Start Your Week by Worshiping Our “Way Maker” w/Daniel & Robert (video)

“Way Maker” Worship Cover by Daniel & Robert

Hey TD!

In our ongoing effort to help you worship during the pandemic, here’s another worship video for you to sing to, as sometimes it’s more personal and meaningful to worship with those you know and love!

If you missed the last one, here you go:

“Worship Session w/Daniel & Angela”

Enjoy!

– Arthur

“Kaboom!” Original Music & interview w/ TD alum, Melody Hung!

Video of Kaboom! by Melody Hung

Hey TD!

I thought I’d share with you an amazing recital of largely original work, composed by our very own TD alumnus, Melody Hung.  It’s a real treat, both musically and visually.  I hope you’ll be blessed and inspired by her music and her passion that oozes through her music. It’s music and hope for those who may be in a dark place.

There’s a bit of everything – classical pieces, contemporary songs, a love song to God that she plays and sings, graphic art, a re-scored Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer (w/video), movie-like music, and even original video game music!  I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it, as I did.  Just click SHOW MORE to see the contents.

I also hope you’ll be enriched by her sharing and raw honesty as she shares some of her up-and-down life journey with us, from church kid, TD’er, and beyond in an interview I did with her for you TD’ers. – Arthur

Arthur:  Wow, that was an amazing senior recital, Melody! What a feast for the senses! It felt like a 5-course gourmet meal at an upscale restaurant, with an anchoring in classic faire but an exploration into modern technique and fusion. Congratulations!

What was your inspiration and vision for Kaboom! ? Obviously, it was a requirement for you to graduate; but it was more than that. It was an opportunity to let your passion and heart flow out and present an offering to the Lord. Can you describe what went in to this whole process; what it took; what your dreams and visions were for this?

Melody:  Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed it!

My vision for this program was to relate, comfort, excite, and inspire. 

This recital was an honest representation of my life’s journey thus far. It’s the road that the Lord has led me down, and it hasn’t been easy. At the beginning of college, I asked Him for an adventure to bring me close to Him, and He has definitely given me one.

Some of these pieces I wrote during my college career, but I admit I wrote half of the program during the past month because: (1) I hadn’t composed enough during college; (2) I had composed pieces that absolutely required a live choir and orchestra, so I had to scrap those pieces from my program when the pandemic hit; (3) I have matured as a musician, so some past pieces simply did not seem good enough to go on my program.

I named this recital “KABOOM!” after the last piece on my program, the piece for symphony orchestra that I wrote this past year. At the end of 2019, my professor challenged me to write something with the energy in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture and John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine.” Up until then, I had been writing music that could be described as contemplative, wistful, pretty, and pretty safe (in terms of tonality and harmonic language, at least). Even though I hated to admit it, my compositions reflected my life, and, being the conflict-avoidant person that I am, I was hesitant to face the challenges the Lord had placed in my life, and I was empathetic to the challenges in other people’s lives.

But at the end of 2019, after a year of intense mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strain that earned me my first ambulance ride to the ER, I felt something explode within me. I was at my breaking point, even though I couldn’t allow my friends and family to see that (I’m sure a lot of you high schoolers have felt this way, and my heart is with you). I was ready to take on the challenge my professor had given me, and promptly formed a new, blank folder on my laptop and typed in “KABOOM!”

And I hoped that whatever became of this recital would relate, comfort, excite, and inspire someone in the middle of his or her own dark time.

Arthur:  Growing up at MBCLA, it was obvious that you had an immense amount of musical training; you were often showcased growing up in the children’s choir performances (remember those?).  In fact, I think I have some old videos of you that I’m thinking about bribing you with! haha

Towards the end of your high school years and early college years, I invited you to join my Sunday morning worship team to open an avenue for your talents, your love for music, and your heart for musical worship.  For those who are not regulars on stage, it may seem to be somewhat of a “glamorous” role.  Can you speak to some of the joys and struggles with being a “performing” or highly visible part of Christ’s Body … especially being so young in doing so? 

