A surprising parable

Most Christians and many non-Christians who are exposed to the bible will be familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is one of the all time favorites. The parable impresses us with the love of the Father who longed for the return of his lost son. It is a story of forgiveness and restoration. The story also presents a contrast between the two sons – the young son who lost everything and came to his senses and repented and the elder brother who was self-righteous, unforgiving, and bitter. 

Those who are diligent in studying the bible will also tell you that the parable of the prodigal son is actually the crowning jewel of a triplet of parables recorded in Luke chapter 15. The three parables are the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd left behind 99 sheep to search for the one lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, where a woman who had ten coins search diligently for the one that was missing, and then the parable of the prodigal son. All three stories highlight our Lord’s heart for the lost and how sinners repenting will lead to rejoicing in heaven.

Ok! Here come the surprise quiz: What parable comes AFTER the parable of the prodigal son? Do you know the answer without looking it up in the bible or online?

Jesus told four parables to the assembled Pharisees that day. The fourth one is quite unique and very surprising. The chapter division in Luke does not help us here: the first three are put in chapter 15 and somehow the fourth one ended up in chapter 16. 

Go look up what is the fourth parable. I am sure you will be surprised too. My next post will be discussing how applicable this surprising parable is to our 21st century situation.



Who said life is a Marathon

Who said life is a Marathon


Recently, I came across a Japanese commercial for an recruiting event. It was in Japanese with Chinese subtitle. Here is the subtitle translated into English:

We are running. We are running today. We all run.

The clock cannot stop. Time keep on matching forward.

This is a marathon with no turning back.

We compete with every opponents while racing down this highway of time.

We want to run faster than others. We believe there is a bright future. We believe there is a finish line.

Life is a marathon….

Is that true? Is that life?


Life is not a marathon.

Who made up this race? Who put up the finish line?

Where should we run to? What direction should we go?

I make my own way! My own way?

Can it be? I don’t know.

The world which we have never seen is so immense. It is much bigger than our imagination.

That is right!

Get off the well trotted path.

We may be perplexed. We may be hurt. But we will run till the end.

What if we fail? What if we go in circle?

We don’t have to compete with anyone.

There is more than one way. There is more than one finish line.

There are as many possibility as there are runners. Each of us is wonderful.

Who said life is a marathon?

A Eulogy to Raymond Fong

(This is a translation of my previous post. Sorry, I don’t have time to write something new. In this April, there has been two deaths in my extended family. Reflecting on Raymond’s life provided me much comfort. Hope it give you strength as well.)

On February 1st, 2014, Raymond Fong concluded his fifteen year battle with brain cancer and returned to Our Father’s house in victory.


Jocelyn and I have known Raymond since 1998, the year we were married. Raymond was diagnosed in Hong Kong with a tumor in the middle of the brain. After a diligent search by his brother William, they discovered that Dr. Black at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston had previous success with cases similar to Raymond. They decided to travel around the globe to Boston for treatment. They did not know any friend in Boston, except that the wife of their pastor at Causeway Bay Baptist Church was once a classmate in nursing school with the mother of my best friend Gideon. Through this connection, Gideon became their host in Boston.


Once they arrived at Boston, Raymond had to go through a series of tests and consultations before surgery. So that were a few days when we took Raymond, his wife Shirley and his brother William sight seeing around Boston. Raymond loved to eat, and he was impressed with Boston’s delicacies.


On the day of surgery, what was planned to be a 3 hour surgery turned out taking more than 8 hours. Shirley’s overwhelming anxiety can only be quenched by fervent prayers. It turned out that the tumor, which appeared as the size of an egg in MRI, was actually much bigger – roughly the size of an orange. At the end, the surgery was a success; but that was only the beginning of a long road of recovery.


Gideon’s house had many stairs, therefore it would be inconvenient for Raymond and Shirley to continue staying at his house after Raymond’s surgery. (William had return to Hong Kong.) Instead, they stayed at our house. During that time, it was as if Raymond had become a baby again: he had to learn to eat solid food, learn to walk again, learn to put on his own shirt, and learn to speak. He had very little energy and slept many hours in a day. Shirley used to wake him up and encourage his effort in rehabilitation by whispering in his ears, “Cheesecake Factory – Now Open!”


