Blame, Accountability, and Addiction


Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:

“3 Ways to Stop Blaming Others and Finally Own Your Porn Problem.”

It’s about letting go of blame and receiving accountability for destructive habits, including porn and other addictions. It’s also centered around a talk by author and researcher Brené Brown.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our instant defense mechanism when something goes wrong is to say, “Tag, you’re it.” Our egos are constantly trying to protect us from feeling wrong, because we associate this with being unloved or unaccepted. All this makes a logical sort of sense, but it’s dangerous, because our initial instinct is to drag others down with us. This in turn only justifies and reinforces our cycle of destruction.

We feed our bad habits with blame. This loop can go on forever. Yet if we struck down this Hydra of Blame like a whack-a-mole before it got to others or ourselves, the inner monologue might change.

Thinking this way, as Brené Brown implies, suddenly lets go of control and creates a scary uncertainty. But it also exposes our blame-game for what it is: an excuse to use, stay mad, or stay withdrawn. When blame is named, it shrivels up and loses power.


Read the full post here. My book on quitting porn is here.
J.S.


A Breath Called Grace.

Art from worshipgifs


The world says, “Clean up your mess” and suffocates us into conformity.  Jesus stepped into our mess and gave us breath called grace.

Everyone else is saying, “Catch up” and “Get over it” and “Not enough.“  God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” “I am close to the brokenhearted” and “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

You will squeeze from people what only God can freely offer.  You will please people up to a point: but only God is truly pleasable.

Everyone is desperately racing to be accepted by incremental measurements: but at the cross, we are equally zero, and at the cross we are equally welcome.

When everyone else abandons you in your weakest vulnerability – God does not leave.  He cannot.  He is the endless constancy.  He is unconditional.  He is the one we’ve all been looking for.

J.S.


The Truths and Myths of Christian Dating and Relationships

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Hello wonderful friends! Here’s a seminar that I gave in San Jose, CA about the truths and myths of dating & relationships within both the church-culture & pop-culture. Stream below or download directly here.

Some things I talk about are: “The time I overheard a couple have their final knock-down drag-out fight, my absolutely favorite type of scene in the movies, what everyone really wants in the hospital, dating theology from Taylor Swift, when God looks at you through the ceiling, and Christianity according to a cologne sample.”


I also did a follow-up Q&A which you can stream below or download here.


Some of the content is from my book on relationships.
Be immensely blessed! — J.S.


Photo from my engagement shoot, by Angel He Photography

I Love You Just Because

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I love you just because I love you. It isn’t for anything else but you. Not for cash or status or my ego or an accessory, not because I’m afraid of loneliness, and it’s beyond the first bursts of chemistry. Love is hard work and it requires all of me, everything, with no guarantees, except the love in itself that’s promised and true. That’s just-because love. I love you for you.
— J.S.


A Social Experiment: To Know We’re Not Alone.


I’ve recently been asking questions on social media to know we are not alone.

So far, I’ve received over four-hundred responses from Facebook and Tumblr, privately and publicly.

They’ve been enlightening, encouraging, and have created great discussions.

Join the conversation on Facebook or with comments at the bottom:



Please respond however you like, whether visually, metaphorically, or personally.


– Let’s say an alien landed on earth and found you. The alien asks (by way of translation), “Besides physical sustenance, what is the greatest universal human desire?” How do you answer?


– What is worse: Rejection or Failure? And why?


– What’s the first thing you feel when you walk into a crowded room?


– How do you feel, think, or act when you fail?


– When you feel like you’re losing an argument, what is your go-to response and/or tactic? And why?


– Fill-in-the-blank: I feel insecure when _____ because _____.


– How do you handle the inner loop of self-condemnation? Like when you replay that voice of shame in your head, or that one event again?


“4 Unexpected Things That Happen When You Quit Porn”


Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:

“4 Unexpected Things That Happen When You Quit Porn.”

It’s about four ultimately great outcomes of healing that happen when you quit porn addiction. Here’s an excerpt:

When someone tells me that pornography doesn’t do any harm to the body, I can only reply, “Try to quit porn for a month. See how much better you feel.”

Really. Try to quit porn for just a month.

… Many people are too scared to leave behind porn, because quitting any supposed “pleasure” in our culture feels like an amputation, or some kind of offense against our autonomy. “You can’t tell me what to do” is the leading logic.

But the people who do take up my challenge to quit porn always thank me later. Why? It’s because porn has such an insidious, destructive grip on the brain and body that you can always feel the healing when you quit.