Melody:  Haha! I was in children’s choir and I took on-and-off again piano lessons from ages 5 through 13, and I started violin lessons at 12. Looking back, I wish I had had more serious musical training, but growing up, I was warned against seriously pursuing music and so didn’t think about doing it.

Ah, yes. I was thankful for the opportunity to be on the musical worship team. I learned a lot. The joys were very great: I got to know you guys, I got to learn to make music in a band, and I got to worship through music. It is a blessing like no other to worship through your instrument and your voice— with others!—, and to encourage the congregation to do so was a blessing. 

The main struggles I had were: (1) having to respond to praise from church members after the service was over, (2) the sense of pride that gets to you as a human being, and most painful of all, (3) distance from peers because some thought I was unapproachable and prideful. It was a blessing to be used and apprenticed, but also kind of hard when it feels like people have their eyes on you. It’s a lot of pressure if you’re focused on it, and I’m thankful that I was guided by you guys and my counselor to keep my eyes on the Lord in this area of my life, as in all other areas of life.

Arthur:  You’ve always been a passionate person and strongly in tune with your feelings, which comes out in your music and gives it that “extra” that goes beyond playing or singing the right tune; your music is moving to the listener.

Some youth are musical by training or because they were given lessons, etc. from early on. For others, like you, it is a passion deep within that God has given them. It’s part of what God made and called them to do and be. Yet, that’s not always practical and consistent with what many parents envision for their children. 

You’re still young, so I’m sure your answer will change in the future; but for now, what was that journey like for you and what thoughts would you have for youth in an Asian church, like TD’ers, who may have similar gifts and passions as you?

Melody:  Right… Well. I’ll start off with talking about my journey and then some of my thoughts.

I tried SO HARD not to end up in music. Growing up, I was told repeatedly by family members and music teachers alike that music is a hard path— don’t do it— but, play violin well so that you can get scholarships in college. So this was my vision of my career growing up: to get into a good college and get music scholarships to pay off the fees on the road to become a marine biologist or occupational therapist (which were some of my interests growing up) or something. Anything but music. 😀 For this reason, I was always a little half-hearted in my studies of music throughout my childhood. I did it for pleasure and was afraid to commit.

Sure, I started off my college career as a composition major at APU (low-key, I had applied for this school knowing I’d probably get in with any major, so I put down composition for fun and scholarships. — Okay, and I was also a little curious about music…) And yes, I faced some disappointment and criticism for being a music major— at APU— from the people around me.

But I switched my major after one week of being in music classes because I was terrified of being in those classes. I switched to Social Work.

Two years later, I had a conversation on the phone with my dad. I called my parents occasionally at night, because I was living on campus, and tonight, we happened to be talking about my career. I felt the stress of many Asian kids as I talked to my dad, and I tried to impress him by talking about my studies and grades. Even though I was very well down the road to becoming a social worker, I had been in the APU orchestras (for the purpose of receiving scholarships, as I said) now for two years, and at that point I was wishing every rehearsal that I could’ve been a musician. I didn’t tell this to my dad. But my dad suddenly asked me, “Melody, what do you really want to do, with all of your gifts, after APU?… Is it something to do with music?”

I was fortunate enough to have gotten the support of my dad through this all. And after talking with professors and music friends, I was convinced that music majoring could actually work out, if I put my all into it. I really did put my all into it.

Now, I’m still young, but I’d like to give some practical advice to you who might want to pursue a field in the Arts.

One of my professors who composes, arranges, and orchestrates for Disney’s attractions and is a regular keyboardist in the big recording sessions in town (Hollywood, London, etc.), scared/scarred us with this statement in the first day of an advanced music class, “If there’s something besides music that you are interested in doing for a career, I recommend that you go do that instead.” (A pause for an eternity as the room went silent). “… But if you’re here and you want music more than anything else, then welcome. It’s a deeply rewarding path.” 

