Bonhoeffer

Just a few weeks ago I finished reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. The book is about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who took on many roles in his life: he was first and foremost a pastor, a spy, and, later on, a martyr.

In this book, Eric painted a picture of Bonhoeffer’s upbringing, schooling, family life, and actions during the World War II. Bonhoeffer is a man who was convinced that the God of the Bible is real, which had very real implications on how one must live.

Without having a foundation of what’s good and bad, it’s easy to follow along with what’s acceptable and not acceptable in society. But because Bonhoeffer trusted God as all knowing of what’s good and evil, he was able to see where Germany was heading towards when so many did not.

“The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully. To try to explain “right” and “wrong”—to talk about ethics—outside of God and obedience to his will is impossible: “Principles are only tools in the hands of God; they will soon be thrown away when they are no longer useful.” We must look only at God, and in him we are reconciled to our situation in the world. If we look only to principles and rules, we are in a fallen realm where our reality is divided from God.”

Throughout the book, I was amazed by Bonhoeffer’s boldness and drive to stay true to the Church. In those days, a new church arose. The German Christians were anti-Jew; they removed the Old Testament from the Bible and they claimed that the New Testament needed to be modified to portray a Jesus who corresponded entirely to National Socialism. To go even further, they claimed that the Church must no longer put an emphasis on the crucified Christ, but instead focus their attention to a heroic Aryan Jesus. In order to combat all of these outrageous changes, Bonhoeffer was at the forefront of separating the real Church of Germany (Confessing Church) from the pro-nazi Reichskirche.

However what may have piqued my interest the most in the book was Bonhoeffer’s confidence in his decision to become a part of the plot to assassinate Hitler–an idea that can sound outrageous to any Christian. Bonhoeffer didn’t impose his decisions on others and didn’t want to create trouble as the Confessing Church was already suffering in the hands of the Nazis. In this decision, he was described to have moved into a very lonely place. To gain others’ confidence, he saluted to Hitler and pledged his allegiance to him — convincing even some people from the Confessing Church that he had gone to the other side.

Eric Metaxas explains Bonhoeffer’s relationship with God so well,

“For Bonhoeffer, the relationship with God ordered everything else around it. A number of times he referred to the relationship with Jesus Christ as being like the cantus firmus of a piece of music. All the other parts of the music referred to it, and it held them together. To be true to God in the deepest way meant having such  relationship with him that one did not live legalistically by “rules” or “principles.” One could never separate one’s actions from one’s relationship to God. It was a more demanding and more mature level of obedience, and Bonhoeffer had come to see that the evil of Hitler was forcing Christians to go deeper in their obedience, to think harder about what God was asking. Legalistic religion was being shown to be utterly inadequate.”

Bonhoeffer was confident that he was taking the right step. It’s something I definitely admire him for. Many times I believe that it’s our temptation as Christians to just avoid sin rather than do God’s will. We are reminded that,

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Overall, it was a very good read and a huge encouragement to me. I admired Bonhoeffer’s bravery and his faithfulness towards God in the midst of all the terror and confusion within society.

If you’re interested in reading another Christian’s account of World War 2, you can also check out Corrie ten Boom’s book called, The Hiding Place.

– P

Particle & Wave

In my recent oil painting class, I spent 4 out of our 10 sessions working on just one painting. At the time, I didn’t think it would take me 4 sessions, but the moment I started layering down paint for each box on the grid, I knew that it was going to take me a while. I was inspired to turn Teil Duncan’s painting into a grid painting.

What I love about this painting is the patterns. At times I felt as though I’ve lost the image in the simplicity of the shapes and the layering of colors, but I found that adding in patterns brought the whole image together and kept it from becoming too abstract to the viewer.

Multiple times, upon viewing my work, my instructor would be reminded of how light is both a particle and a wave that cannot be observed at the same time. In similar fashion, the grid painting is a series of mini paintings. Each square held a painting and life in its own, but it painted an even bigger picture when seen together as a whole.

I’ve found it easier, to step back every now and then to make sure that I wasn’t losing sight to the bigger picture.

 

And the final painting…

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– P

The Hiding Place

It’s been a while since I last read a non-fiction Christian novel. I’ve had my share of Christian fiction books like Redeeming Love, The Mark of the Lion Series, and the Chronicles of Narnia. All of them are great and encouraging books that I recommend, but I forgot how much more powerful non-fiction books can be.

