Monday, June 03, 2013

Heart Issues

I have a lot of friends getting married lately. Facebook just has a way of rubbing things at my face when I am least guarded. Normally, I'd be fine, but what got me so much this time was the union of a very good looking couple that got me thinking - will I ever have this privilege?

Then I realised I have never fallen in love. I've had horrible infatuations and crushes before, but never had I understood love in that context.

I remember the first time I fell for someone. That fluttering feeling and joy I had were indescribable, but soon after, I've told myself that I'll be this careless with the matters of my heart anymore. Perhaps that is the reason of my non-feeling days.

What scares me more is the questions I ask myself -- "What does it feel like to be in love, to know for sure that the person you are marrying is the one for you, to be assuredly someone's, to be so willing to take that fall because there is everything to lose. My sanity, my safety, my boundaries, everything that makes me, me."

As if that weren't enough, the conclusions that I make in my head scare me the most, honestly.

Some people are fortunate, some aren't. Some are loved by everyone, and they get such affection just by being themselves. There is no need to try, no need to fight. They just are. And when you look at your background and the struggles you have gone and are going through, there is absolutely no evidence that you could have the same. 

Sure, there are some things that everyone, despite their background, can enjoy. Like salvation, but not happiness. 

And then, there are so many schools of thought regarding this matter.

You will find your significant other when the time is right, when you are ready for love. To do that, you need to work on yourself so that the other will receive the best of you.

You only need to be open, for love is near. The reason you can't find it is your unwilling to be open to the possibility that perhaps someone is out there for you.

You need to learn how to completely love yourself. It is only when you are able to do so, love finds you. 

And what does not help in moments like this is: Singlehood is the shizniz. There is no need to answer to anyone, no need to report to anyone your whereabouts. But really? What about the times when you are lonely, when you want to hold someone and when you want to be held? When you want to just rest in the shadow of someone's wings, feeling assured that there is someone you can count on if the world caves down upon you, and if the sky turns dark and begins to toss blitzes of thunders at you.

Are we that delusional to think that I can do away without anyone else? Or is the challenge to be completely okay with myself?

Food for thought.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Let Everything In

Aran Islands, Ireland. (c) Jonathan Chu, 2011

Let everything in.

Read voraciously. (note: it doesn’t count if it’s a book in your field)
Go hiking.
Visit interesting art exhibits, especially if it’s “not your thing”.
Wake up at 5:30am, sit in solitude outside in the twilight, and write whatever comes to mind using a pen in a notebook that no one will ever read.
Listen to Kanye, then turn on some Vivaldi.
Skip the movie and go see some local theatre.
Take long walks in weird places.
Learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee.
Attend a poetry reading.
Train for a race.
Don’t ever stay inside when the stars are kind enough to dance for you.
Go to a local cheese shop (no, not Whole Foods) & ask them to suggest something.
Go to a local wine shop and do the same.
During your next lunch break, walk downstairs with a camera (or your phone), stand still, look at the world and take a photo of what strikes you. Describe it in no more than four words.
Rent a movie produced before 1950.
Learn how to make your own pasta.
Read about how Henry Clay saved the Union, then pick up some of Tagore’s poetry.
Plan the adventure of a lifetime. Then go.
Read about the history of typography.
Draw something. Anything.
Find a restaurant with a cuisine that scares you, and invite someone to go and try it with you.
Go to an antique market and buy something you don’t need.
Spend your next Friday evening with someone who doesn’t do anything remotely similar to what you do.
Take a train when a plane would be much more efficient.
Create a piece of art.
Throw up your hands in places you shouldn’t.

Every great piece of work is only an amalgamation of existing work filtered through the mind of the artist creating it. Take inspiration from anywhere you can find it. Then imbue it into the fiber of your next project proposal or fundraising spec or development sprint or speaking gig or preso to the marketing team.

And once you have, do it again.

