|Chapter Three from 3rd Compass, The Book|
Copyright © 2009-2019. Ty Alexander Huynh. All Rights Reserved. Click here for full copyright. | Read the book's foreword
[Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3
| Chapter 4 | Chapter 5]
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never
walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
The person quoted above is the Light who can illuminate our life maps and guide us towards the places of peace I spoke of in Chapter One. This entire chapter will lay out my journey to discovering this person. Most believers already know who I speak of, but for the rest it may be as much a mystery as it was for me, so I hope that reading my journey will be as much a revelation to you as it was to me. My testimony is compiled from journal entries, memory, and other written correspondence and is as true and accurate as I can make it.
I will start by describing myself and my background. I am a Vietnamese American who came to the United States as a refugee of the Vietnam War in 1975. I was two and a half years old at the time and settled into the Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) area of Minnesota with my mother and younger sister. Ties to my father and the rest of our family were broken during the quick evacuation and resettlement, so I grew up with a small family in the urban areas of St. Paul.
The large part of my religious exposure as I grew up was that I had none. My mother calls herself a Buddhist, but she never taught us anything religious, rituals, or even brought up the topic of god. She believes all that is necessary for a person to be right with the world is to simply be as good a person as one can be - having a kind heart towards others, never harming anyone, and not breaking "the rules," such as stealing, lying and so on.
This value system was instilled in me and I kept it into my adult life. I believed, as many people do in this day, that it is not necessary to do anything more to be a good person than to simply have good intentions and not harm anyone in my actions. It made perfect sense to me while notions of going to church and adhering to the rules and regulations of religion did not.
Church and religion in general felt too ritualized and stringent to me. I grew up being exposed to the American ideals of independence and free will. Those values too became ingrained in me and fueled the rebel inside. I often spent time as a loner and did my own thing, my way. "My way" could very well be the motto for today's America as well as Western society as a whole. These values don't mix well with church and religion, so I stayed away from them.
The only times I had gone to church were for a funeral and a couple times when my mother brought us to some services at the suggestion of family friends who were part of the Catholic community that helped sponsor our family's relocation. I only recall of the experiences that it was very boring and I did not understand anything going on or being said. A typical response for a preteen child who had not been taught any Christian material.
The other part of my exposure to religious notions came from the mass media. My family celebrated Christmas, but it was a family holiday mainly for giving gifts and being together to us. Any connection to Christianity was overlooked. You could say we simply assimilated the culture and bought into the commercialism of the holidays without concerning ourselves with the historical or religious meanings.
It was the same thing for Easter. That was just a spring festival to me just as Halloween was the fall festival. All I cared about as a kid was that we got to eat a lot of candy during these times and Christmas was real special because of the gifts and sparkling evergreen trees.
Yes, especially the gifts - toy robots, Lego sets, cars, trucks and army men - made the boy jump for joy, but I did also learn about the "Christmas spirit" through stories like A Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and It's a Good Life. Anyone can pick up the Christmas spirit through the media and by observing people during the holidays, but there is something missing about this watered down, commercialized version of the holidays that I would not discover until much later in life.
Besides having a small family and being a first generation immigrant, my upbringing was very typical urban, Midwest American. I was a good kid for the most part, made good grades, liked to play sports on occasion, but mainly I was a geek during my teenage years. My step-father, whom my mother married about four years into our relocation, had bought me one of the first home computers of the era (a Commodore 64) when I was 12 years old.
Playing video games was fun, but another aspect of the computer era really caught my attention as I learned that computers could be made to do many interesting things just by telling them to. Well, not exactly by telling them, but by writing instructions for them to follow. For a kid who was always told what to do, this was a very satisfying and empowering thing. I had been initiated into computer programming, which would eventually become a large part of my future.
After high school, I went to the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology under an architectural program. I had become a very proficient computer programmer by then and considered a computer science degree, but I also had a creative side that I wanted to explore. Writing, drawing, and painting had always been things I enjoyed, but I knew that a career in these fields would be uncertain. Everyone has heard of the starving artists. Well, starving was a career option I did not want to participate in, so I mixed some creativity in my career path and tried out architecture.
