Being a Christian Doesn’t Mean We Can Act Like A***oles

My Good Friday began with a conversation with a mother who adopted an African-American baby.

She was telling me that her son, now pre-school age, was asking about church and wanted to take him to a church. Only that her son has two mothers and knows that her family is not welcomed everywhere. She asked if they would be welcomed in our church.

And I was completely honest with her. I told her that she and her family will be whole-heartedly and fully embraced, welcomed, accepted by me — that I can guarantee 100%. I told her that our church would be welcoming — but don't know what will happen after. Because it's possible that someone from my church will love them; but expect them to “change” — to leave behind their decades together and become heterosexual folks (to which I began to wonder — is that “welcoming”?)

But I'm not writing this to talk about this issue — and won't approve comments dealing with this issue in the comments section — regardless of what side you're on.

She wanted to ask me if her family would be welcomed at our church because of a run-in with her neighbor who is a devout church goer and Christian.

He told them (in the presence of their child) that they were “N***** loving D****.”

I don't know the context this was said in. But whatever the context — that's not never okay. No matter what you believe or what side you may fall on this issue or any issue, being mean; using slurs… just not okay.

Maybe the mothers were in the wrong and upset the Christian neighbor — but to me, that kind of hate and use of slurs can never be justified. Especially to utter those words in presence of an innocent child. What does it solve? How's that redeeming? How's that Christlike? How is that loving someone the way Christ has loved us?

I fully understand that we are passionate about social issues and theology and ideology. I appreciate passion. It lets us know that we are alive. But we can discuss; debate; argue; converse without being jerks. Just because we may be assured of our salvation doesn't give us the license to be jerks. After all, we are called to love.

I have to admit, I was angry all Good Friday long. It wasn't until the near end of Good Friday service where I let go of my anger. We have a tradition of taking flash paper, symbolically laying our brokenness on it, nail it to the cross, and watch the paper (and our brokenness) go up in a flash, leaving no trace of the paper (and our brokenness) behind. As I began to nail my flash paper, I realized my own brokenness and darkness. I realized that, sure I may not use degrading slurs — but that I am jerk in many other ways. That I am not innocent; that I, too, have done harm.

I can't control what people say or do — but I can control what I say and do.

Shane Claiborne wrote that we could be the only Jesus someone may ever see/encounter.

And though I (will) fail quite often, I need to continue to try to be the best representative; the best ambassador for Christ that I am called to by

doing no harm, doing good, and stay in love with God.


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.


One Size (Doesn’t) Fit All

Greetings to you from the foreign country known as Te-Xas.

I joked on twitter yesterday that I felt like a foreigner walking to my destination here in Dallas. And for being Asian. Though, currently at this Starbucks, there are a lot more Asians here (and Koreans at that; and fobby Koreans at that! — where the heck am I?) than any other ethnicity.

On the way to this Asian invaded Starbucks, I was flipping around the radio station presets of my father in-law's car, when I came across a preacher sharing his thoughts. This pastor was touching on all the controversial topics from gay marriage to sexuality to Hobby Lobby to Obamacare in a 6 minute segment.

Of course, his POV ended up being God's POV on these matters.

I didn't mind what this pastor was saying. I heard it all before. What bothered me was how adamant he was that his thoughts were not only aligned with God's, but that these were God's thoughts as well.

Therefore, if I did not agree with him, I was going against God.

I didn't (don't) agree with him. And I don't find myself going against God.

The issues of sexuality is simply not black and white. The Bible is far more complex than we like them to be. As uncomfortable as it may make us, our world is more complex than black and white thinking and is full of gray.

I know I'm guilty of this too, but it's amazing how we try to make God/faith/religion/Christianity a one-size-fits-all thing. It's not. It's next to impossible, for we all bring our own lens; baggage; worldview; into how we approach God and the Bible. Yes, we're all made in the image of God, but everyone one of us has somewhat made God into our own image also.

That's why God's a Redskins fan (but not a fan of the franchise's name). That's why I believe God to disdain the Lakers. God views the Yankees the way he views any empire: unholy.

But the real tragedy is that we don't give room for (loving) debates and discussions. Discussions about the differences of theologies ends up devolving to a my-way-or-the-highway conversation. We're flustered and frustrated that our (seemingly) one-size-fits-all theology doesn't fit them. So, we conclude that it doesn't fit them because they're wrong. And we'll condescendingly tell them that we'll pray for them so that they'll be enlightened like us.

What happens, then, is that Christianity becomes primarily about what we know and what we believe. We're more concerned with right thinking — or everyone thinking like me. There's no room for differences, because we are right.

But as Paul tells us, knowledge puffs up.

And that's one of the tragedies with American Christianity. We're too puffed up on what we think we know and we find ourselves more of a bully than a servant to those who don't know as much as we do or think differently than we would like.