For the past couple of weeks/months, I’ve felt myself dive into a dry desert. Though I attended Church and Bible studies, I felt as if I was stuck or stagnant in my walk with Christ. A lot of it was because I found it hard to believe that God was really listening to me. It was hard for me to feel or to know His presence in my prayer life. I felt as though I was talking to thin air, and I would always come out of prayer wondering if I was just self-reflecting or talking to God.

I always knew that we could come before God no matter how small or trivial our problems or circumstances could be, but the question remained in my heart if He really was interested in my work, my relationships, and generally my life.

The Hiding Place is an autobiography of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker in Holland during the time of World War II. She, along with her family, hid Jews during that time, was captured, and was sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Throughout the book, Corrie showed great dependence and trust in Jesus in the midst of all the horrible circumstances she found herself in. When she had nothing, she was rich because of what Jesus offered to her. In the concentration camp, she was able to smuggle in a Bible and would lead worship nights with her sister Betsie and lead many people to Christ.

Corrie wasn’t perfect. She struggled to love the Nazis, and she struggled to forgive the man who betrayed her family, and yet she was able to do these things because of Jesus’s help. Her pain and her sufferings were very much real, which made it all the more easy for me to see God’s love and care for her every step of the way. Her life was filled with too many little miracles to call all of it sheer luck. God’s hand was at work.

After Corrie was released from the concentration camp, she cared for people traumatized from the war and traveled all over the world sharing God’s story of how he continuously and actively tries to redeem us. She did this all the way into her nineties.

What fascinates me the most about this book is that it’s real. It’s easy to see the apostle Paul as a super Christian who’s on another level and who never struggled with sin (which isn’t at all true), so it was encouraging for me to see another Christian from a different era carry the same strong faith and trust in Jesus in spite of her circumstances.

After reading this book, I felt encouraged. I craved for that kind of faith. I found myself praying more and relying on Jesus day by day. Suddenly, I was hungry for the Word and hungry to know this great and powerful God. Thank you Corrie for pointing me to this good and sovereign God who cares about all the big and small things.

– P

We Visited the Philippines!

From June 9th-18th, Patsy and I went off the grid and spent time visiting her family and vacationing in the Philippines! It was such a fruitful trip, full of laughs and even fuller with great food.

Upon arriving in Manila, one of our first priorities was to rub shoulders with some of Patsy’s family. While doing so, we got to meet the newest canine member of her family, Bull, a doberman import from Chile!

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Bull is a majestic dog, and he shows it in his model strut. Not pictured: Bull peeing, not 30 seconds after this picture was taken

After getting some face time in, Patsy, her parents, one of her sisters and I traveled to Batangas to stay for a few days at Pico Sands Hotel. We would get to know this place well over the next few days, everything from its beaches, pools, and country club to the restaurant on site at the hotel. Here is Patsy enjoying her first meal at Pico de Loro!

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The food here was great, but they did have a ten-second sound clip running on loop!

After gorging ourselves for lunch, the next thing on the list was to hit the beach! Contentment came pretty easy as we relaxed and soaked up the early evening sun.

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See that suntan lotion next to the chair? That was my best friend throughout the entire trip! Thanks to Patsy’s father for taking this photo!
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Patsy took this amazing shot as the sun went down over Pico de Loro

Day 2 of Pico de Loro was also filled with water and food! After eating breakfast, we hung out at the hotel’s pool area (lots of sunblock was applied). Little did we know of the feast that was awaiting us for lunch. Patsy’s mom had a craving for seafood, and I’m so glad she did because we got to experience a Filipino tradition called a boodle fight! In a nutshell, a boodle fight is an enormous amount of seafood served over rice that is laid on top of banana leaves. The twist is, everyone aggressively eats with their hands in order to get a taste of all the best food before it’s all gone. To top it all off, we got to experience this right at the edge of the beautiful beach we were relaxing on!

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I had no idea what was ahead of me.

After lunch/dinner/food for the rest of my life, we all needed a rest so we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours. Once our food bellies decreased a little, we returned to the beach. Many things awaited us, including a surprise jellyfish warning. We didn’t actually see any, but we steered clear of the water just in case (and also because we were distracted playing frisbee).