- AJ Leon, The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit, p. 49 - 50


Precisely how I am going to live my life from now on.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Musings about a job

I thought I wanted the job, just because it was quite a prestigious company. Both my friend and I went for the interview. I didn't get it; my friend did. I was angry because if I got it, it would have proven that I still have it.

At least that was what I thought. Have 'what', I asked myself. The drive to work? The ability to project manage, write, be awesome...?

Then I realised, a skill, once attained, will never leave me. So why was I angry and unsatisfied? Why did I need to feel so?

I looked at how life turned within these two months and realised that God was somehow showing me that I had to go back to where I started and strengthen my foundation, skills and network. And then it struck me -- I was in the pioneering business.

I was here to start something because He has put a burden in my heart for young people for quite some time. Had I gotten the job, I would have been fulfilling the company's dream/vision; but now, I have the chance to shape my dream. I don't know how, but I know that's the way to go.

Now I don't feel angry or upset anymore. I see the bigger picture. I need not be unsure of my skills or of myself. I need not others' approval. I am where I need to be, and for that I am happy.

Here's to counting my blessings.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Am Who I Hang Out With

Today I thank God for Pastor Jon Cook and his message he preached a few months back. He emphasized that we are who we hang out with. Initially I felt it was a good reminder about choosing my friends well. But ever since I'm back here, I realised I'm choosing to spend my time with people who can speak into my life or whom I can speak life into.

Then I realised that I'm perfectly alright with having just a few friends. I don't need to know a lot of people as I once wanted so badly; right now, just a few will do. A few true, good friends. The kind of people who are completely okay with silence. The kind who don't judge you by each word you say. The kind who talk about life and don't mind being honest about how much they're struggling. The kind who remind me that I am here for a purpose, and who will stand by the decisions I make and not judge me by them.

The kind who remind me that God has a hand in everything. The kind who tell me to pursue God no matter what. The kind who tell me to continue writing songs despite everything that is against me. The kind who tell me that it is more blessed to bless than be blessed.

The kind who tell me to pursue my dreams and just surrender. The kind who are grateful for what life has thrown at them. The kind who persevere, fight and never give up. The kind who are transparent and not shy away from authenticity.

The kind who are not obsessed about networking and making it huge in business. Far from it. But people who want to chase God and be after His heart. Who want to worship and please the King of kings. Who want to put a smile on His - and not people's - face(s).

The kind who never make me feel like I'm not good enough. The kind who push me hard - although I insist (and sometimes shout out) that I can't do it anymore. The kind who don't put me on a pedestal but silently whisper to my ears - you can. Just another step. Another while more. Hang in there.

For these people, I don't mind hanging out with them. In fact, I long to have a chance to meet up and just worship.

Friends are important. Very important. I don't think we were ever made to be an island. But we want to choose the kind of people we hang out with.

Right now I think I've found those I want to spend time with. And for that I thank God.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Choosing to Love

(c) Jonathan Chu 2012. Taken in Ireland.

I've been back in Malaysia for almost three weeks. I have somewhat lost my fake Geordie and Chinese accent, gotten used to the Malaysian weather, somewhat adjusted to the Malaysian time zone (although I still feel drowsy in the afternoon, which is the AM in UK).

Not a moment passes by without me thinking of UK, the good old times when I used to live alone. When I spent hours in the kitchen, baking, thinking of all the people I love and their smiles, thanking God for them in my life.

Thinking about such things is absolute agony.

I remember when the plane touched down in Malaysia and I was near to tears. Not because I missed Malaysia (far from it) as I am sure by now, everybody knows how much I love Newcastle. (I loved it so much I kissed the floor of Newcastle airport. HA!)

Part of me knows and refuses to acknowledge part of the reason why I did not want to return to Malaysia. The hurt and struggles I've been through, especially during my childhood and teenage years. The self-doubt and pangs of pain that knock on my little heart every where I go. The people I've let hurt me because I thought that's the way to be loved and accepted. The abusive words I've taken in, the anger that wells up within me even as I type this, the painful, oh very painful memories, and the lack of good, non-judging friends that I have.

