Monday, December 29, 2008

Packets of Oatmeal

Although a composition I wrote for English class, this personal narrative lies close to my heart. Perhaps it did get me a good grade, but I know that it was more than that. The lesson I learned in the story is a lesson I am still learning today, and perhaps a lesson I will be learning for life.

“We’re here!”

Voices reacted in unison as my family filtered into the crowded restaurant private room the evening before we left for the United States. Since my parents would be dropping me off for college there, that evening comprised the last “complete” family reunion for a long time.

“Are you ready?” people repeatedly asked me.

“Yeah, I think so,” I would reply.

I did think I was ready. After all, so many people had already given me everything I needed. Yet, I did not know that I was going to bring with me a reminder of the most important thing of all that night.

The initial commotion gradually subsided. Everyone—aunts, uncles, and cousins, adults and infants, Grandpa and Grandma—gathered around the circularly-set tables.

Although there was still no food, many things cluttered the tables. There were colorful placemats, hand-painted tea cups, dainty platters, nice little chopsticks, and in the midst of them all, some packets of instant oatmeal.

The presence of those boxes looked strange to me as I sat down, but I was too busy chattering to give it much thought.

“Do you have a computer yet? Clothing? Shoes? Suitcases or bags?” the questions continued.

I continued to answer in the affirmative. I already had everything I needed. Then whenever they mentioned something that I did not have, I would decline to receive it, mostly because those items were too heavy or too bulky to carry overseas.

I prattled on with everyone around me, until Grandma called me. Then I realized that I had not talked to her the whole evening.

“Yes, Grandma?”

“Take these,” she thrust the packets of oatmeal over to me, her voice slightly shaky, “You can have them in your dorm when you’re hungry.”

“Oh, but Grandma, you didn’t have to! I wouldn’t need them,” I began to decline again, but she continued.

“Oh, these won’t take too much space in your luggage. They won’t be heavy. You could slip them in between your packed items,” her teary tone intensified, “You could bring them so that you don’t go hungry.”

My instinct told me to decline. After all, I really did not need the oatmeal. Yet when I looked at Grandma, then at my parents’ wise gazes, then back at Grandma, I started to realize the point.

“Thank you, Grandma,” I received the oatmeal, emotion beginning to grow in me as well.

I didn’t need the oatmeal, and I still don’t. Yet Grandma needed to show her love, and I needed her love. I could have been ready with everything, but all that everything would be meaningless without my family’s love.

Now, I still don’t need the oatmeal, and they just sit inside my drawers. Yet seeing those little packets remind me of Grandma, and of the love from home that I will always need.

They are worth far more than everything else because they are more than packets of oatmeal. They are packets of love.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Are You a Stranger or a Friend?

Perhaps it was reading too much Pride and Prejudice, or maybe it was reciting to much Victorian poetry. Whatever the reason was, I composed this poem with an Austen ballroom in mind. It is a rather inconsequential poem in terms of content, but it still did make me practice a complicated rhyme scheme and the depiction of a particular moment of thought in human interactions.

I saw you right across the room
And knew you right away,
Within a crowd of coats and plumes
My eyes still somehow lay
Upon your face, your countenance,
Your actions, words, and bends,
Then to my heart I asked, perchance,
“Are you a stranger or a friend?”

I saw you walk towards my side
With smile upon your face,
But as you walked your youthful stride
Below the ballroom’s daze,
My heart pulled back in hesitance,
My hand I could not lend,
For then I asked myself, perchance,
“Are you a stranger or a friend?”

I knew you not, yet you I knew,
A paradox was done;
Familiarity in you
Was equal parts to none.
So I smiled back and walked away,
The audience thus did end,
So now I cannot ever say
If you were stranger or a friend.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nothing in the World

I seldom write pure lyrics, lyrics that do not resemble poetry in any sense. But with this song, the words flowed out of me so naturally as I composed beside my cousin Theodore. I remember that evening of composition very well, just as I remember the song very well. Truly, nothing can satisfy once one has been found by the One who finds.

Time and time again,
I’ve felt a longing deep within,
Trying hard to find my place
Within this world of sin,
Time and time again,
I’ve searched my dreams all over
Saw them formed, fulfilled, and lost…

Until the day I said
I couldn’t do it any more,
His love called and restored me
To all I should be living for.

And so I found by being found,
And I was freed by being bound,
And bound to Him I’ll always be,
For in His goodness I am free.

And nothing, nothing in the world
Could ever satisfy,
For Jesus, He is everything
I’d ever want in life.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Your Work Continues All the Same

One of the most dramatic chapters of my life is coming to an end. And as I settle down to college life soon, routine will come again. While I look forward to it all, I know that perseverance will be tested in routine life, and I know that God's hand might become humanly less easy to trace. Yet, just as in this poem that I wrote for my best friend a few months ago, I shall still have motivation to do my best. And as I tentatively part from this blog...this is my good wish for all my readers, no matter your duties comprise family, work, studies, church, or otherwise.

Each morn, each hour goes passing by,
Each word, each task, each smile, each sigh,
Each tiring deed, each daily need,
“Lord, is there more?” I cry.