I learned, though, that the profile of an architect did not fit my personality. It was not just about drawing, designing, and engineering but also about people skills and marketing to sell your designs. I knew my mediocre designs would not sell themselves and I am an absolutely horrible sales person, so I jumped over to what I knew best. I switched to a computer science program that emphasized computer graphics, systems design, and artificial intelligence.
It was a very science and engineering oriented program with years of calculus, physics, and psychology. My grades were very good and I was set to succeed, but I also had problems. I had been going to college partly on an academic scholarship, but that ran out after four years. I had also been working part-time to pay for the rest, but when my scholarship money was gone I started to struggle with paying for college. I had to drop classes, become a part-time student and work more hours.
Two more years passed of trying to work a job and going to college, but by now I found abstract concepts in mathematics and computer science difficult to comprehend. That made me switch my major to Psychology, since I was already studying it to work with Artificial Intelligence. I was even on the Dean's List as a Psychology Major, however, six years in college wore on me and after reviewing my progress, I figured out I had at least another two years to go. Finishing college now felt like scaling a vertical cliff a hundred stories high. My spirit sunk just looking at the goal. I was ready to quit.
I also thought, why do I need a piece of paper from some place saying I am qualified when I can prove myself? Actions speak louder than words, after all. The more I thought about it, the easier it became, and the rebel in me begged to leave the academic life, so after more than six years I left college to begin the next chapter of my life.
I decided to start a print and graphic design business. I had
already secured a good computer job with my skills, so I figured I could
just keep that job as I worked on getting the business started. However, that dream failed in its first year and I ended up keeping the computer job.
I had a typical adult life at this point - worked full-time at a good paying, stable job and spent the rest of the time pursuing my other goals, which was mainly to have my own successful business in a creative field. Years passed since I left college, and in that time I had a stable family life and stayed at the same job through it all. I thought my life was very typical, middle-class, suburban American. That is, until 2005 when I got the first clue that there would be big changes ahead.
Sunday, July 17th, 2005 - I woke earlier than usual and as I lay in bed, I noticed on the floor there was a ring of light centered perfectly around one of the roller feet of the office chair next to the bed. I thought that was peculiar, so I sat up and pushed the chair away to see the ring of light better. When I did this, it revealed the ring to be a ticking clock composed of several short, evenly spaced lines around the circumference just like the markings on an analog clock. There was also another small line that moved as a seconds hand, ticking off the time. The whole image was about three inches in diameter and it glowed a brilliant yellow like sunlight.
Perplexed, I looked around the bedroom wondering what could be making this detailed projection on the floor. The curtain on the only window in the room was drawn and there were only a few slivers of bright light shining around the edges. There were no other light sources in the room, so I got up and waved my hand above and around the shining clock to try and find the source of the projection. Nothing I did disturbed the image.
Then I placed my hand directly over the clock and the image shown on my hand and followed its contours just as if a projector was aimed at my hand. This meant the image was being projected right out of the air surrounding it! I thought, "Wow, that is weird," but I couldn't explain it and I was sleepy, so I laid back in bed for some time thinking about it.
After some minutes, I looked back at the floor and the image was gone while nothing else in the room had changed. It must be a sign or message of some kind, I thought, but what and from who? Maybe I was running out of time for something, but I did not feel a sense of urgency from it. I thought it must be important, though, so I wrote about it in my journal.
Another three years passed by as I continued life and more or less forgot about the ticking clock. I was mainly trying to accomplish my goal of being successful on my own, working in all my spare time trying different avenues that would use my more creative skills, such as graphic design, art and writing. The freelance work in desktop publishing, graphic design, painting, and Internet design was always sporadic though, and the need to do the work in my spare time made it difficult. Success never materialized and through the years all the time I spent on it put a burden on my family life as I kept trying to free myself of the 9 to 5 job.
