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

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

Love Is a Fighting Word


Love is not passive,
kindness is not silence,
and compassion is not quiet;
sometimes it means we raise our voices
to fight for our very lives.
J.S.



Art by 1of1doodles

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

Love Meets You.


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


[Art from Judith Bernice]

You Matter.


If you’re breathing, you matter, because you matter to the One who gave you breath.
J.S.


Art by worshipgifs

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

Our Rest and Resolve: What Gets Us Through Deadlines, Demands, and Disorder

>Art by worshipgifs


Hello dear beloved friends! This is a message called, Rest and Resolve: What Gets Us Through Deadlines, Demands, and Disorder.

It’s about what gets us through when we want to give up. You can stream above or download directly here. I’m also on iTunes here.



I talk about Jesus versus Peter at the Transfiguration. Some other things I talk about are: That moment of exhaustion when you sigh for a long time before you walk through the door, the burn-out check-out from school and marriage and career, the strange beauty of enjoying something you can’t pay for with nothing to offer, the greatest miracle Jesus ever pulled, faith as a long-distance relationship, a word for both perfectionists and slackers, and the one crucial question they ask you at a car accident.

All messages can be streamed here. Be blessed and love y’all!
J.S.

People Are People: And Some Days Will Drive You Absolutely Insane



Today I’m unusually bitter and sad about people, and I’m so very tired and cynical over everything, including myself.

May I be honest here? People are people and sometimes people will drive you insane, and some days I just want to pack up and take the next spaceship off the planet.

I know I’m not supposed to say any of this because Christian bloggers and pastors are so inspirational and full of “never-give-up” pep. We love our slogans and re-tweetable one-liners. I want to be part of the cute punchy Instagrams with the sugary Christianese quotes. But days like today, I just want to give up on everyone. At times being positive makes me feel downright sick. I want to flip a table and go to sleep for a month and I look at my Bible and laugh.

People can be so maddeningly frustrating, and I know this because I disappoint myself too. We can be in the trenches with someone for months and months, pouring out grace and absorbing all the hurt and sharing life to the bottom, but that person might do what they want anyway. I know that no one owes me anything and this isn’t about “listening to me.” I’m not trying to pull pity here. It just hurts to see a person that you invested in so completely lose it and drop off the face of the earth.

I usually hear from people when they’re desperately in need. I never get to see the other side when it’s better, and maybe I have to be okay with the unresolved-ness of it all. What I’m asking for sounds petty and unreasonable, and again, that’s not to say, “Oh poor me.” But I wish I had more reason to hope, more reason to stay. It’s so selfish, but I wonder why I keep doing this.

I’m learning that faithfulness is more important than fruitfulness, because even when there are no results and rewards, I’m still meant to run this race. Yet I’m also learning that most of the race will be hard work, in silence, amidst people who often don’t care, with little evidence that we’re making a difference and many failed heartbreaks of seeing others walk away. I’m learning this can be a cruel, thoughtless, heartless world, and to be a fleeting flash of light is so much better, and so rare. I’m learning again and again to trust God for what I cannot see, because He’s the only one who heals hearts to glory. I’m learning to encourage others along the way, because so many never get to hear that they’re doing all right, and I want to be the one voice in the crowd that actually breathes life, even when it’s for a second and forgotten.

— J.S.


How Is God’s Love Different Than Human Love?

Art from Diane of 1of1doodles

germandreambaby asked a question:

Do you think that the love God has for us and for the entire creation is somehow different than what we understand as love? I mean, does the love of God have (entirely) different characteristics than human love? thanks for answering!

Hey dear friend, the short answer is: sort of yes and sort of no.

The love of the Christian God is so unique in that it purports no agenda, has no need for reciprocation, and has the motive of no-motive. God’s love exists simply because it does, for no reason except that He loves. There is no transaction, no equal exchange, no real economy. It is like a waterfall with no source and no ending, a constant wave after wave.

At the same time, God is unflinching when it comes to justice as being a part of love. Love is not merely sentimental, but also incorporates the safety and health of the other. That means telling the truth and keeping others accountable and gently persuading others away from the cliff of self-destruction. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”  In fact, Lewis said this within the context of WWII, in the midst of atrocities, referring to how we can love the “enemy.”