A smiling face to greet the day,
A tender word a friend should say,
Still don’t remain; life stays the same,
“Lord, is there more?” I pray.

My duties day and night I do,
I stay obedient and true,
Yet there’s no fire, no keen desire
To draw more close to You.

Lord, help me trace Your loving hand,
Lord, help me hear Your voice’s command
Through each small thing each hour might bring
To make me understand

That though each day may lack the flame,
Your work continues all the same,
And I must strive, each day I live
To glorify Your name.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Help Me Keep Myself for Him

Mom and I have observed how the girl left un-partnered at the end of a story always has to go abroad. I can’t help but laugh that I must be that girl while the rest of my friends all pair up…but seriously, as I experience more intimacy with God, I find beauty, satisfaction, and reliance upon Him that knows no comparison.

I don’t know if God has prepared anyone for my future; He knows best and will reveal His plans in time. What I do know, however, is that nothing can be done without His enablement, and I pray that if there is such a person, may God help me faithfully guard myself henceforth for him, even when my distance from family and home church makes the challenge even harder. And as I understand more and more of God’s love, He will decide when, how, and whether or not to lead “me to him, and him to me.” How better a matchmaker could one ask for, right?

Help me keep myself for him,
Whoever he may be,
Though the chances may be slim
That he would ever see
How I battled on within
To live with purity,
So to save alone for him
The depths of love in me.

Help me guard myself today
From those who seek my heart,
Trying with the words they say
To earn if just a part
Of the love which, come the day,
Should have with him its start—
Sworn in covenant to stay
And never to depart.

Help me watch this heart of mine,
And all my words and deeds,
Help me walk the narrow line
That perseverance leads,
Have Your glory in me shine
When I find all I need
In Your love, so pure and fine,
The love my heart must heed.

And in this love that my heart needs,
And in this love that his heart needs,
Him to me, and me to him,
Your loving hand will lead.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Teach Me to Remember

I wrote these lyrics soon after I finished the book "Growing Up Christian." This book, written in particular for church-grown kids, challenged me to reevaluate my views on salvation. Have I become self-righteous? Have I taken my salvation for granted more often than not? In the end, I could only cry...Lord, teach me to remember. For a while, I could think of no tune suitable for the words that I felt so intensely about. Then finally, two weeks back, my cousin Theodore wrote the perfect music for it. Now, it is finally a song-prayer that can be sung.

Verse 1:
There are times when I forget
How my soul is long in debt
To the holiness which You, my God, demands
There are times when I retort
How I’ve failed and fallen short
Of the glory found in You and Your commands.

Yet when in Your Word I see
All the wickedness in me,
Can’t help but plead Your mercy to remind me once again…
When in Your Word I see
All the wickedness in me,
Can’t help but plead Your mercy to remind me once again…

Lord, teach me to remember
The price You had to pay;
Lord, teach me to surrender
More of myself each day.
Please help me not forget,
Please help me not neglect
The grace You showed when on the cross You laid,
The miracle that I am Yours today.

Verse 2:
There are times when I would do
All the things You want me to
And imagine that I did it on my own;
There are times when I would live,
I would love, and I would give,
While forgetting all had come from You alone.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Self-Revelation

In a world that rants about "following your heart" and "discovering the real you," learning what is truly inside of oneself doesn't seem like a bad idea. Yet the fact is, what is inside is terribly ugly...and every time I read this poem, it pierces me with pain and terror almost like a horror film....and yet, God is still amazing.

I looked to God and said one day,
“I give my life to You,
All things I do, and think, and say,
I dedicate anew.
I know what I could give is few,
And undeserving too,
But all that can be done of me,
I offer now to You.”

And in my heart, I felt so sure
That He must have felt grand
To have a life so young and pure
Entrusted to His hand.
So great then was the shock I knew
When all I reckoned true
Was called unfit, the time when He
Was seeking for His due.

“Lord, isn’t there a little bit,
A little bit for You?
A little bit that could be fit
A bit that’s good and true,
A little bit that I could do
To sacrifice to You?”
His shook His head and look at me,
“Child, that was from me too.”

I cried, I shook, I closed my eyes,
I could not understand,
Were all my off’rings merely lies?
Had I nothing at hand?
“Lord, surely it could not be true
That all I’d say and do
Were merely from me and for me,
And not prepared for You?

“It couldn’t be, it couldn’t be!”
I hid my head in tears.
And it took quite some time till He
Could coax me to come near.
I shuddered at what I now knew
I sobbed o’er what was true
“There’s nothing, Lord, coming from me,
No, not one thing for You.

“The words I’ve said, the deeds I’ve done,
The thoughts of sacrifice
Were done for pleasure or for fun,
And for man’s earthly eyes;
I can give nothing good to You,
And all that I’ve been through
Was just a masquerade of me,
And nothing about You.”

I wept and dared not look above,
I knew I had been wrong,
Then after shelt’ring me with love,
For days and ages long,
He said, “Child, look and tell me who
You now can see in you.”
“Nothing but old selfish me,
A mess, unfit, untrue.”

