Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Monthly Archives: December 2011

Awesome gift

Some gifts just have to be shared.

Please indulge me for a moment, and check this out:

Yes, this was all hand-drawn!!!

Rachel, I can’t thank you enough. It’s awesome. =)

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Cheers,

~ Timothy

A song for Christmas

Warning: Cheesy Christian version of a popular Christmas song below. Proceed with caution.

Recommended: Listen to original first for maximum enjoyment.

Note: Not to be merely read. To be sung with great gusto (or at least sung mentally in such a manner).

All I Want For Christmas Is You

Intro

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care for lots of presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa’s nice, but he won’t be my
Joy when it is Christmas Day

I just want here for my own
One who’s more than I’ll ever know
The One who makes me new
All I want for Christmas is
You

Instrumental

Oh I won’t ask for much this Christmas
Only to be white as snow
Only to be right here waiting
For Him to make in me His home

I don’t want to lay my treasures
Here where moth and rust destroy
I just want to celebrate the
Birth of Mary’s baby boy

‘Cause I just want a silent night
To remember angel’s tidings bright
What more can I do?
All I want for Christmas is
You

Short Instrumental

Oh all the stores are crying
For shoppers to buy their wares
Still the sound of mankind’s
Sorrows fills the air

But I hear angels singing
News of great joy they’re bringing
Lord won’t you bring us to the One we really need?
Won’t you please bring us to our knees?

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just want to praise the baby
Born within the stable door

Oh I just want here for my own
The One who makes me white as snow
His promises are true
So all I want for Christmas is
You, baby Jesus

All I want for Christmas is You

Picture from http://www.wgy.com. Apologies for the rampant cheesiness and plagiarism shameless borrowing.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas,

~ Timothy

Most wonderful time of the year?

PART I: WHY I DISLIKE THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

Christmastime is commonly said to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

I disagree.

No, this post is not a joke. You may not agree with my skepticism, but please read on and see my reasons. Some of what I have to say may be valid.

Mainly, I have three reasons to dislike the Christmas season.

#1: Intensified consumerism

This is probably the most obvious reason. We spend more this time of year than any other. By a lot.

You’ve probably heard this statistic before, but it bears repeating: The current American population is about 300 million. In America, every year this season, roughly $450 billion is spent on gifts.

The estimated cost for making clean water available worldwide is $10 billion.

People die every day from lack of clean water, more than any other cause today. Meanwhile, we shop like asylum inmates for presents that are often forgotten within weeks, if not days, once the holiday has passed us by.

How many meaningless, useless, over-extravagant, and even destructive gifts are given each year? How much of that money could go towards healing the broken and needy, instead of overburdening the already over-prosperous?

More than any other time of year, during the Christmas season children are taught the lie that they have a right to get what they want. That getting what they want will make them happy. That the only way to get what they want is to plead, whine, beg, hint, write lists, and drive their parents to buy more and more, bigger and better, more extravagant and more expensive toys, with the coming of the holidays each year.

I could go on. I’d rather not.

#2: Intensified stress

This is also pretty obvious, and directly linked to the first. How many people find themselves rushing around like madmen for the best prices, deals, gifts and whatnot at the speed of credit card debt because they have to get the right presents for the right people before O Holy Night hits? And what if the gift isn’t just right? What if they don’t like it? If shipping is late? If the stores are out of stock? If the bow comes off? If they end up giving me a bigger present than I got for them?

The money component links directly too. How much stress today is directly caused by finances? And how much more does money change hands this time of year than usual? Rivaled only by Black Friday I’d say.

Then there’s the traveling, the shipping, the packaging, the decorating, the house-cleaning, the concerts, the recitals, the parties, the candle-light services, and a thousand other goings-ons. How are people supposed to have a silent night to reflect on why they’re celebrating when they’re ever forced to keep dashing through the snow to the next event of the season?

We have enough stress to deal with throughout the year already. And now this?

