Monday, December 7, 2009

On Church Membership

As of this past Sunday, I'm officially a member of First Chinese Baptist Church. Yay? Well, actually, I'm not a full member. Because I was baptized by pouring and not by immersion, I can only be an associate member. Questionable policy, to say the least. I think they're gonna put an asterisk by my name in the church directory...And, as an associate member, I am unable to vote on property issues. Theologically, this makes sense because when you're only baptized by pouring or sprinkling, you automatically receive impaired judgment on property issues.
Anyways, membership is such a weird thing. I hated it at first. First of all, that crap is not biblical. Second of all, I didn't like that certain privileges were kept from me because I didn't have the title of member, even though I had been going to church there for a long time. I think it's these kinds of church politics issues that really bug me. Sigh. Complaints aside, it's actually been a big blessing taking membership classes these past 5 or 6 weeks with my senior pastor. I thought it would be tough to sit through, but I really enjoyed hearing what he believes and the kinds of things he's passionate about. Although I wasn't particularly fond of the book we went through (called "The Family of God"), it was a good experience overall. And last week I gave my testimony and the existing church membership voted on me haha. And waddya know, I made it!
I think God's been leading me down this really weird road with fcbc. It's a love/hate kind of relationship maybe. If you're a faithful reader of this blog (thank you), then you know the struggles I've had with church. And for the most part, I still believe strongly that my church has issues, but I can't deny the fact that God has been leading me to be more involved there.
It's weird. Freshmen year, I remember I was so excited that I was away from fcbc, going to Living Water. LW was great. It had a passionate pastor, amazing musicians, cool people, AND free food after service (which was better than the baos at fcbc). (these are baos, which are still delicious)
I guess that's where God wanted me at that time, the place that would serve me best in my first couple years in college. Maybe I'm in a better place now to go to fcbc and serve there. I'm glad. Glad that I know where I'm supposed to be and that God has been faithful in leading me here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Golden State Warriors and the Church

My first Warriors game was in 1999. We played the Sonics. I remember I was excited after we won that game because the Sonics were actually ranked #1 on Kobe Bryant's NBA Courtside on n64. Back in those days, John Starks was the Stephen Jackson and I remember him hoisting up three threes in a row. He missed the first two but made the last one and he threw his arms up in the air to pump up the crowd...
Back then, Bimbo Coles ran the point, Antawn Jamison was a rookie, and Donyell Marshall was our best player. There was no Roaracle, no "We Believe." If you were a Warriors fan in the 90s, that says something about you. It says that you know how to persevere, how to tolerate pain, and it means that you're probably a little irrational. But to be a Warriors fan in the 90s meant something.
And then "We Believe" happened... I'm not hating on our playoff run, but it changed things. All of the sudden, everyone at school was wearing JRich and Baron jerseys, nerds started talking about the games, and even girls were getting on the hype... something wasn't right. It simply wasn't fair. Just because you're wearing a throwback Warriors jersey and your MySpace says that Monta's your "boo" doesn't mean that you're a legit fan!! You never suffered through the years of Jason Caffey and Chris Mills!! You never fell in love with Adonal Foyle!! And you don't know the pain of watching Vince get ROY when Antawn gets an embarrassing All-Rookie 2nd team alongside Michael Olowakandi...
Do you consider yourself a Warriors fan? Examine yourself. Do you remember when the Warriors used to play on Channel 36 (6 for you kids who had cable)? Do you remember Vonteego? Mookie? Muggsy? Terry Cummings? Jimmy Jackson? Do you remember the hope of Musselman? The pain of Mike Montgomery? ... That's what I thought.

The Church is the same way, you know? There was a time when being a Christian meant something. When, if you claimed that title, people looked at you funny. It meant that you were a radical, a troublemaker, and that you were probably a little irrational. The early church actually had integrity. When everyone deserted the city because of plague, Christians were the ones to stay behind and take care of and even become the sick. Christians were those guys who sold their possessions and shared their wealth. Christians were the ones going to jail for standing against the government... back in the day, being a Christian said a lot about a person.
And then Constantine happened... He made Christianity into the national religion and soon enough, everyone and their moms was on that Christianity hype. It lost its original meaning; these newcomers had no idea what it meant to follow Jesus. They kinda just jumped on late and enjoyed the ride. They didn't know what it was like to suffer at the hands of emperors, to get thrown into jail, to join the poor, or to be martyred for their faith. They just said, "we believe."
And I think the church is still trying to recover. I have a hard time hearing facts like, one third of the world is Christian. I wanna believe it, but I just don't know. I don't even know about myself sometimes. I think if Jesus or Paul had a church today, it would be a lot smaller than we would like to think. But these days, church is all about good music, flat panel tvs on the sides that don't add anything to the service, and pastors that serve as part-time comedians. It's all about getting bigger and better--more people, bigger venue, more lights, more talent... pretty soon God gets pushed out of his own service because we're so concerned with making a production.
Do you consider yourself a Christian? Examine yourself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Adventures...