He looked at me and smiled and said,
“That’s what I want of you,
That you should see how you are dead,
How ugly and untrue,
That you should see how I’ve loved you,
How faithfully and true,
So that You live accordingly.”
“I will, Lord…I love You.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wedding Blessing

As pastor's daughter, I witness many weddings every year. And as the people pray with the musical Lord's Prayer at the end of every ceremony, I can't help but wonder if there is an alternative. If I should whisper a blessing for two friends in holy union...what would I utter? The result was this composition. Combined with my mother's beautiful melody and layered chords, this piece brings with it many good wishes in Christ.

May each dawn that you greet, be a witness of His grace
May He meet every need that comes your way;
May His love and His peace, be your comfort in each place
And His hope rest you through each dreary day.

May His heart be the heart, that will seal two hearts as one,
Through each smile and each trial, just as when it first begun;
May each day of your lives, be a heavenly embrace,
May He stay in your home as in this place.

May His love be your love,
May His hope be your strength,
This we pray…

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Writer's Prayer

I am barely a writer...but this really is my prayer...

If I could ever write a story…that could capture only one fragment of Your sovereign plans, then it would be the greatest masterpiece on earth. No, it cannot be. That is a wish beyond humanity.

You are the one who created it all.

You invented what people call characterization. You have made millions upon millions of human beings over the course of history, yet not two have been the same. You designed every tendency, every inclination, every preference, every talent, every interest known or unknown to man…and You combined them in unique ways that outwit probability. You planted such varieties of personality, and You set each new concoction in different circumstances. You designed character background, more richly, deeply, and diversely than any single human mind can comprehend. You dictated which parents would bear which children, and which building should house which child, and which cultures would reach which soul. You created propensities so tiny yet significant, that only a family member could tell. You search through every motive and form of selfishness harbored in the heart, even those hidden from one’s own eyes. You did not create sin, yet You understand it and see it manifested in ways as diverse as the human creatures You have conceived. You write character after character, create person after person…yet You know each by name, You understand each one as thoroughly as if he had been the only one made.

You write with purposeful plots. There are three main plots in life, and You control them all. There is the main plot of redemptive history, of which You are the focal point. There is the main plot of the humanity’s history within this universe, which often leaves individuals seem incredibly insignificant. Then there is the main plot of everyone’s own story, for truly no story is ever of greater consequence in one’s life than one’s own. No human being can understand the world except through the context of his own story. For him, for her, for me, that is the main plot. You write each one. You personally write each one. You write each one with precision inconceivable.

You are a God of order, and You are a complex God. How You can interweave billions of main plots over time is beyond my understanding. I can only marvel. One man heads one household, one long chapter within his lifetime. His children, growing under his roof, portray stories of their own. Every day, the family meets; every day, the family lives. Every day, they share certain instances common to all. Yet the significance of an event varies among the stories, even as each of them respectively resolves into what is best. The ending of one story is often the beginning of another. The punishment of one character may well be the reward of another. The consequential progressions of each tale merge together as they take their place in the main plots…in a pattern inscrutable.

You are just, and poetic justice is but a shadow of Your standards. Evil shall be punished; good shall be rewarded. Though achieved in means sometimes elusive to human wisdom, justice is served by Your hands. Ultimately, wickedness does not prosper, evil does not prevail. The humble and righteous are lifted up as You Yourself have promised.

You set the tone of each line, page, and chapter within every tale. Yet in them all, You are glorified. The Christian’s moments of triumph magnify Your faithfulness. The penitent tears of the sinner direct to Your abundant mercy. The achievements of man prove Your common grace. The calamities of nature thunder of Your power and might. From a mother’s healing touch to a judge’s severe sentence to a friend’s jovial tease…You work, You manage, You write.

You write the unexpected, yet You write with consistency to Your character. So paradoxical are You. What man calls good might be a curse; what man calls evil might be a blessing. You ask that man give up his life to find it. You ask what is impossible. Yet You make it possible.

You let man plan his way, but he can never know what is beyond the page, the line, the very word he is living. You know all, yet you let us know so little. You render Your characters helpless under Your pen. There can be no peeking ahead.

Yet You promise what is the best, and the one who would not trust You does so at his own demise. You do know best, and the best way to appreciate that best is through believing in You. You write what is best temporarily, as well as what is best eternally. I cannot understand how, but still You do that. You always give the best, and I could choose to see that best even while its happening, or only when it’s over. Or wait, that is wrong. It is never over. Your lovingkindness is never ceasing. That’s how incomprehensible a writer You are…You do not merely write for the best interests of the whole; You write for the best interests of every one who loves, obeys, and belongs to You.

You make all things beautiful in Your time. You are beyond time, yet You write humanity’s story within this dimension. You never begin one storyline when it’s too early, and You never forget a line until it is too late. You combine fleeting moments of bliss and extensive chapters of sorrow to write the perfect tale.

You write in every language ever known. You write in the hearts of the educated and uneducated, of the heathen and the Christian, of the elderly and the young. You give instruction and demand compliance. You give love though we give hate. You write in the tongues of men and of angels, though they are below You. You take the wisdom of all You are and write it in words man’s weak nature could blurrily decipher. You write both in majesty and in meekness. You write both in thunders and in whispers.

