end goal in mind, perhaps it might be easier to see our tests as occasions for joy, for we will not only have eternal life but also transform into the healed, whole person that we all truly desire to be.

In our trials, however, we are tempted. We are tempted to curse God, like I did. We are tempted to self-console through the usual or unusual vices like gambling, alcohol, sex, porn, overeating. We are tempted because we have inherited this strange desire to rebel against or thwart God. I’m not entirely sure why or how we are programmed like this – perhaps our hearts and minds are so fed on a diet of pleasures and rewards of the world that we seek to make friends with it to receive our due reward. In other words, we work hard in order to play hard.

In the face of utter failure of our designs, then, is an opportunity to rejoice in the trial. There is some purpose behind our failure, and it’s not merely if at all the reason to succeed later on in whatever worldly way we conceive. Our capitalistic society does a good job at convincing us that dogged determination will help us be like Mike or Bill Gates or Jack Ma.

James also advocates for a single-minded perseverance, but not in the same worldly sense. He tells us to persevere under duress, because that single-minded pursuit of the kingdom will reap for us wholeness, and rebirth. An existence not predicated on our own expectations of what the “good life” is, but one that rests solely on the glory of God.

On a personal note, as mom’s death anniversary comes up, I can’t help but try to apply this to my mom’s situation last year. She died a painful death. I saw her deteriorate rapidly like a broken plane sputtering across the sky crash into a fiery blaze into the earth.

She cried because of the pain. She vomited from the pain medicine that she received, which in turn created more pain. I saw her drench her bed with urine. I heard her complaints and cries for help. I will never forget the day I sat next to her, massaging her aching hip, hollowed out by cancer, when she suddenly buried her face into my shoulder crying, “hao tong, hao tong” – “it hurts, it hurts’.

My mom always said with a sad, childish face, “I’m not afraid to die, but afraid of the suffering leading up to it”.

1 year later, it is still hard to see the joy in that trial, one which we will all experience soon enough. And yet God promises us that these are the things we shall undergo in order to become whole and complete. May God grant us the faith to believe in this truth, may he give us the wisdom to endure it. I know he will. He wants to.

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I read this New York Times article the other day about how our education system does not help students write better. They lack “voice”, or they can’t even string together a sentence. Goldstein notes that “…the Snapchat generation may produce more writing than any group of teenagers before it, writing copious text messages and social media posts, but when it comes to the formal writing expected at school and work, they struggle with the mechanics of simple sentences” (Goldstein). It may be true that social media has exacerbated an already ongoing problem (the article states writing has been a problem at Harvard is late 1800s), but mobile technologies are wiring our brains to consume less text and more pictures, resulting in truncated speech.

It is a real pain in the ass when I have to read hundreds of student papers that are written in some accidental stream-of-consciousness. Capitalization, fragments, run-ons, and all sorts of careless writing horrors litter the page, but the research reminds us it’s “about the message” and not necessarily the form. Okay, I can understand that. Except I can’t even understand the message when the form has transformed into something unrecognizable.

Enough complaining. This article was instructive and I hope I can apply it somehow into my teaching. Oh yes, the reason why I started writing in the first place. The article reveals that teachers are also to blame because, not only do they not know the mechanicals of English themselves or possess the correct pedagogies and strategies, but also they do not know how to write. The article quotes Dr. Troia who states that teachers are great readers but poor writers. The answer, according to the article, isn’t simply to double down on grammar instruction and sentence construction. Studies reveal that such instruction in the abstract yields poor results.

The article, thankfully, ends with a few pro tips. ”

“First, children need to learn how to transcribe both by hand and through typing on a computer.”

Students in this generation type on the phone, a medium which lends itself to shorthand. Therefore, students hand-written or typed products are often awkward and incomprehensible. The medium matters.

“At every level, students benefit from clear feedback on their writing, and from seeing and trying to imitate what successful writing looks like, the so-called text models. Some of the touchy-feel stuff matters, too. Students with higher confidence in their writing ability perform better.”

