5 Years and 10.8 Months Ago…

January of 2013 will mark 6 years of having this blog. 6 years.

I don’t know why I started a blog, but I always had one throughout college with xanga and blogspot. But in January of 2007, I started this particular blog to… I guess more to reflect and hash out my thoughts and feelings. It was a new life for me. I was married and had my first full-time ministry gig. So, I figured I had lots to reflect about and lots of things to hash out. Regarding the full-time ministry gig– not the marriage.

My very first post was about my hesitation (which I realized, today, that the title of the post and, hence, the URL of the post is misspelled. “HESITIATION.” Go figure…) to go visit a 12 year old who had cancer — and ultimately died before I got to see her again, which I briefly shared in a post about the passing of a parishioner here at St. Mark.

The funny thing is, I hated writing all throughout my school career. I didn’t like English. I didn’t like all of my writing classes that I was forced to take. Couldn’t avoid grammar mistakes. Was told by one professor that I write the way I speak, and the way I speak is wrong. What can you do with that?

Yet, since the age of 12, I kept a personal journal. When I was 14 or so, I kept 2 separate journals, because I discovered that my parents were reading my journals. Tsk. Tsk. So I kept a dummy one out where anyone could find them, filled with mundane entries. “School was okay, but I don’t like school. I like seeing my friends and hanging out. And I like doodling in class. Here’s a picture of Mario.” I kept the real one hidden where no one could find it and in that one, I wrote my deepest and darkest of secrets. Not really. It was still the same as the dummy one. Except, with this one, I knew that no one was reading it but me and had the comfort of knowing that I could write something very secretive that no one would know. Oh. I would use expletives here and there. “School was okay, but I @#$&!*% hate school.”

I had no idea why I put in so much effort to maintain this blog. It was fun. It was a release, too. And there was this struggle within me — I wanted as many people to read it, but at the same time, I wanted to keep my anonymity as much as possible, therefore wanting no one to read it.

During the early days (years) I would obsessively keep track of the visits to the blog, all the while hoping that no one from church would discover it. I was frustrated that no one seeing this blog — and tried all the free ways to boost traffic. Blogging can be such a vain medium. I mean, really, what can I offer? What impact can my voice (writing) really have in the sea of millions of better bloggers? Even more in the early days when all I wanted was heavy traffic to my blog.

I’ve made mistakes here and there through these almost 6 years. Some posts — they remain private now– should have never been made public, particularly one about the events that took place at the end of my tenure at one church. My good friend who worked at the church had to call me and ask me to take it down because kids had found that post and were asking the leaders about certain things.

I don’t post as much as I used to. I don’t know why I tried to have one post per day during those early stages. Currently, I shoot for at least 2 a week. I read that consistency keeps the blog alive. Also the experts on blogging said that I should have a clear theme/purpose for this blog. Which I don’t have. It’s about my thoughts and experiences. And again, it’s vanity to think that people would want to read it.

I’ve also stop being obsessive about the traffic to my blog. It wasn’t helping. And I realized how narcissistic I was being. It also gave me a freedom to talk about whatever I want to talk about. Instead of fussing over traffic numbers, I used that energy to really think. (And that takes a lot of energy for me).

It’s been a nice hobby to have. I’ve never really been creative but always yearned to be. This blog has served as an outlet for whatever creativity I have. It also has been an outlet to think and reflect and document things that are happening in my life. But the real deep things — things that I don’t want public or might hurt people or incriminate me somehow, someway — I still have a personal journal for that. It has also open a few small doors and opportunities here and there, and every opportunity and doors opened, I am extremely grateful for.

Thanks for being part of this, rather vain and narcissistic, journey with me. I apologize for all those posts that made you think you wasted precious moments of your life. And I am grateful and humbled if any of my posts made you think and go, “huh, that was interesting.” Even if it was used in a negative way. And also, I should apologize for all the grammatical errors that run rampant on this blog. It happens when I speak, too. English just hasn’t been a good, good friend of mine.

