Christmas Confessions of a Third-Culture-Kid

Christmas wont be homeChristmas is painful sometimes.

A significant part of the problem is being unable to identify what “home” really is.

Home is where the heart is, people say. But what if my heart is in many different places? Does that mean I have multiple homes? If so, then is there a place out of all these homes to really call “home?”

I am what they call a Third-Culture Kid (TCK). In short, this means that during my 25-year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth.

Due to the high mobility shared by fellow TCK’s across the globe, home is characterized by a state of intermittence – it is fluid and in a constant state of flux.

I am a case in point.

For the first 12 years of my life, home was the verdant city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Then till I was 19, the metropolis of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman was home. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his provisional invite called the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States.

Over the span of the last 6 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, to Muscat, to Sri Lanka, and then back to Michigan, and will eventually head out to California.

“Where is home for you?”

If you are born and raised in your country of birth, the answer to that question would be pointedly singular and specific. But if you were to ask me that question, I’d state verbatim the previous paragraph supplemented by a geography lesson outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India and an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tiger terrorists from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts.

Home, therefore, is not where my heart is.

It is where my foot is.

Home is where I make it to be.

Home is everywhere. And home is nowhere.

Christmas, unlike any other season, unabashedly and unapologetically reminds me of home. This morning, however, as I was reflecting on the Christmas story detailed in the Bible, I was refreshed to find that my sentiments regarding home found clarity and purpose in the birth of the ultimate TCK – Jesus Christ.

God became flesh. Divinity was enshrouded in humanity. The One who knew no time was born in it. If there was anyone in history who knew the pains of being away from home it was Jesus.

While families across the globe are reunited with their loved ones during this joyous season, the Reason for the season was separated from his family, not just during his birth but for the rest of his life.

But this separation was not a complete separation. Jesus, through his life, exemplified the life of a human being who was in constant communion to his Heavenly Father. Even though there was a physical separation, Jesus felt the closeness of his heavenly home emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

As I write this, I’m in California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my significant other. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and a place to call home.

The warmth and sense of belonging I have received in these places have undeniably alleviated the pain of distance. They have taught me that while I may be physically away from those places I call ‘home’, I am and forever will be connected to them in my heart.

This Christmas I’m thankful for the many homes the Lord has provided for me during the course of my life. I truly have pieces of my heart in each of those places.

I’m also thankful that even though I may be seas away from my family, I am but a prayer away from God.

But above all, I thank God for the promise of a permanent home.

A home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away.
A home where I no longer need to validate my identity.
A home where I don’t have to live off of my suitcase.
A home of perpetual joy, light, and happiness.
A home that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time.
A home whose builder and maker is God.

I won’t be home for Christmas.

For now.

Are you a Third-Culture Kid? If so How do you deal with this concept of home especially during holidays? Leave a comment below!

The Only Reason Why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian

SDA 1 reason

“Potlucks”

“Family-feel”

“Haystacks”

“My parents”

“My teacher”

“Sabbath”

“Sam’s chicken”

And the list goes on when one’s inquired about why they are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

In light of the recent notoriety the denomination has been getting through media and news networks, I had to revisit this question myself:

“Why are YOU a Seventh-Day Adventist, Kevin?”

I am not going to lie. This was a tough one. When I reflected on my 25 short years as an Adventist, however, I was able to boil it down to a single reason onto a single sentence.

The only reason I am a Seventh-Day Adventist is because I believe that we have the clearest, richest, and fullest picture of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

That’s it. The following is the “un-packaging” of this  long over-due, comprehensive explanation I owe to you, my reader.

Hopefully by the end, you’ll not only get a better look into why I believe what I believe, but also understand why I do and say the stuff I do and say.

Here we go:

How we understand the Scriptures ( the Bible ) presents Jesus as a serious BOSS. He is the Writer, Editor, Compiler, Creator, Presenter, and Protector of this meta-narrative that my friend calls the “God-Story.” The Old Testament points forward to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament looks back at the Jesus who’s already come.

How we understand the Trinity exalts Jesus as One with the Father and the Spirit – distinct yet equal in authority. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live out their lives in each other, through each other, and this other-centered love has been poured out full strength to the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand creation presents Jesus as One through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together. I believe that He is the soundtrack of all nature, and the sustainer of all life.

