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

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

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

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

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

Top 16 Posts of 2016

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Here are the Top 16 Most Viral Posts of 2016 from my blog, ranging from topics such as porn addiction, feminism, neo-Nazis, being at the bedside of death, and the time my wife and I broke up for six months.


16) The Christian Life Isn’t a One-Shot Deal, But a Walk Painted by Steps

The Christian walk isn’t a “one chance and it’s over,” but a life-long mosaic.


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15) The Irretrievable Vacuum of Unhappily Never After.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out; the prayers go unanswered; we won’t know why.


14) I’m Not Okay. Is That Okay?

I need to know I can tell you everything.


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13) How Do You Keep Believing This Jesus Bulls__t?

I’m often asked how I keep believing, and I can’t believe that I keep believing.


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

Seven truths and myths about forgiveness.


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11) Movies That Christians Should Watch: The Truman Show

In my movie analysis series, I go over the spiritual and cultural themes of The Truman Show, a deeply tragic comedy about opportunism and freedom.


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

The reality is, our dreams get crushed, and people will leave or cheat or abuse us, and our perseverance doesn’t always pay off. 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.


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9) “4 Unexpected Things That Happen When You Quit Porn”

An article I wrote for X3Church about four incredible things that happen when you quit pornography.
(My book on quitting porn is here.)


8) Breaking Up and Getting Back Together: About Me and My Wife

My wife and I had a six-month break-up. We needed it.


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7) Five Husbands

On a whirlwind day at the hospital, I visit five husbands who have lost their spouses.
(My other chaplain stories are here.)


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

Contrary to pop opinion, the Bible is one of the most, if not the most, pro-women document in history.


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

A girl gets mad at her boyfriend and tries to cheat with me, and things only get worse from there.


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

No one likes to hear the hard truth about themselves: but without it, we will never grow, never heal, never go.


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3) I Held a Swastika

At the hospital, I visit a patient who tried to bite a nurse and threw urine at a surgeon, and happens to have a tattoo of a swastika.


2) 5 Kinds of Romanticized Crushes That Will Mess You Up

When “romantic feelings” overtake you, here’s a little guide to see where that goes.


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

My work as a hospital chaplain has helped me to know what not to say to patients and the hurting.


Love Meets You.


Real love doesn’t meet you at your best.
It meets you in your mess.
J.S.


[Art from Judith Bernice]

The Irretrievable Vacuum of Unhappily Never After.

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.

No—it doesn’t always work out.

The storm doesn’t always pass.

There isn’t always closure.

Not everything will be all right.

I won’t know why.

There’s a moment in the hospital when our illusion of safety is shattered and the stark reality sets in:

Things won’t change,
they won’t get better,
there won’t be a miracle,
and there won’t be a happily ever after.

It looks like God has exited the building, and that maybe He’s not coming back, and that we will never, ever know why this awful tragedy had to happen.

Babies die. Spouses drop dead at thirty. Diseases take and they take and they take. Prayers go unanswered. Drunk drivers walk free and their victims die slowly in a fire. People die alone. Some people don’t know who they are when they die; some people don’t have a single number they can call. They’re cremated by the county without a trace.

I soon found that I was having a series of tiny panic attacks over faith, more and more disorienting, these little underground bombs that threw me into crisis and left me scrambling for answers.

After a particularly hard case where a young woman’s dad shot her mom and then himself, I came home and tried to pick up some random inspirational book from my bookcase. What I found inside was so unimaginably distant and disgusting that I nearly threw it at the wall. I went through a few more books, and words that had once comforted me were crass and trivial. I couldn’t possibly believe that any of these authors had really suffered or seen suffering. I’m sure they had—and that’s what I wanted to see. Their raw edges. Not these luxurious, over-privileged travels and extra tips on mental re-arrangement, completely removed from the wounded. I saw these first-world tales as they really were: shallow, out-of-touch, and bereft of consequence.

I was lost in the whirlwind of malheur, the pain underneath our pain. I was struck by intrapsychic grief, from the loss of what “could be” and would never come to pass. I was a wax thread in a hot oven, my old beliefs dripping and frayed.

I suddenly understood the intensity of the Psalms, all the anger and violence and whiplashes of doubt, encapsulating the moments when we can no longer un-see this garish void of the nether, the unreturned.

I wondered if maybe it was easier not to believe, because believing was so dangerously painful.

Continue reading “The Irretrievable Vacuum of Unhappily Never After.”

For Fellow Fighters of Depression: A Quick Survey


So I’m working on a book about depression and I need your help. I’ve wrestled with depression my whole life, and I feel completely inadequate trying to write about it. Most writing on it tends to leave behind a certain kind of person or two (perhaps inevitably so), and I don’t want to leave anyone behind. I would love your vulnerable input.

I want to ask fellow sufferers of depression (and feel free to skip any of these)—

1) Which parts of the conversation around depression really bother you?
2) What kind of dialogue have you found helpful?
3) Do you feel that depression is more of a disease or a choice? Why?
4) Has prescribed medicine been helpful? Why or why not?
5) How do you help a friend who’s going through depression?
6) What does depression feel like?


