I am most myself when praising you

A few years ago I never imagined being far away from praise songs. It was unfathomable that it would not be a big part of my life. That I wouldn’t be singing, praising, lifting up with abandon. But now over a year into being at a pretty traditional Presbyterian church that doesn’t praise the way my heart does I am starting to see how important it is. Like actually. I always knew that praising for me was important but this morning when I saw an old profile pic of me looking fat as all get out, but also in complete abandon or care for the world. I remember that weekend, it was my birthday weekend at a women’s retreat that I was basically directing. And I was sick as a dog, my voice was going but I still did and showed up, led praise, led workshops, and slept on a tiny bed,
But in that moment, in the act of praise and worship, nothing else mattered.
I wish that my life could be that, just one where I praise all the time and the external pressures don’t matter.
But I know that’s not what we are called to. That’s not what I am called to.
I have difficulty with the word justice. That it’s a justice issue. It’s almost a trigger for me. Not really, but almost – because I feel like people stick that to anything they care about or think is unfair and try to make it a wide social phenomena. However that’s something for another day.
Whether it’s justice oriented or not, we as Christians are not called to light up a room with your walls and no windows, maybe one door. We are called to be a light on top of the hill. Not salt to a cup of water or even a bathtub full of water, but salt to the entire freakin ocean.

Why so important?

So over the past 10 years or so our phones have become super integral in our lives. We live and breathe our phone, most of us anyway. Well let’s talk about me. I message it up.

I live and breathe my phone. I keep my calendar on it. My emails. My pictures. My videos. My music. My memos. My shopping lists. My to do list. My ideas. My pictures. My pictures. My pictures.

And today, one of my students, by mistake, factory reset my phone. The irony is not lost on me that just yesterday I factory reset my old phone to loan to someone. So now I have two factory reset phones. Like new. But not really.

When it was first reset, I was upset mostly from frustration. Because I knew for a fact that after the 9th try of putting in the wrong code the phone tells you that it’s going to do a factory reset if you put in the wrong code. And you have to press okay. Although many of us don’t think about it much before pressing okay I suppose. And about halfway through, like after 4 or 5 wrong codes you have to type something in before continuing. The kid did this once before but after the 9th try she showed it to me and I took it and unlocked it and the clock reset again so she could play with it again.

So after the factory reset, it’s just annoying, I have to delete things, reinstall a few things, etc~ It’s not that huge a deal. In fact, I had been meaning to do a phone reset, not a factory reset though.

But when I got home I realized that not only was the phone reset, but it deleted my entire contents of my micro sd card, which I had been whittling down over the past week or so because I was running low on space. It has deleted every single one of the photos I have taken. And I am a photo taker. I take a lot of photos. Too much. But there is one in particular, one of me and my niece that is my screensaver. I am really upset about losing that photo.

It’s ironic, once again, that I was sitting in my therapist’s office last week and we were talking about stuff as a missionary kid, and I talked about some flood and how we lost a lot of things, but even the photos and things, it wasn’t that big a deal. But this. This is a big deal. At least it is today, and it will be for a few days. At least.

After yelling at my brother. Yelling the EF word about a dozen times. Telling one other friend about it on facebook. I think I’ve gotten it sorta out of my system. It helps that I know a good portion of my photos have been backed up until Dec. 2015. But everything from January until today. That’s four months of my life, gone. I’m sangry. Like sad-angry. On google photos it’s only backed up until Michigan. It’s like my life in Texarkana… didn’t exist.

Sigh.

I’m sure this’ll stay with me for years… because there absolutely are photos that cannot be recreated, at least not at this moment in time.

But very thankful that I use VSCO, which hopefully has backed up a lot of my more important photos that I found edit-worthy.

Ohhhh I’m frustrated.

It does mostly affect me so I am perfectly willing to vent with… let’s be real… at least a dozen more people and then call it a day. But is that what needs to happen? Am I doing my job right if that is what I do?

And then the pervasive question in my head that is stupid as heck, did this happen because of the stupid elevator porn music that played from Amazon music in front of the youth group today? UGH. 

I know God’s not like that but it goes through my mind… Can’t help it.

 

And then am I not going to let anyone play with my phone from now on, because I learned from this? I don’t think so. At the end of the day that is not what’s important to me, right? I still want the kids to know that what’s mine is here for us to share but we have to respect each other’s property. Is that stupid? Should I be more private with my things? I’m just not that private a person, and I think it’s not necessarily the end all be all of things, but it is somewhat important that our lives are shared in ministry.

I don’t know.

This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t do the password lock.

This wouldn’t have happened if I left my phone in the office.

This wouldn’t have happened if I kept the phone in my back pocket.

 

But none of these things are things I would change…

 

Should I change things for fear of what may happen? I think that’s stupid, at least for me. I mean when I go to a conference or an amusement park, yes I do that and I change my screen saver words to say what room I’m in and my email address. But that’s being proactive. So is it being proactive to not let people use my phone? Or is that being paranoid? Or somewhere in between.

 

Recently I have been thinking about thinking of the ideal vs actually changing, wanting change, activating change. And I’ve found that I’m not one to actually activate change. Is this a step towards change I should make?

Is this because I don’t want to be a bitch?

God, I don’t know.

Sleeping on it.

Old.er.

So it hit me yesterday that my first college students that started their frosh year with me are graduating college this year. And then it hit me today that the youngest youth group students that I started with are graduating high school this year as well. Wow. Wow. So I know someone must think this and write something like this every year.

But my realization is not that I am old. I don’t think I am old. I certainly don’t feel it. I still feel like the 22 year old young professional. My realization is that I have a lot of more experience than I realize. And I am much more capable of life than I often think I am.

Yesterday, a childhood friend from church (whatsup KPCTH) who served with me in the youth group officers group or whatever got in touch with me. I have not seen him since 2002… maybe 2003… possibly 2004. That is the latest. I now have people that I have known for 10 years, 20 years, even 30 years. Even if our relationship has not been consistent. I now have people that I have not seen in 5, 10, 15 years. And while we are not really in touch anymore, we continue to be friends that had each other’s back at one point. And I have evolved as much as they have evolved. I have grown as much as they have grown. I have learned as much as they have learned.

In Korean age, I’m 33. That’s how the oldest Jesus was when he dropped all that crazy bible knowledge on us. 

But I can’t compare myself to Jesus. I strive to be as Jesus-like as I can be. It still ain’t possible, but whenever I am feeling, ‘I can’t do this’ I have to remember that I had students who depended on me as their pastor 6 years ago. And I’ve had 6 more years experience since then. I didn’t literally walk them through college, but I’ve been a (good or bad) shepherd to people who have graduated college and are going off to be their own independent adults. Not only that, I’ve been mentoring kids through Sunday School, praise team, bible study etc~ for over a decade.

Lastly, 33 is how old my dad was when he went to Thailand and had the wisdom to talk with the CCT and not just go and do his own thing. And if it was my mom’s suggestion as it often probably was/is – everyone needs a wife- she was 30.

So at this point in my life, when I continue to seek and try to specialize at what it is that I do well, I need to remember there are things I do well enough for it to be my specialty. Not just with words but I can damn well back it up with my actions.

Jesus is kinda like Elvis. They both disappeared from visible life right here.

But I get a chance to live and spread my wings beyond 33. Isn’t that great!

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.

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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.