You write everything. You do not neglect any detail. You do not add insignificant facts. You write without error.

I could never end in praises and in awe. You are the Master Author, truly, the Beginning and the End.

Lord, take my pen. You do the writing…write with my words…write with my life itself.

I know You are the one writing anyway, whether I say so or not. But just to let You know…I want You to write.

I can’t write. You do the writing. Write beside me, write through me…write with me as Your pen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Rest of Them

People-pleaser that I am, I very often have to utter this song as my prayer. More than the heartfelt melody, these lyrics reflect what I often plead to God about. May He constantly help me to seek His pleasure alone and lay down any earthly approval that I have idolized.

There are people who come and go in life
Who try to take away the heart that’s Yours;
And when I have turned away
To less important things,
Have me, bring me, pull me back to You.


None other may I love but You, O Lord,
None other may I seek but You alone;
And the rest of them,
No matter who they are,
May I lay them down before Your throne.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Pray These Things for You

The year 2008 has been a year of numerous comings and goings in my life. So many faces have come and gone. New/old friends, mentors and students, church crowds and long-time coworkers and dear relatives...including myself...all have been part of the cycle. It's all quite bittersweet, and my mind recalls this composition.

I wrote this song as a gift to my best friend when she and her family moved to California almost five years ago. Now, even while I wish the same things for the other coming/going people in my life...I try to hope that all my family and friends share this prayer too...

Verse 1:
I look at you one final time
Before I let you go,
The time to pass before we meet,
Only God can know.
How to face the things beyond this land
Not one of us know now,
But look to Christ, our Master,
He’ll be there to show you how.

Verse 2:
The changes that will happen
Within the years to come,
May bring you pain and hardship
Or jubilant song.
The years ahead lie blurry
Like a bend upon the road.
But today let’s join our hearts to thank
What God has since bestowed.

Faith will give you confidence
For every day in view,

Hope will give you promises
When things look grey and blue,
Love is greatest over all,
For it will see us through,
No matter what tomorrow brings,
I pray these things for you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Homesick for Heaven

People sometimes do not understand why I say I'm homesick when I'm actually spending the staggering majority of my time at home. When I say I'm homesick nowadays though, I'm referring to quite a different home, a Home more real than anything. Am I suicidal? No. Yet sometimes, I do get this piece, I've once again borrowed a few lines from a friend. If you read this, you know who you are. Thanks for the help.

When struggles always reoccur…
When battles in the soul refuse to end…
I’m homesick, I’m homesick,
I’m homesick for heav’n.

When those one cares about the most…
Fall short of what ones wishes they had been…
I’m homesick, I’m homesick,
I’m homesick for heav’n.

When I discover in myself…
Repeatedly what I detest to see…
I’m homesick, so homesick,
So homesick for heav’n.

When knowing what is right to do…
Cannot equate to making it come true…
I say, “Lord, I’m homesick,
I’m homesick for heav’n.

“Lord, burn me hard, and burn me bright,
And burn me fast until the end,
That in You, I soon might

Be back home in heav'n."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

He Would Say

It's another one of those compositions that often makes me teary-eyed. It is hard to capture the soul of this song without its dramatic melody and chords. Yet it's always the lyrics that have the message, after all. The more one understands one's failures, the more overwhelming and indescribable God's love is. I can only say so much; He says it all.

Verse 1:
At times I fall,
At times I wander away,
At times I’ve failed
And turned resolutely astray,
And yet when He,
He looked at me
With eyes full of wonderful love,
He’d hold my hand and say, “I love you.”

“I love you,” He’d say, in His own wonderful way,
“I love you,” He’d say every day;
“I love you,” He’d say, though I would wander astray,
These words to me He would say.

Verse 2:
At times the pain
Would be too heavy to bear,
And I would doubt
If He ever really did care,
And yet when He,
He looked at me
With eyes full of wonderful love,
He’d hold my hand and say, “I love you.”

Verse 3:
At times my wrong
Would leave me dark and despaired,
And His own hand
Would hurt me each time He repaired,
And yet when He,
He looked at me,
With eyes full of wonderful love,
He’d hold my hand and say, “I love you.”

And I will never know enough of all He’s done for me,
I only know I’d never love as He,
And I can only say that I can live victoriously,

Because He first loved me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Will Grow

It's one week till junior camp! And here's a sneak-peek--the theme song lyrics. Yet again, we've opted to compose an all-original theme song. Although I had to work through revisions and replacements for this project, it's still really not a model work of art. Yet, it should serve its purpose well, especially in aiding theme verse memorization. May we all grow together, as we go "Leaving Neverland: Time to Grow Up."

Verse 1:
When I was a child,
I talked like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
I looked for what’s fun,
I looked for what’s free,
I looked for what’s great
And awesome for me.

But I will grow, and I will grow,
More work to do, more things to know,
More care to give, more love to show,
As growing up I go.

