An Open Letter to Heart of God Church – Part 1

Hi, readers. Today, I am writing and sharing with you a post that is really important to me. In fact, I believe it is the most important one I’ve written yet. It will also probably be broken down into a few parts because I have way too many personal thoughts and stories to share to keep it within one readable post.

But first, before I begin, just a little background about myself; I am a Christian and have been attending Heart of God Church for close to 8 years now. I volunteer in the church on a regular basis and to me, church is a Home.

At this point, you are probably thinking – why did I decide to write this post now? No one told me to do so, nor do I have anything to gain out of this (at least not from anyone I know). Well, I am writing this for myself. I am writing this so that I will always remember to keep a heart of gratitude. Because a sense of gratitude is what prevents a sense of entitlement.

I know – the words “open letter” are commonly used in widely published articles with the purpose of criticism. But I think it’s time for us to redeem the name of open letters! After all, some of the oldest pieces of open letters were not used to criticize or attack, but to bring faith, hope and love to people.

hogc-my-home

I am referring to the epistles of Apostle Paul, which can be found in the Bible. Sure, there are many parts of these letters that challenge character growth and change. But all these are done from a heart of love. I really like how Paul begins his letters:

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Galatians 1:1–3 (NLT)

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

While I am not an apostle nor anywhere near Paul’s greatness, I certainly feel I can learn a thing or two (or more) from him. We can surely all grow to be people of peace and thanksgiving, don’t you think?

Haha anyway, that was quite a lengthy intro. Let’s begin with the main content of this letter, shall we?

I want to start by saying this: to Heart of God Church, its pastors, leaders, volunteers and members – thank you.

Over the past 8 years, you have taught me what it truly means to belong, to believe and to become. To be more specific, I am going to take the rest of this open letter to explain what I mean. Let me first talk about belonging.

What it means to Belong

When I first stepped into Heart of God Church, I was 15 years-old. I was doing relatively well in life! In school, I was scoring good grades and was also the president of a co-curricular activity (CCA). At home, I lived with a supportive grandma and a loving mother. We didn’t lack anything financially, so whenever I wanted something, most of the time, I got it.

I was living quite a simple life, but I was happy! Perhaps, it was also because I had a good bunch of friends. During school hours, we were serious about schoolwork together. After school hours, however, we became gaming buddies, going on quests and slaying monsters in the virtual world until bedtime.

I talk about all these things because when I mentioned “belonging”, the natural instinct for a lot of you might be to paint a picture of me as some boy from a broken family without love or care. Or maybe you imagined a person without any friends. I personally know people like that whose lives have been redeemed & turned around 180 degrees by the love of God and His people. But that is not my story.

The truth is for me, up until that point in time, I never thought my life could get any happier and have any more meaning or purpose. I was happy just living for the fun and excitement in the day-to-day. Maybe some of you can relate to this. I didn’t think there was a need for God or church in my life.

That all changed on May 29, 2011 when I stepped into Heart of God Church for the very first time. The moment I entered the auditorium, I knew there was something different about this place. Not gonna lie – what really amazed me at first were the colorful lights, cool music and lively atmosphere. But when I left that day, what left the deepest impression on me was the people.

I still remember very fondly that on that day, after service ended, I was about to leave the building together with my cousin who brought me there. But I was given a pleasant surprise by everyone I met that day in church! Turns out, my cousin had previously revealed to them that my birthday was a few days away. So they decided to surprise me with a cake and birthday song, even though it was only their first time meeting me!

Now, to some of you, you might think this would be a really awkward situation. But for me, I was just grinning from ear to ear. Haha, I just felt it was so sweet of these people to decide to do something like that for me, even though we were not close.

Over the next few weeks and months, I came back to church together with my cousin. The people in church got to know me better, I got to know them better. And I realized that these are really genuine people, who weren’t just being friendly with me. They actually wanted to be my friends. And let me tell you, there is a huge difference between being friendly and being a friend.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” 

― C.S. Lewis

To be continued…

Why I Think Spider-Man: Far From Home is NOT a Spoiler for Avengers: Endgame

Alright, I assume that most people reading this already knows about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or at least the Avengers films in general. So I will spare no time for introductions and jump right into why I think the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer spoils probably nothing about Avengers: Endgame.

far-from-home

I’ve been thinking about the Far From Home trailer since it was released last week. A lot of people liked it, are hyped about the movie, but are also concerned about what it means for Endgame. We all know that at the end of Infinity War (spoiler alert), Peter Park, along with many of the heroes disintegrated into dust and faded away from existence. Nick Fury and Maria Hill were also shown to be victims of this in a post-credits scene.

