Prayer Journal

 

Recently, I bought a Leuchtturm 5 Year Journal. It was, by far, the most expensive journal I have ever bought ($30).

But it's supposed to last you 5 years and gives you just a little bit of space per day.
I've been using it as a daily prayer journal. I've always liked writing my prayers down. I don't know why — and yes, I started doing this way before the movie or the book “The Help” came out (one of the main characters writes her prayers down as well).

I guess one of the reasons why I do it is, for one, it helps me to pray. I know that prayer should be automatic for us pastors. I can't speak for anyone else, but for some odd (and bad) reason, prayer is one of the first things that I forget to do. For reasons I can't really explain, journaling just helps me to remember to pray.

Another reason is that I enjoy looking back at my prayers weeks; months later. I like to see where my state of mind and soul were . I like to see how God answered my prayers because I learned that a lot of my prayers were answered, just not in the way I hoped, expected, or wanted it them to be answered.

With this new journal, I don't have that much space to focus on prayer requests. But it's a good thing, because often times, we treat prayer no differently than our wish list on Amazon. It helps me to frame my thoughts; my relationship with God; overall, reflect on who God is in my life.

I've had the journal for about a month and already there are days that I missed in my attempts to daily write my prayers. Looking back, I have to ask — what the heck? What was so wrong with my day that I didn't take time to pray? And usually, it takes me about 10 minutes (pray silently; write down as I pray; pray silently) — because the space I'm given is limited. How whack were my priorities that day that I did not pray? There's never a legitimate excuse. As Bill Hybels said, “If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy.” Yes, I do feel guilty about those empty slots in the journal. But bigger than the guilt, I am given a chance to correctly prioritize my day for the following day.

I can't overstate how important and vital prayer is to my (and everyone else's) soul, life, and faith journey. Unfortunately, I just need all the help I can get to remind me to pray. Journaling my prayer has helped immensely and I'd recommend everyone to keep a journal of their prayers.

 

Church People Say The Darndest Things Pt. 4

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.  

So I know my wonderful church folks say this because they care for us and are looking out for us.

But I can’t help but thing what a really weird thing it is to hear.

Ever since we’ve introduced the Little Dude (formerly known as Nate Dogg) to our loving congregation, many of the folks “warned” us by saying different versions of “Don’t get too attached.”

And we look at each other on the way home and ask, “How can we not get attached?”

It’s not like we’re just house mates where we may bump into each other here or there and might have one or two casual conversations.
We have to take care of him. Love him. Nurture him. Help him. Guide him. Teach him. As far as we’re concerned, he’s our kid until he is not.

Now of course, they’re saying this for the inevitable day when we have to say good-bye. They don’t want us to be too hurt or too sad by the departure of the Little Dude. But it’s what we’ve signed up for. We know what we’re getting into. We know that the day will come when he has to go to his parents. And we are looking forward to that, for LD’s sake. Because, ideally, the best place for him to be is with his parents.

And I want to return him better than I found him, if you will. And in order to do that, we’ll have to pour our selves out into him. You can’t not get attached by doing that. There’s no cold way to do that. There’s no way you can do it with detachment. You’re all in. You’re investing it all.

Besides, we get attached to much smaller and insignificant things as human beings.
I legitimately get sad when I lose my favorite hat. For days. I think about it. I wish I could wear it. I miss the way it feels with the years of sweat and dirt on the brim that makes it an oh-so-perfect fit.

We get attached to our first cars. Our homes. Our rooms. Our dorm room. Our high school campus.

I even witnessed one man get so attached to a volleyball with a red hand print that he cried – bawled – when he lost it.

We get attached to our pets.
So how can you not expect to get attached to a human being that you feed, change, bathe, and care for?

We’re human beings. Not human doings. We’re not going to just do-do-do-do (hahaha doodoo) and then send him packing on his way. No, we’re gonna be with him the best way we can.
We want to make sure that he gets healthy when he’s with us while his parents are getting healthy so that they can be the healthiest versions of themselves when they’re finally united.

That’s going to take a lot of effort, strength, and time.
And because we’re sharing our lives together, getting attached to the Little Dude is bound to happen.

That’s okay. It’s a risk that we’ve took on. Because love always comes with a risk.

 

 

It’s Friday Night And I Just – Just – Juuuust Got Paid

Note: How appropriate that I made a mistake with the title. Got, not God. Geez.

(The title to the blog: ‘Nsync, anyone? No Strings Attached album? No? Yea, I never really listened to ‘Nsync either……………..)