But, really, honestly and truly — thanks for reading.

The Interchangeable Ethnicity

I don't know why it bothers me so much when people assume I'm Chinese or Japanese. But it does. A lot.

I was at the Coffee Cat (great local coffee shop, btw) with my parents when this guy interrupted us.

“Are you guys from here?”

“Well, we are, but my parents aren't.”

“Where are they from?”

“Pomona.”

“Oh — is that in America?”

“…. It's in Southern California. Like 2 hours away. Near Cal-Poly Pomona.”

“Oh right, right. I knew that. Do you guys visit Chinatown frequently? I was just there. And I try to go all the time. It's so wonderful. You guys have such neat things…”

I mean, really? I had to bite my tongue so hard not to say something snarky back. After all, he was being really sincere. But, still… Why does one just go ahead an assume? They say that when you assume, it makes an ASS out of U and ME. But really, it just makes an ass out of you…

I read an article in Entertainment Weekly about the remake of Red Dawn. They originally made it about the Chinese invading the Northwest. But studios these days are trying to get their films to play in China, since it's such an untapped market. Studios have to be really careful because the Chinese government has strict control over what foreign movies are (legally) allowed into their country.

So, the studio that produce Red Dawn did not want to offend the China censors, so after the movie finished filming, they digitally altered all Chinese elements (uniforms, flags, etc) to North Korea. I read that and I said out loud, “Aw hellllll no!”

I don't know why it bothers me so much. I mean, you have Australians playing Americans. Americans playing Germans. The English playing American roles. An Irishman playing Abraham Lincoln.

But it bothers me when Zhang Ziyi (Chinese) played a geisha (Japanese). Or how Benjamin Kingsley (not Asian) is playing the Mandarin (an Asian character) in Iron Man 3. Actually the latter bothers me much more than the former. What? No Asian people to cast the roles of Goku (Dragonball) or Aang (The Last Air Bender)?

Or how about casting that reinforces the negative stereotypes of Asians? (Yes, 2 Broke Girls, I'm talking about you).

Or how about a Vacation Bible School study a couple of summers ago that was so racially insensitive to the all Asian cultures? Mixing pandas with geisha like clothing, with lanterns, rice field hats, chopsticks, karate chops and hiyas… I mean, really?

I know a lot of people don't understand the differences of Asian cultures. But each culture and country have rich and different histories. Sure, there are similarities, but there are big differences, as well.

In the end, there will be people who unintentionally and mistakingly think that there are similarities in the Asian cultures — thinking that it's all the same or interchangeable. And then there will be people who will continue to be ignorant and choose to bask in their ignorance.

When people (like the guy at the coffee shop) assume that I'm something other than Korean, know that I'll find a way to end the conversation ASAP, all the while politely smiling and biting my tongue so that I won't make the situation worse.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

We all have so many things to be thankful for.
When I put my life into perspective, I realize that there is not much I lack but there are many, many things that I am (and need to be) thankful for.

So, may gratitude and thanksgiving flow from our lives, everyday and not just once a year.

Also. Go Redskins!

32

Go 32

What an odd feeling: 32.

I remember being 13 or 14 and thinking just how old 30 was, even though it was less than 20 years away. I never thought that I’d be 30. Not in a morbid sense. My teenage mind just couldn’t think that far ahead. 30 was a distant, distant land.

 

And now, not only have I reached that distant land, but am setting up camp.

 

It’s amazing how much I haven’t grown or matured.
Poop jokes still make me laugh.
Comic books still get me excited.
I want nothing more than to see a great Superman movie and a very well-done Star Wars sequels.
There are days where I want to see how much I can annoy my wife — just for the hell of it.
Man-Child has been a very appropriate title to describe me.

 

But at the same time, it’s amazing of how much I did grow, mature and learned. Particularly in the past 5 years, since I was commissioned.