I have this desire in me. I'm not exactly sure where it came from, but it keeps coming up. I really wish that I had a car here in Berkeley. Preferably, a Prius (gas money be ridiculous!). This is a completely selfish desire because I don't want it for any conventional purposes... not to buy groceries for our apartment, not to get to Tolman (although it would be nice), and most definitely not for ministry purposes (no offense anyone). Negatory. I would want the car in Berkeley one reason only: to go on adventures.
Yes, adventures. Spontaneous adventures. Spontaneous adventures to random places. Spontaneous adventures to random far away places. Spontaneous adventures to random far away places with cool people... ok that's enough. But think about it, wouldn't that be frakkin tight (I never say that in real life)? Let's say I'm not doing anything this weekend (which would never happen, thank you shepherd's team meetings) and I have no major assignments coming up (or at least none that I choose to acknowledge), then what shall I do that weekend? Why, go to Reno of course!! Don't feel like Reno? Ok, how about Magic Mountain? Or to the desert to look at the stars?? The possibilities are endless!! And it opens up a whole new world of food options! Let's face it, you get tired of eating freakin La Burrita and pad see ew over and over again. What does Nate feel like eating tonight? Maybe Jack in the Box (50 tacos for $25=legit)? Maybe Palace Korean bbq? Maybe some decent pho place that doesn't give me the runs like pho hoa?
You may be asking, Nate, what is your point with all of this? Patience child, I shall tell you. I think when it comes to blogging, I realize that I post pretty rarely. Twice a month if I (or you) get lucky. And I wonder why this is. I think sometimes I just get tired of writing about my thoughts; it's such a womanly thing to do (no offense). I wish I had more exciting things to write about. I wish I could talk about adventures or funny and exciting stories like my uncles do. A book I'm reading (A million miles in a thousand years) talks about what it means to write a story. Sometimes I wonder if I'm living a life that's worth retelling. Some people say I only have a limited number of stories that I tell to everyone (when I got caught at the cal game, when I let out a really bad fart in my dorm, when my roommate knocked over my bonzai tree without telling me, when I ate the goat food, just to name a few). But really now, who freakin cares about when I farted in my dorm room????
I wanna live a life worth remembering, worth retelling. Be it with "adventures" or roadtrips, or maybe just with relationships... I think I want to be that guy who has a wealth of knowledge because of all the experience he has. Maybe wisdom just comes to people naturally as they go through life, but maybe some people go out and find it. Maybe I'm just a college kid who wants to relish in his freedom. Either way, I want to write a good story with my life... If your life was made into a story, would it be worth telling?

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I used to be a crybaby. I cried whenever I got in trouble. I cried because I didn't like this one kid at my karate class. I cried because we got stuck on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I cried my first day in 2nd grade just because it was my first day of second grade. One time my best friend and I were waiting in line to get on the monkey bars. For some reason I decided to push him off the platform. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then he got hurt and started crying. And then I started crying too haha. I was a weird kid...

These days, I don't cry much anymore. I mean, there was that time I watched Armageddon and maybe once in awhile I'll get misty-eyed, but really, I'm not an emotional guy. It's something that's been eating at me recently. I'm really whatevers about everything. I hate it. I don't FEEL anything very deeply anymore. Sometimes I talk with those kinds of girls that get really emotional about everything... yknow those kinds of girls, right? They preface most sentences with an "OMG" or end other sentences with a really annoying whiny sound... yeah those girls (not directed at any specific person!). And as annoying as they get sometimes, I really wanna be like that. Well, not exactly like that, but I wanna feel things. I want my highs to be highs and maybe my lows to be kinda low too. For me, everything just kind hovers around the mean. Which, I guess could have its advantages too. I mean, I don't stress out very easily and I manage to keep my composure when things get weird. But sometimes, I really just wanna be a crybaby again.

I was watching this video. I luhh switchfoot. I'm excited for their new album. The part that gets me in this video is 2:10-2:35... I want that. I want to believe and love something so passionately that everything I do is an expression of my desperation for that thing. I wanna know that with every action I decide to make, that it's something I am willing to DIE doing. If the world ended this very second, would I be satisfied with the fact that the last thing I did on this earth was writing in my blog? Would you be satisfied knowing that the last thing you did was reading Nate Lee's random thoughts about his sensitive childhood??? That's a terrible thing to be doing! So go, do something with intention. Do something with feeling, with conviction, with passion. Screw what everyone else thinks. And when you're done, come back to me and give me advice on how you do it, because I need some help feeling things again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Food, Music, and Compassion

Yes, I know you've been waiting. I am here to inform you, it is here. The Food Blog has arrived! I bet you're pretty excited. This flips the page to a new chapter in my bloglife. I know most food blogs include pictures of food that people have cooked themselves, but I think that's overrated. It's all about food that other people make and you just happen to have a camera around so you take a picture of it. Holla! Although, one of the pictures in this post is something I made myself, can you guess which one it is? It's a toughie, mostly because of my culinary skillz that killz.

(click for bigger pix)

Which one did I make???

