I Need Your Help: Test Readers


Hey friends, I’m giving away a draft of my book on depression before it’s released. All I ask for in return are feedback and a review on Amazon.

If you want to be a test reader, please send me your email to
pastorjspark@gmail.com

and I’ll send it as soon as it’s ready. The final book will be out this summer. Love y’all, friends. — J.S.

Hiatus.

Hey dear friends: I’ll be taking an extended break from social media, for at least a couple weeks. I’ve been so extremely fatigued and sometimes unbearably cranky. I kindly and somewhat selfishly ask for your prayers, amidst all that’s happening in the world.

I’m still working on my book on depression. I’m hoping to have it ready by the summer. If you’d like a free digital draft when it’s finished, please email me your email address and I’ll send it to you. The only thing I ask in return is you’d write a review on Amazon when the book is out.

pastorjspark@gmail.com

Be blessed and love you, dear friends. God and grace be with you.

— J.S.

https://www.amazon.com/J.S.-Park/e/B00NZ70FDW

Whose Interpretation Is It, Anyway?



“Because the Bible says so.” Okay, but whose interpretation? Yours? Mine? From the era of the Crusades? When they were burning people at the stake? When it was used to support slavery? What if we have different conclusions? What if we’re both wrong?
J.S.
#discussion #discuss


Photo by ThoroughlyReviewed, CC BY 2.0

“I Demand Your Platform.”



I’ve seen plenty of posts demanding that “public voices” speak up on relevant social issues, condemning the silence of celebrities, clergy, authors, and your average everyday “inspirational blogger”—as if that silence was tantamount to the injustice itself.

I absolutely agree that we must speak up. Silence and passivity only perpetuate the status quo. I believe in the right—the gritty necessity—of protest and picket signs, that we cannot sit idly within the isolated concerns of our own four walls. Yes, silence is the abetting accomplice to injustice, and I do expect more from bigger platforms, from those who have the golden reach of influence.

On the other hand, I wonder about the overly hasty speed in which we comment on issues which are still unfolding. I wonder how many half-informed people are writing too quickly to get clicks and views and attention and to catch the heat of the moment. I wonder if there’s a way we can both raise our voices while learning more from every side of our widening divide. I wonder how we can slow down in crisis to be with the hurting rather than continually superimpose a think-piece for yet another grand, eloquent, self-promoting manifesto. (The irony is not lost on me that I’m probably doing the same thing here.)

And I have to wonder why we demand so much from public voices to speak on these things, as if we are waiting to be told what to think, or to validate an already preprogrammed opinion. Maybe those voices indeed have the power to change things—but so do we, regardless of the size of our stage, starting with ourselves and the people in the room. Maybe those voices are more informed than us—but so we, too, can invest and saturate in the stories of others, and then think for ourselves on how to build bridges and dialogue.

It may be physically impossible to care about everything all the time, much less expect others to care about all the same things you do. We have room to be passionate for just a few crucial things in our short little time on earth, and to each their own, passionately, not with a flashy, trashy headline that’ll be forgotten in a week, but by the accumulative power of a trained marathon, learning as we go, listening to other voices as we find our own. I cannot speak for you, but with you. And if you and I are to be a voice for the voiceless, maybe this means stepping off the stage and passing the microphone to those who are not heard.
J.S.


Photo from Rob, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My Friend Won’t Forgive Me for My Depression


Anonymous asked a question:

My roommate used to be my best friend. However, I became incredibly depressed from last year until about a month ago, and that severely strained our relationship. Even though I don’t believe I should apologize for everything that happened (because I was depressed), I have a bunch of times and asked her for forgiveness. She has yet to say to me “I forgive you” and hasn’t ever apologized for the things she did to me. I don’t understand how a “Christian” friend could treat me like this.

Hey dear friend, I’m sorry this happened, and I’m with you: I’ve wrestled with depression for a lifetime, and I know how it can take us over and make us irrational and out of our minds. The harm we do is not intentional and not our fault. And I know how awfully insensitive the general culture can be towards your depression, from ignoring it to mocking it to offering all sorts of wrong theories on how to get “cured.”

Now, I have to say the very difficult truth, and I’m saying it entirely with grace and empathy and love for your situation as well as my own. I say this attempting to balance my heart for you as well as for your friend.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that your friend is not obligated to forgive you. As much as she tried to stay, she also has every right to leave. She’s not obligated to apologize, and if you’re holding her apology to a “Christian standard,“ that’s rather gaudy and even malicious. This sounds cold and unfair, but to expect every single person to stay through our mental hardships is to ask them to be God, and is almost just as burdensome as enduring depression itself.

Both pop culture and church culture might teach you a romanticized, whimsical way to “always be there for someone,” but it’s never that easy. Dealing with a depressed person (like me) is exhausting and draining, and it requires a help far greater than many of us can give. Not everyone is built to endure these sort of things. I don’t blame them: my depression is so severe, I cannot imagine who’d be left in its wake.