Moviegoers were left to presume that these characters have died and were wiped out together with half of all living creatures in the world. This made Infinity War‘s sequel – Endgame highly anticipated as fans just couldn’t wait to find out how the remaining Avengers are going to fix or undo Thanos’ destruction. In fact, it was still a mystery whether they do so or not.

This kind of changed last week with the release of the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home. It is known that Far From Home is going to be set after the events of Endgame and will kick off Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That poses a problem because we now know that Peter Parker, his friends, Nick Fury, Maria Hill all survived/came back to life.

It kinda tells us how Endgame is going to play out – or does it?

First of all, I trust the people at Marvel and Sony. Ever since Avengers: Infinity War, I am convinced that not everything shown in trailers are going to be in the actual movie itself. It is highly unlikely, but what if the scenes we have seen so far in the Far From Home trailer aren’t going to be part of the movie? Even if my optimism is misplaced, and the trailer does eventually prove to have spoiled certain scenes, character developments and plot points in the upcoming films, I believe these details will not be important.

What do I mean by that? I mean that these so called “spoilers” that people are talking about from the trailer will not reveal the most important plot points or key moments in Endgame. Hence, even if we have watched the Far From Home trailer, it will not ruin or take away from our enjoyment of the Avengers film.

Just think about Spider-Man: Homecoming. Sure, there were things that I wished wasn’t shown in its trailers – like how Tony intervened Peter’s heroic attempts. But that eventually still did nothing to diminish my positive experience of the movie (spoiler alert). Some of the biggest twists and moments for me turned out to be the reveal of Vulture’s true identity as Liz’s father, Peter’s journey as a hero without his suit, and even how Pepper showed up at the end.

Now, recall Avengers: Infinity War. The trailers were stitched together in such a clever way and even included scenes not in the film. That gave fans a general idea of what the movie was going to be like, revealing certain information, yet doing so without giving away the important parts of the movie.

For example, fans could guess from the trailers that Thor was going to forge Stormbreaker. You could say that was a spoiler! However, so many people still enjoyed Infinity War and see it as one of the best superhero films of all time. Why was that so? Because though we sort of knew that Stormbreaker was going to be forged, we didn’t know how it was going to be forged with Groot’s arm. We didn’t know that Thor was going to make an epic entrance into Wakanda, eventually driving his powerful new axe into Thanos’ chest, yet still failing to save the universe.

A lot of us enjoy movies not just because we don’t know what is going to happen, but how it is going to happen. The best stories and plots aren’t just those that present to us scenario after scenario, but brings us through a thought-provoking, unexpected and beautiful process of getting from one point in the narrative to another.

And that is why I think the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer or even the fact we know the movie exists, is not a spoiler for Avengers: Endgame. Because while we now know that some characters made it out of Endgame, it is only a snapshot and preview of its real story. A real spoiler is one that tells us something way too important, like a twist or a turning point in the narrative that would reveal how things are going to play out.

And honestly, the possibilities are endless. We only know that there is a Spider-Man film set after Endgame, and Spider-Man and some allies are going to be in it. How do we know for sure that they do get resurrected and return from The Snap? With recent speculations about time travel apparently being a huge part of Endgame, how do we know for sure that Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t set on an alternate timeline where The Snap didn’t happen at all? For all we know, that could be why everything and everyone seems so normal in the Spider-Man trailer, like as if not half of everyone just disappeared and reappeared. Everyone is like “Oh, Let’s move on with life!”

Man, I hope I didn’t just spoil myself. LOL.

Anyway, until April comes and the real, final cut of Avengers: Endgame is released in its entirety and we see something from that, nothing is a spoiler. In fact, nothing can be a spoiler for any film unless we believe it is one.

p.s. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is the coolest Marvel villain to date. Change my mind.

What I Learned about Commas

Comma.” I am pretty sure a lot of you visiting this blog are wondering – why that name?

Well, the simplest way for me to begin answering that question is for us to first think about what a comma is. Most of us would know by basic linguistic knowledge that a comma is a punctuation mark that indicates a pause or a short interval between parts of a sentence.

