Everyone Has a Vision for Your Life


Everyone has a vision for your life. Everyone knows who you ought to be. Everyone has advice, the right answer, the easy fix.

But no one can bear the burden of those expectations. You can’t be enough all the time, not even for yourself.

You will disappoint people. You will disappoint you. It happens. It hurts. And that’s how it goes. The eventualities of life have a way of creeping in, regardless of best efforts and right motives.

You will get crushed by the weight of others’ plans. But you’re not obligated to respond to everyone’s criticism all the time. There’s no pleasing everyone. Some will have already made up their mind about you, no matter how much you sing and dance. Your side of the story won’t always be heard. Your intentions will be negatively filtered and your words shot down at first glance. That’s okay. Criticism is important, but you can’t speak on what you didn’t say. You can only mean what you did say, and mean it well.

Be encouraged, friends. You are doing a good thing. A new thing. By the grace of God we do our best and get up again.
— J.S.

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Faith That Burns Slow.


I imagine that when Moses split the Red Sea, there were two groups of people.
The first group was composed of victorious triumphant warriors saying, “In your face, Egyptians! This is our God!” They were pumping their fists and thrusting their spears.

The second group was composed of doubtful, panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton.

I’m a Screamer. I’m a cynic. I’m a critic.

I’m a Peter, who can make a good start off the boat, but falls in the water when my eyes wander.

I’m not endorsing a halfway lukewarm faith. I believe God wants us to have a robust, vibrant, thriving relationship with Him. But as for me, I’ll be limping to the finish-line.

I’m more of a Thomas than a Paul. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more David than Daniel.

Yet the Warriors and Screamers all made it through.

It’s not easy to have faith the size of a mustard seed. But Jesus promised that this would be enough to move mountains, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

— J.S.

We Wear Casts.


God, forgive me for when I lack empathy,
when I jump to making talking points out of tragedy,
when I forget the pain of community and family,
when my voice is louder than theirs.
— J.S.

Here’s the Truth: Hear the Truth.


If you want any hope of change, freedom, progress, recovery, and growth: you’ll need to confront yourself, too.

The quickest way to not grow is to surround yourself with yes-men, run from rebuke, only read self-affirming bias, and unfollow all disagreement.

I don’t mean we listen to every opinion. Especially not online. I don’t mean we call each other out over the smallest infraction. I mean getting with the one friend who has tears in their eyes, voice shaking, who knows that friendship isn’t all giggles and games, who can say, “You’re better than this.” I still run from it all the time. Hearing the hard stuff is excruciating. But as hard as it is, to admit “I was wrong, I’m sorry, I’m learning, please forgive me and show me” is not the end of the world. It hurts, but not more than the pain of staying ignorant in our ego.

I hope too that we can make space for those who admit they’re wrong and apologize and ask to be further schooled. I hope we can start and finish with grace. Trust and honesty and confession only happens in spaces where we won’t be met with cringing, but embrace.

— J.S.

Strength to Fight.


“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

“May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

“Amen.”

— A Franciscan blessing

Stay Passionate.


Don’t settle for less.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Don’t be rushed into a feeling, a decision, an opinion.

Don’t let anyone talk you down.

Drop the mic often.

Prioritize, for our time on earth is short.

Think for yourself.

Find your vision. Listen.

Do not hide tears; they’re yours.

Trust God. Take heart. Keep passion.

Fight the good fight, fellow traveler.

Fight.

— J.S.

You can do the thing. It starts with another thing.


You can really do the thing. You can really achieve the dream and pursue your goal and find recovery.

But it has to start with one thing. It has to start with letting go of a lot of other things.

Maybe that means your current group of people. Or one person. Or some late night habits. Or the thing you keep throwing money at. Or an ideal version of yourself that’s just impossible.

None of that is easy, I know. I have this habit of starting new stuff and then I quit halfway through. It’s because I look sideways, seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s discouraging. “I could never be that good,” the little voice says. Everyone else seems better. More witty or charming or articulate. I’m missing “it,” you know, the elusive charm they were born with. So I stop doing all the things. “They’re already giving the world what I can barely do myself,” is the voice that keeps me down.

I have to let go of comparison.

I have to let go of some romanticized self.

I have to let go of the fear that I won’t be well received, the fear of silent response, the fear of crickets and tumbleweed.

You can do the thing. It starts with letting go of fears, habits, harmful people, bad advice, even beliefs we once held dear.

You can really, really do the thing. The stuff that hinders can be shed.

Are you there, too? Is there anything you need to let go of? Anything you did let go of which changed it all for you?

— J.S.

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”

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

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


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

“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.

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”

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”