If you think the Lord has put it in your heart to be an artist, and you want to be an artist more than anything else, think about it again— And then give it your all and don’t look back. My experience is that: talent matters little, passion matters a lot, and work is what will actually get you somewhere. Talent + passion + work is the dream combination. You gotta work for it, my friends. Especially if you’re an Asian and you have expectations to fill… I empathize.

Here’s some practical encouragement, though. If you’re going to MBCLA, you’re probably living in the LA County. I can’t even emphasize this enough: there are so many opportunities for artists here in LA. If you are smart, you will look for those opportunities, and if you are a person of character, you will obtain them. I’m confident you will succeed, and especially if your life and purposes are for His Kingdom.

Arthur:  As a TD alum from TCHS, you were very involved with TD, your Christian group on campus, the music department, and the swim team. As you look back at the rear view mirror, what do you now see God was doing in your life in high school? What areas do you now have greater clarity about, where you now are able to say, “Ahhh, now I get it, Lord!”

Melody:  Yeah! At TCHS, I dabbled in a lot of different things. As you said, I ended up being a leader in the Christian club, and I invited you to come speak to our high schoolers several times! I also tried hanging out with the popular kids, then found it more comfortable with the nerds, I was in the swim team, and of course with the orchestra dorks. But I joined the Speakers process in the 10th grade, and it changed my life because I reevaluated the way I looked at things and tried to commit my life to the Lord. I’m thankful for that, looking back, because it grounded me in God. But then, I began to swing a little too far in that direction, if that makes sense—

My friends in high school began to think that I was hard-headed and “too spiritual.” I regret not spending more time with them and with my family. I regret being prideful in my faith and staying in a Christian bubble that nonbelievers had no access to. I didn’t realize how much my friends were going through. I actually became legalistic in my thinking and in my relationship with God, and I regret that God, my friends, and family had to bear with that.

But I also think that, because I had formed certain habits in high school to make sure I was grounded in the Lord, I was sheltered from a lot of hurt and mistakes I could have made. Some of my friends also told me that I was like a light for them, and they could always trust me because they could tell I was a person of faith. I’m thankful for these things.

I don’t completely get it yet, but I’m starting to see that high school taught me about being disciplined and determined in my walk with God— and to place God above the million expectations of a high school student . There’s a balance to be struck— being in the world but not of it— and it’s the art of the Christian life. And high school is HARD, I learned that!

Arthur:  Do you have any words of encouragement or advice you’d like to give our current TD’ers, now that you’re five years removed from high school and TD? 

Melody:  (1) I have faith in you and I’m proud of you. You’ve got mountains to climb, but you have brothers and sisters ahead and behind, cheering you on.

(2) God loves you. You’re created for Him. Come before the Lord humbly at all times, and wait in stillness for Him. He will reveal Himself to you. This is your one and only task in life as a Christian with eternal life, as spoken by Jesus Himself, “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

(3) Write out your priorities, then work hard at them. Don’t work hard blindly, or else you’ll waste precious God-given time. 

Arthur:  Thanks for such honest sharing, Mel! It was great catching up with you! God be with you in the days ahead!

Melody:  Thanks for asking! It was a pleasure. Thanks for having me!

Worship Session w/Daniel & Angela (video)

Worshiping God w/Daniel & Angela (video)

Hey TD!

Some of you have been longing to worship in song with some in your own community.  Singing to Hillsong or Elevation Worship videos is great, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to sing with those we know and with less production – familiar songs with familiar faces and voices.  Unfortunately, it looks like it will still be a while before we’ll be able to come together to sing at TD; and it’s pretty impossible to sing together over Zoom (we tried it! It wasn’t pretty).

We hope this video will at least bring some familiarity and allow you to sing in the “company” of TD family to express your worship and heart to God.

