Is it rotten?

So I got some pork shoulder for about $1 a lb recently. And I was sharing highs and lows with my kiddos and that was my high, I got about $6 of pork for $6. And the first thing this kid asks me is, ‘Is it rotten?’

Putting aside the fact that every other thing that comes out of this kid’s mouth annoys the farts out of me because he is so seeking attention. And I guess that reminds me of me and therefore psychology blahblahblah… but again, putting that aside…

Is there something inherently wrong with this world where the first reaction to good news is that something has GOT TO be wrong?

I’ve always taken that kind of critical news badly. I have grown a lot and in a professional setting, and sometimes even a personal setting I can sit and reflect criticism. Constructive or not. And think about it, and accept it, reject it, consider it… whatever. But when it is about pork, or the pen I use, or about the cookie shape, etc… something so trivial… my anger goes from a 1 to an 8 in an instant. Actually, probably more like 6, I’ve gotten better.

But two things.

1. Is there something wrong with this world?

2. What is wrong with me?

I mean… a lot of things. But what in particular is it about me that takes criticism so hard. And usually in the criticisms that don’t matter, like the size or color of a piece of paper I choose for something, or why I use mustard.

Call Story

After hearing Mary and Theresa’s call stories, I almost ran out of Miller Chapel going, “Well, I did it wrong.” But no, I did not do it wrong. There’s not one mold that I have to follow in life, there’s not one path that leads to the right place. There are many ways that I can do the very same thing. And the way I do things is the way I do it; my own way. So… while this isn’t really my call story, it is a narrative of being called. Is that the same thing? I don’t know.

Sarang’s Call Story

The word call has become so confusing to me. It is a simple 4 letter word, with only 3 unique letters, a good word, but this 4 letter word that I learned before grade school has become one of the most confusing and multilayered word to me.

When I was 4, call was easy. My mom calls me, my dad calls me.  And I go.

When I was a teenager, as simple as the word call was, it got a little more complicated. I call a crush and talk with him for hours. The next day, we pretend we didn’t talk. So complicated.

When I went to college, it became weird. Call me later, we’ll talk. I’ll call you, we’ll set something up. These words became trite that made me rather contrite.

But as I ventured into seminary, that, that is when the word call became a confusing and complicated as all get out. I mean I knew that there were some words that would get real complicated in seminary, words like predestination, and transubstantiation would get even more complicated than the word itself. But I mean how the heck does seminary mess up a four letter word, with three unique letters, a good word, CALL.

Well it did.

But funnily enough, it had absolutely nothing to do with the seminary, and the education process itself, so much as the people around me who were probably as conflicted, confused, and broken as I was. And they were the ones challenging God’s call on my life. I mean, in retrospect, they were just asking questions, but boy was I challenged. It almost felt like I had to have a story of what I now understand to be a rather Baptist notion of knowing the exact moment I was saved.

When were you called, how were you called.

So I repeated the story I had so many times before, avoiding the now weighted word, ‘call’

“As far back as I can remember I have wanted to become a missionary. My parents are missionaries and I love and appreciate what they do. I see beauty in their ministry and I want to be like them. “

And then in the ‘but, where are you really from’ kind of tone I am asked, ‘How about seminary? When were you called to seminary?’

Then I scratch my head and tell them the story of how I came to apply,

“My church small group was studying the Westminster Catechism. I had questions. And you never ask your dad who is a pastor questions about anything relating to faith and theology that you want a short answer to. But because I couldn’t figure it out, I asked my dad even though I knew he would turn question #2 into a two hour lecture. After a few weeks of doing this he said if I actually found this interesting I should look into seminary. I said no. nono. No no no. no no no no. But I felt so much peace about it that I did. So… I applied, I got in, and I came.”

But these days, the ‘call’ that I consistently struggle with is am I called to be ordained. Am I called to be a Teaching Elder of Word and Sacrament. And for the first time in my life, I do not have a stock answer that can be genuinely passed as the correct answer. The first time in my life I challenge this so-called call. But I do not wish to dwell on this today. At least not this specifically…

Before I came to seminary and was challenged with my call daily, it was easy. And I think part of it was easy because my life focused towards a vision. A vision that was set forth by God; God showed me something, and whether I saw it right or not, I saw it and I went towards it. Sometimes even jogged towards it. Having something to see at the end, whether it is a light at the end of the tunnel, someone’s loving arms, or a hotel sign that says ‘Double Tree’ at the end of a long day is easier to go towards.

But a call, that is something so much more confusing. Not only is often not literally auditory in our case, but even if it were, we often second guess ourselves, did we hear it correctly.

I arrived last night, shortly after midnight. I made my way to the air train and, shout out to my brother who used his points to get me a hotel last night, waited for the train to come. After about 30 minutes the guy on the platform said there was an emergency and the air train was not running between the terminals. He then gave us some very specific directions. I mean granted it was 1 in the morning and we were all super tired, but I went to two different places before finally figuring out where the guy had told us to go. Somehow level 3, door 2, did not register in my brain. We just don’t hear things right sometimes.