Here are four things that happen when you begin to quit porn.


Read the full post here. My book on quitting porn is here.
J.S.

Featured on the Front Page of WordPress

Drawing by Russell Jackson,

Art by Russell Jackson of Draw the Public


Hey friends, I’m featured on the very front page of WordPress.com!

I was interviewed among several writers & bloggers, and mine is the final one about learning how to rest.

https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/2016-blogging-goals/


An Artist Turned My Words Into Art.

Quote Alyssa Wans


This is the first time anyone has ever made art out of my words. A quote from my book. I’m absolutely amazed by the beautiful skill and artistry, and the fact that anyone would make art out of anything I’ve said. Thank you so much, Alyssa!

Alyssa’s Tumblr blog and Instagram! Her art is incredible.


“In your crushed swollen chest where the hurt pulls in: Christ comes to fill the broken places like so much water in cracked earth, new breath stretching your lungs, so we may thrive and bloom and stand on our shaking feet again.
Turn. He is there.”


My book What The Church Won’t Talk About is here.

Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay

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I don’t think I’ve ever really met anyone who is living out of a full cup.

What I mean is: Everyone lives a lot further ahead than they really are, giving advice they don’t follow and loving others without any love for themselves and running on empty all the time. We’re all on fumes.

I’m finding out this is okay for today, and no lifetime is meant to be lived in a day.

There’s this Secret Guilt going around that we’re all halfway hypocritical frauds who will maybe one day catch up to an awesome version of ourselves. It’s a desperate hope that we’ll eventually do what we’re preaching with our mouths and our blogs. And then we blow up or flip a table or punch a wall and that monster comes out, and we think “Where did that even come from?” — and the Guilt chokes the pit of our stomach again.

The finality of settling into your own skin never arrives.

We co-exist with the monster.

I remember a famous pastor who deleted his entire backlog of podcasts from his first years of preaching.  Because he “no longer agreed” with those old messages.  I thought it was pretty humble.  But I also thought, What about those people who heard those old messages?  What if they followed through on that stuff?  Are they just screwed?  And ten years from now will you delete your stuff from today?

Every artist I’ve met says their first drawing, song, poem, novel, or dance routine was unworthy. They’re hard on their first creations. You know, that whole “you are your own worst critic” paranoia. But: Don’t we all have to purge these things before moving onto greatness?  And what about those people who enjoyed the first creations?  Are they just idiots?

Everyone keeps saying, “I used to be so stupid.”  Or, “I was so empty when I taught that thing.”  Or, “I didn’t even deserve to preach that sermon on marriage, my own marriage was failing.”  Or, “I wasn’t even following my own advice.”

It’s a reoccurring pattern.  No one ever thinks they’re good enough to do what they’re doing.  Or they think now they’re okay, but everything before today was terrible.  “I finally found my voice,” they say, which is at once a victory and an admission of defeat.

It’s scary to think we’re always walking in the dark, the light dissipating just out of reach.

Continue reading “Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay”

Trailer Video for “What The Church Won’t Talk About”


A trailer for my book, What The Church Won’t Talk About.

The paperback is here and the ebook is here. The revised edition is here and its ebook here.

[Subscribe to my YouTube channel here!]
[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions!]

— J.S.


Not Quite Asian, Not Quite American; Fully Human

My mom and dad came to this country separately over thirty years ago and met in New York City, where they were married; my dad came to the U.S. with sixty dollars in his single pair of pants, and my mom couldn’t speak a word of English.  My dad was a Vietnam War Veteran, 2nd Lieutenant in the R.O.K. Army on the side of the U.S., and the only escaped prisoner of war from the Tet Offensive in 1969.  He’s also a licensed veterinarian and a Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do, a ninth degree black belt, the 54th 9th degree in the world.

Before my parents divorced when I was fourteen, my mom owned a laundromat and a grocery store next door to each other and would run back and forth between them to serve customers; sometimes she took old clothes that people left behind because we were too poor to afford any. My dad owned a martial arts dojo and mopped the entire floor every morning, then taught four classes in the evenings almost all in Korean.  Between the two of them, they worked almost 200 hours per week and slept maybe three hours per night.

One summer, someone spraypainted a swastika on the front wall of the dojo. My dad painted over it, but on those hot humid days, we could still see that Nazi symbol like an angry pulsing scar.

We got a message on our answering machine — maybe the same Nazi artists — who spent a good ten minutes making fun of my dad’s accent. I remember seeing my dad listen to it several times, staring quietly out a window. When he noticed me, he turned it off and said, “Just boys playing a joke.” The voices were from grown men.

