The Year of Horse

Today is a special day for all the Chinese people.  It is the traditional Chinese New Year! It goes without saying that Chinese New Year is always a big deal for Chinese people. No matter where you are. no matter how old you are, the joy of the celebration is irreplaceable in your hearts. I believe the simple way to understand Chinese New Year Celebration is to think about the New Year Celebration in US.

I guess some of you are wondering why Chinese New Year is a huge deal for Chinese people? Because Chinese New Year celebration represents three things in China: Unity, family, future. Let me explain each concept for you in detail.

First of all, Unity.  When I mention the word “unity”, I am not thinking about the unity of world. Neither I am talking about the unity of the organization. I am talking about the harmony of the family. Owing to the fast-paced society, more and more Chinese people are getting busier and busier. Most of the younger generation spend 90% of the time on traveling from city to city, or working in the office.  Their time on spending with the family is less than they want. Also, the current economic condition pushed the younger people to look for jobs more intensely. 8 out of 10 people are looking for jobs right after graduation from universities or colleges in China. Majority of their time are occupied with this and that. Parents at home don’t have time to see them during the week. Some of them have to work on the weekends as well.  However, when Chinese New Year comes around, there is no more work, no more traveling. It is the opportunity for the children to be united with their parents at home.

I clearly remember that my parents were working so hard while they were trying to raise me.  I still recall that some of my weekends were spent with my grandparents, instead of being with my parents. They were busy with jobs. My dad changed several jobs while I was little. Finally, he landed a job that he loved so much. I witnessed how hard they worked and how much time they gave to their jobs. I didn’t have many chances to eat the food that my mom cooked until Chinese New Year. I was so looking forward to it. My mom is always a great chef.

Chinese New Year is the time where family can get together and enjoy the companionship within each family. Unity and peace are much more important than anything for a Chinese person.

The second word is family. You might ask me” Mengfei, didn’t you just talk about family unity or family get-together?” Yes. I did mention little about the family. However, what I mean family here is different. When I say Chinese people care so much about the concept of ” family”, I mean Chinese people respect the older generation in one family. Take my family for example.

My  grandfather, my father, and I were born in Beijing. My grandfather was raised before China was founded. He witnessed all the changes in China through his own eyes. He had more understanding and knowledge about China than anyone in my family. He has certain ways of living and seeing things in life. Everyone in my family respect him so much.  People who are similar to my grandfather always has a nickname called “Lao Beijinger.”  That’s because he knows more than anyone and  has been living longer than anyone in my family. Basically, my grandfather always has the rules in the family. For example, no one is allowed to eat the food on the table until he sits down. As the younger generation, we need to visit him once a week. He is the person who can make the final decisions on the names of the grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, etc. My family has been living this way since my father was born.

So, when we talk about family in China, mainly, we are referring to the hierarchy of one traditional Chinese family. Since I was little, my parents always teach me on the concept of educating the older people in the family. I never forget that. Senior citizens in China play key roles in the growth and development of the Chinese society. I love my grandparents. Although they might be wrong on certain things from time to time, I never bother to correct them. I love them and they love me more!

The Chinese Calligraphy for " Horse".
The Chinese Calligraphy for ” Horse”.

The last word is “Joy”. I am sure you are not unfamiliar with this word and its meaning. For Chinese New Year Celebration,  spreading joy is part of the tradition. People sit together and share all the good news and bad news happened this year. There will be tears, there will be laughter. That is the moment that no one has enough. Joy is another word for happiness. Someone once asked the Chinese Confucius on the meaning of happiness. Chinese Confucius thought for a while, said, ” did you see the birds in the air? They can fly and never worry about the food. That’s happiness for them. Happiness is you laugh out loud and no one understands.” I think that’s the best explanation of joy or happiness.

If you are living with a Chinese family during the Chinese New Year, you will never be able to go to sleep that week. Because there is always something fun and exciting going on daily. Everywhere you go, you see people laughing and smiling to each other. That’s the most genuine smile you can ever find. I never get tired of taking pictures of all kinds of smile.  Scientifically speaking, whenever people smile, there is certain chemical released from our body which boosts our health. I know somewhere in China, there is a small village of people whose average is above 120. People called “Village of longevity.” Some scientists ask the secrets of their living habits. Much their surprise, the interviewees told the interviewers” we always laugh at things. Silly? I don’t know.But we live longer by laughing more often.” That’s why joy is way more important to Chinese family.