#3: Christmas music

My first two reasons were broad, applying to most, if not all, of the United States (and perhaps other countries as well, though I can’t speak for them). This last reason is more… personal.

First, on a more trivial note, why must the radio start playing nothing but Christmas music 24/7 before the Thanksgiving turkey has even grown cold? Why must every band in existence try to put its own, clever twist on a Christmas classic, and 7 times out of 10, create a monstrosity not remotely true to the original? Why must it always be the same songs, to be played over, and over, and over again?

That’s just me complaining. On a more serious note: Why does Christmas music have to be so… familiar?

Year round, I struggle with truly worshiping. Finding meaning in the words of the songs I sing every Sunday morning, and truly believing them. Truly meaning them when I sing them. The more familiar the song is to me, the harder it is.

And now, we have Christmas music. The most oft heard and repeated, familiar music to me in the world it seems. I’ve heard it so many times… Most of it is so beautiful, so rich in meaning. And I let it blow past me like wind through the dead branches of a tree. Meaningless.

Where does Christmastime leave me then?

PART II: HE CAME

Those are my three reasons for disliking the Christmas season. I don’t always feel this way. But when they come upon me, Christmas loses all of its warmth, all of its joy. And I wonder sometimes if it’s worth celebrating.

And yet… I know it is. Why?

First of all, I do have reasons to still like Christmas.

Let’s look at those first.

#1: Family and friends together

Yes, this is a completely “secular” reason, but a valid and important one. This has become especially more meaningful to me this year, since I have so many more friends who went off to college last year, and are now back, just for the season. I think it’ll mean even more to me next year, when I myself am gone…

Not every get-together over the Christmas season is meaningful, pleasant, or easy for many people. And there are many who find Christmas a difficult time because of family members or close friends who are no longer around to celebrate together…

But why is it difficult for them? Because when their loved ones were with them, the traditions and experiences they shared were valuable. Christmastime is a unique opportunity to come together, to relive old traditions and memories and make new ones. Granted, not all traditions and memories are worth reliving. But the ones that are can become unspeakably precious.

The coming together of family and friends, especially over long distances and between busy schedules, is a truly priceless blessing of Christmas.

#2: Giving magnified

When Christmas comes, spending and shopping goes up. But so does giving.

Many meaningless, useless, and worthless gifts are given each year this season. But so are many meaningful, useful, and priceless ones.

And I’m not just referring to the people who actually take the selfless time and effort to pick out gifts for their friends and family that they know will be found truly enjoyable, useful, and valuable. I also mean programs put together by churches and organizations (like Gospel for Asia) to care for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the needy, the cast-out. Many of these places and organizations work year round, but without a doubt, they receive the most support when it’s Christmas. People come together like no other time throughout the year to help complete strangers… simply because it’s Christmas. People give when they otherwise wouldn’t have at Christmastime.

People don’t always give with the right motives during Christmastime, or any other time of the year. But God can use us even when our hearts aren’t in the right place (thank goodness He can and does!). And during the Christmas season, more people are fed, clothed, blessed, and shown tangible love in the name of Christ, because more people decide to give.

That has value.

#3: The true meaning of Christmas

The final, foremost, and only true reason to celebrate Christmas is only this: He came. The long-awaited Messiah, the Christ-child, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the eternal Word who created the heavens and the earth and all else that is, came in the flesh as a mere baby all those years ago.

We celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but the day doesn’t matter. Why does it matter what day Jesus was born? The important thing is that He came! That is why this is a holiday (aka “holy day”). That is why we celebrate.

If you look through my reasons for disliking the Christmas season, you can see a common thread running through them. Yes, they all have something to do with when good things in excess become unhealthy and harmful (as all good things do without moderation). But in an even broader sense: they all have to do with the true meaning of Christmas being lost. When shopping and wrapping gifts, when stress and the business of busyness become the focus instead of the Christ child. When familiarity breeds contempt, hearts grow cold from the passing of time, and the reality of Christmas is forgotten.

