Winter Retreat: Hijacked


This is probably another one of those things that I shouldn’t joke about, as I tend to get pigeon holed as being anti-authority. Albeit, the retreat was indeed hijacked, but just not by me. What retreat am I talking about? Well, every weekend around Valentine’s Day, at least for my last 3 years in grad school do PhD, Masters students, and friends have a joint retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This post will be about what happened that weekend this past February. I think, for once, I’ve acknowledged that I indeed hear God.

Here are the related posts: 2010 Retreat2010 Retreat TopicConvincing UCSF to Come to 2011 RetreatIn Preparation of 2011 Retreat

So, you know. The last three years have been pretty much the same. The only difference being that small groups was by area study one year, seemingly random the next, and then by gender. Friday, people check in and we play this game that resembles the Chinese “big wind blows” (da feng chui). By evening, it’s obvious that we are indeed a nerdy group of people. The rest of the retreat includes quiet time, speaker sessions, Q&A, small group discussion, and free time/activities. Additionally, we’ve had these vigilante worship jam sessions, which I tried to formalize this year.

What was new this year was, well, Henry and Chris from UCSF decided to join us. So, I was pushing for a “unity” meeting, but at that point, the leadership preferred me to be silent. I think a Stanford friend called the guy in charge “mild”- while I’d call it a bit passive aggressive.

I remember having a talk about my frustration to the pastor that mentors me in regards to leadership. He said that if the present authority does not understand me, they won’t trust me. If I try to trump gaining their understanding (that is, do what I want without their permission), then I become an issue of stress, which often they’d like to placate, so that these issues don’t cause further disturbances.

I told my friend that I’m going to print flyers for the “jam session,” b/c I want it to be official. My friend said that it isn’t necessary to print it, just get them to announce it. But I’d already decided that I’m not taken seriously enough, and that I don’t need their permission to have a vigilante prayer meeting.

So that friend turns out to be a good buffer in the midst of such friction. Grant it, it was a friction that was so subtle that it was perhaps only subconsciously acknowledged by the leadership, and only formally, by me, right now.. haha. At the same time, I wanted an ally and he was (non-pejoratively) luke-warm, while I was more pejoratively radical.

I’d say people like me as a person (as they would anyone else), perhaps, they also find me somewhat novel. As I’d mentioned in my post about passion, no one is at my level of determination to build up this PhD community. So, if there’s one thing I’m lacking, it’s probably a couple of the fruit of the spirit. Months later, I was told that people felt my ideas were unrealistic for such a group and gathering, but by now, I’d grown slightly less prideful than I was at the retreat.

“lol, I think that actually captures the essence pretty well of how our conversations usually go..”

So, my friend has this unique quality of being non-conforming, yet non-threatening and, in fact, well respected by others, especially the leaders. He’s peculiar, which is probably why he is at least opened to all my ideas, although not usually the least bit excited about them. He seems quite selective in what he chooses to support push, and at one point, he said to me, “maybe you should filter your own ideas, instead of making other people do it.”.. Ouch!.. haha.

I see him as an ally, and an important one at that, but not collaborator… at least, not yet. However, at this retreat, I do believe that he helped me a great deal, but on his own terms in ways that I’m probably unaware of, since he had the trust and respect of the leaders and I didn’t.

I suppose when he sees the reason to collaborate, he will be more open, and I’ll leave it up to God determine when that is. In the meantime, what I can learn from him is that the authority, even if they can’t see the obvious benefits of one thing or another are not the enemy, and it is only to my detriment that I keep trying to sneak around and not play by the rules. 

About a week before the retreat I send him this email:

Do you feel that? lol.. probably not…

i should stop asking….haha…

God said to me, “make sure everyone gets prayer who wants prayer.”

this is for the retreat…

i have an idea.. it involves worship and index cards… i’ll tell you
on saturday…

to me, it feels like God is about to do something amazing, and that
this wont just be another retreat 🙂

I mean, God DID do something, but it wasn’t entirely what I’d expected. I think it’s still a sign of my immaturity that I need to see instant results of the final product. At one point, I remember God saying that it would take 5 years to see the things that I want to happen. My response?..”But I don’t wanna wait 5 years!!.. I want it to happen NOW!” Slowly, I’m growing out of this impatient urgency.