Friends, although it is the celebration of New Year, that does not stop you from having fun. Every day should be the “Chinese New Year” for you and me. Let’s laugh more and enjoy life!

The Present Tense

As the believer of the Lord, I have to admit that it is rather challenging to understand some of the verses within the Bible. I am certain that’s one of the reasons why people go to churches to understand the transformation from the languages. Maybe some of us are too immature to understand it at once, that’s why the Bible study is rather meaningful for our spiritual renewal as well.

Tonight, as we had the Bible study, we were discussing the attitude we shall hold when life throws obstacles at us. While we went around sharing our feelings and thoughts, one of the church members touched on the topic of ” patience in the time of waiting/ struggle.” similarly, we all know that the Lord did’t promise us that we won’t face ups and downs in life. He never wants to be defeated in during the hardships and tribulation. Instead, Jesus encourages us to be strong and firm in our belief. In the Book of 1 Corinthians, the most familiar chapter is 13 which talks about the issue of love.  The author opens the chapter by saying ” Love is patient, love is kind. etc.” The entire time the author uses the present tense to talk about love.

I was listening to the scriptures and thinking about my own life. it keeps me in perspective that ” love shall be patience.” Jesus has great patience with us, even when we are off the courses.  He knows when exactly we will fall. He knows when we leave him and take actions without asking Him. The point I am trying to make is Jesus demonstrates that ” to love someone truly needs to be constantly patient with his/her weaknesses.” When others make mistakes, stop judging them.  Throw ourselves in the shoes of others before condemning them. I am a big fan of NPR. One of the shows I enjoy listening to is called “wait wait don’t tell me.” It is the show where the guests are invited to answer the quiz while entertaining the listeners. This week, the host mentioned that a woman from US filed a law suit  for divorce. Because she couldn’t stand the way her husband eats peas. Apparently, he eats peas with his hands, instead of using forks. She tried to change his habit for two years and didn’t see any results. Without thinking twice, she decided to leave him for good.

While the audience were laughing, I didn’t. I thought to myself “what kind of reason was that?  Really ?!” Friends, I know it is easier said than done. Love someone is not an easy task. It takes time and patience to know the person in various ways. That’s why there will be fights and struggles we need to deal with. Coming back to the Bible verse, Jesus mentions that ” Love is kind and love is patient, love never fails. ”  Jesus uses the present tense to teach you and me that this principle ought to be used everyday. It is not for the past. Neither is for the future. At the present days, we ought to exercise it all the time. If you are a grammar guru, you know what present tense means. It means happens all the time. It means the thing is happening every moment we live. Don’t misuse the phrase.

Love is kind, love is patient. When you love someone, you know there is a process where disputes will appear over the periods. You understand where people need to give room to each other. If we can’t be ready for this, where shall we give the love to others?

love-is-patient

Tonight, I encourage you to tell the people you care that ” you love them.” Set a goal and determination with me that no matter what happens, you don’t be impatient with the people you care. Maybe your husband is not the person who enjoys going to the mall with you, but he could be the person who brings the food on the table for your family. Or maybe your husband is not like Jane’s hubby who always remembers to pick up the clothes on the floor, but your man never forgets your B-day and a gift for you. Even you think your wife is not as slim as the body coach in your gym, but she gave birth to your son and daughter. She raises them with you through 23 years. There is always something you can find to appreciate your spouses, friends, family members. Remember, people God puts in your life for a purpose. He didn’t randomly choose anyone for you.  Jesus chose the right for you to make sure you are the only missing piece of each other.

 

Say what you mean, otherwise, shut it!

I guess you might be confused with the title, you are wondering where I am going on this topic. Well, friends, let me ask you a question. Have you talked to someone in church or at work that they are very bad at communicating with people? Let me be more concrete. Did you realize that the person didn’t want to talk to you while you were ready to have a conversation?  The person just went through the motion, giving you a weak handshake without looking at your straight in the eyes. At the back of your mind, you were thinking: what’s heck! What’s up with that?!

Well, last Sunday, I was in church. Our church had fewer people, owing to the youth retreat. We had extra minutes to kill. The pastor encouraged us to get up and greet each other. I was very thrilled to meet the people behind me. while I was ready to shake their hands, one of the lady just ” symbolically” shook my hands without looking at me.  Immediately, I lost the passion for talking to them. She looked away while shaking my hands. And didn’t bother to listen to what I was about to say or ask. At that moment, I thought about one of the books I read before called “Unchristian” by David Kinnanman. In this book, Kinnanman used very simple and precise way to talk about the issues which Christians are facing today. Also, the reason why majority of the unbelievers have no desire to associate with the believers. Because we are ” fake.” Come to think of the lady I met in church last week. She might be one of them.