 

I learned the necessity of tact. I don’t have to always say things that are on my mind. And shockingly enough, I’m not always right. Nor do I have all the answers.
I’ve learned that it’s not worth fighting every fight. By spending all my strength, time and energy killing cockroaches, I won’t have strength, time and energy to tackle the real, big, important stuff.
I’ve learned the importance of saying “no” so that I can say “yes” to the things that really matter.

 

Most importantly, I learned the most about grace.

During this election season, I’ve seen and encountered very, very passionate people. They were passionate about their candidates and the issues.
Passion is important. Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel said, “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

 

Passion drives us. Motivates us. It’s what separates winners from quitters. Passion refuses to allow us to quit.
That’s why we want passionate people on our teams. That’s why we want passionate people for our ministries.

 

Going back to the election season, I also saw how divisive passion can be.
No one can say that Michael Jordan was not passionate about the game. His passion for the game made him the GOAT (greatest of all time). But, he was notorious for undermining his teammates, driving them crazy, driving them out of the league. The players feared Jordan, not the coach.

 

You had people on both sides so passionate about their issues and their loyalties for their party– it was (is) difficult to have a civil conversation with those passionate people, especially if you are on the other side/party.

 

People were (and are) so carried away by being right and supporting the right candidate, voting the right way.

But more than being concerned about being right, we should be more concerned about being grace-filled, especially if we claim to be Christians.

Sure, the Bible says things about certain issues, but where’s the grace in going up to people’s face and telling them they’re going to hell?
Where’s the grace in demonizing the other side?
Where’s the grace in placing the problems and decline of an entire country on the shoulders of one community, because God is punishing everyone because of that one community?

 

What can we learn from Jesus wishing that the Pharisees would go and learn the meaning of “I desire mercy not sacrifice?”

 

I think I’m a passionate person. And I want passionate people to be part of our team in ministry.
But I am learning that more than passion, grace is far more important.
Passion may drive our team, but grace will keep our team together, strong and healthy.
And if we as a church and people of God don’t practice grace, then what are we, really?

 

32. Such a weird number. And age to be.
I am excited to see what God has in store for me for this coming year.
How much will I grow?
How much more will I regress when it comes to potty humor and superheroes?

 

Either way, I’m thankful to be alive.
I’m thankful for the many, many blessings that are in my life, especially for my wife and family.
I’m thankful that God still finds purpose in me.

And I just pray that my life will reflect the love, grace and goodness of God.

 

I Can Finally Breathe, Sort Of…

I can finally think straight.
The week didn’t start off so well for me.
Early Monday morning, I found myself hunched over the toilet bowl, seeing and smelling the things I had consumed on Sunday. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Nor smell.

Food poisoning? The stomach flu? I have no idea.
I spent most of Monday in bed. Sleeping. Sweating. Trying to not die. Hoping I cancelled all the meetings I had scheduled for that day and not leave anyone hanging.

On Tuesday, I woke up feeling better. Figured, I’ll head out to the two meetings I had that day and then go vote.
I think that was a mistake. I should’ve stayed home.
After the meeting, I felt taxed and tired. Thankfully, there were no lines at the polling center, so voting took about 10 minutes.

I tried to stay up to see both the concession speech and the victory speech, but couldn’t hang on.

This morning, for the first time this week, I woke up with the ability to think. And breathe. I’m still sore. I have no idea why. And I don’t know how I’ll progress throughout the day. But the day started out well.

First, I got up really early. On my own.
Got a little reading done (the new Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne book) while listening to a bit of Avett Brothers.

I think I need to take it slow today, and the rest of the week.

My wife’s been on me the past few days about the pace I’ve set for myself.
I didn’t know I set a pace, let alone being a fast one. But she has insights that I can’t see. I’m too involved in my world to notice things like that. But I know from past experiences, I’ve always felt like I was in a race with someone or something. Funny enough, I remember thinking recently that I wasn’t moving fast enough.

But this is one of those times where I know that I need to listen to my wife.
Hopefully, by tomorrow, I’ll be back to normal. Eating again. Laughing again.