Some time last week, I received a check for the Bible study I wrote on prayer for the Converge Bible Study series. It wasn’t like I made bank, but I was very grateful for the opportunity (don’t tell Shane this, but I would’ve done it for free…) and even more grateful for the check that came in the mail.

It was a surreal moment.

I wanted to frame it — like business folks do with the first dollar they made — but I’m too cheap for that and we need a new vacuum.

I got paid for writing. That’s a weird feeling. I mean, I once got paid for a small book review I did for my friend’s Annual Conference. But this is different. This reached a scope beyond one Annual Conference and beyond my 3 readers on this blog (thanks wife and mom).

Even though I got paid for writing something — I don’t think I could ever consider myself a “writer.” Because I’m a horrible writer. Like my religion professor told me in undergrad, “You write the way you speak, and the way you speak is incorrect.” (He might’ve said it more grammatically correct.)

I can’t believe how that one little statement has hung over my head for so many years.

Turns out, writing like how I speak has become a necessity when I write my sermons. (So, ha! Dr. Crawford! — though he was one of my favorite professors. Maybe that’s why the words hang around after all these years).

And me speaking in a wrongly way? (bad sentence on purpose… give me some credit). In honor of my pidgin speaking friends: ainokea. (I no care).

Well — I do. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a complete moron. I’m okay with moron — just not a complete moron.

And, in the words of Juan Pablo — English is my second language. I’m a product of ESL. Ees okay.

Actually, I only joke about ESL. I think I’ve taken 1 ESL class or however it was done in my life and that was in the first grade. So, 20 years ago. Okay, another lie, 20 years ago would make me 26.

About 3-5 years ago, I remember how I really wanted to write a book. I was looking at all sorts of opportunities for me to pitch an idea. And I never really had an idea for a book. I had a few decent ones, but they were more suited for a series of blog posts, not a book. One thought I toyed with was how jealousy can destroy a team ministry by using people like King Saul as an example. His obsession and jealousy towards David destroyed him. But again a good blog post, not deep enough for a book.

I can’t really tell you why I so wanted to be a published writer. But, it most likely had to do with boosting my ego and self worth.

I gave up the thought of writing a book when I realized (through someone’s blog post) that in many ways, we preachers are writers (also when I realized I had nothing to write about. And when I realized I’m not that great of a writer.)

We write a sermon week in and week out. Although this pastor blogger said that pastors write 15 pages of manuscript each week. 15 pages? My sermon manuscripts come out to an average of 1500 words (2.5 pages at most). It only becomes over 15 pages on Sunday mornings when the font size is changed to 24 so that I can use it to preach. 15 pages?! Per sermon?! Am I doing something wrong…?

It’s funny how things happen when you let go of it.

I was approached by Shane, not once but twice, to write a bible study for the Converge series. Both times (especially the second time) I was floored, humbled, and grateful. Really? Me? Again?

Through this experience, I am learning that I don’t think I could ever write a book.

Writing the Bible studies (particularly the new one) was difficult and beyond my intellectual capacity (please note: I’m not complaining). And that’s with a 2000 word limit per session and only 4 sessions at that (I can math this: that’s 8000 words per study! Math, like English, also not my strongest subject. I bring dishonor to my ethnicity).

I know writing a book goes deeper and takes more effort. It’ll feel like going to school. And school and I are not the best of friends. On top of that, my church used the Practical Prayer study for a small group study. What they loved the best was the questions each session asked. And I had nothing to do with the questions. That was all Shane and Co.

I think my wheelhouse is in blogging. Of course, if the chance to write a book ever comes up, I won’t deny it. Hopefully that’ll mean I’ll have something worthy to share. But if it never does, I got other things (real things) to be concerned about than doing something that ultimately promotes me as a person. That can’t ever be what my life is about. I got bigger and more important things to push and promote — like God’s love and restoring grace.

And that’s done best through actions than words.

Santa Barbarian Way: Institutionalized

lionYou either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. — Harvey Dent

On January 19th, we started a sermon series called #SantaBarbarianWay based on the book Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus.

The premise of the sermon series is that we’ve become a bit too domesticated and civilized when it comes to our faith. Jesus was wild; raw; untamed — and it made the already religious nervous. He threatened the job security of the religious elite.
Today, instead of taking risks and tackling challenges, we’ve settled for security; for familiarity; for safeness. We’ve embraced tradition. Instead of accepting God’s call and invitation to go!, we’ve stayed in our buildings and invited God to dwell with us.