Sometimes when it was quiet, I contemplated my direction in life, and I remembered the clock of sunlight. I kept pondering what it could mean. It was real, almost tangible. The experience left a vivid memory of it in my mind. Am I running out of time? Is the world running out of time? I wanted to figure it out, so I consulted someone who knew more about spiritual things and symbolism.
She thought that since the vision came in the morning it meant a beginning, not end, and that sunlight is a sign of prosperity and richness, so that was also a good thing. She thought that the clock meant I should slow down my life, stop trying so hard to work on so many things at once, and enjoy the richness of family and life more - simplify. At the time, that interpretation made sense to me. I needed to slow down and enjoy life more.
I believe I did tone down my search for success and independence after that... for a few weeks, anyways. How easy it is to be told something, take it to heart, and then some days later simply forget about it. My passion for being independent kept eating at me, and I continued working at all hours and creating stress for myself. It finally caught up with me on Sunday, April 27th, 2008 when I needed to go to the health clinic for a painful rash I believe was stress related.
I thought it would be another typical long wait at the doctor's office, but while I waited I noticed something strange on the violet, velvety felt seat cushions of the chairs directly in front of me. There were two women sitting across from me in those chairs just before and when they left, I saw distinct images on the seat cushions that caught my eye. The images were formed by dark and light shades of the felt fabric. You know how when you brush a thick carpet one way or the other and the direction that the fibers are brushed will change the pattern of the fibers in a way to create a different shade of the fabric's color? The images on these seat cushions were made in this way.
The image on the left was of a fox, curled up around itself like it was sleeping. The head, body and tail were clearly defined so there was no mistaking the image. The image on the other chair was even more detailed. It showed the face of a monkey, like a chimpanzee, and there was a round analog clock in its left ear, which seemed to point to 9:10. I thought, another clock. Could this be related to the clock I saw three years ago?
I sat and stared at the images for a good half hour while I waited to be called. How could these well formed images be on two different chairs that just had people sitting on them? They looked like an artist took a small brush to the fabric and painted the images there. I looked at the dozen other chairs around me and none of them had images like these two. They only had random blotches of light and dark in the felt, exactly what you would expect to see on these cushions. The images had to be another message for me like the clock of sunlight, so I tried to interpret them.
The fox was easy. I thought it referred to my son whose name, Todd, means fox, and because the image was on a soft, violet purple background, which conveys calm and comfort, I interpreted it as, "Find comfort in my son." I needed to spend more time with my son. That made sense to me. I had been neglecting a lot of family time.
Then I turned to the monkey and also thought it might stand for a person, but I had no idea who it could refer to. And then the clock pointing to 9:10, I did not understand what it could mean either, so like the clock of sunlight, I jotted down these "visions" or "signs" in my journal and went about my life.
Fast forward five months to Sunday, October 19th, 2008 - Someone mentioned a friend, Natalie, who was often described as fast paced, always running around, and talking very quickly. They mentioned these attributes again, also saying that she was just like a monkey. A switch clicked in my mind and the fox and monkey vision came back to me.
I thought, "Wait, is there more to this person?" So I thought about that clock pointing to 9:10 and pondered, maybe it stood for the time I met Natalie. I had not written about meeting her in my journal since I did not write in it regularly, so I dated our meeting indirectly. I went back to some digital photographs that I knew were dated about 10 days after I met her. They were dated September 20th. Subtract 10 days and we have September 10th, 9/10 or 9:10 on the clock. Coincidence?
Now my interest was peaked and on a hunch, I had to confirm something else and ask Natalie what year she was born because on the Chinese Zodiak, animals represent certain years on a 12 year cycle. I was born in a Year of the Rat. I had to find out if she was born on a Year of the Monkey.
Of course, asking this question is out of the ordinary, and after she confirmed to me that, yes, she was born in a Year of the Monkey, she asked what it was all about. I did not want to tell her everything out of fear of looking like a lunatic talking about visions and signs, but I knew if they prophesied meeting her then it meant something important, and she would have to know the whole story.
I told her about the visions and signs and wondered what her response would be. Would she just brand me crazy? Well, her response was more simple than I thought - God - and then I was the one to take a step back.
