I Believe It Is Enough.


I believe it is enough to know that God loves you.

Right where you are.

Before you got there.

And after you leave.

The simple truth: I am loved, no matter what, and that’s enough.

Jesus tells us that the itchy, pervasive, persistent gap of “never-enough” is probably true, because we’ll never be enough on our own.

But I believe He’s enough for me, so I don’t have to be.

I believe, yet again and again, that He loves you. He loves me. That is enough, for another day. It is enough for today.

J.S.


Photo by sonlight972, used with permission.

Theology Showdown: The Narrow Gate Vs. the Broad Road

Anonymous asked a question:

I am a little confused about something and I was hoping you could help. In Matthew, it talks about the narrow path and gate into heaven. How can I, as a Christian perceive that to mean something other than that lots of people walk towards God but very few actually make it. This seems to go against grace? And also the profession of Jesus as a saviour?

Hey dear friend, this is certainly a troubling passage that is very off-putting at first glance: but I’d like to balance this passage with the entirety of Scripture.

Let’s look at the passage in question, Matthew 7:13-14, which says:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

So it looks like most people alive today will end up in Hell, an eternity under the wrath of God, while only a fraction will make it to Heaven.

But then, let’s look at Matthew 25:13 here, known as the Parable of the Ten Virgins (or Bridesmaids). To summarize, Jesus tells a tale about a wedding where ten bridesmaids are waiting for the bridegroom to begin the ceremony, but only five of the bridesmaids came prepared with extra oil in their lamps to greet him (this sounds like a weird custom back then, but weddings have always had weird customs throughout history, e.g. throwing bouquets or fishing for garters or dancing past a reasonably non-creepy age). So five of the bridesmaids make it, but five don’t. This implies that at least half of the people we know will end up in Heaven.

Lastly, let’s look at Matthew 13:24-30 here, known as the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. To summarize, Jesus tells a tale where a farmer’s field is sabotaged by weeds. The farmer, instead of pulling up the weeds, decides to let the wheat and weeds grow together, and at the time of harvest he will separate them. This implies that most people we know will end up in Heaven.

So which one is true? Is it the story of the Narrow Gate, or the Ten Bridesmaids, or the Wheat and Tares? Do only a few of us make it, or half of us, or most of us?

Continue reading “Theology Showdown: The Narrow Gate Vs. the Broad Road”

A Bridge to You and Me, of Purest Stone


This is the Preface for my book Grace Be With You. The Preface is about the gravitational power of story that connects us. The book is a compilation of my stories, encouraging quotes and poems, and everyday encounters from the road to the hospital to cafes and gas stations. Be blessed, dear friends.

There’s an old Star Trek episode where a particular alien species, the Tamarians, can only communicate in images and allegories. As the helpful android, Lt. Commander Data, puts it:

“Their ability to abstract is highly unusual. They seem to communicate through narrative imagery, a reference to the individuals and places which appear in their mytho-historical accounts.”

This strange constraint plays out to amusing fashion throughout the episode, as each party is frustrated by their miscommunication, and the tension nearly boils over into a knife-fight and all-out war (maybe your idea of amusement is different than mine). By the end, one of the Tamarians sacrifices himself in order to create a heroic narrative that both his people and the Federation can understand. It succeeds; this act of nobility becomes the bridge towards peace. The great Captain Picard realizes, “The Tamarian was willing to risk all of us, just for the hope of communication—connection.”

We’re not much different than the Tamarians. We risk the friction of our jagged edges to connect, not merely by formulas or flowcharts, but by a sloppy crawl through our shared, lived-in journey. We crave a common vocabulary beyond the heavy anvils of prose, crafted from imagination and our unified experiences.

Stories contain power because they seem to unveil secrets that have long been muddled, as if we’re unearthing lost royal treasure. But more than that, stories are a connective tissue, bringing us together by the longing and landing of a resolution.

Since a narrative thrust is essentially driven by an unresolved tension, with unassailable obstacles besetting a goal on every side, we discover in them the depth of our courage and cowardice, and we find out how to be. We find what we’re meant to look like.

We find, perhaps unwillingly, that we are not always the heroes, but in need of rescue: because we’re so often the cause of our own tension. And this is what puts us in the same boat, the same battle. The best stories require first an examination of our limitations, and then a cooperation as equals, through a slow-burning realization that we are not opposed to one another, but can reach the same goals with a little spunk and ingenuity. From Star Wars to The Karate Kid to The Lord of the Rings to Up, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Odyssey to a genie in a bottle, these are tales told side-by-side. We find we are fellow travelers, not so different, really, with a universal desire for shalom, a harmony—and we can’t get there alone. Heroes cannot fly solo, and villains are not beyond change.