Verse 2:
When I was a child,
I played like a child,
I lived like a child,
I acted like a child,
I looked for what’s fun,
I looked for what’s free,
I looked for what’s quick
And easy for me.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wife Checklist: Seeking the Answers

This counterpart to February’s “Husband Checklist” has been extremely difficult for me to prepare. How dare I publish it while I continually discover so many shortcomings in myself? Yet for the same reason I wrote the former counterpart, I compiled this one with the help of a few male advisors. May the guys be reminded to seek these qualities; and the girls, including me, to pursue them--the qualities, that is.

1. Does she find joy in being a woman?

2. Will I trust her with the training and caring of my children?

3. Will she be a good partner to help me in my life calling?

4. Does she exercise self-discipline over

heart and deeds alike?

5. Does she enjoy making the house a home?

6. Is her outlook submissive or complaining?

7. Does she exhibit modesty in dress, speech, and actions?

8. Would she support me in my struggles
and rejoice in my triumphs?

9. Would I take pride in her hand in marriage?

10. Does she seek to serve more than to gain?

11. Does she pursue inward character
more than outward beauty?

12. Will she help me grow in Christ?

13. Will she honor my parents?

14. Will she let me put God first?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Psalm 138

If I am not mistaken, this was my very first complete versification work, completed seven years ago or so. As an aspiring poet, I became inspired by Isaac Watts' compositions, and I tried my hand with the activity as soon as I got the chance.

I praise You, Lord, with all my heart,
Before all gods I sing;
I bow towards Your holy place
And praise You, faithful King.

You’ve lifted up above all things
Your word and wondrous name;
You’ve answered me and strengthened me,
The kings Your praise proclaim.

All earthly kings must hear Your word,
They sing Your holy ways;
Your glory is magnificent,
I’ll praise You all my days.

Though lifted high above all things,
You look on humble men;
The proud You shun from far away
And turn not back again.

Though hazards cover all my life,
My soul You still preserve;
My enemies You crumble down
As they justly deserve.

Your hand brings me deliverance,
This promise I believe;
Your love forever will endure,
Your presence I”ll perceive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

God's Reply

I had originally intended to keep this precious poem tucked away for years, until when perhaps circumstances and time would be my protection. Yet when I witness so many young hearts being bruised because of impatience or carelessness, I can't help but share it. I do not claim to have permanently learned the lesson in this poem, for I find myself asking God, hearing His reply, getting hurt, then learning to trust again and again...yet fickle as my emotions may be, His reply stands constant and true.

Dear girls and girls-at-heart, this poem is dedicated to you in particular. May we all guard our hearts faithfully and as carefully as possible, for whomever the Lord has written for our future, in His most perfect plan.

The world conspires and says to me
I have to seize what I can see,
And give my life and heart today
To love not guaranteed to stay.

It feels so tempting to accept
This thought that my sane mind rejects,
For though security’s not giv’n,
A temp’ral love still sounds like heav’n.

It’s hard to hold myself against
The charm that my soft heart had sensed;
It’s hard to trustingly forego
Affections he now seems to show.

The time’s not right; I know this well,
Yet still in me emotions swell.
“Lord, can’t I take him, just for now?
If it’s Your will, You’ll show us how.”

Then God replied in tenderness,
So firmly, “Child, would I give less?
Would I give less than what is best,
When I have given you the rest?

“There is a story kept for you,
A story written for your due,
I wrote it with My loving hand,
It’s best—though not what you demand.

“There’ll come the day when you will see
A person made for you by Me;
I know it’s hard to let things be,
Yet I want you to wait on Me.

“If he should be the one for you,
Then let me mold both of you two
Until you’re ready for that day
For love committed e’er to stay.

“If it should be another one,
Then do not rush before I’m done;
In case you love someone untrue,
Someone I hadn’t made for you.

“Just trust Me, child, I love you so,
My love is all you need to know;
Would I retain from you the rest,
When I have given you My best?”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

I'm a Cat

These lyrics were originally requested by some friends of mine, but they turned down the piece when they said it didn't fit the purpose. Oh well, at least it was fun writing it. The meter is very loose, so I would hardly classify this as a poem. It is just three verses of playful rhyme, the product of too much Dr. Seuss in early childhood.

I’ve a fuzzy little body,
With fuzzy little paws
That turn when I am angry
To hard, ferocious claws…
I’m a cat, I’m a cat,
That goes meow, meow, meow,
I’m a cat, and a cat am I.

I’ve a wetted little nose
With whiskers all around,
I’ve a sharp and squealing voice
That can make a purring sound…
I’m a cat, I’m a cat,
That goes meow, meow, meow,
I’m a cat, and a cat am I.

I’ve got eyes that shine in moonlight,
I’ve got ears with pointed ends,
I’ve an appetite for fishes
And no mousy, doggy friends…
I’m a cat, I’m a cat,
That goes meow, meow, meow,
I’m a cat, and a cat am I.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Love Affair with Translation

It never was love at first sight. It was more like an arranged marriage.

I never was given much of a choice. Well, not that my parents forced me to become a pulpit translator, nor did my church. I don’t remember any coercion, but nor do I recall any voluntary enthusiasm. I just know that one statement stands true over the years: “Translation chose me, not I translation.”

I “debuted” as a pulpit translator just a few months after turning 15, but my training came far before that. You know how those young girls in countries with arranged marriages are taught since childhood that they would one day marry in a so-and-so way? It was the same way with me. It’s just that it wasn’t about marriage, but about translation.