So yeah I was thinking about food. And about music. Something about those two things is so intriguing. I mean, God (yeah you knew it would turn into a thing about God) could have made us like plants, just sucking up rays from the sun for our energy. But nah, he made food. What a great idea. And then there's music. I wish I could learn theory. Why is there music? What the eff is music? Why do certain notes just sound right with other notes? Why is music mathematical? Why does it all make sense? Crazy stuff...

So I'm taking a class about human happiness (only at Berkeley!). It's pretty interesting. The professor makes the claim that compassion or love is something that humans have evolved to have; essentially, compassion is an adaptation that enables a given organism to have a better chance of surviving. I actually hate the idea... that one day a caveman said, "Well shizz, when I show compassion to my cavebrotha, I actually have a greater chance of helping my genes pass through the generations!" I like the idea of love as this abstract, nice idea. If compassion is what my professor says it is, does that make it any less significant? Any less beautiful? ehh I dunno.

Just makes me wonder though. If he can reduce something like compassion down to an evolutionary byproduct, what else is up in the air? Does my food just taste good because the homo sapien has developed an affinity for fats and salts because of its scarcity in the evolutionary environment? Is music just a mating call?? What is life??? Who am I????

Yeeeaaaahhh... well I dunno what this post is about. Definitely not an argument for or against evolution, so don't get all butthurt about that kinda stuff. Sometimes it's just interesting hearing things that challenge concepts that you have taken for granted for so long. And I think that's a good thing.

More to come, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I fuckin love Jesus!

So I used to cuss a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It was fun. I think it all started because I really loved to listen to Puff Daddy back in like 2nd grade, and so maybe his language and gangsta swagga stuck with me. I remember my friend got me the No Way Out cd on my 8th or 9th birthday and my mom made me return it because it had the parental advisory sticker on it. Laaaame.They don't make music like that anymore...
And then there were those days I would go to my best friend's house and that's when I would release a fury of swear words because his family was cool with it (they were white haha). And that kept going until like 5th grade when email started getting big and I would send my friends emails saturated in 4letter words. Twas a fun time indeed. Until I found out that their parents read their emails and then I got in trouble.
And then somewhere between then and college I decided that Jesus didn't like my swearing, as if to say, "Well dang Jesus, you left your glory in heaven, you lowered yourself to a man, you became a slave to people, you lived like a hobo, you died a humiliating death meant for criminals and I, nathan lee, SHALL REPAY YOU!!! ... by not swearing anymore!"

I think some Christians are convinced that a changed life consists of not swearing, not drinking, and not dressing all hoochie. And even for those people who look at that last statement and say, "Why, dear me, that is indubitably not I!" you may still pass judgment when you see Christians act in ways that don't match up to the church-made list of do's and don'ts. Christianity isn't about rules. Christianity can't be about rules. If it is, then I'm wasting my time. Following a list of rules doesn't seem like a cause worth giving your life to. Jesus told us to be free. I think I'm down with that. It's a much higher, better, but also a much more costly call.
What makes a believer holy? What should Christians be known for? They say it's love. The title of this post is "I fuckin love Jesus." Yes, I'll admit, it's a bit sensationalist. I apologize. Kinda. But the Fword is good at adding emphasis. In fact, I personally believe that it might be the best word in the English dictionary for this purpose. So then, shouldn't this represent what Christians are all about? Loving Jesus to the highest degree? You may disagree. Of course there's all this complication about causing people to stumble, giving Christians a bad rep, yes yes. But I think the soul of our purpose remains--we gotta love people. Love em the most we fucking can.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jesus Camp

Have you ever seen the documentary Jesus Camp? Well you should. It's actually a great movie. The whole thing is free on Google video last time I checked. Got an hour to spare? Go watch it right now. Do it. I'm not even kidding. Go.

Wasn't that a great movie? Aren't you glad you took my advice and watched it right now? You're welcome. Well, if you were lamezors and didn't take my advice, Jesus Camp is pretty much a documentary about a Christian camp in North Dakota where kids speak in tongues and do all sorts of crazy christian stuff and the pastor preaches a lot of conservative political talk under the guise of christianity. Ehh, it would make more sense if you just watched it.

One of my favorite lines in the movie was when the pastor lady was talking about Harry Potter and then said something like this: "Warlocks are enemies of God! If Harry Potter was alive in the Old Testament he would have been put to death!!" haha. I put that clip up on my myspace once as a joke. I wonder if anyone thought I was serious...

Anyways, the reason I bring it up is because I just came back from Jesus camp! Well, my Jesus camp (we call it youthcamp) wasn't as intense as the one in the movie, but it's still an interesting experience. This was my first year as a counselor after four years as a camper. Basically what we do is spend a week away in a woodsy camp and do christian stuff. Sounds like fun huh? haha. We actually do a lot of hanging out and playing games too, to keep things interesting.