But our King came to remedy these very things. He came as the remedy for these very things. In our materialism and trust in the temporal, He came as the Bread of Life who satisfies, who will endure forever. In our stress and anxiety, He came as the Prince of Peace, the Joy of our existence. In the dullness and darkness of our hearts, He came as the One who opens our eyes and lights our hearts on fire once more.

I think in particular of my third point, concerning Christmas music. God has opened my eyes in new ways this year in this area. Even in my dullness and indolence, His light can shine through, and a song that I’ve heard a million times can have meaning.

(I believe that my last post, concerning angels, bears testimony to that; it is only by the work of the Spirit that that understanding, or any understanding ever for that matter, came.)

Our Lord Jesus came to us in all of our brokenness. And He came as the answer that we needed. He came to testify to the truth where we had given in to lies. He came to bring us joy where we had vainly sought after an earthly happiness, to bring us peace where the cares and worries of this life had left us in turmoil, to bring light where we had fallen into darkness, warmth where we had grown cold, healing where we had become diseased, life when we were dead. He came as the salvation in our distress. He came to bring glory to the Father in a world that had forgotten its Maker. He came to make all things right, including the ways that we’ve forgotten to celebrate the true reason for Christmas.

He came. And that’s reason enough to celebrate.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas, full of remembrance and joy for the One whom we celebrate,

~ Timothy

P.S. I’m still skeptical of the claim that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But undoubtedly, it is a reminder to us that as believers, we can declare year round with confidence, that it’s “a wonderful life” at least. =)

Angels

"The Annunciation to the Shepherds" by Benjamin Gervitsz Cuyp

Angels we have heard on high…

Hark, the herald angels sing…

The first Noel, the angels did say…

Two Sundays ago, as I stood in my usual spot during worship, a thought came to me. It was the Advent season, and as we sang various Christmas songs from ages past, I noticed, apparently for the first time, how much the angels were mentioned.

You may laugh if you like, but for some reason I’d never realized it before. And as reference after reference of the angels passed before me, I started to think a bit about how we, or at least I, commonly imagine the angels.

Angels seem to pop up an awful lot this time of year. We buy coffee mugs with smiling celestial cartoons adorning the sides, wrap our various gifts in overpriced paper decorated with their cute caricatures (to be violently torn off, then thrown into the recycling and forgotten on Christmas morning), place dolls in their likeness atop our Christmas trees, and sing and/or listen to song after song about how they brought tidings of great comfort and bounteous joy to the shepherds those many years ago. The image I usually get is a skyful of shiny beings with fluffy-white wings, pretty halos and charming soprano voices, lighting up the sky like so many fluorescent bulbs in the night.

Aren’t angels more than that? Is that really all there is to it?

And if it is, why should we care?

It was a fair question, and I didn’t know how to answer it. Then another thought came.

Actually, it was a passage of Scripture, one that I’d recently memorized. The language is simple and straightforward, not at all poetical, but I loved it from the first time I read it, and it’s been one of my favorite passages since:

Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.

You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host,

the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.

You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

Nehemiah 9:5-6

I never read or think about these verses without having a feeling of awe for my Master and Creator awakened in me, something that I can’t say for most passages. And the last line always brings it home; the multitudes of heaven worship Him.

Maybe we should back up. What is an angel? What does the Bible tell us about them?

Actually, it tells us a lot. According to R.C. Sproul, in the New Testament alone, the Greek word for angel, angelos (literally, “messenger”), appears more times than the word hamartia (sin), or even agape (love). That blew me away.

As for what the Scriptures say concerning the angelic folk, I’ll say this: the common depiction seen today of angels falls pathetically short of the beings that the Bible describes.