I’m sure you never meant to hurt your friend while you were depressed, but she was indeed hurt, and she is not required to still be your friend, your confidant, or your companion through your journey. Your friend is not your therapist. Your depression and mine are not some “quirks” to be glossed over. Most likely, our depression will ruin many, many more friendships. I wish friends would stay, but so often they don’t, and I’ve come to make peace with when they won’t.

Consider the words of famed journalist and professor Andrew Solomon, who has written the definitive work on depression called The Noonday Demon, and who himself suffered a depression so severe that he tried to contract HIV from male prostitutes to kill himself:

“Depression is hard on friends. You make what by the standards of the world are unreasonable demands on them, and often they don’t have the resilience or the flexibility or the knowledge or the inclination to cope. If you’re lucky some people will surprise you with their adaptability. You communicate what you can and hope. Slowly, I’ve learned to take people for who they are. Some friends can process a severe depression right up front, and some can’t. Most people don’t like one another’s unhappiness very much.”

Our depression certainly takes us hostage and hijacks our brains into doing things we normally wouldn’t do, but please allow me to dispel you of the romantic notion that everyone must stick through “thick and thin.” Movies and TV shows can make mental illness look quirky and appealing, but in real life, it’s nearly impossible for my friends to endure with me when I fall into depression. It’s intolerable and insufferable. While it’s true that we are not ourselves when we’re depressed, the injuries we have caused are still very real, and it is our friends’ choice to draw boundaries when they feel unsafe around us.

Continue reading “My Friend Won’t Forgive Me for My Depression”

Ugly Asian Male: On Being the Least Attractive Guy in the Room

Statistically, I’m the least attractive person in the dating scene. Alongside black women, the Asian-American male is considered the most ugly and undesirable person in the room.

Take it from Steve Harvey, who won’t eat what he can’t pronounce:

“‘Excuse me, do you like Asian men?’ No thank you. I don’t even like Chinese food. It don’t stay with you no time. I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.’”

Eddie Huang, creator of the groundbreaking Asian-American sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, responded to Steve Harvey in The New York Times:

“[Every] Asian-American man knows what the dominant culture has to say about us. We count good, we bow well, we are technologically proficient, we’re naturally subordinate, our male anatomy is the size of a thumb drive and we could never in a thousand millenniums be a threat to steal your girl.”

Asian-American men, like me, know the score. That is, we don’t count at all.

Hollywood won’t bank on me. Think: When was the last time you saw an Asian male kiss a non-Asian female in a movie or TV show? Or when was the last time an Asian-American male was the desired person in a romantic comedy? And more specifically, when where they not Kung Fu practitioners or computer geniuses? I can only think of two examples: Steven Yeun as Glenn from The Walking Dead and John Cho as Harold from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. So it takes either a zombie apocalypse or the munchies to see a fully breathing Asian male lead, or a Photoshop campaign #StarringJohnCho for an Asian protagonist with actual thoughts in his head.

It’s so rare to see a three-dimensional Asian male character, with actual hopes and dreams, that Steven Yeun remarks in GQ Magazine:

GQ Magazine: When you look back on your long tenure on The Walking Dead, what makes you proudest?

Steven Yeun: Honestly, the privilege that I had to play an Asian-American character that didn’t have to apologize at all for being Asian, or even acknowledge that he was Asian. Obviously, you’re going to address it. It’s real. It’s a thing. I am Asian, and Glenn is Asian. But I was very honored to be able to play somebody that showed multiple sides, and showed depth, and showed a way to relate to everyone. It was quite an honor, in that regard. This didn’t exist when I was a kid. I didn’t get to see Glenn. I didn’t get to see a fully formed Asian-American person on my television, where you could say, “That dude just belongs here.” Kids, growing up now, can see this show and see a face that they recognize. And go, “Oh my god. That’s my face too.”

Growing up, I never had that, either. I can’t help but think of this scene from the biopic, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, in which Bruce Lee watches the controversial Asian stereotype played by Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to a theater filled with derisive laughter. This moment with Bruce Lee is most likely fictional, but the weight of it is not lost on us:

This was a powerful moment for me as a kid, because I grew up with the same sort of mocking laughter, whether it was watching Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with my white neighbors, or being assailed by the Bruce Lee wail in the local grocery store. I knew they were laughing at me, and not with.

Continue reading “Ugly Asian Male: On Being the Least Attractive Guy in the Room”

The Reversal of All That Is Wrong.


Here’s why I believe in Jesus.

Because at some point in human history, God became one of us and reversed the human condition. Just one place, at one time, in the dirtiest sand-swept stain of a city, He healed our entropy: and He invites us into that better story.

