Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Scythe is NOT a Good Weapon

Recently I realized that there are things in life that we would take for granted, from little to great.
In Matthew 13, Jesus presented a parable of the wheat and tares:

The Parable of the Weeds
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

And later on when His disciples asked, He explained to them:

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

And here I realized one tiny detail: the harvesters are angels”. Jesus portrays angels as harvesters – reapers. So the angel of death becomes the grim reaper, the harvester of the souls, and that’s why his/her weapon of choice is the scythe. And that’s why it’s mind-blowing to me.

I realized that there were obvious questions that I never had asked. Why death is symbolized as the “grim reaper”? Why not “fate tailor”, “life burglar”, or “soul destroyer”? Why is the weapon the scythe and not something more efficient? Surely scythes never was among the dominant battle tools in the history of war! No king ever said, “Prepare for battle! Have the scythes ready!” But I never wondered why. Maybe not many people did.

But now I know the answer. Such popular image of death was inspired by a short parable that Jesus told 2,000 years ago to a group of ancient Israelite red-necks.

Maybe there are other things in life that we don’t ever question. And maybe for many of them, the answer is God.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Some warm-up sketch for the new year. Here's to a laid-back 2017! I'll try to blog more often this year.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Prepare a Low-Budget Wedding Altar

For our wedding, my wife and I decided to have the simplest, smallest one we could possibly get. So I tried to decorate the altar myself. If you are someone who is un-crafty and low-budgeted, this post would be a good reference.

Step 1: Scouting

I always want to make sure of what I have to work with, and the ideas will have to be built upon that. Our ceremony is at a park and out spot looks like this:

At this point, I have to figure out where exactly the groom, the bride, and the minister are going to stand, and also which path the bride will be walking.

  • Because we do it outside, I have to think of plan B which it will rain.
  • After figure out what path the bride will be walking on, I literally walk on it at the leisure speed and time myself so that the music’ length can be appropriately adjusted. (Her walk was 50 seconds by the way).
  • For the longest of time, the park was empty but our wedding took place during the Pokemon Go hype, so we had many weirdos wandering everywhere catching pokemons which was unexpected. Luckily we had some scary-looking guest who prevented any intrusion.

Step 2: Designing/Sketching

First I sketch roughly the altar to figure out what sort of things I want to do with the spot.

Now I measure all necessary dimensions and write it down on my sketch. This would be a very good reference for me as I won’t have to keep coming back to the park to double check something.

Deciding what decors to go with can be time consuming. I google quite a bit to see what an altar looks like, what I want and can do to achieve my vision the closest.

Now that I have what I need in mind, I go shopping. (It’s actually not that bad!)

Step 3: Shopping

My rough list:
  • Some wooden sticks
  • Some crafting strings 
  • Some crafting paper sheets in different colors
  • A lot of tiny flowers
  • Some bundles of flowers
  • Rose petals for the bride’s walking path
  • Stuff like tape measure, hot glue, a pencil, etc.
Hobby Lobby has most of what I need, but they carry good-quality but therefore pricier stuff. I got the plywood and the strings there. The flowers and the construction paper sheets I got from Walmart. I got 2 bags of rose petals from Dollar Tree for $1.00 each. They are perfectly good to be stepped on.

Step 4: Preparing

First I use the construction paper to fold cranes and hearts. You want to use the colorful ones that mirror the flowers. So no black or brown or grey. If you cannot find Origami instructions for cranes and hearts, you certainly can cut the sheets into shapes – whatever shapes you like! The sizes need to be somewhat consistent, however.

I want the cranes and hearts to spread out evenly so I “map” them all out on a piece of paper.

Now I link them together and to the sticks by strings and make them stick with hot glue. When I’m done, I hang them up and wait for the glue to dry. It doesn’t take much time to dry at all.

Step 5: Putting up Decors

Since the altar is outside, I cannot put up the decors until right before the ceremony. You’ll want to set out 45-60 minutes for this activity in case something comes up you would have time to react.


Things go together quite nicely! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to take any picture of the finished altar :( Bummer! Here are a couple pictures during the ceremony so you’ll have some idea.

Though it was low-budgeted and simplistic, our wedding was still so blessed and she still said “I do” so I’d say Mission Accomplished. By sharing this humble experience, we sincerely that it would help new couples on their altar-preparing endeavor no matter what kind of resources are available. After all, what’s in the heart that counts.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


You are
Soft like a fluffy cat
Pure like Noah’s dove that found life
Someone I can love
Someone I call “wife”
My wife.

I am no frog but you’re my princess
You draw a giraffe that looks like a dinosaur
I love your cuteness

You think you are fat
And your cheeks are chubby
Cuz I kiss you too much

The world don’t like us
The Church don’t like us
But let’s try to love them without any dispute
We’re just some ugly people
Who are cute.

My life now is tough
And my hair is gray
But this “burden” I would never lift
Cuz you’re my gift
From God
So it’s okay.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Strange Family

I knew of a family about 10 years ago and they were wonderful. Their oldest daughter was my high-school classmate, the best student in my class. The family had two more of their own children: a bid and tall middle-child son (who would be totally cool with me marrying his big sister) and a little daughter. There was an idea of my brother Holden and I getting married with the two sisters “because they have good food.”