But not only that, a call, is something we follow. It is not something we go towards of our own will and volition. We go, without being able to see where we go.

My favorite videos on my phone is of my nephew in his little red Northface jacket, walking somewhat aimlessly but always towards the camera, because his mother or father is holding the phone calling him, ‘정원아~ 이리와~ 정원아~ 지지~ 옳치, 이리오세요…’ and whenever the direction of the call changes, Justin (his English name) turns towards the call. Trusting that it is his good mother, his good father, who is leading him in the right direction.

When I knew that my vision was to be a missionary in Thailand. I had no doubt and went towards that with all my might. I learned how to read and write Thai. I ate Thai food. I made Thai friends. I read books on Thailand. I honed my skills to be a missionary in Thailand.

But when my life shifted from a me-centric vision, to a God-centric call… excuse my French, the shit has hit the fan, and it is coming to me from every which way.

So, even though I don’t know if I am called to ordination, or how long God is calling me to stay in Texarkana, the one thing I do know is that God called me from the womb, when I was 4, when I was a teenager, when I was in college, and even today to be his servant, serving his people, making disciples, as I follow his call to wherever, whenever.

And I hope that I will not use the words, ‘I don’t know if I feel called to that’ as code for, ‘I don’t want to do that and I think God agrees.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to go there, and I doubt God who knows me so well would send me to a place like that.’

Yet be able to acknowledge and discern when and where God is calling me for a change, a shift… that

makes my story,
and her story,
together our story
into history.

And move my story,
and her story,
into a new our story,
a part of HIS story.

*Shared at Princeton Theological Seminary, Miller Chapel, on April 4th 2016, as part of the Opening Worship of Korean American Presbyterian Clergy Women’s 25th Anniversary Conference.


Trying to reflect

Trying to reflect on all that has happened and has been shares, that has been uttered In the last 48 hours or so and the conclusion I come down to is that I am an ungrateful little bitch.
I’ve always known that I’m an entitled big bitch, but ungrateful is one that I didn’t ever think about.
But let’s not dwell on that.

I’m enjoying myself and the the people here. I am having some good conversations and feel comfortable. I am scared as always of missing out on the relationship by not being present. Maybe even at the cost of others. Idk.
But there’s still something that I’m not seeing, feeling, getting. And I’m not sure what that is.
Maybe of a conference so small I had different expectations than one that is many hundreds strong? Once again, idk.

Time, time is so precious. It is so valuable. And time, is a commodity that while it runs freely, it is scarce and we do not know when it will be taken away, when it will come to an end.
Well I’m this case we do, it comes to an end in 36 hours.
So how do we best use these 36 hours, while sleeping for about 15 of them. How do I make the best of the time that is left. I guess the questions are how do I make the most of the time, how do I build relationships that will carry me through, and how do I be a part of this?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have extremely unrealistic idealistic expectations of life.
In some ways that makes me positive and optimistic. And in others, a little shit.

Stories and Feelings

I don’t remember stories. Not really. I can’t think of a story about someone that I haven’t already shared. And that’s not because I talk a lot and tell lots of stories. It’s because I don’t remember the stories, only how the events made me feel. I’ve always thought that was weird about me. To not really remember what happened, to not be able to tell a story. Maybe that’s why I’m not a good preacher. Or I think I’m not a good preacher. I want to tell stories, I want to be able to relate what’s in the bible as what has been true in my life, and share that with the masses. However, all I can remember is how it made me feel. The fact of the matter is that after tonight, I won’t remember what prompted me to write this post in the first place. That I cried, why I cried. Why I thought of my brother and his 서태지 CD that he bought, against the wishes of my parents. That’s not a story, that’s the event and that’s it. That’s all I remember. Well, I remember feeling great knowing a secret, and then feeling vindictive and wanting to (or did I) tell mom.

I’m a feelings person.

Regardless of what happened, regardless of where I was, who did what, what is important is how that makes me feel, and how I feel.

Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to do something against my feelings.

I could never be in the military.

Good Friday Tradition(s)

It’s a family tradition. And we don’t have many of those, but this one is one family tradition. It’s not always kept, it’s very often broken. But it is tradition. On Good Friday, the night of Jesus’ death on the cross, our family fasts until 3pm.

When I was a kid, I remember thinking I was slick because I managed to sneak in a meal at a friend’s house or something like that and then eat shortly after 3pm with my family. Excuse my low appetite from just not eating and my stomach was shrinking or something. As if that was possible from less than a day of fasting.

I didn’t intend to fast this Good Friday. But after lunch yesterday, around 3 in the afternoon, I decided. And then it helped that there wasn’t much to eat at dinner that I wanted at that moment. I guess it also helps that it’s been a rough couple days. Or doesn’t help. Whatever the case may be. And then also that I’ve been thinking about World Vision’s 30 hour famine.

