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.

In Finding My Routine

Hi. I'm back! For the most part. Sort of.

It's been an overwhelming (in a good way) past month. Most of my mental cap space was used on finishing my bible study for the Converge Bible Study series and getting used to life with our Little Dude.

There's a lot of adjustments that I had to make — like getting up earlier than I am accustomed to.

Some of the adjustments have been fairly difficult to get used to. I realized how long it takes me to get rolling on productive stuff. I mean, I kinda knew that it before, but I never have been confronted with the slow rolling start until recently. I have to check emails first. Read a couple of blogs. Browse through Twitter and Facebook feeds. Catch up on Words with Friends. Then I start my work. I do not have that much freedom and time to dilly dally anymore. And that's okay. This will be better for me in the long run. I just have to be absolutely diligent with the time I have. No more goofing around. No more procrastinating. I have to really be disciplined in getting actual, productive work done during work time so that when I come home, I don't have stuff hanging over me like a dark rain cloud.

Another huge thing I had to get accustomed to was changing diapers. I'm not going to lie, a little part of me is relieved when he goes twosies on my wife's watch. This is what the Little Dude has been looking at when his twosies diaper is being changed:

I have no shame in admitting I change diapers like that. You can judge all you want.

Now that the Bible study is done and in the hands of someone else to look over and edit — I have mental cap space to think about blogging again. I probably missed it more than y'all missed me. But that's okay.

I'll be back some time next week with a deeper post. Until then, feel free to laugh at me dressed as a bank robber to change a poopy diaper.

 

Nate Dogg to My Warren G


Now they droppin’ and yellin’ it’s a tad bit late Nate Dogg and Warren G had to regulate

Remember how I shared with y’all that we were certified as foster parents?
Well, as of Thursday, we had a child placed with us, so therefore, we’re officially foster parents!

I can’t really share his name nor his pictures due to confidentiality reasons, so I decided to refer to him as Nate Dogg on this blog because growing up, Nate Dogg and Warren G’s Regulate was one of my favorite songs, and because I’ll probably mention him here and there while he’s with us (and the name might change. But for now, he’s Nate Dogg).

As I’m writing this, Nate Dogg is snoring away in his room.
We’ve had a long day.
It started out with the county foster home being on lockdown because someone came on campus with a weapon.
We were then stuck in Ventura for hours trying to get medical things that he needed.
We met the little dude a little before noon. We didn’t get home until after 4p. But we’re home. He’s getting used to this place.
He’s going to be with us for as little as a month or maybe over a year. Who knows. We’ll make the best of the time we have together.

The kid is cute.
He practically never stopped smiling from the moment he got into our car until he went to sleep in his new bed. And that smile could melt the hardest of hearts.

It’s been a day of all sorts of emotions ranging from joy (when the kid smiles) to heartbreak (when I woke him up to get him out of the car and inside our home, the first thing he asked for was his mom). But mostly, we’re all tired from the long day that we had.

There’s going to be a lot adventures to be had and a steep learning curve for us — especially for me, because my wife has to head out of town for the weekend for a Conference meeting. So it’s just the two of us until Saturday evening.
This could get interesting.

We are nervous and excited for the road ahead of us.
But for now, it’s bed time.

Oh. Just in case you’re wondering — that picture? It’s not a picture of me and the kid. Hmmm… maybe that’s should be his nickname.
(I currently think that is a hilarious joke. I might rethink that when this post goes live tomorrow morning)

The Blinking Cursor

I'm half way done writing a bible study on Encountering Grace for the Converge Bible Study series.

I don't think I've ever experienced a bigger writer's block than what I've been experiencing for the past two weeks.

I don't know what it is. I just can't put thought to paper (or screen.)

I have reacted by consuming a lot (a lot) of caffeine, often going to the local coffee shop twice a day. Then being so wired at night, that I'm just lying in bed thinking about how I can't think of anything to write.

I also have other pressing issues offline (aka the real world) that have demanded my attention. And being a pastor, there's always small fires to tend to here and there.

I've been neglecting this blog, because most of my “creative” thinking has been wrapped around the concept of encountering grace.

And I don't like it when I can't update the blog once a week — because it is a discipline for me.

It is during this writer's block that I've discovered one of the most taunting images:

That's right: the blinking cursor on your word processor (though it's not really blinking in this picture…).

It just blinks. And blinks. And blinks. Asking you — taunting you — to write something. Anything.

And it blinks in laughter because you have nothing.

That's when the insecurities start pouring in.

Why the hell am I writing this?

Who am I to write this?

What if everything is just butt awful and I just wasted everyone's time?

Why such a big topic?

Why would anyone care about anything I write?

Blink.

Blink.

Blink.

Blink.

Accompanied by overcompensating on caffeine intake. Which adds gasoline to the flame of the insecurities which makes me want to consume more coffee which only leads to staring at the ceiling at night, alone in my thoughts — where no one really wants to be. The mind travels to all sorts of places in the middle of the night. I end up cursing my decision to drink so much coffee in the day.

But when the alarm jars me awake — I basically rinse and repeat the very thing I cursed myself for doing.

However, even in the midst of my frustrating insecurities, I am able to remind myself that this is a blessing. This opportunity; the fact that I can bore you with my crazy thoughts on this blog; being able to preach every week — it's all a blessing.

So I update not to complain, but I update for the sake of updating and holding on to this discipline of managing this blog and writing.

I apologize for the lack of updates, and I'll try harder to update at least once a week. I don't know how some of these non-professional bloggers update 3-5 times a week. Bless their souls…

Thank you, always, for actually reading this blog of mine.

It'll probably be a month before all the caffeine I've ingested in the past few weeks completely leave my system…

 

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.

So Begins a Whole New Journey

We are officially certified to be foster parents!

I have no idea what's in store for us.

And in no way are we thinking that everything will be easy — over simplifying everything. We're not tricking ourself thinking that all will be well and everything will be a breeze in the park. Besides, nothing worthwhile will ever be easy.

We both go forward with the certainty that God has opened our hearts to this process and this journey.

And we know that we will be immersed in God's grace every single step that we take together.