The world today has reduced the angel to a mythological being that isn’t too different from a faun or a centaur. At best, we see them as little fluttering cutesy decorations  with toy bows and arrows for our Valentine’s Day cards and trumpets for our Christmas decor. We like to think of them as gentle, sweet, innocent, maybe even naive. The Bible depicts them as fearsome beings. Whenever an angel was sent by God to anyone in the Scriptures, Old or New Testament, those people feared for their lives. The shepherds of the first Noel made their living beating back lions and wolves from their sheep in the wilderness. I’d argue they were braver than most of us when it came to facing bodily harm. And at the sight of one angel, they were sore afraid. Terrified.

Does a single angel not sound too intimidating to you? Talk to Sennacherib, king of Assyria, when he tried to threaten Israel under Hezekiah (2 Kings 19). Talk to King David after he sinned by declaring a census on the children of Israel (1 Chronicles 21). Talk to the Egyptians after the twelfth and most terrible plague (Exodus 11/12). Read Revelations. Angels are potent beings, and you rightfully fear for your life if you see even one, much less a whole company of them (see 2 Kings 6).

This is not to say that angels are malignant or ever-destroying (except maybe the demons, which is an entirely different story). The angels of heaven are servants of the Most High God, and they do His bidding in full, whatever it may be. They are not to be feared as one would fear a vicious creature. But they are not be treated as mere fairy-tale figures or icons. They deserve our respect, for we were made lower than they (Hebrew 2:7).

Of course, to go to the other extreme is foolish and sinful. The Bible makes it clear that the angel is a created being, not a divine one; no more to be worshiped than you or I. But make no mistake, they are at the top of the created order. And when I think about how glorious in beauty and terrible in power God made them, I don’t wonder why the early church had trouble with people bowing down before them in awe and worship.

Angels are an unmistakable sign of God’s unspeakable glory and might. And as the passage from Nehemiah makes clear, the fact that the multitudes of heaven worship our Lord is a sign in itself of His overwhelming majesty, glory, and power. The worship of angels is significant.

And now… now we have a great host of these powerful, heavenly messengers, appearing in the sky before shepherds. Celebrating, singing for joy, because of the birth of this small baby, lying in a manger…

When God brought His Son into the world, at His command, all His angels came and worshiped (Hebrews 1:6). There’s something very special, significant — divine — about a baby like that. When the multitudes of heaven sing out in celebration, when the messengers of God Almighty declare that peace on earth has come at last, when the angels bow down in worship before a baby — that is worthy of our full attention. If the angels have found that this child is worthy of their worship and adoration, how much more should we?

Let us remember the angels for who they are this Christmas. And let us follow their example as fellow servants of Christ, in worship and celebration, at the coming of the Christ child.

Videofest: Tribute to the violin

I don’t play the violin. Never have, probably never will (though I play the piano, so my Asianness is intact). But that’s completely irrelevant.

The violin is an amazing instrument. It may seem odd that I’m starting out here with an electric violin video, but it’s one of my favorite songs, and I believe the violinist here does a beautiful job of it (as far as my musically-taught but violin-untrained ear can make out).

(I don’t know this particular violinist, but she has a few other pretty awesome electric violin videos on her channel; check them out if you’ve got time.)

I can’t even fully comprehend just how expressive and versatile the violin really is… and it only gets more amazing when brought together with voice and other instruments.

Check this out:

When I showed my dad this video, he asked me if I’d ever heard of another band, which I hadn’t, so we looked it up. Here’s the first video we found:

Awesome, no?

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his excellent greatness!

 Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

  ~Psalm 150

Soli Deo Gloria,

~ Timothy

P.S. I suppose they had lyres and harps back then instead of violins, but I wonder what this psalm would sound like today on our strings… Worth a thought.

Dancing Lights (continued)

Light graffiti

More pictures from that historic car ride of rediscovery.

(Here’s the original post if you don’t know or remember what this is all about)

I tried to name them all too, a challenging and somewhat foolish endeavor. See what titles you can come up with!

Curly Q's

Blue Lightening

11:11

Whiplash

Ghost convention

Fast Food (sorry for the pun)

Fire Wave

The Strangest Wicket

V Art

All photos original and unedited.

More to come later!

~ Timothy