Stories and symbols have a way of disarming us, too, getting to the inside of the matter with gentle precision. Propositions are a bit like bricks and beams: necessary for the foundation, but soon rigid and inflexible. Narratives and metaphors have a dynamic of growth to them, like seeds pushing through the dirt into the sun, and they give breath. Or maybe, as one theologian said, they are windows that light up the house and give it air. It’s why Nathan the prophet did not approach David with lectures and bullet points—”Three reasons that adultery and murder are bad!”—but instead with the innocent story of a poor man and his ewe lamb, ending on a twist that David could not negotiate. It forced David to rise from the dirt, into light.

Jesus himself spoke in parables with great aplomb, from mustard seeds and millstones to swords and sparrows to wedding feasts and rebel-runaways. Jesus’s disciples often had trouble deciphering his parables, which Jesus seemed to deliberately obscure at times—but ultimately, the parables were pointing to a future work on a cross and in a tomb. His stories pointed to his heart, and his heart sculpted the greatest story of them all: a final sacrifice to bring us peace with God and one another. He spoke of rescuing us, because we could not do that on our own. We were never meant to.

Only Jesus could become our bridge of peace, our shalom. And this kind of love is not merely the royal treasure, but the very purest stone from which all treasures are made.

The following pages are much like rotating the facets of such a jewel, pointing to the pulse of the galaxy-sculptor. These stories and poems and thoughts are chiseled by joy, sorrow, failure—and the great love that has cast a shadow on them all.

My hope is that we meet somewhere between the words, to connect, because I believe this is the truest stuff of life. Stories help us to mesh in this tapestry, that in our overlap, we’d find strength hand in hand. I’m excited. I’ll see you there.

J.S. Park // Grace Be With You




Photo at top by sonlight972, used with permission.

Scared of Love and Scared of God: What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked a question:

What do I do if I’m scared of love, especially from God?

Dear friend, I would say that you’re probably describing the entire human condition and the greatest fight of our lives.

One of the hardest battles we will ever face is to truly, fully, absolutely believe we are loved. So you’re definitely not alone in this fear. It’s this very fear that drives us to seek approval in illegitimate ways from sex, money, reputation, corporate greed, racial superiority, and a million other terrible stories throughout history.

The devil dropped two lies in the beginning to trick us, and the second lie was essentially, “Isn’t God holding back?” when Eve wondered if she should get the fruit off the tree (the first lie was, “Did God really say that?” to get us to doubt God’s truth). In other words, Satan got us with, “Does God really love you?” And that’s a lie we’ve been wrestling with ever since.

The fear of love is natural, but I really do hope you’ll find good people who will demonstrate God’s love to you. One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 John 4:12, which says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” That means we see the love of God when we experience the love of His people. There’s no shame in finding divine connection through human connection.

Continue reading “Scared of Love and Scared of God: What Do I Do?”

What Are Some Legitimately Good Christian Movies & TV Shows? 15 Quick Recommendations

Anonymous asked a question:

I’m sorry for the rant, I know it’s a common complaint. But there has to be a reason it’s a common complaint. I can’t tag on “Christian” music too much because it boasts a lot of great stuff, but Christian films are really slacking besides like 5. Idk. Do you have any recommendations?

Hey dear friend, I definitely believe that you’re not ranting. I’ve written on the topic of Christian art and its mediocrity before here.

My suspicion is that Christians are expected to “show grace and forgiveness,” so this somehow gets misapplied to Christians creating subpar art. There’s quite a lot of sloppy Christian niche-entertainment that gets away with mediocre production under the label of “Jesus,” when there was a time that Christians were the most celebrated of inventors, composers, artists, and musicians of their time. While I’m all for independent artists paving their way through the industry, I think it’s unfair to slip under a critical radar with the excuse, “It’s Christian, so it’s okay if it’s a little messy.” No, not when it’s unprofessional and pandering.

Saying that art is Christian doesn’t make it Christian, and there’s some “non-Christian” art that points to God more than so-called Christian art ever could.