In this worship session, Daniel and Angela sing much like they sing at home – simply,  intimately, and heartfelt to the Lord.  We invite you to join them in expressing your desire for Him to have His way in your life.  Songs include:

Holy Spirit, Way Maker (chorus), Open Space, Great Are You, Lord

Kodi Lee – Blind with Autism on “America’s Got Talent” – it’s way more than just a great story …

Kodi’s performance on America’s Got Talent

Hey TD,

The abortion debate is in full swing and the United States Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s legislation that requires burial or cremation of a baby’s body following an abortion. Yet, it declined to consider the constitutionality of Indian’s law that bans abortion based on sex, race, or disability.

Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger advocated for the compulsory segregation or sterilization of the “unfit” as well as eliminating the “unfit” before they are born, so they would not become a burden on society.  What a slippery slope. Who gets to determine who is “unfit”? Who gets to define a “burden” and the criteria used to determine that? Who determines that one life is more valuable and meaningful than another? On what basis? Says who?

If God created us and actively gives and sustains the lives of every human being on the planet each and every moment, is stands to reason that He, the Author of Life itself, alone has the right to determine its worth.  What we find in the Bible is that God bestows inherent dignity and worth to EVERY human being, as each human – no matter how different he/she is than others – is valuable and bears His image.

Watching Kodi Lee’s amazing performance on America’s Got Talent illustrated that for me, as many would consider him “unfit” to live and a drain on society’s resources.  Others argue on the basis of “compassion” for those with disabilities, stating that eliminating them would be a compassionate act, putting them out of their misery and sparing them the indignity of being reminded every day they’re alive that they aren’t “normal.” Who would want to live that way? That’s cruelty, they argue.

In my experience with those with disabilities and their families, I have found exactly the opposite to be true for both the disabled and their families.  Many affected by disabilities are actually quite happy, and their families feel immensely blessed to have them in their families.

Watching Kodi and his family affirmed all of that for me.  We are not defined by our abilities or lack of them.  We are defined by the value God places on us and goes straight to who we are – God’s image bearers. – Arthur

 

A Great Time at the SCC Solo Tour! What Next?

SCC Solo 2

TD @ SCC Solo Tour Concert at The Wiltern – 4/12/19

SCC Concert at the Hsiehs’ for Show Hope

Hey TD!

What an amazing time together at the Steven Curtis Chapman Solo Tour at the Wiltern!  Thank you, Show Hope!  Our family is so glad you got to hear his heart, his story, his ministry, and his music (and his ridiculous guitar skills!).

As I always say, when you have a chance to be around greatness, seize it.  Though many of you had never heard of him (though he’s had over 50 #1 hits, has over 70 Dove Awards, 5 Grammy Awards, etc.), you were willing to see the big picture and be open to new experiences and opportunities. Many of you expressed how unexpectedly blessed you were.

As SCC was sharing about his family’s own adoption journey and the work at Show Hope, like many of you, I had tears in my eyes.  Helping kids that don’t have families is a work that God wants us, His church, to be involved in.  At TD, we have done that through Voiceless For the Voiceless (V4V), visiting the orphanage each month, serving at summer camps for orphans in China, and with our monthly sponsorships of 4 boys in Africa (through Rafiki) and 3 Show Hope sponsorships in China (many of you are behind in your pledges.  Please bring them up to date).

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

Please seriously pray through how God wants to use you to help reach kids without families.  It’s not whether He wants you to help (He does); rather, it’s how He wants you to help.  Please talk with your small group leaders to discuss the opportunities!

– Arthur

 

TD Fri. – TD @ The Wiltern for the SCC Solo Tour!

Image result for konzert von steven curtis chapman in los angeles, the wiltern, april 12

Hey TD!

This Friday, TD will be heading out to the renowned Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles for Steven Curtis Chapman’s SCC Solo Tour, as special guests of our friends at Show Hope.  Thank you Show Hope!!!  Playing in San Diego on Thursday, Los Angeles on Friday, and Sacramento on Saturday, this is the second year of the music legend’s successful nationwide tour and will be a great opportunity for us to hear the evolution of 30+ years of Grammy Award-winning Christian music!