As I have prepared for the sermons, there has been a lot of inner turmoil within me. Perhaps the one being affected most by these sermons is me.

Years ago, I remember sitting in a room full of board members (of the Board of Ordained Ministry or BOOM) asking us about our thoughts of the ordination process. I remember telling them that I felt that they were domesticating me. They were training me into becoming a “suit”; that they were more concerned with me being a “good Methodist” over a good person; that all their leading questions were requiring me to give them an answer they wanted to hear. And anything that was different from their thinking, I felt, was viewed as a threat or danger and required me seeing a spiritual guide or a psychologist (a common “suggestion” given by the BOOM).

I hate the feeling of being confined and am a bit claustrophobic.
I hate to be labeled or stereotyped. And yes, it has a lot to do growing up being the only Asian person in my class and the things people thought about me. (No, Chinese is not the same as Korean. No, I don’t know Bruce Lee. No, we don’t eat dog. Oh wait, never mind. That is us.) It has a lot to do with being a PK (pastor’s kid) at a Korean church and the unrealistic expectations that people had of me.
It’s why I go out of my way to be horrible at math (okay, that’s just an excuse. I’m just naturally bad at math.)
I mean, the hatred of being confined is so in my head, I get nervous when I have to preach behind a pulpit. I feel like I’m trapped; being confined. I hate the way the robe makes me feel claustrophobic. I know it’s all in my head. I know I’m neurotic. I’ll never wear a clerical collar because I don’t want people to label me as pastor and treat me differently (well, never say never, right?). It’s not like we get free stuff these days for being a clergy…

During those Ordination years, I also hated meeting with other clergy because I would always be the youngest one present, by decades. And they would go out of their way, it felt like (though in retrospect, I’m sure they weren’t) to belittle me and be condescending. They would tell me that I need to learn how the real world and real ministry works; that I was being naive; that I was being too unreal and too simplistic; that I had passion, but it was everywhere and that was not good.

It’s funny — no, it’s sad and scary — how things change when you climb over that wall and be part of the “civilization.”

Somewhere along the my path, I’ve become institutionalized. I’ve lived long enough to see myself become the “villain,” if you will. (I am aware that this may just be all in my head)

My wife and other folks would come share with me ideas about ministry and I’d be quick to remind her and others – resources are scarce (even though I’ve preached that vision always comes before provision). It’s logistically impossible. I have too much on my plate to tackle that. That’s not how it works. You’ll see things differently if (or when) you become a pastor.

I remember a phone call with someone who was in his first year of youth ministry and saying, “Give yourself a little time and you’ll see that things work a little differently. Things aren’t that simple and easy.”

Once we’re “in” we forget all about being “out.”
We forget the struggles; the heart aches; the loneliness; the anger; the hurt as a member of the “out” group. All we may see now is that not everyone can be part of this group.

Once a certain “banned” group forces their way into the door to become members of an exclusive country club, those same folks will work even harder to keep the next group out.
Some Christians forget we were (are) sinners and put on the shoulders of others heavy packs that are impossible to carry in order to receive grace.
In our history, we Christians, as soon as we became the official religion of the empire, forgot how we feared for our lives; how we were hunted and persecuted; and with a flip of a switch went on persecuting all who didn’t think like us.

Today, I see myself on the side that I fought not to be on.

I feel a lot of unrest rising within me.
My eyes are open and I realize that I’m too comfortable in living in a civilized and domesticated faith. I’d rather be comfortable than take risks.
At 20-something, I had nothing to lose. So it was easy to risk everything. Say anything. Do anything.
Perhaps now, I think I have more to lose, therefore risking everything comes at a greater cost. Perhaps now, I think that I have a reputation to be mindful of. What rubbish! At what cost? I’d rather challenge everything than have a good reputation because I stayed silent and hidden.
Perhaps, there was shift within me that was more concerned of being a good Methodist than a good person. Perhaps I was more interested in being a person of the book — in this case the Book of Discipline. But the biggest sin of being a person of the book — whether it be the Bible or the denominational laws — is that one will always value the book over a real person. Which we see happening all around us, all the time.

This rising restlessness within me is telling me to question everything.
My calling. My ministry. My profession. My employer — the United Methodist Church. And not in a bad way, at all. In a necessary way. Why am I doing what I am doing? Who am I? Who am I, really, in Christ? Why am I the kind of pastor I am today? And so forth.