A comma is not a full stop/period. It is only a temporary stop. When we read a sentence off a page, like now, we know that when a comma appears, there is more to be said.

So while we pause to take a short breather at commas, we do not stop there forever. We know it’s not the end of the story. In other words, commas are only a short delay before we move on to the rest of what the writer has to offer.

“Okay, man. Commas are cool. We get it! But are you saying you named your blog after commas because you over-analyzed them?”

Not exactly.

One day, when I was thinking about what to name my new blog, “Comma” just dropped into my mind. And as I thought more about it, it just made too much sense for me to ignore it.

Firstly, I enjoy writing. Using a punctuation mark as my blog’s name just seems so appropriate, doesn’t it?

But secondly and more importantly, the word “comma” reminds me of lessons I’ve learned over the past year. I believe that most, if not some of you can relate to this. We all have certain dreams, visions and goals that we want to achieve. And I’m no different.

But over the past year, there were so many moments that I wanted to give up. It seemed like no matter how much I prayed or how hard I tried, I just could not experience breakthrough on a level I was hoping for.

Sometimes I questioned if I really was living out my purpose and calling in life. It was a season when it seemed like my life took several pauses. It felt like my dreams were delayed. I thought maybe that’s the end of the story for my breakthroughs. “Is this it?” I asked sometimes, having thoughts of putting a full stop to a sentence & story that has yet to be fully revealed to me.

But thank God I did not give in and give up. See, as a Christian, I believe in Jesus and the Bible. And something that always kept me going were the promises He laid out for us in Scripture.

While I experienced discouragement now and then, constantly reminding myself of God’s Word always gave me faith to fight for the things I believed in.

I would probably say my personal Verse of 2018 is the one that says:

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

While initially, I held on to these words with faith, I eventually experienced it in such a real way at the end of the year. I had the best Christmas season of my life and everything I have been hoping for the entire year came to pass.

So why did I name my blog “Comma“?

Because it reminds me of how sometimes, while we think it’s the end of the story for us – our dreams, our blessings, our breakthroughs, our joy… it really isn’t the case.

God is a good God. This is what He says:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

God wants us to have peace! He is not evil and does not place problems into our lives intentionally. He also wants us to have a great future. So if it doesn’t end well, then it just means it’s not the end yet. The Writer – our God has more to offer. He has more to say and do!

These so called “obstacles”, “setbacks”, “delays” and “moments of silence” do not indicate the end of our story. They are only but commas that God has allowed to be placed into our lives to prepare, grow, change and expand us so that our heart, mind, character and spirit will be ready for the rest of the story He has written for us.

The problem with some of us is that we place a full stop in areas of our lives where God has meant for a comma, and place a comma in areas where God has meant for a full stop.

Friends, let us never place a full stop in our lives where God has meant for a comma.

I can’t imagine if I just gave up and stopped believing for my own breakthroughs or stopped trusting in God. I would never have experienced the joy and miracles that came after the “comma”.

Of course, not all “commas” are bad. A short break, a vacation, holidays, recreational activities or a certain nice blog makes up for some pretty “good commas”. But no matter what kind of comma we find ourselves in, let’s always remember – stories don’t end here.

A fresh start.

Hi everyone. It’s about 3AM right now as I am writing this, but I can’t get more excited.

Today is the day I am officially launching this new blog I call Comma. That’s right, I am so “creative” I decided to name my blog using punctuation.

Jokes aside, I know it looks kinda empty right now, but stay tuned! I promise with 50% confidence (perfectly balanced according to Thanos) that over the next couple of days, I will be sharing my first few posts with all of you.

I think one of them might even give you a little explanation for the name of my blog… who knows?

Anyway, you can subscribe to this blog using the “Follow” feature at the bottom right of this page and be notified when new posts are up. Or you can not do that and just come here daily to check for updates if you prefer inconvenience!

Haha alright, I think it’s time for me to go to bed. If you are reading this, I welcome you as the first guests to my humble (online) abode.

I am honored to have your time. So to thank you, I present to you a random low poly artwork I saw on the Internet, yay!

low-poly-artwork
An appropriate photo (it’s a new day after all) for a fresh start on a new blog!

Feel free to visit again, my friend. Stick around and I’ll see you around.