Needless to say, there will be no TD at church.

Offerings 4 Tonight! (see Ash, Kat, Jen in Offerings 3)

Hey TD!

“Offerings” is always a blessing.  Don’t miss out on Offerings 4 tonight!  It’s going to be a great time!

To whet your appetite, here’s a collaboration by Ashley, Katherine, and Jennifer for Offerings 3 last August, called We Are Alive, with Katherine and Jennifer singing an original song and Ashley drawing  an amazing accompanying picture (click below!):

Ashley_082815

“We Are Alive” by Jennifer Li and Katherine Tao
Don’t fear now, He’s watching
Everything that’s said, He’s listening
And His seed has been sown in my soul
These roots are firm, unyielding
Bearing fruit to spread the healing power
Of the glory of our bounteous king
And now that we are saved our faith can
Grow strong in truth
With the promise of eternal life, joy
Flows ever through
By your love through Jesus Christ
The perfect sacrifice
You fill our hearts, we are alive
And now that I have found you
Your waters washed away my sin
And kept the branches of my tree alive
But even in the storms and trials of this life, these
Roots are strengthened in struggle and strife
This temporary pain will
Not bruise my spirit still
Your word will justify my life
And now that we are saved our faith can
Grow strong in truth
With the promise of eternal life, joy
Flows ever through
By your love through Jesus Christ
The perfect sacrifice
You fill our hearts, we are alive
Don’t fear now, He’s watching
Everything that’s said, He’s listening
And His seed has been sown in my soul
You’re Lord of all creation, the great I Am
You fill our hearts, we are alive (3x)

Let’s Stop the “Christianese”!

christianese

Hey TD!

As I was reading Joshua 13 last week, my heart was gripped, my eyes riveted to the sentence, and my soul stunned when I reached the last verse.  This chapter is in the middle of God leading Israel’s conquering of lands, which He wants to give to them as an inheritance.  Here, He instructs Joshua, “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

The passage then proceeds to list in detail all the areas that God had given the other half of the tribe of Manasseh – “This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad … The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir …. etc. (you get the point).  It keeps going on and on about which tribes got which lands.

And then the chapter ends with this, “But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.  They got no inheritance.  God was their inheritance.  Wow.

I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.

As a worship leader at MBCLA since the ’80’s, I have poured through and sung decades’ worth of worship songs (formerly known as praise songs).  I have experienced their textual, musical, and stylistic evolution.  At any given time in a day, Sandra or I (sometimes Sandra AND I) will spontaneously break out some chorus of some song from the 5 decades of Christian worship music we’re familiar with.

One thing that I always wrestle with is this: Is this true?  In my life and in the lives of those I’m leading to sing these songs, is this true?  God warns us to let our yes be yes and our no be no, and that every word that proceeds from our mouths will be judged.  In dealing with the upstanding good church goers in His day, Jesus commented, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship Me in vain …” (Matt. 15) O, Lord, is this me?

So, when I sing certain lyrics, I begin to tighten up inside and cringe, struggling with whether I can actually and honestly sing these words:

“Rich or poor, God I want You more

Than anything that glitters in this world

Be my all, all consuming fire

You can have all my hands can hold

My heart, mind, strength and soul

Be my all, all consuming fire

 

We have all we need in You

And all we need is You

All we need is You”

 

Or,

“You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my All in all.”

 

Or,

“All of You is more than enough for

All of me, for every thirst and every need

You satisfy me with your love

And all I have in You is more than enough

 

More than all I want, more than all I need

You are more than enough for me”

 

If I’m going to sing these words, then I MUST honor them and live them out.  They MUST become reality in my heart, “for from the heart flow the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)  They MUST for you too.  May it NOT be said of us, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are (actually) far from me.”

