Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Wilderness

Manhood. It's a long journey. It requires courage. Endurance. Staying power.
Much of this is developed in the wilderness. In times of trial. Uncertainty.
The Wilderness is a place of necessity. Where every boy goes through to become a man.
The wilderness is where your faith is put to the test.

There will be doubt. There will be temptation. There will be fear.
For each of these, there is faith, hope, and love.
The point of decision, the critical moment when the boy becomes a man, is when he decides to
Choose this day whom you will serve
Choose your allegiance.

God put Moses and the people of Israel through the Wilderness.
Jesus spent time in the Wilderness.
The Wilderness is where a man, in search of his identity, grows in maturity.
The key decision that marks a man is how he answers the question:

How can I make the most of the Wilderness?

The Wilderness is where dreams are born. Visions casted. Courage forged.
We each have a Wilderness that we must go through.
The decisions during the difficult times shape the future man.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Who Am I?

Recently, I have been thinking about my identity. Who am I? What was I meant to be? What is my purpose? Do I have one? And if I do, how specific is it?

In "The Cure for the Common Life", Max Lucado talks about how we all have a God-given passion. Things that excite us and fill us with energy. What is my passion?

I have a personal dilemma. I grew up always wanting to be a medical doctor. This was my dream. Not my parents. Not society's. This was something I wanted. As time passed, life happened. Opportunities, financial constraints, and perhaps even a lack of focus and clarity of vision has led me to where I am now. I have an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science, specializing in Infrastructure Engineering. And now I'm en route to finish a Masters of Applied Science in Urban Transportation Planning from the Department of Civil Engineering. How I ended up here, I don't know. From medical doctor to transportation planner. Interesting, to say the least.

I still wonder about medicine. I volunteer at a hospital. I read through the MCAT books on occasion. And I read broadly. What I know for sure is that I cannot keep haphazardly trying different things. It's like not knowing which investment to choose and throwing a lot of money everywhere. Rather, I need to find that investment (or those few investments) by either doing my research or start by investing a bit in a lot. However, I won't gain any significant ROI simply by putting a bit randomly. A larger investment is needed. Similarly, if I want to succeed in anything (medicine, transportation, or whatever else), I need to be laser focused. I need to commit. During the holidays, I saw this quote that said something along the lines that commitment gives the foundation for endurance.

And this brings me to the subject of endurance. How does one endure? Endurance comes from a deep rooted commitment. And where does this commitment to a purpose comes from? I believe this comes from an understanding of your identity, of who you are, and what you were made to be. Knowing who you are is essential and provides the foundation for staying power. To have the endurance that keeps at it, nevertheless.

This morning, our family went to the Bridge, a local community church. Through the message, I found some hints to discovering who I am. The message was titled "Imagine a New Beginning". The four key points were:
- Forget
- Prepare (your hearts)
- Trust (God)
- Act

Maybe forgetting means forgetting the childhood dreams. Maybe forgetting means to leave behind the failures of the past. Or maybe it's simpler.

The pastor left us with the story of Joshua. He reminded us of God's provision for us. In Joshua 4, God commanded them to take 12 smooth stones from the river to remember what God has done. Maybe that's what I need. I need to remember that God is good. While I am confused, God's got my back.

Should I study to be a doctor? Should I keep studying transportation? These questions, while important, are not urgent. The more important and pressing question is this: Will I make the most of what I have? What you have is not as important as what you do with what you have. The answer is a resounding yes. And from there, I need to see what I have in front of me. And from there, I need to act - to make the most of what I have in front of me.

So if you're wondering about your identity, wondering what to do next, here are the key points that I'm working on in my life.
- Will I make the most of what I have in life?
- If yes, then what are the opportunities, gifts, talents, that God has blessed in front of me?
- How can I make the most of these things?

Comments? Thoughts? I'd love to hear about your stories. Post up or message me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Time of Renewal

Renewal is a part of life. Things must die to allow for new growth. There are the seasons of plants. Animals giving birth to their babies. The "circle of life". Similarly, people also experience times of renewal within a lifetime. Times of physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual renewal. Times of refreshing.

For me, I have been going through a time of renewal. Primarily a spiritual renewal, but bringing times of refreshing to every part of my life. This verse from the Holy Bible comes to mind:

Acts 3:19 "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord"

Things must die to allow for new growth. For me, it was primarily sin. Sinful thoughts. Sinful relationships. Sinful attitudes. Sin being traditionally defined as "anything we say, think or do that breaks God's law". God was calling me to a time of renewal. He wanted to pour out His Holy Spirit on me. But according to A.W. Tozer, being filled with the Spirit means you need to want the Holy Spirit over the Selfish Spirit. Yes, there are multitudes of blessings to be had for the Spirit-filled believer; but are you willing to relinquish your rights to yourself and let your thoughts, words, and actions be ruled by someone else? Can you surrender? That was the hardest question for me. One that I had to face and something that I wrestle with day by day.