But knowing is easy. Believing is easy.

If I told you I believe in ghosts, so what? I know the starting 11 defense for the '94 49ers. So what? How's can that be redeeming or serve a greater cost? (Unless I find myself on a game show and the million dollar question is “Name the starting 11 of the 49ers '94 championship team.”)

And believing you're right is even easier.

We're too concerned about what we know and not concerned enough about what we do.

Jesus instructions after the Good Samaritan story was “go and do likewise.”

James instructs us to “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (not argue over what it says until everyone hates each other).

(He also instructs us that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry — something we don't do very well).

I think it's Shane Claiborne who wrote that we should be more concerned with right living than right thinking.

In the end, I believe God to be less concerned with what we know and more concerned with how we lived. After all, the story Jesus told in Matthew 25, the King did not ask the sheep and goat what they believed; what issues did they picketed or stood up for; how many bible verses they memorized. Rather, the King judged them on what they did (or did not do).

It's okay if you and I don't agree on theology or interpret the Bible the same way. It's okay if we find ourselves on the opposite side of certain issues. God is bigger than our one-size-fits-all thinking.

But God's love, I believe, is a one-size-fits-all type of love that is available for anyone and everyone. And the way we embody God's love, grace, and hope through our actions — that can reach the heart of anyone. For no one can really debate with acts done in and through unconditional and sacrificial love.

But that has less to do with what we know and believe and more about what we do and how we live and love. After all, that well known song says they will know we are Christians by our love — not by what we know.

So, less talk. Less arguing. Less of “this is what God says!” And more grace. More justice. More mercy. More love. More walking humbly with God. And may it begin with me.


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.



Jealousy and Foreskins

(I know. What a weird title. Did I get your attention, though? Ha.)

When I began my ministerial career, this chapter laid out the awful and detrimental affects of jealousy for me.1 Samuel 18 has always been a fascinating chapter for me.

I'm sure Saul was grateful for David's contribution to the defeat of the Philistine. But in no way did he expect this young man to be more glorified than the king.

Saul was faced with 2 options: let it go, for people will always be fickle or get angry and let it eat at him. He chose the latter.

But he's not the only one who would choose the latter. Think about how many times we get jealous about our neighbor. Or how upset we get when someone else gets the credit we feel we deserve. Saul was already insecure after hearing that God will tear the kingdom away from him.

Now, this guy has risen up and is the people's champion. Everyone is smelling what he's cooking. (Rock reference? Anyone…?) David can do no wrong. This would make anyone upset. We've all drank from Jealousy's kool-aid.

Saul eventually became afraid of David. “Saul was afraid of David” (v. 12a). And as a wise man once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Okay, technically, he wasn't a “man”…)

Saul was consumed with jealousy, anger, and hatred for David. And Saul, his family, and his kingdom suffered because of his obsession with the hatred for David. He used a lot of manpower in hunting David down. I'm sure there were other (and better; productive) things that the king could do.

In fact, he was so blinded by his obsession, he was willing to exploit his daughter's feeling for David to eliminate David. His daughter became nothing more than a pawn in this game that only he was playing. If we're not careful, we can let jealously really do damage to everyone around us.

If we don't get these emotions in check, we can do things that are outside of our character and integrity.

Jealousy can be destructive and damaging.

One “simple” (and I say “simple” because it's easier said than done) antidote to the poison of jealousy (particularly in a ministry setting) is to remind ourselves over and over; through and through that ministry is not about us. It is not about your teammates and what they are doing and what they are accomplishing. It's not about how much hours you spend in your office and how little the other pastor spends in hers. It's not about how much you're getting paid (or not getting paid).

It's not about you.

Nor is it about them.

It's about God.

And if we get that mantra rooted deeply in our hearts, jealousy doesn't become such a poison to our lives.

Shifting gears — I recently (finally) started watching The Walking Dead. I'm only halfway through the 2nd season so save your spoilers.

In the second season, Daryl gets hurt looking for a missing girl and is attacked by zombies. He eventually overcomes them and then wears the ears of the zombies around his neck.

That image of him wearing the necklace of Zombie ears completely reminded me of this chapter.

Saul says he'll give his daughter Michal to David for the price of 100 Philistine foreskins.

David brings 200.

“They counted out the full number to the king” (v. 27b)

Did David carry them back in a sack?

Did he also, a la Daryl, wear them around his neck?

And… how were they able to tolerate the smell…?

And I love the mental imagery of counting the foreskin out in front of Saul. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7… 110. 111. 112. *wait, stop talking for a second* 11… 111? 112? Dang it! I lost count. *sigh* 1. 2….

And what did Saul do with them afterwards? I would've avoided the soup that night at the castle… just in case.

So there you have it — a look at how destructive jealousy can be in our lives followed by having 200 foreskins counted in front of you. All in one chapter.