This restlessness is causing me to be awake and see everything with eyes wide open instead of blindly accepting everything because that’s what the powers to be tells us so (and not that the powers to be tell folks to accept things blindly).

Consider this a wakeup call.
And I’m… finally waking up.

Confession

note: I realized that my last post was a post about a preacher being tired. I didn’t think these two posts would run so close together. Now I do sound like I’m complaining. And for that I apologize… 

My tired kitty.

I have to admit something that I don’t like to admit. I don’t like to admit it because it makes me feel like I’m weak. And I don’t like to admit it because, not only does it make me look weak, it sounds like I’m complaining. And when one’s complaining, it often makes them sound ungrateful.

But here it goes:

I. Am. Tired.

There. I said it. I admit it. I am tired.

I’ve had a great year so far. It also has been challenging — but not in a bad way.

I just think the stress from the capital campaign and restructuring of the Order part of our calling as elders in the United Methodist Church has finally caught up with me.

We recently wrapped up a rather busy weekend. And the day I am writing this, this morning was pretty hectic. It’s 2 pm and I think I finally caught my breath from this morning. And am taking in the smell of coffee and waiting for the caffeine to jumpstart my thought process as I finally begin my sermon preparation. To be completely honest with you, I don’t know why this morning was so frantic. But it was. I was. 

I figure the best way to catch my breath was to start with my morning devotionals (at 2pm), and I always enjoy the smell of coffee as I begin to settle my soul. If God had a fragrance, I think God would smell like coffee. Good coffee. 

I am currently using Solo by Eugene Peterson and today’s devotion was from Leviticus 22:1-8, where God ends each phrase with “I am God.”
Eugene writes “Perhaps you will repeat to your soul ‘he is God.’” Which stirred something deep within my heart. 

Then I wrote in my personal journal (where I can really be honest):

He is God. I am not. And I need to constantly live in that place.

I am far too self-dependent. That’s great if I were leading a business. But I am not. This is God’s ministry and I am to lead the people to God’s vision and purpose, not mine. And because this is God’s ministry, I should consistently have conversations with God to make sure I am on the same page with him; going where he is guiding us. There is no such thing as “I can do this on my own with God” because what I’m really saying is, “I can do this on my own. And I better add ‘with God’ because I’m a pastor.”

Then I started reading a couple of entries from RealLivePreacher.com (really to procrastinate) and I came across this section where he talks about the hymn Be Thou My Vision:

I am constantly found guilty of the sin of words. Vulgarity is not my downfall, though I am vulgar. My sin is having words that are far more beautiful than my life.

How graceful are those whose lives outshine their words.

Perhaps my life will catch up to my mouth someday. Perhaps my body will catch up to my heart, my hands to my eyes, my feet to my soul.

I have nothing to offer the Creator but myself. Here I am. I have nothing to claim but grace. I want more from life than I deserve and have given back less than I should.

I cannot see the path. I know not the way. I have not avoided the obstacles. Blinded and uncertain, I have only this prayer: Be Thou my vision.

Last month, I was talking with my spiritual director about the days during of the Capital Campaign.

I shared with her that every morning, I would get up and drive to the beach and sit there and pray.

She asked me to share more about the mornings spent at the beach, like what I do and/or say/pray. I told her, I would usually just sit and take in the moment. Take in the sights, the smells, and the sounds. I would listen to a couple of praise songs, particularly Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) because 1) I was at the ocean (duh) and 2) the lyrics really reflected my prayers. My main prayer was that I would not get caught up in numbers. That I would find success in God rather than the results and that failure won’t cripple my heart and success would not inflate my ego.

She asked, “When was the last time you went to the beach to pray?”

I responded, “When the Capital Campaign was over.”

She observed that my face lit up as I was talking about the prayers at the beach. She could see how excited I was and how much that meant to me and asked, “Why haven’t you prayed at the beach recently?”

It was a question I was not expecting. Or more truthfully, maybe it was a question that I was trying to avoid. I knew the answer. And I didn’t want to say it. I could lie to her. But, the truth is that I’d be lying to myself and God. I hated the answer I had to give, but there was no point in lying about it. 

“Because, I’m not as desperate as I was during the Capital Campaign.”

In the Bible study I wrote for the Converge series, I talked about how often we only pray to God when we needed something. The other days we go on as if God is nothing but a distant memory or a friend who has moved far away, but we occasionally keep in touch. But as soon as we’re in a bind; as soon as we need something, we seek God. 

My sin, I am realizing, is that my words are far more beautiful than my life.

