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Meditations on 2013: A year in review

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Around this time last year, I was busy preparing for my Ph.D. application. I had just finished my Greek exegesis course and was busily doing research and writing for my writing sample. I had spoken with my thesis supervisor and decided that it would be better to write a brand-new writing sample based on my proposed dissertation topic so I can have a good base of research before heading into the program. This year, all the planning and the preparations to achieve this goal reached its fruition. I am delighted to say that I have finished my first semester of Ph.D. studies! Woohoo!

There are so many times in life when our dreams and our goals can feel like they are so close, yet so far. We can almost grasp it, but it is also a breath away from making it ours. 2013 reminded me of the power of perseverance. It is important to keep going, to keep striving after that illusive dream. Because sometimes, that dream can turn into a reality. But after going through everything, that reality starts feeling like it’s a dream =)

I think it would be disingenuous to say that perseverance is the only factor in achieving one’s goal. More and more, I am convinced and convicted that all my dreams would never happen without the love and the support of the people around me. After all, no man is an island. We are surrounded by people who help us become the people we are, whether they be friends or foes. I am so thankful to have family and friends who cheer me on and are praying for my success. Without them, I would never be able to where I am today. It sounds so cliché but once you factor in all the financial, emotional, spiritual, psychological and intellectual support one needs to achieve anything, it becomes less of a cliché and more as an undeniable fact. We need our communities to survive and thrive. Without them, life is empty.

Yet, as much as I truly value my family and friends for all of the help they have given me, it but pales in comparison with the love and grace that my God gives me on a daily basis. If anything, I see my family and friends as a visible expression of God’s love towards me. It always shames me to no end at how unfaithful I am to Him, and how it is always flabbergasting to know that even when I am faithless, He is always ever faithful to me. Awhile ago, I was talking to a friend about success and how our understanding of success is primarily based on the goal we have set before us. For me, I have said that if I am still in love with God, and actually confounded more this year than the year before about how much love and grace He has given unto me, then that would be a success. If I still yearn to walk in His ways, and grow even stronger in my desire to follow after Him this year than the year before, then that would be a success.

2013 was a success. Let’s hope that 2014 brings even more of it.

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The importance of gratitude

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I recently came back from a week-long vacation in Maine with family and friends. It was great to see so many new places and eat delicious food everyday! The shopping wasn’t bad too =) When I got back home, it was great to see text messages from friends wondering if I was back in Ottawa. It’s always nice to be missed. And as I chatted with friends again and resumed normal daily life, I was yet again struck by how absolutely blessed I am to be surrounded by such amazing people. God’s goodness has been manifested to me, so many times, in the form of family and friends. Thankful doesn’t even begin to describe it. My treasure will never be found in my bank account (being the perpetual student assures me of that… lolz) nor in the material things I may possess. My greatest jewels are in the relationships I have formed over the years with quite possibly the best people in the world.

If my friends were gold (which they are!), they are definitely 24k. I am surrounded by singers, Masters, lawyers, social media experts, social justice activists, doctors, and all around world changers! It literally boggles my mind that I am surrounded by such amazing people. I honestly can’t believe I get to hang out with them because they are so awesome. People usually pay just to hang out with the kind of people I hang out with and I get to do that for free! Seriously, they are that magnificent =)

Yes, my friends are in society’s standards, super amazing. The jobs they have and the positions they are in are traditionally seen in high regard. But beyond the titles, what makes my friends so amazing is the fact that they are kind, gentle, giving, encouraging, and will do anything and everything to make this world a better place. All of my friends possess this great quality. Which is crazy! How did I find so many amazing people in one lifetime?!?

Because of that, I was reminded about the importance of gratitude. Or as my friend Hélène Campbell (@alungstory) would say… it’s an “attitude with a grrrrr”! (And yes, she has her own Wikipedia page. That’s when you know you’ve arrived lolz) I had the privilege to hear her personal story and how she overcame the adversities that life brings. She overcame it magnificently… and with an immense amount of gratitude. That’s the thing about gratitude: once you live it out, it becomes infectious. Through a series of amazing sequence of events, she received another shot at life as she became a recipient of a double lung transplant. Her campaign to raise awareness about organ donation has garnered the attention of celebrities like Justin Bieber and Ellen Degeneres. But more importantly, her campaign has translated into more and more people signing up to be organ donors. You would think that the story would end there. But since I already mentioned that my friends were amazing, there’s more. She has started a foundation to help out families who are on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants. To learn more, please go to www.give2live.ca.

God has definitely spoiled me by surrounding me with a great family and great friends. They continually remind me that I am never alone. To have such a great emotional support network is such a blessing! When the lies of loneliness and isolation creeps in, I only have to hear the sound of a text message with an encouraging story, a tweet of a funny joke, or a wall post of the latest dance craze from a friend to make me smile and remind me that I am never alone. I belong to them and they belong to me.

What are you grateful for?

Thank you!!!

Checked today and http://www.sidsudiacal.com has finally reached its 1000th view! Thanks to all of you who have visited, read, liked, tweeted, +1, subscribed and shared my posts! =) 

The importance of thanksgiving

I have a tendency to complain. I look at the world and I wonder how come I don’t have this or that. I look at people and wish I had what they had. I’m never satisfied. The Bible says that the eyes want a lot of things. It uses the more technical term of “coveting” other stuff. Personally, I’d rather say “I want that” or “I need that” than “I covet that.” It just seems so strong and so wrong. But it is exactly that… very wrong!

The problem with this endless state of wanting and needing is that you end up being unsatisfied ALL THE TIME. It’s only when we take stock of what we actually have that we can start being thankful. One time I was on the bus and just started to think about what I had on me at that time and what startled me was that I easily was worth a thousand bucks. The cost of my shirt, my pants, my underwear, my shoes, my laptop, my iPod touch, and my jewelry combined totalled just about that, if not slightly more. When I say I’m worth a thousand bucks, I sometimes mean it in the most literal sense! It’s in one of those moments of “counting your blessings” that you start realizing how blessed you are. I start thinking of the many Christians who live in oppressive regimes where religious tolerance is more a buzzword than a reality and here I am in a democratically free country. Whenever I hear Christians that say they are being “persecuted” by this post-Christendom society, something within me gets agitated and riled up. At most, what others are doing to you can be called “social ostracism”, NOT persecution. And even then, how much of that is really brought on by your adherence to Christianity versus the fact that your personal attitude towards others border on arrogance and social awkwardness? Are you sure they don’t like you because you’re a Christian or because you act the way you act? (That’s for another blog post!)

This Thanksgiving weekend, I choose to be thankful. I’m thankful for my family who supports me, my friends who are there for me, and for my God who redeemed me, loves me, and is so ever patient with me. I’m thankful for people who believe in me. I’m thankful for opportunities that have been given to me. I’m thankful for artists who inspire me and challenges me to hone my craft and drive my desire for excellence. I’m thankful for this life that I have been given.

Who/what are you thankful for?