Many of us will lean too much to one side or the other. In other words, every culture will have an incomplete misinformed idea of “love” because it’s either too sentimental or too safe. We go for sappy careless love and end up enabling and spoiling. We go for “tough love” and end up controlling and wounding. We get our boundaries wrong all the time, either too much or too little. We might pour out until we’re irresponsibly draining ourselves, or we might speak so much truth that we come off shrill and unapproachable. Sometimes we hold on too long or we let go too early. Such a perfectly balanced love is impossible for us, and we will never get it completely right.

Continue reading “How Is God’s Love Different Than Human Love?”

Ridiculous, Reckless Grace: My First Pastor.


My very first pastor, Pastor Paul, was a ridiculous person. What I mean is, he kept pouring out his life to other people without any kind of tactical advantage to himself, and he never asked for anything back. He took strangers to job interviews, frequented the local hospitals, sent handwritten letters to everyone in the church and across the street, volunteered for clean-up at the park, brought bottled water to the beach all the time, counseled every church member at any hour, and somehow managed a marriage while making it to 6:00 am prayer every morning and preaching three times per week. Try to picture Korean Jesus, and that’s him.

I started attending church a bit late in life, around college, and I was one of those punk kids that any pulpit-pounder should’ve written off. I showed up hung-over on Sundays and bleary-eyed from partying on Saturday nights. I talked loudly in the back-row during the sermon. Church was just an extension of socializing at the club, and I endured the service stuff because I liked the hanging-out stuff. But Pastor Paul was just one of those guys who really brought it in the pulpit, and more than that, he was the real deal outside of it. Some of his sermons started to creep into my brain, and when I met up with him, he never judged me and never flinched at how I lived. He just loved. And without really knowing it, I became drawn to that supernatural pulse that was beating in his veins. I wanted to be like him—and by extension, like Korean Jesus.

I’ve thought about how my pastor’s job was often a thankless role with so much resistance against him, sometimes for no other reason than people just have their own thing going on. He took the hits and stayed around. He somehow served very personally without ever taking it personally. He was really for the other, never using ministry as a way to validate himself first, not as some kind of catharsis, but because he was invited into a story and a calling and a life that was meant to be given away. I loved that about him. I still do. He’s always looking for an angle or avenue to serve, even when he’s not wanted, not in an intrusive way, but to be available. I want to be about that, too.
J.S.

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

Jesus Welcomes the Worst of You.


Jesus welcomes doubts, questions, confusion, frustration, venting, and disbelief. He welcomes those who draw near and say, “I feel so far.”

If you haven’t talked to him in a while, he will not bite your head off.

His arms are always open. Jesus can handle your clenching of the teeth and shaking of the fist. What he does not want is for you to stay there.

J.S.

Art from worshipgifs

A Faith Crisis: When My Theology Is Shaken by Science, Debates, and Headlines

Anonymous asked a question:

So I’m taking an honors world history class taught by an atheist teacher and we’re learning about evolution and it’s really really testing my faith. Honestly I don’t know what’s true right now. My theology isn’t the greatest because I’ve only accepted Christ for two years now. I’m just now finding it hard to believe in the Bible and God right now.

Hey dear friend, thank you for sharing this with such honesty.

The truth is, every single type of belief system will eventually get shaken somewhere. When this happens, we can 1) investigate deeper into what we really believe, and 2) incorporate the new information into our beliefs somehow.

We each experience a kind of cognitive dissonance when our worldview is shaken. It can actually make you disoriented, nauseous, and depressed. Sometimes it’s from learning more about the world, or it’s from a terribly brutal tragedy, or it can be a very persuasive argument that uses flowery language. And these experiences will inform our theology and philosophy, and vice versa. But none of this has to be a threatening, stomach-punching trauma.

While we’re certainly going to feel what we feel, we can still explore this new information in light of what we currently know, and then navigate a way through it. It’ll be tough, and you may be scared or surprised by your conclusions, but it can actually make you a more thoughtful, whole person, too.

Continue reading “A Faith Crisis: When My Theology Is Shaken by Science, Debates, and Headlines”

Better Than You Think.


You’re doing better than you think. You’re in the middle of your motion, so it’s hard to see where you are. But so long as you’ve been taking one heavy step forward after another, no matter how awkward your stumbling, then this is worth celebrating. Every moment you’ve done right is a miracle in itself.
J.S.


Art by here_as_in_heaven

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.