And that same part of me knows that God allowed me a year in Newcastle, surrounded me with people who loved me -- who never once spoke anything belittling or demeaning to me, just so that I would know how it feels like to receive unconditional love. 

The confidence that has grown within me, the strength that I now have... I owe it to the people of NCLC. The few who spoke life into my life, I count them as blessings God has graciously and generously given to me.

I somehow get the impression that's somewhat centered around these words: Now you know how it feels like to be loved and how the love of Christ is, go back and show those who have hurt you that same love.

I'd be lying if I say that I don't struggle with this every moment. Love your neighbors as yourself? Love your enemies? Love those who have hurt you? You gotta be kidding me. How on earth can somebody like me, wounded and little, accomplish that? The amount of pain that surfaced just by being back to this country is unbearable, let alone approach the people who've caused these wounds!

You gotta be flippin' kidding me, mate. 

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

"Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self. 
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best, 
Never looks back, 
But keeps going to the end."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (MSG)

Sometimes I think God is crazy. That He would even think that I would want to be placed in such a position and emerge as a victor... this is just mental. Absolute mental. And yet, His word reminds me that "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37

Maybe my mission back in Malaysia isn't to get a glamorous job and earn big bucks so that I can go back to UK, my comfort zone. But so that I love my enemies like He loved me. I once sang "I want to care for others like Jesus cares for me", maybe it's time to mean what I sing. 

Love puts up with anything. Because Love never gives up. Because Love looks only for the best -- that which builds, upholds, strengthens, believes, inspires. The road of love may be difficult, but when one always trusts God. One never looks back and wish that it were easier but keeps going til the very end.

To hate is easier. To despise, to avoid, to run from - all of these are easier. But love... Love chooses to recognise the good in, the value of those who hurt me. Love chooses to understand that the God Almighty has chosen to create them because He first chooses to love, never to condemn.

To be more like Christ is to accept the abuse and look pain in the eye and never back away. To say "Even if every part of me aches, even if my bones testify against the insanity of loving my enemies, I will choose. to. love.'"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the Middle of an Ocean

(c) Jonathan Chu 2012 

I am a boat in the middle of the ocean. The wind blows at me, the waters below rock me back and forth, yet my anchor holds me. Some may say that this is a good place to be, but I hate being in this position.

I have always had something to work towards, somewhere to be. But being stuck in the middle of nowhere, unsure to go forward or to the left or right, just upsets me. It's like tasting bile in my mouth. Ugh, the agony.

I mutter a little prayer and hope for the best.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The NCLC Journey

Here's to NCLC. Family, Community. Home. My Home.

One year has passed by too quickly. I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Newcastle as the plane was flying over the land. Such a beautiful land, I thought to myself. I thanked God for allowing me to leave my country to a land I know nothing of.

I visited NCLC for the first time. The blue lights. The songs... Nothing is Impossible, God is Able, Awakening... Gordy Alexander on stage, playing the piano, singing. I remember looking at the card with the words "Welcome Home". I smiled. Home it is indeed.

I remember the first day I walked into the church offices with Gabby for worship practice. Apprehension. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough because people like Mark Harle and Gordy Alexander were insanely professional. I walked through the wooden door. New faces. I smiled - awkwardly. Nodded when people greeted me. "Hi." My short reply with a hesitant smile.

Do I smile? Do I go around and shake everyone's hand? Do I... The questions ran through my head. My palms sweated.

Then the practice began. Matt Lewis was pushing the team with so much drive, passion. "Let's stop here." "Let's do the transition again." "What key are you in?" "Can you play this?" "I need something ethereal."

This is where I am meant to be. Here's where I can be a better musician. Here's where I will gain what I've been praying so hard for - that I may be surrounded with talented musicians who're better than me, and that I may grow to become a better musician.

