When People Wait For You To Fail: Let Them Wait

There is a list of people in town who are waiting for you to fail.

There are people who are waiting to say, “I told you so.  You had it coming.  That’s what you get.  You deserve this.”

There are people who time-stamp you, who think you haven’t really changed, that you’re still the same person because “I know how you really are.”

There are experts who will tell you it can’t be done.

There is the constant loop of self-condemnation, second-guessing yourself, holding yourself back because you think others will scoff at your newfound sense of confidence, the perpetual eye of criticism on anything you do outside the box you’ve been put in, that feeling the universe will somehow pay you back for every wrong thing you’ve done.

Continue reading “When People Wait For You To Fail: Let Them Wait”

You’re Never Getting This Time Back.


We often waste an incredible amount of time wanting to be somewhere else, someone else. Our head-space gets clogged with compare, contrast, what if, why can’t, I should. But you’re never getting this time back. You can’t borrow tomorrow. Please don’t save the best for last. The best is all of you, here, where you are, brightly lit and painfully now, in this breath you’re leaving. Each second dies as it is born; every hello must say goodbye; all is fading in the collapsing hallway of a fragile hourglass, a grain at a time. You are here. The best is you, now.
J.S.



Photo by Stefan Lins, CC BY-NC 2.0

11 Blogs I’m Unfollowing Immediately

[Disclaimer: Angry post. Sorry.]

Once in a while, I do a “spring cleaning” of social media by unfollowing a ton of stuff. Not things I disagree with (we need disagreeing points of view) and not because I’m better than anyone (my insecurity would immediately banish the thought), but because it’s simply better for my mental state. It’s never a hasty decision. But where I’m going, I can’t take every voice with me. If you must, please discern wisely to unfollow me, too.

Here are eleven kinds of blogs or social media I’ll be leaving behind.

Continue reading “11 Blogs I’m Unfollowing Immediately”

Say the Whole Thing, Fully Everything

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If you express a strong opinion and get attacked for it, please don’t backpedal with “I was only trying to say” or “What I really meant was.”

Of course we want to be humble and teachable. There is always room for criticism and dialogue. It’s good to say you’re wrong: but don’t apologize for being strong. Please don’t hold back on your heart to look more rational than you really are. You can’t always be so cool and calculated. The strength of your voice is necessary in a nervously muted world.

Your expression is who you are in the heat of the moment, fully imbued by your wild strokes of passion and personality, and no one should be sorry about that. Don’t minimize your own humanness by trying to appeal to everyone’s civil sensibility. You might need to examine your content, but don’t let it shrink your character. In a silent world of jaded conformity, we need more of your voice and not less.

J.S.


Photo by TOM81115, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tell Me Your Story.

I was nearly an abortion. I was an unplanned accident, born out of wedlock, and the one before me was aborted.

I was born to immigrant parents, who naturalized and met in New York. They started with nothing, working as many as 100 hours per week, slowly and painfully saving money until they could open their own businesses. They believed this was a great country, and still do. My father served alongside the U.S. in the Vietnam War, and he is a proud veteran of this nation.

Many of us have these sorts of stories; they inform who we are, what we believe, and what we fight for, and so we are a myriad of uniquely shaped stories, each giving rise to a different voice in the world.

The really tragic thing is when we superimpose a particular idea on someone without attempting to hear their story first, and their voice is then stamped and smothered. We can too quickly assume a person is only their picket sign, their political party, their social media feed, or a cartoonish, dogmatic, one-dimensional archetype sensationalized by a grab-bag of Hollywood images. We predict what they might or might not believe without asking, without listening, without understanding.

A person’s voice is always built from their stories, their experiences, their very real pains, and it’s this blend of blisters that has brought them to stand on their particular hill. It is a hill, whether rightly or wrongly, that has been reached by a stream of forces that no two individuals can fully comprehend in each other.

So we can only try. Patiently, graciously: to hear their story on the hill.

Continue reading “Tell Me Your Story.”

Jesus: For Them


The entire Bible goes out of its way to lift up the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor. God loved the “inconvenient.” If you’re not for them, you’re certainly not for the Bible, and the whole irony of it is that I’m pretty sure Jesus died for both them and for you, too.
J.S.



