Malachi 3:10-11 :: Tithing and Miracles

Bring ye all the atithes into the storehouse, that there may be bmeat in mine house, and cprove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not dopen you the ewindows of heaven, and pour you out a fblessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will arebuke the bdevourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:10-11

I was called to speak on tithing last Sunday. Tithing is one of those principles (along with the Word of Wisdom) that is emphasized continually in the Vietnamese Branch, so I wanted to take a different spin on the topic. No harping at the members for not paying their tithing (many do), but maybe give several practical examples of the blessings of tithing. While I was preparing, I shared with my wife what angle I was trying to take on it and she said, "Yeah, tell them that when you pay tithing first, you have to budget your money, therefore you don't spend it all on little things, therefore you have enough to make ends meet, even though you have less money than if you didn't pay tithing." My initial reaction (I'm not too proud of this one) was to say, "No, no, no, don't play down the miracle, don't explain away the blessing and attribute it to budgeting." Then I stopped. She had a point. The Lord is not impractical; in fact, he intentionally uses "small means" to confound the wise (Alma 37:7). I am one who frequently falls into the trap of expecting the "magic" instead of the "miracle." We are recipients of the blessings of tithing and I know that those who keep this law will receive the same blessings, but that doesn't mean that money falls from the sky or grows on the shrubs on our back porch. Sometimes, when we really need it, the money will appear in our hands. But in the daily grind, the mundane blessings and miracles come as... well, wise budgeting. Same with healings. Back in the old days, healings were one of the most sought-after miracles, so why don't we see the apostles traveling the world and healing large multitudes of people? Has the miracle of healing ended? No, but it is now a common miracle that we face on a daily basis, in the form of medicine and technology, hospitals and treatment centers offering services for all kinds of diseases. The miracle lies in the vast armies of volunteers traveling to poor country and administering medical aid to the less fortunate of the earth.

So I hope, with the help of my wife, I can start seeing the miracles that surround me everyday. If not, then...

Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; (Alma 37:41)


Election Time!!

Well, it's election season again. For anyone who knows where I work, you'll know that this means a lot to me. A lot of work, that is. I just got home from work right now and it's a beautiful Saturday afternoon. That's okay, not as bad as some and it pays the bills. Actually, I'm very blessed to have this job, but that's another story. I just wanted everyone to know how much I love flyers. Especially election flyers that try to get me to believe something about some candidate that I know is not true. I've actually started keeping certain flyers that I think were particularly ludicrous or perhaps stated something worth while. Actually, I've started keeping most of the election flyers that flood my mailbox, like this one for Tom Umberg, and putting them to use. I think that's why I love these flyers so much... (click on image to see...)


An intimate relationship...

...with the road. I've been riding my bike to work for the last, um, forever, and I just realized something this morning. A car drove by me this morning, passing probably a few inches from my arm. The thought hit me, "I trust the road with my life." A man was killed a few years ago because his bike tire hit the curb and bounced him into traffic. Everyday I hop on my bike and start the 2-mile ride to work over bumpy, cracky, constructiony Santa Ana roads, always with a prayer that all will go well. It is a form of relationship, intimate in the fact that I give all my trust away to the unknown and hope for the best.

I got the biking fever from the missionary days, and then again when I thought about training for a marathon and the next day my knee gave out in the middle of a 6-miler and has never really been the same since. I took up biking and my bike - both the old mission clunker and the new 10-speed, 10-dollar garage-sale special I got two years ago- has grown to become another appendage. After a full week of bike riding, I always feel like things are moving so slowly on the weekend. 'Why aren't I going faster?' I wonder as I walk.

This post was inspired by Triết's post, briefly mentioning his bike in an entry all about cold weather. I used to ride bikes with him from member's houses to investigators' homes, until he got a nasty stomach condition that came from excess oatmeal consumption. Oh, wait.. no, that was Mẫu. I think Triết suffered from a broken lung. Anyway, we had some good times, especially when Mẫu took a nose dive into the sprinkler ditch and when Hiếu got hit by a car. Oh wait, that was a not good time. Thinking about that makes me want to put my bike away for good.


Why I love socal

I just got a call from my mom today. She said that the weather in Utah is beautiful today - "it's a balmy 10 degrees this morning" I believe were her exact words. I hope anyone from Southern California reading this will realize that the chilly 42 degrees we try to bear in January and February is still above the freezing point of most liquids, whereas 10 degrees freezes the snot solid in your nose. Many people tell me that the weather in Southern California is perfect, but they are the same people that tell me it is the weather here that makes a 700-square-foot condo with one bedroom and no land worth $300,000. That's pretty expensive weather.

All this talk about nice weather (and yes, I have been talking to myself) makes me think about why I love socal. Is it the temperate climate that keeps me here? Or is it the traffic? Probably neither. Here's a look into a few mundane reasons as to why I love socal somuch:

The image display script is called Lightbox JS v2.0.
I highly recommend it - I'm sure you'll agree when you see the pics.
So that's why I live in Orange County. Forget the Vietnamese community down here, my wife's family, all my friends and schooling and job down here... I just like raking needles and dodging stray shopping carts.