How we understand the seventh-day Sabbath reminds me of what was created through Jesus and what was redeemed by Jesus. This is a time where I can fully rest from my need for validation and rest in the love of God.

How we understand the nature of humanity let me know that I am known, valued, understood, appreciated, and enjoyed because I’ve been created by Jesus. Because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, my life finds its purpose, joy, and function in and through Him.

How we understand the “God-Story” or the Great Controversy, presents Jesus as the conquering hero who has successfully completed the ultimate rescue mission in earth’s history. I find my place in this story as a beloved, victorious son of God who’ll one day see the face of his Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

How we understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus elevates Christ as the theme and song of all Biblical history. We believe that His account isn’t localized within just the first four books of the New Testament, but from Genesis to Revelation, every chapter and every verse, echoes His love ultimately manifested through His sacrifice on the cross.

How we understand salvation magnifies Jesus as the Author, Provider, and Finisher of our salvation. We are justified by His blood, sanctified through His Spirit, and will one day be glorified through his grace.

How we understand our spiritual growth transforms every waking moment of our existence as a spiritual experience through the spirit of Jesus. The dichotomous relationship between the “sacred” and the “secular” is decimated through Him. The more I’m aware of His presence in my life, the more I grow into his likeness so I can treat others as He did – with compassion, justice, and mercy.

How we understand the church honors Jesus as the foundational ‘adhesive’ who unites all His children together. This is a community where everyone is entrusted with embodying and telling someone the God-Story. It is a refuge in the midst of this stormy world where we pray together, play together, and process together all the while praising Him who has our back.

How we understand the mission of God’s remnant finds its reason and method in Jesus. We are to introduce others to His love, experience joy in Him, and live out our lives in him as we approach the end of this sojourn on earth.

How we understand Baptism as a symbol of our new birth, finds its impetus and rubric in the life and death of Jesus. As I rise up from the ‘watery grave’, it’s an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place because of Him.

How we understand the Lord’s Supper as an emblem of Jesus’ experience invites all His friends to authentic service, brotherly love, and faithful community in Him.

How we understand the gift of prophecy highlights Jesus as its theme of contemplation and admiration. The ministry of this prophetic gift through Ellen White has brought me closer to Jesus than anyone has ever done.

How we understand the law of God honors Jesus as the mode and purpose for relational faithfulness between God and us. Because of what He did for me on the cross, I no longer work towards victory but from it.

How we understand stewardship acknowledges Jesus as the Provider of my time, talents, and resources. I am entrusted with them to better the environments I find myself in, whether it be within the community of God or outside of it.

How we understand marriage as a heavenly institution finds its reason for existence in Jesus. His selfless love poured out to his bride – the church – gives me a model from which I can learn to love my spouse.

How we understand Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary elevates Jesus as not only my Savior and Friend, but also as my Judge, Advocate, and High Priest who prays for me even right now!

How we understand the end of life honors Jesus as the Conqueror of death! Death is not the end, but a sleep! The real and living hope of reuniting with loved ones energizes my life’s pursuits.

How we understand the millennium, the new earth, and the second coming lauds Jesus as the King of a new kind of existence – one where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. A place filled with inexpressible joy and unfathomable happiness and peace. A place where I can finally see my ever faithful Friend face to face.

There it is. The package and its contents.

I don’t have 28 reasons as to why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have One. And He’s all I need.

What about you? If you are a Seventh-Day Adventist, why are you one? if you are not, ask me ANYTHING if you want to know more! I’ll do my best to answer them. Leave a question or a comment below!

How to Abuse Your Relationship With God.

girl-hair-meadow-403I have to admit.

Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.

I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.

In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.

Hopefully you don’t resonate.

1) Talk to him only when you need something.

Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:

“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”

He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.

This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler.
It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A.  But prayer is still optional communication. I need it when I need God.

Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us to come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (SC, 93).

God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?

I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.

2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.

When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.

Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.

The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.

Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross.
We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Have mercy.

Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?

Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?

3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.

The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.

The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”

In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.

But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not.  However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.

The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.

Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.

These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below!