During that time, Raymond had to take medication to prevent seizure. He could not swallow pills. We tried grinding the pills into powder, but it was too bitter for him to swallow. Our solution was to mix the powder into ice-cream and fed him. He had no recollection of most of the events in Boston, but in his heart he must have wondered why ice-cream in Boston tasted so terrible.


Raymond spent more than a month recovering with us. Before he left us, he could manage simple housework. He even planted in our front yard some tulip bulbs, which budded the next spring. To this day, we still have tulips planted in our front yard to remember Raymond.


After the surgery, Raymond lost his ability to form long term memory. He memory lasted only for a few minutes. It would take many repetitions for him to remember anything. He could handle simple conversation. If you had the chance to talk to him, you would not notice anything wrong until you had carried on a longer conversation conversation with him. Then you would discover that he had forgotten what you just talked about a few minutes ago. After he finished his rehabilitation in Boston, he returned to a rehabilitation facility in Hong Kong. He conditions did not improve, but instead regressed because the nurses at the facility were not as attentive as Shirley and he did not get the chance to talk to many people.


It took a while for their family to adapt to Raymond’s memory problems. He learned to write down everything in a small notebook – which bus to take to get home, phone numbers, name of his nurse, etc. If he had to go to the bathroom at a restaurant, he would find someone to accompany him, or else he would not be able to find his way back to his table. Slowly, Raymond and Shirley learned to cope with the inconveniences of his memory loss.


My family visit Hong Kong frequently. Every time we went back, we made an effort to visit Raymond and Shirley. If we were all busy, we would have a quick dinner or desert. When we could afford the time, we would go on a field trip. Raymond remembered nothing about his trip to Boston, but miraculously he remembered me and my wife.


Through the years, the cancer never went away. After the initial surgery, Raymond had more than ten surgeries. Sometimes after a surgery he would become more alert. Other times he would become less responsive.


Shirley took Raymond touring whenever possible. They had not only travelled throughout Hong Kong, but also went overseas. They even went on a pilgrimage to Israel. People asked Shirley, “Raymond can never remember his travel. Isn’t it a waste for you to take him on trips?” Shirley’s answer was, “He may not remember, but the people around him will remember him.”


I once shared with a non-believing relative of mine about Raymond’s condition. He said quite bluntly, “If I were him, I would have preferred death.” If not for the sake of being a witness to Christ, for Raymond to have fought with cancer for fifteen years would have been worse than death. The love of Christ, however, made all his suffering meaningful. Raymond and Shirley showed us how what is sacrificial love. We saw them serving the Lord unceasingly, both inside and outside their church. They were praiseful even in the hospital. Raymond sang so beautifully that his hymns and praise songs moved the doctors, nurses and other patients. He was a beloved angel in the hospital. In his weakness we saw the strength of God. The Apostle Paul once said, “To live is for Christ, to die is to gain.” That was such an appropriate description of Raymond’s life.


The last time we met with Raymond, we took him to Hong Kong’s fisherman museum on Lamma Island. The very first sentence Raymond said to us that day was, “Have you had your morning devotion this morning?” His pure heart and his devotion to the Lord put us all to shame.


I know many of us had been praying for Raymond and Shirley throughout their years of battle with cancer. We were wishing for a miracle. I now know for a fact that miracle did happened. No. It did not happen to Raymond. Instead the miracle happened on all of us who were inspired by his life. Raymond was strong in his faith, he did not need any miracle to make hime stronger. Instead it was all of us who knew Raymond who benefited. Through Raymond, we learned to have faith, we learned to cherish, we learned to sacrifice, we learned to love. This was the miracle of Raymond Fong!



方家熾於201421 日,即農曆年初二,結束了十五年與腦癌的戰鬥,凱旋回到天父懷抱。


我們夫婦認識家熾是在1998年。那時我們剛結婚。家熾在香港診斷出腦中央部份有腫瘤。他哥哥家煒四出尋訪名醫,得知波士頓的 Dr. Black 有醫治類似腫瘤的經驗,故千里來到波士頓動手術。他們在波士頓舉目無親,幸得銅浸的師母和我的好友 Gideon 的母親當年是護士學校的同學,所以他們一家就寄宿在 Gideon 家。到波士頓後先有一連串的掃描和檢查,然後排期做手術。所以在手術前我們有機會和他們一家遊覽波士頓。尤其是家熾饞嘴,自然是要多嘗本地美食。