What? I thought. Of course she would say that since I knew she was a devoted Christian, but what does God have to do with this? I recoiled from notions of Christianity, God, and religion because I had grown up thinking they were just ways for conformers and goodie-goodies to spend time. The whole idea of going to church and praying before an invisible spirit did not make sense to a very independent and scientifically minded person like me.
Then I thought about it more. I was given a prophesy that foretold months in advance I would meet a person fitting a certain description, at a certain time, and furthermore, whose name means Christmas Day (Natalie comes from Natalia, which means Christmas Day from the Latin natale domini) and who also said that she had been praying to let God use her to help people who were searching for or needed Him.
There were too many details lining up now and the simple fact that I was told it would happen far in advance through a prophetic sign sent chills down my spine. If I were not to follow this through, it would be like throwing away a winning lottery ticket, so I let Natalie get me a couple books from the library about Christianity.
I started with Max Lucado's book, Just Like Jesus, and only a quarter of the way through reading it, everything clicked - the signs, my life, everything synched. I asked Natalie how and why she picked that book because it had exactly the message I needed to understand. She said the only reason she picked it was that she recognized the author. She never read it before and was in a hurry, so she just grabbed it.
Her hand must have been guided because the main message in the book was that God wants us all to be more like Jesus. This message might not jar anything in just anyone, but for me it highlighted some very strange "coincidences" concerning myself, like one of my favorite numbers is 3, 30, 33 or any number with threes. Three is also an important number in the Bible concerning Christ. There were 3 wise men that visited the new born Jesus. Jesus was baptized and started his ministry at 30, which went on for 3 years. Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified. He was resurrected 3 days afterward and he appeared to the disciples 3 times after his resurrection.
I had no idea why I liked the number three. It just "felt right," and now it synched with Christ. Seven is my other favorite number and also important in the Bible, meaning wholeness, but that one is more understandable since it commonly also stands for luck to most people.
Another big "coincidence" was the artwork on my motorcycle, which I had painted in 2004 before any of the visions and signs. The main theme on the tank mural was a crusader's shield with a cross and a dragon breathing fire on it.
|My 2004 motorcycle tank mural|
At the time, I simply thought I would like my bike to have a medieval armor theme and the crusader's cross was the first thing that came to mind. It also had to have a dragon because, well, everybody loves dragons. Dragons to me were like dinosaurs to a 5 year old boy. They were grand and awe inspiring beasts.
Little did I know the Christian symbolism in that airbrushed mural - a dragon attacking the cross. To a Christian it symbolizes Satan or sin attacking Christ or Christianity, and in my mural the dragon's fire is repelled by the shield and cross, which would symbolize Christ triumphing over evil. Now that is an unusually Christian message for a very un-Christian artist who was just painting things that filled his fancy. Coincidence again?
Another thing that clinched my "lottery ticket" was my name, which I had changed in 2004 because my step-father had adopted me when I was a teen. During that process my name was changed to a more American one and I took his surname. Through the years though, my mother and step-father separated and I wanted to change my surname back to my birth name. When I pondered the name change, I also did not want to go completely back to my given first and middle names, which I did not like, so I chose Ty, short for Tyrone. Ty was my familiar name, like a nickname, that my family had always called me, and for my middle name I chose Alexander because I wanted it to match my son's middle name.
What does this naming have to do with Jesus? The funny thing is, Tyrone is a Greek name meaning sovereign and Alexander is another Greek name meaning savior. Put them together and it is Sovereign Savior. If I wasn't influenced by some unseen force telling me to be like Jesus, our Sovereign Lord and Savior, then this would be another amazing coincidence.
There were more coincidental things about my life and preferences that matched up with Christian ideals and teachings. I just could not explain it. How could there be so many of these coincidences when I was not a Christian or had Christian friends? I had even recoiled from Christian and other religious institutions in my life. It was baffling to me. That lotto ticket was not just matching three or four numbers but every single one plus the bonus boxes.