When we visited with friends, we felt the invisible walls of cliques and class between us.  We were aliens from another world, just a foreign prop in the hero-story of the Westerner.  I was the token Asian.  When I visit churches, I still am.  Christians feel proud to know me because I meet their diversity quota; my other friends are proud to know me because they can make Asian jokes and explain, “Don’t worry, I have an Asian friend.”

In elementary school, when I first made friends and came over, I would immediately take off my shoes and bow to their parents.  I remember freaking out the first time I saw a fork.  I asked for two sticks to eat my food, and they said, “No, you can stab your food now.”  I still slightly bow to people as a reflex, and I still don’t get forks.

When I meet native Koreans from my own country, they call me kyopo, which is a slang term for misplaced native.  They make fun of my heavy American accent when I try to speak Korean.  They’re surprised I’m taller than them and say, “It must be hormones in the McDonald’s.”  They think I’m arrogant because I watch American TV shows and I have a blog written entirely in English.

I live in two worlds. I do not fully embody either, yet belong to both.

Continue reading “Not Quite Asian, Not Quite American; Fully Human”

Why Did I Donate Half My Salary of $10,000? Because of the Gospel

At the end of 2012, I donated half my salary to charity to fight human trafficking.  I had saved for the entire year to make one check for $10,000.

I don’t say this to brag, at all.

I say this because I’m a selfish person.  I love comfort, my shiny things, the safety of a new gadget and adding things to my wish list.  I am naturally lazy and indulgent and self-absorbed.

But I also believe in a God who humbled Himself to become one of us.  I believe in a God who paid an infinite price to set us free.  I believe in a God who wrote Himself into the story of humanity to enter our struggle, to lead us into life, and to ultimately exchange our brokenness for grace.

Because I believe in a God who has this sort of heart —

I am compelled to have the same heart for others.

The selflessness of God utterly melted my selfishness to pieces.  His grace tenderized my conceited heart.  I gave my life away because God did the same for me.

Continue reading “Why Did I Donate Half My Salary of $10,000? Because of the Gospel”

14 Ways To Handle A Christian Introvert

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Image from HD4 Wallpapers

If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert — I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much, and you can hear me laughing from across the street — but I am a full-blooded introvert.

If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale. 

I intensely guard my personal space and my private life.  It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real live human beings.

Here’s how you handle us.

Continue reading “14 Ways To Handle A Christian Introvert”

Giving A Person More Attention Because They’re Attractive: And We All Do It

Image from Hooki

Ever prayed more for someone just because they’re hot?

Come on, I’ve done that too. Let’s not act like we’re above judging looks here. We give more cred to someone based on their defined jawline and bigger bra size than their less tangible patience and hospitality and compassion.

A very fleshy part of our human nature presumes that good-looking people are also just good, or that less good-looking people don’t really count somehow.

In church it’s easy to ask for prayer requests from the well-off, well-dressed, clean-cut, easily approachable mid-twenties demographic. Not the weird cat lady off the street, not the dude with the one rotten tooth who talks up a storm, not the pale socially awkward kid who says dorky things.

Most Christian books have the same problem: they’re geared to that same easygoing group of believers who attend the same megachurch in a crimeless suburban gated neighborhood with the sparkling 2.5 kids and Hollywood acceptable appearance, but they have nothing to say for the sick struggling screwed-up former addict who can’t find a job because he just “looks wrong.”

Wired into all our unaware brains is the deception that appearance means more than it should: but if I could give you a pair of X-ray goggles, you’ll see a bunch of skeletons with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, anxieties, and worries that everyone else has too.

That seventeen year old pimply kid who loves Call of Duty is the same bag of meat and bones as the athletic football captain with the perfect hair; that girl who everyone hates because of her so-called overweight body could just as easily have been the same girl with the slightly higher cheekbones who runs the gang of cheerleaders. You can honk your car horn at the punk teenager on his skateboard crossing the street, but wave at the old lady on her walker: when both are just people who run deeper than what you see.

Take a Spiritual X-Ray and we all have the same vacuum of eternity within our souls with the same desperate longing inside. You and I could do way better than our visual addiction to all things sight, and instead see by vision.

Continue reading “Giving A Person More Attention Because They’re Attractive: And We All Do It”

Porn Addiction, Part Two: What Porn Does To Your Brain, the Science

Photo by H.T. Yu, CC BY 2.0

An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.