Unfortunately, what all too often emerges, when we’ve gone to church for a long time without really letting God do the hard heart work in our lives, is that we end up developing a church culture of our own that we feel comfortable in – with church friends, doing “clean” things, etc.  We go to church together, go to fellowship and SS together, give the right answers, confess our struggles, share “honestly” and “vulnerably,” pray with one another, study Scripture together, and … sing worship songs together … songs that challenge, declare, and promise things to the Lord that most of us have never declared and promised in our regular speech; because we can’t.  We’d be lying.

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises that we not only break immediately, but that we plan to break in a few hours.  And because our “good Christian friends” also do it, we rationalize that it’s ok, that we’re ok.  Or … we know it’s not ok, but we continue on anyway.  That’s what I call “churchianity.”  It’s playing church, speaking churchy language that I call “Christianese” – a language that has all the correct form, correct doctrine, and even correct biblical language … but is missing the creative, active, thoughtful, action-invoking life, timing, work,  integrity, and spirit of God.

Are You Ready to Take Action?

Are you fluent in speaking “Christianese”?  What do you think God hears from you when you sing

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need

 

I have decided to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back”?

Is it a declaration that you will do everything in your power to bring your life in alignment with?  Or is it “Christianese”?  Will you surrender your dreams, desires, plans, and future to Him and give Him a chance to actually fulfill His dreams for you?  The reasons for which He made you?  Will you let your yes be yes?  Will you pledge to work with the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes for Him to be your All in all? To begin the business of transferring full control over your life and future to Him?  And to take the necessary steps (as tough as they may be) to make that a reality?

Can you dare to dream with me?  What would your life look like if the Holy Spirit was in control of it?  How would it look different?  What if honoring Him was your actual desire and passion each moment of each day?  How would things change daily for you?

I encourage you to carve out some time to soberly and honestly weigh these questions out before God.  Everything depends on it.  Then take action and begin making the necessary adjustments in each area of your life to be consistent with the Truth.  I recommend asking a trusted mentor-type to come walk along side you in support and accountability.

“But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  Amen and amen. You are everything, Lord.

– Arthur

 

Offerings – “Believe” – Jenny/Dora/Mel

Hey TD!

Offerings 3 is almost here! It’s still not too late to sign up!  Just let your small group leader know what you’ll be offering.

Here’s another offering from Offerings 2 – Jenny’s original song, “Believe,” as shared by Jenny, Dora, and Mel!

Believe (lyrics)

By Jenny Liu

Verse 1:

Do I truly believe that Your love has no bounds?

Do I truly believe I was lost but now am found?

Do I truly believe that You’ve given me more than I need?

I believe, help my unbelief!

Verse 2:

Do I truly believe that Your Word is alive and real?

Do I truly believe Your promises, despite how I feel?

Do I truly believe that You are worthy of all I can give?

I believe, help me believe

Chorus:

That You’re my shelter in the storm

You’re the lover of my soul

You’re my true and faithful friend

You are God and You’re my Lord

You’re the reason that I sing

You’re the worthy King of kings

You are more than enough for me

This I believe

Verse 3:

I choose to truly believe that this world is not my home

Yes, I truly believe that this life is not my own

I choose to truly believe that I’m loved because of the Cross

I believe, yes I believe

Bridge:

I believe that what I believe is really real (x3)

Lord I believe you

Chorus 2:

That You’re my shelter in the storm

You’re the lover of my soul

You’re my true and faithful friend

You are God and You’re my Lord

You’re the pearl of greatest price 

Only You can satisfy 

You are more than enough for me

I believe

Offerings – The River of Life – Arthur

Hey TD!

Here’s an offering I gave to the Lord from Revelations 22, set to the music of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” during Offerings 2.  What offering will you give?  Take a risk and go for it!  You’re among family, you’ll be blessed, we’ll be blessed, and most importantly … God will be blessed! – Arthur