28 December, 2011

Is Christmas a Birthday Celebration?

Happy Two-Thousand-somethingish Birthday Jesus, you don't look a day over 35!!!

Is it really?

Technically No. Theologans and historians do not know the exact date of the birth of Jesus. It was agreed somewhere around the 4th Century that December 25 was chosen to signify the Birth of Jesus. So for over 16+ centuries the majority of humanity has recognized December 25 as "Jesus' Birthday." It's been said that the adaptation of December 25 as Jesus' birth was a result of merging the significance with a Pagan Winter Solstice Yule Holiday.

Social paradigms come and go in regards to the reaction to this season. Christmas at certain points became outlawed in England and in the beginning of the U.S. It's ironic considering there's a perception out there currently that a "War on Christmas" exists. Unfortunately the so-called "War on Christmas" hype intensified in response to the Inauguration of President Obama and the unfounded, unproven racially driven ties of him to Islam.

Which leads me to my next point.

People need to lighten the fuck up when expressing greetings to each other. So what if someone greets you with a "Happy Holidays" rather than a "Merry Christmas." So what if someone greets you with a "Merry Christmas" rather than a "Happy Holidays?" The bottom line is someone is putting forth an effort to wish you well. Can you focus on that and not whether or not they greeted you "correctly?" Hell, Jews had to put up with "Merry Christmas" and not be greeted with "Happy Chaunukah." Some members of the Black Community celebrate Kwaanza. If someone wishes someone else a "Happy Holidays," it doesn't necessarily means that they "HATE JESUS," it means they want to wish you well during this time of the year and they're attempting to be sensitive to your personal needs. If you hate "Happy Holidays" so much, then I'll greet you with a "Happy Festivus!" Fuck it, I'll just greet you with a "Mele Kalikimaka," OK? Or would you prefer a "Fuck You and Fuck this Season" greeting, like I used to express five years ago?

So then what is Christmas about? Or December 25?

So December 25 was chosen to signify the Birthday of Jesus. Some theologians are OK with that, some aren't. Also for those of you who think that everyone who labels themselves as "Christians" are all on the same page in regards to December 25, think again. Some of those who call themselves "Christian" distance themselves altogether from the December 25 date because from a historical sense, Christmas was linked to other Winter Pagan Holidays.

So yes,(going back) Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere) occurs approximately on the 21 of December. That's the event there the Earth surface is furthest away from the Sun. In other words, the period where the planet receives the least amount of light. At one point, Caesar declared DECEMBER 25 as Winter Solstice during his reign. If you Wiki "Winter Solstice," almost every culture has some form of celebration or seasonal significance to that period. Always along the line of the theme of "light over dark, rebirth, end/beginning of a new cycle." (BTW, in the Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice is June; so is there Christmas on June 25 in the Southern Hemisphere?)

Since the majority of the cultures observes some form of "birth or rebirth" theme during this time of the year, would it be more appropriate just to greet others with a "Happy Birthday?"

Hear me out here...

Since I've been studying Practical/New Thought Christianity and Spirituality, the premise or theological foundation isn't so much that Jesus died and was resurrected on the Cross, but more so that Jesus taught and set an example of tapping into an inner Divinity that exists IN EVERYONE. (Yes, even those who don't call themselves "Christian") Divinity in almost every major faith is referred to as "light" and/or light symbolizes Divinity.

Notice an ongoing theme here?

It should be no surprise that even though Jesus birthday didn't technically fall on December 25, since He's viewed by many in a Divine manner, wouldn't who He is, what He signifies, and how He entered into the world "fit" into this recurring, unifying, underlying theme of light overcoming darkness? (Remember, mangers weren't these wooden stables in Jewish society during the Birth of Jesus, they were more like cave-ish hillside openings near the main housing, so that adds more of this "light overcome dark" imagery theme)

Now let's add my take on this.

As I stated, I'm leaning more and more into this concept of Jesus setting en example of tapping into the Inner Divinity as humanity was originally created. In other words, I'd rather be a "disciple" of Jesus than a "Christian." I'd rather believe in the theology that Jesus believed rather than believe in the theology that worships Jesus. Before He ascended, he commanded to "go and make disciples," not "go and create Christianity." So as His disciple, I aspire to allow the inner Divine light within me to shine and inspire others to shine their inner Divine light. To me, that IS the "Good News."

So let me greet others during this time of year with a "Happy Birthday Divine Light Within!" (And when I wish a "Happy Birthday" to that Divine Light Within, that's INCLUDING EVERYONE, PERIOD!!!)

Its much better than "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Festivus," isn't it?

08 December, 2011

An Open Letter to Practical/New Thought Christian Ministers

Dear Rev ________,

I would like some clarification. Years back during college in the early to mid 90s, I got swept away by the business/personal development seminars craze. In fact I skipped my college courses to attend sales and personal development seminars because I found more value in them versus my college classes. In 94/95 I came across a personal crisis (including getting kicked out of college for academic probation!)  where I decided to attend and join a church. For clarity and such, I wandered into a bookstore in spring of 95 praying that God will help me connect the dots to what I was learning from the church I was attending (The Salvation Army) and to what I learned from past seminars. A book titled Transform Your Life by Dr Rev Barbara King literally fell into my arms afterwards, I bought the book, and I felt connected. Up until that point, I didn't really read The Bible and had no idea how to study it.  When the corps officer (pastor) learned of the book a year later, he reviewed it, told me to not refer to it as it was considered "not truly biblical." My Sunday school teacher even took the reaction further by suggesting that I burn the book.  I placed the book in storage instead.

I officially left The Salvation Army in 2001 and was attending various what is considered "Emergence and/or Post-Modern" Evangelical churches up until last year. In 2007, after hitting a block in my acting endeavors I returned to take courses in the personal development arena and was taking a series of courses until completion in 2009. The church I attended at that time once again discouraged my attendance at such events. Also that time, I came across my tattered copy of Transform Your Life, and re-read it. I looked up the term "New Thought" and began this literary journey researching and studying authors such as Eric Butterworth, H Emilie Cady, Charles Fillmore, Joseph Murphy, Emmet Fox, Catherine Ponder, and Florence Shinn.

This year, I began to attend various worship services in both Unity and Religious Science (Now Center for Spiritual Living) in hopes of attending a Practical Christianity center and/or New Thought Christianity center. The Unity minister at one of the Unity Center I visited announced that she "had never picked up a Bible in her life." I left confused thinking there were several types of religious organizations with the name "Unity" in them.

Are there organizations out there teaching and practicing New Thought/Practical Christianity, and is there a difference between New Thought Christianity and Practical Christianity based on former Unity principles. I'm located in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also travel to Southeast Asia often, and I noticed a lack of a presence there too. (Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and Hong Kong)

If the New Thought principles is about connection to the inner indwelling of God within by following Jesus' example in order to live an abundant (abundance in every area) life, why does there seem to be a lack of outreach to such teachings? Why does Unity distance themselves from their past as an institution to teach Practical Christianity? Why does the folks at Unity Village not respond when I present such questions to them? I made a few attempts to contact the Conference on Practical Christianity which operates the Charles Fillmore College and there seems to be no listing for centers affiliated with them either.

I consider the works and writings of the aforementioned authors to be not only useful and inspiring, but timeless. They offer a perspective in the application and interpretation of Biblical living that's been under-represented and very much needed. While the majority of Unity center(s) I've visited has been deliberately and consciously referring to this work less and less in their messages and teaching, I feel that we need more. Much more.

Thank you for taking the time and reading this.


Jarrett Chin

07 December, 2011

Erasing the Negative Legacy of Bad Ministers

I understand...

Yes, I agree there's no such thing as a "perfect" church.

Likewise, there's definitely no such thing as a "perfect" minister.

Far from it.

I thought I processed all my negative experiences in regards to church experience through creating this blog. Yet here I am, another Christmas season staring at me in the face. Christmas is just a seasonal reminder of what I don't want to experience anymore while attending church or any other spiritual institutions.

I spent over 6 years with The Salvation Army and part of the Holiday tradition is their infamous red kettle stationed all over commercial areas. Over the years, I've dealt with the best and worse of human behavior and with the expectation of placing a "Christian face," I've forced a smile all the way through some of the ordeals. There were some highlights like receiving a solid gold krugerrand in the kettle. For the most part this was definitely a character builder.

The first two years with the Salvation Army allowed me to build a spiritual foundation, and allowed me to express myself to how creating a relationship with God helped transformed my life. Once we got to year three and beyond, I found myself attempting to please the powers that be in that organization and my connection with The Higher Power deteriorated. I equated pleasing them as pleasing God. I took to heart every little criticism they made towards me including my activities outside of church, my study habits and the time I took to study, and the type of acting jobs I pursued.

It was a challenge to believe that "God loved me" when I kept on dealing with disapproval after disapproval from those who supposedly have authority on who God is/was. When I officially ended my membership with "SA" (Asian American Christians utilized a lot of initials and acronyms), I received an email from the Territorial Director of Programs:

"The responsibilities of being a Soldier of The Salvation Army requires a higher calling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I am sorry you were not able to fulfill such higher standards."

Those words haunted me to this very moment such that hearing the different bells at each kettle corner creates a similar effect as a military war veteran with PTSD would react to "popping" sounds.

Yet, a week ago I attempted to take the higher ground and assisted my friend who needed an hour break from his kettle duties. I thought afterwards I've moved forward and everything in regards to being a part of The Salvation Army was behind me, but I found myself bombarded with all emotions from the past as a result of just one hour of simply ringing a bell.

Lately, I've found myself angry and easily irritated around people attending church, those who openly talk about God, the church I attend now, God him/herself, and most of all, Me for allowing and co-creating all of the experiences in the first place.