I thought it was impossible, yet all the matching numbers stared back at me. I kept thinking, maybe it was all a strange coincidence, but there comes a tipping point when mere circumstantial evidence accumulates so much that it turns into solid, irrefutable proof.
Denying that evidence would be like a jury acquitting a murderer because his finger prints or DNA were not on the murder weapon or at the crime scene, but a stack of other evidence pointed directly at his involvement in the murder, such as his shoe print on the blood stained floor and his clothes fibers on the victim's body.
I also considered how I was brought to this stage - by two visions separated by years, but both occurring on a Sunday - the Lord's day - and one of them was a prophetic vision that had made abstract symbols materialize right into life. That in itself was amazing, but all the rest on top made me understand completely.
I had interpreted the fox on purple velvet as, "Find comfort in my son," but now I knew it should be, "Find comfort in My Son," where "My Son" refers to God's son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, not only does purple stand for comfort, but very appropriate in this context is that purple is also the color for royalty, as well as the color of Jesus' robe during his crucifixion.
Clearly, the symbolism in the fox and monkey visions were multi-layered and very elegant, showing a mastery of communication that I only wish I could achieve. The clock of sunlight was also elegant, but its meaning was more ambiguous. I now believe it said that a time of spiritual prosperity and fulfillment was coming - a time for the Lord to come. All of this was amazing and inspiring, but it was actually just the beginning.
The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" (John 19:2)
When I had told friends of my experience - about cashing in the lottery ticket and following Christ - Bill Wilson, our second witness, congratulated me and said that I would be embarking on an amazing journey.
I did not quite know what he meant, but now I understand completely. The point when I realized Jesus was behind not just the visions that led to him, but also behind the fabric of my own being was an epiphany - a revelation - and everything else after that was truly and profoundly life changing.
Guided by the Light
I believed. The evidence that Jesus Christ was real and working in my life was put before me, and it was so overwhelming and convincing that I felt like the apostle Paul, who, a former unbeliever and persecutor of Christians, was turned into a believer by the resurrected Christ and set on a new path after being overwhelmingly convinced as well.
Jesus came to Paul in a brilliant flash of light, spoke to him, and blinded him - an experience a bit more overwhelming than mine - so I am grateful I was only given a trail of signs to follow. The result was the same, though. Our lives were turned around and we were pointed to a new direction.
When I began to step forward into a new Christian life, I noticed unusual things happened more frequently, especially when I was praying. I started to get visions, but this time they were the traditional kind that are manifested inside the mind.
I began to see coherent and fluid images in my mind as I closed my eyes and prayed. This had never happened before during meditation, which I was familiar with, or at any other times in my life. Normally, when I close my eyes I just see darkness and maybe splotches of light here or there. Never had I seen any well formed images.
Other strange happenings occurred as I studied the Bible and Christian teachings. The spiritual world solidified in my life as I saw how its descriptions in the Bible were accurate and true, such as the existence of angels and demons, how spiritual warfare works, and that God does answer prayers and guide us. I personally encountered spiritual beings, both good and bad, and saw their effects on the world and people. I was new to the spiritual world and especially spiritual warfare at this time, but I saw how having greater faith or belief in the unseen brought out that realm much more in my life.
My spiritual guidance begun to steer me on my life map towards a role in ministry and spread the truth, but I recoiled from this. I had never wanted to minister. The idea of a life of purity and sacrifice did not appeal to a rebellious person sold on the "My Way" mentality. Plus, my speaking skills are horrible and I did not want to be exposed to ridicule and argue constantly with atheists about my beliefs and reality. The only problem was, I had already begun to minister God's word with my online friends through sharing my experiences and debating religion.
Whether I liked it or not, my "ministry" had already begun. It was only that my ministry was a written one as opposed to spoken. Bill Wilson was right. It had been a truly amazing journey - a transformation no less miraculous than a caterpillar into butterfly or coal into diamond - but my testimony here is not quite done.
In December 2008, when I was leaving work in the evening, I saw a strange constellation or configuration of the crescent moon and two bright stars (photo above). It made me stare for some time as I walked to my car, and I felt intensely that it was a sign for me that had to do with my new life in ministry. The next morning, the name 3rd Compass came to me, which goes with how the constellation looked like a draftsman's compass, and I used it as the foundation for my ministry logo (below).
