Author Archives: Jason

About Jason

Christian. Husband. Father. Avid soccer fan. Born to Chinese parents. Married to an American woman. Trying to navigate through how to raise a daughter to know her Asian culture and her American heritage too.

31 Things I’ve Learned

I’m a little late on this, but here is a list of 31 things (in no particular order) of things that I’ve learned in my 31 years of existence.

      1. Always say “Please” and “Thank you” to everyone. It’s called common decency for a reason.
      2. Learn to touch type.
      3. Cable TV is a waste of time and money.
      4. I have never regretted waiting for a deal to buy something.
      5. “No” is an acceptable word to say to others.
      6. “No” is an acceptable word for others to say to you.
      7. Trust yourself to make big life decisions. God gave you free will for a reason.
      8. Respond to people in a timely manner.
      9. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
      10. Life is scary. Get used to it.
      11. There are no magical fixes.
      12. Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy. 
      13. Make eye contact with the people you’re talking to.
      14. Learn how to laugh at yourself.
      15. A real man is comfortable with himself. He does not fear the color pink, tea parties, makeup, princess play time or taking his daughter shopping. Anyone selling you another version of a man is a fraud.
      16. Get over yourself. You are not the center of the universe. Yes, God loves you and you are made unique in His image, but He is bigger than you. Don’t think that you are irreplaceable to the mission.
      17. “More” is the answer of anxious people. (@yosoykristy)
      18. I’ve never regretted saying “Yes” to God.
      19. Be a person of gratitude.
      20. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
      21. Take the 30 seconds to hang up your clothes.
      22. Tell your family you love them. Everyday.
      23. Running is an excellent stress reliever.
      24. Be teachable. You don’t know everything.
      25. Have the posture of a learner. You can always learn something from someone else.
      26. Playing Devil’s Advocate for the sake of it is old and tiring. Don’t do it. You’ll have no friends.
      27. Don’t be a leecher and pull your own weight. Don’t be that guy who always bums a ride but never offers to drive. Don’t be that guy who sits while everyone else cleans up. Don’t be that guy who never offers to pay for a round. You are selfish and greedy and no one will like you.
      28. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.
      29. Have an open mind and learn to appreciate different things. There’s a difference between appreciating something and liking something. If you don’t know the difference, let that be 29(a) for you.
      30. Learn and know basic grammar. (That includes typing it out. Don’t be lazy.)

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      31. Always, always, always side with your spouse and never complain about them to your parents.

Sound Mind Investing

You may have noticed (but probably not) that there’s one “ad” on this blog to a company named “Sound Mind Investing”. It’s been there for a few years now and one that, despite my general disdain for ads, it’s one that I feel very good about having on this site. Some of you may know from various Facebook statuses or my previous posts on this blog that Sound Mind Investing (SMI) changed my life many years ago. It helped me get my financial house in order, and taught me how to give, save and spend appropriately and without any guilt. I love SMI and what they stand for so rather than just a passive ad on the side, I wanted to write a little more about them and how you can benefit from their services too.

Take a look at their mission statement:

Sound Mind Investing exists to help individuals understand and apply Biblically-based principles for making spending and investing decisions in order that:

  • their future financial security would be strengthened, and
  • their giving to worldwide missionary efforts for the cause of Christ would accelerate.
In other words, we want to help you have more so you can give more.

I have been a faithful subscriber to their newsletter since 2008 and my only regret was not discovering them sooner. As a subscriber to their monthly newsletter, SMI gives their monthly investment suggestions and I simply follow them. Not every pick has been a winner. I recall my first year with them and I lost something to the tune of 24% of my portfolio (but the Dow and S&P 500 lost an average of 38% for comparison). But I never panicked and was actually very excited about that because I had 40 some years for that investment to bounce back and because I believed and was taught the principle of “dollar cost averaging” through their handbook.

Which brings me to the other offering that SMI provides that I have found to be invaluable in every way: the SMI Handbook. Being new to finances back in my early twenties, I picked this book up off a recommendation from a friend and decided to go cover to cover in a week. (Something I don’t actually recommend.) I was young and hungry, so I devoured it, learning everything from how to save to mutual funds, to the differences between stocks and bonds, from asset allocations to understanding mortgages. Whenever I show people the book, they immediately get intimidated. Not going to lie, it is a thick read with lots and lots of pages. What I try to remind people and encourage them is to treat this as a textbook and handbook, not a novel to be read straight through. From time to time I still pick the book off from my bookshelf to scan a few sections to brush up on topics that I need or want a refresher for.