To be honest, the week was great. I loooove the people there and seeing the way God works is amazing. It was tough, however, having younger kids. I forgot what it was like to be in 7th or 8th grade... one of them said straight up, "I don't really care about learning about God, I just want to have fun" haha. And I guess that made me think about my role as their counselor. A bunch of them already know all the bible stories, they go to church, they know that God loves them and that he sent his son to die, blah blah blah. And I went with the goal of teaching them things that they may not have heard before... but somewhere towards the middle of the week I thought, "what's the best way I can love these kids?" and the answer came to me, "just have fun with them." so I did. And it was great.

I mean, it's not that I stopped trying to teach them stuff, I just changed my focus. Aaand yeah. I've thought about it before... this whole thing about kids going to church camps... get all on that spiritual high... is it good for them? I dunno. At some point they just start to worship an emotion or a praise band... they just think that being close with God means feeling happy. Church camp seems like the perfect way to compartmentalize a spiritual life and your "normal" everyday life, as if camp is the only place where we can feel close to God. I'm pretty sure it's not indoctrination, but it's getting there.

Yeah ok so that was my cynical rant for the day. But there is hope. God answers prayer. The one defining thing that I took away from youthcamp this year--we need to be real with one another. I am hard pressed to think of another time where I have seen people be so real, honest, uncensored, and raw in a christian community. I hope and pray that this is not a temporary thing; the church NEEDS this. I'm tired of christians; what the church needs is real people.

So those were some highlights of camp. Oh, and an incident with a massive amount of bees, but that shall be (or bee, ha ha ha) for another post. Well, the summer is coming to a close. I must say, I have learned a lot these past three months. First there was China, then daycamp, then youthcamp. I pretty much didn't accomplish any of what I had planned, but God doesn't seem to enjoy going with my plans. It was good though. I'm not quite looking forward to going back to Berkeley, but I know that I'll start to enjoy it again once I get back. This post was a little all over the place, but thank you for reading. The end.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Unlikely Disciple

Yup, it's that time again. Time for me to write a review/free promo for a book! This time, it's The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose. Now, this book doesn't quite fit the mold of other books I have famously reviewed--namely, The Irresistible Revolution and The Heavenly Man--but it will nonetheless go down on the imaginary list of "Nate's Favorite/Most Influential Books" aka his facebook profile.
The reason it doesn't fit the mold is because, well, this book is not a Christian book. Yes, I first found it in the Christian section at Borders, and yes, it is almost entirely about Christian culture. But Roose himself is not Christian and, unlike most of the books I read nowadays, this book doesn't suggest that I live a certain way, it doesn't make any attempt to teach me about God, and its author has yet to graduate from college. In spite of--and maybe because of--these reasons, The Unlikely Disciple is one of the most interesting and well-written books I've come across in my short literary lifespan. I highly recommend it to Christians and not-so-Christians alike.
First, a brief synopsis: So Roose is a college sophomore at Brown University, a very liberal Ivy League school that I imagine to be kinda like Berkeley. He decides to spend a semester "abroad" at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian center of America, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, pretty much the pioneer of right-wing, ultra-conservative Christianity. Roose is not religious, he parties every weekend, and he's pretty liberal--you know, the life of a normal guy. So you can imagine the kinds of things he encounters at Liberty--antigay attitudes, Christian culture, crazy rules (no cussing, no dancing, no r-rated movies), creationism classes, bible classes, and the list goes on.
And besides the fact that the book is really really well-written and funny, Roose's reflections on Christian culture provokes a lot of thought, at least for me. Though often critical of right-wing ideology, Roose is rarely judgmental. He speaks fondly of prayer, of worship services, of the (sometimes misdirected) compassion of his friends. He ends up loving the people around him and appreciating a lot about faith.
I think it was good for me to read this book at this point in whatever spiritual journey I'm on. I think I've become so critical of religion and Christian culture that I'm beginning to lose sight of what faith is all about. I've grown to used to "fighting the system" that I may have thrown a few punches at the faith behind the system as well. And as much as I agree with Roose on his level-headed thoughts in regards to evangelical sentiment on homosexuality, abortion, and conversion (among other things), I cannot help but envy and admire the way he describes their commitment to prayer, to bible reading, and to other spiritual disciplines... things that I've quickly overlooked as I've convinced myself that the best way to understanding Jesus is via intellectualism. I sometimes worry that I've become arrogant in the way I see religion, that I'm too good, too strong of a person to be swayed by demands of a pastor or a church. There's a part of me that believes a bit of distance from religious institution is healthy. There's another part that wishes I could just go with the flow without questioning, that I could enjoy all the church activities like a blind sheep--it would certainly be much easier. It's a thin line between healthy criticism and paralyzing cynicism and I feel like I'm on a tightrope, but I still hope that I never just "settle" into the patterns of religion or church. I don't wanna be written off as a newly independent Berkeley student who, inevitably, would come back after his sophomore year and question things. I always want to question things. Not for the sake of questioning, and not even because part of me enjoys being a self-proclaimed black sheep, but because a little distance is healthy, and I hope I always stay true to my own convictions even if my church disagrees...
Wow, did that get into a rant or what? Sorry. I think it's because I recently had another talk with my pastor about some of my thoughts about our church. And then today she gave a sermon about being judgmental... I will admit, it was a good sermon--probably the first sermon I've been completely attentive to in awhile--but I know it was a response to the talk we had earlier in the week. Of course, she was quick to say, "It wasn't all about you!" to me as we passed by after service, but I just keep getting this idea that she thinks I'm just in a phase and that my opinions will pass away and that I'll eventually become a normal, passive Chinese churchgoer. God forbid.
Anyways, to wrap up this book review that has somehow turned into a valleygirl rant--The Unlikely Disciple=great book. If you're a Christian, it'll make you think about the things you do, the ideas you believe in, and the way you are perceived by people outside the bubble. Basically, what Roose does is bring the two worlds together. The biggest reason for intolerance and prejudice is a simple lack of exposure between two parties. This book bridges (or at least lessens the distance between) two very different worlds and it definitely makes you think. And it's funny. Get it. Or ask me to borrow it.
So until next book, take care <3

