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

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”

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

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


“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.

“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

My Latest Book In A Nutshell

Mad About God Crae art


starlight— asked a question:

What is your book “Mad About God” about?


Hey dear friend, thank you so much for asking. The book is about persevering through suffering, without glossy pep-talks and spiritualizing our hurt. The main premise is that both the church and pop culture usually offer platitudes and feel-good-isms about pain, when the reality of heartache is extremely gritty and staggering. I don’t believe every pain has a lesson; I believe life will hurt, and it’s okay to say it stinks. I talk about various ways we’ve over-romanticized pain, including statements like “Everything happens for a reason” and “God is using cancer to teach you a lesson.” I try not to resolve the tension too easily; there are no simple answers for suffering.

It’s probably my most personal and favorite book I’ve written. I talk about surviving suicide, my battle with depression, my friend’s battle with a rare terminal illness, losing my friend to murder, my bed-ridden cousin, my married friends dealing with a disabled child, and a ton of other real stories. I also go over Jeremiah 29:11, David & Goliath, Job, struggling versus selfishness, and facing injustice in the world. Please know, the book requires a little patience at the start and it can be a tough read – but I think it pays off in the end.

It’s on sale right now for 8.99 in paperback, with art by craelligraphy. It’s 3.99 in ebook and works on every device. To read an excerpt, check here. To hear an audiobook preview of the opening chapters, check here. You can read the reviews on Amazon if you’d like other opinions as well.

Be blessed dear friend, and much love to you. – J.S.

http://www.amazon.com/Mad-About-God/dp/0692390472/


Humble Growing Pains

Photo by fr4dd, CC BY 2.0

I have preached in front of three people.  I’ve led awkward Bible studies for two or three disinterested young students.  I have been close to canceling major events where I expected hundreds, but only a couple dozen showed up.  I’ve served in ministries that shrank and fought and panicked and split.

If you’re there right now: don’t get discouraged.

Sometimes God calls you to be faithful even when it’s not fruitful.

He is still doing something amazing.  But those breakthroughs only happen when we persist, persevere, and press forward.  We love to see instant miracles, but miracles can grow slowly too. 

We are tempted by a future where we have finally arrived to the big time — but maybe this is it, this moment, where you are called to be completely engaged and totally present, eye to eye, face to face, heart to heart, with your one or two young disciples.  To change even one life is the big time.

Continue reading “Humble Growing Pains”

Encouragement For Your Hurt.


Writing this one meant a lot to me as it contains real stories from real people with heartache, loss, and (not-so-easy) redemption. I often recounted these stories with tears and prayers. Life doesn’t always wrap up in a bow-tie with a neat little lesson at the end, but people still choose to endure despite all that has happened. Even brokenly, they crawled forward and went on.

I hope you’ll consider picking up the book. It’s on sale for 8.99 in paperback and 3.99 in ebook. It’s meant for you if you’re hurting right now, and meant for your friend if they’re hurting too.
Be blessed and love y’all.  — J.S.

http://www.amazon.com/Mad-About-God/dp/0692390472/


Finding a New Dream In The Wreckage

Image from worshipgifs


Everyone has their own idea of the future, and at any moment it can be smashed to pieces. We’re not in as much control of our lives as we tend to think. And the more you plant your hope into something so untenable, so will your soul dry up into a soul that is collapsible.

I am begging you now: If you’re in this place of over-attachment to anything outside of you, please find a healthy way to handle it or just leave. Otherwise you will crush that person, that dream, that future, and you will be crushed by it too. Nothing can be sustained under the weight of your idolatrous expectations, including you. It’ll be worth your time to seek counseling, seek outlets, seek real help — and don’t get addicted to the recovery either. You need to learn to be alone with the silent vacuum of your own thoughts: because when you honestly confront the ugliness inside, you will be liberated from the weight of yourself.

I’m not writing this from a wrapped-up bowtie of a life. I’m still fractured in so many places of the soul; I still feel depression sinking its bony fingers into my sides. But I’ve also found that in the healing, by the grace of God and through wonderful friends, that life is worth living. If you think it hurts right now — healing hurts even more, because you have to get up and move. But I’d rather hurt this way. If life has to be pain, then I’d rather hurt moving forward than sitting down.

— J.S.

Thank you, Rachel Denk!


Very thankful for Rachel Denk’s wonderful review of my latest book, Mad About God.

An excerpt from her review:

“How many times do you feel like you have to be ‘in the right mindset’ or at a ‘good place’ with God in order to come before Him? Don’t you ever feel like you’ve been told since God is almighty and righteous that we have no right to be upset or angry with Him? And when we can’t suppress pain, anger, or bitterness, all of that is somehow transformed into guilt.

“… J.S. Park beautifully deconstructs all of these notions that have been drilled into us for far too long. And guess what? It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to not understand why things happen and question God.