手術後,因為 Gideon 家多梯級,不方便家熾出入,家熾和杰英來了我們家休養。家熾那時就像剛出生嬰兒,喫喝要餵,不會走路穿衣,説話也是從新學起。杰英不斷用 “Cheese Cake Factory ﹣Now Open!” 來鼓勵家熾早日康復。那時家熾要服用防癲癎的藥,他不會吞藥丸,把藥磨成粉又太苦,他不肯喫。結果我們的辦法是把藥粉混在雪榚中餵他喫。雖然他對那段時間的事情沒有記憶,但他的心中一定在懷疑為什麼波士頓的雪榚會那樣的難喫。在我們家中休養了一個多月,家熾慢慢的復元。後來他可以做簡單的家務,以至可以在我們家的前園種下鬱金香。(秋天種的鬱金香,第二年的春天才開花。)直到現在,我們家前園還是種有鬱金香,以記念家熾。











Story of the field mice.

(This is the English translation of my preivous post)
In a certain field was a village of field mice. They lived in burrows. Their diet was mainly grass seeds and roots. Their lives were mostly worry-free except for a hawk living in the nearby woods. This hawk was always lurking around in the hope of catching some mice for food.

In the mouse village, each mouse had its own strengths and occupation. Hulky was the strongest, he was responsible for tunneling.

Fatty had the best taste, he was the chef.

Spectacle had the best eyesight, he was the sentinel. Every time when the mice went above ground to collect food, Spectacle would keep watch at the burrow entrance. Before the hawk could approach the mice, he would warn them, telling everyone to run back inside. Generally the mice never wander too far away from the burrow. So the hawk had little chance of catching them.

The oldest mouse in the village was the mayor. When he was young, he traveled a lot. Therefore he was very knowledgable.

Speedy was the mayor’s son. He was the fastest runner. What was his occupation, you might ask? Well, he was a thief. He was very sneaky, so he was rarely caught. The few times he was caught, he was let off easy on account of his father being the mayor.

One day, Speedy went to Fatty’s kitchen to steal food and was discovered. Fatty was furious and was chasing after him. In his haste to escape, Speedy ran outside of the burrow to the open field, trying to escape to the woods.

Fatty was going to chase him down. But before he ran too far from the burrow, Spectacle, who was keeping watch, suddenly cried out, “The hawk is coming! The hawk is coming!”

This sent Fatty scurrying back into the burrow. Before he went back underground, he looked back and saw the hawk quickly closing in on Speedy. He thought, “Speedy is dead! ”

In fact, the hawk did caught Speedy and took him back to its nest. When the hawk was about to eat him, Speedy begged for mercy. “Brother Hawk, How mercy on me! As you can see, I am small and thin. I won’t make a good meal. You’ll still be hungry after eating me. I promise that if you let me go, you’ll have mice running to you every few days. You can eat mice to your heart’s desire!”

The hawk was enticed by his offer, and asked, “Really?”

Speedy replied, “I guarantee it with my life. If you let me go home, mice will volunteer themselves for your enjoyment. I only have a small request: Can you shake the branches, so that acorns will fell to the ground?”

The hawk said, “That is easy!” It patted its wings, shaking the branches vigorouly. And soon there were plenty of acorns on the ground.

Seeing his chance to escape the hawk, Speedy come quickly descended to the ground. He picked up two large and fragrant acorns, and went back to the burrow.

Inside the burrow, the mice were mourning the fate of Speedy. Fatty personally went to the mayor’s home to apologized, “I am responsible for Speedy’s death! Sure, he stole my food, but stealing food is not a crime that is worthy of death. I should not have chased him. I should not have made him ran outside and be eaten by the hawk.” And he started wailing.

Just as every one was mourning, Speedy’s voice came in from the outside, “Don’t cry! I’m okay! I am back safe and sound!”

Every one was amazed. They surrounded Speedy and started to ask him how he escaped from the hawk’s claws.