Saturday, June 27, 2009


China in pictures (and some words):
Our airplane. Reminded me of a Chinese delivery truck...

Bad omen. First thing they did when we landed in Beijing, scan us for fever with this gun thing they point at your forehead. Ten minutes later, this dude shows up, escorts some guy off the plane. Reminded me of Monsters Inc when that monster got the sock stuck to his back... And apologies for my noob status at manual focus.

This is my ngay gung, Uncle Steve to make things easier. He's my grandpa's brother. He's really cool. He's always trying to convince me to become a doctor, lawyer, or businessman, reminding me that psychologists and social workers don't make any money. I keep telling him that I don't wanna do much school, that I wanna help people, and that I don't really care about being rich. He just says, "If you get rich, then you can help a lot of people! That's what Bill Gates does!" But that's just how he is, he exudes this entrepreneural mentality (which is partly why he became successful in America). A big reason my dad wanted to go to China again was because last time we went (when I was 11), we were with my grandpa, who isn't a real talkative guy. Uncle Steve, on the other hand, is filled with stories and jokes, which he always follows with an unnecessarily high pitched, almost childlike laugh.

All three of these pictures are from hotels we stayed in. Bougie much? Since Uncle Steve has money, we always stayed at these 5-star hotels. Pretty nice, but I couldn't help feeling a strong undercurrent of irony as we constantly encountered poor people in the streets.

The restaurants in Beijing were terrible. Straight up tourist treatment. What kind of self-respecting Chinese restaurant serves french fries?? Insulting.

We visited four main places: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Toisan. Our time in the first three cities were completely taken up by sightseeing. It was exhausting, just one place after another. This is a picture from a temple in Shanghai. For some reason, I just really like it. The way the monk guy is walking just makes me happy.

Another shot from some temple. Thizzin Buddha. One of my faves.

This is a picture from a famous temple in Guangzhou. A lot of people were there offering up prayers and incense. I kinda feel bad for taking a lot of pictures of them bowing and stuff, but not really. There's something beautiful about people worshipping, even if it's something you don't personally believe in.

That's my mom. We're on a boat on some river in Guangzhou. This was her first time to these parts of China. You can tell her Cantonese is getting rusty.

McDonald's in Shanghai. They have delivery! That is one cool backpack.

Antannas on an apartment building. Poor people gotta get their cable.

Real people doin real things, just trying to make ends meet. To me, this was more interesting than the sightseeing.

Toisan was different. This is where my grandparents and older grew up. Uncle Steve and my grandpa donate a lot of money to this city. Primarily, they've given funds to build a community center and a school. As a result, we get treated like celebrities. Not even exaggerating. We also got a chance to see the old house where they grew up. Again, the irony... it's kinda like when rappers get rich and then visit the hood again. Ok well I'll just show the pictures.

Finally, some real food! Toisan had the best food. Don't drink the water though.

Fikes (fake Nikes) anyone?

These are REAL Chinamen from the village. Long nails, rotting teeth, no manners--that's how we do in Toisan. This is at the community center that some of my family paid for.

This is the old house where my grandparents grew up. It's freakin small. This is the biggest of three rooms. Two families live here. There's one faucet, one lightbulb, and I didn't see any toilets. There's been a lot of development in Toisan, but this house is pretty much exactly the same as I remember it eight years ago.

This is at the elementary school Uncle Steve donated to help build. These kids went crazy when they saw our cameras. Or maybe just the boys did.

In Toisan, money talks. We had people from the school always with us, willing to do anything for us, giving us special treatment only because Uncle Steve was a big donor. I believe he wrote two checks for them on this trip--one for $20,000 and another for $50,000. Ballin.

And what happens when you give hecka money to a school? They build a statue of you. Crazy huh?