Recent Edit: October 23rd, 2015
– My book on quitting porn addiction is in paperback for only $6.10 and e-book for 2.99 on Amazon! It’s been officially endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church. It contains this entire series of posts plus brand new info, fully updated and fleshed out, with specific steps to quit.

My podcast series “Cutting It Off” — here.

Why Do I Use Porn? Why Can’t I Stop? Here.

Every question submitted about porn on this blog, here.

**Updated: May 2013

For the podcast episode based on this post, click here.

The science behind porn addiction will not surprise you.  It can be easily mocked as apocalyptic research with an old-fashioned bias, but excuses to use porn are also biased by the hand down your pants. Objective evidence of pornography’s effects has one goal: to show how much porn screws up your brain. For some that will be enough to quit.

Obviously, something serious is happening in the neurology of a person who will not stop using porn.  Constant exposure to graphic, unreal, out-of-bounds sex doesn’t just go in one hand and out the other (bad pun). Like the heroin addict or the gambler or the alcoholic, several key things are happening.

Much of the following research is borrowed and not my own. Please keep in mind that the term “addiction” is a serious term and might or might not apply to you, but it’s worth investigating. I don’t mean to over-dramatize here or make a big show of scientific language, but porn use does have a particular undeniable effect on the brain.

Sources include Craig Gross’ Pure Eyes, Eyes of Integrity, and Dirty Little Secret, and William Struther’s Wired For Intimacy. I’ve read and re-read these important resources and highly recommend them to you.  There is also Michael Leahy’s Porn Nation, Mike Wilkerson’s Redemption, Tim Chester’s Closing The Window, and David Powlison’s tiny booklet Slaying The Dragon. Where possible, I’ve tried to research articles and current news behind pornography and the porn industry. And of course, there is personal experience with addiction plus countless hours spent with young and old porn addicts.

The Addict’s Path:

Continue reading “Porn Addiction, Part Two: What Porn Does To Your Brain, the Science”

Taking Down Goliath Starts Here.


Right now, you might be facing a ton of giants, and others have told you to “be the bigger person.” This is good advice and I recommend it. Yet if everyone is trying to be the bigger person, we end up stomping on each other. If you treat every person and problem like Goliath, you’ll be bitter all the time. It’s a triumphalist, self-affirming theology that cries, “They’re in my way.” It stirs up a dichotomous conflict by turning people into obstacles and critics into haters. It keeps us in the cycle of retaliation.

Taking down Goliath means taking me down first. It’s me. I’m the giant. I’m the bad guy.

The thing is, the idea of the “underdog” shouldn’t even have to exist. It implies that there is “my side” versus “your side” and it forces me to demonize an opposition. We cheer when an underdog wins, but we forget that someone else had to lose. You might think you’re the good guy, but to someone else, you’re definitely the bad guy. So who is cheering for whom? Who gets to win?

Jesus is the only one who won every side by losing for them. In order to undo our back-and-forth, binary violence, Jesus stepped into the crossfire and called us all equally loved and heard, which meant that every side hated him for loving the other side. He got rid of sides. He crossed the dichotomous divide of demonization. The divide died on the cross with Jesus. He called you a friend when you called him an enemy. Jesus killed his enemies by making them friends. And that’s why they had to kill Jesus.

But I can’t be against them. I’m them. You’re them. And I’m crossing over, that grace might win.

— J.S. | The Life of King David


Right Where You Are.


Right now, you could be toiling away unseen and unnoticed, waiting for your big break. You might be discouraged because nothing is paying off, or you feel you’re constantly catching up to a version of someone you’ve yet to be. You could be compensating for a failure behind you or trying to prove your merit to the people around you.

No one likes this part, because we see everyone else’s highlights and we presume they’ve got it together and we’re relegated to second-rate status. We might even feel that our current work is beneath our true potential. We want to be doing “great things,” but we’re stuck in limbo, in that icky middle.

The truth is that you can prosper right where you are. You can still be teachable in your season behind-the-scenes, even if that season is for life. God’s greatness is available to you so long as you remain available. No one needs to climb the throne to get there. You only need to be present and presently engaged.

This is tough, because we’re so used to climbing the pecking order. We’re tempted to superimpose a future hologram of big stages and big audiences on our current station. But such fantasies draw us out of engagement with now. There’s work to be done today, no matter the size of your stage. Your effort doesn’t always have to “pay off.” Some of us want to be the king of our fields overnight, but God has already called His children a royal priesthood, and we’re called to harvest for a lifetime. No matter what kind of work you’re doing, it’s essential in the tapestry of God’s Kingdom.