Continue reading “What Are Some Legitimately Good Christian Movies & TV Shows? 15 Quick Recommendations”

I Hate My Life and Myself and I Want to Die: What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked a question:

I find myself begging God for death almost every day. On the days I don’t, I’m numb & I’m just going through the day hating my life. It’s hard not to compare myself to the rest of my peers who are doing great things & I’m just here painfully existing. My 1st degree didn’t get me any jobs in my state, so I’m stuck working a job that doesn’t pay much to help me afford a secondary degree. I know I’m not the only person suffering from the effects of a rigged economy, but how am I to remain positive?

Hey dear friend, I’m very sorry for all that’s happening. I want to tell you that you’re not alone, and that I got a ton of love for you, and I’m certain that everyone here does, too. I’m praying for you right now, even as I write this.

I have to say this too: If you feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself at all, please go talk with a trusted friend and talk these things out. Please consider getting with a qualified, certified person who can help. I hope and pray that you won’t make any big rash decisions during a downward spiral, and that you’d first talk it over with someone, face-to-face, even if that means forcing yourself to get there and giving your decision-making power to someone else, however long it takes. Just talking about it can be enough sometimes to take another step.

I want to share that I’ve wrestled with depression for as long as I can remember, and I did attempt suicide over ten years ago (half a bottle of pills, I lost 13 lbs. in three days, and was Baker Act’ed into an institution). I get into self-loathing loops of hopelessness all the time, like someone has just yanked my guts through my chest in one fell swoop and I’m crumpled over with completely cold apathy, not caring about a thing. Several years ago, I had a complete breakdown at my workplace from the work environment (in which the boss laughed it off), and a year later, I was fired from that very same job. Co-workers got way ahead of me, which was absolutely fine, but many of the people that I called “friends” deserted me. Life is unfair. It can be cruel. Things don’t always work out.

The reality is, our dreams get crushed, and people will leave or cheat or abuse us, and our perseverance doesn’t always pay off. Prayers can go unanswered for a lifetime. I sit with some hospital patients who don’t want to leave because their life outside is so desperately miserable. Even a perfectly crafted life can come crashing down in a second, when external forces suddenly strip us of all we have built. Most of us are not prepared for how harsh and brutal that life can be, because no one gives the hard talk about what it’s really like.

Continue reading “I Hate My Life and Myself and I Want to Die: What Do I Do?”

How Do You Keep Believing This Jesus Bulls__t?

Anonymous asked a question:

How do you believe when, pardon my french, you’ve been taught that everything about Jesus is bulls__t? I’d love to believe it, I really want to, it’s just hard to when you’ve been taught the opposite. Do I have to unlearn the foundation of my education?

Hey dear friend, to be truthful: you’re in the best place possible, with the single biggest advantage over someone who’s been raised in the church.

You get to be in a place where you’re starting with a hugely skeptical eye towards Christianity, which means that if God starts to lean in on you, you will have already encountered your biggest questions about faith. If only every Christian honestly encountered every doubt and argument and problem with Christian theology, with complete openness and abandon, then we might see how deep Christianity can really go.

Please do not think you have to unlearn anything you’ve learned. I suggest the opposite. Use your education to fairly weigh every piece of evidence you encounter. Keep digging into Christianity down to the bottom, to see that it’s both true and fulfilling, that it’s both intellectually coherent and existentially satisfying.

Continue reading “How Do You Keep Believing This Jesus Bulls__t?”

She Stole My Shoes: What Being the “Other Guy” with a Cheater Taught Me About Loneliness and Lasting Love.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how people tend to sabotage themselves in wild, ruinous decisions, and what the root cause of these melt-downs really are — and if we should really be more mad about it or sad about the whole thing. When someone goes crazy, I’m wondering how we can dig to the bottom and change the ugliness inside.

I was thinking about this girl I used to know back in college who tried to cheat on her boyfriend with me. The girl had gotten into a huge fight with her boyfriend and they weren’t sure if they were staying together, and she called me for “comfort.” I went over to her place, alone, which was already a bad idea, and simple-minded me had no clue that I was the “other guy.”

It started kind of slow; she opened up her fold-out couch, we put on a movie, and she kept edging closer. The movie was actually good. I got genuinely interested in the plot and cinematography and I started thinking about popcorn and I looked over at the girl to ask for some, and she batted her eyes really big and leaned in to kiss me. At that second, I understood everything, like one of those epiphany plot-twists that re-arrange the entire story, and I almost kissed back — except her breath smelled really, really bad. Like shrimp skins and a refrigerator after a power outage. I probably would’ve kissed her even though I knew it wasn’t right, but her breath sobered me up and I pushed her away.