And this last picture kinda just sums up the irony of the trip. At the end of our stay in Toisan, Uncle Steve held a banquet for a bunch of people from the village. This old lady sat at our table and took all the leftovers back in plastic bags (they don't have boxes in Toisan haha). She was thrilled when she found out she could take home the scraps, but I wasn't sure whether it was a happy sight or a kinda sad and pathetic one. But I couldn't get over the idea that in this big banquet there were a lot of poor people who probably didn't get meals like this, well, ever. And when we left the restaurant, it began to rain really hard. We headed to our air-conditioned van to go back to our bougie hotel while all the people from the village walked back to their houses in the rain.
On another note, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins got swine flu, which kinda put a damper on the trip. So they've been stuck in Beijing for the past two weeks. Two of them got released yesterday I heard, but two of them are still quarantined, so please pray for them. Scary stuff.
In the end, I guess it was a pretty good trip. I was trying to imagine what it would have been like growing up there, but it's too different. Less opportunity, less money, less comfort... I think we're all spoiled here in America. Maybe one day I'll go back, maybe I'll give some money so I can get a statue of myself too. Either way, I'm pretty sure my kids aren't gonna see much of this culture as they grow up. So sad. Maybe I'll take that Cantonese class...

How much of your culture do you still hold on to?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Questions and Answers

There comes a point in faith where you begin to question, criticize, and rethink the things you have taken for granted for so long. To summarize a year of craziness, fun, learning, doubt, and struggle, this is what it has boiled down to: The Jesus that I have known for the past 5 years will not suffice.

At our church daycamp, we sing a song creatively named "The Box Song." I really used to like this song. It goes something like: "If I had a little white box to put my Jesus in, I'd take him out and *kisskisskiss* and share him with a friend" And then there was a very violent second verse that went "But if I had a little black box to put the Devil in, I'd take him out and SMASH HIS HEAD and put him back again" of course, including smashing hand motions (which was my favorite part). But when I look at that song now, I see more and more how Jesus has broken out of that box that I've put him in, how my understanding of God has expanded to such an extent that he no longer fits within church walls, emotional retreats, or even myself.

Which leads me to revisit an old topic. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and we got to the topic of church. He's a pastor's kid who currently isn't sure if he believes in God. He doesn't go to church anymore and he does stuff that good Christian kids aren't supposed to do. Which led me to a question I've been asking for a long time now, What's wrong with church? Or more specifically, What's wrong with San Francisco Asian American churches? Or even more specifically, What's wrong with my church?

This past Christmas break, I made it a goal to come home for church more. Not because I grow more there, not because I like going home, not because I can pick up a green onion bun at the store down the street, but more as a symbolic statement that yes, I, Nathan Lee, still want to be a part of this community in spite of the problems that I see in it and that I am not leaving this church behind even though I disagree with some of the things they do. And I'm glad I made that commitment. However, a symbolic step will not produce change. What, then, is the next step?

Well, the first step I think is to become a church member. I was getting pissy about this earlier on in the year because I was like, "Oh why do I have to become a member since I've been going to this church for like 5 years, blah blah" and yes, I still feel this way. But if it is the first tangible step to getting into the meetings and actually being heard, then I will sit through the classes and jump through the hoops to get there. Ugh.

But how do you change minds? What is my goal? I know something is wrong, but do I know what the solution is? ... I think it would be naive to think I can change a church. I think it would arrogant to say I want a church to see things the way I see them.

What I believe to be the biggest problem at FCBC and other SF AznAmerican churches is the lack of questioning, the lack of independent thinking, the lack of criticizing. Jesus never called us to blindly accept things, he never told us to remain silent, he never told us to be complacent. The problem with church is that it tries to provide answers to everything, but Christianity was never about answers. Jesus' answers were always questions because questions bring freedom and point to God, as in, we don't have to know everything. Not as a cop-out, but as in, this Christianity thing is a process, and we gotta learn and make mistakes and grow together. Church makes the solution to be "read your bible more" or "come to church more," which are not bad things, but which are wrong. We shouldn't read our bibles more, we should practice our bibles more. We know what's in there, we've been learning it since we were doing fractions and trading Pokemon cards. But the bible means nothing to us until we see it in action and see promises being fulfilled. And we shouldn't come to church more, we should be the church more. We shouldn't talk about how we come, but how we go. The church gotta be on the move, or else it's just useless.

When we begin to learn how to question, we will grow. We gotta find our voice! This is how I hope change will happen. Ok this post was too long. Sincerest apologies. Happy summer!

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Remember Pogs?? I know you do. Pogs were all the rage back in 1st grade. That kinda rhymes. But it doesn't. If you don't remember Pogs, you probably weren't popular. Pogs were these circle shaped pieces of cardboard with cool pictures on them, sometimes x-men, sometimes power rangers, sometimes even street sharks. And then there were these metal Pogs called Slammers, which you would use to slam the cardboard Pogs, hence the name Slammers. Sometimes, if you were lucky, bubble gum would come with your Pogs. Legit.

Remember when yo-yo's were in? It was like in... 4th grade or something. I remember the exact yo-yo I had--a Yomega Fireball. That thing was tight. I could rock the cradle, walk the dog, bring it around the world. Dang, I was a G. I remember calling up all the toystores in the yellowpages to see if they had a Yomega Fireball. That thing cost me $20. Not legit.