But what good is a financial newsletter recommendation without some facts? So just how good have their picks been? Since I started investing and following their picks in 2008, I have seen my portfolio grow 33% overall. But more importantly for me and TJ is that our financial house is in order and we have NEVER fought about money during our marriage. Never. We have no debt (minus a mortgage). No car payments. No student loans. We have an emergency fund. We are saving for “retirement” so that we can be self funded ministers of the Gospel in our latter years. We have college savings for our children so that they can graduate from college without the burden of debt. But the best part of all? Our giving has increased every year too. Yes, we have been able to save more but the best thing for us has been enabling ourselves to give more to the causes that we are passionate about.

For anyone who is interested in subscribing, I would highly recommend you do the web option for $9.95/month. You get the digital version of their newsletter via email AND you get full access to their website with other helpful articles and readings over various financial topics. The print only version is $79/annually and the dual version (which gets you both the printed newsletters and web access) is $79/annually plus $4.95/month.

Would you like your financial house in order? Would you like to be worry free about the future and your “retirement years? Would you like to increase and give to all the places where God is asking you to?

If you answered “yes” to the previous questions, why not give SMI a try?


My Thankful Project

In the past few weeks our church has done a short emphasis on joy. In some sense, this is right up my alley and in others, this really isn’t. What I’ve appreciated from what the pastor and our Sunday School leader mentioned was this joy is a choice. I must choose to be joyful. It is me initiating my emotions and not me reacting to circumstances. The fact that is on me to decide makes it both a positive and negative for me personally. I am hopeful that I can be joyful in all things because it’s simply just me learning and choosing positively, but it’s also depressing to realize how many times I’m resentful, angry and upset and I know it’s because I’m just reacting.

In one of my late Mother In Law’s journal entries, she wrote how thankful she was that the roof just leaked a little bit today. I have absolutely no grid for that. I’ve always been privileged to have a sturdy roof over my head and I’ve never once been thankful or joyful that I’ve never had to worry about my roof leaking.

I’ve seen this done before as many of you probably have to, but I’d like to start a Thankfulness Project for the next 365 days. Every day, I want to write about something that I’m thankful for from the biggest things such as my family to the smallest things such as having running water in my home. I want to point my heart and mind in a positive direction because I know how easy it can be for me to be dissatisfied and ungrateful. I want to be grateful and I want to be thankful. And I know I can be those things if I choose to be joyful, especially when things are hard. It’s what I love about my Mother In Law’s entry. There was acknowledgement that things were difficult, but she still chose to find something to be joyful about. I very much admire her for that quality.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Phil 2:14)

My plan is to do this via Twitter and Facebook. You can find me there if you’d like to follow along and participate with me.


My Generational Hope

When I first started my journey with Cru I really didn’t think that I would be much more than a spiritual guide to college students. But after five great years with Epic Movement, I’ve come to realize that I am much more than that. I am to many of my Asian American brothers and sisters, a cultural guide as well.

I had that typical Chinese upbringing where the values imparted to me where education, job and wealth were to bring me life. A good education would bring me a job of status and that would equate into a large salary. Having the means to buy anything and to take care of my entire family, across multiple generations, would translate that I was a success. That I was the pride and joy of my family and that I had done my duty as a son, husband and father.

I know I am not alone in that story. Many of my Asian American family share in a similar upbringing. Many of us believe in that gospel and put everything we have in pursuit of the Asian American dream. I was on that path – until I met Jesus.

I did not pursue my medical degree. I did not become a doctor. I wanted to do full time ministry. My parents were supportive. Their main concern was how I would get paid and would I have enough? I am thankful, everyday that I do have enough. And that everyday that I don’t go asking them for money for anything is another day that I get to pronounce God’s goodness and faithfulness to them. But I also know that this part of my story isn’t common.

I know now that I wasn’t meant to be a doctor. I do not carry the passion nor the intellect to treat a patient. It was not what God intended for me and my life – I wasn’t made to save people’s lives (not in the medical sense).  And as I survey the students that are involved in our movements and what they are studying, and what their career aspirations are, I can tell that they still cling to a dream that doesn’t necessarily reflect their passions or their own giftings.  There is still that pursuit of education for the sake of a job that pays well.

My hope and dream is that one day we’ll see a generation of Asian Americans raised up by their parents not to just pursue a career for the sake of it. My hope is that we’ll see a generation of Asian American parents who will first and foremost teach their sons and daughters about Jesus and to help them discover their true calling in life, whether that would be to be a doctor or a fire fighter, an engineer or a secretary. I want to see that generation really and truly know who they are, who God intended them to be and in doing so, know who God truly is too. To know God is to know yourself and to know yourself is to truly know God.