— J.S. Park | The Life of King David


We Need a Self-Confrontation.


We need help beyond ourselves. Like David, we need a Nathan. We need someone who can gently revoke our self-righteousness and apply truth to usurp our sinfulness.

Here’s how we see that grace is a surgical, sculpting chisel that renews us by confronting the worst in us with pinpoint precision and acknowledging our desperate need as sinners. Grace, after all, is a love that presses through sin. The God of the Bible doesn’t merely drop a truth-bomb and beat you into submission, but gently removes your self-deception and empowers you to return home. It hurts like crazy. His grace does not merely comfort, but grabs your sin by the fistfuls and kills it with the relentless violence of love. It neither condemns nor condones, but convicts and re-creates. It’s a scalpel that will work with you to the messy end.

It demands getting honest. It demands getting with those who will graciously rebuke you because they love you and know you can do better. It takes knowing that you might be wrong, that you might be blinded, that you don’t have it right this time. It takes confession.

— J.S. Park | The Life of King David


Was Religion Made Up Just to Sugar-Coat the Fear of Death?

gollywholly asked a question:

Have you ever read “The Worm at the Core” by Sheldon Solomon et al? It’s about death, and basically the theory is that everything we do and believe in is to mitigate our fear of death. It follows from that that religion, and our belief in Jesus, is just a way to mitigate our fear of death. And this is messing with my head big time. What do you think?

Hey dear friend, I’m sorry for my late reply. I’ve been on a break (due to a breakdown) but still checking my inbox, and I really love this question.

I actually studied this very phenomenon for my undergrad in Psychology, also known as “Terror management theory” or “Mortality Salience.” The basic idea is that death is inevitable, so we must give meaning to life. Therefore, religion and culture and identity are responses to death. We could call this “whistling past the graveyard.”

While the premise is intriguing and persuasive, it’s also a bit Swiss cheese, which sociologists have addressed and countered just as persuasively. Many of the counter-arguments can be found online, but I’ll offer some of my own thoughts.

Here are a few things to consider about “Christianity as a way to mitigate the fear of death.” Please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “Was Religion Made Up Just to Sugar-Coat the Fear of Death?”

David: Chronic Doubter, Constant Believer

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One of the most remarkable things about David was his doubt.

All through the Psalms, we see David contending with his doubts about God. Whenever there’s a stanza of praise, it follows just as quickly with despair and confusion.

There are so many Psalms where David is singing in a flowery refrain of awe, but out of nowhere, he’ll say, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”   It’s all going so well, until you turn the page. These are like cysts that swell over the canvas, so jarring and troubling that you won’t see them on coffee cups and Twitter.

David was really all over the place in his faith.

But just as much as David interrupts his own Psalms with rage and grief, these are rolled over by a sudden clarity of God’s goodness, like a splash of cold water for bruised, bent hands. Most of the Psalms have a Turn, an about-face resolve where David recalls the truth about God’s sovereignty. These upward Turns don’t solve the situation, but they break David’s fear and paralysis, and keep a terrible season of life from making him just as terrible.

These sharp Turns in the Psalms are a frail and feeble call to remember God in the midst of so much distress. The deepest of David was calling out to deep.
In David’s prayer-life, we see both severe drops into depression and sudden bolts of euphoria, and we find a point of dizzying tension.

David managed to live with both complete joy and complete sorrow at the same time. He had a foot in the heavens and a toe in the abyss. He had a frighteningly pessimistic view of the world in the worst of his questions, but he was absolutely optimistic about a God who was working all things together.

David let the gravity of his hopelessness sink in. The Psalms are full of yelling because David and the other psalmists don’t hide under false coping mechanisms to dampen the pain. They hardly ever run to thrills and pills and religion and therapy, and if they do, they just as quickly run back. David allows the emptiness of his heart to take full course until the bottom gives out, so that he has no other choice but to find refuge in a bottomless God. The resolve of every Psalm could only come by scraping along the walls of a downward spiral, until there was a landing. It’s in our full-on grief that we find the fullness of grace.

— J.S. Park | The Life of King David


My book on King David is now on sale


My book is on sale! The Life of King David: How God Works Through Ordinary Outcasts and Ordinary Sinners is only 1.99. It’s a fourth-wall-breaking devotional through David’s life, from a nobody to overnight celebrity to chronic doubter and sinner, and how his story is our story.