Nobody wants to live life feeling disconnected from a Higher Source. In fact I see that people are doing what they can to create such a connection, even risking mental and emotional abuse just for a brief second of connection. Look no further beyond the bars, the crack houses, the dispensaries, the Occupy camps, the music and dance gatherings, and other places where drugs are prevalent. I would venture to say that these folks are sooooo starving for a connection to feel comfortable existing in their own skin, free from shame, free from discomfort, free to just be them and to be ok with it. They're willing to go all out in search of it even to the detriment of their immediate mental and physical health.

Meanwhile, on the corner somewhere near a congregants of shopper a bell is ringing away, asking for money.

06 December, 2011

Flakey Unreliable Unity Ministers

It's been a challenge nonetheless to find a Practical Christianity center. Unity has been the forefront in spreading the knowledge until recently when they decided to change to a "Spiritual Center." That's all fine and dandy so long as they remain rooted in the New Thought pioneer teachings along with their Biblical knowledge. Unfortunately especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, that has not been the case.

So I searched and sent out correspondences to Rev Guy Lynch from the Las Vegas Practical Christianity Unity Center. I inquired about referring me to anyone who's local to the Bay Area and waited and waited for about a month until I finally contacted him via Facebook. His answer was basically to sign up on his Facebook page and post on his message board. I did, and for some reason, could not access it.  My only means to communicate with him is through his internet broadcast. 

I was excited when I received an email from Rev Mark Hicks announcing his holding a Correspondence Course that has not been offered in over 35 years from Unity. I inquired if it was possible to take the course as originally designed through correspondence as he would be conducting the course in his center located in Texas. Living in California, regular attendance would be a challenge. He has been gracious enough to place his courses and materials online. If anything, his Truth Unity Website has a lot of resources to study the foundational material of the Unity Movement.

Lastly I contacted key members of the Charles Fillmore College and their partner organization Conference on Practical Christianity. I was supposedly placed on their mailing list to receive newsletters and inspirational messages and have yet to receive ONE. I was placed on the list in July 2011.

I don't know what caused the transition of Unity other than what I saw on Ripoff Report. Taking the "Jesus" and "Christ" and "Practical Christianity" because of dropping attendance is not the solution for dropping attendance. At the San Francisco Unity, Rev Sonya Milton confessed to the congregants that she "never picked up a Bible in her life" to a thunderous applause from the attenders. I was baffled and confused when I left that service. "What's so 'practical' if a Bible has never been picked up? Especially from the head pastor of the center???"

Declining attendance at the Unity Centers isn't so much because of the name "Jesus, Christ, Christian" are potentially "offensive" or politically incorrect or intimidating to the visitor. Declining attendance could also be the reflection on non-responsive leadership which based on my experience so far seems to be the case. Removing "Christianity, Jesus, Christ" isn't going to compensate for flakiness. It just bastardizes the vision, insights and messages from the likes of The Fillmores, Catherine Ponder, Dr Cady, and the late Dilet Freeman and Butterworth.

07 July, 2011

In Gratitude Of...Pt 2

I originally thought that my In Gratitude Of was just going to be one blog entry, and then I realized I mainly focused on the 3 instrumental key persons from Crosswinds' Venture. They were key to my spiritual life because I was so picky on selecting who where and when in regards to my baptism. It was almost a 9 year journey from when I re-committed to the Christian dogmas in 1995 to the baptism in 2004. Through those three, I was able to let go mostly of the need to be perfect. It may sound like a "duh" revelation, but on an inner emotional level, it wasn't. When The Salvation Army accused me of holding onto my need to perfect, adoption background and the need to belong as an "excuse to throw myself a pity-party," I gave up at the idea of continuing to follow any sort of Christian dogma and/or tenets. Peter was committed that I identified myself in the "sonship" of the living God, even if I were to walk away from the Christian church.

When I decided to "officially" leave The Salvation Army, that was around the year 2000. I spent five years there stumbling and picking myself back up. After turning in my official resignation, there were rumblings and innuendos thrown at me by the leadership members. 2000 and 2001 were a very challenging period of time. Add to that the need to belong to the CSU Hayward Campus Crusade for Christ chapter, and I was panic-treading on spiritual water.

Once again the silver-lining on those dark clouds were people who were committing in expressing their unconditional love and acceptance towards me.

Prior to my official resignation from The Salvation Army, I actually spent a year away from attending their services and was bouncing around to different church services. Throughout those times I received in the (snail) mail on a semi-regular basis cards from "Aunt Dolly." She was considered to be like the matriarch of the local corps. She was the mother figure for the pastor/corps officer. Her cards were like an open set of arms waiting to hug you, and not surprisingly, arrived at those most crucial times. If I were to stop by and visit a service on occasion, she personally followed-up on her messages to me in person with a hug and a, "I wanted to make sure you got my message, so good to see you." Unfortunately, a post 9-11 visit in the late fall of 2001 was the last time I saw her; I did not return to Asian American Corps until they had a memorial service in her honor in 2002.

In the summer of 2001, Crosswinds Church held an acting/improvisational workshop. It was my 2nd year of pursuing acting on a full-time basis, and an opportunity to "practice" my improv skills after graduating from Hayward back in 2000. Dan and Faith Alpher was this couple who were very seasoned in stage and film. Dan was the drama director for Crosswinds and decided to do this outreach. Turned out it wasn't really a workshop, but a way for them to "audition" new talent for the church's drama productions. I had the honor to work with them on three occasions. It wasn't funny then, its pretty funny now. My first live in front of the congregation performance (first production working w/them was an improvised film short) they handed me this single-spaced page and a half script. I looked at Dan and said, "I have to memorize THIS BY WHEN???" Long story short, at that time my specialty was short-form improvisation. Yup, butchered the script in front of everyone.

Dan encouraged me to attend a theater conference for actors with a Christian background. Coincidentally enough, CITA (Christians in Theatre Arts) was hosting their North American conference in Oakland that year. At that point I was very burnt out on the audition process. I did not have enough professional experience to get an agent, I was not landing roles, and friends/family/foes kept on pestering me that I was "not good-looking enough" to be taken seriously. After two years of going to many auditions posted on Craigslist, I was ready to just pursue work in the corporate sector. At the conference, the affiliated theaters were holding a general audition. I submitted for a slot, did my audition, and waited. After the auditions were held, we were to wait for two hours to see if we were selected for callbacks. I made a quick prayer to God for a message on whether or not to continue acting. If I received no callbacks, I were to hang it up for good and pursue something else. When the callback list were posted, I saw that I was on three callback lists.

While interacting with some of the other actors, I was asked pretty ignorant and sometimes racist questions. "Did learning theater helped you learn English better?" "What kind of acting schools were legal in China?" At that point, Vanessa chimed in on my behalf. She worked as one of the actors for the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater program, grew up in Sacramento, and was the only other performer of color present at the conference besides myself. (In other words, there were only 2 actors present at the conference of a couple-hundred attendees who were NOT of Caucasian descent, and having to deal with the racist, ignorant artistic directors who insisted on casting myself and her as 1: the villian/villianness; and/or 2: those who the missionaries were reaching out to and were too "heathen" to accept the Gospel while 3: speak with an accent) We exchanged contact info, kept in touch with each other throughout the summer of 2001. She invited me to her church located in the Bayview/Hunter's Point district of San Francisco. It was there where I met Pastor Clarence Lewis, his wife "Sister Kelly," and his mother, "Mother Lewis." What I appreciated about Pastor Lewis was his transparency. He'd openly share tidbits about his escapades with his wife, (you could tell they were totally in love with each other; and not in graphic details) and was able to use it as reference on spiritual connections. Much more, it made sense. Whenever I came across "Mother Lewis," I was always greeted with a warm embrace followed by a "how's maahhhh BAYYYYBE doin?"

Towards the closing of summer, Vanessa was getting ready for a trip to Europe and her church was getting ready for their first anniversary as a church. Pastor Lewis makes an announcement that Sunday before Vanessa's departure about their anniversary banquet. Before he had the congregation pray for Vanessa's traveling safety, he called me out in front of the church: "Now Jarrett, I know Vanessa is not going to be here when we have the banquet, but I want YOU here, cause you's family." And in true fashion of a Black church, there were echos of affirmations from the other members, "yup, yup, you's family, Jarrett. Amen." I attended that banquet and gained at least 12 pounds that evening.

I no longer call myself a "Christian" on my Facebook profile. To me, the term "Christian" is nothing more than a label that has nothing to do with spirituality. Under the "Religious Beliefs" on my profile, I entered "Imago Dei in Everyone." "Imago Dei" is Latin for "Image of God." I'm at a point where spirituality to me is finding that God and/or Divinity in others. When Peter kept drilling me on the identity of the "Sonship of God," that's exactly what Imago Dei is about.

Whose face did I see when I read Aunt Dolly's cards? Or when Dan was directing me in a church performance? Or when arguing back and forth on theology, race relations, and theatrical theory? Or when I'm "pigging" out on soul food during a church anniversary?

It was God's, and I'm very thankful that God showed up all those times and will continue to do so whenever I look into anyone and everyone.

01 July, 2011

In Gratitude Of...

With the re-organization of my blogs, I seem to have focused on my religious journey in such a way that I was somehow or somewhat victimized by the ungodly behavior of those whom I attended church service with over the years. Yet over the years, I kept on coming back and found a way and a reason to attend (pun intended) religiously. There were reasons or little things that occurred over the years that caused me to look back and say to myself, "there IS a Loving God out there."

Enough of the focus on the bad folks. It would be totally insane for me to attend church week-in and week-out over the course of 16 consecutive years if it were all 100% negative. This may or may not be edited in the near future since I will be using real names to single out my "heroes and mentors."