This advice scares me the most. I need to provide clear feedback and opportunities for revision for my students. They need to learn how to imitate good writing that exhibits both clarity and feeling. I just don’t know if I have the energy and will power to provide commentary for all my students all the time. Especially since I am teaching three preps (different classes) this year. No one but a teacher could truly understand the death sentence in a 3 prep assignment for the school year.

Anyways. My takeaway is that I need to write more to sharpen my own writing. Got to commit to it like a fat kid on a diet program. Or an athlete in a muscle gaining program. Or something like that.

I finally finished reseasoning my Lodge Logic. With an anticipation similar to watching Olympic Opening Ceremony, I fired the burner, poured some olive oil and fried some eggs.

It was perfect. The fluffy yellow pillow of egg slipped right off my dutch oven with only a few bits of egg getting stuck to the side. Pass.

But then I wanted to make stew. I love stew. I can only imagine using this Lodge for stew and nothing else.

I had some leftover rotisserie chicken, onions, northern great beans, and garlic. I google’d the said ingredients + stew and Taste of Home delivered a simple recipe that only required an extra can of green chilis. Okay, no problem.

Everything was going stewingly until I covered the dimpled Lodge Logic over my stew. No more than 5 minutes later when I checked on the stew, I noticed an unmistakable reddish brown film developing around the inner sides of the Dutch oven, but blossomed on the bottom part of the pot cover. It was rust. And 10 hours of scouring, applying, wiping, scrubbing, dabbing, baking, cooling have been for naught. The Red Returns is the sequel to The Endless Cycle of Applying and Baking Flax Oil For a $50 Pot.

On the upside, I still served and ate the chili. It was amazing! We didn’t get majorly sick from the chili (yet), but perhaps the majorly sick will come much later in the form of cell mutation/proliferation/negative-ation.

 

quite a few months since my friend stripped my lodge logic dutch oven. Today I’m finally reseasoning it with flaxseed oil per this link.

It’s quite frightening because it requires you to heat the oven up to 500 degrees for long periods of time. 1 hour each time you apply the oil. 2 hours for rest in the oven.

1:00pm – first coat on, baked for an hour, then rested.

3:15pm – second coat on, now in baking

4:15pm – taken out to cool

— edit 3/26, sunday —

3:15pm – 3rd coat and put in oven again, 3 more coats to go.

6:15pm – 3rd coat finished, cooled.

–edit 3/27 —

9pm – finished 4th coat

 

Posting a lot today on fb. Which probably means I’m procrasting.
I’m attempting to read Niehbur’s Moral Man and Immoral Society, and while it being highly theoretical, it has illuminated for me how sinful we really are as a society. This article briefly takes us through the major themes and conclusion of this book, of which I will leave you with one excerpt:
 
While individuals in their personal dealings often transcend self“interest (hence “moral man”), nations dealing with other nations, or social classes with other social classes, have little or no capacity for self“transcendence (“immoral society”). Nations and classes have limited understanding of the people they harm by their unjust self“assertion; they lack appreciation for the often complicated laws and institutions through which such injustice is perpetuated; and they are more inclined to embrace rationalizations of self“interest than prophetic denunciations.
 
I have witnessed friends and family members perform remarkable acts of selflessness (hence, “moral man”), and yet these very same kind people may add to a collective oppression of others. I think about how even an innocuous event like gift-exchanges at christmas or humorous white-elephant gift exchanges can serve up both a moral and immoral effects. We can solidify our bonds and communicate love to others with these gifts. But these very same gifts gather dust and add on to the already large pile of shit in our closets and basements and attics and car trunks. They are a hazard to our environment, and perhaps unjustly wrought by children’s hands or by underpaid workers who work on Christmas day. That money used to solicit a little laugh from others or to impress your girlfriend could have been used to purchase a life-saving cow for a family in a third world country.
And, if Wolterstoff is right, our privilege to enjoy security and the luxuries that come with it (e.g., useless gifts during holidays…which I enjoy), actually translates as theft from the poor. (“You who have two tunics, the extra one belongs to the one who has none”, or something like that).
If I am serious about becoming a disciple of Christ, should I not, in all my tiny power (economic, social, political, etc.), continue to strive to live justly a la Micah 6:8? And how does one do this from a point of a justified state? That is, how do I live a just life with the purpose of discipleship rather than earning salvation? How do I urge myself and others to understand the importance of living justly as part of our Christian calling with a gentle tone rather than a self-righteous and self-justifying one?
I’m tired. I can’t continue this train of thought.
etc. etc. etc.