Photo by Demi Brooke Kerr

“How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?” — Five Difficult Truths About Heaven and Hell

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colvmbiana asked a question:

I love God very much. But I recently saw a post on my dash that said, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?” and now I can’t stop thinking about that. How can He?

Hey dear friend, I truly struggle with this doctrine too, and if it were up to me, I’d be done with the whole idea of hell in a heartbeat. But I do want to consider the question, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?” — and examine the words loving, send, and hell.

First I have to say: I’m not sure that any Christian is irrevocably bound to believe the doctrine of hell. I know Christians who believe it and some who don’t. I love them both. We must not make the ancient mistake that 1) our theology is only about “consequences,” because it’s primarily about intimacy and oneness with God, and 2) to bicker over such dogmatic differences. Too many people wrongly emphasize the doctrine of hell as a motivation for Christianity, and that’s a false phantom motive that boils down to, “Date me or I’ll punch you in the face.” If there really is a place called hell and people are going, then 1) no one would become a Christian just by trying to “avoid” hell, and 2) the devil would love to have us arguing about it instead of loving on people towards God.

The following are some thoughts to consider. Please feel free to disagree, to fill in, to discern and to question and to dismantle. I recognize that many of us are appalled at the idea of hell and find it atrocious, and I’m with you: I hold the same feelings, while pondering the gravity and depth of its possibilities. There are no easy, satisfying answers here, but only ruminations, in which you and I must land on a conclusion, however differently.

1) Hell couldn’t be just for anyone. No one could be “sent” there. It would be hard work to get into hell.

C.S. Lewis says, “The doors of Hell are locked on the inside.” What he means is, getting to hell takes a massive amount of effort over a lifetime.

I think it’s a lot harder to get into hell than we think. A prison, at least in its original intentions, isn’t meant for someone accidentally wandering in without effort or knowledge. Hell is designed for the unrepentant, remorseless, unconscionable person who is deliberately dead-set on chaos and sadism. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” That sort of person is rare, but they exist.

In tiny blips throughout history, someone will perpetually abuse their own singular life to the point of irreversible perversion, and very consciously choose everything against God’s design of love, compassion, and generosity. I believe that the idea of hell, in its purest conception, is a place exclusively reserved for that kind of cruelty. I might even replace the word “hell” with justice, or safety, or balance.

Of course, anyone can be rehabilitated. I will always believe that. I would never ever be satisfied at anyone going to hell, not even at the worst sort of criminal. Anyone who relishes the thought of someone going to hell must really re-think their own sanity. I believe that God gives a billion chances, over and over, all throughout Scripture. Many of our “Bible heroes” were murderers and tyrants and cheaters who reformed. Yes, there is grace even for child molesters and kidnappers. That’s the craziness of grace. If you care even the slightest about God’s divine heart for the world, then no, I highly doubt you’ll fall into hell.

Continue reading ““How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?” — Five Difficult Truths About Heaven and Hell”

Let’s Have A Conversation.


Let’s have a conversation.

I’m very much okay with disagreement, discussion, debate, questions, challenges, and stretching each other towards new ideas. I’m okay with wrestling in our misunderstandings and our blind spots. I’m fine with a loud voice when it means passion and conviction. I’m open to you teaching me something I never thought of, or to help me think in a new direction, or to correct an obvious error.

This means you want dialogue. I can see you want a conversation when you see the person, not just a problem. Then you’re respecting my willingness to learn. You’re building a bridge towards mine, and even if we disagree in the end, we valued each other’s dignity: not perfectly, but with the open arms of possibility.

I’m not okay with obnoxious arrogance, smarmy diatribes, condescending, one-sided soapboxing, black-and-white pigeonholing, hyper-sensitivity, a persecution complex, yelling “fallacy” or “heresy” or “blasphemy,” dogmatic lecturing, automatic defenses, blanket statements, unequivocal language like “always” and “never,” putting words in my mouth, or assuming I stand for the opposite of some angle I didn’t cover.