I also felt like I should say something about the election. But I don’t have anything worth saying, so I’m just going to borrow from Mr. Jon Acuff‘s post from today:

It’s Wednesday and the Presidential Election in America is over.
My friend Lisa in Oregon just reminded me, though, that there’s a law that says all Christian bloggers have to write one of the following two posts the day after an election:

1. If your candidate lost, you have to write:
God is sovereign and will provide. He is still in control. Everything is going to be all right.

2. If your candidate won, you have to write:
God is good and has provided. He is still in control. Everything is going to be all right.

Since both those things are true about God, and Wednesday will be a pretty busy day, I thought I would get my mandatory Christian blogger post-election entry out of the way.

God is sovereign. God is good. He will provide, and He has provided. Everything is going to be all right.

A Hard Lesson to Learn

Tom had gotten sick fairly soon after I arrived at St. Mark.
I stopped by the hospital to see him a couple of times. And I stopped by Hillside House, where Tom resides, a couple of times.

He had gotten better and was almost returning to a normal day schedule. So, one of our parishioners thought it would be a great idea to get him a Bible and present it to him when he arrived at church, and I read a short letter that he had written for the church.

But, he got sick again and wasn’t going out much.
So, we presented the Bible to the church and I asked that people sign the Bible and I was to deliver it to him.

I waited one more Sunday to collect whatever signatures that we may have not collected the previous Sunday.

I made a note to myself that on Thursday, I’ll go deliver the Bible to him.
Thursday came, and as I looked for the number to call Hillside House, I also saw that the program director from Hillside House had called, and requested that I call back.

A few members of our church were trying to figure out how we can serve at Hillside House, so I thought that was why the program director had called.
So I called her to see what she wanted and to see if Tom was available for me to swing by and see him.

When I got through to her, she had told me that Tom had passed two days earlier.

The room went completely still and silent. It really did feel like I had just gotten the wind knocked out of me.

I heard a “Hello? Pastor? Hello? You still there?”
I was. But, really, I wasn’t.
I told her I call her back in the next few days to figure out when to do a memorial celebration for Tom.

After the phone call, there were various emotions rolling around within me. But one of them were beating the others to the surface: guilt.

I felt (… feel) so small and so incompetent.
I don’t know why I decided to wait until Thursday, waiting a week and a half to get him the Bible.

I was (… am) angry at myself.

I couldn’t (… can’t) believe that I let this happen.

I took for granted that he was going to be okay and be around.

Now, all I have are empty excuses and a Bible full of loving messages that Tom never got to see.

Staring at Tom’s bible, my mind went back about 6 years ago, when I was living in Hawaii. When I got first full-time ministry job, there was a 12 year old girl who was in the hospital with cancer. It had spread and chances of her beating the cancer had grown slim.

I had swung by with “The Little Mermaid” and we had a small “date”, watching the movie, complaining about our parents, talking story, telling jokes, laughing.

At that time, Dominos Pizza was doing this big thin New York pizza deal and she was interested in trying that pizza. So, a few weeks later, I got a couple of my unpaid servants in our youth ministry and picked up two of the New York pizzas from Dominos and we had a small Pizza Party. Near the end, she said that she wanted to watch another movie with me, The Road to El Dorado, I think.

I told her that I’ll make it happen soon.
About a month and a half later, she had passed.

I remember how incredibly selfish I was being. I was 25 or 26. Never had to deal with death, let alone with a 12 year old’s mortality. I was absolutely scared. Terrified. It made it worse that after our pizza party, she had gotten worse. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know what I’d say. How I would act. Or react. If I would make things better or worse. What if she had all sorts of questions about what happens next? I felt ill-equipped. The fear had paralyzed me from doing anything regarding her. And, the excuses kept pouring in. The fear allowed me to remain in my selfishness.

Then she passed. To say I felt like crap would be an understatement.
I was asked to say something at her service, because her parents felt that I could share about the fun moments we had together, since she really enjoyed it.
After the service, her nurses came up to me and told me how much that movie date meant to her, and how she couldn’t stop talking about the next one and how unfortunate it was that we never got to do it again.