The practice was over. Everyone was chatting. Gordy asked me to come over to the keyboard. "Play something!" He asked gently. "Play what?" I replied, not knowing if my skills would embarrass me. "Anything." He smiled. I touched the Juno keyboard. Oh, the touch of a keyboard. Familiarity. Home. I played.

"You're in." Veronica McCadden, another keyboardist who stood beside me, interjected after I played the first chord. "You're not allowed to leave."

I finished playing. Gordy smiled, his right hand to his heart. He sighed. "That. Was beautiful."

I never knew I would be good enough for a great church like NCLC. I was ready for rejection. Something along the lines of "I think you need more practice" or "I think you need more time." But before I knew, my name was on the rota. Jonathan C it wrote. In pink. The color I detest the most, but not this time. It was a sweet, sweet color. A color of acceptance, new challenges, growth.


Being in NCLC has been such a blessing to me. I thought that I'll be spending a lonely year in a foreign land. I thought that I'll leave Newcastle with nothing but the experience that I've lived alone for a year. But look what God had in store for me?

A group of people who allow me to love them the only way I know how, and who love me in return.
Who ceased every opportunity to encourage me and support me in any way they can.
Who are filled with passion and drive to be better musicians, and who encouraged me to be the same.
Who struggle like I do, but never relent in giving God all the glory.

Sometimes I feel that I don't tell them enough how much I appreciate each of them. Without the beautiful, great individuals that God has placed in my life, I doubt that I'll be who I am today.

I'd always think to myself that God placed me in Newcastle not to just be a better musician, but to learn what is generosity, how to love until it hurts, and what it feels like to place others before me. And when I learn of the struggles each of them go through, my heart breaks knowing that the best I can do sometimes is to either put a hand on their shoulders or bake a simple cake for them.

In the youth, I see so much promise, potential. I had to humble myself and learn from musicians who are far better than me. Musicians like Joe Draper and Andrew Gallagher have taught me so much about music than I could ever imagine. Andrew Gallagher would offer to teach me some guitars. He'd travel all the way from Gateshead over to Northumbria University, sit down with me for an hour, share with me some stuffs that he has learned the hard way and charge nothing.

I will not be surprised if I see posters plastered all over Facebook about the youths from NCLC leading huge congregations into worship, or if some of them became pastors and are now changing the face of the earth. I know then that I'll smile and know that once, I was part of them.

In the leaders, I see so much drive, compassion, grace and love. Sometimes I wonder how is it possible for people like them to exist. How can a person have so much passion, compassion, grace and love? But there they are, caring about me like no one else have. Sometimes I feel like I owe them too much, for I am just a foreigner. Yet their love surpasses race and nationality, but centers on the fact that we are all in the body of Christ.


I will not be able to fully pen everything that I've ever learned and experienced in Newcastle and NCLC because there's just too much. But one thing I know for sure: Never a single moment do I regret being in NCLC and Newcastle. The words used, the deeds done - not one do I tell myself I should have or should have not.

Though I am now physically in Malaysia, my heart is still in Newcastle with the people of NCLC. I think it'll take me a while to settle back to Malaysia. Even though I have been in Malaysia for about 4 days, I still think (and dream) of Newcastle and the awesome people I've come to love. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.


To everyone in NCLC,

Thank you for making my one year in Newcastle such a beautiful one. I doubt that I'll ever be able to thank you enough for the amazing part you've played in my life. The smiles, the encouragement, the openness, the grace, the love... I can ask for nothing more.

I look forward to the day I step foot in Newcastle again, and into the new premises of NCLC. If there is any way I can still be a part of the community or support you, let me know. Pete and Mark told me that once a NCLC-er, always a NCLC-er. I hold true to that.

Keep updating me about how life is treating you, and add me in Skype (Jonathan Chu, I want to keep in touch. Let me know your home address so that I can write to you whenever the chance/time permits.

Lots and lots of love,
Jonathan Chu


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