I call these three the "Venture Triplets" because they were the key leadership of the Crosswinds start-up plant called Venture in 2003-2006. They consisted of the "Two Daves," (Haney and Sunde) and my friend and mentor Peter Sleeper. David Haney or "Dr Dave," was the Sr Teaching Pastor of Crosswinds Church in Dublin, CA who was passionate and able to teach Biblical applications to the younger generation. Dave Sunde was a very aware Gen-X'r who served in the college and young adults ministry, while Peter served as Executive Business Pastor.

During the inaugural Christmas Venture service Dave Sunde attempted to present a "youthful hip humorous" Christmas service by deciding to close the service with the closing scene from A Christmas Story. It was the scene in the Chinese restaurant. There were a handful of attenders being Asian descent; I was one of them. Peter, with a Hapa background, closed out the benediction with a snipe, "am I supposed to be HALF offended?" I was stunned and I initially felt displaced from the entire group. I sent Peter a voicemail explaining that I'm "100% offended," then I sent an email to the entire leadership staff expressing my sentiments.

I received a response I did not expect. Dave Sunde responded on behalf of the entire group with a very heartfelt, sincere and repentant apology. He also acknowledged that I did not attend the following service a week after, and wanted me to return to the next service. When I did returned to the following service, he went out of the way to find me and to apologize in person face-to-face.

For the 3 years that we met regularly for lunch, Peter would time and time again emphasized on my identity as God's loved and accepted child, and the concept of Grace. The unmet expectations I failed to fulfill and the corresponding judgment that I received from my prior church caused me to view myself as "less than." Those three years, I was in desperation for Grace. So when Peter and I met for our regular lunch during the week when I did not attend Venture service following Christmas, he simply said something to me:

"Jarrett, remember all you did during the past three years to prove to yourself that no matter what you did, you were still loved? That's Grace. However, in order for you to experience the fullness of Grace, you have to learn to give it in addition to receive it."

He was right.

I did and said some pretty rotten things over those three years just to test the boundaries of how I related to God. When I told Peter, he never flinched, never judged, just kept reminding me who I am and how much I'm loved. It was my turn to pass on that Grace.

When Dave Sunde approached me those two services after Christmas, I was able to look at him with no grudge at all. It was freeing. It was liberating and I felt literally and physically light. That Sunday Service happened to be the beginning of 2004, so the weekly Venture announcement included that Venture would have their first baptism service in the following two weeks. I sent an email to the entire Venture leadership group to put closure to the Christmas incident, and as a gesture of true forgiveness and connection on my part, I asked if I could be one of the first baptism member.

It was only appropriate that I had Peter perform my baptism. When I was baptized, I choose my favorite shirt that had a lot of holes as a result of wear and tear. (I had a "hole-ly" shirt on for baptism, get it?) It was my favorite shirt that I couldn't let go of. I told the church, I wore that shirt as a symbolism that like I was unable to "let go" of my shirt regardless the condition, likewise God wouldn't let go of me regardless of what I done.

In the summer of 2005 on Father's Day morning, my mother passed away. That summer of '05 were a lot of major changes including the Venture Triplet's move to Austin Texas. Yes, a part of me felt jilted by God that my church support system was uprooted at a "bad time," but I survived it after all. I've visited Austin twice since making sure that the Triplets do what they do best: teaching everyone they come across the Imago Dei that exists within them. My favorite message from Dr Dave was titled, "Shit Happens." (yes, that was the actual unedited title at church!)

10 June, 2011

Lesson From a Miracle Taken For Granted

10-July, 1997: Gengma, Yunnan China PRC

I hardly discussed my time with The Salvation Army, specifically in regards to my experience with the China Service Corps Team in 1997. On a personal level, the assignment ended on such a devastating note, I cared not to discuss the trip in details as much as my teammates. It was a lot of "firsts" for this specific program that it received much fanfare and publicity in the aftermath. I barely kept up with the post momentum.

Photos don't lie and there are a lot of photos where I'm actually smiling and having a blast during the trip. I just chose to "throw the baby out with the bath water." Following the trip, vivid images of a newborn on life support, children begging on the streets, and cheating taxi drivers were the events I chose to recall in details if I even bothered to mention the trip at all. Yeah I did have a choice on which events to recall. I felt more "comfy" with the neggies.

All because I didn't get laid.

Yeah I know I went on behalf of a Christian organization, but so what? I'm a half a world away in a foreign country for the first time in my life, and not one booty call. I was pissed at the end.

When I grew up listening to Motley Crue during my junior high years, I recalled an interview Nikki Sixx made:

"I don't want to sit at some goddam old folks home on a fucking rocking chair, turn on Vince's (Neil) hearing aide, and say, 'I wish I fucked that chick.'"

I didn't understand what Nikki meant when I initially read it in junior high, but I sure as hell understood it after my trip to China.

So I allowed regret to shadow my first experience in Asia.

I didn't focus on the preschool age children approaching me, calling me "ShuShu" ("Uncle") or the many dances with university female students, or the laughter, or the street artist who accurately, amazingly sketched a wallet-size photo of myself. No, I chose to focus on what I hated about the trip.

I'm recalling all of this now because of a lesson I'm currently reviewing. There was a quote stating that people who are so focused on the problems tend to miss the miracles taking place directly in front of them.

*RAISES HAND* Yup, guilty.

Our team traveled from Kunming, Yunnan China to Lincang County, down to Gengma and we were returning to Lincang. One of our teammates Ken was sick and did not make our tour of Gengma, so we had to pick him back up from Lincang. At that time (1997) the roads were not fully developed yet, and one of the main road was a paved dirt trail along a rivers edge from Lincang to Gengma. Our team even nicknamed the river as the "Milktea" river because of the resemblance to milktea.

Gengma was like one of the worse of the visit during that four days because it rained 90% of the time. The accommodations were not modernized and there were regular evening blackouts. I was in a very cranky mood and I longed to return to Lincang where the hotel was more modern.  I was also recovering from pneumonia.  

While driving alongside the "Milktea" River (to this day I have no idea what the actual name of the river is) our bus had a flat. The driver announced that we were to empty the bus while he changes the tire. Mind you that this driver was already on my shit list as he had attempted to show us the border to Myanmar and drove so close that we ended up searched by the Myanmar border patrols with their automatic weapons pointed at us.

So we're getting soaking wet while the driver then discovers that the flat is located in the inner layer of a two layer wheel, which meant that he had to take out the outer wheel first before replacing the flat inside. At that point, I decided to occupy myself by grabbing pieces of mud, which was plentiful, and wrote "SOUR" all over the bus. If you're wondering why the word, "SOUR" it was the closest 4-letter 'S' word that I could think of off the top of my head that meant as close to the "other" 4-letter 'S' word. My teammates are annoyed at me by this point and asked me when I was going to stop my antics. I told them as soon as I'm back inside the bus I'll stop.

Finally our driver completes the tire change and we're back inside the bus. We're driving along the road when an oncoming vehicle approached us. Our driver and the other driver are conversing and it becomes gradually more escalated. I'm mumbling to myself at that point for the driver to "shut the f* up and f*king drive." Then Colonel Yee, our adviser, and our translators/escorts joins in on the conversation with the drivers and it gets more excitedly escalated. Turned out that the other vehicle was an emergency vehicle who just completed a quick makeshift preliminary cleanup/repave work on the road ahead of us. Less that 20-30 minutes prior, there was a major mudslide/avalanche on the road. Chances are, had we not had to stop and change the tire, we would've been most likely in that "Milktea" river. As we got to the cleanup slide location, we barely made it through that road as it was narrower and closer to the edge that we could see the river alongside our window. It was a literal "narrow" escape.

I didn't put much thought into that time until now. I'm going through what I thought was a "bad" situation, unaware that in the grand scheme of things, the lives of about 14 people including mine were being saved. I didn't realize how much of a close call that situation really was.

I was so focused on "SOUR," I didn't realize that a miracle was taking place for me. So as I sit here awaiting for my next miracle to happen, I take on the possibility of a miracle unfolding as I type this now. I just need to be patient, and focus on the "SWEET."

Pass the sugar please?

30 May, 2011


In the church community called MBCC, (Mission Bay Community Church) Pastor Bruce tearfully recited his final benediction yesterday evening. Bittersweet in that he and the Reyes-Chow-Pugh family move forward to a new endeavor while MBCC does the same. Having to sever ties within a church setting for myself is nothing new. However no matter how many times, it is still a very challenging task to perform.

As mentioned on previous posts, I spiritually "grew up" within the structure called The Salvation Army. This was a denomination that was structured in a military model. Those in a pastoral position were "ranked" according to their time and contribution of service. Like a military organization, "moves" were a very common occurrence. That is the re-assignment of corps officers (pastors) to a new "post." (Corps or church location)

At one point in order to ease my commute from Oakland to San Francisco, I visited the Berkeley Corps and befriended the corps officers at that time. When I learned a few years afterwards about their "move" and their scheduled final service, I made sure to attend to say my "goodbyes" and "thanks." It was unfortunate to witness as I saw the congregational growth this couple had contributed to over the two years that they served in Berkeley. I also recalled how the officer was unable to give his final benediction.

It was that moment where I felt that I had enough of The Salvation Army ways and policies. I was baffled that the first time I attended their service in Berkeley, there were no more than 8 people in attendance. By the time I visited them for their last service, at least 20-30 people were present. I couldn't understand why a decision was made by the higher up to have this couple bond with members of that community, build up the congregation, then have them torn away.