She suddenly threw me off the couch and cussed me out and just about drop-kicked me in embarrassment. I was so confused and bewildered. I apologized and left; I didn’t have time to collect my shoes, and she probably still has them. Driving home, barefoot, my stomach felt sick and I was kind of mad at her, but mostly mad at myself. I got home and I looked at my cat trying to jump out a closed window and I suddenly fell over with laughter. Whooping, cringing laughter. I didn’t know why, but it was better than being mad.

Later I found out that the girl went back to her boyfriend and she told him everything, and apparently I was the realization she needed that she only wanted to be with him. I saw them somewhere at some church event (of all places), and they both glared at me, the other guy, and I ran to the restroom and left out the back door. I felt that same sort of confused anger, the laughing and cringing, the twisted knot in my guts that I had done something terrible and stupid but was also violated somehow. Driving home, I felt flustered, and just as barefoot as the day she took my shoes.

Continue reading “She Stole My Shoes: What Being the “Other Guy” with a Cheater Taught Me About Loneliness and Lasting Love.”

15 Things I’ve Learned Not to Say at the Hospital


Things I’ve learned not to say in the hospital at the very moment of pain and tragedy:

“Everything will be okay.”

“You’re so strong!”

“Pain is what forces you to grow.”

“God has an amazing plan for your life!”

“God is using this for your good.”

“God just wanted another angel in heaven.”

“It could’ve been worse.”

“At least you’re still alive. At least—”

“Cheer up and stay positive!”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“I understand what you’re going through.”

“Time to pray really hard and read more Bible.”

“God is using this as a wake-up call.”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

— and other motivational poster clichés.


Things I’ve learned to say in the hospital at the very moment of pain and tragedy (and even then, not every time):

“I’m sorry.”
“How are you right now?”
“I don’t think it’s wrong to be mad.” (Or scared, or hurt, or sad, or weeping, or uncertain.)
“How can I pray for you?”
“I’m always here.”
Or the best thing: listen.

J.S.


Photo by N Medd, CC BY 2.0

Five Husbands.

Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

The doctor tells him in one long breath, “Your wife didn’t make it, she’s dead.”

Just like that. Irrevocable, irreversible change. I’ve seen this so many times now, the air suddenly pulled out of the room, a drawstring closed shut around the stomach, doubling over, the floor opened up and the house caving in.

“Can I … can I see her?” he asks the doctor.

The doctor points at me and tells Michael that I can take him back. The doctor leaves, and Michael says, “I can’t yet. Can you wait, chaplain?” I nod, and after some silence, I ask him, “What was your wife like?” and Michael talks for forty-five minutes, starting from their first date, down to the very second that his wife’s eyes went blank and she began seizing and ended up here.

I’m in another room, with a father of two, Felipe, whose wife Melinda is dying of cancer. She’s in her thirties. She fought for three months but that was all the fight in her; she might have a few more days. Felipe is asking if his wife can travel, so she can die with her family in Guatemala. The kids are too young to fully comprehend, but they know something is wrong, and they blink slowly at their mother, who is all lines across greenish skin, clutching a rosary and begging God to see her parents one more time.

“Can I see them?” she asks the doctor.

Another room, with a man named Sam who has just lost his wife and kids in a car accident. Drunk driver, at a stop sign, in the middle of the day. Sam was at home cooking; his wife was picking up their two daughters from school; the car had flipped over twice. The drunk driver is dead; Sam doesn’t even have the option to be angry. Sam was hospitalized because when he heard the news, he instantly had a heart attack. He keeps weeping, panicked breaths, asking to hold my hand because he doesn’t know how he can live through this. He hasn’t seen the bodies of his wife and daughters yet.

“Can I see them?” he asks me.

Continue reading “Five Husbands.”

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 seven-hundred responses from Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and email, 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.

– How do you act/think/feel when you know someone in the gathering doesn’t like you?


– How do you feel when someone compliments you or praises you or remarks you did well? And why?


– 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?

(Asked again here.)


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

(Asked again here.)


– 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.

Breaking Porn Addiction and How to Quit For Good

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My book on breaking porn addiction has a brand new cover! It’s available in both paperback and e-book. It’s been recently endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church.

This is a very short book about how I overcame a fifteen year porn addiction. I’ve now been sober for over three.  I talk about what porn does to your brain, specific steps to quit, and how you can quit for good.

I know how embarrassing it can be to talk about porn, but this book is designed for both you and to help your friend, regardless of gender or beliefs.