They were already dealing with a good share of uncertainty and variables without my rogue ideas. You see, they’d invited a pastor from Malaysia that was in the Assemblies of God denomination. So, she’s pentecostal AND overseas, where Christianity looks totally different from the pretty presents under the Christmas tree version of Christianity we live for.

Her name is Pastor Julie Khoo. The first night, she opened the retreat with a testimony on how she saw her grandmother raised from the dead after some encounter with God through prayer. I was like, “YES! this is awesome… This speaker is going grow the faith of so many people!” Haha, that may have happened, but not the way I hoped it would. The whole time the leaders were a bit concerned… In the end, they were just hoping that she’d tell stories about how we can minister to Muslims– oh, how practical that would be.

Rev. Julie Khoo is the Assistant Director of Youth Alive Malaysia. She has a strong passion and vision to keep winning souls and touching lives for Christ. She is currently the Youth and Young Adults Pastor of Glad Tidings AG in Petaling Jaya. Julie is a sought after anointed minister of God.

I was heavily involved in worship. Ethan from Stanford, Mark from Berkeley, and I got together to jam a week before and PRAYED for the most amazing worship possible. I remember visiting Stanford with my UCSC friend, Daniel, the week after the retreat, and being informed by the leader of group that it was the most amazing worship in the history of the retreat. Of course!!!… That’s what happens when we ask 🙂

But of course, I wanted more. I was desperate for more. God had already brought together some amazing musicians, very opened and willing to serve. Almost effortlessly was I able to publicly pray during worship. It was such an amazing position to be in. I was so nervous. Me?.. I get to pray for what will be the most well educated Christians in the world. I was able to pray all three days on topics of:

  • Stewarding our influence
  • Building relationships with each other
  • Being hungry for more than advancing our areas of research
  • Truly seeking God
  • Dream the impossible

I remember Ethan saying, “don’t get all Pentecostal when you pray.” Haha, I don’t even know what that means. If I am Pentecostal, then I haven’t been one for very long.

For me, I just don’t see how we don’t settle for quick answers of the difficult research questions in our field, but yet we settle for comfortable Christian lives without having to dig deep into our faith.

Let’s also say that Christians who are also getting PhD’s are not comfortable with this idea of a supernatural, mostly, because we are not ok with things we can’t understand. While I was at IHOP in January, one girl said that her heart broke for Harvard, b/c they were elitist and prideful. I don’t believe that the educated are prideful. I think that if there was a root to the complacency, it would be from fear. (and actually, getting a PhD makes you the opposite of prideful, although, not necessarily humble either).

You could imagine the discussions we had in our small groups after hearing about people coming back from the dead. It’s funny how this is all so new to them, but then again, I was in the same boat a year ago. What was less funny was the offense that some took to it. I can imagine that the leaders told Pastor Khoo to simmer down with the miracle talk, despite that these are all her personal experiences and she has no reason to deceive us.

I wasn’t aware of how uncomfortable the Pastor was making people, especially those in authority over the retreat. I was merely uncomfortable with how it seemed like Pastor Khoo kept retracting her stories of the miraculous to placate the intellectual. Towards the end of the retreat, I started to see how most of these people aren’t ready to hear such stories of faith. Perhaps it’s because our faith is so lacking that to hear of something so unattainable would lead us to conclude that we were are not advanced in our walk or these experiences must be misrepresented.

Again, not a matter of pride, but of fear.

