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”

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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.

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.

To Meet You in Your Mess.


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


Art by 1of1doodles

Overcoming the Fear of Moving Forward.


The fear of moving forward is often obliterated by moving forward. Do it scared.
J.S.


Art by Pam Carbungco

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.”

Writing Them In Instead of Writing Them Off: A Grand Vision of Saul to Paul

Photo by VSP, CC BY 2.0


Hello dear friends! This is a message I preached called, Writing Them In Instead of Writing Them Off: A Grand Vision of Saul to Paul, on the story of killer Saul becoming Apostle Paul, from the perspective of his first roommate, Ananias.

I talk about how the disciple Ananias helped to turn a Christian-killing terrorist Saul into the Bible-writing healer Paul — and how God does that kind of work in us. Stream below or download directly here. I’m also on iTunes here.



Some things I talk about are: Adopting my abused dog Rosco and rehabilitating him, how an African-American musician befriended and changed a KKK leader, why I agree with the Elder Brother against the Prodigal Son, the impossibility of outgrowing your nickname and time-stamped hometown past, the one frustrating difficult person that never changes, how the back-row of punk kids at church completely humbled me, and the freedom of finally becoming the kind of person that loves no matter what.

All messages are here. Be immensely blessed and love y’all!
J.S.

Foreword to My Newest Book, by T.B. LaBerge

Grace Be With You Foreword TB LaBerge


My very good friend and blogger T.B. LaBerge wrote the Foreword to my newest book, Grace Be With You.

The book is a collection of short stories, poems, and thoughts, many of which you’ve seen here on this blog.
It’s available now in paperback and ebook!


http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Be-With-You-paperback/dp/069269031X/

http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Be-With-You-ebook/dp/B01E4XXCVM


My Newest Book: Grace Be With You, a Compendium of Stories, Thoughts, & Poems

Grace Be With You paperback


Hey dear friends! This is my newest book, Grace Be With You: Stirring Truth and Abundant Joy for Fellow Travelers. It’s a collection of stories, quotes, and poems, most of which have gone “viral” on this blog, with all new content. The Foreword is also by my wonderful friend T.B. LaBerge.

The book has four chapters, each a unique theme: to encourage, convict, engage, and transcend. Contained are quick quotes, humbling plot twists, and everyday encounters on the road, at the hospital, at cafes and gas stations and funerals and churches.

The paperback is only 8.99 here and the ebook is only 3.99 here and it works on every device. If you’re blessed by the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.

Be immensely rocked by His grace!
J.S.


Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Be-With-You-paperback/dp/069269031X

Ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Be-With-You-ebook/dp/B01E4XXCVM

Holiness, Humility, and How to Give Your Life Away


Hello wonderful friends! This is a message I preached called Holiness, Humility, and How to Give Your Life Away.

It’s about how the holiness of God irrevocably changes us in two ground-shaking ways. Stream below or download here.


Some of the things I talk about are: The two things I hear at every deathbed in the hospital, my body’s crazy involuntary response when I flew over the Grand Canyon, every instance of the Bible characters seeing God and falling over crying, the unseen thankless art of raising children, how to live generously with zero guarantees, and a letter from Belize.

My podcasts are on iTunes here (leave a review if you wish!).

Be immensely blessed, dear friends!
J.S.

“3 Ways Accountability Will Change Your Life”


Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:

“3 Ways Accountability Will Change Your Life.”

It’s about the uncomfortable, brutally surgical confrontation of accountability and its necessary benefits for growth and life.

Here’s an excerpt:

You’re ready to quit your addiction.

You’re ready to be teachable, to be under leadership and mentoring.

You’re ready to own your problem and get the help you need.

You’re ready for accountability.

All this sounds romantic, but accountability is a deliberate confrontation with yourself through another person—and confrontation is hard. It’s even harder when you begin to see the depth of your own issues and all the ugliness inside, the things you were happy to ignore before you decided to recover. We’re so much more entrenched in our habits than we think, so accustomed to “the way things were” that our bodies will desperately claw back to our old destructive ways.

Recovery is a street-fight, and our darker side will never fight fair.

Read the full post here. My book on quitting porn is here.
J.S.

The Hardest Thing About Perseverance Is the Whole Thing


I wrote a guest post for the wonderful Pursuit NYC, headed by my friend Sam Won.
The post is about perseverance and what it really means.