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Warning: Do not kick jellyfish in the face.
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Patsy and I enjoy long walks on the beach

After returning to Manila, the next big item on the agenda was Patsy’s sister getting married! It was such a beautiful day and ceremony, but the bride and groom far overshadowed the weather. I also got to meet even more of Patsy’s relatives!

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Patsy’s oldest sister and her new brother-in-law

 

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It was really cool to spend time with the people that know and love Patsy the most!

Overall, it was an unforgettable experience that one blog post could never fully summarize. For every meal and event detailed here, there’s ten more that were left out. A huge shout-out goes to Patsy’s parents who served as our tour guides, schedule builders and of course hosts for the entire week. Everything we did (including many of the photos featured in this post) was made possible by them!

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Many thanks for everything!

Much love,

– W

 

The Effort of Pursuing Holiness

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges exhorts Christians to a life of complete holiness – moral blamelessness. Without compromising on the idea that our holiness before God depends entirely on Christ’s work on our behalf, he declares each Christian to be personally responsible for its pursuit. In the forward to the book, he uses the analogy of a farmer waiting for a harvest. He writes,

“A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates – all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.

Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his own responsibilities.

Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.”

Although this metaphor is certainly not perfect or exhaustive, it makes the point that in order for holiness (or anything for that matter) to grow, active participation is required. We will not grow by accident, we must be intentional about cultivating holiness.

However, anyone who has tried to cultivate holiness knows the challenge one faces when things start to get tough. Bridges comforts Christians who have experienced that the struggle is real. He writes that the same grace of God that saves us, gives us the desire to pursue holiness. That if gave the Holy Spirit in us, the spirit of Holiness, then He will be faithful to lead us in the pursuit. What God requires of us, he also provides for us. There is no pursuit that God calls us to, that he also hasn’t empowered us to. Even conviction of our sin serves as a means to stimulate our desire for holiness. It is only by seeing the dark backdrop of our sin that the gospel of grace (God’s completely unmerited favor) shines like a diamond.

I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’m sure there’s much more nuggets of wisdom and truth to mine from Bridges’s writing, but I’m thankful for what I have read so far. It has been a helpful reminder that following Christ does mean pursuing after holiness, striving after moral blamelessness with everything we have, by the grace of God alone.

– W

 

How to Travel to the Philippines

In only a couple of days, Walter and I will be traveling to the Philippines to visit my family and friends. This post is for two kinds of people: 1) Walter, who has never changed time zones, and 2) For anyone who’s interested in going to the Philippines one day.

I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life, then I went to the US to go to Penn State for college and stayed when I got a job. I’ve gone back and forth from the US and the Philippines too many times to know the routine. I’ve also made many mistakes along the way to have known what missing flights are like. I am not kidding you when I say I’ve seen my plane take off without me because I missed the final call (I may have cried out of frustration). I know what it’s like to get a cancelled flight and get stranded in a different country on Christmas Day. I know what it’s like to wait in incredibly long lines in airports (much to Walter’s despair). I’ve had so many plane horror stories that my sisters are a little bit iffy when it comes to traveling with me.

To avoid all this, here are a couple of things you could do to make traveling a little less stressful:

  1. Set the expectation that things will never go as smoothly as you would hope. When you’re traveling, it is not uncommon to get flights delayed. This is a major problem if you have a connecting flight that you need to get to at another city. My sister, Trina, and I have experienced running through airports at final boarding calls when we just landed from our connecting flights. I remember my sister saying that the crowd opened up in front of her like the Red Sea as she was lugging her bags with her at a run. With that being said…
  2. Take the least number of connecting flights to your final destination. I do know that this could be a more expensive ticket, which is why I recommend buying tickets at least 6 months in advance. If you’re able to travel when it’s not a major holiday, go for it! Tickets are way cheaper then. An easy way to look at how much tickets cost is by going to Google Flights. The cheapest tickets I could see now from Philadelphia to Manila are around October, November, January, and February where tickets are as low as $692 USD (which is obviously why we’re going in June 😉 ).
  3. If you want to get an even cheaper plane ticket, consider flying out of a major city. Philadelphia is not that far away from New York. If I make the same search on Google Flights for New York to Manila for the months of October, November, January, and February, tickets could be as low as $564 USD. Walter and I will be taking the 2 hour bus ride going to New York and it would only cost us $11 USD each. Not bad.
  4. Travel light as much as possible. Traveling will make you hate your stuff. Don’t fill up every compartment of your suitcase. It’s really not worth it. You will be carrying your bag and pulling it everywhere you go. If you can stick to just having one bag, do it. If you want to bring shampoo and soap, I say just buy it in the Philippines (they’re likely to be cheaper for the same brand). For carry-on bags, only bring the necessities like: toothbrush, toothpaste, extra set of clothes, phone, phone charger, and a book. If you have more electronics, please bring ones you know you’ll actually use. If I can avoid bringing my laptop, I will. I also recommend an extra set of clothes (underwear and a shirt) because there are chances that you’ll get stranded without your checked-in bag and you’ll thank your past self later.
  5. If you’re traveling to the Philippines, get rid of all your long sleeves, coats or jackets. The Philippines is hot and humid (get ready to sweat). Even when it’s raining outside, you’ll be fine even though you’re in shorts. It may be slightly colder, but still comfortable enough to not wear a jacket. One thing I like about the Philippines is that the weather is so predictable. I never used a weather app until I went to the US.
  6. When they say come 3 hours before your actual flight, go 3 hours before your flight. Lines get long pretty fast if you delay going to the airport. Once you have your plane ticket and checked in your bags, find your gate first before wandering off to stores nearby. I once missed my flight because I was too busy eating Chipotle at a different terminal. When it was about time to board, I started looking for my gate. It was only then that I realized that I was in a different terminal and had to take a shuttle to the correct one only to find out that the plane had already left without me. I learned my lesson.
  7. Bring something that could pass the time. You do a lot of waiting in airports. If you do end up going 3 hours before your flight and have zoomed your way to the gate, you may find yourself with an hour left to spare. Read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a podcast. This will also serve to entertain you during the plane ride. There’s around 18 hours of flying time in total if you take the least number of connecting flights possible. My trips are usually separated to a 13 hour flight then a 5 hour flight.**Sometimes, I avoid sleeping the night before for two reasons: 1) Adjusting my body clock to the 12 hour time change that’s about to take place; and 2) To tire myself out so that I can sleep like a baby in the 13 hour flight. I try to pass off the most time through sleep. Sitting down for 13 hours is enough to drive anyone crazy, so I’d rather not be awake through it.
  8. Don’t drink a lot of coffee. This is for you Walter. Once you drink coffee, you’ll be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes. If you’re in the window seat, this will be really inconvenient because you would have to excuse yourself in order to walk out of the aisle. If you have an aisle seat, by all means, go as much as you need to.
  9. Be aware of the socket voltages. In the Philippines, 220 volts are used. If you bring a hairdryer that’s only good for 110 volts (which is the standard voltage in the U.S.), and use it in the Philippines, your hairdryer is likely going to break (or explode).
  10. Have fun! In spite of all of these things, I still love to travel because of all the exciting things you could see, eat, smell, and touch. For me, however, going to the Philippines is going home, and that is exciting all in itself.

I hope these tips were helpful!

– P

Millennials (try to) Cook: Lime Shrimp Dragon Noodles

W: I got a craving for some spicy noodles, so I went to my favorite cooking website to see if there was a fun recipe there for us to try! Budget Bytes is a blog designed to help people make low-cost, delicious food, and the recipe we got was SO good!

We wound up making this recipe, and Patsy and I both agree it was way better than it had any business being!

P: Okay, so let’s face it. When it comes to food, I’m not really that hard to please. I can eat anything and everything. So when I asked Walter to choose any recipe, I had full confidence that I was going to enjoy whatever it was going to be. This recipe, however, exceeded expectations in such a delightful way!

I looked at the ingredients and didn’t really think much of them, but who knew that soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, and brown sugar is all you really need to make the perfect sauce? I may be exaggerating, but that’s also because I can still remember every delectable bite of the noodles.

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Green onion counts as a vegetable, right?
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W: My eyes have been opened to garlic’s magical cooking power
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Not pictured: Patsy and Walter drooling over how amazing this looked and smelled
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And this was only the first serving! The recipe made enough for us both to have seconds

Let us know what you think if you decide to try it!

– P + W