If I may, let me let you in on a secret about us pastors:

We’re really bad at self care — especially our spiritual self care.

A lot of times it’s because of ego: I’m a pastor. I’m beyond that. I went to seminary. I get paid to be spiritual. I know what I’m doing. etc, etc.

Sometimes, it’s because people will think we’re lazy. In a world that equates success with busyness, taking time to be still and pray seems like a God-awful waste of time.
“We’re not paying the pastor to pray!” some may think.
“We don’t have time to sit down and read books and be still and pray! We’re obviously overpaying our pastor” others may think.

But most of the times, it’s because (contrary to popular belief) we are busy (and not just on Sundays, mind you). And we also fall into the trap that busyness means that we’re being good and effective pastors.
So, then our priorities aren’t in order.
And just like many, many, many, many people, when our plates get way too full, God is the first thing to fall off the full plate.
Which no can really afford, especially us pastors.

So then begins this vicious cycle where we rely on our strength.
We rely on our reputation.
We power on through one meeting after the next.
We open the Bible only to see what Sunday’s sermon will be.
We pray more to ourselves than to God for inspiration.

On top of that, there are far more pressing things, people, issues, meetings than my own spiritual needs. And this is where ego comes to play, “I’m good. I’m a pastor” we tell ourselves. 

We tell ourselves, everyone, anyone, I can do this own my own… with God.
Which is us really saying, “I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own.”
And we get defensive and short with folks who tell us, “You look tired.” (How desperately we want to respond, “So’s your face” to their comment. No? Just me? Well, so’s your face).

And after it’s too late, do we realize, “Hey, wait. I can’t do this on my own.” And we see that we preachers have been running beyond empty; beyond fumes; and that we’ve been doing it for a long, long time.
And we’re beyond exhausted. Maybe even beyond repair.
“Where is God?” we may wonder.

Truthfully, I’m tired because I’ve been doing this on my own.

I’ve been running full speed ahead and conquering one task after the other, and sprinkling God here and there, because, after all, I am a pastor and this is a church. 

I’ve been taking on the yoke of the church and of myself which is becoming a heavier, heavier burden. All the while, I’m telling, teaching, preaching to folks to take on the yoke of Jesus that is light. Stop being a human doing and take a moment to be in the presence of God and bask in God’s love and realize that there’s more to life than just doing, doing, doing, doing.

Which is why Gordon’s confession that “my sin is having words that are far more beautiful than my life” really struck a nerve.

I am tired. But it’s not something that will be remedied from sleeping in and vegging out for a week on TV and things on Netflix (which is something I love to do, btw). 

It is not that I am tired from a lack of sleep or rest. It is that my soul is desperately yearning for God. And in my hubris, I’ve been denying the one thing that I’ve been needing more than anything else.

What’s more humbling is that my wife was keen to this far earlier than I was. She would mention that I’m running ragged. That I’m not looking so fresh. I couldn’t see what she saw because I had blinders on. And I thought I was okay. Hell, I convinced myself I was okay and that the Wife was just looking out for me and being thoughtful and caring. And I am always so fresh and so clean (clean).

And perhaps that’s part of hubris, too.

What I need to do (outside of listen to my wife more) is to consistently remind myself that God is God. I am not.
There’s a fine line between following the Messiah and becoming the messiah for your people.
God is God.
I am not.

And I have to live in that truth and have my world shaped by the premise that I am not God and I never will be.

I’m done admitting and complaining. I do feel better. I guess confession is good for the soul.

But I know, now, what I need to do.

I need to find my purpose and my being and my identity in Christ Jesus, and in Christ alone.
Not in what I do or what I can accomplish or what I can offer.

I have to practice better Sabbath habits — in that Sabbath isn’t a day off to be lazy. To veg out. To sleep in. Though those are very fine things to do on the Sabbath — things that your body needs.
I need to find better Sabbath habits for my soul. To spend that time to intentionally (re)connect with God. To be in God’s presence. To be loved.

Sabbath goes beyond just physical rest.
I need “coffee” for my soul, if you will.

I’m tired. But I’m not burned out. I’m not beyond repair. I’m okay. Really. I promise.
I just needed a reminder that God is in control. And more often than not, that’s reassuring to know.

I cannot see the path. I know not the way. I have not avoided the obstacles. Blinded and uncertain, I have only this prayer: Be Thou my vision.