At age six or seven, my parents commented often on how their talkative daughter had the potential to become a translator. They didn’t know that my young mind absorbed those comments, as well as their discussions on how to train me sooner or later. There was an expectation lingering in the air for my ministerial future, and nowhere was it stronger than within my own family.

When I was promoted at age 13 to adult worship service from junior worship, my mom advised me seriously. “Wen, listen and learn from the sermons,” she said, “One day, you can be, you will be a translator.”

So I did. I listened, I learned, I observed, and I distracted other translators by my constant inaudible lip movements during sermons. I practiced, I drilled, I jot down notes. Translation was calling me.

The years went by quickly, and I was 15. That December, translation called up for a first date.

A birthday party was scheduled by an acquaintance living nearby, and she hoped to insert some pre-evangelism into the program. It was a family gathering for them, so that there would be both young and old in the same party. My dad would be sharing a short message, and they needed a translator. My mom had another appointment at church that night. Oh…I see.

“Wen, could you translate for your dad tonight?” my mom asked as we all crowded the master bedroom (essentially the only living quarters in the house).

“Um…sure,” I heard myself answer. I was both scared and excited. Something I had only prepared for was actually becoming real. “If there’s a need, I’ll try.”

As my dad acquainted himself with the people that night at the gathering, I sat alone on the side, not eating a bite, pouring over the Bible verses my dad had given me. As if I wasn’t nervous enough, the secular program dragged on as the people drank beer and sang karaoke. I wanted to go home.

When my dad was finally handed the microphone, I took my Bible and stood up next to him. It was late already, and he didn’t even refer to the passage I had so painstakingly studied. It was a 20-minute sharing, but it was enough for me to let out a long hidden sigh of relief at its conclusion.

“How did it go?” my mom’s eyes shined with both curiosity and excitement that night at home.

“Schedule her once or twice a quarter at church,” was my dad’s mechanical reply. That was his way of affirmation.

I caught my breath. It was for real.

A month later, I translated through my first full-length 45-minute church sermon. There were only 60 people in the afternoon service congregation, but they were enough to make me conscious, and to pressure me to a good session.

Apparently, they were also enough to start what I did not know was the beginning of a pattern for years to come. The praises started pouring in.

I never thought myself to be a stellar translator. I never understood why I was considered to be better than others. I was fifteen years old, I was doing what I thought I should be doing, and somehow, people thought I was great.

Most people were simply encouraging me to strive for Him. Others were just honest about how helpful effective translation was to them. A few were flatterers, but it was obvious from their way of talking. From my perspective, however, the results they rendered were basically the same.

I never chose translating. Yet in a way, translating chose me. Over the years, many people have wondered or consulted me, “How do you do it?! And at such an age?”

I usually answer that it is all by the grace of God, which is absolutely true. Skill-wise and training-wise, however, I myself had no idea how I honed those skills. I never strived hard for translation. I just started translating. That’s it. Then somehow, people liked it.

I wasn’t in love with translation at all back then, nor did I even like it a lot. I was apathetic to it, to be honest. Yet somehow, as I translated regularly, as I translated for more people, as I translated for other churches, as I experimented with other languages, the affirmation continued. To my childish and vain mind, that was what made me happy.

It was like wanting a certain boyfriend/girlfriend merely because of the popularity boost that accompanies him or her.

That was what I felt about translation.

As the months went by, however, some things changed. I was realizing that translation did not only give me self-satisfaction or popularity. It demanded sacrifice.

Regular translation meant taking care of my voice full-time, sometimes to the denial of many favourite foods or practices (i.e. talking endlessly). Translation duties required me to travel around with my dad, even if I missed my friends at our church. And once people’s fascination over my “translating prodigy” status began to get old, my pride began to miss the adulation.

If it had been an arranged marriage, then I had gotten over the honeymoon.

For a time span of almost a year, I wallowed in my disillusionment. What was it about translating that I did like anyway? I had lost my passion for translation. Or perhaps it had never been there?

Those months were long for me as I went on from one translation assignment to another, without finding joy in the process of it all. The people were still relatively affirming of my skills, but I wasn’t enjoying the skills at all. My translation skills…those skills that had come so effortlessly to me, were becoming burdens to my selfish teenage heart.

For a while, like a rebel against tradition, I wanted to escape that relationship. I wanted to opt out of translation, because it (or rather, the attention that accompanied it) was no longer satisfying me.

I, along with a few faithful prayer partners, prayed earnestly to God in abundance that year. I did not see the source of my problem. My subjective perspective told me that perhaps translation wasn’t a calling from God. If it were, I would find joy in it, right? It took a while for me to realize otherwise.

Looking back at my own selfishness and childishness, I could only wonder at the grace God showed to me. Instead of taking away the chance for service from an ungrateful girl, He held the hand of His daughter and showed her a far more beautiful picture.

Once I directed my vision to what God wanted me to see, I saw differently.