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.

10,000 Steps

We’re starting off the new year with a vacation, so my posts will be sparse once again. By the time you read this, I’ll be stranded in the wilderness that is Los Angeles. Or the Valley. Like, totally.

I also have been asked to write another Converge Bible Study — this time an even more vast subject: grace. And it will only be through God’s grace that this gets done. If you have any thoughts about grace, encountering grace, leave a comment.

But, Happy New Year!

I didn’t make any resolutions this year. Check that: any specific resolutions. Besides, I’d break those specific ones within a month and feel guilty that my commitment to bettering myself couldn’t last longer than a few weeks. Well, actually, as I continue typing, I realize that my resolutions are rather specific. So, forget this entire paragraph.

I want to become a healthier person is all aspects of my life: emotionally; spiritually; physically.

Maybe it’s because I’m Asian and within the fiber of our being, we have the idea of being well-balanced — you know the whole ying and yang thing; the feng shui thing; I can’t think of anything specifically Korean, but we Koreans were under Chinese rule for most of our people’s history. (I may have just made that up. Much like Fox News, I don’t feel like fact checking).

It’s one of the reasons why Wesley’s Quadrilateral pulls at my soul. It provides a balanced way to approach God and faith.

Spiritually — I want to become more intentional in my spiritual practices. Spend more time reading and studying, absorbing ideas and thoughts on how others (those who are much smarter than me) see God’s grace in action within our brokenness. I need to reclaim my prayer life and be diligent about it, as I seek God’s will. I probably should look into fasting more — check that. Stop thinking about fasting and engage in acts of fasting. From food. From media. From screens.

Emotionally — I just want to be a better, healthier person who is in tuned with the here and now. I am a dreamer. I live up to the moniker, Joseph “the Dreamer.” That’s not bad, but I keep my heads in the clouds too much. My wife’s biggest complaint in our 7 years of marriage is that often times, she feels I’m not here, but “there”– “there” being the deepest corners of my mind and the universe (okay, that’s a lie to make me look I’m smart and… stuff). Being “there”, I risk of missing out on everything in the here and now. And all the life that is happening. I want to–need to be more present. For God is with us. In the midst of us. Right in the here and the now. And if I spend too much time with my heads in the clouds, life and God will just pass me by.

I also want to be nicer. But, I’m not in too much of a hurry to change that.

Physically — I want to be healthier. My cholesterol isn’t getting any lower. And, unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to get any younger. Now, let me let you in on a secret: I’m afraid of getting old. As John Mayer croons, “So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young/ so I play the numbers game to find a way to say that my life has just begun.”

Being around the older generation, I sort of understand the sentiment “Let me die young or let me live forever.” I just want to take care of myself now so that tomorrow I won’t curse my younger self for being all #YOLO. (I deeply apologize for using that).

My wife got me a Fitbit Force for Christmas to help me out with the physical part. The daily goal I set for myself (which is the default goal) is 10,000 steps a day.

I didn’t realize how difficult 10,000 steps were. As I write this (January 3rd, at a coffee shop waiting for my car to get done being maintained with a estimated wait time of 3-4 hours), I have yet to hit the 10,000 mark.

This just means that I have to, at least, head out to the gym more than twice a year. Or walk more. Or join my wife on her jogs. (I hate running. All my life, running was a tool for punishment, as coaches punish you by making you run laps around the field).

But, it’ll be worth it in the long run.

So begins a new year. A new journey. New adventures. New ways to succeed and new ways to fail.

I’m excited and nervous on what 2014 will hold for me personally and professionally. I’m excited to see where God will take us.

And I hope that your 2014 will be filled with blessings, love, joy, and grace. More importantly, I hope that you will be God’s instruments of blessings, love, joy, and grace.

Thanks for reading.

Hi. I’m a Pastor, but a Normal Human Being

Well… “normal” is relative.

I, much like my very dear childhood friend Calvin, also found it incredibly odd to see teachers outside of the classroom. Thinking that they had “normal” lives was something I could not comprehend. Especially those teachers who would not raise a single eyebrow of his/her students if one were to discover that the teacher indeed slept in a coffin or dwelled in a cave or habited somewhere under a bridge during their time outside of the school campus.

And more and more, I feel that many people have that kind of thoughts when it comes to us pastors.

…not about sleeping in coffins or caves or living under a bridge demanding a toll any time someone crosses… (well, who knows…)

I often come across people who are perplexed — shocked, even — when they learn that I find entertainment outside of the Bible and church. I know! Scandalous!

Starting from the years where I was trying to figure out who I am (and other terrifically terrible puberty moments), I’ve been asked countless of times, “Can you really do/listen/say/read/watch/drink/eat that?” (Okay, maybe the “eating” thing doesn’t have to do with being a pastor but being a Korean. Yes, yes that is our food. Yes, I know it smells like dirty feet airing in the hot desert heat. But I promise you, it doesn’t taste the way it smells. Okay, I can’t really promise you that either.)