Speedy answer with pride, “Because I ran! The hawk was not fast enough to catch me and I was able to run all the way into the woods. When I was inside the woods, I found a lot of acorns on the ground. There was only one of me, so I only managed to bring back two acorns. Fatty! I stole your food and I was wrong. Please accept this acorn as my apology. The other acorn I give to my most beloved Daddy – the mayor! ”

Because the mice had been living underground, most of them did not know what acorns taste like. The mayor, with his vast experience, explained the nutritional benefits of acorn to the mice. Fatty was of course hugely relieved that Speedy returned safely. He used all his cooking skills on his acorn so that every one can have a taste of this novel delicacy. The mayor also donated his acorn for everyone’s enjoyment. Unfortunately, there were too many mice, so each of them could only have a small bite. Nevertheless, the taste of acorn was memorable.

After dinner, Speedy stood up and said, “Folks! The fact that I came back safely proves that the hawk is not as scary as we believed. If we run fast enough, we can go to the woods to collect acorns. Starting tomorrow, I will be your running coach. May we eat acorns everyday! ”

The mice were intrigued by the prospect of eating acorns everyday. The mayor also sparked their interest by praising the benefits of acorn as if it was food from heaven. The next morning, there was a large group of mice following Speedy into vigorous training – with dreams of running faster than the hawk, and winning acorns in the process.

Three days later, Speedy thought the opportune time had come. During their morning practice, he told the mice, “After three days of training, we have significant speed improvements. I believe we are now fast enough to out run the hawk. Let us start our first acorn run today at noon. Let us we bring back our acorns from the woods! ”

At noon, a group of more than thirty mice ran out of the burrow together under the leadership of Speedy. They ran straight towards the woods. What a sight! Even the hawk was admiring the running mice. It knew it had to be patient, so it waited until the mice are halfway to the woods before it attacked.

Hulky was one of the running mice. Although he had great strength, speed was not his forte. Moreover, he had to work his tunneling job, so he had less time to practice than the other mice. Consequently, he was the slowest runner and became the hawk’s lunch of the day.

The remaining mice reached the woods. They were overjoy to discover acorns everywhere. They gathered as many acorns as they could carry. When they were ready to make the return trip, the hawk was already full, and it did not attack them.

As soon as they returned to the burrow, the whole village exploded with joy. The happiest of them all was Fatty the chef. He spent his day planning for various acorn recipes: acorn pie, stir-fry acorn, acorn stew. He was anxiously waiting for the arrival of his main ingredient. With the acorns were there, they were ready for the acorn feast!

Everyone enjoyed the feast, but a few of them remembered of death of Hulky. In the middle of the feast, the mayor stood up and addressed the mice, “Today, we have entered a new era. We have a new source of food which is more nutritious. Henceforth, we will be more healthy, more energetic, and can run much faster! In the outside world there is a famous scientific principle called ‘Survival of the Fittest’. One of us was sacrificed today because he could not run fast enough. This is living proof of ‘survival of the fittest’. From now on, for our survival, we have to run faster!”

That day began a “running fever” in the mice village. Speedy naturally became the village hero. Only Spectacle remained skeptical. Because of this, he quarreled with his wife. He said, “No one in this village knows the attack speed of the hawk better than I. No way can Speedy out run the hawk! It must be a lie!”

His wife said, “He brought home acorns, didn’t he? What proof do you need? Now every mouse in the village is eating acorns. We are still eating grass roots. The mayor says that acorns are rich in protein. You can go ahead and be a coward. But our kid can not do without nourishment or he will grow up thinner and weaker than the others kids. If you do not bring back the acorns, I will divorce you!”

When his wife mentioned their kid, Spectacle’s heart softened. He said to his wife, “For our kid it is worth the risk. If I die, I die!”

One week later the stockpile of acorns was gone. The mice once again had to collect acorns. This time Spectacle was also involved. When the hawk saw Spectacle, it recognized that he was the sentinel. It reasoned, “If I get rid of him, it will be much more convenient to catch mice in the future.” So the hawk picked its target. Poor Spectacle did not even have a chance to scream.

Since then, the mice regularly run into the woods to collect acorns. With Spectacle out of the way, Speedy can now sneak out and make contacts with the hawk. He informed the hawk everything regarding the movements of the mice. The mice on the other hand, had no idea of Speedy’s secret dealings and still regarded him as their great hero. Some mice wanted to emulate the success of Speedy and started their own running schools. Under the co-operation between Speedy and the hawk, one by one these competitors became empirical proof to the principle of “survival of the fittest “.