And I KNOW you remember these. The lightup shoes were freakin fresh back in 2nd grade. Man, lightups + velcro = big pimpin. That's the truth. I remember one time we were on vacation and I saw this old guy wearing lightups and I was like "No way!! When I'm a grownup I'm gonna wear lightup shoes." No lie, that's what I thought. They were just THAT cool. Until the lights ran out of batteries. Then the shoes were just stupid. LA Lights R.I.P.

Remember stuffing your shoes? I still don't understand why people did that. If you never stuffed your shoes before, basically what you would do is get a long sock (or two socks) and pull it down so there's a lot of excess slack at the toes. Then you would take that excess and fold it over on top of the foot. Then you simply insert into shoe and viola! you got yourself a fatty shoe. That's what the gangstas did. Oh, and rubber band the bottoms of the pant legs too. Legit.

There were a lot of random fads and phases that I went through--action figures, cargo pants, Razr scooters, neopets, Ecko, izone poloroid cameras, eating hot cheetos with creme cheese... yknow, the normal stuff. Thinking back on that stuff now, a lot of it seems really stupid. Like Pokemon cards... man I swear I spent so much money on that crap. Other fads made sense, like when I had my hair parted down the middle in a perfectly straight line. Sexy.Sometimes I wonder, is faith just a phase? One day will I come to my senses and just say, "Christianity was just this thing I dealt with in high school and college..."? I think about the things I'm involved in now, the people I hang out with, and what I think about the world... what if it all just kinda passes away someday? Will I keep this up for the rest of my life? ... I think about how my parents left the church. It could happen to anyone right?

Ok, so I think it's naive to say that faith is a "fad," but it bears some thought--what do you do when Christianity becomes uncool? What happens when you're the only one with baggy jeans when everyone's crossed over to skinny? What happens when you're rockin the Old Navy $12.99 zip up hoodie when everyone else has the American Apparel with the cool white zipper? Do you leave your faith when people are gonna hate on you and persecute you? And I mean LEGIT persecution (not the "Christianity is gay" stuff I heard in high school). I'm just saying, faith is easy now--I got hecka Christian friends, a nice little church, no one hates on my beliefs. But it's not always gonna be like that. America is a tolerant nation, but that could be a disadvantage. Real faith comes when everyone else turns on it except you. Pogs 4 lyfe. I'm gonna bring em back.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I am God.

I like poetry. I am talented at poetry.

Is it cocky for me to say that? Maybe. I don't think humility means denying your own gifts and abilities though. I am made in the image of the Almighty; he's given me these particular gifts, as he has with everyone. To say that I am not talented insults the one who made me.

Nevertheless, being truthful about your gifts and talents is walking a fine line. When you know you're good at something, you begin to act like you deserve praise. That, my friends, is dangerous. I have definitely fallen into this trap, but I am making efforts to correct it.

A couple weeks ago, IV had an event called Exposed. I shared two poems. Yesterday, church had an event called Live in Harmony. I shared one poem. Exposed was ok (relatively) because one of the poems I shared dealt directly with this idea of pride and arrogance. At LIH, however, I was only able to share one poem, and this one did not address my cockiness.

Needless to say, after Live in Harmony, I was struck at how difficult it was not to become big-headed. If a gift God has given me results in praise for myself, should I use this gift at all? Am I just performing so that people will give me praise? Because if that's the case, why would I ever worship God if I am worthy of worship myself?

Jesus' parables say that our talents are not to be hidden. Agh... It's a tough balance. If I ever get cocky about stuff, please kick me in the nuts. Thanks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 34. Reflections on a Failed Lent.

Feareth not! I have returned. The number you see up there is correct. I have missed 17 days of doing this whole blog in the mornings business. I apologize. I know you were intensely concerned for my well-being.

Well, now for an unnecessarily deep and profound spiritual reflection on Lent...
Not really.

In all seriousness though, I think I became wary of the fact that I was doing a devotion and then blogging about it... something didn't quite seem right. I think I rationalized it down to: well, Lent is definitely not about showing people your fast, so I shouldn't blog about my devos anymore. Yes, the blogging was a way for people to keep me accountable, but I guess it all kinda just fell to the wayside after I finished Psalm 86. Yes.

A lesser known part of my Lenten activity was my fast from NBA 2K9...
Yes, that has been quite the challenge. I decided to add 2k9 to my Lent list mostly because I was getting hecka pissed off every time I would lose to Sammy and his stupid abuse of Rashard Lewis' unrealistic 3-pt skillz. Ugh. Freakin gets me mad just thinking about it. Sammy, if you're reading this, let it be known to this blog-reading community of 3 people that you don't win because of superior skill. Only because you jack up hecka shots with Rashard until he gets on fire and sadl;kfj;asi. Dang... Well, as you can see, my 2k9 frustrations have led to the inadvertant expulsion of some unfortunate 4-letter words, which is why I felt compelled to fast. The end.

There are 6 days left of Lent. Here is the gameplan (if God's cool with it):
  • Wake up before class, read the Book, pray. No blogging.
  • Continue 2k9 fast. Own Sammy after Easter. No getting all pouty after a loss (which won't happen anyway)
That is all. I hope that your Lents have been more fruitful than mine. I have no continuing plan for blogging during the rest of Lent, though I'd like to be able to get to day 40 without anymore gaps, but whatevs if I don't. For those still toughin it out with fasts, keep it up. But don't make it a show. Holla!