Shameless Plug/Self-Promotion

So, this is availabletoday on Amazon.Practical Prayer
It’s a 4-session Bible study for the Converge Bible Studies.
Shane Raynor (from Ministry Matters) contacted me a while ago with Converge Bible Studies and asked if I wanted to be part of it. Without hesitating, I said “yes.”
Then came choosing the topic. I had no idea. So I picked prayer, because I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. Boy did I figure wrong.
I sent many emails to Shane stemming from my insecurity. It didn’t help that he sent me studies from other people who were far more talented than I am. I mean, he sent it to help me and have it serve as a guideline to help me along, but I became more neurotic.
By the grace of God, it’s done. And it was a fun journey. I am honored and humbled to be part of the Converge series and grateful that Shane, for reason unbeknownst to me, decided to ask me to be part of this.

There are great bible studies in the Converge series. Check those out, too like:
Our Common Sins
Who You Are in Christ
Kingdom Building
And more that are coming out later this year.
Also, check out Ministry Matters, as well. It’s a great site for resources for ministry.

So, swing by Amazon and pick up a copy of my bible study. :)
Thanks for letting me shamelessly promote myself.

Confessions: The Time I *Almost* Got Arrested

Mockingbird

Mockingbird (Photo credit: hart_curt)

So there we were.
My friend, Steven, and I.
Sitting in my front yard surrounded by 4 Honolulu Police Officers and one off-duty cop.
With 4 squad cars somehow crammed in our driveway, while their blue and red lights painted the neighborhood.

Neighbors slowly passing by, rubbernecking, wondering what in the world is going on in that Korean Pastor’s house that 4 officers had to come.

He was 17. He’d be okay if we got arrested. At least with the law. Couldn’t say what his mom would do to him.
I was 18. This would go on my permanent record. That paled in comparison to the fear of what my parents would do to me if I were to be arrested. A part of me thought I’d be better off spending the night in the cell than back at home.

How did it get to this point?

Steven had just gotten a BB gun and we were being boys.
We went around the neighborhood shooting anything and everything for target practice.

And yes, birds were our favorite target. We didn’t have the guts (?) to shoot cats, dogs, or squirrels. Well, we couldn’t shoot squirrels, because there are no squirrels in Hawaii. But we have mongooses. Or mongeese. Or whatever. We also don’t have snakes in Hawaii. Apparently, the mongooses were brought centuries ago to take care of the rat problem on the island. Only, no one told the brilliant folks that rats were nocturnal and mongooses were not. So they now had a mongoose problem on top of the rat problem.

Anyway, not just any birds. Pigeons. Pigeons were our target.
Mainly, because they were dumb. Especially the dark grey ones. The ones that we saw on school campus all the time. The ones that we joked (but secretly prayed it wasn’t true) were the “chicken” in our chicken sandwich in the school cafeteria. Although Steven didn’t have to worry, because he went to a private school. I just assume private school lunches were far better than public school lunches.

The grey pigeons would get hit by a BB, then just stay there wondering what hit them. All the other types of pigeons would fly away, instantly. Especially if they got hit. But not these grey ones.
*Smack* Coo Coo *Smack* Coo Coo *Smack* Coo Coo *Smack* … and silence…

our pigeon body count was rising and I think we both started feeling guilty about the damage we were doing to the pigeon population.

So we decided to go back to my place and shoot at inanimate objects.

About 20-30 ft from my house was the yellow sign that let drivers know that children were present and playing around this street.

At the moment, it didn’t register to us that we were in the middle of a neighborhood, surrounded by, yes, houses. C’mon. We were 17 and 18 year old boys. With a BB gun. To be rational in this situation would go against our very DNA.

So we try to see who could hit that sign the most.
We’d shoot and we’d know if we hit the sign by the sound of the impact. If there was no sound, we knew that we missed.

Neither of us were good at hitting the sign. There were quite a few moments of silence followed by the shot. Again. It never registered that we were shooting the pellets into a neighborhood and we were shooting at a sign (and missing it) that told us that children were present.

But we got bored of that game fast. Steven went to my back yard to shoot my punching bag.

I stayed in the front yard waiting for my turn to shoot something, when I saw a guy walking very aggressively toward me. This guy was huge. Like, Dwayne the Rock Johnson huge. And he had something in his right hand. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was walking towards me.

As he got closer, I realized that in his right hand was a gun. And I froze. One out of fear. Two, hoping that he couldn’t see me if I didn’t move.

He made a sharp right turn at my front yard, then made a bee line towards Steven.