You can also join the conversation on Facebook here.

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to stay anonymous, as well. Love you and thank you, friends.
pastorjspark@gmail.com

J.S.

Also, I’m making this book free for anyone who asks. A purchase would be a bonus; my priority, though, is dialogue and a fighting chance.

I Held a Swastika.

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 nurse told me that the patient, Willard, had taken a bite out of another nurse. He had swung at one of the doctors and thrown urine at a surgeon. Willard had multiple organ failure and he couldn’t walk; he kept demanding to go home. “Get me a wheelchair, I’ll flop in and ride over you people.” The staff kept trying to get him to stay, to get treated, despite his violent non-compliance: because nurses and doctors have the guts to look past that stuff.

They called for a chaplain to ask about Willard’s family members, to see if anyone could pick him up when he was discharged. I was the lucky chaplain who took the order.

When I walked in, I immediately noticed the patient had a tattoo of a heart on his hand, near the inner-fold of his thumb, with a swastika in the middle of the heart. The cognitive dissonance was startling. Not “I love mom” or his wife’s name, I thought, with a bit of snark. But hate in your heart. Very subtle.

“He’s one of those, you know, angry old fogeys,” the nurse had whispered right before I walked in. The nurse was a Middle Eastern man, about my age, and I couldn’t imagine the awful things he had to go through with this patient the last few days.

My eyes locked on the swastika first. The symbol held a terrible place in my memory: when I was a kid, someone had spraypainted a red swastika next to the front door of my dad’s business. Though my dad had tried to paint over it, I could still see it on hot summer days, a scar on the wall and a scar in my head, a mad throbbing declaration of all the world’s ugliness dripping in crimson. I still dream about it sometimes, and in the dream I’ll peer down at my wrists, which are engraved with the same red marks down to the veins.

The patient, Willard, saw me and said, “Thank God, a chaplain, finally someone who can hear me.”

But I don’t want to hear you, I thought. And a sick part of me also thought, You deserve this. I hope you never leave. Then you can’t hurt anyone out there.

He said, “Look, I see your face, I’m not trying to hurt anybody. You get it? I just want to go home. Fetch me a f__ing wheelchair, would you?.”

Willard got louder. He clenched his fists and waved them around. It was rather sad to see someone so animated and aggressive while pinned down to a bed, like the blanket had eaten his lower half and he was trying to crawl out. “Come on, I told you people that I wouldn’t hurt nobody. I got a dozen things wrong with me, I’m not a danger to you, I want to go home and to die in peace. You hear me? I’m ready to go home and die.”

Continue reading “I Held a Swastika.”

What Love Doesn’t Do


Love doesn’t keep a score. It wipes the record clean each day. It says good morning today and goodbye to yesterday.
J.S.


Art by jeannedarvin

Ocean Electricity, Carry 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.

I have a difficult time moving on after each hospital visit. And really, shouldn’t I? You know, like when you see a two minute video on Facebook about a national tragedy a thousand miles away, and then you scroll down to your friend’s vacation pictures of the Eiffel Tower or something; I can’t flip the page that fast. I’m not a channel-changer. I can’t quickly transition from videos of a war-torn Syria to a breakfast bagel. That doesn’t make me “morally sensitive” or anything, but I really, physically can’t do it.

I think of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, about the mementos that each soldier carried with them in the Vietnam War, things like a girlfriend’s pantyhose or dental floss, but really “the things they carried” were each other’s burdens, and maybe their nap-sacks got lighter as the war went on, but inside they were sinking without a life-vest. Their mementos eventually became each other, until the person next to them was the thing they carried.

I leave each room carrying that patient with me for a while, and I’m reminded of this time I almost drowned in the ocean when I was a kid. My friend’s dad took us out on a boat into the middle of vast nothingness, and my friend and I decided to swim, but a current carried us off and we were inhaling huge gulps of sea water. My friend is a better swimmer, so he grabbed me up and swam us both back to the boat.

Sometimes, chaplaincy is like that. Here’s a patient trying to find themselves amidst doctors and diagnoses and complicated medical terms, a thirty-ish patient just learning the name of his ten new medicines, a forty-ish patient who came in for chest pain learning that she needs new lungs, a kid with an amputated foot learning about prosthetics and phantom pain—and for a second, I try to help that patient swim a little, and their arm pushes me down momentarily, but we need to stay afloat to find the boat, and occasionally we don’t find it, but I just swim with them in that turbulent roaring ocean for half an hour, and that was enough for another gulp of air.

Continue reading “Ocean Electricity, Carry Me.”

God’s Greater Vision.


I hope we have eyes to see that God is doing something we cannot see. This takes discipline, but we have help. God has a vision far greater than my sight. He has an imagination that infinitely outweighs mine. We think a person is an impossible case: but God is in the business of the impossible. After all, He saved you and me.
J.S.


Art from thehopeletter