This is not passion, but insecurity, projecting, and gaslighting. It’s not conviction, but condemnation. Your goal isn’t a conversation, but winning a conversion. It means you love the sound of your own voice, and there’s only room for one person on that platform. Yet you wouldn’t even listen to someone who talked the same way as you. I will hear you, I will even read your picket sign and your angry blog post, but don’t expect much else.

— J.S.



Art from f5quotes

The Only Credibility We Have Left.


The way of propositional politics in the hands of fallen men always crushes the people it was meant to restore. It weaponizes an idea into picket signs, angry rants, loud bloggers, hapless trolls, and mob mentality.

Our minds are so Pavlovian-conditioned to lock people into categories that we forget: no one ever fits the one-dimensional cartoon-caricature that we wish them to be. This sort of prejudice makes it easier to bash others by dehumanizing them, until all we’re left with is an unrecognizable political tapeworm that feeds itself and helps no one else.

Jesus knew that we could not affect change by categorical conflict, because it would be like fighting for a territory that becomes a scorched wasteland after the fight is over.

So Jesus stopped the human cycle of binary wars by calling us all equally loved, equally dignified, and equally heard. Jesus saw each individual as a holistic, multi-dimensional, complex, conflicted person and met them in their own condition, wherever they were — because this is what grace does.

Without the same compassion of Christ for the people he loves, all our bravado and chest-beating is absolutely pointless. We will be buried with our picket signs without having known a single human life. We will have succeeded at minor skirmishes and stomped on human stories. We will win at social reform but still be spiritually deformed. We will legislate laws on disagreeable issues but lose the human heart — on both sides.

I hope we’re not just clamoring for faceless disembodied ideology, but that our sleeves are rolled up in the mess of hurt people.

The only credibility left is compassion.

I pray our voices be burdened with the weight of such conviction.

J.S. Park

God’s Will, In The End


You’ve had the Late-Night Regret Twitch: to mourn over why we couldn’t have just done better. There are defining moments in the past where we think, “I should’ve went to that city. I should’ve gotten that job. I never should’ve dated her. I wish I could un-meet him.”

My dear friend: If you’ve really messed it up, I don’t believe you can “fall off” God’s Will. I don’t believe that God’s Will could be a fixed straight line. I don’t think God ever says, “Well, you fell off the track so good luck in the ditch for the rest of your life.”

Many earnest Christians assume that this relationship or this job or this house is the one that God really has for them, so they invest their entire heart into these things. But at any moment, our idea of the future can be upturned. We see it happen all the time. Did that mean God had it coming for them? Does that mean they’re now out of line with God’s Will and they need to claw for their dream again?

When I read Scripture, I see that most of the biblical characters had to change choices on the fly. They would run into a dead end, back up, and start again. They spent years in circles. Sometimes God would reveal what to do next; other times they would just pack up and start walking. Their lives were flexible. They didn’t have one specific dream. They did mess up, a lot. I’m sure they had tons of Late-Night Regret Twitching. I’m sure, like us, they often thought, “It’s too late for me.” But in hindsight, the very interruptions and unforeseen circumstances in their lives were part of God’s Plan A. Every wrinkle in their story was a new doorway.

And God’s Will, in the end, wasn’t so much about what they were doing, but the kind of person they were becoming. The destination was important, but the journey was the pulse that beat their hearts.

J.S. Park



Photo by Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

Six Truths to Get Through a Break-Up

gahbeedee asked a question:

hey there, thank you for your blog. i have been going through a breakup the past month (we are both christians) and wondering if you’ve made any posts on this topic.

Hey there dear friend, I’m sorry for all that’s happening, and here are a few things that I hope may be helpful for you.

1) Break-ups are, almost step by step, the same process as grief. It seems silly, but breaking up with someone also means saying goodbye to everything that person was. Their presence, their texts, their smells and laughter and even the annoying way they shake their leg when watching a movie: you’ll be constantly reminded of all these little quirks, and each day, will have to remember and embrace that they’re now gone.

2) Break-ups are pretty hard. In the grand scheme of things, a break-up is a rather normal part of life (I’ll get to that in a second), but I think most grown people are pretty quick to dismiss how hard it really is. You shouldn’t feel silly about how emotional and up-and-down this process is. Some days you’ll be fine, and some days you’ll be crying your eyes out or cussing out the sky.