The paperback is only $6.99 and the e-book is 2.99! And you won’t need a Kindle, it works on everything. Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage (That I’ll Need For Life)

julettejoonengaged-041

They say everyone gets a honeymoon period at the start of your marriage, but whoever brandished that idea: I want a refund.

Marriage is hard work right out of the gate. Our sentimental ideas about romance get tossed out very, very quickly — and I want you to be ready. Everyone told me what to expect, but no matter how much you prepare, it’s still a jump in the deep end. The more you know about what’s coming, the quicker you can stand on your two feet.

I know that marriage isn’t for everyone (contrary to our culture, singleness is not an illness), but whether you’re not in the dating scene or you’ve been married for years, here are three things I learned instantly in the first week of marriage. These lessons could be valuable and necessary for our entire journey.

1) Marriage pulls down the hologram and brings about the gritty reality of your spouse (and yourself too).

My wife and I dated for six years before we were married, and in those six years, I have never heard her pass gas once. I would constantly tell her that it was okay, but my wife was dead-set on maintaining an air of elegance. No pun intended.

About four days into the marriage, on a wonderful crisp morning in Florida, I asked my wife, “Are you boiling eggs?”

She said, “No. I’m not boiling eggs.”

“Are the sprinklers on outside?”

“No. The sprinklers are not on.”

“But then what’s that sm—”

And it hit me. Pun intended.

[By the way, I have my wife’s permission to share this story. I’m proud to say that she now regularly passes gas around me with the most exuberant freedom.]

In dating, we’re often on our best behavior. It’s like a job interview, where both sides show off their impressive benefits and credentials. In marriage, you see the rough, raw edges of the entire person. Marriage creates perhaps the closest proximity you will ever have with another human being. You’ll see every insecurity and neurotic tendency. There will be friction.

This is more than just about keeping up a pretty image.

It’s also a way of learning how to love an entire person and not just the parts that you like.

In Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, he discusses how we each have fault lines in our hearts, like the cracks of a great bridge. These fault lines get exposed when we collide with another person, so that we spill anger or jealousy or anxiety. A married couple, because they’re so close in space, will inevitably drive a truck through each other’s hearts: which exposes all the fault lines. Deep-seated flaws will shake out of us like shaking a tree in the autumn. It’s in this exposure that we can choose to face our flaws, so that they would be re-shaped by the love we share. The sooner, the better.

You’ll also see every dream, hope, talent, passion, and ambition in your spouse. You’ll see what lights them up and gets them excited. This means that marriage is often about showing grace for your spouse’s worst and promoting their very best. Love sees a greatness in someone who cannot see it in themselves. And if marriage is one of the most intimate unions in the universe, then it has the power to encourage a person beyond their self-imposed limits. Though this can happen in many types of relationships, marriage offers a profound intensity to spiritual growth. Finally, we can pull down our holograms of who we pretend to be, and actually become the people we were meant to be.

Continue reading “3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage (That I’ll Need For Life)”

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”

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”

Prayers for Grace

My friend Grace passed away early this morning. She was in her 20s and had been struggling with a terminal disease for a while. Some years ago she couldn’t make it to her prom because she had been hospitalized again, so we threw one for her at the hospital. Grace was one of the strongest, sweetest, most faithful people I’ve ever known. I’m thoroughly devastated by her loss and can only celebrate her life. God bless, wonderful Grace.

The Church in the Real World.


I get a little bummed out by churches that are only designed for insiders without considering the actualities of the real world, when every sermon and service uses an exclusive buzzword language to measure Christians by getting “wrecked” and “on fire” all the time. Really though, a lot of that talk is an agenda to recruit free volunteers for perpetuating church programs, or it’s passive-aggressive flexing by the pastor to look better than those “other Christians” down the street. That might be church business, but it ain’t God’s business.

People who attend church also have hospital bills and rush hour and work stress and family troubles, and they’re mostly just trying to get through the day without falling apart at the seams. They need a refuge, a safe haven, a sanctuary, a holy ground to encounter glory. They need to know how faith can operate in a fractured, fallen world — and no, not all of them want to be pastors or missionaries or deacons. I don’t think our biggest concerns are false theology and church methodology and “you better have an authentic faith with everything you got.” That’s all important stuff, but Jesus doesn’t make us jump through those hoops to meet him. Only people do that.

Jesus is doing a work that’s bigger than our doctrinal squabbles and our ministry bubbles. He’s come to inaugurate a Kingdom. And he meets us where we are to bring that sort of healing, right in the dirt and grit of our very worst. We need him most between the back door of the church to the front seat of the car, in the real world again, in that uncertain space from Monday to Saturday, when the pressure is on. This is where Jesus does his best work. This is where we get to work, too.