I am not even judging her. All I am saying is ” if you don’t mean what you say. Just shut it! Please don’t hurt other people’s feelings.” Think of it, what’s the most challenging thing to do when you try to communicate with a person? For me, that ought to be quick enough to come up with a topic. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am a people person. I love talking to people. However, when I try to open up a conversation with others from time to time, it is really hard to talk to the people sometimes. They have no life. They are not interested in talking at all. That’s where I learn my lessons over the years. You might be familiar with the old saying ,” if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” well, I dare to re-phrase it a little bit. ” If you don’t mean the stuff you say, just shut it!”

I don’t know if you know it or not, talking to people is a great thing. While we talk, we listen, we grow, we exchange ideas, that’s why the friendship or relationship  has the opportunity to grow. Let’s not take our talking for granted. When we talk to people, look at them straight in the eyes before saying stuff. So, they know ” we mean it!”

I have heard of an old saying  while I was in class. ” Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturer talk while others sleep.” 3831652004_Looking_into_the_eye_answer_2_xlarge

He knows your load.

For most Christians in US,  there is a book called ”
Bible”. Maybe you used to own it. Or you have seen one of them laying somewhere in your living room. There are numerous times that you tended to open it and find the place where you left. But there has always been a voice saying in your head, “why bother?! What’s the point of reading one like you really mean it!?” Today, I would like to encourage you to pick up where you left. Because He knows your load.

Lately, with a lot of school and family issues, from time to time, I just didn’t have the energy to get up and walk around the house with confidence any longer. I stopped planning my future and thinking about the next step. I thought I was coming to the end of my rope. I am sure you have been there and know exactly what I am going through right now. The phrase “my plate is really full at this time.” Well, in my current condition, I would say, ” my plate is overflowing.” In the middle of the night, as a normal person, I would get up and go to the bathroom. Come back and hit the hay again. Lately, once I get up in the middle of the night, it is truly hard for me to go back again. I tried many times. I know that I know that I know, things are not going away. I have to deal with them one way or another.

Just this morning, I began to have devotions. As soon as I opened up the Bible and found the right scripture. My tears ran down my cheek and I couldn’t help reading what I was seeing at that moment. If you have the Bible next to you, I invite you to open the Book of 1 Peter, chapter 5 :5 ~9. If you can read it twice before continuing reading my story, that would be great!

I am sure you are done now. So, as I mentioned, as soon as I started to read the words. I felt like a child who never opened the Bible before. It was like a person who never trusted Him before. I thought the warmth and passion immediately got fired up. I was weeping as I went along the scripture. Finally, I realize that He knows my load. the Lord really knows what we are going through. I am positive that you encountered the moments that you didn’t know where was the way out. You fought so hard and you were hurt by all the cuts and bruises. You didn’t know you could make it at the end. Later on, somehow, someway, you made it. You wonder how that happened within 24 hour. Let me tell you. That’s the supreme power of Him. He is the reason why we had to go through. Because the deeper we get into the water, the more trust we are able to find in Him. \

Life is a piece of sh*t sometimes and you know. It does not matter who you are and where you are at right now. You have thousands of stories to tell to others how you become a hero in the past. That’s not who you were. You God didn’t see you as the victim. He wanted you to be a champion of beating obstacles.  You have heard of the story of Job in the Bible a lot of times. He was the guy who had possible all the reasons to curse God and took revenge on Him. However, Job was a man of faith. He didn’t get sour or bitter. He got better, owing to his faithfulness and loyalty. That’s why God knows we can’t take more than we ought to handle. Friends, I want you to go back to the peace where you had before. When you are carrying the world on your shoulder, you need to know He is looking at you with the smile. He is not mocking at you. Nor He is celebrating, because of your affliction. The Lord is always by your side. He created you in His image.

My father used to tell me I was a strong man while I was little. He wanted me to know he loved me and had great faith in me. That’s exactly how our Heavenly Father sees us. He wants to be there when we are bullied by the unjust. He is willing to take up on us when we are suffering. He knows what we can and what we can’t. These are not just words. These are the truths we ought to know from the reading.