It was nothing new when it came to life in The Salvation Army. When serving in China with Service Corps, we'd often visit the government sanctioned churches in China. I was very moved and impressed with the conviction those members expressed. In fact the visit to the Dragonhill Chapel was bittersweet. As quickly and as close as we bonded with the members there, we had to quickly detach and say our goodbyes in a tearful manner. Then again when the government sends the Bureau of Religious Affairs liaison to monitor our interactions, one must connect and disconnect quickly.

Perhaps the most challenging connection/disconnection episode within a church setting occurred back in the Summer of 2005 when my mother passed away. Key leadership and core members from the startup church I was a part of moved to their new ministry in Austin within a month of my mother's passing. What made it challenging was beginning a grieving process without the support of a church family. Couple that with a clinically diagnosed attachment disorder as a result of my adoption background and you had one potential mess. (Not to mention a lot of "near misses")

So does this common occurrence of connecting/disconnecting theme that's prevalent in my life mean anything? Within the personal development realm (and even the spiritual and Christian paradigm) it is said that even the obstacles and adversities offer an opportunity for growth and flourish.

So does detachment and disconnection offer a "gift?"

It can.

Consider the gift of attachment. Consider the gift of RE-attachment. Or the gift of NEW connections, or of RE-connection. It's possible. It's there. It's available for the taking.

I've always hated "goodbyes," in fact I believe I took them more personally than the average person. What I didn't realize was that my holding onto the "hurt" and the "trauma" of the "GOODBYES" kept me from the "HELLOS."

New Blog Format

Dear Lone Readers:

I've decided to keep my blog topics to a more organized fashion. This past couple of weeks I've been copying and pasting entries from one set of blog to the other in order to accommodate the readers to not have to switch around. For the past year, I've utilized Blogger for the reason of user-friendly. I am not able to customize as much as I have on Xanga, but as long as I am able to utilize black/grey/white/and purples, I'm a happy camper.

I attempted to re-vitalize my Xanga for the mere reason of the fact that I paid good money for their lifetime "Premium" account and I wanted to take advantage of that cost. I also have my earlier documentation of my personal development journey which started to really take off in 2008. I'm going to ween away from Xanga. I have started and organize two main blogs: The Faith Entry is about my experiences, observations, and insights on the topic of church, religion and spirituality. Jia You>>>Ga Yau! will be about discoveries, insights and observations on my personal development experiences and lessons as a public performer. I'm very well aware that the topic of spirituality and personal development overlap. My decision on which blog receives what when they do overlap will be more or less a judgement call. Sometimes I'll copy and paste on both blogs.

Feel free to read my older entries on Xanga, for they document my transition from grief of my mother's death in 2005 to my personal development in 2008.

29 May, 2011

The Faith Entry: Random Thoughts

While looking for more information about Christian Universalism, I came across articles in regards to Rob Bell's Love Wins. Yes, the Evangelicals are out en force to discredit both Bell and his book, but at least read the goddamn book first before you do. I find it astonishing and embarrassing as a Christian at the behavior of these so-called leaders and shepherds. Actually their behavior is one of the reasons why I started exploring the ideas of Universalism and other forms of faith outside Christianity in the first place. Not only does their behavior NOT reflects Christ, but it's one of the main factors why I distance myself from Christianity altogether.

Which leads me to the next step. I've been accused of not being faithful to Christ and that I'm condemned to Hell as a result. Here's the sad situation: If my mortal self cannot stand these folks with limited finite amount of time here on earth, how the hell am I supposed to deal with them for eternity? In other words, having to choose between Hell and eternity with these folks is no different than between a rock and a hard place. The term "Gospel" is translated as "good news." If those are my two choices, what's so "good" about that???

Do you like the idea of simultaneously beginning and ending your week by being reminded of how much you're a sinner and how much you fall short, and how lost we are? If you had a choice between investing an hour or two between that or a tailgating bbq, isn't that's a no brainer? If a vegetarian and/or a vegan chooses a bbq over church, that ought to tell you something right there.

I'm sick and tired of being told what to do by other Christians. That's what everything boils down to. Everyone has an opinion, and that's all it is: an opinion. They're not prophets. My spiritual health is not predicated on what I do or what I don't do. It's about claiming and holding onto the identity of who I am: a beloved child of God. Anything I do or don't do doesn't change that status. What was needed to be done was completely done on the cross. Now that's Good News. P.S. I will not be denied by Jesus simply because I didn't change my Facebook status, so stop using that verse out of context to coerce other Christians to follow your suit. PLEASE STFU.

Having been in theater and production for over the past ten years, I'm very aware of the racist, ignorant and backward attitudes of some producers and directors in L.A. That's nothing compared to the ignorance I've dealt with by the self declared Christian producers and directors. Speaking of race, since when is marrying someone Caucasian "marrying someone more Christ-like?" Really? Now Jesus' name is being used to advocate racism and self-hatred? (The two churches I've visited in L.A. and S.F., you know who you are!)

Baptism: Honestly, I don't get it. The literal act is the public declaration of faith. Water symbolizes life, being placed under means dying to self, being brought up means emerge to new life. That, I get. What I don't understand is why someone needs to declare someone else to be "ready" for baptism before they're allowed to be baptized. Then in other denominations and churches, parents are so eager to have their infant child baptized asap, and they are. So I read in The Acts when new converts "believe" the message about Christ, then immediately find the nearest body of water for baptism. Where's the person who's supposed to declare those folks as "ready?" What I don't get is the fact that no one seems to be on the same page of standard procedures: when, where, how? Or most importantly, is there a standard procedure? OK, I'm gonna break it down to what I know:

Jesus commanded his surviving disciples to "make disciples baptizing them in the Name of Father, Son, Spirit." But

There's two elements of baptism: water or spirit.

Everyone has a different procedure on water baptism. Spirit baptism, I've seen once.

When Jesus commanded his disciples to "make disciples baptizing them..." he didn't specify water or spirit baptism.

Can anyone see why I don't fully get it? (Oh, for those of you reading this who are wondering if I was ever baptized. Yes, in a hot tub)

Gotta give props to my mentor and friend Peter who performed my baptism. Over the years no matter what I did or said in regards to how I felt and reacted to my life struggles did he ever made any judgment on me. He calmly listened to me over the years and constantly reminded me of my identity about who I am. I remembered telling him in confidence about how I wanted to just check out and indulge in all my senses. (Sex, drugs, food...didn't feel youthful enough to keep up with the rock n roll) He told me that if I decided to do that stuff for an indefinite amount of time, I'm still a child of God who's loved. (No, I didn't indulge after all)

Still in search of a Christian Universalism church in SF...

Critics in the Age of Consumerism

Published May 27, 2011 on Freezetag1688

Since the internet became one of the main mediums, our generation has embraced consumerism as never before. In the last ten or so years, we have been able to purchase items from anywhere in the world with a simple click. Likewise in other parts of the world, they too have been able to purchase items they had never been able to purchase in years past. It's gotten to the point that even the knockoffs have matched quality and aesthetics to the originals. With this new found power on hand, (purchasing power) there seems to be an overall increasing sense of entitlement among the masses. We're not just referring to "shopping power," it's also permeated all aspects around us.

It seems that with the rise of "reality television," we created an entire mass of "armchair critics." We're quick to pass on our opinion about other people's performance "they suck, they rock" with just a simple text message from our handheld communication devices. We're able to become "armchair NFL GM's" during football season as we create our Fantasy Football teams. We can throw our clout around in local business we frequent if we obtained a level of status on review websites such as Yelp. Yes, we're quick to criticize but slow to actually participate. At one of my former church, my pastor joked with me during the football season:

Pastor: Jarrett, I know you're a diehard Raiders fan, I'm wondering how hardcore of a fan you really are. Do you know the definition of a football game?

Me: I didn't know there was an actual formal definition of a football game. I guess I'm not that hardcore of a fan after all. What is it?

Pastor: A football game is an event such that there's over fifty people on the field in desperate need of rest, while there's over fifty-thousand people watching on in desperate need of exercise.

His point, without actually participating, we've become entitled critics.

When I review most restaurants on Yelp, I critiqued the different locations as someone growing up in a family of three generations who worked in the food and beverage industry. I myself worked my first job for five years in a snack bar, and eventually learned to make espressos, lattes, and mochas at my sister's cafe and grill. I remembered my training on my first job with the emphasis on customer service and customer satisfaction. If they were unhappy with the food item or drink, replace it asap. When I was three, I'd often sit in the front counter of my grandmother's takeout. Not only was she conversing with her customers, she also cooked and prepared the food in the kitchen. It's not that I critique businesses on Yelp with a sense of entitlement, I critique them knowing what it takes to provide quality goods and service.

Recently there's been a public backlash against former NBA Scottie Pippen because of a comment he made about the possibility of LeBron James surpassing Michael Jordan as the NBA all-time great. I don't follow professional basketball enough to know what it would actually take to be considered as the "all-time greatest NBA player." What I do know is that a lot of folks who's never played in the NBA were quick to slam Pippen for his comment. Funny part about all of this is that there's little comments in the media made by NBA past and present players, but sportswriters and fans have been more critical and vocal. Now in all honesty, I've never observed LeBron playing ball so I have no idea and no reference to what he can do compared to Jordan. The real issue here is that why are folks who's never played on that level are quick to criticize someone who has actually played on that level making such a statement. As I said earlier, I don't follow basketball, but I'd be more open and curious to why a former teammate would make a statement before reacting about what he doesn't know. Then again, viral attention is a result of the consumeristic, entitled, armchair critic of the public, isn't it? It jams the phone lines on every sports call-in show. Jammed phone lines on the radio means more advertising dollars, right? More advertising dollars, more time for the critic to spew their venom. More rewards for the public critic, more entitlement here.

Unfortunately it doesn't just stop with the restaurants, stores, and media.

Our spiritual centers has been hijacked by the consumer-minded, entitled critic.

Worship centers nationwide of all different religious background face the weekly dilemma of figuring out how to deal with the critic who visits their spiritual sanctuary, bringing along with them the mentality of "what's in it for me in exchange for the one-two hours of MY time?" In the different places of worship that I've visited over the years, I've been treated to gourmet coffee, buffet spreads, dim sum, a "give some-take some" offering place where the visitor has the option to take the cash on the plate, performances by visiting professional musicians and other performing artists, and performances by theatrically trained pastors and/or guest speakers. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with offering such options. However when the emphasis in offering those options has the critic in mind rather than the spirit, then it becomes a problem. I often found myself leaving a place of worship wondering why I was there in the first place. I attend with the expectation and the anticipation of connecting: with other folks, with God, and I leave feeling as if I just left a shopping mall. But hey, at least I left with a full stomach!

When did we become less of a doer and more of a critic? I think this connects to my path of personal development because of the emphasis to re-pursue lost dreams, lost visions. We become cynical towards others once we drop pursuit of our own dreams. In fact there's a distinctive difference between feedback from the entitled critic and feedback from a dream pursuer: specificity and technique based type of feedback from the doer, while the feedback if you want to call it that from the entitled critic is worded in a way to tear down. A singer who's actively pursuing their dream as a singer doesn't critique other singers in the same manner as an armchair critic. An athlete in training doesn't critique other athletes like the armchair quarterback. It's just that the mass critics far outnumber the dream pursuers and active doers.

So what's the solution?

You bring the dreams the hope and the possibilities back to the masses. It's simple.

Not necessarily easy.

But the more we commit to doing so, the easier it'll get.

16 May, 2011

The Faith Entry: Character Study on Malchus


Yup in the Bible, there's four Gospels which is basically four biographies on the life of Jesus. The Gospels were named according to their respected authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Malchus was in all four Gospels, however his name is only mentioned in John. Even an avid Bible reader would have to look up the name of Malchus. So who is he? He was one of the servant of the high priest responsible for the arrest of Jesus. Jesus was arrested on grounds of breaking the traditional religious law which was taken serious by the Jews, not so by the Romans who were actually in power. Hence why the members of the priestly order made the arrest and not the Roman soldiers.

So what's so significant about Malchus who was only mentioned by name in one of the four Gospels?

He got his ear chopped off during the arrest. But immediately after it was chopped off, Jesus healed him.

Sunday service last evening at Mission Bay Community Church discussed Peter's role in starting the church. Why the topic of Malchus crossed my mind was due to the fact that Peter was the guy who chopped his ear off. Like Malchus' name, Peter was specifically mentioned only once out of the four accounts. Coincidentally or maybe not coincidentally they were both specifically mentioned by the same author: John. (They were not mentioned by name in the other three accounts)

Now say what you want about whether or not you believe in the Bible or whether nor not this incident actually happened as it was described. The reason why this story crossed my mind during the discussion last Sunday was because as an actor, Malchus would make an interesting character study.

In all four accounts there were probably four lines max describing the specific incident. A group of religious vigilantes came to arrest Jesus (Malchus being one of them) One of Jesus disciple (Peter) attacked one of the members of the arresting mob with a sword by chopping the right ear off, (Malchus) Jesus rebuked both the arresting crowd AND Peter for his impulsive action, then in only ONE Gospel with less than a line describing it, Jesus heals him. End of story.

So how would that make Malchus such an intriguing and interesting character study with so little that was said?

An actor who's trained learns about concepts such a "character memory, backstory, motives, objectives." As actors, we speculate and interpret what those backstory, objective, and motives are, then combine them with our own inner core being and experience and intertwine it all together.

So this is what we do know about who Malchus is:
1) Was the servant of the high priest
2) Was there as part of the crowd to arrest Jesus
3) Was attacked and injured
4) Had his injury healed immediately by Jesus
5) Arrested Jesus anyways afterwards

In putting backstory together, one could study Jewish customs and religious beliefs along with Roman history. They could study what exactly the duties a servant to the high priest were. Was a servant allowed to marry or not marry and if so, what was his relationship to his wife and family. This is all interpretive because with less than a four line description, no one really knows. The actor makes choices and brings that to the table. (Hence the artistic side of acting)

With motive and objective, one could tie backstory along with the kind of relationship he has with the high priest, with Jesus, with other members of the temple. What motivated him to be a part of the arresting crowd? Was he convicted that Jesus deserved to be arrested, or was he merely following orders from the high priest? Was he in line for another position in the temple, and his participation in arresting Jesus would earn him "brownie points?"

What was his reaction when his ear was chopped off? What was his reaction when he was recovered? What was his reaction as he arrested Jesus? Was he present through the entire process of the arrest and trail, and if so, what was he feeling knowing he was healed by the man he arrested?

As you could see, there are just endless choices after choices to pick and choose from in portraying this guy. And it's fun. What's there to present is this fleshed out human being with all the contradictions and complexities to him all from just four little lines from four different accounts of a biography.

What's this to do with faith? Lots. Let's say I'm an atheist, and out of desperation I pray for some kind of out of this world, highly unlikely million to one long shot miracle and it happened. Then afterwards I continue to state my case as an atheist while chalking up the miraculous incident as merely a "coincidence." Was that similar to Malchus? Maybe, maybe not.

In December of 2006, I was VERY CLOSE to losing my left hand to a scheduled amputation. Surgery and antibiotics were not affective in treating this mysterious hand infection and I was facing the very high possibility of "celebrating" Christmas of 2006 without my left hand. (Surgery was scheduled on Dec 23) I contacted every friend I knew who had a strong belief in the power of their prayers. Two of them actually showed up to the hospital with oil that was consecrated by their elders to pour into the cast of my left hand. (I had one surgery done already) My sifu who was a regular practitioner of hay gung (ch'i kung) came that same day and performed some energetic passing over the cast. My friend upon hearing about my hospital stay met her "group reiki circle" with a photo of me and my left hand circled. This all occurred on a Sunday. The next Monday morning, the examining doctor did his morning checkup on my hand and rushed out to get the supervising physician. The supervising physician commented, "finally your system accepted the antibiotic treatment, you can go home today." Now a lot of factors came into play and anybody could choose any factor. 1) It could've been the prayer and the oil 2) Could've been the reiki and/or ch'i kung 3) my body did finally accept the antibiotics after 11 straight days of taking them intravenously, and because I did not have health insurance the doctors were willing to release me to avoid any unnecessary medical procedure. I've not doubt in my mind it was a miracle.

It wasn't even more than 5 days after I was released from the hospital that I was sulking about having to spend Christmas in the cold Bay Area and not in warm Southeast Asia.

The point is our "inner Malchus." We may attack our respected spiritual dogmas for one reason or the other, and if we received some miraculous benefit, we quickly forget and return to attacking our dogma.

Oh humanity. How complex and funny we are.

The Faith Entry: Wherever I Travel, There's God 2005-Present

Southern California.

My treks back and forth from the SF Bay Area to the LA Area are as regular as my trips to Southeast Asia. From the time I re-committed to church in 1995 to 2006, I'd rotate church visits between the sponsoring Salvation Army Corps and Evergreen Baptist Church. Very little information has been revealed in regards to those visits. From 2006 until recent I'd often attend one of the Mosaic gatherings.

When I was training at the actor's intensive in the LA Area during the summer of 1999, I was a regular at Evergreen Baptist Church. During one of their Wednesday night young adults single fellowship, the topic was on dating. Evergreen is a church where the demographic was close to 80% East Asian descent. During that discussion, their keynote speaker was a PhD psychologist/therapist who was sharing her data on why it was important for Asian American Christian women to date and marry someone not of Asian descent. Some of her observations:

Asians refused to get "real help" and therefore perpetuate more dysfunctional family patterns than the average American family.

In order to progress as a "true Christian," one must learn to let go of traditional patterns that hinder growth. That's especially true for Asian culture

How it was "God's will" that her soulmate and husband was not Asian.

I'm sitting here listening to all this and observed how people present were just taking it all in because of this lady's supposed "credentials and expertise." I learned that the actual topic for that evening wasn't so much "Dating," but "Interracial Dating." So different people voiced their opinion throughout the evening, sometimes heatedly. At one point, I objected saying why is the discussion merely focused on Caucasian males-Asian females dynamics and nothing else was discussed to which one of the replies from one of the female guest was "no one finds you Asian guys attractive, that's why." To their surprise, when asked who was or is currently in an interracial relationship I raised my hand. The same lady who made the other comment asked me if I was really in a relationship with a Caucasian female, and I pointed out that the problem with the discussion so far was that it was too limited because no other races besides Asian and whites were mentioned, and that my interracial experience was actually with ladies of Latina and African American backgrounds. The females sitting on my table actually got up and moved to another table afterwards with one of them commenting "desperate."

Why I continue to attend church service for approximately five additional years after that incident while in the LA area is puzzling.

Starting in 2006, I began to visit Mosaic. In the beginning of summer while attending a theater conference, I trekked from Gardena to Pasadena to check out the service. As big as the service was, I felt welcomed and was able to meet different people. The music was a little on the loud side for my personal taste. I was then asked if I was going to be in the area the following Sunday and I explained to them about the conference I was attending wrapped up that morning. They then told me about their downtown LA club service in the evening. Couldn't have been a better situation since I found out the location was less than 5 minutes away from the conference.

The following Sunday after taking about an hour and a half to "say goodbye" to the conference attenders, I was able to make my way to a nightclub called The Mayan. This was really a nightclub. I'm looking around thinking I was in the wrong place, but then someone handed me a church bulletin. I enter and found a lounge table near the bar. Next thing I know the houselights turn off and I was treated to a laser light show with the music and a visual multi-media presentation. I couldn't believe that was "church."

When I took another road trip to LA two months later, I explained to my friend that as the driver WE WILL be going to church service. Considering we left on a Sunday morning from the Bay Area, she figured we were not going to attend any sort of church service since we didn't arrive to the LA area until after 4pm. When I turned the TV off at the hotel room at 5pm to leave, she was shocked before she began to sulk. We trekked to the Mayan in downtown LA and she initially thought that I was pulling her leg that we were at church. She even complained why I didn't tell her to "dress up" for the occasion. Once the service began, her jaws dropped in disbelief. A few months after our trip, she contacted me sharing about her insecurities and her questions about her life purpose. She then asked me to help her find a church like the one we went to.

I would like to say that I've found a spot in the LA area where I could call "home" on a spiritual sense. However after having the privilege of meeting Dr. Rev. Michael Beckwith and his wife Ricki in person 2 years ago, there's no way that my next visit in LA would exclude a visit to Agape.

14 May, 2011

The Faith Entry: Wherever I Travel, There's God 2005-Pres

I knew I was approaching my church attendance habit until something very legalistic and rigid. Call it all those training with what I had to go through in The Salvation Army. (They were the ones who told me that I was praying and studying my Bible at the "wrong" time: nighttime before bed)

In 2004 I did another road trip to L.A. Only this time I did not attend any church service whatsoever. In fact if I'm not mistaken, Sunday was spent at an East West Players matinee show. Yes, I felt a little guilty about it. I was a part of Venture at that point, and I was actually going through a process of "freeing" myself from all the rules and dogmas. In fact when I shared with my friend Peter who was the pastor who baptized me about my plans in L.A, his response was simply, "have a great time and be safe." I was to learn a month after that trip that my mom had cancer.

I traveled twice in 2005. Once before my mom passed away and once after she passed. When I visited my friend in Kauai, I decided to attend a church service across from where I sub-leased a room for a week. I was very culture shocked afterwards when a couple of the local members invited me to the beach afterwards to "smoke some herbs, bruddah" I miss that church.

After my mother passed away in the summer of 2005, I realized that there was no longer Thanksgiving and Christmas for me. I was in touch with Jojo, aka my "Singapore Sis" for 10 years but never visited her during all that time. She insisted that I visit her and her friends because she was concerned that my staying in the Bay Area the first Thanksgiving without my mother would be too overwhelming for me. Jojo and her friends created a very busy itinerary for my first visit to Singapore and my first trip outside the U.S. since my 1997 mission trip. Church WAS on the agenda, but the unplanned "all-nighter" on Saturday evening sort of preempted the church plan, much to the dismay of Jojo, who was (actually IS) a very devout Christian. As I slept in that Sunday morning, she text messaged all her church friends how I slept in and blew church off.  Not only did I promise to return to Singapore shortly within the year, but I also promised to attend church on my next visit.

When I returned to Singapore in May of 2006, Jojo was assigned to a new job position which scheduled her to work on Sundays. I thought I was off the hook. Nope. Jojo waited for me at the airport upon my arrival and promptly handed me a schedule and directions to her church service along with the times and two phone numbers of her friends to call in case I got "too lonely." She also scheduled a Sunday dinner for us as a group so I could discuss with them how church went for me.

That Sunday morning, I took the MRT to the Singapore Expo Centre. I got off the station and just followed the group of people who were getting off and who were carrying cases. (I just ASSUMED their Bibles were in there) I followed the group to "Expo 8" and was bombarded with almost 12 different greeters. ("HELLO. WELCOME TO FCBC!") This was to be my first and not last visit to Faith Community Baptist Church led by their pastor "Apostle" Khong. I was going to enter only to learn that they "were still getting ready." I was confused as the service was scheduled to start at 1:30 pm and it was 1:40. So as I waited I saw HER: shoulder length hair, round doe-shaped eyes, soft smile. Suddenly the gates opened and the crowd literally raced inside. Not only was I lost and confused, I was shocked and still dwelling on those eyes that hypnotized me only seconds earlier. The band was blasting away and I found an aisle seat in the front row of one of the sections. People were clapping and jumping along to the music and just when I was about to lament about losing sight on the person who "wow'd" me for the first time, she takes a seat behind me. Music concludes and we're now directed to greet the nearest person and "bless each other." She was the nearest person.


Jenny* was once one of the secretaries for FCBC and is now attending the service as discreetly as possible. She heard me "bless her," and realized that I spoke with an American accent. She asked me for permission to sit next to me which I happily obliged. ("Thanking God" the whole time) At the end of service she invited me out to lunch. I accepted. At the conclusion of lunch we went back to the MRT and said our goodbyes. I quickly asked her when she was available again. She said her only available free time was the following Sunday. I invited her to lunch, she accepted.

To be honest, I was not planning to attend church that following Sunday. I felt that I did my obligation to the "Singapore Sis" and pacify her to keep her from reminding me that I slept in on Sunday during my first visit to Singapore. I had to admit, I was in total awe of this young lady I just met at the service. When I visited her that following Sunday, she was waiting for me...

...along with members of her "Cell group."

A Cell group is basically a Bible study group. They call it a cell because theoretically and in practice, the group would grow and expand with new members to eventually split and "multiply" into another cell group. Hence they would reproduce like an actual cell. When I accompanied her to the service, her cell group came along. I thought lunch afterwards would be more private.


Courtesy of the "Stranger from the US," this particular cell group (ALL FOUR OF THEM!) were treated to an entire Portugese/Chinese meal. I was lucky to carry an extra amount of cash that day. Throughout the entire lunch, I was bombarded with questions from her group leader:

"So Jarrett, where do you see yourself as 5 years from now?"
"We heard you're an actor, what have you done so far?"
"So how is your relationship with God?"

I answered as I gracefully and honestly could. At the conclusion of lunch, I accompanied her to the MRT, said my goodbyes and promised to keep in touch. It's unfortunate that her and I were not able to create something beyond the friendship we created, however meeting her at church when I visit Singapore is something I looked forward to.

Several years later on the winter of 2008, Jenny invited me to attend church with her at City Harvest. They too rented space at the Singapore Expo. It's just that their attendance was a few THOUSAND higher than FCBC. When I was there during the service, there was a guest speaker from the States. We were also greeted with an envelope on our seats. Our guest speaker spent the entire message explaining what the envelope was all about. It's an envelope with two promises: financial blessing for those who fill it with a minimal of S$1500 (US $1100) or a financial curse for those who decide not to return the envelope with money in it. I was very disturbed by that. As I attempted to meet the guest speaker and the pastor in charge, I was shoved around by the security in the front who curtly demanded I make an appointment in order to meet them. I was even more disturbed.

That was the last time I attended church in Singapore, though I visited Singapore about three more times afterwards.

The Faith Entry: Wherever I Travel, There's God 1995-2004 Side and Random Notes

The majority of the decade of my heavy church attendance was with The Salvation Army Asian American Corps. I attended there from approximately May 1995 through the Summer of 2001. From 2001 through 2005 I visited there on a semi-regular basis. I just want to emphasize on my spiritual life during those year in regards to traveling outside of the SF Bay Area.

I stated that traveling to Salvation Army sponsored events meant that we were expected to be at a Salvation Army meeting on the corresponding Sunday. Even on the weekend where our men's study group decided to do a weekend retreat on a rented houseboat, we had our own worship service held on the boat. Our group facilitator gave the message.

Another event during the summer held by The Salvation Army is Commissioning Weekend. That was the graduation weekend for those who were graduating from The Salvation Army's Officer's Training School. I believe they received an Associates of Arts degree in practical ministries or something of that nature. The commissioner of the territory would then assign the newly graduated officers (New Lieutenants) to their "posts," ie the corps where they're going to pastor and lead. 9/10 they're normally serving in the capacity of "assistant corps officer." They would have to be doing exceptionally well at the training college in order to be assigned as an actual corps officership. Anyways, for the trainees going into their 2nd year of Officers Training, their summertime isn't a break, it's normally the time where they're assigned to lead the Service Corps teams. Hence why the Service Corps must meet in Southern California.

In 1996 a year before I participated in the 1997 China Service Corps team, a group of friends from the Asian American Corps were selected to serve in the Service Corps for that summer. They were to meet at the Commissioning Weekend which was held in Orange County. For my then girlfriend Janice and myself, that meant a roadtrip to Southern Cal. That entire weekend was more Salvation Army meetings and events that we cared to remember.

As for the following year for our '97 China Service Corps team, were we required to be at Commissioning Weekend? No we weren't. That's because it was a special year called the Salvation Army Western Territory Congress. It was basically Commissioning Weekend but in addition to the Territory Commissioner present, the General was there too. (The General is to The Salvation Army as the Pope is to the Catholic Church)

The following two years in 98 and 99 consisted of road trips to Southern Cal for the Commissioning weekend. At that point I was no longer with Janice. Also, the group I drove down with weren't as interested in staying around for The Salvation Army events as before. In fact we created a little controversy with our local corps when we decided to spend our Sunday that weekend (both years) at Evergreen Church. 99 was even more different for myself as I spent the entire summer in L.A doing an actor's intensive, so I remained down there while everyone return to the Bay afterwards. The Sundays during that summer of 99 was spent at Evergreen.

In 2000 I repeated the summer actor's intensive in L.A. I was seeing someone in the L.A. area who had a very strict mother who insisted that her and I attend our Sunday church service at their family church which was the San Fernando Valley Alliance Church. Small world that my aunt and her family whom I hardly had contact with growing up were attending there.

The Faith Entry: Wherever I Travel, There's God 1995-2004

The very first time I left the United States was in 1997 for a summertime ministry program sponsored by The Salvation Army. The program was called Summer Service Corps, and they sent teams of college age to young adults to various locations on the Army's behalf. I was lucky enough to have been part of a joint program collaboration between The Salvation Army San Francisco Asian American Corps and the Service Corps in sending a Service Corps team to the transitioning Hong Kong and Mainland China. In July 1, 1997 Britain ceremoniously ceded Hong Kong back to the People's Republic of China. That trip to Hong Kong was one of those great lessons on writing and manifesting goals.

While taking a personal development and business course in 1994, I written a goal that I would be visiting Hong Kong before July 1, 1997. At the time I wrote it, I felt it was far fetched because at that point, I traveled no further South of the San Francisco Bay Area beyond San Diego, West of the Bay Area beyond Hawaii, East of the Bay beyond Denver, and North of the Bay beyond Vancouver. I had never traveled anywhere to a location that required a passport back in '94. On top of that, I had dropped out of college and lost my job at the bank. From a financial standpoint it seemed impossible to get a plane ticket. (My logic then was three years times my then annual salary of $1200=impossible) When I was cleaning out my Oakland home in 2005, I found the workbook where I wrote the goal down. It blew me away to say the least. The written goal.

"To be in Hong Kong before the date of July 1, 1997"

What made this particular Service Corps unique was the fact that the 8 members of the team including myself were all from The San Francisco Asian American Corps. Normally each team had a random group of members from various corps scattered throughout the Western Territory region. Our team members were handpicked for this particular project. We arrived in Hong Kong on June 14, 1997. I also remembered the day I stepped foot on China soil. It was July 4, 1997 and I felt an awkwardness because it was merely just another day for the people in China. There was no such thing as Independence Day for them. Throughout the entire trip from Hong Kong to China, we practically ate, breathe, drank, slept, and even sh*t Salvation Army. The purpose of Service Corps was to give the young adult members of The Salvation Army to perform a brief summertime missionary work on God's behalf. It was a way for them to recruit new Corps Officers (full-time pastoral positions) for those on the verge of starting new careers and new families. Therefore not a moment passed where we didn't deal directly with someone from the organization. And because the organization was supposedly an "evangelical" organization, the expectation to pray, read the Bible, be of service, and evangelize was at an all time high. Couple this with the public perception of The Salvation Army and there were a lot of expectations that were difficult in living up to. I recall that during that entire summer, there was a prayer meeting on a daily basis in addition to the "Holiness Meetings." ("Holiness Meetings" were simply the worship service held on Sundays by the Salvation Army; a lot of terminology based on the Old Testament military structure was utilized there) Even during prep time prior to the trip, our corps officer Captain Don (Was Lieutenant on my earlier blog, got promoted) would often warn our team: "I have good news and bad news about your upcoming trip to Hong Kong and China. First the good news, God will be with you. Now the bad news: so is Satan."

Ironically because of the rigidity, I personally felt the least connected to God during that entire time. Prior to taking that trip, I had my own personal way of being in communication with God. When I was placed in a living situation with 7 other "experienced" Christians especially in a foreign country, there breeds a lot of second guessing and questioning on right or wrongness. I was told that setting aside time in the evening was "all wrong" and the best time was in the morning. I was told that my journaling letters to God wouldn't be acknowledged or heard because I wasn't "in prayer mode." During that trip I felt that I was having a crash course in learning an additional language and I'm not referring to the Chinese language spoken there: Christianese with a Salvationist dialect. When we visited the Chinese Government sanctioned churches, I felt a little more freedom because of how different the congregants behaved. Because of the fact that they behaved differently, I felt more "at home." Compare that to the first service we attended in Hong Kong. We were required to wear the Army issued uniforms, and I left my currency in my other clothing. Because we were "guests" visiting from the U.S. we were under a little scrutiny. So when the offering bag passed by me and I was unable to place anything in there, I could hear the murmurs and the person who was passing the bag around burned a glare at me for the remainder of the service. If fact, I don't even recall an offering basket being passed around during service in China.

That was my first trip outside of the U.S.

When I became more committed to my spiritual life back in 1995, planning trips away from home consisted of answering the question, "where are we going this Sunday?" Any Salvation Army sponsored event that took place away from home meant we were visiting the hosting local corps. Otherwise from 1996-2002 my visits to the Los Angeles area meant that my church visits would take place at Evergreen in Rosemead. The reason being that coming from a church that consisted of 90% people of Asian descent, it was logical to visit like churches. Evergreen was originally a Nisei church that evolved into a "seekers friendly church" reaching out to the younger Americanized generation.

I didn't really travel anywhere outside of the Bay Area other than L.A. from 1998-2004.

10 May, 2011

The Faith Entry: Calling all Pastors...

Calling all pastors out there. You're much needed to plant, lead, and develop churches. It seems that people nowadays have a different lifestyle, philosophy on life and baggage galore. Where are you guys? (Or gals?)

Yes I did state on my earlier entry that ultimately it's up to us to lead ourselves in all areas of our lives including spiritual. I still stick by that statement. However there seems to be a need to get butts in the seat of centers everywhere to worship and be empowered. Yes as a graduate of one of the pioneer LGAT personal development companies, I use that word a lot. "EMPOWER."

Then again...

Who came up with this weekly meeting at church? Why attend church at all? What is the purpose of going to church? Within the church, what is the purpose of the pastor? Maybe before I even make a call out to recruit new pastors, I should clarify the purpose of both the church and pastor. This is not just going out to the Christian church per se, any and every center of worship.

When I traveled to Asia for the first time in my life courtesy of The Salvation Army, we'd have meeting among the Service Corps team. One of my teammates would lead prayer in her version of humility:

"Dear Lord, who are we, these dirty rags that You called us to serve You in this capacity of reaching out to our ancestors for You?"

I didn't find it too inspiring and empowering to refer to myself as a "dirty rag." In fact, I think I reserved the bathroom immediately after meetings led by that teammate. I literally felt "dirty" and needed to bathe. Then again in humid Hong Kong, a shower was much needed. I guess what I'm saying is that pastors that I'm hoping would step up is someone who does NOT present his/herself and congregation in such a self-degrading way.

Maybe I should define what I'm looking for and expecting out of a church: it's an institution consisting of a SINCERE community of people with the purpose of building up and empowering people by acknowledging and confirming their precious and divine identity as God's children created in the image and likeness of God.

And my definition and/or expectation of the pastor in this grand scheme of things: someone who's simply there to facilitate the process.

Wait a second, anyone within that community can facilitate the process. That's true. Its just that a pastor devotes full time and beyond their commitment to facilitate. Otherwise yes, anyone from the community could and SHOULD step up and facilitate.

So does that mean we're still short on pastors? Well from my personal observation and experience, we're short on the pastors and churches out there to provide what I'm looking for. From what I'm looking for, there's a lot of bad churches and pastors out there.

Honestly, there's no point of this entry. It's a random ranting stream of consciousness that I wanted to express. This whole church hopping and visiting can be pretty tiring. I'm at that point of just saying, why NOT have a church that practices what I want practiced, believes what I been feeling all along, and creates results for those attending what they want accomplished? Is that too much to ask for?

02 May, 2011

Osama Bin Laden, no RIP

Here's a little background on the happenings this specific May 1, 2011: I spent the entire Sunday doing my normal Sunday routine for the most part. I went to Chinatown getting some martial practice in, had lunch, made a Philz Coffee run, and went to church service @ MBCC. Afterwards, I spent time with the newly graduated PSI Basic Seminar April/May 2011 students. When I drove to Chinatown for a late dinner and saw various people driving around waving American flags, I merely thought it was over some sporting event where a U.S. Team competed and came out victorious. It wasn't until I returned home and opened my Facebook that I learned the significance of today.

Today is the day that it's confirmed on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Out of respect when a person passes away, I normally wish that they would rest in peace. However due to the impact of this particular person, most people would wish the exact opposite. I have to say RIP because if not, NONE OF US will be able to rest, and NONE OF US will be able to be in peace. When a person state of happiness or jubilee is predicated upon a death of ANY person, there lies a tragedy that matches the tragic event caused by the person in question. Is there a sense of relief upon the news of the death of OBL? Yes. Is it a cause for celebration? Absolutely not. Even if a person passed and request a celebration of life in lieu of a formal funeral, it is exactly just that: a celebration of LIFE. Celebrating death? No. There's something inhumane about it, no matter who passes. When my mother passed away from cancer, there was no celebration of her death, there was a sense of relief that she was relieved of her physical suffering, but there was no celebration for her death.

On another blog, I stated that terrorism is not an organization, person, government, religion or country. It is a state of mind that any members of the human race is capable of conjuring up. Our war against terrorism is a war against ourselves. Terrorism is a form of hate, and every human has a capacity to hate. On the flip side the opposite of hate is love and humanity has the capacity for that. Even in the event of the death of Bin Laden, I will stick to my original premise: we will never win against the War on Terrorism because 1) terrorism is a state of mind and 2) ANY war is a potential seed to terrorism. What must be done in defeating terrorism or other hateful state of mind is to cultivate and nurture other healthier state of minds: love, peace, gratitude, connection, abundance, humility and generosity.

Additional takes on the situation:

The elimination of OBL is NOT an elimination of the designated enemy or villain of the masses. During the Bush regime, Saddam Hussein was the "villain flavor of the year or week or day." Granted Hussein's name was interchangeable with OBL until the capture and death sentence of Hussein. It will be a matter of time when a new villain or enemy will be flashed onto the screen of the masses. Moammar Gadhafi, and Kim Jong Sr and Jr, please remain on "standby..."

Al Qaeda isn't eliminated either. Although I affirm that terrorism is not an organization, Al Qaeda is no question an organization of terrorism. They may not have their leader, but there are still members. Anyone who thinks that the terror risk level can be lowered after today is naive.

There are still other issues to resolve. Unless the immediate monetary resources that's been invested into the recent event can be channeled and distributed elsewhere, we still have other things to resolve like the overall economy, education, arts.

Does this change how we conduct air travel now? Immediately likely, the answer is an emphatic NO. If anything we have to be on guard for retaliatory situations.

Racism still exists even after the death of OBL and more so with a black President of the U.S. When Fox News mixes up Obama's name with Osama and not apologize, well...no comment.

OBL, R.I.P. because if you're not, NONE of us will and you owe it to us: PEACE

24 April, 2011

The Faith Entry: Some Side Notes

I want to go off on a tangent here in regards to my recent entries on my personal faith. I want to touch upon the topic of legalism. To the more traditional and conservative faction of the church, they defend their staunch support to legalism as something integral to salvation. (This is all from the POV of Christianity) The more liberal churches tend to openly disagree with legalism because they often wonder where the concept of Grace comes in.

Call me a liberal then.

As I shared in Part 8, my take on the Biblical account of the Fall of Humanity was that the real temptation wasn't on the disobedience, but on the logic that "if I were to DO THIS, then I will BE THAT." In the beginning of Genesis, it states that humans were created in the image and likeness of God. The serpent convinces Eve that if she ate the fruit, (it's not necessarily an apple, btw) she will BEcome "like God." Therefore the fall of mankind was the logic of "DOING" to "BEING."

NOW, let's look at legalism: it's normally based on the avoidance (doing) of certain behaviors to display their state of beingness. (In this case, redeemed or "favored" by God) That undermines everything that this weekend is all about. (It is Easter as I'm typing this, so Happy Easter!) Here's an example: controversy has been around the topic of music as long as I've began reading a Bible. Those who advocate legalism tend to encourage their followers to avoid listening to certain musical formats. The logic is that if they were to avoid listening to certain types of music, they will BE more favorable in God's eyes. A couple of things with that example:(and this is NOT a hypothetical example, this is a REAL controversy) 1) There's no Biblical base on what "types" of music is acceptable or not acceptable. 2) This is the "do" to "be" logic.

Legalism doesn't lead to a sinless life, it ironically leads to a more sinful life because it creates an endless list of "do's and don't's." We don't avoid certain behaviors because of a rule, we choose not to do something out of love and appreciation. Love and appreciation is not a state of doing, but a state of being. What we do is a result of how we're being. Going back to the music example, if I'm at a state of beingness where I feel loved by God, and I feel in returning that love "with all my heart, mind soul, ect," I tend to CHOOSE to listen to more music that's consistent with that state of being. It's not because someone said this is what you "SHOULD" listen to.

If we were to follow the dogmas of legalism, then there's no point to what Easter represents. So what does Easter represents? What Jesus DID was a direct result of WHO Jesus IS. And because of what was DONE AND WHO HE IS, WE ARE.

The Faith Entry: The Salvation Army Major Players and More Details on Pt 2

I spent at total of almost 7 adult years of my life with this organization. They have the most spiritual influence on me both good and bad, mostly bad. They meant well, but in the end of the scheme of things, it simply wasn't a fit.

When I first became acquainted with The San Francisco Salvation Army Chinatown Corps, I was simply keeping the lady I was seeing pacified. This was the church she grew up in and it was important to her for me to attend. Ironically, she herself was not a regular attender, but I HAD TO be there. So for the most part, I attended their Friday College Fellowship after my Friday lion dance practice. This was a common occurrence in the summer of 1990. I was still living in Oakland, so my weekend commute to San Francisco began Friday morning after my classes at College of Alameda and ended Monday morning when I left "Cindy's*" North Beach apartment. I had enough seniority at my movie theater job in Oakland such that I was not needed to be there on the weekends, or I "commuted" from SF to Oakland, back to SF on the Saturdays I did work.

In a lot of ways, I did not attend Salvation Army events as "Jarrett." I believe that I was known amongst the Salvation Army College and High School group as "Cindy's "FRIEND."" (Noticed that I was NOT known as her "boyfriend?" That was all in her decision) She was very paranoid with me in regards to my behavior around "Sherry*," the youngest daughter of the Corps Officer, Major and Mrs Yee. Reason one: she looked up to her and was only a few years older than us. Cindy even followed a trend of reversing how her t-shirt was worn. Reason two: it was Sherry's idea that I either attend church or for Cindy to not see me. I found Sherry intimidating for a different reason altogether: she was just hot.

Sherry's older sister Sharon* was married to Richard*. They just had a daughter who was a year old. They were both Sunday school teachers who also intimidated Cindy much to the point that Cindy overreacted after every conversation they had with me. ("Jarrett, what did you say to them???" "Oh my God, you didn't tell them THAT, did you???")

At the end of the summer, Cindy and I split up. I decided to keep going to the fellowship. Then again, it wasn't like Cindy was a regular attender. News traveled quick about the split. Bob* introduced himself and his then girlfriend Noreen* to me. They invited me to a dinner they were hosting because up until that point, they only knew me as "Cindy's "FRIEND,"" not as Jarrett, and they wanted an opportunity to get to know me. I accepted their invite, and as I recall, had a great steak and potato dinner! It was unfortunate that shortly after that dinner, I eventually weened away from the group.

When I began to date Marie in the summer of 91, the topic of church and theology came up again. Marie's background was Seventh Day Adventist and to her, anyone attending church on a Sunday was considered Satanic. A year after my last visit to SF Salvation Army in the fall of 91, I decided to return there because I had so much questions. When I returned there, the mood was absolute somber. I was not attending the College Fellowship, I was attending their Asian American English Speaking Worship Service. (That title was considered "modern" within Salvation Army because worship service within the organization were called "Holiness meetings.") I met a new couple who were officers ("Officers" were those in pastoral position within The Salvation Army) Lieutenants Don and Sheila Choy*. Sheila was the eldest of the three sisters who recently moved back to SF from Southern California. The mood was somber because of the recent death of their mother Mrs Yee. On top of that, I returned to their service an evening after a colleague of mine was shot. At the conclusion of the service, they opened a "Mercy Seat" (bench on the front) to see who was willing to make a public commitment or "re-commitment" to Jesus. I went up. Afterwards, Bob and Richard came up to me to offer support. Don and Sheila came up to introduce themselves to me. Bob and I had a conversation about Marie in regards to the conflict. Bob suggested that now that I recommitted, it's best to go in a separate direction from Marie. That was my last visit to the Chinatown Corps. Besides, I had a dream and a pursuit of a comedy career at stake.

Marie and I survived three years together after indulgence in drinking binges, drug-induced raves, her cheating, and my heavily invested interest in my first exposure to both the multi-level marketing and personal development culture. My pursuit of personal development not only threatened the relationship, but eventually became the undoing in the end. That was 1994-95 and I don't think I was ever in more turmoil. I had dropped out of undergrad at SF State, accumulated a lot of debt, and was in pursuit of meeting my biological mother which in the end was a complete disaster. The pressure, drinking, and drugging was ever so increasing following the meeting of my biological mother in Feb 1995. Couple that with a new tumultuous relationship to Janice* and an emotional timebomb was awaiting.

That timebomb ticked and exploded on Mother's Day weekend 1995. Nothing worse than to be on a drunken public rage where the police got involved. Luckily or unluckily for me, the cop knew who I was and instead of taking me in, took me around until I sobered up. The drinking binge began following the phone conversation I had with my biological mother who was offended by the Mother's Day gift I gave to her. As for the mother who reared me, the one whom I referred to as my "REAL" mother, imagine the look on her face watching me arrive home hungover from a police car. Neither of my mothers had a good Mother's Day that year.

That following Sunday, I trekked over to the Salvation Army Golden Gate Divisional Facilities in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco. I saved the numerous letters of encouragement and invites from Sharon, Bob, and Noreen over those years, and knew that the then Asian American English Speaking Service eventually became an autonomous separate Corps: The San Francisco Asian American Corps. A year prior, a newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Yee retired from his post at the Chinatown Corps. (He was then Major when I was visiting Chinatown in 1990) Upon entering the facilities, I was recognized immediately by Richard. Then moments later, Bob and Noreen spotted me and approached me, asking me if I had plans after the service and if I was interested in lunch with them since they hadn't seen me in 4 years. I accepted. During the dim sum lunch, I explained to Bob that I felt like he gave me an ultimatum of me having to chose between Marie at that time or my commitment to church. He felt bad that I interpreted it as an ultimatum and he only wanted me to avoid conflict in the long run.

I don't want to say that Richard was happy about my situation. He wasn't. He simply saw my situation as an opportunity for me to learn about his latest spiritual passion: The Promise Keepers. It was a movement of an all men's sporting pep rally for Jesus. It was created by Bill McCartney aka "Coach Mac." Funny because my only visit to Denver Colorado was in the winter of 94. The newspaper headline was about how this winning coach of the Colorado University football program recently tendered his resignation because of his "vision." That coach turned out to be McCarthy, and the "vision" of his turned out to be what is now known as The Promise Keepers. All these years of attending pep rallies for his football team had him wondering if it was possible to hold a similar rally for Jesus. Richard was gung-ho about the movement and sure enough, that year the West Coast rally was taking place in Oakland. It MUST BE God's provision that I went through what I went through in order to attend an event in the "backyard" of my own home. I was such a wreck at that point, I believed it.

* If you noticed, the asterisk was placed next to the names because those were not their real names.