Foundations of Christian life:

  1. You are created in the image of God.
  2. You/Satan/fate/God corrupted your image via temptation -> sin.
  3. Sin reigns through your body. Result: death
  4. (Insert something about law here.)
  5. Christ became man in flesh (in likeness of sin and in sin – Ro 8). Aka, sin reigns in his body.
  6. JC experienced the wages of sin (i.e. death)
  7. He rose from the dead…conquering it? So he paid the wages (death), but then now he rises so he can save others from the wages of sin? What’s the purpose of resurrecting? So he can show what we have to look forward to? So we can live resurrected lives? As a sign of future glory? etc. etc.
  8. You died, like Christ, in baptism, with Christ in 33 AD.
  9. Christ rises in you. (Does this mean sanctification is about letting go of your identity? Or at least the parts less savory to God?)
  10. You have been predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. This means returning to the pre-corrupted, or uncorrupted state of man in Gen 1. (Ro 5)
  11. Therefore, your uncorrupted self is justified/state of grace/state of righteousness/free of sin.

I am someone who bathes in grief and remorse. I soak it in and enjoy the sickness because I can feel something. Better pain than numb. Don’t want to be numb because then I can’t remember. Or I won’t remember. When I returned from Tstan I remember dwelling on how much I missed and loved my host family and students. I dwelled and dwelled and still dwell. I prefer this captivity to sickness because I think without the infection I shall wander about in homeostasis unaware of the people who loved me and whom I love. I hope this longing never leaves, even if it debilitates a little, because to me then it measures how much I loved.

Jesus wept when he learned Lazarus died. The onlookers remarked that it was a sign of how much he loved him. Others wondered whether Jesus could have prevented his death. There is much speculation as to the motive of God’s sobbing – after all, he knows that he will raise him in a matter of moments. He knows that this melancholic moment, like water to wine, will be transformed into triumph and glory for himself and life for Lazarus. Why does he weep?

This question could be asked of any Christian as well, I suppose. With faith we know that our mourning will turn into celebration, our tears to smiles, and our lethargy into dancing. And yet in this inaugurated-but-not-yet interim period between his coming and his coming, I still struggle to have faith that we will be reunited again. The tomb’s rock is rolled over, still and unmoved by human tears or earthly hope. And realizing that the rock that guards the body or the soul or both of a loved one will not move any time soon, I now must pray and hope that it does one day. And what is there to do otherwise? You cannot walk away from the tomb. Even if you did it will roll with you.

But why should original sin alone, among core Christian doctrines, have the power to do that? What about the other powerful idea in Genesis, that we are all made in the image of God? Doesn’t that serve equally well, or even better, to bind us as members of a single family?

The answer is that it should do so, but usually does not. Working against the force of that doctrine is the force of familiarity, of prevalent cultural norms of behavior and even appearance. A genuine commitment to the belief that we are all created equally in the image of God requires a certain imagination, an imagination that Agassiz, try as he might, could not summon: “it is impossible for me to repress the feeling that they are not of the same blood as us.” Instinctive revulsion against the alien will trump doctrinal commitments almost every time. Black people did not feel human to him, and this feeling he had no power to resist; eventually (as we shall see) his scientific writings fell into line with his feelings.