In the cross and resurrection: Jesus absorbed the cycle of human violence. He showed there was a better way than self-centered tyranny and retaliation. He paid the cost of sin on our behalf. He reversed the ultimate consequence of death from the first Garden by turning death backwards in a new Garden. He bestowed that same death-defeating power into those who believed his story. He identified with us by taking on all the harm of sin, though he never sinned himself. He promised us a union with Him by uniting us to the Spirit of God. He inaugurated a new kind of kingdom where the weak can win, the poor can succeed, and all our survival values are flipped into sacrifice.

Jesus redefined what it meant to be human by creating an upside-down kingdom where the humble will be elevated and the prideful would be melted by love.

He walked into the fragments and re-created the pieces. He doesn’t answer why bad things happen, but he gives us a love stronger than all that does.

J.S. Park


How They Yelled Barabbas


Image by Adam4d.com


I wonder how they could yell Barabbas instead of Jesus.
I wonder how they sang Hosanna and days later, Crucify him.
I wonder how Pontius could wash his hands of it, as though a dirty conscience could be so easily cleaned.

But — I am Barabbas, sinner set free.
I yell Crucify him as I sing praises with ease.
I am Pontius, who turned a blind eye to glory.
And yet, so Christ still died for me.
Still he died, where I should be,
a perfect love on that tree.

— J.S.


I Had This Dream, That in Another World, I Was Someone Else, Someone Not Me.


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 patient, Jerome, had a trapezoid-shaped hole in his head, and he told me it was from his son.

Jerome’s son had waited in his father’s home until he came back from work, and then he robbed him. Jerome fought back. In the struggle, his son had picked up one of those bright and shiny geode rocks the size of a torso, lifted it to the sky, and wham, in a sick, slicing arc, brought it down into his father’s head. The son was still at large. The father, after six months in physical therapy, still could not get the blood stain out of the carpet in his house. Jerome had lost his job at the oil rig; his wife had left him; his other son took two jobs to pay off the hospital bills, but one evening after dropping off his dad for PT, had been struck by a sixteen-wheeler and died on impact.

“Chaplain, I had this dream,” Jerome said, scratching his old wound, “that in another world, I was someone else, I was someone better, that I have two sons who love me, my wife never left, I was still at the rig with the boys … I had a dream that I was someone not me. It was extraordinary. It was wo—”

He fell asleep, which he told me would happen. His brain needed to shut down when it overworked itself. A few seconds later, he woke up and apologized.

“I had this dream, chaplain. Do you ever dream that you are someone in another world, a different you?”

Continue reading “I Had This Dream, That in Another World, I Was Someone Else, Someone Not Me.”

Prayer Request, Friends.


Hey friends, I’d like to ask for a quick prayer and encouragement. I’ve been working on a new book about fighting depression, and it’s about halfway done. It was supposed to be done three months ago. It’s been excruciating to get through each page, and it’s a crucially important work (for me, anyway) to share with fellow fighters. At times, I want to give up: it’s painstakingly difficult to finish, not least of all because of revisiting the shadows behind me.

I know this is a tiny problem amidst all that’s happening out there, but please pray I’d have the fortitude to follow through. If it helps just one reader, it’ll have been absolutely worth it. Thank you and love you, friends.
J.S.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

Friends That Stayed.


There are friendships I’ve mourned over where too much history got in the way. There were too many harsh words and broken promises and silent disagreements, and it rotted to an impatient grave. But there are others where we traveled the jagged road of reconciliation, mending wounds and untying knots and covering with grace: and on the other end of this is an ocean-deep intimacy of perseverance that couldn’t be reached any other way. We had to wrestle with the ugly parts of our nature. Demons were exposed. Secrets were spilled. Yet there is a joy in this sort of enduring friendship that goes the long distance; there’s a crazy sort of laughter with a lifelong friend that is colored by the weight of heels digging into the ground, a love that says, “I’m staying.” We see it in the cross, and we can have it now, even in a world such as this.

— J.S.


“9 Tricky Defense Mechanisms That Are Ruining The Communication In Your Relationship”


Hey friends, I was published on Thought Catalog! It’s a post called 9 Tricky Defense Mechanisms That Are Ruining The Communication In Your Relationship. It covers defensive tactics like rationalizing, deflecting, blame-shifting, gaslighting, and other easy-to-spot moves.

The original post is herehttps://jsparkblog.com/2017/03/13/9-tricky-self-deceptive-defense-mechanisms-that-completely-undermine-dialogue/

Here’s an excerpt, the one I’m most guilty of:

6) Value Judgment / Moralizing. Measuring a person’s inherent value as inferior, especially when their preferences or personalities are different than yours.