So at the Q&A session Saturday afternoon, I was ready to set up Julie Khoo with opportunities to break down the miraculous for the intellectuals. I had bible verses ready, after all, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power. I continued to pry about casting out demons and whether we should be walking with great expectations of our prayers. Haha, I looked so sophomoric, b/c she just continued to give the safe answers. It’s all about love… Can we say “grey squirrel?”

Later, I found out that people were concerned about her stories of grandma being raised from the dead and felt it slightly inappropriate, and she was merely submitting to the authority in toning it down. I had a discussion with Peter, who has a PhD in Philosophy and oversees the UCSC grad students, about miracles, where the conversation ended with him saying, “well, it’s just not biblical.” I was shocked, b/c I’d never seen him give such an emotional response before.

Perhaps it was out of my lack of wisdom and understanding that I feel everyone should be given the entirety of what God may be doing in other parts of the world, and even in our own neighborhoods. Pastor Khoo was indeed walking “behind the Holy Spirit” while I kept trying to scurry ahead.

Peter said that he felt most of these healing stories are false, although, I’m not convinced that he’s researched the matter. This is why. He said that in most cases, miracle stories are made up, but since he’s met Julie Khoo and determined her character to be genuine, that her stories must also be, not only, unique, but sincere.

Conclusion?… Well, these people have never met anyone who’s experienced miracles. Think about it: this was all it took to make Peter believe one unique case where miracles were experienced. It’s not that crazy, I mean.. In my own field, I am the only Christian that most of my friends know.

Obviously, God was doing something. Not only was God making these egg-heads very uncomfortable, he was fixing my impatient and immature heart.

Very randomly, did God send three charismatic friends to this retreat– Jesse, (a different) Peter, and Lindsy. I’d met Jesse at the Joaquin Evans event recently, and I learned that she was part of the healing rooms in San Jose. Of all people, these three were game for some vigilante prayer.

Prior to the prayer event scheduled for that Saturday night (according to my vigilante flyers), Julie Khoo had decided to do an altar call, where people come up for prayer. It appeared that she had to teach the leaders what this would look like as the staffers of each school stood at the front waiting to receive students.

The main guy in charge made the announcement that they wanted to make sure that “everyone who wants prayer gets it.” This is nearly verbatim of what I was buzzing about the week before, enough to print flyers for it. Basically, this prayer sesh in many ways upstages my vigilante one. Which leads me to two conclusion:

  1. they caught wind of my rogue desires and were in fact imitating the idea
  2. they didn’t have a clue about my rogue desires and this is all coincidence, perhaps divine coincidence

Not only that, but they didn’t even announce the jam/prayer session. My friend was right: it was because they forgot, not because they are my enemies… haha, even though it felt oppressive at the time.

So, during the “official” prayer session, people very much hesitated to walk towards the altar. Once they did, the prayer was going a bit slow, so I had the idea of becoming, yes, a vigilate prayer-er. I had the idea that after praying for someone, then they’d go and pray for other people. I think this method is O(log(N)).…[honk if you got the joke :)]. Later, it was brought to my attention that what I did may have been disrespectful… “Oh, so that’s why they struggle to trust me– I keep being so unpredictable.”

After all that began the vigilante meeting, the JAM SESSION! Ok, so everyone was so scattered that, while I pictured more organized proceedings, people trickled in and out. Urgh, they weren’t taking it as seriously as I was.

Henry, from UCSF notices my frustration, and asks me whats wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong. I just felt so alone. Like I was waiting for Christmas morning, but it never came. Henry points out that everything I wanted to happen was happening. Things were going so well.

As he worked the projector to help display the chords for all the musicians, I would bring friends to receive more personal (and perhaps even prophetic) prayer from Jesse, Peter, and Lindsy, and eventually others.

It was quite beautiful, with strangers connecting musically in worship, while others shared their hearts and received the complete attention of their peers in prayer. At one point there were a few groups of people praying for others. I just kind of ushered people from one place to the next.

Henry was right, this is what I wanted to see happen; although, not exactly the same as what I pictured, nor to the degree of catharsis.