Some of us are big shopper, especially when the holiday season comes. When you buy the stuff, there is always some tag says “made in China. Made in Mexico. or Made in Indian. ” Today, I am here to tell you that you have birthmark on your neck, it says” made by the Almighty God.” No matter where you go, you always have the tag with you. It is the label which your heavenly Father inked on you. No one can wash it away and no one dares to do so.

So, if you have time today, not a whole chunk of time. Just a few minutes here and there. Find the place to read 1Peter 5:5~9. And don’t forget to check your birthmark. It is there since you were born.

He-made-His-best( Special thanks to “becomingbeautiful.org)

Take A Step Back

” Can we get it done all in once?!”  ” Why do we keep on going back and forth? Let’s get it done and get it over !” Maybe those phrases sound familiar to you. Or probably you have been saying those stuff when you are being frustrated.  These are the moments that we don’t want the time to slow down. We would love to get it done once for all, never think about it any longer! If that’s you, please don’t rush to the end of the story. I would love to share with you some of my thoughts on ” how to sit down and enjoy the journey.”

Have you ever baked a cake or cookies before? You are full of joy and excitement. You make sure you have all the ingredients, the right size of bowl to contain all the materials. Once you toss them in one  after another, you throw the pan into the baking oven. What’s the next step for you? You have to wait. We have to allow the time and oven to bake the cookies after all your work. Because there is nothing you can do and there is indeed nothing you can do. That’s where I learned the principle of “enjoying the journey in the midst of ups and downs.” Similar to the anticipation that we have for making the cookies, we ought to remind ourselves that life is full of surprises and we don’t know what’s going to happen the next minute, the next hour, even the next day. After studying in Graduate school for a while, I gradually understand the principle of  taking a deep breath and keep rolling one step at a time.

Once in a while, we know we might be running out of time. We know we are jammed between here and there. The clock is ticking . We need to be mindful of “to-do list”. However, when all the things are taken care of, we never stop for one minute to enjoy the process. People used to use the cliché to tell me ” life is a journey, not a destination.” But how many of us have the time to TRULY enjoy the journey? We don’t have the time. Or to be precise, we never allow ourselves to have time to “smell the flowers, listen to the bird-chirping.” I remember people used to sit on their Sun porch to enjoy the beauty. Today, that’s considered ” a waste of time.” People would give you the strange look if you pitch the ideas to them.

Friends, today, I would like to motivate you to take one step back. Learn to enjoy what we have in life bit by bit. We rush from spot A to spot B. When we are at Spot B, we tend to think about post C,D.E, etc. Have you ever asked yourself  the question, “when is going to be the end of this?” If we don’t enjoy life right now, when will we be? I know I met people at various locations. The older they get, the more life-lessons they would love to share with you. Among majority of the advice they share with you, one thing always stands out is to “spend more time alone and get ready to live the life!” That means it is okay for us to push the tasks on hold for a day. It is totally acceptable to move the business trip three days later. Even no one will be mad at you if you decide to spend more time with the kids and family members on a Sunday afternoon.

Just this morning, it was my first time to see the snow in Virginia Beach. I knew there were 1000 things I needed to get done today. I had to be somewhere later on. You know what? I decided to shut down my laptop for a while. Instead, I went outside to take some pictures of the beautiful snow. I need to take one step back and enjoy the journey.

Snow Day in Virginia Beach

I am here to encourage you the same. Remember: business can wait, because you will have more ideas later on. Phone calls can wait, because you call them on the way to places all the time. Meetings and tasks can wait, because they won’t happen until you there are. People, won’t be there all the time. We were born, we age, and we are gone. Treasure the ones around you. When they see you smiling and looking straight in their eyes, without words, both of you know ” Love” is greater and wider.

Now, take a deep breath and sit down!

Snow is beautiful here

 

You are so close.

Have you ever been into the situation where you reach your limit while you still need to do more? Or let me ask you this way. Have you ever been encountered into the place where you didn’t think you could make it, but you did it at the end? Yes! I know your answer will be Yes! That’s what I am going to talk about today. It is called ” You are so close to it!”