3) A break-up isn’t the end of the world. There may have been many promises made and a lot of sweeping romantic plans for the future together, but no, a break-up isn’t a world-ending event. They happen. Two people may be perfectly wonderful people, but the timing wasn’t right or they discovered they weren’t compatible, and that’s okay. It’s hard, but you won’t always feel the same splinter of grief like you do now. Break-ups are built into the eventualities of life.

Continue reading “Six Truths to Get Through a Break-Up”

Unlikely Counterintuitive Grace


Grace.

By grace, I mean offering a second chance. A third chance. A tenth.

By grace, I mean giving yourself a chance to move on from what has happened and what you’ve done. It means freedom from self-punishment and over-compensation.

By grace, I mean the expectation of a new life for yourself and for others, who want to reclaim their lives from their former selves.

By grace, I mean believing that you are loved by your Creator, by your community, and those who truly know you. It means believing you have a purpose that has not been devalued by your past, but could only be strengthened by it.

By grace, I mean entering the fractured lives of others to pick them up from the wreckage and rebuild what can be salvaged, with both eyes ahead, to a better future.

J.S.


Art by Britnney Borowski

Meanwhile, Start.



My friend: I know you might have had a picture of how you wanted your life to be, but some uncontrollable tragedy swept it away. We all have a certain picture of how we want our lives to be, and sometimes it gets ripped from our grip and smashed to pieces. Our dreams can get crushed in an instant, in the most horrible ways, with irreversible results.

We might be living in a life right now that doesn’t feel like it’s ours, you and I. We might be in a different place than we had hoped for. Today could be different than you had imagined and planned a year ago. Your heart will pull for another chance, another door, another world.
We wake up in a daze, wondering how things changed so fast.
We wait, hoping it’ll go back to the way it was.
The three hardest words to live with are often: In the meantime.
Yet — in the meantime is the whole thing.

If you’re waiting for your “real life” to start, after graduation or when you’re married or when you get to the big city, you’ll stay in a holding pattern. The time will pass anyway. The tide doesn’t wait.

So I hope you’ll consider starting in the meanwhile.
When a dream dies, it dies. We can mourn. We can pound our chest. We can bleed. And at some point, we must let go and not linger. You can open your hands to another dream. I hope you find this new dream. I hope you don’t try to revive something that’s dead.

You can get over what’s over, because you’re not over yet.
When the ten count is over: you can count to eleven.

What comes next will not be what you had envisioned. It might be better or it might be worse. I hope you will keep dreaming anyway. I hope you will consider God can do a new thing.

You are free to pursue something new.

J.S. Park

Does “Love” and “Forgiveness” Apply to Abuse and Trauma?

sakuramautoki asked a question:

When we Christians use words like “forgiveness” and phrases like “True love keeps no record of wrongs,” I find myself wondering how that would apply to certain contexts, namely with victims of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional/mental)? I wonder if we should even be using these words when speaking with victims/survivors of abuse and how it might come off as to them?

For example, when we say to forgive an abuser, what does that look like? Does that mean we forget the harm they did and pretend like everything is okay? Do we welcome them back with open arms? The same questions also apply to phrases such as “love keeps no record of wrongs”. I ask because as Christians it would be good to be mindful how these words and phrases can sound like and that we tend to throw these terms around much without thinking. What is your take on this?

Hey dear friend, I truly appreciate your heart and care in this question. I am with you absolutely 100% here. The Christian culture so easily falls into a martyr syndrome that unnecessarily risks our safety, and it so often assumes that “church people” have no pre-existing baggage which then makes “love and forgiveness” an extremely painful endeavor for the abused.

The thing is, love must absolutely include truth, wisdom, boundaries, and grace for yourself. Love is not enabling, pampering, coddling, or letting someone off the hook—or it wouldn’t really be love at all.

For those who have been abused or traumatized: Forgiveness doesn’t mean friendship. No one should ever be rushed into forgiveness for the sake of “getting right with God.” We need healthy boundaries. We need to recognize patterns of unrepentant abuse and gaslighting and manipulative language that will only guilt-trip you back into a vicious cycle. We can never mindlessly open the door again on an abusive relationship.