Be blessed! — J.S.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Of-King-David-ebook/dp/B0145HDW1W


What The Bible Talks About When It Talks About Women: A Mega-Post on Those Troubling “Anti-Women” Bible Verses

Art by Diane Han of 1of1Doodles

brokenyetbeloved asked:

Dear Pastor Joon, As a young women and follower of Christ, I find it difficult to understand 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I was hoping to get your input on what is being expressed in these scriptures. Thank you and God bless!

Hey dear sister, in fact, since you happen to know my first name, I’ll also make a sweeping attempt to cover the questionable verses from Apostle Paul about women and ministry. That includes: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11, Ephesians 5:21-33. I’ve also written about some of these verses here a few years ago. I was a little bit more sassy then, so I apologize in advance for my tone.

Before we get into the verses, I want to graciously offer these considerations. Please feel free to skip around.

1) We may not see eye-to-eye on our interpretations, but disagreement doesn’t have to mean disunity. We can disagree and still be friends. What’s important for a Christian is that we love Jesus, know that he loves us, and that we love one another.

2) Apostle Paul is occasionally called an outdated misogynist for his views on women, but academically and historically, I believe the exact opposite: Paul had such a high regard for women that I’m downright certain it rushed his execution. He declared views that were countercultural to both the Hebrews and the Romans of his day, and are still countercultural. Just one example: Paul wholeheartedly advocated for singleness as a legitimate life-choice in a time when single women were considered uneconomical and sinful.

3) The English translation of Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek is limited in that it’s impossible to have an exact translation of tone, intonation, colloquialisms, and context. Our English Bibles will always sound a little too abrupt. I’ll put it this way: My Asian parents learned English as a second language, and they sometimes sound more “rude” or “aggressive” because they don’t know the proper way to frame words with disclaimers and courtesy. Instead of saying, “Are you busy tomorrow? I’d like to invite you to my place,” they might say, “You come over okay.” They only know the short way of phrasing their intentions, so it comes off as tone-deaf. My parents might say things like, “You people” or “What’s wrong with you” without understanding this can be rude in our modern Anglo-American vernacular. That’s not to excuse when my parents are rude, but to preempt you: our chronological slice of culture tends to filter the Bible as offensive with phrases that never meant to offend. Which brings us to the next point.

4) Words like submit, quiet, and head of the household have such ominous tones today because of heavy verbal baggage and our quick-to-fight culture. We need to release what we think we know about these words in Scripture. Perhaps the irony here is that in labeling these words as “oppressive” or “archaic,” it’s inadvertently given ammo to chauvinists and oppressors when the Bible is not using these terms with our current meanings. Reading the Bible requires a bit of time-travel and historical empathy before we react too quickly.

5) The Bible is going to say some hard things. I can’t water down the tough stuff. The second we pick and choose what we want from Scripture, we’re no longer dealing with a real God, but an idol of our own making. A Bible that never pressed my buttons wouldn’t be a real God at all, but a god in my image. If at any time we push back against the Bible: it’s worth exploring why that happens. Simply, the Bible is always going to challenge some part of our worldview in every culture in every time period, either because it’s wrong or I’m wrong.

As a Christian, I take the view that I’m wrong, though of course, I still wrestle with those difficult parts of the Bible. So it’s worth our time to ask: Why do certain passages of Scripture hit such a raw nerve in my modern sensibilities? What is it offending? Why?

Here are some brief explanations of each of the “problematic passages” about women. I offer these as considerations for you to discern, pick apart, and finally conclude in your own process of conviction. I may very well be wrong in my understanding here and I completely welcome dialogue on this. I’m learning as we all are, and I want to make sure I’m being biblically sound and faithful to my faith.

Continue reading “What The Bible Talks About When It Talks About Women: A Mega-Post on Those Troubling “Anti-Women” Bible Verses”

Long As You Wake Up and Show Up

Photo by Lindsey Noel


I hate holding up exhaustion as a trophy. I’m uncomfortable with the romanticism around high-functioning, fast-talking over-achievement.

I’m not endorsing complacency or relaxing all the time. I love to work hard. But there’s a difference between pouring out and exhausting fatigue. One requires your best and the other is just double-booking yourself.

Waking up and showing up are just as important. Giving your all is as crucial as being all there. I can’t put productivity over being present. I’m celebrating both the work and the will to get there.

J.S.


We Have to Talk About It: What Hurts Worse Is When We Don’t Talk About What Hurts.

Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number sixteen. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.


Frankie was in his mid-thirties and just discovered he had brain cancer. The bad kind. As if there’s any other.

Frankie’s mother and sister were in the room. They were sure he could beat this: but can you really be sure?