Later, I connected the moon and stars with the scripture of Joel 2:30 and Acts 2:19
as one of the signs and wonders in the heavens for our time. It spoke to me a spiritual message that went with my new ministry of drafting up or revealing important details about God and his kingdom. Years later, I would get confirmations of this destiny with the constellation and 3rd Compass name, but for now I will continue with my story (See About the 3rd Compass Church Name and Logo and Light Within for more)
On May 26, 2009 the managers at my workplace called me into a meeting. It was discouraging news as it had to do with my future at the company. The economy was in a recession, and like many businesses, my company was cutting jobs. My performance and dedication slipped away after the first decade or so, and I became a bad employee that only did what was needed and spent the rest of the time on non-work-related things.
I always got my job done though, but that changed after the company decided to switch me to computer programming methods I was not familiar with. I often couldn't get things to work and didn't finish projects. Then in the meeting of May 26 with managers, I was told to improve or opt out with a severance package and resign.
I was crushed because even though I would have liked to get away from my job, which had grown tiresome after nearly fifteen years, I felt trapped. I had not graduated college and without a degree my prospects were dismal for getting a comparable paying job in a market flooded with unemployment and workers who did have that piece of paper and would be willing to work for much less than me.
My finances were also saturated with tens of thousands of dollars in personal debt and a mortgage. I simply could not afford to take any pay cuts. My entire paycheck went to paying the mortgage and other loans.
I felt like I was forced to stay in that job and sweat it out, but I asked the Lord for guidance. The spiritual guidance I got at the time made me feel I should pursue ministry through writing and racing motorcycles, but I was apprehensive. I needed a steady income to pay my large bills. If I couldn't make the bills, bankruptcy and losing my home was a very real possibility. The severance for resigning would be just enough for about three months and after that I had no idea what kind of income I could get with writing and racing.
I had never written a book before and wondered, would I make enough money to get by? And racing, I had never done either and the level where I was starting had no hope for an income. I had to first prove myself on the track before I could even consider going professional. It was all too scary to consider. What if my writing wasn't good enough and what if I crash and burn on the race track?
Fear started to take hold of my conscious. I knew I was capable as a rider and writer, but good enough to do them professionally? I was not so sure about that. The race track intimidated me and just setting foot on it made me pale. I had seen the results of crashes during races - broken bones, blood, gore, and death. This was not like street riding where certainly an accident can happen at any time, but racing is putting yourself in harm's way on purpose at speeds double, triple, quadruple that of the street.
And writing too, I felt untested in. Most of my writing was academic during the school years. Since then I had only one or two short stories published that recounted riding adventures or other inconsequential things. The loftiness of these goals and the uncertainty of their outcomes made me stiffen and freeze up. I pondered just giving in to the demands of my job and staying with it.
But after considering everything, I was certain God was leading me into a new life of ministry, so I decided I would resign my job. My income would be uncertain, but I had faith the Lord was backing me up on this path, and he would provide for anything I needed. I gave faith to the 3rd Compass, the one that encompasses everything else - all of reality, all of
wisdom, all of morality, and all of our existence. God had begun to speak to me and I gave my complete trust to be guided by him.
My last day at work was June 15, 2009 and I prayed for strength and resilience in the next chapter of my life. That ends this chapter of my testimony - from the very beginning of my journey to the point where I am right at this moment (July 2009). Some of it is unbelievable. I know that from the standpoint of a former skeptic and scoffer.
This journey has been the most amazing set of life changing experiences that anyone could imagine. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be here, experiencing, and saying the things I am saying, but the truth is when you step forward and put full, sincere faith in Jesus Christ, things just start to happen. The 3rd Compass starts to spin and guide you.
My testimony gives a sampling of how one can be guided, but everyone is not the same. Your path and guidance will be different than mine, and we will see in the next chapter how God shaped another witness with his amazing powers.
[Continue to Chapter 4]