Many well-intentioned Christians try to act the part of a psychologist or social worker or therapist and have absolutely no idea about the real dangers of abuse, codependency, and compassion fatigue.

Continue reading “Does “Love” and “Forgiveness” Apply to Abuse and Trauma?”

You Can Do The Thing: And It Starts With This One Phrase

Photo from dametraveler

You can really do the thing. You can really achieve the dream and pursue your goal and make progress and find recovery.

But it has to start with one thing.

It has to begin with letting go of the old things.

There’s an ancient Greek word, ouketi, which means, “No longer.” The word is often used as, “I’m no longer who I was before.” It’s a sweeping decision to move forward into something new. It starts with knowing you cannot live as you were.

A focused person naturally turns down the volume on distractions. When you have a goal, you find out what’s most important. Priorities are prioritized; the things that don’t matter get dimmer and less attractive; there is intentional movement.

A big vision always begins with a singular, passionate, pin-point accuracy that requires closing the door behind you. Nothing good was ever achieved by looking forward and backward at the same time.

The problem is that we try to have the best of everything. We have our hands stretched between the old and the new. We’re scared of discipline or we despise self-control, because we think it infringes upon our “freedom.” We hate change; we drift to complacency, laziness, easiness, the path of least resistance. We cling to that draining relationship or unrestricted internet usage or that crowd of so-called friends or our unwillingness for accountability and messy community. The irony, perhaps, is that in wanting everything, we end up with even less than what we had.

We are limited finite beings and we do not have endless resources. There is only so much room in our souls. If you really want to do the thing, it requires cutting off a few things. I know that no one wants to hear about it, because it sounds like I’m telling you what to do. I get that. I hate it too. We naturally push back against authority. We’re individualistic creatures who want total autonomy — but autonomy is a process of depositing your choices in the right places in a consecutive momentum, so that later, you will have the unhindered ability to live the life you actually wanted. It’s like learning the notes on a keyboard, at first clumsy and restricted, but later being able to play the most beautiful of compositions and even making your own. We invest our first choices in the soil so that we may bloom for better choices in the sun.

Continue reading “You Can Do The Thing: And It Starts With This One Phrase”

Happy New Year, Friends!

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Happy New Year, dear friends! I’ll be taking a few vacation days from work and from social media. I’m also finishing up my book on fighting depression. Please feel free to let me know how I may pray for you this year, too! Love you and thank you, friends.
— J.S.

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My Top 16 Posts of 2016 from My Tumblr


16) Breaking Through Jealousy: Passing the Fire

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

14) 5 Ways to Diligently Discern All the Good and Bad “Christian Advice”

13) I Believe It Is Enough

12) I’m Not Okay. Is That Okay?

11) I’m Sorry and I Was Wrong

10) 5 Kinds of Romanticized Crushes That Will Mess You Up 

9) As I Really Am

8) You Won’t Like This: But I Hope You Hear Me

7) We Bleed, All The Way Up

6) How Do You Believe This Bulls__t?

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

4) I Held a Swastika

3) Five Husbands

2) Which Books of the Bible Do I Start First?

1) 15 Things I’ve Learned Not to Say at the Hospital


Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

My Top 20 Quotes of 2016 from My Tumblr

 

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20) Learning to Say No

19) I Want to Quit

18) Shame Versus Grace

17) To Really Listen

16) Christianity Isn’t About Whether It Works

15) Jesus, What We Need

14) To Really Listen First

13) “Since It Doesn’t Happen to Me …”

12) Love Doesn’t Keep a Score

11) When Things Fell Apart

10) You’ve Been Re-Made

9) The False Narrative

8) Depression Versus Faith

7) If You’re Breathing

6) The Christian Life Is Not a One-Shot Deal

5) When It Hurts, I’m Sure of One Thing

4) Truth and Love Together

3) God’s Will Is Who We Are

2) What God Wants to Do

1) But This Is What Jesus Does


Photo by Image Catalog, CC BY PDM