The man was covered in tattoos and had a smile the size of Texas; his speech was slurred from the pain meds but he was cracking jokes in that quiet room. He was genuinely funny. I couldn’t believe how funny he was even with all the tubes sticking out of him and half his head shaved from the biopsy and his tongue made of mush. He wanted to yank out those tubes and get back to work. I wanted to help him.

They kept talking about the future like it was a sure thing. “I’ll be fine,” Frankie said, and his sister and mom: “He’s tough, he’ll be okay.” Part of my Chaplaincy Radar was sure that this was a bad idea, because cancer is an unpredictable monster, and I wanted them to confront the grief with honesty. But the other part of me wanted to feed the hope. Keep with the jokes, you know, keep it light and easy, and I’ll bring the pom-poms.

These are the harder visits, when no one wants to talk about the thing they’re going through. I know that positive energy is a good thing, and we need affirmation and good vibes for good health: but this sort of suppression is like covering a pot of boiling water with your hands, and the more you try to cover it, the more it burns you up and the more likely you’ll explode all over the kitchen.

Continue reading “We Have to Talk About It: What Hurts Worse Is When We Don’t Talk About What Hurts.”

The Songs We Long to Sing: A Pearl Forms in the Deep of This Stirring Sea.

Photo by Aidan, CC BY 2.0

Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number fourteen. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

Sometimes a patient just talks for an hour, and I say two sentences, and that’s the whole visit. The patient usually says, “Thank you so much for your wisdom and advice” — and I hardly said a word.

Maybe that’s a good thing. If I had said too much, I might have messed it up.

But more than that: some patients just want an ear to listen.

I’ve seen the same thing at the homeless ministry. I ask someone, “How are you?” — and the answer is a breathless forty-five minute life-story of financial collapse and arrests and rehab and failed job interviews, and at the end, “You’re so wise, now I’m so pumped up for life.”

From the homeless to the hospital, I see the same craving:

People want to be heard. Because we want significance. Meaning. Dignity. A voice.

Nobody wants to live in a vacuum of silent solitude. If we can tell even one stranger about what we’ve gone through: it brings value to everything we’ve gone through.

Continue reading “The Songs We Long to Sing: A Pearl Forms in the Deep of This Stirring Sea.”

A Few Quick Things About Forgiveness: What It Is and What It’s Not

A few quick things about forgiveness.

– Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal, but a daily lifelong process that might take a hundred times a day. This is partially what Jesus meant when he said forgive seventy times seven.

– It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to grieve about what happened. You don’t have to stuff these feelings. In fact, it’s better to feel them down to the bottom if you want to make it back out.

– Forgiveness does not mean friendship. Boundaries are necessary and you’re not required to hang out with the people who hurt you. It’s possible to be kind, but that doesn’t require becoming best buddies.

– Forgiveness does not mean that the hurt should be forgotten or dismissed. In fact, true forgiveness actually confronts the very real hurt that was done to you and says, “This is not okay. This is something terrible that requires that someone pays.” The Christian recognizes that reparations are required, while at the same time we absorb the emotional hurt with the process of forgiveness.

– Christians are too quick to rush this process and it’s almost like they become lawyers for the perpetrator instead of healers for the wounded. The people who hurt you should still be held accountable, with all the mercy you can give and with all the justice that they’re owed.

Continue reading “A Few Quick Things About Forgiveness: What It Is and What It’s Not”

The Last Light to Go As We Leave This Temporary City.

Each week, part of my chaplaincy training is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Here’s week number seventeen. Some identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

Connection is the last light of the city as we shuffle into eternity.

This patient in the ICU was found on the street with sepsis and his entire body was purplish red and burning up, I mean enough to make me pull back, a sickening dull heat like a parking lot in the summer when the cars turn wavy.

He was writhing on the bed. I asked him his name and it took him a few minutes to see me. He managed very carefully, “Kevin.” It looked like it hurt him to speak.

The hospital needed his next of kin. I asked him if he had any family.

He said, “Kevin. I am Kevin.” He said his name a few more times. And then, “A daughter.” He kept turning left and right on the bed and sitting up and then burying himself into the pillow, defeated. He made eye contact but would break away, floating somewhere, and then in circles again, thrashing.

“What’s your daughter’s name?”

I’m not sure if he understood. I felt terrible even asking.

“A daughter,” he said.

“Do you remember her na—”

“—Mindy Brown. My daughter.”

“Do you know her number?”

“No, no. She won’t talk to me. She’s … hard to find.”

“Any other family?”