“J.S. asks the hard questions. He prompts the difficult ideas. He opens the can of worms that may never truly be shut. My favorite passages from the book include Hijacking And Reclaiming Jeremiah 29:11, Our Hollywood Craze To Live An Epic Life, and The Problem With Job: As We Bleed, We Find Our Deepest Need. Sound intriguing just from the titles? You better believe it. These passages floored me – I often caught myself reading this and thinking how someone seemed to understand this little aspect of my heart and soul that had been secretly struggling for so long.”


Black Friday! My Books Are On Sale

Amazon app paperback

So I wrote some books. They’re on sale at Amazon for less than nine dollars and the e-books are four!

What The Church Won’t Talk About

The Christianese Dating Culture

Be blessed and love y’all!

– J.S.



Blessed by your response and grateful for each of you!


Instagram books


Instagram books 2



Thankful For A Wonderful Opportunity

Paperbacks - Insta

Had a great time over the weekend giving a seminar on dating to a wonderful group of college students and young adults in Gainesville FL, aka Gator Town. Gave away some of my books and signed a few for the first time. It was weird and humbling and very cool.

You can download the seminar directly from my podcast here!
http://traffic.libsyn.com/thewayeverlasting/JS_Park_-_Dating_Relationships_11-8-14.mp3

My book on dating is here!
http://amazon.com/Christianese-Dating-Culture/dp/150279053X

Thank you and love y’all. Be blessed!

— J.S.

Amazon app paperback

YouTube: “We Can Disagree, And That’s Okay”


Here’s my first YouTube video, called “We Can Disagree, And That’s Okay.”

You like cats AND dogs? That’s okay.
You’re into science AND religion? That’s okay.
Single and not looking? That’s okay.
Introverted or extroverted? That’s okay.
You prefer romantic-comedy Ryan Gosling over Oscar-serious Ryan Gosling? That’s okay.
Republican or Democrat or neither? That’s okay.
Cheese on your ramen noodles? Well … maybe not okay.

Please subscribe to my channel and love y’all!

— J.S.


YouTube logo


You’re Doing Better Than You Think


My dear beloved friend:

– No one really has it all together yet. We force so many self-pressuring parameters on our performance that most of us are neurotic, twitchy, over-productive busybodies with no real destination. In a culture where we celebrate only victory and are scared to talk about defeat: please don’t measure yourself on an impossible grading scale. Don’t measure your private moments with everyone else’s highlight reels.

– Mistakes are how you learn. Everyone is afraid of failure: so we protect ourselves by bargaining with the teacher or begging for extensions or ensuring we never get a scraped knee. Such a pampered coddled culture will keep you feeling safe for a while, but it’ll also keep you sterile, shrink-wrapped, and cold. It’s a lifeless journey. It’s okay to make mistakes, and occasionally it’s even better. Scrape a knee, brush it off, get up and move on. Learn from the past and laugh with it too.

– 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.

– Be willing to pursue a new dream. Sometimes we try so hard to grab our old dreams that we’re not open to new ones. We look too long in the rearview instead of what’s ahead of us. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities this way. But keep your eyes open for open doors, and be flexible enough for a new vision that will be even better than the last.

– Dear Christian: Your confidence is in Him. We are works in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus. We believe in a God who knew we couldn’t ever reach perfection, so perfection came to us. If you feel like you’ve failed today, the very reason Jesus came was to take on your failures, your ego, your pride, your pain, your sorrows, your sin. And He’ll keep working on you until glory. Everything good in you is God in you: and anything bad in you, He’s working on that.

This is His grace.

— J.S. from What The Church Doesn’t Talk About


If You Feel Far From God Today



1) Praise Him.

Pull out your favorite worship CD or line up a playlist.  Even if you don’t “feel” anything the first song or two, just keep listening.  Turn it up loud, in the car or in your room.  Sing.  Eat up the lyrics.  I recommend: David Crowder, Phil Wickham, Tree63, and Brooke Fraser.

 

2) Encourage someone.

The only thing better than receiving is giving.  Text, email, or message someone a simple encouragement.  “Jesus and I love you.”  Send out Bible verses.  Say specific things about that person.  Warning: You might enter a crazy rush of encouraging people and start giggling madly to yourself.

 

3) Pray for someone.

Write out a list.  All the times you said, “I’ll pray for you” — take five minutes to do it today.  It might feel jumpy and awkward at the start: just press through it.  Pray in a widening circle, starting with your family.  Pray for missionaries, your church leaders, the weird kid in school, for the people in news headlines.  Pray for yourself.  Tell God about your day, your dreams, your worries, your hopes.  Thank Him.

 

— J.S.

Remember: Who You Are



If you’re down today, remember who you are.

In Christ, you are a child of God: saved, forgiven, and free.

You have a strong father in Heaven who absolutely loves you, and who actually likes you. It’s why Jesus came to be one of us.

He gets your struggle, he’s alongside you, he’s rooting for you, he will never stop.

We are the sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who is in control of everything.

We have a Savior who wrote himself into the story of the world to write the final victory on our lives: so nothing else gets the last word but him.

Look no further than the cross and the empty tomb.

You have — right now — a Spirit of courage, bravery, compassion, love, and truth.

Remember: you are His. You are secure forever.