An excerpt:

Plenty of us can quit without physically quitting. We can live this way for years, thinking that “showing up” is enough and we can skate by on the bare minimum.

In other words, perseverance is not just staying in, but being in. It’s being present and engaged.

It’s not that we don’t have it in us to persevere. It’s that all of us wasn’t in the task at hand. Even a person who gets to the finish-line, who didn’t put their all into it, hasn’t really persevered.

I do this, too. I can be there but not there. And I’m learning that being disengaged begins with my expectations.

… No one ever told me, “Emotions are different than passion. Emotions are the little spark that gets it going. Passion is what keeps you running the marathon, even when it gets boring, even when things don’t go your way, even when the path takes a bunch of detours and it’s not as pretty as the picture in your head.”


Read the full post here!

J.S.

Finding Home in the Dark: A Fiber of Fine Light.


The hard part is that when you decide not to call on lesser idols to numb your hurt and you finally reach out to God, suddenly you’re inside the pain. It’s all there. You can’t do anything to hide it anymore. It seems like a terrible idea.

One of the toughest things about excruciating pain is that it’s embarrassing. There’s a humiliating stench of astonishment that this is happening to me. It’s malheur, or a pain about your pain. If you live with it long enough, you’ll begin to identify yourself by your hurt, as if this is your only value. It’s understandable, because it takes up so much space in your mind. It’s no wonder why we’re tempted to run to everything else.

The pain is blinding. But — blinding ourselves to the pain is even worse. In doing so, we erase ourselves down to the bottom.

So then: Calling out to God is remembering who you are.
Remembering where you come from.
Remembering what you were made for.
Remembering that you are not your pain.

Most of all, remembering who He is.

This will look different for everyone. It could mean taking a long drive to the shoreline. It could mean standing over the sea in total silence. It could mean opening your Bible to Isaiah 40 or Psalm 23. It means asking a friend to hot chocolate and hearing you out. It means actively seeking encouragement and community, because 1 John 4:12 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.” It means journaling, or busting out your guitar, or crying for a long time, or having an intense conversation with yourself. It means finding a need and serving that need. It means finding an older brother or sister and asking for wisdom on what to do next. It means dressing your Sunday best and singing at church at the top of your lungs, in hot tears and laughter.

A lot of this might feel rote and mechanical. You might not feel like doing any of it, and I don’t mean to add another burden on your hurt.

I just know that for a moment, when I can trace the sunbeam back to the sun, I remember who I am. It doesn’t make me instantly whole. It doesn’t solve things today. It’s often just a brief glimpse. But when I return to the heart who made me, I momentarily find something stronger than my pain. It is stronger than everything else that calls my name.

This is a difficult thing to do. It’s not merely psychological re-arrangement, because it requires getting up. It requires tapping into a very fine frequency, which is there for a flash and gone. But it’s there.

You might have even been on the other side of this and helped someone else remember. Maybe you took someone to lunch and listened to them without interruption for an hour. You made actual eye-to-eye contact, and you never knew, but you changed the course of that person’s day from driving off a cliff. You randomly volunteered. You wrote a thank you note. You picked up a call from a distant friend. You wrestled with someone’s questions, maybe not even fully paying attention, but you stayed with it to the end.

You didn’t know, but you were part of the frequency.
Once in a while, God breaks in. He reminds us of beauty. The pain doesn’t stop, but there’s a joy in the middle of it, just loud enough to remember.
We can break in, too.
You can pray. You can sing. You can seek others. You can visit home in His Word.

It is painful, sloppy, and scary. It’s not easy to turn our internal axis to Him, especially in hard times. But by slow, stumbling degrees, I can breathe Him in — and He is the only air that fills these crumpled lungs.
I remember: we’re not home yet.


J.S. Park | Mad About God


“The Gospel in Real Life” – Messages for Students from Yale


Hello wonderful friends! This is a series of three messages that I gave to students of Yale University, about the relevance and reason of Christianity.


The first is called: How Christianity Breaks Us Open and Painfully Puts Us Back Together.

It’s about how the Gospel uniquely differs from every other kind of motivation and completely restructures us.

Some things I talk about are: A meta-deconstruction of the Sunday church service, how to bomb a TEDTalk, the last two things I hear from dying patients in the hospital, the haunting of l’esprit de l’escalier, de-romanticizing adoption, the list of my flaws I gave to my wife before we started dating, and how a nine-year-old showed me the heart of Christianity.
You can also download it here.