Kasa, from Stanford, suggested that I get prayer. I remember his prayer more than anyone else’s. Everyone was clearly encouraging and privy to how much I wanted to happen that night, but Kasa prayed for my peace, that I should learn to be like Mary and sit at the Lord’s feet. There was much wisdom in those words.

At later events, I’ve described this feeling of motion sickness that I feel when God is moving. Spiritually, I can sense something big happening, while visually, the evidence doesn’t quite match.

The prayer lasted a good amount of time. The jamming went even longer. We ended the evening with Jazz, but I’ll spare the youtube videos in this post (you’ll have to find those yourself :P). Probably the most meaningful for me was the group that stayed up till 4 am talking. We had people from each school in deep discussion of what it means to be here.

I shared many bible verses; Chris, from UCSF, wrote many of them down. In Romans 8 it says that creation is waiting to be rescued from decay by the adopted children of God. As researchers, I believe this to be especially meaningful. Henry helped me process the load I was carrying in my mind. This guy (in the photo below), well… you can see for yourself, haha.

What I realized was that I wanted revival for, perhaps, mostly, the right reasons. However, there was a part of me that desired some sort of outpouring of God, so I wouldn’t feel so alone anymore. My only comrade, thus far, believes that I need to stop making other people filter through my ideas. Luckily, Henry and Chris were more sympathetic. So, slowly, people are beginning to join the party.

This IS what I sought out to accomplish, but why wasn’t I satisfied? Well, I was able to talk to Julie Khoo and her friend throughout the conference and they both brought me to a greater understanding of what was going on.

The final morning, I got to pray one more time during our last worship set. I centered on the verse:

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise

I prayed that we may be foolish in living for the impossible, because through God all things are possible. I must’ve prayed for humility and for revelation of how hungry we truly are. If we, with the most influence, who draw our strength from God, don’t contend for the darkest and most devastating problems and injustices of the world, the who will?

I made the point that the same Holy Spirit that was in Jesus, the Apostle Paul, Pastor Khoo, and also the leader of the retreat was in and accessible to all of us. I made sure to give honor where it was due as a declaration of my submission to authority.

After the last session, Julie Khoo sat down with me while I unpacked all that had happened that weekend. She called me an intercessor, said that she felt Holy Spirit behind my prayers (or at least the last one). She said that others don’t understand me, and that they won’t. I believed her when she said she knew what I’m experiencing. She said she saw Jesus carrying me through the hard times, which, if I wasn’t already in tears, I would be at that point. She said that I was prophetic, and, for once, I believed it. Too much had happened that weekend for me to have just come up with it all on my own.

Maybe if things happened to the degree and detail of what I’d expected, I could say that my efforts engineered the outcome of my desires, but they didn’t. You see, once I accepted that I hear God did I realize that I wanted so badly for others to hear and believe with the same conviction as I, such that I didn’t have to carry this hope by myself.

What actually happened was once people arrived at where God wanted them to be, I was already preparing for the next thing that needed to happen. God was making it clear that I am to not seek revival to alleviate my own loneliness, but that God alone is enough.

I’ll gladly wait 5 years, as I already have everything I want 🙂

Kimmy was right… I am emo. Haha, why am I so emotional? Anyhow, I’m gonna lighten up a bit and leave with three constructive observations:

  • The jam session encouraged people to bring instruments that the worship team didn’t have room to bring. People were like, “dang, we didn’t know that someone brought a keyboard!”
  • The jam session highlighted people’s musical talents, as I went home in the middle of the retreat to get my electric violin for Jensen. The violin that next morning was BEAUTIFUL! (a worthy $60)
  • I brought a box of Heidi books and DVD to give away. Yet, another tradition, but what I liked was the free book table: “you can take it if you promise to read it. Next year, it should be a book trading table 🙂

Ok, back to being emo again. To give a snapshot of my heart before this retreat, here is prayer that I typed up:

a prayer…

Father, things are good, very good, yet i feel scared and a little anxious. Maybe I’m scared b/c I know that this weekend might be a great encounter with you, and I’m nervous to do things right in your presence.