By contrast, the doctrine of original sin works with the feeling that most of us have, at least some of the time, of being divided against ourselves, falling short of the mark, inexplicably screwing up when we ought to know better. It takes relatively little imagination to look at another person and that, though that person is not all he or she might be, neither am I. It is true that not everyone can do this; the Duchess of Buckingham couldn’t. (“It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.”) But in general it is easier for most of us to condescend, in the etymological sense of the word – to see ourselves as sharing shortcomings or sufferings with others – than to lift up people ourselves. If misery does not always love company, it surely tolerates it quite well, whereas pride demands distinction and hierarchy, and is ultimately willing to pay for those in the coin of isolation. That the doctrine of a common creation in the image of God doesn’t do more to help build human community and fellow feeling could be read as yet more evidence for the reality of original sin.

  • Alan Jacobs in Original Sin – A Cultural History

This last month has been a whirlwind. Taking care of mom 24/7 entailed learning about medicines, bed positioning, terminal symptoms, and emotions management. There was so much to do, but at the same time I felt I wasn’t doing much of anything. There was a lot of down time, to be sure. I sat around reading, surfing the web, watching boring and uninspiring television. But while doing those things I was still “on call”, and there’s just an unsettling feeling lingering in the back of your mind while doing the most mundane things. An edginess that prompts you to spring into action whenever she calls.

And truth be told, I still wish she did.

The initial feeling is that you feel relieved.

But then the next feeling is, well

I don’t know. loss? disorientation? confusion? It’s like floating in space with no sun or stars or planets or reference point. Just black.

 

…had me search up Brock Turner’s father’s letter to the judge. In case for the unacquainted, Brock Turner is a 20 something freshman who attends (or attended) Stanford on a swimming scholarship, and was recently convicted of rape. Social media is brimming with vitriol as a result of a light sentencing given by another white-male judge, Persky. Friends are digitally circulating a petition to remove him.

I wanted to see what the other side looked like since I have been encouraged in my MA studies to learn to read “charitably” or openly. I had read A Theology of Reading by Alan Jacobs – another white male – who advocates for an openness to reading all sorts of texts from all sorts of people, friend or foe, and I thought I’d try to practice that by reading Turner’s father’s letter. Facebook friends are posting and reposting a short phrase from his father’s letter, which states that his son’s imprisonment is far too harsh for “20 minutes of action”. The angry bloggers and facebook friends post articles that characterize the father as a father who reinforces rape culture and general white male privilege douchebaggery. I was hoping that by reading the father’s letter I could correct my own social mediated perception and try to relate to the father because demonization is another path toward another type of hell. What I mean by this is that forgiveness and redemption forge a better character than one of perpetual righteous wrath and moral outrage. Well, that’s my opinion anyways. I’m not a rape victim, so admittedly my perspective is limited.

Reading Turner’s father’s letter, however, failed to elicit any sort of sympathy from me. My friends’ FB posts claiming that his father’s letter oozed of white privilege did not seem, after reading the letter, seem so far off the mark. His father did not even seem to apologize for his son’s actions, instead opting to reflect on his son’s character attributes and accolades. In one part of the letter, the father reminisces about how he and his son visited Stanford and exclaimed that it would be swell for his son to attend a college with a history of Olympic swimmers. Look, jury, he has worked hard his whole life to achieve the academic and athletic achievements that have brought him thus far – we should not dole out too harsh a sentence for his “20 minutes of action”! He still has a bright future!

I am devastated by his father’s moral myopia. Where is his remorse? Where is the deep sadness of seeing your own child go astray from goodness and responsibility? He pleads for mercy by appealing to his son’s laurels and immaturity, whereas he should plead for forgiveness for his son. The father was so proud that his son could spell, swim, and maintain congeniality with others, but why did he not teach his son to avoid debauchery and to respect women?

Anyways, I could go on. I looked to the letter as an opportunity to soften my heart, but instead I find it steeling itself more than ever.