Oh yee and shoutout to my boys at LT&C doin big thaangs. Hit em up for a chance to win.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff -- WATCH IT. RIGHT NOW. ALL OF IT.

So I was thinking about getting a watch. A nice watch. Like this one:Hollatchaboy!
But then... good ol Sarah Lee had to put that link up on her fb status and just make me feel guilty about my materialistic ways. So I guess I won't be buying the watch as a self-congratulations for finishing midterms :(

But now that I think of it, it's been a weird transformation this semester, starting to care about these weird hippie social issues like sweatshops, the environment, and saving money. Freakin' Berkeley man... Oh and that guy Shane Claiborne...

Yes. My greatest fears are being confirmed. The high hopes I had for this semester in regards to serving the homeless and caring about money are beginning to fade away. I've done a good job not buying clothes, but when I really think about it, that's not really the problem. I don't have a clue on how to love the poor.

Dang... I think the more I learn about Jesus, the more I learn that I have more to learn. Not necessarily bad a thing, but difficult when you're looking for answers. But then again, why would I ever want a God that I can fully understand? ...

Well, good bye, sexy Nixon watch! We could have had something special, but you are merely a worldly item that moths and rust will destroy!!!!!!

Love, Nate

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 17. Signs.

Psalm 86:17
Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

I have friends that have been going to church their whole lives who are beginning to give up on their faith. And so many times I've prayed that God would just give them a sign of his goodness. I mean, I have a lot of everyday things I consider signs of God's goodness. Things like sleep, good food, laughing, people, sunset. And then there are those not-so-everyday things that happen and you know it's from God.

There's this one guy that hangs out by Fisherman's Wharf in SF named the Bushman. Basically, the dude hides behind a couple bushes and scares people for money. Sometimes I wish God was more like the Bushman and he would just pop out and yell "Surprise!" and we'd all just say, "Oh God, you're so silly!"

Sometimes I wish faith wasn't so hard, but I guess that's a stupid thing to think. Sometimes I get mad when I read the Bible because of the Disciples' lack of faith. I mean, surressly now... Jesus was right in freakin front of them, how could they ever doubt? Imagine how easy evangelism would be with Jesus right next to you... "Hi, meet my friend Jesus, he can give you eternal life." Soooo easy. It would be so useful to have Jesus there. Like, if you're struggling with sin, just call Jesus in, "Hey Jesus, could you purify my thoughts right now? Thanks man, I appreciate it."

But no, faith glorifies God. Faith is uncomfortable. Faith determines commitment. For me to ask God for a sign is not a bad thing, but for me to live without doubting is better.

And I think this is a fitting way to end Psalm 86, especially since it's Lent right now. Lent is about trust and faith and knowing that God will provide, even if I wake up an hour earlier every weekday. Faith is not about me, so I hope that the last 23 days of Lent for both you and me are glorifying to God. Thanks for joining me in this, even if my thoughts are not coherent in the mornings. Happy Lent!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 16. Parent.

Psalm 86:16
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant
and save the son of a woman
who served you before me.

That last part is weird. And I wonder if it really makes a difference... if my mom was a good person, does that mean God will treat me better?

Reminds me of when my pastor was telling me that one of the blessings/curses of our church was that it was generational; that is, we have kids and their mamas and their mama's mamas at our church. And she basically said that if you look at the kids who are really lukewarm about God and then look at their parents, you can see why.

This verse also makes me think about my own parents. Mom and pops became disillusioned with the church to the point that they gave up on it altogether a little before I was born. Part of me is happy that I wasn't raised in a church and that I found God on my own, but part of me is sad that my parents left Christianity in the dust. They have no problem with my faith, but is tolerance my only aim? How do I convince them that the church can actually live up to what it's supposed to be? ... only time will tell.

How about you? What are your parents like?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 15. Two for one.

Psalm 86:14-15
14Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
a band of ruthless people seeks my life--
they have no regard for you.
15But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

So today's a double double since I didn't make time to Lent yesterday. My bads. I think today's a good day to double your pleasure though.
These two verses make a lot of sense to me in light of the La Burrita and Bart situation that happened a couple weeks ago (that you can also read about!). I guess I was just thinking, these guys don't give a crap about me, what difference would it make if I tried to love them? They were just a bunch of jerks trying to take my money--they don't care about my feelings and I wouldn't know how to show love to them even if I tried.

But then verse 15 says that those "arrogant foes" are shown compassion and grace. Wtf, God? Seriously? Ok, let's get things straight. I'm the Christian here--these jabronis trying to take my money obviously don't love God and they're just a-holes, so why do THEY get compassion and grace?

And then I realize that I'm exactly like those fools who tried to take my money. I keep taking and hoarding stuff without any regard for the One who gives it to me... I am an arrogant foe of God, but somehow there's still compassion and grace. Wtheck is that...?

A wise rock band once said, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." Holla.