I sense that we are on that we are already on that path. I hope I am alive to see that dream come true, starting with my own children.


Five

(Picture by Sean Hsueh with Day 7 Photography)

I am extraordinarily late on this, but I think for this post it is actually appropriate. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed from being married to TJ is that we create our own traditions to reflect not just us, but also that we have an unique relationship. When and how we celebrate things is entirely up to us. It is our day after all. So to give you a better insight into our quirkiness, here are five memorable and random moments from the last five years of our marriage that I believe really define our relationship:

Manentine’s Day

Truthfully this is more a testimony of TJ’s awesomeness than anything else, but while we were dating TJ opted to turn Valentine’s Day, a rather traditional girl focused holidy, into a day for me. So there are no expectations for me to bring flowers, book a reservation or shower TJ with gifts. Instead there will be a steak for me on the table and some sort of practical gift that I’ve been dying to have (Kindle cover, electric shaver, extension cord, etc). Which brings me to my next moment…

Hotel Amenities

A frequent request of mine for a Christmas gift is simply a package of good toilet paper or paper towels. I really, really, really like practical gifts like that. Occasionally TJ will travel by herself or she gets sent on a night away and she will always remember and bring back a roll of toilet paper for me and if the hotel has it, a couple of travel sized toothpaste of my favorite brand: Aquafresh. It is silly, but I am like a child on Christmas morning when she pulls those guys out of her luggage. Speaking of travel…

Food Above All

A few years ago, we celebrated our second year anniversary in San Fransisco. We only had  a couple of days as we had a wedding to be a part of, so we did our best to cram as much in as possible. When we tell people of that trip, people frequently ask if we saw the Golden Gate Bridge and/or Alcatraz. The answer is “yes”, but it may not be how you imagine it. We did technically “see” them, but only while we were standing at Fisherman’s Wharf with a Dungeness crab in each of our hands and we enjoyed the view of the two iconic sights. Whenever we travel, food is Tier 1 in our priorities. If we don’t get to eat, we are not happy. While we are on the happiness note…

The Goal Celebration

One of my favorite things to do with TJ is play soccer. We play on the same co-ed team every Saturday. I generally am not ashamed to celebrate my wife at the expense of my public image. Last Fall, TJ scored a technically difficult goal and while she tried acting like she had scored before, her overly zealous husband did not. I sprinted some 40 yards, screaming at the top of my lungs,”THAT’S MY WIFE!!! THAT’S MY WIFE!!!” Then of course, I recreate one of those absurd movie like embrace where the man lifts his woman in the air. You know, something you’d find in a Nicholas Sparks’ novel (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Dear John, The Lucky One, etc.) My teammates were (rightfully) a little embarrassed by my celebration but I don’t care. I’m a dork and I like to celebrate… and that brings us to our last moment…

Biscuit Day

Sometime after our second year together, TJ started asking me, “How many biscuits do you love me?” To this day, we have no earthly idea why she started that or what it means, but my response started at “two”, to signify the number of years we’ve been married. So today, if she were to ask me how many biscuits, I would answer “five”. So naturally our anniversary is now known to us and our close friends as “Biscuit Day” and on the morning of “Biscuit Day” we eat biscuits!

As I was writing this, I had to stop several times and just laugh at our relationship and how odd we are. And honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons that makes our marriage great. We can look back and just laugh at ourselves. I love that I can share in all these things with my wife and best friend. Happy Biscuit Day.


My Ladder Rung

I am shamefully afraid of heights. I mean, I am terrified of being elevated in the air by more than a couple of feet. Roller coasters are not entertainment but rather a torture device created by the cruelest of men. To put it into context, I get a little nervous just standing on top of a 6 foot ladder. Because of that, I’ve never been that adventurous of a person. I’d rather play it safe and am generally an overly cautious individual. I was always adverse to risk and confrontation.

Which brings this conversation I had nearly 10 years ago into great perspective. I was either filled by the Spirit or completely insane to do what I did. I sat down across the desk of a man that I had both respected and admired. He was a very spiritual man and a highly educated one too. It’s just not that often I get to sit across from men who helped found a seminary. Unfortunately for me, I had this meeting not to glean knowledge from him or to study under him. In fact, it was a “clearing of the air” meeting where I needed to bring up some ways where I felt he wasn’t entirely fair or kind regarding his assessment of me. I was deemed unworthy to be dating his daughter at the time, and his reasoning that I wasn’t “good enough” didn’t exactly register with me. How do you determine the value of someone that you’ve interacted with just twice in a group setting?