— J.S.


Mythical Messiahs vs. the Real Jesus: 10 Reasons That Jesus Is Unique Among Myths & Legends

Anonymous asked a question:

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Apollonius of Tyana but there are some people arguing that he also had followers, performed miracles and rose from the dead. That’s why they kept saying he’s the ~real~ Jesus. Thoughts?

Hey dear friend, here’s a cool fact:

A ton of people in the first century claimed they were the Messiah. Only one is really remembered today, and that’s a strange historical truth that must be taken seriously for both Christians and those exploring faith.

Here’s the context. The Jewish Israelites in the first century hadn’t heard from God or any of His prophets for about four-hundred years, since the prophet Malachi, who also wrote the last book of the Old Testament. They were waiting on either 1) another prophet, or 2) the prophesied Messiah, the “Suffering Servant,” who would apparently liberate them from the oppression of the Roman Empire.

The Jewish Israelites believed that God hadn’t spoken for centuries because of continuous idolatry and rebellion against God. This mindset incidentally formed a group called the Pharisees, who devised over 600 laws to follow, so that such perfection would honor God and possibly hasten the Messiah’s appearance. The Pharisees were so strict that any person who claimed to be the Messiah was almost immediately shut down, because worshiping any god outside the true God was only more idolatry, which had put them in this position of God-silence in the first place. So even though we dismiss the Pharisees today, I can definitely understand their mentality back then and how fast they were to condemn Jesus.

Many new Messiahs did appear. Two of them are mentioned in Acts 5 by a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who mentions Theudas and Judas the Galilean. History books also talk about Judah the Hammer, who enacted a siege against the Roman Empire but was just as quickly crushed. All of these “Messiahs” acted as warrior-presidents that used military force to throw a coup, like a militia attempting to oust the government. Nothing came of them. And the Pharisees were pretty happy about this, because in their mind, such false Messiahs only kept God at bay.

When Jesus came around, he was different than every other Messiah. Here are at least ten reasons why Jesus was unique compared to the religious leaders of his day, and perhaps among every other religious leader.

Continue reading “Mythical Messiahs vs. the Real Jesus: 10 Reasons That Jesus Is Unique Among Myths & Legends”

The Flexibility of Pursuing a New Dream

Anonymous asked a question:

Do you think that it’s okay for me to latch onto my dream of becoming an artist and do everything in my power to reach my goal? I’m worried that that’s not God’s plan for me, but it’s what I love and I really really don’t know what it is that God wants from me. honestly, I’m just a keyboard slamming gremlin that somehow managed to grab hold of a pencil. (also I really love your blog and it’s helped me so much for the past year! thank you for your hard work!)

Hey dear friend, yes (and thank you for your kind words!). I do believe that’s an incredibly wonderful thing, to have a dream and to do all you can to get there.

Here’s the other thing. Sometimes a dream will not look the way you expected it to when you start to get there. Sometimes dreams will change. You may go in a particular direction, but another door opens that’s the perfect fit for you, if only you’d try. Do you have that flexibility? Because when a dream becomes an idol, it creates all kinds of unnecessary pain when we cannot see bigger than an imprisoning “vision” of success.

Continue reading “The Flexibility of Pursuing a New Dream”

Who to Vote for If I Don’t Like Either Candidate?

Anonymous asked a question:

I have no idea what to do about the upcoming presidential election. I want to vote because I can, but I don’t see either of the options as fitting for the role. Any advice?

Hey dear friend, at the risk of alienating others: I also don’t want to vote for either candidate. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate option, all the way up to the voting booth.

Here’s the thing. An American President only has so much actual deciding power, as there are checks and balances to limit what one official can do (though of course, their policies are certainly a factor in how you vote). But my main concern is that the elected officials in any government are part of a greater social influence that describes and decides who we are as a country and a people.

I think the question that I ask is: How will my vote affect the story and direction of our country?

Continue reading “Who to Vote for If I Don’t Like Either Candidate?”

10 Quick Ways We Can Validate, Listen, and Learn from Others’ Experiences

horizontescuriosos asked a question:

Hi, I just had one question about your post referencing how people assume their experience is the only valid experience. Do you have any idea why people do this? It seems pretty obvious to me that not everyone would have the same experiences, but apparently people don’t always think with that logic.