I confess, that the last time I did the 30 hour famine, I did not do a 30 hour famine. It was more like a… 18 hour famine. Which is barely a famine. Nor is 30 hours, but I had two sets of expectations for my kids and myself. It was weird, if I remember correctly, I actually stopped in two or three different drive through fast food restaurants to over compensate for the fact that I wasn’t going to be having a midnight snack or breakfast at church. Really stupid if I think about it now.

I don’t know if this is the year where I start keeping our family tradition again. God knows that I am not good at sustaining things. Promises to myself especially. I’m going to keep track of QT. I’m going to write up on worship services. I’m going to do a church member profile. So on and so forth. But Lord have mercy on me.

My mom has many favorite sayings. One of them is 심령이 가난한자는 복이 있나니~ blessed are the poor in spirit. The spirit is weak when the body is weak… I mean at many more times than that, but when the body is weak, the spirit is weak. And when we fast, our body weakens.

When I fast, I am better able to tune into the Spirit of the Living God in me.

Yesterday at the Maundy Thursday Service I read some of the passages. And the entire time I was second guessing how I was reading it. Is it too emphatic for the timbre. Am I being too non-Presbyterian in my reading? Would Bartow approve. But in all of that worry, I think the Word of God came across. And it’s not really just about the reading and the words flowing out of my mouth through my eyes and synapses. Absolutely, there is power in the Word of God. Absolutely Eugene Peterson put a lot of work into putting The Message together. But I can read the same words over and over again and not have it impact me or anyone. But those last words – it choked me and it was all I could do to try and not show it in my voice. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it would have come out the way it did, I don’t think it would have been received the way it was, and people would not have heard it the way they did if it had not been for my weakening body, being poor in spirit. Not that 6 hours of fasting did a number on me.

Then today’s youversion message of the day was from Romans 5:6-8.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

Jesus doesn’t wait for me to get ready to make his sacrifice. Jesus already made the sacrifice, and is waiting for me yonder.

I’m not perfect. Not even close. I’m still weak and rebellious. I’ve made some stupid mistakes. Most that will never come back to haunt me, not publicly. Few that may. One or two that absolutely will. And I continue to make these mistakes. Some same, many different. But God put his love on the line for me by offering Jesus, his son, in sacrificial death while I was still a shithead.

If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is.


When You’re Accustomed To Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression – is something that I can take both ways. In many ways I am privileged. And in many ways I am oppressed.
In many ways I don’t realize I oppress people, in many ways others don’t realize they’re oppressing me. And. In many ways I don’t realize I am being oppressed.

The Boeskool

I’ve never been punched in the face. Not in an actual fight, at least. I’m not much of a fighter, I suppose… More of an “arguer.” I don’t think I’m “scared” to get into a fight, necessarily–There have been many times I have put myself in situations where a physical  fight could easily have happened… I just can’t see myself ever being the guy who throws the first punch, and I’m usually the kind of guy who DE-escalates things with logic or humor. And one of the things about being that sort of person, is that the other sort of guy–the sort who jumps into fights quickly–tends to not really be a big fan of me… Not when he first meets me, at least. They usually like me later. Not always. You can’t win ’em all…

fight-club-brad-pitt-fight-image.jpg The first rule of White Club is you do not talk about White Club…

When I moved to…

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I’m an idiot

By the rules of the world, I am an idiot. An absolute mess. Why would I give up a potential awesome opportunity for another? And have it feel like another WCC thing. Or actually this has been a pattern in my life. Giving up my opportunity, not necessarily because I’m sacrificial, but because I can’t do it or am not sure I can – and I will give names. WHY THE STUPID would I do that?

Because I have a need to please? A need to be needed? A need to be connected? IDK!

You know, I understand if I get to a certain caliber and I am sought for all the time. It does seem like I am sought after all the time, but not really. I’m still playing junior varsity. I’m like an advanced middle school kid playing in the high school varsity team and sitting on the bench because I have potential and some talent but I just ain’t there yet. But! At least I’m part of the team.

And then I gotta go and decide that I’ve gotta go take a leak and so give the coach suggestions on who to warm my seat while I’m using the bathroom.

And then the coach figures out that, well better to have someone who’s here than someone who’s got a small bladder and keeps vacating the bench.

Not to mention the replacement is better at something I’m not better at. Or a harder worker or something.

Okay so that part’s an insecurity.

But I keep thinking it goes deeper, it’s part of my calling.

I am an encourager. Not the kind that says ‘good job’ but the kind that really pushes and presses, that speaks truth. Speaks the freakin’ truth.

I just told my brother, and then called myself stupid. And he said, “no, you’re brave”
And because I am stupid, I said LIKE MERIDA. MUHAHAHA…

I don’t know. Why I keep pushing myself out of the running. And then feel like I’m rejected.