And Kevin reached up with both hands and grabbed mine. He started weeping, loudly. His body heat was overwhelming, my hand wrapped in hot wax. He shook and shook and his whole body shivered.

He looked right at me and he opened his mouth to say something but he could only weep and he gripped tighter and big tears burned in his eyes and he said again in a tiny voice, “She won’t talk to me. She won’t.”

I clasped both his hands with both of mine.

“I’m sorry,” I said. It’s all I could think to say. “I’m really sorry, Mr. Kevin.”

There was no more movement except his hands shaking. He kept looking at me, weeping, and I began to weep, too. He could’ve been my father.

I tried to think of something to say. But I forgot all my chaplaincy stuff right then. I tried to think of some magic combination of words that might fix this man’s loneliness and terror and grief, but I could only hold his hands and weep with him.

We stayed that way for a long time. Maybe it was a few minutes. It felt like an hour. It felt like we were the only two people in the hospital.

He slowly let go of his grip. His eyes got far away again. I told him, “I’ll try to find her. Can I try?”

“Okay,” he said, nodding, eyes at the ceiling. “Yes. Mindy Brown. Mindy Brown, is her name.”

Continue reading “The Last Light to Go As We Leave This Temporary City.”

We Hold On.


I’ve been thinking about how much has changed over the last few years.

I’ve been grieving over the reactionary microcosm of social media. The fiery rhetoric. The click-baiting. The “experts.” Beirut, Paris, Syria, the two earthquakes in Nepal, the ISIL threat, the US shootings, the protests in South Korea, racial tension, the political circus, the same celebrity drama.

I’ve been expecting the same predictable cycles at every headline: the outrage, the outrage against the outrage, the ever-loving trolls, the escalating comment sections, and the sudden silence when the bandwagon has moved on. I’ve been thinking how easy it is to lose sight of the real outrage, when we truly have the right to be offended amidst the “crying wolf,” and how unfortunate it is that true pain gets drowned in the viral-seeking echo chambers that never reach across the divide, but choir-preach with buzzwords and snarky flashy lines.

I’ve been wondering if we’re really this crazy.
If we’re really this hateful.
If we’re finally in the burning wreckage of a dying age.
If we’re really this angry about the wrong things and silent about the right things.
If we’re really this lost.

I’ve been thinking about how we can get better, or if we’re beyond recovery. That maybe I should give up, and give in to the cynicism, because it’s easier.

I was with a patient in the hospital who had a blood condition. “Derrick” suffered debilitating physical pain his entire life. His knees were twisted in circles, his fingers into claws, his body turned sideways, his eyes burned with baggage. He didn’t have much longer to live. It hurt him to talk, but he wanted to talk so badly. We were face to face, and he spoke about his illness, his dreams, his hopes, his insecurities, his faith, his fears, his family. We didn’t break eye contact for over an hour.

The news was on TV and there was another awful headline. The ticker-tape was scrolling at the bottom, one thing after another. The TV caught Derrick’s eye.

He said, “I don’t understand. I don’t get how we’re still fighting. I don’t understand how we’re still so mad. I’m hurting every second, and I see the news, and people still want to hurt each other. When is it enough? I can’t even play with my kids; I can’t hold them long; I can’t work or run or laugh too loud. If I just … if I could just walk without falling into a heap, the things I would do. The things we could do, you know, and we choose this instead.”

He tried to point to the television but he barely got his arm up.

“I’ll never get better. Physically, I mean. I’m at the end of my time here. But we can get better, you know, in the way that matters. I think if we knew … if we knew we’re all hurting somehow, we might be better. We might reach for each other.”

I looked over at Derrick and he was weeping. For the world. For himself. For me. For you. For us to get better.

And I wept, too. I knew that sort of pain, that desperate burden for healing and connection. To reach across the divide.

Derrick looked at me and said, “This is what matters. Right here. You and me, this is it. Can you stay with me? Can you pray with me? Can you pray for me and the hurting people?”

Through tears, we prayed. At the end, all I could really think to say was, “God—give us hope.”

I prayed for hope against the cynicism. Hope to make the best of it. Hope to hold on in the burning wreckage. Hope that there’s still good in us. Hope that we’ll make it. Hope that we’d find each other with our tiny little time on earth.

We held hands tightly. We held onto hope.

J.S.


My Ebook on Quitting Porn Only 99 Cents!


My e-book on quitting porn, Cutting It Off is on sale for 99 cents! It has been officially endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church.

It works on every device. The paperback is also only 5.99.

Love y’all and be blessed!
— J.S.