Hey dear friend, I believe you’re referring to this post, which says:

“It doesn’t happen to me, therefore it never happens” is possibly the most insane, myopic, deranged fallacy that’s impeding our progress.

One of my favorite things about my Psychology major was learning all the ways that the brain can deceive itself. Things like FAE, TMT, intrinsic justification, hindsight bias, Asch conformity, the Stanley Milgram experiments, suppression rebound, and cognitive dissonance are all the loopy tricky ways that we can easily be fooled without knowing we’re fooled.

So at least a dozen times a week, I’ll see some online comment that says, “That’s never happened to me!” — which follows that it somehow never happens at all. I suppose the closest psychological phenomenon to that would be anecdotal evidence, in which a person’s own life experience tends to (wrongly) inform the totality of all human experience. It lacks empathy and imagination, because of course, we’re all wired to take the quickest shortcut by way of heuristics in order to form a schema — which means, we take the path of least resistance to form an opinion.

Our brains always want to use the least amount of cognitive faculties to assess what’s around us, which means: yes, we’re lazy, and without intentionality, we drift towards complacency and black-and-white conclusions.

Not to sound like an alarmist, but I’m afraid that our internet culture and quick-click social media has contributed to such knee-jerk judgments. No one takes time to process all the nuances of a situation anymore. Just think: these days, within five minutes of most major tragedies, there are already think-pieces posted on Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter but no time to naturally process our grief.

We are not an emotionally healthy world anymore. I say this as a person who loves social media and all the good it can bring, but when it comes to thoughtfulness and reflection, we’ve mostly gone backwards. The only way back to empathy, it would seem, is for us to exercise radio silence and to listen with total intent.

Here’s what I’d advise. I would set up some ground rules when it comes to expressing opinions online or face-to-face. Feel free to dismiss or modify any of these.

Continue reading “10 Quick Ways We Can Validate, Listen, and Learn from Others’ Experiences”

Is It Okay to Be Angry with God?

Anonymous asked a question:

What if I am angry at God. How do you cope with the frustration and anger towards Him?

Hey dear friend, I’m really sorry. There must be many things happening internally and externally, and I’m with you and for you. So is everyone here.

I have to tell you up front: I’d much rather be mad with God than mad without Him.

That’s not some cute little statement that only works abstractly on Instagram. I’m dead serious. If you’re angry with God, at the very least, you’re talking with Him. He’d rather you be mad at Him than displacing that anywhere else. God isn’t put off by our barest, most raw emotions: because He made them, and He made you, and He’s going to work with that.

Continue reading “Is It Okay to Be Angry with God?”

Prayers for Recovery

Hey friends, I got into a bad car accident in the rain. I’m a little beaten up and the car is a mess but I’m alive. Please throw me a prayer.

P.S. I wasn’t texting and I don’t have Pokemon Go on my phone. P.P.S. I was going to the bank, and it turns out the ATM was broken anyway. What a twist.

— J.S.

Primer for a New Christian: 8 Suggestions to Start Your Faith

creative-reblogging asked a question:

Hello! I was technically raised in the Christian faith, but my parents were never great about really consistently taking me to church as a child. I want to figure out where I stand in terms of my faith, so that I can carry it with me as I go into adulthood. I’m trying to view it as if I’m new to Christianity altogether. Would you have any suggestions as to where to start? Just reading the Bible is confusing to me, and I feel like I don’t get anything from it. How do I get to know God?

Hey dear friend, I want to commend you and applaud you on your newfound adventure of faith. Wherever it takes you, you have my prayers and a super big double high-five and internet fist-bump (and a hug too, why not?). I’m genuinely excited for you.

I’m honestly a bit new to Christianity myself (I was an atheist longer than I’ve been a Christian and it was a slow journey to faith throughout my seven years of college), so the memories of starting new are still quite fresh. I also understand that faith can feel intimidating, partially because the church can make it difficult, but faith itself can seem like an amorphous unfathomable maze. These are only my suggestions, as everyone’s road has different curves and obstacles, so please feel free to add or subtract or modify as you will.

– Find a church. If you have any friends who are currently attending a church, ask them about their Sunday service or any recommendations for you (you can also try websites and check out their statements of faith and their group pictures). The thing with church though is that it can feel overwhelming when you walk in: most people are uncomfortable in new situations with new people and unfamiliar surroundings. Even as a pastor and a chaplain, aka a “professional Christian,” I still feel all kinds of anxiety when I walk into a new church to visit. So it’s a really good idea to go with a friend. It’s also a good idea to try the Friday or Wednesday service, when the numbers are scaled down and it’s a more intimate setting.