Besides the three aforementioned children, they adopted three more, two from the Philippines and one from somewhere in the States I’m not sure. All six were great kids, well-behaved, and loved as far as I could tell. It might be because the parents had such big hearts. The father is about the coolest girlfriend’s daddy one can have: he would act like a scary father then immediately laughed with us about it. The mother was the sweetest. One time I got to hear her share how thankful she was for their marriage, that even though they weren’t wealthy and there were times they had to eat a lot of beans but they were blessed, that it’s amazing how this relationship she had with her husband would equip her to one day be with God. The sweetest thing was when they told me that though I already had a great American family, they would also always be there for me in Montana if I ever needed another Home. It meant to me a lot.

But things started to turn weird. Not that I was into their oldest daughter or anything, but this prospective bride of mine started to be a lot more masculine in college.  It’s not just that her hair was already impossibly short, but she became… thicker and broader. The explanation I got was because of drinking beer – which makes sense. You look at high-school girls and see that most of them are energetic and pretty; you look at college girls and the majority is unappealing and sluggish; and the only new variable here is college parties a.k.a. beer consumption. So I told my little sister not to drink beer in college and she looked at me weird.

But who does what to oneself is usually none of my business. Not that I was planning to get married with the oldest daughter but even if I do, her brother would no longer be cool with it. In fact, he started disliking me after I left Montana. It’s amazing: through him I learned that people can still hate you even if you do absolutely nothing to them. And he hated me bad. Until this day I still sometimes wonder what could possibly have gone wrong between us. What a shame because I actually liked him, writing on his yearbook and all. When I asked my mom about that, she said how the military changed him, and that I wasn’t missing anything. Um Okay…?

Maybe the saddest thing happened was that both of the Filipino children left when they grew up – and in bad terms too. Full of resentment, they left and changed their last names to the ones they were born with as if to put all the experience with the American family into denial. Being adopted can easily be panful, especially when the child realizes he//she can never be considered their parents’ true child. But this family was so nice and tried so hard to make all their adopted children feel included. When the children left, under a picture of their “remaining” children, the mother captioned “Some of our children”. That’s so sad and so nice! Their hearts must have been broken.

The next strange thing happened was that the mother started taking on bodybuilding. To start something so physically demanding in the late 40s is both unusual and impressive. What makes it rather strange to my conservative eyes is to see my classmate’s mom in tight bikinis being extremely tanned and muscular. But really, I mean, who I am to judge? After all, God doesn’t say “You shall not take on hardcore bodybuilding if you are a middle-aged woman.” He only tells us to love them even if they do that.

Well, at least they are loving, right? Isn’t that the most important? The mother was a pretty awesome daughter-in-law when she called her husband’s mother “mother-in-love”. When her “mother-in-love” died, it brought her great sadness. Then one day I heard that they were getting a divorce. Wow. Okay. That’s… odd. But why?! What about those days that they ate beans? What about the “mother-in-love”? What amount of drastic changes can one expect for a family to occur?

But then again, what do I know? It may not be like that at all. It’s their family business, not mine. I know nothing.

It just pains me to see the family that I once found so great now falling apart.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chuyện Tôi Thời Trẻ (P. 4) - Chuyện Tôi Ngồi Học

Dạo này tự nhiên tôi nhớ về thời học cấp Hai.

Hồi đó ba tôi chú trọng việc học tập của tôi lắm, đầu tư cho nguyên cái bàn học hoành tráng. Cái bàn có bao nhiêu ngăn kệ, thừa chỗ cho tôi đựng đủ mọi thứ. Đó là một nơi lý tưởng để người ta sáng tác thơ văn hay này sinh những ý tưởng vĩ đại. Hoặc là để học. Tôi chậm lớn trong tư tưởng và nhân cách nên hồi ấy đâu có dùng nơi này để làm được điều chi vĩ đại. Và cũng chẳng học hành là mấy.

Cảm hứng học hành đến với tôi năm lớp 12, có nghĩa là cả thời cấp Hai tôi học đại khái cho có. (Vậy mà không hiểu sao vẫn đều đặn lên lớp một cách đáng sợ.) Bài tập về nhà tôi thường không làm, bài cũ tuần trước cần ôn lại tôi không bao giờ ôn; nói chung là tôi đã trải qua rất nhiều buổi tối không học chút xíu nào cả. Khổ một nỗi là, ba tôi chú trọng việc học tập của tôi lắm.

Vào buổi tối, cứ mỗi lần tôi không ngồi học mà đi chơi hay làm cái gì đó khác thì ba tôi sẽ hỏi “học xong chưa?”, và nếu tôi trả lời là “dạ rồi” thì ông sẽ kiểm tra xem có những bài gì và tôi đã học hết thiệt chưa. Vấn đề là nếu trong m
ột buổi tối tôi chịu ngồi học chăm chỉ 100% thì vẫn sẽ không thể vượt qua được sự khảo sát rất gắt gao của ba tôi, thành ra cái sự “học xong hết rồi” nó viển vông như một con heo màu hồng bay qua bầu trời xanh thẳm.