Accountability refers to responsibility. To an obligation to another. To aspire higher, I have begun to seek the help of others in this journey. Those who I have asked to keep me accountable, ask me two questions:
1. Are there things in your life that is taking you away from God? (Distractions)
2. Are you spending time with God? (Relationship)

Another set of accountability questions used by a pastor I met in Seattle are as follows:

Weekly Accountability Questions:
  1. Have you been involved in any inappropriate relationships?
  2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
  4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
  5. Have you given priority time to your family?
  6. Have you faithfully served God?
  7. Have you just lied?
These are hard hitting questions. Not for the faint-hearted. I aspire to the love Maria from the Sound of Music spoke of. In answering one of the children's question how she (Maria) knew that she loved father, Maria replied that she started thinking more of him than herself. Thinking of his needs over hers. A love that consumes your thoughts.

I recently picked up C.S. Lewis' autobiography, Surprised by Joy. I hope to learn from the great thinkers of the past. Those who have walked before me. To follow in the footsteps of giants.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dec 11 Workout


1 Peter 1:13-19: On being holy

Reflections after Friday morning Prayer Meeting:

As more of a follow-up sharing (which I would be excited to hear from you guys as well), I was doing some reflection tonight while working out. I was reading from 1 Peter 1 and reminded of the importance of holiness. A call to be set apart. To not be ashamed of my identity as a Christian. Since we have an everlasting inheritance. An investment that can only "appreciate" in value ... no risk :D Anyways, for those who have it in mind, I ask that you check in on me too - and I welcome accountability of any sort, even if it may "offend". I really enjoyed my morning with you all and look forward to seeing you all soon :) -Josh


Tabata Squats
14 - 14 - 14 - 14 - 14 - 14 - 14 - 14
Score: 14 (132)

Ab Roller (knees)
10 - 30 - 20 - 20 - 20

Triceps Press (25#)
20 - 10 - 20 - 20 - 20 - 10

Dumbbell Bench Press (weight/reps) + Leg Raises
20#/10 + 10
25#/20 + 20
25#/20 + 20
25#/10 + 50

Social / Emotional

D'Arcy 69 House Party: Yesterday (Dec 10), we had a house party! It was a lot of fun and we had friends over. We enjoyed some food and desserts. I made some red bean and bean curd drinks with tapioca and coconut milk. We also made fried green onion cake and dumplings. Nick made lemon squares - which were amazing! Hannah brought a cheesecake =) And we also had some dip (Jon's special recipe). As for the guests, they were from our house and friends from around. I was quite happy with the turnout, given that we're still in the middle of exams. I hope all who came out had a great time and enjoyed the break from their exams. Honorable mention to Debbie who gets the award for the superhuman ability to study in any environment!

State of Mind: It's quite hard to just talk about my social / emotional state without talking about other dimensions of my fitness. I would say that my fitness has been developing overall and that my emotional wellness and steadiness is growing and rooted in who I am in Jesus. It is also affected by how I take care of my body (eating and working out). Finally, I'm a lot happier when I'm on top of my academic work. One thing to gather from all this is that my social / emotional "state" comes from a balance of overall "fitness". This state is a "fruit" of health in other dimensions of my life.

Intellectual / Mental

This semester has been quite the adventure! I really enjoy grad school: the research, the courses, and the friends. This semester I took three courses:

CIV1307: Evaluating Sustainability in Engineering Activities
- This course focuses on lectures on quantifying environmental impacts and integrating environmental assessments with governance.
- The evaluation focuses on a research project, which is fairly flexible. The course breakdown is 10% Article Review, 20% Research Proposal, and 20% Oral Presentation + 50% Final Report.
- My research project proposed a model for risk disaggregation: STDAR, Space-Time Disaggregate Approach to Risk. This model was applied to air quality and ultimately seeks to understand the influence of health risks to travel behavior.

CIV1310: Infrastructure Economics
- A fantastic course and great prof!
- Evaluation: 30% Assignments, 70% Final Exam
- The quantitative analysis is fairly straightforward. Concepts need a bit of time to sink in.
- The readings have opened up my mind to the complex issues in society. Understanding welfare and urban economics, discussing the context of our economy in terms of our biosphere, learning the intricacies of microeconomics, understanding basic econometric models to represent our economy. All these have served to help me develop a better understanding of my role as a researcher, engineer, and whatever else may come my way.

CIV1504: Applied Probability and Statistics for Engineers
- Evaluation: 20% Assignments, 20% Midterm, 30% Project, 30% Final Exam
- Course material reviews undergraduate statistics and goes more in depth in other areas, such as Monte Carlo simulations, General Linear Regression, and Maximum Likelihood Estimation.
- The course project allows you to explore a subject of your choice in greater detail. My partner and I looked at an application of an econometric model to travel demand modeling: stochastic frontier analysis
- In brief, frontier analysis aims to estimate maximum production / minimal costs of a firm given a set of inputs. The stochastic part of the analysis allows the model to accommodate for random effects. This contrasts with the mathematical programming approach: Data Envelopment Analysis.
- We applied Stochastic Frontier Analysis to estimate an individual's "Space-Time Prism", estimating their earliest possible departure, and latest arrival, given their actual departures/arrivals and socio-economic characteristics
- This work emulates work done by other researchers (Kitamura, Pendyala, and others). This analysis is conducted using panel data from the GTA

Final thoughts:

I'm not quite done yet. I have my Stats Project and Econ Final upcoming. I have also been thinking about after grad school: PhD? MD? JD? Work? And what I have come to terms with so far is this: that I will put one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time in this journey of life. Embracing each opportunity that comes my way. And in all things, to "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33, New King James Version, Holy Bible)