I remember some youth parents being offended that I found affinity with Tupac and had all the Eminem albums on my iPod.

“What kind of example are you setting for my kids?” they’d ask. Well, not any better example you’re setting because they only found out about the stuff on my iPod because they took it without asking and starting browsing through my song selections. It’s not like I blared it in their presence and had a sing along to “Without Me.”

But that comes from the sick expectations that Korean parents had/have of their youth pastors… I mean, they’d pretty much expect us to turn this kid’s life around with one prayer — all the while, at home, the kids are getting verbally abused, watching their parents do shady things… and when the kid screws up, it’s “what are we paying the youth pastor for? He can’t even keep my son out of trouble! And he listens to rap music!”

… yea…whoops, I got a little carried away.

But, I watch a lot more TV and movies than I care to admit. And a lot of things I watch is what some Christians would call “not redeeming” and pretend they don’t watch. (Okay, I’m sure they don’t “pretend” to not watch it. There are far more folks who are holier than me. And I’m okay with that.)

I have several guilty pleasures, one of them being the Sports Entertainment business of the World Wrestling Entertainment. But I watched that stuff as a kid and will always hold a special, nostalgic spot in my heart. My friends and I would make our own championship belts out of poster boards and have some awesome wrestling matches. (Just to clarify — that was when we were like 12). And yes, I know it’s fake. But, those athletes (and yes, they are athletes — I don’t see you doing anything they do) really do put their bodies on the line.

In the spirit of Smells Like Teen Spirit, I sit in front of the screen and demand that it “entertain us.”

Because, I like to be entertained — from the mindless (non-redeemable) entertainment to the things that teach you a profound lesson and gives deep meanings on what it means to be a human.

I browse through great and thought provoking website to scrolling the mindless pictures on buzzfeed. And I am a casual redditor.

My iTunes collection consists of “you have to listen to them” (say… the Lone Bellows or Gungor) to “Oh. Yea, don’t judge me” (say… *Nsync and Miley Cyrus. What? I said don’t judge.)

Underneath our robe (or whatever we choose to wear — just be thankful that we’re wearing clothes) we pastors are fairly normal human beings.

Some of us do engage in binge watching — and no, it doesn’t have to be things like History channel series The Bible by that lady who was on Touched By an Angel and the dude that does all the reality shows on TV.

Some of us will watch rated R movies that have … content that makes it rated R — whether it be violence, language, nudity — or the best kind: all of the above! (Ha! Although, some people of faith find violent movies acceptable — even enjoyable — but say that nudity and sex in movies will destroy minds and souls. Well yea, but so do movies that have violence in them, right? No? Eh… moving on)

We like to eat junk food.

Some of us are stress eaters, while others are stress sleepers or, like me, some are the avoid-all-human-contact-and-the-world-when-stress-gets-too-much.

And here’s a dirty secret: some of us still struggle with God and some have doubt. But you didn’t hear that from me. Contrary to popular belief, nobody on this God’s melting earth has it all figured out.

But most importantly, all of us have feelings. (If you cut me, do I not bleed? … is that how that quote goes?)

So please don’t think it’s okay to send a nasty email because it’s our job to hear those things.

Don’t assume that we have thick skin. Many of us don’t. And if we do, it’s because we earned them through all the scars we received from those who assumed we had thick skin.

Don’t think that we’re not affected if you criticize us. Not everything is like water off a duck’s back for us.

And trust me on this. When you’re frustrated about something, most likely, we’re frustrated as well. We’re a lot smarter and more perceptive than you may give us credit for. I mean, I know I look a little slow. But I’m not slow. Well, not that slow.

There are graceful ways to share your frustrations without making us your punching bag.

And here’s a shocker — brace yourselves. We’re not perfect. Don’t listen to anyone who claims to be. We will make mistakes. It’s never a matter of “if” we screw up, it’s a matter of “when” we’ll screw up and “how often” we’ll screw up. We ain’t God — and I apologize on behalf of us who felt that we knew better than God here and there.

But it’s hard to hear your thoughts and concerns and your heart when you come in guns a-blazin’ and throwing verbal punches hoping any or all of it would make contact. When we feel attacked, we may have the need to fight back. Or run away. You know, fight or flight deal. And there won’t be a productive and redeeming outcome to the conflict.

I could go on, but I’m getting bored, which must mean you were bored like 5 paragraphs ago.

Anyway, give your pastor a hug or a high-five or whatever her/his comfort with personal contact might be. Not everyone is a hugger.

And know that even though they work once a week, they work the hell out of that one day. Or.. is it more correct to say “They work the heaven out of that one day.” Ah. I don’t know.