He grabbed Steven, dragged him to the front yard, threw him to the ground, and not in a nice way, said, “Stay.”
Then he made his way towards me.
Wanting him to save the trouble and energy of throwing me down, I sat down as fast as I possibly could.

Then he started yelling at us.
He was an off duty cop.
Was working out on his yard.
Got hit with a couple of pellets.
What if that was his daughter?
You guys are morons.
You guys are lucky you didn’t hit my daughter.
You’re going to get arrested.

On and on, adding a little flavor with combination of swear words I didn’t think was possible.

He demanded that I go into the house and get my phone.
He used my phone to call back up.
Then he said the scariest thing, “Now. Call your parents and tell them to get here now.”

Yea.

As our respective parents were making their way to our house from whatever they were doing, the rest of the cops showed up.

They were impressed by the BB gun, as it looked like a real gun. Apparently.

“Ey, you want me to cuff ‘em?”
“Nah. Jus wait fo da parents, yea?”

Then the off duty cop looks at my house, then me, then my house again and says,
“Hey! You guys da one that make kimchi, yea? Ho. My mom, she Korean. She loves kimchi.”
“… I could… I could make sure to hook you up…” I replied, hoping that he’ll let us off in exchange.
(Our church would come once a month to make kimchi at our house).
“Yea! If can, that’ll be great.”
Never being in a situation like this, I didn’t know if this was the right time to try to plea for our freedom. With jars of kimchi.
But before I could string words to make a pitch, my parents arrived. Then his mom. The officers and the parents went to discuss something on their own.

Eventually, we were let off with a verbal warning.
Steven’s gun got confiscated.
But, we weren’t arrested.
I didn’t get in too much trouble with my parents. I don’t think Steven got into too much trouble either.

2 weeks later, I showed up at the officer’s house with a jar of homemade kimchi.

***

This story came to mind because I recently thought about purchasing a BB gun.
There’s a mockingbird in our neighborhood that insists on trying to find a mate from midnight to sunrise. He drives me crazy. Yes. I realize it’s highly illegal to harm birds thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918. (although, pigeons aren’t protected… ) But, I don’t know how much longer I can take of his singing. (He also imitates car alarms).

I’m secretly hoping that one of our neighbors will take initiative to do something. But most of our neighbors are… older. And probably not awake when the mockingbird starts serenading in the dark.

This morning, as I was looking for some books in my office, I found not 1, but 2 of my copies of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Why I have 2, I do not know.

But, I’m wondering if this is a sign…

I Have The Body of a Victoria Secret Angel

Well, not really. Actually, far from it.
I just wanted your attention. Ha.

Recently, Kylie Bisutti was back in the press.
A while back, she made a small splash when she said that she was going to quit being a Victoria Secret model due to her faith.
She’s back in the news because she’s now coming out with a new book, I’m No Angel. (Victoria  Secret has come out and said that Kylie was never a Victoria Secret Angel and that a lot of her stories are fabricated. She won an online model competition held by VS and that was the only association that VS claims to have had with Kylie).

Kylie said that more than being a lingerie model, she felt the need to be a Proverbs 31 wife. I’ve heard that phrase, or title, quite often recently and I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know what they meant when they said Proverbs 31 wife. So I looked it up and saw that there was a section called “The Competent Wife” (Common English Bible). Funnily enough, there isn’t a proverb section called “The Competent Husband.” But maybe you don’t need to be a competent husband when you have 700 wives and 300 concubines. Or  if you’re the one writing the Proverbs, or something.

When I first heard this story — before she was coming out with the book and made national headlines — I have to admit, my initial reaction was an eye-roll. Like c’mon. Stop trying to be all holier-than-thou when this was the career that you were pursuing. Or just quit, without letting the world know.

But now, I commend her for standing up for who she believes she is. For not bending her morals for a paycheck.

Which made me entertain the idea that I have a rather divided self.
There’s the Christian/Pastor side of me. Then there’s Me. The crazy thing is I almost typed “the Real Me.” Which is just mind bogglingly boggling. (That reminds me. One of my first blogs was called Mind Bloggling. I thought I was so clever…)

I always thought it was naive for Christians to question the type of media that I (and other Christians) would engage in.
I’d roll my eyes or scoff when Christians would question my reading certain books (like Harry Potter… oooh wizardly magic) or listen to certain type of music (recently, someone in my office saw a book of poems by Tupac Shakur. They asked who that was, and I just responded, “It’s a modern theologian and poet” and left it at that) or watching certain movies and TV shows.