Vậy nên những ngày tháng cấp Hai là những ngày tháng tôi ngồi ở bàn học và làm những chuyện nhảm nhí. Tôi ngồi đó vẽ vời, nghĩ ngợi, và mơ tưởng. Trò chơi ưa thích nhất của tôi lúc đó là cầm một tay một cây bút và cho hai bàn tay… đánh nhau như hai chiến binh giác đấu. Ngón giữa là cái đầu, hai ngón trỏ và áp út là hai cánh tay cầm vũ khí (cây bút) với sự hỗ trợ của ngón cái. Chiến binh tay phải giỏi võ hơn và hung hăng hơn nên thường đánh thắng. Chiến binh tay trái thì hiền lành tốt bụng hay giúp bà lão băng qua đường. Đồng hồ chỉ 10 giờ tối thì hai bạn không đánh nhau nữa và tôi thì đánh răng đi ngủ.

Cái bàn học ấy giờ vẫn còn nằm ở nhà ba mẹ tôi ở Việt Nam, trơ trọi không ai dùng. Hai cái ngăn bàn vẫn chứa đựng bao kỉ niệm của cuộc đời tôi hồi mới lớn.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Chuyện Tôi Thời Trẻ (P. 3) - Chuyện Lan Thanh

Dạo này tự nhiên tôi nhớ về thời học cấp Hai.

Là thằng con trai sinh cuối năm cho nên tôi biết yêu trễ hơn người khác. Lớp Bốn thì các bạn nữ đã bắt đầu thích mình, đến lớp Năm thì các bạn nam đã đã bắt đầu thích các bạn nữ mà thích mình ấy. Riêng tôi vẫn chưa thích ai, vẫn còn nhìn mọi người với một tấm lòng trong sáng.

Lên lớp Sáu thì trong lớp có một bạn nữ nhỏ nhắn dễ thương được con trai cả lớp thích cho nên tôi cũng… hùa theo đám đông mà bắt chước thích theo. Tạm gọi bạn là Tiểu Tống. Thế là lớp Sáu tôi suốt ngày thổ lộ tình cảm của tôi về Tiểu Tống cho cô bạn ngồi bên cạnh là Đại Đường nghe. Một thời gian sau cô giáo chuyển Đại Đường đi ngồi chỗ khác thì tôi lại nhận ra mình thích Đại Đường vô cùng, thích hết một thời học cấp Hai dai dẳng. Nhưng đây không phải là câu chuyện về Đại Đường hay Tiểu Tống. Đây là chuyện về Lan Thanh.

Lan Thanh và tôi ngồi cạnh nhau trong lớp tiếng Anh của cô Hoa Kỳ. Cô Hoa Kỳ dạy thì hay, Lan Thanh thì xinh, tôi thì đôi khi học giỏi… nhất lớp nên khoảng thời gian ấy trôi qua đẹp như một giấc mơ. Tôi không biết tôi học cách yêu từ ai, nhưng tôi yêu say đắm một cách lạnh lùng. Say đắm là vì lòng tôi chẳng còn ai khác, tâm trí tôi là một tương lai lãng mạn, đẹp đẽ cùng em. Còn lạnh lùng là vì tôi… thà chết chứ không nói ra bao giờ. Ngày 8 tháng 3 năm lớp 6, tôi mua hai cái thiệp, một cái cho mẹ còn cái kia cho Lan Thanh. Mượn cả chục cái bút bi màu của Tiểu Tống tôi nắn nót viết:

Lan Thanh,
I love you very much!

Viết có nhiêu đó câu mà lòng tôi rụng cả trăm lần.

Buổi tối đến lớp của cô Hoa Kỳ cũng là nhà của cổ. Tôi bước đến ngồi cạnh Lan Thanh; cái thiệp kia thì nằm trong cặp. Tôi mở cặp ra và nhìn tấm thiệp. Tôi cầm lên đưa cho Lan Thanh. Lan Thanh ngạc nhiên, đọc và mỉm cười. Thế là từ đó chúng tôi quen nhau, và 20 năm sau thì lấy nhau.

Và đó là câu chuyện của sự tưởng tượng. Sự thật thì là tôi đã bỏ tấm thiệp đó lại vào cặp, rút tấm thiệp còn lại ra đi vào trong bếp, viết vội mấy chữ “Chúc mừng 8-3 vui vẻ” rồi mang ra đưa cho Lan Thanh. Lan Thanh đọc và nói khẽ:

- Trời, tưởng gì…!

Một đặc điểm khác trong cách yêu “lạnh lùng + say đắm” của tôi lúc ấy là khi nghe em nói em đã có bạn trai thì thì tôi quyết định không thích em nữa ngay lập tức. Chắc là theo kiểu “I love you enough to let you go” hay gì gì đó.

Gần 20 năm sau tôi gặp lại Lan Thanh trên Facebook thần thánh. Kí ức năm xưa tràn về mà nay trở nên hai người xa lạ. Có biết là trong một thế giới khác, ta đã lấy nhau rồi không?