150 nông dân biểu tình tại Hà Nội đòi đền bù đất

It's happening again. Farmers in Vietnam are fed up with the local leaders seizing their farms land and making it into train stations and business offices. According to this article, hundreds of farmers lost their lands in Hà Đông and only received a very small compensation. For the sake of these people, I hope that the government will give them proper compensation for their loss. But this incident speaks of a larger issue - that of oppression on the local level. Nhà nước is pro at turning a blind eye, which only widens the local officials' influence over the people, usually for the negative. I'm sure there are tỉnh where the officials have a genuine interest in the people, just like in this country, but it's difficult for them keep their integrity in a system where hối lộ is the vehicle on the political road map. Anyway, enough of that. No theorizing will help the people in that picture right now. Only praying. Hopefully they win. Last year, several protesters actually won back their property (I'm still looking for the article), so there is hope.


Luke 14:7-11 - Pride and Prejudice

And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the achief rooms; saying unto them, when thou art abidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the alowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up bhigher: then shalt thou have cworship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever aexalteth himself shall be babased; and he that chumbleth himself shall be exalted.
Luke 14:7-11

Wow, I don't remember reading this specific parable before. It is very clear in it's illustration of exalting or abasing oneself. It gives a concrete definition of pride, namely that one presumes a higher status than others. We all have this problem with pride, but the world is wont to twist it into an acceptable tendency and give it a different name such as bias or being partial. Isn't all prejudice based on this pride, on the presumption that we as American or white or Mormon are somehow inherently higher, and all other "categories" of people that are not affiliated with one's own "category" are somehow inherently lower? The Lord is very clear about what is in store for those with such pride. On the other hand, for those who automatically assume a lower position when met with traditional or social or racial or religious difference, the blessings are exaltation, not by one's own puny power but by the forces that created and are maintaining the universe.


The people I look up to

I remember babysitting them when mom and dad would go out. I remember playing swamp monster with them on the trampoline on hot Sunday afternoons. I remember going to Disneyland with them and screaming in the Haunted Mansion and running around with the Mad Hatter. But that was a long time ago and now they're all taller than me.

Here's the latest from one of my little sisters in Japan:

So, I went to Nasu on P-day which is why I didn`t write this on Thursday. You`ll have to forgive me if my punctuation is a bit off. Somebody rearranged some of the keys on me. . . but I guess all the letters are in the same place.
Yeah, so my comp is awesome! She is a go-getting, hard-working, Japanese-speaking, fun-loving, hula-dancing, dendo(missionary work) machine!!!! This is her last transfer, so I get to kill her off.
Man, I lucked out! Oyama is the Mecca of sister missionaries in the TOKN mission. Everyone wants to be here and I can see why. The members are loving, concerned member-missionaries in the best way. So great! And they LOVE missionaries, so we are well fed and looked-after. Too well-fed, actually.

She's serving her mission in Japan right now and is "on fire" as we say. I think she's the smartest person I've met, or at least has the best English grammar. I used to be really jealous of her because she was the second child and stole my fire, and now I'm really jealous of her because she gets full-ride scholarships and goes to Japan on her mission. Or maybe it's more like "holy envy."

My next little sister is an artist. Not just a visual artist (that's all I can show here), but an artist of words and music and life. I remember sitting with her at the old piano downstairs in the Cooley house and teaching her the theme song to Jurassic Park, and wondering how she could learn it so fast when she couldn't even read the music. Now she creates her own music and her own life and both are uniquely hers.

My little brother is tough. I hope he doesn't remember this, but I used to push him around a little bit more than everyone else during swamp monster because I wanted him to be the "man" of the siblings - I was more of the "brain" or the "lego-master" or something puny like that. Now he could beat the crap out of me if he wanted to, but he wouldn't because I hear from everyone that he has a heart of gold. (my bro's in black - he might not have the technique yet, but he's sure got the strength, at least to crush this guy's head in):

If it doesn't work, click here

I love these guys. I don't see them often enough anymore to really express that, but I think about them all the time. I don't think they know that. They don't know that I pray for them by name, but I do. They don't know I check their myspaces to see what life is doing to them, but I do. They don't know I would do anything to help them avoid the stupid mistakes I made at that age, but I would. And it's funny because I'm kind of stuck between the "big brother" and "little brother" stage. I've watched out for them my whole life, but I think the time is coming (or already here, or long gone) that they don't need it anymore. So now what do I do? I guess just see them for who they are now, not 10 years ago. Siblings? Yes. Little? No. Friends? Definitely.


This is America! Everyone Learn English

"This is America. Why doesn't everyone just learn English?"

Working for a government agency that is required by law to provide voting materials in 4 languages besides English to voters who are "supposed" to know English already because they are citizens, I have heard this question more times than I can shake a stick at (more times than at which I can shake a stick? ah, forget it). I'm still not sure whether or not it's rhetorical, but I do have a few "feel good" answers for those agitated non-non-English-speaking voters. Yesterday, I found another: "Why don't you?" I took this picture at my condo complex, which is governed by a board of older, whiter people. Signs around this complex are always a bit lacking, but this one was classic. My wife told me I shouldn't laugh so much about it (maybe our kids will end up having poor English), but I couldn't help it. One's whole life in America and English is still evasive. It happens to me, too, as I'm sure you'll see by reading my other posts. Please let me know when my English leaves much to be desired. I'll be sure to correct my English must be corrected.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)