While I judge them to be super naive — I have to say that I admire their resolve to not compromise their beliefs. That they feel so strongly about God and faith that they are willing to put aside the immense popularity of a British boy who discovers he is a wizard.
But while I judge you, I ask that you won’t judge my indulgences. (Ha.)

Paul writes, twice, in 1 Corinthians, “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up.”

Yea, I have the right to do everything and anything I want to — it’s a free country as they say.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is beneficial. And not everything doesn’t build up others. Nor does it build me up.

Over the past few years, my theology has grown and, yes, evolved.
I think that’s great. And necessary in my journey.
But — I also noticed that there is a shift in thought of how I approach faithful living. I’ve become more laxed in my approach to faith and spirituality. Does it have to do with my growth in theology? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But, it’s almost like, because I know more, I do less. 

When I went back to Hawaii recently, I got to see the things that my former youth kids were doing in their faith journey. Their dedication to spiritual disciplines. Early morning prayers every Saturday. Prayer meetings. “Rogue” Bible study meetings. (Where they just get together for bible study — but not really part of the “official” church ministry. My definition) And these were kids.

I got to see the things that my brother’s church were doing, in regards to their spiritual growth and formation.
While I may not completely agree with their approach — that almost makes me feel like they’re isolating themselves from the world — there’s something that feels right about their pursuit of spiritual disciplines and moral inflexibility. Something I sort of lack.

And I don’t like where this road that I’m currently on may be leading. 

When I was struggling with this, I ran across this blog post by Dan Dick (an excerpt from that post):

In a third setting, I advised the Trustees, Staff Parish Relations Committee, Church Council and Lay Leader join the pastor in a solid month of daily prayer and reflection on God’s will for the congregation.  I received a phone call the next morning from the pastor who told me, “You really blew your credibility with my key leaders last night.  We called you for your expertise in planning and you offered a bunch of fluffy hocus-pocus instead of practical ideas.”  When a pastoral leader accepts “fluffy hocus-pocus” as an uncontested definition of prayer, we are in deep trouble.

I don’t want to be in that kind of deep trouble.

But one can only compromise so much before losing their identity. And I think one ends up to a place where prayer seems like “fluffy hocus-pocus” through lots of compromising; by indulging in permitted, but un-beneficial, acts so much so that we end up forgetting who we are and, and even more important, whose we are. Sort of like giving up a birthright.
Esau is easy to make fun of, because he gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup.
But, c’mon. He’s not the only one who compromised their birthright — their identity — for fleeting moments of temptation.

Kylie Bisutti basically said, “This is who I am. This is what I believe. And doing that will compromise all of this.
Many may not understand. I didn’t at first. And maybe I still don’t. After all, I could easily rationalize and justify it saying that it’s just a ‘job’; a means to an end; a guy’s gotta eat.

But, I do find it admirable that someone was able to stand up for what they believe in. (Without telling anyone else that they are an abomination and going to hell and yada, yada.)

the iPrison

Once, we were at a restaurant enjoying our lunch, when I started hearing sound that wasn't part of the restaurant's music. It sounded like a live TV show with laughing and clapping.

I looked over and saw a mother and daughter eating lunch together. Only, they weren't really eating lunch together.

The daughter had her earphones on and was watching a Korean drama on her iPhone while eating.

The mother did not have earphones, but that did not keep her from watching her Korean talk show while eating her lunch — with the volume up high enough that we could hear.

(Cell-phone etiquette tip #1: No one around you wants to listen to what you're listening to. That also goes with those who have laptops in public places, like coffee shops. If you forget your earphones, do the right and polite thing — just wait until you get home to watch that video or listen to that audio clip. Oh. Tip #1.5 — also, in a public area, don't put your conversation on speaker phone. No one else is interested in your conversation about what you need to pick up at the grocery store. I guara-darn-tee it.)

It was such an odd sight. Mother and daughter eating together, but neither engaging one another. Why even eat lunch together? Or watch the same show…?

But it's a common sight, right? People walking around with their faces buried in screens (oh. Cell-phone etiquette tip #2: Don't walk and text. Seriously. It's a bit dangerous. Just youtube “walking and texting” and you'll see how it can be hazardous. Improv Everywhere even made a video about this epidemic:

I mean, it seems like we give someone about 2 minutes (at best) to intrigue us, or back to our phones we go.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. But instead, many of us find ourselves prisoners to the screens that dominate our lives.

At the end of the day, who's controlling who?