A sidenote: Finding a church is incredibly hard and requires more than once. Just think, you’re looking for a second family, a second home! That’s no small feat to approach lightly. Last year, my wife and I desperately looked for a new church-home when we got married, and we tried about a dozen different churches before landing on one (and the one we landed on, we had to go about three times before we both felt called to stay). We gave many of those churches a second or third chance, so altogether, it took us over seven months to find a place where we felt we could serve and be led.

– Download some sermon podcasts. I’m a self-professed sermon junkie; I probably listen to about ten hours of sermons per week. While podcasts shouldn’t be the “main diet,” they’re sort of like supplements, or protein shakes, for a growing faith. I often listen to them on headphones at the gym or on car rides to work (I live about an hour from my workplace). Some preachers I listen to are: Timothy Keller, Andy Stanley, Francis Chan, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, and Matt Chandler. I also really love Brené Brown.

A sidenote: Please consider heavy discernment when listening to podcasts. In other words, you don’t have to believe every single opinion or statement, and sometimes a preacher’s theology might be a little fuzzy in some areas. Not every preacher or author is perfect, and public speaking has a way of blurting out certain things that are not always carefully worded. So listen with both a critical ear and a soft heart, or as Jesus says, “be as wise as snakes and as pure as doves.”

– Get with mature Christians and elders. We all, and I mean all, need some kind of leadership and mentoring and authority, speaking into our lives, in every season. We need both encouragers and challengers in our lives: people who can speak a grand vision over us while stretching our views and habits and beliefs. That means, get with your pastor and married couples and elderly Christians and successful business leaders and anyone who will spare a lunch — yes, your parents too! — and consistently ask annoying questions to grab their wisdom. Every person is a fountain of experience who is waiting to pour out to love on someone else. Ask about how their faith has gotten them through hard times; ask about how their faith informs their marriage, career, raising kids, and keeping focus. You’ll grow by leaps and bounds.

A sidenote: Soon enough, or perhaps already, you’ll be in a position where you can pour out to others. This entire cycle of pouring out is called discipleship in the Christian language. It’s a deep life-on-life pouring out of who you are for another; it’s the best of you for the best of them. We’re each called to disciple others just as we’re called to be discipled. This is the number one way I’ve found that Christians grow and one of the highest honors to give and receive.

Continue reading “Primer for a New Christian: 8 Suggestions to Start Your Faith”

Making Room for Our Neighbor’s Grief and Loss.

Like many of us, I’ve been reading on many of the horrible events this week and all the media circus which it entails. In a sea of crowded voices, both reasonable and ugly, that has said nearly all there is to say, I want to risk one more voice to the busy ocean of opinion.

I work as a hospital chaplain and I’ve sat with many, many patients and their families as the patients lay dying. I have watched quite a few slip away. It’s always a terrible situation; death is our common enemy. Everyone grieves differently, but everyone does grieve. My job as a “professional griever” is to approach each person with grace, sensitivity, and comfort, the best of me for the best of them, as much as I know how.

It’s not my place or my role to evaluate this person in their pain. And I’m not sure if that’s anyone’s place or role, ever.

I’m trying to imagine saying some of the comments I’ve read online to these patients and their family. And I can’t. I would not. Even if this patient may have been a criminal or had brought this situation upon themselves (which has been true some of the time), it’s still a terrible tragedy that they’re in this room. My patients and their families have the same hopes, fears, dreams, passions, uncertainties, and regrets as you and I have. They deserve the same dignity as you and I would want. Some of them were never accorded such dignity in their lifetime, and for some, it was this exact reason that they ended up here.

Somehow, we have socially distanced ourselves from loss by multiple levels of removal from the actual horror of loss itself. We undignify the dead by a jester’s court of judgment, by a carnival of commentary, by a platform of preprogrammed snark. We wait to see what our “side” of the discussion wants us to think, so that we neither think nor feel for ourselves.

You only have to read or hear a few callous comments to know what I mean: each proceeding comment moves further and further away from the actual people, until verbal semantics has smothered the very real loss of life into a wordplay competition. You might win: but what do you win? It seems we’d rather deconstruct or reduce these events into “legal” and “moral” terms, or punchlines and memes, or cautionary tales — and the result is abstract heartlessness.  Many of us have forgotten what it means to sit with loss and to feel the depth of its irreversibility. To simply weep.

Continue reading “Making Room for Our Neighbor’s Grief and Loss.”