The second is called: The Eternal Itchy Longing Within Us: Jesus Is Complete Fulfillment.

It’s about how the Gospel solves for two universal human problems and the greatest human need.

Some things I talk about are: How to tell an alien about the human race, conclusions about humanity after a survey with 700 replies, the instant anxiety when you walk into a crowded room, the itchy self-conscious moment when someone is slightly more talented at “my thing,” that loopy moment at night with your best friend when you start confessing everything, two universal human problems and our greatest human need, and the absolutely most important linchpin verse in the Bible.
You can also download it here.


The third is called: Where We Come From and Where We’re Going: Red Sea to Redeemed & Free.

It’s about how the Gospel compels us into action, neither by guilt nor religion, but deliverance.

Some things I talk about are: How long it actually should’ve taken the Israelites to get to Canaan from Egypt (not forty years), the moment right after the wedding, how the grace of my first pastor completely tenderized and galvanized me, the Christian life beyond “overcoming-sin,” and seeing God in the Philippines and a homeless shelter.
You can also download it here.



More messages on iTunes here or my podcast page here.

Be immensely blessed, dear friends! — J.S.

Photo by Alex, CC BY 2.0

Right Where You Are.


Right now, you could be toiling away unseen and unnoticed, waiting for your big break. You might be discouraged because nothing is paying off, or you feel you’re constantly catching up to a version of someone you’ve yet to be. You could be compensating for a failure behind you or trying to prove your merit to the people around you.

No one likes this part, because we see everyone else’s highlights and we presume they’ve got it together and we’re relegated to second-rate status. We might even feel that our current work is beneath our true potential. We want to be doing “great things,” but we’re stuck in limbo, in that icky middle.

The truth is that you can prosper right where you are. You can still be teachable in your season behind-the-scenes, even if that season is for life. God’s greatness is available to you so long as you remain available. No one needs to climb the throne to get there. You only need to be present and presently engaged.

This is tough, because we’re so used to climbing the pecking order. We’re tempted to superimpose a future hologram of big stages and big audiences on our current station. But such fantasies draw us out of engagement with now. There’s work to be done today, no matter the size of your stage. Your effort doesn’t always have to “pay off.” Some of us want to be the king of our fields overnight, but God has already called His children a royal priesthood, and we’re called to harvest for a lifetime. No matter what kind of work you’re doing, it’s essential in the tapestry of God’s Kingdom.

— J.S. Park | The Life of King David


Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay

image

I don’t think I’ve ever really met anyone who is living out of a full cup.

What I mean is: Everyone lives a lot further ahead than they really are, giving advice they don’t follow and loving others without any love for themselves and running on empty all the time. We’re all on fumes.

I’m finding out this is okay for today, and no lifetime is meant to be lived in a day.

There’s this Secret Guilt going around that we’re all halfway hypocritical frauds who will maybe one day catch up to an awesome version of ourselves. It’s a desperate hope that we’ll eventually do what we’re preaching with our mouths and our blogs. And then we blow up or flip a table or punch a wall and that monster comes out, and we think “Where did that even come from?” — and the Guilt chokes the pit of our stomach again.

The finality of settling into your own skin never arrives.

We co-exist with the monster.

I remember a famous pastor who deleted his entire backlog of podcasts from his first years of preaching.  Because he “no longer agreed” with those old messages.  I thought it was pretty humble.  But I also thought, What about those people who heard those old messages?  What if they followed through on that stuff?  Are they just screwed?  And ten years from now will you delete your stuff from today?

Every artist I’ve met says their first drawing, song, poem, novel, or dance routine was unworthy. They’re hard on their first creations. You know, that whole “you are your own worst critic” paranoia. But: Don’t we all have to purge these things before moving onto greatness?  And what about those people who enjoyed the first creations?  Are they just idiots?

Everyone keeps saying, “I used to be so stupid.”  Or, “I was so empty when I taught that thing.”  Or, “I didn’t even deserve to preach that sermon on marriage, my own marriage was failing.”  Or, “I wasn’t even following my own advice.”

It’s a reoccurring pattern.  No one ever thinks they’re good enough to do what they’re doing.  Or they think now they’re okay, but everything before today was terrible.  “I finally found my voice,” they say, which is at once a victory and an admission of defeat.

It’s scary to think we’re always walking in the dark, the light dissipating just out of reach.

Continue reading “Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay”