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