I saw friends who could not understand English come to our church and react with joy upon every statement that helped them understand the sermon. I saw the beauty of a ministry that could lead people to a clearer understanding of the most important part of every worship service—the preaching of the Word. As the church became more choosy over translators when we merged the two existing services, I realized that I had an edge over others translators even more experienced than I was. I never did anything to gain those skills, but those skills grew on me. They came to me. Translation came to me without my asking. In other words, it was a gift.

Hey, right. It was a gift. It was a special skill given to me as raw talent, then trained in me subconsciously by my surroundings and upbringing. Perhaps it wasn’t a biblical spiritual gift, but it was a present, a present from God.

God gave me that chance to experience the joy of explaining His teachings to those who could not understand. God gave me the skills which became my stepping board to witnessing numerous other ministries and churches at work. God gave me the talent to share His word alongside different speakers, and gain may priceless friends in the different congregations as I do.

Sure, that present came with its responsibilities. Improving my skills require discipline in reading the Chinese Bible, discipline in voice care, the skill of stage confidence, critiquing my own voice recordings, and struggles with pride as I stand in the pulpit spotlight. Every gift, every possession requires stewardship and effort to maintain. Sessions teaming with excellence are often followed by translation flops that spell public embarrassment. The above were just some prices to pay for the joy of reaching people, and the realization of God’s hand in my life and skills.

When I realized where those skills from nowhere had originated, I found my source.

When I realized what those skills could achieve, I found my goal.

I fell in love with translation, and I am still. There are days when we don’t get along; there are days when we are in perfect harmony. Yet still, I love it. I love it not because I enjoy the task. I love it not because it forms my identity. I love it not because it makes me popular, though the temptation may often be very real still. I love it most because it is a gift from the Lord, a result of grace I could never have imagined.

It is something I do not deserve. It is a present that came with many other packages of joy, and it was from the Lord.

Translation chose me, not I translation. Of course it did, because I never would have been wise enough on my own to choose it. Of course it had to choose me first, because it was something I did not deserve. Translation chose me…no wait, God chose me. He just acted through translation. It was and is His grace all along.

I love translation…because I love my Lord—my Giver, my Source, my Goal.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thy Will Be Done

Due to a belief that works ought to be polished before they are shared, I very seldom post "fresh" compositions, least of all those merely a few hours old, written in the wee hours of the morning. Yet now, I am in no mood to post anything other than what is the cry of my heart.

Daily I pray that Thy will shall be done,
Daily I pray that You will be the One
Who would control all that's coming to be,
Judging with wisdom regarding to me.

Yet when the matters and changes abound,
I lose the answers I thought I had found;
All the best hopes that were filling my mind
All fall apart, far away, and behind.

Lord, I don't want all these things to be true,
Lord, I don't want to think this is from You,
Yet the reality stands in my face--
This is the portion You've given by grace.

Grant me submission, then, this now I pray,
Grant me the strength to be faithful each day,
Grant me a heart that finds joy even now,
Though my affections do not tell me how.

You are my Answer, and You're in command,
I will not try if I could understand,
For I do not, and I've only one call--
"Thy will be done" in my heart, life, and all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creation's Ensemble

This is one of my more playful, though supposedly grand, compositions. It is not technically superior, but the personification and imagery capture the imagination. Besides, it resounds with one of my personal favorite phrases. What's not to like?

Verse 1:
Oh let the birds chirp out in chorus,
Let the leaves whisper their song,
Oh let the hills resound their voices
In high praises all day long;
Oh let the brook repeat its laughter,
Let the pebbles sweetly sing,
Oh let creation’s grand ensemble
Raise its praises to our King.

Let creation join in worship,
Let all mankind raise its voice,
Let us marvel in His goodness,
And in unity rejoice.
Let us marvel in His goodness,
And in unity rejoice.

Verse 2:
Oh let the ocean roar its assent,
Let the waves break forth with joy,
Oh let the sunshine glow in worship
As the earth its warmth enjoy;
Oh let the breeze howl adoration
Let the dolphins’ voices ring,
Oh let creation’s grand ensemble
Raise its praises to our King.

For every rock, and tree, and creature
Stands a testimony of
God’s miracles in nature
And echoes of His love.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

To the Lady Charmer

Somehow, guys always wish they were (or imagine themselves to be) the ladies' man. Well, considering the fact that women fall easily for them, such ambitions might be understandable. Yet if comes the day such a man asks for a woman's love by pledging his own, I wonder how she could respond.

You met me one day and called me so fair.
I had but to say, and you would be there.
You helped me with smiles and perfect delight,
And each leisured while, we’d talk into night.
I’m touched and I’m moved and I’m glad to be me.
Yet if I am loved, then howcome I see
Young ladies abound wherever you be,
Receiving in round all you’d given me?
How then can I be assured of your heart
If repeatedly, I’d see since the start,
Young ladies like me, receiving like me,
Wherever you be?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Sit Beneath the Willow Tree

Yes, yes, I'm taking advantage of February to post all my better works upon the theme of hearts and romance. When else could I post them, right?

There is a dream within the heart of every young girl of waiting for her prince. I wrote this almost four years ago, but the dream persists for me today. I often wonder if I've met him already, or not yet. I sometimes wonder if he exists at all. Yet, "still I'll wait so faithfully, beneath the willow bower."