In my heart, I don’t want just another retreat. I can feel how close you are and I can’t take another weekend of just the-same-old things. I want more of you…

If my anxiety is a result of my pride, then I pray to be humbled. Don’t let my pride turn into rebellion, don’t let me give the leaders reasons to judge me wrongly. But Lord, I present to you my utter willingness to do whatever it takes to see your complete will at this retreat…

If it is your will, use my boldness, I give everything for you to use this weekend. Just let me know that you are near. You know it’s hard for me to take their judgements and accusations. Give me peace and understanding, help me forgive. Make me merciful.

I think about how they’re going to think I’m a fool and that I just make them uncomfortable. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I take all that shame and I put it before the cross… Give me the wisdom, Lord, that you said you give generously to all.

I thank you, Lord, for relationships and favor. I know that people are starting to see the things that I’ve been feeling ever since you it spoke into my life.

Lord, I need real friends… Give me friends so that I don’t feel like I’m doing this myself. Whatever *this* is, I pray that you put on the hearts of others.

Finally, help me understand why I’m afraid. Even if I mess up, you still love me. I want to know your will and hear your voice so clearly that I won’t doubt myself like I do right now. Give me more faith and help my interactions with people this weekend.

I lay down my life for you, my friends, and those people at the retreat. May you get all the glory, at whatever the cost it is to me. Even if it means that I’m to do nothing this weekend, as long as you receive the glory. Make this not about me, God….

Thank you, in Jesus name 🙂


So the retreat was indeed hijacked, but not by me– by the Holy Spirit.


3 thoughts on “Winter Retreat: Hijacked

  1. Hmmm. As for “usurping” others- if you rented out your own place and invited people to it, then YOU would be the leader… and you could say what you wanted without stepping on anyone’s toes.

    Here’s a sidelong perspective- if _I_ showed up to the retreat and was like “Hey guys, I know this is your retreat, but I totally have these ideas about atheism that I think you all need to listen to and start believing in right away”, that would be kind of obnoxious of me, wouldn’t it? I’m exaggerating how you surely came across I know. It’s just that… in a way if it’s not your retreat, you are a guest, and I suppose a certain amount of not rocking the boat if it’s not your boat. Sometimes boats need to be rocked! But a lot of times people can only hear what they are ready to hear. A very spiritual woman I once knew described this as pouring pure water into bottles- a lot of people are bottles that are already full, sometimes with mud and rocks and sticks and poison. Before you can pour anything into them (she would call it “God’s Love”), you have to let them pour out first.

    You want things for you, and you want some things for other people too. No doubt you think the things you want for others are good- and maybe they are. But how can you KNOW they are? God knows what other people need, but how much do you? Can you see with Go’d’s perspective?

    The things you want seem totally fair to me– to really connect, to meaningfully make a difference, to help others in need.

    Prayer of… St. Francis?
    “Lord, grant me the strength the change the things I can, the humility to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    Calvin’s Prayer:
    “Lord, grant me the power to the change the the things I can, the unwillingness to accept the things I can’t, and the inability to tell the difference.”

    I hope you find what you’re looking for and will help in what ways I can. Particularly if what you seek includes more a cappella at next year’s GDC!

    1. @Shane,

      so it’s funny you say all, but yea… this summer, I’ve had the chance to level up in leadership.

      In my blog post, titled, “I got hustled,” I’m gonna write about that.

      What I mean to say is that: it actually took my becoming a high standing leader to understand why mavericks are troublesome.

      Everyone thinks that their way or opinion is best, while often.. they don’t have the full picture. It made me realize what a rebellious jerk I’ve been.

      It’s funny, b/c recently, I’ve met a person who is fired up about reforming the church, but I see so much of his belligerence working against him as it did for me. The humbling process is, well, humbling.

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