I drove, somewhere. Maybe it was the Pali Lookout. Maybe it was the North Shore. It just wasn’t home. My wife was back in DC finishing up her seminary career. I had no one to go to.

Wherever I ended up, I sat there bawling. Thankfully, no one was around. I was crying because of the way I felt — it was still incredibly selfish.
And here’s the kicker. I promised myself that something like this would never happen again.

Here I am, six years later, not having learned from the first time I made this mistake.

I also know that I’m being a bit self-centered in the emotions that I feel. I just… well, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what to say. I just don’t know.

There’s a reminder in this lesson of how precious and short life may be and how not to take someone’s presence for granted.

I thought I learned that lesson 6 years ago…

I Pity Da Fool

We recently started volunteering at a local rescue mission here in town.

On the 2nd Tuesdays of the month, we lead the chapel service at the rescue mission, where my wife shares the Gospel.

We've been there, now, 3-4 times and are slowly starting to get to know the people there — their names, their stories, etc.

The first time we volunteered, we got placed in the dinner line to serve food.

It was (and is) quite a sight seeing all the people getting food and eating in the cafeteria and then seeing them hanging out in the courtyard waiting for their turn to shower.

You see all sorts of people going through the food line. Some who were well dressed, some who looked like they were on the streets longer, some who were sharp as people come, some who look really broken, some who look like the toll of being on the street has become too much — a variety of folks.

As I was serving people food, exchanging small talks, and just observing and watching them pass by me, there was a feeling that was sinking deeper and deeper into my heart.

Yes, my heart was breaking for them, but I couldn't quite put a finger on what exactly I was feeling.

It wasn't until a few days ago where I was finally able to put an English word behind what I was feeling as I was hanging out with the folks, doing whatever I was told to do by the person in charge: “Pity.”

And I hated the fact that was what I was feeling; that I felt pity for them.

I know there are many ways to describe the word and emotion of “pity.” But the first thought comes to my mind when I think of “pity” is feeling sorry for someone else.

And there's truth in that. I felt a bit sorry for the folks there at the rescue mission.

But the reason why I hate that feeling is because, for me, if I feel pity for a person, if I feel sorry for that person, it is coming from a place where I am, for a lack of a better word, “better” than that person. I know more. I am at a different level– a higher level of life, education, career, etc.

For me to feel sorry for someone, it means that I am at a better point in life than they are.

Maybe that's a bit extreme. And perhaps you'd take a completely different approach to the word “pity.”

But, that's how I feel. And if that's how I feel, my actions and interactions with folks may come from the source of feeling pitiful for them. Which is not what I want. At all.

Besides, those men and women? They don't need my pity. Not at all.

I want to come from a place of compassion; a place of grace and love; a place of support.

I want to truly be their friend, as much as I possibly can. But, I don't think I can do that with the wall of pity shielding me from them. And there really shouldn't be a “me” and “them.” But an “us.”

I am their brother in Christ. And they are my brothers and sisters. And friends.

I am not loved any more by God than they are loved.

As someone once said or wrote, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

I think a problem that some Christians and churches run into is that they are doing homeless folks and organizations a “favor” by “serving” (volunteering?) them. Maybe that comes from a feeling obligation or, perhaps, pity. Maybe that's why some folks will donate what they were originally going to throw away to the homeless, because they might need it. It being trash.

They are not an obligation. They do not need a favor from any of us. Nor do they need our pity.

But they are our friends. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are the very ones Christ would be “caught” hanging out with. He'd hang out with them more than you or me, I presume. They are the ones who Christ said, Happy are they… for the Kingdom of God is theirs.

I should not volunteer because I feel obligated to, or feel like I'm doing someone a favor, or to check off a item on my “doing good” list and certainly not just out of pity but I (should) serve because I feel compelled by God's love to share the very grace and love God has graciously shown me; because I am called to serve the people God loves, not just those I love; because Christ modeled a servant leadership.