The conversation led to him drawing a diagram for me. It was a ladder. Each rung represented a level of leadership and responsibility that person could manage. The lowest rung represented the immediate community, the second lowest represented the local area and so forth with the highest two being one with a national and international capacity. I didn’t climb too high in his eyes and he saw my highest capacity about three to four rungs high. No further than a regional level. You can guess where he saw his daughter. (Hint: It was much higher than mine.)

The other thing that he told me was that I couldn’t become a spiritual leader because of my family of origin. My parents are not Christians and therefore he believed I wouldn’t have the capacity or the know how to lead a home as the spiritual leader. I mean, how could I possibly do what was never modeled for me? He saw me as being set up to fail and his daughter could not be a part of that sinking ship.

10 years later, now married and with a daughter of my own, I can sympathize with that man. If I saw some bum pursuing my daughter, I’d encourage her to not give him the time of day. Naturally, my hope is that I’ll have raised her well enough to differentiate between a quality man and an idiot so I won’t need to step in myself. Thankfully I still have a few years before I get to that point, but as I think about my future and my family’s future, I want to take stock of where exactly I came from.

Those of you who know my wife know that she is not ordinary by any means. At least not in the spiritual sense. Most of her insight doesn’t come from anything learned, read or trained. It’s mostly instinct and intuition. It is God-given and it is amazing. It is breathtaking to watch TJ in her element. I would much rather watch her in ministry than hop in a time machine to watch Pele in his prime. She is just that incredible. And this isn’t just me being her biased husband. Most of you have stopped me in my tracks just to tell me how amazing she is. It is something that’s just so evident and clear to the world around her. Which leads me to the obvious question, “Why in her right mind, would TJ marry someone like me?”

I carry with me that conversation with that man and a metaphorical ladder rung. I don’t carry it around as a chip on my shoulder and use it as a big “I told you so”. But rather I carry it around like a scar. It is healed, but you can still see the damage that was done. That conversation was absolutely brutal on me emotionally, as I would imagine for any other 20 year old. I want to remember how damaged I was so I’ll never inflict that kind of pain on anyone else, much less any suitors Eden has.

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed by the number of people who have commented on me and my marriage, on me as a husband and on me as a father. Every piece of affirmation in that area slowly tears away the wall of doubt in my heart and affirms that I am not nor will I ever be defined by that ladder rung. My spiritual legacy will not be defined by my heritage alone. I can have a godly marriage, be a godly husband and be a godly father, and even be a great spiritual leader despite my great fear in climbing high.


My Birthday Reflection

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It wasn’t fancy. It was just round with a very classic black and white look. It was my favorite birthday present of my childhood and quite possibly the only memory I have of my birthday celebrations. I was eight and my parents had gotten me the best gift of all, a soccer ball.

I had zero coordination and my best attempts at anything resembling a soccer move would be a painful toe punch towards nothing, but nobody cared. Certainly not me. All I knew was that I had a chance to kick a ball around with my Dad and my friends and that was plenty of celebration for me.

Which brings us to today which is my 30th birthday. Every year I try my best to play down this birthday hoopla. TJ’s been extraordinary in her efforts to celebrate me, my birth and my existence but I’ve always put up a stern resistance to the notion that my life needs to be celebrated. I disguise it as a misguided belief that it’s just a “normal day” like every other day and I’m uncomfortable with all the attention.

While there is a certainly some truth to it, what lies beneath that nonsense is that I never really felt that anybody would really care. What makes the post below from my wife and friends so meaningful is that I have rarely sensed that people know me or thought anything of me. The words of affirmation below are a strong “in your face” statement against my inner insecurities that if people really knew me, they would despise me.

I miss that eight year old version of me. Armed with nothing but a ball and no discernible talent, people still celebrated and played with me. Somewhere in the past 22 years I’ve taught myself that I needed to be more than just me for anyone to care. Some of it was from parties where very few people showed up. Some of it was from forgotten birthdays. Whatever it was, the message was always loud and clear, “You are a nobody and nobody cares.”

In the end, it was just easier to tell myself that I didn’t care, so that when my community didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel the pain. I’ve learned many things in my marriage to TJ and one of those is being truthful and honest about my feelings and to apply the proper weight to them. I’ve also learned to face my fears and insecurities with strength that is more befitting of a man, husband and father.

To my friends and family who took the time to write something encouraging to me, you haven’t the slightest clue as to how liberating those words mean to me. I am humbled that is how you experience me and that I mean something to you. Over the weekend I’ve started accumulating gifts from flowers to checks, from an aeropress coffee maker to an electric razor, and while everything is exactly what I would want, the little space below that occupies this blog is by far the most meaningful, significant and important gift to me of all. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for remembering and celebrating me.