The way you think is not how things are. Can I say that again? The way you think is not how things are. It’s simply how you think. Your personality and preferences are not the barometer by which the world turns. I struggle with this one the most; I’m always tempted to mold someone into my own image. Even when there are healthy standards to abide by, it becomes a problem when we grade someone’s value based on how well they’ve caught up to them. And surprise!—we rationalize or blame-shift or deflect when we ourselves don’t measure to our own standards. To truly understand another person requires knowing the whole story, and not just a tiny slice of their life.


Read the rest here. Love y’all, friends! — J.S.

A Story to Tell.


You still have a story to tell.

Nothing about you is over yet.

Tell it well.

Finish strong.

Don’t look in the rearview too long.

No matter what’s been done or done to you,

you can still be you, truly.

No one else can write your story.

Live it well.

J.S.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

9 Tricky, Self-Deceptive Defense Mechanisms That Completely Undermine Dialogue

If you’ve ever been in an escalating argument, you’ll always notice how it becomes a “meta-argument” about unrelated things that are not really the point. The dialogue gets further and further away from the main thing, until you’re both screaming out your lungs and throwing appliances at the ceiling. Arguments, in hindsight, often look embarrassing, full of cringe and regret and wreckage like an irreversible radioactive wasteland.

When conflict comes around, everything feels like it’s at stake: your value, your truth, your work, your very life. So understandably, we resort to self-preserving mechanisms to scratch and claw for our very lives. Here are a few defense mechanisms that get us stuck, and how we can get un-stuck.

Continue reading “9 Tricky, Self-Deceptive Defense Mechanisms That Completely Undermine Dialogue”

Editors’ Picks: Frontpage of WordPress



Hello friends! I’m on the frontpage of WordPress by Editors’ Picks for a post called:
When Do Politics Decide Friendship?

Join the conversation. Be blessed and love y’all! 
J.S.


When Do Politics Decide Friendship?


lovelyishe asked a question:

 What is your opinion on the stance that you should end a friendship because of differing political opinions? Is there a time when you believe it is best to drift apart from them or no?

Hey dear friend, this is certainly a difficult, relevant question today, as it seems political differences more than ever are not merely a disagreement of opinions, but becoming an aggressively different opinion of human value, with all kinds of dangerous implications.

I’m fortunate and blessed to have friends with a wide range of political beliefs who are open to discourse or even changing their minds. Not every person on the opposite side of politics acts like the caricatures you’ve seen online. There are many, many thoughtful people across the spectrum that do not fall easily into our biased categories.

My concern is not that everyone has to agree a particular way. My major concern is that our beliefs have sound reasons behind them. When I hear the stories of enlisted soldiers, military veterans, the mentally ill, the desperately poor, victims of racism, both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, immigrants (like my parents), and abuse survivors, I can begin to see why their experiences have shaped their positions on specific issues. The more stories I hear, the more I can understand. I can become a student instead of a critic. I can more easily reach across the aisle, not necessarily to change minds, but to build bridges where our stories are respected in the overlap.

Of course, this bridge-building cannot happen with everyone. Sometimes a person’s politics are so explosive and divisive that it seems they only want to watch the world burn (or as it’s said, it’s a zero-sum game). There really are people who cannot be engaged with, no matter how gracious we approach. But unlike the terrible circus we see online, on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, most people are way more three-dimensional than that. It’s only ever a last, last, last resort that I would ever break off a friendship because of politics.

Continue reading “When Do Politics Decide Friendship?”

Note to Self: How to Apologize


Note to future self:
When you don’t get it right —
Apologize quickly and let go.
Don’t beat yourself up or defend yourself too long.
Humans are squishy with small brains. We don’t get it right every time.
And that’s okay. Being wrong is not the end of the world.
Learning this now.
J.S.



Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM

Does Your Theology?

Photo by Lindsey Noel


Does your theology drive you to your knees to weep for people who disagree?

Or does it provoke a surge of self-righteousness and increased volume and overpowering tactics to prove your point?

Does your theology allow room for growth and imperfection and an eye-to-eye understanding of the whole story?

Or does it imprison a person into a one-dimensional caricature who must think exactly you like do, or else?

Does your theology look for ways to love and engage and move in? Or does it look for permission to cut off and shut down and divide?

Does your theology have grace for people with bad theology?

Or did you read this thinking “This is for them and not for me” …?

Without grace, our theology is only posturing, and that’s not what Jesus came to die for.

J.S.


The Unexpected Plot Twist



One time after church, I texted this girl “You looked great today” and she didn’t reply. And then I felt horribly stupid, like just beat-myself-up stupid. You know, that swimmy sick-to-your-stomach anxiety when you want to jump out the window with a desk tied to your leg. I mean who even says that out loud to another person? I kept repeating it in my head over and over in the most nasal voice possible – You looked great today! – and doing the corny Yeah-You-Betcha wink. I lost sleep. I had that late-night regret twitch where I wanted to punch myself to never do it again. The cool thing is that now we’re married and it’s awesome.

J.S.



Photo from Image Catalog, CC BY PDM