I woke up this morning and did Insanity as usual. Before putting on the shoes, I was mentally preparing myself for this work-out. It was going to be a killer and I knew I might have problems. Half way through the work-out. I was about to give up. Bu running out of breath, I knew I could “die” on this one. As the volume  of Shaun T’s yelling got louder and louder, I got back up and continued to push myself to make it. There were a lot of negative thoughts running around in my mind, telling to me quit, to stop, to give up. I already reached my limits!” One hour later, I was finished. I was panting and trying to catch my breath. You know what? I felt great. One thing I didn’t realize is I had more power and energy than I thought. The 64 pushes didn’t kill me. Instead, the push-ups made me taller and stronger.

This is only one of the moments where I thought I was done. But I didn’t allow the negative voices to steal my joy and persistence. Friends, whenever we set a goal and plan to work towards the accomplishment, we know the beginning part was hard. Deep down in us, we have the clear understanding we will some “giants” along the way. It was not easy to make it to the end by one step. However, we give up on things easily. We give in without even thinking twice. We never know we are so close to the victory. If we had hung on to it little longer, we would have tasted the victory. Too often, we tend to shrink back when we face obstacles. As life is getting more and more comfortable, we tend to think “trying harder” is unnecessary. Have you ever paused for a moment to think about the big picture? We are not far from the destination. We made 97% of the efforts. 3% more we will be free. However, we give up and didn’t want to go back any longer.

We have to know success does not come easily. The more challenges we face, we better we grow. I like what Joel Osteen often says in his sermon, ” The devil never fight with you, because where you are. The devil always fights with you. Because he knows where you are going.” Come to think of it, when we give up, we are giving the power away to the devils. They can’t wait to see us being sad and gloomy. The devil got what they wanted from us. So, I am here to encourage you today to know you are so close to your success. Don’t lose your power and will, just because it is getting too hard. Think about the moments I was about to give up for Insanity. I would never grow much bigger and stronger, if I had not stuck to the goal.

In the end, I would like to share with you one of my favorite stories. When I mentioned the name ” Diana Nyad” three years ago,  no one probably know who she was. People thought the person might be just one of the lonely creature on earth. Today, Nyad is a famous person. Because at the age of 60, she broke the record by swimming across between Cuba and Florida. She never thought she could make it to the end. In this talk, I am sure you will be inspired by her story.  There was moment where she couldn’t breathe while the mask was on. There was numerous times that people thought she was gonna quit any minutes. No, Diana didn’t. She knew she was so close to the victory and she was about to embrace something she never thought about.

Friends, when you are about to give up next time, please think twice before throwing the towel, because you are so close to your own “celebration!” You are so close.

Serve or To be served?

Today is a special day for all of us. It is the day to commemorate one of the greatest heroes in our nation – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am sure everyone who witnessed the history during the periods have more and more respect for what King did for our nation. Personally, what I learned from Dr. King is the attitude of the servanthood. Too make long story short, Dr. King used his life and stories to demonstrate we ought to maintain the attitude of being a good servant of others. It is easier to think” what shall I get? Why should I bother to make the efforts to help others? ” However, Dr. King once said, ” you don’t need college degree to serve others. You don’t need to know Aristotle or Greek Philosophy to serve others. All you need is the heart.” Today, I strongly encourage everyone to serve one another with the attitude of love and compassion.  We all have various of needs, we all know life is not fair to all of us. Come to think of it, when we are in trouble, there are people who are willing to give us a hand. There are people who are joyous that we are taken care of by their efforts. Why can’t we be the people who make the differences in the life of others?

Last December, I went on a class trip with my classmates and professors to Washington D.C. At the end of the trip, I had the honor to visit the Dr. King Memorial site. That has been one of the many places that I wanted to see since I move to US.  When I stood in front of the statue, I felt different. Deep down in me, there was a small voice talking to me, ” Mengfei. What you are seeing right now is not an accident. You should examine your hearts to follow the trail.” I know that was the Lord who was talking to me. I know He was trying to tell me to increase the volume of helping others.

I have to admit that I might be one of the person who might think about my own needs from time to time. Once in a while, people might need me to give a hand, I agreed but didn’t have the zeal to take the actions. I am being grateful that the Lord is still working in me. He is doing the best to change me, mold me, sharpen me into the better person. In the Bible, Paul talks about the principle of reaping  and sowing. It is the lesson which we are familiar that we harvest exactly what we planted at the beginning.

So, on this day, I strongly encourage everyone to be more “sow-oriented” than “need-oriented.” Let’s do what Dr. King said, to have the passion for serving others. The Lord is watching us and He knows whenever we help others. Stop thinking about “me”. Let’s think about “we”. Dr. King memorial.

Words from the wise