I sit beneath the willow tree,
There waiting for my lover;
With heart and soul and all of me
Quite bursting in the cover.

I cannot wait until the time
When he should come to shower
My tingling ears with loving rhymes
Beneath the willow bower.

I long to have his tender eyes
Meet mine with love enamored,
And soon dismiss as petty lies
The world—so bright and glamoured.

I yearn for times when he would clasp
My hands in fervent passion,
With all our lives within our grasp
In heartfelt dedication.

I look towards the time when he
Will hold me near heart’s beating,
That I might close my eyes to see
Our dreams in one mind meeting.

I sit beneath the willow tree
There waiting for my lover;
I do not know, by chance, if he
Is just a dreamy rover
Who’ll rampart in my fantasy
Until my life is over;
But still I’ll wait so faithfully
Beneath the willlow bower.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Heart I Kept for You

I spend a lot of time praying and urging young ladies to guard their hearts and keep it pure for God, and for their respective future husbands, if God so wills. Yet what would they get in return for keeping their hearts undefiled? This poem is a challenge to the men. Even as the girls ought to save their hearts, the men ought to earn them. May each guy prove himself worthy of the heart of the girl God prepared for him, cherish that heart, and guard his own for it.

Will you value me for keeping pure
The heart that I had saved for you,
Or would ridicule and tease allure
You from what I had kept so true?
Will you guard your heart against the rest
Who battle for your feelings now
That you might preserve for me the best
As I have saved my best for you?

Years have gone, I understand that you
Could not have gone through them unscathed,
Yet if given chance to prove as true
Your heart which you before me laid,
Would you pass the test of time which you
Had challenged me to keep for you?
So when I present a heart so true,
Would you deserve it as it’s made?

I don’t ask for riches or for wealth,
Appearances or gentle smiles,
I can bear through illness or through health,
And I can go the extra miles;
All I ask of you is this: that you
Would treasure what I kept for you,
Take sincerely what I fought for you

Today, before, and all this while.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Husband Checklist: Questions to Be Answered

It’s the month of love, a good time to post this entry. This is a list of important questions I’ve gathered over many years. Since so many people ask me to answer the question "What do you look for in a guy?" I realize I might as well ask them to read here. Besides, these questions are for every Christian girl, not just me.

I’ve also decided to publish it for two reasons: Firstly, that my female readers might be reminded to seek the qualities that really “matter at fifty” and secondly, that the guys might be reminded once more to prepare for husbandhood in God’s definition. Be thankful you have a lady friend’s perspective to help you out, hehe…Advanced Happy Valentines’ Day to all.

1. Do I trust his judgment enough to submit to him?
2. Will he be a good father?
3. Can I help him at what he does?
4. Does he exhibit self-discipline?

5. Is his heart undivided and true?
6. Is he a good leader? With humility & vision?
7. Does he respect women physically, verbally, & otherwise?
8. Will he be a protector & provider?
9. Am I willing to find my identity with him?
10. Does he face problems with calmness & wisdom?
11. Is he attracted by beauty or by character?
12. Will he guide me to grow in Christ?
13. Does he love my family?
14. Does he love God more than he loves me?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Although these reflections came from my own pen, they are responsible for having cheered, encouraged, or slightly rebuked me at the times I felt frustration with the people in my life. No family is perfect, yet God made each one. Then surely, it's all for sharpening His children to greater glory.

Are the people who don’t notice your bad hair day,

because they’ve seen it too many times...
Are the people who can be oblivious to a new outfit,

or forget the one you had for 7 years...

Are the people who can snap at you for no reason at all...
Or shower you with gifts for equally no reason...

Are the people who know

what you’re going to say before you say it...
Are the people who waste your time by

saying what you knew they were going to say in the first place...

Are the people who would never wonder,

“What if he meant this?”...
Are the people with whom you don’t have to worry

“What if it sounded like that?”...

Are the people who might not always sympathize...

but always care...
Are the people who can always complain about you...

but still be proud of you...

Are the people who don’t ask if you’re okay
because they know it when you really aren't...

Are the people who force you to give up comfort…
Are the people who give up their comfort for you…

Are the people whom you forgive again and again...
And who forgive you more times than that...

Are the most imperfect people you’ll ever know...
And the people who love you most in spite of your imperfections...

Are people who come in all shapes and sizes...
Are people who come as parents, siblings, friends, relatives...
Are people who come into your life seemingly out of nowhere...

Are the people God tailor-made and sent to you...
To make you all that you are...for Him…

Monday, January 07, 2008

All Done for You

It's another new year, and I can hardly keep up with everything I want to do in every area. I admit the tendency to pursue only what I want to do, instead of what I should. Yet all our pleasures on this earth are temporal, and I can only pray for God to help me keep an eternal perspective, no matter what sacrifice it requires.

My heart is beating, beating, Lord,
Each moment of each day;
The time is fleeting, fleeting, Lord,
As hours refuse to stay.
O may Your voice repeating, Lord,
Remind my heart today
That when in heaven meeting, Lord,
In Your eternal day,
All done for me proves fleeting, Lord,
All done for You will stay.