One day, when Speedy and the hawk had one of their secret meetings, the hawk said to Speedy, “We are perfect partners! Thanks to your arrangements, I am now having too much to eat. Remember the last time you asked me to take care of the fat mouse? Eating him really drove up my cholesterol! At this rate, I am afraid I will soon be too fat to fly! Honestly, I feel sick just seeing a fat mouse.”

Speedy replied, “Fatty tried to buy acorns in the black market from another supplier behind my back. Ha! He gets what he deserves! Don’t worry about your weight problems. I will take care of it! I guarantee that beginning next week, your diet of mice will be sweet, tender, and healthy! Top quality stuff! The best of the best for you my dear friend!”

The hawk said, “That’s great! It is such a pleasure doing business with you!” Then Speedy quietly returned to the burrow.

The next morning, a huge poster appeared in the village:

“Give your children a head start in life!!!”

A Parable for the children but not intended to be read by the children

Sorry for not posting for so long. I was working on a “major” work, and here it is –

(I am posting the Chinese version first, English translation to come probably next week)













老鷹説:“這事易辦!” 他拍拍翅膀,樹枝就大力的搖動,很快就有好幾個松果掉到地上。


在地洞裡,田鼠們正為較腳的命運傷心。肥仔親自到村長家求饒。他向村長説:“較腳的死,我的責任最大。不錯是他偷我的食物,但偷食物也罪不至死。我不應追他,弄到他逃出洞外,給老鷹喫掉。” 説罷放聲大哭。












在松果宴上,大家都開懷的大快朵頤。但也有少數的田鼠為大強的犧牲而傷心。席中村長站起來,對大家説:“我們田鼠村今天進入了新的紀元!我們有了新的更有營養的食物來源,從今以後我們將會更健康,更有活力,也跑得更快。外邊的世界有一句名言,叫作 ‘物競天擇,適者生存’。今天有田鼠犧牲了,是因為他跑的不夠快。正好証明了這一條真理。為了田鼠的未來,為了我們的生存,以後我們要愈跑愈快!”




一星期之後松果喫光了。田鼠們又一次出發去收集松果,小明也參與其中。老鷹看見小明,認出他是放哨的。心想:“把他解決掉,以後抓田鼠就方便多了。” 老鷹認定了小明,集中攻擊,小明連喊救命的機會也沒有,就成了老鷹爪下的亡魂。

從此以後,田鼠們定時的跑進樹林收集松果。沒有小明的哨站,較腳就可以悄悄的和老鷹聯絡,把田鼠的消息告訢老鷹。田鼠們沒有懷疑較腳在背後弄鬼,依然把他當成大英雄。有些田鼠,看見較腳的成功,也學他開辦跑步學校。在較腳和老鷹合作之下,這些競爭者都一一成為了 “物競天擇,適者生存” 的實證。



老鷹説:“那太好了!我們合作愉快!” 之後較腳便悄悄的回到田鼠洞中。



Why would you want to see God?

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God. – Matthew 5:8

When modern day western Christian read the verse, we tend to think of this verse as a promise to an uplifting worship experience – we sing of praise songs with loud music and those who have pure hearts enjoy the experience deeper because they can feel God’s presence.

I am quite sure the original audience of the sermon on the mount did not think that way. So what did it mean to “see God” in the first century?

To begin, attempting to see God was (and still is) a fearful, dangerous and often fatal, venture. Our God is a holy God and the bible has ample evidences that even prophets and apostles fell down in mortal fear when they encountered God.

So why would one want to see God? In Chinese there is a phrase “上訪”, which means “upward visit”. Imagine you are a poor Chinese peasant. A powerful real estate developer took your farm by force and bribery. What are your options? You can try sue the real estate developer in the district court. That usually does not bring favorable results. What you would need to do is to take the train to Beijing and make your appeal to the officials in the central government. Maybe you can find the sympathetic ears of some one who is powerful enough to make a difference.

The situation of the original audiences of Jesus probably resonates closer to the poor peasants of China than to praise singing worshipers. They were poor Jewish peasants being oppressed by both their own religious leaders and the Roman government.

The message of Jesus to those people was “God is King”. The Kingdom of God is here, and God is in charge. He is making judgement from His throne. You, though you are poor and powerless, can see Him and plead your case to Him as long as your heart is pure. He is our advocate, we are no longer helpless.

Why would you want to see God? When you see Him, what is your plead?