Sunday, October 21, 2012

If Only You Could See

Every time I enter a memorial chapel with my church's singing ensemble to bring songs of comfort, my heart goes out to the family members whose faces are drenched in tears and pale with sorrow. I feel incredibly sorry for their loss. But if only they could see their loved ones enjoying in heaven, perhaps the sorrow might not be so difficult to bear. And I hope these unique lyrics--written from the perspective of the one in heaven--might bring that comfort closer to home.

I dwell in mountains where the sun
Would never set in sorrow;
I live a day that's never done
And will never reach tomorrow.
I sing with birds of paradise
Eternal songs of gladness;
And jubilantly I arise
Without a trace of sadness.

If only you could see
Me dancing round in joy,
My body light and free
Of pain that once destroyed,
If only you could see
This everlasting day,
You'd stop to smile with me
And wipe your tears away.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Calm the Storm in Me

Big and small decisions come throughout life; and very often, I struggle with what to choose. Every time I read this poem, I remember to hand any doubt to my Master. He is my guide in matters great and small. And I trustingly leave my heart and life in His hands, because He always knows best.

No tempests, winds, or mighty storms
Compare to storms that tear
Within my heart in many forms
Of choices, thoughts, and care.

I do not know which path to choose,
Which way my heart should go.
I cannot bear to ever lose
These things I treasure so.

Lord, You make mountains bow to You,
You calm the raging sea,
And with Your firm, yet tender love,
Please calm the storm in me.

Lord, I lay still and let You reign.
My heart is in Your hand.
And through the winds and through the rain,
You'll guide me safe to land.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


More than a writing exercise for class...

I stood under the shadow of Ho Chi Minh's statue. My eyes traced the curves of his wide arms around a small child. The two bronze figures formed a perfect image of peace and concern. As motorcycles screeched in the background, I looked intently at the town square monument. I realized that no matter how the rest of the world deemed him, as long as Communism stayed in power in Vietnam, that country would celebrate Ho Chi Minh as a benevolent hero.

"Could you ask the guard to take a picture for us?" I heard my mom ask. The whole family turned to Dad for an answer. Even at the very heart of District 1, the city's most developed neighborhood, the people knew no English. Only my dad could successfully communicate with them.

In broken Vietnamese, Dad asked the guard for the favor. With the picture done and the thanks given, our band of five continued our walk in dusty downtown Saigon. Dad winced whenever we called the city Ho Chi Minh City. For him, Saigon was Saigon, his beloved hometown. Ho Chi Minh City was a foreign place filled with Communist soldiers who robbed his family and caused him to flee his own country when he was fifteen years old. And to this day, he would not consider Ho Chi Minh City to be a legitimate place. Saigon was Saigon, and that's what we all called the place.

We crossed several streets on foot, every step felt like wading in a river of motorcycles. I constantly held a handkerchief to my mouth to keep away the dust particles. A few moments later, about five blocks away from the town square, Dad stopped in front of a red, three-story concrete building. Mom stood close by him; my brothers and I stared blankly at the two of them.

"This used to be our house," Dad said, emotion in his voice as he looked upwards. "Your grandfather built it. Then the Communists took everything."

My brothers and I strained our necks to scan the whole building. I began to wonder who the residents upstairs and the owner of the new hair salon on the ground floor were. I wondered if they knew the sad history behind the building they now occupied. I wondered if they shared any part at all in the shattered dreams of my grandfather's young family.

Even though I had never seen the events as they had happened almost four decades ago, the family stories were familiar to me. This red building had been the setting for my grandfather's torture, my grandmother's inquisition, and their whole family's extended house arrest by Communist soldiers. What had been my grandfather's crime to deserve such harsh treatment? He was a capitalist, the soldiers had claimed.

"Could we take a look inside?" Dad's question interrupted my thoughts.

The lady at the salon entrance said yes. Dad stepped into the building first. Mom and I followed while my two brothers trailed behind.

Inside the roughly-decorated salon, I could still feel the dust of the road sticking to my face in the humid, tropical air. The open doors ushered in all the noises from the road. I fidgeted in the heat, perspiration pressing my skin against my clothes. I surveyed the few items on the table. My backpack had more items to carry for a vacation than the salon worker had to use for a profession.

We left the building about five minutes later. "I'm thirsty!" my youngest brother complained. Hearing this, Dad promptly maneuvered the narrow sidewalks to a sugarcane juice booth.

"Three glasses," Dad ordered. The lady at the booth nodded and pulled out several stalks of fresh sugarcane. She pushed each stalk through the juicer. The fresh juice dripped into glasses pre-prepared with lime and ice.

My brothers and I fought over the juice once the glasses reached our hands. The sweet, cold beverage refreshed our dry mouths and re-energized our limbs. After a long, satisfying sip, I asked Dad how much the drinks had cost.

"Five thousand dong each," he replied.

The thought of the number overwhelmed me until I converted the currency in my mind. Five thousand dong equated to twelve Philippine pesos, which would convert to twenty U.S. cents. Then I realized that anyone could be a so-called millionaire, but buy very little, in Communist Vietnam.

Our family visited several other sites in downtown Saigon that afternoon. We sat on the empty pews of the state-controlled church. We watched the souvenir merchant wheedle tourists into buying hand-held fans for double what they were truly worth. We walked the aisles of the sprawling, open-air, central marketplace, where vendors called out cheap prices in numerous languages, hoping to find at least one language we could understand. We entered shops selling traditional and modern clothing side by side. We acquired tourist city maps that did no good, and we forced ourselves to avoid buying the suspiciously cheap electronics. Then when dinnertime approached, we piled into a taxi and headed back to our hotel.

As we drove away from the prosperous District 1 toward the outskirts in District 5, my mind played through the events of the day. Suddenly, I recalled the benevolent smile on Ho Chi Minh's face as he wrapped his arms around the child. My eyes looked out at the desolate roadside. I do not wish for that kind of benevolence, I said to myself, no matter what brand of benevolence it might claim to be.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Psalm 139

Though I versified this psalm as a class project, it's message still lies close to my heart. God alone knows me thoroughly.

You have searched me; You have known me.
Faraway, my thoughts You see.
When I'm rising, when I'm lying--
You know thoroughly.
Every word upon my tongue You
Search and know as false or true.
Every place I go or turn I
Am beset by You.
'Tis too wonderful for me. I
Cannot think of thoughts so high.
Everywhere I go, You know--in
Land, or sea, or sky.
If I fly to realms beyond or
Dwell beneath the deepest shore
Even there, I find Your hand still
Guides me evermore.